We talked about our favorite audio commentaries in last week’s Roundtable. Let’s follow that up with a look at our favorite DVD and Blu-ray bonus features of the non-commentary variety.
I have two here on a similar theme. The Blu-ray editions of both ‘Superman Returns‘ and ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘ contain comprehensive, feature-length documentaries that are far more interesting than the movies they support. The ‘Transformers’ piece is two-and-a-quarter hours long, and the ‘Superman’ doc runs just short of three hours. Each walks you through the process of how a mega-budget summer blockbuster is put together, from scripting to design to filming, all the way to post-production, visual effects and release. It just so happens that both of these blockbusters turned out to be terrible movies. Personally, I find that even more fascinating. It’s amazing how much back-breaking effort is put into the making of even a lousy movie. How disheartening it must have been for the crews that labored so hard to make these flicks, when they eventually saw the final results on screen and realized that they’d wasted their time making such total pieces of crap.
From the day the pilot aired (September 22, 2004) until the day it ended (May 23,2010), I was completely obsessed with ‘Lost‘. (Yes, I know those dates off the top of my head – I’m a nerd.) I even completely ate up the huge series finale. Unlike tons of ‘Lost’ fans out there, I adored the final episode and found it perfectly fitting. When the final season became available on Blu-ray, I pre-ordered a copy from Best Buy just to get my hands on the exclusive bonus disc. The first special feature on the disc, called ‘Letting Go: Reflections of a Six-Year Journey’, offers an extremely nostalgic look back on the entire series. It takes you with the cast to the locations of some of their most memorable scenes and lets you say goodbye to the series as you watch the cast do the same. With ‘Lost’ being my all-time favorite television series and having not found a suitable replacement in the last year, ‘Letting Go’ is one of the most memorable special features I own. It’s just a shame that it’s on a DVD disc and not a Blu-ray.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’m on record as not being even a little bit of a fan of ‘Mutant Chronicles‘ Yet, after plowing through the hours and hours of extras on its Blu-ray disc, I kind of wish I were. Its production was wildly unconventional, bringing to life a post-apocalyptic steampunk world with essentially no CGI. Instead, the movie relies on a slew of meticulously-crafted miniatures that took literally years to build. That startling visual ambition is the centerpiece of the feature-length documentary – one that not only outclasses ‘Mutant Chronicles’ itself, but easily ranks among the best making-of docs I’ve ever come across. It has a really candid feel to it, and strikes a compelling balance between the nuts-and-bolts of pulling off a low-budget epic with the personality of the small army of talent on both sides of the camera. Elsewhere on the disc is a seven-minute teaser with bloodthirsty mutants swarming a World War I-style trench of human rebels, and it’s given the special treatment too, complete with its own audio commentary and making-of featurette. Among the metric ton of other extras on this Blu-ray disc is a phenomenal commentary track by director Simon Hunter, which acknowledges how divisive the film can be, as well as how painstakingly planned and fragmented the shoot was. ‘Mutant Chronicles’ is one of my absolute favorite special editions, despite the fact that, taken strictly as a movie, I really couldn’t care less about it.
I’ve made it known how much I dislike the way that Warner Bros. handled the “Ultimate Edition” releases of the ‘Harry Potter‘ movies. The studio changed the packaging after the first two, stopped adding any alternate cuts, and basically created a repackaged collection of movies with little new other than a few trinkets and oversized boxes. However, there is one reason to get the Ultimate Editions. The new hour-long documentaries included with each extensively cover the ins and outs of filming the ‘Potter’ movies. In the end, you’ll have roughly eight hours of extras that you’d never get in the standard releases. These documentaries aren’t just promo fluff, either. They’re in-depth looks at what went into making these movies. They have the advantage of being created towards the end of the series, so they’re able to include footage from the numerous sets over time. They really are an eye-opening look at the monstrous undertaking that took place filming the eight separate ‘Harry Potter’ movies. So, while I don’t agree with the rest of these sets, and I think that Warner really screwed up on the whole, none of that takes away from the greatness that is the eight-part documentary ‘Creating the World of Harry Potter’.
Unless there’s some crazy rights mix-up in the next month or so, I’m very happy to see that one of my favorite DVD extras for ‘Citizen Kane‘ will be making the leap to Blu-ray when the film hits HD on September 13th. This WGBH documentary, which I first saw on PBS in the early ’90s, is the go-to resource for everything you need to know about Orson Welles’ touchstone film. If you want to know the backstory, the references, the meaning behind each and every element of the film, as well as how the movie raised the ire of William Randolph Hearst and ultimately crippled Welles’ career from there on out, this is the one documentary you have to watch. There’s a reason this has followed ‘Kane’ around in every video incarnation since VHS almost from the day it was produced. You can’t do any better than ‘The Battle over Citizen Kane’.
M. Enois Duarte
While this isn’t a bonus feature that gets officially packaged with the movie it’s about, for my money, the best documentary about any film production has to be ‘Overnight‘, the cautionary tale that chronicles the rise and fall of Troy Duffy. Whether you’re a fan of ‘The Boondock Saints‘ or utterly despise its existence (I personally fall on the latter side), you have to agree this is one remarkable making-of doc. Originally filmed with Duffy’s permission as a complimentary featurette to his film, directors Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith capture every embarrassing moment and follow Duffy’s many stupid exploits towards his own demise. It’s amazing to watch someone receive by sheer luck alone a once in a lifetime opportunity to be accepted into the Hollywood system with such open arms, only to shoot himself in the foot due to an overabundance of arrogance and an unearned sense of pride that’s practically debilitating. The movie also comes with one of the best taglines ever: “There’s more than one way to shoot yourself.”