John Madden

Saoirse Ronan

What is Casting Couch? It’s just trying to cram its foot into this shoe. Just last week, we learned that Cate Blanchett was likely to be Mark Romanek’s wicked stepmother in the new Cinderella movie that he’s doing for Disney, and now Variety gives us word that the project is closing in on its Cinderella as well. According to the trade, Atonement actress Saoirse Ronan, Anna Karenina actress Alicia Vikander, and The Three Musketeers’ Gabriella Wilde have all been in to see Romanek for screen tests. So, clearly, the sweet spot for getting this role is to have an interesting accent and some period work under your belt. Keira Knightley better watch her back, because it looks like there’s a whole upcoming generation of ladies gunning for her roles.

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Your parents probably don’t want to go to The Avengers this weekend (and that’s okay!) but audiences can do far worse for themselves than to take a quick cinematic trip to John Madden‘s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While a film about a pack of retired Brits heading off to live in a swank retirement resort in India that, surprise!, turns out to be a rundown old hotel might sound like the most boring and narrowly appealing film of the year, Madden’s film is actually consistently delightful and charming, with enough characters and plot points to engage just about any viewer. Running just over two hours, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is able to tackle issues big (homophobia, arranged marriage) and small (there are too many flies in my rundown retirement hotel room!), and despite a few moments that feel far too obvious, Madden and his cast have crafted a lovely film with unexpected mass appeal.

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If you’re looking to take the geriatrics in your life out on a hot movie date, have we got a film for you! John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel! It’s about old British people who move to India because it’s cheap! Fun, right? You know how the title’s syntax is just a smidge off? That’s probably how the cultural minglings (manglings?) of the film will pan out, too – just a little off and just a tad incorrect. The film stars a murderer’s row of prime British talent, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson. Playing a pack of retirees looking for a cheap place to kick it (you know, until they die), the group sets off for distant India (exotic! and best! now with more marigolds!) to a rehabbed hotel that’s been marketed as a swank retirement home that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Of course, said hotel isn’t quite up to snuff. Adventures will be had, lessons will be learned, something about saris and curry, and so on and so forth. Grab some prunes and check out the first trailer for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel after the break.

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The Debt is a painstakingly old-fashioned drama that’s far more interested in the nuances of human behavior than exploitation or pyrotechnics. At the same time, in telling the parallel stories of Mossad agents hunting a Nazi doctor in East Berlin circa 1966 and those same agents dealing with the consequences of that mission 30 years later, John Madden’s film evokes the existential themes that lie at the heart of Israel’s creation. To straddle both those worlds within the constraints of a tightly-wound thriller is a considerable accomplishment. And this eloquent remake of a 2007 Israeli picture with the same name harkens back to the old-fashioned aesthetics of genre movies that mean something, films that are unafraid of drawing out big ideas between familiar lines. The film stars Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds as the older version of agents Rachel Singer, Stephan Gold and David Peretz, who discover that the book has not been written on their mission of 30+ years ago with the finality they thought it had. Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas and Sam Worthington play their younger selves, tracking the sadistic Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen) astride the Iron Curtain.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr readies for a Labor Day vacation at a lake house surrounded by bloodthirsty sharks. Once dinner is over for the little beasties, he goes undercover in 1960s-era East Berlin to help a bunch of emotionally brittle Mossad agents to kidnap a Nazi war criminal. Unfortunately, all they uncover is dozens of hours of video recordings from a lost NASA moon landing. So Kevin decides to edit all of this footage together into a feature film and hock it to the Weinsteins, convincing them that it really happened… or did it?

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Why are spies so sad and mopey now? Where are the cool, suave, and untouchable secret agents? Lately, nowhere to be found on the big screen. Director John Madden certainly is not bringing back the era of smooth heroes with his latest film, The Debt. The director’s small, claustrophobic remake focuses on lost individuals who display more heartache and moral uncertainty than your typical heroics. Madden did not make a film about a secret mission gone awry, but a film about regret and the power of lies. A few years ago director Matthew Vaughn was attached to helm the thriller, and if he ended up behind the camera, The Debt would be a very different film. Instead of going for a stylish and poppy feel, the Shakespeare in Love filmmaker went with something far more claustrophobic and full of moral uncertainty. As a result, Madden made something many, many notches above Kill Shot in the quality department. Here is what director John Madden had to say about his three damaged Mossad agents, taking a serious matter seriously, and the power of regret:

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; lords of the gridiron…or at least the waffle iron. Strap on your helmet and conceal any benefits you received from agents during college because you have just been drafted to the NFL; the Nefarious Film Lovers…League. Ok, so it’s the NFLL, shut up! Every week we tackle a bad movie to the roaring delight of over eight people. And we don’t just tackle the movie, we tackle it like we’re Ray Lewis with a playoff game on the line and the ref’s just been stricken with blindness. But then, just before the internet starts throwing penalty flags at us, we enter free agency, join up with the film, and use our unabashed love for it to help this underdog win a championship of warped film appreciation. Finally, after months of heated debate that ultimately muddied the issue and pushed us closer to the edge of complete anarchy…the NFL lockout is over. We can finally stop troubling ourselves with petty nuisances like defaulting on our national debts and get back to what really matters: overpaid sweaty guys knocking the snot out of each other. In honor of this jubilant occasion, I decided to run an all-out blitz on a film from  2000 whose premise eerily mirrors recent events. This week’s play: The Replacements

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It seems like there’s no reason to remake My Fair Lady, but if there’s going to eventually be a re-telling of the rags to vocal riches story, then it might as well feature Carey Mulligan. The casting is far from being a done deal, but the actress recently expressed interest in the project and praised the script written by Emma Thompson. Mulligan proved her singing abilities by appearing on a track by Belle and Sebastian, but the remake project – now in the hands of Shakespeare in Love director and part-time football commentator John Madden – won’t be happening anytime soon. At least not this year. In other words, it gives the audience a chance to see the original at least one and a half times before production starts. [Worst Previews]

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Sam Worthington in The Debt

The first trailer for The Debt has hit the web. This movie, which appears to have snuck up on many of us, is the latest from Shakespeare in Love director John Madden. It’s a trip into the world of Isreali agents hunting down Nazi war criminals, and it’s filled with an interesting cast. The likes of Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain are flanked by some serious talent: Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson. The trailer doesn’t give us much to work with beyond evoking the general look and feel of Steven Spielberg’s Munich, but it does deliver a sense of energy. And it does have a bit of energy. It’s worth noting that this film is based on a story by Kick-Ass creative duo Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. The official synopsis and new trailer are yours to play with after the jump.

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shelved-killshot

Shelved! will be a very infrequent feature here at FSR where we briefly examine possible reasons as to why the film was buried then review the movie to see if it was shelved with good cause or if it deserves a space on your shelf. This week… Killshot starring Mickey Rourke!

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