It wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I started paying attention to DVD commentaries. Ever since then I’ve been hooked. I’m always on the lookout for interesting commentaries, but here are some of my favorites so far:
Movie: Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to wine country in California to celebrate Jack’s last days as a bachelor before he gets married. Miles has plans for golf, fine food and, of course, copious amounts of wine. Jack has other plans in mind. Enter a waitress (Virginia Madsen) and a winery worker (Sandra Oh) and quickly the lies and deceit grow. Sideways was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Haden Church and Best Supporting Actress for Virgina Madsen, and won Best Adapted Screenplay.
Commentary: Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church should be in more movies together. Not just because their on-screen bromance is intoxicating, but mostly because any commentaries they might record would be absolutely hilarious. They take playful swipes at each other, but mostly at themselves. Giamatii often laments about his pudgy belly or the size of his nose while Church focuses on his craggy face or his “doughy middle.” It’s always nice to see celebrities not take themselves too seriously and these fellas certainly don’t.
Best fact revealed: After Miles finds out that his book has been rejected yet again by a publisher, he pops a couple of pills and heads into a wine-tasting. He becomes irate and eventually dumps a “spit bucket” over his head and drinks some of the wine and spit mixture. Before filming this scene, the director went around with the bucket and let all of the extras and crew members swish some wine around in their mouths and spit in the bucket. This is what Paul Giamatti drank in that scene.
2) Bubba Ho-Tep
Movie: Elvis is alive and living in a rundown retirement home. A mummy is on the loose, sucking souls from the elderly residents. Elvis, along with an African-American man claiming to be John F. Kennedy, must defeat this mummy in order to save their souls, as well as the rest of the residents.
Commentary: There are two commentaries to Bubba Ho-Tep. One is with director Don Coscarelli and star Bruce Campbell who plays Elvis. The other commentary, the better commentary, is the one with “The King.” Campbell stays in character for the entire duration of the commentary. The concept is that Elvis has been tracked down and informed about “this Bubba Ho-Tep” movie and has been asked to give his opinion of it in the form of a commentary. Elvis can’t seem to make heads or tails of the film (Is it an action movie? Drama? Comedy? Horror picture?). Throughout the commentary, Elvis gives “facts” about his own movie career, eats popcorn, takes phone calls and sips on herbal black tea. For anyone who watches Bubba Ho-Tep and wants to embrace Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley just a little bit more, I highly recommend this commentary.
Best “fact” revealed: Elvis claims that Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, once asked him to play at one of Ruby’s nightclubs. Due to a disagreement over money, the appearance never happened.
3) The Office Special Part Two
Episode: This is the second part to the Christmas episode/series finale of The Office. This is the British version, kids, not the Steve “That’s what she said” Carell version. In this episode, Dawn (the British version of Pam) and her fiance are coming back to the office after having spent several months in the United States. Will seeing Tim (British version of Jim) make her realize that their love was meant to be, or will the series end with a big question mark? No spoilers here.
Commentary: Ricky Gervais, who plays the smarmy boss David Brent, and Stephen Merchant provide this sole commentary for the entire series. Gervais and Merchant also co-wrote and co-directed the series together so they must have tons of insights into the show, right? Well, kind of. Mostly they poke fun at themselves and each other. They do try to throw in a little nugget of trivia every now and then, but usually it’s like, “Hey, Ricky, remember when we filmed this and it was summer?” “Yeah, everyone was sweltering in those winter coats because it was supposed to be a Christmas episode.” Of course, they said it funnier than that.
Best fact revealed: Neither Ricky Gervais or Stephen Merchant like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Merchant claims that he feels that nine hours of his life was “wasted,” while Gervais quips, “If you’ve seen one orc, you’ve seen them all.”
4) Evil Dead II
Movie: Yes, I picked another Bruce Campbell movie, but it’s a classic. This movie picks up where the first Evil Dead left off (sort of). Ash (Bruce Campbell) is still battling the evil forces that live in the woods and terrorize him in the cabin. But Ash is not alone. Eventually four other people join him for this hilariously gory bloodbath. Oh, and there’s a book bound in human flesh and written in blood that they must use to defeat the evil that possesses them. Cool, huh?
Commentary: We’ve got actor Bruce Campbell, director/writer Sam Raimi (who grew up with Campbell in Michigan and made movies with him starting when they were just teens), co-writer Scott Spriegel, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero. The real fun in this commentary is hearing Campbell and Raimi bicker and make fun of each other all in the name of friendship.
Best fact revealed: There are many facts and interesting tidbits throughout the whole commentary, but I’d say that Bruce Campbell’s story about Kurt Russell that correlates with the infamous “Work shed” scene is my favorite. In Evil Dead II, there is a scene where Ash is battling a possessed decapitated head when he suddenly turns and mutters, “Work shed.” It’s obvious that this audio has been dubbed and seems to be louder than what was probably originally intended. It sticks out like a sore thumb with a nasty, hairy Band-Aid on it. Years later while on the set of Escape From L.A., Kurt Russell approached him and said, “Say, ‘Work shed.’” Campbell was utterly confused until Russell started laughing and said that his son loved Evil Dead II and that he always got a kick out of the slightly out of place muttering of, “Work shed.” Campbell, of course, was embarrassed and in the commentary blames Raimi for the ridicule.