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2017: The Year in Reviews (May)

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 gonna be May.

Here’s how my ratings system works:

* * * * * (5 stars) — I really loved the film. Five stars essentially guarantees the film a spot in the top ten. (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.)

May

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

January’s preview:

“The first one was a really nice surprise. This one won’t have those kinds of surprises in it. It should still have the fun aspect, but I don’t think it’ll have things we don’t quite expect.”

3.5 stars seems like it’ll be an exact guess. Marvel, even the mediocre ones, get 3.5 stars out of me most of the time, even if I don’t particularly like the films.”

The actual review:

“Of course the sequel wasn’t gonna be as good as the original. Especially something with a tone like this and something that succeeded the way the first Guardians movie did.”

“It follows a lot of the standard sequel trajectory: your hero has a moody, dramatic plot that pits him against the rest of the team for much of the movie. The love angle between him and the female lead is furthered but downplayed, while she is taken off on her own subplot. Some of the characters are elsewhere on their own subplot. There’s nothing particularly unique about how they did it. And fucking Baby Groot. Holy shit, guys.”

“I liked the slow play of the villain. For some reason I kept looking elsewhere for where and when they were gonna bring in a villain, only to realize about halfway through where they were going. Which was actually kind of interesting.”

“As far as sequels go, this was solid. It wasn’t a Hangover II situation like I was concerned about, and kept the story contained to the characters rather than trying to connect them to the rest of the universe. And in terms of all the Marvel films, it’s fine. So overall, a relative success.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m calling this a win for them. Not all Marvel sequels are good. Iron Man 2 was good, not great. Thor 2, not great. Captain America 2, great. This feels like it fits in that Iron Man 2 territory, and maybe a little bit above Iron Man 2. It’s solid, if not as good as the first one. But I’ll take this over most of the other Marvel stuff they put out.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Lovers

January’s preview:

“Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star. That’s enough for me to be excited about it.”

3 stars. Hope it’s more than that.”

The actual review:

“This is a nice little coming-of-middle-age romantic comedy.”

“It’s a solid film. It’s not gonna change your life, but it’s good actors in an engaging story. What more do you need?”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a nice little hidden gem worth seeing. Like I said, it won’t change your life, but you owe it to yourself to see this over some of that other shit they put out there that is just mind-numbingly mediocre.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Last Men in Aleppo

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I liked this movie a lot better when it was called The White Helmets and was an hour shorter. The footage was nice, and it’s well made, but I just didn’t care. I saw this story already.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is an example of the kinds of documentaries that don’t appeal to me. They appeal to a lot of people, just not me. And I saw The White Helmets, which was fine. So I didn’t need to see it again. This did nothing for me, and I leave this for the people it does something for.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Dinner

January’s preview:

“Oren Moverman is directing this, and so far I’ve liked his three previous movies. In fact, they’ve all been 3.5 stars.”

3.5 stars. Trust the director and the cast. The date feels like the spot for a 3.5 star indie film being released under the nose of the major blockbuster.”

The actual review:

“I’m usually a big fan of Oren Moverman’s work. He makes this intimate dramas that deal with personal conflict rather than trying to add unnecessary size to them.”

“I had a hard time not thinking of the movie Carnage for the first half. Because it’s essentially the same story. Though here, what happened is way more fucked up, and there’s a bunch more going on between the couples.”

“The actors do what they can to make this work, but the story just isn’t there. I just wasn’t invested in any of it, and was more interested in seeing the actors do their thing. Which was enough.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It just didn’t work for me, outside of the actors. Sometimes movies just don’t come together. It’s fine.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Chuck

January’s preview:

3 stars. It’s boxing, though. How bad can it be?”

The actual review:

“Fun little biopic of Chuck Wepner.”

“You know you’re in for a fun time and a movie that’s not taking itself too seriously when the opening scene is him about to box a live bear.”

“Sylvester Stallone is a character in the movie. And you think, ‘Oh god, the actor is gonna look awful and they’re gonna lean too heavily into referencing him and Rocky and all that.’ But no. The actor looks like him and sounds like him enough and the scenes with him really do work.”

“It’s a nice little gem of a movie. It’s one of those that I’d recommend people check out because they don’t know what it is and it’s fun.”

“It’s not gonna win any awards, but Liev Schreiber is good in it. Naomi Watts has a small, but solid role. Same for Elisabeth Moss. And there are nice parts by some other familiar faces who all do a good job.”

“Overall, this is the kind of movie I like promoting. I’m glad this exists.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is exactly the kind of movie I like promoting. Totally under the radar, fun, and the kind of movie you’ll come out of and go, “I liked that.” Not gonna be your favorite movie of the year, but you’ll leave with a smile on your face and positive thoughts toward it. What more do you need?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Norman

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“The subtitle to this movie is ‘The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.’ Which is great. Every time I talk about this movie, I’m going to mention that subtitle.”

“This is another one of Richard Gere’s great little gems that not enough people will see that features a really terrific performance by him. I love the character actor he’s become over the past decade.”

“For those of you with the ability to follow through and actually watch these things, rather than saying, ‘I should put that on the list’ and never getting to it — watch the movies Richard Gere has made, post-Chicago. The Hoax, The Hunting Party, he’s in I’m Not There, Arbitrage, Time Out of Mind, and this. They’re all really interesting, and he’s really good in them.”

“This is gonna be one of the hidden gems of 2017, and it’s something I guarantee most of you know nothing about.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of my absolute favorite hidden gems of 2017. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. Richard Gere is terrific in it. If there was one movie I could recommend from this entire month, this would be that movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Handsome

January’s preview:

“I’m in on this synopsis alone.”

3.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“It’s a Netflix comedy version of a detective story. Very weird little movie. I was engaged, but it didn’t quite do it for me.”

“Since it was following the detective plot, and yet it had bits of comedy that were very specific that led to a very strange overall tone.”

“I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t the worst 80 minutes I’ve spent on a movie. But also not something most people need concern themselves with.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Pretty ‘meh’ overall. I liked aspects of it, but not something I’d give a major recommend to. There are better Netflix movies out there.

* * * (3 stars)

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

3 Generations

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. The delay is not promising.”

The actual review:

“The Weinsteins were supposed to release this in the fall of 2015. They pulled it about two weeks from release and then said ‘Don’t worry, we’re gonna release it soon.’ And of course they didn’t.”

“Once they pulled it, I lost any hope for it to be good. But, given the cast, I figured it might be watchable, even though the subject matter is very easy to screw up.”

“It was okay. It wasn’t particularly enlightening, or overly progressive, but it also didn’t feel like it was offensive to its subject matter, belittling the plight of trans people. Or maybe it does. I don’t know.”

“It definitely wasn’t awful. It wasn’t great, but I was able to get through it without overly disliking it. Which is all I needed for something that was held over a year and a half and basically dumped quietly without any fanfare.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked it well enough. Add this to the list of Weinstein movies they dumped without ever letting see the light of day. Fortunately, I think that trend stops after this year.

Maybe some of these movies will have a chance now.

* * * (3 stars)

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

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

January’s preview:

“As much as I love Guy Ritchie, I don’t know what to make of this. The first half of the trailer looks like Guy Ritchie said, ‘Fuck telling this the regular way,’ and threw his style on it and livened up what is otherwise something nobody cares about. But then the second half looks like a big CGI mess that nobody cares about.”

“My history with Guy Ritchie says go 3.5 stars, but I have to say 3 stars here. I know I’m getting 3 no matter what, but I can’t assume 3.5 stars with something this big. The amount of possibility for reshoots (especially given it being pushed) and the studio taking over and making it less Guy Ritchie and more generic swords and creatures is just too great for me to ignore.”

“I’d like this to be good, but I can’t assume it’ll be.”

The actual review:

“We all knew this was a bad idea from the start, right? Because the outcome of this movie (quality-wise, critically and financially) should surprise absolutely nobody.”

“King Arthur is overdone and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to the story to make it seem new or interesting. And hiring Guy Ritchie was only gonna lead to disaster, because he’s someone who injects a visual style to things, but can’t overcome bad studio development.”

“This just didn’t work. It had enough money invested into it that the product was fine. You can watch it. But it’s not good. It’s too long, it’s too serious (and don’t we know by now that Guy Ritchie’s bread and butter is not serious?) and it falls into every single trap you would expect from a movie like this.”

“How do we have a King Arthur movie where the villain becomes a CGI creature in the third act? What the fuck is that?”

“This is just a complete dud all around, and I’m not even remotely surprised. All this really did is make me nostalgic for the days when Guy Ritchie made awesome little crime movies. And now he’s a for-hire studio filmmaker. His next movie is fucking Aladdin! What the hell, man?”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I stand by everything I said up there. The movie is not a disappointment — because what were we all expecting — but it is a disappointment on the level of, “Can we please get the old Guy Ritchie back?”

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Snatched

January’s preview:

“I saw a trailer for this.”

“This looks really bad.”

“Like, Unforgivable bad.”

“This will make a lot of money and I will hate it. Like all of these movies.”

2 stars.

The actual review:

“I think if you asked people going into the year what was guaranteed to be an awful movie that would shoot right to the top half of the Unforgivables list, I’m pretty sure this would have been there.”

“It had the stink of an awful movie from the start. I don’t want to get too much into how bad this was now, because I already know it’ll be making a reappearance once we get to December.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

At least it didn’t make a lot of money.

The rest — well, you all know where this is headed.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Lowriders

January’s preview:

“I see what this is trying to be. I’ll give it a shot.”

3 stars.”

“Doubt I’ll love it, but I’m sure it’ll be respectful enough.”

The actual review:

“I feel like every Mexican-American coming-of-age story has the same exact plot. Guy looks up to his older brother, who is gang-affiliated. Dad doesn’t approve, but loves his son and wants to see him safe and out of prison, while trying to shield the younger brother from the violence so he can make something of his life. Dad’s got a business, that you know will be threatened and probably vandalized over the course of the movie. You know older brother will end up having to give up his life and/or freedom to keep his younger brother on the straight and narrow — how am I doing? I haven’t even watched this movie yet.”

“I feel like the proper review of this movie is, ‘Good for you, but I didn’t like it.’ It wasn’t for me at all, but I appreciate that they made an earnest movie that had all the right intentions.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Its heart was in the right place, it just wasn’t a movie for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

The Wall

January’s preview:

“I remember this script.”

“I like Doug Liman, but I don’t know what to make of his movies.”

“I’m torn between wanting to go 3 or 3.5 with this.”

“Something tells me to stick with 3 stars. I’ll be wrong on this. I just want a good movie. And I’m not 100% sold that I’m getting a good movie here.”

The actual review:

“It’s no different from that movie Mine, with Armie Hammer, except here, rather than manufacturing people for him to talk to, it manages to find nice ways to keep the story moving and change things up.”

“It’s quick, effective, and gets the job done. Doesn’t try to be more than it is, and has a solid performance by Aaron-Taylor Johnson (practicing his Nocturnal Animals accent). Worth a watch. Nice movie for a plane.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Definitely a nice plane movie or a Netflix watch. I thought it was solid for what it was. Not gonna change anyone’s life, but it’ll draw you in and give you a solid 90 minutes. Again, I ask, what more could you ask for?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Hounds of Love

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Check out the trailer for this. That’ll either sell you on it completely or let you know that you don’t need to see it.”

“It’s a really strong debut by the filmmaker. You can tell from the opening minutes that he’s got a real visual style and sense of control over the film. It’s not often you see someone actually wrestle control of their first film the way this guy did.”

“The movie was also solid. A bit slow and it spent a bit too much time boiling for me, but overall it was a worthwhile experience, and hopefully his next film (which is his first American film) shows as much promise.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this. Solid debut, and I hope he builds on it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Manifesto

January’s preview:

“She plays 13 characters. That’ll make it somewhat interesting for me.”

3 stars. I’m sure the performance is good, but otherwise this seems like pretentious film school dreck that I can’t stand.”

The actual review:

“This is just a movie of Cate Blanchett delivering different monologues dressed like different people. That’s it. She’s just delivering monologues and is made up to look like a bunch of different people.”

“Not sure why I felt I needed to see this, but I did. It shows that Blanchett can act (which we knew), and that sometimes weird little art films get made.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

There’s an audience for this film, I’m just not sure who it is.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Paris Can Wait

January’s preview:

“The synopsis doesn’t sound great, I know. But Eleanor Coppola wrote and directed this, and I’m gonna give it a shot because of that.”

“I’m gonna go 3 stars here. I won’t say I’ll love it, but I think it’ll be watchable.”

The actual review:

“I was worried this might be an offshoot of the Kevin James show. It is not.”

“This is a movie written and directed by the wife of a director. And it shows. This is clearly based on her experiences and daydreams while on the festival circuit with her husband.”

“This movie told me what it was within the first ten notes of the score. Within two minutes, you know exactly what you’re in for, all the way through. And that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means you know what you’re gonna get.”

“It’s a comedy/romantic comedy that is about twenty years past its era. It’s doing things that have been out of style for long enough that it feels just left of center in terms of pacing and the jokes landing (or not landing). But I’ve seen worse, so I was fine with it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I feel like I’m insulting it by saying this, but your grandmother will probably like this movie. It’s fine, and Eleanor Coppola, after Hearts of Darkness, earned this, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me other than superficial pleasures.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Wakefield

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Weird movie.”

“The thing about it, though, is that his character is pretty unlikable throughout.”

“Cranston’s fine, but outside of a moderate curiosity, there wasn’t much that I got out of it. Maybe hardcore fans of his will enjoy it. Otherwise, just okay.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

More people than I’ve expected have at least heard of this movie, but none of them have seen it. And that’s probably with good reason. They all remembered it from the premise but no one thought it looked good enough to actually watch. Which is exactly what this movie is.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Alien: Covenant

January’s preview:

“I wasn’t excited for this for the longest time.”

“That trailer, though. That trailer makes it look like we’re getting back to some real Alien shit.”

“Though… the trailer makes it look like we’re getting back to some real Alien shit.”

“It looks a lot like the first movie… but also in that Force Awakens kind of way, where… we may just be remaking the first movie.”

4 stars.”

“I want this to be 4. I will accept 3.5. Anything less will be a huge disappointment.”

“Simply repeating the original model will also be a disappointment. But as long as it’s fun, it won’t be a huge disappointment.”

The actual review:

“If you ever wanted to see Michael Fassbender kiss Michael Fassbender while also helping him play a recorder, I have great news for you.”

“Prometheus was a solid film, despite being very divisive in terms of its status as a movie within the Alien universe. This one — while way more in line with Alien than Prometheus was — didn’t really break new ground within the franchise, and went so far as to do something that I truly don’t know if the people who love the Alien films would appreciate or not.”

“That said, it held my attention, felt like a better movie than Prometheus and had a lot of cool stuff in it. Not gonna say it changed my life or was a masterpiece, but it got the job done and was all I really needed.”

My only displeasure with this franchise is that it’s all Ridley Scott seems to want to make for the next five years. And dude’s only got so many movies left in him. Maybe just let someone else finish it. Seems like Blade Runner’s gonna turn out all right without you.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I enjoyed the movie. I won’t call it a disappointment the way others have, but I will say I was slightly let down by it. They started getting toward the basic horror premise that was Alien, but bogged it down by furthering the stuff they introduced in Prometheus. They also answered a major question that I’m pretty sure most people didn’t want or need answered. Definitely feels like The Force Awakens of the Alien franchise, for better or worse.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

January’s preview:

“I’ve seen exactly none of these movies, and will not see this one.”

“This is a year where all the skips fell. Shit happens.”

The actual review:

Didn’t see it. Haven’t seen a single movie in this series.

Final thoughts:

Maybe if I were in middle school, I would care. But I’m not, so I don’t.

How close was I?: N/A

Everything, Everything

January’s preview:

“K.”

3 stars.”

“I’m sure it’ll be passable young adult stuff.”

“Bonus points for female director, black female lead and mixed race romance at the center. That alone is gonna get major credit from me in the rating.”

The actual review:

“This was a decent YA movie.”

“The problem of the movie is the idea that it has to get her outside, which makes it go into some real weird and fucked up territory. It just makes it fall apart.”

“It has a light amount of charm, the lead is the girl who played the little girl in Hunger Games who gets murdered.”

“Not really something I can recommend for most people. I suspect tween girls are the only audience for this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It definitely goes to some weird and fucked up places, and it does star the little girl from The Hunger Games who gets murdered. Overall, I was okay with it, but it’s not something anyone over the age of 18 need bother with.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Remember when The Big Short said ‘they blamed it on immigrants and poor people’? This is the ‘immigrant’ portion.”

“The documentary keeps it open as to whether or not the bank is wholly innocent, but it’s hard not to feel for them when the major banks all got bailed out and not a single person ended up going to jail for it.”

“As far as documentaries go, it was fine. Would never have watched it outside of the Oscars.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine, as far as documentaries go.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Dirty Dancing

January’s preview:

None. Because I had no idea this existed until the day it came out and everyone else was watching it and shitting all over it.

The actual review:

“Holy shit, who thought this was a good idea?”

“I don’t consider the original an untouchable classic that you can never try to remake into a TV movie. But I do question a lot — okay, pretty much all — the decisions they made in this one.”

“I’m firmly of the belief that you can remake whatever the hell you want if it’s only going on TV for one night only. Though you’re still held accountable for bad writing and bad directing.”

“I still have no idea what the creative thought process here, but I can’t hate this as much as the internet has just because it’s a TV movie. Who gives a shit?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

‘Who gives a shit?’ about covers it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Baywatch

January’s preview:

“Hoo, boy.”

“I was content to let this one fly under the radar, but I happened upon a trailer in a movie theater, so I now know what I’m getting with this.”

“And it’s not good.”

2.5 stars.”

“This is on Unforgivable watch. Even with Dwayne Johnson.”

“This looks like they took the 21 Jump Street model, but had frat bros write it without any of the sense of irony. I’m really dreading this one now.”

The actual review:

“Well this was the piece of shit we were all expecting.”

“The movie’s a fucking mess. Within fifteen minutes, one of the characters gets his erection caught between pieces of wood and everyone on the beach is there as they try to get it out, like it’s a fucking Christmas Story or something. There’s a gross-out scene where one of the corpses leaks embalming fluid or something onto Zac Efron’s face. None of it makes any goddamn sense and it’s purely designed to get people with their brains turned off to laugh in the theater. Problem is, no one went to the theater because the movie looked like shit.”

“Baywatch was about hot chicks in bikinis. And this movie is about… guys… doing lifeguard stuff. But not even that. Because it turns into a procedural, almost. The plot is so nuts, I don’t understand why they’d just go take the easy steps rather than try to engineer this into something people would go see.”

“The only interesting thing I got out of it was wondering just how much cocaine was done on the set of this production. Cocaine and steroids.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

I might go easier on this if someone actually gives me a number of how much cocaine and steroids were done on the set of this movie. Barring that, I think we all know the score here.

* * (2 stars)

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

Long Strange Trip

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“It’s a four hour documentary about the Grateful Dead, which itself is the most Grateful Dead thing ever.”

“I sat through this entire thing one Saturday morning — totally sober!”

“It’s good. The music is nice to listen to and it’s an interesting history of the band. I’m not a huge Dead fan, nor can I really name any other song of theirs besides ‘Casey Jones.’ But what I heard sounded good and I liked seeing the whole thing. So sure, good job.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

You kind of have to give it at least three stars if you can make it through it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

War Machine

January’s preview:

4 stars.”

“I feel like I should go for it, knowing Pitt’s tastes. At worst I should get 3.5 out of this.”

The actual review:

“It has its moments. And Brad Pitt is certainly trying. He’s doing his best George C. Scott in Strangelove here. But the movie is tonally really tricky, and they never quite pull it off.”

“Nice performances by the cast, and it’s certainly a watchable movie. But it feels like a disappointment for Michod, coming off both Animal Kingdom and The Rover, which were both great.”

“It’s a misfire, but an admirable one, since it was gonna be difficult to pull off for anyone.”

“Satire is hard to do now. You need either that 70s mindset, or Armando Iannucci doing his In the Loop thing to really make it work. It’s just one of those things that people just can’t seem to do anymore. I won’t fault them for trying, but it definitely didn’t fully work for me. (Also, nice to see Meg Tilly again. And there’s a nice cameo in the film’s final scene as well.)”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s an admirable misfire. I do wish this were better, but I’m not gonna fault them for it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

January’s preview:

“It’s Pirates. I don’t give a fuck what it’s about at this point. I know what I’m gonna think, whether it’s a piece of shit or not. (And the last one, as much as I enjoyed it, was a piece of shit.)”

“Depp will do his Sparrow thing, Geoffrey Rush will be awesome, Javier Bardem will be generic and evil, and there will be more fun moments than not.”

“Hopefully they figure out the key to this franchise is smaller, more punctuated Sparrow and more ambiguity as to his motivations. But I’m guessing they won’t.”

“Either way, 4 stars. Gotta say 4 because I need to feel the sense of disappointment if this sucks. I should, by all accounts, say 3.5 stars, but this is where we’re at. Even if this sucks, I’m more forgiving on this franchise than most.”

“Because, what the hell else do we have to look forward to, summer franchise wise?”

The actual review:

“This franchise has run out of steam, hasn’t it?”

“This one is definitely better than that last one, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the magic of the first three.”

“They need to get this franchise back on track by scaling it down and telling a real story with characters. They almost went there. I actually was engaged by Kaya Scodelario’s character and really enjoyed what they did with her. Not sure I love where she ended, but it got a little bit of emotion out of me, so I’m fine with that. The Orlando Bloom shit — whatever. Fine. Put that there. Geoffrey Rush’s character — it was really the only place they could have taken him, so that’s fine.”

“I’m not a fan of the overly complicated MacGuffin plots here. I think the franchise needs to reinvent itself. The overly CGI finale was boring as hell. The villain didn’t matter at all.”

“It got better mileage out of the practical set pieces, like the bank vault and the guillotine. Young CGI Depp didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, and I was even fine with the Paul McCartney cameo.”

“Still, while they did set up interesting characters (which the franchise was lacking in the previous entry), they really need to come up with something smaller for the next time out. (Ghost sharks just aren’t gonna cut it.) Otherwise, this franchise is gonna run aground real fast.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Definitely doesn’t deserve four stars. I enjoy these movies, but they’re not good anymore. It was perfectly entertaining, but they really do need to fix this thing if they’re gonna continue. Pull it back, start fresh, do something different. That’s the only way this will work.

Maybe straight up have Sparrow disappear in the next one. Do it cheaper, make a smaller plot with cool characters, and bring Depp in for the finale to set up some other interesting arc with his character. Just don’t spend $200 million and put more CGI monstrosities in there. Because that’s not what made these movies work.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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