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.
deadCENTER Film Festival Wednesday-Sunday downtown Oklahoma City deadcenterfilm.org 246-9233
Attendees to this year’s deadCENTER Film Festival have their choice from among more than 100 movies in the five days of flicks. Below, we’ve previewed six for you that, for one reason or another, you shouldn’t miss.
Beauty Is Embarrassing Beauty may be embarrassing, as artist Wayne White states; the documentary about him is anything but. While you may not know White's name, you know some of his work — namely, designing most of the Pee-wee's Playhouse puppets. But there's much, much more to him than that, and Oklahoma-raised director Neil Berkley shows how his subject went from misunderstood Tennessee hillbilly to three-time Emmy winner to today, where he's shaking up the stuffy world of fine art with word paintings. Humor's integral to his existence — “without it,” he says, “we're dead.” We can learn a lot about life from White, at once the new Andy Warhol and Eckhart Tolle, starting with this surprisingly moving, inspiring portrait. —Rod Lott
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope Originally a meeting of a few hundred comic book fans, San Diego Comic-Con International has ballooned to a multimedia marketing juggernaut for a few hundreds of thousand of geeks — their words, not mine. Following a few attendees through the convention weekend is decidedly lighter fare for documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), but grants us a peek into the mindset of the kind of guy who must acquire a particular action figure, dreams of drawing comics or — God forbid — worships Kevin Smith. It’s superficial, but in a fun way — maybe even more fun than actually going there. —Rod Lott
Keyhole Don’t be fooled by the opening minutes of Keyhole, the latest head-trip by Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin. The seductive black-and-white cinematography and montage of gun-toting mobsters doesn’t have much to do with the fever dream that follows. Jason Patric (The Losers) stars as a gang boss whose crew has busted into a mansion to find his wife, who’s locked away in the top floor somewhere. At least I think that’s what the movie is about. It’s a puzzle amid ghosts, fragmented memories and a naked old man who also serves as narrator. In short, the presence of Isabella Rossellini isn’t the only thing that might make one think of Blue Velvet director David Lynch. —Phil Bacharach
Marley Within a life of only 36 years cut short by cancer, Bob Marley achieved that rarified status of legend. In Marley, filmmaker Kevin Macdonald presents a sprawling, vivid biography of the Jamaican phenomenon whose hits included “No Woman, No Cry,” “Could You Be Loved” and “Jamming.” Overflowing with archival photos, concert footage and interviews with those who loved and knew Marley, the documentary is indispensable for hardcore followers. The 144-minute length might be a bit much for more casual fans, but most of Marley is as dynamic as its subject — and not nearly as worshipful as you might expect of a film made with the Marley family’s full cooperation. —Phil Bacharach
The Queen of Versailles Imagine the largest house in America, at 90,000 square feet: 30 bathrooms, 10 kitchens, eight children's wings, $5 million of marble from China, two kitchens, one bowling alley, one sushi bar, one health spa, one roller rink and one window that costs a quarter of a million alone. And the residence is roughly 50 percent complete when the market tanks in 2008, leaving timeshare billionaire David Siegel and trophy wife, Jackie, in dire straits, all chronicled in The Queen of Versailles. The interesting documentary paints a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of everyone not named David Siegel; still, you can't feel sorry for a family who already had everything. —Rod Lott
Take This Waltz Margot (Michelle Williams) is having the seven-year itch two years early. An aspiring writer married to a sweet-natured cookbook author (Seth Rogen), Margot might seem as if she should be happy, but the young woman is chafing from the sheer comfort of it all. Yearning for something more, she finds it on an airline flight, in a meet-cute with Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome, sensitive and supremely cocky artist. While Take This Waltz doesn't approach actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley’s 2006 effort, the Oscar-nominated Away from Her, it is still a smart, complex character study bolstered by Williams' characteristically great performance. —Phil Bacharach