Birthday Binge Watch: Five Judi Dench Performances You Can Stream Online

December 2014 holds an important milestone for fans of British drama everywhere as the great Dame Judi Dench celebrates her 80th birthday (December 9).

Dench, a stunningly talented actress who has served as a gateway drug of sorts for several generations of Anglophiles, is pretty much universally beloved, having wracked up untold numbers of BAFTAs, Tonys, Olivier Awards, Golden Globes and even an Oscar for her work and a massive global fanbase obsessed with her general sass and perfection. And, now that she’s officially an octogenarian, she’s even more awesome than ever, with upcoming roles in sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the second round of Hollow Crown films, in which she’ll play Cecily, the Duchess of York (i.e. Richard III’s – or in this case Benedict Cumberbatch’smom.)

So, to celebrate her special day, here are five classic Dench performances that you can stream online right now.

 

Category:Drama

First Look at the ‘Call the Midwife’ 2014 Christmas Special

Rejoice, Call the Midwife fans – it’s almost time to return to Nonnatus House for the midwives annual holiday episode, and in celebration the BBC has released the first trailer for this upcoming special.

The clip is all sorts of festive, featuring Christmas crackers, an enormous tree, a nativity play and a handful of platitudes, all backed by a moving over of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.  It’s pretty much a textbook holiday spot, and it’s enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside after just 30 seconds.  Of course, there’s also a dash of the standard emotional angst, and adorable newborns, but, hey, that’s fairly standard fare for Call the Midwife.

And, while it’s strange to see a clip without star Jessica Raine – who departed at the end of Series 3 – it’s equally as strange to feel okay about that. The show looks pretty much the same – and by that I mean I think we can assume it’s going to be just fine. 

British Actors You Should Know: Timothy Spall

If you’re the type of person who pays attention to film award season, you probably will have heard about the recent accolades for our spotlighted actor, Timothy Spall. A hardworking and versatile performer since the late 70’s, Spall seems to be finally getting the attention he deserves for a career defining achievement.

He won best actor honors at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his title role in the biopic Mr. Turner. Spall embodies eccentric English Romantic landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. Director Mike Leigh (with whom Spall has worked four times perviously) is known for his formidable demands on his actors. For this period piece, Leigh insisted Spall not only research the artist he was setting out to play but also to spend two years learning his distinctive painting technique. What resulted was this Oscar buzz-worthy bit of acting. 

Mr. Turner will be out in limited release beginning December 19, presumably to qualify for the Academy Awards race. Here’s hoping it won’t be much longer after that that those of us not living in major metropolitan cities will be able to witness the magic as well.

While all the kudos and glowing reviews are surely very nice indeed, Spall has been putting in memorable, entertaining performances for years. From notable roles in TV series such as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and The Street to a cameo in The King’s Speech as Winston Churchill,  his talent has consistently been on display. If you’d like a reminder of his range or just want to explore his body of work for the first time, here are a handful of film and TV roles you might want to try. Believe me, Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter films is just the tip of the iceberg.

Category:Other

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Good Omens’ Gets an Airdate

Get ready, fans of radio drama, for the apocaly pse is nigh. (In the best way of course.)  The highly anticipated radio adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 cult classic Good Omens finally has an official airdate.

The six-part drama is due to begin with a double Monday, December 22 at 11pm and running throughout Christmas week before culminating in an hour-long finale on December 27. (This is a fairly similar rollout to what BBC Radio 4 did for their popular Neverwhere adaptation, stripping the episodes over the course of a week back in March.)

Category:Movies

From ‘Sherlock’ to Superhero: Benedict Cumberbatch is Your New ‘Doctor Strange’

Well, at least we can say we knew him when, right? After weeks (months, maybe) of will he/won’t he rumors and speculation, it’s finally official Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has added another crown jewel to his geek credentials by nabbing  the lead role in upcoming Marvel tentpole Doctor Strange.  

For the past year a slew of big Hollywood names have been attached to the role of Stephen Strange, including Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, Ryan Gosling, Tom Hardy, Keanu Reeves and more. In fact, Cumberbatch was mentioned as being on Marvel’s short list for the part earlier this year, though that talk died out over the summer, when it seemed like Joaquin Phoenix was going to take it on. But now, Marvel has come back to Cumberbatch, and have brought the actor officially on board.

Category:Movies

James Bond 24 Will Be Called ‘Spectre’ and Other Details You Need to Know

It’s official: The 24th installment in the iconic James Bond film franchise has a title, a cast, a car and a release date. The film is to be called Spectre and, of course, Daniel Craig is back for his fourth turn as Agent 007 and he’ll be joined by many returning cast members from his last Bond outing, along with, predictably, a bunch of new faces.

Ralph Fiennes will be returning as the new M, along with Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner.  As far as the new folks go, most notably there’s Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (Djano Unchained), who has joined the cast as a character called Oberhauser. Plus, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista has signed on as Mr. Hinx, and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott is set to play a new MI-5 agent named Denbigh.

Oh, and the new Bond girls for this outing are Monica Bellucci (The Matrix films) and Lea Seydoux (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), playing characters named Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann respectively.

They even unveiled Bond’s new car, an especially snazzy looking Aston Martin DB10.

Category:Other

British Celebrity Memoirs to Read This Winter

In case I’ve never mentioned it, I work at a public library. That’s why in some of the pieces I write for Telly Visions I suggest borrowing DVDs from the library when on-line streaming is not an option. At my job when patrons stump my co-workers with a movie or TV series request, I’m often called upon to step in and solve the mystery.  It’s a role I enjoy and I spend a lot of time and effort building up my knowledge to share with others.

But wait, you say. Isn’t a library about books? Indeed it is and all the employees on our staff are expected to read widely in order to help people find an enjoyable or informative book to read. Therefore when I find the time, I’m sure you can hazard a guess at what I read. You‘ve got it, British authors. I’ve just finished the most recent Ian McEwan novel, The Children Act, and I have several more on my bedside table waiting for my attention including one entitled Us by David Nicholls, the author of books such as Starter for Ten and One Day, both of which have been adapted for the big screen.

However, at this point, I must admit my favorite combination is a book written by a British celebrity. It can be a memoir about hitting bottom and finding a home like Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose or the humorous life lessons of Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me?

Whenever I see a British actor or comedian announcing a book signing on Twitter, I immediately go to the library’s catalog to see if I can get my hands on the newest star-studded literary offering. Sadly, there are many times my search is unsuccessful. The celebrity has to be famous enough in the US for it to be worth releasing here. Case in point, when James Corden released his autobiography May I Have Your Attention, Please? in 2012, I asked our collection resources librarian if she could order this book for our system. She placed a request to purchase and after a few months informed me it fell through even though the title was available on Amazon. I’m curious to see if once Corden’s latest film Into the Woods is released at Christmas and he begins his run on the Late, Late Show in January, his story might have grown a bigger readership.

Here are a number of memoirs and celebrity musings by British personalities that have been published this fall. If you check with your local library you’re likely to find them there and here are some of the reasons why.

Category:Drama

Watch: George Clooney Visits ‘Downton Abbey’

UK network ITV will air their annual Text Santa telethon on December 19. Much like the BBC’s annual Children in Need event, it features standard telethon fair like TV presenters doing random and/or weird things, pop stars performing songs you’re probably already tired of hearing, celebs dropping by to encourage viewers to donate and all manner of skits and parodies based on popular programming.

And there’s not much in the way of more popular programming than Downton Abbey these days. But, when someone’s already done a musical parody and a full on two-part skit featuring Absolutely Fabulous stars Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, how do you top that? By adding George Clooney, of course.

Yeah, that’s not a typo. 

Category:Drama

‘Wolf Hall’ to Premiere on Masterpiece in April 2015

Wolf Hall, the highly anticipated adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning-pair of Tudor-era novels, has an official American airdate! The drama will debut as part of the upcoming Spring schedule on PBS’s Masterpiece, and will premiere on April 5.

The six-part series will follow the meteoric rise of Thomas Cromwell, from lowly blacksmith’s son to chief advisor to King Henry VIII. Among other things, Cromwell was a chief architect of the English Reformation, helping to engineer the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, in order to allow the king to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. He was also instrumental in Anne’s later fall from grace, negotiated Henry VIII’s fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves and instituted widespread (and extensive) religious reforms.

Category:Drama

Natalie Dormer to Lead Cast of BBC’s ‘The Woman in Red’

Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer has been tapped to lead the cast of upcoming BBC Two production The Woman in Red, a factual drama meant to explore the scandalous life of Lady Seymour Worsley, a woman whose very virtue was put on trial in 1782 when she dared to leave her husband and elope with his best friend.

The ninety minute drama will focus on the very public court case brought on by Lady Seymour’s first husband, Sir Richard Worsley, which became something of a forum to debate a woman’s worth and challenge the idea that a wife was merely an extension of her husband’s property. 

 

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