Tag Archives: Zac Efron

Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Extremely Wicked

The Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie is here, folks. I’ve sat with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile for a few hours since watching, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

To start with, I don’t agree with those who have accused it of glamourizing Bundy and his crimes. That’s not to say that it handled some of those trickier aspects perfectly. (And a convincing argument could probably be made that this film never needed to be made in the first place.) But I never felt that it was pushing us to sympathize with his character or make him seem “cool”. There is a clear divide in the film between the persona that Bundy projected and the horrible atrocities he committed. Other characters may be sympathetic to him, but it’s not the film’s agenda at all to make us agree with them.

In fact, that matter of perspective is probably the most interesting aspect of Extremely Wicked. The film is told partially through the perspective of Bundy’s long-time girlfriend, Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), who believed in Bundy’s innocence for many years and, as the film depicts, stood by his side to the detriment of her own well-being. The film shows their meeting and the beginning of the relationship briefly before jumping forward to Bundy’s initial arrest, his eventual trial for the murder of two young women, and his time spent on death row. Liz’s confidence in him fluctuates throughout the years, and the film is as much about her struggle to process the decimation of her “happily ever after” as it is about Bundy himself.

By looking at it from Liz’s point of view, it makes sense that the film presents Bundy in a slightly intangible way. We don’t see him commit any violence for the vast majority of the runtime, and the film seems largely uninterested in trying to dive into his psychology. By looking at him the way Liz (and the media and his adoring female fanbase) saw him, it sort of makes him a passive character whose story is told via the impact he had on others.

And to put a matinee idol type like Efron in the role (given that he’s certainly more objectively handsome than Bundy was) is also clever, since it again underlines the large gulf between how Bundy was perceived by those who saw what they wanted to see (someone who, through manipulation, could make himself seem great and you feel great), and who he actually was. And how, if you’re too close to the situation, the reality is sometimes only possible to see in hindsight. (And Efron, for his part, is excellent. He oozes a perfect mix of steeliness and subtle desperation.)

Granted, that reading of the film starts to cracks when you look at the scenes that aren’t seen through someone else’s eyes, and where Bundy is the only character on screen. And I think that’s where this film runs into trouble tonally. Take, for example, the instances where Bundy is trying to MacGyver his way out of a jail cell. The film starts to take on almost a weird caper tone. And while those scenes didn’t feel as though they were trying to make me like Ted Bundy, I’m also not really sure what they were trying to say. (Maybe you could argue that those scenes are still from Liz’s perspective as though she was daydreaming about his escape, but I’m not sure that theory holds water.) And as the film goes through some of the antics of the Bundy trial itself, it feels like it’s being included more for the sake of telling a good yarn than it is getting at anything very insightful.

Director Joe Berlinger has created an intriguing film, but I don’t think he followed some of these threads through to their full potential. For example, I think there’s more to be mined in terms of a meta-commentary of the media and public glamorization of shocking stories like Ted Bundy, which is just barely touched on. (Can you imagine Michael Haneke doing a Funny Games-esque deconstruction of the subject? Preferably still starring Zac Efron?) The more conventional scenes here are the least interesting, and it’s a shame to see Collins (and her character’s interesting questions around denial, complicity, and self-worth) get somewhat sidelined for much of the draggy middle portion of the film. Because even though you may not think this film needs to exist, with a bit more focus it could have been something pretty interesting.

TIFF Gears Up for Big Stars, Big Hits

The Toronto International Film Festival announced its first wave of festival programming via a live press conference this morning. After weeks of speculation and rumour, it turns out that many of the films that fans were hoping to see on the list will in fact play at the festival this year.

TIFF, which usually favours smaller, independent fare, will play host to a couple of big-budget blockbusters-to-be in September. Rian Johnson’s Looper will open the festival with a special gala on September 6. The sci-fi action film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, and is set to hit theatres for a major release on September 28. This marks a significant step up for TIFF’s opening film in terms of budget and profile. Last year’s opening film was the U2 documentary From the Sky Down, and the year before that, the Charles Darwin biopic, Creation.

The folks at TIFF also announced that the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas will also premiere at the festival. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant and boasting an estimated budget of $140 million, this is definitely one of the biggest films TIFF has ever welcomed.

On a slightly smaller scale but no less exciting is the announcement that Terrence Malick’s latest project, To the Wonder, will screen at TIFF. Given the long post-production life of The Tree of Life and Mallick’s typical long gaps between films, some fans thought it was unlikely Mallick’s next project would be ready in time. However, the film, which stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem will in fact make its world premiere at TIFF this year.

Other big name directors whose films will show at TIFF include Ben Affleck with Argo (starring Affleck and Bryan Cranston), David O. Russell with Silver Linings Playbook (starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jennifer Lawrence), Noah Baumbach with Frances Ha (starring Greta Gerwig), Joe Wright with Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law), and Robert Redford with his star-packed The Company You Keep (Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Chris Cooper).

Speaking of stars, TIFF will once again celebrate Ryan Gosling, as they host the world premiere of The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Blue Valentine helmer Derek Cianfrance, the film stars Gosling and Bradley Cooper as a stunt rider and a cop who square off. Other big names you might see walking around Toronto this September include Zac Efron (At Any Price), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson), Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch), Kevin Bacon (Jayne Mansfield’s Car), and Kristen Wiig’s (Imogene).

And while it’s easy to get caught up in the glitzy star spectacle that TIFF can become, it is also a festival that honours a lot of Canadian and foreign films, too. TIFF will round out its line-up in the coming weeks with more of these titles. For now, though, we know that Ruba Naddi’s Inescapable (starring Marisa Tomei and Fringe‘s Joshua Jackson) and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children will be two Canadian films having their world premieres at TIFF. The latter also tie’s into the festival’s “City to City” theme, which this year will highlight films from and about Mumbai, India.

The Toronto International Film Festival will run September 6-16. See the full list of films announced this morning at tiff.net/thefestival/filmprogramming

Trailer Round-Up: May 15, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud

I feel like an idiot for being excited for this movie, but I kind of am. Call it Zac Efron fangirl-ism if you want, but I think that Efron’s a surprisingly decent actor. Considering how fun he was in 17 Again, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles a fully dramatic role. By the looks of the trailer, Charlie St. Cloud seems a bit overly sappy, but Efron’s acting isn’t bad, from what I can tell, and it might be a good transition for him into weightier roles. It’s always a good sign when I’m more excited to see a movie after seeing the trailer, and even though it looks rather clichéd, I’m still interested.

Easy A

I loved Emma Stone in films like Superbad, The Rocker, and Zombieland, so it’s great to see her getting her own movie. Easy A looks surprisingly good for a teen comedy, and with Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, and Thomas Hayden Church in the supporting cast, I’m pretty much sold on this Scarlett Letter-inspired comedy.

Inception (trailer #3)

We’re finally kinda sorta getting some plot information, and it’s great to see all of the major players in the cast pop up in the third trailer for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated Inception. I’m trying not to build it up to much in my mind, because it’ll be hard for it live up to my expectations, but this trailer is pretty awesome.

The Adjustment Bureau

What starts off as a rote romance film soon adds an interesting twist to the political thriller genre in this trailer for the latest Matt Damon vehicle. Damon and Emily Blunt are great, and The Adjustment Bureau looks like a big, fun film. Glad to see both of these actors making a film like this.

You Again

Kristen Bell is a charming actress, and Betty White, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Sigourney Weaver are always a lot of fun when they pop up in goofy supporting roles. However, this trailer is too manic and clichéd to make me want to see the movie.

Buried

This teaser trailer for Buried barely shows us anything, but it looks like a refreshingly different role for Ryan Reynolds. Definitely intriguing, but I’d like to see more.

Super 8

Again, this shows us barely anything. The train crash on its own isn’t that interesting, but if it’s a J.J. Abrams film (presumably) about aliens, I’m on board.

2009 in Film: Comedies

So far, 2009 is shaping up to be a decent year for movies, I think. There’s already been some great films released, and Oscar season is getting started. I recently watched I Love You, Man and Away We Go, which had been two of my most anticipated movies from earlier in the year. Both we great, and it got me thinking that 2009 seems to have been an exceptionally good year for comedies. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen as many dramas, but so far seven out of my top ten favourite movies of the year are comedies. Of course, not every comedy was good. For every Away We Go there’s a Confessions of a Shopaholic. But I’ve seen some fantastic comedies with some very strong performances. I thought I’d share some of my favourite comedic performances of the year. Since I think comedies are always criminally underrepresented in the awards season, I’ll give my two cents on who I think is deserving of nominations, and who actually has a chance. I might update this list as awards season gets closer, and as I see more movies from 2009.

Oh, and since I only seem to get comments on the posts where I encourage them, be sure to leave comments on which choices you agree/disagree with, and your own opinions on your favourite comedies of 2009!

Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep can do no wrong (well, except maybe Mamma Mia…), and she’s given some great comedic performances this decade (Adaptation and The Devil Wears Prada both gave her Oscar nominations). Her performance as legendary chef Julia Child was delightful (though the movie as a whole was just decent). She had the voice, the body language, and the spirit down pat.

Award Season Prospects: This is the only performance on the list that’s guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination, and she just might win the whole thing.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – (500) Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favourite young actors, and I was excited to see him return to his comedy roots after all of the heavy movies he’s made this decade. His comedic timing is brilliant, and at times, he’s pretty hilarious here. This is not a typical romantic comedy, and Levitt elevates his performance so far beyond the usual acting in those types of movies. It’s a subtle performance, but the genuine warmth and feeling that he brings to this role is unusual.

Award Season Prospects: Based on what I’ve seen this year, I think he’s worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. But that category is always overstuffed, so I’d be shocked if he got one. A Golden Globe nomination is possible, but sadly, still a bit of a stretch.

Maya Rudolph – Away We Go

Most people know her from her great comedic work on Saturday Night Live, and I was really surprised by how good Maya Rudolph was in Sam Mendes’ Away We Go. It’s considered a comedy, but there are a lot of scenes (especially in the latter half of the film) that are entirely dramatic. My mom said she found the film depressing, but I disagree. And I think a lot of that has to do with Rudolph’s vibrant performance. Her character is pregnant, and both worried and excited for the future. I thought Rudolph gave a very genuinely likeable and optimistic performance.

Award Season Prospects: I think a Golden Globe nomination is possible.

Amy Adams – Sunshine Cleaning

With two Oscar nominations already under her belt, obviously Amy Adams is a fantastic actress. She’s got a great screen presence in every movie that she’s in, and Sunshine Cleaning is no exception. It’s a comedy, but there isn’t a ton of laugh-out-loud kind of laughs. It’s just not that kind of movie. But Adams does a great job with the subtle humour, and the human drama that the role calls for. She was good in Julie and Julia as well, but this is the more interesting role and performance.

Award Season Prospects: Sunshine Cleaning was under the radar, and got somewhat mixed reviews (though I loved it). I think that Adams is worthy of a Golden Globe nomination, but it may or may not happen.

Emily Blunt – Sunshine Cleaning

Starting off as the more comedic character in Sunshine Cleaning, Emily Blunt played the mix between comedy and drama perfectly. Something about her screen presence is magnetic. Blunt had a few scenes that really showed off her acting skills (everyone talks about the “tressling” scene), as well as a bunch that allowed her to be sarcastic and curmudgeonly, which she does very well. She’s great in those roles that blur the line between humour and drama (The Devil Wears Prada, The Jane Austen Book Club)

Award Season Prospects: I’m not sure if her performance qualifies as lead or supporting, but I’m not sure if her chances are great, either way. I’d love to see her get some kind of nomination for her work here, though.

Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover

Oh, God. I can’t even think of this performance without giggling a little. There were so many hilarious moments in The Hangover courtesy of Mr. Galifianakis. I like Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms a lot, too, but this guy stole the show. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t know much about Galifiankis, I’m sure you’re a bit puzzled by all the fuss. To which I say, go see The Hangover.

Award Season Prospects: Hey, remember when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for wearing blackface last year?

Jesse Eisenberg – Adventureland

Oddly, this is only the second ugliest t-shirt that appears on this list. Anyways, some people call Jesse Eisenberg the poor-man’s Michael Cera. But I think that he’s some alternate version of Michael Cera who is capable of conveying genuine emotion. Don’t get me wrong. I love Michael Cera, but I was really impressed by the earnest, sweet performance that Eisenberg gave here. He’s still funny and awkward, but there was just something very real about his performance, like he wasn’t constantly worried about being clever and funny.

Award Season Prospects: Not great. It’s not the kind of performance that usually gets recognized, sadly.

Paul Rudd – I Love You, Man
I’ve been a fan of Paul Rudd for a while now. I first noticed him on Friends, and then I went back and loved him in Clueless. So after a string of iffy movies and supporting roles, I was glad to see him starting to get the leads in major comedies. Role Models was a lot of fun, and he topped it with this year’s I Love You, Man. He is so incredibly awkward (“Slappa da Beeaaaass!”) as Peter, a man with no male friends, but so charming, too. There’s something about Paul Rudd that you just want to root for.

Award Season Prospects: Hilarious performance, but just not award-worthy.

Chris Messina – Away We Go

Alright, so it’s a really small role and not even an especially comedic performance, but I just wanted to talk about how impressed I was by Chris Messina in Away We Go. The movie is split into different parts, and when Burt and Verona travel to Montreal, they meet up with Messina’s character, who Burt went to college with. He has a great monologue, and Messina delivers it perfectly. His character starts off as seeming like a laid-back guy, but as we learn more about his and his wife’s circumstances, his character takes an unexpected turn. It’s a really understated performance, but that whole section in Montreal was my favourite part of the movie, partly thanks to Messina’s performance.

 Award Season Prospects: Not a chance.

Zac Efron – 17 Again

I’m probably not helping my case by choosing a photo from the most shamelessly pandering scene in the whole movie. But whatever, I thought Zac Efron actually did a good job. He proved on SNL that he has comedic talent (I loved the “I AM YOUR MOTHER!!!” sketch. Anyone who can keep a straight face through that earns my respect). I’m not a fan of the whole High School Musical franchise (though there was an unintentionally awesome scene in the third movie where Efron breaks into the school at night and basketballs start raining down upon him. ANYWAYS.), but I thought he made this otherwise iffy movie a lot funnier (well, him and Thomas Lennon).

 Award Season Prospects: Ha.

Comedies from 2009 That Look God-awful, and I Vow Never to Watch:

  1. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
  2. Bride Wars
  3. The Pink Panther 2
  4. Dance Flick
  5. Miss March
  6. I Love You, Beth Cooper
  7. All About Steve
  8. Duplicity
  9. My Life in Ruins
  10. Imagine That
  11. Post Grad
  12. The Ugly Truth

 

Comedies from 2009 of Interest That I Still Need to See:
Big Fan

The Brothers Bloom

Bruno

Extract

Funny People

The Informant!

It’s Complicated (upcoming)

Pirate Radio (upcoming)

A Serious Man

Taking Woodstock

Up in the Air (upcoming)

Whip It!

World’s Greatest Dad

Zombieland