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All Is Bright (Blu-ray Review)

All_Is_Bright_BD-001I am always fond of a darker sort of comedy based around the holidays.  When I say that, it is not to imply that I seek out nothing but bitterness during what is considered a time of joy, as I am just as big a fan of something like Love, Actually, but a film with darker themes also tends to have more interesting ideas, given the struggle against the norm.  All is Bright falls into this realm of holiday film, but as opposed to being a darker laugh fest like Bad Santa, it really plays as a drama, with sprinkles of comedic moments.  It is well-acted, which is the film’s biggest positive, even if it happens to meander a bit too much, while dealing with a thief finding his way during a particularly bitter holiday season.

Film:

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Paul Giamatti stars as Dennis, an ex-con recently released from a prison.  He finds himself all alone, as he makes his way back home, only to find that he has an ex-wife (Amy Landecker) who wants nothing to do with him to the point of telling their daughter that he is dead.  Dennis is even more dismayed to learn that his former partner, Rene (Paul Rudd), is currently on his way to marrying Dennis’ ex.  As the two were once best friends, they settle their differences in an attempt to make some easy money by selling Christmas trees on the streets of Brooklyn.

While I would not say I was fooled by the premise, I can say that the description could leave you to believe that a lot more fun could be had with this movie.  Sure, Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti being best friends at odds with each other, while selling Christmas trees is a fun idea, but writer Melissa James Gibson (The FX series The Americans) and director Phil Morrison (Junebug) apparently had a different tone in mind.  The film is much more of a focused character drama, centering on Dennis.  With that, it allows the film to get honest performances from both Giamatti and Rudd, who are not cartoons, but actual human beings.

The film does have its share of humorous moments, as Giamatti’s rage and Rudd’s fast-talking tree selling shtick become ways for the film to lighten up on occasion.  There is also the welcome addition of Sally Hawkins (quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine) as Olga, a woman who befriends Dennis, after having him deliver a large tree to the house she is staying at.  Olga helps provide a level of balance that the film benefits from.

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All is Bright’s biggest issue is forward momentum.  While the film has a core premise and an eventual outcome, the 2nd act has a tendency to just sit there and let you watch various activities of these men.  Sometimes there is purpose, other times there isn’t.  This stuff is not bad, it is just that the film sort of sits there at times as opposed to really giving me more to chew on.  The fact that the film re-emphasizes its points and makes you dwell on the drama is only a benefit to the actors, who get a chance to really have fun acting, but as a viewer, not a lot really feels necessary by the time the film is reaching its climax.

With these aspects aside, there is a decent film here, mainly because of the nice chemistry between the two Pauls and the fun that comes from Hawkins character.  I also tend to enjoy seeing this sort of wintery, seedy environment that is punctuated by some minor humor and with that, All is Bright wins me over as a whole.  Just do not go in expecting Bad Santa: Tales of a Christmas Tree Salesman.

Video:

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I tend to say this quite a bit, but snow is always my favorite thing to see presented on Blu-ray and All is Bright is full of snow.  This 1080p AVC-encoded transfer does a fine job of showing off the setting that this film takes place in, in regards to the season the characters are in.  It is a gloomy color palette that registers nicely, with the green trees playing well on screen, amidst the dirty, white snow.  Texture and details all come through nicely as well.  It is a very good video transfer overall, which is great to see.  All may not be bright, but at least it is clear.

Audio:

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Similarly, the audio quality on this disc is as crisp as it needs to be.  All is Bright is equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, which is a great way to let audiences here the creatively, near satirical score for this film, which is more hopeful than what we’d expect, given what’s on screen.  Additionally, dialogue sounds fine throughout.  Characters are clear, amidst background noises, which include weather and piano-related sounds, of all things.  It is a fine track for this Blu-ray.

Extras:

Apparently no one had anything to say…

Features Include:

Some trailers and an UltraViolet copy, ho ho ho.

Summary:

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All is Bright is a perfectly good rental.  I would actually put this next to films like Bad Santa and The Ice Harvest, as far as alternative holiday films are concerned, not to mention the much underseen film The Merry Gentlemen, directed by and starring Michael Keaton.  All of these are films that take on the normal, family friendly holiday ideals and push them aside to show a darker take on this time of year.  All is Bright is not a shining example, but it certainly has enough to make it worth a look.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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