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SCREEN GEMS

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Will Gluck
Cast:
Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson , Andy Samberg
Writing Credits:
Keith Merryman (and story), David A. Newman (and story), Will Gluck, Harley Peyton (story)

Synopsis:
Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is done with relationships. Jamie (Mila Kunis) decides to stop buying into the Hollywood clichés of true love. When the two become friends they decide to try something new and take advantage of their mutual attraction – but without any emotional attachment. Physical pleasure without the entanglements. Sounds easy enough for two logical adults, right? Not so much. They soon realize romantic comedy stereotypes might exist for a reason.

Box Office:
Budget
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.622 million on 2926 screens.
Domestic Gross
$55.802 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
French
Korean
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Chinese
Korean

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 12/2/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Will Gluck and Actors Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis
• “Bonus Benefits: A Pop-Up Trivia Track”
• “On the Set” Featurette
• “In a Flash: Choreographing a Mob” Featurette
• 10 Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Friends With Benefits [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2011)

Before I prepped for this review, I believed Justin Timberlake had done more film work than he has. Though he came to fame – and earned his biggest success – as a singer, he’s not produced a new album in five years and hasn’t toured since 2007. When asked, Timberlake seems to feel little urge to go back to music, as he wants to concentrate on acting.

I thought Timberlake had appeared in many films over that span, but in truth, he’s been more selective – until 2011, which turned into his “leading man” year. Along with a large supporting role in Bad Teacher, Timberlake took the top billing for In Time and Friends with Benefits.

Both show that Timberlake hasn’t reached movie star level yet. Neither bombed, but neither could be called a hit, either. Still, the man has talent, and it’ll be interesting to see where his career goes. Perhaps in 10 years we’ll have forgotten ‘N Sync and Sexyback.

Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) get dumped by their respective others (Emma Stone and Andy Samberg). She acts as a corporate headhunter who attempts to recruit him as the new art director at GQ. He resists her attempts to get him to move to New York and tries to convince him via a big night on the town.

As this goes, they become good pals and hang out frequently. As they bemoan their lack of recent sexual activity, Dylan proposes that they go for a “no strings attached” relationship based solely on physical interaction. We follow their attempts to do the impossible: get it on but remain platonic friends.

Is it just me, or is Benefits essentially simply a feature film adaptation of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and Elaine attempt to have sex without complications? Obviously the movie expands the story quite a lot – and comes with a much more conventional resolution – but I suspect that the flick’s writers watched the show for inspiration.

Honestly, Seinfeld episode worked a lot better than the movie, but that doesn’t mean Benefits is a dud. Indeed, it’s perfectly, totally decent. At no point does it threaten to be more than that, but it also rarely totters on the edge of weaker quality.

Though it does make some story choices that can turn it into a drag as it goes. At its heart, Benefits wants to be an anti-romcom, and for a fair amount of its running time, it works hard to subvert and sneer at genre conventions.

And then it doesn’t. Eventually – and almost inevitably – the film loses its inherent snarkiness and essentially embraces all that it once mocked. Oh, the flick still musters the occasional poke, but these become rarer and rarer as it progresses. The deeper we go, the more we find standard romantic comedy fare.

Do I find it surprising that Dylan and Jamie eventually really, truly, deeply fall for each other? Not at all. While I like the attempts to poke fun at the genre, I don’t expect a flick like this to totally subvert it. Going in, I figured it was pretty likely that the leads would learn that commitment-free sex is next to impossible for hetero couples to achieve.

While the story progression doesn’t surprise, it disappoints, mostly due to the goopy manner in which the movie executes the tale. What starts as light ‘n’ frothy eventually becomes rather dramatic, though not in a good way. Benefits can’t leave well enough alone, as it needs to toss in a father with Alzheimer’s and other emotional tearjerkers.

Perhaps some will argue that Benefits throws in these components to further its spoofery, but I can’t agree due to the manner in which it plays. At no point does it wink at us to remind us that it intends to mock the genre; it seems to delve into the dramatic moments without a sliver of irony or detachment.

And I think that’s a mistake. We buy into the movie due to its loose and snarky attitude, so we don’t want to see it go serious on us. I suppose the filmmakers hope we’ll love the characters so much that we’ll go along for the ride, but that’s not the case; we like the characters and may even want to see them end up together, but we still want the movie to maintain its original sense of humor.

And we’d like them to do so in a shorter period of time. Benefits hits 109 minutes, and it drags badly on its way there. When the movie feels like it’s about to wrap things up, it still has a good 40 minutes left to go, and it doesn’t manage to give us much satisfaction in that remaining period.

I do think Kunis and Timberlake exhibit pretty good chemistry. As I alluded at the start, Timberlake’s outlook as a movie star remains to be seen; he’s done okay but still has yet to make anyone forget his musical past. He works better here with the comedic moments, but he seems fine in all aspects of the role and fits well with Kunis.

Even with its draggy drama, Benefits remains a moderately enjoyable movie. Its more productive first half buys it enough goodwill to keep us with it. I just wish the flick kept its heart in the same place the whole way, as its attempts to go serious on us flop.

Footnote: hang out through the finish of the end credits for a little more levity.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Friends With Benefits appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a good but not great image.

Sharpness was the main minor weakness. Much of the film showed nice clarity and accuracy, but some softness popped up at times. Still, the majority of the flick looked fine. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Source flaws also failed to create concerns, as the movie was free from defects.

In terms of colors, the film went with a generally natural palette that added a mild golden tint. Overall, the hues looked quite good, as the movie boasted lively, full tones. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows seemed decent; a few shots could be a bit dim, but most offered appropriate delineation. The transfer never dazzled, but it was more than acceptable.

I thought that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Benefits seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, though, especially in street scenes; those opened up a bit. However, most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

Among the disc’s extras, we find Bonus Benefits, a pop-up trivia track. It delivers text about background elements, cast and filmmakers, aspects of the shoot, and connected details. The tidbits show up frequently enough to keep us with the track, though they could be a little sparser than I’d like. Still, they present some fun facts and ensure that “Bonus Benefits” is worth a look; it’s unobtrusive enough to activate as you watch the movie.

Next comes an audio commentary from writer/director Will Gluck and actors Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, characters and story, editing and deleted scenes, and a few other areas.

Don’t expect a wealth of hard filmmaking data from this track, as little of that material shows up here. Instead, we get a loose, anecdotal piece that focuses on fun chat more than movie nuts and bolts. We learn enough along the way to make the piece acceptably informative, and the light vibe helps allow it to become likable and enjoyable. Nothing fascinating occurs, but it’s a likable, engaging piece.

10 Deleted Scenes run a total of eight minutes, 49 seconds. These tend to offer little bits chopped out of existing scenes; when unique pieces appear, they don’t do much to advance the plot. Some fun material does show up, however, such as a glimpse of Ferris Bueller: The Musical. While you shouldn’t expect anything fascinating, we find some amusing shots.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Gluck. He throws in some notes about the sequences and usually lets us know why he excised them. He doesn’t deliver great insight, but he gives us the basics.

With the Outtakes, we get a six-minute, 40-second reel. This delivers a pretty standard collection of silliness and mistakes from the set. A few moments emerge, but it’s usually forgettable. (However, you may want to watch “Outtakes” before you listen to the commentary; otherwise that track’s reference to “stock soup” won’t make sense.)

Two featurettes follow. On the Set goes for five minutes, 39 seconds and offers notes from Gluck, Timberlake, and Kunis. We go to various locations and learn a bit about the shoot. While nothing memorable shows up here, “Set” becomes a reasonably breezy and enjoyable little piece.

Finally, In a Flash: Choreographing a Mob runs five minutes, 48 seconds and features Gluck, Kunis, Timberlake and choreographer Ashley Wallen. As implied by the title, this one looks at the design and execution of the movie’s flash mob sequences. It follows in the footsteps of “On the Set” as it gives us another decent clip with a mix of minor insights.

The disc opens with ads for Midnight in Paris, Colombiana, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy and Straw Dogs. These also show up under Previews along with promos for Attack the Block and 30 Minutes or Less. No trailer for Benefits pops up here.

Friends With Benefits works fine when it’s breezy and sardonic but it goes on way too long and loses spirit as it progresses. The stars show a good connection and there’s reasonable entertainment, but better editing and pacing would’ve really improved it. The Blu-ray provides generally positive picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. The movie has its moments but doesn’t really zing.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
25:
14:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main