Friends with Benefits (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 16-Dec-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Trivia-Pop-up Trivia Track
Audio Commentary-Feature length by director with stars Timberlake and Kunis.
Deleted Scenes-(8:49) Presented in 1080p at 2.40:1.
Outtakes-(6:40) Presented in 1080p at 2.40:1.
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(5:39) On Set with FWB presented 1080 p at 1.78:1.
Featurette-Making Of-(5:48) In a Flash : Choreographing a Mob.
Featurette-Making Of-(14:50) Comedy of a Sexomedy : presented 1080p.
Theatrical Trailer-(2:09) Bad Teacher
Teaser Trailer-(0:50) Smurf'd
Teaser Trailer-(0:59) Zookeeper
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 109:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Will Gluck
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Justin Timberlake
Mila Kunis
Patricia Clarkson
Jenna Elfman
Bryan Greenberg
Richard Jenkins
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
French DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Arabic
Dutch
French
Hindi
Italian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Logo at 2:50, title at 4:50.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Unlike most reviewers, I was not impressed by the romantic comedy Friends with Benefits. My major gripes, other than that it was not funny, are that a worthwhile idea is wasted, and two attractive and talented young stars are made to behave like totally unbelievable caricatures.

†††† The opening moments of this "sexomedy" are itís most creative. Two break-ups, a continent separating them, are juxtaposed via some very smart editing. Californian advertising whiz-kid Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) and New York talent head-hunter Jamie Rellis (Mila Kunis), have their respective love interests - nice little cameos from Emma Stone and Andy Samberg - terminate their relationships. Emotionally adrift, Dylan allows himself to be poached to New York by Jamie and ends up with a top job at GQ magazine. The attractive pair comfort one another and before long have settled into a friendship, a friendship which continues to be platonic while at the same time adding "benefits". The specific benefit, of course, is sex, without any emotional involvement or commitment. We all know how this will end but, that predictability aside, this is a social phenomenon that has some relevance for today's young adults, and one that should provide plenty of fodder for a witty, sophisticated examination of the realities of such an arrangement. I guess that today's cinema-going audience is too young to appreciate the sensibilities of a film like Billy Wilder's The Apartment, but for me that is what this subject and cast were crying out for. Instead we have puerile schoolyard situations and dialogue on the level of "to the right ... no to the left ... higher ... lower" as Jamie unimaginatively directs Dylan towards his sexual target. Even out of bed the two main characters have little credibility. New Yorker Jamie drops to the ground and rolls under a wire fence to trespass, while Dylan takes off his office door to make the point to his co-workers that his "door is always open". On a visit to Hollywood the pair sit in the Hollywood sign, feet dangling, just waiting for a police helicopter to spot them. Huge flash mobs coalesce in the streets of NYC or Grand Central Station. I needed some believability, somewhere on screen.

†††† The film is padded with minor characters of differing worth. Jenna Elfman (TV's Dharma and Greg), does wonders with next to nothing as Dylan's sister, while Bryan Greenberg, who showed promise in 2005's Prime, also impresses. On the other hand, Patricia Clarkson, as Jamie's mother, is deplorable doing her stock over-the-hill hippy bit yet again. It is sad to think that this is the same actress who was so wonderful in The Station Agent a few years ago. Woody Harrelson, looking trim and fit, is OK in a silly gay role. I hope he was paid well. For the most part there is no characterisation, just an individual gimmick that the writer obviously thinks adds humour to the piece. Dylan's nephew, Sam, played by Nolan Gould of TV's Modern Family fame, is a nerdy pubescent who does magic tricks, tricks which all go wrong. Funny! Dylan' father, the patriarch of TV's Six Feet Under has Alzheimer's disease and takes his pants off in inappropriate situations. Even funnier? Near the end of the film, in a crowded airport restaurant, guess what Dylan does in a moment of bonding with his ailing father. Be assured, this is the film's lowest point.

†††† Perhaps my expectations were too high. I certainly was looking forward to this film, solely because of my liking of the two stars. I have a number of reviews on this site for the TV sitcom That 70's Show and for me a highlight of that series was my discovery of Mila Kunis. The lovely and talented actress has moved impressively to the big screen with films like The Book of Eli and Black Swan. Justin Timberlake, with his Star Search and Mickey Mouse Club beginnings, musical talent and comedic gifts, continues to grow as a performer. He was unexpectedly dramatic in Blake Snake Moan and last year held his own in the brilliant cast of The Social Network. The material handed them here is not good enough. They both look great, either with or without clothing - although the nudity is naughtily prudish for these days. They remain personable screen personalities, but their on-screen relationship has no fizz or sparkle. Director Gluck steers the attractive couple through their scenes with skill, but not once did I believe them as two human beings in a human situation. Perhaps I would be more forgiving if the script was funny. Mila Kunis laughs a great deal, but I always thought a comedy was supposed to make the audience laugh.

†††† The screenplay is a collaboration between director Gluck and Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, whose only other credit seems to be a 2011 TV movie, Mystery Girl. In scene after scene the writers have given characters dialogue that sneers at the romantic comedy genre, even to the extent of incorporating a fake movie-within-a-movie which is unbelievably bad. There is something alienating about a film that derides the conventions of a genre while incorporating those same conventions into its own fabric. This film also goes on for too long, with yawns creeping in long before it reached the end of its almost 110 minute length. On the plus side, the locales are a knockout in high definition. With the cinematography of Michael Grady (Easy A) New York in particular sparkles, with Times Square perhaps looking the best it ever has on screen. The Californian scenes are also breath-catching, with the aerial shot of Grauman's Theatre demanding an instant rewind. In fact, technically the film is excellent, well designed, photographed and edited.

†††† Friends with Benefits is an attractive looking concoction that fails to capitalise on the comedic or dramatic possibilities of the situation. This subject matter has now fuelled two films, the other being last year's No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, which is best forgotten by all concerned. Maybe the next attempt to explore the dynamics of a "friends with benefits" relationship will do so with more characterisation, wit, style and honesty. And no Alzheimer's jokes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Much of the acceptability of this film comes from its attractive appearance, though it is not a highdef knockout.

†††† Presented at the ratio of 2.40:1 in a 1080p transfer, this transfer derives from a digital source. There is some variation in the sharpness of the image, with softness utilised in a few scenes. On the other hand there are close-ups of the two stars that are startlingly clear, with every hair and minor imperfection razor sharp. The disc also excels in the landscape shots of California and NYC, particularly in Times Square. The colour also varies, with early orange hues progressing to a much wider palette, with very nice skin tones. Particular scenes really do explode off the screen, with New York's neon lights dazzling the eye. Blacks are solid throughout the film and I did not notice any flaws in the transfer.

†††† There are English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which were sampled and found to be excellent. Although only white is used, the placement of the script is always appropriate.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Overall

Audio

††††There are five audio streams : English, French and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1 : Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired, English Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded

†††† The DTS-HD 5.1 track delivered a perfectly satisfying aural experience. There is nothing exceptional about the audio, being what one would expect from a new romantic comedy. The dialogue is front and generally centre, with a small amount of stereo movement across the soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clean, with every syllable crystal clear. There are no sync problems. The stereo spread and surrounds deliver a reasonably lively sound field, with the rears mainly providing ambience, especially in the New York streets. The popular music is produced very nicely, making full use of all channels.

†††† The Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired was sampled and found to be excellent, delivered by a youngish, male voice.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu

†††† The menu is interesting and lively, with one piece of initial animation combined with music from the film, plus live action montages using a variety of split screens.

Pop-Up Trivia Track

†††† I find these gimmicks annoying. Some of the trivia has extremely tenuous connections to the movie. Some mileage is gained from knocking No Strings Attached.

Audio Commentary

†††† This feature length commentary is delivered by writer / director Will Gluck and his two stars, Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. The two actors tend to dominate this scene specific chat, which is all light and inconsequential, but fans will enjoy listening to the director/writer and the two stars discuss the shoot and the various locales. They obviously had a very fine time.

Deleted Scenes (8:49)

†††† We are offered these ten short deleted scenes all in 1080p and 2.40:1 ratio. The director supplies an optional commentary on the scenes in which he divulges some interesting reasons for particular cuts. Most offer more of scenes which still remain in the film, while a few are totally new. They are - Superheroes on Hollywood Blvd ; Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the best of the bunch); Creative Meeting ; GQ Party ; Let's Stay Friends; Shower Cap ; Hollywood Tour ; Princess and the Pony ; Dylan Tries to Call Jamie; Twin Pythons.

Outtakes (6:40)

†††† A few bloopers presented in format and quality equal to that of the film. The best bits here are from Woody Harrelson.

Featurette : On Set with Friends with Benefits (5:39)

†††† With a mixture of behind-the-scenes at 1.78 ratio and scenes from the film at 2.40:1 this hi-def featurette shows us cast and crew working and enjoying themselves at the various locations for the film. Crowds of fans were a problem in NYC and LA, with shooting in Times Square and Grand Central Station took place in the wee small hours. We also see the cast and crew working in and around the Hollywood sign and at Malibu Beach.

Featurette : In a Flash : Choreographing a Mob (5:48)

†††† Again in a high-def mixture of 1.78:1 and 2.40:1 ratios, this briefly but interestingly examines the staging of the two flash mob sequences, one in Times Square and the other in Grand Central Station. English choreographer Ashley Wallen explains the rehearsal procedure for handling a dancing chorus of from three to five hundred.

Featurette : Comedy of a Sexomedy (14:50)

†††† Another high-def mixture of 1.78:1 and 2.40:1 ratios in which producer/writer/director Will Gluck praises himself for his battle of the sexes comedy. He compares his film to the films of Tracy and Hepburn! He should remember that films such as Adam's Rib or Woman of the Year had brilliant writers, like Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, and a brilliant director, like George Stevens or George Cukor - all collaborating to produce adult, sexy comedy at which audiences laughed, and are still laughing today. Like many of today's young filmmakers Gluck thinks he can do it all - and it's even better if a star, in this case Justin Timberlake, assists in the writing. But then Gluck also thinks that the likeable Justin is "today's Sinatra". There is lots of behind the camera footage, with Jena Elfman impressing. We are told over and over again how much fun they all had making the movie, and as a consequence the audience will "have fun too". I have never been able to follow that reasoning. Sinatra's worst films were the Rat Pack indulgences, and Frank and his pals all had a whale of a time making them.

Trailers

†††† These are all presented in 1080p with a mix of ratios.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† There are minor differences between the two releases.

††††††† Audio : Region 4 misses out on Spanish Dolby Digi There are minor differences between the two releases. Audio : Region 4 misses out on Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles : Region 4 misses out on Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Thai, while the Region 1 release misses out on Arabic, Dutch, Hindi and Italian.tal 5.1.

†††††† †Subtitles : Region 4 misses out on Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Thai, while the Region 1 release misses out on Arabic, Dutch, Hindi and Italian.

Summary

††††Friends with Benefits is better than many of today's romantic comedies, but, given the two stars, I was hoping for more. Justin and Mila look very fine indeed, as do the urban locales, but the script never satisfies in exploring the interesting premise. There is some schoolyard level "naughtiness", but the film never gets truly sexy or smart. As usual the writing is limp, with physical gimmicks substituting for any true characterisation. There are a few extras that are OK, but extremely forgettable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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