Tag Archives: Toni Collette

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) Review

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Time: 134 Minutes
Cast:
Jesse Plemons as Jake
Jessie Buckley as Young Woman
Toni Collette as Mother
David Thewlis as Father
Director: Charlie Kaufman

Full of misgivings, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) travels with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his parents’ secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of my most anticipated films of 2020. Although I haven’t seen any of his directed movies, I am somewhat familiar with Charlie Kaufman’s work having seen Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which he wrote. Given the plot description and Kaufman as a creator, I was looking forward to seeing how this movie would turn out. Also, there’s the talented cast of Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis all involved with the film. It turned out to be one of the strangest experiences I have had watching a movie, however I was completely engrossed from beginning to end.

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Charlie Kaufman is known for his odd, creative and surrealist writing. From what I’ve heard, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is his strangest work, and for him that’s saying a lot. I’ll just say upfront that this movie is not for everyone. The plot is seemingly simple, however really describing what this movie is really about is a bit difficult. You have to go into a lot of depth to get to the meat of it all, and it’s a pretty dense movie as it is. The trailer makes it look like a straight up horror movie, even though it’s not really that (kind of a similar situation to Darren Aronofsky’s mother!). It’s an existential horror with unnerving dread that escalates, particularly in the second half. It’s pretty bleak and melancholic, and upon reflecting back on the movie, quite depressing. It’s a very affecting movie, so well written, and Kaufman gives the script so many layers, and gives much to talk about. There are some long conversations covering many topics, particularly on car journeys, mainly between Jake and his girlfriend (Plemons and Buckley respectively). Personally, I found myself really invested in what they had to say, and I think it really worked for me because of the excellent dialogue and the well written and interesting characters. It can be confusing, it is also slow paced for sure, and it is pretty long at 2 hours and 15 minutes in length, so if you don’t find yourself interested in the first 30 minutes or so, you might find I’m Thinking of Ending Things to be quite a struggle to get through. However, I was quite invested and fascinated with what was happening. The last 30 minutes and the ending is rather weird and bizarre, there also isn’t a clear cut explanation for everything at the end. From what I can heard, even the book it is based on was more clear about what happened, so if anything it made me want to read the novel. It also makes me want to revisit this movie to understand everything more.

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The acting from everyone is spectacular. Jesse Plemons has often been cast in supporting roles in plenty of well known movies, but here he gets to play one of the leads and he really shines in one of his best performances. However it’s Jessie Buckley in the main role who stands out the most, delivering a subtle and powerful performance. She’s been great in the likes of Wild Rose, Chernobyl and more, however I think this is her best work. The parents of Jesse Plemons are played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis, and both are fantastic in their segment.

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Charlie Kaufman’s direction was also excellent. The cinematography is truly great, the film is shot with a 4:3 aspect ratio that manages to work surprisingly well. The colour palette is stunning too, whether it be the environment outside with the heavy snow, or the inside of the parents’ house. This movie also has some of the best editing of the year, you really get the feeling that something is really off throughout. When the film does get surrealist (as you’d expect from Kaufman), it’s handled greatly, not to go into spoilers or anything. The music composed by Jay Wadley also adds a lot to the movie too.

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an off kilter psychological thriller, with so many layers. It’s written and directed excellently, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons. Days after seeing it I’m still thinking about it. Again it is not for everyone, it’s a pretty strange and confusing film that will frustrate many. However, I think this is a special movie, and I want to watch it again, because there’s a lot to unpack. Definitely one of the highlight films of 2020.

Knives Out (2019) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc
Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale
Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera
Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale
Michael Shannon as Walter “Walt” Thrombey
Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale
Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey
Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot
Katherine Langford as Megan “Meg” Thrombey
Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey
Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey
Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner
Director: Rian Johnson

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

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Knives Out was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. I’m always interested in seeing what writer/director Rian Johnson does next, and with him going from Star Wars to a much smaller movie and especially a whodunit, I was already on board. However, you add on top of that an insane cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon and more, and I’m absolutely going to be excited for it. Knives Out is not only one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, it’s one of the best films from the year too.

Rian Johnson’s script is nothing short of fantastic. Talking about how and why much of it works so well is quite difficult without revealing important things, so don’t go in knowing too much. Even the non spoilerish aspects are best experienced for yourself. Thankfully the trailers do a good job at not revealing too much about the movie beyond the premise and setup. What I can say is that Knives Out is quite different from what you’d initially expect it to be at first. What Johnson did with the noire genre in Brick, he does with the whodunit here, modernising it, and adding some twists on it. I will need to watch it again to see if much of the reveals still hold up, but on first viewing I’m more than satisfied with where he took the story and characters. I genuinely was surprised at some of the twists that happened. It’s also a hilarious movie, with some great and memorable dialogue. At 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it has your attention from start to finish. Early on I can see people wondering where this movie is going. However, at a certain point, I think most audiences are going to be locked into the plot.

As previously mentioned, the cast is massive and they played their roles really well. Daniel Craig is instantly iconic as Detective Benoit Blanc, a private detective investigating the murder. His performance is definitely over the top, especially with the southern accent, he’s playing on detectives like Hercule Poriot. With this and Logan Lucky, Craig has been really showing that he has a solid comedic side to him that we don’t get to see often. There have been talks about having more movies featuring the character of Blanc, and I’d definitely like to see that. However one of the biggest surprises is that Craig isn’t even the main character. When I say that Knives Out is Ana de Armas’s movie, I’m not just saying that because she steals much of the movie, even though she does that. Her character of Marta is at the centre of the film, and without revealing too much of the movie, she’s ultimately Knives Out’s secret weapon, she’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. The cast making up the rich family at the centre of the mystery with Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer are all great, and have plenty of moments to show off. They work well at both the dramatic and comedic parts. Some of them get to do more than others, like Martell out of them is really only noticed in a few scenes, but the rest of them do well to make themselves known. Out of them however, I’d say that Evans is the standout. Plummer as the murder victim at the centre doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime but he’s nonetheless a major part and is a presence felt throughout. Additionally Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan also work well in supporting roles as a detective and a police officer investing the murder along with Blanc, though I did want to see a little more from Stanfield.

Rian Johnson’s direction is still on point, and he’s got a fantastic handle on the whole film. When the first trailers came out from Knives Out, I noticed some people commenting that it looks like a tv show rather than an actual film. I can say that sitting in a theatre and watching the movie begin, that couldn’t be further from the truth, it was stunning to look at. It’s very much stylised, and like with Johnson’s debut with Brick, it throws back to the movies of the same genre that its clearly inspired by (in Knives Out’s case that of course being the whodunit).

With Knives Out, Rian Johnson shows once again that he’s one of the most unique and exciting filmmakers working together. It’s very well directed, and the script is outstanding, with some effective twists, fleshed out characters, and is much more than what you’d expect it to be at first. Add on top of that a fantastic cast who perform excellently (highlights being Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans), and you have one of the best (and most entertaining) movies of the year. Definitely don’t miss it at the cinema.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vandewalt
Rene Russo as Rhodora Haze
Toni Collette as Gretchen
Zawe Ashton as Josephina
Tom Sturridge as Jon Dondon
Natalia Dyer as Coco
Daveed Diggs as Damrish
Billy Magnussen as Bryson
John Malkovich as Piers
Director: Dan Gilroy

After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.

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Velvet Buzzsaw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. Nightcrawler was one of the best films of 2014, and writer/director Dan Gilroy and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo are returning from that for Gilroy’s third film, which would be a horror movie in the art world. I was wondering how this movie was going to be. It has a great setup and premise and a good cast involved, however I heard that Gilroy’s second film (Roman J. Israel) wasn’t all that great, so I didn’t know what to expect. Velvet Buzzsaw wasn’t quite the homerun that Nightcrawler was, yet I still liked it, more than other people at least.

I should start by saying not to watch the trailer to Velvet Buzzsaw if you haven’t already. First of all, it shows too much, particularly some key scenes including some deaths. Second of all, it’s being marketed as a full on horror movie, and that’s not really what it is. The movie really is a mix between a satire on the world of art and a campy horror b-movie. Its strongest parts is whenever are satirises the world of art. The first half is pretty much the whole satire bit, even the dialogue that sounds off and flatly written seems oddly deliberate and is genuinely hilarious at points. However, even with some interesting ideas and potential, it barely scratches the surface of what it could’ve been, it doesn’t go much further than the setup. There are also some subplots and some characters that seem to lengthen the runtime and don’t fit into the movie entirely and don’t even get fully resolved. Like I don’t even remember why John Malkovich was in the movie. Despite being an hour and 50 minutes long, it can drag and feel dull at some points. I think a rewrite or two might’ve smoothed out parts of the script. Over time it leans more into the horror aspects and it’s really not effective at the horror parts. I don’t mean that as it didn’t scare me because most horror movies don’t scare me. I’m meaning that I never felt tense throughout the whole movie. By the end it felt like something was missing from the story, like there was a payoff that was supposed to happen but it doesn’t actually come.

There is a great cast involved in this movie, while all of them are good, only some of them stand out. Jake Gyllenhaal is basically the lead of the movie, playing the role of an art critic so pretentious that his name is literally Morf Vandelwalt. It’s not one of his all time best performances but it’s still a great performance very unlike any performance he’s given before and ranks among his strangest roles alongside his parts in Okja and Nightcrawler. Other standouts are Rene Russo, Toni Collette and Zawe Ashton, who are also great in their roles. The rest of the cast including Natalie Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen and John Malkovich are good in their roles and play their parts, however are very much supporting roles and don’t get to shine like Gyllenhaal or Collette.

While I’m not sure yet whether Nightcrawler was just a fluke when it comes to writing for Dan Gilroy, Velvet Buzzsaw shows that he is a good director at the very least. With the movie being about the art world it’s got such a great look throughout and unsurprisingly the cinematography was done by Robert Elswitt, who shot Nightcrawler (which Dan Gilroy also directed). It is such a stunning looking movie, and really all the technical elements were handled greatly. It has some Final Destination like death scenes (some of which were unfortunately shown in the trailer). While they aren’t scary in the slightest, they are visually creative at the very least.

Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t going to work for everyone. It doesn’t really achieve what it sets out to do, it’s a little clunky and it falls flat at some of the aspects, especially the horror elements. However, I still think there are some good things here. The acting is good, it’s well directed, and some parts of the story worked and I really like the premise. If you’re the least bit interested in it and you have a Netflix account, I’d say give it a chance.

Hereditary (2018) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains horror & content that may disturb
Cast:
Toni Collette as Annie Graham
Alex Wolff as Peter Graham
Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham
Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham
Ann Dowd as Joan
Director: Ari Aster

When Ellen passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.

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I had been hearing some buzz about Hereditary recently. All I knew going in was that it was a horror movie with Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne and that it is apparently a great horror movie, which always has me interested. Outside of that I didn’t know much about the movie, I didn’t even watch the trailers. Having seen this movie, I’m glad this was the case. Hereditary surprised me on such an incredible level. With its story, excellent direction and the fantastic performances, it is one of the best horror movies in recent years.

I haven’t seen any trailers but I do recommend going into Hereditary not knowing too much about the movie. You’ll be much more surprised that way. Also, something worth knowing is that it’s not a straight up horror movie, it’s a bit of a drama as well, it does take a while before the actual horror aspect becomes apparent. The plot is slow to unravel but it works well enough. I wouldn’t say that it is a very scary movie but it is very disturbing and gets under your skin. It does have its fair share of supernatural aspects but at the same time there are some aspects like the writing and dialogue which feel real enough. The intensity just builds and builds and really becomes more affecting. If there’s one criticism that could be had with the movie, it’s that there isn’t much in terms of character development. The characters were written pretty well and all get to do something however, and the cast played the roles incredibly well.

The acting by everyone is great. The family is played by Milly Shapiro, Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Gabriel Byrne, and they were all fantastic in their roles and do their part to make themselves stand out. However, Toni Collette is the biggest stand out of all, she was phenomenal and just on a whole other level. She shows such a range of emotions and her character goes through so much. Let’s just say that she reaches her breaking point by the end of the first act, and she goes far beyond that point over the course of the rest of the movie. It was such a raw, intense and emotional performance, really one of the best performances of the year so far. She was well worth all the praise.

Hereditary was made by a first time director, Ari Aster, he has seriously proven his directorial talents here because this film is expertly directed. There actually aren’t too many jump scares, and those that are here aren’t necessarily done in the same way that typical horror movies do them, it didn’t feel cheap at all. This movie achieves sense of uneasiness over time using other methods, and its quite effective. For example, the clicking of a tongue becomes really unnerving. The movie itself isn’t particularly scary but it does have a lot of disturbing moments, in terms of plot and imagery. There is particularly one image in the movie that has now forever been burned into my brain. Fortunately, the disturbing/graphic moments feel earned, they aren’t just relying on shock value the whole time. The film uses a lot of miniature imagery often (with Toni Collette’s character making miniatures). While I’m not certain what the miniature imagery is meant to represent, I can say that at the very least it comes across as effective stylistic imagery.

Hereditary is really not a movie for everyone. It is not just a conventional horror movie with cheap jump scares and a basic plot. With Ari Aster’s excellent direction and the phenomonal performances (particularly Toni Collette’s), it’s one of the best films of 2018. Not since The Babadook has a horror movie been this fantastic and has affected me on such a level. As long as you have some idea of what this movie is and isn’t, I’d say that it’s worth checking out.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Xander Cage/xXx
Donnie Yen as Xiang/xXx
Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger
Kris Wu as Harvard “Nicks” Zhou
Ruby Rose as Adele Wolff
Tony Jaa as Talon
Nina Dobrev as Rebecca “Becky” Clearidge
Samuel L. Jackson as NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons
Toni Collette as CIA Agent Jane Marke
Nicky Jam as Lazarus
Rory McCann as Tennyson “The Torch”
Al Sapienza as CIA Director Anderson
Michael Bisping as Hawk
Ariadna Gutiérrez as Gina Roff
Hermione Corfield as Ainsley
Director: D.J. Caruso

After coming out of self-imposed exile, daredevil operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) must race against time to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora’s Box, a device that controls every military satellite in the world. Recruiting a new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of government.

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For some reason I watched the previous xXx movies in preparation for this ‘movie’. The first xXx with Vin Diesel was over the top stupid fun action and I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure. The second xXx didn’t live up to the previous movie, it just wasn’t as fun, it had an even less charismatic lead with Ice Cube and was mediocre overall. Not even Willem Dafoe could save it. Now the ‘prestigious’ and ‘critically acclaimed’ xXx franchise has a third instalment, with Vin Diesel returning. One wonders why this movie even happened, the last instalment was 12 years ago and none of the movies were that big of hits. After watching this I still don’t understand why this movie got made. It is definitely more entertaining than the previous instalment, but with it feeling so self important and obnoxious at times, it took away from the enjoyment of the movie. I can’t deny that I had an entertaining time watching it for what it is.

There’s nothing to say about plot and character, the plot is some generic action movie plot, the characters are cliché, 2 dimensional and don’t have anything to them and the dialogue is horrendous. However you probably already knew that. The question is, is this movie stupidly fun and entertaining? Yes and no. This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously but yet somehow manages to take itself too seriously at the same time. There are a whole lot of preposterous action set pieces, and a lot of this movie is just entertainingly stupid (and at times its just flat out stupid). At the same time there is a constant feeling of self importance throughout the movie. movie constantly feels arrogant with its writing and style. It feels pretentious, and if you ever want to make an entertaining dumb action flick, you can’t make it pretentious. Commando, Broken Arrow and even the original xXx understood this. The way this movie ends feels like its trying to set up a sequel and its just completely embarrassing after actually watching this movie. For the most part however, it is enjoyable. To this movie’s credit, there was a character reveal that I surprisingly liked.

The acting isn’t very good. Vin Diesel plays Vin Diesel again, he’s pretty much like in the first film. However he seems even more of a jackass this time around. It doesn’t help that Xander is constantly being praised by everyone, there are even literally moments where a bunch of random unnamed women just fawn all over Vin Diesel’s body and find him hot, I’m surprised Diesel didn’t have any writing involvement. Xander’s ‘team’ are a bunch of stereotypical douchebags, none of them are particularly likable, some of them end up being annoying. If there is a particularly character that’s sounds out as being annoying amongst all the rest, its Nina Dobrev’s character. There is a particularly random moment with her and a gun in the third act which made me question why I was watching this movie in the first place. Toni Collette looks like she hated being there, and I can’t really blame her. The only one who makes a real impression is Donnie Yen, he was also really good in his action sequences.

The action scenes were entertaining and the stunts look well choreographed but the editing really hurt the final product. There are so many times in the fight scenes where the editing would be quick cutting unnecessarily, its not Taken 3 levels of editing but its still pretty annoying. The style was also pretty obnoxious, as I said it constantly had some arrogant feeling to it and with its direction it constantly feels like it. When each character is introduced, they have some Suicide Squad esque character introduction. The effects were never that good in the xXx movies but you’d at least hope that they would’ve improved, here the visual effects are quite simply horrendous, there are some green screen that is terrible, especially one absolutely laughable moment in the third act.

As you already knew, xXx 3 is not a good movie but it does have some entertainment value, especially with how over the top it is. However there are some issues with the action and the movie overall has this obnoxious arrogance to it that it can get quite annoying. If you liked the original xXx movie or like over the top stupid action flicks, you might enjoy this. Although it lacks some of the ingredients needed for ‘the perfect stupid action flick’, if you just want to watch a stupid movie, this is definitely your film.