SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR REVIEW

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I loved Sin City. It’s visceral hard boiled pulp story lines. The noir characters. The beautifully animated graphic underworld that literally lifts off the pages of Miller’s comic books. It was always going to be tough for a sequel. This time round, it’s a mixed bag. A violent, sexy one but mixed.

The animation is fantastic. The 3D? Well what 3D? Not an investment. (Yet again). The film launches you straight into the madness with an incredibly unhinged Marv going on yet another killing spree in the dark underbelly of Basin City. Rourke is brilliant but I couldn’t help but feel Marv’s irrational behaviour was ridiculous, bordering on overkill. His revenge spree in the first film had some warped justification. This time, not so much. I mean Marv is in a much more volatile state with blackouts and confusion galore. The littlest glance or grunt throwing him into a merciless rage.

Now I must advise you to watch the first movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages. And remember it has been NINE years. That’s right. Nine years since its release. This is very much a prequel/sequel of sorts. This will be made clear with Marv when a certain character appears. I was baffled and confused until I went back to the original. Scratching my head as to how he survived the electric . . . Oh wait. The same can be said for Dwight. Brolin takes over the helm from Clive Owen. Brolin’s drawl voice and grimacing face pulling are spot on. His delivery of Miller’s lines are sublime. A true noir actor. His storyline involving the dame to kill for (and I would kill for her) Eva Green reeked of the stories of old. The ultimate femme fatale. It may come off a little pastiche and predictable but it’s great to see a re-visiting of the classics.

Eva Green was born for the role. Conniving but attractive on the eye. Her beauty a trap for any foolish man. The reason why Dwight had to change his face. Miller seemed to cut the amount and reduce the length of story lines. There was two main stories with two little subplots (new stories for the movie) running along aside them. The new story lines involve Nancy (Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt). JGL was to be expected charismatic and perfect for the part. He has proven that he can do the noir protagonist after Brick. He rolls off Miller’s lines like he was born in that world. He boosts the film and to be honest I wanted to see more of his story line.

However, for all it’s potential, it ends all rather abruptly. His speech at the poker table would be something that QT would love. A lesson in power if ever there was one but disappointing after such a suspenseful build up. But it is a typical noir ending as his cocky ambition gets the best of him as he takes on Rourke (Powers Boothe) in a game of poker.

Powers Boothe was deliciously sinister with his shark toothed grin, lapping up every moment of it. A perfectly cast villain, composing all his past bad guys role into one nasty piece of work. The one aspect of Sin City that I felt pushed this glossy colourful seedy crime saga over its ridiculously violent edge was the inhabitants of Old Town. Too much time spent on it in the first film. Miller must have realised this and only brings in Gail (Rosario Dawson) and samurai wielding assassin Miho (The alluring Jamie Chung now replacing Devon Aoki) to assist Dwight. And they are actually taken out of Old Town.

Dawson was less irritating this time round for me and Chung did as well as she could playing a silent killer. Of course, there was ridiculous sword play and white blood spread across the screen, along with various body parts. Dennis Haysbert was relentless as Manute (taking over the reins from the late Michael Clarke Duncan). He will always be David Palmer but it made a change to see him play the thug. It also made some of the references in the first film make so much more sense.

I never felt so dirty watching a film. Jessica Alba manages to outdo her infamous strip tease dance number. In fact, she delivers one every time one of the characters enters Kadie’s Club Pecos. To be honest, I wondered whether Nancy was only brought in to be the eye candy. Beautiful Miss Alba may be; I wanted to see some resolution following her story line after Hartigan’s sacrifice. Bruce Willis does make a return as Hartigan. It’s pretty clear from the trailers. But to what capacity? Well . . .  “POSSIBLE SPOILER” Don’t panic! He is very much dead. Even in death, you can’t escape Sin City.

The idea of Hartigan watching Nancy, seeing her deteriorate into a pool of grief and misery was a good angle. But at the same time, Willis does nothing else. He is merely a cameo that appears to say two little speeches and then bugger off. Might as well have not bothered turning up at all. It doesn’t help that for some reason in all it’s ridiculousness, he cannot talk to Nancy. But yet Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie could talk to Clive Owen’s Dwight? Strange. The switching back and forth from past to present did cause some confusion.

The cast were perfect, the animation always impressed me and the story lines were good but much more predictable. I felt that the film lacked something. I mean the characters were good but I wanted more of the memorable cult characters. The Yellow Bastard, Elijah Wood’s crazy cannibal Kevin, Rutger Hauer’s messed up priest. We only really got that in Stacey Keach’s Jabba-esque mob boss Wallenquist and Christopher Lloyd’s demented street doc Kroenig (Believe me, Doc Brown would be screaming more than Great Scott!). The pace lulled in parts for me. Story lines seemed to build up and end abruptly. However, I still want more and it was still very watchable.

Not as good as the first but still worth a go for fans and anyone with a little blood lust. 3.5/5 for me

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300: Rise of an Empire Review

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THIS IS . . . surprisingly watchable and not bad. We seek that day where sequels can surpass their masters. There have been legends. But alas, today is not that day. But don’t worry, it still bears the bare boned brutality, visual brilliance and enough gore and testosterone to cure your blood lust and fill up a swimming pool, well in this case, an ocean, a bloody ocean. I mean look at the picture. Anyway . . .

So what is this legend about, brother? Well, based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of its predecessor, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh oceanic battlefield as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces led by the God king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and vengeful naval commander, Artemesia (Eva Green).

Cue a watchable bloody battle of a movie in the best sense. The opening 20 minutes flicks back and forth and adds some depth and background to the blinged up, chained, tighty whitey wearing baldy badass that is Xerxes. It’s tough to call this a sequel as such. Rise of an Empire flicks before the infamous 300 battle, plays alongside the infamous battle time frame and then after. A bit like what Saw 4 tried to do. It works well and makes for a change. It zips along, delving into the Millerised Greek mythology chronicling the origins of Xerces and how he transformed from the weedy model looking Santoro to the testosterone pumped, voice changing reincarnation of Yul Bryner. It makes for good viewing and introduces Themistokles quite nicely, with Lena Headey’s somber narration guiding us along.

It does fill in a few gaps that the first left. Well little qualms. This is most notable when Themistokles rushes to Sparta to warn them of Xerves, just after Leonidas gave his response to the messenger. Unfortunately Leonidas is always somewhere else. I was hoping for one Butler cameo. It also worked as a great excuse to throw in some old faces from the original; Lena Headey, David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) and Peter Mensah (TV’s Spartacus). Stapleton makes for a likeable Themistokles and drops his so-so American accent. For those who might have clocked him, yes, he is the American in Strike Back. It’s tough boots for him to fill. Where he looks in the booming conviction (no one can top the sheer volume of Gerard Butler . . . well, Brian Blessed), he carries enough bravado to pull it off. It helps that Themistokles is an interesting character and a clever tactician. It made a change for the action to be taken out to sea and not repeat the 300 ground warfare, which makes for an entertaining battlefield.

However, all the build up and background is soon cast aside for the carnage. The visual effects are brilliant with the typical slow mo shots coming into effect. The blood spatter spraying across the screen does get annoying as it happens for almost every kill and gets a little cartoony. However, some of the kills are creative but it does seem to slow mo stab every soldier and animal. However, that is soon made up with crazy swordplay. The tactical battle sequences make for great viewing. The animation gets a little bit more messy as the film reaches its climax. The real scene stealer of the film is Eva Green, devilishly delightful, demure and demented. Crazy with a blade and a stunner to boot. There’s good chemistry between Green and Stapleton which inevitably leads to a fiery encounter on the battlefield . . . and in the bedroom. Seriously the sex scene. What was going on with that? Raunchy and rough soon climaxes (steady now) into an unintentionally hilarious punch up fist fight of a shag, I say. The cliched camaraderie between Testicles, I mean, Themistokles and his men is predictable and just doesn’t get away with it like the original. Surprise to see Jack O’Connell. He’s starting to show up in every thing, with his prison movie, Starred Up soon to hit the big screen. Shame, his character was a bit naff.

It might lack the cutting edge and tenacity of the original but is still watchable, gory and entertaining enough to kill 90 minutes. Hardly a war classic but not a complete ship wreck. 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #62 out of 154!