The Clash Film Column: Let The Dame Die

Sin City 2 is the big picture…

Who’s expressing to their full capabilities? Not always who you’d expect…

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That was the week in which…

N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton cast an unlikely star.

You’d expect the big name in such a project to be playing Dr. Dre, Ice Cube or Easy-E, right? Well, you’d be wrong, for Paul “F*cking Merlot!” Giamatti has been cast as the band’s manager and Ruthless Records co-founder Jerry Heller. With credits such as Sideways, 12 Years A Slave and Cinderella Man to his name, there can be no doubting Giamatti’s talents – though let’s gloss over his appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

But let’s be honest: anyone interesting in seeing such a film will be drawn by a love of N.W.A., as well as its members’ subsequent solo careers. Outside of director F. Gary Gray (Be Cool, Law Abiding Citizen plus stacks of music videos for the likes of Dre, Cypress Hill and TLC), the project lacks much in the way of the experience that Giamatti can provide.

Also a producer of the film, Ice Cube has apparently lobbied for his son O’Shea Jackson Jr, to play him, a casting move which doesn’t seem particularly wise given that it’ll be his debut acting role. Jason Mitchell will play Easy-E after previously contributing small parts to the Mark Wahlberg films Contraband and Broken City, while Dre didn’t get forgotten about as Corey Hawkins, recently seen on Broadway in Romeo & Juliet, takes his role. Dre’s initial favourite, Michael B. Jordan of Fruitvale Station, was already tied up in the world of The Fantastic Four.

Come back this time next year to see how it all works out.

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The Big Film: Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

Lady Gaga’s cameo isn’t anything to get too excited by.

Otherwise, Sin City does exactly what you’d expect Sin City to do: its shadowy part film noir, part comic book monochrome is shot with dashes of colour (usually to denote sex or emotion) and looks just as stunning as it did almost a decade ago. The tone is heightened by bursts of heavily orchestrated violence, elegant narration and a sinister jazzy score. Its inhabitants are malevolently compelling: see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s swift-dealin’ Johnny or Eva Green’s über-vamp Ava.

The problem is that no matter how good a film looks, it’s still dependent on its story. Stuck on two interchangeable levels of intensity (violent, or carrying the imminent potential for violence), the single facet of each character’s sleazy motivations (sex, revenge, power) doesn’t provide much to root for or care about.

Josh Brolin’s Dwight is enamoured by Ava? Obviously. Everyone hates crooked Senator Roark? Makes sense. Barely a moment passes without the kill count shooting up like a busted thermometer or without flesh exposed like a rerun of Basic Instinct on a black and white TV – but violence and sex usually provokes something more substantial than indifference.

The cinematic equivalent of a grunge band forgetting that the mellow part of their quiet/loud dynamic is vital, Sin City betrays its noir routes by repeatedly going for the jugular. Since the release of the original film, the atmospherically similar Drive redefined the balance of beauty and brutally with a stronger sense of both style and mood, leaving a relatively new franchise floundering in the face of stronger competition. It doesn’t help here that each character’s poetic voiceovers often clash with their brutally uninspiring dialogue.

Wondrous for the senses but dull for the mind, Sin City only just about delivers base level excitement.

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Also Out: Let’s Be Cops

Remember the fantastic comedy pairings of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker? Hell, even Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. At first sight (from the trailer), it seemed like Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson could breathe new life into the buddy comedy genre’s waning success. However, they fall short of the mark.

Let’s Be Cops features Wayans Jr. and Johnson as slackers who are mistaken for cops when they dress as police officers for a costume party and then hijinks and mayhem ensue – you know the drill. And that’s the main problem with this movie. There’s nothing new or particularly clever about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is funny – but after laughing out loud during the movie, once you leave the cinema you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’ve laughed at these same jokes before in other films. The recurring plot point of Johnson’s character convincing Wayans Jr.’s to do something risky and stupid, him refusing, only for them to do it literally two minutes later is funny once, but it gets tedious mighty quickly.

The performances aren't particularly impressive either – Wayans Jr. and Johnson essentially play their characters from the TV series New Girl. Andy Garcia is in it for all of five minutes (kerching!) and you’d be hard pressed to find a recent movie that so blatantly fails the Bechdel test.

To be fair, no one is going into this movie thinking it’s gonna be a Shawshank Redemption. It’s not meant to be a thinking man’s film. It’s the kind of film you have on in the background when you’re drinking and playing Risk with your mates on a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining outside – for the great soundtrack if nothing else. Simply put, it’s funny, but just not that good. Words: Elijah Lawal

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Shorts

Björk’s Biophilia Live heads the Sonic programming of this year’s London Film Festival. Unlike with most such announcements, the film’s editor Nick Fenton actually said something worth quoting: “Let’s not get too excited as it is only a concert film with some volcanoes and a few viruses; thunder and lightning; plankton and planets. Not forgetting Björk, the jellyfish, David Attenborough and the beautiful sounds of the choir Nobili. So just another Sonic Gala at the BFI London Film Festival.”

The Inbetweeners 2 and Guardians Of The Galaxy battled off Dad’s Army... I mean, The Expendables 3 to hold the top two positions of last weekend’s box office. Hector And The Search For Happiness was the only other new entry in the top 10 as The Rover and The Congress trailed way back.

Finally, if you like blood, gore and sequels to films that the rest of the world forgot about long ago, then Frightfest is already underway in London. You’ve already missed Zombeavers but you get the gist from the trailer. I’m not sure how the beavers turned into zombies but it’s probably not really that important:

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Words: Ben Hopkins, except where indicated

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