Empire’s Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For Review

Plot

It’s back to Basin City for four twisted tales of criminals, killers, losers, ice queens and prostitutes. Dwight McCarthy’s (Josh Brolin) life is almost ruined by the woman he can’t get over; Marv (Mickey Rourke) enacts brutal violence on some of the richer citizens; a cocky gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)’s on a mission and exotic dancer Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) plots vengeance…

Review

Back in 2005, Robert Rodriguez and graphic novel creator Frank Miller collaborated to bring Miller’s noir-heavy tales of Sin City to the big screen. Despite the success of that film, it has taken them nearly a decade to wrangle the budget and cast together for a second shot. This time around, the pair has cherry picked elements from the second, eponymous story in the Sin City series and a short yarn from the sixth book combined with two original narratives — The Fat Loss and The Long Bad Night that the author created for the film. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is also once more on jack-of-all-trades duty, acting as co-director, cinematographer, editor and writing some of the score. Given his cheffy rep, he probably whipped up a few meals to boot.

A Dame To Kill For keeps to the template set out by the first and even pushes the comic visuals a step further now that audiences have accepted what the directors were able to do last time. So we return to a torn-from-the-pages monochrome city of dingy shadows, driving digital rain, and the occasional splash of colour for effect, this time with an added femme fatale count.

Green makes for a viper of a character in Ava Lord, able to switch her behaviour according to the poor sap she’s trying to lure, and the actress is clearly relishing the chance to play such a conniving con artist who wraps men around her little finger and disposes of them when they’re no longer useful. Brolin, taking over from Clive Owen for an earlier visit to Dwight McCarthy’s tough existence, gives weary life to a man the world — and lots of people in it — just keeps wanting to beat up. Gordon-Levitt takes even more punishment as Johnny, the cocksure gambler on a mission to do more than win at poker, yet who ends up losing big. Despite being a completely original tale, Johnny feels like a natural addition to the Sin City canon, a man ready for this tough town to chew up.

The veterans, meanwhile, are still in good form: Marv fits Rourke like a glove, and he’s just as dark and dangerous as ever, whether he’s punishing frat boys for killing tramps or helping Dwight with a mission of his own. Alba’s Nancy adds a few shades from the woman we met before — she’s now a damaged, gun-toting version of herself, scarred and sadistic, channelling her fury through her dancing and building up the guts to slaughter the powerful, dreadful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe: smug, cigar-chewing).

Of course, hewing so closely to the feel of the original means that its inherent problems still exist: even Ava Lord’s slinky power and the weapon-hefting ladies of Old Town (led once more by Rosario Dawson’s Gail) can’t banish the idea that women get treated terribly in this world and the men don’t come out looking much better. The stylish noir treatment lends a surreal aspect that helps mitigate a lot of that, but the issues remain. 

Yet Rodriguez and Miller have pulled off that rare sequel that feels of a piece with the original, exploring and expanding the world of Sin City and delivering a heady brew of noir, danger and style.

Verdict

A Dame To Kill For shares some of the downsides of the first, particularly dubious female characterisation. But this retains the gritty, gruelling vice grip on graphic novel noir that made Sin City such a rush.

4 STARS James White

Empire’s Wish I Was Here Review
Plot
Aidan (Zach Braff) is a loving father and husband, but a useless provider whose acting career peaked with a shampoo ad years ago. When family illness drives him to home-school his children, it’s time to grow up.
Review
Being arguably the highest-profile film yet to use Kickstarter for funding — a battle it can duke out with Veronica Mars — doesn’t mean Zach Braff’s second movie should be judged any differently from any other release. But it does mean it has perhaps more duty to provide what Braff’s audience wants, as opposed to simply what he wants to do. Those who opened their wallets in expectation of a middle-aged Garden State largely get what they paid for.
Wish I Was Here (that small grammatical wrong is grating but we must endure), like Garden State, positions Braff as a man who has lost his focus, is completely self-obsessed, but can turn it into a lovable quirk, and will learn that there is more to be had from life by living it with other people instead of in theoreticals in his head. Braff is Aidan, an actor, but an actor in the sense that he goes to auditions for terrible parts he doesn’t get, as opposed to in the sense that he actually acts. He seems to be more third child to a wife (Kate Hudson) with saintly patience, doing as little around the house as his daughter (Joey King) and son (Pierce Gagnon). He is a placeholder of a man, until his dad (Mandy Patinkin) reveals he’s sick and can no longer pay his grandchildren’s school fees. So Aidan decides he will school his own children.
Braff’s story grants him a great pile of ideas to play with: parent-child relationships (son, daughter, adolescent and adult varietals); the end of childhood; the end of life; marriage; sibling rivalry; religion; how to deal with unwanted dogs. It’s a little too much. He doesn’t have the time to tell everything properly, creating a film that touches gently on subjects that need a good grab and a prod. He wants to do too much, which is admirable — better too much ambition than none at all — but it means he doesn’t get enough of a swing for the emotional punch he wants.
When Braff manages to pin down his tone, there are moments of sweet wisdom — a bedside chat between Patinkin and Hudson condenses an entire relationship into a short exchange — but mostly this is like a scrapbook of thoughts still waiting to be properly arranged.


Verdict
Since the adorable, simple Garden State, Braff’s ambitions as a filmmaker have grown. He’s reaching for answers to really big questions, but they are, just slightly, beyond his grasp. 
3 STARS Olly Richards

Empire’s Wish I Was Here Review

Plot

Aidan (Zach Braff) is a loving father and husband, but a useless provider whose acting career peaked with a shampoo ad years ago. When family illness drives him to home-school his children, it’s time to grow up.

Review

Being arguably the highest-profile film yet to use Kickstarter for funding — a battle it can duke out with Veronica Mars — doesn’t mean Zach Braff’s second movie should be judged any differently from any other release. But it does mean it has perhaps more duty to provide what Braff’s audience wants, as opposed to simply what he wants to do. Those who opened their wallets in expectation of a middle-aged Garden State largely get what they paid for.

Wish I Was Here (that small grammatical wrong is grating but we must endure), like Garden State, positions Braff as a man who has lost his focus, is completely self-obsessed, but can turn it into a lovable quirk, and will learn that there is more to be had from life by living it with other people instead of in theoreticals in his head. Braff is Aidan, an actor, but an actor in the sense that he goes to auditions for terrible parts he doesn’t get, as opposed to in the sense that he actually acts. He seems to be more third child to a wife (Kate Hudson) with saintly patience, doing as little around the house as his daughter (Joey King) and son (Pierce Gagnon). He is a placeholder of a man, until his dad (Mandy Patinkin) reveals he’s sick and can no longer pay his grandchildren’s school fees. So Aidan decides he will school his own children.

Braff’s story grants him a great pile of ideas to play with: parent-child relationships (son, daughter, adolescent and adult varietals); the end of childhood; the end of life; marriage; sibling rivalry; religion; how to deal with unwanted dogs. It’s a little too much. He doesn’t have the time to tell everything properly, creating a film that touches gently on subjects that need a good grab and a prod. He wants to do too much, which is admirable — better too much ambition than none at all — but it means he doesn’t get enough of a swing for the emotional punch he wants.

When Braff manages to pin down his tone, there are moments of sweet wisdom — a bedside chat between Patinkin and Hudson condenses an entire relationship into a short exchange — but mostly this is like a scrapbook of thoughts still waiting to be properly arranged.

Verdict

Since the adorable, simple Garden State, Braff’s ambitions as a filmmaker have grown. He’s reaching for answers to really big questions, but they are, just slightly, beyond his grasp. 

3 STARS Olly Richards

Empire’s Planes 2: Fire & Rescue Review

Plot

Dusty the plane (Cook) is forced to retire from his racing due to mechanic failure. His new assignment to forest firefighting duty is hardly uneventful, but can he adjust to the new life?

Review

Planes was debatably one of the worst movies a Disney animation house has ever produced. Its sequel is a definite improvement, with better sight-gags, better voice acting and at least a little heart, but still trails miles behind anything produced by Pixar, the company that spawned it’s ‘world’, that of Cars. It’s not even as good as Cars 2. This time, Dusty the plane (Cook) gets the aircraft equivalent of angina and has to give up his racing career, so becomes a fireman. The plot is surprise-free and the animation once again TV grade. It just doesn’t feel like anyone passionately wanted to make this movie.

Verdict

A solid voice cast (Harris, Holbrook et al) doesn’t add much more than cosmetic touches to this bland animation.

2 STARS Olly Richards

Empire’s The House Of Magic Review
Plot
Fluffy and adorable, Thunder (Murray Blue) takes shelter in a magician’s house from a storm. Inside he finds more than he bargained for.
Review
In this Belgian CG kids’ cartoon, an abandoned kitten enters a magician’s house, and must defend its cute occupants when the owner is in hospital. It’s better made and more energetic than most non-Hollywood CGI fare — lots of scampering around the wooden house — and it’s perfectly good children’s entertainment. For their parents, it starts and ends well, but much of it is a rather directionless mix of Beetlejuice, Home Alone and the first Toy Story, without their respective sparks. However, the retro dashes of Britpop on the soundtrack — including Madness and The Cure — are diverting.



Verdict
A curious mix of Britpop music cues and moppet-bait storytelling makes for a diverting, if derivative kids’ animation.
3 STARS Angie Errigo

Empire’s The House Of Magic Review

Plot

Fluffy and adorable, Thunder (Murray Blue) takes shelter in a magician’s house from a storm. Inside he finds more than he bargained for.


Review

In this Belgian CG kids’ cartoon, an abandoned kitten enters a magician’s house, and must defend its cute occupants when the owner is in hospital. It’s better made and more energetic than most non-Hollywood CGI fare — lots of scampering around the wooden house — and it’s perfectly good children’s entertainment. For their parents, it starts and ends well, but much of it is a rather directionless mix of Beetlejuice, Home Alone and the first Toy Story, without their respective sparks. However, the retro dashes of Britpop on the soundtrack — including Madness and The Cure — are diverting.

Verdict

A curious mix of Britpop music cues and moppet-bait storytelling makes for a diverting, if derivative kids’ animation.

3 STARS Angie Errigo

Dominic West And Idris Elba On For Finding DoryWest says the Wire actors have voice roles in the Pixar sequel
We already know that Idris Elba will be lending his distinctive vocals to Shere Khan in Jon Favreau’sJungle Book. But according to his former Wire co-star Dominic West, he’ll also be working on Pixar’s sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory.
Talking to Shortlist, West revealed that he’s in regular contact with several of the actors from the much-praised HBO series and that he and Elba are both performing voice duties on Dory. We hope they’ve met around a microphone once or twice in the course of their work, and exchanged some chat in flawless Baltimore accents.
Finding Dory, of course, will act as the follow-up to the company’s 2003 smash hit and explores Ellen DeGeneres’ character and her family. Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton are set as her parents, Charlie and Jenny, while Ty Burrell is comic whale sidekick Bailey. Oh! Oh! We speak Whale!
Albert Brooks will be back as the nervous Marlin alongside Vicki Lewis as Deb/Flo and, naturally, Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger. Andrew Stanton is directing again and the film is set for July 29, 2016 in the UK. No exact date here yet. 
James White

Dominic West And Idris Elba On For Finding Dory
West says the Wire actors have voice roles in the Pixar sequel

We already know that Idris Elba will be lending his distinctive vocals to Shere Khan in Jon Favreau’sJungle Book. But according to his former Wire co-star Dominic West, he’ll also be working on Pixar’s sequel to Finding NemoFinding Dory.

Talking to Shortlist, West revealed that he’s in regular contact with several of the actors from the much-praised HBO series and that he and Elba are both performing voice duties on Dory. We hope they’ve met around a microphone once or twice in the course of their work, and exchanged some chat in flawless Baltimore accents.

Finding Dory, of course, will act as the follow-up to the company’s 2003 smash hit and explores Ellen DeGeneres’ character and her family. Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton are set as her parents, Charlie and Jenny, while Ty Burrell is comic whale sidekick Bailey. Oh! Oh! We speak Whale!

Albert Brooks will be back as the nervous Marlin alongside Vicki Lewis as Deb/Flo and, naturally, Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger. Andrew Stanton is directing again and the film is set for July 29, 2016 in the UK. No exact date here yet. 

James White

Lee Child Talks The Next Reacher Movie
Exclusive - And he reveals the title of Reacher 20!

Lee Child – the laconic legend behind the unstoppable one-man army that is Jack Reacher – popped into Empire Towers today to record an appearance on the Empire Podcast. You’ll be able to hear the full interview next Friday (26th September), but in the meantime Child dropped a few choice tidbits that we couldn’t wait to share with you.

First, we asked the Coventry-born author to fill us in on the status of the next Reacher movie, Never Go Back. First of all, he confirmed that Chris McQuarrie, who wrote and directed Jack Reacher, the 2012 movie based on One Shot which famously starred Tom Cruise as Reacher, will not be calling the shots this time around.

“McQuarrie is going to be in post-production on Mission: Impossible 5,” he said. “He just physically can’t do it. It’s going to be a new backroom crew, which I think is good. I thought the McQuarrie movie was fantastic, but let’s see someone else’s take on it.”

Child, who said that he was expecting to see a screenplay for the film “pretty soon”, talked about the decision (not his) to turn the eighteenth Reacher novel into the second Reacher movie, given that it comes at the end of a four-novel arc with a lot of set-up. “Any of these books, you look at them and say ‘we could do that’,” he said, “but then you look at it and go, ‘well, how are we going to do it? They’re all very difficult.’”

Child added that a chief appeal of Never Go Back, in which Reacher arrives in Virginia to talk to a female MP he’s been flirting with by phone (he’s that kinda guy) only to find she’s been arrested, and he’s about to be re-enlisted in the army, was the relationship Reacher forms with a young girl called Samantha Dayton, who may or may not be his daughter. “It was a thing that convinced them about which book to make for the next movie,” he said. “It’s almost a three-hander in terms of audience appeal – you’ve got Reacher, you’ve got the woman sidekick (Major Susan Turner), and then you’ve got this strong teenage girl character which they were very interested in.”

Child was in London to talk about Personal, the new Reacher novel, but we couldn’t let him leave without asking him about the 20th Reacher novel, due next year. “I’ve just started it,” he says. “I can’t give you a sneak preview because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve written the first couple of pages, I have no idea what’s going to happen on page 3. He hasn’t hit anybody yet – he’s just got off a train.”

But he could, he said, tell us what Reacher 20 is called. And it’s the most Jack Reacher title yet.

“The title is Make Me,” he smiled.

September 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Chris Hewitt

Leslie Mann In Talks For VacationShe’s set to play Audrey Griswold
First-time directors (and the writers who got the thing moving in the first place) John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are now hard at work preparing the new Vacation, a story that finds Ed Helms as the grown Rusty Griswold taking his own brood on a trip. The film has been missing someone to play his sister Audrey, but now Leslie Mann is in talks for that role.
Serving as both a sequel and a semi-reboot of the franchise, this Vacation finds the characters from the 1983 John Hughes comedy as adults, with Helms married to Christina Applegate.
Audrey, who was previously played by Dana Barron (twice), Dana Hill, Juliette Lewis and Marisol Nichols, will here be married to news anchorman Stone Crandall, set to take the shape – assuming his deal has gone through – of one Chris Hemsworth. Nice going, Mann!
Charlie Day is planning to make a one-scene cameo in the film, while Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are likely to show up as Rusty and Audrey’s parents, Clark and Ellen Griswold. Daley and Goldstein are set to kick off production next week in Louisiana.
Mann was last seen in The Other Woman and is attached to star in bounty hunting comedy Las Madres.
James White

Leslie Mann In Talks For Vacation
She’s set to play Audrey Griswold

First-time directors (and the writers who got the thing moving in the first place) John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are now hard at work preparing the new Vacation, a story that finds Ed Helms as the grown Rusty Griswold taking his own brood on a trip. The film has been missing someone to play his sister Audrey, but now Leslie Mann is in talks for that role.

Serving as both a sequel and a semi-reboot of the franchise, this Vacation finds the characters from the 1983 John Hughes comedy as adults, with Helms married to Christina Applegate.

Audrey, who was previously played by Dana Barron (twice), Dana Hill, Juliette Lewis and Marisol Nichols, will here be married to news anchorman Stone Crandall, set to take the shape – assuming his deal has gone through – of one Chris Hemsworth. Nice going, Mann!

Charlie Day is planning to make a one-scene cameo in the film, while Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are likely to show up as Rusty and Audrey’s parents, Clark and Ellen Griswold. Daley and Goldstein are set to kick off production next week in Louisiana.

Mann was last seen in The Other Woman and is attached to star in bounty hunting comedy Las Madres.

James White

Matt Damon And Paul Greengrass Reportedly Back For More BourneThe Bourne reunion
In a twist worthy of the agent himself, it appears Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass are now making deals for a surprise return to the Bourne franchise. According to Deadline, the pair is likely to slot in a Jason Bourne-focused fifth entry to the series in place of the developing sequel to the Jeremy Renner/Aaron Cross story.
It’s something of a shocker, as both Damon and Greengrass have been vocal about not coming back because they felt they’d told Bourne’s story properly. But then, they’ve also mooted a potential return if the right script could be written and it appears that that’s the case now.
Universal – which has yet to officially confirm anything – is apparently so enthused by the idea of the pair returning that it wants them to have the film ready for the July 15, 2016 release date that had previously been given to the Bourne Legacy follow-up that Justin Lin was developing to direct. That film apparently remains in development, so it could well appear after the latest Damon outing, assuming this all actually goes ahead. Lin, meanwhile, may take the opportunity to work on True Detective’s second season, which he has been linked to.
So what do you make of this new revelation? Do you want the original flavour Bourne back, especially now it appears to feature a reunion with the series’ most popular director? You know where to sound off.
James White

Matt Damon And Paul Greengrass Reportedly Back For More Bourne
The Bourne reunion

In a twist worthy of the agent himself, it appears Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass are now making deals for a surprise return to the Bourne franchise. According to Deadline, the pair is likely to slot in a Jason Bourne-focused fifth entry to the series in place of the developing sequel to the Jeremy Renner/Aaron Cross story.

It’s something of a shocker, as both Damon and Greengrass have been vocal about not coming back because they felt they’d told Bourne’s story properly. But then, they’ve also mooted a potential return if the right script could be written and it appears that that’s the case now.

Universal – which has yet to officially confirm anything – is apparently so enthused by the idea of the pair returning that it wants them to have the film ready for the July 15, 2016 release date that had previously been given to the Bourne Legacy follow-up that Justin Lin was developing to direct. That film apparently remains in development, so it could well appear after the latest Damon outing, assuming this all actually goes ahead. Lin, meanwhile, may take the opportunity to work on True Detective’s second season, which he has been linked to.

So what do you make of this new revelation? Do you want the original flavour Bourne back, especially now it appears to feature a reunion with the series’ most popular director? You know where to sound off.

James White

Billy Bob Thornton In Talks For Our Brand Is CrisisHe’s looking to join Sandra Bullock in the political pic
With Sandra Bullock attached to star and David Gordon Green on board to direct, political comedy drama Our Brand Is Crisis is gearing up at Warner Bros. According to The Wrap, Billy Bob Thornton is in talks to co-star.
Crisis is adapted from Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary, which saw President Clinton’s former advisors James Carville and Stan Greenberg applying what they had learned in the trenches of American politics to a campaign in Bolivia, and the effects it has on the process.
Thornton’s role is still being kept under wraps (though we could certainly see him as a Carville-alike), but we do now know that Bullock will be “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a charismatic retired American political consultant known for her quoting of famous people while she’s making points.
Peter Straughan wrote the script, and Green should be shooting this autumn. Thornton, who scored an Emmy nomination for his role as laconic hit man Lorne Malvo in Fargo, is part of the cast for Robert Downey Jr.’s latest, The Judge, due in the UK on October 17 and in Australia on October 9. He’ll also be seen in London Fields and the Entourage film, which threatens UK cinemas on June 19 next year.
James White

Billy Bob Thornton In Talks For Our Brand Is Crisis
He’s looking to join Sandra Bullock in the political pic

With Sandra Bullock attached to star and David Gordon Green on board to direct, political comedy drama Our Brand Is Crisis is gearing up at Warner Bros. According to The Wrap, Billy Bob Thornton is in talks to co-star.

Crisis is adapted from Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary, which saw President Clinton’s former advisors James Carville and Stan Greenberg applying what they had learned in the trenches of American politics to a campaign in Bolivia, and the effects it has on the process.

Thornton’s role is still being kept under wraps (though we could certainly see him as a Carville-alike), but we do now know that Bullock will be “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a charismatic retired American political consultant known for her quoting of famous people while she’s making points.

Peter Straughan wrote the script, and Green should be shooting this autumn. Thornton, who scored an Emmy nomination for his role as laconic hit man Lorne Malvo in Fargo, is part of the cast for Robert Downey Jr.’s latest, The Judge, due in the UK on October 17 and in Australia on October 9. He’ll also be seen in London Fields and the Entourage film, which threatens UK cinemas on June 19 next year.

James White

Ben Foster Boards The Finest HoursJoining Chris Pine and more for a tale of saviours on the sea
As he kicks off shooting, director Craig Gillespie is gathering the remainder of the ship crew needed for real-life rescue tale The Finest Hours. Variety reports that Ben Foster and Holliday Granger will be part of the film.
The drama will tell the true story of two oil tankers caught in a massive Nor’easter storm off the New England coast in 1952. The ships split in two and their crews were thrown into the raging seas. The coast guard was called out and had to attempt a rescue in tempestuous waves.
Chris Pine and Casey Affleck will be part of the crew on deck while Kyle Gallner has landed the key role of the main rescue boat’s engineer, a young sailor with a lot to prove on the mission. There’s no word yet on which roles Foster and Grainger are taking, though we’d bet good money Foster will be setting sail.
Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson wrote the script, working from Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias’ 2010 non-fiction book about the incident, and Gillespie is set to deliver the film next year. Foster was last seen in Lone Survivor and is playing controversial cyclist Lance Armstrong in Stephen Frears’ as-yet-untitled biopic. He’ll also be part of the cast for Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, which invades our cinemas on March 11, 2016.
James White

Ben Foster Boards The Finest Hours
Joining Chris Pine and more for a tale of saviours on the sea

As he kicks off shooting, director Craig Gillespie is gathering the remainder of the ship crew needed for real-life rescue tale The Finest Hours. Variety reports that Ben Foster and Holliday Granger will be part of the film.

The drama will tell the true story of two oil tankers caught in a massive Nor’easter storm off the New England coast in 1952. The ships split in two and their crews were thrown into the raging seas. The coast guard was called out and had to attempt a rescue in tempestuous waves.

Chris Pine and Casey Affleck will be part of the crew on deck while Kyle Gallner has landed the key role of the main rescue boat’s engineer, a young sailor with a lot to prove on the mission. There’s no word yet on which roles Foster and Grainger are taking, though we’d bet good money Foster will be setting sail.

Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson wrote the script, working from Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias’ 2010 non-fiction book about the incident, and Gillespie is set to deliver the film next year. Foster was last seen in Lone Survivor and is playing controversial cyclist Lance Armstrong in Stephen Frears’ as-yet-untitled biopic. He’ll also be part of the cast for Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, which invades our cinemas on March 11, 2016.

James White