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DVD commentaries

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  • DVD commentaries

    I'm just going to throw this one out there, because I'm curious what sort of response I'll get. When I'm working, I spend most of the time at the computer, with the television on in the background, but obviously I can't watch TV most of the time, so one of my favorite things to do is put on a DVD and listen to the commentary track. I only do this for films or TV shows that I've already seen, because the images are already locked in my head, but once I've seen them, I always look forward to the commentaries. Last night, I only just got around to Panic Room, which has three commentary tracks, one of which is with writer David Koepp and legendary screenwriter William Goldman, which was absolutely fascinating. Right now, I'm listening to the commentary on Warners' new release of The Shining to be followed by the Ron Moore/Michael Taylor commentary on Razor (it's going to be a long night of work).

    Anyway, for the real film lovers out there, I'm curious which commentaries you've particularly enjoyed and why.

  • #2
    Commentaries I've liked listening to:

    Babylon 5
    Lord of the Rings
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    Avatar The Last Airbender
    Star Wars


    • #3
      I've always enjoyed the Kevin Smith ones as they're informal and it sounds like everyone involved truely enjoyed working together.

      The track on Parker and Stone's Cannibal: The Musical is fun, too, as the group gets progressively drunker as the movie goes on.

      I've enjoyed Roger Ebert's commentaries on Citizen Kane and Dark City, very knowledgable and since he wasn't actively involved with either film the commentary doesn't run the risk of becoming self-congratulatory the way some commentaries do.

      The various commentaries on Fox's Film Noir series are always very good, presenting some good information on the production of these lesser known films.
      Got movies?


      • #4
        As a general statement, the commentaries I like are the ones that really focus on the craft. Just getting the cast (and crew) together to riff on each other and bring up anecdotes can be somewhat amusing, but I usually don't bother. One of my all-time favorties was Whedon's commentary for "Objects in Space" on the "Firefly" dvds.
        "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."


        • #5
          I'm not necessarily recommending this, but there is a very funny commentary on the new Superbad DVD, in which producer Judd Apatow makes the mistake of bringing his eight year-old daughter along to the recording. Needless to say, the actors refuse to tone their language because the kid is there, so Apatow eventually walks out. After his departure, his relieved actors let loose with every profanity they've been holding back for the last half hour. As I say, I don't necessarily recommend the disk, but the commentary track was certainly amusing the first time.


          • #6
            For me I enjoy commentaries that are focused either on the story or how the movie/show was made. Too many commentaries are out there that throw everything into one track and sometimes the commentators forget what they're talking about because of all the distractions of talking over each other and scenes just slip by without comment.

            Simple solution is to have at least two commentary tracks. One track for the director to further explain the story and one track for the cast to talk about how much fun they had making the movie/show. You can have another track where the writers and producers get together to talk about how and why they needed more money expensive SFX to make this and that scene better but this is only needed for poorly written scripts. Most shows like B5 only need the first two tracks.
            Ranger Code

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            We do not break away from combat.
            We stand on the bridge and no one may pass.
            We do not retreat whatever the reason.
            We live for The One, we die for The One.


            • #7
              I typically find commentaries more enjoyable for a film or show I particularly enjoyed or one that is a classic (at least in my mind). I don't often listen to them for most films I pick up at the video store because I haven't really "bonded" with the film.

              As for remarkable commentaries: I recently watched the Directors Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which was a minor improvement, not the godsend some were claiming) and was amazed by the commentary of Robert Wise, who at 87 could literally remember the name of every actor, crewmember, technician, or "suit" who worked on the film 25 years earlier.

              I can't remember where I leave my keys.
              Only a fool fights in a burning house.


              • #8
                I find I have less and less time for watching movies, let alone watching the commentary tracks. But I usually have a good time with it. I'll take either insider humor or insightful tales, as they seem to run in either flavor (at least on the ones I've listened too yet)
                Radhil Trebors
                Persona Under Construction


                • #9
                  I prefer a good blend of tech, anecdote and jest. Some of the best I've found at doing this are the commentaries on Stargate: SG-1, especially those of Peter DeLuise, who usually has me rolling while keeping me informed on interesting tidbits and tech info. I would love to have more time to enjoy commentaries and find that I definitely do not like those that are dry, dull speakers or overly techie in nature. And this from a filmmaker. I love stories about interesting events that happened on set, but hate it when actors or anyone really go running off half-cocked on some ridiculous story that has nothing to do with the film....or anything really. (Can anyone say Doyle?)

                  I do agree that too many voices tend to be distracting, not only to me but to those who are supposed to be commenting. Keep the number down to no more than 3 people and do multiple commentaries. I sometimes find it fascinating when they mix up those who are putting FX folks with actors or producers with actors because then you get the full perspective...more points of view on the same scene so to speak. Plus, being people who normally don't work directly with each other, it brings out interesting ideas and conversation.

                  Anthony Flessas
                  SP Pictures

                  I have no avatar! I walk in mystery and need nothing to represent who and what I am!


                  • #10
                    My fave commentaries at the moment are the movie critic commentaries for The Matrix Trilogy ... the perspective of the three guys (who didn't actually give the 2nd and 3rd movies particularly glowing reviews) is fascinating, especially the comparisons with earlier movie and movie making techniques.
                    The Optimist: The glass is half full
                    The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
                    The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be


                    • #11
                      A few of my favorites ...

                      Lord of the Rings - With four commentaries, there's something for everyone, and some great stuff

                      Star Trek: TMP - As already mentioned, it's fascinating

                      Futurama - I have listened to every commentary done for these, and sometimes more than once; the best ones are the later ones which have several of the cast members joining in.

                      StarGate SG1 - These vary widely, someones they're informative, other times, they're basically standup routines, all worth a listen.

                      Thumbs - For the six "Thumb" movies (thumbtanic, bat-thumb, god-thumb, thumb wars, frankenthumb, the blair thumb), all six had pretty good commentaries, usually involving the cast, with information on how they built the sets, the creative process, etc. Only one was bad, and that was the second commentary on the blair thumb. The first was good, the second was just screams (really, just screams for the entire length of the "commentary").

                      Of course, all of the B5 universe commentaries are worth a few listens.
                      * * *

                      Then we have some less than stellar commentaries. This includes every single commentary done for Star Trek other than TMP. Whether it's Enterprise or the Generations movie, every one is self-congratulating, patting themselves on the back for what a wonderful job they did, and letting the audience know how fantastic they think they are, especially those with Berman and Braga. Don't bother.

                      The StarGate commentary by Roland Emmerich, in which he says "you know" every five seconds. Yes, I fucking well know. Yes, Roland, I fucking well get it. Shut the fuck up and go make that damned StarGate sequel you've been promising for over a decade. And don't make another commentary, ever, ever, ever.

                      * * *

                      And then there are the Doctor Who commentaries. I don't mean for the new series, I mean the original series. They vary widely, and range from 5 stars down to "kill me now". The commentary for "Horror of Fang Rock" stands out for having exactly one useful anecdote through the whole two hours; the actress playing Leela describes Tom Baker trying to steal the show and how she demanded retake after retake for a scene where he came in off-beat, trying to once again steal the scene.

                      He finally got it right, as they had rehearsed, and out of that, he finally began to respect her. Prior to that, he'd treated her like crap. She didn't use those words, but that was what came across.

                      Then there is the commentary for "An Unearthly Child" by Carole Anne Ford and a few of the production people, including Verita Lambert, who passed away recently.
                      "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

                      The Station: A Babylon 5 Podcast


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OmahaStar View Post
                        A few of my favorites ...

                        The StarGate commentary by Roland Emmerich, in which he says "you know" every five seconds. Yes, I fucking well know. Yes, Roland, I fucking well get it. Shut the fuck up and go make that damned StarGate sequel you've been promising for over a decade. And don't make another commentary, ever, ever, ever.
                        On a side note...Dean Devlin has been in talks with MGM on finishing the originally planned Stargate trilogy as envisioned by Devlin and Emmerich. Stargate is a huge franchise for MGM and they've begun talks to have their cake and eat it too by allowing Devlin to finish the original trilogy while continuing with the SG-1 universe simultaneously. Devlin has stated that the SG-1 universe would not necessarily conflict with what he and Emmerich had originally planned. Also, Spader and Russell have both stated they would love to return for the film. Luckily, according to Devlin, the next film would've taken place 15 years after the first one, thus making Spader and Russell the right ages to return.

                        I think this would be a fantastic opportunity for MGM. Dual versions of a universe running at the same time would be fascinating and both camps would benefit, especially Devlin's since it's a forgone conclusion that the majority of SG-1 fans would flock to see how the universe was originally planned to continue.

                        Emmerich was not a part of the approach about the film, it was to Devlin, though Emmerich has stated he would be interested in returning to direct if it all worked out for him to.

                        Also, the new Dr. Who commentaries are quit fun as well.

                        Anthony Flessas
                        SP Pictures

                        I have no avatar! I walk in mystery and need nothing to represent who and what I am!


                        • #13
                          Re the new Doctor Who (season 3), I've thus far only listened to the 'Blink' commentary, which is basically a writer/composer duo (apparently the girl who played Sally Sparrow couldn't do it) but it turned out to be quite a lot of fun.

                          I recently listened to the commentary on the re-released 'Arc of Infinity' DVD, which featured a sort of rotating cast of characters including Davison and C. Baker, the latter of whom made a fascinating observation about how SF tends to date, whether you try and make it look futuristic or not. He also explained that his ridiculous Maxil helmet was so big, he literally had to carry it tucked under one arm for most of the story. Fun stuff.


                          • #14
                            I enjoyed the commentary on Pee-wee's Big Adventure. It was just Burton and Reubens. It was really informative and funny.
                            Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.


                            • #15
                              Sadly for me, 90% of the audio commentaries available here and on the R1 are not SUBTITLED. I really don't understand why they bother to even include this material if it will not be subtitled at all, not even on english. Only Paramount was doing that, when they were not dropping the extras outside R1. That's a real shame.
                              "Whoever has not known himself has known nothing. But whoever has known himself has simultaneously achieved knowledge about the depth of all things."