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2016: The Year in Reviews (November)

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 November:

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.)

November

Doctor Strange

What I said about it back in January:

“Scott Derrickson is directing. Another uninspired Marvel choice.”

“It’s a good cast. So that, coupled with the fact that it’s not a direct correlation to other Marvel properties makes me think it could be 3.5 stars. At least initially.”

What I thought about it:

“The visuals were nice, but otherwise it’s standard Marvel shit.”

“I don’t care about sorcery or whatever. The backstory was interesting for a second and then abruptly stopped. Then we got a standard superhero progression from there. Generic villain.”

“The visuals and the lack of universe connection in the movie proper is what kept this from being a straight 3 star movie.”

“I also love how, if there’s even a chance the dude she’s fucking can travel through time, Rachel McAdams will do your movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Outside of the visuals, this is pretty average Marvel fare. Underdeveloped villain, no real depth to anything, easily watchable, but not a whole lot of real value. Is anyone else getting tired of this Marvel shit?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bleed for This

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars. Boxing movies are always worthwhile.”

What I thought about it:

“You got the sense from the trailer that it wasn’t gonna fall into the genre pitfalls that movies like this usually fall into. They accomplished it by doing it like The Fighter — they focused more on the characters and their relationships more so than the situation.”

“There are parts of this that don’t work, but it’s a really entertaining movie. And it’s a very satisfying boxing movie that no one saw.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Really enjoyed this. Not an all-time boxing movie, but a really solid one and one of the better ones of the past decade.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Hacksaw Ridge

What I said about it back in January:

“Mel Gibson directs again!”

“And based on that alone — 4 stars.”

“No reason to think this won’t be at the very least, very good.”

“Say what you will about Mel and his off-screen stuff — the man has a great track record on the screen. He has really good taste.”

What I thought about it:

“This was badass.”

“No one watches those battle scenes and doesn’t think they’re incredibly made.”

“Minor things aside, I really liked this movie. And I feel like that excitement might settle down a bit over time, but right now, I am a really big fan of this. This is what I want out of a movie.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Loved this. The battle scenes were great and I loved the retro aspect of the earlier scenes, even if not everyone will. Great film. Love me some Mel. The man makes great movies.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Army of One

What I said about it back in January:

“This is that movie about the guy who decided, on his own, to set out and hunt down Osama Bin Laden, and took about twelve trips to Afghanistan to look for him. Starring Nicolas Cage.”

3.5 stars.”

“I hope this is great.”

What I thought about it:

“It was a foregone conclusion that I was gonna love this movie.”

“It’s not a great movie. If you hate Nicolas Cage, you shouldn’t see this, probably. But I fucking laughed my ass off and enjoyed every goddamn second of this movie.”

“It’s a sight to behold when Cage is committed a part. He’s so fucking good here.”

“I’m not gonna claim this is a masterpiece by any stretch. But I will tell you I loved it. Do with that what you will.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Booty had me like

army-of-one

* * * * (4 stars)

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

The Eagle Huntress

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“I loved this. It’s such an uplifting movie.”

“A lot of it does feel staged, but the scenes you can’t fake are really well done.”

“Big fan of this one and definitely one of those documentaries a lot of people are gonna like.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This was pretty great. Definitely staged, it felt like, but this will make a great feature in a few years. And that’s really where my interests lie.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Ivory Game

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“Killing elephants for their tusks is bad. There. I just saved you 112 minutes.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

If only I saved myself those 112 minutes.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Trash Fire

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“This was pretty dark and fucked up. Didn’t love it, but I liked how cynical it was and how the characters were pretty much despicable people. Save one. That was a nice twist. Otherwise just okay.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This title is an accurate description of my existence.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Trolls

What I said about it back in January:

“Yeah…”

2.5 stars.”

“Kinda want to go lower.”

What I thought about it:

“This was not for me, this is not for me. It’s for children. And it’s not made by Disney or Pixar (or even Laika), so it’s a completely forgettable movie designed to make money right now.”

“This will be forgotten immediately until they make a sequel. Nothing really of value here at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I should have switched the reviews for this and Trash Fire and just left them to speak for themselves.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Loving

What I said about it back in January:

“Written and directed by Jeff Nichols. That’s all I needed.”

4 stars.”

“Nichols hasn’t made a movie less than 3.5 stars for me yet. No reason to think this won’t be very good.”

What I thought about it:

“Jeff Nichols was the only one who could have told this story with any dignity.”

“This is a quiet movie about a couple just trying to leave in peace. And it works because of Nichols’ understated direction and tendency to shy away from grand shows of affection or big ‘movie’ moments.”

“I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. I really loved what he did here.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I really like what he did here. This is a quiet, beautiful movie, and a perfect example of having the right filmmaker to tell the right story.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Arrival

What I said about it back in January:

“Denis Villeneuve. End of story.”

4 stars. How can I not assume 4 stars with Villeneuve?”

What I thought about it:

“It’s a really ambitious movie. I wonder if it’s so ambitious it can’t possibly pull off what it’s trying to do, but outside of that, I really liked what I saw.”

“It’s hard to talk about it without giving away the central conceit of the movie. Which is both a strength and a potential weakness. I’m still not sure it fully pulls it off, but I’m glad they tried.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I need to see this again, but I really liked this. After I watch it again, we’ll see just how much.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

What I said about it back in January:

“Ang Lee. He does diverse stuff. Though usually he’s one up, one down. And his last one was way up.”

“Everything here points to failed Oscar contender. I’m just feeling that.”

3.5 stars. I trust Ang Lee, but not absolutely.”

What I thought about it:

“This was touted as the future of cinema and all that, but the story always felt really slight. And guess what? The story was really slight.”

“I could go through the litany of weird choices I felt they made here, or I could just say — the 120 fsp actually worked for me most of the time, and I enjoyed parts of it. But overall, this is just a weird, jumbled movie that feels like it should have had someone other than Ang Lee direct it.”

“Though I guess the puzzler is — if Ang Lee didn’t direct this, would it have even been this good, and would anyone have even cared about it to begin with? Pretty sure the answer is no.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This is an interesting failure. That’s about as nice as I can put it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bastille Day (aka The Take)

What I said about it back in January:

“Like the cast. Sounds generic.”

2.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“This movie starts with pseudo James Bond music and a naked chick. That’s pretty much all I needed to get into it.”

“And then it pretty much underwhelmed me from there.”

“Serviceable, is the word I’m looking for.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I don’t even remember the naked chick. Which is a shame. She was probably the most interesting thin in this movie.

* * * (3 stars)

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

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

What I said about it back in January:

“This is the monologue from Jaws as a feature. They’ve been trying to make this for over a decade.”

“Okay.”

“No idea what I’m getting, but it’s Cage. 3 stars. Blanket Cage rating.”

What I thought about it:

“This was exactly what it looked like — a poorly made movie made for no money.”

“This is about as cheap a movie as Left Behind was. Definitely not one of his finer moments. (And you notice I’m focusing my review on him, because if he weren’t in it, there was a zero chance I’d have ever seen this.)”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

At least it’s not bees, right?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Shut In

What I said about it back in January:

“Looks utterly generic. 2.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“This was pretty bad.”

“I knew what the twist was from the start, so mostly I was watching to see how boring the whole thing was. Really not good at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The poster is the best thing about this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The True Memoirs of an International Assassin

What I said about it back in January:

“Starring Kevin James.”

“Yup.”

“Anyone think this is gonna be okay?”

2.5 stars.”

“I won’t go Unforgivable, but expectations are not high.”

What I thought about it:

“This is like that Adam Sandler one that came out. Kevin James in an action-comedy that’s more action than comedy.”

“This was completely generic and had very little of value in it. The best thing they did was release it on Netflix because then you don’t feel any obligation toward it.”

“Rather than hate it, I just didn’t care. So that’s better.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

At least they went for action over comedy. Still generic. But because they tried, I didn’t hate it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Elle

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“This is such a French movie. Chick gets raped and likes it.”

“I’m not as in love with this as everyone else is, but I did like it.”

“What I enjoyed so much was how much of a cunt Isabelle Huppert’s character is. That was nice. Otherwise I just liked it but didn’t love it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Only the French would make this movie. And Paul Verhoeven.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Dog Eat Dog

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

“In.”

What I thought about it:

“Well this was batshit crazy.”

“You’d expect Cage to be the crazy one, but it’s actually Dafoe. He’s the one who gets to go nuts here. Cage is pretty subdued.”

“It’s not a great movie, but it’s so fucking off the wall that you’re at least partially interested in it. So there is that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s batshit. Not good, but batshit. That counts for something.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Life on the Line

What I said about it back in January:

“Another Travolta. I really appreciate his commitment to working.”

3 stars.”

“He’s starting to get his own ratings system, which is usually reserved for people like Nicolas Cage.”

What I thought about it:

“It’s watchable, but there’s no pacing or energy to it whatsoever. It’s somewhere between a VOD movie and a Lifetime movie in terms of execution.”

“Ultimately, I’ve seen worse. But I also didn’t particularly care very much. They probably should have upped the drama a bit more.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Not great. Not even particularly well made. Don’t bother with this one. It’s not worth the time.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Nocturnal Animals

What I said about it back in January:

4 stars.”

“Cast is solid. A Single Man was good. Let’s say he grows.”

What I thought about it:

“This was utterly gripping. I’m not sure what the point of it was. I kinda get what the ending was going for (which was kind of bold, to end a film that way), but it didn’t wholly feel all the way there. But the rest of the film was utterly captivating.”

“From the opening credits (best credits sequence I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know why he chose that, but man, was that great) to the frame story… this pulled me in and kept me there. I really liked this quite a bit. Very interested in seeing this again.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I really, really liked this. Utterly engaging from start to finish. Definitely wanna see this again before year’s end to see where it really rates. But man, was this a gripping watch.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Love Is All You Need?

What I said about it back in January:

“Oh, right. This is that movie about people falling in love in the world where homosexuality is the norm.”

“I’m keeping this here for the premise. Don’t think it’ll be particularly good.”

2.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“The premise is good enough to overcome a not great film.”

“It’s a good way to try to make a statement, but ultimately the movie doesn’t do much to actually make it. It feels like a cheap movie with a good premise that, were it not for people like me, no one would even know it exists.”

“Mostly I want people to know about this because maybe one day someone will take this premise and actually make a statement about how we treat those deemed different from us in a meaningful way.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This one is all about the premise. The execution is whatever. A good premise holds up. I do hope one day someone makes something of this one.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Mercy

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“No idea what this was.”

“This was almost incoherent. No idea what was going on, didn’t care about any of it. Basically just a giant blank for me. Which happens.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

No idea what the hell happened in this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Edge of Seventeen

What I said about it back in January:

“No idea what to do with this.”

2.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“I had no idea what this was until about a day before I saw it.”

“Really, really well done. Well-written, well-acted. Great performances out of Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. I did not think this was gonna be as good as it was. Huge, huge fan of this movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Words cannot describe how much of a joy this movie was to watch. I loved it. Not like, top ten loved, but where my expectations were and what I got — one of the best surprises of 2016. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

What I said about it back in January:

“I don’t even need a synopsis or a cast. I’m in.”

“It’s a Harry Potter universe movie. 4 stars. It has to be terrible for me to not go at least 3.5.”

What I thought about it:

“I was so nervous going into this. I really didn’t want it to suck, but I also didn’t know what I was gonna get out of this. And I was pretty delighted by this.”

“I need to see it again, but I thought it was wonderful. She structures the first act like an American screwball comedy from the 30s. And that immediately endeared it to me.”

“Maybe my second viewing of this in the next week will lessen that initial excitement, but when I got out of the theater, I was very pleased by this.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I’m gonna watch it again. That’ll decide where this ends up. I fucking loved it in the theater and I hope the second watch is almost as good as that.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Manchester by the Sea

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars.”

“Don’t wanna get my hopes too high for this.”

What I thought about it:

“It’s funny, it’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s just great.”

“Casey Affleck is tremendous. That scene in the middle of the film at the police station — holy fuck. And the kid… oh my god, that kid is amazing. That’s one of the best performances by a teenage actor I’ve seen in years.”

“The whole movie is just wonderfully crafted. I’ve watched it twice already (and will watch it again before the year’s out), and you can just sit down and watch it, even if it is emotionally heavy.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

One of the better films of 2016. Having seen it twice (and I’m sure once more in the next week and again before the Oscars), this can only end up higher at the end of the year for me. Really great stuff here. This one will hold up.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Rules Don’t Apply

What I said about it back in January:

“Beatty’s back behind the camera after 15 years. He’s notorious for being a perfectionist, but I’m sure the studio will make him turn this in eventually.”

3.5 stars.”

“He’s good, and I hope time hasn’t passed him by. You gotta figure this will be worthwhile.”

What I thought about it:

“It’s hard not to go into this really apprehensive, given that Warren Beatty hasn’t made a movie in fifteen years and hasn’t directed in almost 20.”

“You get the sense that this was gonna be a project made by someone still thinking he was in an era that doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Half the movie feels like a mess, edited down from a way longer movie in a very obvious way. The film is so choppy that you notice scenes are cut way down from what they used to be and whole characters feel marginalized.”

“The other half of the film is almost brilliant. There are parts of this movie that work really well.”

“This definitely looks like a director past his era, the way all those last films by people like Billy Wilder, William Wyler and Vincente Minnelli looked.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s very uneven, but I appreciated seeing it. There’s a lot to like here, and a lot that doesn’t work. But overall, I enjoyed it, and could watch it again pretty easily. And that’s all that matters.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Monster

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“I didn’t know what to expect here, but this was great.”

“Zoe Kazan plays a horrible mother and really leans into it. It’s a great performance. And the story is simple enough to really get the most out of the actors and the tension.”

“What I like about horror movies is when I can see them as being about something else than about something stupid like a vengeful spirit or whatever. This is about addiction and motherhood.”

“It’s simple and it’s well told. I was a big fan of this, which is rare for a horror movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

One of the nicer surprises of 2016 for me. I didn’t expect it to be so brutal. Not in the horror, but in the mother/daughter relationship. Zoe Kazan gives one of the better performances of 2016. As horror movies go, this is one of the few this year I liked.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Bad Santa 2

What I said about it back in January:

“Self-explanatory.”

“All this is adding up to a movie that clearly won’t be as good as the original.”

“I have to say 3.5 stars here, because I need this to tangibly disappoint me. It needs to be great, or I need to be pissed that they ruined such a great first move.”

What I thought about it:

“As a Bad Santa sequel, it’s not great. As a film, it’s not great. As a comedy designed to make you laugh, it’s good.”

“I may be basing this on my experience watching this at a theater at midnight surrounded mostly by a black audience, but I don’t care.”

“I watched it, and I laughed enough to not think about how it’s mostly plot (bad plot) and tries to recreate a lot of what made the first one special without the parts that actually made the first one special. But since the foul humor made me laugh enough, I’ll give it a decent rating.”

“I’m not disappointed, because I didn’t expect it to be particularly good, but I do wish they’d tried a little harder here.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It gets a one-time 3.5. That’s it. Enjoyable the once, but otherwise I’m not planning on revisiting this movie a whole lot. Especially since the first one is such a masterpiece.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Moana

What I said about it back in January:

“It’s Disney, so that means something. It’s not hand-drawn, which limits my enthusiasm going in. It’s ‘ethnic,’ which means they’ll find a way for this to be racist.”

“Let’s go with 3.5 stars. We’ll see what we get with this. Disney has been solid lately, but I don’t know. I’m hopeful for 3.5 or 4. We’ll see.”

What I thought about it:

“This was great. Actually great.”

“The music is terrific (even the villain song works! You know you got a good movie when the villain song works), the characters are charming, and while it falls into a few Disney traps, this is a really great movie.”

“Respect to them for not making it racist at all, too.”

“I absolutely loved this and I want to see what the rewatch is like. That’s what’ll determine how this really sits in Disney history.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Loved this a whole lot. Wanna see it again to see if it holds up outside a theater watch, but man, was this an utter joy. Great year for animated movies. The last time I felt that way was, I think, 2013. Which is usually the sign of a weak year otherwise.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Miss Sloane

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“In case them casting half the Newsroom cast wasn’t enough, they were trying to go for the Sorkin vibe here. But this is Aaron Sorkin-lite.”

“They set it up from the start to be one of those movies where the reveal is that Chastain had it under control the entire time, so you’re basically looking for the twist throughout. If you played it straightforward, you can keep the audience invested in the drama and not trying to figure it out and just going along for the ride. But that’s 2016.”

“Chastain is good, but the material actually hurts her at times. It’s a solid movie, but it never becomes great.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s engaging, but there’s not a whole lot of substance here, and they almost try to make this a forgettable movie. Chastain is fine, but she’s hindered by weak material. It’s fine, though.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Legends of the Hidden Temple

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing.

What I thought about it:

“Nostalgia is a powerful thing.”

“It’s the worst form of nostalgia — the kind where they expect you to be okay with a simple reference to something and go along with it because,’Oh, I remember that!'”

“Ultimately I was left with, ‘At least it was only an hour and at least it introduced the kids of today to a show that I really liked.’ So that’s something. And left me from being really upset with this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The less said about this, the better. I’m just gonna go watch the show instead.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Lion

What I said about it back in January:

“Another failed Weinstein Oscar movie.”

“Unless they’re gonna hold it until fall, which I doubt.”

3 stars.”

What I thought about it:

“This looked like bullshit Harvey Weinstein Oscar bait. Then I started watching it, and about twenty minutes in, I said, ‘Oh, this is pretty good.'”

“This is totally grounded in Dev Patel’s performance, and he’s the one who makes this movie work.”

“It’s hard to overcome the Slumdog comparisons in the early scenes, but you get to the drama, and it’s about a boy displaced through circumstance who wants to find his home.”

“I really, really liked this and I especially liked the tag right at the end where they explain what the title is all about.”

“I was gonna be upset if this wasn’t very good and got pushed through to Oscar nominations, but I actually think this might be deserving. Good for them.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Somehow did not expect this to be so good, and I’m glad it was. Very engaging stuff.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Allied

What I said about it back in January:

“Director, stars, synopsis. At minimum, we’re looking at 4 stars. I’d like 4.5, but Zemeckis is good for 4, and Pitt and Cotillard make good decisions.”

What I thought about it:

“This was a real throwback. Trying to be something out of the 40s, and it almost succeeded.”

“It was well-structured, well-acted, well-made. My one issue — I wanted more Hitchcock.”

“Zemeckis isn’t that type of filmmaker. Which I get. I also think the ending is a cop out. But whatever.”

“I loved the movie. Huge fan of this, and I want more movies that feel like classical Hollywood.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Very solid, and though I have my quibbles, the quibbles are mostly saying, “This is very good. I kinda wish it were great.” I’m still getting very good. And that’s more than enough.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is December.

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