ABCs of Death 2 Chicago international film festival

Some Movies to See This Weekend, October 10, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014 Rob Samuelson

With the Fall Movie Season now in full swing and the Chicago International Film Festival in town, there is no shortage of movies to catch this weekend. You probably don't want to read 20,000 words previewing everything, so here are some snippets of what I hope to get to this weekend. It's an exciting time, so exciting in fact that I am skipping the first couple Blackhawks games of the season to see some of these. Dedication means sacrifice.

Opening this weekend, October 10, 2014.

ABCs of Death 2
Director: Various
Writer: Various
Starring: Various

The second installment of the alphabet-themed horror anthology, featuring work from the young and hungry (for gore) across the genre looks to be a blend of humor and scares, both of the jumpy and earwormy. It can startle you momentarily or make you more afraid of the encroaching evils of the world, then make you cackle like a maniac. This plays late Saturday evening at the Chicago International Film Festival, located at the AMC River East 21 on 322 E. Illinois St.

The Babadook
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Tiffany Lindall-Knight

Playing tonight at CIFF, writer-director Jennifer Kent makes her feature directorial debut with a subjective camera and expressionistic lighting and sets. From the trailer alone, it's clear Kent is returning to the horror of very old, the type of thing that freaked out people when Nosferatu was slowly sauntering toward them and the Somnambulist of Dr. Caligari's cabinet awoke from his slumber.

Plus it's about how freaky kids can be. Not just by saying weird things, like most movies of this ilk rely on for easy fright, but the scary stuff they actually do, like creating working crossbows out of blocks of wood and darts.

Kill the Messenger
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writer: Peter Landesman
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ray Liotta

Jeremy Renner stars as journalist Gary Webb, who chased down a story in the mid-1990s about the U.S. government's involvement in cocaine smuggling, via the CIA. For all the hoopla made about believing in conspiracy theories in the early part of the trailer, this looks like a smaller version of what audiences have been accustomed to in the paranoid thriller genre since Marathon Man, the “everything is connected” plot that encompasses the whole world and indicates that evil is everywhere, so you better watch out.

This is based on reality, a heightened truth as per its medium, but truth nonetheless. Webb discovered that the CIA did do at least some of these things, but I'm hoping to see a narrative retrenchment away from the expansiveness and hard-to-keep-secret (therefore less plausible) nature of older conspiracy thrillers and more about the smaller, easier-to-cover-up evils perpetrated in reality.

StretchDirector: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan (screenplay), Jerry Corley & Rob Rose and Joe Carnahan (story)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, Ray Liotta, Brooklyn Decker

Joe Carnahan makes movies about masculinity to the hilt, the alpha males of the world drawn to gargantuan proportions, like a little kid drawing the biceps on Superman. This can be fascinating and transporting (The Grey) or it can be stylish atom bombs of empty violence (Smokin' Aces). The fact that the latter is used in the trailer for this, Carnahan's sixth feature, gives me pause.

However, this week's Grantlandinterview with Carnahan, in which he discusses his strained, often explosive relationship with Hollywood and its influences on his work here, which he describes as a satire, gives me hope. Lots of bleak, selfish people populate the trailer, with presumably more to come in the full film, and they don't seem to get the best fates. Best of all, it's now available Video On Demand to watch anytime you want.

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

If anyone has had a contentious, negative reinforcement relationship with a teacher, this is a film that might drudge up some nasty memories. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons spar in screw-tightening fashion in a movie that made people flip at Sundance earlier this year. Some have said it's on the shortlist of best films of the year, and I think this trailer is only a hint of what is involved. Instead of the gleeful violence depicted in Stretch, this is horrific, real world violence caused by pain and poor instruction. All this atop the knowledge that writer-director Damien Chazelle also worked on 2014's other great classical music-themed thriller, Grand Piano, and I cannot wait to see it.

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