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Weekend Roundtable: Lamest DVD and Blu-ray Bonus Features

Bonus features are still a big selling point on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of movies, but who actually watches these things? As reviewers, many of us on staff are actually obligated to sit through all the commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, gag reels and miscellaneous odds and ends on the discs we review. When supplements are well done, they can be fascinating. Unfortunately, as I can tell you from experience, these “extras” can also be a crushing bore when they’re done poorly. In this week’s Roundtable, we tell you about some of the lamest bonus features we’ve suffered through so that you don’t have to.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Since lame extras are so instantly forgettable, I’m having a tough time coming up with an all-time worst. A particularly awful recent one popped up this summer on the ‘Piranha 3DD‘ Blu-ray disc. The title tells you pretty much what you’re gonna get with the movie – razor-toothed fish and overinflated boobs. So naturally, the disc gives you a four-minute, ostensibly comedic short about tennis as an extra. “A Lesson with John McEnroe” has absolutely nothing to do with ‘Piranha 3DD’ or anyone involved with it. It’s just a few minutes straight of some obnoxious, overentitled twit playing tennis with John McEnroe. There really aren’t anything resembling jokes along the way, and the laughless short builds up to absolutely nothing. I can’t fathom why this exists or how it made its way onto the extras for an equally unwatchable B-movie. If you hate yourself, you can suffer through the short at Funny or Die.

Daniel Hirshleifer

I’m currently reviewing the ‘Harold & Kumar‘ three-movie set, and in ‘Escape From Guantanamo Bay’ is a feature called “Dude, Change the Movie!” At several points during the film, the movie pauses and you get to choose what direction the story goes in. Aside from one or two clever gags, this essentially amounts to deleted scenes being cut back in, but with an incredibly annoying interface. An extended cut or collection of scenes in the extras would have been just fine, thank you very much.

Aaron Peck

It’s hard to pick a specific bonus feature over the years that has caused me ire. In general, I simply hate how mundane special features have become. Rarely do you run across a disc where any sort of original thought has gone into the supplements package. It’s usually the same old grouping of promotional faux-documentaries that are all a few minutes long and don’t add anything substantial to the movie watcher’s experience. If I had to be specific, I really detest the inclusion of music videos for anything. Disney is the worst at this. The studio often feels the need to cross-promote all its Disney Channel pop stars on many of its great animated classics. Just terrible.

Brian Hoss

While there are plenty of phony-baloney features that seem designed to be mentioned on the box art but never actually watched (ahem, ‘Quantum of Solace’) one special feature in my collection jumps to mind with regrettable shame. The Danish sitcom ‘Klovn’ is pure comedic gold, and I’m fortunate enough to have obtained a DVD box set some years ago. Unfortunately, while it sold at a great price and the producers were wise enough to include English subtitles for the episodes, the excellent commentaries are entirely in Danish and without subtitles. This oversight, which could have been corrected with a slight amount of effort and no extra disc space, robs the set of a feature that would double its value. So, yeah, failure to subtitle otherwise excellent special features qualifies as “lamest” for me.

Steven Cohen

Throughout the numerous titles I’ve reviewed for High-Def Digest, I’ve been subjected to a fair share of terrible bonus features. With that said, one particularly lame supplement manages to stand out above the rest. Found on the ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ Blu-ray, the “I Am John Galt” featurette treats viewers to a 35-minute reel of fans intensely staring at the camera while proudly stating, “I am John Galt.” Spoiler Alert: They’re not. At least, I don’t think they are.

To be honest, even after watching the movie, I’m still not sure who the hell John Galt is, but I have to assume that he’s not a little girl with a red bow in her hair, or a creepy dude with a mustache who’s clearly recording himself in his parents’ basement. Even if you’re one of the “lucky” fans featured in the reel, I can’t imagine anyone actually sitting down to watch this. Hell, even beyond the inherent tediousness, the entire supplement is almost laughably misguided. After all, since the film’s story supposedly champions individual thought, value and creation, I’m not so sure that having a bunch of people claiming to be the same person like mindless drones was such a good idea. More than just a terrible bonus feature, it also plays like the lamest political propaganda recruitment video ever made.

M. Enois Duarte

To this day, one of the lamest bonus features I’ve encountered since the introduction of the Blu-ray format comes from the ‘2012Special Edition release. Although I’d agree that it’s appropriately titled, the piece “Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic” is ultimately nothing more than ten grueling minutes of applause and adoration from cast & crew about what a talented visionary the director is. Yes, his disaster movies often deliver fun, escapist popcorn fluff, but they’re ultimately nothing more than just that: fluff. He’s a master of empty entertainment, not poignant, meaningful film art. The comments collected in this featurette would have functioned perfectly fine mixed into the other supplements. As much as I enjoy the movie, I admit there’s no need to reserve ten minutes for praise, which only serves to inflate Emmerich’s head further. It’s lame.

Josh Zyber

Hey, remember BD-Live? Remember when studios actually thought that it would be a good idea to force viewers to connect their Blu-ray players to the internet to access exclusive “interactive” features? That turned out great, didn’t it?

It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that BD-Live was a dead-in-the-water feature, and you hardly see it used anymore. However, back around 2008, when the first BD-Live capable players finally came to market (delayed two years after the format’s introduction), studios attempted to sell consumers on the merits of BD-Live with ridiculous internet features. Perhaps the most worthless of these was the “Put Yourself in the Movie!” mode found on ‘Starship Troopers‘ and ‘Starship Troopers 3: Marauder‘. Here’s how I described it in my reviews at the time:

Unfortunately, the “Put Yourself in the Movie” feature is just about the cheesiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Here’s how it works: Via the disc’s BD-Live option, access the Sony web portal. Using an agonizingly slow keypad simulator, you can register and have instructions for uploading a personal photo emailed to you. Follow the sizing recommendations as carefully as you can. Then go back into BD-Live and align your face onto an animated trooper’s body (male or female). When you return to the disc’s main menu, you will find a new option in the Bonus Features menu to view a half dozen clips from the movie (about 20 seconds each) where your cartoon avatar will pop into the frame, pasted on top of the live action footage, usually out of scale with the surroundings, and standing there stiff as a board. In some scenes it shoots a gun… while pointing towards the camera, even though the bugs it’s supposed to be shooting at are behind it. It looks utterly stupid and ridiculous. To accomplish all this takes about an hour, and the affected clips run for a grand total of two minutes.

What a waste of my life it was to go through all that effort.

If you’re a Blu-ray fan, you’ve undoubtedly sat through some lame bonus features in your day. Tell us about the worst in the Comments below.

8 comments

  1. I still have plenty of DVDs from circa 1997 where the special features listed on the back include ‘interactive menus’ and ‘scene access’. And when I say ‘include’, I mean ‘entirely comprise’. You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it!

    • Jason

      Thank you! I was terribly disappointed by the time I finished watching that. Maybe if I hadn’t just watched all of the features on Iron Man 1/2, Thor, and Captain America it might have seemed slightly more interesting, but I was really expecting something a lot more for Avengers, and an “exclusive” disc at that.

  2. William Henley

    The BD-Live feature on Warner Brothers discs are completely pointless. It seems to take you to a portal where you just access trailers of their other Blu-Rays. And its slow.

    Not that all BD-Live features are bad – the BD-Live features on Terminator 2 Skynet Edition are AWESOME! Sadly, the disc has so much going on, if you play it in anything other than a PS3, it can take about 5-10 minutes to load up menus. Also, the BD-Live on SOME Disney discs are cool, when they have additional bonus features you can view. Sadly, only a few discs have that.

    The Bonus Features on the Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge Blu-Ray were horrible! They were ported over from the DVD, so it was standard def – but some idiot thought that we must present it at the same resolution – we cannot scale it. So, instead of like most discs where we get like an MPEG2 video at 480p, we get a 1080p window with a postage-stamp sized video playing in it, surrounded by a border. Who thought this was a good idea?

    What is that feature that is on just about every single Universal disc, UControl or something? Has ANYONE been able to figure out how to use it? I know one disc (I can’t remember which one) had directions on how to use the feature, and I still couldn’t figure it out. It was way overly complicated.

    Any internet enabled content on an HD-DVD. Several players had internet connections that didn’t work until you installed a firmware update. My firmware update was released about 9 months after Toshiba announced the death of HD-DVD. By the time I got the internet working, most of the servers hosting the material had been turned off.

    International language clip montages – really pointless if the disc already has 10-20 audio tracks on it.

    Thermian Audio Track on Galaxy Quest. This was funny for all of 5 minutes.

    “Follow The White Rabbit” on The Matrix DVD. Maybe it was my player, but I never could seem to get it to work properly.

    Any promo on a Blu-Ray disc that is in SD advertising a Blu-Ray disc.

    Any promo advertising the disc you are actually watching.

    Any promo advertising the format you are watching. Why are you advertising Blu-Ray or HD-DVD to me when I have already bought (or rented) the disc?

    Speaker calibration tests on Disney discs – especially when the channels get swapped in the test. “Brave” was guilty of this on the 7.1 test – the 5.1 worked fine, the 7.1 tended to throw all rear sounds to the far rear (7.1) speakers. Also, with the noise it generates, its sometimes hard to tell which speaker it is coming out of, unless you actually get up and walk over to each speaker.

    Bookmark features. Does anyone use this? Can I not just go to the scene selection menu?

    PC Friendly on DVDs.

  3. Rcorman

    Any Blu-ray disc (especially TV series) that use BD-Live/BD-Java which stops the disc from resuming where you left off.

    Maybe they should include that on their special features list on the case – allows resume play of discs.

  4. We have to place Birdemic in this list. The movie was bad enough.

    And wtf? Just watched Back to School last night. The movie auto plays (nice) but when I try to hit “Disc Menu” to get to the extras that the package says are there, apparently User Prohibit bits are in place, it says “Unavailable”

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