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Added by the giraffe on 7 Jul 2011 06:39
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Watched in 2011 pt. 2

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The breakdown: 22 films watched, 8 first views & 14 re-watches with 15 films watched from my DVD collection, 2 films & 1 short film in the theatre, 2 films via Netflix instant, and 2 films via TV/DVR.

I decided this month to mainly focus on my DVD collection, & thus created a separate list for doing so. I wound up watching half of the films I had hoped to from my collection, which is pretty good considering I had birthday celebrations and the holidays factored in. I managed to watch most of the Pink Panther movies I own, which I hadn't seen in many years, and finally watched one of my girlfriancee's movies that I keep meaning to. I kept things festive by watching a handful of Christmas-y films & enjoyed all of them, so perhaps I need to do more of that in the future...normally I don't go all out for the holiday. I even managed to finally catch a pair of classic Christmas films that I'd never seen, one of which takes top honors for December.

Additionally I watched parts of many other films in my attempts to find something else besides Tangled that my daughter would enjoy watching after she became obsessed with it, but I haven't listed them since I never watched more than the first 15 minutes of most of them & that doesn't count as a viewing in my book. The few that I did finish regardless of her enjoyment showed up in my aforementioned list. (And as of Dec. 31st, the only thing so far that captures her attention is The Muppet Show which I received season 1 of as an Xmas gift...so there's hope for her yet.)

Overall 2011 was a good year film-wise for me, and I enjoyed keeping track of my thoughts on what I watched. Thus I plan to continue doing so in 2012, and I will do so via monthly installments instead of one for each half of the year. Keep your eyes peeled!

Best film for December: Miracle on 34th Street
Best hidden gem: The Ref (though I already knew about it)
Avoid at all costs: Broken Flowers

Thanks for your votes, comments, and reading however much of this you have. Happy new year!
People who added this item 133 Average listal rating (105 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing - Toy Story short that ran ahead of The Muppets

An entertaining short with some really good laughs, though a couple jokes missed their mark. Good for what it was, but nothing spectacular. I loved the support group characters.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 857 Average listal rating (574 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing

The 1st & hopefully not last trip to the theatre for December! As I'd stated last month, we wanted to catch this one at Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin so we made a point of doing so the 1st chance we had a babysitter available. Nothing like 30 minutes of muppets skits, songs, & other random bits of entertainment featuring muppets as pre-show entertainment (beats the hell out of commercials & TV previews too) to get one excited for the film.

And so, after Drafthouse walked us down memory lane we slid very well into this movie. The humor is mostly great, the story is solid, & I enjoyed most of the cameos. A song or 2 fell flat for me, a few comic bits miss their mark, & it relies a bit heavily on its audience already being fans of the muppets rather than trying to acquire new ones. But since I am a fan it worked just fine for me & as a whole I really enjoyed it.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1302 Average listal rating (828 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.2
First viewing

What a fucking bore. The few mildly interesting moments are split by long stretches of repetitious mundane nothing, and Murray playing a lifeless sadsack didn't help to generate any connection with this film. So I gave up around the hour mark when I decided I simply didn't care enough about his quest to find out how it might end.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 485 Average listal rating (323 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.9
First viewing

Yes, you're reading the above correctly. For whatever reason while growing up the Christmas-centric TV shows were required annual viewing (Rudolph, Grinch, Charlie Brown, etc.), but none of the movies ever were. Throughout my teenhood I started to lose my love for the holiday, so I never went out of my way to watch the older films that I wasn't exposed to before then. Well, as it turns out I've been missing out on this one (as you're likely already aware).

Great cast, great messages, and overall a great film.
See also: PvtCaboose91's review

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 431 Average listal rating (293 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 8
I didn't realize just how short this is...Dickens' tale gets pared down to less than 30 minutes & isn't hurt in the least. You can have all the other actors that have played Scrooge, in my book Scrooge McDuck will forever be the best of the bunch. :P
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 2281 Average listal rating (1471 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.6
First viewing

Now before you start in on me, know this: as I stated above growing up there was never an annual tradition of watching Christmas-y movies. And for whatever reason my Dad, who's usually my gateway to older films, never insisted on us watching this one either. That is until he recently found out I still hadn't seen it.

Now I'm not sure whether the film always runs the way it does or if NBC's copy is just not the best quality, but I felt there were a lot of technical flaws (mostly in the form of jump-cuts & bad editing) that distracted me along the way. I also found the opening extremely cheesy & the ending gets a bit out of hand piling on the sappiness/happiness. Plus it's pretty predictable, though I suppose that could be more the fault of its omnipresence in American culture than anything else (or maybe the title's to blame, since this isn't "Life's a Downer"). Still, for the most part it worked its magic on me & I don't regret having finally watched it at all.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 701 Average listal rating (458 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.2
Young Adult (2011)
First viewing

A vicious and bitterly funny movie about broken people that bucks conventions at just about every opportunity. Charlize Theron gives a fearless and pretty masterful performance and Patton Oswalt offers up one of the finer supporting roles of the year. Many people will struggle to like this film, so unlikeable is its lead character. But others like myself will find something quietly special in its stubborn gaze at unlikely movie characters.
--Xanadon't, from his Monthly Movie Journal: December 2011

Not our first choice for Xmas Day viewing (that'd be Hugo), but this was the only film we could agree on that was playing at a time we could catch it. Definitely an atypical film & one I both admire & would be fine with not watching a 2nd time around. I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but it's definitely not a favorite.
the giraffe's rating:
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The breakdown: A mere 10 films watched this month, 1 of which was a live performance, the rest movies. With the exception of a sole trip to the theatre (woohoo!), all these films came courtesy of Netflix & the majority of those were on their way off instant watch.

Movie-watching took a backseat this month among my priorities as I made 2 trips out of town & felt a general sense of burn-out after the October horrorfest. Also, I remembered that I had new TV shows to watch, so there were some (few) nights where I watched episodes of some of them instead.

Looking over these, it appears my inner critic woke up this month for whatever reason. Unsure whether it's due to the films I watched or something going on in my head, but I found flaws of various sorts in everything I watched. Maybe I'm just growing more critical as I get older. On the other hand, only a couple of these fell below a 7/10 so it's entirely possible it's the fault of the films I watched.

Best film for November: Once Upon a Time in the West
Best hidden gem: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Avoid at all costs: Benny's Video
People who added this item 3824 Average listal rating (2466 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing

Kicked off November with an offering from the Netflix chopping block, & was mostly entertained by yet another Scorsese New York history lesson. Some parts work, others don't so much, but overall this is a compelling story that's mostly well-told. Not surprisingly, Daniel Day-Lewis is the film's shining star & he portrays Bill the Butcher perfectly. He wound up being my favorite character in the film not necessarily because I liked him but because he was so multi-faceted & therefore realistic. You could call him good or evil, but ultimately what he is is human.

On the other hand I'm still not convinced that DiCaprio is anything more than an average actor, and I'd prefer someone else in Cameron Diaz's role. I was more impressed by various members of the supporting cast. Still not in love with Scorsese either, but I'll grant that he knows how to shoot a good-looking picture as well as tell a decent tale (even if I tend to dislike some aspects of how he tells them).
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 395 Average listal rating (213 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.2
Benny's Video (1992)
First viewing

Came home from vacation to find this one on the verge of leaving Netflix, so I decided to check it out. As it dragged along & I kept falling asleep, I wish I'd let it go.

Were the film 45 mins. long it'd be a lot better. Unfortunately we're left to sit through drawn-out scenes of mundane moments to get to the handful of scenes that actually matter. Add to that the fact that we're given characters that mostly come across as dull & lifeless, none of which ever managed to properly engage me, & it left me wondering why I was continuing to watch it and why it was recommended to me. Had the recommendation not come from a pair of trusted sources I likely would've given up on it completely long before it ended. Instead I hopped online to entertain myself while half watching it, in hopes that it'd be worth sitting through to the end...and I felt it wasn't, as the ending rendered the entire middle part of the film pointless.

I'm sure Haneke is trying to make a point about something, some kind of social commentary perhaps, but I don't care. I'd rather have that hour & 45 minutes back.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1067 Average listal rating (769 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
They Live (1988)
First viewing

I've always been aware this movie existed, but for whatever reason (perhaps the fact it starred a pro-wrestler) I never had much interest in it. Lately I've been going through John Carpenter's films, however, so it was only a matter of time before I finally sat down with it. And I'm glad I finally did.

It's far from perfect, but I couldn't help appreciating the ever-present social commentary on American (world?) culture which remains relevant today. In fact I wouldn't be too surprised if I woke up tomorrow, put on my sunglasses & found out this was actually a thinly-veiled documentary. Check it out if you haven't yet.

See also: AV Club's New Cult Canon

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Xanadon't recommended this one to me after I watched Talk Radio earlier this year, and I'm glad he did. I've never seen anything quite like this one-man-show, which is full of insights and humor, broken up into little scenes yet all undeniably interconnected. I feel like this might be the sort of thing Bill Hicks would be doing were he still around, though perhaps not as it's clearly an actor's performance rather than a comedian's.

Definitely worth a look, and it serves as reinforcement to a statement I made after watching Talk Radio: Eric Bogosian is Amazing.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Let me state first off that I've never been a big fan of westerns. My dad watched them all the time as I was growing up, and they all looked the same to me from what I saw...cowboys shooting each other over something or other with occasional long-shots of beautiful open countrysides. Yawn.

Then somewhere along the way I actually watched the occasional western movie & found myself really enjoying them. It's never been enough to make me want to watch every western ever, but it's increased my interest enough to check out the ones that most people have deemed Great. And that brings me to this movie...

And a hell of a movie it is. The story unfolds in a way that's nigh impossible to predict where it's going, every character seems to get an epic introductory scene, the music is phenomenal, the performances are great...yeah, I can't really think of any negatives here. I'll admit that there were moments where I laughed at what I was seeing & made a joke in my head in reply, but those moments were few & far between & never took much away from my overall enjoyment of the film.

By far my favorite performance came from Jason Robards, whose screen presence commands attention in every scene, with Charlie Bronson being a close second. Course I could easily watch Claudia Cardinale all day long even if she couldn't act, but fortunately she can.

So at this point I'm giving it a 9/10, but only because I read up on the film after the fact & found out it references a slew of other westerns. Since I've seen exactly none of the films it references, I'd like to watch some (if not all) of said films before I watch this one again just so I'll have a greater appreciation for what Leone has done here. At that point we'll see if it's bumped up to a 10 (and odds are it will be).
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 272 Average listal rating (169 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.5
First viewing

Yet another offering from the Netflix chopping block. If it weren't for these I'd have virtually nothing watched this month as there's simply too much going on.

Far from my favorite Hitchcock film, but this one's solidly entertaining. There were some excellent moments of comedy here that I fully appreciated, and the performances were really good I thought. And so while I dug it for the most part, the ending soured the overall experience for me a bit as it went over the top with its patriotism. Still, it's absolutely worth a look.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1205 Average listal rating (813 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
First viewing

The holiday weekend provided me with a long-overdue opportunity to make it out to a movie theatre. Yay! Options were explored, and my woman & I chose The Descendants because we both dig Alexander Payne's previous films & we figured that everyone will be out watching The Muppets (which we'd also rather catch at Alamo Drafthouse so we can see lots of Henson's work before settling into the movie).

First off, the cast is impressive all around & I thought the film benefited from having Clooney play against his usual type, which he does very well here. His role choices seem to get better & more interesting over time. I noticed a few themes/ideas in common with About Schmidt and Sideways here, which I found interesting, and I was constantly engrossed in the story & characters. It didn't quite reach perfection for me, however, as the ending was a bit predictable & the emotional impact it was striving for didn't quite hit me as intended (no tears here, but my woman cried).

Definitely worth a look.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 417 Average listal rating (302 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 5.9
I vaguely remember catching this one on TV years ago, and the only thing that really stuck with me was that Jessica Lange was in it. Now that I've re-watched it I think I know why.

Aside from her looking beautiful from start to finish, there's not a lot worth remembering from the film. It was entertaining to see a young Jeff Bridges looking very Dude (about 20 years before he'd play that role), & the rest of the cast commits themselves as best they can. Unfortunately, the sense of fun & adventure runs out around the time Kong shows up, the effects are mostly cheesy, and the script is full of problems. Add to all of this a comparison with the original and Peter Jackson's excellent remake, and the film comes off even worse than it did by '70s standards.

See also: PvtCaboose91's review
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Well, let's see...the film begins with Rosie Perez (who I can't stand, and this film introduced her to the world, which is another strike against it) doing a Fly Girls routine (yes, I watched In Living Color) over Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" (a song that was surely never meant to have a choreographed dance done over it). That didn't start this one off on the right foot with me.

I never really connected with any of the characters, the comedy fell flat most of the time for me, and the overall presentation annoyed the living shit out of me. I was interested in what was going on, but I wouldn't say I was impressed by any of it nor that I was really enjoying it. And so I was on my way to calling this an overrated piece of crap.

But then 3 guys walk into a pizza parlor with a radio & suddenly the film steps up and moves toward Greatness. From that moment through the end we've got something really Amazing and thought-provoking to deal with, and I was left feeling like I need to re-watch this before I can truly say just how I feel about it. And perhaps I do.

For now, however, I'm going to rate it based on my initial experience with it. Clearly I won't be able to revisit it too soon (as I type this I've got one more film to watch before it leaves Netflix & then work will prevent my watching any movies until after this one's gone from instant too), but I'll keep it in mind that I need to re-watch it one day. And perhaps then my feelings toward it will improve.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

I originally added this to the IQ after my parents recommended I check it out, and overall I enjoyed it. The filmmakers clearly had big balls to put out this kind of a movie at the height of the Cold War, and I admire that. The performances are solid & there's some really hilarious moments to be enjoyed. On the other hand there's a romantic subplot that doesn't quite work for me, and the comedy isn't as consistent as it could be (and this is, after all, a comedy). Still, these are minor flaws in the grand scheme of the film & neither really took too much away from my enjoyment.

Definitely worth a look.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
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The breakdown: 34 shorts & films, & 1 TV episode (The Walking Dead) for October. Of those only 2 were re-watches which means a lot of first-views. Made 3 trips to the theatre for repertory horror films, watched 2 films via a DVD loaner (thanks to jaytoast), 2 films & 3 shorts via Youtube, and the rest were all Netflix instant. The majority of my October viewing was horror movies in celebration of Halloween, all of which can be found on my October 2011 Horrorfest list (in case you're wondering why there's only 3 in this section). Also of note is that The Comedy of Terrors was my 200th film of the year.

Having a horror focus this month helped raise my numbers far above the usual 15-20 per month average, and overall the results were pretty damn good. Found several new favorites among what I watched, and only 2 films turned out to be wastes of my time (Dr. Phibes Rises Again and Carnival of Souls, the latter of which I had higher hopes for). However my favorite thing about this month was the sense of community I felt here at Listal among my fellow horror fans. I loved being able to keep up with & compare notes on all the horror-centric lists (all of which I linked to from mine), & felt more connected to this site than I ever have. So while I'm glad I can go back to a more relaxed routine watching movies for a while, I'm also looking forward to doing this again next year.

On a final note, Netflix was mostly kind to me as it only removed 2 non-horror films that I was able to catch. Unfortunately at the end of the month they excised about a dozen films, some horror some not, of which I only managed to catch 2 before the month ended. On the bright side of that most of what they eliminated was either in my 50 Classic Horror DVD collection or films I wanted to re-watch, which left only a couple I'm bummed I missed. But that close to Halloween there was no way I was diverting my attention from horror movies.

Best films for October: Peeping Tom, Duel, & The Others
Best hidden gem I found: Anguish
Avoid at all costs: Dr. Phibes Rises Again (just watch the original)
People who added this item 214 Average listal rating (130 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7.1
Caught this short film from Christopher Nolan (perhaps you've heard of him?) as part of the pre-show entertainment when I went to see Inception at the theatre last year. I still dig it.

And in case you don't notice below, I have added the short film to its Listal page for others to see.

DOODLEBUG - short film by Christopher Nolan at Listal
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 251 Average listal rating (185 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.4
First viewing

Had to catch this one before it left instant. Take the principal cast members from A Fish Called Wanda, give them similar characters and a completely different plot, and you have Fierce Creatures. It's nowhere near as good or funny as Wanda, but if you liked seeing Cleese, Palin, Curtis & Kline on the screen before you'll find this an entertaining film too. Some of the humor falls flat (mostly for both of Kline's characters), but the bits that do work work very well. I especially liked the references to both Wanda and Monty Python sprinkled throughout, and those probably largely account for my not dropping this down to a 6/10.

Solidly entertaining, but not necessary.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 555 Average listal rating (368 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.8
First viewing

Given another break from my horror run thanks to yet another random Netflix exorcism. The performances here are solid, the story is really well-told (with a fair amount of 80s ridiculousness thrown in), and I liked what the film had to say (if you take the time to think about it afterwards that is) about relationships & people through its examination of the deterioration of one. I couldn't really connect much with the characters, & had to chuckle at Kathleen Turner mentioning early on that she was putting on weight (have you seen her lately? She's put on a lot of weight & is rather scary looking). Also because I'm horrible I was mildly disappointed by one scene's impact being negated by a quick jump cut that felt inserted after studio execs or whoever complained that audiences wouldn't be OK with it. So in the end I wasn't blown away by it, but I did really enjoy it for the most part.
the giraffe's rating:
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The breakdown: 16 films watched, 13 via Netflix in one way or another, 1 on DVD, 1 online, and 1 in the theatre(!). I watched films (including 2 documentaries and 1 short) from 6 decades this month, 1 from the 50s, 4 from the 70s, 4 from the 80s, 3 from the 90s, 3 from the 00s, and 1 from the 2010s.

Had more good luck than bad this month, and once again Listal friends' recommendations led me to find some new favorite films. For the most part it seems I can trust you. ;) Watched a handful of films that I personally found overrated for a variety of reasons, but only one of those wound up annoying me to the point of shutting it off early. Also I seem to be falling prey to disappointments due to easily predictable plots, which I'm chalking up to my having watched enough movies to generally be able to figure out where a film is going. Sometimes the technical merits outweigh that, but not often, which makes the more surprising films all the more rewarding.

Best film for September: Cinema Paradiso
Best hidden gem(s): Hausu/The Lonely Guy (tie)
Avoid at all costs: Tetsuo: the Iron Man (unless you're into movies that are annoying to watch, in which case go right ahead...apologies to Xanadon't, who recommended it to me)
People who added this item 1154 Average listal rating (795 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.3
I watched The Sting years ago with my dad, and the main thing that stuck with me was the ending. Well, tonight I wanted something light to watch & that I could stay awake for, and The Sting was the highest voted film in my queue that fit the bill. And I got exactly what I was looking for. I definitely appreciate it even more now than I did the first time around, as everything about it works really well to deliver a great, memorable film.

Definitely watch it if you haven't already.

Currently streaming on Netflix

Thanks to the following for the votes on my IQ list that helped encourage me to check it out again sooner: phillydude, Hillaviina, Coby, and Bml93
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt has a reputation for being emotional, and sure enough, not five minutes into Tim Irwin's documentary We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen, Watt chokes up. It happens when he shows Irwin the San Pedro, CA park where he met his best friend and musical partner D. Boon. As Watt describes how the two 13-year-olds bonded over George Carlin and history textbooks, he looks visibly distraught. Nearly 20 years after Boon died in a highway wreck, Watt still feels the loss.

Minutemen fans feel it too, and Irwin's documentary is full of moments that'll stick in their throats. Like hearing Boon's friends and family refer to him as "Dennis" instead of the familiar "D." Or seeing the band onstage: Boon strangling his guitar and bellowing, Watt popping his bass and puffing, and hulky Sean Penn look-alike George Hurley tapping at his drum kit like it's a typewriter. Irwin also leans heavily on the iconic image of Watt behind the wheel of a van, as the bassist spiels about how the Minutemen were born outside the proper Los Angeles punk scene, and developed an ethos based on openheartedness, working-class politics, and artistic adventure, rather than any codified notion of cool. Boon, Watt, and Hurley were self-taught, and gravitated to punk because it let people like them get on stage, even if they were more into jazz, funk, and Credence Clearwater Revival than thrash.
--from the documentary's review on A.V. Club

There's another paragraph to the review above if you're interested...I've omitted it because I disagree with it. Considering the Minutemen were never a popular band in any way, everything about this documentary is pitch-perfect. Hearing from other, better-known musicians and artists that were fans of their music serves as a tribute to the Minutemen's legacy. Seeing the old, mostly lower-quality live footage that serves to punctuate the entire film is the perfect way to see the band play as they did. We're talking about a punk band whose career ended in 1985, not some big-name artist with the money to afford professional videographers. And since most people familiar with the Minutemen will already know all about Double Nickels on the Dime, the fact that it's devoted less screen time than the rest of their story makes perfect sense to me.

If you're into punk and DIY, no wait, scratch that...if you're into MUSIC you should check this out. Otherwise, carry on.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

"Cannabis is not a health problem. The problem is that it promotes social values & attitudes which are unwelcome in capitalist, market-based society. It's just that simple. A drug like coffee, with a horrendous health profile compared to cannabis, is completely welcomed into the marketplace & the home & the lifestyle of modern people. This is simply that we value certain states of mind, and we fear & suspect others. And this is based entirely on value systems that are inculcated from above."
--Terence McKenna

Hmm...well, on one hand this documentary is full of great, unbiased information that people really need to hear (especially since the so-called "revolution" still hasn't happened). On the other hand, it plays like an old TV documentary & is therefore mostly dull to watch. Add to that the unfortunately stereotypical moments of seeing dudes with long hair arrested at hemp demonstrations and "trippy" (or rather, simply annoying) visuals, and it's difficult for me to highly recommend that others watch this one. Had it skipped said visuals and focused more on positively enhancing the overall viewing experience I'd easily rate this a perfect 10.

So, I'll say it's a perfect 10 on providing information that's important for people to hear, but since it's so lacking as a film I'm docking it a few stars.

Currently streaming on Netflix; leaves instant watch on Sept. 17th
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 677 Average listal rating (445 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 7.1
Tommy Boy (1995)
First viewing

Back when Tommy Boy came out, I wasn't a fan of Chris Farley OR David Spade. Since then I've found an appreciation for the latter, but not so much the former. Well, finally watching this movie didn't help much. Oh there are plenty of funny moments here, but there's an equal amount of moments that are supposed to be funny but really aren't (or maybe I just think other actors have done slapstick FAR better than Farley ever did).

Add to that a predictable by-the-numbers script and some instances of unbelievable acting (neither Farley nor Spade are convincing when they're "crying" for example), and it doesn't win many points from me. Granted there are some really funny scenes, but overall I could have gone on ignoring this film & not have missed much.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1059 Average listal rating (637 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.8
First viewing

Coppola shows the same confident patience in his story-telling here that helped make The Godfather great. And he's truly one of the masters behind a camera. Combine that with a fantastic performance from Gene Hackman and The Conversation becomes a pretty captivating film. The musical score is one of the best I've heard from the decade, and there are sequences in this film that really mesmerize, sometimes in an unsettling way.
--from Xanadon't's Monthly Movie Journal: May 2011

To the above I'd add that if I had a single complaint about the film, it'd be that a lot of the pieces to this mystery puzzle box were so obvious to me that I picked up on them as it moved along. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, however, nor does it mean that I didn't appreciate the technical aspects of the film. I just felt like a little less could have been revealed than was I guess. Or maybe I've just watched too many movies & read too many books. ;)

Currently streaming on Netflix; leaves instant watch on Sept. 16th
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 523 Average listal rating (303 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.4
House (1977)
First viewing

Quite possibly the most amazing visual experience I've ever encountered. That alone should justify a 10/10, but the story side & characters could have been a little better, as they get a little outshined by the visuals. Still, this is absolutely a must-see.

Once upon a time, the gang from Scooby Doo met Mario Bava and Salvadore Dali in an old dark house somewhere in Japan...and they said, "Zoinks! Like, let's make a movie, man!" Then the Cheshire Cat strolled in, eyes flashing green, grinning from ear to ear, with a sack full of shrooms saying, "I'm the f**cker with the bag of trips that's gonna hold this absurd concoction together!". This movie is the document of that madness. Amazing!
--Hexenkult's review

A horror comedy that's less horrifying and funny and more totally insanely bizarre. The bare bones story here is that a group of practically named Japanese school girls heads to a house in the country for summer vacation. Then strange stuff happens.

In all reality all that plot and characterization is not at all important. This film is all about the crazed vision of director Nobuhiko Obayashi. It's filled with odd storybook painted backdrops, weird visual camera effects and strange shot framing. It's less a film with a cohesive storyline and deep characters and more a unsettling trip into Obayashi's imagination. If you're looking for a film that makes you laugh AND shake in terror this really isn't for you. If you're looking for a cheesy, imaginative, immensely weird visual project then House might fit the bill. It's not for everyone but it's one of a kind.
--madstalk's review

While it would be easy to dismiss this film as 70s trash, it should be praised for its sheer ingenuity and diversity. Where else could you see stop-motion animation, blue-screen work, early CGI and actual handpainted backgrounds used to this effect? The girls die in extremely unexpected and wacky ways, the one that caught my attention in particular involves a demonic piano, and there are just so many totally random, non-sensical moments (such as a man turning into a load of bananas because he tells someone he doesnโ€™t like melons) that you sit with a huge grin on your face the whole way through.
--talia_sparkle's review
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 86 Average listal rating (52 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.3
First viewing

Wow. I haven't laughed that hard that often during a movie for a long time now. I've been slowly working my way through Steve Martin's earlier films, and this is by far the best of what I've watched over the past year or so. Charles Grodin almost steals the movie, but overall it's the dialogue in each scene that shines the brightest. I feel like I need to re-watch this a few times just to catch everything, as I was often still laughing at a joke when another one or two followed quickly behind it. I was so caught up in the dialogue that if the film had any flaws I failed to notice them. So for now, the quality & quantity of laughs delivered has earned this a top spot for me.

Currently streaming on Netflix

Special thanks to phillydude for continually encouraging me to check it out.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 122 Average listal rating (65 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 6.9
Shaolin (2011)
First viewing

Holy crap I made it out to a movie theatre for a new movie!

All right, now that the initial shock has passed I'll say a little about the movie I watched. Shaolin is a solidly entertaining movie, with solid performances throughout. Unfortunately, I failed to connect with the film emotionally for whatever reason & so I left feeling not much different than when I'd arrived. The director's choice of occasionally using slo-mo effects instead of letting scenes play as they were was curious especially when they were utilized during some of the more dramatic moments. Not sure what he was trying to convey with that, unless he was trying to annoy me in which case he succeeded.

The action sequences were pretty average compared to a lot of other martial arts films I've seen, all believable but none of them especially memorable. I suppose the same could be said for the film as a whole, though I wouldn't say I regret watching it in the least. After all, a mediocre Chinese film is more worth my time & money than a mediocre American one (especially these days).
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1724 Average listal rating (1041 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.7
Ponyo (2008)
First viewing

Far too cutesy for my personal taste, but the visuals are outstanding. Of course if you've seen enough anime this comes as little surprise. Clearly Ponyo was inspired by The Little Mermaid, but unlike that story there's no real sense of danger anywhere to be found here. It's all too childish and optimistic to invoke any feelings of tension, and while it may not always be predictable the outcome is exactly what you'd anticipate.

On a side note, as a parent I found much to complain about regarding Sosuke's mother. She drives recklessly while never making sure her son is wearing his seatbelt, endangers him by insisting on driving home during tsunami-like conditions, and abandons him at home to venture back out into the storm & help others. Oh yeah, and this is a 5-year-old boy, not a teenager.

Anyway, worth a look but overrated.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1065 Average listal rating (689 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.8
eXistenZ (1999)
First viewing - Xanadon't recommendations night pt. 1

I've got a slew of films leaving Netflix instant this week, starting with this one, and so I'm trying to get as many of them watched as I possibly can. eXistenZ and the 2 films below are leaving first & all of them were added to my instant queue thanks to their endorsements by Xanadon't so I decided to just watch them back-to-back.

I started off with what wound up being the best of the bunch. My limited experience with Cronenberg's films has taught me to expect a heavy dose of weirdness, which is fully on display here. I dug the multi-layered storyline here as well as the social commentary on the idea of escapism. Add to that some solid performances and a sense of humor and we've got one excellent movie.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 553 Average listal rating (302 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 6.9
First viewing - Xanadon't recommendations night pt. 2

Tetsuo: The Iron Man is an assault on the senses & truly original. And that's about the best I can say for it. The visuals and the fact that the character interactions mostly involve screaming got old for me really quickly, and I wound up turning it off early out of frustration (NOTE: it's only 64 minutes long).

Watching it I couldn't help but think of Nine Inch Nails's broken video, which I suppose means it was an influence on that. Unlike NIN's faux-snuff film/video showcase, however, there was nothing to keep me fully invested no matter what was thrown at me.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 146 Average listal rating (70 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 5.4
The Broken (2008)
First viewing - Xanadon't recommendations night pt. 3

Ah and so we go from thoughts of broken to The Broken, which I also had issues with & almost gave up on. The pacing throughout the first half was so ploddingly slow I started to fall asleep & was wondering if anything would ever happen. And then things DID start happening, and it wound up being a more intense experience with a rewarding ending. I notice now that Xanadon't's comments in his July movie journal mention it being a slow-burner, and I wish now that I'd re-read that before watching it rather than after the fact so I would have been better prepared. My fault.

Worth a look if you've got the patience.

(And for those keeping score, that's 2 films Xanadon't & I agreed on and 1 we didn't. Thank you, sorry dude, and thank you to him.)
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1537 Average listal rating (900 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.5
First viewing

A beautiful love letter to cinema and a wonderful story about love & friendship & growing up. Beyond that it's hard to put my feelings about this film into words, so I'll simply say that you should go watch it.

Special thanks to AFIoscar for the recommendation
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 1949 Average listal rating (1274 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.2
First viewing

I never really had an urge to watch Some Like It Hot before. Seeing dudes in drag was funny when I was a teenager, but now that I'm in my 30s it's a tired gag. Were it not perhaps I'd find this film funnier than I did, though really I didn't laugh much aside from an occasional chuckle.

That's not to say this isn't a well-made film. It is. The cast is perfect, the story is great, and it's still a rewarding film all these years later. I just felt like the humor it's renowned for failed to connect with me for some reason. Fortunately everything else did connect.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 936 Average listal rating (669 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.9
First viewing

I thought I'd seen Romancing the Stone before, but it turns out I hadn't. I've just seen a handful of scenes so many times throughout my life that I was convinced I'd seen it. Oops.

I didn't find this as funny as some say it is either, though I did laugh out loud more often than I did with Some Like It Hot. The thing I most appreciated about it, however, was the fact that the hero of the film didn't do much of anything other than help & support the damsel in distress who only thinks she needs saving.

See also: PvtCaboose91's review
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 7.4
Caught this short film back in the 90s by accident. I was recording some anime off the Sci-Fi Channel & it ran between 2 of the films they showed. A recent exchange of short films with AFIoscar led me to look it up & so I've added it to Listal for others to see. Check it out here:

Richard O'Brien - The Contraption at Listal
the giraffe's rating:
Add items to section


The breakdown: 16 films watched, 15 of them first views, all via Netflix one way or another except for The Big Lebowski. 4 from the 1960s, 4 from the '70s, 2 from the '80s, 2 from the '90s, 3 from the 00s, and 1 from 2010.

Recommendations from various sources worked largely in my favor, as I knocked the top 3 films as voted by my fellow Listalites out of my IQ with good results. Voting is now closed on that list, so thanks to all who participated! I'll be continuing to use it to help me clear out my IQ whenever Netflix isn't dictating what I need to watch.

Best film for August: Wait Until Dark
Best hidden gem I found: Shock
Avoid at all costs: Casino Royale (1967)
People who added this item 2520 Average listal rating (1716 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8.2
Casino (1995)
First viewing

Well I finally caught a break & managed to sit down to watch Casino. And while it's certainly a well-made film I had some issues with it. I realize there's a lot of information to convey, but the narration got tiresome at times for me (I'd rather be shown things than told them I guess) and I feel like the film could have been trimmed a bit. Each time the pace slowed a bit I found myself checking the clock to see how much longer it'd go on. Add to all this that at the end of spending 3 hours with all these characters, the ending left me indifferent for the most part. Seems to me that everyone got what they deserved in the end, and, well, so what?

But maybe that's just me, or maybe it's simply a matter of taste. Don't get me wrong, I found much to admire about the film. I just didn't appreciate it as deeply as perhaps those who voted it to the top of my queue.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Let me start by saying that I have NOT read the book(s) and had zero interest in this movie prior to seeing it earn much praise among my fellow Listal people. And while said praise was encouraging, the final thing that convinced me to give it a look was finding out Fincher is making the American adaptation.

Now that I've watched it, I can't see anyone else BUT Fincher making the American version. It had moments that made me think of his other films (especially Se7en), so I'm sure he'll do a great job with it. However, I also feel like his version is unnecessary so long as this one exists.

I dug the story & characters, and thought the mystery was well-done throughout. I had some minor issues along the way, such as accepting that Apple computers can enhance pictures as well as they do in this film, and a general feeling of there being a wall between me and the characters that the film never found a way to bring me past.

Definitely worth a look.

Currently streaming on Netflix
Thanks to the following Listal members for the recommendation: Bml 93, drugs, Hillaviina, captaine, Kris, and johanlefourbe
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 821 Average listal rating (499 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.6
Blood Simple. (1984)
First viewing

The genius of "Blood Simple" is that everything that happens seems necessary. The movie's a blood-soaked nightmare in which greed and lust trap the characters in escalating horror. The plot twists in upon itself. Characters are found in situations of diabolical complexity. And yet it doesn't feel like the film is just piling it on. Step by inexorable step, logically, one damned thing leads to another. . . .

As I wrote in my original 1985 review of "Blood Simple": "Every individual detail seems to make sense, and every individual choice seems logical, but the choices and details form a bewildering labyrinth." They build crazy walls with sensible bricks.
--Roger Ebert
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 375 Average listal rating (255 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.2
Django (1966)
First viewing

Clearly Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino are fans of this film, as 2 key moments have been recreated in films by each. I found it very entertaining, but not quite Great. The acting leaves something to be desired at times, and some slower moments kept me from being consistently engaged. Still, it was worth the time spent watching it & I enjoyed it for the most part.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 510 Average listal rating (331 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.1
First viewing

While I can appreciate the film's legacy as pioneer of the slasher genre, which led to its influencing other slashers from Halloween to Scream, I didn't think this was that great of a movie. Due to its followers the film is pretty predictable in many respects (a fact I found impossible to forget about), though the ending helps elevate it a little. The acting could have been better, and more screen time could've been given to 2 of the 3 characters I actually liked, but in the end this is an entertaining film. Definitely worth a look if you're into horror, and/or you like your horror without excessive bloodshed.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 98 Average listal rating (52 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.3
Shock (2010)
First viewing

Simply amazing. Shock probably deserves a 9/10 for its occasional moments of cheesiness and sub-par acting, but by the end I decided those could be forgiven (this is, after all, a B-movie). The haunted house tale is riveting, the performances very strong most of the time, and the ending impressed and highly pleased me. So I'm calling it perfect & counting it among my favorite horror films.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

Clearly Netflix thought I needed to catch up on some '70s horror this month. This little zombie film is full of ridiculousness (including a police detective claiming a woman on heroin would gain the extra strength to attack and kill a man) and cheesiness, but if you can overlook that there's much to enjoy. The last half is especially entertaining, which was worth the slow build of the first third. Jorge Grau is no Romero, though he was clearly influenced by Night of the Living Dead as is evident in several places. At least he decided that a blow to the head wasn't enough to kill these zombies, but going with setting them on fire yields mixed results.

Solidly entertaining, but not really necessary.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 361 Average listal rating (238 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.5
The Omega Man (1971)
First viewing

Since Netflix has immersed me in 70s horror lately, I decided to watch the last remaining 70s horror film in my instant queue, The Omega Man. It's far too campy to take it seriously, full of cheesy one-liners, sub-par acting, and ridiculous situations. Unfortunately, some of those ridiculous situations undermine the film and render certain events unbelievably stupid. It succeeded in entertaining me enough that I sat through it without completely regretting doing so, but in the end I feel like I could have skipped it and not missed anything.

I still need to watch The Last Man on Earth, but for now the Will Smith-helmed adaptation of I Am Legend remains my favorite.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 410 Average listal rating (239 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.7
First viewing

Of all people, my mom originally recommended this one to me...she rarely watches movies anymore due to her dislike for graphic content and general disinterest in the movies she sees advertised. Anyway, for several years now she's occasionally reminded me that I needed to watch Wait Until Dark, and I've kept forgetting about it. I am an idiot for doing so.

Admittedly the situations are a bit unbelievable, but the dialogue and characters ring true enough throughout and the suspense is so well-done that it's easily forgiven. Alan Arkin's Mr. Roat is now among my all-time favorite villains, and Wait Until Dark has earned a place among my all-time favorite films.

Listen to your mother. ;)
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 2974 Average listal rating (2105 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.9
Star Trek (2009)
First viewing

A brief personal history before we get into this one, because I feel it necessary: growing up I liked the original Star Trek series, as well as the first few films it spawned. Wrath of Khan remains my favorite of the early films, primarily for the ways it continues to stand out in my memory despite the fact I haven't revisited it in many years. My interest in the franchise died, however, with The Voyage Home, and I never got into any of the subsequent Star Trek films or TV series. So when I saw the trailers for this one I wasn't interested in the least, and were it not for the general support for it on Listal I probably still wouldn't have given it a chance.

Well, I definitely enjoyed it far more than I'd expected to. The characters are mostly handled with great care & therefore well-defined. The action sequences are great, the dialogue very good, and overall this is an above-average blockbuster film.

On the other hand, we've got a merely adequate villain (definitely no Khan), a cliche/contrived plot device to justify and explain what's going on in the film, and a complete lack of any sense of danger for our protagonists. After all, for this to be a document of the early years of Kirk and his crew, that automatically tells us they have further adventures ahead of them. So no matter what the Enterprise's crew goes through I never once thought anything other than that they'd be OK. Oh yeah, and as much as I like Simon Pegg, I felt the character of Scotty was mostly a weak link in the film. All of the "comedic" situations happening around his character fell completely flat for me.

For more, check out PvtCaboose91's review.

Currently streaming on Netflix
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 4298 Average listal rating (2890 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.1
The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners.
the giraffe's rating:
First viewing

As documentaries go, there's nothing especially outstanding about No Impact Man in terms of technique or overall effect. On an informational level, however, there's a lot to take away from it. It's thought-provoking & insightful, and I feel like it's essential viewing for the ways it made me think about my consumption and wasteful habits.

Much like Super Size Me helped change the ways I think about food, No Impact Man has me thinking about what I can change about my consumption. Check it out.
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 815 Average listal rating (530 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.2
First viewing

Why haven't I watched this already? Re-Animator is a nice spin on the Frankenstein tale, full of memorable scenes, hilarious moments, and buckets of blood. I'm also positive that Danny Elfman stole part of the music for A Nightmare Before Christmas. :P

Looks like I'm becoming a fan of Stuart Gordon's...guess I'll be adding more of his films to my queue!
the giraffe's rating:
People who added this item 214 Average listal rating (129 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 7
Get Low (2010)
First viewing

See lotr23's review.
the giraffe's rating:
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July through December
My original Watched in 2011 list was getting a bit long, so I've decided since the year has moved into its 2nd half I should split it up.

Right, but, see...this year goes to 11.

Listed in order of when I watched them, starting on the first of each month. Current month displayed at top, previous months beneath. Updated once per day that movies are watched (or perhaps the day after), so check back. First views will say so, otherwise you may assume that I'd seen the movie prior to July of 2011. Comments, thoughts, links to Listal reviews & so on included to expand on my ratings, if I think it's necessary.

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