Tag Archives: jon bernthal

‘We Are Your Friends’ Energetic but Sloppy Affair

We_Are_Your_FriendsWhat’s funny is that despite this film’s specific premise, it’s not even the best movie about aspiring Los Angeles DJs to come out this month (that title goes to “Straight Outta Compton”).

Directed and co-written by “Catfish” photographer Max Joseph (in his directorial debut), “We Are Your Friends” stars Zac Efron as an aspiring DJ in Los Angeles who is struggling to figure out his future. Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley also star.

I guess I can give the movie props; it is better than it could/should have been. A rookie director/screenwriter paired with Zac Efron and a model in the leading roles, in a movie about DJs being released in late August. All signs pointed to this being one of those movies that were doomed from the start. But the film isn’t a disaster; it’s actually kinda mehhhh, ahhhh, fine(?)

I like Zac Efron, I think he is a capable-enough actor, and like Channing Tatum once he finds his niche he will have a nice career. Here he plays Cole, a 23-year-old wannabe DJ who lives in Los Angeles, has a job that pays him a $15,000 bonus, and constantly has attractive girls hitting on him at clubs, but he still manages to find things to complain about in his life. He meets a famous DJ (oxymoron?), played by Wes Bentley, who takes Cole under his wing.

Efron and Bentley have solid chemistry in their Obi-Wan/Luke Skywalker relationship, even if almost every scene plays out the same way: Bentley tells Efron that he needs to find a style, Efron does something different and Bentley likes it, but the film needs to keep going so he tells Efron to change more.

The film has a nice energy about it and the Los Angeles skyline adds some visual candy, but unfortunately the energy is bogged down by incoherent direction and a script that is just all over the place. I don’t think you know how hard it was just for me just to come up with that plot summary in the opening paragraph, because aside from the overarching story of Efron wanting to be a DJ, there are so many other side plots you just don’t care about.

Efron has this group of three friends who are pretty much the Dollar General version of the “Entourage” crew and you just hate all of them. They get into fights and hold Efron back, so when suddenly a life-changing event happens to them simply for the sake of attempting to add dramatic heft to the plot, you don’t care. Then the movie just kind of breezes over the event by the next scene and you didn’t care in the first place so you just shrug it off.

The direction needs to be addressed, too, because it feels like a different person was in charge of the first and second half of the film. The first half has characters break the third wall for reasons never explained, some weird cutaways to stock footage of maps and lions, and then borderline creepy x-rays of dancing people’s beating hearts. It all concludes with a scene where Efron takes drugs and imagining people becoming moving paintings.

The second half has none of this and plays out like a poor man’s coming-of-age story that happens to unfortunately (for him, mostly) involve Jon Bernthal (he deserves so much better).

The bottom line about “We Are Your Friends” is this: as much as I didn’t care about 90% of what was happening, and I hated most every character not played by Efron or Bentley, I still was relatively enjoying myself throughout. The film does tend to take itself too seriously (a satire on the world of DJs may have worked better) and the title is annoying and irrelevant to the plot, but if movies about attractive DJs struggling to get rich is your thing, then it has enough style and energy to be worth a mild recommendation.

Critics Rating: 5/10friends

‘Fury’ Is Powerful, Gritty and One of Year’s Best

Fury_2014_posterBrad Pitt and World War II. So far, it has proven to be a potent combonation. First Pitt was hunting Nazis in “Inglorious Basterds”, now he is commanding a tank in Germany.

“Fury”, written and directed by “End of Watch’s” David Ayer, tells the tale of five American soldiers who get stuck in their tank behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, they must fight their way through and defeat the surrounding Nazi forces. Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal portray the members of the tank.

There’s really no point of sugar coating it or beating around the bush: “Fury” is one of the year’s best movies and one of the better, and most realistic, war films of all-time. From the haunting depictions of battle, to the heart-wrenching performances, to the high production value everything about this film is as beautiful as it is chilling.

The performances across the board are nothing short of fantastic, with the standouts being Pitt and Lerman. Pitt plays a man who has clearly let the evils of war shatter any morals and sensitivity he ever had, and this is demonstrated when on the first day of the job for the tank’s new recruit (Lerman), Pitt orders him to execute an unarmed German solider.

I have never been a Logan Lerman fan, I believe he plays a pretentious, spoiled boy in every role he takes (“Noah” and “3:10 to Yuma”, just to name two), but the man shut me up with his performance here. He is a soldier who was pulled away from his desk and put on the front lines, and it seems like he will never get used to the idea of taking a human life. But throughout the film we see him begin to change and become more desensitized to the notion of war, but he never loses the innocence that we empathize with.

The rest of the cast are all cookie-cutter roles (minority member, jerky sociopath and Bible-thumper), but the actors all have their moments to shine.

Ayer has proven that he is more than capable of shooting an engaging action scene, but never while sacrificing drama or content. Even when the bullets are flying and shells are being rocketed off, we see the characters’ weaknesses and at times hesitation in their actions. Even at the end of the film, in the midst of an extended battle, the action never feels derivative or redundant, because we are getting heavy doses of human drama, accompanied by a fantastic score from composer Steven Price.

What holds “Fury” back from the greatness it so clearly was striving for is a scene in the middle of the film. After taking a town, Pitt and Lerman come across two German women, who proceed to make lunch. The scene drags on for 22 minutes (I remember looking at my phone twice), and in the end the entire interaction took place simply for a plot point down the road.

If that one scene had been shorter, which it should have been, then “Fury” may have been able to be mentioned in the same breath as “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker” for greatest war movie of all-time. That being said, “Fury” is still a fantastically shot, grittily depicted and powerfully acted war story, which features a climax that had my theater silent when the credits began to roll.

Critics Rating: 9/10