Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (R)

7 Stars

Sigh.

It’s an injustice when critics refer to Sin City as a ‘cult classic.’

Likewise ‘campy’ denotes a lack in quality, and is an unfit qualifier for the first film.

A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as its predecessor. Therefore if a group arises to defend their equality, it’s fair to deem the sequel ‘camp.’

Dame is not bad. It has many redeeming qualities.

But overall, AD2K4 is underwhelming.

Part of the problem involves the visuals.

Why didn’t they release it in IMAX? The larger screen and better sound could help.

I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s different about the shooting style between the two movies. The visuals are sharper, less gritty, and that’s not a good thing.

The clarity lends the settings/backdrops a more artificial feel. The environment feels cartoonish; not ‘lived in’ or ‘real.’

What happened with the editing? Seriously.

Why weren’t the filmmakers more generous to Jessica Alba?

The first film has an iconic two-minute scene of her dancing on-stage, but it’s mostly background to Hardigan’s (Bruce Willis) activity. The camerawork is elaborate, tasteful and never self-indulgent.

It’s as if the fans cried for more dancing Jessica, and the filmmakers way overcompensated. They’re building story with the nuances of strip teasing, but the performance is unconvincing.

Who deserves the blame? Why didn’t they do multiple takes? Why didn’t Alba prep better? After finishing the rough cut, didn’t the directors realize the stripping feels excessive? Where’s the stylistic panning, the cutaways, the slow-motion?

Why didn’t they re-shoot the boozing scenes? Who didn’t have time for whom? I want to know!

Ugh. Disappointing.

There’s way too much voiceover. Characters are constantly telling the audience unnecessary details.

If only things were a little bit tighter. Less voiceover, more background extras.

Other than the dancing and drinking, Alba’s acting is pretty good.

In fact, the entire cast is strong. Each thespian manages to fit the tone of the movie (except Julia Garner.)

That doesn’t include the ‘under fives’ (characters with less than five lines) however.

The frat boys are particularly alien. They oversell the frustration, the weirdness and the ‘douchiness’ (I guess?) that ‘frat boys’ are supposed to emulate.

If you can’t tell, I feel slighted by the open, in which ‘frat boys’ with an eye for ‘brand names’ are associated with disrepute. This is a tired cliché, and a feeble attempt at social commentary.

One of the characters actually says, “I have a trust fund!” while begging for his life.

Bobby, Franky; come on, guys. Nobody talks like that.

I’m curious to know why Clive Owen didn’t reprise his role as Dwight.

Josh Brolin accomplishes the job sufficiently. But is it possible the sequel suffers without Clive?

Absolutely. It’s just one more source of unnecessary confusion.

Bruce Willis, a protagonist and highlight from the first, returns as a supporting character and doesn’t disappoint.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rock-solid as usual. That goes for Mickey Rourke, too.

Along with a cameo in A Million Ways to Die in the West, Christopher Lloyd appears twice on the summertime big screen (both times as a doctor, no less).

Lady Gaga was a minor disappointment. Small as it is, she doesn’t sell the waitress role.

Eva Green, on the other hand, buys the pie. Her performance as Ava Lord is rather impressive. She does a good job of selling a tough role and her character is the single greatest redeeming quality of the sequel.

Second place goes to how it illustrates the metaphysical nature of the city’s location.

Sure it’s noir L.A., but it’s also a weird sort of limbo in which archetypal anti-heroes congregate and intermingle.

The allegorical environment’s a phantasmal depot for sinners caught in the cycle of criminality.

Think about it, man.

When considering both flicks from that perspective, the sequel becomes much more thought-provoking.

The action’s pretty good; some moments are downright fantastic.

All in all, Dame 2K 4 is inferior to its predecessor, yet contains enough enchanting moments, compelling character interactions and violent mystique to satisfy fans.

See it if you like the first. Just don’t expect much.

There’s no stinger after the credits, so you can leave once they start to roll.

Perhaps Sin City 3 will make up for lost ground.

If Eva Green reprises her role, they’ve got a shot at turning things around.

Don Jon (R)

9 Stars

Generally speaking, Sundance is not my gig.

Call me shallow, but I incline toward major motion pictures, or feature films.

I rarely watch documentaries or independents.

And I thought a movie about a guy addicted to pornography sounded gross and off-putting. But I should have known; Jo-Go would never let me down.

Don Jon’s a winner.

The narrative is timely, stylish and thought-provoking. It moves along at a brisk, enjoyable pace with a cast of relatable and compelling characters. Starring, written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who’s been one of my favorites for years) this movie depicts a regular guy, dealing with regular issues. And it’s great!

This is not the type of movie you watch with your girlfriend, your parents or your grandparents. Or your grandkids, for that matter.

It’s almost cheating with the casting choices made for this film. Scarlett Johansson’s one of the top actresses working today, Tony Danza was such a radical (but perfect) choice to play his father, and Julianne Moore is great as always.

First of all, Scarlett’s role as Barbara Sugarman, is nothing short of fantastic. It really explores the mindset of a certain type of woman. She’s so aware of her sexiness that she truly believes she inhabits a higher class of humanity.

It’s been a helluva year for Scarlett. Let’s hope she keeps it up!

The stylistic touches are probably what make the movie soar. Each shot adds to the story, and it keeps the pacing crisp as well.

If you haven’t seen Don Jon, it’s worth the watch. It explores a lot of truths that some may interpret as a misogynistic tone. I applaud Joseph Gordon-Levitt for writing such an honest, cutting edge screenplay.

Now, watch out for spoilers below.

There is one point in the movie that he’s watching porn and is narrating his actions through voiceover. What’s fascinating is it breaks the fourth wall in a subtle way, because Scarlett catches him at that moment. She interrupts the voice-over narration of himself!

It’s a bit of a time paradox if you think about it.

There are bursts of joy at times, when certain events occur in the manner you hope they will. When the stylistic fireworks go off, and pieces start to fall into the right places, you feel a swelling of happiness. And I think that’s noteworthy, given the limited storytelling that’s going on in Don Jon.

I love Acts I and II but didn’t adore the ending.

I’m not sure why. The whole movie skips along at such a brisk pace, but I never really enjoy the time he spends with Julianne Moore. It’s all just so sad and pathetic. But it’s not terrible!

I just found it underwhelming.

That being said,  Don Jon’s enormously insightful, brilliantly shot, masterfully edited, well-acted and just a good story all around.

Good on ya, Joseph Gordon!