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Farewell, Spooky Season: What to Watch This Week

With the spooky season winding down, awards season is nigh. Not that Terminator: Dark Fate is looking to win anything but the box office. After several lackluster entries, James Cameron returns to shepherd his unkillable franchise, with Deadpool’s Tim Miller directing. Ah-nuld and Sarah Connor herself, Linda Hamilton, are back too, with Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna, aka TV’s Ghost Rider, as the new incarnations of the unstoppable cyborgs. Even Edward Furlong, T2’s John Connor, comes back, though legal woes have dampened his reception. 

Harriet and Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn are two awards hopefuls arriving this week. Cynthia Ervio, who will play Aretha Franklin in season three of Nat Geo’s “Genius,” hopes to generate some buzz as Harriet Tubman in the biopic from Kasi Lemmons, whose 1997 directorial debut, Eve’s Bayou, is excellent. Norton has not directed a film since the underrated dram-rom-com Keeping the Faith; he wrote, directed and stars in Motherless Brooklyn as a PI with Tourette’s on the case of his mentor/best friend’s murder. Bruce Willis co-stars as the murdered pal. Families might enjoy Arctic Dogs’ voice cast, which includes Jeremy Renner, James Franco, John Cleese, Anjelica Huston and Alec Baldwin, but the trailer portends a product that will be forgotten before Turkey Day.

On Halloween, Ciné unleashes Sean S. Cunningham’s landmark slasher Friday the 13th to hunt for victims yet again. John Carpenter’s Halloween is superior (so is Bob Clark’s Black Christmas), but Friday gave us the most iconic slasher of them all, hockey-masked Jason Voorhees, who does not even show up until the second entry and does not don his holey mask until part three. Dolemite Is My Name (more below), Takashi Miike’s First Love and The Evil Dead are hanging around until at least Halloween night.

Flicker is not done scaring film lovers until the calendar turns. Oct. 31 is truly the Night of the Demons, thanks to Flicker inviting you to what may be one of the most memorable VHS covers of a cult classic you never rented. Thanks, Angela. The ACC Library offers Halloween Movie Time on Oct. 31. (I am always ready to suggest my childhood fave, The Monster Squad.) Beechwood’s Flashback Cinema offers A Nightmare on Elm Street, the debut of the horror triumvirate’s third icon, Freddy Krueger, on Oct. 30. Enjoy one of the few Thanksgiving flicks, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, on Nov. 3 and 6. The Madison County Library has a family movie for Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 2; my guess is Coco. Also on Nov. 2, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens presents Living While Dying as part of its Exploration Series. 

So, Dolemite or Countdown? I say both!

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (R) Just because Dolemite Is My Name is the best movie currently playing on Netflix does not mean you should stay home to watch Eddie Murphy’s latest award-deserving performance destined to force him to leave the Oscars disappointed and angry. It is also the liveliest new release playing at a theater in Athens, so enjoy a night downtown and see it at Ciné. A past viewing of Rudy Ray Moore’s blaxploitation classic is not a prerequisite for enjoying this hyper-positive biopic about succeeding against the odds. If the real Moore is not as nice as the guy portrayed by Murphy, I do not want to know. Murphy—I cannot recall; is it au courant to like him?—may be garnering the media, but Wesley Snipes, as Rosemary’s Baby elevator operator D’Urville Martin, stages the sort of comeback typically provided by Tarantino. Do not be surprised if you want to (re)watch 1975’s Dolemite immediately afterwards.   

COUNTDOWN (PG-13) Countdown has the strongest cold open I can recall since Scream, the greatest slasher film in a generation, yet what is even better about Countdown is that what follows builds upon, rather than weakens, the strength of its opening. When everyone starts downloading an app that will tell you the exact moment you will die, an unlucky few find out their days, hours, minutes and seconds are numbered. Two of the unfortunates, a nurse (Elizabeth Lail) with an unnecessarily tragic backstory akin to Happy Death Day and the movie’s handsomest male (Jordan Calloway from the CW’s “Black Lightning”), discover a way to defeat the Final Destination-y curse thanks to a hip priest (P.J. Byrne)—if their personal clocks do not run out first. Horror fans desperate for new content that is not abjectly awful will enjoy Countdown for what it is: a silly throwback to early 2000s J-horror remakes that treats its laughable conceit just as seriously as it should.