Tag Archives: Jamie Chung

Movie Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

sin-city-a-dame-to-kill-for-review

It’s hard to believe, but Sin City, the mini masterpiece based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, was released back in 2005. It was stylistic, brutal, violent, lurid, sexual, and unlike anything we had seen before. It was obvious that a sequel was forthcoming, though no one expected that it would be another nine years before Sin City: A Dame to Kill For would take hit the big screen.

A lot has happened over the last nine years, including the release of several comparable movies, most of which have not been very memorable. As a result, much of the anticipation that would have come from a Sin City sequel had it been made immediately after the original has dissipated. Without the advantages of surprise, novelty and unique visuals, Sin City 2 never really had a chance to live up to its predecessor. The fact that it was a box office flop confirmed my suspicions.

That said, I still had quite a good time with this one. I only remember bits and pieces of the original, and I am glad to say it did not matter all that much. Again, it’s more about the style than the substance, the titillation than the emotion. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sin City 2 brings back some old faces and introduces some new ones in essentially two separate stories of revenge. The first one revolves around Josh Brolin’s character Dwight,  a tough guy still smitten with the woman who broke his heart. The woman, Ava, is played by the smoking Eva Green, who does an excellent job of making audiences believe that she is indeed a dame who can make a man kill for her. Other characters in this story are played by Rosario Dawson, Jamie King, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Dennis Haysbert (President David Palmer from 24!) and Jamie Chung.

The second story focuses on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a cocky young gambler who seems to always have luck on his side — that is until he runs into ruthless crime boss Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the father of the Yellow Bastard from the first film. Bruce Willis returns in what is essentially a cameo, and Jessica Alba does slightly more this time than just dance without stripping, though not much more.

Both stories are interesting in their own way, but they don’t have much of a connection other than Mickey Rourke’s character Marv, who appears throughout as a bridge between the different acts. I think that the scattered narrative was also the approach in the original, but for some reason I remember it to be darker, more violent and more captivating.

The sequel’s still a very stylish film that emulates a lot of what made the original successful, including visuals featuring animation, black and white spliced with an eye-catching primary colour, and loads of bone-crunching violence to go with the squishy sound effects. The characters are comic book caricatures, but they’re very intriguing caricatures played by great actors. Despite possessing so many of the same elements as its predecessor, however, the impact this time around is just not the same.

To be honest I think the film would have worked much better had it be turned into a late-night TV series, with each act representing one 30-minute episode. As a 102-minute feature it just felt like they were forcing several unrelated stories into an uncomfortable package that doesn’t even try to live up the the hype and anticipation built up over the last nine years. Still, as someone who really enjoyed the original I must say I didn’t mind the sequel at all, as un-epic as it was. All style and very little substance rarely works, but in the case of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For it’s about as good as it can get.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

I’m probably one of the rare few that didn’t think The Hangover was an awesome film.  A clever premise, interesting characters, and some wild, outrageous and completely insane situations — yes — but personally I didn’t find it all that funny.

A couple of my friends told me that the sequel, The Hangover Part II, was very very funny, so despite my wariness, I went and checked it out.

Mmm…like the characters in the film, I honestly couldn’t remember a whole lot about the original, but even so, this sequel felt eerily similar, almost recycled.  The same bunch of guys have a wild night out before a wedding, get plastered, can’t remember anything the next morning, and have to retrace their steps in limited time to find a missing person.  Like the predecessor, it’s crazy, crude, often disgusting and utterly improbable — meaning if you enjoyed the original you’ll probably like this one too.

Unfortunately for me, it meant another pretty average experience.

Moving the ‘Wolfpack’ to Bangkok was a step up from Vegas, and they sure did exploit the beautiful scenery, the vastly different culture, the squalid parts of the city and the language barrier.  I also thought the three main characters — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — provided a formidable trio with distinct personalities that meshed well together.

But ultimately, The Hangover Part II just wasn’t very funny.  Well, perhaps I should clarify by saying that it’s not my kind of humour.  Like the first film, it relied on outrageous situations, gross out scenarios and random/awkard/uncomfortable moments provided by Galifianakis (who shot to stardom after the original).  It’s a formula that obviously worked for audiences the first time, but I could count the number of genuine laughs I had from this film on one hand.  A big reason for that was because a lot of the gags, especially the sexual ones, were telegraphed and you could see them coming a mile away.

The biggest disappointment for me was the Asian gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who for me was absolutely the bright spark of the original.  In the sequel, however, I felt his jokes were more scripted rather than ad libbed, and as a result he wasn’t nearly as funny as he was or should have been.  I still love Ken but he couldn’t lift the film this time.

Having said all that, I still maintained interest in the story most of way through because of the curiosity factor — after all, I did want to find out what happened to them that night.  But as was the case with the original, that knowledge didn’t mean much by the end.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Sucker Punch (2011)

In a nutshell, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is the one of the most visually impressive but intellectually and emotionally empty films I’ve ever seen.

I’m really stuck on this review right now because I don’t know how to go about it.  The film started off unbelievably well, with virtually zero dialogue and a kick ass soundtrack — but most importantly it told a story, and an interesting one: a deceased mother, a dead sister, an evil stepfather and a girl in a mental institution where she will be lobotomised in five days.

At this point I thought I was in for one of the best films of the year.  I loved the look of the film (in my opinion it exceeded both 300 and Watchmen), I loved the sound (something I don’t usually notice) and I loved where it was heading.  It had a terrific (at least looking) cast led by two sensational Aussies (Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish), plus Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Then, as expected, the film took a turn into fantasy, and from there, the story just went downhill (though I will say it redeemed itself a little towards the end).  I didn’t have a problem with the turn itself, but I disliked the way it was executed.

The effects and fight scenes were amazing to watch, but because you knew it was all ridiculous fantasy, nothing was at stake and as a result there was no genuine excitement.  Incredible to look at (it was like a freaking video game or the best live-action anime of all time) but it left me feeling strangely hollow.  And without giving away anything more about the plot, I also found the progression to be predictable and plodding.  The devices used were, for lack of a better term, lame.

And so I have very mixed feelings about Sucker Punch.  On the one hand the geek inside me was utterly impressed by the super cool visuals, martial arts moves and blazing guns.  There was a scenario for every nerd — war, fantasy, sci-fi.  But on the other, the sane movie-goer in me was disappointed by the lack of a compelling narrative and a complete failure to generate any emotional connection.  It smelt of a lazy film, one that was too focused on the aesthetics and not nearly enough on the heart and soul.  It’s a real shame because with a stronger script, Sucker Punch could have been something quite special.

2.5 stars out of 5