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Frank Miller’s SIN CITY (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 14, 2009 by  



“‘Frank Miller’s SIN CITY’ on Blu-ray is just perfect!  Awesome picture and audio quality and special features galore, this is one of the few and rare magnificent Blu-ray releases that achieves perfection across the board!  A+!”

Images courtesy of © 2009 Buena Vista Home Entertainment

TITLE: Frank Miller’s SIN CITY

DURATION: U.S. Theatrical Version: 126 minutes, U.S. Recut, Extended, Unrated Version: 147 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Video: 1080p High Definition (1.85:1), Bonus Features: 1080p High Definition or 480i Standard Definition, Audio English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Bonus Features: English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: R

COMPANY: Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Dimension Home Video/Troublemaker Studios

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2009

Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino (Special Guest Director)

Produced by Elizabeth Avellan

Executive Produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein

Written by Frank Miller

Music by John Debney, Graeme Revell, Robert Rodriguez

Director of Photography: Robert Rodriguez

Edited by Robert Rodriguez

Casting by Mary Vernieu

Art Direction by Steve Joyner and Jeanette Scott

Set Decoration by David Hack, Jeanette Scott

Cast:

Bruce Willis as Hartigan

Mickey Rourke as Marv

Carla Gugino as Lucille

Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy

Clive Owen as Dwight

Rosario Dawson as Gail

Elijah Wood as Kevin

Nick Stahl as Roark Jr./Yellow Bastard

Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan

Josh Hartnett as The Man

Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy

Michael Madsen as Bob

Frank Miller as Priest

Brittany Murphy as Shellie

Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark

Devin Aoki as Miho

Alexis Biedel as Becky

Powers Boothe as Senator Roark

Jude Ciccolella as Liebowitz

Sin City is based on Frank Miller’s popular series of graphic novels and features an all-star crew both behind and in front of the camera. Acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez (Grindhouse, Spy Kids) teamed with Mr. Miller to co-direct an all-star cast that includes Bruce Willis, Oscar-nominee Mickey Rourke (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Rolefor: The Wrestler, 2008), Clive Owen, Jessica Alba and
Rosario Dawson, in this riveting tale of killers, cops, hookers and hit men, all inhabiting one very dangerous, very sexy city. Sin City debuted in theatres in 2005 to critical acclaim and box office success and, like Mr. Miller’s graphic novels, continues to grow in its fan base. Now these fans, and anyone who loves explosive, groundbreaking filmmaking, can see and hear the movie like never before with the
ultimate in high definition picture and sound.

Frank Miller’s “SIN CITY” graphic novels released back in 1991 and 1992 wowed readers when it first was released from Dark Horse Comics.  The stories were collected in trade paperbacks with seven graphic novel that revolve around the people of Basin City aka “Sin City”.  Known for it’s use of primary colors of black, white and red, the graphic novel would win many fans over for its dark and violent tone but storytelling crafted by Frank Miller known for his awesome work on the “Batman” and “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear” comic books.

In 2005, Robert Rodriguez, a fan of the graphic novels wanted to make a film based on “SIN CITY” but if only Frank Miller jumped on aboard.  After seeing test footage by Frank Miller, it was enough to entice the creator to become co-director of the film and in the end, earned over $158 million worldwide in theater receipts.

In 2005, two DVD versions were released and now, a special 2-disc Blu-ray version which includes the original theatrical and the “recut, extended, unrated” version is set for an April 21, 2009 and all I can say is that this release blows away the DVD versions and easily among the top 10, if not, the top 5 Blu-ray’s produced thus far.

So, does “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” achieve perfection on Blu-ray?  Read on.

The film which features an all-star cast is broken down to several chapters.

The Customer is Always Right – The Man (Josh Hartnett) greets a beautiful woman (Marley Shelton) on a rooftop.  Enchanting as the evening seems, the two embrace and then she is shot dead by The Man.  We learn that she has hired him to kill her.

That Yellow Bastard (Part 1) – Police Officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and his partner Bob (Michael Madsen) are trying to stop a serial child rapist/murderer Roark Jr. (Nick Stahl) of the powerful Roark family (he is the son of Senator Roark played by Powers Boothe).   Bob tries to stop Hartigan from going further but Hartigan knocks him out and goes  to save a young girl named Nancy Callahan from the Roark Jr.  Going so far as to shoot his hear off and shooting him in the crotch.

But unknown to Hartigan, his partner Bob has been paid off by Senator Roark.  Hartigan knows that in order to save the girl, he needs to buy her some time and by doing so, Bob plugs a few bullets into Hartigan.  And telling himself, “An old man dies, a little girl lives; fair trade”.

The Hard Goodbye – This storyline revolves around the character of Marv (Mickey Rourke).  A man gifted with enormous strength, scars aplenty but despite his looks and his demeanor, his girl Goldie (Jaime King) is there for him.  After a night of lovemaking, while they were asleep, someone wearing eyeglasses (Kevin played by Elijah Wood) has murdered her.

Marv wants revenge and talks to his nude parole officer Lucille (Carla Gugino) that he intends to find out who killed her.   While Marv does his investigation at Kadie’s Bar, two hitmen go after him.  Of course, these hitmen are in no shape for Marv and learns from a corrupt priest (Frank Miller) that a member of the powerful Roark family is behind Goldie’s murder.

Marv finishes off the priest but he is attacked and shot by a woman who looks like Goldie but because he hasn’t taken his medication, he starts to hallucinate.  When he wakes up in a basement with his parole officer Lucille. Lucille was kidnapped, captured and watched as a killer put victims heads on the walls and even made her watch as he ate her hand.  Marv learns that this guy is a cannibal and learns his name is Kevin.

This sets up a storyline as Marv goes after this cannibal killer.

The Big Fat Kill – Shellie (Brittany Murphy) is a barmaid who is constantly harassed and abused by her ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro).  Fortunately, Shellie has met a good man named Dwight  (Clive Owen) who she sleeps with.  But Jackie Boy and his group of thugs end up paying a visit and ends up smacking her around while Dwight stays in the bathroom and hides in the shower.

While Jackie Boy goes to urinate, Dwight comes out with a blade and warns Jackie Boy to stay away from Shellie and makes his point known by shoving his face in the toilet.

Jackie Boy is not to thrilled but he wants some action, so he and his group go to Old Town, a city run by beautiful and dangerous prostitutes.   Dwight senses this guy will be trouble and thus follows him into Old Town.

Jackie Boy drives in his car and comes across Becky (Alexis Biedil) for some action but Becky is not interested.  When he threatens her with a gun, the deadly Miho (Devon Aoki) comes and attacks by cutting his arm off.    Dwight arrives but he is warned by the leader of Old Town, Gail (Rosario Dawson) to keep his distance.  We learn that Gail and Dwight may have had some sort of relationship.

Meanwhile, Miho immediately kills his group of friends and when Jackie Boy gets his gun and prepares to shoot her, with Miho’s quick defense, she blocks the gun and the gun backfires shooting the casing up inside the front head of Jackie Boy and killing him.

While Dwight and the prostitutes rummage through the belongings of the thugs and Jackie Boy, Dwight discovers something terrible.  Jackie Boy is a cop.

In Old Town, the prostitutes and the cops have a deal, cops and the trashy guys will stay away from Old Town and give the prostitutes their freedom but if they break the truce, the men will return and the cops will have their fun with the ladies.

Gail knows this is big trouble and could start a war but Dwight comes up with an idea to dispose of the body before the cops find out.  Unknown to the ladies of Old Town, one of their own will soon betray them.

That Yellow Bastard (Part 2) features Hartigan (Bruce Willis) recovering in the hospital.  He is visited by Senator Roark who is so upset that Hartigan has ruined his family’s legacy, so to get back at him, he tells him that he will frame him for all of his son’s crimes and he will serve a long jail term.  If Hartigan tells anyone the truth, they will be killed.  Young Nancy comes to visit him and tells him that her parents won’t listen to the truth.  She tells Hartigan that she will write him a letter every week (using the name Cordelia) while he serves in prison and that she loves him.

Hartigan is in prison for eight years, the only thing keeping him alive is his letters from Nancy.  Still not confessing to Roark Jr.’s crimes, Hartigan starts to fear for the worse when the letters stop.   He finds a severed finger and worries that the Roark’s may have kidnapped her and thus confesses to Roark Jr.’s crimes so he can get out of prison.

Bob picks him up from prison, regretting his actions from the past and informing Hartigan of what has happened to his wife.  When he comes to find Nancy, he can find nothing but a matchbook to Kadie’s Bar.  When he goes to visit the bar, he sees a grown up Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) who is a dancer and he realizes that it was a setup.  He sees a yellow man waiting at the bar and as he tries to turn around and hopes Nancy doesn’t see him, Nancy spots him and kisses him.  Hartigan knows now that those who were looking for Nancy, now knows who she is and he has brought her trouble.

The Yellow Bastard ala Roark Jr. now goes after the two.

Epilogue – An injured Becky has been treated by the hospital.  She’s on the phone with her mother and enters the elevator and she is greeted by “The Man”.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” is a film that is shot entirely digital via green screen.  The digital recreations of Sin City just look dark, grimy but in a technical sense, quite magnificent in capturing Frank Miller’s dark and corrupted city with its blacks, whites and reds.

The video which is presented in 1080p (with an aspect ratio of 1:85:1) is just absolutely beautiful as you can see skin pores to absolute detail on the talent but what is more impressive is how digital and realism comes together in harmony.  What was more shocking (which you learn from the special features), in certain scenes which you thought talent were acting with other talent, they weren’t.  Footage of an actor may have been shot eight months ago and then the character that is interacting with another character is shot much later and all work done in post-production.

A perfect example is in “That Yellow Bastard (Part 2)” in which Shellie (Brittany Murphy) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) are interacting but in reality, the two individual scenes were shot months from each other.  It’s just amazing how everything seems so fluid.

The picture quality is just magnificent.  It’s one thing to watch this on DVD and say how beautiful the film looks but when you watch it and see it on High Definition, it just blows away the picture quality of the DVD.  Granted, this film doesn’t have as many colors as top tier Blu-ray films such as “Transformers” or even “Quantum of Solace” but using the dark grays and blacks with the whites and reds, this film looks great.

As for audio, again this Blu-ray release meets perfection.  The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit) is just incredible.  From the action scenes to the engines of the cars, you literally feel the noise around you.  And at the end with Alba and Willis’s character, nice touch of the low level bass as your subwoofer just beats.  The audio is just great to listen to and the clarity of the dialogue, music and special effects were well done.

If you think the theatrical and even the unrated, recut edition sound good, there is also an audio track to listen to a live recording of the audience at the Texas premiere which sounds great too (I can only hope more Blu-ray releases include that feature).

Overall, “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” achieves perfection for picture and audio quality.  Just magnificent!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

With Audio and Video reaching perfection, this Blu-ray release does not slouch in special features at all.  You are definitely getting your money’s worth with so many features included.  Features such as:

DISC 1: Disc One (Theatrical Cut) Features: This disc gives you five different reasons to re-watch the original theatrical version of the film and all are worth it!

  • All new Cine-Explore – Innovative Blu-ray technology allows viewers to experience a uniquely interactive visual commentary that pushes the envelope. When selected, see picture-in-picture green screen footage and original art synced with the filmmakers’ commentary.  This is optional and a nice touch.
  • 2.0 Commentary with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller – The commentary between Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller is pretty cool. Miller has lived “SIN CITY”, he knows the ins and outs to the city and its characters, so it was great to have this commentary with both men.  But mostly for Miller’s perspective and knowledge.  Very cool commentary.
  • 2.0 Commentary with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino – Tarentino shot the burial/driving scene for “The BIG FAT KILL”, so he’s pretty much in and out for the commentary.  Most of the commentary is Robert Rodriguez.  Where the first commentary, it was Miller driven, this one is Rodriguez driven and when the the time comes, you hear Tarentino chime in.  But it’s an interesting commentary as Tarantino doesn’t like shooting in digital but because it’s a Frank Miller film based on a popular Frank Miller story, he gave it a chance and enjoyed the experience.
  • 5.1 Audio Track Featuring a Recording of the Austin Audience Reaction – Definitely a fun addition as you watch the film with the actual audience track with people cheering, laughing and just reactions during the entire film.  Sounds great and really gave me another reason to watch the film again and enjoy it.  Great addition to this release!

DISC TWO:  This disc includes the “Unrated, Recut Extended Version” which has 23 extra minutes and the bulk of the special features.

  • All new “Kill ‘em Good” Interactive Comic Book – Dive into a visually stunning interactive game that puts you in the driver’s seat. Exploiting the Blu-ray format in ways never before seen, you finish the story – with guns blazing!  For a game, I was quite impressed by the audio quality.  Very well done game and using the graphic novels and artwork for an interactive comic book.  Very nice addition to this Blu-ray release!
  • Four Chapters: The unrated, recut version are viewed as separate films.  There are no chapter stops, so you can watch these separate chapters with new, additional footage.

o Chapter One- That Yellow Bastard

o Chapter Two- The Customer Is Always Right

o Chapter Three- The Hard Goodbye

o Chapter Four- The Big Fat Kill

  • Rodriguez Special Features:

o 15-Minute Film School – (15 min.) Robert Rodriguez is known for his past DVD releases of teaching the filmmaker of tips of how he accomplished scenes on a budget.  This time around, Rodriguez uses “SIN CITY” to show how things are done via green screen but how he did certain things to stay within budget of the film.

o All Green Screen Version – (12:33) This is the entire film sped up in 800% but a good way to see how everything was shot via green screen.
o The Long Take –
(14:42) This scene shows how Quentin Tarentino shot the driving scene between Dwight (Clive Owen) and Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro).  Very interesting how this take is long and these guys are just sitting in the car for long periods of time. Interesting perspective on filmmaking with these two talented individuals.
o Sin City: Live in Concert-
(7:15) During a break in Texas, Bruce Willis & The Accelerators perform for charity and cast of “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” and “Scanner Darkly” hook up and enjoy the performance.
o 10-Minute Cooking School –
(6:21) Director Robert Rodriguez is often working late in the early morning and when he gets the munchies, he loves his breakfast tacos.  So, he shows you how to make them.

• How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make The Film –
(5:40) What it took for Robert Rodriguez to convince Frank Miller to make “SIN CITY” to a movie.  Interviews with both men.
• Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino
– (7:19) Interviews with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.  How Rodriguez was able to convince Tarantino to direct a spot.
• A Hard Top With A Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City
– (7:34) Interviews with Cecil D. Evans (Transportation Coordinator) of finding the vehicles from the graphic novels for the film.  Miller owns hundreds of die cast vehicles and used those as reference for his graphic novels.  Thus, Evans would go throughout Texas and asking owners to borrow cars for a few days or weeks such as Nancy’s 57 Chevy Nomad, Wendy’s ’55 Porsche Spyder, Dwight’s ’55 Cadillac and more.
• Booze, Broads, and Guns: The Props of Sin City
– (10:57) Interviews with Steve Joyner (Prop Master) and how he followed the “Booze, Broads and Guns” mentality of the film.  How certain props looked as real as the original to finding the right bow from the graphic novel in real life and obtaining it and using it for the film.
• Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-up – (9:04) Interviews with Grig Nicotero (Special Motion Video Effects Supervisor) and creating the makeup for characters such as Marv, Jackie Boy and Yellow Bastard.
• Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City
– (7:34) Interview with Mona Proctor (Costume Supervisor) going through the various costumes especially for the women like Gail (Rosario Dawson) who wore next to nothing.  Very informative.
• Teaser & Theatrical Trailer
– The Teaser trailer is 2:07 minutes and the official trailer is at 1:49.

I’ve owned the previous two DVD version of “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” but watching this on Blu-ray, I’m just amazed how much  of a difference High Definition really makes this film look and sound so incredible.

The picture quality and the vibrancy of the reds and golds, the audio quality of weapons, cars and violence with wonderful DTS-HD audio going all around you.   This film is just right up there for one of the best releases on Blu-ray thus far.

Again, I understand that other films such as “TRANSFORMERS” and “Quantum of Solace” which were shot outdoors looked incredible while “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” is digital throughout in terms of the cityscape and the overall atmosphere of the city.

And suffice to say, both Blu-ray discs are just packed full of special features and enough to keep fans busy.  The first disc alone gives you five ways to watch the film and each reason is just fantastic (especially if you are a big fan of the film and the graphic novels).   The second disc was a great touch to add an unrated, recut version.

It would have been nice to have the full theatrical film with the newer footage added to it but overall, the second disc gives you individual chapters and yet again, another way to enjoy this film.

As for parents who wonder if this film based on a comic book is family friendly, despite the fact that blood is seen in various colors, the film is excessively violent and has its share of nudity.  So, despite Miller’s work with the “Batman” and “Daredevil” comic books, “SIN CITY” is not a film you want to have your kids watching.

In the end, I really enjoyed the film and the Blu-ray release.  Sure, it’s over-the-top and both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have had their share of over-the-top films.  But there are few graphic novels that I have wanted to see in film and so, seeing “SIN CITY” as a film and with Miller involved and thus making sure the film is faithful to the graphic novels was awesome.   And just kudos to Robert Rodriguez who allowed Frank Miller to fully be in control of the film and working together with him and coming up with this unique and stylish film, the two work great together and I just hope to see a future collaboration with both men again.

Finding a Blu-ray release that is just perfect in all four categories of film, video, audio and special features is quite rare.  Typically you get two out of four but in the case of “Frank Miller’s SIN CITY”, this release is just perfect.

Videophiles and audiophiles are just going to love this release while fans of the film are just going to go nuts over the amount of content included on both Blu-ray discs.

“Frank Miller’s SIN CITY” is perfect and highly, highly recommended!  A+






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