Box Office, Awards, Festivals and More


Normally, the overused cliché is that March enters like a lamb and leaves like a lion—or at least I think that's how the saying goes—but that isn't the case this year as we're getting two fairly big studio releases right out of the gate, which will try to keep moviegoers coming back to theaters after a few slower weeks where it took Liam Neeson and the story of Jesus to tear them away from The LEGO Movie.

Almost seven years to the date that Zack Snyder blew people away with what could be done when adapting a graphic novel to the screen with Frank Miller's 300, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are finally going back to that well with 300: Rise of an Empire (Legendary/WB), a combination prequel and sequel to that blockbuster hit which opened with $71 million on its way to $454 million worldwide.

After having one of their first true bombs with last summer's Turbo, DreamWorks Animation returns with the delayed CG version of the ‘50s and ‘60s cartoon Mr. Peabody & Sherman (DreamWorks Animation/Fox), this one directed by The Lion King's Rob Minkoff as they try to revive a classic cartoon character for modern families.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is the latest from Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight), starring Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton and lots more. has not attended the SXSW Film Festival every year, but this will be our second year in a row at the Austin, Texas-based festival that grew from out of the long-running annual music festival.

Unlike Sundance and Toronto, SXSW is not necessarily all about the big stars and you'll find that a lot of the better indie films feature complete unknowns or actors who aren't normally known for big studio movies. This year, we've picked thirty movies that are premiering at SXSW, some of them in competition, some studio movies being sneak previewed before their official theatrical releases, and we've also included a few movies that premiered at Sundance and Berlin that we missed out in earlier previews, because they fell below our radar.

It's the day after Oscar night, the biggest night of the year for the film industry. While most of the overworked Oscar bloggers are already disregarding any sort of celebration for the winners and moving onto heralding the 2014 movies that might receive nominations or accolades in a year--they're a fickle bunch, for sure--the Oscar Warrior prefers to look back at last night's winners and make note of how while there were very few real surprises, a few of the winners will surely mess with how we predict the Oscars in the future.

See, that's the thing about the Oscar prediction "business"--because it is a business now or else why would every single website and television news channel offer up their own predictions? In the past there was always historical data that can be used to back up the predictions. It wasn't just about seeing a movie and saying "that's the best performance" and a lot of time predictions are made based on other factors--early buzz, promotional marketing, etc. As I mentioned before, a lot of full-time Oscar bloggers are already looking at movies coming out later this year to see if they can be the first to predict a breakout. (Put it this way, few people in this business knew about The King's Speech or Argo or The Artist or even 12 Years a Slave a year before they won Best Picture.)

Well, that's a wrap on February as this snowbound year flies by quicker than usual, and after a couple weak weekends, there's still hope the winter/spring season can be saved by a couple more big hits along the lines of The LEGO Movie, Ride Along and Lone Survivor.

Universal Pictures is certainly going to give it a go for their third hit of the year with the action-thriller Non-Stop, which reunites actor Liam Neeson with director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unkonwn).

And in some of the oddest counter-programming we've seen so far this year, 20th Century Fox are releasing Son of God (20th Century Fox), a feature film apparently culled from footage from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's hit History Channel mini-series "The Bible" focusing on the story of Jesus.

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Ritesh Batra's wonderful Mumbai-based film The Lunchbox (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Irrfan Khan.

If you were to tell film snobs the only new movies in wide release this weekend were directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and McG, you'd probably receive cries of indignation about the lack of quality movies in February. That be as it may, they've directed two movies that may not make a lot of waves in what's likely to be a down weekend but could still bring in a little business with not a lot of other action choices other than the Robocop remake, which has received mixed reactions. Either way, it doesn't look like anything is going to dethrone The LEGO Movie this weekend as it becomes the second movie of the year to remain on top of the box office for three weeks in a row!

This week's "CHOSEN ONE" is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's latest (and the animated master's last) film The Wind Rises (Touchstone Pictures), although we recommend seeking out the subtitled version rather than this star-studded dubbed American version.

Toy Fair 2014 kicked off on Sunday, February 16, taking over the entirety of New York City's Javits Center for four days of toys, games, more toys, more games and lots of cool collectible action figures and models. We've posted most of our pictures already, but for those who don't feel like perusing through the nearly 1,000 pictures, we've selected a couple of the cooler things we saw while walking the convention floor.
After having an early morning breakfast at the LEGO booth to peruse their new product lines, we ended up roaming the various halls of the Javits Center for hours trying to find the coolest movie and TV-related toys and games at Toy Fair 2014. attended the Ziegfeld Theatre's special two-day retrospective showing the collaborations between director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio with the highlight being a Thursday night panel with the duo, plus editor Thelma Schoonmaker and screenwriter Terence Winter, talking about their latest film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Hopefully you read Part 1 of my report on going to Berlin, Germany to attend the premiere of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was opening the 64th Annual Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale). Part 1 mainly covered my experiences with that junket, but I did get to see a bunch of other movies and here are some further thoughts on Berlinale and the movies I saw, which included Fruit Chan's The Midnight After, George Clooney's The Monuments Men, Yann Demange's exceptional '71 starring Jack O'Connell, and Kumiko the Treasure Hunter starring Rinko Kikuchi.

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.

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