The breakdown: 19 films watched in all: 15 via Netflix instant (still my primary dealer), 1 via Youtube, 1 via Amazon, 1 at the theatre(!), and 1 from my collection. Of those 3 were documentaries, 1 was a short film, and only 1 was a re-watch; I watched films from the 1900s, 1920s, '50s, '70s, '80s, '90s, 2000s, and 2010s.
My main goal this month was to catch up on last year's films, and I wound up watching 9 of them in all. Pretty good considering that's about how many I saw all last year. :P Overall January was a stellar month for me, with almost half the films I watched ranking a 9/10 in my book. I ignored the 4 Netflix IQ exorcisms at the end of the month which allowed me to get watched the films I had most wanted to, and yet I caught the other 6 that popped up as the month went along. I fully plan to continue having a monthly focus, as it gives me a goal to reach & helps me work through the vast amount of films I'd like to see.
Best film for January:The Artist Best documentary for January:Marwencol Best hidden gem:The Parking Lot Movie Avoid at all costs:Hobo with a Shotgun/Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
First viewing - Jan. 2nd
Finally watched this after it was mentioned by my good friend phillydude. I've seen the above scene before, but otherwise simply hadn't checked the entire thing out. Pretty cool to see a movie that's this old, and I was impressed by the quality given how long ago it was made. Simple little short, but definitely worth watching.
Caught this one shortly before it left Netflix instant, and it served as a strong reminder that I need to catch up with the few films of Kubrick's I still haven't watched yet. It's a hell of a heist film, and pretty fun to boot (especially the interactions between Marie Windsor & Elisha Cook Jr.). Some bits are now very dated, such as the barroom brawl (which looks more staged than realistic) and some of the effects, but the performances, suspense, and storytelling remain very strong.
I can also see how this would be an influence on Reservoir Dogs.
Oh the influence this has had on other films. I caught myself thinking of Gojira, Aliens, It's Alive, and T-2 (those last two courtesy of the finale, which takes place in a location shared with those films). I started off making fun of it in my head, but once the ball gets rolling this is sci-fi at its best. If there's a shortcoming, it lies in the fact that there's no real emotional impact when there should have been. I can't say more than that without going into spoiler territory, so instead I'll just strongly recommend all the sci-fi & giant-monster fans to check this one out (if you haven't already).
First viewing - Jan. 19th
I have a vague memory of watching some part of this on TV with my mom when I was little, but I'm now confident I hadn't seen it all. So I've gone ahead & called this a first view.
Frank Langella is Excellent as Count Dracula...dude's got the presence and style down to a T, and as long as he was on screen I was pretty damn captivated by the film. By no means is this a faithful retelling of Stoker's novel, which I'm fine with. The characters and sets are mostly well-realized, and overall I was very entertained.
The film's flaws, on the other hand, largely come courtesy of some pacing issues as if a slow-burner had been made originally but they went back and excised some of the material to keep the film moving better. So it goes from moving along methodically to rushing forward & back to the slower pace, which eventually gets mildly annoying. There are also a handful of "artistic flourishes" which I found more silly than interesting, and one of the more drawn-out ones jarred me out of the experience a bit.
Still, this is underrated & definitely worth a look.
First viewing - Jan. 21st
This film was shot in 1989...how long has Ron Paul been running for President?
Anyway, tough film to deal with here. Basically what we have is a day in the life of Austin circa 1989, with no real plot & only some themes to hold it all together. Some of the characters are interesting, several are excruciatingly annoying, but all the performances ring true to life. No matter how annoyed I got I remained captivated by the film, which says something for it I think. I dig the way the camera seems to drift from one person to the next, as if it's landing on whoever captures its attention for however long he/she manages to remain of interest. On the other hand one artistic choice of using the night-vision-esque camera felt unnecessary & annoying to me, and the choice of ending the film with hand-held shaky-cams was so obnoxious I had to look away from the screen for a while.
So uh yeah...worth watching about once, and in fact I'd say that if you're deeply &/or seriously into cinema it's a must-see given its impact/influence on indie filmmaking.
the giraffe's rating:
Monthly focus: Missed films of 2011
Due to other obligations I failed to make it out to the theatre as often as I wanted to in 2011. Thus I'm left to catch up on a lot of films (well, the better ones at least) via streaming and DVD. Since I had a few in my IQ I've decided to at least watch all of those this month.
First viewing - Jan. 11th
Pure fun from start to finish. I loved the way it poked fun at horror conventions, it felt like a fresh idea, I laughed hysterically at most of it & was entertained throughout. The nod to Evil Dead made me especially happy.
Stupid, pointless, and not as much fun as it should have been. As someone who loves every moment of Grindhouse and mostly enjoyed Machete, the fact that I found myself wondering why I'd bothered watching this entry in the recent grindhouse-revival series stings more deeply. Excessive? Sure, but mostly in ways that made me shake my head, roll my eyes, and grumble aloud.
At least I made it to the end (thanks primarily to Rutger Hauer's performance, which is the only thing that keeps this film from being utterly worthless save a handful of neat technical flourishes), though once I did I realized I should have watched something else tonight. Ah well.
Despite its inherent level of absolute absurdity, I've never encountered a "found-footage" film as thoroughly believable as this one. Credit this effect to the director's keen eye for detail, convincing performances, and a confident and consistent 'shock and awe' meets 'completely matter-of-fact' attitude that plays very well throughout the film. Yep, this is a fine Norwegian export that I felt mighty fortunate to catch in theaters. It's movie-magic-- the kind that makes you feel like a kid again. It looks great, and it's a helluva lot of fun!
Couldn't help but think a lot of Seven Samurai while watching this one, and the main way this one fell short of Seven Samurai for me was the fact that we have far too many characters to establish in order for the audience to care too deeply for any of them. Another 30 minutes to an hour of character development would've made this film PERFECT and marked it for Greatness.
That said, it's among the best Asian films I've seen & now ranks for me as Miike's best film.
First viewing - Jan. 27th
This one fell just a bit short of its predecessor for me, but was still excellent. It relies heavily on the audience having already watched the original, which means no re-cap & you're just expected to remember the characters from before. Fortunately there are enough new characters that it's not too big of a problem, and the fight sequences & acting are every bit as good here. Overall I really enjoyed it even though the storytelling could have been better & the last half falls into predictability/cliches.
Definitely worth watching, but watch Ip Man first.
Been thinking about this one all day, and honestly I'm surprised at the generally poor response to this film. From start to finish it held my attention with believable performances, solid dialogue, and a story both contemporary & compelling.
Now I admit that thanks to all the negative feedback I've seen for Red State my expectations were as low as can be. In fact, I fully anticipated turning it off without finishing it. So imagine my surprise when I was enjoying it. As you'll find if you follow the link I've provided above, the best performance in the film comes courtesy of Michael Parks whom I've previously only seen play the cowboy-hat-wearing lawman in Tarantino's movies. Parks fully loses himself in his role as Abin Cooper, so that whether he's preaching to his flock or sweet-talking someone into doing what he wants them to do he's completely believable. As long as he was on screen I was riveted. I also think credit is due to Kevin Smith for reaching beyond his usual range & pulling off this film mostly well. Clearly others will disagree with me, but I found the tension to be tightly wound at least through the first half of the film. The gore/effects work well too, and I liked that the humorous touches were more subtle than usual for his films.
Now this isn't all to say the film is perfect. Its biggest flaw, in my opinion, is the way it never fully settles on a lead role & thus removes any emotional connection one might have with the proceedings. You could argue that since this is marketed as a horror movie that doesn't matter, but I felt that in this case it took a little away from my enjoyment. And as I touched on above, the tension does get dialed back right around the time John Goodman's character is brought into the film. I personally didn't think that crippled the film though, as it allowed me a chance to relax a bit before the action started back up again in full.
That leaves the complaints I've seen regarding the ending, which I had no issues with (or at least not until I came across mention of his originally planned ending which may have been a better choice actually). Smith's final message may not be very original or insightful, but we're talking about Kevin Smith here...I can't say I expected anything more from him there.
So in conclusion, I was entertained throughout & think it's worth a watch. Just keep in mind I'm in the minority on that & maybe lower your expectations a bit. ;)
First viewing - Jan. 30th/31st
Dear lord this one drags on long enough. I enjoyed I Saw the Devil off & on due to the performances & some of the technical aspects. But for the most part I felt like it could have played out in an hour and a half or less & been far better. Between this and Hobo with a Shotgun I'm worried that I'm losing my taste for all this ultraviolence (or maybe it's only when it's done in certain ways that I fail to fully appreciate it). But unlike that other film, at least in the end this one had something thoughtful to say.
Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
Movies chosen by my girlfriancee instead of by me.
Started the year off with a film my future wife has been itching to see lately in hopes she'd feel better about her own horrible boss. It did the trick for her, & I got to see an entertaining movie whose main asset is its cast. See the above review for more, since it well echoes my thoughts on the movie.
And the only part of the above review I disagree with is with regard to the dialogue, which I had no problems with. Though I personally recommend you go watch The Artistbefore reading it unless you prefer/don't mind knowing more about a movie up front. I prefer knowing as little as possible.
First off I have to say "thank you!" to johanlefourbe & Xanadon't for bringing this documentary to my attention. I also have to thank Netflix for removing it from instant so I watched it now rather than continuing to procrastinate on it. I was hooked from the start by the story & loved the way it was told in a non-linear fashion. I can only think of a couple things that would have made the film perfect, but perhaps they don't matter so much. And no, I won't elaborate for you (unless you've seen this doc already, in which case feel free to ask).
Well, it only took me a whole year to watch this one after seeing it recommended in the above list, and had Netflix not removed it from instant watch I likely would still be putting it off. Glad they made me watch it as I really enjoyed this documentary...no doubt because I could relate to the parking lot attendants. Good stuff.
First viewing - Jan. 31st
I think the above image pretty much covers what this one's about. Marwencol first came to my attention when it appeared on several critics' lists of the best films of 2010, and it's been sitting in my IQ for almost a year now. Last night my woman & I finally sat down with it. She got called to bed midway into it, leaving me to finish it alone...which I'm glad I did. (I've left it in the queue for her to finish whenever she gets around to it.)
Such an amazing, interesting & inspiring little documentary this is, and a great way for me to end January. Go watch it.
Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
Year-long series focus: The Marx Bros.
I've decided this year I want to re-watch all of the Marx Bros. movies in order. Since there's 12 of them total, that gives me one per month.
I haven't watched The Cocoanuts as often as some other Marx movies, so I'd forgotten some of it. The upside to that is that my take on the film was fairly fresh, and thanks to my growing critical side it's dropped from a 9/10 to an 8/10.
The story is decent (not that the plot matters really), and as long as the Marx Bros. are on screen this film is an absolute joy. The trouble generally arises whenever they're not on screen. There are a handful of dance numbers for no apparent reason, which end up seeming like filler, as if someone decided the run-time wasn't sufficient & needed padding. The film also suffers from some clunky transitions, most notably the one where we cut away to Harpo walking over to his harp to play a song. Aside from the fact he's playing the song most featured in the movie, it feels tacked on rather than being organically stitched into the rest of the movie. Later efforts managed to find ways to give purpose to Harpo & Chico's performances, but in this case it just happens apropos of nothing. Fortunately Chico's piano playing fits in well where it is, and overall the comedy outshines most of the flaws. I could complain more about the technical side of things, but considering The Cocoanuts was shot during the earliest days of sound films I'm willing to let a lot of it slide.
Possibly my favorite moment of this movie is the part where Harpo steals the detective's shirt & the detective sings about wanting it back & the rest of the cast joins in, all done to music from Carmen.
Supposedly this is a comedy, but in the however-long I watched of it I hardly laughed. And before long I was falling asleep out of boredom with it, so I turned it off to clean the kitchen & go to bed. It failed to lure me in, and then the choice of working in footage from other films just to have Martin's character interact with them felt more gimmicky than anything else.
Perhaps a different mood would earn a more favorable response from me, but I have no plans to take another stab at it. Not giving it a rating either since I didn't finish it.
Currently streaming on Netflix
Continuing my efforts from 2011 to keep track of my thoughts on the movies I watch. Unlike last year, however, this year I'm going monthly. Probably the better option really if the Mayans turn out to be correct (doubtful).