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.
Knights of Malice 8-11 p.m. Saturday City Arts Center 3000 General Pershing cityartscenter.org 951-0000 $5
While “Knights of Malice” is not the best effort from local director Mickey Reece and his version of the Mercury Theatre players, it carries the most distinctive opening: that of the “Star Wars” crawl.
Turns out, there’s a reason for the Jedi-rific reference, but I leave that for audiences to discover when the film debuts Saturday at City Arts Center. As usual, Reece has turned his premiere into a party, with free beer from Titswiggle Brewing Co. and the requisite musical guest, Joey Paz of Norman band Luna Moth.
In “Malice,” mild-mannered Joan (Stacey Cunningham), a night-shift receptionist at a bail bond office, shares fluids with slacker Tucker (Jacob Ryan Snovel), but no emotions or information. Instead, her heart belongs to her Don Draper-channeling boss, Jack (Dustin Sanchez).
Being introverted, Joan doesn’t let him know, so her sexy, snooty pal (Rebecca Cox) does something about it: She seduces Jack, who belies his clean-cut image by asking for dirty talk and to be spit upon. So begins a skewed, dangerous love triangle, or quadrangle, or perhaps something that isn’t quite a shape. At times, Reece’s narrative is equally malformed, as if it tries to be two to three things at once, with no single approach winning out.
Still, it’s tough to dislike. Cox and Rhianan Hilliard are hilarious as Joan’s oil-and-water friends. Their dialogue and others’ remain sardonically smart — witness: “Sounds like an international best-selling trilogy written by Stephen King if he had a stroke and started writing novels for pedophiles,” and “Let’s not kid ourselves: You have the physical attributes of a snapping turtle.”