A Palsy Victim Performing Brain Surgery With A Monkeywrench

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s “Sin City” is the per­fect mesh of Film Noir, ultra-vio­lence, com­ic book camp, and cin­e­ma tech­nol­o­gy.

Edi­tor’s Note: Since Steve & Trey left a cou­ple of com­ments about “Sin City” on my last broad-sweep­ing post, I thought I’d final­ly get around to post­ing my review and thoughts on the film… did I men­tion I’ve been real­ly occu­pied late­ly?

I went to see the late show of “Sin City” a cou­ple of weeks ago. I had heard great things about this movie, and more than just the reg­u­lar hype run­ning up to a Hol­ly­wood bank­buster. This was the movie that was real­ly going to show­case dig­i­tal as a means of shoot­ing and edit­ing film. I read Wired’s arti­cle on Robert Rodriguez’s use of dig­i­tal, and knew that at least I would enjoy the styl­iza­tion and cin­e­matog­ra­phy. I love styl­ized films, and this one goes all the way. But of course, it was that bare-bones, grit­ty style that made Miller’s com­ic such a cult clas­sic to begin with. You can see the pan­els of Miller’s com­ic com­ing to life. The style of this movie is the style of the com­ic book. That is to say, it is the straight black & white to sim­u­late inked draw­ings. The car­i­ca­ture-esque fig­ures of each seedy indi­vid­ual are giv­en voic­es and made to move. Rodriguez and Miller have done the impos­si­ble: they actu­al­ly made a com­ic book film. It took the sto­ry lines of some of the great­est comics every writ­ten along with Rodriguez’s uncan­ny abil­i­ty to make impos­si­ble films (see the sto­ry behind “El Mari­achi,” for starters) and the use of dig­i­tal equip­ment to do it. Sure, we’ve seen many oth­er com­ic book movies, but those were Hol­ly­wood ver­sions of the sto­ry-line; repro­duc­tions only. This is a com­ic book being dis­played in live action on a big screen.

This is the sort of film that does­n’t get made unless some­one like Robert Rodriguez tells Hol­ly­wood execs to bug­ger-off and goes and does it him­self. This film makes no apolo­gies in it’s pre­sen­ta­tion. You are going to be sick at some of the fan­tas­tic bru­tal­i­ty that takes place. This is “Pulp Fic­tion” noir, but sad­ly every­body com­pares every vio­lent film to Taran­ti­no’s big debut (and espe­cial­ly since he guest-direct­ed on “Sin City”). Actu­al­ly, I’d say since you end up lov­ing some real­ly nasty char­ac­ters, it would be more in line with “A Clock­work Orange,” and no-less style dri­ven that than film. A lot of the act­ing is cheesy, to be kind, but that just lends itself to the noir genre. I have to say that Michael Mad­sen’s dia­logue with Bruce Willis comes to mind first. I can’t fault him, or the oth­er actors or director(s) much, though. Hon­est­ly, when you actu­al­ly lis­ten to one of Bogie’s speech­es about dames in those films, it almost seems like a par­o­dy as opposed to the orig­i­nal. It’s just so ingrained into Amer­i­can pop-cul­ture. Cheesy, over-dra­mat­ic lines are part of film-noir like broads and stiffs. It’s Miller’s com­ic twists on the genre that make the real mag­ic, and this film deliv­ers. Mad­sen is such a ter­rif­ic actor (“Kill Bill Vol. 2” and “Reser­voir Dogs” come to mind imme­di­ate­ly, but that’s prob­a­bly because I men­tioned Taran­ti­no), it’s almost a shame to see him say real­ly goofy things to in the sec­ond scene of the film.

Some real high­lights of the movie includ­ed Bruce Willis, who did such a con­vinc­ing job as aging detec­tive Har­ti­gan, it makes me think how good he would be as Bat­man if Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” was ever made. Nah, Hol­ly­wood would nev­er go for a decrepit, senile old man as Bat­man; but then again, who ever thought “Sin City” would get made as a film? Also, Mick­ey Rourke made the com­ic anti-hero Marv real­ly come to life. He was one of sev­er­al peo­ple who put on some pros­thet­ics to get into char­ac­ter, and real­ly made the thick-jawed, psy­chot­ic Marv come real. Every­body is great in this film, but those two real­ly sold the lines to me.

So pre­pare your­self for a black ink noir fan­ta­sy with lots of vio­lence and odd­ball char­ac­ters. Then go see “Sin City,” and see what is pos­si­ble in film. Two last lit­tle bits: look out for Frank Miller in his cameo as a priest dur­ing the con­fes­sion­al scene, and do not go to www.sincity.com… it does­n’t have any­thing to do with the com­ic and might get you in trou­ble with your boss or wife. You were warned.

Korean Films Are Coming

It’s been a long time in the com­ing, but some very incred­i­ble Kore­an films are start­ing to make their way on the U.S. movie radar.

When you talk about for­eign films, you often are speak­ing about Euro­pean art films. When you talk about Asian films, it is usu­al­ly Hong Kong action movies or Japan­ese ani­ma­tion. Some­where between the two are Bol­ly­wood musi­cals. How­ev­er, rarely does any­one in the U.S. talk about Kore­an films. Well, friends, that’s all about to change. Here’s three major Kore­an films that are like­ly to hit the U.S. hard­er than a serv­ing of Kim Chee:

  • Old Boy — (Action/Revenge/Mystery) What could be worse than 15 years of impris­on­ment and men­tal tor­ture? Just ask Oh Dae-Su after he is released and his for­mer cap­ture leads him through a mys­te­ri­ous puz­zle to uncov­er why he was kid­napped. Trail­er in Quick­time. Offi­cial Movie Site.
  • D‑War — (Fantasy/Action) Based on an ancient Kore­an leg­end that says giant crea­tures will return to try and take over the world. Some­where between “Reign of Fire” and “Godzil­la”. Trail­er in Quick­time. (also, check out the pre-viz) Offi­cial Movie Site.
  • Sky Blue — (Ani­ma­tion/S­ci-Fi) This film took some 7 years to make, because of all the lay­er­ing of CG and ani­ma­tion. It looks incred­i­ble for it, too. Trail­er in Win­dows Media. Offi­cial Movie Site.

“Numb3rs” on CBS

Numb3rs has a lot of promise as a series. It can cer­tain­ly have some inter­est­ing cas­es due to the fact that pret­ty much every­thing can be tied in to math. How­ev­er, I do find the por­tray­al of the sci­en­tists as some­what trite, in that they’re all spacey and can’t remem­ber if they weren’t going in or out of the build­ing because they’re too deep in thought.

Quite frankly, it’s been a while since I real­ly fol­lowed any­thing on CBS. That’s why I was intrigued that Rob Mor­row was going to be on a new series, and fur­ther, that it would be about a math­e­mati­cian help­ing the FBI to solve cas­es. I’ve been col­lect­ing some of the shows on the TiVo for the past month, but I’ve been wait­ing until after I had a chance to watch the fourth episode, “Struc­tur­al Cor­rup­tion,” to post some thoughts about the show. Yes, that was a week ago, but keep in mind I have a day job with long hours.

NUMB3RS - Pilot Episode

NUMB3RS — Pilot Episode — Image cour­tesy of www.numb3rs.org

Ok, the 2 sec­ond sound­bite review of the show: “A Beau­ti­ful Mind” meets “CSI.” Now, onto the meat. Rob Mor­row is actu­al­ly quite believ­able in the role of FBI Spe­cial Agent Don Eppes. I don’t find myself think­ing of way­laid doc­tors in Alas­ka at all. The oth­er cast mem­bers are all well done as well. This isn’t NYPD Blue heavy, where things are so grit­ty you need a show­er after the cred­its role and it isn’t a sound­stage sit­com, either. It’s a nice dra­ma, with as much on the per­son­al sto­ries of the char­ac­ters as the cas­es them­selves. It seems no show is will­ing to fol­low the orig­i­nal Law & Order for­mat, where the cas­es are the stars and the reoc­cur­ring actors just help to sup­port the sto­ry. That’s okay, see­ing where the char­ac­ters live is not bad for the greater sto­ry that spans episodes, either. I do find the por­tray­al of the sci­en­tists as some­what trite, in that they’re all spacey and can’t remem­ber if they weren’t going in or out of the build­ing because they’re too deep in thought. I’ve know many bril­liant sci­en­tists and math­e­mati­cians, and they most­ly thought about beer and sex just like the rest of us. They nev­er had a hard time walk­ing and chew­ing gum at the same time, so to speak. I will say, that for all the parts, the show’s pro­duc­ers seemed to both­er to try and find peo­ple who could pull of the part rather than just look while blankly going on about sta­tis­tics, for­mu­las, and num­ber the­o­ry.

NUMB3RS - Pilot Episode

NUMB3RS — Rob Mor­row as FBI Spe­cial Agent Don Eps & Sab­ri­na Lloyd as F
BI Spe­cial Agent Ter­ry Lake. Image cour­tesy of www.numb3rs.org

The direc­tion of the show is in the style of Fox’s 24, with hand­held cam­er­a’s film­ing from some­times incon­ve­nient angles, such as from out­side vehi­cles and through door­frames, etc. It’s well done here, and the style isn’t tired yet. The spe­cial effects are nice. Giv­en the shows run­ning theme of math­e­mat­ics (and it’s many dis­ci­plines, such as physics and engi­neer­ing), it’s like watch­ing those nice lit­tle ani­ma­tions on a Dis­cov­ery show like Myth­busters.

This brings me to the fourth episode. First of all, the premise of the show (that is, a stu­dent dis­cov­er­ing a struc­tur­al prob­lem with a already built, high pro­file build­ing) is based on the sto­ry of the Citi­corp build­ing in Man­hat­tan. A year after the land­mark build­ing was opened, struc­tur­al engi­neer William LeMes­suerier received a phone call from a stu­dent who claimed the columns were not in opti­mum loca­tions to resist load­ing from wind. It’s the very first sto­ry, chap­ter one, of my col­lege engi­neer­ing ethics text­book. Any­way, the sto­ry ends with LeMes­suri­er real­iz­ing that even though the way the build­ing was con­struct­ed (which was­n’t exact­ly the way he’d spec­i­fied) would like­ly fail cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly in a 16-year wind, not a 50 or 100-year wind that the build­ing would have been designed for. LeMes­suri­er came up with reme­di­a­tion plans and Citi­corp imple­ment­ed them, sav­ing the build­ing, the church at the build­ings base, and any num­ber of peo­ple from harm or death. It’s con­sid­ered the sto­ry engi­neers tell their chil­dren to teach them how to respond to errors.

The Numb3rs episode deals with this, as well as col­lege stu­dents’ high risk of sui­cide, shady con­trac­tors, and even finds time to bring up some romance. As a struc­tur­al engi­neer, some of the tech­ni­cal dis­cus­sions seemed a lit­tle child-like. How­ev­er, I’m sure that most of the stuff I can’t fol­low on ER my wife groks with­out thought. The fact that Char­lie (David Krumholtz) and his physi­cist men­tor, Lar­ry (Peter Mac­Ni­col), build a com­put­er mod­el of the build­ing to respond to seis­mic and wind forces in an after­noon is a lit­tle com­i­cal. I won’t go into it, but it’s not like­ly they would be able to do it in a month, let alone a few hours. They at least both­er to explain what’s going on. Any­way, Char­lie gets very wrapped in deter­min­ing what the young engi­neer­ing stu­dent was try­ing to dis­cov­er. The stu­dents death, judged to be a sui­cide, seems to deeply affect our hero. Odd­ly, it seems the engi­neer­ing stu­dent left noth­ing but lots of blue­prints of build­ings around and no notes or cal­cu­la­tions of any kind to indi­cate he may have been con­cerned about exces­sive deflec­tion under quar­ter­ing winds. Oh, well, some engi­neers do things in their heads, I sup­pose. With the help of the FBI strong-arm­ing some rot­ten con­trac­tors, the build­ing is soon to be saved with the help of our old friend: the tuned mass damp­en­er.

Numb3rs has a lot of promise as a series. It can cer­tain­ly have some inter­est­ing cas­es due to the fact that pret­ty much every­thing can be tied in to math. They do it already on cop, med­ical, and inves­ti­ga­tion dra­mas. No rea­son to think this could­n’t be just as suc­cess­ful. The show needs to try and find it’s own voice and feel ear­ly on, so as to not be any­thing more than “A Beau­ti­ful CSI — Los Ange­les.” For what it’s worth, it’s not got a sea­son pass on the TiVo. What show could ask for more?

The Village

From all the pre­views last sum­mer, we were both expect­ing a horror/suspense film. Some day, I’ll learn to not trust those adver­tise­ments.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Village

It snowed on Wednes­day night, so Angela unex­pect­ed­ly got to come home from work ear­ly. We stayed in and watched M. Night Shya­malan’s The Vil­lage. From all the pre­views last sum­mer, we were both expect­ing a horror/suspense film. Some day, I’ll learn to not trust those adver­tise­ments. Angela, who isn’t the fan of hor­ror films that I am, want­ed to watch the film with me around, lights on, and sur­round sound turned off. Well, that’s not the best way to watch a DVD at home, but oh well.

The film is Shya­malan’s take on a peri­od piece. The actors fol­low through with the idea superbly. His method of long, sta­t­ic shots real­ly lends itself to the peri­od, as well. This film shot with flashy, MTV-style edit­ing would have been hor­ri­ble. Now, about the peri­od: I got the impres­sion of a late 19th cen­tu­ry, Tran­scen­den­tal­ist style utopia. I could­n’t think that some (if not all) of the peo­ple involved with this had recent­ly read Thore­au. I cer­tain­ly got the impres­sion that the char­ac­ter of Edward Walk­er, played by William Hurt, had at some point.

The Vil­lage does­n’t have the same lin­ear­i­ty of Signs, which was basi­cal­ly your straight-for­ward alien invasion/suspense film. Its gift was in its abil­i­ty to come full cir­cle with sto­ry ele­ments. The Vil­lage is more like The Sixth Sense in that it con­tains the kind of twist that alter the very way you per­ceive what it is that you’re watch­ing. A hor­ror film becomes a love film. It’s almost like Pol­ter­geist being mashed with Ghost, but with much bet­ter direc­tion.

How­ev­er, if The Sixth Sense had a hard right turn at the half-way point, then this film cer­tain­ly has two. One in the final meet­ing of Lucius and Noah and anoth­er in the oppo­site direc­tion at the for­bid­den shed. Even if you expect the dra­mat­ic twists (and you do with Shya­malan at this point) and even if you can guess what’s com­ing next, Shya­malan does­n’t fail to impress. He has a gift for film mak­ing, and even more so for sto­ry telling. I have noticed that, after watch­ing the scenes he delet­ed from his film, I can tell that they fell out in the edit­ing room and not when he had a chance to re-shoot some scenes. Sev­er­al of his films will make men­tion of an inci­dent that we only lat­er see in a delet­ed sequence. Giv­en how much I enjoy his movies, I’ll for­give him this.

I think, on the whole, this film was over-hyped yet high­ly under-rat­ed. Sure, the media blitz was huge and very mis­di­rect­ing. I imag­ine the word-of-mouth stopped after the first week­end just because every­body told their friends ‘It’s not scary at all!’ Most of my favorite films are ones that weren’t any­thing at all like I was expect­ing, instead they were much bet­ter. I can’t tell you if, in a year or two, I’ll be dying to watch The Vil­lage all over again, but I can say that I did real­ly enjoy the movie.