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Eight Below

The Film:
Eight Below is inspired by the 1983 Japanese film Antarctica, which in turn was based on a 1958 Japanese expedition that was forced to leave behind fifteen Sakhalin Huskies. The film has great cinematography and looks like a travelogue, even the scenes of Jerry (Paul Walker) back in the states. After the opening third of the movie sets the story in motion, the film splits into two stories: the dogs' survival in Antarctica and Jerry's attempts to return. Surprisingly, the sequences with the dogs trying to survive in the harsh winter climate of Antarctica are more riveting and emotional than Jerry's storyline.

As opposed to the dogs, who were given moments to shine, the human actors didn't have all that much material to work with as their characters easily fit into standard Hollywood characters. Jerry (Paul Walker) seems to have a genuine friendship with his dogs, although his scenes with Kate often seem contrived to lead to the expected resolution. Charlie (Jason Biggs) is the comedic sidekick who brings little to the story. However, Biggs does well with material he's given. Bruce Greenwood does his best with some tedious and expositional dialogue as the deus ex machina-like character, Dr. McLaren. Kate (Moon Bloodgood) is a strong woman and a female pilot, but keeps taking it from Jerry for some unknown reason until their relationship finally reaches its expected, though contrived, romantic conclusion.

Much of the film's plot is predictable and unoriginal, but that's not why one would watch Eight Below (or nearly every other new action film). The treasures of this film are the cinematography and the dogs, which have as much personality as their human counterparts. Although a few scenes might be too intense for young children, the film is great for families since it's without foul language. The themes of never givning up and finding ways to overcome nearly impossible challenges are also positive themes for family viewing.

The DVD:
- Widescreen Format (Full Screen also available)
- Audio Commentary by Director Frank Marshall & Producer Patrick Crowley
- Audio Commentary by Director Frank Marshall & Paul Walker and Director of Photography Don Burgess
- "Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below Featurette (10:40)
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Director Frank Marshall:
-- "Breakfast at the Base" (1:25) - Extends the opening scene with Jerry and Cooper boasting about the temperature differential from the opening scene.
-- "Russian Fish Hut"(4:25) - Jerry and Dr. McLaren arrive at a Russian emergency shelter on their way to Melbourne. Inside, Jerry explains that there is no conflict between the countries down in Antarctica. Dr. McLaren explains that he believes that a meteor from Mercury is there. Dr. McLaren passes on Jerry's stew. Jerry brings it outside and even Max isn't that interested in Jerry stew.
-- "Jerry Wants to Stay" (1:15) - Jerry doesn't want to leave as the expedition has been ordered to evacuate.
-- "Cooper Throws Up"(1:15) - Cooper suffers from sea-sickness as they sail south on the ice breaker.
-- "Jerry Meets Captain" (:50) - Jerry and Dr. McLaren meet the captain of the ice breaker.

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Eight Below
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1983 Japanese Film
Soundtrack (Vangelis)