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AHauntedHouse

To make a comedy that will satisfy its target black audience, experience shows that it helps immensely for certain crucial elements to be firmly in place. Does A Haunted House fulfill these requirements? Serious students of cinema art are encouraged to consult the following checklist of quality standards, not only in judging the movie under consideration, but in all future encounters with the African-American comedy form.

1. Stupid honkies? Check.

2. Honkies with insatiable lust for blacks? Check.

3. Industrial-strength-funk toilet humor? Triple check.

4. Jewish names credited as producers? Check and double check.

Clearly, in renting or (preferably) purchasing the remarkable Michael Tiddes joint/cinematic celebration A Haunted House, the viewer has in hand what promises to be remembered as a timeless classic to rank alongside The Ladies Man and (yes, even) Who’s Your Caddy?.

The flimsy pretense of a plot concerns the haunting of live-in lovers Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) and serves to set in motion an unremitting cavalcade of hit-and-miss sight gags and surplus dirty jokes. In its defense, A Haunted House does contain a few genuinely amusing cheap laughs at flatulence, bad breath, body hair, the sight of Marlon Wayans sweatily humping multiple stuffed animals, shitting on his own carpet, and so forth, but the film is only recommended to non-whites or the most contemptible and unsalvageable of white ethnomasochists.

3 stars for the full, screeching, monkey-like intensity of Marlon Wayans’s physiological investment in his part, and Cedric the Entertainer’s earthy turn in a disappointingly small supporting role as a ghetto priest. ICA’s advice: for a funnier, less disgusting movie about spooked blacks bugging their eyes out and acting like utter buffoons, see Mantan Moreland in Lucky Ghost instead.

Lucky Ghost

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Haunted House is:

10. Pro-life. “But good thing that clinic was closed,” Kisha’s mother (Robin Thede) says, remembering how she almost aborted her daughter. “Hoo, God is good.”

9. Sexist! Kisha once made a deal with the Devil for a pair of designer shoes.

8. Pro-gay. The ghost has anal sex with Malcolm, and psychic Chip (Nick Swardson) slobbers over the chocolate comic stud and gropes him in every scene in which the two appear together. Kisha experimented with lesbianism in college.

7. Pro-drug. Malcolm and Kisha get high with the ghost (see also no. 4).

6. Anti-gun. Malcolm promises Kisha that no harm will come to her “unless a nigger got a gun – and then you on your own.”

5. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Each couple in the film illustrates the new, childless norm of the West. Dan (David Koechner) becomes hysterical as he remembers how he caught his wife having sex with a mail carrier.

4. Anti-Christian. Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) keeps weed in his Bible and cocaine in his crucifix. While possessed, Kisha masturbates with a cross.

3. Racist!/anti-immigration. Mexican housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte) is irascible and duplicitous, pretending not to know English when in actuality she speaks it fluently. Kisha, displaying the typical touchiness and quickness to anger of the entitled American negro, suspects Rosa of seducing Malcolm and boils over with rage when Rosa uses the word “negra” (black), with Kisha mistaking it for “nigger”. Further tarnishing the reputation of Hispanics are the revelations that Rosa is running a cocaine ring out of Malcolm’s house and that she is also a murderess and nymphomaniac who has sex on the kitchen table while her employers are away. (Contrarily, if the intention is to portray Mexican women as sexy, sexually available, and proficient in English, then A Haunted House could be interpreted as favoring immigration – at least from the male standpoint – which, considering that one of the screenwriters is named Alvarez, is arguably more probable.)

2. Anti-white. The Caucasians in A Haunted House are awkward, neurotic apes obsessed with stereotypes of blacks. Chip, for instance, assumes that Malcolm plays basketball, while Dan the Security Man (David Koechner) has hardly set foot on the property before he starts blabbing about fried chicken, ribs, hot wings, cornbread, and watermelon. For some reason, he also begs Malcolm for permission to use the word “nigger”. “You can call me a cracker .  . . Let me say it.” Dan’s partner Bob (Dov Zakheim lookalike Dave Sheridan) is brain-damaged, illiterate, and, like Dan, a racist. When the pair first meets Malcolm, Dan asks if the owner is home. “You’re talkin’ to him,” Malcolm answers. “Yeah, right,” Bob objects, clearly disinclined to believe that a black man could be the legitimate owner of such a nice suburban home.

1. Pro-miscegenation (i.e., pro-AIDS). Not only are whites in A Haunted House as dumb as dung; they are also racially suicidal and bent on miscegenation at the cost of every dignity. Sickening prostitutes Alanna Ubach and Andrew Daly play the protagonists’ white friends Jenny and Steve, swingers who constantly try to get Malcolm and Kisha to swap partners. Hoping to entice them, Jenny flashes her breasts and snaps her teeth like an alligator, while enthusiastic cuckold Steve proposes to “double-stuff the Oreo a little bit, huh? Dirty up the white snow . . . black poles, white holes . . .” Finally, the couple settles instead for a “Mandingo party” or black-on-white gangbang with Malcolm’s primitive cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) and other subhumans assembled to do the job. This scene, which graphically visualizes a bare-bottomed ogre in the process of turd-rodding ecstatically grinning Jenny, is easily the most depressing thing this battle-hardened reviewer has witnessed in some time.

To see that Universal Studios, a brand once known for genre classics like Frankenstein and Jaws, has sunk to distributing biohazardous sludge like this is to realize how close to death this civilization really is. Ubach’s IMDb profile claims that this indeterminate slimewad is “Half Mexican and half Puerto Rican”, but she is no doubt supposed to be portraying a representative Caucasian human female. In any case, this person deserves the scorn of white moviegoers everywhere, who would be entirely justified in boycotting any future productions in which she, Daly, or other perpetrators of this hideous scene participate. Of all of the values, ideals, or lifestyles that Hollywood might spend its time, vast resources, and influence promoting – bravery, devotion, tradition, forbearance, intellect, or self-reliance – screenwriters Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez and their backers instead expect audiences to be entertained by the sight of a white woman rapturous in self-immolation and racial death as congoids line up to use her twat for a toilet. Aesthetic considerations aside, one might think that a basic human concern for the public’s health would prevent these lowlifes from promoting promiscuous sex with blacks, one of the most frequent sources of AIDS. But sex hygiene is so boring and unprogressive, right?

Those attracted by top-billed Danny Trejo, who plays a priest named Father Connely [sic], will be disappointed to learn that the haggard actor dies in the opening scene of this oddball Christian horror film. Likewise, Eric Roberts, the other celebrity name in the cast, has only a smallish role as the sinister Father Tollman. Whether or not The Cloth offers any other inducements will be a matter mainly of the individual viewer’s interest in religion, exorcism, and copious low-grade CGI.

Following the deaths of his parents and his disillusionment at the acquittal of a murderous drunk driver, young Jason (Kyler Willett) would be content to spend his life in hedonistic abandon, clubbing, drinking, and bagging chicks; but Father Diekman (Lassiter Holmes) has other plans for the lad. Diekman belongs to a secret order of special ops clergy, The Cloth, that wages Hellboyish war on the unholy through exorcism and spiritualized gunplay. Jason, though reluctant to join at first, becomes a convert when confronted with demons firsthand. Soon, with the salutary example of sexy but modest Laurel (Perla Rodriguez) and gunsmith Helix (Cameron White) to guide him, Jason is utilizing a silly array of Christian weaponry like holy water grenades, armor forged from materials in the Ark of the Covenant, and corny CGI firepower to dispatch the Devil’s minions.

Kyler Willett is handsome and likable enough as smart aleck hero Jason, but Lassiter Holmes, true to his name, tends rather too much toward lassitude as the boring Father Diekman, an uninspiring mentor to say the least. Rodriguez gets a lot of mileage from coyly brushing the hair from her eyes, and White lends just the right mix of class and kitsch with his English accent and tacky Christian t-shirts that say things like, “Exorcise regularly.” The dialogue does sometimes leave these actors in the lurch, however, and never rises above the mildly amusing level of, “That’s holy water – bitch.”

More damaging than any shortcomings of casting, however, are the filmmakers’ insistence on bringing to the screen effects-reliant phantasmagorias that are simply beyond the means of such a limited budget. The action sequences, too, are sometimes overly abrupt and insufficiently covered. The Cloth, consequently, is about as scary as the cover of the Louvin Brothers’ album Satan Is Real. Those interested in studying or actualizing the cavernous blackness of the Catholic imagination would do better to turn to the philosophical horrors of William Peter Blatty, The Ninth Configuration and Exorcist III, which rely on depth of atmosphere and the weight of ideas rather than special effects to keep audiences alert and entertained.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cloth is:

11. Anti-state. As an unjust court decision demonstrates, justice is to be had not through secular law, but through the arms of a militant Church.

10. Anti-capitalistic. A priest taking diabolical bribes is unwilling to assist a poor parishioner whose contribution is understandably small. This venal villain is repaid handsomely when coins pour from his mouth in a torrent.

9. Pro-life. Jason’s father, Diekman relates, resisted the counsel to “terminate” Laurel’s life when she was possessed and instead chose to see the potential for good in her.

8. Anti-drug. Drinking and driving means accidents. Jason, a drinker at the beginning of the film, later fills his hip flask with holy water. The Devil’s possessed snort lines of cocaine.

7. Multiculturalist. Anglos and Hispanics work together more than once. “The very basis of our beliefs stems from the arrival of the Apostles from such places as Jerusalem, Africa, and even Asia.” (cf. no. 3)

6. Pro-gun. One gun owner standing in the way of the Cloth’s mission brandishes his weapon threateningly, but firearms are for the most part represented positively as indispensable implements of the Lord’s work.

5. Miscegenation-ambivalent. Jason and white-enough Hispanic cutie Laurel walk away hand-in-hand at the end, but interracial pairings of spicier stuff are strictly the province of the Devil.

4. Anti-slut/anti-gay. Good girl Laurel represents sexual modesty charmingly. Laurel, initially rejecting Jason’s advances, tells him, “My beliefs come before my own personal desires.” Fornicators are more than once destroyed by demonic power or disfigured. Cohabitation is also discouraged, as Jason’s devilish ex-girlfriend leaves an odor of sulfur in his apartment. The Devil’s hos, naturally, are promiscuous lesbos. The Cloth would also appear to frown on tattoos.

3. Racist! Clearly self-loathing black writer-director Justin Price casts himself as the demon Kasdeyah, Satan’s emissary on Earth. Minorities are disproportionately represented among the possessed (cf. no. 7).

2. Traditionalist/pro-family. Jason, though he has long resented and misunderstood his father, comes to follow in his footsteps both professionally and spiritually.

1. Christian and specifically Catholic. Latin mumbo jumbo works! Laurel, explaining away the occasional bad apple in the clergy, claims, “There’s no such thing as corruption in the Church, Jason. The only Church that has ever existed lies within.”

Nazis at the Center

From They Saved Hitler’s Brain and The Frozen Dead to The Boys from Brazil and, more recently, the gotterdammerung-awful Iron Sky, B-movies have gotten a lot of mileage out of the notion of the Fourth Reich – a return to power by fugitive Nazis who, during the decades intervening since their defeat in World War 2, are supposed to have been plotting and building their organization in some secret hiding place.  Just so that the movie industry can reassure itself that all of the possible bases of Nazi resurgence are covered, Nazis at the Center of the Earth opts for the opposite approach from its cohort Iron Sky, positing that the inevitable Nazi invasion will come not from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, but from within, under Antarctica’s frozen surface.  As in The Boys from Brazil, the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele (Christopher Karl Johnson) is the mastermind behind it all.

Nazis at the Center of the Earth, unfortunately, fares little better than Iron Sky; whereas that one groped for laughs with zany, unhumorous humor, Nazis at the Center of the Earth feels like a comedy with all of the jokes removed.  What funniness there is to be had from it derives from the premise, situations, and visuals: graphic but comfortingly absurd gore scenes and even a cyborg Adolf Hitler (James Maxwell Young), or at least the Fuhrer’s sneering head encased in a terrarium planted on top of a CGI robot body.  With the exception of Jake Busey’s singular turn as Antarctic bacteriological researcher Dr. Reistad, however, most of the actors play the material straight, with the result that the film has an uneven tone, ranging from the ridiculous to the incongruously serious.

Jake Busey, both physically and in his screen presence, is very much a chip off the famous old block, and one wishes he had more to do here than standing around looking odd, as Busey is easily Nazis at the Center of the Earth‘s greatest asset.  Basically competent technically, the film still comes up lacking in the entertainment department.  The gore effects are good, but not sufficiently plentiful to carry the day for horror fans; and whatever suspense is generated during the first half hour is dissipated once it becomes clear the story is going nowhere novel or fun.  The wax flake snow, the pedestrian score, the boring moralizing, and chintzy effects all might be forgiven if only this cheap exploitation effort had acknowledged its roots and gone for the throat with the gore or included some sexy material – or, better yet, some humor in the form of one-liners or comedic characters instead of a generalized, intermittent, and anticlimactic absurdism.

2 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Nazis at the Center of the Earth is:

7. Conspiracy theory-friendly.  All those kooks who wrote those books about Nazi flying saucer experiments were right!

6. Euthanasist.  The unfortunate Dr. Maynard (Adam Burch) is kindly put out of his misery by one of his colleagues after being discovered with all of his skin removed.

5. Pro-life/anti-slut.  Dr. Reistad, learning from his girlfriend that she is pregnant, knocks her out and extracts the embryo for its stem cells, which are used to revive the Fuhrer’s head.

4. Zionist.  Dr. Blechman (Andre Tenerelli), captured by the Nazis and identified by Mengele as a Jew, denies this, saying, “No, I’m not religious.”  He is vaporized anyway, having failed to understand that the Nazis and probably WASPs and other gentiles generally hate Jews not because they practice Judaism, but because they are Semites and a biological abomination.  Implicit in Blechman’s punishment is a validation of militant Jewish vigilance.

3. Pro-marriage.  Dr. Morgan (Dominique Swain) accepts when Dr. Moss (Joshua Michael Allen) proposes to her.

2. Anti-Christian.  Hitler seems to be the most religious person in Nazis at the Center of the Earth.  “The Lord of the Universe has been so generous to us in recent years that we bow in gratitude before a Providence that has permitted us to be members of such a great nation,” he proclaims after coming back to life.

1. Anti-racist/anti-fascist/anti-eugenics, etc. (i.e., pro-yawn).  “Bomb every non-Aryan country!” Hitler commands, intending to wipe out the untermensch with flesh-eating bacteriological warheads.  “We are about to start a New World Order where only the strong will survive,” Dr. Mengele explains.

With influences ranging from Scanners to The Terminator, Rian Johnson’s new film Looper nonetheless succeeds in being highly original and might best be described as a time travel western or sci-fi gangster film.  Crime organizations of the 2070s are in the habit of disposing of unwanted people by sending them back in time to be executed by “loopers” in the 2040s.  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper working in Kansas and finds himself in a terrible predicament when faced with the option of either assassinating his future self (Bruce Willis) or disobeying his boss (Jeff Daniels) by letting himself run free.  Complicating matters still further is the intention of the older Joe to assassinate a young boy, Cid (Pierce Gagnon), who will grow up to be the Rainmaker, the mass-murdering mutant mega-crimelord who wants Joe and all the other loopers erased.  The boy’s mother (Emily Blunt) naturally tries to prevent this from happening and wonders if young Joe, who shows up on her farm, is someone she can possibly trust.

Futuristic films rarely instil hope, and Looper‘s predictions for human society fit nicely into this tradition.  Looper keeps its forecasts relatively modest by movie standards, with a few technologies and other developments having changed dramatically, while other aspects of society – not to mention all of humanity’s failings – remain remarkably the same.  10% of humans do manifest a mild telekinetic mutation, however, which plays into the Rainmaker origin story.  The Great Recession appears to have settled into an ongoing American decline, with systemic unemployment creating vagrant gangs and making people with money intolerant of the poor.  China is the ascendant power, and with the dollar apparently having lost all value, gold, silver, and yuan are the preferred forms of payment.  Joe is planning to emigrate after saving enough money, and is learning French toward that end, but his boss, who has lived in the future, advises him to forgo France for China.

With a plot revolving around strategic child murder, Looper is strong stuff, not to be dismissed as fantastic escapism, and is arguably a meditation on the ethics of abortion.  The older and presumably wiser Joe wants Cid dead to save his own and his wife’s future life, while young Joe, a junkie and whoring materialist, is divided by his loyalty to himself and to his boss, his new knowledge of potentially preventable future horrors, and his revulsion at what he sees himself attempting to do to correct the situation.  If time travel allowed Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, or Hitler to be located and neutralized as children, would the future outcome of the action justify their preemptive murders?  This is the problem Looper addresses.

The story can be disorienting, and Looper may not make complete sense even according to its own logic, but the ideas are important, the vision compelling, the direction certain, and the acting almost uniformly accomplished and affecting.  Bruce Willis, after appearing in the excellent Twelve Monkeys, now has two very memorable time travel films to his credit, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt can add one more to his recent string of high-profile roles in action winners.  Pierce Gagnon turns in a remarkably intimidating child performance as the future Rainmaker, and writer-director Rian Johnson identifies himself as a talent to watch in the years to come, with Looper easily earning 5 of 5 possible future star outcomes.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Looper is:

6. Anti-drug.  A psychedelic eye drop trip almost results in a young boy being run over.  Joe is an addict and more than once is depicted going through withdrawal sickness.  The film is cigarette-ambivalent, however.  In one scene, Emily Blunt sits on her porch and mimes the smoking of a cigarette, as if she’s given it up and misses the naughty ritual.  While cigarettes appear to be equated with hypodermic needles and eyedrops as an addiction, smoking is still, in the classic Hollywood tradition, also the mandatory film noir post-coitus convention.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s flirtations with a black waitress are punctuated by lurid shots of cream billowing in his cup of coffee.  He leers lasciviously at Chinese women before marrying one of them as Bruce Willis.

4. Gun-ambivalent.  One particular murder is appalling, but gunplay can be horrific or thrilling depending upon the target.  In one montage of mob hits, machine gun fire actually provides the percussion to the accompanying music.

3. Arguably anti-capitalist and egalitarian.  The silver currency evokes the Judas story, with a montage alternating mob executions with shots of silver bricks being neatly stacked, seemingly equating the profit motive with treachery and murder.  The lives of the poor are increasingly worthless as income inequality has broadened.

2. Feminist/pro-slut.  Emily Blunt’s character is a single mother who also manages to run a farm by herself.  Her telekinetic ability is stronger than that of the men who have used that tactic to try to impress her, and she knows how to handle herself with a shotgun and even doctor a man after she’s shot him.  Who needs some presumptuous penis mucking up her life to be a good, protective, and affectionate mother?

1. Pro-life/pro-bastard.  Looper can leave the viewer in no doubt as to its attitude toward innocent human life.  Only after they grow up and join criminal organizations do humans become entertaining machine gun target galleries.

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