Tag Archives: Olivia Cooke

Sound of Metal (2020) Review

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Sound of Metal

Time: 101 Minutes
Cast:
Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone
Olivia Cooke as Lou
Paul Raci as Joe
Lauren Ridloff as Diane
Mathieu Amalric as Richard Berger
Director: Darius Marder

A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

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I heard of Sound of Metal more recently, I knew it was about a metal drummer who loses his hearing, and it starred Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke, both of whom are great actors whose work I’m always interested in. I also heard that the movie was great going into it, but it really caught me by surprise how fantastic it turned out to be.

SOUND OF METAL 
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Now you could say that the movie is structured in a predictable way, and in some ways you’d be right. There aren’t huge surprises and in some ways, it does follow a familiar narrative arc of someone’s journey of self discovery and acceptance with their new circumstances, but it doesn’t play out in the same way that you would expect. The whole story really feels real and pulls you in, and you really get invested with everything that is happening with the main character. Much of the movie is Ruben coming to terms with his situation, and that part is handled so well. The writing overall is thoughtful, sensitive and very impactful, and it never feels heavy handed. There’s a genuine and down to earth rawness through which hooks you in emotionally, which is one of the key parts to why it really sticks with you. One of the most best films I recall seeing in recent memory when it comes to examining a character dealing with a sudden handicap, and it’s an insightful and respectful delve into a world that most people don’t really know much about. It refrains from big ‘dramatic’ moments, preferring to focus on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments, that has you constantly engaged. The last moments of the film are heart-breaking and uplifting all at once, resulting in a perfect ending for the story.

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The acting is amazing all round. As lead character Ruben, Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances of 2020. I’ve seen him in a number of things, from Nightcrawler back in 2014, to his previous career best performance in The Night Of. Sound of Metal however has Ahmed’s best performance of his career. He is so believable and naturalistic on his part, conveying so much with his eyes and body language. It’s really his movie throughout, and it is one of the most well realised performances of the year. Olivia Cooke is great too as Ruben’s girlfriend whose also part of the same band as him when he finds himself losing his hearing. With this character, Cooke really conveyed how Ruben’s hearing loss also greatly affected her too. She’s not in the movie a ton, but she’s fantastic in the scenes she’s in, one of her best performances. Another heartfelt and great performance worth noting is from Paul Raci as Joe, who is a counsellor at the deaf community that Ruben finds himself in.

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The movie is directed by Darius Marder, this is his directorial debut and it’s a great one at that. The sound mixing is one of the highlighted aspects of the movie, particularly how it plays with sound and especially when it comes to what Ruben can or can’t hear. It often shows two different scenarios that it switches between, one which shows a normal sound one from a third person view, and the muted or distorted sound through Ruben’s perspective. It’s incredibly effective.

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Sound of Metal is an emotional and heart-warming yet incredibly genuine drama, powerfully led by great performances (including a career best Riz Ahmed) and is very well made. It’s one of the best films of 2020 and I highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can.

Ouija (2014) Review

Time: 89 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1]
Cast:
Olivia Cooke as Laine Morris
Ana Coto as Sarah Morris
Daren Kagasoff as Trevor
Bianca Santos as Isabelle
Director: Stiles White

Following the sudden death of her best friend, Debbie (Shelley Hennig), Laine (Olivia Cooke) finds an antique Ouija board in Debbie’s room and tries to use it to say goodbye. Instead, she makes contact with a spirit that calls itself DZ. As strange events begin to occur, Laine enlists others to help her determine DZ’s identity and what it wants. As the friends delve deeper, they find that Debbie’s mysterious death was not unique, and that they will suffer the same fate unless they learn how to close the portal they’ve opened.

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It’s been years since I’ve seen it but I remember Ouija to be one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. Looking back at it, while it’s not absolutely painful to watch or anything, it’s really doesn’t have anything to offer, nothing scary or creepy, nothing intriguing, not even entertaining, intentional or not. It’s one of the most dull studio horror movies I’ve ever seen.

For a film about a Ouija board, the plot is so incredibly unimaginative and predictable, so much so that the prequel of the movie was actually much more interesting and better than the main plot that was written beforehand. Ouija is less than 90 minutes long and yet it actually feels pretty boring and drawn out. There is not much tension throughout the whole movie. Something weird that I’ve noticed it do than other horror movies is that in between these tense moments, the movie focuses on our main characters when they are in high school and during this, all the suspense is completely non-existent. Even in other mainstream generic horror movies, if they did this they would at least make an attempt at suspense, maybe even throw in a cheap scare. However, the characters go on with their lives acting like they aren’t in danger… because they really weren’t in danger. There isn’t particularly anything awful about the plot from what I recall but so much of it is forgettable and shockingly dull.

I’m not familiar with most of the cast, however I do know Olivia Cooke, who has proven herself to be a very great actress in films like Thoroughbreds, Ready Player One and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and to her credit she is good here. Definitely the best part of the movie. The rest of the cast aren’t really good but from my position, I can’t really put it as them being bad actors, none of the characters are particularly well written or given much to do really. They are just standard horror movie characters.

Director Stiles White has worked as a screenwriter and special effects person on other films, but Ouija is his directorial debut, and his work here was sub par. As expected, the scares are primarily are jumpscares with no good tension, even the jumpscares are somehow boring. While CGI isn’t used a ton, when it’s present, it looks quite bad. I can say that the cinematography was okay looking, but that’s usually to be expected when it comes to studio horror movies.

Dull, generic and unimaginative, Ouija is one of the worst studio horror movies I’ve seen yet. Aside from the fact that the movie can look good sometimes, Olivia Cooke’s performance is the only thing holding back this movie from being worse than it already is. The best think I can say about Ouija outside of those positives is that it would lead to the prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil directed by Mike Flanagan, which actually was a pretty good horror movie. I guess if you want to see the movie that Origin of Evil would be based on, you might want to watch Ouija in preparation. Outside of that, there’s really nothing you could get from this movie.

Thoroughbreds (2018) Review

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily Reynolds
Olivia Cooke as Amanda
Anton Yelchin as Tim
Paul Sparks as Mark
Francie Swift as Mrs. Reynolds
Director: Cory Finley

Childhood friends Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Lily has turned into a polished upper-class teenager who has a fancy boarding school on her transcript and a coveted internship on her resume. Amanda has developed a sharp wit and her own particular attitude but all in the process of becoming a social outcast. Though they initially seem completely at odds, the pair eventually bond and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems.

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Thoroughbreds was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. There was quite a lot of buzz for it already but with Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke and Anton Yelchin involved, I was especially hyped for it. Thoroughbreds had actually been out for quite a while in other countries but for some reason didn’t come to New Zealand cinemas. I finally found a way to watch it and having seen it, I can say that it lived up to the hype. Thoroughbreds is a unique and darkly comedic thriller that is really effective and deserves more love and attention.

The script by Cory Finley was originally written for the stage and you can definitely feel that, from the movie being very dialogue driven, to the staging of certain scenes, and it the fact that the movie has title cards separating the film into chapters. Admittedly the movie is a little slow at first but that’s really the only criticism I have. Thoroughbreds is a dialogue heavy movie and the dialogue itself is sharp, strong and really works. It is also a darkly comedic movie, so it’s entertaining despite it being about two girls plotting to murder one of their stepfathers. The script is very well written overall by Finley. Thoroughbreds is about an hour and 30 minutes long, which was a good length overall, aside from the early moments I was fully into the movie.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke were absolutely fantastic as the leads, they share perfect chemistry. You really buy them as estranged friends reconnecting, with both of them being similar but different to each other. Cooke’s character doesn’t feel anything and is borderline sociopathic and Taylor-Joy’s character is a narcissist who isn’t quite how she initially appears. It’s interesting watching these characters interact, as they reveal hidden layers of themselves and change over time. While Cooke initially is more the standout at the beginning, as the film progresses Anya really shines as we see more layers to her character and when she makes certain decisions. It’s the little the little subtleties that she shows that particularly makes the performance work so well. The supporting cast are quite good but the stand out is Anton Yelchin. This is sadly the last performance of his career, and honestly this might one of his best performances, he stole every scene he was in. Here he plays a low time drug dealer who Anya and Olivia’s characters blackmail, and Yelchin is very funny and he plays his role so well. He is very much a supporting actor, and you don’t see him a ton, but he was nonetheless great in all of his scenes. All 3 performances were excellent really.

Cory Finley did pretty well for a directorial debut. The cinematography is sharp and really is great. At times the way its staged does almost make it feel like a play, which makes sense considering how the script was already written. The soundtrack is full of beats and other weird noises which only builded up the tension and vibe of the whole movie. As the film continues on you can really feel the tension growing, which of course is helped by the script, dialogue and performances.

Thoroughbreds has a great script, fantastic performances from Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke and Anton Yelchin and is a solid directorial debut by Cory Finley. I feel like this little unique movie will become more beloved as it gains more attention. At the moment I think it’s one of the best films of the year and I definitely think that it is worth checking out.

Ready Player One (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts/Parzival
Olivia Cooke as Samantha Cook/Art3mis
Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento
Lena Waithe as Helen/Aech
T.J. Miller as i-R0k
Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow/the Curator
Mark Rylance as James Halliday/Anorak
Director: Steven Spielberg

In the year 2044, on his death bed James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of a wildly popular virtual reality utopia known as the OASIS, begins a hunt for his fortune and ownership of the whole VRMMO world with puzzles and riddles based on Halliday’s obsession with pop culture of decades past. After years of searching for Haliday’s “Easter Egg,” one average teenager named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) solves the first clue, he sparks excitement and hope back to the hunt, and throwing him into a world of people willing to kill for the information he has, changing his life forever.

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Ready Player One was a movie I was cautiously optimistic about. It had a lot going for it, it was based upon a book with a very creative premise with a lot of potential, a great cast including Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn and it’s directed by Steven Spielberg. But at the same time I had some reservations. Steven Spielberg, while a great director, has been putting out some mostly fine movies but nothing that I found really great. Also from the trailers and premise, it seems that RPO would rely only on nostalgia and just end up being okay. Still, I knew I was going to see it, and I was just hoping that it would be better than I thought it would be. I have to say, Ready Player One really surprised me. Steven Spielberg has created his best film in many years and it’s honestly one of the biggest surprises of 2018 so far.

Ready Player One is quite a long movie, at 2 hours and 20 minutes. However, when I was watching it, it didn’t actually feel very long to me. Honestly the only thing that kind of was out of place and didn’t work all that great was the first 10 minutes which had a whole lot of exposition dumping, looking back it’s hard to picture how else Spielberg could’ve integrated all that information into the film but there was probably a way. Aside from that and some at times cliché dialogue, I didn’t find myself having many issues with Ready Player One, at least after my first viewing. It is a very entertaining movie and had my interest from start to finish, I was really wrapped up in the story that was being told. One of my favourite sequences involved ‘the second key’, I won’t spoil it at all because it really was a surprise. Once you watched the movie you’ll probably know why I liked it so much. It is worth noting that the stuff that happens in The Oasis was more entertaining and interesting than whatever happens in the real world but that’s to be expected. The film really shows you why so many people are obsessed with The Oasis. There is a lot of pop culture references, and that was one of my biggest worries about the movie, because it could easily fall into the trap of just relying on the audience to like the nostalgia. However, a lot of the pop culture references are for the most part brief or in the background. Like there might be characters in the background and we might see characters from franchises like DC, Halo, or whatever. This is because one of the key parts of Ready Player One is nostalgia and it is appropriately used here for the story. It’s not like the movie is shoving The Iron Giant in front of the screen and expecting you to love the movie because you recognise it. Honestly if you don’t recognise any of these franchises or references, I don’t think it’ll really matter.

The talented cast involved does quite well. Tye Sheridan is quite good and likable as the protagonist and Olivia Cooke is particularly good here, the two of them share great chemistry. Ben Mendelsohn is quite an effective antagonist, the role is a little generic all things considered but Mendelsohn elevates the role and does some different things with it. Other supporting actors like Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg also play their roles quite well.

I have to say that it’s great seeing Steven Spielberg doing a sci-fi movie again, it’s been over a decade since he last did it. It’s no real surprise that his direction is fantastic, nothing new, but his direction here is a big part of why Ready Player One works so well. Visually, this film is stunning and immersive. Yes, in the real world the effects and look were all pretty great, but it’s the visuals in The Oasis that really stands out. Nothing is meant to look real, it’s a virtual gaming world after all, where people can change their avatars to look different and some of the things that happen and are seen are deliberately exaggerated at times. Spielberg has definitely taken a lot of inspiration from video games both old and new and it is very apparent here, he did such a fantastic job. The score by Alan Silvestri also added a lot to the movie.

Ready Player One was much better than I thought it would be and is Steven Spielberg’s best film in years. On top of the pop culture references and the general entertainment factor, I was really wrapped up in the story. Spielberg’s direction really brought the concept to the big screen effectively, with the visuals, the style, everything. It was a lot more than I thought it would be. If you are sceptical about the movie, I’d say give it a go because I myself was doubtful and I was blown away by what I saw.