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DID YOU READ

What happened to DVD special features?

What happened to DVD special features? (photo)

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Brian Collins over at Badass Digest has written a good piece about a subject that’s been troubling me lately: disappearing DVD special features. His “The Slow Death Of DVD Special Editions” identifies the recent lack of quality and depth in DVD and Blu-ray releases. And he’s absolutely right when he says:

“Nowadays, beyond the occasional big ticket item like the ‘LOTR’ or ‘Star Wars’ films, you almost never see these sort of mammoth sets anymore, particularly for horror movies. Most of them don’t even have actual special editions — as terrible as it was, ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ was one of the bigger hit horror films of 2010, yet its DVD only has a few deleted scenes and a generic making of along with Blu-ray exclusive features (brief interview/behind the scenes snippets). No commentary, no in-depth documentary, etc. Compare that to the special edition DVD of Platinum Dunes’ equally successful ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ from six years before, which had three commentaries and hours of material (spread across two discs), including a documentary about Ed Gein! For twenty bucks, you got a set that would take nearly a full day to go through in its entirety, plus crime scene photos and things like that. Now, you can be done with the (disc-only) ‘Nightmare’ set in about three hours or so, which costs the same amount.”

Collins identifies the rise of online movie streaming through services like Netflix as the leading factor in the death of DVD special editions. Unquestionably, it’s an important one. Wonderfully convenient as they are, streaming video sites like Netflix don’t offer special features. There are a few exceptions: you can follow your Netflix Instant viewing of “The Expendables” with “Inferno: The Making of ‘The Expendables,'” for example. But those exceptions are few and far between. If you want to watch “Insidious” — one of the best horror movies of the year — on Netflix, you’ll have to do so at the sake of missing its DVD special features. Then again, those special features are so paltry (a Horror 101 seminar with the filmmakers, a brief behind-the-scenes documentary, and a featurette about the film’s ghosts) it might be a sacrifice worth making. The same goes for Amazon Prime. Ditto iTunes movie rentals.

If you’re still using Netflix’s DVD rental business, you’ve no doubt noticed the disappearance of special features there as well. Most Netflix discs of major new releases no longer include the supplements; clicking on them in the onscreen menus brings you to a disclaimer instructing you to buy the film for the full experience. Given that sort of teasing marketing technique, you’d think it would be in the studios’ best interests to continue to deliver high-end supplements to encourage purchases. But as Collins notes, that just isn’t the case.

The bad economy and the decline of the DVD and Blu-ray markets, probably have as much to do with the problem as people’s streaming habits. Companies are cutting back wherever they can, and I suspect smaller rosters of supplements and fewer 2 or 3 disc DVDs and Blus are a direct result. Factor in the nature of online viewing and the fact that less and less people have the opportunity to consume special features, and you’re left with an artform in decline.

It’s particularly a shame because of the potential for new and innovative supplements on Blu-ray. Just a few years ago, as Hollywood embraced this format, we got some very creative special features. For example, I love the “Crank’d Out” mode on the “Crank: High Voltage” Blu-ray, which gives you a video commentary by the filmmakers which you can put either full-screen or picture-in-picture with the movie and includes mini making-of documentaries that branch out from the main feature. Zack Snyder made some interesting video commentaries as well. Lately, when we do get special features on Blu-rays, they seem far more pedestrian.

Experimentation apparently isn’t considered a good investment anymore. That’s a shame. Even though they’re getting rarer and rarer, special features just don’t feel as special anymore.

Do you miss the heyday of DVD special editions? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.