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British Film Focus

“British Film Focus” will discuss movie news from the UK and Europe for the coming month including big British film releases showcasing the best the industry has to offer and small but great films you have never heard of.

Up and Coming: Chris O’Dowd

Astonishing breakthrough Irish actor Chris O’Dowd has recently transitioned from TV work, specifically from playing Roy in the popular British comedy series “The IT Crowd.” After a couple of minor roles, he acted alongside Kristin Wiig in “Bridesmaids” (2011) as Officer Nathan Rhodes (an interesting choice for the role). Unexpectedly, the film was a huge success and so was O’Dowd, who caught Hollywood’s attention. Now, he’s the lead in the Aussie musical “The Sapphires,” which was released at the beginning of November. It’s the true story of an Australian Aboriginal all-girl group that travels to Vietnam to entertain the troops. Dave (O’Dowd), their manager, teaches them to sing the blues rather than country. In the new year, he stars in Judd Apatow’s next project, “This is 40,” a sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up” (2007), alongside Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. However, O’Dowd has said his heart is really set on working behind the camera. With his uni buddy Nick Murphy, he co-wrote the Irish sitcom “Moone Boy,” in which he also stars. He plays the imaginary friend of 12-year-old Martin Moone, whose drawings come to life.

Les Miserables

In development possibly since 1988 — who knows, as it’s been so long — it’s going to be one of the Christmas highlights this year, as the film is released on December 25 in the U.S. It’s directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) and stars Hugh Jackman (2006′s “The Prestige”) as Jean Valjean. The whole cast is filled with big names, including a few big name British stars: Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried (2010′s “Letters to Juliet”) and Russell Crowe as Javert. Sacha Baron Cohen (2006′s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and soon to play Freddie Mercury) even has a part playing Thenardier.

Hooper is trying a rare tactic, too. Instead of prerecording the songs and adding them in post-production, each actor is live-singing their performances. Given Hathaway’s detailed research for the role and glimpses of her very moving version of “I Dreamed A Dream” sung over the trailer, this method looks to be a sure success. Filming began in spring earlier this year all over the UK and in France. Will it survive the big-screen adaptation?

The Hobbit

The long wait is nearly over. One of the most highly anticipated films of the year (or since “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” depending on how hardcore a “Rings” fan you are) is finally set for release in mid-December. Considering the high number of quality Brit actors in the new addition to Jackson’s saga, it is definitely worth a mention here. TV comedian turned film actor Martin Freeman takes up the central role as unlikely and humble hero Bilbo Baggins. “Sherlock” actor Benedict Cumberbatch is the Necromancer/Sauron and the voice of infamous dragon Smaug. Plus, returning to the series are Ian McKellen, Ian Holm and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The marketing campaign is the one negative to the film. With the influx of trailers and TV spots and Hobbit blog, it’s almost as though we know too much now. What more surprises are going to be left on viewing? Perhaps it’s best to stay away from the hype to keep the mystery and suspense.

Skyfall

Bond 23 is still high up on the list for movie news as it’s broken box office records and was the biggest U.S. opening for a Bond film, ever. It’s received some excellent reviews from critics and been given the thumbs-up by Bond fans. This is likely chalked up to the amount of screen time the UK was given in the film with a lot of the action in central London. (Bond taking the tube at rush hour; now that’s something to see). The climatic scenes were filmed in the beautiful and wild setting of Glen Coe in Scotland.

Little-known releases

The UK and Europe are releasing some top-quality but little-known films over the next month.

Danish film “The Hunt (Jagten)” stars Mads Mikkelsen (2006′s “Casino Royale”) as a teacher in a close-knit community accused of wrongdoings against a child. This powerful film has some intense scenes and an excellent performance from Mikkelsen, who won the Best Actor trophy at the Cannes Film Festival.

If you’re lured in by the combination of science fiction and Kylie Minogue, then the French film “Holy Motors” is a must-see. There isn’t much of a plot, more a series of happenings in the life of someone named Le Dormeur, but it includes many beautiful, if bonkers, scenes.

The wacky British black comedy “Sightseers” is out at the end of November. It tells the story of Chris (Steve Oram), who takes his new girlfriend, Tina (Alice Lowe), on a caravan holiday/tour around Yorkshire. Chris takes things way too far with litterbugs and National Trust wardens as their holiday descends into a murdering spree.

 

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