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Movies the giraffe watched in 2017: January

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Noteworthy: The best and the worst

The breakdown: 30 movies watched total
29 first views, 1 re-watch
25 via Netflix, 5 in the theatre
Decades touched: 1960s through 2010s.

I hit my main goal of catching up on 2016 films I'd missed, and wound up with a month heavy on films from the current decade. I only managed to hit the theatres two days out of the month, but my day-long marathon yielded 4 of the 5 films I caught & best of all they were all worth seeing. Ah, and this month's focus on films I hadn't seen totally balanced out December's focus on revisiting films from my shelves. Definitely a productive start to the new year, and here's hoping it continues.
People who added this item 220 Average listal rating (150 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8
Sing Street (2016)
First viewing - Jan. 2nd

Best new-to-me film for the month


I remember back when this was playing at Drafthouse being curious about it but deciding against watching it due to complete lack of familiarity. But as critics & others released their best of 2016 lists it kept popping up, so I figured I'd give it a chance. And not only do I now see why it's made multiple best-of lists, it now holds a place on mine for last year too. The acting is so good you feel like you're watching actual people instead of actors. The characters are rich & relatable, and the story has heart & humor. The biggest highlight here though is the music and how it colors the film as it rolls along. Those of us with deep love for music, whether as devoted fans or aspiring musicians, will find much to connect with here & can easily find ourselves in what happens. It doesn't matter whether the characters' tastes are your own or not, as some of the artists are ones I never cared much for. But I found much joy to be had overall, and it came very close to earning perfect marks from me. I'll eventually have to add this to my collection.

Runners-up: Under the Shadow and Fences
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (9 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 6.7
Too Late (2015)
First viewing - Jan. 30th

Best Hidden Gem


This and Begin Again came highly recommended to me from Netflix, so I figured I'd give it a look despite knowing nothing about it beyond the synopsis. And I pretty much loved it. While the film wears its influences on its sleeve and pays tribute to them through its dialogue, the execution worked for me & I found much to appreciate. I'm sure some will dislike the style of the film, but it worked wonderfully for me. I guess I'm a sucker for references to Bugs Bunny and incorporating a Nick Cave song directly into the film, but I won't feel bad for it. Add to that the fact that the entire film is composed of five 22-minute single takes shot on 35mm (no cuts) and this film was always going to be right up my alley. Granted the story itself isn't especially original, but the film felt fresh to me and when it ended I was very very happy. I'll definitely be watching this again.

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People who added this item 12 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 5.2 IMDB Rating 3.7
First viewing - Jan. 30th

Worst film


Since I called in sick Monday to avoid making my illness any worse I figured that I'd spend some time on the couch chipping away at my Netflix queue. For some misguided reason I'd thought this could be a fun way to start my day while also serving as a brief stopgap between breakfast & lunch. I highly enjoyed Death Race 2000, and had hoped that Corman lending his name to this project was a good sign. And this is what I get for thinking.

Now I expected this film would be low budget & kinda cheesy, but I didn't anticipate the film being overrun by annoying characters. The opening stretch of the film is so obnoxious I nearly turned it off, but I figured I'd give it a chance & see if it improved. And to be fair it did in some ways. There's some decent social commentary (though nothing too enlightened) which keeps it from being completely idiotic, and as the race gets underway it's more entertaining than not. Since they obviously couldn't afford Tom Hardy or Gerard Butler they dragged in some dude named Manu Bennett who does his best to ape both of them. Malcolm McDowell is thrown into the role of president and while he clearly had some fun with the role it's kinda sad to see him wasting his efforts here. Supposedly this is meant to be a sequel to Death Race 2000, though it's a fine line between it being a sequel & an actual remake. The plot points are basically the same & the differences lie more in the new characters and dreadful music than anywhere else. Oh yeah, and the CGI employed for the gore effects is laughable. So no, there's not much to recommend this one and I'm still surprised that I got through it all. I've seen far worse films, but still I'd say this is best avoided.

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Big screen attractions

Films I caught in the theatre
People who added this item 423 Average listal rating (285 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing - Jan. 2nd

I decided to start the year off with Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, and it took me 2 tries to get it watched. I originally went the night of the 1st, but the couple sitting in front of me chose to ignore the movie & carry on a conversation which invaded my enjoyment & derailed me from following the exposition. Since I'm no longer in the land of Drafthouse (a fact that makes me more sad all the time), I had to leave my seat to make a complaint & by the time I reached the service desk I was no longer in the mood to return to the film. They gave me a pass to come back, so I returned first thing Monday morning in hopes of having a better experience. This time around the couple behind me kept talking through the previews so I moved away from them. Not surprisingly they walked out less than 15 mins into the film, and a weight was lifted from me & I settled in fully to the experience.

Amy Adams & Jake Gyllenhaal blew me away with their performances throughout the entire film. If neither of them are nominated for Academy Awards I'll be surprised. The story unfolds slowly & bounces between "reality" & fiction as well as through time which left me occasionally wondering when & where I was but there are enough clues provided for each jump that it doesn't take long to figure it out. There was one element of the story that I didn't fully grasp why it was there or whether it was needed, but aside from that the film is often riveting and made me think even after it ended. I have no doubt I'll be thinking about this one for a while, and at some point I'll definitely revisit it to see how it plays on a repeat viewing.
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People who added this item 144 Average listal rating (116 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.2
The Founder (2016)
First viewing - Jan. 21st

The awards season has piqued my interest in a number of films that I normally either would skip seeing or wait until I could watch them at home, so I figured I'd spend all day Saturday catching some of them on the big screen. Thursday night I watched a bunch of trailers, trying to decide what I should go see other than Split which was already my main priority for the weekend. And you can see here which ones most caught my attention.

I started the day off with The Founder, which I mainly wanted to see because Michael Keaton is on a big roll right now. Not surprisingly he's great as Ray Kroc & really sinks his teeth into the character. I was already familiar with the McDonald's origin thanks to Fast Food Nation, but this film really laid it out well and added some details I wasn't as aware of. But best of all it painted Kroc in what felt like an accurate light instead of trying to paint him as something he clearly wasn't. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job too, and I was consistently entertained. I don't see this film getting a Best Picture nod, but it's possible Keaton will get nominated for Best Actor for his work here. We'll see.
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People who added this item 334 Average listal rating (234 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.8
First viewing - Jan. 21st

Now I'd like to note that I could have easily seen all 4 films on Saturday at one venue. However, in doing my research I found that it'd be less expensive for me to watch the rest of the films elsewhere. The first theatre I went to charges $5 for their morning screenings, but after that it's more like $9 during the day & $10 at night. The second theatre charges $4 for their matinees and $6 for their evening screenings which is beyond crazy to me. I won't argue with them though. All together I saw 4 films at the theatre for $21 which is a tough deal to beat.

Anyway, next up (after I had lunch) was Hidden Figures. I deeply appreciated this story, which celebrates a trio of intelligent women who proved themselves to be more valuable than others assumed they were. It's entertaining and heartfelt, and the performances were all believable. I'm not sure it quite earned great status from me, but I do think it's a film that's worth seeing and would gladly watch it again.
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People who added this item 178 Average listal rating (116 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.2
Fences (2016)
First viewing - Jan. 21st

If Denzel & Viola don't get acting nominations for the Academy Awards this year for their performances then the Academy is full of morons. They both knock it out of the park, and between their acting and the dialogue that drives the story this is one hell of a film. I could tell the whole thing was adapted from a play because it feels like one at times, but that doesn't really take anything away from the film.

Ah, and this film fit in well with the two above for being set in America's past. Fences and The Founder are both set in the 1950s, while Hidden Figures is set in the early 1960s. And it tied into the next film as both were set in Pennsylvania (this one in the town I currently live in).
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People who added this item 491 Average listal rating (365 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
Split (2016)
First viewing - Jan. 21st

I hadn't seen a Shyamalan film in the theatre since The Happening, and by most accounts that's been a wise move on my part. I did hear some good things about The Visit though, and after seeing Split I'm encouraged to give it a fair chance just to see if I'd like it.

Split benefits mostly from the performances of James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, but also from Shyamalan's approach to the whole composition of the film. There are some truly intense moments, and very few missteps to be found. I don't want to say too much as it might give something away, so I'll just state that this is certainly worth your time and if Shyamalan can put this much care & enthusiasm into his future films then I'll gladly return for more of them.
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Home viewings

First viewing - Jan. 3rd

My co-worker friend loaned me his copy of the book that tells the tale of Raiders the Adaptation, and I really loved it. So much so that I read it all in less than a week, and when it was done I wanted to check out the adaptation as well as this documentary. Well, it turns out viewing the adaptation isn't that easy, but fortunately the doc was on Netflix & has been in my list since it first popped up. I'm now really kicking myself for ignoring the opportunity last year to see the doc along with the adaptation when Drafthouse held double feature screenings of both. The doc isn't quite as good as the book, as it splits the focus between their attempts to shoot the one scene they couldn't when they were kids and the story behind this group of kids who remade Raiders of the Lost Ark. This doesn't mean the doc isn't entertaining & worthwhile, only that it would have been improved had the focus been narrower. As it is, it feels like two docs crammed together. But as I said it's still entertaining mainly because it's such an interesting story & Chris, Eric, & Jason are engaging personalities. Possibly it works better if you haven't read the book, though I suspect that it works best if you can watch the remake along with it.

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People who added this item 30 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 6.8
Sha po lang 2 (2015)
First viewing - Jan. 6th

I've seen some very positive feedback for Kill Zone 2 around the interwebs, so I thought I'd give it a look. I was initially nervous about watching a sequel to a film I've never seen, but fortunately this is a self-contained story which doesn't require any background. Some of the fight scenes are excellent, but at the same time it's hard to get too amped about a fight scene that fails to live up to The Raid. Fortunately the story side of things works mostly well so that I was consistently involved with what was going on, and it's nice to see Tony Jaa again after having avoided his last several films. I thought it was worth watching once.

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First viewing - Jan. 7th

The title of this one keeps drawing me toward it, so I decided I'd pair it with another horror film for my Saturday night enjoyment. For those who are curious about it, you should know going into it that it's not a fast-paced horror movie nor a gory one to any degree. Overall it's pretty minimal, which would explain why not many people are singing its praises. I was able to hang with it though, and it does deliver a couple of deliciously suspenseful set pieces that worked well. The only trouble is that the script tells us too much too early, which ruins the way the story unfolds. Plus our protagonist could be better & there's a time jump that feels unnecessary. So yeah, it's definitely flawed, but those suspenseful moments saved it from a lower rating from me.

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People who added this item 57 Average listal rating (43 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - Jan. 7th

This is another film I've seen a fair amount of positive critical feedback on, and justifiably so. Babak Anvari delivers one hell of a debut film, ratcheting up the intensity to the point I was riveted to my seat. I highly recommend this one, especially if you're into suspenseful horror movies.

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People who added this item 41 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 6.7
Other People (2016)
First viewing - Jan. 8th

Continuing my run through critically well-liked 2016 films I landed on this one, a film wrongly billed on Netflix as a comedy. Granted there are some funny moments scattered throughout the film, but it's far more dramatic overall. Ah, but that has largely to do with the story as we watch lead character David (Jesse Plemons) stay by his mother's side throughout a battle with cancer. The mother is played by Molly Shannon, an actress I'm familiar with but never realized she could act as well as she does here. It's honestly disappointing to me that she's not being talked about for any actress awards, because she deserves one for this performance. The script goes some interesting places, and makes at least one detour that felt unnecessary, and deserves extra credit for having one scene I won't attempt to explain that blew me away with its realness. And yet despite all the impressive aspects of the film I felt like something was missing that might have made it truly great in my book. It's on the border between a 7 & an 8 for me, because part of me feels like one run through it was sufficient, but as time moves me away from it I feel like I would watch it again down the road to see if I appreciate it more the second time around.

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People who added this item 23 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.9
Reality (2014)
First viewing - Jan. 9th

I'd hoped to catch this in the theatre back when it ran, but if it ever played in Austin it wasn't around long enough for me to see it. Reality comes from the twisted mind of Quentin Dupieux, whose work I mostly love. Once again we have a film populated with oddball characters, steeped in meta, and unique in its own little way. I'd put it on a par with Wrong as far as overall quality, and was pleasantly surprised by the turns it took. Best of all though is it never takes itself too seriously, which works very well in its favor. Not everyone will enjoy this movie, and that's fine...but I'd watch it again.

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People who added this item 182 Average listal rating (80 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 5.7
High-Rise (2015)
First viewing - Jan. 10th

Here's yet another film I keep seeing on best-of lists for 2016, and in some ways I guess I can understand why. The acting is stellar and the visuals are often impressive. I wasn't so impressed with the story though, which gets a little bogged down in repetition and ran longer than I felt it needed to as a result. Plus the ending left me with a feeling of, really? That's it? ...so I can't say it'll be on my list for 2016, but I guess it was worth watching once.

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People who added this item 48 Average listal rating (30 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.5
The Impostors (1998)
First viewing - Jan. 12th

I dug the hell out of Stanley Tucci's directorial debut, Big Night, so I was curious to check out his second film. The chemistry between Tucci and Oliver Platt makes this one well worth a look, as they play very well off of each other. Add to that an impressive cast, and it's even more worthy of attention. The plot is rather silly, but then the whole film is clearly an homage to the early days of comedy films where the jokes mattered more than the plots. The comedy therefore should be top notch, but it didn't quite deliver that. And I don't mean that it's not funny. There are several funny moments throughout the film, but the frequency of laughs starts to dwindle once you get past the opening pair of scenes. Those first two scenes, however, were enough for me to feel the whole thing was worthwhile, and I was entertained enough as it moved along that I'd even watch this again at some point. It's not great, but I enjoyed it for what it is.

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First viewing - Jan. 13th

This weekend I have the kiddo, and I let her stay up later when she doesn't have school the next day so by the time she's asleep if I want to watch a movie I won't watch anything that's 2 or more hours long & really the shorter the better. So on this night I chose to catch a Sam Rockwell flick I hadn't seen, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It's consistently entertaining, often funny, and not too predictable with a solid cast to boot. It's not great but I would definitely watch it again some time.

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People who added this item 737 Average listal rating (452 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6.3
TMNT (2007)
First viewing - Jan. 14th

I've been wanting to watch this for a couple of years now thanks to some friends & acquaintances who told me it was worth a look, so when it got added to Netflix I let the kiddo know about it and today we watched it together. She thought it was a little scary in places, but overall she really enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty good too, especially since it captures the spirit of the original comics successfully. The animation is well-done throughout, and the story is entertaining if a bit ridiculous. But hey, when your main characters are talking turtles ridiculous is par for the course. I'm rating it an 8 because I'd definitely watch it again, but it's more like a high 7.

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People who added this item 115 Average listal rating (63 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.4
Made (2001)
First viewing - Jan. 14th

I tend to love Jon Favreau's films, so I figured I'd give this one a look. Turns out it was just OK. The plot was decent but nothing original, it moves quickly enough that I didn't have time to get bored with it, and most of the cast does a good job (especially Sam Rockwell in his minor supporting role). Most people seem to love Vince Vaughn in this movie, but he really annoyed me and I rarely found him funny. I get that that's supposed to be his character, this annoying screw-up, but it grated on my nerves to the point I wished they had cast someone else in the role. And the film at times tries to recreate parts of Swingers instead of being truly its own thing which was kinda disappointing. So yeah, I'd say this is far from an essential movie.

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People who added this item 96 Average listal rating (59 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 5.9
Haunter (2013)
First viewing - Jan. 15th

Netflix keeps insisting this is my kind of film, so I thought I'd give it a chance finally. The title would have you believe that it's a horror movie, but I wouldn't consider it to be one. It's more of a mystery film than anything else, and I did appreciate the approach to the story which was pretty different. Unfortunately I didn't care much about the characters and wasn't really feeling it. I spent most of the last third of the film backing it up because I'd fallen asleep & missed what was going on, which is definitely not good. It's not bad, but could have been much better.

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People who added this item 978 Average listal rating (597 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.8
Penelope (2006)
First viewing - Jan. 19th

I wanted to check this one out due mainly to the cast, and the cast certainly made it worthwhile. The story was mostly predictable, but most of the time I was engaged with the characters enough that I didn't mind it too much. So overall I thought it was worthwhile, and if someone really wanted to watch it I'd sit through it again but otherwise probably won't need to see it a second time.

Just a thought: One of these days Peter Dinklage needs to win an Oscar for his acting abilities...and not one of those bullshit honorary ones they bestow to actors they shun for years either.

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People who added this item 454 Average listal rating (347 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing - Jan. 20th

You'd be forgiven for thinking I watched this with the kiddo, but I didn't. I had thought we'd see it together while it was in theatres last year, but the one time she saw a trailer for it she told me it looked too scary for her and I wasn't going to argue. So on a kiddo-free Friday night I sat down with it alone and surprisingly enjoyed it more than I expected to. Much ado has been made over the CGI in the film, and while it's quite impressive at times it's also obvious at other times that I'm watching animated creatures. Of course there's also the fact that having Bill Murray and Christopher Walken voice characters is a bit distracting since their voices are so recognizable. But hey, for a big-screen remake of a classic tale it's not bad. I especially appreciated that the story differed from Disney's animated Jungle Book adaptation rather than just retaining the plot & throwing it into a "live-action" version as I'd figured they'd do. I don't think this film is especially great, but it was enjoyable enough I'll watch it with the kiddo whenever she's ready for it.

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People who added this item 293 Average listal rating (196 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.2
Paddington (2014)
First viewing - Jan. 29th

I woke up sick on the 29th, and late in the afternoon I got the kiddo to curl up with me on the couch to watch a movie. After browsing our options we agreed on Paddington, whose books I enjoyed as a child. Overall we both enjoyed it, though it seemed like I dug it more than the kiddo did. Most of the humor works well, and it's a fun & heartfelt family film with a decent story. I wouldn't say it's great, but I liked it well enough I'd watch it again.

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People who added this item 197 Average listal rating (141 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6
El Dorado (1967)
First viewing - Jan. 29th

After Paddington I found I was running a fever, so I had the ex pick up the kiddo for the night & settled onto the couch until I was ready for sleep. Since I had plenty of time I decided I could watch a longer film & chose El Dorado. The acting is excellent throughout, though I'd expect no less from Wayne & Mitchum & James Caan. To be fair John Wayne didn't have a lot of range as an actor, but he plays the cowboy roles well & brings style & humor to his performances. Anyway, this movie was solidly entertaining & I liked spending time with the characters. The plot isn't anything special or groundbreaking, but the story is told well enough that it hardly matters. I don't know that I'd go out of my way to watch it again, but if someone wanted to check it out I wouldn't mind sitting through it once more.

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People who added this item 457 Average listal rating (285 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.4
Begin Again (2013)
First viewing - Jan. 30th

After lunch I was feeling better, so I ran my errands I'd missed over the weekend & chose this with more confidence than the film above. Between Keira Knightley being adorable and Mark Ruffalo being awesome it was well worth viewing, and while I won't be rushing out to pick up the soundtrack I thought the music was mostly well done. Also, the story played out better than I'd anticipated, which is always welcome. It doesn't have the same magic as Sing Street, but overall I enjoyed it well enough that I'd be willing to watch it again at some point. I don't think I'd need to, however, as once seems satisfactory.

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People who added this item 55 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.2
First viewing - Jan. 31st

I ended the month as I began it, with a 2016 film I saw some critical acclaim for but hadn't seen yet & knew little else about beyond the synopsis. This certainly isn't your average horror film, as it cares deeply for its characters & takes time to dig into them especially the lead, and the story is intelligent & thoughtful, intriguing & occasionally suspenseful. To comment on the plot could potentially give too much away, so I encourage anyone interested to go into it as unaware as possible to get the most out of it. It didn't quite cross my personal line of greatness, but it came close.

Just a thought: Nice to see Christopher Lloyd still working at his age, though this reminded me we probably won't have him to watch for much longer which bums me out.

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Netflix exorcisms

Films I caught before Netflix removed them from streaming
People who added this item 8 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing - Jan. 22nd

I'd planned to do another Asian films focus for February, but Netflix decided to remove 3 that were in my queue on the first which has kinda derailed my idea. Going into next month I'm now down to 4 Asian films I've been wanting to check out which is definitely not enough to build a month around. Ah well.

As for Avenging Eagle, I thought it was excellent & easily my favorite of the 3 martial arts films in this section. Granted I easily figured out what was going on here, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment. Like most of these Shaw Brothers productions it didn't cross the line into greatness, but I'd gladly watch it again.
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People who added this item 21 Average listal rating (14 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.7
First viewing - Jan. 23rd

This film was pretty entertaining too, though I'm also realizing that the more of these films I watch they start to blur together in my head. You could tell early on that Jet Li had that special something that makes an actor into a star, and he's a joy to watch. The final battle on the boat was really well done too, and again we have a martial arts film that's consistently entertaining. I'd be willing to watch this one again too, but I don't think I'd be as enthusiastic about doing so as I would be with Avenging Eagle.
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People who added this item 349 Average listal rating (221 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 6.2
Extract (2009)
Re-watch - Jan. 26th

For whatever reason this time around Extract didn't work as well for me. In the past I've found it to be hilarious, but this time I didn't laugh as much and found the whole film to be pretty average. I'm still able to relate to the characters, some of whom I swear I used to work with, but this one isn't as rewarding to revisit as Office Space or Idiocracy. I'm tempted to drop down its rating, but I'm hoping I just wasn't as in the mood for it as I thought I was so I'll hold off for now.
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - Jan. 28th

When this film began I kept thinking of Kung Pow, which made it especially amusing when the actor who played Wimp Lo in that film showed up here. Of the 3 martial arts films in this section this was my least favorite, and in fact it took me a couple of nights to get through all of it. The whole thing is basically just watching these dudes practice and master a style of martial arts in hopes of defeating a pair of masters, and after a while it gets to be more tedious than entertaining. They try to shake things up by dragging in other characters, which works to varying degrees but is never enough to make me feel like I'm not basically watching the same thing over & over. So in the end it was worth watching once I guess, but I wouldn't watch it again.
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Happy New Year everyone! By now you know the drill with these lists, and I don't anticipate much change with them. As we kick off the year I don't have any big projects planned around my movie-watching, though I'm sure to have some monthly focuses as we roll along. This month I'm going to watch as many films I'd missed from 2016 as possible, mainly films that are gone from the theatres instead of ones that were just released. To be honest, most of the Oscar bait that was released in December I feel like I can wait to watch at home so you won't find many of those films here. And there's only one movie coming out in January that's high on my list of priorities, so it's possible that most of my trips to the theatre will be for older films. We'll see...

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Posted: 10 months, 2 weeks ago at Jan 30 15:31
Hell yeah Paddington! That movie looks like a million bucks. The Finnish dub was also full of dirty jokes. I kind of hope that's just in the dub. Because it'd be funnier.
Posted: 10 months, 2 weeks ago at Jan 30 16:07
@VierasTalo - The dirty jokes must have been limited to the Finnish dub then, because I don't recall there being any. But there was definitely plenty of humor I did appreciate & we're agreed the whole thing looked great.

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