SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
Let's cut to the chase: I don't like Sin City: A Dame to Kill for. But what I especially don't like is knowing that I'll eventually have to watch at least a portion of it again, because the only things I really cared for in this stylized noir were the scenes with Eva Green, and after waking from my brief and unanticipated nap, she was gone from the movie and never returned. What the hell happened to her? And if I was enjoying Green's performance as much as I thought I was, why did I fall asleep in the first place?
Probably because this graphic-novel-inspired follow-up is exhausting on narrative, visual, and aural levels. When directors Robert Rodriguez's and Frank Miller's original Sin City came out way back in 2005, its crisp black-and-white imagery (with occasional bursts of primary color) felt bold and fresh, and the Raymond Chandler-esque tough-guy banter seemed to ooze comedic pulp. The movie was trash, yet exuberantly produced and performed trash. A Dame to Kill for, though, is just more of the same nine years later, and without its forebear's novelty, energy, cleverness, and outside-the-box casting. (Mickey Rourke's presence in Sin City felt like something of a comeback; his presence in its sequel feels like a setback.)
There are randomly evocative compositions and random good lines; I chuckled when Josh Brolin responded to a character's load of malarkey with, "I was born at night but not last night." But Rodriguez's and Miller's trademark color splashes are weirdly arbitrary here (Why is Julia Garner's curly-haired barmaid fully hued when the character is dropped so quickly?), if no more arbitrary than the plotting. (Why is Rourke getting his ass saved by what looks like the team from Sucker Punch?) And amidst an ensemble that finds Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, and the ghostly apparition of Bruce Willis giving exactly the portrayals you expect - no less, no more - only the vibrantly malicious and deeply sexy Eva Green is worth staying alert for. Or so I thought. Playing the titular femme fatale with an accent on the "fatale," Green may be a cunning and cutting noir powerhouse, but for me, she still needed stronger material to prevent A Dame to Kill for from turning into The Big Sleep.
ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR
Near the start of Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, an environmental documentary inevitably narrated by Morgan Freeman, there's a sequence boasting majestic overhead shots of the island country, lemurs hopping and preening in slow motion, and the thunderous strains of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's all so portentous and almost laughably grand that I half-expected this early scene to end with a lemur leader atop a mountain, holding his new baby to the heavens Lion King style. (I also half-hoped the scene would climax with one of the lemurs farting, just to knock some figurative - and, I guess, literal - wind out of the movie's sails.) But thankfully, once it calms down, director David Douglas' IMAX outing proves a mostly sane and engaging piece of work.
In truth, I wasn't crazy about so much attention being focused on the species-saving efforts of Patricia Wright, despite the scientist's obvious affinity for her animals; there's something sadly and predictably offensive about the film's suggestion that the fates of Madagascar's lemurs rest with an American white woman. Yet the movie is wonderfully educational about its primates - I certainly didn't know that lemurs survived the asteroid that polished off the dinosaurs, or that, before their extinction some 200 years ago, there used to be lemurs the size of gorillas - and the creatures' cavorting is frequently underscored to delightfully eclectic song selections. (Among the tunes heard are "Be My Baby," Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique," and, in an enjoyable touch near the finale, "I Will Survive.") The sequence, meanwhile, that finds dozens of lemurs howling in a glorious shared cacophony is so ticklish and unusual that it's practically worth the film's admission price and the surcharge for 3D glasses. Although I left not quite agreeing with Freeman's assertion that "the best stories in nature are the ones that never end," the 40 minutes of Island of Lemurs: Madagascar are perfectly pleasant and informative, even if some of its factoids aren't quite as startling as the filmmakers might think. According to the film, lemurs are unique mammals because "even the smallest female is dominant over every male," and "the female decides where they go and what they eat." This is specific to lemurs how, exactly?