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HTF REVIEW: "Life As A House" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 2, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Life As a House

    "I built myself a life. I built
    myself a house"

    Kevin Kline, A FISH CALLED WANDA's bad boy,
    in a well-intended drama that pulls at the
    George Monroe (Kevin Kline) has been one of
    the top architects at his form for the past 20
    years. The problem is, he's too old-fashioned
    when it comes to adhering his craft with the changing
    times. When he finally gets fired one afternoon,
    he collapses outside his building.
    George is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly his
    entire life is put in perspective -- his failed
    relationship with his ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott
    Thomas), and his estranged 16-year-old son Sam
    (Hayden Christensen), who sports piercings and
    blue hair.
    What's a man to do when he knows his time is up?
    For George, his decision is to build a home and
    mend his relationship with his son by taking him
    for the Summer. As George begins to change, so
    do the people around him. His son starts to better
    understand his own anxieties, when discovering more
    about his dad.
    As much as I enjoyed this film, it is marred with
    sexual subplots of Mother and teenage friend sex
    that have no reason to be in this film other than
    to show Mary Steenburgen in a quick nude shot and
    attractive black lingerie (but who's complaining?!)
    How is the transfer?
    The 16X9 enhanced widescreen (2.10:1) transfer
    is quite gorgeous to look at with many shots
    of sunsets along the California coastline. The
    picture remains very sharp, with vivid colors
    that don't become oversaturated. If there was
    one gripe about the transfer, it would be the
    occasional hint of film grain in some of the
    darker scenes. There is also some disturbing
    picture noise during the opening credits, but
    I am finding this to be more of a common
    occurrence with many DVD releases.
    If I could use one word to describe the 5.1
    DTS mix, I would say that it is very "warm".
    The rears have been used to lovingly bring out
    the backdrop sounds of the California coast with
    its crashing waves. When the rears are not
    accenting the wonderful musical score by Mark
    Isham, they are constantly brimming with the
    sounds of surrounding nature. One of my favorite
    sound sequences is a pouring rainstorm and the
    sounds of the rain hitting the windows from inside
    a mini van. All this may sound a bit trivial until
    you get to hear it for yourself.
    Special Features
    New Line has made Life as a House part
    of its renowned Platinum Series. You know this
    edition is somewhat special when a snapper case
    opens up to an attractive 2-pane gatefold housing
    for the DVD.
    A really wonderful animated menu sequence greets
    you upon insertion of this disc. We are presented
    with a picture of the constructed house with panes
    of windows featuring character moments.
    There is a full-length commentary by Producer/
    Director Irwin Winkler, Producer Rob Cowan and
    Writer Mark Andrus.
    There are two original documentaries
    included on this disc. They include...
    Inside Life as a House (24:00) begins
    with Producer/Director Irwin Winkler confessing
    that he had always wanted to know what a person
    would do when given only a few months to live.
    Such was the inspiration for this film whose
    documentary takes you on location and behind the
    camera. First up: Kevin destroying architectural
    models at his firm (which incidentally one of them
    he built himself). Kevin Kline reflects how
    Irwin allowed a lot of improvisation from the
    actors during the scenes in order to bring out
    their characters. Each of the principal actors
    talk a little bit about their roles. Most
    interesting to listen to is Hayden Christensen
    (Sam) who talks about his attraction to the role
    because the character is so far removed from what
    he really is. What really makes this featurette
    interesting is all the footage of the cast having
    special moments between the takes as well as
    footage of Irwin Winkler hard at work directing
    his actors.
    From The Ground Up (10:00) brings us to
    Marineland, where an actual street of homes is
    built from total emptiness. The actual home was
    built first as a shack (that represents George's
    past), torn down and then rebuilt. This featurette
    shows us this new home from its initial blueprint
    designs to finish.
    There are four deleted/alternate scenes
    presented. They include:
    * An extended scene where we first
    meet Kurt Walker (Scott Bakula) that had
    to be dropped because too much information
    about the characters was being brought out.
    * The same sequence as above is shown
    with Kurt Walker being played by William Ross.
    The scene was reshot when Scott Bakula was
    involved in an accident that left his legs broken.
    * George tries to get his sleeping son
    off the roof by hosing him down. The scene was
    ultimately removed as it slowed down the overall
    * After George is found by Robin, a
    scene was dropped between Sam and his girlfriend
    that offered no character change from any of the
    scenes before it.
    These deleted sequences can be watched with
    or without the director's commentary. I suggest
    turning the commentary on, as Irwin Winkler adds
    some interesting personal insight to each scene.
    The Theatrical Press Kit presents we,
    the audience, with all the factual information
    we need about the production of this movie. This
    includes some short production notes about
    how Director Irwin Winkler had a dream of making
    a movie about a man rebuilding a life from his
    heart. There are also Cast and Crew
    biographies that let you look into the backgrounds
    of the cast in front and behind the camera.
    The film's original theatrical trailer
    is also included.
    There is also DVD-ROM CONTENT that
    includes script-to-screen comparisons as well
    as access to the film's original website.
    Final Thoughts
    It's amazing to think that this film doesn't
    derive its tears from its predictably manipulative
    ending, but rather from the cast that have
    successfully brought the characters to life.
    Even though the film has its minor flaws, I found
    myself filled with tears before the final credits
    I think you will find Life As A House to
    be a wonderfully warm movie that won't make you
    feel cheated. You'll ultimately be drawn into
    the character's relationships and circumstances
    that will easily help us forget the film's faulty
    screenplay. By the end of it all, I think it
    will affect you emotionally as it did me.
    Release Date: NOW
  2. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
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    thanks ron for a wonderful review as always, i got a copy of this movie a few days ago, couldn't resist from all the good things i heard about this film, and sounds like newline put together a great dvd for this movie too. Think i'll watch the movie tonite.
  3. Elbert Lee

    Elbert Lee Supporting Actor

    May 24, 2000
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    I particularly liked how they placed a Hayden Christensen SW plug on the packaging. Dunno know if it will encourage SW enthusiasts to purchase this dvd, though....

  4. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

    Dec 29, 1998
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    Interesting thing, in the local newspaper they mentioned that the young Dath Vader is from my neck of the woods (Unionville, ON), then went on to mention that Life as a House was being released on DVD this week (article was from last week).

    Looks like he is already being know as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader even before ATOC has come out. I started to watch the film last night (missed it at the Toronto Film fest) and unfortunately fell asleep. Not because of the movie, but the relentless pounding of a headache and fatigue. What I saw of it makes for an intresting film.

    One note other of intrest, with all the fuss over Hayden being Anakin makes me glad Natalie Portman was an established actress before taking on the role of Amidala. Hayden may turn out to be a very gifted young performer, but I fear he will be typecast.
  5. Denton

    Denton Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 1, 2001
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    I've run into a number of people who hate this picture. Frankly, I worry about them.
    The side plot with Mary Steenburgen "may" have been intended to show human frailty can result in very stupid behavior from "adults". Perhaps this issue is covered in the commentary; I have not checked out the special features yet. But, flaws aside, this film does a lot of things right, and does them without Karate, gunfights, and explosions. [​IMG]
  6. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

    Jun 3, 1999
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    Just a side note which Ron's review didn't cover. If anyone is wondering about the 2.10:1 aspect ratio, this is intended by the cinematographer for the film to be reframed from the 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio on the home video transfer, similar to the Vittorio Storaro approved transfers on "Apocalypse Now" and "Tucker: The Man and his Dream." And like those films, "Life as a House" was shot in anamorphic Panavision, so horizontal information is lost in this process.
  7. Stevan Lay

    Stevan Lay Second Unit

    Jan 5, 2000
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    Appreciate the screenshots. It's a great addition. Hope it becomes a regular thing with the reviews [​IMG][​IMG]
  8. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

    Jan 8, 1999
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