It's of no surprise that Seven Psychopaths Oscar nominee Martin McDonagh's madcap crime comedy won the People's Choice Midnight Madness Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. The film is a weird crowd-pleaser that's as much a blood-soaked macabre midnight movie as it is a self-aware satire on the very place that spawns all this madness: Hollywood.
The movie follows Marty (Colin Farrell playing the straight man this time around) a functioning alcoholic and Los Angeles screenwriter struggling to complete his screenplay Seven Psychopaths. Un/lucky for Marty his wildly off-balance best friend Billy (a scene and movie-stealing Sam Rockwell) is an out-of-work actor who dognaps for reward money and provides the writer with a wealth of material.
Billy works side-by-side in the dog thievery business with Hans (a particularly poignant and wonderfully weird Christopher Walken) a deeply religious man with a haunted violent past who uses the money to provide for his ailing wife (Linda Bright Clay). After the men kidnap the wrong person's Shih Tzu — owned by a bona fide lunatic and gangster by the name of Charlie (Woody Harrelson continuing his 2012 hot streak) — and Billy puts an ad in LA Weekly searching for the city's best psychopaths Marty finds inspiration for his screenplay. It quite literally arrives at his doorstep putting his life — and the lives of everyone around him — in danger.
McDonagh's unpredictable utterly deranged multi-layered noir homage is a testament to the Oscar-nominated McDonagh's scope sensibilities and talents as a writer and director (it has been earning comparisons to the work of Quentin Tarantino and understandably so). The film is not only reminiscent of Tarantino in style execution and use of an eclectic ensemble but in storytelling techniques too.
The film features a series of darkly hilarious vignettes including a pair of bumbling hitmen (played by Boardwalk Empire costars Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg) and a series of revenge fantasies featuring distraught mourning parents like a Viet Cong soldier (Long Nguyen) and a Quaker (Harry Dean Stanton); and serial killer killers (Amanda Warren and a bunny-toting Tom Waits) that all hearken back to Pulp Fiction both Kill Bills and Inglorious Basterds respectively.
But don't call Seven Psychopaths a Tarantino ripoff. McDonagh somehow manages to conjure up all the best things about the fellow auteur's aesthetics (he like Tarantino also relies his muse again with Farrell) and remain in a league all his own. It's rare to find a writer who is able to effortlessly inject his own running internal monologue into their characters without it seeming self-indulgent but McDonagh pulls it off.
McDonagh/Billy grapples with making a movie that sports over-the-top violent gun-toting guys and expendable female characters (something it gives a wink and a nod to throughout but doesn't quite solve that costars Abbie Cornish Olga Kurylenko and Gabourey Sidibe play up in their ultimately disposable roles) or one that is ultimately about love and friendship. He somehow manages to make it both.
While Seven Psychopaths doesn't pull off that delicate balance quite the same way the far superior In Bruges did running a bit too long with a fantasy
sequence that's far more satisfying than the film's actual conclusion but it arguably packs heartier laughs than its predecessor (thanks largely in part to Rockwell's Billy's buffoonery and a deliriously funny rant about Gandhi). McDonagh's latest is the craziest thing to come out of Hollywood this year — in the best way possible.
Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and re-conceived by director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas James and the Giant Peach) in 3-D stop-motion animation Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) opens a world of twisted wonder when she passes through a secret door in her new house and suddenly discovers an alternate existence mirroring her own life but making it so much more interesting and satisfying until her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) tries to turn her little visit into a permanent one. Fanning is the ideal Coraline -- curious fickle frightened and determined. She does an excellent job bringing to life this young girl suddenly caught up in an extraordinary adventure that rivals what Dorothy went through on the road to Oz. Hatcher is properly bland as her real mother and slippery as her Other -- she’s clearly having fun ditching Desperate Housewives. Standout is Keith David voicing an exquisitely drawn but quite mysterious Cat. There’s also brief but amusing work from the team of Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French (Absolutely Fabulous) as Coraline’s very very British and very eccentric neighbors and an even wackier Ian McShane as the Russian Mr. Bobinsky. Selick has created a modern classic that tops even his brilliant Nightmare Before Christmas turning the world of Coraline into something we’ve seen before. It’s Alice in Wonderland times 10 but despite its soft PG rating is really dark stuff. Kids won’t be turned off by this but some not-clued-in parents might. The film will be shown in both 3-D and regular formats but go for the 3-D version if possible. It’s a mind-blowing use of the technology and perhaps the best yet put on screen.
February 20, 2004 10:16am EST
Top Story: Mel Gibson's Father Calls Holocaust "Fictional"
As if Mel Gibson needed any more controversy over his upcoming religious epic The Passion of the Christ, now his father is adding his two cents. In an interview with the radio program Speak Your Piece!, airing Monday on the small New York-based Talkline Communications Network, Hutton Gibson stated he thinks the Holocaust was mostly "fiction." According to The Associated Press, which published excerpts of the transcript released by the network, Hutton Gibson told host Steve Feuerstein, "It's all--maybe not all fiction--but most of it is," when asked about the Holocaust. "They claimed that there were 6.2 million (Jews) in Poland before the war and after the war there were 200,000, therefore he (Hitler) must have killed 6 million of them. They simply got up and left. They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney and Los Angeles," he added. Hutton Gibson also suggested Jews want to take over the world, adding, "It's all about control. They're after one world religion and one world government." When asked in media interviews whether he shares his father's views, Mel Gibson, who has said repeatedly in the media that he is not anti-Semitic, says only that he loves his father and will not speak against him. Alan Nierob, a spokesman for Mel Gibson, declined to comment.
Academy Keeps a Lid on Gift Bags
While award shows have always freely lavished celebrities who appear at their ceremonies with gifts, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is keeping the contents of its goody bags to Oscar presenters under wraps. "We do not talk about gift bags," an AMPAS spokeswoman told Reuters. No kidding! According to industry sources, the Academy sent an e-mail threatening to ax anyone involved with the bags if they leaked the contents before a Feb. 23 media ban. In recent years, gift bags have become somewhat of a phenomenon, often containing extravagant presents, including trips, jewelry, electronic gear and leather goods, a valued total of up to $25,000. Nice payday for simply reading out the winners' names.
Sizemore Ordered To Stay Away From Fleiss
Court Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. told actor Tom Sizemore Thursday to stay away from his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, and ordered him to undergo counseling for domestic violence and anger management. Details on what prompted the warning were not disclosed, but according to the AP, Sizemore was ordered to return to court on March 30 for a hearing to determine if he violated his probation. The Black Hawk Down star was sentenced to six months in jail in October on misdemeanor charges of harassing, annoying and physically abusing Fleiss during the course of their two-year relationship. His jail term was postponed, however, so that the actor could complete a live-in program at a drug rehabilitation center.
Pam Anderson: Single and Loving It
Could Pamela Anderson finally have found happiness as a single woman? The former Baywatch star, fresh off high-profile romances with rockers Tommy Lee and Kid Rock, told the AP in a phone interview Thursday that being a full-time mom is her main focus. "Maybe I won't date again until my kids are 18. I'm very happy," Anderson said. "I only have room for my kids, so that's taking all of my time. I'm a full-time mom and I focus on that." The 36-year-old actress, who is currently doing voice-overs for Spike TV's animated series Stripperella and writing a column for Jane magazine, has two sons, Brandon, 7, and Dylan, 6, from her marriage to Lee.
O'Donnell Won't See Damages
In the contract dispute between Rosie O'Donnell and her ex-publisher Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing over the magazine Rosie, a judge ruled Thursday that neither side was entitled to damages and that each should pay their own legal fees, Reuters reports. "We respectfully disagree with this decision," a Gruner + Jahr spokesperson said, adding that the firm would explore its legal options. Publicist Cindi Berger told Reuters O'Donnell was pleased the judge ruled that the publisher had tried to wrestle editorial control from the comedian and was unconcerned about having to pay her hefty legal fees--believed to be about $8 million. G+J sued the former TV talk show host for breach of contract in 2002 when she walked away from the magazine. O'Donnell countersued for $125 million, saying the publisher had taken away her editorial control. The two-week trial ended in a stalemate last November with the judge claiming both suits were ill conceived.
Bill Moyers Says Adieu to PBS
Bill Moyers, who has had a 30 year career in TV journalism, is leaving his PBS magazine show Now after the November elections, the AP reports. Moyers is planning to write a long-proposed book about Lyndon Johnson, whom he served before and during Johnson's presidency. "It isn't because I feel old," Moyers, 69, told AP of his decision. "It's because I feel compelled to do something else now, that only I can do--which is that book."
Ozzy Doesn't Think He'll Perform Again
His rocking days may be over. Headbanger Ozzy Osbourne, who is still recovering from an all-terrain vehicle accident which left him in a coma for several days, says he may not be able to perform again, Reuters reports. "In my left shoulder I have a piece of metal approximately that long, that deep and screws in," Osbourne said in an interview with ABC's Primetime, to be broadcast on Thursday evening. "And I'm really frightened that I won't be able to perform again 'cause that's the love of my life."
Casino Faces Possible Fines for Star Treatment
A Jefferson City, Missouri, casino may have to pay a $50,000 fine for allowing hip-hop artist Nelly and his entourage to bet more than the regulated amount, AP reports. The commission alleges the casino violated some 10 state laws and rules while accommodating Nelly, who held a late-night birthday party last November in the casino and entered the establishment without first getting the required electronic identification cards that limit gamblers to purchasing no more than $500 worth of gambling chips or tokens every two hours, AP reports. Nelly will not have to pay any penalties.
Role Call: McG Reins in Pure Evel
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle director