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.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" is Marvel's third — third! — superhero movie just this summer, following "Thor" and "X-Men: First Class," so it would be reasonable to expect audiences to be burned out on men in tights.
That would be bad, however, because Marvel has saved
the best for last. It's miles better than that Norse god with the magic
hammer, and just a hair below the greatness of Robert Downey Jr.'s first
go-round in his iron armor, both of whom will team with Cap in next
summer's guaranteed nerdgasm, "The Avengers."
With all but a few minutes set in the 1940s, "Captain America"
celebrates the Great War and its Yankee soldiers without pushing your
face in halfhearted, jingoistic rhetoric. Its patriotism burns real,
meaningful and infectious, whereas, say, "Battle: Los Angeles" was
forced and felt manufactured, as if to cloud its sheer lack of story.
This story is, naturally, an origin tale of the star-spangled superhero
of Marvel Comics' golden age — a 98-pound weakling of Charles Atlas ads
transformed by science into the United States' strongest weapon against
Hitler and his armies, not to mention the even more threatening foe of
the crimson-headed Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, "The Wolfman"). String-bean
orphan Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") is the
perennial-rejected Army enlistee until a top-secret super-soldier serum
is tested on him, and works like a charm.
Most interesting in this adaptation is how long director Joe Johnston
("The Wolfman") keeps Cap's superheroics at bay. Cheekily, although not
cheesily, the period picture first shows him not fighting on front
lines, but playing propaganda prop on USO tours, like Bob Hope in a
Halloween costume. In a montage set to a full-blown musical number that
would make Busby Berkeley proud (complete with an original Alan Menken
tune destined for Oscar recognition), kids snatch up copies of "Captain
America Comics #1" as it existed in our world, and movie audiences enjoy
him romp in a 15-chapter, black-and-white Republic actually released
The action hits hard in hour two, and the punch is considerable. Like a
light, pop-culture take on "Inglourious Basterds," it's rich in period
detail, but approaching weighty, revisionist themes without taking
itself too seriously (the last line, however, is absolutely haunting).
Evans proves the best choice for the role, more invested than he was in
the "Fantastic Four" films. Matching his character in bravery and balls
is Hayley Atwell (TV's "The Pillars of the Earth"), more than merely the
love interest — and the only argument for experiencing the well-made
film in its converted 3D. —Rod Lott