Bottle Rocket Blu-ray Review
Add it to your Wes Anderson Criterion Collection
Movies reviewSRP: £17.99
Wes Anderson's directorial debut showcases the beginning of his distinctive style, and the acting debuts of now longterm Anderson collaborators the Wilson brothers.There's a certain flavour to Anderson's work, trading largely in surreal, eccentric beats but still carrying a very human heart beneath, as you take up with his often hapless underdog heroes on their wacky, zany, outlandish adventures which have no place in reality. Whether you prefer the full tilt surrealism of The Life Aquatic or the supremely razor-sharp witty banter of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, or even the arguably slightly more conventional Moonrise Kingdom, if you like one Anderson film, you're likely to find something to like about all of them. And it all started back here, over twenty years ago, with his 1996 debut feature Bottle Rocket, a low budget tale of two hapless brothers (Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson, making their acting debut) on a flimsy robbery-themed road trip to nowhere.Co-written by Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket is both quintessential Anderson and also slightly raw Anderson, fresh and new to the game, freestyling and seeing what works and what doesn't. As a result there are some funny moments trademark to his style and wit, but also a loose feel to the piece that leaves it drifting aimlessly from scene to scene. Indeed, you can see why the film tanked, nearly sent Owen Wilson to the Marines and set back Anderson's filmmaking career. Nonetheless the Wilsons are surprisingly good in their debut, and Mark Mothersbaugh, who would go on to score most of Anderson's films, would kick-start his unusual style too with the themes to this piece, rounding out a slight, though effective, opening chapter to the career of the celebrated auteur.
Picture QualityCriterion curiously deliver up Wes Anderson's directorial debut to UK audiences almost a decade after it provides it to its US clientele (probably partly due to the fact that Criterion didn't service the UK back in 2008, and indeed only started their UK division fairly recently). This 2017 Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Bottle Rocket purports to use a newly restored digital transfer supervised by Anderson and his DOP Robert Yeoman, which may well be the case given the advancements in technology over the last decade, although it would be a curious effort for Criterion to make, given their 2008 release was also 'newly' restored at 2K under supervision from Anderson and Yeoman. Thankfully, even if this is the exact same video presentation, it holds up very well, having been cleaned up and restored with loving attention to detail, as you would only expect from Criterion.
Whilst not conventional demo material, it's arguably reference nonetheless
Framed in Anderson's preferred aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, Bottle Rocket's 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation is richly textured, boasting strong clarity and impressive detail beneath a healthy and suitably filmic veneer of grain. The colour scheme is vibrant and dynamic, again another Anderson trait, with some unusual tones on offer, and pleasing natural green grass backdrops. Black levels are strong and contrast very good indeed, with plenty of nice shadow detail and almost no defects courtesy of the clinical cleaning process implemented. There's little to quibble about here and, whilst not conventional demo material, it's arguably reference nonetheless.
Sound QualityAgain, unlikely demo material, but a very good audio track nonetheless
Similarly the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a strong effort, and similarly likely the exact same track that adorned Criterion's original US release from a decade ago. Dialogue - arguably always vying with the distinctive score to be the most important aspect of any one Anderson flick - gets clear and coherent prioritisation across the frontal array, dominating the proceedings for the most part, with effects remaining generally natural and atmospheric, but still springing to life with the firework explosions and gunshots alike. Of course Mark Mothersbaugh, who scored half of Anderson's films (including the unique The Life Aquatic score), delivers another memorably distinctive quintessential Anderson score, giving the film some added energy and giving the surrounds yet more to play with. Again, unlikely demo material, but a very good audio track nonetheless.
ExtrasCertainly things don't appear to have changed much on the extras front in comparison to the 2008 US release, but that's not such a bad thing either, with the release boasting one of the better of Criterion's reliably excellent extras packages. Headlined by a strong audio commentary from writer/director Anderson and co-writer/actor Owen Wilson, the real gems are the Short Films included, one of which is the original 1992 13 minute black and white Bottle Rocket short film.
The release boasts one of the better of Criterion's reliably excellent extras packages
Even the Making of Documentary is engaging, and so it's no surprise to find a short film from the Documentary's Director also included, the 1978 Murita Cycles. There's also a slew of 11 Deleted Scenes, the anamorphic screen test, storyboards, location photos, and behind-the-scenes photographs by Laura Wilson, a written text copy of The Shafrazi Lectures, no. 1: Bottle Rocket, and a booklet with an appreciation from Scorsese no less.
Blu-ray VerdictA slight, though effective, opening chapter to the career of the celebrated auteur
Criterion Collection serve up their earlier US Blu-ray release of Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket to UK audiences to further complete their collection of the auteur's work, with the same excellent video, impressive audio and outstanding extras found on their other releases.
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