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Added by the giraffe on 6 Dec 2020 07:16
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DVDecember 2020

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Noteworthy: The best films I watched this month

The breakdown: 27 films watched
8 first views, 19 re-watches
23 via DVD/BR, and 4 via streaming
Decades touched: 1960s-2020s

This may not look like the most productive month, but the fact that I watched everything I'd pulled to watch by myself plus some spur-of-the-moment picks suggests otherwise. Plus I got to check out a handful of 2020 releases thanks to various streaming options. Ah, and I met my goal of watching the Gojira films, you can find my final thoughts on that experience below. So overall I'd say this was a good month. If I wanted to find something to complain about, I could point out that the stack I've had sitting out most of the year of films to watch with my daughter still has 9 films untouched, but that's more her doing than my own. This year it's been harder to motivate her to watch movies with me that aren't new releases (October aside), which is mildly irritating but nothing I can do much about. But hey, I'm still working from home until September at this point, so there's still plenty of time to get them watched.

I could also complain about the lack of trips to the theatre, but the reality is my options are pretty much gone. The drive-in switched to reservations-only for December, and even if that weren't the case this time of year I don't go to the drive-in due to the winter weather. So everything will continue to be watched at home until it starts warming up again and/or enough people have been vaccinated against Covid. At least I've got lots of options, and I'm looking forward to resuming streaming services again. We'll see what the new year brings...

And now, the numbers for 2020:
Movies watched: 374
Short films watched: 8
Movies abandoned: 1
Most movies watched in a month: 50 in October
Least movies watched in a month: 25 in February
Favorite new movie of 2020: After Midnight
People who added this item 389 Average listal rating (308 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 8
First viewing - Dec. 25th

The kiddo and I watched Soul before dinner on Xmas Day, and we both really enjoyed it. It's about as good as all of Pete Doctor's films, full of heart and joy and moments that will stick with me for a long time. And the music impresses all around, I recall noting at times that the Reznor/Ross contributions were some of their best score work as none of it made me recall their previous efforts (whereas their work on Fincher's films all run together in my head)...these sound truly new and it's nice to hear them branch out a bit. Jon Batiste does a fabulous job as well. While I'd probably love it even more on a big screen, being able to watch it at home was the next best thing and with it being on Disney+ I can watch it whenever I want to.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 118 Average listal rating (85 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.3
First viewing - Dec. 5th

I've heard great things about Freaky from those who have seen it (including our own PvtCaboose91), and knowing that it's from the director of the Happy Death Day films there was no way I could wait too long to watch it. It did get a theatrical run here last month at the drive-in, but it wasn't paired with anything I wanted to see on the weekends I could have gone so I skipped it. Thankfully it's now on VOD.

Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn are equally impressive in their lead roles, the film has its fair share of deliciously gory kills, and the whole thing mixes its horror and comedic elements to wonderful effect. I had a whole lot of fun with it and will eventually add it to my collection to keep revisiting. I did find a few issues with it, including one glaring one regarding how it establishes things. (Specifically, when they first switch bodies neither one seems to be conscious of what's happened until the next morning, yet when they switch back they're immediately aware they're back in their own bodies again.) But overall it's such a good time that these things didn't detract too much from the overall experience. I hope Mr. Landon continues to make films for many years to come, and I will keep supporting them.
the giraffe's rating:
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Home viewings

People who added this item 1956 Average listal rating (1284 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.9
Mad Max (1979)
Re-watch - Dec. 2nd

I wasn't sure what film I wanted to kick off my month with, and initially this wasn't even a planned stop for me. But then the news broke that Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away. And since I've seen Fury Road more times in the past few years I figured I'd watch him as Toecutter instead. He does such a great job of bringing this character to life, a mix of humor and menace with a strong presence that makes for a memorable performance. Sadly I haven't seen much of his work outside of this franchise, but perhaps I should fix that. If anyone has recommendations for me I'll gladly take them.

The rest of the film is still fantastic, even if seeing Mel Gibson in his youth makes me yearn for the days when I knew less about him outside of his acting. The action is well-staged and executed for the time and budget, and I love the world building it sets the foundation for. Plus there's this human story at the center which leads to a loss of humanity or at least sanity for our protagonist. I could go on and on about the things I appreciate.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 37 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.6
Black Bear (2020)
First viewing - Dec. 4th

I kept seeing chatter online about Aubrey Plaza's new film Black Bear, so I decided to pony up the $6.99 and rent it via VOD. Her performance alone made it worth the money and time. She gets to show more range than usual, and impresses more and more as the film rolls along. The rest of the cast is good too, but she outshines them all. As for the story it's different and I'm not sure it delivers its ideas as well as it could. I don't want to say too much about it as going into it blindly worked well for me, but I would've liked it better I think if the film more clearly connected some of its dots. This makes me reluctant to sit through it again, though with the right company I'd revisit it just to marvel at Ms. Plaza's performance again.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 4222 Average listal rating (2837 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 8
Re-watch - Dec. 5th

I've been itching to revisit 12 Monkeys for several months now given the present world state, but kept holding off for no clear reason. I think, however, that watching it in December makes the most sense anyway given the winter setting and the fact the events seem to mostly take place in this month. I don't have a whole lot new to add to the conversation around this film, but I will say that the ending hit me a lot differently this time around.

Just a thought: I'll have to make a mental note to watch this again in December of 2026.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 2872 Average listal rating (1848 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.8
Yes Man (2008)
Re-watch - Dec. 6th

I hadn't seen Yes Man since it left theatres I believe, so I was overdue to revisit it. It's a fun movie overall. Carrey and Deschanel have good chemistry and pretty much rock their respective roles, the soundtrack is mostly good, and I like that it focuses on this idea that if you shut yourself off from life you're not really living.

I do think it could be better, however, in that it shouldn't be necessary for our protagonist to need to track down the guru that started off his journey to learn his lesson. The moment his ex tries to hook up with him presents that opportunity for growth, and yet he flees that moment instead of reflecting on it when the latter would be far better of an ending. It might even make the film great had they done that instead.

Just a thought: I wish Munchausen by Proxy were Deschanel's real-world musical group, and She & Him weren't.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1411 Average listal rating (923 ratings) 5.9 IMDB Rating 6.3
Re-watch - Dec. 7th

I can't remember the last time I watched Billy Madison, and yet the majority of it was just as familiar to me as if I'd seen it a year ago. To me that says something about its quality. But what I noticed this time around is how heartfelt and sweet the film is overall. There are musical numbers that work well within the framework, and the scenes of him interacting with kids like they're on the same level are just wonderful. And sure it's funny too, though I find myself laughing less now and more appreciating other aspects of the film. It's no longer a film I need to watch a bunch of times, but I'm glad it exists so I can watch it once every 10 years or so and just enjoy.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1180 Average listal rating (733 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - Director's Cut - Dec. 11th

Of course I've seen Little Shop of Horrors before. It was on cable all the time when I was younger, and my little sister and I would watch it pretty much any time we came across it. It's one of the few musicals I truly enjoy. But I had not seen the Director's Cut yet, so when I found a good deal on the Blu release I picked it up. And I made the kiddo watch it with me. And she loved it, kept singing the songs the rest of the weekend.

I hadn't seen it since probably the early '90s, however, so a fair bit of it had left my memory. As far as I can tell, the main difference between the theatrical release and the Director's Cut is that the latter has a different ending. At some point I'll revisit the theatrical to confirm whether there were other differences, but I know the ending was entirely different. And I definitely appreciate this ending, and I'm glad the kiddo got to see it first. Other than that, the film is still a joy all around. My favorite parts still involve Steve Martin and Bill Murray, and it was especially interesting to revisit the film now that I've seen the original Corman picture. I'm glad it's now in my collection so I can spend more time with it in the years ahead.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 3054 Average listal rating (2095 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
Unbreakable (2000)
Re-watch - Dec. 12th

I know, I just watched this not long ago. But I wanted the kiddo to watch it, and she picked it out of the stack for us. So what matters here is that she dug it and got really excited that she knew what the twist would be before it happened. Too bad she's not old enough to watch Split yet, but in a few more years she will be and we'll see whether she appreciates the trilogy as much as I do.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 536 Average listal rating (304 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.7
Re-watch - Dec. 14th

I absolutely loved Mother when it first came out, but I hadn't seen it since despite the fact I've owned a copy for a few years now. (This is why I do this every year.) And it's still an impressive film all around, full of twists and characters that resonate long after it's ended. I really don't have much to say about it beyond that if you somehow haven't seen it yet you should fix that.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 49 Average listal rating (35 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 5.9
Re-watch - Dec. 14th

In the '90s the Wayans were everything to me. I watched In Living Color every week, and when that transitioned into movies I tried to catch all of them I could. A Low Down Dirty Shame is still a lot of fun, though it works better on the comedy side than the action side for me (which makes sense really). The story is fairly by the numbers, but the characters make it worthwhile. Some of the action could be better choreographed and shot, but it's clear there's not a big budget here so we get what we get. Keenan Ivory Wayans has a lot of charm which endears the film to me, and watching him play off the rest of the cast yields the majority of the film's highlights. So yeah, it's not great but I still like it anyway.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 106 Average listal rating (76 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.5
First viewing - Dec. 16th

I've been eagerly anticipating another film from Brandon Cronenberg ever since I first saw Antiviral, so when I found out I could get this on demand I jumped on it. And you can tell he's his father's son, once again, as he seems to be pulling from his father's films while also reshaping them with his own ideas to fit in with the world as it is now. The film touches on identity theft and social media in some thoughtful ways, and it totally delivers on gore and images that will stick with you for a long time. And yet when it ended I was somewhat underwhelmed by the overall experience. I felt like the film took a more clinical approach to its material when a more emotional one would have elevated things. Or maybe it's just that I didn't get as invested in the characters as I should have. Suffice it to say I won't go out of my way to watch it again.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 53 Average listal rating (22 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.1
Slam (1998)
Re-watch - Dec. 17th

Saul Williams is one of my favorite artists, and this film remains a treasure of mine. It's different, grounded, maybe ahead of its time yet still relevant even now. The characters are well-realized, the music is excellent, and the poetry delivered blows me away. The film is not easy to track down, but if you can find it you should absolutely watch it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 444 Average listal rating (338 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - Director's Cut - Dec. 18th

Midsommar was one of my favorite films last year, and I was tempted to catch the Director's Cut when it screened here about a month after I saw it in the theatre. However there were other films to see and its nearly 3 hour runtime made it tough to justify pairing it with something else (oh to have such options now). Thankfully I was able to purchase a copy of the Director's Cut on Blu last month when A24 got it back in stock, so when it finally arrived this week I made it a priority to watch it as soon as I could. So here we are.

And I'm glad I did it. I think it's the better version of the film really, plus it comes in a stellar book format with a foreword from Scorsese and a bunch of art from the film. The only minor disappointment is the lack of extras...all that's on the Blu is the film with the option of watching it with subtitles. Granted the theatrical release Blu only has one featurette on it and a promo, so maybe as its audience grows over the years ahead we'll get a release with more insights into it. Thankfully the film is excellent enough that it doesn't need to have a bunch of extras, and this cut better fleshes out some moments and details to deliver a more rewarding experience overall. Ah, well, at least that's the case for me. This film is definitely not suited to all tastes, but it's entirely to mine and I'm thankful it exists.
the giraffe's rating:
Re-watch - Dec. 19th

Perks has been on my mind a lot this year for some reason, so I finally revisited it. For the most part I feel the same about it as I did the last time I watched it, with the exception that this time I felt the opening worked just fine. My experience this time around was also changed by the fact I now live in Pittsburgh and thus spent portions of the film recognizing places and feeling a bit melancholy that I hadn't been to some of them for a while due to the whole pandemic situation. I love pretty much everything about this film and once again I'm glad it exists.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1460 Average listal rating (999 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.1
Pitch Black (2000)
Re-watch - Dec. 20th

Pitch Black is just pure, efficient storytelling at its finest. The characters are clearly established (even if some are less defined than others), and the story moves from overcoming one clear obstacle to the next in order to reach the ultimate goal. It works so well on a functional level from start to finish, and I deeply appreciate that. There's nothing groundbreaking to it, nothing to propel it to greatness, but there's also nothing to detract from the overall experience. It's solid all around, and I'm so thankful the film exists.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1621 Average listal rating (1115 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.7
Re-watch - Dec. 20th

The upside of this sequel is that it fleshes out Riddick's world better. It also kinda muddies things, as the first film regularly referenced brand names from Earth, some of which pop up again here, and yet nobody seems to mention Earth by name and none of the worlds visited include ours. And it suggests that Riddick has never been to Earth, despite him knowing brands from it...the more I thought about this the more I wanted something more definitive as to how Earth relates to this series. Minor gripes though.

Beyond that, here we have a bigger story to match the bigger canvas, more characters to spend time with, and overall the film is going for the idea that if you're going to do a sequel go big or go home. Once again none of it is great, but I find it to be a solid sci-fi/action flick that works more often than not. The cast is mostly a delight, and most of the major set pieces sing. I hadn't seen it since its theatrical run, and yet most of it had stuck with me which seems like a good thing. When it ended I realized that I need to pick up the third film at some point, as I would've liked to watch it again.

Just a thought: In a better timeline the number of Riddick and Fast & Furious movies would be switched. Then again, that might mean I wouldn't like this series as much as I do, so perhaps it's for the best that's not the case.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 4854 Average listal rating (3308 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.4
Juno (2007)
Re-watch - Dec. 20th

Thanks to Elliot Page's news, Juno had been on my mind lately so I figured I'd squeeze it in this month. It's probably been 10 years since I last watched the film, and it holds up as well as I'd remembered. My reactions to some parts differ slightly as a parent, but not in a negative way. It's still a solidly entertaining film all around, and one I'll probably come back around to a few more times.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 6318 Average listal rating (4377 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 8
Sin City (2005)
Re-watch - Dec. 23rd

I don't need to go over this film as pretty much everyone has seen it, but watching it for the first time in many years I was mostly struck by the visual beauty of the film...the art of each shot is just stunning, and even if the stories sucked and the cast was bad the visuals alone would make Sin City worth sitting through. Thankfully those other aspects are excellent too.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 251 Average listal rating (186 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6.2
Re-watch - Dec. 25th

This year I got to share my annual tradition with the kiddo. Good news, she loved the film. And thus I can watch it with her each year from now on if she wants to see it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1765 Average listal rating (1173 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8
Re-watch - Dec. 27th

I really wanted the kiddo to see Planet of the Apes because it's a great film but also because of its influence over other sci-fi/fantasy films that followed in its wake. She liked it well enough, but clearly wasn't in love with it. I found it amusing that about 20 minutes into it she said something to me that indicated she had figured out what was really going on, though of course I didn't acknowledge whether she was right at that point. Who knows, maybe she will like it more when she revisits it at an older age. At least now I can show her the newer Apes films, as well as Spaceballs (though I'm still holding out until we've watched Alien in the next few years before letting her see the latter).
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1154 Average listal rating (812 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.6
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Re-watch - Dec. 28th

I'd initially wanted to watch Shoot 'Em Up when I got to the end of Sin City, but sleep won out that night. It's still a super fun, super silly film that I love warts and all. Owen and Giamatti are both clearly having a blast with their respective roles, which makes the film all the more enjoyable. I was glad I still appreciated it, as a lot of gun-violence-heavy films tend to fall flat for me now. I think this one gets a pass due to the absurdity of it all. Which is fine. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack slaps.
the giraffe's rating:
Re-watch - Dec. 30th

Man, I miss Robin Williams. But I'm forever thankful for the films he left behind for us to continue to enjoy. I really appreciate the fact that the film allows the Vietnamese characters to feel more authentic, rather than relying on offensive caricatures. Granted the film does play some of the broken English for laughs, which is mildly irritating, but I've always felt that overall the intentions toward representation are good. If nothing else, at least they didn't put a bunch of white people in those roles and try to pass them off as Vietnamese. There are still moments in the film that move me, and here's another film where the soundtrack is just wall-to-wall excellence. I still think it's great, but it's fallen just shy of the 10/10 I'd awarded it in the past.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 692 Average listal rating (443 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 6.1
Airheads (1994)
Re-watch - Dec. 31st

I wanted to end the year with something fun, and originally I was just going to watch this and call it a night. But I got an early enough start that I wound up pairing it with another fun film, which allowed me to send off the year on a positive note. As a long-time fan of metal/rock music and one-time aspiring musician, this film just hits too many of the right places for me to dislike it. I don't think I've seen it in the past 15 years, so I was definitely overdue to revisit it. And to my surprise I found myself laughing along with it even though I've seen it a few times before. It's not a great film, but it has no illusions that it could be one either. It's just a solid, silly, fun movie and I'm glad I finally took it for another spin.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 200 Average listal rating (130 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 5.9
Re-watch - Dec. 31st

Oh man, I forgot that most of the story here revolves around people being quarantined. That kinda made it a perfect film to end the year on. This was my second time watching this film, and it was just as much fun as it was the first time around. If you were a fan of Reno 911! and slept on this film, shame on you. Again we have a film that's not aspiring to be great, though in this case it's more a matter of using what they know works to its fullest potential. And they manage to reunite the rest of The State crew in the process via cameos, which makes me smile.

And thus we close the books on 2020. I don't know if 2021 will be a better year necessarily, but if it manages to not be as bad of a year that'll be acceptable enough.
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Year-long focus: Godzilla's Showa era

I picked up the Criterion Collection release of Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 in 2019, and have decided to watch all of the films in it over the course of 2020. There are 15 films in all, so I'll watch no more than two per month.
First viewing - Dec. 19th

Well, this was a step up from the past few Godzilla movies I've watched but still nothing super impressive. After last month's film it was a nice change of pace to have a more simplified plot, but there are still some decisions that make no sense to me. Like if an alien race can create Mechagodzilla and control him, why do they need an Earthling scientist to fix him? I'll admit there are some things about this one that were pretty amusing...I'm a sucker for arterial bloodsprays, which abound, and the fact that the aliens' true form was gorilla masks painted green was unintentionally hilarious (not to mention tied in to my viewing of Planet of the Apes). And they keep the human side of the cast down to a reasonable number that I can keep track of who is who most of the time. Ah, and here we actually see humans running in fear and the army showing up to fight which was missing from some of the middle entries and lends a bit more realism to it. So it's fine. Silly while taking itself seriously, but I've learned that tends to be the case for this era of the series.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing - Dec. 21st

This one picks up where the previous film leaves off, which was a refreshing approach. And again we have aliens seeking human help with regard to the kaiju for nefarious reasons. This time around though we've got a romantic subplot featuring a cyborg, which was also different yet didn't really work in my opinion. Or maybe I'm just burned out on these films at this point. Whatever the case I thought this one was just OK.

Mostly what this series has taught me is that I'm not as big a fan of the franchise as I'd like to be. I don't regret the purchase because it's a wonderful way to be able to experience the films (and at half-price it's budget-friendly too), plus the format with the book full of essays and artwork is a nice addition to my collection. But I don't see myself revisiting many of these films in the years ahead, so we'll see whether I manage to hold onto it or cash it in. Last month the whole project got to feeling like a chore, my excitement for it withered away by the diminishing returns of the series. Which meant this month I had to just make myself watch them just so I could meet my personal goal of watching them all by the end of the year. So if I've been harder on these entries, you'll understand why.
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AKA Films the giraffe watched in December 2020. Continuing my annual tradition of spending the last month of the year watching more films from my shelves than anywhere else.

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