Film Review: Daredevil – Director’s Cut (2003)

Also known as: Daredevil: A Daring New Vision (Director’s Cut title)
Release Date: February 9th, 2003 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano, Jon Favreau, David Keith, Leland Orser, Erick Avari, Ellen Pompeo, Paul Ben-Victor, Robert Iler, Coolio (Director’s Cut only), Mark Margolis (uncredited), Kane Hodder (uncredited), Frank Miller (cameo), Kevin Smith (cameo)

Marvel Enterprises, Horseshoe Bay Productions, New Regency Pictures, 103 Minutes, 133 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“[Director’s Cut version/Narrating] Violence doesn’t discriminate. It hits all of us… the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick. It comes as cold and bracing as a winter breeze off the Hudson. Until it sinks into your bones… leaving you with a chill you can’t shake. They say there’s no rest for the wicked. But what about the good? The battle of Good vs. Evil is never-ending… because evil always survives… with the help of evil men. As for Daredevil, well… soon the world will know the truth. That this is a city born of heroes, that one man can make a difference.” – Matt Murdock

My review of this film is specifically for the Director’s Cut. It’s a far superior version of the movie and frankly, it’s the version that should have been released in theaters.

The theatrical version was kind of shit and a major disappointment. The Director’s Cut, however, showed that the director had made a much better film that was unfortunately butchered by the studio, probably due to its running time. In fact, the theatrical version chopped off thirty minutes from director Mark Steven Johnson’s preferred body of work.

If I’m being honest, though, Johnson is not a great director and this film, even in its superior Director’s Cut presentation, still has a lot of flaws and feels kind of dated, even for its year of release. Although, comic book movies hadn’t really found their proper groove yet, as Nolan’s first Batman movie was still two years away and the first MCU movie was still half of a decade out.

Daredevil also didn’t have the budget that other comic book movies would get just a few years later, as it was made by a smaller studio that had to offset the licensing fees they paid to acquire the character and his pocket of the Marvel Comics universe.

Still, the performances mostly make up for the weaker things in this film. I really liked Ben Affleck as Daredevil and Jennifer Garner did well as Elektra. Most importantly, the two had tremendous chemistry, which I guess was pretty natural and genuine, as they got married a few years later and stayed together for thirteen, which is a lifetime in Hollywood.

I also really liked Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk and Jon Favreau was a great Foggy Nelson.

My only real issue with the cast for the larger roles was Bullseye. Colin Farrell is a good actor but this version of the character was baffling and if I’m being honest, stupid. Bullseye should have been a bit nutty but he also should’ve been in his proper costume and not looked like a guy selling codeine at a rap-metal concert. But I guess Marvel editor Joe Quesada suggested to the director that Bullseye shouldn’t wear his traditional outfit. I guess that’s just another reason to dislike Quesada on top of his large part in destroying his own industry because of politics, hiring unproven talent for diversity reasons and lashing out at customers on social media. But I digress.

The film has a decent enough story, even if it feels pretty bare bones and paint by numbers. The Director’s Cut actually expands on the story, adding in more context and nuance, as well as a side plot that makes the overall experience a much better one than the theatrical version.

I especially liked the origin stuff about Daredevil as a kid. The scenes between the kid actor and his dad, played by the always underappreciated David Keith, are damn good.

Another thing I don’t like, though, is the style of the fighting in the film. It’s fine when everything feels grounded and real but it gets ruined by relying too heavily on the Hong Kong style of martial arts filmmaking. There are too many moments where it is obvious that the characters are on wires and you see them move in ways that don’t make sense in regards to actual physics. That shit doesn’t work for this sort of film. But I get it, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a massive hit a few years earlier and Hollywood tried to emulate the Hong Kong style but kept failing miserably outside of The Matrix movies.

Daredevil – Director’s Cut is still pretty enjoyable, though. Age didn’t really improve it or ruin it. It’s mistakes are pretty clear but they were also clear in 2003.

However, I still really like the cast, for the most part, and it would’ve been interesting seeing how this could’ve continued had sequels bee made. Instead, the studio stupidly opted out of that and went with an abominable Elektra spinoff, a film that I still haven’t been able to stomach in its entirety. But I guess I should review it soon, as I work my way through all of the Marvel movies ever made.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel comics films before the Marvel Cinematic Universe started in 2008.

Film Review: End of Days (1999)

Release Date: November 16th, 1999 (US premiere)
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, Rod Steiger, CCH Pounder, Derrick O’Connor, Miriam Margolyes, Udo Kier, Mark Margolis

Lucifilms, Beacon Pictures, 122 Minutes

Review:

“How do you expect to defeat me when you are but a man, and I am forever?” – Satan

This may be the worst Arnold Schwarzenegger movie I have ever seen. It’s truly deplorable on just about every level. Granted, it did give the world that awesome “choir boy” line.

I’m sure there are a few worse Schwarzenegger movies, as he’s made a lot and a good amount of the later ones are shit, but I tend to stick to his ’80s and early ’90s stuff. There are still a handful (or slightly more) that I’ve never seen due to a lack of interest on my part. Honestly, everything after Eraser, kind of just blends into a big blur.

That being said, this is the first time that I’ve watched this film in its entirety, as I just didn’t have much interest in it back when it came out in late 1999, at the dawn of the new millennium.

Also, at the time, these “end of days” movies were coming out in droves, as the fear of Y2K and the new millennium in general spawned a huge resurgence in religious horror. From memory, none of them were all that good, except for maybe The Devil’s Advocate but it’s been so long since I’ve seen that one.

End of Days just sort of follows the trend of the time but throws in Arnold and tries to give it an action movie twist, as opposed to just being about religious horror.

The movie was originally written to be a vehicle for Tom Cruise. I assume that he read the script and ran because he eventually said “no” and then went off to film Magnolia, which was a really wise decision. There were also three casting changes with the lead female character. It eventually went to Robin Tunney, who I like in just about everything, but the role was first given to Liv Tyler and then Kate Winslet; both dropped out.

There were production issues in locking down a director too, as it was offered to both Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro but they turned it down to focus on their original projects. Marcus Nispel was hired, at one point, but he dropped out due to issues with the script. The studio finally brought in Peter Hyams, who was coming off of The Relic and two Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks: Sudden Death and Timecop but was probably most famous for directing The Presidio, 2010 and Outland, a space western with Sean Connery.

However, despite all these early production issues, they really aren’t the biggest problems with this movie.

The script is just detestable. It’s really bad. It’s cookie cutter, generic, “Satan comes to Earth” schlock of the cheapest and lamest caliber. It’s not a good story, it’s derivative as hell and simply wedging action into the plot doesn’t make it cool or even salvageable. Frankly, all the twists are predictable and you can sleep through most of the movie without waking up, feeling lost.

What’s even worse than the script are the special effects. This has some of the worst CGI effects I’ve ever seen in a big budget movie, even for the time. The stealth armor effects of Predator, which predates this by twelve years, blows this out of the water in regards to its “invisible” Satan scenes.

Additionally, the big CGI Satan is laughably bad and it completely wrecks the final battle within the movie.

There’s honestly a lot I could pick apart about End of Days but to put it simply and to wrap this up, it’s just lowest common denominator horseshit and even though Schwarzenegger has made some real crap in his career, the guy deserved better than this.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: all the other religious horror that was running rampant around the turn of the millennium.

TV Review: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Original Run: January 20th, 2008 – September 29th, 2013
Created by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter, Mark Margolis, Michael Bowen, Bill Burr, Raymond Cruz, Jere Burns, John de Lancie, Larry Hankin

High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, Sony Pictures Television, AMC, 62 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I came to the Breaking Bad party pretty late but after multiple seasons of people raving about it, I ended up binging through it all just before the last season premiered.

I also almost quit the show, as the beginning of the first season drags. But once I got to the end of Season One, everything just sort of clicked and I was hooked. But even then, I thought that it would be good but that it would slowly lose steam, as all shows do and eventually, I wouldn’t care about it.

Breaking Bad did something that almost no other show has been capable of doing, though. It continued to improve and get better as it rolled on.

Just when you thought the show reached its peak, it’d throw a curveball or shock you in a way that television shows before this were never able to do. And most importantly, it either gave you satisfying resolutions to plot threads or it subverted expectations and actually gave you something better and surprising.

Frankly, I hate the “subvert their expectations” bullshit that creatives in Hollywood seem to be clinging onto because 99 percent of the time, it’s just an indicator that they’re out of ideas and their only solution is to take a big shit and go, “Ha! You fans didn’t see that coming! I’m a genius! Adore me!”

No. Breaking Bad subverts expectations and gives the viewer something better. And it didn’t just do this once or twice, it did it quite often and it was consistently really fucking good at it. More than anything, that’s what made this show so great.

Additionally, very extreme things happen on the show but it never jumps the shark or takes you out of reality. Everything feels real and plausible and it does a superb job in staying grounded and not taking a turn for the ridiculous, as many shows have done that started out really strong.

I’d have to say that the best thing about this, though, is the cast. Everyone, top to bottom, is perfection.

Almost every character in the show starts at one end of the spectrum and finds a way to make it to the opposite side. All of this happens slowly and naturally. Characters you like become ones you despise and ones you might not have liked become lovable. There are secondary characters that stay the same throughout but many of them are there to be measuring sticks, to show you how every main character evolves in their own way over five seasons.

I know that there has been a ton of hype about this show for years but it is one of the few that lived up to it and actually, in my opinion, exceeded it. Breaking Bad is as close to a perfect show that you can get for a crime drama with neo-western and neo-noir flavors.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other modern crime dramas but this is the best of the lot.

Film Review: Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)

Also known as: America’s Red Army: Delta Force II, Delta Force II: Operation Crackdown, Spitfire: Delta Force II (working titles), Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold (Uruguay subtitled version), Comando Delta 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: May, 1990 (Cannes)
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Written by: Lee Reynolds
Based on: characters by James Bruner, Menahem Golan
Music by: Frederic Talgorn
Cast: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, John P. Ryan, Paul Perri, Richard Jaeckel, Begona Plaza, Mateo Gomez, Hector Mercado, Mark Margolis

Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Take her to my bedroom – first give her a beautiful bath – get rid of the baby.” – Ramon Cota

This didn’t really need to be Delta Force 2. I mean, it’s got Chuck Norris and he’s kicking the shit out of stuff but he didn’t need to be the same character, he could’ve been any random Chuck Norris character or a new one and it wouldn’t have mattered. I guess Delta Force had some branding and name recognition built into it but this just feels so different than the original film.

But hey, it’s still a damn fine action picture that was put out by the maestros of ’80s action, Cannon Films. It hits the right notes, it has a good level of senseless violence and not only does it star Chuck Norris but it stars the always stupendous Billy Drago.

In fact, this is one of my favorite roles Drago has ever played. He is absolute perfection as the evil and slithery villain, Ramon Cota. Hell, Drago’s performance here should be considered an acting lesson on how to play sadistic drug lords. The dude can just convey so much with so little. He speaks with his face and his eyes in a way that the best actors in the world can’t.

It’s pretty damn sad that we lost Drago and his talent a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s why I watched this movie. I wanted to be reminded as to why I became a lifelong fan of his in the first place, as this movie was my first experience seeing him haunt the minds of heroes.

Now apart from Norris and Drago, we also get John P. Ryan as an American general who doesn’t care whose toes he steps on, Mark Margolis as a Colombian general in league with Drago’s Cota, as well as Hector Mercado as an undercover agent.

The cast is stacked full of manly men who are very capable of giving this sort of film life. And despite not having Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn and Steve James, I enjoy this movie a wee bit more than its predecessor.

This came out towards the end of Cannon’s dominance over the action film genre but it still measures up to their other kickass pictures.

I can see why people consider the first one to be a better movie (and it probably is) but I just love Drago, Norris and how well they play off of each other in this. Norris needed a true villain and Drago was exactly that. He was the Joker to Norris’ Batman.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Delta Force, as well as the Missing In Action trilogy and other Chuck Norris films for Cannon.

Film Review: Pi (1998)

Also known as: π
Release Date: July 10th, 1998
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette, Eric Watson
Music by: Clint Mansell
Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib, Pamela Hart, Ajay Naidu, Joanne Gordon, Stephen Pearlman

Protozoa Pictures, Artisan Entertainment, 84 Minutes

Review:

Pi is the first feature film from Darren Aronofsky. As I am slowly re-working my way through his too small of a film catalog, I figured I would start with his first film.

This movie is probably my favorite Aronofsky film, I’ll wait to confirm that for sure until after I revisit his other work and I still haven’t seen Noah, his most recent effort.

For a film that was shot for $60,000, Aronofsky did a brilliant job of stretching that money and making this film work. It was grainy, dark and at times disorienting but that worked for the film and not against it and to be honest, it was intentional and gave this movie a depth and a darkness that it wouldn’t have otherwise had. While Aronofsky’s Requiem For a Dream is dark and unsettling, it has a clean and pristine look to it. This film accomplished more visually with the director forced to make the best out of his lack of equipment and tools.

The plot of this film is pretty straightforward but still feels disjointed at times. Granted, it is supposed to feel that way, as well as surreal and often times a few steps outside of reality. While you know what is happening, you are never sure of what is real and what isn’t and while that is a plot device that has been used more times than I care to remember, this film does it in a very effective way and ultimately, when the ride is over, you don’t care about what was a real experience and what wasn’t because either way, the main character has gone on an insane journey involving mathematical equations, the secret to cracking the universe, secret evil Wall Street societies and angry Jews who want the mystical numbers in an effort to talk to God.

The main character was played by Sean Gullette, who also co-wrote the film with Aronosfky and has gone on to be a pretty accomplished screenwriter after this film. He acted incredibly well in this film and while his character Max was hardly likable in any way, you still felt for him and cared about his well-being. It was hard not to respect a guy who had the level of intelligence he had and even though he was a prick, he was an interesting character that pulled you in.

One of my favorite actors, Mark Margolis (who is now probably most known as Uncle Tio from Breaking Bad a.k.a. the wheelchair dude with the bell), plays Max’s mentor who has a similar obsession with numbers as well as the board game Go. Margolis was tremendous in this picture and his performance was chilling, as he gave what I felt was something so organic and real that he was more than just some supporting character or mentor in this film. In a way, Margolis sort of became the voice of God warning Max away from his thirst to crack the universe with numbers.

Many films lose their effectiveness on repeat viewings. Pi does not. It is a masterpiece by Aronofsky and was one hell of a starting point for his career. He started with the bar really high. Luckily for us, for the most part, he has lived up to the hype and the standard that he created for himself back in 1998 with this great picture.

Rating: 10/10