Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Military marksman Col. Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines, Running Scared) is called into top-secret duty to neutralize a surveillance robot gone haywire in San Francisco. It won't be easy, because for one thing, the android is undetectable from a human. For another, it has a built-in nuclear bomb that will detonate upon imminent threat.
I plead guilty: My friends and I have goofed around with a camcorder before and made stupid movies, but we were smart enough to know that no one outside ourselves would think they were funny. If only the makers of Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas realized the same.
While long impressive on the big screen, from “The Station Agent” to “Brokeback Mountain,” Michelle Williams does her best work yet in “Blue Valentine,” the fractured love story that has earned her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
She doesn’t have a chance, really, but in another year, amid a different set of nominees, things might be different.
The same shift in luck applies to the couple who comprise this film’s core: one year, blissful; another, miserable. Cindy (Williams) is a nurse, while her husband, Dean (Ryan Gosling, “Lars and the Real Girl”), is a housepainter who makes up in drinking what he lacks in ambition. Together, they have a darling daughter (newcomer Faith Wladyka), but even she can’t bond them tight enough to keep their divide from fatally widening.
“Valentine” starts in the now, then gradually introduces scenes from their courtship that not only show them in happier days, but demonstrate that they likely were doomed from the start. When a relationship begins with deeply rooted feelings of uncertainty and jealousy, no piece of paper will alter that.
It’s a shame that director/co-writer Derek Cinefrance’s film has attracted more attention for its frank sex scenes between its married characters (its initial NC-17 rating was appealed to an R) than its overall dramatic worth, which is hefty. While Gosling occasionally overplays Dean as a Nic Cage cartoon, Williams’ performance is dead-on perfect, remarkably brave and free of vanity.
“Blue Valentine” benefits from an emotionally lo-fi score by indie-folk rockers Grizzly Bear that matches Cinefrance’s visuals. When the end credits explode in fireworks, so do the hairs on your arms. —Rod Lott