DVDs: Bonus Points Movies

Early Review

Going Into Battle With '300'

By JEN CHANEY
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The men bare their chests while the blood spurts in slow-motion excess in "300," the film version of Frank Miller's graphic novel that turned into a box office sensation last spring. Fans of this CGI-dominated take on the battle of Thermopylae -- which raked in $455 million-plus worldwide -- will no doubt be thrilled to get their hands on this two-disc special edition ($34.98) when it arrives a week from today.

Critics had mixed feelings about the film. The Post's Stephen Hunter called it "a guilty unpleasantness." The New York Times's A.O. Scott was even less kind: "'300' is about as violent as 'Apocalypto' and twice as stupid." As for me, I appreciated the look of the film, which makes a concerted effort to match the often-sepia-toned, artistic style of Miller's work. But the redundant battle scenes and way over-the-top tone send "300" into the realm of self-parody. (Want to play a fun drinking game? Sip every time Gerard Butler shouts in a fit of borderline-absurd rage.)

Before this movie's legion of macho admirers fires a mess of arrows at me, let's talk extras. The special-edition DVD boasts a good number of them, including five featurettes, three deleted scenes, a series of Webisodes about the film's production and a commentary track with director Zack Snyder -- soon to helm a film version of Alan Moore's "Watchmen" -- as well as co-writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong. Of the lot, "The 300: Fact or Fiction," a 24-minute featurette that puts the fictionalized tale of the Spartans and the Persians into historical context, is the most worthwhile.

Strangely, the special features delve into only sparing detail about how the filmmakers merged live action with computer images to create the movie's unique look. In the making-of featurette and some of the Webisodes, we do see the cast acting out certain scenes in front of blue and green scenes. But an in-depth documentary, a la the fine behind-the-scenes films found on the "Lord of the Rings" DVDs, strikes me as essential. Perhaps Warner Home Video is holding that for the inevitable ultimate edition "300" DVD. Until then, fans of this big, bold, brawny blockbuster should know that, unlike the Spartans, this DVD's bonus material isn't quite prepared for glory.

Best Bloody Bonus Point: Of the three deleted scenes, the last offering -- featuring a close-up of a leg getting sliced in two -- is the only one sure to satisfy those with an appetite for more gore.

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Other Bonus Point Picks

Does "300" have you hungry for more sword-and-sandal action? A two-disc special edition of "Troy" -- starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and their ultra-toned pecs -- is already available on DVD. If you can wait a wee bit longer, a director's cut, dubbed the "ultimate collector's edition," will be released Sept. 18.

Also Available This Week

My horoscope says that "Zodiac" is available on DVD today, along with Adam Sandler's "Reign Over Me" and Jim Carrey's "The Number 23." For more, check out this full list of today's DVD debuts.

Coming Next Week

In addition to "300," "Hot Fuzz" -- brought to you by the gang from "Shaun of the Dead" -- arrives July 31. For a full calendar of what's coming to DVD in the weeks ahead, click here.

Recently Announced

Releases worth marking on the calendar:

  • "Broken English," which just debuted on some movie screens as recently as last week, comes to DVD Aug. 21.
  • Look for "Black Book," Paul Verhoeven's generally well-received World War II movie, on Sept. 25.
  • A 40th-anniversary edition of "The Graduate" arrives Sept. 11.
  • "The Hoax" -- the Richard Gere drama about the man who wrote a fake biography of Howard Hughes -- debuts Oct. 16. And really, that's not a lie.
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PHOTOS: '300' -- Warner Home Video/'The Number 23' -- New Line

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