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.
Bad Teacher: Cameron Diaz plays the booze-guzzling, pot-smoking, gold-digging teacher from hell that you want to keep far away from your children in this raunchy comedy co-starring Justin Timberlake. One of the best extras—and a Blu-ray exclusive—is "JAMS Yearbook—Hidden Moments." This interactive yearbook allows users to browse through both students and teachers and learn more about their interests. Highlight "Memorable Moments" and you can watch a brief video montage of their best bits from the comedy.
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy: The dino-mite Blu-ray debuts of Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III felt like they took an ice age to materialize, but Universal made them worth the wait. Not only are most of the vintage featurettes from the previous DVD releases included here, but the set includes a new extensive six-part documentary featuring cast and crew interviews as they reflect on their parts in bringing Steven Spielberg's childhood fantasy to life. A special gift set includes a figurine of a T. rex tearing through the entrance to Jurassic Park. Yeah, try to stream that.
Zombie: What the heck does visionary director Guillermo del Toro have to do with the Blu-ray debut of this controversial 1979 Lucio Fulci film that has been called the unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead? Del Toro would have only been about 15 at the time of Zombie's theatrical release, but he has a lot to say about it on this Blue Underground BD. Del Toro introduces the featurette "Zombie Wasteland" and is interviewed in the featurette "Zombie Lover" in which he sings the praises of what he calls one of his favorite films.
The Crow: Brandon Lee died during the production of this 1994 gothic thriller about a musician named Draven who rises from the dead with the gift of invulnerability from a mystical crow on Devil's Night. This Blu-ray debut features nearly all the extras from the DVD releases with one important change. Fans had been asking for a commentary track by director Alex Proyas alone instead of the one that also included commentary by the producers. In his solo commentary, the director talks about Lee's contributions to his character, why he changed Draven into a rocker and the difficulties of finishing a film when your lead actor dies.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: This fourth adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds the flamboyant pirate grabbling with some nasty mermaids, Blackbeard and a lost love while searching for the Fountain of Youth. The movie—available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D—is loaded with all the expected extras, but it is also one of the first titles to feature Disney's Second Screen technology. This feature allows you to sync a portable device—such as an iPad or laptop—to the movie that is playing on your TV so you can access additional behind-the-scenes footage and information on your portable device while the movie progresses. It's a new way of interacting with the movies that we enjoy instead of just being a passive viewer, so expect this cutting-edge technology to be utilized better and on more titles in the future.
Green Lantern: The central villain in this superhero flick starring Ryan Reynolds is a giant yellow cloud, so it's only fitting that it should be one of the first titles available with an Ultraviolet digital copy—a cloud-based content delivery system that, in theory, allows the purchaser of Green Lantern to stream a copy of the movie to a compatible portable device. Right now, you'll probably only be able to use Ultraviolet on a computer and maybe a few phones, but that will change as more manufacturers become Ultraviolet-enabled and the functionality is added to Blu-ray players and game consoles like the PS3. The idea of buying a movie and being able to stream it anywhere at any time will revolutionize home entertainment…if it works as intended.
The Tree of Life: Terrence Malick's gorgeously shot and maddeningly frustrating existential opus doubles as an excellent piece of moving artwork for your next party if you mute it and just have it on in the background with its images of the cosmos, microbiology, nature and even dinosaurs. If you're one of those people (i.e. a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or someone waiting for an invite to join in the mail) that is deeply moved by Malick's artistic pretensions, you'll want to dig into the Blu-ray's only extra—the 30-minute making-of featurette "Exploring The Tree of Life." In it, directors like Christopher Nolan and David Fincher sing Malick's praises as viewers are treated to a look behind the scenes at Malick's experimental, freestyle approach to filmmaking.
The Lion King: Simba makes his Blu-ray debut in two dimensions and in 3D on discs that are loaded with extras, including Disney's Second Screen functionality (see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides above. If you love the film as much as the box office suggests—the film just made an additional $92 million recently in theaters for its 3D debut—you and your pride will get lost for hours in the Interactive Blu-ray Gallery. Check out alternate takes on Simba and Scar and explore character designs, visual development, storyboards, backgrounds and layouts for a real hakuna matata time.