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Multiple MickBlame_It_on_the_Night_poster

Blame It on the Night (1984) ***1/2

Top arena rocker Dalton (Nick Mancuso) has his busy but more-or-less freewheeling backstage lifestyle upset when he learns he has an illegitimate son, Job (Byron Thames), now a teenager attending a military academy. Dalton desperately wants to make up for lost time and to be a real father to the boy, who, however, has been accustomed to icy military discipline and insists on acting like he has a baton stuck up his ass. The clash of their personalities and the cache of Job’s unresolved emotional suppression and resentments provide the background for this innocuous 80s movie’s conflicts.

Philip Norman gives the following account of the Rolling Stones frontman’s involvement with Blame It on the Night in his 2012 biography Mick Jagger. Approached with the opportunity to star in the film, “Mick was initially interested, especially when producer Gene Taft offered him a co-credit for ‘original story’ if he would provide material from his own direct experience of rock stardom. He changed his mind, however, on realizing that the estranged parent-child theme had uncomfortable parallels with himself and his daughter Karis. When the film finally came out in 1984, ‘Michael Phillip Jagger’ was still co-credited [with Gene Taft] for the story.”1

The resulting experience suffers, haunted by the absent Jagger’s specter, so that one can only wonder, while watching Blame it on the Night, what the film might have been like had Jagger actually committed to playing the lead, which instead went to handsome but comparatively colorless Nick Mancuso. Jagger’s input on the rock ‘n’ roll life would likely have lent a gritty edge to what, in the event, is an overly sanitized portrayal of the world of rockers, roadies, and floozies, so that the movie almost seems to have been made to play on the Disney Channel. Scenes of Dalton angrily telling his son to clean up his room or, worse still, engineering a cringe-inducingly forced reconciliation around a campfire, are unconvincing, to say the least. Only former Willie Nelson drummer Rex Ludwick brings an air of rock excess to the film in the role of Dalton’s hearty-partying bandmate Animal.

Perhaps to compensate for the absence of Mick, notable Rolling Stones collaborators Billy Preston and Merry Clayton (whose fiery “Rape! Murder!” vocals fans will know from “Gimme Shelter”) appear as themselves in minor roles. Unfortunately, the music, with the exception of the marginally catchy title tune, is uniformly uber-generic 80s pop cheese delivered with sappy Michael McDonald earnestness. On the plus side, Blame It on the Night is appealingly paced and goes down as smoothly (and is about as nutritious) as a spoonful of Jell-O. Nostalgia aficionados, furthermore, will appreciate that Blame It on the Night features more than one obligatory 80s rock montage sequence. Think of it as a C-grade rock ‘n’ roll Over the Top minus all the testosterone and arm-wrestling.

Running out of Luck

Running out of Luck (1986) *****

Previous to helming this epically bizarre film, Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) director Julien Temple had also created the atmospheric music video for the Rolling Stones’ “Undercover of the Night” (1983). “For Julien Temple,” relates Philip Norman, “the filming [in Paris, passing for South America] was an experience that made the Sex Pistols seem almost a rest cure by comparison.”2 But whatever his bad experiences on that set, Temple agreed to reunite with Mick for another tropically-themed collaboration in 1985 when he jaunted to Rio de Janeiro to film the absurd rock musical Running out of Luck.

Essentially a vanity project for Mick, Running out of Luck finds the star playing his arrogant, sneering self in what amounts to a series of several music videos connected by a loose adventure narrative. After shooting a video for self-absorbed director Dennis Hopper (!) in Rio, Mick picks up three women who turn out to be transvestites (“She’s a geezer!”) and who beat him up, rob him, and stow him in a meat truck that takes him into the middle of Brazilian nowhere. After stumbling around and hallucinating in a desert, Mick gets picked up by a horny virago (Norma Bengell) who forces him to work on her banana plantation and satisfy her sexual needs. While there he hooks up with Brazilian bimbo Rae Dawn Chong (who has a steamy, bare-breasted love scene with the star) and makes his escape from the plantation only to fall into further misadventures and gets thrown into a grimy prison, which, fortunately for the viewer, is lax enough to let Mick to sing and wiggle his butt to his heart’s content. Mick’s moll Jerry Hall, who also appears in the film as herself, has meanwhile decided that Mick is deceased and entered into a tawdry affair with an American politician.

For those who feel, as this writer does, that the “Dancing in the Street” video with Jagger and David Bowie camping it up like a couple of move-busting insane asylum escapees is one of the finest slices of cinema ever broadcast, Running out of Luck is the real thing – a veritable mother lode of eccentric 80s Mickness in full-lipped snarling glory. Among the various sights and sounds and marvels awaiting the viewer of this freak show of a flick is Mick in drag, Mick getting manhandled and stepped on, Mick licked, Mick groping a tranny, Mick eating maggot-infested prison gruel, Mick playing the roulette tables like James Bond, Mick writhing with a tarantula on his back – and more! The funniest scene has him stumbling into a country store, trying to convince the proprietor that he is, in fact, Mick Jagger, and futilely jumping around, shouting, and shaking his ass to prove it. In short, any Rolling Stones or 80s obscurities fan should pounce at the chance to watch this sicko sweetness dredged from the VHS trash trove.

Mick Jagger performs “She’s the Boss” in Running out of Luck (1986)

Endnotes.

  1. Norman, Philip. Mick Jagger. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 475.
  2. Ibid., p. 526.
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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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antisocial poster

A future film historian compiling a list of the most representative and sociologically reflective horror films of the present decade could do worse than to include Cody Calahan’s feature debut, Antisocial. Redolent of the contemporary fears of intrusive surveillance, vile conspiratorial plots, drones, martial law, cyber-bullying, terrorism, flash mobs, viral epidemics, internet addiction, and civilizational collapse, Antisocial is more than a mere splatter film.

A gaggle of vapid college coeds gather to throw a New Year’s Eve party, unaware that the sudden outbreak of a 28 Days Later-reminiscent rage plague will soon have them barricading themselves inside and suspecting themselves and each other of infection. And what role does ubiquitous website the Social Redroom play in the chaos? “If you’re not on Facebook,” some have suggested, “you’re probably a sociopath.” Antisocial, thankfully, begs to differ with this assessment.

The story wastes little time in getting to the action and suspense, which is fresh while also respectful of genre conventions and traditions, with the themes, scenario, and spare, electronic moments suggesting influences from George Romero, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter. A guaranteed good time; recommended to horror fans.

4 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Antisocial is:

6. Anti-Christian. Some respond to the epidemic by holding exorcisms, but the explanation for the plague turns out to be decidedly more sublunary. A newscaster’s wish of “Happy New Year, and may God be with you,” rings hollow given the situation on the ground.

5. Gun-ambivalent. The partiers are frightened by shots from outside, but it is unclear whether these are from the police or private citizens.

4. Pro-slut, pro-miscegenation, and anti-racist. Heroine Sam (Michelle Mylett) is pregnant with some guy’s bastard. Cheap tramp Kaitlin (Ana Alic) is an item with black dude Steve (Romaine Waite). As the two are making a sex video, one of the afflicted bursts in on their fun through a window. The fact that the attacker appears to have a skinhead haircut may be intended subtextually to suggest lingering racism and resentment among whites toward those who choose to mate outside the species.

3. Feminist. “Final girl” Sam, once forced to fend for herself at the end, has little difficulty adjusting to the role of the badass. A bandage she ties around her head gives her the martial appearance of an Apache warrior.

2. Media-critical and anti-corporate. Social Redroom executives have secretly implemented a subliminal pattern designed to induce addictive behavior in visitors. Characters are unsure whether to trust material coming out of the mainstream media and look, rather, to grassroots sources of information available online.

1. Luddite. The title, Antisocial, serves a dual purpose, referring both to the nasty behavior of the afflicted and to the film’s critical stance toward social media. The script is full of apprehensions about a world in which “private life is public knowledge”, cruelty is as easy as clicking a key, and lovers break up remotely, by way of handheld devices.

Appropriately, social media darling Kaitlin and her boyfriend are among the first to develop symptoms. Sam and Jed (Adam Christie), who have deleted their Social Redroom accounts, retain their sanity longer than others. “How do you keep in touch with people?” Kaitlin asks. “I see them in person,” Sam deadpans. Significantly, Sam later repurposes a laptop as a murder weapon.

The internet itself is not necessarily to blame, and an online video actually provides the means of overcoming the crisis. What worries Antisocial, however, is the addictive potential and hive mind pull of ubiquitous sites like Facebook. Fear of mass loss of privacy also looms large, and in one of Antisocial‘s more outrageous moments, Social Redroom users’ bodies function as organic surveillance devices.

 

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