Beyond the films, new DVD extras hit or miss

    “”Adaptation””

    The second collaboration between director Spike Jones and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman results in a film that is not only original and different, but is also vastly superior to anything that the Hollywood studios can crank out these days. With a superb cast supporting “”Adaptation,”” every character is believable and profoundly deep in a crazy sort of way.

    Charlie Kaufman actually writes himself into the screenplay and the film revolves around his struggles adapting Susan Orlean’s book “”The Orchid Thief.”” Making Charlie Kaufman’s life even more miserable is his twin brother, Donald (both roles are played by Nicholas Cage). Charlie wants to write a film about flowers and the true reality of life. He just wants to make a film which accurately depicts the facts of life.

    As he continues to have difficulties writing the adaptation, he gets more desperate to leave out any Hollywood-esque cliches. Trying to stay true to Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) thoughts on life and obsession, Kaufman tries to approach her, but ultimately fails to do so because of his lack of self-esteem and shy nature. The last third of the film is a masterpiece, switching the films message and tone successfully.

    Unfortunately, the DVD of “”Adaptation”” does not even come close to representing the film’s uniqueness. It is a bare-bone, standard release that has nothing more than just a trailer, some cast notes and the film itself.

    An audio commentary would do justice and would provide some interesting tidbits as to how both Jones and Kaufman approached the film. But instead, the viewer is given nothing beyond the film; none of the antics of the film is captured on the disc.

    For a film that dwells on its craziness, the DVD is bland and pedestrian; it makes for a great rental, but not worth purchasing unless you truly love the film.

    “”Black Hawk Down”” (Special Edition)

    Anyone who purchased the original DVD of “”Black Hawk Down”” should kick themselves in the head — many times. Director Ridley Scott and producer Jeremy Bruckheimer have gone the extra mile in producing a three-disc set (that’s right, three discs) that encompasses the entire production and provides intimidate details of how the film was conceived.

    “”Black Hawk Down”” accurately depicts the true story of the military fight between elite U.S. soldiers and Somalians in the city of Mogadishu. What was supposed to be a one-hour mission turned into a 16-hour ordeal. With over 1,000 Somali casualties and 18 American soldiers dead, the 1993 urban battle represented a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy that continues to affect modern foreign policy.

    Although there are minor problems with character development, the film feels more like a documentary than a standard war movie. Imagine the first 30 minutes of “”Saving Private Ryan”” and extend it into a two-hour film. The viewer feels like they are actually in the middle of the chaos as opposed to watching the battle as a bystander. As such, the film is extremely graphic and doesn’t hesitate to show the true realities of war in all its guts and death.

    The DVD goes to great lengths to show the pains to construct the battle with a two-hour documentary and three audio commentaries. You get the viewpoints from not only Scott, but also several soldiers that were in the actual battle. It provides an excellent comparison of how the battle was changed to work in a cinematic format.

    For those that want more technical information on the actual battle, there is a third DVD that provides two documentaries, both created by PBS and the History Channel. Military buffs have hours of accounts and viewpoints that help add to the understanding of the film.

    From cinematic snobs to history junkies, the special edition of “”Black Hawk Down”” will fill almost anyone’s appetite. The pains given to accuracy in the film is reflected into this detailed and insightful DVD set.

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