Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duel to the Death


     1983's Duel to the Death is among the best there is in the martial arts genre. It isn't a meditation on the beauty of the Orient like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon... but it is highly stylized and surreal, juxtaposing portrait-worthy scenes of imminent death and disfigurement in exotic locales, and bizarre visuals like dozens of people hanging by their outstretched arms in a pitch black void. It isn't a crafty and clever ballet along the lines of a Yuen Woo-Ping epic (Once Upon a Time in China, Iron Monkey, etc.)... but the action is nuanced and guided, letting you discern every intention and thought of the person fighting.
     The plot focuses on a Chinese swordsman from Shaolin and a Japanese swordsman, both selected as representatives to duel one another (yes...to the death!) in a once-per-decade national pissing contest. It would seem that with true mastery over fighting techniques comes virtue, as these two are far and away the most principled characters in the cast. You will find yourself still rooting for the Japanese fighter (you'll root for both the whole time, by the way) even after he does one of the most dickish things you could ever conceive of.
     As the Japanese fighter makes his way to mainland China, treachery and sabotage and awful people doing despicable things in the name of national pride is the name of the game. We learn several things during this journey:

  1. The Chinese fucking hate the Japanese (true of the characters, true of the filmmakers)
  2. If you're a martial arts master, flying ain't no thang. The laws of the universe bend to the will of kung fu fighters (the wire-work is abysmal, but not without its charm)
  3. Ninjas are super-wizard exploding robot people who can do whatever the hell they want (church!)

     The only real letdown in the movie is an absurd change-of-pace scene when the Chinese swordsman leaves Shaolin to visit his master before the duel. The master is an obnoxious hodgepodge of the worst martial art movie stereotypes... a clown prince/beggar type who scampers up trees with reckless abandon. He flips and flies around and none of it makes a lick of sense. And to make matters worse, there's a talking cockatoo for a double (shitty) dose of comic relief in a wholly unnecessary segment.
     By the end of the movie, though, you'll have seen a talking decapitated head, a gigantic ninja made of several other ninjas, someone flying butt-first through a wall while sitting Indian Style, and an ancient ninja technique that's never explained but consists of boobies. There will be a plot twist that even the most jaded movie-goer won't guess. And then there's the Duel to the Death itself, a fight so awesome that despite its rather short length, it really and truly deserves a whole movie named after it. If only every propaganda piece could be so entertaining...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Duel To The Death Trailer

CAUTION: Major spoilers in trailer.

CAUTION #2: Even if spoiled, movie is still awesome to watch.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Case for Martial Arts Films as Man Movies

     Martial arts movies are a dicey proposition. Immediately, they turn off some folk. It's understandable, though. Oftentimes you find yourself faced with the same general plotlines and tropes just repackaged or mixed up slightly. A true martial arts movie will take a foreign, eastern culture and put it right in your goddamned face; leaving you, the western viewer, to try to make some semblance of sense of how any of this shit works.
     The best martial arts movies do this without any self-awareness; without any shame. They just take you on their silly ride and if you want to come along... you know, that's cool. Just like porn, the plot is mostly there to fill in the minutes between the action. That's not to say that the plot can't be deep, though. And a certain duality comes with a good martial arts movie: it is almost zen watching these extended and meticulously orchestrated fight scenes with no dialogue, but the fact that it's people beating the crap out of each other or disemboweling one another ramps up the adrenaline of the viewer to the point where nobody would blame you for practicing your own spastic flailing punches and wispy kicks after the movie's over.
     Not every martial arts movie is a Man Movie; just like not all Van Damme movies or Westerns are true Man Movies. There are a lot of shitty ones out there. And then you have several that hit all the right notes, but still manage to lack the indefinable soul that inhabits a Man Movie.
     If you're not familiar with the genre, let us help you figure out what's worth watching. If you've watched the best that martial arts movies have to offer with an open mind and it still doesn't do it for you... that's fine. Nobody's perfect.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Omega Man

     The Omega Man is the kind of movie that really has to be seen to be believed. Good 'ole Chuck Heston, stars as a survivor of what one can only conclude is an apocalypse brought about by the Chinese fighting the Russians that resulted in both nuclear and germ warfare fallout (causing people to choke suddenly and look hilarious dead with their eyes and mouths open). This movie bleeds “attempted return to relevancy” on Heston's part; and it really warrants mention here. Here is Heston, who we can only assume has already been outed as a conservative, nearing 50 and in the middle of the hippie boom. So what does he do? He dresses up in ruffles and crushed velvet in his wood-paneled bachelor pad and makes googly eyes at a 'woman of color' with an afro in a terribly awkward fashion, as if to say, “Hey! I'm still with it! Isn't that what you kids say? With it?”
     Probably one of the best things about this movie is it's almost as if the director, too, were reaching out to the youth. When the albino cult of hooded, anti-technology mutants make mischief (these are the villains, by the way), it is set to a Herb Alpert-esque silly jazz number instead of anything remotely tension-inducing. The whole movie reads that way; what could be terrifying and suspenseful in the right hands simply winds up camp in the director's hands. Now, make no mistake...this isn't necessarily a bad thing. A movie full of cornball diatribes, irrational car crashes, and illogical sped-up-camera instances makes for a wildly enjoyable hour and a half.
Much of the movie has Heston talking to himself and working hard to convince the audience that three years of scavenging through a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles by day isn't the best thing for one's sanity. We get to see him drive like a complete idiot, despite the fact that there are no other cars to worry about. We get to see him machine gun anything that he thinks moves without so much as hesitating. We get to see him shop for track suits in the track suit store.
     There are some pretty good fight scenes between Heston and the mutants. And considering the fact that there is only one woman in the whole movie, there's a surprising amount of breast screen time. But what really elevates this movie to something worth watching is just how little of it makes sense; especially the whole Christ/messiah imagery and symbolism.
     One final note: if this movie sounds familiar, that's because it is one of three adaptations of the story “I Am Legend”. While not really Man Movies, both The Last Man On Earth and I Am Legend (yes, the Will Smith movie) are worth a rental.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Big Lebowski

     What do you get when you craft a noir around a slacker ex-hippie, porn, a gang of German nihilists, bowling, and a Busby Berkeley-esque musical number? Try a pantheon Man Movie that belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Man Movies, if there were such a thing (and you know there really ought to be).
     Jeff Bridges is powerfully believable as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski; a burnout of epic proportions who spends his days listening to classic rock, smoking weed, drinking white Russians, and bowling. He becomes ensnared in a world of intrigue, crime, and emotionless sex due to a case of mistaken identity (he happens to share the same name as a handicapped altruist) and a befouled rug. His constant fuck-ups, and they are constant, lead him further down the rabbit hole as he decides to do some sleuthing along with his bowling buddy and semi-crazed Vietnam vet, Walter, as played by a born-for-this-role John Goodman.
     The plot gets convoluted very quickly, and involves twists and turns as only the Coen Brothers can bring on. The ensemble cast is highlighted by Sam Elliott (you might recognize that mustache and voice from any number of westerns) as an omniscient cowboy, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as one of the aforementioned nihilists, Julianne Moore as a painter with unusual (and nude) methods, and John Turturro as a comically over-the-top pedophile.
     Not to get too religious or anything, but if God were asked to make a movie, it might well be this one. The best part of that statement is that this might be underselling the movie a bit.

The Big Lebowski Trailer

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Goodfellas

by Danny


     You know the type of movie that just makes you feel good? Toy Story and The Sandlot come to mind. What about the type that takes you back to a simpler time, like Forrest Gump or Apollo 13? And don't you love movies like The Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty, the type that make you realize that despite all the cruelty and injustice, the world is truly a beautiful place? The 1990's were full of these movies. Goodfellas ain't one of them.
     From the opening credits to the closing scene, there is neither a warm nor a fuzzy feeling to be had. It's a movie about life in the mafia as seen through the eyes of someone who lived it, and it doesn't pull any punches. For an organization centered around respect, these guys don't bat an eye when it comes to stealing, abusing their women, and stabbing each other in the neck with whatever writing implement happens to be at hand. Come to think of it, an eye is pretty much the only thing they don't bat. Even the most admirable of the movie's protagonists have their best friends whacked (they just don't do it themselves). Greedy and underhanded at their best, diabolical at their worst, at the core of it they're immoral opportunists in a city full of opportunity. The movie's title is truly ironic, as these fellas are anything but good.
     It's also a veritable Who's Who of mafia actors in film and television. Pick a name from The Sopranos, or Casino, or a Bronx Tale, and chances are pretty good that they were in Goodfellas. If they weren't, it's a safe assumption that they got whacked before the opening credits. Ray Liotta plays the film's central wiseguy, Henry Hill, a man who is literally raised by the mob in 1960's New York, along with his best friend, the stocky powder keg Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci, appropriately). Under the tutelage of the steet-wise Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), Henry works his way up through the ranks. The journey takes him from small-time hijacking to a multi-million dollar airline heist; in the process, we see the highs and lows in the life of a blue-collar gangster driven only by greed, impulse, and cocaine-fueled paranoia.
     Director Martin Scorcese and writers Scorcese and Nicholas Pileggi (author of "Wise Guys", the book upon which the film is based) have created a raw and unrelenting cinematic landscape, which is not without its share of spectacle-- if skin could literally crawl, there are scenes in Goodfellas that would cause it to. Did I mention that a guy gets stabbed in the neck? I was mistaken. Two guys get stabbed in the neck. I could drone on about the violence in Goodfellas, but the IMDB Parents Guide has already done a fine job (on a 1-10 scale, Goodfellas scored a perfect 10). I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you plan on screening Goodfellas for your 2nd grade class (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099685/parentalguide). Some excerpts:

- A man is shot in the back of the head; blood splatters all over the room he was in and he flops to the ground. He is then shot three more times and his body is seen with bloody bullet holes and blood leaking out of them.

- A man repeatedly pistol whips another man and the man's nose practically breaks off.

- A dead man is shown hanging by his neck on a meat hook in a refrigerated meat locker in the back of an 18-wheeler.

     Violence aside, Goodfellas really is a pleasure to watch. It belongs alongside the likes of The Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now, and Clockwork Orange-- grotesque at times, but nuanced and complex. Scorcese and Pileggi's screenplay gives dimension to characters that could have fallen flat in less capable hands. Liotta, Pesci, and De Niro are in top form. Lorraine Bracco plays Hill's wife, Karen, who tries to remain simultaneously ignorant of, and complicit with, his activities. Paul Sorvino is eerily convincing as a Godfather-type. Also, watch for Michael Imperioli as the unfortunate Spider... and Martin Scorcese's own mother, Catherine Scorcese, as Tommy's mother.
     Do yourself a favor-- cook up some pasta, grill a few steaks, open a bottle of red wine and watch Goodfellas. Indulge your fascination with organized crime. Satisfy your gratuitous violence sweet tooth. Enjoy a great film by one of America's top filmmakers. And while you're at it, get your shinebox.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Army of Darkness

     There is no way that a movie featuring shotguns, chainsaws, knights in armor, and muscle cars could be left off this list. Army of Darkness is a movie that just never lets go. Starting with a concise and entertaining recap of what led wise-ass protagonist Ash to his current predicament as a slave bound for a gruesome death in the medieval times, the movie blends H.G. Lewis gore, Harryhausen-esque skeleton fight scenes, 3 Stooges slapstick, and a liberal dose of one-liners into one of the most beloved midnight movies around.
     Army of Darkness turns the traditional messianic tale on its head by handing over the responsibility to a suaver-than-thou meathead amputee in Ash. Handled hammily and ably by Bruce Campbell, Ash is the absolute centerpiece of this movie; and it is easy to get the feeling that something as simple as picking up dry cleaning would be entertaining and adventurous in Ash's hands (or hand, waka waka).
     Finding himself transported by the same deviltry that haunted his cabin, Ash becomes the purported “Chosen One”, tasked with retrieving the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis from its cemetery home. Bungling the whole ordeal as only Ash is capable, all hell breaks loose when the titular army rises from the grave to steal the book back.
     Fueled by Sam Raimi's emphatic, Looney Tunes-informed directing style, the over-the-top action scenes underscore lessons of finishing what you started and finding friends in the face of danger. Ash, almost by accident, becomes a machismo role model in his ability to spit quips while kicking ass and sweet-talking any girl that happens by. Look to the blacksmith for a highly underrated performance as exactly the kind of bad-ass we would love on our side in a fight.

Army of Darkness Trailer

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Magnificent Seven

     Suppose you were in charge of the world, and you wanted the next crop of youngsters to be the spiritual successors to “The Greatest Generation”, here is what you would do: When kids are in health class, and they separate the boys and girls so that girls can learn about their periods and boys learn about boners...show the boys The Magnificent Seven instead and afterward, just say, “Pick one.”
     It seems as though the Western is rife with nothing, if not archetypes that embody the Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick...” quote. The king of all these is The Magnificent Seven, and that is no accident... as it was smartly remade from the feudal Japan masterpiece, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. The personalities, quirks, and Achilles' heels of the titular Seven transcend language, era, and preferred method of fucking shit up (guns, swords, etc.).
     There is so much manliness crammed into this movie that lesser folk have been known to curl up into a fetal ball, cowering from the overpowering radiance of masculinity coming from these cowboys. Actually, that's not true. But if it were true of any movie, it would be this one.
     Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen are introduced to us first, and, just describing their initial scene will put hair on your chest. It seems as though a transient Native American met with an untimely demise and, due to the racism of the locals, they are threatening death upon anybody looking to bury him in Boot Hill. Yul Brynner says, essentially, “fuck that noise”. He borrows a shovel and the hearse and heads towards the cemetery, despite having no attachment to the injun. McQueen sees this and his reaction is to take someone's shotgun and jump onto the hearse to shoot anyone who gets in the way of the coolest damn funeral of all-time.
     Brynner and McQueen are contracted by a Mexican village to defend against a despotic bandit and his bandit army. Against dozens of men, the plan is to raise an army of six. The thinking is that the testicular fortitude of these six will substitute for the other fifty-plus men realistically needed to even the odds.
So, joining this crew is a knife-toting James Coburn. And get this, he signs on, not because the money is even close to decent (because it's not), but because all he cares about is proving that he's the best... at killing people. Charles Bronson is conscripted because he essentially has nothing better to do with his time. And then you have Harry, played by Brad Dexter (yeah, I haven't heard of him, either)... who is convinced that there is some sort of con to be had on the other side of killing nearly a hundred ruthless Mexicans. Robert Vaughn's character is a little on the precious side, but that almost makes him more cool. For instance, he doesn't take off his dandy gloves, even when smoking fools. And then there's the impetuous seventh, played by one Horst Buchholz, who is out to impress the rest of the cowboys. While the eager puppy routine is a bit grating, it does lead to some of the most heroic/awesome antics in the movie.
     When you take the time to tally up all the key ingredients of the movie, there's no mistaking it for anything other than Man Movie Royalty...the kind of movie that 50 years of celluloid testosterone is built on the hairy and ripped back of. Watch this movie and try not to smile or clench your fist in an appreciation of its awesomeness, I dare you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Magnificent Seven Trailer

Inaugural Man Movie State Of The Union Address

Hello!

So we are officially a week and a day in on this crazy little endeavour... and we want to thank all 10 of you for taking the time out of your busy toilet/smartphone sessions to read our site.

A couple thoughts:

1) We would love to see some discussion going on here.  Maybe you think that these reviews are perfect...and encapsulate anything and everything that could be said or has been said about these movies.  It's totally possible, and we're not modest or naive enough to believe otherwise.  However, that doesn't excuse you from commenting.  That will be our lifeblood.  Troll us if you want, tell us that we suck, turn this into your bully pulpit on something totally unrelated; we don't care!  We just want to see your words living right next to our words (be it in linguistic harmony or Word War Three [that was bad...but don't expect an apology]  ).

2) We have had some inter-staff suggestions:  Apparently right now we're coming across as whores for Amazon.  There will be a post early next week to catch you up on all the cheap and easy and viable ways of accessing any of these movies...and after that post, expect to see it all right next to each review.

3) We will also be changing the format a little.  Starting tonight, we will be posting the trailer ahead of the review to tantalize you and whet your tastebuds for the review that's coming next.

4) The management at Man Movie Guide will be taking a short jaunt into Mexico in an attempt to recharge batteries (metaphorically) and buy leather goods (literally).  With that in mind, we will be reviewing a masterpiece of mayhem and manliness in Mexico, The Magnificent Seven.

5) We are looking for some new ideas for recurring posts that will interest you, the reader.  If you have any suggestions for something you want to see on this site....let it be known!  We will hear you out, and we'll do our best not to mock your idea.

6) WORD OF MOUTH! It's important.  You need to spread it.  You need to tell everyone you know about our blog.  You need to hand out fliers.  You need to paint peoples' walls with the url.  What's in it for you, you ask?  Well, once our traffic gets up a little higher, we will be doing several giveaways.  Some will be as simple as free DVDs; others...a bit more cryptic, esoteric, pretentious...or maybe even disgusting and dangerous.  But the simple fact of the matter is that we won't start giving away stuff until it's more than just our closest friends and family and well-wishers logging in to place bets on when we're going to give up on this idea.

7) We can count at least this high.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Blues Brothers Trailer

The Blues Brothers

by Phil     

     About halfway into The Blues Brothers, long after the movie's first iconic chase scene in which the unflinching titular brothers lead a few cop cars on a blissfully destructive romp through a suburban mall (during open hours, of course), we are treated to a thunderous and nasty street performance of "Boom, Boom" by John Lee Hooker. Sure, we've heard that song in about a dozen cheesy car commercials by now, but here, through the film's grainy, coked-out, late 1970s lens, it's gritty as hell. Hooker growls his lines as his backing band stutters and stops at a feverish pace, while dozens of passersby and street merchants haggle over their dirty ass wares. Shot on location (as was much of the film) at Chicago's famed Maxwell Street Market, this particular sequence makes it feel more like a documentary than an action comedy. So by the time the Brothers -- who at this point have been party to the destruction of not only a mall but also a flophouse and a Nazi rally -- roll up the street to stir up some shit, it becomes quite clear just how big and authentic this movie's balls are: very.
     It certainly takes balls that big to package all of this movie's silly shit into a grand, unified statement; and they manage to pull it off. Pissing off local authorities, bigots, blue-bloods, and rednecks, the Brothers -- fiercely loyal only to each other, to their band, and to their God-given mission -- deadpan their way through the film; leaving a massive path of destruction in their wake, and breaking a few hearts along the way. All throughout, we see countless examples of the abject poverty in which our Brothers seem to thrive: their seedy flophouse where they cook toast on an electric radiator, the highfalutin fancy-pants restaurant where they clearly do not belong, the musical instruments that are loaned to them by a man who seems resigned to the fact that he'll never get paid. These characters are downtrodden, plain and simple, and are pursued relentlessly by law enforcement seemingly the world over. But you never once feel sorry for them. You identify with them and root for them. Why? Because fuck the police, that's why. Somehow, director John Landis and writer Dan Aykroyd managed to craft a perfect anti-authoritarian statement out of what is ostensibly an old Keystone Cops silly chase, peppered liberally with some late-night comedy, and a few of the finest musical performances ever intended for cinema.
     Now to that last point, I mean, I'll admit: there probably aren't many films on this list that have several extended and fully choreographed musical numbers. But this movie knows what the hell it's doing with them. For example, in an early sequence, when Belushi's character has a crisis of faith and is in need of a raucous gospel sermon to quite literally show him the light, who better than the Hon. Reverend Drugged-out Sex-fiend James Brown to deliver the goods? And then there's Arethra Franklin's number in which the Motown diva -- whose signature song has her demanding respect -- soulfully but unsuccessfully warns her man not to leave her sorry ass to join the Brothers' band. And let's not forget about Cab Calloway's hoary rendition of "Minnie the Moocher." So OK, the film may be filled with musical numbers, but it's the freakin' BLUES we're talking about; it's gritty and everyone feels bad. And somehow it's hilarious.
     And still, if that's not enough for you, just wait for the last ten or fifteen minutes of this thing. You'll see dozens upon dozens of cop cars crashing into each other with reckless, reckless, reckless abandon. And remember: because it was made well before computers ruined action movies, they really did have to crash all those fucking cars. They had to. That final chase sequence is still, to this day, one of the most dangerous-feeling moments in film history. Enjoy it.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Starship Troopers Trailer

Starship Troopers

by Christopher D'Anna


     Johnny Rico yells to the roughnecks, “Do you want to live forever?” Machine guns fire. Giant bugs splatter. Jets fly overhead. People splatter. Spaceships burn. A coed shower. Nuclear explosions. A teenage love... triangle. Bowie. And just before he gets his brains sucked out, Xander tells the Brain Bug, “Someday, someone like me is going to kill you and your whole fucking race!”
Would you like to know more?
     Starship Troopers, aside from featuring more ammunition fired than any other movie to that point, is a biting social commentary on 20th century war. Paul Verhoeven’s film is a vastly different animal than Robert Heinlein’s original novel. Heinlein, a noncombat vet, developed a near-fascist opinion of justifiable warfare. He uses the novel to play out his philosophy through a serious of flashbacks wherein the characters as students debate civic duty. There is little combat in the book. Ironically, Verhoeven, a World War II civilian who witnessed more violence than Heinlein did as a soldier, creates a film brimming with action... and yet the tone and message is in direct contrast to the book. Verhoeven himself admits to getting so depressed by the first few chapters of the book that he didn’t bother to finish. He uses the novel’s base of a future war between humans and space bugs to deliver a unique antiwar message that doesn’t criticize on moral grounds, but on futility. He lampoons war by way of Hollywood showmanship but never gets preachy. The violence, effects, and drama are all blown drastically out of proportion... which makes for a great action movie, one of the greatest. Verhoeven, from experience, also places a fair amount of emphasis on naive young people set amongst the horrors of war. And where there are naive young people, there is sex.
     Dizzy, the heart and breasts of the movie, is hopelessly in love with square-jawed Johnny Rico. Johnny, an infantryman, is hung up on Carmen, an air force pilot played by Denise Richards. (Ha!) Carmen’s got the hots for Xander, an older more experienced airman. Carl, the brains, has no sex drive, is psychic, and is driven by duty even if it means sacrificing all of the above characters. In what is perhaps the best casting of the movie, Carl is played by post-Doogie Howser/pre-How I Met Your Mother Neil Patrick Harris. Most of what these characters want is each other; but as mere soldiers, they are all at the whim of Carl, who’ll stop at nothing for the elusive Brain Bug... the Osama Bug Laden of the arachnids. While we’re piecing all that together, there’s a completely gratuitous coed shower scene among infantrymen and infrantrywomen. Johnny gets it on but I won’t spoil with who. Finally, the sex de rĂ©sistance is the Brain Bug herself, which looks as if one overlapped a few slides from 9th grade health class. Hell, I’ll just tell you: It’s a giant vagina.
     Ultimately, Starship Troopers is R-rated boy’s fantasy, which was Paul Verhoeven’s mid-career forte. (Check out Robocop & Total Recall) That’s not to say it isn’t broad and engaging enough for everybody. There’s plenty of humor, the scope is huge and the effects are amazing. In fact, the first time I saw this was with my parents who both loved it. They still do. Anyone that’s seen it has to admit that this boy’s fantasy is tailor-made. It’s about a young man torn between two hot girls, his parents getting killed by an asteroid, traveling to another planet and fighting hoards of alien bugs with his buddies. In the end, Johnny Rico wins, sort of. The war is too big for any one man’s victory to matter. Win or lose, it’s how you play, or fight, or whatever. See the goddamn movie. Did I mention the coed shower?





Friday, November 4, 2011

Point Break Trailer

Point Break

by Danny

     Set in Southern California in the early 1990's, Point Break follows the story of Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), a rookie FBI agent fresh out of Quantico, assigned to investigate a series of bank robberies. Suspecting the masked perpetrators (known as the Dead Presidents) to be a tight-knit group of surfers, Utah goes undercover, learns to ride waves, and immerses himself in the local surf culture in an attempt to ferret out the Presidents and bring them to justice.
     Reeves' Utah stumbles through the film armed with a badge, a pistol, and an arsenal of semi-hoarse, monotone one-liners. Keep in mind that this was between Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and The Matrix, so chalk up the one-dimensional portrayal to Keanu still cutting his teeth as a serious actor. Patrick Swayze fills what is arguably the movie's most memorable role as Bodhi, the soulful adrenaline junkie. Other notable performances include Gary Busey as Angelo Pappas, the reluctant veteran FBI agent assigned to babysit Utah, and Lori Petty as Tyler, Johnny's free-spirited foil/love interest. John McGinley also shines as Ben Harp, the straight-edge head of the FBI's Robbery Division.
     A modern cult classic, Point Break is a movie that most people either love or hate. Belonging to the former camp myself, I can't really fault the haters. The dialogue generally falls flat and is, at times, laughable. In the pantheon of American cinema, Point Break doesn't bring much to the table. But somewhere under the caricatures and the silliness beats the heart of an honest, gritty cop movie. All the elements are there, including the ubiquitous car chase, which still looks good after 20 years. This is followed by an even better foot chase, which (not to be outdone) is punctuated by the use of a pit bull as a projectile weapon. To top it off, you've got loads of excellent surfing, fighting, and partying. Who knew working for the FBI in the 90's was this radical? Between Fox Mulder and Johnny Utah, why boys of the day would choose any other career path is a mystery to me. But I digress.
     Point Break is more than a cop movie. It's a movie about living life on the edge, and perhaps more importantly, it's about making the right choices; even if it's the hardest damned thing to do. When he takes on the Dead Presidents, Johnny paddles out into waves that are way over his head; when it turns ugly, he rides it all the way in. Like a man.






Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Death Race 2000

     If movies like Rollerball, Logan's Run, and Soylent Green have taught us anything, it's that the future looks an awful lot like the 1970s. And, moreover, that things are going to be awfully violent. 
      The good news is this world of undying 70s aesthetic also comes equipped with coolest damn cars ever; from Calamity Jane's roadster sporting horns and a bull-ring, to Machine Gun Joe Viterbo's convertible, replete with tommy gun headlights and cartoonishly oversized hunting knife hood ornament. The bad news is that these badass cars are gunning for you (no pun intended). The national sport is never explained down to its finest detail, but it consists of some combination of driving from the East Coast to the West Coast in a race, and running over as many people as possible for points; babies and old people are worth the most, by the way. How Americans went from baseball to vehicular manslaughter is presented in a very ham-fisted set of social commentaries about our fascination with violence. The preachiness, however, is short and completely overshadowed by sped-up film segments of the cars and the luckless schmoes that unwittingly find themselves on the road during this national event... and the even more luckless shmucks that dare the harbingers of four-wheeled death (spoiler: if you tease a 200mph dragon car, you will not live to tell your grandchildren about it).
     Sylvester Stallone turns in an early gem as the raging asshole Machine Gun Joe. All four female participants get topless. There's a solid amount of blood spilled and explosions. There are hilariously memorable segments and lines without it being a one-liner fest. And, in this writer's humble opinion, there is a good example of how we can make our nation's flag look even more awesome. Oh, and the main character's name is Frankenstein, and is played by David Carradine! It's all enough to make you wish there really was a World Crash of 1979.






So what IS a Man Movie?

Give us the benefit of the doubt and let this first 'real' post sound smart(ish). We'll come back down to Earth after this bad boy:

There seems to be a confluence of thematic and artistic elements to movies across every genre that make what will be known henceforth as ingredients for the Man Movie. These ingredients speak to the primal soul of the male brain in a way that allows us to forgive canyon-sized plot holes, sophomorism at its ghastliest, exposition and diatribe at its most hackneyed, film-making at its most meandering and vacuous, and violence and nudity at its most gratuitous. The movies can be light or heavy. The plot can be superficial or deep. These can be comedies, action films, dramas, or anything in between.

On the surface, there may appear to be nothing linking some of these films to one another. And yet, they have infiltrated our dreams and our imaginations and created something more for guys that transcends the borders of class, race, ethnicity, religion, education, and orientation. These movies are reference points, and they are drunken argument fodder. They are quote factories. They are something to bond over.

Just like the term 'chick flick', Man Movie is a derogatory designation. Obviously women can enjoy a Man Movie, or men can find nothing appealing about some of the movies featured on this site. But again, just like chick flicks, Man Movies have an edge to them that seems inexorably tied to a gender identity...

So let's run down the elements as best as we can (expect there to be some refinement as more movies are reviewed and more comments are received):

Violence – There seems to be a level of violence to all Man Movies. It could be fountains of blood or something as simple as a slapstick kick to the butt. There might be exceptions, but it would appear at the onset that violence is about as core an ingredient as we can get.

Nudity – This also seems nearly omnipresent. The goal could be titillation, or just an easy and quick way of getting a laugh, but it's usually there; sometimes in spades.

Campiness – Obviously there are wholly serious and profound Man Movies that buck this trend; but there is no denying that camp is prevalent in many, if not most, Man Movies.

Brotherhood (Loyalty & Betrayal) – This may fly under the radar for most viewers, but this is an integral part of most Man Movies. Be it kinship or bonding or backstabbing at its most painful, fraternity is deeply embedded into the essence of the Man Movie.

Machismo (Role Models, Archetypes, and Avatars) – Who do you identify with or look up to (even secretly or in a roundabout way) in a Man Movie? Is it the smutty smart-ass, the smooth-talking huckster, the maniacal beast, or the silent bad-ass? Man Movies are rife with archetypal characters of what we identify with the concept of Manhood. They shaped us growing up, and somehow they still manage to mean something to us as the days go on.

Manly Settings – It should come as no surprise that a good number of Man Movies are mob movies, westerns, and war films; or that so many of them take place in medieval times, feudal Asia, other planets, or at sea. Think of a profession or an era that you'd consider “manly”; then allow us to tell you that there is virtually guaranteed to be a Man Movie involving it.

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So with all that said,  our definition of what makes a Man Movie is sure to evolve many times over.  But it requires your help.  We welcome your comments, your thoughts, your suggestions, and anything else you want to throw at the wall in hopes of sticking.

Man Movie Guide Mission Statement

Hello, and welcome to another goddamned website. We like to call this one the Man Movie Guide (or “Man Movie Guide” for short).

The goal here is pretty simple. We, the collective and hopefully ever-evolving writing staff, take Man Movies or purported Man Movies and hold them to the light for you all to see. Some of them you will already know and love (/loathe), and some you will never have heard of. We aim to approach these with an unabashed critical eye, a non-delusional understanding of the absurdity of our undertaking, and a spittoon full of grit and moxy (or groxy, for the portmanteau-inclined). In the process, we expect you to have a little laugh and leave here having learned something.