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Barry Levinson
Robert De Niro, John Turturro, Catherine Keener
Writing Credits:
Art Linson

Fading Hollywood producer Ben struggles to get his newest picture finished.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend:
$192,508 on 36 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $16.98
Release Date: 2/24/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Barry Levinson and Writer Art Linson
• Deleted Scenes
• Casting Sessions
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “From Book to Script to Screen” Featurette
• “No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Movie” Featurette
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


What Just Happened [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 26, 2023)

Though Robert De Niro didn’t form a decades-long partnership with Barry Levinson ala his relationship with Martin Scorsese, the pair worked together a few times. They first joined forces for 1996’s Sleepers and will soon join again via 2024’s Wise Guys.

In the middle of this run comes 2008’s What Just Happened. This one goes for a mix of comedy and drama, all set in Hollywood.

Movie producer Ben (De Niro) now finds himself with a mix of career problems. His new film Fiercely suffers from a disastrous test screening.

This leaves him little time to whip the picture into shape before it shows at Cannes. As Ben deals with a mix of professional challenges, he also encounters issues in his personal life via entanglements with ex-wives and children.

Hollywood loves to skewer itself, as this genre goes back decades. Can Levinson bring anything fresh to the topic?

Nope – other than his traditional ham-fisted lack of subtlety. Basically a less pretentious version of 1992’s The Player, this becomes a self-indulgent effort.

Which feels typical for Levinson. Though I think he occasionally made good movies, too many of his efforts came across as heavy-handed and utterly devoid of dimensionality.

That proves true for Happened. The film aspires to offer an incisive and biting view of the movie business, but instead it just feels like meandering self-mockery.

Happened never met a Hollywood cliché it didn’t like, so expect the standard array of characters. None of them manage to offer anything interesting or creative.

This extends to story points, as we get unsurprising plot elements. These develop in a dull meander that fails to find any zing at the core.

Levinson did break open his Rolodex and amass a pretty amazing cast for Happened, though. In addition to De Niro, we find folks like John Turturro, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, Robin Wright, Stanley Tucci, Michael Wincott and others.

They bring some intrigue to the tale at times, mainly because Penn and Willis play themselves and follow an Extra-style kind of self-parody. Well, sort of, as the film’s attempts to make fun of the actors lacks the hilarious bite of the Ricky Gervais series.

At least those moments offer some amusement, which I can’t claim for the rest of this toothless satire. Sluggish and without spark, What Just Happened becomes an underwhelming experience.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

What Just Happened appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the movie remained perfectly watchable, the transfer never excelled.

Sharpness was usually fine, though some exceptions occurred, as occasional wide shots felt a bit soft. Still, overall delineation worked pretty well.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed mild haloes a fair amount of the time. The flick also tended to be a bit grainy, but other source flaws failed to appear.

Colors looked fairly ordinary. The image took on a dingy green-blue tone much of the time, with occasional splashes of red. The hues seemed acceptable but they weren’t particularly strong.

Blacks appeared reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed decent delineation. Some low-light shots were a bit too thick, though. All of this was good enough for a mediocre “C+”.

I also thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Happened remained unexceptional, though it worked better than the visuals. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of satirical comedy, and I got exactly what I anticipated.

In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited, so the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but did little more than that.

In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. The track functioned appropriately for the story.

Audio quality appeared fine. The music was the strongest aspect of the track, as the score showed nice vivacity and impact.

Dialogue was consistently warm and natural. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate.

There wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. This became a decent reproduction of the material.

A mix of extras round out the disc, and we get an audio commentary from director Barry Levinson and writer Art Linson. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the source novel and its adaptation, story/characters, cast and performances, reflections of “real Hollywood” and related subjects.

Though we get occasional insights here, much of the commentary feels fairly banal. Levinson and Linson deliver just enough worthwhile information to mean the track doesn’t flop, but with a fair amount of dead air and a semi-slow pace, this becomes a mediocre track.

Three featurettes appear, and Behind the Scenes fills a mere two minutes, 47 seconds. It shows raw footage from the shoot an offers a mildly intriguing reel.

From Book to Script to Screen goes for 23 minutes, 47 seconds. It brings notes from Linson, Levinson and actor Robert De Niro.

“Screen” covers the source novel and its adaptation, what brought Levinson to the project and its path to the screen, story/characters, the nature of Hollywood, cast and performances and general thoughts. Inevitably, some of this repeats from the commentary, but it nonetheless delivers a fairly tight overview.

Finally, No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Movie spans a brief one minute, 59 seconds. Here we find narration from Millie, the canine actor we see in the film.

It offers a comedic look at the animal performer. It seems cute and not much more.

Three Deleted Scenes occupy a total of seven minutes, seven seconds. One offers an alternate version of the existing ending, while another gives us a film conclusion that spins matters in a radically happier vein.

The third shows a little more of Ben and daughter Zoe. None of these work – especially not the happy ending.

12 Casting Sessions take up a sum of 26 minutes, 58 seconds. We find these for actors Moon Bloodgood, Ron Li-paz, Dey Young, Paul Herman, Jean-Michel Richaud, Brent Rose, Logan Grove, Jonathan C. Kaplan, Karina Buck, Peter Jacobson, Jason Kravits, and Kate Burton.

As expected, we get tryouts for all these supporting actors, all of whom scored their roles. It might’ve been more interesting to see folks who didn’t make the cut, but this still turns into an intriguing compilation, especially since it contrasts the auditions with final footage.

The disc opens with ads for Two Lovers, The Great Buck Howard, and The Life Before Her Eyes. No trailer for Happened appears here.

Barry Levinson attempts to bite the hand that feeds him via the Hollywood satire What Happened Here. Unfortunately, the film indulges in the usual concepts so it fails to find a clever or interesting path. The Blu-ray brings mediocre picture and audio along with a decent set of bonus materials. Levinson wastes an excellent cast with this tedious snoozer.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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