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DREAMCATCHER (2003) At first, this adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller (by reliable director Lawrence Kasdan) looks like it's going to be an effective supernatural thriller, centering on four lifelong friends (Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant) whose childhood acquaintance, a simpleminded boy, imbued them with unusual powers. Despite the obvious cribbing of other King material (Carrie, The Stand, "The Body"), the first section of the film is suitably eerie, taking its time with character development and slowly laying out the groundwork for a compelling mystery. But like Signs, the picture suddenly shifts gears to turn into a choppy, noisy FX blowout, with alien invaders primed to take over the planet and a team of military men (led by a wasted Morgan Freeman) dispatched to annihilate them. DVD features include deleted scenes, an interview with King, and a featurette on the special effects. Movie: / Extras: 1/2

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) Wes Craven may have fooled most of the country with Scream, but to me he's still a working definition of the term "hack." Still, even a dog has his day, and among the few tolerable features helmed by Craven is this early cult item that plays like a competent if inferior copy of such gritty 70s flicks as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The plot is simple -- a wholesome family traveling to California find themselves stranded in the middle of a Southwestern desert, whereupon they're besieged by a family of inbred cannibals. Dee Wallace (the mom in E.T.) appears in one of her earliest roles, and it's tough to dislike any movie in which a German shepherd emerges as one of the heroes. DVD extras on the two-disc set include audio commentary by Craven, a retrospective documentary, international poster art, and the feature The Films of Wes Craven. Movie: 1/2 / Extras:

KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962) Director Roman Polanski may not have won his long-overdue Oscar until this year, but his reputation as a world-class filmmaker was immediately secured with the release of his first feature, a tense psychological drama that made international waves and earned a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar nomination. A bickering married couple (Leon Niemczyk and Jolanta Umecka) pick up a young hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) and soon invite him to spend the day on their boat; as the trip progresses, the men wage a mental battle of wills that threatens to lead to violence. Polanski maintains a firm grip on every aspect of this compact picture, and Jerzy Lipman's gorgeous black-and-white cinematography is instrumental in conveying the claustrophobia of the scenario. DVD features on the two-disc set include interviews with Polanski and co-writer Jerzy Skolimowski, a still gallery, and a collection of the eight short films Polanski made from 1957 to 1962, several of them as a student. Movie: 1/2 / Extras:

SCARFACE (1983) With Brian De Palma as director and Oliver Stone as screenwriter, is it any wonder that this update of the 1932 gangster classic was greeted with a barrage of controversy even before it hit theaters? (The MPAA threatened it with an X, though it was finally released with an R.) Al Pacino, in the role that marked the transition from serious thespian to raging ham, is mesmerizing as Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who ends up becoming Miami's most powerful drug lord, and he's strongly supported by early turns from Michelle Pfeiffer (as his cokehead mistress) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (as his kid sister). Subtle it ain't, but just try turning your eyes away from this study in stylistic excess. DVD features on the two-disc set include deleted scenes, a short comparison of the theatrical version with the edited-for-TV version, and an interesting documentary titled DefJam Presents: Origins of a Hip-Hop Classic, in which a couple dozen rappers discuss the movie's influence on their own careers. Movie: / Extras:
-- Matt Brunson

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