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2018: The Year in Reviews (October)

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 October.

October

A Star Is Born

January’s preview:

“We know the story. It’s been made four times now for film, and countless times in TV and ripoffs.”

3.5 stars on the film, just because this can go wrong. I will get 3 stars out of this (and probably even 3.5 out of this) automatically. I love this story, and it’s gonna be hard for me not to have rose-colored glasses on for this.”

“I wanna get 4 stars out of this. Hard to see them getting back to top 10/top 20 territory, but you never know. Here’s just hoping for a solid continuation of the story and not a completely empty film with no redeeming qualities.”

“But I don’t think Cooper would direct this if he didn’t think he could pull it off. So I have faith.”

The review:

“I was not expecting this. I love A Star Is Born, and I was excited to see this movie. But I truly was not expecting it to be as good as it is.”

“The story being so iconic both helped and hurt it. But somehow, Cooper was able to overcome it. Primarily with his direction.”

“The fact that all the other pitfalls were not only overcame, but solidly overcame, really was impressive.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I just watched this again last night, and man, am I still impressed. There are weak elements of this, but there are other elements that are so strong I’m still surprised they managed to be that strong. There are elements of this movie that are brief but feel so lived in that I wanted whole movies about them. The direction is incredible. The songs still hold up on second viewing. It’s a really strong film.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

Venom

January’s preview:

“They were talking for years of making this, and I always thought, ‘Yeah, sure.’ …then they announced that Tom Hardy would star, and I thought, ‘Yeah fucking right.’ And now here we are.”

“How the fuck did they get Tom Hardy to be Venom? Michelle Williams is now in this too. Woody Harrelson is in this. Jenny Slate. Riz Ahmed. Did Hardy attract all these people?”

Also apparently they’re gonna tie this into the Tom Holland Spider-Man universe. Which means Tom Hardy could legitimately be a part of the Marvel universe at some point. Which is fucking crazy. What is happening to movies?”

3.5 stars. You went big. Now deliver. Let’s see what happens.”

The review:

“What the fucking hell was this movie?”

“You don’t cast Tom Hardy in a superhero movie and then not let him do his thing.”

“You know they let him do his thing and then cut it all out in the end.”

“This movie is one fucking disaster. It’s watchable, and movies of this sort always are, but man, this is a DC level disaster.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m still shaking my head at how they could have fucked this one up as badly as they did.

Let’s give it a week and see if I end up having more thoughts on this or not.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Hate U Give

January’s preview:

None. They forced this into awards season because it was about gun violence. Without that it would have been just another YA movie no one paid attention to.

The review:

“Was not expecting this.”

“It’s a really good movie. It’s using the YA genre and tropes to sell you a message. It’s not totally successful at it, and there are problems, but man, when this movie works, it works.”

“There’s so much to like about this movie, to the point where I’m forgiving of the aspects I don’t like as much. This is one of the better films of the year, and I’m really happy it is.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Big fan of this movie. Not the kind that I love and want to watch a bunch, but the kind that I think is really solid and want other people to see. It doesn’t elevate the YA genre per se, but it does hit the upper percentages of where it’s at. Which is pretty rare.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Ride

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s Collateral, only with no stakes.”

“The worst part for me was that it all takes place in and around Hollywood. so the streets they’re talking about — I drive down those streets. So for one, the second unit shots of streets they cut to as they’re driving… horrendously out of place.

“I know it’s a minor quibble, but when you really know the area and a movie just butchers it’s geography like that, it’s really hard for me to pay attention to anything else. Especially when the film isn’t giving you much of anything to pay attention to otherwise.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I can spend 70 minutes just talking about the internal geography of this movie, because otherwise that first sentence of the review covered everything I ned to say about its actual plot.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Private Life

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Jenkins’ movies seem to be highly personal and that is what makes them authentic. So let’s stick with that being what we’re getting here.”

The review:

“It’s really good. I underestimated this because it dropped on Netflix, but man, Tamara Jenkins… when she makes them, they’re good.”

“This is the kind of movie that feels real because it is real. I highly recommend this one, and it’s honestly one of the best movies Netflix has put out.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Big fan of this movie. Terrific writing, terrific performances — this is one of the Netflix ones that I highly recommend you seek out.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Studio 54

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Exactly what you’d expect. Nothing overly surprising.”

“But, better than watching a documentary about some random political issue of the day. So that’s cool.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I enjoyed it. That club is an interesting sidebar to history and well worth a documentary. So I’m glad they made one.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Bayou Caviar

January’s preview:

3 stars?”

The review:

“It’s Cuba Gooding Jr.’s directorial debut. How could I pass that up?”

“Honestly, no fucking clue what this is supposed to be, but hey, it has Richard Dreyfuss in it, so I’m totally fine with that.”

“Actors directing is always a mixed bag. I’ll give him credit for doing it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m surprised at my restraint from a “Well this wasn’t very Cuba GOOD-ing” joke.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Loving Pablo

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

The review:

“Benicio Del Toro plays Pablo Escobar, and no one sees it. And now Javier Bardem plays Pablo Escobar, with Penelope Cruz in it, and no one sees it.”

“I feel like it says something that two of the biggest Spanish-speaking actors felt like they had to play Escobar at some point, and that both of the movies were not very good at all.”

“It kinda maintains watchability, mostly for the actors, but it doesn’t quite work.”

“At least you get Penelope Cruz instead of Josh Hutcherson. That’s an improvement, right?”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Penelope Cruz > Josh Hutcherson

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Malevolent

January’s preview:

None. Saw a Netflix movie with Florence Pugh and had to see it.

The review:

“It’s whatever. But Florence Pugh is in it and it showed up on Netflix. That’s the only reason I watched it. Otherwise there’s no point to seeing this. Nothing of value here.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Skip it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

22 July

January’s preview:

Not sure if I missed this or it shot after I started tracking or it just slipped through the cracks.

The review:

“I’m of very mixed feelings on this one.”

“The first 30 minutes are basically the dude planning and carrying out the attack, and for twenty minutes we’re just watching him murder a hundred people. Which — does anyone want to see that?”

“It does this thing that’s so out of left field — the guy who did it, in prison, keeps saying, ‘I just want to talk on the stand and get my views out there.’ Basically he wants his platform to say his beliefs. Which he shouldn’t get. And yet… the movie’s kind of giving it to him?”

“It’s well made and all that, but I don’t understand what the point of it was.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I still question the choices this one made or why we needed to see it. But it’s well made. Still, not something I really wanna go back and see again, much like United 93.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Happy Prince

January’s preview:

“Rupert Everett wrote, directs and stars. Not crazy about that combination, but I’ll give it a shot.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“It’s very much a period piece. The kind of thing the Weinsteins would have forced into Oscar contention 20 years ago. Here, it’s completely forgettable, and just sort of a passion project for an actor.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Noble effort. I just didn’t like the movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

First Man

January’s preview:

“I… am starting to get the feeling that Chazelle is gonna have a misstep with this one. Whether legitimate or not. I feel like this won’t be the Oscar buzzsaw it looks like from the outset. But that’s just me. We’ll see how it goes.”

“Gotta say 4 stars here, as a blanket.”

“I… he might be able to keep this run going. Which will be exciting. I’m gonna stick with 4 and hope I get 4.5 out of this. I hope this is great.”

The review:

“This was the kind of movie where, if it worked and was successful, (Chazelle) wasn’t gonna get a lot of the credit, because it’s about Neil fucking Armstrong. The story is what sells it. But Chazelle, man… from the opening scene it became obvious just how he was gonna tell his story, and he really made the most of it. This movie is made better because of how he directed it.”

“Not only is this a very strong film, but Chazelle manages to put a directorial stamp on the whole thing that makes it even more impressive. And Gosling is good in this, Claire Foy is good (though with a pretty thankless role). It’s just a good movie.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was really impressed by this. The direction is very strong, the acting is very strong. The film itself… not the most entertaining movie in the world. But I’m way more positive on this than I thought I’d be. I thought I was gonna get, “Yeah, it’s good,” and nothing more. Here, I really want to praise the direction and the sound design every time I talk about it. Really good effort by Chazelle.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Bad Times at the El Royale

January’s preview:

“It’s a thriller, so at least it’s not a horror. This could be fun, or it could become horror and I could not care.”

“I’ll say 3.5 stars for the cast, but I truly don’t know what I’m getting.”

The review:

“Well, it certainly wasn’t a very good time at the El Royale.”

“This movie had such promise. Goddard is a great writer, and the cast is fantastic, and the premise was great. But, somewhere along the way, the movie just loses its course.”

“I enjoyed it, but I’m disappointed because it could have been so much more.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It starts off interesting, loses steam about 35 minutes in, then just lessens the rest of the way. Damn shame. This could have been a nice cult hit. Now it’s an interesting exercise that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween

January’s preview:

“Sequel to the first one. First one was fun and a solid 3 stars. This one feels like a decent 3 stars. Can’t see it not being perfectly fine.”

The review:

“The first Goosebumps was fun. This one, less so. Still fun enough to be enjoyable the once, but it’s a lesser sequel.”

“As far as this franchise goes, it’s inoffensive family stuff. Nothing wrong with that. Not great, not terrible.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This franchise is inconsequential fun. Not great, but enjoyable enough.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Beautiful Boy

January’s preview:

“I’m down.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“I’d probably be crying foul about how Oscar bait this movie is if I just looked at it on paper. HOWEVER… based on a real story, so I’ll give it some leeway there. And directed by the guy who did The Broken Circle Breakdown, which is both melodramatic as shit and also great.”

“I thought it was perfectly solid, with solid lead performances, and a film that didn’t add up to a whole lot.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

The movie feels overdone, but at its core is an interesting story. Performances are interesting enough, the movie generally works. But for the most part I wasn’t really interested in this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Laws of the Universe – Part 1

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Didn’t like the first one, didn’t like this one. So we’re pretty much on par with where I’d have expected to be. Anime isn’t my thing, especially when it’s like this. This was never gonna be for me.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is the epitome of anime I don’t like.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Kindergarten Teacher

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“Worried about all the pitfalls here. Gonna stick with 3.”

The review:

“It’s fine, I guess, but it doesn’t amount to much of anything for me. You’re just kind of left watching this plot unfold, not really knowing why any of it is happening.”

“Wasn’t totally for me. There are better Netflix movies out there.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Didn’t do it for me. All around I barely cared.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Apostle

January’s preview:

“I’m in.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“I knew nothing about this, and was really drawn in by it.”

“Even when it gets sort of supernatural in the third act, I was fine with it.”

“I can’t say I wish it had done something different, because this isn’t that kind of movie, but it did make me feel like there’s a lot of untrodden ground in this setting that could be really cool.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this. Story barely held together, but the visuals, acting and atmosphere carried it through.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

After Everything

January’s preview:

“The cast is really solid.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“It ended up being way better than I thought it would be.”

“It’s very indie, and has some issues, but considering that nobody knew this existed, I think this is a very worthwhile hidden gem for this year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

A nice hidden gem. I like movies like this. The relationship at the core was well done, if not the most unique one ever told. It falls into a lot of indie tropes, but I think it ends up overcoming a lot of them.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

MFKZ

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Interesting movie. Like Boondocks meets anime.”

“Wasn’t really for me, but at least it was animated differently and took a different genre route than most animated movies do. So I’m glad for that. Otherwise — ehh.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Different than most, but still pretty ehh for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Better Start Running

January’s preview:

“Sure.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“One of these comes around every few years. That indie madcap action comedy with people on the run and over the top characters.”

“But you have to remember, it’s an indie, so over the top is like when you have a muted trumpet. There’s only so loud it’s going. There’s a lot of ‘quirky’ ground to fill up before you get to ‘loud.'”

“It’s also a movie that tries to be funny but also have serious emotional moments when people actually get shot? It’s very weird. I don’t know what to make of it except to say — ehh.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Ehh.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Halloween

January’s preview:

“I’m excited for this, but I’m not sure I can go more than 3 stars. I need to see this one work out. So 3 stars, and I hope I can get 3.5 stars out of this.”

The review:

“The execution left something to be desired. There’s like, an hour of setup to this movie. All of which feels tedious and overdone.”

“Then once the killing starts, it’s just mayhem for the purpose of mayhem.”

“I just wanted more out of this. Sure, it’s the best Halloween movie in 20 years, but let’s not pretend like the first two still aren’t the best in this franchise.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine, and it’s solid enough, but I watch this and wonder why they ended up with what they did. Too much talking on the trauma front, too little put into the killing front, and in the end I wanted more of the Curtis story in a different way. This felt more like killing spree and then, “Oh, let me get her.” Should have been entirely him going after her. Then maybe all the overdone talking about the trauma could have been better. Still, a solid enough Halloween movie, which is not something we usually get.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Mid90s

January’s preview:

“Jonah Hill wrote and directs this.”

“Hopefully this will be his Lady Bird.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“Let’s all just call this for what it is — Skatey Bird.”

“A debut, he really knocks this out of the park. It’s really good.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Really solid effort. Doesn’t overstay its welcome, strong acting, a lived-in kinda feel, and just a really fantastic debut.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

January’s preview:

3 stars, just because I don’t know what I’m getting, but I might be able to get 3.5 stars out of this in the right scenario.”

The review:

“I’m not sure the script was all there to fully get the most out of the story. There was something missing for me.”

“It’s fine. McCarthy is good, and Grant is good. Not sure this does a whole lot for me other than add a very solid notch on Marielle Heller’s filmography.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like that I had low expectations for this going on, somehow knowing I wouldn’t love it, and even though the film surpassed what my expectations were, I still feel like it’s a disappointment on some level. No idea how that works, but here we are.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

What They Had

January’s preview:

“Hey, Hilary Swank is back with more Oscar bait!”

“This one has Michael Shannon in it, which is what interests me more than anything.”

3 stars. I might have gone lower if Shannon wasn’t in this.”

The review:

“One of the most underrated and underseen movies of 2018.”

“It’s really well drawn, and well acted.”

“This is a terrific gem of a movie that everyone should seek out.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Really liked this. Good acting — Robert Forster especially — and an indie drama that feels elevated from most of the indie dramas out there.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Wildlife

January’s preview:

“Paul Dano’s directorial debut. Cast is great. Reviews are good. I want this to be great.”

4 stars.”

The review:

“It’s a really mannered movie. It’s 50s, so it’s trying to emulate that. But it just feels like it could have done more.”

“It’s one of those where, I want to support it with all my being, because I love when actors direct, but also… it’s a first film. And it feels like a first film.”

“It’s one of those where — it’s perfectly fine and pretty good, but I wish there were more.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Let down from what I wanted it to be, but an overall decent movie. Definitely too mannered, and not enough moments for the actors to do anything interesting.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Thunder Road

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This is a weird little movie. Interesting, though.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was definitely interesting.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Guilty

Warning Shot

January’s preview:

“Looks generic, as much as I want to see it for James Earl Jones.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“I only saw this because James Earl Jones was in it.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I did, though.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

January’s preview:

“An Aubrey Plaza Sundance movie gets 3 stars from me. Maybe it’s fucked up and interesting, like Ingrid Goes West, and I can get 3.5, but 3 has to be the guess. They’re almost always 3, albeit strong 3s.”

The review:

“I feel like there’s always one weird Aubrey Plaza comedy each year.”

“Didn’t entirely appeal to me, but I was interested in it as part of an exercise.”

“This… is not for everyone. I was okay with it, but I suspect this is very much a ‘love it or hate it’ kinda film.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s weird. You gotta be prepared for it before you put it on. It’s not for everyone.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Galveston

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“I hope it’s great.”

The review:

“I like when actors direct, but I also don’t know if I thought this was anything more than okay. Still, solid enough that I’d watch another movie from her.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was fine. Well made and all, just wasn’t particularly invested in the story.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Been So Long

January’s preview:

“Musical. Down.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“It is a musical with a mostly black cast. And I am here for all of that.”

“It’s a delightful little film. And it’s on Netflix, which means you can see it any time you want. And you probably should. It’s fun.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Worthwhile. I’m a fan of almost any original musical.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Air Strike

January’s preview:

“Bruce Willis stars (or extended cameos) in a Chinese-funded movie. He’s taking his paycheck movies international!”

3 stars.”

The review:

“I only saw it because they paid Bruce Willis and Adrien Brody to be in it. Bruce Willis takes his paycheck movies internationally.”

“It’s terrible. I don’t understand how they think they can bridge the gap between China and the U.S. in terms of what films work in both places. But maybe this is like those Japanese commercials, and the actors figure no one over here will ever see them.”

“Still, it is funny watching this and seeing Bruce Willis basically scream at a dude who clearly doesn’t understand a word he says, and he’s just sort of shouting because he has no real cue from the other actor to play off of (or doesn’t care to).”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like how the recurring theme of this is “Bruce Willis takes his paycheck movies internationally.” Because it should be.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact

Burning

January’s preview:

None

The review:

Haven’t seen it yet. Will update this when I do.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

Shirkers

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This is worth checking out. It’s interesting. Great story.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked it. And it’s on Netflix. Interesting story.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Johnny English Strikes Again

January’s preview:

“Didn’t we say all we needed to say with the first two Johnny English movies?”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Didn’t we say all we needed to say with the first two Johnny English movies?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Didn’t we, though?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Hunter Killer

January’s preview:

None. I previewed this years ago, and it seemed like it would never actually shoot. And then I never left a blanket rating (because it was that long ago). I’m not sure if this shot late or if I just missed it because of where I was back in January. Either way, shit happens.

The review:

“Honestly I wish I cared more. It’s watchable, but it’s boring generic instead of fun generic.”

“Nice to see a movie about submarines and Russians where Gary Oldman is not doing a Russian accent.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Boring submarine movie with a decent cast. That’s a shame.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Suspiria

January’s preview:

“CAN. NOT. WAIT.”

“Cast is great, the movie will be somewhat different from the original, which it should be. No reason to think I won’t like this a lot, but in a different way from the original.”

4 stars.”

“I am all about this movie.”

The review:

“Probably my single most anticipated movie of 2018.” I was so ready for this. I’ve been following this religiously since it started shooting.”

“Man, was this awesome. I need to see it again to fully gauge my feelings on it (you cant just see that third act once and think it’s enough), but man, was this so great. I’ll decide how great over the next ten days. But this is just about everything I wanted it to be.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m still formulating my thoughts on this, but I loved it. I thought I was getting Suspiria, but instead I got a meditation on grief and trauma and sisterhood, with a cast entirely full of women, where the only actual men in the cast are objectified and underwritten the way women normally are. Amazing.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – – –

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