Everyone who sees the trailers and TV-spots for Non-Stop, the ones where Liam Neeson beats people up on an airplane while racing against time to stop a hijacking, quickly labels the film “Taken on an airplane”. If only it was. Taken transformed the dramatically gifted Neeson into a rare breed of authentic, old-age action hero, and the key to what makes that film such a great time is how willing it is to bypass a sensible plot in favor of one bonkers smack-down after another. Taken is infectiously ballistic, and you can tell from its trailers that Non-Stop wants to be the same. And though Neeson’s beat-downs and shouting threats still hit with brute force, screenwriters John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, and Ryan Engle pack so many unneeded, eye-rolling clichés into the story that Non-Stop is neither as emotional as it wants to be nor as ludicrously fun as it should be. What’s left is a disappointingly average action thriller.
In an unprecedented move, Warner Bros. has announced that the big screen debut of the much beloved Veronica Mars series will not only hit theaters on March 14th, but it will also be available to rent and download throughout the internet and on demand on the same day. While this has been a recent trend for smaller, independent films (see Margin Call, Only God Forgives, and Arbitrage), this marks the first time in history that a film from one of the major six studios will receive this kind of release, possibly setting a trend for future major releases if the strategy proves to be successful. However, this does beg the question: is Warner Bros so confident in the movie that they’re willing to experiment or do they have such little faith in the cult adaptation that they don’t want to give it a full release?
The red carpet is being rolled out, the booze are being hidden, and the spanx are already holding everything firmly in place; if you couldn’t guess, this Sunday will mark the 86th annual Academy Awards. Award season is always a long one, and each ceremony, though prestigious in its own right, is really just a countdown until the big time. Yes, Oscar night is when Hollywood’s shiniest stars rub elbows with one another, and everyone at home chooses to skip the technical category award speeches in favor of a bathroom break. The waiting game is over, and soon enough everyone will know who ranks as the best of the best in film this year. There’s just one problem: how do we know which film and actors sit at the top of class if some worthy contenders have been left out? I’m talking about the lack of nominations for Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Spectacular Now.
The original 1954 Japanese Godzilla is an all-time favorite of mine, but when Roland Emmerich brought the monster to the United States in 1998 it was a complete disaster. The Independence Day director turned it into an overlong Jurassic Park ripoff, while the original was a far more intelligent political commentary with effects and sound design that still wow today. So when plans of yet another attempt to bring the big green lizard to America were revealed, it didn’t exactly inspire confidence, but the news of who was being brought in to work on the project managed to excite me. Director Gareth Edward’s debut film Monsters was a wildly impressive alien movie that the filmmaker made for pennies, shooting with a tiny crew and doing effects on his laptop. But he made something that had exactly the kind of scope and scale that would work perfectly for a Godzilla movie, and imagining what the guy could do with some real money was intriguing to say the least. And now with this new full length trailer for the film out, we’re finally getting a good sense of what the guy has done.
Oscar Sunday is quickly approaching (4 days!), and this year beloved comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is taking the reigns as host for the big show and the pressure couldn’t be higher. The past few years have been quite bumpy for hosts of the Academy Awards. The Academy desperately tried to appeal to a younger crowd in 2011 by choosing James Franco and Anne Hathaway to co-lead the ceremony, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with just how much of a bomb that turned out to be. In 2012, they covered up their blunder by going the traditional route by hiring Billy Crystal for his ninth time as ringleader, and while Crystal is an undisputed comedian, the decision to play it safe resulted in a pretty forgettable show. Last year, the Academy tried to have it both ways by hiring Seth MacFarlane, who has the raunch to appeal to teenagers and the Sinatra voice to woo the older crowd. And yet, MacFarlane’s presence got all the headlines (the boob song!) and distracted from the movies at play. So maybe the Academy is finally in luck this year with DeGeneres, who no doubt appeals to a very large, all-encompassing demographic and who has hosted before in 2007. We’re confident she has it in her to be one of the best hosts in recent years.
It’s hard to describe what exactly was going through my mind while I was reading the headlines yesterday about Harold Ramis’ passing at the age of 69. In a world in which countless comedies come out every year and where most are forgettable and/or clichéd, it’s easy to forget just how much of a rare gem Ramis was during the Comedy Golden Age of the late 70s, the 80s, and early 90s, both in front of and behind the camera. Thinking about Ramis goes hand-in-hand with thinking about the generations before us, and upon hearing the news I immediately thought about how my parents would react to hearing how one of the men responsible for National Lampoon’s Vacation and Ghostbusters, films that came out when they were around my age, has passed away. But the one thing I could not ignore was just how lucky I was to have parents who allowed me to grow up with Ramis’ work; like so many others over the past 24 hours, the news of Ramis’ passing inspired a great celebration for the work he had given all of us throughout his career and confirmed that his comedy classics will undoubtedly be passed through the generations to come.
The last couple of days have proven to be big ones for women in comedy. First, the acclaimed, up-and-coming young actress Brie Larson signed on to co-star in Trainwreck, a film directed by Judd Apatow and written by and starring stand up comedian Amy Schumer. And if that wasn’t already exciting enough, perennial favorite and comedy queen Tina Fey has jumped on board of The Taliban Shuffle, a black comedy set during wartime that she will produce and star in. Many details for both films are under wraps right now, but we are certainly looking forward to seeing these ladies make us laugh.