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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Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is a real-life hero formed from the virtual ashes of a hardened criminal who found God and became a construction worker. While on the job, Childers meets a priest from Africa and is inspired to visit, ending up in Sudan and Northern Uganda, where he helps to build an orphanage and ultimately moves on to becoming a liberation fighter trying to save Africa’s children from the clutches of an evil warmonger who uses them as children soldiers in his army.

Machine Gun Preacher is based on the true story events of the real Sam Childers, who endorses the film. The movie is more drama than the trailer and cover art depict, and less action, but there is not enough action OR real-life documentary-style filming to make this as interesting as it could have been. Gerard Butler is passable in the role but looks nothing like the real Childers (not to mention his accent slipping through more than once) and the filmmakers could have dealt more with the more interesting side of Childers’ story which saw him pitting his Christian faith against acts of violence. If they had explored that side of the equation, then the movie could have been great….but as it stands, the movie is just sort of ho-hum with no real staying power. It doesn’t really distinguish itself from other generic action films and there are much better dramas out there to boot.

Still, I think it’s at least worth watching once, if only for your introduction to Sam Childers himself, so you can know a bit about his back story if you’re so inclined. Michelle Monaghan is nice to look at and it was cool to see Michael Shannon as well.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 – 2013)

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 - 2013)

Los Santos: A city that never sleeps, filled with botox, gangbangers and money. Lots and lots of money. As either Michael (A former wise-guy-turned informant), Franklin (A hustler looking to make some fat stacks and a better life) or Trevor (a violent psychopath with a meandering scale of justice and morality), you find yourself thrust into the biggest heists of your careers which could make or break you, depending on the roads you take.

Having played all the previous incarnations of the GTA series (Vice City being my favorite and San Andreas being my least favorite) I was pretty excited about playing this and bought it a day or two after it came out.

The story mode is great. A lot of missions are gun-n-run, but that was obviously expected. The graphics definitely got an overhaul, most noticeably with some of the environmental stuff. (Check out videos of the water graphics if you haven’t played the game yet).

The police seem to swarm faster and angrier in V than they did in previous incarnations – sometimes I find myself in a harrowing flight from death by trigger-happy police for the most minor infractions while they burst through parked vehicles with their armored vans and fire willy-nilly into the crowds trying to murder me in cold blood.

As in previous GTA games, there are a ton of mini-games. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but they are all kind of nifty to try at least once from what I’ve seen. As Michael, I played tennis with my wife for a good half hour of real time and it was fun. One of the most controversial mini-games, of course, is when you’re at the strip club and you’re trying to touch the strippers giving you a private lap dance without getting kicked out of the club. (FYI – might not want to play this particular mini-game in front of sensitive folks or children because the strippers are topless and it’s a first-person strip-club experience. Yup….big ol’ digital boobies on your massive flat-screen television. If your grandmother didn’t think your life was fail before, she will now).

GTA V Online launched already, of course, and it has been riddled with lots and lots of problems. At first, I just couldn’t get on and then after that, I could get on but my character wouldn’t save and I couldn’t rob stores or do missions so those of us on the map just ran around killing each other with sheer boredom. After that, they finally got the game at least somewhat functioning so now I can join missions and complete robberies, but the kinks aren’t all worked out yet and there are still griefers out there so watch yourself if you go on. I had a whole squad of them following me around, trying to kill me for at least an hour.

Without even taking GTA: Online into consideration, I’d give the game the score below. They packed so much into the game that it will honestly give you hours and hours of enjoyment. The sheer amount of variety earns this game a five star from moi, despite its faults, which are minor against the entirety of the game experience. Add to that the extra depth of the online mode once they get the kinks out, and it’s just a mind-numbing amount of time one could spend playing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Butter (2011)

Butter (2011)

Butter is a way of life in Iowa, and the king of butter carving, Bob (Ty Burrell), is retiring. Angry that Bob isn’t trying to use his butter-carving talents to get into politics, his too-ambitious Sarah-Palin-clone of a wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) steps up despite never butter-carving before to try and fill his shoes. However, there is a little girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who discovers her own butter-carving talents who just may undo everything Laura has tried to achieve.

I had no idea what to expect with this film. I had never seen it advertised and the premise seemed hokey, but interesting, so I gave it a shot. It was okay, but it wasn’t the best film ever.

The thing that intrigued me was the butter carving aspect. The whole “Midwest” thing has been done to death with these kinds of movies, but the butter aspect played itself out really early on in the movie. Some of the sculptures were neat, but the whole thing went way over my head because some of the sculptures were unbelievable just in terms of character achievement.

The acting was pretty good, overall. Most of the big-name talent was wasted, though. (There was even a bit part played by Hugh Jackman).

The story was pretty weak. I felt like it wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be an allegory, a comedy/farce or a drama. There wasn’t enough heart for it to be an allegory or a drama, and there weren’t enough funny parts for it to be a great comedy. By themselves, the main characters were boring. Bob is a cuckolded husband character while Laura is, as I wrote above, an over-achieving Sarah-Palin clone. Destiny is an okay character, but her development arc gets confused with that of Laura’s. The stripper character, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), was funny but she was tossed into the mix as well in an unbelievable way (the same old boring stripper clone who is uneducated and poor and would shit on someone’s lawn). The way everyone was introduced and interacted was just chaotic.

Overall, this movie wasn’t groundbreaking in any way. There are a couple of scenes that made me chuckle. Olivia Wilde is nice to look at. Seeing Hugh Jackman as a car salesman is kind of funny. So, you may be entertained for one viewing.

JOE Rating: ★★★