We know it’s not our mission in this column to talk about what’s on TV, but with movie-theater attendance remaining a relative stampede, something about the idea of encouraging you to stay home instead appeals to our contrarian impulses. So we’d love to be able to recommend Fear Itself, the NBC show we mentioned in a previous column that’s anthologizing work from some of the top names in big-screen horror.

The hitch in our machinations is that, so far, the show flat-out sucks, with a recent contribution by Ronny (Bride of Chucky) Yu a blessed exception. But further relief may be on the horizon, given that the Thursday, July 24, episode will showcase the work of Larry Fessenden, the cult auteur who practically reinvented the vampire mythos with Habit. Truth be told, the installment sounds like it’s going to continue the narrative thrust of Fessenden’s Wendigo, which had struck us as a significant step down from his previous filmic output. But it’s still got to be better than the Fear Itself entry that was hacked out by John Landis, which was not only one of the most justifiably reviled hours of TV in recent memory, but was inexplicably promoted as being by “the director of An American Werewolf in London … and Twilight Zone: The Movie.” Yes, if you wait a quarter-century, you too can claim bragging rights to a lousy flick that you only oversaw one-fifth of, nonetheless managing to kill three people in the process. Look for the Khmer Rouge to appear on Celebrity Family Feud, just in time for sweeps.


Opening Friday, July 18

The Dark Knight Screenings have been sold out for weeks, and early critical reaction to the Batman Begins follow-up has been equally rapturous, making copious use of the phrases “masterpiece” and “the Godfather Part II of superhero movies.” Only two questions remain: Can it possibly be that good? And will Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale et al be able to complete their promotional chores without hauling off and belting the 2,735th interviewer who only wants to talk about Heath Ledger? (PG-13)

Chicago 10 Documentarian Brett Morgen uses the Waking Life style of rotoscoped animation to remember the Yippie protesters who were charged with rioting at the 1968 Democratic convention. No matter how odd the marriage of content to approach, you can’t fault the movie for timeliness: If you pick the right screening, you might be able to split some nachos with a Paultard who’s there to take notes. (at Enzian Theater, Maitland; R)

Mamma Mia! Eagerly anticipated for highly different reasons, the cinematic adaptation of history’s finest ABBA musical is being hailed as a potential smash among audiences The Dark Knight won’t get – specifically, older women. Apparently, America’s moms and grandmas feel great personal solidarity with formerly free-loving types who can’t be sure which of multiple men fathered their offspring. If your mom is part of that support structure, we only have one thing to say: Christmas at your house this year! (PG-13)

Space Chimps Kids whose parents don’t consider either of this week’s other wide releases to be suitable viewing are the target market for this animated paean to the monkeys who serve our country. Right now, some moron in Lubbock is working up an Obama joke. (G)


Available Tuesday, July 22

The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story David Faustino plays notorious killer Albert DeSalvo, thereby answering the lingering question, “What is Bud Bundy going to do when he grows up?”

Turn the River Dutch knockout Famke Janssen got good notices for her unglamorous portrayal of a divorcee whose hope of regaining her son rests on her skill at hustling in seedy billiard halls. New Year’s Eve at her house!

Kiss of the Spider Woman Two-Disc Special Edition A behind-the-scenes documentary returns us to a better time when Raul Julia was still alive and William Hurt hadn’t yet become a complete pain in the ass.


Available Tuesday, July 22

The Dark Knight: Featuring Produc-tion Art and Complete Shooting Script Yes, Larry King, we’re pretty sure it mentions Heath Ledger.

8 ½ (Otto e Mezzo) A new entry in the British Film Institute series shares fresh critical insights on Fellini’s enduring gem of directorial self-analysis. Letters of inquiry from M. Night Shyamalan are, we understand, coming back unopened.


Available Tuesday, July 22

Lost Boys: The Tribe Music from the forthcoming direct-to-DVD sequel includes Aiden’s remake of the sinister ballad “Cry Little Sister,” a subcultural staple that many goth couples still pick as their wedding song.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe And so do we. The retention of original composer Mark Snow portends good things for the upcoming movie, though the prospect of tracks by Xzibit and Unkle strikes us as kind of scary – and not in the intended way.

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