Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For:
What's it about?
Belated follow-up to 2005's smash hit comic-to-film success from Robert Rodriguez and Sin City creator Frank Miller. Tales, new and old, interweave throughout the seedy bars, secluded mansions, and dangerous alleyways. Dazzlingly dangerous dames, brutally violent men, corrupted officials, gamblers, voyeurs, thugs-for-hire, strippers and gunslingers ... all can be found on the streets of (Ba)sin City.
Who would I recognise in it?
Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Juno Temple.
Nine years was arguably too long to wait for a sequel, particularly as initial rumours suggested a sequel in 2006, and expectations were running high. The original film was extremely well received, so perhaps expectations got the collective best of some reviewers and audience members. Of course a sequel isn't going to be as breath-takingly original as the first - this is more of the same, you know what to expect, it wasn't going to become something different. However, comparing the established tales of Miller (e.g. the titular A Dame To Kill For) with his newly-penned chapters, you can't help but feel something's missing from the Miller of today. Whatever that something is, it's hard to pin down ... but the new material, while continuing to do much of what worked before, still lacks a certain something...
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Stylistically the film shines, building upon what came before with even bolder splashes of visual brilliance. The performances are broad, as per the material - inspired by hard-boiled detective fiction - all bloated metaphors and grumbling narration. Eva Green practically steals the entire movie as the eponymous dame, an emerald-eyed femme fatale, a sadistic siren ... a deadly black widow. Challenging her for dominance though are Mickey Rourke, back as loyal bruiser Marv (many of these tales take place before the majority of events in the first flick), and Jessica Alba as avenging stripper/shootist Nancy. A certain injustice from Sin City is followed-up (some of the aforementioned new material), and while most of it works well, there are moments that feel like imitations of scenes we've seen before.
Sin City knocked our collective socks off and left us riding high. If you temper your expectations you'll get more out of the sequel than if you go in expecting something equally supreme. The movie took a few too many knocks from reviewers than it deserved, and its struggle at the box office was a shame. However, these are tough times for movies in certain regards - crowded slates, gigantic explosion-fests, exceptional television drama - and even though Sin City 2 comes out of the fight bloodied, bruised, and battered, it's well worth seeing. Good.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2:
What's it about?
The second entry in the rebooted franchise, maintaining Sony's rights to the property, in which Peter Parker must face his responsibilities to Gwen Stacey, the continuing mystery of his father's research, and three ruddy villains.
Who would I recognise in it?
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane Dehaan, Paul Giamatti, Felicity Jones, Sally Field and more.
Unshackled from most of the origin story re-treading that plagued the 'first' movie, the sequel gets to stand taller and stronger. However, littering the script with three villains was a stupid move - it had already caused considerable problems for Spider-Man 3 - so repeating that mistake is inexcusable. Rhino gets some business at the tail ends, no doubt being saved for a future film, while Electro and Green Goblin are both cut off at the knees with little to really do - both are sorely underdeveloped. Electro is cool to look at, and he's at the centre of the film's best set piece (in Times Square), but his back story doesn't quite work and he spends most of his screen time serving underneath others. Green Goblin meanwhile is rushed out the door in the final act after - surprise surprise - more stuff we've already seen in the Raimi movies. Peter's still a bit too confident, but the on-screen chemistry between real-life couple Garfield and Stone is undeniable. A major story from the comics gets worked in and is handled quite well, but the majority of the film exhibits considerable problems. It doesn't feel like this story absolutely needed to be told and despite some fun, some spectacle, once again it mostly fails to earn its keep. Alright.