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Left to his own devices Lee Daniels makes films that are eccentric and sometimes just way the hell out there. (The Paperboy) But he has called his newest film, The Butler, “a big compromise” and explained that the film might be “the closest I will come to as a work-for-hire.” Does that mean that, on the relative scale of whackadoo films, The Butler will be far closer to “normal” than anything else he’s made?

Hard to say at this point, but the first trailer suggests that there’s some weird stuff going on here. There’s the parade of cameo players appearing as a string of US Presidents. Among them is John Cusack‘s turn as Richard Nixon, which is… interesting. Then there’s Alex Pettyfer playing an uber-douchebag cotton farm overseer, and the digital effects and makeup that shave a few decades off lead Forest Whitaker in some scenes.

Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served several different President as the White House butler, and the trailer suggests the film traces his entire life story, using it to frame the sweep of the civil rights movement. It’s a good story, but this trailer looks a lot like a parody that might show up on SNL. So we’ll see — maybe The Butler will be just as crazy as the rest of Daniels’ work. Read More »

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It’s amazing to think that the director of the last Twilight movies, Bill Condon, almost made the Richard Pryor biopic that various people in Hollywood have tried to make for a couple decades. (And with a Wayans in the lead, no less.) OK, sure, Condon felt strongly about the project, and also made Dreamgirls. And his choice of leading man, Marlon Wayans, has occasionally proven that he’s able to go deep into character. (As in Requiem for a Dream.)

But still, the idea of that duo making a Richard Pryor film produced out of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison shingle seemed like a less than ideal way to honor the groundbreaking comedian. That version slowed to a crawl when Condon took on Twilight, however, opening the door for someone else to take over. Now Forest Whitaker will produce the film.

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If the two Expendables movies were Arnold Schwarzenegger dipping his toe back into the acting pool, Kim Jee-woon‘s The Last Stand is him taking a cannonball dive back in. The former governor of California soaks in the spotlight as Ray Owens, a small-town sheriff who becomes the last guy standing between a ruthless cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) and the Mexican border.

This being Arnold, of course that involves heavy-duty weaponry and some cheesy one-liners. The latest (and probably last) trailer earns a red-band rating for some gleeful violence and some naughty words. Watch it after the jump.

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It took a couple of years after Precious for director Lee Daniels to get cameras rolling on his follow-up, the lurid Southern melodrama The Paperboy, but he’s barely even taking a breather before heading into his next picture. Even as The Paperboy gears up for its theatrical run, Daniels has already started shooting The Butler with Forest Whitaker in the lead as longtime White House servant Eugene Allen.

Although the film’s drawn quite a bit of attention in recent months for its star-studded cast, which includes Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Terrence Howard, and many, many more, the first official still is a simple one of Whitaker at work. Check it out after the jump.

UPDATE: We now also have photos of James Marsden and Minka Kelly in costume as John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. See them after the jump.

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To hell with The Expendables, let’s move on to The Last Stand. South Korean director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) makes his English-language debut directing Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s return to marquee-heading status. The straightforward action film features Arnie as a disgraced cop currently holding a small-town Sheriff post, who has to prevent a powerful drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) from escaping across the US-Mexico border.

Peter Stormare is the bad guy’s chief enforcer, but that’s OK; Arnie has Genesis Rodriguez, Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander, and, uh, Johnny Knoxville on his side. Read More »

Even as Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to Precious, The Paperboy, makes its debut at Cannes this week, the filmmaker’s wasting no time assembling a stellar cast for his next project, The Butler. The talented Forest Whitaker leads the picture as Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served under eight different presidents from 1952 through 1986, with Oprah Winfrey and rising star David Oyelowo signed to play his wife and son.

And the cast only gets more buzzworthy from there. The roster also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nicole Kidman, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and John Cusack. Now we can add Minka Kelly to the list as well, as Daniels says he’s cast her to play Jackie Kennedy to Matthew McConaughey‘s John F. More after the jump.

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A couple years ago, Precious director Lee Daniels went back and forth on the idea of filming the life of longtime White House servant Eugene Allen for the movie The Butler, or making a civil rights drama called Selma. In the end, he made neither, choosing instead to shoot The Paperboy with Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, based on Peter Dexter’s novel of the same name.

But with that film complete, Daniels has cycled back around to The Butler, and is in the process of casting the film. We’ve heard about quite a few possible actors (Hugh Jackman, Oprah Winfrey, Liam Neeson), some of whom were set for roles in Selma before that project died. The only casting that seemed close to set for The Butler was David Oyelowo, who was said to have the title role.

Now Oyelowo is still in talks for the movie, but it looks like he’ll play Allen’s son, instead of the title character. In the lead role is likely to be played by Forest Whitaker. Read More »

Lots of sequel news today so let’s get right to it. After the jump, read about the following:

  • Shawn Levy gives an update on a sequel to Real Steel.
  • There’s already been talk of a third Ghost Rider according to directors Neveldine and Taylor, who are also still considering Crank 3D.
  • Latino Review has revealed some major plot points in Taken 2.
  • Fox is still moving ahead with a Waiting to Exhale sequel after the death of Whitney Houston.
  • Steven Spielberg says Peter Jackson will be starting production on The Adventures of Tintin 2 this year.

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Things are indeed shaping up quickly for David Dobkin‘s Arthur & Lancelot, which Warner Bros. fast-tracked over the summer at the cost of Bryan Singer’s Excalibur remake and Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur film. Last month saw the casting of Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington and The Killing star Joel Kinnaman in the two title roles, and now WB favorite Marion Cotillard has been offered the part of Morgana, a powerful sorceress and Arthur’s half-sister.

The Arthur retelling, which was written by Dobkin, follows the rise of the legendary leader from his humble beginnings as an illegitimate son being raised by a poor knight, while Lancelot starts out as “a rebellious noble who distrusts the established government.” Arthur & Lancelot will likely begin shooting in March. [Vulture]

After the jump, Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler lands another high-profile movie role, while several more actors join Michael Chiklis and Forest Whitaker in Pawn — though sadly, none of the new folks are from The Shield.

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