What’s Annoying Me This Week

Posted: February 11, 2010 in crotchety ranting, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

So let’s talk about what ruins more DVDs than they help: Special Features.

In the early days of DVD, a special feature was often an exciting little extra – a few diamond-in-the-rough deleted scenes, an insightful commentary, and the general highlight, the gag reel that let you know the cast and crew were actually enjoying themselves.

But as the special features suddenly became expected-for-the-sake-of-added-DVD-sales-value, they’ve so often become an exercise in tediousness. You’re going to get:

– 5 to 10 minutes of a making-of feature where everyone parrots the everything-went-fine line about how the right mix of cast and crew came together but it really started with the script, y’know, it was really special, y’know…

– An additional technical making-of, where the effects and set-design people illustrate why they got into effects and design – they don’t exactly light up the screen with their minutiae-focused explanations

– 5 to 10 deleted scenes that were clearly deleted for a good reason and so kind of trick you into watching a scene that honestly was not good enough to be watched in the first place, and may in fact retroactively downgrade your movie-watching enjoyment (you ever say, “That movie would have been great if it were 15 minutes shorter”? Now you can see EXACTLY WHICH 15 MINUTES YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT!)

– A searchable menu of all the previews you tried so desperately to skip past when you put the disc in the first time

– A pilot of a show you had no interest in watching when you heard about it (or didn’t, in the case of “Woke Up Dead,” because hey, who wasn’t aching for a TV show headlined by Jon Goddamn Heder)

– And perhaps the worst affront: a gag reel that doesn’t show much fun happening at all. You know the type I’m talking about: the one where someone flubs a line and the other actor chuckles a little bit. Or an actor walks past his mark and shrugs and walks back. Those aren’t gags. Those are things that happen when you’re making a movie. (On the other hand, if Nathan Fillion is on the set? You’re gonna get some good bloopers. That man is a national treasure.)

Now, the movie that put this in front of my face for me was Zombieland. And Zombieland is great. Fantastic. An absolute blast to sit through. But the goddamn extras…I mean, I know extras are by definition superfluous, but, come on, DVD makers. At least try to make a damn effort.

(Of course, sometimes the opposite happens, and the filmmakers go absolutely APESHIT with the special features, but I’m sorry, Peter Jackson, I just sat through 3.5 hours of your movie, I don’t have the time in my life for 9 bonus hours explaining the difficulties of filming in New Zealand. I applaud your efforts, but you didn’t need to bring a documentary crew along for everything.)

Anyway, this isn’t to say all DVDs have shitty extras. Criterion editions always have a interesting essay or something about the movie’s cultural significance. Joss Whedon’s always good for a nice balance of witty commentary, on-set hi-jinks, and the occasional brief featurette about how they needed to adapt crossbows for filming purposes. Slither had actually interesting things to say about using gross monster makeup FX, and also a merciless roast of Nathan Fillion. Dark City has a bonus commentary by Roger Ebert, for crying out loud. So I’m not against extras as a whole.

Just when the feature is abused for the sake of making the second key grip feel like he’s getting a little more attention.

  1. braak says:

    Zombieland has the single best celebrity cameo in the history of everything. KAPOW! EXPLODE!

    Also, Jessica Biehl is on Letterman right now. SHUT UP, JESSICA BIEHL!

    Zombieland is great. I just wrote an article about Geekadelphia screening it. Where is that? Here.

  2. Yours truly says:

    My favorite commentary ever is on Thrashin’. Terrible movie, great skating and the actors are having a ball reminiscing and laughing at/with the movie. Lots of beer bottle clinking, too.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    I was hoping to see a left-field commentary favorite – but I did not expect to see Thrashin’. Well played.

  4. Nelson Blaha says:

    Good Will Hunting’s were good. Matt Damon cracked up for real in that one scene, and an Elliot Smith video.

  5. sebastian says:

    My least favorite special feature are the “3 DIFFERENT ENDINGS!” one. I don’t want a choose-your-own-adventure book. I want a movie. And I want a movie that someone somewhere put enough thought into that the end of the story isn’t multiple choice based on crowd reaction.

  6. braak says:

    Oh, man, my brother and I watched this horror movie called…They? Them? It was NOT the one with the giant ants. It had four alternate endings; we watched all of them, and then I couldn’t remember which one was the real ending, and which ones were the alternates. That was surreal.

  7. sebastian says:

    “Schrodinger’s movie.”

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    I absolutely agree that multiple endings are awful unless that movie is Clue.

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    (The “Clue Corollary”?)

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