Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan
Based on: William Lindsay Gresham‘s novel
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Mark Povinelli, Peter MacNeill, Holt McCallany, Jim Beaver, Clifton Collins Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, David Hewlett
Seen on: 1.2.2022

Plot:
After hiding a body under the floor and burning down the house around it, Stanton (Bradley Cooper) is leaving town. He ends up with a traveling carneval troupe, and he seems made for that career, learning the tricks of the business from Zeena the Seer (Toni Collette) and her husband Pete (David Strathairn). Stanton is ambitious, he definitely has plans to make his own way and he hopes to bring Molly (Rooney Mara), beauty of the carneval along for them. After they do make their own start, psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) shows up at one of their performances – and Stanton believes that they can build a business together.

Nightmare Alley was quite a disappointment with strange casting choices and pacing issues that completely hobble the film. I was expecting more form a del Toro film.

The film poster showing Stanton (Bradley Cooper) and below him Zeena (Toni Collette), Dr. Ritter (Cate Blanchett) and Molly (Rooney Mara).
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Dream Horse (2020)

Dream Horse
Director: Euros Lyn
Writer: Neil McKay
Cast: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Alan David, Lynda Baron, Karl Johnson, Steffan Rhodri, Rhys ap William, Carwyn Glyn, Siân Phillips, Joanna Page, Peter Davison, Katherine Jenkins, Clare Balding
Seen on: 27.7.2021

Plot:
Jan (Toni Collette) works two jobs – as a supermarket cashier and as a bartender – and barely keeps herself and her husband Brian (Owen Teale), a former vet who can’t work anymore, afloat. Her life seems nothing but work with no perspective of that changing. When she hears a bar patron, bookkeeper Howard (Damian Lewis), talking about being part of a syndicate – a group of people who owned a race horse together – she gets an idea. She will raise a race horse herself – with the help of the people in the village.

Dream Horse proves that movie formulas have evolved for a reason – and that if you follow them well enough, the resulting film will deliver exactly what is expected of it. Will anything come as a suprise here? No. But you will be entertained by every expected turn nonetheless.

The film poster showing a race horse, with Jan (Toni Collette), Brian (Owen Teale) and Howard (Damian Lewis) and the rest of the people from the village cheering in the background.
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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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