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Mini Movie Reviews: Gosling’s ‘All Good Things’, McConaughey’s ‘Mud’, Hoffman’s ‘Capote’

Mini Movie Reviews: Gosling’s ‘All Good Things’, McConaughey’s ‘Mud’, Hoffman’s ‘Capote’

Mini Movie Reviews: All Good Things, Mud, Capote

All Good Things (2010)

all good thingsAll Good Things stars Ryan Gosling as David Marks, a man born into money, with a past that is hard to overcome. A young Marks meets and marries Katie (Kirsten Dunst), and the couple move from urban New York to hippy Vermont in the 70’s. Katie doesn’t know the control that David’s Dad (Frank Langella) has over him nor about David’s mysterious past (he was forced to see his mother commit suicide as a child). Eventually, David is pulled back into the family’s shady real estate business against his will. Despite the money, Katie and David grow apart and Katie goes missing.

The story is told through what essentially is a flashback event in real-time, as an under oath David explains to a jury these past events. Does David know what happened to Katie? Does he know what happened later on in other deaths? The story spans some 30 years and what starts out as a thriller turns into a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s not poorly done and carried intrigue, but the story – supposedly based on real events – just is a little weird and disjointed. It’s like watching one of those ABC doc shows about missing persons and in the end it is about as entertaining and interesting if that is something you care to engage in.

Mud (2013)

mud movie pic

Matthew McConaughey stars as Mud, an outlaw of sorts running from gunmen out to seek revenge for Mud killing a man. The real star of the film however is Tye Sheridan’s (Tree of Life) Ellis, a young boy, who with his partner Neckbone, discovers Mud living on an abandoned island in Mississippi(I believe). When the boys encounter Mud, they learn of his past over a few short days and hatch a plan to help the mysterious loner reconnect with his “girlfriend” Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon. Eventually, the gunmen catch up with Mud and you have to see the film to find out the rest.

Mud is really about Ellis and his desire of love. His thoughts of what love is, his growing up and his relationships (with Mud, Neckbone, his parents and his “girlfriend”). This is a coming of age tale in some ways, mixed with a boy growing up too soon, dealing with adult themes and pressures placed on the young man. Though the film is slow-paced, it is engrossing, primarily due to Sheridan’s performance. You can feel his innocence, his desire to learn, his disconnectedness from certain elements and more. Mud may star a recent Oscar winner, but it’s Sheridan’s movie and his performance that makes the movie worth seeing.

Capote (2005)

Capote Hoffman

Capote won the best actor Oscar for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the man who recently passed tragically at 46 to Heroin. Hoffman plays the titular character, flamboyant, charismatic, conniving, deceptive and reveals all his flaws for us to see. Capote follows the New Yorker author discovering a story of senseless killings and his relationship with one of the killers over a period of several years, before the killer (played by the underrated chameleon Clifton Collins Jr.) is sentenced to death by hanging. In the interim, Capote has penned a book based on these characters, “In Cold Blood,” and its hailed as the book that will change how people write and one of the most important and impressive books in American modern literature.

Capote is Hoffman’s film, and though I’ve seen it previously, based upon his recent passing, I wanted to take in more performances of the talented actor. Here you can see him transform so seamlessly into the character it is hard to separate performance from reality. One can sadly see how difficult is must have been to be so engrossed in a character and placing that thought process on him multiple times over in a career can certainly begin to lead to trouble off camera. Capote is a good but strange and at times meandering movie. You can see why it won Hoffman a statue but also why it failed to capture any more meaningful prizes during from the grandest of Hollywood awards that year.

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Watching More Movies: Authority Rules In ‘Compliance’

Watching More Movies: Authority Rules In ‘Compliance’

Watching More Movies: Authority Rules In ‘Compliance’

For about a year, I swore off reading any movie news. I felt I was too immersed in every detail of any film I was interested in and it left my enjoyment of each anticipated movie lacking once I saw it. During this time, I wondered how I was supposed to know what movies I wanted to see in the first place. The big movies I’d already been aware of, but what about the smaller ones? I decided I’d at least watch trailers. They’d give me a sense of whether I wanted to see something or not. About a month ago (long after my year off ended), I saw the trailer for “Compliance”. I’d never heard anything about it, nor knew anyone involved. But, the trailer did exactly what it was supposed to do, it hooked me.

“Compliance” is based on a real event, which the end of the film mentions was actually one of only 70 similar instances across the nation in a span of about a decade. Becky (Dreama Walker) is a server at a fast food restaurant called ChickWich. Her manager, Sandra (Ann Down), gets a phone call from a police officer, saying he has a patron with him, accusing a server of having stolen money from her purse. The officer gives a description of the server that matches Becky and asks Sandra to bring Becky back into the office for interrogation. Except he won’t be the one interrogating her. He instructs Sandra to do so.


It was obvious from the trailer this phone call was from someone only impersonating a police officer and I wonder how long it would have taken to figure out if I hadn’t known beforehand. It’s curious the film is nearly forty minutes into its runtime before it reveals the call is truly a prank and from a disturbed individual and not from an officer of the law (not that those two things don’t coincide from time to time). But, because you know it’s a prank, whenever you figure it out, it’s definitely an exercise in frustration, much like I felt with the Italian “classic” “Bicycle Thieves,” in which the main character gets a job that requires owning a bicycle, which he’s pawned and spends the length of the film trying to retain it. “Just borrow one,” you want to shout.

In addition to being an exercise in audience frustration, it’s a psychological look at what people will do when in the midst of authority, similar to the “The Stanford Experiment.” While some might feel frustrated, I never once felt I was in the hands of anyone but a fantastic craftsman in writer/director, Craig Zobel. He makes the camera shy away in the most sensitive of story areas and he keeps the camera trained in spots that ratchet up the tension perfectly. A disciple of David Gordon Green, I’m very intrigued by what he does next. I’m glad the trailer was good enough to hook me.

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President Obama Releases Statement on Talent Harold Ramis’ Death

President Obama Releases Statement on Talent Harold Ramis’ Death

President Obama Releases Statement on Harold Ramis’ Death

Sadly, a growing category of deaths continues to hit Tinseltown. Hollywood multi-talent Harold Ramis passed on Monday. Most of you know this by now. The director, writer and actor died at age 69 due to a four year battle with auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis. When he passed, given the recent deaths of James Gandolfini and perhaps even more notably, Philip Seymour Hoffman, few could have expected the outpouring of love and support of the man and his talents. It’s natural for Hollywood to have a reaction to the passing of one of their own, such as when Judd Apatow commented on Ramis:

“Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director. Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Vacation, Groundhog Day. These films are the touchstones of our lives. I interviewed him when I was 16 years old for my high school radio station and he could not have been more gracious and hilarious. I looked up to him as a director but even more so as a man. We hired him to play Seth’s father in Knocked Up because we all saw him as the dream dad – funny, warm and wise. Harold was one of the nicest people I have ever met and he inspired countless people to go into comedy. His brilliant work will make people happy forever.”

Great words and sentiments to the Ghostbusters star and writer. But when the POTUS Barack Obama gets involved, the passing becomes even more noteworthy. The President released the following statement on Harold:

Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies – from “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” to “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” – we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.

Chicago native or not, those are significant words. Ramis will indeed be missed. Thanks to Deadline for info.

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Rest In Peace: Philip Seymour Hoffman Passes at 46

Rest In Peace: Philip Seymour Hoffman Passes at 46

Rest In Peace: Philip Seymour Hoffman Passes at 46

Acting giant Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2nd, 2014. This news stings particularly because film fans will be missing out on engaging with one of the best actors of this generation. The man who took home the Best Actor Oscar statue for portraying Truman Capote will be missed.

Hoffman never really rated as “must see” actor originally yet he grew into that status. I always took notice of a new role of his and still watched most of his movies with eager anticipation. Though he was strong in a small role in 1996′s Twister, Hoffman made his mark with me in Paul Thomas Anderson’s seminal Boogie Nights. His Scotty J., a pen-biting, half-shirt wearing joto, was a genius revelation that led to instant intrigue into what this talented actor might do next. He had other strong roles shortly thereafter in PTA’s Magnolia, in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, and the Coen’s The Big Lebowski. His diversity was always one of the most amazing things about the actor.

PSH Scotty J

Hoffman’s Scotty J was just one of multiple significant characters he brought to life.

PSH, as he’ll be affectionately referred to throughout time, became a star without having the looks of a model. He earned his status through dedication to his craft and revealing the depths of his soul through his characters. He was never afraid to push the envelope. He could show great depth with sadness (multiple roles), simmering rage and authority (The Master), and even an everyman (something he was but yet you rarely saw him play) in 25th Hour. Hoffman could do a sidekick in comedy (Along Came Polly), villainous (Mission Impossible 3) and carry a film (Synecdoche New York, Jack Goes Boating). The hefty man could pull this all off while hiding or fending off a terrible addiction in his private life.

H (heroin) is reportedly the cause of PSH’s death. This is tragic in and of itself. It’s interesting, the more I write and reflect on his career, perhaps selfishly, the more sad I become. The fact that the man leaves behind such a diverse and successful filmology will have to be our saving grace. Hopefully, Phil found some sort of peace from his demons in his passing, but that leaves a little bit of emptiness in the heart of his fans everywhere for what we witnessed and still hoped to see from the triumphant actor. Condolences to his family and you will be significantly missed Mr. Hoffman. R.I.P.


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2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominees List

2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominees List

2014 FILM INDEPENDENT Spirit Award Nominees Announced

The full list is here. You can read more about the announcement and catch a video on Film Independent’s website. Enjoy.

Best Feature
12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost, Francis Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska

Best Director
Shane Carruth, Upstream Color; J.C. Chandor; All Is Lost; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Jeff Nichols, Mud; Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Best Screenplay
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine; Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater Before Midnight;Nicole Holofcener Enough Said; Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now;John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Best First Feature
Blue Caprice, Director/Producer: Alexandre Moors; Producers: Kim Jackson, Brian O’Carroll, Isen Robbins, Will Rowbotham, Ron Simons, Aimee Schoof, Stephen Tedeschi; Concussion,Director: Stacie Passon, Producer: Rose Troche; Fruitvale Station, Director: Ryan Coogler; Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker; Una Noche, Director/Producer: Lucy Mulloy, Producers: Sandy Pérez Aguila, Maite Artieda, Daniel Mulloy, Yunior Santiago; Wadjda,Director: Haifaa Al Mansour, Producers: Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul

Best First Screenplay
Lake Bell, In A World; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon; Bob Nelson, Nebraska; Jill Soloway,Afternoon Delight; Michael Starrbury, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000)
Computer Chess, Writer/Director: Andrew Bujalski, Producers: Houston King & Alex Lipschultz;Crystal Fairy, Writer/Director: Sebastiàn Silva, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín & Pablo Larraín; Museum Hours, Writer/Director: Jem CohenProducers: Paolo Calamita & Gabriele Kranzelbinder; Pit Stop, Writer/Director: Yen Tan, Writer: David Lowery, Producers: Jonathan Duffy, James M. Johnston, Eric Steele, Kelly WilliamsThis is Martin Bonner, Writer/Director: Chad Hartigan, Producer: Cherie Saulter

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Julie Delpy, Before Midnight; Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy;Brie Larson, Short Term 12; Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now

Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis;Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Supporting Female
Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station; Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Yolonda Ross, Go For Sisters; June Squibb, Nebraska 

Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Will Forte, Nebraska; James Gandolfini, Enough Said;Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club; Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12

Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave; Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers; Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis; Frank G. DeMarco, All Is Lost; Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess

Best Editing
Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color; Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours;Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha; Cindy Lee, Una Noche; Nat Sanders, Short Term 12

Best Documentary
20 Feet From Stardom, Director/Producer: Morgan Neville, Producers: Gil Friesen & Caitrin Rogers; After Tiller, Directors/Producers: Martha Shane & Lana Wilson; Gideon’s Army,Director/Producer: Dawn Porter, Producer: Julie Goldman; The Act of Killing,Director/Producer: Joshua Oppenheimer, Producers: Joram Ten Brink, Christine Cynn, Anne Köhncke, Signe Byrge Sørensen, Michael Uwemedimo, The Square, Director: Jehane Noujaim, Producer: Karim Amer

Best International Film
A Touch of Sin, (China), Director: Jia Zhang-Ke; Blue is the Warmest Color, (France), Director: Abdellatif Kechiche; Gloria, (Chile), Director: Sebastián Lelio; The Great Beauty,(Italy), Director: Paolo Sorrentino; The Hunt, (Denmark), Director: Thomas Vinterberg

17th Annual Piaget Producers Award 
Toby Halbrooks & James M. JohnstonJacob JaffkeAndrea RoaFrederick Thornton

20th Annual Someone To Watch Award 
My Sister’s Quinceañera, Director: Aaron Douglas Johnston; Newlyweeds, Director: Shaka King; The Foxy Merkins, Director: Madeline Olnek

19th Annual Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award 
Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course; Jason Osder, Let the Fire Burn; Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, Manakamana

Robert Altman Award 
Mud, Director: Jeff Nichols, Casting Director: Francine Maisler, Ensemble Cast:  Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, Tye Sheridan, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant, Reese Witherspoon

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Watching More Movies: Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Morvern Callar’

Watching More Movies: Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Morvern Callar’

Watching More Movies: Morvern Callar

Lynne Ramsay has directed three feature films to date. Her latest was 2011’s “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” which I watched twice in successive days and was willing to do it a third. It’s safe to say I’m a fan. However, I’d never seen either of her previous films, so I wanted to see if the talent I adored from one film was evident from an earlier point. Her debut film, 1999’s “Ratcatcher” would have to wait, so I went with her sophomore effort, “Morvern Callar.”

The film stars a post-“Sweet & Lowdown,” but concurrent with “Minority Report” and “In America” Samantha Morton as the titular character. If you think it’s bizarre name, but chalk it up to the Scottish region from which she resides, I assure you it’s just as strange to other characters she meets. Her boyfriend has committed suicide via the ever-popular wrist-slitting in their apartment. His body lies in the middle of the room, intermittently illuminated by lights on a nearby Christmas tree. Morvern doesn’t cope with this well. Not that she cries all night, but she keeps the body around for days, failing to do anything about accepting her loss. The story tells her coping journey, which is mostly stoic, but does involve a Spanish vacation with a friend. I hope that description grips you.

Morvern Callar

The Netflix summary for the film describes the suicide, but also mentions Morvern’s boyfriend had left a manuscript on his computer and in his suicide-Word-document asks her to submit it to a publisher for him. Before she does so, she replaces his name as author with hers. It’s not incorrect that this happens in the movie, but it’s almost completely inconsequential to anything. She does submit it and there is a scene or two with her talking to publishers, but this is such an afterthought to everything else. Another movie which could be described similarly is “World’s Greatest Dad,” where Robin Williams writes journals under his dead son’s name. If that’s the best case outcome for such a plot, “Movern Callar” is undoubtedly the worst.

That may make it seem like I hate film. I wouldn’t use that word. It’s not downright detestable like a Happy Madison production, but just completely unnecessary. I don’t disbelieve a story about coping with loss can be a good cinematic experience, but I do believe this isn’t it. With respect to Ramsey, there’s some perceivable skill behind the camera. I like the way the opening looks with the flashes of Christmas lights and I can see a similar eye in “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” but the narrative strengths aren’t remotely related. To give you an idea about how it impacted me, I’d almost forgotten I’d watched it within a half-hour of it ending. I can still wholeheartedly recommend “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” but with “Morvern Callar,” forget you read this and forget the movie exists and I’ll completely forget I watched it.

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The New Masterpiece – Ridley Scott’s ‘Counselor’

The New Masterpiece – Ridley Scott’s ‘Counselor’

The new masterpiece – Ridley Scott’s “Counselor”

You want to hear a story about a man, who might live just across the street? Imagine, that there lives a talented lawyer, who, being familiar with the law shortcuts, exceeds his authority in the chase for something extra and gets caught up in a very suspicious and, of course, criminal schemes, related to the traffic of an implausible amount of drugs. What is it? This is the new film by Ridley Scott “Counselor”. Counselor Trailer exposes only the key moments of the story line and does it pretty niggardly. The hapless counselor, who has been mercilessly betrayed by his fate, is performed by the matchlessly handsome in his dispassionate manner Michael Fassbender, his naïve sweetheart is tremendous Penelope Cruz. Other characters are not yet completely identified because of the mysterious Counselor Trailer, but the reputation of the actors speaks for itself. On the secondary roles wicked Ridley Scott has chosen none other than Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz.

How do we depict a genuine cinematic masterpiece? How should it look like, what it should be called, what the story line should be, which director should manage it, which actors should be casted? Each person must have his own idea of a work of genius. The new film by Ridley Scott, “Counselor”, due out at 25th of October, will presumably correspond even the most demanding images of the work of cinematic art. Only Counselor Trailer by itself can be called a work of art. The author of “No Country for Old Men”, Cormac McCarthy wrote the screenplay for the “Counselor” and this fact by itself alone suggests that the film will surely be worth special attention.

Naturally, the Counselor Trailer has a story of a gentle and unobtrusive, yet very unhappy love, the illusion of a happy life, which is not destined to ever come true, an odd and unfaithful friendship and, of course, dashed hopes and dreams. Of course, there are some sinister and insidious villains, the power and bloodlust of which has no description, and terrible secrets, the disclosure of which threatens with some dire consequences. The Counselor Trailer would have failed to amaze, if it would be for Ridley Scott and his impeccable status of a great director, for Cormac McCarthy and his reputation as a talented writer, and, evidently, for the actors who has been chosen for the leading roles. It is not yet known who managed the casting, but it is either an unrecognized genius, or someone who sold his soul to the devil.

We rarely see in the cinema an undeniable work of art. There will always be snobs or connoisseurs, who will say that this is plagiarism or bad taste. However, there would hardly be a single person who will come out of the cinema hall on October 25th unhappy or unsatisfied, because the “Counselor” is about to be amazing.

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‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Studio Gangsterism

‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Studio Gangsterism

‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Gangsterism

“I dreamt that I was hard.” – Dres on “U Mean I’m Not?”

Those are the last words on the first track of the debut album, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” by Black Sheep, a rap duo making up a part of the Native Tongues Collective alongside A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and many others. “U Mean I’m Not?” is your introduction to the group and their music. Dres starts off in a gruff voice waking up in a bad mood. His first task is putting together his AK-47 and grabbing his “Rambo knife off the floor.” He bursts into his sister’s room for using his toothbrush, beats her up and shoots her. He goes downstairs for breakfast to find his mom has screwed it up, breaking his egg yolk. The penance? A bullet to the temple. His dad protests. He shoots him in the groin. He runs into the postman on the way out and slices his throat. All before waiting for the school bus to arrive. As you can see from the last line, this all happened in a dream. Being hard is not at all what Dres is about. And if you stick around for the track immediately following it, “Butt in the Meantime,” the bouncy rhythm is accompanied by the first words, “It’s times like this, that I’ve gotta crack a smile.” Hardly the words of anyone who purports to be hard.

Dres, Black Sheep and the opening song of “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” is a joke for what listeners would come to know of them and what they’re about. It’s a comment on the rampant gangsta rap running through hip-hop culture at the time. They were pretending to fall in line as a goof, only to turn an about-face and present themselves for who they really were. Meanwhile, in the actual gangsta rap arena established in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, flaunting your thuggish, gangster-ish qualities like drug dealing and gun clapping was the way to establish your authority. Though I don’t know the etymology of the term “studio gangster” and its first utterance, the earliest moment I’m aware of its use is by Eazy-E, directed toward his one-time N.W.A. groupmate, Dr. Dre, on his “Real Muthaphukkin’ G’s.” The implication was that Dre only purports to have been a gangster when inside a recording studio, but didn’t really live the life. Eazy-E was the genuine and authentic thing. This “more gangster than thou” (as “The Wire” creator, David Simon, once put it) attitude has continued through rap music and permeated pop culture up to now, through how many times 50 Cent had been shot, to Gilbert Arenas bringing guns into an NBA locker room and now to a group of girls on spring break in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers.”

As you might infer from the above paragraphs, I love rap music. I’m also a white suburban kid in his thirties. I’ve never seen a gun in real life, much less had one pointed at me or fired one in the direction of someone. I may have worn a Houston Colt .45s hat while walking my dog this morning, but it was accompanied by a Taylor Swift t-shirt (and in truth, the hat is partly because of the colors, but mainly because I love “Django Unchained,” its soundtrack, and this final song from it: I’ve also never seen any drugs harder than marijuana or ones that came in a prescription bottle (in some cases, those things were combined). And if given the option to live my life without being witness to any of it, I’d be more than happy. Being hard is not in my nature, but I’d also never purport it to be. The girls in “Spring Breakers” didn’t necessarily purport to being hard-natured either, at least not initially.

Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) are in college, attending another in the long line of droning lectures being conveyed to them via powerpoint. Their focus isn’t remotely on the task at hand, but on the upcoming week off they’ll be getting in the form of Spring Break. Brit and Candy aren’t what most people would categorize as “good girls.” Brit takes hits from a vodka-loaded squirt gun. Candy takes bong rips of weed. They certainly appear to be tailor-made for the hard-partying debasement into debauchery a Spring Break vacation taken in Florida will afford to them. Unfortunately, “afford” is a key term.

Brit and Candy form together with friends Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director’s wife) and Faith (Selena Gomez) in attempt to pool their money together and just get away from their current lives for bit. For the aptly named, Faith, a church-going Christian warned of hanging out with Brit and Candy by friends at a faith group, getting away is really her only desire. She appears to mostly be a “good girl.” She smokes cigarettes, but so do the aforementioned church group friends. Getting involved with Brit and Candy, girls she’s known since kindergarten, is what can push her into other areas she may not be suited for. However, when adding up all the money between the four friends, they fall far short of a week-long Floridian trip and have to come about enough money by other means.

ashley benson spring breakers pic

Money, Drugs, Hoes: Benson, Hudgens, Korine & Franco.

Brit, Candy and Cotty decide to rob a chicken shack. After a night of snorting cocaine, sucking back liquor and repeating mantras to themselves of pretending it’s like a video game and thinking of it like it’s a movie, they make their strike. Korine, the director, shoots the robbery from Cotty, the getaway driver’s, POV as she circles the building awaiting Brit and Candy’s return to the vehicle with squirt gun, hammer and mounds of cash, in tow. Because we as an audience don’t even hear the robbery and only catch glimpses through windows, when they flee the scene in celebration, it doesn’t seem so bad. Girls out for some relatively harmless fun. For us, it is still a movie.

Finally experiencing everything they dreamed in Florida, after a particularly illegal substance/booze-filled/furniture-destroying hotel room party, all attendees are arrested, including our felonious four females. Given the option at their sentencing of staying in jail for an additional 48 hours or paying their way out, their lack of money gives the collective only the former option. Their spring break is set to end behind bars until thye’re rescued by a guardian Alien (James Franco).

Until Franco gets involved in story, “Spring Breakers” is largely pointless. It’s a lot of montages of debauchery, drugging, drinking and driving around in scooters. The film is completely devoid of substance (aside from the literal) and very little characterization. This isn’t something that completely changes with the girls throughout the rest of the film, but Alien and Franco provide a badly needed jolt of narrative drive.

A tatted-up “white-boy” with dreads and a grill, perhaps manufactured by Paul Wall, are how Alien externally displays who he is. He has a rap song on YouTube. Like every good gangster rapper, he proclaims to have “Scarface” looping repeatedly. His bed is littered with bundles of drug money and assorted automatic weapons. It’s clear that he’s achieved his current life through means of his own, but how much remains somewhat unsaid. While Alien is able to scare off Faith, the others don’t go away. At one point, he has two guns stuck in his face and his gangster façade falls away until he resorts to disarming his captors in a way no gangster would dare dream up. Arcing throughout, Alien provides the girls with a sense of danger, idolization, whipping boy, sole mate and martyr. Alien needs the girls as much as they need him.

Franco is borderline brilliant in the role. Without him, the movie doesn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) exist. He gives Alien a vulnerability befitting a character who’s more about creating an exterior persona for fitting into what’s expected of him. He tells Candy and Brit they’re his solemates like a puppy in search of an owner. Though he probably feels he can drop the act with them, instead they force him to go even further with what for him may or may not be part of an act. They even ridicule him at one point, asking if he’s scared. And indeed he probably is.
Alien isn’t necessarily a studio gangster in every sense of the word. He does deal drugs. He does own guns. He does rob people and hurt them. However, there’s a sense that it isn’t completely innate. This is juxtaposed with his former best friend, now rival drug dealer, Archie (Gucci Mane), who certainly has the perma-high eyes and mumbled threatening speech you’d associate with a true thug. Alien, whose real name is Allen, can’t break from his past and now the girls certainly won’t let him do so, especially when Archie threatens Alien’s and their lives unless he backs off from his territory.

While Alien provides the hard exterior, but potentially candy-filled interior inside the film, I believe Selena Gomez is conjuring up the same act in real life. It’s understood why she and former “High School Musical” star, Hudgens, would flock to harder-edged material. It appears to be the sure-fire way of any former Disney star to be viewed by the public in a different light. Anne Hathaway decided to remove her clothes while starring in “Havoc” and “Brokeback Mountain” immediately after wrapping up “Princess Diaries 2” in order to distance herself from Disney wholesomeness. Nobody wants to be typecast. I understand that. For Hudgens, I believe starring in the film to be a less “important” step for her branching out. Now, I’d never seen her in anything (save for the infamous leaked photos a few years ago), so I don’t associate her with much of anything Disney. I believe even the public at large knows she’s not what most people would deem “a good girl,” purely based on the existence of those pictures. It’s not much of a shock to see her in something like “Spring Breakers.”

I believe Gomez had the much bigger hill to climb after just wrapping up “Wizards of Waverly Place” for the Disney channel last year. I agree that it would be shocking to any fans of her TV show to see this movie. But there’s a difference in being shocked by the content of a movie and being shocked by the content of a character. Gomez’ character, Faith, is the good girl. She’s the moral conscience of the film. She’s the one who goes to church. She’s not the one who robs the chicken shack. She’s the one who’s frightened by Alien. And she’s the one who exits the film halfway through its runtime. If she completely wanted to reinvent herself, she’d have played the Brit role or the more-extreme-in-a-way role of hard-partying Cotty. Instead, this feels like a half-measure.

I’m not saying Gomez should have chosen one of the other roles. Sure, it’s acting, but you still are who you are to a certain degree. Nobody hated Tom Hanks in “The Road to Perdition.” He killed people, but he was still the guy you were rooting for. He was absolutely the protagonist, if not the hero. What I’m saying is that I don’t believe being in this film, and having the role she did, will change much for Ms. Gomez. Until otherwise, I still believe her to be a “good girl.” After seeing “Spring Breakers” and it visualizing some of the actions you certainly were aware of taking place during that week-long absence from school, we need good, wholesome people in this world, too.

Some people really are hard. And for some, it’s just a dream.

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