Paranormal Activity 4: First of all, points off for not somehow finding a way to call this Para4mal Activity. Second, the Paranormal Activity series offers a fascinating object lesson in mysterious movie physics—not the kind that allows people to survive enormous falls or hails of gunfire, mind you, but the kind that allows a series’ (quality) returns to diminish even when a sequel and a threequel are basically equally decent (I’d call this economics, but these movies keep making money; the third one outgrossed the second). None of the Paranormal Activity sequels deface the brand’s reputation the way that Book of Shadows kicked Blair Witch out of the horror franchising business; neither Paranormal Activity 2 nor Paranormal Activity 3 had the dread-suffused punch of the original, but really, how could they? They’re both reasonably scary and better than any Saw movie ever made. I suspect Paranormal Activity 4, made by the same Catfish kids as the third one, will also be reasonably scary and better than a Saw movie. And yet: returns do diminish. I am less excited about this than I was about the last one, and I was less excited about that one than I was about the second one, and on and on. I am pleased, though, that Halloween has been reclaimed for movies about ghosts and/or demons, rather than movies about well-trained semi-professional murderers with the souls of game-show hosts. If we’re using Saw as the guideline, we’re in for about three more Paranormal Activity movies, and during the last one or two, something new will take its place. So watch out, horror fans: 2015 is almost here! (Just kidding; we’ll probably just get a Saw reboot.)
Alex Cross: Speaking of reboots and dopey prognostications: James Patterson Crime Franchise A was brought to the screen by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider; now Tyler Perry has taken over as a younger, sexier… well, okay, definitely younger, and also taller, Alex Cross, superdetective. I’m kind of bummed that Perry isn’t directing it himself; instead, that job falls to the stunningly inept Rob Cohen. Excepting the first Fast and the Furious movie (which has been outgunned by Fast Five anyway), Cohen has made a stunning run of truly terrible movies: The Skulls, XXX, Stealth, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It’s like he was designed to make us grateful for Brett Ratner and Stephen Sommers. Anyway, as long as the late-90s Morgan Freeman murder mystery is getting the ol’ redo, can we throw Ashley Judd a bone and just start putting her in these? Or must she suffer the humiliation of tough-lady murder-centric thrillers making a comeback now starring Taylor Schilling?
The Sessions: I’ve heard that this John Hawkes-showcasing Oscar-bait-y movie is good and not even all that Oscar-bait-y considering the usually suffocatingly inspirational circumstances. But frankly, there are a ton of movies coming out in November while I’m out of town, so my strategy is going to be to not think about The Sessions even a little bit for at least another month, when I assume it will still be playing at some theater frequented by older gentlemen and ladies. Okay, one last thought on it until I actually see it in four to eight weeks’ time: John Hawkes playing a gentle, mostly paralyzed nice guy in an Oscar-bait type of role; compare/contrast with the idea of Steve Buscemi playing a gentle, mostly-paralyzed nice guy in an Oscar-bait type of role. What I’m saying is, I’d probably be more interested in Hawkes and Buscemi teaming up to live in the woods and bicker over firewood gathering, but that’s just me.
Nobody Walks: My review for The L has some more info on why this seems like a movie I should like but isn’t. At least seeing it afforded me a Thirlby-filled month, as I caught up with Dredd (trivia: Olivia Thirlby is second lead in Dredd!) and this festival also-ran. She has yet to really find the sweet-spot balance of decent mainstream genre pictures and strong, distinctive indies. Basically, she needs to do a movie with Rian Johnson.