Friday Fisticuffs: Daredevil (2003)

Back before I knew for sure how good comic book movies could be with Iron Man and Batman Begins, I thought Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil was a pretty damn good flick. I was and still am a fan of Ben Affleck and really appreciated how the film wasn’t bogged down as an origin or Year One type story. They cover some of that stuff and then move on to a story about a hero who’s been doing his thing for a while.

So, how does it hold up? Not great, unfortunately, but I still like it. Aside from Jon Favreau’s performance as Foggy Nelson (I completely forgot he’s played not one, but two sidekicks to super heroes) and moments when Affleck’s Matt Murdock is hitting on Elektra, most of the performances are a bit overwrought. We get it, Murdock, your life kinda stinks. Actually, I thought Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin and Colin Ferrell as Bullseye were kind of awesome in an over-the-top way that reminded me of Punisher: War Zone, another film I dug.

But, the purpose of this post isn’t necessarily to discuss the finer points of the film and performances or how well it compares to the comic (something I care much less about almost 10 years later than I did when I was 20). The point is to talk about the fights. And, they’re actually pretty rad. Your mileage may vary, especially considering some of the goofier moments, like Matt and Elektra play fighting on a playground doing all kinds of crazy flips and whatnot and the fact that most of the final battle takes place on a giant church organ. The following clip has a pretty gigantic SPOILER if you haven’t seen the flick.

I thought they did a good job approximating Daredevil’s super senses in the early fight scene where he goes after a woman beater and rapist named Jose Quesada who got away with the crime (seriously, I can’t believe they named a rapist after Joe Q, that’s ridiculous). They look sleek and fast, but the whole shakey cam thing with super fast cuts hadn’t come into vogue just yet, so you can actually see what’s happening. Farrell and Garner deserve extra credit because you can actually see their faces during these scenes. I have no idea if Affleck did his own fights or what, but it would have been easy to sneak someone else in.

Anyway, like I said, it’s not a great film. It doesn’t really hold a candle to the two movies I mentioned above and I’m not really sure where I would rank it in my all time favorite Marvel movies, but I still like it.

Quick Movie Review: The Invention Of Lying (2009)

I hadn’t heard good things about Ricky Gervais’ The Invention Of Lying. I don’t exactly remember what those not good things were, but they didn’t stop me from putting this flick towards the top of my queue along with all the other movies which have a very long to short wait and get sent whenever the Netflix gods deem me worthy. Luckily, the missus and I actually really enjoyed the movie, so forgetting the bad things people said wasn’t such a big deal (and probably a good way to go about life in general, but I digress).

The idea behind the movie is that in the world of Gervais and company (including Rob Lowe, Jennifer Garner, Lous CK, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Nathan Corddry, Martin Starr, Jason Bateman, Christopher Guest, Bobby Moynihan, Ed Norton, Stephen Merchant and Philip Seymour Hoffman, mostly in one off cameos) humans never developed the ability to lie, but somehow, in the course of this story something clicks in Gervais’ head and he can lie. Since the world doesn’t know what lying is (they don’t seem to have words for real and fake or their synonyms because up till then, they didn’t need them). Gervais spends the movie digging himself deeper and deeper by not only making up a movie (which, in this world, is just a video of a reader reading a script of historical events in a chair) that involves aliens and ninjas to basically creating religion, all the while trying to get with Garner. Garner’s not having any of it because she wants her kids to be genetically superior and doesn’t want Gervais’ short, chubby genes taking over for her hot ones.

Overall it’s a pretty interesting movie that has some logical flaws like people always saying what they feel. Maybe this is a philosophical argument, but not saying something and lying aren’t the same thing to me. Of course, those statements resulted in the most laughs so what are you gonna do? I also got to wondering about this world’s original societies. Historians believe that early man invented gods because he really believed they were there, but did that happen in this world? Or, did they just stop once someone came along and said “Hey, that’s just the sun, not the eye of a giant god.” Anyway, even with those questions in mind, I still liked the movie, thought it was pretty funny and especially liked that Hollywood created a movie like this. Alternate realities in a romantic comedy? Doesn’t exactly seem like the most obvious movie to put out does it? But, as I like to remind myself, there were times when the most popular TV shows were Twilight Zone, I Dream Of Jeanie, Bewitched and Lost In Space. Maybe we just need a little more sci-fi, futuristic, alternate reality weirdness in our lives that doesn’t come from hour long dramas like Lost and Fringe. Basically, I want How I Met Your Mother IN SPACE!!!

Alias The Final Season

I wouldn’t have thought that after my reviews of the first and second, then the third seasons of Alias that the series finale would leave me feeling kinda bummed out (though, if you read my review the the fourth season, it might not seem too out there).

This season saw the real and fake deaths of plenty of characters, the return of former regular cast members, the birth of Sydney and Vaughn’s baby, characters switching sides and the introduction of two new characters. One played by Rachel Nichols (Scarlett in the G.I. Joe movie, which I still haven’t seen) and Balthazar Getty from the very first (and most watched) David Lynch movie I ever saw Lost Highway. Their characters offer the writers to tread a lot of the same beaten paths we’ve come to expect from the show, but, like the previous season, it doesn’t really bother me and I grow to like the new characters all the while growing more and more fond of the existing ones.

This was a tough series finale because one of my favorite characters dies, but they do it saving the world, so it makes me feel a little bit better. I also like the very end of the series which jumps several years into the future and shows their daughter a little more grown up. There’s an interesting little tease there that I wonder if anyone has ever thought about picking up. Maybe Abrams didn’t get it out of his system which is why he went on to do Mission: Impossible 3 and his new upcoming spy show on NBC. We shall see.

So, in the end, I’m not sure if I can recommend watching Alias all the way through. Left to my own devices, I don’t know if I would have gotten past the first two seasons (interestingly, the ones that everyone says are brilliant), but now, 5 seasons later I find myself liking the characters and feeling like I might even miss them. But I guess you might miss anyone who’s spent so many hours in your house with you, even if it was just on a TV screen.

Alias Season 4 Was Pretty Rad

I’m sure after my previous two posts that it comes as a shock to find out how much I enjoyed the fourth season of Alias and I can firmly give credit to two sources. One, a clearly higher budget (a dude shatters and there’s a giant floating red ball over a city among other SFX) and the other, Mr. Drew Goddard who came into write towards the end of Buffy, moved to Angel, then wrote and produced Alias and went on to write Cloverfield. He only wrote 5 episodes according to IMDb, but every time I noticed his name, I enjoyed the episode, but I also enjoyed all the episodes on a much higher level. Maybe it’s because I knew what to expect, but what could have come off as cheesy and over-the-top to others, just felt awesome to me. Even the twists, many of which Em and I called, were fun to watch. And the season finale with the family kicking ass and taking names was awesome. They were like a real life super hero team and I love that kind of stuff. I was also thrown by the last few minutes and am psyched to get the first disc of Season 5.

I’ve also got to call out an episode called “The Road Home” which guest starred Jason Segel of Freaks & Geeks, Knocked Up, How I Met Your Mother, I Love You Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame. He plays a guy in another country (can’t remember which one) who gets caught up in one of Jennifer Garner’s ops. It’s a great little fish out of water story with an actor I love. Overall, the famous guest roles were way down this season, but one guy returned that I love and haven’t mentioned yet, and that is Angus Scrimm. He played the crazy old guy who interrogated everyone in the first season or two but has disappeared thanks to the plot twists. He’s back in this and I love seeing the Tall Man in anything. Fantastic casting, by the way. Damn, he’s creepy.

 

"Look, Another Girl Fight Season Finale"

The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.

The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.

The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.

So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.

Jennifer Garner’s No James Bond

I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that we’ve been watching Alias. I had intended to do a review after the first season, but we got into the second one right away and I’ve been busy, so now’s as good a time as any to talk about the show now that we’ve finished the second season. SPOILERS abound.

For the record, I don’t love this show. And I’ve heard that the first two seasons are the best and it declines into the third, so I’m not sure how the rest will go, but Em digs it. My problems with the show are many, but one of the biggest is that our heroine, Sydeny Bristow, played by Jennifer Garner, just isn’t that good at her job. Sure, she can throw a wig on, sex it up and get the information she’s after, but she’s not the best fighter and she tends to get overly emotional when it comes to certain aspects of her missions. Now, I know that James Bond gets put to the ropes and doesn’t win every single fight he’s in, but he doesn’t cry about it.

Another big problem I have with the show as a whole is that it seems like all the big problems presented are tied up too tightly. What, it seems like Sydeny’s handler Michael is a spy? No, he’s just digging up dirt on her mother. Does this go anywhere? Absolutely not, it’s only used to make Sydney and us suspicous. But it just doesn’t work. There are all kinds of moments like this. Things don’t happen in a natural way and they come out as forced and obvious. There also seems to be this “let’s fool the viewer” mentality, which, once you catch on to, it makes for some pretty obvious storytelling. They’ll lead with an idea, you’re supposed to think A is going to happen, but because you know you’re supposed to expect A, you assume Z will happen and then Z happens.

This is exemplified perfectly in the season 2 finale fight between Syd and the woman posing as her friend Francie. Sydney actually comes off as a badass here, but the problem is that the story the writers are trying to tell isn’t matched by the fight choreography, so what you see is a fight that Sydeny should clearly be winning (especially considering her training), but, because the writers don’t want it to be too one-sided, she makes what look like stupid tactical mistakes just so her opponent can gain the upper hand at times. It was an intense fight, very brutal, but it just felt too written and unnatural.

I also have to call foul on the Season 2 episode “Truth Takes Time.” This is a game changing episode, but it was so artificially done that I was screaming at the TV. You see, Sydney’s mom turned out to be a spy back when Syd was a girl, but she turned herself in to the CIA, got everyone to trust her and then escaped to team up with the series’ big boss bad guy Sloane. In this episode there were just way too many ridiculous things happening I couldn’t stand it. First, Sloane’s wife turns herself in to help the CIA after hearing how crazy her husband is. Meanwhile, Sloane’s thinking of giving up his 20-year mission because his wife is freaked out. Great timing right? Can you guess what’s going to happen?

So, Sloane’s wife tells Syd and the CIA where he will be so they can grab him. Now, they don’t surround the building well enough to actually stop them when they’re running through the yard to the spot where the helicopter will pick them up, which was annoying. But then, Dixon, one of Syd’s partners, is on a hill with a sniper rifle trained on Sloane (with his wife alongside him), but the dude gets startled by a helicopter flying over him as he fires and, of course, kills Sloane’s wife. But here’s the thing, Sloane is sitting there for a WHILE and Dixon doesn’t take a second shot at Sloane or the helicopter. There was plenty of time for him to take several other shots and he doesn’t because he’s upset that he killed an innocent woman. I get it, he’s a good guy, but he’s also a well trained super spy who has killed COUNTLESS people.

I get that shows like this have to keep going on a combination of adventure and emotion, but it’s the emotional parts at the wrong time that get under my skin. They show later that Dixon, after realizing he shot Sloane’s wife, rolls over on his back and looks upset. WTF?!! He’s a damn spy! Take the second shot and THEN cry about it. I don’t know spys from anything other than the movies and I know they’re human beings, but Syd even talks about how she was trained to compartmentalize her emotions, which I assume is something real spies do as well, so freaking do it!

But, it’s not a bad show all around. I like all the characters, though tech geek Marshall has a tendency to poke at my nerves with his nervous, pointless rambling. And the set up of the first season: a spy finds out she’s not really working for the CIA, so she goes to the real CIA to become a double agent who finds out her dad is also a double agent was pretty cool. Limited, but cool. And the fact that they completely changed the game in the middle of the season by taking out all of the Alliance (bad spy guys) cells was pretty mind blowing. So big props for that kind of thing.

Another aspect of the show, and the thing that really kept me interested throughout the first season, which I found to be pretty dull for the most part, was the idea of this Renaissance inventor guy Rimbaldi and all his crazy inventions. It’s become the backbone of the story now, but I feel like we haven’t been shown enough of his inventions and what they can do (hopefully we’ll get more of that in Season 3, though we’ll see). I also feel like they let it dangle and fall off the radar for too long and it’s lost a bit of its luster going into Season 3, but we shall see. It’s a strangely fantastical concept for a show seemingly so steeped in reality.

One reason I think I didn’t like the show is because we were watching so many episodes on DVD in such a short period of time. When you do that, the little things become a lot more obvious and annoying as the slap you in the face several times in one evening as opposed to once a week. I think there’s also a difference in storytelling with shows like this now that the writers know everything will be online and on DVD. It seems like it might be like comic book writing where you’re “writing for the trade.” It might not make sense in single bits, but when everything’s together, you’ll get it. They also don’t have to remind the audience awkwardly of things in-episode and spend time on things like reviewing the entire season, that’s what the “Previously on…” part is for. There’s even a full-on clip show with new material wrapped around it (Terry O’Quinn interviewing Sydeny about her involvement with the bad guys). It was during this episode that it struck me that you don’t get episodes like this anymore. Sure, we get Lost shows where there are clips and people talk about what’s happened so far, but it’s not a canonical episode of the show. Since Alias started in 2001, it was just at the beginning of the whole TV on DVD thing and should get a limited pass because of it.

So, it’s been an okay show, not something I would give up many other shows to watch, but since nothing’s really on this summer, it’s worth a peep. I had heard that the second season finale wasn’t so hot, but I’m down with this two year jump (though why Michael would get married so damn quickly is beyond me). I’m curious to see where things go and, since I’m already not that into the show, I’ll be interested to see how it jumps the shark.