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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Friday movie roundup: Scary stuff

As we count down to Halloween, the scares and shocks are leading off the movie list.

The two Hollywood titles vying for box-office glory are both R-rated thrillers. One is "Paranormal Activity 4," the latest in the found-footage horror franchise. This time, the setting is a Nevada suburb, where a family notices some strange goings-on after a single mom and a little boy move in across the street. (Hint to those familiar with the series: The single mom is named Katie.) Since it's set in 2011, cameraphones and laptop cameras get a workout. The movie was not screened for local critics, so here's a less-than-favorable review from USA Today's Claudia Puig..

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The other Hollywood production is "Alex Cross," which returns thriller novelist James Patterson's forensic detective to the big screen. (A decade ago, the role was played by Morgan Freeman in "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider.") Cross is played here by actor-director Tyler Perry, who turns out to be a lousy action star – too kindly for the tough dialogue, and too doughy and slow for the action sequences. Worse, though, is the villain, a muscular skinhead played with too much crazy-eyed enthusiasm by a trimmed-down Matthew Fox.

It's up to the art-house list to provide the good stuff this weekend.

The week's best is "How to Survive a Plague," a compelling documentary that chronicles the depths of the AIDS epidemic in America – mostly through archival footage taken by the protesters who demanded action from drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration. The history told here is filled with high drama and some modern-day heroes.

Lastly, there's the Russian drama "Elena," a brooding tale of an ex-nurse (Nadezhda Markina) who fears that her inheritance (and the support for her adult son) will be in danger when her wealthy husband (Andrey Smirnov) decides to rewrite his will. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev creates a tense portrait of desperation and the class divisions of modern Russia.

To see clips from some of these movies, go here or click on the video link above.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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