Frozen Ground: The Distribution Game

I missed this detail in my earlier posts, but the Anchorage Daily News has a great story explaining why The Frozen Ground movie has not enjoyed a wide theatrical release. Dunham quotes Ron Holmstrom, who played Hansen’s lawyer and is an Anchorage-based board member of the Seattle Local of the Screen Actors Guild. Holmstrom explains why the movie did not premiere in Anchorage, where much of it was filmed.

“The reason that Anchorage is being skipped… has to do with a fight among theater chains, producers and distributors that involves, among other things, the video on demand (VOD, home pay-per-view) release of ‘Frozen Ground’ on the same day that it opens in American theaters.”

It wasn’t just Anchorage that was affected. Few cities saw “The Frozen Ground” reach theaters.

Holmstrom adds: “I spoke with both Lionsgate, the theatrical distributor, and Grindstone, the VOD distributor. They assured me that because of the VOD release, the big cinema chains refused to do a wide release.”

This is, of course, a business decision. The principals behind “The Frozen Ground” are Emmett/Furla Productions (they drove the film from its inception). Emmett/Furla are in tight with Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment Group, after signing a 10 film deal in 2012. From the PR piece announcing the deal:

The Grindstone collaboration with Emmett/Furla and Cheetah Vision has generated a string of successful features starring notable A list actors, including: the thriller SET UP, starring Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; the crime drama FREELANCERS, starring Robert DeNiro and Forrest Whitaker; the high octane FIRE WITH FIRE, starring Willis, Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Vincent D’Onofrio; and the serial killer thriller THE FROZEN GROUND, starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. The next film slated for release from Grindstone’s partnership with Emmett/Furla is the crime thriller EMPIRE STATE, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, THE HUNGER GAMES’ Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts.

So if you happen to live in New York, Dallas, Phildelphia or… Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 8,456)… You were lucky… Otherwise, it’s VOD (If you have Redbox in your area, you might be able to get it there, too).

Recommendation: If you like Nicholas Cage, see the movie. If you followed the Hansen case, see the movie. And then, when you feel the need for more soda and popcorn, read “Butcher, Baker.” If you want to support a great institution in the process, order it from the Alaska State Trooper Museum.

Saw “Frozen Ground” the movie: Three 1/2 Stars

I just saw “The Frozen Ground,” the movie inspired by Butcher, Baker. It’s available through October as an On Demand movie (check your local listings).

Aside from the usual complaints about what happens when movies try to condense the narrative that’s only possible in books, I have several observations:

  • Scene I missed the most: In the actual investigation, Holcombe (AST Sgt. Glenn Flothe) learns of Robert Hansen’s sordid past while standing next to AST Major Walter Gilmour as they’re peeing at the urinals.
  • AST Sgt. Holcombe’s (Cage) wife in Frozen Ground is largely unsympathetic. The real wife here, Cherry Flothe, interacted with Cindy Paulson on a regular (and always supportive) basis — usually by phone, when Glenn was unavailable. Cherry was an unswerving believer in Glenn, even when others had doubts. In this case, the real thing is much, much better than the fictional thing.
  • Nicholas Cage turns in a strained but credible performance as Glenn Flothe (Holcombe). My “Butcher, Baker” co-author, the inimitable Walter Gilmour, once joked that the first instinct was to put all the asshole cops on the dancer murders. They only succeeded when they put a nice cop (Flothe) on the case.
  • My biggest (positive) surprise was Vanessa Hudgens as Cindy Paulson. She deftly manages to communicate the edgy vulnerability of the real person. Kudos — if Hudgens fails, the movie fails, because the credibility of everything else depends on that performance.
  • The aerial shots of the Chugach Mountains, the Knik River and Anchorage were stunning at times. More than anything, the Hansen murders call up a sense of people and place — and the place is inseparable from how Hansen’s crimes were committed and how he got away with them for so long.
  • Strangest moment #1: Holcombe (Cage) describes Robert Hansen as a stutterer. Yet Hansen (Cusack) barely stutters. Probably a good acting decision. But still a WTF moment.
  • Strangest moment #2: Hansen’s entire interaction with the (white) pimp/enforcer. People, people, people… Robert Hansen was (justifiably) terrified that every human interaction was a route to the unraveling of his elaborate cover. He went to GREAT lengths to make sure no one ever saw him with any of the young women. And then went to great lengths to scare, secure and isolate them. To think that he would blithely order a “hit” on Cindy Paulson is magical thinking on the part of the filmmakers (yes, it adds drama; I would argue it’s gratuitous, that it just gives the actors some action sequences, but… Nevermind).
  • And, yes, there were jailhouse rumors about a hit on Cindy. Or more accurately, talk about how Hansen wanted her to just go away (as in pay her to leave town). Those are two different things. I say: consider the source. Yeah. The jailhouse.

Recommendation: If you like Nicholas Cage, see the movie. If you followed the Hansen case, see the movie. And then, when you feel the need for more soda and popcorn, read “Butcher, Baker.” If you want to support a great institution in the process, order it from the Alaska State Trooper Museum.

Butcher, Baker; Frozen Ground; Fair Game

This too will pass… but indulge me for a moment while I eat sour grapes…

This should be a happy week. The movie version of the Robert Hansen serial murder case, called Frozen Ground, is enjoying a limited opening in theaters somewhere in America. But in the grand scheme of things, um… There’s not as much happiness as I would have liked…

My book, Butcher, Baker, is an afterthought in all of this. A coulda, woulda, shoulda. My gut sense is still that it shouldn’t have come to this, but life is complex and sometimes co-authors (and literary agents) don’t see eye-to-eye. I am trying to be diplomatic.

To add insult to injury, I just got a mail from Amazon, touting Fair Game, another book about Robert Hansen. Calling it “the Definitive Account of the Crimes of Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen.” For the record, I just want to say “bullshit.”

But you be the judge. Read both books. See the movie. Look at the arc of the story. Pay attention to how long it takes Cindy Paulson to appear in each version (and yes, it’s true, the publisher made us give her a pseudonym; think of her as the 17 year old who got away).

And Bernard, no hard feelings. Really. Congratulations. Fair Game, right?

Frozen Ground (The Movie): U.S. Premiere

Well, well, well, kiddies… The news of the world now reveals that… The movie inspired by “Butcher, Baker” — also known as the Frozen Ground — is now going to premiere in the U S of A.

You heard right. Premiering in the U.S.A. On 23 August 2013. Not sure where… Or how many screens. But… Here’s the link: Frozen Ground @IMDb. Congratulations everyone, especially Mr. Scott Walker, for whom this is a Hollywood directing debut.

BTW — why do I keep saying Frozen Ground “The Movie?” Because it wasn’t that long ago that a Google search of “Frozen Ground” brought up “Frozen Ground Beef” recipes… And yes, I posit here, now and forever… that “Frozen Ground” is a shitty name… Actually, an ab-so-lute-ly shitty name… Especially compared to the (ahem) original.

Them’s the breaks, kids. Them’s the breaks. Take no risks and nothing will happen either to you or for you. I’ll take my risks, thank you. I’ll put myself out there. Mindful that, as a friend reminds me, “the writer always gets screwed.”

No matter. You can still buy the original work on Amazon. Yes. And I don’t make a penny (that’s the way how it works; see above). “Butcher, Baker” is the real thing. No made up scenes. No gratuitous drama because, really, it isn’t necessary. This is true edge of your seat stuff. And, no, I haven’t seen the movie…

Frozen Ground (the movie): More Updates

In the past few months (my, I have been neglectful), I have gleaned new information about the Buenos Aires premiere of “Frozen Ground,” the movie inspired by my true-crime book, “Butcher, Baker.”

In February, I received an email from a friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It concluded with the following message:

As far as “Frozen Ground”, the release date, here in Argentina, was confirmed as March 7, but they haven’t come up with a Spanish name for it yet.

Ok, not exactly propitious, right? No Spanish name for a movie that will premiere in a Spanish language country?

Then March 7 arrived. And with it, more news from Buenos Aires. [Update on the Buenos Aires Premiere.]

As far as “Frozen Ground”, the release date, here in Argentina, is now August 29th but I don’t know why they have changed it. I hope this is not a sign of trouble, an indication that they don’t have enough confidence in it. We’ll see.

Hey, I’m an optimist. But between you and me, I’m not holding my breath. I’m just wishing them the best. And hope that’s good enough.

No matter. You can still buy the original work on Amazon. Yes. “Butcher, Baker” is the real thing. No made up scenes. No gratuitous drama because, really, it isn’t necessary. This is true edge of your seat stuff. And you don’t have to go to Argentina to get it.

Frozen Ground: Argentina Update

Having just returned from Argentina (it was great, BTW), I now have another update on the release of “Frozen Ground.” Thanks to my friend Elisa, here’s a link to an Argentine web site (cinesargentinos.com) with the following update (Spanish):

Basada en una historia real, un policía del estado de Alaska se une a una joven mujer que ha escapado de un asesino serial, para encontrar al delicuente y llevarlo a la justicia.

TITULO ORIGINAL: Frozen Ground
ACTORES: Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, John Cusack.
GENERO (genre): Suspenso.
ORIGEN: Estados Unidos.
DURACION: No informada
CALIFICACION (rating): No disponible por el momento

ESTRENO EN BUENOS AIRES: 07 de Marzo de 2013

Rough translation: Based on a true story, an Alaska State Trooper meets a young woman who has escaped from a serial murderer, finds the offender and brings him to justice.

Based on Actual Events

Ever wonder what it means when a movie claims it is “Based on Actual Events?” The new Nicolas Cage vehicle, the “The Frozen Ground,” makes that claim.

Frozen Ground publicity still

But what does that mean? For clues, let’s look at the Nicolas Cage character in the film.

According to IMDb, Cage plays “Jack Halcombe.” Allegedly, he’s the Alaska State Trooper who brought Hansen to justice. That’s strange, because if you look at the definitive account of the Hansen murders, “Butcher, Baker,” you will not find a character named Jack Halcombe.

That’s because there is no “Jack Halcombe,” at least in the context of the Alaska State Troopers and serial murderer Robert Hansen. Jack Halcombe is a fictional character. Nicolas Cage plays a fictional character.

The actual cop who brought Robert Hansen to justice is named Glenn Flothe. Early reports about the movie listed Flothe as the Nicolas Cage character. That changed. I’m guessing (educated guess) the reason that changed is because:

The filmmakers made up a lot of shit. Shit that Glenn Flothe was not comfortable signing off on. And to use Glenn’s name, he had to sign off on it. In the movie business, it’s called “Life Rights.” As in, I can say anything I want about you — true or false — if it helps the movie. You signed off on “Life Rights.” You can’t frickin’ sue me.

It turns out that Glenn Flothe wasn’t the only one who didn’t sign off on the made-up-shit. Here’s the complete list.

Fictional Characters in Frozen Ground

  • Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) = Glenn Flothe
  • Allie Halcombe (Radha Mitchell) = Cherry Flothe (Glenn Flothe’s wife)
    This one should be obvious.
  • Fran Hansen (Katherine LaNasa) = Darla Hansen
    Hansen’s ex-wife, Darla, has no incentive to cooperate with the filmmakers.
  • D.A. Pat Clives (Kurt Fuller) = D.A. Pat Doogan
    Pat Doogan is a good friend of Glenn Flothe, who played a critical role in getting an arrest warrant for Hansen when the local D.A. wasn’t being entirely cooperative. I’m guessing you can’t get one (Doogan) without the other (Flothe).

Ok, so it’s a fairly short list. A short list of very important characters. And when the filmmakers couldn’t navigate a closer tack to the “truth,” they bailed. Call it creative convenience. Call it “based on actual events.” Call it made up shit.

Whatever you do, don’t call it true. For that, you have to read, “Butcher, Baker.”

Take Two: Frozen Ground Trailer

For the moment, there seems to be a site where the Frozen Ground trailer actually works. Thanks, Emmett/Furla Productions. Our collective breath is, um, not exactly being held… UPDATE: The PC-friendly version was Gone in 15 Seconds. Or should I say, Gone In 60 Seconds.

However: The trailer still works on my iPad. And my smartphone. So, we recommend mobile devices for viewing the trailer. It’s the only way. Go figure.

Frozen Ground Trailer

And if nothing else you can always read the original. Butcher, Baker, is available at Amazon. Highly recommended.

Most Anticipated Movies 2012: The Frozen Ground?

IMDb, the movie database, has a social feature that encourages fans to put together lists of their most anticipated movies. It’s a fun feature, not to be taken too seriously, but a peek into the psyche of the devoted movie-goer nonetheless.

My question is this: where does The Frozen Ground, the movie inspired by Butcher, Baker, show up on these lists?

The answer is “pretty high up.” Here’s a sampling. Of course, this is a very selective sample. What did you expect? There’s more than a few lists where… um… The Frozen Ground is nowhere to be found. You can find those lists on your own!

Movies We HAVE to see in 2012 (lulie1810)IMDb - lists

30 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (simon-evgp) IMDb - lists

Movies That I Can’t Wait Till They’re Released (lbtrev) IMDb - lists

Most Waited to See in 2012 (cristianoumberto) IMDb - lists

The Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (romtonkon) IMDb - lists

Stills From “The Frozen Ground”

IMDb is featuring still photos taken from the Butcher, Baker inspired movie, “The Frozen Ground.” Here’s the link to the IMDb slideshow. Some creepy stuff, for sure. My spine be tingling.

Nicolas Cage as Alaska State Trooper Detective
Nicolas Cage in The Frozen Ground 2012 Voltage Pictures

John Cusack as serial killer Robert Hansen
John Cusack in The Frozen Ground 2012 Voltage Pictures