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Movie Planner: 'Beasts of No Nation,' 'Goosebumps' and 'Crimson Peak'

IN FEW THEATERS: Beasts of No Nation

One of awards season's most acclaimed movies opens this weekend, likely not at a theater near you.

Like other award hopefuls, Beasts of No Nation earned glowing praise at festivals from Venice to Telluride to Toronto, with each stop improving its Oscar odds.

Unlike other contenders, writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga's drama of child soldiers in an unnamed African civil war is more easily available on television. Idris Elba is drawing raves for his portrayal of a cruel, charismatic commander, as is Abraham Attah as his young recruit.

Beasts of No Nation is being released simultaneously Friday in theaters and on Netflix, a common strategy these days although not with such a highly regarded project.

As a result, North America's largest four theater chains — AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark — are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation. At issue is a long-standing agreement allowing theaters at least 90 days before studios offer new releases on competing home video.

The boycott doesn't include independently owned theaters, although direct competition from Netflix home video makes any bookings financially risky.

Netflix appears to have more than money in mind. The video streaming subscription service wants to be a major awards player, after making Emmy and Golden Globe in-roads with House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Friday's simultaneous release in select theaters and on Netflix will make Beasts of No Nation eligible for both Academy Awards and Emmys.

Something to consider for your queue.

FRANKEN-STINE: Goosebumps

Kids get a jump on Halloween with Goosebumps (PG), a monstrous mashup of author R.L. Stine's featured creatures. Jack Black hams it up as a fictional version of Stine, whose magical manuscripts must be kept under lock and key lest they unleash the ghoulies within.

Actually, Goosebumps is decent Saturday morning fun until director Rob Letterman turns on the CGI spigot, turning appealing characters into green-screen gapers shouting things like "Run!" and "I have an idea!" Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush are an especially appealing star-crossed pair, with Ryan Lee amusing as their fraidy-cat friend.

Goosebumps unleashes a lazily linked parade of stampeding lawn gnomes, a vampire poodle, the blob, zombies, a giant preying mantis and other Stine creatures to varying effect, none particularly scary. The creepiest by far is Slappy, a possessed ventriloquism dummy voiced by Black. It's all harmless, not-quite fun for the entire family. C+

ALSO OPENING

Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks reunite for the fact-based Cold War drama Bridge of Spies (PG-13), their first collaboration since The Terminal in 2004. Hanks plays James Donovan, a lawyer pressed into defending a Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) because that's how we do things in Amurricah. Later, Donovan must exchange the spy for one of our own, downed pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell). B+

Stay tuned for a full review will be published at tampabay.com/movies.

Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro returns to his Gothic horror roots with Crimson Peak (R), starring Mia Wasikowska as an author grieving a family tragedy, who moves into a haunted house. Anyone who has seen what Del Toro did with supernatural settings in Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone knows what to expect, which is anything. Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston co-star.

Stay tuned for a full review will be published at tampabay.com/movies.

Freeheld

Freeheld stars Academy Award winner Julianne Moore and nominee Ellen Page in a fact-based gay rights drama. Moore plays New Jersey police Lt. Laurel Hester, whose terminal cancer diagnosis led to court battles over pension benefits for her domestic partner (Page). Freeheld wasn't screened by the Times and has a 43 percent "rotten" rating and 65 percent audience score on RottenTomatoes.com.

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 Sicario: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro battle a Mexican drug cartel in a gripping drama. One of the year's best. (Read a full review.)

2 The Martian: A brainy blockbuster, with Matt Damon surviving outer space through science and a helping hand from Jessica Chastain. (Read a full review.)

3 99 Homes: Florida's foreclosure crisis makes a single dad (Andrew Garfield) deal with a real estate devil (Michael Shannon) in a timely thriller.

4 Crimson Peak:

5 Bridge of Spies: Steven Spielberg's Cold War drama stars Tom Hanks but its secret weapon is Mark Rylance's turn as a mild-mannered Russian spy.

UPCOMING RELEASES

Oct. 30: Room; Truth; Burnt; Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Nov. 6: Spectre; The Peanuts Movie; Brooklyn; Trumbo

Nov. 13: The 33; By the Sea; Love the Coopers

Nov. 20: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2; Spotlight; The Night Before

Movie Planner: 'Beasts of No Nation,' 'Goosebumps' and 'Crimson Peak' 10/14/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2015 11:35am]
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