> Volume 5 > Number 07

Volume 5, Number 07

This Week's Reviews:  Daredevil, Talk to Her.

This Week's Omissions:  The Jungle Book 2, The Quiet American.

Capsule Reviews:  A Guy Thing, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Mark Steven Johnson

Ben Affleck
Jennifer Garner
Colin Farrell
Michael Clarke Duncan
Jon Favreau
Joe Pantoliano
David Keith

Release: 14 Feb. 03



As adapting television shows becomes a forgotten fault of the 1999s, film producers intent on their next possible series have turned to comic books. Instantly, they can have a base audience, a series of storylines, and commercially viable merchandise. By comparison, the dour Batman seems dark, dingy, and oh-so-1989. And if the commercially-minded production of these films seem to be in line with the Reagan/Bush '80s, the dumb, flashy, but still commercial, 21st century superheroes seem perfectly in tune with the consensus on our current president.

Daredevil, the latest in the drove, is the dumbest. Where Spider-Man worked under the venue of existentialist drama (or at least as existential as pop art gets), Daredevil just seems sad and listless. Call it Sartre's Nausea for the 90210/Dawson's Creek generations, but without the slightest interest in posing the personal anguish over the lead's feelings.

Different companies were behind Spider-Man and Daredevil, which brings me some relief in my fear over X-Men 2, The Incredible Hulk, and the other Marvel Comics properties currently going through pre-production. I want to blame 20th Century Fox for turning a seemingly interesting comic book character into a boring, simpleton in a red suit. Daredevil, as best I can tell, is a character worthy of the heights -- no pun intended -- Sam Raimi brought to Spider-Man.

But Mark Steven Johnson's vision of Daredevil is more Schumacher than Burton, more bubblegum than molasses. When this superhero does his job, most of the visuals are on the technical achievement coupled with the fast editing of an ADD kid. Nothing is subtle within the film, which would be acceptable if this comic book adaptation were aimed at kids. Considering the violence and sex within, the kids must be growing up fast or this is meant for the true fans who grew up with Daredevil.

I cannot speak for that fan, but I can say that this Daredevil is a waste of time for the uninitiated. Maybe the destitution is a nuanced reflection on the original. Maybe all this lackluster confusion comes from the original frames. Maybe the drawn Daredevil was just as boring and murkily presented as this one.

Much of the dissatisfaction of watching the film comes, I think, from the cast. How is it that Colin Ferrell, a career decomposing in every American film he appears in, is the most memorable thing about a movie that stars Oscar winner Ben Affleck, Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, and Emmy winner Jennifer Garner? He chews up the scenery as a manic second-tier villain worthy of Jack Nicholson's first-tier Batman work. The writers give him the worst dialogue in the film -- though there's still much to go around for the rest of the cast -- and he makes it Shakespearean.

Affleck spends most of his time playing Daredevil in an introspective pose (is that the character's blindness or his aimlessness?) before then playing the alter ego Matt Murdock in a pained introspective pose. Even when he's having lunch with a constantly joking Jon Favreau, his personality seems DOA.

And Garner doesn't help either, though at least the writers admit her inability to play two levels by essentially making her superheroine Elektra little more than her normal self in skintight leather. Their romance seems more puppy love than super-love, but in a world where the superhero has issues that weigh on him more than anything else, who can blame an old flame for calling him on the phone to break up? At least on the phone, she can act like his inability to look her in the eyes is out personal shame instead of more important personal issues.

Spider-Man -- and I do hate constantly comparing one good film hero to a bad one -- at least felt real despite all the fancy special effects (as I said in my review of that film, my greatest regret was that the CGI looked so bad that they took away from the perfected reality Sam Raimi had created). Daredevil is pained, or so the film tries to remind us in every single scene. His pain, I suppose, is meant to make his task seem more important. Instead it just makes watching the film feel like watching a manic- depressive dress in red leather and play Gargoyles on skyscrapers.

©2003, David Perry,, 14 February 2003

Pedro Almodóvar

Javier Cámara
Darío Grandinetti
Leonor Watling
Rosario Flores
Geraldine Chaplin
Mariola Fuentes
Adolfo Fernández

Release: 22 Nov. 02

Talk to Her


Benigno (Cámara) seems nice enough. Spending his days as a nurse in a Madrid clinic for comatose patients, he works diligently to make sure that his assigned patient, Alicia (Watling), is as happy in this void between life and death as she would be if conscious. But watching his doting over her becomes increasingly creepy -- he fetishizes her as if they are a couple even though they barely knew each other before she was struck by a car four years ago.

Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her, nevertheless, refrains from judging Benigno. Even as we are shown the extremities of his obsession, working up to him committing an act that cannot be completely consented, Almodóvar lets his imagined relationship seem natural. This is, of course, the same director who made an entire film, All About My Mother, about his own obsession with women, both those born female and the men who wish to be female.

This is not the only relationship that Almodóvar watches, though, as he includes another man and his comatose lover in the form of sports journalist Marco (Grandinetti) and a woman matador Lydia (Flores). Just as they were heading into a relationship of deep meaning -- something that seems to have been missing in both their lives -- she is gored by a bull and placed under the care of the clinic Benigno works for.

Though he isn't assigned to Lydia's bed, Benigno is important to this side of the story as well. Whenever in the presence of his Lydia, Marco is unable to react other than ponder the romance he's forever lost. Benigno tries to remind him that the most important thing in cases like this is to talk to her. What happens, though, is that Marco finds more comfort talking to Benigno than talking to Lydia.

Thus Almodóvar tries to introduce his other relationships to ponder but not judge. Like the relationship between the living and the comatose, there's also a problem in the man/woman relationship and the man/man relationship. Though less homosexual than Almodóvar's previous men, these are two characters who share similarities that are lost on their female lovers. Both Benigno and Marco want desperately to be loved, thinking that they can find it in two women who may never wake from their deep sleep. What they miss is that their closest companions are sitting next to them in this, their waking life.

The film begins with Nina Bausch's surrealist play Cafe Müller, in which women walk blindly as a man moves furniture out of their way. Marco and Benigno serve in this capacity for their women, though the service seems to be more for themselves than for Lydia and Alicia. More importantly, though, is the man directing all this. For the men and women of Talk to Her, Pedro Almodóvar is constantly moving things around to fit their stories. There's always some contrivance built into his films, an offspring of his Sirk/Fassbinder-style love for melodrama.

The way Almodóvar wrestles with these ideas is not terribly unlike the way he had to wrestle with his own identity in the 1960s and 1970s, as Franco's Spain made it impossible to survive as an openly gay man. He was a figure of the Spanish underground and his films were meant to recreate that revolutionary excitement. His films have and still do. His love of the melodrama is not unlike Todd Haynes or François Ozon -- both of whom are openly gay -- but comes more from the love of its emotional freedom. Where Haynes and Ozon each made their own look at the stuffiness of a Sirkian existence in Far from Heaven and 8 Women, respectively, Almodóvar has been a consistent font of the vigor that lush Technicolor (modestly recreated as streams of bright colors by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe) and proud melodrama can create. He does create the false barriers at work in Haynes' work, but does so without ever making his characters seem impossibly stuck in their melodramatic milieu.

So as to free his characters from their imprisonments -- a theme that has been constant in Almodóvar's recent films, including the imprisonment of a physical handicap in Live Flesh and the imprisonment of being stuck in the wrong gender in All About My Mother -- Almodóvar lovingly repositions all the impediments. He works with these oblivious lost souls in the same way Benigno takes care of his Alicia. The obsession is holy, but immodest. Together, their love is unwavering, if brilliantly excessive.

©2003, David Perry,, 14 February 2003


A Guy Thing

For 90 minutes, the boyish naïveté of Jason Lee tries desperately to save A Guy Thing from feeling like another forced romantic comedy in which a man somehow overcomes his machismo to save his relationship with some well-behaved woman. And yet he never succeeds because his romantic counterpart is the epitome of said machismo. Julia Stiles, who seems like a great person in every interview I've ever seen her in, spoils yet another film by confusing Katherine Hepburn with Spencer Tracy. Trust me, it's not a pretty sight.

Chris Koch

Jason Lee
Julia Stiles
Selma Blair
James Brolin
Shawn Hatosy

Release: 17 Jan. 03

©2003, David Perry,, 14 February 2003
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Romantic comedies in which the two people are at odds the entire time should be funny, right? Like Just Married, the relationship at the center of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has all the interesting developments of two cookies in the oven: they seem to change, but not enough to merit the fact that you've stared at two globs of dough for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, I'm becoming more certain that Kate Hudson is a greater cancer on cinema than her mother.

Donald Petrie

Kate Hudson
Matthew McConaughey
Kathryn Hahn
Annie Parisse
Robert Klein

Release: 7 Feb. 03

©2003, David Perry,, 14 February 2003

Reviews by:
David Perry