The animated comedy Rango is such fun in its theatrical form, you might find it hard to think of a way the home-video version could make it better.
The answer: more manic laughs.
The standard DVD ($29.99) and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack ($39.99), both from Paramount, have an extended version of the movie, with about four more minutes of footage including an ending sequence that goes beyond the point where the theatrical version stops. And which will still give you the giggles.
Rango stars the voice of Johnny Depp as a pet chameleon who ends up in the desert, interacting with other creatures and eventually becoming sheriff of a town called Dirt. Other voices in the film include Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy and Harry Dean Stanton.
Gore Verbinski, who directed Depp in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, directed and co-wrote Rango (and, in fact, began working on it before directing the first Pirates). There’s a real Simpsons quality to the humor — nominally aimed at children but even more keenly aware of adults in the audience — but with a gentle side, and real charm from Depp. And it looks amazing in Blu-ray.
Besides the extended version, extras on the DVD include commentary by members of the production team, deleted scenes and a segment on the real-life desert animals that inspired the movie’s characters. The Blu-ray adds a making-of piece, a nifty interactive guide to Dirt and a picture-in-picture element that lets you see the film’s storyboards alongside the scenes in the final film,
Matthew McConaughey at times seems to have settled into roles that don’t ask him to clean up much — lots of laid-back dudes. So The Lincoln Lawyer was a bit of a surprise because McConaughey not only looks well-groomed but also gives a fairly intense performance. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly, the twisty legal thriller comes to DVD ($29.95) and a Blu-ray/DVD/digital-copy ($39.99) from Lionsgate.
McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, the lawyer of the movie’s title — so called because he operates out of a Lincoln Continental — hired to defend a rich kid (Ryan Phillippe). While this could be a big opportunity for Haller, the case is, of course, more complicated than it initially seems. The very able cast includes Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Bryan Cranston, Bob Gunton and Frances Fisher.
Extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray include a making-of piece, a look at Connelly and a chat between Connelly and McConaughey.
A couple of noteworthy titles make their way to Blu-ray on Tuesday, and in doing so again raise the question of whether some movies really need to move to the superior format. Where a Rango takes full advantage of the latest technology, both in presentation and use of extras, is it possible to improve an older film with the Blu-ray treatment? After all, there have been cases of things looking worse in high-definition, since the cheaper aspects and technical limitations are all the more evident.
This week, it’s sort of a split decision with the release of a 30th-anniversary edition of Battle Beyond the Stars (Shout! Factory, $19.93 DVD, $26.97 Blu-ray) and a new Blu-ray of Brazil (Universal, $26.98).
Battle Beyond the Stars is Roger Corman’s contribution to the post-Star Wars wave of space-war knockoffs, and a low-budget one by any standard other than Corman’s cost-conscious own. But the script by John Sayles is often clever, and the movie often seems to celebrate its own cheesiness, which is manifest in the Blu-ray version. On the other hand, people who have picked up earlier editions of the movie are going to find a fair amount of recycled material — the audio commentary by Corman and Sayles is a decade old — along with a brief new interview with star Richard Thomas.
Brazil is a wonderful satire from Terry Gilliam, and the Blu-ray allows a closer look at the visual details Gilliam brings to his films. But Brazil is also a movie that has had many home-video incarnations since its theatrical premiere in 1985. Indeed, some fans will look at the Spartan presentation here and wonder why it does not include the many extras from the Criterion version, not to mention a cut that at 132 minutes is 10 minutes shorter than one from the Criterion set.
Also of note in Tuesday’s releases: Miral (Anchor Bay, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray), Julian Schnabel’s drama about a Palestinian girl growing up in East Jerusalem. … MI-5: Volume 9 (BBC Video, eight episodes, $39.98) continues the TV spy saga. … With the eighth and final season of HBO’s Entourage beginning July 24, the 10-episode seventh season comes to DVD ($39.98) and Blu-ray ($49.99) from HBO Video. … ’80s animated series ThunderCats comes to DVD in an Original Series: Season 1, Part 1 set (Warner, 12 episodes, $19.97).
Down video road: West Side Story comes to Blu-ray on Nov 15.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal. He also has a blog, the HeldenFiles Online, and is on Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.