A Christmas Surprise Is Waiting On Julia Roberts’ Doorstep In First Teaser For ‘Ben Is Back’

“19 year-old Ben Burns unexpectedly returns home to his family’s suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben’s mother, Holly, is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son staying clean. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother’s undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe.”

Directed by: Peter Hedges

Cast: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Kathryn Newton, Courtney B. Vance

Release Date: December 7th, 2018 (US – UK TBA)

Advertisements

Competition: Win A UV Digital Code For ‘Lady Bird’

Thanks to Sasha, we have one UV Digital code to give away for Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and it couldn’t be easier to enter!

“The real success here is in the writing – it makes the whole thing feel so real. It is very funny – early scenes of Lady Bird ‘running for office’ in her school and coming into conflict with her teachers are hilarious. The naturalistic performances are also a key part of what makes this film so good.”

You can read our full verdict for Lady Bird, courtesy of Fiona, right here!

In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both the humor and pathos in the turbulent bond between a mother and her teenage daughter. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

First Trailer For Jonah Hill’s Directorial Debut ‘Mid90s’ Released

Written and directed by Jonah Hill, Mid90s follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Directed by: Jonah Hill

Cast: Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Sunny Suljic

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Year: 2018
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes.

Written by Corey Hughes

British-Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh returns to the director seat in emphatic fashion with ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, his third feature film that follows the success of ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’, a film that alludes to the conflicts of hatred versus empathy, and tolerance versus change. This, in short, is a triumphant outing for McDonagh, and is completely deserving of the tremendous buzz that it has been receiving during this competitive awards season.

7 months after the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, Mildred Hayes, played ruthlessly by Frances McDormand, challenges the local police authority when they fail to find a single culprit responsible for the attack. ‘Raped while dying. And still no arrests? How come, chief Willoughby?’ The three billboards ask a simple question: who is responsible for the death of Mildred Haye’s daughter?

Whilst the film seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding the death of Angela Hayes, this is not a mystery per se. Instead, this is a courageous tale of one mother’s dedication in seeking justice for her daughter, a justice not given to her by the local police department. With a few ‘fuck’ and ‘c**ts’ thrown in. (Yes, I censored myself. I’m not an animal.) This trademark use of explosive, vulgar writing is something that acclaimed writer and director Martin McDonagh is renowned for, and he holds no punches this time ‘round either. McDonagh’s prowess as both a playwright and a cinematic dramatist has resulted in a mesmerising fusion of drama and comedy; a film that is brimming with moments of laughter and melancholy, and a mosaic of compelling characters.

2nd image

At the helm of McDonagh’s piece is Frances McDormand, an actor not known for leading the screen, but more so for her supporting contributions, although that wouldn’t seem the case here. Her portrayal of the tortured Mildred Hayes is a fascinating one: she is not a good person, nor is she a particularly good mother, but what she lacks in manners she makes up for in grit, determination and complete badassery. A mother of a grief-struck son (Lucas Hedges) and a divorcee from an abusive husband (John Hawke), Hayes appears to be in constant battle with herself and those that surround her. Yet despite her fighting, unforgiving nature, she is not immune to emotion – she’s simply a mother seeking justice for her daughter. Whenever she breaks down there is a real sense of devastation, an accomplishment that must be applied to the remarkable talent of McDormand who is able to simultaneously make one laugh or cry. This is simply the perfect role for McDormand, who fits the role like a tightly worn bandana.

As for the rest of the cast, there’s a lot of excitement to be had. Whether it’s Woody Harrelson as the charismatic chief of police and loving father, or Lucas Hedges as the tormented son (a role not too distant from his performance in ‘Manchester by the Sea’), ‘Three Billboards is bursting with compelling characters; all of which given the necessary depth to flourish alongside McDormand’s lead. Yet I feel extra credit needs to be given to the immensely underrated Sam Rockwell, who this time ‘round plays an inexcusably monstrous police officer who embodies the societal anxiety of police brutality and racial prejudice that is far too prevalent in today’s current climate. Yet this totally unsympathetic character is graced with the most compelling arc within the movie, which to some may be an unforgivable decision made by McDonagh. Though, for me, this change in character is justified, a transition that is fuelled by his incompetence as an officer of the law, and by his understandable castigation from his local community. Rockwell captures this sense of divisiveness with ease, by bringing to the fore what could be a career-best performance.

At the heart of it all, McDonagh’s film is a hilarious, raunchy and poignant story of a mother’s unrelenting desire for justice. But more so, it is an intriguing psychological analysis of one’s response to tragedy, which in this case, is one fuelled by anarchic rage.

This is an utterly fantastic piece of work by McDonagh.

Corey’s Rating: 9.5 / 10

Lady Bird

Year: 2017 (UK: 2018)
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges

Written by Fiona Underhill

Greta Gerwig is primarily known for her ‘auteur-muse’ relationship with director Noah Baumbach, which has produced such gems as ‘Frances Ha’, ‘Mistress America’ and ‘Greenberg’. I have also enjoyed watching her in the role of Natalie Portman’s best friend in the diverse ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Jackie’. Although she has directed before, this is Gerwig’s ‘mainstream’ directorial debut and she has very much stepped out from under Baumbach’s shadow.

There are a few surprising things about ‘Lady Bird’. Firstly, it is not set in New York, as one might expect from Gerwig, but in Sacramento. While it is the state capital of California, Sacramento is nowhere near as well known as Los Angeles or San Francisco and is described as the ‘mid-west of California’ in the film. It definitely has a small-town feel here and one that needs to be escaped, especially as Lady Bird literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks. I was also surprised to discover that it is set in 2002-2003, making the character of Lady Bird five years younger than me. Despite this age gap, many of the music and fashion references did feel painfully real to me and it doused the whole thing in the heavy pall of nostalgia; not all of it positive.

Soairse Ronan plays Christine McPherson, who insists on being called ‘Lady Bird’. She is a Catholic high school senior, dealing with typical problems such as friendships, boyfriends and what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. Her parents are going through financial problems, leading to her mother (in an amazing performance from Laurie Metcalf) working double shifts in a psychiatric hospital. Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (the very appealing Beanie Feldstein) decide to audition for the school musical, where Lady Bird immediately takes a shine to Danny (Lucas Hedges). Further down the line, Lady Bird gets involved with new friend ‘rich bitch’ Jenna and new boy, the rebellious Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) which works out about as well as could be expected.

The real success here is in the writing – it makes the whole thing feel so real. It is very funny – early scenes of Lady Bird ‘running for office’ in her school and coming into conflict with her teachers are hilarious. The naturalistic performances are also a key part of what makes this film so good. The 23 year old Ronan plays a 17/18 year old incredibly convincingly in a vanity-free performance, including showing her ‘adolescent’ skin and I would love to see her get a Best Actress Oscar nomination. I have heard everyone who has seen ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (still not out in the US) going crazy about Timothee Chalamet, but hadn’t really seen the appeal, based on photographs alone. Having now seen ‘Miss Stevens’ (recommended) and ‘Lady Bird’, I am beginning to see it more. He does have a magnetic screen presence and is very charismatic, even when playing an enormous douche, as he is here.

Smaller roles are taken by Lois Smith as one of the nuns at Lady Bird’s school and Stephen Henderson as the priest who runs the musical. Both put in funny and emotional turns. Another highlight is Lady Bird’s brother Miguel (a Berkeley graduate who now has a job bagging groceries) and his girlfriend Shelly who has moved in with the family. Lucas Hedges (both funny and devastating in last year’s ‘Manchester By The Sea’) gives another nuanced performance – demonstrating that he is definitely one to watch.

The other acting highlight is without doubt, Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson. This film is really about the mother-daughter relationship and is painfully real. There are the typical teenage conflicts, exacerbated by financial strains and Marion trying to keep her daughter’s college expectations in the real world. Of course, the real source of the conflict is Lady Bird’s rejection of Sacramento and her family, but this comes full circle into revealing the clear affection she has for both by the end. I almost had to watch the scene of Lady Bird trying on prom dresses through my fingers – its a scene that could have been pulled straight from my life. The audience’s empathy is pulled in both directions, between the two characters. Marion gets understandably frustrated by Lady Bird’s lack of appreciation for everything her family are doing for her. However, her mother’s hypercritical negativity does engender sympathy for Lady Bird, who at times, reaches out to her mother and is rejected. Safe to say, I was an emotional mess by the end, despite having laughed out loud throughout the whole film.

On fairly limited release in the US at the moment and not hitting the UK until February (which will be good timing for Oscar buzz), Lady Bird is definitely worth seeking out. There is something for all ages to identify with and you will find yourself torn between the generations, but ultimately feeling great affection for all of the characters. Lady Bird is a success because of the exceptional writing and directing from Greta Gerwig and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Fiona’s Rating: 9.0 out of 10