(Photo by Sony/courtesy Everett Collection)
Before he would get to utter the words “Bond, James Bond” to the delight of millions, Daniel Craig built up a durable if not spectacular resume, showing up in a range of films from the first Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider to A Kid In King Arthur’s Court. As the sniveling son of mob boss Paul Newman in Road to Perdition, Craig was able to make an impact with a broad audience in a film that already had plenty for us to look at, including Conrad L. Hall’s rain-drenched cinematography and a rare anti-hero turn from Tom Hanks.
By 2005, Craig was on the cusp of a major breakthrough with a co-starring role in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, and crime flick Layer Cake, essentially a stylish and gritty feature-length audition tape to play Agent 007. The following year, he and GoldenEye director Martin Campbell launched Casino Royale, a rousing and hard-nosed crowdpleaser revealing a James Bond for a new cynical generation. He’s since reprised the role three more times with Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre, and when he returns in 2020 with No Time to Die, Craig will have the longest consecutively tenured Bond in film history.
Of course, when you’re James Bond, every non-Bond role you take becomes something of an automatic sensation. Some roles, like Logan Lucky or David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo really demonstrate Craig’s range. Other films, like Dream House or The Invasion, are spectacular bombs. And the rest, along the lines of Cowboys & Aliens and The Golden Compass, are right in the mushy middle.
We know on which end of the spectrum Craig’s latest film, the Rian Johnson whodunit Knives Out, lands. (Hint: It’s his best-reviewed movie ever.) With No Time To Die‘s
April 2020 November 2020 April 2021 October 2021 release now behind us, take a look back as we rank all Daniel Craig movies by Tomatometer!
(Photo by New Line/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Despite his prodigious presence in the world of acting, Ian McKellen didn’t start appearing on-screen in earnest until his mid-40s, during the 1980s. Things kicked off with 1983’s The Keep, Michael Mann’s hard-to-find WWII fantasy-thriller, with subsequent highlights including early Will Smith drama Six Degrees of Separation, a 1930s-set adaptation of Richard III, and an appearance as Death in Last Action Hero, putting that theater gravitas to good use in a decidedly bad flick.
His Oscar nomination for portraying director James Whale in 1998’s Gods and Monsters brought him to international prominence, setting the stage for one of the great career turns in movie history. In 2000, McKellen became one of comic books’ greatest villains, Magneto, in X-Men. He wouldn’t re-appear until the following year, as one of fantasy’s greatest heroes: Gandalf in 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The two roles would keep McKellen sustained for the next decade and beyond, across three more X-Men movies and five more entries nestled within Middle-Earth.
Playing the legendary detective in Mr. Holmes and putting in his time as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast are more notable recent works, along with more theater adaptations like The Dresser (opposite Anthony Hopkins, both delivering some career-best performances), as well as, er, Cats. At least he knew the nightmare cinematic hairball that was being coughed up! And now, you shall not pass until we rank all Ian McKellen movies by Tomatometer!
HBO and BBC have joined forces on His Dark Materials, an edgy, effects-heavy, family friendly fantasy television series. For fans of Phil Pullman’s book, The Golden Compass — which this is a new adaptation of — the TV show has been a long time coming. The eight-episode first season of the series, which is set to hit HBO on November 4, stars Logan‘s Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua, James McAvoy as Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby, in a program that is sounding more-and-more like the network’s next attempt at Game of Thrones greatness.
Die-hard fans of Pullman’s work have been wary; after all, we’ve been here before. Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott, Eva Green, and Ian McKellan all starred in 2007 feature film The Golden Compass. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies brought in big money for New Line and its parent company Warner Bros. Pictures, and The Golden Compass might have been the next big thing, but the movie was stripped of the book’s critical religious themes, replacing narrative complexities with happier elements. The film bombed big time, leading the studio to scrap its sequel plans.
This brings us back to His Dark Materials, produced in part with another Time Warner media property, HBO. The eight-episode first season of the fantasy series aims to tap back into the lush world Pullman originally imagined in 1995. Will the show translate Pullman’s fantastical homage to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, while maintaining the dark undertones that were lost in the movie? From its lush effects and talking animals to the good-vs-evil, classist elements of the story, there’s a lot to unpack. Will the program resonate with today’s audiences?
Here’s what the critics are saying about season 1 of HBO’s His Dark Materials.
(Photo by HBO)
Fans of the books will be glad to know that care has been taken to get it right this time. From what I’ve seen so far, nothing of consequence has been left out. — Robert Lloyd, The Los Angeles Times
Despite the rich complexities of the novel’s world of daemons, power-hungry players and warring faiths, HBO’s “His Dark Materials” feels like it could have been plucked from most any other fantasy epic out there. — Caroline Framke, Variety
National Treasure screenwriter (and screenwriting national treasure) Jack Thorne has pulled off the improbable if not quite the impossible, delivering an engaging and sumptuous take on Pullman’s world that cleaves impressively close to the books while still making a few tweaks for the visual medium. — Huw Fullerton, Radio Times
(Photo by HBO)
Keen is spellbinding. She is modern enough not to alienate the younger audience members but also possesses a sort of old-fashioned pluck that helps to propel the action. Among the adult cast, James McAvoy is commanding as Asriel, while Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter is like an irresistibly enigmatic screen siren from a Forties film noir. — Ben Lawrence, Daily Telegraph
Dafne Keen, recognisable from 2017 X-Men film Logan, plays main character Lyra with willfulness and spark. James McAvoy is terrific as her Byronic uncle Lord Asriel, while you’d call Ruth Wilson a revelation as the glamorous and mysterious Mrs Coulter if she weren’t always this watchable. — Louisa Mellor, Den of Geek
Only Lin-Manuel Miranda, as “aeronaut for hire” Lee Scoresby, hits a false note. The actor wears his fedora at a determinedly rakish tilt, but his swagger (and his intermittent Southern drawl) are more playacting than performance. — Kristen Baldwin, EW
(Photo by HBO)
While we’re on the subject of the way things look, everything from the tourist-board realism of the canals, via the cobbled streets inhabited by the Gyptians (a group of water travellers whose children are going missing), up to the skyline of Oxford, are sumptuous examples of imagination manifested. — Matt Rodgers, Flickering Myth
All the lavish CGI has other limitations. The more ambitious it gets, the more studio-bound the acting becomes. You can’t help remembering that the stars are performing in front of green screens, talking to imaginary animals and running through unseen buildings. — Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail
(Photo by HBO)
This is an ambitious series that tackles some lofty themes about power and faith while still giving us spectacular special effects and thrilling action sequences. In short, this is HBO’s first series that has the scale of Game of Thrones but is accessible for all ages. — Alex Maidy, JoBlo’s Movie Emporium
His Dark Materials is very much a fantasy series made in the aftermath of Game of Thrones, with the story’s more fantastical elements given as much weight as the conspiratorial mysteries and complicated character dynamics. — Hoi-Tran-Bui, SlashFilm
His Dark Materials season 1 premieres on Monday, November 4 on HBO.
Mark your calendars for stardate 11020.23 (we think) — that is, January 23, 2020 — when the highly anticipated Star Trek: Picard finally launches, the cast and creators announced at New York Comic-Con on Saturday.
The CBS All Access spin-off stars Patrick Stewart as the legendary Jean-Luc Picard and will include numerous familiar faces from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which first introduced the titular character. Data (Brent Spiner), William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) all make their return in the new series.
Revisiting Picard 20 years later felt like less of a job and more of a gift, executive producer Akiva Goldsman said at the top of the October 5 Star Trek Universe panel at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
“I think we’ve done pretty well,” Goldsman said of living up to The Next Generation’s formidable standard. “You’re surrounded by a lot of people who love Star Trek and a lot of people who love Captain Picard — and who actually love Patrick Stewart — so it very quickly went from ‘job’ to ‘opportunity.’ We’re pretty blessed, and I don’t throw that word around.”
To learn all the details from the event, including what’s in store for some of the franchise’s new faces, read on for everything we know about Star Trek: Picard.
(Photo by Matt Kennedy/CBS)
The new journey with Picard and co. takes place after the events of the feature film Nemesis in 2002 (the death of Data, for one) and the eventual defeat of the Romulans (as established in the Picard-less 2009 feature). Picard has disassociated himself from Star Fleet and is spending his old age in retirement and isolation at Château Picard, where he’s joined by a trusted pitbull companion, Number One (a knowing nod to his longtime second-in-command Riker, of course).
“We wanted it to be a real-time follow-up to where last we saw Picard,” Goldsman explained of the jump in time. “We wanted to let the ensuing years that have passed for us also [to] have passed for Jean-Luc, so we all spent a lot of time collaboratively filling in those 20 years.”
And while there is development in the Picard scripts and its narrative architecture of what has happened to the former captain in the ensuing years, the story here picks up with the unexpected arrival of Dahj (Isa Briones), a young woman who turns to Picard for help following an enormous trauma, in turn reigniting Picard’s desire to return to the Starfleet.
(Photo by Trae Patton/CBS)
While Picard is one of Stewart’s best-known and most-beloved roles over the course of his expansive career, it’s also one that the 79-year-old thespian had vowed to never return to again. So how did executive producer Alex Kurtzman and his team of Star Trek diehards persuade him? Through an admiring patience and persistence.
“He was sure about saying no. He was positively negative about the whole thing,” Kurtzman teased of the first pitch meeting between himself, Stewart, Goldsman, and supervising producer Kirsten Beyer. “We pitched and he said, ‘It’s lovely — and no thank you.’ He said, ‘I couldn’t possibly, but I really appreciate it.’”
The idea initially came together as Kurtzman was mapping out his new string of his short film series, Short Treks, and posited the idea of a Picard-focused outing.
“Akiva and Kirsten and I were sort of thinking about what that would be, and then we went, ‘A Short Trek would be great, but what if we could bring him back?’ ” Kurtzman recalled. “So I called his agent and I said, ‘I know he’s probably never coming back, but would you do us the favor of trying to set up a meeting?’”
And while Stewart’s initial response was a decisive no, he soon reconsidered, asking for a four-page mock-up of the plan for the 10-episode order. What writer, executive producer, and Star Trek superfan Michael Chabon ended up turning in, as Stewart remembers it, was a bit longer.
“I seem to remember 35 [pages],” Stewart said, laughing about the attempt by the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist (for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) to woo him.
“It was an incredible document,” Kurtzman agreed. “And I can tell you that one of the greatest moments that we had was coming to see you [Stewart] after you had read the document not knowing what the response was going to be, and you walked into the room and you were smiling. That was the moment.”
(Photo by Trae Patton/CBS)
While the response in the room to seeing the likes of Data and Riker pop up in the NYCC trailer for Picard was rapturous, to say the least, the creators on stage did emphasize that they didn’t want it to be just a shallow reunion show. When asked about how they negotiated bringing back fan-favorite franchise vets and serving the heart of the story, executive producer Heather Kadin explained that no one was brought back thoughtlessly or without the bigger picture in mind.
“A big concern was we did not want it to be — and especially Patrick did not want it to be — a TNG reunion show,” she said. “And I think what you can even tell from the trailer and what you’ll definitely tell when you watch the series is we only brought people back if their story really mattered to the story we were telling. We didn’t want it to be, ‘And then over here is Riker!’ You know? I don’t think the fans would’ve appreciated that, either, and it was really important to Patrick, who obviously has longstanding, deep relationships with these people, that if we’re going to go to them and say, ‘Join a show that’s called Picard,’ that we give them something significant to do. You’ll see that each one of them has a pivotal, emotional story to tell in our 10 episodes.”
(Photo by Trae Patton/CBS)
Joining the Picard creatives and Stewart on the NYCC stage were series newcomers Briones, Santiago Cabrera (Cristobal “Chris” Rios), Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker), Alison Pill (Dr. Agnes Jurati), Harry Treadaway ( Narek), and Evan Evagora (Elnor). While the actors are contractually obligated to remain tight-lipped, we did learn some necessary backstory for what to expect going into the January premiere.
When Dahj comes in search for Picard’s help, that help quickly becomes a two-way street, Briones said.
“When Dahj and Picard first meet, it’s this really special moment of two lost souls colliding in a way in this crazy circumstance that is born out of tragedy. [It’s] two people helping each other. It starts with me asking for help, but I think we help each other, which is a really, really beautiful moment to have with Sir Patrick Stewart,” Briones said.
Though she couldn’t reveal too much, she said “‘complicated’ is a good word” to describe the predicament Dahj finds herself in.
“I am seeking help from him because of a horrible tragedy that I have just gone through, and my gut is telling me to go to Picard, and that in itself is so complicated, just the feeling of me needing someone and going to this man saying, ‘I need help,’” Briones said.
Kadin added that much like Tilly on Star Trek: Discovery, Dahj will be a point of entry for non-Star Trek fans to jump into the world of Picard.
“In the way Tilly has been a representation of someone new to the world on Discovery, I think you’ll find that Isa’s character gives you that way into this show,” she said. “But I also think that Patrick has so many fans from so many things that I think that he’s going to bring that to this show, and I think people are going to be able to be welcomed into it without a problem.”
As far as the other characters, “complicated” remained the word of the hour, whether it was used to describe the shared history of Raffi and Picard (per Hurd: “We have a past. We’ve worked together, and we had a falling out.”); of Rios’s return to Starfleet after he left “due to some traumatic events in his past in relation to Starfleet,” according to Cabrera; or of the introduction of “odd couple” Romulans Narek and Elnor, who are navigating a world in which they are no longer welcome.
Pill’s Dr. Jurati comes into the mix after being swept up in Picard’s once-in-a-lifetime (and still-unnamed) intergalactic adventure.
“Picard’s mission ends up being exactly what she’s spent her entire life reading about, so they have the same goal in mind, and the possibility of it invites this woman to want to go on an adventure unlike anything she’s ever [been] on,” Pill teased.
Stewart later emphasized that it’s the series’ ongoing ensemble work that remains his top priority while being top of the call sheet.
“I looked on every aspect of The Next Generation as being ensemble-based, and in fact, that has been very much an indicator of where I was in my career — that the ensembles that I’d worked with, whether they were in theater or film or television, have always been to me like another character,” he said. “And so when we first met and talked in those early discussions, it was, my use of that word, the ensemble, the uniting of a group, because here we sit, I can only speak personally, but in love with all of these people on my left, and of course the people on the right. And that’s where the ensemble element comes from, and it’s very important.”
(Photo by Matt Kennedy/CBS)
For those who watched the trailer, we’re introduced to Picard’s pet pitbull, named Number One. While the dog has been featured prominently in promotion of the CBS All Access series, little is known thus far of what role, exactly, the pup will be playing. But it wasn’t lost on the NYCC audience that Stewart has a real-world connection to pitbulls, working tirelessly in nonprofit initiatives and fostering and adopting the oft-misunderstood breed himself.
With that in mind, Stewart revealed that when it became clear that Kurtzman was going to include a dog for Picard in this 10-episode journey, he pushed for it to be a pitbull to further destigmatize the breed onscreen.
“Once the dog issue had been agreed upon, I did campaign proliferously for it to be a pitbull,” he said, noting the prominence of the now-famous dog from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “But what I didn’t know at the time was that Brad Pitt had gotten in there ahead of me, and there’s another pitbull now that’s become very famous in the last few weeks.”
(Photo by Trae Patton/CBS)
The turn of phrase that Kurtzman likes best when discussing his slate of new Star Trek iterations is that he wants it to be reflective of the social and political state of today’s world.
“Star Trek is a mirror that holds itself up to society,” Kurtzman said. And specifically pointing out the ways in which Star Trek: Picard will deal with its treatment of the defeated and refuge-seeking Romulans, he said that the series dives right into the muck of it. “We’re in a massive immigration metaphor right now in the middle of a massive immigration conversation, and we are very proud, I think, to say that we are diving head-first into that and to using Trek as a way of exploring it from all points of view.”
Star Trek: Picard premieres January 23, 2020, on CBS All Access
With HBO’s Game of Thrones finally complete, the network is searching for a successor to its crown jewel. The first major contender is an HBO and BBC coproduction, the adaptation of author Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. Set at the crossroads of fantasy and science fiction, it has going for it both the network’s proven pedigree, as well as a fanbase as loyal as A Song of Ice and Fire‘s. But will that be enough to succeed GoT’s place in the TV viewer’s consciousness? Let’s look at what we know about the show, which premieres November 4, to try to find out.
(Photo by HBO)
Beginning with 1995’ Northern Lights, published in the U.S. as The Golden Compass, Pullman devised a world of parallel universes, witches, soul-animals, and talking polar bears. The story centers on Lyra Belacqua, a 12-year-old living in Oxford, England. But the Oxford of her carefree days contains elements not seen in our world — namely Pantalaimon, a manifestation of her inner-self known as a “dæmon.” When Lyra warns her uncle, Lord Asriel, about an attempt on his life, she learns about a mysterious substance known as Dust and the parallel worlds her uncle has spied through the Northern Lights. This knowledge is deemed heresy by the Magisterium, a version of the Holy Church that has a high position of authority in this world..
As Lyra begins to look into the disappearance of her best friend, she is soon adopted by Mrs. Coulter, a woman involved in a Church-sanctioned child abduction program. Fleeing from Coulter, she joins a caravan of nomads. Along the way she meets Iorek Byrnison, the talking bear you might dimly recall from The Golden Compass film, and learns some surprising truths about her family history.
She also learns more about Dust, which leads to a shocking betrayal and her decision to step into alternate worlds — including our own.
The themes are pretty heady, with Dust emerging as the possible source of all human sin. Pullman, a self-described “Church of England atheist,” takes Catholicism to task for many of its tenets and, in His Dark Materials, openly declares Original Sin as one of the hallmark strengths of the human race. Naturally, controversy followed him as his thoughts do constitute a sort of heresy. Subsequently, Pullman would become more nuanced in his stance, suggesting powerful institutions — and not the underlying philosophies — lead to societal ills.
Nonetheless, the first novel earned several literary awards in the U.K. and was named on many U.S. top choice lists upon its publication.
The subsequent novels in the series, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, continue Lyra’s journey as she is joined by Will Parry, a 12-year-old boy from our reality who ends up in possession of the Subtle Knife. The two learn more about the nature of sin as they face an Eden-level temptation. Pullman continued to write short stories in this frame. He also began a new trilogy of novels, collectively known as The Book of Dust, starting with 2017’s La Belle Sauvage and continuing with October 2019’s The Secret Commonwealth.
The success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was met with rival studios attempting to set up their own LOTR-style success. Curiously, LOTR‘s home studio, New Line Cinema, believed His Dark Materials would lead to a repeat of its earlier creative and financial gains. New Line bought the rights to the trilogy in 2002, leading to the 2007 film The Golden Compass, starring Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliot, Eva Green, and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. Chris Weitz, signing on as writer and director, chose to soften the novels’ criticisms about organized religion, leading to the displeasure of fans and Weitz’s decision to ultimately walk away from the project. Reflecting on his choice, he told Newsweek that he’d realized the fan ire, technical challenges of making a blockbuster picture, and the studio’s seemingly inevitable disappointment when the film was not a LOTR-sized success made the project something of a poison pill. He would soon return after his replacement, Leap Year‘s Anand Tucker, walked away citing the old “creative differences.”
The film takes certain liberties with the source – including changes to Lyra’s journey and the deletion of the book’s ending – which Pullman publicly supported at the time. Eventually, both he and Weitz admitted the changes were made to give the film a more upbeat ending and increase the chances of a second film. It also made the mistake of many, many fantasy films before it and since: an opening narration robbing the audience of its chance to discover Pullman’s world organically.
As a consequence, New Line’s hoped for film trilogy never emerged and many forgot the film ever happened.
As in the early part of the century with The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones opened an opportunity for fantasy to migrate from the page to the screen. And as the genre’s prestige rose thanks to GoT, Pullman came to view television as a better place for his material to reach an audience. In 2015, BBC One commissioned an eight-episode adaptation of the trilogy. Expected to arrive in 2017, little else happened besides writer Jack Thorne (National Treasure) telling the press that the program was still on its way.
It suddenly burst to life the following year with Logan’s Dafne Keen signing on to play Lyra, The Danish Girl‘s Tom Hooper agreeing to direct the first two episodes, and Lin-Manuel Miranda taking on a role later revealed to be aeronaut Lee Scoresby. Soon after, James McAvoy, Clarke Peters, and Ruth Wilson joined the ensemble. After these announcements, HBO signed on as a co-producer and BBC One ordered a second season before the first had even been filmed.
According to producer Jane Tranter — who is responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to TV and is now founder of Bad Wolf Production company — that decision was made to prevent Keen and the other child actors from aging out of the characters too quickly.
“There is a great thing in His Dark Materials of a girl going through puberty and we wanted to be able to pace that story out age-appropriately,” she explained to reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in August. “And so, that’s why everyone — HBO and the BBC — went with us for 16 episodes.”
Wilson plays Mrs. Coulter while McAvoy plays Lord Asriel, two characters whose shared history will no doubt surprise viewers. Peters plays the Master of Jordan College, who also serves as Lyra’s guardian as the story begins. Other cast members include Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala, the witch played by Eva Green in the film; Anne-Marie Duff as Ma Costa; Ariyon Bakare as Carlo Boreal; Will Keen as Father MacPhail; Georgina Campbell as Adele Starminster; Lucian Msamati as John Faa; Lewin Lloyd as Lyra’s best friend, Roger Parslow; Tyler Howitt as Billy Costa; Amir Wilson as key character Will Parry; and Andrew Scott as his father, Col. John Parry. Lending their voices to the various dæmons are Kit Connor as Pantalaimon; Helen McCrory as Stelmaria; David Suchet as Kaisa; Cristela Alonzo as Hester; and the show’s lead puppeteer, Brian Fisher, providing sounds for Mrs. Coutler’s otherwise mute — and unnamed — golden monkey dæmon. Joe Tandberg will voice Iorek Byrnison, the polar bear Lyra meets in the North.
(Photo by HBO)
HBO’s plot description closely resembles that of the early Northern Lights chapters. Lyra’s search for a missing friend leads her to learn about Dust and the alternate worlds. It also goes out of its way to mention Will Parry, who will seemingly debut earlier than he does in the novel series. Based on the most recent trailer, Lyra’s journey will closely mirror the one described in The Golden Compass. But with its emphasis on Asriel’s conflict with the Magisterium, the preview also suggests viewers will become privy to certain motivations and issues far earlier than readers, who spend the entire first novel alongside Lyra and learning about the world(s) with her.
Curiously, the controversies that dogged the film production have not returned with the series — or, at least, they have not resurfaced yet. Considering Pullman’s views on the church, it is only a matter of time before old quotes end up back in print and old opponents try to take the television series to task. If that proves to be the case, Tranter has a ready reply: “[The series] is not an attack on religion. It is an attack on a particular form of organization.” Which could always be true, but it is also easy to imagine HBO wants to court the controversies, which may lure viewers to watch this lavishly-produced rendition of the story. The new trailer even seems to poke at the beehive with its mentions of the Magisterium as a regressive organization.
The long-awaited series will debut Monday, Nov. 4 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Every year, the BAFTA film awards present a trophy for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. Introduced in 1978, the award recognises an organisation or a person’s career and influence on the British Film Industry. This year’s recipient, announced today, is Pinewood/Shepperton, two of the British industry’s most important film studios whose contribution to filmmaking has resulted in some of the greatest movies of all time. Under strict instruction not to let anyone working at the studios know about the award, RT spent a day last week touring Pinewood and Shepperton and learning a little more about these stalwarts of film.
The Orange British Academy Film Awards begin on British TV on BBC Two from 8pm, continuing on BBC One from 9pm on Sunday 8 February. A preview show featuring interviews from the red carpet will be broadcast on BBC Three from 7pm.
Our tour begins at Pinewood, and the first thing that catches your eye as you head through the main gates is 007 stage. All but two of the official Bond films have featured scenes shot at Pinewood, and the franchise is a regular cash cow for the studio.
007 stage was built in 1976 for The Spy Who Loved Me, after the production was unable to find a stage big enough to contain the Liparus Supertanker set. At 59,000 square feet it’s the largest sound stage in Europe, and has burnt to the ground twice — most recently after filming had wrapped on Casino Royale in 2006. It’s been the Louvre for The Da Vinci Code, the Chocolate River Room for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and most recently played host to desert scenes and a Persian fort for videogame adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
One of the more exciting stages on the Pinewood lot is U-Stage, built in 2005 to provide a safe, permanent and controlled environment in which to shoot underwater. Managed by a permanent team of divers and specialists who assist productions shooting underwater footage on the stage, it holds 1.2 million litres of water which is maintained at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, 87 Fahrenheit.
Windows provide easy views underwater allowing RT to stay suitably dry for these shots as the team demonstrate their underwater camera. They wouldn’t tell us which production the boat belonged to, but we’ll know when the first of the Ant Pirates trilogy is announced any day now (probably).
From the surface, the team are able to feed into the camera from the video village. Scenes shot since the stage was built include the closing scene from The Bourne Ultimatum, Keira Knightley drowning in Atonement and the armada sequences from Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Pinewood’s city street, which can be dressed to look like just about any urban backdrop, is a familiar sight for RT. We were here just a few weeks ago visiting the set of Kick-Ass and the production had dressed the street as New York. The two storefronts in the middle of the picture here were dressed as Atomic Comics, the comic book shop featured in the movie. The interior set was built here too.
Providing a giant blue-screen backdrop, this outdoor tank (empty in the picture, obviously) is an ideal location for any shooting designed to look like it was filmed at sea. As comedienne Dawn French sank to the bottom at the end of the French and Saunders Titanic spoof she complained of a foul taste. Jennifer Saunders explained why: “It’s the old Bond tank. Three Bonds and George Lazenby have peed in this.”
The walls of Pinewood’s main offices are festooned with production art from the many films that have passed through the studio. Icons include the Carry On series, David Lean‘s Great Expectations, Superman, The Shining, Batman and Mission: Impossible. Over the last couple of years Mamma Mia!, Quantum of Solace, Sweeney Todd, The Bourne Ultimatum and Stardust, to name a few, were shot here.
And so to Shepperton, where we’re quickly informed to keep quiet on the two big projects on the go at the studios. Signs for both litter the lot, but announcements haven’t gone out and the management team are keen to respect their tenants’ privacy. Opened in 1931 as Sound Lighting Studios, Shepperton has changed hands many times, with former owners including Ridley and Tony Scott and The Who.
Slightly smaller than Pinewood, Shepperton has played host to a slew of movies including The African Queen, The Third Man, Dr. Strangelove, the Pink Panther movies and Batman Begins. Sir John Mills worked at the studio on Great Expectations and The Colditz Story. “What has always remained with me about working at Shepperton has been the sheer professionalism of everyone, both in front of and behind the camera,” he said.
Aside from being a former owner of the studios, Ridley Scott has returned to Shepperton many times over the years, having shot Alien, Legend, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator here. “From the moment I entered Shepperton, I knew the place was special,” he says. “Anywhere that had had within its walls Carol Reed directing Orson Welles in The Third Man, was going to mean a great deal to me.”
H-Stage at Shepperton was moved from Isleworth Studios in 1948 and has played host to many of the most ambitious sets built on site. A full-scale reproduction of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship the Tyger was built on hydraulic rams on this stage for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and just a few years ago H-Stage housed the Batcave from Batman Begins. Built over 9 weeks, the set was 250ft long, 120ft wide and 40ft high and 12,000 gallons of water flowed through it every minute, serving a waterfall, a river and the dripping cave walls.
If you have a spare £300,000 hidden down the back of the sofa, you could spend it on your very own version of the Korda Theatre, a state-of-the-art facility for sound mixing. Named after Hungarian producer/director Alexander Korda, whose contribution to British cinema in the 40s and 50s was vast, features mixed here include Shakespeare in Love, Gosford Park and Troy.
Shepperton’s Littleton Manor, known as the Old House, dates back to the 13th Century and houses production offices and facilities. Its corridors doubled for interior shots of the hospital where Damian was born in The Omen while the grounds served as a backdrop for an encounter between Father Brennan and Damian’s father.
It may look like any other overgrown British stream, but this is a fully-fledged river that runs through Shepperton’s backlot. As hard as it may be to believe, this scene doubled as Africa for the Bogart/Hepburn classic The African Queen. One of the studios’ popular legends goes that there’s an unusually large number of parakeets in the area because they were released during the production of that movie.
Built for The Golden Compass, Shepperton now has its very own Western street on the backlot, which marks the last spot on our tour. We’re not entirely convinced the British weather is going to help to complete the Wild West look, but it seemed to be pretty convincing as part of the His Dark Materials adaptation.
If you, like many others, opted out of The Golden Compass while it was in theaters, never fear; your chance to watch it at home has arrived. Then again, instead of picking up that or the underwhelming wedding rom-com 27 Dresses, you could go for the wondrous, Oscar-nominated Diving Bell and the Butterfly. More new releases inside.
Set in a fantastical alterna-universe with talking bears and animal BFFs, The Golden Compass seemed so promising in its epic story of a young girl battling a sinister organization. And though it’s fun to label New Line’s costly adaptation of Philip Pullman’s series a major disappointment, it nearly doubled its $180 million budget in foreign sales — yet, who knows if any sequels will be made? Now’s your chance to catch the Brit fantasy adventure on DVD.
Go for the two-disc edition for writer/director Chris Weitz’s commentary track (is the Magesterium a stand-in for the Catholic Church?) and a whopping eleven featurettes.
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” Whose bright idea was it to turn every single woman’s most hated saying into a romantic comedy? James Marsden — who almost never gets the girl — is a reporter who wants to write about the world’s busiest matron of honor (Katherine Heigl). Heigl, whose career lows include starring opposite Gerard Depardieu in My Father, the Hero and appearing in the lowest-grossing movie in recent memory (Zzyxx Road, which earned $30 at the box office. Yes, $30.) should have been able to turn her Knocked Up and Grey’s Anatomy successes into something more.
Four featurettes and deleted scenes come with the release.
Fun fact: 27 Dresses features tons of actually great songs from the likes of Justice, Regina Spektor, Feist, Bloc Party, and Amy Winehouse.
Not so fun fact: None of the above appear on the soundtrack, which is all instrumental.
Now here’s a must-see film. Katherine Heigl thinks being single is tough? Try being totally paralyzed, save for one eyeball, and blinking out your memoirs. Such is the real-life story of magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, whose autobiography became the basis of artist Julian Schnabel’s incredibly haunting film of the same name.
An otherwise standard behind-the-scenes video is especially fascinating with Diving Bell, thanks to the inventive ways Schnabel chose to film from Bauby’s first-person perspective (for example, watching doctors sew Bauby’s eyelid shut — from the inside!). If you’re one to appreciate imaginative filmmaking and cinematography, the bonus menu should be fairly fascinating.
Unlike teen dancing flicks Step Up and You Got Served (and more like the excellent Stomp the Yard), this urban tale blends eye-popping choreography with some semblance of plot. Set in Toronto’s gritty immigrant ghetto (Who knew Canada had ghettos — or street dancing!) How She Move centers on a female step dancer (the ripped, American newbie Rutina Wesley) who joins a crew to pay for college.
Character and rehearsal featurettes are the most spectacular offerings on this release. What, no dance-along tutorial? Put in High School Musical 2 instead.
Oh, Dolph Lundgren; what hath time wrought? The heir-apparent to the Steven Seagal-Chuck Norris subgenre of low-budget cheesy action is back again with another direct-to-video film — which we wouldn’t normally cover here, but Lundgren is the man: a 6’5″ blonde Swedish blackbelt with a master’s degree in chemical engineering who chose a life of cheapo chopsocky stardom making flicks with titles like Hidden Agenda, Direct Action, and now, Diamond Dogs.
You can watch a making-of featurette (hey, it’s more than last week’s One Missed Call offered), but let’s get back to Lundgren. Diamond Dogs, besides sharing its name with David Bowie’s 1974 glam concept album, is Lundgren’s 18th straight direct-to-DVD movie. He hasn’t been in a theatrical release since 1996’s Silent Trigger. We may never see him on the big screen again.
Attention, filmgoers who have seen and enjoyed The Golden Compass: According to The Vatican, you’re either “dishonest” or you haven’t been “gifted with a critical spirit.”
Such is the underlying message to be taken from a long (and rather smug) editorial in Wednesday’s edition of l’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican daily. Calling Compass‘ underwhelming box-office performance “consoling,” the paper dismisses Chris Weitz‘s adaptation of Philip Pullman‘s book as the “most anti-Christmas film possible” before speculating that the movie’s $26 million domestic opening might spell doom for the remainder of the planned trilogy. “If that should happen,” says the editorial, “it wouldn’t be a big loss.”
And if you actually enjoyed the movie, what’s wrong with you? That’s what the paper wants to know. You should have found it “devoid of any particular emotion apart from a great chill,” because “in Pullman’s world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events.”
So there, New Line, Philip Pullman, and Chris Weitz. The Catholic Church showed you. And just wait until you read what they have to say about Angels & Demons! (We have to ask, though — where was the Vatican’s film critic when we were having our holiday spirits crushed by Deck the Halls and/or Christmas with the Kranks? Talk about your most anti-Christmas films possible…)
A full list of the nominees follows below, with Tomatometers in parentheses. Let the nitpicking begin!
FILM OF THE YEAR
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
There Will Be Blood (94 percent)
Zodiac (89 percent)
The Bourne Ultimatum (93 percent)
DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — The Lives of Others (93 percent)
Paul Thomas Anderson — There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen — No Country for Old Men
David Fincher — Zodiac
Cristian Mungui — 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (96 percent)
ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Ulrich Muhe — The Lives of Others
Casey Affleck — The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
George Clooney — Michael Clayton (90 percent)
Tommy Lee Jones — In the Valley of Elah (69 percent)
Daniel Day-Lewis — There Will Be Blood
ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Laura Linney — The Savages (89 percent)
Marion Cotillard — La Vie en rose (74 percent)
Maggie Gyllenhaal — Sherrybaby (72 percent)
Angelina Jolie — A Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Anamaria Marinca — 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
BRITISH ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Sam Riley — Control
James McAvoy — Atonement
Christian Bale — 3:10 to Yuma (87 percent)
Jim Broadbent — And When Did You Last See Your Father (81 percent)
Jonny Lee Miller — The Flying Scotsman (51 percent)
BRITISH ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Samantha Morton — Control
Julie Christie — Away From Her (95 percent)
Keira Knightley — Atonement
Helena Bonham Carter — Sweeney Todd (92 percent)
Sienna Miller — Interview (57 percent)
BRITISH ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Tom Wilkinson — Michael Clayton
Toby Jones — The Painted Veil (75 percent)
Alfred Molina — The Hoax (86 percent)
Tobey Kebell — Control
Albert Finney — Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (87 percent)
BRITISH ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Saoirse Ronan — Atonement
Imelda Staunton — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (77 percent)
Tilda Swinton — Michael Clayton
Kelly Macdonald — No Country for Old Men
Vanessa Redgrave — Atonement
SCREENWRITER OF THE YEAR
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — The Lives of Others
Joel and Ethan Coen — No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson — There Will Be Blood
Ronald Harwood — The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Christopher Hampton — Atonement
BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — ACTING
Saoirse Ronan — Atonement
Sam Riley — Control
Thomas Turgoose — This Is England
Benedict Cumberbatch — Amazing Grace (71 percent)
Dakota Blue Richards — The Golden Compass
BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — FILMMAKING
John Carney, writer and director — Once
Sarah Gavron, director — Brick Lane (68 percent)
Anton Corbijn, director — Control
Matt Greenhalgh, writer — Control
Stevan Riley, writer, director, producer — Blue Blood
A wave of new product hits the marketplace at a time when exciting films are desperately needed to end the current box office funk. The science fiction thriller I Am Legend leads the way but will be joined by the family comedy Alvin and the Chipmunks and the romantic comedy The Perfect Holiday. For only the second time all year, just two films managed grosses of more than $5M last weekend. Hollywood critically needs this weekend to turn things around if it wants to end the year on a happy note.
Gunning for his seventh consecutive number one opening, Will Smith headlines the sci-fi thriller I Am Legend, the latest Hollywood film based on the classic 1954 novel of the same name. The PG-13 entry finds the superstar playing the last man alive on Earth after a virus wipes out the entire human population in the not-so-distant future. Legend could prove to be Smith’s greatest box office challenge to date since there are no famous co-stars, no big director, and the novel it is based on is not exactly a hot item in today’s era. This film is Will’s to make or break.
But for millions of movie fans, the former Fresh Prince plus action equals a definite trip to the local multiplex. The actor is right at the top of the current A list and is arguably the most bankable star alive consistently drawing in audiences that cut across all race, gender, and age barriers. Will Smith can bring out paying audiences for sci-fi (I, Robot), comedy (Hitch), drama (The Pursuit of Happyness), action (Bad Boys II), and animation (Shark Tale). With Legend he now flirts with the boundaries of horror as battling killer zombies that attack at night is a far cry from being a date doctor.
Warner Bros. has good timing for I Am Legend. The marketplace has been about as dead as the world depicted in the film and audiences are hungry for an event film to get them back into the habit of moviegoing. Competition will not be much of a factor and business will be coming in from many directions with teens and young adults leading the way and fans of sci-fi and action delivering a big bang too. The studio’s massive marketing push will do the trick and adding more bite will be the simultaneous Imax release where higher ticket prices ($16 in New York City) will give the grosses a boost. Plus the strategic move of playing the new prologue for next summer’s much-anticipated Batman flick The Dark Knight with the Imax release of I Am Legend just fuels more excitement and guarantees more asses in the seats.
Will Smith is looking to score one of the biggest December openings ever for a non-Peter Jackson flick. A big drop next weekend is likely, but for now consumers are keeping all eyes on I Am Legend which attacks 3,606 theaters on Friday. An opening weekend gross of about $50M could result.
Competition should not be too bad since Enchanted which is going into its fourth session is the only family film generating any decent dough right now. Instead, holiday shopping may be the real threat as many parents will wait until a little later before heading to the cinemas for this one. The property is not popular enough to create any true sense of urgency. But this is common in mid December. Last year, Charlotte’s Web got off to a slow start with a $11.5M bow but went on to make seven times that amount with a final tally of $82.6M. Fox’s marketing push has been aggressively targeting young kids and the studio knows that little success lies with teens and young adults. Going very wide with 3,476 playdates on Friday, Alvin and the Chipmunks could gross about $15M this weekend but hold on well over the holidays.
Disney’s Enchanted, which earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations, is slowly but surely making its way towards the $100M mark. Another moderate 35% decline would give the fairy tale pic around $7M which would push the sum up to $93M. Sony’s This Christmas will face direct competition from The Perfect Holiday so a 40% dip may result giving the pic $3M and $47M to date.
LAST YEAR: The man in black beat out some tough competition to conquer the box office. Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness led a wave of new releases with its top spot debut grossing $26.5M for Sony. The feel-good smash played well over the holiday season surging to $162.6M domestically and $294M worldwide – an impressive sum for a Smith vehicle not driven by guns or special effects. Fox’s fantasy actioner Eragon bowed close behind in second with $23.2M on its way to $75M from North America representing only 30% of the global take. Overseas the numbers were much stronger with $175M in ticket sales for a powerful $250M tally worldwide. Third place also featured a new release. Paramount’s family film Charlotte’s Web debuted to the tune of $11.5M but reached a solid $82.6M by the end of the run. Rounding out the top five were the penguin toon Happy Feet with $8.4M and the romantic comedy The Holiday with $8M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
New Line’s mega-budgeted fantasy adventure
The Golden Compass opened below industry expectations but still managed
to find its way into the number one spot at the North American box office. No
other wide release debuted over the frame so the rest of the top ten was filled
with holdover pics. For the second consecutive weekend, the top ten failed to
break the $70M mark further extending the end-of-year slump that Hollywood has
been suffering from as audiences have displayed little excitement for the
offerings that the studios have rolled out. Overall, the box office slumped to
the worst performance in five years for the first weekend of December.
Despite a built-in audience of literary fans and a massive production budget
estimated to be between $180-200M,
The Golden Compass generated a relatively mild $26.1M opening this
weekend while playing ultrawide in 3,528 theaters. Averaging $7,405 per site,
the PG-13 film starring
and Daniel Craig
saw a bow that was in the same vicinity as those of recent historical
effects-driven adventures released during the holiday season like
Beowulf ($27.5M last
month) and Eragon
($23.2M last December). With no other competing new releases, and with most
current films aging rapidly, Compass was expected to have smooth sailing to a
higher gross at the multiplexes this weekend.
The opening was nowhere near the $65.6M debut of
The Chronicles of Narnia from two years ago this very same weekend. Both
were epic fantasy adventures based on popular kids books, targeted the family
audience in early December, and were driven by special effects. Narnia
carried the potent Disney brand name, secured a more commercially-friendly PG
rating, and took advantage of a better-known literary source. Compass on the
other hand attracted plenty of resistance from Catholic groups who encouraged
people not to buy tickets for the film. The New Line release also attracted
mixed reviews from critics who were mostly not enthusiastic about the pic.
Among this year’s 18 event films launching in over 3,500 theaters, The
Golden Compass attracted the third worst opening weekend. The only ones to
premiere that wide and with less muscle were the far less expensive pics
Surf’s Up and
which bowed to $17.6M and $18.5M, respectively. December releases typically last
longer at the box office so The Golden Compass still has a chance of
joining the century club domestically. But the road to profitability will be a
Disney’s feel-good princess hit Enchanted
fell from the top spot after two weeks of rule and grossed an estimated $10.7M
putting it in second place. The PG-rated comedy dropped only 35% and boosted its
stellar cume to $83.9M in 19 days. With good word-of-mouth and school holidays
right around the corner, Enchanted should continue to hold up well
throughout the holiday season. A final tally of $115-125M could result capping
off a year of mostly winners for Disney.
Another yuletide pic followed.
Claus dipped only 15% to an estimated $4.7M for Warner Bros. raising
the sum to $65.6M. With Christmas coming up soon, moviegoers were in the mood
for the brother of Santa and helped give the comedy an exceptional hold. The
road could lead to the vicinity of $80M.
Suffering the largest drop in the top ten was the 3D adventure
fell 46% to an estimated $4.4M for a cume to date of $76M. With a production
budget of $150M, the Paramount/Warner Bros. co-production should reach $85-90M
from North America. Overseas this weekend, Beowulf grossed an estimated
$9.2M from over 5,000 screens in 60 markets. The international cume now stands
at $91.6M with the global tally at $167.6M.
The acclaimed indie hit
No Country for
Old Men expanded to more theaters and climbed from tenth to sixth
with an estimated $4.2M. Widening from 995 to 1,324 playdates, the Miramax
release averaged a decent $3,197 in its fifth weekend and bumped its total up to
$28.9M. The average dipped by 28% from last weekend. Country, which was
recently named the best film of 2007 by the National Board of Review, is on its
way to becoming the highest-grossing film for the
since 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou which collected $45.5M. It even has
the chance of breaking that mark if it can remain a solid performer against the
next wave of adult-skewing pictures.
The family film August Rush
placed seventh with an estimated $3.5M, off only 30%, giving Warner Bros. $25.1M
to date. Fox’s stylish assassin pic Hitman
dropped 42% grossing an estimated $3.5M as well and has bagged $35.8M thus far.
Final grosses should reach the neighborhoods of $35M and $45M, respectively.
followed in ninth with their suspense thriller
Awake which fell
44% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.3M for a ten-day tally of only
$10.7M. Look for a weak final of just under $20M for the MGM release. Bee
Movie still remained in the top ten in its sixth week with an
estimated $2.6M. Off 41%, the DreamWorks toon has grossed $121M to date making
it the second biggest box office hit since the summer ended after
$125.6M. Both films opened on the same day. Look for Bee Movie to end its
run with close to $130M.
Two other films debuted to encouraging results in limited release this
weekend. Fox Searchlight enjoyed the best per-theater average of the weekend
with its teen pregnancy comedy
Juno which debuted
in just seven theaters in New York and Los Angeles to the tune of $420,000 for a
scorching $60,016 average. Since its Wednesday launch the cume stands at
$531,000. Juno expands to thirteen cities and 40 theaters on Friday, then
widens to about 200 runs on Dec 21 before going nationwide on Christmas Day into
800-1000 sites. Critics showered the Jason Reitman-directed film with praise.
Focus went wider with its costume drama
bowed in 32 sites with $817,000 for a superb $25,528 average. After 2005’s
Pride & Prejudice,
Wright and actress
Knightley reunited for Atonement. Reviews were mostly strong.
Other arthouse favorites expanding into more cities continued to do well.
Miramax’s French drama
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly took in an estimated $60,000 from
just three sites for a potent $20,000 average. Cume is $173,000. The
Seymour Hoffman and
widened to nine houses from four and grossed an estimated $146,000. Averaging a
sturdy $16,249, the Fox Searchlight release has upped its sum to $387,000 and
will see its next major expansion on Dec 21 before going into 100 locations on
Christmas Day. Savages will wait until January when more awards and
nominations get announced before going wider.
The top ten films grossed a disappointing $68M over the weekend which was
down a troubling 18% from last year when
at number one with $15M; and down a disturbing 40% from 2005 when The Chronicles
of Narnia debuted on top with $65.6M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com