THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More

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I would love to say that Days 3 through 5 of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) were a breeze. Even just seeing seven movies over the course of two days ended up being so tiring that I had to take a day off from seeing movies to allow my brain to rest. Not that I didn't do anything, though, and Saturday began a series of interviews with a number of different actors and filmmakers including Simon Pegg, Antoine Fuqua, Noomi Rapace, Benedict Cumberbach and more.

Friday, September 5 is over, which means I have successfully made it through my first two days of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Besides seeing eight films since arriving on Wednesday, I've also seen a couple of films beforehand, some of which I can talk about, some of which I still need to bite my tongue for a little while longer. I will say that as I expected from the line-up, this may be one of the best TIFFs ever, not only due to the quantity and quality of the world premieres but also due to the abundance of some of the greatest festival films that I missed earlier this year.

Fortunately, two of the best movies I've seen so far are coming out in October so you won't have to wait too long to see them, although you will have to wait a little longer for my full reviews.

Now that summer's over--and hopefully you've already perused and commented on my personal Top 11 of the summer--it's time to look at the movies of the summer in terms of box office.

there were few people who thought for a second that Marvel Studios' sole movie of the summer--sorry I'm not counting their early April release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as "summer"--and supposedly their biggest risk, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy would score big with nearly $280 million grossed since opening on August 1. It's still #1 movie as of this writing, having jumped back there a week back, but even opening so late in the summer, it effortlessly passed "Transformers" and some of the other odds-on-favorites to win the summer i.e. all of them.

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.

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