We Are Your Friends

The latest Zac Efron release, We Are Your Friends, tells the formulaic story of a twenty-something who hangs out with his friends but dreams to be a big name X. By chance, Zac meets James Reed, a famed X who may be past his prime, but still takes Zac under his wing. Of course, Reed is dating an attractive girl much closer to Zac’s age than his own. You know from the first time Zac meets the girl, Sophie, that they will hook up at some point and the student will betray the master. The friends live for partying at the weekly techno party that the promote. At some point in the movie, the lesson is learned that drug use is bad (of course no such lesson is learned about drug selling and weekly drunken binges) . Of course after hitting a low point in his life, Zac suddenly understands what his mentor was trying to get him to understand. In a moment of truth, the student exceeds the master and the movie ends. In this movie, the X  I mentioned above is DJing. X could have been replaced with almost any profession or hobby and the movie would not have changed much. Unfortunately I think the one thing that many people will walk away from this movie thinking that they can become a famed DJ with a laptop and recordings of common sounds.

My verdict for this movie- see it at a friend’s house when it’s on DVD.

No Escape…

This soon-to-be released movie stars Owen Wilson as an American who moves with his family to some small country in Southeast Asia just down the river from Vietnam. He arrives with his wife and 2 children just in time for a political coup where the rebels would kill anyone who was not attired like them – baggy clothes, bandana covering ones nose and mouth – especially Americans. This of course puts a target right on new employee for large American corporation tht is perceived as controlling the country by controlling the purification of its water supply. Owen Wilson with his blond hair and slight Texas drawl becomes the target that the rebels especially want to kill.

The rebels go to such lengths to eliminate Wilson and his family that one would think that there was some reason other than the fact that he is one of the newest employees for the American company, but there isn’t.  The movie is big on action scenes and very light on plot. Unfortunately the action scenes are predictable in set up, outcome, and style.

Fortunately, I went to a free screening of this movie so I did not have to pay for the ticket. Unfortunately, I sat through the entire movie hoping it would get better. It did not.

My Verdict: although this movie does not open for another week, I would still wait to see it when it comes out on DVD or on Demand and I would still see it a friend’s house so someone else is paying for the rental.

Two quick reviews…

Here are several quick reviews for some movies that I saw over the past few weeks:

Rikki and the Flash – enjoyable movie. Predictable. With the pedigree of the people involved (Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Jonathan Demme, Diablo Cody), I wanted to be blown away. Instead I was just entertained. VERDICT – Rent it on DVD

The Babadook:  I rented this movie. Considering how graphic the horror genre has gotten over the past decade, it was refreshing how graphic this movie wasn’t.  The plot of the story is outlined pretty early on in the movie. When the mother reads through the mysterious book which depicts a woman choking a dog, killing a child and then killing herself, you are just waiting for these events to occur. I give credit for the slight twist in the ending.  VERDICT: Worth a rental, better to watch with the light out.


Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. That is the feeling I got after seeing this movie. The journey consisted primarily of Casey (Britt Roberston) receiving the pin that would allow her entrance into Tomorow land, tracking down Frank Walker (George Clooney), convincing him to take her Tomorrowland, and actually getting there. This took upat least 80% of the movie.  I will admit that the journey was interspersed with bits of Frank’s past.  However, once they got to Tomorowland, the movie seemed a rushed.

The movie maintained the time honored tradition of jet packs bring a main means of transportation in the future. It also perpetuates the impression of what the future would look like if one grew up in the 50’s or 60’s. 

While I enjoyed the movie, I can understand why it was not the blockbuster success that one would have predicted with Disney, Clooney, and a sense of nostalgia should bring.  Perhaps, for the main demographic for the movie, there is no sense of nostalgia regarding Tomorrowland. Maybe having the movie harken back to the days of there being a World’s Fair is lost on today’s viewing public. Maybe it’s just the fact that the big problem and the solution were too easily presented to the main characters and the movie are wrapped up too quickly as a result.

My verdict on this case would be … Rent it on DVD.


When Americans think of national parks, we tend to think of forest land, park rangers, tourists, and possibly Yogi Bear. That is not the vision that comes to mind when watching Virunda. Virunda is the name of a national park in the Congo which is the focus of this documentary. At first glance it would appear that this film is about the efforts of area park rangers to maintain and protect the mountain gorillas that live in the park’s forest. Of course, due to poachers and others trying to exploit animals and the natural resources of the park, these Rangers look like a small militia.

This Academy Award nominated documentary feature combines the plight of these animals with issues related to the civil unrest in the Congo. The official government army is working with various rebel forces including the newest rebel group, M23. Into this mix, add an international oil company which obtained the rights to determine whether there is oil in Lake Edward which is in Virunda National Park. I forgot to mention that there are villages within the park that depend upon the lake for their livelihood. And also that, although the oil company has the government permission to be in the park, it is still a violation of both the laws of the country and international law. If this were a scripted movie, there would be an attractive woman journalist who is investigating the dealings between the corporation and the rebel army – wait, there is.

I really enjoyed this documentary. It was worthy of the nomination.  If it were truly fictional, it would be an enjoyable movie that has action suspense and amusing animal stories. As a documentary, it shows that truth is stranger than fiction. 

My verdict: Rent it!

Two Days One Night

Such a simple premise but a complex movie. Sandra works in a small department of a manufacturing company. She recently was out of work after a bout of depression. It is not clear how long she has been back at work, but it has become apparent to management that the department can get just as much work completed by 16 people as it did 17 employees, So they are all given a choice, they can each receive a very large bonus or Sandra can remain as an employee. When the movie starts, there has already been one vote and Sandra lost. however a co-worker is able to convince a co-worker to have another vote on the next business day. so Sandra has one weekend (the titular 2 days and 1 night) to convince the majority of her colleagues to let her stay and forgo their bonus. Setting aside that she really had 2 days and 2 nights to canvas her co-workers, it is still a great movie. It really gets people thinking about what they would do in that situation. Almost everyone of Sandra’s co-workers need the money. They are all just barely surviving on their wages. some actually work additional jobs on the side. This question of whether someone would put the needs of another before themselves divided families.

Marion Cotillard gives a wonderful performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination. This is one movie that is worth seeing. The only drawbacks that I found were – the use of subtitles in white instead of the easier to read yellow lettering. Also, some of the translation from French into English seemed a bit stilted. These are things that it is very easy to overlook.

Begin Again

This movie would not have been on my radar if it were not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. With a movie that involves musicians, one would hope that there is some good music in it. If you enjoy your pop music a bit more on the folk/singer-songwriter side, you will probably enjoy the songs.

begin Again has the potential to be a great movie for “six degrees” and similar games. Keira Knightly, nominated for supporting actress for the Imitation Game, stars as Greta, a young singer-songwriter, who was the girl friend of an up and coming musician/actor named Dave portrayed realistically by They break up as Dave’s career sky rockets. Greta’s music is heard by Dan, a down-on-his luck record executive portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, nominated for supporting actor for Foxcatcher. They decide to get a group of musicians together, including Greta’s friend, Steve, portrayed by James Corden, who is in “Into the Woods”, which has several Academy Award nominations itself. Add Cee-Lo, Mos Def, Rob Morrow, and Catherine Keener (who was nominated for 2 Academy Awards in her career) to the cast and there are some great six degrees connections.

It is a nice, feel-good movie. Boy gets girl at the end, though it may not be the pair you would necessarily anticipate. The movie takes some jabs at the commercialism of the current music industry without being overly cynical. There are no amazing acting performances, but the movie is an afternoon’s entertainment.

The movie is definitely worth a dvd rental.

Into the Woods

First off, if you are a parent with young children, please think twice before bringing young children to see “Into the Woods”. Although this is a wonderful movie musical, it is based on a Broadway musical, not just based on the Disney versions of well known fairy tales. Some of the themes are more adult and it is much darker in tone than the usual animated Disney fare. The performances were very good. Meryl Streep can sing quite well and she always gives so much to her roles. The only drawback that I felt to the story was that I wanted a bit more about some of the characters’ stories. For fans of the show, I think you will enjoy it.

Gone Girl

I have seen several movies since my last post. I just did not feel inspired to post about them (although I should have). Anyway, I recently saw Gone Girl with Ben Affleck. This movie was not as I expected. I expected it to be more courtroom/procedural – Law & Order-esqe. But it was not. The story had some great plot twists in it. I must admit, however, that I was not a huge fan of the acting. If I was not a fan of the story, I would not have like it as much as I did.

Amazing Spiderman 2

It has been a while since I posted a movie review – or commentary which is what I think my posts are more like.  I have seen several movies, but none really inspired me to offer any commentary – until now. I recently saw the Amazing Spiderman 2.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but I did have some problems with the film. First, if my memory is correct, super-hero films with more than one film tend to be horrible. Let;s add to that by having one movie serve as origin movies for 3 villains. I get that the groundwork was being laid for a future battle between Spidey and the Sinister Six. However, I found the origin of Green Goblin to be a bit too contrived and too much of a departure from established Spidey canon – if you saw the first trilogy of Spiderman movies, you are already familiar with the origin of the  Green Goblin. Rhino seems like he was thrown in at the last minute.

Now let’s talk about Electro. Glad to see that they did not use the comic book costume. While the comic book origin may have seemed unbelievable by any stretch of the imagination, the origin in the movie was a bit too similar to Spidey’s own origin.  I get that the character is supposed to be a “loser” before becoming Electro – but he did not have to be so so terrible stereo-typical: bad dresser and a really bad comb-over?!? It was more like Jamie Foxx was channeling Eddie Murphy;s character in Bowfinger.

Leading up to one dramatic scene, bio-science wizard – Gwen Stacy – claims that she can figure out how to reset the power grid because she saw the plans.  Plans the Electro designed (before he became Electro) and were used to masterful power the city in a single grid (not a smart move if the power foes out)  At first blush, this strains credibility. How simple could those plans have been. It turns out, my disbelief was misplaced – all Gwen had to do was break a single lock and press one button. Really?

The movie does a pretty good depiction of Amazing Spiderman #121. It is not the same exact story, but it is similar enough not to disappoint most comic fans.