Posts Tagged ‘Zac Efron’

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

Celebration of Humanity

The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Paul Sparks, Sam Humphrey

Set in the Victorian age, director Michael Gracey’s exuberant and brilliant film, The Greatest Showman is an outstanding musical inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) gives an inspiring performance as circus founder P.T. Barnum whose poverty stricken childhood stoked his ambitions to make something of his life. Barnum meets the wealthy Charity wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Manchester by the Sea).

Audiences should go into The Greatest Showman expecting superb musical numbers similar to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land without the contemporary Hollywood twist.

Barnum soon collects a host of freaks and outcasts to star in the Greatest show ranging from the Bearded Lady wonderfully played by Keala Settle to a Napoleonic dwarf played by Sam Humphrey, all the time justifying his curious show to outspoken critic James Bennett played by Paul Sparks from the Netflix series House of Cards.

To add credibility to the motley crew of performers, Barnum persuades the aristocratic and dashing Philip Carlyle wonderfully played against type by the blue eyed Zac Efron (The Paperboy) to join him as a junior partner in the entertainment business relinquishing Carlyle’s chance of a massive inheritance.

Soon the Barnum entourage are invited to visit Queen Victoria where Barnum meets the dazzling Swedish Opera singer Jenny Lind superbly played by Rebecca Ferguson, who I am glad to see is displaying her electrifying singing talents in The Greatest Showman and certainly makes an eye catching onscreen debut in the opening number in the New York performance scene.

The Greatest Showman is a wonderful musical featuring crisp cinematography by Oscar nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, Anna Karenina).

When the narrative needs some dazzling pace, the characters break out into song and audiences that enjoyed some of the best onscreen musicals including Rob Marshall’s Chicago and Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, will love The Greatest Showman.

The Greatest Showman gets a film rating of 9 out 10 and is highly recommended viewing. Let’s see how this musical fares at the upcoming 2018 Awards Season.

Party Packing a Punch

We Are Your Friends

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Director: Max Joseph

Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston, Jon Bernthal, Emily Ratajkowski, Alex Shaffer

Taking place during a steaming summer in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, documentary filmmaker turned feature director Max Joseph’s fantastic trance film We are your Friends starring Zac Efron (The Paperboy, That Awkward Moment) as Cole an aspiring DJ who along with his friends are struggling to make ends meet, while attempting to make that one track which all DJ’s become famous for.

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Soon Cole falls under the influence of the much older and debauched DJ, James wonderfully played by Wes Bentley (American Beauty, Interstellar) who introduces him to a more affluent crowd of party goers. James’ assistant is Sophie played by new actress Emily Ratajkowski last seen in Entourage who naturally becomes attracted to the much cooler Cole.

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Yet its Cole’s group of San Fernando buddies which he ultimately falls back on including Ollie played by the gorgeous Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood, White Bird in a Blizzard) along with the hot-headed Mason played by Jonny Weston (Taken 3, Chasing Mavericks) and the youngest member Squirrel played by Alex Shaffer, which make up his brat pack.

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Hence this foursome form the rather inane title of the film We are your Friends. Look out for a supporting role by Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Wolf of Wall Street) as a morally dubious property tycoon Paige who takes advantage of poor people’s homes moments before foreclosure.

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The crux of the narrative is the predictable yet destructible love triangle which forms between Efron, Bentley and the pouty yet clear-headed Ratajkowski as the action moves from L.A. to Vegas.

We are your Friends is like watching a film during a Trance Party, and as the music is so brilliant and while director Joseph’s stylised direction can be forgiven, it is a wonderful and energetic film to watch clearly aiming at the millennial generation, almost giving the viewers a sense of constantly being in a nightclub.

The stylization both works for and against the film, and is particularly effective during a frenetic scene when James takes the impressionable Cole to an upmarket art exhibition while both tripping on PCP or Angel’s Dust and suddenly the pop art on the walls take on an animated form.

Behind all the debauchery, there is also a flimsy moral lesson which each character has to learn and this gives the film some deeper resonance. In the end, Cole does find that one track that will secure him an impressive debut at the annual Summer Fest, but it’s not sounds generated from his laptop, but rather a more organic experiential track.

We are your Friends is a remarkably interesting film about the art of being a successful DJ and the sacrifices that go with it, within a completely hedonistic environment filled with parties, nightclubs and music festivals. This party film packs a punch reminiscent of the Brett Easton Ellis inspired film, Less Than Zero starring Robert Downey Jr in one of his first major roles.

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We are your Friends will be sure to find a cult audience amongst those born in the 1990’s, with an electrifying performance by the smouldering Zac Efron, who continually lights up the screen with his boyish grin and beautiful blue eyes.

 

Trauma of an Assassination

Parkland

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giametti, Jacki Weaver, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Gil Bellows

Investigative journalist and screenwriter Peter Landesman makes his feature film debut with the harrowing reenactment of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day on the 22nd November 2963 and how this pivotal event affected not only the lives of those working at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas but also of those that were caught up in the trauma of the event from the FBI that almost had the assassin in their grasp, to the Oswald family who were shunned by society as relatives of the man who shot JFK.

Parkland, based upon the book Four Days in November by Vincent Bugliosi is an absorbing and graphic retelling of this assassination and features an all star ensemble cast including Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo TV Series), Zac Efron (The Paperboy), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) who is particularly good as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as Oswald’s mother Marguerite Marcia Gay Harden as the trauma nurse Doris Nelson along with Paul Giametti as Abraham Zupreder the man who unwillingly films the horrific assassination and then sells the footage to Life magazine. James Badge Dale and Jacki Weaver are particularly good as brother and mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy who subsequently gets shot on live television two days after the assassination by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby pointing to a much larger possible conspiracy which was elaborately explored in Oliver Stone’s film J. F. K. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Harvey_Oswald

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Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that this film is a segment from the History channel, but with all the great character actors at hand, they do their best to make Parkland an absorbing and graphic, almost shocking retelling of one the 20th centuries most famous assassinations in Dallas, Texas in 1963. An assassination which awoke America out of a cathartic state and catapulted contemporary Western society further into a culture of violent paranoia and media speculation, something which audiences watching it fifty years later are more accustomed to especially since witnessing the destruction of the New York twin towers on live television on 9/11.

Parkland is recommended viewing and perhaps too short for a 90 minute film as aspects about this historical day could have been fleshed out further beyond the initial shock and trauma of a bloody assassination in the heat of a Texan day. A riveting and engaging film which was possibly made to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this tragic event. Watch out for a cameo by Tom Hank’s son Colin Hanks as the Chief of Surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital Dr Malcolm Perry.

 

 

 

The Grand Floridian Tale

The Paperboy

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Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, Matthew McConaughey, Macy Gray, John Cusack, Scott Glenn, Ned Beatty

Before controversial director Lee Daniels become famous for his film about the American civil rights movement in The Butler, he tackled the big screen adaptation of American writer Pete Dexter’s 1995 novel The Paperboy about journalism, ethics and sultry desire in the humidity soaked state of Florida in the mid-sixties.

Matthew McConaughey’s conscious decision as an actor to shed his Rom-Com image and star in more controversial films is evident in this edgy thriller as he bravely  takes on the part of Ward Jansen, a hard-drinking Miami reporter who returns home to Moat County, Florida to investigate the gruesome death of the town Sheriff and the consequent arrest and incarceration of the chief suspect Hillary van Wetter, a rural swamp dwelling redneck, dangerously played by John Cusack.

Add to the explosive story of murder, lust and betrayal is Ward’s younger brother Jack Jansen the scantily clad swimmer played by Zac Efron and van Wetter’s supposed prison fiancé the trashy yet resourceful Charlotte Bless, in a surprisingly different turn by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) making The Paperboy an intoxicating mix of pulpy journalism, sacrifice, mystery and tragedy, all atmospherically played out in the sweltering summer of 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Paperboy is not for sensitive viewers and contains some controversial scenes in this unusual yet absorbing thriller including a scene where Kidman’s character Bliss urinates on the writhing jellyfish stung torso of Jack on a Florida beach, in a sequence which even shocked hardened Cannes Film Festival audiences at its 2012 premiere.

There are other equally gruesome and lurid scenes in The Paperboy, but the acting is topnotch especially from Kidman and McConaughey, the latter was clearly preparing for his groundbreaking Oscar winning performance in the recent Dallas Buyers Club. Whilst the narrative of The Paperboy is crude, shocking and ultimately tragic, what would audiences expect from the controversial director of Precious?

Unlike the superbly written and hugely stylish novel by Pete Dexter, the only criticism of Lee Daniels film version is that the ending is slightly altered. For those audiences that thought McConnaughey did a sudden transformation for Dallas Buyers Club, then its best to watch his more shocking performance in The Paperboy to see his ongoing evolution as an actor.

With a groovy retro soundtrack and a fabulous sixties, almost sultry Southern ambiance inspired by the more violent films like Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning set in the same period, The Paperboy is a gritty and brilliant thriller of one man’s desperate attempt to uncover the truth at all costs despite the damage it causes to himself and those around him for the sake of journalistic integrity. For in The Paperboy the Story becomes paramount despite the terrible cost of human sacrifice.

Pop star Macy Gray and David Oyelowo (also seen in The Butler) as the smooth talking Yardley Acheson round off the cast of The Paperboy which shows that teen heartthrob Zac Efron (Charlie St Cloud, Hairspray) can really hold his own onscreen against Oscar winners Kidman and McConnaughey. This Grand Floridian tale is recommended viewing but not for those easily offended.

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