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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.”

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

THE STORY:
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.

REASON FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS:
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.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MULTIPLE VERSIONS (SPOILERS AHEAD):
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:

IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE VERSION OF “DAREDEVIL,” WATCH:
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.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

invitation

Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

“Another Earth,” reviewed

“Another Earth,” reviewed (photo)

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Science-fiction should ask questions. The whole foundation of the genre is speculation: why we’re here and where we’re going, what makes us human and whether those qualities are shared by other life forms in this universe. The problem with modern sci-fi movies is that so few of them can be bothered ask questions. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” doesn’t ask questions, it just makes statements. “This is what a robot looks like.” “This is what it looks like when he transforms.” “This is a big action scene.”

I don’t love “Another Earth” but I appreciate the fact that it asks questions. It presents a premise — that there is another Earth, identical to our own in every way, floating out there in space — and interrogates it. How would someone react to that discovery? What would it mean to someone who felt that their life had gone down the wrong path? And how far would they go to try to fix the mistakes they’d made?

Our someone is Rhoda, played by the film’s co-writer, Brit Marling. On the day this other Earth is first discovered, Rhoda, a college student studying astrophysics, makes a terrible mistake: she drinks and drives. That decision had disastrous consequences on the life of a Yale music professor named John (William Mapother). A few years later, Rhoda has paid for the crime she committed but still feels crushed under the weight of her guilt. She takes a job as a school janitor and spends most of the rest of her time walking around with her sweatshirt’s hood pulled over her head, as if she’s trying to hide away from the world and from herself.

On a whim, Rhoda visits the site of her accident and happens to see John, who is there as well. She follows him home, and learns about what happened to him after their accident. She wants to apologize, but chickens out at the last minute. Instead, she pretends to be a maid and soon she’s regularly coming to clean John’s house. The two begin to talk and grow closer.

Meanwhile, that other Earth is drawing closer and closer to our own. The two planets make contact. They appear to exact duplicates of one another. A wealthy futurist decides to pilot a private space mission to the so-called “Earth 2,” and invites ordinary citizens to submit essays explaining why they deserve to make the journey. Rhoda is intrigued. If she went, could she meet herself? And would that version of herself had made the same bad choices she did? A second Earth might mean a second chance.

All of this could be the basis of a two hundred million dollar blockbuster directed by Roland Emmerich. But director and co-writer Mike Cahill uses this great concept to tell a very different kind of sci-fi story. “Another Earth” is not an outward journey through space but an inward journey through a woman’s tormented soul. Marling is wonderful at evoking Rhoda’s grief, and her relationship with the brooding Mapother is a moving one. Cahill doggedly maintains his microscopic focus; all the exposition we get about Earth 2 is cleverly conveyed through sideways glances at television screens or snippets of overheard radio reports. And the image of that other Earth hanging in our sky, dripping with foreboding or promise, is a beautiful and powerful one.

The problem with “Another Earth” is not the questions it asks, but rather the questions the audience asks of it. Cahill and Marling have, to some degree, put their themes before their characters. In order to pull off this meditation on regret and redemption, they write themselves into a few corners they never really escape. They rely on too many coincidences to connect the dots, and all of the absurdity begins to pull us out of the story.

Suspension of disbelief is a funny thing. It’s easy to buy that there’s another Earth exactly like our own, and that after thousands of years hiding behind the sun it’s suddenly headed our way. It’s easy to disregard the fact that such an event would probably cause environmental catastrophes on a global scale. That we accept. But for some reason, it’s really hard to ignore the fact that John should know exactly who Rhoda is. How can he not know the woman who completely ruined his life? Very late in the film, the screenplay offers an explanation how Rhoda could pull off this massive charade. It’s plausible, but it’s also contrived.

In small, individual moments, “Another Earth” is a beautiful film. The scenes in that Connecticut farmhouse are tender and touching, and Cahill and Marling raise some interesting questions about the human condition. Purely on the basis of its ambition and uniqueness, “Another Earth” is worth watching. It’s just a shame the filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to bring their characters together that didn’t feel so forced. This movie gives you a lot to think about, and a few things you wish you could forget.

“Another Earth” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and .

Our favorite Comic-Con tweets: Day 1

Our favorite Comic-Con tweets: Day 1 (photo)

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Throughout the week, IFC News is hunting through Twitter for the best tweets from Comic-Con. Here are our favorites from Day One (lotta “Twilight” today); feel free to share yours below:

theunabeefer: New costume: I am now dressed as Casey Anthony. #sdcc

michaelaelsner: The #SDCC is getting underway and while I’m not attending, I’ve left uneaten Taco Bell around my house so it will smell like I’m there!

MarkusVanOben: When I lived in San Diego, the idea of fun at the Comic-Con was to fart near Wil Wheaton. Nowadays it seems a lot more exciting. #SDCC

readyfuels: In line for Ballroom 20. Seriously questioning my life choices. #SDCC

KariLikeSafari: Just saw shirt: “I shaved my balls for Comic-Con.” #SDCC

staypuft85: I’ve arrived in the whale’s vagina. It’s tough finding parking here. #sdcc

trexexplosion: Hot girl in a princess leia outfit bragging about how brave she is for putting herself out there. What a trooper. #SDCC

shugarae: So we waited in a long line for 2hrs, only to find that there was another, shorter line all along. #sigh #SDCC

Devindra: Twilight fans camped out for days to get into the #sdcc panel. But now people are getting in after waiting 15 mins in line. Hilarious

mrbeaks: In Hall H for BREAKING DAWN panel. Aroused. #sdcc

MoviesOnDemand: Audience questions so far focus on birthing scene and Rob’s back muscles. #breakingdawn #SDCC

gracietrinidad: Best question from 7 year old: “Rob, do you like having babies with Bella?” #twilight #sdcc

mtgilchrist: BREAKING: Robert Pattinson laughs awkwardly at a question he can’t fully answer. #sdcc (via @Boxoffice)

speedyturdle: Hooters near #SDCC is sticky. With what? I’m not sure.

Spotted a great Comic-Con tweet? Send it to us in the comments below or on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll include it in a future post.

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