Movies are rated on the following scale, best to worst: Full Price, Matinee, Rental, TV, or Never.
Tim Burton does a Coraline-style homage to classic 1930s Universal horror films with this claymation chronicle of preteen suburban mad scientist Victor and his beloved reanimated canine, Sparky. Think Young Frankenstein meets Edward Scissorhands by way of Bolt. Oh, and the whole thing is in black and white. Bring insulin for the sweet-cute overload.
It’s always nice when horror producers throw a little novel spin on their baltant ripoffs. In this case, our latest The Ring/Blair Witch Project mashup is a backdoor anthology. The plot involves a group of burglars hired to steal a mysterious VHS tape from a creepy house, only to discover the tape A) is cursed, B) documents a series of gruesome supernatural murders and C) they are its latest victims. Yes, that’s derivative, but at least its derivative in a slightly original way.
Ben Affleck directs and stars in this dramatized true story of a 1979 CIA hostage-rescue mission set in the early days of the violent revolution in Iran. The agency must stage a fake production of an ambitious science-fiction movie scheduled to shoot on location outside Tehran as cover to smuggle hostages out. Affleck garnered due praise for his efforts on both sides of the camera in The Town, and this time he’s working with an all-star cast that includes Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Expect big things.
You’ve never heard of writer-director Scott Derrickson, largely because the “high” points of his career have been the derivative Exorcism of Emily Rose and the simultaneously lifeless and overwrought Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Nonetheless, it looks like he’s managed to build some genuine creepiness into this story of a novelist (Ethan Hawke) who discovers a box of snuff films in his attic and finds his family targeted by the same evil spirit that provoked the previous murders. Yes, that does sound like a rather blatant knockoff of The Ring, only less subtle, so at least you know what you’re in for.
The writer-director tandem from Paranormal Activity 3 returns for the latest milking of the low-budget horror cash cow, with the studio being extremely secretive about the plot of this sequel. Here’s a guess: A suburban family played by actors you’ve never heard of is terrorized by an evil spirit caught on grainy home video footage, culminating in a shock ending that lays the groundwork for another obvious sequel. Lather, rinse, repeat.
David Mitchell’s 2004 novel Cloud Atlas was perhaps the most structurally ambitious literary sci-fi book of the last decade. It features six nested stories that span a length of time from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future. Each vignette is actually a fictional tale read by characters on a higher “level,” with ideas and themes crossing over from one sphere of fiction to the next. Inception proved you could depict a nested narrative on the big screen, but it required the deft touch of a meticulous filmmaker like Chris Nolan. It also helps if your Matrioshka-doll stories are all gunfights that keep the action moving.
Hollywood has handed the task of translating the dense, ponderous story of Cloud Atlas to Andy and Lana Wachowski, who have an immense pool of visual and technical talent but who have never recaptured the magic they displayed in 1999’s The Matrix (and blatantly lost in the Matrix sequels, to say nothing of Speed Racer). The sprawling cast is anchored by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who are themselves unquestionably talented but seem an unlikely pairing. It’s encouraging that Hollywood is willing to take a chance on such a daring and unconventional project. The result appears to be an extraordinary blend of The Fountain, Inception, and Crash — which will prove either an exemplary triumph or an immolating failure. It’s worth seeing which will come to pass.
Sean Bean and Carrie-Anne Moss collect paychecks in the 3D sequel to a video game movie about a small factory town that’s actually a gateway to a hell run by mummified nurses, or something. The whole film is basically a 90-minute cutscene of posturing evil characters and scampering many-limbed monsters. Any plot that survives the product cross-promotion is strictly coincidental.
Release date: Oct. 26
Geekend rating: Never
Got a favorite in the half-dozen October geek flicks, or think we’ve overlooked (or underestimated) a soon-to-be-classic? The peanut gallery awaits your heckling in the comments section.