Birthmarked (2018)

Birthmarked
Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Writer: Marc Tulin, Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Cast: Matthew Goode, Toni Collette, Andreas Apergis, Jordan Poole, Megan O’Kelly, Anton Gillis-Adelman, Michael Smiley, Fionnula Flanagan, Suzanne Clément
Seen on: 5.6.2021

Plot:
Catherine (Toni Collette) and Ben (Matthew Goode) are scientists. It seems to them that their careers were pretty much fated, which gave them an interest in studying where the line between nature and nurture might lie. To that end, they are planning an experiment with their own unborn child and two other children they mean to adopt to raise them against what their nature seems to be. Rich science aficionado Gertz (Michael Smiley) agrees to fund that experiment. But 12 years in, just when the kids Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O’Kelly) are getting really difficult, Gertz suddenly demands more conclusive results and fast. This tips the balance of their household and the entire experiment into dangerous directions.

Birthmarked is an incredibly weird film, but unforunately not in a particularly charming way, more in a disturbing way. I kept turining it over in my head, but ultimately I have to say that I didn’t like it.

The film poster showing Catherine (Toni Collette), Ben (Matthew Goode), Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O'Kelly) in winter gear, standing outside.
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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Pat Healy
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Plot:
Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an art critic, always looking for something new and good. But currently, he is rather more occupied with Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works in the gallery run by Rhodora (Rene Russo), hoping to become a successful agent herself, and Morf is deeply in love with her, despite having a boyfriend. When Josephina finds out that a recently deceased tenant in her building was an artist who wanted to have all his art destroyed upon his death, she is convinced that his art is something special. She is not wrong, though she couldn’t have foreseen what kind of special it really is.

Velvet Buzzsaw is visually engaging, and has a great cast who obviously had a lot of fun chewing the scenery in this one. But the metaphor at its heart feels a little flimsy and could have done with a little more work.

The film poster showing a white frame on a white wall with the words Velvet Buzzsaw spraypainted across it, the red paint dripping down and over the frame.
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Glassland (2014)

Glassland
Director: Gerard Barrett
Writer: Gerard Barrett
Cast: Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley, Harry Nagle
Seen on: 2.4.2020

Plot:
John (Jack Reynor) is a taxi driver. He lives with his mother Jean (Toni Collette). Jean is an alcoholic and John doesn’t really know how to take care of her anymore. After he has to bring her to the hospital and the doctors inform him of how bad her state really is, he know that he will have to get her sober. But programs that could help require money, money he doesn’t really have.

Glassland is a small film in the best way: it doesn’t need much to tell its story and it tells it well. Unfortunately, the film steps out of its own perimeter and tries to go big in the end – and that just doesn’t really work. Still, up until that part, it’s very much worth seeing.

The film poster showing Jean (Toni Collette) leaning against John (Jack Reynor), Shane (Will Poulter) standing behind them.
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Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz, K Callan, Noah Segan
Seen on: 8.1.2020

Plot:
Famous author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has died, leaving behind an eccentric family, a lot of money and a police investigation into his death. Just before it is officially declared a suicide, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) joins the investigation to make sure that everything is as everybody thinks it is. As he interviews the entire family, including Harlan’s nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), there is no telling what he will uncover. But it’s probably nothing good.

Knives Out was an amazingly entertaining film that managed to breathe some new life into a genre that has been well-established for many, many years (and it’s not even a genre that I personally love a lot). I had the best of times.

The film poster showing all of the main characters standing in a group.
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Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster
Writer: Ari Aster
Cast: Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Ann Dowd
Seen on: 19.6.2018

Plot:
After the death of her mother, Annie (Toni Collette) is grieving, as is the rest of her family – her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), her son Peter (Alex Wolff) and her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). They try to get back to normal, but strange and stranger things start to happen with them and around them.

Not everything about Hereditary worked for me, but a lot of it did. It is definitely above average, even if it left me undecided about a couple of things.

Film poster showign Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro in front of a black background.
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xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: F. Scott Frazier
Sequel to: xXx, xXx: State of the Union
Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube
Seen on: 24.1.2017

Plot:
When a new weapon called Pandora’s Box is used to crash a satellite with enough precision to kill Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) and stolen from CIA headquarters by Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his people, high-ranking CIA operative Jane Marke (Toni Collette) knows she needs extra help. She finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) who has been living a quiet life of retirement. After hearing about Gibbons, Cage aggrees to track down Xiang and Pandora’s Box.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage absolutely delivers what it promises: it’s one of the most satisfying, fun action movies in a very long time.

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Miss You Already (2015)

Miss You Already
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Morwenna Banks
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Paddy Considine, Dominic Cooper, Jacqueline Bisset, Tyson Ritter
Seen on: 1.4.2016

Plot:
Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Milly (Toni Collette) have been friends for pretty much their entire lives, despite or maybe because their not inconsiderable differences. While Jess is trying to have children with her husband Jago (Paddy Considine), Milly, who lives with her husband Kit (Dominic Cooper) and their kids and is successful in her career, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Now they both have entirely new challenges to face.

Miss You Already is like a modern Beaches: a wonderful, touching film with complex, strong, female protagonists that unabashedly centers women in its narrative.

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Krampus (2015)

Krampus
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Todd Casey
Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison TolmanConchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler
Seen on: 18.12.2015

Plot:
The Engel family are preparing for Christmas which mostly means hating the stress and fearing the time they have to spend together with the extended family. Only Omi (Krista Stadler) – Austrian for granny – and Max (Emjay Anthony) really seem to like Christmas and be in the mood for it. But when the family fighting and the tension becomes too much for Max, he decides to take it out on Christmas itself and unwittingly summons Krampus, Santa’s evil helper who punishes all those who aren’t in the Christmas spirit.

When the first trailers for Krampus – an originally Austrian myth – dropped, puzzledpeaces’ reaction was that she now knew what cultural appropriation feels like (personally I’d say that the Sound of Music is the first major instance of USAmerican appropriation of Austrian culture but that’s neither here nor there). I can say that Krampus the film has literally nothing to do with Krampus as we know him here in Austria*. But that doesn’t make the film any less entertaining, quite to the contrary.

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The Boxtrolls (2014)

The Boxtrolls
Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Writer: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava
Based on: Alan Snow‘s novel Here Be Monsters!
Cast: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg

Plot:
Cheesebridge is a town plagued by Boxtrolls who are said to eat children and generally to be despicable. Led by Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), Cheesebridge is on the hunt to find every last one of them. But Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has a different story to tell. When he was a little boy, the Boxtrolls took him in and raised him as one of their own. But now their community is shrinking everyday and Eggs knows that it is up to him to do something against it.

The Boxtrolls was an amazingly cute film that was extremely entertaining. Not everything about it was perfect, but I enjoyed it.

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Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Hector and the Search for Happiness
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom, Tinker Lindsay
Based on: François Lelord‘s novel Le voyage d’Hector ou la recherche du bonheur
Cast: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, Toni ColletteVeronica Ferres, Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer

Plot:
Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist with a well-going practice and a beautiful girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike). But he is stuck in his routine and his safety and his mind keeps wandering back to the “One Who Got Away” (Toni Collette). So he decides that he needs to go on a trip to look for the secret to happiness. Alone, leaving Clara quite take aback. He starts in China but his search will take him to quite a few places.

Hector and the Search for Happiness was perfectly nice, in the slightly derogatory meaning of nice. There was nothing very wrong about it, but nothing very right, either.

Hector-And-The-Search-For-Happiness[SPOILERS]

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