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The Playlist

Review: Lovely And Deceptively Complex 'Philomena' Starring Judi Dench & Steve Coogan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • November 21, 2013 6:08 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Philomena
The term "Oscar bait" is one that, unfortunately, gets bandied about a lot this time of year. At worst, it's used to refer to every faintly serious-minded film released between July and December. At best, it describes a very particular kind of middlebrow drama that seems to have been created from the ground up with the sole purpose of appealing to the Academy—think "The Iron Lady" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," to name two recent examples. Stephen Frears' "Philomena" appears on the surface to fit into the latter category. It's a based-in-fact comedy-drama with a mix of laughter and tears, with a prestigious filmmaker (albeit one who's been off his game for a while), an already awarded lead in Dame Judi Dench, and the might of The Weinstein Company behind it. But if "Philomena" is Oscar bait (and ultimately, we're not all that fond of the phrase), then it's Oscar bait done right.

Dustin Hoffman & Steve Buscemi Join Adam Sandler's 'The Cobbler' & More Casting Updates

  • By Ben Brock
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  • November 19, 2013 3:31 PM
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  • 4 Comments
All the casting news that's fit to print! We reported last week on Dan Stevens attaching himself to the newest of Adam Sandler's periodic serious, grown-up movies (uh, not to be confused with his “Grown Ups” movies); this one's called "The Cobbler" and follows a cobbler (natch) who steps into his clients' lives as he mends their shoes.

First Look At Ben Foster As Lance Armstrong In Biopic That Still Needs A Title, Suggestions?

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 22, 2013 12:27 PM
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  • 23 Comments
The last movie we saw about cycling was "Premium Rush," so the limited genre that it already is, there's really has nowhere to go but up. We certainly won't argue with a movie led by the excellent Ben Foster, particularly if he's playing disgraced former American hero Lance Armstrong.

Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet & Jesse Plemons Join Stephen Fears' Lance Armstrong Biopic With Ben Foster

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 15, 2013 1:13 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Ben Foster, Lance Armstrong Movie
Sorry, J.J. Abrams and Scott Z. Burns and Jay Roach, while you guys might be cooking up your films about disgraced cyclist and former American hero Lance Armstrong, Stephen Frears has beaten you to the front of the pack. Earlier this year he lined up Ben Foster to play the lead in his film, and now the director has put together a very promising supporting crew to go along with it.

Review: 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight' Floats But Doesn't Quite Sting

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 6, 2013 12:52 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Capturing the magnetic, larger than life personality of Muhammad Ali has been something only a few actors have tried over the years, including Will Smith, Darius McCrary and Terrence Howard. And while the boxing legend and sports world superstar can be imitated, he simply can't be duplicated. So call it a savvy move on the part of screenwriter Shawn Slovo and director Stephen Frears to avoid that issue altogether in "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight," which defers to archival footage to present the titular subject in the dramatized story of his fight against his conviction of avoiding the Vietnam War draft, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Unfortunately, however, that archival material is also the most dramatically potent in a film that presents the story respectfully, it not particularly compellingly.

Watch: New Trailer For TIFF People's Choice Award Runner-Up 'Philomena' Starring Judi Dench & Steve Coogan

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 28, 2013 11:20 AM
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  • 0 Comments
When Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave" won the Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award, we were slightly surprised—given that the prize generally tends to lean toward more crowd-pleasing movies—but we weren't surprised to see Stephen Frears' "Philomena" take one of the runner-up slots. The film has been warmly received at Venice, Telluride and Toronto, and now it's headed to theaters, where The Weinstein Company are surely hoping it can turn out some hardware for them during the awards season.

Watch: First Clip From Oscar-Contender 'Philomena' Starring Judi Dench & Steven Coogan, Weinsteins Set Xmas Release

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • September 3, 2013 10:42 AM
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  • 3 Comments
So just how hot a ticket is Stephen Frears' "Philomena"? Well, after earning rave reviews out the Venice Film Festival (including a strong one from us), word was that The Weinstein Company were ready to sneak the film into Telluride this past weekend. But apparently TIFF organizers weren't pleased at the prospect of another hot premiere being yanked out from under them (following the surprise additions of "12 Years A Slave" and "Prisoners" to Telluride), so Harvey and co. switched gears and showing "Salinger" instead. But no matter where this lands first, it's one that's going to be talked about all season long

Venice Review: Stephen Frears' 'Philomena' Starring Judi Dench & Steve Coogan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2013 1:09 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The term "Oscar bait" is one that, unfortunately, gets bandied about a lot this time of year. At worst, it's used to refer to every faintly serious-minded film released between July and December. At best, it describes a very particular kind of middlebrow drama that seems to have been created from the ground up with the sole purpose of appealing to the Academy—think "The Iron Lady" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," to name two recent examples. Stephen Frears' "Philomena" appears on the surface to fit into the latter category.

Watch: New Trailer For Stephen Frears' 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 27, 2013 11:53 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Playing in limited release right now is the rather excellent documentary, "The Trials Of Muhammad Ali" (our review), which gives a fascinating, in depth look at the legal battles the fighter faced, including his highly publicized decision to claim conscientious objector status when drafted for the Vietnam War. It was a position that seriously threatened his livelihood, and made him an easy target from all sides; the true story itself is hugely dramatic and compelling. But if you'd rather see a movie with actors telling the tale, well, there's "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight."

Watch: Teaser Trailer & New Pics For Stephen Frears' 'Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 13, 2013 11:22 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Festival scheduling can be difficult, with overlaps and conflicts ruining even the noblest of intentions. And thus, we were slightly bummed to miss Stephen Frears' "Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight" at the Cannes Film Festival this May. At least at first. Word on the picture was muted at best, and it's safe to say it barely made a ripple on the Croisette. But perhaps this story of an American icon will play better at home than abroad? Well, in just a couple months, you'll be able to judge for yourself.

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