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Has Dame Maggie Smith Signed On For A 'Downton Abbey' Film?


Maggie Smith Julian Fellowes Michelle Dockery Laura Carmichael Hugh Bonneville

Dame Maggie Smith has reportedly signed on to take part in the heavily rumoured ‘Downton Abbey’ film. While a movie version of the series has not yet been confirmed, Smith’s fellow cast member Michael Fox has said that the veteran actress will be taking part in a big screen adaptation.

Downton AbbeyIs ‘Downton Abbey’ the movie, really happening?

Speaking to MailOnline Fox, who played Andy Parker, said that Smith’s involvement was crucial to the film. “She elevates it to something else, because she is such a legend and a national treasure,” he said.

Continue reading: Has Dame Maggie Smith Signed On For A 'Downton Abbey' Film?

Jimmy Kimmel Takes The Emmy For "Lame" Maggie Smith After She Fails To Appear For The Ninth Time


Maggie Smith Jimmy Kimmel Minnie Driver

Dame Maggie Smith won her fourth Emmy award last night and once again the British actress failed to turn up to collect her trophy. It was the ninth time Smith had been nominated for an award at the annual ceremony and she’s never once made an appearance. But this year host Jimmy Kimmel wasn't going to let her get away with it.

Dame Maggie SmithMaggie Smith has had nine Emmy nominations and four wins, yet she’s never attended a ceremony

During his opening monologue Kimmel called out the ‘Downton Abbey’ actress for her perceived lack of interest in the Emmy awards. “This year there's a new rule,” he began. “For the first time ever, you must be present to win. If we call your name and you're not here to accept, the Emmy goes to the next name on the list. It's called the Maggie Smith rule.”

Continue reading: Jimmy Kimmel Takes The Emmy For "Lame" Maggie Smith After She Fails To Appear For The Ninth Time

Maggie Smith - Maggie Smith seen on the beach and on childrens rides, whilst filming 'The Lady in the Van' - Broadstairs, United Kingdom - Thursday 13th November 2014

Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith - Maggie Smith seen filming 'The Lady in the Van' in Broadstairs, kent - London, United Kingdom - Thursday 13th November 2014

Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith - Maggie Smith Filming The Lady in the Van - London, United Kingdom - Tuesday 11th November 2014

Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith

Downton Abbey Makes Amusing Mistake In New Promotional Images


Maggie Smith Hugh Bonneville Michelle Dockery

The picture, which depicts Lord Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and daughter Edith (Laura Carmichael) standing in one of their impressive stately rooms, features an unexpected decoation on the mantelpiece; a very modern plastic water bottle. Nestled between two ornate vases, the otherwise innocuous object sticks out like a sore thumb.

Downtown Abbey
Spot the water bottle! Picture: @downtonabbey/PA

'Downton Abbey' is known for its meticulous attention to detail, and they even employ an expert, Alastair Bruce, to make sure the show is historically accurate. However it's not actually the first anachronism in the show, with previous episodes featuring television aerials, double-yellow lines and even a modern conservatory. As such, this gaffe didn't go unnoticed by leagions of eagle-eyed fans online when the picture was uploaded onto social media. 

Continue reading: Downton Abbey Makes Amusing Mistake In New Promotional Images

'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Looks Fantastically Watchable [Trailer + Pictures]


Richard Gere Judi Dench Bill Nighy Maggie Smith

Forget The Avengers, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit, for it was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that ruled supreme as the true box-office success story of 2012. Fox were never expecting much when producers Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin pitched the idea of a movie about a group of British retirees travelling to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel - maybe a tidy little profit and a healthy top up in DVD sales.

Judi DenchJudi Dench in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2'

Though Broadbent and Czernin acquired an extraordinary cast - Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celie Imrie - and a clever, funny script. The movie took $136 million worldwide, on a budget of just $10 million. It was a hugely impressive comedy that paved the way for an immediate sequel.

Continue reading: 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Looks Fantastically Watchable [Trailer + Pictures]

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Trailer


Set eight months after the 2012 original film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sees the majority of the cast return India for this sequel from director John Madden. In the run up to Sonny's (Dev Patel) wedding to Sunaina (Tena Desae), he is struggling to find the time to work at his hotel. With only one room left in the hotel, Sonny is confronted with an interesting situation when two new arrivals turn up - Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). With help from Murial (Maggie Smith) acting as the co-manager, will Sonny will be able to juggle his personal and working lives?

Continue: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Trailer

My Old Lady - Trailer Trailer


Mathias (Kevin Kline) is penniless and pretty down on his luck in New York despite having come from a wealthy family. In what seems like a fortunate turn of events, he inherits a sensational apartment in Paris which could land him a lot of money on selling. However, when he travels over to check the place out and set the selling in motion, he meets an elderly tenant named Mathilde (Maggie Smith) who explains that the apartment is 'viager' - a French real estate system which means Mathias must pay a monthly sum to Mathilde until her death before he can gain possession of the property. The pair make a deal allowing Mathias to stay with her at the property, and it's then he meets her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). Chloe's not happy about Mathias' plans to gain ownership of her home but the pair soon bond over their own childhood troubles - things get even more complicated for Mathias when he discovers some deep truths about his father's relationships.

Continue: My Old Lady - Trailer Trailer

Angelina Jolie, Daniel Day Lewis & Dame Maggie Smith Receive Queen's Birthday Honours


Angelina Jolie Queen Elizabeth II Maggie Smith Daniel Day Lewis

The Queen's Birthday Honours List consists of 1149 people including Angelina Jolie and Daniel Day-Lewis. Day- Lewis has received a knighthood and Jolie has been made an honorary dame. Whilst Maggie Smith has received another honour in addition to being a Dame, namely Companion of Honour. 

Daniel Day Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis' three Oscars for Best Actor were mentioned in the List.

Day-Lewis has received a knighthood for his services to the performing arts and his long, successful and prolific career. In the statement, released alongside the list on Friday (13th June), Day-Lewis' three Oscars for Best Actor are mentioned in addition to his performances for which he received the awards: My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln. The statement also mentioned his role in My Beautiful Launderette which "began a reputation for fully exploring his characters, engaging himself physically, psychologically and emotionally."

Continue reading: Angelina Jolie, Daniel Day Lewis & Dame Maggie Smith Receive Queen's Birthday Honours

Angela Lansbury "Very Proud" To Be Made A Dame


Angela Lansbury Queen Elizabeth II Judi Dench Maggie Smith

Angela Lansbury has today been bestowed with the honour of being made a dame by Queen Elizabeth in a special ceremony. The 88 year-old actress, who had previously been known as Angela Lansbury CBE, will now be known as a Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire after having received the very special honour at Windsor Castle in recognition of her accomplishments and contributions.

Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury Was Today Made A Dame At A Windsor Castle Ceremony.

Dame Angela was joined by her son, his wife and her niece as she collected the award for her services to drama as well as charitable work and philanthropy. "It is a very proud day for me to be recognised by the country of my birth, and to meet the Queen under these circumstances is a rare and lovely occasion," she commented, via Sky News.

Continue reading: Angela Lansbury "Very Proud" To Be Made A Dame

National Theatre In London Celebrates 50 Years With A Shining Cast And Star-Studded Guest List


Judi Dench Maggie Smith Helen Mirren Michael Gambon Derek Jacobi

The National Theatre in London celebrated five decades of quality productions yesterday with the aid of some of the brightest and most experienced stars of UK theatre. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Simon Russell Beale and plenty of others gave their best performances to represent the distinguished institution.

National Theatre
Last year, the National celebrated the London Olympics with a fire garden of lit candles.

The guest list was also sufficiently star-studded, with attendees like playwrights Tom Stoppard, Peter Shaffer and David Hare alongside directors Richard Eyre and Peter Hall and actresses Prunella Scales and Juliet Stevenson. The guest of honor was Joan Plowright, the widow of the late first director of the National’s first director and distinguished actor in his own right Lawrence Olivier.

Continue reading: National Theatre In London Celebrates 50 Years With A Shining Cast And Star-Studded Guest List

Richard Gere Joining Veteran Cast For 'Marigold Hotel' Sequel


Richard Gere Judi Dench Bill Nighy Maggie Smith

Not only has The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel retained its all-star cast for the sequel, but another behemoth of the big screen has joined ranks. Richard Gere will star alongside Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton when the comedy returns, though it is currently unknown which new character Gere will play.

There isn’t much info, but the Radio Times report that the same production team will be on board, with the second film once again being written by Ol Parker. Another returnee is Penelope Wilton, who played Jean in the original film.

"We had a wonderful time shooting this film the first time and I am thrilled we will be going back in January to do another one. As far as I know everybdy will be returning," she said.

Continue reading: Richard Gere Joining Veteran Cast For 'Marigold Hotel' Sequel

Dame Maggie Smith - Dame Maggie Smith, Allan Leech and Daisy Lewis films a scene for the fourth series of Downton Abbey in Bampton, Oxfordshire. - Oxfordshire, United Kingdom - Wednesday 7th August 2013

Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith

Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess of Grantham - 'Downton Abbey' filming for the new series in Oxfordshire - Oxfordshire, United Kingdom - Friday 1st March 2013

Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham
Dame Maggie Smith, Violet Crawley and Dowager Countess Of Grantham

Alternate Oscars: Paul Thomas Anderson Wins! Leonardo Di Caprio Wins! Daniel Craig Wins!


Leonardo Dicaprio Paul Thomas Anderson Marion Cotillard Maggie Smith Daniel Craig Sam Mendes Steven Spielberg

Imagine for a minute an alternate Academy Awards. An Oscars ceremony that decided against rewarding biopics, inaccurate thrillers and lightweight sort-of-indie flicks mainly directed by David O'Russell. This Sunday (February 24, 2013), a rather predictable bunch of nominees will take their seats at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

Daniel Day-Lewis will take home Best Actor, Spielberg will probably add to his collection of Best Director gongs, hell, maybe grumps himself Tommy Lee Jones will snatch a prize. It begs the question: is this really a collection of the very best performances and movies of the year? We present to you our alternate Academy Awards - who missed out on a nomination, though wouldn't have looked out of place with the golden statuette in their hand?

Skyfall castThe Skyfall Cast At The Premiere In 2012

Continue reading: Alternate Oscars: Paul Thomas Anderson Wins! Leonardo Di Caprio Wins! Daniel Craig Wins!

A Year Of Surprises? Golden Globes Have No Clear Winner


Helen Mirren Maggie Smith Judi Dench Naomi Watts Emily Blunt Daniel Day Lewis Ben Affleck

This year's Golden Globes ceremony takes place tonight (Jan 13), and its categories - much like the categories in most of this years awards - look wide open.

At the Golden Globes in particular, it looks as though this year could see the bulk of the prizes going to British recipients, with the ladies in particular providing hope that a few gongs will be getting sent across the Atlantic. Dames Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are all vying for awards, with Dame Smith up for two acting gongs - for The Quartet and Downton Abbey. Meanwhile Aussie-Brit Naomi Watts, Emily Blunt and Rachel Weisz are up for awards, whilst Daniel Day-Lewis is looking like the man to beat in the Best Actor category.

Still, Day-Lewis could be beat, meaning he will have to wait til his next film to take his tally of awards up a notch (he always gets nominated at the very least). Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington are probably his biggest threats, but really the award is pretty much Lewis' already. If he doesn't win though, there's a pretty good chance that Damien Lewis could bring the gold home for the UK, being nominated in the television category for Best Actor for his role on Homeland.

Continue reading: A Year Of Surprises? Golden Globes Have No Clear Winner

Tina Fey And Amy Poehler's Golden Globes Drinking Game 2013!


Tina Fey Amy Poehler Harvey Weinstein Judi Dench Maggie Smith

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host the Golden Globes on Sunday (January 13, 2013) and will no doubt bring a touch of Saturday Night Live to one of Hollywood's glitziest evenings. The close friends decided to host the event because - according to Fey - it's "a very kind of sloppy, loud party, and that seemed like our kind of thing." Indeed, it's going to be so sloppy that the hosts have devised their very own drinking game for Sunday drinkers to enjoy.

The Globes is traditionally more raucous than the Oscars. Basically, the organizers want to invite the most famous people available, stick them into a room together and ply them with champagne. Things happen. Mickey Rourke usually gives something his middle finger, Ricky Gervais makes an inappropriate joke as Johnny Depp looks on disapprovingly, despite being in on the joke. Anyway, Fey and Poehler are of the opinion that if they can have a party, then so can we! The pair explained the rules of their drinking game while in conversation with the Hollywood Reporter. So here goes:

-Drink any time an actress cries in a speech

Continue reading: Tina Fey And Amy Poehler's Golden Globes Drinking Game 2013!

Quartet Is A 'Labrador' Of A Film: Average Reviews For Dustin Hoffman's Directorial Debut


Dustin Hoffman Maggie Smith Sheridan Smith Michael Gambon Billy Connolly

Very little of the criticism levied at Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, Quartet, are serious. Largely because it's not a particularly serious film. The whole thing is lighthearted fun, behaving like a bit of a playground for the above-middle-age cast and director, all of whom who have enjoyed successful careers and don't necessarily need to push themselves in anything dark and mysterious. 

Quartet is the story of a quartet of ageing musicians, living in a home together. In their younger days they had performed together, and they would like to again. Starring Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay and Sheridan Smith as support. Reviews have been fairly average so far. 

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave it a desultory 2/5 stars saying that it "is stale, lifeless and often weirdly humourless," but praising Sheridan Smith, who he says "actually steals the film, just a little, with a quietly affecting final speech."

Continue reading: Quartet Is A 'Labrador' Of A Film: Average Reviews For Dustin Hoffman's Directorial Debut

Quartet Review


Very Good

For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors who are working from an intelligent script. So even if it's essentially a rather flimsy little drama that never really stretches the talented cast, there's plenty to like along the way. And Hoffman makes sure that we enjoy ourselves, inserting some sparky humour and a bit of romantic comedy to keep us smiling.

It takes place in a stately home for retired British musicians, which is planning its annual fundraising gala. Then iconic soprano Joan (Smith) arrives, and the gala's diva-like director (Gambon) decides to reunite the quartet known for a famed performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. The other three have long been residents: womanising Wilf (Connolly) and ditzy Cissy (Collins) are up for it, but Reggie (Courtenay) has never recovered after his marriage to Jean failed decades ago. Of course, everyone connives to get Jean and Reggie to talk to each other, but getting Jean to come out of retirement to sing again is an even more daunting task.

Aside from the central theme of second chances, there isn't much to this film beyond watching a group of superb veteran actors have a lot of fun on screen together. As the swishy ringleader, Gambon camps it up hilariously, even as everyone else ignores him. Connolly gleefully chomps on Wilf's innuendo-filled dialogue, and Collins radiates warmth. While Sheridan Smith surprises with a strong turn as the doctor in residence. This leaves Smith and Courtenay with the script's only meaty scenes, and they make finding the raw honesty in these wounded people look easy.

Continue reading: Quartet Review

Christmas Television Recap - Watch The Best British Programmes And Films Again!


Doctor Who Matt Smith Matthew MacFadyen Maggie Smith Miranda Hart Jimmy Carr Jack Whitehall Jools Holland Wallace And Gromit The Snowman

2012 was another brilliant year when it came to Christmas on the box. As well as some seminal family movies, both old and new, December's festive comedy, sci-fi and drama TV brought us much cheer throughout the holiday season making the couch our favourite place in the world in the run up to Christmas and New Year. Here are our highlights still available to watch on BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Channel 5 online. 

Doctor Who Xmas Special

Doctor Who: The Snowmen

Continue reading: Christmas Television Recap - Watch The Best British Programmes And Films Again!

That Oscars Buzz Just Got Louder – Lincoln Leads Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations


Daniel Day Lewis Steven Spielberg Abraham Lincoln Sally Field Tommy Lee Jones Joseph Gordon-Levitt James Spader Bradley Cooper Robert De Niro Jennifer Lawrence Anne Hathaway Hugh Jackman Maggie Smith

In the run-up to the Oscars, the movie industry pays special attention to the smaller awards nominations, for indicators as to what to expect at the big event. So far, it’s looking good for Lincoln, the new Steven Spielberg biopic about President Abraham Lincoln. With the title role played by Daniel Day Lewis and a supporting cast featuring Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon Levitt and James Spader, there has been an ‘Oscars-buzz’ around this movie for some time now. And that buzz just got a little more deafening with the release of the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards nominations.

Unsurprisingly, Daniel Day Lewis is up for best actor, reports Los Angeles Times, with Sally Field getting the nod for best supporting actress and best supporting actor for Tommy Lee Jones. Lincoln is joined by Silver Linings Playbook (starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence) and Les Miserables, which gets a tips for best ensemble, with Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman leading the cast, there.

Dame Maggie Smith is the real star of this year’s announcement, though, landing more nominations than any other actor. She’s been acknowledged not only for her cinematic appearance in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but also for her small screen work on Downton Abbey, the British series that has really made waves in the USA. 

Continue reading: That Oscars Buzz Just Got Louder – Lincoln Leads Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations

Dustin Hoffman, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Dame Maggie Smith and Sheridan Smith - Dustin Hoffman, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Dame Maggie Smith, Sheridan Smith Monday 15th October 2012 56th BFI London Film Festival: Quartet - American Airlines gala held at the Odeon Leicester Square - Arrivals.

Dustin Hoffman, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Dame Maggie Smith and Sheridan Smith
Dustin Hoffman and Dame Maggie Smith
Dustin Hoffman and Dame Maggie Smith
Dustin Hoffman, Pauline Collins and Sheridan Smith
Dustin Hoffman, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Dame Maggie Smith and Sheridan Smith
Dustin Hoffman and Dame Maggie Smith

Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Sheridan Smith and Dustin Hoffman - Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Sheridan Smith and Dustin Hoffman Monday 15th October 2012 56th BFI London Film Festival - Quartet - Premiere Arrivals

Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Sheridan Smith and Dustin Hoffman
Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith and Tom Courtney
Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtney
Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins
Billy Connolly
Sheridan Smith, Maggie Smith, Dustin Hoffman, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtney and Billy Connolly

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review


Very Good
Colourful and engaging, this lively comedy-drama gives a handful of mature actors terrific roles to play within a bustling international setting. It feels a bit cute and tame, but it's still entertaining.

Seven retirees meet at the airport as they move to Rajasthan to retire in a newly restored hotel. Evelyn (Dench) is financially strapped due to her late husband's debts. Muriel (Smith) is getting a faster, cheaper hip replacement.

Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Wilton) can't afford to retire in Britain. Graham (Wilkinson) has unfinished business in India. And Norman and Madge (Pickup and Imrie) are both single and looking for love. But manager Sonny (Patel) has slightly exaggerated the hotel's facilities.

Continue reading: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Trailer


Muriel, Evelyn and Jean are just a few of a group of British retirees who decide to travel to India to stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. After viewing the hotel's website, they are won over by how luxurious the hotel is and are soon on the first flight out of the UK.

Continue: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Trailer

Maggie Smith - Maggie Smith, Thursday 7th July 2011 at Trafalgar Square London, England

Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Guest and Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Trailer


Harry Potter and his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, continue their search for Voldemort's Horcruxes - dark magical objects that help the user gain immortality. Having found and destroyed one Horcrux - a locket belonging to Hogwarts founder Salazar Slytherin - the three friends travel from Ron's older brother Bill Weasley's house by the sea to the wizarding bank, Gringotts and then to Hogwarts to look for the final remaining Horcruxes.

Continue: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Trailer

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Trailer


The final instalment of the Harry Potter series is almost upon us! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will bring the much loved set of films to a close.

Continue: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Trailer

Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang Review


Excellent
Emma Thompson is back with a second encounter between her somewhat scary nanny and another houseful of unruly kids. As with the first film, a secondary plot feels corny and superfluous, but it's still thoroughly entertaining.

During the Blitz in London, posh children Cyril and Celia (Vlahos and Taylor-Ritson) are sent to stay with their aunt, Mrs Green (Gyllenhaal), on her farm. While she awaits news of her soldier husband, she struggles to manage her three rambunctious kids (Butterfield, Woods and Steer), pay her bills, fend off her financially desperate brother-in-law (Ifans) and keep the dotty local shopkeeper (Smith) from doing something dangerous. The person she needs is clearly Nanny McPhee (Thompson), who arrives with several stern-but-magical tricks up her sleeve.

Continue reading: Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang Review

Nanny Mcphee and The Big Bang Trailer


Watch the trailer for Nanny Mcphee and The Big Bang

Continue: Nanny Mcphee and The Big Bang Trailer

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix Review


Good

It's gotten to the point where the quality of the films don't really matter: Now I feel like I'm committed to the whole Harry Potter series. I've reviewed the first five now, so by golly, I'm going to stick it out and finish the lot... even though I still can't bring myself to read any of the books. As always, consider yourself warned that I don't know the intricate backstory developed over thousands of pages in J.K. Rowling's writing. And really, I'm happy to keep it that way.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues in the tradition of following another year at the Hogwarts School of Wizardry, where Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has faced nothing but grueling struggle after grueling struggle. His most recent year (Goblet of Fire) saw a friend get killed by his nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who's gaining more power every day and giving Harry severe nightmares. With few exceptions, his friends have largely abandoned him, and the new term comes with even more headaches in the form of Dolores Umbridge (the perfect Imelda Staunton), sent from the Ministry of Magic to teach the defense from the dark arts class and eventually taking over the school as an iron-fisted, fun-crushing bureaucrat.

After much pottering about (ha ha!), the film finally finds its groove as Umbridge goes too far, refusing to teach magic in the classroom, instead preferring to rely on theoretical knowledge so the students can pass their year-end standardized tests. With Voldemort approaching (this guy is always just around the corner), Harry becomes more nervous that he will be unable to defend himself, finally recruiting a handful of students to his cause to teach them what he knows about magical combat. Together they prepare for the day when they know they'll have to use those skills. (In case you haven't seen any of the first four movies, rest assured it isn't far off: This end-of-movie showdown between Harry and the forces of evil has almost become a cliché that pans out every single time.)

Continue reading: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix Review

Tea With Mussolini Review


Excellent
When I walked into the theater to see this film, I thought to myself, "Why am I seeing this movie? I have no interest in seeing it and I won't like it." Surly enough during the first ten minutes of the film, my preconceived notion was correct. It was a 'chick flick', case closed. But then the movie turned and started to appeal to me. I was really getting into it, and really absorbing the true story it was unfolding.

Tea with Mussolini focuses on the life of a boy named Luca, who is director Franco Zefferelli's alter ego. In Florence 1935, young Luca's mother is dead, and he is an orphan. Although Lucas wealthy father lives near by, he has no time for children. The father's English secretary Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright) sees the unjust way Luca is being raised in the orphanage. As a result she takes him in. Along with Mary's group of English tea time friends known as The Scorpioni, Luca is taught many things. He learns to appreciate art through the nutty, yet lovable artist Arabella (Dame Judi Dench). He learns of Shakespeare and culture from his guardian Mary, and learns how to behave as a gentleman through the other members of The Scorpioni.

Continue reading: Tea With Mussolini Review

The First Wives Club Review


Very Good
The biggest crowd-pleaser of the year is upon us -- the powerhouse trio of Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton foisting their womanness on us with a vengeance. Sure to revive the debate over whether films like this are "man hating," The First Wives Club is, in reality, a harmless big screen sitcom that actually manages to appeal to a large audience.

Rambling through its first 30 minutes with no real direction, The First Wives Club eventually turns into a story about three old friends who want to exact vengeance on their wayward ex-husbands. Elise (Hawn) is an aging movie star, obsessed, as most aging movie stars are, about her looks. Brenda (Midler) is a bitter ex-housewife who loves her son and bemoans her lack of funds to support him -- and hasn't changed her hair since 1969. Annie (Keaton) is basically a middle-aged version of Annie Hall, only now she has a lesbian daughter and an intrusive mother, and Woody Allen is nowhere to be seen.

Continue reading: The First Wives Club Review

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets Review


Good

Welcome back, Potter.

The beloved Harry Potter returns to screens, a scant year after his most debut, with the film version of book two in the unfathomably popular Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, while the Potter-obsessed will likely find few faults with the film, this sequel captures much less of the original's magic. (And while I've not read the books, I understand the same can be said for the second novel as well.)

Secrets finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) back at home with his Muggle family on summer vacation, locked in his room (though no longer under the stairs). Before long, Harry is set to return to Hogwarts -- despite the insistence from his uncle that he is no longer allowed to study magic. But a daring prison break, courtesy of the Weasley family -- including Harry's best bud Ron (Rupert Grint), gets Harry back to school, despite the meddling of a Yoda-like "house elf" named Dobby (very obvious CG). The masochistic Dobby tries to convince Harry that his life is in danger if he returns to Hogwarts -- though in reality his life appears more in danger due to Dobby's "helpful" meddling.

Harry of course does return to Hogwarts, where all his familiar experiences await him. Hermione (Emma Watson) is still the class brain. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is still the school clown. Snape (Alan Rickman) is still Snape. The new additions to the cast include a new Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), a narcissistic wizard with questionable ability, as well as the father of Harry's platinum blonde archrival Malfoy, Lucius (Jason Isaacs).

While the cast is still in fine form (the exception being a shockingly haggard Richard Harris as headmaster Dumbledore; Harris died a few weeks before the film's release), it's the story that is decidedly lacking in this episode. The titular Chamber of Secrets is a legendary room inside Hogwarts fabled to hold a menacing creature. It can only be opened, we're told, by an heir to the Slytherin family. When a mysterious message appears on the Hogwarts walls in blood, Harry begins hearing hissing voices, and students begin to turn up paralyzed. It appears the Chamber of Secrets has been opened -- and suspicions fall on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) as the heir. Or is it Harry?

What follows is another nearly-three hours of exposition as Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to crack this riddle, Nancy Drew-style, while the body count at Hogwarts keeps rising. Mercilessly padded, the movie drags us through ages of all-too-familiar territory: a Quidditch match ends predictably; spells go awry; the trio works on a potion together; one-note characters appear only to say their line and soon exit the story. Finally, invariably first-on-the-scene Harry coincidentally discovers a blank diary -- it's amazing how much coincidence drives the plot -- that leads him on a circuitous path to discover the Chamber, just in time for a final showdown with what looks astonishingly like a miniature-golf hazard.

Jeez, I'm bored just writing about it. So much of Secrets is so unnecessary that my audience was way ahead of the circuitous yet ultimately very simplistic story. Kids spent the three hours running up and down the aisles -- only their parents had the fortitude to stay with the plot. That said, this installment is much funnier than the original, and it has a bit more of a grown-up sentiment to it. Still, it's going to take more than an ominous voice in the walls and a flying car to keep even the most patient adults interested in a three-hour movie.

Chamber of Secrets is enjoyable for many of its stretches, and it's unfortunate that director Chris Columbus (giving up the reins for episode 3) didn't take more chances with the source material, excising the many irrelevant parts and adding in a bit of his own vision. As such, we have a movie that plays out in fits and starts of fun alternating with boredom. Sad to say, the kids will probably want to leave midway through this one and ask you to replay the original on DVD when you get home. Poor Harry, when we see you again (in two years' time), I hope you'll have regained a bit of your magic.

As with Potter #1, the film comes to DVD in an exhaustive and impressive two-disc package, headlined by one of the most aggressive 6.1 channel audio tracks I've ever had the privilege to hear on DVD. This film thankfully makes it much easier to find the deleted/extended scenes, all of which are well worth checking out and add a bit of depth and flavor to an otherwise so-so movie. There are also tons of games for the kids and a few interviews for the adults, including one with J.K. Rowling.

Try putting right down the middle of the course.

Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets Review


Good

In his second big-screen outing, adolescent wizard Harry Potter is blessed with enough cinematic magic to overcome several of the very same problems that left last year's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" feeling a little protracted and rambling.

Sure "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" spends twice as much screen time on atmosphere and adventure scenes than on plot and character. But this time around every episode seems relevant, which is a vast improvement over last year's film, bloated as it was with Quidditch matches and monster moments that didn't advance the plot one iota.

Returning director Chris Columbus retains the enchanted ambiance as Harry heads to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year of instruction in the black arts. But nothing is ever easy for our young hero, as unseen forces seem to be conspiring against him -- not the least of which is some kind of elusive beast that's loose in Hogwarts' halls, turning students to stone.

Continue reading: Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets Review

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review


Very Good

Harry Potter is growing up, and so is his movie franchise.Under the tutelage of a new director -- Alfonso Cuarón, known for both children's fare (the 1995 remake of "A Little Princess") and an edgy, insightfully soulful, sex-charged teen road-trip flick ("Y Tu Mama, Tambien") -- the boy wizard has graduated from the world of kiddie movie spectacles with tie-in toys.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is a film in which depth of character, cunning humor and hair-raising chills come shining through the visual blitzkrieg of special effects -- which are also magnificently improved over the series first two installments. Case in point: a half-horse, half-eagle creature called a Hippogriff that gives "Lord of the Rings'" Gollum a run for his money as the most life-like CGI creation in cinema history.

Beyond just its detailed feathers (which fluff when it shakes) or its golden eyes (which bore holes in the screen with obstinate personality), this winged equine's every movement, from its canter to its peck, is a studied yet natural, amazingly fluid amalgam of the two beasts that were combined to create it.

Continue reading: Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone Review


OK

Overly self-indulgent director Chris Columbus could have cut out the entire middle hour of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and if you hadn't read the popular children's book, you'd never know the difference.

A good 70 percent of the picture consists of showy set pieces that don't service the plot (which we'll get to in a minute) so much as obligingly recreate unrelated passages that would be missed by the boy wizard's enthusiastic and possessive fan base had they been omitted.

One 10-minute episode is spent watching a sport called Quidditch, sort of a flying-broom version of field hockey with more than one puck and incredibly intricate rules that go largely unexplained. It's a lot like the pod race scene in "The Phantom Menace" -- irrelevant but spirited -- although with 1/10th the special effects budget. (Oh, that blatant blue-screening!)

Continue reading: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone Review

Maggie Smith

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Maggie Smith

Date of birth

28th December, 1934

Occupation

Actor

Sex

Female

Height

1.65


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