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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWENTY

Kill the Messenger

Anybody with even a casual interest in conspiracy lore knows at least the outline of the true events that inspired this worthwhile film. Released on the heels of the Ferguson unrest of 2014, Kill the Messenger tells the story of San Jose Mercury News journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), who discovered that the 80s crack apocalypse epicentered in Los Angeles was facilitated by the Central Intelligence Agency through its sponsorship of the Nicaraguan contras.

Unlike any number of other media stories about police brutality, microaggressions, gentrification, hoodie scares, or other mysterious manifestations of racism and white privilege, Webb’s unsavory revelations give blacks good reason to be angry at their government’s actions. Webb made powerful enemies with his disclosures, which cut across partisan politics but incensed blacks in particular, and understandably so, given crack’s devastation of their families and neighborhoods. Kill the Messenger stops short of alleging that the CIA intentionally targeted black communities for destruction, but does highlight the particular blight these areas have endured.

Primarily, Kill the Messenger is the story of Webb the man, whose life and career were irreparably damaged by the titular smear campaign. Tastefully, but admittedly somewhat disappointingly, the movie leaves to viewers’ imaginations the question of whether Webb, as the official version goes, committed suicide by shooting himself twice (!) in the head or was murdered by some New World Order assassin. Renner is intense as Gary Webb, and the use of actual television news reportage of the day – including CIA shill (and current Ben Carson foreign policy advisor) Duane Clarridge’s jaw-droppingly stupid and smarmy reaction to Webb’s allegations: “Don’t give me that conspiracy bullshit. […] There has never been a conspiracy in this country” – does much to enhance the impression of reality.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Kill the Messenger is:

6. Non-partisan. Both Republicans and Democrats are implicated, as is indicated by the opening montage.

5. Pro-gun. Webb keeps a handgun in his home and uses it to scare a spooky prowler away from his car.

4. Drug-ambivalent. Webb and his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) smoke weed, but a visit to South Central Los Angeles underscores crack’s social ravages.

3. Media-critical. After initially celebrating his breakthrough, Webb’s fellow journalists either distance themselves from him or devote themselves to discrediting his work.

2. Anti-state. This writer must not have been paying attention during his high school civics class when the teacher explained how it was the government’s responsibility to import hard drugs into the country.

1. Borderline anti-Semitic! Richard Schiff plays Richard Zuckerman, a CIA asset and shill utilizing The Washington Post to trash Webb’s credibility. Tim Blake Nelson plays sleazy attorney Alan Fenster, who, while lending crucial assistance to Webb’s investigation, comes across as the stereotypical lawyer who insists even in private conferences on referring to his client “Freeway” Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams) as merely an “alleged” drug dealer. Oliver Platt, meanwhile, appears as Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who at first defends Webb’s work but then wimps out in the face of the media firestorm. Perhaps to compensate for these unappealing characterizations, both Webb and his wife as visualized in the movie are darker, less Nordic-looking figures than the biographical subjects.

Gary Webb

Gary Webb

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner

 

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Chernobyl-Diaries-poster

Carefree young Americans on a European holiday disport through various photo opportunities during the opening minutes of Chernobyl Diaries. Their frivolity, however, is, as one might expect in a horror movie (or any movie set in the Ukraine, for that matter), short-lived. Impulsive Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) convinces his brother and other friends to go in for a bit of “extreme tourism” by visiting the abandoned town of Pripyat, once home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear complex – and, in a scenario reminiscent of The Hills Have Eyes, the group discovers that they are not alone. The menace’s true nature is wisely withheld from the audience during the film’s first half, and shot with minimal revelation when it finally does appear, so that it never loses mystique and generates high levels of tension. Consequently, prospective trekkers on this journey into fright may prefer to watch it with all of the lights safely on.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Chernobyl Diaries is:

5. Mildly feminist. Paul is saved by one of the girls.

4. Moderately anti-family. Paul comes from a dysfunctional family. The brothers’ connection is a mutual liability.

3. Anti-state. Chernobyl is a relic of statist failure. Secretive authorities maintain a cover-up of present conditions in Pripyat.

2. Green. “Nature has reclaimed its rightful home.” The savagery experienced by the protagonists can be interpreted as an environmental revenge directed at man for his arrogant scientific meddling in fields of taboo knowledge. Vegetation and rot have overtaken Pripyat, with weeds having sprouted up in a gym and other interiors.

1. Anti-Slav. Tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) is a decent, if somewhat dishonest, man, while other representative Ukrainians include rude, sexually aggressive young Kievans and the unfriendly checkpoint sentries outside the forbidden zone. More fundamentally, the nocturnal, radioactive threat in Chernobyl Diaries hints at Hollywood’s paranoia that, somewhere under Eastern Europe’s tenuous veneer of post-Soviet reform and democratic openness, there seethes something brutal, subhuman, and probably innately anti-Semitic.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Vice poster

Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a bleak futuristic movie. Combining elements of Westworld (1973) and Blade Runner (1982) and updating these themes with apprehensions of twenty-first century cultural rot and a rising police state, Vice is a worthy entry in the dystopian thriller genre. Appropriately, generic actress Ambyr Childers stars as a synthetic human plaything at Vice, an indoor resort complex for perverts and sadists. Thomas Jane is cool as the dedicated but tired cop who attempts to find Childers after she escapes into the outside world, and Bruce Willis oozes the sleaze of authority as Vice’s untouchable proprietor. Fast-paced and relevant, Vice is solid. Those hoping for outrageous depictions of high-tech debauchery, however, will be disappointed, as most of the sex is merely teased.

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

5. Arguably Christian. A church provides at least momentary refuge. One line of dialogue suggests that those wrapped up in illusions avoid such places. Christians are falsely blamed as likely terrorist suspects.

4. Misandrist. Vice, unfortunately, is full of today’s hysteria about a ridiculous “rape culture”. The film depicts a nightmare America not unlike that from the Purge franchise, in which white males would delight in nothing more than to pay for the privilege of beating up, raping, and murdering women.

3. Anti-state and anti-corporate. Vice reflects the darkening reality of a world governed by a sexually permissive but totalitarian state guided by materialistic corporate interests. Elements of the police are in Willis’s pocket and work to cover up his crimes. The Vice resort fronts for defense sector research, the “artificials” being tested for military applications. The film can also be read as a skewering of the official 9/11 story.

2. Luddite. Technology threatens human liberty. Characters hope to escape to the “tech-free zone” of St. Helena.

1. Pro-censorship. Surprisingly for a Hollywood movie, Vice contains a thinly veiled argument for censorship. Describing the pleasure palace in words that might just as easily refer to the multiplex and its desensitizing effect on viewers, Thomas Jane’s cop holds forth as follows:

You know, people go in there and they get their freak on and they do whatever they do, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they keep goin’ in there, and then they bring that shit out in the real world, it feels normal to them. [. . .] I used to be a cop. I’m not a cop anymore. I’m a fuckin’ garbage collector since that fuckin’ place opened up. It needs to be shut down.

Later, in a confrontation with villain Willis, he adds:

This is the only place I know that any scumbag in the world can get into paradise [. . .] You would think that if you created a place where people could come and they could commit any crime they could think of, just any fucked-up thing that comes into their head, they could get it out of their system and they’d become better citizens, you know. But you know it turns out, the exact opposite is true. These people get a taste and they just can’t get enough.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Closed Circuit

Forget neoconservative junk like Zero Dark Thirty. Closed Circuit is the real deal – or, anyway, as close to it as a major motion picture is likely to get in the present climate. After a 7/7-reminiscent terrorist bombing in London, attorneys Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall are assigned the task of defending Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), the alleged “mastermind” of the attack. It soon becomes clear, however, that nothing is as it seems in this self-described “conspiracy thriller”, as Bana discovers that the case is “being managed” from above and that the “suicide” of the previous barrister handling Erdogan’s defense might actually foreshadow his own demise. Unremittingly grim and realistically paranoid, Closed Circuit moves at a healthy clip, sustained by the lead actors’ earnest performances, and suffers principally from its anemic chromatic palette and visual drabness.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Closed Circuit is:

7. Anti-marriage. Bana is going through a divorce.

6. Feminist. Hall portrays an assertive, tough, and detail-oriented professional woman.

5. Anti-drug. Government patsy Erdogan is a heroin addict who, in the great Islamic fundamentalist tradition, has a drunk driving arrest on his record. The poor quality of the horse made available to him in prison causes him to be nauseous.

4. Anti-racist/multiculturalist. An East Indian complains that he is regularly stopped by police. The War on Terror, Closed Circuit suggests, has exacerbated racial prejudices. The multicultural wealth of London’s Turkish population proves to be an asset to the investigation.

3. Media-skeptical. The British press is characterized as unscrupulous. Closed Circuit strains credibility, however, in suggesting that The New York Times, of all publications – the “newspaper of record” that, for instance, covered up the Holodomor – would be the beacon of honesty in such a scenario, and that one of its reporters (Julia Stiles) would risk assassination to bring the truth about synthetic terrorism to the public.

2. Anti-state. Closed Circuit performs a modest service in mainstreaming the concept of government-instigated terror, with “national security” considerations only masking the cover-up; but the movie stops short of accusing western intelligence agencies of actually commissioning false flag terror attacks. Instead, Closed Circuit presents a story in which MI-5, through “incompetence”, has lost control of its counterterrorism operation.

1. Defeatist. “We’re not strong enough to fight them, are we?”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey, who over the past few years has become one of this writer’s favorite actors working today, is the only reason to watch Dallas Buyers Club, the most recent attempt to subvert and metamorphose the American cowboy into a gay activism icon after the manner of Brokeback Mountain (2005). McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a narrow-minded ne’er-do-well whose life changes forever – or, anyway, for what remains of it – after he is diagnosed with what Andy Warhol called “gay cancer”.

Jennifer Garner portrays a concerned physician, while Jared Leto munches the scenery as junkie transvestite Rayon, who becomes Woodroof’s business partner in the “Dallas Buyers Club”, a grassroots enterprise designed to provide AIDS sufferers with a healthier treatment alternative than the big pharmaceutical competition. Woodroof’s drive to prolong his life and combat the establishment’s market stranglehold is fairly compelling, but squeamish viewers are forewarned that the movie contains such tacky attempts at heart-tuggery as the sight of a sick, self-pitying transvestite drooling blood and whining “I don’t wanna die . . .”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dallas Buyers Club is:

9. Anti-Christian. Woodroof dresses as a priest while attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. The image of an AIDS patient wearing a clerical collar is of course no sartorial accident and works as a barb directed at Catholic moral hypocrisy, so many priests being closeted homosexuals, many of whom are known to have succumbed to AIDS.

8. Anti-drug. Woodruff’s intravenous drug use, along with his inveterate whore-chasing, has put him at greater risk for contracting AIDS. Also, Rayon’s dope addiction only exacerbates his decline.

7. Anti-racist. One of the personal failings Woodroof must overcome is his racism, evidenced by his references to Asians as “chinks” and Saudis as “sand niggers”. As his drug procurement operation goes global, he learns to appreciate the profitability of doing business with foreigners. “I like your style,” he tells a Japanese doctor.

6. Feminist. In addition to overcoming his racism, Woodroof must also come to accept women’s contributions to the modern workforce. “I don’t want a nurse, I want a doctor!” he protests in one early scene.

5. Anti-redneck. The spectacle of a gun-toting “homophobic asshole” and piece of “Texas hick white trash” suffering from AIDS and lashing out in his agony as dignified professional women and minorities look on with contempt is pure political porn for liberals, the quintessence of their wishful thinking.

4. Capitalist. Dallas Buyers Club betrays a left-libertarian streak in its combination of social liberalism and celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, attempting to illustrate how unfettered markets will serve both the small businessman and consumer. “I say what goes in my body, not you.”

3. Anti-corporatism. The IRS, DEA, and particularly the FDA appear as antagonists in the film, the cronyist footmen of big pharma monopolists looking to squeeze the competition. “Now that’s the shit that’ll rot your insides,” Woodroof avers, examining a package of meat in a grocery store. “What a surprise,” he then adds, “FDA-approved.” The FDA, Dallas Buyers Club alleges, merely functions as big pharma’s glorified street pushers.

2. Pro-gay. Through a business partnership that blossoms into a friendship, Woodroof learns to appreciate Rayon as an individual, and comes to appreciate the general plight of homosexuals as he succumbs to the disease they share. AIDS, as the great sexual-sociopolitical equalizer, almost seems to be the movie’s unsung hero. Demonstrating his transformation from homophobe to humanitarian, Woodroof in one scene grabs his bigoted friend T.J. (Kevin Rankin) and holds him in a headlock until he agrees to shake Rayon’s hand. Homosexuals appear as sensitive and nurturing throughout Dallas Buyers Club.

1. Pro-NWO. “Look at this place,” Woodroof muses, surveying the scene in a bohemian clinic south of the border. “Fuckin’ chinks, homos, herbs, hot nurses. You got a regular New World Order goin’ on here . . .”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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.

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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bullet_to_the_head

Action specialist Walter Hill has always had a fondness for hero odd couples, a formula the director exploited with memorably entertaining results in 48 Hrs., Red Heat, and Another 48 Hrs.; and now Hill returns to the genre in triumph with Bullet to the Head, the director’s first feature film in many years, but a worthy addition to his impressive filmography and well worth the protracted wait.

Bullet to the Head is a near-perfect showcase for the haggard and frightening gravitas of over-the-hill Sylvester Stallone, who as cynical but likable hit man Jimmy “Bobo” Bonomo looks as chiseled, sleepy-eyed, and casually homicidal as ever, his voice so inhumanly deep and guttural that it sounds as if he has a football-sized phlegm wad and a few shell fragments lodged behind his chest. Veins protrude from his arms like earthworms writhing under the flesh of this man so old he seems just as likely to keel over dead from petrifaction as lash out and take off an enemy head.

But fortunately for action fans, Bobo makes it through the flick and takes out the trash in classic style, gunning for the gangsters and dirty cops who double-crossed him and killed his partner and teaming up for the purpose with D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), whose own investigation of a fellow officer’s murder has led him to Bobo’s own New Orleans. Sung Kang packs about as much charisma as stale tofu, but his presence allows for politically incorrect fun-poking from Stallone along the sarcastic lines of, “Nice goin’, Oddjob” and “Why don’t you go read some fuckin’ tea leaves?” The generational-technological gap between the two is also effective, recalling the dynamic between Bruce Willis and Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard.

The culprits turn out to be high-rollers Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a cane-pimping African emigre with a knowledge of classical literature (of course!), and his sleazy associate Marcus Baptiste, played by Christian Slater, who seems to have transitioned gracefully enough from weaselly 80s alt-heartthrob roles to weaselly middle-aged bad guys. Bobo himself, meanwhile, is also being hunted by mercenary Keegan (Jason Momoa), a mean-eyed menace whose constant scowling is reminiscent of Ed O’Ross’s turn in Red Heat.

Bullet to the Head makes a decent (if perhaps too-obvious) effort to give its story a bit of the spice and flavor of its New Orleans setting, and a sassy blues score by Steve Mazzaro sets the unpretty tone of the film, with Sarah Shahi furnishing skank appeal as Bobo’s bastard tattoo artist daughter. But the main attraction here is always Sylvester Stallone. In addition to getting into a brutal Turkish bath fight, Stallone has a climactic, adrenaline-pumping axe duel with Momoa that earned the movie an extra half-star from this reviewer. Truly an experience to elicit affirmative Tim Allen chimp grunts from seasoned remote control warriors everywhere, Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head is aggressively recommended to proud dick owners only.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bullet to the Head is:

11. Sexist! One of Bobo’s rules as a hit man is “no women, no children”. A modern, sexually enlightened, and gender-blind gentleman would be just as eager to kill marked women as men. The climactic confrontation involves a damsel in distress.

10. Anti-Christian. A foul-mouthed, coke-and-booze-binging jerk (Holt McCallany) wears a crucifix. One of the villains is named Baptiste.

9. Anti-redneck. “I don’t trust that redneck prick.”

8. Pro-gay. Lesbians tango at a costume ball.

7. Anti-Slav. As in Pain and Gain, The Heat, and A Good Day to Die Hard, the Slavic woman is defined by sleaze.

6. Pro-torture. Sadism is an asset in interrogating a captive.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Bobo is a heavy drinker, but is no less effective for it. His daughter’s mother is a dead junkie hooker. (see also no. 10)

4. Un-p.c. Bobo calls Kwon “Confucius”, etc.

3. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Kwon hooks up with Bobo’s daughter. New Orleans appears as a happy (albeit catastrophically corrupt) multiracial city, with blacks and whites mingling to hear some jazz.

2. Anti-police. Wooed by graft, cops become killers.

1. Anti-state/anti-cronyism. Motivating much of the killing is Morel’s plan to knock down poor (presumably black) people’s housing and throw up condominiums. “This goes way up, man. We’re talkin’ ’bout Washington.”

Escape Plan

Sylvester Stallone, who previously suffered and grunted to great effect in the excellent Lock Up (1989), gets thrown into the slammer again in Escape Plan as Ray Breslin, the Harry Houdini of incarceration. Breslin is so adept at egress from maximum security penitentiaries that he actually makes his living at it, hiring out his services to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and going undercover in different correctional institutions across the country to test their tightness. Breslin finds himself in the bind of his life when he agrees to try his hand at the Tomb, a CIA-commissioned, privately operated black prison “off the grid” and designed for containing dissidents the government would prefer to see “disappeared”. This time Breslin’s sentence is more than a game.

A gray-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger plays second fiddle to Stallone’s hero, but does add considerably to the fun of the film. He is given one moment of greatness equal to his larger-than-life persona when, in testosterone-mainlining slow motion, he levels a machine gun and mows down a gallery of disposable baddies. Jim Caviezel, unfortunately, is inadequate to the task of furnishing proper antagonism for the likes of the two leading titans. Sam Neill collects a paycheck for playing a tiny supporting role as the prison’s doctor, while Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson keeps it real representin’ the African-American computer genius community as Breslin’s loyal “techno-thug” Hush.

Escape Plan has exactly two things going for it: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The script is lame and about as original as the title, with typical lines of dialogue being, “You hit like a vegetarian”; “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, motherfucker!”; and, still more amazing, this brilliantly sarcastic coup of a zinger: “Have a lovely day, asshole.” Weaknesses aside, the story is fast-paced, the performances are fun, and the dynamite action combo of Stallone and Schwarzenegger will be a difficult one for fans to resist.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Escape Plan is:

7. Anti-tobacco. A guard’s routine of taking a smoke break causes him to be distracted.

6. Pro-miscegenation. The streets of New Orleans teem with interraciality.

5. Anti-Christian. Schwarzenegger, putting on a show of insanity for the guards, spouts religious nonsense in German. Stallone tears a page out of a Bible and burns it.

4. Anti-torture. Guards pummel Stallone and force water down Schwarzenegger’s throat with a hose.

3. Anti-neoconservative. The Tomb, with its savagery, high-tech surveillance, and disregard for citizens’ constitutional rights, serves as a microcosm of life in post-9/11 America. Giving the lie to the Islam-bashers, Muslim prisoners are violent only when they are provoked.

2. Anti-cronyism/anti-capitalistic. The Tomb is operated by “Blackwater rejects” who do the dirty work of corrupt, authoritarian governments and international bankers. “From a financial standpoint I like it,” Breslin’s business partner (Vincent D’Onofrio) says on hearing about the Tomb and the money he stands to make by cooperating with the CIA. Schwarzenegger is an anarchist or revolutionary of some sort who seeks to bring down the financial establishment.

1. Anti-state. The Tomb is administered by the significantly monickered Mr. Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who boasts, “In here you have no control over any part of your life, except your breathing.” Of interest, too, is the deindividuated design of the brutal prison screws, who wear S.W.A.T.-flavored get-ups and charcoal-black masks with Caucasian features. Could this be a commentary on the reality of life under fake black president B.O., whose ballyhooed skin color masks exactly the same opportunism that motivated his predecessors in office?

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.

The Alternative Right

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