King of California (2007)

Genre(s): Comedy
First Look Pictures || PG13 - 93 minutes - $28.98 || January 29, 2008
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2008-02-13


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Mike Cahill
Writer(s): Mike Cahill (written by)
Cast: Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood


Theatrical Release Date: September 14, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Filmmakers' Commentary
  • The Making of King of California
  • Outtakes
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

King of California marks the first film for director Mike Cahill. Though the film's posters all say "From the makers of Sideways," no one from the film was actually involved in terms of writing and directing. This is Cahills's first attempt at writing and directing a feature.

The film begins with the release of Charlie (Michael Douglas) from a mental institution. His daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) has supported herself throughout most of her life by working at McDonald's. She has created somewhat of a daily routine that is simple and peaceful but Charlie ends all that by returning to their home. Charlie has become obsessed with the notion that the long-lost treasure of Spanish Father Juan Florismarte Garcés is buried near their home. More specifically, Charlie becomes convinced that the treasure is buried underneath a local Costco and tells Miranda to get a job there so that he will be able to find this buried treasure.

As absurd as the premise seems, I think writer/director Mike Cahill does a good job in telling this story. Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood have good chemistry together as father and daughter which helps carry the film fairly well. The film does suffer from standard "indie film" problems where the characters are quirky just for the sake of being quirky. Cahill does a nice job in keeping the film simple and keeping the locations simple. I think that first time directors tend to try and write too many characters and create something like Pulp Fiction when in fact they don't have strong enough writing to support that many characters. Nonetheless, I must say that Willis Burks' character Pepper was someone that I thought deserved more screentime. Still, I think both Wood and Douglas do a fine job with their roles. I do admit however that Douglas overacts in several scenes throughout the course of the film. Still, I would say that this is Michael Douglas' best performance since Traffic or Wonder Boys. Evan Rachel Wood once again shows that she is one of the best young actors working in film today.

The film is quite entertaining and is paced well for the most part. It is filmed well and has a wide range of music from Wilco to John Coltrane. While King of California is nothing new in terms of independent filmmaking, I still think the film is worth a rental. This would be definition of a film that is "good." Nothing amazing and nothing horrible, just a good film. Even so, I'd be interested to see what Cahill does next after this film.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The DVD comes with a commentary by writer/director Mike Cahill, Cinematographer Jim Whitaker, Production Designer Dan Bishop and First Assistant Director Richard L. Fox. It is actually an interesting commentary because of the fact that this is Cahill's first film. We get to hear about all the issues an independent film would have in terms of shooting and location problems. We also get to hear from a number of filmmakers in terms of sets, the look of the film and working with the actors.

The Making of King of California is a standard 10 minute look behind the scenes of the film. We hear from Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood and Mike Cahill among others. The actors describe what attracted them to the film and the filmmakers discuss why they wanted to make this particular story.

The DVD also comes with 4 ˝ minutes of outtakes as well as a theatrical trailer for the film.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

For being an independent film, the DVD actually comes with a wide range of audio options. One can choose from English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English DTS as well as English 2.0 Stereo. The sound design is not one of the reasons to go out and rent the film but I must say that the DVD producers did a nice job with the audio transfer.

The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The rich colors of the desert come off very well on the DVD. It also shows that one does not need a huge budget for a film to look good.



.::OVERALL::.

The film is actually quite enjoyable despite some of its problems. I would definitely say that the film is worth a rental the next time you're at a video store or on Netflix. Though I would assume that the film will suffer the fate that many, if not all, independent films face. People will walk by the DVD in the video store dozens of times not even paying attention to it or if somehow they actually pick up the DVD, they might be intrigued by the story but never actually rent it. Then the film will either be on TV or a friend will recommend it to you and then you will wonder why you did not rent the film.

That being said, King of California is a good film with an interesting story and good performances from Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood. Hopefully you won't walk by this one.

Note: Images contained in this review were not taken from the DVD and do not represent the true quality of the picture.