We want to like Sandra Bullock, we really do. But after a string of flops that include "Gun Shy", "In Love And War", "Speed 2" and to top it all off, "Fire On The Amazon", one of her first films that came back to haunt her, it's a long road back into the spotlight that shined on her after "Speed"'s success.
"28 Days" isn't going to be the one for her, but it's a strong start, especially with talented director Betty Thomas ("Private Parts") at the helm; without Thomas (and also, "Erin Brockovich" writer Susanna Grant) this definitely might not have worked as well as it does. Bullock plays Gwen Cummings, a writer who also happens to be an alcoholic. The film opens with Gwen late for her sister's wedding - while there, she stumbles drunkenly into the wedding cake. Offering to replace it, she "borrows" a limo and runs into a house. Sentences to 28 days in a rehab facility, we start the main body of the film.
Although the film was marketed strangely as a comedy, it's pretty much what most expected from it. Thankfully, director Thomas never takes the drama and depression to the level where it drags the film out. It walks a nice, tight line between comedy and drama, and never becomes what happens when the two mix - sappy. Unfortunately, with certain things - like the constant songs sung by the fellow patients about togetherness, doesn't feel very real - also, some of the patients seem more like stereotypes. Bullock does as well as she can with the role, but she never quite dissapears into the role - she's still "Sandra Bullock" as much as she tries to be "Gwen Cummings". Also good is Steve Buscemi as Gwen's counselor, serious and dramatic but still keeping his usual tone.
"28 Days" is the kind of movie that goes right to the edge, but stops before going any further. I won't say that it's "Hollywood", but it doesn't quite reach as far as it could go into reality, either. Still, Bullock's charm and the skill of director Thomas are able to carry the viewer through "28 Days", all in a matter of 104 minutes.
VIDEO: "28 Days" has a wonderful cinematographer in Declan Quinn("Leaving Las Vegas" and brother of Adian). Although there are some little visual things used that are a bit much, when the camera just simply follows the story, Quinn creates some beautiful outdoor images and keeps the story going in the facility. Tristar's transfer is a remarkably good presentation, offering the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and with the rest of their efforts, anamorphic.
Detail is excellent throughout the entire film, and sharpness is perfect; never does the picture become soft, or is it overly sharp. Clarity and detail in even some of the darker scenes is top-notch. There were only a couple of very tiny speckles on the print used; I didn't notice any pixelation or shimmer, and the picture seemed almost free of any flaws - certainly free of any distracting ones.
Colors are warm and natural, looking well-saturated and natural. The outdoor scenes are particularly great looking, with deep greens from the trees and scenery around the center. Of course, the halls of the center are pretty subdued, but the picture as a whole is visually pleasing.
And so is the transfer. Tristar is almost always very good when it comes to image quality, but this is beyond their usual great efforts. A fine looking presentation.
SOUND: The audio quality is what I expected, but slightly better. It came as no suprise that the majority of "28 Days" is dialogue-driven, and the interior scenes are simply conversations, no more - no less. But once the film moves outdoors to the forest around the center, there is a pleasing amount of ambient sounds from the surrounds, such as birds chirping, a gust of wind or two. The musical score is presented cleanly, mainly from the front, but isn't allowed to really have a major presence. Dialogue is especially clear and natural, and that's the focus of the movie.
MENUS:: Enjoyable main menu with slight background animation and score; sub-menus that use film-themed images well.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Betty Thomas, Producer Jenno Topping(who was also great in the "Can't Hardly Wait" commentary), as well as the composer and editor of the film. Although the film itself is more of a drama, the commentary is definitely more of a commentary. They start of introducing themselves as members of Martin Scorsese's crew, then go into a discussion of all things "28 Days", from the production to locations to telling the story.
With very few pauses, the four of them share their viewpoints on not only their contributions to the movie, but talk together about working with the actors and actresses (it would have been nice to have Bullock join the commentary), as well as some honest moments about things they might have done different. It's an entertaining and insightful commentary that's a pleasure to listen to.
HBO First Look: I'm not a huge fan of HBO's mainly "promotional" first look documentaries, although this one wasn't that bad. Certainly, this is geared towards audiences who haven't seen the movie, with clips from the film as well as interviews with the actors who chat about the story and their roles. A few behind-the-scenes clips are included, as well.
Santa Cruz: A 25 minute "behind-the-scenes" look at the Soap Opera featured in "28 Days".
Also: "How to Make a Gum Wrapper Chain" text, testimonials from 3 characters, 2 of "Guitar Guy's Lost Songs", trailers for "Big Daddy" and "28 Days"(Dolby Digital 5.1), talent files and isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Final Thoughts: Not a overwhelming recommendation, but "28 Days" is certainly worthy of a rental, especially for fans of Bullock.