<p>Daniel Craig in &quot;Skyfall.&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall."

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Skyfall' wins big at Empire Awards as Helen Mirren sticks up for the ladies

More gold for Jennifer Lawrence, while Martin Freeman beats Daniel Day-Lewis

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Oscars would have taken place on this past weekend. With the season having been mercifully shortened, however, it's left to Britain's Empire Awards, as voted by readers of the eponymous movie magazine, to put a bow on things -- and with Jameson as their chief sponsor, they make more of a party of it than most.

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<p>Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman, deep in conversation about their character motivations in &quot;Olympus Has Fallen.&quot;</p>

Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman, deep in conversation about their character motivations in "Olympus Has Fallen."

Credit: Millennium Films

Tell us what you thought of 'Olympus Has Fallen'

Antoine Fuqua's loud, proud actioner opened yesterday

I'm not seeing "Olympus Has Fallen" until its UK press screening next week, but any blockbuster headlined by Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo as a butt-kicking action duo out to save America from all attackers has my immediate attention. What's that, you say? It's actually Gerard Butler in the lead? Well, darn. Anyway, Antoine Fuqua's latest has received predictably chilly reviews in most quarters, though I see it has its share of intelligent (though perhaps ironic) defenders in the Twitterverse.

Meanwhile, if you don't fancy seeing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue under siege this weekend, you'll have another opportunity this summer in the markedly similar-looking "White House Down." Still, if any of you have ventured out for this round of jingoistic explosions, give us your thoughts in the comments -- and feel free to vote in the poll below.

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<p>Emma Stone in &quot;The Croods.&quot; Well, sort of.</p>

Emma Stone in "The Croods." Well, sort of.

Credit: DreamWorks Animation

Tell us what you thought of 'The Croods'

The latest from DreamWorks Animation hit theaters yesterday

I've kept narrowly missing "The Croods" -- the latest family adventure from DreamWorks Animation had its world premiere at the Berlinale the morning after I left, while we also never quite managed to meet up at the Miami fest. The design of the whole project, I have to say, has never really drawn me in, and the reviews don't have me rushing to the multiplex. (I'm also a little wary of the studio's output right now, having recently caught up with "Rise of the Guardians" on a flight, and... yikes. Good job, Academy.) 

Still, Drew found the film reasonably fetching in his B+ review, and the early box office figures suggest plenty of viewers are being diverted by the prehistoric romp this weekend. Are you among them? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and feel free to vote in the poll below.

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<p>Deborah Mailman (far left) and her &quot;Sapphires&quot; co-stars Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.</p>

Deborah Mailman (far left) and her "Sapphires" co-stars Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Wayne Blair and Deborah Mailman on taking 'The Sapphires' from stage to screen

The film's director and lead actress both have a long history with the project

When translating a hit stage production to the screen, it seems only right to retain at least some of the talent that made it a success in the first place – and not merely as a good-luck token. That’s a logic that frequently escapes Hollywood, as any number of Broadway ensembles replaced wholesale by bigger names can tell you.

When it came to Tony Briggs’s popular 2005 production “The Sapphires,” however, two cast members remained on board when the Australian musical comedy was translated to the big screen, though neither one in quite the same capacity. But while actress Deborah Mailman simply switched to a different role, Wayne Blair’s reassignment was rather more dramatic: he was selected to direct the film as his debut feature. In contrast to yesterday’s interviewee Chris O’Dowd, who read the script and hopped on board one month before shooting, Blair and Mailman each brought seven years of physical and emotional investment to this heartwarming, fact-based story of a female Aborginal soul quartet chasing the big time against the turmoil of the Vietnam war.

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<p>The official poster of Cannes 2013.</p>

The official poster of Cannes 2013.

Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are the faces of this year's Cannes fest

The festival's official 2013 poster features a vintage shot of the loved-up couple

It seems further, as we're still shaking off the fatigue of the 2012 awards season, but the Cannes Film Festival is less than two months away. Slowly, this year's edition of the world's most prestigious film fest is starting to take shape: we have Steven Spielberg installed as the Competition jury president, and we know that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" will kick off proceedings on the Croisette -- though not before it opens Stateside.

The full festival lineup usual only drops around mid-April: look out for my Top 10 gallery on Monday of the film's we're most eagerly hoping will be there. In the meantime, however, the festival unveiled this year's official festival poster -- and it's the most gorgeous one in many a year.

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<p>Chris O'Dowd at last year's Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Chris O'Dowd at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Chris O'Dowd on 'The Sapphires,' making it in America and why he's no Ken doll

From 'Bridesmaids' to 'Girls,' the Irish comedian's star is in rapid ascendancy

I can think of no more perfect visual metaphor for Chris O'Dowd's booming career these days than his own appearance at last year's Cannes Film Festival: walking the red carpet for the midnight premiere of Australian musical comedy “The Sapphires,” the 6'3'' Irish comedian looked every inch the Hollywood star in a sleekly tailored tux, his unruly mop even combed tidily into place, conforming to the code of an A-list world in which, only a few years ago, he would have been a distinct outsider. Well, almost conforming. Keen-eyed sartorialists would have spotted a flash of yellow just above his polished dress shoes: a dashing pair of bumblebee-striped socks.

O'Dowd's funky choice of hosiery seems indicative of a career in which his unlikely ascent to the top has come very much on his own terms. From modest beginnings in Irish television to his breakout role in popular UK sitcom “The I.T. Crowd” to his star-making big-screen turn as Kristen Wiig's love interest in “Bridesmaids” and beyond, the personable, handsome-but-not-Hollywood-handsome actor has attained crossover success with compromising his image, his persona or even his endearing Irish brogue.

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<p>Gavin O'Connor and Tom Hardy on the set of &quot;Warrior.&quot;</p>

Gavin O'Connor and Tom Hardy on the set of "Warrior."

Credit: Lionsgate

'Warrior' director Gavin O'Connor takes over on 'Jane Got a Gun'

But Jude Law is also out

UPDATE: As you may have heard by now, Jude Law -- himself a recent addition to the cast -- has now followed Ramsay to the exit, having signed on to work with her and not another director. After Michael Fassbender, he's the second major star to abandon the project in the last week. "Jane" may have a gun, but she can't catch a break.

PREVIOUSLY: Okay, so "Jane" is no longer a calamity. One day after gifted Scottish director Lynne Ramsay shockingly pulled out of Natalie Portman-starring Western "Jane Got a Gun" on the very first day of shooting, her replacement has already been drafted: Gavin O'Connor, the sturdy multi-hyphenate whose films include "Tumbleweeds," "Pride and Glory" and, most recently, "Warrior." With O'Connor on board, shooting will get under way tomorrow. No time to waste.

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<p>Chris O'Dowd in &quot;Family Tree.&quot;</p>

Chris O'Dowd in "Family Tree."

Credit: HBO

A glimpse of Christopher Guest's new HBO series 'Family Tree'

Chris O'Dowd stars in this Anglo-American comedy

We don't normally cover small-screen fare here at In Contention, but when the show in question is the creation of Christopher Guest, exceptions should be made. Guest, whose irreverent brand of mock-doc comedy includes such films as "This is Spinal Tap" and "Best in Show," is by no means a newcomer to TV -- among many other achievements, he was on the "Saturday Night Live" team way back when, and recently directed a failed pilot for a US spin on Britain's cult political satire "The Thick of It."

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<p>Ramsay's last film was 2011's &quot;We Need to&nbsp;talk&nbsp;About&nbsp;Kevin&quot;</p>

Ramsay's last film was 2011's "We Need to talk About Kevin"

Credit: AP Photo

Lynne Ramsay quits Natalie Portman western 'Jane Got a Gun' on day one of shooting


Chalk this up as some instantly legendary Hollywood news. Lynne Ramsay has no-showed Natalie Portman western "Jane Got a Gun" on day one of shooting out in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As Mike Fleming writes in his exclusive report, directors leaving production is hardly unheard of, but not showing up on the very first day is a bit, uh, unique.

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<p>Mike Leigh</p>

Mike Leigh

Credit: AP Photo/Carlo Allegri

Mike Leigh's Turner biopic finds a home with Sony Classics

The seven-time Oscar nominee's passion project will be released in 2014

Okay, it's insane enough to be thinking of this year's potential Oscar contenders, but here's one gourmet prospect to chalk up for next year. Though still in pre-production, Mike Leigh's long-fostered passion project, a currently untitled biopic of eminent British painter J.M.W. Turner, has been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. (If my headline had you thinking he'd remade "What's Love Got To Do With It," I'll presume you're unfamiliar with Leigh's work.)  

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