Archives for posts with tag: aliens

Richard Spencer and Mark Brahmin discuss James Cameron’s films The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Readers may want to compare this pair’s very insightful commentary with my remarks on Terminator: Genisys (2015).

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Transcript here.

10_cloverfield_lane

Nasty woman Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up chained to a cot in survivalist John Goodman’s basement in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a genre-bending experience in the tradition of Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Signal (2014). Is Winstead, recalling Misery (1990), the prisoner of an obsessive loser who intends to possess her sexually – or is Goodman telling the truth when he claims that he only intends to keep her alive and that the world outside is uninhabitable, that everyone she knows and loves is dead, and that civilization has collapsed after a catastrophic apocalypse? Is it the Russians? The Martians? Or is it just a tall tale to dissuade his uncooperative guest from attempting to escape? Finding out is as frightening and fun as being held captive in John Goodman’s basement!

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 10 Cloverfield Lane is:

4. Alt-media-ambivalent. Goodman is “like a black belt in conspiracy theory”, a mixed bag of a man simultaneously tuned-in and misled as to a number of topics. The fact that, in addition to aliens and Russkies, he is also concerned about “Al Qaeda” seems to suggest that the film is condescendingly and disingenuously conflating neoconservative outlets and various conspiracy-oriented media of varying quality.

3. Anti-redneck. Goodman’s character represents a typical cosmopolitan millennial’s idea of a conservative Republican: a slovenly gun nut, “authoritarian personality”, and “no touching” prude scared of Martians and the prospect of a real-life Red Dawn scenario. He is stuck in a vanished American past, as evidenced by his Frankie Avalon records and VHS collection. The fact that major elements of his assertions turn out to be correct prompts the deliciously implied question at the heart of the film. Which would be more horrifying for a millennial woman – the prospect of an alien invasion that razes everything and everyone she knows, or the possibility that, for all of these years, those hateful, judgmental, beer-bellied, rifle-toting, misogynistic deplorables were right?

2. Disaster-alarmist. Turning viewer expectations upside-down, Goodman’s conspiracy-theory-fueled survivalism comes in handy when the shit really hits the fan. Rather than rejecting extreme preparedness outright, the movie suggests that liberals, rather than pointing and laughing at the conservatives, ought to appropriate such foresight and associated skill sets for themselves. The idea that fashion design could become a survival skill in a post-apocalyptic landscape is no doubt highly appealing to a number of young women and homosexuals with tacky, clashing heaps of student loan debt in the closet.

1. Feminist/anti-family. Goodman presents a negative patriarchal archetype (“I want us to be a happy family.”). Winstead also recounts a traumatic memory of seeing a man cruelly pulling his daughter by the arm and hitting her. Perhaps under the influence of such impressions of family life, she rejects the possibility of reuniting with her boyfriend in order to strike out on her own as a superheroine and save the planet – a choice about which the director, Dan Trachtenberg, expresses a cuckolded you-go-girl enthusiasm in his audio commentary.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

arrival

Arrival is a more intimate alien visitation story than most owing to its sensitive lead performance from Amy Adams (Man of Steel’s Lois Lane playing another lover of extraterrestrials) as a distinguished linguist drafted by the U.S. government to communicate with the occupants of one of twelve alien spaceships that land around the world. Kill the Messenger’s Jeremy Renner appears as the physicist who assists her. Arrival features some highly stressful and fascinating sequences, but loses a little steam as its bankrupt moralism becomes evident.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Arrival is:

5. Green. The extraterrestrials’ craft demonstrates that highly sophisticated technology can be developed to travel at high speeds without producing an ecological footprint.

4. Feminist. It is women with brains and feelings, not men with guns, who will win peace for the world, the film suggests. The protagonist’s daughter plays at being a sheriff, her mother having empowered her to believe that girls can fill traditionally masculine roles.

3. Neoconservative. Russia and China, not the U.S., threaten global security with their idiosyncratic saber-rattling. Mention is also made of the Amy Adams character having helped the military translate a recording of Farsi-speaking “insurgents”, connecting Iran with terrorism in audiences’ minds.

2. Pro-immigration. Arrival functions partly as an allegory about western anxieties of demographic displacement. This subtext is made explicit when the viewer is treated to an excerpt of a blowhard conservative talk show host complaining about the alien presence. Lucky for Earth, the undocumented ones come bearing the gift of advanced parapsychological technology.

1. Globalist. Renner’s physicist feels – correctly, as it turns out – that the earth’s safety depends on his work with Adams rather than anything the military can do. It is sensitive, scholarly anti-racist academics to whom the world must look in order to understand immigrants’ needs and desires and the ways in which all beings’ interests are intertwined. The appropriately octopus-like Heptapods – reminiscent of the Twelve Tribes of Israel – visit the planet in twelve massive ships in order to gift humanity with their nonlinear, brain-reconfiguring language, a sort of intergalactic Esperanto through which a one-world order will be brought about. Something vague is said about how the Heptapods will collect on the debt in 3,000 years, at which point something akin to a horrible plague will develop. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer thereby seems to acknowledge that the “gift” of globalism will ultimately result in decay and death of the host, but seems to expect the viewer to feel that the joy of experiencing nation-erasing Jew World Order parasitism will somehow be worth the price.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

buzz-aldrin

Buzz Aldrin with Mickey Rooney

In 2002, Buzz Aldrin made the news again when he punched moon landing skeptic Bart Sibrel in front of Café Rodeo at the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills. Sibrel, making a nuisance of himself, had planted himself in Aldrin’s path and demanded that the astronaut swear on a Bible that he had landed on the moon in 1969. Aldrin’s reaction was that of a self-important and temperamental actor rather than that of a disciplined man of science. Aldrin discusses the episode in his 2009 autobiography, Magnificent Desolation.

Like most Americans, I’m quite skeptical about conspiracy theories. I’m someone who has dealt with the exact science of space rendezvous and orbital mechanics, so to have someone approach me and seriously suggest that Neil, Mike, and I never actually went to the moon – that the entire trip had been staged in a sound studio someplace – has to rank among the most ludicrous ideas I’ve ever heard. Yet somehow the media has given credence to some of the kooky people espousing such theories, and my fellow astronauts and I have had to put up with the consequences.1

Hollywood, indeed, alluded to the possibility of a faked lunar landing as early as the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, and the 1977 thriller Capricorn One concerns the cover-up of a faked Mars mission.

The media treated Aldrin like a hero again, however, after assaulting conspiracy theorist Sibrel – and it is interesting to note that the story received news coverage coinciding with the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Here is Aldrin’s account of the “Blow Heard ‘Round the World” in his book Magnificent Desolation:

Because of the publicity the hoax theorists have garnered, occasionally even in a serious interview a reporter will broach the subject. One September morning in 2002, I was in Beverly Hills at the Luxe Hotel, filming a television interview for a Far Eastern TV network, when the interview began going in a direction that I knew was out of bounds. At first I tried to be cordial, adroitly answering the question, assuming the interviewer would recognize my reluctance to talk about inanity, and bring the focus back to a bona fide space subject. Instead the interviewer began playing a television segment that had aired in the United States on the subject of hoaxes, including a section suggesting that the Apollo 11 moon landing never happened. I was aware of the piece and had been livid when it originally aired. I did not appreciate the interviewer’s attempts to lure me into commenting on it. Lisa [Cannon, Aldrin’s stepdaughter] had accompanied me to the interview following her early morning triathlon training in the Santa Monica Bay, and she immediately recognized that this was a flagrant violation of our willingness to conduct the interview in good faith, so she called a halt to the production. We weren’t belligerent, but we did not linger long over our good-byes, either.

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Lisa Cannon

We left the hotel room and walked down the hall to catch the elevator, only a matter of seconds away. I pressed the button for the ground level, and Lisa and I looked at each other and smiled. It had been a strange morning already. When the elevator doors opened on the ground level, it got worse.

As we stepped out into the hotel foyer, a large man who looked to be in his mid-thirties approached me, attempting to engage me in conversation. “Hey, Buzz, how are you?” He had his own film crew along, with the camera already rolling to document the encounter.

I greeted him briefly, acknowledging his presence, and kept moving – standard procedure for life in Hollywood. As Lisa and I walked through the foyer toward the front door of the hotel, however, the man kept getting in my way, peppering me with questions, none of which I answered. Lisa took my arm and glared at the man. “That’s enough,” she said, as I could feel her pressure on my arm guiding me toward the door. “Please let us alone; we’re leaving now.”

We stepped outside under the hotel awning, and the film crew continued right along with us. Lisa’s car was parked across the street on Rodeo Drive, but there was no crosswalk nearby, and the traffic was brisk.

Meanwhile, the “interviewer” had taken out a very large Bible and was shaking it in my face, his voice becoming more animated. “Will you swear on this Bible that you really walked on the moon?”

I looked back at the man and gave him a look as if to say, Will you swear on that Bible that you are an idiot? The man was becoming more virulent, inflammatory, and personally accusatory in his outbursts. I tried not to pay any attention, but he was saying things like, “Your life is a complete lie! And here you are making money by giving interviews about things you never did!”

astronauts-gone-wild

Mardi Gras will never be the same after this.

Lisa approached the cameraman and insisted, “Please turn off that camera! We’re just trying to get across the street to our car.”

I’m a patient man, but this situation was silly. “You conspiracy people don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

Lisa spied a break in the traffic, so she grabbed me by the arm again, and said, “Buzz, let’s go.” We started walking across the street, but the large man kept getting right out in front of us, standing in the middle of Rodeo Drive, blocking our path as his cameraman kept rolling film. Lisa seemed nervous about trying to go around him, while searching for her keys to unlock the car with the man in such close proximity, so we turned around and walked back to the bellman’s station outside the hotel.

“Okay, this is ridiculous,” I said to Lisa and to the bellman. “Call the police. This guy is not letting us get to our car.”

I was under the awning, and Lisa turned away from me to approach the cameraman again. “Please turn that camera off,” she said. Meanwhile the large man was nearly screaming at me, “You’re a coward, Buzz Aldrin! You’re a liar; you’re a thief!”

Maybe it was the West Point cadet in me, or perhaps it was the Air Force fighter pilot, or maybe I’d just had enough of his belligerent character assassination, but whatever it was, as the man continued to excoriate me, I suddenly let loose with a right hook that would have made George Foreman proud. WHAAP! I belted the guy squarely in the jaw.

While I prided myself on staying in relatively good shape, it was doubtful that my septuagenarian punch did much damage to the follow, except perhaps to his ego. But he was not at all concerned about the punch, anyhow. It was obvious that he had been goading me in that direction, and he seemed ecstatically happy that I had finally grown exasperated and hit him.

“Hey, did you catch that on tape?” he called out to his cameraman. That was all he cared about.

Lisa turned around and walked back to me. She cocked her head slightly, looked up at me, and asked quietly, “Buzz, what happened?”

I looked back at my stepdaughter rather sheepishly, and said, “I punched the guy.”

“You what?” Lisa’s hand instinctively flew to her mouth in disbelief, as though already postulating in her mind any potential legal ramifications.

The film crew and “interviewer” hastily packed up and headed for their vehicle. They had gotten what they were hoping for – and more. Before the night was over, the film of me punching the guy was on the news and all over the Internet. The interviewer went to the police, threatening to file assault charges against me.

In the meantime, Lisa contacted our legal representative, Robert O’Brien, and told him everything that had happened. Robert suggested that we hire a criminal lawyer, just in case the encounter actually led to charges.

On the following Tonight Show, Jay Leno included the incident in his standup routine, cheering, “Way to go, Buzz!” They doctored up the video of my punch, and edited it to make it appear as though I had given the guy about twenty rapid-fire punches instead of the one.

David Letterman also came to my defense in his opening remarks for The Late Show, and threw in a double feature on the story the next night, since they had “dug up” some old archival footage of a reporter accosting Christopher Columbus, accusing him, “You didn’t really cross the ocean and land in the New World. You’re a liar!” And of course, Columbus decked the guy.

By then, television networks and evening entertainment news programs were calling, suddenly wanting me to appear on their shows. Ordinarily I would have been delighted, but our legal advisers said, “No interviews.” Eventually the matter died down. The city of Beverly Hills did not bring charges against me, and there were witnesses to the harassing behavior that provoked my response. It still cost me money to hire a lawyer to defend myself, and the hoax advocate received the publicity he sought, so I suppose, in the end, he won. But the punch provided me with some satisfaction, at least, and I was gratified by the calls and notes of support. CNN Crossfire commentator Paul Begala gave me a thumbs-up, and many others sent encouraging messages. Ironically, some of the most supportive words came from my fellow astronauts, to the effect of, “Hey, Buzz, I wish I’d punched the guy! Finally, somebody has responded to these hoax theory perpetrators.” More than my knowledge of rendezvous techniques, more than my actions under pressure during the initial lunar landing, more than anything in my career as an astronaut – it seemed as if nothing elevated me more in their estimation than “the punch.” From that day on, I was a hero to them.2

Some have alleged that the scene was staged and cite, for instance, the fact that Aldrin and Sibrel went on to collaborate on the 2004 documentary Astronauts Gone Wild. It is strange, too, to note that Sibrel, in publicizing a theory that ought to hinge on forensic examination and logic, instead decides to interject religion into the showdown, obnoxiously brandishing his Bible and thereby setting himself up for ridicule by progressives. The cameraman is also careful to get a clear shot of the restaurant’s sign and street address, which – if, indeed, this confrontation was a hoax – might have been a condition set by the Luxe Hotel for permission to use the Café Rodeo as a location. Begala’s response, not the typical one for commentary on an assault, was to give the “thumbs-up”, the gesture made synonymous with film criticism by Siskel and Ebert. Lisa Cannon, the woman seen with Aldrin in the video, has been credited with a “significant role” in “developing Buzz Aldrin’s brand”.

Regardless of whether the “Blow Heard ‘Round the World” was a planned event, it served as an object lesson for the public during the politically crucial period following 9/11. As Aldrin’s account makes clear, the media treated him like a hero for punching Sibrel. Aldrin also makes a very deliberate reference to his military service in describing his thought process leading to the moment of violence. The takeaway for the audience is that hitting “conspiracy people” is the laudable thing to do in these turbulent times following the destruction of the World Trade Center. Laugh at them if possible, but punch them if they become too insistent. This was before the advent of YouTube, when critical analysis of the 9/11 matrix was in its comparative infancy. Connecting “conspiracy people” with superstition, socially awkward behavior, and lack of patriotic reverence would pay off in preconditioned public responses as inconvenient scrutiny of these events would become much more common over the years.

apollo

Destination Moon

Notwithstanding his touchiness about the reality of the Apollo mission, Aldrin is eager to emphasize his connection with the entertainment industry, and one of the chapters in Magnificent Desolation is titled “Pop Goes Space Culture”. He boasts of his friendship with science-fiction illusionists like James Cameron, the director of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss. “For several years, Lois and I had been spending a lot of time driving up to L.A. on business and to attend a variety of Hollywood events in the evenings,” he writes, adding that they eventually moved into “a luxury high-rise condo along the Wilshire Corridor of Los Angeles, just west of Beverly Hills, because so much of our business was now connected to the entertainment industry.”3

“A little-known Hollywood fact is that my name had already been firmly ensconced in Hollywood lore long before Lois and I moved there,” he continues. “On the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, at the corners of Hollywood and Vine, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and I have not one star but four, one on each corner of the intersection. Actually, our ‘stars’ are in the shape of moons.”4 Recognition on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is a rather unexpected tribute for a veteran of NASA’s Apollo 11 program – either that or a tellingly fitting one.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Endnotes

  1. Aldrin, Buzz; and Ken Abraham. Magnificent Desolation. New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2009, p. 281.
  2. Ibid., pp. 282-285.
  3. Ibid., p. 256.
  4. Ibid.

kinopoisk.ru

Nothing epitomizes the summer movie season like a big, blustering, CGI-saturated blockbuster about giant, battling, alien robots. This installment stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a down-on-his-luck robotics engineer and single father living in “Texas, U.S.A.” (as a caption conveniently informs those viewers uncertain which country Texas occupies). Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), get swept up in military-industrial machinations and even intergalactic warfare when he discovers the wreck of a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime.

Inconveniently, CIA eminence grise Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is secretly rounding up all the Transformers he can find and delivering these to military contractor KSI, headed by arrogant weenie Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the idea being to corner the technology and create a totally automated U.S. military. Meanwhile, Attinger’s robot co-conspirator Lockdown, along with new creation Galvatron, may not be the controllable assets Joyce and Attinger confidently believe these to be.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly the explosion-packed, lightning-paced action extravaganza fans are expecting, with quite a few close shaves, noisy weapons exotica, nasty, slime-spewing creatures, and one particularly suspenseful moment with characters inching their way along cables suspended high in the air while harried by Lockdown’s robotic hell-hounds. Younger audiences are sure to be in awe. The film’s themes are, however, more adult than juvenile, and parents may be concerned to know that Age of Extinction contains several frightening incidents and one especially noteworthy death scene, that of comic relief slacker Lucas (T.J. Miller), that is too graphically disturbing to be appropriate for children. The film runs a little overlong, and the ending, reminiscent of Prometheus (2012), has Optimus Prime setting out on a new adventure and so setting up the inevitable next installment of the popular toy adaptation franchise.

4 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Transformers: Age of Extinction is:

8. Anti-torture. “This is worse than waterboarding,” robot Brains complains at being shocked by an electric jolt.

7. Pro-serfdom. Tessa aspires to do her part to inflate the American college bubble by applying for financial aid to go to university. The film attempts to milk sympathy from a rejection letter.

6. New age, lending credence to the idea that Earth was once visited by ancient aliens.

5. Corporate, featuring prominent product placement for Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, Giorgio Armani, and Red Bull.

4. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Negroid-voiced Transformer Brains exults at being “free at last!” Lucas, objecting to partner Cade’s cutthroat business practices, also alludes to slavery.

3. Capitalist, offering a sympathetic portrait of the struggling small business owner in Cade. Early scenes of the hero’s domestic existence convey a definite impression of an America in economic decline.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Joyce falls for the head executive of his company’s China branch (Bingbing Li).

1. Antiwar, anti-state, and anti-cronyism. Attinger, head of CIA black ops and military contractor KSI’s best customer, expects to take a seven-figure salary with the company after leaving government “service”. Since the Battle of Chicago, a cataclysmic 9/11-like event in which America was attacked by Decepticons and defended by the Autobots, a paranoid police state has taken hold, with Decepticons and Autobots alike being hunted down and neutralized by the fearmongering CIA. Transformers: Age of Extinction also gives a timely illustration of federal authoritarian overreach when CIA agents, with no warrant and no regard for human dignity or life, raid Cade’s property and threaten to murder his daughter. The movie expresses Americans’ discomfort over the advent of drones, as well.

 

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Better than might be expected for a low-budget science fiction adventure out of cut-rate genre studio The Asylum, director Thunder Levin’s AE: Apocalypse Earth is an entertaining and tolerably paced concoction that might best be described as Predator meets The Mysterious Island, with a dash of Star Trek added for flavor.  Adrian Paul, looking every bit as handsome and virile as when he starred in the Highlander television series, stars as the unfortunately named Frank Baum, a military man who leads a group of refugees from an outer space “ark” after Earth is overrun by alien “chameleons”. Also in the group is spaceship pilot Captain Crowe (Richard Grieco), camo-skinned jungle woman Lea (Bali Rodriguez), and a gaggle of nondescript space-fillers who tag along.

AE unsuccessfully attempts to conceal that the planet on which they have landed is Earth hundreds of years after invasion and climate change have caused its lifeforms to evolve in striking ways, so that the Planet of the Apes style revelation of the ending has been obvious all along, arguably given away even by the film’s title, and carries none of the intended impact.  Despite this shortcoming, AE succeeds as a decent afternoon’s home entertainment matinee if viewers are willing to be lenient with the abundantly unconvincing CGI creatures and spacecraft. The picturesque Costa Rica locations lend a great deal of production value, and the costume design, particularly for the sexy Lea and the albino cave-dwellers, enhances the look of the film as well.

3 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that AE: Apocalypse Earth is:

7. Anti-drone.  Aliens use the things like hunting dogs.

6. Feminist.  Lea lives and hunts alone and is capable of taking care of herself.

5. Pro-military.  Soldiers are depicted as noble and selfless servants of humanity.

4. Pro-NWO.  In the future, America is protected by the “North American Joint Military.”

3. Anti-racist/anti-white/anti-Christian.  Representing WASPs are a tribe of bald (i.e., skinhead), bigoted, and generally unprogressive albino cave-dwellers who have cast out Lea because she was born different. Having reverted to primitive superstition in their isolation, they believe those unlike themselves to be demons.

2. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation.  Baum gets the hots for humanoid Lea, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.  A multi-ethnic band of survivors works together against the invaders – but the old sacrificial Negro convention lives!

1. Green.  “Most of the water on Earth is polluted.”  A “runaway greenhouse effect” has covered the planet with jungle and mutated the flora and fauna.  And Lea, the next step in human evolution, has literally turned green!

In the not-too-distant future aliens invade and attempt to conquer the earth.  Humanity won this war, we are told, but only at the cost of our planet’s devastation.  Now a mere cleanup crew of sorts remains to maintenance the drones and machines that harvest water energy in order for the rest of the world’s population to make its new home in space.  Tom Cruise plays Jack, who, along with partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is due to leave the earth in a matter of weeks after servicing some equipment and picking off a few “scavs”, alien remnants that pilfer supplies and sabotage the energy works.  To his surprise, however, he learns that he and Victoria are not alone, and, still more shocking, that his mission and perhaps even he himself may conceal a sinister purpose.

A superlative science fiction adventure, Oblivion also works as an encapsulation of Tom Cruise’s career thus far, his character here alluding to previous roles with his enthusiasm for sports (as in All the Right Moves and Jerry Maguire), daredevil flying skills (think Top Gun), and brave stand against extraterrestrial invaders (cf. War of the Worlds). Cruise is particularly handsome and rugged as Jack, and has not one but two sexy international love interests in Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko.  The visual design of Oblivion is an appealing combination of futuristic sterility and earthy grime and decay; and the soundtrack is also strong, with the drones, which resemble flying, spherical R2D2s, actually contributing a quasi-musical element with their intimidating electronic blares.  Surprising given its title and the bleakness of the scenario is that Oblivion manages to deliver a satisfyingly happy ending, so that the film is highly recommended and particularly in the big screen experience, where its special effects and scope can be properly appreciated.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Oblivion is:

6. Multiculturalist/anti-clone.  Morgan Freeman leads the resistance and gets to play the sacrificial Negro.  As in Life of Pi, audiences are warned of the potential horror of a completely homogenous Caucasian population.

5. Green-ambivalent.  While Jack enjoys the rustic zero-technology life, the film acknowledges that alternative energies are a scheme of the New World Order.

4. Mildly pro-miscegenation.  Cruise’s involvement with Eurasian-looking Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko is a borderline case.

3. Luddite and specifically anti-drone.  Though drones are convenient and efficient and one even comes to Jack’s aid against the scavs, the things are only as trustworthy as their programmers.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), after defending himself against a drone, poses picturesquely with his gun in front of the Liberty Bell.

1. NWO-alarmist/antiwar.  Jack’s employers, the centralized bureaucracy controlling everything, reside in an ominous spacecraft in the shape of an inverted pyramid.  The Statue of Liberty is a ruin, freedom having been destroyed along with the earth in the natural course of war.

SYNTHETIC_MAN_POSTER

Writer-producer-director (and everything else) John R. Hand’s The Synthetic Man is less a coherently narrative film than a filmed reflection on the writing process.  Though The Synthetic Man resists easy summary, it is generally concerned with self-absorption, boredom, paranoia, sexual longing, and various creative processes, both natural and unnatural, human and alien.

Framing its wildly scattershot content are scenes of an obese and probably insane young woman (April Hand) who in her directionless isolation decides to write a (really bad) science fiction novel in a spiral notebook.  Her initial inspiration is a rape fantasy nightmare in which she is groped and menaced while sleeping by an unseen knife-wielding visitor (Mike Engle).  This, she decides, is the Synthetic Man, who will figure as a character in her novel.

The woman appears to have no family or friends in her life, and certainly no significant other.  Furthermore, the way she rubs her notebook and presses it to her bosom suggests that the novel is just a pitiable exercise in redirected sexual energy.  Everything in her life and in The Synthetic Man as a whole suggests alienation and disconnect, from the sterile interiors of her home and other places to the snow on her television and the prophylactic barriers of fantasy, sleep, gloves, voice distortion, and video to all real human contact.

The material dramatizing her novel is quite the mess, with one highlight being the hero, Richard (Jeff Hartley), crawling around in a parking lot, abducting an old woman, and dragging her into the woods for a thrashing.  The idea of the story (no doubt derived from novels its dilettante author perused at the library) is that ancient aliens have planted secret agents among humanity, which is constantly under surveillance and occasionally falls prey to synthetic rape-seeding.  The latter event, depicted graphically (and to hilarious effect) during The Synthetic Man‘s concluding moments, is probably what viewers will most likely be discussing afterward.

One wishes the film as a whole had been as elegantly suggestive as the opening and closing creditscapes, which, graced by the electronic music of “The Greys” (Mr. Hand again) are fairly hypnotic as the introductory verses of Genesis are delivered in a distant, processed drone (director Hand giving Himself a too-big pat on the back, perhaps?).  The discordant sound design of these and other moments may be this self-consciously spare film’s finest asset.

If The Synthetic Man makes anything clear, however, it is that John R. Hand is a fiercely independent artist little concerned with what will appeal to a broad audience of conventional tastes or satisfy genre fan expectations.  Too cheap, self-absorbed, unfriendly, and uneventful an effort to be of interest to the typical science fiction, horror, or exploitation aficionado, this uncategorizable film will probably only appeal to a weird and very limited audience of seekers after the odd and independent.

1.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Synthetic Man is:

5. Antiwar.  “Blessed are the peacemakers . . .”

4. Anti-obesity.  April Hand’s gawking, self-mocking performance does little to humanize her difficult character, who remains an unengagingly lethargic and grotesque figure througout.

3. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Omaru (Esaw Parker Jr.), a black cosmic warrior, relates the origin of all suffering in the world as stemming from the machinations of an “evil race” (whites, no doubt) who bequeathed “gifts of hate and prejudice” to humanity.

2. Statist.  “Everybody’s being watched by someone – their parents, their government, their friends,” the aspiring writer muses in her tub.  “They’re all together.  They’re all related [. . .] What if we were all being watched by aliens?”  Distrust of the government and fears of something like an omnipresent New World Order are thus equated with kooky UFO talk and made the stuff of a lonely fat girl’s delusions.  The effect of her musings is to discredit those who question authority – a depiction that would likely meet with the approval of Cass Sunstein.

1. Sexist!  Women, especially undesirable ones, secretly long to be raped, knifed, or tied to trees and mistreated.

Maximum Overdrive (1986) ****  Maximum Overdrive is a unique movie in that it was not only written but actually directed by author Stephen King; and, while it may have met with a less than glowing reception from critics and is not the best of the many films of the 1980s to have been inspired by the author’s work, subsequent viewings of Maximum Overdrive can reveal much more to appreciate and consider than might at first be obvious in its tale of a hostile planetary takeover by cars, trucks, radios, and other previously harmless electronic wares.

Even on the first viewing, Maximum Overdrive is a fun, somewhat silly and random speculative adventure, and perhaps a broad satire of man’s fear of technology as a potential Frankenstein’s monster that might turn against him; but further reflection concedes that King is up to more than one might at first imagine. To wit, the whole film can be seen as a commentary on the military-industrial complex and how it and war are driven and validated by America’s consumerism and debilitating reliance on labor-saving devices.

In one scene, a shady-looking young black man (Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito) appears to be seduced and hypnotized by an arcade game that flashes a series of abstract symbols at him: a star, zig-zags (like the stripes on an officer’s sleeve), and a plus sign (cross), indicating how religion and the media dupe young men into mindless stupors to make them subservient to the state and recruit them for the respectable but deceptive video game violence of military service. Christianity receives abuse throughout Maximum Overdrive, particularly through the person of a tawdry, cartoonishly hypocritical Bible salesman (Christopher Murney).

A little military wagon with a mounted machine gun appears as the director of the trucks at one point and leads them in the siege of the filling station, Gas World, a sequence that may seem somewhat dull or inconsequential on the first viewing, but which takes on greater significance as it becomes apparent that this, the need for fuel to power the trucks that deliver our consumer goods, is too often what drives the lust for conquest on this planet.  A blurb at the end credits aliens for the events of the film; but substitute the Bilderberg Group for the aliens and the story of their plot to exterminate the population of Earth with their commandeered “broom” of man’s own technological creation is straight out of Alex Jones’s worst nightmare.

Maximum Overdrive does have its failings.  After a wildly entertaining first forty or forty-five minutes, full of distinctive action set pieces, disgusting humor, and sight gags, the film slumps into a decrescendo and slows as the ensemble cast, headed by young Emilio Estevez (between That Was Then . . . This Is Now and Wisdom) and his tough romantic interest Laura Harrington, take refuge in Gas World’s diner, the Dixie Boy, where they will stay for the remainder of the story.  Enlivening the proceedings throughout, however, are a soundtrack of appropriately electric AC/DC tunes and a colorful set of character actors in the supporting roles.  Apart from the aforementioned Murney, Pat Hingle is nicely slimy as crooked, self-satisfied Dixie Boy proprietor Bubba Hendershot; and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) and John Short provide even greater comic relief as hick newlyweds Connie and Curtis.

The climactic action sequences, when these finally come, fall short of fulfilling the stunt-packed promise of the zany exposition, a few huge explosions notwithstanding, so that Maximum Overdrive is ultimately a flawed near-classic but still recommendable for watching and occasional rewatching.  Stephen King is commended by Ideological Content Analysis with a respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

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