Archives for posts with tag: Arizona

Machete Kills poster

Rodriguez’s most recent contribution to the Mexploitation subgenre, Machete Kills is exactly the movie one would expect it to be: a shallow, self-congratulatorily hip, and hyperviolent celebration of Mexican ethnic pride and muscle-flexing Reconquista. Danny Trejo reprises the role of the righteous butcher who in this sequel accepts a presidential offer of American citizenship in exchange for stopping a cataclysmic missile strike on Washington. Machete Kills is sufficiently fast-paced to ward off snores, but the cartoonish tone and the flippant approach to the violence keep it from generating any emotional interest or genuine suspense. One hopes for the sake of the future of film that this big-budget B-movie brand of Tarantinoid, winking, self-aware exploitation fetishism has almost run its course.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Machete Kills is:

13. State-skeptical. “Justice and law aren’t always the same thing.”

12. Anti-military. Corrupt soldiers sell government-issue arms to a drug cartel.

11. Anti-family. A whore recounts how her father raped her. (see also no. 2)

10. Drug-ambivalent. Machete “don’t smoke”, but lights a bazooka like a bong. The drug cartels are his enemies.

9. Pro-miscegenation. Can anyone blame Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) for being unable to resist Machete’s haggard, wrinkly, and humorless Aztec charms?

8. Anti-gun. Machete prefers blades. A campaign commercial associates Second Amendment advocacy with pork spending on military hardware. The principal villain, Voz (Mel Gibson), is a firearms manufacturer.

7. Globalist and war-ambivalent. “This isn’t about Mexico no more. It’s about the world.” Voz reveals he has installed puppet troublemakers in North Korea and Russia so as to pump government interest in his military wares. While there is truth in the notion that international bogeys are frequently manufactured as pretexts for war, Machete Kills endorses the neocon worldview to the extent that it accepts that Russia and North Korea are legitimately threatening to American national security. “Fuck world peace,” says Miss San Antonio.

6. Feminist. “Don’t call me sweetheart,” bristles Sartana (Jessica Alba) before gunning down a male chauvinist pig. Machete Kills milks the tired non-novelty of women acting tough and shooting their mouths and machine-guns, which here include weapons mounted on the bosom and crotch. Interestingly, the long tradition of sexual violence directed exclusively at the male genitalia finally seems to be coming home to haunt the feminists in the form of the sickening “pussy punch”. Only girls are allowed to play this dirty hand, however. (see also no. 2)

5. Anti-Christian. Voz looks forward to a day when “kingdom comes”. White supremacist Sheriff Doakes uses expressions like “Amen” and “Hallelujah”. Assassin the Chameleon (a shapeshifter portrayed at different points in the film by Walter Goggins, Cuba Gooding, Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas) drives a truck called the “Holy Roller”, with kitschy religious knickknacks on the dashboard. “Preach it, Sister,” says villainess Miss San Antonio.

4. Anti-white. Whites – surprise, surprise! – are the bad guys. Those who, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, concern themselves with America’s sovereignty and security, are represented in Machete Kills by the likes of the dopey Minutemen-like “Freedom Force” and Sheriff Doakes (William Sadler), who calls Mexicans things like “taco” and “beaner”. Voz plans to abscond into outer space with a load of Mexicans to serve him as slave labor. Blonde beauty and secret agent Miss San Antonio lives up to her hair color and turns out to be a traitoress. The decision to cast Mel Gibson, with his off-screen baggage of accusations of anti-Semitism and bigotry, as supervillain Voz reinforces the anti-white/anti-racist theme.

3. Pro-amnesty. Machete is Mexico, observes President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen), who by offering citizenship to Machete is in effect endorsing the wholesale naturalization of everybody south of the border. “Even Jesus couldn’t get through that damn wall.” Sadly, many of the ignorant dupes who see this movie will probably be led to believe that there actually is a wall protecting the U.S. from turd world invasion.

2. Anti-human. The title says it all, with enough red splattering to paint a barn. In addition, Miss San Antonio in her pageant speech endorses “a woman’s right to choose.”

1. Razist. “You fucked with the wrong Mexican.”

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A Million Ways to Die in the West

 

Central to Post-American Hollywood’s hate affair with European-American heritage is its especial loathing for the rugged, expansive tradition of the masculine Old West, a tired spite that found expression in Brokeback Mountain (2005), Django Unchained (2012), and last year’s flop Lone Ranger remake, and now throws a new shovelful of Marxist manure onto the pile with A Million Ways to Die in the West, the latest directorial effort of Family Guy auteur Seth MacFarlane, whose last foray into feature filmmaking was the less heartless and more palatable Ted (2012).

The western spoof was never a genre that held much interest for this reviewer. After Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962), Little Big Man (1970), Thank You Mask Man (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974), and so many others, was there really such high demand for another one of these things? Worst is that A Million Ways to Die in the West misses even the broad target of this underachieving subgenre and fails to elicit a single laugh – with, perhaps, the brief exception of the absurd sight of Gilbert Gottfried dressed up to look like Abraham Lincoln.

MacFarlane, who stars as an Arizona sheep farmer, lacks the charisma and color to carry a gonzo film of this sort, and might have done better to cast Seth Rogen or some other funny Jew in the lead. Monument Valley, at least, was never more gorgeous, and sets off race traitoress Charlize Theron’s earthy beauty to nice effect. Liam Neeson, too, is adequate as the principal villain, while Sarah Silverman is convincing as (what a stretch!) a brainless whore. No coup of casting, however, could offset the fact that A Million Ways to Die in the West is too explicitly nasty, self-aware, and mean-spirited to evoke any genuine mirth.

2 out of 5 stars. ICA’s advice: watch Shane (1953) again instead. That is, unless the viewer is absolutely determined to see a sheep urinating in Seth MacFarlane’s face or Doogie Howser, M.D., dumping noisy splats of diarrhea into a Stetson.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Million Ways to Die in the West is:

13. Pro-miscegenation. Giovanni Ribisi dirties himself with Jewish floozy Sarah Silverman.

12. Anti-capitalistic. Merchants receive unfavorable depictions in an arrogant mustache cosmetics salesman (Doogie Howser) and a quack medicine hawker (Dennis Haskins). Other representative forms of commerce and industry are prostitution and mining, which leads to health problems.

11. Anti-tobacco. MacFarlane has a coughing fit when he tries his first cigarette.

10. Anti-Arab. Theron, after hearing him do a mock rendition of an Islamic prayer, is relieved to learn that MacFarlane has no Arabian ancestry.

9. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Django himself, Jamie Foxx, shows up in a cameo to murder the proprietor of a “runaway slave” shooting game at a fair.

8. Anti-human. Among the sights MacFarlane expects the viewer to find hilarious are a family catching on fire and men being shot, gored by a bull, and smashed into bloody bits by a falling block of ice.

7. Pro-slut. Sarah Silverman with a gob of semen stuck to her cheek. How charming.

6. Anti-Christian. Parkinson’s disease is sarcastically described as one of the ways God shows His love. A pastor and his son are murderers. Silverman plays a prostitute who bangs ten customers “on a slow day” but refuses to compromise her Christian beliefs by having premarital sex with her fiance.

5. Pro-castration. MacFarlane’s girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him, mainly because the guy is such a wimpy, needy schmuck with no potential. The movie’s somewhat ambivalent solution to his woes, however, is not for the hero to turn himself into a stud and a macho gunslinger, but for him to become more open-minded, study under the tutelage of a feminist, take drugs, and embrace diversity. Sissy, progressive, ethnomasochistic men like MacFarlane and Ribisi are the characters the viewer is supposed to like, while traditionally masculine types are antagonists, with rough-loving outlaw Liam Neeson getting a daisy stuffed in his ass. Men, the message seems to be, ought not to toughen up so much as opt for moderation in wimpiness.

4. Gun-ambivalent. A Million Ways to Die in the West is naturally eager to depict the typical gun owner as a rowdy Caucasian who likes nothing better than to find an excuse to put a bullet through a stranger. The film finds itself in a bit of a quandary, however, in that it is difficult to tell an entertaining story about the Wild West without making use of heroic gunplay. As a compromise, the film features an unlikely, reluctant hero in MacFarlane, a man with no natural talent for shooting and who avoids confrontation when possible, but does learn (from a woman) how to handle a gun in order to protect himself from all of the horrible, unprogressive white men in town. A Million Ways to Die in the West appears to suggest that firearms are best left as a monopoly of responsible feminists like Charlize Theron.

3. Pro-drug. MacFarlane and Theron share a marijuana cookie. The hero later attains “true courage” by drinking a psychedelic concoction given to him by an Indian tribe. Group freakout sessions, explains their wise chief (Wes Studi), constitute the way to “true happiness”.

2. Feminist, anti-marriage, and anti-family. Theron heroically liberates herself from bossy, abusive husband Liam Neeson. MacFarlane’s parents are lifeless sourpusses who never show him any affection. Ribisi, meanwhile, mentions being molested by an uncle. (cf. nos. 5 and 8)

1. Anti-American. “The West fuckin’ sucks.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger has substandard luck with would-be blockbusters titled Last.  1993’s Last Action Hero, released a mere two years after the megahit Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is widely regarded as marking not only the end of Schwarzenegger’s reign at the box office and in audiences’ hearts and minds, but the demise of the larger-than-life 80s action film itself.  Now, in 2013, comes The Last Stand, a lively outing that ought to mark the muscleman’s triumphant return to action adoration, but which, alas, as it turns out, is just another relative flop.

Combining elements of High Noon and Vanishing Point, The Last Stand, with its southwestern flavor, brings Schwarzenegger full-circle in a way, considering that one of his earliest roles was in the western comedy The Villain.  Here Schwarzenegger is Ray Owens (sic), Sheriff of Sommerton County, Arizona, on America’s southern border.  His sleepy rural community is about to get more than its usual share of excitement when escaped drug cartel kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) hatches a plan to use Owens’s own unsuspecting town of Sommerton Junction as the end point of a sure-fire escape route to Mexico.  Making matters more difficult for federal and local authorities is the fact that Cortez is driving a futuristic and seemingly unstoppable thousand-horsepower Corvette.

The Last Stand is an unapologetically lightweight, nostalgic, high-testosterone crowd-pleaser, but no less pleasing for its lack of originality or depth.  Lukewarm box office notwithstanding, an Arnold Schwarzenegger gunplay-and-explosions vehicle – even a second-tier, self-consciously geriatric one – is something of a national treasure.  Schwarzenegger’s acting gives little evidence of having improved during his years in government, and may in fact have gotten worse; but nothing can mitigate the thrill of seeing this man in heroic action.

While he probably deserves a more iconic or physically imposing foe than lanky Eduardo Noriega or weird Peter Stormare (winner of this year’s Most Awkward American Accent Award), the supporting cast does much to enhance Schwarzenegger’s presence through humorous contrasts.  Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville are especially noteworthy in the comic relief department, and Forest Whitaker turns in an intensely invested performance as harried G-Man John Bannister.  The only thing The Last Stand may be missing is Schwarzenegger’s leading lady, as deputy Jaimie Alexander is too young to be the appropriate recipient of anything but his paternal affection.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Last Stand is:

6. Anti-drug.  Drug dealers, in the finest tradition of 80s action films, are the bad guys.

5. Pro-military.  An Iraq veteran ex-Marine is a key figure in the hometown defense.

4. Immigration-ambivalent.  Americans are reminded of their perilously porous border with Mexico when Cortez points out the irony of Owens trying to prevent him from returning to his own country when 12,000 Mexicans cross in the opposite direction every day.  “You make us immigrants look bad,” Owens tells Cortez.  It is unclear whether by saying “us immigrants” he identifies with the 12,000 mentioned by Cortez or only with the law-abiding variety.

3. Multiculturalist.  The Last Stand celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, Hispanics, women, Austrians, Asians, and dweebs.  Cortez, though the villain of the piece, represents Mexicans positively as a criminal mastermind and expert race car driver.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Eccentric gun collector Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) provides the firepower that allows the sheriff and his deputies to defend themselves against Cortez’s private army.  Notably, Dinkum offers a very useful “Nazi killer” machine gun he has kept in working order against the wishes of the government.  Elderly citizen Mrs. Salazar (Lois Geary) picks off one of Cortez’s mercenaries with her personal firearm.  Farmer Harry Dean Stanton is also admirable in attempting to defend his property with a shotgun.

1. Localist/traditionalist.  Sommerton Junction is a friendly, wholesome, peaceful place rather than the usual rustic nest of hateful Hollywood hicks.  FBI agent John Bannister underestimates the competence of the local sheriff’s department (significantly, an Arizona sheriff’s department).  He is humbled when Owens does his job for him and when the FBI is found to have been compromised by internal corruption.

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