Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More


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.

We're three weeks into the summer movie season and just as critics seem to be giving the early summer movies a pass as in previous years, moviegoers are getting more nitpicky about the quality of their summer films, creating a really interesting divide.

I saw Godzilla a second time over the weekend, and while I already reviewed the movie, I realized I had more to say about the movie after other reviews and comments about the movie that have popped up in the past week. I've decided, perhaps fool-hardedly, to offer a counterpoint to the criticisms and frustrations that people have had with the movie. (If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, then there are minor spoilers ahead but nothing that should ruin the movie for you.)

We're three weeks into May and one week away from Memorial Day, the semi-official start of summer (which always used to start on June 21 before all the summer box office craziness), but as in past years, this is a prime slot for a big studio release ever since the Star Wars franchise staked its claim to the weekend before Memorial Day a long, long time ago. This has been a strong summer so far and that should continue with Legendary Pictures' Godzilla (Warner Bros.), which hopes to revive the popular giant monster for new audiences, while Walt Disney Pictures release the very different baseball drama Million Dollar Arm (Walt Disney), starring Jon Hamm.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is the conclusion to Cedric Klapisch's French romantic comedy trilogy, Chinese Puzzle (Cohen Media Group), reuniting Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France and Kelly Reilly.

I'd love to say that now we're into the summer movie season, everything is going to be just rosey, and theaters are going to be packed from now until Labor Day, but we all know that for every weekend with a movie that opens over $90 million, there has to be a few slower weekends where things just don't connect. That probably won't be completely the case this weekend as we're getting a new R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron that should be a considerable hit and might even give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a run for the #1 spot this weekend. It's also Mother's Day on Sunday, so one can expect that husbands and kids might take their mother out to see something for her special day.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Jon Favreau's new movie Chef (Open Road), which opens in New York and Los Angeles before expanding to other cities.

Lincoln Center is the home to some of New York's finest cultural gems including the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet and on Thursday, May 1, the center's Avery Fisher Hall hosted the first of three very special nights of its own New York Philharmonic performing "Pixar in Concert," an unprecedented tribute to the music that's accompanied the fifteen movies produced by Pixar Animation Studios between 1995 and 2013.

All of the musical selections were performed to a specially prepared montage of clips from each movie that made it abundantly clear that the power of Pixar's films weren't just about the brilliant writing or voice casting, and is as much as about the emotions conveyed by combining the images with music.

As you probably all know by now, May kicks off the summer movie season and personally, I think it's going to be one of the odder summers we've seen in a long time for reasons you probably can read more about in my annual Summer Box Office Preview. The potential for the summer movie season will probably be gauged first and foremost by how well things kick off as Sony Pictures unveils their sequel to their 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, once again starring Andrew Garfield as the wallcrawler, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Sally Field as Aunt May and bringing in a new cast of villains that includes Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Paul Giamatti.

2014 is just flying by and it's almost shocking that we're less than a week away from the start of what's normally the busiest movie season, the time when the studios roll out their biggest movies in hopes of making enough money to make even bigger movies in the following years. This is a particularly interesting summer since we do have a couple potentially big movies but nothing quite like a "Dark Knight" or "Avengers" or a "Star Wars" movie looking to completely overpower the box office for weeks.

I'm not sure why but every summer it seems to get harder and harder to look into the crystal ball and try to figure out which movies will hit big and which ones will fall hard. Although I've seen trailers and marketing for many of the movies and maybe a little more than most thanks to this year's CinemaCon, there are still a lot of unknowns.

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