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2017: The Year in Reviews (March)

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.

It’s March.

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.)

March

Logan

January’s preview:

“This is more about a film about Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine than it is anything else. It’s a drama with other elements to it.”

“Because of all that, and because I love this character, I’m gonna say 4 stars with this.”

“I’m very excited for this movie, and I hope it’s a well-deserved send-off for this character.”

The actual review:

“We’re four months into the year and this is the best movie of the year thus far. It’s a fucking masterpiece of the superhero genre. Granted, this movie really only has like, two masterpieces in it thus far, but it’s still the best superhero movie to come out since The Dark Knight.”

“They pared it down. Less mutants, more character stuff. They made Unforgiven with Wolverine. And it’s fucking wonderful.”

“It’s a hard R, violent, unapologetic, and deeply moving. I cried in the theater. I knew exactly what was happening and it still worked.”

“They did a tremendous job with this one and I can’t wait to see it again.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Is this not everything we hoped for and more? This is the best X-Men movie they’ve ever made, but it only exists because of all the other movies, and because we spent 17 years with this character. There’s so much to be proud of here, and this remains one of the best films of 2017.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Before I Fall

January’s preview:

“High school Groundhog Day. Essentially.”

3 stars. Not gonna assume anything more than okay here.”

The actual review:

“It’s Groundhog Day, but with teen girls. Yeah, that almost lost me too.”

“It’s fine, though it does get kinda dark. Wasn’t expecting that. There are parts I like and parts I don’t. They definitely could have made more out of this than they did.”

“Overall, I’m fine with it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just enough interesting moments to get this to 3, otherwise this was not for me at all.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Shack

January’s preview:

“Yeah….”

“That trailer was interesting.”

“Apparently when I say ‘interesting’ it really means not good. I’m not gonna comment on that. But I will say — this looks interesting.”

2.5 stars.

The actual review:

“Yeah, I mean… its a movie about a guy whose daughter is abducted and murdered and in his despair, he gets a letter from God who says to meet him at an abandoned shack in the middle of the woods. How good did you think this was gonna be?”

“The most surprising thing about this was that the book was a bestseller. But that just goes to show you how few people actually buy books anymore and how easy it is for almost anything to become a bestseller.”

“This was never gonna be a good movie. And I understood that. I didn’t hate it enough to shit all over it the way I usually shit all over those faith-based movies. But I’m also not gonna say it was any good.”

“The most you’re getting out of me is — I’ve got nothing good to say about this and I don’t hate it enough to say something bad about it. So I’ll leave it at — nope.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nope.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Wolves

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I kinda liked it.”

“I was hoping it would be more about people offering him money and such, but it’s focused here on his father being a drunk and a gambling addict. Which normally I’d cringe at, but since the dad is Michael Shannon, I’m cool with it.”

“It was fine. I’ll watch anything with Michael Shannon in it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Worth it for Michael Shannon, otherwise completely forgettable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Table 19

January’s preview:

“Here’s a question, before we start — if the maid of honor at a wedding is dating the best man… wouldn’t she still be maid of honor even if they break up? Being maid of honor means you have a pretty solid relationship with the bride. I don’t think they’d just throw you out like that. But anyway…”

“Those actors, and the fact that it seems to take place entirely during the wedding will allow me to say 3 stars here.”

“It was also written by the Duplass brothers and directed by the guy who did Rocket Science, so there is that too.”

“I hope it doesn’t suck.”

The actual review:

“The characters are fairly two-dimensional for most of the film. Occasionally they’ll become interesting, because the actors are doing a good job.”

“It’s not a movie that does anything particularly well, but I was able to enjoy it for what it was.”

“I don’t think you’ll hate it, and I think the cast is full of people who, collectively, we all like. So I think most people will be able to get something out of it for that alone.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

See it, for the actors, if at all. Very slight pluses out of this one.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Ottoman Lieutenant

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Period romance with some war thrown in. There’s always one of these that comes out under the radar every year and they almost always turn out the same.”

“Maybe someone gets something out of movies like this, but mostly I think they’re doomed to irrelevance and only get seen by maniacs like myself who seek stuff like this out because, ‘Why not?’ And then I watch them and go, ‘Oh, that’s why.’

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just skip it. Not worth it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I watched it just so I could saw I saw every film eligible for Best Animated Feature. This one is the most straight anime of the bunch, and I just did not care about this for even a second. So we’ll just leave it at that and move on.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Probably should have skipped it, but 100% completion is a tempting thing.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Last Word

January’s preview:

“This isn’t for me. But I think it might be okay.”

2.5 stars. Not gonna get my hopes up, but it could be fine.”

The actual review:

“Once you hear the logline, you’ll immediately know what you’re gonna think about this movie. And I’m here to tell you — that’s exactly what you’ll think of this movie.”

“I like Shirley MacLaine, so there was a certain amount of enjoyment I got from this, but mostly it’s every bit as you’d suspect all the way through.”

“It had a lot of those indie dialogue tropes that annoy the hell out of me. (People should never discuss music or bands in films. It always sounds like the writer and never the characters.)”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Seriously, though, about the music thing. Don’t do it.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Raw

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This was fantastic.”

“I love movies that start from a weird place and stay that way. It’s just your simple, run-of-the-mill movie about a girl who gets hazed and ends up developing a taste for human flesh. (College!)”

“The places this goes are pretty fantastic. More than worth your time, and one of the great pseudo-horror movies of the year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is so fucked up and awesome. Please see this. It’s great.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Kong: Skull Island

January’s preview:

“I’m not crazy about King Kong, which is what’s keeping me from going 4 stars here. So I’ll go 3.5 stars and hope we can get to 4.”

“The visuals should keep us above 3, but this could be really generic.”

“I’m banking on the fact that Kong is not iconic/big enough as a franchise to require the producers to keep a hold on the director and prevent him from doing something interesting. But maybe I’m wrong.”

The actual review:

“This movie is all visuals and nothing else. Without the visuals, this is 3 stars and I barely care.”

“They get moments of actual interest out of me, but it too easily devolves into CGI monsters, simplistic ‘bad army guy looking for revenge’ plots, and subtle world-building for an eventual Kong vs. Godzilla situation.”

“I’m not gonna say it’s a disappointment for him, but I did love The Kings of Summer a lot. I just thought this was acceptable. And I guess, for a King Kong movie, acceptable will do, since we’re almost 85 years past the original and still no one’s topped it.”

“I thought it had the problem of being just good enough to where I actually saw where it could have been better, and found myself wishing it had been. But I guess that’s better than ‘yeah, that was fine, but I’m gonna forget about it in two months.’ I’ll still forget about it, but at least I can think back to, ‘It did have some nice visuals.’ Which is something.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’ve forgotten so much of what happened in this movie. It feels like they wasted a lot of a good cast and we’re left with a fun but forgettable monster movie they’re now going to jam into a monster universe that I won’t care about that will have way too much money poured into it to be good.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Personal Shopper

January’s preview:

“Oliver Assayas. Kristen Stewart. So she’ll be all moody again. Or I guess, as usual.”

“I wasn’t such a huge fan of Sils Maria. Not assuming anything different out of this.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“It’s a Kristen Stewart awkwardly not finishing sentences drama (so… all of them). It’s a weird ghost story. There’s a murder. There’s weird text stalking. I don’t know what this movie wanted to be.”

“There’s like fifteen to twenty full minutes where practically all the dialogue spoken is done via iMessage. So it’s literally text, response. Text, response. That’s it. Weird choices.”

“It was kind of engaging, but not really. Which is how I felt about Sils Maria.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Seriously, there’s like fifteen minutes of straight texting. That will be the only thing I remember about this movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bunyan and Babe

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“An absolutely atrocious animated movie about — honestly, who gives a shit? I watched it because it was terrible because I’m fascinated by these this year, and it’s just amazing to me that people get these made and apparently make some money off of them.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

If I’m not the only person who gave a shit about this movie, there’s a problem.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Brimstone

January’s preview:

“Western. 3 stars. The bump only goes so far.”

The actual review:

“Boy, did I not know what I was in for with this one. The first sign was when the director’s name was put above the title card. Meaning it deliberately made itself look like the product of an auteur.”

“You’re in for a long and grim movie. It’s a western, but man, is it not having any fun. It’s almost intent on being a purgatory for its characters, putting them through one one awful event after another.”

“It takes real patience to make it through this one. Without much of a payoff at the end. You may feel like you’ve accomplished something once you get through it, but I’m not sure the film gives you much of anything to make the run time feel warranted.”

“I was almost tempted to go the full 3.5 stars with this, but I think that’s just because I was impressed at its ability to hold my attention for so long. It wasn’t because I had any particular affinity toward it.”

“This may be one of those westerns you can view academically and do studies on. Which is something that would increase its status in my eyes. It doesn’t need to be good, but if I can talk about it, that counts for a lot.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Don’t think I’m gonna be able to talk about this one. Because it will always devolve into, “Okay, so here’s what this is about,” and everyone will take my word for it because no one will have ever seen it, nor will they ever see it. So we’re pretty much left with a weird, two-and-a-half hour western that’s trying to not have any fun.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Other Half

January’s preview:

“That’s what I love about these holdovers. I get older, they stay the same age. They’re always either straight up dated for the first quarter of the year or they might never come out.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Nice movie about being bipolar.”

“I saw it because Tatiana Maslany stars in it, and after Orphan Black, I’m interested in seeing anything she wants to do. And she’s really good here. The film’s just meh, but she’s very good.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m down for anything she wants to make. The movie was fine, and she’s the best part of it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Sense of an Ending

January’s preview:

“I’ll give it 2.5 stars. Could be 3, won’t be more than that.”

The actual review:

“I sat through almost two hours of this thing. Trust me, I wish it had come sooner.”

“This was boring. This is less interesting version of the movie 45 Years, which itself wasn’t all that interesting. But hey, they both have Charlotte Rampling, so that’s something! (I honestly have nothing to say about this movie. I didn’t care for it, and that’s about it.)”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Watching this movie was like a death march. Definitely not a fan.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Burning Sands

January’s preview:

“Not sure what to make of it, but the subject matter doesn’t overly appeal to me. So it’s either 2.5 or 3. Let’s say 2.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“Netflix movie about college hazing. It had its moments. Ultimately it didn’t amount to much.”

“Hazing is bad, fraternities, especially longstanding ones, do some fucked up shit, and schools let it go out of some sort of tradition. I liked it well enough, but there wasn’t much that was overly special here.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Meh.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Chamber

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I like contained thrillers. This takes place entirely on a submarine in some alternate future where we’re at direct war with North Korea.”

“This could have been really good. Instead it’s just watchable. This could have made a great noir 70 years ago.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I only watched it because of the contained location. Didn’t pay off. Oh well.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Beauty and the Beast

January’s preview:

“The trailer looks good. It seems like they’re gonna do another safe adaptation.”

“Since it is Beauty and the Beast, one of the best Disney movies ever made, I’ll say 4 stars.”

“If I get anything less than 3.5 stars out of this, somebody fucked up big time.”

The actual review:

“It’s not that good. The 4 stars is at least 75% due to the fact that it does exactly the same thing as the original, and me replaying the original is enough to get this at least 3 stars. And the other star is because it looks so nice.”

“None of the Disney remakes have been great films, but most of them have been at least watchable. Jungle Book had great effects which made the so-so story worthwhile, and this one has nice sets and costumes and that makes it look great even though we’re watching a lesser imitation of something that was already done way better in animation.”

“I’ll give it 4 stars, but I don’t particularly have any real affinity toward this film. I’ll watch the animated version nine times in a row before I think to watch this again.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

You can see that the drop was going to happen. It’s a three-star movie that gets a bump because it looked nice and because I love the animated version. That’s not enough to become 4. I didn’t love it that much at all. 3.5 is where this belongs. And may these remakes mercifully end after The Lion King.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Belko Experiment

January’s preview:

“Okay, okay. I’m down for this.”

“Let’s call it 3.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“Decent idea, solid execution. Not good enough to be great, but also worth a watch.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It works. Though my excitement for this has diminished greatly when I saw a second movie with nearly the exact same plot from this year that I liked more than this. So this is fun, but I’m just gonna end up telling you to watch Mayhem instead. So just skip ahead to November and go check that out.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

T2: Trainspotting

January’s preview:

“It’s Trainspotting, a movie I like but don’t love, and Danny Boyle.”

“Automatic 3.5 stars.”

“I don’t see how I get less than 3.5 stars out of this. And I assume I won’t be getting much higher either. This feels like a pretty sure thing for me.”

The actual review:

“I’m not the biggest fan of the original film. I like it, but I didn’t grow up with it the way some people did. I didn’t have the poster on my wall with the opening monologue. It wasn’t one of the films I watched really early on as I was getting into movies. I only saw it for the first time in the last like, three or four years.”

“I feel like it’s a movie that is very much a more mature version than one that could have been made ten years ago. I feel like Danny Boyle took an interesting approach to it, one that largely works.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like the first movie, and this was fine. Not something I have any real affinity for, but it seems like a worthy sequel, so sure.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Song to Song

January’s preview:

“It’s Terrence Malick so 3.5 stars. We assume good with him and just get disappointed when it isn’t.”

The actual review:

“Terrence Malick has gotten about all he’s gonna get out of this style.”

“I think what kept me from speaking ill of these films is the fact that I still feel like he could have disappeared again and we could have gotten nothing. But still — with the cast on this film… what did anyone get out of it?”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Since Tree of Life, this is probably the best of the bunch for these Malick films, but they’re really just okay at best. This is okay-plus. So there’s that. But I think we all need Malick to return to narrative filmmaking again.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train

January’s preview:

“Sure.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I really enjoyed this. It’s Netflix, so don’t get your hopes too high. But it’s fun.”

“It’s probably not as good as the rating, but it was really fun to watch. This is one Netflix movie I think is truly worth seeing.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the better Netflix films. A lot of fun. One I’d definitely recommend to people.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

All-Nighter

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“What a weird movie.”

“The whole movie is just slightly off-center and never quite works. The fact that the bulk of it takes place over a single night and is supposed to be a madcap adventure/comedy type film allowed me to get through it, but the whole thing just came off as odd.”

“Even the reveal at the end makes you feel wrong. Maybe it’s just a misfire. It’s a watchable misfire, but a misfire nevertheless.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This didn’t do it for me. I have some interest in it as an oddity, but other than that there’s not much most people would get from this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Power Rangers

January’s preview:

“The trailer was the exact wrong thing I wanted out of this.”

“I’m not excited.”

“I am very much dreading this.”

“I would very much like to not have this end up Unforgivable at the end of the year, but I’m not sure if that’s gonna happen.”

3 stars.”

“Please don’t let this suck.”

The actual review:

“I have a lot of complicated thoughts about this. Because Power Rangers is my childhood.”

“I wasn’t gonna be mad at this automatically regardless of what they did, but also… don’t fuck it up. And… they kinda fucked it up.”

“Why would you do a gritty origin story version of Power Rangers? They don’t even morph until 20 minutes before the end of the movie! And they downplay everything nostalgia related until the last 15 minutes, and then as soon as they do drop that original theme song, and you sit up and go, ‘Okay, I guess I can start to get into this,’ they promptly take it away, like, ‘No, fuck you!'”

“There are brief, fleeting moments where I think they did a good job… it’s just… not great. It’s not good enough to get non-Power Rangers fans invested, and it’s not Power Rangers enough to make the fans satisfied. I’m not sure who they made this movie for.”

“Which is the problem with all of these. They go through so many rewrites and the studio tries to engineer it to hit certain quadrants, and pretty soon you have a movie for nobody.”

“Also can we talk about how awful the whole Krispy Kreme thing was? Holy shit. How did they allow that to be on screen? Even Michael Bay went, ‘Jesus, guys, have some dignity with the product placement.’ And speaking of Michael Bay — the Megazord is literally Optimus Prime! Which maybe we could ignore, only they literally made a Transformers reference like five minutes before it showed up. That’s not okay.”

“They didn’t have to do much to make a passable Power Rangers movie, and they couldn’t even do that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m so disappointed. I’m not gonna say I’m not mad, because I might be mad.

We’ll see just how mad I might be in ten days.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Life

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Can’t assume higher, but also would like this to be good, though given the date and the fact that the guy who did Safe House made this, I’m thinking 3.5 is the highest I gonna get out of this.”

The actual review:

“I think the way I’d describe this is ‘serviceable good’ but not ‘good good’. You know what I mean? I liked it, it was quite well made and quite engaging. But nothing about it felt great. It felt derivative and never went in a direction I wasn’t entirely expecting.”

“To me, just watch Alien. This is like the Netflix version of Alien. When I can’t watch that, okay, I guess I can enjoy this. There’s nothing wrong about that, but it’ll never be more than just, ‘Yeah, that was kinda good.'”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Still not sure I want to stick with 3.5, but fuck it, I guess we are. It was just okay. But seriously, just watch Alien.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

CHiPs

January’s preview:

“Gotta go 3 stars and hope for better. Can’t assume better with something like this.”

The actual review:

“Thought I was gonna hate this, surprisingly didn’t.”

“A lot of the humor is not stuff I usually go in for, but I managed to get through it okay, mostly due to fun performances by actors I like.”

“Not gonna go see it again, but I’m fine with it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

How did I not hate this?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Wilson

January’s preview:

“Woody Harrelson is Wilson, and I’m all the way in.”

3.5 stars.”

“Have you seen this trailer? Because it looks amazing.”

“Very excited for this.”

The actual review:

“Woody Harrelson is certainly having fun. He’s great here, as he always is. But the movie amounts to actually nothing.”

“Laura Dern is more animated than I usually see her, and that was nice. But the Harrelson character is so grating and annoying, and really doesn’t go through any shifts or changes whatsoever, and feels out of place in his own movie. You almost want either him or the film to shift gears just so things could be more aligned.”

“Ultimately, I was fine with the movie, but it really doesn’t come together at all, which is a shame.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Definite disappointment for me. Huge disappointment? No. But definitely a movie I was hoping would be better, based on the people involved.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Prevenge

January’s preview:

“Honestly I saw that synopsis and went, ‘Yes, please.'”

“Very excited to see this.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Well this was dark and fucked up.”

“This is one of those, either you’ll find it hilarious or you just won’t get it at all.”

“This was definitely the kind of film I like finding, because I can sell it to people on premise alone, and it’s actually good enough to hold up after the hard sell. This’ll be a nice hidden gem from this year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Real hidden gem. Definitely fucked up and definitely worth seeing. Big fan of this movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Most Hated Woman in America

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I liked this. Bit of an odd angle to take, but I get it.”

“Melissa Leo is great as the woman. Everyone else pretty much takes a back seat to her.”

“As far as Netflix movies go, definitely in the top five, I’d say. Won’t be there every long, the way they churn these things out, but for now it is.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s solid. Above-average as far as Netflix movies go, so there’s that.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Bokeh

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This is the world’s most indie apocalypse.”

“It looks nice. Not overly great. But it’s watchable.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. Takes place in Iceland, so it looks nice, and Maika Monroe is good, so that made it watchable too. Otherwise meh.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This was directed by Anthony Perkins’ son. Not sure why I led with that, but it is interesting.”

“This is a slow burn of a horror movie, with low key weird things happening amongst a spooky atmosphere until all the fucked up shit happens in the third act.”

“It’s not the greatest movie ever made, but it’s very effective.”

“A perfectly effective horror movie that shows nice filmmaking chops out of its director. As someone who doesn’t like horror movies at all, I did like this one.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was decent. Eclipsed by other horror movies from the year, but definitely something I remember liking.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Ghost in the Shell

January’s preview:

“I know nothing about the source material this is based on, so I’m going based purely on what I see. This means about as much to me as the Ender’s Game movie did.”

“The trailer didn’t look good. The visuals looked fine but the story did not.”

3 stars.”

“If I get 3.5 stars, fine, but I don’t think I’m gonna care for this one at all.”

The actual review:

“Look, this was never gonna be for me. I accepted that all the way through.”

“It’s not that bad that I wish ill will on it. But also… kind of ill-conceived, all around. I haven’t seen the original, but was there any chance they could have made anything that captured half of whatever that captured?”

“The visuals are fine, but you can’t skate by on just visuals. Just ask Zack Snyder. Or maybe don’t, because he probably thinks you can.”

“This movie is capably made, I just didn’t give a shit about any of it. I’m not sure who this was made for.”

“Not gonna say this offended me in any way, but it was criminally mediocre, which is the issue that at least 75% of ‘blockbusters’ nowadays have.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Criminally mediocre is the proper phrase for this one.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Boss Baby

January’s preview:

“I know you’re all really excited to see where I shake out on this. Because, that poster, that trailer… this could go wildly in multiple directions.”

A) You could see that and go, “Automatic Unforgivable.”

B) You could go, “Maybe not Unforgivable, but… holy shit.”

C) You could go, “It doesn’t look great, but I can see where it could be okay.”

D) You could go, “It looks pretty cute. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

E) You could go, “Oh, I’m fucking in for this! This looks incredible!”

F) Murray Abraham

“Before I disclose my decision, I would like to present, without comment, the fact that this trailer ends with Alec Baldwin, voicing a baby in a business suit, telling another baby not to eat a cookie because, ‘Cookies are for closers.'”

“My answer… is C. I see Unforgivable here, I see pretty adorable here, and all around I’m going to assume general ‘meh.’ 2.5 stars. Let’s see what we get.”

The actual review:

“I think I may have gaslighted myself.”

“I started ironically calling it the best film ever made and began talking about it as if it was going to be the greatest film ever made. Somewhere along the way, I lost the irony.”

“Even though it’s so fucking ridiculous on every level, I enjoyed the shit out of it. I have no idea why, and I can’t lay claim to this being a remotely good film at all. But I laughed.”

“The movie takes 12 steps when it only needs to take 2, but I laughed. So fuck it, I’m giving it 3.5 stars.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Carrie Pilby

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I liked this. Bel Powley has proven to be an actress I like watching, whose work is always interesting.”

“This premise is really good. It almost ruins it by turning into a standard rom com with the usual indie tropes, but it manages not to give in too much.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this, and I like Bel Powley. So it worked for me.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Zookeeper’s Wife

January’s preview:

“Schindler’s Zoo!”

“(We Bought a Jew?)”

“I like Jessica Chastain, but the movie being pushed into this year tells me just about everything I need to know.”

3.5 stars. I’ll trust Chastain and the interesting story, but no way do I think this is gonna be a great movie.”

The actual review:

“Instead of We Bought a Zoo it’s ‘We Saved the Jews.’ That’s the plot.”

“Chastain does her thing, but the film doesn’t add up to much.”

“It felt like that movie Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren. Set up like Oscar bait but ending up as a mediocre movie with moderate pleasures but not really breaking much ground whatsoever.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Lotta puns I’m not gonna be able to overcome up there. So let’s leave this at — didn’t quite work. Admirable misfire.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Five Came Back

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Incredible story turned into an interesting documentary.”

“Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler and George Stevens. Five all-time directors going off to make films during World War II. We talk about them before the war, during the war, and after the war, and the films they’ve made. Oh, and they’re talked about, one director for one director, by Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass, Lawrence Kasdan and Francis Ford Coppola. Go ahead and try not to be interested in that.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved this. Loved everything about it when it was a book, and love it as a documentary. If you’re even remotely interested in any of the ten names I’ve said above, you need to see this immediately.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Discovery

January’s preview:

“Not sure what to make of the trailer, but the people involved are interesting.”

3.5 stars. Hope it’s great.”

The actual review:

“A terrific premise that starts off great but levels off pretty quickly and then turns into a pretty run of the mill film for a while and then tries to get nuts in the third act.”

“I have no idea what they were doing there at the end or if it even tracks. But hey, I was engaged well enough, so I’m fine.”

“This is definitely a disappointment for McDowell, coming off The One I Love, which was a terrific debut. I consider this an interesting failure. It has moments that worm well, but ultimately they don’t add up to much.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

An interesting failure about covers it. Above average for Netflix, but still just okay for everything else.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

– – – – – – – – – –

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