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Added by the giraffe on 2 Apr 2015 02:46
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Movies the giraffe watched in 2015: April

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The breakdown: 28 movies watched, of those 19 were via Netflix, 5 on DVD, 1 via streaming download, and 3 in the theatre. Of those 18 were first views, 10 were re-watches, and they came from the following decades: 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s & 2010s.

Well, April was another mostly good month though it appears that for the most part the best films I watched I'd seen before. Ah, but I can thank Drafthouse for that to some degree since they screened three great films this month, two of which I never thought I'd get to see on the big screen. Finally having those experiences leads me to hope that I'll eventually see every film on the big screen that I ever wanted to. I did not, however, make it out to see anything new in the theatre, but I'm sure I'll make up for that next month as the blockbusters start rolling out.

The Netflix project continues to yield worthwhile results, though I'm a little disappointed that we don't have more Listalites participating in it. Hopefully as summer rolls along we'll pick up some extra activity there. Course it's hard to complain when the films have been so good so far this year. Please feel free if you're reading this & have Netflix instant to hop in and join us.

And yet again this was a month where I found more worthwhile new horror films in The Babadook and Starry Eyes, both of which largely benefit from their strong female leads. Starry Eyes in particular reinforces the fact that digging for lesser-known films continues to be a worthy endeavor.

Best new-to-me film for April: City of God
Best hidden gem(s): It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World / Starry Eyes
Worst film: Funny Face
People who added this item 4088 Average listal rating (2722 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.6
Saw
First viewing - April 1st

Back in 2004 or 2005, I forget which, I dropped by to pick up a friend on our way out for the night & he & his then-wife were watching Saw. It was at the end of it he said, so I did my best to ignore what was going on in case I wanted to watch it myself someday. I wound up catching part of it though, which is partly to blame on this being my first viewing 10ish years later.

So when it popped up on Netflix I figured what the hell & decided to finally watch it. And I've got to say I'm a little disappointed. Oh it's not bad, but given the fact it spawned a slew of sequels and director James Wan has gone on to far better films horror-wise it's kinda weak. The tone and pacing is uneven, parts of it had me hooked while others seemed to drag on or else to serve as attempts to make the film more convoluted than necessary. There's a lot to digest here for a first outing, almost as if Wan & Whannell anticipated sequels & hoped to cut off the need for too many of them. I felt like the film would be far more effective had it mainly stayed in one of the world's most foul bathrooms ever (does the Trainspotting toilet connect to here?) rather than jumping out of it to other places so often.

That said, there are some truly memorable visuals and excellent set pieces along the way. The cast does a mostly good job, which also helps, and the soundtrack is solid. But ultimately I felt like this was only worth watching once, and not as great as some would have you believe.

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People who added this item 278 Average listal rating (195 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.4
Kill List (2011)
First viewing - April 4th

Kill List is not an easy film to swallow, and definitely not what I'd anticipated. It's dark, brutal, and a constant downward spiral. Fortunately there's some humor along the way which does help take the edge off at times, and the central friendship/partnership is consistently interesting & engaging if not entirely endearing. It does a mostly great job of being unpredictable, though fell short for me with its ending which I did see coming. But even though I'd anticipated the ending it was effective in turning me off & ensuring this is one film that I won't be watching again. It's also one I'm very reluctant to recommend, though I'll concede it's definitely well made & the acting is stellar. Chalk it up to personal taste I guess, and so your mileage may vary.

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People who added this item 779 Average listal rating (455 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - April 5th

On this particular night I wanted to watch something light since I was still mentally recovering from Kill List, so in that sense this did the trick. I liked the characters, dug most of the music, and was solidly entertained. The downside is that it's obvious at times where it's heading, and indulges in simplified, cheesy solutions for most of the problems it raises. There's never any real question of whether the characters won't get through their problems, which is ridiculous. And yet I enjoyed it for what it was, and I might even watch it again some time in the right mood. I wouldn't go out of my way to do so, but I wouldn't object if someone asked me to watch it again.

Just a thought: Kat Dennings is damn adorable.

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First viewing - April 6th

Well, this was a mixed bag. On the one hand I dug the idea behind it, parts of it are damned creepy, the cast does a wonderful job all around, and I was entertained. On the other hand the approach didn't work for me, as the whole thing is shot like a documentary with "modern day" interviews mixed with "70s film footage". They try to make it look like it's older film, but it doesn't entirely work & I kept getting jarred out of the experience every time I'd realize that this was fiction masquerading as non-fiction. But hey, whatever, it's got moments that make it worthwhile even if it's annoying at times (especially when it goes to obvious places), and I guess I can give it some credit for trying to be different.

Mostly though I was left thinking that the friend who recommended it to me should watch Frankenstein's Army if he thought this was worthwhile.
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People who added this item 1433 Average listal rating (949 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - April 8th

After watching Flirting With Disaster I figured I'd watch the other David O. Russell movie on Netflix I hadn't seen yet. Back when it came out I was reluctant to spend money to see it in the theatre as at that time I didn't have much faith in the cast & the trailers failed to impress me.

First off, this is a huge step up from Flirting With Disaster. The whole film fires on all cylinders, the cast is stellar from major to minor characters, and the story is both entertaining and thought-provoking. It's especially interesting in a political sense now given all of America's involvement in the Middle East from the early '90s until now. This helps ensure the film has remained relevant and potent.

My only complaint here is that some of the visual techniques, while effective, ultimately break the spell and remind you that you're watching a movie. These flourishes held the movie back from crossing the line into greatness for me. But despite that I'd gladly watch this again some day.

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First viewing - April 8th

Back before this film came out I read the book, which I totally dug so I was reluctant to check out this adaptation. I knew it would be a tough task to translate to the big screen, and so I reminded myself before I started this to lower my expectations accordingly.

And as adaptations go, this one is decent. Ben Whishaw is excellent as Grenouille, bringing the character to life as best as anyone could expect. The film also manages to capture the tale mostly faithfully which helped keep me from hating on it along the way. Plus seeing the execution sequence played out was pretty damn impressive. And on that note most of the technical aspects & visuals make the film worth checking out.

Of course the film version lacks the poetry and style that the novel has, which renders some scenes less effective than they should be. But then I didn't expect the film to accurately portray those aspects, especially when it comes to the details of the ways Grenouille experiences scents. But where the film really lost me was in a couple of the casting choices.

The worst casting choice is letting Dustin Hoffman play the Italian Baldini. Hoffman is a good actor, but horribly miscast in this role as he's not at all believable given he has no accent and nothing Italian about him. An American-Italian in 18th century France? I don't think so. Similar points are deducted for similar reasons from Alan Rickman whose character is French but he makes no attempt to convey that. Instead he speaks just as he always does, so his French aristocrat comes off as British. I don't know whether these choices were made by the director for personal reasons or whether they didn't have the time (or inclination) to seek out Italian & French actors who could have played the roles better, but the film would have been improved had they bothered to do so. At the very least if they weren't going to go with actors of the correct nationality for said roles, they could have insisted the actors work with a vocal coach to get the dialogue delivered right.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that this is worth watching, but I recommend the book over it.

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People who added this item 106 Average listal rating (69 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6
Starry Eyes (2014)
First viewing - April 9th

So I'm on Twitter one night & Chuck Palahniuk (or whoever tweets for him) comes on & encourages everyone to check out Starry Eyes. Out of curiosity I go ahead & add it to my queue to see what it's about. And once again I got a new horror movie that's well worth watching.

I love the exploration of the depths an actress will go to to achieve fame, and the tale is told in a way that's consistently entertaining. Some of the acting could be better from the supporting cast, and there are moments that are either predictable or unintentionally laughable, but on the whole it's a solid horror flick. Alex Essoe is especially noteworthy in the central role, as she delivers a performance that's strong enough to keep you hanging on to see what she'll do or endure next.

It didn't quite cross over into greatness territory for me, but I'd definitely watch it again & encourage horror fans to give it a look.

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People who added this item 745 Average listal rating (511 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.2
First viewing - April 10th

It's Walken & Cronenberg, do I need to say more?

Eh, I guess I can. I've seen the hockey scene before on TV, but never got around to watching The Dead Zone until now. I've never read the book either, which worked in the film's favor since I didn't know entirely where it was going. In the end it's entertaining and worth watching once or twice, but I wouldn't call it one of Cronenberg's best films. That may be more to blame on King's story though than his direction, as the idea here is interesting but nothing revolutionary. Far better films have tackled psychic phenomena more effectively (including Scanners), but for what it is it's decent.

Interesting how things are connected: Walken brings up The Legend of Sleepy Hollow a few times in this film, 16 years before he'd go on to play the Headless Horseman.

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First viewing - April 12th

I've watched far too much modern cinema this month, so I decided to dig up something old school. Netflix highly recommended this one to me, and while I didn't love it like they expected, I did enjoy it.

It was very cool to learn about this lesser-known story of WWII, and I liked that there are no unnecessary subplots or deviations. The film focuses squarely on the tale it has to tell & thus works very well. The cast is solid across the board, and I liked the humor sprinkled throughout. Best of all it's a wartime film that's not overly focused on the battles, which I found refreshing. It didn't cross the line of greatness for me, but it's definitely worth checking out & I might even watch it again some time.

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People who added this item 4019 Average listal rating (2541 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.6
Re-watch - April 14th

So on April 14, 2000, American Psycho was released. Thus on its 15th anniversary did I decide it was time to revisit it yet again. And like every time I watch it I find it's even better than I remembered it being the time before. I love the satire, the humor, the madness. Bale is perfect for this role & I still see shades of Bateman now & then in his performances in the years that followed. And so it's always a pleasure to sit down with again.

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People who added this item 3071 Average listal rating (1923 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.6
First viewing - April 15th

Yeah yeah yeah, OK, I finally watched it & it's as great as I've heard. Only thing missing was that magical 10/10 feeling I get, but cinema rarely gets this powerful. Kinda depressing subject matter, but fortunately there's enough humor and our central character to help us keep from sinking too far down. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

Just a thought: I now know of another city I can cross off my list of places to visit. Heh.

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First viewing - April 16th

Effectively creepy & yet another modern horror film that's destined to go down as a classic. Like most people what impressed me above all else here though is the performance by Essie Davis. If the Academy really meant something she would've been nominated for best actress this year. It didn't quite cross the line of greatness for me due to the ending, which was good as far as defying expectations but felt anti-climactic. Still, this is one that will definitely stick with me & I'll gladly revisit.

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People who added this item 1936 Average listal rating (1349 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.8
Re-watch - April 17th

The AV Club ran another oral history this week, this time on Airplane! & by the end of the article I was itching to revisit this movie. It's still hilarious and a ton of fun. I really don't have much else to say, other than that if you enjoy this movie you definitely need to read the article I've linked to above.

Currently streaming on Netflix (though I watched it on my own copy)
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People who added this item 1242 Average listal rating (842 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.4
Re-watch - April 21st

The kiddo wanted to watch this with me, having previously watched it with her mom. I haven't watched it since I caught a sneak preview in the theatre, despite the fact it's been in my collection for a few years now. It's still a whimsical and enjoyable and heartfelt experience, & I'm amused that she digs it. Of course, as she gets older & watches more movies she'll get more out of it, but for now she thinks it's mostly funny & doesn't like the more serious moments. I think she even started to cry during the ending. So yeah, I'm glad she wanted to watch it together & I am able to share such a good good movie with her.
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Big screen attractions

Films I caught in a theatre
Re-watch - April 22nd

Unofficial 1963 double feature


I say unofficial because while I did watch this & The Birds back-to-back at Alamo Drafthouse, to do so I had to hit two separate theatres. Fortunately this was screened early enough that I had plenty of time to get across town & still catch the pre-show entertainment for the film below.

Now, prior to this screening Drafthouse had showed Mad, Mad World twice over the weekend & I was bummed I couldn't go. Well because they love me they wound up adding another screening on my day off, so I HAD to go. Best of all, they screened it in 70mm Panavision which is the way it was originally released. The print was beautiful, in excellent condition aside from a couple of missing frames (not bad at all for a film that's been around over 50 years). AND the intermission had recorded dialogue playing of the cops radioing in with updates on the characters' progress while the audience took the break, which I'd never heard before. Thus I spent about 3 hours in comedic & cinematic bliss, and when it ended I told Drafthouse that if they'll screen this print once per decade I'll throw my physical copy away (they said, "deal").
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People who added this item 2708 Average listal rating (1718 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.7
Re-watch - April 22nd

Unofficial 1963 double feature


The print of this was also pristine, and not a single frame was missing. I've got to say though that I remember this film being much more effective when I watched it growing up than it is now. The birds are often cheesy looking, which kills the intensity for me & results in unintended laughs instead. I know for the time they were great, but not so much anymore. On the other hand I got more out of the characters than any previous viewing, so that was cool. And I'd forgotten how much humor the film has throughout, which only served to reinforce the comedic nature of the bird animations. The end result was, unfortunately, that I don't love this film as much as I once did, but I still think it's pretty close to being great & of course I'll watch it again someday.
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People who added this item 1818 Average listal rating (1159 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8.1
Re-watch - April 29th

So I'd planned to go see Ex Machina this week, but then Drafthouse announced a screening on my day off of Akira & it was too enticing to pass up. I mean, how often does anyone get the opportunity to see Akira on the big screen?

Now I'm positive I last watched this a couple years back, but I'm not finding whatever I'd posted about it at the time for some reason. Regardless it was a treat to see it the way it was intended to be seen, to witness the details on a large canvas, and to share the experience with an enthusiastic audience. It's safe to say I get more out of the story every time I watch Akira, and I'm impressed to see how many ideas are still relevant today. Oh yeah, and hearing that soundtrack in the full theatre experience was pretty damn sweet too.

Just a thought: When it's 2019 will people make as big a deal about Akira as they were for Back to the Future II going into this year?
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Year-long focus: James Bond series


When I was growing up I watched most of the James Bond series with my dad. He'd find one of the movies on TV & call me in to join him, and at the time I liked them all. I haven't seen any of the Sean Connery or Roger Moore films since the '90s began though, so I figured I'm long overdue to revisit them as well as check out the rest of the lot. So I'm spending 2015 with about 2 Bond films per month, watched in the order they were released. At this point I'm not planning on going through the Daniel Craig films again, but I reserve the right to change my mind on those down the road. The only Craig Bond film I definitely intend to see this year is Spectre & by that point I should be about done with the series.
Re-watch - April 29th

And now we come to the Roger Moore run as Bond, which kicks off with a pair of worthwhile entries. Both are solidly entertaining with exciting action set pieces, improved by their strong villains, and boast stellar theme songs. Moore seems comfortable as Bond from the jump which is great, but he's lacking that certain something that Connery has. On the upside though he's far from bored with being here. Neither film achieves greatness, but they're definitely rewarding my enjoyment of the series as a whole. I hadn't seen either of these in so long that most of each had been lost from my memory, but I don't think that'll be a problem going forward & I'd gladly revisit them again.
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Re-watch - April 30th

See above.

Just a thought: I want a car I can attach wings to & take off into the air in.
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Netflix Instant Project for 2015


Netflix Instant Project for 2015


The ongoing Netflix Instant Project involves recommendations from my fellow Listalites of lesser-known/lesser-seen films that are currently streaming on Netflix. If you use Netflix Instant Watch & want to participate, please check out the list above & the thread in the Movies Forum.
People who added this item 575 Average listal rating (345 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.4
Re-watch - April 2nd

Recommended by VierasTalo


Actually I didn't watch this on Netflix because when I got home on this night it failed to load on my TV. After fighting with it for a few minutes I gave up & pulled Bound off my shelf to revisit, and then to my pleasant surprise afterward I found that it had been recommended for our project. So here we are.

This is easily the best film the Wachowski's have directed, which is interesting since most directors get better over time. Obviously they're an exception to that rule. Oh sure, The Matrix is more influential but that doesn't mean it's a better film. Anyway, the story succeeds with all its noir trappings, elevated most of all by the love triangle at its center. While Jennifer Tilly & Lisa Gershon are certainly a steamy couple, credit is also due to Joe Pantoliano who rocks every scene he's in. I was left with the impression he's a far better actor than he tends to get credit for. Ah, but looking over his filmography he's been in a lot of crap so maybe that's to blame. Still, he's aces here, and a true joy to watch. The same could be said for Bound.
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First viewing - April 7th

Recommended by moviewatcher122


Thanks largely to the cast this was consistently entertaining. The soundtrack is decent too, though that tends to be the case with David O. Russell's films. The story of one man's search for who he really is was good, but the whole deal with him being misled to the wrong people got to be ridiculous swiftly. The ending kind of fell apart for me too, but overall for what it is the film works well enough I guess. Definitely nothing exceptional, but worth spending the time watching once.
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First viewing - April 29th

Recommended by moviewatcher122


Jodie Foster won her first Oscar for her performance here, and rightfully so. I've always thought she was a good actress, but here she goes above and beyond to bring her character to life and make her real, and it works. It actually wasn't on my radar though until moviewatcher122 recommended it for this year's Netflix project, so I have to thank him for that. Much like Boys Don't Cry which I watched the night before though it's the sort of film I only want to experience once despite my temptation to give it a rating higher than 7. Powerful stuff, to be sure, but not the sort of film you'd gather your friends around and watch for fun. If you like films that make you uncomfortable though, you'll probably get a more rewarding result from it.

Left Instant Watch May 1st
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Netflix exorcisms

Films I watched before Netflix removed them from my queue
People who added this item 8 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.8
Orhim le-rega (2011)
First viewing - April 18th

This was recommended to me by Listalite Nocturne after I watched The Band's Visit. It's a simple little film about a daughter reconnecting with a father she hasn't seen in years, and all of the characters feel genuine. It's funny & heartbreaking in turns, and as a dad with a daughter I definitely connected with it. It was worthwhile & I'm glad it was recommended to me.
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First viewing - April 20th

This documentary was rather uneven and lacking. It starts off promising thanks to the worthwhile story behind how WikiLeaks came into being and telling about the people behind it. Assange is an interesting guy anyway, and Bradley Manning, who played a crucial role, is also compelling. Unfortunately it gets bogged down with a sex scandal that leaves the film spinning its wheels for longer than necessary, and doesn't have much to offer beyond that point. It also doesn't help that they couldn't afford to interview Assange, and thus he never gets the chance to tell his side of the story outside of what's been said in past interviews (though, to be fair, $1M is a lot of money to spend on an interview). As a result it feels like about half to 2/3 of a good doc, which makes it borderline between a five & a six for me.
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People who added this item 163 Average listal rating (89 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.3
First viewing - April 21st

Aside from the overuse of CGI & the fact this story has been done at least a thousand times, this was solidly entertaining. The circus town setting made it feel fresh, or at least improved on the storytelling. The cast fulfills their roles well enough, the most impressive among them being the baby (babies? I should've checked the credits...oops) who damn near steals the show. The CGI left me wishing this was anime instead though, but I guess that would've made it even less impressive. Still, it was worth watching once.

Just a thought: The Ferris wheel trap was by far my favorite part.
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Re-watch - April 23rd-24th

I'd forgotten how wonderful the art is in The Secret of NIMH...so many beautifully rendered scenes of darkness & wonder. I don't think I've seen this since the early 90s, so it was almost like a first viewing for no better than I remembered it. But some moments had stuck with me, so it wasn't completely unfamiliar. But as I watched it I couldn't help feeling like it's a film I should have revisited more often & maybe then I'd have a deeper appreciation of it now. As it was it took me two nights to watch it, because the first one I kept falling asleep and gave up to go to bed. And I'll grant the possibility that because of that the film's overall effect was weakened for me, but I can't help feeling that if it had been as great as I thought I remembered I wouldn't have been able to fall asleep at all. So I've demoted it for now to an 8/10, but perhaps a revisit in a few years will turn out more favorable.

Oh yeah, and for the record I did NOT watch this with the kiddo. First off, when I asked she said she didn't want to watch it. And secondly I wasn't sure if it'd be too scary for her, and after watching it I'm still unsure. Ah well.
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People who added this item 528 Average listal rating (302 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - April 26th

Finally my growing appreciation of Audrey Hepburn backfires horribly on me. I checked this out as much for her as the fact I'm vaguely aware of the classic status Funny Face has achieved, and in the first 10 minutes I pretty much knew I'd wind up hating it. It's stupidly predictable, the majority of the songs are annoying, and it's obnoxiously phony. The cast does their best with the material, and while they seem like they all had a great time & they perform well enough, they're still stuck in a bad, dumb movie. But the film does have a few good moments, and the visual style of it makes it fairly worthwhile to watch. It's just overwhelmed with fluff and obviousness to the point it's hard to recommend.

Just a thought: You'd think given that I love movies, music, and plays that that would translate into a love of musicals. Instead I find them mostly grating. I think my biggest problem is the fact that every time any all-human cast breaks out in song & dance routines I'm reminded I'm watching something fake & the spell is broken. And so it's really hard for me to fully get behind a musical & get true enjoyment from it.
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People who added this item 1720 Average listal rating (960 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6
First viewing - April 28th

Well, this was good but depressing as hell. The cast is especially exceptional throughout, and I couldn't help but get caught up in the story overall. My only complaints are that it wound up more or less where I anticipated, and for a film that's mostly realistic there's one part that stretches the limits of believability. I don't believe that anyone would want to have sex again the night after he/she is raped. Anyway, it was worth watching after all the years of hearing about it, but while I dug it I doubt I'd watch it again as it's one of those films that doesn't need to be experienced more than once.
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Comments

Posted: 3 years, 2 months ago at Apr 12 14:33
Huge thumbs up for finally catching Saw! I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than you did, but I'm pleased to see that it wasn't a complete misfire. Hoping that you'll eventually get around to seeing the sequels, as well. They're not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy them immensely.
Posted: 3 years, 2 months ago at Apr 13 3:15
@Bml93 - The first three sequels popped up with the original on Netflix, so I may tackle them at some point. No rush for now though.
Posted: 3 years, 2 months ago at Apr 13 5:30
Starry Eyes was totes going to be my Instant rec for next month. It came out like a day or two after I posted my initial ones and I just went "darn it" over and over. That soundtrack sure is something else even if the film itself doesn't always exist up to snuff.
Posted: 3 years, 1 month ago at Apr 25 5:10
Cool, I'm glad you enjoyed Off-White Lies! It's a film I wish more people would check out.
Posted: 3 years, 1 month ago at Apr 30 7:14
Five things:
1. Kat Dennings truly is damn adorable.
2. Nice catch on Walken's mentions of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".
3. I still need to watch City of God.
4. Glad you dug The Babadook
5. Miss ya buddy.

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