Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Hi folks, this isn’t going to be a huge review, I just have some thoughts on this film, and find myself lucky enough to have a blog upon which I can write them. I was supposed to be on (and host) an episode of the Lambcast which will be published very shortly on this topic, but alas life got in the way and I couldn’t make it to a screening in time (many thank to Robert for filling in) but I have now seen the film (in order to edit said podcast episode).sin_a Continue reading

Body Heat

In a balmy summer heatwave in the American Deep South, the not-terribly-good defense lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt with a 70s pornstar moustache) makes a random encounter with wealthy, sultry Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), who is unhappily married to Edmund (Richard Crenna), a good man who is always away on business. Ned and Matty begin an illicit and steamy affair, and both decide that they’d be better off financially and romantically if Edmund were no longer around, so Ned, with the help of Mickey Rourke’s criminal consultant, sets out to murder him.
What sets this apart from the rest of the noir genre it draws obvious inspiration from is the copious nudity and sex scenes between the two leads, which are excessive even by today’s standards, as well as several shots of Richard Crenna in his underwear that I could have done without.
I was surprised that the plot didn’t contain more twists and turns, as in the end it was all fairly straightforward. For instance, I assumed early on that Matty’s husband Edmund would be in cahoots with either Ned or Matty, but in fact Edmund has very little to do in the story. In fact, his character arc is completed so early on that I was intrigued as to where the plot would go next. Also, some elements are set up with no eventual payoff – Matty’s niece catching Ned doing something he shouldn’t be doesn’t end up with her identifying him to the police – which led me to think that either we were deliberately fed loose threads to keep us guessing, or it’s just sloppy writing, though seeing as writer/director Lawrence Kasdan also wrote Star Wars Episodes V and VI, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Big Chill, it’s probably the former.
I was surprised to see just how attractive Kathleen Turner used to be, as other than her vocals in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’ve only ever known her as the dog trainer in Marley & Me (I have never willingly watched the film, it’s a favourite of the girlfriend) and as Chandler Bing’s drag-queen father in Friends, so I was rather confused that someone with such nice legs and skin could go on to be, well, Kathleen Turner.
There have been better noirs made before this (Double Indemnity) and after (Coen brothers’ debut Blood Simple), and if it weren’t for the aforementioned raunchiness there’s little chance of it being remembered today. The film isn’t necessarily bad, but its not revolutionary either.
Choose life 6/10

Unlisted: Iron Man 2

Yesterday I discussed the near flawlessness that is Iron Man, and whilst all these praises remain for the sequel, it suffered from having far greater levels of hype, anticipation and expectation. It seemed that all who had loved the first couldn’t wait for the second, everyone wanted more, and more was most certainly what they got, especially when it comes to an overabundance of supporting characters, superfluous plot strands and men in metal suits hitting each other. Where the original finale, with Stark and his business partner, Jeff Bridges Obediah Stane, knocking seven bells out of each other in their rocket-propelled armour, seemed fresh, new and exciting, in the sequel we get something similar not once, but three times, as well as two metal men fighting an army of remote-controlled drones and an early confrontation between Stark and new villain Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) at the Monaco Grand Prix. Some of the action set pieces, like the aforementioned meeting, seem a little shoehorned in to put an action beat in place, but are still impressive, and the suiting-up sequences have also been greatly improved upon, especially the Suit-case.
All the supporting characters are back, but Don Cheadle has replaced Terrence Howard (Howard apparently wanted more money than Marvel thought he deserved, and seeing how little he brought to the table in the first film I’m inclined to agree with them) as Rhodes, and all the characters get an expanded upon arc, even director Jon Favreau’s background cameo as driver Hogan gets himself something to do. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is the new Stark Industries CEO, Rhodes wants a suit to take back to the military, Scarlett Johansson is Tony’s new assistant/undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (a welcome addition to the cast, if only for aesthetic reasons), Tony is in talks with Samuel L. Jackson’s one-eyed Nick Fury about his role in the Avengers, weapons rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is desperate to better Stark and bird-obsessed Vanko aims to settle the score regarding his father working with Stark’s dear old Dad (Mad Men’s John Slattery). See, that’s a really long sentence. Far too much to take in. The first film was streamlined, with not much chaff around the wheat, but here there’s just too many strands. I didn’t even mention that the arc reactor keeping Stark alive is also killing him, a completely unnecessary plot point that adds nothing and is resolved by the end, so doesn’t affect the series, but takes up about 20 minutes of screen time. Even with so much going on, the film is 5 minutes shorter than the first, but feels half an hour longer, as boredom sets in from watching metal men punch each other repeatedly.
Even more so than in Iron Man, this feels like a prequel to the Avengers, especially with Johansson’s Black Widow, bigger roles for Nick Fury and Agent Coulson and references to Captain America and Thor. That, and the film’s finale feeling disappointing after a protracted build up leaves this film with all the entertaining pats of the first, but an unfulfilling sequel that doesn’t take them anywhere. Favreau has since dropped out of part three, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black has stepped up instead. He’s worked with Downey Jr. on one of his best roles to date, so here’s hoping.
Choose life 6/10

The Wrestler

Has there ever been a character so seemingly written for a specific actor than Randy ‘the Ram’ Johnson, so perfect a fit for Mickey Rourke it’s impossible to imagine anyone else play him. Both were big in the 80s, Rourke at the peak of his game in Diner, 9 ½ Weeks and Barfly, Randy a top billing wrestler, but then saw their popularity wane and the roles dry up, before a comeback arrived, in the shape of Sin City for Rourke, as heavily scarred behemoth with a heart of goldie Marv, and a reunion battle with former nemesis the Ayatollah for the Ram. Rourke’s face, a battleground of botched plastic surgery and his four year stint of boxing in the early 90s looks like it’s been pummelled in the ring for years, and he nails every note of Ram’s trajectory, as a particularly brutal weapons match – in which a disabled spectator offers Randy his prosthetic leg to use as a club – causes the Ram to suffer a heart attack, and his wrestling days are over. Whilst struggling to adapt to a life without his one true love, he attempts to form a relationship with similarly aging, but still smoking at 45, stripper Cassidy (Oscar-winning Marisa Tomei) and reconnect with his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). The flinch levels are unexpectedly high for a character piece, with incidents involving a deli-counter meat slicer and a staple gun proving the most worthy of a glance away from the screen. Director Darren Aronofsky – more known for deeper, more obscure work like Pi, the Fountain and more recently Black Swan, employs great cinematography, shooting everything on location with no sets and as many long tracking shots as he can, but this is Rourke’s game through and through, and though he wasn’t robbed of the Oscar (Sean Penn’s Milk was more deserving , in my opinion), I hope he doesn’t throw everything away with support roles in entertaining but cringeworthy fare like the Expendables and Immortals. He needs some more layered, meaty roles, I’m just not sure anything will ever be such a good fit.

Choose film 7/10

Diner

Overshadowed by the more successful, identically plotted yet inferior St. Elmo’s Fire for its starrier cast (back then anyway), this follows six friends as they joke, laugh, date and above all talk through their situations and lots in life as one of their number gears up to get married in a few days time. The cast of then near unknowns includes Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Tim Daly, Kevin Bacon and Ellen Barkin, most of whom are fine in their roles, particularly Guttenberg as Eddie, the highly-strung groom-to-be who insists his fiancé must pass a football test or he’ll cancel the ceremony, and Stern’s Shrevie, the sensible, married member of the group who has discovered he has nothing to talk about with his wife (Barkin). Only Reiser is left without much of a character of story arc, left merely to pop up now and then with a well timed joke or put-down, something the comedian is more than equipped to do. Some of the dialogue seems to have been lifted from an unused Steven Seagal script (“I’ll hit you so hard I’ll kill your whole family”), but the 50’s soundtrack, featuring such artists as Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry help to make this an 80’s classic, even if it’s set in December 1959.
Choose film 6/10