Rocks (2019 – 93 mins – Netflix)
2020 has seen a quick turnaround of films popping up on VOD, and the window between their cinema release has definitely been shortened – but Rocks might just have the record of roughly two weeks from cinema to Netflix. Which is fortunate for many as Rocks is one of the finest films of this year. A beautifully moving and truly heartfelt story of an East London teenage girl (Bukky Bakray) and her younger brother (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) left to fend for themselves when their mother leaves them behind. An extraordinarily powerful story of female friendship, one of the best movies about teenagers and one of the best British movies we’ve had in years. (Click here to read my full review)
Short Term 12 (2013 – 96 mins – Amazon Prime)
This is a perfect example of a film that is truly excellent on first watch then, when you return to it years later, you realise that a) it’s still excellent and b) the incredible success that deservedly followed for the ensemble cast. Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor at a group home for troubled teenagers, where she works with her partner Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). The young people in their care include Marcus (LaKeith Stanfield) and (Jayden) Kaitlyn Dever. Stephanie Beatriz and Rami Malek help round out the familiar faces at the start of their career cast. It’s a quietly moving drama, so brilliantly written and performed.
The Riot Club (2014 – 107 mins – Amazon Prime)
Speaking of retrospectively incredible ensemble cast, but with a completely different topic, The Riot Club has Harry Lloyd, Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Sam Reid, Douglas Booth, Freddie Fox, Josh O’Connor, Olly Alexander, Ben Schnetzer, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, Jessica Brown Findlay and Natalie Dormer – a group that would be almost impossible to get together again now as so many of their careers have truly taken off. Directed by the incredible Lone Scherfig, The Riot Club is based on a play called ‘Posh’ by Laura Wade – the story of two first year students at Oxford University who are initiated into a secret society, where they learn how reputations can be made or broken over the course of a single evening. If you ever find yourself aghast at the current state of British politics, this might give you some of the answers – but don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Crimson Peak (2015 – 118 mins – Netflix)
I love Guillermo del Toro and I love Gothic cinema. There was little doubt I’d love this – thankfully I *adore* this film. A true victim of inaccurate marketing, which pitched the film as a horror – which it isn’t – this is a film that will finally get the recognition it deserves with time. Beautiful to look at – every still could be framed and on a wall – this is the story of a young woman Edith (Mia Wasikowska), her mysterious first love Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and his strange sister (Jessica Chastain). When Edith and Thomas marry, and he takes her back to his family estate – she quickly realises all is not what it appears. (Click here to read my full review.)
Zodiac (2007 – 150 mins – BBC iPlayer)
Impeccable ensemble casts appears to have become an inadvertent theme here, as Zodiac is yet another. Helmed by David Fincher we have Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny in this modern classic, which may just be the finest crime movie to have been made this century. Based on a true story, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree. A phenomenally gripping tale that haunts long after watching.
Brooklyn (2015 – 111 mins – Amazon Prime)
It’s due to continue raining in London for the next 48 hours, which means you deserve some good quality comfort watching. May I present you with this delight of a film, set in the 1950s, it’s the story of Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who arrives in Brooklyn desperately homesick. A chance encounter with Emory Cohen’s Tony brings her more joy than she could ever imagined, but when she’s forced to return home she’s faced with making a choice. Should she stay in Ireland with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) or go back to Tony and her new home? The sets are extraordinary, the costumes exquisite, the writing beautiful and the acting sublime. You don’t just want to watch this, you deserve it. (Click here to read my full review)
Juliet, Naked (2018 – 105 mins – Netflix)
Of these seven slots, I think I’m going to try and always reserve one for an underseen romantic comedy. Last week was The Incredible Jessica James, this week has to be this adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel of the same name. It’s the story of Annie (Rose Byrne), the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd). Duncan’s one true love isn’t Annie, it’s an elusive musician he’s never met – Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When a never-heard-before Tucker Crowe demo arrives at their door, it could just be the ending of something and the start of something new… A charming, well-written and well-acted romantic comedy.