The October Cinema Preview: Trick or Treat?

You could argue that every day is Halloween in Hollywood – lots of costumes, noise, adults acting like children … and by the end of the night you’ve got a stomach ache from all that junk.

But October brings a number of new releases (as well as screenings of old favorites) designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Let’s take a quick look at some of the spooky, and not so spooky, films in store.

 

October 3 (national release dates)

Gone Girl

The latest thriller from David Fincher. Ben Affleck plays a man who comes under suspicion of having murdered his missing wife played by Rosamund Pike. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry (without, one assumes, the wig and padding) also turn up.

 

The Good Lie

An inspirational film about African refugees being resettled in Kansas. Reese Witherspoon plays a worker trying to help them create a new life. Based on stories from the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.”

 

Left Behind

Remember those movies Kirk Cameron made about the Rapture? (You know, the End Times from the bible when the righteous are taken up into Heaven, leaving the rest of us sinners down here to fend for ourselves.) Well, the series gets a big budget Hollywood reboot with Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele, an airline pilot who has to face off against the Antichrist.

It could happen!

 

October 10

Automata

In the future, when robots and people work side by side, someone is reprogramming them to take over. Antonio Banderas investigates who’s trying to bring about robo-domination. Melanie Griffith and Dylan McDermott also appear with Javier Bardem supplying one of the voices in this sci-fi noir.

 

Dracula Untold

If you’ve ever wondered just how Vlad the Impaler became Dracula King of the Undead this latest iteration gives you the backstory. I won’t give it away, but it involves a lot of computer generated armies fighting each other; Dracula as an Action Hero, what will they think of next?

 

The Judge

Robert Downey, Jr. is a high-priced lawyer who defends his stiff-necked father and judge, played by Robert Duvall. With a cast that also includes Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio and Dax Shepard it’s a safe to assume somebody’s going to be convicted of overacting.

 

Kill the Messenger

Jeremy Renner plays Gary Webb in this true story about a reporter who discovered that the CIA was selling cocaine on the streets of Los Angeles to fund the Contra Rebels. Directed by Michael Cuesta (executive producer of Homeland.)

 

October 17

Birdman

Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton is a has-been actor famous for once having starred as a super hero … I mean, he’s playing a washed-up former movie star trying to resurrect his career by appearing on Broadway. This quirky, off-beat comedy/drama also features Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton and Emma Stone

 

Fury

Brad Pitt’s back to war-torn Nazi Germany, but this time the tone is far removed from Inglourious Basterds. Here he’s a sergeant going behind enemy lines in a very, very big tank. The most frightening part may be that sometimes Shia LaBeouf is in the tank with him.

 

October 24

Low Down

Biopic about legendary jazz pianist Joe Albany (played by John Hawkes.) Not only was Joe a musical genius, he was also a heroin addict and this movie charts his rise and fall through the eyes of his daughter played by Elle Fanning. With Peter Dinklage, Tim Daly and Glenn Close.

 

St. Vincent

A young boy who had lost his father starts hanging out with the foul-mouthed, substance-abusing crank from next door. Life lessons aplenty will no doubt be learned along the way. Starring Bill Murray as the crackpot, with Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and Chris O’Dowd.

 

October 31

Horns

Daniel Radcliffe wakes up one morning, after his girlfriend has died in mysterious circumstances, only to find that he suddenly has two horns on his head. An adaptation of the horror/fantasy novel by Joe (son of Stephen King) Hill.

Guess what Hermione, I don’t think we’re in Hogwarts anymore.

 

Nightcrawler

Academy Award-buzz is already buzzing for Jake Gyllenhaal as a journalist obsessed with reporting the latest crime in this thriller written and directed by Dan (The Fall) Gilroy. It’s got gritty Los Angeles settings, a supporting cast featuring Bill Paxton and Rene Russo – and Gyllenhaal went on a starvation diet for the role; Oscar eats that stuff up!

 

Local Independent Screens

Pittsburgh Filmmakers

My Old Lady

Kevin Kline stars as an American who inherits an apartment in Paris only to discover that Maggie Smith already lives there … and she has no intention of moving. Israel Horovitz directs, from his own screenplay, this somber look at three people (Kristen Scott Thomas also stars) navigating emotional minefields.

2014 Sundance Film Festival Short Films
This touring exhibition of winning entries to the Sundance Film Institute arrives in town. A few of the highlights:

Afronauts.
Frances Bodomo writes and directs this 12 minute film set in 1969 when America is ready to send Apollo 11 to the moon as across the world a group of Zambian exiles are trying to get to there first.
MeTube: August Sings Carmen “Habanera”
A collation/mash-up of amateur singers who have posted YouTube videos of themselves performing the most popular aria from Bizet’s opera Carmen.
Verbatim
Taken from actual trial records, this 5 minute film is a recreation of a lawyer trying to learn whether or not a government employee used the officer photocopier.

ReelQ: Pittsburgh LGBT Film Festival
Now the sixth oldest LGBT film festival in America, this local group bring a wide array of feature and short films with comedies, dramas and more. Here’s a couple to keep an eye out for:
Blackbird
Writer/director Patrik-Ian Polk (creator of the film Punks and TV show Noah’s Arc) helms this family drama set in the African-American community. A young man comes out to his parents and sets of a string of changes in his family, church and community. With Julian Walker, Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington.
Eat With Me
After years in a loveless marriage, a woman leaves her husband and moves in with her estranged gay son – a gentle comedy exploring all the many forms of love, with a cameo from George Takei.
A Letter to Anita
Meredith Baxter narrates this documentary about former beauty queen and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant who, in 1977, lead the charge to repeal gay rights in Florida and across the country.

 

Hollywood Theater

Rear Window

Grace Kelly is almost too beautiful to look at in this 1954 Alfred Hitchcock comedy thriller about a busted up news photographer, James Stewart, spending his days spying on the neighbors across the yard … only to find out one of them is a murderer. Kelly plays his girlfriend and Thelma Ritter cracks wise as a tough talking masseuse.

 

Row House Cinema

Sleeper

Woody Allen’s 1973 comedy about a typically Allen nebbish who is cryogenically unfrozen in a dystopic future. Diane Keaton, of course (it was made in the 70’s) plays the love interest.

 

Great Movies for Halloween 

Blackenstein

A 1973 Blaxploitation lulu about a Vietnam soldier nearly killed when he steps on a landmine. Things get worse when a couple of crazy doctors fix him up with a new DNA serum … only to turn him into a rampaging murderer. (Hollywood Theater)

 

Don’t Look Now

Nicolas Roeg’s classic Hollywood creeper. From the novel by Daphne (The Birds, Rebecca) Du Maurier, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as grieving parents who discover, during a trip to Venice, that nothing is at it seems. (Pittsburgh Filmmakers.)

 

House on Haunted Hill

Vincent Price stars in this William Castle camp hootenanny about a bunch of partygoers locked in a haunted house. During the 1959 run of the film, schlockmeister Castle had plastic skeletons fly over the audiences’ heads. (Row House Cinema)

 

The Night of the Living Dead

The movie that put Pittsburgh on the cinematic map! George Romero’s legendary feature about zombies taking over a rural home near Evans City, Butler county. (Row House Cinema and Hollywood Theater)

 

Nosferatu, F. W. Murnau’s 1922 German Expressionist version of Dracula. One of, if not the, first vampire stories ever filmed. Legend has it that Max Schreck, the star, prepared for the role by sleeping in a coffin and munching on little forest critters. (Row House Cinema)

 

Psycho

No matter how many times you see it, it’s never not shocking. Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece was created, rumor has it, when he noticed that Roger Corman was making a fortune turning out quickie black & white horror films. With Janet Leigh, John Gavin and, of course, Anthony Perkins in a role which defined his career. It’s impossible to take a shower without Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant score screeching in your head. A boy’s best friend is his mother. (Manor Theater)

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Would Halloween be complete with a viewing of the, ah, queen of cult movies? (Hollywood Theater)

 

Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s low-key, understated adaptation of Ira Levin’s book about modern-day devil worshipers in New York gets under your skin and stays there. Mia Farrow played the title role and Ruth Gordon won an Academy Award as Minnie Castevet, the wackiest Satanist ever. (Manor Theater)

 

Young Frankenstein

Mel Brook’s dizzy, campy send-up of James Whale’s classic Frankenstein series. Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr and (in an uncredited turn) Gene Hackman go to town in this valentine to monster movies. And Madeline Kahn steals the show (“Ah sweet mystery of life”) as a dizzy debutante. (Pittsburgh Filmmakers)

 

Ted Hoover’s Halloween costume this year will be that of a cranky writer and critic.