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VIDEO SHELF

CIA thriller reveals few secrets

October 31, 2002|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

The Sum of All Fears

Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman

Paramount, $30

Ben Affleck tries to squeeze into Harrison Ford's mighty shoes as CIA hero Jack Ryan in a nuclear thriller based on Tom Clancy's bestseller.

In this outing, adequately directed by Phil Alden Robinson, a coltish Ryan finds himself embroiled in a plot to lure Americans and Russians into a nuclear standoff. Morgan Freeman is on hand.

The digital edition includes a pat "making of" featurette and a more informative mini-documentary on the various special effects. Robinson and cinematographer John Lindley provide a technical commentary track.

The more story-minded can listen to Robinson and executive producer Clancy. The author, though, comes off as a pompous snob with a crass sense of humor.

*

E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial

Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore

Universal, $30

Even though the DVDs of Steven Spielberg's films usually are entertaining, the lack of a commentary track from the director keeps the discs from soaring out of the stratosphere. Nevertheless, fans of his 1982 classic "E.T." should still enjoy the new two-disc set of this children's fantasy.

The first disc includes the 2002 version of the film, which features previously unseen footage and enhanced special effects; an introduction by Spielberg; and an entertaining look at the planets.

The second disc features the original theatrical version; a documentary featuring tons of vintage behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with the cast and crew; and fun DVD-ROM features.

*

Down by Law

Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni

Criterion, $40

Two years after his successful indie hit "Stranger Than Paradise," Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed this equally quirky 1986 comedy, beautifully shot in black-and-white by Robby Muller.

Waits and Lurie play losers from New Orleans who find themselves stuck in a jail cell together. Their life is turned upside-down when an excitable Italian (an adorable Roberto Benigni, in his first American film) joins them in their cell. The three of them escape and end up the Louisiana swamp.

The two-disc set features a beautiful new high-definition digital transfer, sly thoughts and reflections from Jarmusch, several outtakes, a 1986 taped television interview with Lurie, a recent interview with Muller, production Polaroids, a Q&A with Jarmusch in which he answers questions posed by the film's fans, and recordings of candid phone conversations between Jarmusch and his three stars.

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