THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Strong combinations of stories, supplements

Viewers benefit as technology enhances pop-up commentary

George Clooney in “Up in the Air.' George Clooney in “Up in the Air." (Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures)
By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / December 26, 2010

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On one hand, 2010 was a great year for fans of DVD supplements, as Blu-ray helped pop-up AV commentary really come into its own. On the other hand, the new tech ended up being used a little too often as just a flashy way of presenting the same old rote featurettes. Here are the discs that had the most to offer, from main attractions that commanded attention to extras that did the same.

UP IN THE AIR

George Clooney’s nuanced showcase as a suavely detached employee-termination consultant is tricked out with the year’s most relevant commentary. Director Jason Reitman (“Juno,’’ “Thank You for Smoking’’) discusses how his adaptation of Walter Kirn’s novel was begun before the economy crashed, necessitating that lighthearted snippets with the recently fired get an empathy rewrite. Better still is a deleted-scenes collection featuring a surprisingly extensive surrealist sequence with a spacesuit-clad Clooney going about his disconnected routine.

CLINT EASTWOOD: 35 FILMS 35 YEARS AT WARNER BROS.

Touted as the largest DVD collection ever devoted to a single artist, this cinderblock-hefty box set nearly has it all: Eastwood’s Oscar-winning work on “Unforgiven’’ and “Million Dollar Baby’’; all five Dirty Harry cases; directing-starring highlights such as “The Outlaw Josey Wales’’ and “Gran Torino’’; and pure directorial efforts such as “Mystic River.’’ A recent revised version of the set even addresses one of the few flaws, incorporating a documentary by critic Richard Schickel in full, rather than just offering a preview.

MODERN TIMES

The Criterion Collection trains its spotlight on Charlie Chaplin for the first time, with a reissue of his final, iconic appearance as the Little Tramp. Chaplin’s commentaries on unemployment, poverty, and materialist fantasizing resonate now more than ever — and the comedy, of course, holds up pretty well, too. A technical featurette with contemporary effects artists deconstructing the film’s precarious roller-skating gag is a fun reveal.

AVATAR

Don’t count us among the haters who offered only backhanded praise for James Cameron’s genre landmark, marveling at its visuals but saying it had no substance. We appreciate the movie’s spiritual element — enough, certainly, to welcome another look on this recent DVD. The disc’s extended cut of the movie rewards repeat viewing, too, and extensive behind-the-scenes material capably addresses our many how-did-they-do-that questions. We would rank this package even higher, but it draws a penalty for the no-frills edition that preceded it last spring — as an Earth Day cash-in, no less.

THE RUNAWAYS

This depiction of Joan Jett’s early-career wild times sends you running to load “Cherry Bomb’’ onto your iPod. Then the disc lures you right back with commentary by Jett, screen counterpart Kristen Stewart, and Dakota Fanning, who plays Jett’s bandmate Cherie Currie. Jett has no problem getting on details that have been tweaked, such as those leather pants she never actually wore. “It’s about creating the [icon],’’ Stewart offers. “What does leather do that jeans wouldn’t?’’ Jett says. You tell her, sister.

FANTASIA

Walt Disney’s great animation experiment still drags more than it should, but it looks and sounds lusher than ever in its Blu-ray debut. Some of the most satisfying viewing actually comes from the Al Hirschfeld-style segment of “Fantasia 2000,’’ also included, and “Destino,’’ a Disney-Salvador Dalí collaboration abandoned in 1946, but resurrected as an Oscar-nominated short in 2003.

44 INCH CHEST

In this sharply scripted British indie, gangster Ray Winstone shanghais his wife’s paramour with a hand from mates Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane, Ian McShane, and John Hurt, tossing the loverboy in an armoire and lengthily debating his fate. The film isn’t obsessed with violence, impressively focusing instead on hilariously mannered wordplay and the sensitivity in Winstone’s broken heart. Bonus epilogues with the gang are the perfect encore.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

British street artist Banksy directs this portrait of Thierry Guetta, an LA character compulsively drawn to videotaping him, Obama iconographer Shepard Fairey, and all celebrity taggers. Banksy exposes Guetta as a filmmaking fraud, only to spur Guetta to become a street artist in his own right — a documentary trip (in every sense) that makes Joaquin Phoenix’s seem pretty straightforward by comparison. All this, plus a legit doc on Banksy, and a look at Guetta’s unreleasable mess, too.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

A ’70s relic? Just kid stuff? Maybe, but it’s ridiculously satisfying to see Lee Majors’s bionic exploits finally hit DVD after years of legal wrangling. The set even includes the three pilot telefilms that preceded the series, offering some moving medical drama and, yes, a look at Steve Austin briefly, shamelessly cast in 007 mode.

LIE TO ME: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

We love Tim Roth’s gonzo sleuthing as deception expert Cal Lightman, even if Fox seems less enthused. (What’s with the recent news that the series is being put on another oddball scheduling hiatus?) What we love nearly as much is the DVD’s featurette gimmick: The psychologist who inspired Roth’s character analyzes interviews to expose the Hollywood hooey on display (more or less). Imagine the possibilities.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

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