Sometimes movies slip through the cracks and, for better or worse, I catch up with them. Here's a handful, from the shirtless to the offensive to the gloriously ecstatic.
Mud, directed by Jeff Nichols
Ordinarily, two boys who happen upon Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the same movie have probably gone to heaven — but in Nichols's latest, their starriness is just off. He's missing some of his front teeth, and one of her eyes is black. The situation is trouble. The movie is set in rural Arkansas on and near the Mississippi River, and tells of the hard times that have befallen the titular gentleman, a handsome, drawling drifter played by McConaughey. When we meet him, Mud has been sleeping in a boat that's stuck in a tree. Two teenage friends discover him and find themselves enlisted in abetting his attempt to stay hidden from the family of criminals seeking revenge for the man he killed. The boys also enable his reunion with Juniper, the woman in whose name he did the killing. She's played by Witherspoon as the sort of fallen angel who mopes through a Piggly Wiggly parking lot in a pair of short-shorts and espadrilles.
It’s Friday night, and we’re in a mansion high atop a mountain somewhere in nearby Deer Valley, the kind of place that doesn’t have an address. A cab driver takes me over. He reminisces about the old days at Sundance. “I’ve had some crazy times, man.” I ask him what he means. “Oh, you know: big parties, hot tubs, cougars.” He’s a local, remembers sending the yellow cabs that drive up from Salt Lake City during Sundance on wild goose chases around town. But GPS put an end to that, he says, sadly.
Which I’m grateful for tonight, actually: It’s all we can do to find the hotel at the base of the mountain, where in the lobby I give my name to a waiting factotum, who dispatches another factotum, who brings another car around. I get in and we drive for a while, heading up the hill. There is no address because this road is private: We pass through one gate manned by a security guard, and then another, pairs of leaping deer glinting off the ironwork. Up the mountain we go, making lefts and rights at seeming random, speeding up in the dark.
2012 was a good year for all kinds of people (e.g., Jeremy Lin, Christian Marclay, Lena Dunham, R.A. Dickey, Barack Obama, Trinidad James ...). But in the realm of White Male Actors (Who Wore a Thong In At Least One Movie Scene), two reigned supreme. Their names are Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum, and this summer, in Magic Mike, they gave us the most unexpectedly cohesive all-purpose treat of the year.
Magic was just the centerpiece of Matt's and Chan's 2012s, though: Over the last 12 months, both men shed skin and evolved — one into the true-blue leading man we thought he might be; the other into the fine, odd actor we'd long stopped hoping he'd become. So yeah blah blah blah, congratulations. Now on to the important stuff: Which of them had the better 2012? To the head-to-head, chaps-to-breakaway-sweatpants faceoff!
Johnny Depp's Broken Heart: "On a recent night at West Hollywood's Sunset Tower Hotel, Depp was uncharacteristically quiet and alone. Johnny looked forlorn. He sat at the bar, nursing his drink, listening to the piano player. He seemed to be lost in his thoughts." His split from Vanessa Paradis was just made official and he has subsequently "turned to women for comfort." His life in the French countryside with partner Paradis was "idyllic" for years. "Johnny would walk to the local cafe, sip an espresso with the men of the village and stroll home. That was his dream." But Paradis found it stifling. "She would always complain that she was bored. She said she felt like an old woman who had given up on life and constantly told him she wanted to live in L.A." While she encouraged him to take the role of Jack Sparrow, she became "resentful" of his long shoots on location. "Vanessa started to feel like she'd sacrificed her career for his." Depp "started to drink heavily." He disappeared constantly to London and New York "rather than be in a dark and brooding mood around the kids. He wouldn't contact Vanessa because he knew she'd give him hell." After the split, Depp started hanging out a lot with Marilyn Manson. He started sleeping with Amber Heard, his co-star in The Rum Diary, despite the fact that she has a serious girlfriend. They bonded over a shared love of Hunter S. Thompson. Paradis responded to Depp's infidelity by screaming, "If I see her, I'll drown her!"
Will Britney Survive on The X Factor? "It's going to be so much fun," said a "clearly uncomfortable Spears" as she took the stage at Fox's upfronts to announce her participation as a judge in the new season of The X Factor. "Doing X Factor may lead her back into meltdown territory. She gets extremely nervous and anxious. She's hard on herself and not very confident." Even a positive event like her engagement to Jason Trawick can "input as stress. This is a lot of change all at once for Britney. She's coming undone." While her last two albums went platinum, friends say she is not fully recovered from the 2008 mental breakdown that ended with a psych ward stay. "She really is starting to seem loopy and not right. She is so happy one minute and crying the next. Her emotions are fragile." At a friend's Brentwood crawfish boil, Spears ignored partygoers while "muttering obscenities by herself." She hung out by the food table, saying, "Fuck it, I'm eating whatever I want. I don't care." Being the world's most famous teenage pop star may have had some unforeseen longer-term ill effects. "Everyone she needs to see comes to the house. She gets her hair done or spray-tans at home. She is definitely lonely and doesn't have friends." A million sad smiley faces. X-Factor may exploit the curiosity factor. "The show needs a bankable pop star who will get viewers watching, whether they think she's ridiculous or they love her."
Five days into the new year, and the first big celebrity trend has reared its shockingly cute head: being engaged. We as a culture are used to becoming emotionally invested in one or two celebrity engagements at a time, but seven is a bit much. Yes, seven men decided to put rings on it over the past two weeks, giving us seven celebrity engagements to juggle. Life is hard.
Anyway, figuring out which ones to spend time obsessing over is a tough task. Luckily for you, I have developed a highly complex formula for determining which couples are worth your time.
Matthew McConaughey will star alongside Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington in Thunder Run, an adaptation of David Zucchino's book Thunder Run — The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad about the three-day assault at the beginning of the Iraq War. Here’s the thing, though: This will be a 3-D CG movie that will use facial-capture technology and green-screen technology to create a unique effect. “What we capture in our cameras will be them,” explains producer Brian Presley. “It’ll have a stylized effect to it but we are shooting them.” “That means when CG Matthew McConaughey takes his shirt off, the real Matthew McConaughey has also taken his shirt off,” Presley did not add. Grade: B+ [HR]
Of all the things to make a movie about, Channing Tatum's former stripping career seems like a strange choice. So bless Steven Soderbergh, then, for having the chutzpah to do Magic Mike, his upcoming film based on Tatum’s early work as a dancer in a Chippendales-esque Florida nightclub show called Male Encounter. Joining Tatum himself (who'll play the film's title role) will be stripping novices Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer, and Matt Bomer. Sure, these guys look the part — but can they dance? Can they entertain? Could they hack it as Chippendales dancers? For answers, we presented photos and YouTube evidence of the cast's dancing abilities to Chippendales general manager Kristen Makhatini and dancer Jaymes Vaughan. Here's what they told us.
Matthew McConaughey has joined the cast of Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh’s stripper drama that also stars, and is partially based on the pre-fame life of, Channing Tatum. McConaughey will play Dallas, a former stripper who owns a club called Xquisite and mentors Tatum’s character in exotic dancing. A former stripper? Could Soderbergh possibly have the guts to make a stripping movie in which McConaughey keeps his shirt on the entire time? Grade: A [Variety]
Brad Pitt’s Plan B productions will adapt Twelve Years a Slave — the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and enslaved before fighting his way to freedom through the legal system — with Steve McQueen directing and Chiwetel Ejiofor starring. Grade: B+ [HR]