Sin City (2005)

One from the rewatch pile…

Sin City (2005)

Film: Before these wonderful days of comic to movie blockbusters, in general, comic movies were a curio at best, and the entire history of comics to movies is littered with some absolute crap, and occasional highlights. Prior to the release of Sin City, the highs had been things like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, and there had been lows, like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. It used to be that to have a successful comic movie you had to satisfy the comic fans, which the more recent Marvel films have changed, by turning almost everyone into a comic film fan, but by staying true to the character or the aesthetic of a film, you could have a winner… and director Robert Rodriguez is well aware of that.

He also knows that comic creator Frank Miller, the mind behind the world of Sin City, has been through the Hollywood machine, and did not enjoy it. Rodriguez did not want to do this movie without Frank Miller on board, and so pursued Miller, including making a short film called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ to convince him that the look of the comic could be done. Using the actual graphic novels as script and storyboards, the duo created a movie that is literally every comic panel come alive, albeit with a few small trims. Every angle, every effect is all done exactly to the comic’s specifications, which, at first may not seem that spectacular, but when you consider it is a black and white comic, with an occasional splash of color, it is incredible. The monochromic look was achieved by having all performances done in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. This way, Rodriguez’s digital prowess could accurately create the unique look which is exactly what something based on Millar’s vision required.

One thing that I will point out that Rodriguez did here that pretty much NO other filmmaker has done when adapting a comic is keeping accurate to the source material. It seems every Hollywood director and writer and designer needs to put THEIR own stamp on the films they make, but here, Rodriguez realised the source material was solid, and didn’t need to have his personality and ideas littering it up like the Marvel and DC films have had. There was a few colour choices that were made but they were more to define comics ideas that don’t work outside of the pages of a graphic novel.

Also, in the comics, Nancy’s dance sequences were all topless, but either Jessica Alba didn’t want to do it or they wanted to avoid a higher rating, her boobs are covered.

Just as a quick side note, Miller is a big fan of the work of Will Eisner, specifically the character The Spirit, a character he himself made a… well, not very good film of, and the noirish, city-as-a-character theme plays highly in his stories.i like Miller’s writing, but his art style usually isn’t my bag, like his sketchy style used in`his 80s run of Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns and 300, but I loved his treatment of chiaroscuro in his Sin City books, originally published by Dark Horse under their ‘Legend’ imprint, which is also where Hellboy came from.

The story is about Sin City…a town of roughnecks, hookers, maniacs and corrupt cops. Follow stories of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight (Clive Owen) as they cut violent paths of collateral damage through the denizens of the town to achieve their goals.

This edition of the Australian Bluray of the films comes with 2 versions of the film… well, kinda-sorta. The individual tales that are mixed up within the movie have been recut and watched as four separate mini-features… like novellas… titled That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Always Right, The Hard Goodbye and The Big Fat Kill. It’s a cool and interesting way to split up the stories.

Featuring a massive ensemble cast of movie stars, including Rutgers Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Benicia Del Toro and many others… including Frank Miller himself, and an entire scene directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Welcome to Sin City: don’t forget to buckle up!

Score: ****

Format: This film is presented in a stunning 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty cool bunch of extra in this package.

Disc one has the main release of the film on it, but in addition, a branching version of the film where special effects details can be seen whilst watching the film, and there are three commentary tracks, the first is with Rodriguez and. Idler, the second is with Rodriguez and Tarantino and the final one has the audience reaction to the film at an early screening. The two commentaries are fascinating and each cover different sides of the making of films in general.

Kill ‘Em Good: Interactive Comic Book which is essential a pretty cheap, Bluray based video game similar to something like Dragon’s Lair where being quick with the buttons is the way to win.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film looks at what Rodriguez did to convince Miller to allow him to make the film.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino looks at the relationship between Tarantino and Rodriguez and how they came to work together in this project.

Hard Top with a Decent Engine: the Cars of Sin City has us see the amazing vehicles used for the citizens of Sin City to drive. Car fans would love this.

Booze, Braids and Guns: The Props of Sin City looks at the cool amount of props collected for the film and the dedication to getting comic accuracy.

Making the Monsters: The Special Effects Make Uo is always my favourite part of any ‘extras’ section of a film, and this didn’t disappoint, especially considering most of it was done by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead.

Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City looks at the outfits and costume design of the film.

There’s also a teaser and a trail for the film… and then we get into the real fun part: The Rodriguez Special Features, which include:

15 Minute Flic School is an occasional series where Rodriguez shows tricks of the filmmaking trade.

The All Green Screen version is the entire film all played without any off the special effects, sped up about 800 times and it’s interesting what they were able to accomplish!

The Long Take looks at the way Quentin Tarantino directed Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the scene he filmed and because it was shot on digital they could continuously shoot so you see al the direction and discussion.

Sin City: Live in Concert is footage from a concert with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators, and Rodriguez’s band Chingon.

10 Minute Cooking School is another staple/ irregular series that Rodriguez does, this time its the recipe for Sin City Breakfast Tacos!

Score: *****

WISIA: One of the best comic to film productions ever, AND a kick ass gangster film in its own right. You’ll watch it agin and again and again.

Tarzan Revisited (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Tarzan Revisited (2017)

Film: In addition to horror films I have always been a fan of the heroic figure, and I mean properly heroes, not the dark, brooding murderous ‘super heroes’ of today. My heroes were always the ones a bit more honest: yeah, I lean towards the Superman rather than the Batman camp and I’ll take #teamcap over #teamironman any day of the week.

One of my first non-comic experiences with this type of hero was with the pulp styled heroes. Saturday afternoon television, when I was young, consisted of Tarzan movies or TV shows, Godzilla movies and Universal horror and comedy pics, and Tarzan really spoke to the boy who craved adventure in me, which I guess was the reason the character became popular in the first place.

This of course led me to read the novels and stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, where I really enjoyed both the tales of Tarzan and those of John Carter of Mars too. By extension I drifted into Conan stories, and the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne’s, and then after I saw the film Re-animator, H. P. Lovecraft as well…. I guess I circled around and drifted back to horror pulps in the end.

For those who don’t know, Tarzan is the story of the son of John Clayton II and his wife, Alice, the Lord and Lady of Greystoke, who are shipwrecked in Africa in around 1888, and is born whilst they are lost. When Tarzan is one year old, Alice dies and his father is murdered by the King of the Apes, Kerchak.

The baby is adopted by the gentle female ape Kala, and Tarzan, whose name means ‘white skin’ in Ape-speak, quickly becomes a member of the ape family. He does eventually happen upon his human parent’s cabin and realises there is a reason why he is so different from his adopted family. He kills Kerchak, who is jealous of his skills, and goes on a series of adventures across many novels, meeting the lovely Jane Porter and many other characters both friend and foe and this documentary celebrates the books to a small scale, and how clever Edgar Rice Burroughs was at marketing him, but really explores the cinematic history of the character.

It’s information is always fascinating and it interviews not just directors like David Yates and Hugh Hudson, actors like Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lambert, and Wolf Larson, (and Ron Ely and Johnny Weissmuller in archival interviews) who are all identified by what ‘number’ Tarzan they are, Mike Richardson from Dark Horse Comics, but also several Tarzan, film and social historians to add context to the character.

There is a couple of glaring holes in this documentary though. The animated Tarzan film from Disney doesn’t get looked at which I originally thought was because maybe Disney didn’t wish to be involved in the film, but footage from Disney’s John Carter film is mentioned and seen.

Another important section of his history was the Filmation animated series from the 70s, which started as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and evolved into The Batman/ Tarzan Adventure Hour and then Tarzan and the Super 7. In addition to Ron Eli’s TV series this cartoon was another important step into my affection for the character.

The final one I thought was an obvious absence was the comic series’s from both Marvel and DC Comics, not to mention from Dark Horse, Dynamite, Dell and several other comics companies. Yes, they do show a few covers but they are revealed more as a product like a toy, rather than a storytelling device. This is made particularly obvious by the fact the documentary does extensively discuss Tarzan in art, and the newspaper comic strip made by comics legends Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth.

Whilst not a complete look at the character, which would probably be in a much longer documentary, this is a really nice overview of Tarzan’s importance to cinematic history, …. I don’t think any other character can claim to have a new film out every 14 months between 1917 and 1970! It’s really a shame that he’s not a relevant anymore, which is probably due to how small the world has gotten, and how the deepest darkest Congo maybe doesn’t have the mysteries it may have once contained.

Score: ****

Format: The film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment, multi-region DVD which runs for approximately 76 minutes. Due to it containing a lot of archival movie footage, the 1.77:1 image is of various degrees of quality, and the spect ration changes at times, though generally a border in placed on either side of the screen. The audio is presented in a clear Dolby 2.0 track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None at all.

Score: 0

WISIA: Being a Tarzan fan, I have only had this a week and have already watched it several times. It’s fascinating.