Stephen Frears

High Fidelity Movie

Through music and misery, we ask the big questions this week. Specifically, Neil Miller and Geoff get philosophical over High Fidelity and debate whether we’re truly defined by what we like (as opposed to what we’re like) when it comes to relationships. Plus, Geoff describes a few ways to get into the TV show-writing business (and a few ways not to). And on our main stage, the stellar Stephen Frears joins us to talk about Philomena and capriciousness, and to offer perhaps the single most important piece of filmmaking advice the show has ever heard. You should follow Neil (@rejects), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #55 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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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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the burning frears

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  Many directors are embarrassed of their first film, especially if we count their student productions. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to find a lot of “short starts” for this column. As we saw recently with Ridley Scott’s debut, however, the British Film Institute is to be thanked for preserving a number of early works by filmmakers from across the pond. Stephen Frears, whose latest great feature, Philomena, is now in theaters, is another example. The funny thing is that he seems like he’d rather that his first film, made in 1968, was lost and forgotten. Most directors would kill to have started off with something as smart and well-shot as The Burning, yet he claims he was clueless while making it, that it was like “being a baby playing with its own shit.” Frears wasn’t a student when he made the short, and he’d already been gaining experience as an assistant director (or assistant to the director) for such prominent British filmmakers as Lindsay Anderson (who helped Frears edit his film) and Karel Reisz and actor Albert Finney, who co-produced The Burning. The screenplay for the 31-minute film is by author Roland Starke based on his own short story, and its plot concerns a native uprising in South Africa. Similar to Scott’s short start, this one also focuses on a young boy through which we experience […]

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Foster as Armstrong

Empire has been so kind as to give us the first look at Ben Foster as cycling legend and lying liar who lies, Lance Armstrong, in the still-untitled biopic directed by Stephen Frears. Personally, I like 2Fast 2Armstrong, but I don’t think I’ll be consulted about this decision. The film is one of several Armstrong projects in the works right now, not to be confused with Alex Gibney’s documentary The Armstrong Lie, or that one with Bradley Cooper. Filming only just began on October 18, but here Foster is already in his finest spandex, gunning it through a race as the crowd cheers him on. Pretty spot-on resemblance, no? Armstrong, of course, won the Tour de France seven consecutive times before being stripped of his titles for doping. It’s unclear which race this image depicts, but those smiling fans aren’t going to be too happy for much longer.

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MAGF

For Muhammad Ali, one of the most highly publicized fights of his lifetime happened outside of the ring, when, for religious reasons, he declined to enlist in the army during the Vietnam War. As the Stephen Frears film Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight details, the prize fighter’s decision to claim conscientious objector status after being drafted and the legal battles that ensued caused massive public uproar and outrage at Ali’s “audacity.” You know, even though there were definitely white guys claiming CO status, too. The HBO film boasts a stacked cast, including Danny Glover, Frank Langella, Christopher Plummer, Barry Levinson, and Bob Balaban. What is particularly interesting is that rather than casting an Ali, the film solely uses archival footage during his scenes. At least we know his words are exactly as he said them? Check out the trailer for yourself:

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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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Ben Foster

It’s not a great time to be Lance Armstrong (now that he’s admitted to doping and been banned from competitive cycling), but it’ll probably get worse when all those “Lance Armstrong doping scandal” movies start coming out. Sony Pictures Classics have a documentary, The Armstrong Lie releasing soon. On the biopic front, Paramount and J.J. Abrams have teamed up for their own film, based off of Juliet Macur’s book, Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. and Jay Roach have their own film planned. Now the list grows to four Lance Armstrong films, this one coming from Working Title Pictures, with Stephen Frears (of High Fidelity and The Queen) slated to direct. Although it’s the newcomer to this ever-expanding group of potential Armstrong films, it may actually be the first to see release (outside of The Armstrong Lie, which is already in the can). Deadline reports that the film may begin shooting as early as this fall, and that Ben Foster, of this year’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Kill Your Darlings, is in final talks to star. John Hodge, writer of Trainspotting, has screenplay duties. Is it likely that all four movies will actually be released? Probably not. And with Frears’ film already raring to go, it looks like Abrams and Roach are the most likely casualties. That’s probably good news for filmgoers. And for Lance Armstrong.

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Any film that gives Rebecca Hall a shot at a starring role seems like it would have to be a good idea, but unfortunately Lay the Favorite didn’t get very good reviews coming out of its debut at Sundance, and our own Allison Loring bemoaned that the film “never seems to quite know what it wants to be.” Still, Lay the Favorite is set to roll out in limited releases all across the world over the next few months, and a trailer has just been released to give us all a taste of what it has to offer, so we might as well give its sales pitch a gander. Director Stephen Frears’s (High Fidelity) latest tells the tale of a chipper ex-stripper (Hall) who falls into a promising new career working for a career gambler (Bruce Willis), but runs into complications when she buts heads with her new boss’ jealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Oh, and also there seems to be something about a budding romance with Joshua Jackson, who is playing a bearded nice guy.

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Discover the girl you thought you knew from the new film by Stephen Frears.

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Attention film geeks: Angela Ismailos’s new documentary sits ten directing icons down and gets dirty with them, their inspirations and their processes.

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Gemma Arterton in Tamara Drewe

It’s the magnetic quality of Gemma Arterton — both personality and shapely based — that has drawn us to the first image from her upcoming film Tamara Drewe. That, and the short shorts.

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ArtertonTamaraDrewe

It looks like Stephen Frears may be drawn again into the politely dry British style story that he’s been into lately with the adaptation of a comic book that’s a modern retelling of “Far From the Madding Crowd.” Or will Gemma Arterton spice things up?

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cheri-header

This reunion of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ director Stephen Frears, screenwriter Christopher Hampton and star Michelle Pfeiffer never resonates as it should.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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