Sin City:

A Dame to Kill For (18, 102 mins)

Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

2 stars

Nine years on from Sin City, we return to a world that has been crying out for a revisit, given the number of tales waiting to be told there.

It's a crying shame then that this sequel arrives as a major disappointment, one that seems on the surface to be doing much the same as before, but which is in fact an empty experience.

It's a selection of pulp-noir stories, faithfully adapted from the graphic novels by Frank Miller and concerning the heroes, outlaws and criminals of Basin City.

Miller's comic book frames are brought to life in stylish monochrome, tinged with flashes of flame and colour and bursts of cartoon violence.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is first up as a gambler who comes up against Powers Boothe's crooked Senator Roark, the big baddie who has cast a shadow over many of the stories so far.

Gordon-Levitt is a nice fit into the world but his story ultimately proves unsatisfying.

Josh Brolin is Dwight McCarthy, a private investigator who in the first film was played by Clive Owen.

Facial reconstruction explains away the difference, but this is handled in a hilariously bad manner.

Dwight is involved with Eva Green's rich (and married) femme fatale, but their attempts at hard-boiled interplay make you yearn to be watching Bogart and Bacall and not this vacuous and juvenile stuff.

Mind you, that story is a stand-out compared to the final one in which Jessica Alba's Nancy plots revenge on Roark following the death of her cop protector, Hartigan (Bruce Willis, appearing briefly as a ghost!).

Some of the stories are prequels, some of them are sequels, but whether the timeline is supposed to make sense or not doesn't really matter, since we seem to be in a world where anything can happen.

But it's just another example of the sloppiness at play and the fact that the chronology can be questioned points to a lack of interest in what we're watching.

Just as in fellow Miller sequel 300: Rise of an Empire from earlier this year, the novelty has very much worn off.

But it's not simply a matter of having seen it all before, since the thing that really made Sin City memorable was the larger than life characters and engaging stories.

That's all gone now, even though the most memorable character, Mickey Rourke's hulking killing machine Marv, returns to smash many a head together.

The performances seem perfunctory, storytelling coherence is nonexistent, and while it was never exactly a bastion of good taste, it seems particularly scuzzy now.

The end result achieves the quite remarkable feat of making something so very boring out of something with so much salacious content.

See it if you liked: Sin City, The Spirit, 300: Rise of an Empire

Obvious Child (15, 85 mins)

Director: Gillian Robespierre

3 stars

Somewhere between an episode of Girls and an episode of Louie lies this decent indie that gives an unusual spin to the type of relationship comedy that we've seen several shades of before.

Donna (Jenny Slate) is a stand-up comic who splits up with her cheating boyfriend and enters a bit of a tailspin of drink and despondency, only to end up pregnant after she meets Max (Jake Lacy).

A percentage of the dialogue and scenarios land awkwardly during a problematic first third, but once Obvious Child knows where it's going it improves dramatically.

Very watchable actors in Slate and Lacy keep it going through the rough stretches. It pulls no punches, and in the end it's very nicely judged indeed.

See it if you liked: Frances Ha, Concussion, In a World

Mystery Road (15, 121 mins)

Director: Ivan Sen

2 stars

An aboriginal cop (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his small hometown after years away to investigate the murder of a young girl in this dour Oz thriller, finding opposition both from his fellow officers and the community he's trying to protect.

It begins promisingly, with the whiff of a gripping mystery, but settles into a deep second act rut, going round in circles and becoming something of a slog.

It's turgid as a thriller and rarely convincing as a character piece, and Pedersen isn't a strong enough actor to carry it, though Hugo Weaving adds a touch of flavour as a shady cop.

But it's little respite from a film so indebted to No Country For Old Men that it should come with a disclaimer.

See it if you liked: Red Hill, Jindabyne, The Rover

Night Moves (15, 113 mins)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

2 stars

Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning are eco-terrorists joining Peter Sarsgaard in his scheme to blow up a dam using a boat, the Night Moves of the title.

There's some tension in the build-up to this, but it's never exactly bursting with dramatic incident, and way too long for what's on offer, with the height of the thrills coming from their attempts to buy large quantities of fertiliser, a controlled substance they need to make their explosives.

Though it gains a bit more traction in the aftermath, examining the consequences and what measures are acceptable, it's too often heavy going, lingering on shots for too long and filled with people it's impossible to empathise with.

A typically clipped Eisenberg, with no time for chit-chat, irritates after a while in a dreary film with a bleak world view and a risible resolution.

See it if you liked: The East, The Company You Keep, The Purge