THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More

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Friday is Valentine's Day and it's also the start of the second four-day holiday weekend of the year, this time celebrating President's Day, which in the past has been a pretty strong weekend for the box office, first because couples will go see any of their choices of romantic movies on Valentine's Day but then school is out on Monday so movies for kids will thrive as well. What's odd about this weekend is that we have not one, not two, but three remakes…or at least movies with the same title/premise of movies that were released in the '80s… as well as an adaptation of a book also from the '80s.

That's right, it's Retro Week here at the Weekend Warrior where all sense of originality and uniqueness gets thrown out the window as we revisit the era moviegoers under 24 have never experienced, so maybe all of this will be new to them.

Back in December, I was contacted by Fox Searchlight about going to Berlin, Germany for the premiere of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel at the 64th Annual Berlinale Film Festival. At that point, I was still in mid-recovery from my stem cell transplant, but it was just one of those opportunities that was really hard to say "no" to. So I didn't. I knew that the trip was a few months off and I mentioned it to my doctor and then just asked them to give me a little more time to see how things progressed with my recovery.

But the trip happened last week, and I got to spend roughly four days in Berlin, mostly covering The Grand Budapest Hotel, but also seeing some movies at the festival. This report on my stay in Berlin may be interesting to some, boring to others, but I just wanted to share what these experiences are like in case you're ever interested in going into movie journalism--which knowing how much CS readers like movies, there's a lot of you dying to do this and it's definitely not an impossible career option to achieve.

At this point in their careers, Joel and Ethan Coen can literally do anything they want to do. They can write whatever they want to write, and chances are they’ll get whatever money they need to get the movie made, but with such a long and diverse career behind them, what could possibly be their next step? Can they continue making movies that seem unique and different from their previous work? Can they continue to be critics and awards darlings while still having commercial success?

Lots of filmmakers have had long, interesting and diverse careers that have taken them well into old age, something that hasn’t stopped them from making films. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood are three great examples of this and at least the latter two have diversified their creative output from one movie to the next. Then you have a younger generation like Paul Thomas Anderson who hasn’t made the same movie or kind of movie more than once, or someone like Wes Anderson who has created a niche for himself by making movies of a certain style and demeanor.

The Super Bowl has passed, as has the month of January when most movies are expected to be bad even if the cold tends to drive business into theaters… except this year, where we've had two really bad weekends in a row. So now we're into the second month of winter (or fourth if you include all the snow we've had since November) and baby, it's cold outside… and windy and snowy… and people are starting to get somewhat stir crazy, especially kids.

February isn't necessarily a bad time to release a movie and we have a couple new movies that people may actually want to see, including two very different high-profile movies, both somewhat anticipated, one because it's based on one of the most popular and recognized toy brands in the world, the other based on the actor/filmmaker at the helm and the cast he pulled together for his latest movie. And then we have Vampire Academy.

Whenever someone famous dies, whether it be an actor, filmmaker, musician, whatever, there is an outpouring of grief and sadness and a sense of loss, but I also feel that for journalists and news outlets, it just becomes this feeding frenzy for people to write as much as they possibly can and get as much possible traffic as possible from it. In other words, writing about someone's death has turned into instant currency, and it's something that annoys me every time someone dies as much as I understand the necessity of helping pull people together.

The tragic news earlier today that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away at the age of 46 from a drug overdose really hit me hard, maybe harder than last year's deaths of Paul Walker and James Gandolfini, maybe because I had met Hoffman and interviewed him probably nine or ten times over the years. He was an actor I respected and appreciated to the fullest and I'm deeply saddened by the news.

In concurrent ceremonies on the East and West Coast, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced the winners of their annual awards for screen, television and other media on Saturday, February 1. As has been the case this awards season, there were a number of surprises, especially in the movie categories--not so much in the television ones.

Billy Ray's adapted screenplay for Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips, based on the book "A Captain's Duty," written by the actual Richard Phillips, won one of three screen awards, while Spike Jonze's screenplay for his film Her took the award for an original screenplay. Sarah Polley took home a WGA Award for her screenplay for the pseudo-documentary Sarah Polley Stories We Tell.

It’s hard to believe that the month of January is already over and we’ve already hit Super Bowl weekend, when most movies will do their business on Friday and Saturday night and then tail off by Sunday as millions of Americans sit around their big screen TV sets watching the commercials and movie trailers and who knows? Maybe even some of them will watch the football game. (But seriously, with the New England Patriots out of it as well as both New York teams, who really cares about football?) This weekend sees two romance films of sorts, movies that will be of interest to women of different ages with no one really trying too hard to have any sort of Super Bowl weekend box office blockbuster. In fact, it will be surprising if anything makes more than $15 million this weekend.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Tim’s Vermeer (Sony Pictures Classics), the new documentary from Penn and Teller which documents their friend Tim Jennison's attempts at recreating a classic painting from the Dutch master using unconventional techniques.

In what many will probably consider to be one of the most well-deserved and earned honors of the 2013 movie awards season, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron was honored by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) with an Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for his outer space thriller Gravity at the 66th Annual DGA Awards Dinner, held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles this evening.

It was Cuaron's first-ever nomination by the DGA although he had previously been nominated for three Oscars for the writing and editing of earlier films Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men. Cuaron's DGA win follows closely after winning both a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award for the direction of Gravity and having already been nominated by the Academy in the directing category, he is the clear frontrunner on Oscar night, March 2.

After a smokin’ busy Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, things will be slowing down for the rest of the month of January as we only have one new wide release this week and two lower-key releases at the end of the month, and while there’s still room for something to break out, we think nothing much is going to be happening until after the Super Bowl.

Regardless, this weekend we’ll see the return of Aaron Eckhart as I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate), a new take on the classic literary character by Mary Shelley that’s more in line with the type of video game-inspired movies we’ve been seeing over the past twelve years for better or worse. Appropriately, it's the newest concept from Kevin Grevioux, one of the creators of the “Underworld” franchise, the first movie and its sequel grossing nearly $100 million worldwide, followed by the 2009 prequel “Rise of the Lycans” which fared better overseas. Fortunately, Kate Beckinsale came back for 2012’s Underworld Awakening and that ended up doing better domestically ($62 million total) and worldwide ($153 million).

The announcement of the nominations for the 86th Annual Academy Awards on Thursday morning, January 16, gave us a lot clearer picture of what was going to happen on Oscar night on Sunday, March 2. Later that evening, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA)—of which ComingSoon.net's Oscar Warrior Edward Douglas is a member—convened for their annual Critics Choice Movie Awards to dole out their own version of the Oscars/Globes.

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