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VIDEO SHELF

You won't catch the elusive Spielberg doing commentary

May 08, 2003|Susan King

Catch Me If You Can

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks

DreamWorks, $30

After making two bleak sci-fi films, "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" and "Minority Report," director Steven Spielberg decided he needed a break from those downers, so his next project was this light, breezy and thoroughly entertaining film about a wily teenage con man, Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio), who successful posed as an airline pilot, doctor, attorney and teacher. Hanks, in his first character role, plays the by-the-book FBI man chasing after Frank. Christopher Walken received a supporting actor Oscar nomination as Frank's weak-willed father. Composer John Williams enters into the fun with one of his most sprightly scores and the credit sequence is clever and colorful.

The two-disc DVD is equally entertaining, with an enjoyable behind-the-scenes documentary, a look at the casting of the film -- DiCaprio was cast before Spielberg decided to direct -- Williams' approach to composing the score, an interview with the real Abagnale, photo galleries, cast and filmmakers bios and production notes.

Of course, the viewing experience would have been even richer if Spielberg had provided an audio commentary, but he remains one of the major directors who continue to resist them.

*

The Emperor's Club

Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch

Universal, $27

There's a lot to admire about this tasteful adaptation of Ethan Canin's acclaimed short story "The Palace Thief." The movie's themes of honor, morality and integrity are strong and thought provoking. And the performances of Kline, as a beloved classics teacher at a boys' school, and Hirsch, as his defiant student, are quite good. But the film plods along at a snail's pace and the second half of the film lacks dramatic fire.

The digital edition is equally somber and serious. Its behind-the-scenes documentary drags out several professors and sociologists who discuss -- ad nauseam -- the importance of the film. The DVD features deleted scenes with genial commentary from director Michael Hoffman.

*

Coal Miner's Daughter

Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones

Universal, $15

One of the best celebrity biopics ever made. Sissy Spacek won the Oscar and practical every other award for her striking, sensitive and gutsy performance as country-music legend Loretta Lynn, who grew up poor in rural Kentucky and found herself a wife and mother in her early teens. Pushed into show business by her philandering husband (Tommy Lee Jones), Lynn enjoys great success but a lot of heartache and eventually has a nervous breakdown. Britisher Michael Apted beautifully directs from an intelligent screenplay by Tom Rickman.

The extras on the DVD complement the movie. Jones is animated and thoughtful in a recently filmed discussion with Apted. And Lynn is warm, open and candid in an interview with Apted taped at her museum outside Nashville. Rounding out the disc is heartfelt commentary from Apted and Spacek.

-- Susan King

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