Vanessa Hudgens

Gimme Shelter

It is entirely possible, wholly feasible, and ridiculously strange that chubby-cheeked tweens who first became aware of Vanessa Hudgens thanks to the wholesome charms of the High School Musical franchise are now able to catch her burning up the big screen in any one of her numerous wannabe-gritty new roles. Children (children! Actual children!) that first saw her dancing across their television screens as a fresh-faced Disney high schooler can now purchase tickets to see her going gritty in a big way at their local multiplex. (This, of course, assumes that your local multiplex is playing Harmony Korine films, which does sound sort of cool.) The first High School Musical hit the small screen back in 2006, a Disney Channel production filled with new talents (Zac Efron), poppy songs, and a saccarhine love story. Hudgens starred as new girl in school Gabriella Montez, a smarty pants sweetheart who had spent her entire childhood moving around and was thrilled to be able to close out her last two years of high school in just one location (sadly, this location was Albquruque, New Mexico). Falling in love with Efron’s Big Man on Campus Troy Bolton was just icing on the cake. And then, well, we suppose the revelation that the pair were both skilled singers, dancers, and actors (along with all their friends!) who could dominate their school’s theater program was the equaivalnt of sprinkles. The costumes might as well have been candles.

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IMG_3052.CR2

Director Scott Walker‘s The Frozen Ground is the kind of thriller your conservative grandmother loves. It’s all around safe and plain, simple and to the point, and all very, very by-the-numbers. It’s like an episode of Law & Order expanded to two hours with an occasional polish or two. That idea may entice some older viewers, but after two hours of a “been there done that” on television, it’s not exactly attention grabbing. And this is a movie that conceptually should work. Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe, played by a determined Nicolas Cage, attempting to bring killer Robert Hansen, played by a finicky John Cusack, should be a joy to watch. Not because of its violent content, but because we’re seeing two notable actors facing off. It’s a cat and mouse game approached with smarts, not guns. There’s no scene of Halcombe confronting Hansen at his job or physically accosting him, but instead he’s simply trying to catch him with good old fashioned police work.

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springbreakers-commentary1

Harmony Korine caused a bit of a stir with Spring Breakers. Not only did it feature former Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens cutting loose in a wild sequence of debauchery in Florida, it also touched on various taboo subjects like racism, rape culture, and adolescent violence. Korine gives his sometimes pretentious insight into his film on the DVD and Blu-ray commentary, describing the origins of the film in hedonistic modern American imagery from frat parties and real spring break excursions. Much of the filmmaking techniques are pretty obvious from watching the film, but he also offers stories from the set, including Gomez’s nervousness about the ever-present paparazzi and how he brought elements from his own colorful childhood into the film. The movie wasn’t for everyone, but Korine’s commentary adds to the notoriety with information that ranges from the esoteric to the rustic.

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Where the Boys Are

The American independent cinema that came to form in the 1990s seems to carry fewer and fewer visionaries untainted by the magnetic promises of Hollywood success. Some directors have “used the system” to shell out sequels and remakes in exchange for passion projects, while others have said goodbye to independent production altogether. Love or hate his movies (assuming that watching them falls into either experiential category), Harmony Korine is an uncompromising enfant terrible and a connoisseur of gutter Americana, the likes of which are increasingly rare. Sure, ever since he became famous as a result of the publicity around his Kids screenplay, his personality has largely exceeded any attention it may have generated towards his filmmaking. But that’s part of the point. I won’t go so far as to call Korine’s public persona an “act,” but (genuine or calculated, as if it can’t be both) Korine notably and consistently performs a character that is unique and familiar: a person obsessed with superficial pleasures, who exercises instinct over contemplation, and who lives in a perpetual state of kinetic energy combined with a hazy experience of reality, yet at the same time acutely and perceptively finding aesthetic value in the lowest rungs of American culture. This latter aspect makes Korine an artist, but it’s the combination that makes him an enigma. It’s striking that Korine’s most mainstream work, Spring Breakers, is also one of his most ambiguous. Does the film force a generation built on the exchange of immediate pleasure, automatic celebrity, constant […]

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Harmony Korine

“Poetry” and “video games” aren’t two sensibilities we see meshed together in cinema often. Harmony Korine, perhaps one of the most divisive figures in the indie world of the past two decades, set out to do just that: make a poetic video game. When we spoke to him for his crime comedy, Spring Breakers, he told us how he wanted his movie to have the immersive quality of a game, where the viewer is actively participating. Based on the film’s reactions, both positive and negative, Korine definitely avoided anything coming close to a passive experience. Here’s what else the writer and director of Spring Breakers had to say about his latest work:

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Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers…is not the film people are expecting. Even cinephiles familiar with Harmony Korine‘s polarizing nature will be taken aback by the man’s newest creation. For one thing, it’s Korine’s most entertaining film to date, and “fun” isn’t exactly his forte. His usual strength is his willingness to write reprehensible people, and here, he shows them off with blinding neon lights, particularly James Franco sporting corn rows and a higher energy than he’s ever attempted before. Korine has made a movie about one of the scariest, funniest, and most subversive vacations in recent memory. The vacation involves four college girls: Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine). This year they don’t want to stay in their small town for spring break again. They’re desperate to leave. So desperate that  Brit, Candy, and Cotty get the idea to rob a restaurant to fund their trip. They succeed, leading the four girls to a hellish place called “Florida.” Faith — the religious girl of the group — describes the place as spiritual to her grandmother both before and after Korine shows bros and bro-ish girls partying at their most obnoxious. Spiritual and peaceful this place, and film, are not.

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Spring Breakers

It feels like it’s been forever since we first learned that Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens were going to be working with Gummo director Harmony Korine in a movie that saw them committing crimes in their bikinis, but now the wait is almost over. Spring Breakers is set to roll out in New York and LA on March 15, and nationwide on March 22, so to celebrate the film has released a new red band trailer. Honestly, this new red band doesn’t feature much content that’s more explicit than what the film has shown us before. Mostly it just uses the F-word a lot. But the good thing about it is that it gives us more of a glimpse into the mind of James Franco’s drug dealer character, Alien. We learn about his dreams and desires, where he comes from and where he’s going. And, most importantly, we learn about what the rims on his car look like. Turns out, they look completely awesome.

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Spring Breakers

There’s finally a trailer for Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers, proving that it wasn’t just an elaborate hoax to turn paparazzi-style beach photos into a development story while watching media outlets figure out the best way to talk about girls in swimwear as if it was the greatest, sluttiest sin they could ever commit. Of course, since the movie isn’t out yet, that’s still a possibility. Every film festival audience is in on it. As if we haven’t been talking about it since what seems like the original spring break, the film stars Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Amber Benson and Rachel Korine in a tale of young women looking for excitement, robbing a restaurant, going to jail and getting bailed out by James Franco with a platinum grill. In other words, it’s America shoved into a projector, and it’s a good thing the full trailer is finally here because it does more to make the movie look exciting than any of the faux-titillating screen shots could:

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Spring Breakers

Youthful angst. Is it a worthwhile topic? Maybe, but the ratio of excellent examinations to abject failures is a daunting one. Every writer who’s ever felt isolated in high school (read: every writer) has taken a stab at writing a story about the boredom of being young and unhappy, but few have captured it in a way that makes young people sound interesting. After Kids, Harmony Korine earned full faith and credit when it comes to the topic, but this first clip for Spring Breakers – featuring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine – is about as exciting as watching the brown grass grow. What does it all mean, man?

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There’s a number of weird things about Deadline Kodiak‘s post from this morning that touts an “exclusive” “first look” at some stills from Scott Walker‘s Frozen Ground – the least of which that their pictures are, in no way, shape, or form an exclusive (Collider posted them back in May, when they got them from the film’s production company, Voltage Pictures), but that’s perhaps a bit inside baseball for most of your tastes. What is weird in a way that you, dear reader, might care about, is that the outlet folded their pictures into one really boring header that includes stars John Cusack and Nicolas Cage looking not nearly as unhinged as they should for a movie about a serial killer stalking and murdering women in Alaska by way of an airplane. It’s co-star Vanessa Hudgens (as the victim who escape real life killer Robert Hansen, who Cusack plays in the film) who looks most insane in these pictures, and she doesn’t even really look that put out. What a waste! After the break, take a look at the pictures (thanks, Collider!) from the film, which we neglected to run back in May for some horrible, ridiculous reason (again, it’s a movie about an airplane-utilizing serial killer in Alaska that stars Nicolas Cage as the good guy), along with the film’s official synopsis.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in his Jedi robes and grabs his lightsaber, heading to the theater to see the 3D re-release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. While there, he faces a sea of estrogen as ladies of all type swarm into the multiplex to see Channing Tatum’s abs multiflex. After using his lightsaber to break through the wall of pre-Valentine’s Day ladies, he faces more obstacles with twentysomething dudes heading out to see Safe House and obnoxious families to see Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Fortunately for Kevin, he is able to dispatch everyone with his Rock-inspired “pec pop of love.” It was an early Valentine’s Day massacre.

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It seems there’s a pervading opinion that children’s entertainment doesn’t have to be good. Any criticism of a work of art intended for the younger members of our society is almost immediately met with cries of “oh come on, it’s just for kids.” It’s a strange form of hypocrisy given that most parents almost always want the best for their kids, except, apparently, when it comes to films. Films seem to get a pass no matter how shitty they may be. But if your kid’s sick and needs a doctor, you want the best possible doctor to treat them. It’s an unfathomable double standard. There should be no shame in demanding better films for youngsters, and, unfortunately, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is not one of those better films. The film centers on Journey to the Center of the Earth lead Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), who receives a coded message that he randomly decides must be from his long lost grandfather. Despite his hatred for his mother’s new guy, The Rock, the two team up to break the code, which says that Jules Verne’s writing about a place called The Mysterious Island was fact and not fiction. The island exists and so Sean and The Rock take off for the island of Palau to find the so-called mysterious island. They team up with helicopter pilot for hire Luiz Guzman and his pretty daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), who just happens to be about Sean’s age, crash land on the island and find Sean’s grandfather (Michael Caine), […]

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The newest development in Selena Gomez’s career is by far the most insane. According to MTV, she’s going to be working with director Harmony Korine on his next film Spring Breakers. If you don’t know who Gomez is, she’s the sugary sweet teen idol best known either for coming out of the Disney factory of loud-talking and sassy tween actors or for dating a twelve-year-old kid named Justin Bieber. If you don’t know who Harmony Korine is, he’s the certifiable weirdo who’s responsible for directing movies like Gummo and Julian Donkey Boy, films that could be described as shock fodder at best, and pure exploitation at worst. Korine is always digging into the darkest facets of the human psyche and them gleefully shining a spotlight on the sick behavior that he finds. So, you know, this is pretty much a match made in heaven. Spring Breakers is about a group of college kids who rob a restaurant to get money to go on spring break, but eventually wind up jailed and at the mercy of a skeezy drug dealer. According to Gomez, “It’s a different character than I have ever played before. It’s a different kind of vibe I think than people are used to seeing me in. What you’re going to see is more raw, I think. It’s going to be raw and more about acting.” Of course, to Gomez’s young eyes this looks like a chance at credibility, but for us more seasoned film aficionados it looks more […]

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Few upcoming productions amuse me quite like Scott Walker’s feature debut, Frozen Ground. Despite an impossibly generic title, the film is already packed with some major “wha-huh?” casting – namely in that it’s a film about a serial killer that is set to star Nicolas Cage and John Cusack, but with Cusack as the murderer. I’m so sold. Now High School Musical’s very own Vanessa Hudgens has joined the cast, set as a near-miss victim who escapes Cusack’s clutches, lives to tell the tale, get the bad guy, and so on and so forth. The film is based on the true story of Robert Hansen (Cusack), a “serial predator” who essentially launched his own version of The Most Dangerous Game in the Alaskan wilderness. A regular dude to everyone else, Hansen was a total maniac who reportedly abducted more than 24 women to serve as his own prey. Hansen’s style included hiring a prostitute and paying her, after which he would kidnap, torture, and rape her. Following that, he would tie up his prey, and fly them to his cabin in the Knik River Valley in his own airplane. After that, he’d release his victim, only to stalk her and kill her (Hansen was a very experienced hunter) with a gun and/or knife. A real gem that Robert Hansen. Hudgens will play a character based on teenage Cindy Paulson, who escaped from Hansen while she was actually hand-cuffed in his plane, just before he took off for the cabin. Cage […]

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Okay, so the “Beast” in the recently released Beastly isn’t actually a hairy creature which probably renders the title of this post moot. Or does it? Exactly. Now that you’re thoroughly confused and your blood is flowing back to your brain let’s get to the point. Beastly tells the tale of a douchey teenager who’s cursed by a spurned witch and transformed into an unattractively scarred and tattooed freak. The curse can be lifted within a year’s time but only if he can find that blind girl from Mask and make her love him. If she’s not available a former Disney star will do too. Can he break the curse or is he doomed to spend the rest of his life looking like the tool he was? Beastly hit shelves last week, and we’ve got a prize pack to giveaway that includes a brand new DVD of the movie as well as the novel by Alex Flinn that it’s based upon. How can you win? Simple… the tale of Beauty and the Beast has been told and adapted countless times in films and on television, so tell us in the comments below which version is your favorite and why.

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Drinking Games

Just because the hot girls in Zach Snyder’s visually assaulting film Sucker Punch aren’t old enough to drink, nothing is stopping you from watching the movie and playing this drinking game… unless you’re as old as the main characters of the film. While Sucker Punch has its ups and downs, it’s a visually interesting flick with plenty of fishnets, stockings, push-up bras and a bad Russian accent courtesy of Carla Gugino. What’s stopping you from watching it on DVD or Blu-ray and knocking back a couple sips of your favorite spirit? You know you want to.

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Sucker Punch feels like Zack Snyder‘s response to all those awkward and sexist nerds he and his cast deal with in Hall-H nearly every year. You know, the ones that can’t help but to shout out how “hot” the actresses are during the panel, and without actually asking any real questions or treating them respectfully. Those nerds are the sideline oppressors of Sucker Punch: the revolting-looking Chef and Mayor, the ones that love seeing their women in degrading and sexualized outfits, but don’t care about how or why they’re in said outfits. As long as they get their joy out of sexy women doing sexy things, and nothing outside the basic titillation, they’ll be happy. This is the subtext that many seem to not talking about from Sucker Punch. Snyder’s work has always been divisive, but never has one of his films been this polarizing, and he knows that. Snyder is well-aware of the response the film has been getting, and he’s the type of self-aware filmmaker who probably expected this type of reaction from day one of shooting. The fact that Sucker Punch isn’t a film for everyone surely must have caused problems along the way, and as Snyder states, the test-screening process was no help in that regard.

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Right around ten years ago Zack Snyder had an idea. An idea that would come to take up about thirty seconds of Sucker Punch, but lend to the film its main character, its title, and its sex appeal. That original idea revolved around a girl named Baby Doll who escaped into the recesses of her mind while dancing for some very bad men. He then partnered with his school buddy Steve Shibuya to start working that into a script. Things were probably going pretty okay on that, but they were about to get a lot better when Snyder found himself helming Dawn of the Dead, my personal choice for best zombie movie ever. You heard that right, Romero. Sitting next to Snyder at the press junket, the man did no less than doodle an X-Wing on a pad of paper while talking, as if he needed anything more than Watchmen to solidify his nerd-cred. Before talking about the visually complex Sucker Punch, Snyder, sitting alongside wife and producing partner Debbie, the director took a moment to give us a glimpse into his filmmaking past, revealing as one might expect he was an early overachiever. One of his student films in the basic introductory film classes was a World War I epic, complete with trenches dug by a rented backhoe. Before you get antsy, I’ll tell you what he said about his upcoming Superman movie: nothing. As in, he’s not allowed to speak of it. Duh. What he did express was […]

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr felt so trapped by the weight of the world that he escaped into an amazing world inside his mind. Ironically, this world bore a striking resemblance to Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, what with all the scantily clad, kick-ass hotties running around. Once free of oppression, Kevin took his kids to check out the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie in a desperate hope for Rachel Harris’s approval.

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Zack Snyder’s return to (mostly) live action hits screens today, bringing to life the fetishistic dreams of many a teenage boy as a mostly female cast in anime-inspired garb storm through mind of the troubled Babydoll, battling dragons, orcs, and samurai. On paper it sounds pretty amazing: sexy young actresses, plenty of firearms, the directing of Zack Snyder, wild nightmare action sequences, and a minimum amount of leather inspired clothing. In small doses, say in trailers and commercial spots, the film looks amazing. Fast paced action, again the sexy ladies, and amazing, lush digital sets, brimming with fireballs and bullet hits. Then some slow motion, and some fast motion and some slow motion again. By now you’re probably starting to predict where I’m going. I said it’s amazing in small doses and in paper, but how is it stretched out to two hours?

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