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'Terminal,' Harry Potter film lead winter treats on DVD

Tom Hanks makes the best of his accommodations when he's stranded at a New York airport in "The Terminal." -- Photo provided by DreamWorks Pictures
The Seattle Times
December 3, 2004

You always put out a bland dish for the guest with the ulcer.

Look no further than "The Terminal" (DreamWorks, PG-13) if the tryptophan is still active and you don't have the energy to throw out your relatives.

Kind of sweet, kind of whimsical, guaranteed not to make the needle jump if anyone in the room's wired to an EKG. The Kafkaesque story from director Steven Spielberg: Tom Hanks plays a man forced to live in New York's Kennedy Airport when a coup in his fictional Eastern European country renders his papers invalid. Petty bureaucrat Stanley Tucci won't give him a break, but the airport's other denizens (including flight attendant Catherine Zeta-Jones) gradually succumb to his decency and cute accent.

Hard to believe that the airport is all a big, fake remarkable movie set. DVD extras show how it was built.

To keep the kids quiet, and some adults, there's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (Warner, PG). Harry dreads the escape of said prisoner (Gary Oldman), who was involved in his parents' death. Harry's new mentor (David Thewlis) at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft helps him face his fear of the reaperlike Dementors out to apprehend the escapee. The means: a "boggert" that assumes the shape of the thing you fear the most but can be defeated by something you think is funny.

"Prisoner" is easily the best of the series, with the digital effects blended better, some striking outdoor photography and darker tone with more menace. Even the rain-drenched Quiddich game has an edge; and one tense segment featuring a map that shows people's location by their footsteps owes a debt to "Alien."

In one DVD extra, author J.K. Rowling says she loved director Alfonso Cuaron's "Y Tu Mama Tambien," gushing, "Alfonso obviously just understands teenage boys backwards." Other extras include some unfinished deleted scenes. And tucked inside the case for future nerds, a catalog with such Potter memorabilia as $29.50 wands and a $145 lightning-bolt pendant.

Re-release of the week: "Colossus: The Forbin Project" (Universal, 1970, unrated). The unsung science-fiction masterpiece stars Eric Braeden ("The Young and the Restless") as a scientist whose national-defense supercomputer makes contact with its Russian counterpart, achieves sentience and starts taking over the world. Clever, tense plotting ensues as the humans try to outsmart Colossus under threat of termination, if they're found out.

Like the makers of that later sentient-computer epic, "Colossus" author D.F. Jones must have been aware of Harlan Ellison's similarly themed 1967 story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." This DVD is only in full-frame, and I could scream. Humanity requires the film in its widescreen glory.

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