Philomena

Stephen Frears‘ last release, the gambling comedy Lay the Favorite, has the unfortunate distinction of being among the worst-reviewed films of his career. His two films before that, Chéri and Tamara Drewe, failed to make much of a mark at all. Fortunately, his next film Philomena looks like it could be a return to form.

Judi Dench stars as the titular character, an Irish woman who was forced to give up her toddler son in the 1950s. She’s spent the years since then searching for him in vain, and eventually gets some assistance in her quest from journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan).

The moving, fact-based tale seems like perfect prestige pic material, and with Oscar winner Dench and the Oscar-nominated Frears involved, Philomena could potentially make waves this awards season. Watch the new trailer after the jump.

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Director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig may be the big marquee names of Skyfall, but the real driving forces behind the Bond franchise have long been Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. The half-siblings are the daughter and stepson, respectively, of late producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli — the man who, along with producer Harry Saltzman, first brought Ian Fleming‘s now-iconic spy to the silver screen in 1962 — and have been involved with the series since the Roger Moore era.

At a recent Skyfall press day in New York, I got to speak with the pair about what Mendes brings to the franchise, the advantages of having Craig on board, the importance of interesting female characters, and whether perennial fan favorite Christopher Nolan might ever direct an installment. Hit the jump to read on.

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You’ve probably noticed by now that Sam MendesSkyfall is building some seriously amazing buzz, with ecstatic praise heaped on everything from the cinematography and action choreography to the acting and storytelling. On the plus side, that makes the film’s impending release that much more exciting. On the not-so-plus side, all that hype just makes November 9 (or October 26 for you lucky Brits) seem that much farther away.

For those hankering for an early Bond fix, we have some fun bits of B-roll to share with you today after the jump. The videos show stars Daniel CraigJavier BardemJudi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, and Bérénice Marlohe shooting various key scenes, from quiet conversations to splashy action setpieces. Check them out after the jump.

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‘Skyfall’ Set Visit Preview and Four New Photos

Over the past few days I’ve been in London, and west of the city in Iver Heath. In that small village is the renowned Pinewood Studios, home of the 007 Stage. The occasion was a visit to that massive stage to see a bit of the twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall, in action, and to spend time talking to Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Berenice Marlohe, and some of the producers and crew.

Information about the film’s characters and story remains tightly controlled, but we did see a few notable things: preparations for and the beginning of the execution of a setpiece involving a confrontation between James Bond (Craig) and the villain Silva (Bardem) that is partially resolved through the intervention of a crashing London Tube train. We saw the construction of a stunning Shanghai casino set, and the remnants of an impressive deserted town meant to be on an island off the coast of Japan.

After the break, see three more new images from Skyfall, and be on the lookout for our full set report next week. Read More »

One of the last two films Steven Soderbergh plans to shoot before retiring from directing is The Bitter Pill, a thriller scripted by Scott Z. Burns (The Informant!, Contagion) that follows a troubled and highly medicated woman (Rooney Mara) who is dealing with her anxiety pending the release of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison.

The promising actress Vinessa Shaw (Two Lovers, pictured above, and 3:10 to Yuma) is now set to play the wife of one of Mara’s doctors, who will be portrayed by Jude Law. After The Bitter Pill, Soderbergh will move on to his Liberace biopic for HBO, and then he’s done. (So he says.) [Deadline]

After the break, Ray Liotta lives with chemistry and Stanley Tucci joins two Harry Potter veterans. Read More »

After months — years, really — of rumors about the next James Bond film, it’s nice to finally have some actual facts to sink our teeth into. As shooting on the film began today, director Sam Mendes, his producers, and several of his stars held a press conference giving away some tidibts about the film we’ve been referring to as Bond 23. Among the things we’ve learned: the actual title of the film, which characters some of the actors will be playing, and a basic concept of the plot. More details after the jump.

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Javier Bardem Confirmed For ‘Bond 23’

We’re still in the grey zone with respect to real news about the next James Bond film. Rumored to be called Skyfall, we’re still just calling it Bond 23 for now. There will be a press conference early next month to announce the beginning of production, at which point we’ll likely get a batch of official info.

But for now, we’ll take a statement from Javier Bardem confirming that he’s playing the bad guy in the movie. (Or one of the bad guys, at least.) Along with that confirmation, there are confirmations that French actress Berenice Marlohe will be in the film, as will Ben Whishaw (who is shooting the Tykwer/Wahcowski Cloud Atlas right now) and Harry Potter‘s Helen McCrory.

Get Bardem’s statement and another rumor about Bond 23 after the break. Read More »

Confirmed details on Sam MendesBond 23 are still scarce, but it seems screenwriter John Logan may have let slip a very useful detail about the villain. At a talk earlier this week, Logan hinted that iconic Bond baddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld just might be making an appearance in the upcoming film. Logan didn’t go so far as to actually announce anything, but hey, until we have a better idea of the plot, we’re gonna sit here and read into every dubious crumb of information that gets out. Read more after the jump.

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Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. decided to skip this fall’s festival circuit with the biopic J. Edgar. While a good many of the other major fall studio releases have been seen and reviewed in the past three weeks via Telluride, Venice and TIFF, we’ve seen nothing from this biography of America’s most powerful lawman, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover.

Now the shroud is off the film as Warner Bros. released the first trailer for Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays the FBI chief and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) appears as his second-in-command and rumored love, Clyde Tolson. See the trailer below. Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Here’s a bit of wild speculation about Bond 23 — or possibly not so wild, depending upon how much faith you place in various online translations and reports. Hint: in this case, be cautious. But let’s lay out the steps that have lead some to suspect that the twenty-third James Bond film may be based in part on the most recent Bond novel, and share with it the rather awkward title Carte Blanche. (Which is, I have to say, not anywhere near as awkward as Quantum of Solace. And, not being as awkward, it probably won’t inspire a very funny song by Attack the Block director Joe Cornish.) Read on for the steps that lead to the speculative conclusion… Read More »