(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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There are few movies that fill me with so much discomfort that I can’t wait to leave the theater, even while I’m watching them. Martha Marcy May Marlene, which premiered yesterday at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, is one of those films, a portrait of cult brainwashing that is so discomfiting, I would have walked out if I wasn’t so transfixed by the tremendous filmmaking on display.

Hit the jump for some more thoughts on the film, including a video blog I recorded with over half a dozen movie writers. Read More »

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The word over at Superhero Hype is the Lionsgate has already negotiated with Frank Miller to direct two sequels to his Sin City-style green screen comic book caper The Spirit. If true, this would indicate tremendously sweet buzz on the project, as the main character, a detective who fakes his death to more vigilantly pursue the criminal element, and the property, created in 1940 by Will Eisner, have less name value than a Dick Tracy or Green Hornet. Comparisons to The Shadow are apt and we all know how that turned out for Alec Baldwin. And title star Gabriel Macht (The Good Shepherd, The Recruit) is less known and box-off tested than an actor like Christian Bale pre-Batman Begins.

But the supporting cast is cake: Sam Jackson as megalomanical villain The Octopus and then there’s the Playboy Mansion grotto-stocked bevy of foxes including Scarlet Johansson, Jaime King, Eva Mendes, Paz Vega, Stana Ketic and Sarah Paulson. Actually, those ladies are beyond Hef’s grotto; more like rsvps to the Fountain of Youth. But as you can see from the film’s teaser poster, Miller isn’t updating The Spirit’s Mad Men-like duds, with the fedora, tie and a domino mask (which personally, I think should always stay in comic books) are intact.

Keeping the new trend of genre fare in January sizzling (i.e. Cloverfield, Rambo), The Spirit opens on January 16, 2009, less than two months before Zack Snyder’s similarly risky-old school comic adaptation Watchmen. Lionsgate being so sure that Miller’s film will connect with a mass audience, enough so to propel two more films just surprises to me, not to come off negative. Is The Spirit on your must-see list for 2009 and can you see it being a smash hit?