<p>Sam Worthington in &quot;The Debt.&quot;</p>

Sam Worthington in "The Debt."

Credit: Miramax

Focus Features will try to make a hit out of Sam Worthington's 'The Debt'

Helen Mirren thriller gets a late August release date

Last summer, one picture that seemed like a potential awards player was Miramax's "The Debt."  The dramatic thriller starred Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain (the upcoming "The Tree of Life" and Sundance premiere "Taking Shelter"), Marton Csokas ("The Bourne Supremacy"), Jesper Christensen ("Casino Royale"), Ciarán Hinds and two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson.  It was also seen as a potential comeback for "Shakespeare in Love" helmer John Madden who has had a rough decade since that surprise Academy Award-winning champ. And, it featured the Oscar-friendly subject matter of a Jewish Mossad crew taking out an evil Nazi doctor now in hiding in East Germany.  Add in the prestige of premiering at the Deauville and Toronto Film Festivals this past September and you've got a prime awards season candidate. And then the press saw it.

As I wrote in my review from Toronto, "The Debt" was an incredibly frustrating experience. For the first two acts we witnessed great performances from Mirren, Wilkinson and Chastain and some inspired direction from Madden as the story goes back and forth and the mystery of what happens to the doctor deepens.  And then, sadly, the film jumps the shark in a plot turn that made some in my audience gasp in a "you've got to be kidding me reaction."  It wasn't surprising then that Disney, which still controlled the picture while they worked out a sale for their Miramax division, pulled out of a late December release (it didn't help that Mirren's other Miramax flick, "The Tempest," was also a turd).  

Miramax's new owners took over with no intention of creating a marketing or distribution team which put "The Debt's" future in doubt which was surprising considering that Mirren and Worthington should at least be able to provide some interest in a limited release.  Fear not moviefans, Focus Features has come to the rescue.

In a release today, Focus and Miramax announced "The Debt" will be released nationwide Aug. 31.  Focus has had a lot of success in that pre-Labor Day weekend slot with such last summer performers as "The Constant Gardener" and "The American."  Whether "The Debt" can make a something of a comeback, however, still remains to be seen.

Check out the trailer Disney cut for "The Debt" embedded in this page and share your thoughts below.

<p>Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer at the 83rd Academy Awards nominees luncheon on Monday.</p>

Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer at the 83rd Academy Awards nominees luncheon on Monday.

Before 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's crew celebrates 'Inception'

'Inception's' nominees talk about their acclaimed thriller one last time

At the end of a busy Monday, a few friends got together to discuss their latest achievement.  What most of these men had in common is that they have worked together before and they have all been united because of Christopher Nolan.  In what was likely the last Q&A to discuss "Inception," Wally Pfister (cinematography), Hans Zimmer (original score), Guy Hendrix Dyas (art direction), visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin (visual effects), Richard King (sound editing), Ed Novick and Gary Rizzo (sound mixing) and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould (Visual Effects) all took some time to reflect on he picture that landed them Oscar nominations this year.

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<p>The first image of Meryl Streep as former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher in &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;</p>

The first image of Meryl Streep as former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

Credit: Pathe

Oscar Bait: Meryl Streep channels Margaret Thatcher in 'The Iron Lady'

What Hollywood studio will jump on this one?

Is it possible that a Meryl Streep movie doesn't have a U.S. distributor yet?  is it possible that a movie where Meryl Streep plays a famous historical figure doesn't have a U.S. distributor?  You betcha.

Streep has reunited with her "Mamma Mia!" director Phyllida Lloyd for "The Iron Lady," a drama centered on Margaret Thatcher and how she saved her position as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom before and during the Falklands War in 1982.  Jim Broadbent, an Oscar winner himself, is on board as Streep's husband Dennis. "Lady" is currently shooting in the U.K.

Amazingly, the producers still haven't made a deal for "The Iron Lady" in the U.S., but Pathe, which reps the film overseas, released the first image of Streep as Thatcher today as they get ready to make big sales at the Cannes Film Festival this May.  In a statement from Pathe, Streep remarked, "“I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own."

No one will debate that the subject matter and Streep and Broadbent's pedigree make "Iron Lady" a major prestige and awards play.  The question is who will jump on board?  Fox Searchlight teamed with Pathe on "127 Hours," but appears as though it will have a busy awards season with Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" and Sundance pick up "Martha Marcy May Marlene."  Other potential players such as The Weinstein Company, Focus Features, Summit and Paramount Pictures, on the other hand, all have slots open which could create an intriguing bidding war.  Well, as much of a bidding war as you can get for a drama that might top out at only $50 million domestically.

In the meantime, check out the image of Streep as Thatcher as a tease for awards season 2012 and share your thoughts below.

The first photo or image of Meryl Streep as former U.K. Prime Minister in THE IRON LADY

<p>Annette Bening at the 83rd Academy Awards nominees luncheon on Monday.</p>

Annette Bening at the 83rd Academy Awards nominees luncheon on Monday.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Is Annette Bening Oscar's comeback kid in the best actress race?

Buzz is growing for 'The Kids Are All Right' star

When each nominees name was announced to receive their certificate yesterday at the 83rd Academy Awards luncheon, according to all accounts, the name that got the biggest ovation was a bit of a surprise.  It wasn't industry and Academy favorite Jeff Bridges, show co-host and nominee James Franco or the very pregnant and always adorable Natalie Portman.  No, the biggest round of applause appeared to be for best actress nominee Annette Bening.

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<p>Natalie Portman in the climactic final scenes of &quot;Black Swan.&quot;</p>

Natalie Portman in the climactic final scenes of "Black Swan."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

'Black Swan,' 'Inception' and 'The King's Speech' dominate 2011 Art Directors Guild Awards

'Mad Men' and 'Modern Family' top TV categories

Two of the Oscar nominees for art direction took home category prizes at tonight's 15th Annual Art Director's Guild Awards and one production designer left out received some validation for her efforts.

"The King's Speech's" Eve Stewart won the Period Film honor, "Inception'" Guy Hendrix Dyas won the Fantasy Film honor and Therese Deprez won the Contemporary Film award during this evening's festivities.  On the television side, "Mad Men," "Modern Family," "Saturday Night Live" and the 82nd Academy Awards show were all major winners. 

In what appears to be turning into a very competitive race, "Speech" and "Inception" will face off against "Alice in Wonderland," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1" and "True Grit" on Oscar night.  All members of the Academy get to vote for the Art Direction category and their history of going for a fantasy or genre film five out of the last seven years seems to give "Inception" or "Alice in Wonderland" a leg up on the competition.  Last year, "Avatar" won the award.


A complete list of this year's ADG honorees is as follows:

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<p>&quot;How To Train Your Dragon&quot;&nbsp;had one night of triumph over &quot;Toy Story 3.&quot;</p>

"How To Train Your Dragon" had one night of triumph over "Toy Story 3."

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

'How To Train Your Dragon' sweeps 2011 Annie Awards after Disney boycott

Pixar's 'Day & Night' wins animated short

Now everybody looks bad.

Sort of.

The 2011 Annie Awards were announced tonight in Los Angeles and to no one's surprise, DreamWorks Animation's "How To Train Your Dragon" pulled off a clean sweep of all the major awards including Best Animated Feature, Directing in a Feature Production, Storyboarding in a Feature Production, Writing in a Feature Production, Character Animation in a Feature Production and Voice Acting in a Feature Production (Jay Baruchel as Hiccup).  This after, as reported previously, Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Studios boycotted the longstanding animation organization after complaints of unfair membership standards and voting.

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<p>Christopher Nolan at the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this week.</p>

Christopher Nolan at the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this week.

Credit: AP Photo/Phil Klein

WGA Awards give Christopher Nolan and 'Inception' their first major guild awards

Aaron Sorkin wins best adapted screenplay for 'The Social Network'

The surprise of the WGA Awards this evening was not that Aaron Sorkin duplicated his USC Scripter win in the best adapted screenplay category, but that Christopher Nolan won his very first guild honor of any kind in the original screenplay race for "Inception."

Nolan, who was shockingly left out of the best director race at the Academy Awards for "Inception," has previously been nominated numerous times by the Producer's and Director's Guilds for "Memento," "The Dark Knight" and "Inception" only to lose every time.  Thankfully, his fellow screenwriters ended that streak tonight.  It is something of a breakthrough from his peers and considering the complexity of his "Inception" screenplay is richly deserved.  Nolan also beat out strong competition from the writing teams behind "The Kids Are All Right" and "The Fighter."   He'll face a tougher challenge on Oscar night against "The King's Speech" which was not eligible because of strict Writer's Guild rules.

The other major film winner of the night was "Inside Job" for documentary. 

The awards were handed out in a bi-coastal satellite ceremony in both Los Angeles and New York.

<p>Aaron Sorkin at the Golden Globes last month.</p>

Aaron Sorkin at the Golden Globes last month.

Credit: AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater

Oscar Watch: Aaron Sorkin wins the USC Scripter Award

Plus: Did Melissa Leo jump the Oscar shark with her own ads?

Many see the USC Scripter Award as a strong indicator of who will win the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.  Those pundits might want to do a little research.  The two honors have only lined up six times in 23 years meaning the odds of winning both ain't that good.  However, two of the last three Scripters did win Oscar, "No Country for Old Men" and "Slumdog Millionaire."  Unfortunately, last year's winner, "Up in the Air," did not. 

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<p>In this May 8, 1945 photo, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), the Queen Mum, King George VI and Princess Margaret stand on a balcony celebrating Germany's unconditional surrender ending World War II in Europe.&nbsp; KIng George VI's ascension to the throne is one of the key plot points of &quot;The King's Speech.&quot;</p>

In this May 8, 1945 photo, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), the Queen Mum, King George VI and Princess Margaret stand on a balcony celebrating Germany's unconditional surrender ending World War II in Europe.  KIng George VI's ascension to the throne is one of the key plot points of "The King's Speech."

Credit: AP Photo

Queen Elizabeth II gives her blessing to 'The King's Speech'

Her majesty calls it 'moving' and 'enjoyable'

Queen Elizabeth II has been a fan of motion pictures for quite some time and that hasn't stopped as she's crept into her mid-80's.  Her Majesty, as the Brits like to call her (well, some of them), still entertains about one to two movie premieres a year mostly for charity.  With a film about her father's ascension to the throne nominated for 12 Academy Awards and a box office hit both in the U.K. and in the U.S., many were starting to wonder what the Queen thought about Tom Hooper's historical drama "The King's Speech."  Well, now we know.

A spokesperson for the Queen spoke to London's The Sun newspaper today the monarch found it both "moving" and enjoyable." No doubt sweet relief for Hooper, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush and Harvey Weinstein.

According to The Sun, a source noted, ""The Queen loves a good film. 'The King's Speech' is close to the bone as it is a portrayal of her family in the '1930s. But she found it moving and enjoyable. She was clearly amused by some of the lighter moments."

It also appears the Queen was particularly impressed with Firth who plays her father.

She also appears in the film as a young girl and in one particular scene both she and her sister are sad their lives will forever change with their father's abrupt coronation as King.

The Queen previously invited Dame Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for portraying her in the appropriately titled "The Queen," to lunch at Buckingham Palace following her awards season run.  It's unclear if Firth, who has been cattily critical of the Royals, will be extended the same invitation.

<p>Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine.</p>

Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine.

Florence + The Machine, Gwyneth Paltrow, 'Chuck' and Mandy Moore to sing for Oscar

Plus: Randy Newman will put viewers to sleep

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the performers of the best original song Oscar nominees this year and, happily, most of the original artists will appear live at the Kodak Theater.  The only surprise is the inclusion of hipster favorite Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine.

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