The quartet of “Jack Ryan” thrillers have been repackaged in a new home-video set, the family comedy “Matilda” has received a Blu-ray upgrade and six TV movies from the TNT cable channel make their DVD debut this week. (The TNT films are available at the Warner Archive website, www.warnerarchive.com)
“The Jack Ryan Collection” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 1990-2002, PG/PG-13/R, $59.99, four films, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers). In case you’ve forgotten, Jack Ryan is the CIA hero of several Tom Clancy action-thriller novels, four of which were adapted for movies with three different stars: Alec Baldwin in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990, PG), Harrison Ford in both “Patriot Games” (1992, R for violence, sex and language) and “Clear and Present Danger” (1994, PG-13), and Ben Affleck in “The Sum of All Fears” (2002, PG-13).
Although Baldwin was the first to play the character in what is arguably the best film in the franchise, “The Hunt for Red October,” he was overshadowed in that film by the sheer star power of Sean Connery, who plays a Russian sub commander. And in retrospect, Baldwin has also been overshadowed by Ford, who took over the role for two gripping sequels.
Affleck is good as Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears” but the film doesn’t quite stand up with its predecessors — although in my opinion it looks a little better now that when it was initially released, after so many outrageous action films with ridiculous stunts during the past decade. And, of course, a fifth Jack Ryan film, “Shadow Recruit,” starring Chris Pine, arrives in theaters next month. (Also on DVD, $26.98)
“Matilda” (TriStar/Blu-ray, 1996, PG, $19.99, featurettes). Offbeat, zany, dark family comedy based on the Roald Dahl book about a young girl (Mara Wilson, who also starred in the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street”) in a less-than-loving environment, both at home and school, who learns she has telekinetic powers. Broadly comic but directed with a light touch by Danny DeVito, who also narrates and plays the title character’s father. Rhea Perlman, Pam Ferris and Embeth Davidtz co-star but it is little Mara who sells it all with a natural, funny and warm performance.
“The Man Who Captured Eichmann” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1996, $18.95). Back in the 1990s, the TNT basic-cable channel produced a raft of respected films with solid scripts, big-screen production values and popular stars, such as this true story of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann being tracked down in Buenos Aires by Israeli intelligence. Gripping all the way, with a great cast, but it is Robert Duvall’s cunning, scary performance as Eichmann that seals the deal.
“Never Forget” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1991, $18.95). This one has a similar theme and is also a true story. Leonard Nimoy stars as a survivor of Auschwitz who goes up against a revisionist group that is trying to prove the Holocaust never happened. Intelligent and tense, with fine support from Dabney Coleman and Blythe Danner.
“Crazy in Love” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1992, $18.95). Warm comedy-drama has Holly Hunter living on an island off the coast of Washington with her mother (Gena Rowlands), aunt (Frances McDormand) and grandmother (Herta Ware) — whose collective unhappy experiences with men may be influencing her own marriage (to Bill Pullman). Then she is tempted by a sensitive man (Julian Sands) that crosses her path. Everyone’s good here but Rowlands is a standout.
“Final Verdict” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1991, $18.95). Gentle, easygoing character piece based on a memoir by Adele St. Rogers follows a criminal defense lawyer (Treat Williams) involved in two murder cases, his young daughter who idolizes him, and his preacher-father (Glenn Ford in his last film) who disapproves of his getting criminals off. It’s no “To Kill a Mockingbird” but it is enjoyable fare in its own right.
“The Hunchback” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1992, $18.95). Yet another version of Victor Hugo’s oft-filmed “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” this time with Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo, Salma Hayek as Esmeralda and Richard Harris as Dom Frollo. The emphasis is on character and Patinkin and Harris are excellent in their shadings.
“The Heidi Chronicles” (TNT/Warner Archive, 1995, $18.95). Interesting (particularly to baby boomers) but stagey adaptation by Wendy Wasserstein of her Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the changes she goes through from the time she graduates high school in the 1960s to her embracing feminism in the ’70s to her questioning it all in the ’80s. Tom Hulce and Kim Cattrall co-star.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com.