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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The Frozen Ground is based on the true story of Robert Hansen, an Alaskan serial killer currently spending life behind bars for murdering at least 17 women near Anchorage.

Cusack—continuing his recent streak of hideous characters—plays Hansen, the bakery owner who hunted young women and buried their bodies throughout the Alaskan wilderness, undetected by authorities for many years. Nicolas Cage is on hand in “serious” Cage mode as State Trooper Jack Halcombe, who is determined to catch Hansen after Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), an exotic dancer, allegedly escapes his clutches.

The movie gets caught in an unfortunate loop regarding Paulson’s willingness to cooperate, and her decisions to avoid authorities. It feels like every other scene focuses on Hudgens sneaking away from Cage and retreating to some seedy area. It gets a little monotonous.

It’s a shame, because Cusack is great as Hansen, as he was in last year’s terrible The Paperboy, in which he played another murderer. Cusack delivers a chilling portrait of a man with no remorse; his performance deserved a better movie.

Hudgens is OK, even when the script lets her down. Cage does nothing special here, although that’s not entirely his fault. The screenplay basically calls for him to run around looking for Paulson the entire time. His few scenes with Cusack are the best ones in the movie.

The film is available to watch via sources including Amazon.com and iTunes; it will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 1. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you are longing to see Vanessa Hudgens naked in a pool with James Franco doing his best impersonation of Gary Oldman in True Romance, then Spring Breakers just might be the film for you.

If you prefer a movie with a script and a sense of direction, stay far, far away.

I hated this piece of junk. It’s vapid, repetitious, unfunny and downright annoying to watch. It’s a shame: I thought I was in for some fun, considering the cast assembled, and the notion of four college girls going on a crime spree so they can afford a spring break trip.

The film plays out as if Sofia Coppola decided to make a “Girls Gone Wild” video. Director Harmony Korine is shooting for some sort of dreamscape feel, with trance music, people talking slowly, and slow, slow visuals. Given what the characters are actually doing and saying, he achieves something closer to a bad mushroom-induced nightmare.

Candy (Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are bored at college, and they’ll do anything for a break. They knock over a chicken restaurant, get some money and head to Florida, where they will wear nothing but bikinis for the remainder of the film.

After a night of snorting cocaine off of boobies, they are arrested and eventually get bailed out by Alien (Franco), an underground rapper with a big grill, lots of guns and a bed covered with money.

I thought Franco’s appearance might take the movie in a fun, gangster direction. Such is not the case, because Korine’s screenplay is virtually nonexistent, and his editing style requires footage and dialogue that repeat again and again. Essentially, you feel stuck in place watching much of this movie. True, Gomez’s Faith does say she wishes one could just press a freeze button and make spring break last forever, so perhaps that’s why Korine went for his repetitive, loopy vibe. Really, I think it’s because he didn’t have enough material for a 90-minute movie.

There are no moments in this film when it feels as if performers actually had to learn some lines. Take, for instance, a scene in which Franco is describing the contents of Alien’s room. It’s like Korine just turned on a camera, told Franco to ramble about the stuff in the room, and called that a take. Yes, many films are full of improv moments, but Spring Breakers feels like one terribly long, extremely unsuccessful improv.

There is one semi-inspired sequence in the film, in which Alien shows off his sensitive side by singing the Britney Spears ballad “Everytime” on an outdoor piano. The moment is accompanied by footage of him and the girls robbing and beating spring breakers in slow motion. It’s almost funny. Sadly, for every moment that is almost good, there are 10 that are not.

Korine has directed features before (Julien Donkey-Boy being one of them). He’s also directed a lot of music videos. This movie stands as his longest, most-pointless music video.

In the hands of a more playful director, there could’ve been a fun movie to be had with Spring Breakers. The basic plotline is ripe for some nasty, cynical satire. Too bad that idea isn’t accompanied by a decent script.

Spring Breakers is playing in theaters across the valley. 

Published in Reviews