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MOVIE INFO

Director:
David Scott Hay
Cast:
Kurtwood Smith, Richard Edson, Beth Grant, Eyal Podell, Alanna Ubach, Thomas Kopache, David Gianopoulos, Jodi Hettinga, Erik Bauer, Ashli Elizabeth
Writing Credits:
David Scott Hay

Synopsis:
In Hard Scrambled Kurtwood Smith (RoboCop, That '70s Show) stars as Bruisin' Benno, an ex-prize fighter and now short order cook at Alice's Diner in what Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times calls a "powerful performance." On the night of the diner's 25th anniversary, Alice (Beth Grant) has an "accident" that thrusts Benno's surrogate family into jeopardy. Benno, busboy Scotty (Eyal Podell) and bumbling deliveryman Joe (Richard Edson), are thrown into a three-way boxing match peppered with razor blades, low-blows and sucker punches. Full of twists and turns, you'll be kept guessing up to the last frame. This award winning indie film has been packaged with a second DVD on making your independent film. This DVD includes more than 20 tutorials on directing, writing, producing, and editing your own movie. The Washington Post calls this bonus DVD "... a must for would-be filmmakers."

Box Office:
Budget
$1 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English PCM Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 4/3/2007

Bonus:
• 14 “Making Hard Scrambled Movies” Featurettes
• “The Story of Hard Scrambled” Documentary
• Deleted/Alternate Footage
• Audition Clip
• Teaser Trailer and Theatrical One-Sheet


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RELATED REVIEWS


Hard Scrambled (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2007)

Adapted from his own play, writer/director David Scott Hay’s Hard Scrambled introduces us to the “family” at Alice’s Diner. The establishment celebrates its 25th anniversary, though the place isn’t doing all that much business. Matters take a turn for the worse when owner Alice (Beth Grant) burns her arm in what may or may not be an accident.

This leaves short-order cook Benno (Kurtwood Smith) in charge of the restaurant. A former boxer with a criminal past, he tries to resist entreaties to bring him back to that life. Benno throws busboy Scotty (Eyal Podell) a bone and tries to lead the kid, but Scotty shows more interest in illegal diversions.

To further alter the situation, somewhat dopey deliveryman Joe (Richard Edson) makes a big move. He buys the diner from Alice, a transaction that really doesn’t please Benno. The rest of the movie follows the restaurant’s path as Benno tries to buy it, and the other folks deal with various repercussions.

Lots of movies that adapt stage works tend to suffer from their connection to that source. They often feel confined and bound to limited settings. Scrambled opens up its environments to a moderate degree, but it still suffers from the constricted nature of its origins.

Scrambled might have been able to overcome those issues if a more experienced filmmaker took its reins. Unfortunately, neophyte Hay lacks the self-assurance to make the result anything more than ordinary. At its heart, Scrambled boasts some potential. It maintains a resolutely small scope in its look at the diner’s inhabitants, but it never manages to develop into anything memorable or vivid. The characters feel like general types more than full personalities.

Probably the biggest weakness comes from Joe. The movie presents him as such a bumbling moron that it becomes tough to accept he’s capable of the intelligence to pursue restaurant ownership. He displays a serious George from Of Mice and Men vibe, though he exists mostly for comic relief and plot development. He exists less as a character than as a factor to motivate story elements.

Edson’s goofy performance doesn’t help. Overall, I like the cast of Scrambled, as it boasts a nice roster of solid character actors. They add professionalism to the piece, though they can’t make it overcome its flaws. Edson comes across poorly, though, as his Joe seems way too cartoonish.

Hay wears his influences on his sleeve. He aspires to a David Mamet style but doesn’t live up to those expectations. Indeed, the dialogue of Scrambled leads to lots of problems. The lines tend to be stiff and unnatural dialogue. The work feels more like a hopeful attempt to make snappy dialogue than anything that really fits.

Really, the main problem with Hard Scrambled is that it tries too hard. It wants so badly to be punchy and snappy but instead it just feels like a somewhat amateurish piece of stagework. The movie features some interesting moments but lacks heft as a whole and never coalesces into anything more than a sporadically involving drama.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C-/ Bonus B+

Hard Scrambled appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the picture usually looked pretty decent, it suffered from some issues.

Video artifacts caused most of the problems. The image seemed somewhat blocky at times, and motion didn’t flow well. Those segments tended to be rough and without the expected clarity. Sharpness normally came across fairly well otherwise. Wide shots could be a bit soft, but most of the movie provided acceptable delineation. Some minor examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, while edge enhancement was minimal. Other than the video artifacts, few source flaws were visible. I noticed a couple of specks but nothing else.

For the vast majority of Scrambled, the flick went with an extremely brown, limited palette. A few flashback sequences and some exteriors boasted more dynamic hues, but most of the film looked very flat and bland. This appeared to be a stylistic choice much of the time, but I thought some of it resulted from the movie’s low-budget origins. Blacks were decent, though they could be somewhat inky, while shadows seemed passable. They usually offered reasonable clarity but not great delineation. This was a pretty average transfer.

As for the PCM stereo soundtrack of Hard Scrambled, it seemed quite unimpressive. The soundfield was decidedly lackluster. Stereo imaging failed to deliver much life. Music blended across the front without much clear delineation, and effects also didn’t manage to provide anything more than very basic ambience. Those elements stayed pretty centered, as the movie didn’t offer real breadth or vivacity. This was a bland, essentially monaural soundscape.

Audio quality wasn’t memorable either. Speech seemed somewhat edgy much of the time. Though the lines remained intelligible, they weren’t particularly natural. Music was clear but without much range. The score gave us acceptable definition without real life. Effects played a pretty small role and also didn’t show a lot of vivacity. They were a bit rough and didn’t add much. Overall, the track was very ordinary.

As we move to the extras on DVD Two, we find most of them collected under the banner of Making Hard Scrambled Movies. This set of 14 featurettes runs a total of 58 minutes, 25 seconds as they cover how to make low-budget flicks. We find movie clips and interviews. These provide remarks from producers Jim Mercurio and Erik Bauer, co-producer Michael Lent, director David Scott Hay, securities attorney John Cones, publicist Amy Gorton, and actors Richard Edson, Eyal Podell, and Kurtwood Smith.

The featurettes examine the adaptation of the original play and script issues, locations, visual motifs, and props, characters and working with actors, and staging various scenes. From there we move through various aspects of editing and storytelling. In addition, we learn about financial concerns, the responsibilities and actions of producers, and publicity.

The first half of “Making” offers a good look at various production elements, but we don’t find anything that’ll surprise folks who’ve seen lots of DVD supplements. The second half presents more unusual material as we delve into financing and nuts and bolts pieces. We don’t usually find this sort of information, so these parts come across as particularly intriguing. All of “Making” provides a very fine glimpse of what it’s like to create a flick without massive funds.

Next we find The Story of Hard Scrambled. This documentary lasts 39 minutes, 50 seconds as it features info from Hay, Bauer, Mercurio, Smith, Edson, Podell, Lent, director of photography Matthew Heckerling, co-producer Caryn Shuken, and editors Matthias Schubert and Kate Sobol. We learn about the tale’s genesis and development, bringing on the cast and crew, rehearsals, challenges involved with independent filmmaking, working with a first-time director and mistakes made along the way. We also hear about editing and pacing, the ending, and the conclusion of production.

“Story” provides a surprisingly frank appraisal of the production. Rather than just hear the usual fluffy happy talk, the program reveals quite a few problems that occurred. We get a good feel for the flick and feel like we’re learning the reality of the situation, not just the sanitized version.

A few other elements round out the set. We get the flick’s teaser trailer and a glimpse of its theatrical one-sheet poster. There’s an eight-minute take of the scene where Benno learns that Joe plans to buy the diner, and also the original “After Accident” scene that fills two minutes, 58 seconds. Both are interesting to see. Finally, we get a two-minute and 57-second clip that shows Eyal’s Audition. We see actor Podell try out for the flick as he does a scene with Smith. It’s fun to check out this test.

Hard Scrambled provides a mediocre flick from a first-time director. It stays too bound to its origins as a play and lacks the flair and flourish it desperately wants to desire. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio but boasts some very good extras. The supplements are easily the best part of the package, as the movie itself disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8571 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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