Body Heat nude bodies

Warner Bros.

The Sin City movies are remakes. Not of other movies, but of the comic books they’re based on. Before you argue that this means they’re “adaptations,” not “remakes,” let me explain. More than perhaps any other comic book movies, these are so faithful in style to the source that they’re redundant. They’re just like the old cartoons we watched as kids that took children’s books, lifted the pictures right off the page and animated them. Now we see a lot of that done in documentaries about artists, such as the recent one on Ralph Steadman. The main difference is that Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For use actors in a sort of moving tableau vivant recreation of Frank Miller‘s drawings, panel by panel — or shot-for-shot.

Another thing the Sin City movies are, of course, is a series of film-noir-influenced anthologies that are far more violent and explicitly sex-filled than any true entry into the classic film genre. Unless you want to count all the remakes of films noir that came about in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when Hollywood realized they could recycle a lot of golden age works for a new cinematic era, post-Hays Code, allowing for graphic violence and, more importantly, graphic sex and nudity. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is likewise noted for its nudity, nearly every review pointing out how naked Eva Green is in the movie – not a surprise given that the original, banned poster depicted the actress in a fairly revealing sheer gown.

In honor of what A Dame to Kill For does for the genre it’s heavily influenced by, I’ve selected a number of movies that also redid film noir as thrillers shot in color and filled with straightforward, uncensored eroticism in place of the innuendo and implicit sex of the original versions. In spite of their assumed redundancy outside of the injections of R-rated material, each is still worth seeing. Of course, I also insist on the originals being seen, too. 



This will probably be difficult to believe for some of you, but we walk into every movie hoping it will be the best movie. We may criticize a trailer or point out early concerns, but once we sit down and the movie starts digitally unspooling before our eyes our hope every single time is to experience something fantastic. When a film succeeds on that front we shout it from the highest virtual rooftops, but that isn’t always the outcome.

The pure flip-side of this of course are the movies we leave absolutely despising. Usually the films in this group aren’t exactly surprises — think Blended, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sex Tape, Hercules — and while we hoped for better we ended up with pretty much what we expected.

But sometimes the movies we expected more from end up being major disappointments too. A quick poll of the staff revealed a pretty varied list of films fitting this description, some of which are viewed as unqualified successes by the rest of us. Keep reading to see ten of the movies that left us unsatisfied, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed.

Minority Report Precog

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

First, they took our TV shows and made them into movies. Then, they took our movies and made them into TV shows. What fresh horror will come next in the adaptation world? Radio, probably.

But we’re still in that second phase right now. Case in point: Steven Spielberg is crafting a TV show out of his 2002 film Minority Report. As reported by The Wrap, he will use Amblin Television to front the show, with Godzilla writer Max Borenstein handling script duties. The Wrap presumes (just like every other person who hears this news) that the series will focus around the PreCrime police force, a special group of cops that use mutants with visions of the future to predict crime and then preemptively de-crime it. Spielberg is likely to choose a big-name star for the lead, and 20th Century Fox (who distributed the movie) may or may not have dibs on distributing the series.

There is but one major issue with a Minority Report TV show: it’s already been done. Not in name, but in premise.

Kink Movie

RabbitBandini Productions

Out this weekend in New York City, Kink seeks to tell the behind-the-scenes story of, a successful fetish website that trades in pornography where people let themselves go by being tied up. If the little hairs are starting to stand up, just wait until you get a load of a trailer filled with super sexy talking heads speaking with dry maturity about orgasmic necessities and liking what they do. Also, there’s going to be a lot of moaning. They really, really like what they do.

The film comes from director Christina Voros, who has done a large amount of camera and cinematography work in only a little under a decade. She’s now a go-to DP for James Franco’s projects (As I Lay DyingChild of God, Maladies), and he’s also a producer on her sexploratory project here.

Check out the trailer for yourself, and make sure your office door is closed.

Get On Up

Universal Pictures

It is hard to believe summer is almost over, but as we look back on a season that gave us surprise hits (who knew Edge of Tomorrow would be so entertaining?) and surprise misses (Let’s Be Cops didn’t quite capture the buddy comedy magic it was looking for) the most interesting trend to emerge was how this summer’s soundtracks were all about the past.

From 1920s jazz to 1960s funk to 1970s pop rock, this summer felt more like a music history lesson than the expected barrage of radio hits piped into every blockbuster looking to generate box office heat. (Granted those were there too – looking at you Transformers: Age of Extinction and Imagine Dragons.)

And audiences were into this change of pace. So much so that a soundtrack full of songs from the 1970s made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.

Killing of America 1

Filmlink Corporation/Towa Productions/Fantasia Film Festival

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a fake of a movie. It is a concretion of film noir tropes that has none of the pathos or thematic richness that people love noir for. Its paper characters match its comic-booky aesthetic, which was interesting when the first Sin City came out nine years (!) ago, but is stale now. It aims for cheap thrills, which is not necessarily an unworthy goal, but it fails to deliver any of those thrills. The movie is just one bland act of violence after another.

The Killing of America is also one act of violence after another, but it actually has something on its mind. And as a cavalcade of actual death, assembled in an unpolished print and unreleased to this day in the U.S., this shockumentary has a billion times more outsider credibility than the hardboiled poser that is A Dame to Kill For. Both films depict worlds of total moral decay, where murder is a distressingly commonplace part of daily life. But Sin City invites you in to be turned on by this, to revel in the brutality, while The Killing of America wants you to question the kind of culture that would produce Sin City in the first place.


David Gordon Green

Sony Pictures

Former indie auteur David Gordon Green‘s jump to the big time started off with such promise.

Let’s take a little time travel trip! 2008′s Pineapple Express caught Seth Rogen and James Franco just as the weirdo lovefest that is their comedic team-up was really taking off (with Freaks & Geeks behind them and The Interview way out in the future, it was kind of the perfect opportunity to see what these two could do — which is be weird and lovable and funny with the best of them). The follow-up wasn’t quite as glorious, as 2011 marked a low point in Green’s humorous output (this is a sentiment expressed with admiration and respect, as my DGG fandom has been well-documented in this space), with both Your Highness and The Sitter performing poorly in the domestic market and, uh, also just not being very good.

Things have been looking up, however, thanks to Green’s recent edging back into less slapstick fare, with 2013 seeing the release of both the darkly amusing Prince Avalanche and the just damn dark Joe. Oh, and the major star power behind each film hasn’t hurt — which is probably why Green is just going with it, casting some mega stars for his next slew of features.


Sony Pictures Classics

The New York City skyline is one of the tired titans of American imagery. To put it more charitably, it’s awfully difficult to fill a movie with classic images of Gotham and finish with something original and interesting. In Ira Sachs‘s newest feature, Love Is Strange, one of his characters goes to the trouble of actually painting the view of Manhattan from a Brooklyn roof. This particular canvas becomes one of the most emotionally charged symbols of the film. In the hands of a less assured director, it would be entirely ponderous.

Yet Sachs knows his way around the city, so to speak. His last feature, Keep the Lights On, charted the heartbreaking decline of a relationship against the backdrop of a hazy metropolis. Love Is Strange, on the other hand, finds a much clearer and brighter source of light. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are an aging couple finally, legally, getting married after almost 40 years. The film begins with their wedding, a lovely outdoor affair followed by a reception in their apartment. There Sachs introduces all of the supporting players, including an adoring novelist niece named Kate (Marisa Tomei) and some neighborly gay policemen (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez).

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

I hate to be the one to inform you of this, but Hollywood is in a box office slump. A Great Depression of film profitability, where consumer scorn for summer blockbusters is bitter dust, choking the once-fertile farmland of summer tentpole season.

How bad is it? This year, the total domestic gross of all our summer films comes to a paltry $3.46B domestic (for convenience’s sake, assume all total gross figures to be domestic from here on out). And this makes 2014 the first year since 2006 where the total gross was under $4B.

Technically, the summer’s not over- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, that George Takei doc To Be Takei or the horror film As Above, So Below could all potentially pull in a billion or two… but that seems a tad unlikely. Unless To Be Takei ends with half-hour of Takei in closeup; eyes glowing red, sultry baritone commanding the audience to spend their life savings on more To Be Takei. It’s entirely possible. Whatever he wants, we’ll do it.

But is a mere billion-dollar slump something to get all up in arms about? Yes! Extremely. At least, that’s what the press has been doing all summer, clamoring about that this summer’s film crop has suffered severe cardiac arrest, and each weekend’s big seller is the only thing that can resuscitate it.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is an outcast in her own family. We know this because she tells us via narration, but also because while her parents and younger brother like rock music her preferred jams are of the classical variety. It’s enough to make you think she was switched at the hospital after birth isn’t it?

She’s seventeen and in love with Adam (Jamie Blackley), the lead singer of a local band that will change your life — they’re opening for The Shins! — and she’s eagerly awaiting a letter letting her know whether or not she’s been accepted into Juilliard. An impromptu snow day sends the family on a road trip and into the front grill of a truck leaving her parents dead, her brother injured and Mia standing over her own comatose body.

She quickly discovers that the decision to live or die is hers to make. We know this because a doctor whispers in Mia’s ear that it’s her decision to make. (The unspoken implication being that Mia’s parents — particularly her father who reaches the hospital alive — have decided to leave the kids behind and go.) Her ghostly, yet still meaty form wanders the hospital’s halls eavesdropping on loved ones, recalling her life to this point and deciding if the trouble she’ll get by staying is a better choice than the double she’ll get by going.

If I Stay plays to the basest needs and desires of teenage girls everywhere by crafting a lead character who defiantly makes everything about her, a boyfriend who feels like a YA wet dream of manufactured perfection and a conflict that in no possible way approaches anything resembling an actual conflict. The romance rings hollow, the premise’s conclusion is inevitable and the out of body shenanigans are laughable.

The Zero Theorem


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Fred Ward in Remo Williams

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Shane Black has become Hollywood’s go-to guy for bringing relevance to the extremely irrelevant. When did anyone talk about Doc Savage before Black got his hands on it? The same goes for Predator. That ingeniously designed Stan Winston beastie had been reduced to TV movie-like blandness after four sequels that no one cared about even a little. Yet now that Black has his sights on the Predator, we’re all, oooooooohh, this has potential!

Does Black have the time to rejuvenate all the franchises your dad (or grandpa) is so very fond of? Who cares! Let’s just throw another one on the pile and see what happens. That’s the strategy Sony has apparently taken, as they’ve commissioned The Destroyer from adapting writers Jim Uhls and James Mullaney (one of the many authors of the “Destroyer” book series). Now, according to Deadline, they’re handing that script to Black and instructing him to run with it.

Coma patients


In the movie If I StayChloe Grace Moretz plays a teenage girl who winds up in a coma when she’s in a car accident with her family. As her body lies in a hospital bed, her consciousness stands to the side, able to observe what’s going on in the room. She can watch her loved ones visit, see her boyfriend play her a song. And she also flashes back to past events while contemplating whether or not she should wake up and stay alive. Her choice, apparently. Do comatose patients actually have out-of-body experiences? Some claim so, but OBEs are not really scientifically recognized, at least not as anything other than a dream.

Movies aren’t subject to the rules of accepted science, though, and that goes for depictions of comas in general. In 2006, a doctor conducted a study of 30 movies featuring comatose persons (not including Liz Garbus‘s solid HBO doc Coma, made after the study) and concluded that only two of them were accurately portrayed: Reversal of Fortune and The Dreamlife of Angels (the study is published in the medical journal “Neurology”, which you can pay to read here; but you can download the data-supplement list of movie titles here). That was mainly for what comas are like externally and for the patient afterward, however. There’s not really much to go on as far as what it’s like internally from the perspective of the person in the coma.

So, this week’s edition of The Movies Tell Us is only briefly focused on how comatose consciousness is fantastically represented in the movies, such as in the OBE aspect of If I Stay. The rest of the 10 situations below are more like what happens to you when you’re in a coma than what the experience is like to be in that state. Either way, it’s enough to make us hope to never have to find out if any of it is true or likely to be.       

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