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BOTTLE ROCKET – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #450 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 12, 2009 by  



“One of the greatest examples of a critically acclaimed film that tested badly, was a commercial failure but yet became an enormous cult favorite that would jumpstart the careers of director/writer Wes Anderson and brothers Owen and Luke Wilson. What better way to kick off THE CRITERION COLLECTION’s entry to Blu-ray with this Anderson/Owens classic!”

TITLE: BOTTLE ROCKET – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #450

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio, Stereo

RATED: R

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2008

Directed by Wes Anderson

Produced by Poly Platt and Cynthia Hargrave

Executive Producers: James L. Brooks and Richard Sakai

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Co-Producers: Ray Zimmerman, L.M. Kit Carson

Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman

Film Editing by David Moritz

Cast:

Luke Wilson as Anthony Adams

Owen Wilson as Dignan

Robert Musgrave as Bob Mapplethorpe

James Caan as Mr. Henry

Grace – Shea Fowler

Andrew Wilson as John Mapplethorpe

Lumi Cavazos as Inez

Donny Caicedo as Rocky

Jim Ponds as Apple Jack

Kumar Pallana as Kumar

Wes Anderson first illustrated his lovingly detailed, slightly surreal cinematic vision (with co-writer Owen Wilson) in this visually witty and warm portrait of three young misfits.  Best friends Anthony (Luke Wilson), Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Bob (Robert Musgrave) stage a wildly complex, mildly successful robbery of a small bookstore, then go “on the lam”.  During their adventures, Anthony falls in love with a South American housekeeper, Inez (Lumi Cavazos) and they befriend local thief extraordinaire Mr. Henry (James Caan).  BOTTLE ROCKET is a charming, hilarious, affectionate look at the folly of dreamers, shot against radiant southwestern backdrops, and the film that put Anderson and the Wilson brothers on the map.

“BOTTLE ROCKET” is most definitely a hilarious but yet an insanely awkward film that just sticks in your head because of how wild and crazy it is.

Released in 1996, the film would be the directorial debut for Wes Anderson (“RUSHMORE”, “THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS”, “Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou”) and the debut of the Wilson brothers: Owen Wilson (Co-writer) and Luke Wilson (plus brother Andrew) and Robert Musgrave who all grew up together in Texas.

Back in 1992, the first initial concept of “BOTTLE ROCKET” was shot in 16mm film on B&W after the group was able to raise about $4,000 and raise more money and eventually have the 13 minutes extra to have a short film and submit it to the Sundance Film Festival in 1994.

After being screened for the festival, the film was able to attract a few producers who were willing to invest in making “BOTTLE ROCKET” to a full-length film and thus, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson had their first major opportunity.

As the story goes, the film did terrible in its first test screening which shocked everyone.  The film then had its final released cut which then was released in theaters in 1996 and the film bombed.  In fact, to everyone’s surprie, the film couldn’t even get screened at Sundance (where the short film version was able to be screened years prior).

But there were many people who loved the film and for critics, it was a critically acclaimed film that some critics were quite passionate about such as  the LA Times (blasting Sundance Film Festival for not screening it) and then followed by director Martin Scorsese calling it one of his favorite films in the 1990’s, the film reached cult-status.

Flash forward 12 years later and with three of Wes Anderson’s films released on THE CRITERION COLLECTION on DVD, what an awesome way to kick off THE CRITERION COLLECTION’s entry to Blu-ray in Dec. 2008 with the release of “BOTTLE ROCKET”, Anderson’s first film.

The film revolves around a group of friends.  Dignan (Owen Wilson) rescues his buddy Anthony  (Luke Wilson) who has been staying at a voluntary mental hospital for exhaustion.  After rescuing Anthony, Dignan reveals his “75-Year Plan” which include getting used to pulling off heists and then meet with Dr. Henry (James Caan) who is a landscaper and a criminal.

For a practice run, both Dignan and Anthony rob their first house by taking things that are featured on a list.   The first house happens to be Anthony’s parent’s home and angers him that during the practice run, Dignan stole his mother’s jewelry.

Dignan knows they need to up the ante in their plans of robberies but they need a getaway car.  Knowing one friend who has a car,  they contact their friend Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave), who comes from a wealthy family, lives is a great place (and growing pot in his back yard) but has some issues as he is constantly getting beaten up or ridiculed by his brother a.k.a. “Futureman” (Andrew Wilson).

The group then go on a road trip to purchase a gun and then plan their next heist, a local bookstore.  The group manages to succeed and then go on the road eventually staying at a hotel on the highway.   So, far the plan looks good for the three until Bob receives a call that his brother was busted by police for his marijuana plants and thus feels he needs to go back home immediately and help his brother.  Dignan feels this could jeopardize their plans and tries to convince Bob to wait 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Anthony falls for one of the hotel’s housekeeping employees named Inez.  In the short amount of time they are together and having fun, Anthony feels that this woman is his destiny and wants her to come with him.

The following day, Bob is gone and Dignan is ticked.  Anthony tries to calm Dignan by having him come with him and Inez to a local bar to have some fun but Dignan gets beaten up after an altercation.  On the day both Anthony and Dignan are to leave, Anthony tells Dignan to give Inez a package (parting gift) and Inez through an interpreter named Rocky tells Dignan that he (meaning she) loves Anthony.  But Dignan misinterprets the male translator that he is in love with Anthony and thinks it’s too weird to tell his friend.

Dignan takes an old Alfa Romeo Spider and the two are off back home, that is until the car breaks down.  No fear as they have money from their heist but Anthony says he only has $16 left.  When asked about the money and where it all went, Anthony said the package Dignan gave Inez was all of their money.

This infuriates Dignan and the two fight and go on their separate ways.

Fast forward to the near future, Anthony now lives with Bob while Dignan now has moved into his plan of creating a relationship with Mr. Henry and his landscaping company (which is actually a front for their gang of thieves).  Dignan comes with one of the gang members named Applejack and tries to renew his friendship with Anthony and Bob and since Dignan is now “in” with Mr. Henry, he wants to get Anthony and Bob into their gang starting off with an introduction to Mr. Henry (James Caan).

With parties at Bob’s house and Mr. Henry tutoring Dignan, an idea is hatched for a robbery at a cold storage facility, the guys team up with Applejack (an older gang member) and Kumar (also an older gang member who appears to have some memory loss issues) who is the gang’s safecracker.  With the plan in place, Dignan and team will now go for their biggest heist ever.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

THE CRITERION COLLECTION is all about gathering the greatest films around the world and publish them in the highest technical quality but the focus is to present the film the way the original director intended.  For film fans, THE CRITERION COLLECTION is known for its quality and rarely do fans question the releases, the releases are embraced as fans are introduced to important classics or contemporary films.

For “BOTTLE ROCKET”, the film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1:85:1.  The film’s presentation was supervised and approved by Wes Anderson and the Director of Photography Robert Yeoman.  The high definition transfer was scanned on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a 35mm interpositive and thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Resotration System and Pixel Farm’s PFClean.

The video quality of this film looks great especially for a film created in the early to mid-90’s.  Typically films released on Blu-ray during these years have been clean but have this softness effect where the vibrancy of the colors are not as beautiful as I would like it to be.  With “BOTTLE ROCKET”, the film had many outdoor scenes and literally from the red’s to the blues and greens and the yellow jumpsuit that the guys wear, these colors are vibrant in Blu-ray HD.

As for audio, audio was mastered at 24-bit from the original magnetic tracks and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss and crackle.  The film is primarily a dialogue based film, thus a lot of the audio is coming from your front channel speakers.  There are scenes with gunshots and music that come out quite live on your home theater channels but the film is primarily a dialogue-based film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

For the special features, the following are included:

  • AUDIO COMMENTARY –  A commentary featuring Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.  The commentary is not more on the filmmaking perspective but more of nostalgia as the guys talk about memories of people they worked with, areas they shot and how some of the people on the crew have moved on to bigger things.
  • THE MAKING OF “BOTTLE ROCKET” – A featurette with interviews with Wes Anderson, the Owens brothers, James Caan, Kumar Pallana, the producers and more.  You learn a lot about the behind-the-scenes of the film from creating the short film, Sundance, how the test screening was a bomb, how the film was not a commercial success but became a cult hit and much more.  Great insight on the actors about being part of the job, how they were able to get James Caan for the film and how the producers felt about the talent at the time.  A fun and informative documentary by filmmaker Barry Braverman.
  • The Bottle Rocket Shorts – The actual 13-minute B&W short film that was created back in 1992.
  • Storyboards – Wes Anderson’s original storyboards and sketches for the film.
  • Anamorphic Test – Anamorphic test shots of several scenes from the film and how Anderson originally planned to shoot the film in widescreen Panavision.  Test shots.
  • “The Shafrazi Lectures, No. 1 Bottle Rocket” – A guy who is reviewing the film and talking about why he loved it.
  • “Murita Cycles” – A Short film created Barry Braverman (friend and collaborator for Anderson and the Wilson family) about his father, a Staten Island bicycle shop owner which inspired the guys to create “BOTTLE ROCKET”.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photograps by Laura Wilson – The Wilson brothers also had a talented mother who is a photographer that took pictures of Wes, Owen and Luke during the planning stages of the film and also at Sundance.
  • Deleted Scenes – There were a quite a number of scenes that were cut and eleven featured on the disc.  Scenes that would have explained how “Futureman” got his name, what Dignan and Applejack were up to when they went to by Bob’s place, another scene of how the pot was found in Bob’s home and much, much more.

Also included is a booklet that features an appreciation by director Martin Scorsese (which is a tribute that appeared in the March 2000 issue of ESQUIRE Magazine), an essay book by executive producer James L. Brooks (written as an introduction to the “RUSHMORE” screenplay published in 1999) which really goes into detail of how “BOTTLE ROCKET” was created and things that happened behind-the-scenes not mentioned on the special features  and artwork by Ian Dingman.

“BOTTLE ROCKET” is just an amazing, awkward and hilarious film.  Forget about the “Oceans #” type of films that try to bring comedy to heist films, BOTTLE ROCKET” was special because it came from these young people who were not known at the time but their vision of filmmaking and storytelling just sticks into your mind.

You know that feeling about pulling a prank that got a lot of laughs during your younger years and you remember it to this day.  This is how I felt about certain scenes from “BOTTLE ROCKET”.  There were a lot of humor that was not meant to be taken in as a joke but for these characters of Dignan, Anthony and Bob, you can’t help but be entertained and laugh.

From memorable scenes of the group putting tape on top of their noses before their heist, to how rob the bookstore but at the same time, those being held hostage just look at them as non-dangerous and almost humorous (despite Dignan carrying a gun).

And then scenes of love as Anthony falls for this woman who can’t speak any English and goes where she goes as she cleans each hotel room and just falls in love.  And his far out drawings of his love for Inez.

And also the team assembled by Dignan for their major heist.  One would think, why he would select really old men (especially one who had some major memory loss issues) to bring with him for a major robbery?  But you realize it’s Dignan and you just accept his approach to pulling of a heist and enjoy the ride.

There are many of these  moments in the film that you just think back and just be amazed of how much of those type of scenes were included.  Wes Anderson and Owen Williams are just an amazing duo and although at the time, they were not known in the industry, it just showed you how much potential these guys had when they first emerged and eventually they would go on to have successful careers making many more films together.

As for the Blu-ray disc, again, THE CRITERION COLLECTION manages to pull of another wonderful release.  Wonderful picture quality that is vibrant in colors and again, I’ve reviewed many major films released in the early and mid-90’s and although cleaned up, never have the vibrancy or sharpness but this softness that always bugged me.  This was not the case of “BOTTLE ROCKET”, the film looks great!

And the amount of special features and also the booklet that really help enhance one’s appreciation for the film.  You wouldn’t expect anything less from CRITERION and sure enough, they delivered.

“BOTTLE ROCKET” is a fun, hilarious and well-written film that is so different from any film that has come out.  It’s not a moronic film, nor is it a serious heist film.  It’s just a film that is just all-out fun and one can understand why it has become a popular cult film.

Highly recommended!






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