Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What may keep me out of theaters in 2011? Instant 'Extended' DVD versions.

The Wolfman, Salt, Knight and Day, The A-Team, and The Town. What do these films have in common? Not too much, except I saw all of them in theaters, all on my own dime and (more importantly) on my own time. I enjoyed The A-Team and kinda-sorta liked Knight and Day and Salt. But the one constant is that they all came to DVD/Blu Ray with extensive 'Extended Edition/Director's Cut' versions. The whole 'unrated/extended cut' thing has been around since the beginning of DVD. Usually it amounts to an R-rated comedy (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, The Hangover, Role Models, etc) or horror film (every single Saw picture) tossing in three minutes of 'extreme' material that could have allegedly gotten the film an NC-17. But this recent wave is different. These are old-fashioned action pictures and star-vehicles, the kind that are allegedly struggling to find an audience, yet they are consistently mocking their theatrical audiences by unleashing more substantial versions on the home video platform just months after theatrical release.

The Wolfman is nineteen minutes longer on DVD than it was in theaters. The A-Team has twenty minutes of character-development beats, which allegedly make the move a more thoughtful, insightful, and just-plain better action picture. The Town has a whopping 25 minutes of extra scenes. Sure, they don't help the movie all that much, but considering that the film came out on DVD just 90 days after its theatrical release, it's almost like the theatrical audience is being pranked. Knight and Day has just seven minutes of new material, but perhaps had I known I would have waited for DVD. And the heavily-tinkered-with Salt comes with three different cuts of the movie on DVD and Blu Ray. There's only about four minutes difference between versions, but it's painfully clear that the director's cut (with a much darker finale and more finite resolution) is the version that Philip Noyce submitted before Sony Pictrues and/or test screening audiences demanded a more audience-friendly and/or franchise-friendly film. And that's not counting the comedies (Get Him to the Greek, Date Night, The Other Guys, etc), all of which are being released in 10-20 minute longer versions upon their home arrival. Paul Weitz has just promised 'over five movies worth of deleted scenes' for Little Fockers. Even if the reviews for that one weren't dreadful, comments like that are just the kind of thing to keep me away from the theaters.

For the record, there is a big difference between The Lord of the Rings trilogy and/or the Almost Famous 'bootleg cut' and this kind of thing. The Lord of the Rings films demanded at least one big-screen viewing, as did Avatar. All waited a full year before unleashing its 16-minutes longer extended cut on Blu Ray (plus, there was an eight-minute longer special edition released back into theaters at the end of last summer). There is a big difference between releasing a director's cut and/or extended version of a film a year or two (if not longer) after the theatrical release, especially if the audience has fair warning to make their choice accordingly. Everyone knew that Cameron would eventually release a longer version of Avatar, because he so often does (Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2). I hesitate to fault Ridley Scott's Robin Hood because Scott is such a well-known tinkerer as well (I knowingly waited until Blu Ray, hated the movie anyway).

Even audiences for Zack Snyder's Watchmen had fair warning prior to the theatrical release that there would be a longer director's cut coming down the pike. Whether or not this might affect our decision to see it in theaters, at least no one went in unaware. This isn't Dark City getting its director's cut ten years after its theatrical release. This isn't Daredevil getting an R-rated (and vastly superior) director's cut nearly two years after the film's theatrical release. These are films getting noticeably longer (and often less-comprised) cuts on DVD several months after theatrical release. These are star-driven comedies and glorified B-movie thrillers that work just as well on TNT on a lazy Sunday as they do in theaters. As studios wrestle with how to make money from old-fashioned thrillers and genre pictures, why are studios so willing to risk the people who still go out of their way to see this stuff in theaters?

When you're dealing with movies that don't necessarily need the big screen to thrive (especially in the age of large-screen HD televisions and DTS home set-ups), what exactly is the point of seeing a movie in a theater when one can wait three-to-five months and not only see it in a flawless Blu Ray presentation, but see a longer, fuller version, often as the director intended it in the first place? Maybe if I were still younger and/or had more free time, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. But I rarely have time to see a movie more than once, certainly not a movie that I wasn't over the moon about in the first place. Would I have enjoyed The Wolfman more in its two-hour extended version? Perhaps not, but I wouldn't have felt cheated after realizing that I paid $10 and went out of my way to go to the theater in order to see what turned out to be an arbitrary version of the film.

So point being, I likely won't be seeing Little Fockers in theaters over this coming weekend. I imagine the allegedly-terrible film won't play that much better in some 'extreme extended edition', but at least I'll know that A) I'll have the longer version available and/or B) I'll have the choice regarding which version to watch. I'm not sure how this trend will affect my movie going habits in the new year. I'll certainly see less comedies in theaters, but I already made that call last year (hint - not one theatrical comedy this year was as funny as any given episode of Modern Family, Community, The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, The Middle, or even Better With You). But I do enjoy the usual action picture and/or star-driven thriller. So the question becomes, do I wait until DVD/Blu Ray and forgo the review and/or commentary that comes with immediate theatrical viewing, or do I trek out to a theater and hope that I won't feel conned just four months later?

Scott Mendelson

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the same boat as you, Scott. Got baby number two on the way in 2 months and I already know my theatrical viewings will be going way down. But, in this day and age of extended/director's only months after it's theatrical release, it only makes sense to wait.

70% of the time, the longer version ends up being better anyway.

The problem comes with trying to find these longer version when you want to rent ONLY. The studios got smart and stupid at the same time. I'd be willing to pay full price for a Blu-Ray of a film I didn't get a chance to see in a theater if I could rent the flick with how ever many cuts it has, plus the special features. Nowadays, you almost can't do that anymore. Anyone who's a serious cinephile wants to preview everything a film offers on home video before buying. That's almost nonexistent these days.

It's a gamble to buy films now for home video. Because the rental system is so damn wishy washy, you have no idea what you're getting with these films if you can't catch them in the theater.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes these cuts are highly unnecessary too and are not as good as their theatrical counterparts as well.

I much prefer the theatrical edition of Talladega Nights as opposed to the unrated version that i purchased and now wish i hadn't.

=Brandon

R.L. Shaffer said...

There isn't an extended cut for Knight and Day, not to my knowledge.

R.L. Shaffer said...

Oh wait...I see. It's an on-demand sort of thing. That's weird.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching less and less movies in the theater for just this reason, so I'm glad someone has taken the time to write about this topic. As others have said, the director's cut is usually the way most films should be seen. With the proliferation of DVD releases with extended/director's cuts, it's no wonder the box office is down.

Of course, home theaters have a part in this, as well. Wouldn't most people rather sit at home with their favorite snack and a beverage than sit in a theater with over-priced food and drink. For many movies, I have waited for the DVD release to see if they are worth buying. The theaters are becoming too expensive and the films that they show are usually compromised from the director's original vision.

You're not the only person who is on a budget. The many DVD releases that are out there containing different versions than the theatrical cut continues to rise. Sure, it's one way that the studios can make some money on the DVD releases, but I don't want to hear them complaining about people not going to the theater. If they didn't make the alternative look so appealing, it probably wouldn't be such a good thing. I'd prefer a movie on DVD that has multiple choices, opposed to most of MGM's movie-only fare with poor soundtracks.

RickDVD said...

I've been watching less and less movies in the theater for just this reason, so I'm glad someone has taken the time to write about this topic. As others have said, the director's cut is usually the way most films should be seen. With the proliferation of DVD releases with extended/director's cuts, it's no wonder the box office is down.

Of course, home theaters have a part in this, as well. Wouldn't most people rather sit at home with their favorite snack and a beverage than sit in a theater with over-priced food and drink. For many movies, I have waited for the DVD release to see if they are worth buying. The theaters are becoming too expensive and the films that they show are usually compromised from the director's original vision.

You're not the only person who is on a budget. The many DVD releases that are out there containing different versions than the theatrical cut continues to rise. Sure, it's one way that the studios can make some money on the DVD releases, but I don't want to hear them complaining about people not going to the theater. If they didn't make the alternative look so appealing, it probably wouldn't be such a good thing. I'd prefer a movie on DVD that has multiple choices, opposed to most of MGM's movie-only fare with poor soundtracks.

Jack said...

I think it depends on a case-by-case basis with these movies. For me it depends on what kind of movie it is or the director. I'd like to think that Ben Affleck maybe, possibly, had final cut on it, or that what we saw in The Town was what his original vision was. To me I get a little cynical when I see some extended cuts of movies, because it's not always really the director's cut, it's just another version, longer, not technically rated by the MPAA (which doesn't necessarily mean it's always raunchier or sexier or more violent, just that it wasn't rated), and that it could have just been scenes put on the deleted section of the DVD.

That said, if you are in a state, like the anonymous poster is, then yeah, maybe the DVD with extended footage will work out. But I don't know. It has to be very specific circumstances. I don't mind having only seen the version of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood in the theater, because the director's cut doesn't look like it would change too much of my opinion of the movie in the first place. There's a chance I would see the extended cut on DVD if I hadn't gone to the theater first, but not likely. I have to be circumspect to this because sometimes the limitations actually help the film (of course there are exceptions, even with Scott's Blade Runner, or The Abyss or, in some spots, Apocalypse Now Redux).

But as for the Wolfman extended... eh. Either I'll see it in a theater, or I won't at all.

John Constantine said...

you can see it this way... they (the studios) want to make more money out of this. they release the theatrical and after a few months they release a different/better version on DVD or BluRay so that you'll wish to buy it. if the DVD is the same movie as you the one in the cinemas, you'll be less willing to buy it (unless you liked it and you want it in your collection).

let's take A-Team for example. you see it in the theatre and when it's released on DVD you might be curious to see "the better version", so you buy it. if it was exactly the same movie, you wouldn't do that (unless of course you really liked it)

markz said...

Getting a film into theaters carries a different set of needs from getting it onto DVD or Blu-Ray. The film has to be rated, and the studios often make the call whether to go for a PG-13 or an R (and avoid the dreaded NC-17... sigh), which usually calls for changes in the film. Further, length is often an issue for theatrical exhibition, with pressure from exhibitors as well as the studio, all of which can be overcome on a home release.

Salt is a good example of the rating issue. I didn't get to the film in theaters, so I bought the Blu-Ray. Wisely (in hindsight) I started with the theatrical release, but then watched the extended cut with the commentary on - and learned that there was an important (to the director and star) sequence that was cut to keep a PG-13 rating. This led to a different ending as well. The entire experience was very positive, because all of this was not only described, but shown. Had I seen the film in a theater, I would not have felt cheated, but my experience at home enhanced.

That is not to say that home releases don't abuse the privileges. I'm particularly irked that the Blu-Ray versions of A Knight's Tale and Mr. and Mrs. Smith only present the theatrical cuts and do not include the extended versions released on separate DVDs which, while not always completely satisfying, I liked IN ADDITION TO the theatrical release. I was also irked that Tropic Thunder was released on DVD ONLY in an extended version (if I wanted the bonus materials, which I did) and not providing both.

So there is good and bad. I pick my theatrical visits carefully, and often delay for home viewing a movie that does not demand to be seen on the big screen. But I wouldn't abandon the theater entirely - at least, not yet.

redomelette said...

Many of the rushed out extended cuts fail to add anything significant to the movie and basically amount to deleted scenes inserted back into the movie. It is a gimmick to get you to buy the DVD, deleted scenes are often deleted because they slow down the pace of the movie, repeat information or are just unnecessary. The Star Wars saga is full of this type scene, did an extended Pod Race add anything to the movie? Scott's directors cut of Alien is actually shorter. Reviews of The Town say the extended cut is worse, so don't let the promise of a longer version down the line stop you from experiencing the cinematic experience. More often than not, this is the best version or at least the best version for the format.

Some good extended / director cuts - Brazil, Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner

Some bad - E.T. Donnie Darko, Star Wars, Superman, X-men,

Some interesting - Superman 2, Apocolypse Now Redux, Godfather

redomelette said...

Many of the rushed out extended cuts fail to add anything significant to the movie and basically amount to deleted scenes inserted back into the movie. It is a gimmick to get you to buy the DVD, deleted scenes are often deleted because they slow down the pace of the movie, repeat information or are just unnecessary. The Star Wars saga is full of this type scene, did an extended Pod Race add anything to the movie? Scott's directors cut of Alien is actually shorter. Reviews of The Town say the extended cut is worse, so don't let the promise of a longer version down the line stop you from experiencing the cinematic experience. More often than not, this is the best version or at least the best version for the format.

Some good extended / director cuts - Brazil, Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner

Some bad - E.T. Donnie Darko, Star Wars, Superman, X-men,

Some interesting - Superman 2, Apocolypse Now Redux, Godfather

John Constantine said...

you can see it this way... they (the studios) want to make more money out of this. they release the theatrical and after a few months they release a different/better version on DVD or BluRay so that you'll wish to buy it. if the DVD is the same movie as you the one in the cinemas, you'll be less willing to buy it (unless you liked it and you want it in your collection).

let's take A-Team for example. you see it in the theatre and when it's released on DVD you might be curious to see "the better version", so you buy it. if it was exactly the same movie, you wouldn't do that (unless of course you really liked it)

Jack said...

I think it depends on a case-by-case basis with these movies. For me it depends on what kind of movie it is or the director. I'd like to think that Ben Affleck maybe, possibly, had final cut on it, or that what we saw in The Town was what his original vision was. To me I get a little cynical when I see some extended cuts of movies, because it's not always really the director's cut, it's just another version, longer, not technically rated by the MPAA (which doesn't necessarily mean it's always raunchier or sexier or more violent, just that it wasn't rated), and that it could have just been scenes put on the deleted section of the DVD.

That said, if you are in a state, like the anonymous poster is, then yeah, maybe the DVD with extended footage will work out. But I don't know. It has to be very specific circumstances. I don't mind having only seen the version of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood in the theater, because the director's cut doesn't look like it would change too much of my opinion of the movie in the first place. There's a chance I would see the extended cut on DVD if I hadn't gone to the theater first, but not likely. I have to be circumspect to this because sometimes the limitations actually help the film (of course there are exceptions, even with Scott's Blade Runner, or The Abyss or, in some spots, Apocalypse Now Redux).

But as for the Wolfman extended... eh. Either I'll see it in a theater, or I won't at all.

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