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Back to 'Skull' Features revisit new adventures of Indiana Jones

The plot for the fourth Indiana Jones movie was kept about as secret as humanly possible in the age of YouTube.

But I can't help wondering what it would have been like watching "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (Paramount, available now) and not knowing the few things that were impossible to keep from the public. Imagine, for instance, the rush of seeing the grand entrance made by actress Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood if we hadn't known she was finally returning to the franchise. Or if we didn't know before going into the theater that there were questions about the parentage of young Mutt Williams. (As played by Shia LaBeouf, it's obvious a few minutes in how that storyline will work out.)

And though aliens and bombs felt out of place in the world of Indiana Jones, it was still exciting to see Harrison Ford don his worn fedora and crack the whip as Indy.

There are three DVD versions of the movie available this week. The single-disc DVD ($29.99) has the movie plus the feature "The Return of a Legend" and a look at preproduction. Skip this, and pick up the two-disc standard DVD ($39.99) that has an extra disc of bonus material.

Director Steven Spielberg (who says on the first day of filming he felt as if "no time had passed" since he made the last film 19 years earlier), producer and writer George Lucas, the cast and crew are all on board lending their thoughts, ideas and recollections to the bonus features.

"The Production Diary" is a glossy, well-produced and entertaining making-of documentary that takes viewers to the various locations and sets needed to bring the fourth Indy film to the big screen. It starts with the first day of filming in the deserts of New Mexico; visits New Haven, Conn., for the college scenes; on to Hilo, Hawaii, which doubled for the jungles of Peru; to the sets on the backlots of Universal and Paramount studios; and the final day of shooting. (If you haven't seen the movie, save the segment called "Wrapping Up!" to view later since it does contain a fairly major spoiler.)

The featurette "The Crystal Skulls" delves into the real-life mystery of the skulls, as well as the creation of the skulls for the movie through the use of drawings, storyboards and rehearsal footage.

"Iconic Props" is an in-depth look inside the prop warehouse with property master Doug Harlocker, who shows us everything from Indy's hat and whip, to shovels, armor, books and letters -- which include painstaking attention to detail, right down to the re-created stamps from Peru on an envelope.

Pre-Visualization sequences focus on the Area 51 escape, a jungle chase and the ants attack. There are galleries plus production and behind-the-scenes photographs.

The Blu-ray two-disc set ($39.99) also has Indiana Jones timelines.

All four Indiana Jones movies are also released in "Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventure Collection" for $89.99.

*"The Visitor" ($29.98, Anchor Bay/Overture, available now) is one of those small films that leaves a large impression on its audience.

Richard Jenkins ("Six Feet Under") is outstanding as a mild-mannered college professor and author who is sleepwalking through his mundane life until his eyes are opened by two illegal immigrants, played by Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira, who were scammed into subletting his city apartment.

It's a heartwarming testament to the joy of opening yourself to new experiences, connecting with new people and the power of music. It's also a heartbreaking look at immigrants and their treatment in the post- 9/1 1 United States.

The DVD comes with a too-short "inside look" at the film (under five minutes), plus "Playing the Djembe," deleted scenes and an audio commentary with Jenkins and director/writer Tom McCarthy.


Coming Tuesday

"Anaconda 3: Offspring" (Sony), "Casino Royale: Collector's Edition" (Blu-ray, Sony), "The Incredible Hulk" (Universal), "The Legend of Sasquatch" (Image Entertainment), "Rain Shadow" (Acorn Media) and "The Strangers" (Universal).

TV: "According to Jim: Season One" (Lionsgate), "Family Guy: Volume Six" (Fox), "The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season" (Universal) and "The Outer Limits: The Original Series Complete Box Set" (MGM).


DVD Extra

CHAPLIN: 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: A retrospective with director Richard Attenborough and two featurettes on Charlie Chaplin are among the new features included in this biopic starring Robert Downey Jr. ($19.98, Lionsgate. Available now.)


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