‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’

 

 

 

 

 

The REAL Ted Bundy

 

 

COURTESY OF HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Zac Efron plays serial killer Ted Bundy and Lily Collins a single Seattle mother he seduces in Joe Berlinger’s film.

Not to say that Zac Efron was born to play Ted Bundy, but the former High School Musical teen heartthrob is more than a bit convincing as the seductive, prolific and diabolical serial killer of young women in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Venerated documentary stalwart Joe Berlinger, who just happens to also have a four-part Netflix docuseries on the same subject, Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, currently on view, does a cogent, propulsive job putting the appallingly prolific murderer’s story onscreen, and such material customarily finds an interested public.

Largely avoiding the opportunity to exploit the violence of Bundy’s extensive criminal career, during which he killed at least 30 women and probably more in the 1970s, Michael Werwie’s fine, smartly structured screenplay centers instead on his relationship with a young Seattle woman, Liz Kloepfer (Lily Collins), whom he never harmed.

So handsome and charming was this young law student that he didn’t have to seduce women, they came after him, and it made no difference to Ted that Liz had a young daughter. He knew how to treat ladies well, or so it seemed; as it happens, there was an unusual spike in killings of young women in the Seattle area, 1970-74.

With Efron playing him, it’s very easy to believe in Ted’s ability to insinuate himself into the lives of innumerable women. Why he grew so attached to Liz — and why he didn’t eventually kill her — remains unclear. But he did develop a bad habit of getting pulled over at night by the cops, which perplexed him. Worse than that, when he and Liz visited a dog pound to possibly choose one, a very intuitive hound began growling at the young man intensely. It didn’t find a home that day.

Suspicions of something amiss were soon aroused in humans as well. In Utah he was accused and eventually sentenced to prison for aggravated assault in 1976, by which time homicide investigators took an interest in him. Thus triggers a particularly engaging stretch of the film, as the French prison escape novel Papillon becomes Ted’s bible and he eventually busts out of not just one but two jails.

Perhaps Ted’s biggest mistake is ending up in Florida, where authorities revered the death penalty and weren’t about to let the now famous outlaw escape again. “I’m gong to fry you,” a local sheriff promises after Bundy is hit with two charges of first degree murder.

Berlinger attacks the story in a rough-and-ready style only somewhat more refined than what he employs in documentaries, and the approach feels entirely appropriate. It also displays the versatility of cinematographer Brandon Trost, who most recently shot the more classically composed Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Up to this point, Efron’s Bundy been smooth, resourceful and unflappably confident. But in the climactic act, the character and the actor raise their games considerably as the murder trial commences. Far from contrite, he is madly confident and has entirely won over the blind support and love of an old friend, Carole Anne Boone (Kay Scodelario), with whom he manages to find ways to engage in passionate congress within courthouse walls, to the point of impregnating her.

The trial is a dynamite affair, which Bundy takes over after firing his attorney. The trial judge, played with and for great amusement by John Malkovich, fancies himself as a sage and wit. Efron flies higher than ever here, investing his character with an illusory confidence that’s entertaining even when the character and legal charges fully live up to the film’s title.

All along, Bundy has tried to maintain contact with his seemingly genuine love, Liz (whose kid mysteriously disappears from the narrative in the later-going). Where many other women fell for Bundy in the worst way, Liz was able to survive, for reasons that are never explored. Indeed, the psychological aspect of the killer’s prolific career is simply not addressed.

Still, it’s quite a story, which Berlinger moves along with unrelenting energy. He also gets good marks across the board for his work with the actors, an uncertain issue when it comes to documentary makers trying to cross over to the dramatic sphere. The director’s only previous dramatic feature, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, was a creative fiasco, one that put him off fictional stories for two decades. He’s done more than a little better this time.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)

Production: Cota Films, Voltage Pictures

Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kay Scodelario, Jeffrey Donovan, Angela Sarafyan, Dylan Baker, Brian Geraghty, Jim Parsons, John Malkovich, Haley Joel Osment

Director: Joe Berlinger

Screenwriter: Michael Werwie, based on the book The Phanton Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall

Producers: Michael Costigan, Nicolas Chartier, Ara Kershishian, Michael Simkin

Executive producers: Zac Efron, Michael Werwie, Jonathan, Deckter, Jason Barrett

Director of photography: Brandon Trost

Production designer: Brandon Tonner-Connolly

Costume designer: Megan Stark Evans

Editor: Josh Schaeffer

Music: Marco Beltrami, Dennis Smith

Casting: Neely Eisenstein

Running time: 108 minutes

Mindhunter 2017

https://youtu.be/7gZCfRD_zWE

 

Circa 1977

 

Set in 1977 – in the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling at the Federal Bureau of Investigation– Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who originate the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit within the Training Division at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. They interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how they think, with the hope of applying this knowledge to solving ongoing cases.

I found this fascinating series on Netflix in 2018.  I’m now binging it for a second time, waiting on the second season.

 

Eastbound and Down – Remembering Smoky and the Bandit with Burt Reynolds

 

For those not from the US, a member of Law Enforcement was affectionally called “Smokey” during the late part of the last century.

Burt Reynold’s will always be remembered for his “Smokey and the Bandit” trilogy of films.  Here are some hi-lights.

Crash scenes of smokey after the Bandit, either in his black car, his truck, or sometimes as a stolen police car. Burt was one of those famous actors who liked to do his own stunts. I can’t acknowledge that he was in every one of these, but do know these are REAL stunts with REAL stuntmen.  No CGI here.  This was a fun movie if you can rent it somewhere.

Most of the premise of this first film was that the Bandit drove a “chase car” to keep the cops after him while his buddy drove the truck of beer without much trouble.

 

 

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run.
Keep your foot hard on the pedal. Son, never mind them brakes.
Let it all hang out ’cause we got a run to make.
The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarcana.
And we’ll bring it back no matter what it takes.
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run.
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run.
Ol’ Smokey’s got them ears on and he’s hot on your trail.
He aint gonna rest ’til you’re in jail.
So you got to dodge ‘im and you got to duck ‘im,
You got to keep that diesel truckin’.
Just put that hammer down and give it hell.
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run.

 

A Very English Scandal 2018

It is the late 1960s, homosexuality has only just been decriminalised and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party and the youngest leader of any British political party in a hundred years, has a secret he’s desperate to hide. As long as his ex-lover Norman Scott is around, Thorpe’s brilliant career is at risk. Thorpe schemes and deceives – until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good. The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed society forever, illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment. The Thorpe affair revealed such breath-taking deceit and corruption that, at the time, hardly anyone dared believe it could be true.

3 Episodes  BBC One

 

 

 

Shine 1996

A man (Geoffrey Rush) wanders through a heavy rainstorm finding his way into a restaurant. The restaurant’s employees try to determine if he needs help. Despite his manic mode of speech being difficult to understand, Sylvia learns that his name is David Helfgott and that he is staying at a local hotel. She returns him to the hotel, and despite his attempts to engage her with his musical knowledge and ownership of various musical scores, she leaves.

As a child, David (played by Alex Rafalowicz) is growing up in suburban Adelaide, South Australia and competing in a local music competition. Helfgott has been taught to play by his father, Peter (played by Armin Mueller-Stahl), a man obsessed with winning who has no tolerance for failure or disobedience. David is noticed by Mr. Rosen, a local pianist who, after an initial conflict with Peter, takes over David’s musical instruction.

As a teen, David (played by Noah Taylor) wins the state musical championship and is invited to study in America. Although plans are made to raise money to send David and his family is initially supportive, Peter eventually forbids David to leave and abuses him, thinking David leaving would destroy the family. Crushed, David continues to study and befriends local novelist and co-founder of the Communist Party of Australia, Katharine Susannah Prichard (Googie Withers). David’s talent grows until he is offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London. David’s father again forbids him to go, but with the encouragement of Katharine, David leaves. In London, David enters a Concerto competition, choosing to play Rachmaninoff’s enormously demanding 3rd Concerto, a piece he had attempted to learn as a young child to make his father proud. As David practices, he increasingly becomes manic in his behavior. David wins the competition, but suffers a mental breakdown and is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he receives electric shock therapy.

David recovers to the point where he is able to return to Australia, but is still rejected by his father. David relapses and is readmitted to a mental institution as a young man. Years later, a volunteer at the institution recognizes David and knows of his musical talent. She takes him home but discovers that he is difficult to control, unintentionally destructive, and needs more care than she can offer. She leaves him at the hotel from earlier in the film. David has difficulty adjusting to life in broader society again, and often leaves the hotel to stimulate his interests. David wanders to the nearby restaurant.

The next day David returns to the restaurant, and the patrons are astounded by his ability to play the piano. One of the owners befriends David and looks after him. In return David plays at the restaurant. Through the owner David is introduced to Gillian (Lynn Redgrave). David and Gillian fall in love and marry. With Gillian’s help and support, David is able to come to terms with his father’s death and to stage a well-received comeback concert, presaging his return to professional music.

 

The Post 2017 c. 1970s

True Story

c. 1970s

The Post is a 2017 American political thriller film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Set in the early 1970s, the film stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, and Matthew Rhys. The Post depicts the journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times who published the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the United States government during the Vietnam War.

The Post received highly positive reviews, with specific praise for the performances of Streep, Hanks and Odenkirk, and critics noting the film’s comparisons of the administrations of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump.[8][9] It was chosen by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2017, and was named as one of the top 10 films of the year by Time and the American Film Institute.] At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, the film received six nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actress – Drama for Streep, Best Actor – Drama for Hanks, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score