I’m really tempted to call this Testosterone Tuesday. We have 300, Pathfinder and, hell, even Hot Fuzz, not to mention a Popeye boxed set from the thirties, before the sailor was domesticated. It’s not the best of weeks for chick flicks. No, this a week for digitally enhanced abs and pecs, recalling the theatrical summer of 2007, when the 18-24 male demographic was storming the local cineplexes.
300 (released in every format known to the universe) made about a gazillion dollars during its theatrical run, at least twenty bucks of which came from daughter Margeaux and myself. Like everybody else, we were sucked into the stylized visuals and only realized, when we compared notes the next day, that it was sorely lacking in storytelling. That doesn’t matter—it will make another gazillion dollars with the DVD release. The tragic potential is that Speedo sales may skyrocket if guys continue to take it seriously. Still, it registers an eleven on the manly man ten point scale.
No less manly, but more brutal in its violence is Pathfinder, directed by Marcus Nispel (2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake). Set in North America 500 years before Columbus “discovered” the New World, it played to very mixed reviews in its theatrical run. It’s the story of a Norseman abandoned by his clan and raised by Native Americans. When the Vikings return years later, bent on conquest, loyalties are tested, and bloodbaths ensue. It’s a historical fantasy laden with subliminal messages about European conquest and the like, none of which supplant the stark violence of the film.
The definitions of manliness have shifted in the centuries following 300 and Pathfinder, as evidenced by Hot Fuzz. From the makers of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz takes dead aim at the buddy cop genre, and rarely misses its satirical mark. Simon Pegg and company skewer the cop movie much the same way they did with the zombie movie, but with even more sure-footed results. Cameos and pop culture references abound in the surprisingly complex plot—enough so that you’ll want to view it at least a few times.
But if you really want to talk about manly men, you have to go to the source—the original superhero, who predated Superman and all the other johnny-come-latelies—the one, the only, the still undefeated Popeye the Sailor Man. I’m not talking about the masticated version swooning over Olyve Oyl, in white Navy dress and armed with flowers and candy, either. You want the real deal, you’ll have to check out Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938, Vol. 1. This four-disc collection from Warner Brothers Video, by arrangement with King Features Syndicate, features the first 60 cartoons made by the Fleischer Brothers, all restored to their black and white pristine glory, as well as a treasure trove of bonus material. For any student or fan of animation, this is a must-have.
There are quite a few other worthwhile releases this week, as detailed below. While you’re checking them out, I’m going to go pump some iron, and have an energy drink or two. You can never be too manly, you know.
300 (DVD, Blu-ray, HD DVD)
Angel of Death
Darkman (HD DVD)
Hot Fuzz (DVD, HD DVD)
Kung Fu Hustle (Axe-Kickin’ Edition)
Shooter (Blu-ray, HD DVD)
Terrorstorm: 2nd Edition
Dallas: The Complete Seasons 1-7
England My England: Tony Palmer’s Film about Henry Purcell
Hawaii Five –O: the Second Season
Looking for Langston
Rebus: Set Two
The Rhinemann Exchange
Sea of Love (HD DVD)
Sins within the Family
There Is a Secret in My Soup
Whole New Thing
Buddy Goes West
The Darwin Awards
Everything’s Gone Green
Get a Life
Hot Fuzz (DVD, Blu-ray, HD DVD)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Second Season
Shaun of the Dead (HD DVD)
The Spike Jones Story
Starter for 10
20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition
Babylon 5: The Lost Tales
Space: 1999 30th Anniversary Edition Megaset
Aoi and Mutsuki: A Pair of Queens
The Archie Show: The Complete Series
The Backyardigans: Into the Deep
Bleach, Vol. 5: The Substitute (Episodes 17-20)