New on DVD and Blu-ray this week: Johnny Depp gets animated for the hilarious comedy, Rango; Matthew McConaughey stars in the thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer; and prepare for the creepy horror film, Insidious.
Rango [Friday, July 15]
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molinam, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone
Director: Gore Verbinski
Johnny Depp is a busy, busy guy. Every few months there seems to be another film that the actor has starred in, and it’s not uncommon to see him working with one of his favorite directors. First there was Tim Burton, who is one of Depp’s long-standing friends and collaborators, and apparently Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski is also ready to make Depp a fixture in more of his films as well.
In the animated Rango, Depp voices a chameleon with a new home in what looks like a classic American western town, complete with other critters dressed up as the townspeople. Imagining himself as the hero of the story, Rango takes on the role of the Sheriff before he discovers that everyone else who tried that job before didn’t survive very long.
What makes Rango different from every other animated film, especially recently, is the witty, satirical way the film mocks all the conventions of the genre while still being original, fresh, and most importantly, hilarious. The only difference from the usual kid-friendly animated films is that Rango has a definite dark sense of humour, but that adds wonderful texture to the story, and a rare sense of danger in the otherwise sterile genre.
Rango features a wonderful cast, including Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, and Ray Winstone, but it’s Depp’s film to be sure. It’s impossible to look at this animated lizard and not see Depp shining through in every way, which is not only a testament to Depp’s acting, but a huge accomplishment for the animation team, who have created one of the best looking animated films of the last several years.
Included in the Blu-ray release are a lot of fantastic extras, from deleted scenes and storyboards to an in-depth behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the film and the animation with the cast and filmmakers. For the little ones there is also the educational featurette, Real Creatures of Dirt, which looks at the creatures that live in the desert, plus an interactive map of the town of Dirt.
Overall, this is a fantastic film that makes an impressive bow on Blu-ray, and it’s a must-own if you’re a fan of the all-too-rare clever animated comedy, or Johnny Depp for that matter.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas
Director: Brad Furman
The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey as criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller, a man who makes a living by getting seemingly crooked people off the hook.
Mickey’s life changes when he takes on a case that will make or break his career, defending Beverly Hills player Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who has been charged with rape and attempted murder.
What seems like a simple case at first, since Louis seems to be innocent, turns out to be a dangerous case for Rickey as he uncovers a previous murder that is suspiciously similar. As Rickey uncovers evidence he gets implicated in a dangerous game against his own client as someone fights to keep the evidence hidden.
Based on Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name, this is a refreshing change for McConaughey, who has been doing a lot of romantic comedies for a few years, but very few serious roles.
Earning well-above-average reviews from critics, The Lincoln Lawyer looks like a solid diversion, as long as you can accept that it’s essentially like a lot of other court thrillers.
“A moderately entertaining crime drama from people who know their way around a bloody knife or suspicious evidence,” wrote Kirk Honeycutt for the Hollywood Reporter.
While Mark Holcomb of the Village Voice wrote that it was “[a]s devoid of spontaneity as a D.A.’s defense strategy.” He goes on to add, “this adaptation of fiction machine Michael Connelly’s 2005 legal thriller is both convoluted and completely predictable.”
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Andrew Astor, Lin Shaye
Director: James Wan
In this horror film from director James Wan, the man behind the original Saw movie, a family with a young son discover that their brand new house may not be the perfect home after all as their child falls into a sudden, unexplained coma.
As terror breaks out around the child, the family discovers that his mind has been trapped in the otherworldly realm called The Further, and if they don’t figure out how to bring their child back, his mind will be stuck there forever.
Working with doctors, no one is able to figure out why their son went into a coma in the first place, and they can’t revive him either. It’s only through a psychic, played by Barbara Hershey, that they begin to find answers as spirits continue to haunt them wherever they go.
The film received decent reviews, which is a nice change for horror flicks these days, but they’re not exactly glowing.
John Anderson of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Insidious establishes that these folks can make a film that operates on an entirely different level, sans gore, or obvious gimmicks. And make flesh crawl.”
Mike Hale of the New York Times, meanwhile, wrote in his review, “The strongest analogue for the second half of Insidious is one that the filmmakers probably weren’t trying for: it feels like a less poetic version of an M. Night Shyamalan fairy tale.”
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