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2017: The Year in Reviews (February)

If we’re comparing the movie year to the sports year, and the Oscars are the championship game and Oscar season is the playoffs, then what we’re getting into is the end of the season. We’re playing out last game, and we’re about to start giving out MVP awards and taking stock of how everything went.

Each year, at the start of the year, I preview everything I can that’s scheduled to come out (and even a bunch of stuff that isn’t scheduled yet). In doing so, I guess what I’m going to eventually rate that movie when I see it. So now, at the end of the year, as we recap everything that came out, we see how I did. Plus, also, I see everything, so this also can be used for people to see if something they didn’t see or know about during the year is worthwhile.

I’ve been posting reviews articles throughout the year (Part III was yesterday) that capture my thoughts as we go along. Don’t want you guys to think I’m trying to cheat these things. What I do in these articles is post what I thought I would think back in January, along with my actual reviews from seeing the films, and then a final rating, after having had time to digest the film for a period of time.

I turn it into a game to see how accurately I can guess ratings for all the movies a year in advance (I’m gonna see everything anyway. Gotta make it interesting somehow), but mostly it serves as a way to give a complete picture of my feelings about each movie I see.

We’re on to February.

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. (2016 examples: Kubo and the Two Strings, La La Land.)

* * * * 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, unless there are a lot of them. (2016 examples: Everybody Wants Some!!, Hell or High Water, Midnight Special, The Nice Guys, The Red Turtle.)

* * * * (4 stars) — I liked the film a lot and will typically tell people it was great. It could end up in the top 20, but for the most part four-star movies end up in tier two. (2016 examples: American Honey, Deadpool, Hardcore Henry, The Light Between Oceans, Remember, Silence.)

* * * ½ (3.5 stars) — The film was really solid. It’s not without its problems but it gave me more than just another decent movie. This is typically for movies that either were way better than expected or movies that were fine, but didn’t quite live up to expectations. There may be a few in tier two, but mainly this will populate tiers three and four. (2016 examples: 10 Cloverfield Lane, A Bigger Splash, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Captain Fantastic, Edge of Seventeen, Rules Don’t Apply.)

* * * (3 stars) — It was all right. This is the ultimate ‘I enjoyed it well enough’ rating. Or ‘you can get through it’. The go-to rating for those ‘decent cable watch’ movies, as well as the ‘big studio movie that cost too much money to be anything less than this, but still wasn’t very good’. It has its strengths, but otherwise was just okay. If a big movie is only at 3, it means I didn’t really care for it. And if a movie that looks like a huge piece of shit is a 3, it means I was fine with it because it wasn’t that bad. 3 stars means I’m cool with it, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. (2016 examples: The Birth of a Nation, The Girl on the Train, London Has Fallen, The Neon Demon, Suicide Squad.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars) — This is my indifference rating. I didn’t necessarily think it was bad, mostly I just didn’t care. There wasn’t enough there I liked to make it 3, and it was well enough made and held my attention enough that it didn’t go lower. This rating means either I’m passing on the whole thing and/or saying it wasn’t for me. A lot of horror movies and kids movies will end up here. (2016 examples: Blair Witch, Don’t Breathe, Gods of Egypt, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Trolls, Warcraft.)

* * (2 stars) — I did not like it. Usually 2 stars means it was relatively competently made (though not always), but it just felt like a very bad or generic version of that movie, with few redeeming qualities whatsoever. Pretty much everything from here on out is generally considered a bad movie, and it only comes down to how nice I’m being toward it and how angry it did (or didn’t) make me. (2016 examples: Bad Moms, Masterminds, Miracles from Heaven, Mother’s Day, Norm of the North.)

* ½ (1.5 stars) — The film was awful. Look for these movies to make the Unforgivables list. No other way to explain a 1.5 star movie except — you understand when you see it. (2016 examples: The Boss.)

* (1 star) — 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 — 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 the world in general. A film with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one that physically made me angry while watching it. (2016 examples of 0 star films: Zoolander 2.)

February

Rings

January’s preview:

“Did we need another Ring movie?”

2.5 stars, if I bother to see it at all, which seems unlikely.”

The actual review:

Skipped it. Don’t remember the original (if I saw it at all), never watched the sequel. This was never gonna happen.

Final thoughts:

The good news is, you don’t remember this came out either.

Also, isn’t that the tagline for like, every movie, eventually?

How close was I?: N/A

The Space Between Us

January’s preview:

“Been seeing a trailer for this for a while. They pushed it out of Christmas, probably recognizing it wouldn’t make any money.”

“It looks fine. Think I went 3.5 stars last year, given the cast and the date. Now… 3 stars.”

The actual review:

“The best description of this (and it’s not mine, so I can’t take credit or it) is: The Fault in Our Mars.”

“There was a good idea here that got bogged down in… something.”

“It should work pretty well. But the minute they pushed this from late fall into early spring, you knew this was not gonna be great. And it’s not.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s The Fault in Our Mars. That’s the movie.

Could have been better, but wasn’t. Shit happens.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Collide

January’s preview:

“They held this over for at least a year.”

“Does this not look like a 3 star action movie? Because that’s exactly what it looks like to me.”

The actual review:

“A throwback action movie you’d have watched on cable randomly.”

“You get Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins to keep things lively.”

“Catch this on Starz or Showtime in six months and you’ll enjoy it well enough. A bit too much hipster music choices and pretentious flourishes, but the action parts get you through.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fun. Worth a single watch. Dfinitely cable/Netflix action movie watch worthy.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Two Lovers and a Bear

January’s preview:

3 stars. Still don’t know what to make of it, but I’m interested.”

The actual review:

“I was hoping there’d be more bear.”

“I saw this because I’ll watch anything Tatiana Maslany does. It was nice to see them in the Canadian snow riding around and stuff. Not sure it added up to a whole lot, but it was decent enough.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was nice. Not for just about anyone, but if you like Tatiana Maslany, go for it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Imperial Dreams

January’s preview:

Nothing. I think they dated it just after I wrote up the articles.

The actual review:

“Decent little Netflix movie with a solid performance by John Boyega.”

“Never really rises above ‘just okay’ but as far as movies you randomly put on and can enjoy well enough, this is perfectly acceptable. Can’t ask for a whole lot more out of a Netflix movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just okay. Worth it really for the Boyega performance.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

War on Everyone

January’s preview:

“Been excited for this for two years. Still can’t wait. I hear it’s very funny.”

3.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“John Michael McDonaugh is awesome.”

“There’s not really meant to be a plot so much as it’s meant to be fun. And it is fun.”

“This is an impossible movie to explain to people or to sell to people who aren’t already in based on the filmmaker and the trailer.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s pure anarchy, and fun as hell. There’s no plot to speak of, but do we even need one to enjoy this?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fifty Shades Darker

January’s preview:

“This looks like proper garbage.”

2 stars.”

The actual review:

“Is it weird that I actually think this is a better movie than the first one?”

“It’s still not a good movie, but we’re getting to almost watchable.”

“Whereas the first movie tried to play the sex stuff for titillation, this movie seemingly plays it for laughs. Either that or it’s so bad it’s actually funny now instead of just being awkward and boring.”

“This movie actually includes the line, ‘No way, you’re not putting those in my butt’. What more do I need to add?”

“Though I guess we do need to eventually come to terms with the fact that the song ‘Darling Nikki’ is more hardcore BDSM than anything these movies are.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

“You’re not putting those in my butt.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

John Wick: Chapter Two

January’s preview:

“Are we all not crazy excited for this?”

3.5 stars. I’m not gonna assume better than the first one, but I’m definitely gonna assume pretty awesome all around.”

The actual review:

“They kind of grew it out a bit too much. I think they went too big too fast.”

“I liked the simple setup of the franchise, even though the hint of a bigger world with the network of hitmen and the hotel was a wonderful thing. And the scenes of him killing people are just incredible. All of that is here, and it’s wonderfully done. Just, intellectually, I wonder if they got too big.”

“For now, this movie was fucking great and I enjoyed the shit out of it.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Man, this franchise is awesome. Bring on the next one. Can’t wait.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

The Lego Batman Movie

January’s preview:

“The trailer was actually funny. Are those all the jokes? I don’t know.”

“I’m gonna go 3.5 stars, because this is strictly Batman, which I find more interesting than a generic ‘Lego’ movie.”

The actual review:

“I suspect these Lego movies are all gonna end up the same for me.”

“The movie was those three minutes of trailers spread out over 90 minutes with a lot of annoying shit in the middle.”

“It’s gonna take a lot more than what they’re doing to make one of these that holds up over time.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was funny in the trailer, just kind of okay in actuality. At least we know the baseline of what we’re getting with these movies, for better or worse.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Girlfriend’s Day

January’s preview:

“The trailer looks interesting.”

3.5 stars. Could only be 3, but I liked that trailer.”

The actual review:

“It sounded interesting from the outset. In the end it was a semi-interesting, very strange pseudo-noir/mystery set in the world of greeting cards. (Not a joke.)”

“It feels like it might have started as an SNL sketch. (And it might have been better served as an SNL sketch or a short film, because it’s just okay and feels overly long despite only being 70 minutes.)”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Wish this were better.

* * * (3 stars)

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

A United Kingdom

January’s preview:

“I like Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They should keep this interesting.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Solid enough. Good story, good actors. Just an okay film. It happens.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not bad. Not totally for me, but a nice little movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Cure for Wellness

January’s preview:

“I was interested for this because it was Gore Verbinski… until I found out it was a horror movie. But then the trailer seemed interesting, at least from a visual perspective. So I have no idea what to make of this.”

“My gut says go 2.5 stars, but I’m gonna say 3 stars, just because I could stand a bad horror movie or thriller if it’s doing stuff visually interesting. So we’ll stick with that and Gore Verbinski’s general track record and say this can hit 3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I tried to stay away from this because it looked like bad horror. But Gore Verbinski usually makes worthwhile movies, even when they’re The Lone Ranger.”

“It started off really interesting. It looked great, it was well-directed, and it was one of those throwback kind of horror-thrillers. You could see this having been made by Val Lewton.”

“The real problem is that it’s almost two and a half hours long. No horror movie should be that long. This movie needed to be much tighter and less overdone and it could have been pretty good.”

“Verbinski is taking his overindulgence he learned from the Pirates movies and putting them in a genre that is about the exact opposite of that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

There are good elements here, but it’s too long and does too much. There’s definitely a shorter, better movie in here somewhere.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fist Fight

January’s preview:

“I’ve seen this trailer. It doesn’t look good.”

“But I’m also not gonna assume it’ll be outright bad either.”

2.5 stars. Let it sway itself in either direction.”

The actual review:

“I thought I was gonna hate this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I didn’t hate it. Didn’t particularly like it, but I did laugh at moments, so that got it to 3. Will I ever watch it again? Doubt it. But I didn’t dislike it, which is rare for this type of comedy.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Great Wall

January’s preview:

“Well this looks horrible.”

2.5 stars.”

“Hooray, whitewashing!”

The actual review:

“Well… this happened.”

“I’m not gonna say it’s a piece of shit like most people would, because it’s not that bad. This is gonna be 2017’s Gods of Egypt.”

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about this that are out there. Look — it’s not great. Them fighting monsters, it’s just weird. But it’s got a classical action movie kind of tone and almost works. There’s just too much money and too many genre overlaps for it to work.”

“This movie is a failure, but it’s not a disgusting ‘you only did this for the money’ failure. This is a failure in trying to bridge the gap between two cultures that don’t really have a cinematic overlap as of yet.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m fascinated by this movie. Didn’t hate it. Didn’t like it, but I definitely like the idea that it exists, even if it’s a misfit.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Lovesong

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. I like that it’s a road trip, but I have to drop it a bit given that no one picked it up before now.”

The actual review:

“The very definition of a Sundance indie.”

“It’s simple, it’s got good performances by Riley Keogh and Jena Malone, and it’s just a decent little movie. Can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

If you like the actresses, go for it. Otherwise this isn’t for most people.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Get Out

January’s preview:

“There’s definitely a racial element to it, which seems interesting. But it’s horror, so 2.5 stars. Maybe I can get to 3 on this, but this just does not sound like it’s for me at all.”

The actual review:

“It’s incredibly well made. The strength of the filmmaking is what made me bump this up from 3 stars.”

“I don’t love the film. I think it’s just pretty good. But Peele directs the hell out of it, and that kept me more invested than I thought I’d be otherwise.”

“I think people made more out of it than they should have, but I also think they needed to in order to get people to see it. This deserves to be seen. It’s an incredibly smart thriller with a great premise and a strong voice behind it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is definitely one of the films of the year. It’s very good and very well made. Not my favorite film, but I respect the shit out of it. I’m mad at the people who are overrating this too much, but the film is permanently on my good list. Huge fan of everything this accomplished.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Rock Dog

January’s preview:

“This looks so bad.”

2 stars.”

The actual review:

“Generic animated stuff.”

“I caught it on an okay day, so I didn’t dislike it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Who knew this would end up as part of my year of ‘low grade animated movies’?

I think because I saw it before I knew what it was, so I ended up okay with it. It’s not good, though.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Bitter Harvest

January’s preview:

“I cannot believe this is finally coming out. I was ready to give up on this movie.”

2.5 stars.”

“The wait can’t be anything promising.”

The actual review:

“I’d tracked this for so long I felt obligated to watch it.”

“It’s… boring. Not much happens. It’s like a straight to video Doctor Zhivago, but compiled from all the boring stuff that never actually made it into the movie.”

“Had I not tracked it for four years I’d have not known this existed just like everyone else.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I may be the only person who knows this even exists. Because I tracked it for two years. Definitely wasn’t worth the wait, but what can you do?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

January’s preview:

“Let’s call it 3 stars.”

The actual review:

“It’s good. I liked it. I think if you liked Blue Ruin and Green Room you’ll like this. It’s not intense like those are, but it’s similar. And it works.”

“Of all the Netflix movies, this is definitely one of the best. Definitely worth checking out for sure.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Really liked this. Not something that’s stuck with me, but I definitely liked it. If I were to recommend Netflix movies, this would be on that list.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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