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2017: The Year in Reviews (September)

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

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

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

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

We’re on September.

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.)

September

Tulip Fever

January’s preview:

“Weinstein Oscar caliber movie pushed from one year into early the next. Never a promising sign.”

“With Alicia Vikander, Cara Delevingne, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Holliday Grainger, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench Tom Hollander and Jack O’Connell, I have to say 3.5 stars. I just do.”

“I’m very likely getting 3 stars, given the push, but fuck man, that cast better be good for 3.5 stars or else I need to have this be a visible disappointment.”

The actual review:

“The minute they pushed this more than once, you knew what this was gonna be.”

“Sure, the idea of a movie about tulips and whatnot didn’t sound all that good, but you figured — Christoph Waltz, Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell, Tom Hollander, Judi Dench — gotta be at least pretty good, right?”

“Even at a disappointment level the actors were gonna be good and the sets and costumes were gonna look great. But nah. This is just a complete disappointment all around.”

“Fifteen years ago, Weinstein would have gotten at least three Oscar nominations out of something like this. This is Girl with a Pearl Earring. That kind of period piece where you’re not sure why they’re making it, but hey, the actors are nice and it looks good and sure, we’re supposed to like it because it’s classy so we pretend like it’s great. But this — nah, son. This is the kind of shit you can’t make anymore unless you have a real passion for it. And it’s clear this is someone trying to work on an Oscar formula that doesn’t work anymore.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s the disappointment I was expecting, and a total waste of everyone involved’s time.

* * * (3 stars)

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

I Do… Until I Don’t

January’s preview:

3 stars. I’ll assume decent but not something I’ll love. Especially since the cast includes Ed Helms and Amber Heard, who don’t inspire much confidence out of me.”

The actual review:

“Lake Bell really likes ellipses in her titles, doesn’t she?”

“I really liked In a World… I really didn’t like this.”

“I don’t know what it was supposed to be. There was no real tone here or purpose to any of it. Didn’t like any of the characters and was bored out of my mind the entire time.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really didn’t like this.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Little Evil

January’s preview:

“Gary who has just married Samantha the woman of his dreams, discovers that her six-year-old son may be the Antichrist.”

“Don’t you hate it when that happens?”

2.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“Great premise — what if you get married and your new stepson is the antichrist? Unfortunately it’s a Netflix movie and feels like a Netflix movie. So it doesn’t rise above the level of ‘low budget comedy’.”

“It has some moments where it’s good, other moments where it’s on the nose, and other moments that don’t work. Standard bag. Overall, I enjoyed it and it didn’t ruin the premise, so it’s got that going for it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine. Though very much ‘standard bag’ for Netflix movies.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Fallen

January’s preview:

Left a blanket 2.5 star rating after like three years of this never coming out.

The actual review:

“They pushed this one for at least two years. Which meant it was gonna be bad. And it was.”

“There’s a weird sub genre of YA novels that’s about biblical stuff. And they’re always bad.”

“This his every YA cliche you can think of, except that there are fallen angels at a school and some of them are good angels? I have no fucking clue what happened here, and the only reason I saw it was because I was tracking it for so long.”

“I don’t think anyone even knows this exists or will ever see it, and that’s probably for the best.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?:

Viceroy’s House

January’s preview:

3 stars. Seems easy enough.

The actual review:

“The first of two British/Indian relationship movies of the fall. This one I did not particularly care for.”

“It was fine. Nice colors (as apparently all India-set movies are required to have), and directed by Mira Nair. None of it really mattered to me, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Most of the movies about this period aren’t my cup of tea.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

More like ‘not my cup of CHAI’, am I right, guys?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?:

The Layover

January’s preview:

“William H. Macy directs.”

“Good enough for me.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Holy shit, dude.”

“This is the kind of awful comedy premise you see in the really bad movies that end up as Unforgivables.”

“Mostly it’s an excuse for Upton and Daddario to look hot. It certainly doesn’t let them be funny (or maybe it tries to, and they’re just not good enough to? I don’t want to think that’s the case, so I’ll be positive and assume it’s the other option).”

“I’m just gonna leave this one alone and move on.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?:

Goon: Last of the Enforcers

January’s preview:

“Well this is easy. The first one was a solid 3, this will be a decent 3 stars.”

The actual review:

“The first Goon was fun. This one felt like — and I’m using this analogy because it essentially steals a plot point from this franchise — Major League II.”

“Other than some nice moments with Sean William Scott and Liev Schreiber, and Alison Pill somehow being able to take dialogue where every other word is ‘fuck’ and somehow making that come off as endearing, this movie did nothing for me.”

“I couldn’t even really be that entertained by it. I was pretty ‘meh’ on the whole thing. Definitely nowhere near the original, as most comedy sequels tend to be.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Standard half-a-point drop, as most comedy sequels tend to be.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Unlocked

January’s preview:

3 stars. Easy enough.”

The actual review:

“Decent CIA thriller.”

“Cast is solid enough to make it watchable. Not particularly original, but if you came across it on Netflix, you could do worse for 100 minutes.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

On the lower side of 3, and closer to 2.5, but the cast is fine and you can watch it the once.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

It

January’s preview:

“Don’t care?”

“Never saw the original, not excited at the prospect of a straight horror movie, which you know it’s gonna be, since they fired Cary Fukunaga, who is the one who was gonna make this elevated horror, I’m sure.”

“So you can probably take the question mark off that first statement.”

3 stars.”

“I just can’t see why I would give a shit about any of this.”

The actual review:

“I really enjoyed this movie. It works. It’s not perfect, but it works. Has the scares, has the heart, which is something I wasn’t expecting, and it’s just a really fun movie to watch.”

“I had every reason to not want to like this movie, but I did like it quite a bit, and that is something I was not expecting.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Home Again

January’s preview:

“Written and directed by a woman. Cool.”

“Nancy Meyers’ daughter. Could be good.”

“Starring Reese Witherspoon. Could be real bad.”

“But it’s listed as a drama. So let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“It just feels like something that was designed to ‘work’. It felt manufactured in every way. That’s kinda what happens when you cast Reese Witherspoon in your rom com.”

“It’s about a single mother (and when ‘Reese Witherspoon’ and ‘single mother’ are in the logline, I automatically know what the first five minutes of your movie are).”

“This is a movie trying to straddle the line between a Nancy Meyers movie and a more traditional romantic comedy. It doesn’t work at all.”

“Though I will say, I didn’t hate it enough to truly despise it. I was waiting for it to be Unforgivable, and every time I thought that, it kept doing things to make me go, ‘Okay, fine, I don’t hate it, I just don’t like it.’ So here we are.”

“I’d have preferred to hate it just as much as you guys. Nothing would have made me happier than the ability to shit on this mercilessly. But instead I just didn’t give a shit. So I’ll just leave you with the warning of — don’t watch this.”

“When a movie in 2017 looks like your standard ‘Reese Witherspoon vehicle,’ I hope you all have the common sense to avoid it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Please take the last line of the review above to heart.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Gun Shy

January’s preview:

3 stars. I’m sure it’ll be a Simon West special.”

The actual review:

“It’s bad when less than four months later, I’m struggling to remember what this movie even was.”

“I should just come up with a plot on the fly and pretend that’s it. Because 1) none of you will ever see this movie, and 2) it doesn’t fucking matter. The fact that I can’t even remember what this is tells you everything you need to know.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Seriously don’t remember anything about this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

#RealityHigh

January’s preview:

“Based on the title alone, 2 stars.”

“No. No. No.”

“I said no.”

The actual review:

“The title says it all. This was a giant piece of shit, and you’ll probably be hearing more about this in about two weeks. (Spoiler alert: It fucking sucked, and it represents everything I hate about movies, culture, and young people in 2017.)”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

You know what it is.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

9/11

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. I mean, I’m just fascinated by this more than anything.”

The actual review:

“It’s a movie with Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg about 9/11, how good did you think it was gonna be?”

“I… did not like this movie. I just… there’s something about it that feels very wrong.”

“You made a movie about five people trapped in an elevator and their personal dramas. And you’re using 9/11 as a gimmick. It doesn’t need to be set then. You’re trying to enhance the drama by putting a national tragedy in there. I’m not okay with that. So not only is it bad, but I’m actively against what they did with it.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * (2 stars)

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

Rebel in the Rye

January’s preview:

“Good cast.”

3.5 stars. I might regret this, but I’m going for it.”

The actual review:

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * * (3 stars)

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

Napping Princess

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I watched all the animated feature eligibles. Some of them I knew I shouldn’t have. This was in that category. It’s basically straight anime. And I don’t do straight anime. So this did nothing for me. Can’t like ’em all.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Ehh.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Unknown Girl

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“The Dardennes. Didn’t do as much for me as Two Days, One Night did. The lead actress does a good job, otherwise not a whole lot outside of their usual verité stuff.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Standard Dardennes.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Dayveon

January’s preview:

“Sundance movie. 3 stars.”

“I’m inherently leery about movies with this subject matter, but you never know.”

The actual review:

“Decent little coming of age movie.”

“Meant to be a slice of life, without a real plot and focusing on the smaller moments for the character, but at times that becomes — ‘Why is nothing happening? Please let something happen in this movie.'”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Limehouse Golem

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Not great. The only interesting thing about it was the period.”

“Three stars for the period and nothing else.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yup.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Smartass

January’s preview:

“Sure.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Didn’t particularly care about this.”

“There’s no real cohesion there and the tone was so uneven. I couldn’t get into it at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Mother!

January’s preview:

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter past Darren Aronofsky.”

4.5 stars. Aiming high, I know. But it’s Aronofsky. Gotta go big somewhere. He generally stays around 4 stars. Noah’s the only real film of his that went below 4. I think he’ll go back to making something really good.”

The actual review:

“Well this is one of the most divisive movies of 2017. But what do you expect from Darren Aronofsky? He makes very interesting, very divisive movies.”

“I liked it a lot, but it’s not something I’m gonna revisit a whole lot.”

“It’s quite an ambitious film. Plus, that third act — that’s impressive. He shot all that in the house. Good for him.”

“I really like ambitious Aronofsky, and this felt worth everyone’s time.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m a fan of this. Divisive and ambitious are typically things I spark to. Glad we made Darren Aronofsky weird again.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Wetlands

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

Haven’t seen it. It barely came out, and is probably gonna be impossible to find going forward. But since I’m the only person in the world who tracked this, it’s here.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

American Vandal

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

I really liked this. It was pretty perfect all around. All the performances were great, and I love that it’s making fun of all those innocence fraud documentaries that they put out there. Not that I’ve really watched any of them, but I get the tropes.

Even as a mockumentary, it’s still one of the best documentaries I saw this year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Who drew the dicks?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

American Assassin

January’s preview:

“Michael Keaton is in this. That’s the only reason I’m even paying attention to it.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Completely generic in every way. These ‘people get recruited to work for the CIA’ thrillers are less fun now in a tech age. They aren’t made better by knowing exactly how they’re gonna go from moment to moment. Not worth it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nope.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Vengeance: A Love Story

January’s preview:

“Yeah, you guessed it. Starring Nicolas Cage.”

“Based on Joyce Carol Oates. In case you didn’t think that pairing would ever happen.”

3 stars. Blanket Cage rating. He always gets 3.”

The actual review:

“Nicolas Cage is in a movie based on a Joyce Carol Oates novel. That’s really all you need to know about this.”

“It’s like The Accused, only bad.”

“I’m starting to lose hope that he’s gonna make a good movie again. He’s hit that Bruce Willis level of taking only paycheck movies. But fortunately he hasn’t given up enough hope to hit that Eric Roberts/Mickey Rourke territory where they’re in like twelve movies that will never see the light of day.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

MAKE NICOLAS CAGE GREAT AGAIN.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

First They Killed My Father

January’s preview:

“Angelina Jolie movie. Jury’s still out on her abilities as a director.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I know this is a good movie, but it just didn’t draw me in. Movies about atrocities in foreign countries tend to go that way for me.”

“If The Last Face is the low end of the bar and Beasts of No Nation (I am aware that is not a star-driven vehicle) is the high end, this is definitely closer to the latter, though I’d definitely put it somewhere firmly in between.”

“This is one of those movies where I’d say, don’t listen to my review. It’s only a reflection of how I, personally, liked the movie and not necessarily indicative of how good it might actually be.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Probably better than I thought, but I wast just meh on the whole thing.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Strong Island

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Solid documentary about a woman trying to get closure about her brother’s death. I’m not overly invested in stories like this, but the manner in which she presented it was compelling.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was solid.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Wilde Wedding

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Generic ‘dysfunctional family gets together for a wedding’ indie movie. All the tropes you’d expect. I only saw it for the actors, and even then it probably wasn’t even worth it. But hey, at least they’re working.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

At least they’re working.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Brad’s Status

January’s preview:

3 stars. That seems pretty easy.”

The actual review:

“I can’t stand movies about unlikable people. Or maybe just this kind of unlikable person.”

“Ben Stiller in this movie is a guy who is just fucking miserable all the time because all he sees is that his three best friends from college are all way more successful than him and he can’t get over it. So I have to watch this asshole for 100 minutes bemoan the state of his life only to realize, ‘You know, things aren’t so bad.’ I don’t give a shit. I really don’t.”

“I saw immediately where the movie was going and couldn’t get over how much I hated this guy along the way.”

“I can put up with a lot of things, but this type of protagonist is something I cannot abide.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The movie’s not bad, but I hated the protagonist. That’s usually not a good way for me to like something.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

January’s preview:

“Liked the first one a lot, didn’t love it. People went a bit too crazy for it for my tastes. I was much more a Man from U.N.C.L.E. guy, personally. But, it was fun.”

“Should be fun, but the golden rule of sequels is a half-star drop or same level at best. So with that, 3.5 stars. Should be that simple.”

The actual review:

“The first Kingsman was very good, and I had no reason to think this would be as good as that one. But I did have every reason to expect that it would be a very solid sequel that was almost as good as the other one. And that’s what I got.”

“Sure, the plot was ridiculous, but it was fun. And sure, while it completely dispensed with logic at times, it overcame that with completely crazy choices (like that cameo) or moments with real heart that helped it endure. So I enjoyed it.”

“As long as you’re not expecting a legitimately good movie and just something that’s fun, then you’re good.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fun. And the drop in rating never really happened because my rating for the first one wasn’t as high as it was for everyone else. The first one was like, a drop above 3.5 and this one was a drop below. I was pretty sure I’d be getting this one right.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Lego Ninjago Movie

January’s preview:

“Don’t care.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine, but overloading me with Lego movies is not gonna help me liking the concept any more than I already don’t.”

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“The first Lego movie was cute. Lego Batman worked because it was Batman. This — I just didn’t care. Not even a little bit. Are we gonna get stuck with more of these, or are they done now? I kinda hope they’re done now.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Please be done with these.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Battle of the Sexes

January’s preview:

“This is steeped in class.”

“I’m getting the sense that this is more likely to end up as ‘3.5 stars and solid’ and not ‘this should be nominated for Oscars.'”

“I have to guess 4 stars simply because of all the talent involved. I would like to get 4 stars out of this. I think it’s either 3.5 or 4, and I’m gonna assume the best.”

The actual review:

“I wanted to like this more than I did, but still, the result is solid.”

“The problem this movie makes is giving me an interesting story that could be its own movie before it gets to the movie it sold me on.”

“The first thirty minutes of this movie is Billie Jean King, her agent and her fellow female tennis players fighting for equal purses in the tournaments as the men. And when the misogynist owners of the tennis federation refuse, they break off and start their own organization to rival the men. And I loved that story. By the time they started getting into the actual match vs. Riggs, I didn’t even care about it and wanted them to stick with the other story they promised me.”

“The third story, which is her coming into her own sexuality, is very good and also my other favorite part of the movie. The Riggs part — I didn’t really care.”

“The first 2/3 of this movie do more to promote gender equality in sports than the actual match does.”

“The movie was solid. And, I will say — I am here for every shot of a dude looking forlorn as Billie Jean won that match. Nothing made me happier than the parade of upset men watching the woman beat the guy straight up.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was off by a half star in the actual guess, but how much more exact can you be than “I’m getting the sense that this is more likely to end up as ‘3.5 stars and solid’ and not ‘this should be nominated for Oscars.'”?

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Friend Request

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I feel like every two years there’s a horror movie that tries to use social media. Guess what? They all suck. Just stop doing it.”

“None of you know how to use social media properly in movies, and every time you use it, it seems clunky and really poorly worked in. So just stop.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I think I covered it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Loving Vincent

January’s preview:

“Why this is interesting is because every single frame of this movie is hand-painted.”

“Every single frame.”

4.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“This gets the rating it does purely because of its artistic achievement. They made a movie about Vincent Van Gogh and literally hand-painted every frame of the film. That is, every frame of the film is a hand-painted oil painting. Which is absolutely stunning to behold.”

“The story itself is just okay, and keeps you going. But it’s the imagery that’s the real star of the film. It’s a 3 star plot on 5 star animation. The extra half-star is because it even exists.”

“I loved this because someone had the audacity to make it. I hope it becomes financially successful, because this really deserves to be paid back in spades for all it gave to the world.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Everyone should see this just for the achievement. The film on its own is just good, but the achievement is incredible.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Killing Gunther

January’s preview:

“This could be real stupid. So let’s only go 2.5 stars. I don’t know what I’m getting out of this. I’m thinking 2.5 or 3, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of less, if this is that really bad SNL movie humor I can’t stand.”

The actual review:

“This doesn’t really work. It has a few fun moments, but overall it’s uneven and not overly funny.”

“The joke is that Schwarzenegger is Gunther, but they ruin that surprise in all the marketing and then don’t have him show up until over an hour into the movie.”

“That’s when the movie gets interesting, but it’s a bit too-little, too-late. Oh well. Shit happens. Decent idea, though. Just didn’t quite work.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Decent idea, doesn’t work. Oh well.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Woodshock

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“I have no idea what the fuck this is. I thought it was some sort of horror movie, and then the trailer was weird and looked kinda cool. And then the movie is — Kirsten Dunst does some sort of weed and goes batshit crazy. No fucking clue what the hell this was meant to be”.

“Just gonna leave it right here and let someone else try to figure out what the hell it was trying to do. It was not for me at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

*Kirsten Dunst does weed once*

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Stronger

January’s preview:

“Gotta go 3.5 stars just because David Gordon Green can be solid and Jake Gyllenhaal has been picking good material lately.”

The actual review:

“Jake Gyllenhaal, you got new legs! New legs!”

“Its thunder got stolen last year by Patriots Day, which rushed into production and came out last for an Oscar push and was just okay at best.”

“This movie — really good. It’s like The Fighter. It’s not so much about the bombing as much as it is about this dude and his family. And the family are these crazy Boston people with these larger than life personalities.”

“Gyllenhaal is really good, as per usual, and Tatiana Maslany is fantastic as well. I really want to see her in more stuff, because she’s just tremendous in everything.”

“Don’t sleep on this movie, because it’s not about what you think it’s about, and it’s really well done and really entertaining. Definitely one of the more under-appreciated gems of the year.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the real hidden gems of the year. You’re gonna go in with mediocre expectations and be pleasantly surprised. This is also one of those movies most people are gonna like. Do not sleep on this movie.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Victoria and Abdul

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Hoping for 4, doubt it goes higher than 4. 3.5 seems most likely. Stephen Frears makes worthwhile films.”

The actual review:

“It just felt tired. You’d have thought it was a Weinstein movie by how badly it was going through the motions.”

“It’s completely by the numbers. It doesn’t even have the benefit of a great Judi Dench performance because her character is old as hell and falling asleep and/or dying the whole time.”

“Stephen Frears doesn’t make bad movies, but this is definitely an unnecessary one.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very formulaic, very tired. Not great at all. Even if it did something well I’d have probably found an excuse to get this to 3.5. But no. Just kind of empty.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Lucky

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

This was nice. Harry Dean Stanton in a final performance. Somewhat heartbreaking, because you can basically see him old and dying on screen. A lot of scenes seem like they had to feed him his lines in order to get it right and it throws off the pacing. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a nice little movie.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

A fitting final film for Stanton.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Elizabeth Blue

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Man, I forgot to write up a bunch of movies. This one’s probably for the best. There’s always one screener that shows up for a movie that not only will never get nominated for anything but also is one that only I will see. This is about a woman struggling with mental illness. It’s decent. A showcase for the actress more than anything else. Didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I was relatively engaged.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m really curious if anyone else has or will ever see this. Kind doubt it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Flatliners

January’s preview:

“Still haven’t even seen the original. I’m sure I will this year.”

“Even if I did see the original, I would think this is a movie I’m not interested in and is wholly unnecessary.”

 

2.5 stars.”

“Not even gonna give it the benefit of the 3. I don’t give a fuck and the cast looks like it’s the people they got because everyone else turned it down.”

The actual review:

“Did we really need to remake Flatliners? It’s not really considered a cult classic, and it’s not like updating it could have made it any better.”

“I’m not really sure what the point of all this was. I kept waiting to give a shit. And guess what? I’m still waiting.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Still waiting. What a waste of a decent cast.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Gerald’s Game

January’s preview:

“I know people like the book, but I also hear that this story is unadaptable.”

3 stars. No idea what to make of this. Let’s wait and see.”

The actual review:

“This was not a movie about an old guy playing chess with himself.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really want to leave the review as what I said up there, but — I was fine with this. The story feels like it didn’t go where the book went. Not that I needed her to be naked the entire time, but it felt compromised. Though I will say I winced when she got the cuffs off. That was well done. Otherwise it was just fine. Mostly a shrug and a ‘sure’.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Our Souls at Night

January’s preview:

“It’s Fonda and Redford, I was in yesterday.”

3.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“Great little movie. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda having a romance at 80. Lovely idea, lovely execution, just a really swell film.”

“Not gonna say it’s anything great or stuck with me at all. But it’s like The Lovers with Tracy Letts and Debra Winger, but older. It goes part-On Golden Pond near the end, too, with the kid. It’s just a really charming little movie that deserves to have an audience.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

See this. It deserves an audience. One of the better Netflix movies out there.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Top Cat Begins

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“I hope the next two are Top Dark Cat and Top Dark Cat Rises.”

“I lost interest about four minutes in when, in a kids movie, they had a Reservoir Dogs reference whereby a bunch of people walk in a room in slow motion, set to ‘Little Green Bag.'”

“So, yeah. Not sure who this was for, but it was awful. Like, beyond the usual awful. Just forget this exists and go watch the original show instead.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

Why do I do this?

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Literally Right Before Aaron

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Somehow didn’t write a review for this one. As you can tell from the title, it’s not my cup of tea. Justin Long is a really unlikable guy, and there’s a lot to dislike about the people in this. I hate movies with unlikable characters, as we’ve already established this month. So this didn’t do anything for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“It’s an animated movie about a half-Chinese, half-Persian girl going to Iran to a poetry festival. So yeah, pretty wide audience for this one.”

“It looks really nice. Probably could have been a 35 minute short film and been way better and even nominated for Animated Short, but as a feature it’s fine.”

“Definitely a more rewarding experience than most of the shit they put out there.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Would have liked it more as a short, but it works.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

January’s preview:

“Written and directed by the guy who did Parkland and Concussion.”

“I already can tell now that my Five Word review of this is gonna be “Liam Neeson ‘Tells the Truth’.”

“Landesman has made two worthwhile movies so far, can’t imagine this will be different.”

3.5 stars.”

The actual review:

“I guess you couldn’t call it Deep Throat, right? Or ‘The Man Behind the Throat.’ Or ‘Going Deep.'”

“Liam Neeson is quite good as Felt, and it’s a really well-made movie.”

“I thought that Laura Linney was terribly marginalized as his wife, and Maika Monroe was barely a cameo as the daughter. But it was really engaging, and I liked it.”

“Not something people are gonna particularly remember, but this is a solid movie from the year that is gonna get unfairly lost to time and is worth a watch and consideration.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very solid movie. Also, “The Man Behind the ‘Throat'” is a pretty great descriptor for this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

American Made

January’s preview:

“Doug Liman directing Tom Cruise. Sounds good to me.”

“Sounds good, looks good, and I like Cruise doing something that feels at least partially out of type for him. I hope it’s great.”

4 stars. 3.5 should be the guess, but this is based on a real thing and the dude got murdered, so I’m thinking this could be legitimate movie stuff and not Tom Cruise trying to be a superhero. But again, I should be going 3.5 here, for the record.”

The actual review:

“It’s fun but completely inconsequential.”

“Doug Liman’s an interesting filmmaker. He disappeared for a few years, came back with Edge of Tomorrow and now seems to be churning out decent, but unspectacular films that are gonna be good watches for people when they discover them years from now.”

“This one is trying to be something like Blow, a movie that plays pretty fast and loose with the facts but gives you a good time. Which I’m okay with.”

“It’s fun. This should be the average level film we get nowadays. Perfectly watchable, with a degree of fun to it. It adheres to the standard playbook for this kind of movie, even down to the ‘pretty soon you’re gonna get a phone call that says I’m to be released’ scene. But at least they tried.”

“It’s nice to see Cruise at least do something moderately different from the limited space he’s boxed himself into over the past decade. I’d prefer if he completely went back to the stuff he did early on or even when he branched out with stuff like Collateral. But I feel like that time is coming and he’s starting to (hopefully) realize he can’t be the action star forever.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Fun. Never gonna want to watch this again, but it was good. And I do hope Cruise goes back to interesting stuff soon.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – –

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