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.

Diner (R)

10 Stars

You gotta love a movie that holds up.

A classic movie of the highest order.

Written and directed by Barry Levinson, nominated for Best Screenplay in 1982 and set in Baltimore 1959.

I’ll try not to spoil anything, because if you like movies and haven’t seen this gem, you must catch it soon. It’s funny, poignant and has a spectacular cast.

I can’t get enough of Paul Reiser’s character, Modell. Good Golly he’s funny.

Discussing the concept of evolution, Reiser speaks one of my favorite lines, “The guy who makes up this stuff it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard – people do not come from swamps. They come from Europe.”

This line comes from potentially the best post-movie credit sequence I’ve ever seen (or rather, heard). It’s a philosophical comedic audio layover, a bonus diner conversation; an adequate apology for the abrupt freeze-frame ending.

I love how Reiser’s constantly hassling Steve Guttenberg’s character for rides. They’re all such close friends, Reiser manages to never actually ask for the lift, he always gets The Gute to offer.

A young Mickey Rourke is almost unrecognizable in this film. And he delivers a spectacular performance.

Daniel Stern’s character is also great, now that I think about it. You know him from Home Alone. His character is such a well-meaning fella. When he argues with his wife over his records, you don’t know who to root for, and it’ll set your heart-strings aquiver.

It can get dusty at times.

Stern also has a great moment with Guttenberg, when he explains that getting married doesn’t necessarily make life any easier.

Kevin Bacon’s character is, as always, excellently executed. He is like a tightly wound spring, but worth much more than first appears.

The minor character who memorizes the lines from “Sweet Smell of Success,” cracks me up every time he interrupts a conversation.

I’m not sure if women will enjoy this film as much as men. The themes seem very masculine; they reflect the subtleties of my interactions with my male friends. I’d be interested to hear if women feel like they really connect with certain aspects of the movie.

One might say Diner is misogynistic.

I say, “Feh!”

One could argue that the pacing is slow at the beginning, but personally, I won’t do so.

The only criticism I can muster is about the moment of most tension, the pinnacle of the film’s conflict. It gets resolved in such a quick fashion it might make your head tilt.

Otherwise, this is a spectacular film.

As always, don’t expect too much, and you’ll be oh-so-sweetly rewarded.