LONDON — Can you remember the last time a villain in a movie franchise was significantly more popular than the hero? Truth be told, you have to go back to 1991 and "The Silence of the Lambs." Jodie Foster's FBI Agent Clarice Starling was our hero, but Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter was the break-out star (shoot, he was pretty much a cultural phenomenon). Flash forward 20 years and Chris Hemsworth has found himself in a similar situation playing a mighty Avenger in 2011's "Thor" and the global blockbuster "The Avengers." Thor has his fans, but it's his witty and devious brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, that crackles on screen. Now a third film featuring the duo is hitting theaters and you won't be surprised to learn that Hiddleston is stealing scene after scene in "Thor: The Dark World."
Last week this pundit discussed the buzz that was circling back on "Saving Mr. Banks" before its world premiere as the closing night film at the 2013 London Film Festival. And as chronicled by Guy Lodge's review and my own rundown of "Banks'" Oscar chances, the film is truly a player. Fast forward two days and in something of a surprise, another potential contender, "The Monuments Men," moves to 2014. That means we have just two unseen contenders left: "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
It's really hard to hide the disdain this pundit has for the Hollywood Film Awards. There may be no less authentic awards ceremony during awards season. Honestly, it's pretty much pointless and just an exercise for potential nominees to practice their speeches and red carpet talking points. Damn you Kanye West for giving the event any sort of relevancy.
LONDON - "Saving Mr. Banks" closed the 2013 BFI London Film Festival Sunday night and, as expected, officially entered the 2014 Oscar race. When your movie tells the true story of the sparring relationship between the Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks, no less) and author P.L. Travers (Emma "where have you been this past decade" Thompson) over the making of "Mary Poppins," the Oscar bait signs are pretty obvious. Happily, and you can learn more in Guy Lodge's review, the film is actually pretty entertaining with some honest dramatic moments audiences won't expect. And yet, whether "Banks" will have a real impact on the Best Picture race might be too hard to gauge Stateside.
WELLINGTON, NZ - Can you really go home again? Orlando Bloom is finding out as he returns to the world of Middle Earth in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Bloom reprises his role as the Elf with a bow, arrow and long luxurious blond hair, Legolas, that he originated in the Oscar-winning "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. And, frankly, it's not bad timing.
It may turn out to be the most competitive Best Picture race in years, but the showdown between co-frontrunners "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" to win it all may soon turn into a three-way race. Walt Disney Studios' "Saving Mr. Banks" will debut at the London Film Festival on Sunday as the Brits will be the first to chime in on the long-buzzed awards player. And, at this point, "Banks" may be the only remaining unseen contender who can make a real mark on the long marathon for the top prize.
WELLINGTON, NZ - In May of 2012, Evangeline Lilly greeted a crew of American journalists on the set of "The Hobbit." Actually, in theory it was the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." After our visit that changed and it's still not clear what movie features the scene we saw Lilly appear in, but her Middle Earth debut was subsequently pushed to a new "second" film, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." That meant the world would have to wait another year to meet Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh's original character, played by Lilly, Tauriel.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Our long national nightmare is over. No, the government is still shut down and Congress is still driving us toward a default, but one of the greatest unanswered questions of the 2014 awards season has been answered: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hosting the Golden Globes again.
Let's be frank. Daniel Radcliffe made enough money starring in eight "Harry Potter" films to never have to work a day in his life gain. And, even at 25, that's an intriguing proposition. Instead, like his co-star Emma Watson, Radcliffe has been working his butt off.
The cast of Steve McQueen's acclaimed new drama "12 Years a Slave" is something of a wonder. Whether it's the remarkable work of Chiwetel Ejiofor as kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup or Michael Fassbender as the shockingly inhumane plantation owner Edwin Epps or Best Supporting Actress contender Lupita Nyong'o, the film features some of the most riveting performances of the year. What has gone slightly unheralded, however, are the fantastic smaller turns by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard. And, the always wonderful Ms. Sarah Paulson.