Tag Archives: Jamie Lee Curtis

TIFF19: Knives Out

Every year there are a few TIFF titles that have everyone buzzing, and those tickets become nearly impossible to get our popcorn-greasy hands on. This year, those titles were Jojo Rabbit, Joker, and Knives Out. I saw all 3 because I am very, very fortunate, but I was the only Asshole to see Knives Out, which also means that I have a pretty big responsibility to get this right.

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a highly successful mystery writer. His family gathers under the roof of his mansion to celebrate his 85th birthday, after which, they all retire to bed. The next morning, Harlan is found on his sofa with his throat slit. Initially ruled a suicide, both the local police and a private investigator are suspicious. As they start interviewing the family it becomes clear that each and every one of them has a motive, and that they’re all pretty enthusiastic about pointing the finger at someone else.

First, let’s get the cast of characters out of the way.

Marta (Ana de Armas) is Harlon’s nurse, and the last to see him alive. She put him to bed after administering his meds. As an outsider, she becomes P.I. Benoit Blanc’s (Daniel Craig) go-to source for all the family secrets.

Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is Harlon’s daughter, a successful businesswoman. She is married to Richard (Don Johnson) who is perhaps a bit of a leech. They have a son, Ransom (Chris Evans) who is way too old to never have worked a day in his life. He is supported by Grandpa Harlan because, though rebellious, Harlan sees a lot of himself in Ransom.

Joni (Toni Collette) was married to Harlan’s now-deceased son. She and daughter Meg (Katherine Langford) are still quite close to the family, and are supported by Harlan. Joni is a bit of a free-spirit and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the more conservative clan, though she may not realize it. She’s also at the other end of the political spectrum from brother-in-law Richard, and of course the two butt heads.

Walt (Michael Shannon) runs Harlan’s publishing empire, though with one hand tied behind his back as Harlan has no interest in selling movie rights or any other of Walt’s money-making suggestions. His wife Donna flies under the radar while his teenage son Jacob is a known weirdo and gossiped about as the family masturbator (does every family have one?).

That’s it. Those were all the people in the house the night Harlan died. It’s up to Blanc (a Poirot type, and not a little flamboyant) and police detective Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) to sift through the pieces to try to assemble the puzzle. One helpful hint: nurse Marta is incapable of lying without barfing. It’s a tell that’s going to come in handy.

The movie is a lot of fun. First, there’s the fact that Harlan himself wrote murder mysteries. His house is full of mementos and artifacts – a display of knives behind the interview chair feels particularly ominous. But the ensemble cast makes it what it is. The script feeds them all some pretty snappy lines. I really loved Lakeith Stanfield’s referring to the Thrombey mansion as a “Clue board” – thanks for that, Rian. In fact, though the trailer bills Knives Out as a “whodunnit like no one has ever dunnit,” the truth is, plenty of murder mysteries came before it, and Johnson is not afraid to reference them. Johnson is a movie lover, a genuine movie lover, which makes his own movies so goddamn much fun to watch. He’s winking at us from the director’s chair. Going to a Rian Johnson movie is like taking my 5 year old nephew to a frozen yogurt place. He fills his little bowl with the first flavour, then a second, and probably a third. His eyes are bigger than his little belly. But he’s just getting started. Next come the toppings, which are his favourite part: cherries, chocolate chips, sprinkles, bigs of sugary cereal, broken up pretzels, strawberry flavoured boba, chunks of chocolate bar, pieces of cookie, bits of brownie. Next come syrups. Just one? Ha. That’s for amateurs. Then you cover it in whipped cream. Then a few more sprinkles, for the colour. More is more. Every spoonful digs up a new layer of goodness. He (both my nephew and Johnson) delights in every bite. There’s a sumptuous deliciousness to Rian Johnson’s films. And I don’t even worry about the belly ache: Rian Johnson is the one time you can eat every last bite and you never quite get enough.

Which is not to say this movie is unsatisfying. Johnson elevates the whodunnit by throwing in timely social elements that take a bite out of the wealth and class systems that literally allow people like this to get away with murder.

Frightfest 2015: Halloween (1978)

Co-writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill couldn’t believe that there had never been a horror film simply titled “Halloween”. Taking advantage of everyone else’s missed opportunity, they produced a film set almost entirely on Halloween night that captures all the thrills and chills that we’ve come to expect from our favourite halloweens.


When he was six years old, Michael Myers stabbed his big sister to death. Dr. Sam loomis (Donald Pleasence) tried to treat him but saw nothing but limitless evil in his eyes. fifteen years later, Myers has escaped from his institution and is headed back to the quiet street where it all began.

As Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis earned the title Scream Queen and has never really been dethroned since. Working with director John Carpenter, she strikes a delicate balance between being scared shitless and being a fighter. Myers is still scary today, sporting a mask which was in reality nothing more than a Shatner mask with white spray paint and wielding a really big knife. the concept is simple enough to be ageless.

Halloween has some good scares but there is no blood so it’s perfect for those who love a good spooky story about a serial killer on the loose but can’t stand the gore that is so typical of these kinds of movies today.

Chistmas With The Kranks

There was a time, a very weird time, when Tim Allen was the king of Christmas. He played Santa Claus in two VERY big movies and then he tried to keep the ball rolling with this one, I guess, though it hasn’t exactly captured a coveted ‘Christmas classic’ slot.

Christmas With The Kranks is confusing. Let’s start with that. Luther (Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank are opting out of Christmas this year. Their only daughter has gone to South America to join the Peace Corps so they’re unencumbered and just not motivated to go through the whole rigamarole. They’re going on a Caribbean cruise instead. Sound nice? Well you’re an idiot. For some reason, in this film, every single of one of the Kranks’ colleagues, friends, and neighbours shits all over them for daring to make this decision. You might believe that every person has the right to celebrate or not, but you’d be wrong, at least in the Kranks universe.

Here’s where it lost me: the movie itself is disgusted with Luther and Nora for their selfish decision. They’re called the KRANKS – they’re Scrooges and we’re not supposed to approve. And because they’re such Christmas-hating freaks, everyone in the movie feels entitled to bully them. Luther’s secretary shames him for his past gifts. Nora’s pastor judges her bikini body. The town devotes the entire front page of their newspaper to humiliating them (the entire front page! because they’re skipping Christmas!).The neighbours, led by busybody Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Aykroyd), pretty much make war. They wage a campaign on their house as if Christmas is not a choice. They harass poor Nora, they chase down her car, they do things I am 100% sure are chargeable offenses. Nora in particular is terrorized by them.

Which brings up something truly special: Christmas With The Kranks is a comedy. Jamie Lee Curtis plays it like it’s a Christmas-themed horror movie. Every single thing she does is over the top, manic, panic-stricken, terrified.

Someone rang the doorbell?

You suspect the boy scouts are gossiping about you?

The Christmas ham you prefer isn’t available?

But while Jamie Lee Curtis is delighting me with her wacky and unnecessary performance, her character is majorly bumming me out. Nora Krank is one of those characters who I hope only exists in movies: she lives solely to be a mother. Her whole life is her daughter – when the daughter is gone, Christmas is pointless, but when the daughter suddenly announces she’s coming home for Christmas with no notice whatsoever (rude!), Nora drops all previous plans (remember that once in a lifetime trip worth thousands of dollars?) to throw together a Christmas with no food or decorations or gifts or guests or time to prepare. Which is when their neighbours all band together to help them out and the Kranks eat crow, apologizing for their previous bad behaviour and thanking their neighbours for being so wonderful.

But, like: WHAT???? I’m so steamed that the neighbours not only don’t get their comeuppance but their inexcusable, illegal behaviour is for some reason validated??? I mean honestly, if they had behaved this way to a non-white family it would be a hate crime.