Best (and worst) DVD extras (spoilers likely)

The first movie I ever watched on DVD at home was What Dreams May Come. Though I’d wanted to see it in theaters, circumstances had prevented my doing so, so I was eager to see it. I was not disappointed. Not merely by the movie itself, though I loved it pretty much in every way (story, acting, cinematography, score); but also the additional commentary. Being very story & subtext oriented, I found the discussions between the screenwriter (Ronald Bass) and the director (Vincent Ward) fascinating; likewise, the explanations of the meanings of the actions of various characters (Rosalind Chao’s character comes to mind) added significant value to me.

Foolishly, I thought ALL commentaries would be like that.

Of course, they weren’t.

It didn’t take me long to find that out, as the next movie I saw on DVD was Fellowship of the Ring. Despite my incessant rant on this series, I love this movie. But the DVD commentary is actively irritating to me. I don’t give a good goddamn about the intricacies of set design and special effects; to me, that’s watching the sausage being made. Moreover, the chatter just went on and on, obscuring dialogue in a way that the commentary in Dreams had not.

But that’s just me. What DVD extras stick out in your mind as best and worst?

The commentary on “There’s Something About Mary” is awesome. That is actually the first movie I ever watched the commentary on, and I thought all movies would be like that. But then I watched a couple more and they sucked hard, so I don’t watch them any more. I rarely watch any bonus tracks on a DVD.

I loved the extras on the Hot Fuzz DVD, especially the running commentary and the pop-up video-like option that points out different things during the movie. It makes me wish I had waited and gotten the 3-disc awesome set. :frowning:

Das Boot is very good, with Wolfgang Peterson and the actor who played the Captain, his name escapes me at the moment.

Jurgen Prochnow. And yes, the director’s comm. on that was excellent.

It’s been my experience that most director’s tracks dwell inordinately on the mechanics of the illusions – how different settings were spliced together, where the CGI was used, foley effects, etc. – instead of the trickier and more substantive subjects of characterization, themes, mood, tone, imagery, symbolism, etc. Trickier, because usually those are determined by one or a dozen or so screenwriters, and few DVDs offer the screenwriter access to commentary-making. Trickier still, because too often the writer credited contributed relatively little to the final script.

The closest many directors veer towards discussing story elements per se is when they touch upon a point of editing/pacing: “and here we deleted two more minutes we shot that carried this a bit further because, although it was really well acted and we loved it, it had the effect of slowing down the movie too much, and we really wanted to get back to the ticking bomb threat.”

Which of the 4 commentary tracks didn’t you like? (for FOTR)I rather liked the writer and actor commetaries - don’t think I listed to the other two.


This Is Spinal Tap has the best commentary ever. It’s in-character, the band 20 years later.

I enjoyed the “All Roads Lead to Rome” pop-up factoids for the HBO series “Rome”. I appreciated that I didn’t have to watch each episode twice for the extra information, and it’s the kind of thing I’m interested in, more than how much the director admired this or that actor’s choices, etc. The only drawback was that I sometimes missed a line or two of dialog while reading a pop-up. But that’s what the rewind button is for.

The commentary by William Goldman for The Princess Bride was just awful. He admits that he hasn’t watched the movie since the initial release, which shows as you get a lot of minute plus pauses and what he does have to say isn’t interesting.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl has a screenwriters’ commentary with the four lead writers, which was a brilliant move. They had lots of interesting things to say about the movie and why scenes were written the way they were. I didn’t listen to all of the commentary track with director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, but what I did listen to honestly just seemed…well, masturbatory. They weren’t talking about the movie, but other random stuff that was of interest to them but not so much to the movie-watcher, unless the movie-watcher was a Depp fanatic who loved gossip.

There’s something just entertaining about Kevin Smith. You may not like his brand of humor, but if you do, then hearing him talk about anything is always fun. That makes the commentaries on most of his films pretty darn good.

All of Kevin Smith’s commentaries are good. He usually gets a good group together to do the track and they have a fun time. He’s really candid as well (for Dogma he talks a lot about how much he disliked working with Linda Fiorentino).

1.) The extra scenes incorporated dire ctly into Peter Jackson’s DVd releases – his entire Lord of the Rings series, and King Kong.
2.) Peter Jackson’s re-creation of the “Spider Pit Sequence” on the DVD for the 1933 King Kong

3.) The featurettes on “The Making of …” for all the James Bond movies
4.) The footage of the “Sunset Squid Attack” on the Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
5.) The original title score – “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” – that you can play during the title sequence of Thunderball
6.) The deleted scenes from Forbidden Planet.

I’ve mentioned before that the DVDs for HBO’s ROME have a featured called “All Roads Lead to Rome”. It’s basically a pop-up “this is what’s happening in this scene” feature that gives information on the historical personalities, rituals, gods/goddesses, Roman everyday life, etc., that’s relevant to the scene. It’s fantastic- it’s worth owning the DVDs for by itself almost.
The director’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN restores several deleted scenes that majorly change the film and explain a lot about it (why the priest hated Balin so much, why Liam Neeson’s character came to that French village to begin with, a sideplot about Sybilla’s son [even the character was deleted from the finished version]).
Some of the worst-

The commentary for Boogie Nights- which I was hoping would talk about the actual porn figures interviewed for the movie and give some insight into a couple of the scenes- is basically Paul Thomas Anderson sounding bored and or stoned and giving such great anecdotes as “this was the day it rained… or maybe the day after… no, not this scene I was thinking of another…”. The In Crowd has a commentary track by the two lead actresses, Lori Huring and Susan Ward.

It’s very funny.

I really liked Tim Burton’s commentary for Sleepy Hollow.
Roger Ebert’s commentary track for Citizen Kane is, however, the best.

The bloopers from Red Eye are very funny.

Even though it’s been many years since I watched it, I still remember the director’s commentary track from Disturbing Behavior for one reason: you can clearly sense that he’s just seething with resentment over how the movie he wanted to make was ruined by studio-mandated edits. The disc has a number of deleted scenes, and indeed, when watching them I thought, “Huh, this movie would’ve been a lot more coherent if they’d left this in.” The director was right.

For something that’s not a commentary track, I quite enjoyed the “Gerald McBoing-Boing” cartoons that appeared on the Hellboy DVD.

Another extra I found interesting was on the Dexter: Season 1 DVDs. If you’re not watching the show, the main character, Dexter, is a blood spatter expert who works with the Miami PD, and is himself a serial killer. The last disc has a short video about an actual case involving blood spatter evidence and how it is used to solve a crime. A little morbid, yes, but it’s interesting to hear about how they evaluate “cast-off” and “arterial spurt” and what it tells them about a crime scene.

Best: Roger Ebert does an incredible commentary on Dark City.

Worst: There is a commentary track on the DVD for Cast Away that includes some of the production personnel, including the sound designer/specialist/whatever. He pretty much takes over the discussion, so all I remember is “And the water that you hear right here? That was done in the studio. Oh and that bird sound? In the studio…” Who cares?

I liked the director/writer commentary, OTOH I was hugely disappointed in the actor’s commentary track and couldn’t listen to more than about 10 minutes.

It seemed to me to consist of little more than the actors saying “Oh yeah, that was the day it was raining. Oh, yeah, it was really cold that day. Remember we had hamburgers for lunch?”

Who knew a bunch of guys who were such talented actors would have so little interesting to say about their craft?

I for one really enjoyed the “sausage making” aspect of the writer/director commentary and I didn’t mind missing the diaglogue as I had already watched the movie a couple of times at that point.

I confess that even though I love P. T. Anderson’s movies, I may never listen to another one of his commentaries. The one he did for Hard Eight, a.k.a. Sydney is, IIRC, basically just a long paean to how he couldn’t believe Philip Baker Hall was doing his movie, interspersed with variations on the word fuck every few minutes. And he sounded drunk.