Author Archives: W E Wertenberger

Another tour of Sin City

By W. E. Wertenberger

A sequel nine years in the making, the second Sin City installment seems to make no attempt to better itself. And that is a fine thing indeed. In a cinematic universe full of wisecracking Spidermen, insecure Scott Pilgrams, and adolescent Star Lords, it’s refreshing to see some unapologetic masculinity portrayed onscreen. Granted, it is in the hyper realized, exactingly recreated world of a Frank Miller comic. Where everything is black and white…except when it’s not.

As in the first film, we get a selection of stories loosely interwoven into one plotline. This one being even looser than the first. With Marv, played with that same confused focus Mickey Rourke seems a master of, the linchpin holding them together. Each rolls out as you would expect. This is straight forward storytelling, just point the good guy at the bad guy and let fly. And Millers knife edge dialogue is very well suited to Robert Rodriquez B movie sensibilities.

Production wise, we get a beautifully complete Noir fantasy land. Docks, slums, skyscrapers, mansions, all set to a dark and bleak background. Just the way I imagine Raymond Chandler would have liked. And the green screen reality may be even more impressive than the first time around. That may be because I was forced into seeing the 3D version, the theatre I saw it in had only one showing that wasn’t in that format. But, I will recommend you see it this way, despite the added four bucks on the ticket price. I believe it is perfectly suited for 3D and not once did it feel like a gimmick. Never has a poker game been so vividly portrayed. It may be my favorite scene in the movie.
Performances were solid throughout, with Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Powers Booth as stand outs. But the real show stealer is Eva Green. As the Dame to Kill For, she most definitely foots the bill. Playing the classic femme fatale, Green is so slinky in her manipulation of men, she seems to slither from scene to scene. And even when we know she is playing a con, it’s tough to blame the dumb saps for continually falling for her. Luminescent green eyes are hard to say no to.

Bottom line, if you liked the first you’ll like this one as well. Hell, I think I liked it just a bit better.

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True Detective a modern noir masterpiece

                HBO’s True Detective recently finished its inaugural run and set a bar so high, I predict all follow up seasons will suffer by comparison.  It simply was that good.

     Writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto gets first honors for taking the classic buddy cop scenario and crafting something that feels fresh, yet familiar.  By injecting Lovecraftian horror elements into the story, he transforms what would be a standard murder investigation to a tantalizing otherworld of possibilities.  Never really sure where it’s going until the end…even then still questioning it a bit.  Not an easy trick to pull off.  His dialogue is pure pleasure to listen to.  Pulp detective tough guy in a modern world of PHD psyche profiling, complete with southern drawl.  Not once did it seem artificial or forced as you might expect, these two cops are as smart as they are hard-boiled.  Not to mention funny, some of the one liners Woody Harrelson utters are classics that will be repeated as passwords for the True Detective initiates for years to come.

     The look of the show is glorious high definition grit with an epic scope.  Much has been made of director Carey Fukunaga’s approach, with beautiful establishing shots and iconic imagery scattered about.  But I think his true accomplishment is the melding of the writers concept mentioned earlier to the unique southern atmosphere a place like Louisiana affords.  Through his lens, it doesn’t seem so farfetched that an ancient cult has held sway over the swamps and wilderness for multiple generations.  In fact, it seems downright plausible.

     Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the final element in this modern noir masterpiece.  Nothing needs said other than career defining role, for both.  I think McCaunaughey’s Rust Cohle will get more attention come awards season, simply because of the nature of the role.  But Harrelson as Marty Hart is equally deserving of praise for balancing his onscreen partner in a grounded reality, allowing for the more surreal moments to play out in contrast.

     As far as criticisms go, they are so minor and easily forgiven I choose not to mention them. 

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Year End Movie Cram Review, Part 2

Picking up where I left off…
Her. I have seen the future through the eyes of Spike Jonze, and it is a bland and passionless place. Where humans have evolved into creatures so dull, even their own computers leave them. And I believe this is exactly what Jonze intends. Not that this isn’t a sweet and at times moving love story, there are elements of that. But Phoenix plays the lead in such a fragile and meek way, the inevitability of his heartbreak seems preordained in hindsight. Which leads me to believe this is more a cautionary tale regarding social media tech and what it means to give ourselves over so completely to its seduction. Fine film, not the best of the year but thought provoking and worth seeing.
Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney, Emma Thompson plays P L Travers and Colin Farrell plays the most sympathetic character of his career. Set around the repeated attempts of Disney to lure Travers into Mickey’s fold, we are taken on a hopscotch journey from England, to 60’s Disney studios and frequently, in flashback, to Travers’s childhood in Australia. My expectations for this film were moderate. While I am certainly a fan of Disney and what he created, I had no real connection to the Marry Poppins character or film. It was not needed. This film is so heartfelt and sincere it is impossible to not fall in with Thompson as she works over her personal demons, and almost everyone she meets along the way. The directing is superb and John Lee Hancock should be praised for how he handled the time-shifts. Seamless. Performances across the board were tremendous, with this being the first time I remember actually forgetting Tom Hanks was onscreen, he so thoroughly became Walt. Truly excellent film, certainly in my top 5 for 2013 and a must see.

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