Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Sin City (2005). It’s written by Frank Miller, writer of the graphic novels, and c0-directed by Robert Rodriguez. It mostly depicts the story from the second book in the series, A Dame to Kill For.

I’m just going to say it: I liked it more than the first…as far as the stories go. I felt like the stories in the sequel were more engaging and interesting that in the first film. Perhaps I had a hard time accepting Marv (Mickey Rourke) in The Hard Goodbye, where he goes absolutely berserk for vengeance after only one night with a woman. Though, while I loved returning to the black-and-white city with accents of color exploding from the screen, the cinematography doesn’t beat the first film. So both films have their strengths and their weaknesses. I will say that I’m somewhat shocked that this film is receiving such lackluster reviews and low turnout — I enjoyed watching it!

Mostly because of Eva Green, who plays the titled dame to kill for. Manute (Dennis Haysbert) calls Green’s character, Ava Lord, a goddess, and that she is. She’s almost otherworldly, portraying at various moments, and sometimes simultaneously, innocence, sex appeal, lust, power, and poise. She commands the screen just as she commands the men she seduces throughout the film. She enters the film in a ice blue coat and blood red lips. Blue, the lesser used color in the Sin City films, tends to represent a character who has another side to her/him. She walks into the film as a damsel in distress, using her subtle smirks and gorgeous eyes to convince Dwight (this time played by Josh Brolin) that she’s in mortal danger from her husband, Damien (Marton Csokas). Once Dwight comes to her rescue, she flips the switch and attempts to shoot him dead — the moment when her eyes ignite green, like burning wildfire, blazing savagely like her plan for wealth and power. I cannot sing Green’s praises enough; she dominates the screen with both her physical beauty and her emotional manipulation. My one complaint in the entire story is how quickly and easily Ava was finished off. I feel like the entire film could have been devoted to that one story and her sinister side could have been thoroughly developed.

Johnny’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) story also kept me engaged. He’s a young and cocky gambler, who never loses. JGL plays the part as lithely as he shuffles a deck of cards. My favorite part of the story is that even after he’s beat up severely, terrorized, and given a second chance to escape with his life, he takes a dollar from the charitable waitress at a diner (Lady Gaga) and he goes back to challenge Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at Poker Night again. He says that even if he’s killed, he’s defeated Roark twice and has shown without a hint of a doubt that he is better than him — and that story will haunt him even after the senator is dead. That’s how Johnny achieves his vengeance, a long-lasting blow to Roark’s legacy and reputation.

Even Nancy’s (Jessica Alba) story kept me glued to the screen. I was curious to see what she was going to do to get out of her drunken funk after Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) death in Sin City. She goes to a dark place, hacking off her hair and cutting up her face to look almost zombie-like. After going to the shooting range every night before work, she finally takes a life (and many, many more) to finally avenge the death of a loved one. I found it interesting to see the drastic transformation from the little girl at the beginning of Sin City, traumatized to see her hero cop shot in front of her, to grow up into a beautiful young woman who still idolizes the man who saved her life, to become the empty shell of a human being who has no goal in life but revenge. It’s a stark metamorphosis.

The film starts with a bang, and it ends with a bang. In my book, nothing that can beat the prologue to Sin City, the iconic introduction to a world springing to life from the pages of the comic books — nothing except the sultry and elegant Eva Green. The stories kept me engaged, and while the look of the film doesn’t jump off the screen like the original film, it’s still vivid and lush and a joy to experience. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For welcomes back Rourke, Willis, Alba, Boothe, Rosario Dawson, and Jaime King and introduces Sin City newcomers Green, Gordon-Levitt, Brolin, Heysbert,  Csokas, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Priven, Jamie Chung, Julia Garner, and Christopher Lloyd. 


They Came Together

They Came Together (2014) is a spoof on the romantic comedy genre, directed by David Wain and co-written with Michael Showalter. Although constantly spoofing, the film is made with a deep-down love for the romantic comedy genre; it’s 83 minutes of laugh-after-laugh all in the spirit of good ‘ole fun.

They Came Together tells the story of Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) as they are sharing the story of how they met to their friends one night at dinner, Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper). Joel and Molly preface their love story as a really corny romantic comedy, and, boy, does it live up to that. It begins with a You’ve Got Mail foundation, with Rudd being the charming and charismatic leading man, oozing handsome smiles all over the place, who works in the evil candy empire that is threatening to bankrupt Molly’s small and community-friendly neighborhood candy shop (Poehler and Rudd working in candy companies screamed Leslie Knope, Bobby Newport, and Sweetum’s from Parks and Recreation). Molly is the classic strong and in-your-face type who’s clumsiness and compulsive qualities are endearing. Almost every romantic comedy trope and stereotype could be found in this film: overhead shots of Ney York City, holiday gatherings to introduce single friends to each other, incredibly passionate and rambunctious nights of love-making, meeting the parents, breaking up and getting back together over and over again, a mad dash to stop a wedding, getting back with an ex, montages of couples falling in love in the city, marriage proposals, hate-at-first-sight — they even managed to fit in a montage of the leading lady trying on various outfits to impress her man. Because the film is so fast-paced, all this and more is able to fit into a film that’s a little under 90 minutes long. Each trope and stereotype has Wain’s unique and hysterical twist on it, making for constant laughs.

The film hardly has a story — but it doesn’t need one; the point isn’t to have a story. The film is perpetuated by laughs and jokes. The pacing is very quick, joke after joke after joke, and while there are a few misses, most land perfectly. Laying out tons of the jokes, the leads — Rudd with his myriad of close-up smiles and Poehler with her clumsy yet likeable antics — are supported by an incredible cast. Jason Mantzoukas is the goofy and loyal best friend to the leading man; Cobie Smulders is the unfaithful and vapid ex-girlfriend of and constant temptress to Joel; Max Greenfield is the leading man’s little brother who offers up “jewels” of wisdom (with whom Joel has a tangential family crisis which is yet another romantic comedy antic); Teyonah Parris is the sassy co-worker (and possibly only other employee) at Molly’s small business; Ed Helms is the nice guy who is clearly wrong for Molly yet still manages to procure an unenthusiastic “yes” to his marriage proposal; Christopher Meloni is Joel’s boss, the token idiot turned up a few notches; and perhaps the most important supporting character: New York City.

This movie takes inspiration from great spoof and parody films such as Airplane! and Blazing Saddles. It’s 83 minutes of fun and laughs, if you’re open to not taking anything seriously. They Came Together has a solid and hysterical screenplay by Wain and Showalter and it’s brought to life by a crazy-strong comedic cast. Even though they’re making fun, you can’t help but root for Molly and Joel to get together. And even though Rudd is flashing a ton of fake, laugh-inducing smiles, you get a little weak in the knees each time.

I was fortunate enough to see They Came Together at the Music Box Theatre as part of the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival. David Wain was the special guest and introduced the film and let a Q&A afterwards, which was as hysterical as it was fascinating. They Came Together comes out to select theatres on June 27, 2014. It will be at the Music Box Theatre, so please check your local theatres and check out this film if it’s in your area!