Archives for posts with tag: detective

Between gigs as the smirkingly hip host of the “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live in the eighties and his present occupation as a soullessly carnage-enthused neocon radio maniac, Dennis Miller appeared in a handful of movies, one of which is the entertaining Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood (1996), which followed Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995). Miller plays sleazy Jewish private dick Rafe Guttman, who is hired by prim Christian career woman Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak) to find her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman), who has gone missing after visiting a whorehouse that doubles as a funeral home.

Bordello of Blood coverVampires, as this writer has discussed in further detail here and here, are symbolic stand-ins for the Jews; and Bordello of Blood, written by A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler, who also directs, evinces a definite knowledge of this traditional understanding. Before being enticed into the vampires’ den of immortal vice, the mischievous Caleb is already doomed to a horrible fate. He does not share his sister’s Christian values, and wears a little Star of David patch on the back of his leather jacket. It seems to indicate that Caleb has been marked for death and foreshadows his later conversion into a happy-go-lucky parasite.

A further indication of the Jewishness of the vampire plague in Bordello of Blood is the choice of giving the name Lilith to the vampires’ queen (Angie Everhart). Lilith, in Hebrew mythology, is Adam’s rebellious first wife, the world’s earliest feminist, who told her husband, “I will not lie below” (i.e., with a man on top of her). In later elaborations of the Lilith myth, she has vampiric traits, and superstitious Jews feared her as a demon who preyed upon boys. In Bordello of Blood, a midget explorer (Phil Fondacaro) in the tradition of Indiana Jones restores Lilith to life, and hopes to keep her under control by means of a charm or “key” decorated with Stars of David. This prop, appropriately enough, is the key to understanding the film.

When Guttman goes to the whorehouse, posing as a horny customer so as to pick up some first-hand intelligence, he finds himself face to face with a vampire in dominatrix Tamara (Kiara Hunter), who of course intends to suck his blood. As Guttman begins to remove his shirt, she is horrified by what she at first mistakes for a crucifix, but is relieved to discover is only a Star of David pendant, to which vampires are clearly immune – another of the film’s indications of the affinity between Jews and vampires. Guttman, however, has no patience for Tamara’s sexual pushiness and succeeds in turning the tables on her and making his escape. During a later adventure, Guttman tracks the gore-gobblers to an abandoned factory, where he remarks, “I’m gettin’ some really bad juju off this place” – which is, of course, to say “Jew-Jew”.

Bordello of Blood key

The “key” to Bordello of Blood

Another interesting feature of Bordello of Blood is Lilith’s relationship with a sleazy televangelist, Reverend Current, played by Fright Night’s Chris Sarandon. (The casting of an actor most closely associated with a vampire role as a Christian minister is itself highly provocative and intentionally insulting to Christians.) “You know, I can’t decide what to do with you,” the bloodsucking super-Jewess tells him in words that seem to resonate with a broader relevance to Jewish attitudes toward Christianity. “Should I kill you or let you live, make you my dog?” – by which she presumably means turning him into a John Hagee type of groveling Christian Zionist Shabbos goy. Lilith settles on the latter. “I want this sanctimonious shit to watch what happens now that I’m free,” she declares, referring to the sadistic, vampiric pleasure her kind derives from watching Christians squirm under the onslaught of the cultural rot inflicted upon them by the very ethno-parasites they revere as “God’s Chosen People”.

i_109_K57Current, though a corrupted man, is reluctant to acquiesce to such evil, and decides to stage a last-ditch effort to stop the vampires in their lair. “I, uh, I know I can’t fight you all, so I’ve come to join you,” he says – but just as no Jew can trust a Christian, no matter his protestations of good will, the vampires see through him and so the battle of the bordello commences, with Current and Guttman dispatching the Judaic creatures with holy water. The preacher, after containing his anti-Semitism for so many years, seems to experience a cathartic thrill in setting the vampire sluts ablaze, consigning them to the flames of a veritable whore-Holocaust. This sequence, significantly, plays out to the tune of the Sweet’s glam rock song “Ballroom Blitz” – the word “blitz” carrying a strong association with a certain European anti-Semitic initiative.

During the final confrontation with Lilith, which takes place in the TV studio where Current does his Christian crusade program, Guttman uses a laser to scorch a cross into the vampire bitch’s back, after which Katherine impales the hag with a populist pitchfork. A rabbi (Robert Rozen) then “consecrates” Lilith’s remains – this mumbo jumbo, one assumes, is some sort of “good Jew-Jew” – after which Guttman and Katherine are free to commence interfaith miscegenation – one of Bordello of Blood’s obligatory concessions to cultural Marxist expectations. A further surprise awaits the viewer, but this writer does not intend to spoil it.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Read more about Jewish movie vampires:

Monsters We Do Not Need

The Vampire Elite

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True Detective Season 2

The second season of HBO’s bleak series True Detective shifts the scene of the sickness from creepy gothic Louisiana to dystopian southern California, a setting with a more strikingly chaotic ethnic mix that lends itself to an exploration of race relations in America. The plot this time around concerns the intertwined lives and fortunes of vicious but decent-hearted gangster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) and tortured and tarnished detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and their investigation into the convoluted circumstances of a politician’s death.

Semyon

Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon

True Detective presents a world of demographic horror, an America in which racial loyalties are nonexistent and fealty of any other kind is hard to come by. Whites, blacks, Mexicans, and Jews are all crooked. Mexicans, while distrustful and destructive of whites, also think nothing of killing each other, while whites, finding themselves marooned in an increasingly hostile and meaningless world, grasp at anything they can get. Race-based tensions nevertheless continue to simmer beneath the surface of several of the characters’ interactions. Semyon is a self-made man and a bigot, a walking contradiction who dislikes the changing demographics of the U.S. and seethes with an angry white man’s discontent but is also and at the same time cynically complicit in the smuggling of illegal aliens into his country.

Semyon is also an anti-Semite and calls Israeli gangster Osip Agronov (Timothy Murphy) a “KGB kike motherfucker”. True Detective is rather daring in identifying the true ethnic character of the “Russian” mafia. The series gives Semyon more than one moment of triumphant crowd-pleasing sadism, and it is significant that one of these is reserved not for one of the Jewish gangsters, but for an especially weaselly specimen of the Shabbos goy, or gentile who sells his treacherous services to the Jewish enemy. Leonard Cohen’s excellent theme song, “Nevermind”, is interesting in this context for featuring the lines “I was not caught, though many tried. / I live among you, well-disguised.”

Velcoro

Fred Ward as Mr. Velcoro

In another scene, Semyon pummels and then pulls out the teeth of a mouthy brown-skinned inferior (Pedro Miguel Arce) – content that serves as vicarious satisfaction for Caucasian viewers fed up with pretending to like their laughingly darkening world. Representing such viewers is Velcoro’s father (Fred Ward), a retired policeman who found he was no longer able to carry out his duties properly with the advent of the fuck-the-police zeitgeist that found its explosive expression in the 1992 L.A. riots. The U.S. as it presently stands is “no country for white men,” he observes as he enjoys a black-and-white Kirk Douglas movie. He is one of two aged policemen in True Detective who remarks that blacks’ intensifying hostility toward police made it increasingly difficult for them to do their jobs.

The audience, one suspects, is expected to feel a mingled contempt and sympathy for this old man who has given up on life and squanders what little of it is left to him getting high and living in a televised, mythologized past. A parallel character is the disgusting, whorish ex-dancer mother (Lolita Davidovich) of highway patrolman and ex-mercenary Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). Like old Mr. Velcoro, she prefers the comfort of watching old movies to doing anything productive with her years of decline. Morally and physically decrepit, her narrow, nostalgic tribalism takes the incestuous form of a selfish attachment to her son, who clearly wants nothing to do with her.

True Detective also offers multiple examples of interracial relationships, but none of these is deep, lasting, or free of damaged trust. As one of the season’s other songs suggests, “There’s no future. There’s no past.” – an assessment that could easily apply to America’s multiracial experiment as depicted in these episodes. A feeling of imminent doom pervades not just the lives of the principal characters, but the life of the proposition nation. In one episode, Detective Velcoro visits the set of a cheesy post-apocalyptic action movie – a cartoon version of the American century taking shape around those dumb enough not to notice what has been happening. Indeed, the characters who survive the final episode are those who choose to flee the country – no livable future seemingly being available to them here.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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American Johns

Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns (2015)

This 12-minute short from writer-director C.L. Hoffa depicts a few episodes in the life of Melissa Masters (Natalia-Christabelle Serrano), a former child actress who now works as a call girl. Unfortunately, the story is told entirely in images and a couple of captions to identify the principal characters, with the viewer left to connect the dots of whatever semblance of nonlinear narrative is to be had. Melissa specializes in boring kink, alternately crawling around on the floor like Ai in Tokyo Decadence (1992) – though the director cites The Canyons (2013) as an influence – or playing the dominatrix and stepping on masochists. Unfortunately for her, this results in one of her johns lying face-down dead on the floor of a hotel room, which brings the creepy and haggard Detective Steve Scott (Christopher Loring) into her life.

Lyle

When Lyle Lovett attacks! (Rey Marz and Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns)

A man who appears to be a slumming Lyle Lovett (Rey Marz) is shown being confrontational and then more adoring of her, but the exact nature of the transaction remains unclear. Hoffa advertises American Johns as “experimental“, so one assumes that any ambiguity is intentional. Minimalist electronic music abstractly suggests moods for the episodes, but one is sometimes unsure how to feel. Not much interest, for instance, attaches itself to scenes of Melissa walking around and chatting on her cell phone outside Bob’s Big Boy – particularly when the viewer has no idea what she is talking about. Maybe the idea is that men see her as fast food?

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that American Johns is:

3. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Melissa appears to enjoy a non-platonic relationship with a tattooed black woman.

2. Misandrist. Men, in their relationship with women, are either customers or inquisitors. Melissa’s past as an actress finds a continuity in her work as a prostitute, in that men expect her to play a role – they do not accept the real Melissa, in other words. The tramp, in the course of her duties, discovers that even the most seemingly masculine man is only a writhing maggot at heart – they, too, are actors.

1. Feminist (i.e., anti-human). American Johns, unlike The Canyons, appears to aim not for an implied moral judgment in its portrait of soulless squalor, but to aspire to some sort of seedy chic, a de facto glorification of the protagonist’s AIDS-tempting lifestyle. Mise-en-scene of the character’s introduction to the audience – framing her through and against the vertical lines of blinds and railings that convey the impression of bars of a cage – suggests that Melissa is a prisoner; but the heroine’s final moment onscreen indicates that she is in control – she is the zookeeper minding the cage – and firmly in command of the men in her life. Her nihilism and capitalist degeneracy, it seems, are some form of women’s empowerment – a realization of some mutation of the American Dream.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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poster_suit_texture_final

Erik Bloomquist writes, directs, and stars in The Cobblestone Corridor as Allan Archer, hardworking editor of the elite Alfred Pierce Preparatory School’s newspaper, The Pierce Gazette. Archer is straight-laced and by-the-book – a young man who still believes in authority and the dignity of institutions – the sort of person one might expect to carry a picture of William F. Buckley in his wallet. He is also an amateur detective and has his inquisitiveness piqued when he learns that the circumstances of a teacher’s recent dismissal are more than a little fishy. Adding interest to the story is Lizzie Merriweather (Madeleine Dauer), whose simultaneous attraction and opposition of journalistic philosophy adds another layer of tension to the narrative.

The Cobblestone Corridor is a low-key comedy hybridizing genres from teen fare to mystery, and Mike Magilnick’s cinematography does a good job of compromising between tones, referencing noir while keeping things light enough for a chuckle. The film succeeds largely due to a cast of interesting faces, which include Bloomquist’s as well as that of Nicholas Tucci, whom viewers may remember from the outstanding slasher homage You’re Next (2011). An assortment of young women in school uniforms adds to the visuals. Finally, while something of a morsel at 25 minutes, there is a measure of substance to be detected down these halls.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cobblestone Corridor is:

5. Anti-drug. Archer is contemptuous toward stoners.

4. Green-ambivalent. When classmate Claire (Alex Sarrigeorgiou) says paper publishing “just wastes trees”, her professor (Tucci) replies that this is “an interesting environmental argument”; Archer, however, dismisses Claire’s opinions as “shortsighted and ignorant”.

3. Feminism-ambivalent. Archer reviles “sluts” and puts a stop to an all-girl fight club. Lizzie’s contribution to his development as a journalist suggests, however, that women can contribute as professionals, giving the lie to a threatening note she receives informing her “little girls don’t belong in the big leagues.”

2. Tobacco-ambivalent. Archer cock-blocks a quintessential film noir ritual when he stops Lizzie from smoking a cigarette in his office. She later discovers that he has lied about not being a smoker, however.

1. Media-ambivalent. The Cobblestone Corridor’s best scene – crisply written and delivered by Mr. Bloomquist – concerns the question of the continuing relevance of the print medium. Journalism instructor Mr. Brown (Tucci) asks his class, “Are newspapers still important in today’s society, or are they well on their way to fading into historical oblivion?” Claire assails print as irrelevant in the age of the instantaneous dissemination of information; but Archer, who hates “supermarket tabloid drivel” and does what he can to uphold traditional journalistic standards, holds forth as follows:

People who write for newspapers understand that a story is more than just a clickbait by-line. These message boards that Claire talks about aren’t avenues for intellectual discourse, they’re a mosh pit of pseudo-scholars trying to outsmart each other. It’s not about the news, it’s not about the facts, it’s about being the loudest [. . .] and if one day the servers crash and everything goes to Hell we’ll still have a thoughtful piece of analysis we can touch and feel. That sure as Hell beats a tweet by some self-important high school drop-out hiding behind a screen name.

At stake in this scene and for the remainder of the film is the credibility of “conspiracy theories” and the post-9/11 alternative media, the latter being personified by blogger Lizzie. Archer naively believes that the major newspapers’ reporters are as thoughtful and idealistic as he is, is impressed by the Fourth Estate’s centuries of superficial prestige, and disparages the internet. He suggests, furthermore, that the anonymity of the blogosphere is an invalidation of its credibility, failing to consider the fact that alternative journalism is not, in most cases, a living, and that these writers might be putting their employment in jeopardy by signing their real names under their controversial interpretations of events.

However, after Lizzie’s insights prove to have been valuable in solving the mystery of the dismissed teacher, Archer is moved to establish an online edition of The Pierce Gazette, the idea being that online and print news media can coexist and mutually strengthen each other, and that independent researchers’ contributions can make a difference. This, Archer effuses with idealism, heralds the “beginning of a renaissance for The Pierce Gazette” – a revolution by technology and turnover in personnel. Bloomquist, though, by setting his story in the innocuous world of a non-profit student newspaper, has avoided the fundamental corruption of commercial “news” by controlling financial interests. Archer, once he ventures into the Orwellian sphere of professional journalism, will find his masters reluctant to publish material that strays off-script.

[For full disclosure of this writer’s diet of news and infotainment, he will admit to getting the vast majority of it online – from sites ranging from fluff like Yahoo! to deeper-digging content like Global Research – but also subscribing to a fortnightly print newspaper, Willis Carto’s populist American Free Press.]

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Cold in July

Cold in July is the story of a man who, having once peered into the rabbit hole and inadvertently set one foot inside it, cannot bring himself to turn away. Michael C. Hall stars as Richard Dane, a Texas everyman who shoots an intruder into his home and is subsequently terrorized by the dead man’s ex-con father, Russel (Sam Shepard). But is the dead man really dead? If not, who occupies the coffin, and why would the authorities assign a false identity to the corpse? Dane and Russel discover together that the world is not as it seems; and, teaming with earthy private detective (and pig farmer) Jim Bob (Don Johnson), they set out on a western-flavored, neo-noir odyssey in search of the truth – and, ultimately, violently ironic justice.

Notwithstanding its humor and undisguised pop flourishes, Cold in July is a serious film with strong performances all around. Johnson’s screen presence particularly, far from having faded in the years since Miami Vice, has taken on a new depth and authenticity, so that he brings a great deal of color and masculine clout to the film. Hall is 100% convincing as the man in over his head, while Shepard’s turn is comparatively understated but no less essential to the success of the whole. Pleasantly, an attempt has been made to match the film stylistically with its 1980s setting, so that viewers are treated to a period-faithful electronic score and some elegant, crowd-pleasing slow-motion shots.

Highly recommended. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cold in July is:

5. Anti-porn. Young women pursuing this trade place their lives at considerable risk.

4. Pro-immigration. “Prostitutes cross the border illegally and nobody cares” – after which they are lured into starring in snuff films, the presumptive implication being that if America had a compassionate immigration policy that was not so “broken”, Mexican women would not be forced to demean and endanger themselves in order to access the American Dream. Mariachi musicians illustrate the vibrant diversity Mexicans offer.

3. Gun-ambivalent. The film strongly suggests that Dane would be a happier man had he not shot the burglar invading his home, and he subsequently disapproves of his young son’s toy gun play. A pistol also appears as a danger and liability in the hands of the emotionally distraught. Guns feature prominently and excitingly in the vigilante action of the conclusion, however.

2. State-skeptical. Part of Dane’s journey of discovery is the realization that his government is not what he imagined. In this context, Russel’s line “All I know is what I’m told” carries more than a surface resonance. In a minor, local way, Dane is initiated into the ugly reality of conspiracy. Scenes deleted from the final cut of the film show FBI agents tailing him. In one scene, a drive-in is playing Night of the Living Dead, a reference which reinforces the themes of paranoia and government cover-ups.

1. Pro-family. Dane is a committed father and husband. Discounting Jim Bob’s diagnosis of married men as “poor bastards”, Cold in July communicates the necessity of the intact family for the well-adjusted existence of an individual or a society. Without obnoxiously articulating the point, the film suggests that Russel’s son has chosen a path of evil as a result of not having had a father during his developmental years.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Odd Thomas

Anton Yelchin stars as Odd Thomas – which, the hero informs the audience, is actually the name on his birth certificate – a pleasant young man with an unfortunately morbid paranormal vocation. An “undercover detective for dead people”, he is able to see and receive communications from the deceased, who look to Odd for otherwise unforthcoming justice. Thus, Odd is able not only to assist Police Chief Porter (Willem Defoe) with the occasional murder investigation, but to attempt to prevent violent crimes from ever occurring. Odd alone is able to perceive the otherdimensional demons, called Bodachs, which congregate like tasteless tourists among the living just prior to a murder or some other evil event or catastrophe.

Odd knows something horrible is about to happen in his town of Pico Mundo, California, when swarms of Bodachs appear in conjunction with the arrival of Robert Robertson (Shuler Hensley), or “Fungus Bob”, or “Fungus Man”, as Odd alternately nicknames him. Odd is certain Robertson is up to no good, but he and Chief Porter are limited in what they can legally accomplish until more of Robertson’s plan materializes.

While the film’s computer-generated visual effects, including a bit of that irksome Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action, only range from good to tolerable, the central mystery confronting Odd is sufficiently interesting to sustain the 100-minute run time. The Bodach concept is exploited to taut effect in more than one suspenseful sequence, and the combination of the protagonist’s wholesomeness with the general unsavoriness of the subject matter makes for a winningly offbeat formula. Yelchin is amiable as Odd, while Addison Timlin, too, adds appeal as his bedroom-eyed companion Stormy.

3.5 stars. Worth a rental.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Odd Thomas is:

8. Class-conscious. The psychotic Robertson “inherited a shitload” from his mother.

7. Multiculturalist (i.e., pro-yawn).

6. Sexist! “I’m a woman. We all have issues,” Stormy explains. Later, loading a gun, she objects, “I don’t need protecting” – a pretense given the lie when she dies at the end.

5. Christian-ish. Odd believes in “a higher power” and picnics in a church’s bell tower. This church provides only the most tentative sanctuary, however, when someone or something invades its peace with malevolent intentions. Materialism is frowned upon (“It’s too bad a car can’t love you back”), as are the prevailing pop culture vanities of the age (“fame is the altar at which most people worship”).

4. Anti-family. Odd has the typical dysfunctional background, his mother having gone insane. Odd Thomas endorses the single mother in the character of Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

3. Gun-ambivalent. The Robertson plot keeps the bogeyman of the crazed mass shooter phenomenon alive, but any anti-gun sentiment indicated here is undercut by the fact that Odd defensively takes down one threat with a pistol. The additional development that the police force turns out to have been infiltrated by satanists points to the danger of giving the state a monopoly on firearm ownership.

2. Police-ambivalent and generally state-skeptical. Apart from Odd’s reliable collaborator Chief Porter, police are depicted in a derogatory light. Early in the film an officer slams a culprit’s head into a car door and quips that this is “one of the perks of the job.” By the end of the film, the force has no credibility whatsoever, with false flag theories even receiving a boost. Whether Odd is more properly viewed as a vigilante or as an extra-legal police auxiliary and black-bag man for the state is open to interpretation.

1. Anti-Semitic! Principal villain Robertson, a serial killer aficionado and aspirant, has exotic hair that “looks like a yellow yarmulke”. And could this character’s nickname, “Fungus Man”, be a derogatory comment on the Jewish people’s pattern of parasitic attachment to established cultures of the West? Odd, after discovering Robertson’s corpse in a tub, chooses to hide it in a disused gas chamber. Why? Is this supposed to be funny? Let Odd Thomas author Dean Koontz, writer-director Stephen Sommers, and all other perpetrators of this hateful celluloid libel know that the Holocaust will not be mocked!

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.”

24exposures

Prolific director Joe Swanberg, who had a supporting role as the philistine jerk brother in You’re Next, reunites with that film’s writer-director team of Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard in 24 Exposures, a low-budget postmodern murder mystery set in the world of fetish photography. Barrett plays Michael Bamfeaux, a depressed police detective investigating murders of models that mirror the gory photo shoots of artsy smut peddler Billy, effortlessly brought to life by Wingard.

Meanwhile, Billy’s bisexual live-in girlfriend Alex (photographer Caroline White) begins to be jealous of his professional interest in waitress Rebecca (Helen Rogers). Is Billy’s preoccupation with murder more than an aesthetic affinity? And what about Rebecca’s erratic and violently jealous nerd boyfriend? Could he be the fetishistic killer, or is it somebody else altogether?

24 Exposures is sexually explicit, with multiple topless photo shoots and even one girl-girl-guy interlude; but the approach to the exploitative content is so matter-of-fact as to drain most of the erotic potential from the images of degeneracy. Scenes such as Rebecca’s first lesbian experience are extremely easy on the eyes, however. Highlights or lowlights, depending upon the viewer’s taste, are a stylish opening credits series of images paying tribute to vintage pulp artwork; various actresses’ asses and breasts, sometimes pressing against each other; and also some pretty convincing gore makeup for the photo sessions.

Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, with perhaps the mild exception of unusually uncharismatic cop Bamfeaux, whose appearance onscreen is sometimes accompanied by an inexplicably tough-sounding theme. Swanberg, in a cameo as aspiring memoirist Bamfeaux’s literary agent, gives him a disapproving critique that ironically touches upon some of the reasons why 24 Exposures is ultimately a bit of a disappointment if judged as a murder mystery. The resolution, if it can be called that, simply fails to deliver on the potential promised by such a dramatic and ominous buildup, leaving the viewer unsatisfied as the credits follow an unexpectedly abrupt ending. But, imperfections aside, 24 Exposures is worth seeing if only because it is never boring.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 24 Exposures is:

5. Pro-drug. Billy and his bevy of bimbos smoke dope.

4. Pro-castration. Small-bearded, bracelet-wearing weenie Billy cooks breakfast for two women after he bangs them.

3. Pro-gay. Callie (Anna Kendrick lookalike Sophia Takal) tells the story of how her first-ever orgasm was with another girl. Alex is bisexual.

2. Pro-police. Bamfeaux, who at one point considers suicide, offers a pathetic example of what serving and protecting the public can do to a man. But he mans up and rises to the occasion when a (more or less) innocent damsel is in distress.

1. Pro-slut. There is something in 24 Exposures, thankfully not emphasized or made overly obnoxious, of the tired shtick about sexually conservative or conventional people being psychologically unhealthy or repressed, while the carefree, sexually adventurous types like Billy are better-adjusted. Fortunately for Detective Bamfeaux, hipster Billy is willing to take him under his wing and initiate him into the simple pleasures of smiling, relaxing once in a while, and bagging trashy, tattooed chicks who take off their clothes for money.

Witchtrap

Witchtrap (1989) ****  Writer-director Kevin Tenney’s follow-up of sorts to his 1986 masterpiece Witchboard, this 1989 effort is, as a disclaimer on the back of the VHS box warns, nonetheless “not a sequel to WITCHBOARD.”  However, like its predecessor, it does concern the depredations of an evil spirit lingering in the world of the living and is concerned, as is Witchboard, with the existence or not of God and of the supernatural.  Similar plotwise to Puppet Master 2Witchtrap is the story of a team of paranormal investigators who move into a reputedly haunted house with high-tech equipment which, they hope, will document the spooky phenomena and help rid the place of its unsavory vibes.  Unfortunately, where Witchboard succeeds through fine-tuned tension, controlled atmosphere, and an air of pervading menace, Witchtrap is totally hokey and more liable to elicit laughs than to tingle spines; but the corniness and questionable acting do at least make Witchtrap a consistently enjoyable watch and an instant inductee into the glorious 80s camp classics pantheon of horror.

Kevin Tenney’s screenplay is full of fun, by turns quick with crude and hilarious one-liners and headscratchingly odd dialogue and events.  James Quinn, returning from Witchboard, has Witchtrap‘s best role as the sarcastic, wisecracking private dick brought in to provide reluctant security for the team of paranormal investigators.  Among the latter are Rob Zapple, who turns in a serviceably nerdy wimp performance as a medium, playing possession to zany and over-the-top perfection; two interesting-looking but frankly terrible actresses, Judy Tatum and Kathleen Bailey (who played a police detective to similarly underwhelming effect in the same year’s horror comedy Night Visitor); and – appearing long enough to please her fans and get undressed – Linnea Quigley, who so enlivened Tenney’s other masterpiece Night of the Demons.  Hal Havins, another Night of the Demons alumnus, contributes funny overweight villainy as the haunted house’s caretaker, and Tenney himself, in what is easily Witchtrap‘s worst, most deadpan performance, plays the owner who hopes to turn the place into a profitable bed and breakfast.  Not a very scary movie, but guaranteed to entertain the chintzy synth horror set.   4 out of 5 stars on the funk scale.

Michael Bay is a filmmaker famous for his slick style-over-substance approach to the medium, and in Pain and Gain, a vibrant, blackly humorous meditation on the American dream by way of an injection of style steroids gouged straight into the audience’s eyeballs, the Bay formula pays entertainment dividends.  Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, an ambitious bodybuilder with an unhealthy fixation on self-improvement.  He claims to approve of the meritocracy that has made America great, but unfortunately finds exemplars of Americanism in figures like Michael Corleone and Tony Montana.  Consequently, he sees crime and not legitimate business success as the most promising road to riches, and recruits fellow bodybuilders Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap oily Schlotzky’s proprietor Victor Kershaw (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) in the hope of getting him to sign over to them his home and all of his possessions.

Mark Wahlberg is intense as musclebound loser Danny Lugo, and Dwayne Johnson, who demonstrated a knack for comedy even as a professional wrestler, here delivers a hilarious performance to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s versatility as an action hero equally adept at goofiness.  As with much of Tarantino’s work, Bay’s film constantly runs the dangerous risk of glorifying or trivializing its subject matter by making its criminals such funny and charismatic characters.  The misadventures of Wahlberg and company are so exciting, fun, and involving that someone could almost forget that these likable bunglers, for all their charm, are really just murderers and thieves.  In the end, however, those who do wrong are punished in this grotesque and shockingly true crime story based on events that occurred in Miami in the mid-90s.  The use of period-faithful tunes from C+C Music Factory, Bon Jovi, and Coolio give an added nostalgic kick to this punchy, pleasantly gross, and perfectly edited dark comedy.

4.5 of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pain and Gain is:

11. Anti-gay.  Paul, seeing a warehouse full of gay sex toys, expresses discomfort with “homo stuff”.  He deals viciously with a gay come-on (see no. 4).  Danny makes a pejorative reference to “pickle-licking”.

10. Arguably anti-Semitic.  The oily, irascible Kershaw’s Star of David pendant hangs conspicuously as he prattles and makes a sleazy annoyance of himself at the gym.

9. Gun-ambivalent.  Men with criminal records have no difficulty buying weapons from an effeminate and masochistic gun dealer (and Stryper fan) who enjoys being stunned with a taser.  A Confederate flag hanging in his store is probably intended for this film’s purposes to associate gun ownership not with liberty, but with racism.  A woman attempts unsuccessfully to defend herself in her home with a gun.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  As in Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson plays the shameless tubby sexpot.  Other tubs of lard are featured in the film strictly for gross-out humor and audience derision, however.

7. Misogynistic.  Apart from one character, women are in the main represented in Pain and Gain as sluts and slobs.

6. State-skeptical.  Miami police are at first uninterested in investigating Kershaw’s story of how he was kidnapped and dispossessed, citing his Colombian origins as cause for skepticism.  They later admit their mistake.

5. Anti-drug.  Steroids render Adrian impotent.  Paul blows his cut of the loot on cocaine and starts to lose what limited wits he has.

4. Anti-Christian.  Paul’s religious beliefs, which vie with his cocaine problem for possession of his soul, make him susceptible to manipulation.  His professions of Christian devotion constantly clash with his criminal projects and outbursts of violent temper.  Furthermore, the judgmental attitude he derives from his faith finds expression in his belief that he might cure Kershaw of his Judaism.  A homosexual Catholic priest compliments Paul’s physique and tries to put the moves on him.

3. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Adrian, a black man, marries Robin (Wilson), a fat white woman, who recounts at their wedding how her racist grandfather had warned her against black men.  (Ironically, the grandfather’s advice proves to have been valid at least in Adrian’s case.)  Nasty interracial dancing disgraces the screen.  Kershaw, half Colombian and half Jewish, likes Cuban women.

2. Immigration-ambivalent.  Victor Kershaw is the old type of coarse but fiercely entrepreneurial immigrant who through his own talent and efforts has become wealthy.  Two Slav women are depicted as oversexed ditzes.  The fact that one of these entered the country illegally through Mexico highlights America’s border insecurity.

1. Capitalist.  The unsung protagonist of Pain and Gain is Kershaw, the self-made man who, while less handsome and likable than his victimizers, is in the right in seeking lawful revenge against Lugo and his collaborators.  Lugo believes in the American dream and understands that meritocracy plays a role in this; but like others who would redistribute wealth, he is motivated by envy and spite.  This derives from his mistaken notion that all people are equal at birth, the implication of which belief for his type of mentality is that unequal distribution of wealth must be some kind of injustice if two people’s apparently equal origins and efforts result in inconveniently unequal outcomes.  Ed Harris represents the private sector positively as a private investigator who comes to Kershaw’s aid when police fail to act on his client’s allegations.

[UPDATE (8/14/13): A Christian YouTuber offers his disapproving observations on Pain and Gain‘s detrimental cultural significance here.]

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