• Happy Times (Artsploitation Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Artsploitation Films
    Released on: February 9th, 2021.
    Director: Michael Mayer
    Cast: Michael Aloni, Liraz Chamami, Iris Bahr, Alon Pdut, Stéfi Celma
    Year: 2019
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    Happy Times – Movie Review:

    Michael Mayer’s 2019 film Happy Times is set pretty much entirely at a posh mansion situated in the hills of Hollywood. Here Sigal (Liraz Chamami) and Yosi (Ido Mor) decides to invite a group of friends over to celebrate Shabbat with a nice dinner party. Yosi invites over a young man named Maor (Daniel David) who works for him, as well as their real estate agent friend Ilan (Guy Adler) and his wife Noya (Shani Atias), an actor friend named Michael (Michael Aloni) and his black girlfriend Aliyah (Stefi Celma) as well as a one-time lawyer turned named Hila (Iris Bahr), now a housewife, and her husband Avner (Alon Pdut), a vet with some PTSD issues.

    Things start off well enough but soon, when the booze starts flowing and egos start inflating, some unexpected flirtations lead to jealousy. There are squabbles about religion, a moment of infidelity and then a practical joke that goes horribly wrong before the inevitable violence takes hold as friends very quickly become enemies.

    Happy Times does take a little bit of time to get moving but once it does, it proves to be quite worthwhile. Michael Mayer paces the film well once we get past the initial setup, letting tension build effectively through interesting moments of character development that server to flesh out the different people at the party. As this happens, the plot, not surprisingly, thickens and while we can definitely get a feel for what’s going to happen during the course of the storyline, we don’t necessarily figure out how and to the filmmakers’ credit, there are a couple of legitimately good twists here.

    Performances are pretty solid across the board. Chamami and Mo are quite good as the hosts who don’t want things to get out of control but who aren’t above flaunting their social status when it suits them. The beautiful Stefi Celma, as the only black character in the film, stands out not just because of her skin color, though that is part of it and she is very clearly a fish out of water here to a certain degree. There are moments in this picture where she really shines, her work is strong. Alon Pdut as the damaged former soldier also impresses here, taking things close to over the top now and then but not quite crossing over into scenery chewing, to the film’s betterment.

    For a movie that takes place entirely in one location, the movie never feels cheap or boxed in. The house is big enough, and the cinematography good enough, that we don’t really ever wind up feeling like the movie needed anymore in terms of its setting. The film’s sense of humor is pretty strong, taking things in some dark and intentionally offensive directions, but that just adds to the fun. This may not be for those offended by religiously barbed gags but it’s so over the top at times that you can’t help but laugh along with it all.

    Happy Times – Blu-ray Review:

    Happy Times arrives on Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 20GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Shot digitally, there’s obviously no print damage or grain to discuss, the image is perfectly clean. Detail looks pretty strong throughout, especially in close up shots, though sometimes when they camera work gets intentionally busy it softens up a bit. Overall though, this looks very nice, with good color reproduction and no authoring or compression problems.

    Audio options are offered in a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track and in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The audio in the film consists of Hebrew and English language dialogue. Levels are properly balanced and dialogue stays clear throughout. The 5.1 mix is the way to go if you have the hardware for it, not only is it lossless but it does a nice job spreading out some of the effects and the score. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras are limited to an alternate scene, a deleted scene and an eight-minute blooper reel. The disc also includes trailers for Beasts Clawing At Straws, The Dead Ones, Red Christmas and , An Exquisite Meal as well as menus and chapter selection.

    Happy Times - The Final Word:

    Happy Times is a darkly comedic thriller with a few nice twists, a couple of memorable set pieces and some fine performances. It’s well-paced, nicely shot and plenty entertaining. The Blu-ray release from Artsploitation Films is light one extras but it looks and sounds quite good. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Happy Times Blu-ray screen caps!