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.
Oliver Stone might be best-known for making movies filled with political and cultural bomb-throwing (JFK, Natural Born Killers), but
what makes his best works so eminently watchable is their visceral
punch. He might claim he’s out to edify, but the guy can exploit with
the best of ’em.
Savages is a chance for Stone to hone his pulp fiction. Based on the best-selling novel by Don Winslow (who also co-wrote the script with Stone and Shane Salerno), the movie follows two best buds in California who cultivate some mighty fine bud. Ben (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass) is the philanthropic Buddhist of the multimillion-dollar marijuana-growing operation, while Chon (Taylor Kitsch, Battleship) is the ex-Navy SEAL enforcer.
Their business isn’t all they have in common, as the friends also share a blonde babe named Ophelia (Blake Lively, Green Lantern), who goes simply by O, as in, “Oh, please, somebody, don’t let this bimbo narrate.”
Alas, she does, and her voice-over narration is as vapid as it is unnecessary.
You know what’s in store when a movie begins with grainy video of a Mexican drug cartel decapitating enemies. Happily sleazy and brutally lurid, Savages kicks into gear when the aforementioned cartel tries horning in on Ben and Chon. Ample shootings, stabbings, rapes and dope-smoking follow.
There are some irresistibly campy performances from Benicio Del Toro (TheWolfman) as a sadistic henchman, Salma Hayek (GrownUps) as an improbable cartel leader and John Travolta (FromParis with Love), sans hairpiece, as a corrupt drug agent. They help compensate for the bland leads, especially Lively in another turn of defiant anti-charisma.