$5 a Day (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 15, 2010 by  

“$5 a Day” is a very good independent film that is entertaining, enjoyable and definitely an upbeat father-and-son relationship/comedy-based film.  If you are a Christopher Walken fan or looking for a lighthearted and never heavy, heartfelt film, definitely give this film a try!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: $5 a Day


DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1, enhanced for 16×9 TV’s), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Image Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Sexual Content, Brief Nudity and Language)

RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2010

Directed by Nigel Cole

Written by Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky

Produced by Carol Baum, Jane Goldenring, Kia Jam

Executive Producers: David Bergstein, Warren T. Goz, Stewart McMichael

Co-Producer: Jeff G. Waxman

Music by Alex Wurman

Cinematography by Peter Donahue

Edited by Susan Littenberg

Casting by Joseph Middleton

Production Design by Bryce Perrin

Costume Design by Melissa Bruning


Christopher Walken as Nat Parker

Alessandro Nivola as Ritchie Flynn Parker

Sharon Stone as Dolores Jones

Dean Cain as Rick Carlston

Peter Coyote as Burt Kruger

Amanda Peet as Maggie

Nat (Christopher Walken, Oscar® winner, The Deer Hunter) is an eccentric conman – a hustler content with a life of schemes and underhanded deals.  He lacks one thing:  a reconciliation with his son, Flynn (Alessandro Nivola, Jurassic Park III), who has ceased trusting his father long ago.  But Nat’s time is growing short:  he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  True to form, Nat cons Flynn into joining him in a cross country journey to an experimental medical facility.  Short on money, but not on imagination, the two realize that to reach their destination they can spend no more than $5 A Day.  They come up with increasingly ridiculous schemes to keep within their budget – but there is a distance of emotion as well as miles to cover.  Are they on the path towards a father-son reunion?

A wild cross country road trip featuring father and son scammers .  Although a comedy in which Christopher Walken shines, the film is an enjoyable father and son relationship type of film that is not only fun to watch but is heartfelt and enjoyable.

When the comedy “$5 a Day” was greenlighted back in 2003, I don’t think anyone expected the film to change directors several times and end up being completed by director Nigel Cole (“Saving Grace”, “Calendar Girls”).

The film was written by Neal H. and Tippi Dobrofky (“Flinch”, “The Donor”) and a film that would feature talents Christopher Walken (“Wedding Crashers”, The Funeral”, “Batman Returns”, “View to a Kill”), Alessandro Nivola (“Jurassic Park III”, “Junebug”, “The Eye”), Sharon Stone (“Total Recall”, “Basic Instinct”, “Last Action Hero”) and Amanda Peet (“2012”, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”, “The X Files: I Want to Believe”).

“$5 a Day” revolves around Ritchie Flynn Parker (played by Alessandro Nivola), a man who worked as a restaurant inspector until he was fired for not reporting that he is a former felon.  Ritchie is a man who is a former felon and scam artist and now he is trying to live a normal life with a different alias and trying to get past his criminal past and live a happy life with his girlfriend Maggie (played by Amanda Peet).

Unfortunately, when Maggie has a conversation with Ritchie’s father Nat (played by Christopher Walken), the truth came out and Maggie finds out that not only is Ritchie’s father is alive (he told her that he was dead) but that his name is not Flynn (which is his last name not his first).  But Maggie does tell Ritchie that the purpose of his call was to let him know that he is sick and dying but Ritchie does not believe his father and tries to plead with her that he is a liar.

But with everything going downhill for him, he finds his father’s letter to him with a plane ticket and wanting to see him immediately.  Ritchie is not sure why but he goes to visit his father.

When Ritchie arrives to his father’s place, he finds out that Nat has a malignant tumor in his head and he is dying.  His wish is for Ritchie to drive him to New Mexico for one week and that is all he is asking for.

For Ritchie, he has a hard time forgiving his father because his father is also an eccentric con man and excellent scam artist and partly responsible for landing Ritchie in prison for several years.  If anything, Ritchie learned a lot from his father and also is a very good scam artist himself and ended up being caught.

No matter how Ritchie may feel about his father, just in case what Nat is saying about his illness is true, Ritchie knows that if this is his dying wish, he’ll do it and thus he agrees to drive his father all the way from the East Coast to New Mexico and despite their estranged relationship, the two embark on a cross country trip that will bring a lot of skeletons out of the closet but also, possibly bringing father and son closer than ever.


“$5 a Day” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  A lot the scenery from the film was primarily shot outdoors and one of the highlights of the film is the travel cross country.  This is where cinematographer Peter Donahue (“Junebug”, “Then She Found Me”) shines as he highlights the various surroundings of the various states both Ritchie and Nat are visiting.

The outdoor locations definitely are much livelier on BD, blacks are nice and deep, good amount of detail during close-ups and there is a good amount of grain that can be seen in the film as well.  The indoor sequences seem to feature quite a bit of noise it seems, if anything a mix of grain and noise that may seem as if the film has a heavy amount of grain.

But overall, PQ is fine and I didn’t see any major compression artifacting or DNR.


“$5 a Day” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The film is primarily a dialogue driven film, there is no action sequences and I didn’t detect any surround usage throughout the film.  The film is primarily center and front channel driven and dialogue is clear and understandable.  I detected no audio problems while listening to the lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.


“$5 a Day comes with the following special features:

  • Director and Cast Interviews – (35:09) Featuring interviews with director Nigel Cole, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone, Dean Cain, Peter Coyote and Amanda Peet.  In standard definition.
  • Still Galleries – Featuring a photo gallery (images by Michael Parmelee), production stills and photos from cast and crew.  To view images, you will need to use your remote to cycle through the images.
  • Trailer – (2:03) Featuring the original theatrical trailer in standard definition.

Let me first start off with how much I enjoy films that star Christopher Walken.  The man still has a comedic charm and it is so evident in “$5 a Day” that you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the ride as the film really is a fun and entertaining father and son relationship film.

Both Alessandro Nivola and Christopher Walken have a good relationship as the father and son on the big screen.  And although on paper, it sounds as if this film could be bleak and become a tear gusher, the film doesn’t go that direction and become a film full of cliches.  If anything, the Dobrofsky’s are able to capitalize on Walken’s comedic timing and once again, Walken did a fantastic job in this film.

The film also features a good number of cameos.  Sharon Stone, while receiving major billing on the Blu-ray cover, the truth is that she has a small part playing Ritchie’s former babysitter Dolores Jones and if you thought that Stone was sexy in her films during the ’80s and ’90s, Sharon Stone continues to look incredible in this 2008 film as she is seen mostly wearing a bikini, sexy clothing and lingerie.  Also, the film stars Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, “The Division”, “Clubhouse”) as Rick Carlston, a restaurant owner and Peter Coyote (“The 4400”, “Commander in Chief”, “A Walk to Remember”) as an old family friend and rival to Nat who plays a significant role in the film.

The Blu-ray release of “$5 a Day” does feature very good cinematography and  lossless audio is clear and understandable but the BD is a little light when it comes to special features.

Overall, “$5 a Day” is a very good independent film that is entertaining, enjoyable and definitely an upbeat father-and-son relationship/comedy-based film.  If you are a Christopher Walken fan or looking for a lighthearted and never heavy, heartfelt film, definitely give this film a try!

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