Judi Dench

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

If you’re not here for the apparent “suggestive comments” this first trailer for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has to offer, it’s time you check out and move on. Perhaps there’s a third best hotel you can rest your weary bones at. The next film in the improbable (and best and exotic) franchise is on its way, and it’s got a fresh trailer to show it off. This trailer is really more of a teaser, perhaps because, if you’re going to see the film, you don’t need a trailer to sell it to you. You already know you like it. You probably liked the first film (a charming surprise hit that really is just lovely) and are ready for more adventures with your favorite group of crotchety old English blokes and ladies. It certainly does’t offer much in the way of plot, and its role call gag is more indicative of its content. We can tell you, however, that the title isn’t just a silly one, it’s also the name of a possible new hotel in Sonny’s (Dev Patel) expanding hotel empire. Before we watch the trailer, ponder this: how mad would you be if you could only afford to stay in the second best hotel in a chain?

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Actress

Call it the innate sexism that exists in Hollywood, but many years, the Best Actress category is less interesting than the Best Actor category. This can easily be blamed on the fewer great roles for women in movies today. However, this year, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Not only is this an incredibly strong field for the films they’ve appeared in, this is an incredibly strong field for the actresses themselves. All five women in this category are previous nominees – some of them many times over. (I’m looking at you, Meryl Streep, with your list of nominations almost as long as your list of hairstyles over the years.) Regardless, the Best Actress crop is a fertile one this year, featuring some fantastic performances in some really excellent films. As predictable as it might appear, it would be no surprise if things took a turn for anyone on this list. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actress along with my predicted winner in red…

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Following the announcement of any year’s Oscar nominations, the search for records and other interesting trivia among the contenders is expected. One of this year’s most notable findings has to be that the 86th Academy Awards has broken the record for average age among the best actress nominees: 55. That’s not just interesting, it’s possibly even important. For all that’s said about Hollywood favoring young women and how actresses’ careers are done by the time they reach 40, this could be used as further evidence that older ladies are not unwelcome on the big screen. But is it really relevant to the businesspeople in Hollywood that the leading actresses of prestige pictures are veering older, their average this year being even higher than the best actor contenders (47)? The true measure for whether last year’s movies prove that not older women but women in general deserve more respect in the film industry is instead with the box office. And, well, the grosses of the nominated movies is pretty notable in this case, too. Thanks mostly to Gravity, the average domestic take for the movies nominated in the best actress category is $90M compared to that of the best actor nominees’ $34M. Nearly three times as much.

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Philomena

Editor’s note: Our review of Philomena originally ran during this year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release today. In a strictly paint-by-numbers world, Stephen Frears’ Philomena is one hell of a prestige picture bound for awards season glory – who could possibly balk at a Judi Dench-starring true-life tale of a woman’s decades-long quest to find the baby who was taken from her by the evil Irish Magdalene laundries? – but the final execution of the film is so contrived and unoriginal that it all but begs for an immediate remake that possesses even a drop more sensitivity. Even with the essential inclusion of Steve Coogan (who also helped script the film) as a smirking journalist on the outs with the entire world, Philomena never fully embraces either its humor or its drama. Uneven and weirdly insensitive, Philomena is unable to combine its many elements into something rich, despite prime subject matter. The film centers on the heartbreaking real life story of Philomena Lee (Dench), an Irishwoman who was forced to give up her first child while toiling in a Magdalene laundry, a church-run home for “fallen women” who got pregnant out of wedlock. (The laundries were indeed real and, shockingly enough, the last Irish one closed only in 1996.) Frears effectively uses flashbacks to mince together the “present day” story of a still-haunted Philomena and the “past” portion that focuses on a stellar Sophia Kennedy Clark as a young Philomena just […]

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Philomena

It takes a bold, thoughtless person to mess with Dame Judi Dench. Dench stars in the first trailer for Stephen Frears’ Philomena as the titular Philomena Lee, a woman who was sent away to a convent as a young girl and forced to give up her son. Nearly fifty years later, she enlists the help of a former journalist to help track him down in America. Steve Coogan steps in to play the journalist, Martin Sixsmith, who is using the opportunity to write a human-interest story about Philomena and her reunion with her son. Though we know Coogan as a gifted comedian, he’s proved several times that he can hold his own in dramatic turns (The Look of Love, Our Idiot Brother); and from the trailer, the unlikely friendship blossoming between Philomena and his character looks to be one of the strongest parts of the film. Coogan also co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on the book written by the real-life Sixsmith. The trailer devotes equal time to Philomena and Martin’s stories, which makes sense when you know that the film is based on an account that Sixsmith wrote, but the real meat of the story is in what happened to Philomena and her son, and not the journalist who’s telling her tale. Any good reporter should know that. Check out the trailer after the break.

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And you thought we were done with James Bond articles for a while, didn’t you? Not so. With Skyfall continuing to tear up the box office in both North America and overseas, and with it officially becoming the highest-grossing Bond film in the domestic market, it’s not going away. Add to this the fact that MGM is giving the film a push for award consideration (a long shot, sure, but that theme song by Adele certainly has a chance to win something), and you’ve still got Bond on the brain a month after the film opened. It’s time to look back to one of Bond’s beginnings. Not the books, and not the start of the film franchise in the 1960s. Instead, let’s crack open the DVD of Casino Royale, which rebooted the franchise from the rocky path it was on behind frontman Pierce Brosnan. For the Collector’s Edition of the Casino Royale DVD and Blu-ray, which came out in 2008, director Martin Campbell explains in the then-new how the series was given a new start. He is joined by the film’s producer. There will, of course, be spoilers for Casino Royale below, but you might also want to make sure you see Skyfall before reading this in its entirety, considering there are one or two interesting connections between the films. And on to the commentary…

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Skyfall is the conclusion of James Bond’s coming-of-age story. At the end of Casino Royale, he may have declared himself Bond, but the young .00 wasn’t there just yet. As shown by the divisive Quantum of Solace, Bond was still a rebel – a guy who took advantage of having a license to kill. He was dangerous. The Bond we see in Sam Mendes‘s Skyfall is still a “blunt instrument,” as producer Barbara Broccoli calls him, but he’s wiser and older now. By the end, all three films tie together nicely, even if you’re not a fan of Quantum of Solace. Broccoli and her fellow producer, Michael G. Wilson, say that was the intention. Here’s what Wilson and Broccoli had to say about now bringing in auteur directors, how James Bond has grown since Casino Royale, and why Steven Spielberg hasn’t made a Bond film yet:

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Skyfall

Skyfall feels, in many ways, like the last film in Daniel Craig‘s tenure as James Bond. It’s only his third go round as the British secret agent, but he’s already haggard, unshaven and tired of the back-stabbing, gun-toting rat race. When a list of MI6′s undercover agents is stolen (that’s right, it’s the old NOC list chestnut!) Bond and Agent Eve (Naomie Harris) are tasked with recovering it, but the mission goes awry and Bond is left for dead. He’s not, obviously, but he’s enjoying the peaceful anonymity and seaside screws too much to give a damn about anything else. But when MI6 is attacked back in London Bond rises from the dead and returns to duty. He tries to anyway, but injuries, indifference and a battered spirit threaten to keep him on the bench. It’s only when the stakes get personal for him and M (Judi Dench) that he musters the will needed to fight back. But will it be too late? Skyfall is big, beautiful entertainment that delivers the expected action set-pieces but adds truly artistic visuals and multiple odes to Bond films of the past fifty years. It’s never dull, occasionally surprising and unafraid to delve into Bond’s life more than any film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Unfortunately (and unnecessarily), all of that comes at the price of gaping plot holes and staggering lapses in logic.

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The James Bond Files

For diehard fans of the James Bond franchise, each and every film is sacrosanct in some small fashion or another. Even those titles that flirt shamelessly with being totally unwatchable will offer at least a kernel of merit for those willing to hunt for it. Yes, even Die Another Day. That being said, an obvious hierarchy exists to stratify these films in terms of both excellence and their overall significance to the franchise. The natural assumption here is that, much like the geological methodology on which this metaphor is predicated, the strata composed of the oldest material would be of most significance. In other words, a Bond film’s recency is inversely proportional to its importance within the franchise. The fact is that one of the franchise’s most important films was released thirty-three years after its inaugural entry. In 1995, Goldeneye relaunched the James Bond film legacy in tremendous fashion. It offered unique balance between Bond’s past (the title being a reference to Ian Fleming’s Jamaica home in which he wrote most of the novels) and his future. Among many, Bond connoisseur and novice alike, Goldeneye is well-regarded, so assigning it underrated status is wholly inaccurate. However, what does often get overlooked is how critical the success of this one movie was to ensuring the series’ continuation.

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The James Bond Files

No single character that spans more than twenty films can do it on his or her own, and James Bond is no exception. While James Bond is unquestionably the focus of the Bond films, he is supported by various key characters over the years. Some of these characters have been essential in setting him up on his missions, while others have been there to offer comic relief or general background. While James Bond is the only character who has appeared in every single James Bond movie ever made, certain characters have helped in out in almost every one. In fact, if you’re talking the legacy of James Bond, some of the actors behind the supporting characters have been featured in the most movies over the years. When the Bond franchise was rebooted in 2006 with Casino Royale, some of these characters were lost completely while others were left to be introduced in later films, but they have been as essential to the franchise as the gadgets, guns and girls that change from film to film

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Last night a bunch of critics in the UK were treated to an early screening of Skyfall, and while nobody invited any of our diehard 007 junkies, I figured it’s worth our while to take a look at the first reactions to the new James Bond blockbuster. To do so, I’m using the recent breakdown of elements by one of FSR’s resident Bond experts, Kevin Carr, in order to dissect the reviews and highlight their takes on each individual ingredient. What about overall opinions? It seems they’re generally of a simple consensus, that Skyfall is not only a great return for the series following the disappointing Quantum of Solace but it may be one of the best Bond installments yet. This feat is achieved, apparently, in director Sam Mendes‘s balance of serious and nostalgic tone, brought about with a script (by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan) pays tribute to the past films and franchise conventions while still also delivering a lot of fresh ideas. And Roger Deakins‘s cinematography sounds like a real highlight of the film — even Oscar-worthy, according to some critics. Check out what the reviews (linked at the bottom of the page) have to say about Bond’s fit with the 10 main ingredients of a 007 film after the break.

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One of this fall/winter’s more anticipated films for action junkies is the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. This time around, Bond’s 23rd to be exact, the titular agent is tasked with protecting M and looking cool while doing it. He may also get to slip in a quick shower or two with an attractive woman between all the shooting, running and falling out of things. The official synopsis is here: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.” Sam Mendes directs Daniel Craig in his third go round as Bond, and they’re joined by Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw. Check below for the new Skyfall teaser that aired during last night’s Olympic Games opening ceremonies. It was a nice pairing with the Bond-themed video featuring Craig escorting the Queen to the games by helicopter before the duo skydived down to join the masses.

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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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Big James Bond action, big screen, it’s a natural fit. Oh, and MGM probably needs the money that an IMAX release will pull in. IMAX, Eon Productions, MGM, and Sony announced today that their upcoming James Bond installment, Skyfall, will also be available on IMAX screens in tandem with the film’s wide release. The film has not been lensed for IMAX screens or sound, but it will reportedly be “digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology.” So it’s going to be big and loud and probably just really kickass. Skyfall will be the first James Bond film to be available in IMAX, and its release marks the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise and the twenty-third film in the series. Directed by Sam Mendes, the film will see Daniel Craig back as Bond and Judi Dench returning as M – an important casting note, as the film will reportedly center on the relationship between Bond and M, as “Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.” Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, and Naomie Harris round out the film’s cast, which will be a more classic standalone film, after the last two Craig-starrers (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) all worked within the same story. You can read the full press release after the break, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Could a first-look photo be more dull than this? It’s just James Bond sitting poolside, like any other Joe Shmoe. Where’s the excitement? Where’s the guns? Where’s, I dunno, James Bond’s face? This is a photo which could be from almost any type of film, nothing screams “Bond.” It’s such an odd photo to release, but, then again, it’s a still for a film almost a year away. By looking at this photo, a part of me can’t help but to imagine the parody version of Sam Mendes‘s Bond outing, since it only features the character staring down all sad-like. Imagine Bond narrating, “My name is James Bond. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I’m 42 years old. In less than a year, I’ll be dead,” as a whimsical but sad Thomas Newman score abruptly plays over Bond’s snark. If the franchise character gets even an inch mopier than what we saw in Quantum of Solace, I could see it being something along those lines. Or maybe Mendes will get the franchise back on the right track, which I feel fairly confident about. Take a look at Bond seriously debating if he should go back in the pool or not:

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Kenneth Branagh seems to be a fan of author Henning Mankell. First he ,adapted the author’s series of novels about policeman Kurt Wallander into a series called Wallander for the BBC, and now there’s news that he’s going to direct a feature film adapted from another Mankell book, “The Italian Shoes.” You may be wondering what The Italian Shoes is about, and I’m glad you asked, because I didn’t know either. A quick trip over to the novel’s Amazon page reveals a hunk of text that describes it like this: “Living on a tiny island entirely surrounded by ice during the long winter months, Fredrik Welin is so lost to the world that he cuts a hole in the ice every morning and lowers himself into the freezing water to remind himself that he is alive. Haunted by memories of the terrible mistake that drove him to this island and away from a successful career as a surgeon, he lives in a stasis so complete an anthill grows undisturbed in his living room. When an unexpected visitor alters his life completely, thus begins an eccentric, elegiac journey…” Perhaps that unexpected visitor is an ex-girlfriend, because according to a Variety report Branagh is very serious about getting Anthony Hopkins to play the good doctor and Judi Dench to play a former love interest of said doctor. It would make sense that a lady would be the life-changing experience. Isn’t that always the way?

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes to war. He strips down to his muscular awesomeness and shimmies into a codpiece. After applying a solid gold breastplate, he’s too exhausted to actually go to war, so he heads to the local movie cinema to catch Immortals, wondering if Isabel Lucas has ever eaten a carbohydrate in her life. Then he slips into a housedress and sneaks into an early screening of J. Edgar. After a quick nap, he tries to escape the horror that is Jack and Jill, but alas, that did not happen. You can send him care packages now, courtesy of his local mental institution.

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In Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, the director once again returns to his cinematic bread and butter with a large-scale historical epic, this time focusing on an American institution and an American icon. As J. Edgar Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio attempts to navigate the personal and professional life of America’s first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a man bent on uncovering the secrets and deceits of others, even as he too viciously guarded his own perceived defections. Hoover was a man obsessed with big ideas and even bigger ideals – especially the concepts legacies, notoriety, heroism, and adoration (particularly of the public variety), but J. Edgar is at its best when it sticks to the smaller moments of the man’s big life. Despite predictably fine and focused details like historically accurate (and gorgeous) sets, costumes, and props, J. Edgar skimps on the big framework, unable and unwilling to scale back on its story, leaving most of the film feeling somehow both bloated and empty.

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The 23rd James Bond movie is going to be called Skyfall, perhaps the most un-Bond name of any Bond film. Not even a hint of noir poetry to it, but when it comes to Bond, this is just a small piece of the puzzle. According to Coming Soon, who hit up a press conference in Britain, the movie’s plot will be separate from both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but it will still get personal in its own way. A synopsis from the press release reveals, “In Skyfall, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.” All the new information is comforting, considering the uncertainty the project went through with the financial struggles of MGM. That must seem like eons ago for Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, and the rest of the cast which started filming today. And now, as fans, we wait. Skyfall will hit theaters across the pond in October 2012, and we’ll see it almost exactly a year from now in November.

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Simon Curtis’s upcoming film starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe doesn’t look like the typical film about historical figures. This isn’t a look at Monroe’s entire life, the tale of her rise and fall. This film is, just like the title says, about one week only, the week when Marilyn Monroe went to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl and ended up getting escorted around by a regular guy named Colin Clark. It doesn’t look like it’s really a story about Monroe or her costar in that film Sir Laurence Olivier, so much as it is a character drama that happens to have real life famous figures in it. That’s an interesting approach and it keeps me from dismissing this as just being yet another movie about Marilyn Monroe. The other thing that keeps me from dismissing My Week With Marilyn is the outstanding cast. It’s got veteran performers that are reliable rocks like Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, and Judi Dench. It’s got promising young actors like Emma Watson, and Eddie Redmayne (who was the only thing worth watching in Derick Martini’s new film Hick). And it has an actress enjoying the prime of her career, one of the most talented ladies on the planet, Michelle Williams, in the title role.

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