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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 2010 Summer Retrospective

My Top 10 Favorite Films of the Summer

So we’ve reached the end of 2010’s summer movie season, and although many are in agreement that this hasn’t been the best summer season, I still found enough films to make a solid list of what I would consider to be my favorite films of the summer. Unfortunately the summer movie season cut off just short of the release of Machete; however, there are still a few wild genre films that managed to make it in here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Return Trip to Pandora Continued to Please


So this is less of a review and more of an extended note, with no spoilers, regarding the newly released special edition of James Cameron’s Avatar (maybe some of you have heard of it).  My actual review of the film can be found here:
And the opinions of my fellow reviewers at Why So Blu can be found here:
In December of 2009, James Cameron released Avatar to the world.  It was of course met with massive amounts of praise both critically and from audiences, and went on to become, financially, the most successful film ever made.  Success for this film would continue as it managed to garner many awards, including a lot of Oscar and Golden Globe recognition, and would later become the biggest selling Blu-Ray of all time.  Now, the film has been re-released on to IMAX screens all over as a special edition, adding nine new minutes of footage.
After having viewed the film again on the giant IMAX (which is truly the best way to see this film), I can safely say that the extended version will be my preferred version to watch.  As with other James Cameron films that have had director’s cut versions or additional footage inserted into the film, the added sequences function to expand on a few story beats in a number of ways.  First off, a new action scene is inserted into the film, which actually aids a sequence that follows it.  We also get to learn more about Pandora, as some new creatures are introduced and we are given an explanation to how it is that the Hallelujah Mountains can float so high in the sky. Most importantly, some additional character development and an expansion of some story aspects occur, which, while slight, benefit the film quite well.
This special edition expands the film to 171 minutes, which is quite long, but as far as I’m concerned, the movie is still very watchable.  The upcoming release of the collector’s edition Blu-Ray for this film will have a version of the film that is even longer, with a total of 16 minutes added to the original running time.  This includes the deleted sequence on earth, which originally opened the film.  I am aware that everyone may not be a fan of the film’s length as it is, but I am certainly looking forward to continue to see how James Cameron can expand his vision of Pandora.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pandora, The Home of Avatar

Avatar: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Jake Sully: They've sent us a message... that they can take whatever they want. Well we will send them a message. That this... this is our land!
This quote is from a scene towards the end of the trailer for James Cameron's Avatar, one of the most anticipated films of 2009, where the lead character, Jake Sully, is giving a speech to the indigenous population of the alien world known as Pandora. At this point, in the trailer alone, the viewer will understand all the themes and essentially know much of how the plot will unfold. That being said, at 2 hours into the actual movie, where this scene occurs, I was completely involved with what was going on, absorbed into the world that Cameron has created, taken effectively into the context of the scene, and not even concerned with how bafflingly amazing the effects work in this film is. This film is exciting, enthralling, and shows just how far filmmaking has come and where it is going.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Last Exorcism Fails to Expel Quality Horror

 The Last Exorcism: 2 out of 5 Stars
  
Cotton Marcus: We're looking for the Sweetzer farm. 
Caleb: You wanna make a U-turn...and then I want you to go back where you came from.
I don't have a problem with the "found footage" style of film-making. I think, when done well, it's a fun way of telling a story. That being said, there are the other times when one just has to wonder why someone would still be filming, which tends break the tension of the situation. I had this problem during The Last Exorcism. There has to be a solid 40 minutes of movie here, but for the most part, the movie just didn't deliver well enough, with both the problems I had with in the handling of the film style and the really terrible "rug-pull" ending.

A Solid War Doc Can Be Found At Restrepo

Restrepo: 4 out of 5 Stars
Dan Kearney: The deadliest place on earth, the Korangal valley
It's seemingly tough to get a solid film about the war in the Middle East out there, but more and more are being made, and this is certainly one of the more successful ones. Stemming from an assignment for Vanity Fair, journalist and photographers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's spent a year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys. The footage captured reveals great insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers work to push back the Taliban and keep the locals at bay.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take a Wild Journey into Animal Kingdom



Animal Kingdom: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
J: After my mom died, this is just the world I got thrown in.
An Aussie crime thriller that benefits from fantastic direction as well as marvelous and restrained acting from everyone involved. This is a film that is thrilling, but doesn't rely on slick editing, instead placing emphasis on sequences built around tension, focus, and concentration. The scope of the film isn't large, but even while only centered on a small family, I was never fully aware of the turns this film would take. Less concerned with focusing on the activities of Melbourne crime families on a large scale, this film follows the plights of few a characters and is incredibly well constructed in that regard.

The Last Airbender = The Last Straw for Shyamalan

The Last Airbender: 1 out of 5 stars
Aang: Is there some place really spiritual, where I can meditate?
*sigh* After coming off of what many people considered to be a joke of a film (The Happening) Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan has returned with his adaptation of the highly praised and popular Nickelodeon animated series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Unfortunately, Shyamalan has somehow managed to make one of the worst films of 2010. A combination of bad storytelling, poorly written/delivered dialogue, terrible character development, questionable casting choices, and many other elements have resulted in a very big missed opportunity from a property and director capable of so much more.

Year One has Few Laughs


Year One = 1 and ½ Stars
[Zed has eaten an apple from the 'Tree of Knowledge']
Zed: I might know everything. Ask me something?
Oh: Where does the sun go at night?
Zed: Pass. Next question.
Oh: Where do babies come from?
Zed: Pass. Next question.
Oh: [noticing a snake] There's a snake on my foot.
Zed: In the form of a question.
Oh: [scared] There's a snake on my foot?
Zed: Correct!
Harold Ramis is one of the best non-common names amongst comedic talent. Being responsible for writing Animal House, Groundhog's Day, Caddy Shack, Stripes, Meatballs, and Ghostbusters amongst many other works, staring in some, directing some, Ramis has been around for decades, serving as a harness for other talent like Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Chevy Chase, amongst others and pushing them into higher stardom. However, Ramis has remained somewhat in the shadow. despite frequently having work, he is not a household name to a general audience, which is unfortunate.

Angels and Demons is a Superior Sequel, But Still Not Very Good

Angels and Demons: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Richter: You said they'd be killed publicly. 
Robert Langdon: Yes, revenge. For La Purga. 
Richter: La Purga? 
Robert Langdon: Oh geez, you guys don't even read your own history do you?
In 2006 Tom Hanks, Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer, Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and Composer Hans Zimmer all combined their talents to make one of the most boring thrillers I have ever seen in theaters. I never fall asleep in the theater, but that movie put me damn close. A few years later, this new film combines all of those same talents, and despite its many problems, it succeeded in not boring me. It is still very much about lecturing; zany plot development and twists, and a bland Hanks character at the center of it all, but I enjoyed this movie much more than The Da Vinci Code.

2012 May Be the End of Disaster Films, Because It's Grand In Cheesy Scale

2012: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
[Entering the violently shaking house as his family crouches under a table]
Jackson Curtis: C'mon, we have to go now!
Kate Curtis: I think we're safer under here.
Jackson Curtis: GET IN THE FUCKING LIMO
 The be all end all of disaster movies. Where can director Roland Emmerich go next after taking on the whole world here? He has made a career out of disaster movies, and this film is truly disaster porn at its finest. There is a ridiculous amount of disasters per minute featured in this film and that all goes along with the ridiculous story that keeps all involved invested. And what's wrong with that? I got exactly what I wanted out of this flick. Its damn fun both in seeing the ways characters either perish or escape certain doom as well as hilarious due to the standard disaster movie dialog that I've come to love.

Friday, August 20, 2010

There’s Nothing Fishy about the Joy of Watching Piranha 3D


Piranha 3D: 4 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Goodman: The piranha hunt in packs. The first bite draws blood, blood draws the pack.
There was a time when this film was threatened with the possibility of not being released, only to later be threatened with having a release, but not a 3D release. Fortunately enough, the powers at be made it possible for this film to be release as intended, thus preserving its artistic integrity. Anyway, there is a prolonged sequence featuring a very naked Kelly Brook swimming underwater with her very naked companion, accompanied by the orchestral theme, “Flower Duet from Lakme.” This sequence earns the film its first star. The second star comes from watching Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss, reprising his role as Matt Hooper from Jaws, be sucked into a whirlpool and devoured by prehistoric, flesh eating piranhas. The third star comes from watching Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue fend off these deadly piranhas by use of a stun gun. The fourth star comes from watching Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames use a motorboat propeller to slaughter a ton of piranhas. And the fifth star comes from watching Young Artists Award nominee Jerry O’Connell’s magnificent portrayal of a soft-core porn businessman pushed to his limits. That’s five stars, but the film loses one for not being shot in real 3D and because I’m not crazy. Here is a film that knows exactly what it is and delivers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Coen Brothers Deliver a Comedic Tale About a Serious Man

A Serious Man: 4 Stars out of 5

Sy Abelman: Larry, everything's going to be fine.

A darkly comedic film from the Coen Brothers. That is not something new, but this film certainly casts a very bleak outlook on its main character throughout. Sharing qualities not since one of their earlier films, Barton Fink, this film combines bleakness, ambiguity, and subtle humor into a very, for the lack of a better term, Jewish film.

Pixar Manages Not To Surprise Me By Delivering Another Amazing Film


Toy Story 3: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars
Buzz Lightyear: Hold on, this is no time to be hysterical!
Hamm the Piggy Bank: This is the perfect time to be hysterical.
Rex the Green Dinosaur: Should we be HYSTERICAL?
Slinky Dog: No!
Mr. Potato Head: Yes!
Buzz Lightyear: Maybe! But not right now!

The toys are back in town for another adventure, which should serve as a fitting end for the tales of Woody, Buzz, and the gang. Pixar once again knocks it out of the park by delivering a story that is exciting, funny, witty, good at delivering some strong dramatic punches, and just very enjoyable overall.

Inglorious Basterds Was Easily My Favorite of 2009


Inglourious Basterds: 5 stars out of 5
Lt. Aldo Raine: You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin'. 
A damn good movie. It is not a WWII movie directed by Tarantino, it is a Tarantino movie set in WWII. A sprawling, ambitious, violent (although action-light) piece of work that benefits from the various elements that make Tarantino's films so memorable to many, which includes the dialog, the film homages, the soundtrack, and the obscure but well acted characters. This is an original, strange, and engrossing film; set during a war that now has an alternate ending, and I loved all of it.

Just So You Know...

The next few posts will be some older reviews I just wanted to post.

The Third Dimension Brings Out A Solid New Way to Step Up

Step Up 3D: 3 stars out of 5
Luke: Some people learn to dance... Others are born to.
In 2006, we were told that, "every second chance begins with the first step," as Step Up was thrust upon us in theaters. In 2008, the series upped the ante by bringing it 2 the Streets. Now, the series has done the inevitable, stepping up to a whole new dimension; the third dimension...and some how it worked. For whatever faults there are in this film, one cannot argue that the dancing and choreography is fantastic, there is some solid film-making present in capturing said dance scenes, and the (real) 3D is put to great effect. This may not be my type of movie, but I will certainly put credit where credit is due.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You Can Put Some Cheesy Faith Into The Expendables

The Expendables: 3 out of 5 Stars
Lee Christmas: You sure? You're not as fast as you used to be.
Barney Ross: The only thing faster is light.
Leading up to the release of The Expendables, the main joy came from the fact that Sylvester Stallone had managed to pull together a ton of action stars, from multiple decades, all in for one seemingly cheesy action movie. While the film certainly delivered in that respect, I found the overall result to be more fun as an idea to be excited for and to talk about than when actually viewing the film. Both the hard-hitting action and stupidity on display certainly made me enjoy the film overall, but I can't help but think it could have embraced its over-the-top concept for better results.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Lollapalooza 2010 Experience


Lollapalooza 2010

Not quite a movie review, but something I put together anyway, enjoy! (And you can click the pictures to enlarge!)

So two things:  I enjoy a good concert, and I have never been to Chicago. In an effort to satisfy both of these things, on the weekend of August 6th - 8th I embarked on a trip to Lollapalooza 2010, located in Grant Park, Chicago, IL.  For those unfamiliar, Lollapalooza is an annual music festival, consisting of a diverse range of bands (though mostly alternative rock), performing on about 8 different stages throughout the day.  Thanks to my former college roommate Mark, who now resides in Chicago, across the street from Grant Park in fact, I was able to have easily accessible lodging for the weekend.  What followed was an awesome set of days consisting of a solid rock and roll experience matched with some sweat inducing humidity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tetro Is A Great Return For Coppola

Tetro: 4 out of 5 Stars
Tetro: You stay away from me, got it?
Bennie: Whatever you say, Angie...
Tetro: Angie is dead. My name is Tetro.
A beautifully shot drama about two people struggling to remain a family. Fantastic cinematography accompanies this wonderfully personal film from director Francis Ford Coppola, who has crafted a film complete with great characters and a rich setting, and some dream sequences not withstanding.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Prophet Was A Great Vision

A Prophet: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Luciani: One more thing - Now that you know the plan, if you don't kill him, we will kill you.
A very well made film, set behind bars, as we follow a young protagonist who is forced to endure the hardships of prison. Early on a great deal of tension is established for his first year, which is followed up by a more crime family focus, akin to something like Goodfellas behind bars almost the entire time. The film is well made, but brutal; with a solid cast, a great handling of the cinematography, and very well made in all its other aspects.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kick Ass? Yes It Does

Kick Ass: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Dave Lizewski: Why do thousands of people want to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man?
Fun, violent, foul, and messy. Adapted from the comic of the same name, this is a hard R flick about ordinary people taking on the roles of superheroes. We've seen other versions of this premise before, but thanks to a lot of good talent involved, this film succeeds on many levels, most importantly in the fact that it's very entertaining.

Bringing In The Other Guys Was A Solid Choice

The Other Guys: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Terry Hoitz: Shut. Up. Allen Gamble: Some day I'm going to crawl over your wall of anger.

Here's a genre mix - A fanciful comedy set in the world of a gritty buddy cop film. I say this because this movie never tries to make its world feel real, despite being filmed as if it were from the door steps of a Michael Mann cop drama. Instead, we have a film that deals with the basic tropes of a buddy cop film, and pokes fun at them, as well as injects a good amount of absurdest humor that many Will Ferrell films have been known for.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Achieves an Epic Win

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: 5 out of 5 Stars
Kim Pine: Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.
From the fiery depths of geekdom, director Edgar Wright has emerged with a film that dares defy the conventions of both romantic comedies and action films. His adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim series is a wonderful blend of comedy, action, romance, music, and great visual storytelling. This is a film that brings together a hip young cast, plentiful video game references, innovative action sequences, and a strong alternative/indie rock soundtrack, and manages to make it a blast of entertainment for anyone ready to experience a kinetic jolt of fun.

Winter's Bone is Cold but Good


Winter's Bone: 4 out of 5 Stars
Sheriff Baskin: Jessup signed over everything. If he doesn't show up to trial see, the way the deal works is, y'all gonna lose this house. Y'all got somewhere to go?
Ree: I'll find him.
Sheriff Baskin: Well I've been looking.
Ree: I said I'll find him.
So here's a drama that manages to incorporate some family drama as well as elements of a noir film. And it's set in the Ozarks! This is a very well acted story, that makes great use of its setting and offers up a solid enough mystery of sorts.

An OK Look At Brooklyn's Finest


Brooklyn's Finest: 3 out of 5 Stars
Captain: Don't you wanna do something useful with your last two minutes on the job? Eddie Dugan: Not really.
Director Antoine Fuqua returns to the cop drama genre that got him much more notice. This time he puts together three stories, which are all well acted, but unfortunately don't come together as well as they could. Still the performances are very solid and the film looks quite good, capturing a gritty tone that fits.

In Brooklyn, amid drug deals, violence, casual racism, poverty, housing projects, and corrupt cops, we follow three officers: Tango (Don Cheadle), African-American, working undercover, believing he's earned a promotion to a desk job but told he has to set up the bust of an ex-con (Wesley Snipes) who saved his life; Sal (Ethan Hawke), who'll commit murder to get cash to buy a house big enough for his family; and, Eddie (Richard Gere), the precinct's oldest beat cop, a week to go before retirement, assigned to mentor an earnest rookie. Can this end well for any of the three?

Really, and film that can make Richard seem interesting to me can't be all bad. I tend to find Gere boring, but here, he does a solid job as a cop who always wanted to keep his head down, but is being tested on his way out. I also enjoyed the maturity that Hawke brought to a role, as he tends to still seem young in other roles. Cheadle is always solid, so no complaints there. Then you have Wesley Snipes who is just fantastic in a role that requires him to be looking back on the life he has lived.

It's sad that this story couldn't be better. All of the characters pretty much go through the motions that these standard type characters would, with the twist being that they are all in one movie together, oppose to several different ones. It essentially follows all the same patters, but manages to be edited all together this time around, making the storytelling a bit clunky, resorting to shootouts often as a way to break things up.

That being said, this is a great looking film. Fuqua does a good job at capturing the city, and his camera work throughout is solid. While there may be too many gunfights to help clear up the plot, the action does look solid when it occurs, and it's quite brutal at times.

There are a lot of good elements here, it just doesn't add up to a better feature.
Sal Procida: I don't want god's forgiveness. I want his help.

A Solid Peak Under the Red Hood


Batman - Under the Red Hood: 4 out of 5 Stars
Red Hood: Just be happy I only killed one of them. They're all assassins!
Batman: And what are you?
Red Hood: I'm cleaning up Gotham. More than you ever did.
I had to weigh my Batman fandom against the idea of not having the iconic voices of Batman and the Joker present before watching this film. I am glad to say that it was worth it. This feature brings in a popular story arc involving the Red Hood as well as the infamous moment from "A Death in the Family," in order to put together a tale that is quite dark and fitting in the realm of Batman's animated universe.

Following a dark opening sequence showing the Joker's murder of the Jason Todd Robin, we cut to years later with a new threat present. Batman faces his ultimate challenge, as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. Part vigilante and part criminal kingpin, the Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. Killing is an option for the Red Hood. As Batman, with some help from Nightwing, chase down this new opponent, it may become more clear that Batman and the Red Hood share some old history together.

Again, I was initially put off by not having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil present to voice Batman and the Joker, but I eventually came around to these differences, and embraced all the positives on display. The animation is solid. While somewhat lacking in art direction that is as distinct as the classic Batman: The Animated Series, it still manages to deliver on looking nice enough. That can certainly be said about the action, which occurs frequently and features a lot of cool moments.

The most intriguing element is how dark this feature is. While PG-13 by animation standards, the heavy amounts of beatings, blood, and some brutal violence would be enough to make this an R-rated feature were it to have been live action. I admired the route this film took to show us a more brutal version of a Batman story, as Batman must deal with a threat that wont hold off on murder, as well as the rampaging actions of the Joker.

Overall, this is another solid animated feature taking place in the realm Batman's world. A lot of solid action and brutality makes up for some of the changes away from our standard viewings of the character.

Note: The Blu-Ray also features an animated short for Jonah Hex, and I can safely say that this 10 minute feature is better than anything in the terrible live action movie version.
Nightwing: No what I miss about running with you? The toys.

Flipped Managed to Turn Me the Right Way


Flipped: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

So it occurred to me the other day that Rob Reiner, with the exception of North, had directed a string of very good to great movies up to the mid 90s. After that, he seemed to have lost his way a bit. I am glad to say that this new film of his is a solid coming of age story and a nice throwback to the “coming of age story” genre in general. Adapted from the 2001 young adult novel of the same title, this film is a lean, nicely paced, teen romance story that works well at being entertaining.
Bryce: In school, the only thing I totally flunked out in, was understanding girls.
Set in the 1960’s, the plot centers on two middle school kids, Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll), who have lived across the street from each other since Bryce moved in when they were six years old. Ever since then, Juli has been head over heels for Bryce, only to be met with no shared feelings from Bryce’s side. As the two enter the 8th grade, new feelings start to develop, as Juli starts to look beyond the dreaminess she used to see in Bryce’s eyes, while Bryce starts to realize what has been in front of him the whole time. The film is shot from the perspective of both characters, flipping back and forth between the shared moments they have together, as well as delving more into their own personal lives. The film also costars Anthony Edwards and Rebecca De Mornay as Bryce’s parents, with John Mahoney as his grandfather, as well as Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller as Juli’s parents.

I really appreciated the design of this film. It’s very simply done. For a Rob Reiner film, I could tell that he was working with a lower budget this time around, as the film didn’t need much beyond capturing the feel of 60s suburban life. The main approach to the filmmaking present here was the shifting perspectives, which worked as a solid way to round out each of these characters. The voice over narration never felt overbearing, and the whole tone of the film felt very much like a classic Reiner film from the 80s.

The performances were fine. I enjoyed the child actors’ work here. Since the idea was to create a believable chemistry between two people who are in and out of having feelings for one another, I found them to work well together. The parents all did good work here, with Edwards serving as a man who is quite mean regarding Juli’s family, but has some subtle development later on in the film. Then you have Quinn as Juli’s father who manages to say a number of right things at the right time. Mahoney is given the role of wise elder, but manages to do solid work with it.

I found it interesting in the way this film relied on simplicity. Besides the art direction, which was good enough at capturing the 60s in terms of how characters dress, the cars and house designs, as well as the soundtrack, this film really only used a few sets and some backdrops. Beyond that there were only a few subplots, but nothing that ever needed to push things into further turmoil. Because of this, the film only clocked in a briskly paced 90 minutes, but felt like that was all the time needed. The parents could have been fleshed out a bit more, but really that would have only slowed the film down and taken away from the main story involving our young leads.

As I haven’t read the book it was based on, from what I could tell, being seated with a younger audience, it would seem that this film managed to maintain its spirit. From my perspective, I too had a good time watching this film. It’s a simple coming of age tale that has a nice spin on the formula by showing us both sides.
Chet: Every once in a while, you find someone who is…iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.
3 ½ out of 5 Stars

The Kids Are All Right, Very All Right

The Kids Are All Right: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Laser: Why did you donate sperm
Paul: It just seemed a lot more fun than donating blood.
A well balanced comedy/drama about an unconventional family, dealing with the arrival of another member of the family who is related in another unconventional way. The lightness of the tone, mixed with the overall themes involving family and the bonds of marriage, as well as some strong and sharp comedic moments give the dramatic elements of this film an effective weight. Strong performances from the lead characters also aid the film quite well.

The film stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules, a happily married couple. Nic is a busy, working physician, who likes her wine; while Jules is a little more of a free spirit. They have two kids of their own. These children are Joni and Laser, played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, 18 and 15 years old. The two kids were conceived of by each mother, using the sperm donation of the same man.

This man is Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, who the children have an interest in meeting. They manage to get in contact with him, and he is soon entered into the lives of this family. Paul is a kind of laid back, alternative, scruffy, cool guy - and he rides a motorcycle. This of course doesn't impress the moms much at first, although Joni kinda likes this newish "dad" guy. As Paul becomes more involved and a distance starts to form between Nic and Jules, a new entanglement that may complicate things, seems to emerge.
Julie: Go easy on the wine.
Nic: OK, well go easy on the macro-managing.
This film does a great job at balancing these relationships. It hardly tries to exploit the fact that the main relationship is a gay one, but it instead respects the characters. Bening and Moore have a strong chemistry both in the way they love each other and fight with each other, which suggests a real relationship. The way the kids each exhibit traits relating to their respective moms is also quite well handled, and made more interesting as we see more of Paul. The way Paul factors in is of course important as well, and Ruffalo has a knack for pushing the right kind of scruffy but successful, cool drifter-type character that is needed.

As far as these performances go, both Rufalo and Moore are solid, as they should be. These two have acted together before and have a natural comfort in their scenes together. Ruffalo does a good job of essentially representing a sort of ideal for Moore's character, while lending his own qualities. Moore is quite good at balancing a lot of comedic elements with the drama parts surrounding the marriage. Really, it is Bening that I found to be the strongest. Her character is written as controlling and frankly - mean, but the way she delivers her lines and plays out the beats required of her is very effective throughout. This could have been played much more shrew-like, but instead, Bening is sharp, funny, and damned ice cold all at the same time.

As far as the kids go, they are all rig...good. After being somewhat of a bore for me in Alice in Wonderland, Wasikowska, delivers a fine performance as a young adult, ready to head out to college, with a desire to learn more as she heads into adult life. Hutcherson, who I've come to see be quite good for a young actor, does well enough here, even if his character is given the least amount of material to work with.

The film, as a whole, is made well enough. It's paced nicely, with the aforementioned light tone. The score by Coen Brother regular Carter Burwell does a good job at mixing in with the alternative beats scattered throughout. The writing is truly a big part of why this film succeeds. Its witty, funny, and true to each character. By the time the film finds its resolution, everything certainly feels earned, and done without betraying the feel of the film.

Overall, a solid and entertaining family dramedy.
Paul: To an unconventional family.

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