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Insidious (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

It's remarkable how little money this effective horror movie cost to make, all things considered. Director James Wan managed to put together a film that I would've guessed cost at least $15 million for less than $2 million. The film looks amazingly good, especially considering the budget.

On top of that, it scared the holy hell out of me on many occasions. That's a hard thing to do to a guy who has seen as many horror movies as I have.

Patrick Wilson plays Josh, a father and husband who seems to be losing his way a little bit when it comes to interpersonal relationships. His wife, Renai (Rose Byrne, who showed her funny side this year in Bridesmaids), an aspiring songwriter, is a stay-at-home mom who notices some strange stuff going down in their new house. Their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) goes into a strange kind of coma, and all kinds of supernatural hell breaks loose.

Wan has really accomplished something here, proving that a good-looking, well-done movie doesn't have to cost millions upon millions of dollars. In this way, Insidious is almost revolutionary. It has also probably resulted in studio number-crushers re-evaluating horror-film budgets and demanding that directors find a way to cut back. There are probably lots of caterers getting fired on the sets of horror sequels.

Wan, who made the lousy Saw, actually manages quite a few legitimate scares this time out. The film has a sustained creepiness that starts early and lasts throughout the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A feature called "Horror 101," and some on-set footage.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars III (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

The folks at Robot Chicken take yet another loving swipe at the George Lucas universe—and the law of diminishing returns does, unfortunately, apply. Their third Star Wars-parody episode certainly has its moments, but they seem to be running out of material, and you can hear the wheels spinning.

Things start funny enough, with the Emperor reminiscing about how he got to the point of being thrown to his death by Darth Vader. He stops mid-fall, and tells his story to the tune of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." This made me chuckle. The Emperor is easily the funniest character in the Robot Chicken Star Wars collection.

I did enjoy Darth Vader dancing to disco Star Wars before a major bathroom emergency. Boba Fett dealing with a strange stomach partner inside the Sarlacc Pit is good stuff, too.

On the negative side, too many of the jokes and gags feel like Seth Green and his crew are reaching, and not really getting anything in their grasp. There's nothing near the level of greatness achieved in their first Star Wars special. (The Emperor getting the call that Darth Vader had allowed the destruction of the Death Star was classic.) It's time for a new target. Do some Lord of the Rings or Spider-Man.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are tons of commentaries ... perhaps too many. The feature I was really looking forward to—Green and the boys having a roundtable discussion with George Lucas—is a boring dud.

Rango (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I love this trippy, artful, funny movie from director Gore Verbinski. It will stand as one of 2011's greater films, an animated movie like no other that is a true testament to the heights that CGI animation can reach.

Johnny Depp voices the title character, a pet chameleon who is forced to live in the desert when his bowl bounces out of a car and smashes on the highway. He winds up in the town of Dirt, where an evil turtle is seeing to it that the townspeople aren't getting their share of water. Rango, through a series of misadventures, becomes a sort of messiah to the townspeople as he helps them evade a killer hawk and eventually become hydrated again.

The visuals in this film are so compelling that you can't peel your eyes away. Industrial Light and Magic really topped themselves with this one, as every character becomes its own unique marvel. I especially liked an obvious homage to the Man With No Name dispelling advice to Rango out in the desert. It was a nice nod to Clint Eastwood, and really, really wonderfully weird.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a terrific Blu-ray. There's a lengthy documentary on the making of the film, with participation from Verbinski and voice actors like Depp and Isla Fisher. (Oh, Isla Fisher ... I do love thee.) You also get picture-in-picture storyboard comparisons, a commentary, some deleted scenes that are easily worthy of the film (if Verbinski had left them in) and an extended version of the movie. Not only will Rango stand as one of the year's greatest films; its Blu-ray is equally superb.

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