Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Movie Review (Sin City)...

Sin City

Co-directed by graphic novelist Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, From Dusk Till Dawn), Sin City is the most faithful comic book adaptation ever attempted. The movie uses three of Miller’s stories; ‘Sin City’ (now renamed ‘The Hard Goodbye’), ‘The Big Fat Kill’, and ‘That Yellow Bastard’. All three stories share particular situations and characters, using a fractured timeline in much the same way as ‘Pulp Fiction’, albeit to a lesser extent. The story goes that Miller was persuaded to entrust these beloved characters to the film-making process, when Rodriguez presented him with a short scene (now the films intro.) as an example of the look and feel he was trying to achieve. Miller, of course, was blown away, and agreed to a co-direction partnership. In order to achieve this, Rodriguez had to resign his membership from the Directors Guild of America, a move which, if nothing else, showed just how seriously committed he was, to his dream project.

Sin City is a film where the three central characters are just about the furthest away from your typical comic book heroes as you can possibly get. Marv, a man “born in the wrong century, he’d be more at home swinging an axe into someone’s face on an ancient battlefield” is played by Mickey Rourke(in heavy prosthetics) in a career-defining role. Dwight McCarthy, “an ex-killer with a new face” is brought to life by Clive Owen, and grizzled but “do-gooder” cop, John Hartigan is skilfully portrayed by Bruce Willis. These three fundamentally flawed protagonists are the closest we get to having good guys in Sin City.

Sin City is a sadistically violent movie, in which characters are beheaded, limbs are torn off, guts are spilled, reproductive organs are detached from their owners (twice!), there are hit and runs, and multiple gun shot wounds and stabbings. This is comic book violence at its most explicit, but it is still comic book violence. The stylistic approach, mimicking the graphic novel’s black and white aesthetic, allows for more intensely violent imagery to be put on screen, uncut and in its intended form. (Film censors seem to only have an issue with excessive blood letting if the blood is actually red on screen, but Sin City overcomes this obstacle through its stark monochromatic visuals).

Within the Sin City ‘universe’, characters speak like something out of a Humphrey Bogart movie. This, of course, underlines the movies’ ‘film-noir’ tonality and themes, while also making lines such as “…the hell I’ve sent him to must seem like heaven after what I’ve done to him” sound good. Sin City is also the first digitally shot movie, using virtual sets and locations, which has truly worked, from both a technical and artistic standpoint. It looks amazing. Rounding off quite an incredible supporting cast (the sheer scheduling of whom, must have been a logistical nightmare) are Benicio Del Toro, Michael Madsen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rutger Hauer, Powers Boothe, Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Jaime King, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bleidel and Josh Hartnett. Be sure to look out for the scene in the car with Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro, surely the films most bizarre and funniest moment, shot by guest-director, Quentin Tarantino. Sin City is highly recommended viewing.

4.5 out of 5

Movie Review (Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith)...

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith is a perfectly fine Summer blockbuster. It offers nothing new to entice anyone already uninterested in the Star Wars story. In fact, it may well be impossible to follow. But it is after all, a movie for the fans. This was always going to be the best of the prequel trilogy, due simply to what events must take place. Anakin Skywalker must turn to the dark side, and become Darth Vader. The twins, Luke and Leia must be born and separated at birth. The Duel, between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, referenced in the first Star Wars movie. Numerous loose ends are tied up and nods to the films of old are present and correct. Revenge of the Sith does its job, successfully leading the audience back to where it all began in the original movie.

It has taken him thirty years, but film-maker George Lucas has finally completed his six-part space saga. The box-office monolith that practically invented the summer blockbuster in 1977, has had its fair share of detractors, especially since the idea of a prequel trilogy was announced in 1997. Both Episodes one and two have come and gone, simultaneously attracting a new generation of Star Wars fans and excluding some disgruntled original trilogy ‘purists’. What the older generation of Star Wars fans seem to forget, is that when they first set eyes on a galaxy far, far away, they were kids, impressionable and looking for something to call their own. Lucas has stated that his Star Wars movies have always been aimed primarily at the 8 – 13 year old market. It’s as if the older generation of fans, presumably fuelled by nostalgia, refuse to recognise movies pre-1977. Understandably, everybody has a favourite movie, and for a lot of kids in 1977, Star Wars would be the yardstick to which everything else would be compared.

Of course, as with any film, if you dig deeply enough, there are layers of subtext to be found, characters based on established mythological archetypes, etc.(Lucas was a disciple of Joseph Campbell, an “expert in the construction and cultural resonance of mythology. His books ‘Masks of God’ and ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ are widely considered the ultimate guides to what has enthralled the world for centuries”). Similar to the way in which ‘The Matrix’ movies have inspired some overly enthusiastic fans to study the cod-philosophizing and meditation on the nature of reality, the Star Wars Universe naturally lends itself to deeper investigation. Put simply, the viewer will get out of it, exactly what they want to get out it.

As Lucas realises that even the new generation are old enough now to watch the brutal incineration scene, decapitated villains and murdered ‘younglings’, he has pushed proceedings in a slightly darker direction this time round, compensating somewhat for the complaints voiced over the overly-cutesy shenanigans in the first and second episodes. Personally, the really interesting stuff is what’s happening behind the scenes. Episode 3 was filmed almost entirely on blue screen, with effects, sets, worlds and thousands of characters being added digitally. Some say that Lucas is all about style over substance. Arguably, true, but what is an indisputable fact, is that he has been the driving force behind digital technology, sound and visual effects in the movie industry. Wealthy enough now to be completely independent from Hollywood studios, rumour has it that his next film-making goal is to re-introduce to world to 3-D movies, “the way they should have been done.”

3 out of 5