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Spooky Stuff, Local Docs, Will Smith, Will Smith and More


We are deeply entrenched in the spooky season. Kids and Disney fanatics may be excited by Maleficent: Mistress of Evil further retconning one of Disney’s greatest villains into an antihero. Another sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, feels tardy, as the original zomcom came out 10 years ago. Limited releases on the horizon include Taika Waititi’s Nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit and Robert Eggers’ follow-up to The Witch, The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Both are highly anticipated.

As always, Ciné has loads of goodies to offer. On Oct. 15, one of the most acclaimed musical documentaries of all time, Say Amen, Somebody, has been restored. The film celebrates 20th Century American gospel music. On Oct. 17, discover the mostly unknown filmmaking pioneer Alice Guy-Blache in Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache. If music is more your thing, dress sharp, comb your beard and check out ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas that same day. The latest offering in the Return of Schlocktoberfest, Dario Argento’s giallo classic Deep Red, runs Oct. 17–19. The nine-time Academy Award winner The English Patient is screening Oct. 16 in conjunction with a visit from the source material’s award-winning author, Michael Ondaatje. Bad Movie Night returns on Oct. 22 with Eyes of the Werewolf, which sounds like Eric Red’s Body Parts meets The Wolfman with plenty of gore and some nudity.

Flicker’s 31 Days of Darkness expands upon its exceptional lineup with some classics. On Oct. 17, Pachinko Pop presents 1969’s Horrors of Malformed Men, which sounds sort of like The Island of Dr. Moreau. On Oct. 18, 1988’s Black Roses attempts to meld horror movies and rock and roll, which Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare director John Fasano shows is not as easy as one would assume. Ghastly Horror Society presents a night of movies and trivia on Oct. 21. In 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the comedy duo not only meet the titular monster; they run into Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Lon Chaney’s Wolfman, too. 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, which boasts Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau and Lugosi as the Sayer of the Law, and 1935’s Werewolf of London follow trivia. 1986’s Gothic, a retelling of how Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein from controversial filmmaker Ken Russell, was a pay cable mainstay of my childhood and screens on Oct. 22.

The ACC Library offers another chance to check out two hometown documentaries: Athens GA: Inside/Out on Oct. 16 and Athens Rising 2: Transmittance on Oct. 22. The Madison County Library offers up a Spooky Movie for the family on Oct. 19. A couple of my childhood faves are The Watcher in the Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens offers a soup potluck, campfire and Coco as part of the UUFA Intergenerational Film Series on Oct. 19. Tate offers a chance to prepare for March’s Godzilla vs. Kong with Kong: Skull Island and this past summer’s quite entertaining Godzilla: King of the Monsters on Oct. 18 and 20. 

GEMINI MAN (PG-13) Partway through Gemini Man, I pondered the last time cloning was considered a cutting-edge plot device—the late 1990s? It should come as no surprise, then, that Darren Lemke’s original idea has been floating around since 1997. The best soldier ever, Henry Brogren (Will Smith), wants to retire because he has a conscience. Fortunately, an evil paramilitary entrepreneur (Clive Owen, becoming about as reliably bad as Danny Huston) had the foresight to clone Henry and raise the result, Junior (a de-aged Smith), as his son. 

The real star of Gemini Man should be the cutting-edge FX employed by the usually more visionary director Ang Lee, whose reliance on 120 fps (i.e,  an extra high frame rate) will be more detrimental than revolutionary until theaters can actually project it properly. Were this action flick released in the late ’90s, it would be huge. In 2019, it just seems past its expiration date. 

JUDY (PG-13) Renee Zellweger is exceptional as Judy Garland in the latest entry in the stars-in-decline genre—see Stan & Ollie—and she had better be, as her performance is the film. With a less impressive imitation, Judy would have been no more than an unenlightening TV movie. Other actors are in JudyWild Rose’s Jessie Buckley is the most memorable—but nothing happens in the movie that does not involve Garland. As young Judy, Darci Shaw might have the tougher job, as she has to re-create the Wizard of Oz-era star most people remember. Nonetheless, Zellweger’s portrayal, which includes some powerful musical moments, feels revelatory despite the actress’s decades-long, Oscar-winning career.