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.
Consider this: standstill traffic, sudden explosions, people fleeing, lots of screaming. It’s the doomsday scenario Chuck Norris and less-hirsute far-right extremists said would happen if we elected Barack Obama as president — either time; pick one — but it’s also the opening moments of World War Z.
The Z stands for “zombies,” of course, but World War Zis an action-thriller, not a horror flick. Like TV’s ridiculously popularThe Walking Dead or 2009’s more-fun-than-funny Zombieland, it’s a watered-down depiction of the days and nights of the living dead — a zombie film for who people who can’t handle a “real” zombie film.
In other words, it’s a real summer crowd-pleaser, far from the trash heap as years of bad buzz have suggested. That said, it’s entertaining without approaching extraordinary.
Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), World War Z is based on Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name. While that book — good, not great — was episodic in nature with oral accounts gleaned from across the globe, the movie opts to tell only one of its ostensible stories, and from a singular perspective: that of former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, who also serves as producer).
Gerry rather reluctantly leaves his wife (Mireille Enos, TV’s The Killing) and two daughters on a military aircraft while he trots around the globe, helping to pursue a cure to whatever virus has caused this pandemic. No matter his (thinly purposed) destination, super-fast zombies are present for a greet-and-eat. Repeat until the two-hour mark.
I give World War Zthis: It wastes no time on setup. It doesn’t need any.
What it does need is — no pun intended — more meat. I understand a PG-13 rating represents the film’s best shot at recouping its reported $200 million-and-up budget, but the movie feels so neutered and toothless in its bloodlessness. Shouldn’t a depiction of a global catastrophe come equipped with a serrated edge?
And shouldn’t audiences be able to see all of it? It could be the fault of the completely unnecessary 3-D, which results in a darker screen, but comprehending any nighttime action sequence is difficult. Forster’s jittery camera and the Slap Chop style of editing only worsens the situation.
Although his hair proves a distraction, Pitt makes for a fine host on his travelogue of terror. Too bad Enos can’t be in the thick with him. She’s such a headstrong actress that it’s frustrating — demeaning, even — that her role in this World Waramounts to moping on a cot. —Rod Lott