2019: The Year in Reviews (June)

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 June.

June

Dark Phoenix (film).png

Dark Phoenix

January’s preview:

“It’s X-Men. 3.5 stars is the minimum I will get out of this, unless it’s straight garbage.”

“Simon Kinberg, who produced and wrote this recent iteration of the franchise, directs. Which means it won’t completely fall off a cliff. Though, it’s gonna be hard to make it particularly good when the last one was rushed and didn’t quite cook all the way and the entire cast looked bored as hell.”

“Trailer looks good. I could get 4 stars out of this if they pull it off. We’ll stick with 3.5 stars. This franchise is either running its course or gonna close itself out with grace. We’ll see which it is.”

The review:

“Well, the X-Men franchise went out with a whimper. That was a steep drop-off, wasn’t it?”

“Everyone seems to be going through the motions here.”

“There’s literally nothing memorable in this entire movie.”

“The only thing they did right, to sort of put a nice tack on the end of it and tie it into everything else is… end it with Xavier and Magneto sitting down for a game of chess, which is exactly where we found them at the beginning of the first movie. So that’s a nice ending. But it’s kind of like how Men in Black III, after being abject garbage for most of it, ended on a really sweet note with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.”

“Way to literally lower the bar to nothing for Marvel, just like Sony did with Spider-Man.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This felt like they rushed something out to try to close it out because they knew Disney was buying them and they’d no longer get the money from the franchise. Oh well. Shame this is how this franchise ends, but it really ended with Logan, didn’t it?

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) Final Poster.jpg

The Secret Life of Pets 2

January’s preview:

“Don’t need to know anything about this.”

“2.5 stars.”

“The first one was barely passable, and it’s Illumination. They’ll ruin whatever the first one had that worked and make it unbearable.”

The review:

“Didn’t give a shit about the first one, really don’t give a shit about this one.”

“This is a kids movie and I leave these to the kids.”

“Illumination also, as a company, does not appeal to me. They’ve yet to make a single movie where I said anything more than “sure” to. Mostly I don’t like them, don’t care, or really don’t like them. And normally the really don’t like is reserved for the Minions. Also, that fucking Grinch shit last year. Holy hell. But yeah, whatever on this movie.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Complete yawn.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Late Night poster.jpeg

Late Night

January’s preview:

3 stars seems like the baseline, so let’s go with that.”

The review:

“I got sold a bill of goods on this one.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Somehow my review never got finished or got deleted by accident, so we’ll go with what I wrote in the Disappointments article, which is basically the same thing:

“I’m not mad at the film at all. In fact, the film turned out exactly as I expected it to. It was the fact that it came out and people leapt to praise it as this amazing movie that featured Emma Thompson’s best performance in years (which was already a misnomer, since Emma Thompson’s best most recent performance is always ‘the last one’) with great writing that really talked about what it’s like for a woman. And really… it’s not. It just felt like Mindy Kaling writing a vehicle for herself. That’s what I expected it to be. It doesn’t really do anything particularly unique or interesting. In fact, it feels kinda flat and lazy at times with how it diminishes and minimizes some of the aspects of the story that should be focused on more. And I’m disappointed that I was sold a bill of goods on this movie from the public at large that it just can’t live up to. It’s just a decently solid movie and that’s it. And the fact that I was told it was more than that led to me being very disappointed with it.”

I’m happy I got this right, because I knew what it was gonna be all the way through.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019 film poster).png

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Might get 3, but worth a shot based on the people picking the material.”

The review:

“This is a really strong movie.”

“It’s really well done and one of those movies that should be seen by everyone, even if I don’t think everyone will necessarily love it.”

“I’m not sure I loved it, but I really liked it and I think it is something people should see, because it has a lot to say and has a really nice visual language to it.”

 * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

The first half of this movie is very good, and the second half loses steam. I wasn’t as in love with the third act of this movie as I was with the first. But I really liked the first 40 minutes of this a lot.

 * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Pavarotti film poster.jpg

Pavarotti

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I didn’t think I’d be all that interested in this, but I was wrong. It’s really solid.”

“You really get a sense of who this man is, and the joy with which he approached all aspects of life. It doesn’t go too deep in the flaws of his character, but it goes enough for you to get the idea. It could dive deep into them, but it doesn’t just avoid them the way you’d expect something like this to.”

“I’m a big fan of this documentary. It’s one of my favorites of the year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I did really like this. Even if you don’t care about opera (as I don’t), it’s worthwhile. Trust me on that.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

I Am Mother poster.png

I Am Mother

January’s preview:

“Huh?”

“This sounds like a Netflix movie.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Netflix movie that has shades of Ex Machina and 10 Cloverfield Lane. Look at me, selling it like I’m pitching a studio executive. It’s not that good.”

“It goes to some interesting places. I will give them credit for how they ended it. On the scale of ‘super happy ending’ and ‘bleakest shit ever’… it’s much more in the bleak category than I ever expected it to be. Which is awesome.”

“It’s not the greatest movie ever but it’s definitely a solid Netflix movie that you could watch and get something out of.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Decently solid for Netflix, just kind of okay as a movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Pachamama Poster

Pachamama

January’s preview:

None. Animated Feature eligible I found out about in October.

The review:

“Animated movie about the Incas that somehow is not a spinoff of Emperor’s New Groove starring John Goodman’s character. Instead, it’s about a boy who wants to become a tribal medicine man. It’s fine. Animation style is bright and colorful. Plot didn’t do much for me, but you could do worse.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

emperors new groove dancing GIF

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?:

Funan poster.jpg

Funan

January’s preview:

None. Animated Feature eligible I found out about in October.

The review:

“Another adult animated movie about a family trying to survive during the Khmer Rouge. It’s very well made. Don’t really have a lot to say other than that it’s good and worth seeing if you go in for animated movies about serious topics.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Solid, not something I ever need to see again.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Framing John DeLorean poster.jpg

Framing John DeLorean

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This one is a straight documentary, telling the story of DeLorean and his time making cars and how he set out on his own, that whole thing. Only the filmmakers decided that on top of talking about what happened, they’d do recreations of some of the scenes using real actors.”

“There are just moments in this of Alec Baldwin being fitted with makeup to play DeLorean and then acting out badly written scenes that were basically just described to us. They didn’t even just seamlessly work them in like a real film.”

“It’s a very strangely put-together film. You can tell documentarians made it, because the actors are not well-directed and the scenes feel stilted. They feel like a rehearsal and not a film being shot.”

“This one just did not work for me, which is a shame, since the story it’s trying to tell is an interesting one.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The story is interesting, but the documentary is not. Oh well.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Black Godfather Poster

The Black Godfather

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s awesome. One of the better documentaries I’ve seen recently.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Top three of the documentaries I saw this year. Loved it.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Rolling Thunder Revue, A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese Poster.jpeg

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Awesome Netflix documentary about the Bob Dylan tour.”

“The documentary does something interesting, which is, it starts off very factual, and then slowly starts slipping in fake stuff and bringing in people who just are making shit up. But it’s all played as fact…. Which is a very Dylan thing to do.”

“There’s nothing better than a Martin Scorsese music documentary/concert film. And this has loads of music in it. That’s what we’re here for anyway.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Top 3-5 on documentaries I saw this year, mainly for the music.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Men in Black International (Official Film Poster).png

Men in Black International

January’s preview:

“This franchise is fun. And they’re rebooting it, which allows it to feel fresh again.”

“I like the leads. I like the supporting people, and F. Gary Gray makes solid movies.”

3.5 stars.”

“I should get that easily. I hope I can get 4. I want this to be awesome. Hopefully the story isn’t as obvious as it seems.”

The review:

“I mean… did we think this had any chance of being good? I mean, really good. At most you were gonna go, “It wasn’t great, but Hemsworth and Thompson were awesome together.” But this movie couldn’t even give us that. Holy shit. What was this movie?”

“The original Men in Black — did you know it’s only 98 minutes long? They accomplish everything they accomplished in that movie in just over an hour and a half. Think about that.”

“This movie is just shy of two hours long. And I bet you won’t remember a goddamn frame of it within two weeks of seeing it. It’s that forgettable.”

“Also, show of hands, who could have sworn Liam Neeson was in the last Men in Black movie? Because I could have.”

“A really bad movie on a lot of levels. Possibly even Unforgivable. Because they had a cool idea. Branch out Men in Black, cast two really awesome people who we’ve already seen play well off of each other. And then they just created a story that completely cut the legs out from under this movie, spent waaay more than they should have on it (I don’t know what the budget is, but I guarantee all-in they spent $200 million on this, including marketing) and now we’re left with nothing of value whatsoever.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of the biggest disappointments of the entire year. I really disliked this movie.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Shaft (2019) film poster.png

Shaft

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“I can’t assume more than 3, as much as I want a Shaft movie to be good. It’ll be 3 star action movie at worst. At best, maybe 3.5 stars, but even then it’ll take a lot to get it there. So let’s stick with 3.”

The review:

“This is a straight up comedy. Samuel L. Jackson as a character is hilarious.”

“They basically looked at Shaft and said, ‘Okay, how does he fit into a 2019 society?’ And the answer is, he doesn’t. He comes across as sexist, misogynist, and totally out of touch. And they just play that up.”

“It’s so much fun. Trust me on this. This is one of the more entertaining surprises of the year. I did not expect this to be this good.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

loved this movie. So much goddamn fun and it’s one of the best surprises I had this year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

American Woman poster.jpg

American Woman

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Didn’t really do it for me. Kinda uninteresting all the time. Nothing really grabbed my attention. Oh well. These happen.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Kinda boring all around. Not for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Dead Don't Die.jpeg

The Dead Don’t Die

January’s preview:

“It’s Jim Jarmusch. I don’t even care what the plot is. His plots never matter. I’m in.”

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“Jim Jarmusch made a zombie movie.”

“It’s the slowest-paced zombie movie ever, where it’s just a series of scenes that string together with people eventually dying.”

“The thing with Jarmusch movies is… nothing really happens, but they’re always interesting.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love that Jarmusch can do that… give you a movie where nothing happens and it’s barely even a movie but still it works and is interesting to watch.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Murder Mystery (film).png

Murder Mystery

January’s preview:

“…Starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.”

“Yeah. That’s right.”

“I’m gonna shock you — 3 stars.”

“That won’t keep this from possibly being Unforgivable, but this does mean that I’m expecting not to automatically hate this movie.”

“Remember this when it comes out. These might be famous last words.”

The review:

“Is it Unforgivable? No. No it is not.”

“Even though they took everything remotely interesting out of it, it’s still kind of coherent enough to not despise it.”

“Mostly I just didn’t care. There’s no tone to it. It’s not funny, there’s no action… I’m not really sure what it was. It’s kind of just everyone going through the motions.”

“Doesn’t work. But it’s not immediate Unforgivable like almost every Sandler movie seems to be nowadays. So that’s, a step up, I guess?”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m just as surprised as you are that this isn’t going Unforgivable. Sandler and Aniston are the poster children for that series.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes Poster

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Even if you don’t necessarily listen to jazz music, this documentary is, to me, great for creative people in general, because it shows that a lot of times, the best things come from setting up an environment where talented people can just create.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I do like that message of this one — the idea that a label just let artists create art, whatever it was, and supported it and did their best to make it succeed.

Hollywood sure as shit doesn’t do that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Daughter of the Wolf.jpg

Daughter of the Wolf

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Not great, but I watched it because Richard Dreyfuss was in it.”

“Not worth seeing at all, unless you love Richard Dreyfuss as much as I do.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Love me some Richard Dreyfuss. Do not love me some of this movie.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Beats Poster

Beats

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“Could be more, but I don’t know much about it and it’s Netflix. With them, unless there’s something that immediately piques my interest story or cast wise, it’s best to guess 3 and hope it can be more.”

The review:

“Really fantastic little movie.”

“It again (which I think and hope we already knew) it shows us just what a great actor Anthony Anderson is and how underutilized he’s been throughout his entire career.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was surprised at how much I liked this. Really solid movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Edge of Democracy poster.png

The Edge of Democracy

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I generally don’t do well with political stuff, so this wasn’t for me at all. I just get bored with this kind of stuff. Don’t listen to me about whether or not it was good. I’m almost always gonna be disinterested in stuff like this.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This isn’t my genre of documentary, so it did nothing for me.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Toy Story 4 poster.jpg

Toy Story 4

January’s preview:

“It’s Pixar, so they get an automatic 4 stars.”

The review:

“I had such reservations about this movie since they announced it.”

“And honestly… it worked.”

“I’m not gonna say I liked it better than 3, but I will say that this was a satisfying story that was worth telling. And that’s so much more than I expected to get out of this movie.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m so surprised this was as satisfying as it was. Good for them for at least respecting the brand of this franchise, even if they don’t respect the others in their canon.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Child's Play (2019 film).jpg

Child’s Play

January’s preview:

“Why?”

“Why did we need this?”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Oh, great. A remake of a movie that has a cult following because the doll is so memorably but otherwise has never been particularly good in any way.”

“Didn’t really do anything to make me go from ‘don’t care’ to ‘okay, that was decent’.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Just do not care in any way.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Wild Rose poster.jpg

Wild Rose

January’s preview:

“This is based on absolutely nothing, but 3.5 stars.”

“I don’t know why. Just a feeling. This just seems like it’s gonna be more solid than the generic log line would suggest.”

The review:

“I had hoped it would be better than it was, but that’s just me wanting it to be great. It’s a really solid movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very solid indeed. Jessie Buckley is fantastic in it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Anna film poster.jpg

Anna

January’s preview:

“Let’s call it 3 stars. Sight unseen.”

“We’ll stick with 3 and see if we can get 3.5. Doubt it goes higher than that.”

“Also, unrelated, but am I the only one who would want to see a Valerian sequel? (Probably, right?)”

The review:

“Luc Besson really likes making the same three movies over and over, doesn’t he?”

“This is him redoing La Femme Nikita yet again.”

“It’s not great, it’s clearly reminiscent of the other times he’s made this same movie, and it’s totally watchable. It’s exactly what you expect it to be, and these kinds of movies are perfect junk food for me. So I’m fine with it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Pure junk food cinema.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Nightmare Cinema.jpg

Nightmare Cinema

January’s preview:

3 stars. Anthology movies usually get to 3 for me, even if they’re not great.”

The review:

“It’s not good. At all. Not even sure it’s watchable.”

“Mostly I had fun watching Mickey Rourke clearly working like two days and not having any lines because I’m sure getting him to say anything was a chore. That’s the thing that gets me through movies like this now. Thinking about what they had to do to get that performance out of actors who clearly are doing this for a paycheck and nothing else.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’d rather have watched the footage of them trying to get Mickey Rourke to do anything.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Burn Your Maps.jpg

Burn Your Maps

January’s preview:

“I like the director, so I’ll stick with this, but I can’t guess more than 3 stars. Sounds like it doesn’t quite work based on the fact that it hasn’t come out in over two years. Still, this movie has at least an audience of one, so there’s that.”

The review:

“It’s just a weird movie about a kid going to Mongolia to herd goats.”

“It’s decent, because the director makes decent movies. Still don’t know who would ever deliberately watch this outside of knowing who directed it or for the cast, though.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Weird, offbeat, but I was fine with it. Not for practically anyone, but I got through it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Ophelia poster.jpeg

Ophelia

January’s preview:

“I feel no reason to go higher than 3 stars on this. Could get 3.5, but 3 seems more likely.”

The review:

“Great concept.”

“But… it’s Shakespeare. Hard to really make it interesting.”

“Not sure that’s the version of the story I’d have expected to get, but it’s decent enough. I’ll still take Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead over this any day.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Meh. It was pretty whatever.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Kursk poster.jpg

Kursk

January’s preview:

“Submarine movie. Dope.”

“I mean, this sounds like it should be 3.5, but they held it over and I feel like reviews are just so-so, so let’s say 3 stars. Feels like a 3 star movie.”

The review:

“It’s whatever. It’s fine. Nothing overly special. Kinda bland, and probably could have done more. But it’s based on real life, so their hands were tied in a lot of ways. Oh well.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The holdover is what let you know this was never going higher than 3 stars. And it even almost went lower because it was so boring. But the cast kept it… afloat.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Killers Anonymous poster.jpg

Killers Anonymous

January’s preview:

“Gary Oldman is in it. That’s probably enough for me.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Guessing this was based on a graphic novel, because it feels that way.”

“Which is an interesting idea, if a tough premise to pull off for anything longer than a 15 minute short.”

“Twist after twist after twist, so little of it makes sense or matters. But it’s watchable.”

“This is the kind of movie that I would be okay with more than others, because I grew up on this shit. Still… it’s not a great movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was watchable for me, but that doesn’t mean that literally anyone else would do okay with this. It’s not great.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Maiden film poster.jpg

Maiden

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s just a wonderful story that you watch and immediately know is gonna become a movie in the next five years.”

“It’s one of those movies young women should be shown, because it really does show you that there is a place in the world for everyone and that anyone, especially women (because the world seems to tell them more than anyone else otherwise), can accomplish anything they want to, even when everyone else says they can’t.”

“It’s a beautiful film.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

One of my favorite documentaries of the year. I really liked this one a lot.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

AnnabelleComesHomePoster.jpg

Annabelle Comes Home

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

I skipped it.

Final thoughts:

They announced this into the year, but even if I previewed it in January, I’d have told you I was gonna skip this. There was never a chance I’d have ever watched this, because I’d have been bored, fell asleep during the middle, and gave it 2.5 stars just to have been done with it.

How close was I?: N/A

Yesterday (2019 poster).png

Yesterday

January’s preview:

“It’s a Danny Boyle musical written by Richard Curtis. This is already one of the movies I’m most excited for this year.”

“Stars Lily James, Ana de Armas, Kate McKinnon, Lamorne Morris, Ed Sheeran… wait, really? Oh-kay.”

4 stars.”

“Had I not had that log line, I may have gone 4.5. But Boyle is good for a 3.5 star movie at his worst, and it’s a musical. I can easily get 4 stars out of this. Let’s see if it sets itself apart and goes higher than that.”

The review:

“A movie with a fantastic general premise that largely delivers on it. But also backs into the same corner inherent within the premise, and doesn’t quite know how to gracefully get itself out of it.”

“There are a lot of logic questions I have, but if you just take it as pure entertainment… totally amusing, totally fine.”

“Danny Boyle always makes worthwhile movies, and this fits right in with the rest of them.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was maybe a bit too excited for this, but it was perfectly solid. Danny Boyle always makes movies in the 3.5-4 star range. So that part isn’t surprising. Mostly I’d hoped they’d get more out of the premise than they did. But it’s too tricky to pull off and they fell into the obvious pitfalls. Which is fine. It’s still a solid movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – –

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One response

  1. Dark Phoenix was so bad that Simon Kinberg, the director, took responsibility for its failure.

    December 23, 2019 at 3:45 am

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