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New in Theaters October 17: Fury, Book of Life, The Best of Me

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By Chris Kavan - 10/16/14 at 06:44 AM CT

Two strong weekends in October have come and gone and it looks like things are going to stay strong. Three new arrivals this week look to shake up the box office. An action-packed war film with an impressive cast, a colorful animated film for the family and, for those couples out there, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation sure to tug on the heartstrings. With Gone Girl continuing to impress, I think we're looking at yet another year-to-year improvement. And for those with access to the specialty box office, it's also going to be a great weekend.

FURY Some time ago, a man by the name of Edwin Starr posited: "War, what is it good for?" Well, if Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal have anything to say about it - it's good for the box office, at least. Fury follows a tank crew - one forged through countless battles of WWII, in the waning days of the conflict. They have just lost their crew and fresh-faced rookie (Lerman) finds himself as a wide-eyed pacifist thrust into this gritty, veteran crew who know the cost of war - and what it takes to win. The film looks like it doesn't sugar-coat the cost - much like Saving Private Ryan this is a more realistic take on the tolls of battle - I see a lot of blood and action coming. This is the kind of movie my father lives for and, I have to admit, I also think it looks pretty good. Maybe I'll be able to convince him to step out for this one. While it might not carry the award-caliber weight of some other films, it has a great chance of taking the weekend.

THE BOOK OF LIFE If the box office was determined by the best-looking film, then Book of Life would be the winner hands-down this weekend. Full of an absolutely gorgeous color palette and some spectacular design, Book of Life is the reason to give original animated films a chance. And the vocal talent looks fantastic as well: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Danny Trejo, Ice Cube and Hector Elizondo (amongst others) all lend their voices to the film. One thing I find a bit odd is that despite the obvious nature of the film being based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead to us gringos), none of the advertising I have seen even touches on this point. The latino audience has proven they are a force to be reckoned with, I just don't understand why the marketing hasn't even tried to focus on this aspect of the movie. Well - we'll see if it comes back to bite them, but the film itself looks excellent - vibrant, fun and full of.... well, life. You might think the subject matter might be a bit of a harder sell, but I'm hoping this is one animated film that will be able to buck the trend and wind up better than expected.

THE BEST OF ME One genre that has been absent of late is certainly romance. We have plenty of gritty R-rated dramas and thrillers, a handful of family films, some horror - but romance? Not so much. Lucky for us, Nicholas Sparks is here to save the day. It seems the man has a golden touch - pretty much every film adapted from his source material has been, if not a home run, at least a base hit. Now we have The Best of Me - focusing on a young pair of high school sweethearts reunited years later in their hometown where the years may have passed, but the emotional connection is still very much there. Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden play the adult version of the couple while Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato portray the younger couple. This is the type of movie I do everything in my power to avoid - sappy, sweet romance is just not my cup of tea. But it has been such a drought at the box office, it could very well do great business for lack of competition. Sparks has a great track record, we'll see if this movie keeps the gravy train rolling.

Now, I usually don't go into many of the limited release movies, but this week there are two I want to highlight. The first is Michael Keaton's Birdman, which has been picking up great steam (and critical reception) - including having Keaton as one of the front-runner's for the Best Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards. The film is essentially a kind of meta take on Keaton's actual life - it follows an actor who portrayed a popular super hero but has become virtually unknown as his ego and family get in the way. But now he hopes to mount a comeback and recapture the glory he once knew. Co-starring Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Merritt Wever - the buzz just keeps growing and I think it will do awesome in limited release and probably warrant a nation-wide push. The other film I want to hightlight is The Tale of Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata and from the esteemed Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving
Castle) - if you are into animation at all, this is a must see. Based on the oldest surviving Japanese folklore tales, the film looks stunning and I would bet money it will be up for best animated film this year. Compared to the vibrant Book of Life, the animation style here may seem a bit stark (based on traditional Japanese watercolors), but it fits the story - a rich, deep tale about love, fate and rebirth - many Buddhist elements throughout. Much credit has been given to composer Joe Hisaishi for enhancing the already emotional depth of the film. English vocal talent is enormous: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, James Marsden, Lucy Liu, Darren Criss, Oliver Platt, Mary Steenburgen, Dean Cain, John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim and Beau Bridges Beau Bridges all lend their talents to what is being called one of Studio Ghibli's best films. I, for one, can't wait to see this one.

From blockbusters to limited releases, this is going to be one huge weekend. Like I said in the opening, I think we're in for, if not a record-setting weekend, at least another big one. October is shaping up to be a a monster month for movies - we'll see just how big things get come Sunday.


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