Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Panda Express

The Guardian (that's a newspaper, kids– ask your parents) recently ran an article about the economics of Chinese pandas. Apparently the rental of pandas to zoos is big business. It costs a zoo approximately $1 million dollars per year to rent a panda from China. A million dollars! And that amount only covers the panda itself. It doesn't include building a special panda shelter and importing fresh bamboo shoots from France.

So I guess being an architect in the 1970s must have paid extremely well!

Death Becomes Her

This week the complete ninth season of Bones came out on DVD.

I've never seen even a single episode of the show– my duties here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld keep my quite busy– so I have no idea what it's about. Based on this cover, I'm guessing it's a fantasy about a business man who falls in love with Death, who takes the form of an attractive woman. He then acts as a go-between for the Grim Reaper and her victims, preparing them for their imminent demise.

No? That's not what the show's about? Hmm. Well, maybe it's about an advertising executive, a la Darrin Stephens, whose wife becomes a decaying zombie with a skeletal arm. Watch the fun as the husband is forced to live up to his "til death do us part" wedding vow with a ghoul for a wife who can never die. It's the ride of your life, and afterlife!

No? It's not that either? It's a police procedural about FBI agents who solve crimes with the power of forensic anthropology? Really, that's it? Then who the hell thought it was a good idea to film the cover so it looks like the woman has a skeleton arm? Sick bastards, that's who!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 4: Listen

This week we learn that the Doctor really needs to find a hobby to keep his mind from wandering, as writer Steven Moffat desperately tries– and fails– to come up with another monster as cool as the Weeping Angels.

Some people are going to love Listen, while others are going to hate it. Me, I'm kind of on the fence. It had a couple of very effective and scary moments– particularly the thing sitting under young Danny's bed covers– but by the end it became much ado about nothing, as we're informed the "monster" probably doesn't exist after all.

The Plot:
The Doctor becomes convinced that the reason we all talk to ourselves when we're alone is because we're not alone. He posits that there's some sort of perfectly camouflaged... thing that follows each of us around our entire lives, and lives under our beds and grabs our ankles when we least expect it. No, really, that's the premise.

Meanwhile Clara goes on a disastrous date with Danny Pink. She and the Doctor then visit Danny (courtesy of the TARDIS) when he's a small boy being threatened by one of the unseen things under the bed. The Doctor gives him a pep talk about fear and courage. 

Clara then visits the Doctor when he's a young boy and gives him a pep talk about fear and courage, turning the whole episode into a closed time loop.

Oh, and the things living under everyone's bed? They're not real. Or maybe they are. It's all frustratingly vague.

• Moffat loves mining childhood fears for monsters he can use on the show. The Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, the Silence-- they're all based on irrational fears we all had as a child. Fear of the dark, seeing things out of the corner of your eye, that sort of thing.

He tries his best to create another iconic childhood monster here. Unfortunately these monsters are much too vague to be interesting. And despite their vagueness they're somehow too similar to his other creations-- especially the Silence.

• Moffat also loves making up off-kilter nursery rhyme prophesies about his monsters, which he does yet again here.

• The Doctor's theory that we all have a constant invisible companion throughout our lives is based on the fact that everyone has the same dream– that of a hand grabbing us from underneath the bed.

Sorry to disappoint the Doctor, but I've never in my life had that dream. Sure, I used to think there were monsters in my room, but I was awake then, not dreaming, and they never grabbed me as I dangled my legs over the bed. The Doctor's proceeding from a flawed assumption.

• The Doctor and Clara visit the orphanage where young Danny Pink lives. Once again we see the Doctor barge into a facility and everyone completely accepts his presence, without an ounce of suspicion. Yes, he shows his psychic paper to the head of the orphanage, but it's 2 am! Even with the proper credentials, don't you think the administrator might want to make a few calls to confirm the Doctor's story?

Similarly, young Danny Pink thinks nothing of the fact that Clara, a complete and total stranger, has waltzed right into his room in the middle of the night and crawled under his bed.

This phenomenon has happened hundreds of times in the series over the decades. People will accepts the Doctor's presence without question even in situations in which he couldn't possibly appear. 

Sometimes I wonder if this is a function of the TARDIS. We know it automatically translates any and all languages for the Doctor, as well as those he encounters. Maybe it's also projecting some sort of "acceptance field" around him, to help him integrate into any situation.

Um... was the Doctor wearing a sequined top in this episode? In some scenes the white dots on his black shirt looked printed on, in others they looked sewn on. In a couple scenes they even looked like they could have been tiny holes in his shirt, like he was charging his car battery and it exploded all over him.

Whatever was going on with his shirt, he needs to toss it in the trash and never wear it again. Ever.

Once again I'm impressed by the evolution and growth of Clara 2.0. It's almost like she's becoming the Doctor and he's her companion. Nowhere was that more evident than in this episode.

It's an interesting take on the characters' relationship, but it's also a dangerous one. I'm afraid that when Jenna Coleman leaves the show, as she eventually will, we'll be left with an underdeveloped Doctor who's been playing second fiddle to his companion.

• One annoying thing I've noticed about the modern era of the show– each of the Doctor's companions has somehow been The Most Important Person In The Universe. Rose Tyler traveled through dimensions to rescue the Doctor. Donna Noble saved our entire universe. Amy Pond rebooted all of reality.

Clara Oswald tops all those. Not only is she The Impossible Girl– who saved the life of every incarnation of the Doctor, and even made sure he stole just the right TARDIS– now we find out she's the one who inspired him to become a Time Lord in the first place.

Sometimes I miss the days when the companions were just ordinary people along for the ride.

The Doctor insults Clara's looks again this week, commenting about her lack of makeup even though she's wearing some.

I'm assuming they're doing this in an attempt to show that this incarnation of the Doctor is more alien and doesn't understand petty human concerns and customs, but... it's just coming off as mean.

• Clara asks the Doctor if it's bad if she meets her younger self. He says, "It is potentially catastrophic." Except of course for all the times the Doctor's met himself over the years.

• The Doctor: "Have you seen the size of human brains? They're hilarious!" Best line of the episode.

• Inside young Danny's room, the Doctor leafs through a book and says he can't find Wally. 

He's talking of course about Where's Waldo? British illustrator Martin Handford published Where's Wally? in 1987. When the book was imported to the U.S., editors said the name "Wally" wouldn't resonate with American audiences and demanded he change the character's name to "Waldo."

• As I said earlier, the scenes in young Danny's bedroom with the thing sitting on the bed were very well done. Definitely one of the scariest moments of the series, and they didn't even have to spring for complicated prosthetic makeup-- just a blanket.

That said, it would have been nice if we got even a hint as to whether the thing was real or not. I get that when it comes to horror, less is more, but this was a little too less.

• During Clara's do-over of her date with Danny, a spacesuit-clad figure walks into the restaurant and beckons to her. Amazingly, not one single patron seems to notice.

Did the Doctor use his perception filter, or some other piece of Time Lord technology, to hide the astronaut from the other diners? Or is the food just that good and they couldn't be bothered to look up?

• A while back I wondered about how things work on the Doctor's home planet. All Time Lords are from Gallifrey. But are all Gallifreyans Time Lords? Is Time Lord a profession, or the name of their race? 

Looks like my question was answered in this episode. "Time Lord" is definitely what the Doctor writes under "profession" on his tax form.

• This episode strongly implies that Clara and Danny are going to marry. Or at least become a couple. Either way, it looks like they're going to produce offspring. Or does it? 

It could all be a big ruse on Moffat's part. As we all know by now, he loves to lie. On the other hand, rumors are swirling that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the show at some point this season. I could definitely see her riding off into the sunset with Danny Pink.

Next week: The Doctor and Clara rob the most secure bank in the universe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hershel Greene Lives!

This past weekend I went to the annual HorrorHound convention in Indy. While there I met Scott Wilson of The Walking Dead fame.

Although most people know him as Hershel Greene, Wilson's been in a ton of movies, including In The Heat Of The Night, In Cold Blood, The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Dead Man Walking and many others. He's got a pretty impressive resume.

Mr. Wilson was very nice and accommodating, and even at 72 seemed more energetic than me. I told him I missed seeing him on The Walking Dead, and he said he missed the show as well. I asked him about the very realistic animatronic head they made of him for the show, and he said that after filming wrapped he took it home and has it in a trash bag in his closet. There aren't a lot of people who can say that.

Man, somebody in this picture needs to go on a diet, and it ain't Scott Wilson. Get thyself to a gymmery, Bob!

That's Scott Wilson schmoozing with fellow actor John Jarratt (in the fedora), who stars as Australian psycho killer Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek films. Just a couple of seconds earlier prolific horror film director Larry Cohen leaned in to chat with Wilson as well. Why, with all that talent in one room, you'd think there was a horror convention going on or something...

Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books

Welcome to Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books, a feature in which I spotlight all the many, many, many ways that author George R.R.R.R. Martin is wasting precious time gadding about in public instead of bellying up to the typewriter and finishing his goddamned novels.

So what's George doing to waste time this week? Why, he wrote a book! Ordinarily that would be cause for much rejoicing in the world of fantasy literature. Unfortunately the book he wrote is not the one fans were expecting. Instead of finally completing The Winds Of Winter (Book Six of his seven book series), he wrote The World Of Ice & Fire, a goddamned history of Westeros.*

According to the press release, the book is "a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones."

Are you freaking kidding me? He took the time to write a fake history of his fake world? He knows damn good and well that everyone and their dog is anxiously awaiting the next book, and he wastes his time writing a goddamned prequel? Is he trying to make his fans have a collective stroke?

On the other hand, a history of Westeros might be pretty cool. Just not now, while we're in the home stretch of the series. Maybe wait until the final book is published before concentrating on prequels, histories and supplemental materials, m'kay?

As for when The Winds Of Winter might possibly ever be finished, the outlook's not so good. There's no firm release date in sight, and Martin himself recently said he's making "negative progress on the book." Negative progress? What the flip does that mean? What the hell's he doing, erasing pages he's already written? Jesus Christ!

Martin commented on the situation, saying, "I have days where I make lots of progress. I have days when I make next to no progress, I have days where I think I;m going backwards because I don't like what I wrote yesterday. I have days in which I sit on the edge of my bed and stare at the floor. Some days I dress up my cats and have them act out scenes from previous books. One day I ate a whole jar of chocolate frosting and woke up in my backyard, clad only in my underwear and holding a cardboard sword. Some days I try to write, but I start watching the block of Perfect Stranger reruns that's on every afternoon and before I know it, it's time for bed. Occasionally I'll fill my swimming pool with hundred dollar bills afforded to me by my legions of loyal fans and try to swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck. Some days I realize there's something important I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't remember what. And some days I just say "Screw all y'all, I already know how the damned story ends" and I sit and read the newspaper in my robe and Greek fisherman's hat all day.

* Yes, I see that he didn't write the book all by himself. But his name is twelve times as big as the other two authors on the cover, so he had to have put some effort into its creation. Effort that took him away from the main series.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 3: Robot Of Sherwood

This week we take a break from the previous weeks' serious tone with a lighthearted romp of an episode. Most dramatic series have comedy episodes from time to time (think Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles), but this one gets a little too silly at times.

If nothing else, this episode will be known as The One They Had To Edit. The BBC significantly altered the ending due to various recent horrific world events. More on that in a minute.

Clara 2.0 continĂșes to impress, proving she's fast becoming the Doctor's equal (if not superior) as she expertly manipulates the Sheriff Of Nottingham in this episode.

All through the episode the Doctor dismisses the idea that Robin Hood is real (despite the apparent evidence before his eyes). So was Robin a real person? Eh, probably not. Some scholars insist that there was indeed a historical Robin Hood, but most people believe he was just a legend was inspired by various songs and ballads of the time.


The Plot:
When the Doctor asks Clara who she'd like to meet in all of space and time, she tells him Robin Hood. The Doctor insists he was just a legend, and takes her to 12th Century England to prove it, where they promptly meet– Robin Hood.

The Doctor believes Robin and Sherwood Forest are all part of some illusion or alien construct, and does his best to find the truth. Eventually he finds out that the Sheriff of Nottingham is using an army of Robot Knights to repair a crashed spaceship, so he can use it to rule England.

The Doctor, Clara and Robin Hood eventually defeat the Sheriff and the Robots of course. And the Doctor finds out that Robin is apparently real.

• This episode had a pretty convoluted plot, and I have to admit I had to rewind certain parts and watch them again to understand everything that was happening. Or maybe I'm just dim.

• Wasn't that a lucky break that five seconds after the Doctor and Clara land in 12th Century England, Robin Hood just happens to walk by.

I guess the TARDIS was right, and it (or I guess, she) really does "take him where he needs to go.")

• As the Doctor first steps into Sherwood Forest, an arrow whooshes past his head and hits the side of the TARDIS. He yanks out the arrow and the hole it made promptly disappears. 

So the TARDIS can heal itself, eh? Makes sense, I guess, since it's not really a blue wooden box, but a simulation of one.

• I get that this was a light hearted episode, but the idea of the Doctor wielding a spoon against a sword-armed Robin Hood– and beating him– was a little too silly for my tastes. 

And why the hell was he walking around with a spoon in the first place?

• The Doctor refuses to believe that Robin Hood, his Merry Men and even Sherwood Forest could be real. He theorizes that they may all be inside a "miniscope."

This is a callback to the Third Doctor episode Carnival Of Monsters. A miniscope is a device that keeps miniaturized creatures inside a miniaturized environment for the amusement of the owner.

• Ben Miller plays the Sheriff of Nottingham, and looks remarkably like the Anthony Ainley version of The Master. Acts like him too. In fact if they ever decide to bring The Master back again, Miller would be the perfect choice.

• The Mast, er, the Sheriff reveals his origin story and plan to Clara. He witnessed a spaceship full of robots crash land near Sherwood Forest, and somehow became their leader. He's now collecting all the gold he can get his hands on in order to get the spaceship flying again. He then plans to fly it to London and take over the country. 

Or he could just ride there and use the army of incredibly deadly robots at his disposal to usurp the throne. But, no, his plan seems well thought out too (insert eye roll here).

• I suppose when you're doing a Robin Hood episode, it's inevitable that homages to previous adaptations will creep in. Especially here, with the "arrow's eye view" shots we get during the archery tournament.

• Robin Hood does Clark Kent one better, as he completely disguises himself by wearing a floppy sunhat.

• The Wilhelm Scream makes an unwelcome appearance during the tussle at the archery contest. It's way past time to retire this sound effect. It used to be a fun little Easter Egg when you'd hear it, but it's been way, way overused at this point. Whenever I hear it now it drags me right out of the story.

• The Sheriff's army of Robot Knights were hands down the coolest part of the episode. I don't think we've ever seen robots who shoot death rays out of their foreheads before. Eyes, yes. Forehead, nope.

That said, the Robots bore an unfortunate resemblance to the Black Knight from Monty Python And The Holy Grail. And once you realize it, you can't unrealize it. One of the Robot Knights even gets his arm hacked off! Fortunately he doesn't say, "Tis but a scratch!"

I have to wonder if this was intentional. The whole episode strayed well into farcical territory– is it possible they were meant to look like the Black Knight?

• The Robot Knights' faces (complete with their full, sculpted pouting metallic lips) looked a lot like the VOC Robots from the classic series episode The Robots Of Death.

• Robin's Merry Men are present, but they're given so little screen time they honestly might as well not have been in the episode at all. Sometimes the current 45 minute runtime can be a bad thing.

• A nice touch: Robin keeps referring to the Doctor as "ancient," despite the fact that he appears to be around 50 years old or so. 50 is still relatively young to us today, but to someone in that time period, such a person would be considered elderly.

• After being sentenced to work on a chain gang, the Doctor stages a peasant revolt by using shiny gold trays and dishes to reflect the Robots' death rays back at them.

Lucky for our side that the peasants immediately become experts in deflecting and aiming death rays, as they consistently manage to blow the Robots' heads off. Skillful! 

• The Doctor finally discovers the truth of the situation when he and Robin stumble into a spaceship from the future that's disguised as a medieval castle. The ship, which crash-landed, contains extensive Earth records (which I guess means it was from Earth?). 

The Robots consulted these records and disguised themselves as knights in order to fit in with the time period while they repaired their ship. The Doctor says this is why the whole fictional "Sherwood Forest" milieu appears to be real. Convoluted!

• When the Doctor is operating the Robots' computer, the readouts are very clearly projected onto his face! Somebody needs to turn down that monitor's brightness, STAT!

These super bright projecting screens are nothing new. They've been a staple of sci-fi movies and TV for decades (see ALIEN and Jurassic Park among others). I suppose it's a way to add visual interest to an otherwise dull scene of someone reading text from a screen. However, I've been using computers for many years now and can say with confidence that no monitor has ever projected its contents onto my face.

• The Doctor sifts through the ship's records and finds many different texts on Robin Hood. As these examples flash on the screen, one of them is from a BBC Robin Hood miniseries that aired in 1953. Oddly enough, Patrick Troughton, who of course played the Second Doctor, starred as Robin Hood in that series! Cool!

• The Doctor learns that the robots' ship crashed-landed while on the way to "The Promised Land." This is the same place (and let's face it, the exact same plot) that the Half-Face Man was trying to reach in the season opener. So it's official-- Missy and The Promised Land are the season's big story arc.

• The Doctor is puzzled by the fact that Sherwood Forest is greener and more lush than it should be in this time period. He finds out that the robot's spaceship is leaking radiation, and this is what's causing the anomalous flora. He says the radiation is creating "a temporary climate of staggering benevolence."

Um... OK, I'm no scientist, but isn't radiation generally considered bad for living things? Wouldn't radiation kill the plant life, rather than cause unchecked growth? It's not solar radiation (which plants need), but nuclear.  

• So about that edited final battle. In the original cut (heh), Robin and the Sheriff are dueling with swords. Robin swings his sword and chops off the Sheriff's head. His head falls to the floor, but continues to "live." The Sheriff reveals that when the Robots' spaceship crash-landed, it fell on him. The Robots then rebuilt him, turning him into a cyborg. His body then grabs his head and screws it back on. The fight continues, and Robin eventually knocks the cyborg Sheriff into a vat of molten gold far below.

In the edited version, everything pertaining to the Sheriff losing his head and being a cyborg has been removed, leaving only Robin knocking him into the vat.

Obviously the scenes were removed due to the recent real-world events in Iraq, in which several journalists have been beheaded by ISIS terrorists. The BBC called for the edits out of respect for the families of the victims.

I suppose they did the right thing, even though I'm not a fan of censorship. A cyborg losing his head– and then sticking it back on– seems many miles away from a gruesome real world beheading, but what do I know?

Actually I think that removing every line about the Sheriff being a cyborg makes Robin's action seem worse. Somehow shoving a cyborg into a vat of molten gold seems less horrific than pushing a fully human character into one.

Hopefully once things have died down a bit they'll include the original version on the inevitable DVD release.

• Even by Doctor Who standards, the ending of the episode is completely ludicrous. As the castle-ship blasts off into the sky, the Doctor frets that it doesn't have enough gold in its whatsis matrix or something, and it'll explode in the atmosphere, wiping out life on Earth. The Doctor, Clara and Robin then shoot a golden arrow into the escaping ship, which gives it just enough oomph (or something) to reach outer space before it explodes, saving the planet.

First of all, a solid gold arrow would probably fly about ten feet before plopping unceremoniously to the ground. Secondly, even if they could somehow manage to shoot it half a mile into the air and pierce the side of the ship, so what? What are the odds that it would hit the exact spot needed to provide an energy boost? And how is it providing said boost? Seems like it would be the same thing as throwing a bucket of gas into the open window of a passing car and expecting that to cause it to travel an extra twenty miles.

Ah well. It's a comedy episode, so I'll give 'em this one.

Next week: Back to serious stuff!

Just Say No To Phablets!

No! NO! Just no! For god's sake, absolutely, positively NO! We are not going to add the word "phablet" to our goddamned dictionaries.

This is not going to happen. The computer world has already added more than enough nonsense words to our language, like dongle, wysiwyg, floppy and google. We are not going to start saying "phablet." Uh-uh. Nope. 

This needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Tech companies, you may call it a "phone tablet" if you like, but you're not calling it a "phablet."

Stop trying to make phablet happen. It's not going to happen. 

DVD Doppelgangers: Dueling Devils!

Here we have the home video cover for Devil's Due, a sub-par found footage horror film that came out earlier this year.

And here is the home video cover for Devil's Mile. I don't know anything about this film, but I do know that the cover is absolutely nothing like the one for Devil's Due. Nope, nothing like it, I tell you.

The pale, ghastly face that's tilted at a 45 degree angle and set against a dark background is a totally new composition. And the red-rimmed, dead white eye? A stroke of original genius! Kudos to the designer who came up with this shockingly distinct and... WOOO! Sorry, I thought I could get through that blurb with a straight face, but I just couldn't.

C'mon, guys! You're not even trying to hide your laziness anymore. You're doing my mockery work for me!

You know, swiping a design is never recommended, but it's an especially bad idea when your cover is going to be shelved right smack next to the cover you're stealing!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Missed Us By THAT Much (Again)...

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your feelings toward our sewer of a world), the rogue asteroid is pretty small, around 60 feet wide. Heck, even if it did hit us, one that puny wouldn't even wipe out a medium sized city, much less our whole sorry civilization. Not to mention the fact that there was actually an even closer fly-by back in early 2013.

The really worrisome part of the story is that the asteroid wasn't discovered until August 31st, 2014– a scant seven days before its flyby! Hopefully when the big extinction-level rock is heading toward our globe, we'll have a bit more warning. You know, for panicking, looting and uncontrollably shrieking and such.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin CIty: A Dame To Kill For (or A Dame For Which To Kill if you're a grammarian) was, like the first film, written by Frank Miller and directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez.

Like the first movie, it's filmed in a hyper-exaggerated style based on Miller's minimalist comic art. It's filmed in stark black and white, punctuated by the occasional burst of vivid color, such as a woman's red lips or green eyes. Nothing looks the least bit real, but that's the point– it's a comic book come to life. If nothing else, the look of these films is unique.

Unfortunately this installment is more of the same, with very little new to offer. The stories aren't all that compelling either. Strip any of them of their trademark style and you're left with little more than standard film noir cliches that were old news back in the 1940s.


The Plot:
Just like the first film, this one is divided into several segments:

Just Another Saturday Night - In which we catch up with ex-con Marv (Mickey Rourke) on a typical night out.

The Long Bad Night (Part 1) - A cocky young gambler named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) challenges the evil Senator Roark (Powers Booth) to a high stakes game of poker.

A Dame To Kill For - the titular segment, in which psychotic femme fatale Ava (Eva Green) tricks her former lover Dwight (Josh Brolin) into killing her husband.

The Long Bad Night (Part 2) - Johnny's story gets wrapped up in a predictable manner.

Nancy's Last Dance - Exotic dancer Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) seeks revenge against Roark for causing the death of her friend Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) back in the first film.

• As with the first film, all of the segments are based on the various Sin City comics, with two exceptions. The Long Bad Night and Nancy's Last Dance were written specifically for the film.

• The film is a confusing combination of both prequel and sequel to Sin City. The Just Another Saturday Night segment features Marv, so it obviously has to be a prequel since he was executed in the first film.

The A Dame To Kill For segment is also a prequel, set before the Dwight story in the original.

I'm not sure exactly when The Long Bad Night segments are taking place. 

Nancy's Last Dance is set after Hartigan's suicide, so it has to take place post Sin City
But this segment also features Marv, meaning it's set after Hartigan's death but before Marv's. Confused yet?

This flexible timeline was par for the course in the comic books of course, but it's going to flummox the hell out of the casual viewer (and maybe a few dedicated fans as well!). Do yourself a favor and just don't worry about what's happening when and just go with the flow.

• In Sin City the various segments flowed together pretty seamlessly. Here, not so much. These are very obviously stand alone stories, crudely linked together in a flailing attempt to form one coherent narrative (which given the fractured nature of the timeline, is impossible).

• It was great to see Mickey Rourke again as fan-favorite character Marv. Rourke was definitely born to play this role. Unfortunately Marv really didn't have much to do and contributed little or nothing to the overall story. The movie needed a lot more Marv.

• In the first film, Old Town was run and protected by an army of deadly hookers– even the police knew to avoid the place. Dwight McCarthy was the only male allowed inside Old Town who wasn't a "customer." I always wondered why Dwight enjoyed such special treatment.

In this film they offer an explanation– he saved ninja hooker Miho from a violent john, which I guess is why he enjoys the run of the place.

• The A Dame To Kill For was my least favorite of the various segments. It was slow moving, cliched and worst of all, just plain dull. Naturally since I didn't care for it, it made up the bulk of the run time.

• There's a lot of recasting going on in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, which I suppose is inevitable when you go nine years between movies. 

Most notably Josh Brolin replaced Clive Owen as Dwight. Reportedly Owen's schedule didn't allow him to return. This worked out OK I suppose, as Dwight gets plastic surgery in the film to change his appearance (although he doesn't quite end up looking like Clive Owen).

Dennis Haysbert replaced the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute. Haysbert is better known as the All State Guy, and is totally unrecognizable here.

Jamie Chung replaced Devon Aoki as Miho, and Jeremy Piven filled in for Michael Madsen as Detective Bob.

Actress Brittany Murphy was supposed to be in the film, but was written out due to her untimely death a few years ago.

• Stacy Keach plays the Sontaran-like mob boss Wallensquist under several pounds of latex makeup. As my movie-going pal KW Monster said, they needn't have bothered casting a known actor in the role. They literally could have used anyone under all that makeup and it wouldn't have made any difference.

• Christopher Meloni plays Mort, a Sin City detective who's seduced by Ava. Meloni is no stranger to playing detectives, as he starred for several decades on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

• As the film reaches its final segment there's unfortunately no real ending. It just sort of... stops. It's almost like they realized they were running out of film and had to wrap up the story in less than a minute.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has bucket loads of style, but sadly doesn't add anything new to the mix. I give it a B-.
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