BIG RELEASE: Captain Phillips (Oct. 11)
BIG PICTURE: It's Castaway meets Under Siege meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets... grim reality. Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips in the true story of the audacious 2009 hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates. Phillips' vessel was the first U.S. cargo ship to be hijacked in two centuries. I just hope the studio tells the story honestly and doesn't try and "Disney up" this harrowing tale of survival. If 60 minutes in, you start seeing zombie sailors and fanged mermaids -- or the Somali boats are attacked by a giant kraken -- then you know something has gone terribly wrong.
But Captain Phillips does give me an idea for the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie: Captain Jack is transported to the future to teach Somali pirates a thing or two about traditional pirating. For starters, how about making sarcasm your weapon of choice instead of automatic weapons? And doesn't searching for buried treasure and drinking rum all day sound way more fun than terrorizing boaters in international waters?
FORECAST: Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me. Not the occupation itself (I'm afraid of parrots), but I'm all aboard this movie. Captain Phillips should offer a well-plotted cinematic voyage, helmed by director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) and anchored by Hanks' steady performance.
BIG EVENT: American Horror Story: Coven (Oct. 9, FX Canada, 9 p.m.); Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Oct. 10, ABC, Citytv, 8 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: A giant hookah-smoking caterpillar, an invisible cat and a talking white rabbit? It's either Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's dream journal -- or Alice in Wonderland is again being reimagined. In this spinoff of Once Upon a Time, a beautiful young girl (Sophie Lowe) in Victorian England is rescued from a mental hospital, only to jump down a rabbit hole and return to the fantastical world where she lost her one true love -- a magical genie, no less. Meanwhile, don't expect to see any adorable talking rabbits in bowler hats in American Horror Story: Coven -- unless they're immediately sacrificed in some dark voodoo ritual, riding a broomstick or speaking in tongues. After one-year stints in a haunted house and an asylum, this year American Horror Story explores the history of witchcraft in New Orleans. Jessica Lange returns for a third season, this time inhabiting the role of the fashionable, all-powerful witch Fiona Goode. Sarah Paulsen plays her estranged daughter, who runs a Muggle version of Hogwarts in the heart of New Orleans. Taisa Farmiga returns from the first season as one of her star pupils, along with Gabourey Sidibe (Precious). Kathy Bates joins the cast this year as a vicious slave owner who is literally -- and figuratively -- bathed in blood. Angela Bassett plays a voodoo priestess and archrival to Fiona.
FORECAST: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is solid family-friendly fun but far from spellbinding. While witches have been an afterthought in society's current love affair with all things supernatural, giving them the cable treatment should be truly magical. American Horror Story: Coven will also offer new images for your nightmares (After all, something needs to replace images of Ben Affleck as Batman and Miley Cyrus twerking).
HONOURABLE MENTION: The Tomorrow People (Oct. 9, CW, CTV, 7 p.m.). The Tomorrow People! Way more fun at parties than the Yesterday Guys, The Today Girls or the Five-Minutes Ago Kids! This new CW drama is a cross between X-Men and Heroes -- only without the guy who speaks Japanese and the indecipherable plot. Stephen (Robbie Ammell) learns he is part of a genetically advanced race with powerful abilities like telepathy and teleportation. The always-brilliant Mark Pellegrino (Lost's Jacob) plays the show's big bad guy, the leader of a group of paramilitary scientists hunting down the Tomorrow People.
BIG RELEASES ON OCT. 8: Lindi Ortega (Tin Star), Miley Cyrus (Bangerz)
BIG PICTURE: Canada's Lindi Ortega has not twerked Robin Thicke, publicly rhymed off her go-to drugs or appeared nude in Rolling Stone. She does not stick out her tongue in every photo or invent words like Bangerz -- and she was not rumoured to be pregnant with the child of an American rapper named Juicy J. But Lindi is more deserving of your attention than Miley Cyrus. Ortega is a young, beautiful Canadian country star with an old soul -- we're talking "old" in the vein of Pasty Cline or June Carter Cash. Leave Miley Cyrus to her antics (one day she'll realize she has the talent to make it without them); Ortega's Tin Star is shining now. From sombre country ballads to toe-tapping swing numbers, Ortega's third album finds her equal parts rebel, outsider, heartbreaker and heartbroken. Who knew Nashville's new queen would be from Toronto? Miley can twerk the night away. Listen to Ortega's swampy, sexy and swaggering I Want You to Want Me, and you'll follow the title's lead.
FORECAST: Miley will win the media and marketing battle, but Ortega is the real deal and will give you a genuine achy breaky heart. Since we are dealing with pirates and witches this week, let me put it another way. If Captain Jack Sparrow was hiring crew members for his pirate ship, he'd hire Miley. But if a siren song was going to bewitch him and make him travel to the world's end, it's voice would belong to Ortega.