Archives for posts with tag: banker

Black Sea

Directed by documentarian Kevin MacDonald – no, not that Kevin MacDonald – Black Sea is a taut, gritty undersea suspense feature, a fine addition to the venerable submarine subgenre that manages to be original while also echoing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) in its story of treachery motivated by lust for gold. Jude Law, never one of this writer’s favorite actors, turns in a surprisingly masculine turn as an unemployed submariner who signs on with a ragtag, half-British, half-Russian team of dead-enders to swipe a sunken cache of Nazi gold and spite his previous employers by beating them to the punch. Black Sea also packs a major plot twist that ratchets the tension nicely. Definitely recommended.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Black Sea is:

4. Anti-tobacco. Peters (David Threlfall) has emphysema, reminding audiences of the dangers of smoking.

3. Anti-fascist. The backstory on the treasure is that Hitler, with Nazi Germany’s economy on the verge of collapse in 1941, extorted an exorbitant “loan” from Stalin’s “neutral” U.S.S.R. with a threat of invasion if the demanded sum was not received. The implication would seem to be that, while the communists enjoyed an ebullient economy, Hitler’s Third Reich was an inefficient basket case that could generate prosperity only through intimidation and violence. Nazis in a sunken sub are also revealed to have engaged in cannibalism.

2. Anti-corporate, anti-bankster. Financial elites inspire loathing and corporate players cannot be trusted.

1. Egalitarian. Robinson (Jude Law) dictates that every man in the crew is to receive an equal share of the booty regardless of his specific responsibilities or national origin. The submarine therefore functions as a microcosm of an experimental socialist society – one that sinks or floats on the strength of collective cooperation. Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn, reunited with Killing Them Softly costar Scoot McNairy, who plays corporate weasel Daniels) is the unredeemable teabagger type in the group, who thinks his ethnic cohort deserves a bigger share of the loot and refuses to share with the Russians. It is Fraser, with his combination of individualistic greed and jingoism, who will more than once put the crew in serious peril. Robinson, through his climactic demonstration of heroism, proves to be motivated more by a sense of justice and vengeance against a hostile elite than by greed or personal pettiness.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

The Christmas Gift (1986) ****  John Denver, who in 1972 extolled his “Rocky Mountain High”, heads back to his beloved Rockies for this decent television production. Denver plays George Billings, a New York architect and recent widower who travels to Colorado for Christmas along with his little daughter Alex (Gennie James, who appeared in another TV movie, A Smoky Mountain Christmas, that same December). Ostensibly, Billings is on vacation and only seeking a change of scenery in the rustic hamlet of Georgetown; but Billings’s callous and greedy employer, Mr. Renfield (Edward Winter), has actually sent him to scout and survey the location of a future commercial development.

Billings begins to have second thoughts about the plan, however, when he meets local beauty Susan (Jane Kaczmarek) and comes to an appreciation of Georgetown’s unspoiled small-town charm and innocence. Exactly how innocent becomes clear to Billings when he realizes that even the adults in this backwater still believe in Santa Claus. Some in the town have fallen on hard times – chief among these being rancher Jake (Kurtwood Smith, whom viewers may remember as one of the villains in the original RoboCop), who has been unable to pay his debts and faces impending foreclosure – so that the lucrative proposition of Mr. Renfield, who has the connivance of Georgetown’s well-meaning Mayor Truesdale (James T. Callahan), presents a genuine temptation to a community faced with the difficult choice of modernizing and so losing its identity or struggling on and facing a possible future as a ghost town.

John Denver is effortlessly likable in the lead, and gets to sing one of his own songs, “Love Again” (from his 1986 One World album), in addition to joining with townsfolk for a couple of Christmas carols. Gennie James is cute, Jane Kaczmarek is wholesomely sexy, and Pat Corley (Murphy Brown), who comes across as a poor man’s Jonathan Winters, is amusing in his role of daffy old taxi driver Bud, with clown-faced veteran character actress Mary Wickes adding some extra color as Bud’s hotel proprietress sister. The Christmas Gift is harmless fun and worth an unwrapping if shoppers are snowbound, particularly since (as of writing) it has been uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. The Christmas Gift gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Christmas Gift

From Rocky Mountain High to Mount Zion rock bottom . . .

Israel O Blessed Israel!Israel, O Blessed Israel! (1992) **  Subtitled A Gospel Music Journey in the Holy Land, this dogforsaken howler from the VHS ejection heap is part sermon, part cheapjack music video, part travelogue, and part symbolic act of fellatio performed for the gratification of organized Jewry. Pat Boone, who shamelessly threw in with the Zionist lot back in 1960 when he warbled the overwrought anthem to Otto Preminger’s six-million-hour Israeli epic Exodus, returns to glowingly tread the paths that Jesus Christ Himself walked, sing some hymns, and drum up tourism dollars for America’s favorite Middle Eastern welfare case.

The show opens with “Israel, O Blessed Israel”, probably the worst piece of junk Boone ever recorded, stinking up the place over images of innocent children, flowers, mountains, and the majestically fluttering Israeli flag. Has-been Boone almost seems to fancy himself a kind of peripatetic holy man as he wanders about in his clean white shirt, beige slacks, and all-American tennis shoes – with a picture of Jesus disconcertingly fading into Boone’s faintly evil features at one point. In addition to singing tepid arrangements of “How Great Thou Art” and other standards, Boone recites uplifting passages from the scriptures – promising, for instance, that Israel’s enemies “will forever be destroyed” – and, so as to drive home the all-important point of the Savior’s Jewishness, more than once makes a point of referring to Jesus as “a rabbi”.

Unintentional humor occurs as a slack-jawed camel comes lumbering into view in slow motion to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and when a fly whizzes by Boone’s head as he renders “In the Garden”. For some reason, viewers are treated to the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii also makes an unexpected appearance. The tape even takes a brief turn for the scary, slipping into gray, vague, and indiscernible visuals, when Boone recounts a hoary anecdote about reanimated skeletons. To its credit, Israel, O Blessed Israel! does provide a showcase for the country’s bountiful natural beauties and impressive air of antiquity, but let these commendations not lead prospective viewers into any undue temptation, for this VHS relic, verily, brethren, is for hardcore schlock aficionados and Zio-masochists only. 2 out of 5 blue Stars of David.

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.

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