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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Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: October 15, 1999
Director: David Fincher

An office worker (Edward Norton) caught up in the doldrums of his job meets up with an eccentric soap maker (Brad Pitt) who challenges his views on everything he’s ever known. The two of them conceive and begin a new form of therapy called Fight Club, and the idea catches on, sparking a new underground club that nobody is supposed to talk about. When Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) starts to come between the soap maker and the office jockey, things start to spiral out of control and in the end, the very fibers of reality are tested.

This is one of my favorite movies and it’s based on a book of the same name, written by Chuck Pahlaniuk. When I first saw this film, I had no idea who Chuck Pahlaniuk even was. (Lemme tell you, I soon went out and tried to read everything of his I could) However, I knew who David Fincher was and this movie was perfect for him to direct.

Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are amazing in this film. At the time, I wasn’t even a big Pitt fan, but this is one of his roles that definitely turned the tables on that. Actually, for that matter, the same goes for Helena Bonham Carter. She was perfect in this (unlike some of her other films, in my opinion).

The snappy narration and dialogue, the dark tone, the testosterone-fueled punching matches, the commentary. It’s all great. It’s a trip through someone’s brain, that’s for sure. Also, with a twist at the end that puts Shyamalan to shame, it was an awesome movie for its time and still holds up more than ten years later.

Go see it, go see it, go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Fight Club

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Original Theatrical Release: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) become the winter caretakers of a massive seasonal hotel in the mountains. At first, everything is ideal. Jack has all the space he needs in order to write his next novel while Wendy enjoys the beautiful scenery and time with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who seems to have a form of autism. However, it’s not long before the Torrance family discovers that maybe they’re not alone in that big hotel, and that maybe it has dark secrets. The family begins to unravel and soon it becomes a fight for survival.

The Shining is scary even by today’s standards because it not only has the supernatural element of the haunted hotel ( who doesn’t think a massive old hotel is creepy in the first place?) but also a writer haunted by his own demons; alcoholism and anger among them. Seeing a family slowly unravel is scary enough but when there’s a little kid involved, most of us become extra-invested. Children are often defenseless against an adult in real life, let alone ghosts, and when your parents don’t believe that ghosts exist? Well, then, you’re outta’ luck, kid.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is right up there for me among the best I’ve witnessed because I’ve SEEN Jack Torrance before. I KNOW guys like that, who get drunk and take out their frustrations on the world around them. I immediately identify and sympathize with the kiddo and his mom. On top of that, we have Stephen King at his best writing the story that the screenplay was adapted from…and you have Stanley Kubrick, an amazing director with all those long, ominous shots (who doesn’t remember the camera going over the car as it’s winding through the mountain roads? Or the long shot of the hallway as Danny rides his Big-Wheel in hesitant fear?) It’s a horror masterpiece, where lots of amazing talent converged. None of the remakes have touched on its original terror.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Shining