Sin City: Recut,Extended,Unrated DVD Review
PictureThe different versions of Sin City are presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, each on a glorious anamorphically enhanced transfer. Detail is simply astounding, largely thanks to the hi-def format and green-screen effects, with negligible edge enhancement and simply no softness or even grain, despite the black and white format. Although largely monochrome, there are moments of stark colour, from the occasionally crimson blood to the yellow of That Yellow Bastard, the gold of Goldie and the green of the girl's eyes from the opening Customer is Always Right short. Of course the sequences in Kadie's bar are also almost always in full colour as well, offering a nice breath of fresh tonality. All of these colours are well represented and look simply fantastic in high contrast to the black and white predominance. The monochrome itself is used rather uniquely, particularly in respect of things like the 'white' blood and Marv's stark white bandages. Some of the nicest, hard to notice effects include the tiling effect on some of the walls and brickwork, where the segments in the light are white with black edging whereas the segments in shadow are black with white lining. Check out Marv's segment for the most obvious signs of this. The blacks themselves are astounding, possibly the best ever portrayed on film, utterly solid and endlessly deep. The transfer itself shows no sign of any print defects and looks utterly fantastic.
SoundFor both versions of the movie we get not only a superb Dolby Digital 5.1 track but also a superior DTS 5.1 effort. The dialogue, which is basically Miller's written words taken and put into the actors' mouths, is one of the most important elements, with each of the key voiceovers (Marv, Dwight and Hartigan) coming through loud and clear from the frontal array. Some of the secondary characters have notable echoing effects added to their words to give them more punch - obviously depending on the scene - examples being Lucille's harrowing speech to Marv, along with Manute's growling explanation of his part in the grand scheme of things. Aside from that there are plenty of great effects, from the things we take for granted, like punches and sirens and the rain (and even the creaking of the barn in That Yellow Bastard), to the noisy gunfights, the explosions and the screams. They all sound superb, giving the rears plenty of work to do despite the fact that the frontal array sees the majority of the action. Last, but far from least, is Rodriguez' stellar soundtrack, comprised of an original score that he composed to perfectly suit the action (except for one notable song track during a bar sequence). It sounds simply fantastic, giving your room a cinematic feel that only the best soundtracks out there manage to accomplish these days. Clearly the DTS track is the superior effort, but both aural offerings provide brilliant, powerful renditions of this amazing movie.
ExtrasThere are extra features adorning both cuts of the movie. On the first disc we get not one but two Audio Commentaries, the first with Director/Creator Frank Miller and Director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez clearly wants to be in charge, prompting Miller at all times, but it is obvious that he is in awe of the man and when you hear from Miller himself you can understand why. They spend a great deal of time praising one another but the discussion runs along at quite a hectic pace so there is plenty of interesting trivia to pick up on. Mickey Rourke was the first actor they cast - clearly because they needed to, above all, get Marv right - and they talk about him being a classic method acting powerhouse who simply needed to be set in motion, somewhat like Marv himself. They discuss each and every one of the characters: Miller offering an insight into them (particularly Marv and one of his other favourite characters, Miho) because he knows them inside out and Rodriguez explaining the casting choices and how they were often the first choices that they got. Many of them brought quite a bit to the story, with Willis often arguing against changing the original book's lines, Rourke bringing many of his own ideas to the table (apparently he learnt the Marv walk whilst researching IRA hit-men for the movie A Prayer Before Dying) and Jessica Alba learning to work a lasso. The commentators tell you what bits of the movie were brought in from which books (there are a couple of sequences which were taken from his other books, like Clive Owen's speech about Marv, taken straight out of A Dame to Kill For, which is due to be a major part of the next adaptation) and what was changed, however minutely. This is one of the best commentaries that I have ever come across, not least because I simply lapped up all of the information coming from Frank Miller and his disciple, Rodriguez. Fans of the books, the movie and the characters will want to listen to every minute of it.
The second Audio Commentary, described by Rodriguez as being the more technical one, is between him and guests, including mainly Director Quentin Tarantino, who directed one noteworthy sequence in the movie, an exchange between Clive Owen's Dwight and Benicio Del Toro's Johnny-Boy. The beginning of the Commentary is all Rodriguez, explaining in detail how the project came about, how he persuaded Miller to give up his dream child and how he put it all together. He explains the benefits of having his own production company, having friends in the industry and having the utmost love and passion for the project. Tarantino pops up about twenty minutes in, energetic as ever, announcing that he will return later to talk over the Big Fat Kill chapter of the movie, but until then I was happy to hear from Rodriguez, who goes on to talk about working with Mickey Rourke (this is the second time, after his part in Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and how he was the only person that they could think of as Marv. Tarantino comes back in about an hour in, talking over his sequence (and continuing on until after the end of The Big Fat Kill) and discussing how happy he was to work on the project. Whilst his contribution is limited, it is still nice to hear from him. For the third segment of the movie, That Yellow Bastard, we get Bruce Willis joining in on the proceedings. Again, his contribution is restricted but it is excellent to have him on board, talking about working with green-screen and also being a great fan of the material. Overall this Commentary is almost as good as the fantastic first track by Miller and Rodriguez and is well worth a listen if you are a fan of Sin City.
There is also an audio track option which allows you to watch the movie with the audience reaction kicking off in the background, recorded from the Premiere in Austin, Texas. It is an attempt at trying to make you feel like you are in a cinema, but often is quite invasive and annoying, although at other times you can see clearly why the audience is cheering - like Marv's big right hook. Although a little unnecessary, it is still quite a nice addition that is worth briefly checking out.
'How it went down: Convincing Frank Miller to make the film' is a six-minute Featurette on persuading the creator of this wonderful universe to allow his work to be adapted for the Big Screen. Miller himself is in interview, talking about how his Sin City stories came into existence in the first place and his reasons behind creating the fictional world. Rodriguez discusses how the idea for making a Sin City movie came about over a decade ago but the technology was not quite ready to do it justice - until now. He talks about hunting Miller down and seducing him into partaking in the project, mainly through shooting the short story 'The Customer is always Right' basically in one day. Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Harnett, Carla Gugino and Quentin Tarantino pop up for brief sound bites and this is a nice introductory Featurette into how the project came about.
'Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino' is a seven minute Featurette on the relationship between Rodriguez and Tarantino, with both of them in interview talking about their work together on Desperado, Four Rooms and From Dusk Till Dawn and how Rodriguez's contribution towards the Kill Bill soundtrack led to Tarantino's reciprocal directorial work for a key scene in Sin City. Tarantino discusses his dislike for shooting in digital and how he was persuaded into trying out this new medium, with great success. Fans of Tarantino will particularly enjoy the segment where he gets to talk at length about the scene he worked on and this is yet another superior Featurette.
'A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City' is another seven minute Featurette, with Miller and some other crew members once again contributing to the discussions on the variety of cars taken straight from the books and put into the movie. They had car experts research the largely 50s designs and then went out to find suitable working models that could be used in the movie. Amongst the great cars involved we get to hear about Wendy's '55 Porsche Spyder Convertible, Dwight's '59 Cadillac Convertible, Hartigan's '55 Buick Convertible, the '55 Chevy Police car and Dallas' '41 Chevrolet. Basically every single classic car in the movie is looked at, along with illustrative examples of its usage in the movie and overview comments from the car expert.
'Booze, Broads and Guns: the Props of Sin City' runs at eleven minutes and has Miller, Rodriguez, Tarantino and the Props experts discussing how they put together the many varied props for the movie. They talk about how they took the ideas straight from the graphic novels and literally had to often show the storyboards from the books to shop owners in order to have them identify the various knives and guns etc. used in the stories or their closest alternatives. They then had to mostly manufacture their own, unique variations to give them a more true-to-the-book feel. The experts go through each segment, discussing key props that they had to create for the characters, including Nancy's whip (with behind the scenes shots of her practising) and Miho's ninja equipment (and Devon Aoki in interview talking about it and Tarantino relating the samurai swords back to his Kill Bill props). This is also a solid, watchable and entertaining addition.
'Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-Up' is a nine minute Featurette looking at what they needed to do to the various cast members in order to make them into their graphic novel alter-egos. Concentrating on Marv (probably because he took quite a lot of work), we get plenty of behind the scenes footage of Mickey Rourke (who still has not actually verbally contributed to any of the extra material - until now, where we get a few off-screen comments) being 'made up' for the part. The make up experts discuss how Miller was always on hand to explain what look he wanted and the key visual aspects of his characters and to give his seal of approval. They also talk about the various different variations they used before they were happy with the final product. Miller, Tarantino, Benicio Del Toro and Rodriguez briefly contribute a few comments about the character creation and this is another good effort.
'Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City' is an eight-minute look at the outfits that the various characters wear. The various costume crew members discuss the difficulties involved in finding the right look - and then ensuring that it still worked in black and white - and Miller himself talks about the importance of getting the costumes right. We look at Marv's various coats, Shellie's outfits (with contributions from Brittany Murphy), Nancy's look (with some nice behind the scenes footage of her stage performance) and Gail's fetishist get-up (with comments from Rosario Dawson) and get lots of comparison shots between the original artwork and the final movie result through the use of stills.
'Sin-Chroni-City' is an option to explore Sin City and find out when and where the various characters' paths cross. You get the option to use the Map to select a location and then use the story timelines to select an event that happened in your chosen location. You can also make your selections via character choices, picking a character and then choosing which location you see them in. Choices include Nancy's Condo, the Hospital, Lucille's, the Prison, the Docks, the Last Hope Motel and Mimi's Motel. Each choice you make results in a short audio commentary by Miller himself, discussing either the location or the character and offering some interesting insights. Almost as good as a commentary, this unusual and innovative DVD feature is probably one of the best extras on the disc and well worth exploring every intricate aspect of, not least because we get so much more from Miller himself.
Finally on the first disc we get the two-minute Theatrical Trailer and the ninety-second Teaser Trailer, both of which play to variations of the one track that is shamefully not included on the CD soundtrack that was released. I think that the Teaser actually paints the film more accurately, but both of them are superb efforts.
On the second disc we get a vocal introduction by Robert Rodriguez, who discusses the two different versions of the film and the extras included on the discs.
'15 Minute Film School' is actually only twelve minutes long and has Rodriguez talking about how he had spent some time working on 'safe' sequels in order to perfect his art before being drawn back to Sin City. He discusses not only the fact that technology had progressed enough to make it a viable project, but also that the green-screen format enabled him to keep the budget down at all times. To accompany his tuition over this little Featurette we get some shots of the green screen work, as well as comparison frames between the book and the movie, but most interesting is a brief glimpse of the original test footage that he shot. He discusses how he used fluorescent orange/red tape to create the bright stark white contrast shots (the blood, Mickey Rourke's bandages etc.) because when they shined blue light on this tape, it would come out as white. He talks about how shooting it all on green-screen actually made it more defined than any other black and white movie because he could edge-light any of the characters he wanted to and make them stand out more than normal. Then we get to see some excellent 3D computer renditions of the key sequences, showing you what his effects house came up with. It is amazing to hear how most of the main cast members were not only on set just on set for a few days but that few of them were ever filmed together. Overall, whilst it may not teach you all that much about how to go out and make you own movie (unlike perhaps some of his earlier El Mariachi Film School Featurettes), it gives some nice tips and insights into Rodriguez own methods.
'All Green Version' is exactly what it says it is - the option to watch the entire movie in its original pre-effects format. After an introduction by Rodriguez, the version plays at roughly eight times' the normal speed, making the whole thing only last about twelve minutes. It is quite cool to see how Kadie's Bar is the only real set they used, to see the actors and actresses with their proper flesh tones (apart from Yellow Bastard, who is blue) - noteworthy instances including Old Town's Wonder Woman in her proper colours! You can also see clearly where they have spliced the footage together because the actors onscreen were shot at different times and where stunt doubles were used (Mickey Rourke apparently hates to do his own stunts because of past injuries but in the Commentary you can hear how they just gave him an axe and he got right into it - well here is the proof as you can clearly see in the green-screen version that it is all Mickey). This is a very interesting little feature and nowhere near as gimmicky as it sounds.
'The Long Take' is an extended version of the Tarantino-shot scene between Clive Owen's Dwight and Benicio Del Toro's Johnny Boy. Before we cut to it, Rodriguez briefly explains how he allowed many of the scenes just to go on and on because they were shooting in Hi-Def and not film (so takes effectively ran back to back and could be edited down in Post Production). He talks about one of Mickey Rourke's key Marv sequences as being the longest take he did (and it is a great shame he did not include that one here) and we get to see a few extended shots of that and of Jessica Alba's Nancy doing her thing before going into the fourteen minute pre-effects version of the scene. See Clive Owen's different ways of playing out the lines, Benicio Del Toro's improvised bits, lines from the book that were not in the final cut and Tarantino on-hand to instruct them all the way (and there is quite a lot of discussion and instruction). Another clever addition, fans of the movie and the original work will be interested in picking up on all of the subtle variations in this Featurette.
'Sin City: Live in Concert' is a live performance by none other than Bruce Willis (and 'The Accelerators'), which was shot during the production of the movie when, one night, they threw a concert for charity. This was just one of the tracks (Rodriguez' band also performed) and I have to say that it sounded pretty good. Willis is unlikely to make a career out of this but he wasn't bad at all (not only singing but also on the harmonica). Worth a watch, especially if you are a Willis fan.
'10 Minute Cooking School' is actually only six minutes long. Fans of Rodriguez' other titles will note the fact that he always tends to do a 'Cooking School' Featurette on his DVDs and this is not exception. This time we get 'Sin City Breakfast Tacos', with Rodriguez taking you through the entire process, from the ingredients, to putting it all together, to cooking it. They certainly look delicious.
I would also like to say that the Sin City DVD menus are simply amazing, probably the best DVD menus that I have ever come across. Seamlessly integrating shots from the movie with stills from Miller's original books, each of the menu options has animated sequences and film cuts to carry you from one menu screen to another, all the while with typical Miller rain cascading down in the background. Since this is the first time that I have ever chosen to mention DVD menu screens, that should tell you just how striking they are in this case. It is a shame that not all studios put such love into their DVD presentations.
Finally, in addition to standard amaray DVD case we get within the lavish box, there is a pocket edition of Frank Miller's original Sin City story, the one that we now know of as The Hard Goodbye. It is quite poignant that only this book should be included in the set, further compounding the argument that Marv's story was the most important tale. If you have never read any of the original material then it is well worth diving into (and also comparing some of the frames to the final version and seeing just how close the two are) and even fans who have got a copy will be quite happy to have this pocket edition included with their DVD.
VerdictSin City is my favourite movie of 2005. Written by the great Frank Miller and brought to the Big Screen by the talented Robert Rodriguez, it has got to be one of the best graphic novel adaptations ever produced. Visually unique and breathtakingly unrestrained, these classic yet contemporary tales of death, evil, revenge, justice and love all share the common theme of a strong hero trying to do the right thing by the people he cares about. With Mickey Rourke's Marv at the forefront, I am simply overjoyed at finally having the extended cut available at my fingertips. Presented with extra footage, a superior video transfer and two amazing soundtrack, along with no end of utterly brilliant extras which will have fans entertained for hours, it is truly the ultimate edition of these remarkable Sin City tales. If you haven't seen it then this marks a no-questions-asked must-have purchase and if you already have seen it and enjoyed it then this is the perfect collection to pick up (particularly since you get the best novel included as art of the lavish feature-packed package). Highly recommended as one of the must-have DVD packages not just of 2005 but of all time.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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