Garage Days Review

All his life Freddy (Kick Gurry) has wanted to be a rock star. He even has a band, in which he’s the singer, girlfriend Tanya (Pia Miranda) on bass, Joe on lead guitar and druggie Lucius, aka Lucy (Chris Sandrinna), on drums. Their sleazy manager Bruno (Russell Dykstra) thinks they could play Homebake, Sydney’s big local rock festival. But first you have to cut a demo to attract the attention of big-name agent Shad Kern (Marton Csokas). And Freddy’s falling for Joe’s girlfriend Kate (Maya Stange) doesn’t help matters either.

To get the obvious comparison out of the way, Garage Days is The Commitments set in Sydney. And although Garage Days is certainly watchable, this is not a comparison in its favour. The film is a change of pace for director and co-writer Alex Proyas, whose previous two features (The Crow and Dark City) were large-scale, effects-driven SF/fantasy movies. On the evidence of those films, Proyas certainly has visual flair in spades, to the point where it became oppressive and actually began to impede narrative drive. Garage Days is a smaller-canvas, character-comedy, so you’d expect it to be a little lighter on its feet. However, it seems that Proyas the director can’t quite put his trust in the screenplay (by Dave Warner, Michael Udesky and Proyas). He can’t resist overloading the film with CGI effects, slow motion, split screen, faded-colour-and-fake-scratches footage in a flashback, bullet-time sequences, even an LSD trip filmed like a CGI’d promo video. In The Commitments Alan Parker, no stranger to visual grandiloquence in his time, adopted a deliberately plain style, recognising that the characterisation and dialogue were so strong that he shouldn’t get in the way. In Garage Days, the characters aren’t quite so engaging. Some of them are caricatures, such as the venal agent, or have quirks instead of personalities, such as Joe, who gets into a father-baby bonding relationship with a melon (don’t ask). Kick Gurry and Pia Miranda, who had previously co-starred in Looking for Alibrandi, get the best of the funny lines. By contrast, the Freddy and Kate love story barely registers. The result is a film which will pass the time well enough, but is certainly not above being missable.

It gets a good DVD though.

Garage Days has an anamorphic transfer in a ratio of 1.85:1. There’s pretty much nothing wrong with it: sharp, strongly colourful, with strong blacks and good shadow detail. The transfer has to cope with a lot of different visual textures throughout the film, and does so admirably. Pretty much reference quality.

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, though it’s not the all-speakers-workout that you might expect from a music-driven movie. In fact the emphasis is on dialogue, with the surrounds used for ambience and the subwoofer filling in the lower end of the music. That said, there is quite a lot of music on the soundtrack, including AC/DC twice and Spiderbait’s “Buy Me a Pony”, which is beginning to sound over-familiar in Australian films. (It’s also used over the opening credits of He Died With a Felafel in His Hand.)

The DVD is encoded for Region 4 only, and there are twenty-eight chapter stops. Subtitles are provided for the feature, the commentary and the extras.

Fox have provided a good selection of extras for this release. First up is a commentary from Alex Proyas. “I need to work on a film which cuts less fast,” he says, “so I can actually have time to talk about it while it runs.” That’s fair comment, but Proyas does cover a lot of ground. He’s not the most sparkling of speakers, but he’s worth listening to.

All the extras are in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. "Goofs" is 5:10 of out-takes, mostly featuring the cast corpsing on camera. Next up are nine deleted scenes, many of which could be more accurately described as extended versions of scenes which are still in the movie. They are as follows: "Please Don’t Take My Soul" (0:37), "Advice from Lucy" (0:41), "'We’re Meant to Screw Up When It Comes to Women'" (0:26), "'So You’re Pregnant'" (0:48), "'I Thought You Were Dead'" (1:02), "Visiting Kate" (0:19), "'The Hour of Love'" (0:38), "'Vacuum Cleaner Penis Enlarger'" (0:30), "'There Are Rules Freddy'" (0:39). As always with a feature like this, it’s easy to see why the scenes were removed.

Next up are four songs, which are basically extracts from the film itself: "Squeeze Me" (3:24) and "Master Plan" (2:11) by the Garage Days Band and "Less than One" (2:10) and "After Us" (2:17) by Sprimp, the rivals to Freddy’s band in the film. There’s also an untitled Katie Noonan video (3:14), which includes clips from Garage Days.

"Garage Days Backstage Pass" is a short featurette (4:09), in the usual format of film extracts and interview snippets with Proyas, producer Topher Dow and Pia Miranda. “Behind the Garage Door” is a set of interviews, nothing very in-depth, running 7:12. The interviewees are Kick Gurry, Pia Miranda, Maya Stange, Chris Sandrinna, Brett Stiller, Alex Proyas, Topher Dow and Russell Dykstra. Unfortunately, such basic extras as a theatrical trailer and biographical material are absent.

This is a Region 4-only DVD. The forthcoming Region 2 from Fox is identical as far as features go. The only exception is that one deleted scene ("'I Thought You Were Dead'") has been removed by the BBFC because it demonstrates an imitable and dangerous auto-asphyxiation technique.

Garage Days is an attempt to make a smaller-scale, more personal comedy about a not-great rock band. Unfortunately good intentions aren’t enough, but Garage Days does have its compensations, and it comes with a fine transfer and a good few extras.

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