Archives for posts with tag: anti-Obama

Zombinator

The filming of a fashion documentary furnishes the pretext for a film crew to follow a group of college students around Youngstown, Ohio, on what turns out to be night the city is hit by a zombie plague. Unfortunately, those lured by the inviting sight of the zombie cyborg featured on the cover of The Zombinator are bound to be a bit disappointed, as no such creature actually appears in the film.

The title character (Joseph Aviel) is an Afghanistan veteran trying to save Youngstown and the United States from a military-industrial undead plot being executed on the ground by “war hero” the Colonel (Patrick Kilpatrick) and his team of greedy mercenaries. The young people, meanwhile, spend most of the movie whimpering, cowering, running, and trying not to get bitten.

The film crew’s presence in the story suggests a postmodern self-awareness on the part of The Zombinator‘s makers, but it also presents some puzzling questions. They seem to be an unusually caddish lot, even for movie industry professionals, considering that they continue to shoot with apparent indifference as their associates are attacked, neither lifting a finger to help during combat nor even alerting a group of sleeping girls as the zombies sneak up on them.

The Zombinator achieves an adequate level of suspense, even if the zombies and story are nothing new or particularly special; and occasionally bathetic humor offers a welcome break from the scenes of horror and mediocre action with CGI blood and fake gunfire. Shame on The Zombinator, though, for baiting the audience with the tasty prospect of a zombie-Terminator hybrid and instead delivering a regular old hungry carcass flick.

3 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Zombinator is:

9. Anti-tobacco. A cigarette is a “cancer stick”.

8. Racist! A horny black dude stupidly opens a door for some zombie sluts. Paranoid and self-absorbed congoids are apt to assume that even the basement of a Catholic school might be a secret hideout for the KKK. End credits feature a vicious ghetto zombie in a hoodie.

7. Anti-family. Marcus (Justin Brown) was abused by his father.

6. Class-conscious. The 1% gets name-dropped, as does the gentrification neighborhoods of Youngstown are said to be experiencing. “It’s more like civilized murder now.”

5. Anti-Christian. The Zombinator is generally irreverent toward Christianity. A rotten-faced rock singer wears a clerical collar; one Youngstowner recalls seeing a bullet hole in a church bathroom; and priests (one of whom smokes) are ineffective at thwarting zombies. God, meanwhile, is “the one who’s got the biggest dividends.”

4. Anti-Y. Generation Y appears as a wimpy, idiotic, and superficial lot, the Colonel’s suggestion that they are truly “the greatest generation” coming across as masked sarcasm.

3. Anti-cronyism/anti-Obama. “But what about change?” cries a stupid liberal on learning that she and her friends are guinea pigs in a government bio-terror scheme. “What about what everybody voted for, against big corporations?”

2. Antiwar. America’s rulers preside over an empire, not a progressive wonderland, and ignorant young people’s mindless mouthing of patriotic admiration for soldiers rings unmistakably hollow. Afghanistan is a testing ground for biological agents, with soldiers used for deadly experiments.

1. Anti-state and N.W.O.-alarmist, promoting those darned conspiracy theories. “This is government shit, dude,” suspects one of the filmmakers. “If the world doesn’t see this, this is gonna happen everywhere else, too.” Later, the Zombinator explains that, “They have a cure, but they will not use it until it gets so big, after Youngstown is gone, and then they’ll present it on the market and make billions . . . billions and billions on your corpses.” So forget that crap in Contagion (2011) and World War Z (2013) about the valiant public servants over at the CDC and the WHO. This is the real deal.

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KILLING-THEM-SOFTLY-poster

A strong exercise in Scorsese imitation, writer-director Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly may well be the most depressing experience to which multiplex moviegoers are treated in 2012.  Set in a bleak expanse of rust belt squalor during the meltdown of 2008, the gangland story begins when small-time gangster and dry cleaner the Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) recruits two crooks, naive Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and ne’er-do-well Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), to pull a masked hold-up of the gambling establishment run by Markie Trattman (GoodFellas alumnus Ray Liotta), who is to be framed for staging a robbery of his own game and customers.  Markie, true to his name, is the perfect mark for the crime because he previously staged just such an inside job and admitted to it and so will be the obvious prime suspect if the same thing happens again.  Into this situation enters the mysterious enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt), assigned the tasks of investigating what actually happened and meting out the appropriate sanctions.  Flying in to assist him is button man Mickey (James Gandolfini), previously a class act but now a sloppy, erratic drunk going through a divorce.  The upshot is that, however it all ends up going down, none of this business is going to be pretty.

On one level, Killing Them Softly is a tough, unsentimental crime film and a set of character studies.  At the same time, however, it operates as an unsubtle and tactless allegory about the decline of American prosperity and the bankruptcy of the ideals traditionally associated with it, with samples of speeches by Bush and Obama running parallel to the action.  The words of the title appear onscreen in succession as part of a fractured, abrasive montage of optimistic Obamaspeak coupled with grating noise and shots of trash blown in the wind that sweeps a desolate lot walked by doomed Frankie on his way to meet the Squirrel – a representative entrepreneur and criminal mediocrity, there being no distinction between the two things as depicted in this story.  Killing Them Softly posits the existence of two types of players in this world: statists and businessmen.  All are gangsters who run their rackets through subterfuge and coercion.  In one of the film’s cheapest and least imaginative moments, Jackie sits in a bar and mocks the Obama speech playing on television and goes on to smugly thumb his nose at the American experiment itself, denouncing Thomas Jefferson for getting drunk, screwing his slaves, and keeping his children in bondage.  This country is a business, Jackie asserts, and every man looks out for himself like a beast in the jungle.  Or, as Mickey succinctly puts it and sums up the story, “It’s all bullshit.”

More than simply a downbeat, despairing sociopolitical tirade or declaration of nihilism, however, Killing Them Softly offers more than enough to make it recommendable.  Multiple character creations compel viewer interest, with Gandolfini and McNairy in particular making the most of their scenes.  Gandolfini immediately establishes sympathy and scorn with his characterization of a tough but dissipated and finally pathetically apathetic thug going through a divorce and wasting his life on liquor and prostitutes, which allows the actor the opportunity to deliver some 200-proof obscenity (causing an elderly woman at the screening I attended to become audibly agitated, surely the mark of fine movie profanity) in high gangster style.  Liotta, though he has only a few brief scenes, also appears to solid effect.  Less reliable than the impeccable acting is the selection of pop songs, which, in faithful Scorsese tradition, are rather overutilized.  “The Man Comes Around”, for instance, is the perfect song to establish Jackie’s seriousness and formidability as an enforcer, while “It’s Only a Paper Moon” assists the screenplay thematically and casts an amusing irony over events; but is it really necessary that the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” accompanies the scene in which Russell shoots up heroin?  On the whole, however, Killing Them Softly is an admirably adult and serious film, heavier on the dialogue than on the flash and action, and will test the patience of those expecting a typical shoot-em-up.  4 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Killing Them Softly is:

9. Diversity-skeptical. Jackie isn’t buying it.

8. Sexist/anti-slut.  Women are whores and trash.  Mickey’s wife has been unfaithful.  Russell recounts for Frankie a sickening episode of random sex with an insane nymphomaniac, imitating the ludicrous sounds she made, and telling how she afterward threatened to commit suicide, to which Frankie casually replies that they all behave that way.

7. Anti-torture.  Markie, under interrogation, receives a beating so unpleasantly savage and bloody that no viewer should be left with the idea that violence is glamorous and fun.

6. Antiwar.  During the credits, “Money (That’s What I Want)” fades into a lugubrious sound collage that includes helicopter noise and what sounds like echoing urination.

5. Anti-drug/drug-ambivalent.  Russell, through heroin, becomes an even more disgusting mess than he is at the beginning.  Cigarettes, however, retain a certain grimy chic, though one corporate type gangster is more than once offended by the odor.

4. Pro-miscegenation.  Mickey enjoys himself with a black hooker (who, however, frustrates him by treating her anus “like a national treasure”) and recommends Jewesses to Jackie.

3. Anti-business.  Criminals are businessmen and vice versa.  The “corporate mentality” has left even organized crime unmanned and degraded.

2. Anti-state.  Bush and Obama are phonies.  Jefferson was a drunkard who owned and abused slaves, thus discrediting all subsequent U.S. history and achievement.  The ridiculousness of gun and drug control is illustrated by the fact that, though no government agency interferes with the mob murders in the film, hitman Mickey was once arrested for gun possession while on a bird hunting trip, while Russell is eventually nabbed by the authorities not for armed robbery, but for mutually voluntary and perfectly ethical drug trafficking.

1. Nihilist/anti-human.  The sky is always dark.  “It’s all bullshit.”  The human condition is vile, obscene, and absurd.

For Greater Glory: The True Story of the Cristiada is valuable primarily for acquainting audiences with an interesting episode of Mexican history with which most Americans will be unfamiliar. Backed partially by Catholic money, this production’s heart may be in the right place, but it never quite manages to shake the feeling of a high-gloss made-for-cable movie, with its one-sided presentation, some broad characterizations, and the expected pedestrian score.  It could also benefit from more action and humor to break up the many sanctimonious moments.

The performances from Andy Garcia, Ruben Blades, and the other leads, including the featured juveniles, are all appropriately earnest and serviceable. Viewers also may be interested in seeing what is surely one of the last occasions Peter O’Toole will grace the screen in his unintentionally creepy but affecting role as a priest who dies for his faith and community.

It’s difficult to watch this story of a spontaneous but leaderless (“We need a commander-in-chief”) rebellion for religious freedom against a rigid leftist government and not think of the Tea Party and the present administration’s dictatorial tendencies and contraceptive controversy with Catholics.  To its credit, For Greater Glory allows for useful collaboration between secular and religious forces for liberty, with the Cristeros approaching the atheist General Gorostietos to lead them.  A better film could and should be made on this subject, however.  3 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that For Greater Glory is:

4. Anti-corporatism/big oil

3. Anti-Obama

2. Pro-Cristo

1. Pro-liberty (admittedly redundant after #3)

The Dark Knight Rises is flawed, but can hardly be faulted for not giving its all.  If anything, it feels like too much movie squeezed into too little time, so that nearly every scene in this long but fast-moving film feels abbreviated.  It probably would have needed to be at least twice its length to develop all of its ideas and tangents satisfactorily, and I wouldn’t have minded at all if that had been the case.  A gloomy, brooding opus with adult themes, this is by no means a superhero film for the kiddies, and it may not leave you with a smile on your face; it will, however, give you a lot to consider.  I give it 4.5 of 5 stars for its ambition, atmosphere, and awesomeness of vision.  So much power has never before been generated by the simple sight of an underdog climbing a wall in combination with rousing music.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Dark Knight Rises is:

7. Mildly pro-green.  Bruce Wayne looks forward to the day when a clean energy source can be safely unveiled for public consumption.

6. Feminist.  Catwoman repeatedly allows men to underestimate her and then takes advantage of them.

5. State-skeptical.  Authorities are too often given to self-aggrandizement and poor judgments.  The sinister Dent Act, meanwhile, has ushered in draconian measures to fight crime.

4. Pro-police.  Despite the above note, police are depicted as mostly admirable and self-sacrificing heroes.  They are, however, human, and some are prone to terrible errors.

3. Pro-vigilante.  Police aren’t always enough.

2. Persistent in perpetuating the idea that angry white males pose our scariest terrorist threat – with which many, after the recent massacre, would probably concur.

1. Capitalist.  Despite Michael Savage’s ignorant assertion that responsibility for the Aurora massacre belongs to this film and to Hollywood, “the ones who gave us Obama”, The Dark Knight Rises is actually a cautionary tale about the bankruptcy of class warfare politics and where it leads a society.  Despite the initial, naive flirtation of some characters with wealth redistribution of one sort or another – burglaress Catwoman has no sympathy for the rich, and some police are even reluctant to intervene when Bane targets Gotham’s stock exchange – the romantic illusions crumble when socialism shows its true colors in practice.

Bane, an eloquent fraud who poses as a messianic revolutionary but is actually a former mercenary and nihilistic madman, promises “hope” (with a capital H, perhaps?) to the people of Gotham while leading them over the brink and into moral anarchy and authoritarian red terror with his unquestioning lynch mob of slavish occupiers (capital O, perhaps?).  The only thing missing is the guillotine, with a punitive stretch of (metaphorically?) thin ice substituting.  The Dark Knight Rises favors redistribution, but only of the strictly voluntary variety.  Bruce Wayne, the film’s representative billionaire, is not only a hero and a formidable philanthropist, but also demonstrates the fluid membership of the 1% when his fortune is dashed in one fell swoop.  There are other hues and complexities to the class question as treated in this story, but the general tendency of the film’s sympathies is clear.

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