‘We Are Your Friends” – the definition of a guilty pleasure

“Grossly adolescent” is the best way to sum up Max Joseph’s feature film directorial debut, We Are Your Friends. But just like “gross” income isn’t actually gross, Joseph’s film about a group of friends trying to make money and be something better is not necessarily rotten.

The film tells the story of Cole Carter (played by Zac Efron), a college dropout whose best friends Mason, Squirrel and Ollie want to jump over the Hollywood Hills and out of the San Fernando Valley to a life that doesn’t involve sleeping on the floor at Mason’s house and riding around town in Squirrel’s station wagon.

The group explicitly touts Cole as a DJ on the rise to stardom and implicitly lauds him as their ticket out of the valley. Cole prioritizes his craft, which leads him to meet a formerly legendary DJ named James Reed (played by Wes Bentley) and his much younger assistant-turned-girlfriend, Sophie (played by Emily Ratajkowski). After a falling out between the two over the wayward Sophie, James’ penchant for organically produced sound ultimately lands Cole the gig of a lifetime in Los Angeles.

A nightclub-worthy soundtrack weaves the film’s scenes together, as do creative special effects and enjoyable dialogue that’s characteristic of college dropouts down on their luck.

What the film lacks, though, is focus. Joseph said he wanted to make a film “about kids graduating from high school or college and moving on with their lives,” and while that may be a part of it, We Are Your Friends feels more like a mashup of several other possibilities that could have been something better on their own.

One thread is the chemistry and feeling of being in “the golden years” between Cole and his pals. Another is that of the formerly artistically devoted but now financially motivated James Reed.

None of these threads are explored to the point of satisfaction.

maxresdefault.jpg

For one thing, it’s never shown or even explained what exactly makes James a sellout, which is a shame since Cole and James fight each other over it in a strip club bathroom. Furthermore, even though the title of the film is We Are Your Friends, the time spent with the buds feels secondary to Cole, and by extension, secondary to the plot.

The sudden departure of one of the four friends, in fact, comes so out of left-field that its purported effect on Cole doesn’t even feel real.

Ratajkowski’s role as Cole’s love interest also feels tacked on; Cole would have still developed the same way as a character had she not been there.

Then again, being unfocused yet enjoyable may be the film’s greatest virtue. Being in your early 20s involves lots of distractions, and Joseph himself compared the film to “throwing a party. You set it all up but you invite people to the party and they each bring something.”

Joseph chose a predictable production as his first feature but ensured that it was done right. Making a feature film is no easy feat and even Joseph claimed that the production “didn’t have a lot of money” and “didn’t have a lot of time.” He was blessed with the collaborative readiness of the actors and music talent for the film but cursed with the plot of a glorified glimpse into the world of DJ-ing that isn’t very moving.

Ultimately, the movie serves a purpose as a guilty pleasure flick worth watching for the occasional comedy nailed by Cole and his pals, the eye candy provided by Efron and Ratajkowski and the pounding electronic soundtrack that Joseph so valued during the film’s production.

Anheuser-Busch to donate over 50,000 cans of water to Western firefighters

Beer maker Anheuser-Busch – the producer of Budweiser, Beck’s and other beers – will be sending 2,156 cases carrying 51,744 cans of drinking water to firefighters battling flames in the nation’s west.

The company stated Monday its plans to have a truck loaded with water arrive in Wenatchee, Washington.

Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch/Twitter.
Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch/Twitter.

From there, Columbia Distributing (one of he company’s distributors) will work with the American Red Cross and Chelan County Public Works to distribute the water in cans.

The statement adds that the company has donated more than 73 million cans of drinking water in the midst of natural and other disasters.

Providing this kind of aid has been a company tradition since 1906, when founder Adolphus Busch made a donation to the Red Cross for victims of the San Francisco earthquake.

The news follows the declaration of current wildfires in Washington being the largest in the state’s history. The Okanogan Complex of wildfires is currently covering at least 400 square miles, with 1,250 local, federal and even international firefighters combating the flames and evacuating residents as needed.

Jeff Bezos denies “nightmare workplace” claims about Amazon

Jeff Bezos replied Sunday to a weekend article in the New York Times that accused online retailer Amazon of hosting a “nightmare workplace.”

Bezos distributed a memo to his 180,000 plus employees where he criticized the portrait of a “soulless, dystopian workplace” painted by the article and insisted that he does not recognize that Amazon. He also encouraged employees to read the Times article carefully and to report any such experiences to Bezos directly.

Continue reading Jeff Bezos denies “nightmare workplace” claims about Amazon

Bumble Bee Foods reaches settlement for employee killed in oven

Bumble Bee Foods reached an agreement Wednesday to pay $6 million to the family of Jose Melena, who died inside a pressure cooker in 2012.

Jose Melena, aged 62 when he died, was loading tuna into one of the industrial ovens at Bumble Bee Foods in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. when he got trapped inside. A coworker thought Melena was in the bathroom and mistakenly turned on the oven with Melena still inside. Melena was essentially cooked to death inside the 270-degree oven. His body wasn’t found until two hours after he got locked inside the oven.

The company did not have any safety procedures in place that required another employee to verify that no one was inside the oven. It also did not have any way for an employee stuck inside to get out. To that end, the Bumble Bee plant’s Operations Director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez were each charged with violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)vrules.

Rodriguez, 63, will complete 320 hours of community service and worker safety courses and pay nearly $11,000 in fines. Florez, 42, who plead guilty to violating a workplace safety rule, was sentenced to three years of probation and will have to pay nearly $19,000 in fines.

By the same token, Bumble Bee is appealing $74,000 in fines, claiming that personnel from the state’s occupational safety agency failed to properly assess employee danger at their plant. Additionally, the company will spend $3 million to replace their ovens with new, automated machines with video cameras that will not require workers to step foot inside. Furthermore, the company will donate $750,000 to the District Attorney’s Environmental Enforcement Fund for use in the prosecution of future (OSHA) cases and pay an additional $750,000 in fines and court costs.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the agreement marks the largest payout in a workplace-violation death in the history of the state of California.

Broward drone inventor foresees a future with safer drones

This is a developing story being followed by ElMonzon.com. Check back for updates.

On a rainy Saturday morning, Broward local and Chinese native Max Gaofei Yan presented a unique concept to an audience of attentive Miami Dade College School of Aviation students.

“Today I want to share with you, and would very much like your feedback, on our technology,” Yan said.

Max Yen's XT Flyer. Photo by Tomás Monzón.
Max Yan’s XT Flyer. Photo by Tomás Monzón.

Continue reading Broward drone inventor foresees a future with safer drones