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Bonus Points: Weekly Guide to DVDs

'Cellular': Pick It Up

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2005;

"Cellular" (Rated PG-13; List price: $27.95)
Release date: Jan. 18

"Cellular" came and went from theaters last September without much fanfare, earning a modest $32 million at the box office and respectable, if not quite rave, reviews. Consequently, I expected the DVD to follow that same pattern: mildly diverting but nothing to phone home about.

Kim Basinger's telephone becomes her lifeline in "Cellular," a likable action flick with surprisingly smart extras. (Richard Foreman - New Line Productions)

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So I was pleasantly surprised to pop "Cellular" into my DVD player and discover a set of smart and engaging bonus features that tie in beautifully with the film's underlying themes. Of particular interest: a look at the cell phone's place in contemporary culture and a documentary about a police scandal that rocked L.A. in the 1990s. The movie may be as improbable and entertaining as an episode of "24," but some of its extras are refreshingly serious.

The single disc includes five deleted scenes, viewable with or without commentary; "Dialing Up Cellular," a 25-minute featurette about the making of the telephone thriller; "Celling Out," the aforementioned cell phone doc; and "Code of Silence: Inside the Rampart Scandal," which explores a cop corruption case that (spoiler alert) may have inspired part of the "Cellular" plot. On top of that, director David Ellis hosts a commentary track -- along with his daughter and sister, who also worked on the film -- in which he inventively calls the cell phones of cast and crew members to incorporate their comments. It's not the most interesting commentary in the world, but it -- like the rest of the DVD -- gets big bonus points for creativity.

Least Worthwhile Bonus Points: The deleted scenes are brief and boring, plus none of them involves the characters played by Kim Basinger or William H. Macy. Maybe "Cellular's" battery died before those scenes could be added to the disc.

Most Engrossing Bonus Point: Younger viewers who can barely walk three feet without taking a cell call may benefit from the "Celling Out" documentary. In it, telecommunication experts talk about the invention of the ubiquitous communication device and how it has changed our world, exploring both the good and the bad. "The value of being alone is something that, if we value it, we've lost. And if we hate it, we've escaped from," notes telecom guru Ian MacRury. Disturbingly, a couple of commentators even suggest that phones could eventually be embedded into our skins, allowing us to call someone just by thinking about them. Hang on, people, some of us still haven't gotten used to text-messaging.

Most Hyperbolic Bonus Point: During the skippable making-of doc, producer Lauren Lloyd says of "Cellular" star Chris Evans: "He's definitely the next Tom Cruise." The young actor does a credible job in the movie, but is he really Jerry Maguire material? Not just yet.

Coming in next week's "Bonus Points": Reviews of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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