Archives for posts with tag: anti-capitalist

wolverine poster

In this adventure, “the” Wolverine – the film is conveniently titled so as to dispel any confusion as to which Wolverine is meant (sorry, Red Dawn fans) – travels to Japan at the invitation of a moribund Japanese magnate (Hal Yamanouchi) who hopes to persuade the hero to exchange his odd and problematic mutant longevity for the old gentleman’s imminent mortality through a transfusion.

The plot becomes much more convoluted than this synopsis suggests, but furnishes ample opportunity for leading man Hugh Jackman to spring into action, with sexy villainous Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) a more than adequate adversary. Standout action set pieces include a desperate skirmish atop a rocketing bullet train; Wolverine performing emergency heart surgery on himself as a ninja duel rages in the operating room; and a climactic confrontation with a giant adamantium-plated mecha-samurai that hides a surprise plot twist inside.

4 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Wolverine is:

6. Anti-state. A government minister is corrupt in both his private and public doings.

5. Animal rights militant. The Wolverine puts a wounded bear out of its misery, then avenges it when he meets its tormentor in a tavern.

4. Anti-slut. Viper, whose kiss can lay men low, serves as a walking, talking V.D. scare film.

3. Anti-capitalistic. The Japanese corporate world is cutthroat. Viper identifies herself as a capitalist.

2. Antiwar. The viewer witnesses the destruction of Nagasaki.

1. Pro-miscegenation. The Wolverine has the yellow fever.

All Is Bright

Paul Giamatti daringly essays his umpteenth grumpy, disgruntled crumb-bum role in the sarcastically titled seasonal feature All Is Bright, a film which might more descriptively, memorably, and profitably be retitled The Grouch Who Stole Christmas.

Giamatti stars as Dennis Girard, a Canadian thief released from prison only to find that his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), has given him up for an old friend, reformed crook Rene, played by Paul Rudd. Even more humiliating for Dennis is that Therese, hoping to shelter her daughter (Tatyana Richaud) from the unpleasant truth about her father, has told her that Dennis is dead so as to bar him from having any place in his daughter’s life. Out of work, at loose ends, and nearly at the end of his tether, Dennis bullies Rene into taking him along on his annual trip to New York to hawk exotic Canadian tannenbaums.

Offering nary a likable character, All Is Bright may strain the patience of audiences in search of something funny but basically wholesome, uplifting, and appropriate to view at Christmastime. A “criminal with a small dick”, Dennis Girard is ultimately too flawed, thorny, and unpersonable a character, his choices and outlook too glum, sordid, nasty, and unrepentant, for the film to be terribly entertaining or morally rewarding. All Is Bright is marginally amusing at best, and Giamatti’s grouch card may be maxed out, so the actor is advised to seek opportunities for expanding his range beyond the apoplectic curmudgeon that made him famous.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that All Is Bright is:

9. Anti-American. A U.S. border patrol agent is unfriendly, and Dennis and Rene affect a stereotypical Doug and Bob McKenzie Canadian accent to impress gullible American tree shoppers (cf. no. 2).

8. Green. “They still don’t have stars here,” Rene says on arrival in the United States, probably with reference to air pollution.

7. Anti-drug. “You should keep lungs, yeah?”

6. Pro-slut. The viewer is presumably expected to consider the casual attitude of Russian eccentric Olga (Sally Hawkins) toward what she terms “the thing” an endearment.

5. Anti-Putin. “You have heart like Putin,” Olga says insultingly.

4. Anti-marriage, with infidelity and divorce the norm.

3. Barely Christian. Rene gives his adopted daughter an Advent calendar, but little or no other mention is made of the religious significance of Christmas. An irreverent, vulgar attitude toward the holiday prevails (“If you want to throw up, do it in the tree stand”). “There’s money in holidays.”

2. Multiculturalist, pro-immigration, and pro-wigger. All Is Bright is set in that bizarro Hollywood version of the world in which whites beg and receive cigarettes from blacks. The characters generally interact postracially. And Emory Cohen, apparently typecast as wiggers after his turn as AJ in The Place Beyond the Pines, receives a cameo as dopey but sympathetic dude “Lou, who comes to buy a tree”. (cf. no. 9)

1. Egalitarian/anti-capitalistic. Olga suggests charging more for trees bought by “haves”. While Dennis and Rene represent small-scale enterprise in a relatively positive manner, more successful entrepreneurs are vilified. Dennis, in one unfunny scene, physically intimidates a more professionally operated Christmas tree business into relocating. In an even more unlikely moment, Dennis is physically ejected from the men’s room of a restaurant by its petty proprietor for not being a paying customer. The self-pitying protagonist never abandons his thieving ways (“I will not get caught twice,” he vows), and steals a piano (among other things) from a successful dentist (cf. The Possession) as a gift for his daughter. Criminal redistribution of wealth, All Is Bright appears to argue, is fine and commendable as long as it is perpetrated for a good and heartwarming cause.

Assault-On-Wall-Street-Dominic-Purcell

Prolific writer-producer-director Uwe Boll, best known for notoriously reviled horror films like House of the Dead (2003) and Alone in the Dark (2005), now taps into understandable populist rage at the crony capitalist establishment with the depressing Assault on Wall Street. Powerfully built Dominic Purcell, something of a poor man’s Clive Owen, stars as down-on-his-luck security guard Jim Baxford, who, after losing his job and his wife (Erin Karpluk) following her protracted illness and financial anxiety suicide, decides to diversify his portfolio with a little vigilante vengeance directed at the seemingly untouchable high-rollers and bankster exploiters he holds collectively responsible for his personal tragedy.

Purcell is adequately tough and earnest, if not particularly interesting, in the lead; but it is in two key supporting roles that Assault on Wall Street shows true inspiration in casting. An aging John Heard is the perfect choice to play number one on Baxford’s hit list: selfish, nihilistic toxic investment CEO Jeremy Stancroft. Even greasier, however, in a role one wishes had been expanded, is uber-oily Eric Roberts as money-grubbing attorney Patterson. Roberts has aged, if not quite gracefully, then fascinatingly, with a uniquely silverfish-like screen presence that ideally lends itself to high villainy. Other familiar faces in the cast include Keith David, Edward Furlong, and Michael Pare as Baxford’s buddies Freddy, Sean, and Frank.

Assault on Wall Street is a decent rental, but may disappoint vigilante fans by spending too much time (nearly an hour) on the humiliating build-up and not enough on the retribution so temptingly advertised in the title. Consequently, it earns a modest 3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Assault on Wall Street is:

11. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as human types who share in the general plight and sympathize with Baxford’s mission.

10. Anti-slut. “I’m gonna get an STD from this sandwich,” Frank teases a waitress. Corporate bigwigs consort with whores.

9. Christ-ambivalent. While a preacher attempts consolation, mouthing, “God visits us with many mysteries in life,” Baxford rather takes to heart more militant Biblical passages such as, “He trains my hands for war” (cf. nos. 1 and 7)

8. Marriage-ambivalent. Baxford’s marriage is a devoted one and would, if not for her illness and his financial worries, be happy. Friend Frank’s wife, however, is a cheater.

7. Antiwar. Baxford is a veteran forgotten in his time of need by the country that used him. In reply to the idea that violence is not a solution, a caller to a radio program asks, “Isn’t violence the official solution in Iraq and Afghanistan?” (cf. nos. 1 and 9)

6. Postracial, with blacks and whites interacting as friends irrespective of racial differences. And to demonstrate that his is an equal opportunity beef, Baxford even liquidates a few blacks along with the many white guys in suits and ties.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Baxford smokes philosophically and his friends are enthusiastic drinkers. “Let’s go get some alcohol, make the pain go away.” Baxford, in the wake of his personal ruin, is invited to “watch the game and do some serious drinkin'” for therapeutic purposes. But a man is claimed in a news report to have died in a “drunken accident”.

4. Anti-state. The cronyist statist quo, or the “plutocratic capturing of American politics”, transcends Republican vs. Democrat squabbles, with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Chris Dodd, and Alan Greenspan getting name-dropped as culpable players. At a lower level of weaselliness, Assistant D.A. Marwood (Barclay Hope) insensitively brushes off Baxford’s concerns. That Baxford is able to purchase military wares from a black market gun dealer (Clint Howard) militates against the notion that government-mandated gun control is effective or enforceable. Betraying the movie’s mixed messages about the place of government, however, is the fact that deregulation is also blamed for the ’08 collapse.

3. Anti-corporate. “The real fuckin’ criminals –  they’re downtown [i.e., on Wall Street].” Goldman Sachs, MF Global, Cerberus Capital, JP Morgan, and Lehman Brothers are among the outfits that receive negative product placement.

2. Anti-capitalistic. “System’s rigged, motherfucker.” Told “Fuck you,” a banker calmly replies, “That’s a fair response, I suppose.” Free market talk conceals an “anything goes mentality”. “The rich still get richer and the poor get poorer.” Stancroft justifies his misdeeds with a social Darwinist outlook. “That’s the free trade system, my friend,” he says. “That’s capitalism.” “There’s not a person on this earth who’s worth over a hundred million dollars that came by that money honestly.” The film also evinces a naive sympathy for the homeless, juxtaposing their plight with the ease of the leisure class.

1. Pro-vigilante. Baxford is his own law, but also a people’s fury, and wears an Anonymous-reminiscent white mask for the final killing spree.

Java Heat poster

This innocuous fix of action exotica has renegade American counterterrorism agent Jake Wilde (obnoxiously handsome model type Kellan Lutz) sojourning in Indonesia in his hunt for the culprit in a string of international terrorist bombings. In a scenario reminiscent of Red Heat and The Kingdom, the irreverent, charmingly ugly American is teamed as an action odd couple with totally serious Indonesian counterpart Lieutenant Hashim (Ario Bayu). Naturally, this far-fetched pairing allows for corny intercultural bonding and mutual respect to develop as the two must set aside their differences if they are to rescue an abducted sultana (Atiqah Hosiholan) and save Lieutenant Hashim’s family from capitalo-terrorist Malik (Mickey Rourke, who tops himself for sleazy weirdness). Java Heat milks its colorful Indonesian locations to pleasing effect, lending to every scene a degree of novelty, and never slows down long enough to be less than amusing.

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

10. Antiwar. Wilde’s younger brother, who joined the military to follow admiringly in his footsteps, is a casualty of the War on Terror.

9. Feminist. A female university student suggests that the sultana’s accession to the throne has been sabotaged for sexist reasons.

8. Anti-slut. Hookers are untrustworthy creatures. Their lifestyle is one of degradation, torture, and personal ruin.

7. Anti-drug. A nightclub slut slips a mickey into Wilde’s drink.

6. Anti-gay. Malik is a pederast. Wilde rebuffs the offer of ladyboy companionship.

5. State-skeptical/media-critical. A self-aggrandizing general plays to the media and stages a raid for publicity. News reports unjustly vilify Lieutenant Hashim.

4. Anti-capitalistic. Behind the highly publicized bogeymen of the War on Terror lies a cynical profit motive for conflict. Malik is the personification of western exploitation of Third World countries.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Wilde is initially a suspect in what is believed to have been the sultana’s death because he flirted with her at a royal soiree. He also has encounters with Indonesian hooker/masseuse types.

2. Pro-family. Wilde and Hashim, a model father, are both motivated by family-oriented grievances.

1. Multiculturalist. “We’re not all terrorists.” Like The Kingdom, Java Heat is at great pains to persuade western viewers that not all Muslims are evil and violent. Toward this end, the film presents an idyllic portrait of Lieutenant Hashim’s happy domestic existence and and his family’s hospitality. As always, the multicultural experience is a humbling one for the Caucasian and particularly for the American, who discovers that he is not so exceptional. “Americans. You are like children.” To Indonesians, an American is only a “bule dog”, or stupid white person. “From now on, we play by my rules. Java rules,” Hashim informs Wilde after getting the best of him in a physical altercation. Hashim embodies the film’s attempt to show that, along with the legendary corruption, the Third World also boasts truly devoted civil servants, dispelling Wilde’s colleague’s assertion that, “They’re all dirty in that country.” Indonesia, though plagued by terrorism, is depicted as representing a potentially peaceful realization of a multicultural society, with Hashim and a Christian colleague on the police force interacting as cultural equals.

Macho girl Matt Damon stars as butch lesbian cyborg warrior Max Da Costa in one of this summer’s most notable movies, Neill Blomkamp’s science fiction adventure Elysium, which posits a future world in which only the teeming masses of the underprivileged are left to suffer through their miserable lives in the ruins of what once was the United States of America, while the super-rich, in the ultimate feat of white flight, have escaped to the veritable Heaven that is Elysium, basically a gigantic orbiting space station’s worth of Beverly Hills, where people are beautiful, lawns are green, and seemingly any sickness is instantly curable thanks to advanced technology. Max, a former career criminal dying from radiation poisoning, lends his services as a thief to a crew of Mexican gangsters for a shot at breaching the exclusive colony’s security system and saving not only his own life, but that of everybody on Earth.

Damon, always an unlikely star, is only tolerable in his heroic role as Max, as is Alice Braga as his attractive but uninteresting love interest. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, clearly has fun as the icy-hot Delacour, who heads Homeland Security for Elysium. Ironically, Delacour, who speaks French and was perhaps inspired by French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen, has as her job exactly the opposite of what occupies America’s Department of Homeland Security: namely, the preservation of a people, its ethnic integrity, economic well-being, and traditional way of life. And rounding out the cast is Wagner Moura, who (potentially unrecognizable to those who remember his gruff and brooding performance in the Brazilian fascist film Elite Squad) appears in a supporting role as colorful gangster, computer wizard, and space coyote service impresario Spider.

Easily the most charismatic character in Elysium, however, is the ruthless and erratic Boer mercenary Kruger, played with snarling, nasty manliness by Sharlto Copley (of Blomkamp’s District 9). The viewer can hardly help but cheer Kruger on as, after enthusiastically obliterating a target, he exults, “Thet’s wut om talkin abeut!” (Note to Hollywood: Make more movies about South African mercenaries!) Kruger’s return to the fray after what appears initially to be his demise is surely one of Elysium‘s most audience-friendly moments.

4.5 of 5 possible stars, with half a star deducted for the tasteless inclusion of hackneyed, ethereal new age moaning on the soundtrack. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Elysium is:

11. Green. Pollution is cited as one of the causes of American decline.

10. Anti-drone. Max finds himself hunted by the pesky things.

9. Anti-drug. Max refuses the pills offered by a robotic parole officer (see no. 6). Menacing Mexican thugs smoke what is presumably marijuana.

8. Ostensibly Christian, promoting more Hollywood liberation theology. Max has been raised by nuns and sacrifices himself in Christlike fashion (see also no. 4).

7. Feminist/pro-slut/pro-bastard/anti-marriage/anti-family. Frey (Alice Braga) represents the single mother with pride as a capable professional with no need for a man in her life (cf. no. 4).

6. Anti-corporatist/anti-capitalistic. The government, probably in collusion with pharmaceutical manufacturers, makes free drugs readily available to the public as a means of pacification. Max’s Hispanic neighbors mock him for being dumb enough to work for a living, and they are validated when Max’s callous boss forces him either to endanger his life or be terminated, with the result that Max receives lethal exposure to radiation. The CEO (William Fichtner) of the company is actually such a snob that he obliges his underlings to cover their mouths when speaking to him so as not to expose him to their breath. He conspires with Delacour to arrange a coup d’etat on Elysium.

5. NWO-alarmist/anti-state. The space colony Elysium, with its circled starfish design, approximates a pentagram and so points to possible Illuminati orchestration. (see also no. 6)

4. Pro-miscegenation. “Always wanted a wof,” Kruger reflects as he leers at Mexican cutie Frey, who is also the object of Max’s affections. Note that marriage is only the aspiration of the vile Boer and not of the progressive, Spanish-speaking, self-loathingly tattooed Caucasian, Max, who sacrifices himself and his forebears’ and fellow whites’ culture and safety for the benefit of the dusky masses. Max thus fits the sacrificial honky archetype.

3. Pro-immigration. Steve Sailer, calling it “one of the funnier pranks played on the American culturati’s hive mind in recent decades”, has attempted to out Elysium as a crypto-conservative and race-realist film, but Gregory Hood has convincingly refuted him in an excellently written review at Counter-Currents. What both men (along with Ram Z. Paul) accurately point out, however, is that Elysium, whatever its intentions, does illustrate in depressing vividness the cultural cataclysm awaiting America as it willingly works to dissolve its border with Mexico. The dangerous, ugly, graffiti-smeared, beggar-and-thug-infested slums of futuristic Los Angeles as depicted in Elysium hardly justify the celebratory tone of the climactic moment in which, through a bit of clever computer hackery, every disgusting slob on the planet is instantaneously turned into a “citizen” of Elysium and thereby made eligible for the wonders of its exclusive health care coverage.

2. Egalitarian. Elysium, even as it illustrates the dystopian horror of the future Socialist States of America, advocates socialized medicine as a panacea. The film is able to do this because the advanced medical science of the future, like Obamanomics, is magic, and capable of infinite, Santa-style miracles that transcend cost.

1. Pro-gay. Damon, as Max, does for the dyke what Robert Carradine did for the dweeb in Revenge of the Nerds.

The white guy/black guy buddy action movie, from 48 Hrs and Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Bulletproof, has for decades constituted a fine tradition within the action genre. Now Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington take their place in the squabbling but comfortingly complementary ebony-and-ivory ranks of the good guys in 2 Guns, a stylish neo-western from screenwriter Blake Masters and director Baltasar Kormakur, and based on a series of comic books by Steven Grant.

Washington and Wahlberg play an undercover DEA agent and naval intelligence officer, respectively, both thinking the other is actually a crook as they each individually target Mexican drug kingpin Edward James Olmos. Eventually, having discovered each other’s identity and not sure whether they can trust each other, the two are forced to join forces again when they find themselves caught up in a convoluted mess of Mexican cartel savagery, Navy corruption, and CIA shenanigans.

Fast-paced, explosive, and often funny, 2 Guns is the quintessential summer movie experience, but tempered by more than a little healthy cynicism. 4 of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 2 Guns is:

9. Antiwar. One veteran has a hook for a hand (see also no. 1).

8. Pro-immigration. Two representatives of a Minutemen-like group, one of them wearing a Confederate flag, are made to look foolish when they stop Denzel Washington at the border, suspecting him of being a Taliban fighter, and are easily disarmed by him. The implication appears to be that any American sufficiently worried about U.S. border security to become an activist must be a racist nitwit (cf. nos. 2, 3, 4, and 6).

7. Gun-ambivalent. Wahlberg buys black market guns, discrediting notions of “gun control”; but the humiliation of the Minutemen (see no. 8) is probably also intended to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of private gun ownership as a protection when the owners are incompetent.

6. Racist! Mexicans are corrupt and untrustworthy. They are also sadistic brutes who enjoy burying chickens up to their heads and shooting at them, decapitating enemies, or tying them upside-down in a barn, beating them with a baseball bat, and letting a bull charge at them. Obese Mexicans are more than once mocked, with their greasy diet offered as one explanation (cf. nos. 2, 3, 5, and 8).

5. Black supremacist. Washington is the senior partner, the man with the brains to make a plan. Demonstrating his mental superiority, he more than once corrects Wahlberg’s pronunciation (cf. nos. 3, 4, and 6).

4. Anti-South/anti-redneck. Bill Paxton plays a sinister CIA agent bent on retrieving the money stolen from the agency by Washington and Wahlberg. His string tie and southern accent mark him as residue of the Bush years, and the sweaty glee he derives from playing Russian roulette with Washington’s crotch suggests, as with Billy Crash in Django Unchained, that the white southerner’s insecurity and sadistic hostility toward the black man derives from his penis envy and latent homosexuality (see also no. 8).

3. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. The interracial camaraderie of the white guy/black guy action movie might not reflect much racial reality, but it seldom fails to entertain, providing a respite from what has become the daily race-baiting of politicians and the professional victimhood industry. Initially, Washington claims to have no “people”, but by the end the protagonists identify as “family” and “brothers”. Washington is involved in a romantic triangle with mulatto Paula Patton and white James Marsden. Wahlberg flirts with women of different races.

2. Anti-capitalistic/egalitarian. “It’s the free market,” Paxton says, “not the free world.” Olmos accuses U.S. intelligence of conspiring to keep Mexico weak and addicted to dirty money (cf. no. 6). Washington and Wahlberg think nothing of the damage they cause with arson and explosives to a bank and a perfectly innocent cafe. Simple Mexican folk stoop to gather the scattered CIA dope money after the film’s climactic battle sequence, presumably with the filmmakers’ blessing.

1. Anti-state/anti-military. The CIA extorts tribute from drug cartels, offering them in return the use of CIA planes for transporting dope into America. Washington’s DEA supervisor and girlfriend is corrupt. Naval intelligence officers are no better than bandits and think nothing of using military hardware for private projects to feather their nests. An admiral (Fred Ward), learning of his subordinates’ crimes, is only interested in covering it up. Local police are fat and useless.

Those attracted by top-billed Danny Trejo, who plays a priest named Father Connely [sic], will be disappointed to learn that the haggard actor dies in the opening scene of this oddball Christian horror film. Likewise, Eric Roberts, the other celebrity name in the cast, has only a smallish role as the sinister Father Tollman. Whether or not The Cloth offers any other inducements will be a matter mainly of the individual viewer’s interest in religion, exorcism, and copious low-grade CGI.

Following the deaths of his parents and his disillusionment at the acquittal of a murderous drunk driver, young Jason (Kyler Willett) would be content to spend his life in hedonistic abandon, clubbing, drinking, and bagging chicks; but Father Diekman (Lassiter Holmes) has other plans for the lad. Diekman belongs to a secret order of special ops clergy, The Cloth, that wages Hellboyish war on the unholy through exorcism and spiritualized gunplay. Jason, though reluctant to join at first, becomes a convert when confronted with demons firsthand. Soon, with the salutary example of sexy but modest Laurel (Perla Rodriguez) and gunsmith Helix (Cameron White) to guide him, Jason is utilizing a silly array of Christian weaponry like holy water grenades, armor forged from materials in the Ark of the Covenant, and corny CGI firepower to dispatch the Devil’s minions.

Kyler Willett is handsome and likable enough as smart aleck hero Jason, but Lassiter Holmes, true to his name, tends rather too much toward lassitude as the boring Father Diekman, an uninspiring mentor to say the least. Rodriguez gets a lot of mileage from coyly brushing the hair from her eyes, and White lends just the right mix of class and kitsch with his English accent and tacky Christian t-shirts that say things like, “Exorcise regularly.” The dialogue does sometimes leave these actors in the lurch, however, and never rises above the mildly amusing level of, “That’s holy water – bitch.”

More damaging than any shortcomings of casting, however, are the filmmakers’ insistence on bringing to the screen effects-reliant phantasmagorias that are simply beyond the means of such a limited budget. The action sequences, too, are sometimes overly abrupt and insufficiently covered. The Cloth, consequently, is about as scary as the cover of the Louvin Brothers’ album Satan Is Real. Those interested in studying or actualizing the cavernous blackness of the Catholic imagination would do better to turn to the philosophical horrors of William Peter Blatty, The Ninth Configuration and Exorcist III, which rely on depth of atmosphere and the weight of ideas rather than special effects to keep audiences alert and entertained.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cloth is:

11. Anti-state. As an unjust court decision demonstrates, justice is to be had not through secular law, but through the arms of a militant Church.

10. Anti-capitalistic. A priest taking diabolical bribes is unwilling to assist a poor parishioner whose contribution is understandably small. This venal villain is repaid handsomely when coins pour from his mouth in a torrent.

9. Pro-life. Jason’s father, Diekman relates, resisted the counsel to “terminate” Laurel’s life when she was possessed and instead chose to see the potential for good in her.

8. Anti-drug. Drinking and driving means accidents. Jason, a drinker at the beginning of the film, later fills his hip flask with holy water. The Devil’s possessed snort lines of cocaine.

7. Multiculturalist. Anglos and Hispanics work together more than once. “The very basis of our beliefs stems from the arrival of the Apostles from such places as Jerusalem, Africa, and even Asia.” (cf. no. 3)

6. Pro-gun. One gun owner standing in the way of the Cloth’s mission brandishes his weapon threateningly, but firearms are for the most part represented positively as indispensable implements of the Lord’s work.

5. Miscegenation-ambivalent. Jason and white-enough Hispanic cutie Laurel walk away hand-in-hand at the end, but interracial pairings of spicier stuff are strictly the province of the Devil.

4. Anti-slut/anti-gay. Good girl Laurel represents sexual modesty charmingly. Laurel, initially rejecting Jason’s advances, tells him, “My beliefs come before my own personal desires.” Fornicators are more than once destroyed by demonic power or disfigured. Cohabitation is also discouraged, as Jason’s devilish ex-girlfriend leaves an odor of sulfur in his apartment. The Devil’s hos, naturally, are promiscuous lesbos. The Cloth would also appear to frown on tattoos.

3. Racist! Clearly self-loathing black writer-director Justin Price casts himself as the demon Kasdeyah, Satan’s emissary on Earth. Minorities are disproportionately represented among the possessed (cf. no. 7).

2. Traditionalist/pro-family. Jason, though he has long resented and misunderstood his father, comes to follow in his footsteps both professionally and spiritually.

1. Christian and specifically Catholic. Latin mumbo jumbo works! Laurel, explaining away the occasional bad apple in the clergy, claims, “There’s no such thing as corruption in the Church, Jason. The only Church that has ever existed lies within.”

Part III of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler

in Ideological Content Analysis:

A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective

of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies

AdamSandler

Damon Wayans, who in 1991’s The Last Boy Scout played wisecracking sidekick to Bruce Willis’s hard-boiled but complementarily wisecracking detective, was once again teamed with a white comedy partner, this time playing a funny straight man of sorts to buffoonish Adam Sandler for another, rather less distinguished buddy action outing in 1996’s Bulletproof.

Goofy L.A. car thief Archie Moses (Sandler) has the perfect partner in streetwise Rock Keats (Wayans) – or so he thinks – until the latter turns out to be an undercover detective using him as a pawn to get close to car dealer and heroin kingpin Colton (James Caan).  In a bust gone disastrously wrong, Keats reveals himself to the outraged and heartbroken Moses only to get shot in the head by his erstwhile companion in a freak accident.  After recovering with the help of physical therapist and new girlfriend Traci (Kristen Wilson), Keats is incensed to learn that Moses, after being apprehended, has requested that Keats be the one to bring him back to Los Angeles to testify against Colton.  At issue throughout the story is whether the pair of former friends can manage to evade Colton’s killers and find their way to safety without strangling each other first.

An irrepressibly obscene film with a heart, Bulletproof succeeds through the charm of its stars and the relative clip of its silly plot.  There is, however, one particularly suspenseful sequence involving an airplane perched precariously at the edge of a cliff.  Caan is underutilized as the villain, but brings a megalomaniacal credibility to his role whenever allowed.  In the end, even the crankiest viewers are likely to begin rooting for Moses and Keats to make amends and win the day.  Bulletproof earns 3.5 of 5 stars for being a fun if disposable entry in the jokester buddy action subgenre.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bulletproof is:

10. Egalitarian/anti-capitalistic.  “Everything we get we split down the middle, right?” Keats affirms with Moses.  “Anybody who would drop a hundred grand on a car deserves to have it stolen and then deserves to get the shit kicked out of them,” Moses says in defense of his profession.  Business owner Colton is a vicious drug lord.

9. Racist! – and specifically anti-Semitic.  “Anybody ever tell you you look like a struck match?” Keats asks a darker-skinned colleague.  Car thief and heroin smuggler Moses’s name irreverently suggests the stereotypical roles of comedian, doper, duper, and robber for Jewry.

8. State-skeptical.  Dedicated cops like Keats are honest, but the FBI is infested with crooks.

7. Pro-miscegenation.  Keats displays an easy, familiar way with white women in a bar.  High yellow Traci, however, affords the closest thing to a white girlfriend that the film could permit the character to have without technically crossing the color line. When Moses and Keats stop at a rural motel, Moses tries to convince the proprietor, seemingly slow-witted Charlie (Mark Roberts), that his wife might enjoy a threesome.  “Me, you, the old lady.  A little sandwich action? [. . .] You’re a piece of white bread, she’s a piece of white bread, I’m the salami, let’s give it a shot.”  Moses, sporting a matador’s outfit, also does his best to charm a bevy of Mexican beauties at the end.  (See also no. 1.)

6. Anti-drug.  Keats’s father died of heroin addiction and Moses’s mother smokes too much weed.  Drug kingpin Colton and his associates are murderers.  The film is ambivalent, however, to the extent that Moses suffers no repercussions from his own marijuana smoking, as that particular drug is treated as something relatively harmless and cute.

5. Anti-Christian.  Fake Bibles are used to smuggle heroin and thus literally contain the opiate of the masses.

4. Relativist.  “You don’t realize there’s a gray area in life,” Moses explains to Keats.  “That’s where most people live.”

3. Misogynistic.  From bar sluts to strippers to Moses’s dope-smoking mother, positive portrayals of women are nowhere to be found.  Worst, Keats’s girlfriend turns out to be working for Colton.  (Cf. no. 1.)

2. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger.  Keats and Moses, a black man and a Jew, are friends and learn to set aside their differences, which are never racial, to overcome adversity and work in harmony.  Keats, whose real name is Jack Carter, demonstrates his familiarity with English literature in choosing his undercover moniker.  Moses, meanwhile, earns wigger points by saying things like, “Ooh, that’s the old school shit.”

1. Pro-gay.  “I’m falling in love with you all over again,” Moses tells Keats in a line that pretty well encapsulates the subtext of the relationship between the two men.  For all their show of facetiousness and playful insult, the gay angle comes up again and again – too often to be just an occasional joke as they constantly bicker and make up like scrappy, cantankerous, loving spouses.  Earlier in the film the two check into a motel’s honeymoon suite, where Moses, while lathering himself in the shower, serenades his friend with a rendition of “I Will Always Love You” – and it is significant that Keats, though in a smug, defiant manner, later echoes the song in delayed reply.  The motel scenes are heavily laden with suggestions or near-acts of homosexuality between the two leads and the proprietor, Charlie.  Moses, before suggesting the aforementioned threesome, tries to convince Charlie that Keats is gay and feeling amorous.  “He says he’s not gay, but, uh, let’s see what a few drinks and a back massage will do to him, huh?  That might gay him up a little, don’t you think?”  “I’d like to make out with you in the dark,” Moses confides to Charlie before trying to kiss him after a narrow escape.

There is also frequently an S&M/B&D flavor to the two leads’ companionship.  Moses spends most of the film in handcuffs, submissive to the dominant will of Keats, who ties him face-down to a toilet full of his turds after sticking his pistol up Moses’s anus.  Moses talks at length about urinating on Keats.  “I want his asshole cuffed to his nuts,” Keats has threatened earlier.  Moses also betrays a potential latent desire for crime boss Colton when, vouching for Keats’s thug credibility, he avows, “If he’s a cop I’ll suck your dick, Mr. Colton.”  Colton is unsuccessful in attempting to collect on the pledge, however, when Moses punches his genitals.  Significantly, Keats’s girlfriend Traci is revealed to be working for Colton – a necessary development if she is to be removed as an obstacle to the heroes’ intimacy.  “You pretend that Archie Moses doesn’t exist, which is making you miserable twenty-four hours a day,” she tells Keats with considerable perception.  These, the viewer has always realized, are two men who cannot live without each other.

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.

Miserable is the word to describe the bunch of filthy French people with British accents who spend this pretentious two-and-a-half-hour musical moaning and wailing about how poor and passionate and in love they are when all they really need is a bath.  So much of the footage consists of claustrophobia-triggering close-ups of scraggly facial fur, snotty nostrils, and gaping mouths full of rotting teeth that the viewer can almost smell the sewage and revolution in the air of nineteenth (or is it twenty-first?) century France’s capital.

A handful of rousing musical numbers, notably “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Master of the House”, and “One Day More”, share the scales with a lot of filler in Les Miserables, with nearly every line in the movie quavered or belted awkwardly rather than spoken.  Make no mistake: this Les Miserables is a musical.  Anne Hathaway, sporting the worst haircut of her life, fares fairly well in her vocal contributions, with the women generally being easier on the ears than the men in the film.  In career lowlight performances, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe look dazed, confused, and as if both might just as soon tap wieners as duel while they serenade each other.  The standout scene of the film both in terms of musical enjoyment and choreography is the hilarious rendition of “Master of the House”, sung by Sacha Baron Cohen with help from Helena Bonham Carter as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier.

Simplistic in its message, Les Miserables suffers from an overbearing, banner-brandishing earnestness, with insufficient comic relief or moments genuine humanity to break the bleak, seemingly unending whining and self-righteous howling of the various undesirables.  See it for Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter and just hold your nose through the rest.  3 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Les Miserables is:

6.  Multiculturalist.  The teeming, nasty masses of Paris are peppered with a few conspicuously placed Africans.

5.  Pro-slut.  Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a sympathetic single mother.  Prostitution with its profit motive is, however, discouraged.

4.  Pro-castration.  Les Miserables celebrates the cult of the womanish, sensitive man.  Jean Valjean (Jackman) vows to be both “father and mother” to young ward Cosette (Isabelle Allen).

3.  State-ambivalent.  Javert (Crowe) is an honorable man devoted to public service, but questions the correctness of his mission when it means opposing the inexorable march of Equality.

2.  Ostensibly Christian, espousing more Hollywood liberation theology.  Characters invoke God throughout, usually in the context of helpless yelping.  The Catholic Church is useful to the extent that it harbors fugitive criminals and redistributes wealth.

1.  Communard/anti-capitalist.  Young Occupy thugs waving red flags sing of “red, a world about to dawn.”  Liberty receives revolutionist lip service, but Equality is the tune they croak most enthusiastically.  Commerce is represented in Les Miserables by prostitution, dehumanizing factory work, and the Thenardiers’ tawdry inn, where, in addition to other acts of crudity and knavery, they blithely pick their customers’ pockets.

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