Archives for posts with tag: pro-gun

In the not-too-distant future aliens invade and attempt to conquer the earth.  Humanity won this war, we are told, but only at the cost of our planet’s devastation.  Now a mere cleanup crew of sorts remains to maintenance the drones and machines that harvest water energy in order for the rest of the world’s population to make its new home in space.  Tom Cruise plays Jack, who, along with partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is due to leave the earth in a matter of weeks after servicing some equipment and picking off a few “scavs”, alien remnants that pilfer supplies and sabotage the energy works.  To his surprise, however, he learns that he and Victoria are not alone, and, still more shocking, that his mission and perhaps even he himself may conceal a sinister purpose.

A superlative science fiction adventure, Oblivion also works as an encapsulation of Tom Cruise’s career thus far, his character here alluding to previous roles with his enthusiasm for sports (as in All the Right Moves and Jerry Maguire), daredevil flying skills (think Top Gun), and brave stand against extraterrestrial invaders (cf. War of the Worlds). Cruise is particularly handsome and rugged as Jack, and has not one but two sexy international love interests in Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko.  The visual design of Oblivion is an appealing combination of futuristic sterility and earthy grime and decay; and the soundtrack is also strong, with the drones, which resemble flying, spherical R2D2s, actually contributing a quasi-musical element with their intimidating electronic blares.  Surprising given its title and the bleakness of the scenario is that Oblivion manages to deliver a satisfyingly happy ending, so that the film is highly recommended and particularly in the big screen experience, where its special effects and scope can be properly appreciated.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Oblivion is:

6. Multiculturalist/anti-clone.  Morgan Freeman leads the resistance and gets to play the sacrificial Negro.  As in Life of Pi, audiences are warned of the potential horror of a completely homogenous Caucasian population.

5. Green-ambivalent.  While Jack enjoys the rustic zero-technology life, the film acknowledges that alternative energies are a scheme of the New World Order.

4. Mildly pro-miscegenation.  Cruise’s involvement with Eurasian-looking Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko is a borderline case.

3. Luddite and specifically anti-drone.  Though drones are convenient and efficient and one even comes to Jack’s aid against the scavs, the things are only as trustworthy as their programmers.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), after defending himself against a drone, poses picturesquely with his gun in front of the Liberty Bell.

1. NWO-alarmist/antiwar.  Jack’s employers, the centralized bureaucracy controlling everything, reside in an ominous spacecraft in the shape of an inverted pyramid.  The Statue of Liberty is a ruin, freedom having been destroyed along with the earth in the natural course of war.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has substandard luck with would-be blockbusters titled Last.  1993’s Last Action Hero, released a mere two years after the megahit Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is widely regarded as marking not only the end of Schwarzenegger’s reign at the box office and in audiences’ hearts and minds, but the demise of the larger-than-life 80s action film itself.  Now, in 2013, comes The Last Stand, a lively outing that ought to mark the muscleman’s triumphant return to action adoration, but which, alas, as it turns out, is just another relative flop.

Combining elements of High Noon and Vanishing Point, The Last Stand, with its southwestern flavor, brings Schwarzenegger full-circle in a way, considering that one of his earliest roles was in the western comedy The Villain.  Here Schwarzenegger is Ray Owens (sic), Sheriff of Sommerton County, Arizona, on America’s southern border.  His sleepy rural community is about to get more than its usual share of excitement when escaped drug cartel kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) hatches a plan to use Owens’s own unsuspecting town of Sommerton Junction as the end point of a sure-fire escape route to Mexico.  Making matters more difficult for federal and local authorities is the fact that Cortez is driving a futuristic and seemingly unstoppable thousand-horsepower Corvette.

The Last Stand is an unapologetically lightweight, nostalgic, high-testosterone crowd-pleaser, but no less pleasing for its lack of originality or depth.  Lukewarm box office notwithstanding, an Arnold Schwarzenegger gunplay-and-explosions vehicle – even a second-tier, self-consciously geriatric one – is something of a national treasure.  Schwarzenegger’s acting gives little evidence of having improved during his years in government, and may in fact have gotten worse; but nothing can mitigate the thrill of seeing this man in heroic action.

While he probably deserves a more iconic or physically imposing foe than lanky Eduardo Noriega or weird Peter Stormare (winner of this year’s Most Awkward American Accent Award), the supporting cast does much to enhance Schwarzenegger’s presence through humorous contrasts.  Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville are especially noteworthy in the comic relief department, and Forest Whitaker turns in an intensely invested performance as harried G-Man John Bannister.  The only thing The Last Stand may be missing is Schwarzenegger’s leading lady, as deputy Jaimie Alexander is too young to be the appropriate recipient of anything but his paternal affection.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Last Stand is:

6. Anti-drug.  Drug dealers, in the finest tradition of 80s action films, are the bad guys.

5. Pro-military.  An Iraq veteran ex-Marine is a key figure in the hometown defense.

4. Immigration-ambivalent.  Americans are reminded of their perilously porous border with Mexico when Cortez points out the irony of Owens trying to prevent him from returning to his own country when 12,000 Mexicans cross in the opposite direction every day.  “You make us immigrants look bad,” Owens tells Cortez.  It is unclear whether by saying “us immigrants” he identifies with the 12,000 mentioned by Cortez or only with the law-abiding variety.

3. Multiculturalist.  The Last Stand celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, Hispanics, women, Austrians, Asians, and dweebs.  Cortez, though the villain of the piece, represents Mexicans positively as a criminal mastermind and expert race car driver.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Eccentric gun collector Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) provides the firepower that allows the sheriff and his deputies to defend themselves against Cortez’s private army.  Notably, Dinkum offers a very useful “Nazi killer” machine gun he has kept in working order against the wishes of the government.  Elderly citizen Mrs. Salazar (Lois Geary) picks off one of Cortez’s mercenaries with her personal firearm.  Farmer Harry Dean Stanton is also admirable in attempting to defend his property with a shotgun.

1. Localist/traditionalist.  Sommerton Junction is a friendly, wholesome, peaceful place rather than the usual rustic nest of hateful Hollywood hicks.  FBI agent John Bannister underestimates the competence of the local sheriff’s department (significantly, an Arizona sheriff’s department).  He is humbled when Owens does his job for him and when the FBI is found to have been compromised by internal corruption.

If The Collection is indicative of the progress made by torture porn in its several years’ existence as a popular horror genre, the evidence suggests that very little has changed, except that the films are now apparently wearing their neurotic religious convictions on their sleeve.

Natalie Portman lookalike Emma Fitzpatrick stars as Elena, a rich, nondescript teen or twentysomething who, along with a couple of other nondescript teens or twentysomethings, decides to go to a “party” at a mysteriously hidden dance club tucked away in a seedy slum that even “rats won’t shit on.”  Unfortunately, after a little carefree techno booty-shaking, Elena sees her boyfriend with another woman and punches him – and then, alas, more unfortunate still, her friends and most of the other sluts are cut down on the dancefloor by a lowering matrix of blades that mows them into splattering mincemeat.  Elena evades this fate, but after releasing a captive thief (Josh Stewart) from a trunk, is herself captured by the leather S&M-masked man who runs the show.

Who is this man?  The Collector – first glimpsed during the opening credits, watching atrociously pixelated news broadcasts about himself that seem to suggest the trivializing dehumanization of mass media unreality – is a living illustration of Voltaire’s observation, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  Finding himself alone in a godless, loveless, chaotic, and poorly behaved world, the Collector, a genius inventor of Rube Goldberg mechanisms and a moralist of unstinting conviction, has set up shop in an abandoned hotel with a boobytrapped slut roach motel of sorts.  Here he plays both God and Devil (if such a distinction can actually exist), presiding over a labyrinthine, grimy, custom-built Hell and dealing death and cleverly contrived torments to anyone dumb enough to accept an invitation.

Fortunately for Elena, her father (Playroom‘s Christopher McDonald, wasted in a throwaway part) hires a group of mercenaries to go in and retrieve her with the help of Arkin, the thief she saved earlier in the film and whose occupation evokes the crucifixion of Christ.  Arkin, who agrees to help only reluctantly, proceeds to redeem himself over the course of the film; and one suspects that Josh Stewart may have been cast in the important role of Arkin not only because of the quiet, Christlike suffering conveyed in his face, but with a view to appropriating the actor’s real tattoos – a crucifix on one of his biceps and the Stewart clan’s Latin motto, “Virescit vulnere virtus” (“Courage strengthens at a wound”), on the other – as an integral component of the prevalent motif of Christian symbols utilized throughout The Collection.  Hellfire, purifying water and blood, temptation, betrayal, self-immolation, and limbs agonizingly transfixed by spikes and nails appear in profusion.

Unpleasant as all of this theological butcher shop imagery is, however, what ultimately prevents The Collection from being a good horror film is its mirthlessness, dearth of engaging characters, and emotionally sterile celebration of gross sadism in its depiction of the punishments meted out to the various sinners.  Few Christian films – and The Collection, make no mistake, is, even more than The Human Centipede, an unabashedly (albeit eccentric) WWJD t-shirt-wearing movie – have dared to present so bleakly psychotic a vision of God and Creation as the Collector presents to His audience.

Redemption from death is still possible through Christ (i.e., Arkin), but suffering is for everyone.  Obedience to the Collector’s whims earns misery for his slavish victims, but disobedience or failure earns misery and death.  One pretty young devotee of the Collector positively ejaculates her blood in an almost explicitly erotic epiphany when she stumbles into an iron maiden style contraption.  In one of the film’s few rewarding moments, Arkin, trapped in a cage again, appears to channel an oddly modern and vengeful Christ as he taunts His Father for cruelly forsaking Him, denouncing the Collector for being a “pussy”.  The Collector, of course, is eventually vanquished; but can one believe that His work is ever really done and that another will not emerge to take up His mantle, i.e., His S&M suit?

This is torture porn’s idea of religion: tattooed, vulgar, cold, sadistic, armed for twenty-first century spiritual warfare, and abandoning Sunday School in favor of educational evisceration.  Unfortunately, as a film, The Collection is, as its psychopathology might suggest, about as entertaining as some frowning sermon; effective ammunition for anarchist Mikhail Bakunin’s return of fire: “If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Collection is:

5. Anti-drug.  The Collector, like all effective religionists, dopes his victims so he can operate on them.

4. Pro-gun.  Guns do the Lord’s work of obliterating sinners.  Also, Arkin strategically fires a gun to attract the authorities to their location.

3. Feminist, but within bounds.  Elena, who sports a mannish haircut, acquits herself well throughout her ordeal and seizes a phallic implement at the climax to bash some of the Collector’s sculptural handiwork.  Sluts, however, have to go.

2. Anti-slut.  See Romans 6:23.

1. Christian, sort of.

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