LOS ANGELES - After back to back years of opening night duds "To Rome with Love" and "I'm So Excited," the Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off its 2014 campaign with a real winner, Joon-ho Bong's "Snowpiercer." Stars Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Allison Pill, Kang-ho Song, and Ah-sung Ko were on hand as Bong's critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic thriller finally hit U.S. shores. Chris Evans, who is essentially the film's lead, sent a video message from London where he's shooting "Avengers: Age of Ultron" proclaiming how happy he was over the LA premiere.
There's been a lot of talk already around "Interstellar," "Birdman," "Unbroken" and "Foxcatcher" in the Best Picture race, but one movie that should not be discounted is David Ayer's "Fury."
"The Great Beauty," Paolo Sorrentino's splashy valentine to Roman high society, was the most lauded foreign-language film of the last awards season -- it ruled the European Film Awards, and scooped Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars. (At all but the last of these, it beat out its Cannes conqueror, "Blue is the Warmest Color.") So you'd think it'd be a shoo-in at Italy's own Academy Awards, right? Wrong.
After making a smashing English-language debut in 2001 with "The Others," Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar hasn't been quite as busy in Hollywood as one might have hoped. He returned to Spain for his follow-up, the euthanasia-themed biopic "The Sea Inside," and picked up the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his efforts. In 2009, he returned to international filmmaking with the Rachel Weisz-starring historical drama "Agora," an ambitious but rather turgid affair that didn't find much of an audience.
There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. As movie premises go, this one is absolutely ridiculous, right? You'd have been forgiven for thinking so, at least, as few involved with Jan de Bont's "Speed," which was released by 20th Century Fox on June 10, 1994, could have anticipated its popularity. The film was a runaway hit, winning two Oscars and grossing over $350 million worldwide. Now, 20 years later, it's a celebrated relic of an era before blockbuster filmmaking was so awash in digital wizardry, an era when practical movie magic sold the highest of concepts to the masses.
When director Jan de Bont set about casting the various faces and secondary characters that populated bus #2525 in his 1994 actioner "Speed," it was very important to him that they reflect the multicultural identity of Los Angeles. Not only that, but he wanted there to be a heavy dose of realism in his choices, actors who seemed to be people you could look over on a morning commute and see reading the paper, sipping coffee, gazing out the window and starting their day.
Since breaking onto the cinema scene with 1985's "Blood Simple," Joel and Ethan Coen have made movies with Miramax, Focus Features, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, the long-gone Gramercy Pictures, Universal Pictures and CBS Films. Recently, the duo have partnered with uber-producer Scott Rudin on three straight movies, but now they are taking a break from their "True Grit" collaborator and reuniting with longtime buddies Working Title for "Hail, Caesar!" And, in something of a surprise, news broke today that the film will be released by Universal Pictures instead of the company's mini-major and previous Coens home, Focus Features. Could the Clooney factor be the reason?
NEW YORK - The cast and crew of "22 Jump Street" have done something quite remarkable. They have taken a successful comedy that spoofed the idea of turning a TV show into a movie and made an even better sequel that spoofs the idea of, well, sequels. Audiences are already hyped to see "22" based on the trailers and TV spots, but they have no idea just how smart the expected blockbuster really is. Who says the summer movie season can't have a happy surprise or two?
Oscar-watchers should have learned by now that when it comes to the Best Animated Feature race, you underestimate GKIDS at your peril. The independent animation distributor has only been around since 2008, but has already racked up four nominations in the race -- for the foreign titles "The Secret of Kells," "A Cat in Paris," "Chico and Rita" and "Ernest and Celestine." Each time, they've edged out more moneyed (and more widely predicted) US studio contenders, proving that the animation branch is often more persuaded by craft than by commerce.
2014 is a little under halfway over, but one film that is still firmly entrenched near the top of my "best of" list is Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel." And three months after its release audiences have shown their own approval at the box office.