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Black Ribbon’s Best Films of 2017: Part One

Best Films of 2017: 20-11

What another fantastic year of cinema the UK has been privy to over the course of the past twelve months where amidst the stark horror of one of Hollywood’s worst summers since the dawn of time is a collection of movies which continue to prove the existence of interesting and impressive natural filmmakers. Whether it be sequels, B-Movie splatter fests or IMAX fuelled spectacles, 2017 has handed more films than ever for Black Ribbon to gaze upon and review, and whilst sometimes particular movies drain our lives of sanity while we sit through their unwavering utter shoddiness, here we have part one of our countdown of Black Ribbon’s best movies of the year. Shall we begin?

20. The Disaster Artist

James Franco writes, directs and stars as the notorious Tommy Wiseau in a live-action adaptation of Greg Sestero’s autobiographical novel The Disaster Artist, a first hand account of the actor’s time on the set of The Room, a picture continually lauded as the worst film of all time. With Franco arguably giving the best performance of his career so far, The Disaster Artist is a highly enjoyable work of comedic drama, one which knows when to pull back the darker side of its’ leading character when necessary and a film full with rib tickling quips and brilliant one liners which will make even those unfamiliar with Wiseau’s abomination cry with laughter. Wiseau always dreamed of going to the Oscars, maybe with The Disaster Artist he finally will.

19. The Big Sick

Michael Showalter’s brilliant adaptation of Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s autobiographical screenplay is a well tempered and brilliantly written romantic drama which although utilises particular genre tropes at times, has enough fresh ideas and fleshed out leading characters to be one of the most heartwarming and rewarding independent releases of the year. With added support from the likes of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, The Big Sick is not only the most impressive release in the ever expanding Judd Apatow collection, but also the most relatable, the type of movie which puts faith back in the sometimes bizarre canon of American comedy of which Showalter’s latest is a key example of when it really works.

18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Undoubtedly the best big screen Marvel release of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the success of its’ predecessor by carrying on and improving what made the first such an exciting adventure. With a brilliantly cast team of galactic misfits, a top notch retro soundtrack featuring the likes of George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and E.L.O, and of course, Kurt Russell, James Gunn’s sequel manages to blend the colourful exploration of otherworldly oddities with a fundamental narrative which focuses on Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill’s long lost familial line. Concluding with a character send off which is as undeniably heartbreaking as it is beautiful to behold, Vol.2 beats the other Marvel releases of the year thanks to one key component which it has in spades; heart.

17. Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s blackly comic adaptation of Philippe Djian’s novel Oh… is a rousingly inventive and twisted dark drama with a standout lead performance from Isabelle Huppert as the titular video game designer who after a ferociously vicious rape attack decides to seek out her aggressor and claim revenge in her own meticulously devised way. With trademark Verhoeven shock tactics and a variety of colourful and highly engrossing characters, Elle is the Dutch director at his finest, and with Huppert completely owning the movie with a performance both multi-layered and bursting with charisma and mystery, it comes at no surprise that Verhoeven’s latest has resonated so well with critics and audiences alike in waters both foreign and domestic.

16. A Ghost Story

Financed through his success with last year’s Disney backed Pete’s Dragon, director David Lowery reunites with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in undeniably the most experimental release of the year in A Ghost Story, a supernatural art house drama which follows Affleck’s spectral presence as he gazes upon life after his untimely death. With little dialogue and a two act structure which travels in unexpected directions, Lowery’s movie requires dedication and patience, but with a stunningly haunting soundtrack and a beautifully measured design, A Ghost Story is unlike anything released throughout the course of 2017 and thoroughly deserves its’ place in the best releases this year.

15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Looper director Rian Johnson stamps his mark on the ever expanding Star Wars universe with The Last Jedi, a beautifully crafted science fiction adventure which positions the design and feel of the movie before anything else, even with two and a half hours worth of plot and character development to sift through. With spectacle galore and action set pieces which rank up there with the best across the franchise’s forty years history, Johnson’s movie is rife with enough twists and turns to appease even the most sniffy of Star Wars fans, and with yet another two year wait until the conclusion of the many dangling plot threads, it comes at no surprise that such a period of time needs to come around quick.

14. Paddington 2

Surpassing the 2014 original due to a wide range of impressive new elements, Paul King’s Paddington 2 utilises the added input of Brendan Gleeson’s Nuckles McGinty and Hugh Grant’s camp-laden villain, Phoenix Buchanan, to brilliant proportions, and with a heartwarming narrative which evokes a rafter of emotions as the adventure unfolds, King’s movie is the perfect slice of marmalade needed for the holiday season. With the titular well mannered bear once again profiting from a flawless digital design, his return to the big screen is a brilliantly played joy and one which will satisfy audiences both young and old alike.

13. John Wick: Chapter Two

Full of bone crunching action, pornographic gun play and enough stylish cinematography and scope to warrant its’ existence, Chad Stahelski’s sequel to the 2015’s surprise hit, John Wick once again features a growling and undeniable suave Keanu Reeves as the titular cold blooded hitman whose retirement plans are placed indefinitely on hold after he is pushed back into the murderous lifestyle by Riccardo Scamarcio’s seedy Mafioso. Pushing the Wick universe into grander territory, the addition of Ruby Rose, Common and a reunion with The Matrix star, Laurence Fishburne, results in Chapter Two being a more than satisfactory sequel and one which doesn’t hold back on what it does best; splendidly stylish violence.

12. Brawl In Cell Block 99

Whilst success was always inevitably written in the stars after his brilliant debut with last year’s Bone Tomahawk, American director S. Craig Zahler returns this year with Brawl in Cell Block 99, a ridiculously violent B-Movie splatter-fest with an unrecognisable Vince Vaughn who gives a career best performance as a hateful and murderous incarcerated drug runner. Whilst Bone Tomahawk favoured slow-burning characterisation which was then suddenly intercut with moments of shock-tastic violence, Zahler’s latest is a brutal and sometimes gut wrenching crime drama which doesn’t feel the need to hold back for a breather, and it is this raw moviemaking brilliance which solidifies Zahler as a rising talent to keep a keen eye on.

11. Logan

Closing the decade plus long length of Hugh Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine, James Mangold’s Logan superbly paints a picture of the aged and isolated mutant who after an unspecified destructive event leaves him as one of the last remaining X-Men alongside Patrick Stewart’s medically unstable Professor X. With brutal violence and a star turning performance from young Dafne Keen as the equally murderous X-23, Mangold’s film is undoubtedly the most mature and sombre outing in the X-Men universe to date, and with its’ successes plain to see both critically and financially, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more superhero films of a similar ilk come the near future but it would definitely be a shock to find one as superbly executed as Logan. 

Stay Tuned For Part Two Coming Soon…!

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

“Sometimes, The Thing You’ve Been Looking For Your Whole Life, Is Right There Beside You All Along…”

Whilst the first Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps the first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which expectations were not exactly of the highest order, the finished product was ironically one of the best the franchise has had to offer so far, introducing expertly characterised leading heroes amongst a crowd-pleasing narrative which managed to balance the irregularity and oddness of the source material whilst serving up arguably the best jukebox soundtrack this side of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. With power comes increasing levels of responsibility however and a sequel to the biggest surprise of 2014 was downright inevitable, yet with James Gunn returning as director and the added involvement of iconic screen presences such as Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, Vol. 2 is indeed up there with the most excitable releases of the year and a movie which is lynch-pinned within a period of twelve months in which there are so many superb upcoming movies to look forward to and a year in which Vol. 2 begins the triage of MCU movies which are set to be released over the course of 2017. What we have with Vol. 2 however is a sequel which is indeed as inventive and magical as it’s predecessor, playing all the cards in all the right areas to keep its’ intended audience more than happy, but too a movie which suffers from the issue in which many sequels tend to have, with it not entirely being up to the critical level of the original but still being an excellent new addition into the MCU.

With the added input of Kurt Russell as Ego, the long lost father of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Vol. 2 thrives on the same sense of retro-loving freedom which encompassed the original, nodding its’ head at a wide range of nostalgic avenues alongside yet another successful jukebox soundtrack which ticks off everything from E.L.O to George Harrison across a two-hour plus runtime which does seem a tad too drawn out come the final act. Furthermore, in a similar vein to that of Age of Ultron, Vol. 2 attempts to differ slightly from its’ predecessor by sticking to a driving narrative which comes across as a much darker and melancholic tale, focusing upon a wide range of notions such as the meaning of family alongside a deeper sense of characterisation for each of the leading guardians who individually have enough substantial screen time between them to sway off arguments of favouritism from fans, even when the superbly managed inclusion of Baby Groot manages to steal every scene in which he is involved in. Whilst not setting up anything major in terms of the future of the MCU, Vol. 2 is a substantially entertaining blockbuster which although features arguably a higher dose of comedy than the first, is inevitably not as surprisingly awesome than one indeed hoped for, yet with a core character base in which you could happily spend an entire lifetime with, James Gunn’s second helping of galaxy saving guardians is entertainment galore.

Overall Score: 8/10