Archive for 2005

Sin City

Posted in Crime, Fantasy, Film-Noir with tags on May 11, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller.
Screenplay: Frank Miller.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Jamie King, Carla Gugino, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Michael Clarke Duncan, Nicky Katt, Marley Shelton, Tommy Flanagan, Frank Miller, Rutger Hauer, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen.

“This is blood for blood and by the gallons. These are the old days man, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They’re back! There’s no choices left. And I’m ready for war”

Director Robert Rodriguez is a real mixed bag for me. Most of the time, I either find his films childish or over the top. This, however, is far from childish but so wildly over the top, it’s hard not to like it. It’s based on the adult comic-book by Frank Miller (who serves as a co-director) and is by far Rodriguez’s finest film to date.

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Basin City is the film noir community that plays host to three hardboiled comic-book tales. “The Hard Goodbye” has Marv (Mickey Rourke) an brutish ex-convict who avenges the murder of prostitute Goldie (Jamie King) that he had fallen in love with; “The Big Fat Kill” where private detective Dwight (Clive Owen) finds himself helping hookers fight mercenaries from the red light district and “That Yellow Bastard” sees disgraced cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) protect dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a psychotic sadist and sex offender (Nick Stahl).

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This film may be, unashamedly, computer enhanced but it doesn’t diminish it’s highly visual approach. It’s shot in true noir style with wonderful touches of vibrant colour throughout it’s monochrome palette. It also has the downbeat voiceover that most film’s of the genre indulge in. It’s quite simply, a stunning piece of work. Comic-book adaptations have taken to our screens on a regular basis but Rodriguez has probably been the most faithful to his source material. This is as close as I’ve seen in a page to screen transfer. Rodriguez has retained the look and feel of this fantasy world, practically word-for-word, and I can only assume that having it’s creator Frank Miller on board is a major merit. Like a lot of comics it’s most certainly a boys-own adventure; All the guys look tough and talk tough and most of the gals dress in dog collars and S&M gear. It could be deemed insulting or exploitative towards women but it’s written purely as fantasy and works an absolute treat. I’m a big fan of film-noir but you’d be hard pushed to find it done in such an audacious way. Into the bargain, Quentin Tarantino ‘guest directs’ a scene and we are also given a huge cast of familiar faces. All of which, are superb. The real standout though is a comeback performance by Mickey Rourke. He’s as brutal and relentless as they come – “… they should’ve shot me in the head and enough times to make sure” – and he’s unlike most comic characters you’ll find yourself rooting for. I’ve always been a fan of Rourke’s and this is one of my favourite performances from him. It’s great to have him back. Ultimately, it’s the look and feel of the film that possesses the real power though. It’s very hard not too be drawn into this visceral and uncompromising neo-noir.

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Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For is in the works and if Rodriguez and Miller can recreate their true visual spectacle and technical achievements, then we could be in for another treat.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Robert Rodriguez scored Kill Bill: Vol. 2 in 2004 for $1. Quentin Tarantino said he would repay him by directing a segment of this movie for $1. Tarantino, a vocal proponent of film-over-digital, has said that he was curious to get hands-on experience with the HD cameras which Rodriguez lauds. When asked about his experience, Tarantino merely replied, “Mission Accomplished.”

Junebug * * * * 1/2

Posted in Drama with tags on January 28, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Phil Morrison.
Screenplay: Angus MacLauchlan.
Starring: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Benjamin McKenzie, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson.

Following on from this, screenwriter Angus MacLachlan wrote the Robert DeNiro/Edward Norton film “Stone”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the same league but we’ve yet to see what director Phil Morrison delivers after this heartfelt independant gem of a film, which remains his one and only feature so far.

On the trail of an eccentric artist in North Carolina, a recently wed Chicago gallery owner (Embeth Davidtz) gets to meet her new family. But while her pregnant sister-in-law (Amy Adams) gushes with enthusiasm, the rest of the household afford a more muted and reserved welcome.

This is a film that could easily have fallen prey to cliche but skillfully manages to avoid it and crafts a wonderfully nuanced character study and earnest portrait of family pressures. The level of uncomfortable communication between this dysfunctional family is astutely captured and subtly delivered with an array of different personalities on screen and a perfect ensemble of actors bringing them to life. Amy Adams is a particular standout, radiating positivity as the loquacious, heavily pregnant in-law and the only one who seems to have any joy in life. You can almost feel the discomfort and awkwardness from the characters and the situations but despite this, we are still shown glimpses of the bond between them in their fragile, yet solid family unit.

A wise and emotionally powerful treat that’s not short on humour or pathos, making it a near flawless piece of craftsmanship by all involved and a reminder that American cinema doesn’t always need to be bang for your buck.

Mark Walker

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Team America: World Police * * * *

Posted in Action, Animation, Comedy with tags on January 28, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Trey Parker.
Screenplay: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady.
Voices: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa Moyo, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche.

“I’ll rip your fuckin’ balls off and stuff them up your ass. So, the next time you shit, you’ll shit all over your balls! Got it?” This quote pretty much sums up the level of humour from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s take on the conflict in the Middle East, with their usual offensive and riotously funny approach.

“Team America” are an anti-terrorist group who claim to be the “world police”, bringing democracy and the American way to people ‘less fortunate than them’. During a terrorist busting mission in France, one of their team is killed-in-action which results in the team’s decision to replace him with an actor. Their intention being, to bring down the terrorist organisations and dictators with someone on their side who can infiltrate ‘the baddies’ using their acting chops.

More a pastiche of the old marionette puppet show “Thunderbirds” and several Hollywood blockbusters than a political satire. It’s a bit overlong and doesn’t always hit the mark but it’s very hard to dismiss a film that has a recurrent song with lyrics like…”America, Fuck yeah! Lick my butt and suck on my balls”. Profane but absolutely hilarious. It’s ridicules everyone from the Taliban to former North Korean dictator Kim-Jong Il and left wing politicised actors, namely Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Matt Damon among others, as well as the gung-ho destructive and ignorant nature of America. It doesn’t take prisoners, any political or celebrity figure who CAN get the piss taken out of them, DO get the piss taken out of them and political correctness goes out the window from the get go.

The puppets are uproariously funny but this is definitely not for the easily offended. However, if you like your humour a little (or a lot) more risque, then this is for you. Fuck yeah!!

Mark Walker

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The Matador * * 1/2

Posted in Comedy, Drama, thriller with tags on January 28, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Richard Shepard.
Screenplay: Richard Shepard.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, Adam Scott.

I’m not quite sure why I even watched this film as I’m adverse to torturing myself, watching Pierce Brosnan. However, his role is very different from anything he’s done before so thought I’d give it a go.

Julian Noble (Brosnan) is a freelance hitman who is past his best and going through a mid-life crisis. Needless to say, this is starting to affect his duties and making his powerful and dangerous employers very nervous. He can still bump someone off with great skill but realises he wants more from life. When he meets travelling salesman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), an ordinary guy striving to make a living, a friendship grows between them. A friendship, that Julian has never had before but also doesn’t really know what to do with, considering there has been a lack of human contact throughout his life.

This is a film that relies on the opposites of it’s characters and for the most part it works. Brosnan falters on the odd occasion though and fails to deliver some very witty dialogue with the right tone, but on the whole, he puts in an enjoyable performance, from what is probably the finest role he’s ever had. The scene where he strolls through the hotel lobby in his winklepicker boots and speedos is priceless and shows the commitment he has for shuffling off the role of ‘007’. This particular scene is a standout and there are a few like it but overall it’s slightly uneven in tone, shifting from humour to pathos, not entirely convincingly and can’t quite decide what it wants to be.

Thanks to the two leads though, it’s kept ticking over nicely enough to keep you entertained.

Mark Walker

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Constantine * * * 1/2

Posted in Action, Fantasy, Horror with tags on January 13, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Francis Lawrence.
Screenplay: Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Michelle Monaghan, Domino Harvey.

DC Comics’ “Hellblazer” gets the big screen treatment with the chain-smoking, existentialist detective John Constantine and although it may not appeal to some fans, there’s no denying it has style.

Keanu Reeves plays the paranormal man in question, who after having visions of entities all his life, attempts suicide. Having been revived from his unsuccessful attempts, John Constantine is then doomed to an eternal waking life of demonic confrontations. This being the case, he attempts to make a deal with God, (in the knowledge that he has lung cancer) that if he can help in the eradication of demons from Earth, he may get a reprieve and be able to enter Heaven when he dies.

“Constantine” has a very imaginative and stylish look to it, mainly down to music video director Francis Lawrence. He uses several unusual camera angles and great use of atmosphere, showing exactly where he learned his craft. However, some inexperience is visible, the tell-tale signs being style over substance. It just so happens though, that the style is magnificent and has some similarities with the low budget Christopher Walken gothic/horror flick “The Prophecy”. Lawrence’s take on the biblical characters are very creative, from Tilda Swinton’s androgenous “Angel Gabriel” to Djimon Hounsou’s “Midnite” a guardian between Heaven & Hell and Peter Stormare’s looming, well-dressed “Lucifer”. Mixed up in all of this is a very mixed bag in Reeves as “Constantine”. He’s strangely brooding and appealing, yet also woefully bad in his selfconscious overacting. It’s a very frustrating performance and a constant reminder that your watching a film, which ultimately isn’t a good thing. The inclusion of Shia LeBeouf’s comic sidekick “Chas” isn’t a good thing either and seriously jars with the tone of the film. Really, we should be able to immersive ourselves in Lawrence’s wonderfully atmospheric (under)world but get held back from full immersion to these visual treats by a lead performance that’s not much better than Schwarzenegger would have delivered and a new director that is still finding his feet.

Comic fans may not be happy, but it’s still very hard to resist it’s visual splendor.

Mark Walker

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