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Whether you go with 'Spectre', 'SPECTRE', or even 'S.P.E.C.T.R.E.' – and what could be more nefarious that an organisation with no established style guide? - the dark forces at work in Bond 24 will be leading Daniel Craig's 007 on a not-so-merry dance from London to Morocco, Rome and Mexico. But it was to Bond’s spiritual home, Pinewood, and the snows of Austria that Empire headed on its world-first exclusive look at Spectre. Do not miss it.

Boasting more ripped torsos and muscle cars than a thousand Tinder galleries, the Fast & Furious franchise has gone from specialist fun for petrolheads to kitsch street racing fun to unstoppable action franchise status in the space of 15 years. There’s heady highs and some profound lows, and there’s not a Hollywood executive alive that could have predicted it. Empire’s very own Stig braved the burnt tyre smell to go on set and find out how it happened.

Seasoned and be-Oscared, Russell Crowe has little to prove as an actor. Now arriving in his fifth decade, he’s turned his hand to directing, taking The Water Diviner, a tale of healing within the bitter context of Gallipoli, as his first effort. Of course, Crowe is no filmmaking rube. Having worked with directors of the calibre of Peter Weir, Michael Mann, Ridley Scott and Curtis Hanson, he’s learnt from some of the best. We asked him about the qualities of those filmmakers and those of a certain R. Crowe, esq.

By Grabthar's hammer, it’s Alan Rickman’s turn to step into the Big Interview hot seat. The list of roles that have made him beloved is long and glorious: Hans Gruber; Severus Snap; the Sheriff of Nottingham; Galaxy Quest’s sardonic thesp, Alexander Dane. Each has showed off his dry delivery, comic timing and sharpness in a John Phillips suit, now augmented by a burgeoning second career as a director. With his second film, A Little Chaos, round the corner, he held forth on his best-loved roles.

Whatever rocks your televisual boat, Empire’s Big Ol' TV Preview is a big box of awesome. With first looks at Hannibal (season 3), House Of Cards (season 3) and The League Of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s blackly funny Inside No. 9, there’s no more comprehensive guide to the TV delights winging their way to your telly, satellite box or streaming services. Trust us, we’ve checked.

The latest and most intriguing TV expansion of the MCU, Daredevil, opened its Hell’s Kitchen doors to Empire, offering up an exclusive sneak peak at the dark-and-dirty world in which blind attorney Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) must earn his superhero spurs. Expect it to bring some real hurt. “We call it a PG-16,” grins showrunner Steven DeKnight.

Joining The Walking Dead, Hannibal, Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards in Empire’s massive TV preview is the BBC’s loving adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s fantastical tome Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. “It’s Amadeus meets The Lord Of The Rings,” director Toby Haynes tells us. Interest piqued, Empire headed down to the £16m production to find out which one will be playing the piano in a wig and which will be tossing dwarves at orcs.

House Of Cards' creator Beau Willimon knows his way around the Capitol, so we can only pray that a lot of creative license was employed in the making of a show that's tiptoeing towards political horror. After all, the archly Machiavellian Francis Underwood is now the most powerful man on the planet, as well as one of the most unscrupulous, while his wife, Claire, can vaporise opponents with one glance of her icy blue peepers. Willimon and his stars, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, tell us more.

Notebook in one hand, Dictaphone in the other, passport clenched in its gob, this month Empire travels to New Orleans to find out what fresh dino disaster Jurassic World is primed to unleash on us all, while popping by the set of Will Ferrell’s new jailbird comedy, Get Hard, while we were there. We also headed to another corner of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, to take in the a cappella joys of Pitch Perfect 2 and then back to Shepperton Studios for Spooks: The Greater Good. Apparently you don’t need a passport to go there. Who knew?

First with news of tomorrow, Slate is the pathfinder of the Empire tribe, travelling far into the dusty beyond and reporting back. This month’s smoke signals are Miles Teller-shaped, as the Whiplash alumnus powers up to play Reed Richards in Fantastic Four. Meanwhile, Ben Wheatley, one of the most exciting filmmakers around, shares a first look at his upcoming J.G. Ballard adaptation, High-Rise, Michael Sheen shares his best and worst on-set moments, and the snowy wilds of Sundance yield a report of the indie goings-on at the festival.

This month’s bouquet of box-office treats is princess heavy with Disney’s Cinderella (cut it up one time) and Studio Ghibli’s The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya engaging in a rags-to-riches off sure to delight fans of classical storytelling and heavy housework. Margot Robbie – not a princess… easily could be – teams up with Will Smith in con caper Focus, while the Empire rule is run over Xavier Dolan’s much-hyped Mommy, Bill and Robot Overlords.

There’s a triple helping of Jake Gyllenhall this month – one in Nightcrawler and two in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy – which, if you’re playing Gyllenhaal poker, is only a couple shy of a full Gyllenhouse. Both get a thorough reviewing, as does Mockingjay – Part I, possibly the talkiest of this month’s releases. Definitely the harrumphiest of them is Mike Leigh’s masterful Mr. Turner, given the BAFTA stink eye but ready to be restored to its rightful status. The Imitation Game, ’71 and Pride all keep the British end up, while The Manchurian Candidate, The Killing and Network add freshly-restored class.


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