Posts Tagged ‘Angela Sarafyan’

Another Handsome Stranger

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Director: Joe Berlinger

Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, John Malkovich, Angela Sarafyan, Jeffrey Donovan, Haley Joel Osment , Brian Geraghty, Terry Kinney, Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons

Based on the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile stylishly directed by crime documentary film maker Joe Berlinger is a fascinating and deeply disturbing portrait of a devilishly handsome sociopath, the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy superbly played by the gorgeous Zac Efron (The PaperBoy, The Greatest Showman, We are Your Friends) in a determined departure from his comic roles.

Elizabeth Kendall is played by Rules Don’t Apply star Lily Collins who gives a mesmerizing performance as a young girl captivated by Bundy’s killer good looks, his charm and his demonic charisma. Kendall first meets the handsome stranger in a bar in Seattle in 1969 and Berlinger’s film is told from her perspective and rather than focus on the heinous crimes that Bundy committed in several states across America from Utah, Colorado to Florida.

Always maintaining his innocence even when he was arrested for multiple murders in Florida, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile chooses rather to focus on the glamourous media attention that Bundy received both in the Florida courthouse and earlier in Aspen, Colorado where he brazenly escaped from a courthouse in broad daylight in 1977.  

It is really the Florida trial where Bundy even was allowed to defend his own innocence against a unimpressed judge Edward D. Cowart wonderfully played by Oscar nominee John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons) where Berlinger’s film comes into sharp dramatic focus and where Efron excels in some superbly written dialogue between a clearly delusional and narcissistic Bundy and Judge Cowart who is desperately trying to avert the trial from becoming a sensationalist media circus.

As serial killer films go, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is original in the way it handles its subject matter but is no means gripping or scary like Jonathan Demme’s Oscar winning fictional film The Silence of the Lambs which won both Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s Oscars for Best Actor and Actress respectively back in 1992.

What is so disturbing besides Zac Efron’s handsome movie star face masquerading as the real Ted Bundy is the apparent ease with which Bundy eluded law enforcement agents in several states and managed to kill, decapitate and rape over 20 young women in the 1970’s before eventually being caught and sentenced to death. Viewers have to bear in mind this was decades before DNA analysis and pervasive social media.

Nevertheless Zac Efron does give a brilliant performance as Bundy aided by Lily Collins as the denial ridden ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall who once trusted Bundy with her young daughter.

Worth seeing for its originality and audacity, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is helped by a fantastic supporting cast including Jim Parsons, Jeffrey Donovan and Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense).

Read more about the terrible crimes of Ted Bundy –
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Bundy

Doves of the Bandit Roost

The Immigrant

immigrant_ver7

Director: James Gray

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, Dagmara Dominicyk, Angela Sarafyan

With glorious sepia coloured cinematography by Darius Khondji, Ellis Island and early 1920’s immigrant New York comes to life in director James Gray’s period film The Immigrant, nominated for the 2013 Palm d’Or.

Oscar Winner for La Vie en Rose, French actress Marion Cotillard, speaking both English and Polish gives a complex and nuanced performance as Catholic Polish immigrant Ewa who after arriving on Ellis Island is soon rescued by the crazed opportunistic pimp Bruno, superbly played by Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Gladiator). The formidably and talented Joaquin Phoenix seems to be director James Gray’s cinematic partner and has starred in most of his films including The Yards, Two Lovers and We Own The Night.

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Desperate to return to Ellis Island to rescue her sister Magda (played by Armenian actress Angela Sarafyan) who has been quarantined for a contagious lung infection, Ewa soon enters quite bravely into a life of prostitution and cheap vaudeville theatre orchestrated by the erratic sometimes violent Bruno.

With a confident flourish Bruno introduces Ewa to the Doves of the Bandit Roost, a sleezy peep show and late night dive spot for immigrant lowlifes. This is New York in 1921 as prohibition has just been enforced and the raunchy social dynamics has been thrust underground.

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Conflicted by what she is forced to do to get money and her overwhelming desire to rescue her sister Magda, Ewa, gorgeous and enigmatic, brave and brazen gets caught between the unpredictable Bruno and his seemingly more stable cousin, a freelance illusionist Orlando, played with flourish and against type by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town). Ewa first captures a glimpse of the illustrious Orlando when she is sent back to Ellis Island and becomes an unwilling witness to one of his spell bounding illusions.

Soon affection develops between Orlando and Ewa, yet their mutual admiration is constantly thwarted by the controlling and threatening Bruno, who is desperate to make money out of his group of woman who he open flaunts to paying customers under tunnels in New York’s Central park.

New York born director James Gray presents a captivating if slightly dim view of the harsh realities of immigrants which arrived in the Big Apple in their thousands following the end of the WW1 leaving a poverty stricken and ruined Europe behind, always in search of the illusive, yet treacherous American Dream.

Naturally Cotillard is ravishing and believable as Ewa and the on screen chemistry between her and Phoenix is palpable almost to the point of tragedy much like it was between Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep in the superb film Sophie’s Choice, set almost three decades later.

The Immigrant is majestically shot, evocative, moody and brilliantly acted. It’s a classic melodrama reminiscent of early Italian Neo Realist films of the late 1940’s. The ambience and production design is beautifully recreated of early 20th century New York in a narrative which highlights that the hardships facing immigrants to any new country are perennial and just as relevant now as it was almost a century.

Lovers of atmospheric melodramas focusing on a nuanced yet doomed love triangle, will enjoy The Immigrant, but for many this film will have a very limited appeal.

Claiming the Blood of a Virgin

The Twilight Saga

Teenage Love…

As the thunder rolls and the clouds are slate gray on a dark afternoon, I break my silence on the cinematic phenomenon that is the Twilight Saga, based on the teenaged marketed books by Stephanie Meyer. Starting with Twilight in 2009, and now with the release of Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the Twilight movies have made instant stars out of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, helped with a great supporting cast including Peter Facinelli, Dakota Fanning, Kellen Lutz and Michael Sheen, this saga has the world divided. You either a fan or your are not. Twilight is similar to the Star Wars phenomenon and more recently the involved and magical Harry Potter films.

While so far in the series, the first film Twilight directed by Red Riding Hood and Lords of Dogtown visionary Catherine Hardwicke, is in my opinion still the best in the series, capturing the full flush of uncertain flirtatious love between local girl Bella Swan and the mysterious and wealthy Edward Cullen, who also happens to be a friendly and nefarious vampire, whilst New Moon and Eclipse start losing their originality and their cinematic focus. The eternal love affair between Bella and Edward is further complicated by Bella’s attraction to Jacob, the hunky Red Indian Washington state local who also happens to be a werewolf.

Whilst Bella becomes the focus of both Edward and Jacob’s love, their mutual competitive hatred transforms into a fraternal bond to protect Bella in the face of all forms of danger from ancient and vicious vampires to ferocious wolves, while maintaining a fragile truce between the two opposing worlds.

Bella, a human caught in a love triangle between the vampire Edward and the werewolf Jacob, is the basis of all narrative conflicts demonstrating the oldest plot in all fairy tales, an innocent maiden caught between the dashing yet mysterious prince and the ordinary but protective woodsman. Whilst Twilight captured the anguish of the original teenage love crush and subsequent bitter feuds, New Moon and Eclipse expand the worlds of the elegant vampires and tribal werewolves respectively.

Blood Red Sky and the Dawn of Immortality

But Bella is far from innocent! She wants the best of both men, and marries one while gaining protection of the other. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 while drawn out in parts follows the progression from the wedding to the creepy honeymoon in Brazil to moonlit impregnation and subsequent labour of her first child, a union between human and vampire. While Bella’s ordeal is really the shedding of virgin blood as part of the price for being a Vampire’s Bride, the Twilight series, whilst tapping into a wealth of mythology about vampires, first love and folklore is essentially a journey of a young girl from purity and innocence to the losing of her virginity at the cost of forsaking her mortality for the love of not one but two men and her transference from her own community to a world of eternal immortality.

Don’t expect brilliant acting from any of the leads, while Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson go through the motions of a seemingly happy newly married couple, not realizing the horror they in for, which is a watered down version of Rosemary’s Baby, Taylor Lautner’s Jacob seems as confused as ever, whether he wants to run with the wolves or protect the baby in the wood is not clearly portrayed. The Twilight saga is popular for its luminous love story set against some brilliant and spectacular Washington state scenery, and like all saga films, the original film is always the best.

The Twilight saga’s hidden message of no sex before marriage is also entwined along with the pitfalls for indecisive teenage girls who are caught between two vastly different male species, the charming seductive and moody prince or the caring and earthy woodsman, a tale as old as the bride of Dracula itself… a love triangle as treacherous as when time began. Whatever the outcome, the goal for the maiden is to lose one’s virginity and shedding blood and purity whilst dialectically opposing tribal forces clash over the loss of innocence and fight to claim the prize of the vanquished virgin. As for Part two, will there be a happily ever after?

 

 

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