Tag Archives: Olivia Wilde

A Vigilante (2019) Review

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
Olivia Wilde as Sadie
Morgan Spector as Sadie’s Husband
Tonye Patano as Beverly
Judy Marte as Straight Up Shelter Woman
Betsy Aidem as Andrea Shaund
C.J. Wilson as Michael Shaund
Chuck Cooper as Lawyer
Kyle Catlett as Zach
Director: Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A vigilante (Olivia Wilde) helps victims of domestic violence by acting with merciless severity against the perpetrators. The battle-hardened woman never loses sight of her own mission.

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I can’t remember how I first heard of A Vigilante, but I remember mainly hearing about how great Olivia Wilde was, and that the movie was pretty good. Outside of that, I really didn’t know anything about the movie going in. Outside of a lacking third act and some roughness, A Vigilante pretty good, well directed and greatly acted by Wilde.

Plenty of people have compared this movie to Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, both follow vigilantes for hire, who experienced some form of trauma in their past, and the movies are low paced character studies of said vigilantes. There are further similarities between the two, but for A Vigilante’s sake, I’ll talk about it as how it works by itself. On paper this could’ve easily been just another revenge fantasy, however it’s very grounded and gritty. It doesn’t really have much of a structure, it just follows Olivia Wilde’s lead character of Sadie throughout. There’s also the treatment of abuse, which this movie could’ve easily failed at, and if it did it would’ve sunk it hugely. However I thought it was done as respectful as possible, making sure to focus on the victims and never turning the attention to the abuse itself. With all that the good that it’s in the first two acts, it’s just unfortunate that the third act isn’t great. I would’ve been fine with the climax still just following Sadie on her encounters, but I could potentially still be on board with the direction they went with for the story. However in this section, it becomes the revenge thriller movie that for the past hour it was trying not to be. I guess it isn’t bad, but it’s a little disappointing and underwhelming, and not like it was intended to.

The movie is worth watching for Olivia Wilde alone, this is a career best performance from her. I’ve seen her in plenty of movies, some of them major movies, but she hadn’t been given a ton of things to work with on her end. A Vigilante is really her movie however, she’s in almost every scene and it’s following her for the entirety of the plot. This relied so much on her bringing something incredible to it, and she absolutely does. The rest of the cast are fine enough but don’t come even close to Wilde’s level, on top of the fact that with every other character you don’t see them in more than a couple scenes. The ‘antagonists’ in the movie are very one note, for much of the movie that’s fine, they’re more often than not abusers that Sadie is hired to deal with. We don’t get to know much about them and we didn’t need to. However there is a singular antagonist in the last act, and either he’s given too much screentime and things to say, or not given enough personality or depth for us to care much about this character in the context of the story. He was more of an annoyance than anything else.

This is writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s debut film, and she definitely showed her talents well with this movie. The film can feel pretty cold throughout, however it felt appropriate given the character and the tone of the story. As mentioned earlier, A Vigilante is trying to be as realistic as possible. There aren’t any overly stylistic scenes or montages, and although there are portions of composed music played at some points, much of the movie is set to silence. While the violence can be brutal, it’s restrained and yet at the right enough to make you uncomfortable without being exploitive. Even the violence that Wilde delivers onto abusers aren’t shown, so there is no glorification about any of it. As for the thriller aspects in the third act, I guess it was fine but felt somewhat underwhelming, and I can’t tell whether it was purposeful or not.

A Vigilante is not an easy watch, and it has its fair share of issues, most of them to do with the final act. However it mostly handles the subject matter with care, and it’s directed very well. With all that being said, it may very well be worth watching even just for Olivia Wilde’s performance.

Booksmart (2019) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Drug use, sexual Drug use, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Beanie Feldstein as Molly Davidson
Kaitlyn Dever as Amy Antsler
Jessica Williams as Miss Fine
Lisa Kudrow as Charmaine Antsler
Will Forte as Doug Antsler
Jason Sudeikis as Jordan Brown
Billie Lourd as Gigi
Diana Silvers as Hope
Director: Martin Scorsese

Academic overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night — a chaotic adventure that no amount of book smarts could prepare them for.

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I have been hearing about Booksmart for the longest time, it had received acclaim from critics and audiences alike, and was often placed among the best movies of the year. I was quite sceptical about it, I have to say. From the brief glances I saw of the movie I got the feeling I wouldn’t love it as much as others, not to mention that I’m not a fan of coming of age stories. Still, I was going to give it a fair chance and I did. Having seen it, I have some very mixed feelings about the movie, and while I don’t exactly dislike it, I don’t really like it much either.

Booksmart practically announces itself as a subversive take on a coming of age story, especially with the main characters. While it seems different from other similar movies, that’s only surface level. Booksmart follows much of the same structure, story beats, and the like in most coming of age movies. There’s even a familiar argument scene between the main friend characters (which happens out of the blue and for no reason in this movie I should add). There are attempts at being modern and woke, parts of it are okay, but most of it doesn’t work, and often feels immature and out of touch. It’s pretty much what you first think of when you hear the concept of fully grow adults trying to write woke teen comedies, a mess to say the least. There’s something that hits me the more I thought about the movie afterwards, that lack of relatability. I’m not a big fan of coming of age movies, but much of why a lot of other movies in this genre are loved is relatability. Sure there might be a couple of things with the lead characters that you can relate to, but that’s where it ends. The best coming of age released in recent years for me was The Edge of Seventeen, and that was mainly because of genuine complications that the characters go through, even if you can’t relate to their problems, at least it feels somewhat real. I’m not necessarily expecting complete realism all the way through with Booksmart, but this movie is practically a fantasy and so over the top, from the scenarios to the characters. Even if it wasn’t going for realism, it’s nonetheless hard to emotionally connect to them on any level. In the third act when it tries to get emotional at a point, it just doesn’t hit at all, especially with how goofy the rest of the movie beforehand was. I haven’t even gotten to the humour yet, I really did not find Booksmart to be that funny. And it’s more than just it not being funny, there’s some scenarios and side characters that are completely awkward and hard to watch (the latter of which I’ll get into in a bit). Throughout the movie aside from maybe the early sections, I was not invested or entertained whatsoever.

The saving grace of the movie are the leads with Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. There’s parts involving the characters and the writing that aren’t so great, but these two actresses work very well together and share wonderful chemistry. I absolutely believed that these two are friends, and when it’s just the two of them acting together, I actually liked it. They are the only thing that comes close to something somewhat carrying the movie. The rest of the characters are incredibly over the top cartoons, the thing is that none of them are funny. If anything, they just made the movie awkward and hard to watch. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was meant to be unnerving (because if that was the legitimate intention they certainly succeeded), but as it is, I think it missed the mark. Billie Lourd is particularly a reoccurring character that pops up plenty of times, and I guess she’s meant to be funny and the main ‘comedic relief’… but she just didn’t work for me. Like the others she was over the top, obnoxious, and made it hard to watch it.

This is the debut of Olivia Wilde as a director, she’s definitely showed off her talents well, and I’d like to see her direct a lot more movies. On the technical side, there wasn’t much I have to complain about except that the soundtrack was a little overdone.

I really wish I could‘ve liked Booksmart, it had potential for sure. Outside of Olivia Wilde’s direction and Dever and Feldstein however, it was rather hard to get through. It’s really over the top, mostly unfunny, very cliched (for all the attempts at subverting familiar coming of age tropes), and at times obnoxious. To be brutally honest, I did not get anything out of the movie except with the feeling that Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are great and definitely deserve the attention they are getting, and that Olivia Wilde should be given more directing gigs for sure. I guess if you’re somewhat interested in this movie however, see it for yourself. Booksmart is among the most loved movies of the year, I’m just disappointingly in the minority of people who didn’t really like it.

The Lazarus Effect (2015) Review

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The Lazarus Effect

Time: 83 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Horror
Cast:
Mark Duplass as Frank Walton
Olivia Wilde as Zoe McConnell
Sarah Bolger as Eva
Evan Peters as Clay
Donald Glover as Niko
Ray Wise as Mr. Wallace
Director: David Gelb

Medical researcher Frank (Mark Duplass), his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and their team have achieved the impossible: they have found a way to revive the dead. After a successful, but unsanctioned, experiment on a lifeless animal, they are ready to make their work public. However, when their dean learns what they’ve done, he shuts them down. Zoe is killed during an attempt to recreate the experiment, leading Frank to test the process on her. Zoe is revived — but something evil is within her.

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Most horror movies nowadays are terrible, with the exception of a few gems like The Babadook and Oculus. Most of them are by the numbers, have bad horror clichés and straight up aren’t scary at all. So how does The Lazarus Effect hold up? It doesn’t, it’s not scary (and as you probably guessed, relies on unscary jump scares), it felt dull and failed to thrill despite its initially interesting premise. However I wouldn’t call it a terrible movie. It does have a decent cast and the direction for the most part is fine and it’s nowhere near as bad as some other horror movies of today. But still, it’s not a good movie and not worth your time.

M182 (Left to right.) Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde star in Relativity Media's "The Lazarus Effect". © 2013 BACK TO LIFE PRODUCTIONS, LLC Photo Credit: Suzanne Hanover

This movie does have an interesting premise with the whole resurrection element, and what happens after people die. Despite this, at many points this movie just feels boring and dull, and there were so many missed opportunities to take the film into a scarier or at least more interesting level. Olivia Wilde dies like 30 minutes into the movie before getting brought back, that’s a third into the movie, so you can imagine how boring the road felt leading up to it. The tension only appears during certain scenes of the movie, it’s not maintained throughout most of the movie. It doesn’t help that this movie isn’t scary at all, but I’ll get to how the ‘scares’ are handled later on.

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This movie has a great cast, which was one of the few things that this movie had going for it. The cast was filled with talented actors such as Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and many more. I thought that they did well with what they were given, despite not having very well written characters. They might actually be the best part of the movie and might be the only thing that sort of works, which is sad really.

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With the exception of the actual horror scenes, the movie is generally well directed and the production value is quite decent. Unfortunately when it comes to the horror scenes, it follows plenty of horror clichés. The Lazarus Effect, like other horror movies of today rely on jump scares, there are at least 10 of them, I counted them. Most of the jump scares I saw coming, though I will say that out of all the jump scares only 1 of them was a fake jump scare, but that’s hardly a compliment at this point in time.

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Overall The Lazarus Effect could’ve been an interesting horror movie with an interesting premise and a great cast but given the reception of this movie I didn’t go in expecting much and I got what I was expecting. It was brought down by unscary ‘horror’ scenes and a somehow bad plot, even though it promised a somewhat interesting result. It’s one of those movies like Transcendence which have good ideas but still doesn’t culminate in a good movie. Still, it’s nowhere near as bad as other horror movies of today like Ouija, that’s not saying much though as most movies aren’t at that level of horribleness.