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.
Written by Hunter S. Thompson at 24, but unpublished until his early
60s, “The Rum Diary” was a fictionalized account of his besotted time in
Puerto Rico, what in reality was a nine-month stint between gigs as a
New York City journalist.
Thompson was no exception among young writers; the novel was only a seedling of what would eventually bloom in merciless attacks on the American Dream in “Hell’s Angels” and the narcotized paranoia of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Talk-show host Charlie Rose rightfully harangued the writer in 1999 for the late-career cash grab.
Unfortunately, director Bruce Robinson — who hadn’t helmed a film since 1992’s “Jennifer 8” — adapted the script with too much reverence, twisting what was an expression of Thompson’s fear of old age into a miscast romance with as many plot holes as swigs of alcohol.
Those expecting Raoul Duke instead get Paul Kemp, a lifeless Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) who — nearing 50 — looks nearly every second of it next to 25-year-old Amber Heard, whose Chenault sizzles like the Caribbean sands at noon in a summertime heat wave. Too bad she can’t convince us to consider her anything more than a petulant, impulsive thing in tight dresses.
“I just want some apple-blossom lipstick and fucks,” Kemp says after watching her copulate with an overtanned Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart, “Battle: Los Angeles”) from afar. The dialogue clashes with Christopher Young’s score, which insists on blasting flutes every time Heard and Depp go puppy-eyed.
Robinson relies too heavily on Thompson’s writing style (“Too many adjectives!” Kemp’s editor complains) to hold the script together, fails to develop the plot (Kemp’s search for “his voice”) and wanders down so many subplots (all starring “Avatar”’s Giovanni Ribisi at his most annoying) that he has to turn to inner monologue to pull the narrative together.
The only spot-on casting here is Eckhart’s slick PR stereotype. The white linen-sporting Sanderson greases the wheels of a lucrative hotel deal on a nearby island, thereby providing a villain, although the performance is really just a douchier version of his lovable, flawed “Thank You for Smoking” hero.
Thompson enthusiasts surely will enjoy themselves, catching a refracted view into the father of gonzo journalism’s early days, as well as an occasional gem or two (“He’s gotta mouth like an AP wire” and “blackheads like Braille”) amongst overwrought duds (“Your tongue is like an accusatory giblet!”).
And while Thompson did eventually “find his voice,” as Kemp hopes in the film, it’s a wonder he ever did.