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Movies the giraffe watched in 2016: April

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The breakdown: 24 movies watched, 16 were via Netflix, one in a school gym, and 7 in the theatre. Of those 20 were first views, 4 were re-watches, and they came from the following decades: 1950s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s & 2010s.

Let's begin with the fact that this list was supposed to get posted sooner, but too many other things pulled my attention in other directions & thus it got delayed. So instead of following along with me this month (which you can see was intended by the right-hand column notes that remain in their original form), you get it all at the end.

I spent the month mainly focusing on the Asian films in my queue, and by the end I'd knocked them down from 18 to 7. I consider that great progress. Best of all, only one of them wound up being terrible so it was a worthwhile focus. There were only 2 new movies out this month I cared about seeing, and both now sit firmly among my favorites for the year. The other 5 films I watched at Drafthouse were older films, most of which I'd seen before & all well worth the trip. There weren't many recommendations for April for the Netflix project, so I only got one of those watched, and I managed to catch everything that left while I could.

So overall it was a good month, even if this list did get delayed.

Best new-to-me film for April: The Invitation
Best hidden gem: Out of the Dark
Worst movie: Game of Death / We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (tie, though I'm excluding the film I refused to finish from here)
People who added this item 128 Average listal rating (77 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - April 1st

This month will have plenty of Shaw Brothers films, which is cool because I've been wanting to do a run through them for a while now. Thanks to Netflix I'm able to without making a dozen trips to my local video store, which is pleasantly convenient.

So I kicked off my month with this one & it was solidly entertaining throughout its run-time. The characters were interesting and pretty badass, the fight scenes were mostly well put together, and it moves at the right pace through everything. It ends kinda abruptly which I thought was a bit sloppy, and it never crosses the line into greatness. But it's enjoyable enough to be worth watching once.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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People who added this item 35 Average listal rating (16 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.4
First viewing - April 6th

First off I have to comment on the way this film is titled above, because it's misleading. This is in no way a sequel to The 5 Deadly Venoms...none of the characters return & the plot is completely different, so I'm not sure why it says this is "The Return" above.

Now that that's out of the way, I found myself enjoying this even more than I expected to. It's far more ridiculous with respect to the plot, but the characters make it worth watching & the way the story plays out is very rewarding despite being fairly predictable. Meng Lo acts in this film & the one above, and plays my favorite character in each. I had to look up what else he's been in & it turns out he's been in several films I've seen, even recently (Gallants & Ip Man 2 to name a couple), I just have failed to realize it. I'll have to pay better attention now. Anyway, I wound up having enough fun with it that I'd watch it again some time. I would recommend to anyone curious to check it out to not take it too seriously.

Just a thought: The blood in these movies always looks obviously fake, it's way too brightly colored. Kinda curious whether that's intentional or just laziness.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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First viewing - April 7th

After giving up on Uncle Boonmee (see below), I took a chance on this lesser-known film starring the wonderful Stephen Chow. And holy crap is this movie fun...and insane...and just all around amazing (it's also another Shaw Brothers release, which was a surprise to me). I was roaring with laughter at parts of it, and may have missed a thing or two that I'll have to pick up on subsequent viewings. The cast is wonderful & I recognized several of the actors from Chow's other films. Admittedly the film has some flaws, but overall I enjoyed myself so much that I can overlook them.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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People who added this item 242 Average listal rating (158 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 6.1
First viewing - April 8th

Wait a second, this isn't an Asian movie...oh, right, this was the kiddo's pick for something we could watch together. I vaguely recall seeing the posters back when it came out, but definitely never bothered to watch it before. And if I'm honest I can't say I've missed much either. The plot is oversimplified & thus predictable, and the emotional beats don't hit because there's no time taken to fully explore any of the characters. There's also a frame device that completely fails to connect with the rest of the tale, which left me wondering if at least a half hour was excised by the studio prior to its final release.

Granted, the film has some entertaining moments, and it's over so quickly there's not an opportunity to be bored with it. But when you short-change your audience on the elements that matter in favor of delivering a streamlined product, you fail every time.

The kiddo liked it more than I did, but then she's at the age this film seems to be targeting. Unlike some other films we've watched together, however, this film didn't wind up being a topic of conversation over the weekend after we watched it. So she may forget we watched it as quickly as I will.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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First viewing - April 15th

I didn't get to watch many movies this week, so I decided to do a Bruce Lee double-feature on Friday night. I wasn't sure at first whether I'd seen parts of this when I was younger, but now I know I had not. As action movies go, this is easily in the upper echelon...a great film thanks to the mix of action & comedy as well as the wonderful fight scenes throughout. The only thing that doesn't work well here is the English dubbing, which I tried to roll with but occasionally realized that there's no way a handful of lines of dialogue were accurate. Clearly I need to track down a copy of this in Chinese w/English subtitles. Still, I can't really hold that against the movie too much.

The fight between Bruce & Chuck is epic even by today's standards, and the biggest payoff for watching this movie. And Bruce is just electrifying every time he's on the screen, which keeps you watching. If you haven't seen this yet, I recommend correcting that ASAP.

Just a thought: You'd think in 2016 Netflix would be able to deliver an original language cut of this film instead of the dubbed one. Sigh.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 303 Average listal rating (210 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 5.9
First viewing - April 15th

I wish I could say this was as worth watching as the previous film, but that'd be a lie. Watching them together did make a little sense, however, as Game of Death opens with the fight scene between Bruce & Chuck from Way of the Dragon. And as the film rolls on from there we're treated to a poor attempt to convince the audience that two doubles are Bruce Lee & he somehow was responsible for the film. Truth is, however, that Bruce Lee was working on a film called Game of Death & had shot parts of it but didn't complete it. Out of 100 minutes of footage, easily enough to qualify as a feature film but lacking a completed narrative, they kept about 11 minutes & made up a new story to plug it into. Then there's footage from his other films spliced into the film to make it seem like he's actually in it, one awful moment where they used a still picture of his head over another actor's, and worst of all scenes from his real-life funeral which I found truly tasteless. And in case you're willing to roll with all of this to get to the aforementioned 11-ish minutes of footage, once you watch it you'll realize even more just how dumb the scenes leading to it were. Fortunately the 11-ish minutes are the best the film has to offer & they're truly worth the pain to get to. But I wish they'd left it alone to be showcased in a worthy documentary instead (as happened later on). If you took out all of Lee's parts you might have a halfway decent B movie, but the forced attempts to combine it all left a bad taste in my mouth.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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People who added this item 246 Average listal rating (154 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.7
First viewing - April 16th

This is the FOURTH kung fu movie I've watched so far from 1978, which tells you something about the popularity of the genre at that point. It's also the third from Shaw Brothers, and about as good as the other two. Clearly they were on a roll that year. I can't say I'm too familiar with the cast of this one aside from Gordon Liu, but they all do a very good job. The way the story is constructed keeps it interesting & helps us get deeply invested in the main character. It stumbles a little bit as it moves toward the end, however, as the final third of the film seems to be headed toward more than is actually delivered. The fact that the film just kinda ends doesn't help either, but the good news is that it did leave me wanting more so I'm looking forward to tackling its sequels.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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First viewing - April 18th

This was a curious sequel...instead of bringing back the lead character from the first film Gordon Liu plays a con man who pretends to be the lead character from the previous one. As such it's more comedic, and I thought it worked to keep a fresh spin on the idea. Granted some of the same plot beats are hit from the first film, but they work well enough so who cares? The finale plays out better than its predecessor, and overall I dug it enough I'd be willing to watch it again. Technically though I'd consider this a 7.5 to the above film's solid 8.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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First viewing - April 22nd

Gordon Liu returns as his character from the first film, though here he has a supporting role. This one focuses on a teenage student who causes trouble & winds up being exiled to the 36th chamber. Once again humor & action mix together to provide an entertaining experience, though it feels far less fresh this time around & as such wound up being my least favorite of the trilogy & the only one I won't go out of my way to watch again down the road.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 786 Average listal rating (552 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 6.4
Minions (2015)
First viewing - April 23rd

The kiddo & I had plans to go out with friends for a free screening of Minions on this particular Friday night. Her friend's school hosted it, and it was supposed to be an outdoor picnic screening but rain from the previous few days pushed it inside to the school gym. It wasn't comfortable, but at least this movie isn't very long.

As I'd expected, this was just OK. It's got some truly funny moments throughout the film, but eventually starts to wear out its welcome somewhat. I'm glad I got to see it with an audience, however, as I think that helped me catch the kids' enthusiasm for it. It's unlikely I'll want to watch it again, though if the kiddo wants to revisit it with me then of course I will.

Funny thing is the day after we watched this, Netflix added it to their streaming content.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 30 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.8
First viewing - April 24th

More Stephen Chow? Don't mind if I do. And hey, it's another Shaw Brothers production, bringing this month's total to 7. I thought it was pretty cool to see Chow play a character that's not a fighter for a change...here he's a lawyer & his wife is the kung fu expert. As per usual there's a nice mix of action & humor, and it's solidly entertaining. It's never great, but definitely worth watching once. I might even watch it again down the road, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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People who added this item 49 Average listal rating (29 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.9
First viewing - April 27th

I realized I haven't watched any Jet Li (or Jet Lee as he's credited here) films this month, so I figured I'd better fix that. The narrative structure makes this whole film kinda awkward...it starts with a historical recounting of Shaolin kung-fu history, chases it with an opening song over the credits that brought to mind several songs from Westerns, then drops us into a period kung-fu movie that may or may not be historically accurate which bounces between comedy and action. When it works it's fine, and when it doesn't it's kinda irritating. Some of the training bits reminded me of the Shaw Brothers films I've watched this month (surprisingly this is NOT one of theirs), and the fights were mostly good though I eventually grew kinda tired of them.

In the end it was worth one look, but it's unlikely I'd revisit it.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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Big screen attractions

Films I caught in a theatre
People who added this item 1975 Average listal rating (1369 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.9
In Bruges (2008)
Re-watch - April 4th

I hadn't seen In Bruges since it was in theatres, so when Drafthouse announced a string of free screenings of it I figured it was time to revisit it. And it's still very entertaining all around. It's smart, funny, violent, and peppered with moments of absurdity. The ending especially earns big points for me, though on a second viewing I'm feeling like I rated it a little higher than needed. It's definitely a good film with an excellent cast and all, but calling it great seems a bit much.
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Re-watch - April 11th

Drafthouse did quote-along screenings this month, which is just perfect for this film. I can't even watch it at home without saying some of the lines with Ash, so being able to do the same freely with an audience who loves this silly movie was a joy. Plus we got cap guns & foam chainsaws to wear on our hands. Good times.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 488 Average listal rating (312 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.9
Harvey (1950)
First viewing - April 12th

Thanks to Drafthouse I got to finally watch Harvey and it was free. Everything works wonderfully here due to a stellar cast & a story that you're never quite sure how it'll all play out. It's definitely a great classic, though I'm on the fence as to whether it's perfect in my book.
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People who added this item 250 Average listal rating (180 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.6
First viewing - April 17th

If you like suspenseful thrillers, movies that keep you guessing to the end, then go see The Invitation. That is all ye need know.

I had the good fortune on this particular night of being able to attend a screening that was followed with a Q&A session with director Karyn Kusama and writers Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, which provided additional insights into how the film came together. I appreciated them taking the time to answer audience questions, and they did so intelligently & with a sense of humor which I respected. All in all, a worthwhile trip to the theatre.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 357 Average listal rating (244 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - April 21st

Intense. Visceral. The cast is stellar all around & everything about the story & production works wonderfully.

Go see this film.
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People who added this item 4766 Average listal rating (3363 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.4
Alien (1979)
Re-watch - April 26th

Alien Day double feature

I just ran through this entire series not long ago, but when Drafthouse announced double feature screenings & tickets came with a Ripley t-shirt, I couldn't say no. If you hurry over to mondotees.com you might be able to snag some Alien merch before they stop selling it in early May. The whole screening was a blast of course, and I think it's now safe to say that I slightly prefer this film over the one below.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 3442 Average listal rating (2442 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.4
Re-watch - April 26th

Alien Day double feature

See above. Or you can go over here and read one man's argument over which of these two films is better. Plenty of spoilers in there, but honestly if you haven't seen these films then I have no idea what to say to you.
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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 188 Average listal rating (126 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.7
The Hunter (2011)
First viewing - April 28th

Recommended by moviewatcher122

I've always liked Willem Dafoe, but had never heard of this one so I figured I'd better give it a look. Of course he's good in it, as expected, and keeps the whole film worth watching. The rest of the cast does a good job too for the most part, and I wasn't annoyed by the kids in it which is a plus. At times the story is a bit predictable, but it's interesting enough that I easily hung with it to the end. I wouldn't say it's great, but it's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of Dafoe's.
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Netflix exorcisms

Films I caught before Netflix removed them from my queue
First viewing - April 30th

The last weekend of this month was the only one where I didn't have anything major planned, so I took advantage of it to clear out the trio of films in my queue exiting Netflix. I began with this doc, which was a highly interesting examination of what we've agreed to by embracing various online services for "free". To some degree it makes me want to figure out how to go off the grid, or at least do whatever I can to push back in favor of our privacy rights. Mostly though it reinforced my pleasure at being one of the few humans who refuses to join Facebook. Granted, I used to be on there, but I dropped off shortly after they switched from being college-student-centric to anyone can join. At the time I left mainly because I preferred MySpace, but hearing over the years the changes that went on there & then seeing this have reinforced my decision to avoid going back.

Anyway, I highly recommend checking this out if you haven't seen it. It doesn't reinvent the documentary wheel in any way, but the information it provides is worth the time.
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People who added this item 1361 Average listal rating (865 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.3
First viewing - April 30th

Why haven't I watched this before? More importantly, why didn't we get 2 sequels to this instead of those mediocre Matrix sequels? The animation throughout this is very impressive & matches well with the tone of each short. Peter Chung & his crew who worked on the Aeon Flux cartoons gets an entry here ("Matriculated"), which was a perfect match, but I think my favorite is either "A Detective Story" with it's beautiful black-and-white motif or "Program" thanks to the ways it takes advantage of the unreality of the Matrix to present a different visual experience. I could watch these over & over, and would gladly welcome future installments should anyone out there want to make more of them.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 2046 Average listal rating (1397 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.7
Training Day (2001)
First viewing - April 30th

Ended my Saturday night with finally watching this. Yep, Denzel does a great job in his role here. Yep, the whole film is well made. It didn't cross the line of greatness for me, but I can see how it could for others. The story is pretty intense and mostly unpredictable, and buoyed by the performances from all of the cast. The ending doesn't entirely work for me & overall it's hard to believe after all of Alonzo's years becoming who he is he'd allow a rookie to enter his inner circle so easily. But hey, at least it's entertaining.

Just a thought: Denzel shooting both his guns when the gang opens fire on him outside of Sandman's house called Willem Dafoe's voice into my head..."Television. Television is the explanation for this - you see this in bad television."
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I tried, but I gave up

First attempt - April 7th

I thought I'd take a break from the run of Shaw Brothers releases & tackle something different, and since this was slated to leave Instant on the 15th I figured it was a worthy choice. Unfortunately after about 30 minutes of failing to find a connection with any of the characters & struggling to keep my eyes open I gave up on it. And when I started it I didn't even feel tired, so I'm blaming the movie on that. I tried to be patient with it, but there was so little happening that I found it frustrating to the point I couldn't take it any more.

Fortunately I followed it up with Out of the Dark and my night was saved.

I've got a fair number of things going on this month which will require my attentions elsewhere, so I don't want to have to think too much about what I'm going to watch movie-wise. Therefore I'm going to make my primary focus be the Asian films in my queue, which are numerous as you'll see in the Coming Attractions section. I don't expect to get them all watched, but they're listed just for simplicity's sake.

Added to them of course will be some new releases as I can catch them, as well as offerings from the Netflix project & anything they decide to remove. Netflix has gone easy on me the past 2 months, so I'm anticipating a big purge from them any day now. Oh, and Drafthouse has at least three older movies they're screening that I'll catch this month.

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