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Bonus Points

The monthly guide to DVD extras

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2003;

Welcome to Bonus Points, a monthly column that evaluates the extra features on new DVD releases. Since Father's Day is celebrated in June, this month the focus is on three very different "guy" movies: a new deluxe edition of the war movie "Black Hawk Down"; the classic cattle ranch film "Giant"; and a comedy for the little frat boy in all of us, "Old School."

"Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition" (R) -- Released June 3

Go inside the actor's studio with Will Ferrell on the "Old School" DVD. (Richard Foreman - DreamWorks Pictures)

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You may need to take a week's vacation to watch all of the extras on "Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition." This three-disc set -- a follow-up to the previous "Black Hawk" release, which contained minimal bonus features -- is overflowing with supplemental material. A documentary called "The Essence of Combat: the Making of 'Black Hawk Down'" lasts two-and-a-half hours, longer than the running time of the film itself. And that's just one of three extensive documentaries, not to mention 20 minutes of deleted scenes, numerous storyboard images and three (yeah, you heard me) separate commentary tracks: one from director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another from writers Mark Bowden (author of the book) and Ken Nolan and a third that includes four Army Ranger veterans. And that, my friend, is only scratching the surface. Suffice it to say, fans of the film and military enthusiasts will go ga-ga over this DVD. Just be careful if you choose to rent rather than buy. There's no way to take all of this in without racking up late fees at Blockbuster.

Most Worthwhile Bonus Points: For those who don't know much about the events in Somalia, the inclusion of a History Channel documentary and a previous PBS "Frontline" special are essential viewing. Both programs, which run 100 minutes and one hour, respectively, provide historical context and detail vital to understanding the events and impact of the battle in Mogadishu. In fact, a few moments in these documentaries, particularly interviews with some of the soldiers who were there, are even more compelling than the movie.

Most Revealing Bonus Point: Even women who only go for chick flicks might enjoy watching the actors as they go through military training -- Orlando Bloom getting his head shaved or Ewan McGregor grunting his way through a series of chin-ups.

Most Overwhelming Bonus Point: The only complaint about the extras in this package -- if one can call it a complaint -- is that there are almost too many of them. Given the disturbing, violent nature of the subject matter, there's only so much "Black Hawk Down" a person can take in one sitting. This is a DVD set best viewed in pieces, over a long period of time.

"Old School: Unrated Version" -- Released June 10

This men-will-be-boys comedy, starring Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell, comes in two versions: the original, R-rated edition and the supposedly more outrageous, unrated version. On initial viewing, we aren't sure exactly what material has been added to the unrated "Old School," though it would appear it's more nudity. (This should go without saying, but "Old School" is not an appropriate choice for younger viewers; even the menu screens show topless women.) Whichever version you choose, the extras on this DVD -- which include eight deleted scenes; five minutes of outtakes and bloopers; and commentary by Vaughn, Wilson, Ferrell and director Todd Phillips -- are real keg-kickers. Sure, some of it's a bit crass and immature. But that's what "Old School" is all about.

Most Hilarious Bonus Point: The deleted scenes and bloopers will undoubtedly induce a few chuckles. But the comedic high point of this DVD is the "Inside the Actor's Studio" parody, hosted by Will Ferrell as pretentious host James Lipton, a role he perfected on "Saturday Night Live." The segment is crudely edited, and Vaughn looks like he has a vicious hangover, but that only adds to the humor. Besides, how can you not laugh when Ferrell as Lipton says to Ferrell the actor, "I look at you and I look into the eyes of an angel"? Bravo, indeed.

Hidden Bonus Points: I found a couple of Easter eggs in "Old School": On the set-up screen, click on the word "Frank" and you'll see another deleted scene that shows Will Ferrell watching "Girls Gone Wild." Click the words "Live Music" on the main menu screen and a performance by Snoop Dogg appears.

Disappointing Bonus Point: I wish there were more bloopers and outtakes. It seems like every second on the set with these guys would have been funny. Couldn't we have more than a mere five minutes?

"Giant" (G) -- Released June 10

Thanks to President George W. Bush and the Dixie Chicks, talk about Texas is on the tip of everyone's tongue these days. It seems, then, there couldn't be a better time for the DVD release of "Giant," the sprawling 1956 epic about a wealthy Texas family, starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. The two-disc DVD treats the classic with expected reverence, including more than two hours of bonus features; among them, several documentary featurettes about the making of "Giant," footage from the movie's New York and Hollywood premieres, photo galleries and commentary from George Stevens Jr., screenwriter Ivan Moffat and film critic Stephen Farber. Some of the interviews are a bit dated (including clearly old but valuable ones with the late Hudson) and appear to have been created for the film's 40th anniversary in 1996. Still, those who remember the fanfare surrounding "Giant's" release will likely enjoy this celebration of the Lone Star State's cinematic crown jewel.

Most Revealing Bonus Point: Rock Hudson explains a dramatic scene in which he and Elizabeth Taylor silently reveal their love for one another. Turns out it wasn't passion that motivated the moment, but too many martinis the night before. "The truth is we were so hung over, we couldn't do anything but just look," Hudson recalls.

Most Nostalgic Bonus Point: Thanks to actress Jane Withers's home movie footage from the set, which is interspersed in some of the featurettes, this disc delivers plenty of fun flashbacks. But the best one -- preserved here in its entirety -- is a half-hour then-live telecast from the movie's October 1956 premiere in New York City. Sort of a late '50s version of "Access Hollywood," the program is hosted by Jayne Meadows -- decked out in fur, tiara and white satin gloves -- and Chill Wills, who interview numerous stars, including Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper. The highlight for younger viewers is listening to Fernando Lamas and realizing how flawlessly Billy Crystal impersonated him on "Saturday Night Live." And yes, he really does look marvelous.

Most Disappointing Bonus Point: Of the film's three big stars, Elizabeth Taylor is the only who's still alive. And she's never interviewed during any of the featurettes.

Is there an upcoming DVD that you'd like to see reviewed in this column? Or do you have suggestions for our movie content in general? E-mail and let me know.

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