David’s Birthday (Il Compleanno)
Written by Marco Filiberti
Starring: Alessandro Gassman; Maria
de Medeiros; Massimo Poggio; Michela Cescon; Christo Jivkov;
and Thyago Alves
In Italian with English subtitles 106
DVD Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
In David’s Birthday,
Marco Filiberti examines one man’s repression and
how, once those desires become overpowering, his actions
have potentially devastating consequences.
Matteo (Massimo Poggio) is a therapist who is seemingly
happily married to Francesca (Maria de Madeiros). They
join their friends (Alessandro Gassman & Michela Cescon)
on vacation along a sunny Italian beach awaiting the arrival
of David, the latter couple’s stunning teen son
who will be celebrating his birthday. Once David arrives,
Matteo’s attraction to him begins to overtake him
while David’s seeming sexual ambiguity begins to
come into focus.
David’s Birthday (Il Compleanno) is a sweeping
and operatic melodrama, gorgeous to look at (kudos to
Roberta Allegrini’s camerawork) and listen to (likewise
Andrea Chenna’s powerful score). And the entire
ensemble is to be congratulated on giving nuanced and
perfectly modulated performances.
Gassman is a hoot as the abrasive father. His Diego is
the typical pigheaded Italian male who wants to control
his wife but wants to seek out other women as well. Gassman
steals almost every scene he is in with his dynamic comic
Poggio strikes all the right balances of longing, tension—sexual
and otherwise, dissatisfaction and, eventually, bliss.
His Matteo feels intellectually superior to most others
(including his patients) but he is a sexual mess. Poggio’s
ogling of David as he hoses himself down is simultaneously
hilarious, sad and highly seductive.
Maria de Medeiros gives a lovely and rich rendering of
a woman trying her best to be the perfect Italian wife—even
when being demeaned by her husband. De Medeiros gives
off faint hints that she is aware something is off about
her mate, but nothing too obvious.
Thyago Alves is an absolutely gorgeous male specimen.
I defy heterosexual men to gaze on this god and not have
a doubt or two. The wonder of Alves is that he is also
a very good actor, imbuing David with just enough mystery
to keep us guessing. It’s shocking that this is
his film debut!
Filiberti has meticulously structured his script, down
to the last detail and, at first; I was taken aback by
the climax until I realized that it was the only way to
show the dangers of repression. In the Italian culture
there are certain things you cannot discuss. If you must
do these things then you do them behind closed doors.
And then you go back to your family. Or you simply deny
yourself who you are and live a lie. Bravo to Filiberti
for having the balls to depict this onscreen and for doing
it in such an artistically triumphant manner.
The stunning photography is preserved
with this DVD transfer of the original 1:78 aspect ratio
image as is the camera lingering on the alluring Alves.
The film’s 2.0 surround sound
is sharp and better than a lot of Italian film sound transfers
The only DVD Extras are the theatrical
trailer and previews of other Wolf titles. More would
have been welcome.
Eat Pray Love
DVD Review by Frank J.
Eat Pray Love arrived in theatres
this past summer to mixed reactions from critics and audiences.
People familiar with the popular book and tired of the
drek Hollywood was dolling out appreciated it and saw
it as a refreshing tonic to the typical garbage that barrages
the multiplexes. But the key demographic (young boys and
men) stayed away (big surprise!) In addition, critical
reception was mixed. But do the math: the majority of
critics are straight men and the idea of a genre-confused
film that centers on a female protagonist who isn’t
25 and doesn’t dance in her scanties for the duration
of the running time (a hefty 2 hours and 20 minutes) wasn’t
something very appetizing.
For those willing to open their minds
and alter the way they’re used to seeing a film,
the results are enthralling and yes, potentially, spiritually
Fed up with her life in the states,
Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) decides to embark on
a life-journey to Italy, India and Bali. Her encounters,
romantically, intellectually and spiritually make up Eat
Pray Love. The film refuses to fit into one genre
(meaning it isn’t even a chick flick, although I’m
sure some of the more narrow-minded critics disagree).
The movie is quite personal. Depending
on where you are in your own spiritual journey in life
it may hit you in different ways. And if the thought of
a spiritual journey is anathema to you, then you will
probably all-out dismiss the film as hokum.
Directed by Nip/Tuck and Glee
creator extraordinaire Ryan Murphy and written by Murphy
and Jennifer Salt (daughter of Waldo, Eunice on the sitcom
Soap and Nip/Tuck penner), Eat Pray
Love is faithful to the book, but is also it’s
own entity as a motion picture.
I loved it. And watching it again on
DVD, the joys were just enhanced.
Roberts sinks her teeth and soul into
the project and gives us a multi-layered character, warts
and all. It’s her showcase and she eats, prays and
loves up a storm.
Among the terrific supporting cast,
Richard Jenkins does astonishing work and in a key scene
(filmed masterfully by Murphy) he shows us a man destroyed
The DVD gives you the choice of watching
the original 140-minute theatrical version or a new 146-minute
Director’s Cut. The added minutes are a wonderful
gift; I just wish there were more.
In theatres, the film looked magnificent
and on DVD is given a worthy
high-definition widescreen (1.85:1) transfer with locales
popping nicely. It would behoove you to have some pasta
or pizza ready before you hit play.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
sound is nicely balanced. The music is especially clear
and crisp and Eddie Vedder’s closing credits song,
‘Better Days,’ is haunting and evocative.
The Extras on the DVD are pathetically
nil except for a 4-minute segment called "Ryan Murphy's
Journey with Eat Pray Love." Apparently the Blu-Ray
edition has a slew of other bonus materials, it’s
a shame they didn’t bother including them here.
Written by Marco
Starring: Manuel Vignau; Lucas Ferraro; Mercedes Quinteros.
(Argentina, In Spanish with English
subtitles. 103 min.)
DVD Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
Marco Berger’s Plan B tells
a simplistic story, where you can see the ending coming
in the first twenty minutes. But he does it so well that
you don’t mind going along for this DVD-ride.
Bruno (sexy Manuel Vignau) is upset when his girlfriend,
Laura (Mercedes Quinteros), leaves him for adorable Pablo
(equally sexy Lucas Ferraro). Upon hearing rumors that
Pablo has admitted to gay experiences, Bruno comes up
with a plan (B) where he will get Laura back by seducing
Pablo, thus revealing his bisexuality and infidelity.
As Bruno and Pablo begin to bond, a funny thing happens;
they discover they genuinely like one another. Bruno begins
sleeping with Laura again, but much to his surprise, he
has become enamored with Pablo, who it turns out has never
had a gay experience but he has feelings for Bruno.
Vignau and Ferraro deliver honest and complex performances
that keep the viewer’s interest throughout.
Plan B is a worthwhile purchase, although it
could have used another five or ten minutes at the end
to give the obvious target audience what they spent 100
minutes craving, instead of blue-balling them.
The 1:78 aspect ratio (16x9) visual
transfer is decent enough with the grainy qualities of
the low-budget film magnified.
The 2.0 surround sound is crisp and
The only DVD Extras are the theatrical
trailer and previews of other Wolf titles. Deleted scenes
would have been nice here.
The Complete First Season
Review by Frank J. Avella
WARNER HOME VIDEO
As I concluded when I watched it earlier
in the year, V is a visually enthralling remake
that is, initially, incredibly disappointing, but actually
begins to show great promise as the season comes to a
close. And for a series to improve in it’s second
half is a rarity so I am looking forward to Season Two.
The original miniseries aired in 1983
and even then was pretty cheesy but—as with most
sci-fi entertainment—amassed a following.
ABC decided to remake it, pretty safely
at first in what seemed to be a script-by-committee manner
but, mercifully, significantly lowering the cheese factor.
To pause and plot the plot for a moment,
V is about “the Visitors,” who happen
to be a seemingly peaceful alien race (aren’t they
all) that turns out to have the most evil of ulterior
motives for arriving on Earth. The series is very slow
to reveal the true nature of these visitors and the first
half spends way too much time on dull plot involving Morris
Chestnut—who happens to be a member of the 5th Column
as well as an alien and the lead’s son Tyler played
by a pretty but inept Logan Huffman.
The second half, however, gives us a
more daring look at a post-9/11 world where paranoia runs
rampant and no one knows who he or she or it can trust.
The best thing about V is Anna,
the queen of the visitors played magnificently by Morena
Baccarin. The actress is simply remarkable balancing the
right blend of camp with serious, down-and-dirty-survivor
evil. Initially, I didn’t know what to make of Baccarin,
thinking her choices were simply to play indifference
but she was laying the groundwork for a character arc
that is one of the best in current sci-fi TV.
Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) and Joel Grestch should
also be commended for solid work.
The twelve-episode Blu-Ray edition preserves
the 1.78:1 aspect ratio (1080p video rez) and the quality
of the visuals vary depending on the quality of the erratic
special effects that overuses CGI, especially aboard the
ship. The exterior shots, however, are well textured.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround audio
is merely sufficient and sometimes very muddled (especially
The Special Features aren’t abundant
but what there is can be fun to watch including featurettes
(abou 15 minutes each in length): “The Actor’s
Journey From Human to V,” “Breaking Story:
The World of V,” “An Alien in Human Skin:
The Makeup FX of V” and “The Visual Effects
of V.” Of these the first is the most compelling.
There is also an Episode 11 Commentary by the two Executive
Producers. The best of the Extras? The 17 minutes of Deleted
Scenes. Watch them right after each episode for full effect.
V doesn’t deliver on the
promise of a vastly improved re-imagining of a campy old
show the way the brilliant Battlestar Galactica
did on the Sci-Fi Network, but the last few episodes laid
the groundwork for an exciting Season Two if ABC has the
guts to go the distance.