Weekend Movies: Dia del los Artilleros

The October film schedule remains congested as three more nationwide releases try to dethrone the unstoppable ‘Gone Girl’. Will a Mexican animated musical, some Nicholas Sparks schtick or more Nazi-killing Brad Pitt have what it takes?

Opening on the most screens is Pitt’s WWII drama ‘Fury‘. For a change of pace, writer/director David Ayer steers clear of the gritty cop- and gangster-filled streets of Los Angeles to show an equally gritty tale of five soldiers pushing through Nazi Germany in a tank. Pitt plays the leader and backbone of this tough-as-nails crew. Logan Lerman plays the newest addition, with Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal rounding out the team as the war-damaged seasoned members. Expect one part ‘The Thin Red Line’, one part ‘Apocalypse Now’ and two parts ‘Saving Private Ryan’. ‘Fury’ doesn’t always hit its targets, but it’s accurate enough to be effective and keep on rolling.

Surprisingly, the Guillermo del Toro-produced family flick ‘The Book of Life‘ is the second-widest release of the weekend. I didn’t expect to see the odd animated tale hit 3,000 screens, but Fox must be hoping for it to appeal to the same audiences that made last year’s ‘Instructions Not Included’ a huge Mexican-American success. This unique movie tells the story of Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos holiday and a pair of childhood friends who fought against one another for the heart of a certain girl. When La Muerte (an angel-like spirit) and Xibalba (a devilish spirit) place a wager on which boy the girl will choose, the balance of the world lies in the girl’s hands. With dazzling visuals, plenty of fun and loads of pop music covers (it’s sort of like a Mexican ‘Moulin Rouge!’), ‘The Book of Life’ is fit for anyone looking for a family film with a new flavor.

Even though Nicholas Sparks’ formulaic and derivative romance weepies always make a lot more money than they deserve, Relativity is only releasing his latest picture, ‘The Best of Me‘, on 2,600 screens. In this one, a high school couple played by dreamy James Marsden and cute-as-a-button Michelle Monaghan are reunited 20 years down the road. Many obstacles lie in the way of their rekindled romance. With Sparks’ formula now so predictable and clichéd, it’s probably safe to assume that at least one of the two lovers will die.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight finally kicks off the platform release of ‘Birdman‘, the comedy-drama that has earned a lot of festival buzz for the last few months. Alejandro González Iñárritu directs Michael Keaton in this wild film about a has-been actor who once played an iconic superhero. With little time left to make a career comeback, he takes a role on Broadway and tries to give it all he’s got – that is, when his ego and tumultuous family life don’t get in the way. Emma Stone, Zach Galifianiakis and Edward Norton co-star.

After getting some traction on the festival circuit, IFC is releasing ‘Camp X-Ray‘ on one screen this weekend. Just as Robert Pattinson did with ‘The Rover’, Kristen Stewart tries to redeem herself and shake off that whole ‘Twilight’ thing by playing a Guantanamo Bay guard who befriends and sympathizes with an inmate suspected of being a Muslim terrorist. If you can think all the way back to ‘Into the Wild‘, you may remember that Stewart really used to have some acting chops – but can she still use them?

I can’t find any details regarding the screen count, but the remake/sequel to ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown‘ kicks off this weekend. Although it’s only been 38 years since the original serial killer thriller was made, the new narrative takes place 65 years later when the killing starts again. Is it a copycat? Is it something paranormal? Who knows? What we do know is that, with a no-name cast, the new ‘Town’ looks pretty generic.

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