- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

Apparently, surfing can be just as dangerous in the movies.

In the DVD commentary for the movie “Blue Crush” (Universal, 2002, 105 min., $19.99), up-and-coming actress Kate Bosworth reveals she was briefly knocked out when a wave sent her 65-pound board airborne and it landed on the top of her head. Bosworth was taken to a hospital for a CAT scan, but the scene was a print.

Even the professionals didn’t escape the movie unscathed. Bosworth’s stunt double, surfer Rochelle Ballard, was sent to the hospital while filming a scene that required a surfer to bump intentionally into her. Another surfer nearly had his eye popped. And in the commentary, Bosworth and co-stars Michelle Rodriguez and Sanoe Lake tell of a surfer unaffiliated with the film who they saw paralyzed in the surf. The Pipeline will do that.

Indeed, the Pipeline — and the fear of it that paralyzes Bosworth’s character, Anne Marie Chadwick — plays the amorphous villain of “Blue Crush,” a film more notable for its cinematography than its plot. Chadwick, a 20-year-old surfer who lives in Hawaii with two friends and her sister, remains haunted by a near-drowning when she was younger. And surprise: She spends the movie trying to overcome that fear. There’s also a subplot, a typical movie romance with, of all people, a vacationing NFL quarterback. Cute and a nice summer diversion, but not too inventive.

But the way “Blue Crush” was shot is. Director John Stockwell placed cameras in the action to try to capture the experience of surfing. Cameramen stood in the ocean with hundreds of pounds of equipment for hours at a time waiting for the surfers to catch a perfect ride. Cameras also were placed on the ends of boards for a first-person perspective. The result? An experience almost like an amusement park ride. Plus, it just looks beautiful. The waves, that is.

While the ocean looks great, the major digital effect in the movie does not. Like all other sports, surfing can’t be mastered in a couple of weeks (though the quarterback seems to advance beyond beginner in a matter of hours, which pro surfer Lake decries in the commentary as the only unrealistic thing in the movie). Hence, Ballard replaced Bosworth on a majority of the surfing scenes, wearing little discs on her face. Those discs allowed the filmmakers to superimpose Bosworth’s face digitally. But it looks so flat — and fake — there’s no danger of mistaking Ballard for the actress.

Danger, of course, dominates the feats of the nontraditional athletes (they hate the word extreme) featured in “ESPN’s Ultimate X: The Movie” (Touchstone, 2002, 39 min., $24.99). The movie, an IMAX hit from last summer, provides an up-close look at X Games VII from Philadelphia in 2001.

OK, so street luge and skateboarding aren’t real sports. But don’t let that — or the short length of the disc — scare you off. The movie doesn’t have much substance in its theatrical version beyond a few broken bones to excite the 13-year-olds. But the DVD includes an ultimate interactive version, an enhanced viewing mode that allows you to branch to most of the disc’s extras during the movie. Icons pop up throughout, and you can select different short features using the remote control.

With the athlete profiles, medal events, trick explanations and short features lasting one to five minutes each, the length more than doubles — and so does the interest level. For instance, you get to see a couple of full runs and a profile on skateboarder Tony Hawk, plus all of his attempts at the famed — maybe using the term loosely — 900 from the 1999 X Games. And for the sadomasochists out there, you can watch the doomed backflip on a motorcycle by Carey Hart. Let’s just say it’s, ahem, Hart-breaking.

No wonder commentator Jason Ellis says, “If you look at these extreme athletes, they’re all tweaked. They’ve all got issues.”

As does George “Iceman” Chambers, one of the boxers in “Undisputed” (Miramax, 2002, 94 min., $19.99), a blatant reimagining of Mike Tyson that manages to be a rather engaging movie. Ving Rhames plays Chambers, a heavyweight champion considered one of the best offensive fighters of all time who receives 6-to-8 years on a rape conviction. He also has money problems from legal bills, an upcoming audit by the IRS and “misrepresentations by [an] ex-business manager.” Sound familiar?

The movie diverges from reality a bit after that. Chambers winds up in the same prison as Monroe Hutchin (Wesley Snipes), a former California state champ convicted of murder who has run up a 67-0 record in prison-sponsored bouts. Incredibly, a fight between the two ensues.

Clearly, there’s no identifying with either character, though any fan of boxing on HBO or Showtime might recognize some of the excellent choreography. Snipes, who trained with Emanuel Steward for the film, designed all of the matches in the movie, stealing bits and pieces from various fights he saw on TV. Rhames, meanwhile, trained with Ray Leonard; Shane Mosley’s father, Jack; and Will Smith. He also had two years worth of training for a Sonny Liston project that was aborted. That all adds up to a boxing pedigree and expertise few films can match.

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