Daredevil (2003) – Mark Steven Johnson
Vastly underrated flick. It doesn’t have the artistic heft of Nolan’s Batman flicks or the pure entertainment value of Maguire’s Spider-Man movies, but it’s a lot of fun. Affleck spends more time out of the suit than in, which made a lot of people hate the movie, but he’s actually not too bad. Colin Farrell indeed steals the show with his brilliantly witty turn as Deadeye, the guy who needs “a bloody costume.” And Michael Clarke Duncan is a joy forever as Kingpin; the moment when he simply reaches down and rips DareDevil’s mask off is a moment I’ve been wanting to see in a superhero movie since forever. Even better than that? His reaction is startled laughter. Better than you probably heard.
David (1997) – Robert Markowitz
This is the sixth in the series of Biblical television movies made for Turner Network Television back in the nineties. It is at this point that they begin to go off the rails. The first five (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samson & Delilah) are all very good, very serious adaptations of the Scriptural stories. But this one has a lot of problems. Nathaniel Parker, so good on the Inspector Lynley series, is a serious miscast as David; he never shows us the vulnerability of the troubled king. Jonathan Pryce is a good cast as Saul, but he’s killed off far too early. I suppose this one just feels too rushed; in the story of David, from his days in the sheepfold to the rebellion of his own son, Absalom, is one of the greatest Biblical stories, but even three hours isn’t enough to do it half justice. Maybe the only reason to watch this is something that I thought wouldn’t work at all, namely Leonard Nimoy, of all people, as the prophet Samuel; surprisingly, shockingly, he’s wonderful, unpretentious and sincere. But the rest of the movie is mainly a misfire. Too bad.
The Lower Depths (1957) – Akira Kurosawa
This is out on Criterion and I recommend you track it down. It’s Kurosawa taking on Gorky’s The Lower Depths, which is, after Hamlet, my second favorite play. Kurosawa transplants The Lower Depths from the Russian slums to a broken down Japanese boarding house. Kurosawa sometimes played pretty loose with his adaptations; his version of Macbeth, Throne of Blood, had not a single line from the original play in it. This time, he’s slavishly faithful; this film contains almost the entire text of the play. This isn’t a problem; it’s a great frigging play. In point of fact, this is one of Kurosawa’s absolute best films and, dare I say it, this has Mifune’s best performance. Bokozun Hidari, a Kurosawa standby, is also probably career best here as a reticent, cryptic pilgrim. I suppose it’s easy to see how this film got lost; The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashomon, Ikiru, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, Ran, High & Low, Stray Dog, Kagemusha . . . Kurosawa’s output is staggering. But don’t let this one get away from you; it’s a forgotten masterpiece from Kurosawa and, obscure though it is, it deserves to stand on the shelf with any of his other classics.
Thirteen at Dinner (1985) – Lou Antonio
Very dull Agatha Christie film with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Ustinov’s a great actor, so it pains me to say that he’s horribly miscast and pretty awful in this movie. He did a couple of others in the role too. Faye Dunaway barely registers in a supporting role. The only one worth watching is David Suchet, who would make the definitive Poirot a few years later on the still running Poirot television series. Here, he’s playing Inspector Japp, which is unbelievably ironic.
The Miniver Story (1950) – H.C. Potter, Victor Saville
A completely bizarre sequel to Mrs. Miniver. Not nearly as good as Mrs. Miniver, which is a warm, compassionate classic. There are some poignant moments in this film and Greer Garson is, of course, still absolute perfection as Mrs. Miniver. It feels a bit like a desecration, however; the original movie is such a great experience as to make you kind of dislike this attempt to thrust more melodramatic angst into the life of Mrs. Miniver, especially when she contracts one of those tragic movie illnesses which is going to cut her down in the prime of her life. Yeah, whatever; she survived the war, now let her alone, for Pete’s sake. Ultimately? Not worth your time, though there is a rampagingly hilarious scene in which Garson goes to visit her daughter’s married lover, who proceeds to beat the ever-loving hell out of a piano and devour the scenery like no one before or since.