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Box office update: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' becomes the top-grossing movie of 2014

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Marvel’s ragtag crew of C-level comic stars beat out the studio’s A-listers on Friday as Guardians of the Galaxy took its place as the top-grossing movie of the 2014 domestic box office, surpassing the valiant efforts of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s enough to make anyone go “ooga-chaka.” Four weeks after its release, the space-adventure blockbuster held onto the top spot on the first day of the holiday weekend, adding $3.8 million to its coffers and bringing its domestic total up to $262.1 million, $2.4 million more than Cap 2‘s high-water mark. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: 'JAG' star David James Elliott joins indie thriller 'American Hangman'

• JAG star David James Elliott has been cast opposite Martin Freeman and Brian Cox in the indie thriller American Hangman. Elliot will play Detective James Steptoe in the kidnapping film from writer/director Wilson Coneybeare, who worked with Elliot on the movie A Ted Named Gooby. [THR]

• Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Timothée Chalamet (Homeland), Grant Bowler (Defiance), and Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight) will star as a family with dark secrets in One & Two. Director Andrew Droz Palermo is directing the film about the family of four living in peaceful isolation in a mysterious farmhouse. Palermo, who made his feature debut co-directing the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Rich Hill, co-wrote the script with Neima Shahdadi. [Deadline]

• Comedian Tom Green and Drop Dead Diva‘s Justin Deeley have joined the cast of Total Frat Movie, based on the popular Total Frat Move website. Green will play Dean Kravitz to Deeley’s Charlie Kent, a member of the Alpha Chi Gamma fraternity who finds a loophole that allows the house back on campus three years after a rival frat sabotaged their annual fireworks display. Warren P. Sonoda is directing the comedy from a script by Sacha Pavlovic and Stephen Fromkin. [Deadline]

• X-Men: Days of Future Past star Lucas Till is set to star opposite Kate Beckinsale in the thriller The Disappointments Room. Beckinsale plays a mother who discovers a secret room in her family’s new country home that unlocks a bloody secret from the past. Till has been cast as a mysterious carpenter working on the house. Prison Break star Wentworth Miller wrote an original screenplay for the film that has since been adapted by director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia). Miller previously wrote the 2013 thriller Stoker, which also featured Till. [THR]

• Jena Malone and Douglas Smith (Big Love) are heading to the Bottom of the World. The two actors will star as Scarlett and Alex, a young couple in director Richard Sears’ indie horror film about the nightmarish world he is plunged into after she vanishes. Ted Levine (The Bridge) has also been cast as sinister priest in the movie from writer Brian Gottlieb. [Deadline]

• Nicholas Braun (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) has joined Kyle Patrick Alvarez‘s The Stanford Prison Experiment starring Billy Crudup as Philip Zimbardo. Braun plays Vandy, an abusive and sadistic student guard in the infamous 1971 experiment. [Deadline]

• Australian actor David Coussins has landed a supporting role in Good Kids, the directorial debut of of Chris McCoy from his own 2011 Black List script about four high school students looking for a new start after graduation. [Deadline]

• Lauren Holly (Motive) and Zoie Palmer (Lost Girl) have joined an orgy – How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, that is. The actresses will star alongside The Killing‘s Jewel Staite in the Canadian indie pic about a big-city sex writer who seeks revenge on her former friends during a trip back home. Writer/director Jeremy Lalonde is helping the film that already includes Christine Horne, Lauren Lee Smith, Katharine Isabelle and Ennis Esmer in the cast. [THR]

• Beth Riesgraf (Leverage), Rory Culkin (Scream 4), Martin Starr (Veronica Mars) and Jack Kesy (The Strain) will star in the psychological horror thriller Shut In. Riesgraf will play a woman suffering from agoraphobia trapped in her in home by a trio of criminals who break in. TJ Cimfel and David White wrote the film that will be directed by Adam Schindler (Delivery: The Beast Within). [THR]

Critical Mass: 'Love is Strange' might be the best movie in theaters this Labor Day weekend

With a lackluster collection of films opening wide in multiplexes this holiday weekend, it’s time to herald an indie gem. Love is Strange debuted at Sundance in January, and opened to the top per-screen average in select theaters last weekend. It expands slightly today, and critics seem to be near-unanimous that it’s worth seeking out.

Directed by Ira Sachs, the film tells the story of George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), a gay New York City couple who officially tie the knot after 39 years together. But once their relationship is made legal, George is fired by the Catholic school where he teaches music. Since Ben is a painter with little income, the couple can no longer afford their apartment, and they’re forced to split up and crash with friends and family while they sort things out. George moves downstairs, where he endures life with two boisterous gay cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez). Ben gets a bunk at his nephew’s house in Brooklyn, where he can’t help but disrupt the lives of his nephew’s wife (Marisa Tomei) and her household.

Though the film is about a gay couple, it’s not a film with a political agenda. “Sachs takes an impeccably balanced approach to the film,” writes EW’s Joe McGovern. “It’s neither an advertisement for same-sex marriage nor a scold against the Catholic Church. In one scene, George reads a letter he had sent to his students’ parents; his voice-over is matched to a graceful montage of daily life within the school as he says, ‘Life has its obstacles, but I’ve learned early on that they will always be lessened if faced with honesty.’ That’s as close to sermonizing as Sachs gets.”

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. And be ready for Love is Strange when it comes to your neck of the woods.   READ FULL STORY

'Life' remembers Ingrid Bergman's landmark career

Cinephiles and casual film fans alike will have some familiarity with Ingrid Bergman’s large body of work. The actress is perhaps most widely remembered for her starring role opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, but Bergman’s more than 40-year career is replete with memorable—and award-winning—roles. On the anniversary of her passing, Life has compiled a gallery of Bergman to celebrate her career.

In tracking Bergman’s time in the spotlight, which included three Academy Awards and appearances in films like For Whom the Bell TollsJoan of Arc, and GaslightLife recalls a 1943 interview with the actress in which she said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”

Bergman acted until late in her life, frequently appearing on television and onstage in addition to her work on film. But her time in the spotlight also put her personal life front and center for many of her fans.

Head over to Life‘s remembrance of the actress to learn more about her personal and professional life and see photos of her work.

Summer box office: Why didn't 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' fly higher?

It was a rough summer at the box office, with the industry trailing 2013’s record-breaking season by nearly 15 percent and selling the fewest tickets in more than 20 years. There were winners and losers, pleasant surprises and stinkers, but as the analysts push films in one column or the other, what to make of How to Train Your Dragon 2? It’s the year’s second-biggest animated hit (behind The LEGO Movie) and a likely Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film. And yet DreamWorks Animation sequel, distributed by 20th Century Fox, is the rare critical success to gross $172 million and feel like a disappointment. What else to call a sequel that makes $45 million less than its predecessor and $196 million less than last summer’s top animated film, Despicable Me 2?

And yet. How to Train Your Dragon 2, written off in July for its underwhelming box-office in the U.S., is now an enormous international blockbuster, with upwards of $413 million and counting. By the time its international run is complete, Dragons 2 might double the foreign take of the franchise’s original film ($277 million). Hiccup’s second cinematic adventure, which reunites him with his long-lost mother (voiced by Cate Blanchett) and pits the dragon-riding Vikings against a power-mad dragon slaver named Drago Bludvist, will ultimately rake in more than $600 million globally, dwarfing the overall take of the first film—no matter if it’s in more Chinese renminbis, Russian rubles, and British pounds than American dollars. So which is Dragon 2, an unqualified success or a curious underachiever? And what to make of the drastically different receptions from American and foreign audiences? READ FULL STORY

'Harmontown' trailer shows good, bad, nerdy parts of Dan Harmon's life

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For many fans of Community, the show seems incomplete without its creator, Dan Harmon. The backlash to season four, before which Harmon was fired, is just one of many examples of that sentiment. But, if anything, Harmon’s one-season departure from the sitcom—he’s since been hired back—created a groundswell of support and devotion for Harmon.

The writer used his hiatus to tour the country with his podcast, and filmmaker Neil Berkeley recorded everything along the way. Harmontown the podcast became Harmontown the movie, and a new trailer gives Harmenians, the nickname for Harmon’s devotees, a taste of what to expect when the film debuts.

“I want to be the guy that makes people happy,” Harmon declares at the end of the trailer, which sets up the nerdiest road trip film many audiences will have ever seen. Harmontown follows the beloved showrunner and his friends as they play Dungeons and Dragons with some celebrity guests along the way. The trailer intersperses talking-head interviews with castmembers of Community and other comedians who have worked with Harmon, like Jack Black and Sarah Silverman, as the film looks to investigate Harmon himself and the impressive following he’s garnered over the years.

Harmontown will receive a limited theatrical release on Oct. 3 and will be available on VOD nationwide the same day. This may not be the “movie” Community fans had in mind when they began the “six seasons and a movie” campaign, but it will hopefully satisfy them for now.

Meet Pixar's singing volcano in 'Lava' short

It’s a rare off year for Pixar, with no full-length feature in theaters until next summer. But Disney recently shared an adorable clip from Lava, the short that was slated to debut in front of The Good Dinosaur—before that movie was delayed from May 2014 to November 2015. As you can see, Lava is the story of a singing Hawaiian volcano, named Uku, who is looking for love.

The name Uku evokes the ukelele—the popular Hawaiian guitar-like instrument that practically scores the state’s sunsets and seduces millions of mainland tourists every year. The late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s strummed a uke, and Lava director James Murphy told Yahoo that his short was in part inspired by the singer’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”“I thought that if I could marry the rich imagery and with the power and emotion of music, then I could really make something cool,” he told the site.

Singer Kuana Torres Kahele provides Uku’s voice, and one-third of the inspiration for the volcano’s face. The other two-thirds: Jackie Gleeson, and the cartoon bulldog in the Looney Tunes short, “Feed the Kitty.” READ FULL STORY

'The Maze Runner' will be shown in three-screen panoramic format

Some movies are just too big for the big screen. That’s the thinking behind Escape, a three-screen digital panoramic setup that audiences will be able to experience for the first time in showings of The Maze Runner starting on Sept. 19, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Box office preview: Summer 2014 goes out with a sigh

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The lackluster 2014 summer season comes to an end this Labor Day weekend with the release of the spy thriller November Man and the found-footage horror pic As Above/So Below. This holiday is always a slow one at theaters, and in all likelihood, Guardians of the Galaxy will once again claim the top spot to bid farewell to a season that is looking like it will net out at an eight-year low.

Here’s how things might play out.

READ FULL STORY

Watch a 'Downton Abbey' star get into a bar fight in 'The Guest'

What has actor Dan Stevens been doing since he left Downton Abbey? Beating up high school kids! That, at least, is what the actor formerly known as Matthew Crawley is doing in a new clip from his film The Guest, which arrives in cinemas September 17.

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