Archives for posts with tag: mercenaries

Reclaim

Two rich white liberals pay $100,000 (!) for the dubious privilege of adopting a Haitian refugee girl (Briana Roy) on the black market – only to have her cruelly stolen from them by John Cusack! – in 2014’s Reclaim, which actually develops into a pretty decent thriller if viewers can overlook the epically poor taste of its protagonists, played by Ryan Phillippe and Rachelle Lefevre. Jacki Weaver, whom cinema slummers might remember as Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother in the dully dishonest Parkland (2013), plays another psycho bitch in this film as the ringmistress of the fraudulent adoption agency. Cusack capably extends his range as the scariest of the villains, playing a killer with altogether different mannerisms and background than the man he portrays in The Frozen Ground (2013). Some grimy Puerto Rican location shooting contributes production value, as well.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

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

5. Anti-war. Cusack is a mercenary and an Iraq war veteran whose nihilism, transposed from overseas war zones, draws attention to the unsavoriness of doing business with opaque entities like Blackwater.

4. Teetotaler. Phillippe’s drinking once led to a personal tragedy, so both he and the missus avoid the booze.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Cusack consorts with an icy Asiatic sphinx (Veronica Faye Foo), expressing a preference for Puerto Rican Chinese girls.

2. Anti-gun. A scare comes at the end of the movie when the precious little refugee girl picks up a gun and points it at her adoptive parents. Rather than cautioning Caucasians as to the perils of parenting congoids, however, this scene is intended to vilify the pistol, associating it with the dangers posed to children by private gun ownership.

1. Pro-immigration. Reclaim was made for two reasons, neither of which is the film’s stated purpose of raising awareness about the human trafficking crime wave. The first, of course, is to make some shekels. The only other reason this movie was made is to get whites accustomed to the idea of leaving their civilization in the hands of a posterity that bears zero resemblance to them. Heaven forbid that Europeans procreate! Stupid viewers are invited to find inspiration in the idea of the good-hearted Americans swooping in to rescue the precious pickaninny from Third World squalor and whisk her off to Chicago, where she will no doubt enrich the neighborhood and grow up to energize the local economy. The selection of a French-speaking Haitian girl is deliberate, bestowing upon the character a deceptive veneer of Europeanness and class to convince the audience that blacks and other genetic undesirables can become whites through environmental osmosis.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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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

gunman

Sean Penn, who co-scripted, plays an ex-mercenary haunted by his assassination of a Congolese mining minister. Eight years later, now a damaged man in more ways than one, Penn discovers that someone with knowledge of his past has put out a contract on his life. Penn spends as much of the movie as possible shirtless so as to show off his impressive physique, and in one scene even taps into his inner Spicoli and catches a few African waves.

Less incendiary than one might expect for a Joel Silver production, The Gunman is an action movie that wants desperately to be an art film, aiming for poetic moments like that in which a battered and dying assassin is juxtaposed with a matador’s speared bull. The action, once the movie gets around to it, however, should be brutal enough to compensate for the more pretentious material. There is also a love triangle to keep the women interested.

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

6. Anti-tobacco. “That’s really healthy,” Ray Winstone says sarcastically on seeing Penn light a cigarette.

5. Anti-marriage. Penn’s love interest (Jasmine Trinca) regards her creepy husband (Javier Bardem) as a creditor, her loveless wifely duties the repayment of an obligation.

4. Multiculturalist and pro-immigration. European-accented non-white professionals put in a good word for immigrants’ ability to assimilate into western societies. London and Barcelona appear as peaceful and orderly multi-ethnic metropolises. Penn atones for his sins by working to improve the lives of Africans.

3. Ostensibly anti-war. Rape and machete attacks are noted as weapons of war in the Congo. Penn’s combat experience has left him with brain damage.

2. Anti-capitalistic. Corporatocracy is behind the world’s evils, with the “growing demand of the western world” to blame for the Congo’s sufferings.

1. Globalist, giving the false impression that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are strictly humanitarian and apolitical entities. In reality, NGOs are frequently the unconventional tools of Zio-American foreign policy and therefore have been dubbed “missionaries of empire”. Brit-accented television reporters – still more tools of Zio-American globe-grasping – are presented as reliable sources of information. That the poster has the chutzpah to say both “armed with the truth” and “from the director of Taken” probably says all that prospective viewers need to know.

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

Expendables 3

Expendables 3 has hardly begun before the titular crew of mercenaries is massacring prison guards to liberate murderer Wesley Snipes. Typically for the series, the film simply expects the viewer to take for granted that the “good guys” would never shoot anyone undeserving of death. (Speaking of which, no Expendables review would be complete without the obligatory reference to how close to death some of these guys appear. “Relax. You’re gonna give yourself a stroke,” Stallone is warned before his upcoming adventure.)

This entry in the franchise does, however, evince more of something approximating a heart or emotional center in its plot involving renewed conflict between Stallone and treacherous ex-partner Mel Gibson, whose presence does much to enhance part 3. Gibson, now an arms dealer, has been deemed a war criminal, and CIA honcho Harrison Ford, in a role alluding to his turns as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), hires Stallone to retrieve him from Central Asia for trial at the Hague.

What ensues is tons of dumb fun, with better action scenes that dispense with the gallons of CGI gore on display in the previous outing. The viewer almost forgets what villains the heroes’ real-life counterparts are. A campy charm attaches itself, admittedly, to the wince-worthy scene in which Ford, providing air support for the beleaguered Expendables and obviously embarrassed by the unimaginative dialogue, half-heartedly mumbles, “Drummer’s in the house.” Expendables 3 is worth a rental for that moment alone.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Expendables 3 is:

7. Disingenously anti-torture. In one of the movie’s biggest unintentional laughs, CIA creep Harrison Ford complains that Gibson is responsible for the torture and killing of two of his men. As Gibson later says of Stallone’s character, “He thinks he’s the good guy.”

6. Pro-drug. There is a lighthearted feel to a scene in which Kelsey Grammer’s flying is impaired by his drunkenness. The Expendables get together to drink in celebration of a successful mission, while Dolph Lundgren, whose combat readiness is unaffected, just likes to drink for the picturesque hell of it.

5. P.C. Snipes objects to Stallone using “spook” with reference to a CIA agent.

4. Feminist. Ronda Rousey plays a tough-as-nails bouncer-cum-soldier whose looks conceal deadly fighting prowess. “Men,” she huffs with contempt before fatally shooting a man.

3. Anti-family. “If you’re lookin’ to go the family route, it’s the wrong job for you,” Stallone admonishes Rousey. “There are different kinds of family,” she replies. “And when my life is on the line, that’s my family fighting with me.” In other words, a gaggle of ragtag cutthroats is no less valid a pillar of personal and national stability than some old-fashioned assemblage of the biologically related.

2. Multiculturalist. In addition to two black Expendables and an Asian one, this third installment adds a Latino as a nod to that group’s demographic ascent, with Antonio Banderas providing some odd comic relief as a lonely acrobatic weirdo desperate for an excuse to machine-gun people.

1. Neoconservative. Like the other Expendables films, this third entry continues the work of conditioning the American male to accept overseas hellraising and mass murder as an exciting career opportunity, or at least as something deserving of their patriotic admiration. “I am the Hague,” Stallone says in triumph, alluding to his famous line from Judge Dredd (1995). In other words, the United States as the indispensable superpower and global force for gay, is exceptional in that it constitutes in itself – and even through the acts of its lowliest mercenaries – the world’s judge, jury, and executioner. “Very tribal,” Gibson says of the Expendables’ penchant for ritual murder – leaving the viewer to determine which Tribe he has referenced in his remark. As usual with this sort of movie, too, there is a dig at nationalist Russia, with Gibson spending some time there and giving the impression that Putin’s New Nazi Germany Russia is some sort of haven for evildoers.

The CIA no longer even cares if Americans know it conducts dirty wars through mercenary proxies. “This one’s off the books. I’m not even here,” says Ford, clearly thinking himself very cute. Those incorrigible Central Intelligence scamps! Oh, well – boys will be boys. Maybe a couple of decades from now, Hollywood will be making action movies celebrating the “ISIS” scam and the takedown of the evil Assad regime. “We killed a lot, but we saved more lives than you can possibly imagine,” Gibson excuses his days as a hired assassin for the Company. Whatever.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Expendables 2

Those left craving another helping of the limp-fisted one-liners, geriatric jollies and follies and apeshit aviation stunts, the genocidal body counts, computer-generated gore, and wanton devastation of exotic locales served up by the first Expendables film will find more of the same in this second wholly superfluous jaunt from the old folks’ hangar. So much blood splatters with such fetishistic tedium during the too-slick opening raid sequence that soldiers appear to be erupting with so much crimson jizz on themselves. Should viewers really be surprised when the credits come up and attribute the script to somebody named Richard Wenk? The self-lover’s screenplay has Stallone’s ragtag team of mercenaries venturing into Eastern Europe to stop satanic jack-of-all-villainies Van Damme from getting a cache of old Soviet weapons-grade plutonium into the hands of “the wrong people” – Muslims, presumably – and avenging a fallen comrade in the process.

Unfortunately, with such a surfeit of 80s dynamite nostalgia – with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others all crammed into Expendables 2’s star-studded cast – the result is a textbook case of a whole being less than the sum of constituent parts. The saturation of superpower, with heavyweights like Schwarzenegger and Norris confined to a couple of cameos, has the effect of mutual neutralization bordering on trivialization for all of the A-list actors involved, so that each of the heroes appears diminished and relatively dimmed. New female teammate Yu Nan, meanwhile, adds nothing of worth to the Expendables formula.

In its defense, The Expendables 2 does feature a hair-raising last-minute takeoff, a passable time bomb countdown sequence, and a brutal blade-and-chain-wielding climactic confrontation between Van Damme and Stallone. Norris, more defiantly deadpan than ever, has the only genuine laugh in the movie when he tells a campy snake attack anecdote, while the gratuity of Willis and Schwarzenegger swapping famous catch phrases with each other during a firefight holds a gay but admittedly irresistible fascination for children of the 80s – as does the sight of oldster Arnie effortlessly ripping the door off a car instead of simply opening it like a regular wimp. The CGI action sequences lack the tactile macho magic of the old days, and the forced attempts at human interest are similarly artificial, but such gripes will hardly dissuade those who already know this is their kind of film.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Expendables 2 is:

7. Anti-marriage. Jason Statham’s fiancée is a “half-cheat”.

6. Feminist. Unfeminine and consequently uninteresting Maggie (Yu Nan) is “combat-proficient”.

5. Pro-drug. Lundgren picturesquely drinks from a flask, while others opt for bottles of beer.

4. Pro-torture. “We’ll beat the truth out of ‘em,” Stallone says of a bar full of tough Slavic strangers, but surgical blades wielded with oriental prowess end up doing the job more efficiently.

3. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration. Stallone asks Maggie if she knows how to carve a turkey. In other words, all arrivals are welcome as long as they promise to ape the superficial rituals of Americanness.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Lundgren spends the movie slobbering over the homely Chinawoman, who, however (with an eye to Stallone), professes to “like Italian”. Even so, Lundgren would “really die for some Chinese.”

1. Neoconservative. As in Chernobyl Diaries, the Red Dawn remake, and the equally unworthy A Good Day to Die Hard, the Cold War’s weary specter is roused from its mothballs to put fear of the Russians back into American moviegoers. CIA operative Church (Bruce Willis) spooks in top-secret, mysterious ways, so better do what the gentleman tells you! Then, too, there is the omnipresent danger of weapons of mass destruction. Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) is a veteran of Afghanistan who expresses regret that his comrades (and dog) are “dead for nothin’”; but such brief dissimulation of antiwar sentiment serves as little more than a proprietary fig leaf for the Blackwater-as-Superman agenda of a movie determined to teach little American boys how cool it is to go off raising Cain in foreign countries in order to save and police the benighted regions of the world. One almost suspects that any disapproval Expendables 2 evinces toward the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan stems not so much from the insufficient warrant to go to war in the first place, but from the fact that America’s forces failed to splatter enough intestines loudly and brashly enough.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Zombinator

The filming of a fashion documentary furnishes the pretext for a film crew to follow a group of college students around Youngstown, Ohio, on what turns out to be night the city is hit by a zombie plague. Unfortunately, those lured by the inviting sight of the zombie cyborg featured on the cover of The Zombinator are bound to be a bit disappointed, as no such creature actually appears in the film.

The title character (Joseph Aviel) is an Afghanistan veteran trying to save Youngstown and the United States from a military-industrial undead plot being executed on the ground by “war hero” the Colonel (Patrick Kilpatrick) and his team of greedy mercenaries. The young people, meanwhile, spend most of the movie whimpering, cowering, running, and trying not to get bitten.

The film crew’s presence in the story suggests a postmodern self-awareness on the part of The Zombinator‘s makers, but it also presents some puzzling questions. They seem to be an unusually caddish lot, even for movie industry professionals, considering that they continue to shoot with apparent indifference as their associates are attacked, neither lifting a finger to help during combat nor even alerting a group of sleeping girls as the zombies sneak up on them.

The Zombinator achieves an adequate level of suspense, even if the zombies and story are nothing new or particularly special; and occasionally bathetic humor offers a welcome break from the scenes of horror and mediocre action with CGI blood and fake gunfire. Shame on The Zombinator, though, for baiting the audience with the tasty prospect of a zombie-Terminator hybrid and instead delivering a regular old hungry carcass flick.

3 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Zombinator is:

9. Anti-tobacco. A cigarette is a “cancer stick”.

8. Racist! A horny black dude stupidly opens a door for some zombie sluts. Paranoid and self-absorbed congoids are apt to assume that even the basement of a Catholic school might be a secret hideout for the KKK. End credits feature a vicious ghetto zombie in a hoodie.

7. Anti-family. Marcus (Justin Brown) was abused by his father.

6. Class-conscious. The 1% gets name-dropped, as does the gentrification neighborhoods of Youngstown are said to be experiencing. “It’s more like civilized murder now.”

5. Anti-Christian. The Zombinator is generally irreverent toward Christianity. A rotten-faced rock singer wears a clerical collar; one Youngstowner recalls seeing a bullet hole in a church bathroom; and priests (one of whom smokes) are ineffective at thwarting zombies. God, meanwhile, is “the one who’s got the biggest dividends.”

4. Anti-Y. Generation Y appears as a wimpy, idiotic, and superficial lot, the Colonel’s suggestion that they are truly “the greatest generation” coming across as masked sarcasm.

3. Anti-cronyism/anti-Obama. “But what about change?” cries a stupid liberal on learning that she and her friends are guinea pigs in a government bio-terror scheme. “What about what everybody voted for, against big corporations?”

2. Antiwar. America’s rulers preside over an empire, not a progressive wonderland, and ignorant young people’s mindless mouthing of patriotic admiration for soldiers rings unmistakably hollow. Afghanistan is a testing ground for biological agents, with soldiers used for deadly experiments.

1. Anti-state and N.W.O.-alarmist, promoting those darned conspiracy theories. “This is government shit, dude,” suspects one of the filmmakers. “If the world doesn’t see this, this is gonna happen everywhere else, too.” Later, the Zombinator explains that, “They have a cure, but they will not use it until it gets so big, after Youngstown is gone, and then they’ll present it on the market and make billions . . . billions and billions on your corpses.” So forget that crap in Contagion (2011) and World War Z (2013) about the valiant public servants over at the CDC and the WHO. This is the real deal.

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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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.”

Escape Plan

Sylvester Stallone, who previously suffered and grunted to great effect in the excellent Lock Up (1989), gets thrown into the slammer again in Escape Plan as Ray Breslin, the Harry Houdini of incarceration. Breslin is so adept at egress from maximum security penitentiaries that he actually makes his living at it, hiring out his services to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and going undercover in different correctional institutions across the country to test their tightness. Breslin finds himself in the bind of his life when he agrees to try his hand at the Tomb, a CIA-commissioned, privately operated black prison “off the grid” and designed for containing dissidents the government would prefer to see “disappeared”. This time Breslin’s sentence is more than a game.

A gray-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger plays second fiddle to Stallone’s hero, but does add considerably to the fun of the film. He is given one moment of greatness equal to his larger-than-life persona when, in testosterone-mainlining slow motion, he levels a machine gun and mows down a gallery of disposable baddies. Jim Caviezel, unfortunately, is inadequate to the task of furnishing proper antagonism for the likes of the two leading titans. Sam Neill collects a paycheck for playing a tiny supporting role as the prison’s doctor, while Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson keeps it real representin’ the African-American computer genius community as Breslin’s loyal “techno-thug” Hush.

Escape Plan has exactly two things going for it: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The script is lame and about as original as the title, with typical lines of dialogue being, “You hit like a vegetarian”; “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, motherfucker!”; and, still more amazing, this brilliantly sarcastic coup of a zinger: “Have a lovely day, asshole.” Weaknesses aside, the story is fast-paced, the performances are fun, and the dynamite action combo of Stallone and Schwarzenegger will be a difficult one for fans to resist.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Escape Plan is:

7. Anti-tobacco. A guard’s routine of taking a smoke break causes him to be distracted.

6. Pro-miscegenation. The streets of New Orleans teem with interraciality.

5. Anti-Christian. Schwarzenegger, putting on a show of insanity for the guards, spouts religious nonsense in German. Stallone tears a page out of a Bible and burns it.

4. Anti-torture. Guards pummel Stallone and force water down Schwarzenegger’s throat with a hose.

3. Anti-neoconservative. The Tomb, with its savagery, high-tech surveillance, and disregard for citizens’ constitutional rights, serves as a microcosm of life in post-9/11 America. Giving the lie to the Islam-bashers, Muslim prisoners are violent only when they are provoked.

2. Anti-cronyism/anti-capitalistic. The Tomb is operated by “Blackwater rejects” who do the dirty work of corrupt, authoritarian governments and international bankers. “From a financial standpoint I like it,” Breslin’s business partner (Vincent D’Onofrio) says on hearing about the Tomb and the money he stands to make by cooperating with the CIA. Schwarzenegger is an anarchist or revolutionary of some sort who seeks to bring down the financial establishment.

1. Anti-state. The Tomb is administered by the significantly monickered Mr. Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who boasts, “In here you have no control over any part of your life, except your breathing.” Of interest, too, is the deindividuated design of the brutal prison screws, who wear S.W.A.T.-flavored get-ups and charcoal-black masks with Caucasian features. Could this be a commentary on the reality of life under fake black president B.O., whose ballyhooed skin color masks exactly the same opportunism that motivated his predecessors in office?

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