The '80s were a time of feathered hair, voodoo economics, bad clothing and questionable movies. Still, some of the decade's films had interesting, original stories, so there's no wondering why today's Hollywood—which often eschews originality in favor of easy money—is remaking films from that period. Two of them will hit theaters on Friday, Oct. 14.
First, you've got a new version of The Thing. Sure, John Carpenter's 1982 monstrosity was a remake of a film from the '50s, but it stood on its own—a horror show with ground-breaking special effects that exploited the paranoia that spawned it three decades earlier. A sequel would be superfluous, and a remake is a bad idea, but a prequel actually makes sense, since the '82 edition found Kurt Russell (feathered hair and all) and the rest of an Antarctic research team trying to fend off an alien that could take on the form of any creature it encountered. But the creature's origins were spotty—something to do with a dog and a group of Norwegians. Well, now we'll learn a bit more. Joel Edgerton is pulling hero duty, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a grad student who has to stand up to her professor after the crew finds an alien ship buried in the ice. Is she successful? I haven't seen this one yet, but it seems like if you've seen the '82 version, you probably already know the answer.
Also on tap is Footloose. Kevin Bacon rocked the feathered hair in 1984 when he played Ren Mc- Cormack, the city kid who teaches a small town that dancing is OK while he romances Lori Singer. In the new one, Dennis Quaid has John Lithgow's part, the preacher who's insisted that no dancing take place within city limits. The lovebirds are played by Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough. In a good sign for the new iteration, the 20-something who babysits for me told me she can't wait to see it. It's directed by Craig Brewer, who made Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. Hopefully, he'll be able to make it kick off its Sunday shoes.
America the Beautiful II: The Thin Commandments: In his first film, filmmaker Darryl Roberts examined our fascination with beauty. This time, he's taking on weight.
The Big Year: Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson face late-life, mid-life and no-life crises, respectively.
Blackthorn: Some people think Butch Cassidy survived the hailstorm of bullets that ended Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In this film, Sam Shepard plays an aging Butch, trying to finally return home to the states, only to run into trouble one last time.
The Dead: An American engineer finds himself stranded in Africa during a major zombie outbreak.
No other Woman: A man is caught between his wife and his mistress in Horton Plaza's latest Filipino film.
Sarah Palin: You Betcha!: Documentary filmmaker / provocateur Nick Broomfield, who's made films about Kurt Cobain and Aileen Wournos, turns his lens on Palin, who has made a ton of money recently by not being in politics.
Take Shelter: Michael Shannon is tremendous as a man whose mental illness compels him to build a storm shelter in his backyard. See our review on Page 20.
Trespass: Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman play a couple whose family gets even more dysfunctional when they're held for ransom in their own home.
The Way: Emilio Estevez directed his dad, Martin Sheen, in this film about a father who heads to Europe to try to recover the body of his estranged son.
Weekend: A one-night stand develops into something much more important for a pair of gay men.
One Time Only
Chaos Theory: Ryan Reynolds is a tightly wound efficiency expert who has to take on the universe's arbitrariness if he's going to remain happy and married. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Dazed and Confused: Richard Linklater's terrific movie about the last day of school in 1976 helped launch plenty of careers, including those of Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich.
Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Suspicion: Sweet Joan Fontaine weds handsome gambler Cary Grant—which is great, until she starts to think that maybe he's trying to kill her. Hitchcock's 1941 classic screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Reading Cinemas Town Square.
Ghostbusters: Halloween must be coming. Get slimed at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct.
13, at AMC Mission Valley, Plaza Bonita or Grossmont Center.
Butterfinger the 13th and Jack the Ripper: First, a short horror film, then a documentary about the world's most famous serial killer. Screens at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, at several area theaters. Visit fathomevents.com for locations and ticket info.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Gregory Peck won an Oscar playing Atticus Finch in this wonderful adaptation of an American classic. Look for a young Robert Duvall as Boo Radley. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, through Saturday, Oct. 15, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Magnificent Ambersons: Though it's often overlooked, Orson Welles' second film is pretty amazing, too. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence: A psychopath who was obsessed with the original Human Centipede takes things to the next level, sewing considerably more people together. Screens at mid night,
Friday, Oct. 14, at the Ken Cinema.
To Catch a Thief: Jewel thief Cary Grant is forced to come out of retirement when a copycat makes the authorities think he's back in action. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Oceanides: They're calling this one a surf movie about women and oceans. It screens at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at The Loft at UCSD.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Do the time warp (again) at midnight, Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Ken Cinema; at 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma; and every Friday at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Deaf Jam: Documentary about deaf teens participating in the spoken-word slam scene via poetry and ASL. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Get Reel: San Diego Italians Through the Lens: Films shot by San Diego's Italian Americans are dissected by filmmakers and restorers Regina Longo and Dwight Swanson at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Rear Window: Laid-up photojournalist James Stewart gets more than he bargains for when he spies on his neighbors in this Hitchcock classic. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Psycho Beach Party and TrashTalk Theatre 3000: Multimedia artist Jason Ponce brings his rig to UCSD and screens Charles Busch's camp classic. The audience provides on-the-spot subtitles and snarky commentary, so bring a laptop / tablet / phone and get in on the action at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at The Loft at UCSD.
Thunder Soul: Jamie Foxx produced this documentary about alumni of Houston's Kashmere High School Stage Band, who visited their 92-year-old band leader after 35 years.
1911: Jackie Chan co-directed this historical epic about the overthrow of the last Dynasty and the founding of the modern-day Republic of China.
Africa: The Serengeti: Nowhere in this IMAX look at this incredible wildlife sanctuary will you find the incredible Toto song. Screens on Fridays at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Grand Canyon Adventure: This IMAX movie takes you on a rafting trip down the Colorado River, which, by the way, no longer makes it all the way to the ocean. Screens on Fridays at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Gun Hill Road: An ex-con returns to the Bronx to find his wife is verging on being involved with another man, while his son is exploring his own sexuality. Ends Oct. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Ides of March: George Clooney, who's always worn his politics on his sleeve, directs and stars in his latest film, about the death of idealism in a young political consultant played by Ryan Gosling. It's well-made, but not as important as it thinks it is.
Margaret: It's been more than a decade since Kenneth Lonergan released his first film, You Can Count on Me. This follow-up stars Anna Paquin as a New York teen who's almost sure that a deadly traffic accident is her fault.
The Mill and the Cross: This is the story behind Pieter Bruegel's painting “The Way to Calvary.” Rutger Hauer is Bruegel, Michael York plays his patron and Charlotte Rampling is the Virgin Mary.
Puncture: Chris Evans—yes, Captain America—plays a lawyer with a drug addiction trying to take on a large healthcare company in the courtroom. Ends Oct. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Real Steel: In the future, when boxers are replaced by robots, Hugh Jackman resurrects his career as a trainer by teaching a worthless piece of junk how to get all rock-'em, sock-'em.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil: This movie does for slasher films what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are a couple of good ol' boys mistaken for psycho killers by some good looking college kids who still manage to die in seriously gory ways.
Under the Sea: Go underwater and see some of the planet's most gorgeous ecosystems, before it's too late, since we're gradually destroying pretty much everything. Screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam, a 28-year-old who learns he has cancer. Seth Rogen is his best friend, so it's got the R-rated raunch-comedy thing going on, but JGL's performance is so good you won't care.
Courageous: A bunch of tough cops find out that while they're great on the job, at home it's really hard to be dads and Christians at the same time. No, really, that's what the movie's about.
Dream House: Newlyweds Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz (in real life) move into a house where most of the family that used to live there was murdered. And, it seems, the killer's not done yet. Sounds cheesy, but it's directed by Jim Sheridan, who's made some terrific films.
Machine Gun Preacher: Gerard Butler is Sam Childers, a real-life former drug dealer who, after finding religion, led armed incursions into dangerous parts of Sudan to rescue conscripted child soldiers. Ends Oct. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
My Afternoons with Margueritte: Gerard Depardieu is Germain, an almost-illiterate man in his 50s whose friendship with the elderly Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus) allows both of them to grow in ways they hadn't anticipated.
What's Your Number?: Hopefully, the answer to the question asked in the title of this Anna Faris romcom is 867-530 ni-ee-ine.
Killer Elite: This action thriller, which stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, really wants to be Heat, but it just doesn't cook.
Abduction: Taylor Lautner tries to break away from the Twilight franchise and take over Shia LaBeouf's gig as the plucky teenager everyone wants to kill.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame: A steampunk murder mystery set in ancient China finds a legendary detective trying to solve an epic case on the eve of the Empresses' coronation.
Dolphin Tale: A boy and his dolphin. A family picture with Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr., not to be confused with that weird '75 Don Johnson sci-fi movie A Boy and His Dog.
Love Crime: Kristen Scott Thomas is a powerful executive who toys with underling Ludivine Sagnier just a little too much.
Moneyball: Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's who shook up baseball by reinventing the way players are valued. Sounds like dry stuff, but the last time someone adapted a Michael Lewis sports-business book for the big screen was The Blind Side, which earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar.
Drive: Ryan Gosling is a wheelman who spends his days doing stunts for the movies and his nights driving the getaway car for crooks. Nicholas Winding Refn's film also stars Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as you've never seen him before.
Contagion: Stephen Soderbergh's big-budget virus movie stars everyone from Matt Damon to Kate Winslet to Marion Cottilard to Gwyneth Paltrow. Finally, we know what happened to the bird flu.
The Lion King 3-D: Hakuna matata in another dimension.
Warrior: Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton star as estranged brothers going mano-a-mano for a winner-take-all MMA championship. Gavin O'Connor's new film has every sports-movie cliché in the book yet still manages to be well-acted, well-shot and totally inspiring.
The Debt: Helen Mirren is a retired Mossad agent forced to revisit her past when developments from a previous operation come to light.
The Help: Based on Kathryn Stockett's novel, this stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, a '60s-era college kid who starts interviewing the African-American women in her southern town, something that just wasn't done at the time.
The Guard: Brendan Gleeson's portrayal of a corrupt small-town Irish cop trying to take down some major drug traffickers is one of the best of the year, raising this crime comedy, which also stars Don Cheadle, to unexpected success.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: James Franco, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis and the kid who played Draco Malfoy go bananas.
Crazy, Stupid, Love: Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling headline a good-enough romantic comedy that's not ashamed of its PG-13 status.
The Smurfs: They're so hard to get off your shoe when you step on them, especially when they're in 3-D.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: It's tough to say goodbye, but fans will be thrilled with the franchise's conclusion, which streamlines the final half of the final book and offers up some serious wizardry—in story and special effects.
Horrible Bosses: Put-upon drones Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day decide to murder their employers, played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. It's a comedy—ha!
Buck: Documentary about Buck Brannaman, one of the leading experts in horses and the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer. Screening at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
Tornado Alley: This new IMAX film, which travels into twisters with some professional storm chasers, has to be better than Twister, the movie. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.