drama film

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

It’s been a while since I wrote about a film for The Film Playlist series I created two years ago. I meant to add this one sooner too. I saw it almost a year ago. I won’t give you a ton of excuses as to why I didn’t write about this sooner but needless to say, it’s better late than never.

We Are Your Friends was released in late summer 2015. Then it made it’s way to DVD by later that year. It stars Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jonny Weston, and Wes Bentley. It was directed by Max Joseph of MTV’s Catfish. Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer also wrote the screenplay that was based off the story by Richard Silverman.

We Are Your Friends is a drama that focuses on the electronic music scene and is set in Los Angeles. Efron plays DJ Cole Carter, who is looking for his big break in the electronic music industry. While playing a gig as an opener at a small club, Cole meets James Reed (Bentley), a once big-name DJ who’s headlining the show. Reed and Cole connect over music and Reed invites him to a party. After a night of drinking and drugs, Cole wakes up the next morning to find himself at Reed’s house where his girlfriend and personal assistant, Sophie (Ratajkowski), also lives. From there Cole’s career begins to blossom with the help of Reed.

Out of all the films I’ve seen that involve music, this is one of the only films that really explores electronic music and the type of rave scene involved with it. From the LA setting to the partying and drug usage, this film really shows the culture that surrounds EDM. It even shows the characters attending EDC Las Vegas, which is the most largely attended music festival in a one weekend period in the United States. All it’s missing is some hard core PLUR action. The film itself received average reviews and rightfully so. It’s no Academy Award winning film by any means. The thing that makes it stand out though is that it explores a type of music that has become huge in today’s world.

As for the soundtrack, it is fantastic…that is if you like to dance and are into electronic music. It includes the song by Justice and Simian that the film was named after “We Are Your Friends” as well as songs and remixes by Hayden James, Kygo, AlunaGeorge, Deorro, Gryffin, Years & Years, and Tchami amongst others. Many of the songs on the soundtrack are featured in the film.

If you’re a fan of electronic music or a fan of music in general, this film is definitely one you want to check out at some point. The film might not be the greatest as far as movies go, but its focus is what makes it unique and worthy of your time. There’s no question We Are Your Friends is a great addition to The Playlist though.

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“Call Me By Your Name and I’ll Call You By Mine”

Several months ago while watching movie previews before a picture I was seeing, I saw the preview for a film that really piqued my interest. When that movie, Call Me By Your Name, came out on November 24th, I anticipated the time when I’d finally be able to see it in theaters. It was only released in major cities initially before making its way to this armpit of a place that I live in. I saw it about two weeks ago and it was one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a while.

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, an artfully precocious 17 year old and Armie Hammer as Oliver, a 24 year old doctoral student who joins Elio’s family at their summer home in Italy for a 6 week period. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman. It depicts the love affair that develops that summer between Elio and Oliver. The screenplay was adapted by James Ivory and the film was directed by Luca Guadagnino.

The film begins at Elio’s family’s Italian countryside home in the summer of 1983 where Elio, his mother (Amira Casar), and father (Michael Stuhlbarg) anticipate the arrival of their summer guest, Oliver. Since Oliver is new in town, Elio takes Oliver on a tour of the area later that day. Elio also explains how he spends his summers. It’s not long before Oliver begins to partake in the summer activities of swimming in the river, hanging out with friends, and going out at night, and their love for each other begins to blossom.

Since being released in November, the film has received an assortment of critical acclaim and accolades. It was recently nominated for 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ivory), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens). It received nominations at the British Academy Film Awards (4), the Critics’ Choice Awards (8), the Independent Spirit Awards (6), the Golden Globe Awards (3), and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (1). James Ivory received a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Chalamet received Breakout Actor Awards from the National Board of Review, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the Hollywood Film Awards.

Like I said, I saw the film two weeks ago after anticipating seeing it for about two months. I was captivated by its beauty. Being set and filmed in Italy definitely adds to that. The story itself is special though. It’s almost a coming of age type of love for Elio as a teenager. He has such a strong infatuated love for Oliver throughout the film. Oliver subtly shows his interest for Elio as well, when finally they take the next step. Plus I wasn’t sure how that peach scene would play out, but now I totally get it! Since seeing the film, I’ve also begun to read the novel. My friend told me that there are many parts in the novel that were cut out of the film so I’m eager to compare them.

I highly recommend checking out this film. It’s such a great and powerful love story that isn’t a cliché romantic film or romantic comedy love story. It’s been in and out of theaters all over the country for the last 2 months. I’m sure it won’t be long before the film is released on streaming and DVD/Blu-ray too. If you wanted to see if before the Academy Awards airs though, I would make plans to see it as soon as possible because it seems to only stay in theaters for a few short weeks.

Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

We are infinite.

A few days ago the trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action film, Beauty and the Beast premiered. The new film will star Emma Watson as Belle. Her brief appearance in the trailer made me yearn to watch an Emma Watson movie. Of course, I could have easily picked any of the eight Harry Potter films, but I was particularly in the mood for the movie adapted from my favorite book of all time, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I first read the book as a high school junior. It was my favorite book before I even finished it. To this day, it is the only book to ever make me both laugh and cry. I related to it. I quoted it. I talked about it and I loved it.

While I was in college, it was announced that the book would be made into a movie. Despite the standard book to movie criticism, I was amped. I would check for updates on the film from time to time. I remember being intrigued when I found out Emma Watson was cast as Sam. Until that point, I only knew her as Hermione Granger. I found out when it would be filmed and that it was going to be filmed in Pittsburgh, the location where the story takes place. I even went to some filming locations in Pittsburgh while visiting to attend a hockey game about a year before the film was released (Doing this lead to the discovery of my favorite breakfast place in the Burgh. They make the best pancakes ever!).

The release was another thing. I’ve never been more excited for a movie release in my life and the release date happened to get pushed back. It was supposed to come out in the Spring of 2012 but was pushed to the fall of that year. In the time period between when it was filmed and when it was released, I would look up pre-screenings of the movie just to see if I would be able to attend (I didn’t though). When the movie came out in September 2012, it was limited. I wasn’t sure when it would be in theaters near me so I ended up driving to King of Prussia one Sunday to see it. I remember shaking with anticipation as the title sequence started. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the greatness of the book, but it did. It really did. Then I saw it three more times when it came into theaters close by.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky is also the author of the book. Having the book’s author as the writer of the adapted screenplay and director of the film was key in having it live up to expectations. The film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev (Candace, Charlie’s sister), Johnny Simmons, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh (Charlie’s Mom), and Dylan McDermott (Charlie’s Dad). Joan Cusack (Dr. Burton) even has a minor role in the film. Perks was also a box office success, more than doubling it’s budget.

As the film begins, Charlie (Lerman), a teenage boy, is seen typing a letter to an anonymous friend about starting high school the following day, something he is not anticipating. As a shy, quiet kid, he finds it difficult to fit in and make friends. He ends up connecting with his English teacher (Rudd) on the first day of school instead.

It isn’t until a school football game when he is invited to sit with a senior in his woodshop class named Patrick (Miller) and Patrick’s stepsister, Sam (Watson), that any spark of friendship begins. Upon meeting Sam at the game, Charlie finds her to be very attractive despite the fact that she is older and is starting to see someone. This also sets the tone for Charlie’s love interest throughout the movie. After homecoming, Charlie’s new friends bring him to one of their parties where he meets the rest of their crew, Mary Elizabeth (Whitman), Alice, and Bob, engages in drug related activity for the first time by eating a pot brownie, tells Sam about his best friend’s suicide the previous year, and catches Patrick hooking up with the football team’s star quarterback, Brad (Simmons), which he is asked to keep quiet about by Patrick so that Brad’s father wouldn’t find out. By the end of the party, the entire group accepts him as a wallflower and their newest friend. The rest of the film continues to take the audience through Charlie’s first year of high school and through his experiences of life, love, friendship, and growing up.

My description of the film makes it sound basic and simple, but it’s not. The film touches on so many relevant teen issues and also issues related to life in general such as drugs and alcohol, sex, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide. There’s first loves, kisses and relationships, fights, lessons in friendship, music, and of course the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s in every way a coming of age drama/comedy.

Despite the fact that The Perks of Being A Wallflower is indeed my favorite book ever (I’ve actually kept my copy beside my bed ever since I read it back in 2005), the movie isn’t my favorite movie of all time. It represents the book in the best way, but as any book to movie adaptation goes, it’s not exactly the same. The book has more detail and more back story (as most books often do). I also feel like the book version is more adult than the film version even though the story is about high school kids (let’s face it though, high school isn’t the media’s definition of teen). Perks was never a “teen” book so to speak. It was always found in the adult fiction section of every book store. However, a lot of teenagers were the ones reading the book. When making the film, Chbosky knew his audience would be teenagers so he made the film more teen friendly and view-able, opting for a PG-13 rating, rather than an R rated version (which would’ve been a better representation of the book I think). As a PG-13 movie lacking a large chunk of story detail, it is still the best book adaption I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I recommend that you see it some time in your life, but I also recommend that you read the book first. Sure it’s not necessary, but it gives you a greater understanding of the film. Honestly, I could go on about this story. There’s so much I want to say like the fact that driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at night and coming out to witness the grandeur of Pittsburgh is everything the story makes it out to be or that even though this film/story doesn’t surround music, it features some of the best music and mix tape references (“Asleep” by The Smiths, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (in the book only), or “Heroes” by David Bowie anyone?) or that I still relate quotes from the story to my life on a monthly basis. The truth is that it holds a special place in my heart and it’s relevant beyond my teenage years. It provides a message of hope and positivity even with referencing some dark topics. As an adult, I’ve known people who have accepted the love they thought they deserved because they each dated someone who wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve had enough experiences to know that things change, friends leave, and life doesn’t stop for anybody. As I chase my dreams, I try to remember that even if I don’t have the power to choose where I come from, I can still choose where I go from there. And of course, even as an adult, there are still times that in certain moments, I feel infinite.

 

 

The Film Playlist: Sing Street

Last week was the first time in a few months that I added a new film to The Film Playlist. Last week was also the first time in a while that I looked at what movies were playing in theaters. There were no films out that interested me for months. With the start of the summer season approaching though, I figured plenty of new films will be out in theaters so I checked to see if anything new and interesting was out yet. What caught my eye was the film Sing Street. I saw the trailer for it as a preview at some point in the fall or winter and I totally forgot about it. I also knew it would make a perfect addition to The Film Playlist. I saw it Tuesday. It was excellent. Much better than Begin Again. Why is the film I wrote about last week even relevant? Let me explain.

Sing Street is the creation of writer and director John Carney. Yes, the same John Carney who also wrote and directed Begin Again. His film Once is another of his claims to fame. All three films involve music. If each film on the playlist was like a song and like a song had an artist who performed it or in this case produced/wrote/directed it, John Carney would be the artist listed for two films on the list so far. I haven’t seen Once, but I probably should. Then John Carney would be on the playlist three times.

Sing Street is the latest of John Carney’s music films. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released in theaters in the U.S. on April 15th. It stars newcomers, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Ben Carolan, and Mark McKenna, fresh faces, Jack Reynor and Lucy Boynton, and TV vets, Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy. This film is partially based on Carney’s life as a student at Synge Street, a Christian Brothers school, in Dublin, Ireland. The film is set during the 80’s and has plenty of references to 80’s rock bands such as Duran Duran, The Cure, Genesis, Hall & Oates, and more. It’s a coming of age film that tells the story of Conor “Cosmo” Lalor (Walsh-Peelo), a teenage boy who gets transferred to the Synge Street School after his family (Gillen as his Dad and Doyle Kennedy as his Mom) can no longer afford to send him to private school. The atmosphere at Conor’s new school is much more rough than normal between his classmates, school bullies, and the head Brother of the school. He befriends a boy named Darren (Carolan) who helps to show him the ropes. Shortly after this occurs, Conor decides to start a band that makes music videos to impress a girl named Raphina (Boynton) who lives near the school and watches the boys as they travel to class each day. Conor and Darren recruit a few of their other classmates to join the band in which Conor is the lead singer and Darren is the band manager. With the guidance of Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Reynor), Conor and his bandmate, Eamon (McKenna), write a song impressive enough to garner the attention of Raphina who agrees to star in a music video for the song. From then on, their band, Sing Street (a pun off of Synge Street), and Conor’s interest in music takes off. The band becomes more than just a way to win a girl. It becomes a way out of Ireland and in the midst of it all, Conor experiences more personal growth than he could have ever imagined.

The music in the film is 80’s pop rock style. The original songs in the movie take inspiration from songs by the 80’s bands featured in the film. The songs in the film were actually written and composed by Carney and Gary Clark. After hearing the first few original songs in the film, I could tell they sounded a lot like Carney’s style. He also wrote and composed songs for Begin Again. Although the music genres in each film are different, the style in Sing Street is very Carney-esque and has a slightly similar sound to the songs in Begin Again. It’s almost like a band coming out with another album. The songs are different and stylistically, a band may progress, but it still has their signature sound.

I really liked this movie. I liked the story (maybe because I’m a bit biased towards a good coming of age tale). I liked that many actors in this movie aren’t well known and that the movie was a first for a large portion of the cast. I liked the original music. In fact, I really liked/like the song “Drive It Like You Stole It”. I liked so much about this film. I liked it much more than Begin Again and I liked it overall. Since it was released back in April (probably only limited release then), I’m sure it won’t be in theaters much longer. Luckily I checked the movie showings and times last week and was able to catch it while it was still in theaters near me. I recommend it to any music fan, but especially if you were a child of the 80’s and loved 80’s rock or even if you still love 80’s rock. It’s a great throwback music film, but also a great music film in general.

Here are some of my favorite original songs from the movie:

  1. Drive It Like You Stole It
  2. The Riddle of the Model
  3. Brown Shoes
  4. A Beautiful Sea
  5. Girls

The Film Playlist: The Runaways

I’m sure most of you know who Joan Jett is. Even if you don’t, I’m sure you’ve heard the song “I Love Rock & Roll”. What you may or may not know is that “I Love Rock & Roll” is actually a cover song. The song is originally by the British rock band, The Arrows. What you also may or may not know is that before Joan Jett started Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (the band famous for the song “I Love Rock & Roll”), she was the rhythm guitarist in an all-girl rock band called The Runaways, and in 2010, a drama film about the band was released.

The Runaways stars Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as lead singer, Cherie Currie. It was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi and based off a book by Currie, herself. In the film, Joan Jett, a rebellious teenager, wants to become a rock star. Fortunately, one night at a local club she meets record producer, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), and mentions forming an all-girl rock band. Fowley has an interest in the project and introduces Joan to drummer, Sandy West. The meeting ignites the formation of The Runaways. They find Cherie Currie in a club one night while on a search for hot blondes to be a part of the group and invite her to tryout. Like Joan, the movie introduces Cherie as a teenager who also dreams of rock stardom, having lip synced a performance to David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” in a high school talent show. At the tryout, when the band criticizes Cherie’s audition song choice, Fowley and Joan write a spur of the moment song for Cherie to sing, “Cherry Bomb”. It solidify’s her spot in the band, and leads to a future filled with touring, parties, drugs, alcohol and rock & roll.

Since the movie is based off of Currie’s memoir, it focuses primarily on Currie’s story as part of The Runaways from 1975-1977 (the band was active from 1975-1979), her problem with drugs, and relationship with Joan. The movie also features the band’s most famous songs, “Cherry Bomb”, “Hollywood”, “Queens of Noise”, “California Paradise”, and “You Drive Me Wild”. The film received positive feedback from critics and fans but still under performed at the box office, only grossing around 4.7 million dollars.

When I heard about The Runaways, it was during the same era of the Twilight series phenomenon. Of course, Kristen Stewart was pretty big on the Hollywood scene at the time because of her lead role of Bella Swan in Twilight series. Dakota Fanning also starred in most of the films as Jane, a member of the most powerful vampire coven, the Volutri, so knowing both of the two actresses well hyped me up for The Runaways. When I finally saw the film, I loved it. I loved hearing the story behind the band and watching a film that showed the 70’s rock & roll scene. It was also pretty bad ass to see a group of girls performing like they did. Seeing the movie lead me to an interest in The Runaways. I downloaded their music and frequently sang “Cherry Bomb” with my friends when we hung out. It was such a hard, edgy song that most times we’d scream the words “cherry bomb” during the chorus.

The Runaways were typically a hard rock, punk rock, heavy metal style band. They released three studio albums under Mercury Records and one with Cherry Red Records. They went through several lineups during their short existence, but Joan and Cherie, along with Lita Ford and Sandy West were mainstays. Cherie left the band in 1977 after a blow up with Ford (Joan took over lead vocals), while the others were with the group until the band split in 1979 after some disagreements over music style. The movie depicts the blow-up between Cherie and Lita near the conclusion of the film.

The Runaways fits The Film Playlist well. It’s a great music film and like all the films on the playlist, is a must-see for any music fan. It’s an edgy drama that shows the story of this historic rock group. Since it does feature a real-life band, I figured a few song recommendations by The Runaways were in order too.

  1. Cherry Bomb
  2. You Drive Me Wild
  3. Rock & Roll
  4. Thunder
  5. California Paradise
  6. I Love Playin’ With Fire
  7. Queens of Noise
  8. I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are
  9. Hollywood
  10. School Days