THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More

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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.

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.

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