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Posts Tagged ‘Toni Collette’

Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons

“HEARTS BEAT LOUD”  My rating: B+ 

97 minutes | MPAA rating: PGH-13

“Hearts Beat Loud” is this year’s “Once,” a dramedy with music about a father/daughter relationship that that could very well be the summer’s most satisfying movie.

Writer/director Brett Haley, whose first two features (“Hero,” “I’ll See  You in My Dreams”) focused on septuagenarian protagonists, here sheds a few decades, centering the film on  Kiersey Clemons, a quietly spectacular young talent.

Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) runs a record store (no CDs) in Red Hook, N.J. More accurately, he’s running it into the ground. He has little patience for boneheaded customers.

Frank is a widower whose daughter Sam (Clemons) is preparing to leave for college (UCLA…she’s on a pre-med path). Frank is more than a little conflicted about this…for one thing, he’ll miss Sam terribly.

For another, how’s he going to pay for that university education?

Haley’s screenplay (with Mark Basch) chronicles the last days of the record store as well as the growing musical collaboration between father and daughter (he’s a guitarist, she’s a keyboardist with incredible pipes).

For Sam this is simply a fun little hobby with Dad.  When he asks her what they should call their band she responds with a groan: “We’re not a band.” Frank jumps on that comment; soon they’re performing as We’re Not A Band.

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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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Toni Collette, Rossy de Palma, Harvey Keitel

“MADAME” My rating: C

91 minutes |No MPAA rating

Farce should be lighter than air. “Madame” seems to have a bowling ball in its pocket.

Created by filmmaker Amanda Sthers mostly as a vehicle for the appealingly eccentric Rossy de Palma (the one-time Spanish model who for a while was a staple of Pedro Almodovar comedies), “Madame” offers an upstairs/downstairs scenario in which, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, a housemaid gets the life of a princess.

Maria (de Palma) is the chief maid and housekeeper for wealthy American Bob (Harvey Keitel) and his trophy wife Anne (Toni Collette), who are spending the season in their Paris home.  On the night of a big dinner party the superstitious Anne realizes that there will be 13 sitting at the table.

Panicked, she orders the reluctant Maria to trade in her black-and-white domestic’s outfit for party duds and pose as one of the guests, bringing attendance up to a safe 14.  Just keep quiet and mysterious, Anne advises her terrified employee.

Instead a tipsy Maria charms everyone with a slightly off-color joke, attracting the attention of David (Michael Smiley), a bearded British art broker who is far less stuffy than the words “British art broker” would suggest.

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Noomi Rapace

“UNLOCKED” My rating: C

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Despite a “name” director and an impressive cast of solid B-listers, the spy drama “Unlocked” feels terribly generic.

Viewers may be forgiven for thinking they’ve seen it all before.

CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace), on the rebound from a disastrous assignment that led to mass civilian casualties, is now posing as a London social worker, collecting evidence on possible terrorist activities within the Islamic community.

When the agency snatches a courier carrying messages between a radical imam and a terrorist developing a biological bomb, Alice is called in to break the captive’s will and get details on the impending attack.

Except that the CIA dudes running the interrogation seem a bit dicey…in fact, Alice finds  herself a pawn in a rogue operation. Marked for death by her own people, she barely escapes and goes on the run.

Among her supposed allies are a CIA bigwig back in the States (John Malkovich) and her agency mentor (Michael Douglas). Unsure who to trust among her own colleagues, Alice turns to a Brit intelligence master (Toni Collette) and at one point teams up with a petty crook (Orlando Bloom) whom she discovers burglarizing an apartment where she has taken refuge.

Peter O’Brien’s screenplay keeps us guessing; almost nobody in this movie is what they first seem.

There is much running around and the bodies pile up, but nothing about “Unlocked” is particularly compelling.  Director Michael Apted (whose impressive resume includes “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” lots of first-rate HBO and Showtime offerings  and the brilliant multi-decade “7 Up” documentary series) keeps things moving but never makes us care.

| Robert W. Butler

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way way Liam James“THE WAY, WAY BACK” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on July 19) 

103 minutes | MPAA rating:  PG-13

Coming-of-age-movies are a dime a dozen, and a plot outline of “The Way, Way Back” suggests just more of the same.

But five minutes into this first feature from the writing/directing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (they wrote the screenplay for Alexander Payne’s marvelous “The Descendants”) you’ll realize that something special is at work. This movie is fall-over funny, emotionally resonant (without getting sticky) and astonishingly charitable toward a cast of characters who are, to put it mildly, majorly flawed.

Our  protagonist is Duncan (Liam James), a 14-year-old who appears to have no personality save for a bad case of sullenness. Duncan is stuck in the summer vacation from hell. His divorced and insecure mother Pam (Toni

Toni Collette, Steve Carell

Toni Collette, Steve Carell

Collette) has taken up with alpha-male car salesman Trent (Steve Carell in a straight role); now Duncan has been shanghaied into a summer at Trent’s beach house on Cape Cod.  Also on board is Trent’s high-schooler daughter Steph (Zoe Levin), who cannot mask her disdain for these interlopers.

Once installed on the shore Duncan can only observe with silent disgust the behavior of vacationing adults. Trent and Pam seem to party around the clock (after seeing this film you’ll think twice before drinking around your kids), acting like teenagers with Trent’s friend Kip (Rob Corddry) and his hot wife Joan (Amanda Peet).

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