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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: Logan

“Nature Made Me A Freak. Man Made Me A Weapon, And God Made It Last Too Long…”

With the monumental success of Marvel’s Deadpool last year, the inevitably of a sudden spike in similarly R-Rated comic-based movies was somewhat unavoidable, with Suicide Squad being the first to match the all-swearing, all-shooting red guy in terms of regressing to a somewhat more “adult” nature with naughty swear words and a level of sexual awareness which was unbeknown to the vast majority of audiences who simply couldn’t believe a film could actually be made, let alone be a success. Whilst Deadpool was a middling critical success, Suicide Squad on the other hand was a film which at the time seemed no more than a utter disappointment, yet in almost six months retrospective can only be regarded as an utter, utter clanger. Attempting to establish themselves as the leading figure of recent R-Rated superhero adaptations this week is Logan, a continuation of the X-Men/Wolverine movie franchise directed by James Mangold, famous for movies such as Walk The Line, 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, and of course starring Hugh Jackman in a leading role which since 2000 has arguably been his most iconic and eye-catching amongst the many X-Men movies which have graced our screens over the last 17 years. Most impressively, Logan is indeed the movie everyone wanted since the film first began to play its’ cards in pre-production, but more importantly, it is the film the superhero genre needed. Forget Deadpool, Logan is the ultra-adult, ultra-violent and swear-tastic Marvel film we’ve all been waiting for.

Set in 2029, an elderly Wolverine strives for survival in the heat of the Mexican border alongside a severely ill Professor X within a world in which the mutant race has all but been wiped out with no sign of a mutant birth in over 20 years in a Children of Men style world crisis. After colliding into the life of young Laura however, Logan is forced to battle his demons and seek closure not only from his own life and the past he most desperately is seeking to leave behind, but for the future of mutants entirely. With Logan being released half way through the week, my view count of the movie has already hit the lofty heights of two, resulting in a much more aligned opinion of a movie in which hype and excitement has once again preceded its’ release. With the parallels between Logan and Deadpool almost inevitable, the difference between the two is astronomical in terms of tone and overall satisfaction levels with the former being a hard-hitting tale of age and loss and the latter just an open canvas for a silly, albeit moderately enjoyable, teenage fantasy of sex, violence and breaking of the fourth wall. Logan is the type of movie in which pain is transposed from screen to audience, with the sharp swoosh of Wolverine’s claws being as piercing as they are deadly, resulting in a wide array of foes and enemies which are violently massacred in jaw-dropping moments of action which bring to mind everything from Kill Bill to The Raid.

One of the main questions arising from the release of Logan however is why has it taken this long to finally see a Wolverine this exciting and deadly? With Hugh Jackman on top-form almost every time he kicks into the character of Wolverine, the foresight of witnessing a rip-roaring Logan in his prime is mouthwatering to say the least and although Mangold’s movie does indeed mark the end for both Jackman’s portrayal of the iconic character and Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Logan is the melancholic, character-based superhero movie no one was really expecting, yet a movie which makes crystal clear sense in regards to a conclusion for characters which have graced our screens for nearly two decades. Whilst not exactly The Dark Knight in terms of overall superhero greatness, Logan is a surprisingly powerful Westernised drama which just happens to feature mutants. Obviously Jackman deserves to take the plaudits for his conflicted and degrading portrayal of the titular hero, but kudos too belongs to Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen whose ambiguity and bad-assery threatens to steal the limelight away from her elder counterparts. Logan is excellent, there are no two ways about it, with the second viewing only increasing the levels of enjoyment of which the film secretes throughout a running time which simply flies by. A fitting end for one of the most iconic big-screen characters of this millennium so far, Logan is brill. That cross turn bro, that cross turn.

Overall Score: 8/10

The Wolverine – Review – SPOILERS

The Wolverine 4Thrown back into the Marvel world with one of the most notorious and best loved super heroes, we jump in at the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan and Logan’s dramatic rescue of one of his captures. This is the set-up for the overall plot of the movie.  As it stands, the movie is in both 3D and 2D, but personally I would only stick with the 2D version.

Jumping into the plot, it focuses directly on trying to remove Logan’s mutation and passing it on to the soon dying capturer who Logan saved decades ago. Shit hits the fan and a collection of corrupt officials, family combatants and the Yakuza jump in to try and catch Wolverine and Mariko (who is the new love interest). This collection doesn’t include a lizard mutant lady with claws as sharp as her mentality and a fashion sense which only includes tight, poorly fitting clothes. Later on in the story, we have a nice big plot twist that is quite unexpected but kind of predictable when you look back on it. So the story is very muddled and is actually a little chaotic, things just happen and there is no detective work that fills the gap. It’s a very fast paced and no-nonsense story.

Being that the movie is also in 3D, a lot of shots are very long. For those of you that don’t know, to stop motion sickness and headaches, fast paced action sequences have to have longer shots to allow the The Wolverineeyes to focus on the image rather than a constant blurring of colour and sound. Some of these shots slow the pace of action considerably but can bounce back into life in seconds with acrobatics and pure adrenaline filled violence that is well choreographed. As always though, we do have a few instances in which the action is a little silly, for instance, you would have seen a train sequence in the trailer and this is quite over the top for my liking with a lot of things happening that defy belief.

Within the action scenes, a lot of CGI is used to show the surrounding area or to add to opponents as they flew away or to create the armour that they were wearing. Some of this stood out vividly, the train scenes were filled with it as the colours they were using were to light and raising the light levels didn’t help the actors complexion alongside realism. The final robot samurai was very well done. It was big and shiny that it would reflect the surrounding area and when it fought, it was a hulking, yet agile beast. This suit was the best piece of VFX throughout the whole piece as it looked real!

The Wolverine 5Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine for many years now and it would be bad to say that he doesn’t know the characters story, but at points, he can be a little overzealous with facial expressions which detract from Logan’s persona but at least that god awful hairstyle is gone!. His position on the screen can also be very dominating but doesn’t create any visual idea that he’s a hero. You do have to understand that he has lost some of his power and he is weak, and shock looks genuine but he still has a lot of his power there. As for the rest of the actors, they were all very good and there was a few Asian actors which you would have seen in other movies, many of which they performed well in as well. The only downside for the actors was the script, trying to fill it with proverbs and stories to make it oriental was quite continuous and doesn’t work very well when the movie franchise is an American classic.

All that beside, I enjoyed the movie. It took itself a little to seriously, but I like the connection to the Yakuza and the continuous action was fun and required little brain power to enjoy after a busy day. The music was good and the general framing of the images were gorgeous with a blend of city and nature throughout, merging neon with natural rustic colours is always a plus when done right. As a rating, the movie probably deserves a 7/10 and is a good watch for all ages. If you’re still concerned, try using EE/Orange Wednesday codes for you and a friend or vice versa!

The Wolverine 3

The Wolverine trailer

Saw this little puppy today, and I have to say I had mixed feelings for this. Set in Japan after the X-men movies, it looks like Logan loses his healing ability. The trailer itself looks awesome and I am slightly looking forward to it, however due to the past x-men films it doesn’t make me want to rush out of my seat to the nearest cinema but hopefully it will break the chains of its predecessors and be an amazing watch.