Review: Spectre

Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

“Spectre” opens today and while it doesn’t top Daniel Craig’s previous entries it does fine-tune the rebooted story that began in 2006. My first reaction leaving the theater was, “They better get Daniel Craig to come back for ONE MORE movie.”

For a Bond picture, “Spectre” is surprisingly light on action and what action they do feature feels a tad forced.

The opening fight within a helicopter looks more irresponsible than thrilling. Later the car chase through Rome has some beautiful scenery but doesn’t get your adrenaline going. Bond eventually chases a convoy with an airplane and then continues the chase in the fuselage after crashing the plane. Honestly that part felt more like a scene out of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando” than anything else.

Not that I have any ill will toward “Commando.”

Still “Spectre” gets right what “Quantum Of Solace” got wrong. “Quantum” had an action piece every other scene, trying way too hard to mimic the Bourne formula. “Spectre” keeps to a few big action scenes and is surprisingly more dialogue-heavy.

The lack of action actually grew on me after a few days. One of my favorite James Bond moments is from “Dr. No” where Sean Connery is looking over his hotel room for evidence that it had been broken into. He’s being an investigator instead of a pure action icon.

There are two scenes in “Spectre” where Craig had to do the same thing while chasing after Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White. To me, that packed more of a punch than outrageous high-flying adventurism.

Craig is great and gets to use a little more swagger this time. In many ways this is his first normal Bond film, the famous gun-barrel sequence opens the film instead of being retooled or placed at the end. He’s allowed to make more wisecracks (in one case showing contempt for a Frank Sinatra tune…not cool) and shows off his knowledge of classic British cars.

I’d rank Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann as the second-best Bond Girl of the Craig movies, just a hair behind Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yeah, there’s a big age difference between her and Craig. Yeah, at times she can be a damsel in distress. And yeah, we all thought Monica Bellucci would get just as much screen time instead of a mere cameo…I’m still sore about that.

Seydoux

But throughout the film you get hints that Swann is perfectly capable of defending herself, she even saves Bond’s life at one point. She does a damn good job of projecting some inner turmoil, almost as if she had to kill someone in the past and never got over it. Her character is a doctor who’d rather save lives than take them.

There’s more I can say about her character but it’s spoilery and speculative so I’ll save it for another day.

I should admit that going into this movie I was predisposed to like Christoph Waltz as the main villain. Totally standing by that.

Again, like “Dr. No” at first the bad guy is hidden in the shadows but still heard from. I love that imagery.

Waltz’s character, named Oberhauser, does share a connection to Bond’s past which did worry me a bit. Luckily they pull it off, not being sappy about their shared history or overplaying the personal stuff. I could say more but don’t want to ruin the surprise reveal.

[Fun piece of trivia, Waltz and Seydoux shared a scene in “Ingourious Basterds” when she played one of the farm girls in the opening scene]

spectre

Also, if you’re afraid of drills you will squint a bit during one of the scenes between Bond and Oberhauser.

Moving on to the supporting cast…

Even though she’s underutilized, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny does well and the banter between her and Bond is better than it was in “Skyfall.” Same goes for Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx, the main SPECTRE henchman. He gets a great introduction and proves he can beat the living crap out of Bond…but he only gets one friggin’ line of dialogue!

After picking Bautista as my favorite character in “Guardians of the Galaxy” I had hoped he’d get to philosophize more in “Spectre.”

The rest of the supporting cast, especially Ralph Fiennes’ M, have time to shine. I love how his M is a true jack-of-all-trades, fitting in naturally at government functions and yet excelling in the field, as well.

Andrew Scott, of “Sherlock” fame, plays an intelligence chief trying to dismantle the traditional spy program in favor of more drones and satellites and triumphs at playing a real tool.

“Spectre” also finds a way to reference previous characters that we miss, at one point name-dropping Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter who I wish would come back again. Judi Dench’s M also makes a quick reappearance.

The theme by Sam Smith, titled “The Writing is on the Wall,” improves after listening to it multiple times but isn’t as catchy as the last three themes. The opening credit number also looks weird with the octopus imagery and borders on qualifying as tentacle porn.

One shot of a tentacle next to a woman even looks like concept art for Neil Blomkamp’s Alien movie.

If I could sneak in one final criticism, it’s that “Spectre” does suffer from an “Avengers: Age of Ultron” problem where the plot points feel a little too similar to the previous film. Bond follows up on a lead, goes somewhere else for a lead, confronts the bad guy at his lair and then has a final confrontation on Bond’s home turf (in this case London).

Not a perfect comparison, but it does feel like there’s a hint of “Skyfall” to this script.

From the box office perspective, “Spectre” has broken a few records in the UK (beating the average per screen take set by “The Dark Knight” and the best weekly take set by “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) and is expected to open number one here in the states.

The only concern is that with such a huge price tag for the film (upwards of $300 million) that it could pull an “Amazing Spider-Man 2” and just be too expensive to make a solid profit. Both films were distributed by Sony.

Coming to a close, “Spectre” is a nice fit among the Craig films, showing off Bond’s spycraft instead of his destructive habits and leaves the door open for a cool take on the franchise.

If I had to give it a grade: B-

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Review: Jurassic World

Let me admit my bias from the get go.  For 12 years “Jurassic Park” held the top spot among movies I had seen in theaters the most.

So when a new film comes along to redeem the franchise after that one big pile of shit that was “Jurassic Park III” (yes, I’m referencing Jeff Goldblum’s line from the first film there) it’s a big deal.Jurassic World

I kept my expectations measured in the weeks leading up to “Jurassic World,” the latest dino-disaster film.  I read as few reviews as possible, skipped watching the final trailer and avoided the TV spots.

Cutting to the chase, a bad idea if I actually wanted you to read the whole review, when the credits rolled I was ready to watch the film again.

I had fun, didn’t have any major lingering issues with the plot and had actually been brought to the brink of tears during two scenes.  The first time was more of a sad tears situation the second tears were of pure happiness.

“Jurassic World” sticks to the keep it simple rule of blockbuster movie making.  We have a fully operational Jurassic Park, they engineer a mysterious new dinosaur to boost attendance, it escapes and a deadly chase ensues.

There you have it.

As much as we need captivating heist films like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” and ensemble adventure flicks like Marvel’s “The Avengers,” audiences also need to decompress.

This was also a virtue upheld to the max in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (sorry, couldn’t help use that line).  Both “Fury Road” and “Jurassic World” bust out the big action sets and serve, not to reboot, but the refuel old franchises.  They do this while keeping the sub-plots to a minimum.

A quick rundown of the characters.  Chris Pratt plays Owen, someone who is a bit of a composite between Muldoon (the “clever girl” guy), Pete Postlethwaite’s hunter from “The Lost World” with a hint of Chris Pratt tossed in.  Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the executive in charge of the park who gets to one-up Owen on several occasions while running in heels.

Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus and the velociraptors round out the supporting cast.

Yes, I listed to velociraptors as cast members.  You’ll understand once you watch the movie.

Now if I had to pick one complaint about “Jurassic World” it would be the depiction of Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan).  Masrani is said to be the ninth richest man in the world who swore to John Hammond that he would restore his dream of a dinosaur theme park.  Very solid motive and I wish they did more with that.

Masrani is treated like a guy just trying to do the right thing throughout the movie even though, like Hammond in the original, he doesn’t fully think about the consequences.  He gets my pick for most underutilized character, needing more moments to show his authority instead of being thrown in as a token millionaire boss.

There are many worthwhile references/easter eggs from “Jurassic Park” but only once actor making a return appearance.  Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) is back as the man who once again is responsible for engineering the dinosaurs and eventually creating the new Indominous Rex, our main dino-villain.

Treading carefully to avoid spoilers, a handful of reviews have said Dr. Wu’s motives were unfair to the character.  If you rewatch the first movie, though, Wu sort of played the foil to Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) when it came to whether the Jurassic Park system was foolproof.  He’s always been a believer in the system.  That in itself gives enough room to take the character in the direction they did.

Wu and Masrani also share a heavy scene where they clash over the genetic make-up of the Indominous Rex, with Wu delivering one of the best lines of the film.

Finally, the question of whether there is too much CGI in “Jurassic World.”  Maybe.  But it didn’t ruin the film for me … might have to elaborate on that later.

Bottom line: This is an adventure 22 years in the making as we finally revisit the island from “Jurassic Park.”

 

Leftover notes:

-The much debated riding a motorcycle alongside raptors scene was treated with the kind of skepticism you’d expect and wasn’t just tossed in as an action shot.  It was handled well in the movie and if that was a point of concern for you don’t worry about.

-Two cool voice cameos from Brad Bird and director Colin Trevorrow, but why is Jimmy Fallon in this movie?  Considering the scene Fallon was placed in couldn’t they have called Bill Nye the Science Guy instead?

-They also toss in a line about why the dinosaurs in the park look different from the modern thinking on their appearance, which states that dinosaurs were more feathered.  Good line!  Kind of gives you some hope that Dr. Grant and Sattler aren’t out of a job (extinct?) in the sequel.

New “Ant-Man” trailer surprisingly good

I might have to eat crow when it comes to the “Ant-Man” movie.  Time will tell, I’m still reserving my right to go “meh” when the credits roll.

After a crummy teaser earlier this year the new trailer was released Sunday and, to my pleasant surprise, looked pretty swell.

What bothered me about our first look at the film was how predictable it was.  Dramatic speech by Michael Douglas?  I bet it’ll end with Paul Rudd going, “Huh” or something.  Toss in some action shots?  I’m looking at my watch to see how long it’ll be before the mandatory joke about the name Ant-Man.  Oh there it is.

Now I’m ready to shake that off, here’s why:

Return to the Phase One feel

I’ve only been down on Marvel movies since the so-called Phase Two stage kicked-off after “Avengers.”  In 2013, it felt like the studio was just spiking the football and patting itself on the back after making a mountain of cash the year before.  Things got better in 2014, though.

“Ant-Man” feels different.  It looks like comic book heist film first as opposed to another team-up or generic save the world movie.  Best case scenario, it has the same Phase One DNA as 2008’s “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk,” which I’ll always consider a heavily underrated film.  Have a fair amount of origin story with the only stakes being to take out the bad guy.

They shrank the damn Marvel logo!

Tiny logo

The new studio intro logo, which I want to say debuted with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” was bigger, longer and oh so showy.  It also might end up causing more seizures than 90’s-era anime.  Seeing it cut down to size brings warm, coffee-like feelings to my heart.

Corey Stoll is awesome

Not much elaboration required here.  This guy is one helluva an actor, just watch season one of “House of Cards.”  Can’t wait to see him on screen as the villain Yellowjacket.

Iron Man’s weapon proliferation fears revised

This kinda relates to the Phase One point.  What I liked about “Iron Man” was how Tony Stark said his mission was to combat illegal weapon sales.  It was an excellent motivation that fell off the radar in the sequels.  Damn shame since to me Robert Downey Jr.’s best moment was his, “There is the next mission and nothing else” scene from the first movie.

“Ant-Man” picks up that baton by making this a conflict over stealing back the super shrinking technology so it can’t be militarized.  Right on!  Wish this plot was used years ago.

Vacation from the East Coast

Way too many superheroes work in New York City or a New York City substitute.  I mean, it’s considered the safest major city in the world how many heroes do you need?  “Ant-Man” is going to take place on the West Coast and bully for that.  San Francisco is lovely in the summer.

And finally, Thomas the Tank Engine!

Well done!  Marvel might toss in far too many witticisms but visual gags like having Thomas the Tank Engine smash the bad guy is pure gold.

“Ant-Man” will be released in theater July 17.

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is a well acted movie with splendid special effects but suffers from the same problem that haunted other two part conclusions.

Namely, you’ll walk out of the theater not attached to this film but ready for everything to explode in the finale.  “Mockingjay” is heavy on dialogue, which given the cast isn’t a bad thing, but does feel repetitive at the halfway point.

This is the part where I mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I haven’t read the Hunger Games books.  So I really had no idea what to expect.  Womp womp.

Anywho…Mockingjay

Quick summary of the plot:  In the wake of the second film, popular Hunger Games champion Katniss Everdeen (the bodacious Jennifer Lawrence) is exploring the hidden District 13 compound and must decide if she wants to become the face of a rebellion against the rich Capitol (wouldn’t it have been ironic if they spelled it “Capital” instead? Huh? Huh?).  Complicating matters is that the man she loves, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), is trapped in the Capitol.

If you’ve watched the trailer to “Mockingjay” you’ve seen the only real action set in the movie.  However, it mostly makes up for it with a tense raiding scene at the end (partially told via cameras on the troops, very “Aliens,” very cool).

To its credit, “Mockingjay” does go out of its way to show the horrors or air wars, more so than you’d expect from a PG-13 movie.  The scene where Katniss visits her decimated home is one of the two most memorable moments in the picture (the other one being the second to last scene in the movie).

SIDE NOTE:  On the topic of air warfare, if you haven’t checked out this article on the lost photos of the Gulf War, please do.  Very telling account of military and media relations during wartime.

But after a well-paced start the film drags on in the middle.  It becomes a contest to see which side can produce the best propaganda videos (called “propos”) to win over public opinion.

Call me a Hunger Games novice, but is the run up to a big battle really exchanging TV commercials?  As someone who studied politics I find that whole airwave approach … a little too civil for a rebellion picture.

It would have helped to show other districts reacting to the TV battle as it progressed.  In the beginning, we see people view the address from President Snow (Donald Sutherland, badass villain with a white rosy attitude) but after that just see how the two rival governments respond.

The same thing plagued “Thor.”  Fine movie, but characters keep saying they’re “on the brink of war” and we need to ensure people know someone is in charge.  But we never see the civilian population ready themselves for bloodshed or worried about their monarchy, just palace intrigue.

Nevertheless, “Mockingjay” is worth your time even if you haven’t read the books.  This one comes recommended.

Finally, classy move to dedicate the film to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee).  Tip of the hat to director Francis Lawrence for not using CGI or other tricks to finish some of Hoffman’s incomplete scenes but letting his performance stand on its own.

BOTTOM LINE:  It’s the calm before the storm that could’ve used more lightning.

Review: Interstellar

It’s impossible for humans to travel back in time.  Unless they’re in a movie theater.

This review of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” will go out of its way not to spoil anything.  This will be light on plot and more focused on the experience.

It might even be better to call it a primer on “Interstellar” rather than a review.

Let start by getting the basic story and my reaction out of the way.

Going through a global dust bowl, Earth is dying and NASA embarks on a long shot mission to prevent mankind’s extinction.  It’s a film that made me want to nominate Nolan for sainthood, continues his streak of not making a bad film and makes allusions to all the sci-fi films we loved as kids.

You will hear complaints about the final act.  My response is this is still a science fiction film.  Deal with it.

There you go!  Short and sweet.Interstellar

Not so short is the runtime, which counting previews is about three hours.  While I’d *always* recommend a nice, refreshing Coca-Cola to enlighten your trip to the theater, save that for next time.  It’s imperative that your bladder be empty for “Interstellar.”

Still, that’s no excuse to skip out on a popcorn and a pack of Junior Mints.

It’s also unique that Nolan gave “Interstellar” an early release on 35mm film/70mm IMAX three days before the general release.  Since early in the last decade (starting with “Star Wars: Episode III” if I remember correctly) movies have gradually been shown on DLP digital projectors.

In fact, it was a real struggle (reel?) to explain to moviegoers what exactly 35mm film is.

You start by saying 35mm is actual film as opposed to a digital file.  Then they squint and reply, “Is that 1080p?”

After that, you try comparing it to a VHS vs. streaming a movie on Netflix until they ask, “What’s a VHS?”  Then you wonder if you should follow up “Interstellar” by watching “Idiocracy.”

I finally cracked, in a nice way, and said to one college-age person, “My friend, if you watched movies as a kid you’ll remember what film looks like.”

Moving on to the sainthood for Nolan part.  What makes me such a staunch Nolan fan is that more than any current filmmaker he knows how to make movies feel big again.

Watching “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” at the IMAX and just having to tilt my neck up to see the whole picture had a big impact.  For two and a half hours I was care-free, just like when I’d sit on the very front row of the theater to escape into a movie way back in elementary school.

I didn’t mind the scratch marks that came with film, for a long time that was just all we knew.  As much as I love how clear DLP is, films broken in by projectors are just as vital.

Nolan films also feel big in how he packages them.  Plot details are kept under tight security.  The trailers, for the most part, don’t give away much of the story.  Models and practical effects are used as often as possible, harkening back to what I would call the peak of balanced, grounded movie effects (basically that time from 1982’s “The Thing” to “Jurassic Park”).

Too often people sabotage a movie by leaking scripts, stalking film crews/sets with cameras and robbing audiences of the chance to be  truly surprised.

Watching on film also makes sense in the context of the story.  The future in “Interstellar” looks a lot like our present.  This is because we’ve stopped focusing on new inventions and become a “caretaker” generation dedicated to growing food.  You know, survival.

There are a few clear advancements, namely robots with artificial intelligence.  But reverting from digital to film to see a movie about humanity reverting from a tech culture to an agrarian culture is a little extra fun.

I wonder how much just the idea of no new cell phones every year will frighten today’s movie-going teens.  A lot, I hope.

Not the leave the actors out, this film is carried by fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey as Cooper,  God bless him.  With Nolan crediting 1983’s “The Right Stuff” for influencing this film I bet naming the main character Cooper was a nod to Mercury astronaut “Gordo” Cooper (who was played by Dennis Quaid, another Texan, in that movie).

Equally worthy of praise are Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy as Cooper’s daughter Murph.  Oh, and if you don’t like Anne Hathaway in this movie I don’t like you.  Finally, tip of the hat to David Gyasi as Romilly and Michael Caine remains Nolan’s good luck charm.

There are other actors who pop up in “Interstellar” but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.

BOTTOM LINE: “Interstellar” made me feel like a kid again.  The less you know about the plot the better.

 

LEFTOVER THOUGHTS:

-As someone who loves “2001: A Space Odyssey” I’m tremendously glad another movie has come around to remind us that when a spaceship rotates it will have gravity on board.  Finally a rotating ship!  None of that “artificial gravity” malarkey.

-John Lithgow also has a supporting part and his character talks about how you can’t have a baseball game without a hot dog.  This marks the second time he’s played someone who prioritizes hot dogs, having a similar conversation with Roy Scheider in “2010.”

-Someway, somehow with the world ending McConaughey manages to always have a beer handy.  In the future facing extinction we will still find the resources to make our adult beverages.

“Gotham” amounts to a State of the Union address for DC Comics

The much anticipated Batman sans Batman show Gotham premiered Monday night and did what a pilot episode should do: set the scene, have enough sub-plots to carry on to the next episode and give us some idea what the season will revolve around (that being the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne).

The show stars Ben McKenzie as rookie Det. James Gordon, Donal Logue as Det. Harvey Bullock and David Mazouz as a young Bruce Wayne.

Like the first episode of Firefly, which premiered on the Fox Network before being juggled and canceled, Gotham’s inaugural was a lovable, but not awe-inspiring 40 minute program. You know in your soul that your favorite episodes lie ahead of you after we stand on ceremony here for a bit.

(Btw, don’t Gordon and Bullock have sort of a Mal and Jane thing going on?)MV5BMjMzNTU3MDY3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY1Nzg3MTE@._V1__SX1556_SY913_

A NOT-SO-BRIEF ASIDE

Gotham arrived the same night Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kicked-off a second season. News broke that Gotham was in the works immediately after Agents debuted this time last year, stealing a moderate amount of thunder from the Marvel property. My how time flies.

That in itself is a statement, since both DC Comics and Marvel will face-off on one time slot this season. Earlier, a monetary bullet was dodged when Warner Bros. moved 2016’s Batman v Superman to a release date away from Captain America III: The Search for Bucky, avoiding one showdown.

(That’s not the film’s real title but I hereby nominate it)

Take comfort in Monday’s having a nice clash of styles. All Marvel movies and TV shows share the same continuity while DC is keeping its TV shows separate from its films. DC is also keeping some TV apart from other TV and maybe will have a few movies separate from other movies. You follow?

Regardless, DC is making its presence known with The Flash, Constantine and season two of Arrow following Gotham this fall. It’ll be fun to see what flies, what falls and if one will fall and learn to pick itself up.

The lack of a single continuity also provides more freedom for viewers. To this day, I haven’t finished season one of Agents because 1.) I couldn’t relate to anybody on screen and 2.) I don’t always watch movies on opening weekend and wanted to avoid spoilers when they did crossover episodes.

Marvel is making Christmas lights, if you break one it all falls apart. DC is making stories.

THE EPISODE ITSELF

Coming back around, Gotham looks captivating. The city is dirty and full of litter, cops drive older cars and a couple of buildings even have gargoyles. Classic.

The pilot is a clear break from the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies and the Nolan trilogy. Gotham stands on its own and has a timeless feel with flip phones, fedoras and the aforementioned older police cars giving it a modern but not too modern appearance.

I can see the show taking cues from Batman: The Animated Series in that many characters get a chance to shine and the focus is on major crimes in Gotham City.

The pilot was not without faults. A couple of clichés were used with a suspect darting out of a large open window followed by a rooftop chase. Oh, and the scary killer who works in a slaughterhouse has to have a leather mask on. Has to.

The steady-cam fixed on Gordon during said chase scene felt out of place. Lastly, a montage of interrogation scenes needed to have more than three suspects if we’re really to believe our hero Gordon and anti-hero Bullock are scouring the streets for leads.

As with the Nolan movies, this series will live and die by the relationship between Gordon and Bruce. As the credits rolled, I felt that while McKenzie and Mazouz performed well separately the scenes where they share screen time needed work. Their first meeting especially needed some touch ups, namely Gordon not having to repeat every line of dialogue twice.

Back to the positive, Gotham demonstrates how to do cameos right. My favorite of the night being Edward Nygma (the future Riddler played by Cory Michael Smith) joyfully rattling off mind puzzles only to look down in shame when Gordon solved one.

Hopefully this cameo will serve as a model for the slew of other minor characters set to appear in Batman v Superman.

Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) at long last gets a live action treatment and a swell plot placement as she is suspicious of Gordon. This means Gordon will have to play both sides, navigating his way through an uneasy alliance with Bullock and gaining the trust of Montoya.

I see I’m approaching 1,000 words so I need to wrap things up. In regard to the remaining characters: tip of the hat to Robin Taylor as Oswald Copplepot, Jada Pinkett Smith’s original villain Fish Mooney and Erin Richards as Barbara Kean (Gordon’s fiancée).

Finally, in contrast to the Nolan trilogy I’m glad they pronounce mob boss Carmine Falcone’s name right.

WRAPPING UP

As I said earlier, this was a State of the Union-type start for DC’s fall season. Gotham was procedural, preceded by fanfare and set the agenda for a year.

There’s a built in fail safe in the DC world because it’s allowed to be flexible, allowed have more than one version of a character and isn’t tied down to what happens on other shows or a larger cinematic universe.

If one doesn’t like a certain take on a character that’s okay (i.e.: STOP COMPLAINING) because nothing is being canonized here. Some characters are stuck in the Nolan trilogy, others in the Arrow/Flashverse, the Gothamverse, the big screen continuity and some stand-alone films like (supposedly) the upcoming Shazam.

Thank God, because if we’re to have famous characters get the live action treatment they deserve to have origins that are multiple choice. A DC villain taught us that.

BOTTOM LINE: Gotham is a decent pilot episode that makes you happy to be a DC fan.

 

CORRECTION (9/23): I was wondering why the overnight ratings didn’t list Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., turns out I was a bit of a dummy and got the date for season two wrong. It begins tonight and does not air on Monday’s opposite Gotham. My apologies, but that’s what I get for not watching/caring about Agents.

Review: “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

In an era of reboots it’s nice to know that some movies stay the same.WP_001222

Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a mostly prequel, two shakes sequel to the 2005 film. Many of the original actors return while several recasts were made due to death, maternity and unavailability.

From the onset, I felt like I was watching a black-and-white-themed reunion. Hell, 40 minutes into the film I realized I was sitting in the same theater at the same movie house and probably two rows away from the same chair.

The plot remains the same. Imperfect people try to punish bad people. White blood flows everywhere. Don’t obey the speed limit. Watch out, there are plenty of women out there who will get the better of you.

You could call it a rerun of sorts. But it’s a long overdue rerun with familiar faces that I welcome gladly. I was genuinely happy just seeing Jamie King share the screen with herself as twin sisters Goldie and Wendy.

If any naysayers need an excuse to buy a ticket for this movie it’ll be to see Eva Green (Ava Lord). She’s got a name that harkens back to the glamour of the silver screen. Even when you want to hate her you’ll love her.

Also, much to the satisfaction of every male audience member (as well as female members with fine taste), Green spends at least half of her screen time nekked [sic].

I was pleasantly surprised by Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan). Seeking to avenge the death of Bruce Willis’ character (John Hartigan), she relishes playing the edgier, angry part this time around. Her target is Powers Boothe (U.S. Sen. Roark), who is still a dependable villain sans evil mustache.

You’ll roll your eyes at how bad people aim firearms in Sin City, which is why seeing Nancy practicing at a gun range was so refreshing. While Boothe delivers the best line of the movie in Nancy and Roark’s final confrontation, they set up the final shot (yeah, pun) with a cheesy moment that kinda kills the mood.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny) fits in well as a slick gambler and his chapter ends on a surprising note. Still, it does leave you wondering if the guy had a plan in the first place. He is, after all, the one who said, “Sin City’s where you go in with your eyes open, or you don’t come out at all.”

Josh Brolin (Dwight) takes over for Clive Owen before that character got a new face. I wanted to like Brolin in this part, and he certainly got the hidden rage part down, but he lacks the nobility that Owen brought to the role. Edge goes to Owen.

Dennis Haysbert (Manute) steps in for the sorely missed Michael Clarke Duncan, and is my pick for actor who deserved more screen time. From the onset, in fact just going off his vernacular, you know he’s itching for a fight. While seeing him and Mickey Rourke (Marv) engage in fisticuffs pays off, it will leave you wanting more.

Marv is still Marv only his head looks bigger. God bless him.

Filling out the cast with minor appearances are Lady Gaga, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple (who has gotten a lot taller since The Dark Knight Rises) and an unrecognizable Stacy Keach.

Tip of the hat to Julia Garner (Marcie), who plays a waitress in Kadie’s Saloon and is my nominee for best supporting newcomer.

There are two Frank Miller cameos, including one with fellow-director Robert Rodriguez. Both sport nice fedoras with the proper brim size. None of that unholy small brimmed, hipster headwear that permeates the streets of Austin.

Now, moving on to some complaints and grievances.

The nonlinear storytelling becomes a bit of a distraction if you’ve watched the ’05 film several times. There were two or three moments where I thought, “Wait, isn’t that guy supposed to be dead?” or “Wait, shouldn’t he live and be in the first movie?”

As I said earlier, the citizens of Sin City don’t know how to shoot. Seriously, even at point blank, often with machine guns, people can’t hit a target (although they have better luck with arrows). That crosses a ridiculous line even in comic book movie territory.

Finally, let me quickly rattle off some unimportant nitpicks:

-Disappointed that the opening credits didn’t list the cast in alphabetical order like the first movie.

-The chapter transitions should’ve been more memorable.

– Could use more funny, you’ll smirk a lot at the dialogue but the only genuine laugh comes from a brilliant, brief appearance by Christopher Lloyd.

– Does every woman in Sin City have to kiss a man when his face is profusely bleeding?

Bottom line: I love you Sin City, you still got it … but will I respect you enough to buy the DVD?