Sam Mendes

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With Dexter no longer holding down the fort in the blood and guts department, Showtime has upped the ante and gone straight up horror with Oscar-nominated writer/producer John Logan‘s Penny Dreadful. Logan, writer of Martin Scorsese-directed films The Aviator and Hugo, as well as co-writer of Skyfall, clearly comes with an excellent pedigree, and his foray into the world of television comes with some big screen names. Josh Hartnett (30 Days of Night), Eva Green (Casino Royale), and another Bond alumnus, Timothy Dalton, will star in the alternate reality, Victorian London-era series, where iconic creatures of the night exist and roam the land doing what will most certainly be nefarious and gross things. Check out the show’s first quick teaser:

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There’s a moment about halfway through Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling, occasionally brilliant yet sharply uneven film Prisoners that finds Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki do something that we’ve seen so many detectives do in movies before: in a bout of frustration, he swipes his arms across his cubicle desk, violently sending his evidence and other materials into a labyrinthine clutter. But this fit of anger ends up leading to a serendipitous discovery – the chaotic new arrangement of papers on the floor reveals for the detective a clue that had been hiding under his nose in plain sight the whole time. This is moment is, in short, a cliché. Yet on the other side of cinematographer Roger Deakins’s lens, the moment takes on a plentiful, foreboding, and eerie quality. The muted tones, carefully composed yet slightly agape mise en scène, and rich depth of field collectively transform a moment we’ve seen so many times before into something considerably more. Through brilliant lensing, a cliché is elevated into the possibility that something, anything can happen in the detailed and uncertain world of this film.

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Daniel Craig James Bond

Things have been pretty dour for James Bond lately. He faced a tragic origin story, seethed with revenge, faced an internal struggle that led back to his roots and then faced that serial lady killer in Sweden (unless you believe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo wasn’t a James Bond movie (even the title feels right, people)). With all that glowering and angst from a character that used to smarm his way through hotel rooms and laser shark battles, this is a natural reaction from Daniel Craig regarding Bond 24: “Hopefully we’ll reclaim some of the old irony and make sure it doesn’t become pastiche. I can’t do shtick, I’m not very good at it. Unless it kind of suddenly makes sense. Does that make sense? I sometimes wish I hammed it up more, but I just can’t do it very well, so I don’t do it.” [The Guardian] So maybe 007 won’t be saying, “Remember when I said I’d kill you last?…” but a little bit of levity will definitely be welcome. Shooting bad guys with facial scars and sipping weak martinis doesn’t have to be so heavy. We’ll see how much grinning Bond does in November 2015.

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The Hollow Crown

For those of you still hyperventilating because Tom Hiddleston announced he wasn’t appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, breathe easy – your girl BBC got your back. Along with esteemed actors like Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart, and Ben Whishaw, Hiddleston appears in the new BBC miniseries The Hollow Crown. The four-part miniseries is an adaptation of four classic Shakespeare plays: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. And It. Looks. Awesome. In true Shakespearean fashion, the sets and costumes are incredibly ornate, the blood flows copiously and the dialogue is gorgeous. Though the trailer does not give much plot away (dig deep, what do you remember from high school English class?), it leaves us with two great glimpses of imagery: Patrick Stewart with hair, and Tom Hiddleston riding into battle on top of a majestic white steed. Check it out for yourself after the break.

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Sam Mendes directing Bond

Despite Sam Mendes’ protestations in March that he had made “the very difficult decision” not to return to the Bond franchise, the director and the studios themselves announced today that he is on board to helm Bond 24. Daniel Craig is also set to don his tuxedo once more and play the legendary secret agent.

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While most of the movie-loving world has been busy watching the continuous back-and-forth rumor ping pong that could easily go by the title, “wait, just who the hell is directing the next James Bond film?”, other rumors are apparently getting swirled up across the pond. Yahoo! Movies UK reports that the lovely Penelope Cruz (and wife of Skyfall‘s utterly amazing villain, Javier Bardem) will next step into a saucy Bond girl role (please let her be the nice girl). The outlet reports that the actress will start work on the film next summer, but as is usual when it comes to UK outlets, this one could just be a big ol’ rumor, no matter how great it sounds. And, as The Playlist sagely reminds us, “when it comes to Bond girls, the Daniel Craig-era has tended to favor smaller/lesser known names (Eva Green, Gemma Arterton, Olga Kurylenko, Berenice Marlohe) over, well, Oscar winners.” But no matter, as a source reportedly told Yahoo! that “the producers have tried to get Penelope before, but she has never been available because of other commitments. The discussions have been going on for some time and they are working out the contract details now.” Hey, better late than never.

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Daniel Craig

Ever since Sam Mendes announced that he wasn’t going to be able to direct whatever the 24th movie about secret agent James Bond is going to be, there has been a tidal wave of speculation concerning who’s going to take his place. Everyone from Nicolas Winding Refn, to Kathryn Bigelow, to Martin Campbell, to Morten Tyldum have become the subject of Bond 24 rumors, with no one’s involvement ever developing into anything more solid than whispers. But Showbiz 411 feels that they’ve now got something solid, a piece of news that they’ve said has been “as confirmed as it can be,” and they’re reporting that the director of Bond 24 is going to be none other than—Sam Mendes.

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Sam Mendes Directing Skyfall

There’s been big speculation surrounding Sam Mendes‘ potential return to the James Bond business because his blend of character beats and surprising action acumen is rightly noted as the main reason Skyfall worked so well. Unfortunately, his particular balance won’t be back. According to Empire, Mendes will not be returning for Bond 24: Whatever It Gets Titled. Citing other professional commitments, the director said, “It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael [G. Wilson] and Barbara [Broccoli]’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of ‘Charlie And The Chocolate Factory’ and ‘King Lear,’ that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.” So it’s bad news topped with bad news for anyone who doesn’t plan on buying a play ticket anytime soon. Mendes is still attached to produce several movies — most of which have been stalled out for a while — but this statement makes it seem likely that we won’t see him direct again for a while. He’s attached to direct Netherland, based off the Joseph O’Neill novel, and it’s still at Focus Features, but it’s unclear whether or when it will move forward. Thus, it looks like the filmmaker is going to wear some different hats for a while, and the next installment of the 007 franchise will have to find a suitable replacement. Isn’t J.J. Abrams available?

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Ben Affleck

We’re entering Awards Season, folks. For most of you, that usually means seeing your favorite films of the year lose to what you’d consider the “lesser” Weinstein picture. It’s always very frustrating, but one of those movies you may be cheering on — and has Oscar nominations written all over it — is Ben Affleck‘s Argo. The movie is a shoe-in for both the heavy hitter nods and countless spots on year-end top 10 lists. To GQ, this makes Affleck the director of the year, considering how he went from “loathed, frat boy Ben Affleck” to “esteemed filmmaker Ben Affleck.” It’s a transformation, for sure, and one to be proud of, but does continuing an epic comeback we all knew about really make him filmmaker of the year for 2012? Affleck proved himself as the director of the year in 2010 with The Town. That doesn’t mean he made the best movie of that year — and he certainly didn’t — but it was a big statement for Affleck the filmmaker. He proved Gone Baby Gone was no fluke — that he was the real deal. Although Argo is the best of these three films, it doesn’t say as much about his directorial career as his first two features do.

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Culture Warrior: James Bond

Warning: this post contains mild spoilers for Skyfall. At some point during the middle of the first decade of this century, it felt like the practice of rebooting franchises would not see an end anytime soon. A gritty, realist new Batman origin story was followed quickly by a new blonde James Bond who, supposedly modeled after the new spy paradigm of the Bourne series, seemed as messy as he was vulnerable.

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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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Road to Perdition

Any way you slice it, we’re all happy Sam Mendes got his crack at a James Bond film. The man has made compelling dramas using different styles and techniques in his storytelling. But it was probably his take on the American gangster movie that shines as his best work of motion picture art. Road to Perdition stands now, 10 years after its release – as if you didn’t feel old enough already – as one the most stellar father/son relationship movies in recent memory, and it’s a damn fine shoot-em-up, too. So we couldn’t wait for this week, when Skyfall finally sees its release, and the wonderful information we would be gathering from Mendes’ commentary for Road to Perdition. He’s flying solo, which is usually a hit or miss on commentaries, but as with Mendes film career, we’re willing to give him all the benefit of the doubt in the world. He hasn’t let us down yet. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

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Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Skyfall returns to the Connery days of the James Bond franchise, where nearly every frame would drip with coolness. Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t until director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins showed up that the series began to feel at its most alive, cinematic, and stylish. This world of Bond is lavish and bold, and to a degree we have never seen from this series before. Deakins achieved all that slickness with his new favorite storytelling tool, the ARRI ALEXA. Deakins used the camera on his previous film, In Time. After two outings with the ALEXA, Deakins fails to see any shortcoming with the camera. As the man said a few years ago, don’t expect him to return film, unless the Coen Brothers come calling. If you call that sacrilegious, as Deakins tells us, he doesn’t really get what your problem is. Here is what Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins had to say about working with Sam Mendes, the film’s stunning Shanghai fight sequence, and how anything rarely comes easy for him:

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Life of Pi AFI FEST

October offered up plenty of films to give this awards season a proper start. Ben Affleck once again showed he’s got one of the best eyes for tension working today; John Hawkes gave another year’s best performance in Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions; Martin McDonagh made another wicked, original dark comedy with real bite; and, who could forget, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer made a huge box office smash which received unabashed praise up the wazoo, especially for the seamless makeup work. While I wish Cloud Atlas did fit that description, at least for a few more years the trio’s daring and moving film will go down as a box office bomb which may or may have not been ahead of its time. No matter how Cloud Atlas stands up in a few years, it was the type of ambition which served as another reminder of how important going to the movie theater is and to truly have experiences while you are there, be they good or bad. With November 2012, there are plenty of movies to have a similar experience with, from Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi to a triumphant new Bond movie. Keep reading to find out what other eight movies you must see this month.

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Sam Mendes Directing Skyfall

After hearing a few filmmakers go back and forth about whose work is less important, it feels really good to see a noteworthy director give such praise and credit to a peer. In an excellent piece at IndieWire, Sam Mendes explains why Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight helped influence his take on James Bond in Skyfall. “It would be a tragedy if all the serious movies were very small and all the popcorn movies were very big and have nothing to say,” said Mendes. “And what Nolan proved was that you can make a huge movie that is thrilling and entertaining and has a lot to say about the world we live in, even if, in the case with The Dark Knight, it’s not even set in our world. It felt like a movie that was about our world post-9/11 and played on our fears, and discussed our fears and why they existed, and I thought that was incredibly brave and interesting. That did help give me the confidence to take this movie in directions that, without The Dark Knight, might not have been possible.” That topical relevance is something that’s been building in the franchise ever since Daniel Craig took over, although it’s certainly the case that older 007 outings spoke specifically to the era they were made in, for better (From Russia With Love) or for pop culture worse (Moonraker). Mendes’ further comments seem to confirm that studios have caught on to the reality of making darker films during a time when […]

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Daniel Craig Skyfall

God help whatever poor soul is given the task to follow up Sam Mendes‘s work on Skyfall. Mendes has brought the James Bond franchise to a level beyond what we would hope and expect from a fifty-year-old series. Most characters couldn’t endure that lengthy amount of time, but Mendes and the brass behind the franchise have made a bold reason to believe that Bond is far from dead. Even looking past Roger Deakins‘ rich cinematography, Thomas Newman‘s intense but subtle score (which I’m listening to/fawning over as I write these words), and the magnificent locations milked for all their beauty, there’s still plenty more to love about Skyfall. Mendes has brought his voice to the franchise while also preserving Bond’s greatest traits, making the film one hell of a character-driven action movie. But just how did he do it?

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For a long time, Steven Spielberg has expressed interest in making a James Bond picture. From the start of his career and even until after he hit it big time, Spielberg has wanted to bring his Spielbergyness to Bond. Unfortunately for both Spielberg and Bond fans, that dream hasn’t come to fruition. The idea of the mega director and Bond coming together sounds like a perfect match, both artistically and financially. With an idea this good, it’s a little baffling Spielberg hasn’t gotten a crack at Bond yet. Now, we sort of have an answer why. Speaking with producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli at the press day for Skyfall – which completely lives up to the hype – we had the chance to ask them if there’s ever been serious discussions of bringing Spielberg in. In response, Broccoli did share a story regarding conversations between Spielberg and her father, Albert R. Broccoli, over the matter:

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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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Daniel Craig Skyfall

With the new trailer for Skyfall, director Sam Mendes and the hairstylists have recognized the true method to ensuring Javier Bardem is a terrifying villain: give him the most ridiculous haircut possible. There’s no telling what sort of dastardly work he’s up to here, or what James Bond will have to do to stop him, but none of that matters because it’s all overshadowed by the kind of blond wig Dave Chapelle used when he was doing whiteface. It’s like what Donald Trump would look like if he never went thin on top. How do those back goosebumps feel? Of course the real star of this trailer is Roger Deakins‘ cinematography, followed closely by Daniel Craig in a death-defying turn as 007. Check it out for yourself:

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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