What Else Ya Got? “The Losers”

Sylvain White’s big-screen adaptation of the DC/Vertigo comic book series, “The Losers,” will undoubtedly get plenty of airtime when it premieres on basic cable, but as one of the many man-on-a-mission movies released this year, it’s probably the weakest of the bunch. Fortunately, Warner Bros. has still thrown together a pretty decent collection of extras that, while not incredibly memorable, are certainly worth checking out once.

Band of Buddies: Ops Training

This three-part featurette is the closest thing you’ll find to an official making-of, but it just barely scrapes the surface at only 17 minutes. Each section covers a different topic, including training the actors to resemble Special Forces soldiers, using Puerto Rico as a stand-in for the movie’s various global locations, and the tricks employed to film certain stunts. It’s a nice tease, but it really could have been better.

The Losers: Action-Style Storytelling

Creators Andy Diggle and Jock sit down to discuss the origins of the comic book and how it compares to the film adaptation. There are some cool accompanying shots from the comic that show the similarities between the two versions, while Diggle comments on the necessary changes to the main villain in order for it to work in the context of a movie. Fans of the comic might be relieved to see that the creators are happy with the final product, but I can’t help but feel like they were legally bound to hold back from revealing their true feelings.

Zoe and The Losers

Zoe Saldana is the center of attention in this short featurette about the film’s only female character that includes some flattering interviews from the cast and crew and a fairly in-depth look at a key fight sequence between her and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It’s just too bad Warner Bros. didn’t see it fit to expand this character featurette to include the rest of the cast.

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What Else Ya Got? “The Book of Eli”

The Hughes brothers’ first film in nine years didn’t exactly burn up the box office, but thanks to the star power of Denzel Washington, it did manage to turn a respectable profit. Apparently, it was even enough to convince Warner Bros. to go all out with the film’s Blu-ray, because while some of the studio’s more recent releases didn’t really feature much in the way of special features, “The Book of Eli” is loaded with them.

Maximum Movie Mode

It’s nothing like the incredible presentation hosted by Zack Snyder on the “Watchmen” Blu-ray, but this picture-in-picture video track is still a pretty cool supplement to the film. Designed more like Universal’s U-Control feature – where a small box pops up in the corner of the screen at various times throughout the movie – the Maximum Movie Mode features interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage from production, as well as concept art and screen to storyboard comparisons. Additionally, you can branch off to mini-featurettes called…

Focus Points

…or you can view them on their own without having to sit through the entire movie. There are ten in all, each running about 3-4 minutes in length. Though each Focus Point covers a different aspect of the film, most of them fall under one of three categories: Production Design, like “Building Carnegie’s Town” and “Apocalyptic San Francisco”; Stunts, like “Underpass Fight,” “Shootout at George and Martha’s,” and “Solara Causes Mayhem”; and Character Profiles, including a look at “The Motorcycle Gang.”

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What Else Ya Got? “Edge of Darkness”

It’s hard to know what to expect out of a Blu-ray these days when the cover art detailing the included content fails to do just that. For instance, while the two-disc release of “Edge of Darkness” initially appears to be light on bonus material, there’s actually much more than Warner Brothers is letting on. None of it is particularly memorable stuff, but there’s still enough here to suggest that, even though it underperformed at the box office, the film had a big enough fan base (or at least the possibility of one) to warrant the added effort.

Focus Points

Much like last year’s release of “The Dark Knight,” “Edge of Darkness” rounds up a series of nine mini-featurettes covering everything from working with Mel Gibson and Martin Campbell, to adapting the miniseries for the big screen. Composer Howard Shore also discusses how he uses music to connect the audience to the protagonist, Campbell reminisces about directing the BBC miniseries, and writer William Monahan talks about his contributions to the script. Though none of them really stand out on their own, there’s enough good material here that they would have been better off putting together a single making-of featurette.

Deleted & Alternate Scenes

Mostly throwaway stuff, like Craven grieving over his daughter or threatening Danny Huston’s slimeball businessman. There is one substantial scene where Ray Winstone’s fixer is given all the details behind his new assignment, although it’s hard to imagine where this would have fit into the movie. It’s a major piece of exposition that would have undoubtedly ruined the mystery behind Craven’s investigation, but it also helps give Jedburgh a little more purpose. In the end, it was probably a smart decision to just cut it, as it’s more damaging than helpful to the film.

Though it would have been nice to have included an audio commentary by Campbell or Gibson, Warner’s two-disc release is still a far better showing than expected. The inclusion of a digital copy remains one of the most pointless “special features” around, but at least you can put it to good use and give it away to a friend. After all, if you’re buying Blu-rays for anything other than the movie, you have no one to blame but yourself.

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Ninja Assassin”

James McTeigue’s “Ninja Assassin” certainly has its share of problems (the acting is subpar and the script is even worse), but while it definitely chooses style over substance, that style features so many killer action sequences that it’s still worth checking out. The Blu-ray release smartly hews towards those strengths, resulting in a nice collection of bonus features that fans of the film will definitely appreciate.

The Myth and Legend of Ninjas

This 18-minute featurette delves into the history of the ninja, using interviews with real-life ninja masters to discuss how the warring states of Japan during the 16th century led to the demise of the ninja. There’s also a brief discussion about the various kinds of weapons used (some basic and some so specialized that only a certain clan was proficient in it), as well as how ninjas have become a pop cultural icon in comic books and movies over the last few decades. It’s not a particularly well-made special, but diehard martial arts buffs will enjoy it nonetheless.

The Extreme Sport of a Ninja

By far the best of the bunch, this stunt featurette offers a brief glimpse at the making of every major action sequence in the film. Though the stunt team consisted of the usual suspects, it’s also revealed that other likeminded athletes (like free runners and gymnasts) were also recruited and trained as stuntmen in order to provide the ninjas with a unique style. There’s so much raw awesomeness packed into this 10 minutes that by the time it’s over, there’s a good chance you’ll want to change career paths.

Training Rain

This featurette follows the grueling martial arts and body fitness training that Rain was put through in order to transform him from a Korean pop star into a super-ripped badass. The stunt guys have nothing but praise for the wannabe actor, admitting that his background in dance helped him pick up and memorize the complex fight choreography so quickly. The comparisons to Bruce Lee are mostly unwarranted, but it’s easy to see why these guys are so impressed.

Additional Scenes

You’re not really missing anything here, as most of the so-called deleted scenes are mostly just missing bits from events that still take place in the film. There’s a brief flashback to the ninja camp during the Laundromat scene, another where Raizo jacks a car, and two more involving the Europol characters getting chewed out by their respective bosses.

The story doesn’t really benefit from any of the additional material, so they were probably best left on the cutting room floor. The other extras, however, are all interesting in their own right, and they more than make up for a lack of an audio commentary or proper making-of featurette. The two-disc set also includes a digital copy of the film and a sneak peak at the upcoming “Clash of the Titans” movie. It might not be Warner Brother’s finest hour, but it’s certainly more than I would have expected from one of the studio’s less successful films of 2009.

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Sherlock Holmes”

When a movie makes as much money as “Sherlock Holmes” did at the box office (certainly not “Avatar”-sized numbers, but still respectable for its budget), you expect the studio to reward its audience with some cool DVD bonus features. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here, as Warner Brothers has only included a 14-minute making-of featurette called “Sherlock Holmes: Revisited” that, although not as shallow as the typical EPK, doesn’t go into nearly enough detail for being the only extra on the disc.

Among the topics discussed include how this rendition of Holmes is actually closer to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original vision; Guy Ritchie’s originally plans to cast an actor in his late 20s to play the title character before meeting Robert Downey Jr.; and why Jude Law’s Watson is unlike any other we’ve seen before. In other words, it’s information that anyone following the film would have already read about, rendering the featurette fundamentally pointless. It’s a real shame, too, because there had to be some other bonus material (like bloopers or deleted scenes) sitting around in the vault that fans would have liked to have seen. Though the Blu-ray edition gets the added incentive of WB’s awesome Maximum Movie Mode, even that seems a bit light for such a major release. The history behind Holmes is simply too rich to receive such a lackluster treatment, and though I’ve never been a very big proponent of studio double dips, this time around, it’s almost necessary to make up for such a major blunder.

  

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