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Magic Mike poster

Magic Mike, along with Katy Perry: Part of Me, was one of the faith-shakingly embarrassing trailers that seemed to hound this critic every time he went to the movies during the summer of 2012. “Oh, no, not this again,” he would think to himself, slumping into his seat as his heart sank in his breast. The fact of the matter is, however, that this amusing and unassumingly sharp drama from screenwriter Reid Carolin and director Steven Soderbergh not only rises to the occasion on more than an anatomical level, but ends up as one of the most outstanding films of its year.

Channing Tatum, who actually worked as a stripper during an earlier phase of his show business career, puts his skills to productive use in Magic Mike, a role perfectly suited to the actor’s dissolute good looks, sex power, and sense of humor. Tatum’s semiautobiographical Mike is an American original, a creatively driven renaissance stud who aspires to build handcrafted furniture for a living, but works at construction, car detailing, and stripping until he can put together the venture capital he requires. Handsome Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, the fresh piece of meat Mike recruits to join the dance revue at Club Xquisite, and whose pretty but staid sister Brooke (Cody Horn) will become Mike’s reluctant romantic interest.

It is Matthew McConaughey, however, who majestically steals much of Magic Mike as the Mephistophelean Dallas, the Gordon Gekko of male strip club proprietors. In particular, the sequence in which erotic drill instructor Dallas is training greenhorn Adam for his first tour of duty under the lights provides McConaughey with the most explosive monologue of 2012. “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t,” he prods his pupil like a madman, showing him how to win over a crowd of emotionally vulnerable women by whirling and thrusting his pelvis properly. “You are the husband that they never had. You are the dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand, that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight with you onstage and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you make it legal. You are the liberation!” McConaughey even gets to sing a sweet little country ditty, “Ladies of Tampa”, which he himself co-wrote.

Soderbergh again shows himself to be the consummate master, a man in complete and comfortable control of his craft. Magic Mike is a career highlight, but with no small assistance from his collaborators at every level of this nearly perfect production. From performances to editing and visual design, Magic Mike is a classy show and deserving of repeated viewings. Music also adds much to the verve of the experience, with cleverly selected songs setting the movie’s various tones and rhythms. Of special note, Win Win’s “Victim” is darkly repetitive, cock-rocking magic; Countre Black’s cover of “It’s Raining Men” is a scintillating introduction to the men of Xquisite doing a campy raincoats-and-umbrellas routine; and Chris Mitchell’s coy rendition of “Like a Virgin” is an appropriate accompaniment to Adam’s shy first appearance onstage.

Highly recommended at 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic Mike is:

11. Anti-Christian. A crucifix pendant and cross tattoo appear in irreverent contexts.

10. Antiwar. The troupe of strippers performs a mock-patriotic military-themed routine, firing their crotches to the sound of gunfire. While, on the one hand, this points to the warrior ideal as a perennially appealing archetype in women’s sexual fantasies, it might just as easily equate war with show business as something tawdry, phony, and whorish, or suggest that war is really a sublimation of primal, sexually motivated aggression.

9. Anti-obesity. One of the strippers hurts his back trying to lift a chubby customer.

8. Pro-gay. “I don’t care what your preferences are,” says Brooke when she discovers her brother’s dance outfits and takes these for evidence of his homosexuality. Then, as if 2005’s Brokeback Mountain had been insufficient degradation of an American movie icon, the cowboy archetype is further downgraded by a homoerotic gunfight strip routine.

7. Statist. “Fuck school altogether,” Dallas opines with reason. His idea is that children should be homeschooled with special emphasis on finance and investment strategies, but Mike, presumably from faith in the liberal public education system, dismisses this as “stupid shit”.

6. Anti-American. “That’s the state of the country, man. America. People. Stupid.”

5. Pro-wigger. Mike affects a hoodie, backwards cap, and “y’all” talk.

4. Feminist/anti-marriage/anti-family. Brooke is offended and gets defensive when she assumes Mike is suggesting that she cook breakfast for him. A woman wearing a “bride to be” sash is seen dancing uninhibitedly onstage with one of the strippers, and Dallas explains that women patronize his establishment because their marriages are unfulfilling, with nude male revues providing the psychological “liberation” women require. The institution of motherhood, meanwhile, receives grotesque parody treatment in the memorable image of pink-haired tart Nora (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough) bottle-feeding milk to a piglet.

3. Drug-ambivalent. Strippers partake of something called “hey juice” and stupid sorority girls demand to know: “Who do we have to fuck to get a fucking drink?” Joints are passed around without consequence, but drinking and harder drugging (and drug dealing) get Adam and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) into serious difficulties. Mike and Adam barely make it out of a sorority house with their lives when Adam enrages a girl’s boyfriend by slipping her some E. To its credit, Magic Mike contains a classic morning-after atrocity scene too good to spoil.

2. Slut-ambivalent. Relatively conservative Brooke regrets her adolescent decision to get tattooed. Adam is warned to avoid oral contact with customers so as to avoid contracting herpes. One laid-back dope dealer enjoys an open marriage (“My wife’s tits are awesome. Check ‘em out, man.”), but this segment, rather than serving as an endorsement of swinging lifestyles, is intended to evince the decadence and the seductive evil of the world into which Adam is being initiated. Casual orgy partner Joanna (Olivia Munn) comes across as unhappy and frightened by intimacy, with Mike ultimately realizing that what he needs is a good girl and a sexually conventional life. In the final analysis, Magic Mike is less than satisfactorily judgmental where sexual promiscuity is concerned, but does give the impression that such escapades are best suited for youth if at all necessary and better abandoned in maturity.

1. Anti-capitalistic-cum-populist. In Magic Mike’s complicated and nuanced moral universe, informed by the compassionate socialist-populist worldview of screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose nonprofit group Red Feather Development has, according to Wikipedia, been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show!) and director Steven Soderbergh (hagiographer of Che Guevara and happy producer of George Clooney’s disingenuous anti-McCarthy clunker Good Night, and Good Luck) honest toil when set to the pattern of the typical employer-employee paradigm becomes a species of semi-prostitution. “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties,” Mike tells Brooke significantly. The capitalist, as exemplified by Mike’s construction foreman, is a petty exploiter who balks at the notion of paying “benefits and shit”.

It is stripper-impresario Dallas, however, who most clearly personifies capitalism in this film. Icy, dishonest, superficial, materialistic, and nihilistic, he is also a charming, seductive swaggerer whose charisma no viewer will deny. A manipulator of others, Dallas also whores himself, serenading his customers (whom he describes collectively as his “wife”) and climbing back into the saddle for an impressively sweaty farewell performance of his own, erupting a shower of crumpled dollar bills onto his naked torso. Going into business as partners with Dallas is clearly a matter of dealing with the Devil (“Nobody walks on water on my team.”), and Dallas expectedly lets Mike down, going back on his glorious promises. Commerce, for Dallas, is glorified theft. “You are worth the cash you pry out of their fuckin’ purses,” he snidely pontificates.

It is the small, honest, dream-driven entrepreneur, uncorrupted by greed and mercenary prudence, with whom these filmmakers sympathize. Mike’s desire to start his own custom furniture business is admirable and casts him as, if not a starving artist, then a creative man of principle unwilling to compromise on his vision. This type of endeavor, Magic Mike charges, is thwarted at every turn by the old boys’ club of the business and financial establishment. This becomes painfully obvious when Mike, seeking a startup loan for his venture, is turned down as a bad credit risk by a bank’s loan officer (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt, who, this reviewer is grieved to report, is at no point in the film treated to a private dance from Mike). “The only thing that’s distressed is y’all,” Mike tells her defiantly on being refused. One of the morals of Magic Mike, then, is that self-reliance and hard work, even if it results in a less comfortable life than that of a high-class courtesan, is, albeit a more difficult one, a more dignified way to live. Magic Mike, consequently, has mostly scorn for slacker Adam, who shirks his responsibilities, sleeps on his sister’s couch, and refuses to interview for a job that requires his wearing a “fuckin’ tie”.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Little Bit Zombie poster

Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) are, despite their cutesy neuroses, happy together and engaged to be married in a week.  The only problem is that Steve is starting to get cold feet – literally – after a plague-carrying mosquito bites him and turns him into a brain-craving corpse.

Neither the first nor the last romantic comedy to consider itself cleverly different and adorable for featuring a zombie in love, A Little Bit Zombie does nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the horror comedy pack.  With its derivative ideas, cloyingly broad comedy, indomitable preciousness, and the nearly nonstop yammering of Lowe as the shrewish, controlling Tina, A Little Bit Zombie is, sadly, a little bit of a chore to endure.  Even the gratuitous gross-out humor, including an homage to Bloodsucking Freaks, gets old before very long.

The film does, however, have a polished look to it, and supporting players Kristen Hager and Shawn Roberts (who resembles a muscular Seann William Scott) are attractive and fun in their respective roles as Steve’s sarcastic sister Sarah and macho, raunchy buddy Craig.  Stephen McHattie (a poor man’s Lance Henriksen) is also picturesque as rugged, no-nonsense zombie-hunter Max.  Still, it can hardly be said to count in a film’s favor when the mosquito that bites the protagonist is one of the most sympathetic characters.  Consequently, ICA advises potential viewers to skip it and watch Warm Bodies (2013) instead.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Little Bit Zombie is:

14. Pro-gay.  “I support your decision,” Craig jokingly says of the idea of a hypothetical homosexual zombie wedding.  (cf. no. 5)

13. Anti-religion.  “Holy fuck, dude.”

12. Anti-German.  Craig, overhearing talk of shit-eating, asks if the reference is to Germans.

11. Pro-wigger.  “My bad,” concedes Max.  “Thug life,” comments Craig at Tina’s plan to abduct a stranger for Steve’s nourishment.

10. Gun-ambivalent.  Firearms are fetishized in picturesque moments, but are not employed with consistent wisdom.

9. Anti-obesity.  More than one fat zombie meets with flippant disposal.

8. Anti-family.  It is at Steve’s family’s cottage where the fatal bite occurs.  Steve has a dream mocking stereotypical 1950s domestic bliss.  Craig makes reference to Steve’s “fuckin’ freak family” and also calls them the Manson Family.  Max’s father left him to fend for himself in a Filipino jungle.  He says he would unhesitatingly shoot his mother in the face if she became infected with the plague.

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Craig and Sarah are both secret smokers.  Drinking makes a dupe susceptible to abduction.  One drunk urinates on another.

6. Anti-police.  Tina suggests that they ensnare a police officer so Steve can eat his brain.

5. Anti-redneck.  A local yokel sits outside and stares with open-mouthed fascination at the sun.  Craig calls eccentric meat market proprietor and gun aficionado Capt. Cletus “Admiral Redneck”.  Cletus refers to Craig as a “queer-lookin’ feller”.

4. Un-p.c.  Steve kills a rabbit by biting into its skull.  A “team-building” exercise is described as “retarded”.  Craig more than once calls Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.  “I hate the Portuguese,” Tina confesses.  Max calls a hybrid a “fucking hippie car.”

3. Feminist.  “I could teach you to cook,” Tina offers, eliciting a disgusted sigh from Sarah.  The pair outsmarts a “big scary guy” by using their womanly wiles.  Women fight and wield guns with comfort and effectiveness.

2. Pro-castration, celebrating the sensitive, wimpy man in Steve, a fellow for the “workplace conflict resolution initiatives” who allows his fiancée to micro-manage his life.  Craig, after playing the macho man and advising Steve to “grow some nads”, wimpily asks him not to tell Sarah that he smokes.  He also cops out in the end and apologizes for calling Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.

1. Pro-marriage.  Tina sticks by Steve despite his disconcerting condition.

 

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purge-anarchy-poster

The Purge (2013) demonstrated that writer-director James DeMonaco is a gifted craftsman of suspense – and also a lefty retard who believes economic inequality and gun rights are the roots of all of America’s evil. The same can be said for DeMonaco’s follow-up, The Purge: Anarchy, which, like its predecessor, is a nicely constructed scare film informed by its creator’s contemptible ignorance.

In this installment, which takes up with an entirely new set of characters, a grieving father (Frank Grillo) takes advantage of America’s annual night of legalized bloodletting to go after the man responsible for his young son’s death. Along the way he crosses paths with a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car breaks down – oh shit! – just as the Purge commences and a mongrel mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who also find themselves on the unlucky end of the hunter-prey relationship.

The Purge: Anarchy introduces a few new elements into the franchise mythology, incorporating ideas from Richard Connell’s oft-filmed short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, with well-to-do Purgers hiring squads to go out and collect unfortunate specimens for them to hunt on private property. Another new feature, perhaps inspired by the subversive movement in the thematically similar Death Race 2000 (1975), is an underground revolutionary movement, led by the foulmouthed Carmelo (Michael K. Williams).

Grillo’s alpha male power maintains viewer interest in the lead character’s mission (the she-mutt charms on offer are less than entrancing, however), while Hala Bahmet’s costume design greatly enhances the spookiness, so to speak, of a gang of genuinely unsettling ghetto marauders. The Purge: Anarchy is a tightly wound, violent, electrified thriller that should satisfy fans of the original film and exasperate those who found it offensive.

Purge God

Whatever happened to Buckwheat?

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Purge: Anarchy is:

9. Anti-obesity. More than one mentally unbalanced chubby girl takes part in the Purge.

8. Anti-drug. The hero’s son was killed by a drunk driver (Brandon Keener) – another one of those damned stupid white men. Pills figure in one scene as a scary habit.

7. Anti-Christian. Religious language and concepts are used irreverently throughout. Purgers hold hands in a prayer circle before commencing mass murder, and so forth.

6. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation. Eva (Ejogo) is that most admirable of American types: the minority single mother. She and her little hovel of high yellows or mestizos or whatever they are represent the racially indeterminate norm of America’s future.

5. Vigilante-ambivalent. Eva and her daughter implore Sergeant (Grillo) not to go through with his planned revenge. When the time comes to do the deed, he contents himself with giving his quarry a scare. Carmelo and his congoid army of avengers, however, appear to be fully justified in their activities. The lesson, then, would seem to be that personal vendettas and individually motivated murders are wrong but that violent mass actions of class conflict are validated by the demands of social justice. In one audience-pleasing scene, a Wall Street crook’s corpse is seen hanging over a sidewalk.

4. State-skeptical. The Purge: Anarchy is imbued with an uneasiness about the hyper-surveillance state, and it turns out that the “New Founding Fathers” who preside over the Purge are actually participating and using street cameras to track their prey. Typical of DeMonaco’s political idiocy is his paradoxical advocacy of gun control in conjunction with his distrust of authoritarian government. One can only assume that the “New Founding Fathers” of the Purge franchise are, to his mind, something like the Tea Party on steroids, and that a government sensitive to the people’s need for gun confiscation would be more trustworthy.

3. Anti-gun. The first Purge posits that guns are weapons of aggression and simply not an effective means of crime deterrence and home protection, as illustrated by a scene in which Ethan Hawke’s gun is used against him. The sequel, in which the Second Amendment becomes not only a license to kill, but an article of fanatical religious faith, suggests the same idea in a scene in which Eva’s pistol is in another room and out of reach when her home is invaded. The Purge: Anarchy, however, finds DeMonaco (who admits to being “terrified of guns“) going totally off the rails on a crazy train of convoluted reasoning according to which gun ownership represents such a threat to public safety that the poor masses must rise up with guns to combat gun owners. Black Marxists with guns is good and progressive. Rich white people with guns, on the other hand, is just another hateful Holocaust waiting to happen.

2. Egalitarian. The annual Purge exists partly to contain crime to a single night, but also for population control, with the poor and homeless being the ones who cannot afford to protect themselves. Carmelo rails against the “market mentality”. Eva puts in a good word for Obamacare by mentioning that she can hardly afford medical coverage for her family. The Purge: Anarchy furthermore asks viewers to understand that a gang of sick masked black thugs led by Keith Stanfield only participates because they need the money. Hear that, America? Flash mobs and polar bear hunters – the sort of African garbage documented by Paul Kersey and Colin Flaherty – do what they do only because they are socially marginalized and disadvantaged by structural inequality. Revolutionary death squads save the day. End credits feature money spattered with blood.

1. Anti-white. Surprisingly, The Purge: Anarchy is less single-mindedly anti-white than the first film, and features plenty of minority perpetrators, such as would-be rapist Diego (Noel Gugliemi) and the aforementioned masked street trash. Make no mistake as to this film’s principal target, however. In one of the dumbest sequences, Eva’s father (John Beasley) agrees, in exchange for monetary compensation to be paid to his daughter, to go to the home of a “posh” WASP family to allow himself to be butchered as a literal sacrificial Negro. “Change”, this movie informs its viewers through Carmelo, only comes with the spilled blood of the (white) rich. Climactic scenes include a machine-gun slaughter of wealthy WASPs, several blondes among them, by the black communists.

 

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