- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Israeli director Eran Riklis makes a hopeful, but far from starry-eyed, case for replacing actual combat with the sublimated warfare of international sports in his excellent 1992 action drama Cup Final. It's our…
Video pick of the week
"Cup Final" is new from First Run Features ($29.95 DVD/$24.95 VHS). Its title refers to the 1982 World Cup Soccer Games in Barcelona, which Israeli reservist Moshe Ivgi had planned to attend. His trip is abruptly canceled by his country's invasion of Lebanon. The rueful reservist meets an even harsher fate when he's taken captive by a ragged band of PLO guerrillas.
In the course of the group's violent journey to Beirut, the prisoner and European-educated PLO leader Mohammed Bakri gradually form a bond based on their mutual love of soccer in general and Italy's team in particular. All is not soft-headed harmony between prisoner and captors, though; Mr. Riklis humanizes his characters, creating sympathy for both sides, but stops short of romanticizing either.
While the movie's outcome may be downbeat, "Cup Final" is an immensely entertaining, often comic and always ironic opus that can take its place beside such up-close combat classics as Sam Fuller's Korean War fable "The Steel Helmet" and Oliver Stone's "Platoon," set in Vietnam. DVD features include a "director's statement" along with photo and trailer galleries.
Horror horizon
In a move sure to please comparison shoppers (and viewers), Dreamworks Home Entertainment releases both the shock blockbuster The Ring ($26.99 DVD) and its original 1998 Japanese source, Hideo Nakata's Ringu ($29.99 DVD).
While the latter arrives bereft of extras, Gore Verbanski's American makeover, starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox, comes complete with a previously unseen Verbanski short film related to "The Ring" and a trailer for "Ringu."
Neither film delivers top-tier terror goods, but both tales about a killer videotape supply sufficient jolts to qualify as rental musts for thriller fans.
Hats off to Harry
In a family-friendlier fantasy vein, Warner Home Video sets an April 1 date for the much-anticipated sorcery sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($29.95 DVD, $24.99 VHS). Daniel Radcliffe reprises the title role, while the late Richard Harris (to be replaced in the next installment by Michael Gambon), John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith represent other magical returnees.
As might be imagined, Warner will go all out with the special features, including 19 additional or extended scenes not seen in theaters, self-guided tours of the Chamber of Secrets and other enchanted locales, exclusive interviews with author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves, and more.
Collector's corner
Warner Home Video likewise swings into the Oscar season with two new three-disc sets offering six Best Picture winners. "Classic Musicals" consists of the 1951 Gene Kelly dancefest An American in Paris; 1958's Gigi, with Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan; and an extras-enriched edition of 1964's My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
The label's "Epic Dramas" collection includes 1959's Ben Hur, with Charlton Heston; the immortal 1942 Bogie caper Casablanca and the 1939 epic Gone with the Wind. The box sets, available now, are tagged at $39.98 each.
'Man' redux
Generally underrated during its initial 1976 theatrical run, Nicolas ("Don't Look Now") Roeg's complex, cerebral sci-fi fable The Man Who Fell to Earth should attract avid attention via Anchor Bay Entertainment's new deluxe double-disc edition ($29.98). Based on Walter Tevis' novel, the film stars an ideally cast David Bowie as an alien visitor who becomes a Howard Hughes-like multimillionaire recluse on our planet.
Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry lend solid thespian support, while Anchor Bay's pristine widescreen version is augmented by an all-new featurette, "Watching the Alien," a theatrical trailer, TV spots and the original screenplay in DVD-ROM.
Tele-video
WGBH Boston Video introduces the double-disc 1979 mini-series adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter ($29.98), starring Meg Foster, John Heard and Kevin Conway, complete with behind-the-scenes extras, along with the "Masterpiece Theater" version of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca ($19.98), with Diana Rigg, Charles Dance, Faye Dunaway and Emilia Fox.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: In 1953 this 16-year-old really soaked up the glorious music of Tonight We Sing, with Jan Peerce, Isaac Stern and Ezio Pinza. Would enjoy experiencing it again.
Ed Kindred, via e-mail
Unfortunately, "Tonight We Sing" remains one of too many golden oldies that have yet to find video homes.

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