Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – 7.5/10.

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Same characters. Different faces.

Nine (!) years after the original Sin City, director Robert Rodriguez finally gets round to releasing a sequel and it is mostly worth the wait. Right off the bat it is pleasing to see Rodriguez and Miller are not resting on their laurels visually. Sin City 2 not only matches the original in terms of looks it easily surpasses it adding a number of visual flourishes that work better than anything Rodriguez has previously attempted. New additions Josh Brolin and particularly Joseph Gordon Levitt impress, the former stepping into Clive Owen’s shoes ably and the latter providing the best storyline of either film. Jessica Alba is also a big positive given more to do than just erotic dancing this time round and Mickey Rourke is on top and worryingly comfortable playing psychopath Marv. The problem here is just how long it took to get this film made. In that time Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy have tragically passed away, Clive Owen has lost interest and Devon Aoki who was so great as Miho in the first instalment has all but quit acting to start a family. This leaves A Dame to Kill For feeling disjointed and frustrating. This could have been every bit as good as Sin City but nine years is a long time in Hollywood.

Sin City – 8.5/10.

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Robert Rodriguez gets the balance right between B Movie weirdness and Hollywood blockbuster with his adaptation of Frank Millers Sin City.

Sin City’s breathtaking visual style literally brought graphic novels to life and paved the way for 300, Watchmen and others. Sin City was not just a trail blazer in this regard it is easily still the best in this genre. Visually it really is an impressive achievement with every shot looking like the pane of a comic book. Sin City was part of a golden age of comic book adaptations with Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins also released in the same time period and it deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as those mentioned. Basin City is like Gotham but drenched in the film noir of the forties and the Americana of the seventies. This makes stars like Bruce Willis and Clive Owen perfectly fit this world with their classic leading men persona’s. The rest of the varied and talented cast don’t miss a trick with Rosario Dawson every inch a femme fatale and Mickey Rourke a revelation as the now iconic character of Marv. Sin City is maverick director Robert Rodrigeuz’ masterpiece and if you haven’t seen it already now is the perfect time on the eve of the release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Godzilla 6/10.

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The world is destroyed again. This time by like… straight line, robot dragons or something. Godzilla takes this badly.

Godzilla takes an interesting approach in portraying the famous daikaiju as a fearless and beautiful warrior. Noble and mysterious. This definitely breathes a new lease of life into the actual character of Godzilla but that is not enough to save the film as a whole. The main problem here is that it massively feels like director Gareth Edwards put absolutely everything into making Godzilla look awesome so much so that little things like plot, character development and pacing fell by the wayside. All the standard blockbuster traits are unfortunately present. A close up of a mans face as he delivers a terrible line of dialogue, an actual ticking clock as a plot device, story lines tapering out all over the place. This is a shame because the big lizard does look absolutely breathtaking. The problem is we don’t see enough of him and too often he is lurking in the shadows like the bashful reptilian he is. Another issue is when the huge monsters crash into battle it is difficult to tell what is what as it all just gets mangled together. This has been a problem throughout the Transformers series as well and nobody seems to have a solution yet. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does not have what it takes to carry a summer blockbuster and the movies best assets Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen are both underused. In the creation of Godzilla Edwards and his team have absolutely succeeded but in making a good film they have fallen quite short.

The Captive – 7/10.

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Grim faces all round as Ryan Reynolds keeps a top on throughout.

I don’t normally do a proper synopsis but I think it is important here for context. The Captive centers around the tragic kidnapping of a little girl who then becomes a kind of poster girl for other child abusers. Child abuse is probably the most emotive and controversial subject matter there is and The Captive does a great job in keeping its emotions in check without resorting to sensationalism (Prisoners) or just down right cynical exploitation (Hard Candy). Aside from the subject matter The Captive is a frustrating film. Running out of chronological order renders the first half an hour utterly baffling and doesn’t add a great deal to the story. A couple of well placed flash backs could have done the same job. The plot in itself is captivating but some of the character behaviors are laughably unrealistic. Ryan Reynolds has kind of gone off track since Green Lantern and if that was his Daredevil it is safe to say The Captive will not be his Argo. That is not to say that he isn’t very strong though. This will surprise casual Reynolds fans but this isn’t actually a great departure from a lot of his other work. In between making terrible, career ruining choices about big projects Reynolds has a few quirky abnormality’s on his CV and this is an interesting addition. Elsewhere Rosario Dawson is understated and very effective but Scott Speedman stinks the place out with a robotic turn as a cliche tough guy cop. A lot to like but The Captive feels like a missed opportunity.

Zero Effect – 6/10.

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Private investigators investigate things privately.

I have never liked films about private investigators. They all seem derivative and unoriginal to me. I don’t think the genre has moved on much since Sherlock Holmes. Even Chinatown didn’t do a great deal for me. Zero Effect is no different. Brilliant but troubled PI solves puzzles using unorthodox techniques while his long suffering sidekick tries to keep him on track. Recent HBO show Bored to Death tried to reverse this trend by having an ineffectual comedy detective but the overall film noir feel of that show ensured it still succumbed to genre trappings. All of this is a shame because the three main players here are all really good. Ryan O Neal is great and believable, grounding the film and adding a bit of drama to an otherwise light hearted flick. Ben Stiller always does better in less ‘zany’ roles and he is restrained and solid. The star of the show though is Bill Pullman. Despite playing a cliche character he adds an enigmatic air of mystery to a role that is difficult to pin down. He also has the funniest moments. Zero Effect is not a film I enjoyed but maybe that is just because it is not really my thing rather than the film itself being bad. It also suffers from not knowing whether it wants to be a comedy or a crime drama.

A Simple Plan – 7/10

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Three good old boys discover a huge amount of money. Make terrible decisions.

Director Sam Raimi is most well known for the original Spiderman trilogy and The Evil Dead series so A Simple Plan is a nice change of pace. Bill Paxton is an actor who has never really captured my attention despite appearing in a thousand movies but he is actually terrific throughout. A Simple Plan is another fine example of how an uncomplicated story with a simple message (money can’t buy you happiness) can make for a great film in the right hands. Billy Bob Thornton puts in a good shift as lovable and vulnerable Jacob and while Thornton was nominated for an Oscar, it is Paxton who really leads the way. Fans of Fargo – both the film and the TV show – will find a lot to enjoy in A Simple Plan.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – 6/10.

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Man with a silly name kicks ass and eats ice cream.

Ghost Dog is not a terrible film. It has a brilliant hip hop soundtrack composed by RZA of Wu Tang Clan fame and features an interesting idea at it’s core. Mafia hit man who follows the ancient way of the samurai. Forest Whitaker is fine. Good even. Although he has little to do other than narrate deep and meaningful extracts from his Samurai hand book. The problem here is I didn’t connect with this movie. It flies straight in to the plot with little back story and character development and the film suffers massively for this. The ending should pack an emotional wallop but when the final shoot out hit I was already disinterested and also a bit bored. It is true I am not very familiar at all with cult director Jim Jarmusch or his work so maybe there is something I am missing here but Ghost Dog left me feeling cold. I think I might have preferred a film about an actual ghost dog. That sounds like fun.