What Just Happened Blu-ray Review
PictureWhat Just Happened gets a decent enough video presentation on Blu-ray with this 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is pretty good throughout, although much of it is still given a documentary feel, perhaps to add to the realism. Faces come to life, leaving you even wondering whether Bruce Willis' beard is real. This is also a relatively low budget affair, but thanks to a modicum of flair in the direction the visual style comes across well, and is largely free from grain, softness or digital defects. The colour scheme is well represented with the Hollywood landscapes, the lush sun-clad backdrops and neon nightlife all coming to life on film, and the skin tones remain realistic at all times, black levels rounding out the presentation and giving us some decent shadowing and one excellent night driving sequence. Overall it is a perfectly acceptable if far from exceptional presentation, that does the best with the material it is handling.
SoundTo accompany this fairly quiet, as aforementioned, documentary-style production we get a top spec DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that certainly does not have the requisite material for showing off the full range of this format. Still, it presents the limited material that we do have in the best possible way, with dialogue - the single most important aural aspect of the production - coming across clearly and coherently throughout, predominantly from the fronts and centre channels. Effects are expectedly quite quiet and mostly nuanced, atmospheric touches, arguably the loudest noises really coming from the film-within-the-film that at least has a few gunshots. The score is a cleverly constructed affair - largely consisting of familiar, classic tracks that have been used as part of the soundtrack of the film DeNiro is producing within this movie, Fiercely. You may recognise a superbly timed Ennio Morricone moment (from Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West) and some other familiar touches. Bass is negligible and this isn't exactly a very potent track, although it does do the absolute best with material on offer.
ExtrasFirst up we get a full-length Audio Commentary with the Director/Producer Barry Levinson and the Writer/Producer Art Linson who wrote the original book about behind the scenes Hollywood machinations. As you might expect considering the very film that they have constructed, this Commentary is a extremely revelatory, dissecting the movie's scenes and relating almost all of them back to the real-life that they have both encountered. Although they have quite a lot to say, there are a few pauses where they appear to be just watching the movie, and it can get a little boring as a result. Still, arguably it is worth the wait, since there is plenty here that fans of the movie would absolutely love to hear about. From Michael Wincott convincing everyone he was British by keeping his faux accent whether on or off-set to the real-life producers who agreed to do the photoshoot depicted in the movie actually arguing over their placement in the shot (an irony considering that was what the shot was about in the movie itself). It is a shame that they hold back from completely relating their stories of Hollywood machinations to actual films (they never say the names), but I guess there were copyright issues. When they talk about the real-life incident where a key star refused to shave his beard, they are apparently talking about Alec Baldwin, who refused to shave his beard for The Edge, but they don't appear to actually mention any movies by name here. From Linson's film history you can see the films that they might be talking about (The Edge, Great Expectations - which DeNiro agreed to do after declining The Edge, and Dick Tracy - which could have been a precursor to Sin City in style had the Disney studios not butchered the original vision in favour of a kids' version) but they may a point of avoiding naming names. It's a slight shame, and leaves you curious as hell.
There are three Deleted Scenes, including an Alternate Ending which I think is arguably better. I understand that perhaps the ending used is more appropriate given that the movie is probably trying its best to avoid the very Hollywood stereotypes that it showcases, this Alternate Ending is far more satisfying and basically gives you a closing coda that tells you what happened to all of the key characters further down the line. The other Deleted Scenes are pretty unnecessary.
The Making of What Just Happened: from Book to Script to Screen is a twenty-four minute Featurette that charts the story of how this film came to screen, with plenty of interview footage from the original book and screenplay writer Art Linson, who guides us through how the movie about his book got made, with (extremely rare) contributions from DeNiro himself relating how he was approached for this production and his thoughts on the material, as well as comments from the Director Barry Levinson, who talks about the challenges of making this kind of movie exciting. Never duplicating the trivia already offered by the Commentary, this is an interesting making-of featurette that fans will be keen to check out. We also get an extremely brief three-minute “Behind the Scenes Featurette” which offers up a glimpse at a couple of the scenes being shot, and have a couple of alternate lines. This is the closest you are gonna get to a gag reel for this movie.
There's half an hour of Casting Sessions - 12 in total - all of which are with unknown actors who are casting for the roles. Oddly, they are quite compelling, including Laura (the chica adorning DeNiro on the back cover of the Blu-ray) and they are made yet more accessible by being immediately followed by the relevant scene from the movie. Finally we get No Animals were Harmed in the Making of this Movie, which is a brief and rather odd two-minute Featurette about the dog depicted in the movie. It includes a mock dog-voiceover, giving us vaguely humorous discussions on faking animal cruelty in movies, which is actually trying to show just how well treated these animals are.
VerdictAfter being disappointed by much of what DeNiro's come out with recently, not least his abysmal re-teaming with Pacino on Righteous Kill, it was nice to find a new movie which actually gives him some room to remind us of just how good an actor he was - and perhaps still is. Poignantly entertaining, and eye-opening to those who perhaps don't really know about what really goes on in Hollywood, this is a satirically funny affair with an all-star cast that is well worth checking out. The Blu-ray release makes the best of the relatively low budget (but reasonably stylish) material that is on offer, with decent enough video and audio and a quality set of extras that will certainly prove intriguing to those who enjoyed the film. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.67
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