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2018: The Year in Reviews (July)

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 July.

July

Ant-Man and the Wasp

January’s preview:

“The first Marvel movie, post-Infinity War. So I guess these people live.”

“The first Ant-Man was fun. Kind of inconsequential, but fun. Not sure they can reach that level again, but I’m willing to wait and see.”

3.5 stars is the standard Marvel number.”

“Also — Laurence Fisburne… Silver Surfer, Perry White and now Goliath. I like when people do a bunch of these movies and nobody cares.”

The review:

“After the overblown Infinity War, this is a nice change of pace.”

“I like the detour that is Ant-Man. This movie did a good job on a character level, while also being very funny throughout. This franchise within the universe is consistently one of the stronger Marvel franchises.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I enjoy this franchise because it doesn’t try to do much. It almost took some detours here, but I like that it’s not the same kind of movie you normally get within this universe. There is no villain, really, and it’s more of a comedy than anything else. There’s really no such thing as a home run in Marvel anymore, but this franchise keeps hitting doubles, and I like it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The First Purge

January’s preview:

“Prequel? Okay.”

“The franchise has always been watchable, so we’ll stick with 3 stars. They’re all fine. Thinking we might have reached saturation on this, but we’ll see.”

The review:

“I… I enjoy this franchise.”

“Hilarious that in this dystopian future, they chose Staten Island to be the site of the first Purge. That felt really appropriate.”

“Also, one of the greatest scenes in a movie this year is where they’re in their control room, watching the monitors during the first few hours, and someone goes, ‘There’s nothing happening.’ And then they go, ‘Look at this… some kind of block party.’ Which is possibly the most accurate thing someone’s said in a movie.”

“This franchise never disappoints.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This franchise is always solid three star movies. I’m not sure what else you could ask for.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Sorry to Bother You

January’s preview:

“The director of this movie is named Boots Riley.”

“Sounds great.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“It’s the most unique film so far this year. Which counts for a lot.”

“I like that it’s trying something different. It exists within a universe all of its own, and it plays by its own rules.”

“This is one of the essential movies of 2018.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this a lot. It’s so much fun. It’s definitely unlike anything else that’s come out and stands alone in that regard. But it’s also really entertaining. And it means something and has a message. So you can’t just dismiss it like you can some some other movies. Lakeith Stanfied, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yuen… all great. And it’s just pure anarchy on screen and the kind of movie that will reverberate within the culture for years to come even if people don’t see this movie. The “white voice” alone…

This movie also feels like it gets better on rewatches, since people will catch who exactly voices the “white” voices (for all the characters), will catch visual cues in the background and things like that. Or will catch what I did, that Tessa Thompson delivers a monologue from The Last Dragon at her art show. (What? Also, awesome.) This is just a fantastic movie. And also features the only moment in the history of film where someone snorts a line of cocaine across the entire frame.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

January’s preview:

“It’s Jody Hill, whose stuff I like.”

3.5 stars.”

“Worried it hasn’t come out, but it might just be too fucked up for them to know what to do with. Observe and Report was like that. We’ll see.”

The review:

“I was excited for this by sheer fact that Jody Hill directed it. I think Observe and Report is such an underrated comedy and still laugh about a couple moments from that movie almost a decade later.”

“(Sadly) It just doesn’t work. It’s not that funny, and somewhere along the way the comedy got lost. The premise could have been funny, but not everything works.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I wish this were better. I thought this was gonna be great. But when they pushed this from November into 2018, I figured it would be a bit of a let down. They just lost the comedy all the way and the whole thing just kind of falls flat. It’s sad, but it happens sometimes.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Fireworks

January’s preview:

None. Shortlisted for Best Animated Feature.

The review:

“Anime. Was okay. It’s a high school anime, which I’m not usually for. But I got through it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine. I always watch animes when they get shortlisted, hoping each one is gonna be the time the light turns on for me. But no such luck so far. Oh well. This was fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

White Fang

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Thought it was gonna be a D-grade animated movie, but honestly… the animation style was pretty good.”

“The animation made it worthwhile. Better than I was expecting, but just okay otherwise.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to like the animation. It made it bearable. Not sure what it says about me that I was expecting garbage and watched it anyway, but this was actually pretty tolerable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Whitney

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Whitney Houston documentary. It was all right. Didn’t do much for me. Was hoping I’d like it more. I didn’t. It happens.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Wish this were better. Maybe I overestimated how much I cared about the music so much as I appreciated her talent. I imagine people who care about her and her legacy more will get more out of this than I did.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Skyscraper

January’s preview:

“So, Towering Inferno in China, with The Rock? Okay.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“So the Rock has completely crossed over into making movies for the China market. “T

“It’s Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno, and there’s not an original bone in its body. And the Rock has a prosthetic leg, just because, I guess.”

“There’s almost no redeeming value in this movie whatsoever. And here I thought Rampage was gonna be the worst thing he was in this year.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is pretty shitty, mostly because you can feel that it’s not remotely made for American audiences. And if it is, it’s made for the absolute lowest common denominator. You can tell it wasn’t made for American audiences, because they didn’t go. And they’ve established… they’ll go to anything. But they didn’t go to this. So really you’re left with a movie purely made for international audiences and no one else. This is where we’re at now.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

January’s preview:

“Why are there three of these movies? The first one wasn’t even that great.”

2.5 stars. I’ll assume I won’t care and it won’t be straight up awful. But I never rule out the possibility.”

The review:

“I’ve seen three of these movies. And you know what? It’s growing on me as a franchise.”

“It’s not for me at all. But you know what? They’re dumb and innocuous and for kids. I’m fine with that.”

“If this is a “bad” example of a mainstream animated film, we’re doing okay. Because trust me… it gets way worse than this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This wasn’t great, but it was watchable. And honestly, if I was five, I’d be entertained by this. You could do worse for animated film, even if I think we should hold ourselves to higher standards than this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

January’s preview:

“This sounds all sorts of my speed.”

3.5 stars.”

“Should go 4, but I’m sticking with 3.5. I think it’ll be really solid no matter what.”

The review:

“It’s trying to be a sort of American Splendor of sorts, but it’s just kind of okay.”

“It’s worthwhile, but it’s not particularly memorable.”

“Gus Van Sant seems to be very hit and miss. Every other one seems to work. So here’s hoping the next one is the one that does.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine, but doesn’t seem to come together. I can’t point to any particular element that doesn’t work, only that the whole package just sort of seems to be okay at best. The cast is fine, everything about it is fine, but the movie doesn’t add up to anything more than okay. I guess that’s the risk Gus Van Sant runs, since he tends to have such a light touch behind the camera in these kinds of movies.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Eighth Grade

January’s preview:

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“I was properly surprised and delighted by this movie.”

“This had a lot of great moments about what it was like to be in middle school. I think we all, in some way or another, related to that part where she goes to the pool party for the girl who doesn’t want her there, where she knows absolutely no one there, and wants to leave almost immediately.”

“Not sure how this holds up over time, but in the initial viewing, I liked this movie quite a bit. Which is really all you can ask for.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very solid movie that I was not expecting to be as sure-handed and well-made as it was. Definitely one of the most positive surprises of 2018.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

How It Ends

January’s preview:

3 stars.

The review:

“Cable watch. It’ll get you through two hours.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. I liked that it focused solely in the immediate aftermath of whatever this event is, so you don’t have to get into the macro of whatever the hell is going on. It’s just, “Shit went down, chaos is everywhere, I need to find my wife.” Simple. And it’s completely watchable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Siberia

January’s preview:

“Starring Keanu Reeves.”

“That’s all I needed.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Generic thriller.”

“Not really worth talking about, because there isn’t much here.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not sure why Keanu did this. There’s really nothing of value in it even with him there.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Shock and Awe

January’s preview:

“LBJ was solid, no reason to think this won’t be either.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“Important story to tell, especially nowadays, with the current administration, but ultimately it’s not that interesting, even with a cast that includes Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones.”

“I appreciate a movie that’s trying to talk about freedom of the press and how a press should stick by the facts and proper reporting rather than go along with the pressure of a government trying to sell lies, but this one just wasn’t that interesting.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like that Rob Reiner is working and finding messages he wants to get across in his films. He seemed to have been completely vanished for a while. So it’s nice to see him still plugging away.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Dark Money

Poor Boy

January’s preview:

None. I left a blanket 3 star rating for this from either last year or the year before.

The review:

“This movie is, and will only forever be known, as the movie where Michael Shannon plays a rodeo clown.”

“It’s overdirected. It creates this atmosphere that I guess is trying to be artistic? I don’t know. But it’s also one of those movies where you see an engaged cast, but you don’t really care what’s going on in the macro, and you’re not really interested in anything that’s happening other than the performances in front of you.”

“But hey, Michael Shannon is a rodeo clown and delivers a big monologue at the end. So there’s that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie is destined to be the “Michael Shannon plays a rodeo clown movie and nothing more. And honestly, most movies don’t even have that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“A fantastic documentary. You know what it is, you know what you’re getting, and it was perfectly wonderful.”

“Sometimes you need a movie to fully make you appreciate a genius, and this, hopefully, accomplishes that.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love Robin Williams so much. And his death made me so, so sad when I heard about it, and it left me (like it did many others) with questions about why it had to end the way it did. But this made me feel like I understood that, and made me appreciate fully the man and the legacy he left behind. And it makes me want to celebrate him forever, and the everlasting body of work he left behind.

In the story of my life, when you rank the people who left the biggest mark on the first twenty years of my life, this man is in the top ten, if not the top five. And this is a fitting documentary for such an amazing individual.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Equalizer 2

January’s preview:

“It’s a sequel to the first one with Denzel. That one was 3 stars, this one will be 3 stars. Not really a whole lot of mystery there.”

The review:

“This is a franchise based on Denzel Washington beating the shit out of people. Franchises were made on less.”

“This is his Taken. You know what you’re getting, and it’s perfectly entertaining. Can’t ask for much more than that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It is what it is. You’re either already in and you’ll enjoy it, or you’re not and you won’t watch it. Can’t get more straightforward than that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

January’s preview:

“Seems they slashed the budget and mostly wrote Meryl out of the movie, so she could show up in a cameo at the end and they’d get to sell it on her name and not have to pay her.”

“Storyline-wise, this is the Godfather II of the Mamma Mia saga.”

“I didn’t particularly care about the first one, even though it was fine. This one, I’m assuming I straight up won’t care.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“A great example of a subtitle echoing what everyone said when they announced it.”

“It’s fun. You spend a hot summer day in a theater listening to ABBA songs for 100 minutes. It’ll put a smile on your face, even if it’s not high filmmaking.”

“(It) adds a level of emotion that I didn’t think was possible in a movie filled with ABBA songs.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Weird way to pull off a sequel, but honestly, it’s an ABBA musical. So what do you think you’re getting?

* * * (3 stars)

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

Unfriended: Dark Web

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Don’t bother with this. Go watch Searching instead.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

That about covers it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Blindspotting

January’s preview:

“No idea what this is, but it sounds like it could be interesting.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“This is a great movie.”

“This is already one of the best, most underrated movies of 2018.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is one of those movies where I don’t want to say too much about it. It’s one that completely defies all expectations, even if you’ve seen a trailer. And it’s just fantastic. I want people to just see it without having any preconceived notions about it. Because it’s one of the best movies of the year, and I feel like it will win most people over by just being itself.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Damascus Cover

January’s preview:

None. I watched it because it’s technically John Hurt’s last movie and because Olivia Thirlby is in it.

The review:

“Completely generic spy thriller that I only watched because it was John Hurt’s final film. Otherwise, no real reason for anyone to see this.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Oh, so I guess it was really only one reason I watched the movie. Still, generic and forgettable.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

McQueen

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Fashion isn’t my world, so there was a limit to my interest in this. It was just okay for me. Didn’t really feel one way or another about it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine. If you care about the subject matter, go for it. If not, you’re fine without it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Keeping Hours

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It doesn’t work. I watched it for the leads, but it’s not a good movie. Don’t bother with it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just move on. Don’t worry about this one.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Animated Feature eligible. Looked nice, was fine. Didn’t love it. It’s hard to get more than this for me out of an anime.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Ehh. Looked okay, but was just fine for me. The anime switch has yet to be flipped on for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Father of the Year

January’s preview:

“Well that’s interesting.”

“Unfortunately the guy behind this also makes a lot of Adam Sandler movies.”

3 stars. Begrudgingly. Let’s see if they ruin a good idea.”

The review:

“This is a Happy Madison film. Starring David Spade. Need I say more? Of course it’s dog shit.”

“It’s everything a bad comedy is nowadays. I don’t even know why I need to write anything more about it. You know what it is. It says a lot about a person if this is the kind of comedy they enjoy.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

I should point out that the synopsis I was working off of was nothing related to the movie that came out. So I was operating on false information, which is how we ended up where we did. Had I had even half the synopsis of the movie I’d have gone 2.5 at the highest. But a miss is a miss. Whatever the reason.

Oh, and yeah, this was an ungodly piece of shit.

* * (2 stars)

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

Duck Duck Goose

January’s preview:

“Oh goddamnit. Another shitty animated movie.”

2.5 stars. Assuming indifference. No idea why.”

The review:

“This looked so bad I had to see it.”

“This isn’t Z grade animated fare, but it’s like… D?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

“This looked so bad I had to see it” just about sums me up pretty well.

(Also Z grade for ZENDAYA!)

(I regret nothing.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Broken Star

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. Sounds like it’s the kind of thriller that I’m not usually interested in. But you never know.”

The review:

“Didn’t do it for me.”

“I like Analeigh Tipton, but the movie just wasn’t appealing to me. It’s like trying to build a sandcastle with wet sand. You’re just piling mud on top of itself.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Metaphors.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Zoe

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“It’s like if you took Ex Machina and made it a romance.”

“It’s fine. Didn’t blow me away, but it had its moments.”

“Doremus has yet to wow me since Like Crazy. All of his other movies have been decent at best.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Doremus is a competent, if self-pigeonholed director. Though everything just seems to be in that “just okay” category. B movie Andrew Niccol, maybe?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Extinction

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“Not gonna assume 3.5 from him, but Hounds of Love was great.”

The review:

“I was intrigued because it was directed by the guy who did Hounds of Love, which was quite good.”

“This, though… pretty incoherent and all over the place. And it takes the weird fucking turn midway through that made me care even less about it.”

“I’m not sure what the point of any of it was. Whatever. Not gonna dwell on the Netflix movie. There are 30 more where this one came from.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

There are like, 100 more where this came from. A number that will likely be doubled next year.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Puzzle

January’s preview:

“Kelly Macdonald stars. I’m in.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“Solid little drama.”

“Ignores a lot of the tropes you’d see in these movies, but that’s probably owing to the fact that it’s a remake of a foreign film.”

“It’s a nice little gem of a movie and a showcase for Kelly Macdonald, who doesn’t get nearly enough of those.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this. A little uneven, but Kelly Macdonald is fantastic in it and anytime she gets her own movie, it’s a good thing.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?:

The Bleeding Edge

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I generally don’t care about documentaries like this, so this didn’t do anything for me.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is me and every documentary: get the point in five minutes and then spend the next 90 on my hands like, “Yeah, I get it already.” This is just not my format.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

January’s preview:

“I’ve heard the title of this, but I have no idea what the show is or what it’s about. So we gotta say 2.5 stars. Don’t know, and can’t assume anything other than indifference.”

The review:

“The series is for children, and the movie is for children. I don’t know anything about it, and it was too kiddie for me to even try to get into.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s just not for me. I appreciate that the target audience will enjoy this, but I am not that audience.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Hot Summer Nights

January’s preview:

“Been excited about this for three years. This script was really good. Timothee Chalamet stars, which is a pull, that they got him before he broke.”

3.5 stars. Very, very excited for this.”

The review:

“I was fun.”

“I like that it was wall-to-wall 80s music, had Timothee Chalamet and Maika Monroe in it (quite the pull to get Chalamet before he was in everything and blew up), and was close enough to what I saw in the script to make me like it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I have a difficult history with this because I did read the script years ago and loved it. I feel like they mostly acquitted themselves well, even though it does feel lacking in some way. Maybe it’s just that the writer directed it himself and it didn’t have a visually interesting filmmaker who could elevate the material working on it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

January’s preview:

“No plot, but does it even matter at this point? We know we’re getting at least 3.5 stars out of this. The last couple felt like 4 stars.”

“I should say 4 stars here, but something tells me we’re on the downslide of Cruise’s career and this one might slip a little bit. So I’ll say 3.5 stars and let it go up to 4 if it’s gonna continue the excellence this franchise has exhibited to this point.”

“I’m gonna lower my expectations a movie too early rather than a movie too late, is what I’m saying. Maybe we’ll get 4, but I’m gonna temper myself on this one.”

The review:

“This movie feels like a proper culmination. They’ll keep making more, of course. But if they don’t, it felt like a nice ending to an era of this franchise.”

“This franchise continues to deliver, and I think that’s what Cruise goes for. I think he knows he has to make each one worthwhile, and he does. Kudos to him.”

“I hope they keep making these until Cruise decides he’s done.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love this franchise. It’s hard to have a franchise that consistently remains a 4-star franchise throughout a run greater than three movies. That speaks to the level of commitment to excellence Tom Cruise has with these things.

And also, I know we’ve moved past it… but sure seems like The Mummy wasn’t his fault now, doesn’t it? (I mean, in a way it’s his fault, but he didn’t cast himself in that movie, you know what I mean?)

* * * * (4 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – – –

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