Bottle Rocket appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not demo material, the image looked better than expected for a 25-year-old indie affair.
No real problems with sharpness occurred. A couple of minor instances of softness popped up, but they went by quickly and caused no issues. Instead, the movie mostly was accurate and concise.
I saw no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering, and only minor edge enhancement appeared. Print flaws weren’t a distraction. I noticed a couple of small specks but those fell into “blink and you’ll miss them” territory; they remained inconsequential.
Rocket went with a pretty natural palette, though with a slightly ruddy tone at times. The disc replicated the tones well, as the colors were consistently lively and fresh.
Blacks were dense and firm, while shadows seemed concise and well developed. This positive presentation merited a “B”.
The disc’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack also seemed appropriate. Given the film’s budget and scope, I didn’t expect much from the soundfield, and it developed along anticipated lines.
The front speakers dominated, and music played the most important role up there. The film’s score and period songs showed good stereo delineation.
Effects mostly stayed in the realm of general ambience, as they offered a nice feeling of place and setting. Occasionally we got a little more than that, but usually we stayed with modest environmental material. The surrounds supported those elements and that was about it.
Audio quality was fine. Dialogue consistently came across as natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility.
Effects appeared accurate and crisp. They didn’t often tax things, but they were clean.
Music varied dependent on the source. The majority of the tunes appeared well defined, though, and the score offered nice range. Overall, the track wasn’t scintillating but it functioned fine for this style of movie.
As we shift to the disc’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Wes Anderson and writer/actor Owen Wilson. Linked via phone, both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the original short and its adaptation to feature length, story/characters, cast and performances, editing and cut scenes, sets and locations, cinematography, music, and reactions to the movie.
That description makes this sound like a commentary that offers a good look at the flick, but instead, it frustrates. At best, Anderson and Wilson provide some nice insights into the shoot.
However, these seem unfocused at times, and even the presence of some pre-written questions to get them on topic doesn’t always help. They drift off at times – indeed, it sounds like the commentary adds some Anderson remarks from a separate interview to fill the gaps.
Anderson and Wilson also fixate on a disastrous test screening. Years after the fact, they seem to remain traumatized by this event, and they whine about it much more than necessary. We get enough substance here to turn this into a semi-useful chat, but it goes awry too often.
The Making of Bottle Rocket runs 25 minutes, 43 seconds and features notes from Anderson, Wilson, executive producers Richard Sakai and James L. Brooks, producer Polly Platt, composer Mark Mothersbaugh, production designer David Wasco, set decorator Sandy Wasco, director of photography Robert Yeoman, and actors James Caan, Luke Wilson, Andrew Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Temple Nash Jr., and Kumar Pallana.
“Making” mixes behind the scenes footage with the expected array of production insights, as we trace the film’s creation in a mix of ways. This becomes an efficient and informative program.
The inspiration for the feature film, we find the Bottle Rocket Short. Made in 1992, it goes for 13 minutes, 35 seconds and shows Owen and Luke Wilson as the characters they’d play in the feature.
Much of the short would appear almost verbatim in the longer film, though obviously this version keeps details minimal. The short essentially revolves around the heist and doesn’t follow the subsequent events.
Because I watched the feature first, it becomes tough to evaluate the short on its own merits. Nonetheless, I’m glad it’s here, as it offers a cool addition to the set.
Attached to the short, Miscelllaneous we get a still gallery that shows storyboards, photos and different documents connected to the short. It includes 19 frames and becomes a decent collection, if not anything memorable.
11 Deleted Scenes span a total of 18 minutes, 32 seconds. Many of these focus on Bob, so it appears they got the boot because the film concentrated so much more on Anthony and Dignan.
Others offer superfluous character bits, like Dignan’s romp with a cop. Some of the elements seem enjoyable, but virtually all lack real purpose and the film doesn’t miss them.
Because they intended to shoot the movie in a 2.35:1 ratio, Anderson and DP Robert Yeoman conducted an Anamorphic Test. This two-minute, 33-second reel gives us a scene among the three main characters at the motel. It’s a decent curiosity, though it doesn’t tell us why Anderson opted against this framing.
Another still gallery, Photos by Laura Wilson provides 40 pictures as well as captions for these shots. Some look at the production of the short but most relate to the feature film. We get a moderately intriguing compilation.
More stillframes show up under Storyboards. These cover 42 screens. Despite the fact Anderson shows the artistic skills of an eight-year-old, these become fun to see.
The Shafrazi Lectures, No. 1: Bottle Rocket lasts 10 minutes, 32 seconds and provides comments from New York gallery owner Tony Shafrazi. He offers an overwrought, rambling appraisal of the film that seems less insightful than one might expect. It’s pretentious enough that I feel unconvinced it doesn’t exist as a parody.
The disc ends with Murita Cycles, a 27-minute, 12-second short from 1978. As described by text, Anderson/Wilson family pal Barry Braverman created this as a look at his “eccentric Staten Island bicycle shop owner” dad Murray, and the crew used it as an inspiration for the Rocket short.
Murray barely runs his cycle shop at this point, as the hoarder shows mental issues that seem related to unresolved grief over his wife’s death. It doesn’t feel clear how Murita influenced Rocket, as the two boast few obvious similarities, but it becomes an interesting piece in its own right.
As usual, the set includes a booklet. It includes credits, art, and text from filmmakers James L. Brooks and Martin Scorsese. The booklet concludes the package on a positive note.
If I had written this review 25 years ago, I’d call Bottle Rocket a spotty but promising debut from Wes Anderson. While he achieved much greater technical proficiency with subsequent films, Anderson never recaptured the warmth and easy charm of this flick. The Blu-ray comes with surprisingly appealing visuals, appropriate audio and a generally good collection of bonus materials. Rocket probably doesn’t count as Anderson’s best movie but it may offer his most engaging.