Director Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" arrives on DVD this week, and the small-screen version provides a breath of fresh air on the movie scene. The summer sci-fi hit thrilled audiences with adventure, drama and suspense, plus a good dose of "we are not alone" paranoia.

This big-budget remake of the 1953 film draws inspiration from the original H.G. Wells book and Orson Welles's terrifying 1938 radio broadcast, but Spielberg adds nuance to the film with references to terrorism, wars of occupation and other modern horrors that make the film believable, relevant and downright scary.

The friendly, benign aliens of the past are long gone -- "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." this isn't. Earnest yet understated acting from stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Miranda Otto yields next-door-neighbor kind of characters, a welcome relief from the dime-a-dozen action heroes who singlehandedly save the world.

The limited-edition two-disc set includes a DVD of bonus features that offer a captivating look at Spielberg's directing process, plus commentary from the director, writer David Koepp, Cruise and Fanning. Other extras include production diaries and a retrospective on the life and work of author Wells.

-- Holly E. Thomas


Dreamworks; two-disc DVD $29.99; available Tuesday.