Posted December 12 2005 - 03:04 AM
Picture Quality: 5 / 5
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
Note: I received this screener late last week and it’s been a busy weekend trying to get my Treasures sets watched along with Sin City…so I apologize for the tardy review. For this review of the special edition, I’m duplicating some text from my review of the original disc, and in order to better discuss the special features and changes to the new set I’ve enlisted the help of HTF member (and Sin City fan) Rafael Bueno. If time permits, Rafael will also upload some pictures of the set which we’ll incorporate into the review.
Rafael Bueno writes:
Unrated Special Edition
|Studio:||DIMENSION Home Video |
|RunTime:||126 minutes (theatrical cut on Disc 1)|
|Aspect Ratio:||16 x 9 encoded 1.85:1 (OAR) |
|Audio:||5.1 DTS English (on Theatrical Cut Only), 5.1 DD English |
|Subtitles:||English, Spanish |
|SpecialFeatures:||A bunch… |
|ReleaseDate:||December 13, 2005|
Robert Rodriguez (RR) and Frank Miller (FM) have collaborated to create the nearly flawless translation of 3 of FM’s “Sin City” Graphic novels (and a short story) to the silver screen. I think that they have gone and fused the styles of 40’s film noir with the latest of Digital HD technology and special effects creating a sort of “Neo-Noir” style that is a perfect “translation, not adaptation” (RR’s words) of the controversial series.
I find this film to be simply breath-taking in its grittiness and audacity for being so extremely violent and stylized. Watching this in the theatre felt like such an adrenaline rush, and watching this in the comfort of my own home, it’s still quite a visceral movie and loses none of its power on a smaller screen. The intricacies that RR creates by fusing FM’s interconnecting stories together creates a detailed world and the chronological jumps tie this with (IMO) “Pulp Fiction” as a distant, though far less dark, sibling.
The New Cut:
The second disc contains the Recut, Extended version of the four stories, separated and reedited as individual stories (each averaging more than 40 minutes, except “The Customer Is Always Right,” which is only 4 minutes long), much like their original graphic novel counterparts, and five more additional features, totaling another hour, almost. The only sound option on disc 2 is DD.
This is what most fans will be on the lookout for and, I have to say, it had a decidedly mixed reaction for me. When you insert the disc, RR gives a short intro detailing his re-editing of the films in the individual stories of the graphic novels and the “correct” chronological sequencing. I decided to watch them in the graphic novel order, since that’s how I read them and, while there’s been approximately 23 minutes re-edited into the stories (only about 8 of which are actual content, the rest are the new credits), it’s all very seamless. The Story that benefits from all the additions is “The Hard Goodbye” which gives more character development to Marv (Mickey Rourke) and, while I liked watching them in their own self-contained way, I think I prefer the way that it was edited together as it give you a more intricate look into the world of Sin City and how each piece fits into the puzzle, but it is still a great option if you just want to watch Marv’s story or Dwight’s (Clive Owen), or Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) and not want to watch the entire 2 hours-plus in one sitting.
The running times for the recut versions are:
The Hard Goodbye- 40.57
(4.30 of credits)
Yellow Bastard- 47.23
(4.48 of credits)
Big Fat Kill- 44.49
(4.22 of credits)
Customer Is Always Right- 8.24
(4.10 of credits)
One caveat here is there is no “Play All” button and each story has its own end credits sequence.
From the DaViD’s HTF review of the original DVD:
Dark and daunting. Director Robert Rodriguez does an outstanding and faithful job of bringing Frank Miller's comics to the big screen. Those who've already formed an attachment to those stories and their accompanying artwork will have an easier time grappling with Rodriguez's vision. The uninitiated will likely find this film uncomfortable, jarring, and problematic, though I don't mean that to discourage anyone from taking on the challenge--I only intend to help set realistic expectations.
Sin City is really a series of loosely connected stories that deal with a hyper-grotesque world defined by violence, corruption, and erotic aggression. You'll easily make associations with films like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction--films that make their mark, in part, by capitalizing on a kind of exacerbated violence that creates a strange push-pull with the emotions of the viewer...moving back and forth between disgust and macabre fascination. However, unlike those films which could be relished by an audience not having any prior relationship to the subject matter, Sin City requires the viewer to come to the experience prepared. My strongest criticism of Sin City as a "movie" is that on its own, it was not able to create characterizations that engaged me fully, nor did it weave together a story that took me to a destination I was able to clearly discern. The effect of a novice viewer is that most of the 126 minute ride seems to be some strange acting-out of a naughty 14-year-old-boy's sexual fantasies...an imagination that both erotically charges him and then causes him to punish his own lusts by instantiating villains who are ritualistically disemboweled for their sexual crimes. However, like all art, the experience is a collaboration between artist, medium, and audience, and it's not hard to imagine how radically different someone else's experience might be--or even how a repeated viewing might result in an entirely different perspective.
Sin City is visually a masterpiece. Breathtakingly filmed and edited, with a seamless blend of live and CGI imagery woven together in flawless accord. Black and White photography is highlighted with color accents reminiscent of early 19th Century hand-painted film cells. Black and white is black and white...there is no hint of sepia tones. Grotesque urban city-scapes, 1950's automobile chase sequences, and leather-clad street walkers assimilate into surreal blend that creates its own context...both in time and in place.
Those who don't know anything about Sin City but have been curiously taking notice from the side-lines, if you were able to accept and enjoy the violent visual language of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction then Sin City may offer you a worthwhile adventure. Those who's loyalty to the comic is already in place are likely to appreciate Robert Rodriguez's efforts to a greater degree. This is a film sure to spark an abundant diversity of opinions. Please share your own and discuss respectfully.
Comparison between the original-released theatrical DVD, the theatrical cut on Disc 1 of the new SE set to the new cut on Disc 2 of the new set:
Identical. Yep. Identical. 100%. No more detail. No less detail. No more compression artifacting. No less compression artifacting. 100% the same. Good news! Rest easy fans--there appears to be NO COMPROMISE in picture quality whatsoever in this no edition to accomodate the added bonus material. How often does *that* happen? And this is confirmed by a rabid videophile comparing all 3 versions (the original DVD, and both versions on the new DVD) on a 106" screen scaled to 720P via DVI viewed at 1.6 screen widths distance.
Comments from the original DVD review which pertain to the new disc as well (both the theatrical cut and the extended cut):
Spectacular. Breathtaking. Stunningly pure.
Dimension Home Video often bests Miramax-branded DVDs in overall picture quality and this is no exception. While perhaps lacking the finest level of resolution of "reference perfect" DVDs like Warner Brother's last Matrix-series efforts, Sin City is a DVD that will impress...even on a wide-angle system like a 100" screen. Fine-object detail is excellent for a Disney DVD, and I was amazed at how well the image looked projected on a 106" screen. Both fore and mid-ground details are well preserved and never when viewing my 106" image (the first film viewed in my HT since my move into my new house) from my approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance did I feel like I was missing something. Often at this scale, "average" DVDs cause you to try to "focus" to see detail that's been removed during mastering. In the case of Sin City, the image is smooth, crisp, and loaded with natural detail that produced a genuinely oustanding image that had that "near-HD" sensation you get from the best DVDs.
The image also seemed free from the digital haze that sometimes obscures otherwise stellar film-to-tape transfers. The overall visual quality was one that was not over-processed, and the film-like results were graceful, natural, and relaxingly "analog-like" in feel. My use of "film-like" and "analog" is a bit paradoxical, because it appears to my eyes that this DVD has been entirely sourced from native digital image files...there is no hint of film-grain or any other "film" artifact to be seen. However, what I mean to communicate by the "analog" feel is the natural smoothness to the image, the sense of depth, and absent fog of subsequent digital processing often mistakenly carried out in the name of "improvement" with images that would have fared better simply left alone. This is one of the key signatures of a good DVD mastering job...allowing the natural "film-like grace" and ease to come through without the image taking on a harsh or processed look. Sin city succeeds! The image is smooth smooth smooth. As good as it looked on my DLP projector in 720P, I'm sure it would look even more spectacular on my friend's JVC properly scaled to 1080 progressive.
But perhaps the most praiseworthy aspect of the video is the black level and grayscale tracking, both of which are utterly perfect. The image intentionally has "pumped" black and white extremes...this is not the fault of mastering...it's part of the "film noir" look that the director is trying to convey. Amazingly, the digital mastering has been able to accomplish this without the black and white extremes feeling crushed...the shadow detail is still there. This is VERY impressive folks, and the smooth gradations of gray-tones in between give the image a strong sense of dynamic range. Black level is just rock-solid and whites are bold and cut like a knife without getting overblown. If I could make an audio analogy...imagine starting off with a "flat" frequency response and then pressing the "loudness" button on your stereo to boost the bass and the treble. That's the effect you're seeing in the image, and this DVD does it completely distortion-free. Bravo.
You haven't heard me comment on edge-ringing and that's because I didn’t' see any to comment about from my 1.6 screen-widths distance. It's possible that closer inspection might reveal the slightest occasional edge-halo, but DVD has no right to be judged closer than 1.5 screen-widths away and I can assure you that my picky eyes found nothing at all to take issue with from what is a VERY generously wide viewing angle with my 106" screen.
The only problem with the video that I did see was in a few all-black with all-white silhouette sequences...where there seemed to be a pixelly/grainy appearance to the contoured edge of the white shadow-images (HTF member Jeff Swearingen screened this disc with me and we both noticed this single anomoly). However, given the specific context of this artifact, I'm convinced that it's in the source material and not a fault of DVD mastering (as it would have appeared elsewhere as well rather than limiting itself to this one and only situation). This is truly a reference-worthy image and I'm sure the fans of the film will be thrilled.
HTF Member John Williamson writes:
| I saw this film twice in the theater and was hypnotized both times, drawn in and convinced that I was in that dank, dirty and violent world being presented to me, and I was very concerned that the eventual dvd would not be able to capture that. |
Well, here it is some months later and I picked it up today and my father and I just finished watching it on my 96" screen utilizing the DTS track...the experience survived the transition to the home intact! I was every bit as drawn in and hypnotized tonight as I was in the theater.
As David points out, the transfer is gorgeous, low rez shmo rez, this dvd is an awesome representation of the film and I would urge any fan of the film to pick it up, if not for the meantime until the SE. I don't get hung up on double dipping, when the SE comes out i'll getit and then dump this one on ebay and make almost all of my money back, so I lose nothing, really.
Fantastic film, and I'm relieved that my fears weren't realized, they easily could have gotten this dvd wrong, thankfully they didn't and Sin City rocks as hard and kicks as much ass in my HT as it did at the cinema!
Comparison between the original-released theatrical DVD, the theatrical cut on Disc 1 of the new SE set to the new cut on Disc 2 of the new set:
|SCORE ||Description |
|1-2 ||An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. |
|2-3 ||Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. |
|3-4 ||Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. |
|4-5 ||A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE). |
The DD and DTS of the theatrical cut on the new set are 100% identical to the audio of the previous DVD edition. The only difference with the audio presentation of the new cut on disc two is the omission of DTS, which for me personally would be reason enough to stick with the theatrical version if you’ve got a system that reveals the improvement that this DTS track can bring.
Comments from the review of the previous DVD which pertain to the new edition as well (sans DTS for the new cut):
Someone saw fit to provide the audiophile DVD collector with both 5.1 DD and 5.1 DTS audio options. The two tracks are very similar in level and overall presentation, and the viewer can conveniently toggle back/forth between them by simply pressing the audio button on the DVD remote. I definitely heard differences between the two tracks, and I'll share my impression with you while at the same time stating that I can understand why the "which one is better" debate in this case is a bit subjective. The DTS track clearly excelled to my ears in terms of low-level detail and that sense of "acoustic space" that painted a palpable 3-dimensional soundscape with unrestricted left/right/front/back imaging and sonic decay. This was most clear on the low-level background instrumentation during much of the dialog...the tone and presence of the musical instruments just felt more "real" with more musical nuance and detail. However, the vocals on the DTS track tended to sound a bit more "nasally" on my system...which to some might come across as "tinny" or too sharp sounding. While voices were smoother on the DTS track, this nasal quality sometimes gave sharp s-sounds an almost sibilant character that could be grating if your system is very forward-sounding or emphasizes the treble.
The 5.1 DD track was exemplary...and only a few paces behind the DTS in terms of musical nuance (which is usually what I hear in cases like this). However, though the DTS vocals sounded "rounder", the vocals on the DD track were easier to listen to...they sounded less grating and more laid-back. Whether this has something to do with dialog normalization, mixing practices, or just differences between the codecs I have no clue. Just reporting what I hear. If you find the vocals irritating in any way with the DTS track I encourage you to switch to the Dolby Digital and see what you hear.
Both audio tracks kicked major-bass-but and the DD track may have also edged the DTS slightly in this regard. The audio has an extreme sense of impact, the "thuds!" and "bangs!" of punches and gunshots will leave you pale with fear...this is not a film to play loudly if you have neighbors downstairs (being the first disc screened in the basement HT room of my new home, I took particular delight revelling in unrestricted volume levels
The surround channels are also satisfyingly active without drawing attention to themselves or becoming a "surround sound" salesman-demo event. What this means is that you're enveloped into a 360 degree sound field without finding yourself distracted by gimmicky noises hitting you like popcorn from behind. The DTS may have blended the full 5.1 configuration into a slightly more seamless soundfield, but both the DTS and DD tracks do an astonishing job of "losing you" into a sea of sound that is used to dramatic affect to compliment the on-screen action. Sin City is just as much about the sound mix and presentation as it is about the stunning visuals and imagery. If you can't watch this film on a proper 5.1 set up, then just like if you tried to watch it P/S on a 19" TV, you're not really watching the movie the director wanted you to see. At the very least, you're not getting the experience
that he wanted you to get. If you've been toying with the idea of upgrading to a 5.1 system or getting that new timbre-matched center channel or sub and you love this movie, friend, your rationale has just been offered.
Since my original review many HTF posters had commented on a sort of noise or distortion in the audio mix that my golden ears seemed to have missed in my first viewing. After being instructed on what to listen for, I’ve clearly heard what folks are talking about…there is a “fog” of noise that pumps in and out surrounding some of the ADR dialogue heard when actors are speaking in-character (not the narration). Now that I’ve heard it…it’s quite distracting, and I’m at a bit of a loss as to how such a technically adept film as Sin City managed to let such an obvious problem get through. For this reason I’ve reduced my score from it’s original 4.5 to a “4”.
Sound Quality: 4 / 5
(This section is contributed by Rafael Bueno)
Let’s talk about the special features:
On this special edition DVD, the original theatrical release is on disc 1, contains DD & DTS sound as well as 2 commentaries with RR- one with FM and another with Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis- and an audio track that’s a recording of a live audience reaction to the film during it’s Austin, TX premiere. The first disc also has the bulk of featurettes on the making of the film (six in all, totaling almost an hour), trailers (two), and an interactive game called “Sin-Chroni-City,” which I will explain later.
I’ve looked at the previously released single-disc and want to mention that all the behind-the-scenes footage included on that DVD is here in a slightly re-edited form and it’s for the better. We get more detail here than you ever need to know about the making of this movie and also a lot of background on the stories and ideas from FM himself. While this is not quite as in-depth as the Lord Of The Rings Extended Editions, this is quite thorough and pretty much answers any questions I may have had about the making of the movie.
The RR/FM commentary is very interesting, as FM gives a lot of information about the particular characters and their past in terms of the world of Sin City. RR & FM both go into detail about working together, how they work with the actors, and the craft of directing a movie as well as the whole DGA (Director’s Guild) ordeal (where they denied to give them a co-direction credit which led to RR resigning from the DGA). I found this to be most listenable and felt welcome by the laid-back, friendly conversational style they had together. That atmosphere made me feel like I was in the room with them and they were sharing some of their secrets with me. The comments, while trying to stay screen-specific, generally veered off-course and they started talking about other aspects of the filmmaking process and they talked all the way through the credits mentioning tidbits about almost everyone they worked with.
The second commentary is slightly more technical and features RR, with guest appearances by Quentin Tarantino (QT) and Bruce Willis (BW). RR dominates this track and QT and BW show up when their respective contributions appear during the film, so it’s basically a 1 on 1 with RR until the one-hour mark, when QT comes in to chat about directing his sequence. This track shares the same tone that the RR/FM track has and it’s slightly more geared to the background, green-screen process and how RR filmed each actor and then layered their performances together with the special effects. QT talks about filming HD for the first time and his experiences with that and BW shares his passion for the part of Hartigan. Again, while the intent was screen-specific, the conversation always goes around to other topics. There does seem to be some repetition between the two tracks, but it’s fairly minimal.
The audience reaction track is self-descriptive. There’s a lot of clapping when each scene or action sequence ends and it appears that it’s a fairly attentive, enthusiastic audience.
The featurettes on Disc 1 are:
How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller To Make The Film (5:39)-
Background on the graphic novels and how RR kept trying to woo FM to give him the rights to make this movie.
Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino (7:12)-
self-explanatory. People either like QT or hate him. I, personally, think he’s an amazing director but listening to him jabber incessantly does get a little tiring.
A Hard Top With A Decent Engine:The Cars of Sin City (7:33)-
A neat spot wherein they talk about the different models of cars the filmmakers had to go and track down for use in the movie.
Booze, Broads & Guns: The Props Of Sin City (10:55)-
Along the same lines as the cars feature. The prop designers talk and show how they rooted all the props in reality and exaggerated the style to stay faithful to the look of the graphic novels.
Making The Monster: Special Effects Make-Up (9:03)-
This one shows the various make-up effects not just for Yellow Bastard, but all the other major characters.
Trench Coats & Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City (7:32)-
Probably the least in depth feature, but interesting nonetheless.
Sin-Chroni-City Interactive Game-
If you’re interested in killing a lot of free time, this is for you. This game takes each locale from the movie and shows you where it fits into the timeline of each story and which characters are involved. It’s not very organized, but each time you select something, FM gives a brief audio description concerning that specific locale and/or character. In concept it sounded like an interesting feature, but in execution it's a lot of work for some small insights.
Teaser and Theatrical Trailers-
count ‘em, two trailers. The very cool teaser and the more explanatory theatrical trailer.
The featurettes on Disc 2 are:
15-Minute Flick School With Robert Rodriguez (12:21) -
A very nice look into the making of the movie. Well edited and with as good insight as one can get in twelve minutes. There is some repetition here with the commentary tracks, but it’s given in a slightly different way as to not be annoying.
The Movie In High-Speed Green Screen- All Green Screen Version (12:26) -
By far, my favorite extra on the set. All the footage filmed in front of the green-screen edited together. It goes way fast, but it’s incredibly interesting if you step through frame by frame. This, coupled with the Flick School, shows what kind of effort it took to make this movie.
The Long Take: 14 Uninterrupted Minutes of Tarantino’s Segment (17:45) -
This is just an entire take of QT directing the sequence between Jackie-Boy (Benicio Del Toro) and Dwight (Clive Owen) and, while I’ve already mentioned that QT is quite verbose, here you get to see how he gets his performances out of his actors. Pretty insightful stuff.
[b] “Sin City Live” Night At Antones- Filmmakers, Cast And Crew Party (9:17) - Footage RR shot of Bruce Willis performing at a night club, singing some blues.
[b]10-Minute Cooking School With Robert Rodriguez (6:23) - RR showing you how to cook some breakfast tacos. Robert Rodriguez, writes, edits, directs and composes his movies, AND he cooks. Is there anything this man can’t do?
Also included is the first volume in the “Sin City” book series, “The Hard Goodbye” and, while it is the complete first volume, the book itself it smaller and fits into the DVD box. It’s very cute.
DaViD Boulet says...
For me personally, the new "extended cut" doesn't replace the original theatrical version which wove the various stories into a continuous movie-experience. The lack of a "play all" option on the new with-credits extended cut makes it a bit difficult for me to enjoy outside the context of a special feature which allows me to watch only one of the stories at a time or change the order in which they are viewed. The lack of DTS on this new "version" negates its value entirely for me as a definitive viewing experience...Sin City is a DVD title that really makes the most of DTS (on the theatrical cut) for those of you with audio systems able to reveal the subtle improvements of the DTS mix/compression.
However, I do think that this new version is worth purchasing on the grounds of the new bonus material alone...and given that the original theatrical cut is featured on disc 1 with DTS audio with the same exemplary picture/sound quality as the original DVD release...fans aren't losing anything in the "upgrade" to the new copy.
Rafael Beuno says...
Sin City is a movie some may find hard to take because of its extremely violent and sexual nature, but I find that it is a breath-taking visceral movie that gives one the adrenaline rush of a good roller-coaster ride. Divided up into a more faithful sequence of events doesn’t necessarily distill its power, it just gives us a different option to enter that world and if you’re up for it, the special features will provide good details into the making of this movie.