Month: August 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

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A Dame To Kill For is the follow up film to 2005’s Sin City and is once again based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller and Directed Robert Rodriguez and Miller .

Again a set of vignettes featuring several inhabitants of Basin City, the shadowy city of corrupt politicians, dirty cops, dames and bruisers. This film just like the previous one is chock full of hardboiled dialogue, ultra-violence and sex, in fact it probably features more, especially of the latter. The recognisable film processing returns as well rendering the film in stylised black and white with colourisation being used to highlight certain elements throughout with many scenes replicating Frank Miller’s art .

Kadie’s Saloon once again serves as a hub for the action with Marv (Mickey Rourke) knocking back drinks and watching over dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba). Dwight (Josh Brolin) has attempted to put his shady past behind him – now making a vaguely more honest living as a P.I catching out cheating husbands however Dwight finds things spinning out of control when he stumbles across his former lover, Ava Lord (Eva Green).

Elsewhere Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is back in town with a score to settle.

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Mickey Rourke’s anti-hero Marv is once again one of the highlights for numerous reasons not only is Rourke’s performance impressive , his gravel throated voice is exactly how you would expect Marv to sound but with some subtle prosthetics he looks so much like the character it’s uncanny. Whilst Marv is a nigh invulnerable bruiser his fractured memory and reliance on his pills add a sympathetic layer to a character who is essentially a psychotic killer with good intentions. The introductory story “Just Another Saturday Night” paints a vivid picture of an average day for Marv, dazed and confused looking at a dead body and two smashed up cars, one of them a cop car and trying to figure out how he got there and what happened.

The main story “ A Dame To Kill For” is that of Dwight as he finds himself unable to resist the pull of his old life and his old lover Ava. Brolin captures Dwight’s mental turmoil well, like the junkie who’s determined to stay clean but inevitably goes back for another fix. Green is in her element as the devious and manipulative femme fatale Ava who wields her sexuality like a weapon pulling several men’s strings and the interplay between her and Brolin is great.

Green spends as much time out of her clothes as in them which works perfectly in the context of the story, it serves to show exactly why Dwight and so many others become playthings for her to manipulate. The stylised nature of many of her scenes also renders her into shadow much like Frank Miller’s art which is never explicit in it’s depictions of sex.

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Elsewhere the story stumbles a little, Johnny’s story “The Long Bad Night” finds him seeking out the nefarious Senator Roark played with gusto by Powers Boothe. With the rest of the characters already being familiar Joseph Gordon Levitt’s card sharp stands out and not in a good way. His story seems somewhat superfluous as it has no connection to any of the other characters which is what makes Sin City work, the interconnectedness of the characters lives. This story serves more as a reminder of just how heinous Senator Roark is.

The other story “The Angel Of Death” features Alba’s Nancy as she deals with the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) becoming withdrawn constantly thinking about killing the untouchable Roark. Nancy and Marv’s relationship really comes into play here as the hulking bruiser really is a surrogate father to the dancer that everyone drools over. Alba is great as the haunted but feisty dancer and one exchange between the two sums them both up brilliantly with Nancy stating “Looks like trouble” and Marv replying with a laugh and saying “Looks like Christmas” . This is definitely the better of the two written for the screen stories adding a real sense of closure.

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A Dame To Kill For has rather notedly bombed at the Box Office in comparison to the previous film there are likely myriad reasons for this one of the main ones being it took so long for this film to show up, nearly ten years. Ten years is a long time. Another factor being the look of the film which dazzled people the first time around doesn’t have the same effect due to the familiarity even though it’s still impressively shot.

The first film was surprisingly popular despite its relatively unknown source material, it was a cult film that punched above its weight and viewed in the context of Marvel’s now common place smash hit films based on comics this follow up is seen unfairly as a  disappointment . This is missing the point entirely. Sin City was never intended to be for a mainstream audience, the stories are just as dark,  brutal and ugly as the characters but it’s a compelling and seductive darkness.  As Marv memorably put it Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything”

One thing that will puzzle those not overly familiar with Frank Miller’s graphic novels is the chronology of the story, as it isn’t linear as might be expected . Despite being seperate stories, several of the “yarns” in Sin City take place at the same time just in different places with different characters. This explains the presence of Marv here despite what happens at the end of The Hard Goodbye which was in the first film. Equally many may not grasp that Josh Brolin is playing the same character as Clive Owen did, although A Dame To Kill For takes place before The Big Fat Kill which was in the previous film in which Dwight has a new face, which explains why having Brolin play him here actually makes sense narratively. The Angel of Death however takes place after the events of That Yellow Bastard.

Koko Takes A Holiday

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500 years in the future Koko Marstellar, a former corporate mercenary, is living the easy life after retiring early to run a brothel on The Sixty Islands, a man made tropical resort known for specialising in sex and simulated violence. Koko’s easy life becomes distinctly less easy when Portia Delacompte, an old comrade, sends a squad of security personnel to kill her.

Kieran Shea’s Cyberpunk inspired sucker punch of a story is precise and honed to a fine point, it doesn’t get bogged down in endless exposition setting up the world of the future but rather introduces elements slowly in a drip feed as the action unfolds with things like Tiger Fighting, Depressus and more being  introduced.

It’s always refreshing to discover a new great character regardless of the medium if that character is a feisty kickass woman it’s all the better. There’s plenty of talk about how there’s a distinct lack of “strong female characters” around, I hate that phrase it’s reductivist in the extreme, after all there’s no such thing as a “strong male character”. Koko is far more multi-layered than whatever “strong” implies, she’s a more than capable fighter but she’s also intelligent and witty and numerous other things besides and also looks utterly badass too, with artist Joey Hi-fi running with Shea’s description for the sublime cover .

Whilst Koko finds herself on the run from her former home and business the story also features the other perspective of the events, from Portia Delacompte’s end. Shea gains plenty of mileage from the ridiculous, callous and bureaucratic nature of corporations which is merely exaggerated to blackly comical effect here, with Delacompte having to deal with a board of directors who call her actions into account at every turn with Delacompte venting her fury on a well meaning but inept assistant who has hired the operatives that have been assigned to take out Koko. An interesting rather Phillip K Dick touch is she can’t remember why she has ordered the death of her former comrade after undergoing a selective memory treatment and this becomes a major part of the unfolding story.

Another key character is Jedediah Flynn a security officer aboard the Alaungpaya, one of a number of vast ships that are home to hundreds of people in low orbit above the Earth, akin to floating cities. Flynn gets entangled in Koko’s story after finding out he’s been diagnosed with an altitude derived mental affliction named Depressus which is widely considered to be terminal and often prompts sufferers to take their own lives, usually by leaping to their deaths, this has become such a problem on Alaungpaya that official ceremonies dubbed “Embrace” ceremonies enable mass group suicides.

These three characters stories coalesce in impressive style as Shea’s narrative unfolds with various character touches along the way, like Flynn going through his life on autopilot until he blunders into Koko’s life and Koko learning that even a badass former mercenary and hired gun occasionally needs help sometimes.

One of the most interesting aspects though is the gender balance which is completely flipped in comparison to the general norm, Flynn, Delacompte’s assistant and a nefarious arms dealer that Koko knows from back in the day are the only male characters here, the rest are female. There’s something refreshing and a little subversive about a story that pits a cadre of female mercenary’s against a former female mercenary who is now a madame for a brothel of boywhores.

Great characters, a frenetic pace, action and some twisted humour make this one to look out for and what is surprising is this is Shea’s first novel.

Squarriors: Teeth & Nails

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Crowdfunding has become a great way for creators to fund projects that otherwise would never get a chance the downside to its popularity though is searching through the different projects can be a tiresome affair. Kickstarter’s comics category has over 100+ live campaigns but here’s something worth your attention.

Sqaurriors created by writer Ash Maczko and artist Ashley Witter, also known as Team Ash, have team up with publisher Devil’s Due Entertainment for a story of animal tribal warfare in a post human world.

After the demise of man animals have evolved to sentience but have to deal with the dichotomy of their new state, a battle between reason and their more savage natural instincts. The animals are tribal in nature and the initial story from Maczko is based around the the power struggle between two of these tribes the Tin Kin and the nearby more hostile Maw tribe.

 The Tin Kin tribe has 40 members altogether and are lead by a tribal council of elders which is made up of seven characters Cheeks, a squirrel who is the commander and trainer of Tin Kin’s militia, Eli, a fox, Meo a mouse and Treejump, a flying squirrel are officers and Jobe, Jacko and King are a trio of squirrels who make up the tribes Adviser, Second in command and Chief.

These two tribes are amongst thousands of others which now inhabit the land and have their own territory.

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Whilst Maczko’s concept might seem intriguing what that really makes Squarriors stand out is artist Ashley Witter and her highly detailed and lush art, with interiors that are just as impressive as the covers. One of Witter’s popular images, which is now one of the covers, lead to the pair coming up with the concept for Squarriors.

The pair have been working hard to spread the word about Squarriors at conventions across America but they need help fund their creation hence Kickstarter. The world that Witter and Maczko have created is a vast one with potential for numerous stories featuring other tribes and characters.

Squarriors is an example of well utilised anthropomorphised animals as featured in some classic critically acclaimed examples of sequential art like Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, Elephantmen by Richard Starkings and Why are you doing this? by Norwegian cartoonist Jason.

For more details visit Squarriors: Teeth and Nails

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