What Just Happened (2008) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Comedy / Drama
Magnolia || R - 104 minutes - $34.98 || February 24, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-03-24

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

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

B L U - R A Y

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer(s): Art Linson (book)(written by)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, John Turturro, Robin Wright Penn, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Stewart, Michael Wincott, Bruce Willis

Theatrical Release Date: November 28, 2008

Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • 3 Featurettes
  • Casting Sessions
  • Bookmarks

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

What Just Happened is yet another inside look at the business of Hollywood. Sometimes these satirical looks at how movies are made or the day-to-day lives of Hollywood Players work but in this case, while it features a great performance by Robert De Niro, the movie should’ve been called: Who the Hell Really Cares?.

I love movies, watch ‘em every day in fact. I’m fascinated by how movies get made from the idea to green light to filming but for me, this movie failed to grab my attention and meanders through with an uninteresting story with a bunch of characters that are neither funny nor likeable. I’d say this film was pretentious, but that’d be giving it more credit than it deserves.

The general thesis of the movie surrounds a big-time Hollywood producer (Robert De Niro) as he juggles his complicated life from two failed marriages and three kids, a f***ed up writer/director who holds a tantrum because the studio head (Catherine Keener) wants to change the ending of his latest film (starring Sean Penn), tackle an escalating situation with Bruce Willis on another project because he will not shave his Biblical-era beard and finally just has to deal with his own life.

The problem with What Just Happened isn’t that it is pretentious, although many of these inside Hollywood-type films tend to drift that way nor is it for the lack of good performances from the cast, especially Robert De Niro who has led a low-key onscreen life for the past few years (not like the guy has to work). Even the great Bruce Willis poking some fun at himself or at Hollywood Superstardom could not save this. Instead the entire film just wasn’t very interesting or, for that matter, very funny. It’s not a satirical look at the “Biz” and while I guess it offers insights at the insanity that is the movie-making process which I do not doubt is probably well depicted, but after only 15-minutes I was pretty much bored with the thing.

What Just Happened is actually based upon a book called What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line. No doubt the book, which is apparently filled with fascinating stories from the inside, just could not translate to the big screen even when the book’s author, Art Linson (producer of many movies including Heat, Fight Club and Into the Wild), adapts into screenplay form.

But I think most of the blame could be placed on Barry Levinson, a director of modest talent who helmed some great movies like Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man, Sleepers and Wag the Dog but also was behind such so-so outings including Bandits, Envy and Man of the Year (and the downright stinker Sphere). Here, Levinson provides no real forward momentum with the main character, no important conflict (the guy isn’t likeable enough for us to care whether or not he’s relevant) and a story that is relatable in any way. If I wanted to learn about the Hollywood process, I will read the books and probably will rent/buy satirical looks at Hollywood because although situations are taken to the limit, they’re still close enough to the truth.

What Just Happened is an average film with decent performances, forgettable story and uninspiring direction (I realize you can’t do that much, but at least make it somewhat interesting to watch). I have little doubt you’ll find this cheap and when that time comes and you’re interested in seeing De Niro, then it may be worth shelling out some money, otherwise wait for this one on HBO.


Feature Commentary with Director/Producer Barry Levinson and Writer/Producer Art Linson

Deleted Scenes (7:07) - There are a few deleted scenes including an extended ending where De Niro, through voiceover, explains what happened afterward, that his career rebounded and what other characters were up to.

The Blu-ray comes with a few basic featurettes: Behind the Scenes (2:47), Making of What Just Happened: From Book to Screen (23:47) and No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Movie (1:59). The “Making of...” featurette is the most expansive where De Niro, Levinson and others talk about how the movie came about and whatnot.

There are also casting sessions (26:58) for 12 supporting actors. Finally you can bookmark your favorite scenes. Awesome.


The Blu-ray has a good, but also pretty unremarkable video presentation. It comes in 1080p high-definition and in its OAR of 2.40, and although the picture was clear and fairly crisp overall, I wasn’t blown away. Everything from colors to texture seems fine but as this doesn’t break new ground in terms of filmmaking, there’s not much to really notice.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds good though this is a very much dialogue driven movie with the occasional music cues, while De Niro is driving listening to a possible soundtrack to an upcoming film he’s producing.


What Just Happened the movie asks? Well, nothing much. Aside from a solid performance from a veteran actor, nothing that interesting happens over the course of 100-minutes. The story lacks any real drive and Barry Levinson’s direction doesn’t help matters to give the film a good push.