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Daredevil (2003)
Affleck Before He Was Batman, 30 September 2014

A man (Ben Affleck) blinded by toxic waste which also enhanced his remaining senses fights crime as an acrobatic martial arts superhero.

The film offers a broad overview of the Daredevil story, throws in Elektra, Kingpin, and Colin Farrell horribly miscast as Bullseye. (Anyone who thinks Duncan was miscast is a fool.)

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars and called the film good, despite noting the almost typical superhero background. Of the actors, he stated that Affleck and Jennifer Garner were suitable for their roles, while Duncan's presence alone was menacing. He finished by saying "I am getting a little worn out describing the origin stories and powers of superheroes. Some of their movies, like this one, are better than others."

Most notably, the film brought together Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner and gave them a lasting marriage and children. Wow, a comic book romance!

Indie Horror Master Takes On A Crime Thriller, 30 September 2014

When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.

Director Jim Mickle found inspiration all over for this film; he was influenced by "Road House" and the Korean drama "Memories of Murder". After exploring feminist themes in "We Are What We Are", Mickle wanted to explore more masculine themes in "Cold in July". He called the film "the other side of the coin" to "We Are What We Are" and a film about being "sucked into your own kind of action movie." Mickle tried to work in many 1980s themes and references to John Carpenter's work from that period, most notably his scores. George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" also makes an appearance.

Mickle's career has been fascinating to watch, with his rise over the last decade from low-budget independent horror to bigger budget horror and now a crime thriller (with no horror elements to speak of). If he continues on this trajectory, he may become a huge mainstream success in the next year or two.

The film has received mixed to positive reviews. Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Tense and violent, it grabs you from the first moments and rarely loosens its hold until the last body drops." This is a good review, and while the violence seems to get a lot of coverage in the reviews, what really plays well is the tense suspense. There is always the sense that something is coming...

A Movie-Lovers Film, 30 September 2014

A filmmaker recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movies at his village's theater and formed a deep friendship with the theater's projectionist.

In many ways, this film anticipates "The Long Day Closes" and "Hugo". While "Cinema Paradiso" is probably not the first movie about enjoying movies, it is easily the most successful and critically acclaimed. Terence Davies was likely influenced, and there is no doubt that Martin Scorsese was.

"Cinema Paradiso" was shot in director Tornatore's hometown Bagheria, Sicily, as well as Cefalù on the Tyrrhenian Sea. This makes the film somewhat more interesting for Sicilians in Wisconsin, as they largely trace their roots to Bagheria.

Not the Movie It Should Be, 30 September 2014

Jay and Silent Bob hit the lottery jackpot, and use their cash windfall to become crime-fighting superheroes.

This short film should have been along the same lines and the same animation style as the failed (but loved) cartoon series. This, however, is not the case, and rather seems to use "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" as its jumping off point. From there, it is an endless stream of jokes that are crude even by Kevin Smith's standards (the obsession with penis jokes, ejaculation and anal sex never stops).

Smith's legions of fans seem to be going strong. Shrinking, perhaps, but still a powerful force, and surely many will watch this film. One suspects, however, that few will really enjoy it.

Deservedly a Top Ten Film, 30 September 2014

A dissenting juror (Henry Fonda) in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.

Today's audiences will find a young Jack Warden, perhaps now best known as Big Ben from "Problem Child", and Wisconsin-born John Fiedler, whose voice is recognizable as Piglet from "Winnie the Pooh". Along with Ed Begley and Henry Fonda, you already have a strong cast (and the other eight men are no slouches).

This film is timeless, both as a tribute to great actors of their generation, but also as a testament of the greatness of the American justice system. One likes to think this has inspired at least a few people to approach jury duty with the utmost seriousness and give the concept of "reasonable doubt" a run for its money.

John McNaughton's Twists and Turns, 29 September 2014

A police detective uncovers a conspiracy behind a case involving a high-school guidance counselor when accusations of rape are made against him by two female students.

While this film is perhaps not as critically-acclaimed as the crime comedy "Mad Dog and Glory", this is the more satisfying McNaughton police story, with a great mystery and more intrigue. You never really know who is working with who until the very end.

The DVD commentary pays close attention to all the attempts to have beautiful lighting and backgrounds. There are a few behind the scenes tips, such as the use of cardboard where more expensive visuals would be no better. We even find out that one scene is actually an homage to "Red River", which you might never have figured out.

Solid Crime Comedy, 29 September 2014

After his life is saved by a lonely cop, a mobster who moonlights as a stand-up comedian provides the cop with a beautiful young companion.

I love that the mobster hails from Melrose Park, which I would call the most corrupt of all the Chicago suburbs. One also has to notice the mobster in therapy, which sort of anticipates "The Sopranos". And, of course, a dynamic performance from McNaughton regular Tom Towles.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying, "The movie is very funny, but it's not broad humor, it's humor born of personality quirks and the style of the performances." He went on to add that the film is "the kind of movie I like to see more than once. The people who made it must have come to know the characters very well, because although they seem to fit into broad outlines, they are real individuals -- quirky, bothered, worried, bemused." He probably gave the film higher honors than anyone else, as many seem to find it just so-so or even boring.

A Great Film, 29 September 2014

Chronological exploits of Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata), a murderous thief on the lam.

Take a great story, throw in some religious overtones (who knew that the Catholic Church had an influence in Japan), and you have a good film. Heck, a great film. (That Roger Ebert named this one of his "great films" is quite appropriate.) Not well known to American audiences today, with no known actors or director, it really needs to be re-examined for a new generation. Japan had much more to offer than Samurai films, and this has to be one of the first serial killer movies out there.

A Bizarre Yet Beautiful Mind Bender, 29 September 2014

A brilliant plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas), haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.

The film has been compared to "Eyes Without a Face" (1960), and there is a clear visual homage to the old French film. But this film goes much further, is much more extreme, and the similarities end early on.

While the film is gritty at times in its subject matter, it is shot beautifully and this makes it art when it could have just been exploitation or straight horror. In fact, despite being horror, it is hard to see it as such because it is so stylish.

Every Bit As Bad As People Say, 28 September 2014

The Mario Brothers rush to save a princess (Samantha Mathis) from Koopa (Dennis Hopper).

This movie bombed at the box office, losing $20 million. Critics did not like it, fans apparently were not thrilled (not even Mario-loving kids could fill the seats enough to break even). This reviewer saw the film when it came out on video and was not thrilled.

Twenty years later (2014), I have revisited the legendary flop. Age has not improved it, not one bit. Had this script been written from scratch without being very, very loosely based on a game, it might now be considered a cult classic. In all fairness, there were some clever ideas and the effects are not bad by 1993 standards.

The problem, of course, is that the source material is a game, but the fans of the game will find little to appreciate here. The movie was not geared towards kids, did not incorporate the game's music, kept almost none of the plot. If this was not appealing to fans of the source material, who was it meant to please?

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