Notable DVD Audio Commentaries
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A number of movies released today feature audio commentaries. While many of them will not hold the interest of the casual viewer, specific releases stand out, mainly those with elements of historical interest or subject-specific information from expert advisors. For example, the inventor of the steadicam, featured throughout the audio commentary track for The Shining, discusses his work with the ground-breaking technology in several films leading up to that landmark production. Non-movie buffs may be interested in the anecdotes offered by advisors to the filmmakers, such as the FBI profiler commenting on The Silence of the Lambs (Criterion DVD release). Filmmakers and cast may reveal stories from behind the scenes, explain the process involved in their work, or simply offer additional laughs. Notable audio commentaries include:
- The science-fiction movie Sunshine (directed by Danny Boyle) contains an audio track with physicist Brian Cox. The author and professor, who served as an advisor on the production, discusses scientific accuracies (and inaccuracies) depicted in the movie.
- The 2009 Blu-ray edition of the film Galaxy Quest includes a tongue-in-cheek trivia commentary called "Galactopedia". Written by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, the Galactopedia purports to be based on Galaxy Quest encyclopedias, technical manuals, and other imaginary books that presumably come from the universe in which Galaxy Quest was a real TV show.
- The Halestorm Entertainment movie Sons of Provo features a commentary on the film, and then a commentary on the commentary, where they discuss what they said in the commentary.
- The DVD release of Ghostbusters contains a "video commentary" track with director Ivan Reitman, writer/star Harold Ramis, and associate producer Joe Medjuck. Silhouettes of the trio were added to the picture using one of the subtitle tracks, in a manner that made it seem as if they were sitting in a theater commenting on the movie as it was screened for them. This was seen as a homage to (or imitation of) Mystery Science Theater 3000. In some scenes, arrows, lines, or circles may be drawn onto the screen to highlight things the directors are talking about. The DVD releases of Men in Black and Muppets from Space had similar features.
- The DVD release of Fantasia features two separate commentaries: one by Roy E. Disney, James Levine, John Canemaker, and Scott MacQueen; and a second by Walt Disney, created using audio clips of interviews and a voice actor reading his production meeting notes, hosted by Canemaker. When its sequel, Fantasia 2000, was released on DVD, it also included two separate audio commentaries: One featuring Roy E. Disney, Levine, and Canemaker, and the other featuring commentary on each of the separate segments of the film by the directors and art directors of each segment. For the sections starring Mickey Mouse ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") and Donald Duck ("Pomp and Circumstance"), voice actors Wayne Allwine and Tony Anselmo were used to make it seem as though Mickey and Donald were providing their own commentary on their appearances in the film.
- The DVD releases for Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Special Edition), Treasure Planet and Finding Nemo contained specially-edited "video commentaries"; the feature-length audio commentaries by the directors and producers were punctuated by cues to video segments illustrating various behind-the-scenes aspects. Similarly, in several commentaries on the first season of Lost, the commentators would actually stop the episode's progress and play behind-the-scenes clips, continuing to talk over the footage.
- The DVD release of the third season of How I Met Your Mother includes a commentary by Jason Segel and Chris Harris for the episode "The Chain of Screaming". Harris, a writer on the show, did not write this particular episode, but was included in the commentary at the request of Segel, who spent the majority of the commentary intoxicated and in only his boxers. Segel at one point places 12 condoms on the table between the two and spends the majority of the commentary insinuating a relationship between him and Harris, much to Harris' chagrin.
- The 2000 DVD of This Is Spinal Tap features a commentary by the three members of the band, in character. They relate how they felt slighted by the film, and how the director (Marty di Bergi in the film) did a "hack job" with the documentary. The commentary is another added element to the fiction of the band. Actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer had previously recorded a commentary for a Criterion Collection DVD which had gone out of print. Similarly, the DVD of series 1 of the BBC sitcom I'm Alan Partridge features commentary from the characters of Alan and his assistant, Lynne. Like Spinal Tap, Alan is heard to be frustrated at how the show makes him appear.
- The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a box set of the entire Matrix trilogy, has two audio commentaries on each film — one by philosophers who loved it (Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber), and one by critics who hated it (Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson).
- The commentary on Trey Parker's Cannibal! The Musical (aka Alferd Packer: The Musical) is notable in that the commentators — cast and crew — start out sober at the beginning. As the movie progresses, the group drinks and gets more and more inebriated. A similar commentary, featuring many of the participants from that commentary, was recorded for Orgazmo.
- The fourth, fifth and sixth season box sets of The Simpsons contain special "illustrated commentaries" on selected episodes, where two animation directors draw on screen while commenting on the episode. This is achieved by using subtitle data to produce the drawings overlaid on top of the video in sync with the audio commentary track.
- The Simpsons and Futurama, both Matt Groening creations, are among the few TV series to have audio commentary tracks on every episode in their season box set DVD releases. For Futurama, the commentators point out who voiced minor characters. The actors for these characters are otherwise unlisted in the ending credits. Doctor Who, Mr. Show, Red Dwarf, volumes 4 and onwards of Family Guy, the first season sets of Twin Peaks, The Shield and Goodnight Sweetheart and all episodes and specials of The League of Gentlemen are other examples of this.
- The commentary for Eurotrip has the writers and director playing a drinking game to their own film, while giving a commentary.
- When the first season of Veronica Mars was rushed to DVD so first-time viewers could catch up before the second season began airing in Fall 2005, the creator, Rob Thomas, recorded an audio commentary for the pilot which was a downloadable podcast because there wasn't time to get it on the boxed set.
- In lieu of recording a commentary himself, Michael Moore allowed his interns and secretary to record the audio commentary for his documentary Bowling for Columbine.
- On the DVD release of Shaun of the Dead, one (of the four) commentary tracks is given over entirely to a recording of the actors who played zombies in the movie. The first cast audio commentary (including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran) also mocks audio commentaries as the cast admit that they almost never listen to them (with Simon Pegg claiming he listens to them when going to sleep), as well as Dylan Moran saying that they simply involve people saying things like "oh, we used a steadi-cam for that one because Roger had a bad knee", and that no-one was interested in hearing it.
- There is a fake DVD commentary on the DVD of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story with Rawson Marshall Thurber, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller arguing. 40 minutes into it, all three exit and the commentary is replaced with the audio commentary from There's Something About Mary. The real audio commentary can be found as an easter egg on the DVD.
- On the audio commentaries for seasons of The Venture Bros., Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have conversations that have little to do with the episodes being shown.
- On the cast and crew commentary for Superbad, Judd Apatow orders the actors not to swear in front of his nine-year-old daughter Maude, who is also present for the recording. Actor Jonah Hill restrains himself from cursing until halfway through the movie, and he proceeds to chide Apatow for "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day." After this argument, Apatow and his daughter leave to go attend a showing of the Broadway musical Spamalot, and the remaining cast and crew begin swearing profusely immediately after their departure.
- The cast commentary of Tropic Thunder features Ben Stiller and Jack Black as themselves, while Robert Downey, Jr. is in character as Lincoln Osiris, and later Kirk Lazarus, before dropping character at the end. This is a reference to a line spoken in the film by Lazarus: "I don't drop character 'til I've done the DVD commentary."
- The DVD for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog contains two commentary tracks; one is a musical in which they sing about each other and the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.
- The unrated DVD for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy contains a commentary track where the director, Will Ferrell, and David Koechner get into a fight because David thinks he had too little parts in the movie, and Andy Richter and Kyle Gass get into a fight because they didn't get into the movie, leading one of them to punch Will Ferrell in the nose.
- The commentary track for Step Brothers features director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly doing the bulk of the commentary as a musical performance accompanied by film composer Jon Brion and Los Angeles Clippers player Baron Davis.
- The audio commentary for Brother Bear wasn't by the filmmakers, but the actors Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis in character as the wise-cracking comical moose, Rutt & Tuke. It is also written as 'hilarious' on the DVD cover.
- The 2007 DVD for The Fountain did not include a commentary track because Warner Bros. did not feel that adding one would help sales. However, director Darren Aronofsky recorded a commentary track on his own and made the track available for free download on his personal website.
- In the DVD commentary for the first four series of the revived series of Doctor Who, any commentary featuring head writer Russell T Davies would begin with Davies stating "Hello faithful viewer". In one episode commentary he humorously relayed to David Tennant that he had received a letter from a viewer asking him to stop doing this.
- The special edition DVD of Child's Play did not feature any contributions from the director, Tom Holland, who claims he was not asked to contribute to it. In response, the website Icons of Fright contacted Holland and asked if he would be willing to record a commentary track that would be free for download on their website. He agreed, and the track is downloadable from here.
- Similarly, Icons of Fright offers two free downloadable commentaries for Fright Night, downloadable from here.
Read more about this topic: In-Theater Audio Commentary
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