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Movies the giraffe watched in 2016: November

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The breakdown: 23 movies watched, 18 via Netflix, 1 via DVD, and 4 in the theatre. Of those 20 were first views, 3 were re-watches, and they came from the following decades: 1950s, 90s, 00s & 2010s.

And having said that I'm mildly disappointed in the lack of variety in time between the films I watched, though to be fair my focus was on my queue & most of what was there was from the past 16 years. And of course my goal was to get those films watched, and my goal was met so I won't complain too loudly. I may have to make up for it next month though.

This month seemed to swing between good films and mediocre ones which has me feeling like the month wasn't the strongest overall. But hey, at least I did see some good movies along the way including finally seeing one of my favorite films ever on the big screen. And now I can finally stop feeling like I'm not keeping up with my queue for a while & maybe start tackling films within the first month or so of adding them. We'll see how that goes.

Best new-to-me film for November: Frequencies
Best hidden gem: Well, aside from the above film I'd say it was Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Worst film: Either Room 237 or Flubber, both of which were a waste of my time
People who added this item 59 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 5.8
The Nightmare (2015)
First viewing - Nov. 3rd/4th

I'm kicking off the month by knocking out the Horrorfest leftovers from Netflix first, which is why I started the month with this documentary. It's not really horror, though there are some creepy moments along the way as they delve into the stories of people's experiences with sleep paralysis. It's pretty interesting at least, and I liked the ways they tied it into similar tales and artwork in pop culture. I didn't think it was anything great, but it was worth a look.

Just a thought: Funny enough, I fell asleep an hour into the documentary the first night I watched it.

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People who added this item 2341 Average listal rating (1364 ratings) 4.9 IMDB Rating 5.2
Flubber (1997)
First viewing - Nov. 5th

The kiddo and I wanted to watch something together, and somehow we landed on this. I clearly recall watching The Absent-Minded Professor when I was young & enjoyed it, but of course that's not readily available and certainly not on Netflix. So we watched its remake, which she spent parts of telling me she wasn't very interested in it but each time I replied by offering to turn it off in favor of something else she said we could keep watching. I didn't think it was a bad film necessarily, but it's certainly cheesy and underwhelming. Some of the humor falls flat, and the time is rather confusing for reasons which are never made clear. There are plenty of cues that the film takes place in the 1990s, but there are just as many that suggest it takes place back in the 1950s/early '60s which made me question whether they'd intended that originally but then made last minute changes to make the film more modern. There are some fun moments along the way, fortunately, and the story follows pretty much the same course as the original which was a good choice. Like I said though there's just nothing that truly impresses and thus nothing to justify its existence.

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People who added this item 68 Average listal rating (41 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6.1
The Sacrament (2013)
First viewing - Nov. 5th

Well, this is an interesting little horror film, and one that clearly has a polarizing effect on its viewers. Basically it tells a fictional version of the Jonestown Massacre within the found footage format, and I thought this method worked fairly well. We're told the whole thing was covered by long-time journalists used to documenting everything, which helps the professional camerawork come off as believable. I especially dig the fact that despite a subtle sense of dread that pops up occasionally the film largely avoids delving into horror tropes too early, which also helps sell the authenticity of the tale. The cast ranges from solid to exceptional, with the most impressive performance coming from Gene Jones as Father. The film never crosses the line into greatness overall though, due in part to taking a predictable route to its end, and I'm reluctant to say I'd go out of my way to watch it a second time but I certainly enjoyed it the first time around.

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People who added this item 1973 Average listal rating (1235 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.3
King Arthur (2004)
First viewing - Nov. 7th

First off, thank you to everyone who voted against my watching this & thus lowered my expectations for it. Without you I might have hated it, but as it was I thought that for what the film sets out to do it's worth a look. The cast is decent, though some better character development would help elevate things. At least there's some effort to make the characters meaningful along the way. The action scenes are mostly clear in representing what's going on which is always appreciated, and I thought the approach to make the legend of Arthur & company more grounded through a historical telling provided a fresh take. Possibly with LOTR running in theatres around the same time they decided a story with an actual wizard present would be too similar despite the fact that King Arthur's tale predates LOTR, and no doubt that most people will find this film lacking by comparison. I never felt, however, that it was trying to compete with LOTR though, and thought the story was mostly well-handled. It's never anything great, mind you, but it was entertaining enough to sit through once.

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People who added this item 182 Average listal rating (106 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.8
Bulworth (1998)
Re-watch - Nov. 8th

I decided to spend election night watching this instead of the unfolding horrors as the results rolled in, and it was probably TOO appropriate for the occasion. For the unfamiliar, this brilliant little film is about a senator seeking re-election who hits rock bottom & goes off the rails as the primary vote draws near. Instead of his prepared speeches he unleashes the truth about American politics which has impact with often humorous results. I've seen it more than a few times, and it still rings true today & likely will for years to come yet. Warren Beatty has a blast in the titular role, and he's supported by an excellent ensemble cast and plenty of stellar hip-hop music along the way. Sadly it's underappreciated, but then the real truth often is too so perhaps that only makes sense.

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People who added this item 39 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.8
The Dirties (2013)
First viewing - Nov. 10th

VierasTalo put this one on my radar when he recommended it for the Netflix project a while back, but for some reason I kept putting it off for a later time. I guess something about the premise just failed to inspire me to dive right into it, but fortunately it's more humorous than I'd anticipated it would be. That humor is essential, because otherwise this could have been a very dark movie. I wound up liking the main characters & as someone who used to be bullied related to them (thankfully I was never bullied as often or as harshly as they are though). The story does follow a somewhat predictable path to its obvious conclusion, but it's solidly entertaining along the way thanks largely to the central duo. It's pretty thought-provoking too.

My biggest gripe though was with the found-footage approach. The two leads state early on that they're making a movie, but the cameraman is a faceless person present even in moments where it's unbelievable that someone would have a camera & be filming. This tends to nullify the authenticity of certain moments, and ultimately calls into question whether what you're watching has a shred of truth to it. If that was intended then the film may be more brilliant than I thought, but if not then it's just lazy & self-defeating.

I did enjoy it for the most part despite its flaws, and do think it's worth recommending. If you watch it I also recommend sitting through the credits as they're very entertaining too.

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People who added this item 169 Average listal rating (123 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 6.1
Automata (2014)
First viewing – Nov. 16th

Beyond the events that caused this dystopian future, there’s not much original about this movie but it compensates for that fact by being consistently entertaining and investing in its main character so that we care about him. I also dug some of the visuals plus the fact that the robots were made via practical effects instead of being entirely CGI. For a lower budget sci-fi film it was definitely worth watching once.

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People who added this item 184 Average listal rating (132 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.5
Europa Report (2013)
First viewing – Nov. 17th

First off, I would recommend if you’re going to watch this you not start it when you’re already getting tired. The first half hour there’s not a lot going on, and the first time I tried to watch it (back in September I think) I fell asleep during that time. When I watched it this time, however, I got more into it and was engaged throughout. The characters could have been better developed in my book, but I appreciated that it took a fairly grounded approach to deep space travel. It’s not a great movie, but it had at least one surprise I hadn’t anticipated and I was fairly entertained.

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People who added this item 106 Average listal rating (75 ratings) 5.1 IMDB Rating 5.5
First viewing - Nov. 19th

This was completely average. Mixing sci-fi & horror can be a good thing, but not when there's nothing new to offer and no fresh spin if you're using an old idea. The film moves along quickly enough that it's not a bore, but it's predictable & the scares fall flat. The characters are ok but not very memorable, and the visuals are decent but nothing outstanding either. Oh, and they're supposed to be on Mars, but it's clearly Earth. So if you want something mindless & short then this isn't the worst way to pass some time, but there are plenty of other films you'd be better off wasting time on.

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People who added this item 1843 Average listal rating (1171 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.6
Re-watch - Nov. 20th

I just watched this about a year ago, so I won't repeat myself. The kiddo picked this off the shelf today, which was nicely timed with Thanksgiving being this week. She was more scared by it than its predecessor, but found plenty to enjoy along the way too. Clearly she forgot she'd already seen it before (or maybe I'm recalling it incorrectly & she just saw part of it instead of the entire thing), and it was fun seeing her reactions to it all. She was really confused why anyone would be afraid of Michael Jackson, & I had to point out that while she likes Disney movies the Addams children wouldn't. Heh.
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People who added this item 173 Average listal rating (105 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6.1
Super High Me (2007)
First viewing - Nov. 23rd

I'm somewhat familiar with Doug Benson's stand-up, and have been curious about this documentary since before I experienced it mainly because the ex added it to our queue a long time ago. Overall it was entertaining, though not especially insightful or original. It's more like a stand-up special that also follows him as he explores both the effects of marijuana on himself and the then-current state of how it's sold for medical purposes in California. It's not anything I'd need to watch a second time, but worth sitting through once I felt.

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First viewing - Nov. 25th

I'd meant to watch this last month, but given the fact that it covers the entire series it's probably just as well I didn't get to see it until after I'd revisited all the films again. You'd think that something with a 4 hour run-time would be a chore to get through, but for me it was not at all. Quite the opposite actually, as I found it endlessly interesting and enthralling to hear the oral history of the series delivered through interviews with most of the cast & main crew over the years. It's not too surprising that they couldn't get Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, and Breckin Meyer to show up to talk about their memories & experiences, but it's kind of disappointing that they're all too cool (or hopefully just too busy) to make appearances. Fortunately their absence doesn't hurt the doc in any way as there are plenty of insights from everyone who did participate, and I thought it was a great way to explore the series as well as serves as a way to tie it all up and put it to rest. I don't know that I'd ever need to watch it again, but if someone wanted to watch it with me I'd gladly do so.

Just a thought: How did I not realize the kid actor who played Dylan in New Nightmare also played Gage in Pet Sematary?

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People who added this item 671 Average listal rating (394 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.2
First viewing - Nov. 26th

This being a holiday weekend, and one where I don't have the kiddo with me, I've decided to spend as much time as possible watching the few remaining films in my queue. I kicked Saturday off with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and overall it was a decent start to my day. Jane Russell & Marilyn Monroe are equally engaging, electric, and just a joy to watch throughout the film, and the supporting cast does a solid job as well. Despite being a musical I didn't think the music numbers overshadowed the rest of the film, due in part to the fact that there aren't so many of them that they overwhelm the film or feel like filler. I can't say I liked every song, but some were better than others & the first couple even fit organically into the film's story. There were some truly funny moments to be found as well, and in the end I felt it was worth seeing once.

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People who added this item 271 Average listal rating (159 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.2
Room 237 (2012)
First viewing - Nov. 26th

After lunch I watched this overrated idiotic doc that focuses on a handful of people's crackpot theories about what The Shining is actually about beyond being a horror movie. It's a lot like reading internet comments about Tool's lyrics, and many of the arguments were basically "well, I study this subject a lot so I saw symbols in the film that connect with it so that's what the film is about." If you're looking hard enough for symbols to justify your beliefs or ideas, you can find them anywhere so this isn't very surprising. We never see these people, which is an odd choice (though perhaps they didn't want to be identified except by name), and so instead the doc compensates by showing footage from other films of Kubrick's as well as films not remotely related to his work. I found most of their ideas laughable, a few I could see the logic behind, and I quickly got bored with it all. I'd hoped it'd be better, but really I could have skipped it and been just fine.

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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.6
First viewing - Nov. 27th

This documentary was a recommendation from Mackenzi last year for the Netflix project, and thus wound up in my queue. Despite his notorious history & strong Twitter presence over the years, I'd never heard of Ai Weiwei or encountered any of his work. Now that I have, however, I'm encouraged to pay more attention to him from now on. It's quite inspiring to find a Chinese artist who uses his art & his voice to fight for justice and freedom in a country that's far from democratic. That he hasn't been permanently locked away for his actions is surprising, though I suspect the Chinese government realizes doing so would make him too big a martyr for them to deal with the aftermath.

Thank you, Mackenzi, wherever you are, for the recommendation. This was very much worth watching and while I may not need to I'd certainly watch it again. And I notice there's another Ai Weiwei documentary on Netflix that I'll be sure to watch in the near future.

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First viewing - Nov. 28th

I've long been aware of the awful impact Wal-Mart has on the world around it and the employees it claims to value, so not much of this surprised me. Certainly the majority of it helped to reinforce my stance against supporting them in any way and fueled my dislike of the company. I thought the part about how unsafe their parking lots are was stretching it a bit far since it's not solely Wal-Mart's responsibility to police all activity outside their stores, though they did have a point that their security measures were lacking. I can't say I liked the doc as it's hard to enjoy something designed to incite the audience, and the format is pretty standard & never delivers anything especially noteworthy, but I thought it was worth watching once especially if you generally turn a blind eye to this corporation's actions.

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People who added this item 85 Average listal rating (51 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.3
First viewing - Nov. 29th

A sequel to a documentary is an odd thing anyway, especially in this case where this one's predecessor The Act of Killing was such a tough watch anyway. This time we follow one man's journey toward closure regarding the death of his brother. It's all well-made but also depressing at times & gets repetitive after a while. The people involved are interesting enough I guess, but I wasn't as engaged as I was with The Act of Killing. Looking around at others' ratings it seems I'm in the minority in not being overly impressed by it, but that's fine. Once was enough for me on this one.

The most joy I got out of watching this was knowing that it was the last movie in my queue and by finishing it I met my goal for the month. Now I can add some newer picks, though I won't get any of them watched until 2017 unless something important to me is lurking there & winds up on the chopping block before then.

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Big screen attractions

Films I caught in a theatre
People who added this item 739 Average listal rating (505 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8
Arrival (2016)
First viewing – Nov. 13th

After seeing critics geeking out online for an entire week about this movie I figured I should catch it opening weekend so I could make my own mind up regarding their hype. I can’t say I fell in love with it, but it was definitely worth seeing. Amy Adams does a stellar job, and it’s great to see a film with an intelligent woman at its center and no primary focus on romance. That doesn’t happen often enough unfortunately. You can certainly pick up the film’s influences along the way, but it delivers a fresh take with a message that’s worthwhile. I’d definitely be willing to watch it again, but I don’t think I’d buy a copy just to do so.

Just a thought: Bummed that there was never any mention of Cthulhu.
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People who added this item 40 Average listal rating (27 ratings) 4.5 IMDB Rating 5.4
The Monster (2016)
First viewing – Nov. 13th

After Arrival ended I made my way over to check out the latest film from Bryan Bertino, a film which I knew wouldn’t stay in theatres for long. And the fact that a late showing on Sunday night failed to reach double digits quickly reinforced that belief, as did watching the film as it rolled along. Yes, for the first time I was disappointed by one of Bertino’s films. When it remembers it’s a horror movie it works well enough (though it’s not especially original, it’s effective more often than not), but when it tries to be more dramatic it falls flat a lot of the time. I struggled to buy into the relationship between the mother and daughter, and the dialogue between them was a big part of that. It also doesn’t help that the film insists on a non-linear format that bounces between past and present in ways that detract from the overall impact and effect with frustrating results. I feel like there’s a good/great film to be culled from it, but this approach prevents it from being realized. Bummer.
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People who added this item 71 Average listal rating (38 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.2
First viewing - Nov. 21st

The trailers for this one caught my interest, and seeing some positive reviews & reading an interview with Anna Biller, the director/writer/etc. behind it, encouraged me to give it a look. The fact that the only theatre in town playing it lies within walking distance of my house also helped, so I figured I'd give it a chance. Well, I'd have to say the biggest highlight of the trip was checking out the inside of the theatre, especially their collection of special event posters. As for the film itself, well, there's definitely a lot to admire and I don't just mean the gorgeous Samantha Robinson. The art of the entire film is wonderful to behold, and all the more impressive when you realize how much of it Biller was responsible for creating. The sets, the costumes, and the way it's shot all come together to deliver a fresh experience while also serving as an homage to 60s & 70s era films. Unfortunately the story is merely average and delivered in a way that makes it all feel rather flat. There are amusing moments, but nothing that really made a big impact on me. Possibly it was too enamored with its b-movie aspirations, or too hung up on being artistic that it failed to include anything heartfelt for the script. I didn't really connect deeply with any of the characters either, though they all have moments where they're amusing to some degree.

One thing that really irked me is the film's confusion over which time it's supposed to take place in. As I said, it looks like a 60s or 70s film, but there's an early shot of a theatre marquee advertising This Is Spinal Tap (which would suggest it's 1984), modern-day cars are often in the background as our main character drives around, and a cellphone even pops up at one point. It left me wondering whether they couldn't make up their minds as to when the story takes place, or if it was more a matter of being unable to clear the streets of modern-day cars so they just went with it hoping nobody would notice. Whatever the reason, the anachronisms worked against the film for me.

I'm sure others will find more to enjoy from this than I did, but I wouldn't strongly encourage anyone to take a chance and find out. Which is a shame, because I'd hoped it'd be better than it is.
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People who added this item 114 Average listal rating (46 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 6.7
Re-watch - Nov. 25th

When I found out I could see this on the big screen, I knew I had to go. I think the last time I watched it was when I made the ex watch it with me, which would have been 2009 so I haven't had it in any of my journals yet (though it's appeared in other lists of mine). The first time I ever saw it was well after its theatrical run when a former friend of mine insisted we watch it one night, and I've loved it ever since but only ever been able to watch it at home. It's not a popular film by any means, so this chance to see it in a theatre was just too enticing to pass up (and to reinforce it's not being popular there were about 10 of us in the audience).

The story is original, the characters are all interesting, it's wonderfully shot and acted, and the soundtrack is killer (which reminds me, I need to buy the soundtrack still). If you haven't seen it you should check it out, especially if you have any love for old-school early rock n' roll. Seeing it all in a theatre was a joy, and I'll definitely be going back to the theatre again in the future.

In fact, the moment I walked into the theatre I felt a sense of being at home which was exciting. And if I'd had more money I would have spent the day there, because after Six-String Samurai they were screening Repo Man, Death Race 2000, and The Warriors, followed by an interactive screening of The Room which is the only film of those I have zero interest in ever seeing (though also the only one of the films I haven't seen before). So yeah, I could have easily stayed longer & I'm sure it would've been worth it but alas I couldn't justify the expense. Maybe another time...
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Netflix Instant Project for 2016


Netflix Instant Project for 2016


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 & submit your recommendations.
People who added this item 23 Average listal rating (17 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.4
First viewing - Nov. 11th

Recommended by djprojexion


A Wolf at the Door is a well-made film I guess, but I wasn't overly impressed by it. Certainly the acting is good, and the story unfolds in a way that's fairly compelling and not too predictable. It gets bonus points for being populated with characters that have both good & evil within them instead of painting them in black & white. There are some moments which are included for questionable reasons (a woman tells her story to the police & provides graphic sexual details?), and when it ended I wasn't blown away. I do think it's worth sitting through once though if you're curious about it but probably not essential viewing.
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Netflix exorcisms

Films I caught before Netflix removed them
People who added this item 62 Average listal rating (35 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.8
Frequencies (2013)
First viewing - Nov. 26th

Netflix seemed convinced this was my type of movie, so when I noticed it's leaving soon I figured I'd catch it while I still could. Frequencies is a very intelligent sci-fi/romance hybrid with a strong cast and intriguing story. I hate to say too much about it since I knew nothing about it beyond Netflix's brief description, so I'll keep my comments brief. Simply put, I dug everything about it & would gladly watch it again. I'm unsure whether it crossed my line of greatness, but it's safe to say it came very close if not.
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As I've previously stated, it's my goal this month to wipe out the remaining films that have been sitting indefinitely in my Netflix queue before December. Fortunately I don't have a lot left to get through, then I can add more to it and have some fresher films to watch in the new year. I'm starting off by tying up some loose ends from last month's Horrorfest before I move onto the rest, and there will definitely be at least two trips to the theatre before the month ends that I'm looking forward to. Beyond that, we'll see how it goes.

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