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LION'S GATE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Paul Haggis
Cast:
Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Buie, Moran Atias, Remy Nozik, Olivia Wilde, Daniel Stern, Brian Dennehy
Writing Credits:
Paul Haggis, Fred Cavayé (screenplay, "Pour elle"), Guillaume Lemans (screenplay, "Pour elle")

Tagline:
Lose who you are to save what you love.

Synopsis:
Life seems perfect for John Brennan until his wife, Lara, is arrested for a murder she says she didn't commit. Three years into her sentence, John is struggling to hold his family together, raising their son and teaching at college while he pursues every means available to prove her innocence. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison. Refusing to be deterred by impossible odds or his own inexperience, John devises an elaborate escape plot and plunges into a dangerous and unfamiliar world, ultimately risking everything for the woman he loves.

Box Office:
Budget
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.542 million on 2564 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.129 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 3/8/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Haggis, Producer Michael Nozik, and Editor Jo Francis.
• “Making The Next Three Days” Featurette
• “The Men of The Next Three Days” Featurette
• “True Escapes for Love” Featurette
• “Cast Moments” Featurette
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Next Three Days (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 7, 2011)

When last in the director’s chair, Paul Haggis created 2007’s In the Valley of Elah; it made no money, but critics liked it well enough and it received some awards consideration. Before that, Haggis struck gold with 2005’s Crash. No, it didn’t earn a ton of money, though its tiny budget ensured it made a serious profit. It also received lots of awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture.

2010’s The Next Three Days comes across as something less “Oscar bait” than Haggis’s two prior films. On a seemingly normal morning, police burst into the house of John Brennan (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks). The cops arrest Lara for the murder of her boss, with whom Lara fought the prior day.

The story jumps ahead three years, and we learn that Lara was convicted and incarcerated for this crime. She continues to claim innocence and her case goes through appeals. However, she runs out of options and seems to have little hope of anything other than life in prison.

This sends Lara over the edge, and she attempts suicide. When John realizes that Lara won’t survive prison much longer, he resolves to break her out of jail and make a run for it. The film follows these attempts.

Going into The Next Three Days, one is forgiven if one confuses it with another fall 2010 release, Conviction. After all, both came out with weeks of each other, and both dealt with the single-minded attempts of people to free their unjustly imprisoned loved ones.

The big difference comes from the nature of the tales. Conviction was based on a true story and dealt with stabs at freedom conducted within the legal system. Days goes down a distinctly more fantastic route, obviously, as it follows John’s attempts to free Lara by any means necessary.

The key word here is “fantastic”, as it takes a very difficult job and makes it look strangely easy. Actually, Days alternates its depiction of the task at hand. At times, it leads us to view a breakout as nigh unto impossible, all the better to cause drama as we wonder how John will overcome the odds.

However, most of the time, the movie makes the ability to bust out someone from a high-security prison seem awfully simple. Hey, if you watch a few Youtube videos, you can free your sweetie, too! John also does this on a shoestring budget; would he really be able to obtain all the high-quality passports and other documents he needs for the price of a decade-old Civic?

I kind of doubt it, but he does, and I suspect this is another bad choice by the filmmakers due to their inability to decide how hard to make the breakout look. On one hand, they want to paint John as someone low on funds; after all, if he’s loaded, it’ll be too easy for him to pay for his activities. On the other hand, we then have to accept absurd notions like those cheap – but still government-quality – documents.

The Prison Break TV series managed to be enjoyable because it understood its own ridiculousness and had fun with that; it never took itself too seriously. Days, on the other hand, treats its material with little sense of playfulness or spunk. It comes across like a more serious, less exciting version of The Fugitive.

And also one that takes for-freaking-ever to get to the escape attempt. A more engaging movie would come closer to what The Fugitive did: it’d give us some expository basics and then get on with the action. Granted, Days requires a lot more pre-breakout narrative because it needs to build its scenario in a different way. After all, Richard Kimble never sought to escape prison; he just ran with his chance when he got it.

Nonetheless, Days doesn’t seem to understand that too much buildup can be a bad thing. The movie’s about two-thirds over before it gets to the escape, whereas I think it’d work better if it reached that point around the one-third mark. All the planning and exposition get tedious, especially since they become counterproductive. The more we see of John, the less we believe he’s clever enough to pull off something like this.

Which gets back to the “have its cake and eat it too” nature of the movie. The attempts to keep the audience off-guard – and prevent the appearance of John as such a capable protagonist that all tension vanishes – end up going in the wrong direction. I won’t say John comes across like a boob, but I won’t say he doesn’t, either; I’m not sure I’d trust this guy to drive me to Taco Bell, much less to pull off a major crime.

At least Haggis drops the inane pretensions of Crash, as he doesn’t attempt to develop Days as anything more than a dramatic thriller. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t a very entertaining dramatic thriller. The movie’s so long and so slow that by the time it finally delivers some action, we don’t care; these scenes are too little, too late to redeem the flick.


The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Next Three Days appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 TVs. The movie came with a generally average presentation.

For the most part, sharpness was fine. Wider shots tended to be somewhat soft, a factor exacerbated by mild edge haloes. Still, overall definition tended to be acceptable to good. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and source flaws remained absent.

As expected from a dark thriller of this sort, Unthinkable came with a subdued palette. It went with a fairly sepia tone that favored a brownish tint or bluish notes. This meant the film lacked prominent colors and could appear a bit drab. Nonetheless, the hues were acceptable given the stylistic choices.

Darker elements were a weakness. Blacks seemed a bit mushy, and low-light shots – of which the movie included many – lacked good definition. Shadows tended to be somewhat dense and opaque, so it became tough to discern details in these dimmer images. Overall, the movie remained perfectly watchable, but it wasn’t a strong presentation.

I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Next Three Days seemed fine but unexceptional. Though the subject seemed like something that would pack a lot of action, the focus on planning the breakout meant the material remained subdued most of the time. Music boasted good stereo presence, and effects offered a fine sense of place.

For the most part, they did little more than embellish the environment, though. Though we found the occasional dramatic effect –most of which came in the third act - those weren’t a major factor. The soundscape added a good sense of place but not a ton of active material.

Audio quality was fine. Speech remained concise and distinctive; I noticed no edginess or problems with the lines. Music appeared full and rich, as the score came across well. Effects didn’t often have much to do, but they seemed accurate and lacked distortion or distractions. The track remained too low-key for a high grade, but it seemed good and deserved a “B”.

The disc comes with a fairly nice array of extras. We open with an audio commentary from writer/director Paul Haggis, producer Michael Nozik, and editor Jo Francis. They sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the source material and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, script/story issues, pacing and editing, and music.

Though not a bad track, this one tends to be pretty mediocre. At its best, it provides some good information about the film. However, it also tends to drag at times, especially as it progresses; lulls become more prominent about one-third of the way into the movie. You'll learn enough to make the commentary worth your time, but it never threatens to become particularly good.

Three featurettes follow. Making The Next Three Days goes for 18 minutes, 28 seconds and offers notes from Haggis, Nozik, production designer Laurence Bennett, and actors Elizabeth Banks, Russell Crowe, Lennie James, RZA, Allan Steele, and Ty Simpkins. The show looks at the original French film and its adaptation, locations, research and story, and Haggis’s impact as director.

This offers a general overview without much to make it special. It repeats a fair amount of material from the commentary and doesn’t delve into the film with great gusto. While it’s a decent program, it’s never much better than average.

During the six-minute, 45-second The Men of The Next Three Days, we hear from Haggis, Nozik, Crowe, Banks, and actor Brian Dennehy. They talk about cast, characters and performances. As with “Making”, we find a few decent notes, but this remains a pretty ordinary show.

Hosted by actor Jason Beghe, True Escapes for Love runs seven minutes, 37 seconds and features info about real-life cases of jail breaks. This is a quick but enjoyable overview of prisoners who attempt to flee the law.

Cast Moments lasts two minutes, 24 seconds and provides a blooper reel. I wouldn’t expect a gag collection for a dramatic movie like Days, but that’s what we get. They offer pretty standard goofs and giggles, though it is sort of fun to see the usually Oh So Serious Crowe laugh it up on the set.

Next we get a collection of Deleted and Extended Scenes. The disc provides 13 of the former (13:07 total) and four of the latter (6:17 total). The vast majority of the pieces run under one minute; only “John Visits Lara” (3:59), “No Letter from Mom” (2:07) and “John Sees a Ghost” (2:36) last longer than that.

This means most of the clips provide brief and pretty inessential moments. We do get more from secondary characters like John’s brother and son, though to my surprise, we find nothing extra from the police; I thought they’d benefit from the expanded running time. I can’t say that any of these scenes offers much of interest, but they do expand some parts a bit more and they’re moderately interesting to see.

The disc opens with ads for The Lincoln Lawyer, Rabbit Hole, Biutiful, Tenderness and 3:10 to Yuma. These appear under Also from Lionsgate as well, but we get no trailer for Days.

Prison escape movies are supposed to be exciting, but the folks behind The Next Three Days didn’t seem to get that memo. Oh, it tries to pump out some thrills in its final act, but by that point, it’s essentially lost us. The DVD offers mediocre picture quality along with fairly good audio and a mix of decent supplements. Days isn’t a bad film, but it fails to deliver the necessary drama to make it succeed.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main