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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Lance Armstrong

The doping scandal lost Lance Armstrong a lot of fans, but it’s won him a lot of attention from Hollywood. Warner Bros. and Paramount already have their own projects about the disgraced cyclist in development. Now Working Title has set Stephen Frears to direct yet another one with Ben Foster in the lead. Hit the jump for all the details.

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Stephen Frears‘ record may not be flawless, but his hit to miss ratio’s high enough that I generally look forward to his movies. His newest project, Lay the Favorite, started out looking as promising as any other. The filmmaker collected a likable cast, including Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Joshua Jackson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones for the dramedy, an adaptation of a favorably reviewed memoir by Beth Raymer about the strange world of sports betting.

Unfortunately, early reviews suggest that the result hasn’t lived up to that promise at all. The new trailer offers some hints as to what exactly went wrong, starting with a strangely off-putting performance by the usually charming Hall. Check it out after the jump.

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As Sacha Baron Cohen‘s new comedy The Dictator strolls towards theaters, I know some have been wondering if his plan to play late Queen singer Freddie Mercury remains intact. As it turns out, that plan has not changed, and now Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) is the frontrunner to direct the film that has the backing of remaining Queen members Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon. Read More »


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An up and comer, a recognizable character actor and a seasoned veteran have all signed on to very different projects. The up and comer, Kodi Smit-McPhee, best known for his awesome work in The Road and Let Me In, is reportedly circling the role of Benvolio in Carlo Carlei‘s new film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet along side Haliee Steinfeld, Holly Hunter and Ed Westwick. Michael Pena, the recognizable character actor, has joined the already impressive cast of Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleischer‘s upcoming true-life gangster film starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin. Then the seasoned veteran, Corbin Bernsen joins the female-centric gambling story Lay the Favorite starring Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn and Rebecca Hall directed by Stephen Frears. Read about each film, and role, after the break. Read More »

Chris Klein has become the latest actor to sign on for American Reunion, the upcoming American Pie sequel that sees the gang returning to their hometown for their ten-year high school reunion. Reunion has already signed Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Eugene Levy and Alyson Hannigan; other members of the original cast, including Thomas Ian Nichols, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Coolidge are still negotiating their roles.

Klein, as you may recall, played Oz, a lacrosse player who falls for Suvari’s Heather in the first movie. In Reunion, Oz has become a big shot with a Malibu mansion and a girlfriend who seems to be a gold-digger. [MovieWeb]

After the jump, new projects for Marilyn Manson and Pacey Witter Joshua Jackson. Is this the most ’90s installment of Casting Bits ever?

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Before poker became a part of my daily life, I’d always been infatuated with gambling movies. The first hour of Casino remains my favorite, I never believed it when Mel Gibson pulled a one outter at the end of Maverick, and The Sting fools me every time. Even newer, lesser movies like 21 or Lucky You pulled me into the theater and, of course, Rounders is like gospel. So, Lay the Favorite, based on the novel by Beth Raymer, sounds right up my alley. The story of a young Ohio girl who becomes professionally involved with underground sports betting will be, as had been previously announced, a reteaming of High Fidelity screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis and director Stephen Frears and now, it seems Rebecca Hall and Bruce Willis are close to landing as their leads. Read more after the break. Read More »

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

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Screen Epiphanies: Filmmakers on the Films that Inspired Them

I’ve always loved reading and hearing what great filmmakers think of other great films and directors. You may have noticed that we ask some directors about their favorite films, from time to time, and I’ve even featured other websites and books that delve into this subject on the site from time to time.

Geoffrey Macnab and the British Film Institute have put together a book titled Screen Epiphanies: Filmmakers on the Films that Inspired Them collecting the stories of thirty-five leading international filmmakers focusing on “the film moments that stayed with them long after they left the movie theater” which inspired them to pursue a career in the movie industry.

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