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New in Theaters October 07: Birth of a Nation, Girl on the Train, Middle School: The Worst Years

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By Chris Kavan - 10/06/16 at 06:47 AM CT

Man, why the all the long titles this week? I can't fit them all in so you'll just have to get your full due below. In any case, despite opening to some bigger numbers, October couldn't quite shake off the fall blahs that plagued September. Other than the standout Sully, Hollywood is still looking for the next big thing to come along and shake up the box office. Luckily this week brings in some heavy hitters. First up is the controversial, but still likely Oscar contender, Birth of a Nation; along with that film is The Girl on the Train, based on the best-selling novel, that looks dark and mysterious. Finally we have the teen comedy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, in which the rules are thrown out the window when a too-strict principal wants order over creativity.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN I have been anticipating this one for quite awhile. At first it reminded me of the excellent Gone Girl from 2014, but after reading up and seeing more, I think Girl on the Train has the potential to be even better. The story follows the life of Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) who has found it difficult to move on from her divorce from her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) who has since moved on to a new relationship with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). To cope with the pain, she drinks but because the train to work passes by her old house every day, she instead imagines a new life for the "perfect couple" who live a few houses down, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett). But when her ideal image of this couple is shattered on day, it breaks her. She wakes up the next morning battered and bruised and hungover - and with no recollection of the night before. And then she learns Megan Hipwell is missing. She becomes invested in the case even as she is unsure of just what her involvement in the missing woman might be. That's a long plot, but it is deserved. This looks like the kind of mystery/thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I have no idea if there will be a twist like Gone Girl (I haven't read the book and will duly stay away from spoilers), but I'm guessing something will turn up. The actors look amazing, the story looks great and even if is going up against an Oscar hopeful, I think it will do quite well.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION The movie has been gaining steam ever since appearing in early festivals but has recently been in the news for quite different reasons when Nate Parker's (director and actor in the film) past was brought up and allegations of a college rape surfaced. That seems to be most of what people want to talk about rather than a powerful film about Nat Turner and his rebellion in the antebellum South. Recent TV spots have pitted the films imagery against recent racially-charged incidents throughout the U.S. It's a ballsy move - one that is likely to bring in audiences, but could very well drive others away. I, for one, am interested to see if this plays out as well as the excellent 12 Years a Slave - one of the most powerful films of the past decade, no matter your race. Hopefully the controversy surrounding Parker doesn't overshadow the film. I think it will still probably be up for award consideration regardless, but we'll see how it stands to audiences come Sunday.

MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE In the words of Marty McFly "Whoa, that's heavy." So let's end the weekend wrap-up with something a bit lighter, shall we? Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is about Rafe Katchadorian (Griffin Gluck), a free spirit tired of all the rules and regulations that seems to be dragging everyone down at his school. Though usually quiet, Rafe decides there is only one way to bring back creativity and fun - break every rule in the book. Thus he begins a war with uptight Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly). The films also stars Lauren Graham, Alexa Nisenson, Retta, Adam Pally, Efren Ramirez and Thomas Barbusca. It looks like a fun little number, but this is the kind of film that usually works out better when the target audience isn't in school. I don't think the numbers are going to be that impressive, but it looks like a solid film for what it is.

Hopefully we can finally have a weekend that delivers some good news. Two heavy hitters are out to change things, we'll see where things stand when Sunday rolls around.


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