My biggest problem with the Republican National Convention is that it hasn't devoted enough attention to the pressing issue of dog-theft. Shih Tzus are being burgled by the dozen Southern California, and it's a crime wave that is eating into the character of this country. Thankfully, we have a movie like Seven Psychopaths to really take a look at this standing crisis, and an all-star cast to deliver the message: don't steal dogs. The More You Know.
In all seriousness, Seven Psychopaths, from writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), looks to be a good deal of bonkers fun. With Woody Harrelson revisiting the dangerous nut job persona he has tread so often and so adeptly, and Colin Farrell and Sam Rockwell as two starving artists who get swept up in the high-stakes game of dognapping, the below red band trailer from Yahoo boasts a lot of favorable elements. And of course, there's Christopher Walken.
People forget that Walken once put a gun to his head in a Vietnam basement, delivering one of the most powerful big screen performances in the history of cinema (that would be from The Deer Hunter). Instead, talks of Walken are generally limited to recitations of his Pulp Fiction speech and "More cowbell!" sketch lines. Once the world realized how funny Walken could be, that's all it wanted from him. The past decade has placed the actor primarily in cameo roles playing "weirdos" — lackluster comedies like Envy and Balls of Fury enlisted Walken (thanks to his ambitious attitude of trying to never turn down a role), using his iconic speech patterns to fill the void of actual well-written material.
Seven Psychopaths is a comedy, and a wacky one. But it looks like it might actually use Walken for more than a one-trick pony. Playing a tested criminal and a religious fellow, Walken seems like he'll be revisiting the twisted sensibility that worked so well in Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Batman Returns, and other great movies.
Check out the trailer below, which also features Gabourey Sidibe and the great Tom Waits. The film comes out October 12.
[Photo Credit: Miramax]
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Completely stripping Catwoman of her "Batman" connections the geniuses behind this comic-book movie--at least as bad as Spider-Man 2 is good--also stripped it of any pleasure. Neither campy a la Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt of the old TV series nor sexy vamp like Michelle Pfeiffer of Batman Returns Halle Berry's Catwoman is well one lost little kitty in the big city. Actually she's Patience Philips--an annoyingly mousy graphics designer for a top cosmetics firm who despite her job has no fashion sensibility no self-confidence and no boyfriend. (Yeah riiiight!) She is befriended by a mystical Egyptian Mau cat which--courtesy of lousy digital effects--often looks disturbingly like Toonces and sounds like Linda Blair in The Exorcist when it meows; moreover its way of befriending Patience is to lure her into a suicide attempt--one of many plot points lacking a rationale. When Patience discovers that the cosmetics firm's villainous owner (Lambert Wilson) and aging supermodel wife (Sharon Stone) are marketing a toxic disfiguring facial cream she is killed--flushed through a drainage system into the ocean. But here comes that darn cat again to revive her as she's lying in sludge and mud. Next thing she knows she's sleeping on her apartment's bookshelf eating tuna by the caseload looking longingly at Jaguar hood ornaments as if they're long-lost relatives and jumping about walls basketball courts and whatnot faster than a speeding bullet. She also takes to wearing a pointy-eared black-leather dominatrix outfit along with too much makeup but at least no whiskers. She also starts sniffing around that foul cosmetics firm which leads to a martial-arts showdown with Stone. What the Oscar-winning Berry doesn't do regrettably is get a CAT scan to see what kind of ailment convinced her to make this lamebrain movie.
I've seen better acting on 7-Eleven surveillance videos than in Catwoman. Berry is cloying in the film's early stages when she's playing insecure lonely Patience and she's more pathetically childlike than anything else. Once she's Catwoman though she's really terrible tilting her head for endless close-ups and giving lots of wide-eyed stares meant to conjure feline curiosity but that more recall George W. Bush's "deer-in-the-headlights" gaze. The screenplay makes a few lame attempts to observe the duality of women in the way Patience changes to Catwoman but it's not there in the performance. Yet Berry's turn is a career-peak gem compared to Stone who can't decide whether to play the power-mad Laurel Hedare as a broad cartoonish send-up or as someone connected to reality. Looking like a vampiric Susan Powter and barking sarcastic lines without a hint of emotional connection to her character Stone is just awful. On the plot's fringes Benjamin Bratt does his best as a police officer (gee what else) who is both infatuated with Berry and suspects her of murder.
The one-named French director Pitof (short for "pitoful"?) supposedly is a digital-imaging expert who has worked with City of Lost Children's Jean-Pierre Jeunet but you'd never know it here. Either he doesn't know much about directing actors or maybe he only gives directions in French. The effects--especially action scenes involving a digitalized version of Berry--move at such a chaotic breakneck pace that she looks completely phony. Plus there's absolutely no sequential logic whatsoever to where Catwoman moves and when--apparently invisibility is one of her superpowers. These awkward clumsy scenes are usually accompanied by distractingly loud music. Pitof's only other directing credit is some obscure French flick starring Gerard Depardieu…one hopes Catwoman will be his last.
September 12, 2003 11:43am EST
New grads Paul (Rider Strong) Karen (Jordan Ladd) Jeff (Joey Kern) Marcy (Cerina Vincent) and Bert (James Debello) head off to a cabin in the woods to let off some post-college steam before entering the working world. They are a pretty likeable bunch except for Bert who gets drunk and starts shooting at squirrels with a rifle--and then accidentally shoots a stranger in the woods. Bert keeps mum about the incident until the man projectile vomiting blood and looking like he's been skinned alive shows up at the cabin and tries to take their truck. While trying to stop him Paul unintentionally sets him on fire and the gang watches as he runs ablaze into the woods. What they don't know however is that he had a contagious flesh-eating virus. When his charred body falls into the local water reservoir everyone becomes vulnerable. The first to gulp down a glass of water filled with strange chunky particles is Karen whom they forcibly quarantine in a shed behind the cabin when she begins to show signs of the disease. Before long the fear of contagion turns the remaining four against one another. What's more a local lynch mob has formed in order to track down and kill anyone who may have come in contact with the virus which has apparently threatened this small town before. Cabin Fever is definitely a rollicking ride; it will scare you gross you out and make you laugh.
Like most low-budget horror films Cabin Fever's cast isn't exactly stellar yet the young actors and actresses really elevate the material. The most refreshing thing about the characters is that they react to what is happening to them in a way you and I probably would as opposed to the typical slasher-flick way: Instead of banding together against the common enemy they bicker act like cowards and put themselves first. Strong who last appeared in My Giant but is probably better known as Shawn from the TV series Boy Meets World emerges as a capable lead as Paul the most sensible of the group. Although his character comes across as somewhat brighter and more sensitive than the rest he is still immature enough to try to cop a feel when his love interest Karen is sleeping and feeling under the weather. Karen meanwhile is played by Ladd who has had small roles in several movies including The Specials and Never Been Kissed. Her character is the most compassionate of the gang and Karen reacts more intensely to events than the others. Kern as cocky know-it-all Jeff Vincent as slutty tough chick Marcy and Debello as party boy Bert perfectly round out the diverse cast of characters.
Because of its gruesome subject matter it is difficult to describe such a vile movie as being good or even well made but this one really is. In his feature directorial debut helmer Eli Roth delivers a truly disturbing horror picture. While most pics of this genre tend to look cold and gritty Roth saturates his sets with golden ambient lighting that brightly contrasts the film's dark dismal subject matter. And dismal is putting it mildly: Cabin Fever shows viewers things that most movies don't because they would be considered too disturbing. Case in point: When the intoxicated Bert drives off for help in his pickup and hits a deer the animal doesn't just die on impact but struggles in pain its hind legs flailing through the windshield. Such disturbing imagery escalates by degrees until the very end when the film takes on a weird surreal quality. For example the scenes of Paul being pushed through a hospital on a gurney have a dreamlike feel bound to make moviegoers question if what is happening is real. The film's score also has all sorts of unusual instrumental influences including a Twin Peaks-inspired number when a sheriff comes to investigate the cabin and a Deliverance-type banjo ditty to accompany the locals folk in front of the general store which adds a touch of humor at the most unlikely moment.
This isn't exactly an original story. Films about highly dysfunctional families with rebellious teenagers have been done before. What makes Igby Goes Down rise above the rest is the presentation. The dialogue is incredibly crisp (hilarious one moment scathing the next) making the film a pure pleasure to listen to. Igby tells the story of 17-year-old Jason "Igby" Slocumb Jr. (Kieran Culkin) a perceptive yet sarcastic fellow who has been born into a world of privilege and wealth--as well as to a family full of nutcases. Hateful mom Mimi (Susan Sarandon) is self-absorbed a world-class pill popper who's fed up with trying to control Igby. Older brother Oliver (Ryan Phillippe) is the model son who is more like a shark in preppy clothes. Ollie wants to become exactly like family friend and Igby's godfather D.H. Baines (Jeff Goldblum) a man who as Igby derisively puts it "is the captain of the morality team." Dad Jason (Bill Pullman) the only person who ever showed the young Igby any affection has been exiled to a psychiatric hospital for good. These are the people against whom Igby wages his own personal war flunking out of prep schools and hiding out in the Big Apple. He finds a brief respite in a tasty encounter with a college girl named Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes) but even that falls apart. Igby figures there just has to be a better life out there if he can find it. Thankfully he doesn't give up in his quest.
Only one word can really describe the talent on display in Igby: mesmerizing. There isn't one false move in the film. 20-year-old Kieran Culkin the middle child of the Culkin acting clan and by far the better actor (word is still out on Signs' young Rory) turns in a tour de force performance as Igby. He is all at once melancholy defiant and boyishly sexy with a tongue sharp as nails yet when Igby's deep-seated pain hits him full force Culkin unleashes a gamut of emotions that rock you. Certainly Oscar-worthy if enough Academy members actually see the movie. The always good Sarandon who is in just about everything coming out this fall (The Banger Sisters Moonlight Mile) maneuvers her way around the emotionally distant "very tense" Mimi quite well as does Pullman in his small but penetrating role as schizophrenic Daddy Slocumb. Danes as the opinionated Sookie does something refreshingly different here than what we've seen her do in the past. Goldblum also stretches his legs a little as the magnate D.H. but it's Amanda Peet giving a surprising performance as D.H.'s junkie mistress Rachel who stands out. Trying to hide her addiction from her man Rachel is less a drugged-out loser than she is like a wounded deer who has nowhere to run. Phillippe does a nice job as the cold Oliver but at this point it's a character he can do in his sleep (Cruel Intentions). Might be time for him to try something else on for size.
Let's give a big warm welcome to first-time writer/director Burr Steers who now joins the ever-growing list of young independent filmmakers to watch. As a director Steers has a very straight-forward style. He doesn't particularly care about fancy camera moves or angles. What he cares about most is handing us his own dark twisted view of a rich American family and making sure we hear every juicy line he has written--lines such as Igby's forlorn cry "I'm drowning in assholes!" and Sookie's sardonic "I don't look at rolling a joint as a visceral experience." The world Steers has created isn't a very pretty one so watching it at times is hard to take especially when Igby has his own mini-breakdown. It's a powerful moment in the movie one the character needs to experience so he can move on but it comes on somewhat abruptly almost out of the blue. It's a minor note however because this small movie about the problems of a few people still makes a big impact. Who knows if Steers can do something this good his second time around (and there will be a second time) but we'll line up to see it.