Doing audio commentary requires a real knack, and more often than not directors, writers, producers and even actors seem at a loss for words when they are called upon to discuss the film or TV series in question.
But that certainly isn't the case with the commentaries on The Sopranos - The Complete Fifth Season (HBO, $100).
The three-disc set features four superlative and diverse commentaries from the directors of the Emmy Award-winning mob series and a fifth with actress Drea de Matteo, who talks about the episode in which her character, Adriana, meets her maker.
Director Rodrigo Garcia talks about his fondness for Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), while British director Mike Figgis of Leaving Las Vegas discusses what it was like to make his first foray into episodic television.
Peter Bogdanovich, who occasionally appears on the series as a shrink, approaches his commentary in technical and visual terms; Steve Buscemi, who appeared as Tony's sad-sack cousin, brings his personal life into his commentary; and de Matteo chats about her feelings leaving the show and why she thinks the series lost its "heart" when Adriana was killed.
Beyond the Sea (Lions Gate, $28): Kevin Spacey received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the late, great "Mack the Knife" crooner Bobby Darin in this uneven biopic co-written and directed by Spacey. The digital edition is a bit of a snooze - there's an average "making of" featurette and surprisingly torpid commentary with the usually animated Spacey.
Be Cool (MGM, $28): Rarely do film sequels measure up to the original, and that's certainly the case with this sequel to the 1995 hit, Get Shorty. John Travolta returns as former loan shark Chili Palmer. The digital edition is equally disappointing.
The Machinist (Paramount, $30): Christian Bale is buffed up as the Caped Crusader in the new Batman Begins. But for the title role in this nightmarish thriller, he starved himself to a disturbing 110 pounds. The DVD includes deleted scenes, a decent documentary and cerebral commentary from director Brad Anderson.
Stripes - Extended Cut (Sony, $20): This version of the 1981 hit military comedy starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and John Candy reinstates 18 minutes that had been deleted from the theatrical release. There's also a rollicking hourlong retrospective documentary and commentary from director/producer Ivan Reitman and producer/writer Dan Goldberg.
Dead Ringers (Warner Home Video, $20): Jeremy Irons was a critics' darling with his daring performance as twin gynecologists who share everything including women in this 1988 David Cronenberg psychological thriller. The disc includes a vintage documentary and intimate commentary with Irons.
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