Total Recall

Total Recall: Who’s the Man?

We count down 10 of our favorite movie Men.

by | April 30, 2008 | Comments

This week, the long-awaited Iron Man storms theaters. Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges also star, but Robert Downey Jr. is the man of the hour, playing Tony Stark and the titular armor-plated superhero. Thus, we at RT thought it would be a good time to run through some memorable flicks with Man in their titles.

First, some ground rules. We decided against loading up the list with superheroes, so there’s no Batman, no Spider-Man, and no Blankman. Secondly, we decided to go with movies that end with “man,” so don’t get all bent out of shape over the fact that The Man with the Golden Gun and The Man with Two Brains didn’t make the cut. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite Men!

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10. Encino Man
(14%)A caveman (Brendan Fraser) caught in a prehistoric avalanche is thawed out by a high school dweeb (Sean Astin), waking up to a radically different California filled with sun, babes, and Pauly Shore. Astin cleans up the caveman and figures hanging out this exotic character will improve his social standing, only to find the girl of his dreams falling for Fraser. Bummer! Riding the wave of good vibes and MTV-style
bodaciousness cresting at the time of its release, Encino Man is an undemanding comedy that milks early ’90s SoCal culture for all it’s worth.

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9. Demolition Man
(61%)
Imagine a future where a ghastly event known as the Franchise Wars has left only one fast food chain standing. Where doing your business in the bathroom turns into an ordeal involving three seashells. Where human contact is so reviled that even high-fives are things of comedic beauty.
It’s going to take a particular kind of man — a demolition man, if you will — to shake things up. Enter Sylvester Stallone as John Spartan, a cop awakened in the future after a long cryogenic sleep to stop a maniacal crook (Wesley Snipes). And he’ll do it the only way he knows how. You are a savage creature, John Spartan!

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8. The Omega Man
(61%)In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Charlton Heston starred in a series of sci fi films that found mankind in a state of disarray; specifically, man vs. ape (Planet of the Apes), worldwide famine (Soylent Green), and in The Omega Man, the end of humankind. Heston stars as a man who has survived a deadly plague that has wiped out the rest of the population — save for some scary mutants. If it looks dated today, The Omega Man‘s eerie themes continue to permeate sci fi and horror flicks – most notably, the Will Smith-toplined I Am Legend from last year.

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7. The Running Man
(63%)1980s sci-fi was unusually prescient. Blade Runner dissected eroding humanity, and Robocop briefly delved into the pervasiveness of advertisements. The Running Man depicts a world whose voracious appetite for violence and titillation leads to sadistic game shows. Sound familiar? Here, Arnold Schwarznegger stars as a wrongly convicted man forced to run a televised gauntlet of traps and killer combatants. With its macho 1980s swagger and non-stop scenery chewing, The Running Man is about as subtle as a game of Smash TV. But it is cheesy fun, and we’ll take this kind of abuse over Moment of Truth‘s emotional torture porn any day.

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6. Cinderella Man
(80%)What can be more rousing than a good boxing movie? Starring Russell Crowe as James “Cinderella Man” Braddock, a Depression-era boxer reduced to hanging around the docks for work, Ron Howard‘s movie makes little attempt to break the formula, right down to the comeback kid theme and singled-out villainous boxer. But Crowe hands in a reliably captivating role as the down (but not out) pugilist. And don’t forget Paul Giamatti‘s stunning performance as Braddock’s coach!

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5. Inside Man
(86%)It was practically the last thing anyone expected a Spike Lee Joint to be: a genre heist picture. However, with Inside Man, Lee managed to craft one of the most memorable thrillers of recent years, and it was his biggest commercial hit to boot. Clive Owen stars as Dalton Russell, a man with the perfect scheme to rob a Manhattan bank. But the establishment’s president (Christopher Plummer) has something inside he really doesn’t want to get out, so he calls in a fixer (Jodie Foster) to make sure his assets are protected. Meanwhile, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) tries to untangle a plot that grows more complex — and tense — until virtually everything has been upended. Copping riffs from Sidney Lumet‘s classic Dog Day Afternoon, Lee still finds plenty of room for political commentary, tackling racial profiling, post-9/11 anxiety, and violent video games without sacrificing an iota of suspense.

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4. Rain Man
(89%)Raymond isn’t a superhero, but he does have super powers: a staggering memory and a knack for counting. But he certainly can’t fly (that is, of course, unless he takes Qantas). The Best Picture winner of 1988 stars Tom Cruise as a car dealer/hustler who learns a thing or two about life from his autistic savant brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Not everyone was charmed; a number of critics, Pauline Kael included, felt Hoffman’s performance was an example of one-note stunt acting. Still, Hoffman had the last laugh, picking up a little gold man (a.k.a. an Oscar) for Best Actor.

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3. The Elephant Man
(91%) 

Taglines don’t get much better than “I am not an animal! I am a humanbeing! I…am…a man!” Born with grotesque facial and cranial deformities, what John Merrick lacks in physical beauty, he more than makes up for with inner spirituality and an open mind. John Hurt stars as Merrick, who we first see as a sideshow freak and, throughout David Lynch‘s movie, we see him open up and attempt to institutionalize himself into society. There was no Oscar for Best Make-Up in place when The Elephant Man came out, but the stunning work by the film’s technician prompted the Academy to create the category for the 1981 ceremony.Video

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2. Grizzly Man
(93%)Werner Herzog‘s filmography is filled with men who wage losing battles with nature. One of the saddest (simply because it’s true) is Grizzly Man, a doc on bear-lover and cohabitator Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell lived in Alaska among his beloved grizzlies for 13 summers — until he and his girlfriend were attacked and killed by one of them. Herzog utilizes Treadwell’s stunning, magisterial footage of the bears and the Alaska wilderness to tell the story of a man who has divided audiences since the film’s release: was Treadwell a tireless devotee and champion of the natural world, or was he just plain nuts? As with many of Herzog’s films, there are no easy answers; as the German master says during Grizzly‘s voiceover, “I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature.”

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1. Repo Man
(97%)”An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.” So intones Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a wise sage of the repossession game, in Alex Cox‘s cult classic Repo Man. One of the most bizarre tales ever committed to celluloid, Repo Man stars
Emilio Estevez as a young punk rocker who, in the course of day’s work repossessing cars, comes into contact with rival repo men, the Circle Jerks, and a deadly secret in the trunk of a 1964 Chevy Malibu. Plus, it’s hard not to love a movie with an exchange like this: “Let’s go do some crimes.” “Yeah, let’s go get sushi and not pay!”

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Honorable Mention: Dog
Star Man
The six-part Dog Star Man is probably the late, greak avant-gardist Stan Brakhage‘s best-known work, and it’s a strange, trippy marvel; its fuzzy images include Brakhage climbing a mountain, his newborn child, and abstract paintings that were crafted directly on the film stock. Its rapid-fire editing and dreamlike imagery have exerted a powerful influence on music video, commercial, and Hollywood directors alike (check out the phantasmagoric ending to Kubrick’s 2001 and the scratchy, jumpy opening credits of David Fincher‘s Seven for examples). As a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Brakhage counted South Park-ers Matt Stone and Trey Parker among his students; he returned the favor by appearing in their debut, Cannibal! The Musical. He may not have been a superhero, but Stan Brakhage was still the man.

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Dishonorable Mention:

The Man, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, which at 11 percent on the Tomatometer is decidedly not the man.

And finally, we thought we’d include one more classic clip to whet your appetite for Friday’s big release. Enjoy!

 

 

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