Loving The Vile (Film Thoughts: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile)

extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-800x1200Who isn’t in love with Zac Efron? I know I have been championing him for a while now, as I do think he is an extremely talented and versatile actor. He is getting more attention nowadays for his performance in the new film ‘Extremely Wicked Shickingly Evil and Vile’ (bad choice of a title since I cannpt retain it in my memory) and rightfully so – he is extremely effective portraying the serial killer Ted Bundy. Seen in the eyes of his long time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (who wrote a book based on her life with Bundy) this Ted Bundy is charming and handsome. It’s as if director Joe Berlinger has put you in the position of being one of his victims and you are able to experience how one gets manipulated and roped by this man. It’s a strange way to present a film about a serial killer. We never really get to see any of the killings, and at first thought you think, this film is as in love with Bundy (and Efron) as we are. But as I think about it more, I think it’s just an effective way to present Bundy. Even though Collins is great as Elizabeth, Efron takes over the film whenever he is on – his presence here i so magnetic that you are instantly and effectively drawn. Yes, it does seem like it is trying to glorify a serial killer, but in the initial eyes of his victims, he is glorified. And just like his victims, he instills fear as we get to know him better. There is a scene between Ted and Elizabeth towards the end which is supposed to be some kind of closure for their relationship, but instead is so horrifying it will make you feel sick and disgusted, yet there will be a nagging feeling in you that you will want more.

I initially had reservations about the film (even as I enjoyed Efron’s performance) – the pace is uneven, and there are some holes int he story telling. But taken as is, I think it’s still a worthwhile film. As my film ended, Netflix immediately followed my viewing with their docu series The TEd Bundy Tapes, and I think seeing those two things back to back will make the Bundy experience fuller. But then again, maybe one is enough.

Don’t Be Beachin (Movie Thoughts: The Beach Bum)

large_beach-bum-posterHalfway through Harmony Korrine’s ‘The Beach Bum,’ Moondog (played by Matthew McConaughey) and his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) starts dancing to Peggy Lee’s song ‘Is That All There Is,’ and it perfectly describes how I am feeling about the film at that point. Is this it? Is the film going to mean more or is this as good as this film gets?

The answer of course, isn’t as simple. While the plot gets a minor bump after that song, the film coasts on the same stoner vibe. There simply isn’t going to be more plot-wise here, but as a film, it delivers a lot more. My advise? Just give in and let the film take control of how you view it. Just take a toke and enjoy it, man. That seems to be the vibe of Moondog, and we are just living in his world at this point. Those searching for a greater meaning here will probably not be rewarded, or depending on your high level, everything will all make sense in the world. I have to say I just tried to enjoy the film, and for the most part, I did – the vignettes featuring Zac Efron and, especially, Martin Lawrence, were laugh out loud funny. And McConaughey has never been more natural and effortless, and in my imagination, this is him in real life. Who cares if even the flimsy plot is riddled with holes, all that matters here is that everyone who watches this is on the same trip. And it’s a wild wild trip.

Master Showman (Movie Thoughts: The Greatest Showman)

large_greatest-showmnaI saw ‘The Greatest Showman’ at a sold-out matinee show and right as the credits rolled, most of the audience started clapping vigorously.  I thought to myself, did we just see the same film? Because in my opinion, this film is a bloated piece of mess.

Never mind the fact that the film glosses over any objectivity regarding the life of P.T. Barnum. I know that I have read numerous pieces about him being a monster – literally buying and selling ‘freak talent’ for his shows. The screenplay, by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (seriously, Bill Condon wrote this crap?) glosses over everything and we get to see a very bland story of someone starting a circus. There isn’t any depth to the narrative, the only conflict we get is a fire in his circus and his wife leaving him as he embarks on an affair with an opera singer (Rebecca Ferguson)  We get zero sense of the man. Even as Hugh Jackman tries to make him a human, the result is that we get a robot who recites lines, and well, at least he sings and dances well. Jackman is the consummate showman, of course, but is given some of the most generic, could-be-about-anything songs devoid of any character, or tune, really. They all blend into one whole limp song.

Sure, Seamus McGarvey’s choreography gives the scenes a little lift, but every number is arranged so tightly that the performers don’t have any room to breathe. Zac Efron is fine enough in a nothing role, and Zendaya’s role could have been played by anyone, and probably better by any gypsy on Broadway.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I kind of expected a little more from all these people, and now I think they probably should have done a film version of Cy Coleman’s ‘Barnum.’ I know I should be grateful that they are doing musicals, and people seem to be enjoying this (to be fair, the audience scoring is pretty high)  but I consider this to be one of the worst films of the year – more because of great expectations than anything else.

Dates Night (Movie Thoughts: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates)

mike-and-dave-need-wedding-dates I have always been a fan of Zac Efron, not because he is cute, and let’s face it, he is that, but I am also maybe one of the last few who still thinks he is a natural when it comes to acting. He used to alternate his commercial with some artistic choices, but lately we haven’t seen that, as he has forayed into a lot of frat-boy comedies. But we cannot deny he is the sweetest of guys. During the Olympics, we saw this when he surprised Shannon Biles, the breakthrough superstar of the games. She had confessed that she was an Efron superfan, so when he started winning those medals, the Today Show arranged for Efron to surprise her inio. It was the cutest thing.

Efron’s latest movie, ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ is not nearly as cute – it’s one of those racy and raunchy comedies that make you squirm in mike_and_dave_need_wedding_dates_ver2your seats for laughing kind of comedy. He plays Dave, who with his brother Mike (Adam Devine) concocts a plan to get wedding dates for their sister’s wedding in Hawaii…and you know, hilarity ensues. This is normally not really my kind of movie. If not for Efron, i probably would have turned my nose up on this. But I do have to admit, I chuckled quite a few times while watching the film, even though I found a lot of the jokes offensive. But I give this film points for doing equal-opportunity offensiveness, so there’s that. And anything with Anna Kendrick can’t really be that bad. This film is good relaxing on a quiet night movie, and I doubt if anyone expected it to be anything otherwise.

The Girls Next Door (Movie Thoughts: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising)

neighbors-2-sorority-rising-posterLet’s try something different here. To dump on ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ would be redundant and, frankly, boring. Everyone else will do that, and they have a right to: this movie is raunchy and vulgar (and that thought can even be a good thing for some people) and really, the thin storyline is stretched by mindless sketches.  I mean, I wasn’t even going to watch this Until I read this Jezebel piece about the movie, proclaiming it a real feminist movie then I thought, hmmm, that’s an idea I never would have associated with this film, and obviously that stirred my interest.

The film still did not truly satisfy me, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a lot of things about it I liked. First of all, it is very gay positive. Dave Franco’s character apparently is gay, and in the beginning of the movie, gets engaged to his boyfriend in a very sweet scene that brought tears to my eyes – watch it here . And Zac Efron’s Teddy is the emotional core of the film. Sure, his emotional breakthrough always happen around funny circumstances, but they mostly work. And I will always applaud Efron for always being game – he really is the frat version of Nicole Kidman. (I love the place where he ends up at the end of the film) And yes, the film does have a feminist positive vibe, more seen through the eyes of its male screenwriters, but a surprising point of view nonetheless for these kinds of films.

As I said, the film was enjoyable – a fluff candy that gets consumed and is rid of right away. But it does present very positive themes for its target audience, and in this nowadays world of Trump America, they are practically subversive.

Reading Filth (Movie Thoughts: Dirty Grandpa)

Robert-De-Niro-Zac-Efron-Dirty-Grandpa-Movie-PosterI read a review the other wherein the reviewer said that “dirty Grandpa” is probably the worst film of Robert De Niro’s stellar career, so I set my bar very low when assessing this movie. And perhaps that reviewer is right, although I cannot say that I am very intimate with De Niro’s filmography. Make no mistake, “Dirty Grandpa” is bad – it is tasteless and gross, and you wonder how the mighty Raging Bull has fallen for himt o get involved with this project, which is directed bY Dan Mazar, a writer for Sasha Cohen. I found myself shakign my head a couple of times, asking myself how low can this movie go? But you know what, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and I bet it will catch on with its target market: young male audiences. It’s crass, for sure, the same way that ‘Borat’ was crass, but it never pretends to be anything else. And I do have to give De Niro credit for being very game here – he does every trick in the book for the material to come across. I mean, you don’t even for a second doubt his commitment. Talk about a consummate actor.

dgpAnd Zac Efron?  He holds his own. You see, I belong in that school of peopel who thinks that beneath his too-handsome exterior lies a very talented actor, though lately he has become more mannered. You see glimpses of his natural charm here, and he is certainly swoon worthy for most of the movie – just try and not be enthralled by him singing “Because You Loved Me” here. So did I have a bad time watching this movie? Not as horrid as one might think, I even chuckled a couple of times -just don’t alert the press. Believe me, I have seen much worse.

Hey Mr. DJ (Film Thoughts: We Are Your Friends)

We-Are-Your-Friends-2-600x889I think Zac Efron can film himself reading the phone book and I will watch it. I really do think he is a good actor. But, as he got older, a lot of his naturalness has dissipated – a kind of self-awareness has crept in his performances, and it has become more and more noticeable. Still, there’s that charm that wets movie theater seats, and there is plenty of that evident in his new movie, “We Are Your Friends.”  Directed by Max Joseph, it aspires to be a sort-of coming of age EDM version of ‘Saturday Night Fever.”  Efron’s natural instincts makes his Cole almost believable. But the part is so underwritten he really can only do so much. This is one of those films where three quarters into the movie, it still is frantically searching for a plot, and you are thinking to yourself, it better get here soon. Wes Bentley, as DJ James Reed, gives his character a bit of gravitas, but then again that is more because of his skills than anything else. His scenes with Efron are so good you have to think they are improvised. Maybe the reason I am disconnected with the movie is because it centers around the plight of millennials: their struggles in finding their entitled selves in the world. As an oldie compared to them, I want to just say, suck it up.