Matthew McConaughey

James Marsden in The Butler

Make no mistake, we love us some Matthew McConaughey around these parts, but his unique brand of show-stopping performance is perhaps not so well-suited for historical dramas with large casts of characters, particularly ones that might not have the strongest of directing talent to steer them. Films like Lee Daniels‘ upcoming The Butler, set to chronicle the life story of Eugene Allen, who served as a White House butler under an incredible eight presidents and through the years 1952 to 1986. To that end, Variety reports (via The Playlist) that James Marsden has joined the film as JFK. McConaughey had been attached to the role for only two months, but dropped out of the project just last month due to scheduling conflicts with the long-gestating The Dallas Buyer’s Club. Of course, we must also wonder if those “conflicts” have anything to do with Daniels and McConaughey’s last project, Cannes giggle factory (and home of Nicole Kidman demanding to pee on Zac Efron), The Paperboy.

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Eastbound and Down ended on the perfect note last season. Whether there would be a fourth season was still up in the air, but Jody Hill and company gave their series a sense of closure. Unlike that cheap slap in the face Entourage gave to its fans – “It may not really be over because of that silly movie idea, but it might be!” – Kenny Powers’ arc and the show itself felt completed. However, apparently HBO disagrees, considering that they’ve recently ordered a fourth season.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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Film has certainly explored the female side of the world of stripping, but rarely has the glittered curtain been pulled back on the male side of this risqué form of entertainment. Director Steven Soderbergh paints this picture with his signature style and does so in a way that shows us the highs and lows of living a cash-only lifestyle, the sort that can seem like one big party, but one that leaves you questioning your future when the sun comes up, the high from the night before wears off, and you realize you have nothing more than a stack of ones to show for your “day at the office.” Magic Mike focuses on Mike (Channing Tatum), a man with a plan who is a natural hustler, bouncing from odd job to odd job, saving his cash, and working on his plan to start his own custom furniture business. Mike is a charmer, not just with the ladies, but with anyone he meets thanks to an unflappable, positive outlook on life as he good-humoredly chuckles in the face of even the most outlandish of situations he finds himself in. But Mike is not some good-looking blockhead, he knows where his strengths lie and has parlayed that into a successful run at a male revue, Xquisite, where he is “second in command” to the club’s owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey.) Mike is constantly watching the bottom line and while he is certainly having a good time, he considers it all a temporary stop […]

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Though we’ve been talking about Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike for nearly a year now, the passage of time has in no way lessened the inherent weirdness of Soderbergh directing a movie about male strippers that’s loosely based on the real life experiences of one of his many very attractive male stars. The marketing has not helped make Magic Mike seem even less bizarre – it’s almost unfathomable that a film that will see Matt Bomer playing at being a Ken Doll during an all-male revue will make it to the big screen for mass consumption. Again and again, I’ve stared wide-eyed at Magic Mike marketing materials and asked myself, is this really an actual movie? It is. It really is. While it’s still hard to say if Magic Mike will end up being the unexpected hit of the summer, there are a few things we do know (that we can glean just from some newly released pictures alone): That Matthew McConaughey will, at one point, drink from a gold goblet on the beach. That Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum will go shopping for Speedos together. That the costume department didn’t both buying any shirts whatsoever for McConaughey. That it will be rife with crotch shots. And, at some point, McConaughey is going to play us a song. Thank you to everyone involved with this movie for making this movie. Check out the new photos (and a few old) after the break.

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The Paperboy Movie Lee Daniels

For a long time heavy-weight director Pedro Almodovar attempted to bring an adaptation of Peter Dexter‘s excellent novel “The Paperboy” to the screen, and a cursory glance at the story details of that novel confirm exactly what promise the Spanish auteur saw in that potential project. The book focuses on the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter, convicted for the death of a local sheriff who murdered his cousin, and whose romantic relationship with letter-writer Charlotte Bless leads to the involvement of two investigative journalists from Miami who look into the possibility of Van Wetter being innocent. Without wanting to give away too much, as the book progresses, all is not what it seems, leading to a catastrophic ending. It seems that Almodovar was not the man to bring a film version of The Paperboy to life, and Precious director Lee Daniels stepped in to offer his own take on the story, investing a good deal more social outrage and shifting the focus onto the younger brother of one of those journalists. Zac Efron plays that brother – Jack Jansen – a former swimmer kicked out of college for an angry act of vandalism, and Matthew McConaughey his elder brother Ward, who enlists the help of writing partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) to investigate Van Wetter’s (John Cusack) innocence, at the behest of local vamp, and regular inmate letter write Bless (Nicole Kidman).

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When the first trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming male stripper drama, Magic Mike, came out, it painted Channing Tatum’s titular character as a dreamer whose side job was at odds with his aspirations for becoming an artist and finding true love. It seemed like the movie was a fun excuse to have a bunch of ripped dudes take their shirts off in order to sell tickets to the boy-crazy segment of the film-going population, sure, but it also looked like a story that had heart and the potential to connect with audiences on a deeper level. This new international trailer is a little bit different. Its focus is on Alex Pettyfer’s character making his debut in the world of male stripping, and it doesn’t make even momentary mention of anyone’s post-stripping goals. Basically, it makes Magic Mike look like a movie where, for a couple of hours, girls will be shrieking and guys will be wiggling. I guess abs translate much easier than dreams to a multilingual audience.

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Killer Joe

William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist, Bug) latest thriller, Killer Joe, looks gritty, greasy, and gross, the sort of crime movie that makes you feel like you have to take a shower after you watch it. It’s full of bad people making evil decisions; which, according to noir morality, is going to spell certain (and likely bloody) doom for everyone involved. Sometimes watching a movie like that can be a masochistic experience, but when the film in question stars names like Thomas Haden Church, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, an adorable-while-spinning Juno Temple, and a seemingly motivated Matthew McConaughey, more likely than not the experience is going to be fascinating. Killer Joe’s new trailer has violence, matricide, deep shadows, rain storms, Southern accents, dilapidated pool halls, people putting their sister up as collateral, and I think someone gets killed with a can of pumpkin pie filling. It looks moody, and dangerous, and it warns us that the film has an NC-17 rating.

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Writer/director Richard Linkater is a filmmaker who can never be accused of making one thing. Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, School of Rock, Tape, The Newton Boys, A Scanner Darkly, Waking Life, and his latest film Bernie, about the nicest murderer you’ll ever meet, all make for an eclectic filmography. If there’s one noticeable connection in Linklater’s works, it that he’s always mixed comedy and tragedy. As the director puts it, that’s just how he sees the world, and he generally shows that view in different structures. Unlike, say, A Scanner Darkly, Bernie is a plain and simple story, with zero tangents to speak of. Although Linklater isn’t a fan of the normal three-act structure, a fact you can see in his films, Bernie mostly fits into that box. This, along with his writing process and where he draws inspiration from, is one of the few things I discussed with Mr. Linklater in an all-too-brief conversation.

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This is not exactly what I expected from the first trailer for Steven Soderbergh‘s next film, Magic Mike, the hot dude-starring film about male strippers that old Sods apparently feels pretty passionate about. Despite a generally interesting and talented cast (Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, and Wendi McLendon-Covey, amongst many others) and the promise of unwrapping some true-life stripper tales (Tatum himself once worked as one), Magic Mike looks like…a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy? Record scratch. Long billed as a film about the dirty/funny insides of male stripping through the lens of a new stripper (presumably Pettyfer) learning the ropes from a more experienced co-worker (Tatum), this first trailer focuses solely on Tatum, his burgeoning romance with Pettyfer’s sister (Cody Horn), and his overwhelming desire to get out of the stripping game so that he can make his own furniture – all set to the dulcet sounds of a Rihanna jam. What?

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Bernie is director Richard Linklater‘s most accessible film in years. It falls somewhere in the middle between his commercial features and his more experimental works as a splendid mix of both sensibilities. Bernie is hilarious, clever, sweet, thought-provoking, and a fine example of the most interesting type of comedy. Set in Carthage, East Texas, the true-life story follows Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede (Jack Black), a happy-go-lucky member of the community. He’s about as well-liked as they come and the type of guy who would never hurt a fly. Bernie, a local mortician, is also a mystery. The only people he has any known relationships with are the old widows he comforts. Are his intentions sexual? The film doesn’t say. When the most disliked member of his community, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), loses her husband, Bernie tries to prove she isn’t the horrid person everyone makes her out to be.

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Killer Joe

After walking out of Killer Joe, one of my favorite films of SXSW, the NC-17 rating was one of the first things that hit me. It’s easy to see why the MPAA slapped it with that box-office death rating. When William Friedkin‘s film gets nasty, it gets nasty. The film is about the rough and real kind of violence, not the goofy fun type. However, Killer Joe‘s violence and sex is still plenty steps down from a handful of R-rated releases. We’ve seen violence of this magnitude done on-screen before, so it’s most likely a tonal issue the MPAA has with Friedkin’s stage adaptation. LD Entertaiment recently attempted to appeal the NC-17 rating, but it has now been denied. Rumors are that they’ll appeal again soon. David Dinerstein, the president of LD Entertainment, and the film’s screenwriter Tracy Letts both gave statements to the appeals board, and I happened to have interviewed Letts the other day at SXSW.

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Richard Linklater‘s latest film, Bernie, features Jack Black as a mustachioed mortician who all the townsfolk admire. His character is a people person, which is probably why he tries to make nice with the snarly widow played by Shirley MacLaine. A romance blossoms, but there’s still plenty of dirt in the woman’s heart, and from the looks of the new trailer, she doesn’t get to see the end credits. And apparently Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer convinced dear old Bernie is a killer. Jack Black ratcheting it down a notch? Maybe without even scatting? MacLaine essentially reprising her Guarding Tess role? McConaughey with a shirt on? Looks great:

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Jeff Nichols

One of my most anticipated films of the year is Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. Nichols is behind one of, if not the, best films of 2011: Take Shelter. With only two pictures under his belt, he’s quickly established himself as a filmmaker to get excited about. Earlier today Nichols was kind enough to make the time for an interview to discuss Take Shelter, for the upcoming Blu-ray release. We discussed an array of topics, and Mud was briefly covered. Nichols was hard at work in the mood swing-sounding editing room when we spoke, and although he stated he’ll have clearer answers for the movie once it comes out, the writer-director shared enough details to give us a small sense of what to expect from Mud. After talking about the love-hate relationship with editing, the joy of shooting the Mississippi river with 35mm anamorphic cameras, the no bullshit (and awesome) attitude of Sam Shepard, Nichols touched upon the themes of the film:

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Nearly thirteen years after The Blair Witch Project introduced the concept of “found footage” films to mainstream audiences while simultaneously harnessing the power of the burgeoning Internet to launch a massively successful viral campaign that hinged on audiences buying into the “truth” behind the film, the found fauxtage horror genre continues to chug almost unstoppably along. Unstoppably, that is, until The Devil Inside, the latest on-the-cheap pick-up from Paramount Insurge, the studio’s indie genre label formed after the massive success of the Paranormal Activity films. Like the PA films, The Devil Inside was made for little money by some scrappy filmmakers (writer Matthew Peterman and director and co-writer William Brent Bell), but unlike the PA films, The Devil Inside is almost totally void of originality, style, or even genuine scares, and we can only hope that it doesn’t spawn any of its own sequels. The film follows twentysomething Isabella Rossi (played with reasonable pluck by Fernanda Andrade), an American whose mother (Suzan Crowley) murdered three people when she was just a tot. After the murders, Maria Rossi was sent to an asylum in Italy indefinitely, a move by the government and the Catholic church that somehow never struck Isabella as questionable or weird. The Italian shuffle makes more sense, however, when Isabella’s father finally fesses up that Maria killed those three people (all clergy-people from her own church) in the middle of an exorcism. An exorcism being performed on her. Gasp. Unfortunately, within days of her pops breaking the news, […]

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In The Paperboy, Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey play reporters from Miami hired to prove the innocence of a death row inmate (John Cusack). The woman who hires them is the highly sexual Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) who has fallen in love with the inmate despite never meeting him. She’s convinced he should be free, and that they should be married. The movie is based on the novel by Pete Dexter (who wrote the screenplay), and it’s being directed by Precious helmer Lee Daniels. With one Oscar-nominated film under his belt, it will be interesting to see if he shoots for a second. It will also be interesting to see if they keep the harrowing ending to the novel, because if they do, things are about to get a lot darker. A new poster for the film is making the rounds, and it’s the kind of artwork that makes most poster artists seem lazy (as if they need help). It’s a fantastic throwback style with a little too much eye-liner. Check it out for yourself:

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Color me shocked. After years of famously refusing to remove his clothing for films, Matthew McConaughey has finally given in and stripped down. Magic Mike must be a hell of a project to make him betray his own ethical stance against half-nudity in film. Either that, or Steven Soderberg must have convinced him that he had to get partially naked in order to co-star. Well, I hope it was worth it, Mr. McConaughey. I hope it was worth your dignity. As you can see, Warners has released the first official image from the movie (which is also the first image ever of McConaughey without any top cover) that stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, McConaughey and Olivia Munn. As we all know, it’s about male strippers. As we know because of this picture, it’s about patriotic strippers. And, as you can tell, we finally know why McConaughey refused to take his top off before now. Eesh.

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It’s easy to bemoan casting choices - romantic comedies that feature a male and a female star that seemed to have been picked just by virtue of the fact they’ve never appeared together in a rom-com before (Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in Music & Lyrics, I am looking squarely at you), superhero flicks that cast leads that don’t meet rabid fan expectations, that insane Bradley Cooper/Crow thing, pretty much any film that involves anyone who has ever worked on One Tree Hill, the list goes on and on. But sometimes, just sometimes, casting is almost too perfect, too spot-on, so that we can only sit back and sigh, content and pleased and sated, as if we have just eaten a full Thanksgiving dinner. Matthew McConaughey is now set to play a former stripper turned strip club owner in Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike, simply because it could be no other way.

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Criterion Files

When I write this column, I typically don’t get the opportunity to write about movies from my teen years. I, like many, came into a cinephilic love for art and foreign cinema during college, and in that process grew to appreciate The Criterion Collection. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), however, is a movie that’s followed me through various changes in my life for (I’m just now realizing as I write this) about half of my time thus far spent on Earth.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that enjoys having Saturdays off. But it’s not Saturday yet, is it? That means it’s time for another round of the best movie-related links from around the web. So lets get on with it. We lead tonight with the first shot of Bruce Willis in Rian Johnson’s Looper, which includes a look at Willis likely eviscerating something or someone. This one comes to the world via Empire, who has promised that they will be bringing you some news from the set. I’ll read that.

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