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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » We are Your Friends
We are Your Friends
Warner Bros. // R // November 17, 2015
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted November 22, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The most coverage We Are Your Friends, released during this year's Labor Day weekend which traditionally marks the end of the summer movie season, has gotten is that it has become one of the lowest-grossing films of all time. From the trailers it looked entertaining enough, but certainly not worth paying current theater prices (now exceeding $10 per ticket in many areas) to see. Produced by the French company StudioCanal, Warner Bros. only distributed the movie in the US and Canada and due to its dismal performance in theaters has foregone a Blu-Ray release and put it out only on standard old DVD.

So what's it about? Focusing on the current "EDM culture" (Electronic Dance Music, which seems to be the new name for what was techno or rave music in the 1990s), a group of young friends in California's San Fernando Valley feel like they're heading nowhere and are trying desperately to advance to the other side of the Hollywood Hills and find fame and fortune. Cole Carter (Zac Efron, whom I've followed ever since discovering the true guilty pleasure that is the "High School Musical" series) is an aspiring DJ who practices the art of perfect music selection to get the dancing crowd's energy level just right as well as creating his own beats. He lives with friend Mason (Jonny Weston) and his dad at their house which seems to be constantly under repair- Mason's dad routinely wakes them up in the morning to get to work on some part of it. Mason doesn't seem too bright and is the most stereotypical character here- wearing his pants hanging down low, keeping his head shaved and given dialogue like "Don't ‘bro' me if you don't know me" and greeting his friends with "yo, yo!" Also in the gang are aspiring actor Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and a guy known as "Squirrel" (Alex Shaffer of Win Win) because, you know, Eminem's character in 8 Mile was nicknamed "Rabbit". All four of them promote raves in the area, handing out flyers and what-not.

It's at one of these parties where Cole meets legendary DJ James (Wes Bentley), who was one of the best during the last decade but has lost a bit of his edge since then. James immediately whisks Cole off to an art show going on at the same time and introduces him to PCP and a few other drugs, after which he wakes up at James' house where he lives with girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). James sees some potential in him and lets him DJ a party at his house and they later work on music in his in-home recording studio. Meanwhile Cole and friends get jobs making cold calls at a "Realty Solutions" company that cheats broke homeowners out of their foreclosed houses and save up enough to rent their own house together, while James gets drunk just a bit too often and takes Sophie for granted prompting her to move her eyes over to Cole. Conflicts and one tragedy which are typical of movies of this type occur, which may seem a bit "hard-core" to those too young to see this without their parents but caused me to laugh inappropriately as I've seen this many times before.

Not to say that We Are Your Friends is an awful movie- it hits the marks just right enough to elevate it into guilty pleasure territory. Aside from a few crew members seen reflected in the sides of cars, it's reasonably well-made with some interesting departures like animation popping up out of nowhere (mainly to depict Cole's drug trip at the art show where the paintings come to life.) The main star of the movie is the music, which had me tapping my feet although it mainly serves to underscore scenes rather than any full-blown dance numbers which would have been very welcome here.

Picture:

Sadly, the visual merits of this movie suffer on standard DVD. It's been a while since I've watched a recent movie on a standard-def format and the detail I've been used to seeing is gone here as 480 lines just can't deliver all of it, and there's plenty of compression artifacts- despite this being on a dual-layer disc it only takes up a bit more than 5 GB; a higher bitrate certainly would have helped as even by DVD standards it doesn't look great here. Many times I found myself thinking how much better this movie would look in hi-def, and it's certainly a shame that it won't be available on Blu-Ray here. It is however being released on Blu-Ray in Germany and Australia at least by StudioCanal- most likely coded for Region B but serious collectors already have ways around that and have that option if they like this movie. It is of course also available via "Digital HD" and UltraViolet in the US, which admittedly beats DVD most of the time but still doesn't match Blu-Ray, plus I have many practical and political reasons for not buying movies that way. I had hoped that at least this disc would include an UltraViolet code as many recent releases do which could possibly get me a digital HD copy at no additional cost, but this doesn't come with one.

Sound:

The theatrical sound mix for We Are Your Friends was in Dolby Atmos, though I doubt it played in many theaters equipped for that at least for very long. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track on the DVD does the best it can though, with music often filling the room through all channels and delivering the most bass I've ever heard from my rear speakers. One scene with Cole and James talking inside while a party continues outside gets the sound of the music leaking in just right, sounding just as if my next-door neighbors might have been playing it.

The DVD includes an amusing descriptive audio track narrated by Tanzi Alexander who seems to be doing most of these, and a Canadian French dubbed track along with hearing-impaired format English subtitles and standard subs in French and Spanish.

Extras:

The back cover promises a "heart-pumping special feature" titled "How Zac Efron Learned to DJ" which shows him getting into his role, setting up DJ equipment in his (very nice) house with Jason Stewart (the film's musical consultant) showing him the ropes, along with other cast and crew talking about how great the movie is before they saw it fail in theaters.

The disc opens with an anti-smoking PSA from "thetruth.com", somewhat appropriate given all the drug content in this movie but not the sort of thing I want to see outside of regular TV, along with trailers for The Intern and In the Heart of the Sea and promos for the "Supergirl" TV show and "Digital HD Movies" which they've had on many of their recent discs. All of this can be quickly bypassed with the Menu button.

The DVD is packaged rather indifferently by Warner in a hole-filled Eco-Case with no inserts to speak of- if this had been in the cardboard "snapper cases" they started out with, we'd at least get a printed chapter listing with the music featured in each as they used to do. The plain disc labeling with just the title art on a black background is also a bit disheartening.

Final Thoughts:

We Are Your Friends (whose title comes from a song heard during the brief opening credits) is one of those movies that works if you're in the right sort of mood- yes, the characters and storyline are rather clichéd but the overall energy and music almost make up for that. If you're not afraid to have guilty pleasures in your viewing habits, this is a worthy addition. It is a shame that Warner has not released it on Blu-Ray disc as the visuals are diminished on DVD. While the dismal attendance in theaters was a likely factor, the truth is that many people have given up on theaters with their high prices and often undersized screens and potential for rude audience members and instead wait to see movies at home- with this being available only in compromised quality, they've set it up so that fewer people will see it at home than otherwise would have. At least the option of importing is there, but I hope this won't be a trend- earlier this year Disney's Strange Magic suffered the same fate. If any factors dictate a movie be released only on one format, then it would be better to put the aging standard-def DVD out to pasture than short-change the higher-quality medium. After all, standard-def TVs are already extinct and Blu-Ray players don't even cost a fortune anymore.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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