[DVD REVIEW] “Hellboy II” Three-Disc Special Edition

“Hellboy II” had a lot to live up to after Big Red’s first theatrical outing, as well as being Guillermo Del Toro’s first film after “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and it definitely delivered more imagination and impressive effects than most of the summer’s movie fare combined. Appropriately, the “Making of” documentary of this film—one with tons of effort put into each tiny creature it contained—is longer than the feature presentation, and that’s without the deleted scenes, troll market set tour and commentary by Del Toro.

While the copious amounts of features offer a great view behind the scenes, the features are comprised mostly of long, rarely-cut shots of Del Toro directing occasionally mixed in with interviews. This style, at times, feels like a very natural look at how the movie was put together, but mostly leaves you wishing they put as much effort into the production of the special features as they did the movie. Still, it’s a look worth having when the movie has so many “I wonder what went into that shot” moments, especially to see Mignola and Del Toro riffing ideas about monsters for the flick.

Still, the whole two-disc set is pretty much worth purchase for the amazingly cool hologram on the cover that morphs from the live-action Ron Perlman Hellboy to an illustrated Mike Mignola Hellboy. At the very least, head to Best Buy and just watch that thing work its magic for a while!

The best this amateur photog/blogger can do to capture the magic.


[DVD REVIEW] “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All!”

As a reviewer of DVDs, “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!” was really a treat. I had no idea that a Colbert Christmas special was even in the works, let alone ready to be reviewed on DVD before it’s TV air date of November 23 at 10:00 p.m., so imagine my pleasant surprise when a review copy was mailed and I got a chance to check out what one might call a bit of “Christmas come early” (…and one’d be right! The review copy was sent to me in early November, far before Chrstmas!).

As a big Colbert fan, (Yep, it’s been blogged before! Check it here, here and here!) I was pretty excited to get my hands on this disc and started laughing from the second I saw the DVD cover where Colbert is wrapping dozens of copies, and holding, the very DVD case that holds the Christmas special (not to mention the TV screen fireplace on mute behind him).

The cover pretty much sets the tone for the delightfully ludicrous spoof of Christmas specials that features plenty of “in jokes” for members of the Colbert Nation. Including musical numbers by Colbert himself (one solo, one alongside “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart and featured parts in each of the other guests’ numbers), Toby Keith, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, John Legend and Feist, the hour TV special (about 45 minutes on DVD) plays off the overly musical specials of the past while delivering a playfully satirical view of America and arguably it’s biggest holiday. Elvis Costello is drop dead hilarious throughout as he dons numerous pageant costumes and delivers deadpan humor at its finest, while fans who miss Colbert in a less pundity format will enjoy getting to see a bit more of his comic acting (i.e. “Strangers with Candy”) within the world he’s established during his run on “The Colbert Report.” Comedy-wise, it’s a must-watch for the Colbert Nation and humor enthusiasts alike. Well worth the time for anyone out there with a pulse!

As far as special features go, the single disc has some real fun additions to the hilarious headlining program.

Three alternate endings are included. After watching the special, you’ll almost see a few times where you think, “Huh? I thought they were going to do something else there.” A few of those moments are shown in the alternate endings that are a silly little addition, but certainly an entertaining one! Another bonus feature has Colbert doing a country-western tune called “A Cold, Cold Christmas,” which will definitely garner laughter, but doesn’t touch the DVD’s best special feature. Going by the name of “Video Yule Log of Burning Books,” this 20-minute feature is a spoof of that silly channel that pops up everywhere around Christmas that just plays footage of a fireplace. The Colbert crew do the same, but toss books into the flames throughout the duration. When a copy of “Fahrenheit 451” hit the blaze, I lost my sh%t! I just can’t wait to slip this in the DVD player at a holiday get-together and watch as people unaware of the joke slowly go from confusion to disgust. Just one more genius bit from this DVD that should get you out there grabbing a copy (it’s on sale now!) even before you catch it on TV.

Forget Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, I’m spending my Christmas with Colbert!


[DVD REVIEW] “Kung Fu Panda”

If you haven’t seen “Kung Fu Panda” yet, you really need to go buy it and see it as soon as possible. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Buying a movie I’ve never seen? That seems risky!” Normally, I’m of the same mindset, but after seeing this flick, I can safely say that only those completely lacking a sense of humor or with hearts of stone won’t like this; or, in other words, it’s a great film for everyone!

I missed this computer-animated adventure when it hit theaters and got my first look when I was reviewing this DVD. Why I didn’t see “Panda” before is a confusing matter to look back on, considering the cover features three things I absolutely love in movies or otherwise: Kung Fu, Jack Black and Pandas! However, seeing the movie alongside the shorter DVD-companion film “Secrets of the Furious Five” made waiting for the small screen more than worthwhile. My initial enjoyment of “Secrets” came from the multitude of adorable and hilarious kung fu bunnies, but the different styles of traditional animation used (similar to “Panda’s” opening sequence, for those who have seen it) was really a treat. Plus, more time with Jack Black as Po the panda is great, too!

As far as the rest of the special features on both discs (“Panda” and “Secrets”), the people at Dreamworks really put a ton of effort towards making this DVD set an all-out experience. Between the “Making of” featurettes, “how to draw” tutorials, DVD games, historical information of kung fu and the chinese zodiac, not to mention a feature about how noodles are made hosted by Food Network’s Alton Brown, these DVDs give you everything except a whole other movie…oh wait, they did that, didn’t they?! Given, many of the activities are geared towards children, but much like this “kids” movie can be enjoyed by people of all ages, so can these features.

If a final verdict is even needed after that rave review, the bottom line is that the whole DVD experience from film to featurette is a ton of fun. So get your Panda on and go pick it up!


[DVD REVIEW] “The Sarah Silverman Program” Season Two, Volume One

There’s no other way to slice it, this two-disc DVD feels like it should be out on the market for half the price with half the discs, because it’s essentially half of a complete DVD set.

Don’t get me wrong, I think The Sarah Silverman Program is hilarious and I really enjoyed watching every episode on this DVD—all six of them. That’s right, six.—but the bottomline is this DVD set just isn’t much of a set. It feels half done and I can only assume it’s a casualty of the writer’s strike, as the creative team behind the show seems to have done their best to put together a ton of special features to make up for the lack of episodes.

The second disc is chock-full of behind-the-scenes skits and online videos (including the fantastic “Cookies Come Alive!” animated shorts by the dudes who brought us all the insanely funny “House of Cosbys”), not to mention the complete 2007 Comic-Con panel with the writers and cast, but with only six episodes as the disc’s main sell (at least they all have commentary!) this two disc set feels like corporate chose to package an incomplete product that the show’s talent did their best to fill with extras for fans.


[DVD REVIEW] “The Incredible Hulk”

Marvel Studios second big DVD of the year—”The Incredible Hulk”—is definitely a big piece of multimedia worthy of Green Genes legacy, but much like it’s theater outing, it doesn’t quite match up to “Iron Man.”

Where “Iron Man” boasted special features that looked as though they’d received as much love and consideration as the feature presentation, “Hulk’s” special fair feels tagged on and falls short in comparison. Be it the half-length “Making of…” feature (30 minutes as compared to “Iron Man’s” hour) or the lack of an extensive character history in the comics feature with numerous creator interviews (Instead of “Iron Man’s” compelling hour-long look at the history of Iron Man comics, it only features an animatic of a scene from eph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Hulk: Gray), “Hulk” isn’t bad, but just isn’t as good.

What “Hulk’s” DVD does deliver is a plethora of deleted scenes that give fans insight into the Edward Norton/Marvel Studios feud and rumors that surrounded the film’s release. With a brief alternate opening and about 40 minutes of footage that wasn’t seen on the big screen, fans can get a look at Edward Norton’s vision of “Hulk.” Disappointingly, every deleted scene is used for character exploration and none feature any Hulking out (which does make sense, considering effects budgets…but still!). While a few offer fun backstory (Banner’s time spent in Tibet and subtle references to Captain America), the main insight taken away from viewing these scenes is that Marvel Studios made an extremely smart move by removing 40 minutes of non-Hulk footage from the feature. These additional scenes definitely display Ed Norton’s complete understanding of the character and comic, but would have made for a very long and boring film even with all the theatrical release’s amazing Hulk-outs!

The featurettes in this special edition are great, especially seeing how Edward Norton and Tim Roth brought their CG counterparts to life, but the lackluster “Making of…” featurette really made me wish director Louis Letterier or Norton had taken a more vested interest in it like Jon Favreau did on “Iron Man.” Favreau’s cooperation and great enthusiasm for capturing the production and process of the film on tape made for an amazing, hour-long documentary. “Hulk’s” main documentation of this is standard, 30 minute fair and an enjoyable watch, but after seeing what it could have been in “Iron Man,” it left me wanting.

Lastly, the billing of this special edition DVD as a three-disc set is a bit misleading. Sure, it technically has three discs, but one of them is just a digital copy of the film. So, for all intensive purposes it is a two-disc special edition featuring a digital copy. That, and the overly complex DVD menus that focus on looks instead of user-friendliness, are my only real gripes on the technical issues of the package.

Overall, “Incredible Hulk” was a great movie well worth owning on DVD, but it’s special features don’t make much more of a compelling argument to pick it up. There’s definitely plenty worth watching on this three-disc set’s second disc, but DVD enthusiasts will likely be let down by how much more could have been added to sweeten the pot on this special edition.


[DVD REVIEW] “Iron Man”

As if you really needed a reason to go out and buy “Iron Man” on DVD (check out my review of the flick here if you are curious why the movie is so awesome), I decided to give the special features a look and just reaffirm the obvious need for purchase of this incredibly rad summer blockbuster.

As a big fan of special features, “Iron Man” isn’t lacking in the slightest. The seven-part “Making of” documentary not only provides some amazing insight into the film, but does something I really wish more DVDs would do: put each aspect of the film into a chronological recap of the production. I hate when I have to click over to another featurette and sit through 15 boring minutes of interviews to gain the three I needed to learn about the making of the Iron Man suit. Blending all of these aspects together and taking the viewer from the first day of production to the final editing process was truly a treat to watch.

However, the real thing that set this documentary apart—as its good production quality and chronological nature don’t really place it too far ahead of other DVDs—is director Jon Favreau’s enthusiastic participation in the whole thing. Not only do you get to see Favreau morph from a hefty, bearded bear of a man to a svelte, clean-shaven Happy Hogan, but Favreau introduces most every part of the documentary at each location and even others up his anxieties and excitement about the film’s production in numerous interviews. His commitment to the film definitely shined through on the big screen and his commitment to “Iron Man” in its entirety—DVD and all—really puts this DVD’s headlining feature far above anything I’ve seen delivered in comic book movie special features so far.

The DVD also features a fun and interesting six-part look at the comic history of Iron Man and features interviews and insight on the Iron Avenger from legends like Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, and more recent scribes like Warren Ellis and Charlie and Daniel Knauf. It’s a great refresher course with loads of interesting things from creators for the big Iron Fan and a nice history for the newbie to ol’ Shellhead’s Marvel legacy.

The deleted scenes are best watched after the documentary, in my opinion, because insight into the making of the film is helpful when viewing the additional footage. The scenes were definitely deleted for good reason, as they all seem like they would have been extremely out of place in the movie, but really instills faith in Favreau for “Iron Man 2” as you can see some goofy party scenes in Dubai—which, BONUS!, do feature the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah—hit the cutting room floor.

It was a DVD already well worth buying, and the special features deliver hours of additional enjoyment for anyone who loved “Iron Man.”


[DVD REVIEW] “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

While I thought “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was a fair movie that didn’t live up to the original trilogy due to no fault of the actors or director, but based simply on the story, it’s 2-disc special edition DVD has the special features that deliver the real Indy goodness, but begs the question as to how the movie could have turned out so okay/mediocre when it seems the entire production had recaptured the magic of making the first three films.

Buying this single DVD may not be worth it, considering the inevitable 4-disc box set that will undoubtedly emerge right after you have, the 12-part production diary entitled “Making ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'” is well worth the cover price if you are set on un-box-set version of Indy’s fourth escapade. Put together with all the love and detail that the current fourth disc in the box-set containing special features on the first three flicks received, the in-depth look into each and every part of the production is an truly engaging look into how this film came to be. Whether it’s seeing a closing shot of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas riding off into the sunset in a vintage auto after filming “Indy” 4’s opening sequence or each and every interview demonstrating how truly badass Harrison Ford remains, diehards and casual Indy fans alike will love this well-constructed, near-hour-and-a-half long feature!

The rest of the special features are pretty standard fair—insight into special effect, props and the backstory behind the crystal skulls—but have enough fun moments to reward the DVD connoisseur who trucks through them all, including a great insight into aviation-enthusiast Harrison Ford’s help picking the airplanes that appear in the movie, as well as footage of whip-practices before filming!

In the end, it may not have been Indy’s best outing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recapture the magic that the production did with these great special features. A purchase might be an iffy move based on the guaranteed future box-set, but the bonus disc is well worth a rental at the very least!