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2016: The Year in Reviews (May)

End of the year, time to recap. Every January, I go over everything that’s schedule to come out, and a bunch more stuff that isn’t yet scheduled. Based on what I know at that time, I guess my eventual ratings for them.

So what ends up happening is, I watch everything over the course of the year, writing up reviews articles every four months, recapping and rating all the films I saw during that period. Then, in December, I post these articles, which contain both the initial guess and the actual rating, along with a final rating, which is based on how I feel about the film having had time to sit and digest it for a period of time.

I do it to see how accurately I can guess ratings for movies a year in advance, but really it serves as a way to give a complete picture of my feelings about each movie I see.

Today we’re recapping May:

Here’s how my ratings system works:

* * * * * (5 stars) — I really loved the film. Five stars essentially guarantees the film a spot in the top ten. I’ve never had a five star film not make the top ten. (2015 examples: Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Steve Jobs.)

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars) — I loved the film, but not unconditionally. Four and a half stars means a likely top ten appearance, and for sure a top twenty spot. Rarely does a four and a half star film fall below top 15. (2015 examples: Anomalisa, Brooklyn, The Revenant, Sicario, Son of Saul.)

* * * * (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, but typically a four star film is one of those that I’ve solidly liked and will openly say is a great movie. Three and a half, I’ll say that I really enjoyed it. But four stars is where I’ll say that it’s really good. Four star movies are either in my 11-20 or tier two. It’s also not unheard of that a 4 star movie makes the top ten, especially after a year or two. (2015 examples: Beasts of No Nation, Bone Tomahawk, Crimson Peak, Dope, Grandma, The Walk.)

* * * 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, “That was 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 versatile ranking. Three and a half star films never make it above tier two (though not many will end up there), and most of them are tier three or four. (2015 examples: Cop Car, The Danish Girl, It Follows, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mississippi Grind, Spy, Tangerine.)

* * * (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. (Though I still might hate it. That’s a completely different discussion.) 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. (2015 examples: 45 Years, By the Sea, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, San Andreas, Southpaw, Trainwreck.)

* * 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. 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. (2015 examples: The Age of Adaline, I Smile Back, Minions, Paper Towns, Pixels, While We’re Young.)

* * (2 stars) — Two starts means that I just did not like the film. For the most part it’s competently made (though not always), but it’s either part of a genre that I don’t like (horror movie, shitty thriller, Nicholas Sparks), I was utterly bored by it, or it’s one of those movies that really annoyed the shit out of me. Decent chance it could be Unforgivable. (2015 examples: The Boy Next Door, Fifty Shades of Grey, Hot Pursuit, Seventh Son, The Visit.)

* 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 films. 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. (2015 examples: Superfast, Vacation.)

* (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 sequel or being something that’s too easy to make Unforgivable (like a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. One we knew were gonna be a piece of shit going in). But in any case — they’re really awful movies that shouldn’t exist. (2015 examples: none.)

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. (2015 examples of 0 star films: none, thankfully.)

May

Captain America: Civil War

What I said about it back in January:

“At this point, it’s pretty easy to guess Marvel. There usually aren’t any surprises with them ever.”

“The Captain America movies were two of their better films, so that’s a plus for this. Plus the Civil War arc is one of the more interesting arcs they have going for them.”

“That said, the fact that this is basically half an Avengers movie isn’t appealing to me. The fact that they’re somehow trying to shoehorn in an Avengers movie, a Captain America/Bucky movie and a setup for Infinity War in the same movie doesn’t inspire much confidence in me at all. And the fact that the trailer for this was not very good at all isn’t promising.”

“Still, given how things usually go, I will say 3.5 stars for this, just because the previous two Captain America films have been above average and the directors seem to know what they’re doing.”

What I thought about it:

“I’ll tell you the problem straight out. And you can figure it out within the first thirty minutes of the film — this isn’t a Captain America sequel. This is an Avengers sequel.”

“Captain America’s story isn’t continued. Bucky’s story isn’t (really) continued. This is all in the service of continuing the universe. They’re throwing new characters at you left and right in order to expand the universe, they start a storyline that theoretically shouldn’t be contained to one film, and even then, it takes too long to set up and doesn’t even resolve itself.”

“It would have been so much better if there was no villain and it was just external politics that caused this to happen. I’d have been way more interested.”

“My ultimate problem with this movie is this: where are we left? What has changed? We’re nowhere different from where we were at the end of The Winter Soldier. Nothing has changed in the Captain America story arc. And this was supposed to be a Captain America film.”

“The rating is what it is, but I’m sorely disappointed by the result of what this movie is versus what it could have been.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s amusing enough, but I’m disappointed in this for so many reasons. The Captain America movies are the best they have in terms of a cohesive set of movies centered around one character. And instead they made it an Avengers movie. Which just doesn’t appeal to me. Also, it’s just not a particularly great movie on top of that. The rating is still gonna be okay, but I don’t particularly wanna go back and watch this movie anytime soon.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Bigger Splash

What I said about it back in January:

“Uhh… 3 stars. No idea what to make of this.”

What I thought about it:

“This was awesome.”

“The cast is awesome. Tilda Swinton barely speaks the entire movie. Ralph Fiennes is so great. And Schoenaerts and Johnson are also good.”

“The film looks great, is engaging, and is pretty much everything I could have asked for.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I really liked this. Look great, well acted, and Ralph Fiennes was fucking awesome in it. Excited for this guy’s Suspiria remake.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Being Charlie

What I said about it back in January:

“It sounds like it could be okay. I know he hasn’t been that solid in the past… oh, twenty years, but I did like Flipped. And The Bucket List was okay.”

“He’s a capable director, and I think I can get 3 stars out of this.”

What I thought about it:

I didn’t know what the hell this was going in.”

“It’s a movie that was way more engaging than I expected. Even saying it, you think it’s this generic sort of story. But it actually worked for me.”

“Nice to see Rob Reiner make something worthwhile again.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I seriously thought this was gonna be a Nicholas Sparks kind of movie, but instead it’s about a fucking drug addict. It’s nice when a movie surprises you for the better by actually being something halfway decent. Can’t say this is a masterpiece, but this is something I enjoyed.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Mothers and Daughters

What I said about it back in January:

“Not the Garry Marshall movie.”

2.5 stars.”

“Seems like a B movie version of the Garry Marshall movie.”

What I thought about it:

“This was also called Mother’s Day for a while until the other movie came around. They changed it to a more appropriate title and then dumped the film on VOD the same time Mother’s Day came out. Which means that I’m probably the only one who’s actually seen this or will ever see this.”

“And rightfully so. Because it’s terrible.”

* * (2 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It was pretty bad. Shout out to anyone else who forced themselves to watch this.

* * (2 stars)

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

Money Monster

What I said about it back in January:

 

3.5 stars. She’s a good director and Clooney typically makes good choices. No reason to think this won’t be solid.”

What I thought about it:

“The premise is really good, the stars are game. The execution is fine.”

“I want(ed) this to be more — and I say this every time — 70s. Make us feel it through the characters and their intensity. Don’t show us other characters finding out all this information. Make that less of the plot. We need to really feel for these people and then get angry in the end when shit goes down the way we don’t want it to. Here, it pretty much works out for most people. Give us some complexity and leave us feeling like we got fucked the way the character did.”

“It’s a perfectly watchable movie that works on its own terms. It’s just not gonna be memorable in ten years. Which sucks. But it is what it is.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The biggest flaw about this movie is that they made it into a 2016 thriller that won’t be remembered in 2017. They could have made it more timeless and interesting and they didn’t. Oh well. Was all right the one time.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Darkness

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“Horror movie. Not for me. Only saw it because of the cast.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Not my genre.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Last Days in the Desert

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars. That seems easy.”

What I thought about it:

“I thought I was getting an easy 3 stars out of this. But it won me over.”

“I liked the simplicity of it all, and I liked the dual performances by Ewan McGregor.”

“It grounded the film and removed much of the religious aspects, which made it more tolerable to me. Plus, anything shot by Chivo, I’m down.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Definitely more solid than I was expecting, plus the more grounded and less religious nature mixed with Chivo’s cinematography added up to something I quite enjoyed.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

High-Rise

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“It definitely sounded more interesting than it was. The set up is great, the execution is just okay.”

“I wanted to be interested in this, and I was, for the most part. But I didn’t love it, and I was really hoping I’d love it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Liked it, didn’t love it. Was hoping I’d get more, but got enough to be okay with it.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Love & Friendship

What I said about it back in January:

“Let’s go 3 stars and wait and see, I guess.”

What I thought about it:

“It was fine. It had fun with its setting. The dialogue is center stage, and the witty banter is the real highlight of the film. Didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

People are listing this as one of the best films of the year. I don’t quite get that, but whatever. I enjoyed it fine, but this wasn’t particularly for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Angry Birds Movie

What I said about it back in January:

“Don’t know, don’t care. 2.5 stars. Probably gonna hate this on principle.”

What I thought about it:

“I was never going to give a flying fuck about this movie. I don’t even know what the hell the game is about.”

“Wanna know everything you need to know about this movie in a single sentence? This movie features an on-the-nose usage of ‘Behind Blue Eyes,’ but instead of the Who version, they use the Limp Bizkit cover.”

“If I bothered to care about anything here just a little bit, I’d hate this movie.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The Limp Bizkit cover? Really?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

What I said about it back in January:

“The first one was funny. This probably won’t be as funny as the original. So 3 stars, and this has to prove itself to me.”

What I thought about it:

“It’s amusing. Totally unnecessary but understandable sequel.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already forgotten about this, but it was okay.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

O.J.: Made in America

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“I don’t see how anyone watches this and doesn’t consider it the greatest achievement in documentaries in 2016.”

“This is a massive undertaking, and it’s just brilliant from start to finish. I can’t speak about this highly enough. And I don’t have to, because pretty much everyone else is doing it for me.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This is probably the best documentary of 2016.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Nice Guys

What I said about it back in January:

The trailer for this looked fun as shit. I trust Shane Black. Gosling and Crowe seems like a winning combination. I see no reason not to think this won’t be 3.5 stars.

What I thought about it:

“This was fun as shit.”

“Yes, predictable in every sense. You knew exactly who the villain was gonna be and how it was gonna turn out. But you didn’t care. Which is how Shane Black movies work.”

“Gosling is perfectly cast here and Crowe is awesome. It has your typical Shane Black stuff in it, which I love. And even the precocious child element isn’t as glaring as it usually is, which I imagine most people will appreciate.”

“I’m not sure what else you could want from a movie. Enjoyable all the way and it got a few moments of legitimate, ‘I wasn’t expecting that’ laughter out of me.”

“Really liked this, gonna rate highly for me just because of the watchability factor. Not a top ten favorite of the year for me, but definitely a solid entry to the year I’ll think back on fondly.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

You know what? Seven months later and I like this movie more than I did in May. It’s so much fun and entertaining. I’m bumping this up to 4.5, because I really enjoyed it. Not a top ten kind of movie, but man, did I enjoy the shit out of this. Shane Black can write an action comedy for me anytime.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a full star.

Maggie’s Plan

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“This is a cross between an old-school screwball comedy and a Woody Allen movie. Closer to the Woody Allen. A lot of academic and philosophical discussions in the first act.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Fair.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Weiner

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“Oh this was awesome. So well put together. The best parts were when they cut to his wife’s reactions during scenes. Those looks are the most powerful things in the documentary. Plus, you get to see him unraveling and still being a politician at the same time. It’s fascinating. Definitely my favorite doc of the year so far.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Loved this. Not the achievement that OJ is, but such a fascinating look at a dude who just can’t help but sabotage himself.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Do-Over

What I said about it back in January:

“Starring Adam Sandler.”

2 stars.”

“I think we all know where this is headed.”

What I thought about it:

“These are the kinds of Adam Sandler movies I can accept. Because there’s a plot here, it’s not adolescent boy humor, for the most part, and the worst I can say about it is, ‘It’s not very good.'”

“At least I was able to watch it and not cringe every three minutes. Here it was like, cringing every ten minutes.”

“2.5 stars is really a thumbs up from me, given the quality of Sandler’s stuff over the past decade.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Indifferent is about as good as you can expect to get out of an Adam Sandler movie in 2016.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Alice Through the Looking Glass

What I said about it back in January:

“Yeesh.”

“The first movie was not great. And this is an unnecessary sequel.”

“The trailer doesn’t look great, and I’m sure this will be forgettable but look okay.”

“I’m going with 3 stars even though 2.5 seems very likely.”

What I thought about it:

“This is an acceptable failure. Not a terrible movie by any stretch, but also a failure on every level.”

“No matter how generic and unwatchable this is (honestly, at least it looks good and the effects are nice), they did put effort into making this bearable. So I’m okay with it, despite its shortcomings (of which there are many).”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Acceptable failure about covers it, even though failure is the key word.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

X-Men: Apocalypse

What I said about it back in January:

“At this point, we know what we’re getting with X-Men.”

4 stars. Purely because it’s X-Men, and I do like these movies.”

“Really curious where they’re gonna go from here, since they’re starting to run out of things to do before they have to reboot the whole thing once more.”

What I thought about it:

“Perfectly enjoyable, perfectly decent, but also not a great X-Men movie.”

“It was rushed. You have a famous villain, a big storyline. But you’re also introducing characters. Which you should not be doing. You need established characters for this to work. You can’t be setting up new characters and doing an end-of-the-world scenario. And on top of that giving established characters other things to do. It’s too much, and it shows.”

“The whole movie is overstuffed. That’s the problem. Too much going on leaving us feeling like it was all too little. It’s still enjoyable and all, but we’ve seen them be better, which makes it a real disappointing effort.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I think there’s only one word that can sum up what I feel about this movie: l-l-l-ear-ning.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is June.

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