Monday Morning Critic – We Are Your Friends & The Interesting Rise Of Zac Efron In The Post High School Musical Era

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The fact that Zac Efron managed to shake the teen idol image so thoroughly in such a short time astounds me. When you look at the entire cast of the High School Musical franchise, which hasn’t done much of note en masse once you exclude Efron. It’s not surprising, as HSM was a gimmick franchise that managed to end at the appropriate time. The first two films were smash TV movies on Disney and the third wound up doing extraordinarily well at the box office. It’s relatively unheard of, this level of success, and the fact that they wound up making a third film and their fan base came out en masse behind a pay wall when the previous two films had been available on basic cable shows the power of Disney on occasion.

When they flex their muscles the Mouse House is capable of the spectacular. They fail, and regularly enough, but Disney has developed building stars and brands into financial successes so often that they’ve developed a repeatable pattern for spotting and developing talent. People leave Disney and don’t move on to greater fame, these days at least, because the Disney system is similar to that of the WWE. Talent from either of those places hasn’t left to greater fame in some time; it’s hard to pick out one former WWE wrestler besides Dwayne “The Rock” or a Disney star since Efron who has become bigger than what they were back under that umbrella full time.

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What has also been spectacular has been the career choices of Efron in the years since. One would imagine that a lot of actors would’ve cashed in with similar franchises and picked up any number of films to continue to appeal to the young demographics that HSM did. Efron could’ve very easily aimed his career at cashing in on similar projects but he didn’t. Efron instead went a much more difficult route that’s going to wind up paying off significantly greater in the long run.

Efron wants an acting career, not a career centered around the fleeting thing that is stardom.

It’s why he’d pick a film like this week’s We Are Your Friends as well as a number of other films, including Me and Orson Welles and Paperboy, over the years. The only franchise he’s wound up in has been Neighbors with Seth Rogen, only because the first film has done well enough to warrant a sequel, and for better or worse he’s taking roles that have effectively removed him from the teen idol image that Disney hoisted upon him.

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If Efron had continued to take roles aimed towards a younger audience he’d probably be a bit more famous, more of a tabloid star and treading on an expiration date like one of the dunces from Jersey Shore were a couple years ago. Instead hes aimed away from stardom and aimed towards acting credentials. He may never be a teen idol again … but looking ta what hes done so far, and what hes doing this weekend, hes not looking to be on the cover of Tiger Beat anytime soon.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

I wasn’t impressed with the latest adaption of Far from the Madding Crowd right here.

Joe Corey wrote about Robert Downey Jr. as a singing detective.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – The Interview

It’s weird the difference a year makes in film.

A year ago Sony seemingly was risking an international incident with a silly comedy about James Franco and Seth Rogen interviewing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It would turn out to be industry insiders who had hacked the company, of course, but at the time a silly comedy potentially starting a war with a third world despot kind of felt like something that would happen in the modern age. What could’ve been a fairly minor hit for Franco & Rogen turned out to be something that’s so wild and strange that nothing they do, career wise, will top it for sheer absurdity.

The film had a solid debut through YouTube and select theaters instead, not making anywhere near what it could’ve with a full theatrical release but still winding up near a cumulative $60 million mark with VOD and under $15 million in domestic & international box office receipts.

Arriving on Netflix as well as DVD in record time, it found an audience quickly and people liked it enough that it doesn’t feel like the film had such a nightmare of a release anymore. Yet a film that lost double digits of millions for Sony will probably be remembered for everything but being a flop, and a hilarious film, will be remembered for everything but those two things.

Simple premise. James Franco is a blowhard television personality who runs an interview show with celebrities. When his producer Aaron (Seth Rogen) wants professional respectability the two opt to try and nab the biggest interview in the show’s history: Kim Jong Un, head of North Korea. When the leader agrees, and the CIA asks the duo to help end him, it’ll be a very special edition of “The Dave Skylark Show.”

It’s hard to separate this film from its backstory, even less than a year removed from its release, because it’s a really funny comedy that had the ultimate crap storm surrounding it. It’s the equivalent of a film setting up a big twist and then delivering something fundamentally sub par. North Korean hackers ticked that their Supreme Leader being assassinated in a film turning out be most likely be Sony insiders pissed off, using sloppy work to make it look like North Korea did it, gives the film an absurdity to it on a macro level that just can’t be topped in modern cinema.

It’d be like Darth Vader’s big moment during The Empire Strikes Back with Luke Skywalker was “Luke, I took a crap at a Holiday Inn once. And it was spectacular!”

The Interview was meant to be a silly throwaway film that made a bunch of money over Christmas 2014. It turned into one with a substantial and meaningful history into geopolitical relationships, one which showed a lot of Hollywood’s true character when it comes to standing up to people who want to censor art. Years from now we’re going to remember The Interview as a really funny movie … but one that comes with a whole wild history that’ll be even more amusing once North Korea stops being a dictatorship. I can imagine this could be the biggest hit in Pyongyang cinemas however many years from now when it finally winds up in North Korean theaters.

Highly recommended … the film is hilarious and there are no advertisements to open it, not even the “You wouldn’t steal a heart patient’s pacemaker, would you? So why are you stealing movies!” thingie. Just Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg giving a short but heartfelt speech about supporting free speech via this film. I can dig that.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

No Escape – Owen Wilson and Lake Bell are stuck in a foreign country when things get all crazy.

Skip it – At least Wilson’s not doing his usual comedy antics, right?

We Are Your Friends – Zac Efron is in a mid 20s malaise and trying to become a DJ with his friends.

See it – Efron’s slowly developing a great body of work ever since High School Musical.

War Room – The latest Christian film with a substantial release (1,100 theatres or so, apparently).

Skip it – I’ve written on how the genre needs to get better and this isn’t it.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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