Film Review: Sin City (2005)

Also known as: Frank Miller’s Sin City
Release Date: March 28th, 2005 (Mann National Theater premiere)
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Based on: Sin City by Frank Miller
Music by: John Debney, Graeme Revell, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Nick Offerman, Marley Shelton, Nick Stahl, Tommy Flanagan, Devon Aoki, Rick Gomez, Frank Miller (cameo), Robert Rodriguez (cameo)

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, Miramax, 124 Minutes, 147 Minutes (unrated recut)

Review:

“Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him. They woulda tossed him girls like Nancy back then.” – Dwight

When Sin City came out, it was a bit of a phenomenon. Well, at least with fans of comic books and especially those who love the work of Frank Miller.

I haven’t watched this in a really long time and I wanted to revisit it after spending a lot of time delving into classic film-noir, which this picture takes some major visual cues from. Well, the original comic this was based on used a lot of noir visual flair, so it was only natural that this film adaptation followed suit.

As an overall cohesive story, the film doesn’t work that well. I get that it is a linked anthology with overlapping characters but it feels like it is just running all over the place. Frankly, this would work better as a television show where all of these characters could be better developed and jumping around with the narrative would just seem more organic.

This is still a cool movie with cool characters but sometimes they feel more like caricatures of pulp comic and noir archetypes. There isn’t really any time to get to know anyone beyond what’s on the immediate surface. Nancy and Hartigan are the only characters with any sort of meaningful backstory and even then, it is pretty skeletal and doesn’t have the meat it needs to really connect in an emotional way.

The film is highly stylized and while it looks cool, it almost works against it, as the grit and violence almost becomes too comic book-y. But this is supposed to be the comic stories coming to life and it represents that with its visual style. And I like the visual style but this is still a live action motion picture and it sort of forgets that.

I’m not saying it can’t have immense and incredible style but it needs to have a better balance between what would exist on a black and white comic book page and what works best for the medium of film. Being that this is the first film to sort of use this visual technique, I think people looked past its faults. I also think that once it was done here, the initial surprise and awe was gone, which is why no one cared much when the sequel came out and why the visual flare didn’t work to hide the faults of Frank Miller’s very similar film, The Spirit.

Additionally, sometimes the comic book elements seem very heavy handed and forced. The scene where Marv escapes the SWAT team may work in the comics but it felt bizarre and goofy in the movie. It would have been more effective if it was toned down and reworked, as opposed to Miller and Rodriguez trying to copy the comic panel by panel. This never works well, which was also why 2009’s The Watchmen had a lot of problems. Personally, I’d rather just stick to the comics if the filmmakers want to just recreate everything panel to shot.

Another problem with directly adapting comics is that the dialogue that works in one medium sometimes sounds terrible in another. Some lines when delivered on screen were cringe worthy moments. Still, I mostly liked everyone’s performance in this despite the sometimes questionable direction and script.

Sin City didn’t blow my mind like it did when I first saw it thirteen years ago. That’s fine. It is still pretty damn good and enjoyable but at first glance, way back in the day, I probably would have given this a nine out of ten rating. But at its core, it just isn’t that good of a film, even if it caused me to fanboy out in 2005.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The Spirit.

Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Release Date: July 17th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Based on: Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mézières
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer

EuropaCorp, Fundamental Films, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance, Universum Film, Gulf Film, River Road Entertainment, Belga Films, STX Entertainment, 137 Minutes

Review:

“I didn’t come here to get a makeover.” – Laureline

Going into this, I had no expectations either way. Part of me wanted this to be a true spiritual successor to Luc Besson’s classic The Fifth Element, which is twenty years old this year. Another part of me sort of expected this to follow the trend of Besson’s modern work, which has been hit or miss but mostly miss. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is both of these things.

Is it on the level of The Fifth Element? No. But it does channel that film in its subject matter, visual flair, bizarreness and creativity.

The film starts out strong and really gets you into the spirit of what it’s trying to do. Unfortunately, once the main actors show up, it takes you out of the picture. I don’t necessarily blame them but the quirky dialogue that they had to work with was pretty awful. They also completely lacked chemistry and just looked like two fish out of water when they were forced together. It was like watching two young kids trying to be witty and cool while trying to be into each other but you knew they were probably just dating because of social pressure from kids cooler than them.

I’m not sure why but Dane DeHaan just doesn’t do anything for me. People seem to love this guy but I don’t get it. Most of the time, he talks like he is trying to channel some sort of cool inner bad ass but it just sounds like a teenager trying to act tough. His voice sounds like it isn’t even confident in its delivery. It’s like he’s a weakling playing the part of a bad ass and that he’s terrified that he’ll be exposed at any second for not being a cool tough guy. It brings me back to when he played Harry Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I kind of just want to smack him and tell him to go to his room. And if you want to compare this to The Fifth Element, he doesn’t have a tenth of the presence or personality of Bruce Willis.

Cara Delevingne is better than DeHaan in this but she still needs more experience before taking over the reigns of a film. However, my favorite part of this movie was when DeHaan was briefly taken out of the picture and Delevingne took over in an effort to find him and rescue him. I’d actually prefer her in a solo film, to be completely honest.

The biggest problem with this movie is not the acting, dialogue or the directing. What killed this movie for me is that it seems like a collage of really cool visual shit mixed up in a nonsensical way. The story was all over the place and just seemed like it was there to string together a bunch of random scenes that would have worked better as shorts or music videos. The plot was confusing and hard to follow throughout most of the picture. When you get to the end, there is a lot of over-explanation as to what is going on in an attempt to make sense out of the two hour mess before the big climax.

Valerian is absolutely beautiful and imaginative but that is all it is. It is a film that showcases so much potential but fails to do anything with it. It was poorly written, poorly directed, poorly acted and poorly executed. Even Clive Owen and his iron gravitas could not save the picture.

And ultimately, the best thing about the movie is the opening sequence which features humans and aliens coming together over generations, set to the tune of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

I also find it odd that this film completely whitewashes the Avatar aliens and no one cares.

LOVE-TESTER