Muppets Most Wanted - Miss Piggy

Jessica Alba

Noah - Russell Crowe

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Noah - Russell Crowe

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.


 "Sin" story: After a summer of big popcorn action adventures, Hollywood's heading into the less frenetic fall with its quirky dramas driven by awards buzz.

      The dog days of August are the transition period for summer moviegoing until Hollywood shifts gears after Labor Day weekend. Three new wide releases will hit multiplexes Friday looking for their slice of late summer boxoffice pie, which could be quite tasty considering how strong ticket sales have been lately.

      Moviegoing is sizzling in August with "Guardians of the Galaxy" doing $222.3 million in three weeks and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" grossing $117.6 million in two weeks.

      That's got to be encouraging to new arrivals like Dimension Films' 3D action crime thriller "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," opening Friday at about 2,750 theatres. Its directors, Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller, directed the 2005 original "Sin City."

  After opening Apr. 1, 2005 to $29.1 million, the first "Sin" went on to gross $74.1 million in domestic theatres. "Sin 2's" tracking best with 25-plus males and next best with women over-25, which is exactly the right audience for an R rated adult story like this.

  Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson are among the stars of several intertwined classic Sin City stories by Frank Miller in which the town's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more reviled inhabitants.

      The sequel's new competition this weekend includes the PG-13 rated drama "If I Stay" from Warner Bros., MGM and New Line Cinema, opening at about 2,500 theatres. Directed by R.J. Cutler ("The World According to Dick Cheney"), it's based on the novel by Gayle Forman. Starring are Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos and Liana Liberato.

  "Stay" is tracking best and in double digits with under-25 females, an audience that can generate big boxoffice grosses for a film they identify with. That could be the case with "Stay" given its highly emotional storyline.

      Moretz plays Mia, who always thought her big decision would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or give that up for the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley). Everything changed in a heartbeat when what should have been a carefree family drive turned into a tragedy. Now Mia's life is hanging in the balance. She's caught between life and death for one revealing day with just one decision left to make, which will decide both her future and her ultimate fate.

      The weekend's third wide release, Sony Pictures Releasing and Mandalay Pictures' PG rated sports drama "When the Game Stands Tall,"is opening at about 2,600 theatres. Directed by Thomas Carter ("Save the Last Dance"), it stars Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig and Michael Chiklis.

      "Tall" is tracking best with men over 25. Inspired by a true story, it's about the remarkable journey of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur (Caviezel), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport.

      Although these films are targeted to different audiences, "Sin" could have the broadest playability given its appeal to both men and women over 25. It also should benefit from being a title its audience may recognize because it's a sequel.

      The 2005 original brought Frank Miller's black and white graphic novels to life with their strong women, flawed heroes and vile villains. At the time, Rodriguez and Miller agreed that if they were to make a follow-up film, it would have to have an even bolder appearance than the first film.

      After directing the 2003 action adventure "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over," Rodriguez understood how shooting Miller's world of Sin City in 3D would bring it to life in an entirely new way.

      "I always thought if any movie could lend itself to 3D, it would be the 'Sin City' books," he explains in the production notes, "because of the graphic novel quality." He felt "Sin's" signature black andwhite aesthetic would enhance the 3D experience because with 3D, "you feel like you are inside a graphic novel."

nbsp; Some of the new film's stories are prequels to narratives from the first movie. In fact, some characters who were killed in "Sin 1" -- like Marv (Mickey Rourke), Goldie (Jaime King) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) -- return in "Sin 2."

  "I tend to play around in the 'Sin City' books as I am in the movies now," Miller points out. "I bounce from one point in time to another so characters can seem to come back to life when actually, all I've done is go back in time."

      Rodriguez and Miller agreed on "A Dame To Kill" as the new film's central story. It reunites key characters from the first movie and introduces a beautiful and deadly new character -- Ava Lord (Eva Green).

      Chronologically, "Sin 2" takes place before the story "The Big Fat Kill" that was featured in the first film and explains how Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) came to have a dramatically different face.

      "Built around a tragic romance between a man and the love of his life, it's a story that involves a lot of betrayal, a lot of darkness and a lot of guilt -- all the great stuff that goes into film noir," Miller says.

  To set the tone for their second episode, Miller and Rodriguez decided to open with the story "Just Another Saturday Night," in which Marv (Rourke) struggles to recall a nasty encounter with some frat boys.

      Although they faithfully followed Miller's books in "Sin 1," Rodriguez and Miller chose to incorporate new stories into the second film.

      "The first movie was all about being very true to the books and translating them directly to the screen," Rodriguez notes. "The second film, we thought, 'Let’s give them a surprise so that people can't just go to the comic book store, buy the book and know what's going to happen."

      One of those new stories, "The Long, Bad Night," revolves around Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a conceited gambler returning to Sin City to try his luck at poker. He's playing against the town's most powerful and nefarious politician, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe).

      Another of the film's new stories, "Nancy’s Last Dance," continues the original's story "That Yellow Bastard" about exotic dancer Nancy Callahan's (Jessica Alba) relationship with policeman John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). After saving her twice from murder, Hartigan killed himself to save her a third time.

      In the sequel, it's four years after Hartigan's suicide. Nancy's still dancing, but she's just a shell of her once carefree self. Now she's out to take revenge on the man she blames for Hartigan's death. Unable to watch her spiral out of control, Marv offers to help her.

      "In this story, we realize the depth of her grief and self contempt," Miller says. "In the previous story, she grew up to become an exotic dancer and she danced for the love of it. In this story, she becomes aware that she's not doing that anymore, she's basically a puppet to turn on a bunch of horny men. She's so filled with self-contempt and full of various sides of grief, especially rage. She becomes a creature of powerful inner demons and she has to wrestle with that and reconcile that and take out her own form of justice to transcend."

      "Frank, Robert and I have worked on this story pretty much since 'Sin City' ended," Alba recalls. "We've talked about Nancy and her evolution and where she goes from here. She takes quite a journey. You would not recognize this Nancy from the first film. I think it's really cool to see a character who was really innocent and naive in the first one evolve into this warrior."

      Looking at her relationship with Hartigan and the anguish she now feels, Alba explains that Nancy, "really relied on Hartigan to be her knight in shining armor, but he took his life at the end of the movie. This story picks up on what that's done to her spiritually and physically. She got stuck when Hartigan died. Nancy feels abandoned, angry and victimized by him because he left her to deal with it on her own."

      In "Sin 1," Nancy was known for her fluid and beautiful dancing, but that's changed as she's been hardened by tragedy. The first time around, Alba created her own dances, but for the new film she wanted to team up with a choreographer.

      "I worked with a choreographer, even though Robert didn't want me to, because I'm not really a dancer. I really wanted to show Nancy falling apart from the beginning of the movie and what leads to her nervous breakdown. I didn't just want it to come out of nowhere, so you get little bits of her disappearing into another person through dance and then she completely loses it."

     Bottom line: August's boxoffice heat wave could continue this weekend as three new films take their bite of dog days ticket sales.