ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN Classic horror-movie actors Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi join the comic duo in this pretty lively 1948 comedy. At the Charles Theatre at noon Oct. 31, at 7 p.m. Nov. 2, and 9 p.m. Nov. 5. (Children under 17 free on Halloween.)
CORALINE Wonderfully dark and amazingly tactile, the animated Coraline, based on the Neil Gaiman children's book, follows the titular little girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) whose move with her parents into an old, pink Victorian in the forest of Ashland, Ore., spurs an adventure into another realm where she must use her wit and courage to save not just herself, but her parents and even the spirits of children that came before her. It's not easy to decide at what age kids will delight in the real fabric of the figures, the amazing scenes of coordinated jumping mice, and the yipping snap dragons and not be completely frightened of the scary rats, dolls stuffed with sawdust, and webs of deception. (Wendy Ward) At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium Oct. 31 at 2 p.m.
CREMASTER 4 Matthew Barney's 1994 entry in his grand cycle screens with his "Drawing Restraint 10" as part of the UMBC exhibition Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports. (see Quick Sketches, p. 17). At the Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Free.
ELI AND BEN Writer/director Ori Ravid's drama follows 12-year-old Eli (Yuval Shevah), who works to free his father, the city architect of Herzelya, after he sees him taken into custody and charged with accepting bribes. Part of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore's CineFest 2009. At the Gordon Center for Performing Arts Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
HAG: THE STORY OF THE HASIDIC ACTORS GUILD The part fact, part fictional documentary follows the (perhaps part-fact and part-fictional) life and times of Yisreal "Izzi" Lifschutz, Holocaust survivor turned Israeli merchant marine turned '60s free-wheeler who got into Hasidism and the Kabbalah for its philosophical explorations of how to live a good life. He also likes to perform, so his interests in show business led to him starring in/consulting such movies as The Chosen and forming HAG-the Hasidic Actors Guild dedicated to protecting the image of Hasids in movies and getting them work. HAG, the documentary, is a little shoestring-budget at times, but Lifschutz and the flick never miss a chance for a good joke. At the Creative Alliance at the Patterson Nov. 1 at 3 and 7 p.m.
HEATHERS Before frenemies, before mean girls, there were Heathers, the ultra-bitchy high-school alpha females of Michael Lehmann's 1988 black-comedy cult smash. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is a Heather, despite her given name, at least until aptly named new kid J.D. (Christian Slater doing Jack Nicholson) intrigues her by backing up some harassing jocks with a pistol full of blanks. Veronica and J.D. both want to rip up the vicious high-school social order, but he's a little more deadly serious about it, with the emphasis on "deadly." A spree involving drain cleaner, a copy of Moby Dick, some mineral water, and a bomb ensues. Not only is Daniel Waters' script still endlessly quotable, but the film's send-up of the stampeding reverence and search for meaning that surrounds dead teenagers is even more grimly resonant in the age of 24-hour cable news. (Lee Gardner) At the Towson University's Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
THE HOST Director Bong Joon-ho's featured giant squid/catfish monster becomes the director's point of entry for scalding rebukes to American interventionism, profiteering, bioterror hijinks, and general developing-world opportunism. On Seoul's Han River shoreline, squid-stand dealer Park Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong), his granddaughter Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-sung), and his goofball, sad-sack son Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) are just trying to get by when the aforementioned beast attacks in broad daylight. The creature disappears with a screaming Hyun-seo wrapped in its tail-and a cell phone in her blouse. A message from her sends Hee-bong and Gang-du-aided by archery champion aunt Nam-joo (Bae Doo-na) and unemployed would-be yuppie brother Nam-il (Park Hae-il)-off to try and save her. The only thing getting in their way is the Korean government, which, with U.S. aid, claims that the creature is the host for some horrific virus that can only be treated with a something called Agent Yellow, and necessitates the quarantining of all involved. As the movie progresses, the creature also changes. By the final conflagrations, it's almost pitiful, both a mirror for Bong's themes and a victim by birthright of the same antagonists suffered by the human heroes. (Ian Grey) Part of the University of Baltimore's Asian Film Festival, screens Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the UB Student Center.
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE Films by Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's most revered anime auteur, tend to use the same basic elements-kickass animation, a strong young female protagonist, skepticism or hostility toward machinery, Captain Planet concern and affection for the natural world, an Orlando Bloom-pretty male romantic lead, and at least one adorable animal/inanimate object sidekick. Howl's Moving Castle, has all of that. The young female protagonist is Sophie, a mousy shopgirl who gets cursed by a witch and heartbreakingly ages from a shy teenager (voiced by Emily Mortimer) to a plucky seventysomething (Jean Simmons) in a split second. And the Legolas look-alike is Howl (Christian Bale), a fabulously coiffed wizard whose mechanical "castle" tramps around the countryside like a spider. There's also a fire demon (voiced by Billy Crystal, yet unannoying?!), dark bomber jets, and gooey tar creatures who seep through crevices and grow to menacing proportions in their rush to attack Sophie and Howl. If you like anime even a little, prepare to be stunned. (J. Bowers) Part of the University of Baltimore's Asian Film Festival, screens Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at the UB Student Center.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH This Roger Corman-directed 1964 gem stars Vincent Price as the Satan-worshiping European prince terrorizing the local peasants. Hammer Films-brightly colored; look for Irish stage great Patrick Magee in a co-starring role. At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium Oct. 31 at 10:30 a.m.
MICHAEL JACKSON'S THIS IS IT The making-money-off-MJ's-corpse industry continues with this documentary about the King of Pop preparing for his string of sold-our London dates that he would never make. Opens Oct. 28.
VAMPYR Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 silent version of the bloodsucking story turns vampirism into more of a plague than a mythic human agent, and the creeps comes more from the surreal black-and-white imagery, the plot's oneiric flow, and an overall uncanny atmosphere. At the Hexagon Space Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
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