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2017: The Year in Reviews (December)

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.

And finally, December.

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.)

December

The Disaster Artist

January’s preview:

“I mean… 3 stars. Still haven’t seen a Franco movie come out.”

The actual review:

“Every time I try to talk about this movie, I constantly find myself stopping and going, ‘I can’t believe this fucking movie exists.'”

“Everything I want to say about it is couched in, ‘How the hell did this happen?’ Everything about it is like one giant inside joke that somehow even the people who aren’t in on it can sort of get and appreciate.”

“You’re making a movie about the making of a cult movie. And I’m not sure I can really see this as its own entity. Am I watching this movie if it’s just its own thing? I don’t know. You can’t separate The Disaster Art from the Disaster Artist.”

“I saw this in the wrong theater with the wrong people, and even they laughed. It’s a funny movie.”

“Not sure I can really say this was one of my absolute favorites of the year, but I liked it a lot and it’s one of those movies I’ll always appreciate because it’s just fucking nuts.”

“I’m sure it’ll rate highly for me come year’s end, but how do you even rate a movie like this? Again, I’m more amazed that this even exists.”

“I’m not even capable of being amazed at people’s reactions to it, because if I spend a nanosecond considering someone’s opinion of it, I go back to wondering how in the hell this got made.  It’s amazing to me.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this. Still need to watch it again, which I suspect will be within the week. But as it is, I liked it a lot, and I really can’t get over the fact that this exists.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Wonder Wheel

January’s preview:

“It honestly doesn’t matter what this is about. It’s Woody Allen. We guess 3 stars and wait to see.”

“It’s Woody. We see it, it’ll be either okay or not great, and we move on. At this point I don’t expect anything more or less out of him.”

The actual review:

“Remember how I’ve been saying for like a decade that Woody Allen’s movies feel like the product of a tired, old man who seems to be going through the motions?”

“It just feels like he’s recycling old ideas because he thinks that if he keeps making movies it’ll keep him alive or something.”

“This is a movie where the best thing I can say about it is that some of the lighting looks really nice.”

“But other than that — he’s ripping off Douglas Sirk in the beginning, the Kate Winslet character is a repeat of the Blanche Dubois thing he ripped off for Blue Jasmine, which felt stale when he did it then. Otherwise — Jim Belushi is completely one-dimensional as a character, Winslet has nothing to do, Timberlake is just sort of there (and he talks to the camera. What the fuck?), Juno Temple makes the most out of nothing.”

“He doesn’t write movies anymore and just sort of lets his actors do things. The only reason he gets casts is because people want to work with him.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This ran the risk of being boring as fuck.”

“I like Maika Monroe and Jennifer Garner was — I guess ‘going for it’ is the proper phrase. There’s a fine line between ‘great performance’ and ‘wildly over the top’ and I feel like we’re all gonna end up on one side of it.”

“Story did nothing for me, but it had enough moments I liked enough to give it a pass.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

They refer to Palos Verdes as “PV” in this, and in that moment, my soul died a little bit.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Love, Beats, Rhymes

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This movie was directed by RZA. It’s his second film after The Man with the Iron Fists. This is way different in tone.”

“It’s your standard romance/college movie…. All the tropes are there. It’s fine.”

“Didn’t do much for me, but it at least shows that RZA is a competent filmmaker. I hope he keeps getting better. I’m excited to see what he can do.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

More excited that RZA is a competent director more than I am about anything in this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Gangster Land

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Sounded like it might be watchable. I found out pretty quickly that was not the case.”

“It’s just boring. It’s by a guy who hasn’t made a movie anyone has seen, and it’s just a completely generic movie that happens to be set in the 40s. Nah.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Nah.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“Interesting, not great movie.”

“It almost lost me in the opening scene, which features two people sitting in a diner discussing a robbery they are going to commit, while also name-dropping Pulp Fiction in that scene. That took a lot to overcome.”

“It’s not well-written enough to be good, but has enough moments to where I was invested enough to actively pay attention.”

“The female lead, Eleanore Pienta, was very good. I’ve never seen her in anything else (and I reckon you haven’t either), and she’s someone I’d be really interested to see in future things…. She’s the highlight of an otherwise meh-plus movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Movie’s okay, Eleanore Pienta is great.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Loveless

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Have it to watch, just haven’t had the time. I will, and I’ll update this once I do.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

The Shape of Water

January’s preview:

4 stars. GDT gets an automatic 4 stars out of me every time.”

The actual review:

“This is Guillermo’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth.”

“This movie was such a delight. It’s just so beautiful.”

“I was also shocked at how much human on fish fucking there was. Was not expecting that much.”

“I am so happy this movie exists and can’t wait to see where this ends up in the hierarchy of this year when all is said and done.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Watched this a second time and still loved it. It’s not gonna end up as like, one of my all-time favorites, but from this year, this is really high up for me.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

I, Tonya

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This movie is just gleeful anarchy. I loved it.”

“Margot Robbie is phenomenal, Allison Janney steals the show, and Sebastian Stan is great as Jeff Gillooly. Paul Walter Hauser was so great here, and is the secret weapon of the movie.”

“I loved how they took to telling this story, with the fictionalized interview footage based on real interviews, the subjective flashbacks (which may or may not be true), and the use of the real interviews at the end. Once you get to those, you’re like, ‘Holy shit, they nailed it.'”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved this. This will be the movie that stays consistently loved over time, so I suspect, wherever it ends up on the year-end list, when all things even out over time, this will either still be there, or end up in the top ten. I really, really liked this.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Pirates of Somalia

January’s preview:

3 stars. Interesting, but I can’t see where it’ll be good from this.”

The actual review:

“About a twenty-something journalist who embedded himself among the Somali pirates when no one else would go near there.”

“Decent story about a guy who would go where others wouldn’t, but the fact that the dude is the typical annoying millennial outside of it diminished the whole thing for me.”

“It has its moments. Definitely decent enough to watch, but not good enough to really get anywhere.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Solid as far as the watch goes, otherwise not much more that I got out of this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Foxtrot

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Really solid film. Major contender for Foreign Language Film.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Liked it quite a bit.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Just Getting Started

January’s preview:

“Written and directed by Ron Shelton, who I don’t think has made a movie in a while. Has to be about fifteen years. But hey, the man made Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump and Tin Cup. You gotta give him respect on that alone.”

Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman — good enough for me.”

“I’m gonna say 3 stars, just because I don’t know if this is gonna be good enough to get 3.5, but I’d like it to get 3.5 stars. I like Ron Shelton and these actors.”

The actual review:

It’s the kind of movie you watch on cable. Charming, in a ‘old guys in a movie’ kind of way. It definitely doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before, but hey, at least they’re still making movies.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. Don’t expect much, and you’ll be fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Everything Beautiful Is Far Away

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“So there was a kernel of a good idea somewhere in here. But A Boy and His Dog this is not.”

“I couldn’t get invested in it. I kept thinking of other movies that were somewhat similar that were way better.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Meh.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This was nice to see after The Post.”

“Everyone knows All the President’s Men Bradlee, but Pentagon Papers Bradlee is just as interesting. Now all we need is a Janet Cooke movie and we’ll complete the trifecta.”

“As far as documentaries go, you probably could have gotten deeper about Bradlee’s character and his specific involvement in things, but considering what this is meant to be, it got the job done.”

“Mostly all it made me want to do is watch All the President’s Men. More journalism movies, guys!”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Serviceable, and I liked it, but I’d have wanted something to go way deeper than this did.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Cinderella the Cat

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Very solid movie, wonderfully animated. Also way more adult than I’d have expected. But I guess that’s Italy for you.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Might crack my five favorite animated films of the year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Bullet Head

January’s preview:

“No plot, but based on the cast, I already know it’s a 3 star action movie.”

The actual review:

It’s fine. Low budget action. The kind of movie that gets 3 stars out of me because we all know I’m more susceptible to these than most.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Bad/indifferent for most, “Ehh, it’s fine” for me. We know how this works by now.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

El Camino Christmas

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“You say, ‘Tim Allen Netflix movie’ and I say, ‘I was in yesterday.'”

“It’s — it doesn’t add up to a whole lot. I feel like there’s like fifteen minutes of character development and subtext that the movie was missing.”

“But you know, Tim Allen plays against type (whatever that type is), and Vincent D’Onofrio is always worth seeing. So there’s that?”

“Not the worst thing Netflix put out but also not something I’m gonna remember in six months.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

You don’t really care what this is past “Tim Allen Netflix movie,” do you?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

November Criminals

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The actual review:

“Not sure what the point of this was, but it was watchable. So there.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Might not be 3, but sure.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

January’s preview:

4.5 stars.”

“I’m hoping now that they’ve gotten things set up they really take a leap forward and make this the best of the new trilogy.”

The actual review:

“I’m conflicted on this. I’m gonna see this again pretty soon with my family, so that will decide how I ultimately feel about it. But when I was sitting in that theater, all I kept thinking was: “This is too long,” “Why should I care about some of this?”, “Some of this doesn’t need to be here,” and “Why is it trying to hard to be funny?” Also, once I got out, the only thought I had about it was Colin Farrell saying, “I wanna join the Rebellion if they’ve got the Vietnamese.” But yeah — The Force Awakens had a lot of built up anticipation to it. A long time before there was a good Star Wars movie plus the fun of bringing in the feel of those old ones — I liked it, but it got a bit overrated because of that. This one… I might have swung too far in the other direction given how badly it seems the franchise is being handled behind the scenes, and it just feels like too much. Maybe that had something to do with it. I don’t know. I’m left with a movie I really enjoyed, but not something I consider truly great. We’ll give it another watch to see if that changes.

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Saw it again. Liked it more, still think it’s a disappointment. So much stuff I’d have preferred to see than I did, but it’s Star Wars. They’ve yet to fuck this franchise up, Hobbit-style, so until then, I’m good. Still, though — definitely one of those things that’s gonna wear on me sooner rather than later.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Ferdinand

January’s preview:

“I like the idea, but when it’s animation, you have to look at the studio who made it. And this studio has made the Ice Age franchise, Robots, Rio, Horton Hears a Who, Epic and The Peanuts Movie.”

3 stars.”

“There’s really not a whole lot for me to say here. It looks like an exact 3 star movie. There’s nothing in their history that makes me think otherwise.”

The actual review:

“Why does it seem like no one but Disney or Pixar knows how to make a good American animated movie? Jesus, man. Why are they all so bad?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

But seriously, though.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Christmas Inheritance

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

This felt almost exactly like A Christmas Prince, to the point where I wasn’t sure these weren’t the exact same two leads as that. This is the lesser of the two. I got zero out of this, and this only made me feel like Netflix is deliberately trying to churn out formulaic movies, Hallmark-style, just to get clicks.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I seriously am still not sure at least one of these leads wasn’t in A Christmas Prince.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“No idea what the fuck this was, but hey, it looked kinda nice, so sure.”

“Does he grow up to be Birdman?”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Does he, though?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Ballad of Lefty Brown

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

You say “A24 western with Bill Pullman,” and I say, “In.” Unfortunately the movie’s just okay, and even with the western bump didn’t do a whole lot for me. Still, it’s a western, and I’ll keep seeing them if they keep making them.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

And I hope they keep making them.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

A Christmas Story Live

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

I caught this when it was on live. Good thing I was home for it. We were flipping channels and caught it by accident like twenty minutes in. Had no idea this was even a thing. Turns out — the musical based on A Christmas Story is not good. I’d say ‘who knew’, but I think we all knew. Deep down. The only thing I liked from this was that it was live. I appreciate everything they do for these, and will never go under 3 stars unless something is a total train wreck.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Why did they even turn this into a musical?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

All the Money in the World

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Seeing it this week. Will update once I do.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

The Greatest Showman

January’s preview:

“Hugh Jackman has been trying to get this made for years. I can’t believe they actually managed to get it through. This is a $100 million musical based on original material. I’m actually really proud of Fox for doing this.”

“Honestly, you tell me Hugh Jackman’s gonna be in an original musical and I’m gonna tell you that I’m all in.”

4.5 stars.”

“This is the stuff I want to see guys. Fuck that Marvel shit. This is my cinema.”

The actual review:

Yeah…

So, we all knew this wasn’t gonna turn out to be the great, classy, Oscar contender it looked like months ago. Somewhere along the way it just felt compromised. From the fact that they waited so long to send out trailers and press and everything for it, to the fact that the run time was under two hours, for something that should automatically be 2 1/2. Everything just looked like disappointment.

So I went in with somewhat tempered expectations. And, while I am predisposed to liking these sorts of movies, I thought it was fine. It had great moments in it. Some not so great, but overall, I think it works. It’s fun. The songs are good, overall. Certain things are horribly underdeveloped or glossed over, and the first thirty minutes of the movie are basically montaged over. The minute you see the montage-y bits, that means they edited it down. And, sure enough, something like six editors on this thing. SIX! And James Mangold was brought in to do reshoots — a lot of things felt like compromise in this. But I liked what was there. I saw a little bit more of the diamond in this than most would. Definitely not something I’m gonna recommend wholeheartedly to people. More something I’m gonna like and treat as an interesting attempt at something no one does anymore.

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Did okay at the box office, which should hopefully prevent this from being an out and out failure, though I’m also not sure if the budget they announced is remotely true. I’m sure to them this is a bomb, but after X-Men and Logan, they owed Jackman one. There should be no disappointment in this at all. If anything, maybe one day they should go and give us a longer version, if that version is any better. Or maybe they just misstepped from the start and it just didn’t work all around. Which is fine. I still liked it.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

January’s preview:

“I’d like to get 3.5 stars out of this, but I can’t assume it.”

3 stars. Hoping for better, but this looks like passably fun family movie fare.”

The actual review:

“What a fucking delightful movie this was.”

“The idea of video game logic helps this movie immensely.”

“It’s a whole lot of fun and is completely on par with the original film (the difference is the amount of nostalgia you feel for the original).”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m a big fan of this movie and think everyone ought to see it. This is what a fun time at the movies for all feels like.

Major props all around for this one. I didn’t think this could turn out as good as it did.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Father Figures

January’s preview:

2 stars.”

“Unforgivable Watch.”

The actual review:

Yeesh.

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s as bad as you think it is.

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Downsizing

January’s preview:

“Alexander Payne makes great films. Even the ones I don’t really like (Sideways, for example) are no less than 3.5 star films.”

“You gotta take 4 stars as a baseline for Payne.”

“I’m worried this might not be as good as his other movies, but you can never really assume bad from him.”

The actual review:

“If you’re making a list of the most disappointing films of 2017, this might be #1 on that list.”

“I don’t know why I have a compulsion to say this, but it seems like I’m the only one who saw this coming… No joke, every single person I talked to told me how great that movie looked and how much they were excited to see it. And it got to the point where, when I’d say, ‘Are you sure? It doesn’t look good,’ their reactions would only get stronger.”

“It’s exactly what I thought it was gonna be. This is the We Bought a Zoo of Alexander Payne movies. (Matt Damon has a really unfortunate growing track record of appearing in down movies for good directors.)”

“It’s the first act of a script stretched too long. Alexander Payne had a great concept and seemingly didn’t know what he wanted to do with it. It’s like he wrote a first draft and just went with that in order to start shooting something.”

“There’s social satire and a message behind the idea, but he never really goes down that route. The movie just becomes aimless and amounts to nothing.”

“Hong Chau is the only real good thing about it…. Outside of her, there was so little that I actually gave a shit about. It’s a real shame.”

“This is Alexander Payne’s worst film, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like Sideways all that much. I’m not thinking that hard about it, but I’m not sure I can think of a more disappointing film for 2017 than this one.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I think this is 2017’s most disappointing film, even though there are about five or six contenders for that title. Which we’ll get to in the new year. But man, was this just not great. It’s just aimless, and I never got invested at all. I watched a hodgepodge of ideas just sort of clash together without any cohesion to them. Damn shame.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Pitch Perfect 3

January’s preview:

“Well, this’ll be easy.”

“I didn’t care about the first movie, which became dislike because of how many people wouldn’t shut up about it. I thought the second movie was terrible, even though I really didn’t give a shit one way or the other. And I imagine this will be more of the same.”

2.5 stars.”

“Unless I turn on it out of nowhere, I’m likely going to not give a shit.”

The actual review:

Haven’t seen it yet. I will, but I’m not looking forward to it. I think we’re all tired of this franchise.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?:

The Leisure Seeker

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

This movie came out of nowhere. Played Venice and Toronto and got picked up immediately for a late year Oscar push. Got a small qualifying run in December and is coming out in January. I guess they figured it would get more notice? Still, it’s a movie that’s basically Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland the whole time. Which is nice. They make this movie worth watching. It’s like the Jane Fonda/Robert Redford movie Old Souls at Night. It’s just two great actors getting a role that lets them actually act. Can’t be upset at that.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Check this out. It’s really sweet and has both actors at the top of their game.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Bright

January’s preview:

“I’ve heard bad things about this movie.”

“I’m not sure how much I can put faith in this movie to be any good.”

“I’d normally give Ayer and that cast the benefit of the doubt and say 3.5 stars, but I have to say 3 stars here. Because this looks like it’s being set up to be a monumental disaster, the kind we all look at and wince when it’s all over.”

“I typically don’t like material like this, and I’d especially be wary of Will Smith choosing material like this, given his choices over the past… years, but if anyone could make something like this interesting to me, it’s David Ayer. So I’m hopeful, but it’s not looking promising.”

The actual review:

Oh my god. I’m not shocked, since I think we all kind of expected disaster from this, but holy fuck, was this incoherent. The only parts I gave a shit about were the parts that weren’t part of the plot. I think we should all see this and then discuss what the fuck it was supposed to be.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

You know… I’m not convinced these are going to be my final thoughts on the matter, so let’s just say, for now: NO.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Crooked House

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

Chamber drama, Agatha Christie plot. Like if you took Gosford Park and then turned it into a BBC version of an Agatha Christie book. It’s fine, but whatever.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Fine, but whatever.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Happy End

January’s preview:

Michael Haneke movie.

3.5 stars automatic. Let’s wait and see from there.

The actual review:

Will see this in the next ten days.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?:

The Post

January’s preview:

None.

The actual review:

“This movie positions itself as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men (quite literally at times, but that’s another story)… Clearly this was made with the modern times in mind.”

“But what begins as an indictment of the current political climate and the president, and as a historical record of a moment in time, becomes so much more. There’s such a feminist undercurrent to this movie that’s just wonderful.”

“The performances are really solid. Hanks isn’t as good as Jason Robards, but who can be? And Streep has moments of sheer brilliance along the way. And the cast, as all Spielberg films are, is loaded.”

“It’s a really good movie that I will be able to elaborate on fully after another watch. But man, was this great.”

“Oh, and Steven — stop with the endings. You’ve been doing this for like fifteen years now. You have perfect ending shots built into your movies, and then you keep going! Why?! YOU HAD A PERFECT SHOT HERE. And then you literally ended your movie like it’s fucking Marvel. It’s like you’re trying to detract from your own greatness. What is that about?”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Really liked this, excited to see it again, and seriously, stop with the endings.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Hostiles

January’s preview:

4 stars. Scott Cooper’s earned 4 star guesses out of me.”

“Bring it on.”

The actual review:

“Scott Cooper has an interesting filmography. Four movies, none of which are any worse than ‘quite good.'”

“This, I think, is a pretty decent story that is a bit overdrawn, with very good performances. I think it marginalizes too many different things (specifically the Native American family, who seem to be the point of the whole thing) and takes a couple of interesting turns slightly too late.”

“Still, a very good movie, and you might even say it’s his second best of the four.”

“I liked it quite a bit, but like all Scott Cooper movies, there are problems. But he’s a very good filmmaker, and has yet to make a bad movie. It doesn’t really matter past that, does it?”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this. Didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. Plus — western. Love that. Scott Cooper has yet to disappoint.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

January’s preview:

3 stars. Let’s split the difference.”

The actual review:

“It’s a strong 3, but still a 3.”

“Not sure how I feel about this. The acting was strong. Bening was good (though I can never get over the fact that I’m watching Annette Bening. I never see her as her characters. Especially here, where she’s playing Gloria Grahame, who we actually see in the movie in a film clip), and Jamie Bell was really good.”

“Overall, this worked (also, nice repairing of Bell and Julie Walters, after Billy Elliot). There’s just something about it — it felt pretty boring at times.”

“I liked parts of the romance, and some aspects really did work for me, but overall it was just kind of okay. I do recommend people see it. But it is uneven and kinda boring at times. So be warned about that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Overall, it worked. Still, very uneven, and not all there for me. But solid enough for me to be fine with it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Molly’s Game

January’s preview:

“I mean, it’s Sorkin, so minimum 4 stars. But I’m not gonna go higher because him directing could make this one of those movies that isn’t as good as it could have been with a visionary behind it. But who knows. Maybe he’ll be great. I want him to be great. I want this to be a top ten movie for me.”

The actual review:

“Okay, so we knew Aaron Sorkin wrote this. So automatically it was going to be of a certain quality. But when they said he was going to direct this too, that’s when I got nervous.”

“It’s a very sure-handed effort for a first time director. A lot of choices I did not expect him to make. There’s confidence there, and it makes the film work way better than I expected it to.”

“I knew I’d like it, but I didn’t think I’d love it. And I loved it.”

“Jessica Chastain is really good, having understudied in Miss Sloane, which was an Aaron Sorkin-lite film, and Idris Elba fits in so seamlessly. He’s so wonderful here. And the two of them together just light up the screen.”

“This movie is just great, and I am so excited to watch it again before the year’s through.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Watched it again, liked it even more. Sorkin does it again, and I’m very happy this turned out as well as I could have hoped.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

Phantom Thread

January’s preview:

“Paul Thomas Anderson directing Daniel Day-Lewis again. Don’t even care what it’s about. 5 stars.”

“The man’s made seven films. Five of them were in my top ten for their respective years. A sixth barely missed. I think we can safely say 5 stars as a guess with him.”

The actual review:

“About… oh, twenty-five minutes in, I realized, ‘He did it.’ Paul Thomas Anderson has become the Stanley Kubrick of his generation.”

“I shouldn’t have been as invested in those dresses as I was. I was on the edge of my seat watching that stuff go down. The little intricacies of the costumes and set design. And watching Daniel Day-Lewis be so fussy.”

“My god, he made a movie that should not be as great as it is. AND HE FUCKING SHOT IT HIMSELF. He’s the cinematographer. The movie looks flawless. On every level.”

“It’s just a great, great movie, and really puts Anderson firmly among the all-time greats.”

“Also, Daniel Day-Lewis’s character is named Reynolds Woodcock. So…”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

 

Final thoughts:

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – –

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