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The new film from director Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger) is based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was kidnapped and held as a slave for over a decade. In 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northrup, and we see his horrific journey and what amounts to years of imprisonment as a slave as he is tormented by captors and owners.

The impressive cast also includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, Quvenzhane Wallis, Lupita Nyongo, Scoot McNairy, Michael Kenneth Williams and Garret Dillahunt. The story is wrenching — if Django Unchained played fast and loose with history, this is the film that attempts to tell the story of a slave’s emancipation from more true-to-life details. The trailer has an air of Oscar bait about it, but the emotions it calls up are undeniable. And knowing the way McQueen’s films work, the trailer could be a much more audience-friendly experience than the final film will be. Read More »

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Twelve Years a Slave (2)

The name Solomon Northup may not ring a bell for most people, but Steve McQueen and his star-studded cast could help change that this winter with Twelve Years a Slave.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup, a free man who was tricked and sold into slavery as an adult. He spent a dozen years working on plantations before eventually finding his way to freedom once more. Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight HenryPaul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Alfre Woodard, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o are also among the cast. See the first official stills from the movie after the jump.

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(Note: This is a reprint of our Mud review from Sundance 2013. The film opens in a limited run today.)

For his follow-up to Take Shelter, director Jeff Nichols smartly casts Matthew McConaughey as a violent drifter who slides into the lives of two young boys whose families eke out a bare existence on the Mississippi River. Using the gift for gab that any character played by McConaughey must automatically possess, this outlaw wraps the boys up in his plan to achieve true freedom.

While Take Shelter trafficked in heavy ambiguity, Mud does away with uncertainty, at least with respect to the story. This is a straightforward tale that rides on the shoulders of McConaughey and two excellent young actors, Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and newcomer Jacob Lofland.

Mud is a riff on Mark Twain, and an exploration of the relationships between generations of men. It could be a Tom Waits song, perhaps a long-lost cut from Swordfishtrombones, revolving as it does around a man with a dark past who seeks to build an escape engine out of cast-off parts, with love as his fuel. The film casts a keen eye on people living a mostly bygone lifestyle, and wraps those observations in a rollicking little adventure that you might find in the yellowing pages of an old pulp novel.

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With the releases of Bernie, Magic Mike, and Killer Joe, 2012 may very well have been the best year of Matthew McConaughey‘s career. And don’t expect to see that momentum flag in 2013. McConaughey is starting the year off with Mud, a coming-of-age tale directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter).

The Tree of Life actor Tye Sheridan and newcomer Jacob Lofland play a pair of friends who come across a mysterious man named Mud (McConaughey) hiding out in the woods along the Mississippi. While he soon admits that he’s on the run for killing a man, they’re charmed by his romantic tales and agree to help him out. Their boyish adventure takes a sour turn, however, when Mud’s real problems entangle them in some very adult complications. Watch the trailer after the jump.

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I’m starting to suspect Steve McQueen watches the same TV we do. The British director of Hunger and Shame has already cast Sherlock‘s Benedict Cumberbatch, Saturday Night Live‘s Taran Killam, and Raising Hope‘s Garret Dillahunt in his upcoming Twelve Years a Slave, and he’s now added another small-screen favorite. Michael K. Williams, a.k.a. Omar Little on The Wire, has just boarded the cast, which also includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Brad Pitt. More details after the jump.

UPDATE: A few hours after this post went up, it was announced that Beasts of the Southern Wild star Dwight Henry had also joined Twelve Years a Slave.

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Lots of good news on the TV front broke over the weekend so, after the jump, read about the following:

  • Zachary Quinto and Jessica Lange are coming back for American Horror Story season 2 along with Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe.
  • Creator Ryan Murphy offers hints about the show’s return and a surprising twist with the casting.
  • Check out the teaser art for the second season of AMC’s The Killing.
  • A new trailer for Game of Thrones season two has been released.
  • Animated promos for NBC’s Community come online this week
  • Well-known actors like Dennis Quaid, Cary Elwes, Mira Sorvino and many others are heading to TV.

Sarah Palin has become such a ubiquitous cultural figure at this point, it’s hard to believe it was just four years ago that John McCain pulled the then-relatively unknown pol into the spotlight by announcing her as his running mate for his 2008 presidential campaign. But as the 2012 race slowly heats up, now seems as good a time as any to think back to what happened the last time we as a nation chose a leader.

Directed by Emmy winner Jay Roach (Recount), HBO Films’ Game Change follows McCain (played by Ed Harris), Palin (Julianne Moore), and their unsuccessful bid for the White House. Whereas the first trailer focused more on McCain and his decision to name Palin as his potential VP, the new one centers around Palin and what happens to her after she agrees to board the campaign. Watch the trailer after the jump.

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Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols is prepping his third film, Mud, and he’s just added quite a few actors to the cast. Take Shelter star Michael Shannon is on board for a small role, and Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Joe Don Baker and Paul Sparks are all set to appear alongside leads Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Tye Sheridan in the film that started shooting yesterday in Arkansas.

And if you’re afraid this sounds like just another low-key indie, read on for the director’s description, as he likens the film to Peckinpah directing a story by Mark Twain.

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