Garage Days review by Mike Long

Movie fans can often be very rigid in their thinking and hate to see their favorite filmmakers make a major genre shift. For proof of this, just ask any horror fanatic which directors they feel have sold out and you'll be sure to get an earful. A good example of a drastic change in style has come from director Alex Proyas, who made a name for himself with the very dark films The Crow and Dark City, and who has returned to the top of the box office charts with the recent I, Robot. But in 2002, Proyas made a very different film called Garage Days, which is now making its DVD debut in the U.S. Storywise, the film is a true departure for Proyas, but he does maintain a visual flair with the movie.

Garage Days tells the story of a rock band (whose name we never learn) in Sydney, Australia. Freddy (Kick Gurry), the band's leader, has always dreamed of being a rocker, and is currently dating the bass player, Tanya (Pia Miranda). Drummer Lucy (Chris Sadrinna) is often more interested in his homemade drugs and his pursuit of the ultimate high. Joe (Brett Stiller), the guitarist, is seeing Kate (Maya Stange), but has also been seeing someone else on the side. The band is looking for their big break, and are desperate to get their first gig, although their manager, Bruno (Russell Dykstra), is of little help. A chance meeting with a big-time manager gives Freddy hope that the band will finally be heard by a professional. However, each member of the group finds themselves dealing with personal issues which gets in way of the music. As the relationship between Joe and Kate becomes rocky, Freddy finds himself attracted to Kate. Also, the desire to book a gig or make a demo means that the band must find money, which leads to more internal strife. As the story progresses, the group must cope with the fact that living the rock 'n roll dream isn't as easy as it looks.

It's very easy to go into Garage Days and look for either hints The Crow or to try and find a way to tear down Proyas for going away from the gothic films which made him a known director. However, once you start watching the movie all of those thoughts evaporate immediately and they are replaced by idea, "This looks exactly like Trainspotting." Yes, the man who could be accused of trying to one-up Tim Burton's dark look on Batman with the ultra-dark The Crow, has certainly taken a cue from Danny Boyle's film for Garage Days. From the editing style to the camera angles to the voice-overs, from the get-go Garage Days made me think of Trainspotting. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Trainspotting is an amazing film in a visual sense, so it's no surprise that someone would want to pay homage to it. But, one would expect more from someone like Proyas, who is known for having such a strong visual style.

Once one gets past the initial shock of Garage Days' look, the simple charms of the film can come through. Kudos to Proyas and co-scripters Dave Warner and Michael Udesky for creating what may be the first rock 'n roll movie which doesn't focus on the music. Every time the band gets within a step of their goal, something happens to push them back. Thus, the crux of the film becomes the band and their issues and not the music. The plot of Garage Days isn't that much different from films such as That Thing You Do!, but the characters play a much larger role than the music. This gives the audience a chance to really get to know each member of the group, so as their individual story arcs progress, we are interested in what will happen to them. The film offers a nice mixture of comedy and drama, but never really excels at either. Still, anyone who has ever been in a band, or has even aspired to be in a band, will identify with the characters in the film. Garage Days is a simple film which tells the story of a group of losers who are chasing their dream. It's not what one would expect from Alex Proyas, but it has enough simple charm to make it watchable.

Garage Days rocks onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The first thing that one notices about this film is just how bright and colorful it is. Proyas has filled the movie with many primary colors and bright tones and they look fine on this transfer. The image is sharp and clear, although there is a visible amount of slight grain on the image throughout the film. Horizontal lines cause some video noise when they appear on-screen, but the artifacting is kept to a minimum, as is the edge-enhancement haloes. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track does justice to the film's rock soundtrack and all of the music in the movie sounds fine. The dialogue is always clear and audible, and there is no distortion on the track. The stereo effects are good, and the surround sound kicks in during the crowd scenes and during any of the many creative shots.

The Garage Days DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Alex Proyas. This is a nice chat, as Proyas speaks continuously throughout the film, discussing the real-life inspirations for the story, the locations, and the actors, none of whom were musicians. The Widescreen side of the DVD contains six deleted scenes which total four minutes (and have a "Play All" selection). All of these scenes are quite brief and would have added little to the film. This side also contains a 5-minute gag reel. The Full-frame side has "Garage Days Backstage Pass", a 4-minute featurette which contains some behind-the-scenes footage, but isn't very in-depth. More information is given with "Behind the Garage Door -- Interviews" (7 minutes), in which Proyas and the main actors talk about their experiences on the film.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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