Best of the Month, Special Features: 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Warrior,' 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' and More

Best of the Month, Special Features: 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Warrior,' 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' and More

Dec 29, 2011

Streaming or downloading movies is a convenient way to rent a flick even though the picture and sound quality are not as good as Blu-ray, but those fun behind-the-scenes extras are not usually available digitally. To keep you spinning physical discs for years to come, studios are including innovative and often immersive bonus features on the DVDs and Blu-rays of your favorite movies and TV shows. Read all about this month's best extras served up on shiny silver platters that take you beyond the feature presentations.

Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen fans know that the director's discs are usually barebones affairs with no extras. The romantic comedy Midnight in Paris is Allen's highest-grossing film ever and features Owen Wilson as hopeless romantic engaged to the wrong woman who mysteriously travels to 1920s Paris every night to rub elbows with his literary heroes. Although the "Midnight in Cannes" featurette that has interviews with Allen and the cast from the Cannes Film Festival might not be extraordinary for any other movie, it's noteworthy here because Allen films are extras anemic.

Colombiana: "Revenge is beautiful" for Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), a woman who witnessed the brutal murder of her parents as a little girl and trained to be a lethal assassin ever since. There is a special Easter egg on the Blu-ray edition for Playstation 3 owners: On the main menu, navigate to the "Game" tab, scroll down beneath the "Trophy Collection" option and select the option to install a kick-ass Colombiana theme.

Warrior: The illuminating "Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life" bonus feature actually has better video quality than the Rocky-reminiscent movie itself, which is about two estranged brothers (played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) that face each other in a championship MMA match. The 32-minute making-of documentary explores the difficulty of turning actors into fighters and fighters into stuntmen while shooting seven days a week for six weeks on a low budget.

Cowboys and Aliens: Did Santa bring you a new tablet device for Christmas? If so, fire up the Blu-ray of this sci-fi adventure starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig and try out Second Screen, an interactive feature that allows you to use your portable device as a remote control as well as to download special features like 3D models of alien designs and storyboards.

Dolphin Tale: This family film recounts the real-life tragedy of a dolphin that became ensnared in the ropes of a crab trap and, although she was rescued, had to have her tail amputated. You may or may not be onboard for the dramatic recreations of the dolphin named Winter, but it's difficult not to be moved by the true story after watching "Winter's Inspiration"—a featurette that shows real footage of Winter's rescue and the emotional interaction between the dolphin and the disabled children and war vets that come to visit her.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: When will Andy Serkis get the recognition he deserves? His motion-capture performances as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong were unforgettable, and his evocative turn in this reboot of The Planet of the Apes franchise as smart simian Caesar is Oscar worthy. Be sure to watch "The Genius of Andy Serkis" featurette that explores how scenes were filmed using multiple plates and how much of Serkis's personality comes through in the motion-capture chimp at the center of the story.

Fright Night (2011): This fang-filled remake of the 1985 horror comedy moves the action to the suburbs of Las Vegas and features Anton Yelchin as teenager Charley Brewster who fears that a vampire (Colin Farrell) has moved in next door. Check out the "Squid Man: Extended & Uncut" featurette that features more of the silly superhero role-playing footage that Christopher Mintz-Plasse's character used to blackmail Charley.

Kung Fu Panda 2: Pint-sized fans of this DreamWorks animated sequel will want to check out the short film: "Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters," which is included on both the DVD and Blu-ray. The 23-minute short explores the backstories of Masters Storming Ox, Master Croc and Thundering Rhino.

The Help: Here is an Oscar-begging movie about the prejudices faced by African-American maids in the South during the early '60s. The moving featurette "In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi" profiles several maids who share their memories of the era and talk about segregation.

The Hangover Part II: Even though it drained a lot of wallets at the box office, some felt that this delirious sequel was too much of a rehash of the first film. That is why the truly meta "Unauthorized Documentary: The Documentary About the Documentary They Don't Want You to See About the Making of The Hangover Part II" is such a gas—it features interviews with the cast and crew about the horrors of making the sequel and everyone seems game to poke fun at themselves.


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