Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rango - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: July 15, 2011

Rango is the only movie this year to truly come out of nowhere for me. Not so much that I didn't know about it but just by defying the odds and not being everything I thought it would be, which is your garden variety animated movie for kids. It is so much more than just another movie for kids, heck I think most kids might even find this chameleon's extraordinary journey to be slightly boring. If you missed it in the theaters for the same reasons I almost did then do yourself a favor and pick this one up immediately and discover why not everything animated needs to be geared towards the little ones. And a quick word for anyone interested in the extended cut with the never-before-seen-ending (which runs at 111 minutes in comparison to the theatrical cut at 107 minutes both of which are included here), it is good but other than the 3 minute extended ending nothing else added here changes the film dramatically. That being said I will probably pop the extended version in first if given the option.

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: Playstation 3 Slim
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: DTS HD - English

Excerpt from my original theatrical review:

Director Gore Verbinski hasn't made very many films ( he hasn't even reached the double digits yet) but he may be one of the very few recent cases where quality makes up for the lack of quantity. He has made the definitive J-Horror remake with The Ring and shortly after that gave us the definitive pirate movie with The Pirates of the Caribbean (the sequels not withstanding). Now he has seen fit to tackle the animated world with his Pirates cohort Johnny Depp in tow. While I can't say he has made the definitive animated movie per say, that honor is still held by the immortal Pixar folks, he has made in my humble opinion the definitive animated WESTERN movie.

Read the full review here.


What's on the disc?

I have to admit that this is a pretty extensive collection of features. And what is even more amazing is that there is almost zero overlap among them (unless you consider the deleted scenes overlap since they are in the extended cut of the film). While not everything included here is pure gold I still can't bring myself to say any of it was bad or unnecessary. That is mostly due to the fact that after going through all these features I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on everything that went into how it was made and the filmmakers overall feelings on it. And what more could someone ask for from extra features other than walking away like you learned something which I most certainly did in this case.


Audio Commentary (This Feature is only available for the extended version of the film) - A discussion featuring Director, Story co-writer, producer Gore Verbinski, Head of Story James Ward Byrkit, Animation Director Hal Hickel, and Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Alexander. While the group is most definitely engaging and completely into what they are discussing it unfortunately falls into the category of unless you're immensely entertained by people talking about the particulars of how hard it was to animate something then you might find this a little dry. According to the other features on the disc this was a personal film for many involved in its production and I would have loved to hear more about where the idea came from and the filmmakers readily apparent love for westerns. Not a dull listen but also not very exciting as far as the information derived from it is concerned.

Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History  - This feature is split up into two separate features that can be selected to play together or individually.

     - "The Stage Is Set" (28:22 min) HD - The first feature covers how all the different pieces came together for the film. You get all sorts of nice little bits of info such as how Verbinski wanted to do the film after the first Pirates movie was finished but the two sequels pushed it back a few years, the different westerns that inspired them in the look and feel of the film, seeing most of the voice actors (even the ones in smaller roles) give some quick thoughts on their characters and a lot of discussion on how the unique character designs were made. I also liked how it showed everyone that was involved in pre-production lived at this resort looking house up in Hollywood Hills for almost two years.

     - "Now We Ride" (20:29 min) HD - Up second is what all went down after Verbinski and his crew brought in all the talent at ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) on the project. I was stunned to find out that this was the very first feature length animated film they had ever worked on. Oh and for some reason you get some random moments with Verbinski running around ILM wearing a really bad mustache and acting as a tour guide.

Deleted Scenes HD - So this is a strange one. These deleted scenes are the exact same scenes that were restored into the extended version of the film. So I suggest that instead of going through these that you just watch the extended cut since you get to see them in much better context that way. But if you feel so inclined to view them at your leisure then these are for you. Quite honestly I don't understand why there is the overlap other than to have some more bullet points on the box. Either way its dual presentation aside these are some worthwhile scenes to glance over and the new ending is pretty good as well.

"Seeing My Insides" (:46) Extended scene between Rango and Roadkill on the highway.
"The West Is The Best" (:22) Extended scene between Rango and the Mayor during his first visit.
"Destiny Awaits" (:33) Extended scene with the Mayor giving Rango his badge.
"Water Dance (Full Version)" (:44) Exactly what it says, a longer version of the town water dance.
"Not What I Expected" (:25) Extended scene with Rango's posse underground.
"I'd Put That On A Tortilla" (:51) Yet another extended scene with Rango's posse saying a few extra things.
"Put A Cork In It" (:38) And yet another extended scene with Rango's posse talking amongst themselves.
"Speak Now Or Hold Your Piece" (:35) Rango and the others give a proper burial to a dead friend.
"Rub Their Nose In It" (:31) Extended scene between Rango and Beans discussing where the water might be.
"Coda - Never-Before-Seen-Ending" (3:00) Ah, this is the big one...or so the writing all over the case might make you believe anyway. While this is a fairly fun and harmless extension to the original ending (which did end pretty abruptly), it isn't anything more than watching all the towns folk bask in their victory. But it does give a more fitting final moment for Rango I think. Regardless this probably should have been in the theatrical version from the get go but at least it has been restored.

Real Creatures of Dirt (22:16 min) HD - Hosted by wild man Donald Schultz this is a closer look at all the animals that helped inspire all the different creatures that populate the world of Rango. It cuts back and forth between Schultz who apparently has a death wish (I swear that rattlesnake was gonna get him) and members of the production. Schultz of course gives you some info on the actual animals while the filmmakers talk more about the characters they made using those animal's likenesses. I was surprised to see how well made and produced this was and it ultimately became a very interesting watch.

Storyboard Reel Picture-in-Picture (This feature is only available on the Theatrical version of the film)- Not a whole lot to say here. You get a storyboard comparison that runs in a small window as the film plays for the length of the entire film.

A Field Trip to Dirt HD - I knew there had to be some sort of interactive menu in here somewhere and here it is. This is nothing more than a virtual tour of the town of Dirt (a very well done one mind you). While I usually steer clear of these I was kind of forced to go through its tedium due to there being a wealth of info in here on all the characters for the film. Depending on what building you pick in town you will have options to few the profiles for certain characters. Those profiles include background info on the characters, a rotating 3D model and some 2D artwork as well. There is some good stuff in here I just wish I didn't have to sit through a bunch of unnecessary menu navigation to get to it all. 

Theatrical Trailer HD - The films theatrical trailer.

Final Verdict:

At this point I don't think there is anything left to say about Rango. I have sung its everlasting praises for as long as I could by now so it is up to you to see it for yourself and judge. If this is your first time viewing it then I would suggest watching the extended cut, not because it is better but because it adds just a little more good to something that was already excellent in my opinion. As for the picture and sound quality on this blu disc...well words cannot truly express how beautiful this film looked and sounded on my set up. Suffice to say that I think this could be considered a reference disc for many people out there. The features also do not disappoint and give anyone thirsting to know how it all came together this should provide the knowledge they seek and they should come away from this fairly pleased and educated. Without a doubt this is a must purchase for anyone, it may not be everyone's cup of tea (you really have to like westerns) but no one can deny the imagination and pure craftsman like skill that was used to create its world and characters.

Movie   -  A
Video   -  A+
Audio   -  A+
Extras  -  B+




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