Recently in Multi-Disc Mania Category
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:
This limited-edition set was supposed to come with a beautiful Crow bust, but we were denied the endless hours of fun said toy would likely provide by the publicity gods, so unfortunately all I have to report back to you is the content of the DVDs. You'll just have to take a leap of faith that the Crow bust -- and the mini-posters we also didn't get -- are fun to look at. The DVDs are still pretty good, though, if undeniably cluttered with a good amount of really dated jokes, like a "What do you think of Roseanne singing the national anthem?" reference, for example, but nevertheless! When the jokes aren't topical, they're still as funny as I remember them being when I was eight. Which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your particular maturity level. The set comes with four complete movies -- First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf and Future War, plus all the sketches that originally aired with them. Now for the extras...
The History of MST3K:
They're not joking; this is a complete history, and it is loooooong. It contains many things, including footage of when MST3K was a cable access show they made in Minneapolis for a hundred bucks an episode, and the many incarnations of Tom Servo, who was basically a grey trashcan with no gumballs in the beginning. Also, Joel used to be a "prop comic." Like Carrot Top. And Gallagher. Other highlights here include: How South Park got them canceled, the episode where they were drunk, what a bitch it was to make the movie, and how much the fans hated the blonde guy they replaced Joel with.
The Original Trailers:
...Of the movies they made fun of. Some of them are funny by themselves, but they're obviously way more entertaining with commentary by Joel and the robots.
MST3K at Comic Con '08:
Moderated by the always hilarious Patton Oswalt, this features Joel and a bunch of the show's writers and producers basically telling an abridged version of "The History of MST3K" for some very excited nerds at Comic Con. And they brought Crow with them!
Variations on a Theme Song:
This is for the hardcore fan/people who enjoy terrible music. (As much as I love the show, I have always passionately hated the theme song.) This is all of the MST3K opening titles sequences edited together in sequential order. So you can see what Crow looked like when he was just starting out in Minneapolis (like a lacrosse stick with a beak), and what Joel looked like when he still had hair. Aww!
Desperately need a little Crow T. Robot for your own? Buy it here.
With the release of The Bourne Trilogy, an extras-packed set of the Bourne films, that makes approximately 375 times that a Bourne film or set has been released. Okay, so that's an exaggeration, but only slight. The folks behind the Bourne films have been unbelievably clever in milking fans with more and more releases. That all said, if you like slimmed-down packaging and don't want to waste time with any but the very best extras, this is the set for you. It's three slim cases inside a cardboard sleeve that's no wider than two standard DVD cases, and it features all three films, with the top-notch extras from the previous sets included. It's unfortunate they couldn't come up with anything new, though, to at least make it seem like there was a reason other than more money for releasing this set.
The Bourne Identity: First, to address the menus: They're weak. It's always a little bit annoying when a DVD menu plays music, because if you leave it on and leave the room, you get this repetitive music that will make you never want to put the disc in again. But that's easy enough to get past if the menus are easy to use and set up well. These are not. First off, there are two pages of bonus features, even though there aren't enough features to be broken up into two pages. And when you go into a submenu, such as "Deleted Scenes," you have to know that "BONUS" takes you back to the main menu. Don't be fooled into thinking you have bonus deleted scenes. It's just terrible labeling on the part of the DVD makers.
The best special feature here is the commentary with director/producer Doug Liman. Liman's commentary is exceptional from the moment he begins talking and jumps right into why they chose not to use the Universal music at the opening. Liman quite literally never lets up, and almost everything he lets us in on is a real highlight -- from the effects in the film to not even trying to pronounce Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's name (can you blame him?). I tend to prefer commentaries with more than one person so that there's a real conversation going on, but Liman is excellent at talking to himself, so this works better than it could have with anyone else involved.
The same featurettes are included here that have been in the past, for the most part (though some have been left out, mostly because they were repeating information or weren't as good as these). What's included: "The Bourne Mastermind: Robert Ludlum" is an abbreviated look at the novelist who created this character; "Access Granted: An Interview With Tony Gilroy" is exactly what it sounds like: an interview with the screenwriter; "From Identity to Supremacy: Jason and Marie" is a basic, bare-bones look at the characters through short, short, short interviews with the actors who play them; "The Bourne Diagnosis" answers whether Bourne's level of amnesia is possible (it's not); "Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops" is about the history of the CIA (in five minutes, of course); "The Speed of Sound" is a rather boring roundup of interviews with the sound folks; "Inside a Fight Sequence," on the other hand, is an interesting look at how a fight scene was filmed -- more interesting than the sound featurette mainly in that it's specific to scenes instead of generalized blatherings; and Moby's "Extreme Ways" music video. These featurettes are great for people who love pushing buttons every five minutes (gamers and 10-year-olds, primarily), but if you'd rather sit and watch something for a good half-hour, you might wish these had all been put into one longer documentary.
Also included are four deleted scenes amounting to less than 10 minutes, plus an alternate opening and ending (with an introduction from the filmmakers). Nothing earth-shattering, but fans will be glad this is all here.
The Bourne Supremacy: The menus and music here aren't any less clunky than on Identity. There are no confusing "BONUS" labels, but there are three screens of bonus features this time, when it all could have fit on one -- most likely an attempt to make the set seem better than it is.
This disc continues the other big problem that Identity had: too many small featurettes (all are around five minutes) that were just begging to be one larger, better, deeper, more complex (need I go on?) featurette. Here we have: "Matching Identities: Casting," which should really be called "The Cast" rather than "Casting," as it's about the actors in this film who were in the first film, too, and is more about the actors and how they work than about how they were cast; "Keeping It Real" talks about the controversial, critically loathed handheld shaky cams -- basically, director Paul Greengrass tries to justify that decision (good luck with that); "Blowing Things Up" is about how the movie stuck to the real thing instead of using CGI to blow things up (among other effects), which is always fun to see in modern movies; "On the Move With Jason Bourne" hops, skips, and jumps from one film location to the next (should have been longer); "Bourne to Be Wild: Fight Training" is another fight scene breakdown; "Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow" is about that car chase (you know the one); "The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action" (what?) is more about the car chase, particularly the machine that helped them film it; "Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene" is an action scene breakdown that explains that they had to up the action after raising the bar in the first film -- and this scene, where Matt Damon actually jumps over the bridge railing, certainly intensified the action; and "Scoring With John Powell" is about the film score (go figure!) and is not that interesting or exciting (shocking!).
So, after pushing a thousand buttons to watch about 30 minutes of extras, who's ready for a nice, long director's commentary? And while this one isn't quite as good as Liman's with the first film, that might just be because it starts to feel repetitive. I mean, I know the second movie was still good, but it's not original like the first one was, so the commentary wasn't as exciting either -- at least for me. He does have interesting things to say about why the film is nothing like the book, specific scene breakdowns, and more. Greengrass is a much slower talker than Liman, and he pauses more often, so part of the difference is just that you get far less information packed into the length of a movie.
There are five deleted scenes -- again, not all that groundbreaking but still worth a peek, especially since they run about another ten minutes. This is the one place that the disc was set up worse than Identity, because you can only choose to watch all of the scenes at once; there's no deleted scenes menu that lets you pick and choose. Although, after having to pick and choose through nearly ten featurettes, you might enjoy sitting back and watching for ten minutes straight.
There are finally text bios of each of the cast and crew members, which are a waste of disc space, since we get all of this information in video form through the other stuff -- or we can get it online. Oh, and there are DVD-ROM features that I couldn't access on a Mac.
The Bourne Ultimatum: It's clear the cast, crew, studio, or someone got tired of making DVD extras by the time this one was released, because they've seriously scaled back. I'm not sure this is a bad thing, though, since instead of a dozen tiny featurettes, we got a few bigger, meatier ones. That, plus the commentary and deleted scenes, and we have ourselves a top-shelf DVD release here. First, the featurettes: "Man on the Move: Jason Bourne" is a much better look at the film's traveling than Supremacy's "On the Move" was. This can be viewed by location (divided into Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid and Tangier) or all at once for close to 25 minutes of viewing pleasure. And it really is a pleasure. Even at 24 minutes, it doesn't feel quite long enough to explore what it was like to film in all of these places -- although, if filming the movie was as fast-paced as this featurette felt, it might not have been as much fun as visiting these beautiful places might seem. Although, come on, they were making a fun, well-regarded action movie in some of the world's greatest cities (and Tangier); what's not to like? What's really cool about this that you don't get on a lot of DVDs is that the bulk of it is behind-the-scenes footage instead of being heavy on interviews and scenes from the film. As a movie fan, it's always fun to take a look at what goes on behind the scenes, even if it is a little bit illusion-shattering.
The other three featurettes, "Rooftop Pursuit," "Planning the Punches" and "Driving School" are exactly what short featurettes should be (and they're not even as short as those on the previous two movies): They focus on one specific scene or tactic. "Driving School" is especially enjoyable, because it shows how much Matt Damon enjoys and excels at the car chase and car stunt scenes. If you didn't already love Matt Damon (and if you're reading this, it's likely you did), you will after this. Turns out if his career as an actor doesn't work out and he can't get back into writing, he can always be a stunt driver. And he's downright giddy about how fun it is, saying he'd love to do a whole movie of just car chases. Um, Matt? I think they'd make yet another Fast and the Furious movie if they knew you were interested.
The final extra is the commentary with Greengrass, which is on par with his Supremacy commentary. A lot of it will feel a little like a rehash of that previous commentary and of the extensive featurettes on this disc. But anyone who enjoyed his Supremacy commentary should give this one a listen, too. The guy has a lot of interesting things to say.
One final frustration about this three-movie set is that every disc has previews on it that you can't skip past. That's fine and dandy if you're renting them, but if you purchase discs, you should be able to skip past anything you want to. That's a huge problem with these discs that didn't exist on some of the previous versions. I mean, I love Friday Night Lights, but how many times can a person watch the same preview before they never again want to watch a disc that requires them to? And with Ultimatum, it's especially frustrating because after finishing the previews, it stays on a screen promoting the videogame and you have to push the menu or play button to get past it.
Enjoy being forced to watch commercials? Buy it now!
Allow us to enact a scene played out in offices across the country this week: "So didja see Iron Man? Wasn't it great? Who would've guessed that all they needed to do was fill the cast with Oscar-nominated actors and give them a fun script and good special effects? And how about that one scene? Wow!"
You know, there was a time when Marvel movies were terrible, back when DC movies ruled the cineplexes. Those were the days of the Christopher Reeve Superman and the Tim Burton Batman, and I don't care if those two movies were technically 21 years apart, because I'm making a point here. There was a Captain America movie made in 1944, and then the next Marvel-based movie wasn't until 1990, and that one was another Captain America which was so bad it couldn't even get an America theatrical release. Even though Marvel had successful comic books, they just couldn't get the movie deals together.
But those days are past, and you can hardly walk past a theater without bumping into someone delirious from Stan Lee-derived Comic Booky Fun. And as time has gone by, that has resulted in said Comic Booky Fun being inscribed onto DVD and being made available to you, the home consumer. Don't believe me? Well, clap your peepers on this list!
5. Ghost Rider
OK, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that a movie in which Nicolas Cage turns into a guy with a flaming skull and a crazy motorcycle might not make a great deal of sense. And of course, you're correct. In fact, it makes even less sense than you think, since Cage sits around eating jelly beans out of champagne glasses and watching TV shows that consist of monkeys fighting. It's so strange, it must have been done on purpose. And it's not like Cage doesn't know the material; he already had a tattoo of the Ghost Rider character, which he had to cover up for the movie.
DVD EXTRAS: Pretty standard fare, really. There are two commentary tracks (which seems like it might be at least one too many) and a couple of "featurettes" about the making of the movie. There are no interviews with anyone saying something like "This movie makes no sense and I'm not even sure why it got green-lit. Nicolas Cage has lost his damn mind," although the producer's commentary track is surprisingly critical.
4. Fantastic Four
"Fantastic Four" was the comic book that put Marvel on the map and changed the world of comics forever. The movie, on the other hand, is a mostly forgettable mish-mash of special effects and laughable dialogue. The best part is that Johnny Storm is gleeful about becoming the Human Torch. Too many superhero movies feature characters who mope around, depressed that they can suddenly perform superhuman feats, so it's nice to see someone whose reaction is "Whoo-hoo! I can fly! And check out these flames, baby!" This is balanced off by The Mopey Thing, as interpreted by Michael Chiklis. The worst part is Jessica Alba's "performance" as the alleged head of a genetics research division.
DVD EXTRAS: DVDs have two choices with unused footage: they can either label them "deleted scenes" or they can cut them back into the movie and call it an "extended cut". Fantastic Four goes with the latter, and it's not really clear why. This isn't like Lord of the Rings, where hours of subplots are being restored; it's more like several small scenes that were cut because they were distracting. And they still are! There's a commentary by three of the actors, which I always enjoy. Even if they don't know much about the movie ("In this scene, I was alone in a small green room for three days"), they're at least trained to be entertaining. The other commentary, with the director, producers, and writers, is very informative. Some might consider it more informative than this movie actually deserves.
The second disc of features (tired yet?) is composed of several featurettes that appear to have had a lot of work put into them. If you're looking to spend hours learning about how the bridge scene was shot, this is where to go (and more power to you). There's also a terrific documentary about Jack Kirby, the artist who practically reinvented the world of comic books in the 1960s in the process of co-creating almost every Marvel comic book there is.
3. Men in Black
Did you know this movie was based on a Marvel comic book? Well, it is. So there. Now you can impress your friends, assuming of course that you have easily-impressed friends. If you don't, I recommend you find some, since it can be fun to rattle off your vast knowledge of pop culture minutiae to people who gasp in awe rather than rolling their eyes and muttering "Who didn't know that?" Oh, and the movie is good fun, playing Will Smith at his sassiest off against Tommy Lee Jones at his crustiest.
DVD EXTRAS: This was a fairly early entry in the "Two-Disc Fancy Edition" arena, which means that some of the extras feel kind of weird. For example, during Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones's commentary, you can actually see them, and they do kind of a Telestrator deal on the screen. You don't see that too often, possibly because it requires the director to do more than blather into a microphone for two hours. The second disc is where the fancy part is, because you get to actually edit together a (short) scene. I should mention that I'm describing the old "Limited Edition" release, but it looks like all this stuff (and probably more) is going to be on the Blu-Ray version coming out in June.
As the movies get better, there's less need for me to describe them. You remember Spider-Man, right? Tobey Maguire, a spider, some neat action sequences, an upside-down kiss with Kirsten Dunst, and so on. Right. This was before they decided to make Spider-Man all emo in Spider-Man 3.
DVD EXTRAS: There are many, many different versions of Spider-Man out, including one for the PSP. If you're after special features, you probably want the Deluxe Edition, which piles on the commentaries (Sam Raimi is a very entertaining individual, although there are those who prefer learning how the shots were digitally altered to make room for product placement), trivia subtitles (it's like watching the movie with a fanboy right next to you), and a million mostly-forgettable featurettes. Oh, and outtakes from the featurettes, which seems like a slippery slope. How long until someone includes "Making of the Outtakes of the Featurettes"?
The X-Men movie gets top billing because it's my favorite Marvel comic book. Well, it used to be. Back in the 1980s. You know, when Marvel couldn't get any movies made. I covered this in the introduction. You are paying attention, aren't you? My point is that I awarded it first place and if you don't like it, you can feel free to make your own list. This was an interesting adaptation of the comic book because they mostly stuck to the 1980s roster (good choice, at least as far as I'm concerned) but rearranged character traits, so that Rogue now has Kitty Pryde's personality. I could go on about this, and how it means that the film and comic book continuities don't need to sync up, but I'll spare you. This time.
DVD EXTRAS: This got completely out of hand, if you ask me. There's so much extra stuff here that they just went ahead and named the DVD X-Men 1.5, like it's a whole new movie. You've got your audio commentary, your deleted scenes, your behind-the-scenes clips, your alternate angles, your trailers, your animatics, the usual featurettes (which, incidentally, always include too much footage from the movie for my taste; I just watched the movie! You don't need to show me three minutes of movie before showing me five minutes of people talking about it! It makes it too obvious that what I'm actually watching is some "sneak peek" thing they threw together for HBO), TV commercials, and on and on and on. There's also a lot of promotion for X-Men 2, of course.