For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
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.
I've literally waited 30 years to catch "Comin' at Ya!," a 3-D spaghetti
Western whose R rating in 1981 made it impossible for the 10-year-old
me to see in theaters. I'm kind of glad I didn't see it then or on home
video, because seeing it at the Alamo in a brand-new, digitally restored
cut has to be the best way.
With a minimum of dialogue — some 70 lines, according to actor/producer
Tony Anthony — the action/adventure plays out a simple, standard revenge
story of a guy (Anthony, "Treasure of the Four Crowns") searching for
his kidnapped wife (Victoria Abril, "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!") amid the
Old West. None of that matters compared to the best use of 3-D in cinema
history, because every shot was designed
specifically to break that fourth wall. So many things go right into the
audience's collective face: bats, snakes, guns, flaming arrows, even a
It would've made for one of the most memorable theatrical experiences of
my life, if not for the bonehead who sat directly next to me. Before a
frame even had flickered, he was extremely demanding to the waitress who
hadn't yet had a chance to screw up. He then plopped back into the seat
and stuck his elbow well into my side and left it there. He also burped
openly, exhaled it, and not just once, but all through the next two
hours. He slurped up two large Cokes before the opening credits were
finished, licked the plastic container of his salad dressing clean,
chewed pizza as if it were his last meal, laughed so loud it sounded
forced, and generally acted as if he were alone in his living room.
Sadly, this behavior was not limited to this screening. All of the films
I caught were rife with people like this, just not all wrapped into one
miserable person. You'd think a film festival would attract people
respectful, if not wholly reverent, of the filmgoing experience, but no.
I guess these socially awkward ones don't get out much. As my friend
who's attended many FFs since its inception said, "I'm completely over
the whole audience. They've turned me off the whole thing. Way different
than it was in the early days."
But again, "Comin' at Ya!": A re-release of the film is coming soon,
starting in Texas, so hopefully Oklahoma City will be on its to-wow
list. If so, you gotta go freak out your retinas. —Rod