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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ‘2012‘ Special 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.
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.