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VIDEO SHELF

Insights into the Nazi occupation

May 29, 2003|Susan King

The Pianist

Adrien Brody,

Thomas Krestchmann

Universal, $27

Director Roman Polanski's powerful Holocaust drama based on the book by the late Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew and concert pianist who survived the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. Polanski won the Oscar for his direction, Brody for best actor and Ronald Harwood for his screenplay adaptation. The film also won the Golden Palm last year at the Cannes Film Festival.

Unfortunately Polanski, who survived Nazi-occupied Poland as a child, didn't participate in a commentary track for the digital edition. Still, the documentary on film, "Story of Survival," offers insightful, thoughtful interviews with Polanski, Harwood and stars Brody and Krestchmann interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage of the production as well as archival footage of the Warsaw ghetto.

*

The Recruit

Al Pacino, Colin Farrell

Touchstone, $30

In 1987, Roger Donaldson directed the taut, terrific thriller "No Way Out" with a young Kevin Costner. His latest thriller, "The Recruit," pales in comparison. Though this tale in which a newly recruited CIA officer (Farrell) must figure out whether his manipulative boss (Pacino) is telling the truth has some decent twists and turns, the action takes too long to set up and Pacino devours the scenery whole.

The digital edition of the moderate box-office hit includes a documentary, "Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program," a few deleted scenes with optional commentary and entertaining commentary from Donaldson and the Irish-hunk-du-jour Farrell.

*

National Security

Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn

Columbia TriStar, $28

Why in the world release a "special edition" of a comedy that's anything but "special"? But that is exactly what Columbia has done with this threadbare excuse of a comedy that stars Lawrence and Zahn as two adversaries who become security guards and nab a team of evil smugglers led by Eric Roberts (with a bad blond dye job).

The DVD offers the film in both wide and full screen and contains a music video, deleted scenes and an alternate ending. At least director Dennis Dugan, who is a former actor, offers a breezy commentary track. It's too bad Dugan's movies ("Big Daddy," "Problem Child," "Saving Silverman") are so mediocre.

*

Love Liza

Philip Seymour Hoffman,

Kathy Bates

Columbia TriStar, $25

Hoffman, one of the best and most versatile character actors working in films today ("Red Dragon," "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia"), finally gets a starring role in this unique, touching drama written by his older brother, Gordy. Hoffman plays a young Web site designer who tries to understand the sudden and unexplained suicide of his wife, Liza. Hoffman shines as a perplexed young man who escapes the pain and loss of his wife by sniffing gasoline. Actor Todd Louiso ("High Fidelity"), a friend of the Hoffmans, directed. The Hoffmans and Louiso supply the audio commentary for their pet project, which took nearly five years to finance and was shot in 24 days for a cool $1 million.

*

Also this week

Pedro Almodovar writes and directs the disturbing drama "Talk to Her," a journey into the emotional world of men who love women in comas (Columbia Tristar: $26.95); "A Guy Thing" (MGM: $26.98); "American Adobo" (First Look: $24.98)

Top VHS rentals

1. Catch Me If You Can

2. Two Weeks Notice

3. Analyze That

4. The Hot Chick

5. Darkness Falls

Top DVD rentals

1. Catch Me If You Can

2. Analyze That

3. The Hot Chick

4. Two Weeks Notice

5. Darkness Falls

What's coming

Tuesday: "About Schmidt," "Die Another Day," "The Guru," "Blue Collar Comedy Tour," "Swimming" and "Invincible"

-- Susan King

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