2019: The Year in Reviews (November)

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 November.

November

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Terminator: Dark Fate

January’s preview:

“No idea what they’re gonna do with this, but I’m aways down for a Terminator movie.”

“Let’s call it 3.5 stars and hope they can make something worthy of the franchise.”

“Kinda worried it’ll turn out like Halloween did, but we’ll see.”

The review:

“I’m always cautiously optimistic whenever they come out with a new Terminator movie. They’re never good, but I’m always hopeful they could be.”

“I think the problem all alone was the fact that no one wanted to step on Cameron’s toes and change the reality he set forward. And the only way that was gonna happen was that either someone had the balls to change it or they brought him back. Here, it feels like they did both.”

“I love what they did with it. It’s hugely entertaining and they bring back everyone they need to in order to shepherd this new reality forward.”

“You feel stakes again, even if it is the same general plot, moved six inches over to the right. Which is cool, since we understand the general concept of Terminator. So six inches is a huge margin for that story.”

“This is the Terminator movie we should have gotten 15 years ago. But hey, better late than never.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed this. as a Terminator movie, this is the best one since Judgment Day. I loved how they furthered the story and didn’t just give us the same old thing. I have some issues with the film as a whole, but I’m fine with them because they actually gave us something new in this franchise after almost 30 years. As an action movie it’s just fun and solid, but as a Terminator movie, it’s finally something to be positive about.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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The Irishman

January’s preview:

“Scorsese. Automatic 4.5 stars.”

“I need to go this high because I need to be let down if it’s not good. And this, of anything he’s done, is the one where I go, ‘This doesn’t seem like a good idea.’ But you know what? I trust him. So let’s see him make this great.”

The review:

“Yes, it’s three-and-a-half hours long. Yes the pacing is very lax, yes there’s five minutes of people discussing frozen fish, yes the de-aging looks shaky at times. But you know what? It’s still a Martin Scorsese movie. And for everyone that’s gonna talk shit about it now, they’re gonna be watching it like all the others in ten years.”

“I feel like I know better than to just dismiss this based on what critics or whomever is saying about it.”

“I think it’s a great piece of work that feels sort of like his Cheyenne Autumn.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

That Cheyenne Autumn comparison might turn out to be the most accurate review of the movie one could write. But I started watching a bit of this again and found myself more into it than I was in the theater, which was a lot. I think this one is gonna hold up just fine.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Motherless Brooklyn

January’s preview:

“Edward Norton has been trying to get this made for years.”

“He’s also very picky about what he does and has high standards. I have to assume he’s planning to make this really good.”

4 stars. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m excited for this.”

The review:

“I’ve been waiting for this to actually get made. And I’m so glad it did.”

“A lot of people think it’s not good because Norton’s Tourette’s detective sounds like it’s gonna be off-putting from the trailer. And I even had those concerns in the first few minutes of the film. But honestly, it fades. It works. He makes it work. And the mystery itself is really interesting and it takes a lot of really interesting angles in how it tells its story.”

“To me, this is a great movie that also tells an important part of New York’s history that people don’t necessarily know about. That’s exactly what a detective mystery should be about.”

“I think this is gonna go down as one of the most underrated films of this decade.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this one a lot. I wanna see it again just to see how it holds up as a rewatch, but I’m convinced this is one of the absolute best movies of the year and that people are unfairly dismissing it because they think the Tourette’s thing is annoying without having even seen it work.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Harriet

January’s preview:

“My gut tells me to go 3.5 stars so I will. I want this to be 4 though. I just… something like this… it feels like a 3.5 star movie for me. I want this to be incredible, though, and I want Cynthia Erivo to break out from it.”

The review:

“I knew this was gonna be the case, but it still doesn’t change the disappointment.”

“This is not the Harriet Tubman movie we deserve. Hers is one of the most important stories in American history, and this movie just completely misses the point.”

“I’m afraid that the mediocrity of this movie is gonna prevent Harriet Tubman’s story from ever being told properly. And that’s really what upsets me the most about this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m so disappointed in this movie. How could you fuck up something so important so badly? We got three fucking versions of Spider-Man in 15 years, and this is the only Harriet Tubman movie we’ve ever gotten and might now ever get. It’s a damn shame.

* * * (3 stars)

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

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Arctic Dogs

January’s preview:

So apparently I ended up reviewing this twice by accident in separate articles. But they both had the same rating, so we’re all good.

2.5 stars.”

“Generic/bad non-studio indie. I’m gonna assume indifference and not that I’m gonna hate it. But there’s a fair chance I’m gonna hate it.”

The review:

“Dumb, cheap animated movie.”

“No child should have to be subjected to this in an era where there are so many options out there in the animated field. In my way, we had no choice to watch shit like this if it was out there. Now, there’s no excuse.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love that I accidentally previewed this twice and knew both times it was gonna be dog shit.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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The Etruscan Smile

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

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

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

 

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The Apollo

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

Lovely documentary about a theater that has both history within its neighborhood, but also its culture and within a larger racial identity within the country. A wonderful ode to one of the most iconic theaters in the country.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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American Son

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It works more as a stage play than a film.”

“It’s clear where it’s gonna go, but I was fine with the ride.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It works as a play, and I thought it was solid, but the acting was very theatrical and the direction didn’t help that. Plus, it was clear what was going to happen about an hour before it did. However, treating it as a play, I was fine with it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Holiday in the Wild

January’s preview:

“This is 100% a Netflix Christmas movie, isn’t it?”

“Starring Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis. Oh my god. Now we’re straight up appealing to the middle-aged woman demo unabashedly.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“Netflix rom com that could double as a Hallmark movie.”

“It’s generic all the way through and it’s actually kind of scary how little they care about the quality of most of these things.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I know I’m the only idiot who knowingly went into this despite it being horrible, but I do it so all of you don’t have to.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Paradise Hills

January’s preview:

“This looks trippy.”

3.5 stars.”

“I’m in.”

The review:

“Very odd movie.”

“There’s way too much going on here. It’s watchable because it’s interesting enough, but they really needed to get rid of some of the stuff and focus on one story thread for it to really work.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Somehow the actual plot of this movie was not communicated to me at the time I previewed this, otherwise my expectations would not have been so high. Somehow I thought it was people at a boarding school and doing some sort of weird shared fantasy world thing or something. This… was weird and I’m not sure what the point of it was. But hey, they got people in it.

* * * (3 stars)

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

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Adopt a Highway

January’s preview:

“I guess… 3 stars?”

The review:

“Interesting little indie.”

“I kept waiting for it to go somewhere, but then you realize, it’s just what you’re watching. That’s the film. It never really takes off.”

“It’s watchable, because Hawke is always watchable, but there’s no real purpose to the film. It dangles interesting possibilities out there but never follows any of the threads. Oh well.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It feels undercooked. There are pieces here that could make a better film, but they’re never realized. But Ethan Hawke is good, so there’s that.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?:

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Undercover Brother 2

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I expected it to be bad and that I wouldn’t care and wonder slightly why I even bothered. But it was so stupid that I actually enjoyed it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really had more fun watching this than anyone should. It’s not good, but it’s stupidly fun.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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The Little Mermaid Live

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

:I typically love these live shows, and they don’t really have to do anything other than be done live for me to automatically give them all 3.5 stars, even if I don’t like the musicals they’re based on.”

“This one, I figured, had to be fun. Not if you fuck it up the way they did with this.”

“This is the first time I’ve felt embarrassed for the cast of one of these shows, because they didn’t get to be in a live show!”

“So yeah, this is a low for ‘live’ shows and I hope we don’t get stuck with anything like this ever again. I’d rather they stop doing these if they can’t put them on properly and just have people performing live on a stage in front of an audience.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is the worst of the live musicals I’ve ever seen. How can you straight up just show the movie for 60 minute and then just have actors show up for 20? What kind of crazy shit  is that? You guys do know Lion King on Broadway worked, right?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Marriage Story

January’s preview:

“My concern with Baumbach movies is always that the characters are so unlikable and there’s never any entertainment value I get from them.”

3 stars. Baumbach movies usually have to prove to me that they’re more than the same nonsense he usually puts out that I hate.”

The review:

“I had no real expectations for this to be something I liked. And the result is something I still don’t really dislike.”

“I think what got me through this were the supporting parts. Alan Alda, Laura Dern and Ray Liotta. Those scenes worked for me. The other stuff was hit and miss.”

“I do remember saying while watching it –‘finally a reason for Baumbach to have unlikable characters’.”

“The most important thing to note about this movie to me is that Randy Newman scored it. Which means that he scored both a marriage story and a toy story in the same year. That’s range.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

They should have played “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” over the end credits.

But yeah, I think it’s decently solid. Probably his best movie, even though I prefer Frances Ha to everything else (probably because of Greta). I think people are overrating this. It just feels above average and nothing more. Performances didn’t blow me away, and I preferred the supporting people to the leads. No one is particularly likable (no surprise for a Baumbach movie) and this just didn’t do a whole lot for me past, “Sure.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

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Doctor Sleep

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Lo and behold… it wasn’t good.”

“It just felt like a jumbled mess that didn’t tell its story particularly well (and I know part of that is on King, whose novels tend to be sprawling anyway), where you didn’t care about any of the characters, were forced to watch these villains who have no real motivation or anything going on, and then he goes and forces The Shining onto it, with CGI Scatman, CGI Shelley Duvall and (god help us all) CGI Nicholson.”

“I’m very disappointed in this movie and actively disliked it in a lot of ways.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

really did not like this movie at all. There was no point for this to have ever been made on any level.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Last Christmas

January’s preview:

“I’m a sucker for romances, but I truly don’t know what this is gonna be.”

“I’m gonna say 3.5 stars. Which is hedging my bets, because at worst it’ll be 3 stars, and if I love it, it’ll probably be 4. Kinda cheating, but I could also use a nice romance in my life. And Emma Thompson writing it can never be a bad thing.”

The review:

“So this one’s pretty notorious already, huh?”

“It got atrocious reviews and is really just being talked about as one of the absolute worst pieces of trash ever. But honestly? I didn’t get that from it.”

“Yes, the movie is not good… but when all was said and done… I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed Bridesmaids.”

“To me, the entertainment gotten out of a ‘bad’ movie is greater than just a bad movie. I enjoyed the weird campiness of it all. And, honestly, I thought it was pretty decently written.”

“If nothing else, this movie features Emma Thompson not only singing in Ukrainian, but also saying the words ‘I will nail you to my dick’. So there’s that.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I had so much fun with this even though it was bad. I don’t know what people were expecting out of this. This is 100% better than a lot of other stuff that came out this year and didn’t get nearly the bad reviews this got.

* * * (3 stars)

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

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Midway

January’s preview:

“The cast of this looks pretty broad and seems to be likable actors taking a paycheck in a big budget movie.”

“I’m gonna say 3 stars, even though I hope this can be 3.5. I just… the less CGI in this, the more interesting it’ll be. So we’ll aim low and see if he can get over the bar.”

The review:

“How does Roland Emmerich keep getting these movies made? He’s one of those directors who is 20 years past his relevancy. The movies he makes are pure 90s movies and nothing else.”

“To his credit, he raised $100 million totally independently. But holy shit, man. This movie is just completely generic, covered in bad CGI and just generic to the hilt.”

“No one should have expected anything else out of this, but what I don’t get is… who thought this was a good idea?”

“Even the people this is for are gonna think it’s bad.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I want to be mad at this movie, but they raised $100 million independently. At that point, good for them. They had to know the movie was gonna turn out like this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Playing with Fire

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This is your standard ‘brawny men having to deal with children’ film.”

“Totally contrived in every way. You can see everything coming from a mile away, and none of it is funny at all.”

“I was shocked at how bad this was. It was just totally tone deaf in every way. I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it was really bad.”

* * (2 stars)

Final thoughts:

Why you gotta do Johnny Legs like that?

* * (2 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Honey Boy

January’s preview:

“There’s a lot to like here, and I feel like Shia is gonna do a good job here, overall. I like that he’s not directing it too. That would have felt like too much.”

3.5 stars. I think this can be good. Let’s see how it does coming out of Sundance.”

The review:

“This is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to Hollywood, always with the appropriate amount of derisiveness, but this is one time where I feel like it applies — brave. This is a very brave movie for Shia LaBeouf to make.”

“It could have gone very wrong. But rather than being some kind of masturbatory exercise, this movie feels like therapy on screen.”

“Even if you can quibble about aspects of the film, which sequences don’t work versus others, you can’t help but respect the effort. This is really one of the better overall films of the year for that reason alone.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s a very solid film in its own right, and Alma Har’el does a great job directing it and the actors are all fantastic in it… but man, I have so much respect for him putting it all out there like that. He doesn’t even try to make himself look good or sugar coat it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Primal

January’s preview:

“Starring Nicolas Cage.”

“It’s Snakes on a Plane meets Jumanji, but on a boat. I’m so fucking in.”

3 stars. I feel like it’ll be badly CGI’d, which should make it less mayhem than I’d hope. But also, you need a lot of mayhem in a Cage VOD movie for me to get higher than 3 stars. At this point I just hope they can be 3 in between the Mandys.”

The review:

“It’s fun. Complete trash in every way, but I like that it is.”

“Cage is more animated than he is in a lot of these paycheck movies, and it’s a watchable movie. On the scale of these Cage paycheck movies, this one is one of the more decent ones. Because there are a lot that are not so decent, trust me.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Above average for the shitty Cage VOD movie tier, which unfortunately doesn’t amount to much of a good movie on a regular curve, but this one at least has its moments.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Let It Snow

January’s preview:

3 stars. Netflix Christmas movie. Has to prove it’s gonna be better than the rest before I can assume it will be.”

The review:

“Ensemble YA movie that takes place at Christmas. Kids in a small town, the usual thing. It’s fine. Ensemble movies are usually watchable, and this one is exactly that.”

“Nothing to overly dislike here, even if the result isn’t overly special either.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This is about what you’d expect from an ensemble movie — watchable, some moments better than others, ultimately just fine.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Cold Brook

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It has its moments where I was interested but gets off into something I was very much not interested in.”

“Hey, this is the story he wanted to tell, so good for him for getting it made.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Appreciate William Fichtner directing a movie, but I lost interest fairly early on once it decided the direction it wanted to go in.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Love Is Blind

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“VERY New York indie movie — I mean, it stars Matthew Broderick and Chloe Sevigny. How much more New York indie can you get?”

“It was just okay. It has its moments. There’s good elements to it, but it’s just far too ‘Tribeca’ for me to really love it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

So goddamn New York indie it’s disgusting.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Crown Vic

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“Seems pretty straightforward. Why waste more time figuring out what seems obvious?”

The review:

“Cop thriller that takes place over one night. It’s sort of like Training Day, only there’s more of an overarching plot and less general intrigue.”

“It’s interesting, but doesn’t have that much going on. I feel like I’d want this to either be a miniseries or delve deeper into the characters for me to really love it. But there’s something here I really like. The movie just doesn’t tap into it enough.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I hate that the review of this is gonna be ‘bad Training Day’, but also… it is.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Lady and the Tramp

January’s preview:

“Okay.”

3.5 stars. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

The review:

“Maybe it’s the low stakes of this having been put out on a streaming service… I had fun with this. It was kinda charming.”

“Not gonna say it’s amazing, but it’s the story you remember from the 1955 version, albeit tweaked to have more women and less racism (sorry guys, no Siamese cat song here). I’m totally cool with what they did. It’s not great, but it also doesn’t feel like they spent a shit ton of money on it.”

“It’s period, it’s contained, it feels like a TV movie version of the film, honestly. And that made me more okay with it than, say, Aladdin.”

“Plus F. Murray Abraham plays the owner of the Italian restaurant who gives them the meatballs, which is just awesome.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Gonna be honest… probably the Disney remake I had the most fun with this entire year. Aladdin… ehh. Lion King is only about the effects and nothing else. And Dumbo sucked. So yeah, I enjoyed this one most of all four. And of course, F. Murray Abraham.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Noelle

January’s preview:

“That all evens out to a solid 3 stars, I’d think.”

The review:

“Very fun premise and I like the idea behind it.”

“It’s a very likable, if by-the-numbers at times. Nothing that’ll ever be considered a masterpiece, but a fun little Christmas movie that has shades of Elf, if only because Kendrick is so naive and cheerful all the time.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s knockoff Elf, but honestly, that just means it’s perfectly watchable. Anna Kendrick is one of those actresses who… if Enchanted didn’t already exist, she’d be perfect for it. You know what I mean? She fits this role, and she’s the reason the movie is as watchable as it is.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Charlie’s Angels

January’s preview:

3 stars.”

“How can it be anything but that? At best if they make it charming it’s 3.5. But that would be a surprise to me. So let’s stick with 3. A movie like this is almost guaranteed to go 3.”

The review:

“I wasn’t excited for this all year.”

“The only part of this movie that was any interesting is the damn end credits.”

“The movie’s watchable, but clearly this didn’t appeal to anyone. And I think the trouble people have is trying to make it work for a particular segment of the audience rather than just making a good movie. So we’re just left with another franchise reboot/rework that doesn’t come together. Every year is littered with those.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I knew it wouldn’t be good, but I’m upset that they pretended like it was gonna be this big new thing and couldn’t back up a goddamn word of it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Ford v Ferrari 

January’s preview:

4 stars. How could it not be? I’m all in for this one.”

The review:

“This is just old-fashioned classical Hollywood moviemaking. This feels like one of those movies from the 70s that everyone goes back to and just loves because it’s got everything you’d want.”

“It’s well-directed, the performances are spot on, the editing moves and it’s just eminently watchable. That’s the best part about it.”

“This is gonna be one of those movies you can just put on whenever and watch til the end. Those are always the best ones.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really loved this. Pound for pound one of the best movies of the year, and a movie I’m gonna be able to rewatch the hell out of going forward.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

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The Good Liar

January’s preview:

“Okay, then. I am very down for this.”

3.5 stars. Bill Condon is directing, and he did Mr. Holmes with McKellen. I think this can be solid. Not sure if can be great. But it can be solid. Condon usually is good for a 3.5 star movie as long as it’s not Twilight.”

The review:

“It takes a while to get going and is kind of slow paced, but then it starts getting into the nitty-gritty of it all and suddenly becomes a completely different movie. And it felt like suddenly shifting gears like that just as it got interesting really took me out of it a bit.”

“It’s fine and well done and all, I just felt like I didn’t need all the things it did in the third act. There’s a lot going on there. But overall, it’s watchable and worth seeing. Just don’t expect anything spectacular from it.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Solid, but you know where it’s going. That’s gonna prevent me from going back to it. There’s really nothing I’m getting out of it past the initial watch.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Waves

January’s preview:

3.5 stars.”

The review:

“This movie almost destroyed me. In a good way.”

“The whole movie is just a ride. I’m telling you. It’s a real ride. You just gotta go on it. You will feel something. Trust me.”

“This is the indie of the year for me. That Florida Project type indie that is just incredible but is never gonna get the proper notice it should. Please, do yourself a favor and see this as soon as possible.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I loved this. So, so much. Please, do yourself a favor and see this movie. It’s one of the best films of the year and is already criminally underseen and is gonna get unfairly ignored for awards, which is gonna make it even more difficult for people to discover it.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

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The Report

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Don’t think I can safely go higher than that on this one, but this sounds interesting. Hopefully he’s as good a director as he is a writer.”

The review:

“It’s political, which I know is a very tiresome subject now. We get so much of this shit in our daily lives with all the corruption going on that watching a movie about it just feels like too much. And I’ll agree.”

“It’s a very solid movie that is gonna get forgotten because it’s one of those movies that is necessary (exposing lies and illegal activity by the government) but also something that people try to avoid because it just depresses the shit out of you. But it is good, and I do recommend it if it’s something you feel like watching.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s really solid. It throws a lot at you, and mostly well. I took issue at them trying to dramatize current political figures, but other than that, it’s a really solid film that does its job by reminding you that just because the government did something in the past and we only found out about it now doesn’t make it any less illegal.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Earthquake Bird

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Hoping for 4, but Westmoreland seems to cap out at 3.5 stars most of the time.”

The review:

“Interesting movie.”

“Can’t say I loved it, but it’s well-shot (it looks pretty great, even for Netflix), Vikander is very good, Keough is good and the film is just interesting. It won’t change your life, but if you’ve seen Westmoreland’s other work, this is of that ilk. Just a very solid film with good performances.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Solid, looks great, ultimately inconsequential. But generally well done.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Klaus

January’s preview:

“Logline sounded interesting… trailer was not.”

“Could be okay, though.”

2.5 stars.”

The review:

“I really did not expect this to be good.”

“Imagine my surprise when I found myself really enjoying this.”

“It’s cute. It’s very well done, and I ended up liking it so much more than I ever expected it to. Big thumbs up for me on this one.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really underestimated this one. It was terrific. A very lovely animated film that I quite enjoyed.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Feast of the Seven Fishes Poster

Feast of the Seven Fishes

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I really had a good time with this one. It probably won’t do it for everyone, but I really liked it, and this is gonna be one I’ll show my family because I know they’ll get it.”

“It’s just a really nice little movie. I definitely recommend it, and the closer this is to your family and your traditions, then it’ll be doubly worth it for you.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I was nervous about this, but I’m glad I saw it. It’s a very well-done coming of age movie. I’m not sure if other people will get out of this what I did, but for my money, I thought it was a really worthwhile film.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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I Lost My Body

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s a little arty, but the human parts are really strong. I understand what they were going for thematically with this, but I just wasn’t as interested in the hand stuff all that much.”

“Overall, it’s a solid film and one of the better animated films of the year.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I mostly liked it. It was well made, and I get what it was going for thematically. I just wasn’t as interested in the hand’s journey as much as I was in the story of the two main characters.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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Atlantics

January’s preview:

None. Foreign language contender I found out about during the year.

The review:

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

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

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Frozen II

January’s preview:

“Two Disney sequels in a row. Since the last one was #1 Unforgivable, I am really nervous about this.”

“I loved the first movie, even though it’s been so beat to death the last five years that I’m worried I can’t go back to it for a long while. I’m also worried the first one struck such a delicate balance (in that it wasn’t as good a movie as I felt it to be) and they won’t be able to keep up the magic in the sequel, which will only make this worse.”

“I’m gonna say 3.5 stars, because I think they can get that. But I’m really worried about this whole business, and it feels like I’m watching what made Disney, Disney come crashing down before my eyes.”

The review:

“I’m so torn on this movie. Because on the one hand, I appreciate that they put zero effort into this sequel.”

“On the other… the first Frozen was really good.”

“And to see this sequel be this bad, is very concerning to me.”

“As a movie, it was perfectly watchable, and decently entertaining. But as a Frozen sequel, it was very subpar.”

“It’s truly a straight-to-video level sequel that counts as part of Disney’s (until now) prestigious animated film canon. I am very disappointed in this movie.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I’m both extremely disappointed and kind of impressed at the same time. At how blatant they didn’t give a shit about this one. The only question left in my mind is how mad I am at it.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.jpg

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

January’s preview:

“It’s Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. That’s it. That’s all you need.”

“This movie better be 4 stars or better or else a lot of people are gonna be pissed.”

“Honestly, I hope it’s 5 stars. I’d love for this to be 5 stars, 4.5 stars. I’ll take 4. 3.5 will be okay, but slightly disappointing. Anything less and I’m gonna be mad.”

“It’s Mr. Rogers, guys. You can’t fuck this up. A DOCUMENTARY about the man was my #1 movie this past year. You better come correct.”

The review:

“Overall, it’s a really strong film and it does make you feel good”.

“My favorite aspect is using the Mr. Rogers city sets for establishing shots, which is just wonderful. That made me happiest of anything else in this movie.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really liked this a lot. Any movie that accomplishes even a tenth of what Fred Rogers accomplished is a great movie.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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21 Bridges

January’s preview:

“Good premise. Will they pull it off? Doubtful.”

“I mean, they can pull it off decently, but really well? That seems unlikely.”

“My gut tells me this is nothing more than a 3 star movie. Feels like a standard triller. Takes a lot to overcome that.”

The review:

“This was always a weird concept to me.”

“If there were somehow a way to actually make that feel like it could happen and the whole thing really felt contained to Manhattan, Escape from New York style, and they were hunting these guys that way, I’d be all for it. But this way it just feels like a shitty film convention, and that’s what it is.”

“Nothing more than a completely watchable, instantly forgettable cop thriller.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was originally called 17 Bridges when I previewed it in January.

THEY ADDED MORE BRIDGES IN POST!

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Dark Waters poster.jpeg

Dark Waters

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“This is such an old-fashioned kind of movie that I don’t see enough of anymore.”

“”It’s a great movie.”

“Todd Haynes directed it, and this does not feel like a Todd Haynes movie.”

“This is one of the best films of 2019 and it just speaks to how great legal dramas always are.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Destined to be one of the most underrated films of the year. This is wonderful, and absolutely no one’s gonna see it. It’s a terrific trial movie with a very important message behind it too. It’s a damn shame the public at large isn’t gonna be able to see it properly.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Knight Before Christmas Poster

The Knight Before Christmas

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“I don’t know what it is, but I find that of all the Netflix Christmas movies, I seem to enjoy these Vanessa Hudgens ones the best.”

“This one is based solely on a pun, but is also surprisingly charming.”

“while I tend to hate most of these kinds of films, I found this one decently charming. I suspect that most people still won’t care for this, but hey, if you’re gonna go for one of these movies, this isn’t a bad one to try.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

I had fun with this. Not sure who else will, but having seen all of these Netflix Christmas rom coms, this is one of the better ones. There’s a curve there, but still, on that curve, this is one of the better ones.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Age Out Poster

Age Out

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. I think this can be good.”

The review:

“It’s a weird one, but it is well-directed.”

“(It) looks good but never really has any narrative heft whatsoever. It’s just kind of there and you want it to be better or more interesting, but it just isn’t.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

This was made by a protege of Terrence Malick, which would explain why it looks so great visually while having an absolutely nothing story.

* * * (3 stars)

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

The Courier poster.jpg

The Courier

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“It’s okay. The action’s fine. Oldman exists in his own movie, which isn’t as bad as some of the other versions of this I’ve seen.”

“I’m totally fine with this, because I’m always predisposed to this kind of movie as long as it’s done reasonably okay.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s pure cable action stuff. I’m fine with it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Hala poster.jpg

Hala

January’s preview:

“I’m down for this.”

3.5 stars. I hope it’s great.”

The review:

“This is a wonderful coming of age story that must be based on the writer-director’s own childhood.”

“It’s a really strong film that, while it does have some obvious turns along the way, never fully goes into ‘obvious’ territory, and has some really strong acting in it. I definitely recommend this one.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Very ovely coming-of-age film with some nice acting and nice moments. The women were particular standouts in this.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Holiday Rush Poster

Holiday Rush

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Another generic Netflix Christmas movie.”

“This one borders on almost decent.”

“Of the Netflix Christmas movies (which exist on their own ratings scale), this one probably exists right around the median, which, for a regular movie, means it’s probably in the 40-45% percentile.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Almost watchable, but not great. But hey, Darlene Love is in it and they give her an excuse to sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” so that’s something.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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White Snake

January’s preview:

None.

The review:

“Chinese animated film. Gave it a shot. Didn’t do anything for me, outside of a few Crouching Tiger vibes it had.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Not for me at all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

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The Two Popes

January’s preview:

“I like Fernando Meirelles. But also, this is Popes talking about church stuff. So I’m really not gonna give too much of a shit. Unless they’re gonna go Young Pope on this, which I doubt.”

“Anthony McCarten wrote it… I mean, I guess on that alone I have to say 3.5 stars. Not crazy about the whole church aspect, but he’s a good writer, so I have to assume he’ll make it interesting, and the two performances will make it worthwhile.”

The review:

I found I liked this way more than I thought I would, because it’s like The Queen, in that it takes a very public situation and shows the private side of it. I much preferred the scenes of the two of them in present day, rather than the flashbacks for Pryce’s character in the black and white. It didn’t veer into ‘church’ stuff, which is why I was cool with it. Mostly it’s people struggling with issues and talking philosophically. Which is cool. Had they spent more time with just the two of them (which I understand why they didn’t), it might have had a shot at 4 stars. But still, it’s solid. I quite enjoyed this one.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

They did a good job with this. I saw it after it started getting nominated at things, and I understand why they did now. It’s a very solid film with good performances by its leads.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Queen & Slim

January’s preview:

3.5 stars. Sounds like it could be good, though the synopsis is kinda vague.”

The review:

“It’s belittling to simply call this movie the ‘black Bonnie and Clyde movie’, but in terms of a broad strokes plot, that is the best way to describe it in a way that makes people understand what it is.”

“It hits on a lot of current day issues in terms of race in America and police brutality and just the general difficulty of being black in America.”

“It’s definitely not without its problems, but can put aside my quibbles in defense of the things this movie has to say.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s flawed, but wonderful. The acting is great, the directing is great and the film accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish. My critiques are minor, but overall this is a very solid movie.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

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Knives Out 

January’s preview:

“Rian Johnson’s new movie. His movies have all been 4 stars or more so far, so I expect this to be more of the same.”

“Maybe I’ll get a top ten, maybe I won’t. Don’t know. It’s nice to see him outside of Star Wars and we’ll see if he can pick up where he left off before it.”

“The cast means it shouldn’t be less than 4, or else it went horribly wrong somewhere along the way.”

The review:

“This movie is great.”

“It’s impeccably written and edited and really should be among the best films of the year.”

“This feels like a movie that’ll be a consensus top ten for a lot of people, because it’s just damn good.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

I love Rian Johnson.

That’s it. Those are my thoughts.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

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

– – – – – – – – – –

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