Tag Archives: Vanessa Hudgens

Movie Review: Spring Breakers (2013)

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I thought Project X, that sorry excuse for a film about three losers who decide to throw a massive house party, was the worst movie of 2012. Spring Breakers is more attractive visually and has much bigger names attached to it, but it’s pretty much the Project X of 2013, except more pretentious.

Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Gummo), Spring Breakers is about four college girls – Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife) – who head to a spring break party full of drunken rowdiness and intoxicated/drugged up debauchery in skimpy outfits. After a brief brush with the law, they meet Alien, a local gangster played by a corn-rolled James Franco, causing their world to spiral out of control.

That doesn’t make it sound too bad, except that it is. Spring Breakers was made with the intention to shock and disgust audiences with the despicable behaviour of college students on spring break. This means there’s lots of raunchy dancing, drug use, alcohol abuse and nudity and swearing, which is not necessarily bad if done in the right way.

But Korine’s approach feels gratuitous and contrived, with a really lame narrative structure that jumps around and repeats pointlessly behind an even more irritating Terrence Malick-style voiceover that only accentuates how unattractive and unlikable the protagonists are. Most of all, despite decent performances from all four of them, they don’t feel real. Stupid and obnoxious, yes, but not genuine people.

James Franco’s acting is actually fairly strong in this, but his character is a laughable parody. He’s hilarious (unintentionally), actually, but only because he is so pathetic. In fact, there are several moments in this movie that fall between unintentionally funny and cringeworthy, and none of them are intended. The film’s Wikipedia page calls it a “comedy drama” but it’s really an “unintentionally comedic drama.”

Spring Breakers would have still been salvageable had the story been interesting or compelling, but there wasn’t really much of a story to speak of either. And the ending was just flat out horrible. A ridiculous and fitting end to a loathsome movie.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Frozen Ground (2013)

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The Frozen Ground is a disturbing true story about Robert Hansen, an Alaskan serial killer who stalked, kidnapped and killed at least 17 women in the 1980s. But despite an all-star cast, solid performances and a well-crafted bleak, dreary atmosphere, it felt like a run-of-the-mill, straight-to-DVD thriller that may have been held back by trying too hard to adhere to real-life events.

The narrative follows Nicholas Cage, who plays Sgt Jack Halcombe, a righteous detective who sets out to find the killer and end his 13-year killing spree but has difficulty collecting the evidence necessary to put him away. Enter 17-year-old Cindy Poulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens, a local stripper/prostitute who managed to escape the killer once following a brutal encounter but is too neglected and afraid to step forward.

The interesting thing is, the police have had a suspect the whole time, Robert Hansen, who is chillingly portrayed by John Cusack. They just don’t have what it takes to arrest and convict him. So the challenge for Halcombe is essentially to gather that evidence, which includes coaxing Cindy to assist, while also protecting her from Hansen.

There really isn’t anything “wrong” with The Frozen Ground, written and directed by Scott Walker. The atmosphere is great, with the icy chill of Alaska mixing well with the dark tones and grim feel. There are moments of tension and drama (mostly involving Hudgens), and the acts of a deranged psychopath like Hansen always make for compelling viewing. The performances are excellent, and watching this film almost makes you remember that Nicholas Cage is an Oscar-winning actor who once turned down roles instead of appearing in every turd that comes his way. Vanessa Hudgens also looks and feels like a great stripper/prostitute with real psychological and emotional scars, and I mean that as a compliment. I suppose this film and Spring Breakers is her Jennifer Aniston-esque attempt to destroy her “good girl” image (though I thought those leaked nude pics had done that already…). Last but not least, John Cusack, who I’m almost always used to playing the charismatic good guy. Here he is creepy, calculating and silently vicious — completely making me forget that he and Cage once made an awesome duo in Con Air.

The problem with The Frozen Ground is that it’s too generic and straightforward, so much so that it feels like a glamorized feature length version or an extended finale of an episode of Law & Order (probably SVU). We know fairly early on that Hansen is the killer, and the revelations that follow — mostly interrogations and property searches — all come with an air of predictability. There are no exciting discoveries or twists and only a handful of sequences that could be considered “action”, the result of what I am assuming is an effort to align the story with what really happened as much as possible. We often complain about filmmakers abusing their “artistic license” when it comes to true stories, and this film is the opposite. Without being disrespectful to the real-life victims, this is a story that lacked genuine intrigue and excitement.

Overall, this is a well-acted, well-executed true crime thriller without a lot of thrills, and despite the chilly atmosphere comes across as too bland to be memorable. Probably would have been a straight-to-DVD flick (a pretty decent one, mind you) but for the A-list cast.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Sucker Punch (2011)

In a nutshell, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is the one of the most visually impressive but intellectually and emotionally empty films I’ve ever seen.

I’m really stuck on this review right now because I don’t know how to go about it.  The film started off unbelievably well, with virtually zero dialogue and a kick ass soundtrack — but most importantly it told a story, and an interesting one: a deceased mother, a dead sister, an evil stepfather and a girl in a mental institution where she will be lobotomised in five days.

At this point I thought I was in for one of the best films of the year.  I loved the look of the film (in my opinion it exceeded both 300 and Watchmen), I loved the sound (something I don’t usually notice) and I loved where it was heading.  It had a terrific (at least looking) cast led by two sensational Aussies (Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish), plus Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Then, as expected, the film took a turn into fantasy, and from there, the story just went downhill (though I will say it redeemed itself a little towards the end).  I didn’t have a problem with the turn itself, but I disliked the way it was executed.

The effects and fight scenes were amazing to watch, but because you knew it was all ridiculous fantasy, nothing was at stake and as a result there was no genuine excitement.  Incredible to look at (it was like a freaking video game or the best live-action anime of all time) but it left me feeling strangely hollow.  And without giving away anything more about the plot, I also found the progression to be predictable and plodding.  The devices used were, for lack of a better term, lame.

And so I have very mixed feelings about Sucker Punch.  On the one hand the geek inside me was utterly impressed by the super cool visuals, martial arts moves and blazing guns.  There was a scenario for every nerd — war, fantasy, sci-fi.  But on the other, the sane movie-goer in me was disappointed by the lack of a compelling narrative and a complete failure to generate any emotional connection.  It smelt of a lazy film, one that was too focused on the aesthetics and not nearly enough on the heart and soul.  It’s a real shame because with a stronger script, Sucker Punch could have been something quite special.

2.5 stars out of 5