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Adam Sandler turns in a pleasantly understated performance as Max Simkin, a Lower East Side shoe repairman who discovers that an heirloom stitching machine has magical properties in Tom McCarthy’s film The Cobbler. Put on any customer’s two shoes and Max takes on that person’s appearance, allowing him to indulge such entertaining caprices as sneaking into a black thug’s gun-and-bling-filled apartment or walking into a beautiful stranger’s bathroom. Max eventually takes his place as a “guardian of souls” in addition to his work as a mender of soles.

While funny, The Cobbler is a film which, like Punch Drunk Love (2002), allows Sandler to show off his non-idiot side and is welcome as a change of pace. Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman appear in supporting roles as, respectively, Max’s barber neighbor and mysteriously absent father. Viewers may see the surprise ending coming, but so much of The Cobbler is entertainingly unexpected that any conformity to audience expectations is handily offset.

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

6. Obesity-tolerant. “I’m not fat. I’m big-boned.”

5. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Simkin’s eventual love interest is peppery Carmen (Melonie Diaz). An Asian woman (Greta Lee) flirts with Simkin in a bar after he has unwittingly taken on the form of a bisexual man (Dan Stevens). “I think it’s hot,” she reassures him. Sandler also dons high heels to occasionally assume the appearance of a gauche Latin transvestite (Yul Vazquez).

4. Family-ambivalent. Simkin is deeply devoted to his mother (Lynn Cohen), who was abandoned by his father (Dustin Hoffman). The latter turns out to have responded to a higher calling. Asked if she ever wanted to be somebody else, Mrs. Simkin replies, “I’m your mother. That’s all I ever wanted to be.” Carmen seemingly discounts the necessity of fathers, however, when she says, “My dad split when I was 12. Life goes on.”

3. Localist and populist. Carmen works for the Lower East Side Action Committee, committed to halting the area’s gentrification, and attempts to get Simkin to support the cause. “I’m glad that you’re supporting a local business,” she tells him when she sees him with a box of pickles.

2. Racist! The Cobbler’s only important black character is a career criminal, a murderer and abuser of women, played by rapper Cliff “Method Man” Smith. “You Jewish?” this black bigot interrogates Simkin. “Lucky you.” He then insensitively asks if his recently deceased mother left him any money. In another scene, the fiend creates a Michael Brown-style ruckus in a convenience store.

1. Borderline anti-Semitic. Surprisingly, The Cobbler offers an unsavory portrait of a Hebraic slumlord and gangster in tough-as-nails “Jew from Queens” Elaine Greenawalt (Ellen Barkin). The film compensates for this cinematic blood libel by providing typical wailing violin movie portrayals of weak, long-suffering Jews like Simkin, who gives submissive shoeshines to arrogant blacks. Ratcheting up The Cobbler’s Jewish victimhood factor is Fritz Weaver from the 1978 Holocaust miniseries, who appears as Mr. Solomon, the helpless old man Greenawalt hopes to evict by any dastardly means necessary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Magic Mike poster

Magic Mike, along with Katy Perry: Part of Me, was one of the faith-shakingly embarrassing trailers that seemed to hound this critic every time he went to the movies during the summer of 2012. “Oh, no, not this again,” he would think to himself, slumping into his seat as his heart sank in his breast. The fact of the matter is, however, that this amusing and unassumingly sharp drama from screenwriter Reid Carolin and director Steven Soderbergh not only rises to the occasion on more than an anatomical level, but ends up as one of the most outstanding films of its year.

Channing Tatum, who actually worked as a stripper during an earlier phase of his show business career, puts his skills to productive use in Magic Mike, a role perfectly suited to the actor’s dissolute good looks, sex power, and sense of humor. Tatum’s semiautobiographical Mike is an American original, a creatively driven renaissance stud who aspires to build handcrafted furniture for a living, but works at construction, car detailing, and stripping until he can put together the venture capital he requires. Handsome Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, the fresh piece of meat Mike recruits to join the dance revue at Club Xquisite, and whose pretty but staid sister Brooke (Cody Horn) will become Mike’s reluctant romantic interest.

It is Matthew McConaughey, however, who majestically steals much of Magic Mike as the Mephistophelean Dallas, the Gordon Gekko of male strip club proprietors. In particular, the sequence in which erotic drill instructor Dallas is training greenhorn Adam for his first tour of duty under the lights provides McConaughey with the most explosive monologue of 2012. “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t,” he prods his pupil like a madman, showing him how to win over a crowd of emotionally vulnerable women by whirling and thrusting his pelvis properly. “You are the husband that they never had. You are the dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand, that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight with you onstage and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you make it legal. You are the liberation!” McConaughey even gets to sing a sweet little country ditty, “Ladies of Tampa”, which he himself co-wrote.

Soderbergh again shows himself to be the consummate master, a man in complete and comfortable control of his craft. Magic Mike is a career highlight, but with no small assistance from his collaborators at every level of this nearly perfect production. From performances to editing and visual design, Magic Mike is a classy show and deserving of repeated viewings. Music also adds much to the verve of the experience, with cleverly selected songs setting the movie’s various tones and rhythms. Of special note, Win Win’s “Victim” is darkly repetitive, cock-rocking magic; Countre Black’s cover of “It’s Raining Men” is a scintillating introduction to the men of Xquisite doing a campy raincoats-and-umbrellas routine; and Chris Mitchell’s coy rendition of “Like a Virgin” is an appropriate accompaniment to Adam’s shy first appearance onstage.

Highly recommended at 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic Mike is:

11. Anti-Christian. A crucifix pendant and cross tattoo appear in irreverent contexts.

10. Antiwar. The troupe of strippers performs a mock-patriotic military-themed routine, firing their crotches to the sound of gunfire. While, on the one hand, this points to the warrior ideal as a perennially appealing archetype in women’s sexual fantasies, it might just as easily equate war with show business as something tawdry, phony, and whorish, or suggest that war is really a sublimation of primal, sexually motivated aggression.

9. Anti-obesity. One of the strippers hurts his back trying to lift a chubby customer.

8. Pro-gay. “I don’t care what your preferences are,” says Brooke when she discovers her brother’s dance outfits and takes these for evidence of his homosexuality. Then, as if 2005’s Brokeback Mountain had been insufficient degradation of an American movie icon, the cowboy archetype is further downgraded by a homoerotic gunfight strip routine.

7. Statist. “Fuck school altogether,” Dallas opines with reason. His idea is that children should be homeschooled with special emphasis on finance and investment strategies, but Mike, presumably from faith in the liberal public education system, dismisses this as “stupid shit”.

6. Anti-American. “That’s the state of the country, man. America. People. Stupid.”

5. Pro-wigger. Mike affects a hoodie, backwards cap, and “y’all” talk.

4. Feminist/anti-marriage/anti-family. Brooke is offended and gets defensive when she assumes Mike is suggesting that she cook breakfast for him. A woman wearing a “bride to be” sash is seen dancing uninhibitedly onstage with one of the strippers, and Dallas explains that women patronize his establishment because their marriages are unfulfilling, with nude male revues providing the psychological “liberation” women require. The institution of motherhood, meanwhile, receives grotesque parody treatment in the memorable image of pink-haired tart Nora (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough) bottle-feeding milk to a piglet.

3. Drug-ambivalent. Strippers partake of something called “hey juice” and stupid sorority girls demand to know: “Who do we have to fuck to get a fucking drink?” Joints are passed around without consequence, but drinking and harder drugging (and drug dealing) get Adam and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) into serious difficulties. Mike and Adam barely make it out of a sorority house with their lives when Adam enrages a girl’s boyfriend by slipping her some E. To its credit, Magic Mike contains a classic morning-after atrocity scene too good to spoil.

2. Slut-ambivalent. Relatively conservative Brooke regrets her adolescent decision to get tattooed. Adam is warned to avoid oral contact with customers so as to avoid contracting herpes. One laid-back dope dealer enjoys an open marriage (“My wife’s tits are awesome. Check ‘em out, man.”), but this segment, rather than serving as an endorsement of swinging lifestyles, is intended to evince the decadence and the seductive evil of the world into which Adam is being initiated. Casual orgy partner Joanna (Olivia Munn) comes across as unhappy and frightened by intimacy, with Mike ultimately realizing that what he needs is a good girl and a sexually conventional life. In the final analysis, Magic Mike is less than satisfactorily judgmental where sexual promiscuity is concerned, but does give the impression that such escapades are best suited for youth if at all necessary and better abandoned in maturity.

1. Anti-capitalistic-cum-populist. In Magic Mike’s complicated and nuanced moral universe, informed by the compassionate socialist-populist worldview of screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose nonprofit group Red Feather Development has, according to Wikipedia, been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show!) and director Steven Soderbergh (hagiographer of Che Guevara and happy producer of George Clooney’s disingenuous anti-McCarthy clunker Good Night, and Good Luck) honest toil when set to the pattern of the typical employer-employee paradigm becomes a species of semi-prostitution. “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties,” Mike tells Brooke significantly. The capitalist, as exemplified by Mike’s construction foreman, is a petty exploiter who balks at the notion of paying “benefits and shit”.

It is stripper-impresario Dallas, however, who most clearly personifies capitalism in this film. Icy, dishonest, superficial, materialistic, and nihilistic, he is also a charming, seductive swaggerer whose charisma no viewer will deny. A manipulator of others, Dallas also whores himself, serenading his customers (whom he describes collectively as his “wife”) and climbing back into the saddle for an impressively sweaty farewell performance of his own, erupting a shower of crumpled dollar bills onto his naked torso. Going into business as partners with Dallas is clearly a matter of dealing with the Devil (“Nobody walks on water on my team.”), and Dallas expectedly lets Mike down, going back on his glorious promises. Commerce, for Dallas, is glorified theft. “You are worth the cash you pry out of their fuckin’ purses,” he snidely pontificates.

It is the small, honest, dream-driven entrepreneur, uncorrupted by greed and mercenary prudence, with whom these filmmakers sympathize. Mike’s desire to start his own custom furniture business is admirable and casts him as, if not a starving artist, then a creative man of principle unwilling to compromise on his vision. This type of endeavor, Magic Mike charges, is thwarted at every turn by the old boys’ club of the business and financial establishment. This becomes painfully obvious when Mike, seeking a startup loan for his venture, is turned down as a bad credit risk by a bank’s loan officer (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt, who, this reviewer is grieved to report, is at no point in the film treated to a private dance from Mike). “The only thing that’s distressed is y’all,” Mike tells her defiantly on being refused. One of the morals of Magic Mike, then, is that self-reliance and hard work, even if it results in a less comfortable life than that of a high-class courtesan, is, albeit a more difficult one, a more dignified way to live. Magic Mike, consequently, has mostly scorn for slacker Adam, who shirks his responsibilities, sleeps on his sister’s couch, and refuses to interview for a job that requires his wearing a “fuckin’ tie”.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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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purge-anarchy-poster

The Purge (2013) demonstrated that writer-director James DeMonaco is a gifted craftsman of suspense – and also a lefty retard who believes economic inequality and gun rights are the roots of all of America’s evil. The same can be said for DeMonaco’s follow-up, The Purge: Anarchy, which, like its predecessor, is a nicely constructed scare film informed by its creator’s contemptible ignorance.

In this installment, which takes up with an entirely new set of characters, a grieving father (Frank Grillo) takes advantage of America’s annual night of legalized bloodletting to go after the man responsible for his young son’s death. Along the way he crosses paths with a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car breaks down – oh shit! – just as the Purge commences and a mongrel mother (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter (Zoe Soul) who also find themselves on the unlucky end of the hunter-prey relationship.

The Purge: Anarchy introduces a few new elements into the franchise mythology, incorporating ideas from Richard Connell’s oft-filmed short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, with well-to-do Purgers hiring squads to go out and collect unfortunate specimens for them to hunt on private property. Another new feature, perhaps inspired by the subversive movement in the thematically similar Death Race 2000 (1975), is an underground revolutionary movement, led by the foulmouthed Carmelo (Michael K. Williams).

Grillo’s alpha male power maintains viewer interest in the lead character’s mission (the she-mutt charms on offer are less than entrancing, however), while Hala Bahmet’s costume design greatly enhances the spookiness, so to speak, of a gang of genuinely unsettling ghetto marauders. The Purge: Anarchy is a tightly wound, violent, electrified thriller that should satisfy fans of the original film and exasperate those who found it offensive.

Purge God

Whatever happened to Buckwheat?

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Purge: Anarchy is:

9. Anti-obesity. More than one mentally unbalanced chubby girl takes part in the Purge.

8. Anti-drug. The hero’s son was killed by a drunk driver (Brandon Keener) – another one of those damned stupid white men. Pills figure in one scene as a scary habit.

7. Anti-Christian. Religious language and concepts are used irreverently throughout. Purgers hold hands in a prayer circle before commencing mass murder, and so forth.

6. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation. Eva (Ejogo) is that most admirable of American types: the minority single mother. She and her little hovel of high yellows or mestizos or whatever they are represent the racially indeterminate norm of America’s future.

5. Vigilante-ambivalent. Eva and her daughter implore Sergeant (Grillo) not to go through with his planned revenge. When the time comes to do the deed, he contents himself with giving his quarry a scare. Carmelo and his congoid army of avengers, however, appear to be fully justified in their activities. The lesson, then, would seem to be that personal vendettas and individually motivated murders are wrong but that violent mass actions of class conflict are validated by the demands of social justice. In one audience-pleasing scene, a Wall Street crook’s corpse is seen hanging over a sidewalk.

4. State-skeptical. The Purge: Anarchy is imbued with an uneasiness about the hyper-surveillance state, and it turns out that the “New Founding Fathers” who preside over the Purge are actually participating and using street cameras to track their prey. Typical of DeMonaco’s political idiocy is his paradoxical advocacy of gun control in conjunction with his distrust of authoritarian government. One can only assume that the “New Founding Fathers” of the Purge franchise are, to his mind, something like the Tea Party on steroids, and that a government sensitive to the people’s need for gun confiscation would be more trustworthy.

3. Anti-gun. The first Purge posits that guns are weapons of aggression and simply not an effective means of crime deterrence and home protection, as illustrated by a scene in which Ethan Hawke’s gun is used against him. The sequel, in which the Second Amendment becomes not only a license to kill, but an article of fanatical religious faith, suggests the same idea in a scene in which Eva’s pistol is in another room and out of reach when her home is invaded. The Purge: Anarchy, however, finds DeMonaco (who admits to being “terrified of guns“) going totally off the rails on a crazy train of convoluted reasoning according to which gun ownership represents such a threat to public safety that the poor masses must rise up with guns to combat gun owners. Black Marxists with guns is good and progressive. Rich white people with guns, on the other hand, is just another hateful Holocaust waiting to happen.

2. Egalitarian. The annual Purge exists partly to contain crime to a single night, but also for population control, with the poor and homeless being the ones who cannot afford to protect themselves. Carmelo rails against the “market mentality”. Eva puts in a good word for Obamacare by mentioning that she can hardly afford medical coverage for her family. The Purge: Anarchy furthermore asks viewers to understand that a gang of sick masked black thugs led by Keith Stanfield only participates because they need the money. Hear that, America? Flash mobs and polar bear hunters – the sort of African garbage documented by Paul Kersey and Colin Flaherty – do what they do only because they are socially marginalized and disadvantaged by structural inequality. Revolutionary death squads save the day. End credits feature money spattered with blood.

1. Anti-white. Surprisingly, The Purge: Anarchy is less single-mindedly anti-white than the first film, and features plenty of minority perpetrators, such as would-be rapist Diego (Noel Gugliemi) and the aforementioned masked street trash. Make no mistake as to this film’s principal target, however. In one of the dumbest sequences, Eva’s father (John Beasley) agrees, in exchange for monetary compensation to be paid to his daughter, to go to the home of a “posh” WASP family to allow himself to be butchered as a literal sacrificial Negro. “Change”, this movie informs its viewers through Carmelo, only comes with the spilled blood of the (white) rich. Climactic scenes include a machine-gun slaughter of wealthy WASPs, several blondes among them, by the black communists.

 

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Ideological Content Analysis sorrowfully presents

60swomanfunicello

90swomanmadonna

The American Woman Through the Years

A scarifying and sobering stroll through serial sociological horrors!

(click for slideshow)

The_Heat_poster

“The making and authorized distribution of this film supported over 13,000 jobs and involved hundreds of thousands of work hours,” reads a message following The Heat‘s end credits, as if in apology or as an excuse for what the viewer has just experienced. Sure, that montage of McCarthy and Bullock bonding as they hip-shake to Deee Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart” might have been a little pathetic and painful for you to sit through, but by purchasing that ticket, you were making a difference in the life of an underprivileged Hollywood union schlub. The product of those hundreds of thousands of schlub hours, sad to say, would appear to be something significantly less than the sum of these thousands of toilers’ efforts.

Sandra Bullock stars as anal retentive FBI agent Ashburn, who, in the course of trying to nail a Boston drug kingpin – and The Heat, make no mistake, is set in Boston solely for the opportunity this provides of including a gaggle of superfluous characters with easily ridiculed accents – is thrust into an unwelcome partnership with local slob policewoman Mullins, played with irascible gusto and admirable comic timing by husky comedienne Melissa McCarthy. The fitful joy of the film – and despite its ultimate mediocrity, there are occasional laughs to be had – derives from the epic clash of the pair’s diametrically opposed personalities.

The boring displays of womanly courage, physical might, and weapons prowess; the endless, prideless parade of wimpy and contemptible men; the open, obsessively unabashed discussions of anatomy; the entertainment-deficient moments of earnestness and emotional searching; and, last but not least, some execrable slapstick – all of these are to be expected in a film of this type; but what finally puts the damper on The Heat is its unwieldy length and uneven pacing, with the movie overstaying its lukewarm welcome by at least 40 draggy minutes. If there is a reason to endure The Heat, however, it is easily Melissa McCarthy, who, as big, jiggly, probably smelly ball of charisma Mullins, should fill a screen of any size with little difficulty.

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Heat is:

13. Anti-Slav. As in Pain and Gain and A Good Day to Die Hard, the Slavic female is an exotic, shady, kinky, inferior creature.

12. Anti-Christian. “That’s one of the better Jesus-sports-themed paintings I’ve seen,” Ashburn observes uncomfortably, indicating a kitschy picture in the Mullins family’s home.

11. Anti-white male. An insecure, misogynistic, loud-mouthed albino (Dan Bakkedahl) says it all.

10. Pro-gay. Lesbians cavort on a dance floor.

9. Racism-skeptical. The albino’s whining about the heroines’ “albino prejudice” parodies race hustlers’ constant harping about whites’ racial insensitivity. (Either that, or it mocks whites’ complaints of reverse racism.) “Don’t play that race bullshit card with me,” Mullins gripes in a bizarre encounter with a black man (“Spoken Reasons”, a.k.a. John A. Baker, Jr.) who accuses her of racism after she hurls a watermelon at him. Unfortunately, given the convoluted nature of this film’s moral universe, Mullins may receive a pass to balk at hackneyed victimologies only because she has already taken the litmus test and desegregated her vagina (see no. 5).

8. Drug-ambivalent. Ashburn and Mullins bond over drinks and enjoy a rowdy evening; but the hangover and the knowledge of how she behaved kills Ashburn’s buzz the following morning. A peaceable pot smoker (Reasons) minds his own business until hassled by Mullins, while her brother (Michael Rapaport) gets into more serious trouble through hard drugs. About regular old tobacco, Mullins recommends quitting because she “had a great aunt who lost most of her teeth to smoking.”

7. Multiculturalist. Federal agents contributing to the law enforcement effort include blacks, whites, and Hispanics. Even street gangs and organized crime are multiracial concerns.

6. Anti-family/anti-marriage. The Mullins family is of course grotesque and dysfunctional. Mullins, unsuitable for marriage or motherhood, gives vent to a petty resentment toward America’s ex-normalcy when she catches a family man in the act of cruising for hookers and tortures him before trying to ruin his marriage by phoning the man’s wife to tell her about it. The wife, appraised of the situation, encourages Mullins in further cruelty.

5. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation. Ashburn and fellow agent Levy (Marlon Wayans) engage in the obligatory interracial flirtation, while “Nine out of ten guys I fuck are black guys,” Mullins boasts.

4. Obesity-tolerant. Given that 64% of American women are now overweight, it is only natural that Hollywood, with an eye to satisfying changing demographics, should give the heavyweights movie stars of their own. Now fat women not only have characters with whom they can identify, but ones who reassure them that slovenliness is desirable. Whereas overweight women in movies and television previously filled the roles of matronly types (e.g., Hattie McDaniel or Frances Bavier) or bitchy hags (Roseanne in the Barr phase of her career), obese actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson represent a new mutant feminist temptress and fat pride pin-up ideal. Mullins, McCarthy’s character in The Heat, is more than once supplicated by ex-boyfriends, who follow her around like wounded puppies, salivating at the thought of another shot at a hop on the paunch. Her girth more than once makes things difficult for her, but that’s just the part of the price she has to pay for being a sexy bitch (cf. nos. 1 and 2).

3. Basically statist. The Heat would appear to be confused about the value of the various government agencies it portrays and the usefulness of their endeavors to the public these agencies purport to serve. At no point in all of the movie’s mayhem is there any indication, civic-minded lip service and back-patting notwithstanding, that FBI or DEA agents have accomplished anything for taxpayers by pursuing the endless War on Drugs. But the one man who dares to refer to his status as a taxpayer (“I pay taxes, so fuck the government”) is then immediately obliterated by a car bomb, so let that be a lesson to you.

Never mind that different federal agencies, even as depicted in The Heat, are mutually hostile and interfere with each other’s overlapping investigations. Nor should the viewer allow the fact that one of the federal agents is revealed to be in cahoots with the mob to reflect on the collective integrity of America’s civil servants. (USPS personnel are, however, represented rather poorly, with a post office hag in a bar mumbling, “Eat my fuckin’ Irish ass.”)

“When bad shit happens in my neighborhood, I get a little passionate about it,” Mullins proclaims, with unintentional humor deriving from the fact that much of the “bad shit” and violence that occurs in her neighborhood is of her own doing. At times, police work just seems to be an excuse for an officer to let off steam by harassing and physically abusing the common citizen. The most sinister aspect of The Heat‘s concept of law enforcement is that police brutality is treated so casually, normalized, in fact, as something perhaps lovably eccentric but wholesomely populist in its appeal. After all, “if you’re not in trouble, you’re not doin’ your job.”

2. Pro-castration. The Heat delights in depicting male suffering and humiliation. Mullins plays Russian roulette with a criminal’s dick and Ashburn shoots another offender twice in the crotch, with a seething hostility toward men’s genitalia permeating the film. Women determine the terms of their interactions with the men, who are left to beg for attention or mercy, as when Levy pitifully propositions Ashburn, “If you’re gonna boss me around, you could at least buy me dinner first.” It is this appalling exemplar of the sensitive man, however, who has the best shot at winning Ashburn’s affection (cf. nos. 1 and 4).

1. Feminist. Mullins makes repeated, obsessive references to testicles, including testicles for women, and is given to saying disgusting things like, “I’m balls-deep in boredom.” Tough but sensitive women in manface: this is The Heat‘s neurotic essence. But, “You go, girl!” the viewer presumably is expected to cheer at this spectacle of degeneracy – no matter how repulsive the heroines may be as they swagger around in men’s wear, ape masculine traits, shout at men, beat them up, and picturesquely point and shoot their government-issue penises.

Whatever screenwriter Katie Dippold’s intentions, however, her script has much to say about how unhappy women have made themselves by buying into the feminist fraud. Chief among the hallucinations propagated by the feminists is the idea that a woman, having paradoxically actualized her femaleness by disposing of her femininity, can somehow retain her worth as a woman rather than as the ersatz man she has chosen to become. “I’m a lady,” claims a deluded Mullins, giving voice to this untenable view. Ashburn’s careerism ended her marriage and she admits to being lonely. Her sleuthing skills may be Monk-like, but “being a woman in this field is hard. Men are just so intimidated by me.” Most men naturally find her mannishness unappealing. “Hard to believe she’s single,” a coworker observes sarcastically. There is a reason why Ashburn’s only romantic prospect at the end is a total weenie, and an African one at that, who expects her to pay for his meals in exchange for his company. But is it because white men are “intimidated” by her, or that they are simply disgusted by what she and her type have become? (cf. nos. 2 and 4)

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Writer-producer-director (and everything else) John R. Hand’s The Synthetic Man is less a coherently narrative film than a filmed reflection on the writing process.  Though The Synthetic Man resists easy summary, it is generally concerned with self-absorption, boredom, paranoia, sexual longing, and various creative processes, both natural and unnatural, human and alien.

Framing its wildly scattershot content are scenes of an obese and probably insane young woman (April Hand) who in her directionless isolation decides to write a (really bad) science fiction novel in a spiral notebook.  Her initial inspiration is a rape fantasy nightmare in which she is groped and menaced while sleeping by an unseen knife-wielding visitor (Mike Engle).  This, she decides, is the Synthetic Man, who will figure as a character in her novel.

The woman appears to have no family or friends in her life, and certainly no significant other.  Furthermore, the way she rubs her notebook and presses it to her bosom suggests that the novel is just a pitiable exercise in redirected sexual energy.  Everything in her life and in The Synthetic Man as a whole suggests alienation and disconnect, from the sterile interiors of her home and other places to the snow on her television and the prophylactic barriers of fantasy, sleep, gloves, voice distortion, and video to all real human contact.

The material dramatizing her novel is quite the mess, with one highlight being the hero, Richard (Jeff Hartley), crawling around in a parking lot, abducting an old woman, and dragging her into the woods for a thrashing.  The idea of the story (no doubt derived from novels its dilettante author perused at the library) is that ancient aliens have planted secret agents among humanity, which is constantly under surveillance and occasionally falls prey to synthetic rape-seeding.  The latter event, depicted graphically (and to hilarious effect) during The Synthetic Man‘s concluding moments, is probably what viewers will most likely be discussing afterward.

One wishes the film as a whole had been as elegantly suggestive as the opening and closing creditscapes, which, graced by the electronic music of “The Greys” (Mr. Hand again) are fairly hypnotic as the introductory verses of Genesis are delivered in a distant, processed drone (director Hand giving Himself a too-big pat on the back, perhaps?).  The discordant sound design of these and other moments may be this self-consciously spare film’s finest asset.

If The Synthetic Man makes anything clear, however, it is that John R. Hand is a fiercely independent artist little concerned with what will appeal to a broad audience of conventional tastes or satisfy genre fan expectations.  Too cheap, self-absorbed, unfriendly, and uneventful an effort to be of interest to the typical science fiction, horror, or exploitation aficionado, this uncategorizable film will probably only appeal to a weird and very limited audience of seekers after the odd and independent.

1.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Synthetic Man is:

5. Antiwar.  “Blessed are the peacemakers . . .”

4. Anti-obesity.  April Hand’s gawking, self-mocking performance does little to humanize her difficult character, who remains an unengagingly lethargic and grotesque figure througout.

3. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Omaru (Esaw Parker Jr.), a black cosmic warrior, relates the origin of all suffering in the world as stemming from the machinations of an “evil race” (whites, no doubt) who bequeathed “gifts of hate and prejudice” to humanity.

2. Statist.  “Everybody’s being watched by someone – their parents, their government, their friends,” the aspiring writer muses in her tub.  “They’re all together.  They’re all related [. . .] What if we were all being watched by aliens?”  Distrust of the government and fears of something like an omnipresent New World Order are thus equated with kooky UFO talk and made the stuff of a lonely fat girl’s delusions.  The effect of her musings is to discredit those who question authority – a depiction that would likely meet with the approval of Cass Sunstein.

1. Sexist!  Women, especially undesirable ones, secretly long to be raped, knifed, or tied to trees and mistreated.

Part VI of The Filthy Films of Adam Sandler in Ideological Content Analysis: A Cranko-Politico-Critical Retrospective of the ICA Institute for Advanced Sandler Studies (A.S.S.)

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Sandler gets to tackle a more serious role than usual, playing one of the relatively normal characters for a change in the blatant pro-immigration propaganda piece Spanglish, which, for the purposes of this review, shall go by its alternate title The Passion of the Wetback.  Sandler plays John Clasky, a gourmet chef and father whose wife Deborah (Tea Leoni) is such a spoiled, unbalanced, and self-absorbed shrew that she is apparently incapable of keeping her own home in order despite not having a job.  The only solution, of course, is for the Claskys to hire a hot illegal Mexican housekeeper, Flor (Paz Vega), to grace them with her wise Latina ways and teach them a moral truth or two like a wetback Mr. Belvedere.  Along for the ride to demonstrate the bright future made possible by America’s budding immigrant generations is Flor’s daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce), who is naturally prettier and more talented than Clasky’s pudgy daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele).

Sandler’s accessible humanity anchors what might otherwise have been an intolerable chick flick, with Tea Leoni creating a psycho mother to stand alongside Piper Laurie in Carrie and Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, a creature so disgusting that one can hardly blame Mr. Clasky for being tempted by imported fruit.  Mrs. Clasky is the new American woman: hard, unfeminine, sexually neurotic, straining for beauty but making herself more unappealing in the process, and utterly overwhelmed by her uninteresting problems.  Her fatuous presumption, a product of privilege, finds humorous expression when she initially misunderstands her new housekeeper’s name to be “Floor – what I walk on, right?”  America, not Mexico, The Passion of the Wetback would inform viewers, is the hotbed of kidnapping, with Mrs. Clasky at one point taking off with Flor’s daughter without permission and leaving a note: “I decided to steal your daughter for a bit.”  Thankfully, Flor finds out and hits the roof, giving her boss a peppery piece of her wise Latina mind.  Mrs. Clasky is, however, gratified to hear from Cristina that she is “the most amazing white woman that I’ve ever met.”

Okay by lightweight chick flick standards, the film is still a sociological crime and a commercial for the Treason Lobby.  3 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Passion of the Wetback is:

8. Animal rights militant.  A PETA sticker adorns the daughter’s bedroom door.

7. Anti-drug.  Clasky’s mother-in-law (Cloris Leachman) is an alcoholic.  Flor discourages Clasky from turning to drink to escape his problems.

6. Obesity-tolerant.  Women yearn for “the comfort of fullness.”  Mrs. Clasky insensitively buys her daugher clothes that are too small for her, expecting that Bernice should lose weight so that the items will fit; but Flor slyly alters the garments to boost the girl’s self-esteem.

5. Egalitarian and hostile to private property.  “I didn’t know God had a toy store for the rich,” Cristina says, expressing her shock at “natural beauty which is privately owned.”

4. Pro-castration.  Mr. Clasky, an exemplar of the sensitive, tolerant man, “seemed to have the emotions of a Mexican woman.”

3. Pro-miscegenation.  Naturally.

2. Anti-marriage/family-ambivalent.  Mr. Clasky is a model father, but his family is severly dysfunctional.  Mrs. Clasky is bitchy and unfaithful.  Flor’s husband left her.  Clasky’s mother-in-law endorses the superiority of Third World motherhood, however, when she tells Flor, “I live my life for myself.  You live yours for your daughter.”

1. Razist/alien-delugist.  A spicy slice of Hollywood psyops, The Passion of the Wetback frames the illegal immigration crisis as the disarmingly personal story of a beautiful, long-suffering woman and her precocious daughter searching for a better life and hoping to earn a share of the American dream with hard work and a little help from their friends – less threatening for the viewer, certainly, than a horde of hairy, mustachioed day laborers or criminal freeloaders bent on leaching off the state and keeping American unemployment high.  Illegal immigration, as The Passion of the Wetback illustrates, just means more sexy women, so what could possibly go wrong?

If anything, criminal aliens are probably a divine provision.  “Great God in Heaven, save me,” Clasky implores before turning around and seeing Flor for the first time.  She and her fellow invaders are America’s collective Savior.  The Passion of the Wetback does what it can to convince the audience that illegals want to become real, acculturated Americans by learning English and studying.  “That show you’re watchin’s gonna be a hit,” Clasky jokes, seeing Flor watching an English language video course.  Preferential treatment for illegal college applicants receives a boost when Cristina, Bernice’s academic superior, applies to Princeton University.  Bernice, in one of The Passion of the Wetback‘s most shameless moments, hugs Cristina and even says she hopes that some of her will rub off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the future, fast food companies, faced with flagging sales, seek to reestablish their market hegemony through parasitic mind control.  Their ploy works so well in the experimental market of Russia that the nation’s ideal of beauty itself has been manipulated, so that obese replaces svelte as the desired body type.  Only one man, Misha (Ed Stoppard), has the visualized insight to unravel the aggressive marketing’s workings.  He can actually see the balloonlike monkeys riding everybody’s backs, including those of his wife and son.  The phantom swells like a cartoonish erection until the host has satisfied its demand by visiting the fast food restaurant associated with it, resulting in a population of zombie-like junk food addicts.  Misha, a visionary marked from childhood for a special destiny, devotes his life to destroying the fast food market by fighting branding with branding of his own.

Branded clearly sees itself as being somehow highly original in its exposure of how the public’s tastes and perceptions are largely dictated from sinister corporate boardrooms.  Had the films The Stuff, They Live, Happy Hour, and Wag the Dog never been made, Branded might claim some slim excuse to exist.  Coming when it does, however, Branded only pats itself on the back for restating with the addition of computer-generated monsters and even less convincing profundity what every intelligent person in the audience already knows.  What might have worked as a twenty-minute satirical short film ends up overstaying its welcome by about eighty minutes, with the vague emotional flatness of Misha’s character and his relationship with wife Leelee Sobieski hardly helping to humanize what amounts to a wearying feature-length joke.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Branded is:

6. Anti-police.  Officers beat Misha unnecessarily as they arrest him.

5. Anti-Christian.  Misha, in a scene played for humor, turns to God only after being tortured by a debt collector.

4. Anti-family, with no positive examples.

3. Statist.  Misha ludicrously expects his government to outlaw all advertising – and it does!  That Branded sees government as an antidote to brainwashing or as somehow removed from the world of marketing is indicative of its simplistic naievety.  Freedom of expression in this film is transformed into something predatory that must be stamped out to preserve human dignity.

2. Anti-obesity.  Branded purports to reveal a nightmarish future world in which most people are fat, neglecting to notice that this is the society in which viewers already live.

1. Anti-corporatism (i.e., pro-yawn).  Rather than providing you with products you actually want, McDonald’s et al, Branded would have you believe, have been brainwashing you all these years.

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