'5 Star Day' is the second shelved 2010 production that I've reviewed this week, and there's an obvious reason why it wasn't available until now. The concept isn't terrible, and the acting isn't bad, it's just poorly executed. A shoot and a miss. The stuff that made-for-television movies are made of.
Cam Gigandet from 'Burlesque' and 'Easy A' plays Jake, the lead in this low budget indie flick. On his birthday, Jake's horoscope reads that he's about to embark on a confidence-boosting five-star day. The stars are supposedly aligned in his favor. The horoscope predicts that his boss will give him a promotion and that his girlfriend is going to fill his day with the type of passion that sexual fantasies are based on. This is Jake's day. Everything is supposed to go his way – but they don't. In fact, everything happens in the opposite manner. He's non-nonchalantly fired from his promising desk job, only to come home early and catch his girlfriend in a sex act with some random dude. When he later returns to their apartment, his bathroom sink breaks and starts a flood that leaves the place temporarily uninhabitable. While heading out that night, he witnesses someone boosting his car. So much for that five-star day.
Jake is just days away from completing his degree at Berkeley and the only final he has yet to complete is a presentation in an Ethics and Values course. With his horoscope letting him down so horribly, Jake changes the topic of his presentation and begins a new project that will disprove astrology. His plan is to race across the country and locate the other three people born in the same hospital at the same time as him (apparently all of this info can be found on Google) and learn if they had five-star birthdays like the horoscope foretold, or worst-days-ever like him. The plot isn't bad, right? But, like I said, the execution isn't all that great. It takes a long and meandering 17 minutes just to establish this simple plot.
The first of the birthday gang that Jake finds is Sarah (Jena Malone), a single mom who still lives in Chicago. Sarah spends her days with her four-year-old and works by night as a bartender. Next he finds Yvette (Brooklyn Sudano), a married mother of two who works the graveyard shift in a home for troubled teens. And the last of the gang is Wesley Henderson (Max Hartman), an upbeat Atlantic City lounge singer with a fantastic voice.
Approximately 20 minutes are dedicated to Jake meeting Sarah and learning about her birthday and life experiences, seven minutes are given to Yvette and somewhere in-between the two, time is given to Wesley. The bond created between Jake and Sarah is so strongly developed that you'd think he was never going to leave her and look for the others. So little time is given to Yvette that you never make a connection with her. It doesn't make any sense as to how Jake would either, but he does. Enough time is given to Wesley, but their friendship doesn't unfold in a natural manner. Jake shows up at one of the Wesley's performances mid-show, introduces himself afterward and they getting drunk and high together as if they were friends that go way back. Wesley is a great character, but what a contrived first meeting. The only thing less believable than it is the idea that they're supposed to be the same age. Max Hartman appears to be ten years older than Cam Gigandet, Jena Malone and Brooklyn Sudano.
As you would expect from a little movie like this, Jake learns something from each of the other three that change his perspective. He, in return, changes their outlooks on life too. What, at first glance, appeared to be the worst day of his life ended up sparking this chain of encounters and events that will forever benefit him. What you don't foresee is the strange final act involving a crackhead, a stolen necklace, and an overdose.
When a movie blatantly ignores the same parameters that it sets up, it tests my nerves. Jake's birthday is on Friday, he sets off on this cross-country people-hunt on Saturday and must be back at Berkeley by Monday night for his final presentation. If not, he won't graduate. Saturday is spent with Sarah, Sunday morning with Yvette and Sunday night partying with Wesley. Hung over, Jake sleeps in on Monday and makes the drive back to New York City to catch his flight. On the way there, he's deterred by the crackhead, chooses to miss his flight and gets caught up in NYC until Tuesday, without a doubt missing his final presentation. On Tuesday, we see Jake setting up visual aids for his presentation in an empty class. When the professor strolls in, Jake says something like, "Thanks for giving me the extension." Um, shouldn't we have heard that beforehand? Why were we bombarded with "be ready by Monday or you'll fail" threats when that wasn't really the case? These little inconsistencies bother me to no end. (Just wait until you read my review for 'Beneath the Darkness,' which is ten times worse is this area).
One of my favorite things about smaller indie films in that they don't need to be wrapped up in pretty paper with a cute bow. They aren't bound to the studio endings – but it seems like the filmmakers of '5 Star Day' didn't know that. The ending of '5 Star Day' is identical to that of any other generic movie out there. You can see it coming from a mile away. What had the potential to be a unique five-star character-driven indie drama turned into a two-star milestone of mediocrity.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Breaking Glass Pictures has placed '5 Star Day' on a Region A BD-25 in a standard blue keepcase. The artwork is atrocious, resembling something that you'd find bootlegged in a third-world flea market. The floating heads of Gigandet and Malone are horizontally smashed and disproportionate. While packaging artwork is usually accompanied by praises of critical acclaim that state things like "best movie ever," '5 Star Day' features an image of the star rating that Rex Reed of 'The New York Observer' gave it – three stars out of four. If that's the best you can find, ouch.
Please note that while '5 Star Day' has yet to be rated by the MPAA, it contains content that you'd find in an R-rated movie – sex, nudity, drugs and more than a dozen F-bombs.
Just like the movie itself, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of '5 Star Day' leaves much to be desired. Instead of looking like a new release, it mirrors an unclean decade-old DVD.
Throughout the film, you'll notice specks of dirt and grime on the print used for the transfer, as well as hairs and scratches. The image never carries the fine details that we demand from high definition. Facial stubble creates shadows, not a single pore or follicle can be seen. The edges of items in focus – faces, cameras, papers – aren't defined. '5 Star Day' merely carry the detail of a DVD.
The color palette is muted, no colors packing any real strength. Fleshtones are also slightly less lifelike than reality. The black levels are consistent, but on the gray side as if the contrast was too high.
Compression flaws riddle this transfer. Because the feature's video quality is so soft, there aren't any places for aliasing to show up, but it makes its way into the film during the terrible CG animations of constellations. Banding frequents the film, as do tragically noisy shots. During shots meant to appear as if seen through a camcorder, artifacts arise – but I imagine this is a directorial decision.
Edge enhancement and DNR are never an issue, but even if they were, you probably wouldn't be able to spot it.
Although the cover art only cites the disc's audio track as being a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, in reality it features 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio – not that it makes much of a difference with this tame mix.
As with a lot of cheap Blu-rays, the only aspect of the audio to fully utilize all channels is the music. Featuring music from small bands like Guster, any time music is in use, it sounds great, dynamically making use of the space. But everything else is forward and plain.
Effects are few and far between, but the three short instances where they are noticeable are strong. A rainstorm causes dynamic water effects to trickle around the room, a road trip highway drive from Atlantic City to NYC features realistic road and car radio sounds and a hospital scene plays out all of the small typical sounds of that environment – wheels of gurneys and carts gliding across hallway floors, beeping sounds of monitors and the chitter chatter taking place in a nurse station. Aside from those three instances, the effects are always found in the front.
The dialog is decent, it's clear and never trumped by effects or music – but more than that needs to take place in an audio track to make it noteworthy.
I'm typically a fan of character-driven indie dramas because they aren't confined to the mainstream limitations of studio flicks, but no one seemed to tell the filmmakers of '5 Star Day' that they didn't have those restrictions. With a great idea at hand, '5 Star Day' has the makings of an indie classic, but due to limited creativity, it revels in its own mediocrity. It lacks the ambition to do something unique and relies on an extraneous out-of-left-field sub-plot for a climax. All set-up is resolved with predictable pay-off, removing any suspense that it may have carried. From the artwork of the case to the technical qualities of the Blu-ray, this disc shouts "amateur." The cover art is sloppy and the technical specs printed on them are incorrect. The video and audio quality are on par with a DVD. All of these elements combined make '5 Star Day' a two-star movie only worth renting if you're related to the filmmakers or to a cast member.