For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
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.
Could do without horses? You're going to love "Buck."
Winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary tells the story of Buck Brannaman, Wyoming-based horse whisperer. He travels three-fourths of the year, conducting clinics all over the nation on breaking horses — and sometimes their owners — of bad behavior.
What's so great about that? Looking like a Will Rogers for the 21st century, this calm, gentle soul is the product of a household of abuse. Rather than bemoan his wretched, nightmarish past, Buck chooses to live for the moment. He's taken his lumps, then his lessons, and moved on.
Opening Friday exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, his story is inspiring, whether or not you identify with the modern-day cowboy's old-fashioned, stripped-down lifestyle. Without even trying, Buck will have you charmed, and debuting director Cindy Meehl's film will have you laughing, crying and leaving the theater with enough joy in your heart to fill a 10-gallon hat. Take the kids. —Rod Lott