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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Dowd’

Toni Collette

“HEREDITARY” My rating: B 

127 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No one expects world-class acting from a horror movie. So when you get precisely that, it comes on like a sucker punch.

“Hereditary” is a ghost story — I think — featuring Toni Collette in an emotional performance that will leave audiences limp and exhausted.

Writer/director  Ari Aster’s film is hard to pin down…it may be about ghosts, or it may be a psychological study of mental and spiritual anguish manifesting in very creepy ways.

As the film begins Annie Graham (Collette) is burying her mother, from whom she was estranged for years before finally taking in the old lady at death’s door. Annie isn’t sure whether to react with sobs or cartwheels…Mom was a notoriously difficult personality.  (In her eulogy, Annie says she’s gratified to see so many new faces…she didn’t know this many people cared about her mother. It’s the film’s first subtle clue that Mom had a secret life.)

In the wake of the funeral Annie and her family try to get back to normal.  Husband Steve  (Gabriel Byrne) is an understanding intellectual type. Son Peter (Alex Wolff) is a teen pothead. Daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is something else again, an elfin misfit who, unlike other members of the family, really loved her grandma. In fact, she starts seeing apparitions of the dear departed.

One cannot say much about the plot of “Heredity” without ruining some major surprises.  Let’s just say that Grandma’s death is only the first tragedy to befall the clan; a far more traumatic one is yet to come.

And in the wake of that an emotionally shattered Annie finds herself turning first to a grief support group and then to a fellow mourner (the great Ann Dowd) who claims to have found a way to communicate with the dead.

Aster plays his cards very carefully,  dealing big plot points so matter of factly that it’s only in retrospect that we understand their importance.  There’s no big reveal until the end (and even then it’s a bit ambiguous); mostly he builds a nerve-wracking tension from small moments and observations. (Although there is a dramatic seance scene guaranteed to make every hair on your body stand up and salute.)

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Sandra Bullock and Joaquim Alameda

Sandra Bullock and Joaquim de Alameida

“OUR BRAND IS CRISIS”  My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 30)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Truth is relative in politics,” observes campaign consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) in the opening moments of “Our Brand Is Crisis.”

“I could convince myself of anything if the price is right.”

A catalog of the many dispiriting ways in which the electoral process has become an exercise in lying and slime-slinging, “Our Brand…” is grimly satiric and thoroughly depressing.

Dramatically it is undercooked, with outrage outscoring humanity.

The latest from chameleonic director David Gordon Green is a fictional remake of a decade-old documentary of the same name. That film followed a group of American campaign strategists — among them Clinton stalwart James Carville — working their black magic for candidates in a Bolivian presidential election.

The doc showed these Yankee fixers bringing their mercenary campaign marketing tactics to the developing world.

Gee, thanks, fellas.

Bullock’s Jane Bodine is a one-time terror of the campaign trail who, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, has spent the last six years in eccentric isolation in a Colorado cabin.

Now she’s offered a chance to get back into the game by working for a Bolivian presidential candidate. Jane is ready to reject the idea until she learns that her old nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton with Carville-esque chrome dome) is working for the competition. This will be her chance for revenge.

Jane and her team (Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan) are working for Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida), a surly plutocrat and past president whose first term was marked by the crony-pleasing sale of Bolivia’s national resources to multinational corporations.

Now the Americans must figure out how to propel this unsavory character to the top of a six-candidate race.  Their plan is to emphasize crises for which their man offers the best solutions. That these “crises” don’t actually exist is beside the point . They will strike fear in the hearts of Bolivia’s various economic and ethnic voting blocs. (more…)

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