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.
Baby boomers can be their own worst enemy. The generation that was going
to change the world instead settled on thinking the world of
themselves. Youthful idealism, aging and compromised idealism, pining
for that youthful idealism — nothing fuels anti-boomer sentiment like
The Company You Keep, which opens Friday at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial, is boomer meditation disguised as political drama. Directed by and starring Robert Redford, it pretends to be ambivalent about the 1960s counterculture, but the reverence of the treatment suggests otherwise.
Last seen onscreen in 2007’s Lions for Lambs, Redford plays Jim Grant, a widower attorney suddenly ensnared by a troubled past when a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group from the Vietnam-protest era, is caught by the FBI. Jim isn’t who heclaims to be. Instead, he is a former member of the extremists and has been on the lam for the 30-year-old murder of a Michigan bank guard.
As scripted in a preposterous yarn by Lem Dobbs (Haywire), Jim skips town, leaving his 11-year-old daughter (singer Jackie Evancho, in the film’s most appealing performance) in the care of his younger brother (Chris Cooper, The Muppets)while in hot pursuit by an FBI agent (Terrence Howard, Dead Man Down)and a newspaper reporter (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers: Dark of the Moon).
Bland characters and bloodless suspense receive no respite from an exceptional cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson, Stanley Tucci, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling and Nick Nolte, the last of whom delivers his lines as if in the middle of a prolonged gargle. —Phil Bacharach