Tag Archives: Lily Collins

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.


10 Up-and-Coming Actors To Watch

You’ve seen them in your favourite recent movies – you just might not know it. They’ve shared the screen with actors such as Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, and Pierce Brosnan. They’ve played such memorable roles as “Teenager #1” and “Boy on Bike”. They are the next wave of up-and-coming actors.

Everyone likes to predict which young performers will hit it big, and these ten actors, while hardly household names, have proven that they have charisma and talent, even in the smallest of roles. If you hurry, you can still claim that you liked them before they hit it big.

And if you’d like to see more lists of up-and-coming actors, check out the archive!

1. Reece Thompson

Age: 21

Why he’s on the list: Because he’s already proven that he’s a leading man. After a slew of bit parts in TV shows and straight-to-DVD movies, Thompson got his first big starring role with 2007’s fabulous but underseen Rocket Science. Playing a stuttering debate team hopeful, Thompson grasped the off-beat humour of the film perfectly and also added some genuine emotional heft. The same year, he took the lead in The Assassination of a High School President, and Thompson’s modern riff on the hard-boiled detective genre was a blast.

Where you’ll see him: In two different indies screening at TIFF. Daydream Nation is a “provocative yet humorous romance” starring Kat Dennings, and Thompson will play the younger of her two love interests. As well, he’ll play a friend to Michael Angarano in Max Winkler’s comedy
Ceremony, which also stars Uma Thurman.

2. Zoe Kazan

Age: 26

Why she’s on the list: Because she knows how to pick a role. Even her earliest credits include films like Fracture and Revolutionary Road. Kazan (who, yes, is the granddaughter of Elia Kazan) has since gotten larger roles, and audiences are most likely to recognize her as Meryl Streep’s younger daughter in It’s Complicated, or alongside Zac Efron in Me and Orson Welles. But the critical acclaim came with a little-seen film from last year called The Exploding Girl, which stars Kazan as a college student suffering from epilepsy.

Where you’ll see her: Her biggest upcoming film, Meek’s Cut-Off, is a period-piece western premiering at TIFF. The film is directed by Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy), and it stars Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, and Michelle Williams. She’ll also take a supporting role in Happythankyoumoreplease, the directorial debut of actor Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother)

3. Mark Rendall

Age: 21

Why he’s on the list: Because he’s a magnetic, quirky presence. Before he got cast in larger parts, he (like most Canadian actors, it seems) paid his dues on various homegrown children’s shows and made-for-TV movies. After voicing everyone’s favourite aardvark, Arthur, and a starring role in the Canadian film Childstar, he began to land supporting roles in some larger Hollywood films. In 2007’s Charlie Bartlett, he stole the show as Kip, a sensitive, depressed teen. He’s also appeared in Silk, 30 Days of Night, My One and Only, and earned praise for his work  in The Exploding Girl

Where you’ll see him: He actually doesn’t have any upcoming projects currently listed on IMDB, aside from a short film called Up & Down.

4. Olivia Thirlby

Age: 23

Why she’s on the list: Because she’s just plain awesome. She’s best known as Juno‘s shrewd best friend, but her first role was in Paul Greengrass’ acclaimed drama, United 93. Since then she’s appeared in a slew of smart indies, including Snow Angels (a Times Like Those favourite), The Wackness, Uncertainty, Breaking Upwards, and Solitary Man.

Where you’ll see her: In Kenneth Lonnergan’s follow-up to You Can Count on Me, Margaret, whose cast includes Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin, and Matthew Broderick. Thirlby will also take supporting roles in the Ivan Reitman-directed No Strings, The Darkest Hour (an alien thing with Emile Hirsch), and Dredd (another sci-fi thing, written by Alex Garland [28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go]). As well, she’ll finally get to try her hand in leading roles in M and The No Game.

5. Johnny Simmons

Age: 23

Why he’s on the list: Because he’s on the rise. With only a handful of feature credits to his name, Simmons has quickly transitioned from films like Evan Almighty and Hotel for Dogs to a trio of showier roles. He was terrorized by Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body and charmed as Michael Cera’s bandmate “Young Neil” in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But for me, the performance that showed the most promise was a supporting role in The Greatest. He played a likeable but very flawed teenager struggling to come to terms with the death of his older brother, and Simmons deftly handled a complicated range of emotions.

Where you’ll see him: He’ll play the son of Robin Wright’s rabble-rouser in The Conspirator. The Robert Redford-helmed film is already earning fairly strong reviews at TIFF, and it could be a chance for Simmons to reach a wider audience.

6. Zoe Kravitz

Age: 21

Why she’s on the list: Because she’s an intriguing on-screen presence. As the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonnet, she’s already got star power behind her name, and Kravitz is starting to prove that she’s got the talent to back it up. She hasn’t wasted any time courting high-profile projects, getting her start with a small role in 2007’s No Reservations. She’s also appeared in The Brave One, and stole her scenes (despite her shakily written character) in The Greatest.

Where you’ll see her: The sultry actress will appear in one of this fall’s more buzzed-about indies, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden). She’s also got a couple of potential blockbusters on the horizon with supporting roles in X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road.

7. Hunter Parrish

Age: 23

Why he’s on the list: Because he’s got the makings of a full-blown teen heartthrob (he’s already built a bit of a following thanks to his work on “Weeds”) early roles were fairly minor, but 2009 offered a couple of larger big-screen projects. First, he was almost unrecognizable as Zac Efron’s scuzzy nemesis in the surprisingly enjoyable 17 Again. And though he was given very little to do as Meryl Streep’s son in It’s Complicated, his sheer charisma (and blindingly white teeth) made him memorable.

Where you’ll see him: I believe that he’s still on “Weeds”, but aside from that, he doesn’t have any other projects listed on IMDB right now, oddly enough.

8. T.J. Miller

Age: 29

Why he’s on the list: Because he has the everyman humour of Jason Segel or Seth Rogan. Despite being one of the older names on the list (and working as a stand-up comedian for years), Miller made his film debut only two years ago in the much-discussed Cloverfield (if he doesn’t look familiar, it’s because he played Hud, the man holding the camera, and served as more of a narrator than a visual presence). He’s had small roles in Extract (as Jason Bateman’s metalhead co-worker) and How to Train Your Dragon. But his most prominent role to date was in this year’s woefully underrated She’s Out of My League, where he stole the show as “Stainer”.

Where you’ll see him: Miller seems to be everywhere this year, and he’s still got two more appearances to go by the end of 2010. He’ll appear in, um, Yogi Bear (alongside Dan Ackroyd, Justin Timberlake, and Anna Faris) and Gulliver’s Travels (which co-stars Jack Black and Jason Segel).

9. Lily Collins

Age: 21

Why she’s on the list: Because she could be the next big starlet. Aside from an appearance on 90210, Collins’ only film acting gig to date is as Sandra Bullock’s daughter in The Blindside, where she turned in a very respectable performance. She’s also done stage acting, modeling and writing, and happens to be the daughter of Phil Collins. Apparently others are taking note…

Where you’ll see her: She has a role in next year’s sci-fi thriller, Priest, alongside Paul Bettany and Christopher Plummer. She’ll also co-star in Abduction with Taylor Lautner (before you write it off completely, the supporting cast includes Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, and Sigourney Weaver). And finally, she’s slated to take the lead in yet another film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

10. Caleb Landry Jones

Age: 20

Why he’s on the list: Because he has star potential. His first role was as “Boy On Bike” in No Country for Old Men. Despite only appearing on screen for a mere couple of minutes near the end of the film, he somewhat stole the scene from Javier Bardem (and if you’ve seen the movie, you know that it was a fairly memorable scene on its own). He’s since appeared in the “Friday Night Lights” TV show and Fred Durst’s The Longshots. This year, he found himself in a supporting role in the box office quasi-hit, The Last Exorcism.

Where You’ll See Him: He has a role in The Social Network, but considering he’s billed as “Fraternity Guy”, one would expect it to be a fairly minor one. More notably, he was recently cast as Banshee in X-Men: First Class. Previous instalments in the franchise have served as a launching pad for Ellen Page, Ben Foster, and James Marsden.