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Black Ribbon’s Best Films of 2018: Part Two

Best Films of 2018: 10-1

With murderous extraterrestrials, art-house horror remakes and purple megalomaniacal super villains, 2018 has indeed been an eclectic mix of cinematic pleasures, and with independant, low-key and low budget releases once again toeing the line with the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters, the boldest and best from the past twelve months is finally put into the most definitive list you’ll see this year, at least on this website. With 20-11 of the best in film from the past twelve months already revealed, please take the time to admire the top ten cinematic releases of the year below according to Black Ribbon, a blog, which of course, is always the best place to come for movie reviews. On we go…

10. Mission:Impossible – Fallout

With the Mission: Impossible franchise one of those rare cases where each subsequent release seems to be better than its’ predecessor, aside from John Woo’s attempt perhaps, Fallout pushed the series to levels of excellence many couldn’t believe was possible, and with the stunts more extreme, the screenplay increasingly barmy and Henry Cavill doing that muscle pump thing during one of the most impressive set pieces of the year, the sixth installment in the ongoing Cruise-led franchise was the summer action movie to end all summer action movies. With an almost two and a half hour runtime, subsequent viewings failed to reduce the enjoyment factor of a film which more than anything bloated out loud, “hey, Mr. Bond. Think you can beat me?” Good luck.

9. BlackKklansman

Whilst renowned for his skill as a politically savvy and outspoken filmmaker, Spike Lee seemed to have disappeared into the ether of the unknown after the release of Inside Man back in 2006, but with BlackKklansman, the American undoubtedly returned to the top of his game. Based upon the memoir of the same name by Ron Stallworth, Lee’s scorchingly entertaining crime drama managed to embed the familiar outspoken cries of injustice within one of the best screenplays of the year, and with the likes of Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and John David Washington all deserving of rapturous plaudits in an acting sense, BlackKklansman proves that when given the opportunity to be at his best, Spike Lee continues to be a valuable asset to the world of cinema.

8. Avengers: Infinity War

With ten years of buildup behind it, Avengers: Infinity War undoubtedly had a planet’s worth of anticipation and hype surrounding its’ release, but thanks to the keen eye and skill of the Russo brothers, what a delirious and devastating blockbuster Infinity War ultimately was. Featuring a galaxy of well developed superheroes, a central genocidal and conflicted purple villain and one of the most iconic final acts in the history of comic based cinema, the biggest MCU movie so far was also the darkest and most complex, a cinematic landmark which featured a genuine case of expert fan service where although many were fully aware of the final endgame (massive pun intended), the ride in getting there was simply spectacular to behold. The question now remains whether the second half next year can continue the incredibly high bar set. We await anxiously…

7. You Were Never Really Here

Scottish director, Lynne Ramsay, doesn’t exactly pop films out as often as many would like, but each and every time she does, they seem to be absolute stone cold classics. Following on from the brutal desperation of We Need To Talk About Kevin, You Were Never Really Here, based on Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name, was a movie of equal toughness and intrigue, a Taxi Driver esque vision of one man plagued with inner turmoil and regret and set all amidst the backdrop of a narrative seething with notions of revenge and redemption. With Joaquin Phoenix bringing home one of the most powerhouse leading performances of the year and featuring a riveting synthesiser-heavy musical score from Jonny Greenwood, Ramsay’s latest superbly blended style with substance for a movie which demanded eyes were not taken off it at any time.

6. Suspiria

Whilst it was inevitable that anyone who attempted to re-imagine and dissect the ancient texts of Dario Argento’s 1977 classic, Suspiria, were always going to be the subject of much heated discussion,  Luca Guadagnino’s complete turnover of one of horror cinema’s most iconic pictures was ironically in some ways much more intriguing and art-house in its’ creation than the Argento original. Whilst a fan of the original Suspiria, it was never a movie which managed to embrace me in ways which many horror fans claim it could do, yet with the 2018 version, Guadagnino’s vision was everything I hoped it would be, a dark, twisted, hallucinatory nightmare with some superb central performances and an absolutely brilliant debut score from Thom Yorke. Suspiria is undoubtedly not for everyone, but for me, it really, really worked.

5. Phantom Thread

Reuniting with Paul Thomas Anderson for his self-proclaimed final on-screen role, Daniel Day-Lewis picked one of the strangest and most richly intriguing characters in his entire career to potentially bow out on within Phantom Thread, a gloriously oddball period drama with a touch of Hitchcock, a major slice of Daphne du Maurier and featuring a duo of excellent supporting performances from Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville. Boasting the second Jonny Greenwood led score in the top ten alone, Anderson’s movie may not have been as splashy and exuberant as There Will Be Blood or have the dramatic epic sweep of Magnolia, but like any naturally talented filmmaker, Phantom Thread, was undoubtedly a movie in which Anderson made sure breathed a life of its’ own, resulting in one of the most expertly articulated movies of the decade, let alone the past year.

4. A Quiet Place

Just wait a second, that curly haired chap from The Office has managed to do what? That’s right you self-righteous cynics, John Krasinski beefed up, grew a beard and married Emily Blunt in order to make A Quiet Place, and whilst the latter of those statements might not exactly be one hundred percent true, the American’s third directorial feature was without question a real pleasant surprise, a fist-pumping, riotously entertaining creature feature with scares aplenty and the most impressive runtime I can remember in recent history. With Krasinski teaming up with life partner, Mary Poppins, for their first live action movie as a married couple, A Quiet Place managed to succeed in completing one of the hardest challenges in modern society by keeping its’ audience absolutely stone cold silent from beginning to end, and with a screenplay riddled with tension and genuine threat, it’s not really that hard to see why.

3. Hereditary

Coined by one critic as the “this generation’s The Exorcist“, Ari Aster’s directorial debut burst onto the cinema screen with a rather sizeable horror hype train behind it, and even with the most open of minds heading in, nobody in the world could have prepared me for one of the most terrifying and genuinely unnerving cinematic experiences I have ever had the pleasure to sit through thanks to the groundbreaking brilliance of Hereditary. With startling twists, a ominous and lingering sense of dread throughout and one of the most impressive horror genre lead performances in recent history from a radically different Toni Collette, Aster’s movie balanced genre literary homage with his own wicked, nightmarish touch which even on repeat viewings manages to successfully leave you hoping the days take a little while longer to end before disappearing into the darkness of night. The ultimate Christmas movie. Sort of.

2. Lady Bird

With Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig used her own personal experiences of growing up within the culturally radical confines of Sacramento, California as the basis for a simply perfect coming-of-age comedic drama featuring the rather brilliant Saoirse Ronan as the titular troubled angst-fuelled teen. With a short and sweet ninety minute runtime, Gerwig successfully managed to bring to life a depiction of a family in crisis which reeked with authenticity, and by blending in a rafter of themes and genuine moments of laugh out loud comedy and romance, Lady Bird is one of the most impressive John Hughes inspired portraits of youth in recent history which sets Gerwig off to her directorial career with a real corker.

1. A Star Is Born

For a film which acts the third remake of one of the most well worn, age-old tales in Hollywood, A Star is Born, the directorial debut of the annoyingly talented, Bradley Cooper, just happened to be a full blown cinematic masterpiece, an emotionally draining and expertly devised portrayal of one of the most convincing on-screen romances of the 21st century which deservedly is already being touted as the big hitter heading into next year’s Academy Awards. With Cooper and the completely unrecognisable Lady Gaga offering outstanding central performances, every element of A Star is Born was made with absolute perfection, ranging from the smokey, sweaty cinematography to the absolutely brilliant soundtrack, and with a heartbreaking conclusion which made even the sternest of audience members wipe a tear from their eye, Cooper’s opening account into his filmmaking career is undoubtedly Black Ribbon’s film of the year.

Next Time: Looking Forward to 2019 in Film

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War

“When I’m Done, Half Of Humanity Will Still Exist. Perfectly Balanced, As All Things Should Be…”

Following the release of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man exactly ten years ago, the culmination of plot threads, narrative developments and vast array of characters which have encompassed the Marvel Cinematic Universe since then have all led in the direction of Avengers: Infinity War, the latest gargantuan superhero romp which sees each of the major Marvel characters of the past ten years come together and join forces in order to thwart the oncoming threat of Josh Brolin’s (Sicario) ominous Thanos, who vows to collect each of the Infinity Stones, six immensely powerful alien artefacts, in order to bend the universe to his evil and genocidal will. With the hype train well and truly steaming ahead, the anticipation for Infinity War is unprecedented within the realms of superhero cinema, and with a extensively star studded cast list and the directing duo of Anthony and Joe Russo at the helm, whose previous credits of course include Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, expectations from audiences and critics alike are resoundingly off the charts. Thankfully, what the Russo’s have manged to achieve with Infinity War is a staggering, operatic work of spectacle and heartbreaking drama, a film, which on paper had no right to succeed, but has somehow resulted in the most rewarding, magical and downright jaw-dropping Marvel superhero experience in the MCU so far.

With two and a half hours worth of plot to dissect, Infinity War essentially breaks down into a quartet of individual narrative channels, with Earth being the base for the character band lead by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, space being the battleground for both the Guardians of the Galaxy subplot and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark own personal quest, and the entire universe being the backdrop for Brolin’s Thanos who travels from planet to planet leaving behind a cold, calculated and murderous path as he collects the all-powerful Infinity Stones. With the MCU struggling in the past to effectively conjure up groundbreaking and well-rounded villains, the introduction of Thanos follows in the footsteps of Black Panther‘s Killmonger by refusing to bow down to simply cannon fodder for superhero stardom and instead is the surprising central character of the piece, with the script superbly managing to highlight the character’s genocidal plan with some degree of purpose whilst at the same time introducing flaws and elements of empathy, particularly in the stand-out conversations between himself and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. Of course, with purple CGI muscles, a band of merry followers known as the Black Order and the Infinity Gauntlet in hand, the real power of the character is evidenced to an alarming degree too, with surprising character deaths by his own hand and a dedicated reluctance to fail, resulting in explosive action set pieces which both never seem to outstay their welcome and a include too a perilous sense of threat for everyone involved which the franchise up to now was thoroughly lacking.

Of course, with so many characters and so little time spared on deep characterisation aside from the film’s leading antagonist, particular individuals do become somewhat by-products of a larger endgame, particularly those involved in the drama taking place on Earth and specifically, Wakanda, but with eighteen previous stories worth of backstory and development behind it, Infinity War isn’t designed to further character arcs and instead is there to tie up the development already achieved and offer long-awaited fan service for which it undenaibly achieves. Whether it’s the banter fuelled dialogue between Tony Stark and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange or the egotistical match-up between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, amidst all the grandiose drama, Infinity War still manages to hold onto the razor-sharp comedic puns the franchise is renowned for without ever feeling cheesy or stupid enough to lose its’ dramatic edge, and whilst the best moments are undoubtedly in the other-worldly realms in which Downey Jr. and Pratt are present, the film as a whole balances its’ monumental premise with staggering ease. Of course, with Infinity War only part one of a much bigger design, there is a resounding sense of payoff not yet being ripely achieved, but with a ground-breaking, melancholic and brazen concluding scene which rips up the cinematic blockbuster rule book completely, the year long wait for the concluding chapter is of course undeniably agonising, but one which if continuing the success of Infinity War, will undoubtedly be an experience to savour.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Feature: Looking Forward to Film in 2018

2018 In Film

Whereas 2017 proved that audiences were more inclined to disperse away from a turgid summer blockbuster full to the rafters with trashy, monetary fuelled nonsense and head instead for the likes of interesting, well-made movies in the ilk of Andres Muschietti’s It and Christopher Nolan’s spectacle epic Dunkirk, particularly within the UK, 2018 is the chance for Hollywood to recompense for their sins in a year which once again features endless amounts of sequels, remakes and franchise continuing cash cows which counteract the release of independant and much more interesting movies which although tend to falter at the box office in comparison, do tend to be the movies which make more of an impact throughout the year. As per the norm at Black Ribbon at the start of a new cinematic year therefore, here we will look forward to 2018 in film, picking out the highlights of a year full to the rafters with new and hotly anticipated movies and attempting to gauge which ones will be the real hits of yet another twelve months of visiting your local cinema.

Beginning the year and acting as a cure for the inevitable celebration hangover is Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game, a dramatic adaptation of Molly Bloom’s career as the high-profile poker runner with a brilliant central performance from the ever reliable Jessica Chastain and a supporting cast featuring the likes of Idris Elba and Kevin Costner. If the first day of 2018 is primarily acting as a day of recovery however, the first weekend of the year brings with it a stack load of new releases including the Ridley Scott directed All the Money in the World, featuring a thrown in Christopher Plummer after the much publicised Kevin Spacey debacle, as well as the latest Christian Bale movie, Hostiles from Black Mass director, Scott Cooper. Heading through January and into February therefore, Oscar season sweeps along with the likes of Darkest Hour, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and of course, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Phantom Thread, featuring Daniel Day Lewis’ self-proclaimed final on-screen performance, and whilst all are seemingly on show primarily for awards consideration, neutral film fans can take comfort in the release of the Ryan Coogler directed Black Panther just on the stroke of the half term holidays, one of three MCU related releases over the course of the year.

With the Greta Gerwig directed Lady Bird featuring the radiant presence of Saoirse Ronan, and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water closing out the end of February with a much anticipated bang, the following weeks bring with it Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, an American spy thriller which reunites the director with Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, alongside the likes of the Walt Disney released A Wrinkle in Time and the science fiction spectacle sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, both of which are guaranteed to light up the box office to some extent before summer hits, even with the likes of the second Spielberg release of the year in the form of Ready Player One acting as healthy competition. Carrying on through to Easter, the latest X-Men installment in the form of the Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams starring, The New Mutants, gets a release, whilst the Martin Freeman starring horror portmanteau, Ghost Stories also comes to cinemas after a handful of trailers which immediately pricked up my attention, yet the holidays will undoubtedly belong to Avengers: Infinity War, the biggest release of the MCU so far which brings together the many plot threads set in place since the franchise’s inception back all the way in 2008 and a movie which will undoubtedly break a handful of blockbuster records with a rising wave of anticipation after its’ recently released trailer. We can’t wait.

Skimming through May and into June, the money machine which is the Star Wars universe continues with the Ron Howard directed Solo: A Star Wars Story featuring Hail, Caesar! star Alden Ehrenreich as the titular space cowboy, whilst the likes of the ensemble comedy thriller Game Night and Deadpool 2 are sure to find audiences in their own right, particularly the latter after the outstanding commercial success of its’ predecessor back in 2016. With A Monster Calls director on directorial duties for the latest Jurassic Park movie in the form of Fallen Kingdom, with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard both reprising their role from the previous installment, the most interesting sequel of the month goes to Sicario follow-up, Soldado, featuring the return of both Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin from the stunning Denis Villeneuve thriller back in 2015, with a screenplay once again from the extraordinary scribing talents of Taylor Sheridan, and if the dark underworld of the American drug trade isn’t for you then maybe Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again or Mission: Impossible 6 is indeed the sequel for you. Whilst the latter end of the year does simmer down in terms of possible future releases, the likes of Shane Black’s The Predator, the latest adaptation of Robin Hood and the final MCU release of the year in the form of Ant-Man and the Wasp, will hopefully all be there to entertain the masses before the final three months of a jam packed year of film.

With a Star Wars release absent from the Christmas schedule for the first time since 2015, the remaining couple of months of 2018 open the floodgates for a wide range of eclectic releases including the likes of the Tom Hardy starring Venom, Andy Serkis’ take on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and even the newest release in the everlasting and indestructible Halloween franchise. Sticking on the lines of horror releases, Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls will appease an incredibly niche fanboy audience whilst Don’t Breathe director, Fede Álvarez takes over from David Fincher on the continuation of the Americanised Millennium series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web featuring Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander. From a personal point of view, Whiplash and La La Land director, Damien Chazelle also returns with First Man, an autobiographical drama focusing on the life of Neil Armstrong, and with both previous releases managing to receive full marks here at Black Ribbon, the bar is set exceptionally high. No pressure. Finishing the year with the likes of Aquaman, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Mary Poppins Returns, it’s fair to say 2018 is set to end with a considerable bang, but of course, with so many releases to come, please stick with us for another twelve months of movie reviews as we attempt once again to point you in the right direction of where you should be spending your well earned pocket money. Enjoy!