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Black Ribbon’s Best Films of 2016: Part One

Best Films of 2016: Part One

Beginning the countdown of the year’s best films is always a resounding joy, a feat which reminds you that whatever has happened throughout the past twelve months, the escapist medium of cinema is always there to dissolve any troubles. With 2016 deciding to hit us with a particularly puzzling set of circumstances, the irony that the year in film has been one of the strongest in recent memory is a relieving notion, one which once again argues against the common misconception that the “golden age” of cinema is well and truly behind us and one which allows us to create a list of best films so diverse, so rich in quality that it can only be regarded as a pleasurable reminder of the year in film. So sit back, grab a beer and enjoy the first part of our annual inspection of the best of the best, beginning ever so swiftly with…

20. Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

For the latest Star Wars entry to not be one of the best films of the year would have been a universe-ending disaster and although Rogue One isn’t on par with others in the series, particularly last years’ The Force Awakens, it is undeniably an effective addition to the ever-increasing canon. Whereas Rogue One‘s overarching theme is one of a melancholic downer, the final act, where our beloved heroes, led by Felicity Jones, attempt to steal the Death Star plans, setting out the plot for the original trilogy of movies, is a masterclass in visual splendour, throwing grounded battles amongst dogfights within space, reminding that when Star Wars hits the popcorn button, it does it better than anyone.

19. Jason Bourne

Returning to the Bourne franchise after a nine year hiatus, the one-two success partnership of director Paul Greengrass and Bourne himself, Matt Damon, this time decided to hit us will a full-on, adrenaline soaked thrill ride, journeying from Greece to London and from Russia to Las Vegas, with each stop-off attempting to out-do the other in terms of flashy set pieces. Among the spectacle, the concluding chase scene down the Las Vegas strip is amongst one of the best bone-crunching practical stunt-filled scenes in recent history. Whereas directors like Zak Snyder feel the desire to fill each action set piece with CGI, thank the lord for people like Greengrass who understands the power of keeping the adventure down-to-earth, resulting in Jason Bourne being a thrilling continuation of our favourite amnesia-ridden super spy.

18. Under The Shadow

This internationally co-produced Iranian hidden gem is a fantastic example of modern horror cinema, refusing to rely on cheap jump scares and instead infecting the audience with its’ low-key ghostly chill. Featuring some of the biggest scares of the year, as well as the creepiest looking duvet cover ever, Under The Shadow flies the flag for the British entry in the upcoming Oscars for Best Foreign Language Movie and whilst wins for horror movies are as rare as becoming president without prior experience in government, wouldn’t it be great to see director Babak Anvari pick up the prestigious gong for this impressive directorial debut.

17. Captain America: Civil War

Without doubt the best blockbuster of the year, Captain America: Civil War is an excellent top-end addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, gelling a mind-boggling array of characters into an effective narrative which sees our beloved Avengers fall out over the publication of the Sokovia Accords, a red-tape filled containment of their powers which adds a political edge into the series director siblings Anthony and Joe Russo began in The Winter Soldier. Where Batman v. Superman became bogged down in awful storytelling and laughable CGI, Civil War continues as a reminder of the success of the MCU, which not only remains a bankable franchise for Disney but continues to release movies of a successful ilk, paying off the hopes of fans whilst wetting the appetites for the many future releases to come.

16. Bone Tomahawk

The best thing about Bone Tomahawk is in its’ desire to mix the gore-inflicted splatter of the B-Movie conventions with Tarantino-esque dialogue, accumuluating in a Western reminscent of classics such as The Searchers and featuring the most menacing, relentless villains since the cannibalistic family in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a reinjuvinated Kurt Russel, appearing in his first of two films on this list, in the lead role as the rugged, no-nonsense sheriff, Bone Tomahawk is a timely reminder that sometimes the best films are the ones you really have to seek out. Sure, any old cinema chain can show the latest blockbuster, but it takes real balls to take the chance on not only the directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler but a movie which features the most violent on-screen death I can remember. And it rules.

15. High-Rise

Kill List director Ben Wheatley finally manages to develop J.G Ballard’s infamous novel to the big screen after years of development hell and inevitably it is the most marmite movie of the year, one which features Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing who after arriving in the titular High-Rise, descends into chaos alongside an array of characters each acting as metaphors for the struggling class wars, a notion which transfers from novel to screen as easy as an A-Level sociological study. Although the concluding act is a barmy mix of messy apocalyptic drama, the strange sense of melancholic black humour rife throughout Wheatley’s work is what really makes High-Rise a riveting success.

14. Everybody Wants Some!!

Quoted as being the “spiritual sequel” to both Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s latest coming-of-age comedic drama takes all the best bits of his previous college-infused delights and creates yet another successful tale of cultural clashes amongst a equally-superb retro soundtrack, ranging from Van Halen to The Knack. Whilst the film follows Blake Jenner in the lead role, the real hero of the picture is Glen Powell’s Finn, the charming and hilarious house-mate who leads the way within a band of characters who make Linklater’s latest a joyous tale of one weekend’s worth of booze, parties and hook-ups. the real goals of college life. Apparently.

13. Hell or High Water

First noticed on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, writer/actor Taylor Sheridan has come very far, very quickly with his narrative abilities, this year following up on his screenplay for last year’s Sicario with Hell or High Water, a cracking, hard-boiled anti-western which focuses on the power of in-depth characterisation amongst a socio-political backdrop, with a mirrored band of brothers, both biological and metaphorical, consisting of the likes of Chris Pine, Ben Foster and a superb Jeff Bridges, giving his most growling performance since True Grit. Understated in times, yet thrilling in others, Hell or High Water was the kind of film needed after a summer of disappointment and whilst not as dark and delicious as Sicario, is another notch of success for writer Sheridan, a man who can pick his directorial colleagues well.

12. Zootropolis

Let’s face it, the genre of animation has really hit its’ stride recently, picking up plaudits left, right and centre, and whilst last year’s success story in the form of Inside Out was Disney hitting its’ most imaginative streak, Zootropolis is another undisputed success, one which takes the age-old story of the underdog, or under-rabbit in this occasion, and places it in the imaginary world where animals big and small, predator and prey live together in harmony. Well, that’s until a mysterious band of predators become insane and start going missing, allowing our beloved rookie police officer Judy Hopps to take the case and figure out the secrets of their disappearance. With superb digital animation and a stellar voice cast, Zootropolis is yet another Disney masterstroke, one which suitably keeps both children and adults entertained alike.

11. The Hateful Eight

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the film-making prowess of Quentin Tarantino. Following in the footsteps of Django Unchained and keeping things well within the Western genre of which he seems to be a unrelenting fan of (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of his favourite films), The Hateful Eight boasts a stellar yet familiar Tarantino cast as we witness a three hour mixture of colourful, addictive dialogue amongst an air of paranoia which culminates in B-Movie exploitation goodness. With Tarantino choosing to opt for the retro feel of the Ultra Panavision 70 for the first time in a movie since 1966, The Hateful Eight boasts stunning cinematography, focusing on everything from Kurt Russel’s moustache to the snowy terrains of late 19th century western America and whilst Tarantino’s latest isn’t a smooth sailing classic like his earlier work, it still is a fantastic piece of cinema and one which brings with it a strong sense of admiration.

Next Time: Best Films of 2016 – PART TWO!!!

Film Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

“We Came For A Good Time, Not A Long Time…”

Hands up who has watched Dazed and Confused? No, not the 30 minute extended jam featured on Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same which included Jimmy Page finding a hermit on top of a mountain and playing a six minute guitar solo with a violin bow, but instead Richard Linklater’s coming of age drama released all the way back in 1993 which featured a young Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich and Matthew McConaughey in possibly his earliest iconic role with the three famous words of “Alright, alright, alright”. Oh yeah, we love it and although the first time I watched Dazed and Confused was within a double header of it and American Graffiti, the slightly better of the two, watching it began my love affair with coming of age dramas, films which took the everyday notions of childhood, college, school and friendship and made something which many could connect to on a very personal level indeed. Now with Everybody Wants Some!!, the self proclaimed spiritual sequel to both Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Richard Linklater has once again managed to achieve that sense of sheer joy that resonated within me the first time I watched films like The Breakfast Club and American Graffiti. Gear up your vinyl’s, grab your record player and follow Mr. Linklater into the 1980’s.

Alerting us of the era straight from the get-go, Everybody Wants Some!! begins with the riff-laden pop-rock of The Knack’s “My Sharona”, accompanying Blake Jenner’s Jake as he rides into college territory and swiftly gazes with sheer disbelief at the female population within the confines of his new home. Arriving at his living quarters, we are introduced to the posse of baseball obsessed teens that encompass the entirety of the movie’s runtime, a collection of personalities of which gives everyone in the film a sense of three dimensional characterisation. As Jules in Pulp Fiction states, “personality goes a long way” and the sheer delicacy to which Linklater has created the wide range of characters within the film is a testament to himself as both writer and director. If Jenner’s sometimes creepy lead character can sometimes be regarded as somewhat of a mild mis-step, then the simply charming selection of characters such as Glen Powell’s Finnegan and Quinton Johnson’s Dale more than make up for it in the long run.

Add into the mix the vast array of cracking 1980’s tunes with contributions from a range of genres ranging from Blondie to Van Halen, Chic to Pink Floyd and Queen to Pat Benatar, Everybody Wants Some!! is most definitely Linklater’s ode to college life of that time, with each minor details, from handshakes to fashion sense, creating a sense of immense personal pride. Where the film may draw detractors is in the film’s portrayal of women, with all but one character in the film having more than just a two-dimensional reason for inclusion yet the entire purpose of the movie is to draw on Linklater’s own experiences and memories, with anything other than being minimally factual being ultimately not part of the plan. It’s college in the US from the point of view of testosterone-inflicted teenagers, what do you expect? With continual laughs all the way through and a deep sense of wanting to spend more and more time in the company of our competitive heroes, Everybody Wants Some!! is a real coming-of-age treat, one that carries on the memory of Dazed and Confused rather effectively and impressively. Seek it out.

Overall Score: 8/10