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.
Seasoned devotees of British TV comedy -- as well as any children of the 1990s with fond memories of "Drop Dead Fred" -- are feeling a twinge of sorrow today with the news that Rik Mayall has passed away at the age of 56. The comic actor and writer, who made a name for himself in 1982 with the cult BBC sitcom "The Young Ones," died in his London home this morning. The cause of death has not yet been announced, but is not being treated as suspicious.
Only a couple of months ago, I had never heard of John Green or "The Fault in Our Stars" -- as clear a sign as any that I'm no longer a spring chicken, since for a certain demographic and generation, the film adaptation of the young-adult bestseller is the biggest event of the summer. I remain mostly in the dark, since the film has yet to be screened for UK press, but I've gathered from responses so far that Josh Boone's film, a romance between two teens who meet at a cancer support group, looks poised to be a "Love Story"-type sensation for contemporary teens -- though evidently older folks have been weeping their way through it too. (Perhaps someday it'll earn a spot in our list of the all-time greatest tearjerkers.)
Earlier this week I wrote about the whole of DreamWorks Animation, which came after I — no joke — revisited all 28 features released by the studio so far and attended a screening of the studio's latest, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (hitting theaters next week). That hotly anticipated sequel, which bowed at the Cannes Film Festival last month, comfortably took the top spot, with the 2010 original firmly at #2. Because these, to me, are the crowning achievements of DreamWorks so far.
I don't know why I expected Doug Liman's "Edge of Tomorrow" to be a misfire -- maybe the change of title (it was originally, more intriguingly, named "All You Need is Kill") suggested a lack of studio confidence, maybe the marketing materials looked a bit drab, or maybe the memory of Liman's last big-budget actioner (the terrible "Jumper") cast a dark shadow over the project. Whatever the case, this nifty time-loop sci-fi adventure appears to have exceeded critical expectations.
"The Fault in Our Stars" arrives in theaters tomorrow having already transformed itself from summer sleeper to expected blockbuster. The reviews have been very positive with a number of critics even admitting they were bawling at the end. That being said, when it really comes down to it, most reviewers will admit Josh Boone's direction leaves a lot to be desired. Still, the movie works. Why? The reasons are two fold.
A little over a year after the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a number of films that were major talking points at the time have faded from my memory -- not everything flourishes outsides the festival bubble. One sneaky title to which my thoughts keep circling back, however, is Alex van Warmerdam's "Borgman" -- a film that won no awards from the jury, but provided the Competition with a bracing shot of alluring, cult-beckoning eccentricity.
'Twilight' director Bill Condon will translate Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' to live action (UPDATED)
UPDATE: A couple of new details here. You might be wondering, since the original report doesn't mention any story details, how exactly this thing is going to play out. Sources tell HitFix that Condon won't only be drawing from the 1991 Disney film. In his pitch to the studio, the director said he would also include most, if not all, of the Menken/Rice songs from the Broadway musical that ran for 13 years from 1994 to 2007. It will be a "straight-forward, live action, large-budget movie musical," we're told.
See below for the earlier story.
DreamWorks Animation is celebrating a big year in 2014. While the studio's first theatrical release would not come until 1998, it was October 12, 1994 that saw the birth of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg's vision of a new movie studio, including, of course, Katzenberg's animation division. That makes it 20 years of DreamWorks, and with the release of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" next week (on the heels of a Cannes debut last month), the studio is toasting two decades with one of the most elite installments of its entire portfolio.
Hey, remember "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom?" Six months after its US theatrical release, no one would blame you if it's already slipped to the back of your mind. Despite its prestigious trappings and its unplanned topicality in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death last December, Justin Chadwick's well-intentioned biopic of South Africa's first democratically elected president was among the most prominent of 2013's awards-season hopefuls never to take flight.