Sin City (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2005
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Basin City, AKA “Sin” City, is a vile place of corruption, sex, and murder. Marv (Mickey Rourke), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) are just three hard-boiled characters with intersecting paths who are rays of light standing against the dark. Part comic book, part noir and all thrill – this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is very faithful to the source material.

Since the sequel to this film just came out, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, I felt like I needed to bone up on this film franchise once more before seeing the new one.

The narrative layout of the film is interesting. Vignettes showing each “main” character and their interactions with the film’s secondary characters including villains and allies, makes the world of Sin City seem large and real. Most of the shots in the film are lifted right from Frank Miller’s pages of artwork and the casting was all done very wonderfully, particularly with Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Seriously, look at the guy). You also get to see Brittany Murphy in one of her last good roles before she died….and the same with Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

The special effects are all very stylized, very slick, but a couple of times they look wonky. Most of that was due to the artwork not translating well to film, because of how stylized Frank Miller’s artwork is. The black and white look of the film kept everything very visually appealing. The dialogue was great noir fare, if you’re into noir – but if you’re not into noir at all it may seem hokey and even terrible in spots.

If Robert Rodriguez and/or Quentin Tarantino were to direct a comic book film, Sin City was the perfect choice for them and you can tell that they had fun directing it, which means if you’re like me – you’ll have fun watching it.

If you’re looking for strong women characters, then this typical noir setting probably isn’t for you. The women of Old Town run their prostitution rings with cold efficiency, keeping the mob and corrupt police officers on the level, but that’s about it. Most of the other women in the film gasp and toss their hands against their foreheads while the men do the real work.

The one drawback to the film is that the three main characters – Marv, Dwight and Hartigan – are all fairly similar, making the story arcs seem pretty repetitive. Clive Owen was underwhelming as Dwight. Mickey Rourke nailed Marv (as I said before) and Bruce Willis was great as Hartigan. Rosario Dawson was kinetic as Gail, and Jessica Alba was decent as Nancy Callahan. Also, Elijah Wood was surprisingly creepy in his role as Kevin and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. They weren’t in the film for very long but they definitely added very interesting bits to the story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Sin City

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Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: April 5, 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods to help one among them, Mia (Jane Levy) overcome her addiction to drugs, figuring that being away from the city will enable her to purge her system. With the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) she thinks that she’ll pull through this time. However, one of the friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), discovers a book and unwittingly unleashes a supernatural horror upon them all. Will any of them survive?

When I first heard that there was going to be an Evil Dead reboot, I was pretty angry. You don’t just go and mess around with the Evil Dead. C’mon, now.

However, when I heard that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were not only endorsing the film, but also producing, I was a little more accepting. THEN, when I saw the trailer…I was excited.

First off, don’t make the mistake of going to a movie theater that lets you order food while you watch the movie, because that’s what I did and let me tell you right now…it was really hard to use the ketchup and eat my rare hamburger with all the blood flying around on screen.

Blood. Sharp stabby things. Skin tears. Broken bones. Puke. Pus. Power tools. Blood. Broken Glass. Nails. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.

At times, it looked like Mr. Kool-Aid burst through the wall, yelling “OOHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” but he was full of blood instead of Kool-Aid and exploded everywhere.

A little bit of the movie is far-fetched, but as with all horror movies, this happens. If it were “realistic” there would be no supernatural horror, according to logic. There has to be a suspension of disbelief when folks are cutting their own limbs off.

As far as the casting goes, I think most of the actors did their jobs well. Some parts seemed TOO superfluous, and in my opinion, I would have cut out about five minutes of the movie at the beginning (though it opens with a great camera angle very reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining).

Overall, I think this was a good update to the original, although I will prefer to think of it as a separate entity from the original Evil Dead film. Go see it if you’re a horror fan or even if you think you might hate it. It could surprise you.

About the only thing the film lacked was likable characters. I didn’t mind most of them, but some I didn’t care about and even the main characters weren’t really as exciting as Ash was in the original Evil Dead series. We’ll have to see if they work on that with a sequel (if they make one) but as it stood, I felt that most of them were annoying and frustrating.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Evil Dead

Blade (1998)

Blade (1998)

Original Theatrical Release: August 21, 1998
Director: Stephen Norrington

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a Vampire/Human hybrid that has all of the vampires’ strengths and none of their weaknesses, and he has vowed to destroy every last one of the bloodsuckers that he comes across with his crazy arsenal of weapons and martial arts training. A vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has other plans for humanity and is tired of vampires having to stay below the surface of civilization, so Blade must put a stop to his machinations with the help of his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) or else mankind will be enslaved, or wiped out, by Frost and his vampire army.

People often forget about this Marvel movie that came out before the X-Men brought Marvel flicks into the spotlight. It, unfortunately, was left in the dust despite it being a halfway-decent comic-to-movie translation from that era. Based on the comic book title published by Marvel of the same name, Blade does a great job capturing the essence of the original character.

The special effects in this film look a little dated, but other than that, the action dominates in this short-of-story movie that has Wesley Snipes doing what he does best: kicking ass and talking in a deep voice.

The film is flashy and fun, but forgettable. It seems to have regained some popularity as of late with an animated Blade show, so who knows…maybe this will also get a reboot like the original Spider-Man  (My review for that movie linked here) movie did? I think with today’s special effects capabilities and Marvel’s rising ability to make big-budget films, this one could be given a great overhaul.

As it is, most of the actors do their jobs well. Kris Kristofferson is a real badass sidekick for Blade and Stephen Dorff is a really great villain. As said above, Wesley Snipes killed it in this film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Blade

Northlanders: Sven The Returned (2008)

Northlanders: Sven The Returned (2008)

Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Massimo Carnevale, Davide Gianfelice

Set in Viking-era Scotland, Northlanders: Volume One (Sven The Returned) collects issues 1-8 of the DC/Vertigo comic series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Davide Gianfelice (Dylan Dog).

Sven, as a boy, abandons his roots and is sold as a slave, ending up in Constantinople where he is freed. However, he longs to return home and finds that his uncle, the evil and cowardly Gorm, has subjected the people and stolen his inheritance. Sven becomes a one-man army in his quest to get back what is rightfully his, and he will turn the white, icy tundra red with the blood of any who stand in his way….but at what cost?

I just finished reading the first issue of Helheim (My review of Helheim is linked there) and while I liked it, a lot of it felt like fluff. Northlanders is definitely not fluff. It is gritty, filled with blood and greed and sex and you will find yourself glad that you were not alive to see such times.

Brian Wood weaves a great story around a would-be-unsympathetic character and somehow makes him likable. The art by Davide Gianfelice is AMAZING, though, and the two of them work miracles together with this series. A guy at the comic store recommended this to me along with Helheim and I’m glad he did. I will definitely be picking up the second volume when I can.

If you like Viking lore or medieval fantasy or action, you need to give this a try. It’s great.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Here’s a sample page from Northlanders: Sven The Returned

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Helheim Issue One (March 2013)

Helheim Issue One (March 2013) Publisher: Oni Press
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn, Joelle Jones

A small viking settlement is under attack by savage wild men and supernatural creatures. A small band of viking warriors is all that protects the village from gruesome death and destruction. During a raid, Rikard – one of their best warriors – is cut down but finds himself resurrected by the power of a witch. Now, he will stand against the dark with abilities far more powerful than any normal man.

The guy at the comic store recommended this to me and I like anything viking-related, so I was like “Sure, I’ll give this one a shot”. First off, the artwork was pretty decent. Joelle Jones did the awesome, very-stylistic illustrations. Nick Filardi used muted colors that suited the mood well. Lettering was by Ed Brisson, and I found no problems with it. It was only the first issue so it was really hard to tell whether or not I liked the writing by Cullen Bunn. The story seemed clear enough, but I think I will need to go through the entire arc to judge that.

Overall, for a first issue, it had me somewhat intrigued but the end was sort of anti-climactic. Rikard should have been showcased on the last page much better than he was, but he wasn’t. Ah, well. It was a fun viking romp, for sure, but so far it doesn’t seem to stand out especially well. We’ll see what the future holds for this series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s a sample page from Helheim #1 to check out

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Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 25, 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave. When a German man named Dr. King Shultz (Christopher Waltz) shows up and sets him free, he does it on one condition: Django must become his deputy in the bounty-hunting biz. Django just wants to find his wife, the lovely Broomhilda Von Schaft (Kerry Washington) but she is being held as a house slave on a plantation owned by the ruthless cotton king, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django must match wits and guns with Candie in order to come out alive, much less rescue his wife.

I’d been waiting for this movie for a long time. I kept seeing trailer after trailer and then it was finally in theaters. Right now, It’s my current favorite movie that Quentin Tarantino has ever done. (Replacing Death Proof)

There was a lot of controversy over this film. Spike Lee and Kat Williams and others said it was racist, but the problem is that 1.) They never watched the film and 2.) It was NOT racist, aside from the fact that the 1800’s were racist. Tarantino is not a history scholar, he is a filmmaker, and what he did was create a very badass historical revenge fantasy.

Django is far from being helpless and stereotypical. All the white characters in the film are evil and/or stupid and/or dirty, and they all eventually get what’s coming to them. The only white character who helps Django is Schultz, but he is European and not American. (A very good choice for the purposes of this film…brilliant). The use of the “N-Word” IS gratuitous, but is probably used less than in real life in the 1800’s. I don’t think Tarantino uses it casually, or for humor, but needed to give a sense of how low people thought you were if you were African American.

The performances were all top-notch. Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Waltz and Kerry Washington went all out. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances, and I sometimes don’t even like Leo. I think he’s getting better with age. The music is great also (I want the soundtrack) and the story is very intriguing.

The violence is so exaggerated that during one of the gunfight scenes, I was clapping loudly and laughing as buckets worth of blood was splashed against the walls and floors, small pistols firing with the force of mini cannons and just destroying man and construct in great shows of gunplay.

It was great. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Django Unchained

Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983)

Original Theatrical Release: February 1984
Director: James Sbardellati (As John Watson)

The warrior known as Deathstalker (Richard Hill) is tasked by an old witch to gather three powerful items; a sword, an amulet and a chalice, before the evil magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard) collects them first and becomes unstoppable. After getting his hands on the sword and angering Munkar, Deathstalker enters The Big Tournament where he hopes to wrestle the kidnapped princess from Munkar’s control, while Munkar has plans of his own to kill Deathstalker.

First off, this movie is from 1983. I was only two years old, then. The special effects are TERRIBLE and are pretty consistent with the visual effects limits of the time, utilizing even puppetry to supplement the fantastical needs of the film. That being said, the puppetry is part of what made this movie so laughably bad.

Bernard Erhard is pretty much the only actor who can actually act in this film, but his performance is so over the top that it’s awkward to watch next to the wooden and stoic Richard Hill and his portrayal of Deathstalker.

As far as Deathstalker movies are concerned, I actually thought Deathstalker II was the best out of the bunch. (Even though Deathstalker II rips a scene right off the reel from this movie and just re-uses it, no questions asked)

Most lovers of fantasy have to give a nod to cheesy, 80’s Fantasy films like this, filled with topless barbarian women, oiled and dumbed-down Conan the Barbarian clones and ridiculous makeup, and this is no exception. It’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood to laugh at a terribad film, or for nostalgic reasons…that’s it.

This is definitely not Lord of the Rings caliber material.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Deathstalker