October 2008 Archives
By now, you should have made your peace with the fact that Journey to the Center of the Earth is not a great movie. It wasn't trying to be. It's a 3-D showcase, with a particularly pleasant (if beefcakey) Brendan Fraser in the lead role. It's fun and funny and the 3-D will probably make you jump a few times. So, you'd think the studio would try to sell the DVD and Blu-ray by adding a whole smattering of special features, right? Well, not so much.
Apparently, Warner Bros. felt that 3-D was all the "extra" we needed, so they only offered up a commentary and three featurettes in addition to the regular, two-dimensional version of the film, the 3-D version and four pairs of 3-D glasses.
The 2-D version of the film isn't worth a look, really, since this movie is nothing more than a 3-D (and Brendan Fraser) showcase. But the 3-D version is fun -- although not quite as thrilling at home as it was on the big-screen, it's still fun to watch how they structured the movie around how to make things 3-D. Also, I'm not thrilled with the green-and-purple 3-D instead of the usual red and blue. I found myself distracted by how green the whole movie looked, a problem I didn't have when I saw it in the theater. So I can't help but think that's a problem with the DVD rather than the film.
The other extras are decidedly lacking in substance, but they're still pretty fun. (Just like the movie, right?) The commentary with Frasier and director Eric Brevig doesn't reveal anything hugely exciting, but it did help me like Fraser even more, since his charm and positive attitude comes across. He really seems like he must be the most fun, happiest guy to work with; and since he's the type of guy you find yourself wanting to hang out with, spending a couple hours with his commentary certainly won't make you hate yourself or anything.
The three featurettes are all short and low on substance, but still sort of fun. "A World Within Our World" is actually the most serious and enlightening of the three featurettes. It has actual scholars (geology types) talking about the theories posited by Jules Verne's novel and the film. You might not learn anything new (spoiler alert: It's definitely not possible to journey to the center of the earth), but it's still fun to hear from these guys, who don't just poke fun at it all. "Being Josh" is a sort of dorky and adorable featurette, which follows actor Josh Hutcherson (who plays Fraser's character's nephew, Sean Anderson) on the set. It serves no purpose, really, but will most likely be fun for kids (who, let's face it, are the target audience here anyway). The third featurette, "How to Make a Dinosaur Drool" is hardly worth a mention. It's only two minutes long, and doesn't even go into how they actually made the dinosaurs much. It pretty much is only about how they made them drool, which is really a disappointment. The effects in this movie actually were worth dissecting more than this. Still, I have to admit that even all two minutes of this featurette were fun.
In short, then, this DVD is all about the fun and not at all about the substance. But if 3-D's all you're using as a selling point, I guess you don't have to worry about things like "substance." And Journey to the Center of the Earth certainly didn't. It's pure, unadulterated entertainment from start to finish. Even the stuff that you intellectually know should annoy you is likely to keep you entertained.
Still thinking about buying it? Do it now, before you change your mind.
I love scary movies, but didn't see The Strangers in theaters because for whatever reason I had equated it in my mind with the assault on cinema that was Vacancy, which is probably the least scary movie I've ever paid 12 bucks to see, and didn't want to get burned again. After watching it at home last night, however, I was pleasantly surprised by The Strangers and wished I'd gotten to experience it in a big, dark theater, as opposed to my tiny, dark living room. The movie's surprisingly effective, and even more surprisingly engrossing, and I was gleefully uneasy for the entire ride. Sure, it suffers from a few horror clichés of unbelievably stupid victims, a false true story claim that is wholly unnecessary, and the final shot is gimmicky and tacked-on, but despite that, it's pretty undeniably well-crafted. Bottom line: the movie works. It knows what it's doing. The extra features? Well, there are two! I know, pencil it in and let's make a day of it, right?!
This little nine-minute experience details how they filled the gaps between the on-location shots and the soundstage shots, Liv Tyler dishes on how nervous she was about performing her bloodcurdling genre scream, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's hilarious Glenn Howerton talks about what it was like to lie around dead with prosthetics all over his face for the majority of the movie. It's not great, but it's okay!
There are also only two of these, and they're short. The first is a boring extension of the wedding reception scene, and the second is actually a really good scene where Liv Tyler's character explains more of why she's not ready to get engaged. It's well-acted and gives what I thought was necessary insight into the main characters' relationship, but what the hell do I know.
Buy it now! Make Halloween costumes out of it!
Love or hate this movie, if you are considering buying it at all, make sure you splurge for the 2-Disc Special Edition. The lack of extras and commentary on the first one will only make you more annoyed (if you're only buying it because you own the others and can't not have the complete set) or disappointed (if you enjoyed the movie and want more). Personally, and I know I'm in the minority here, I really enjoyed this film. Sure it's totally preposterous and the "nuke the fridge" thing was over the top, but I still thought it was fun, and I enjoyed revisiting the characters. But I'm not here to debate the relative merits (or lack thereof) of this film compared to the original trilogy, I'm here to talk about the extras, and the 2-Disc set has plenty to offer.
Like I mentioned before, there is no commentary track. I would have appreciated one, but they made it up to me in other ways. "The Return of the Legend" feature is a good start. It mostly focuses on Spielberg reflecting on how this film came about. Basically, Harrison Ford was very persuasive and made it happen, and you haters can put the alien or "interdimensional being" blame squarely on George Lucas' shoulders. The rest of the cast and various crew members talk about how they became involved. The Pre-Production feature that's also tucked in on the first disc talks a lot about the logistics of casting, recreating the costumes, finding just the right hat, etc. Nothing super-groundbreaking, but I did find it interesting to watch.
Disc 2 is where it starts to get good and they redeem themselves for the lack of a commentary. "The Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is pretty much worth the price of the special edition. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the film that has interviews with the cast and really gets into the nitty-gritty of making this film, which, considering how detailed and lengthy this segment is, was probably more informative than a gabby commentary where Spielberg, Lucas and Ford would have been like, "Hey, did you know that kid in the library was Tom Hanks' son?" "Why yes, I did know that." "Do you think the stunt coordinator was nervous about that?" "Gee, that's a good question." Instead, we get to see how they actually made the scene in the library and learn from the stunt coordinator himself in the midst of shooting what it was like nearly crashing a motorcycle into Tom Hanks' kid (not Colin, the other one). And I learned an awful lot about motorcycles.
The rest is interesting, but it mostly depends on where your interests lie. There's a segment on how they created the makeup look for the warriors (it involves a lot of glue), how they created the Crystal Skulls (I'm sure this was fascinating to some, but I was bored) and how they did the props, like the swords and whips and whatnot. There's a whole segment on the sound guy (or Foley artist or whatever the proper term for them is), who made the neat ant crawling noises with animal feed and a blend of other sounds. (It's a creepy noise, even without the visuals.) There's "The Effects of Indy," which should really be called ILM Magic, where they detail the painstaking process of taking the filmed footage and going over and over it to age it, add bullets, depth of field and the like. Those guys are just insane. And then you have the Pre-Visualization Sequences, which are the computer graphic preps for some of the very action-heavy scenes. They're pretty detailed and look a lot like a video game. It's pretty impressive.
Then there is the most pointless extra of all time (unless you are the parent or relative of someone who worked on this movie). It's called "Closing: Team Indy" and starts out with Spielberg giving an "it takes a village" sort of speech about all the people that contribute to getting one of these films made and then essentially devolves into credits for the film that basically show off what everyone does.
The rest is galleries and trailers and a demo of Lego: Indiana Jones (which you can play on your xBox 360). I know this isn't a video game review column, but that game is one of my favorites. It's got Indy (in Lego form) acting out all three of the original movies, and when you get near snakes, he shudders and hides. It is the most adorable thing, plus you can use your whip to grab Marion or any of the other ladies around and pull them into a liplock. It's good stuff. So is the DVD. And while I liked the movie in theaters, I liked it even more the second time around (admittedly, I checked my brain at the door before turning it on), and here's hoping you will, too.
Check your brain, and buy it now!
I wasn't expecting great things from War, Inc., a satire about the perma-war in Iraq, where military operations are run by the same contractor who rebuilds everything. But I enjoyed the hell out of it, mostly because it was pretty much a remake of Gross Pointe Blank, complete with hitman John Cusack, assistant Joan Cusack and an appearance by Dan Aykroyd, with the added benefit of a hilarious Ben Kingsley, a tarted-up Hillary Duff and Marisa Tomei in the Minnie Driver role. So I was sad that there were absolutely zero extras on the disk. Not one. No director's commentary, no Cusack commentary, no gallery of all the fake ads they designed, no greenscreen footage of Cusack driving before they dropped in the barely convincing street scenes... Nothing. Considering that the movie had a limited theatrical release, a ton of special effects work, and it also came out on Blu-Ray, it seems strange that the studio wouldn't put some extras on the disk to make it a more attractive package, and, y'know, actually make some money off this thing.
Before you brush this off as a kid's movie, give me a chance to hype the geeky features that will make this a must-have for a kid or kid at heart.
Normally I'm against Disney's whole practice of throwing things in the vault and then dusting them off every couple of years, adding an extra feature, putting it in a snappy new box and charging extra for it so that you feel the need (or pressure from your kids) to buy them again. However in the case of the Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Edition, it's worth the price. The film has been completely restored to it's beautiful 70 millimeter format, so it is just filled with stunning visuals. Plus, there's a slew of bonus scenes (including songs that had my two-year-old clapping along) and some really cool extras.
I'm not going to describe the plot. If you haven't seen the film or read the book... go check Wikipedia and come back. I'll wait. As some of the filmmakers point out in the "making of" documentary, it's really hard to make an entire feature length movie out of a story that is four or five paragraphs long. Apparently, it was Walt Disney's particular gift to be able to transform classic fables and make them addictive film fare for audiences young and old. He also knew how to cross-promote the hell out of his content, as I learned in "The Peter Tchaikovsky Story." This biopic originally aired as part of Wonderful World of Disney and was a history of the composer that was used to plug the heck of Sleeping Beauty. At the top of the feature, Walt talks about the forthcoming Magical Mural Screen (widescreen for those living in this century) and how it will be the first time anyone has seen this on their TV sets. He also explains about Stereophonic sound, which you can achieve by turning on the radios in your house at the same time as the TV and tuning them so they all played the special at once. And he hypes that this is the first full-length animated feature to be filmed in Technirama 70, and how this film cost a whopping six million dollars to make. The Tchaikovsky biopic is slow and skippable, but to see the widescreen broadcast is pretty damned impressive.
Also on the first disc is audio commentary by Pixar founder John Lasseter, Disney animator Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin. Three smart guys talking about the film and the nitty gritty details, kinda fascinating. There are self explanatory Princess Fun Facts and a version of the "Grand Canyon Suite" with pictures that was released way back when and can cure even the most serious cases of insomnia. There's a convenient song selection menu that allows you to just cut straight to the sing-a-long versions of the scenes (parents will appreciate this the 100th time a toddler requests to listen to "Once Upon a Dream"). The misleading "Fast Play" is NOT a feature and a complete misnomer. It's something that Disney has on most of their DVDs now that allows parents to put on the movie and have it play all of the commercials -- you have to SKIP the Fast Play in order to get straight to the movie. It's their sneaky way of getting you to watch their commercials and I don't like it one bit. And the other thing I don't like? Emily Osment singing "Once Upon a Dream." You may not know who she is, but she's the younger sibling to Haley Joel and equally, if not more, annoying.
On Disc 2 you've got the options, but instead of picking the blue pill or the red pill, you can visit the Cottage or the Castle. Cottage takes you to games for the kiddies where you can learn to dance like Briar Rose and stuff. Castle takes you to the more grown up fare, including songs that were cut from the movie. "It Happens I Have a Picture" in which the two stupid kings expound upon the merits of their respective children (I really can't stand those dopes), the sweeping "Go to Sleep" which played as the fairies put the whole kingdom down for a nap, and the infectiously addictive "Riddle Diddle," in which the fairies prep for Aurora's birthday. There's also the Alternate Opening with another song "Holiday," which is an uplifting number with the townsfolk celebrating the birth of Princess Aurora. They completely recycled this for Beauty and the Beast because it pretty much has the same exact flavor/sound to it.
"Picture Perfect" is the making of, filled with stories from all those involved who are still around, including Mary Costa (who did the voice of Aurora). I learned so much about how it took nearly a decade to make it, and it was a conscious decision not to have talking mice or dwarves. There's a great extra called "Sequence 8" in which more of the same people specifically talk about the "Once Upon a Dream" portion of the film, which apparently went through a number of changes, cost more than $10,000 (a lot back then) to make and was nearly the cause of the film shutting down production. There's a feature on Evyind Earle, who was in charge of the art, and there's a whole history of his sad upbringing as well. And another Wonderful World of Disney special about four artists painting one tree, where Disney hypes the different personalities and styles he has working for him, and mentions they worked on Sleeping Beauty. Evil genius, that man. I swear. And if you like the art/animation stuff, there are galleries and storyboard sequences galore to be had, as well as the artists sketching from live action performers and the original trailers (hidden under the guise of publicity). It's really insanely thorough and could keep you busy for days.
My personal favorite feature (since I always wanted to be an Imagineer) was a walk-through of Sleeping Beauty's castle where there's a look at what the attraction used to look like back in it's heyday before it was shut down. There used to be peepholes where you could see Malificent's Demons, or a reflection of your own eye looking back at you like a million times. Creepy and cool. And I liked that there were multiple versions of it so you could see it with a guided explanation, or just pretend you were "wandering." Those Disney people are always thinking... and suckering me into buying more of their stuff.
Suckered in yet? Then buy it now!
Thank the good lord that this movie was as good as it was. After the train wreck that was Ang Lee's Hulk, anything would have been an improvement, but LeTerrier knocked The Incredible Hulk out of the park, with a great script, a great cast and enough hidden "Easter eggs" to fill a comic geek's longbox. The 3-Disc Special Edition DVD (the "Hulkier" version described here) has a ton of extras, including the cut Captain America cameo, and while that extra in particular isn't all it could be, the rest are pure, gamma-irradiated goodness that will make you want to punch William Hurt in the mouth, in the best way possible.
Is there anything more awesome than a British guy and a French guy talking about superheroes? Yes, and that's when they're both incredibly excited about the movie, there's plenty of stuff for them to talk about, and they're both pretty knowledgeable about the source material. In one of the few commentary tracks that I actually wanted to listen to for the length of the movie, Tim Roth ("Emil Blonsky") and director Louis LeTerrier talk about the making of the film, and all of the different locations they shot in. (There were apparently dozens, and not just the obvious ones. For instance, the interior of the Brazilian bottling plant was in Canada; and the interior of Banner's Brazilian apartment was a soundstage.) It's too bad Edward Norton isn't on the commentary, as well -- although it's understandable why not -- but I'm almost glad he's not, because I feel like he would have brought the room down. Roth literally laughs with glee when he sees the Hulk chasing him across a field, and seems to truly love how the movie came out.
The first batch of deleted scenes includes a lot of fill-in-the-blanks. We see Norton mountain-climbing in Brazil, meditating with the metronome, receiving a book on flowers from Mr. Blue, asking his friend to locate it for him, and collecting the garbage he needs to make a crude centrifuge. None of this was in the final film, and yet we assumed that it all happened, and that was totally fine. A new scene is General Ross explaining his mission's failure to his superior, General Greller; it's the first time that we (and Blonsky) see that Ross also answers to somebody. We start to see Ross and Blonsky grow closer together, and that's reinforced in an extended version of the following scene in the hangar, where Ross explains his and Banner's involvement in the super-soldier program. It's probably twice as long as the original scene, and William Hurt sells every minute of it.
You've probably heard a lot about this opening online, because it contains the much-anticipated, and yet incredibly elusive Captain America cameo. Some people aren't happy with it, because it's almost impossible to see and it only shows up for a split-second, but it's kind of cool when you think about it. In the opener, we see Edward Norton going far North, hitchhiking with those Ice Road Truckers we've been hearing so much about and then snowshoeing the rest of the way, until he gets to the edge of the ice shelf, and prepares to kill himself. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that it doesn't happen, but it's still a bit of a downer to kick off the feel-good-movie of the summer with. One thing leads to another, and for a brief moment you see Captain America frozen in the ice. In fact, you could say that this scene probably makes the discovery of Captain America possible. It's a cool scene, and a great Easter egg for fans, but I can see why it was cut.
Yes, more deleted scenes -- there are over 20 in all, on both discs. This disc starts off with a bunch of goofy quick scenes of Banner delivering pizzas around the campus, including one where he corrects a study group's equation, one where he's told to embrace the hero inside him, one where he's told to smash a door down, and one where he wastes his "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" catchphrase on two unbelievably rude sorority girls. All are better off cut, as is the entire idea that he would do the entire delivery route just to lie his way into the lab. A whopping six cut scenes are spent at Betty's house -- which here is actually Betty and Doc Samson's house -- and Doc Samson is in all of them, mostly to interrupt tender moments and psychoanalyze Banner. He comes across as a much less sympathetic character, possibly throwing a wrench in the Doc Samson, Ph.D. spinoff film.
A pre-fight rant by Banner about his and Betty's arrogance to try and change God's design bookends a post-fight monologue by General Ross about how he wants to harness the Godlike power Hulk has. Next to each other, they pretty clearly show where they differ in their opinions about science; separated by the fight, they might not have had as much impact. A post-make-out-session heart-to-heart between Betty and Banner is pretty sappy, and doesn't address Mr. Green's serious case of "Mr. Blue Balls." In the helicopter on the way to Stearns' lab, Blonsky starts to show some restlessness about engaging Banner directly, but is talked down by Ross's right-hand woman, Sparr, who also gets extra facetime in the earlier monologue and in a post-raid debriefing scene. And we end with the return of Doc Samson, who gets Betty on the phone long enough to be forgiven for turning Banner in and then told that Betty's not coming home right away. That should give him time to bulk up, grow his hair out and dye it bright green.
The Making of Incredible
...Brought to you by Volkswagen, for some reason. Not sure exactly why, but this is a pretty extensive overview documentary, with interviews with all of the principal actors about why in the hell they agreed to be in a sequel to a superhero movie, and interviews with Leterrier about his own thought process. We see some concept art that Leterrier sent to Marvel before he accepted the job, which is pretty cool, and we see a lot of behind-the-scenes footage as we travel with them to all of the locations. Also, we see Leterrier blow stuff up a lot. Entertaining. No computer effects work, though, because that comes in...
Becoming the Hulk
Not only does this doc show us how the Hulk's facial movements were captured off of Edward Norton's real face, and how his body movements were captured or copied, we also get plenty of video footage of Norton crawling around and pretending to get shot at, which is always fun at parties. Plus, extensive discussion of what kind of hair the Hulk should have (he almost had a military cut before he went emo), and a few quick shots of Ang Lee's Hulk, which looks effing preposterous. I'm sorry, anyone who says that movie stands on its own is crazy.
Becoming the Abomination
The logical counterpart to "Becoming the Hulk," this doc shows them working out how the Abomination is going to look and move. Leterrier and his designers took very little from the comic book, instead going with an overgrown, protruding skeleton theme, and it was pretty difficult for the animators to work with. Also, the movement coaches worked extensively with Tim Roth and others to make the Abomination's movements as different from the Hulk's as possible. So we get to see Roth in a leotard. In other words, warm up your pausin' thumb!
Anatomy of a Hulk-Out
Three more documentaries here, detailing how they filmed each of the Hulk's three big battles: "Hulking Out in the Bottling Plant," "Hulking Out on Campus" and "Hulking Out in Harlem." The first one shows how they moved all of those big machinery pieces, the second one shows how they got Blonsky to run that fast and how they filmed the helicopter crash, and the third shows how the CG animators dealt with the battle, since most of the practical work was shown in the "Making of" doc.
From Comic Book to Screen
I had no idea, but apparently the scene with Hulk and Betty in the cave was based on a similar scene in Heroes producer Jeph Loeb's and Heroes artist Tim Sale's Hulk: Gray Book 5. Because they're nice, the DVD guys gave us an animated version of that comic sequence, similar to the Watchmen motion comics you can watch nowadays. I wish they'd done the voice-over work for it, though. I'm sure Lou Ferrigno wasn't busy.
The third disc is just a digital copy of the film. Don't worry, I won't describe it.
Still interested, now that I've spoiled everything? Buy it here!
Fans of the Coen Brothers' "George Clooney is an Idiot" Trilogy (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading) -- of which I count myself a member -- will probably like Leatherheads, which, while not directed by the Coens, certainly feels like it could have been with the addition of one or two brutal deaths. O Brother fans in particular will appreciate the film's pre-Depression-era setting and the few old-timey character actors from that film who Clooney brought with him for this, his third directing effort. Fans of sports movies and 1930s screwball comedies will also appreciate this movie, and there are plenty of extras to keep them busy on the DVD version.
The commentary track is by the very laid-back Clooney and his Smoke House producing partner Grant Heslov, who is also an occasional character actor of Middle Eastern heritage. (He plays a reporter in this film; he'll also direct Clooney's next acting project, Men Who Stare At Goats.) The two talk extensively about when shoots took place in the production, and, frequently, why they had to reshoot them (lighting problems, pacing problems, camera problems). The special effects are revealed as they go, and the trouble they had to go through to make something look like the 1920s is discussed at length. George calls out great performances as they happen, and Heslov reminds him of where they found the actors. Heslov even tries to compliment Clooney on one of the scenes he's in, but even he has to admit that it's awkward.
Aside from more gameplay footage -- from the opening, brawl-filled game in the cow field (which also has a couple of good lines) and the final mud-soaked game against Chicago -- the deleted scenes are mostly incidentals that don't really add much to the story, with a couple of exceptions. In a pair of nearly-identical scenes in the train's dining car with John Krasinski's war hero, we find out that Clooney's character fought in the war, too, but was wounded early on. We also see Jonathan Pryce's sleazy agent character hitting on a married woman at another table, which would have explained but probably cancelled out his attempt to woo Renee Zellweger in the next scene. We also get a scene where Pryce divvies up the profits from Krasinski's first game and shows that he's a slick operator, collecting money for "Miscellaneous" and sticking the team with the stadium fees. Man, that Pryce guy has been trouble ever since Haunted Honeymoon!
Football's Beginning: The Making of Leatherheads
This is your standard talking-head documentary about the film, intercut with plenty of illustrative clips and grainy, 1930s-looking footage from the set. Clooney and the screenwriters talk about where the story came from and which real-life football player served as the inspiration for the story by making the transition from college to pro football, thereby making the NFL possible. Clooney, Zellweger and Krasinski talk about the filmmaking style, and how much fun it is to be making a 1930s-style movie. (Zellweger also did a 1950s-style movie, Down With Love. Is she working her way through the decades, like Scott Bakula?) The shots of the half-built stadium sets are interesting, as are the warehouses full of 1920s costumes and props and the signmakers making 1920s-style billboards. I hope Krasinski got the giant clock with his face on it, or at least a framed copy of one of his razor blade ads. That's almost as cool as an action figure, in my opinion.
No Pads, No Fear: Creating the Rowdy Football Scenes
The differences between football in the 1920s and football today are pretty major, and so is the difference between a regular man's mustache and the bushy, grey mustache of football coach and historian TJ Troup. He was the guy hired to run the old-school plays and get the actors into shape, and this doc goes inside the training and techniques, although it doesn't ask him if he's related to Sam Elliott.
George Clooney: Leatherheaded Prankster
This mini-doc documents the longest, most drawn-out, most anti-climactic prank in the history of pranking. Since Clooney was the director, he had total control over all of his actors and crew, and he managed to waste pretty much everyone's time here in getting one over on some of the guys. ...Okay, it was kind of funny. You gotta at least admire the man for having a sense of humor.
Visual Effects Sequences
Out of all the extras, this collection of clips answered the most questions for me. In a split screen, it shows some of pretty much every single outdoor shot in the movie, with the original footage on one side and the finished footage on the other side. In some cases, the only noticeable difference is color-correcting, but in others entire audiences were dropped in, or a parking lot full of cars. It's kind of fascinating, and it makes me wonder what role that kind of extensive effects work plays in the budget of a movie like this, and whether anyone ever thought about that when preparing to make a $58 million screwball comedy period piece that only brought in about $40 million worldwide.
Interested? Buy it here.
Don't step to the Emmys, y'all. Every once in a while, they get it right. Case in point: the genius that is 30 Rock. Now I won't lie -- pound for pound, I much preferred Season One to Season Two. Not only was there a butt-ton more of it, it was slightly more outrageous than Season Two. But hey, I'm sort of splitting hairs because all 30 Rock is good 30 Rock. Sort of like pizza... even when it's not great, it still kicks ass. I paraphrase, of course.
Now on to the important stuff. Assuming you will be purchasing the Season Two DVD set, here's what you'll be getting:
Much like they did with Season One, each episode in this collection has a different commentator (or commentators). Initially, I sort of felt that since this is Tina Fey's baby, it would have been nice to have her involved in all of them, but the truth is that she's not the greatest when it comes to providing insight into the making of the show. Like, you really want/expect her to share funny anecdotes about particular scenes or reveal the inspiration for certain ideas, but there's none of that. Instead you get more along the lines of, "Oh, for that episode I got to eat a sundae AND a sandwich!" The only juicy bit we get is dirt on how being executive producer of the show that she also stars in affords her the right to veto scenes where her ass looks big. There are semi-decent commentaries from Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski, and a damned funny one courtesy of Will Arnett, who takes a little time to warm up. The hands-down best commentator who makes up for the all mediocre ones and then some is one Fred Armisen, who guest starred as the neighbor Liz Lemon mistakes for a terrorist in "Somebody to Love." Seriously, him for president.
Meh, nothing much here, honestly. They're few and not all that impressive, which I suppose is what happens when there's a writers' strike -- considering how few actual episodes there were this season, it's not all that surprising that there's a dearth of extra material for us to savor. Alas.
"Cooter" Table Read
Awesome, mostly due to the presence of Alec Baldwin, who is sort of absent elsewhere in the bonus material. I guess because he's a big, fancy, hot-shot movie star who can't be bothered with this nonsense. And I say that without sarcasm. Even after that whole yelly cellphone message controversy, I heart this man. I'm not familiar enough with DVD packages to know what's normal and what's not, but I found it rad that there was a split screen so that you could watch the actors reading their lines and follow along with the script, because it really gives you a sense of how they interpret their lines.
30 Rock Live at the UCB Theater
In order to raise fundage for the poor P.A.s who were out of work during the writers' strike, Tina organized a live performance of an episode of 30 Rock that hadn't yet aired at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, and I've got to say, this is some cool shit. The quality is heinous, but it gives it a cool, boot-leggy quality that true obsessives can take pride in. And it's awesome to see the players effectively going back to their improv/theater roots. A word of advice: The intro takes forever. Skip ahead to 8:17 to get to the real meat of this feature. Hotness.
Tina hosts SNL
Despite appearances, this is not merely the episode from last year where Tina hosted. It's a full behind-the-scenes deal that takes us through the process of preparing to host, from meeting with the writers to snippets of the table read, to backstage the night of, spliced with footage from the actual show. Not super-fascinating, but certainly not the worst way to spend eight minutes of your life.
The Academy of Arts and Sciences presents An Evening With 30 Rock
A panel discussion moderated by none other than my imaginary boyfriend Brian Williams! Sort of feels like a college seminar, so if you're into that sort of thing, by all means. Did I mention Brian Williams? Squeeeeee! I guess if you were to embrace my college seminar analogy, that'd make him the foxy, distinguished professor. I'm warming to this feature more and more!
Like what you hear? Then buy it now!
I'm for real here, that's what this feature is called. I couldn't even tolerate this awful cartoon as a child, so I can't imagine being able to put up with it now as an adult.
Music-Only Audio Track
Are you ready for this? This feature enables you to watch the film with only the score playing, and no pesky actor dialogue or diagetic sounds of any kind. It's like Beetlejuice: The Danny Elfman Music Video. Danny Elfman's scores are beautiful of course, and important staples of Tim Burton's films and style, but c'mon. I could buy the soundtrack and play the movie on mute to achieve this experience.
The original Beetlejuice trailer, but more importantly the Pee Wee's Big Adventure trailer is included too! OK, that is kind of awesome, but it's also what Youtube is for. This DVD is a waste everyone's time and money.
Buy it now, if you must.
Brace yourselves, Loveburger fans. This is the deluxe Can't Hardly Wait set you've been waiting for. I know I can't be alone in my adoration of this movie, because otherwise, why would they make it, and why would the cast agree to do so many extras? I believe this last-night-of-high-school party flick holds a special place in the hearts of many, and that legion of devotees will not be disappointed. In fact, might I suggest throwing a kick-ass party specifically to celebrate watching this with your friends? Crank up the "Paradise City," drink so much you can't feel your legs and then end up getting the shindig crashed by the cops? It would be awesome.
Even if you don't want your house destroyed and for people to hook up in your bathroom, there's still a lot of fun to be had here. Mostly because of Seth Green. The plot synopsis:It's the last night of high school, there's a bitchin' party and everyone tries to get either one last dig at their mortal enemies, hook up with the girl of their dreams or right some other wrong. It came out a year before the similarly themed American Pie so it's slightly tamer, but it has one of those who's who in pop culture kind of casts that make it a culty favorite. I guarantee you that someone you know has quoted this movie to you at some point, even if you didn't realize it at the time.
Now I know what you're thinking, because I kind of thought it too: You already own a version of the DVD of this goofy comedy, which has a commentary on it, so why buy another one? (What, is that just me?) But when you find out what's on here... you're probably going to cave. Just like I did. (I can't be the only one.) The only thing that ticked me off was that the previews were billed as extras and I had to sit through them at the beginning of the movie. Truly annoying. But I learned there's a sequel to Center Stage, so that's something.
The original commentary is on here, but now it's also got special reunion commentary. It's like going to your high school reunion, but with people you actually like and would want to spend time with, instead of those you've spent the last ten years trying desperately to avoid at the supermarket, etc. The track features Peter Facinelli (who played the jock Mike Dexter), Donald Faison (drummer for Loveburger), Seth Green (wannabe gangsta Kenny Fisher), Joel Michaely (X-Phile #1), and writer/director team Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan. There are so many good nuggets of info on here, mostly doled out by Green or Michaely (who together function as a walking, talking Can't Hardly Wait wikipedia). Michaely is the guy who knows where everyone went, what they are doing now, and random fun factoids about shooting the movie. They're all hanging out, sipping margaritas and reminiscing. Some fun facts that I learned: James Marsden auditioned for the Mike Dexter role. Breckin Meyer (who was dating Kaplan at the time and is now married to her) was supposed to play Kenny, but he was busy filming the "classic" 54 and just opted to play the Loveburger frontman. Donald Faison talks a lot about Clueless (movie and TV show), but comes out with the best random line. "You know what sucks? When you date a girl and she says she loves Star Wars, but she really doesn't." Aw, Donald. Come hang out at my house. You can play with my R2-D2 collection. Oh, and the geeky kid from Hook who played nerd hero William Lichter. Apparently he's, like, working for the government now and he's a total genius. Diverse cast. And last bit of important info, never play Celebrity or Charades against Breckin Meyer and Seth Green. They are a force.
There's several Featurettes. "The Huntington Hills -- Class of '98 Reunion," which has all the folks from the commentary being interviewed, plus Ethan Embry, Freddy Rodriguez, Jenna Elfman, Michelle Brookhurst, Nicole Bilderback, Tamala Jones and Jennifer Lyons all chatting about making the film. There's also the "Making of a Teen Classic," more interviews about filming, how Seth was obsessed with doing random Polaroid pranks and how the directors had hardly any experience. They also thought about making the movie all in one take... but rethought that quickly. And "Life of the Party" about making the party and then their tales of post-grad bashes that they went to. Facinelli (who is weirdly blonde, so they must have filmed his stuff during the making of Twilight) talks about having a kid and playing a teen. Embry doesn't really like parties because he's old. Which is 30 in his book.
There are the obligatory deleted and extended scenes. None of them is especially remarkable, unless you really want to watch Jerry O'Connell belch more. I thought there'd be more of the crying girl (played by Amber Benson) since they talk about that role getting cut a lot, but I guess it got cut here too.
Other random stuff, "You Know You're '90s If... Trivia." This is depressing. The video for Smashmouth's "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby." It features some of the cast, especially Jennifer Love Hewitt, and was choreographed by Robin Antin (she who wrought the Pussycat Dolls upon the world) and directed by McG. And "Special K's 411 Track Yo," which is essentially the pop up video version of the film, with fun facts about the movie.
The only thing really missing is any sort of commentary from Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is probably trying to distance herself from this now that she's in Ghost Whisperer land, or she's just too busy. (Though one would argue that Seth Green is always busy and so's Donald Faison and they made time... but whatever.) And Lauren Ambrose has moved on from this world, too -- they say she was doing Shakespeare or something. And I would have loved if Jaime Pressly gave her take on the film, because she's just a hoot. But she's got one of those day jobs, too -- although, unlike Ambrose and Hewitt, who had starring roles, Pressly was only in a few scenes, and she mostly shook her ass. Oh, and a current picture of Charlie Korsmo (especially if he's all in government duds) would have been appreciated. Though working for the EPA or government or whatever is arguably slightly more important than talking about a teen comedy he made ten years ago. But just slightly.
You know, for a guy who at this point should probably be aware that he is perceived as an out of control egomaniac, you'd think M. Night Shyamalan would have a gag reel put together that features the actual actors in the film, and not just himself being charming and witty on set. But you'd think wrong.
Deleted Scenes with Intros by M. Night Shyamalan
The intros are actually pretty interesting, detailing how test screenings affected the final cut of the movie, and how Shyamalan had to reign in the grossness factor overall a little. He kind of makes a big deal about an extended cut of the lion attack scene though, which was cool, but I didn't notice a big change from the theatrical version. He also does not explain how a lion can breezily rip someone's arm off with seemingly little effort like he's some Mr. Potato Head lion tamer, but hey, movie magic.
The Hard Cut
This is just an explanation of why Shyamalan and Co. decided to go for an R rating instead of a PG-13, in case you were wondering.
Making Of Featurette
This is more of the Shyamalan-movie-set-starring-Shyamalan business. I honestly don't think he's aware that other people worked on this movie besides him.
A Day for Night
This is not just a clever title. It's a day in the director's life of M. Night Shyamalan! Which is also what all the other extras are! Seriously, if M. Night Shyamalan's ego and Diddy's ego got in a fight, who would win?
Elements of a Scene
This is the best extra on the disc. It pretty thoroughly chronicles how the special effects and stunt people put together John Leguizamo's death scene (from car crash to wrist slash) in what looked like one take, without killing any actors. It's impressive!
Buy It Now
Adam Sandler's epic Israeli hairdresser film is many things. Controversial? Yes. Inspired by a 10-year-old SNL sketch? You bet. Risqué? Jesus Christ, yes. I haven't seen the theatrical version, so I don't know what specifically was added to the 2-disc unrated version aside from penis-slapping sound effects (a fact I gleaned from the commentary track), but the movie is definitely not PG-13 any more, that's for sure. So if you saw it in theaters and thought, "Man, this could use more shots of Adam Sandler's butt double," then you're in luck. Also, the extras aren't bad. They're not great, either, but they still give us more John Turturro, and that's always a good thing.
There are two commentary tracks -- one with director Dennis Dugan, which I'm sure is very good, but I don't know why anyone would listen to that one when they could listen to the one that had Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, co-writer Robert Smigel and Reno 911 alum Nick Swardson, who plays Zohan's friend Michael. (Sadly, no Turturro.) The banter and teasing is relentless between the four old friends (this is Swardson's third Sandler film), and we learn some interesting things, like the fact that Sandler likes to refer to himself as "the Sandman" and that he hates hummus -- unfortunate, since Smigel wrote about 70 hummus jokes into the film. Also, the scene where Sandler kicks a guy a bunch of times was partially improvised, and almost didn't make it into the movie -- inauspicious beginnings for a joke that became not only the basis for Zohan's ad campaign but also the basis for Disaster Movie's ad campaign. And can you believe the "Smell it, smell it, now take it" line was inspired by one of Rob Schneider's fart jokes? You can? Yeah, me, too.
There are 15 deleted scenes, and you can see why most of them were cut. If the original film had shown Sandler using his goggles to see through Palestinian women's burkas to find a disguised Phantom, that probably would have raised a few (more) complaints from Arab groups, despite seeming like a pretty funny gag to this Irish-Italian reviewer. Ditto a scene where cab driver Hamdi tries to enlist his daughter's help in looking up information about bombs on the Internet, although the complaints would probably have come from children's advocacy groups. (Still funny on this end.) But Turturro fans should check out a short bonus clip of Phantom training, plus scenes where he interacts with John McEnroe. Otherwise, the rest of the jokes are unnecessary throwaway gags, and a few of them would be more accurately titled "Outtakes": we see the full arguments between the three Israeli electronics salesmen (including Smigel) and their customers, and we see Salim and Hamdi trying out different hands-free ways to tell each other that their cabs smell bad.
There are a whopping 10 featurettes to choose from, but it's a bit of a mixed bag. Most of them have a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, but they also have a LOT of clips from the movie you just saw, as well as a good amount of redundancy. "Look Who Stopped By" runs down all of the guest-stars (Chris Rock, Kevin James, Henry Winkler) and shows them shooting their scenes, while "All-American Redneck" is specifically about Dave Matthews' fairly minor character. "The Stunts of Zohan" shows how they did all of the action sequences, including the one where Sandler swims after the Phantom's Jet-Ski, while "Zohan vs. the Phantom" talks to John Turturro about his character. "Dugan: The Hands-On Director" shows director Dennis Dugan having fun with his cast, while "Dugan Español?" shows Dugan trying to talk to his Mexican extras in their native tongue. "Shooting Baja for Tel Aviv" is bare-bones footage shot in and around La Paz, Mexico, where they filmed the Jet-Ski sequence and the scene where Dugan tried out his Spanish (doubly redundant!), and "Laughing is Contagious" is simply a blooper reel.
However, two features stand out: One, "From Guns to Scissors," talks to the film's Jewish and Arabic actors about the experience of working on a film set with people whom their Middle Eastern cousins would call their mortal enemies. The other, titled "The Robot," is an interview with Cobra, the robot who can barely be seen sitting in the back of the room during the briefing scene -- I didn't even notice him the first time. Apparently, based on the clips he shows (and his bitter, monotone commentary), he was a originally much bigger character in the film, and could be seen shooting on the firing range, participating in the briefing and helping with the mission before it was decided that he -- and his involvement in the film's original ending -- didn't test well, and there were re-shoots. (I'm assuming this is not all a big joke, because a lot of scenes where the robot interacts with the film's stars are shown.) Hilariously, Cobra had been programmed to be as human as possible, and is usually not feeling very well: he sneezes during the briefing, gets the runs during the mission and, in the film's original ending -- which they unfortunately do not show in its entirety -- he turns out to have the same non-violent dreams that Zohan and Phantom have. I want to know if this is all for real, then I want to see the original ending, and then I want to know what testing group decided Cobra wasn't funny, because, to me, it was one of the funniest things (not) in the film.
In addition to a downloadable copy of the film, the second disc of the set includes five additional featurettes exclusive to the two-disc version, also known as "The Five Featurettes That the Studio Was Okay With Cutting From the Single-Disc Version." One of them, "Zohan's Doubles," is actually not bad, as it introduces us to the talented swimmers, fighters and gymnasts who play Zohan in various scenes that are beyond Adam Sandler's abilities. The rest, though, are truly horrible. In "News on 3: Missing Goat," Salim (Rob Schneider) and Nasi talk about Salim's missing goat (stolen by Zohan long ago) in an interview presented as a newscast. The same with "News on 3: Who is the Zohan?," which features various characters talking about the legendary man, and "News on 3: It Is Good," which seems to be Robert Smigel's Israeli electronics dealer spitting a lot. Finally, "Getting Sticky" is a lot of clips of people having sex or talking about having sex, with some interviews with Sandler and Smigel about Zohan's potency and a lot of extras in bikinis talking about how much they want to get sticky with the Zohan. So basically, it pretty much sums up what the movie hits us over the head with for two hours.
Order your copy here!!
Deleted/Extra Scenes: Any excuse to spend more time with Russell Brand's hysterical Aldous Snow is OK by me, and two of the six deleted scenes included in the Bonus Features affords this opportunity. There's also a little more from the sex-plagued couple, Tammy Littlenut and Kenneth the Page, wherein we learn -- unsurprisingly -- that they're Mormons from Utah, hence their sexual difficulties. There's a sweet but unnecessary parting scene between Peter and Sarah that prolly would've tipped the movie into saccharine territory had it been included in the movie, and one rad one with Bill Hader, who's also welcome to grace my screen for as long as he'd like, and a great line that Peter delivers that's almost as good as the "you know how I know you're gay?" bit that was one of the most memorable extras from The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Line-O-Rama: This shows the principal actors improvising lines and it's pretty radagascar. Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd are clearly the maestros of this particular comedic skill. There's also a retardedly stellar extended scene with a particularly enthusiastic paparazzo that's not to be missed, and more from Wiig's kookie yoga instructor character.
Gag reel: Just that, and essentially a lesser version of Line-O-Rama, but charming and funny nonetheless.
We've Got to Do Something (music video): An extended version of the music video featured in the faux Extra segment about Aldous Snow's band Infant Sadness. You got the highlights in the movie proper, but like I said, no such thing as too much Russell Brand.
Dracula's Lament (table read): A nice little touch, this is a very insider-y bonus feature that has Jason Segel and Mila Kunis doing a table read of the scene in Lazy Joe's where he performs "Dracula's Lament" on keyboard. Nothing revolutionary but it seems in keeping with the general motif of the DVD package, which is that nothing's off limits, and the creators are fully engaged in trying to welcome the audience over to the other side of the camera.
A Taste of Blood: Turns out, Jason Segel is as big of a dorkie freak show as the character he played in the movie, in that he was actually writing a Vampire-inspired musical in real life -- no joke -- at the same time that he was penning the script for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So he incorporated it into the film as a character quirk. Not only is this behind the scenes "making of 'A Taste of Blood'" adorable, it confirms Jason Segel as the sweetest Muppet-obsessed nerd ever to have walked the planet. Love it!
Raw Footage -- Video chat: Not sure why exactly they decided to set this particular scene apart rather than filing it under the general extra/deleted scenes or gag reel rubric, but it's just an extended, split-screen version of the video chat between Jason Segel and Bill Hader. Funny, but no big whoop.
Red Band trailer: It's clear after watching the trailer that a lot of it actually came from scenes/cuts that weren't included in the theatrical release. Not that that's unusual, but it always sort of pisses me off when movies do that. Whatever, I'll get over it I guess.
Director's commentary: The commentary from director Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel and some of the principal actors just serves to illustrate that the movie was as fun to make as it was to watch ... These people seem to genuinely enjoy each others' humor, which makes for not only a great finished product but a fairly hysterical repartee for the commentary.
For the true obsessive, this disc features still more deleted extra scenes, plus an extended version of Peter torturing Sarah with "Dracula's Lament," some more footage from "A Taste for Love," a longer shot of Peter in bed with the girl who won't shut up, an awesome extended scene with Peter and various girly fruity drinks. The highlight of this disc, though, is ....
Russell Brand: Aldous Snow, which is a segment devoted entirely to how the character came to be, and features actual footage of Brand's original audition tape. For a gal like me who thinks the Brit was the best part of this movie (and that's saying something), I ate this beeswax up.
Ditto The Letter U with Aldous Snow, which is a sort of parody of Sesame Street featuring the British juggernaut
And if you haven't fallen asleep by now or are an outsized fan of this movie, you'll find an entire sub-menu featuring extra scenes from the fictional show Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime, which I believe was added entirely so as to not make Billy Baldwin feel superfluous in this movie.
Jesus Christ, will it ever end? The disc also includes fake promos from Sarah Marshall's new show(s) -- Animal Instincts, Super Strong, Ghost Cop, Divine Justice, Life's A Bitch, Walks With Angels and Jesus H. Cop -- it's actually pretty effing hilar in that it exploits every single crime drama cliche you can think of. And squee! It features a sexy cameo from none other than Jason Bateman as her trusty sidekick. So OK, this feature is totally aces.
OK, there's also raw footage of Peter and Aldous in the hotel lobby, a video diary that painstakingly (but admittedly entertainingly) chronicles the movie's production schedule, and some choice snippets from the principal actors' audition tapes (though not, sadly, Jonah Hill's. This they skimp on?). Christ, this DVD package should be called "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Making of Forgetting Sarah Marshall But Were Wise Not to Ask Because You Didn't Have Six Hours To Kill."
As if that weren't enough, there's also the Cinemax Final Cut of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, whatever that is. You watch it and let me know. I'm done.
Yes, there's a disc three. It's just the movie in a Mac and Windows PC friendly format though so relax.
Buy It Now