Match Cuts: “Daredevil”

Match Cuts: “Daredevil” (photo)

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In Match Cuts, we examine every available version of a film, and decide once and for all which is the one, definitive cut worth watching. This week, in honor of the new Marvel Comics superhero movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” we’re looking at the Marvel Comics superhero movie “Daredevil.”

-Theatrical Cut (2003): 103 minutes
-Director’s Cut (2004): 133 minutes (listed at 124 minutes on the box for some reason)

Blinded as a boy in a construction site accident, Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) prowls the streets of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, defending its people as the masked vigilante Daredevil. Matt can’t see, but his accident boosted his remaining four senses and gave him an extra sense to boot, a “radar sense” that allows him to map his environment by interpreting the movement of sound waves. By day, Matt is a lawyer; by night he seeks the justice he doesn’t find in the courtroom as Daredevil. It’s a sad, lonely life until he meets Elektra (Jennifer Garner), the karate expert daughter of a Greek billionaire (gotta love comics). With their shared love of tight leather and beating the shit out of people, they seem like kindred spirits. But New York’s crime Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) is looking to get even with Daredevil and Elektra’s father, and he sends a deranged hitman named Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to break up the happy couple.

All Hollywood movies are the product of collaboration between many different people. But from the sound of “Daredevil”‘s two audio commentaries — one for each cut — all the different people in charge of “Daredevil” had different ideas about what the film should be, and their collective vision for the project was about as clear as Matt Murdock’s. 20th Century Fox hired Mark Steven Johnson to make “Daredevil” on the basis of his screenplay and his take on the character, which was dark and bleak. Then they tested the film and discovered that audiences preferred the relationship between Affleck and Garner. In order to put the focus more squarely on the love story and to accelerate the film’s languid pace, they demanded major cuts. The studio’s shortened version opened in February of 2003 and did well enough at the box office to convince them to release (something close to) Johnson’s original cut on DVD.

The “Daredevil” Director’s Cut is not one of those cash-in b.s. jobs that’s basically the theatrical version with a couple extra shots of gore or nudity. It’s an extensively different movie. There are subtractions as well as additions, and the film isn’t simply longer, it also has a drastically different tone.

As we already covered, the dictum from up on high at Fox about the film was to focus on Matt and Elektra. Not surprisingly, the most interesting changes between the two cuts of the film occur during the characters’ romance (You can watch the scene I’m about to discuss on YouTube; it’s not embeddable). In the Theatrical Cut, Matt and Elektra meet on the street, and he takes her to his favorite spot in the city, a rooftop with a beautiful view of the New York skyline. It starts to rain, and Matt uses his radar sense to “see” Elektra’s face as the sound of the water drops hitting her skin. It’s a beautiful moment, but it’s almost immediately ruined by the call of duty: Matt’s hypersensitive ears overhear a crime in progress nearby and he tells Elektra he has to go. He’s about to dash off when Elektra asks him to stay with her. Our hero’s torn, but Jennifer Garner ultimately proves to hot to resist, and the film cuts to a tasteful PG-13 love scene. Matt awakens the next morning in his bed with a big smile on his face. He didn’t stop that crime, and people probably died, but hey — dude got laid. All’s well that ends well.

It turns out everything in that sequence after Elektra pleads with Matt to stay was a reshoot ordered by Fox to beef up the love story. In Johnson’s Director’s Cut, Matt leaves Elektra on the roof and throws one of the Kingpin’s thugs a hellacious beating (maybe his blue balls are hypersensitive too). Only after he kicks the crap out of the goon does Daredevil notice a kid cowering in the corner, freaking out that some dude dressed as a Leather Daddy Satan is using his father’s face as a punching bag. “I’m not the bad guy, kid,” Daredevil tells him.

In general, the Director’s Cut plays up that sense of moral confusion — is Daredevil a hero or just a screwed up guy with special powers? — that was present in the Theatrical Cut but sublimated to make room for more action and romance. One of the most effective and interesting shots in the entire movie is only available in the Director’s Cut. The only way Matt Murdock can fall sleep at night is by using a sensory deprivation tank to shut out the sounds of the world. After another evening as Daredevil, Matt is about to lay down and go to sleep when he hears the sound of a woman crying out for help. Matt’s too far away to rescue her in time, but to him it sounds like she’s laying on the floor of his apartment. He sits and listens to her murder and then shuts the sensory deprivation tank’s lid. This beat, missing from the Theatrical Cut, reinforces just how much being Daredevil sucks. His powers don’t free him from his disability, they only make him feel more helpless.

It turns out that the man (played by Coolio) wrongfully accused of that woman’s murder becomes a client of Matt’s law practice, and his systematic efforts to prove his innocence form an extensive subplot that’s completely missing from the Theatrical Cut. The best of these scenes see Matt and his partner Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau) doing a kind of “CSI: Daredevil” routine in the victim’s house. Matt smells the ammonia used to clean the carpet and realizes the crime happened inside and not outside as the police believe. He touches a desk and feels the imprint left by a pen on paper, perhaps a clue to the murderer’s identity. The fact that the entire mystery subplot was removed from the film without anyone noticing tells you how unimportant these scenes are from a narrative perspective, but they do give us a fuller picture of Matt’s life and his powers.

Those are the big changes but there are lots of other little ones: more conversations between Matt and Foggy, several confessional scenes between Matt and a Catholic priest (in the Director’s Cut Matt doesn’t get laid, so I guess he doesn’t have as much to confess), a lengthier introduction for Bullseye involving an amusing run-in with an airport metal detector, and more graphic violence in the fight scenes. There’s also this scene, which more fully establishes just how powerful and dangerous the Kingpin really is:

The Director’s Cut, though there’s a fundamental flaw with both versions of the film. “Daredevil” was designed by Johnson as a serious examination of the price of superpowers on a man’s soul. Matt Murdock makes bad choices, uses his gifts selfishly, and ultimately pays for it with the lives of people he loves. Unfortunately, the action sequences are the worst kind of “Matrix”-lite cartoonish wirework. Characters jump and flip without any sense of gravity or reality. So on the one hand, it’s a gritty look at what it might be like for a real person to grapple with godhood. On the other hand — “WEEEEE! We’re bouncing on see-saws!”

So, admittedly, neither version of “Daredevil” is all that great, but the Director’s Cut is clearly the better of the two. It minimizes the cartoony elements and beefs up the hero’s anguish and moral ambiguity. It expands Matt Murdock’s character and his world so that his whole story doesn’t just revolve around his crush on this girl and his need to avenge her death. Since Johnson’s intended arc for Daredevil was about him coming to grips with the fact that vengeance won’t bring him peace, that’s pretty important.

Both versions give us ample evidence of why superhero comics can be such a fruitful place for creativity and why superhero movies sometimes are not. The best “Daredevil” comics by artist Frank Miller (“Sin City”) were written at a time when the title was unpopular and in danger of cancellation. With nothing to lose, Marvel gave Miller creative carte blanche. No wonder, then, that his issues were so bold and risky. The “Daredevil” movie is a classic example of cinema by committee. Audiences liked Garner and Affleck, so they threw away the spine of the movie for more love scenes. “The Matrix” sequels were all the rage, so they patterned their fights after it, even though that made no logical sense for the kind of movie they were making. It doesn’t take a blind man to see those were mistakes.

The “Daredevil: Director’s Cut” is available on Blu-ray and DVD. The Theatrical Cut is only available on DVD. Which is your favorite cut of the film? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.

Old School

Best Party Ever

Top 10 Wildest Parties in Movie History

Party on with the Benders season finale tonight at 10P ET/PT.

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With the Uncle Chubbys boys throwing a wild party for Karen and Paul this week on the season finale of Benders, we thought we’d pay tribute to the biggest and most badass parties ever thrown on the big screen. Which parties would you die to go to? Which ones are you most likely to die at from going to? Before you catch the Benders finale tonight at 10P ET/PT, check out our list of the craziest parties to ever grace the silver screen.

10. Bachelor Party

20th Century Fox

Name the last party you went to attended by Tom Hanks AND a literal high horse. And if you can, kudos.

9. Animal House

Universal Pictures

Hey, does anyone want to hear me play gui—Ah, Bluto, what the hell??!!

8. Old School

DreamWorks Pictures

DreamWorks Pictures

Kegs, a hot DJ, random streaking…the Old School party has it all. We’re betting Frank never made it to Bed, Bath and Beyond, though.

7. Revenge of the Nerds

Revenge of the Nerds Thriller

Ain’t no party like a nerd party, particularly when “Thriller” starts playing. Don’t forget the “Wonder Joints.”

6. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

If you ever find yourself at a party filled with ’70s adult film stars, remember to put a towel down.

5. House Party

New Line Cinema

If you’re wondering what the ’90s were like, watch any of the House Party movies. They were like this.

4. Can’t Hardly Wait

Columbia Pictures

This party is like an uncut blast of ever ’90s high school movie. When the kid from Hook is bringing down the house with an epic lip sync performance of “Paradise City,” you know it’s a good party.

3. Weird Science

Universal Pictures

Mutants, missiles and Kelly LeBrock. Whatever you do, don’t tell Chet!

2. Real Genius

TriStar Pictures

Val Kilmer knew the one secret to a kick-ass party. In a word, lasers!

1. Risky Business

Warner Brothers

Before there was Xenu, there were hookers. High school would never be the same.


Bob & David Are Back

Watch David Cross, Bob Odenkirk and Scott Aukerman in the Hilarious ‘With Bob & David’ Trailer

Catch David Cross in the return of Todd Margaret on January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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David Cross (Todd Margaret), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman are back with the trailer for the long-awaited Mr. Show “non-reunion” reunion, W/ Bob & David.

The upcoming Netflix sketch comedy show reunites Bob and David with Mr. Show writers and performers John Ennis, Jay Johnston, Paul F. Tompkins, Brian Posehn and Mr. Hot Saucerman himself, Scott Aukerman. But this is not a Mr. Show reunion. In March, Odenkirk told Rolling Stone that W/ Bob & David is “a new sketch-comedy show featuring the writing and performing of the great and special Bob and David and please use those terms because it’s like [the] King of Pop — the Great and Special Bob and David.”

Still, Bob and David fans will notice that the new show tackles topics like time travel, police interrogations and eccentric tech wizards with the same absurdist wit that made Mr. Show a comedy classic. Also, lots of wigs. You can’t have a sketch show without wigs.

After you’ve binge-watched W/ Bob & David in November, be sure to catch David in the third season of Todd Margaret when it premieres Thursday, January 7th at 10P ET/PT on IFC. The first three episodes of the six-episode series air back-to-back on January 7th, with the remaining three episodes premiering the following week on Thursday, January 14th at 10pm ET/PT. Finally those cans of Thunder Muscle you’ve been hoarding for a rainy day will come in handy.

Source Code Michelle Monaghan

Michelle Visits CB!B!

5 Michelle Monaghan Roles We Love

Michelle Monaghan stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo: Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about Michelle Monaghan: when she was growing up, her parents also took in foster kids to their Winthrop, Iowa home. They raised a solid dozen of them over as many years, and we can’t help but think that being exposed to different people from so many circumstances helped Michelle build the empathy and eye for character that has made her one of our favorite actresses.

To get you ready for Michelle Monaghan’s appearance on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we put together an extremely biased list of her five best roles. Sorry, Pixels doesn’t make the cut.

5. Harmony Lane, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Shane Black’s demented Hollywood noir is on our short list for most underrated flick of all time. Not only did it bring Robert Downey Jr. back to the big screen as petty criminal turned unwitting detective Harry Lockhart, but it features possibly the best post-Iceman Val Kilmer performance of all time. The third player in the film’s triangle is Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Laine, Harry’s childhood friend all grown up. Harmony is the motor that drives the twisted story of lust and revenge, and she does a bang-up (pun intended) job walking the tightrope between small-town innocence and Los Angeles sleaze.

4. Diane Ford, Trucker


Plum Pictures

The 2008 indie Trucker might have flown beneath your radar, but you should check it out on Netflix because it’s one of Michelle Monaghan’s finest performances. She plays Diane Ford, a long-haul driver who finds her screwed-up life of getting blitzed and having one-night stands upended when her 10-year-old son comes back into her life. It’s a story that could easily get obvious and cliche, but first-time director James Mottern dodges dramatic pitfalls with the aid of his incredible lead, instead producing a deft character study that is very worth watching.

3. Maggie Hart, True Detective

Season one of the acclaimed HBO crime drama was aided by an incredible cast of actors, including Michelle Monaghan’s Maggie Hart. As one of the key female figures in a very male-dominated show, Maggie has to carry a lot of weight. When we found out halfway through that she’d cheated on her husband (Woody Harrelson) with Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, it served as a new lens to examine their twisted relationship. It’s a challenging role that Monaghan rises to with aplomb.

2. Christina Warren, Source Code

Source code

The premise for the 2011 thriller Source Code is pretty ridiculous — a top secret military project gives Jake Gyllenhaal the ability to travel back in time and re-live the last eight minutes of somebody’s life over and over like the world’s worst Groundhog Day — but the end result is a damn fine film. Michelle Monaghan provides an important emotional anchor as Christina Warren, who Gyllenhaal’s character builds a deeper and deeper connection with every time he loops back. Without her, the whole premise would collapse, and the actress rises to the occasion ably.

1. Julia Meade, Mission: Impossible III


Paramount Pictures

Playing the romantic lead in a Tom Cruise-led spy actioner is a pretty thankless job, but director J. J. Abrams gave Monaghan plenty to chew on as Ethan Hunt’s fiancee Julia Meade in the third Mission: Impossible flick. Initially Julia starts out as a clueless damsel in distress, captured by arms dealer Owen Davian to compel Hunt to steal some Macguffin or other. But by the end of the film she’s up to speed with her fiance’s covert career, saves his life with an electric shock and even pops a cap in the ass of IMF traitor John Musgrave.

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