Archives for posts with tag: Las Vegas

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The appropriately odd-looking Asa Butterfield is cast as Gardner Elliot, the first human being born on Mars, in an ultimate emo romance fantasy that might just as well have been titled The Perks of Being a Mars Baby. The loneliest teen in the universe, Gardner, orphaned when his astronaut mother (Janet Montgomery) dies giving birth to him, is restricted to the planet of his birth because his heart and bones, having developed in the gravity of Mars, are unsuited to life on Earth. Consequently, he lives and mopes among the scientists living on Mars but strikes up a touching internet correspondence with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an alienated high school girl living back in the States. Eventually, after surgical modifications allow Gardner to make to journey to Earth, he of course rejects being grounded by NASA and hatches a plan to escape, meet Tulsa, and track down his father, about whom he knows nothing. Robertson is too attractive to be convincing as a high school outcast, but does create a tear-jerkingly irresistible chemistry with Mr. Butterfield, who is perfect as the quintessential socially awkward Gen-Z outcast hothouse flower. Gary Oldman, too, is commendably present as the complicated elder statesman of the Mars program. A sweet film, and heartily recommended to angst-ridden teens of all ages.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Space Between Us is:

5. Class-conscious. Blue-collar Tulsa steals a BMW, confident that the presumably wealthy owner can afford the loss.

4. Family-ambivalent. The horror of Sarah Elliot’s childbirth scene is arguably antinatalist; but the film is largely concerned with the hole left in young people’s lives by the absence of conventional family structures.

3. Green. The exposition suggests that the likelihood ecological catastrophe on Earth could serve as a motivator for colonization of other planets. Wind turbines, meanwhile, illustrate the availability of alternative energy sources.

2. Capital-ambivalent. Sam’s Club, Tulsa explains, is like shopping a million stores at once with a trillion dollars to spend. In other words, she appreciates the cheap goods that neoliberalism has made available to the consumer. Gardner becomes ill during a visit to Las Vegas, however, when he is confronted with the dark side of globalization. Gaudy imitations of world cities thrown together in one neon hodge-podge disorient him and prompt him to observe that these things are not supposed to exist side-by-side. During this same sequence, Gardner appears to be horrified at the sight of a mulatto child.

1. Sexist! The Space Between Us seems at first glance to be promoting feminism with its depiction of a valiant female astronaut leading a trailblazing Mars expedition. It quickly undermines this deception, however, by having her turn out to be secretly pregnant, demonstrating that men and women bring different liabilities to the workplace.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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 NINE

Swelter

Saddle up for another hipster riff on the western … Out-of-place big names Jean-Claude Van Damme and Alfred Molina pick up shameless paychecks for supporting roles in this sub-Tarantinoid dose of direct-to-streaming dreck. The actual leading man viewers get stuck with is a tedious congoid, Lennie James, who plays Bishop, the sheriff of a sleazy backwater outside Las Vegas that finds itself invaded by a gang of prison escapees searching for a cache of hidden loot. Van Damme, his accent thicker than ever, plays the implausibly named “Stillman”, one of the gang of psychotic outlaws, which also includes Cole (Grant Bowler), who discovers he has a score to settle with Bishop when he finds him shacked up with ex-girlfriend Carmen (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Annoyingly slapdash, with no sympathetic characters, Swelter is as uninviting, drab, and exhausting as its title advertises, with Van Damme’s charisma criminally underutilized. The great character actor Tracey Walter does add some much-needed color to a few scenes, however, in his role as “Old Man Henry Johnson”.

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

4. Anti-police. Van Damme’s gang gets the hip Reservoir Dogs slow motion stroll treatment as they shoot down the officers manning a roadblock.

3. Anti-gun. Bishop’s deputy Ronnie (Alan Simpson) is a klutz. Bishop himself refuses to carry a gun until circumstances force his hand. Asked why he performs his duties without a sidearm, he replies, “I’m afraid I might shoot somebody.”

2. Anti-white and pro-miscegenation. White men are vicious, sadistic poison to women. “It’s your DNA,” says Carmen in rejecting Cole’s renewed advances. She prefers the dusky embrace of Bishop. Van Damme also kisses a mutt.

1. Obamist. Swelter unfolds against the backdrop of the upcoming election of a new sheriff. After electing Bishop, a man with a mysterious past, just to rid themselves of the previous power, the townsfolk have grown impatient with what they perceive as Sheriff Bishop’s moralistic stifling of free enterprise and are itching to vote for his lame white deputy as a replacement; but Bishop, the righteous black man of destiny, rides in, rises to the occasion, and manages to protect the townspeople from a descent into white barbarity. (cf. American Hustle)

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The_Guilt_Trip_Poster

World’s ugliest beautiful woman Barbra Streisand teams up with the funniest, most lovable schlub of his generation, Seth Rogen, in this hilarious, touching story about an obnoxious New Jersey widow invited by her son to accompany him on a cross-country road trip as he attempts with generally pathetic results to sell his invention and life’s work, a potent and potable cleaning product awkwardly christened (so to speak) Scioclean. Unknown to the mother, though, is that the son has actually lured her onto this expedition, not just to spend some quality time with Mom, but to reunite her with an old flame who may be living in San Francisco. This chick flick is frankly a joy from start to finish and should, thanks to Rogen’s presence, be nearly as palatable for men as for its primary audience of menopausal women, with Streisand and Rogen comprising one of the strongest comedy teams in recent memory. Sure to pluck the heartstrings and bust the collective gut of those who like their comedy kosher and pickled in a brine of gratuitous kvetching.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Guilt Trip is:

10. Pro-gay. Streisand’s Pilates instructor is a lesbian. During the trip, she subjects the hapless Rogen to the seemingly interminable audiobook of Middlesex, a novel about a hermaphrodite’s sexual self-discovery.

9. Mildly anti-Christian. Christians are at no point vilified, but The Guilt Trip does evince a kind of innocuous condescension toward Christianity, which comes across as quaint and kitschy. “God bless, y’all,” stripper Moonlight (Analeis Lorig) says in one of the film’s few allusions to faith. And Tulsa, Oklahoma, Streisand reads in a brochure, is purported to be home to the world’s largest praying hands. (see also no. 5)

8. Anti-drug. Drinking can lead to trouble.

7. Diversity-skeptical. Notwithstanding no. 4, The Guilt Trip hints at the painfully artificial contortions into which America twists itself to accommodate ethnic plurality. Rogen, who objects when his mother says “oriental”, meets with uncomfortable silence himself when, during a pitch for Scioclean, he offends the self-loathingly p.c. sensibilities of a board of K-Mart executives by growling “soy!” in the voice of a gruff karate master. Among the executives is a humorless, unsmiling black woman, no doubt promoted to her position through affirmative action. Failing to dodge the insidious Scylla of racial sensitivity, Rogen also smacks against the Charybdis of sex when he jokes, “And trust me, I didn’t stay three years [at the EPA] because of the ladies.” Like most men of his generation, he is neurotic at best when confronted with the cruel demands and exigencies of p.c. totalitarianism. Sadly, Streisand, after worrying aloud that a hitchhiker might try to rape her, is apparently driven by feelings of racial guilt to pick up a Mexican drifter (who luckily turns out to be mild-mannered), thus demonstrating how the psychological ravages of political correctness endanger not only good taste and common sense, but people’s lives, as well.

6. Green-ambivalent. Rogen is a former EPA operative and his cleaning product is made entirely from natural, sustainable ingredients. However, the aforementioned irreverence about the women of the EPA may be taken to imply that environmentalism is the pet preoccupation of the ugly, nerdy, or otherwise unappealing. Streisand, in what appears to be a piece of sarcasm on the screenwriter’s part, invokes the mystery of “this climate change thing” when a snowstorm strikes in Tennessee.

5. South-ambivalent. Southerners are, for the most part, depicted as friendly and hospitable, particularly in a Texan steakhouse – although lingering North/South hostility is acknowledged when patrons boo at hearing that Streisand is from New Jersey. Moonlight, a stripper the pair meets in Tennessee, is especially helpful when they have car trouble (and is also very much a slut). A scary redneck in a bar does, however, become pushy when Rogen objects to his sexual aggression toward his mother (see also no. 9).

4. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Streisand and Rogen’s characters’ surname, Brewster, suggests Anglo-Saxon-Semite interbreeding, and Barbra’s aged charms do prove irresistible for more than one macho cowboy on the pair’s swing through the southern states. The film ends with the suggestion that Streisand may be entering into a potentially serious relationship with Texan businessman Ben Graw (Brett Cullen). One of Rogen’s ex-girlfriends is Asian. Races mix at a mature singles’ club and in an airport, where a black man stands with an Asian woman. The airports depicted in the film are clearly designed to show people of different ethnicities (complete with a gentleman in a turban) interacting peacefully, the happily equal cogs of a multicultural clockwork. There are even a few blacks (probably lynched after filming ended) to be spotted in the Texan steakhouse. (cf. no. 7)

3. Anti-marriage. An ex-girlfriend of Rogen’s is happily married and pregnant, but one of Streisand’s friends (Kathy Nijimy) is glad to be rid of her recently deceased husband, who is described as “horrible”. Streisand, too, is relieved to have her bed to herself, since she now has the liberty to eat M&Ms in bed whenever she likes.

2. Capitalist/corporate. The Guilt Trip reminds communist whiners and weenies that, toiling and struggling like ants at the feet of those oft-reviled corporate giants and monocle-sporting exploiters of the masses, are millions of honest, self-made small businessmen who risk personal capital and earn every penny they manage to keep. “My little Donald Trump,” Streisand dotes. The film does, however, feature copious product placement for the aforementioned corporate giants.

1. Family-ambivalent. While The Guilt Trip is very much preoccupied with family, and the son’s occasionally prickly but deeply devoted relationship with his mother provides the film’s satisfying emotional meat, the father is conspicuously absent from the formula. “I was your mother and your father,” Streisand declares with self-satisfaction. The mother-son combo would appear to be the new nuclear family for the twenty-first century.

"Can we talk?"

The needle on the Jewometer just broke.

Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz (1985) ****

Joan Molinsky (alias Rivers) appears as herself in this Showtime comedy special about a star-studded Las Vegas tribute to notorious (fictional) nymphomaniac Heidi Abromowitz. A veritable constellation of A-and B-level celebrities is in attendance to toast this tart, “the biggest tramp since Charlie Chaplin”. The only problem is that nobody can find her, so that cantankerous hostess Joan is reduced to rushing around a hotel trying to find out where Heidi is holed up probably getting gang-shagged.

This incredibly raunchy campfest mostly consists of hit-and-miss one-liners (Heidi is alleged to have invented “eightplay”, or simultaneous foreplay with two guys) and nostalgia-tickling cameos from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Anthony Perkins, Brooke Shields, Selma Diamond, Robin Leach (who of course gets to spoof Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), Joyce Brothers, Ruth Westheimer, Willie Nelson, Tony Randall, Erma Bombeck, Little Richard, Betty White, Suzanne Somers, Ali McGraw, Howie Mandel, Elvira, Garry Shandling, Vincent Price, Morgan Fairchild, Father Guido Sarducci – and more! The Solid Gold Dancers even put in an appearance, taking the stage to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s hit “Physical”.

80s buffs will be thrilled by the totally retro references to Mother Theresa, Mr. T, and Boy George (“Just what England needs,” Joan kvetches, “another queen who can’t dress!”). The highlight of this extravaganza, however, is not a celebrity, but a hilarious troupe of trained orangutans, one of which specializes in flipping the bird. The only real drawback to this trash treasure is its off-putting Talmudic attitude in promoting juvenile sexuality. “Harder! Harder!” Heidi is supposed to have exclaimed as a newborn when the doctor slapped her bottom, and she is also supposed to have enjoyed an outdoor orgy with several boys as a girl. The best line in Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz definitely comes from negro janitor Vernon Washington: “Joan Rivers? Sheeeit. I thought you was Tony Orlando.”

4 out of 5 possible stars

Post-op cyborg

“We’ll say United 93 went down in this trench here in Shanksville . . .”

How to Murder a Millionaire (1990) ***1/2

Joan Molinsky, the grotesque diva to out-bitch them all, gets to display her sensitive side in this tacky TV comedy feature about a privileged, rich housewife whose life revolves around shopping, hoarsely kvetching to best friend Morgan Fairchild, and watching interviews with transvestites on Monique in the Morning followed by Monique in the Afternoon. Unfortunately, Joan’s idle idylls are thrown into chaos when she begins to suspect that husband Alex Rocco may be trying to murder her – and, even worse, that he may be having an affair! (“What possible motive could he have?” her friend hilariously consoles her. “You look great.”) Desperate for refuge, Joan hides out in a ghetto rat’s nest (“This place just screams for a decorator”) with Fairchild’s thieving black maid (Telma Hopkins) and even goes to work with her as a housecleaner.

All of this, of course, is just an excuse for such fish-out-of-water scenes as Joan cleaning a toilet and trying to make herself comfortable on a disgusting black person’s couch – but not before covering it with sanitary tissues. How to Murder a Millionaire is something of a rarity in Molinsky’s list of movie credits in that it is a genuine starring vehicle for her as opposed to a cameo. For that reason alone, Molinsky admirers (i.e. homos) will probably want to check it out and treat themselves to such TV candy as Joan slumming in her expensive fur coat, washing a window with her rump, and self-pityingly crying while treating her eyes with cucumber slices. Nostalgiacs, furthermore, should enjoy the chintzy early 90s muzak and period cultural references to Leona Helmsley, Arsenio Hall, and the forbidden dance of lambada. What other movie, pray tell, has the sass to ask the question, “Does a bear shop in the woods?”

3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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