4 Best Movies to Watch by Ron Cook

Staff & contributors

A woman yearns to find her biological mother, another woman struggles with infertility, a third wants to connect with her rebellious daughter. Director Mike Leigh has the prowess to seamlessly weave these stories together, and part of the joy is knowing, that like clockwork, these narratives are set on a spectacular collision course.

As melancholy as it is optimistic and as funny as it is tragic, Secrets & Lies is a perfect example of Leigh’s oeuvre and earned him a Cannes’ Palme d’Or. The film features a full cast of his regulars with the fantastic addition of Marianne Jean Baptiste as Hortense - the woman who sets the wheels of the film in motion.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alison Steadman, Amanda Crossley, Angela Curran, Annie Hayes, Anthony O'Donnell, Brenda Blethyn, Brian Bovell, Claire Rushbrook, Clare Perkins, David Neilson, Denise Orita, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Frances Ruffelle, Gary McDonald, Gordon Winter, Grant Masters, Hannah Davis, Jane Mitchell, Janice Acquah, Jean Ainslie, Joe Tucker, Jonny Coyne, Kate O'Malley, Keylee Jade Flanders, Lee Ross, Lesley Manville, Linda Beckett, Liz Smith, Lucy Sheen, Margery Withers, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Metin Marlow, Mia Soteriou, Michele Austin, Nitin Ganatra, Paul Trussell, Peter Stockbridge, Peter Waddington, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Phyllis Logan, Rachel Lewis, Richard Syms, Ron Cook, Ruth Sheen, Sheila Kelley, Stephen Churchett, Su Eliott, Su Elliot, Su Elliott, Terence Harvey, Theresa Watson, Timothy Spall, Trevor Laird, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

Here’s a biopic that focuses on capturing the feel of the era it depicts, rather than all the facts — and is all the better for it. 24 Hour Party People takes the same punk approach to storytelling as its subjects did to music, playfully throwing off the dull constraints that often make based-on-a-true-story movies feel like uninspired celluloid translations of a Wikipedia page. 

In the film’s opening scene, Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson breaks the fourth wall to address us directly and semi-spoil the movie’s ending. But it doesn’t matter, because the ride is so fun: we’re taken on an immersive trip through the heyday of the Manchester music scene: the births of Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays, and Wilson’s Factory Records label and legendary Hacienda nightclub, an incubator for acid house and rave culture. The era’s hedonism is brought to life by the movie’s frenetic editing, documentary-style cinematography, and strobe-heavy visuals. For all its onscreen anarchy, though, the movie remarkably never feels loose or self-indulgent. Its irreverence is grounded by the ironic filter of the meta filmmaking, which frequently breaks the fourth wall to draw attention to its own conceits. A refreshing rejection of biopic tropes, but also a thrilling transportation into and evocation of the Madchester era.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Andy Serkis, Chris Coghill, Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Lestuzzi, Danny Cunningham, Darren Tighe, Elizabeth Kelly, Enzo Cilenti, Fiona Allen, Helen Schlesinger, John Simm, John Thomson, Kate Magowan, Keith Allen, Kenny Baker, Kieran O'Brien, Lennie James, Margi Clarke, Mark E. Smith, Martin Hancock, Naomi Radcliffe, Neil Bell, Paddy Considine, Paul Popplewell, Peter Gunn, Peter Kay, Ralf Little, Raymond Waring, Rob Brydon, Ron Cook, Sean Cernow, Sean Harris, Shirley Henderson, Simon Pegg, Smug Roberts, Steve Coogan, Toby Salaman, Tony Wilson

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Rating: R

If you're a fan of musical theater of any kind, Topsy-Turvy pays tribute to that notoriously tricky art form with a stunning attention to detail and a dedication to telling its story without any unnecessary drama whatsoever. It's hard not to get swept up in the humor, entertainment, and simple joy found in the writing process and in rehearsals of entire scenes. Come for the Oscar-winning costumes and makeup, stay for the wonderfully old-timey musical numbers, the brilliantly grounded performance from Jim Broadbent, and the sense of satisfaction of just watching everything finally come together to thunderous applause.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History, Music

Actor: Adam Searles, Akemi Otani, Alison Steadman, Allan Corduner, Andy Serkis, Angela Curran, Anna Francolini, Ashley Artus, Ashley Jensen, Bríd Brennan, Cathy Sara, Charles Simon, David Neville, Debbie Chazen, Dexter Fletcher, Dorothy Atkinson, Eiji Kusuhara, Eleanor David, Eve Pearce, Francis Lee, Gary Yershon, Gemma Page, Geoffrey Hutchings, Heather Craney, Jim Broadbent, John Warnaby, Jonathan Aris, Julia Rayner, Julian Bleach, Kacey Ainsworth, Kate Doherty, Katrin Cartlidge, Keeley Gainey, Kenneth Hadley, Kevin McKidd, Lavinia Bertram, Lesley Manville, Lorraine Brunning, Louise Gold, Mark Benton, Martin Savage, Mary Roscoe, Matt Bardock, Matthew Mills, Mia Soteriou, Michael Simkins, Michelle Chadwick, Monica Dolan, Naoko Mori, Nicholas Boulton, Nicholas Woodeson, Nick Bartlett, Paul Barnhill, Paul Rider, Richard Attlee, Richard Coyle, Roger Heathcott, Ron Cook, Rosie Cavaliero, Sam Kelly, Sarah Howe, Shirley Henderson, Sophie Duval, Stefan Bednarczyk, Steve Speirs, Sukie Smith, Teresa Gallagher, Theresa Watson, Timothy Spall, Togo Igawa, Vincent Franklin, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

One of the many good movies from director Edgar Wright - if you loved Shaun of the Dead, then this Buddy-Cop Homage will make you double over (and question humanity – or lack, thereof) just as much. Sandford is a small English village with the lowest crime and murder rates, so when overachieving police Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets sent there because he was so good he intimidated those around him, he just about loses it. From car-chasing, bone-thrilling, head-blowing action, he graduates to swan-calling, thrill-seeking, sleep-inducing madness. But all that’s about to change – for the worse? For the better? You decide. An obscenely funny flick that has an intriguing plot and an even greater set of characters, Hot Fuzz wasn’t named the best film of the Cornetto trilogy for nothing, clearly cementing Pegg and Nick Frost as the ultimate action duo of the genre.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Actor: Adam Buxton, Alice Lowe, Anne Reid, Ben McKay, Bill Bailey, Bill Nighy, Billie Whitelaw, Cate Blanchett, Chris Waitt, Colin Michael Carmichael, David Bradley, David Threlfall, Edgar Wright, Edward Woodward, Eric Mason, Garth Jennings, Graham Low, Jim Broadbent, Joe Cornish, Julia Deakin, Karl Johnson, Kenneth Cranham, Kevin Eldon, Lorraine Hilton, Lucy Punch, Maria Charles, Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine, Patricia Franklin, Paul Freeman, Peter Jackson, Peter Wight, Rafe Spall, Robert Popper, Ron Cook, Rory McCann, Simon Pegg, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan, Stuart Wilson, Tim Barlow, Timothy Dalton

Director: Edgar Wright

Rating: R