All posts by Robbie Jones

The Best of …Saoirse Ronan

By no means do I want to cause a mid-life crisis for anyone reading this, but I have to remind you that Saoirse Ronan is 24 years old and already has three Oscar nominations. Yes, even that young, the Irish talent has already built up an excellent filmography and established herself as one of the more exciting actors working today.

To celebrate the release of The Seagull, we’re taking a look at her five best films to date.

Atonement (2007)
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If you haven’t yet had your heart ripped to shreds by Joe Wright’s Atonement, you must do so at your earliest convenience. This war time film stars Ronan as a thirteen year old who irrevocably changes the lives of her older sister and her lover (Keira Knightley and James McAvoy) after accusing him of a crime he did not commit. Atonement is a stunning if heart wrenching British masterpiece with exceptional performances from Knightley, McAvoy and Ronan who, if that fact at the beginning wasn’t painful enough, received her first Oscar nomination at the age of 13.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
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Who doesn’t love a bit of Wes Anderson? The quirky director brought us this star studded caper in 2014, following the story of a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and his faithful lobby boy (Tony Revolori) at a famous hotel in the fictional Republic of Zebrowska in between the world wars, caught up in the case of a stolen painting. This face paced adventure was an absolute delight; hilarious, eccentric and endearing, it was everything we could have wanted from an Anderson film. Playing the role of Agatha, the young lobby boy’s love interest, Ronan was only a small part of what is easily one of the most impressive cast lists in recent years, appearing among the likes of Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Jude Law among others. Despite scoring nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, it’s still a crime on the Academy’s part for never even nominating Fiennes for Best Actor in what is easily one of his finest performances.

Hanna (2011)
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Up next is a seriously overlooked film from 2011, starring Ronan as a young girl raised in the wilderness by her ex-CIA father (Eric Bana) and trained as an assassin, whilst being pursued by a senior agent (Cate Blanchett). Another great collaboration between the actress and Joe Wright, Hanna is a sleek thriller with excellent action sequences and a knock out lead performance. Bana is great also, and who doesn’t love Cate Blanchett as a villain? Though the real gem of this film is the always brilliant Tom Hollander as a manic former agent. A superbly directed coming of age thriller with a kick-ass soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers.

Brooklyn (2015)
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Do you ever see those trailers for films that you can’t ever picture yourself sitting down for? That was me with Brooklyn; even as a fan of the film’s screenwriter Nick Hornby, I just wasn’t sold on this tale of a young Irish girl sailing to Brooklyn in hopes of a prosperous future, but low and behold, I was wrong. As soon as the Oscar buzz kicked in, I had to check this out for myself and found out that it was utterly delightful. Endlessly charming and beautifully shot, it boasts great performances from Ronan – achieving her second Oscar nomination – Julie Walters, Domnhall Gleeson, Emory Cohen and Jim Broadbent, who bring Hornby’s tight script to life.

Lady Bird (2018)
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Our final entry is her most recent, and boy, is it a masterpiece; Greta Gerwig made her directorial debut with this perfect coming of age tale, starring Ronan as a stubborn but ambitious seventeen year old growing up in Sacramento in 2002. Lady Bird is practically flawless; even as someone who can’t relate to the trials and tribulations of a teenage girl,  I found myself floored by every ounce of emotion this film throws. Everything about it feels real, including it’s intense moments of teenage awkwardness that are as painful as they are hilarious. Beautifully shot and immaculately directed, Gerwig brings to the screen the formative years of a young girl and somehow makes it feel as though it’s happening right there in front of us. Every laugh, every tear, every scream, every anxiety, every heartbreak…It’s all there. Saoirse Ronan gives a career best performance; within minutes, she dominates the film and makes it her own, though stiff competition comes from Laurie Metcalfe as her firm mother. Beanie Feldstein is hilarious and adorable, and Lucas Hedges continues to make excellent film choices. It’s a shame this film didn’t win any Oscars; Greta Gerwig’s talent speaks volumes as she became only the fifth woman in history to garner a Best Director nomination for her work, and her screenplay equally deserved it’s recognition. But as great as Frances McDormand is, there’s a strong argument that this should have been third times a charm for Ronan in one of the most endearing performances of the year. To put it simply, Lady Bird is one of the best films of the year, and one of the best coming of age films of all time.

The Seagull is out in cinemas now! 

The Rise of Olivia Cooke

Plastered all over your screens this week is none other than home grown hero Olivia Cooke, who’s chasing easter eggs in Ready Player One and getting up to sinister acts in Thoroughbreds, so what better time to take a look at this star in the making, why she’s got big things coming, and her breakthrough film performance.

Born and raised in Oldham, Manchester, Cooke started acting young in local theatre productions, commercials and music videos. She made her television debut in 2012, with parts in BBC productions Blackout and The Secret of Crickely Hall. The latter of those was only her introduction to the horror/thriller world, as she would then comfort in that genre starring in films such as The Quiet Ones, Ouija and The Limehouse Golem, as well as her regular role in A&E’s Hitchcock prequel Bates Motel as Emma Decody, alongside Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga.

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In 2015, Cooke played one of the titular roles in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, an indie hit directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, starring Thomas Mann as an awkward, uptight high school senior who drifts through life barely scratching the surface of friendship with anyone other than friend Earl (R.J. Cyler) with no real idea of what he wants, until he’s forced to spend time with Rachel (Cooke), a classmate and former childhood friend who’s been diagnosed with leukaemia. This film is incredibly close to heart, topping my best of the year list for being a beautifully scripted coming of age flick with remarkable creativity, great humour and absolute heartbreak on the way to inspiration. At the centre of it all was Cooke’s performance that served as an emotional journey all by itself; she grabs you by the hand and whisks you through the highs and lows of her disease that puts an irresistible smile on your face and then takes it straight away with a sincere punch to the gut. Without spoilers, the most brilliant moment of hers comes with a static camera, her sitting in the foreground, Mann in the background, and nothing but raw emotion seeping out of these two troubled individuals. By all accounts, she is just riveting.

Following that up with indie hits like Katie Says Goodbye and new release Thoroughbreds, Cooke made her proper blockbuster debut in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. Adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, it follows a young boy in a dystopian future where people immerse themselves in a virtual reality world, desperately seeking an easter egg left by it’s pop culture enthused creator. Responses have been fairly mixed; for my money, it doesn’t offer much in the way of satisfying character development or tonal consistency, but is a deliriously fun blockbuster by the man who does it best, and Cooke effortlessly steals the show from leading man Tye Sheridan.

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Olivia Cooke is on the rise, and this is brilliant; on top of being very sweet and down to Earth in real life, she is phenomenally talented and is ready to bring her A-game to whatever genre or type of film she’s tackling. I’d hope to see her in more blockbusters, as a leading lady to be excited for, but the future is currently in the indie market still, with the upcoming Oscar Isaac vehicle Life Itself and short film Follow the Roses, whilst also sticking to television as the lead in the upcoming miniseries Vanity Fair, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. I predict her becoming one of the more exciting names in films, and at just 24, she’s yet another ridiculously talented person to be jealous of.

Thoroughbreds is out on DVD & Blu-Ray today! 

Unpopped Kernels: A Ghost Story (2017)

You know those films that leave you a little cold, and then just hit you like an oncoming truck? A Ghost Story is a lot to take in, but it’s one of the more rewarding films to come out in recent years.

Written and directed by David Lowery, A Ghost Story is the tale of a young musician (Casey Affleck) and his wife (Rooney Mara) living in Texas, when tragedy strikes and the musician is killed in a car crash. He awakes in the hospital, draped in a white sheet and returns to his home where his wife grieves for her lost love. It’s definitely best that we leave it there.

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This is a film that will test your patience; long drawn out shots and extended periods of silence are a little hard to take in at first, but it’s all worth it. In fact, the only real weak moment of the film is an inexplicably expositional moment where a character literally explains one of the film’s major themes. Beyond that, it’s a deep and emotional journey masterfully framed by Lowery in a testing and reflective manner. There’s little to be said about Affleck’s performance – Perhaps the less said about him in general, the better – but a great deal to say about your main character literally being a stereotypical ghost, a white sheet with eye holes. On paper, this should not work; this idea could be a catastrophically bad metaphor, a contrived expression or just plain laughable, but there’s something mesmerising about a painful journey told through a blank expression. Not a word spoken out loud, not a single change in manner, just wandering through all the same. It’s quietly exhilarating and offers far more than a mopey Affleck being his usual sad self. Mara also gives one of her strongest performances yet, a broken character who’s pain is anchored down by Lowery’s direction.

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For a first time watch, it’s ideal to know as little as possible as you can, but believe me when I say that it’s a rich film; you may struggle with it at first, but mere hours after, you’ll be sinking in it’s genius. Truly a film that deserves your thought, it’s a careful contemplation on grief, closure and the passage of time. It goes to great lengths  to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, with the very ending being one of the most satisfying I’ve ever seen. It may only be a small picture but it’s deeply exploratory and it’s reach goes far beyond what you may expect. There’s a great deal of frustration, reflection, loss and moving on, and whilst it’s not easy to deal with, it’s a film that’s actually exciting to dissect for the sake of a new revelation, or a new source of pain.

Pun intended, but mean sincerely, A Ghost Story is a haunting masterpiece; a daunting take on the afterlife with stunning performances, masterful direction and concepts that just keep on giving, save for one off-moment. A truly endearing experience.

A Ghost Story is available to watch on Netflix! 

The House with a Clock in it’s Walls – New trailer

Jack Black seems to be making the rounds in family friendly adventures; following his appearances in the revamped Goosebumps and 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, he’s now taking the lead in The House with a Clock in it’s Walls as the uncle of an orphaned child who teaches him the ways of magic and sorcery. Before long, the pair must find a way to destroy an evil clock that serves as a countdown to the apocalypse.

The film doesn’t look to be anything special, but does look like a serviceable family fantasy. Jack Black has always been very talented, and with Cate Blanchett in tow, it looks to be a fun time.

The House with a Clock in it’s Walls is out 21st September.

A Happening of Monumental Proportions – New trailer

Imagine an all star cast and a plot that lends itself to so many wonderful ideas…And then the trailer starts with an awful Snapchat joke. Maybe losing hope too early, but the rest of the trailer doesn’t quick up either. A Happening of Monumental Proportions focuses on the increasingly distressing events taking place amongst the staff, parents and students at a school’s career day.

With a cast like Common, Allison Janney, Rob Riggle, Jennifer Garner, Kumail Nanjiani, Katie Holmes and John Cho, and someone as talented as Judy Greer in the directors chair, we can only hope that this comedy has a lot more to offer than it’s awkwardly put together trailer does. That being said, the joke about the teacher and the student trying to cross each other in the hallway is genuinely hilarious.

A Happening of Monumental Proportions currently does not have a UK release date, but hits the US on 24th August.

Three Identical Strangers – Trailer!

Making it’s way  around the festival circuit is the critically acclaimed Three Identical Strangers, a documentary centred around three 19 year old boys who discover they are long lost triplets, and their joyous reunion leads them to fame, before an explosive and disturbing secret is unlocked.

Three Identical Strangers looks absolutely fascinating; it’s an interesting story that provokes a discussion on human nature, and one that you just wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t right there in front of you. Every little detail looks captivating and we can’t wait to see it.

Three Identical Strangers currently does not have a UK release date, but just received it’s US release on 29th June.