Knights of Badassdom and Frozen Ground are currently available on instant Netflix
Knights of Badassdom (2013) – Rated R
“Venturing into the woods to act out a medieval fantasy, three friends face a real-life struggle for survival after inadvertently conjuring a succubus.”
“You just summoned a succubus from Hell!” – “Sorry”
First-time writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall nail the particulars of LARPing in this mildly amusing movie. The script could have used a serious polishing though to make it shine.
Director Joe Lynch has had an absolutely fascinating career. He started as an actor, creative assistant, and best boy in the movie Terror Firmer. Since then he has been an actor, director of photography, editor, cinematographer, writer, and producer. He has even been an editor on pornographic films under the rather ridiculous alias of Fernando Phagabeefy. In 2007, he took a franchise that was hackneyed from the first film (Wrong Turn) and made a very tongue-in-cheek sequel that was much better than the original.
Lynch assembled a dream cast from nerdvana. Ryan Kwanten, Jason Stackhouse of True Blood, plays our reluctant LARPer, Joe. Summer Glau, River Tam from Firefly and the main Terminator in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, plays our requisite love interest, Gwen. Peter Dinklage, Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, overacts outrageously as drunk redneck LARPer, Hung. Danny Pudi, Abed from Community, plays Lando. Steve Zahn is along for some (extra) comic relief.
The cast is obviously where a lot of the fun comes from. None of them are even remotely flexing their acting muscles but they all seem to be having quite a bit of fun. The meager special effects budget serves the film well in some ways as the monster seems to be just a few steps above those costumed for the LARP.
Frozen Ground (2013) – Rated R
“In this fact-based thriller, an Alaska state trooper pursuing a serial killer teams with a 17-year-old-prostitute who escaped the predator’s clutches.”
Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage anchored tentpole action movies and John Cusack headlined many fascinating independent movies. They even appeared together in the marvelously over-the-top Con Air.
Sadly, Cage’s career hit the skids and he had some pretty severe income tax problems. He turned to quick direct-to-video movies to make a fast buck. His performances were occasionally good but more often than not, they turned lazy, with Cage playing roles somnambulistically or simply yelling his way through them. I’m not sure what happened to Cusack but he appears to have joined Cage in direct-to-video land.
The Frozen Ground is written and directed by first time writer and director Scott Walker. It is competent, by the numbers, but unimaginative. It is based on the story of serial killer Robert Hansen (John Cusack collecting a paycheck). Scenes involving the victims are very mean-spirited, presumably to show realism but it seems like torture porn lite. Nicolas Cage is our dogged detective on the case, knowing who the killer is but having trouble proving it.
The third member of our cast is escaped victim Cindy Paulson. She is played by Vanessa Hudgens, who seems more alive than the rest of the cast. Dean (Breaking Bad) Norris backs Cage up as another detective on the case.
The Frozen Ground catches the actors frozen but breaks no new ground. It isn’t bad per se but there is not a compelling reason to watch it.