Movie Picture

SNEAKY PEEPS -- SIN CITY

- by B. Alan Orange

I'm about to have my geek card revoked. It's been a long time coming. Nowadays, you've gotta flaunt more criteria to be part of the Nerd Culture Couture than you do to get on the football team and be socially accepted as a baller. What gives? Back when I was in high school, you'd get beat six ways from Sunday for carrying an R2D2-C3PO binder in your sophomore gym bag. In 2005, if you aint playing with a General Grievous action figure before the big game, you're just not one of the "cool" jocks. I mean; you saw what happened to Luke on the O.C. This ignorant hunk became a social leper. Maybe that's why I love his character so much; and I wish they'd bring him back. There are just some things you must love, and some things you must hate. Otherwise, you'll be outcast from these so-called outcasts. And it's getting out of hand. I'm being oppressed. I'm being shoved further down the latter than I could have ever possibly imagined. I don't like Monty Python movies at all, but Goddamn it, I could watch Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure ten times in a row.

Movie PictureOuch, I can feel the pointed tip of that untied sneaker digging into my ribcage as we speak. I've gone on record many times, claiming an affinity for the last two new Star Wars films. Strike one against me. I never once felt like my childhood was ruined because of these computer generated bolts of communal disappointment. Obviously, that means I'm not geek material. I hold an affinity for Jar Jar Binks, and openly miss his presence in the Clone Wars cartoon. That makes me a bottom feeding douche bag. Not a dweeb. It hurts. It hurts real bad. Now, though, all the Internet fanboys are foaming at the mouth, awaiting May 19th like Japan never dropped a bomb on Pearl Harbor.

Why are they so excited? Their collective huddle is like a blonde with two black eyes. What do you even say to them? Nothing. Lucas already told them twice. These line-waiting bitches are nothing but a bunch of abused housewives. They should be filing a restraining order. I'm the one that should be excited. I'm the one that should be waiting at the front of that line. I completely embraced the last two flicks for what they were, and enjoyed them as fun little pep-pills of excitement. But here, today, I feel less than enthused about the final chapter headed our way in two months. Anakin becomes Darth Vader. So what?

Maybe it's Anakin hair. What trunk did George dig this do out of? Christensen looks like an early 80s Michael Stipe. At least that rocker was smart enough to shave his head bald. Obviously, Darth Vader will follow suite. Though, I think he gets his singed off. Clippers are not involved…

Movie PictureConsidering the scheme of things, I've always participated in enough idiosyncratic pastimes to keep my geek card in check. And I look like a big dork, so that helps. The first time I came close to getting my credentials pulled was back in 1999. That's right. I didn't go see the Phantom Menace on opening day. I didn't go see it opening week. I waited twelve days to see it. Why? Well, one, I wanted to see it with my brother (who was away in Mexico at the time), and two, I didn't really care that much. I'd seen Radio Land Murders. My expectations were low. The only thing that kept me in the club was the fact that I'd waited six hours outside of Toys R Us the night the new toys were released. I fought an army of fat, sweaty assholes for a plastic fish and a Qui Gon Jin doll. There's something to be said for that off-branded type of action figure love.

Since then, I've flowed with the ebb and tide. For every collectable comic I blew my nose in and threw on the ground, I'd buy a giant Godzilla figurine to make up for it. Then, late last year, I was tossed in geek jail. Why? Because I didn't like the Incredibles. At all. I was quite vocal about this fact. Seriously, I thought it was boring. It made me incredibly antsy. I wanted to bolt from the theater, and almost did forty minutes in. This is bad news. 98% of the nerdcore force claims it's the best Super Hero film ever made. And its been called the greatest movie of 2004 by their oblique Internet clique. Well, screw them. I didn't like Iron Giant, either.

Movie PictureMy re-invokement fee cost thousands of dollars. Saying I didn't like the Incredibles was the equivalent of getting a geek DUI. And now, those in charge of dolling out dork permits have set up a Sobriety Checkpoint just outside theaters showing Sin City.

Uh-Oh.

I guess I shouldn't have walked into the screening screaming, "Dick Tracy 2, Mother F*ckers!"

"It redefines the comic book genre!" How many times are we going to hear this same generalized statement? Every time a new pulp hero biopic arrives that doesn't suck balls, I guess. I mean; we heard it yelled in the face of the X-Men, then Spider-Man, then X2, and then Spider-Man 2. The accolades were also extended to Ghost World and American Splendor. Every six months, or so, a new thematic stretch of moving images based on a graphic novel arrives to break the previously constructed mold. Audiences have been caught in a revolving door of grateful euphemisms. Now, once again, the same base proclamations are being set forth in the face of Frank Miller's Sin City.

The thing hasn't even opened yet, and I've heard nothing but unanimous praise. They all say the same thing, "Sin City redefines what it means to be a comic book movie." Suffice it to say, my expectations were pretty low upon walking into that tiny digital theater last night. I know it looks and feels like nothing I've ever seen. I've been bombarded with that astonishing fact. Yes, it is drawn exactly like the comic book, from the stilled panels, to the dialogue, to the page transitions…Sin City the movie looks like someone tore out the pages of Sin City the comic book and is now showing them on an overhead projector.

So what? Doesn't mean the movie is going to be any good.

Movie PictureThinking like that only gets a dozen geek police batons thrust into my bare back. Here's a shocker: I've never read Frank Miller's Sin City. I've never flipped through it. I don't even think I've been in the same room with a copy. So I don't know script to screen, and can't really comment on it. For me, I have nothing to compare it too. If it's entertaining, it gets a pass. If it's another Spy Kids 3, it'll need to get out of my face.

Lately, I've been leaning towards hating it. Stylized metaphors can only carry so much weight (just look at Dick Tracey). And Once Upon a Time in Mexico was a schizophrenic mess. It looked cool. There were some cool scenes, sure. But it didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. It felt like a rush job. So did Spy Kids 3-D, which, truth be told, gave me a headache. I used to love Robert Rodriguez. I stopped caring awhile back. Directors are a weird commodity. I can't think of one that has a spotless resume. Not even Richard Kelly. Sure, he's only made one movie, but the director's cut of Donnie Darko sucks. You know it does. Seriously, what's up with those Time Rider crosshairs at the end?

Movie PictureAnyway, I approach everything with a grain of salt nowadays. You never know when something is going to suck. Hard. Rodriguez made one of my all time favorite movies. Second only to Joe vs. the Volcano (see, I told you my geek card needs to be scissored in two). If I was stranded on an Island with one of those imaginary lists people like to fantasize about, From Dusk till Dawn would be marked as a DVD I couldn't live without. I know every line and every on-screen finger twitch. I've seen it a thousand times, literally, and I could watch it a thousand more. Sadly, that doesn't mean a lot. There are a lot of elements at play within the framework of that masterpiece. Everything just came together in one fused spark of genius. Call it, "Lighting in a Bottle." I've never been that impressed with any of Robert's other projects. I like them, but I don't continually go back to them. The Faculty holds a special place in my heart. I think it's an awesome monster flick, but it has never been widely recognized as one of his greater achievements. I don't ever hear people talking about it. That's kind of sad. The Faculty has some really great moments. I love the homage. It's like a bolt being fired directly into the head of a cow.

I walked into Sin City heavy handed. This almost felt like a burden more than anything else. A cross to bear; something I was going to have to sit through no matter what. I knew that it was going to come at my face like the greatest geek test ever forged. Sites like CHUD and Aint It Cool News have declared it as such. A pentacle of the ejaculatory geekgasm. If I hated this film after it was over, I'd forever be banned to the cave of shame where people like Richard Simmons and Clay Aiken dwell. Walking into that tiny auditorium, I was okay with it. My heart's known for quite some time that I'd be directed towards this fait. It's like Anakin to the Dark Side. It's like Elvis to that last bucket of fried chicken eaten on a cold porcelain toilet seat.

There was no other recourse. I closed my eyes and dove forth…

Exactly two hours later, I had to smile. My left hand went up to that tiny, empty space where my heart used to be, and I said the pledge of allegiance, to the geeks, of the United States of America.

Movie PictureSh*t, I liked it. A lot. But not too much. Just enough to keep that license in my back pocket for a few more months (this is going to be a tough year, what with Hitchhiker's Guide, Episode III, Willy Wonka, and Batman Begins all coming out within mere weeks of each other). I'm not going to lie about it. Sin City looks and feels like nothing I've seen before. And, quite frankly, it almost made my nose bleed. The pristine digital print was so crisp and clean; it sort of bothered me to look at it. The black and white imagery is beautiful. Plain and simple. Almost too beautiful. And the hints of color aren't overdone. It's a balancing act that could go lopsided at any moment, and almost falls completely out of synch when an ugly yellow bastard shows up. But it's kept tight within the lines of sobriety. The hyper-stylized motions never bloat past the seams of the screen. I can't actually envision a lot of non-comic fans not having some sort of problem with it.

Hell, I would have had a problem with it had the storyline not been so focused and textured. Its pulp, its noir, its theatrical in every sense of the word. But its also highly engrossing, and cool, and pitched at inexcusably watchable. The best part about its three-story structure is its keen ablity to pull you into this otherworldly hemisphere. Unlike most other films that come out today, I really had no idea what this thing was about. Watching the trailer, I got a sense of overload. A lot of characters were flung at my face without reason. Too many big stars. It was like watching a promo for next week's episode of the Love Boat. Another reason to be skeptical.

Movie PictureIt was nice having this wash over me, spooling out its various degrees of viscera. Somehow, I've managed to avoid all spoilers, so every moment came as something fresh and new. Rodriguez has proven himself a master of kinetic action, and that flare has never been more evident than it is here. Almost every other minute, something presents itself that had me exclaiming aloud, "F*ck, that was awesome." How much of this has to do with the participation of the other two directors, Frank Miller and guest Quintin Tarantino? I'm not sure. It truly looks like a collaborative effort. And my only thought is: These guys should get together more often.

The film starts strong. Almost too strong. After a couple short vignettes that are provoking, but not quite edge-of-your-set material, we're introduced to Marv. He is what all these early Internet reviewers are calling him. A kick-ass fuck'em-up mother f*cker, and the best thing to happen to Mickey Rourke since…Forever. Sin City belongs to him. This is his baby. And his opening story arc comes as the best forty minutes seen in quite some time. After Marv dies, I was extremely worried about the fate of Sin City. How could anything be as cool as this? Why didn't they save him for last? After watching the entire hundred and twenty minutes, it made sense, but it still seemed like a waste. Sin City never fully recovers from the loss of Marv, but Bruce Willis and a grip of super hot hookers do their damnedest to make up for it. Sin City is never boring. And its original. That alone pushes it to the top of the playing field.

All I've ever asked the Gods of Cinema to provide was something interesting. That's all I could ever hope for. Rodriguez, Miller, and Tarantino go above and beyond the call in delivering that simple request.

Movie PictureFinally, I like something everyone else does, too. That's a huge step for me. Today, I remain a geek. Not of the highest order, but that's okay. I'll contend with my sideline status. I just seriously fear for the upcoming trials I will soon have to face. I'm pretty sure I'll pass the next one. Seeing this a second time in the theater. Its not set in stone, but it will probably happen.

Probably.

If you're a geek, I don't have to tell you to go see this. You're already there. If you're anyone else, I say, give it a look. You just might walk away feeling like you didn't waist twelve bucks. That's no small feat considering our current cinematic climate.

Honestly.

Dont't forget to also check out: Sin City