Friday Fisticuffs: Close Range & Hard Target 2

close-rangeI’ve been a fan of Scott Adkins’ action flicks since I first saw Assassination Games back in 2012. The next year I was blown away by Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning, which is still one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. With that in mind, I’m pretty much watching every one of his movies that pop up on Netflix or Amazon Prime. As it happens, the Flix has a nice pair in Close Range and Hard Target 2!

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Revisiting Prison Break Season 2 (2006-2007)

To say I’m enjoying re-watching Prison Break would be quite an understatement. I finished the first season in a few days and it only took me five days to watch the second only because the weekend hit and I had other stuff to do. No offense to my lovely wife, but the benefit of liking a show she doesn’t care about is that I can burn through them like crazy. It’s to the point where I’m neglecting most other forms of entertainment from current TV to Netflix discs (I’ve had The Road sitting here for over a week because of this show) and even podcasts, though I still listen to/watch those while cooking or playing Xbox. Anyway, I liked the second season as much as the first but I can see how it might have lost some people. While the first season involved a lot of suspension of disbelief (guards not seeing or hearing things, etc.) this one had a lot of close calls and people showing up at exactly the perfect time to save someone else’s ass. And yet, I don’t care.

The beauty of Prison Break‘s second season is that it doesn’t rest on its laurels. The drama of the first season was how or if Michael’s plan would work, how his tattoos plaid into the whole thing and whether he could trust the people he either brought in or had to bring in to his inner circle to get out. Now, some of those elements are still there (the tats still contain aspects of their escape and he can’t seem to completely escape some of his fellow escapees), but now we’re focused on survival, trying to figure out a way to prove their innocence and eluding a series of enemies all much more formidable than prison guards and fellow cons.

The key to this season, as far as I’m concerned, was found in the performances. Most of the escapees got their own stories and a chance to show what they had before leading to death or further freedom. I still have no idea what kind of accent John Abruzzi was supposed to have, but he was put to the test and failed. C-Note did his damndest to save his family, but it wasn’t an easy road. Hell, even Haywire had more interesting moments than he probably had any right to (which included a guest appearance by future Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco). But, as I’ve come to expect from this series, most of the emotional heavy lifting is done by T-Bag who runs the gamut from slithery asshole to creepy predator and charmer to lovesick fool. The writers give him a ton to do and he bears the weight with ease. There’s moments where you almost, ALMOST feel bad for the dude. The same can be said for Alex Mahone who came in this season as a kind of bad guy, a bent FBI agent whose strings were being pulled with the threat of harm to his family hanging over his head. The linchpin, though, was that he was just as smart as Michael. Another tragic figure in this story, Mahone’s path does not wind up where you would have expected as the series kicked off.

The season ends with plenty of game changers, which is another element of the series I appreciate. Like I said with the first season, it feels like the seasons are planned out as giant arcs with plenty of smaller arcs built into them with plenty of bad things happening to good people to keep you interested. A lot of series’ kick off with a wild first season where it seems like they throw all their best ideas into the pot immediately without much thought for further seasons. Sure, you can never know how long you’ll be on the air, but how bad did Heroes get after the first season? How about Desperate Housewives (yeah, I watched the first season and still think it’s pretty good, though I haven’t seen it since it first aired)? You get the feeling with those shows that they had this desire to top themselves that wound up creating some ridiculous situations or arcs that had no chance of comparing favorably to the more thought-out ones in the earlier/first seasons. With Prison Break it’s pretty simple: Season One has them escaping a prison, Season Two sees them trying to stay free, Season Three has them unfairly locked up in a crazy Mexican prison and the Fourth…well, I don’t quite remember. That’s a pretty basic set-up, but it makes sense. Expect another one of these posts by the end of this week because the third season was shortened by the writer’s strike and comes in at 12 or 13 episodes if memory serves.

Quick Movie Review: Transporter 3 (2008)

Next to Tony Jaa, Jason Statham is my favorite modern day action star. I first saw him in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but it wasn’t until Transporter and The Italian Job that I realized how cool he was. I’ve gone on to see most of his movies since then, like Crank, Crank: High Voltage, Chaos, The Bank Job, the Death Race remake and the second Transporter so it was only a matter of time before I got around to seeing the second. Like any good action movie series, I can remember the basic plot points of the previous two movies, but most fondly remember the action sequences. In this installment of the now-trilogy (I’d be up for more sequels personally), Statham plays the titular transporter. This time he’s forced into driving a girl somewhere. If he gets too far away from either her or the car, the bracelet they placed on him (you can see it there in the mostly-boring poster) will blow up. What’s really going on is that the girl is related to a politician that Prison Break’s Robert Knepper (always super creepy) is trying to bribe into signing a bill in his favor. Or some such. It’s not really that important. What you need to know is that Statham’s the good guy, there’s a girl and Knepper’s the bad guy. I wish there had been a few more fighting scenes because director Olivier Megaton (cool name right?) does a pretty good job filming them. The do get a little jumpy at times with the super-speed editing, but for the most part, his style fit the kinetic feel of the film. What the movie lacks in fight scenes, it makes up for in car stunts. According to IMDb, the stunts were all done practically and I think that shows. I never got the feeling I was watching toys or video games do cool stunts, but always real vehicles. Speed Racer aside, that’s how I like my movies. Sure, the girl’s pretty annoying for most of her screen time, but the movie delivers in all the departments you’d expect. So, if you’ve seen the first two (or not, it’s not like these things are the Star Wars movies) and dug them, definitely give 3 a shot. Also, for the ladies and some of the fellas, a good deal of Statham’s fighting involves him taking his shirt off and I’m comfortable admitting he looks super cut while doing so.