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DVD/Blu-Ray Commentaries

abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
edited September 2015 in Off-Topic
I'm a big fan of commentary tracks on DVD/Blu-Ray releases, and I'm looking for some good ones that I might not have experienced yet... so any suggestions are very welcome.

Good commentaries for me are a mixture of:
- Anecdotes (How did we end up making this movie? That time when Joe Bloggs tried to do X, etc)
- "Interesting" technical insight (not just someone saying "That shot was on location, but the reverse angle was actually in the studio!".... blah blah)
- Thematic discussion
- Easter eggs
- A bit of humorous back and forth (but not just a continuous circle-jerk of people telling each other how great they are)

Some of the best I've seen so far:
- Lord of the Rings Extended Editions (about four different tracks: cast, writers, crew and design - these actually got me started on commentaries, the chat between the four hobbits on FotR is glorious! - by comparison the Hobbit ones have been very weak)
- The Exorcist (just director William Friedkin - heavy on technical and thematic topics, more of an essay on the piece)
- Alien (Ridley Scott, the producer and a medley crew - this one is excellent)
- Ghostbusters (Ramis is gold)
- League of Gentlemen Apocalypse (the full LoGs lineup - actually funnier than the film itself)
- The Goonies (this was a 20-years-later reunion type gig, with a roundtable of all the Goonies as adults)
- Firefly (it's just great having the crew back together in your ears... also the great Alan Tudyk story about the "miracle button")
- Anything else from Joss Whedon - he really uses it as a tool to bring you further into the piece and talks well about his inspirations and creative processes
- Anything from Quentin Tarantino - similar to JW really... is passionate about his creations, and it really comes through

Bad ones:
- Anything with Michael Bay - far too concerned about showing how cool he is.
- Game of Thrones - just a cast love-in and a very "contractual obligation" feel
- At World's End - very disappointing, especially as I had high hopes for Pegg & Edgar
- Skyfall

Any good ones that I've missed?



  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Several of the Classic series Dr Who DVDs out today have some interesting stuff. When they get the cast (particularly from the earliest times) you get all kinds of insights into production and fond remembrances of those no longer with us. And some of the things that Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in particular have to say, not to mention Janet Fielding, are quite obviously "Not Contractually liable".

    I'm not sure if it is actually ON the HHGTG original BBC production release, but the classic series had several commentary tracks that are readily available. My personal favorite was Douglas Adams explaining how he ended up naked on a beach in front of a camera for a take that actually made it into the show. But there are loads and loads of other good ones out there.

    I hate to speak ill of the dead, but stay away from any comentaries produced by or around Leonard Nimoy, particularly those surrounding 'The Way home'. Great man and I'm so happy we had him in all of his roles, not the least of which was Spock. But He could put paint to sleep talking about the technical aspects of how he did certain things. I almost had to gnaw my own leg off trying to get through one of them.

  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308

    I hate to speak ill of the dead, but stay away from any comentaries produced by or around Leonard Nimoy, particularly those surrounding 'The Way home'. Great man and I'm so happy we had him in all of his roles, not the least of which was Spock. But He could put paint to sleep talking about the technical aspects of how he did certain things. I almost had to gnaw my own leg off trying to get through one of them.

    I understand what you mean here. There are some people who, though laudable in so many other ways, can be quite disappointing to "spend time with" in the relatively intimate way that you do in a commentary. I mentioned above Simon Pegg... I pretty much like everything he's involved with, but his commentary was so dry on World's End... Probably doesn't help that it was a relatively weak film.

    Adaptations of books that you know well can be interesting if the commentary involves the writers and director... gives them a chance to explain certain choices or changes they may have made compared to the original. The recent Sherlock series is a decent example, as Moffat and Gatiss talk really well about their love for Doyle's work, and explain how they extrapolated certain traits into the modern world. For instance they looked at how Doyle's Holmes routinely uses the telegraph and similar to demonstrate that he was clearly a "modern man" of his time... from this they got the Cumberbatch version with the constant texting and weather mapping apps, etc.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    I routinely patron a Dr Who convention every year. Whenever they get cast or crew from the classic series to visit, they will often times do a screening of whatever episodes they were involved in, with the celeb doing comentaries. Particularly with them being ad-lib and uncensored, you get loads of fun stuff.

    And yea, I am a big Simon Pegg fan myself. He normally delivers. World's End was a bit of a let down after Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead. I put it down to him being so insanely busy lately.

  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    The Futurama and Simpsons DVDs do a great job with the commentary tracks, with a mix of insights into each episode, and different cast members messing around.

    I agree that Lord of the Rings is the gold-standard here, a variety of commentaries that give a real feel of what it is like to work on a movie, especially with some of the extra video material - I particularly liked the example of what goes into editing a movie, with footage for a single scene from multiple camera angles being cut into a single scene (and while that was hard enough to get my head around, remember there a multiple takes of each scene...)

    I think Kevin Smith is another good source for commentary tracks (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks 2), even where the quality of the films can be variable (although clearly I am a fan!) He broke through as a DIY film-maker, and brings a lot of that enthusiasm for sharing his craft and what it is like to learn to make movies on-the-job to the commentary.

    One to avoid - Dodgeball! Great movie, lousy commentary, which is basically another joke at the audiences expense (around 10 minutes of commentary, before replacing with the commentary track for a different movie).

  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
    I seem to remember one of the Monty Python films having a good track... possibly Holy Grail... It's obviously some years later, so there's a freshness to their discussion.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018

    (and while that was hard enough to get my head around, remember there a multiple takes of each scene...)

    Hence the need for a really good continuity editor. Maybe I have to much time on my hands, but I will routinely watch a TV show or movie and pay attention to continuity errors. "He wasn't holding that coffee mug in the other camera angle" and the like. It can sometimes be quite interesting.

    On a tangential note, anyone who has watched 'Raiders of the lost Ark', will have seen the scene when Rene tells Indy that they are merely '... passing through history.' whereas the 'The ark IS history'. Watch that scene sometime again. You will see a fly land on the actor's face and proceed to crawl into his mouth. He ended up swallowing the fly so as to keep the integrity of the shot. No one noticed this (except the actor obviously) until they were editing it. They wanted to reshoot, but the actor thought he did such a great job that they kept the scene.

    In another commentary for the movie Buckaroo Banzai, Ellen Barkin tells how she is a horrible arachnophobe. Well, there's a scene where they have this giant tarantula crawl up her leg. When she explained her fear to the director, they offered to get in a body double. After checking out who they chose, she decided to do the shoot herself anyway because "She's got better legs than that".

    I really kind of like some of the insights that you get from watching commentaries.

  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    With that user name, I fear you are watching these commentaries to find the arachnophobes out there ;~)

    For some, seeing how the magic is made ruins the illusion - indeed, I am like with with regular illusionists, where I want to work out the trick myself rather than have it explained to me. When it comes to movies and TV shows though, I find the art of making them as fascinating as the art itself, understanding the constraints and difficulty in getting/framing just the right shot, working out how to tell that story, or working around the unexpected problems that show up after you are committed (like Babylon 5 losing key actors between seasons, and turning that into a net positive) often hold my interest long after the original movie/series have passed.

    I have a suspicion that the rise of digital has killed much of the interesting detail though, as it is now routine to fix things in post-production, and while that requires insanely talented digital artists, it is the same answer for every problem, which is much less interesting.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    To each their own. The commentaries that I enjoy the most generally have little to do with the actual making of the program itself and more to do with the actors and their remembrances.

  • proccoprocco Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 915
    This Is Spinal Tap has probably the best commentary track of any movie. Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean do the entire commentary in character. It's at least as funny as the movie itself, if not funnier.

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