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End-of-summer movies fall into theaters

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” 

Director Robert Rodriguez and graphic novelist Frank Miller return to the sable streets and boulevards of film noir for “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” This sequel is a dark, violent and testosterone-producing spectacle that relies too much on Mickey Rourke’s character Marv, a weathered, alcoholic ogre who weaves in and out of the film’s three narratives. Shot and edited entirely in Rodriguez’s Austin studio, this film is visually impressive and a testament to Rodriguez’s skill in the digital age. 

The three plots, however, never form a cohesive storyline to make viewers care for any character inhabiting the inky terrain. The characters are mere composites of film noir’s glory days: gumshoe voiceovers, femme fatales and cardsharks who permeate the comic books. What made the first one so original and engaging is thrown away in favor of Eva Green’s excessive nudity and Jessica Alba’s chaps. 

— Commentary by Rene Thomas Rodriguez 

“As Above, So Below” 

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” utters George (Ben Feldman) to his fellow spelunkers in the ominous catacombs of Paris just before the you-know-what hits the fan. This self-reflexive line also warns all who enter the theater for John Erick Dowdle’s new movie “As Above, So Below,” a boring and repetitive horror film that relies too heavily on cliches and proves just how hard it is to make a horror film to compete with last year’s surprise hit “The Conjuring.” 

Perdita Weeks plays Scarlet Marlowe, an alchemist searching for the rare jewel known as the Philosopher’s Stone and hoping to retrieve the treasure all for the purpose of scientific research. Marlowe, with a reckless demeanor and a team of transnationalist, H&M-wearing cave divers, soon stumbles upon a dead knight and gold-filled grottos that later induce psychological traumas from each individual’s past. Like the camera’s aesthetic, one will want to “shake” these characters out of their fragile state, or maybe a friend to head for the exit. 

— Commentary by Rene Thomas Rodriguez 

“November Man” 

Pierce Brosnan stars in the new spy film “November Man,” a muddled and contrived piece of world hysteria that had audiences hoping Brosnan would order his martini shaken, not stirred. 

Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, an agent protecting his former lover Natalia (Mediha Musliovic) from assassination. Director Roger Donaldson moves the film with such speed that, by the time credits roll, one might be wondering what the film was ultimately about. It is great to see Brosnan play this type of role with great conviction and, of course, his Bond-esque magnetism. Hopefully, his agent can pick better scripts that complement Brosnan’s presence as one of Hollywood’s great leading men. 

— Commentary by Rene Thomas Rodriguez 

“If I Stay” 

An emotional punch straight to the gut, “If I Stay” is unforgettable. The film follows Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) in an out-of-body experience, as she and her family are treated in a hospital after a car crash. The performance by Moretz and Jamie Blackley, young lovers connected through music, was astounding. They seem to dig deep inside themselves to deliver painfully beautiful performances that resonate long after the film ends. 

The story is so realistic and plausible that it creates a very cerebral experience for the viewer that few films today are able to achieve. The film makes its audiences think about what it means to stay alive and what it would take to not want to go on. Thought-provoking and powerful, “If I Stay” reminds viewers to make the most of life and to tell loved ones how much they are loved, while you still can. 

— Commentary by Joey Hager