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Added by the giraffe on 1 May 2012 06:30
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Movies the giraffe watched: May 2012

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The breakdown: 21 films watched - 12 first views, 9 re-watches. Of those 10 were watched on DVD, one in the theatre, and the remaining 10 via Netflix instant. Looking at them by decade, I hit the 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 2010s, with the 80s & 90s accounting for about half the films watched (5 from each).

Lots of films watched on DVD this month between my monthly focus on the Alien series, my year-long Marx Bros. film focus, the ongoing Movie Exchange Program, and watching some of our movies with my daughter. All of the Netflix content consisted of films leaving my queue, a factor I'll clearly always have to deal with so long as I stick with streaming content from them. Fortunately the films they removed were all worth my watching, and they finally got me to watch Metropolis which I've needed to do since last summer when it was one of the top voted films in my "Help me lower my IQ" list. Re-examining the Alien series helped me stay calm while I wait for Prometheus to hit theatres here, even though the 3rd & 4th films weren't quite as good as I'd originally thought. Oh yeah, and I managed to catch The Avengers & thus avoid feeling left out, though I wasn't as impressed by it as some others around here seem to be.

Also I wrapped up the Movie Exchange Program films from phillydude this month with the underrated Quick Change and Empire of the Sun which I didn't respond as strongly to as I might have. Still, all 5 films he sent me were ones I've either been putting off watching for no real reason or would not have watched on my own before, and so that makes this whole endeavor well worth the time and effort. I have no doubt that when I watch Xanadon't's films over the next 2 months I'll still be able to say the same...which is the point & a main reason for us doing this.

And on a final note, I only failed to watch one film I'd hoped to this month which was Battle Royale. Worth mentioning because so far I've managed to watch everything I've planned to, but with that one I know my "wife" wants to watch it so I was waiting for her & it just didn't work out. Maybe next month we'll get it watched.

Best film for May: too many Great films to choose from, so...
Best film for May I hadn't seen before: The Call of Cthulhu (which could also be the best hidden gem, but I'll let another film have that distinction)
Best hidden gem: The Great Train Robbery
Most overrated: The Lion King
Re-watch - May 8th

If this was more than my 2nd viewing, I'd be surprised...unless of course I watched it a few times back in the early '80s which I kinda doubt. But it's safe to say given how little of it I recalled that I haven't seen it since the '80s, which gave me a fairly fresh take on the film. Having recently watched the entire first 3 seasons of The Muppet Show, this film felt right in step for me. Those who lament the self-aware humor of last year's The Muppets clearly never watched the show or this movie. Self-aware humor is one of the Muppets' trademarks, and it's peppered liberally throughout The Great Muppet Caper.

Admittedly there are a few flat moments here, but overall it's highly entertaining, the songs are excellent, & there are some very impressive moments of muppetry. My Muppets-obsessed daughter loved it too, so bonus points there...odds are I'll be seeing a lot of it in the near future. Good thing we now own it on DVD.
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People who added this item 811 Average listal rating (524 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.1
The Muppets (2011)
Re-watch - May 16th

Nothing new to add here. My daughter chose to watch it & I watched it with her.
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People who added this item 7466 Average listal rating (4872 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.5
First viewing - May 21st

Once upon a time there was a young man who was going through an anti-Disney phase. He hated their omnipresence through mass marketing & merchandise, hated their musical cartoons, and hated the fact that the majority of people worshipped at their feet as if saying a word against them was unheard of. Eventually he got over it more or less, but for a few years he boycotted the majority of their films. Pixar would lure him back first, but he continued to avoid their 2D animated films for a while longer.

Anyway, as a result he...that is, I managed to be the only person I knew who hadn't watched The Lion King. Continued to have zero interest in it all the way up until I checked out a few of the other films I'd skipped at the time & found them to be better than I expected. This, on the other hand, is exactly what I expected & so I now know I could just as well have never seen it & not missed anything. The only noteworthy thing about The Lion King, IMO, is that the animation is excellent for its time (unless you include anime, in which case it's simply excellent for American 2D animation for its time).

The plot progression is obvious from the start & follows the typical Disney cliches. Main character starts out a child, gets separated from his parents, goes on a journey & grows up & finds himself, falls in love, confronts evil & avenges/reunites with his parent(s), everyone lives happily every after...oh and plenty of sentimental moments thrown in at the right times to evoke feelings from the audience. Honestly I found it incredibly generic & never connected with any of the characters. I laughed a handful of times, but never very hard, and I didn't cry once either. The only enjoyment I got from it was the visual spectacle and watching my daughter get excited over moments (I really think it's too dark for her to be watching honestly...she chose it & had watched it the night before with mommy so I resigned myself to watching it with her...next time I think I'll encourage her to watch another Muppet movie instead).

And so most overrated film of the month is awarded to The Lion King. Those who sing its praises can have it.
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First viewing - May 31st


Review by lotr23

Technically I could put this one down in the Netflix exorcisms section, but this top section looks a little too kid-friendly. Stellar performances & a thought-provoking story make this one well worth watching, and my only complaint is that the final moments don't hit home quite like they should (or perhaps could). See the review above for more.
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Monthly focus: Alien series

My anticipation for Prometheus is at a fever pitch, so I've decided to revisit the quadrilogy while I wait. I intend to watch one film per week in order, which means my June list will likely kick off with my seeing Prometheus on the big screen.
People who added this item 4604 Average listal rating (3123 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.5
Re-watch - May 1st


My favorite Horror movies - 70s

The older I get, the more appreciation I have for Alien. The first couple times I watched it I found it far too slow due to having watched Aliens first (I even fell asleep). And by comparison, yes this is a far slower film, but that's because it's a sci-fi horror movie whereas Aliens is a sci-fi action movie.

Now I actually appreciate the pacing, as I think the suspense builds perfectly as the events unfold. Having a perfect cast helps as well, not to mention the titular creature in all its glory. The computers now look horribly dated and this time around I noticed at times that the Nostromo is obviously fake, but those things don't take away from my enjoyment &/or appreciation of the film at all.

The chestburster scene remains one of my all-time favorites.
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People who added this item 3324 Average listal rating (2289 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.4
Re-watch - May 10th


Best movies of 1986

Still brilliant & perfect. Only thing I can say is this was my first time to finally see the extra 17 minutes of footage reattached to the film for the special edition, and I definitely think Aliens benefits from most of those scenes. I hadn't watched my copy due to the fact the entire film sticks in my head, plus I've caught it several times on the big screen at various midnight showings over the years. So for the most part sitting down with Aliens is like visiting with an old friend who never changes.
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People who added this item 2131 Average listal rating (1442 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.4
Re-watch - May 14th

Sort of a first view though since I hadn't seen the "Assembly Cut" before & opted to not watch the original theatrical cut instead. This cut has earned a very solid 8 from me.

Originally I'd given the theatrical cut a 9/10, but I haven't watched that one in a very long time. I caught a theatrical sneak preview back in 1992 & loved it, but I was barely in high school & even less critical of films than I am now. I've noticed a lot of hatred heaped its way since I've been on here, and perhaps it's justified but until I revisit it I suppose I can't comment on it.

What I can say is that this version is mostly well done. Granted it somewhat negates the ending of Aliens, but I don't take that personally. Those who do will surely have a harder time accepting this film. The death of Newt at the start makes perfect sense to me since the actress would've been too old to play a 10 year old girl when this was filmed, and trying to explain how she'd aged in hypersleep wouldn't have worked. I suppose they could have cast someone else in the role, but it's possible it would have pissed fans off even more than killing her did. As for Hicks, he was injured but stable at the end of Aliens, and who's to say he would've done much in the film besides lie in the medical bay? I'm not saying I agree with these choices, but I can see the sense of them & therefore don't hold them against the film as much as others may.

I think the changes on display here make more sense, from what I can recall of the theatrical cut, especially the one at the end. I dig the overall story of Ripley crash-landing on the prison planet & all that it entails, implausible as it may be, and personally find most of the cast to be strong. I distinctly recall being impressed by the cinematography the first time around, and that hasn't changed (especially still dig the Alien-cam in the later scenes), and the musical side is very well done too. So while it's definitely not on par with its predecessors, Alien 3 is still a good film I think. Just maybe watch the "Assembly" cut instead of the theatrical. ;)
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Re-watch - May 23rd-24th

Easily the weakest film in the series, which I'd already suspected since I saw it once before in theatres, hadn't bothered to revisit it before now, & had completely forgotten all about it until I sat down with it again. Not a good sign. Another warning sign arrived via the credits when I saw Joss Whedon wrote the story (see The Avengers below).

The story is OK, the cinematography is very good, and the actors do an adequate job aside from Miz Weaver who's every bit as good here as in the rest of the series. Unfortunately it's rather uninspired, and the effects side of things continued to be distracting. Why the aliens are suddenly dripping saliva like a fountain, I have no idea...sure they were drooly before, but never this bad. And it appears many of the effects are purely CGI to the extent of being obviously fake, which doesn't help either. There's also way too many pieces that are utterly unbelievable & thus only serve as an attempt to make the film more interesting via the "more is better" theory.

Anyway, I was entertained for the most part, but I can't help but feel the entire franchise would be better off without this one. So this one drops from a 7/10 to a 6/10, and it's got me thinking the 3rd was even better than I gave it credit for.
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Listal Group Project


Movie Exchange Program


See also this month's lists from: phillydude, Xanadon't, and jaytoast
First viewing - May 7th


New Cult Canon article on the A.V. Club site

I link to the above article because it puts this film perfectly in perspective & echoes my thoughts on it. I loved the beginning third of the film, but the rest of it didn't quite hold up as well. A lot of the major plot points were pretty predictable, but I found myself entertained & engrossed regardless. The various characters & faces of NYC helped enliven the film as it proceeded, and so I think I got more enjoyment out of the smaller roles than I did any of the main roles other than Bill Murray's.

So in the end I found it underrated & worth a look.

Oh yeah, and had I known what I was getting into with this film I totally would have paired it with The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. They complement each other nicely I think.
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People who added this item 1401 Average listal rating (738 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.8
First viewing - May 28th-29th

A visual beauty expertly directed & wonderfully acted. And yet for some reason I never connected with it emotionally & was never all that excited by it. Probably I just wasn't in the mood for it, and so your results may differ.
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Big screen attractions

Films caught in a proper movie theatre
People who added this item 3705 Average listal rating (2361 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8.1
First viewing - May 20th

We now return you to this ongoing Marvel series, already in progress...whee episodic filmmaking, which apparently allows the creators to gloss over any actual character development & skip the introductions. That may not be so bad for those of us who have kept up with this series thus far, but for anyone who skips the others & shows up for this one there's a lot of catching up to do & not much provided to do so (just ask my "wife").

Ah, but this is indeed an entertaining film, don't get me wrong. Robert Downey Jr. is back to enjoying himself instead of looking bored & annoyed as he did in Iron Man 2 & provides most of the comic relief, and if they can keep him interested for at least one more Iron Man film I'll give it a shot. All the previous romantic side plots are acknowledged but never allowed to get in the way of the story, which is a relief (sorry Natalie Portman, you get banished this time around). Watching the main characters pick fights with each other is a lot of fun, though one would hope that by adulthood they would have learned about teamwork, sharing, & cooperation already (ah egos, heh). Tom Hiddleston plays Loki well, even if he's not that great of a villain (that seems to be the point by the end though). By far the film's biggest surprise & asset, however, is Mark Ruffalo who perfectly channels Bill Bixby's Banner (which I loved growing up) while succeeding at coming off as the smart dude he's supposed to be (now please give him a Hulk movie so we can finally, hopefully have a really good one).

Now I also have to state that there were a few scenes & several instances of dialogue that fell flat for me, probably because I'm one of the few humans immune to the so-called charms of Joss Whedon's writing/directing. While this is easily the most I've enjoyed any of his work, the weaker moments served as reminders that he was behind it. It also bugs me that we know little about Black Widow and Hawkeye, other than that one can kick ass & the other can hit virtually anything with an arrow. Guessing they don't have any real superpowers. Oh, and I love how this alien race that's supposedly a major threat to Manhattan does nothing more than property damage. Ah but our heroes must triumph, lest we not have more movies.

Anyway, in the end I was definitely entertained, but I also felt like it could have been better especially the more I thought about it afterwards. Rather confused by the 10/10 reviews around here, honestly.
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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 742 Average listal rating (481 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8
Re-watch - May 7th

I didn't realize how long it had been since I last watched Duck Soup. I'd forgotten most of it (the mirror scene remains unforgettable), so this felt like a first viewing. That said, few movies make me laugh this hard & this frequently. This is the Marx Bros. at their anarchic best. Much like Horse Feathers there's more detours from the plot than a focus on it, and the results are always hilarious. The pair of scenes where Harpo's character takes on a street vendor had me in stitches, as did his constantly clipping pair of scissors. Groucho's wit is as sharp as ever & it's refreshing to see Margaret Dumont play his love interest/comic foil again. While it often seems to me like she was oblivious to a lot of his jokes (or maybe that's just good acting), she clearly provides plenty of fodder for him & just looks great sharing the screen with him.

The supporting cast is much better all around than in Horse Feathers, and for once they didn't bother with the musical interludes that were the trademark for Chico & Harpo. Without them the film feels tighter overall, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice their absence. I'm sure had they indulged in the musical asides the film would've had a longer run-time, but I can see that they wouldn't add anything more than filler to the film.

Also I feel I have to comment on the fact that this is the last of the Marx Bros. films to feature Zeppo. He's essentially the same character as in Animal Crackers, and thus doesn't seem to contribute much to the film. His role is serviceable enough, but I felt it could just as easily been played by anybody. Kinda lame he goes out like this since he had a more prominent role in Horse Feathers, but I'm sure he was proud just to be a part of this masterpiece.

Currently streaming on Netflix
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Netflix exorcisms

Films that left my IQ this month
First viewing - May 3rd


Review by PvtCaboose91

I found myself captivated by this brilliant heist film that has clearly been a huge influence on the films that followed (most obviously Reservoir Dogs). I'd first heard of it thanks to a little song you may know from the Beastie Boys called "Sure Shot" & as fate would have it I watched it the day before Adam Yauch AKA MCA died of cancer. Just a little reminder that we're all more connected than we're often conscious of I think.
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People who added this item 220 Average listal rating (99 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.3
First viewing - May 5th


Review by Hexenkult

I couldn't help but love this film with its Caligari-esque sets & overall presentation. The film has been manipulated to look like it's from the silent era & for the most part it succeeds in replicating the look of those films. Plus as Lovecraft adaptations go it's damn near perfect & easily the best.

Highly recommended & I have to thank jaytoast for recommending I check it out.
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First viewing - May 8th

Been meaning to get around to this one for a long time now. I wasn't sure what to expect at first given that the more well-known remake was a musical, & so I was pleased to find out that this one isn't a musical at all. I found this to be similar in some respects to Corman's previous film A Bucket of Blood, but I didn't think it was quite as good overall. Both share a common theme of men going to great lengths to earn & maintain the respect of others, and both are equal parts horror & comedy. I think part of my problem was that I'd hoped for a bit more horror than I got.

I will say that the film's most impressive performance came from Jack Nicholson, which shouldn't surprise anyone. His brief time on screen outshines the rest of the cast as we get a glimpse of the A-list actor he'd become. As a matter of fact I was reminded of his performance of the Joker, a role he wouldn't play for almost 30 years after this.

Anyway, I'd say that regardless of your thoughts on the remake if you enjoyed it to any degree you should definitely check out the original.
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People who added this item 1931 Average listal rating (973 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.3
First viewing (Restored cut) - May 15-16th

Actually I'd tried watching this before, but wasn't in the right mood for it & turned it off in favor of better things to do. Last night it was up for removal from Instant watch, so I figured I'd better give it another try.

For its time, yes, it's a masterpiece. The visuals, the performances, the story...all Great. I mean, I tend to have issues with silent films making me sleepy, & yet I managed to stay awake for the entire 2 & 1/2 hour run-time. Clearly I can now safely put Fritz Lang on my favorite directors list. ;)

That doesn't mean I had no issues with the film. I felt like there was a bit too much repetition of dialogue, especially the film's main theme, and at times I wanted the movie to move on rather than dwell on certain scenes. Plus it still bugs me whenever there's a lot of dialogue with nothing to convey it unless you can read lips (a complaint I typically have with silent movies & one that I suppose I should just accept & get over).

Still, this is definitely a must-see if you love movies.

UPDATE: A search on May 20th showed the restored cut is back on instant watch.
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People who added this item 620 Average listal rating (396 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.6
First viewing - May 22nd

It seems that at the end of every month Netflix decides to remove a small chunk of content out of everything sitting in my queue. This month's final purge begins here, with a movie I've felt like I should check out for a long time but never bothered before.

The overall story is a good one, and the situations are often entertaining. A lot of the film is pretty juvenile though, which suits the setting but didn't suit my personal taste the entire time. That said, there are several moments which are very memorable & I think they'll stick with me for a while. I'm sure that most of my enjoyment here came courtesy of the fact that I've always been an outcast & was picked on throughout school, which allows me to connect with the characters at least in spirit. Seeing the underdogs triumph is therefore enjoyable, but I should have watched this movie when I was a teenager I guess. Back then I would've loved it.
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People who added this item 202 Average listal rating (105 ratings) 4.6 IMDB Rating 5
First viewing - May 25th

I admit up front I'm a little biased toward this film, coming into it as a fan of the comedic style of its creators. There's plenty here I found hilarious & brilliant that may not appeal to someone else's taste, which is what I'm attributing to the film's generally low ratings. Well, that & the facts that the film as a whole is rather uneven, & obviously low budget despite some of the stars it boasts. Those holding this up against other "A" movies will be far more disappointed than those expecting a B-movie. I personally enjoyed it.
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Re-watch - May 27th

A lot of fun & very quotable. I still love this movie.
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People who added this item 153 Average listal rating (88 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7
First viewing - May 29th

Hindsight being what it is, this also would've worked well paired with the other heist movies I watched this month (despite it being set in 19th century England). Ah well. I found this one highly entertaining in large part thanks to its very strong leads in Sean Connery & Donald Sutherland. And Lesley-Anne Down really caught my attention with her mix of brains & beauty. I suppose the idea isn't terribly original, but I thought it made up for that by the way it's executed. The only real fault I found in The Great Train Robbery was the fact it's pretty minimal as far as effects go, and there were a few occasions where I could tell something was fake. But the storytelling was such that I was able to forgive its faults & enjoy the film nonetheless.
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People who added this item 649 Average listal rating (449 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.7
Re-watch - May 30th

Holy crap did this movie really come out that long ago? I still remember seeing it in the theatre (unsure whether I had watched it again since, which is why I wanted to check it out). Anyway, this is a solid action-thriller full of strong performances & excellent effects. Anywhere the fire isn't an effect I'd be hard pressed to pick out as it consistently looks real. Kurt Russell gives one of his best performances, as does Donald Sutherland in a smaller role (this makes 2 of his films I've watched this week), and I thought the soundtrack was very memorable. Overall I still enjoyed it, it's just not a personal favorite.
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Continuing my efforts to keep track of my thoughts on the movies I watch, one month at a time.
See also:
the giraffe's lists for 2012

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