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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Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: October 21, 2005
Director: Shane Black

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is a bumbling thief who ends up masquerading as an actor for an audition to escape police. Getting the part, he is to be trained by a police officer known as Gay Perry (Val Kilmer). Harry soon finds himself at the center of a murder mystery that puts not only his own life in danger but also that of his childhood sweetheart, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan).

This film, before Iron Man, was supposed to have been Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback role but for whatever reason, it didn’t do too well at the box office and only enjoyed a cult following after it was released on DVD.

With a lot of noir elements and a lot of charm, this movie is great during the first half but then gets super-bogged down toward the end and almost feels like two different movies, which is probably why it didn’t do too well initially.

Robert Downey Jr. is in fine form here, and you can see why he made such a comeback (eventually). Val Kilmer also turns in his best performance, in my opinion, since The Salton Sea.

Other than slight pacing problems at the end, this dark comedy is sure to engage you at least for a while, especially if you’re into Raymond Chandler.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

 

Role Models (2008)

Role Models (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: November 7, 2008
Director: David Wain

Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two energy drink salesmen who travel to various schools and businesses to try and sell their company’s drink. Danny is jaded and fed up with the company and is taking it out on everyone around him, including his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). When Danny goes too far and ends up trashing his company’s truck, he and Wheeler must face either jail time or community service. Not opting for jail, the two salesmen end up as Big Brothers; Danny to a socially-crippled teen named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who spends his days dreaming of being a medieval warrior. Wheeler, meanwhile, is assigned to a foul-mouthed boy named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) and the both of them give the guys a run for their money, testing their patience, wallets and friendships.

I never quite know what to expect from a movie that has either Paul Rudd or Seann William Scott in it. Sometimes I think they get typecast as the same old characters they always play. This movie isn’t that different, but it certainly does some interesting things that a lot of their other films don’t do.

First, I did like the dynamic between Scott and Rudd. They’re just like a different version of the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson duo, to me, and that formula works pretty well. Rudd was sarcastic and sometimes angry like Ben Stiller and Scott was sort of daft and out for himself, but full of heart like one of Owen Wilson’s characters. (Think Starsky and Hutch, or Zoolander).

The addition of the big brother program headed up by Jane Lynch’s character was great, as well as the LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) group that Christopher Mintz-Plasse enjoys so much. There were a couple of smarmy moments I didn’t enjoy, because I find that a lot of times in comedies like this they try to throw in some touchy-feely type things like Adam Sandler started doing with all his comedies after the 90’s and it sort of ruins the pacing.

Overall, I think it’s one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies. Plus, he helped write the script so it looks like working with Judd Apatow has paid off for him because this definitely seemed like it could be an Apatow movie. Give it a watch, even for all the cool cameos by other funny folks.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Role Models

Cruel intentions (1999)

Cruel intentions (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) are step-siblings. Both are extremely attractive and twisted individuals. Sebastian can have any woman he wants. Well, almost…except for Kathryn and it drives him crazy. Kathryn decides to make a wager with Sebastian, betting him that he can’t bed a virgin waiting for true love, named Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If he loses, she gets his jaguar. If he wins, she has to sleep with him. How far is he willing to go?

I watched this back when it first came out (I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yes, I did.) I think I appreciated the film less then, than I do now.

On its surface, it’s just a vehicle for the twenty-something actors to look edgy in their fledgling careers, flaunting skin and excess. However, at its core is an express message of sexuality, temptation and virtue that reveals itself at a slow pace throughout the length of the film. (Albeit through the POV of jaded, rich white kids from New York)

Some of the movie watches like a high-school dramatic play, but other times it shines with devious tittilation and complex character motivations. Overall, it’s better than some films in its genre (Such as Wild Things) but it’s not amazing by any definition of the word.

PS – I have never read the novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that it was based on (Choderlos de Lacios) so I can’t speak as to the differences from the book to the film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Cruel Intentions