Posts Tagged ‘Toni Colette’

A Reason to Kill For

Knives Out

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanford, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz, Noah Segan, M. Emmet Walsh, Marlene Forte

Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson takes a delicious stab at the murder mystery genre in his quirky new film Knives Out featuring an all-star ensemble cast headed by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

With an original screenplay by Rian Johnson, Knives Out centres on the mysterious death of crime writer Harlan Thrombey on the night of his 85th birthday at his sprawling estate in Massachusetts.

Thrombey expertly played with a sly viciousness by Plummer has his multi-generational family gather for his birthday which includes his daughter Linda Drysdale played by Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda), his son-in-law Richard Drysdale played by Don Johnson (Django Unchained) and his son Walt Thrombey played with evil intent by Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Revolutionary Road) and daughter-in-law Donna Thrombey played by Riki Lindhome.

Then there is the widow of the dead son, Joni Thrombey played by Toni Colette (Muriel’s Wedding, Madame) who is hanging onto the family for financial security.

Harlan Thrombey’s grandchildren is headed by the spoilt playboy apparent heir, aptly named Ransom Drysdale played by Chris Evans (Snowpiercer), followed by the sneaky granddaughter Meg Thrombey played by Australian actress Katherine Langford (Love Simon) and the nerdy youngest grandson Jacob Thrombey played by Jaeden Martell (St Vincent).

The two characters which really steal the show are the Southern detective Benoit Blanc played against type by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky, Snatch) and more significantly Harlan Thrombey’s devious yet devoted South American nurse Marta Cabrera played by rising Cuban star Ana de Armas (Blade Runner, Overdrive).

Knives Out is a classically original murder mystery expertly written and directed by Johnson who is clearly influenced by Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock whereby every character has a reason to kill for.

As the plot unravels like an Egyptian cobra revealing several motives for killing the patriarch of this eccentric family is to claim from the his vast fortune and inherit the sprawling country estate.  

If audiences love a superb murder mystery filled with a fantastic ensemble cast and originally written to dazzle and surprise the viewer, then be sure to catch the quirky and murderous Knives Out. It’s vastly entertaining.

Knives Out gets a film rating 8 out of 10 and is strictly for lovers of a classic murder mystery in the vein of the Oscar winning Robert Altman film Gosford Park, while making subtle hints at the themes of patronage, inheritance and immigration.

Rebels and Tyrants

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

Director: D. J. Caruso

Cast: Vin Diesel, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Ice Cube, Hermione Corfield, Michael Bisping, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu

Franchise star Vin Diesel returns in the third instalment of the XXX series, unimaginatively named XXX: The Return of Xander Cage directed by D. J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye and I am Number Four).

Assembling a diverse multinational cast ensures its broader international box office appeal especially in Asia. Joining the cast of XXX: The Return of Xander Cage are Ruby Rose, Danish Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Scottish actor from HBO’s Game of Thrones, Rory McCann (Clash of the Titans), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Thai actor Tony Jaa (Furious 7).

As the action moves swiftly from The Dominican Republic to a jungle rave in the Philippines, then onto the final showdown in Detroit, this popcorn film delivers for sheer enjoyment ably assisted by a great supporting cast including Australian actress Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, Hitchcock) and veteran star Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Avengers: The Age of Ultron) reprising his role of Augustus Gibbons founder of the covert extreme sports unit XXX.

Whilst there is not enough of the mind blowing stunts that made the original XXX film in 2002 so captivating, there are a fair share including skiing in a jungle (I kid you not), jet skiing off the Philippine coastline and the usual array of car chases, satellites crashing down on major cities to keep audiences thoroughly entertained.

The plot involves a device known as Pandora’s Box which can bring down orbital satellites and hold superpowers to ransom. Naturally, Xander Cage and his team of rebels are asked to retrieve and deliver Pandora’s Box to supposedly safe hands by a blonde haired Jane Marke played by Toni Collette.

The gorgeous Hermoine Corfield (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mr Holmes) pops up as a sexy hacker in London, making the British capital more sexy than it really is as her opening sequence involves her swimming in a rooftop heated pool.

To make the plot more interesting there is a couple of twists where the real villain is not clearly identified until half way through, but director Caruso approaches the XXX film like a comic book pastiche heavily reliant on CGI and giving audiences exactly what they want: fantastic thrills in exotic locations and enough action to satisfy any adrenaline junkie.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage is a fun filled action film, which thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously and delivers an enjoyable popcorn thrill ride made all the more amusing by Vin Diesel’s continued smirk on his face and a surprise addition to the cast to link up the franchise into a XXX trilogy. Similar to the hugely successful Fast and Furious franchise, there is bound to be a fourth film in the XXX series now that the producers have received funding from the Shanghai Media Group.

Audiences will enjoy XXX: The Return of Xander Cage for action and laughs but it doesn’t deliver anything more than it’s expected to.

A Psychotic Risk

Hitchcock

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In a similar vein that Simon Curtis’s film My Week with Marilyn  depicted the events surrounding the filming of the Monroe and Olivier 1957 picture The Prince and the Showgirl, Sacha Gervasi’s brilliant film Hitchcock traces the making of Psycho, one of the most pivotal horror films ever made by the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins with lots of prosthetic makeup brings the corpulent Alfred Hitchcock to cinematic life, along with Helen Mirren as his brilliant, sharp-witted wife Alma Reville. Hitchcock centres on how the director and Alma embark on making one of the most shocking films of the time, Psycho.

Hitchcock opens with the 1959 premiere of North by Northwest and the legendary director is restless for a departure from the thriller genre, searching for a more captivating project. Soon Hitchcock reads the 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch based on a documented case of a Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott in Hitchcock) who terrorized the mid-West in the late 1950’s cutting up female corpses in a farmhouse in a serious attempt to deal with his mother issues http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_%281960_film%29.

Alfred Hitchcock is naturally drawn to such a macabre and brutal story and plans to make a shocking film version.

Without the financial backing of Paramount Studios, Hitchcock and Reville put up their own money to finance the picture and the casting begins… Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Black Dahlia) returns to form as the voluptuous actress Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy (W/E) plays Anthony Perkins along with Jessica Biel (Easy Virtue) as the more conventional actress Vera Miles. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) is Hitchcock’s faithful agent Lew Wasserman and what follows is a fascinating film about the turmoil of making Psycho, but really focusing on the unique collaborative and at times difficult relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his brisk, intelligent wife Alma Reville superbly played by Mirren.

Reville collaborated with Hitchcock on many of his films, often rewriting the final scenes of some of his films and was a solid supporter of all his trademark direction. Hopkins is wonderful as Hitchcock who plays the portly director subtly balancing caricature and genius, whilst also revealing his flaws as a sixty year old man who fraught with jealous and suspicion makes one of the most shocking films of his career.

psycho

For cinema enthusiasts, Hitchcock whilst skilfully depicting all the stages of film making  from conceptualization and casting, to editing and distribution is a delight as it shows in stylish detail how Psycho despite  all the obstacles ranging from the censorship board to the limited distribution was eventually completed. At the heart of the production was the wonderfully brisk collaboration between Hitchcock and Alma who had to insure that their personal investment in Psycho produced a spine chilling cinematic achievement, one that the audiences would never forget.

A lot of the success of Psycho (1960) was in how the film was edited as Hitchcock returned to a form of American minimalism whilst exploring the murky world of psycho-sexual obsessions from voyeurism to suppression, resulting in absolute rage and brutal murder. The infamous shower scene at the Bates Motel in which Janet Leigh is stabbed by Anthony Perkins is wonderfully recreated and in the editing suite is cut viciously to a horrific musical score after Hitchcock shot the scene from seven different camera angles and not to mention actually physically frightening Leigh himself just to capture the shock factor.

The best line in the film is when Hitchcock is talking to a neurotic screenwriter Joseph Stefano and asks him why he goes to daily psychoanalysis and the answer is

“Oh, the usual reasons: Sex, Rage, My Mother!”

Essentially Hitchcock is a intelligent drama with an edgy script almost comically depicting  how one of the most legendary film directors of that era changed the face of cinema forever with the help of his  quick-witted sophisticated wife Alma Reville. The first time onscreen pairing of Hopkins and Mirren is superb as they portray the intelligent and complex power couple and ably assisted with a great supporting cast, along with Danny Huston as a charming screenwriter Whitfield Cook and Toni Colette as Hitchcock’s loyal secretary Peggy Robertson making Hitchcock a must see for all serious film lovers . Disturbing, quirky and definitely recommended viewing, Hitchcock is a must!

Film Directors & Festivals
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