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They said it couldn’t be done. They called me mad at the university. They doubted my math skills and insisted on hiring an accounting team from Pricewaterhouse Coopers. They debated whether or not there should be a hyphen between “box” and “office.” But here we are, fourteen weeks later, and our inaugural Summer Box Office Challenge has come to a successful end.

The last weekend of releases saw some heavyweight newcomers, and after the dust settled an action film led by Scarlett Johansson severely beat down one headlined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Did I mention she did it on a 60% lower budget too? Luc Besson’s Lucy brought in just under $44 million for the weekend — a great number for Besson and his highest opening since The Fifth Element in ’97 — and the hope is that Hollywood takes the right notes from these results. Last week’s bonus question asking which film would end up in fifth place got an answer in the form of Planes: Fire & Rescue.

So after tallying up all the points not twice but once, we have our three winners! Keep reading to see who’ll be getting a Bu-ray bundle of new releases, and to those of you who played along but didn’t win, know that we’re grateful for your participation. This feature wouldn’t have been nearly as fun as it was if you folks weren’t engaged and interested in playing along. So thanks!

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Christopher Walken in The Country Bears

Walt Disney/Richard Cartwright

The Jungle Book is seriously crushing the casting game right now.

This morning, Deadline revealed that two new actors have come aboard the all-singing, all-dancing, all-CG wildlife pic directed by Jon Favreau (as opposed to the other one, coming from Andy Serkis). Giancarlo Esposito, best known for portraying a dark-universe Colonel Sanders on Breaking Bad, will play the wolf Akela. And Christopher Walken, best known for a lifetime of skeezing people out by being Christopher Walken, will play the orangutan King Louie.

Those two extra-talented thespians join Ben Kingsley as the panther Bagheera (yes, splendid), Lupita Nyong’o as mother wolf Raksha (really, really great), Scarlett Johansson as the python Kaa (this is perfect) and Idris Elba as the film’s antagonist, the tiger Shere Khan (good god yes). Also, there’s some newcomer named Neel Sethi playing Mowgli, but  he is not a well-loved Hollywood star voicing an extremely appropriate animal character. Temper your excitement accordingly.

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A Truncated Story of Infinity Short Film

Paul Trillo

Why Watch? Imbued with Eternal Sunshine‘s DNA, this fantastic short film from Paul Trillo makes repetition interesting and vibrant by framing a single, unimportant man on an unimportant day faced with unlimited possibilities

Gorgeously dynamic visuals are to be expected from Trillo (see his previous work Salience), but not only do we get abstractions like an Escherian tea pot eternally pouring into a never-spilling cup, we also get to see the banal made fresh. Sometimes that’s through the subtlety of fingernail polish colors shifting, sometimes from a television smashing to the sidewalk.

There’s also a hint of Stranger Than Fiction here, as the narrator for A Truncated Story of Infinity discusses his generic subject with dry witticism and flatly offered profundity. It’s the blend of those sweeping, plain as day observations and the beautiful photography of common paradoxes that makes this short film a wondrous delight.

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Sin City A Dame to Kill For

The Weinstein Company

Score one for equality! Well, kind of. Fresh out of Comic-Con comes a brand new red band trailer for Robert Rodriguez’ and Frank Miller‘s Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (does this call for a “DOTPOTA” style acronym? “FMSCADTKF”? sounds like a bad governmental agency), one that applies just a smidge of the same lascivious behavior normally heaped on the ladies of the franchise to one of its (new) leading men. That’s right, folks, we’ve still got tons of brazen babes bounding around (most of them on a literal stripper walk, because), but now we’ve also got Josh Brolin‘s bare ass to ogle. And, no, we still have zero idea what this film is about, at least going by the trailers alone, which seem to exist just to remind us that some dames are worth…wait for it…killing for.

Let’s figure this thing out, okay? Back to Basin City, after the break:

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They Live Wonder Woman at Comic-Con 2014

Photo by Robert Fure

It’s easy to hate Comic-Con.

My view of things is probably a bit different from the average person, since I’m surrounded by people “in the industry” and it’s become cool over the last few years to use a tone of tired disgust when talking about the media explosion that takes place every year. More specifically, and you know this, we’re talking about San Diego Comic-Con, which over the years has become so big  that we just call it “Comic-Con” despite there being literally thousands of other Comic Conventions every year. Attendance at the event first eclipsed 100,000 individuals back in 2005. My first adventure was The Year of Watchmen, in 2008. By then, the crowd had ballooned to more than 125,000 people. This year it’s estimated that more than 130,000 people entered the exhibition floor.

During the weekend it owns in July, it’s ubiquitous. You see it on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media sites. You read articles about it, and you sense it just underneath the surface of other articles. Dusted-off essays and tired tweets will make jokes about nerds and body odor, the smell of Thor’s leather underwear, the stank emanating from far too many layers and far too much wool in an unmercifully hot Southern California summer.

Just as it’s easy to hate the hellacious line for Hall H or the semi-constant jostling from working your way through a crowd, it’s easy to make fun of Comic-Con, too. I’d never pretend to be anything other than a nerd at heart. Even as it’s cool to claim nerd status now, I’d rather throw my lot in with the undulating mass of people on the exhibition floor than the “cool nerds” who buy some expensive art, go to cool parties and talk about how much they hate going to Comic-Con because it’s so crowded.

Part of me wanted to call this article “Who Killed Comic Con?” Because I was somewhat underwhelmed this year – hey, this is my seventh straight year in attendance – I felt like maybe the hype had come and gone over SDCC. Sure, there were still 130,000 people there, but I’d felt 130,000 people swell behind me in line before. SDCC 2014 felt like it was lacking an event. Looking back over the years, they were generally marked with something big. My first year was Watchmen and that dominated the talk and the floor. The Owlship was sitting there on display, glorious and gigantic. Other years featured Twilight panels, surprise screenings of gigantic movies, visits from most of The Expendables, Marvel’s Thor and then The Avengers.

Back then, studios also weren’t as willing to put exclusive footage and panels online. Now, it’s common. Missed a panel? Either read about it, or wait a day to see the footage online, either officially or unofficially.

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Paths of Glory

United Artists

Exactly one month after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia, and after weeks of diplomatic negotiations that went nowhere, Austria-Hungary declared war on July 28, 1914 — a date often regarded as the first day of what would come to be known as The Great War, now better known as World War I.

While cinema had been in existence for over two decades by the time the war began, WWII has greatly eclipsed its predecessor in terms of its breadth of cinematic representation. Yet The Great War – with its many intersecting transnational conflicts and its location at the historical precipice between 19th century trenches and 20th century machine warfare – has produced an incredible number of fascinating, haunting, and even touching stories about a world experiencing accelerated change, many of which have made their way to celluloid.

So for the 100th anniversary of The Great War, we’ve assembled a list of 8 worthwhile films that give us a glimpse into this complicated conflict that helped shape the 20th century.

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Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

Before this year’s Comic-Con even bowed, Marvel Studios had already staked their claim, announcing a jam-packed schedule for the next five years, a continuation of their Marvel Cinematic Universe that is somehow both very ambitious and totally expected. As the news of this new calendar dropped in the days leading up to Comic-Con, it seemed fair to assume that the Marvel panel would include a section on those upcoming films and what titles are arriving when (remember back in 2012, when the Marvel panel included a gobsmacking section that announced Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, complete with official titles, titles treatments and concept art? remember what a hit that was?). And, with news about their Doctor Strange film reaching a fever pitch before and during the convention, it also seemed like a good time to throw the fans a bone about that one (even just a release date, as a casting announcement would have likely obliterated Hall H).

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

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Comic-Con 2014 Photo Gallery

Robert Fure gives you a tour of Comic-Con 2014 in a photo essay of his time spent in San Diego. Click here to check it out.

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Synapse

Synapse

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers.

The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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The Bands Visit Movie

Sony Pictures Classics

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere.

There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here.

They say bartenders make great therapists, but does that still apply long after the bar has been sold and the bartender has moved on? Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) would probably say no after their couples therapist (Ted Danson) sends them on a very strange weekend retreat.

The married couple arrives at the prescribed destination to find that the grounds — including a main house, guest house and numerous gardens — are theirs and theirs alone for the weekend. Well, kind of. It seems that part of the good doctor’s plan to help the couple work towards becoming better versions of themselves, and in the process become a better couple, involves a very unique way of facing and experiencing those better selves.

The One I Love is about some very universal feelings and themes — ones we’ve all experienced in real life and seen portrayed onscreen — but it presents them in refreshingly original, engaging and entertaining ways. I’m being vague here for those that want to go in fresh, but fair warning, I’ll be revealing a little bit more after the jump. (Still nothing that legitimately counts as a spoiler though.)

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A24

A24

Three years ago writer/director Kevin Smith pushed himself as a filmmaker with Red State. The quasi-horror movie was polarizing for both Smith’s fans and critics. Good or bad, it’s definitely far more ambitious than Smith’s previous movie, Cop Out. He was trying something new. Red State was a 180 turn in the director’s career. With his new picture, Tusk, Smith is continuing down the road he set out on back in 2011.

A trailer for the film was released shortly after its Comic-Con debut. From the looks of it, Tusk features the old and the new Kevin Smith. That’s a good thing, because when Red State turned into a shootout, the old Smith was missed. Smith’s finest work generally involves characters talking around a table. Tusk doesn’t seem to stray too far from Smith’s dialogue-heavy past, since the film does feature two characters stuck together in a house, so we should expect a good amount of dialogue from Smith.

If you don’t want to know whether Justin Long’s character does actually get turned into a walrus, avoid this discussion with Smith. And, even though I call it a discussion, it’s not really that at all. When you interview Kevin Smith, he’s never at a loss for words. It’s best to just let him say what he has to say.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Warner Bros.

After over a decade of trying, director George Miller finally got to make another entry in the Mad Max series…almost two years ago. The film began shooting all the way back in the fall of 2012, but it wasn’t until this year’s Comic-Con that anyone saw a lick of footage from Mad Max: Fury Road. The action-packed trailer impressed those in Hall H, thanks to plenty of practical stunts, muscular action, and a promising glimpse of a return to one of the coolest worlds and character ever put to film.

Max is now played by Tom Hardy, who is of course a beast of a man that’s well-suited for the character once played by Mel Gibson. Will Hardy’s performance reflect Gibson’s iconic work as Max or is Hardy and Miller going in a different direction? That’s a question director George Miller answered in the press conference for Mad Max: Fury Road, a story that takes place “45 to 50 years after the opening of the movie.” Miller had plenty more to say, so we made sure to take notes. We also get our first look, which was released online today.

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