Archives for posts with tag: gambling

Wild Card

Revenge for a raped prostitute might sound like less-than-thrilling motivation for an action hero, but it works nevertheless to propel this uncharacteristically character-driven Jason Statham vehicle. The Expendables star here plays Nick Wild, a skid row Las Vegas “security consultant” in Simon West’s quality realization of a thirty-year-old William Goldman screenplay. A British special forces veteran who can take care of himself, Nick is also a self-destructive compulsive gambler and drinker who has to grapple with his own shortcomings as well as the gangsters who want him dead. Something of an odd couple dynamic comes into play when Nick is befriended by a nerdy software millionaire (Michael Angarano) looking to be initiated into the world of danger and excitement. Some of the exchanges between these two have a rather phony and forced cleverness; but the script, on the whole, is highly engaging and full of fun and surprises. The cast of familiar faces includes Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Anne Heche, and Jason Alexander in minor roles.

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

6. Misandrist. An abused woman (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) threatens to sever the penis of a cocky misogynist (Milo Ventimiglia).

5. Corporate. A big-titted Latina (Sofia Vergara) squeezes in a quality plug for the junk food complex when she orders a Diet Pepsi. Putting in a good word for the usury industry, Statham’s credit card comes in handy when he uses it put a gash on a bad guy’s head. He also mentions eating Wheaties as a source of energy.

4. Anti-Christian. Set against the tacky blinking backdrop of one of America’s sleaziest, most Judaically resonant metropolises, Christmas is a hollow observance with no meaning. Simon West, in his commentary, relates that “the Christmas theme in the movie meant that I wanted to get some actual Vegas at Christmas footage, but […] unfortunately Vegas doesn’t seem to celebrate Christmas that much.”

3. Anti-Semitic! “You’re not supposed to like Vegas,” Nick explains of the city that Bugsy Siegel built. “It’s just this creeping virus people catch sometimes.”

2. Anti-gun. Nick rejects firearms, demonstrating instead how simple objects like silverware and ashtrays can be used to debilitate armed assailants.

1. Pro-miscegenation and anti-white. Most appallingly, Wild Card contains a scene of flirtation between Nick and an unappealing black hotel maid (Davenia McFadden). “Too bad you got all that British blood in you,” she teases him. “If you was black, I’d bed you good and fast.” “You can make believe,” Nick encourages her. “Nah,” she replies. “Don’t think this is racial or anything, but I never feel like you people are clean. This is a housekeeper you’re talking to, remember? I can tell if a Brit’s been in a room [snaps] just like that.” This dialogue suggesting that Brits are unclean makes little sense until one listens to Simon West’s commentary. “In the original script, the [Nick] character was actually Hispanic,” he reveals, “so we had to change the racial stereotyping.” Mexicans can no longer conscionably be depicted as dirtbags, but Englishmen are apparently still fair game. Three decades ago, when the screenplay was written, the occasional spot of political incorrectness was still permissible at the multiplex; but, fortunately for public morals, Wild Card was filmed in the current year, so to speak.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY FOURTEEN

The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennett, a professor of literature with inherited wealth, good looks, style, and brilliance, but who, for enigmatic reasons, “likes to lose” and seems to be determined to ruin himself. “You are the perfect example of how a person can start off with no problems whatsoever and then go out of their way to make sure that they have all of them,” diagnoses one of his students. Bennett’s poison of choice is gambling and consequent debts to gangsters. The current of self-destruction that runs through The Gambler would make it an unpleasant film to watch if not for its hypnotic quality.

It is difficult not to discern in this movie a metaphor for European civilization’s self-immolation and its potential for resurrection. Indebted to Jewish, Asian, and black gangsters to the tune of something like $500,000, his survival, thanks to his own reckless regimen of self-loathing, depends upon an urgently needed combination of fortune and will power. Will Bennett ever catch a winning hand – and, if so, will he be satisfied with it? Finding out is an idiosyncratically entertaining and anxiety-ridden experience, though the “fuck”-saturated dialogue, one should mention, will not appeal to every viewer’s taste.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

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

7. Immigration-ambivalent. “Do you have a problem – wah, wah, wah – like some little fuckin’ girl – wah, wah, wah – or some Somali who can’t process that there’s no food where they live?” This ambiguous statement might suggest either that Somalis are stupid – and therefore undesirable as immigrants – or that they are validated in seeking better lives for themselves in the West.

6. Class-conscious. “Poor people stay poor people,” alleges one of the songs on the soundtrack.

5. Sexist! “Please, tell me you hit your wife harder than that, you fuckin’ pussy.”

4. Reactionary, dispelling egalitarian myths about the power of education. “If you’re not a genius, don’t bother.” Bennett suggests that his bored students are angry over “unequal distribution of talent” and tells them, “If you don’t have the magic, no amount of wishing will change that.” He goes on: “When you leave here today, call your parents and tell them you apologize for wasting their time and more importantly wasting their money, sitting in this classroom learning absolutely nothing.” Genetics is described as “a cruel motherfuckin’ mistress.”

3. Racist! “You know, they expect me to pass you regardless,” Bennett confides to a star basketball player (Anthony Kelley) taking one of his classes. “They want me to give you a passing grade so you can keep going out there and bouncing that basketball around.” Frank, John Goodman’s Jewish gangster character, uses the derogatory term “schwarze” to refer to blacks.

2. Anti-American. “The United States of America is based on ‘Fuck you!’” This position of power, however, has been “lost forever”, and King George III, in retrospect, “looks like a fuckin’ birthday present.” Bennett says of his condition, “If I get to nothing, then I can start over.” He demands an extreme – victory or death – just as western man, presented with no healthy outlets for his manly and his honorable impulses, will fall into dissolution and lose his will to live.

1. Anti-Semitic! Bennett emancipates himself from his cycle of self-destruction by freeing himself from the grip of the Jew Frank, a disgusting blob with an amateur interest in psychoanalysis, whose clout derives from debt, and who threatens the protagonist as follows: “You will get me not just what you owe me from your family. You will get me their accounts so I can have them vacuumed from Russia. You jump off a bridge, you can do it knowing I will kill your entire bloodline.” He expects Bennett to repeat the words “I am not a man” – to verbally castrate himself, in effect – as a condition for one of his loans. For the curious, The Gambler was written by William Monahan, who also penned the screenplay for the great populist Mel Gibson thriller Edge of Darkness (2010).

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook 

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Gloria poster

Full disclosure. Your humble reviewer, stopping on a whim at his neighborhood Redbox machine to see what was newly available, quickly picked Gloria for no other reason than the disclaimer that it contained graphic nudity. Not realizing that this would be a serious foreign film requiring him to read subtitles, he ate his movie vegetables, as it were, by accident.

Set in Santiago, Chile, Gloria is the story of a lonely divorcee (Paulina Garcia), a professional woman and recent grandmother, who finds herself torn between dignity and sexual fulfillment. Somewhat nerdy but still shapely and graceful in her maturity, Gloria thinks she may have met the answer to her quiet yearnings in paintball park proprietor Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a man who gives increasing evidence of neurosis.

Gloria very much belongs to lead Paulina Garcia, a fascinating actress whose versatile face and nuanced expressions command the viewer’s undivided attention. Even had the script by director Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza not been so finely worked and surprising, the film would be worth seeing if only for the presence of Paulina Garcia. Eccentric, disturbing, and warmly human, Gloria gets this critic’s high recommendation.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Gloria is:

10. New Age. Gloria takes a yoga lesson.

9. Marginally pro-miscegenation. Gloria’s daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora) is involved with a Swede (Eyal Meyer), which is arguably a mild instance of interracial relationship. However, Chileans, particularly those living in Santiago, are of predominantly European descent, and resemble Spaniards in their attractiveness.

8. Anti-Christian. Gloria tries to hide her condescension as her maid (Luz Jimenez) talks about the Genesis flood and tells a story about cats issuing from a lion.

7. Racist! Gloria and Rodolfo, practicing at a firing range, shoot at a target representing a “black figure”.

6. Drug-ambivalent. Marijuana plays a role in Gloria’s new assertiveness. Her tobacco habit takes on varying shades of character depending upon the emotional context – sultry and sophisticated smoking after sex, or an anxious person’s prop in her moments of doubt. One smoker is reminded not to light up in the presence of a pregnant woman. Humiliation, despair, and overindulgence in drink drive Gloria into the arms of a random slob for a degrading one-night stand.

5. Anti-marriage. The protagonist’s ex-husband (Alejandro Goic) is an undependable drunkard. Rodolfo, like Gloria, is relieved to “finally” be divorced. Ana, a happy tramp with a pierced nose, is unashamedly pregnant with her Swedish lover’s bastard.

4. Anti-family/antinatalist. “Don’t be born, man! Don’t be born!” despairs one of Gloria’s neighbors. Rodolfo’s wife and daughters are selfish, needy, ungrateful nuisances. Gloria’s family, too, is broken.

3. Misandrist. A vengeful Gloria appropriates her insensitive lover’s phallus by attacking him with one of his own paintball guns. The men in her life are all immature. “Grow a pair,” she tells Rodolfo.

2. Anti-capitalistic. Old Chilean radicals look to loud young rabble to effect progressive change. Gloria’s idea of excitement would be to skip work and travel to Cuba. The film also presents an unflattering portrait of an entrepreneur in Rodolfo. (see also no. 1).

1. Anti-Semitic! “What Chile used to be now seems like a ghost, as if that Chile were dead, and what was built afterwards is a kind of replica of something that’s being devised in some other part of the world, where the driving force is greed.” “There aren’t any leaders anymore [. . .] if it’s about politicians who are up there, and they’re the ones governing, the ones that were chosen.”

2platesposter

Filmed in 2010 as The Two Plates and re-released at Redboxes this week under the stronger and more attention-grabbing title Blood Red Presidents, this ghetto epic from writer-director Jonathan Straiton is well worth checking out. Nasty, raw, and uncompromising, Blood Red Presidents dispenses with the Hollywood kid gloves in the depiction of blacks and emphasizes instead the grittily real. So firm is this film’s commitment to presenting the truth, no matter how unflattering to the society it depicts, that much of it feels almost as if actual camera phone footage straight out of the ‘hood had been edited together and uploaded onto YouTube as a movie, with most of the actors mumbling and slurring their lines instead of hamming it up and projecting; but there is much audiovisual style displayed here along with the handheld and seemingly primitive, with several memorably composed frames and such tactics as split screen employed more than once and used especially effectively in a doom-laden money-counting montage and musical interlude. Hip-hop is very much a part of this film’s personality and does much to enhance its power.

The violent story has two small-time hustlers, Deshaun (Assault) and Buck (Ambush), making a play for the big-time money as counterfeiters after they steal two plates that once belonged to a Peruvian drug lord. Unfortunately for them, their scheme attracts the attention of Secret Service agent Caddell (John Patton), who, along with Richmond cops Beck (Chris Morrison) and Burnett (Wes Reid), is determined to bring Deshaun and Buck’s successful run to an end. Before the tragic but blackly humorous story has run its seedy course, many will die, families will suffer, and friends will turn against each other. Blood Red Presidents, then, lives up to its title as yet another cautionary tale about how money, the titular “presidents”, is supposedly “the root to all evil.” Buck and Deshaun are no pitiable victims of any white Man’s “system”, however; these are crude, coldblooded brutes, self-described “niggers killin’ niggers” who deserve everything they get and more.

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blood Red Presidents is:

6. Christian. “Yeah, I’m sure, man. Is Jesus black?” Director Jonathan Straiton thanks God in the credits for His “guidance”.

5. Pro-family. Straiton dedicates the film to his father. Executive producer John M. Clark, meanwhile, thanks “Gene my adopted son who I appreciate very much for helping my retarded son.”

4. Sexist and slut-ambivalent. A rap that plays over the opening credits warns of crooked lawyers and “bitches with game”. “Get the fuck off the bed,” Deshaun tells his “shorty” in one early scene. “You need to take that shit to the clinic,” one young wastrel says to her. Leaning in the pro-slut direction, however, the executive producer gives a “special thanks” to “the designer of crotchless panties and peach flavored douche.”

3. Drug-ambivalent. In the opening scene, an old-fashioned white father, no doubt intended to be laughable, is shocked that his son would use marijuana. Thugs smoke joints and blunts and drink alcohol throughout the film, but “seein’ ya mama on that glass pipe is a painful sight.” In the end credits, executive producer John M. Clark thanks “the French wheat growers for doing their part to distill Grey Goose Vodka without which I couldn’t get through a day,” while producer Mean Gene thanks Bud Light “for always being there for me in time of need.” The director, Jonathan Straiton, says, “To anyone I forgot I apologize but it’s late and I’m drunk.”

2. Police-ambivalent/anti-state. Blood Red Presidents presents a sympathetic portrait of rookie cop Burnett and his chief. “You know how the media is,” Burnett complains to his chief after being accused of police brutality. “I mean, where were they last week when I was changing that old lady’s tire?” Surprisingly, Burnett is the only character in the film who shows any remorse after committing a murder, and he even risks blowing a major investigation to try to save a criminal informant’s life. His colleague Beck is another matter. In a situation similar to that in The Place Beyond the Pines, this officer attempts to cover up for Burnett after his mistaken killing of an unarmed suspect. Meaningfully, the victim, an aspiring rapper, is found to have been holding a microphone rather than a gun. (Symbolically, this might be read as suggesting that the police state feels less threatened by black crime than by socially conscious black men’s freedom of expression.) One of the extras in the police station has clearly been cast to capture the worthless, doughnut-scarfing blob archetype.

1. Diversity-skeptical/anti-wigger. A close-up of Virginia’s state flag, with its motto, “Sic semper tyrannis”, calls to mind Lincoln’s assassination and never-completed Reconstruction. “Freedom ain’t free,” one rap number suggests, and racial resentments going back to the days of slavery inform the typical thug mindset, with the ghosts of slaves, heard from the trees, encouraging young black men to “Squeeze that tech, nigga.” White police, consequently, are vulnerable both to violence and defamation in the media. In one scene, a black man punches a white stranger on sight. Buck and Deshaun’s wigger associates, “silly-ass white boy” Chuck (Ashby Brooks) and his brother, “ol’ crazy-ass white boy” Mike (Rob Rozier), turn out to be untrustworthy. Authorities, meanwhile, are frustrated by criminals’ use of unintelligible Ebonics.

undergroundbloodred

This 2010 grade-Z kick-fest, just released to Redboxes on a double feature disc with the superior gangster study Blood Red Presidents, stars writer-director Wilbert Berthaud, Jr., as Mike, an urban martial artist who to his regret gets mixed up with an underground fighting ring to help pay the bills and support his little brothers. Berthaud might have done better to concentrate on his duties behind the camera, as, high kicks aside, the young man has little in the way of screen presence and could have spent more time developing his script. More interesting is his unkempt afro, which goes through mutations during the film and in one scene is displayed half-fluffed, the other half of his head subdued in cornrows, a rare (probably unintentional) piece of poetic imagery that captures Mike’s divided self, as he receives occasional visits from his own dark side. This and other elements make for a somewhat offbeat action picture, its oddity failing, however, to compensate for quality. The action scenes and comic relief are tolerably good, but with no compelling characters to cheer to a victory, Underground is an indie picture best left interred.

2 out of 5 possible stars. ICA’s advice: for a good underground fighting drama, check out Lorenzo Lamas in Night of the Warrior; or for decent kung fu mayhem with a black star, see any Jim Kelly movie.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Underground is:

6. Feminist. Jade (Sara Walsh) proves to be a worthy opponent for Mike and even beats him on one occasion.

5. Class-conscious/anti-business. A representative entrepreneur is a condescending slob. Businessmen throw away money “like it’s candy.” “You think because you can afford designer suits that you can tell me what to do?”

4. Anti-police. A goofy loser/small-time crook (Donald Foley in an amusing performance) turns out to be a goofy loser/undercover cop who forgets to load his gun for the final confrontation. Humorously, his ample flab makes him impervious to an assailant’s pressure point attacks. Police play an antagonistic role during the climactic sequence.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Mike has a mulatto girlfriend (Sara Rattigan). Black gangster Monro is intimate with blonde henchwoman Jade, who sits on his lap and calls him “Sir”. “Such a pretty face,” she says on meeting the star/screenwriter.

2. Multiculturalist. With important exceptions, the film takes place in what would appear to be a largely postracial society, with blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians interacting without regard for each other’s racial differences. Underground opens itself up to the charge of stereotyping, however, when Mike, channeling his inner janitor, uses a mop handle as a weapon and then, channeling his inner African cannibal, bites Monro on the ankle during their final confrontation.

1. Anti-Semitic. Mike’s exaggeratedly hook-nosed friend Jason (Mike Harb) turns out to be a Judas.

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