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.
Still, fans of his might be a bit disappointed to find their usually indefatigable hero somewhat muted in Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. It screens Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, then hits DVD on April 23.
Detailing life in a remarkably primitive Siberian village, the film is co-directed by Herzog and first-timer Dmitry Vasyukov. Herzog reportedly came to the project after viewing four hours of footage that Vasyukov and his team had shot. Herzog honed the material and, while the result is fine — certainly a fascinating
window on a world far removed from our noisy, technologically saturated
culture — it doesn’t fully bear the stamp of Herzog’s madman
subjectivity. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just different, which is to
say it’s a more conventional documentary.
are Herzogian touches. The German filmmaker’s distinctive voice-over
narration, while sparing, effectively conveys his affection for the
people of the Taiga, the Siberian wilderness. In other hands, such
unabashed enthusiasm would seem ironic or patronizing.
At Happy People’s center
is Bakhta, population 300, a village reachable only by helicopter or
during the few months of the year that the Yenisei River isn’t frozen.
The region has no electricity, no running water, no medical care.
Utilizing skills that have been passed along through generations, its
residents primarily use handmade tools for hunting and trapping.
in the Taiga is hard and grueling, but, as the doc illustrates, also
one of real beauty. “They are truly free,” Herzog says, “equipped only
with their individual values and code of conduct.”
The Gatekeepers turns
its attention to a different terrain, but one arguably even more
treacherous. Now showing exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, the
Oscar-nominated documentary is a revelatory look at the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as seen through the eyes of some of the
world’s most (until now) secretive spymasters.
Dror Moreh interviews six retired directors of the Shin Bet, Israel’s
elite domestic intelligence agency. None has spoken previously about his
experiences and perspective. Their reason for doing so now becomes clearer as The Gatekeepers unfolds.
interviews are probing, reflective and often surprising. This is far
from talking-head stuff. Employing archival news footage and some
visually arresting sleight-of-hand, Moreh addresses the war on terrorism
that Israel has waged since its 1967 seizing of the West Bank, Gaza and
Jerusalem. The Shin Bet, an organization so secretive that its only
identified members have been its directors, has been at the fore of such
operations. The grim stories recounted here — of infiltration,
interrogation and assassination — are riveting.
The Gatekeepers covers an impressive expanse of events in its lean running time,
from ’67’s Six-Day War to the Intifadas in the late 1980s and the 1995
killing of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing
extremist. But the documentary is never rushed. Its candor and clarity
make for a film of astonishing urgency and power.