Netflix Notes – “Man Crush” Edition

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As this decade of enlightenment comes to an end, mankind has made one final mark to show that we’ve come a long way from the starched, buttoned up white collar wastelands of a quarter-decade past. Nowadays, every straight dude is in a Bromance or holding hard to a Man Crush and completely fine with it.

For some it’s a beloved sports figure – with studs like Rocco Baldelli or Tom Brady currying favor with the dudes. Others look to the world of television and share a bizarre infatuation with Zach Braff, who is so femme that I’m not sure it rates as a Man Crush. (I’m not naming names here).

Me? I fixed eyes on the greatest action import of the last 10 years and fell head-over-heels. Read on to find out more.

1.   W.
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[movie 4.0]
I’m not going to write too much about the plot other than it is a fairly restrained portrait of Dubya from a dude (Oliver Stone) who doesn’t usually express such restraint. In that vein, it’s a fair and balanced view of a fairly ordinary guy, dogged by some basic family and self-confidence issues, who chooses to exorcise those demons on a global scale at the world’s expense.

If anything, Stone and Josh Brolin do a decent job of humanizing Bush and now, more than ever, do I see him as a willing puppet to some Machiavellian forces – most notably, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss). Bush seems like a likeable guy – not nearly the dimwit we sometimes perceived him to be. So, while’s he’s no dummy, he’s not Presidential material. But, he did have a charisma, and a family name, that the Republicans could trade on and that proved irresistable.

Ultimately, W. is a dark comedy, a satire slightly watered down by the fact we were laughing at some of this madness years ago. To that end, this sometimes comes across as an old joke. We’ve heard this one before. But, that shouldn’t take away from the masterful job that Brolin does in bring Dubya to life. His impression is uncanny and there are times when he completely disappears in the role but Brolin goes beyond simple parody. Like I said at the beginning, he humanizes Bush, which these days is no easy task.

2.   Death Race
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[movie 3.5]
I seem to have a Man Crush on Jason Statham. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s the one action hero who I feel I could actually emulate. I may not have the martial arts moves but at least we share the same hairline.

In the last month, I’ve been working my way through a stable of Statham’s Greatest Hits. I already covered Crank and have The Transporters coming below. And of course, there’s this flick, last summer’s remake of Death Race 2000.

This was a good competent action flick. Not a classic and not a tired retread. Just a cool little B-Movie with enough plot to get us from car chase to car chase. And it’s not exactly a note-for-note remake of the original.

That original Roger Corman produced flick was a satire on America’s lust for blood. Remarkably prescient, it predicted the reality TV craze by two decades with its tale of America’s Hottest TV show, Death Race, where viewers tuned in to watch a cross country race in which contestants raced each other while earning extra points by running down harmless pedestrians.

The new version sanitizes things – dropping the social commentary and simply offering up a retelling of The Running Man – with Statham placed in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and forced to race other prisoners on Pay-Per-View. The races themselves call to mind the classic Playstation game, Twisted Metal, with the combatants poured into heavily armed and armored muscle cars and set against each other in a race to the death.

Anyway, this was just a fun little action flick – the type of movie that will enjoy heavy rotation someday on SpikeTV.

3.   The Transporter
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[movie 3.5]
This was the flick that kicked it all off – the Statham obsession that is. I remembered a commercial years ago, during some random Pats game, where a doorbell rings and some villain’s flunky rises from the poker table to peer through a peephole. And there’s this crazed, mad, bald Brit doing a flying dropkick through the air –  dropping the door and the henchman in one fell swoop. That was a helluva’ introduction.

Anyway, this was always going to be one of my DVD flicks. I wouldn’t pony up $12 to see it in the theater but at home on a lazy Sunday seemed a good price. And then the years ticked by.

When I finally dove back into Netflix and started building my queue one Statham flick led to another and finally to this one – and that image jumped right back. It helped that over the years, a number of my guy friends have waxed poetic on the charms of Mr. Statham, so I knew The Transporter series would make it’s way onto the queue of Movies for this Guy Who Loves Movies.

Now, I would never call The Transporter a great movie but it is a good action flick and it satisfies that niche left vacant by Schwarzenegger and Stallone. It helps that I can understand Statham a helluva’ lot better than those mush mouths too. Plus, Statham does his own stunts and displays some mean martial arts prowess.

The problem with The Tranporter flicks is they are the brain child of French action auteur Luc Besson. Besson dreams up some killer characters, pairs them off with the best-of-the-best action choreographers on loan from Hong Kong and then muddies the mix by trying to inject sappy sentimentalism. He just can’t seem to help himself. So each one of his heroes has bizarre eccentricities. Statham’s Frank Martin isn’t so bad but he is paired with a snooping French detective who stumbles around as comic relief but really drags things to a halt.

Still, it’s not enough to ruin the action and this flick features some stunning sequences including one fight I have never seen before. Surrounded by men in a vacant bus depot, Frank knocks some conveniently places barrels of grease to the ground and proceeds to lather up. Strapping some bike pedals to his feet, he then proceeds to whale on 20 assailants who are slip, sliding away. That sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

4.   The Transporter 2
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[movie 1.0]
As good as The Transporter was, the Transporter 2 offers up ample evidence against unnecessary sequels. Everything is supposed to be bigger and better in a sequel, but there isn’t anything in this flick that trumps that grease fight from the first film. Add an unnecessary appearance by that Inspector Clouseau wannabe and this just feels like a cash grab.

Comments now closed (9)

  • I just watched Transporter 3 over the weekend. It is essentially Transporter 2, but still worth a rental to watch an hour and 40 minutes of fun action. At least the French guy wasn’t in this one so much as the first two, so that annoyance factor was way down.

    It also had a preview for Crank 2 and my feeling is that one follows the same formula as the first, just with a slight twist on how he keeps going. I imagine this will end up along the same lines as the Transporter sequels, which I am okay with, I will just rent.

    Lastly, the other good usage of grease/oil in a fight scene was that first battle in Shoot Em Up, but I agree, that fight in The Transporter was super cool.

  • I also watched Transporter 3 over the weekend. I thought it was better than 2 but not as good as 1 – but still, a decent Watch @ Home flick.

    And Crank 2 looks more insane than the first and yes, will be a Watch @ Home flick.

  • interesting flick I caught on MAX called Unknown. Stars Greg Kinnear and Jim Caviezel. Starts with a bunch of guys in a locked up warehouse none of them remember a thing but can tell some sort of crime is happening or has occured. Some are shot, injured, tied up, rope burns, etc. Pretty good flick, different approach. If you’re like me this is one for cable. There’s seeing it at the movies, rental and then cable. I guess Network television could be the last category. I saw a few bits of this first and then recorded it in full next time it came on in the middle of the night.

  • NOTE TO ALL – My DVR only recorded 1 minute of Lost so my recap will be late until I can track down another copy.

  • I think you can watch it in HD on abc.com the day after it airs. That or buy it on iTunes, but free is better.

  • I noticed this morning that it is up on XBox Live so I’m going to watch it via their streaming service this eve (I can’t watch TV on a computer – kills my eyes staring at the screen that long). I’ve got to pay something like $3 for it but so what. Anyway – my write up will be up Saturday am.

  • I’m in the market for a new man-crush. Watching Scrubs this week drove home your point. I don’t know if it was the femme or the puberty beard, but Zach is out.