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2018: The Year in Reviews (February)

After Thanksgiving, most people get happy because they know Christmas is around the corner. I get happy because I know these articles are around the corner. Even if a year is absolutely atrocious and I get absolutely nothing done on this site (like this one), I know that once December rolls around, I have things to say until March. But before we get into the Oscars, we gotta wrap up the year.

Here’s the skinny for the newbies: every January I preview an ungodly amount of movies. And then, from then through December, I watch an ungodly amount of movies, tracking along the way what I thought of each of them. Then, when we get to this point, I recap everything and see how close I guessed my eventual rating back in January. That part is mostly for me, but along the way you get my thoughts of all the stuff I watched (which will probably give you a bunch of stuff you didn’t even know about). So everybody wins.

Today is February.

February

The Cloverfield Paradox

January’s preview:

“This has Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, Ziyi Zhang and John Ortiz. I like all of those people. Problem is, the movie sounds generic as shit and got adjusted like three times already.”

“Without seeing what differentiates this from the other movie that sounds just like it from last year, I have to go 3 stars.”

The review:

“What are we left with? A movie that no one particularly likes, with really cools actors in it, that doesn’t work and is now a Cloverfield movie. Great job, guys”.

“Nothing particularly works or lands, and all the stuff feels rehashed and then it’s a Cloverfield movie, which only makes me think less of it, because I hate the whole idea of Cloverfield.”

“Maybe we should just stop now and make movies on their own?”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This achieved what its purpose was, which was eyeballs when it dropped. But it’s not good. These Cloverfield movies are not good. We really need to stop making them.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Braven

January’s preview:

“Jason Momoa as a lumberjack. I’m down.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“This would have been a B-movie noir sixty years ago.”

“I prefer to imagine how this would have been made in 1957 and not now, but still, it’s fun.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I enjoyed this. And this definitely would have been a B-movie in the 50s.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Winchester

January’s preview:

“I mean, sure.”

“I hope it’s more of a mindfuck than anything. Or a fantasy. But the movie’s doing that generic horror shit. And that means I can’t take it seriously.”

2.5 stars. Maybe I get 3. Highly doubt it.”

The review:

“Generic ghost story based on a pretty cool idea, that house. But the product tries to set up characters and a story and just devolves into boring ghost movie shit.”

“Complete yawns all around. Waste of everyone’s times, especially its leads.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I feel justified in that we all forgot this even happened.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Seeing Allred

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Cool that she’s getting out there and being introduced to hopefully a younger generation, the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg also was this year (only without the memes).”

“The doc itself was just whatever to me. I always feel like I get the point in fifteen minutes and the rest is just telling me more shit I already know. I leave docs to the doc people.”

“For me, I think it’s just worth people knowing who Gloria Allred is, however you want to get the information.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I think that last sentence about covers it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The 15:17 to Paris

January’s preview:

“American Sniper was solid, Sully was surprisingly good. I assume this will just be okay.”

3 stars, though I know I should go 3.5. But it’s February. Why didn’t this come out sooner? I’m gonna take the 3 and see if this can go 3.5.”

The review:

“This is the worst movie Clint Eastwood has ever made. And I’m including Jersey Boys in that.”

“At least Jersey Boys had interesting source material. And didn’t fucking cast Frankie Valli in the movie.”

“Eastwood has a military trilogy going. American Sniper, Sully, this. And it’s kind of a downhill, diminishing returns trajectory, isn’t it? Less substance, more flag waving.”

“It felt dirty to me. And while Eastwood (even at 87) can still make a movie decent… this is just wrong on so many levels.”

“Most people thought that weird chair bit he did a few years ago was the sign that he’d lost it. This is my chair bit. I’m embarrassed that this had to happen.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really disliked this movie and am ashamed that Eastwood had to stoop to this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fifty Shades Freed

January’s preview:

“The first one was unwatchable, the second one approached watchable. I assume, since James Foley shot this one too, that it will also be approaching watchable.”

2.5 stars.”

“I’m just ready to be done with this, just like the rest of the public and just like its stars, who were ready to be done with this from the first movie.”

The review:

“I watched every movie in this franchise. How’s that taste?”

“I’m just kinda glad for it all to be over.”

“The first one was unwatchable, the second one was bad but at least competently made. This one… just kinda going through the motions. Like a lame duck politician. Just counting the minutes before we could all be done with it.”

“Dornan and Johnson clearly have stopped caring and have ‘contractually obligated’ written all over their faces.”

“I couldn’t even tell you what the plot of this was and I don’t care. We’re done. And I managed to sit through all three of these fucking things.”

“Congrats on all the money, Twilight fan fic lady!”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

At least it’s over!

(Also, I love every word of that review I wrote up there.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

 

Peter Rabbit

January’s preview:

“Well this looks terrible.”

2.5 stars. I’m gonna assume indifference here.”

The review:

“I knew from the jump that I wouldn’t like this.”

“It’s just too lowest common denominator for me. Paddington is leaps and bounds above this in terms of quality.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

“Well this looks terrible” pretty much said it all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

When We First Met

January’s preview:

None. I tracked it last year and said I would keep tracking it, and then it never made it on. So I guess we’ll just use last year’s preview, which honestly would have been exactly what I’d say about it now, if given the same information:

“Yeah, figuring only 3 stars out of this at best. The people involved don’t give me a whole lot of hope that it’s much better.”

The review:

“This is Groundhog Day for Valentine’s Day.”

“It’s by the numbers through and through, but the cast is game. So there’s that.”

“Doesn’t do a whole lot, but it’s watchable and you can enjoy it once.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Meh. You can watch it, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it more than once.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Permission

January’s preview:

“Looks okay. 3 stars. That trailer might have made me go 2.5, but I like Rebecca Hall, so I’ll stick with 3.”

The review:

“Interesting idea that never quite goes anywhere as interesting.”

“Fine, but maybe could have been better.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The leads are good, but the movie never really goes anywhere of interest.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Golden Exits

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“I hadn’t seen an Alex Ross Perry movie before this. People have been raving about his stuff for years. But I also saw that the people who were raving about it gave me the impression that the movies are the ‘decent indie’ sort that are lauded by the pretentious art film crowd.”

“I feel like I was right.”

“This is a New York art indie…. Unhappy intellectuals talking about the state of existence and bemoaning their place, as they live in ridiculously expensive apartments.”

“No real resolution and no real purpose. Definitely something I’m gonna leave to that arty crowd that likes this kinda stuff.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me. But it does star Ad-Rock, so there is that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Black Panther

January’s preview:

“Trailer doesn’t look good at all. Way too much CGI. But it’s Marvel. 3.5 stars is the automatic guess.”

The review:

“Ah, yes, the first movie of 2018 that if you didn’t like it, you were a piece of shit.”

“The important thing to note here — a movie can be hugely important without being great.”

“It’s just a Marvel movie. Same as the rest. It’s entertaining. It has its moments.”

“I think, for me, it comes down to a fundamental outlook on life. I don’t care what color my characters are, as long as I give a shit about them and their story. So everyone going nuts about this being a black superhero — if Iron Man were black I wouldn’t care as long as it was Tony Stark being a badass. Make Thor a woman. Make Captain America Korean. I don’t give a shit.”

“Outside of its undeniably cultural importance, I don’t see it as anything more than a fun movie.”

“You guys can waste all your time jumping on the bandwagon for this. I’m gonna go back to championing the smaller movies that no one knows about and try to get more eyeballs on them.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I stand by my original opinion. It’s just fine. It’s middle of the road Marvel for me. Cultural importance does mean I have to enjoy it as a movie. Or nominate it for awards. I enjoyed it for what it was, and I appreciated what it meant for the culture. That’s really all I got. I’m gonna instead focus my time on a dozen other movies that are overlooked because people are too busy talking about this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Looking Glass

January’s preview:

“It’s like The Florida Project, but with Nic Cage.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Does Nic Cage just sign his checks for these movies right over to the IRS? Because it seems like that’s what’s going on.”

“Maybe if you made this in 1947 it could work, but now… nah.”

“Cage used to at least be fun when he made his bullshit. Now he’s not even that. This sucks, man.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just so we’re clear, that’s two months, two Nic Cage VOD movies. This one — not worth the price of admission (which is free).

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Early Man

January’s preview:

3 stars. I generally don’t fall in love with these. 3.5 would be a big deal for me. I think I’ll get 3 out of this.”

The review:

“It’s Aardman, who always makes worthwhile films.”

“It’s a decent movie. The same kind of quality we usually get from Aardman. I’m not overly in love with their movies, but they’re cute and well made.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s all of the same sort. Every Aardman movie goes the same for me. Cute, but it’s just whatever to me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Samson

January’s preview:

“Yeesh.”

2 stars.”

The review:

“Boring religious nonsense.”

“There’s always one of these every year, and I continue watching them. I guess because I need something to laugh at?”

“But hey, it reminded us that Billy Zane is still alive, so it can’t be all bad, right?”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

What happened to Billy Zane?

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Nostalgia

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. Even with the cast. It’s got a lot to overcome after that trailer. I’d rather be wrong if it’s 3.”

The review:

“Always bad when movies are about ideas and not people, and all the characters spout philosophies instead of words.”

“But hey, if you want to hours of everyone waxing poetic about the same thing and being hit over the head again and again with obvious themes, be my guest.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yeah, not a fan of this one. Waste of a decent cast.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Irreplaceable You

January’s preview:

“Straight up romance. I’m in.”

3.5 stars. Aiming high!”

The review:

“It doesn’t always work, but she’s great, and the movie hints at some really interesting turns it could have taken.”

“Overall, I’m fine with it. But mostly this is the kind of movie I’d watch to spark myself into finding a way to do it better.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I wanted this to be better, and there’s a much better movie in there somewhere, that maybe one day someone will find.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

January’s preview:

None. Only saw it because a friend worked on it and because Maika Monroe was in it.

The review:

“Pretty boring overall. One of those movies I’ve watched that 99% of you don’t even know exists. And don’t worry, you don’t need to.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Maika Monroe is really the only reason to ever see this.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Party

January’s preview:

“Well this looks nice and twisted.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Interesting movie. One-location play on screen, shot in black-and-white with a great cast.”

“Worth your time for sure because of the actors, though not the greatest thing you’ll ever see.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s only 70 minutes. You could do much worse for 70 minutes.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Mad to Be Normal

January’s preview:

“Director hasn’t done anything I’ve heard of. But I think this is about a guy who used LSD with patients, so that might be cool.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“I’m usually not a fan of movies about mental health professionals. This is no exception.”

“It was directed by a documentarian, which may have something to do with it? I just wasn’t engaged at all.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Annihilation

January’s preview:

“No reason to think this won’t be solid.”

3.5 stars. Not gonna overdo it, but 3.5 seems like the baseline for this.”

The review:

“This is just Gay Stalker, isn’t it?”

“I just wanted it to be decent. And it kinda was. Can’t say I loved it. But I was engaged.”

“My biggest problem was the effects. They looked… bad. And that’s before the AOL gimp showed up in the third act.”

“Personally, all I took out of it and the ending was: this feels like a metaphor for what happens to new ideas in Hollywood.

“I consider this a major disappointment for 2018.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yeah, I didn’t like this the way everyone did. It was interesting to look at, but amounted to nothing. This was a real let down for me.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Mute

January’s preview:

Another one that somehow I missed despite having tracked it last year. So we’re reusing 2017’s preview:

“Written and directed by Duncan Jones. Hopefully he’s back to his roots after the Warcraft… whatever that was.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“Man… Duncan Jones. Talk about ‘what happened?’.”

“It’s totally watchable. He created his own universe and reality and he played within that sandbox. Only… it’s like Southland Tales. You’re not really sure why or what or what the point is or anything.”

“He made MTV’s Blade Runner”.

“Most people consider this a major failure. I will say this is an interesting effort that does not work.”

“It is a disappointment, since we did think Duncan Jones would be a cool, original voice in cinema for a little while, but it’s not anything worse than some of the shit you’ll see in a given year. Some things just don’t work.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I think that’s the right way to go on this — not a failure, but an interesting exercise that did not work.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Beast of Burden

January’s preview:

3 stars. Automatic 3 star action movie. I don’t need anything more to know that’s what I’m getting.”

The review:

“Harry Potter and the Drug Cargo.”

“This is Locke, but in a plane.”

“You’ll be surprised at how watchable this is. Absolutely zero tricks up its sleeve, but you could do way worse for a random 90-minute watch.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Watchable, but if you’re gonna watch “single location” films, go for Locke and then Wheelman before this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Cured

January’s preview:

“Horror movie. Could be 28 Days Later, could be generic.”

“Sounds like it’s exploring race and bigotry ideas using zombies as a metaphor, so I’m willing to give it a shot.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Boring as fuck.”

“Did not utilize that premise as well as it could have. Not something I’d recommend.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not a fan of this.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Every Day

January’s preview:

“Good concept. Figuring we get 3 stars out of this. Could be too cheesy, but even if it is, I know I can get 3 out of this. I just hope they don’t cop out on the ending (they will).”

The review:

“Good premise. Not without its issues, of course, but intellectually intriguing enough to make me give the movie a shot.”

” It’s… YA stuff. But I like the premise, and that held me through what was otherwise a so-so movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I don’t remember the ending at all, which means they copped out on it in some way. Still, the premise was enough to get me through.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Half Magic

January’s preview:

“Heather Graham wrote and directed this. Which is the only reason I’m even paying any attention to it.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“It feels kinda like a first film. Also feels like it was written by someone who got stuck in how movies were made 20 years ago.”

“It sounds like something I’d have written when I was 19.”

“No one’s gonna see this, but Heather Graham made a movie. So good for her.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I will always watch when an actor directs a movie. That feels like something a class should be taught on. It’s such an interesting topic, whether the films work or not.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Game Night

January’s preview:

“Well this seems nuts. And it could be fun.”

“3 stars. Can’t assume more than 3 with a comedy. But hey, at least it doesn’t look like a total piece of shit like most of them do.”

The review:

“This was way more fun than it had any reason to be.”

“Not something I think will hold up over time, but it was definitely really well executed and managed to be funny throughout, which is rare for a comedy. And it also didn’t resort to the type of shitty, low brow humor I can’t stand nowadays.”

“A lot of fun all around, and all the great word of mouth you’ve heard about this is warranted.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m so surprised I liked this and that it was actually funny. Not perfect, but what comedies nowadays even approach competence? So this is huge success as far as I’m concerned.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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