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2017: The Year in Reviews (April)

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.

April’s on.

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.)

April

The Case for Christ

January’s preview:

“Oh my god, this looks like the worst movie of the year.”

1.5 stars.”

“Bring this piece of shit on.”

The actual review:

“I was arguing for the prosecution.”

“I hate these simplistic religious movies.”

“These movies create the most unrealistic situations in order to further the theme of faith. I sincerely hope the people this is trying to target look at it and think it’s ridiculous.”

“This probably won’t end up Unforgivable, just because I can’t even bother with these fucking movies, but man, did I hate this.”

* ½ (1.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

If we’re talking the movies I absolutely liked the least this year, this is probably top three.

Fuck this movie.

* ½ (1.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Going in Style

January’s preview:

“Zach Braff directed this, which makes me very not-excited for this movie.”

“But he only directed it and didn’t write it and doesn’t star in it. So I can be okay with that.”

“I really should say 3 stars, but fuck it! 3.5 stars. Look at those actors! I’m going on the charm factor for that extra half star and nothing else. It doesn’t look overly promising, but I feel like I’m more willing to give that extra half-star than most.”

The actual review:

“It’s a perfectly fine movie, but only because of the cast.”

“The movie wants to be bad, but the chemistry between Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin is undeniable, and they make this movie charming enough to get through.”

“It’s breezy enough to make it a worthwhile cable watch.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The mistake was going 3.5 when I knew it was gonna be 3. But at least we got 3, right?

* * * (3 stars)

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

Colossal

January’s preview:

“The Anne Hathaway/Godzilla movie.

3 stars. Not gonna get my hopes up on this one.”

The actual review:

“This was great.”

“It’s nice when Anne Hathaway does real dramatic roles rather than the light stuff that doesn’t require her to do as much. She’s terrific in this. And this movie is terrific. I’m so happy this exists.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

For starters, I got my hopes up for Going in Style and not this. That’s what happens in January.

I loved this. I still really like this. This was something I did not see coming, and was great.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Smurfs: The Lost Village

January’s preview:

“Did the world need another Smurf movie?”

2.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“Yeah, I didn’t care.”

“It’s for six year olds, so I can’t be too upset at it. But this did absolutely nothing for me and was just forgettable kids movie shit.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

How are there three of these?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Salt and Fire

January’s preview:

“Werner Herzog’s new movie. The lack of a release is not promising, but 3 stars is the baseline for him.”

The actual review:

“Coming off Queen of the Desert, which might possibly be Werner Herog’s worst film, this one is actually watchable.” I have no idea what the hell the point of it was, but it was watchable”.

“To distract you from the fact that you don’t really know what’s going on, you have Michael Shannon, and then the lead actress and two blind kids stuck in a salt flat for like thirty minutes.”

“The end of the movie features a motorized wheelchair pushing along a salt flat with a bottle of champagne, with the hopes of attracting aliens. I’m not even gonna call that a spoiler alert, because if you can make any goddamn sense of that, you’re way beyond having movies spoiled for you.”

“I feel like Herzog’s got one more great movie in him. Here’s hoping it’s the next one.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was a weird movie. Watchable, but weird. Not for anyone except hardcore Herzog fans or maybe hardcore Michael Shannon fans.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

We Don’t Belong Here

January’s preview:

“Sure.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Not sure what this was supposed to be. I like all the actors in it”

“Non-linear, no idea what the actual timeline is. Just kind of morose all around. Not really for me.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not a fan of this at all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

The Ticket

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Simple film premise: blind dude suddenly regains his sight. Once he does, he becomes blind in other ways. Basically, he becomes an asshole.”

“Not sure why someone wanted to make this or thought there was a huge audience for it.”

“It was interesting enough, but I can’t imagine a whole lot of people are gonna seek this out and like it. But sure. It was fine.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Like I said up there, fine, but who is gonna seek this out?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Win It All

January’s preview:

“Joe Swanberg movie. Which is really all I need.”

3 stars. His movies are exclusively 3 stars for me.”

The actual review:

“It’s a Joe Swanberg movie. 3 stars is assured. The man just cranks out totally watchable movies that just never quite do it for me aside from a passing, ‘That was okay.'”

“He’s a perfect fit for the Netflix releasing system. His movies and the Netflix acquisitions run exactly the same, ratings wise, so now with his movies on Netflix, I don’t feel the need to try to like them, which I did before when they would always get these crazy good reviews and I just wouldn’t see anything past decent.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Joe Swanberg is always good for a 3-star movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Aftermath

January’s preview:

2.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“This is based on a real story. In a way, the real story is more fucked up and interesting than the movie.”

“The movie’s fine. More Schwarzenegger using his age and gravitas to make a dramatic performance. But mostly it amounts to him being quiet a lot and using that and a lack of screen time to make it seem like he’s doing heavy lifting.”

“The movie’s decent. You can watch it. But the real story — holy fuck.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like this for the quietly solid Schwarzenegger performance and the fucked up nature of the actual story. It’s just okay, but I like that I’ve seen it.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Mine

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This is the movie where Armie Hammer is stuck on a mine in the middle of the desert for like three days.”

“I’ll say this, for someone in the middle of the desert by himself, he sure runs into a lot of people.”

“Also, you figure out what the deal is pretty early on, and you’re kinda over it before it happens.”

“It’s perfectly decent, but you kinda feel cheated by the end.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The premise is more interesting than the movie. If you want a solid, contained war thriller from this year, watch The Wall instead.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Gifted

January’s preview:

“I generally like these kinds of stories, but this looks a bit too by-the-numbers.”

3 stars.”

“There are elements that look really promising, but others that really do not. So we’ll split the difference and figure it’ll just be okay.”

The actual review:

“It’s your standard ‘person tries to maintain custody of a child’ movie.”

“The girl who plays the kid is very good, and Chris Evans is very good. He’s really impressing me more and more with his non-superhero choices.”

“It’s not gonna win any awards, but it’s very solid family fare.”

“This won’t be an all-time hidden gem, but this will be a nice little gem from this year that you ought to watch.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked it. I know most people will think it’s generic, but there are gonna be a lot of people who don’t have lofty tastes in film who will really like this. It’s worth it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Assignment

January’s preview:

Following an ace assassin who is double crossed by gangsters and falls into the hands of rogue surgeon known as The Doctor who turns him into a woman. The hitman now a hitwoman sets out for revenge, aided by a nurse named Johnnie who also has secrets.

“Yes, that’s the synopsis. That’s what this movie is about.”

“Michelle Rodriguez plays the assassin.”

“Walter Hill directed this. The man who wrote Alien. Who directed The Warriors, 48 Hrs, Brewster’s Millions.”

“Just saying.”

2.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“It was originally called (Re)Assignment. And if you thought anything about this movie was gonna be subtle, you are way wrong.”

“The scene where (s)he finds out what happened, the reaction is the same as when Anakin finds out Padme is dead. I’m not kidding.”

“I can’t say it’s terrible, because it’s so unintentionally entertaining in the worst possible way. Just describing what this movie is about makes the watch completely worth it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s worth it because it’s so fucking bad. What the fuck is this?

You will never regret watching it because it’s so batshit crazy in its premise and execution, which I have to figure it what they were going for.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Really lovely little animated film.”

“It’s a very off-the-wall kind of movie, which will make it a difficult recommend for most people, but if you’re down for any kind of animated movie as long as the animation is great, then definitely check this one out.”

“It’s like one of those weird kids books I’d have read in the 90s.”

 * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I saw this to get 100% completion on the Animated Feature eligibles, and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the better ones of the year. Definitely like one of those kids books I’d have read in the 90s. Watch a trailer. You’ll know if it’s something you’ll like.

 * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Their Finest

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. This sounds sneaky good. This might be a low-key solid film that no one’s gonna know about.”

The actual review:

“I enjoyed the hell out of this.”

“There’s always one charming British ensemble piece each year.”

“You’ll know exactly what it is when it starts getting going. And it’s a lot of fun. These are the kind of movies everyone enjoys.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

We’re really covering Dunkirk this year, aren’t we? There are three of those movies. Chronologically, it’s Darkest Hour, then Dunkirk, then this. All three are really good and worth seeing.

This, in particular, is the fun movie of the bunch. Darkest Hour is the classy, historical one, Dunkirk is the harrowing war one, and this is the fun, charming one. Any British ensemble movie with Bill Nighy is gonna be worth seeing. You know that.

It’s kind of by the numbers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all like the numbers.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

The Fate of the Furious

January’s preview:

“This is not called The F8 of the Furious.”

“I am glad we are returning to Fast and Furious movies and not squeezing everything we can out of Paul Walker’s death. Though something tells me they’ll get a little bit more out of it somewhere in here.”

“It’s a Fast and the Furious movie. It’s gonna be fucking ridiculous.”

3.5 stars.”

“This franchise is incapable of being less than 3 stars and greater than 3.5 stars. It’s as close to a sure thing as we have.”

The actual review:

“You know what you’re getting with these by now.”

“Every cast member who isn’t killed on screen (and some who are), bad guys turning good, more ridiculous stunts that outdo the previous film, and the word ‘family’ spoken about a hundred and eighty seven times.”

“Nothing about them ever surprises me anymore. The most they get out of me is, ‘Oh, that’s a nice location,’ or, ‘Well that’s pretty crazy’ with an approving head nod.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

These movies are actually about as much of a sure thing as we have. It’s almost impossible for me to be wrong about them.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Sandy Wexler

January’s preview:

“I just assumed this would be Melissa McCarthy, because all her movies seem to just be her character’s name. But instead it’s Adam Sandler. Somehow that was worse.”

2 stars.”

The actual review:

“Why? Why is he still doing this?”

“That’s it. That’s all I have to say. I’m honestly wondering why he still does this. Surely he doesn’t need the money. Is this part of some ancient curse inflicted upon humanity? Is there a way to end it? I’ll volunteer. I’ll throw the totem into the volcano or whatever it takes.”

“The worst part? Two hours and ten minutes! It’s like they know how bad it is and want to make us regret our decision to watch it as long as possible. May god help us all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

There’s no way I’m gonna top that, so I won’t even try.

(I am still up for helping lift whatever curse that is.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Little Boxes

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Solid little movie. Though it’s the kind of movie that’s about subtle racism. So subtle that after a while I wanted to shout, ‘Just fucking be racist!'”

“I was engaged for most of this, I just felt like it got too subtle to make a point, and after a while the racism thing took a back seat to just… indie movie character problems. Which is also fine. But if they could have found a way to tie them together just a bit more, this could have been a really great movie. Instead it’s just a nice little one.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Liked it. Worth a watch.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Lost City of Z

January’s preview:

“It’s James Gray, who is usually good for a solid movie.”

“It looks interesting, so I’ll say 3.5 stars. Usually Gray is a strong 3 with me, but the period nature and the story sounding interesting to me… let’s go 3.5.”

The actual review:

“James Gray is one of those filmmakers who makes really good, interesting films, and yet the public at large knows nothing about him.”

“This might be his best film.”

“The movie is gorgeous. It’s a big, classical film, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. Pound for pound, this is one of the best films of the year.”

“Amazing cinematography by Darius Khondji, and a terrific performance by Robert Pattinson, who is almost unrecognizable. This is one of 2017’s gems.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the better movies of 2017, and one that remains critically underseen. If you have Amazon Prime (and that’s like 70% of people now), then you can see this movie for free, right now. And you really should, because it’s amazing.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Spark: A Space Tail

January’s preview:

“Yeesh.”

2.5 stars.”

“We’re gonna assume indifference, but… yeesh.”

The actual review:

“I have no idea why I watch these really cheap, really bad, really generic animated movies. I never get anything out of them. I’m gonna chalk this one up to a pun subtitle. I always appreciate those.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

Let’s stick with ‘yeesh’.

Though I do appreciate the pun subtitle.

* * (2 stars)

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

Tommy’s Honour

January’s preview:

“Yes, it is a golf movie. But it’s directed by Sean Connery’s son. Which makes it kind of interesting, right?”

“And Sam Neill is in it.”

“That’s all I need, really.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Golf movie. You don’t see a… hole lot of those!”

“It’s pretty by-the-numbers, but admirable in its effort.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Look, when it comes to golf puns you might say I’m a… pro.

(Don’t let my golf puns become a wedge between us.)

Also, my puns are more interesting than this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?:

A Quiet Passion

January’s preview:

“Directed by the guy who did the Deep Blue Sea remake. (No, not the shark movie.)”

“Which tells me 3 stars. Standard biopic fare. Women in corsets feeling emotions.”

The actual review:

“This is a movie about Emily Dickinson starring Cynthia Nixon. You don’t know it exists, nobody knows it exists.”

“It’s one of those movies — I can’t say it’s good, but I also didn’t hate it.”

“It’s hard to have movies where people talk all proper and 1860s. Or where nothing really happens. But, you know, they tried.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me at all.

Like, at all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Ozzy

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Ozzy, a friendly, peaceful beagle has his idyllic life turned upside down when the Martins leave on a long and distant trip. There’s only one problem: no dogs allowed! Unable to bring their beloved Ozzy along for the ride, they settle on the next best thing, a top-of-the-line canine spa called Blue Creek. This picture perfect place turns out to be a facade constructed by its villainous owner to capture dogs. Ozzy will soon end up in the real Blue Creek, a prison for dogs, run by dogs. Ozzy will have to avoid danger and find strength in his new friends, Chester, Fronky and Doc to escape the prison and return home safely. The narrative of ‘OZZY’ aims to follow in the footsteps of movies which employs Pixar-like quality and fun. ‘OZZY’ is an animated comedy-adventure movie targeted for kids of all ages and represents family entertainment at its best. The story itself is based, almost entirely, around dogs. ‘OZZY’ falls into the “prison movie” genre with funny tributes to the great prison classics. It’s a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and the ability to find the best in ourselves when facing a tough situation.

“First, someone doesn’t know how to write a synopsis. Second — how insane does this sound? ‘No dogs allowed!’ Then it turns into a prison movie! An animated kids movie about dogs in prison!”

“Also, when a synopsis says it ’employs Pixar-like quality and fun’ — it doesn’t.”

“That’s why I saw this. I thought, ‘Wow, this sounds awful. I have to watch it.’ That’s me as a person, right there. Most people think that’s crazy. And they’re right. So I saw it. And it wasn’t great.”

“It’s not Norm of the North bad, but it’s also… really misguided. It does seem like it was originally made in Spanish and is being translated for America, which might explain a lot. Still… no.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie has the distinction of kicking off my fascination with these shitty animated movies.

PLUS IT’S A DOGS IN PRISON MOVIE.

I’m happy I saw this because of all the joy it’s given me, making fun of it, throughout the year.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Free Fire

January’s preview:

4 stars. Don’t even care that High-Rise was underwhelming. I hear this is a 90 minute shootout. I want this to be great. 3.5 stars seems most likely, but I’m aiming high.”

“This looks like utter mayhem.”

The actual review:

“I was over-excited for this, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun as shit.”

“It’s well-choreographed. And there’s a lot of humor to it. All around a good time. Excited to see if it has replay value.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was too excited, but it’s still really fun. I’m a fan of this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Promise

January’s preview:

3 stars. 3.5 seems like the ceiling on this.”

The actual review:

“It’s not a good movie at all.”

“I get why they made it and what they wanted to achieve, but from a pure standpoint of, ‘Is this a good movie?’ — it’s not.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not a fan of this, and am kind of amazed they raised $100 million for it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Unforgettable

January’s preview:

“Katherine Heigl movie.”

“She plays a crazy white woman.”

“Ha ha.”

2 stars.”

The actual review:

“This is just bad Gone Girl.”

“Katherine Heigl playing a crazy white woman doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.”

“And she’s playing this almost as if she thinks she’s gonna get that Gone Girl acclaim, only without a David Fincher handling it, this is like trying to play Hamlet on a Wishbone episode.”

“The worst part is, they somehow didn’t know this wasn’t gonna be good? They don’t even try to make it campy. So who is this movie for, then, exactly?”

“This is one step above Lifetime. If they actually released this on Lifetime, it would fit right in.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

How is this not a Lifetime movie?

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Sand Castle

January’s preview:

3 stars. Whenever it comes out. It’ll be 3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Solid war movie. Not great, but I liked it well enough.”

“Another watchable Netflix movie that doesn’t become a whole lot more than ‘decent time passer.'”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Tramps

January’s preview:

A young man and woman find love in an unlikely place while carrying out a shady deal.

“Like, the trunk of a car?”

“It’s a Netflix movie. So 3 stars. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

The actual review:

“I liked this quite a bit. A small movie that starts as an indie drama, then becomes a bit of a crime/caper movie of sorts, but then becomes a romance.”

“It’s really sweet, ultimately. It works because it never tries too hard and never tries to go full on into any specific genre.”

“Definitely one of the best Netflix movies I’ve seen and a real gem that ought to be seen.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the five or ten best of all the Netflix movies. Really great and a really nice hidden gem that ought to be seen.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Circle

January’s preview:

“After watching a trailer, I want to go 3 stars, but the director has a track record. So 3.5 stars. I’ll be pleased if I can get 3.5 out of this, though I’m expecting closer to 3.”

The actual review:

“What happened to James Ponsoldt?”

“Couldn’t they see that this wasn’t gonna turn out well when they got into it?”

“Emma Watson probably wasn’t the right star for this movie, but she does okay. Tom Hanks definitely wasn’t the person for that role. I get what they were going for, but that did not work out. The John Boyega character has nothing to do, the kid from Boyhood is just kinda there.”

“The ending was completely abrupt and confusing, and after having read how the original novel ends, I’m upset they didn’t have the balls to go with that one. Because the one they have is not good.”

“Also, if I don’t have to see another TED talk or corporate presentation in a film every again, I’d be okay with that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was a misfire on a lot of levels.

And seriously, with the TED talks. Stop it.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Small Crimes

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“It was engaging. Had some moments I liked. A lot of moments that were just fine, but overall a decent movie.”

“A nice collection of actors I like who never really get juicy roles in mainstream movies. So that was nice.”

“Overall another watchable, but not great, Netflix movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Standard three-star Netflix movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Voice from the Stone

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“The only thing this has going for it is Emilia Clarke’s innate likability and screen presence. Otherwise I’d have been bored to tears by this movie.”

“It’s probably a genre thing. I needed this to look like it was made 70 years ago. Maybe then I could have liked it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Wasn’t for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Rodney King

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Solid one-man show. Great performance by Roger Guenveur Smith. Only an hour and worth a watch. Good stuff. Somewhat over-directed by Spike Lee, but still worth a look.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This only works on Netflix. So for that’s sake, I’m glad it’s there.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

How to Be a Latin Lover

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. And that’s being generous.”

The actual review:

“What is this? And why did Ken Marino direct this? What a strange movie. It’s not even all that funny.”

“I feel like if this were made in the 70s, it could have been rediscovered as this weird little comedy. But there’s something about the digital look of all these movies that makes me think they’re not gonna seem worth discovering in thirty years.”

“I — don’t even know how to explain this movie. Chances are, you haven’t heard of it, and if that’s the case, just leave it that way. You’re not missing out on much.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Gonna leave this one at — nope.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“What a lovely little documentary, about a storyboard artist and his wife, who became one of the most trusted film researchers in the business, whose library was legendary.”

“It just makes you happy, this movie. Not necessarily for people not very invested in Hollywood as an industry, but it still should work either way.”

Final thoughts:

Big fan of this. This was absolutely wonderful.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

LA 92

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I appreciated that it was an in depth look at everything that precipitated it and showing all this unseen footage of the event without trying to make the comparisons to current day. That was definitely a good element. Plus the footage was awesome.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Good documentary.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Sleight

January’s preview:

“Interesting. I thought this was just about a magician, but after seeing a trailer, it looks like he might have powers. Which diminishes my excitement for this.”

“But, since this does seem realistic, I’m going to assume that’s for show and it’s not, and the realism is gonna win out, and I’m gonna get 3.5 stars out of this. If this does go supernatural, I’m going to be disappointed.”

The actual review:

“Decent little movie. Amateur magician deals drugs on the side to help out his sister, and gets into some deep shit. It got generic at times and got too outlandish at times, but overall, it was a solid little movie, considering how little it was made for. Perfectly fine with this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Aimed a bit high on this, but it was fun for what it was. Definitely a thumbs up from me.

* * * (3 stars)

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

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