Matthew McConaughey is suddenly a role model. While the McConaissance exploded into full view at the Academy Awards with the actor taking home the Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club (and providing a gift to late night comedians everywhere with his rambling speech), the truth is that was a clear build-up to that moment.
Starting with 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, McConaughey crafted an impressive run of characters, going from the psycho cop of Killer Joe to the fugitive in Mud and then onto the cocksure trader in The Wolf of Wall Street. Buyers Club’s AIDS-stricken Ron Woodruff was just the icing on the proverbial cake.
Just before that run, however, McConaughey had fallen into a rut of starring in lightweight fare like Failure to Launch and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, after showing promise early in his career in films like Lone Star and Armistad. The Texas-born actor never went away for very long, yet he managed to reinvent his image by choosing roles that offered a challenge… while still mixing in projects like Magic Mike to pay the bills. Loopy as he may be, there's a method to the madness.
That's a lesson that some of McConaughey's contemporaries should take to heart, even ones that are cashing nice paychecks for their work. Here's a look at some of his peers (in pairs) that could do with a little bit of that McConaissance magic.
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn
The Internship and Wedding Crashers costars both have a tendency to cash a check for any role that's thrown their way. There's nothing wrong with that — Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep aren't always choosy either — but there comes a time when an actor needs to commit to doing some strong work the way that McConaughey did. Wilson, thanks to his association with Wes Anderson, always has the opportunity to put a run together. It's even possible that he's already started after earning an Oscar nomination for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Just like with his work with Anderson, however, the performance was credited more to Allen than Wilson. He needs to step away from the persona that audiences have come to expect from him and find a small movie to dazzle in.
Vaughn came through the indie ranks early on same as Wilson, so we know that he's capable. With his slightly dark manic streak, he could shine in supporting roles as McConaughey did in The Wolf of Wall Street. It also might not be a bad idea to get his buddy Jon Favreau to direct him in something hand-picked to let him flex some different acting muscles.
Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell
Much like Sandler and Ferrell's sophomoric comedies, McConaughey's various lukewarm romantic comedies weren't exactly high art, and both funnymen have shown something more than their usual silly humor on occasion: for Sandler, and Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction, and Melinda and Melinda. Though the SNL keep primarily to broad comedy, both are smart and capable. Even though there are millions to be made by sticking to what audiences want, there are legacies to be had if they can find time to jump on roles that let them be funny in a more natural way, like McConaughey's dying schemer in Dallas Buyers Club. Being at turns oblivious and self-loathing is what comedians do on a regular basis for laughs. Letting the audience see the actual pathos that it comes from isn't the most comfortable thing in the world, but start doing it consistently for a while and they start giving you awards.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
You might argue that Damon gets plenty of kudos for his acting and Affleck has turned into a respected director and producer with an Oscar to show for it. They don't need a career renaissance. In some respect, that's true. The Good Will Hunting wunderkinds have become Hollywood elite. That said, Affleck's track record as an actor still has as many misses as hits on it (Gigli, anyone?) and Damon falls back on familiar ground more often than not. How often do you watch either of their performances and think, "Man, he's really showing me something new!"? The beauty of what McConaughey has done is that in challenging himself, he challenged our expectations for him. Damon and Affleck could both use some of that. Taking the role of Liberace's lover, opposite Michael Douglas, in HBO's Behind the Candelabra was a nice departure for Damon, but he needs to put himself to the test on a bigger stage and with more at stake. Just as McConaughey found another type of character from his native Texas to play, it might be time for Damon to find a character from Boston that can't be described as "street tough."
As for McConaughey's Dazed and Confused costar, Affleck really just needs to put himself in the hands of directors other than himself that are interested in making him work, the way that McConaughey did with William Friedkin and Martin Scorsese. He doesn't have to lose 47 lbs. for a part like McConaughey, but he needs to lose the self-awareness and fully immerse himself in a character. How great would it be to see Affleck go "all in" on a character like McConaughey did in Friedkin's Killer Joe? He is proven he's a good director… it would be nice to see him live up to the same standard as an actor.
We all know, thanks to that acceptance speech, that McConaughey looks up to his future self. His peers would do well to use the Oscar-winner's past to come up with a whole new future of their own.
The big moment has finally arrived on tonight's Nikita: Nikita (Maggie Q) and Amanda (Melinda Clarke) in the same room, together for the first time since Nikita was forced to chop off Michael’s (Shane West) hand to save his life as a result of Amanda’s actions. This entire season has centered around the cat and mouse game Amanda has played with Nikita and Division, and last week featured her betrayal of longtime love and ally Ari Tasarov (Peter Outerbridge). In tonight's can't-miss episode, "Reunion," we'll watch Amanda attempt to kidnap Ari’s son Stefan to use him as leverage. But since he is still in Division’s protective custody, Ari begs Nikita for help. However, Stefan’s bodyguard manages to capture both Nikita and Amanda, and the two must work together to escape.
Whoa, Amanda and Nikita have to work together? We told you tonight’s episode is a can’t-miss! With both the big bad of the season and our heroine captured — plus severely raised stakes — don’t expect all of your favorites to make it out of this season alive. Dillon Casey, the man behind the Navy SEAL-turned-Division agent Sean Pierce, warned Hollywood.com that there will be some major casualties. "A lot of bodies are going to start hitting the floor," Casey reveals. "Nobody is safe."
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We've always known that Nikita is a high-stakes show, with characters dying all the time. But will one of our favorites be among the casualties? "I can’t tell you who is dying, but I can tell you that at least two very important people will be dead by the end of this season," Casey says. How’s that for a reveal? Time to start the speculation: who isn’t going to make it out of this season alive? We hope it’s Amanda, but something tells us we’re going to be shedding some tears for someone on the good side of Division...
Casey also mapped out the plan for the rest of the season: the focus is now firmly on taking down Amanda before she takes down Division. "The Dirty 30 has been put on ice for a while, because Amanda’s taking stronger action against Division," Casey says. "She has risen up as the main villain that they have to face now, and she wants to take down Division — take down Nikita — [using] whatever means necessary. She is the number one person they have to worry about."
And even though Division has a lot of expensive technology and resources behind them, it will take a lot more to defeat the nefarious Amanda. "She has been planning this for ages, so they have to face being a step behind for a while," Casey says. "There is a lot more asking the question, 'does the end justify the means?'"
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That question has been a plague ever since the good guys took over Division. What happens after Division has taken down Amanda and the Dirty 30? Do they keep it running, or shut it down?
"[Division] has too much power and not enough accountability," Casey says. "It's always on a slippery slope, and it always comes down to the morals of the people running it. So Fletcher now has a lot of power in his hands. Whether or not Division’s a good or a bad thing is fully dependent on his decisions."
And now that Division's one ally in the government is dead (thanks to, surprise surprise, Amanda), that slippery slope of using Division for good or evil has even higher consequences. "For the President, the only way to shut it down is to kill it, and kill everybody involved," Casey says. "As an illegal operation they could decide to go rogue and essentially become terrorists. It’s mutually assured destruction between the President and Division. [At] any minute they could decide to wage war on the other."
But the one thing keeping the uneasy alliance in check is the one thing they are working together to take down. "It’s like these two people who wished the other didn’t exist, battling against a common enemy," Casey says. "It’s the common enemy that keeps them both going. It keeps them allied. And that common enemy is Amanda."
So what do we think — should she die, or is Amanda's life too important for the rest of our heroes? Let us know in the comments below!
Nikita airs Fridays at 8 PM ET/PT on The CW.
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[Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW]
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Joss Whedon's forthcoming ABC pilot everyone hopes becomes a series, is starting to shape assemble itself a cast! Deadline is reporting that Whedon has recruited ER alum Ming-Na Wen as a lead for Marvel's drama TV pilot, S.H.I.E.L.D.
Whedon is co-writing and directing the project, based on the peacekeeping group featured in this year's The Avengers, as well as the comic books. Wen is slated to play Agent Melinda May, a soulful-if-slightly-damaged pilot, weapons expert, and soldier. Her combat experience—though damaging—have made her the best in the business. The pilot’s original casting breakdown had the character named Agent Althea Rice, aka The Calvary. Wen will be joining Clark Gregg, reprising his part of Agent Phil Coulson from Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers.
Whedon is co-writing the pilot with his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Ming-Na Wen also performed on Syfy’s Eureka and Stargate Universe.
What do you think about the casting choice? Are you excited for S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let us know in the comments!
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There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.
When crafting a follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time it’s understandable that one might be reticent to mess with a winning formula. But director Todd Phillips and writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong seem to have confused revisiting with recycling: The Hangover Part II so closely mirrors its blockbuster predecessor in every vital aspect that it can scarcely claim the right to call itself a sequel.
The only significant new wrinkle introduced in Part II is its setting: Bangkok Thailand a location that at least theoretically augurs well for a second helping of inspired lunacy. The story structure of the first film has been copied wholesale a game of Mad Libs played with its script. The action is again set around a bachelor party this time in honor of buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Again the boys (Stu Bradley Cooper’s boorish frat boy Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ moronic man-child Alan) awaken the next day in a hideously debauched hotel room with little memory of the previous night’s revelry. And again there is a missing companion: Teddy (Mason Lee son of Ang) the brother-in-law to be. (Poor Justin Bartha is once again relegated to the sidelines popping up now and then to push the plot forward via cell phone.)
The amnesiac/investigative angle of the first Hangover made for a refreshing twist on the contemporary men-behaving-badly comedy. Repeated here its effect is arguably the opposite: Too often the action feels rote and formulaic. Gone is any hint of surprise an aspect so crucial to good comedy and a huge part of the first film’s appeal. Key comic set pieces – a tussle with monks at a Buddhist temple a visit to a transsexual brothel a car chase involving a drug-dealing monkey – reveal themselves to be merely variations of memorable bits from the first film.
Tonally Part II is darker cruder and a bit nastier than its predecessor. Female characters never a priority in the first film are further marginalized in the sequel. (The only woman with significant dialogue a Bangkok prostitute also happens to have a penis. I’ll let you ponder the implications of that one.) The three leads Helms Cooper and Galifianakis still work well together and despite the inferior material enough of their chemistry remains to make the proceedings bearable – and occasionally funny. But their characters feel somehow degraded reduced to coarse caricatures of their former selves. Speaking of caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) the fey faux-gangsta villain of the first film returns in an expanded capacity in the sequel his garbled hip-hop slang more gratuitous – and more grating – than before.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been if a planned cameo by Mel Gibson playing a tattoo artist hadn’t been scrapped reportedly due to objections by Galifianakis. Liam Neeson Gibson’s replacement apparently proved ineffectual in his first go-round and when he wasn't available for re-shoots his scene was eventually shot with Nick Cassavetes in the role. In its existing incarnation the scene is purely functional a chunk of forgettable exposition. The presence of Gibson an actor of not inconsiderable comic talent would have at least added an air of unpredictability something the scene – and indeed the movie – sorely lacks.
Kindly chemistry whiz Sherman (Eddie Murphy) has found the love of his life in cutie colleague Denise (Janet Jackson) who appreciates the heart of gold beneath his extra-large exterior. But the hero's happiness is threatened when his irrepressible alter-ego Buddy Love (Murphy) reappears with a scheme to wreak havoc with Sherman's newly discovered youth potion.
"The Klumps" displays Murphy's remarkable talent for submerging himself in diverse characters even more prominently than the original did. He impressively expands upon the four Klump family members he plays with the aid of Rick Baker's Oscar-winning prosthetic makeup effects -- especially his hilarious turn as sex-crazed Granny Klump. Larry Miller is amusingly caustic as the dean of Sherman's college while pop diva Jackson deserves credit simply for keeping a straight face opposite Murphy's various incarnations.
Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy") hands in a polished if not particularly inspired piece of broad comedy that achieves its primary purpose -- staying out of Murphy's way as he works his special magic. The filmmakers pay little attention to the brainless shamelessly mechanical plotline devoting nearly all their energy to fart and sex gags that if anything aim lower than the original film's. We're talking about a flick draws one of its biggest laughs from a character getting sodomized by a giant hamster. Baby that's nasty!