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.
For those who tired of the inspirational-teacher subgenre that flourished in the ’80s and ’90s — think Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets Society — there’s Wuss!
Exclamation theirs, the film illustrates why I never would want to
teach public school in today’s environment, even as a mere
Played by Nate Rubin (Super), Mitch Parker is a wiry little fellow, barely out of high school himself, who substitutes for a high school English class. What he’d really like to do is be a novelist, of course, yet his off-hours are spent in a state of arrested development, playing Dungeons & Dragons with his baked buds.
Mitch radiates awkwardness à la specialists Michael Cera and Mike White, making him a target for everyone, including the principal (Alex Karpovsky, TV’s Girls), who calls him as “Mitch the Bitch.” Mitch’s real problem is his students, specifically the drug-dealing thug Jamal (Ryan Anderson), who beats him up after school and makes his life hell.
Nearly 45 minutes in, that problem is solved all too easily. As that goes away, so does much of the interest on the part of viewers. Now on demand from Film Buff, Wuss! switches gears from a one-man show to a two-man team, as Mitch bonds with the one outcast student (first-timer Alicia Anthony, acting with a Kristen Stewart sleepiness) who takes pity on him and encourages the spine within him to grow.
It does a bit, but their relationship does not — at least not into one interesting enough to match the concerns of the film’s first half. Either writer/director Clay Liford (Earthling) had no idea how to bring things to an end, or the end is just that underdeveloped. Like many students of today, Wuss! shows potential, but not the follow-through. —Rod Lott