2019: The Year in Reviews (February)

You know what it is. It’s the last half of December, which means we’re wrapping up the year.

Like most things in my life, it’s built around a pun. What I do in January is preview everything I can possibly find that’s set to come out that year. And then what I do is watch as many of them as I can, dropping reviews each third of the year. And then in December, we recap how that all went, month by month and see how I did/what I liked.

Mainly I do this for me, just to see how accurate I can guess on stuff up to a year out (I used to hope for a solid 2/3 percentage, but at this point I generally hit above 70% and really wanna see if I can somehow get to 75%), but it also keeps me honest, since I don’t read anything I write after it goes up until I compile these articles and my reviews are done based on how I feel as I write them up. So really this is bringing the two together and considering my feelings as they stand at this moment in time. And then hopefully others can maybe find some cool stuff they didn’t know about or previously consider from it all.

Today is February.

February

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019 poster).png

Velvet Buzzsaw

January’s preview:

“It’s Dan Gilroy, whose first two movies were exclusively 4 star movies for me (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel Esq).”

“Based on the first two, I feel like I need to also go 4 stars here, but something is telling me to go 3.5 stars, so that’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll be wrong if need be.”

“I think it’s because they could have slotted this end of last year but instead put it in February.”

“Plus it’s a thriller (possibly horror?) about the art world. Not loving that combination even though I should trust Gilroy. But this also should not go any lower than 3.5, so I’m sticking with that and we’ll see if he can maintain his streak of 4 star films.”

The review:

“I appreciate Dan Gilroy’s determination to make genre movies. They feel elevated, but they’re all grounded in the tradition of genre movies.”

“This is a campy, B movie horror. Again, it’s not played as campy… but come on, guys. Jake Gyllenhaal is turned to 11 in this movie.”

“It feels like a complete piece. I like a lot of aspects of this even if I’m not as in love with the entire piece. Still, it’s worth seeing. This is such a weird and unique movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Holy shit, I got this one exact. The combination of subject matter plus that slightly pushed release date. Look, if Roman J. Israel got that Oscar season slot, this could have too if they believed in it. But yeah, it’s weird, and it’s not for everyone. And I do like that it was weird and did like the movie. Just… not as much as the other two. So I’m glad I had that one from the jump.

How close was I?: Exact.

Miss Bala poster.jpg

Miss Bala

January’s preview:

“Thrillers like this usually don’t translate into English as well.”

3 stars.”

“It’s also coming out in February, which is a clear sign to not bother going higher than 3.”

The review:

“It’s perfectly watchable.”

“Nothing special, but fine.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Pure 3 star movie all the way. This was guaranteed all the way down the line.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Piercing poster.png

Piercing

January’s preview:

“Looks awesome.”

3.5 stars. Should be solid.”

The review:

“This is the B movie Phantom Thread. I loved it.”

“It announces its intentions within the first three minutes — it starts with a man holding an ice pick over his infant child and then has grindhouse-style opening credits. It’s not trying to be high art and it’s gonna be down and dirty. Which is refreshing.”

“This will be one of the better movies you see this year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’ll be honest, I thought for a second about going 4 on this one when I saw it. I’m glad I stuck with 3.5, but still, I really liked this a lot. And while Eyes of My Mother was a strong 3 but still a 3, I knew the cast was teh sign that this would be that step up I needed. And man, I loved this for what it was.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Then Came You Poster

Then Came You

January’s preview:

“Within ten seconds of the trailer, I knew exactly what I was getting.”

3 stars.”

“This has almost no potential to be anything but 3 stars.”

The review:

“It goes all the places you expect it to go.”

“This movie does exactly what you expect it to, for better or for worse.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Sometimes you just know. Sometimes a movie can only be one thing.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Arctic film poster.jpg

Arctic

January’s preview:

“Plane crash survival movie. Yeah, boy.”

“Starring Mads Mikkelson. I am so in.”

“This should be 3.5 stars. Maybe it’ll only be 3, but I have to go 3.5. This is extremely my jam.”

The review:

“I love wilderness survival movies. Especially when they’re tactile and feature little dialogue.”

“Just watching a dude go through his routine of trying to be rescued, even if I spend three straight minutes watching him chop ice, is fascinating to me. Give me that over any hastily cut action sequence any day.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like what I like.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Cold Pursuit poster.jpg

Cold Pursuit

January’s preview:

“Starring Liam Neeson.”

“The trailer was fun. Great use of ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper.’ Really well cut. Wanted to make me go 3.5 stars, but Liam Neeson thrillers are almost exclusively 3 stars, so that’s what the guess is.”

“I’ll happily take better, but none of them ever are.”

The review:

“This is much more of a weird comedy than it is an action movie.”

“It’s a remake of the same director’s original movie, and I suspect a lot of the comedy works better there than it does here. Still, it’s enjoyable.”

“And even so, we got that whole bizarre, ‘Liam Neeson admitted to walking around thirty years ago, looking to kill a black man because his friend said a black man raped her’ thing. That’s gotta count for something, right?”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Oh yeah, I forgot about that interview he gave. Has nothing to do with the movie, but shit, that was weird.

I’m glad I stuck with 3. It had a shot at 3.5, being a black comedy, but it just didn’t work enough for me to ever consider going there.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Berlin, I Love You.jpg

Berlin, I Love You

January’s preview:

“It’s another one of the anthology films set in cities. I’ve seen all of the others so far and I will always watch one of these.”

“Paris is still the best. New York was fine. Rio was so-so. This, I imagine, will be fine.”

“Same kind of cast, a bunch of different directors. I’m always in for these movies.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Fourth in the series, after Paris, New York and Rio. They’re arguably getting worse as we go along, though I might say Berlin is better than Rio was.”

“The magic of the earlier films isn’t there.”

“I think the franchise, or whatever you want to call it, has lost sight of what it should be about. I’ll probably keep watching them as they make them, but it’s really not very worthwhile anymore.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It is better than Rio, but they have lost sight of what makes these films magical. Or at least, what makes the idea behind the films magical. Maybe they’ll get back to it, but something tells me that won’t happen

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

High Flying Bird (2019 poster).png

High Flying Bird

January’s preview:

“And here we are. February and already I’m being tested again with Steven Soderbergh.”

“Every year a Soderbergh movie comes out and every year I underrate it by a half-star.”

“And you know what? I’m doing it again!”

3.5 stars.”

“I know I shouldn’t, but truly, my gut says go 3.5 stars on this. So I will.”

“George Santayana is giving me the slow head shake right now.”

The review:

“I’m so happy Steven Soderbergh is back making movies. Only he could make a movie like this interesting to me.”

“It’s a sports movie without sports. And somehow, it’s really interesting.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this. I’m glad I didn’t go 4 stars, because while it was solid, I didn’t go for it the way I went for his last two films.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

To Dust - poster.jpg

To Dust

January’s preview:

None. I think I found out about it just before it was coming out and immediately wanted to see it.

The review:

“I loved this movie. This is already one of the best hidden gems of 2019.”

“Definitely one of those movies almost no one knows about that should be seen.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a great offbeat comedy and is one of the hidden gems of the year and I highly recommend it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot.png

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

January’s preview:

“Starring Sam Elliott.”

“Shit yeah.”

“Trailer makes it look really cheap, so that’s worrying me. I want to go 3.5, but the way the trailer is structured it really makes me think I should only go 3.”

“So let’s go 3 stars. 3.5 seems like the ceiling on this anyway. But the trailer does not make it look as interesting as the title suggests.”

The review:

“The title is the movie. The movie is not as fun or campy as the title may suggest. But you have Sam Elliott, so that’s nice.”

“It’s more meditative than anything. Like The Assassination of Jesse James, only with Bigfoot and Hitler.”

“I’d have loved it if Sam Elliott just played younger him and they didn’t bother to hide it. But alas.”

“I’d qualify this as a success, even if it’s an A+ title and a B execution.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

‘Like The Assassination of Jesse James, only with Bigfoot and Hitler’. How can I possibly top that sentence?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Image result for remastered sam cooke

ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

January’s preview:

None. This was the one that got me to want to see the series and then I just binged all of them as soon as I could.

The review:

“This one is about how Sam Cooke had a meteoric rise and also remained very outspoken about Civil Rights and ended up dying under very mysterious circumstances in a motel in LA.”

“This is one of the best of this series and should be seen.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This series is spectacular. I talked about it with January. All of these are very good and very interesting. I think this is one of the best of the entire series.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Untogether poster.jpg

Untogether

January’s preview:

“This feels like an indie all the way, and anything about writers… not my cup of tea. And it’s a first film.”

“But Billy Crystal and Ben Mendelsohn are in it, so on that alone, 3 stars. Should probably go 2.5, but those two got me to 3.”

The review:

“Adult drama. These are rare. Unfortunately they’re not always good. This one is watchable, but not great.”

“Very much a Tribeca-style indie. Wouldn’t be surprised if it premiered there. It’s got that feel to it.”

“All the actors are game, and it’s largely only interesting because of them. It’s got a lot of generic indie tropes, though, which I’m not a fan of. So be prepared for that if you bother to even watch it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very indie, but the actors make it watchable, even if it’s not necessarily something I’d recommend.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Lego Movie 2 The Second Part theatrical poster.jpg

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“It’s a Lego movie. All of these have gone 3 stars or 2.5 stars for me.”

The review:

“It’s dumb cute fun. Same as the first Lego Movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I don’t really care about these movies, so 3 stars is a rave from me. It’s fine. Whatever. That’s about as far as I go on them.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Prodigy poster.jpg

The Prodigy

January’s preview:

2.5 stars.”

“Generic horror thriller. 100% not for me and 100% chance I will not care in the slightest.”

The review:

“Shitty horror movie. One of those ‘Bad Seed’ knockoffs about an evil child killing people. Absolutely nothing new or interesting here.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yawn.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

What Men Want 2019 Teaser poster.jpg

What Men Want

January’s preview:

“Remake of the Mel Gibson movie. Didn’t need to be made on any level, but here we are.”

“Still, this feels properly within the realm of the 3 star February movie.”

“Looks like it won’t be great, but will be enjoyable enough.”

The review:

“It’s the female version of What Women Want. Problem is… it doesn’t really do anything with that concept.”

“It’s the broadest, most generic version of ‘what if a woman could hear mens’ thoughts’ you could possibly come up with.”

“Why can’t studio comedies actually have a personality anymore? Why must they feel so overly developed and not actually have any real laughs in them?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m not wrong, though. Why do almost all studio comedies feel overly produced to the point of being forgotten almost immediately upon coming out?

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Isn't It Romantic (2019 poster).png

Isn’t It Romantic

January’s preview:

“Oh no.”

“But you know what? The trailer looks fun, and now that I look closer, it’s by Todd Strauss-Schulson, who did The Final Girls, which I liked a lot.”

“The concept should easily carry this to 3 stars. I can’t get my hopes up for higher, because I’d just be setting myself up for disappointment. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by this if it’s really that good.”

The review:

“Interesting idea, not great execution.”

“Doesn’t really amount to anything interesting, and I am doubly disappointed by this, because not only was it a great idea with a lot of upside, I’ve read a couple scripts over the years with similar premises, and they ended up being so much better than this movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I brought up Sam Esmail’s Norm the Movie script both times I previewed/reviewed this. That sounds like me.

Movie was just okay, although only now am I being reminded with how disappointed I am with with how poorly they executed such a great concept.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A girl with unusually big eyes stands ready with a large sword in hand.

Alita: Battle Angel

January’s preview:

“Oh yeah, anime eyes.”

“James Cameron was gonna do this and then handed off duties to Robert Rodriguez.”

3 stars.”

“I have to guess that. Not a chance this is 4 stars, and slim chance it’s 3.5. But also the kind of movie it is prevents it from going any lower than 3.”

The review:

“It was always gonna go 3 stars. And you knew this would never be more than 3 stars.”

“Its biggest problem — which is something I say all the time — too much money went into it. I know some of that is the ‘James Cameron tax’.”

“It’s just a watchable movie that doesn’t do anything particularly special. You could have spent $90 million on this and gotten the same product. Movies like this just seem like a waste of money.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I like the concept, I like a lot about it, but I do think the budget was the biggest hinderance to this ever being good. It’s fine, but it could have been way better.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Happy Death Day 2U.png

Happy Death Day 2U

January’s preview:

“Oh, great, a sequel. I guess this is inevitable. I can accept it if it’s gonna end at 2 and be a worthwhile story. I’m worried this is just a sequel for the sake of a sequel, though. Doesn’t seem that way, but also I can’t assume anything great from this.”

3 stars, on the sequel drop. I’ll be happy if I can get 3.5 out of this like the first one, but let’s not assume that.”

The review:

“A movie that feels like it was allowed a sequel. And you know what? Sequel was just fine. Not as charming or interesting as the first one, as one would expect, but also not terrible either.”

“Guessing they’ll try to round out a trilogy of these, but if they stopped here, I’d be fine with that too. Really just as long as they don’t wear out their welcome, as things like this tend to do.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I think they are done after this. But 3 star sequel drop… nothing really surprising about this one. More of the same, lesser result because of the lack of the element of surprise.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Fighting With My Family poster.png

Fighting with My Family

January’s preview:

“Oh yeah, the wrestling movie. Stars Florence Pugh, who I like a lot. The story doesn’t seem amazing. So I gotta guess 3 stars and hope this can go higher.”

The review:

“I’m considering this the surprise of 2019 so far. I’d seen a trailer late last year and thought, ‘That seems fun, but no way is that gonna be good.'”

“I actually thought this was good. It’s got its heart in the right place, the laughs are genuine, and you really feel for the characters. Sure, some of it goes a bit on the nose (the training sequences, and the brother’s… journey… if you will, in the latter half of the film), but there are enough moments in there that make it feel fresher than if another movie were telling the same story.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie totally works. It’s very charming. And I think it’s so good that even if you don’t like wrestling you’ll enjoy this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Trading Paint poster.jpg

Trading Paint

January’s preview:

“These are usually 3 stars, so I see no reason to assume anything different here.”

The review:

“Another John Travolta VOD movie. These seem to be his realm now.”

“It’s as generic as you’d expect. Totally watchable though. At least for me it was, but as I always say, I grew up on these movies. Plus you get Travolta vs. Michael Madsen, which is a nice little bonus.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. Not for anyone but people like me, who can watch these movies easily.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Lords of Chaos poster.jpg

Lords of Chaos

January’s preview:

“Okay then. Sounds interesting.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Interesting dark comedy about a Norwegian Black Metal band from the 90s. It’s definitely dark. I found a lot of it funny, though it definitely does not have a particularly funny ending.”

“I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I like the offbeat sense of humor to it, and even the scenes where they burn down churches are almost played for laughs.”

“A very surprisingly enjoyable movie, which I would not have guessed if you presented me with this on paper before I saw it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It is definitely fun and a very dark comedy. Not sure it’s for everyone, but I did like it in an offbeat kinda way.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

O.G. Poster

O.G.

January’s preview:

None. Though I thought I had heard about this. Weird.

The review:

“HBO movie with Jeffrey Wright in prison. Really fantastic. He’s been in there over 20 years and he’s up for parole. And it’s a really captivating portrait. I definitely recommend this movie. It’s worth your time.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s really strong. Prison films are always interesting, and this is on HBO, so it’s easy to find, should you want to.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Donnybrook (2018 poster).png

Donnybrook

January’s preview:

“Starring Frank Grillo? Well that’s easy. 3 stars. Maybe I can get 3.5, but we stick with 3, knowing we will for sure get that.”

The review:

“Little indie with a good cast and an interesting premise.”

“The movie is slow and feels like it might go somewhere. Sadly it never really does, and even when stuff does happen, it doesn’t really add up to anything.”

“It feels like it needed a better script to have turned into something better.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Atmosphere worked, the story wasn’t there, even as much as the cast tries to make it work. Watchable, but just fair.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Paddleton poster.jpg

Paddleton

January’s preview:

3 stars. That seems pretty straightforward.”

The review:

“It’s decent. Small drama that goes low key in the hopes of getting you emotional by the end. Solid enough. Nothing overly special for me, but it’s worth seeing. Solidly middle/middle-plus Netflix fare.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine. Good dramatic performance out of Ray Romano, but otherwise just okay.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

How to Train Your Dragon 3 poster.png

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

January’s preview:

“This franchise is always watchable. 3 stars. Never gonna be as cute as the first, and I don’t think it’ll drop to 2.5. Could, but I doubt it.”

The review:

“Haven’t cared since the first one. Barely cared about the first one. Just kinda going through the motions by watching these.”

“I’ve basically already forgotten what happened in this. Glad to probably be done with this franchise. Like all of their movies that work, DreamWorks ran it into the ground.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Guess I was wrong. It dropped to 2.5 because I underestimated how little I care about the dragons at this point, nine years later.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

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