2019: The Year in Reviews (September)

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 September.

September

ItChapterTwoTeaser.jpg

It Chapter Two

January’s preview:

“So we’re finishing the story. Okay, then.”

“The question is if they can keep the heart they did in the first one. Which means 3 stars or 3.5 stars. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say 3.5 stars.”

“But the more horror they go, the less I’m gonna like this. I’ll know when I see a trailer. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

The review:

“While the casting is very good… the actors don’t get anything interesting to do.”

“It’s a generic studio horror movie that is more interested in the ‘scary’ sequences than actually giving the characters human journeys that they had in the first film.”

“So while I can’t say I’m surprised, I am very, very disappointed in this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I knew they couldn’t sustain it. The first one worked because the person they fired gave it a real human element. The director who made it wasn’t able to get rid of what was already there. But this one… the team from the first one worked on their own. And that’s why the movie doesn’t work. It’s generic, shitty horror, and the only thing they did right with it is negated by how poorly it was made. The first one gave me hope that this could be good, but I knew better than to expect anything but what we got.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Night Hunter.jpg

Night Hunter

January’s preview:

3 stars. Logline alone tells me 3.”

“These movies never get above 3 for me.”

The review:

“These are always tough movies, because I wonder why they think is gonna see them. People generally don’t want to watch movies like this.”

“It’s watchable, and it’s got what some people might think is a good twist of sorts and what others will think is insane.”

“Honestly, given the broad strokes of the plot, just watch Prisoners instead. It covers similar ground and is way better.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I second that Prisoners thing.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact

Ms. Purple.jpg

Ms. Purple

January’s preview:

“Oh, this is by Justin Chon. Gook was good.”

“On that alone I’ll say 3.5 stars on this.”

The review:

“It’s just a very nice little hidden gem that I know no one is gonna bother to ever seek out without prompting.”

“Chon is establishing himself as a great filmmaker who tells these personal stories that feel very alive (and also highlight Asian actors and Asian stories, which is also an important thing for cinema to have).”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I did like this and I do recommend people seek it out.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Strange but True poster.jpg

Strange But True

January’s preview:

“Interesting.”

“Wanted to go 3.5 on this, but it sounds more like a thriller than a drama, so I have to knock it down to 3 stars.”

The review:

“I thought the premise would lead to a good movie.”

“And what should just be an interesting character study about people wanting something to be true and essentially making it true, the movie turns into something else completely by its third act, to the point where you really just lost interest in it entirely.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s lucky it stayed at 3. That last act is really not good.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Poster for Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Fantastic documentary.”

“I didn’t realize just how great she was. So this documentary gives her some justice, not that she necessarily needed it, but it’s nice that she has it.”

“I wouldn’t have necessarily pegged this as something I’d automatically love going in. So I’m very happy about that.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Really liked this a lot and it makes me so much more of a fan of hers than I was beforehand.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Goldfinch (2019 film poster).png

The Goldfinch

January’s preview:

“This is John Crowley’s followup to Brooklyn. Shot by Roger Deakins.”

O”n that alone, I have to say 4 stars.”

“Not hugely interested in the synopsis, but hey, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close got 4 out of me, so why should this be any different?”

“The people behind the camera and the release date tell me they have aspirations for this. So let’s treat it as such. 3.5 will make sense if it goes there. Anything higher will be a really nice surprise. 3 stars will be a huge letdown. I think I can get 4.”

The review:

“Consider this 2019’s biggest disappointment for me.”

“I fell asleep. For almost an hour. I was that bored during it. I had to wait and (fortunately) get a copy of it later on and then watch the parts I missed.”

“It just does not come together at all. None of it’s interesting”.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is one of those where expectations were created based on who was behind it. And while that might be unfair… the result was just so boring. I really don’t know what happened with this. I just did not care for it at all.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Hustlers (Official Film Poster).png

Hustlers

January’s preview:

None.

The review:”

It’s solid. It’s an entertaining movie that does a good job with most of what it’s trying to do.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It was tough cutting out the part of the review that infringed on me being upset at how hard people were hyping this up. It’s a fun movie, but people were/are talking about it like it’s one of the absolute best movies of the year. Which I do not agree with. Feels like a decently solid 3.5, but I thought there was much better stuff out there this year. But it is a big step forward for Lorene Scafaria, who I’m a big fan of based on her first two films.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Monos poster.jpg

Monos

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

Haven’t watched it yet and will update this when I do.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

The Sound of Silence poster.jpg

The Sound of Silence

January’s preview:

“Based on a short. So they had a short that apparently worked and then made it longer. Which rarely goes well.”

3 stars.”

The review:

“Very weird and interesting film. A quintessential New York indie.”

“It’s too indie for me to really go nuts for, but I like it as an offbeat little film that shows me a character I’ve never seen before.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This one just was a straight obvious 3 star movie all the way through. I’m curious if the short works better than the film, because I suspect it might.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Tall Girl Movie Poster.jpeg

Tall Girl

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“The basic premise is sort of interesting, but the way they go about it is just so bad.”

“This could have been charming if it weren’t so poorly written.”

“There’s better Netflix rom coms to watch than this.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

This movie is badly written. And I hate saying that about movies, because I know people put effort into them. But they could have had a decent movie here, and it’s just so generic and so broad in how they set up the characters that you can’t even take it seriously.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

3 Days with Dad Poster

3 Days with Dad

January’s preview:

“I like movies with older cast still getting work.”

“That said — 2.5 stars.”

“Seems indie as hell.”

The review:

“It’s funny… I tracked this, knowing it was gonna be generic and that I wasn’t gonna care about it, yet I saw it anyway”

“You’ve seen these movies before. Nothing revelatory here. It was a dud for me. These happen.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Complete dud I saw for the cast, knowing I’d get nothing out of it. Oh well.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Another Day of Life Poster

Another Day of Life

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s solid, but it’s just not gonna be for everyone. Didn’t do a whole lot for me, but it is better than most of the studio animated films just because it’s actually using the medium for something rather than just giving you talking animals.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Freaks 2018 poster.jpg

Freaks

January’s preview:

“Okay, so this is a movie I saw before I could guess a rating for it.”

“Holy shit, though. Go see this movie.”

“This is Benson and Moorehead level sci-fi. Don’t miss out on this one. They do nothing by chance in this movie. I have a feeling I’m gonna be shouting this one out over another movie at the end of the year.”

“It’s one of the few times I get each year to experience not knowing at all where a movie is going and just going along for the ride. This is already one of my favorite films of the year.”

The review:

“It’s currently my favorite movie of the year.”

“The writing is so strong. To the point where, twenty minutes before the end of the movie, I had no idea where it was going.”

“This is some of the smartest sci fi writing I’ve seen in a while and this is a movie that you all should see whenever you get the chance to.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I still highly recommend this movie and think it’s one of the absolute best movies I saw this year.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Ad Astra - film poster.jpg

Ad Astra

January’s preview:

“They pretty much had me at James Gray.”

4 stars.”

“At worst this is 3.5. I think this could possibly even go higher.”

The review:

“James Gray is the king of the solid, classy film that somehow never hits the mainstream.”

“The film is stunning, the tone is meditative, which I love. It’s not just some space adventure. It’s all totally grounded and real.”

“I love it. I think it’s one of the best movies of this year, with a great performance by Pitt and masterful direction by Gray.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this a lot. It’s amazing to me how Gray hasn’t had that one film yet to ‘break him out’ to everyone. People know of this movie, but not everyone saw it and not everyone really liked it, and it made just a decent amount of money. It’s weird. He always makes good movies, and yet can’t ever get a big hit. I don’t know what it is.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Rambo - Last Blood official theatrical poster.jpg

Rambo: Last Blood

January’s preview:

“I mean, sure. Bring on another Rambo movie.”

“How many people has this man killed?”

3 stars.”

The review:

“This franchise exists over four decades. That’s crazy.”

“This is a movie that doesn’t have to be Rambo and could just be a Stallone action vehicle.”

“I’m not sure specifically what makes it Rambo outside of him violently killing a bunch of guys. But hey, if that’s what they wanna do, that’s fine.”

“It’s watchable, but there’s not a whole lot here that feels particularly worthwhile. But hey, they made money off of it, so good job Sly, staying relevant after 45 years of stardom.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Standard forgettable 3-star action movie fare. The fact that it’s Rambo means nothing. It’s just a movie. It’s whatever.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

DowntonAbbey2019Poster.jpg

Downton Abbey

January’s preview:

“Oh good, a movie for a show I’ve never watched. Though I’ve seen Gosford Park, so I get it.”

3 stars.”

“Maybe it’s 3.5 stars, but this is based on existing seasons that I haven’t seen, so I think my ability to give a shit will be lessened. Let’s stick with 3 and see if I can drop in after 50+ episodes and care.”

The review:

“Never watched the show once.”

“This one was exactly what I was expecting it to be — people in costume doing period British stuff.”

“I suspect fans of the show are gonna be more into it than non fans. But it’s fine. Totally fine.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Totally fine, this is probably how I’d feel about the show, too. People in costumes doing period British stuff.

Countesses in Corsets Getting Caustic.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Diego Maradona (film).jpg

Diego Maradona

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s, as you can imagine, very well put-together, and shows how talented this dude was but also just how much cocaine he did.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

He did a lot of cocaine.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Loro Poster

Loro

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

Haven’t watched it yet, but will update when I do.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

Between Two Ferns film poster.png

Between Two Ferns: The Movie

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I’m not the world’s biggest Zach Galifianakis fan, but I do think the Between Two Ferns skits are funny.”

“The ‘plot’ stuff generally doesn’t work, but the interviews themselves are very funny. That’s the only reason I would tell you to watch this movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The movie part’s bad, the interviews are funny. That’s it. That’s all I got.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Running with the Devil Poster

Running with the Devil

January’s preview:

“Starring Nicolas Cage.”

“That’s really the only thing you can lead with on these movies.”

“He fills out his VOD slate early, works like, a month straight, shoots them all, and then they all come out slowly over the course of the year. That’s the move now.”

“I know better than to go higher on 3 stars for a Cage VOD movie, but also, I want to see this.”

The review:

“It’s trying to be cooler than it is, but it is watchable, even if it’s just another one of those cheap-looking movies with actors barely trying and taking a paycheck.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Of the Cage paycheck/VOD movies this year, this is on the higher end of that list, though admitedly that isn’t saying much.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Corporate Animals.jpg

Corporate Animals

January’s preview:

“What?”

2.5 stars. I’m not a fan of this guy’s style. Maybe I’ll get 3 out of it, but that’s as high as this should end up going.”

The review:

“It’s not ever really funny and the tone just falls flat a lot of the time. I got through it, but it’s not something I particularly liked.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me, but I got through it okay.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Villains poster.jpeg

Villains

January’s preview:

“Comedy/horror. That’s more promising than just horror.”

“I guess 3 stars. No idea how smart this is gonna be, so we’ll assume 3 and hope for more.”

The review:

“Really fun comedy-thriller.”

“Kinda fizzles out as it gets to the end. I thought it was gonna be twist after twist after twist. Mostly it’s just a couple of twists in the first half and then just suspense stuff for the rest of the film and all we really get are explanations rather than more twists.”

“It felt more engaging to me than most other stuff that came out this year, that’s for sure.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I had fun with this, and it’s short, so most people can too. It’s very amusing with great performances all around, even if it’s not great enough to have broken out. But as a fun genre movie, it’s totally worth it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Promare Key Visual.jpg

Promare

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This is straight hardcore anime (at least, for me). I can only do so much before I just don’t get it. So this one wasn’t for me and I’m just leaving it for the people it’s for.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Me being indifferent to anime should never come as a surprise.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Zeroville (film).png

Zeroville

January’s preview:

None. But I did leave a blanket 3 star rating in case this ever came out.

The review:

“This was the only James Franco movie I told myself I’d ever watch again, assuming they ever released it. Because the rest just are unwatchable.”

“And holy shit, was I wrong.”

“It’s the most pretentious, film student jerk off session moment I have seen in a long time, and I saw Midsommar this year.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Unnecessary (but fair) shot at Midsommar, but seriously, this is some of the most pretentious shit ever. This reads like fucking fan fiction after a certain point.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Abominable (2019 poster).png

Abominable

January’s preview:

“Looks pretty generic from what little I have.”

“Gotta say 2.5 stars based on what I have. At best this is 3 stars, right?”

“It’s DreamWorks. When have they gone above 3.5 stars in the last fifteen years? And when have they done it without the setup looking like a winner? Yeah, no, this is 3 stars at best.”

The review:

“Zendaya wasn’t Meechee.”

“This is our second yeti movie in a year, and I’ve cared about precisely neither of them.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

These animated movies that aren’t made by the companies I trust are almost always 2.5 or 3 for me. I just don’t care most of the time. It is what it is.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Day Shall Come poster.jpg

The Day Shall Come

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Very weird satire. I think it’s supposed to be funny, but a lot of the humor didn’t translate.”

“Mostly you’re just watching a lot of weird shit being done in the name of satire.”

“It’s no Wag the Dog, I’ll say that. Probably admirable, but the result is just kind of meh.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

How great is Wag the Dog, though?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Death of Dick Long hi-res movie poster.jpg

The Death of Dick Long

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Really fun and fucked up little backwoods noir.”

“The cause of death is the reason you’re watching the film. I had it spoiled for me long before I saw the movie, so it didn’t have the impact it maybe should have, but it’s still a weird little movie.”

“It’s directed by one of the Daniels, who did Swiss Army Man, so you can guess the kind of movie/humor you’re in for.”

“I’m a fan of this, just because it’s one of those films that exists in the sideshow of cinema. I remember weird stuff like this better than I remember generic mainstream thrillers and things.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love this as a weird little movie you can recommend to people as something fucked up to watch. This is so much better than some shit like Rambo which will be forgotten about immediately and no one will ever go back to.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

In the Shadow of the Moon poster.jpg

In the Shadow of the Moon

January’s preview:

“All I know is that it’s a detective story with a sci fi twist.”

“No idea what to make of it, but it’s Netflix, so 3 stars is the baseline for one of those.”

The review:

“I had no expectations for what this movie was gonna be, and holy shit. I was riveted within twenty minutes.”

“I loved it. I loved where it went, how they handled it. Very minor quibbles about aspects of it, but by and large, this movie was terrific.”

“It’s on Netflix, too, so anyone could just watch it at any time. But I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. I thought it was one of the best executed movies I saw this year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

really liked this movie a lot. It was one of the best surprises I had this year, and one of the movies I am most excited about showing to people who know nothing about it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Pretenders poster.jpg

Pretenders

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I know better than to watch any movie directed by James Franco except when it involves Tommy Wiseau, but the cast on this made me think, ‘Maybe it’ll be watchable?'”

“But that’s always the rub. He has friends. He gets them to be in his movies and it makes you think maybe they’re watchable. But they’re not. They never are.”

“His movies feel like someone writing a book report. He brings up films and actors and directors almost as if to say, ‘Yes, I have read this in a book of great films and I, too, think it is good.'”

“I hate to use this word, but you can feel the pretension all over this.”

“There’s nothing of value here except a bunch of recognizable people delivering bad dialogue that reads like an art student thinking they’re making something great. I really need to stop watching these things.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

The best is me being nice here and easing into the word pretentious when up above his other film that came out this month has me calling it one of the most pretentious pieces of shit of the year. Sometimes you catch me on a good day.

But yeah, there’s a reason these movies don’t ever come out. They’re all terrible.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

10 Minutes Gone Poster

10 Minutes Gone

January’s preview:

“This is Moviepass’ first movie from their ponzi scheme production company.”

“What are the odds they ran out of money in the middle of filming?”

“Oh, and by the way — it’s a Bruce Willis paycheck movie! (*DJ air horn*)”

“This is from the director of Reprisal, Vice, The Prince, Officer Down — I’ve seen a lot of these. He’s almost exclusively Bruce Willis’ paycheck guy. Because he makes generic thrillers with vaguely similar plots that allow Bruce to work like six days and do like no real work.”

“It’s almost like he’s a writer in his own bungalow on a studio lot in the 40s. ‘What if there’s a bank manager who has to track down a guy robbing banks because the bank thinks he did it?’ And then he writes that in like four days. And then, ‘What if a guy robs a bank, but gets amnesia and has to remember who fucked him over with the money?’ And he writes that in four days. It’s all B movies. That’s all this is.”

“I’m sure this will be completely watchable. The only question is if it’ll be 2.5 stars or 3 stars. Reprisal got 3 because Frank Grillo was in it too. This is Bruce and Michael Chiklis, and I assume neither is the lead. So let’s say 2.5 stars.”

“By the way, this is more coverage a movie like this will get anywhere else.”

The review:

“It’s another Bruce Willis paycheck movie. Only now, he’s increasingly no longer the star of them, because I think he realized he can get paid a decent amount, do two days of work and not have to be the one that gets blamed for starring in these shitty movies.”

“It’s dumb. Willis is in another movie for most of it and has like, one scene with other cast members at the end. Generic all around, really no reason to ever see this one.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I forgot this was Moviepass. But it is funny how little Bruce gives a shit anymore. He used to hide it well. Now, it’s ‘give me the money and I’ll just scream the three lines you give me before we start rolling’. It’s admirable if it weren’t so disappointing, since most of us do like him as an actor.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Judy2019poster.jpeg

Judy

January’s preview:

“Oh boy. They’re going all in on a Judy Garland biopic.”

“Starring Renée Zellweger. Okay, then.”

“The cast is just okay, which leads me to believe there’s a ceiling on how good this can be.”

“My guess is this is no better than 3.5 stars at best. But because it’s Judy, I have to guess the maximum. Might be 3. Doubt it’s 4, but anything is possible. So let’s say 3.5 and see if this is a good movie, or a decent movie with a good performance, or just a giant trainwreck all around.”

The review:

“It’s… fine. I didn’t love it. It felt pretty by-the-numbers to me, down to the performance.”

“It’s one of those movies that people say they like because it’s made to get that reaction.”

“It felt like it was trying too hard and was just fine and nothing more.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I didn’t get anything out of this and I can’t see what all the fuss is about her performance other than supporting it because it feels like it’s the kind of performance that should be supported. This just felt generic, as biopics go.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Laundromat poster.jpeg

The Laundromat

January’s preview:

“Steven Soderbergh directs. Stars Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep.”

“I’m in.”

4 stars.”

The review:

“When I heard he was gonna make this and it was gonna have Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep, I thought, ‘This is gonna be amazing!’ And then when I saw it, I realized he wasn’t making that kind of movie.”

“Overall the tone doesn’t work as well as it does in The Big Short, and that’s kind of a disappointment. Because I thought we were getting a real narrative film out of this.”

“The result is fine, but… and I almost never say this about Soderbergh, this is actually a bit of a disappointment for me. Mostly because my expectations were probably too high, but still.”

“I feel like this movie aims high and only occasionally actually gets there. Which is fine. It’s watchable, but I’m just not sure the tone worked out for them.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Admirable they aimed so high with some of the narrative stuff, but it’s just uneven and doesn’t totally work. An admirable misfire, I’d call this. The disappointment only stems from me being too excited, but still. Of the four films Soderbergh has made since he came back, this one was my least favorite (though admittedly, Logan Lucky and Unsane are great, and High Flying Bird is very good).

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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