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Added by the giraffe on 2 Feb 2012 11:24
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Movies the giraffe watched: February 2012

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The breakdown: 18 films watched, 14 via Netflix instant, 2 from my DVD collection, and 2 from fellow Listal user jaytoast's DVD collection. Of those 15 were first views, 3 were re-watches, 17 of them were full-length movies & one was a short film.

My best intentions for the month fell by the wayside as Netflix jettisoned a large volume of content, forcing me to shift my attention to catching the films I most wanted to watch out of what left. All told I lost about 30 films from my IQ at the end of the month, so I was happy I got the 8 films I most wanted to see out of those watched in time. The downside is that my monthly focus fell far short of what I'd hoped for, so I may have to carry some films over into March. Hopefully Netflix will allow me to do so.

Most excitingly this month began the Movie Exchange Program, the details of which you can find in the section for it below. The 2 films I watched this month were not only excellent, but they were films I most likely would never have seen otherwise which is part of the point behind the project. As a result I'm eagerly anticipating finishing the films jaytoast sent me in March, not to mention the rest of the films that will come my way the rest of the year.

Best film for February: I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK/Animal Crackers (tie)
Best hidden gem: Clean, Shaven
Avoid at all costs: Godzilla Raids Again (English dubbed version...a subtitled version may be good)
People who added this item 90 Average listal rating (50 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.3
First viewing - Feb. 7th

A hell of a debut from a director worth keeping an eye on. Bellflower looks like nothing else I've seen & for the most part manages to be a truly unique film. The actors fully embody their characters, which also helps it along, and the story is engrossing throughout. Then as the ending unfolded I wasn't completely satisfied with it for reasons I won't discuss. Ah, but perhaps another viewing or three will persuade me to look more favorably on it.

Still, I expect great things to come from Evan Glodell, who wrote, directed, starred in, & physically helped create some of the best aspects of this film.

Definitely NOT for everyone, but if you like your films dark and violent you should definitely give it a look.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1233 Average listal rating (737 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.7
First viewing - Feb. 14th

Well, that was pointless.

My movie-watching this week has fallen behind due to other things, so when my girlfriancee said she was going to yoga for the next 30 mins I picked the shortest thing I could find in my queue to watch. And this was it.

I spent most of it wondering if taking a film class would help me understand it, or if dialogue would help me understand it...but in the end it's clearly not meant to be understood so it doesn't matter. There are some interesting visuals here which keep it from being a complete waste of time, but I could easily have never watched this & been just fine.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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Listal Group Project

Movie Exchange Program

As 2011 ended I decided that in 2012 I wanted to do more interactive things with my fellow Listal users, especially following the fun & success of the October Horror lists. So I reached out to some of my friends to figure out what we could do.

jaytoast came up with the idea of sending a handful of films to each other to watch two per month, and all of us (jaytoast, Xanadon't, phillydude, and myself) will add the films to our monthly lists with our thoughts on each. As the films make their rounds, we'll all wind up discussing them, comparing notes, and so on, and the project will continue at least through the end of 2012. (For a full list of the films we'll be watching, see the link at the top of this section.)

We also want to encourage YOU to form your own groups & start similar projects (like the Listal Film Club, which also starts this month).

My part begins here...
People who added this item 734 Average listal rating (385 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.8
Spider (2002)
First viewing - Feb. 8th

I decided to watch both of my selections from jaytoast's films as a double feature, and wound up spending a night with a pair of schizophrenics (which makes 4 movies in a row that deal with varying degrees of unhealthy mental states). Here we have a slow burner as Ralph Fiennes's titular character explores his past by revisiting the area he grew up in, and I was completely blown away by his performance. Fiennes really disappears into his character, and even if this isn't your kind of film he makes it worth watching.

Cronenberg effectively brings you into Spider's world by placing him in every scene & making him inescapable. You're trapped with him as he struggles to piece together the events of his childhood which shaped him forever into the shell of a man he's become. And even as it's clear from a long way off that there will be no happy endings here, it's unclear exactly what that ending will be (even Spider isn't sure).

Once the ball got rolling I really loved this film. There are a couple of scenes that left me with unanswered questions though, and the film moves very slowly at the start. Those are the only flaws I could find, and I'm not entirely sure the pacing for the opening part wasn't more appropriate than it seemed. A re-watch down the road will confirm that for me I guess, and a re-watch will definitely be worthwhile.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing - Feb. 9th

Much like Spider, this film is all about the lead role which is played to perfection by Peter Greene (best known as Zed in Pulp Fiction). I was mesmerized watching Greene's character figure out ways to avoid his own reflection, and some of the ways he chooses to do so wind up reflecting his mental state.

Perhaps even more impressive than Greene's performance, however, is the way sound is used in Clean, Shaven. The variety of sounds used throughout the film help us get inside the main character's head better than his facial expressions and actions do (same goes for dialogue, of which there's little).

This film isn't always comfortable to watch, and it's clear that that's the intention here. Yet I was mostly spellbound by it, which means that some of the more harrowing moments will long be embedded in my head.
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Monthly focus: Asian Invasion!

When I found out that this month my favorite local theatre chain Alamo Drafthouse was doing a 5 film marathon called Asian Invasion Hong-Kong-a-thon, where they show 5 unannounced films in a row I was stoked. Then I found out it happens on a work night at unreasonable hours for me to attend even if I could go. So I'm having my own month-long celebration of Asian films, most of which will come from my IQ. Expect a lot of Bruce Lee films to appear here, as Ip Man 2 gave me the itch to watch as many as I can.
People who added this item 299 Average listal rating (204 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.9
First viewing - Feb. 6th

If Bruce Lee looks bummed & annoyed above, it's probably due to his swearing an oath not to fight...an oath he keeps for most of the movie (not all of course or there'd be no need for this film). I was somewhat annoyed by the horrible editing (mostly done as a result of Hong Kong's censorship rules at the time it came out) & the obviously bad English dubbing.

Ah but the upside to the bad dubbing is it makes the film a bit more entertaining than it would be otherwise. I found myself laughing at a lot of things which were surely not intended to be funny, and there were many moments that made me think of Kung Pow!. Anyway, the plot is pretty basic & predictable which leaves the fight scenes as the highlights, though Lee shows he's also a good actor. It's therefore easy to see why it made him a star since he's the main thing the film has going for it.

I'd really like to get my hands on a subtitled version to see how much more I'd like it.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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First viewing - Feb. 7th

Original, beautiful, and brilliant. Chan-wook Park directs the second masterpiece I've seen of his, and while I could say more I refuse to. I went into this film knowing nothing other than that he directed & co-wrote it, and I don't want anyone else to know more than that either.

Go watch this.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 336 Average listal rating (225 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.2
Re-watch - Feb. 21

Haven't seen this one in so long this felt like a first view. Back in the 80s I went through a martial arts phase (probably inspired by The Karate Kid) where I watched any film in the genre that I came across regardless of quality. Today the majority of those films all blur together in my head, especially the films that tried to cash-in on the void left when Bruce Lee died.

Anyway, this one was far better than The Big Boss but still fell short of greatness in my book. The fight scenes are stellar & Bruce Lee gets to show more of his acting chops by going undercover a couple times as well as being in mourning for the first part of the movie. But there's a romantic subplot that's not on-screen long enough to actually work effectively, and the reason for his master's death isn't very clear (the latter could be due to the English dub though). Still, it remains a solidly entertaining film.
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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.
People who added this item 202 Average listal rating (128 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.5
Re-watch - Feb. 21st

I've watched this one more than any other Marx Bros. film, and some days I even consider it my favorite of the bunch. There's not a dull moment or a misstep in the entire movie, a fact that was all the more emphasized by my watching The Cocoanuts last month. Sure, the plot is minimal, but what works best for the brothers is the comedy & here it's firing on all cylinders without ever completely going off the rails of the established plot. The supporting cast works well too, nailing their parts without trying to push the Marx Bros. off to the side, & serving as foils wherever necessary. Ah, and Zeppo is given the least screen time of the foursome which was always a good idea since he's rarely entertaining (though in this one I love the "take a letter" exchange between his Jamison and Groucho's Capt. Spaulding).

Still pure perfection in my book & purely satisfying.
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Netflix IQ Exorcisms

Movies that left Netflix Instant this month
People who added this item 755 Average listal rating (508 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.9
First viewing - Feb. 15th

I had 3 films on the Netflix instant chopping block this week, and wound up choosing this one as the sole film to watch before my time was up. The chemistry between Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn is great & the film is solidly entertaining throughout.

On the other hand, I felt like its genre-mixing attempts held it back from being truly great, and the plot was somewhat predictable if you've seen enough spy movies.
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People who added this item 2853 Average listal rating (1795 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.3
Re-watch - Feb. 22nd

I enjoy the first 2/3 of this film for the most part, and if Vertigo ended a lot sooner I'd think more highly of it. The last act seems to drag on & on, however, and grows more ridiculous as it nears the end. I found myself annoyed by & rolling my eyes at the relationship between Scottie & Judy, and while I guess it serves to play out the twist & ending it just doesn't impress me like some of Hitchcock's other films (I know, I'm disappointed too).

Your results may vary.
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People who added this item 762 Average listal rating (512 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8
High Noon (1952)
First viewing - Feb. 24th

High Noon wound up being one of the top-voted films in my IQ list for last summer, so when I saw that Netflix plans to get rid of it I made it a priority to get watched in time. (Side note: Netflix currently has about 30 films in my IQ marked for removal at the end of Feb., which has greatly disrupted my viewing plans for the rest of the month. Jerks.)

I'm glad I did. I loved the social commentary & found the story deeply engaging. It was ahead of its time as far as westerns go, & I always respect films like this. The main flaw I found with it, however, is that the main villain is so built up through dialogue as this evil madman & yet he shows up & displays none of the qualities attributed to him by the townsfolk. I expected the devil himself to emerge from the train when the time came, and what I got fell far short of my expectations.

Aside from that, this is indeed an excellent film & well worth watching.
Thanks to the following Listal members for their encouragement on this one...without your recommendations I would have let it slip by me: Bml93, Coby, Hillaviina, & phillydude
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People who added this item 570 Average listal rating (375 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.1
Frozen (2010)
First viewing - Feb. 25th

A Year of Horror - 2010 by jaytoast

Thanks is due to Xanadon't who put this film on my radar & jaytoast for additional encouragement on my checking it out. I found myself on edge for the majority of the film, as the suspense is perfectly handled. I was so enthralled in fact that I hardly minded that the characters were nothing special (though they're developed enough to make you care about them), nor did I mind that there's nothing too original here aside from the setting (though it felt fresh enough). Overall I really enjoyed Frozen and wouldn't at all be opposed to watching it again some time.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 388 Average listal rating (261 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.5
First viewing - Feb. 26th

Zombies, voodoo rituals, hallucinations, nightmares...all directed wonderfully by Wes Craven. Some of the effects are very dated & thus come off as cheesy, and personally I thought Bill Pullman's performance was rather uneven. He does a good job for the most part, but there were moments I felt he was either too young for his role or that he was behaving in ways I wouldn't expect his character to. The rest of the cast is mostly stellar though, which is impressive given the lack of big names. And when a horror movie ends & you know you won't be sleeping well that night, it's definitely done its job.

Underrated and definitely worth watching if you're into horror.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 608 Average listal rating (381 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.4
Frenzy (1972)
First viewing - Feb. 27th

Wow. Now this is Hitchcock at his best. The film's sole flaw is that it's obvious early on where it's going. But as they say, the devil's in the details & so everything else renders the predictability of it minor. The performances are stellar, the dialogue caught me up, the suspense is perfectly handled (naturally), and all the technical details are top notch. Frenzy deserves to be mentioned among Hitch's classics, and more often than it seems to be considering I hadn't heard of it before joining Listal.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 587 Average listal rating (343 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.3
First viewing - Feb. 28th

First off, this is FAR better than the 2003 "remake" which was mostly memorable as a Mini Cooper commercial (I also vaguely recall seeing Charlize Theron at some point, and Edward Norton getting punched). The first third I found to be a bit uneven, but the last third more than made up for it. The entire heist section of the film is now among my favorite film moments, and I enjoyed seeing Michael Caine so youthful and badass.

Dude movies are rarely this much fun.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 988 Average listal rating (601 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
First viewing - Feb. 29th

At the start of this movie, I wasn't sure I'd get any enjoyment out of it. Fortunately it started to surprise me & continued to do so through the end. Typically romantic sideplots in these films wind up serving as an annoying thing to endure/try to ignore, but here it provides a perfect balance showing both sides of Nikita's life & personality. Anne Parillaud's performance is perfect on all counts, the supporting cast is mostly strong (Nikita's friends in the opening scene being the weakness in that area), and I loved the way the film played out. Not sure it's perfect, but it's damn good.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 318 Average listal rating (210 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.6
First viewing - Feb. 29th

Review by JxSxPx

The above review pretty well covers it. This was an excellent end to the month.
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I tried, but I gave up

First viewing - Feb. 19th

I fail to understand why in America we get these horribly dubbed & altered versions of foreign films released on DVD after they've proven to be failures elsewhere already. The American version of this film has added footage & atrocious dubbing, and was a box office failure. Despite vocal disappointment from critics and fans alike, the same failed version made its way to DVD and that's what I attempted to watch tonight.

Apparently I'm losing my patience with poorly dubbed versions of foreign films, as I turned it off in disgust around the 30 minute mark. It used to be that I'd find it more amusing than annoying, but clearly that's changed. Or perhaps it has more to do with the mind-numbing stupidity of the dialogue on display here. Whichever it is, I couldn't ignore it enough to stick it out to see if there was anything that'd make my sitting through the rest of this one worthwhile (perhaps having a few drinks would have helped?).

Find me a Japanese version with English subtitles & I'll give it a better chance.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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Continuing my efforts to keep track of my thoughts on the films I watch on a monthly basis. This month should be a lot of fun between the start of a Listal group project & my Asian Invasion! focus.

See also:
the giraffe's lists for 2012

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