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Blu-Ray Review: Frank Miller’s Sin City

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The joint venture between Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez to bring Miller’s Sin City comics to life on the silver screen was an impressive undertaking that resulted in a magnificent film, if gritty noir tales are your cup of joe. The Bonus Features, most of which were part of the previous two-disc DVD set, show the work that went into the film’s creation and revealed the amazing talents of all involved.

The review of the film when it was out in theaters can be found here.

Released on Blu-ray, the high-definition format is the perfect match for the film’s stunning visuals, which are presented in 1080p in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The look mimics Miller’s template in the books of mostly black and white images, with limited use of color for emphasis that becomes heightened due to the backdrop. The black and white shows great contrast and a range of gray variations. The colors are vibrant and pop off the screen, the reds in particular from The Customer’s red dress in the opening cutting across the balcony to Dwight’s car racing through the city. The textures have great detail, from the actor’s faces to the digitally created settings.

One issue with the video is some of the digital effects at times appear to be just that and don’t seamlessly mesh with the actors. Some of the bonus features contribute to this problem as well, which I will further elaborate on.

The audio available in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a great soundtrack. The surround engulfs the viewer in the world whether it’s raining rain or raining bullets. There’s a lot of internal dialogue that also makes use of the surround, creating a sense of being in a character’s head. The sub-woofer augments the action with its low-rumbling bass. The dialogue is clear and consistent throughout.

The best Bonus Feature on Disc One and a Blu-ray exclusive is “Cine-Explore.” It’s fascinating to watch as it compares scenes from the film with the source material and what was happening on the green screen set during production. The audio running underneath is commentary by Rodriguez and Miller. It’s amazing for fans interested in learning the secrets behind the magic of filmmaking. Although once you know the tricks, like how some actors were never in the same scene, it can change the experience of subsequent viewings because it causes you to see more of what’s not real.

Another commentary by Rodriguez provides more technical aspects about the making of the film. He is a very forthcoming speaker, and doesn’t mind sharing. It’s interesting to learn how he created the film, dealing with light and actors only and then dealing with everything else in post. Quentin Tarantino, who directed a sequence and ran a camera, and a special guest star from the movie, joins Rodriguez.

The last audio track is from the audience reaction from the Austin Premiere. The viewer can hear what they reacted to, but the vocals have a bit of an echo, so it’s not worth the trade off.

Disc Two features a Recut, Extended, Unrated Version that presents the four individual stories in their entirety and adds 23 minutes of material. The only Blu-ray exclusive on this disc is the “Kill ‘Em Good” Interactive Comic Book. Marv’s story is brought to life using clips from the books, sound effects, and cast voices and puts the viewer in a video game version

All the remaining bonus features are presented in standard definition. The features cover all aspects of the film’s creation. We get interviews that discuss the involvement of Miller (“How it Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film”) and Tarantino (“ Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino). A number of short features are self-explanatory: “A Hard Top with a Decent Engine: The Cars of Sin City;” “Booze, Broads and Guns: The Props of Sin City;” “Making the Monsters: Special Effects Make-Up;” and “Trenchcoats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City.”

Rodriguez is given his own special features section. “15-minute Flic School” is a great look behind the scenes with some repetition of information. “The All Green-Screen Version” presents took place on the set at 800 times normal speed. It shows how much post-production work was required and what limitation the actors had. It’s all right, but “Cine-Explore” with the comparisons and commentary is a much better and informative experience. “The Long Take” shows Tarantino directing Del Toro and Owen in their car scene.

Sin City: Live in Concert” is taken from a charity gig in Austin during production. Bruce Willis and the Accelerators play “Devil Woman.” “10-Minute Cooking School” is a Rodriguz-fan favorite on his DVDs and this installment finds him making Sin City Breakfast Tacos, including tortillas from scratch.

Frank Miller's Sin City is sure to be on year-end Top Ten lists as people scour through thesauruses looking for all the adjective required to discuss the film, its presentation, and its bonus features. Since the two-disc DVD owners have most of these bonus features, it's not worth the double-dip, but I recommend it for those who bought the single-DVD edition. 

Get yourself a copy or you will make Marv angry — and you do not want to make Marv angry.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    It’s reviews like this that make want to move to Blu-ray. I’m still a holdout.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Thanks, PW. Prices are supposed to be really low by next Xmas. But you really need the whole system to make it work. I don’t know why some people bother.

  • barbara barnett

    Looking forward to the prices coming down. have a great home theater sound system and high def television. But my hi-end-ish Denon home theater came with a regular DVD player. Go figure.

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    Yeah, that’s the reason I’ve held out — why get a new TV without HD sources to drive it, why get Blu-ray without lots of media, etc. To do it right would cost me many, many thousands, and so far I’d rather stick with DVDs and a 4:3 TV. :-)