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Panic Room: Special Edition

Columbia TriStar
Movie Grade: A-
Special Features: A
DVD Geek Factor: 8 (out of 10)

When the original DVD release of Panic Room came out, sans any special features, I bitched about the lack of fun stuff. Well, the folks at Columbia TriStar have caught up with a vengeance. Did you like Panic Room--director David Fincher's taut follow-up to Fight Club--that had actresses Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart crammed into a little room, hiding from three thugs, for the majority of its running time? I hope you did, because this package, a three-disc special edition jammed with commentaries and documentaries, is for ardent fans only. My original review of this movie was enthusiastic, although I admittedly saw Panic Room as a film with which Fincher perhaps got to take it a little easier than on his previous, highly detailed projects. This DVD package is proof that Fincher never goes easy on a picture, and that this was far from a relaxing assignment. That brownstone that Foster's Meg moves into actually resided inside a large studio, where effects personnel built the building brick by brick, and devised a special misty rain. It seems that every shot in this movie was meticulously planned and taxing on the crew, which resulted in the dismissal of cinematographer Darius Khondji, who had shot Fincher's excellent Se7en. Panic Room is a good film, and taking in this DVD brings about a new appreciation of how much detail and backbreaking work went into this production. It also helps to fuel the argument that Fincher is an insane control freak, and God love him for that.

Special Features: Disc one is dedicated to the film, featuring multiple audio commentaries from Fincher, Foster and writer David Koepp. Hell, even co-star Dwight Yoakam chimes in on this one. Discs two and three are comprised of behind-the-scenes footage documentaries that are well produced and very intriguing to those who care about the movie. If you manage to take all of this stuff in, you are a person with plenty of time on your hands. There's even a glimpse of the film's first star, Nicole Kidman, who had to be removed from the project and replaced by Foster after a leg injury. Fun Trivia: Fincher braided Jared Leto's hair!


Ghosts of the Abyss

Disney
Movie: B+
Special Features: C+
DVD Geek Factor: 5 (out of 10)

Those who cried like babies watching James Cameron's Titanic (I'm guilty as charged) might get a kick out of this film, a return to the ship's wreckage two miles under the ocean's surface. Cameron goes to the Titanic in two mini submarines with a couple of robotic cameras and pal Bill Paxton in tow. The results are often amazing, as the two mini cameras (nicknamed Jake and Elwood) travel inside the ship's rooms and compartments, capturing images that boggle the mind. Detailed stained-glass windows remain intact, and medicine bottles stand upright where they were left by passengers. The film was originally shot for a 3-D Imax presentation, so there are many moments when objects are intentionally stuck toward the camera lens for the in-your-face effect. The trips to the Titanic are mesmerizing, but Cameron's technique of using CGI "ghosts"--re-creations of passengers super-imposed on the wreckage--can be a little grating. Some images, such as the captain walking on the decaying bridge, are interesting, but much of the effort seems unnecessary, because the wreckage imagery is more than enough. The film goes for a documentary effect, yet some of its situations feel a bit staged. Still, the wreckage footage is remarkable.

Special Features: The two-disc set features two versions of the film: the original 60-minute theatrical cut and a 90-minute extended version. Reflections of the Deep claims to have unseen footage and interviews, but it contains nothing as interesting as the film itself. The Mir Experience, which allows the viewer to pretend they are in a submersible ship on the way to Titanic, isn't as fun as it sounds.


Big Fish

Columbia Tri Star
Movie: B-
Special Features: A-
DVD Geek Factor: 6 (out of 10)

After watching Tim Burton's strange fairy-tale film again, I'm still not its biggest fan. Yet, I did manage to enjoy this story a bit more on second viewing. Albert Finney stars as a talkative character spinning yarns that turn his humdrum life into a full-blown Burton fantasy, much to the chagrin of his grouchy son (Billy Crudup). The stories are told in flashback, with a charismatic Ewan McGregor playing the younger Finney. The emotional content of this film still feels a bit hokey, but it is a visual feast, and the performances are first-rate.

Special Features: Burton delivers another fun commentary, providing useful info with his trademark droll vocals. Plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff, and a Tim Burton trivia quiz called "The Finer Points," make this a worthwhile purchase. Answer all of the trivia questions right, and you get a visual prize.

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