Tom Wilkinson

Paramount Pictures

Movies about the African-American Civil Rights Movement are and always have been in a strange place. The events of the period are a rich vein of fantastic story potential, but it’s one that’s gone mostly untapped by the film industry. Institutional cowardice about “black” movies, which supposedly don’t do well (except that they totally do) keeps Hollywood out of the period, and it’s difficult for independent filmmakers to fill the void, since a Civil Rights film is by necessity also a period piece, and making those requires a big production budget. It’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long for a major motion picture with Martin Luther King, Jr. as a main character to come out, but it’s finally happened thanks to the marriage of some select big Hollywood money (producers Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt) and indie artists (writer/director Ava DuVernay). The fact that it’s taken so long means that there are outsized, even unfair, expectations weighing on Selma. Does the movie live up to those expectations? In some ways, yes — but in others, sadly not. The film follows Dr. King (David Oyelowo) from when he won his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 through the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in early 1965. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act, many southern states enforce ridiculous restrictions on voter registration in order to prevent black people from voting (gee, sound familiar?). King and other leaders of the SCLC join with local activists in Selma to make the city the focal point of […]

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Belle

Amma Asante‘s Belle made a quiet premiere at TIFF last month in a festival full of bigger and louder productions, but the full trailer will hopefully generate a little bit of buzz for what looks to be a genuinely solid period drama. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who instructs his uncle and aunt (Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson) to bring her up as one of their own. While her connection to aristocracy affords her certain privileges she would have never known, her family’s uneasiness with the color of her skin leaves her in limbo between two worlds. This is especially true when it comes time to find love and marriage. It’s going to be a rough time finding a family willing to let her marry in, but it’s also a decent way to indicate which men are terrible. Here’s looking at you, Tom Felton – great to see you playing a heinous jackass again. Check out the trailer here:

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Tom Wilkinson

Not only is Joel Edgerton a burgeoning star who looks like he’s on the brink of big things in the acting world, he’s also a creative type who’s been writing scripts and directing shorts for a while. So it should come as no surprise that the upcoming thriller, Felony, has his name on its credits as both the writer and the star. As we learned back in May, Felony is being directed by Matthew Saville (Noise) and will star Edgerton as a generally good officer of the law who makes a big mistake followed by a big moral compromise when his driving home drunk leads to an accident and then his lying about it. As it does in most thrillers, one decision bereft of morality inevitably leads to a downward spiral of very bad things. Seeing as the film is set to go in front of cameras in late October, the time to fill out the rest of the cast is nigh, and Saville has got himself off to a great start by bringing the experienced and exceptional Tom Wilkinson into the fold. Wilkinson, of course, is a veteran name who’s been working regularly since the early ’80s, but most recently you’ve seen him in joints like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Conspirator, and The Ghost Writer. Here he’ll be playing the role of Detective Carl Summer, the police investigator who arrives on the scene following the Edgerton character’s accident.

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Samuel L. Jackson finally gets to put Nick Fury aside and play a serious, well-rounded character in The Samaritan, a new film noir. The experience of watching Jackson actually act is the primary pleasure to be gleaned from David Weaver’s movie, which places the star in a narrative that’s so grim and hopeless it’s no fun at all. Experienced con artist Foley (Jackson) leaves prison after serving 25 years for the murder of his partner. He just wants to be left alone, but alas, that’s not to be. His partner’s embittered son Ethan (Luke Kirby) has orchestrated a gigantic snare aimed at forcing Foley to take part in an ambitious, risky con targeting crime kingpin/oenophile Xavier (Tom Wilkinson). Foley spends most of the movie angrily resisting Ethan’s overtures, engaging in repeated violent confrontations. But his antagonist, played with sheer smarminess by Kirby, has a big trump card: a pretty young woman named Iris (Ruth Negga) who’s carrying a big secret.

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William Fichtner is a badass. This has always been true, even as the character actor rocked his way through Baygasms and indie hits alike. With Dwight Yoakum out of Gore Verbinski‘s forthcoming Lone Ranger, there was a spot to fill, and the production has improved on its casting with the opportunity. Yoakum is interesting, sure, but no one touches Fichtner’s track record of stellar acting that makes everything he’s in just a bit better than it was before. So while Nathan questioned whether the acting singer’s departure was a bad omen in the link above, it looks like everything’s worked out for the even-better. Now the question is whether he can translate this into the kind of stardom the guy has deserved all along. It’s a massive movie with Johnny Depp pulling in crowds and a proven large-scale filmmaker, and even though he’s been in this position before, Fichtner has always been tucked away into a larger ensemble. Here, he’ll be even better equipped to steal scenes as well as boost (and get boosted) by actors like Tom Wilkinson (who will play a big boss villain). Fichtner’s role, Butch Cavendish, is the leader of a gang and the main villain facing off against Armie Hammer’s Ranger. That’s fertile ground.  At any rate, even if this doesn’t make him a household name, it’s still great to hear him cast in anything. Maybe there’s hope for this strange bird after all. [Deadline Destin]

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It’s been a long, winding road to get Disney’s new version of The Lone Ranger to the big screen. We went through the whole casting process, we went through a phase where everybody was waiting to see if Gore Verbinski would come on to direct, we were told that Disney had canned the movie due to its budget being out of control, and then there was a whole series of will-they-won’t-they back and forths where Verbinski kept trying to cut money from the budget to save the film and nobody knew whether or not each cut would be enough to do the job. But, finally, after what feels like years of reporting on this movie already, Deadline Tioga is saying that it’s actually set to go in front of cameras in February. The amazing thing is, despite all of the delays and uncertainty, The Lone Ranger still has the original cast it put together in place. Armie Hammer is still going to be the title character, Johnny Depp is still going to be Tonto, and they’ve even now got Tom Wilkinson signed, sealed, and delivered to play the film’s villain, Latham Cole, and Ruth Wilson locked in to play the female lead, Rebecca Reid. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s also a strong supporting cast featuring names like Barry Pepper and Dwight Yoakam that are still on board.

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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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With Burke and Hare, John Landis has marked his return to the world of feature filmmaking. He’s kept busy the last few years, albeit not in the way his fans would prefer him to be, but still preoccupied nonetheless. However, this dark romantic comedy brings him back to the genre he once mastered. Like many of the director’s acclaimed comedies, Burke and Hare is about the unlikeliest of leads. The murdering duo (played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) could easily slip into being nothing but despicable, but that has always seemed to be a fun challenge for Landis. The Blues Brothers, the Animal House gang, and so on, are not particularly “good” people. In most films, they would be the villains. Landis, on the other hand, always sets out to make them the heroes. Here’s what the personable John Landis had to say about how this isn’t his return, following antiheroes, being in the intimidating presence of Charles Bronson, and why he didn’t direct The Wolfman:

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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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It’s obviously Mustache Thursdays around here, and in the second piece of facial hair-based news, Variety is reporting that Tom Wilkinson is close to joining Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger. The veteran actor would be playing a “railroad tycoon” which most likely means he’ll be playing a bad guy, unless this story has the Ranger teaming up with a suave businessman to save the town or something. Casting Wilkinson is always a smart move because he can play just about anything and make it sing. Hammer is a strong leading man type, and Depp will most likely be as crazy as he wants to be as Tonto, but this reboot stands out as trading off of name recognition that has nothing to do comic books or plastic toys from the 1980s. It’s a name that appeals to a considerably older crowd, and it might be an effective move to bring in a younger crowd ready for wild west adventure alongside an older generation that remembers the character (or watching reruns of the character on television). It might be a clever move, and the casting is shaping up really well.

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Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. I was in third grade, under the creepy Catholic tutelage of Sister Hermina (she refused to die!), and the lesson on Lincoln’s presidency had come to dramatic and shocking conclusion. Granted, those aren’t the words I would have used to describe it at the time, but I do recall feeling frustrated, confused, and angered at the tall, bearded man’s death. So why open a film review with a reference to a grade school history lesson? Because the film in question, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, feels like a two-hour lecture on some of the very same material. Viewers learn about the coordinated assault against Lincoln and two members of his cabinet, the capture and conviction of those responsible, and their subsequent hangings for the crimes. While the material here is more detailed than the lesson taught by zombie nun it’s also presented dryly, without any real energy, emotion, or drama, and very much in the spirit of a made-for-television movie. It doesn’t help matters that Redford uses his directorial lectern to include some incredibly unsubtle and politicized comparisons to our own modern day battles between personal freedoms and national security.

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Robert Redford has directed a movie starring James McAvoy, Robin Wright Penn, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, Stephen Root, Colm Meaney, Toby Kebbell, and Evan Rachel Wood. That should be enough to cause excitement. The Conspirator tells the story of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the ensuing police action and trial of the conspirators – including Mary Surratt, who became despised by an entire country. She was guilty until proven innocent. Check out the intense trailer for yourself:

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The thing about broccoli is that it’s disgusting at first. When you’re a child, your young taste buds only want sugar and chocolate and that meatloaf that only your mom can make. Often you want all of these things at the same time. But as you get older, your taste matures and you suddenly find yourself with dozens of recipes that make broccoli a completely worthwhile vegetable that’s welcome on any plate. Hell, sometimes it even surprises you – blowing your taste buds away in a flavor explosion. The Green Hornet is cinematic broccoli.

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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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With The Ghost Writer, Polanski manifests dense atmosphere, brooding tension, and complex political corruption in a way similar to the best paranoid thrillers of the 1970s (a category which included some of the director’s greatest cinematic achievements), and the adaptation of this format to the 21st century filmic and political landscape proves largely successful, even if it occasionally flirts with being middling and awkward.

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green-hornet-logo

Just days after we reported that the release The Green Hornet was being pushed back five months, we have received official word from Columbia Pictures that the production has now officially begun.

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FSR

Kevin Carr reviews this week’s new movies: Knowing, I Love You, Man and Duplicity.

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Polanski to Make "The Ghost"

If the thought of Polanski making a political thriller doesn’t excite you, you might be dead. Which might get you cast in his political thriller if we’re guessing simply based on the name.

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valkyrie_review1

Enlightened to the evil of Adolf Hitler, a battle tested German Colonel named Clause von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), joins a group of fellow dissenters in an intricate plot to assassinate their Fuhrer.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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