Archives for posts with tag: gun-ambivalent

Deadpool

Marvel antihero Deadpool’s leap to the big screen manages to be highly entertaining in spite of having one of the most unnecessarily filthy and anally fixated scripts this reviewer has ever encountered. Ryan Reynolds is frivolous but funny as the frenetic special forces fighter turned mercenary – “a bad guy who gets paid to fuck up worse guys” – in what may be the most successful incarnation yet of the wisecracking hipster-as-superhero genre. Fast-paced and guaranteed diversion for devotees of the cult of hyperviolence and slow-motion bullets.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis only recommends seeing Deadpool for free, if possible, and indicates that it is:

9. Pro-brony. The hero masturbates while amusing himself with a stuffed animal.

8. Gun-ambivalent. Deadpool owns a number of guns, but forgets to bring these to the final battle. He proceeds to demonstrate how an accomplished action hero does not need an arsenal to dispatch a heavily armed pack of henchmen.

7. Disingenuously anti-torture. Supervillain Ajax (Ed Skrein) subjects Deadpool to atrocities reminiscent of War on Terror interrogations and Abu Ghraib indignities in his efforts to activate Deadpool’s recessive mutant genes, but Deadpool himself also employs torture to get information out of opponents. “I may be super, but I am no hero,” he says by way of a disclaimer – a distinction that will be lost on all of the adolescent boys who watch Deadpool. “And, yeah, technically this is murder,” he says, flippantly dismissing his impalement of a bad guy, “but some of the best love stories start with a murder and that’s exactly what this is – a love story.”

6. War-ambivalent. War, it is suggested, is an evil enterprise, but the film makes light of wartime experiences that allowed Deadpool to travel to “exotic places – Baghdad, Mogadishu, Jacksonville – meeting new and exciting people.” The general incendiary bombast of the movie makes combat seem like a blast.

5. Anti-South. The South, as the above quotation demonstrates, is equated with the Third World.

4. Pro-drug. “God, I miss cocaine,” gripes Deadpool’s roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams). Learning a stash of cocaine is nearby, Deadpool’s friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) asks her, “Wanna get fucked up?”

3. Misandrist. A slap on the ass warrants vengeful crotch-clenching. Even gentlemanly behavior meets with genital abuse. Both Deadpool and Colossus must be rescued by women, and National Women’s Day occasions an unreasonable sexual favor from the protagonist.

2. Anti-family. Deadpool, a “sexy motherfucker”, exchanges dysfunctional family stories with a prostitute (Morena Baccarin). “Daddy left before I was born,” etc. Deadpool claims to have been molested by his uncle, to which she replies that more than one uncle raped her. “They took turns.” It is also suggested that Deadpool has carnal knowledge of his father when he reaches behind himself, feels Colossus’s cock, and asks, “Dad?” The film furthers the process of pedophilia normalization by trivializing child abuse.

1. Pro-gay. “Oh, hello. I know, right? Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my very own movie? I can’t tell you, but it does rhyme with ‘Polverine’. And let me tell you, he’s got a nice pair o’ smooth criminals down unda.” One of the most butt-centric movies in some time, Deadpool makes more than one reference to the hero’s anus as a sexual organ. His “on switch” is next to his prostate, he hints, and the viewer is even treated to the sight of his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) screwing him in the posterior with a strap-on. It is also insinuated that he has been hiding her engagement ring in his rectum. Then, too, he takes a bullet right between the cheeks and threatens an adversary with a reference to his “hard spots”. “That came out wrong – or did it?” he asks, kissing him. Deadpool is “pretty sure Robin loves Batman, too.” An animated version of the protagonist sports an extensive erection when Ed Skrein’s credit comes up at the end.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Baytown Outlaws poster

Prospective viewers may be disappointed to discover that ostentatiously billed Billy Bob Thornton has only a potty-mouthed supporting role as villain Don Carlos in this violent ersatz-Tarantino concoction disingenuously passing itself off as genuine good ol’ boy entertainment. The film concerns the reckless redneck exploits of the Oodie brothers, Brick (Clayne Crawford), Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore), and McQueen (Travis Fimmel), as they rip through an array of ridiculous comic book adversaries to rescue a handicapped teenager (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from Don Carlos’s clutches.

The Baytown Outlaws is lightning-paced and at times diverting, but too condescending and mean-spirited to squarely hit its target. Worse, its perpetrators (writer-director Barry Battles, is that your real name?) betray a disturbing moral confusion and an obvious disregard for human dignity and life, as typified by the scene in which one of the brothers accidentally shoots and kills a maid and says, “Oh shit. My bad, lady”, and then goes casually about his business. Flippant to excess, this one may appeal to ADHD-afflicted consumers of films of the Snatch or Cat Run type.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Baytown Outlaws is:

11. Drug-ambivalent. Don Carlos abuses pills. Liquor’s antiseptic quality comes in handy during a medical emergency. “You want one of these?” Brick asks, offering a minor a cigarette after a battle and telling the boy, “You earned it.”

10. Ostensibly Christian. Brick wears a cross on a necklace, but this fashion statement would appear to be the extent of how his faith expresses itself. The Oodies claim with sarcasm to have been in church while they were actually out raiding a residence and exterminating its occupants. “This Is Our Song”, a southern-fried hip-hop tune that plays over the end credits, says, “Folks round here still believe in God” and “Tell the government to leave my check and church alone”. A cross tattoo on a hitwoman suggests that the Christian content of the film is something less than sincere, however.

9. Anti-police. Celeste (Eva Longoria) wants peace of mind, “something the cops can’t give me,” she says. Officers catching sight of the Oodies locked in rowdy highway warfare turn a blind eye and give no pursuit.

8. Anti-corporate. “I kind of look at my future empire as the Wal-Mart of bottom dollar retail crime,” Don Carlos explains to impertinent underlings who have approached him about a raise. “I need stockers and cashiers and mercenaries and mules.”

7. Localist/pro-vigilante. The sheriff resists federal meddling and even eschews the law itself, maintaining the Oodies as his personal vigilante squad to keep criminals off the streets and spare the court system the trouble.

6. Gun-ambivalent. A t-shirt reads, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” The Oodies are poor poster boys for responsible handling of firearms, however, and kill several people by mistake.

5. Pro-immigration. Illegals are bright, talented, underappreciated professionals like nurses who, if given a chance, would be a boon to the U.S. What is more, they are whites’ intellectual betters. “Your ignorance is unbelievable,” a valiant wetback bimbo tells Brick when he says, “You’re a nurse. You oughtta be helpin’ people,” and suggests she become naturalized. “Your country doesn’t make it that easy for us,” she complains.

4. Black supremacist. The black sheriff (Andre Braugher) enjoys sassing and establishing his mental superiority and official authority over whites. “Just do what you’re told,” he scolds a deputy. In a scene that is seemingly intended to draw an ironic humor from racial role reversal in view of the hoses that were once turned on civil rights agitators, the sheriff unsmilingly sprays a white child with a garden hose for no apparent reason and tells him, “I don’t even know you.”

3. Family-ambivalent/anti-marriage. “This Is Our Song” includes the line, “God and my family is all I need”; but, with the exception of the Oodies’ mutual loyalty, the representations of family relationships in the film are derogatory. The Oodies have “no known mother” and the irresponsibility of their father, an abusive Ku Klux Klansman, necessitated their being transferred to foster care. Don Carlos is another negative father figure whose relationship with Celeste has ended in violence. “There goes the longest relationship I ever had,” McQueen reflects after he and his brothers dispatch a bevy of biker hitwomen.

2. South-ambivalent. “Welcome to the South, motherfuckers!” The Baytown Outlaws is something of a Trojan horse where the South is concerned, any regional pride it evinces being superficial and devious. Brick Oodie, who, along with his brothers, seems never to bother changing his clothes, always wears a sleeveless shirt bearing the Confederate stars and bars – but, as with his cross, more as a fashion object than as a proclamation of political philosophy. The hell-raising, empty-headed redneck, forever the film industry’s favorite image for the perpetually stereotyped southern white male, appears in The Baytown Outlaws as a kind of cute, quaint, grotesque curiosity, something like a dog to be petted and encouraged in its animal eccentricities, but also restrained by a master’s leash. The redneck can be an endearing type and useful as long as his wild ways are harnessed by a black representative of the state made wise by his sufferings during the struggle for civil “rights”. That one of the brothers, a brutish mute, is named Lincoln may be interpreted either as a sarcastic joke or as an indicator that progress is being made in the South and that northern dictators now vie with General Lee in the christening of white trash children. Alabama, it is observed, has its own pace but is “behind the times”.

1. Un-p.c. and repeatedly racist! The Baytown Outlaws is an exercise in what is termed hipster racism, which occurs when progressives knowingly appropriate stereotypes for their own putatively innocuous purposes and so expect a free pass for their playful, winking insensitivity. The Baytown Outlaws strains the confines of this classification, however, with its depiction of a group of Indian assassins who scalp their victims and shoot arrows. There is also a pack of vicious, foul-mouthed blacks, one of whom feels compelled to warn another, “This time, try not to hit the motherfuckin’ baby.” Other instances of political incorrectness include the use of “faggoty”.

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

GR Spirit of Vengeance

An impudently silly film, this fast-paced 2011 installment in the spooky Marvel Comics franchise is less fun than its predecessor, but never boring as it bowls from one preposterous action set piece into another and more or less captures the feel of a comic book, if not necessarily the grim Ghost Rider comics this reviewer remembers reading in childhood. (Did the hero really ever urinate like a flamethrower in the original stories, for instance?) Johnny Blaze, who shares his body with the titular demon, is a reluctant, tragic monster in the tradition of The Wolf Man; but Spirit of Vengeance makes clear from the outset that nobody involved in this project took it the least bit seriously.

Primarily, this film is a slick, snarling vehicle for a lot of unexceptional CGI, with an absurdly intense Nicolas Cage going bonkers in a sidecar. Cage, particularly during the comical transformation sequences, is at his manic, twitching, grimacing, growling best here, and his anguished delivery of “Scrapin’ at the door! Scrapin’ at the door!” simply has to be seen to be disbelieved. Violently beautiful Violante Placido contributes more than her share of production value as Nadya, “the devil’s baby mama”, mother to Danny (Fergus Riordan), who is being sought by devilish avatar Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) and also by a fanatical religious order led by the sinisterly tattooed Methodius (Christopher Lambert). The gimmicky, ADHD-afflicted visuals and Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action sequences get old quick, but the script contains a few laughs and the pace allows for little slack. Furthermore, Cage’s madcap performance makes this mandatory for his fans.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is:

11. Anti-green. A hippie van hypocritically expels billowing black exhaust, as does Ghost Rider’s motorcycle.

10. Gun-ambivalent. Firearms are deployed for evil, but also utilized by the heroes.  Gunrunning is mentioned as a seedy line of business (see also no. 1).

9. State-skeptical. Politicians are acolytes of the unholy.

8. Pro-drug. Johnny Blaze guzzles painkillers like jelly beans and requests morphine in a hospital. Secondary hero Moreau (Idris Elba) drinks heavily, but suffers no impairment of his combat-readiness.

7. Racist and anti-Semitic! Moreau embodies not only the magical Negro stereotype, what with his inside information on the supernatural goings-on, but also the venerable old sacrificial Negro. “The church of my masters is an ancient one,” says Moreau – but what would a modern emancipated black man be doing with “masters”? Also, Jew Jerry Springer is pictured as an incarnation of the devil. When are race-reactionary films like this one and Little Nicky going to see the light and stop stomping for the next Holocaust?

6. Antiwar. A montage evocative of the idea of corruption intercuts hundred-dollar bills with shots of soldiers, explosions, and street violence (cf. no. 3).

5. Family-ambivalent. The film’s celebration of Nadya’s choices constitutes an attack on the traditional family, with the father in this case being depicted literally as the devil. Blaze is dedicated to his father, however, and only contracted his curse to try to save the old man’s life.

4. Xenophobic. As in Cat Run (2011) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), Eastern Europe is home to mystery, intrigue, mercenaries, and violence. A chaotic, layered satanic “firewall” incantation more than once includes sounds that resemble “Allah”.

3. Anti-capitalistic. The devil, who dresses like a conservative businessman, wields his greatest power through “the deal”. A sleazy businessman abortively propositions Nadya, assuming that because she is a gypsy she must also be a prostitute. She and her son work as pickpockets, feeling no shame or remorse because their need, they feel, is greater and more important than that of the more affluent people they victimize. “Everyone’s robbing me. It makes my balls hurt,” says one representative of the business community in a line which suggests that, for the affluent, money substitutes for manhood. Villains include mercenaries and gunrunners.

2. Pro-slut/pro-bastard. Spirit of Vengeance presents a heroic image of the valiant single mother in Nadya, who refers to her bastard child as “the one good thing I ever did.” Murderous Methodius judgmentally slut-shames her, however.

1. Christ-ambivalent. Spirit of Vengeance, true to its title, takes place on a battlefield of spiritual warfare. Satan (as the Louvin Brothers proclaimed) is real! – and so, therefore, are angels. Moreau “would be dead if not for the intervention of God” and wears a cross as a sign of his faith, but the film’s attitude toward organized religion is critical. “Guns and wine. Naughty priests.” The religious order’s abortive execution of Danny is vaguely pedophilic and circle-jerky. Other irreverent items of interest are the line, “Merry Christmas, you asshole!” and the fact that Blaze, taking part in an informal communion, reports that the body of Christ tastes stale.

Apropos of no. 4, note how even a superficially cute Super Bowl candy commercial can be mobilized to assist in conditioning Americans to view Slavs and Russians specifically as their enemy.

 

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Little Bit Zombie poster

Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) are, despite their cutesy neuroses, happy together and engaged to be married in a week.  The only problem is that Steve is starting to get cold feet – literally – after a plague-carrying mosquito bites him and turns him into a brain-craving corpse.

Neither the first nor the last romantic comedy to consider itself cleverly different and adorable for featuring a zombie in love, A Little Bit Zombie does nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the horror comedy pack.  With its derivative ideas, cloyingly broad comedy, indomitable preciousness, and the nearly nonstop yammering of Lowe as the shrewish, controlling Tina, A Little Bit Zombie is, sadly, a little bit of a chore to endure.  Even the gratuitous gross-out humor, including an homage to Bloodsucking Freaks, gets old before very long.

The film does, however, have a polished look to it, and supporting players Kristen Hager and Shawn Roberts (who resembles a muscular Seann William Scott) are attractive and fun in their respective roles as Steve’s sarcastic sister Sarah and macho, raunchy buddy Craig.  Stephen McHattie (a poor man’s Lance Henriksen) is also picturesque as rugged, no-nonsense zombie-hunter Max.  Still, it can hardly be said to count in a film’s favor when the mosquito that bites the protagonist is one of the most sympathetic characters.  Consequently, ICA advises potential viewers to skip it and watch Warm Bodies (2013) instead.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Little Bit Zombie is:

14. Pro-gay.  “I support your decision,” Craig jokingly says of the idea of a hypothetical homosexual zombie wedding.  (cf. no. 5)

13. Anti-religion.  “Holy fuck, dude.”

12. Anti-German.  Craig, overhearing talk of shit-eating, asks if the reference is to Germans.

11. Pro-wigger.  “My bad,” concedes Max.  “Thug life,” comments Craig at Tina’s plan to abduct a stranger for Steve’s nourishment.

10. Gun-ambivalent.  Firearms are fetishized in picturesque moments, but are not employed with consistent wisdom.

9. Anti-obesity.  More than one fat zombie meets with flippant disposal.

8. Anti-family.  It is at Steve’s family’s cottage where the fatal bite occurs.  Steve has a dream mocking stereotypical 1950s domestic bliss.  Craig makes reference to Steve’s “fuckin’ freak family” and also calls them the Manson Family.  Max’s father left him to fend for himself in a Filipino jungle.  He says he would unhesitatingly shoot his mother in the face if she became infected with the plague.

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Craig and Sarah are both secret smokers.  Drinking makes a dupe susceptible to abduction.  One drunk urinates on another.

6. Anti-police.  Tina suggests that they ensnare a police officer so Steve can eat his brain.

5. Anti-redneck.  A local yokel sits outside and stares with open-mouthed fascination at the sun.  Craig calls eccentric meat market proprietor and gun aficionado Capt. Cletus “Admiral Redneck”.  Cletus refers to Craig as a “queer-lookin’ feller”.

4. Un-p.c.  Steve kills a rabbit by biting into its skull.  A “team-building” exercise is described as “retarded”.  Craig more than once calls Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.  “I hate the Portuguese,” Tina confesses.  Max calls a hybrid a “fucking hippie car.”

3. Feminist.  “I could teach you to cook,” Tina offers, eliciting a disgusted sigh from Sarah.  The pair outsmarts a “big scary guy” by using their womanly wiles.  Women fight and wield guns with comfort and effectiveness.

2. Pro-castration, celebrating the sensitive, wimpy man in Steve, a fellow for the “workplace conflict resolution initiatives” who allows his fiancée to micro-manage his life.  Craig, after playing the macho man and advising Steve to “grow some nads”, wimpily asks him not to tell Sarah that he smokes.  He also cops out in the end and apologizes for calling Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.

1. Pro-marriage.  Tina sticks by Steve despite his disconcerting condition.

 

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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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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.”

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!

Mud_PosterArt

Wholly original while also echoing Stand by Me in its coming-of-age adventure and Sling Blade in its rural milieu, Mud is the story of fourteen-year-old Arkansas boy Ellis (Tye Sheridan), who, along with buddy Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), discovers the titular fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a little island not very far downriver from his family’s houseboat. Mud is on the run after murdering a man who threatened his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), and Ellis and Neckbone, who are understandably fascinated by this highly unusual character, strike a deal to help him out by bringing him food and supplies.

Mud, like Luke Glanton in The Place Beyond the Pines, is a semi-mythical, romantic, rough-hewn, damaged but untamed figure whose face and tattoos tell his story. He is something out of America’s past, a sort of boy who never grew up, and locates a parallel spirit in Ellis. Matthew McConaughey, so memorable in the previous year’s Killer Joe, is perfect in this polar opposite role as the friendly and formidable but tragically naive Mud, and Tye Sheridan, too, is believably earnest in his central role as companion Ellis. Other faces enhancing the cast are Sheriff Pusser himself, Joe Don Baker, Premium Rush‘s Michael Shannon, The Right Stuff‘s Sam Shepard, and newcomer Bonnie Sturdivant as sultry teenage hussy May Pearl, Ellis’s inamorata.

5 stars. Highest recommendation. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mud is:

6. Anti-Christian. King (Joe Don Baker) represents Christians unflatteringly when he initiates a group prayer for Mud’s imminent demise. Mud makes at least one reference to God, but comes across as more of a pagan with his wild, natural ways.

5. Gun-ambivalent. Mud’s pistol gets him into trouble, but mentor and ex-Marine Tom (Sam Shepard) comes in handy in the end with his rifle and sniper skills.

4. Anti-slut. Mud’s love is wasted on floozy Juniper (Witherspoon).

3. Anti-marriage. Ellis’s parents are getting divorced. Women are undependable.

2. Anti-vigilante. Mud’s poorly considered vengeance has made him a hunted man. King, father of the abusive lowlife Mud murdered, arranges a posse to locate and liquidate the hero, but by doing so he only succeeds bringing more woe on himself.

1. Libertarian. The River Authority callously threatens to order the family out of their houseboat. Neckbone dismisses the legislation sanctioning such an action as “bullshit”. Ellis’s father (Ray McKinnon), meanwhile, voices strong propertarian views when his son is caught in a theft. The police are susceptible to corruption.

The white guy/black guy buddy action movie, from 48 Hrs and Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Bulletproof, has for decades constituted a fine tradition within the action genre. Now Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington take their place in the squabbling but comfortingly complementary ebony-and-ivory ranks of the good guys in 2 Guns, a stylish neo-western from screenwriter Blake Masters and director Baltasar Kormakur, and based on a series of comic books by Steven Grant.

Washington and Wahlberg play an undercover DEA agent and naval intelligence officer, respectively, both thinking the other is actually a crook as they each individually target Mexican drug kingpin Edward James Olmos. Eventually, having discovered each other’s identity and not sure whether they can trust each other, the two are forced to join forces again when they find themselves caught up in a convoluted mess of Mexican cartel savagery, Navy corruption, and CIA shenanigans.

Fast-paced, explosive, and often funny, 2 Guns is the quintessential summer movie experience, but tempered by more than a little healthy cynicism. 4 of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 2 Guns is:

9. Antiwar. One veteran has a hook for a hand (see also no. 1).

8. Pro-immigration. Two representatives of a Minutemen-like group, one of them wearing a Confederate flag, are made to look foolish when they stop Denzel Washington at the border, suspecting him of being a Taliban fighter, and are easily disarmed by him. The implication appears to be that any American sufficiently worried about U.S. border security to become an activist must be a racist nitwit (cf. nos. 2, 3, 4, and 6).

7. Gun-ambivalent. Wahlberg buys black market guns, discrediting notions of “gun control”; but the humiliation of the Minutemen (see no. 8) is probably also intended to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of private gun ownership as a protection when the owners are incompetent.

6. Racist! Mexicans are corrupt and untrustworthy. They are also sadistic brutes who enjoy burying chickens up to their heads and shooting at them, decapitating enemies, or tying them upside-down in a barn, beating them with a baseball bat, and letting a bull charge at them. Obese Mexicans are more than once mocked, with their greasy diet offered as one explanation (cf. nos. 2, 3, 5, and 8).

5. Black supremacist. Washington is the senior partner, the man with the brains to make a plan. Demonstrating his mental superiority, he more than once corrects Wahlberg’s pronunciation (cf. nos. 3, 4, and 6).

4. Anti-South/anti-redneck. Bill Paxton plays a sinister CIA agent bent on retrieving the money stolen from the agency by Washington and Wahlberg. His string tie and southern accent mark him as residue of the Bush years, and the sweaty glee he derives from playing Russian roulette with Washington’s crotch suggests, as with Billy Crash in Django Unchained, that the white southerner’s insecurity and sadistic hostility toward the black man derives from his penis envy and latent homosexuality (see also no. 8).

3. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. The interracial camaraderie of the white guy/black guy action movie might not reflect much racial reality, but it seldom fails to entertain, providing a respite from what has become the daily race-baiting of politicians and the professional victimhood industry. Initially, Washington claims to have no “people”, but by the end the protagonists identify as “family” and “brothers”. Washington is involved in a romantic triangle with mulatto Paula Patton and white James Marsden. Wahlberg flirts with women of different races.

2. Anti-capitalistic/egalitarian. “It’s the free market,” Paxton says, “not the free world.” Olmos accuses U.S. intelligence of conspiring to keep Mexico weak and addicted to dirty money (cf. no. 6). Washington and Wahlberg think nothing of the damage they cause with arson and explosives to a bank and a perfectly innocent cafe. Simple Mexican folk stoop to gather the scattered CIA dope money after the film’s climactic battle sequence, presumably with the filmmakers’ blessing.

1. Anti-state/anti-military. The CIA extorts tribute from drug cartels, offering them in return the use of CIA planes for transporting dope into America. Washington’s DEA supervisor and girlfriend is corrupt. Naval intelligence officers are no better than bandits and think nothing of using military hardware for private projects to feather their nests. An admiral (Fred Ward), learning of his subordinates’ crimes, is only interested in covering it up. Local police are fat and useless.

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