Another “Party Movie Of The Year” Wannabe

We Are Your Friends

            Another weekend, another review and this time we are rocking into the theater for yet another youthful drama. Zac Efron leads the cast in the latest film about partying and friendship, in hopes of entertaining the masses in what looks to be some half-baked movie. Yet Hollywood can sometimes surprise you with a masterpiece that will hold a place in your own hall of fame. What is the verdict with this movie? Well sit back, relax and read my thoughts on Max Joseph’s We Are Your Friends.

The plot of the movie, according to the trailers, centers on Cole an aspiring D.J. in the San Fernando Valley who longs to make his mark. His idealistic, and mostly deadbeat, friends “work” to find a means of making money to move up to bigger and better things, perhaps resulting to less legal manners to do so. Fortune smiles on Cole when another DJ named James (Wes Bentley) offer him opportunities that could set him up for success. But these opportunities, as well as a cute woman named Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) may be more than he bargained for. What chaos can ensue?

Does this plot sound familiar? Well it should, because We Are Your Friends picks up the same carbon copy teenage drama plot that millions fall in love. Predictable doesn’t describe how easy it was to pick apart the plot and know what was going to happen next. Much of the tale, as well as the dialog, focused on very shallow qualities that our modern age could relate to, primarily living for the moment via the use of drugs, booze, and careless sex. The “love” aspect in the film is rather simplistic, greatly diluted by the partying scenes and almost nonexistent until the end of the movie. Amidst the sea of very selfish and irresponsible motives, the team managed to add a few good morals to the film, such as working hard and selflessness towards others. It was just a shame that so much of this was rushed, so that they could maximize more of the party atmosphere. This brings me to my next point, the cinematography.

We are your friends is all about making you feel you are partying, much of the 90 minutes dedicated to portraying modern social life… at least in the LA region. Loud raves filled with many young extras jamming to electronic music are the primary settings of this film. I felt they did a nice job dropping you into various party styles that help give you some social culture education, immersing you in all the aspects they have. Unfortunately this meant glorifying drugs, alcohol, and recreational sex as the true means of having fun. I only hope the consequences they showed at the end get through to the main audience, but with how much fun they made partying on drugs, can’t say that will be the case. I’ll admit I did enjoy the artistic direction they took for one drug scene, where the visual styles pop out, but otherwise it was not an impressive display. The best parts of the entire cinema for me though were showing the DJ process, getting glimpses on how the music I enjoy so much is synthesized and brought to life.

In addition to glorifying the party lifestyle, this film also likes to focus on the body…a lot. Many of the extras and our two leading actors are very hot, sexy, or whatever descriptive term you want to use. Efron has plenty of moments in skin tight, muscle-emphasizing shirts that are shed to show off his body. If you’re like some of my friends, you’ll give this movie a ten for this feature alone. Guys don’t worry; the directors have given you plenty of female anatomy to appreciate as well. Emily alone is very gorgeous to look at, but they have casted enough extras in skimpy clothing, and sometimes none, to appeal to your natural urges. Either way, this movie is sure to get some people “excited” and plays well to appeal to the shallow side of things.

The best and final thing for me of this movie though is the soundtrack. Since this is a movie about an aspiring DJ, you can guess the movie is filled with tracks of electronic dance music. Fans of this genre will be tapping their toes as the music plays through the theater speakers, bass booming in full strength until the rest of the sounds became integrated into the mix. I admit I was boogying to many of tracks they created for this film. While some of the tracks are a little disorganized, I loved the integration of the music into the scenes and how the song matched the tone of the scene. However, if you find this kind of music simply earsplitting noise, then you need to avoid this movie for this point alone.

Let’s face it; this movie is certainly not the best on the block. With a very unoriginal plot, focus on the superficial qualities of life, and lack of award winning dialog there is very little that makes this worthy of the theater. In fact, this movie would have made for a good after school special if I’m being honest. However, the movie gets points for a gorgeous cast and awesome soundtrack. Thus, I recommend you wait out for this one to come to Netflix.

My scores are:

 

Drama/Music/Romance: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0

Man of Classy Wit and Realism, but Not so much Action

Uncle

            Hollywood is really big on making mountains of money from molehills of ideas. This weekend, that molehill is a sixties television series about a spy group bent on stopping global terrorism from occurring. My movie review today is the Man from U.N.C.L.E, a movie that has been greatly endorsed in the premovie showings at my local theater. So with all the hype, and the potential for another good spy movie, I have once again gone back to my home away from home to bring you another review. Let’s get started!

When it come to spy movies one never knows what directions they will take. Will it be a comedic one where spies bumble around like idiots? Is it going to be action packed and filled with guns and bombs? Or maybe a very technical movie filled with high specks and stealth? For this movie the answer was a blend of action and comedy, and in a way that wasn’t overly cheesy. The Man from U.N.C.L.E takes you back into the world of old fashion spy films where our leading spies were sent to uncover by use of deceit and stealth. The whole film is laced with numerous sequences of our team sneaking around highly guarded facilities, using simplistic tools to quietly get to their goals. This isn’t some James Bond or Mission Impossible moment where overdramatic music blares in your ears as guns blaze and explosions rattle the walls. Instead it’s got more cleverness behind it, involving coordination between the two countries as they put aside their differences and played to their strengths. It took a more “realistic” approach, where adaptation, observation and a silver tongue go farther than any pistol can.

While I do appreciate the cleverness, the action sequences the cast promised were somewhat lacking. An opening chase scene was rather bland and a little overdone, but did have some impressive moves that an elite spy would have. Past that there are a few chase scenes, and a couple of quick shoot em up moments that took on an interesting, and somewhat dizzying, camera perspective. Without those adrenaline rushing moments, I can’t lie that I was a bit bored at all the stealthy maneuvering. The lack of a unique plot also didn’t help move things along and at times the movie dragged for me as they dodged around the goal. Some plot “twists” help liven things up and help give a little unknown to the film, but it still didn’t do much to bring excitement to the film.

What makes up for the action though is the witty comedy this film carries. Instead of crude vulgarity or stupid one-liners that will surely make memes, this film chose to let the situation bring the funny. Many times I chuckled as the spies blunders led to some other fools misfortune, a dark twist often following that was quite humorous. Our two spies hardly reacting to the situation further made the comedy better, their moot expressions syncing with the simplistic dialog. The banter was fun too, as the rivalry between the two male leads had them acting like fighting siblings, with the lady spy acting the role of the mature mother. Eventually this trick got old school, but there were some real comedic genius moments.

Putting the comedic aspect aside, the biggest strengths of this movie are the setting and the acting of the film. Our design team did a fantastic job bringing the feelings of the 60s, and the classic series, back to life in high definition glory. The outfits are the backbone of the look, the various skirts, cardigans, and thick blazers really popping out amidst the retro scenery. Bringing the classic cars into the picture only further amplified the blast to the past, especially the old radios and tunes that blared through the speakers and further capture the energy of the ages. The soundtrack of the picture is really fun as well, and the symphony score further ups the dramatic edge that gives a little flair to the mix. All of it blends well together, and helps take the nostalgic flair up a notch!

Acting wise the movie is solid as well. Henry Cavill takes the generic spy caveat and runs with it, making himself sound like a pompous twit. He uses that debonair and cockiness to speak his silver tongue and accomplish his goals, while fighting the emotional turmoil set on him. Armie Hammer going the Russian path was actually not as bad as I imagined him to be, and he captures the accent decently to sell his role. Hammer’s done a 180 and added a creepy edge to his portfolio with quiet intensity and an insanity complex that makes him dangerous on multiple levels. However, his downfall is the temper tantrum moments and dramatic shaking of his hands when his anger comes to full boil. I think the director may have gotten a little to into a comic book character if you know what I mean. Alicia Vikander does a nice job with her role as well, managing to cover a broad spectrum of characters and play all of them fairly strong. Not to mention she looks cute in all her retro outfits and pumps. Together the three of them make a good team together, and have a natural chemistry to their teamwork that could make for some interesting sequels.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E is not the most exciting spy movie I have seen, but it certainly has class and realism to it. Sure it could have used some action kick to it, and I would have liked a little more originality to it. Overall though, it’s not a bad movie and I think it would be a good rent movie in the long run. I still recommend Mission Impossible 5 over this one, but fans of the series should give it a shot.

Scores:

Action/Adventure/Comedy: 7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Not So Fantastic Four, A Messy, Ridiculous, Bore

Fantastic Four

            Seems like superhero movies are taking over the theaters this year, as we get our third tale of heroic comic book characters in the span of three months. After Marvel’s last adventure about three weeks ago, I was hoping for the same type of magic in the latest retelling of the Fantastic Four. The trailers didn’t paint a pretty picture, but hope still remained that Marvel had gotten the formula right this time. What was the verdict? As always, please read on to find out.

I guess I should start out with the truth, this movie was not that good, and perhaps one of the weaker superhero movies in a while. Let’s start with the story. The beginning of the film wasn’t too bad, a fun and slightly humorous introduction to our protagonists. The background story was realistic, and had some good team building moments, though it was a bit dull. Then comes the incident. It’s been a while since I reviewed the Fantastic Four lore, but this movie centers on the theme of our team set on traversing across the space-time continuum to an alternate dimension. And like always, a sudden, and very conventional set of circumstances happen that leads our team to developing powers. Now I’m not caught up on the dimension thing, but the delivery was horrible as the circumstances suddenly just happen. This hasty mess of loud noises and bright flashes, led to a rapid, chaotic, and rather cheesy transition into their familiar forms. And from there it only got worse, the plot continued to spiral downward as a hasty culmination of shallow plots. To me it seemed like they couldn’t settle on where to take the story, and mashed things together to cover their bases and give an excuse for action. It didn’t work, the details were all in a frenzy and shallower than a kiddie pool and incredibly disappointing. No training, no coming to grip with powers, not even a legitimate introduction to the villain, only a boring mess of half-hearted scenes whose only use was to show off the special effects.

Speaking of special effects, Fantastic Four has some decent CGI work, though nowhere near the best. Our groups powers were nicely animated, each well edited into the real time acting to give a smooth transition from actor to super actor. In particular, the Thing looked much better from the earlier counterpart in the fact that he didn’t look like a latex covered linebacker, though he didn’t look much better. And Reed Richard’s stretch power was a little stiff and exaggerated, but surprisingly some of the best action. Speaking of action, this movie was not that good in the action department either. Sure the animation for the powers was decent, but the action was just as disorganized as the story. Our heroes primarily used their powers in quick shots, often a quick sequence to show the “struggles” of training or mindlessly destroying some military equipment. When the epic finale hit, there was not much improvement, with a little strategy amidst the flashy display of computer generated powers. A shame they didn’t study the work of previous Marvel movies that were successful.

Acting wise the movie isn’t that good either, most of the time our group lacks any emotion in their dialogue and when they finally do get emotional they go overboard. Most of it is shouting, or very sad attempts at crying, that tried to show they had a side outside of their intellectual side. Surprisingly the emotion came when they were trying to reason with everyone, which often calls for logic not emotion to be successful. Silly directors. And Doom’s character, especially after the event, was very dry, monotone, and much different from the evil genius we have come to know. The best character for this reviewer , was the Dr. Storm (Reg. E. Cathey) who was the best balance of intellect and emotion in the movie, which wasn’t hard to do.

So what did I actually like from this movie? We start with the musical score, a nice symphony of instruments that helped add a little spark of life to this rather mundane movie. The generic tracks they designed have some emotional drive to them, and I’m always a fan of the scores that represent a new frontier to explore. The second aspect is that they did get the movie done in under two hours and minimized my suffering through this picture, though perhaps this could have been the factor that caused it to be rushed in the first place. Finally the lovely Kate Mara was a good component to this movie, her acting a little awkward at times, but her beauty as a blonde was nice to see on the big screen. Props have to go out to the costume department as well, whose costumes and makeup mostly brought the characters to life.

Fantastic Four is a series that struggles to get a real life adaptation. I applaud the team for trying, but Marvel needs to go back to the drawing board for this series. If a sequel is in the works, they need to do some serious homework to right the wrongs they made. This reviewer cannot recommend seeing this installment, and encourages you to check out Antman instead. If you are looking for a movie this weekend, you need to lean towards the Gift or Shaun The Sheep instead, whose reviews are mostly positive.

My scores are:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 5.0

Movie Overall: 4.5

Number 5 Keeping It Alive

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            It’s the weekend and time once again to undertake a mission. That mission is to go to the local movie theater and review yet another film to be released upon the mass media. If you haven’t guessed from my lengthy introduction, our film today is Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the fifth movie in the ever-popular spy series. Hi I’m Robbie K and it’s my job to give you the information and help you decide if you should pay a visit to the theater to catch the movie. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to read my review.

Mission Impossible is a series that has had its ups and downs, varying in the plot, delivery, and overall presentation of the movie. Yet there is usually one consistency in the series, an adventure filled with suspense and action to bring the excitement to the former television series. Well guess what, MI5 has all of that and fortunately presents it in a well-balanced manner. Director Christopher McQuarrie has led his team to develop a fantastic spy movie that holds all the elements one is looking for in a spy film without going too far down the dark side. Let’s start with the plot.

MI5’s plot starts out with gusto; an exciting opening that reintroduces our team before dropping Ethan (Tom Cruise) and company into their next mission. From there the plot only gets more suspenseful from there, becoming a conglomeration of manhunt, espionage, and uncovering the truth amidst the complicated organization known as the Syndicate. Now it is still the typical plot that we’ve seen in previous installments, but MI5 keeps the story exciting by the numerous twists thrown into the mix. The tale keeps you guessing at what is going to happen, surprising you with some unexpected angles you might not see coming. But the story isn’t just about the mission; it throws some other plot elements into the mix particularly around Ethan and the newcomer Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) who take the center stage of this adventure. All these tales are well integrated into the main story, adding depth to what could be a one-dimension plot and anchoring you back to the team. By connecting with the team, I felt part of the squad trying to take down the ruthless, cunning, skilled terror that is the Syndicate.

The plot is greatly supported by the action, giving you some variety and keeping the plot moving. MI5 does have technical details, governmental jargon, and planning moments to help set things up, but the action helps bring the heat of the moment to life. The chase scenes in particular are the most exciting, rip roaring fun with over the top stunts lighting up the screen with explosive sound effects. The hand-to-hand combat even throws a few impressive moments, with Cruise in particular showing some dexterity and strength in his stunts. Unfortunately gunplay is a little lacking in this film, very simplistic and often short lived thanks to the near perfect accuracy of our team. Perhaps my favorite component of the action is the cleverness behind it, where the flashy moves are traded for a more strategic approach to which you expect of elite spies. Unfortunately for me, the ending scene was a little anticlimactic; the epic buildup kind of fizzled out with the rather boring, and somewhat drawn out chase in the end.

In addition to all of this, MI5’s true strength is the team of actors that bring the story to life. Cruise, despite all the weird crap he has done, still does well with his role as Ethan. All his personality quirks have bestowed him the ability to bring a wide array of qualities to his character that you look for in a protagonist. His character is smart and somewhat sociopathic, yet can be crazy, overemotional, and funny, which leads to an entertaining character. Ferguson doesn’t have quite the emotional spectrum, but the femme fatale edge she brings and mysterious disposition help keep suspense into the movie and offset some of the crazier moments. Simon Pegg as the ever-lovable Benji reprises his role, a character that is sort of a comical version of Q that relieves the tension with his klutziness and well-timed lines. Much of the comedy in fact is due to excellent timing and a clever script. Jeremy Renner and Pegg really had me laughing with their execution of very simple lines, just casually reacting to the heat of the moment like friends do. As for the villain, Sean Harris was an excellent choice, an actor who captures the true evil mastermind without overacting like many due. You get the creeps from his quiet disposition, his cold calculating tactics mirrored in his steely gaze and soft manner of speaking. The cast was super fantastic and I wish I could go into more detail, but let’s wrap this up.

Mission Impossible 5 is a great installment into the series, and may be my favorite of them all. While not the most action packed, this tale keeps moving and integrates a lot of great components into the tale. It is definitely not the most original tale, but they have kept it fresh, interesting, and funny throughout the movie and crafted a great spy tale. There are a few things that could have been cleaned up or let out, but overall it is a well-done movie. I encourage everyone to go see this movie into the theater, especially those looking for a good Thriller this summer. Just suspend reality a little and you will be able to accept some of the limitations of this tale.

My scores are:

Action/Adventure/Thriller: 8.5-9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0