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Added by the giraffe on 31 Jan 2021 09:11
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Movies the giraffe watched in 2021: February

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Noteworthy: The best films I watched this month

The breakdown: 24 films watched
21 first views, 3 re-watches
24 via streaming
Decades touched: 1950s-2020s

I had 19 films I'd planned to watch this month, and they're all listed below. I call that a success. It was nice to spend the month focusing on Asian cinema, though admittedly the bulk of it is Japanese. More diversity would have been even better. But so many of the films on this list are ones I've wanted to see for a while, and it's nice to finally be able to cross them off my unseen list. With one exception, everything I watched this month came courtesy of HBO Max and again I can't praise their catalog enough. I just hope I can clear out the bulk of my queue on there before my 6 months runs out.
People who added this item 205 Average listal rating (113 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.9
Tampopo (1987)
First viewing - Feb. 13th

The only trouble with Tampopo is that once you've seen it all movies that follow in its wake will pale in comparison until its effects wear off. It's wonderfully weird and original, full of memorable scenes and characters, and I loved every damn minute of it. It's one of those films you just ride the wave of and enjoy where it takes you, and I dug its detours along the way. Given its food-centric premise I'm just glad I watched it right after I ate lunch. Though now I'm craving some good ramen.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 243 Average listal rating (175 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
Doctor Sleep (2019)
First viewing - Feb. 13th

I had no interest in Doctor Sleep when it was released, mainly because I hadn't read the book and also because The Shining doesn't really need a sequel. But I've seen a lot of people sing its praises over the past year or so, and since Max had the Director's Cut available as an option I dove into it. Oh how wrong I was to dismiss it. Despite the 3-hour run-time I was never bored for a moment, and it's clearly conceived with respect and love for Kubrick's film. I'd even argue it's better paced than Kubrick's film, but it also retains its own identity. I wound up totally loving it, and now I'll have to pick up a copy so I can revisit the Director's Cut whenever the mood strikes. (As of 2/28 the film leaves Max.)

Just a thought: In Mike Flanagan we trust. Now let me never forget this.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 536 Average listal rating (341 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.1
First viewing - Feb. 22nd

Mifune Monday


Turns out I was able to find one more Toshirô Mifune movie on Max, which is why I wound up making his films my Monday routine this month. And Throne of Blood is just excellent all around. The Shakespearean influence is obvious, but I was never bored with it and dug the way it played out. It's a great film and I'm glad I finally managed to catch it after all these years of wanting to see it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 577 Average listal rating (362 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - Feb. 28th

Back when this came out I kind of wrote it off, but over the years I've seen enough praise here and there that I kept it in mind to give it a chance. As I updated this list earlier today I noticed that I was missing a film from the aughts and this fit the bill. Our protagonist is not an easy one to connect with, but thankfully over the course of the film I warmed up to her. We eventually come to understand her better, and I thought her friendship with her flatmate Zoe is quite wonderful. There are some very amusing moments, and some very real and heartfelt moments, and some moments that had me questioning why they were happening only for them to reveal their true purpose even if there's no direct narrative tissue connecting them to the rest of the film. It's a character study, ultimately, and one that I wound up deeply appreciating. And the more I think about it, the more that appreciation grows. So yeah, count me among the film's fans.
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Monthly focus: Asian cinema

People who added this item 129 Average listal rating (70 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing - Feb. 1st

Mifune Monday


I've been wanting to check out the Samurai trilogy ever since I first heard of it via Mifune: The Last Samurai, so I was pretty stoked to find it on HBO Max. Toshirô Mifune is as excellent as ever, and the story is fairly well told. Despite the run-time being slightly over 90 minutes there are a couple places where it drags noticeably, and if I'm checking the time that's never a good thing. But otherwise I was fairly well entertained and it ended on a note that has me itching to complete the series. Curious to see how the rest of it plays out.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 13 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 4 IMDB Rating 4.7
First viewing - Feb. 6th

The new Ghibli film dropped to Max this weekend, so the kiddo and I watched it together. She got super excited at so many details throughout the film, and I enjoyed witnessing her reactions to various aspects. The film is entertaining enough, more so if you shut your brain off and just roll with it. The more I thought about it afterwards, however, I wasn't as impressed with it. Earwig basically spends the entire film working to be in control of her environment, and nobody questions whether that's a healthy thing for her or whether there are clear downsides to letting a child dominate her surroundings. Thus there's no real depth to any of it. But for a family-friendly distraction it's fine, and better than some other alternatives that are out there. My daughter loved it, so while I'd watch it with her again if she wanted me to I wouldn't watch it on my own.
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First viewing - Feb. 8th

Mifune Monday


The second entry in this series was much better paced I thought. Toshirô Mifune's character grows throughout the film, and the rest of the cast gets further fleshed out too. Always impressive when they take an already fairly large cast, add a handful of new faces, and manage to do right by everyone. The fact that I'm able to keep tabs on who is who and what their motives are is commendable. I wouldn't go so far as to call it great, but it's a solid film all around.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 429 Average listal rating (240 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.2
Ugetsu (1953)
First viewing - Feb. 10th

This was a really interesting and entertaining look at how greed can affect people, and especially the pursuit of wealth by those who have never had it. Thematically it's on par with Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but I wouldn't ever have an issue with getting the two films mixed up in my mind. The cast is good all around and I connected with the characters well enough. I don't know that I'd need to watch it again, but it's absolutely worth a look.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 677 Average listal rating (350 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 8.2
Tokyo Story (1953)
First viewing - Feb. 13th

Compared to Tampopo this just could not compete. It's an understated tale of old age and looking at the legacy one leaves behind. It was different enough that I was able to hang with it, and the characters were well-realized. It's just not a film I loved enough to want to sit through it again.
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First viewing - Feb. 15th

Mifune Monday


The final installment of this trilogy goes out on a strong note, and I am here for it. What most caught my attention with this one, however, is the handful of moments where there's just this perfect shot that's beautiful and the camera lingers on it to let you enjoy it. More of a meditative approach, which makes sense given the themes at play. Of the three films it came the closest to greatness, but didn't quite get there for me. I'd gladly revisit this trilogy in the future if I'm able to, and again I'm so thankful Max had it.
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First viewing - Feb. 20th

I decided to watch First Strike with the kiddo, which served as her introduction to Jackie Chan. I probably could've picked a better film to start her off with, but then I hadn't seen this one yet...which is odd since I caught a lot of Chan's films back when they first started hitting American theatres in the '90s. Anyway, it's solidly entertaining if predictable, and Chan's stunts are impressive as ever. The kiddo really enjoyed seeing the animals (especially the koalas), and it's safe to say she'd be willing to sit through another of his films. I'll try to get a hold of one of his more fun ones for the next time around.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 740 Average listal rating (424 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 8.3
Ikiru (1952)
First viewing - Feb. 27th

Ikiru is another interesting look at facing down mortality and one's legacy. The story starts out fairly straightforward, then somewhere after the midpoint it takes a different, fresh approach to play out the rest of the tale which I thought was admirable. I appreciated the messaging about finding one's passion and chasing after it, as well as the postscript that ends the film. I thought overall the film was very well done. Not sure if I'd sit through it again but I might.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 415 Average listal rating (225 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8
Onibaba (1964)
Re-watch - Feb. 27th

It's been about 10 years since I last watched Onibaba, so I was thankful for the opportunity to revisit it. And it's still a great film, full of memorable visuals (that mask especially) and outstanding music. I still think the best way to engage with the film is to go in blind, so I don't want to divulge details...just check it out if you haven't.
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Home viewings

Re-watch - Feb. 3rd

On this night by the time I was ready to watch a movie I could just as easily have gone to bed. But I figured if I was tired then maybe I could better enjoy this film than if I watched it while wide awake. Plus I never go to sleep at 8pm. So here we are. And look, there are some truly funny moments that still work. I especially love Dr. Evil's speech about his childhood, which makes me laugh no matter how many times I've heard it. Overall it's fun enough, but there are moments where the humor falls flat, and sometimes that happens & they run the joke into the ground anyway which is irritating. But as a send-up of the Bond franchise it works well enough, and it rolls along at a fast enough clip I don't complain much. The rest of the franchise gets worse with each entry as I recall, and I doubt I'll bother watching either sequel again (all 3 films were added to Max this month). I just wanted to revisit this one because it still drifts through my head periodically.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 91 Average listal rating (63 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing - Feb. 12th

Judas and the Black Messiah was the only new film release this month via Max that I cared about, so naturally I watched it the night it dropped. And it's an important story with an impressive cast. I did have a couple of issues with it though. The first was the lack of interiority of the main characters, and the other was the fact that they cast actors who are at least 10 years older than the characters they're portraying. The latter I get I guess, because most studios won't greenlight a film without names attached, but I think the film would be more powerful with a more accurate casting. The former, however, is more irksome and kept me from caring deeply about the characters and what they were going through. It's the difference between sympathy and empathy, and when you're engaging the audience being able to achieve the latter is crucial. So it's good, but not great, and I doubt I'd sit through it again.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 793 Average listal rating (446 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.8
Jules and Jim (1962)
Re-watch - Feb. 14th

I figured since it was Valentine's Day I should watch something that deals with romance, and few films deal with the subject as wonderfully as Jules et Jim. Watching it again I found that I love pretty much everything but the way the final moments play out. It loses some of its impact I felt, but overall it's still a great film and one I'll absolutely return to again.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 54 Average listal rating (38 ratings) 4.6 IMDB Rating 5.4
Clifford (1994)
First viewing - Feb. 14th

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking giving this a look. Well, OK, there was some chatter about the film online recently (perhaps because it popped up on Max) that had me thinking I should check it out even though I still remember watching the trailers and thinking it looked stupid. And it pretty much is stupid, but that seems to be the point. I mean, Martin Short is playing a 10-year-old boy for most of the film and the whole point is to show what a horrible person he was. I was able to sit through the entire thing without turning it off, but none of it was more than mildly amusing. Perhaps if I'd seen it back then I would've appreciated it more, but watching it now it's just mostly bad and not worth wasting one's time on.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 9 Average listal rating (6 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.3
First viewing - Feb. 19th

Flora & Ulysses hit Disney+ and the kiddo insisted on watching it, so we did. And it's fine. Kinda cute even. Sure, the premise is ridiculous, and yeah, the CG is often obviously fake. But it's heart is in the right place and I appreciated the message of the story and had fun with it in spite of myself. Definitely nothing I'd sit through again of my own volition, but I don't regret watching it with my daughter.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 313 Average listal rating (229 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 6.1
The Shadow (1994)
First viewing - Feb. 26th

Tough to tell given the structure of this list, but I watched Dick Tracy first and chased it with The Shadow on this Friday night as a kind of old-school IP adaptations double-feature. I skipped both films when they were in theatres because I just didn't care about either one of them, though you'd think my dad might have dragged me to see them since he grew up with both characters.

And of the two, I could just as well have gone on ignoring this one. It's entertaining enough, but predictable, and while the cast is impressive some of the better actors just aren't given enough to do I felt. It's not bad I guess, just average and unnecessary.
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Max exodus

Films that left HBO Max this month
People who added this item 206 Average listal rating (147 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.9
First viewing - Feb. 7th

I think I'm one of the few people who didn't see Crazy Rich Asians during its theatrical run, so I figured I'd give it a look and see what all the fuss was about before it left Max on 2/28. It's a solidly entertaining rom-com, and clearly the best part is seeing this kind of story told with POC instead of a bunch of white people. Plus the sets are just gorgeous to look at. It took me a bit to really get into the film, but it ultimately won me over thanks to the winning cast. It's not great, but it's good enough that while I don't need to I'd happily sit through it again.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 288 Average listal rating (203 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.8
Life (1999)
First viewing - Feb. 17th

Life is a solidly entertaining film that accurately reflects the relationship between Black people and the police in America while trying to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. Watching Murphy and Lawrence play off one another is a treat, and the rest of the supporting cast is full of lovable goofballs. It's not great, but it is worth a look and I'm glad I finally caught up with it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 472 Average listal rating (310 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.8
Logan's Run (1976)
First viewing - Feb. 24th

I've wanted to check out Logan's Run for a long time, but it's never been easy to track down. Or maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough. Whatever the case I'm glad I finally found it. The set design and costuming of the film is commendable, the cast is solid, and the story is entertaining throughout. Sure some of the effects are dated, but they're pretty good for the time. There were a few moments that I didn't fully buy into, but overall I enjoyed it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 812 Average listal rating (520 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 6.1
Dick Tracy (1990)
First viewing - Feb. 26th

The aesthetics of Dick Tracy justify sitting through it. The costumes, the sets, the way the city looks, and the make-up for the characters...it's all just so impressive. The story is entertaining enough, albeit fairly predictable at times, and I dug the cast for the most part. It's nothing great, but when it ended I didn't regret sitting through it.
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First viewing - Feb. 27th

I wanted to catch this in theatres but it never worked out, so I was glad to finally be able to watch it. The cast is outstanding, and the script does a good job for the most part of balancing the ensemble and giving each character an arc that works well. I really appreciated the story overall, and while I don't know that I'll bother with its sequel I'd sit through it again.
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The Shape of the Month to Come

There's only one film in my list that's leaving Max at the end of March. Otherwise, outlook hazy. No shape yet. At this time there's nothing planned to watch, no focus or anything, so we'll just wing it and see what happens. I've got a lot of options to choose from. The only new release for March on Max I care about is Godzilla Vs. Kong, but it drops on a Wednesday and I intend to see it with my daughter. We'll probably go see it at the drive-in the first weekend in April instead of at home.

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