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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For movie review: meaner streets

Sin City A Dame to Kill For red light

An unnecessary sequel that’s empty and arduous, little more than vignettes on vengeance and cruel parades of sociopathic power performed as gleefully ultraviolent shadowplays.
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the first film

I’m “biast” (con): didn’t see a need for a second

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There’s the nihilism of Sin City. A place where wounded men have to remind themselves to “never let the monster out,” and a woman can “makes slaves of men,” and even “good men” are turned on by a woman’s tale of rape (which she invented, of course, because this is Sin City, where you can’t trust a dame). A place where men are nothing but how they can use their rage and women are nothing but how they can use their bodies.

And that’s none of it nice. But it pales in comparison to the nihilism of this latest story about the place, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. A movie consisting of little more than vignettes on vengeance and cruel parades of sociopathic power performed as gleefully ultraviolent shadowplays. A movie where disjointed parts never connect up into a cohesive whole and instead merely bounce around in a random nasty game of pinball. Is it paradoxical to suggest that even nihilistic stories need a reason to be told? They do for me, at least.

It’s been almost 10 years since the magnificently brutal Sin City, and that’s part of why this unnecessary sequel feels so empty and arduous. Back then, the oozing corruption and despairing hopelessness of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s CGI-noir portrait of Basin Sin, the hellish world of Miller’s graphic novels, felt excitingly pertinent: we’d been living in that world since at least 9/11, and maybe since the botched U.S. presidential election of 2000. But now it’s another decade on, and the real world has gotten even more unendurably angry, reactionary, and meanspirited in the interim. I don’t need my movies to be all rainbows and fairy dust, but Dame is monstrous and merciless merely for the sake of merciless monstrosity. Even the vigilante violence its characters dish out in search of justice — justice that is, I suppose, meant to make us get some pleasure out of the savagery we’re witnessing — is cold and vacant. Turns out it’s just as difficult to hate cardboard villains as it is to love cardboard heroes.

Dame is all ugly posturing. Mal mots of fatalistic cynicism get no justification in the plot, as with Josh Brolin’s (Guardians of the Galaxy, Labor Day) Dwight, who is the one worrying about letting his monster out,: we never know what his monster is all about. Stories get set up and then go nowhere, like with hulking Marv (Mickey Rourke [Immortals, The Expendables], buried under facial prosthetics), who starts out unable to remember his own name or how he ended up with a bullet in him: we never discover what the deal with the amnesia is, or how or why or even if he remembers. Potentially intriguing characters appear and disappear, having done precisely nothing: who’s the warty, Jabba the Hutt-like crimelord who is incited to go on a rampage and then never shows up again?

For extra bonus vacuity and confusion, the various plot threads here are not happening simultaneously: some are sequels to events in Sin City and others are prequels. I’d never have guessed that not only is Josh Brolin supposed to be the same character Clive Owen played in the first film but that the Brolin version is an earlier, younger one. (I only accidentally discovered this reading some background info on the movie.) Meanwhile, though, the storyline featuring Powers Boothe’s (The Avengers, MacGruber) vicious politician, Jessica Alba’s (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, Little Fockers) haunted stripper, and Bruce Willis’s (Red 2, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) sainted cop is clearly following on from events in the first film. But even here, there’s a lack of context or even the briefest of catch-up for those who may not have seen the first film in a while. Worth repeating: it’s been nearly 10 years since the first film. Even the most devoted fans are not going to have the same level of recall as when there’s only a couple of years between films.

It gets so that even the unique visual style of the film seems little more than a gimmick. The black-and-white comic-book atmosphere, created as CGI animation for human actors to wander around in, is splashed with vivid color, mostly of a quite urgent tenor: flames and blood and lipstick and police sirens. Though not always! Sometimes blood splashes white. It often feels more like random underscoring than anything done with a purpose. Dame seems to play with filmmaking toys it doesn’t really understand; both Rodriguez and Miller are credited as directors, though the lack of discipline makes me suspect that what we get is more the work of the far less experienced Miller (The Spirit) than of Rodriguez (Machete Kills, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D).

On the plus side — pretty much the only plus side — Sin City 2 does feature both Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Wind Rises, Premium Rush) and Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire, Dark Shadows), two of the most bewitchingly magnetic actors working onscreen today. They’re never together, alas: that might be too combustible even for Basin City. It’s kind of sad, though, to see Gordon-Levitt’s thread go so desperately nowhere, and Green’s into such toxically clichéd misogyny. What a shame that crashing and burning for no good reason is a tradition in this town.


US/Canada release date: Aug 22 2014 | UK release date: Aug 25 2014

MPAA: rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 18 (strong bloody violence, strong sex, nudity, drug use)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • Parkour

    Wow, this review is very well written.
    I havn’t seen the movie yet, I am seeing it on Friday.
    But really enjoy reading this review. Very pro.
    Would anyone know why Sin City ; a dame to kill took so long to make?
    Parkour
    http://www.toxicscreenplays.com

  • RogerBW

    I thought the original one was, well, OK, but it kind of said and did everything it needed to say and do. How many times can you say “all men are beasts, all women are whores” before the audience gets bored?

    Mind you, it sounds as though this is also another entry in a trend I’m spotting in quite a bit of modern film, where scenes exist primarily within themselves for the audience to say “look, isn’t that cool”, rather than in the context of the story that’s the whole film. And if you didn’t enjoy it, that’s OK, here’s another scene.

  • futurestar

    we attended a local premiere last night. most noticeable and alluring is the great look the film brings you back to the 24/7 din of inequity that seldom sleeps since there much killing to be done. the sex reads more of a recharge your batteries before one goes back out in the line of purpose and duty. there are enough of the original characters to give it legitimacy and some welcome additions that everyone touts -

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, and Eva Green play bigger chunks as essentials to give substance and sustenance. not to belittle the great characters ushered in by Powers Booth, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, and Stacy Keach – all of whom walk out of animated comic novels written as very adult material. the cadence of the film moves so quick it’s hard at times to pinpoint where you just left and are going next.

    if memory serves this was a combination of past books used to comprise a new story – thus the prequel, sequel overlaps. the team/collaboration of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriquez is a winning combination even “10 years after”. Sin City has lost none of it’s vile and wicked with just enough color to taunt you. Kudos to regulars Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, and Bruce Willis.

  • Jurgan

    Sounds like a lot of the problem is that this was made strictly for fans of the books. I read them all several years ago, and part of the fun was picking out the various connections and timelines between them. That’s not a defense of the movie, though, it’s a condemnation. I saw the first movie before reading any of the books, and I understood it perfectly. Now, it sounds like it’s trying to fill in some of the missing stories but not doing a very good job of it. For instance, in the books it was very clear that Dwight was the same character despite looking very different. But they told this story before his story in the first movie, so you saw him commit crimes and then go into hiding. So it sounds like they were counting on viewers to have memorized the source material rather than engaging newcomers.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    This is not a place for you to post your own review, unless it’s woven into a response to my review. Did you ever read my review?

  • Brian

    Yeah, you seem like a lot of fun to be around.

  • futurestar

    Yes I did and mine can be deleted if u
    so choose please do so. No harm intended. Respects Russell E Scott

    P S i worked on both films. Especially
    # 2 which was hindered by actor unavailability. I just finished up the last of the accounting for my end of booth for SC2 at comic con in S D. FYI an insiders view and knowledge never mentioned by me
    but have the day, the floor, and all the say. My apologies

  • Danielm80

    If you worked on the film, then your comment about it isn’t a review. It’s an ad.

  • Beowulf

    Wow. Has it really been almost ten years since the first one? Yeah, like MA, I (mostly) liked that first film. Maybe it’s been ten years of cruel and monstrous violence in the “real” world that has turned me away from this stuff, but the very first trailer I saw made me wonder why this had been made. [I'm not stupid: $ is the main reason.] After what’s been happening in the streets of our cities and towns recently, blood-drenched “entertainment” has lost a lot of its appeal, if it ever had any. And, dammit, years of reading MA’s reviews of stuff like this has turned me off violence for the sake of violence, especially when it’s increasingly aimed at women. See, your words matter, MA.
    Now…for MY review…………………just kidding.

  • Ace Stephens

    Depends. Plenty of people who worked on a film can say it’s a piece of crap. That’s not really an ad. Then again, some people say all publicity is good publicity. And some people who worked on a film can say it’s amazing. If meaningful in this regard, it can still be a review. It only becomes an ad if their motivation is inherently suspect beyond the immediate review. As in, outside of their already being paid for their work on it or similar, they are now being paid more to promote it or believe their random comment online will serve to promote it and therefore increase its revenue. And this isn’t an inherently accurate assumption.

    So I find your assertion itself rather suspect.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You better believe I am queen and boss at my own damn web site.

    Jesus.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Glowing comments that sound spammy — ie, clearly not a response to my review — from someone who worked on a film sure as hell *is* “promoting the film.”

  • Ace Stephens

    I don’t know why you saw fit in your review of a film which is, by its nature, violent and extreme, to belittle it for roughly being violent and extreme. Perhaps you disagree but I feel that, as a reviewer, you must judge the quality of the work on its own relative merits rather than projecting random concerns onto it. Such as it suiting your morality, social awareness, etc.

    As the former results in a review suitable for posting online for others to see. The other results in a self-involved spiel about one’s own self-righteousness. Why not write about the film Beethoven for the website of a radical animal rights group? …Because the immediate concerns of that slant – while meaningful for an article yet not a review – are irrelevant to the actual quality of the playing of the film.

    One struggles to comprehend how you can say that the first film felt in line with a post-9/11 worldview and then go on to say this:

    “But now it’s another decade on, and the real world has gotten even more unendurably angry, reactionary, and meanspirited in the interim. I don’t need my movies to be all rainbows and fairy dust, but Dame is monstrous and merciless merely for the sake of merciless monstrosity.”

    You do not think that your second sentence there is a further commentary on the former sentence, just as your grasp of the first film’s events as an allusion to the nature of a post-9/11 world might have been? What you praise one second, you denounce the next. This is one of the major flaws of unrelated moralistic perspectives projected onto art.

    “I’d never have guessed that not only is Josh Brolin supposed to be the same character Clive Owen played in the first film but that the Brolin version is an earlier, younger one.”

    Good. The movie likes it that way. The character would want it that way. And it’s all beside the point.

    You keep acting like the film doesn’t recap enough of the last film. It has no need to. The first film was the exact same way. The first film left out elements of storylines leading up to that because it had no need to recap them (hence, why you don’t have an immediate frame of reference for how Brolin is playing Owen’s character). You are dropped into this world, experience a relative anthology of interrelated stories and then you are ripped from the world. That’s life. That’s Sin City. That’s the whole point.

    Moralizing about it only makes you miss it.

  • futurestar

    no it’s not because I’m not being paid. I say what I want. my words are my own and they are not for sale nor is my opinion.

    you are a wrong for the implication. My wish is I had never landed here and yes I did read everything start to finish then back again. I’ve been trying to delete my in put and leave your sacred space as someone who doesn’t belong here in this very select group.

    I thought I had done so already as I know am not welcomed nor do I wish to be. I would like to escape the corral of this condemnation. Move on. Apologies
    all is given, my mistake. It’s just another movie. No war or ill feelings.

  • futurestar

    then please delete my input as I have tried as my wish and request that I personally through your email address. I have no battle w/you or your web space please. I have no affect on the film once released. FYI. Jesus mam let up.

  • http://irishcrime.wordpress.com/ Irish Crime News

    Great review.

    I’m seeing an alarming trend with over hyped homage and cartoon style over substance movies from Rodriguez and his partner Tarantino lately.
    Their films are getting worse and worse , more “slick” and bigger actors but terrible shallow stories.

    It leads me to think that these filmmakers are sociopaths.

    Hope this and hateful 8 flops.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    I suggest you read my review of the first film.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    The butthurt is strong with this one.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Your comments are a valuable example of how not to crash someone else’s space. I’m not deleting anything. I suggest you stop digging yourself in deeper.

  • Ace Stephens

    I already did so. It doesn’t change my perception of this review. It just makes the level of contradiction in what you’ve put forward for this film even clearer.

  • arisimiantales

    I have not seen the film, and probably the majority of posters haven’t since it isn’t out, but the review seems pretty leveled and well thought out. Sometimes reviews are glib and angry about the film. This doe

  • Tonio Kruger

    But the Black Knight is invincible…

  • Tonio Kruger

    If you post a comment and it sounds like spam and looks like spam, you can’t really blame people if they choose to interpret it as spam. And it is possible to post a compliment to a movie on this site — even if MaryAnn dislikes said movie — without sounding like a spammer.

    And if MaryAnn was as thin-skinned as you imply, I — and a lot of other people who post here regularly and often disagree with her — would have been kicked off this site a long time ago.

  • Ace Stephens

    I didn’t imply anything about MaryAnn. Reread my comment and recognize who I replied to and you will see that your comment is off-base. Not mine. You probably should have replied to the person I replied to instead.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Sorry, but for you to write this:

    I don’t know why you saw fit in your review of a film which is, by its nature, violent and extreme, to write it off for roughly being violent and extreme.

    suggests that you hadn’t read my review of the first film. Because if you had, you would have known that I do not write off violent films merely for being violent.

    As for the 9/11 thing, I have no response to someone who doesn’t understand that exhaustion with a horrible situation is way worse when you add an extra decade of endurance to it. Though there is also the clear implication that if the movie had been any good, I could have coped with the attitudes anyway.

    But you know what? If you think I’m being hypocritical, that’s information you can use to write off my review.

  • Ace Stephens

    But that’s exactly what you did – wrote off a film which is, by its nature, violent and extreme for being violent and extreme. Why? You apparently got tired of violent and extreme acts being portrayed. Fine – but that’s like getting tired of family-friendly comedies and then writing off one of those for being it. It doesn’t really make much sense as a review – that is, some form of outward critique. At best, that might come across as an inkling or a preference. Which, sure, is worthy of being shared. But if somebody said, “I just didn’t like it.” and didn’t address how or why, within the thing itself, I’d think, “This person is wrapped up in their own views of a certain sort to address the film’s issues from a relatively open perspective.” And I would like to think that’s not the case with you, so I kind of wonder why/how some of your conclusions were drawn if not that sort of thing.

    Regarding the comments about 9/11, you cited the original film as conveying something about the world at that time. Now, with this film, you write off the “merciless monstrosity” as being – as far as I can tell – self-indulgent, without considering (or at least pointing toward) how that likely reflects this current period of time. Or you just don’t seem to care that it does so, if it does indeed do so. Therefore, where is that consideration here? And why does the “movie being any good” have to have a relationship to that, in your mind? If what you said of the first is accurate, this film is either similar to the first in that it reflects a certain type of society or it’s dissimilar in that it doesn’t. If it does, why is the first given credit and the second isn’t? You were tired of the violence and extreme nature? …That doesn’t really hold as consistent.

    I don’t want to write off your view for believing you to be hypocritical – I see these things which I feel appear to not line up and I want to give you a chance to address that. But it feels like you’re kind of riding on general sentiment more than critical analysis – hence my concerns about your moralizing regarding the material rather than what I might feel would be aiming a discerning eye toward it’s overall playing. Like, for instance, I might cringe if a dog is harmed in a film. That doesn’t make the movie bad. Just like a film might be endless shootouts and sex – and that might make me uncomfortable (as I am not generally interested in films of that/this nature). But that doesn’t make the movie bad.

    So I’m wondering, outside of what I perceive as this sort of morality you’ve projected onto it, how all of this lines up – what are the problems within this work as itself, where is it lacking (outside of your simply being tired of the portrayal of these things in this manner – for instance, I could essentially dismiss all of the James Bond films out of hand if that – sometimes morally-driven position – were all it took to write a review…), etc. As I’m trying to decide if/when to go see it and this sense that, “It reflects a post-9/11 world” giving way to the notion that it apparently reflects nothing is a distinction I don’t see why you made. Or how you got from A to B other than roughly, “I’ve seen it. I’m tired of it.”

    But, frankly, if one has seen a lot of movies (and I’m absolutely certain you have), one could use that rationale for almost any film at this point.

  • Duarte Boaventura

    You know what, in 2000-2005 violent movies entertained me a lot more than they do now. Violence has gotten bogged down in its own sense of spectacle these days. Combine that with our national fatigue for violent problem solving and I think you can start to see why the author feels such ennui with modern action movies.

    Besides, what do you want? An objective review of a movie based on facts? This is an articulated opinion, not scientific maxim.

    Go see it. The world won’t end and the author won’t shed a tear. I probably won’t see it though because I’m tired of comic book movies and I’m starting to see them more and more as a manifestation of America’s dearth of revolutionary ideas and declining pertinence in the world.

  • Ace Stephens

    I understand a sense of fatigue with the notion but look at it this way – if the reviewer never saw the first film for the first time today, would the reviewer say, “Nope. Not a good movie.”? If so, that calls the reviewer’s relative reliability into question (because it’s more about their slant than it is about their personal interpretation of the film’s quality as itself – again, one should not reasonably condemn a family-friendly comedy for being that, even if there are a lot of them). If not, why is that okay but this isn’t? Because of the time period in which it’s made? Or released? Or some other arbitrary designation in relation to its quality?

    If something tragic happens today and a film comes out tomorrow which appears to mirror it, is that film suddenly bad because of “recent events”? I would argue that, no, it isn’t. Does it carry troubling subtext or this or that? Sure – possibly. But you can’t just randomly ascribe a moment in time to a work of art and view it through such a narrow framework. It’s unfair to the material to project this skewed “morality” or similar onto it. If I watch a movie about a difficult breakup and the main character kills himself at the end…right after I went through a difficult breakup and had self-destructive thoughts…is that the film’s fault? Am I being fair in posting a review for others that says, “This film is awful!” (possibly with the addition that it’s awful “because it touches upon things that are too real for me right now!”?). No, not really. That’s my preference, slant, etc. due to what I’m projecting onto it – not what the quality of the playing of the film is.

    Of course it won’t be “purely objective” or similar but it has to have a basis in reasoning, doesn’t it? Otherwise, it’s just hollow sentiment and that’s not very meaningful to share with others (particularly not on a site with a reference to philosophy in its name) – and, I would argue, is more a part of a problematic culture right now than the portrayal of violence in fiction.

    As far as whether I should see it or not in relation to this review, just saw a review that I felt hit on a few good points and then completely lost me on others (particularly in relation to its comparisons of the first film to the second). And I wondered if that gap could be bridged so I could fully understand what the issues were the reviewer had or if it was just indicative of a reviewer caught on their own expectations/morality/etc. more than willing to allow themselves to get “caught up in” the film.

  • Duarte Boaventura

    Its a movie review. Its a person’s opinion. Its not a scientific fact. Good and bad are lines you draw for yourself on a blank canvas.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    But that’s exactly what you did – wrote off a film which is, by its nature, violent and extreme for being violent and extreme.

    No, it isn’t. I wrote off a violent film — in part — because it does not use that violence to say anything new, fresh, or original. And certainly nothing that the first film didn’t say a decade back.

    At best, that might come across as an inkling or a preference.

    Then take it as that if you don’t want to see anything else in my review.

    “This person is too wrapped up in their own views of a certain sort to address the film’s issues from a relatively open perspective.”

    Well, at least you didn’t accuse me of not being objective!

    what are the problems within this work as itself

    Dealt with in the review. All style, no substance. Stories that go nowhere. Etc. See above.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    if the reviewer saw the first film for the first time today, would the reviewer say, “Nope. Not a good movie.”?

    Yes, it’s possible I might. The world is different now, and I am different now. (As I have explained more than once, though, including in the review itself, there are other problems with this movie that were not present in the first film.)

    If so, that calls the reviewer’s relative reliability into question (because it’s more about their slant

    Of *course* it’s about my slant! It always has been. And if you think I wasn’t slanted in 2005 and I am now, you might want to look at your own slant.

    Or you might be at the wrong film site.

  • Ace Stephens

    I know it’s a person’s opinion – that’s why I’m questioning their justification for it. As in, what led them to draw these conclusions and why does it not line up with what they put forward about the last film.

  • Ace Stephens

    You are misconstruing what I said/meant by “slant” (I assume you didn’t read my other comments referring to it or you sidestepped what I put forward). Again, an extreme animal rights activist is perfectly within reason to comment upon the film Beethoven within the slant of their views but to review it through the lens of that cause/belief/morality/etc. is to distort the representation of the film to the public at large in the name of self-interest or self-involvement.

    I fully expect you to give your perception of what the film conveyed but what the film conveyed as the film. Not what the film conveyed when distorted through a moralistic lens or similar which projects some “outside” agenda onto the film.

  • Ace Stephens

    But why was it considered substance nine years ago? That’s what doesn’t make sense to me and that’s what you haven’t clarified. If it’s roughly more of the same as the original, doesn’t that just make sense as what the film is (a sequel to that other film)? How can its message or similar be dismissed on that premise? These are the sorts of things you don’t address but just allude to in a vague, “It’s a different time.” sense – yet you don’t apply that same, “It’s a different time.” sense to a justification for the content as you did nine years ago. As though film symbolism/commentary/etc. itself is no longer a relevant construct to your consideration – not as though the film itself doesn’t have meaning as you alluded to what was included as “merciless monstrosity.” Isn’t that, then, the point? How can you acknowledge the point in one moment and dismiss the suggestion of there even being one the next? I assume you’ve heard of nihilism, at the very least – so why is that not considered as something the film might be commenting upon?

    These are the sorts of things you gloss over when, apparently, judging the film from a moralistic perspective rather than one of genuine film criticism. The latter being the view wherein the film is the subject and you are the person conveying a sense of that subject to the reader. Instead, you seem to be the subject and try to use the film to convey more of yourself. It’s baffling in that there appears to be a meaningful review in here somewhere but you don’t get out of your own way enough to clearly state your points with some consistency. And your justification, in some instances, appears to be just, “That’s what I said.”-type sentiment.

    So, while that level of authority makes sense on your own site, one questions why you review movies if what you really want to talk about is yourself.

  • Duarte Boaventura

    They are similar movies but they are different. That’s why they get different reviews.

  • Ace Stephens

    It seems like all that’s really being conveyed by the reviewer as particularly different is the timing of release. Sure, there are evidently other factors but most of them are all cast in reflection upon the first film (in contrast or comparison). So either the first film is a frame of reference for these events and this film being in line with that is accepted, in-premise, or the first film isn’t really a frame of reference (so referring to it much wouldn’t be pertinent) and so this is treated as a largely separate entity – an entity which sucks. I get the impression the reviewer wishes to convey the latter yet, for some reason, keeps referencing the former.

    That’s why it doesn’t make sense to just say, “These are similar but different.” That’s obvious. What isn’t is why this one is framed so inconsistently in relation to the other, often on the grounds of various stances which lean toward moralistic views. Yet this isn’t fully clarified either. Mindless killing in the former is fine but in the latter is meaningless. It all just keeps swirling in a cycle of relative contradiction and nobody’s laying the groundwork for how it all truly lines up.

    Except, roughly, “I feel that way.” or, “It’s later. I’m bored.” I get that – but why? And can an attempt be made to bridge those gaps (between what is said or referred to regarding the first film and what is said or referred to regarding the second film) with reason? I assume so but no clear rationale has been put forward, on these exact matters, other than hollow sentiment. Which is just more of very thing I’m asking be clarified for broader understanding in the first place.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I don’t feel my concerns are being addressed in a manner that will lead to further understanding

    Read: “you’re not letting me have the conversation I want to have, the one where you admit that I’m right and you’re wrong, and thus validate me and my opinion”?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    if the reviewer saw the first film for the first time today, would the reviewer say, “Nope. Not a good movie.”?

    First, I love it when a commenter comes to a film critic’s website and starts referring to said critic as “the reviewer”. It’s like when Southern Belles say, “Well, bless your heart.”

    Second, I was recent watching Cinema Sins (a youtube channel) do one of their “Everything Wrong with…” on the first Sin City. Now, I haven’t seen the film in a few years, but based on the memories the clips on that show evoked*, I’m not sure the original Sin City has aged well. I think if it had been released in 2014, it would be derided as over-the-top, over-stylized, and way overly misogynistic. (And Del Toro’s performance would have been unfavorably compared to Heath Ledger.) Whereas, if Robert Rodriguez and/or Frank Miller (bless his black little heart) and/or New Line had gotten their shit together and released this in 2007, it might have been better received.

  • Duarte Boaventura

    The perspective is that she liked the first movie and she didn’t like the second one. That’s kinda ironic since they’re really similar, but low and behold its also true because in fact it is true that she didn’t like it. She’s either lying or telling the truth. Why would she lie about not liking the movie? You have to believe her on that and read her explanation for why and accept it because that’s what she really thinks. Opinions are not based in logic or fact. Its taste. You might as well ask yourself why you like coke but not pepsi, its just a deep feeling we have.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    10 year’s will do that.

    Also, given that most of the reviews I’ve been seeing say that this one is basicly the same film as the first one, what was bold and remarkable the first time around isn’t the second.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Dude, Pepsi’s just gross. That’s a proven scientific fact, yo. ;-)

  • LaSargenta

    *nudge* Apostrophe.

  • Ace Stephens

    No – that is nowhere near what I was saying nor indicating. I feel the responses being given have generally stepped around addressing the gap between the contradictory notions earlier expressed which were the ones I inquired about the disconnect between.

    And after three or four replies, when there has been little direct clarification made regarding the original inquiries, it seems like there is not a likelihood of the matter ever being addressed.

  • Ace Stephens

    I referred to the critic as “the reviewer” because I am discussing the reviewer in response to someone who is not that reviewer. For a similar instance, when discussing a film with someone, even if for some behind the scenes material or similar, one can easily and reasonably refer to “the filmmaker” or “the director” or similar. The forum does not exclude the use of a term such as that – and, in fact, encourages it in some cases.

    I agree that a reviewer such as this might give Sin City a wildly different review were it to be released today – and I feel that calls the reviewer’s abilities to review the film (rather than, say, their feelings on the day which could be influenced by anything from recent political events to indigestion following lunch) into question. There are countless examples of films which can be viewed reasonably by audience members, regarding their individual quality, despite being removed from the original time in which they were made. To point toward one of “the greats” (making no direct comparison to Sin City or Sin City: A Dame To Kill For), I mean, Casablanca doesn’t only play during World War II.

    I find it ironic that there appears to be so much resistance to the suggestion that a reviewer should be open to critique. I brought up the matter of how this review contrasts with what is put forward about the original Sin City, alluding to how the reviewer appears to draw conclusions regarding a film’s quality based on sentiment and seeks to justify that even if it contradicts other points (I did this when referring to issues with moralistic perspectives projected onto works) rather than approaching the film with a level of openness and understanding. That is, there appears to be a disconnect because this is roughly a “cart before the horse” style of critique. “I felt this way – why was that?” rather than, “What is this? What does it cause me to feel?” I have heard people say that the latter takes people out of films but if people find it’s the case that they can’t think and feel at the same time, I would say that’s concerning. I don’t imagine that is the case with the reviewer and so that led to me questioning why one film is given thought during it and the other is apparently not.

    Of course, the easy, dismissive replies to something like that would be something about how the latter film “doesn’t deserve it” or “doesn’t give the audience anything to think about” or further. But those are sentiment-driven positions rather than having a basis in something one can discuss as a part of the film within reason – of course with differing interpretations in many cases, but where one can see the point of reference. It’s like saying, “I can’t stand this musician.” and, when asked why, saying you “I just don’t like them.” There’s no substance to it. Again, this would generally seem ironic when that appears to be the claim of this review regarding the film.

  • Beowulf

    Let’s say I don’t like Vanilla ice cream (the most popular flavor in the U.S.). But I do like Butterscotch, which most people don’t like. I don’t think anyone deserves an explanation of my taste in food. It’s my taste/opinion. You don’t like it? Fine, but it IS mine.
    MA, bless her pea-pickin’ heart, gave tons of reasons why she liked film one and didn’t like film two. Accept it, grow up, move on. Nothing to see here.

  • Beowulf

    Whew…NOW he gets it!

  • Beowulf

    Nice one, Dr. R.

  • Ace Stephens

    Why would she lie about not liking the movie? I never implied that. What I implied is that her reasoning appears (at least) erroneous in what she’s put forward. As there’s a contradiction between that in the immediate and the subject she discusses for comparison (the first film) and there’s a lack of information regarding how that was reconciled. Save for, roughly, “It’s a different time.” So? At what point is Ben Hur a horrible film because “it’s a different time,” when speaking in a relatively public forum about the general quality of films? At what point does The Thomas Crown Affair turn into a pile of garbage based on, “Eh, it’s a different day.”? These questions should appear rhetorical but, if not, one questions legitimately how one seeks to define, for “the public at large” or similar, the quality of a film solely on the basis of the time of its release or the time in which one watches it. As opposed to the qualities of the film itself.

    While it’s evident that a reviewer will put some elements of themselves into the review, the whole “focused around myself” mindset could make a film where a character is vaguely reminiscent of a bully one knew in high school…considered horrible or amazing…not on the basis of something inherent to the film itself that one has sought to communicate meaningfully to the public but on the basis of, “That’s how I feel.” Well, at least, put it within a framework easily conveyed, wherein one expresses a sense that the film portrays (if, indeed, it does) bullies or people in positions of authority and incorporates this into its narrative. Don’t just say, “I experience this due to my immediate framework I am rather arbitrarily applying!” That doesn’t play. It’s like a film made for a very niche audience – of course it has to be taken as what it is but if it still can’t convey something within that, it’s not living up to its intended goal.

    If one bothers to show some insight on the subject, one can easily explain why one enjoys Coke as opposed to Pepsi. They’re different flavors with different relative physical properties and one can then apply one’s preference to that. And, of course, that preference remains what they’re filtering it through. It sometimes seems with this reviewer that rather than conveying a sense of the film through herself, she’s trying to convey a sense of herself through the film. That can be frustrating for people looking for a review of the film. So being the official reviewer and just saying, “I prefer Coke.” in a review on a website devoted to someone reviewing soft drinks, justifiably, should get people stepping in and saying, “Uh…can you kind of cover why that is – like what it is about Coke itself regarding the flavor/taste/consistency/distribution/logo/etc. that you like or what it is about the other ones that you particularly don’t like? Because this just seems like random preference. I don’t know how you expect others to take anything valuable from that alone.”

    Again, that’s if it’s on a website with somehow “official” (within the framework of the site) “reviews” meant for people in the general public to be able to peruse for a relative frame of reference if they so choose. But if it’s just a random website, like Twitter – making flat statements of preference or similar is not only “acceptable” but it’s typically encouraged. I expect that, with the above, the reviewer knows what they wish to say or can intuit it in a sense (regarding the primary differences between the quality of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and its predecessor) but I am wondering where that information is, outside of the relative excuse of “time,” that relates to this film.

    And all people can do is say, “That’s just what she thinks.” …Yes, that’s plainly understood. But we don’t give much of anyone in the critical realm an “automatic pass” just because it’s what they think. If that were the case, why write a review? Why not just slap a letter grade on a webpage and take no time to explain? No – the ultimate intention is to convey a sense of the film. You don’t do that with, “I prefer Coke!”-style generalities.

  • Ace Stephens

    I agree that the latter there sounds like a common sentiment in many of these reviews. It doesn’t mean this review was great at addressing how that makes this an inherently bad/worse/whatever film. Particularly by comparison. Because if one is willing to watch the first film and randomly go, “Oh, it’s post-9/11!” as a justification for the level of violence or similar. That they would then see the violence or similar in this film and not go, “Oh, it’s ten years on and everyone’s horrible to each other!” as a framework for what it must be saying socially and would, instead, go, “It’s ten years on and everyone is still horrible to each other in these movies?!” indicates that she allows the first film to be interpreted through an immediate social lens regarding the timeframe…but doesn’t allow the second to be interpreted through that lens…because it’s later.

    But me, I don’t see how one might view a film such as Apocalypse Now and easily project the public sentiment or various ideas regarding Vietnam (or war as a concept) onto it but then would see The Hurt Locker and be like, “This is just meaningless.” when there’s an immediate frame of reference for it. You know, Middle Eastern conflicts – or war in general – that the public also has various ideas regarding. If one says, “Apocalypse Now is great because think about Vietnam.” to then turn around and say, “The Hurt Locker is awful because it’s not about anything.” seems disingenuous. But I assume it’s not in this case – that something notable or relevant regarding the disparate nature of these two approaches was omitted but the reviewer (as well as others here) doesn’t seem to acknowledge much aside from, “Time has passed and this is her opinion.” Yes, obviously, time has passed and this is her opinion. But why was time passing given consideration for Sin City and not Sin City: A Dame To Kill For except to apply negatives to the latter while excusing elements of the former or praising it by comparison?

    Essentially, I’m looking for consistency. Not somebody to align with my worldview outside of the (I would consider, rather reasonable) suggestion of, “Film reviewers should convey a consistent sense of film from their own perspective.”

  • Ace Stephens

    “Grow up?” Come on – that’s the last respite of people who have no genuine argument. If you can’t tell me why you like vanilla ice cream in comparison to others in a manner which is fairly reasonable within the framework of your preferences, you have no business reviewing ice cream. Does this mean you can’t tell me your ice cream preference on a street corner? Of course not. You can tell me. But for you to set up a website about reviewing ice cream and then just be like, “This one’s AWESOME!” and “This one’s AWFUL!” without anything to back it up aside from, “I said so”? People should get on your case for that.

    Now, I don’t imagine that ice cream scenario is comparable to this one, generally. I imagine there is a very valid reasoning behind what the reviewer puts forward – but that it has not been conveyed in a manner which addresses the disconnect between Sin City and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (outside the rather arbitrary, obvious realm – which doesn’t actually address the inquiry put forward – of “time passes” and “it’s just an opinion”).

  • futurestar

    saw the film, read your review, posted my thoughts,
    was soon reminded of the narrow parameters, tried to gracefully dismount out, been held to task, if I understand, your posterior hurts, and your sense of entitlement is so huge you sign Jesus at end of one post. in review of all input by everyone this thread is way off center but today the rest of the world gets to see what we saw on Tuesday. maybe it can all get back to center along the lines that your site functions. good luck and best wishes. you seem committed and have great credentials to back it up, but also indicate zero tolerance bubbling underneath perhaps? I’m gone for good. our local paper gave it a B (FYI).

  • Bluejay

    your sense of entitlement is so huge

    Irony.

  • Bluejay

    Oh, wait, I get it: you think she’s calling herself Jesus, rather than just swearing in response to a clueless argument. And you think she’s talking about her butt hurting. Hilarious.

    You know the way to “gracefully dismount”? Just stop commenting.

  • Duarte Boaventura

    Yeah, but she said other stuff. I even pointed that out earlier.

  • Danielm80

    This conversation will still be going on when Sin City III comes out ten years from now.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Essentially, I’m looking for consistency.

    Then you’re going to need to stop engaging with art criticism. Or, continue to engage in this way, and accept that critics (and those who understand criticism) are going to point and laugh.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Except that you are commenting within “the reviewer’s” space. And “the reviewer” has a name. It’s right there at the top of the page. If you’re with a group of people, and you turn to the right to repeat something the person on your left said, do you refer to that person by their profession? That would be kind of rude, wouldn’t it?

    review the film (rather than, say, their feelings on the day

    And here is where we learn that Ace Stephens doesn’t understand how criticism works. Ace, I suggest you go learn, if you want to be taken seriously in these kinds of discussions, which you definitely appear to do. Consider concepts like, “art doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” and “art is about how you engage it”, and “It’s not what a film is about, but how it is about it”, and subjective vs. objective analysis and which one art criticism is.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Ace, I’m noticing a theme forming. You post a comment, others try to tease out what you’re saying, and you adamantly deny that their analysis of your post is correct. I think we’ve come to a point where you should consider that what you think you’re saying, and what everyone else is hearing, are not lining up, and that the fault in that might not lie with everyone else.

  • Ace Stephens

    Which is why I’ve asked for clarification. If I felt she was unable to provide it or had no perspective/depth/etc. to her view, I would never have done so. I would have written this review off completely. However, since there is one rather notable gap between what was put forward about the last film as compared to this film (which isn’t easily swept away simply by saying, “It’s a different time.” nor, “That’s just my opinion” when one is examining the full perspective of a reviewer..that is, why are they willing to project the societal concerns onto the material the first time around but then dismiss them readily the second time around), I find that questionable. And worthy of being pointed out and stressed. So that it can either be addressed hopefully in a rather straight-forward manner (although many here seem at least a little passive-aggressive in how they have addressed it) or perhaps the reviewer could consider it and say, “Yeah, maybe this wasn’t viewed in a similar sense – but in that similar sense, it’s actually like this…” and point that out in order to reconcile it with the view put forward toward the previous film. In this case, perhaps even finding Sin City: A Dame To Kill For to be even worse (if they actually do so – which I wouldn’t be surprised by). Things like that.

    You know, for clarity in order to promote understanding. Yet I feel like so many in comments sections – not referring to you nor the reviewer directly (as I don’t recall who all I’ve seen in this section in particular) – view anyone who notably “disagrees” with some element as somehow being insulting or affronting in their comments themselves, even if they put forward rather objective possibilities or potential concerns or similar. It seems to happen everywhere online, though, so this is no surprise at this rate…

    I still feel like what I have questioned hasn’t really been addressed so much as tiptoed around. And I don’t really expect it to be addressed at this point. Which I find disheartening because there’s a real sense of…a lack of full consideration surrounding the nature of this film in relation to the original from many critics I’ve seen…who somehow use the original to shape their perception of this film to such an extent that they nearly appear to forget which film they’re reviewing.

  • Ace Stephens

    I wrote reviews for a newspaper for quite awhile and had lots of people commend me on my work (and not in that false manner many who are sucking up appear to). So I would think that, in a general sense, it would be thought that I likely understand criticism.

    Therefore, when someone makes the review more about themselves or some other subject rather than the subject of the review – or appears to be doing so due to gaps in what they’re saying – that makes the review a relatively faulty one, in a sense. It fails, to a degree, at its function. And, if one refuses to accept that critique, it would seem that one can dish it out but can’t take it themselves. Which I’d say is one of the cardinal sins of a lot of reviewers.

    In the case of this review, I feel there is a notable element omitted. And it is structural to what the review is attempting to say. So I questioned where it is. This is no different than what I do as a copy editor.

  • Ace Stephens

    I know the reviewer’s name. I’ve read many of her reviews. As for referring to someone by their profession or given role or similar, it might appear rude – depending upon the cultural influences of the individual in question who might perceive that – but it’s accurate, particularly for the purposes of our discussion.

    “Consider concepts like, ‘art doesn’t exist in a vacuum,’ and ‘art is
    about how you engage it,’ and ‘It’s not what a film is about, but how it
    is about it,’ and subjective vs. objective analysis and which one art
    criticism is.”

    I know full-well how criticism works as well as that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That doesn’t mean that one can’t critique how someone reviews a film as though it does (or as though the last film in a series is the primary frame of reference people in the public should have for anything regarding the latest film, for instance – which has happened a lot with this film). Or things such as that. Again, this boils down to your view now being roughly a, “People should be allowed to dish it out but don’t you dare ask them to take it.”-sort of mentality.

    “I know you are but what am I?” …Please. This is about a gap in the review.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I wrote reviews for a newspaper for quite awhile

    *shrug* If you say so. I wouldn’t read you. Your prose style is dry, stilted, self-congratulatory, and too clever by half. And I frankly find your understanding of the medium suspect.

    ETA: But, hey, I don’t read Rex Reed, either. And he’s been writing reviews for 40 years.

  • Bluejay

    And, if one refuses to accept that critique

    She has engaged with your critique and explained her opinion. She has also said that, if you find her explanations unsatisfactory, you are free to think whatever you want of her review and move on. YOU are the one who, for some reason, is refusing to move on. What is it that you hope to achieve?

  • Ace Stephens

    If others of a certain mentality – which most who have addressed me on this matter have had – all assume something incorrectly, it likely does say a great deal more about their mentality (and the readership of this site) than it does about what I’m putting forward. Many people at other websites I’ve discussed this subject on have been able to discern what I’m putting forward when I express sentiments along the lines of, “Wait, this review is focused around something else rather than the film itself.” or “I can see where this is coming from and it’s troubling.” Yet here, there seems to be a penchant for leaps to judgement as well as aspirations of moral superiority.

    And it makes it nearly impossible for people to read what I’m saying rather than what they’re used to hearing or fear hearing or imagine they might hear. Which makes them unnecessary confrontational. So I say something with very specific points and those points get dropped or glossed over while some trivial notion is addressed as though it’s relevant. This is problematic in terms of any sense of consistency. Which – since it seems like prefers like – is potentially a major part of why the views put toward Sin City and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For do not line up.

    That is to say that it appears that like-minded commenters (and of course they probably would be – that’s why they read this site) have shown up to defend a flawed basis for critique rather than addressing the flaw.

  • Ace Stephens

    I don’t type online in the same manner I type for reviews. You might have read one of my reviews and wouldn’t know it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    So, if everyone thinks something, but you disagree, then everyone else is wrong.

    Ace, I’d be careful with that ego. Anything that big has got to a real bear gettin’ through doors.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Of course it isn’t…

  • Ace Stephens

    I hope to have someone address what I said but I’ve already given up on that once previously and it seems that people wish to address me further, touching upon this or that comment or point that I made…and so I respond in kind. It got my hopes up that maybe somebody would say, “The main difference between that and this is…” outside the realm of those things which I, thus far, roughly consider to be sidestepping it (“time has passed” and “it’s just an opinion” generalities, which I feel do not convey the reasonable basis for such a gap – just more sentiment).

  • Ace Stephens

    I didn’t put forward what you just suggested in your first sentence.

    I put forward that people of a specific grouping are likely to take similar issue with things. Doesn’t that make sense to you? Doesn’t it also make sense to you that those who would frequent this site likely find themselves sharing certain views with the reviewer – enough that they’d continue to visit this site?

    This is all based in reason. So if, say (and this is to draw no direct comparison in itself – just as an example of like mentalities), I was a dentist and visited a website where people claim that aliens are abducting them and putting something in their teeth…and I pointed out the medical issues that would cause something like that to be roughly impossible…

    I would not be surprised to hear many of them all comment about how I’m either a stooge or I don’t know what I’m talking about or on and on. Because their frame of reference and similar mentalities which have encouraged them to group together in the first place…are also what would prevent them from accepting what I say. And, who knows, maybe there would be another dentist there who says, “No, it’s definitely possible!” and they’d all rally behind him. That doesn’t mean he’s right. It just means that like prefers like.

  • Ace Stephens

    Of course what isn’t?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You’re trolling me, right?

  • Ace Stephens

    You find it out of the question that people with similar mindsets might appreciate a similar reviewer and frequent that reviewer’s website? And, therefore, if someone is there and questions that reviewer in a sense, those individuals might be prone to taking what was said in a relatively similar way – whether accurate to what was expressed or not?

    I mean, you can go to a website about, say (Since this is a film review website – maybe you simply took issue with my example not being directly related to film?) Star Wars and state a relatively unpopular opinion and watch as dozens of people twist and turn everything you expressed in order to tell you that you’re wrong – rather than listening to what you said and your points first. This is the nature of many – some might argue most – internet communities, relatively. I assume you understand that.

  • Bluejay

    I don’t think you’re giving the “time has passed” argument enough credit. Here are two ways that it’s valid:

    1) Art exists in the context of the time that it’s produced, in conversation with what’s around it and with everything that’s come before it. It’s absolutely valid to argue, for instance, that the John Carter novels were incredibly imaginative and paved the way for much of the science fiction that came after it, but that the recent John Carter film adaptation feels tired and stale because of all the John-Carter-inspired films that have now preceded it. (I happened to personally enjoy the film, but I understand the argument of those who didn’t.) If the John Carter film had come out, as is, in the mid-70s, before Star Wars, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece. But it didn’t, and so it got a different critical reception. A 1975 review praising John Carter as new and revolutionary would be just as valid as a 2012 review panning it as stale. Time matters.

    To take another example: If a musician puts out a debut album that’s exciting and electrifying, then puts out a sophomore album that sounds almost exactly like the first album and doesn’t take the music in any interesting new directions, it’s absolutely valid to argue that the second album doesn’t say anything new and is therefore not as good as the first one — even if it’s technically put together with as much skill, and with the same sonic elements, as the first. Again, time matters.

    2) Art critics are people, and people change over time. That’s not a bad thing. The way I feel about a movie when I’m 12 may be different from the way I feel about the same movie when I’m 20, and 30, and 40. And so seeing a similar movie or a sequel, a decade or more later, may prompt a different response from me than the one that I may have had to the original film. Visual styles and social and political subtexts that may not have bothered me before might bother me more now, and an honest review would acknowledge that. Life changes you and changes your responses to the art that you interact with.

    Here’s the thing: MaryAnn’s review of this film stands on its own. She explains why she responds to it the way she does. Your problem is that you’re comparing it to a review of a different film from years ago, and expecting a consistent, universal set of criteria governing ALL of her reviews. That’s not very realistic. You might be better off if you just consider each review on its own, written by the person that the reviewer happens to be at that moment, rather than clinging to what Emerson might call “a foolish consistency.”

  • LaSargenta

    I hear what you keep saying, but I think this desire for some abstract framework for comparison in art — any art form — is impossible. All art criticism is in a temporal context. Just in movies alone, if some current reviewer were to be reviewing a revival series at the Film Forum, would you really expect Gold Diggers of 1933 to be evaluated as if it hadn’t been released 81 years ago?

  • Ace Stephens

    I agree that the time period can shape or influence perceptions of art. And I also agree that people’s views change. And I thank you very much for giving a quite thorough reply which actually attempts to address what I’m saying (rather than maybe misconstruing it or seemingly being passive-aggressive out of the blue as I feel some others have been).

    Although, you say I’m comparing this to a review of a different film from years ago – when she’s the one that brings up the relevant elements of that in this review. So that makes my comments about what she said in this review.

    Therefore, what still doesn’t make sense to me remains saying that one stumbled upon the notion that Sin City was some sort of reflection of post-9/11 society whereas this film is “monstrous and merciless merely for the sake of merciless monstrosity.” Why is the former’s over-the-top violence and the like given a pass because, “Oh, maybe it says something about society.” being rather arbitrarily tacked onto it…and then, when it does roughly the same thing later in another film, one doesn’t go, “Oh, wait. That’s a commentary on society.” And, instead, goes, “This is meaningless!”

    That’s the shift that hasn’t been addressed and it didn’t seem like it occurred because there was a genuine shift in the nature/tone/etc. of the material. So there exists this gap within the framework even of what the above article puts forward where it’s like, “Sure, Sin City is post-9/11 ultra-violence.” and then, “Ugh, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is nine years later and basically more of the same but sometimes even more meaningless.”

    Why does one thing get the credit for, “Oh, that’s a commentary on where we are now…” and the other is dismissed as, to generalize, “Ugh. Self-indulgent.” This is something that wasn’t addressed except for fleeting generalizations about how the real world has gotten worse. Which, since Sin City: A Dame To Kill For seems to line up perfectly within that review…it seems odd to dismiss without clarifying why.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1186107134 MarkyD

    I think that way about religion, but that’s a whole different beast, isn’t it? Maybe we can can derail Ace with a hardcore “Your best imaginary friend never existed” debate. Might be a bit less painful than what I’m reading in here.

  • Ace Stephens

    Of course not. My concern is just that, in the above review, Sin City (2005) is pointed toward as, “Oh, it’s post-9/11…” despite how over-the-top and relatively flat it was (and yes, some of this in the above seems referential to the past as a differing context – but that doesn’t mean that shouldn’t be fully addressed regarding the difference with the immediate context)…and then, with this film which it could be argued is even more over-the-top and violent to no apparent end…there’s not even the suggestion on the part of the reviewer that the relatively “nihilistic” element might be a reflection of modern society despite specifying that “the real world has gotten even more unendurably angry, reactionary, and meanspirited in the interim.” One film gets the, “It’s a reflection of the world we live in!” consideration out of the blue and the other gets an, “It’s just horrible…and so is the world…but this is meaningless!“-style sentiment.

    I would expect that gap (that leads the latter to be pointed toward as meaningless – as though the meaninglessness was not apparent in both nor might be a display meant to have meaning in both) to be bridged. With something aside from, “It’s just a different time.” You know, something more along the lines of, say, “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’s incessant portrayals of violence and mayhem lead to a point where any prior conclusions about social relevance within the Sin City films appear moot.”…or something like that. But there’s no acknowledgement of the basis of this shift. Just, “I don’t need rainbows…” commentary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1186107134 MarkyD

    I understand what you are saying, and somewhat agree with you, but I don’t think most of us stick around here because we agree with MaryAnn on her taste in movies. It’s more her style of writing, and the content therein, that keeps me coming back. I’ve disagreed with her plenty on the movies she reviews.

  • Tonio Kruger

    My bad. I should have addressed the second paragraph of my above post to futurestar.

  • Ace Stephens

    That’s fine. I’m just taking $#!+ from all sides for providing a relatively unpopular (and, in some instances, admittedly unclear – although the amount of flack I get for that doesn’t seem appropriate since it’s fairly clear in most of the original comments…before I tried to specify things to people who seemingly might not wish to listen) opinion of the review here otherwise. When all I really wanted was for an element of confusion from the review to go addressed for clarity/consistency’s sake. And so, partially as a result of all this relative “drama,” when it feels like someone is addressing someone else but “taking it out on me,” I go into, “WTF?” mode.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’m tempted to quote the group Cake on that Pepsi subject but I’m probably better off taking the Fifth for now…

  • Bluejay

    I don’t see where the problem is. She is describing her reaction at the time to the original movie in the context of that time period, and contrasting that with her reaction at this time to this movie, which in her view isn’t saying anything new. As I said, it’s valid to argue “this is saying the same thing as the first, and so whereas the first was new and exciting, the second seems pointless.” Again, art exists in conversation with what’s come before — and what’s come before Sin City 2 is not just Sin City 1, but a decade of other grim and violent and nihilistic films and TV shows, commenting on a grim decade of real life. If this film has nothing to offer beyond what those other films have already offered, then it suffers by comparison.

    It’s also worth noting that, as MaryAnn has already explained in the review and in her comments, the film suffers from other problems with plot that she doesn’t think were present in the first film.

  • Ace Stephens

    Oh, no. I’m fully accepting of the various problems the film might have otherwise. But this element does not line up. Either the perception is that these films likely have some sort of social undercurrent (post-9/11 or similar or differing) being applied or that’s largely negligible due to all the horridness which occurs. In which case, the latter leans toward moralizing, which I find problematic (because I could watch Star Wars and be upset that Vader kills someone…and that doesn’t make that a worse film in terms of general quality but I could give it a thumbs down and focus on how “reprehensible it is” or similar – when really the only framework I’m applying to discern that is my own morality, which – while relevant and potentially something to reference – it seems odd to display for everyone as a focal notion about the film’s quality in itself as though it’s likely to have a relationship to their perception of the event, even though it’s clearly a bad/anti-hero/misguided person doing the wrong thing anyway…). This is why some of my earlier comments alluded to concern about if the work was being viewed through some perception as though it should be morally representative.

    So one would tend to think that, within what the above review says…(despite it obviously not being this simple and there being other things which might cause one to dislike Sin City: A Dame To Kill For in comparison to the first film)…

    1. The Sin City films are both likely devoid of meaningful social subtext (which this review indicates at least the first film isn’t…yet how that conclusion is drawn aside from, “I decided it at the time because of the time.” isn’t clarified).
    or
    2. The Sin City films are capable of meaningful social subtext (in which case, by suggesting that there’s “merciless monstrosity” in this film and the world has grown more “unendurably angry, reactionary, and meanspirited in the interim” is used as a justification for dismissing this film…one would think that, instead, one would reflect upon that “merciless monstrosity” as the evidently relevant subtext even if one ultimately loathes the sequel).

    Neither of these appears to be something the review puts forward so there’s this odd gap where it appears that the first film was arbitrarily given credit for being reflective of the society at the time while the second was arbitrarily denied this (despite outlining in a few sentences how the world of both the film and the reality we live in are apparently harsher). This is what comes across as inconsistent or confusing since there is nothing to signal this change of giving one credit for this “commentary” and not the other…other than, “It’s a different time.” If it’s going to be included in the review, I would hope that a gap of this sort would be addressed.

  • dionwr

    Funny, my reaction to the first film is pretty much identical to your review of this second one.

    See, I’d read the comics first. And what I found with the “Sin City” books was that a little bit went a long way.

    What had seemed new and fresh and interesting in the first book seemed devalued by the second. And as more and more of the stories were published, it came to seem to be both art-by-the-numbers (whip some chiaroscuro on that image, and splash it with red!) and meanness for its own sake.

    By the time the movie came out, I was tired of its empty nastiness and meaningless imagery schema, and I was surprised by how many folks went for it. It never seemed “magnificently brutal” to me; just mean and nasty.

    Maybe the original “Sin City” (be it graphic novel for me and first film for you) is all you really need or want of it. That first shock of its extreme, exaggerated film noir imagery and morality packs a wallop that can’t be repeated, however you might try.

  • Danielm80

    That’s a valid point, and it was a valid point the last several times you made it. But the main thrust of the two reviews was: The first film was novel and engaging. The second film was dull and confusing.

    MaryAnn also talked about the cultural meaning of the film. That’s not a trivial issue, and it’s understandable that you’d want to discuss it. But even if she had ignored the cultural implications, she would still have found the film dull and confusing.

    The problem isn’t that you’re wrong, or that the role of personal bias in film criticism isn’t worth discussing. The problem is that you’re starting to sound like Sheldon Cooper. You’re focusing so hard on one aspect of the review that you’re ignoring the main point.

    Penny: I give up. He’s impossible.

    Sheldon: I can’t be impossible; I exist. I think what you meant to say is, “I give up; he’s improbable.”

    Also, like Sheldon Cooper, you’re starting to sound a little obsessive. There might be value in calling attention to flaws in a movie review, but when you call attention to the same flaws a dozen times in a row, you’re going to wear out your welcome.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I get the feeling that that Star Wars example is not a random choice, and that you feel like this happens to you a lot. The word choices of “twist and turn” say a lot. That’s very sad for you, but still puts the blame for your failures of communication on your audience.

  • Ace Stephens

    I get all of that about Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. I’m not actually expecting it to be good – due to many reviews which seem to have taken issue with it on valid grounds (including this one). But I do feel like this disconnect (I have stated over and over, yes – since many seem to not see what I’m saying while, obviously, some do) remains in the review regarding, “Apply cultural subtext.” and then spinning around for the new version of the same thing (essentially) while noting how this new one lines up with the world around it before basically going, “No cultural subtext.”

    I know it seems obsessive but that’s why I said, a time or two, I wished to drop it. Then people replied to me questioning some element of what I said, so I thought, “Oh, they want to discuss it. Maybe they have an answer.” Unfortunately, some seemed to just wish to make passive-aggressive comments – although, thankfully, Bluejay and yourself here appear to be interested in actually addressing the notion, in some sense. Which is refreshing in itself.

  • Ace Stephens

    I don’t visit Star Wars forums (and I doubt I ever will). This doesn’t happen to me very often, either. It does happen on occasion (let’s say, once per every 400 originating comments on my end), particularly when I take issue with something which seems to be the localized dogma. As in, “We stand by this!” and I go, “Why?” and people don’t actually answer it. They just repeat and cling to “the party line.” It’s a relatively easy mentality to slip into regarding any grouping.

    Seemingly, people here admire this reviewer (with good reason) and so they stick around here. So when somebody goes, “I don’t think this part of the review is that clear or necessarily ‘good.’” in some regard, it’s easier to go, “OH YEAH? You just don’t get it.” than it is to do the work that some here have recently started doing (such as Bluejay) where one says, “Maybe this will help you see what we’re saying?” or “Have you considered this?”

    That’s what actual discussion is about.

  • Ace Stephens

    Obviously, I’m not saying everyone here agrees with her or agrees with her most of the time. But that her audience is likely of a certain mentality and relates to or with her on some level. This means they’re predisposed toward not only preferring “her side” (if they assume there’s a side in people randomly commenting – which, of course, not all do) but also that the way they “take criticism” of a review she might have posted might be similar. Which means they might be prone to similar misinterpretations.

    You know, like a husband might often take his wife’s side (due to a relative shared interest or shared values or similar) or vice versa – when seemingly “opposed” – although, obviously, they’re not going to agree on everything. It’s that sort of thing – a loyalty. Which is great in many regards.

    So it’s not like I’m saying, “LOOK! A CULT! OR CRAZED FANDOM!” I’m just saying, as I keep saying, like prefers like.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    I wrote reviews for a newspaper for quite awhile and had lots of people commend me on my work (and not in that false manner many who are sucking up appear to).

    Yeah, and I’ve written for lots of outlets and had lots of people commend me on my work. So what?

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    I hope to have someone address what I said

    It had been. Multiple times now. By me and others.

    Time to give it a rest, perhaps.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    and then, when it does roughly the same thing later in another film

    Okay, now you get to explain how this film does roughly the same thing as the first one does.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    “People should be allowed to dish it out but don’t you dare ask them to take it.”

    I have taken it. I have responded. Clearly, I am not going to be able to respond in a way you deem suitable. So let it go.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    And you clearly don’t like, so what the hell are you still doing here? You are not going to find what you’re looking for here.

  • Ace Stephens

    I was replying to someone who directly referenced the notion that I don’t know things about criticism by indicating that I likely do know something as I have experience. Why you would think a comment directly replying to that assertion on someone else’s part about me relates to you as some sort of affront – or something to reply to with a dismissive, “So what?” – is baffling.

    I swear it’s like people enjoy taking comments out of context here.

  • Ace Stephens

    You clarified that – what it does the same – regarding the notions surrounding the violence and similar. And then you also, after alluding to the first film as having relevance regarding “post-9/11″ mentalities…said both that the world is basically a harsher place…and that this film portrayed a relatively harsher place. As in “merciless monstrosity.”

    So somehow you’re able to go…

    “Random violence and such.=post-9/11″

    Yet you can’t go…

    “Meaningless, overabundant violence=increasingly harsh world.”

    And instead think meaningless violence in the latter instance is simply meaningless. You haven’t clarified how to bridge this gap conceptually.

  • Ace Stephens

    Again, I was not referring to you.

  • Ace Stephens

    Don’t like you? I’ve pointed out that people are rightful to enjoy supporting your reviews and similar (I just said, a couple hours ago, “…people here admire this reviewer (with good reason) and so they stick around here.”). I don’t know where you get this impression from. I dislike that you and others seem to be extremely passive-aggressive when addressing someone who raises a concern about a specific element of your review – and that many have avoided attempting to address that concern while behaving as though the mention of it is an insult of some sort.

    That’s what I referred to with that other comment where I said some people can dish it out but can’t take it – that they were willing to attack someone who voiced a concern about someone’s criticism but they were unwilling to accept any criticism as valid.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Alright, then I’ll say it: so what? You think you’d be the first newspaper film critic who didn’t know jack shit about film? And was a lousy writer, to boot? And yet managed to hold a column for years? What did you think the Rex Reed comment meant? Claiming that you yourself are a film critic just means you have even less excuse to be this obtuse.

  • LaSargenta

    What I get out of this comment is that you don’t like her style of writing. Personally, if something needs to be “bridged” between 1 and 2, I think the filmaker(s) should have done it.

    And, so, to bed.

  • LaSargenta

    She’s not being dismissive in that comment: she is completely perplexed. And, frankly, I think many of the readers of this post are, too.

  • Ace Stephens

    “So what?” Again with the passive-aggressive or dismissive commentary here. I pointed it out because it indicated that I might have a decent grasp of film criticism (despite your contention – which I assume persists – that I don’t). It’s that simple.

  • Ace Stephens

    I don’t mean “bridge” in terms of the film’s content. I mean within the review. Why is mindless violence a post-9/11 commentary in 2005 but mindless violence isn’t a “13 years post-9/11 commentary” in 2014 (particularly when one cites the work and the world as both being very harsh/grim/etc.) and, instead, is treated like it’s just mindless violence? Simply saying it’s a different time or views change doesn’t mean much as the former is evident regardless and the latter doesn’t matter as the above review acknowledges (without discounting) the post-9/11 subtext for the first film. So there’s a gap in what’s being put forward about the films within how they’re reviewed.

  • Ace Stephens

    I have done my best to explain the primary source of confusion for me regarding the above review which I was looking for clarification on. People appear to want to give generalized responses which don’t address it (while claiming they’ve already addressed it) or they don’t understand it despite my repeated explanations of what I feel doesn’t line up.

    So I’m not surprised that people are perplexed. Many don’t seem to be reading what I’m saying, instead taking my comments as an affront or my speculation/consideration of possibilities as designations of character or insults directed toward individuals. It seems people are on the defense (which I’m sure they imagine is – or, in a sense, genuinely is – justified, given either their own view or some poor phrasing I chose a time or two) and, as a result, are reluctant to simply state why – aside from generalities or the obvious like time passing, views changing or merely disliking one film and not another – the first film is thought to carry social commentary while the second’s potential commentary is noted and, roughly, dismissed.

    I get that this film wasn’t liked – I take no issue with that perspective in itself. But I don’t see why, in the current context, it’s treated like it lacks a social bearing (despite aligning perfectly with what its content is associated with in the above review) while the former is treated as though it didn’t.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Your demands to get an explanation that meets your rigorous requirements are now officially over the line into obnoxious.

    I have addressed your concerns as much as I am going to. Let it drop.

  • Tonio Kruger

    For what it is worth, Ace, blogger Sheila O’Malley of the Sheila Variations has posted one of the few positive reviews of this film on the Roger Ebert website. You might want to check it out just to see how much you agree with her and if you like it, you might even want to give her some props.

    The only other positive review of this film that I have read thus far is on the Big Hollywood site and I don’t really recommend that you go there unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

  • Tonio Kruger

    For future reference, it’s worth remembering that a lot of film critics didn’t necessarily like the first movie in the Sin City series and that many who did tended to like the film’s visuals a lot more than the plot.

    Plus time does really change how we see some movies. For every film that comes across as a timeless classic, there are many which are liked despite their datedness — for example, West Side Story, the early James Bond movies — and some that seem to get worse with time. (Think how badly Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner plays today. Think how much more ridiculous The Green Berets seems today than it did in 1968. And just consider what reaction the 1999 movie Three Kings would receive from a typical American audience if it was released today instead of in 1999.)

  • jervaise brooke hamster

    I want to bugger Jessica Alba (as the bird was in 1999 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

  • Ace Stephens

    Thanks for the advice. I’m not really looking to read more reviews of this film at this point (maybe down the line). I’ve given up on them for now in relation to this film for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is that the comments I’ve often seen thus far on reviews for this film are full of an absurd, “Why don’t you love this movie?!” and, “The movie sucks because it’s morally repugnant!”-type of dichotomy (and if you’re not in one of those relative groups with what you express, they seem to hate you even more – or try to force you into one of them). Given that, little expressed is of note or substance…

    And the reviews themselves have sometimes leaned toward one of those as well (although I’ve seen a few that I felt nailed fully-conveying their sense of the film). In many cases, it’s like this film is a Rorschach test and everyone else is to blame for not seeing the exact same thing whoever commented last (or reviewed) saw (or expects to see). It’s ridiculous.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Would that all the energy in this thread were expended on a better film. Or at least one that was bad in some kind of interesting way.

  • a

    I’ve also noticed a chance since you seem to be more lenient now (by giving Step Up 5 and Endless Love a positive review). I’m going to slightly veer off-topic, well from the film, but it’s got something to do with the comment at hand. If you were to see the film *Irreversible* for the first time today, do you think you would’ve still given it a positive review (well, in the review you stated it’s a hard film to recommend but, you commended Noe for the delivery of such a common crime and how he made it look just as awful as it actually is)? Also, what light did you give that film back then, out of curiosity since the review didn’t seem to have anything against the film, but it didn’t seem to be all that positive either?

  • Beowulf

    Way too late, son, way too late.

  • Beowulf

    Right on, brother!

  • Bluejay

    You just snarked on the same comment you already snarked on two days ago. And the commenter hasn’t posted anything new in over a day, so you’re a little late. I’m not sure that this is helping.

  • Beowulf

    Snarking…? Whatever you mean by that, I’m trying to say to him “go the F*CK away and stopped trolling MA and the others who come to this site.”
    What exactly is supposed to happen when things are explained to him to his satisfaction? Someone gets a pony?

  • Danielm80

    He’s already gone “the F*CK away and stopped trolling.” If you keep provoking him, he may come back just to explain why he’s not a troll. And if you start insulting him after he’s ended the discussion, then you’re the troll.

  • David

    We need a buddy action film starring Scarlet Johanson and Eva Green as spies who first try to assassinate each other but later team up to fight a conspiracy of bad guys. Doug Liman should direct.

  • David

    Just fyi, I skimmed through this entire thread in under three minutes. I feel sorry for the poor suckers who actually read this thing through to fruition. That’s like an hour of precious wasted life.

  • David

    Well, so far the first 14 years of the 21st century are less bloody than the first 14 years of the 20th century so… take that for what it’s worth.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You’re gonna have to show your work on that one.

  • Danielm80

    Steven Pinker made essentially the same argument–that violence has decreased over the centuries–in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Many, many people disagree with him, but I really hope he’s right.

  • Bluejay

    I think he’s talking about the argument, made by Steven Pinker and others, that the world has become statistically much less violent over the decades and centuries. It’s a compelling argument (one that I’d like very much to believe myself), but it’s also not without its methodological problems, and it doesn’t mean that we should be complacent about the violence that *is* going on now, or that things can’t take a turn for the worse.

  • Bluejay

    Whoops, cross-posted with you, Danielm80. Sorry.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Well, with probably a million civilian deaths in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, appalling numbers of dead in Mexican drug wars (and all that just for starters), I think the early 21st century is giving the early 20th a run for its money so far.

  • rhidian

    I agree with almost every point. I’d actually got so bored by the introduction of the bald, scarred, jabba the hut looking guy I totally forgot that his character is neither referenced or seen again. I will say though that I thought Eva Green was terrible. I suspect at least partially due to poor direction and script, but terrible none the less. Joseph G-Levitt was the only engaging performance in my humblest of opinions, but considering his arc goes almost nowhere and spans only ~40 minutes of film, I still regret paying to sit through this disjointed mess of cinema.

  • Beowulf

    Biggest flop of the summer here in the U.S.