The Weather Man

Predicting the weather is a breeze for David Spritz (Nicholas Cage), but predicting how his dysfunctional family behaves is stormy in this dark comedy.  David tries his best to provide for his fractured family.  Overweight daughter Shelly constantly changes her mind about what she wants in life.  Son, Mike,  goes to drug counselling sessions.  Then there’s father Robert (Michael Caine), a prize winning author who seems to constantly be on his back about what little he has achieved in life.  David’s ex wife Noreen (Hope Davis) still has to put up with David’s strange behaviour, as he becomes more desperate to please them, and to be ‘worthy’ in their eyes.  An upcoming promotion may do just that - if only he can overcome his insecurities which has previously held him back.
Director Gore Verbinski spins a quirky tale of American life, and the expectations that come with it.  David tries so hard to be a real person, that he fails at every turn.  He feels pressure to live up to the heights achieved by his father, and wants approval for his achievements in life.  Nicholas Cage is perfectly suited to the role, as his mannerisms perfectly capture the conflict that David feels, with his TV fame and his family troubles.  Even though his character can be very unlikeable, you can’t help but feel sympathy for him, and cheer when he eventually sees through his behaviour.  When David stops hating himself, can he truly move on with his life.
The cinematography is used very well, capturing the bleak snowy winter, that parallels with the emotional coldness of David’s family. Michael Caine’s character has wanted more from his son and doesn’t understand David’s job, and why he would be famous for just reading the weather report.  Caine, being the accomplished actor that he is, shows just how his character could have affected his son’s life, but that underneath he has only wanted the best for him.  The comic timing that Caine uses is excellent, and his scenes with Cage bring genuine pathos to proceedings.
Hope Davis plays his exasperated former wife very well, wanting to make sure her children don’t get caught up in David’s constant despair. It’s easy to see why her character would have left him, as she wants to have the dream of the ‘perfect family’, which he couldn’t provide.  The actors playing the children are very good, with the son trying to overcome his reactions to his parents split.  When he gets unwanted attention from a male counsellor, this makes him see his father in a new light in a surprising way.
This is a very bleak satire which works, due to the strong ensemble cast and the witty screenplay.  The problems of emotional insecurity and redemption are well handled, which give the story a sense of genuine realism.  The plot takes turns at being hilarious to being poignant in equal measure, and is a success at both.  An understated gem that grows on you long after the first viewing.
Rating out of 10:   8

Sin City

This film features 3 interconnecting stories set in Basin City or ‘Sin City’ as the locals call it. The first story tells of a retiring cop (Bruce Willis), who is trying to protect an innocent girl (Jessica Alba) from the psychotic son of one of the most powerful men in the city. Story two tells of a bouncer, Marv (Mickey Rourke), who wakes up one morning with his girlfriend dead next to him. He then makes it his mission to track down the killer, who happens to be mute assassin, as played by Elijah Wood. The third story shows Dwight, (Clive Owen), a private detective trying to protect his girlfriend from crooked cops and various gangsters. He then teams up with a group of ‘ladies of the night’ to take down the villains and protect their turf.Sin City is based on a cult comic book created by Frank Miller, who came to fame with the Daredevil comics in the 1970s. The stories for ‘Sin City’ are told in a tough uncompromising style, which reveal the dark underbelly of life in this city. Robert Rodriguez is the director of this, although Quentin Tarantino gets a ‘Co - Directors’ credit as well. Rodriguez has made some excellent films in his career, such as the ‘El Mariachi’ trilogy, the ‘Spy Kids’ films, and ‘The Faculty’. Once again, Rodriguez displays his unique visual flair and makes the story move at a cracking pace. He has shot the film almost entirely in stark black and white, only using colour when needed to add more intensity to a scene. The film feels like it was directly lifted from the comics, as almost each frame is shot like a comic book page.

The cast assembled for this are veterans of previous Rodriguez films, plus some new faces. Bruce Willis gives an excellent performance as the hard bitten cop who tries to stay clean of corruption and actually enforce the law properly. Jessica Alba infuses her part with innocence and grace, which is crucial for her role. Mickey Rourke is almost unrecognisable as Marv, wearing a ton of make up, but giving the role a driving energy as he tries to bring the killers to justice. Elijah Wood is very creepy as the mute assassin, making him very unpredictable and deadly. Clive Owen manages to capture the spirit of pulp detectives from classic films and makes his role as the world weary PI a good one. The rest of the cast includes Josh Harnett, Brittany Murphy, Bennicio Del Toro, and Nick Stahl, who are all good in their parts.

This is at times a very tough, violent and gritty film, with interlocking stories which moves the timeframe around to add impact. For example, one character may die in the first half of the film, but turn up alive in the second half. At times, the story does meander a bit, and seems to lose it’s momentum towards the end. The best ones in the film are Bruce Willis and Clive Owen, who seem to fit in perfectly with the film noir style.

Not quite as good as previous Robert Rodriguez films, although definitely one worth catching for the visual style, which has been rarely seen before. ‘Sin City’ brings to life a comic book in a unique and interesting way.

Rating out of 10: 7 and a half

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