"Garden State" (Rated R; List price: $29.98)
Release date: Dec. 28
One of the year's nicest surprises at the movies, Zach Braff's "Garden State" also makes for a surprisingly comprehensive DVD. The single disc contains more bonus features than I expected, including 16 deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, a blooper reel and two commentary tracks. The supplemental material may not keep you occupied for hours on end, but all of it makes worthwhile viewing. And frankly, it's refreshing to watch a DVD with a few, well-chosen extras instead of an avalanche of promotional featurettes jammed onto a box set so the studio can brag that "more than 18 hours of extras!" are included.
Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman and Zach Braff star in one of 2004's indie delights, "Garden State," now on DVD.
(K.C. Bailey - Fox Searchlight Pict)
The indie drama about a twenty-something who returns home for his mother's funeral deals with some serious themes, but the DVD never drowns in dourness. Braff -- star of NBC's "Scrubs" -- clearly had a great time making his directorial debut. His energy, as well as that of the young cast and crew, comes across throughout. "Garden State" makes visiting New Jersey a special, quiet delight.
Best Bonus Point: The deleted scenes give viewers a broader sense of story by including some plot points that were previously excised. Plus we get to see an intense confrontation between Braff's character and his father (played by Ian Holm) and a scene where Braff's father, Hal, complains about his son's musical-themed barmitzvah.
Surprisingly Engaging Bonus Point: The commentary track with Braff and co-star Natalie Portman is informative and conversational at the same time. Braff takes the opportunity to explain how certain shots were filmed while Portman confesses to never having put a record on a turntable until she had to do it for the movie. "I grew up with tapes," she explains. Ah, youth.
"Shaun of the Dead" (Rated R; List price: $29.98)
Release date: Dec. 21
"Shaun of the Dead" was another of 2004's great cinematic surprises. The horror-romantic-comedy hybrid -- or as its makers call it, a rom-zom-com (romantic zombie comedy ) -- stands as one of the most creative and hilarious movies of the year. The same twisted fun that infuses the film can be found on the DVD, which packs numerous bonus features into a series of animated menu screens reminiscent of the Winchester, the pub that plays a pivotal role in the film.
Among the numerous extras: casting tapes, extended scenes, outtakes, a video diary of the filmmaking process and two commentary tracks. With this much material, some of it naturally ends up being extraneous: The video of Simon Pegg (star and co-writer) and Edgar Wright (writer-director) using a flip chart to provide a "Shaun" overview is dull and unnecessary. But fans of this distinctly British comedy will giggle over many of the other extras, which provide a nice complement to a movie that can't be beat, even with a cricket bat.
Most Amusing Bonus Point: The cast members break up laughing so frequently, as evidenced by the more than 10 minutes of outtakes, it's a wonder they ever got anything shot. Be prepared for some filthy language, in case any young zombies happen to be in the room.
'Rush of Blood to the Head' Bonus Point: Two members of Brit band Coldplay -- including lead singer Chris Martin -- appeared briefly in the movie as guests on a TV show. The DVD reveals the full clip of the phony TV appearance, allegedly in support of a charity effort called Zombaid. Martin also announces that Coldplay has replaced its two zombified members with a new pair of musicians: Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Front, who make Martin laugh so hard he can barely go on with the bit.
Coming in next week's "Bonus Points": A look at the best DVDs of 2004 and what to look forward to in 2005.
If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.