BLOGS

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Move over John and Clint -- there's a new cowboy in town and he's a real chameleon.

Rango
With Pixar and DreamWorks Animation both experiencing a rare off-year with a pair of underwhelming sequels, thank goodness we have the oddball cartoon western Rango to ride to the rescue of family audiences looking for great entertainment. A solid, if not spectacular, hit in theaters, this inventive, beautifully animated feature -- which reunites director Gore Verbinski with his Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp -- deserves to become a staple of home entertainment libraries across the country. Depp voices the titular chameleon, an amateur thespian of many identities, who adopts the mannerisms of an Old West cowboy when he wanders into a dusty frontier town populated by other critters. Rango is such an unexpected delight, we're almost willing to forgive Verbinski for those two Pirates sequels. Almost.
Extras: A commentary track with Verbinski (who made his feature-length animation debut with this film) and other key crew members, a two-part making-of doc and ten deleted scenes.

The Lincoln Lawyer
Based on a series of novels written by Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer is a well-plotted legal thriller that's further enhanced by engaging performances from William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei and... believe it or not, Matthew McConaughey. That's right, after years of serving as a walking punchline, the well-toned actor finally recaptures some of the mojo he had in his breakout role waaaay back in 1993's Dazed & Confused. McConaughey plays Mickey Haller a.k.a. the Lincoln Lawyer, so called because he operates his practice from the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car. When he's hired to defend a wealthy playboy (Ryan Phillippe) accused of assault, he quickly discovers that this seemingly open-and-shut case is actually a heck of a lot more complicated.
Extras: Deleted scenes and three featurettes.

Insidious
James Wan and Leigh Whannell unexpectedly hit the jackpot when they collaborated on a little movie called Saw in 2004. To their credit, rather than stick around to oversee each increasingly lame sequel, the duo moved on to other projects, none of which sadly proved to be as financially lucrative or creatively memorable. While their latest film, Insidious, didn't do Saw-type numbers at the box office, it's generally regarded as being their best effort since their debut, a creepy haunted house tale based on the idea that what you can't see is generally scarier than what you can. Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey star.
Extras: Three featurettes, including a "Horror 101" seminar with Wan and Whannell.

Battle Beyond the Stars
If you saw the names John Sayles, James Cameron and James Horner appear in a film's credits these days, you'd assume it would be for an A-list production. But this unabashed Star Wars rip-off -- originally released in 1980, roughly four months after The Empire Strikes Back -- is a B-movie all the way, produced by legendary cult cinema figure Roger Corman. Sayles wrote the script, which follows the efforts of a young alien to recruit a group of warriors to defend his home planet against the evil Sador the Conqueror, while Horner composed the score and Cameron handled the art direction. Battle Beyond the Stars is as goofy as all get-out, but midnight movie fans everywhere will be thrilled that its now readily available whenever they need their Sybil Danning-in-a-metal-bikini fix.
Extras: Apparently, Cameron and Horner declined to reminisce about the film, but Sayles happily shares a commentary track with his old boss, Corman. There's also another commentary from production manager Gale Anne Hurd (who went on to produce The Terminator), vintage trailers and TV spots and an in-depth making-of documentary.

Also on DVD This Week:
Russell Brand took over a role made famous by Dudley Moore in the remake of Arthur and was met with deafening yawns for his trouble. Likewise, few moviegoers proved to be all that interested in the "controversy" surrounding Julian Schnabel's fourth feature, Miral, a portrait of a young Palestinian rebel played by Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto. After a limited domestic release earlier in the spring, last year's big winner at the Cannes Film Festival Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives pops up on DVD for those adventurous viewers who thought The Tree of Life wasn't experimental enough. Buster Keaton: The Short Films Collection is a three-disc set offering some twenty shorts from the legendary silent-film comedian. If you're in the mood for considerably darker comedy, check out the new Blu-ray Criterion disc of Mike Leigh's savage 1993 film Naked, which features a terrifying David Thewlis ranting and raving his way around London. Warning: Don't show this film to any young Harry Potter fan who really likes that nice, quiet guy playing Remus Lupin...

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