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.
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch okcmoa.com 236-3100 $5-$8
Nothing can bring out one’s inner Richard Nixon like a flight of baby-boomer whimsy that rubs your nose in 1960s nostalgia. Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, a gentle-minded paean to the Woodstock generation, might just make you want to punch a hippie.
God knows this isn’t the first indie film to fall prey to contrivances, inept predictability and forced quirkiness. But what’s so perplexing is that Peace, which screens Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, is made by such talented people.
Its director is the usually dependable Bruce Beresford, whose credits range from Breaker Morant to Driving Miss Daisy. But neither he nor a cast that includes Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen can atone for the movie’s surfeit of eye-rolling dopiness.
The opening minutes are a warning of what’s to come. With all the grace of a pothead rifling through a fridge, the picture introduces us to Diane (Keener, Trust), an uptight, emotionally pinched Manhattan attorney whose husband (Kyle MacLachlan, TV’s Desperate Housewives) tells her shortly before their dinner party that he wants a divorce.
The scene, although brief, is so awkwardly staged and emotionally stagnant, it almost seems like a put-on. But it is the catalyst for Diane to load up her college-age kids, headstrong vegan Zoe (Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene) and wannabe filmmaker Jake (Nat Wolff, TV’s The Naked Brothers Band), in the car and head to upstate New York to visit the mother she hasn’t seen in 20 years.
Make that the earth mother she hasn’t seen in 20 years. Her mom, an artist named Grace (Fonda), is a onetime flower child with an affinity for pot, promiscuity and Saturday-afternoon protests. Zoe and Jake are charmed by their groovy granny and her recollections of seeing the Dead play Woodstock.
But Diane, who resents growing up in a house full of wild parties, is less amused; “You barrel through people’s lives and you let everybody else pick up the pieces!” Diane fumes.
Fear not, peace-and-love fans.
There’s not much appetite for dredging up hostilities when Grace’s hometown is humming with good vibes. Zoe meets a hunky butcher (Chace Crawford, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) with the progressive soul of Dennis Kucinich, while Jake finds himself smitten with a perky coffeehouse worker (newcomer Marissa O’Donnell). Not even Diane can resist an easygoing musician (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen) who charms the irritable woman right out of her armor.
Peace offers only a pretense of familial conflict, since Beresford is as enamored with Grace as Grace is. Brimming with life-affirming mojo and more platitudes than a Hallmark store, she is just what this psychologically wounded family needs. A bit more ambivalence would have been welcome.
Who could possibly breathe life into this? The gifted Keener
tries valiantly, but her character is too one-note for much exploration.
And Fonda, a well-preserved 74 and still a compelling screen presence,
definitely deserves better.