Sin City 2: Was it worth the wait?

Momentum is a funny thing. When graphic novelist Frank Miller first teamed up with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in 2005, the result was Sin City. Filmed mostly on green screen, it was a dark, dirty neo-noir delight. Fit to burst with swooning dames, femme fatales and bad ass guys. Critically and commercially it was a success. And it felt fresh.

Jessica-Alba-Sin-City

What I’m getting at here is that it’s taken almost ten years to bring us the sequel. In general, Hollywood rarely lets this happen. If they’ve got a good thing going, they keep it going. However, Rodriguez operates somewhat apart from the Hollywood machine and, as such, it’s taken nigh on a decade for the pieces to fall into place and for Sin City 2 to hit the big screen.

The question is, did they lose momentum? Is it possible to recapture the gritty feel of the original? Will Miller and Rodriguez strike noir gold again? The answer, typically, is yes and no. Momentum has been lost, there’s no denying it. Had this film come out 2 or 3 years after the first one we’d probably feel rather differently. It might be looked on more favourably.

Sin City 2 Lady Gaga

The problem is that, since the release of the first film it’s taken on a bit of a cult status. A status which has grown with each passing year. Perhaps this second film will take on a similar status, but I rather doubt it.

As per the first film, A Dame To Kill For is divided into three stories. The main story – and film’s title – focuses on Dwight McCarthy (played by Clive Owen in the first film and Josh Brolin here) and his love-hate relationship with the ultimate femme fatale, Ava Lord (Eva Green).

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Angelina Jolie was originally meant to be the dame, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps for the best as Green was born to play Ava Lord. She’s pretty much been doing this sort of role most of her career anyway – and it’s not a stretch to picture her as a woman that can drive guys crazy. Seduction incarnate indeed.

Brolin does well picking up the mantle from Clive Owen. His Dwight perhaps more animalistic, less measured and more of a brute. I’m not sure he fits into Miller’s world as well as Owen did, but that’s a minor point.

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The second story – newly written by Miller for the film – follows Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cocky gambler on a revenge tale of sorts. He fitted well into this world as a character and Gordon-Levitt’s performance was convincing. You’d almost wish he’d somehow featured in the first film as I’d have liked to have seen more of him.

The final story picks up after events of the first film and follows everyone’s favourite stripper, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). When the only man she ever loved (Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis) took his own life, Nancy fell to pieces and vowed revenge on the man responsible, corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe on fine, evil form).

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For those characters that continued from the first film, Nancy has changed the most and it’s nice to see Alba have more of a role to sink her teeth into. Although in some ways it’s sad as her character was really the only pure soul in the first tale and, in this story, Basin City has finallly gotten to her. She played the part well though.

As a film, this doesn’t have the impact of the original from a storytelling point of view. The three stories don’t overlap as well as the original, nor are they as emotionally affecting. That said, as a sequel it’s a good addition and should have been made. The other characters returning – particularly Mickey Rourke’s Marv – feel like they’ve not been away at all and the actors looked like they were having a ball.

In general it’s been worth the wait. It won’t grab you as much as the original but it’s a worthy effort. Two is plenty though Mr Miller and Mr Rodriguez, we don’t need a trilogy.

Trailer park: Lucy, a messenger and a dame

scarlette-johanssen-lucy-trailerDing, ding! The time has come for another trailer park breakdown. If you’re unfamiliar, this is the latest in a series of posts where I provide my pick of upcoming films with a little bit of info to set the scene and, of course, the trailer to get you all fired up.

Lucy
(US release 8 August, UK 22 August)
What if we could access the full processing power of our brains? Writer-director Luc Besson explores this theme via a kick-ass heroine. In the past he’s given us Milla Jovovich and Natalie Portman and now, a lady enjoying a fine run of form, Scarlett Johansson. Her character, Lucy, is forced by the mob to be a drug mule. Unfortunately the drugs get into her system… with interesting results. This could, potentially, be Besson’s best film yet.


Kill the Messenger

(US release 10 October, UK 28 November)
Based on a true tale that saw a journalist stumble onto a story involving cocaine, the CIA and rebels in Nicaragua. From the prisons of California to the corridors of power in Washington this looks an epic ride. And if story alone isn’t enough there’s also a cracking cast which includes Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Andy Garcia.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

(US and UK release 22 August)
Good lord this has been a long time coming. But good things come to those who wait, they say. And wait we have. But this also means that this Robert Rodriguez directed prequel needs to be as good as the original… Or better, if they can manage it. Some old faces return for this tale, but new additions – Josh Brolin, Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – look the part and seem to fit nicely into Frank Miller’s sinful world.

300: Rise of an Empire – Green brings the pain!

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUMIs it fair to say that Zack Snyder’s film 300 in 2007 was, stylistically, a breath of fresh air? All sculpted six packs and slow-mo violence. It also introduced many of us to Gerard Butler as we’ve never seen him before. However the story by Frank Miller, whilst great in graphic novel form, came across as fairly light in terms of character on screen. Lacking depth was bandied about as a phrase by some critics.

Yet Butler gave a degree of depth to the proud Spartan King Leonidas – to the point that we cared what happened to him and his brave 300. And whilst the film was lambasted for oodles of style over a smattering of substance, it developed a cult following over time. But it was what it was: an unashamed guilty pleasure. A Friday night popcorn movie. Yet… it stuck around. Word spread. A sequel was inevitable.

This time round the story takes place a little before, during and after the events of the first film. It tackles another battle between the Greeks and Persians by focusing on the plight of a different set of Greeks, led by the Butler-esque Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton).300-rise-of-an-empire-official-trailer-2014-hd And, to avoid treading the same action beats, the setting has moved largely from land to sea, with both sides pitting their mighty navy against one another.

We also have a new antagonist in the form of Greek-turned-surrogate-Persian Artemisia (Eva Green); right-hand warrior to the Persian God-King Xerxes. Whilst there’s some other bits of plot to consider, this film isn’t really about story or character, it’s about spectacle. The relatively inexperienced Israeli director Noam Murro helms this one (with Snyder co-producing) and the result is pure concentrated Synder (more Sucker Punch less Watchmen).

So what we get is a series of set battles at sea, where Themistocles and Artemisia face off against each other. Aussie actor Stapleton is solid as the stoic leader of the plucky Greeks but, ultimately, in terms of pure entertainment, we’re here to see Green’s unhinged warrior Artemisia chew up the scenery, which she does in spectacular femme fatale fashion. R2_V10B17_80213_CO3_PULLS_01rl_0017.tiffA perfect fit for the worlds which Frank Miller creates. (We’ll be seeing her again later this year in Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For as the eponymous dame.)

Some have said this sequel offers little in terms of depth of character and that the conveyor belt of battle sequences can seem numbing. I agree in part, but we all know what we’ve signed up for; an unashamed, gory, highly stylised and violent action flick – with some tough female characters to boot. (Not just Green but Lena Headey too.)

As I said earlier, it is what it is.

But it’s not just style. There is story and character to be found if you look, some of it quite compelling. It just tends to take a back seat in favour of macho posturing and fight sequences (of which there are some impressive ones). The quieter moments, as a result, carry weight. Yet they are few and far between. Ones to savour.

Another factor which surprised me was the deft use of 3D. As a sceptic I’m the first to say it adds nothing to the experience, yet here it lent itself well to this sort of tale: all limbs, blood, swords, arrows and spears flying everywhere. Murro wanted us immersed in this ‘bucket ‘o’ blood’ nightmare and, with 3D, he achieved that.

All in all, a decent follow up to the original, with a seductive and deadly standout turn by Green that confirms her status as modern cinema’s de facto femme fatale. Roll on the next 300 film…

Sin City finds its dame – Eva Green

The hypnotically seductive Eva Green has been cast as Ava Lord, the ultimate femme fatale in Robert Rodriguez’s forthcoming film Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.

First off I’d like to say I’m not one for overly dramatic fanboy geek outbursts when it comes to movie news. In this case I have to make an exception. I’ll readily hold my hands up and say this news had me jumping up and down like a kid at Christmas.

eva green dame to kill forIf Angelina Jolie wasn’t to be, then Eva Green is a fantastic choice. Previously, the rumours of which actress might be cast as Ava Lord had focused on Salma Hayek, Rose McGowan and Rachel Weisz, the latter for me being the most intriguing. In my last Sin City post I pondered the list of possible actresses and mentioned Eva, but only in passing.

I had little hope or expectation she’d be cast. Not because of any lack of acting talent on her part – far from it – but because the rumours suggested she wasn’t one of the favourites. Shame on me for listening to gossip! So, not only was this news fantastically exciting, but it was also unexpected – and let’s face it, surprise news is often the best.

I’m the money – every penny of it

Most of you will have had your first taste of delectable Eva in Casino Royale; her first encounter with Bond on the train was at once disarming, intelligent and alluring – not just for Bond, but for the audience too. Her piercing eyes, quirky smile and exquisite way she formed her words took us all by surprise. Who is this spell-binding woman? I imagine many of you exclaimed.

My first experience of Ms Green was Bernardo Bertulocci’s The Dreamers, a cult hit that launched her career. At the time the Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent’. If there’s anyone more suited to play Ava Lord – Angelina excepted – then I’d like to hear who?

So, in terms of casting, we’re largely up to speed. About time too, considering they’re already filming and A Dame To Kill For is due for release November this year. I was excited before but now, with Green on board, I’ve just gone stratospheric. Book your seat now for the opening weekend and I’ll see you half way between the gutter and the stars, the heart of Basin City!

Sin City 2: the hunt for Ava Lord continues…

ava lord picHaving recently read Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For I’m pretty clued up on the story – not that the film will stick exactly to the graphic novel, but one can assume it will fairly closely.

So what’s it about?
Without spoiling it too much I’ll just say the events of the graphic novel take place before the first Sin City film. So this is, in a sense, a prequel that largely focuses on Dwight, but also brings in two new stories, written by Miller exclusively for the film.

The story begins with Dwight working as a private eye/photographer, saving a hooker from getting shot by a client. That night he gets a call out the blue from Ava Lord, the dame, asking for help out of her marriage, claiming her husband abuses her.

Ava and Dwight used to be an item and he wants nothing to do with her. However, unable to sleep that night, he decides to investigate her claims. From there Dwight’s life goes straight to hell as it’s clear Ava is playing a deadly game, one which Dwight is determined to win – with the help of Marv and the girls from Old Town.

dennis haysbert manute sin cityNew cast members
In terms of the cast, we’ve got some new additions. In this storyline Ava has a bodyguard of sorts, Manute. An imposing and menacing figure, played by Michael Clarke-Duncan in the first film, who sadly passed away last year. He’s been replaced with Dennis Haysbert, who some of you might remember as President David Palmer in TV show 24 – an excellent choice, he’ll make a great Manute.

The increasingly ubiquitous Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on board as new character, Johnny, a cocky gambler with a mission of his own. Christopher Meloni – most recently seen as Roman, head of the vampire authority in the recent season of True Blood – will have a supporting role.

josh brolin as dwight sin cityMost interestingly though, Josh Brolin has signed up as Dwight. To explain, during the events of A Dame to Kill For, Dwight gets severely injured and has surgery to alter his appearance – thus allowing Clive Owen to play him in the first film and Brolin in this one. Brolin’s getting a bit of a reputation for playing younger versions of characters – having already played an unerringly accurate version of a youthful Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black III. He’s an outstanding actor and will clearly bring a lot to Dwight’s character.

Still no dame!
The beautiful, curvy, seductive temptress has yet to be cast. Either that or she’s been cast and Rodriguez is keeping extremely quiet. I doubt that though, in this modern internet age. With original choice Angelina Jolie more than likely out the picture, smart money is still on one of these three, probably in this order: Marion Cotillard ava lord sin city 2Rose McGowan, Salma Hayek, Rachel Weisz. My choice would be Weisz – she’s never played a seductive temptress but instinct tells me she’d astonish us.

Although if you’d like a shopping list of sultry and seductive femme fatales that could potentially play Ava, look no further than IMDb. They’ve compiled an enticing list of ladies.

Eva Green or Vera Farmiga would be really interesting choices. Or Marion Cotillard as an outside bet? She’s certainly seductive and exotic and a dame worth killing for! Who would you like to play her?

Sin City 2: So who’s the dame?

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Imagine the scenario. It’s been seven years since the first Sin City and the wheels are finally in motion for the follow up, however Rodriguez’s patience is wearing thin. Word is that cameras started rolling a few days ago, yet there are still parts to be cast. Myself – like many fans – were probably wondering why it’s taken seven years.

I suppose Miller’s failure with The Spirit meant he had to ‘take a break’ for a few years, at least until a studio were willing to back him again. I’m not sure I entirely buy that as sole reason for delay. Rodriguez directed the original and I’m sure he’ll be directing this one, particularly since his Barbarella remake stalled. Miller’s role has always been the script and – to a degree – the casting. So who knows why it’s taken this long. Best not dwell, let’s look at the story.

a dame to kill forA dame worth killing for
In terms of plot, the story takes place after the death of Hartigan but before some of the events of the first film. The story focuses on Dwight, who takes revenge on a woman who betrayed him, Ava Lord, the Dame.

At the same time, Nancy is trying to come to terms with the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the man who saved her from Yellow Bastard in the first film.

In terms of script Miller has not been idle. He’s spent time ensuring there are no loose plot strands and that both films will mesh together effectively. With William Monahan, Oscar winning script-writer for The Departed, assisting on the final draft.

Last call for casting
Goldie (Jaime King) is on board and we’ve got a new deadly, little Miho (Jamie Chung). This is encouraging as Miho is meant to have a bigger part in A Dame to Kill For and Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch) is a bit of an up-and-coming actress.

jessica albaUsual suspects are all back: Marv (Mickey Rourke), skinny little Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), Bob (Michael Madsen), Gail (Rosario Dawson), and of course Dwight (Clive Owen). Dwight’s character undergoes facial surgery in this storyline, so it’s possible there will be another actor playing Dwight pre-surgery.

Sadly, actors Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy passed away in the seven years between these two films. Their characters, Manute and Shellie, will have to be replaced and have yet to be cast.

So who will play Ava Lord?
Rodriguez and Miller’s original choice Angelina Jolie – whom I’ve spoken about in the past – is out of the picture, tied up with Disney’s Maleficent. She’s clearly going to be brilliant in that, but it is a kid’s film. She was born to play the ultimate femme fatale.

As a fan of Angie I reserve the right to act like a toddler and stamp my foot and demand she quits and heads straight to Rodriguez’s studio in Texas. Sadly it’s not going to happen.

Sin City 2She smells like angels ought to smell
Actresses that have their names in the hat to play Ava Lord include Salma Hayek, Rose McGowan and Rachel Weisz. For me, the latter is the most interesting. She’s never really played a full-on, seductive temptress but I think she’d be outstanding. Salma Hayek would slip pretty effortlessly into the role – anyone that’s seen her snake dance in Dusk Till Dawn would agree.

However, I have a feeling the role will go to Rose McGowan. For me, she’s the biggest unknown in terms of whether she’ll excel as Ava Lord. Whoever it ends up being, I’m sure they’ll be a revelation. We just need to wait 11 months to find out!

Sin City 2: Angie, where are you?

angelina jolie

Ok, I know the release date for Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For is scheduled for October 2013, but I’ve had something playing on my mind. Namely, Mrs Pitt (sounds strange calling her that). Ok, Angie or Miss Jolie – NEVER Brangelina (damn tabloids).

angelina jolieWill she, won’t she be in this film?
A quick search turned up a poster a fanboy knocked up. It’s such an enticing prospect. Some of the actresses in the first Sin City positively smouldered in every scene, namely Rosario Dawson and Brittany Murphy. They were perfect for Frank Miller’s world, but can you imagine how Angie would take it to another level?

I suppose there is always some truth in rumour. However a positive one such as this can have the opposite effect and end up pushing her away, as expectation has been built up far too much – for her or any actress – to deliver. As well as Angie, rumours are swirling around a number of the existing cast and new additions. Even IMDb isn’t sure, putting “rumoured” after various names in its cast list.

If Angie does play a part in A Dame to Kill For, I hope it is key to one of the three story arcs Robert Rodriguez has hinted at. She could bring a great mix of intensity, vulnerability and sexuality, as only she can.

Angelina JolieFilms such as: Gia (one of her early – and most captivating – characters to date), Girl, Interrupted, Beowulf (although she was annoyingly computer generated), Salt, Mr and Mrs Smith (to a degree), really makes me excited at the prospect. However, I am getting carried away. Something tells me the chances of her being in this film are quite slim, but we can hope!

There’s a blog that suggests that maybe she’s moved on, family commitments and all that. Check out the movie blog here. Let’s hope it’s not true. Watch this space!