THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More

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That's it. Summer is pretty much over and depending on where you stand, it seemed like a pretty good one to me with a lot of new franchises launched and a couple sequels that ended up being better than anyone expected. In the gallery after the jump, you can find out which 11 movies I thought excelled this summer and a couple comments.

It's Labor Day weekend, another one of those times during the year where box office is particularly difficult to predict, maybe because we're reaching this strange intersection where summer is ending but school has already started in some places and everyone is generally off on Monday. The quality of the movies that open over Labor Day generally aren't very good, and yet, you'll often seen one or two of those bad movies do very well. This weekend we have two new wide releases, a straight-up horror movie and an action flick starring a former James Bond, then on top of that we still have a couple early August movies that are still playing very strong and may get some lingering business.

Currently, the biggest Labor Day opening belongs to Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween, which made $30 million over the four-day holiday weekend, but horror movies in general like 2012's The Possession--the second highest Labor Day opening with $21 million--Jeepers Creepers and its sequel Jeepers Creepers 2, have all done well over the late summer holiday.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is David Mackenzie's prison flick Starred Up (Tribeca Film), starring Jack O'Connell.

We're just one week away from Labor Day and two weeks away from the end of summer and just like the rest of the year, the busiest movie has really flown by. If last weekend wasn't proof enough we're into the worst days of the summer with business dropping dramatically, three new movies will try to fight off the curse of August.

Nine years after their 2005 hit, director Robert Rodriguez and comic creator Frank Miller reunite for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension Films), the sequel starring the returning Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, and Rosario Dawson, joined by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin (in Clive Owen's role, post-Dwight's facial surgery), super-hot Eva Green (as Ava, the "dame " in the title), Dennis Haysbert replacing the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni and more.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Ira Sachs' Love is Strange (Sony Pictures Classics), starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, a festival favorite that opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

The 52nd New York Film Festival is less than two months away and today, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the 30 films that will make up the Main Slate for this year's festival.

Already announced were the World Premieres of David Fincher's Gone Girl, the Opening Night Gala, and Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, the festival's Centerpiece. They're scheduled for release on October 3 and December 12 respectively.

Alejandro Inarritu's Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will get its New York premiere as the festival's Closing Night film on October 12 before its own October 17 release.

I won't mention "The Dog Days of Summer"… I won't mention "The Dog Days of Summer"… I won't mention… okay, maybe I've been writing this column too long by the fact that every year, we get to the mid-point in August and all of a sudden, people just stop going to movies altogether. That doesn't stop the studios from releasing movies including a couple that could theoretically break out and take advantage of the waning competition, but also a few they're not expecting to do particularly well but they hope to get out before summer's end so they can focus on more prestige films once September festival season begins.

The strongest release of the weekend has to be the ongoing action supergroup known as The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate), bringing together some of the biggest action stars of the past 30 years… and Kelsey Grammer.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is the Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon comedy sequel The Trip to Italy (IFC Films).

With Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy doing far better opening weekend than anyone expected, it's looking like the four movies opening this weekend will be settling for second to fifth place at best, as it should pull a solid repeat even with the typically larger summer movie second weekend drop-off. The movie with the best chance for second place is the Michael Bay-produced reinvention of the popular ‘80s cartoon and comic characters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount), starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett, which hopes to kick-off a new franchise ala Transformers and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The three other movies will be fighting to bring in some late summer moviegoers without the draw of what will be the top two movies.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is the unconventional relationship comedy What If (CBS Films), starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, with an "Honorable Mention" to Alan Hicks' musical doc Keep On Keepin' On (RADiUS-TWC).

The last month of summer begins this weekend, giving us only a few more chances to get out of the doldrums that have plagued the box office for much of July with two movies that will try to turn things around. Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn and with a wildly diverse cast, is going to be the big "must see" event of the weekend, leaving a lot of people wondering how much is possible for a Marvel movie with very little starpower and based on a lesser-known group of characters. By comparison, EVERYONE knows who James Brown is, so one wonders whether the musical biopic Get On Up (Universal), directed by The Help's Tate Taylor, has a chance at bringing some counterprogramming to find an underserved audience.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is The Guard director John Michael McDonagh's Calvary (Fox Searchlight), starring Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly and Chris O'Dowd.

As we arrive at the end of July with just one month to go in the summer, this weekend is going to be one more test of whether starpower makes a difference when it comes to box office hits as we have two action movies featuring top stars as well as a smaller box office comedy starring two Oscar-winning actors who have never appeared in a movie together, although both of them may be considered past their prime.

Before we get to that, Scarlett Johansson stars as the title character in French action director Luc Besson's sci-fi action thriller Lucy (Universal), which co-stars Morgan Freeman in his third movie of the year.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Anton Corbijn's adaptation of John Le Carée's post-humous spy thriller A Most Wanted Man (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions), starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright.

July motors along with three very different movies trying to dethrone last week's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Honestly, all three new movies have the potential to open with over $30 million as they will divide audiences fairly evenly by age and gender, the only question being whether having such a divisive effect on moviegoers might end up hurting all three movies, keeping them from surpassing last week's #1.

Although the box office is clearly down from last year, this already has been a summer full of big blockbusters, and many that were well-received critically and among moviegoers, and this weekend continues that trend with the release of just one new movie, the anticipated sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox).

It's the sequel to the successful reboot of the "Apes" franchise with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which replaced the customary masks and ape outfits of the original movies with state-of-the-art CG and performance capture technology, led by a pioneer in that technology, Andy Serkis. (More on him later.)

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Richard Linklater's twelve-years-in-the-making slice of life drama Boyhood (IFC Films), starring newcomer Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

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