January 2009 Archives
If you have decided to shell out your hard won dollars on the 2-disc DVD of Mamma Mia!, chances are you are a hardcore Abba fan and theater geek who will appreciate the "everything but the kitchen sink" credo that this seriously comprehensive volume affords and not some novice who thinks they're buying a pizza how-to instructional DVD. I'm not gonna waste precious space with an intro because there's way too much to describe here, and we're all very busy (shopping online), so let's get to it, shall we?
In addition to offering a yawnsville director's commentary (raise your hand if you give a flip about Phyllida Lloyd!), the bonus features on this disc bring us Abba-holics the Sing-Along version, so that you can host your very own disco-glam karaoke party and drive everyone within earshot insane with your rendition of "Dancing Queen." This is the real draw of the DVD, in case you were wondering. The scene menu is even broken up into song titles so you that you don't have to watch the whole damned thing to get to your favorite jam. Guess what me and my gays are doing this weekend?!
The "deleted scene," a.k.a. the musical number "The Name of the Game" might as well have the subtitle: "That Amanda Seyfriend Sure Can Sing!" Otherwise, shrug.
Deleted Scenes Totally superfluous, except for some light male nudity and an obscene hand gesture from Christine Baranski.
Outtakes A must for anyone who wants to see zany bloopers from that kooky goof Meryl Streep!
The Making of Mama Mia is a three-part featurette that entails the "Birthing of Mamma Mia," a sit-down interview with the brains behind the musical, Judy Craymer, Catherine Johnson and Phyllida Lloyd, as well as producer Gary Goetzman and head Abba lyricist Bjorn Ulvaeus (cue Mindy squee). "The Filmmaking" is a behind-the-scenes look at Phyllida Lloyd's rather impressive film directorial debut, plus some bits about musical director Martin Lowe's interaction with the cast and what went into the choreography and set design. (Side note: Martin is totally the run-away star of this bonus feature. So adorable and lispy!) Hilariousness ensues when Pierce Brosnan waxes on about how much he enjoyed singing, because he was most definitely the most tone-deaf of the bunch. Aww, poor Pierce! "The Cast" is exactly what you'd expect, in that it explains how they came to arrive at their casting decisions. (Fun fact: Meryl and her daughter wrote Phyllida a fan letter back when they saw Mamma Mia on Broadway. Am I the only person who totally wants to go get Margaritas with The Streep?)
Anatomy of a Musical Number: "Lay All Your Love On Me" is a queen's wet dream. It prominently features smoking hot romantic lead Dominic Cooper and breaks down the staging of this musical number in musical theater nerd detail. Plus more Martin Lowe!
Becoming a Singer: Funny Swedish accents abound in this little snippet featuring Abba principals Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Oh, and more Martin! It's sort of cute and nice to see how humbling an experience singing was for certain members of the cast (ahem Pierce). Bonus: Getting to see Stellan Skarsgard rocking out in his recording booth might be the cutest thing since Rupert the baby deer.
Behind the Scenes with Amanda irked me. She's just so self-consciously cute and loves to talk about how she has to pee and likes to eat a lot. Borang.
On Location in Greece is only slightly more interesting than a travel brochure.
A Look Inside Mamma Mia the Movie tracks the movie's origins as a stage play but is mostly an amalgam of footage and sound bites we've already seen.
"Gimme Gimme Gimme" music video is the low-budget-est thing ever (think: Amanda Seyfriend singing on a roof top for no apparent reason). Watch and laugh at its jankiness once and then skip it.
Bjorn Ulvaeus Cameo is footage from the movie that shows him dressed up as a Greek chorus member singing "Waterloo" while everyone around him points to him winkingly. Yeah. That's literally all.
If you're a Coen brothers fan, like me, then you found absolutely nothing wrong with Burn After Reading. Maybe it didn't blow you out of the water like No Country for Old Men or The Big Lebowski, but it was pure, unfiltered Coen, with a cast most directors could only dream of. And it was frickin' funny. I had hoped for some wackier extras on the DVD, like outtakes or bloopers or deleted scenes or something, but sadly the three documentaries are all business, and two of them are kinda short. Oh, well. Maybe years from now, when fans of the movie are throwing "Readingman" festivals in D.C. and dressing up like their favorite characters (Chad Feldheimer, Osbourne Cox, the hatchet, the sex pillow), there'll be a documentary about that on the special edition.
Finding the Burn
Man, the Coen brothers are adorable. When we first see them being interviewed in this documentary about the movie, they're not looking at the camera; they're looking at their nails, picking them, cleaning them, but still answering questions. The next time they appear, they're looking in the general direction of the camera, more or less, but they still seem like they're just talking to themselves or maybe each other. I guess some people might think it's less cute and more annoying, but whatever. Anyway, this documentary is primarily about the Coens and their cast trying to explain what the movie is about, and the cast also talks about what it's like working with the Coens, considering that half of them hadn't worked with them before.
DC Insiders Run Amuck
This is mainly a guide to the characters of the movie, minus Clooney's (see next feature). Oh, and minus Richard Jenkins' gym manager (even though they interview him about his co-stars), which is a shame, since he's such a great character actor. And no J.K. Simmons, who is awesome, not that he has a huge role. So basically, it's just Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich. But otherwise, it's fairly comprehensive, with the actors, the Coens and even the costume designer weighing in on them and talking about how they found the character. However, they also get into sets, revealing that the Georgetown scenes were shot in Brooklyn, the boat scenes were filmed off of Long Island, and the CIA hallway location is apparently top-secret. They don't really get into why they didn't film the whole thing in Washington, D.C., considering they had to film a few exteriors there anyway, but I assume there were tax reasons.
Welcome Back George
This mini-doc is all about George Clooney, who is playing his third idiotic role for the Coens (after O Brother Where Art Thou and Intolerable Cruelty). There is a lot of info about his character here, perhaps too much, with extensive discussion of his wardrobe by the costume designer, and we find out that John Malkovich had never met him before, although they had friends in common. Also, the Coens have a couple more funny roles already planned for him, and they hope to one day give him a serious part. Which would be pretty awesome, if they did another serious, bloody piece like Miller's Crossing or No Country, and they used Clooney. I have a big ol' man-crush on Clooney. I also like saying "Clooney." Clooney Clooney Clooney.
Greek has now officially released its entire first season on DVD with the release of Chapter Two. Try not to be confused: The first DVD release, Chapter One, was the first half of the first season, and this is the rest of that season. The second season just aired last fall and will probably be released sometime before the next season starts up. This new DVD set isn't packed with extras, but it has plenty of goodies to make it worth a Greek fan's while.
Disc 1's only special feature is commentary on the first (okay, eleventh) episode, "a New Normal," with executive producer Patrick Sean Smith and actors Senta Moses (Lizzie), Amber Stevens (Ashleigh), and Paul James (Calvin). Moses, who was in a handful of episodes, isn't one of the actors you'd think of to do a commentary for Greek, and it sort of shows. She doesn't add anything pertinent to do the discussion at all, but says things like "They have their Christmas lights on" and tells a story about falling in love with a guy because he stole a snow shovel. And none of these things are charming or endearing, because Moses has a voice that is exactly like Lizzie's voice. I think I might actually hate her as much as I hated her character, if that's possible. It was actually difficult to listen to the commentary, despite Smith and James being somewhat interesting (Stevens didn't say much at all), because of Moses's annoying additions to the conversation. And the fact that she laughed at everything everyone else said. Thank GOD she left the show, so we won't have to suffer through further commentaries with her, right? If she had done more than one commentary, I might have had to stick a fork in my eye or something. Couldn't they have gotten Clark Duke (Dale) instead? He's an actual cast member, and he's not on a commentary.
Disc 2 adds two more commentaries: On "Freshman Daze" (the episode with all of the flashbacks to freshman year) with executive producer Lloyd Segan, and actors Spencer Grammer (Casey), Scott Michael Foster (Cappie), Tiffany DuPont (Frannie), and late late arrival Jake McDorman (Evan), who comes in about 32 minutes into the episode. This is a really fun, lively commentary. You'd think it would be too many people in one commentary, but it actually works, because they're all fun and clearly enjoy each other's company. There's good info: Segan gives us a bit of a hint into the future -- that Evan might actually be nice, Kappa Tau Evan again. But it's mostly levity, such as: There is a funny moment when Foster sees a scene inside the sorority that he knows nothing about, and then he tells viewers that the guys know nothing about the girls' scenes. Segan points out he might if he read the script. It's all in good fun, but basically makes me think Foster is just like Cappie, so now I love him forever. Plus, when he sings karaoke in the episode, we learn that in real life he sings karaoke constantly. Yet another reason to love him. Oh, and yes, I am a 12-year-old girl. The best thing about this commentary is that you can really tell they're all friends. The worst thing is that they sometimes talk over each other like any group of friends. But it's worth it for the fun stuff, and the few bits of fun information (about ADR -- additional dialogue recording -- and what they wear on their shoes for clicking high heel sounds, etc.)
The other commentary on the disc is on "47 Hours & 11 Minutes," with executive producers Shawn Piller and Patrick Sean Smith, along with actors Jacob Zachar (Rusty) and Dilshad Vadsaria (Rebecca Logan). They quickly reveal that Smith, a writer on the show, stuck around for this commentary after doing the first one because it was taped during the writers' strike, so he had a lot of time to do things like commentaries. The episode also was finished during the strike, so Smith -- who wrote the episode -- didn't get to finish it up, even though this was an important episode to him (because it was the episode when freshmen parents visited). This is a more quiet commentary, but it's still interesting. With two writers/producers, you get a lot more information about how it all came together and less of the fun squeeing from the previous two commentaries. It's not as fun or funny, but definitely more informative.
Disc 3 is where all of the non-commentary extras are, though strangely there are no additional commentaries on this disc, so it still ends up feeling lighter than the other discs. Instead of commentaries, there's a flashback episode, outtakes, and a Plain White T's music video. Not exactly an ultimate collector's edition, but it'll do.
The "flashback episode," titled "And So It Begins," isn't actually an episode. It's a featurette about the making of the flashback episode, "Freshman Daze." It includes interviews with all principal cast members, and various producers. Coupled with the commentary on Disc 2, this feels like way too much focus on one episode. It would have been more fun to have an actual flashback episode looking back at the whole season of Greek, or a featurette that's about more than just the one episode.
The blooper reel is much better. It's only three minutes long and has a lot of the same scenes over and over, but that's mostly because Clark Duke apparently ad-libs like crazy, sending everyone into hysterics, including anyone watching the bloopers. And we get to see Frannie falling down the stairs in her high heels, which was much discussed in the commentary on "Freshman Daze."
The Plain White T's video, "Natural Disaster," isn't a TV show tie-in video or anything, so it was kind of surprising they included it... except for the fact that the Plain White T's are in at least half of the episodes of Greek to date, going all the way back to the beginning. There's also a code inside the DVD set to get a bonus song from Plain White T's . Okay, I admit, it's possibly a (slight) exaggeration that they're in half the episodes, but they're in often enough that it's noticeable, so that's something; they're, like, the official band of Greek. I can think of worse gigs for a band (or bands for a show, for that matter).
In an effort to make the various TWOP blogs as easy-to-keep-track-of as possible, "DVDs Unwrapped" is being folded into the Moviefile (for movies on DVD) and Telefile (for TV shows on DVD), so all of our movie and TV news will be in one place. (Well, two places.) New postings on both blogs will be filed under the "DVDs Unwrapped" category name, so you can still find what you're looking for easily, but all of the older DVD reviews will still be archived here. So if you ever want to look up that old DVD review of The Dark Knight, come here, but if you want the new stuff, here's where to go: