CLASS ACTS

image.axdPatricia Highsmith has been adapted to the cinema before, most notably in The Talented Mr Ripley back in 1999 and before that in Plein Soleil in 1960, which adapted the same novel as Ripley. The Two Faces of January adapts another of Highsmith’s works and while it isn’t quite as dramatically satisfying as Talented Mr Ripley or Plein Soleil, thanks to a strong cast and stylish directing, this is a film that’s worth checking out. We meet American couple the MacFarlands (Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen) on holiday in Greece who meet chancer Rydal (Oscar (Being Llewyn Davis) Isaac). Rydal offers to act as their guide in Greece but of course, nothing is as it seems and the trio get drawn into a dangerous love triangle which can’t help but end badly for all concerned. Mortensen is great as ever, Dunst is very decent and the interplay between Isaac and Mortensen is very well-delineated. The characters are not as compelling as they were in Ripley and the story itself isn’t as ingenious as that film or book but it still makes for thrilling viewing. Director Hossein Amini, while not as accomplished as Anthony Minghella was, he still manages to move the action along with style and class. If you like intelligent thrillers with good casts, then The Two Faces of January, on DVD now, is for you…

IT’S A SIN

sin-city

sin-cityScarily the first Sin City movie was back in 2005. A refreshing take on Frank Miller’s nourish comics series for Dark Horse, adapted by director Robert Rodriguez. Fast-forward nine years later and we have Sin City A Dame To Kill For. Mickey Rourke has returned as has Bruce Willis but we now have the recasting of Josh Brolin as Dwight, replacing Clive Owen, and the cast now includes the gorgeous Eva Green as Ava, the subject of Dwight’s affections and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as unlucky card sharp Johnny. A Dame To Kill For is also in 3D. The big problem here, as with the comics, is that when you saw the first story, its lurid noirish tale was a novelty and felt new but, just like the comics, the more stories you see, the staler they feel. Green is well-cast as the manipulative Ava and Brolin’s Dwight does have his moments and Rourke’s Marv work on screen but the characters of Sin City don’t really grow and evolve, that’s not the point of them, and so all you have is an hour and forty minutes of a 3D cartoon complete with viscera, heads been cut off and lots of 3D blood. It is entertaining, up to a point, but Sin City A Dame To Kill For is an empty confection with some nice set pieces and dialogue that is flimsy and paper thin. One only for real aficionados of the comic or Frank Miller…

ON THE SHELF AUGUST 2014

batman b&w vol four cover scanUntil TRIPWIRE kicks off properly around November, I am going to be reviewing graphic novels here. So to kick off On The Shelf, here’s a couple of reviews of books I’ve read recently… First up is Batman Black and White Volume Four, published by DC Comics, various creators. The first Batman Black and White stories ran in the defunct Gotham Knights series in the first decade of this century. This hardcover reprints the six part series published by DC last year and the beginning of this year. Editor Mark Chiarello has assembled another impressive line-up of creators to take full advantage of the black and white format. There are disappointments here: Batman Zombie by Neal Adams shows why he isn’t a writer, Damion Scott’s Hall of Mirrors isn’t my cup of tea as it is very cartoony and Javier Pulido’s story Cat and Mouse story, written by Keith Giffen, looks rushed. But there are some truly stunning shorts here: Richardo Burchielli, with writer Marv Wolfman, channels Gene Colan, former Superman artist Kenneth Rocafort actually shows that he can tell a story very well, Alex Nino shows that he has lost none of his visual panache and British artist Dave Taylor (2000AD, Batman Death by Design) offers a beautiful tribute to deceased master Moebius in a tale that is one of the highlights here. But there are almost too many high points to draw attention to here. Anthologies are by their very nature eclectic and no one reader will connect with everything in its pages but Volume Four shows Chiarello’s rare skill at bringing together the best of today’s talent with a selection of old masters. If you are a fan of Batman and an admirer of what can be achieved on the comics page, then you should pick up Batman Black and White Volume Four. I am also going to recommend two other DC series, well actually they’re Vertigo/ DC series. The first is 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, and the other is American Vampire, by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque and various artists. 100 Bullets has been reprinted in five beautiful hardback collections, topped off with an interlocking Dave Johnson image done specifically for the new collections. Azzarello and Risso have created a wonderful modern noir tale of crime families fighting among themselves. Risso’s art is magnificently cinematic with every page brilliantly composed, making you want to stare at them for hours. Cover artist Dave Johnson’s contribution here mustn’t be marginalised either: his spectacular covers set the scene for each story and he is one of the most elegant artists currently working in comics. American Vampire is one of Vertigo’s more recent hits and you can get six hardcovers reprinting the first volume of the series plus various spin-off series. There is real chemistry between Snyder and Albuquerque and this story of vampires in the modern world, taking in the Wild West, Fifties America and even World War Two Europe, is inventive, smart and a compulsive read.