Adam Sandler Annabelle

Some Movies Out This Weekend: October 3, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014 Rob Samuelson

This weekend seems to mark the true beginning of Fall Film Season, with some prestige-y stuff from Oscar-nominated filmmakers. There's also one big one that brings to mind my mistakes of pop culture past and the first Halloween-related movie this month. This isn't everything that's coming out, but the two wide releases are at least included, plus a couple other counter-programming options.

Opening this week, October 3, 2014.

Director: John R. Leonetti
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola

October is also horror movie month, and the big scary release this weekend is about a creepy doll that is possessed and tries to kill a young family. It sounds like Child's Play on paper, but the atmosphere of the trailer suggests something darker and more traditionally horrifying than just a bunch of jump scares. It certainly has those, too, but the ideas of dark spirits and the darkness hiding inside people and objects is frightening indeed. Director John R. Leonetti comes from the cinematography world, with credits including highly regarded recent horrors The Conjuring and the Insidious series. That's a good sign for anyone looking for a horror movie that understands the visual aspects of the medium.

Left Behind
Director: Vic Armstrong
Writers: Paul Lalonde, John Patus
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Lea Thompson, Chad Michael Murray

The apocalyptic book series-slash-thrift store staple – seriously, if you go to 100 thrift stores, approximately 94 of them will have at least three dogeared copies of each volume – comes to theaters in a reboot of the Kirk Cameron-starring 2000 direct-to-DVD adaptation. This time, though, it stars people you might recognize a little more, like Nicolas Cage, the mom from Back to the Future, and the guy from One Tree Hill who looks like my friend Peter.

I've actually read a few of these books, my interest spurred by a Time article I read about the series in my eighth grade homeroom. I figured, “Hey, a dramatization of the wacky stuff late in the Bible sounds like a good story to me.” I was wrong.

Very little about the books stick in my brain. One is the antichrist's all-time great name, Nicolae Carpathia, whose background served as the basis for a satirical article I wrote for my college literary magazine about then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 run, an article I regretted when I realized people around the country actually believed he was a foreign-born harbinger of the end times. Oops. The other thing is one of the primary reasons that protagonist Rayford Steele – man, they all have amazing names – didn't get chosen to join the Rapture because he had thought about committing adultery. He didn't go through with it but was tempted. That's some insane person logic that completely misses the point of free will, choice, and doing the right thing.

But whatever, go see it if you want. Based on the trailer, it looks like it drops the second two-thirds of the book – including everything about the antichrist – in favor of the action-packed stuff about people disappearing from the planet. Toss some Bible flavoring in and it could be a halfway interesting angle.

Gone Girl
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

David Fincher is perhaps the strongest pure technician working in Hollywood today. His impeccably precise films have stretched the limits of their stars' patience – dozens of takes will do that to a person – but resulted in some uncompromising statements about obsession and the evils people (mostly men) do. Now, directing novelist Gillian Flynn's bestseller Gone Girl (Flynn adapted her book for the screenplay), he seems headed down the same path.

I'm a longtime Fincher fan, dating back to my time as, like every other middle class white guy of my generation, a gigantic fan of Fight Club while in high school. I've moved on from that fandom a bit, but movies like The Social Network and his masterpiece, Zodiac, have really done it for me. What concerns me a little about Gone Girl is that it seems to be walking the same path of “look at how horrible humanity can be” that Zodiac and his previous film, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (disclaimer: that's one of two Fincher movies I haven't seen, but I've read a fair amount of criticism on both the book and movie to at least grasp the plot and themes) did. I don't want him to spin his wheels.

That said, this is a movie that's getting a lot of good notices. Todd VanDerWerff at Vox calls it “one of the bestmovies ever made about marriage” and the A.V. Club's IgnatiyVishnevetsky says it's surprisingly funny, so there must be something else going on. This is the one film this weekend I'll be reviewing for sure, so check back.

Men, Women & Children
Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman, Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer

Jason Reitman makes handsome, alternatively funny and sad movies about damaged, quirky people. Men, Women & Children seems to go the same direction of his sadder stuff, like Up in the Air, than his funnier work on, say, Thank You for Smoking and Juno.

Here are the things I can tell you about it. It involves the internet. Adam Sandler looks sad, so there's hope of a return to Punch Drunk Love-level goodness from him. People hurt each other and talk behind each other's backs.

Whether that's good, I don't know. I like Reitman, so I'll get to it soon.  

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