2014: The Year in Reviews (November)

Every January, I go over almost the films that are scheduled to come out that year. I use Wikipedia’s year in film article as it exists at the time, and preview all the films. I use it to familiarize myself with what’s coming out, and, most importantly, use it to guess what I’m going to think about all of the movies. I like to guess ratings for all the films because, at this point, I know myself pretty well, and I selfishly like to see how close I can get up to twelve months out. Plus, it allows me to see which films at the end of the year surprised me, for better or worse. But mostly, it’s so I know what’s coming out. Sometimes I just want to know what to be excited for.

Aside from the films scheduled, I also go over films that have been finished (or are shooting), that, in all likelihood, will probably come out over the course of the year. I’ve gotten much more thorough about this since starting the blog. 2011 had 30 such films. 2012 had 90. Last year, I had 209, plus an extra 27 held over from the year before. At this point, there’s not much that I miss.

How these articles work: I recap what I said about the films in January, write up my review of the films based on the initial watch (which have been posted in three separate reviews articles from April, August, and… yesterday), and then I give my final thoughts on the film, after having had time to think about it some more, and finalize my ranking. Typically, the Final Thoughts space is for me to go, “Originally I gave it 3.5 stars, but now, it’s more like 3.”

We’ll start with January, and go month by month through December. After that, I’ll recap the films I tracked in January that didn’t come out (and ultimately decide which ones I’ll keep tracking next year). And at the end of it all, I’ll analyze all the numbers to see how accurate I was in guessing back in January. Mostly it’s to put all the ratings in one place. And of course, after that, we’ll end the year with the Unforgivables list and my Top Ten list. But that’s all not for another two weeks. Right now, we’re recapping November:

One thing I do in all these recap articles is explain how my rankings work.

* * * * * (5 stars) — I really loved the film. Five stars essentially guarantees the film a spot in the top ten or top twenty (Though usually top ten). (2013 examples of 5 star movies: Gravity, Frozen, The Wind Rises.)

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars) — I loved the film, but not unconditionally. Four and a half stars is usually the ranking for films in the top ten and top twenty. Rarely does a four and a half star film fall to tier two, but that’s all dependent on how many there are. (2013 examples of 4.5 star films: About Time, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, 12 Years a Slave.)

* * * * (4 stars) — I liked the film quite a bit, but it’s not one of those that I would automatically say is a top ten film. It could end up being one when all is said and done, but typically a four star film is one of those that I’ve solidly liked, and will openly say is a really good movie. Three and a half, I’ll say that I really enjoyed it. But four stars is where I’ll say that it’s a really good movie. Four star movies generally are top twenty and tier two. They don’t usually make the top ten, but it’s not unheard of. (2013 examples of 4 star films: Dallas Buyers Club, Escape from Tomorrow, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Pacific Rim, This Is the End.)

* * * ½ (3.5 stars) — The film stood out to me as being particularly solid. I always differentiate three and a half from three by saying that three stars is for a film that I just enjoyed enough to give it the thumbs up. Three and a half is when I go, “Wow, that was actually really solid and I enjoyed it quite a bit.” It’s not alway a mark of “this was better than I expected” or, “It’s better than you think.” Sometimes it’s just, “That was really solid,” or, “That was awesome,” even though the film itself wasn’t particularly a masterpiece. It’s a very variable ranking. It could mean a lot of things. Usually it’s for something I enjoyed, but didn’t love enough to put it near the very top of my year-end list. Three and a half star films never make it above tier two, and most of them are tier three. You’ll see only a few populating tier two, but mostly they’re tier three. (2013 examples of 3.5 star films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Best Offer, Frances Ha, Now You See Me, Pain and Gain, Upstream Color.)

* * * (3 stars) — Three stars is for films that were pretty good. Usually for a three star movie, I’ll say, “I enjoyed it well enough.” Or, probably the most common phrase I use is, “You can get through it.” But without qualification. For a two and a half star film, I’ll say, “You can get through it, but…” Three stars don’t have the qualification. Mostly three stars is for a film I enjoyed enough to say it wasn’t bad. I found it watchable enough that I wasn’t completely indifferent toward it. If I give a film that seems like it should have a higher rating three stars, then it means I didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else. And if there’s something you’d think was a piece of shit at three stars, it means I thought it wasn’t actually that bad. But most of the time, three stars just means, “Yeah, it was okay. I enjoyed it well enough.” They’re just entertaining enough for me to not be indifferent. (2013 examples of 3 star films: Beautiful Creatures, The Call, The Lone Ranger, Spring Breakers, To the Wonder, 21 & Over.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars) — Two and a half stars is my ultimate indifference ranking. I didn’t necessarily think it was a bad film, I just didn’t give a shit about it whatsoever. I thought it was utterly generic. Nothing to make me like it, and it wasn’t bad enough to make me dislike it. It wasn’t memorable to me in any way. Odds are, if a “classy” movie is here, it means it was particularly disappointing, and if something that seemed like an Unforgivable is here, it means it actually wasn’t the piece of shit we were all thinking and was actually just about passable. It’s also my way of saying, “You might have liked this, but I certainly didn’t.” And also my way of saying, “This wasn’t very good, but at least it was competently made.” But for the most part, two and a half stars means I just didn’t care whatsoever and will not remember much about the movie in two years. They may also be Unforgivable, depending on my reasons. (2013 examples of 2.5 star films: After Earth, The Butler, Gangster Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard, Jobs.)

* * (2 stars) — Two starts means that the film was mostly competent and all, but I just didn’t like it. Either it wasn’t for me, it was a genre that I don’t like (horror movie), I just found it boring, or it was one of those generic shitty genre movies that populate the early months. Or it was just a giant piece of shit that at least looked like a good movie. So two stars is for — “They tried… it just wasn’t very good.” Depending on how bad they are, they do have a shot at the Unforgivables list. (2013 examples of 2 star films: The Big Wedding, A Haunted House, The Internship, Lovelace, Safe Haven.)

* ½ (1.5 stars) — One and a half usually means the film was terrible, but it’s not a surefire Unforgivable. Probably because it’s a shitty thriller, a shitty horror movie, or a horrible sequel in a franchise that has churned out nothing but horrible sequels. Or it’s for films that could have gone two stars, but I just have a particular dislike for them. These have a pretty good shot at the Unforgivables list, and should for sure make my bottom 25 list. (2013 examples of 1.5 star films: Battle of the Year, The Heat, Identity Thief, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, We’re the Millers.)

* (1 star) — I really didn’t like the movie. It was so bad it was almost unwatchable. Typically a one star film is certain to be Unforgivable. Sometimes one star movies get saved by virtue of being a certain kind of sequel (like Big Mommas House: Like Father, Like Son) or being something that’s too easy to make Unforgivable (like Marmaduke, or a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. Movies we knew were gonna be pieces of shit going in), but in any case — they’re really awful movies that shouldn’t exist. (2013 examples of 1 star films: Ass Backwards, The Canyons, Inappropriate Comedy, So Undercover.)

0 stars — It means I hated the film. Guaranteed Unforgivable. It’s a film that should never have been made, and has actually lowered the bar for cinema as an art form and has actually detracted from a culture that’s in the toilet to begin with. A film with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one that physically made me angry while watching it. (2013 examples of 0 star films: Grown Ups 2, The Starving Games.) All right, now let’s get recapping: We’re gonna start, as we always do, with a combination of 2013 films that I didn’t get to see in time for last year’s articles (or are clearly 2013 films that weren’t released until this year or are ones I just didn’t know about until this year).

November

Big Hero 6

What I said about it back in January:

“What the fuck, Disney? You had such a run going, and now — superheroes?”

“I’m only giving you 3 stars. You have to prove to me that this’ll be worthwhile.”

“It’s a co-production with Marvel, by the way. Meaning there’s no way I’m going higher than 3.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Nope.”

“I’ve been the biggest Disney supporter the past eight years, ever since Bolt, but this one is not a Disney movie.”

“This is a Marvel movie. All superheroes. There’s nothing Disney about it. It’s completely predictable, and the only thing they really do well is make the sidekick likable in that Disney character sense.”

“As Disney movies go, I didn’t like this at all. As a movie, it was fine. Totally likable. But I’m very disappointed with Disney for going this route and not sticking with who they are as a company.”

“AND STOP NOT MAKING HAND DRAWN ANIMATION. This is why you bought Pixar! At least alternate, guys!”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I didn’t give this a Disney pass in January. Because it’s not a Disney movie. And quite frankly, I really only enjoyed this as a 3 star movie, even though I’m giving it 3.5 stars. This just didn’t appeal to me at all. In any way. This is not a Disney movie. And that’s sad.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star. But I was right to be wary. Good for me.

Interstellar

What I said about it back in January:

“Nolan is usually good for at least 3.5 stars. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say 4 stars. He’s earned it.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I don’t know how to feel about this one just yet. I don’t know if it’s better than this rating or worse than this rating. I do know that this was one of the best experiences I’ve had this year. (In fact, I went and bumped it up a half-star while writing this review.)”

“I don’t know if I should try to tear down the logic, or the fact that it’s too long or just appreciate the scope of it and the ambition. I feel like I’m gonna think about this one for a while and I’m gonna be able to watch this in the future more than other movies from this year. So whatever problems I have with it are just white noise compared to that.”

“I feel like this movie is both overrated and underrated at the same time. And I don’t know where the truth lies, and we’re likely to not know for a while. All I know is that I really enjoyed this movie, and I thought that ultimately, it was beautiful. And that’s all that counts.”

* * * *½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I think that covers everything I need to say about it for now. I really enjoyed this experience, and that’s the only thing that counts.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Jessabelle

What I said about it back in January:

“Horror movie.”

“Nope.”

“Skip.”

What I actually thought about it:

I skipped it.

I’m mad at myself for even mentioning it in January. They pulled this from theatrical and dumped it VOD. This barely even counts anymore, and now it’s a skip. Oh well.

How close was I?: N/A

Rosewater

What I said about it back in January:

“Jon Stewart wrote and is directing this.”

“I think a lot of people are gonna look to this for some Oscar recognition next year.”

“Let’s assume quality.”

3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

It was good. Not amazingly good, but not a completely forgettable movie. It’s very solid, and very much worth checking out. I’m not completely into the material, but the core of the story is what’s engaging. It’s a man showing what needs to be shown, and being wrongfully imprisoned by an oppressive government. It’s a story that we know and we like. It’s a good movie. I’m not sure what else to say about it. It’s above average, very solid.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I saw this after the Reviews III article went up. My thoughts are my final thoughts at this point.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Merry Friggin’ Christmas

What I said about it back in January:

“Some of these people have made nice little underrated Christmas movies before.”

3.5 stars. I think this could be one of those movies I like that no one sees.”

“Does anyone even remember The Ice Harvest?”

What I actually thought about it:

“Was hoping it would be better, but it went VOD. They’re always not as good as you’d think.”

“I was hoping it would be a dark Christmas movie that I could recommend in the future, like The Ice Harvest, but instead it’s a pretty standard Christmas movie.”

“Decent, and worth seeing for Robin Williams, but otherwise, you don’t need to go out of your way for it. It’s just okay.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Yup. Just okay. Don’t go out of your way to see this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

The Theory of Everything

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I actually thought about it:

“It is what you expect it to be. A movie about subject matter we don’t necessarily care about, but see why it would make a movie that would be very classy and good, with great performances, that’s completely classy and good.”

“Redmayne and Felicity Jones are terrific, and the movie is very good. Wasn’t crazy about it. Certainly not gonna be in my top ten. But it was very solid and I’ll think highly of this movie, mostly for the performances.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I think that about covers it. Everything I don’t say about this can be finished by my review of The Imitation Game, coming up.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Beyond the Lights

What I said about it back in January:

“Female writer-director!”

2.5 stars. I’ll assume indifference and hope it’s good.”

“I want to root for this.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s fine. This is a movie that would have went over way better if it came out in 1995 and Whitney Houston starred in it. Though she was too old for it at the time. You know what I mean, though.”

“Interesting premise, but it’s way too paparazzi-centric and focused on what the music business is like today. They get too formulaic with the love story for my taste.”

“This could have been way better. But, as it is, I liked it well enough because of the performances.”

“My major gripe is that there wasn’t enough singing. I really needed to see her belt out a few tunes all the way through. Though maybe someone will turn this into a stage show with good, original songs, and then the musical film version of it will be great. Here’s hoping.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I agree with what I said. It’s better than I thought it would be, but it could have been better. So, we’ll leave this as a, “Good job.”

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Elsa and Fred

What I said about it back in January:

“This is precisely my alley.”

3.5 stars.”

“And I’m being lenient because I know I overreact about these things.”

What I actually thought about it:

“The premise was good, but it’s that classic, ‘If it goes VOD, it’s never gonna be as good as you’re expecting’ rule.”

“I like seeing Shirley MacLaine in things, but this is nothing more than a barely okay movie made okay by its stars. Otherwise — schlock.”

“This VOD rule is really starting to become a nice rule. (The rule being, whatever you think you’ll rate a movie based on its premise and who’s in it, if it goes VOD, deduct a half a star. And that’s what you’ll probably get.)”

“I was hoping for a hidden gem (been tracking it for two years now), and got just another rock.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Typical overreaction. To be fair, though, I treat everything like a typical theatrical. Rules are different when they go VOD. Honestly, if I made it a blanket rule that my guess drops a half-star once the film goes VOD, I’d get 95% of them right.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Dumb and Dumber To

What I said about it back in January:

“This concerns me.”

“20 years after the first one, the Farrellys haven’t made a good movie in over a decade — I’m concerned. I have concerns about this movie.”

“I want to trust this will be okay, but I can’t.”

“And yet… fuck…3 stars.”

“I don’t know why I’m doing this.”

“(Because you’re an idiot, Mike.)”

“(P.S. I love how we’re pretending like Dumb and Dumberer never existed. I think it’s how we all get by.)”

What I actually thought about it:

“We all saw this coming.”

“Once that trailer hit, and the entire thing was repeated jokes, we knew what we were getting. This isn’t surprising at all.”

“I won’t say anything further, because I have a sneaking suspicion there will be more to say soon enough.”

* * (2 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s probably more like 2.5, but no, I’m upset this was made. Nothing against Carrey and Daniels. They committed and were great. It’s the Farrellys. They can’t write a comedy for shit anymore. Someone else should have done it. Or, if they wanted to recreate what they did right 20 years ago, they should have went with telling a story first, rather than repeating jokes like a gag reel.

This should have been done better.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a full-star. But I knew. So I don’t feel bad at all.

Foxcatcher

What I said about it back in January:

They bumped it from last Oscar season to this Oscar season.”

“Bennett Miller is directing, and so far he’s 2 for 2 on films and Best Picture nominations. So expectations are high all around for this.”

“I’m gonna go 3.5 stars here, but I’m not sure why. Both Capote and Moneyball were minimum 4 star movies. But something tells me to stick 3.5 here. I might be wrong, but it’s just what I’m feeling.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I was holding out hope this could be a top 20 for me. I don’t know if it is. I really liked it, but I found myself going, ‘Why am I caring about this?'”

“What was this story about? We’re just watching these characters exist. And it’s well made, and well acted, but ultimately, what are we watching?”

“I was very engaged with what I was shown, but the fact that I can’t identify what the point of it was, or why I needed to be told that story, keeps me from liking it any more than just another really good movie.”

“This will just go tier two and be good, but lumped in with other good movies.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Yeah. I did like this, but I didn’t love it, because I’m not sure what it was supposed to be about or why they showed us exactly what they did. I have a lot of questions about this movie, which leaves me only respecting it but not loving it.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

The Homesman

What I said about it back in January:

“Tommy Lee Jones is directing and cowrote it.”

“So in.”

3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Was so excited for this when I heard about it, as I am for every western.”

“Well… it wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping, but it was still really engaging.”

“It’s a strange movie. As Tommy Lee Jones’s movies tend to be (that he directs). It’s not what you expect at all.”

“I won’t give anything away, but it takes a couple of interesting turns that mainstream movies just wouldn’t make.”

“The fact that I wanted it to be a top 20 movie is on my expectations. The result is still a good movie. I like that it’s unique. Because I’ll remember it more fondly than if it adhered to a formula.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s a solid movie. It does take some really interesting turns. On the whole, not one of my favorites, but definitely one of the more solid films of 2014.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I

What I said about it back in January:

“I thought the last one would be above average and got really good. (Until the last thirty or so minutes, that is.)”

“Here’s hoping this one is more political thriller and less actual action movie.”

“Still, though, I’m gonna say 3.5 stars.”

“I like guessing 3.5 stars with these movies and letting them move to 4. The second I expect 4 is the second it’s not 4. I’d rather take the half-star hit and like the movie more.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I’ve been saying for two movies now that this franchise has surprised me. The first movie I thought would be whatever, and it was really good. The second movie I thought would be a drop off from the first movie, and it was really good. So this time, I went in expecting above average, and I got… average.”

“I didn’t care about anything that happened in this movie. Maybe it’s because they cut the book in half, and we only got the set up portion. I don’t know what it was, I just didn’t give a shit about anything here.”

“This was the bad part of a political movie. Where they shoot propaganda and stuff. I don’t care about that part. I want real political maneuverings. I don’t care about the nature of celebrity and about this whiny bitch who doesn’t want to do anything. She does NOTHING in this movie. ”

“And then she sings, randomly. I really have no idea what this movie was supposed to be, what the stakes were, or why they bothered to tell us this half of the story in this way.”

“I can only hope the second half of the two movies is better than this. Because I allowed my expectations to go up (finally) for this franchise, and they really disappointed me. This was completely average.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Yup. Really disappointed in this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

The Imitation Game

What I said about it back in January:

“How can I not make this 4 stars?”

What I actually thought about it:

“I wanted this to be 4.5 stars. I really did. I wanted to be able to consider this for the top ten. But I couldn’t. This is too by-the-numbers for me to love it.”

“The acting here is great. The story is really good and engaging. You’re getting a classy movie that’s well-acted and engaging, but it just moves from place to place without any panache.”

“Maybe this needed a better voice behind the camera, I don’t know. I just felt like it was moving along from scene to scene.”

“Maybe I’ve become disillusioned by the biopic. I don’t know. But I wanted to love this and I got a good movie that I really respect and like quite a bit.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

That’s what it is. It’s a good movie, but you watch it and clock biopic scenes. It’s hitting all the usual notes. Well and all, but there’s nothing about it that makes me go, “Yes. THIS movie.” Without that extra bit, it’ll only be top twenty at best. It’s a really good movie that doesn’t have that extra edge to it that makes me love it.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Reach Me

What I said about it back in January:

“It’s got a bizarre little cast.”

3 stars.”

“I’m just interested in the cast more than anything.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I’ve become inured to the ensemble cast movie. There’s always one movie every year I look at and go, “Look at that cast. I’m sure I can get something out of that.” And I don’t.”

“This movie was bullshit. This is the kind of shit you see coming out of the 90s. Why is it being made today?”

“I can’t even get enough entertainment to say it’s a 3 star movie. It’s not good. It’s something you shouldn’t even consider watching, even for the cast. Just — don’t. It went straight to VOD for a reason.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Seriously, though. There’s nothing worthwhile about this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

The Mule

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. I saw the trailer and went, “I have to see this movie right now.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This was great. I knew from the trailer I was gonna love this movie. This was terrific.”

“Definitely one of my more recommended movies of the year. And no one’s heard about it? Double points. I love having things to show people they don’t know about.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Just go see this movie. Don’t think about it, just see it. You’ll enjoy it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Before I Disappear

What I said about it back in January:

“I really liked that short.”

“So let’s call it 3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Have you seen the short film Curfew? It won Live-Action Short two years ago. It was great. This is the feature version of that. And it’s also very good.”

“They lose a bit of the charm in the expansion, just because they have to explain some things and add subplots. And the stars are exactly the same. So you’re seeing them repeat scenes they’ve already done. But I don’t care.”

“It’s a great story, and they expanded it beautifully. This is one of those movies I’m gonna call one of the hidden gems of 2014. It’s great. Can’t recommend this enough. (And seriously, check out the short. It’s a great 20 minutes of moviemaking.)”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Great movie. Go see it. It deserves an audience.

And seriously, go see that short. It’s incredible.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Horrible Bosses 2

What I said about it back in January:

“NOPE!”

“Or maybe, more appropriately:”

“I did not like the first movie. I tolerated the first movie.”

“This one is something up with which I will not put.”

2.5 stars, and you’re assuming I won’t hate it enough to make it Unforgivable. You shouldn’t do that. I know no sequels, but I really do not want this movie to happen.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This movie took about three minutes to lose me. That’s not bad, all things considered.”

“I really don’t need to explain this. It’s a piece of shit. We knew this going in. I’m not gonna waste time talking about how much this is a piece of shit.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This movie sucked.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Penguins of Madagascar

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Maybe I was hoping it didn’t really exist.

What I actually thought about it:

It was childish. And it’s for children. Which is why I didn’t care. Plus, the first voice you hear in the movie is Werner Herzog. So I’ll give them an indifference rating based on that alone.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Seriously, any kids movie that’ll throw Herzog in there is decent enough by me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is December.

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One response

  1. Pingback: FOXCATCHER (****½) and AMERICAN SNIPER (***½) Reviews | If you want the gravy...

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