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.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Evan Tanner once told the camera that in his
life, “the best is yet to come.” It didn't. Three years ago, at the age
of 37, he was discovered dead in the San Diego desert. To this day,
friends and family debate whether it was a suicide, and the documentary
“Once I Was a Champion” takes a look at his brief life, extraordinary
career and tortured soul.
He was, as director Gerard Roxburgh’s film makes clear over and over, a man of ironies. He’d preach kindness for fellow man, but beat crap out of other people for a living. He became a world champion in his field, yet wanted to become a monk. He found the roundly derided ice-skating movie “The Cutting Edge” to be brilliant, but liked to kick back with a leather-bound edition of “Moby-Dick.” He was a smart guy who made some stupid decisions.
You don’t have to know Tanner’s name, much less even care about the sport of MMA, to enjoy “Champion,” because complicated men and woman make for compelling material, especially those taken before their time. As we learn, Tanner may have sped that process along, downing tequila "like it was Gatorade,” making the inevitable all the more tragic.
“Once I Was a Champion” is currently making the festival rounds. Look out for it. Even non-sports fans like me can appreciate its enigmatic subject and tragic story well-told. —Rod Lott