At the top of today’s list Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester, released in 1956. It stands as a high point of Kaye’s career, both for the marvelous way he sends up Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling (complete with Basil Rathbone as the villain) and for the marvelous wordplay of the script (“the pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true”).
Speaking up sending up previous images, Pierce Brosnan scored a winner with The Matador, one of my favorite films of recent years and released today in 2006. He plays a hitman coming apart at the seams whose chance encounter with a grieving salesman (Greg Kinnear) in a Mexico City hotel provides him with the human connection he so desperately needs. Writer-director Richard Shepard hit this one out of the park, and helped Brosnan turn a middling stint as James Bond into a quietly impressive post-Bond career.
Finally, four years ago Joe Carnahan’s The Grey was released in theaters. It earned a fair amount of heat at the time for its portrayal of wolves: a charge I failed to see in the movie itself, which makes for a brilliant (if reasonably brutal) variation on Jack London-style survival stories. Also, Liam Neeson fights a wolf with a smashed mini-liquor bottle. Tell me you wouldn’t pay money to see that.