Wednesday, December 26, 2012


          Heat.  Heat, Heat, Heat, Heat…  Believe it or not, folks, this movie is the reason the Man Movie Guide exists.  This movie is the quintessential example of what we mean by a Man Movie.  If you survey everyone you know that has seen Heat, a vast majority of people will tell you it was a good movie.  However, if you speak to the men that have seen it, they are likely to get a certain twinkle in their eye.  This movie touches a male nerve that most people won’t be able to explain away.  Interpreting the movie through our primer on what constitutes a Man Movie, it becomes somewhat clearer what separates this movie from countless other good heist movies.  This movie features heavy amounts of violence, manly archetypes of various stripes (on both sides of the law), loyalty, betrayal, brotherhood, honor, epic shootouts, and bank heists.
CORRECTION: Heists with cool fucking hockey masks!
          Al Pacino plays a cop who buries his emotions in his work.  His personal life collapses around him as he focuses on doing what he does, and shielding his family from the details.  His single-mindedness is pointed out in dialogue with other people and how he responds to his wife’s accusations.  Perhaps a better gauge, however, is his dialogue throughout the movie.  One of the most bizarre things about this film is that it seems as though Pacino’s Lieutenant Hanna never has a conversation with anyone but himself.  His answers to questions are nearly complete non-sequiturs, his anger is often unprovoked, his eye contact is all over the place.  At times this is unnerving and almost helps the character who seems to border on the autism spectrum, but at others it leaves us with really funny lines like, “You can get killed walking your doggie!”  Just imagine the trademark Pacino yell-y voice saying that.  The only conversation he seems to be engaged in takes place at a coffee shop across the table from his nemesis, Robert De Niro.  Whether this is intentional or not is undetermined, but it does add a gravitas to the scene beyond the mob movie fanboy ejaculation, “They’re finally in the same room together in the same movie!” that was likely a big selling point to the whole shebang.
Sometimes it feels like the only thing separating Pacino from Gary Busey is The Godfather.
          Robert De Niro plays the head of a heist crew.  His character has at least a partial resemblance to James Coburn’s character in The Magnificent Seven.  The money almost seems secondary to both the challenge and the craft to De Niro’s Neal McCauley.  As with many, many heist movies, this one focuses on the concept of ‘one last big score’.  But don’t let that deter you from the film.  If anything, it just helps to amplify the underlying philosophical premise of the movie.  You see, this film is about as fatalistic and deterministic as it gets.  Characters are constantly and repeatedly going against their own decisions, not to mention against good advice or the smart move.  Each character seems as though they’re traveling on rails towards the endgame, and what makes this movie both wonderful and tragic, is that those rails all inevitably collide in a pleasantly unpleasant way.  Thieves have to steal, cops must fight crime, psychopaths are compelled to kill, criminals are unable to leave their life behind, witnesses can’t not testify despite the implications, and relationships live on in the brutal light of infidelity and incompatibility.  Case in point, during the pivotal shared coffee between Hanna and McCauley, the following exchange happens:
          I don't know how to do anything

         (the shared confession)  ...neither do I.
          And I don't much want to.

          Neither do I.

          If you have seen this movie, and it’s been a while, you’re likely forgetting what an unbelievably ridiculous cast was involved.  Granted, not everyone was well known at the time, but De Niro’s gang also includes Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Danny Trejo.  Jon Voight is their awesomely disgusting mulleted fence and advisor.  Pacino investigates flanked by Ted “It rubs the lotion on its skin” Levine.   Natalie Portman is Pacino’s stepdaughter Ashley Judd plays Val Kilmer’s wife.  The movie also features Dennis Haysbert, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven, Tone Loc, and Henry Rollins.  It can be distracting, but only momentarily.
          The movie, though it belongs on the Man Movie Mount Rushmore, is far from perfect.  The non-orchestral music is particularly bad.  Much of the time the music has a seedy mid-90s aspect not unlike an episode of Red Shoe Diaries, and a scene in a hip, urban underground club features House of Pain (unlikely even in 1995).  The dialog between Waingro and his prostitute sounds like it was written by Michael Mann while he was trying to watch something on TV at the same time.  If you think we’re making a big deal about nothing, she at one point says this to Waingro, “You fly. You cool.”  Nobody says that ever.  Not ever.  She goes on to say, and we quote, “You a hot dog.  You a cowboy.  You hung like a horse and this was the monster fuck of my young life.  Now I gotta get my ass streetside.”  Really, Michael Mann?!  Really?  It also warrants mentioning that the lighting in certain scenes is completely fake to the point that it looks like actors are in front of a green screen for something as mundane as being on a balcony overlooking the city.  We’re not sure who was in charge of this, but lighting is a craft that was honed to a point so as to be innocuous in ordinary scenes in non-expressionist/surrealist films decades before Heat came out.  There are no less than three scenes that throw all conventional lighting knowledge out the window.
Unless Mac Tonight is standing right behind you, this is not how night looks.
          Flaws and all, this movie is an essential.  The first heist holds up just as intense and indispensable as when it first came out nearly 20 years ago.  The acting and the script (with the one noted exception) is phenomenal.  The movie is thrilling and suspenseful and gut-wrenching.  It also manages to accomplish what so few movies do; it humanizes both sides.  Some people grew up wanting to be the good guys, others grew up thinking being a bank robber would be awesome… but it’s safe to say that the movie makes you understand the allure and the grief of both.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Our First Blog-A-Thon

We are very excited.  Beginning next week, we will be contributing to the SCENES OF THE CRIME BLOG-A-THON.  We will be helping to create a definitive list of what crime movies are and aren't worth watching.  Expect us to shift our focus at least a little instead of mixing it up like we have been starting just after Christmas.  Please feel free to suggest movies you'd like us to take on.

Man Movie Guide

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Should Be...: Hotline Miami

Courtesy of dreamcaster

We know, right?  We are only a few chapters into this game and it was so awesome we just had to share it.  This game sports a soundtrack that at times sounds like Animal Collective, chillwave, and retro synth a la Kavinsky.

The aesthetic is an acid trip take on 80s with a mean streak of ultraviolence.  Think the movie Drive as interpreted by a mental ward for the criminally insane.

And that's why we already, only 30 minutes into the game, think it would make for an incredible movie.  You are some anonymous schlub in a letterman jacket who can sport a variety of creepy animal masks that give you different abilities.  You single-handedly take on scores of white-suited thugs in a bloodbath that requires speed, reflexes, and timing in much the same way as any number of uber difficult 8-bit games from the NES/Master System era:  One hit and you're dead.  Use a gun instead of a bat or pipe and it warns every bad guy in the area.  Knock a guy out with a punch and he'll get up and kill you with the weapon he dropped.  It's a gratifying game and it just keeps on being its awesomely, unapologetically surreal and bloody self.

Quick note to any producers or screenwriters in our readership: Jump on this shit now!  It won't cost much money to film, and it is guaranteed a cult following if you stay true to the source material.

P.S. There is a link below if you'd like to buy this bad boy.  We recommend you do so immediately.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


          Probably one of the most interesting things about Skyfall is that, in its 23rd volume (24 if you count the original Casino Royale), the James Bond series has finally succumbed to an overarching theme in action movies (particularly sequels) from the last six or so years.  The protagonist not only has to battle against a mastermind foe and his scores of henchman, but also aging and obsolescence; mirroring the same fear that this kind of movie’s once-core baby boomer demographic is grappling with of late.  The hero is a creaking shell of his former self, held together with gobs of spit and disdain for the establishment.  Gone is the somewhat more youthful tallyho mentality, and in its stead we find a “gotta die sometime…” philosophy.  Couple that with an acute techno-fear, and we begin to see a pattern emerge.  The most egregious example of this is Live Free or Die Hard; but it can also be found to a lesser extent in Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (a work of utter blasphemy), The Dark Knight Rises, The Expendables, and Red to name a few.  The biggest difference between Skyfall taking the plunge and the others is because there were functional reasons for each above and beyond just the plotline.  For some movies, it’s a function of the franchise star himself getting too old to do it and must therefore pass on the mantle in order for the franchise to live on.  In others, it’s because the director and/or star is bowing out of the series, and it allows a more poignant and understandable exit for the whole series as we know it.  And for yet still others, the entire premise surrounds the notion of persons too old or too forgotten to be taken seriously enough.  The thing about James Bond is that the precedent has been set up where a young-ish actor can take over at any point in the series.  It’s possible that Daniel Craig is signed on for ‘x’ number of sequels, but given the history of Connery and Roger Moore, there was no real impetus for explaining away Craig’s craggy and rugged middle-aged appearance.
Murtaugh and Bond: "Too old for this shit"
          And going back to the mention of techno-fear, Skyfall falls prey to a movie cliché as old as personal computers in movies themselves.  The writer (and by extension, the director) view computers and computing language as magic; where symbols, pictures, animation, and other nonsense take the place of actual hacking, programming, and even the foundations of an operating system.  This reviewer isn’t sure if it is that the people creating the movie are tech-retarded, or if they just think the moviegoing public is too daft to take cues from the dialog about what’s happening on a screen.  Frankly, this reviewer finds it demeaning in a way that few other tropes in movies can be.  If you’ve seen Hackers and its Technicolor nightmare depiction of what hacking is and does, you then understand the complete break from reality that happens on computer monitors in Skyfall.
Computers... as seen through the eyes of Hollywood
          One last strange move by this film, and the reviewer should note, SPOILERS are in yon paragraph… this movie makes a lot of unnecessary moves to sew up canon.  A longtime debate amongst Bond movie fans was whether or not each actor portraying James Bond was in fact portraying the same person.  That is to say that there is a theory floating around that the name ‘James Bond’ is a code name just as ‘007’ is… and that Connery, Moore, Craig, etc. are actually playing different men who all happen to be code name ‘James Bond’.  Skyfall diminishes that theory (but doesn’t entirely extinguish it); we know that Daniel Craig’s real name is James Bond.  What we don’t know, technically, is if the other actors assume that mantle or they are playing the same guy.
          But enough of complaints and theory.  Let’s take a look at what actually qualifies Skyfall as a Man Movie.  The fact that this is a James Bond movie automatically confers Honorary Man Movie status.  Some of the Bond movies are pretty horrible.  Some of the pretty horrible Bond movies are pretty damn entertaining; but that doesn’t give all of them an automatic MMG pass.  This one, however, had all the markings of a good action movie on top of the Bond brand and mystique.
Also part of the Bond brand and mystique
          The action sequences in this movie are pretty unrestrained.  The chases have a floaty feel to them that diminish their impact, but the fights and the destruction have a visceral feel to them that more than makes up for everything else.
          Javier Bardem got this reviewer thinking that he should legitimately contend for all the major acting awards as a Bond villain (unprecedented, but warranted).  He managed to encompass everything the character was about:  devious and a slave to obsession, unbalanced and a badass.
          Overall, this title is a very solid movie.  It continues the trend of lacking the hi-tech trappings of previous Bond titles; instead focusing on Bond as an operative more than a novelty-wielding dandy.  Overlooking the play-it-again themes and events of the film, we are presented here with a refined take on the super spy film… directed finally by someone with a gorgeous and artistic eye and sense of pacing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Not Quite There: The Man With The Iron Fists

Going For It:
  • Fairly bloody
  • Doesn't take itself too seriously
  • Created by a true kung-fu film devotee
  • It might convince some people to dig deeper and find a really good kung-fu movie?
  • RZA
The Case Against:
  • So quick of a pace that most of the movie fails to keep up
  • Half of a movie, that should be a trilogy, masquerading as whole
  • Not enough cameos
  • Not enough true kung-fu film fighting
  • RZA
MMG Says:

RZA is a beautiful, beautiful man.  He has legitimately changed the landscape of music from his Wu-Tang days.  We are not going to take anyone seriously who says otherwise.  He was a delight in his Jim Jarmusch acting roles and on Chappelle's Show.  He is also a real, true fan of kung-fu movies, and seems to take from them the best of what there is to take from them. However:

1) He should NOT be an acting lead under any circumstances other than a Bobby Digital road movie or something like that

2) It is questionable whether he should be directing anything (jury's still out for the moment)

3) While it's possible to tell that he's a true fan of kung-fu movies, the fighting has more in common with any 2000s-era generic action film than anything from Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest

So what is left from a kung-fu movie that only allows shadowy glimpses of wire work and fighting styles named after animals and eschews balletic orchestrated bouts of fisticuffs?  Plenty... in fact, way too much.  This movie has some brilliant ideas behind it, and some very colorful characters.  Having a town run by animal-based clans that are constantly warring? Fantastic!  But why not actually show them really having it out against each other?  And why tease us with a fucking bird man if you're only going to show him for 15 seconds?!  The Gemini Killers? Great, old-school idea.  But how about a little hint of backstory?!  Brass Body?  Very cool.  But maybe throw us a fucking bone about how he turns into metal.  Oh, and Lucy Liu's cadre? A nice bit of an admittedly inconsequential twist... except that we have no idea why they are doing the twisting!  Explain shit to us!

Here's the problem: this movie was mangled.  It's unclear if this is a RZA or Eli Roth problem, notes from the studio, or the result of test audiences imposing their ADHD all over the place.  What is clear is that RZA and Roth were unsure they'd every have the opportunity again to take the studio money and run with a martial arts movie... so they crammed it with dozens of great ideas and characters and moments, and sensible Western updates to countless classic kung-fu tropes.  Whether though it found its way to the cutting room floor, or just the pink butt end of a pencil during a rewrite, there is another half of a movie lurking around somewhere.  Everything was just so partially conceived or poorly explained that there is no doubt in our mind that the explanation exists somewhere.  This is not a case of depicting archetypes and scenarios from old school movies and we're just expected to go with it; it is very apparent just from the pacing and certain ineffable qualities that what we are watching is not whole.  Hell, this is likely 3 or 4 movies even... and what we are left with is a tame smile, a couple chuckles, and an empty feeling as to how this movie really could have been and meant something.


P.S. We hate to be a broken record.  This site isn't called the Titty Movie Guide or anything.  But how the hell is it that much of the movie takes place in a brothel, and there is an extended scene of multiple couples having sex, and we don't get so much as one single boob or butt cheek?  This movie has numerous spurting decapitations... they couldn't finagle one damn nipple?!

P.P.S. The ad campaign of having multiple hip and unconventional posters was a great idea.  We think this might be one of the best movie posters we've ever seen:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not Quite There: Hell Comes to Frogtown

Going For It:
  • Wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
  • Frog people with decent make-up/costumes
  • That's about it...
The Case Against:
  • Severely uneven tone for the protagonist in the writing
  • Severely dull
  • Severely disappointing
MMG Says:

While we are a proud people here at the Man Movie Guide, we are not afraid or ashamed to admit when we were wrong.  This is one of those instances.  You will have noticed that some time back we posted, on its lonesome, the trailer for 'Hell Comes to Frogtown'.  In MMG-ese, that is our way of saying that we approve of that movie and that it qualifies as a true Man Movie up for review on down the road.

Let us set the stage for you:  Post apocalyptic.  Starring Roddy Piper, wrestling legend and pitch perfect star of MMG favorite 'They Live'.  The protagonist is named Sam Hell, one of the few times we endorse a cute/clever character name.  Sam is an exceedingly rare fertile man in a world that consists only of the following: fertile women, desert wasteland, fertile women, mutant frog people, and fertile women.  Sam is contracted by the government to begin repopulating civilization.  This, dear reader, is a can't-fucking-lose proposition... right?  Not so.  Not so.

The movie starts off nicely enough.  Piper is detained for a crime before the movie begins.  In the initial few scenes he is a wisecracking jokester; and while not every line hits its mark, it is a very good indication that we are getting our hands on the one-liner wisenheimer brand of action hero in this movie.  Only this never really happens.  The viewer must slog through an entire movie as bare and bereft of life as its arid backdrop. The action is few and far between, fairly somnambulent, and Piper doesn't do quite the ass-kicking job that we'd come to expect from either the ring or 'They Live'.  Piper's character even loses his charm pretty quickly; as his 'sit-on-it-and-spin' attitude largely falls prey to a messianic mope routine with occasional bouts of slapstick (centering around his genitals in an electric chastity belt and his ability to cross his eyes... which is oddly not related to his balls' predicament).

As for the supporting cast, it's a mixed bag.  We get a super butch/fairly attractive commando who shows off her tits while escorting Piper.  And if you have a thing for Katey Sagal, then perhaps you can make a case for watching the movie, since there are extended scenes of her bordering-on-malnourished doppelganger prancing around in assorted lingerie.  Then we have poor Rory Calhoun, who genuinely looked and sounded like his handlers had to unhook his oxygen tank between takes (he seemed so close to death that we actually had to check on the proximity of this movie to his actual demise... and astonishingly he held on for another 11 years, and worked another 5).  Lastly, there are the frogs.  There isn't a whole lot to say about them, except that looking at them was one of the scant pleasures this reviewer got from the movie.

This movie, like so many others that fall short, failed to achieve true Man Movie status because it tried to walk in both the light and the dark.  If it resorted to Lloyd Kaufman (Troma) antics?  We have ourselves a winner.  If it went the route of all the killer action movies of the 80s, the Golden Age of the one-liner action film, and focused more on making Piper an ass-kicker who always says something droll after offing a frog? We'd worship it as a direct-to-video masterpiece.  Instead we're left with a movie that gets a passing grade only because we're proud they tried.

Friday, November 2, 2012

“You Shoot Zombies Where Now?” or Do We Need a New Paradigm?

The zombie genre in film, as we know it today, is now 43 years old (thanks to Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead).  Scientists estimate the number of zombie movies since 1968 at roughly 71,286,492.  It is statistically likely that three more will be made before you finish reading this article.  This then, begs the question, “Why don't the folks in zombie films know what a god damned zombie is?!”

Now I'm not going to pretend that I have seen every zombie film.  Many of you out there may be just as qualified on the subject, if not more so.  There could be some straight-to-video, big box, halfway decent zombie movie out there where the second the dead start coming back with a case of the munchies everyone just instinctively knows to plug them right between the eyes.  There could be dozens of movies where all people are well-informed on zombie dispatching methodology.  But there has yet to be a single one to have captured the imagination of the public...or even the rather hefty zombie nerd cabal.
The rather hefty zombie nerd cabal.  To be fair, the author looks just like this...

The modern vampire movie admittedly has something of a head start on zombie flicks.  But in that time, there have been several dalliances with aware characters handling nosferatu.  While people might be a bit slow to catch on, once it's been established that vampires are involved, people seem to know all the 'rules'.  And there're lots of them!  There are so many rules regarding vampires, that characters in movies will even fight over which ones are the correct ones (as in the vastly underrated From Dusk 'Til Dawn) or fall victim to believing some of the more agreed-upon rules, as in Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in My Neck (you know, “Oy vey! Have you got the wrong vampire.”)

When you think about it, the vampire expert is just as central to a vampire story oftentimes as the bloodsuckers themselves.  Reaching all the way back from the Bram Stoker original, there is a sizable vein of Van Helsing-type characters who will appear if only to inform everyone else of what to do and what not to do.
What not to do: Get bitten.

We certainly don't see much of that in zombie films.  The corollary may be the scientist figure that will conclude after half the population have become undead cannibals that these people may in fact, just possibly, might not be living people anymore.  At that point some revelation often comes in the form of a rough how-to in zombie killing. 

And the funniest thing about this all?  The guide to how to best quickly and definitively kill a zombie is an awful lot like how to best quickly and definitively kill a regular person.  Want to kill somebody real quick?  Shoot them in the head!  Want to make sure that someone doesn't recover? Burn them till there's nothing left!  We're not talking neurosurgery here.

The closest we've come to anyone actually knowing ahead of time what to do with a zombie is the farcical and hilarious Shaun of the Dead.  But even then, it took an overrun town and a whole record collection to understand what was truly going on.  You could try to argue that movies like Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead had resident zombie experts.  But, and this is a big but, those movies take place in a world where people ran around clueless for two movies before that.  Nobody ever sees it coming, and nobody ever accepts it even in the face of irrefutable evidence.
Nothing to see here. Things couldn't be more normal...

One of the many things that make zombies so captivating and terrifying can also be one of the most overdone and cliché devices in all of zombie movies.  You know what I'm talking about, when a character will watch their beloved boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/bartender/softball coach get bitten, spew gore from every conceivable orifice, go limp and die, only to come back up with that fogged-over thousand-yard-stare and inhuman gurgling snarl.  And what does the character do when watching their brutally maimed loved one creep towards them hungrily like a fat person towards a Krispy Kreme?  Why, they run right into the zombie's arms; and when those arms start digging into flesh, all the character can muster is, “Why are you doing this?  It's me, Johnny So-And-So!”  Even if I didn't know what a zombie was, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be looking to embrace my mom if I just saw her get chewed up by a skeletal corpse to the point where she looked like a run-over squirrel.

And so we come to the point where it's fair to ask: “Do we need a new paradigm?”  Do we need a zombie expert to hear one report of suburban cannibalism before he or she successfully forewarns anybody willing to listen?  I would argue yes.  And I would also argue no.  Over 40 years into the genre, I think it's safe to write characters that exist in a world where zombie fiction or lore exists prior to the latest radioactive accident/spellbook read/grave disturbed/Voodoo curse.  But, then again, 71,286,495 zombie movies now exist... and yet, we're still watching... and we're still amused.

Friday, October 26, 2012

MMG's Guide to Cheap Halloween Costumes

Hello there, slackers!  Another October has come and nearly gone, and you still don't have your Halloween costume.  Well fret not!  We are here to turn your closet into a costume that will get you high-fives all night (maybe even down there).

Of course, we are assuming that if you're reading this website, you don't have just a nice suit and black tie... which would give you all sorts of options: Jules and Vince from Pulp Fiction, any of the Reservoir Dogs, a Blues Brother, and so forth.

Now for your sartorial pleasure, our suggestions:

The Warriors - one of the Orphans

What you need: A grubby green t-shirt, blue jeans

Bonus if you get: A wonky eye

Last Action Hero - Jack Slater

What you need: A red t-shirt, blue jeans, big belt buckle, brown jacket, cowboy boots

Bonus if you get: Steroids, Austin O'Brien (trust us, he's not doing anything he can't cancel for your Halloween party)

They Live - Nada

What you need: A flannel shirt, blue jeans, sunglasses, a mullet (or a mullet wig if you lack dignity)

Bonus if you get: To uncover an actual conspiracy

Happy Gilmore - Happy Gilmore

What you need: A red t-shirt, a flannel shirt, a golf club or hockey stick

Bonus if you get: Umm... an alligator would be pretty cool! Right, guys?

The Big Lebowski - Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski
What you need: A grey t-shirt, a grey hoodie, board shorts, flip flops, a white russian (or you could go the more played-out bathrobe route)

Bonus if you get: If you can pull off the hair and beard for this costume, you get your bonus when, after Halloween, you shave and get a job, sir!

And remember fellas, if you're feeling really lazy, you can just go with a white tank top.  You can claim all sorts of characters that way!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ghana Movie Posters

          So we've decided to take a little break from original content to be lazy.  What we're giving you instead are some amazing works of art!  These little beauties are hand-painted promotional posters for movies in the African nation of Ghana.  If you'd like to learn more about how this little incidental art movement started up, look at another site (no really, there are several resources available on the interwebs!).  Probably the best place to look is where we found many of these pictures, Ghana Movie Posters... you can even buy some of the originals there!

          And since Halloween is just around the corner, we thought we'd select a few with a more-horror-than-Man-Movie slant... but most of them are pretty damn manly.

Images also found on Visual News and iO9

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Should Be...: The Savage Sword of Conan

So here at MMG, we are big up on Conan.  He's essentially everything you want from an anti-hero... he's a thief, a murderer, a drinker, and a lech.  He's cunning and deceitful.  But he's strong as shit, abides by his own honorable code, is fiercely loyal to his friends, and treats women well despite his indiscriminate wanting of fuck-making.

In the 1970s, Marvel Comics did a fantastic series of comics in black and white, and often in what looked like a magazine more than a comic, for Conan.  Every single frame and cover looked ripe for the side of a van.  The series was later collected and printed as big paperbacks by Dark Horse Comics.  They are very much worth a read.

What we're getting at is this.  Between the novels by Howard and the comics, there is an absolute treasure trove of barbarian epicry (we just made up that word to explain how awesome these stories are) fit for numerous and varied iterations of Conan on the silver screen.  The first Arnold movie was very successful; to the point that they made a sequel.  This last one was a pretty major flop, and unfortunately will prove to be a major studio deterrent for any re-imagining anytime soon.  But with the right lead and the right story, Conan really has the potential for a long-running series the same way James Bond is still up and running... or even the same way that there were 4 (and counting) Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Here is a page from the comics, so you know what we're getting at here.  You should check them out...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Conan the Barbarian

Note: Conan the Barbarian is the most recent film to take on the classic Robert E. Howard character popularized in film by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  However, this reviewer will not do any comparison work to the older iterations of the films, the serial novels, or any of the numerous comic book versions.  This movie will be reviewed on its own merits.

          Conan the Barbarian does a number of things very well straight out of the gates to let the viewer know that they are in store for a Man Movie.  The movie starts with a small narration from a surprise gravitas-imbued actor.  We then see Conan born, cut by a sword out of his mother’s womb on the battlefield… because she is badass, his father is badass (the ever-present  and awesome Ron Perlman), and we need a reason to know Conan is badass even as an infant.  The next scene goes on to show a child Conan out-badassing basically everyone ever ever.  Point of the story is: Conan is a badass.  That is all.
          In fact, in an odd decision, the first 30 minutes of the movie are Conan as a child.  The actor playing young Conan doesn’t really have much of a handle on how to be a badass (how many kids really do?) so he plays the character with the same low-slung scowl as the kid down the street who tortures squirrels.  While we were all rightfully fearful of our own primary school psychos, it’s pretty safe to say that none of them grew up to wield a hot topless woman in one hand and a gigantic sword in another… while carrying a full tankard of ale hanging from their mammoth cock.
Little Conan has been making blowtorches from aerosol can in the woods again...
          That said, the obviously well-Man Movie-informed writers and director pulled a couple more textbook maneuvers to help set the tone of the movie.  Firstly, they showed that they weren’t afraid to show some blood and gore.  When someone gets nailed by a sword or arrow, there are spurts… not fountains on the level of a 70s Japanese samurai film, but good enough.  There is also a fantastic mini-motif of nose mutilation, and an instance of someone head-butted with a severed head (we know, that’s awesome).  The filmmakers also introduce us to the antagonist’s minions very early on in one of the classic roll call styles, wherein each has a featured fight sequence during one of the first battles.  This ably sets up multiple villains with personality, that the viewer has an emotional stake in seeing fight and die.
          The titular barbarian is respectably played by Jason Momoa, or as he’s better known, the guy on Game of Thrones who keeps talking about a horse fucking things*.  Respectably only because Momoa never really pans out as a leading man; he is far too brooding and understated for his star to burn bright enough.  But the rest of the movie is strong enough to carry him through.  The movie succeeds in having multiple well-done fights, including two good monster scenes, despite one of them being an almost seemingly-requisite octopus creature.  It also has a fantastic trick riding horse-chase scene where even the extras are rad and doing stuff like jumping 180 degrees around on their saddle in order to shoot people with arrows.
Fantasy movies need octopus fights like 80s beat-em-up games need an elevator level.
          But there are letdowns and disappointments in the movie as well.  There is a strong promise of continued nudity towards the beginning of the film, where it seems as though every young and attractive actress will be performing sans-blouse.  But that doesn’t hold and we’re only treated to a pair again just prior to the start of the third act.  Along those same lines, one of the two main bad guys is Rose McGowan as a witch.  Her character likely would have been best served as a sort of evil sexpot, but she is instead in heavy makeup and a baldcap with no eyebrows in order to make her look foreign and sinister (and if that weren’t enough boner repellant, there is a creepy implied incest scene thrown in as well).  And there is an uncalled-for tonal shift for an oddly tender love scene that comes off as lip service to whatever wives and girlfriends were dragged to the movie; it plays like a Playgirl/Red Shoe Diaries moment and allows the audience a glimpse of Momoa’s chiseled posterior.
Dear Rose, Thank you for giving our penis nightmares.
          All told, however, this movie was a fantastic surprise.  It shows heavy evidence of studio suit tampering, and was a pretty significant box office flop.  But this movie has strong writing and direction, combined with a cast mostly able to handle the material… not to mention a time-tested character who largely stays true to his roots.  Conan says at one point, “I live, I love, I slay… and I am content.”  So are we, big guy, so are we…

* There are actually a couple Conan alums in Game of Thrones.  It is sometimes a bit distracting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Not Quite There: Drive Angry

Going For It:

  • A movie about someone who escapes from hell in a muscle car to shoot the shit out of people
  • Female lead, Amber Heard, is literally just a walking Maxim spread, replete with witty banter and cut-off jean shorts
  • Features the music of T-Rex, Unkle, and Peaches
  • Muscle cars
  • Car chases
  • Violent bloody deaths
  • Satanists
  • One-liners
  • Shot for 3D for maximum in-your-face Xtreme-ness©
  • Tits
The Case Against:

  • We at MMG are Nicolas Cage apologists, but even that has its limits...
  • No movie hero, especially an anti-hero, should be called Milton through the whole movie (we don't care if it is a last name!)
  • Did we mention that the movie hero, who escapes hell, is named John Milton?!  Yeah, real subtle...
  • The music is jarring and distracting, often with little-to-no place in the scene it's played
  • 3D Xtreme-ness© isn't pulled off very well
  • Terribly written
  • The tits belong to a busted ex-stripper type
MMG Says...

So many people are quick to rip on Nic Cage.  We here at MMG will eventually convince you otherwise; he was brilliant in Adaptation, and far more than capable in MMG-favorites The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. This movie, however, will not convert you to the Church of Cage (which, coincidentally, is on one of his private islands).  He is dreadful in this movie: mostly he drawls sleepily through his lines as if he were just shoved onto the set from his trailer while still in the middle of a Quaalude haze.  His delivery lives on another planet from the other actors, the script itself, and even the scenarios he is put in.  Other times his actions are stilted, jerky, and sudden with no pacing whatsoever, such as when he creepily mouth-rapes a once-raring-to-go diner waitress.  It's difficult to tell if he picked this role and this movie and this acting style for any reason other than to further his own legend as an eccentric with no real place on film.  Mission accomplished, Mister Cage. Mission accomplished.

The movie itself is written a pair of fellers (one of whom doubles as director) who knew they wanted to make a Man Movie.  Unfortunately for us, the viewers, their resume features a lot of dreck with the same failings.  Their heart seems to be consistently in the right place, and we as lovers of all things Man Movie laud  any return to grindhouse, exploitation, and cheeseball horror... the problem is that they are just not very talented.

And so we find ourselves with a movie full of ripe premises and promising situations, that falls completely flat.  This could have been the movie that every father would show to their sons on their 13th birthday.  Instead, this is just another 90+ minutes relegated for an eternity of dollar bins at Wal-Mart and liquidations at video stores everywhere.

One last plea to the writers, Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier.  Guys, we get it.  You like Stephen King and Sam Raimi.  You think you're clever for being able to work in a wink and nod to an epic poem about the devil and the fall of man.  But do us a fucking favor and don't name your characters King, Raimi, and Milton.  It's pretty sophomoric, and that's saying something... considering what your movie is about.

Monday, September 24, 2012

GIFs: Death Race 2000

Tonight we look back on a truly bizarre and amazing movie, and our first review: Death Race 2000!

Manly as fuck...

All intros should look like this...

Bye Bye, baby...Hello seventy points...

NOW don't you want to see it?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not Quite There: Dredd 3D

Going For It:

  • Not the Sylvester Stallone/Rob Schneider vehicle
  • Good balance between one-liners and violence
  • Decent writing
  • Couple 'splosions
  • 3D because it was actually originally intended for 3D; not some crappy post-conversion
  • Managed to explain away the gorgeous slow-motion sequences by way of a street drug called "Slo Mo"

The Case Against:

  • For being a violent, jokey romp of a movie... really rather joyless
  • The bad guy was nearly completely generic and bland
  • Despite over-the-top source material and an R-rating, it did not get ultraviolent enough
  • Suffering for lack of nudity (see R-rating comment above)

MMG Says...

Dredd 3D is based, like the Stallone disaster, on a British comic about a cop in a dystopian future America in which overcrowding forces the police to act as judge, jury, and executioner with no real due process.  This  backdrop, combined with an R-rating, really should have meant consistent over-the-top violence in glorious 3D.

The biggest problem with this movie was that it suffered from something of an identity crisis.  It was almost as if it were purposefully toned down to try to get a PG-13 and appeal to more people.  There were moments where, in slow-motion, body parts rippled and exploded from bullet wounds and droplets of blood flew through the third dimension straight into the audience's popcorn-burdened laps.  And then there were the wasted opportunities; the moments where limbs would explode but wouldn't really be shown off, or the moments where sex was shown in the most abstract and oblique ways with nary a nipple or buttock.  

The movie really had only one option: fully embrace, even bear hug, the source material and the camp factor.  They should have reveled in the notion that they didn't have to do a whole lot of explaining: future cop, has to shoot stuff for his job, too many people, life worth less...we get it!  To have performed its shootout through the mega-slums with the same sort of zest or zeal of a Machete or a Planet Terror, it would have punched its own golden ticket into the hearts of countless viewers (of course it would have put off just as many people... but better to be loved and loathed than completely forgotten).  Instead, the movie was nearly as muted, dingy, and tepid as its color palette.

Another big waste was with the setting.  The idea, and this really isn't a spoiler, is that Dredd has to fight his way up the levels of a mega-slum the size of Wilmington (yes, really).  In setting things up, the movie shows off a handful of colorful gangs (this reviewer guesses they are from the comic) that controlled the different sections of the building (the slum is all one massive building).  Apart from a montage, however, they don't show off the other gangs.  This could have been a vertical The Warriors... but no.  The reason for this, is that they don't exist anymore... they were all wiped out by the Mama Gang.

Yes, the bad guys are the Mama Gang.  Yes, the leader of the gang is named Mama.  Yes, the word Mama sounds so juvenile that this reviewer cringed every time he heard it uttered.  No, Mama was not cool.  You would think with a name like that, she would either be some absurdly obese woman barking orders while spitting up chunks of fried chicken, or at least an actress in heavy prosthesis to make her look ancient.  Instead what we get is Lena Headey, nonchalantly limping through scene after scene.  She is supposed to be maniacal and bad-ass, but the delivery was flaccid and she didn't have a catch phrase or M.O. for hurting people that set her apart from anything whatsoever.  There were several extras with more pop that were more memorable than the main villain; that's never a good sign.

That all being said, the movie is not by any stretch of the imagination a bad movie.  It was entertaining, if a tad too long.  It was fun, and not entirely forgettable.  There are some very good sequences and visuals that you will not see in any other movie.  Karl Urban, the titular Dredd, pulls off a very admirable performance that had to be done through a silly-looking helmet while still looking and acting tough.  This reviewer enjoyed the movie.  It was pretty good, it was just not quite there...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not Quite There: A Primer

Later this week we are launching a new feature on the site called "Not Quite There" ...

The Man Movie Guide team watches a ton of movies in order to cull the best ones for review on the site.  It takes a lot to be a real Man Movie... as our "So what IS a Man Movie?" can attest to.  So that means that a vast percentage of the movies we watch for the express purpose of review on the site are abandoned because they're not up to snuff.

Our guide is a heavily curated one, and a lot of man hours (pun intended) are put into finding just the right movies for a full-on review.  Well we can now think of a few big problems with the way things have worked up until now:

1) You might be curious about a movie and just assume we haven't seen it.  Well guess what? WE HAVE!  Now we can tell you where things go right and things go wrong with the whole thing.

Going right....

2) In the conceivable near future we will be asked to review movies by filmmakers and/or studios.  What if the movie's not good enough?  We're not gonna just be nice and call it a Man Movie because we watched it for the site.  We don't care about anybody's feelings, but we do like free movies and/or money.  So now we have a way of espousing a movie without fully endorsing it.

3) One of the worst things about some of these bad or almost-bad movies is the time taken from the running counter of life that we will never get added back.  So bad enough 'Movie X' isn't worthy of a true Man Movie review, but now we don't even get a posting out of it?  Frankly, we think that's bullshit.  We are lazy people.  Why should we have to sit through 12 hours of film in order to get one review when we can sit through just an hour and a half?!

'Movie X'

And there you have it, our idea for "Not Quite There".  The way it will be laid out is as follows:

- Movie Title (that's the name of the movie)
- Trailer (so you can see said movie in action-ish)
- "Going For It" (a list of the pros for this movie as a Man Movie and anything else notably good in it)
- "The Case Against" (a list of what is holding it back from being a true Man Movie)
- "MMG Says..." (a recap of the movie and any relevant information)

As always, we are mad scientists with the site and even our own posts.  If you have any feedback, we would love to hear it.

Vaya con dios!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Screenshot #2

Who can guess this one?

Hint #1 : This is London
Hint #2: 90s. And you've totally seen it.
Hint #3: Contains the letter A in the title

Monday, September 10, 2012

Should Be...: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

There is a classic 16-bit game (Genesis, SNES) just itching...not just for a sequel... but also for a movie to be made of it.  The game is absolutely worth hunting down (downloadable on the Wii).  A movie would be pretty awesome; in the vein of Monster Squad and The Goonies, with a bit of Home Alone thrown in.

Picture reposted from VGJunk

Sunday, September 9, 2012

GIF: Black Caesar

One badass GIF from Black Caesar's boss montage, and then on to more movies, more reviews, and a couple new features:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fake Criterions for Man Movies


We at MMG love the tumblr Fake Criterions.  Here are some of our favorites for Man Movies.  Check out the rest at their site: