2019: The Year in Reviews (July)

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 July.

July

Spider-Man Far From Home poster.jpg

Spider-Man: Far from Home

January’s preview:

“The question is whether or not they can recapture what they did in the first one. That’s a very tall order.”

“My gut tells me, because it’s both a Marvel movie and a sequel, to go 3.5 stars.”

“If it’s 4 stars and as entertaining as the first one, I’ll happily be wrong. Or I’ll be right and it’ll fall into the same realm as pretty much every other Marvel movie. That seems like the most likely scenario. So we’ll go with that one.”

The review:

“Not as good as Endgame, better than Captain Marvel. And not as good as Homecoming was. That said, fun movie.”

“I had a hard time with it because you knew going in that Mysterio is a villain, so you’re just kinda watching the first hour going, ‘I know all of this is bullshit, so why are we spending so much time on it?’ And also, I’d rather have watched the scenes of Peter Parker being Spider-Man and trying not to let his friends find out. That stuff to me was more interesting.”

“I’d say this is middle-to-lower tier Marvel overall, but I think it’s gonna be dependent on what they do with the third one to really see where this one ends up.”

“I thought it would have been awesome if they did a thing where he and the friend got snapped but MJ didn’t, so now he’s back and he’s still 17 but she’s 22 and she’s this really cool woman who’s grown out of her high school phase and he’s still this awkward high schooler with a crush. That would have been an amazing dynamic. But I see why they did what they did.”

“Second: bringing J.K. Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson is the single greatest thing to ever happen in the Marvel Universe. I actually stood up and applauded in the theater. Like white people on airplanes when they land. I fucking clapped.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

The movie was solid, but I thought they wasted a lot of time trying to hide that obvious Mysterio reveal. The Peter stuff was better than the Spider-Man stuff by far. I do think that Zendaya snap idea is good.

And bringing J.K. Simmons back is the greatest thing the Marvel Universe has ever done. It was the most memorable cinematic moment for me in 2019, and I sat through one of the biggest earthquakes in California history as the movie was starting. And that part is an afterthought to me. Which should tell you just how much I loved it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Midsommar

January’s preview:

“It’s Ari Aster, who did Hereditary, and it stars Florence Pugh. So I’m in for her, and I suspect it’ll be decently solid because of him. Then again, it could also just be another 3 star horror movie. I have no idea.”

“Let’s assume 3.5 stars because of Hereditary and star and see if it disappoints.”

The review:

It’s not as funny as Hereditary, but it’s more deliberately funny.”

“It’s also, like Hereditary, a lot of good ideas well-made that’s got some not-great moments along the way.”

“Which is generally how I feel about this guy’s films. A lot of great stuff, and a lot of, ‘Ehh, I don’t know…’ stuff. But it’s solid.”

“I think the good far outweighs the bad. And also, this is the only movie of 2019 that features someone running around naked with blood on their dick. But admittedly, Frozen 2 still has to come out.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s solid. Same as Hereditary. Mixed bag, but ultimately better good than bad.

And sadly Frozen didn’t have someone running around with blood on their dick.

I thought for sure that’s where they were taking Elsa.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Escape Plan: The Extractors

January’s preview:

“They made another one!”

“The last one was 2.5 stars so I have to figure this will be more of the same.”

The review:

“This is a completely disposable franchise in every way. And yet… I’ve seen all three.”

“The first one some people saw. The second one nobody saw. If it’s even possible, even less people will see this.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I can’t believe they made three of these.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love Poster

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

January’s preview:

None

The review:

“It’s interesting. I think it would have been more interested if I were more into Leonard Cohen. But I do like it as a portrait of the 60s and of a certain type of creative person. It wasn’t wholly lost on me.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s nice. I’m not the biggest Leonard Cohen fan, so it only did so much for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

My Days of Mercy.png

My Days of Mercy

January’s preview:

2.5 stars. It’s been held out too long for me to think it’s anything more.”

The review:

“Not for me.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Definitely not for me. Kinda boring.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Stuber poster.jpg

Stuber

January’s preview:

“So it’s Collateral, but a comedy.”

“It’s a studio comedy, so I can’t guess higher than 3 stars. Maybe I can get 3.5 stars out of this because the director’s previous two movies were fairly solid. But I can’t, in good conscience, go higher than 3, sight unseen.”

The review:

“Took me a good portion of the movie to realize the title refers to the fact that the main character’s name is Stu and drives for Uber.”

“It’s a good premise. And they have a decently fun dynamic. The movie is just kind of watchable at best.”

“Not sure I could have reasonably expected any more from this. Honestly, the biggest compliment you can pay it is, ‘It’s not shit? Wow.'”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Definitely wasn’t shit. Mostly just throwaway watchable.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Crawl

January’s preview:

“Okay then.”

“Sure.”

3 stars.”

“Why not. Let’s do this.”

The review:

“Just your average movie about a girl and her father trying to escape a flooded house and being chased by giant alligators.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I had hope Frozen would also go this route. Oh well.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Art of Self-Defense.jpeg

The Art of Self Defense

January’s preview:

No idea what to make of this, but 3.5 stars. (Stearns) had a solid indie and let’s figure we’re gonna get another solid indie. I like the cast.”

The review:

“It’s so funny. It’s not gonna be for everyone, the humor. So I’d suggest watching a trailer to see if you think it’s gonna be for you. But man, was this one of the more entertaining films I saw this year. What a great dark comedy.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s such an absurdist comedy that totally worked for me.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Farewell poster.jpg

The Farewell

January’s preview:

“This sounds fun.”

“It’s playing Sundance, so I don’t know what the quality is gonna be, comedy-wise. Gonna say 3 stars and hope for more. The setup sounds great.”

The review:

“This movie is so lovely.”

“I was surprised that it was 90% in Cantonese. Somehow I expected it to be like, 50/50 or 60/40. So good on them for keeping the English to a minimum and only when necessary.”

“I liked also that it never really rose the stakes in any major way. It’s just a movie about people and about life.”

“I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie is one of the better movies of the year. I really liked it a lot.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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Summer Night

January’s preview:

“Cast seems interesting. Looks indie, though. 3 stars.”

The review:

“Very serious, not really fun at all, and it reeks of, ‘This is the first screenplay I finished outside of grad school, and they let me direct it’.”

“It’s like if you took a Richard Linklater movie and completely missed all the stuff that makes a Richard Linklater movie good.”

“Just go fucking watch Dazed and Confused or Everybody Wants Some instead. This is just pointless.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yeah, that about covers it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Point Blank poster.jpg

Point Blank

January’s preview:

“From the director of Mayhem, which I really enjoyed.”

3.5 stars.”

“Let’s hope they can redo that Mayhem mayhem.”

The review:

It’s just fun.”

“Not as good as Wheelman, but definitely the kind of movie that’s good for a Saturday afternoon when you just want something entertaining.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this. It’s action that transcends generic by just having the right tone.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Secret Obsession

January’s preview:

“Ehh.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Tthis is garbage, and you know it’s garbage. Why are you watching this nonsense?”

“Honestly, if this platform didn’t exist, this shit would have been a Lifetime movie.”

“Skip it, please don’t waste your time on something like this when there are so many halfway decent options out there.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

The first review just about covered it.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Above the Shadows

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Weird little movie.”

“It’s not the greatest movie. But I was engaged. These are the kinds of movies that I do better with than most. I’m not gonna say anyone should see it, but there’s a kernel of an idea here that might be good for some creative types who could look to use it for something they want to work on and take it in a different direction.”

“To me, that’s just as good as a movie being slightly better than forgettable.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

That’s just it. It’s not great, maybe not even good, but there is something here that could potentially be something better one day.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Luz Poster

Luz

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s very short, only 70 minutes, and the visuals and plot are so weird and off the beaten path that it’s probably worthwhile for those who are into horror.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Any longer and I probably wouldn’t have cared. But I did quite like this as a weird little B movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?:

Into the Ashes Poster

Into the Ashes

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Yeesh.”

“I mean, sure, you watch these straight to VOD movies and you’re gonna get burned.”

“Forget this one, and go read another review, because there’s no reason for you or anyone to ever see this movie.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Yup. Just move along. Not good.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Sword of Trust

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s very indie, and very low budget.”

“It’s watchable, but not really something I ever need to think about seeing again.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Fine. If I thought about it more I’d probably like it less. But we’ll leave it at 3 stars and move on.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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The Lion King

January’s preview:

4 stars, but ONLY because The Lion King is the best movie Disney’s ever made.”

“I’m sure I’ll really enjoy this the first time. Just like I really enjoyed The Jungle Book the first time. And then not since.”

“It’ll be a 3.5 star movie that can get the bump to 4 because of the effects. Worst case, it’ll be 3.5. There’s nothing in between. It will be one or the other.”

The review:

“The Uncanny Valley of the Mauls, where everything the light touches looks incredibly realistic but also incredibly creepy because real animals can’t talk.”

“It looks stunning, admittedly. But what have we gotten out of this except the knowledge that computer graphics are amazing and they can create just about anything digitally now?”

“It’s stunning to look at, but otherwise does anyone care?”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a bad movie. In the sense that the animated film is perfect and all they did to this was diminish it by doing the same thing, worse, and adding more, which is not good. The effects are stunning, and while most of the time that would mean 3.5 going to 4, this is 3 going to 3.5 because of what they accomplished visually. The fact that this is so great visually is the only thing preventing this from being automatic Unforgivable to me. And even then, I’m considering it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Skin poster.jpg

Skin

January’s preview:

“I guess 3 stars?”

The review:

“So the short this was based on won Best Original Short at the Oscars earlier this year.”

“It’s a completely different movie and one has nothing to do with the other.”

“It’s… whatever. It’s got good people in it, but ultimately there’s not a whole lot here past a committed Jamie Bell performance. I’m not really sure who this is for.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I didn’t really go for the short or the feature, and they were both different. I guess this world just wasn’t for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Astronaut Poster

Astronaut

January’s preview:

None

The review:

“I’m at the age (and let’s face it, I’ve always been at the age) where I’ll watch Richard Dreyfuss in anything.”

“It’s not a great movie, but it gives Richard Dreyfuss a leading role, which I don’t get to see much anymore and am grateful for.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s all about Dreyfuss. The rest of it is just whatever.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Great Hack Poster

The Great Hack

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“The issue is a big one. I normally can’t watch stuff like this, but I found myself generally interested in some of it. Mostly in terms of how everyone just got away with lying about it all.”

“While I don’t necessarily love it as a documentary, it’s worth seeing just because it gives you an idea of how fucked we all are because these people have everything about us on file and are actively using it against us.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was okay, though generally this stuff isn’t for me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

For Sama (2019).jpg

For Sama

January’s preview:

None. On the Documentary shortlist.

The review:

This is a stunning documentary. Waad Al-Kateab shot footage for her daughter, who was born in Aleppo, and documented both her first years as a parent during this horrendous (and ongoing) death and destruction within the city. It’s really stunning. It’s just home movies… but now, when the toddler is doing something cute, tanks are firing outside and bombs are going off. But also, you see her through the pregnancy, where any day she could be killed. It’s a really stunning portrayal of war and motherhood. There’s a scene in this where a pregnant woman gets injured during a blast and they have to try to save both the mother and the baby and it’s one of the most thrilling and heart-wrenching sequences I saw this year. I hope they nominate this. This is one of the best documentaries I saw this year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was absolutely blown away by this. It’s a really, really amazing piece of work.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Honeyland (2019 film).jpg

Honeyland

January’s preview:

None. Shortlisted in both Documentary and International Feature.

The review:

They shortlisted this for both Foreign Language Film and Documentary Feature. I’m thinking it has more of a shot in Documentary. But it’s weird because it feels like it’s plotted at times. Either way, it’s fine. Not totally for me, though I know this will be up certain people’s alley. Mostly just fine to me.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Perfectly fine, but not overly amazing to me.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

 

The Mountain (2018 film).jpg

The Mountain

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. I’m in. Don’t even wanna know more. Done. Seeing this.”

The review:

“This one didn’t click for me.”

“Alverson is perfecting a style, that’s for sure. But the story and everything just didn’t gel as much as the last movie did. And I think it’s because you had that character to contrast with the style itself.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved Entertainment, didn’t love this so much. Oh well. It happens.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood poster.png

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

January’s preview:

5 stars. How can I not? It’s tough for me to not love a Quentin movie. What am I getting from this at worst, honestly? 4 stars? Okay. I’ll take 4. More than likely I’m getting either 4.5 stars or 5 stars and a top ten movie. He’s done it basically every time by now.”

“I will say I’m more nervous about this than any other film he’s made…. but I have to trust him at this point, so we’ll say 5 stars and see how it turns out.”

The review:

“I loved it. I love that it’s got its own funky pace. I love that he was able to shut down Hollywood Boulevard (I remember driving down it the night before they shot and going, “What the fuck?” because I didn’t know they were doing it) and make it look like it did in the 60s.”

“I love that he got to have three minute takes of Brad Pitt driving just because there are no special effects. I love that there’s a fifteen minute sequence in the movie that’s just them filming a TV show. I love so much about this movie.”

“And I’m also interested in seeing the growth of Quentin, because… I don’t think earlier Quentin would have paid off that flamethrower. Just saying.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Bumping this up to 5 stars. It’s definitely gone up for me in the past couple of months. Still formulating my final thoughts on this one, though. The short version is: it’s Quentin. Of course I loved it. Who’s surprised?

* * * * * (5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Woodstock Poster

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I saw it because I thought it would be a lot of music. And really it’s just about how they put the festival on and generally what it meant for the youth of the day. So it’s fine, but I was just hoping for something more encompassing.”

“The gold standard for docs about it is Woodstock from 1970, which is just the feeling of being there. I’m not sure I’ve yet seen one that fully goes into everything surrounding it as well and really gets into the bands and how all that went down. So this fine, but I’m still holding out hope I see the full scope of the festival get talked about one day.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was about to say that Woodstock needs a real Ken Burns kind of series, but I think he’s actually making one. Which is amazing.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

 

Share poster.jpg

Share

January’s preview:

3 stars. Can’t in good conscience go any higher than that without any more information.”

The review:

“It’s interesting, but also doesn’t really show you a lot of the interesting stuff. Which is a double-edged sword. It cuts away when scenes are going to go into melodramatic/obvious territory. But also it means nothing happens.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine, but it feels like an HBO movie.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Red Sea Diving Resort.jpeg

The Red Sea Diving Resort

January’s preview:

“Historical thriller. 3 stars on that alone. These movies always end up at 3.”

The review:

“It’s a lot of fun. A throwback kind of movie. Not amazing, but fun, and engaging.”

“Definitely a more solid movie than I was expecting. Normally movies like this are watchable but not all that great. They’re just too serious and not engaging. This one had a fun element to it, and kept you interested throughout, even with all the political stuff. I liked it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I liked this. Weak 3.5, but still… fun.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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