8. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez)
Blair Witch Project is one of the most divisive movies ever made. The loyal fans see it as a truly terrifying movie that relies on building tension and then letting the audience imagine more horrifying images than could ever successfully be conveyed.
While those who think every movie should have a huge ending just find it boring. Despite your taste, Blair Witch at the time was the most profitable independent movie ever made, earning over 200 million dollars on a budget of $25,000.
While it would be great to get a track from the co-directors now to discuss the legacy their film has left and how it influenced some of the worst movies in the horror genre, the track we get is still very entertaining. Ironically, one of the scariest movies ever made has a very light and humorous commentary. They talk about how making the film was almost like a camping retreat experience for the actors.
The three principles shot all the footage themselves, improvised most of their dialogue, and reacted honestly to things they did not know were going to happen, but were planned in secret by the filmmakers. The very fact they got anything usable on film is remarkable, let alone that it would turn out to be a suspenseful classic.
7. Terminator 3 (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Terminator 3 is a terrible, terrible movie. It looks cheap. The script is recycled, unintelligent tripe. Everything that was great about the first Terminator; its techno noir look, its dark themes, its nuance, all that gets thrown out the window in the third film to favor the shallow taste of shallow action movie fans who saw Terminator 2 once. There is one reason to revisit the DVD of Terminator 3 and that reason alone is the solo commentary track of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Watching a commentary with Arnold Schwarzenegger is like watching a movie with an excited 11-year-old with an Austrian accent who’s only seen a handful of movies.
For some reason Arnold feels the need to describe to the audience what’s happening in the movie as it’s happening as if he was told he needed to help the blind understand the film more. He also goes on a little too long when discussing his thoughts about woman’s breasts. Why he doesn’t do a commentary for every film he’s in, I do not know.
6. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino)
If Shaun of the Dead is a perfect genre parody, Hot Fuzz, the second major film by Edgar Wright, is a perfect salute to the buddy cop comedy. It subverts expectations with its British sensibility and small village setting, and long action set pieces with elderly English actors.
At the same time, the films jokes are meticulously thought out and rewards several revisits to get punch-lines you didn’t see the first five times.
Edgar Wright brings in Quentin Tarantino to deliver a commentary that can be listened to without even necessarily watching the film. The two basically just use the track as an excuse to talk about obscure movies that have inspired them.
For aspiring film buffs, especially British cinema, the commentary must be listened to with a pen and paper in order to write down the titles that the two name off every five minutes. If you’re a fan of either of the filmmakers, it’s an intriguing listen, for fans of both, it’s a dream come true.
5. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Adam Green, Joe Lynch)
The Friday the 13th series, for most fans of horror, is a necessary venture, despite the series not having very many good entries. Maybe fans just see it as a badge of honor. However, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (part 4) is the best film in the series. Despite still having the MPAA editing out some make-up effects, the movie has some brutal and terrifying moments and has one of the most exciting climaxes in any 80’s slasher film.
For the deluxe edition of the DVD fans are treated to fan commentary of Adam Green, director of the Hatchet series, and Joe Lynch, director of Everly. The two are unabashed fans of the film and sort it as an influence for them wanting to make horror films. They also have great chemistry and take every advantage to riff on the film as well as praise it.
The commentary got such great reaction from fans; it inspired the two friends to start a film podcast. It’s an equivalent to watching the movie with buddies who know the film just as well as you do.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Extended Editions (Cast Commentaries)
Don’t like the extended editions of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings? Too bad. The only worthy behind the scenes footage and commentaries come only with the extended editions. The diehard fans that would be willing to sit through 11+ hours of a commentary track are the ones who are going to be shelling out the cash for the extended films.
The first track available and worth listening to is with director Peter Jackson and his writing partner Fran Walsh, but for more entertainment value, fans cannot afford to skip the cast commentary featuring almost every actor in the films.
Your ears are treated to Christopher Lee and his wealth of knowledge about Tolkein and the books; also hear how the actors felt about the prospect of doing a series of films for 8 years. Another highlight are the hilarious stories that Billy Boyd and Dominique Monaghan (Merry and Pippen respectively) share as well as their constant improvised comedy.
3. Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.)
Tropic Thunder has a comedic cast made in heaven. The three leads together are great enough, but the supporting cast of Steve Coogan, Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey, and oddly enough Tom Cruise make the film the comedic gem it is. Ben Stiller is also one of the few directors working today that understand you don’t have to shoot a comedy with flat lighting and boring cinematography.
Any owner of the DVD release will tell you that the film is worth owning on disc for the commentary track alone. Ben Stiller gives plenty of interesting behind the scenes information with Jack Black occasionally offering the comedic one-liner.
True to his character in the film, Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t drop his character until the track is over and his comments as black commando Lincoln Osiris are every bit as funny as he is in the movie.
2. This is Spinal Tap (Spinal Tap)
This is Spinal Tap is a groundbreaking film for comedies and kick-started a sub-genre with its Mockumentary style. Rob Reiner’s brilliant film contains one great set piece after another that will look absurd to some and little too close to reality for musicians.
Unlike any other commentary, there is no educational merit to be taken from the track that was first released on the laser disc edition of the film long before DVD. This track couldn’t be more appropriate for the film it’s on.
The “band” improvises and comically pans the film as they watch it, displeased with how stupid the movie makes them look. It’s only appropriate that one of the funniest movies ever, would have the funniest commentary of all.
1. Citizen Kane (Roger Ebert)
It’s only fitting that one of the finest American films has one of America’s finest movie critics discuss the film in detail. Next to reading a book about Orson Welles’ masterpiece, Roger Ebert’s commentary track covers aspects of behind the scenes, historical rumor, and analysis of Greg Toland’s groundbreaking cinematography and its layered performance.
What separates Ebert’s track from other film scholars or critics is that Ebert was trained to be a public speaker and television host and without leaving out a bit of detail, never drones on or puts the listener to sleep with a monotone voice.
A constant professional, he never repeats himself or lets a moment linger, nor does he sound like he’s just mindlessly reading notes. For any fans remotely interested in cinema, Welles, or film criticism, this is a must listen.
Author Bio: Kristopher Pistole is an actor and video blogger at youtube.com/kriswatchesmovies and lives in Los Angeles, CA.