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.
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.