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In this blog series, George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team explore their favourite movies from the last 20 years.
Our selection of films may not be critically acclaimed or box office hits, but have stood the test of time as our favourite movies.
Dir: Martin McDonagh | Searchlight Pictures
This dark but moving comedy drama from director Martin McDonagh follows a desperate woman’s attempt to solve her daughters murder.
After a lack of progress in the investigation into her daughters’ rape and murder, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) comes across an opportunity to highlight the local police forces failings.
Mildred questions the availability of three billboards, abandoned, close to her home. Businessman Red (Caleb Landry Jones) agrees to rent them out and with his consent, she has "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests?" and "How Come, Chief Willoughby?" printed, much to the frustration of the local police. Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) informs Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), but as Mildred is not breaking any laws, they are unable to get them removed. Willoughby, suffering with terminal cancer, pleads with Mildred that he tried his best with the investigation and is upset at the personal attack, as the stunt makes local news. Dixon arrests Mildred’s co-worker Denise on minor drug charges and threatens Red. Flashbacks show the poor relationship between Mildred and her daughter Angela, before her abusive ex-husband tells her that she wanted to live with him. Despite dismissing his claims, her son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) backs them up. As Willoughby’s condition deteriorates, he spends one last day with his family, before ending his life, desperate not to let his wife and daughters see him incapacitated. Dixon then hospitalises Red and loses his job.
Mildred burns down the police station, after her billboards are destroyed by arson. Dixon, who was collecting his belongings, escapes, saving the case file for Mildred’s daughter. After Mildred restores the billboards, Dixon purposely gets into a fight with a man in a bar, after believing he was involved in Angela’s murder. Despite being wrong, due to his DNA not matching, Mildred and Dixon decide to kill him.
McDonagh provides us with an extraordinary story, full of obscenities and deadpan humour that perfectly walks the line. Despite the genuine pain and sorrow, this wonderful script is both authentic and uplifting.
Dir: Lee Unkrich | Walt Disney Pictures
Director Lee Unkrich tells the tale of a boy transported to the Land of the Dead, in the latest outing from Pixar, with a rich and heartfelt story.
12-year-old aspiring musician Miguel takes inspiration from a musician that his great-great-grandmother Imelda was once married too. Unfortunately for him, Imelda banished music of any kind, after the man left her to pursue a music career, abandoning her and daughter Coco.
Miguel teaches himself to play his makeshift guitar, hoping to become famous like Ernesto de la Cruz, despite his families objections. On the Day of the Dead, whilst running around, he breaks a family picture frame, exposing a hidden section of a photo. To his surprise, he realises Ernesto is his great-great-grandfather, before entering a talent show. Realising he needs a guitar, he steals Ernesto's from the mausoleum, but after strumming it, he becomes invisible and soon meets his dead relatives. Despite the shock, they decide to take Miguel with them, but as he removed Imelda’s photo from the ofrenda, she cannot visit. Now he must return to the Land of the Living before sunrise, or he will never be able to get back. Miguel must get a blessing from a family member, so seeks out Ernesto. A man named Héctor agrees to help Miguel, but to ensure he doesn’t disappear forever; Héctor requests that Miguel take his photo back with him, so his daughter doesn’t forget him. Ernesto welcomes Miguel, but as soon as Ernesto discovers the photo, it becomes clear that Héctor and Ernesto worked together. Miguel learns that Ernesto killed Héctor and stole his music, but before they are thrown in a pit, Ernesto takes the photo. Miguel discovers that Héctor is his real great-great-grandfather.
After escaping, Imelda and Héctor reconcile. Ernesto's crimes are exposed at a concert and Imelda and Héctor bless Miguel, allowing him to return to the Land of the Living. After singing a song Héctor wrote for Coco, she tells stories of her father, as his memory is saved. One year later, the family ofrenda displays a photo of a recently deceased Coco and Héctor, as Miguel plays and sings for his living and dead relatives.
Fuelled by the power of music, this beautiful representation of Mexican culture is charming, intense and slightly dark. Coco is a wonderful cinematic experience with a well-executed and satisfying finale.
Dir: James Mangold | 20th Century Studios
In the final instalment in the Wolverine trilogy, director James Mangold portrays a bleak future for the Marvel superhero.
Decades after Days of Future Past, we are introduced to an aging Logan (Hugh Jackman), working as a limo driver. In Texas, now addicted to painkillers, Logan’s healing ability has begun to fail him, which is evident after a fight, which leaves him in agony. Now in 2029, there have been no mutants born in over 25 years.
Alongside mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), they live in a secluded compound in Mexico, also housing their mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now 90-years old and suffering with dementia. Despite this, his powers are very much alive, but it’s revealed that several seizures had resulted in X-Men and innocent civilians being killed. Whilst Xavier is secure, Logan agrees to transport a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen) to a refuge, called Eden, along with a nurse called Gabriela. After Gabriela is killed, Logan takes Laura back with him, but her killer soon catches up. Transigen's chief of security Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrives at their compound, but soon its revealed that Laura has Logan’s abilities, as she, Logan, and Xavier fight back and escape. Caliban is used to track them down, as we find out Laura was created from Logan's DNA by Transigen, a biotechnology corporation. When they struggled to control the other children they created, they killed most of them, before Laura escaped. After another seizure from Xavier, the group escape a further attack, before head of Transigen Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) arrives.
Rice unleashes a clone of Logan called X-24, which kills Xavier. Caliban sacrifices himself, as Logan and Laura escape with Xavier's body. After encountering other Transigen children, Logan initially decides not to accompany them to Eden. When Pierce and Rice team ambush the children, Logan uses a serum to temporarily enhance his powers, allowing him to kill them and their team. As X-24 fatally injures Logan, Laura kills X-24 with an adamantium bullet. As Logan finally succumbs to his injuries, he is laid to rest as the children continue on to Eden.
This brutal and sombre adventure from Mangold, details a grisly but solid end with a fitting farewell for Logan and Xavier. Not only the best X-Men film, but also one of the best superhero movies ever made.
Dir: Jordan Peele | Universal Pictures
This original comedy horror from director Jordan Peele tells the story of a disturbing family secret, insightfully exploring black-white relations.
In his apartment, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a budding photographer, is getting ready to drive to Upstate New York with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), to meet her parents for the first time. After asking Rose if they are aware that he is African-American, she assures him that they are and are looking forward to meeting him.
After arriving, Chris endures some awkward conversations, as her parents colonial attitude set a disquieting tone, as he then discovers black servants on the property. Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and mother Missy (Catherine Keener) welcome Chris, but it’s clear that all is not right. After witnessing strange behaviour from groundskeeper Walter and housekeeper Georgina, he is then pressured into a hypnotherapy session with Missy to cure his addiction to smoking. He wakes the next morning as the Armitages' have their annual get-together with friends. He meets Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer, interested in his photography, but then meets another black man called Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield) who he recognises. After his strange behaviour, Chris calls his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), a TSA officer, and then decides to go back and take a picture of Logan. The flash temporarily paralyzes him, but after becoming hysterical, is told that it’s just a seizure. Upon sending it to Rod, he is recognised as a missing man, but the police aren’t interested. After finding photos of Rose in relationships with Georgina and Walter, amongst other black people, he tries to escape, before being hypnotised. He discovers that they plan to put Jim Hudson’s brain in his body, but manages to escape, having blocked his ear to stop further hypnosis.
After starting a fire, he kills Dean and Missy, before killing Rose’ brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). He crashes his car but uses his flash to allow Walter to regain control of his body, as he fatally wounds Rose and kills himself. As Rod arrives, he and Chris escape as Rose succumbs.
This deeply unsettling thriller from Peele is an allegory for the horrors of racism. With sharp witty humour and a solid script, Get Out is as suspenseful as it is complex, with captivating performances all round.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve | Sony Pictures
This visually breathtaking sequel from director Denis Villeneuve is set 30 years later, as a Nexus-9 replicant blade runner uncovers a dark secret.
In the year 2049, a blade runner called K (Ryan Gosling), hunts and eliminates rogue replicants. Morton (Dave Bautista) is a Nexus-8 replicant, hiding on a protein farm. K is sent by the LAPD to kill Morton, but after doing so, he finds the remains of a pregnant replicant, who died in childbirth, concealed in a box, buried under a tree.
With proof that replicants can reproduce biologically, his superiors send him to kill the child, as the news could spark a war. K visits the Tyrell Corporation offices and discovers that the deceased female is Rachael and learns of former blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford). Niander (Jared Leto), the CEO of the corporation, sends a replicant enforcer named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K. He believes he has evidence that he was born, not created, as he has childhood memories of a wooden toy horse, with the date 6-10-21 carved into it. Upon looking through records, on that date, he discovers twins were born, but only the boy is listed as alive. After following clues to an orphanage, records from that year have been removed. However, it sparks a flashback and he soon finds the toy horse. After he fails a post-traumatic test, the LAPD mark K as a rogue replicant. Memory-files from Joi, K’s holographic AI girlfriend, are wiped. Radiation from the toy horse leads him to Deckard, who confirms he is the father of Rachael’s daughter. Luv kidnaps Deckard as the replicant freedom movement tell K that Rachael’s child was a girl. K understands that Dr. Stelline, a replicant memory designer is their child, and the memory of the toy horse is hers. K is asked to kill Deckard for the greater good of all replicants. Niander offers Deckard a clone of Rachael in exchange for revealing what he knows, but when he refuses, the clone is killed.
K is mortally wounded fighting Luv, but stages Deckard's death to protect him from both Niander and the replicant freedom movement, allowing Deckard to meet his daughter for the first time.
Capturing the style and atmosphere from the original, Villeneuve delivers a fascinating story. It’s rare that a sequel improves on its predecessor, but in my opinion, Blade Runner 2049 does just that.
Dir: Edgar Wright | Sony Pictures
This fun action thriller, from director Edgar Wright, follows a young getaway driver, desperately hoping to pay his debts and move on.
Doc (Kevin Spacey) is a mysterious kingpin of an Atlanta-based crime syndicate. He arranges robberies and Baby (Ansel Elgort) is his on-call getaway driver. Years prior, Baby unknowingly stole a car containing Doc's stolen goods, so has been paying off his debt ever since.
When Baby was a child, his parents were killed in a car crash, which left him with tinnitus. Now, being cared for by his deaf foster father Joseph, he finds peace in listening to music, whilst on the job. As he patiently waits in his car, he records people’s conversations, mixing this with various snippets of music. After meeting waitress Debora (Lily James), Baby soon finds himself in the midst of a robbery gone wrong, but manages to deliver the goods to Doc and finally pay off his debt. Whilst on a date with Debora, Doc threatens to hurt Joseph and Debora if he refuses one last job. Wall Street banker-turned-thief Buddy (Jon Hamm), his wife Darling (Eiza González) and sadistic henchman Bats (Jamie Foxx) are part of Doc’s new crew. After a shootout with undercover cops when trying to buy illegal firearms, they end up at Bo's Diner, where Debora is working the night shift. Unaware of their relationship, Bats comes close to killing Debora, before ending up back at Doc’s. Worried about the heat from the police, Doc attempts to cancel the heist, but is overruled. That evening, whilst on his way back to Debora, Buddy and Bats discover Baby’s recordings and assume he is an informant, but their fears are allayed, when they hear his mixtapes. When Bats kills a security guard during the heist, Baby purposely crashes his car, killing Bats. After the police kill Darling, Buddy blames Baby. After ensuring Joseph’s safety, he arrives at Bo's Diner, to find Buddy waiting. As police swarm the restaurant, Baby shoots Buddy and flees with Debora.
After killing Doc, Baby, with Debora’s help, finally finishes off Buddy, after a cat-and-mouse chase, before police finally catch him. Despite a lengthy prison sentence, Debora patiently waits for Buddy’s release.
Baby Driver is unique and stylish, with dynamic action sequences, a cool soundtrack and jaw-dropping car chases. With witty dialogue, there are some great performances in this exhilarating adventure from Wright.
Dir: Joe Wright | Focus Features
Director Joe Wright tells the story of Winston Churchill during the Second World War, in his early days as prime minister.
In May 1940, eight months since World War 2 commenced, there are calls for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) to resign, due to his lack of action. Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the First Lord of the Admiralty, is reluctantly chosen by Chamberlain to succeed him, after Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) refuses the position.
As Churchill names Chamberlain the Lord President of the Council and Halifax as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) reluctantly agrees to form a government. Germany invades Belgium and the Netherlands that same day. Things get progressively worse for Churchill, as Chamberlain and Halifax plan to revolt, due to Churchill's refusal to negotiate peace. After he promises "Blood, toil, tears and sweat" during his first speech, Halifax plans to become the PM, as he and Chamberlain prepare to resign from the government to force a vote of no confidence. Despite having the backing from U.S. President Roosevelt, French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud falls out with Churchill, after he questions why they had not planed to counterattack during the Battle of France. Halifax and Chamberlain talk with Italian Ambassador Giuseppe Bastianini to act as an intermediary with Germany. Meanwhile, Churchill reputation continues to decline when King George VI disapproves of a radio address. The brother of Churchill’s secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) is killed in during a retreat, after he orders the 30th Infantry Brigade to distract the enemy in Calais, to allow those at Dunkirk to escape. Despite considering negotiating peace with Germany, Churchill speaks to civilians on the London Underground with the general opinion appearing to suggest they keep fighting. After receiving Parliament’s support on the matter, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk is successful.
Just a month later, during the PM’s rallying speech, Chamberlain signals for the Tories to support him, as Churchill leaves to cheers and applause.
With an incredible transformation, Oldman shines in his portrayal of Churchill. With excellent cinematography, this eloquent drama from Wright provides an interesting study of Churchill's troubled tenure.
Dir: Darren Aronofsky | Paramount Pictures
This uncomfortable psychological horror from director Darren Aronofsky details mysterious arrivals at a couple’s picturesque country home.
With no name, Him (Javier Bardem) is an acclaimed poet struggling to follow up on his previous success. In a large house, he places a crystal object in his study, as the burnt-out remains that once stood are transformed into a beautiful home in an idyllic landscape.
Alongside Him, mother (Jennifer Lawrence) renovates their house, but their peaceful existence is soon interrupted. A stranger, referred to as man (Ed Harris), knocks on their door, claiming to be a doctor in need of a room. After a violent coughing fit, man assures Him and Mother he is ok. Soon, his wife, referred to as woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) joins him. It’s revealed the man is dying and his last wish was to meet Him, so, mother allows them to stay. Despite it being forbidden to touch, man and woman break the crystal object, leading Him to fly into a fit of rage and board up the study. Suddenly, the man and woman’s two sons arrive and after an argument, the oldest son (Domhnall Gleeson) fatally wounds the younger (Brian Gleeson) and leaves. In the basement, mother stumbles upon a tank of heating oil. Many people arrive at the house, as mother is told of the son’s death, as a wake is held, much to her confusion. As more people attend, a sink is broken and as water begins to pour out, she demands everyone leave. Him is inspired to finish his novel when mother announces her pregnancy. After the completion of the novel, they prepare to celebrate, before hundreds of fans begin ransacking their house. After religious rituals, gunfire and explosions, chaos turns into survival, as Mother goes into labour. Upon leaving the study, her baby is taken by the crowd and is killed. After witnessing cannibalism, mother starts to wildly stab anyone close to her.
In the basement, mother lights the oil tank, as the house explodes. Him is unscathed and despite severe burns, mother survives, until Him removes her heart to reveal a new crystal object. Upon placing it on the pedestal, a new house is revealed, as the story starts again.
Mother! is a bizarre and shocking experience, leaving you frustrated and anxious throughout. The tone leaves you perplexed and mesmerised at the same time, with so many layers, its ecological metaphor is brutal.
Dir: Craig Gillespie | Neon
Loosely based on the life of figure skater Tonya Harding, this adaption by Craig Gillespie creates a dark-comedy take on the biopic.
Beginning in 1974, a four-year-old Tonya Harding is being forced to skate by her abusive mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney). Taking her out of school to focus on skating, her mother manages to get a top coach to train her. Tonya comes one of the best figure skaters in the US, but is constantly held back by her “white trash” reputation.
Now an older Tonya (Margot Robbie), she becomes the first female figure skater to complete the two triple axel jumps in competition, however at the 1992 Winter Olympics she fails to stick her jumps putting her in fourth place. Defeated, she moves back with her abusive boyfriend Jeff and takes on a waitressing job. Her old skating coach finds her and convinces her to train for the 1994 Winter Olympics. On the day of her regional championships, Tonya receives a death threat and chooses not to compete. Realising he can sabotage her competition, Jeff instructs his friend Shawn to send death threats to her rival Nancy Kerrigan. Shawn hires to crooks to attack Kerrigan after her practice session, striking her knee to she can’t compete. The hired henchmen are arrested. Shawn brags to people in bars about his involvement in the attack and it quickly leads the FBI to him. Shawn blames Jeff, but he is horrified to learn that Shawn gave orders past sending letters. Tonya qualifies for the Olympic team but realises she’ll be made guilty by association. She goes to the FBI and tells them what Jeff and Shawn did, but Jeff later implicates Tonya saying she knew about the attack.
Held hostage by the news media outside her home, LaVona visits Tonya and offers sympathy, but Tonya soon realises that LeVona is wearing a wire and throws her out. Tonya’s hearings are postponed until after the Olympics, where she comes eight place and Kerrigan wins the silver medal. After the Olympics, Tonya avoids jail time but is banned from figure skating for life, taking up a new career in boxing.
This darkly funny take on real life events elevate the classic biopic, with excellent performances from a stellar cast.
Dir: Luca Guadagnino | Memento Films
Italian director Luca Guadagino helms this Oscar winning coming-of-age film.
Taking place in the summer of 1983, Jewish-Italian 17 year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) lives with family in northern Italy. Elio’s professor father invites a 24 year old graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) to help with his academic paper, staying with the family in the process.
Elio spends the summer reading, playing the piano and hanging out with his friends Charia and Marzia. During a game of volleyball, Oliver touches Elio’s back, but Elio shrugs it off. He then becomes jealous upon seeing Oliver pursue Chiara. Elio and Oliver start to spend more time together, accompanying each other into town and Elio begins tagging along on his father’s trips. As he becomes increasingly drawn to Oliver, he confesses his feelings, something that Oliver discourages and the two do not speak for days. Confused about his feelings, Elio goes on a date with his friend Marzia, but wants to speak to Oliver further, leaving a note under his door. Oliver asks for Elio to meet him at midnight, when he does they sleep together. Elio becomes frustrated by the little time he and Oliver have left together before Oliver returns home to the US. Marzia confronts Elio after not hearing from him after their date, Elio offers a cold response leaving her heartbroken. As the end of Oliver’s stay approaches, Elio’s parents (privately aware of their relationship) recommends they both visit Bergamo together for a long weekend. After their romantic trip comes to an end, a heartbroken Elio comes home. Elio’s father admits he was aware of their bond and explained a similar experience in his youth.
During Hanukkah, Oliver calls Elio’s family to tell them that he is engaged. Oliver tells an upset Elio that he remembers everything. After the call Elio sits in front of the fireplace reminiscing as the credits role.
The film is powerfully melancholic and features stand out performances from its cast.
The Disaster Artist
Dir: James Franco | Warner Bros. Pictures
Dir: Christopher Nolan | Warner Bros. Pictures
The Florida Project
Dir: Sean Baker | A24
Dir: Steven Soderbergh | Fingerprint Releasing
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson | Universal Pictures
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