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Video / DVD: New Releases

Harry hasn't lost the magic touch

[Photo: Warner Bros.]
Richard Harris, who died in October 2002, made his final appearance as Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Here, he feeds Fawkes the Phoenix with Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, right.

By PHILIP BOOTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)

Friday's home-video release of the second movie based on author J.K. Rowling's phenomenally popular series may signal another bout of Harry Potter mania: Reservations are already being taken for purchase of the fifth Potter book, slated to hit the shelves June 21. Coincidental timing?

Chamber of Secrets, released last year, with director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone) and Steve Kloves back on board, may be more compelling and more technically accomplished than the first one, 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It's an entertaining, kid-oriented adventure, despite a running time of nearly three hours.
[Photo: Warner Bros.]
Hermione Granger, played by Emma Watson, works on a potion in the girls’ bathroom at Hogwarts Academy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, due out Friday on video and DVD.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) this time is the chief suspect in a series of mishaps that have left several Hogwarts students literally petrified. Harry and his pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) team to solve a 50-year-old mystery related to the spooky Chamber of Secrets.

The heroics and the kid camaraderie are amusing, and the special effects are duly impressive, although some of the critters are reminiscent of those from other movies: Dobby, a digitally created elf, might be a cross between Gollum and Yoda, a resentful tree could have been borrowed from The Two Towers, the Cornish Pixies amount to flying gremlins, and a magical flying car is a little Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a little Christine.

Other key roles are played by Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Richard Harris, who died last October. New to the mix are Malfoy's villainous father (Jason Isaacs), and a dandyish celebrity author/professor Gilderoy Lockhart, played with great relish by Kenneth Branagh.

Scenes featuring scary spiders and a giant serpent are quite frightening, and the occult themes may be disturbing to some parents and children.

Rent it if you enjoy: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the Potter books, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, other kiddie-oriented flicks about wizardry.

DVD extras: The two-DVD set, oddly enough, is bereft of commentaries or much in the way of making-of-the-movie extras, with the exception of an extended interview with Rowling and Kloves, brief comments from the film's stars and a 16-minute feature on production design. The package, however, offers 19 deleted and/or extended scenes. And it's jam-packed with features oriented toward younger viewers, including "self-guided tours" of the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore's office and Diagon Alley; interactive encounters related to the Chamber, the Forbidden Forest and Lockhart's office; and a number of DVD-ROM goodies, including an animated timeline, puzzles, screensavers, matching challenges and magical trading cards.

Waking Up in Reno (R)
[Photo: Miramax]
Billy Bob Thornton, Natasha Richardson, Charlize Theron and Patrick Swayze star in the redneck Waking Up in Reno.

Billy Bob Thornton's performance as Lonnie Earl, a cocky, adulterous Arkansas car dealer secretly stricken by sexual insecurity, is the best thing about this uneven road-trip comedy. Earl and his wife Darlene (Natasha Richardson), along with their best friends Candy (Charlize Theron) and Roy (Patrick Swayze) travel to a monster-truck show in Reno, and take a few detours on the way. Thornton is riotously funny on occasion, but stereotypes about rednecks and hot-to-trot Latinas (Penelope Cruz in a cameo) abound.

Rent it if you enjoy: Jeff Foxworthy: You Might Be a Redneck; Joe Dirt, Sweet Home Alabama.

DVD extras: Director/screenwriters commentary; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes feature.

Paid in Full (R)
[Photo: Miramax]
Wood Harris and Regina Hall in Paid in Full.

Three friends join forces to profit from crack cocaine in 1980s Harlem in this violent drama, released last year and reportedly based on the exploits of real-life drug traders Alpo, A.Z. and Rich Porter. It's a brutal crime film from Charles Stone III; his appealing Drumline was released several months after Paid in Full.

Wood Harris (Remember the Titans), Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile) and rapper Cam'ron are suitably intense as young men seduced by the riches and power afforded by their newfound profession. Stone tells the story, credited to four screenwriters, through the use of narration (Harris) and flashbacks, and makes references to Scarface, Casino and Goodfellas.

Rent it if you enjoy: Empire, Juice, Belly and other urban crime dramas.

DVD extras: Commentary by director Stone.


Bluegrass and country musicians from several generations join durable Celtic group the Chieftains for Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions in Concert, taped at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The concert has charming Chieftains leader and pipes master Paddy Moloney and his fellow Irish folk-music traditionalists playing host to luminaries including Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Martina McBride, Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Buddy and Julie Miller, and the Del McCoury Band.

A documentary on the making of Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions, the all-star CD which preceded this concert, is among the extras, and several American musicians note the uncanny connection they made with their European counterparts. Roots-music fans may be thrilled by the chance to catch this acoustic artistry in action, close-up and personal. A sad final note: Longtime Chieftains harpist Derek Bell died last October, not long after the concert.

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