THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More

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It's the Fourth of July weekend, the second to last summer holiday, but it also marks the midway point of the summer movie season. Often it's a weekend where studios will release a bigger blockbuster to potentially bring in the large percentage of people wanting to catch up on their movies now that schools are completely out, people are starting to take vacation days and others are just looking to get away from the brutal summer heat in an air-conditioned movie theater.

As in past years, the date on which July 4 falls tends to play a large part in how much movies do over the weekend as opposed to the days before and this year, the holiday falls on a Friday while most of this week's offerings are opening early on Wednesday. Another big difference this year is that we don't have one really big standout movie but rather three or four smaller movies each hoping to offer something different from what we currently have in theaters.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Steve James' documentary Life Itself (Magnolia), a portrait of late film critic Roger Ebert

Every once in a while, a summer movie gets a weekend on its own with no competition and that's the case this weekend with Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount), his fourth return to the world of the Hasbro transforming robots after taking a break to direct the crime-thriller Pain and Gain last year.

The "Transformers" franchise is a strange anomaly because regardless of how bad reviews are and how much the fans of the popular toys and their spin-off cartoons and comics, hate the movies, they seem to still turn out in droves, which is why all of Michael Bay's three previous movies have grossed over $300 million.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi action flick Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC), starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and more. We also have a preview of the 13th New York Asian Film Festival, taking place in conjunction with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Japan Society.

Every summer, there's one weekend where moviegoers need a bit of a respite between the big budget blockbusters and normally that's the weekend where something breaks out big because nothing is expected to do well against the sure things. It's hard to say if this weekend might be like that because the only new movie with any real potential to breakout is the ensemble comedy Think Like a Man Too (Sony/Screen Gems), the follow-up to the 2012 hit based on Steve Harvey's popular self-help book. Its only competition (other than the returning movies) is the big screen version of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.), directed by Clint Eastwood, which has a far more limited audience.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Paul Haggis' new ensemble drama Third Person (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Mario Bello and more.

We've had a couple weeks off from sequels but now they're back with a vengeance with the weekend launching follow-ups to two popular and successful movies, both which should do well enough that we could see another crazy big weekend similar to when Monsters University opened against Brad Pitt's World War Z last year.

While there may be some crossover audience between DreamWorks Animation's latest How to Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox) and the Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum police action-comedy 22 Jump Street (Sony), it's very likely that the movies will split the audiences by age and gender but both offering enough reasons to see them that they should easily take in over $100 million between them. It's also Father's Day on Sunday and in theory, both movies could get a nice bump from kids taking their Dads to see a movie, although one presumes that will help "Dragon" more than "Jump Street."

May has been absolutely amazing at the box office with back-to-back blockbusters and many of the non-sequels doing way better than expected, although we've also gone back to what seemed like a retired tradition of people rushing out to see a movie opening weekend and then business quickly tailing of. Nope, that trend is back now that we've hit the summer and enough schools are out that younger moviegoers can see a movie on Thursday or Friday rather than waiting for the weekend. Unfortunately, we're also in June, which is often the summer month when things slow down, mainly since people have been overwhelmed by back-to-back must-see May releases.

So what do we have this weekend? We have Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros), directed by Doug Liman, the filmmaker behind Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper and The Bourne Identity, while Shailene Woodley stars in the adaptation of John Green's bestselling romance novel The Fault in our Stars (20th Century Fox), alongside her Divergent co-star Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (RADiUS-TWC), directed by actor/comedian Mike Myers.

Any fan of Asian cinema who lives anywhere near New York City probably already knows about the annual event that brings some of the biggest, best and often weirdest movies from all across Asia to packed houses of enthusiastic fans as the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) has grown from a small cult following that would attend the festival at the Anthology Film Archives to a major event held in partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Japan Society's annual Japan Cuts.

This year's festival runs from June 27 to July 14 with 60 feature films kicking off with the international premiere of Alan Mak and Felix Chong's crime thriller Overheard 3 and including a number of North American and New York premieres. Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits, the documentary about Korean shaman Kim Keum-hwa by Park Chan-wook's brother Park Chan-kyong will close the festival, while Umin Boya's Taiwanese baseball movie Kano will be the festival's centerpiece.

Hopefully everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and certainly the box office is having a particularly nice boom (unless you're Adam Sandler) and as the first month of summer comes to a close, everyone is hoping that moviegoers' love for the theatrical experience will continue through the rest of the summer. This weekend sees the release of two movies that couldn't be any more different even as it pits two celebrities who made waves at the Oscars, Angelina Jolie and Seth MacFarlane, against each other for box office supremacy.

At the start of the summer i.e. four weeks ago, this may have looked to be a much more heated weekend between the two movies—and this is one weekend where I'm definitely breaking away from my earlier summer predictions--but at this point, it seems like Disney's Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie as the "evil queen" from the fairy tale of "Sleeping Beauty" has a lot more going for it.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson's coming-of-age movie We Are the Best!.

I haven't come here to bury Sandler nor I have I written this to praise him. This is not a repeat of last year's reprimand of Johnny Depp for making so many bad movies in a row, nor is this a resurrection or update of The Career Analyst I did of Sandler years back. (Which reminds me that one of these days, I should try to bring that back as well.)

No, this is my honest viewpoint of why Adam Sandler has gotten himself to the point where he has almost zero film critics on his side anymore after years of subjecting them to movies that range from mediocre to bad all the way down to truly awful and unwatchable pieces of crap.

As you probably know, Sandler's latest comedy Blended was released this past weekend and it pretty much tanked, grossing less than $20 million over the extended Memorial Day holiday, a time when movies tend to do big business. Just for some perspective, that was less in four days than Sandler's Jack and Jill made in three days, and it may struggle to reach $40 million domestically. There was a time not that long ago when an Adam Sandler movie could make that amount regularly over a movie's opening weekend. So what happened?

The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival has come to a close with the announcement of this year's awards winners, as usual, a mixed bag of foreign and American films with varying degrees of buzz and levels of attention before the festival. Although the Cannes Film Festival takes place nearly four months before the actual start of festival awards season in September, the festival has often given clues of what films and performances might be celebrated at year's end both by critics and the film industry.

Winter Sleep, the new film from Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Climates, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), a movie on few people's lips two weeks ago, won the top prize at Cannes, the Palm d'Or, over a number of films that were being highly praised by critics since their premieres. Previous films from Ceylan have received the festival's Grand Prix, but this is his first Palm d'Or.

It's Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the busiest weekends at the box office since it's when Americans first start to accept the fact that the summer is here, the temperature is rising, schools are starting to slowly let out, and what's a better way to spend the weekend than going to see a big summer blockbuster? This is a great time for movies because the movie market is booming with three new movies opening north of $45 million in the past three weeks with two of them opening over $90 million. This weekend we probably will be adding a third as director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox), which brings back the cast from 2011's X-Men: First Class as well as many of the original mutants from the earlier movies.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Fred (Roxanne) Schepisi's romantic comedy Words and Pictures (Roadside Attractions), that pits Clive Owen against Juliet Binoche.

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