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Disturbia DVD Review

Disturbia (2007) movie poster Disturbia

Theatrical Release: April 13, 2007 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: D.J. Caruso / Writers: Christopher Landon (story & screenplay), Carl Ellsworth (screenplay)

Cast: Shia LaBeouf (Kale Brecht), David Morse (Mr. Turner), Sarah Roemer (Ashley Carlson), Carrie-Ann Moss (Julie Brecht), Viola Davis (Detective Parker), Aaron Yoo (Ronnie), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Officer Gutierrez), Matt Craven (Daniel Brecht), Brandon Caruso (Greenwood Boy), Luciano Rauso (Greenwood Boy), Daniel Caruso (Greenwood Boy), Kevin Quinn (Mr. Carlson), Elyse Mirto (Mrs. Carlson), Suzanne Rico (News Anchor), Kent Shocknek (News Anchor), Rene Rivera (Se๑or Gutierrez), Amanda Walsh (Minnie Tyco), Charles Carroll (Judge)

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By Aaron Wallace

Disturbia isn't technically a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, but its premise is remarkably similar. Director D.J. Caruso takes the classic thriller into the DreamWorks lab for some modernizing and cross-genre breeding. In the new telling, troubled seventeen-year-old Kale (Shia LaBeouf, Holes, Transformers) finds himself under house arrest after he punches his Spanish teacher in the face. That means a summer spent without the freedom to socialize or
-- thanks to his punishment-dispensing mother (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix) -- the luxuries of X-Box or iTunes. That leaves Kale with only two recreational technologies at his disposal: a cell phone and a pair of binoculars.

Before long, the blas้ young teen has found a fascinating new hobby in spying on his neighbors. There's the adulterer, the smut-watching kids, the smoking hot new girl, and the mysterious loner next door. The latter two most pique Kale's interest and he soon has the alluring Ashley (Sarah Roemer, The Grudge 2) and his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) spying at his side.

At first a means of passing the time during an otherwise uneventful summer, the trio's stakeout soon develops into serious suspicion of Mr. Turner (David Morse, Contact, 16 Blocks), the neighbor whose match to the media's description of a loose serial killer is too close for comfort. Turner doesn't take kindly to their apparent observations but the unrelenting sleuths do not back off, intent on discovering the reason for his stealthy seclusion.

In "Disturbia", Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf) is confined to his own property for the summer and left to wonder about his suburban neighborhood's secrets. A pair of binoculars proves to be Kale's most exciting gadget during his summer house arrest.

This fusion of teen romance and Hollywood thriller might sound like a B-flick bastardization of a Hitchcock classic, but far from disappointing, Disturbia excels in almost every way. Just as Rear Window did in the city, Disturbia makes its audience into suburban voyeurs, putting the movie in tune with the "Desperate Housewives" era's fixation on suburbia. Along with inspired employment of technology, this renders the film utterly contemporary.

Calling Disturbia suspenseful is an understatement. Suspense suggests that the viewer anxiously awaits what will happen next. Disturbia does something more. As if the movie is an extension of ones own self -- a newly grown digital extremity -- the heart-racing, fist-clenching turns in the masterfully crafted story have a physical effect that manages to engross the audience with a rarely reached level of attentive responsiveness. What Rear Window accomplished with subtlety and restraint, Disturbia pulls off with keen psychological awareness and characters that are fully realized and relatable.

The ease with which viewers can identify with the characters is also key to the success of the film's romance. There's perhaps nothing as overdone in mainstream American cinema as young love, yet it's as compelling in this 2007 thriller as it's ever been. The verisimilitude that the cast and script bring to the pair of Kale and Ashley, coupled with the ever-effective peril into which they are so deftly pitted, makes their attraction to one another positively electrifying. Each is isolated in their own way and as the audience empathizes with that isolation, any sign that the two might find one another feels gratifying.

Ashley (Sarah Roemer) makes the most of her freedom by trailing a suspicious neighbor to the hardware store. Here's something you don't want to see in spying on your neighbors: the creepy Mr. Turner (David Morse) stares back at his uneasy audience.

The acting in Disturbia is, without exception, excellent. Shia LaBeouf proves himself worthy of all the recent buzz surrounding his recent launch to mega-stardom, every bit as capable a leading man in this role as Jimmy Stewart before him. Demonstrating a grasp on comedic and dramatic acting, LaBeouf turns out quite the memorable and engaging performance. Newcomers Sarah Roemer and Aaron Yoo hold their own with the lead,
impressive enough in this film alone to earn themselves future work in big budget Hollywood. Rounding out the principal cast are veterans Carrie-Ann Moss and David Morse, both also deserving of praise. As a forlorn single mom, Moss seems so far removed from her Trinity character in the Matrix trilogy that it's hard to believe that the same actress delivered both fantastic performances. Morse, on the other hand, is as terrifying a presence as Hannibal Lecter, absolutely nailing the nuanced acting required of a creepy character who may or may not be a serial killer.

Superb direction, cinematography, scoring, and soundtrack selection all contribute to the enthralling experience of watching Disturbia. The film's excellence is marred only be a few minor plot holes that are immediately noticed by the second viewing but are quickly forgotten as the story marches on. Otherwise, the movie holds up to frequent repeat viewings, as the journey here is at least as important as the destination. That's the mark of a great movie and Disturbia certainly qualifies as one of 2007's best.

Buy Disturbia: Widescreen Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English, Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps
Also Available in Reformatted Fullscreen DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is presented close enough to its original 1.85:1 widescreen (enhanced for 16x9 displays) and is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX track. As is expected for a brand-new blockbuster, both audio and video are stellar and without flaw. The 5.1 EX track is particularly pleasing. Foreign language viewers will be pleased to learn that French and Spanish language tracks are presented in 5.1 EX as well and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available.

From the inspiration behind the Twinkie tower to the real contents of the bag of poop, the Serial Pursuit Trivia track is filled with titillating tidbits. Against a colorful rural backdrop, Shia LaBeouf comments on "The Making of 'Disturbia'."

BONUS FEATURES and MENUS

For a single-disc DVD, Disturbia is fully loaded in the bonus features department. The slate begins with a feature-length audio commentary by director D.J. Caruso and actors Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer. The track is about as unconventional as any I've ever heard. The participants snack on chicken and junk food while they reminisce about the filmmaking experience.
Along the way, Shia emits more profanity than he does in the movie (and that's saying something), cell phones ring and are answered (leading to a brief commentary cameo by Aaron Yoo), and remarkably candid observations are made. Sure, there's a lot of back patting, but there's an air of humility as well and Caruso reveals quite a bit about what went into achieving various shots and performances. It's not the most informative track I've ever heard, but it is one of the most entertaining.

That's followed up by another feature-length track, this one text-based. "Serial Pursuit Trivia Pop-Up/Quiz" displays various quotes and facts in the bottom corner of the screen, featuring tidbits that range from screen-specific to nearly irrelevant. Along the way, it also tracks motifs and quizzes viewers. I rarely enjoy these kind of features, as they force a choice between watching and reading. This track is far less distracting (and rather more interesting) than most, however, and the sleek interface makes the text less intrusive.

"The Making of Disturbia" (14:51) doesn't break any new ground as far as making-of featurettes go. A cross between a mini-documentary and an electronic press kit, it features insight from the talking heads of cast and crew (no sight of DreamWorks studio head Steven Spielberg, despite references to his uncredited involvement with the early stages of pre-production in both commentary tracks, though that's to be expected) and a sprinkling of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage.

Carrie-Ann Moss appears in several of the deleted scenes. It may look like a beer commercial, but it's actually the Disturbia gag reel.

There are four deleted scenes on the disc, each one omitted for understandable reasons (usually that the same ground is covered elsewhere) but still very interesting to see. Together, they clock in at 4:35 and can be viewed individually or played all at once.

There's also a very brief gag reel (1:27) that focuses on the fishing scene that opens the movie. The outtakes are funny but few. Given the amount of improvisation used in making the movie and LaBeouf's propensity for profanity-laced riffing, it's peculiar that the reel doesn't run any longer.

Minneapolis-based rock band This World Fair scream-sings into the telephone in their included music video "Don't Make Me Wait." The theatrical trailer for "Disturbia" shows off binocular targets both mundane and eye-catching with the wonder of split-screen. A side view of binoculars-wielding Shia is one of the images seen in the tinted, animated Main Menu.

The Photo Gallery contains 47 images, too many of them publicity stills or headshots. Still, they're neat to see and are mixed in with some great behind-the-scenes pictures. The gallery closes with the theatrical poster.

The music video for "Don't Make Me Wait" by This World Fair (4:03), a song written for and used in Disturbia, is included. Both the song and the video are boring on their own, but at least it worked in the movie. The video is notable for having been directed by D.J. Caruso himself.

Finally, the theatrical trailer (2:33) for the film is included on the disc,
something that is always a treat to find. Additional TV spots would have been nice but at least the trailer has been preserved alongside the movie on home video.

The main menu features an array of color-tinted clips from the movie set to two selections of score that highlight both the teen flick and suspense film elements of the movie. When left to repeat ad nauseam, the score selections quickly grate on the nerves. The additional menu screens are all silent and motionless. All in all, the menus are fairly basic but mood-appropriate and effective. There is no insert whatsoever found in the standard black keepcase.

The disc opens with previews for Stardust, Blades of Glory, and Next. The "Previews" reel in the Special Features menu plays these along with three others -- Beneath, Super Sweet 16: The Movie, and She's the Man -- back-to-back. Fortunately, each is chapter-skippable.

Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and Kale duck and hide after potentially being spotted in their privacy-violating surveillance activity. Walking around a green-tinted basement with only a flashlight, it's official. Shia LaBeouf has graduated from child actor to a leading man of suspense cinema.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Technically a member of the suspense/thriller genre, Disturbia ends up being an action/adventure film of Spielbergian proportion too. Though only occasionally outright scary, the arresting film (pun unintended) takes suspense to a new level. Superb acting and a great script serve this truly fantastic movie well, successfully rejuvenating the Rear Window premise for modern audiences. A large serving of bonus features and grade-A audio and video make the DVD itself almost as pleasing as the movie it contains. Disturbia was a hit at the box office and for good reason; it's unquestionably one to add to your collection.

Buy Disturbia on DVD / Blu-ray / HD DVD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed August 5, 2007.



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