Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of youthful energy, but not much authenticity or depth. The plot traces a young aspiring DJ trying to make his mark on the music world, and his struggle isn't exactly gruelling. But what the movie lacks in realism it makes up for in melodrama, keeping the audience involved simply because the characters are relatively enjoyable company.
Zac Efron plays Cole, a smart young guy who spends his days and nights hanging with his chucklehead pals Mason, Ollie and Squirrel (Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez and Alex Shaffer), playing music, doing drugs and tormenting the girls. But Cole has skills mixing tracks to keep a dance floor busy, and one night he's noticed by his idol James (Wes Bentley), a star DJ with a hot girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). James helps Cole discover his own distinct voice, while Cole can't help but fall for Sophie. Meanwhile, Cole and his buddies need to make some cash, so they take a job with a dodgy property developer (Jon Bernthal). But Cole is determined that this kind of work won't be his future.
Director-cowriter Max Joseph never really bothers to develop any of this properly, letting the film glide along on Cole's cool beats while indulging in arty touches like an animated drug trip. There isn't much complexity to any of the characters, but the actors add interest in the way they interact, developing camaraderie that says a lot more than their relentless macho swagger. Efron is the only actor who is allowed to offer a glimpse beneath the surface, and he navigates Cole's darker emotional moments nicely. But the script continually undermines him. For example, there are constant references to his strong moral code, and yet he seems utterly unbothered about seducing his mentor's girlfriend. Opposite him, Bentley gets to do some ace scene-stealing, but everyone else fades into the wallpaper.
Continue reading: We Are Your Friends Review
Aspiring DJ Cole Carter, from LA's San Fernando Valley, sets out to make it big in the world of electronic dance music and create a name for himself in Hollywood's nightlife scene, by working on the one track that will make him stand out from the crowd. Things start looking up when an older DJ named James takes him under his wing, but life get complicated for Cole when he finds himself falling for James's young girlfriend Sophie. With Cole's friendships at stake, will he have to make a tough choice between love, loyalty and the music career he has always dreamed of?
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This intriguing drama takes on some darkly resonant themes with such an oddly bright and cheerful tone that it forces the audience to pay attention. As it continues, the terrific Rosamund Pike uses conflicting emotions to explore the aftermath of a horrific assault. But while there's growing suspense in the plot, the bigger tension comes from the viewers themselves as they wonder whether it's going to unravel into melodramatic rubbish.
Pike plays Miranda, a cleanliness-obsessed nurse with ambition to get a better job and move to a bigger house, partly to stop her single dad (Nick Nolte) from worrying about her. Then a nurse colleague (Rumer Willis) sets her up on a blind date. William (Shiloh Fernandez) is flirty and sexy, but after he brutally attacks her he goes to prison, leaving Miranda to put her life back together. Surprisingly, she takes a proactive approach that includes contacting William and trying to achieve some sort of reconciliation. Miranda's father is horrified by this, especially when William is released on parole and turns up to help her fix up her house.
This insinuating set-up keeps the audience guessing whether this is a complex look at how people wrestle with the fall-out from a violent rape, or perhaps either Miranda or William are up to something more nefarious. So whether it's sparking hope or dread, it's relatively gripping. And Pike is superb as a quirky woman who continually faces her fears. This includes both connecting with William and trying to befriend her dad's scary dog Benny. "Hating him only hurts me," she says pointedly. Nolte is reliably solid as her wheezy, concerned dad. And Fernandez is utterly magnetic as the mercurial William. All of the characters are defined by rather simplistic filmmaking shorthand, but the actors give them plenty of weight.
Continue reading: Return To Sender Review
Fresh out of college, 23-year-old Cole Carter and his friends Mason, Ollie and Squirrel are determined to make something of their futures, with young people being faced with more and more career opportunities than ever before. Cole wants to become one of the world's top DJs, but hitting the decks at local college parties aren't getting him anywhere fast. He learns the art of getting people moving with his music from a more experienced DJ named James who sees potential in him, but it seems the more he is taught, the more he realises he has to learn. Still, he's reluctant to work under James, and things get complicated when he starts to bond with James' girlfriend Sophie. To make matters worse, his friends are becoming increasingly frustrated with him for refusing to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity to make something really special.
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A young nurse training to work in surgery is encouraged to go on a blind date with her friend's single male friend Kevin. However, he doesn't seem at all how he was described when he shows up on her doorstep. Locking the door of her house once inside, he savagely assaults her before fleeing. It's only later, when a kind-faced man with a bunch of flowers arrives (the real Kevin), that she realises she had let a dangerous stranger into her home named William Finn. While being questioned by police, the nurse recalls seeing her attacker once before and he is soon rounded up and thrown behind bars. The attack has left her shellshocked, struggling to concentrate on her job and occasionally giving in to frenzy. She decides to start writing to William, but every letter is returned without being read. He eventually agrees to her visiting, and appears to show remorse just as the nurse appears to show forgiveness. She hasn't told anyone of her intentions, and her father is left terrified as she continues to speak to the brute as a free man.
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There's an unusual honesty to this film, which is an odyssey into the inner life of a teen girl. Gregg Araki has made a career out of understanding the often tortured inner workings of the adolescent mind, and this is one of his most beautifully crafted films yet, artfully circling around a central mystery while digging deeply into each of the characters. And while it seems a bit straightforward for an Araki movie, it's packed with his usual darker corners, especially in the surprising final act.
It's set in the autumn of 1988, when Kat (Shailene Woodley) feels her life fall apart. She's just 17, on the verge of womanhood when her mother (Eva Green) inexplicably vanishes, leaving her dad (Christopher Meloni) struggling to help her through puberty. Her best pals (Mark Indelicato and Gabourey Sidibe) are some help, but at the same time she begins to feel a growing distance from her boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez). Is all of this connected, or is this because of Phil's own family issues? As she plays through the various clues in her mind, the answers are also eluding the local tough-guy detective (Thomas Jane). A few years later, Kat returns home from her studies at Berkeley to visit her dad. And maybe this time she'll finally find out what happened.
The film is a beautiful depiction of the awkwardness of being a teenager, when everything seems wrong but feelings are so strong. Araki fills the screen with sumptuous imagery including dreamy sequences set in a snowy landscape where Kat mentally searches for her mother. And flashbacks offer more earthy glimpses into this difficult mother-daughter relationship, especially as Kat and her once-glamorous mother begin to shift in their roles. Clearly, Kat suspects that her mother ran away after seducing Phil, but the truth isn't quite this obvious.
Continue reading: White Bird In A Blizzard Review
Shailene Woodley described filming sex scenes for 'White Bird in a Blizzard' as "awkward".
Shailene Woodley and director Gregg Araki.
Read More: The Fault In Our Stars Review.
Continue reading: Shailene Woodley: 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Sex Scenes Were "Awkward"
It is a time for sexual awakening for Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley). The 17-year-old is born again into a new world of desire and pleasure when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, her mother, Eve (Eva Green) mysteriously vanishes. Kat tries to ignore it, and continue enjoying the moment that she has created for herself, although she steadily discovers that her mother's disappearance has affected her more deeply than she originally thought. Thinking that her mother, a stunningly beautiful yet clearly haunted woman, left the family to pursue an affair, Kat finds herself seducing her way to the truth, in an attempt to find out if her mother is still out there, somewhere.
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Despite a bunch of cold characters and a deeply contrived plot, this film is so infused with hot topicality that we are held in its grip all the way through. The issue is corporate irresponsibility and grass-roots activism, both of which feel ripped straight from the headlines to give the movie an edgy, almost documentary urgency. On the other hand, it's nearly impossible to get involved in the story's inter-personal dramas.
Director Batmanglij is reteaming with Sound of My Voice actress-cowriter Marling, who this time plays Jane, a corporate-security spy assigned by her shark-like boss (Clarkson) to infiltrate the eco-terrorism group The East. The goal is to prevent them from attacking any of her clients. It takes Jane awhile to worm her way into the anarchists' inner sanctum, where she immediately finds an affinity with leader Benji (Skarsgard), medically trained Doc (Kebbell) and flamboyant Luca (Fernandez). It takes longer to warm to the prickly Izzy (Page), but eventually Jane finds herself part of the core team, invited to participate in a series of jams in which The East gives company bosses a taste of their own toxic medicine.
In the cast of a pharmaceutical giant, this is quite literally the case: they infect the executive (Ormond) with the dangerous drug she's selling to the developing world. And the gang also stages assaults on oil companies in ways that are eerily easy for us to identify with, because the activists are making an important point. Indeed, we never really doubt where the filmmakers' sympathies lie: even if their actions are illegal and rather nasty, these "terrorists" are the good guys. At least this moral complexity gives the film a brainy kick.
Continue reading: The East Review
Remaking an iconic classic is dangerous business, even if the original filmmakers are on board as producers, but at least Uruguayan writer-director Alvarez has a few clever ideas up his sleeve. And a willingness to go gleefully over-the-top with the grisliness. But aside from a few gimmicky jolts, the film is never actually scary.
There are essentially only five characters in the story, which gives the actors a chance to find entertaining details along the way. Mia (Levy) is a drug addict whose three best friends (Lucas, Pucci and Blackmore) take her to her family's creaky old cabin in the woods to go cold turkey. They're joined by Mia's aloof brother David (Fernandez). But none of them know that locals have used the basement for a sinister ritual, and they left a creepy book behind that supposedly has the power to summon a vicious demon who wants to possess them all. So is Mia's freaky behaviour because of her withdrawal, or has something evil got hold of her?
This twist is rather clever, as it adds a level of mordant wit to the film, giving texture to the relationships between these five young people who we fully expect will begin to die horribly nasty deaths one by one. Indeed, what follows is an escalating series of blood-soaked set-pieces involving dismemberment and death at the sharp edge of any implement on hand.
Continue reading: Evil Dead Review
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This intriguing drama takes on some darkly resonant themes with such an oddly bright and...
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There's an unusual honesty to this film, which is an odyssey into the inner life...
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Despite a bunch of cold characters and a deeply contrived plot, this film is so...
Remaking an iconic classic is dangerous business, even if the original filmmakers are on board...
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