Archives for posts with tag: pro-police

Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) is back with a solid and satisfyingly rough follow-up to the jaw-dropping Brawl in Cell Block 99, reuniting with Vince Vaughn and teaming him up with Mel Gibson in a literally gut-ripping, downbeat buddy cop brutalizer. Seasoned detective Brett Ridgeman (Gibson) and partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vaughn) are caught on video using excessive force in the apprehension of a Hispanic drug dealer, creating a scandal for their police department, and get suspended without pay by their superior (Don Johnson). Both men need money – Lurasetti because he plans to propose marriage to his girlfriend, and Ridgeman because his daughter is no longer safe in their ghettoized neighborhood and the family needs to get out. At the extent of his tether, Ridgeman hatches a half-baked plan to rip off a heroin dealer that winds up with him and his partner pitted against a gang of formidable paramilitary bank heisters. A career highlight for Gibson equal to his over-the-hill hero roles in Edge of Darkness and Blood Father, and yet another impressive entry in Vaughn’s growing résumé of scary tough guy characters after True Detective and Brawl in Cell Block 99.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dragged Across Concrete is:

8. Anti-drug. Tory Kittles plays ex-con Henry Johns, whose stint in prison illustrates a very possible outcome for a dealer. His mother, a heroin addict, has turned to prostitution. It is also mentioned that the dealer Ridgeman mistreats has been selling drugs to children, undermining any potential audience sympathy for the criminal.

7. Ableist! Lurasetti compares a hearing-impaired woman’s speech to a dolphin’s.

6. Anti-Semitic! Writer-director Zahler, as Soiled Sinema’s Ty E. puts it, is an artist who seems to have “transcended his Jewishness”, which may account for the brief and harmless but stereotype-oozing portrayal of the friendly jeweler Feinbaum, who says his wife has two brothers who are therapists and three sisters who are lawyers.

feinbaum

5. Homophobic! Henry dismisses his “cocksuckin’ father” as “a yesterday who ain’t worth words.” Disapprovingly, Ridgeman fails to see “much of a difference these days” between men and women, and also mocks Lurasetti’s “gay hair shit” disguise.

4. Media-critical. Chief Lieutenant Calvert (Johnson) derides the anti-police bias of “the entertainment industry formally known as ‘the news’”, which “needs villains” and fabricates them if necessary.

3. Natalist, i.e., sexist! Unexpectedly, the movie features a tender (albeit offbeat) portrait of a new mother, Kelly Summer (Jennifer Carpenter), desperately trying to avoid going back to work after using up her maternity leave. The necessity of keeping a job seems cruel and absurd now that she has a baby. Her proper place, she realizes, is at home with her child, and her boss, Mr. Edmington (Fred Melamed) describes her as a “radiant vision of maternity”. The section of Dragged Across Concrete that follows Kelly is even more affecting on a second viewing.

2. Class-conscious. “My job [in a bank] is so stupid,” Kelly laments. “I go there and I sell chunks of my life for a paycheck so that rich people I’ve never even met can put money in places I’ve never even seen.” Henry’s little brother Ethan, meanwhile, sees big game hunting as “rich white people shit”. There is also the suggestion that those with wealth have the means to elude the law, as Ridgeman at some point in the past allowed the son of businessman Friedrich (Udo Kier) to escape punishment for an unnamed crime in exchange for a future favor from the well-connected father. Ridgeman no longer believes in a meritocratic American dream. “I don’t politick and I don’t change with the times and turns that that shit’s more important than good, honest work,” he tells his partner, determining: “We have the skills and the right to acquire proper compensation” for thankless years of public service.

1.Race-realist – with exceptions. “They’re so cute before they get big,” says Ridgeman’s daughter Sara (Jordyn Ashley Olson) – ostensibly with reference to lion cubs, but subtextually referring to the black boys who harass her when she walks home from school. “This fucking neighborhood, it just keeps getting worse and worse,” frets Mrs. Ridgeman (Laurie Holden). “You know I never thought I was a racist before living in this area. I’m about as liberal as any ex-cop could ever be, but now,” she demands, “we really need to move” or else, “someday, you and me,” she tells her husband, “we are in a hospital room with our daughter talking to a rape counselor.”

Ridgeman and his partner are both depicted as casual racists. “I’m not racist,” Lurasetti jokes: “Every Martin Luther King Day I order a cup of dark roast.” In a twenty-first century world in which “digital eyes are everywhere”, however, old-school law-and-order enforcers like Ridgeman and Lurasetti are living on borrowed time. “Like cell phones, and just as annoying, politics are everywhere,” Calvert observes. “Being branded a racist in today’s public forum is like being accused of communism in the fifties. Whether it’s a possibly offensive remark made in a private phone call or the indelicate treatment of a minority who sells drugs to children […] It’s bullshit – but it’s reality.”

Softening Dragged Across Concrete’s racial edge is the presence of Henry, the conspicuous specimen of Africanus cinematicus played by Tory Kittles. This ghetto thug with the soul of a poet is given to saying things like, “Before I consider that kind of vocation, I need to get myself acclimated” and is at all times depicted as being more astute than those around him. His little brother Ethan, too, is portrayed as an underprivileged but bright lad of great potential. The case can be made that Dragged Across Concrete makes examples of its most prominent bigots by punishing them while rewarding Henry in the end. Ridgeman, who has refused to change with the times, is taught the important lesson that he “should have trusted a nigger.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TEN

love is strange cover and back cover

“Love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement,” wrote poet William Butler Yeats, whose words have never been more true than in twenty-first century America. In a masterful stretch of acting muscles, Hollywood weenies John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a couple of elderly turd-tappers who tie the knot only to find that this upsets Molina’s employers at Catholic school Saint Grace Academy. Temporarily deprived of an income, the lovebirds have to give up their apartment and find separate lodgings elsewhere. All of this is treated as a terrible tragedy, Love Is Strange coming across from start to finish as some ridiculous last gasp of the moribund West’s preoccupation with First World problems.

The ethnically disinterested (((Ira Sachs))) writes and directs this bold and beautiful cultural event. Writes Gerri Miller of this alien freak at Interfaith Family:

After being together for five years, he married his partner Boris Torres, who is not Jewish, “six months after it became legal in New York State and a week before we had twins. I say that we had a gay shotgun wedding,” Sachs says. They’d met several times through friends and online before they were at the right point for a relationship, “a point where we both liked ourselves.”

Faith has never come between them, and Torres is on board for the pair’s 2½-year-old twins to become b’nai mitzvah. (Their birth mother is Seventh Day Adventist.) “Right now we’re teaching them language and how to use the potty. But I am checking out synagogues,” says Sachs, who grew up attending synagogue and was president of his temple youth group in Memphis, Tennessee.

As an established member of the Jewish community there—his grandmother’s family arrived in the 1850s, and his father’s family came in the early 1900s—he “felt no vulnerability as a Jew.” But he did experience anti-Semitism at the “very traditional old Southern white prep school” he attended in the ’70s. “I was called ‘kike’ and had pennies thrown at me. The violence scared me but the anti-Semitism seemed ridiculous.”

Today, Sachs considers himself a secular Jew. “I know that that comes out of assimilation and I’m intellectually sad to not be more knowledgeable about Judaism,” he says, though he finds Judaism “less exclusionary” than some other religions, “a welcoming fold.”

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Love Is Strange is:

5. Multiculturalist and pro-immigration. Molina remarks favorably on the multiethnic makeup of a school’s student body, Love Is Strange being set in the magical milieu of imaginary white liberals who intermix freely with blacks and immigrants. The film features more than one “Russian” transplant, one of them played by a fuzzy-headed Jew (Eric Tabach). One assumes they had to flee for their safety from Putin’s eternally clouded heterofascist Russian Reich.

4. Pro-police. The heroes have two gay cop friends. The reader must understand that, in the eyes of Love Is Strange’s target audience, this represents the most sterling endorsement of New York law enforcement.

3. New Age. Lithgow and Molina have some kind of non-Christian, new-agey “marriage” ceremony. Love Is Strange is peopled entirely by weirdos who go in for stuff like “chromotherapy” and medicinal energy-channeling.

2. Anti-Christian. If only the Catholic Church had not been so bigoted, the two gents might have lived out the remainder of their lives together in happy fulfilment. Even so, the movie makes an unconvincing attempt to present itself as conforming to Christian values. “I still believe in Jesus Christ as my savior,” says Molina.

1. Pro-AIDS. Those enticed by the prospect of seeing not particularly sexy actors Alfred Molina and John Lithgow squish faces are in luck, as Love Is Strange features more than one such moment. They are “an example to be followed,” proclaims Lithgow’s niece Marisa Tomei. The film is at pains to present them as perfectly normal individuals and – more disturbingly – to show that they are trustworthy if left alone with children. “It’s about as family friendly a movie as Miracle on 34th St,” Sachs claimed in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session. In Love Is Strange’s most ludicrous moment, Tomei scolds her son (Charlie Tahan) for talking about fertilizer at the dinner table. “Joey, your uncle’s still eating.” Like some guy whose idea of a sexual pleasure center is his anus is going to get all squeamish about poop talk.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY SEVEN

Nightcrawler

Beginning with its opening shot of a full moon, Nightcrawler hums with the limitless potential of Los Angeles at night. Jake Gyllenhaal plays professional thief and aspiring entrepreneur Lou Bloom, who shifts lanes into the high-adrenaline world of the nightcrawlers – freelance news cameramen who eavesdrop on police radios and race through the nocturnal streets of L.A. for graphic crime and accident footage – when he gets a taste of the money and the excitement there is to be sucked from human suffering. Gyllenhaal turns in an electric performance as the bizarre and intriguing Bloom, whose drive to get closer to the carnage than his competitors takes him first into situations of questionable ethics and then into outright illegality and endangerment of police officers and the public. The always diverting Bill Paxton appears as a rival nightcrawler, while sexy Rene Russo is a rung on Bloom’s ladder of self-promotion.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Nightcrawler is:

5. Anti-drug. Among the titles of Bloom’s salacious videos are “D.W.I. crash kills four” and “drunk mom kills biker”.

4. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as brave men who risk their lives to protect the citizenry. California Highway Patrolmen are shown putting themselves in peril to pull a woman from her burning vehicle.

3. Anti-white. “We find our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs,” says news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo). “What that means is the victim or victim’s preferably well-off – and white – injured at the hands of the poor or a minority.” The suggestion that television news ignores black victimhood in favor of rich whites is preposterous. Many news organizations, in fact, have policies of censoring information about black criminal activity – particularly when whites are the victims. Anybody who casually watches the news knows who Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray are – and even a misbehaving South Carolina schoolgirl has been receiving a lot of press of late because an insufficiently obsequious white cop yanked her out of her desk – but how many Americans could name a single white person murdered by a congoid within the last five years?

2. Media-critical and anti-capitalistic. Nightcrawler presents the television news industry as the worst, most nihilistic manifestation of capitalism, with human drama and suffering commoditized and exploited for titillation and ratings. Bloom blurs the line between objective documentary reportage and filmmaking when he drags a crash victim’s body to get a better shot.

1. Anti-Semitic! Bloom is an icy, emotionless freak who thinks of every situation in terms of potential profit and exercise of control. Even his sexual come-on to Nina Romina is conceived as an impersonal business negotiation. The viewer is told that Romina resists unspecified sexual demands from Bloom, which suggests that he may have deviant tastes. He exploits the gullibility of assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and shows no pity or human interest as he lies bleeding in a street.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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24exposures

Prolific director Joe Swanberg, who had a supporting role as the philistine jerk brother in You’re Next, reunites with that film’s writer-director team of Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard in 24 Exposures, a low-budget postmodern murder mystery set in the world of fetish photography. Barrett plays Michael Bamfeaux, a depressed police detective investigating murders of models that mirror the gory photo shoots of artsy smut peddler Billy, effortlessly brought to life by Wingard.

Meanwhile, Billy’s bisexual live-in girlfriend Alex (photographer Caroline White) begins to be jealous of his professional interest in waitress Rebecca (Helen Rogers). Is Billy’s preoccupation with murder more than an aesthetic affinity? And what about Rebecca’s erratic and violently jealous nerd boyfriend? Could he be the fetishistic killer, or is it somebody else altogether?

24 Exposures is sexually explicit, with multiple topless photo shoots and even one girl-girl-guy interlude; but the approach to the exploitative content is so matter-of-fact as to drain most of the erotic potential from the images of degeneracy. Scenes such as Rebecca’s first lesbian experience are extremely easy on the eyes, however. Highlights or lowlights, depending upon the viewer’s taste, are a stylish opening credits series of images paying tribute to vintage pulp artwork; various actresses’ asses and breasts, sometimes pressing against each other; and also some pretty convincing gore makeup for the photo sessions.

Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, with perhaps the mild exception of unusually uncharismatic cop Bamfeaux, whose appearance onscreen is sometimes accompanied by an inexplicably tough-sounding theme. Swanberg, in a cameo as aspiring memoirist Bamfeaux’s literary agent, gives him a disapproving critique that ironically touches upon some of the reasons why 24 Exposures is ultimately a bit of a disappointment if judged as a murder mystery. The resolution, if it can be called that, simply fails to deliver on the potential promised by such a dramatic and ominous buildup, leaving the viewer unsatisfied as the credits follow an unexpectedly abrupt ending. But, imperfections aside, 24 Exposures is worth seeing if only because it is never boring.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 24 Exposures is:

5. Pro-drug. Billy and his bevy of bimbos smoke dope.

4. Pro-castration. Small-bearded, bracelet-wearing weenie Billy cooks breakfast for two women after he bangs them.

3. Pro-gay. Callie (Anna Kendrick lookalike Sophia Takal) tells the story of how her first-ever orgasm was with another girl. Alex is bisexual.

2. Pro-police. Bamfeaux, who at one point considers suicide, offers a pathetic example of what serving and protecting the public can do to a man. But he mans up and rises to the occasion when a (more or less) innocent damsel is in distress.

1. Pro-slut. There is something in 24 Exposures, thankfully not emphasized or made overly obnoxious, of the tired shtick about sexually conservative or conventional people being psychologically unhealthy or repressed, while the carefree, sexually adventurous types like Billy are better-adjusted. Fortunately for Detective Bamfeaux, hipster Billy is willing to take him under his wing and initiate him into the simple pleasures of smiling, relaxing once in a while, and bagging trashy, tattooed chicks who take off their clothes for money.

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling, fresh off of a revelatory turn in the excellent Place Beyond the Pines, unfortunately chooses to squander his talent in Only God Forgives, playing Julian, an American expatriate in Thailand whose boxing club fronts for a narcotics ring. When his immoral brother Billy (Tom Burke) kills a girl and is murdered in turn, Julian’s disgusting mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from the States and insists that Julian seek revenge – even if this means eliminating a formidable police detective, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).

In a pretentious feat of style-over-substance showboating, director Nicolas Refn and his collaborators place so much emphasis on their ostentatious color schemes, self-conscious compositions, and generally gratuitous visual flourishes that they very nearly succeed in ruining what, in less limp-wristed hands, could have been a solidly gritty story of a family vendetta. Worst is that most of the actors in this nearly dialogueless drama appear to have been instructed to behave as robotically as possible, never smiling, as if every movement of every muscle is meant to convey existential angst, every second of every moment an endless Holocaust of the soul which, rather, screens as overly deliberate soullessness. The copious music of Cliff Martinez, a mixture of organic and synthesized sound, is both a blessing and a curse, as some lackluster scenes receive energy from these contributions, while others seem overly noisy where silence would be preferable.

The film does contain some very good scenes and in places achieves an adequate level of suspense. Those looking for action or for any kind of hero will be disappointed, however. An odd performance notwithstanding, the compulsively watchable presence of Ryan Gosling is, ultimately, at least half of what makes this idiosyncratic effort work to the modest extent that it does.

3.5 grudging stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Only God Forgives is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

6. Drug-ambivalent. The film passes no apparent judgment on the brothers’ drug trafficking. Different characters smoke in an indifferent manner, though Julian’s mother’s exhalations at a restaurant table would seem to be intended to parallel her disrespectful words.

5. Slut-ambivalent. While the film shows the physical danger that goes with a prostitute’s lifestyle, the representative whores are graceful and beautiful creatures who conduct themselves with elegant composure.

4. Pro-miscegenation. Julian engages in voyeurism and limited sexual contact with whores, not from any apparent apprehensions of disease, but out of a misplaced reverence for oriental pussy. His mother enjoys ogling Thai musclemen.

3. Pro-police. Chang, a karaoke singer, exemplifies the law enforcer as fetishized performance artist.

2. Anti-white/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Several scenes juxtapose white characters’ rudeness, vulgarity, and presumption with Asians’ dignity, good manners, or superior fighting ability. Americans and Europeans, from a sense of their own superiority and Asians’ expendability, go to Thailand to exploit its people, causing them to prostitute themselves or hire themselves out as killers. Making no secret of her feelings, Julian’s mother refers to a “yellow nigger”. The film’s perpetrators also give clear expression to their European inferiority complex and belief in the awesomeness of things Asian by giving the title and credits in Thai, with subtitle-style English credits in smaller type beneath, so that no belching American privileged to enjoy Only God Forgives will get the mistaken impression that his entertainment is any more important than some Thai guy’s.

1. Anti-family. Grotesque family relationships abound in Only God Forgives. Julian, his lascivious mother relates, was envious of her sexual relationship with his brother Billy, and lives in exile after having murdered his father at her behest. A Thai man prostitutes his daughters and may be more aggrieved by the loss of revenue than the loss of his child after one of them is killed. The sight of a retarded boy, meanwhile, reminds viewers of the potential perils of unchecked procreation. Chang appears to have a loving relationship with his daughter, but the brief screen time devoted to this is too little to counterbalance the overwhelming abundance of family dysfunction. Julian acquiesces in his mother’s call for revenge only reluctantly, and with good reason, as his acknowledgment of a pointless blood obligation precipitates his downfall.

Assault-On-Wall-Street-Dominic-Purcell

Prolific writer-producer-director Uwe Boll, best known for notoriously reviled horror films like House of the Dead (2003) and Alone in the Dark (2005), now taps into understandable populist rage at the crony capitalist establishment with the depressing Assault on Wall Street. Powerfully built Dominic Purcell, something of a poor man’s Clive Owen, stars as down-on-his-luck security guard Jim Baxford, who, after losing his job and his wife (Erin Karpluk) following her protracted illness and financial anxiety suicide, decides to diversify his portfolio with a little vigilante vengeance directed at the seemingly untouchable high-rollers and bankster exploiters he holds collectively responsible for his personal tragedy.

Purcell is adequately tough and earnest, if not particularly interesting, in the lead; but it is in two key supporting roles that Assault on Wall Street shows true inspiration in casting. An aging John Heard is the perfect choice to play number one on Baxford’s hit list: selfish, nihilistic toxic investment CEO Jeremy Stancroft. Even greasier, however, in a role one wishes had been expanded, is uber-oily Eric Roberts as money-grubbing attorney Patterson. Roberts has aged, if not quite gracefully, then fascinatingly, with a uniquely silverfish-like screen presence that ideally lends itself to high villainy. Other familiar faces in the cast include Keith David, Edward Furlong, and Michael Pare as Baxford’s buddies Freddy, Sean, and Frank.

Assault on Wall Street is a decent rental, but may disappoint vigilante fans by spending too much time (nearly an hour) on the humiliating build-up and not enough on the retribution so temptingly advertised in the title. Consequently, it earns a modest 3.5 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Assault on Wall Street is:

11. Pro-police. Cops are depicted as human types who share in the general plight and sympathize with Baxford’s mission.

10. Anti-slut. “I’m gonna get an STD from this sandwich,” Frank teases a waitress. Corporate bigwigs consort with whores.

9. Christ-ambivalent. While a preacher attempts consolation, mouthing, “God visits us with many mysteries in life,” Baxford rather takes to heart more militant Biblical passages such as, “He trains my hands for war” (cf. nos. 1 and 7)

8. Marriage-ambivalent. Baxford’s marriage is a devoted one and would, if not for her illness and his financial worries, be happy. Friend Frank’s wife, however, is a cheater.

7. Antiwar. Baxford is a veteran forgotten in his time of need by the country that used him. In reply to the idea that violence is not a solution, a caller to a radio program asks, “Isn’t violence the official solution in Iraq and Afghanistan?” (cf. nos. 1 and 9)

6. Postracial, with blacks and whites interacting as friends irrespective of racial differences. And to demonstrate that his is an equal opportunity beef, Baxford even liquidates a few blacks along with the many white guys in suits and ties.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Baxford smokes philosophically and his friends are enthusiastic drinkers. “Let’s go get some alcohol, make the pain go away.” Baxford, in the wake of his personal ruin, is invited to “watch the game and do some serious drinkin'” for therapeutic purposes. But a man is claimed in a news report to have died in a “drunken accident”.

4. Anti-state. The cronyist statist quo, or the “plutocratic capturing of American politics”, transcends Republican vs. Democrat squabbles, with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Chris Dodd, and Alan Greenspan getting name-dropped as culpable players. At a lower level of weaselliness, Assistant D.A. Marwood (Barclay Hope) insensitively brushes off Baxford’s concerns. That Baxford is able to purchase military wares from a black market gun dealer (Clint Howard) militates against the notion that government-mandated gun control is effective or enforceable. Betraying the movie’s mixed messages about the place of government, however, is the fact that deregulation is also blamed for the ’08 collapse.

3. Anti-corporate. “The real fuckin’ criminals –  they’re downtown [i.e., on Wall Street].” Goldman Sachs, MF Global, Cerberus Capital, JP Morgan, and Lehman Brothers are among the outfits that receive negative product placement.

2. Anti-capitalistic. “System’s rigged, motherfucker.” Told “Fuck you,” a banker calmly replies, “That’s a fair response, I suppose.” Free market talk conceals an “anything goes mentality”. “The rich still get richer and the poor get poorer.” Stancroft justifies his misdeeds with a social Darwinist outlook. “That’s the free trade system, my friend,” he says. “That’s capitalism.” “There’s not a person on this earth who’s worth over a hundred million dollars that came by that money honestly.” The film also evinces a naive sympathy for the homeless, juxtaposing their plight with the ease of the leisure class.

1. Pro-vigilante. Baxford is his own law, but also a people’s fury, and wears an Anonymous-reminiscent white mask for the final killing spree.

snowflake

Realized through a mixture of live action and computer-generated animation, this Spanish-produced film follows the fortunes of Snowflake, the world’s only albino gorilla, who as a child is taken by force from her parents in Spain’s colony of Equatorial Guinea and sold to a zoologist, who gives Snowflake to his daughter Wendy (Claudia Abate) as a pet. Wendy and Snowflake become bosom companions, but Snowflake’s life is again upturned when Wendy’s father deems her too old and troublesome to be kept as a pet and sends her to live instead in a zoo with other gorillas.

Unfortunately for Snowflake, the papa gorilla is prejudiced, takes an immediate disliking to her, and would rather his two children, Petunia and Elvis, had no association with her. Snowflake is understandably ashamed at being different, and sets out with friendly red panda Jenga to find the Witch of the North (Elsa Pataky), who can turn Snowflake into a normal, black gorilla so she can fit in with her peers. Meanwhile, the evil and superstitious Dr. Archibald Pepper (Pere Ponce) has designs on Snowflake’s heart, not in the emotional sense, but as an ingredient in a potion he hopes will give him eternal life.

Children will enjoy this simple story, the innocent Snowflake being an impossible heroine to dislike. The animation ranges from tolerable to excellent, and the jokes, of the “monkeying around” variety of wordplay, are hit-and-miss; but the film is sufficiently fast-paced to keep both young and old from falling asleep. Voice-over actors in the English-dubbed version include Christopher Lloyd as the goofy Dr. Pepper, David Spade as zen-aspiring red panda Jenga, and Keith David as the father gorilla. Surprisingly, the English version even includes an allusion to David’s role in John Carpenter’s alien invasion classic They Live, when, aping (no pun intended) Roddy Piper’s character in that film, he says, “I do two things: eat bananas and kick butt. Looks like we’re almost out of bananas.”

Jenga sums up the movie’s lesson when he says, “At the end of the day, being yourself always means being a little different.” In addition to the prevailing messages of tolerance and self-esteem, young audiences are also reminded of stranger danger and of the value of family. Mildly gross humor includes nose-picking, with cartoonish violence fairly frequent. Potentially objectionable moments include Dr. Pepper chasing Snowflake with an axe and brandishing a machete as he threatens the beautiful Witch of the North, “You won’t be pretty when I’m done with you.” Mothers may also want to be aware of one borderline raunchy scene in which Jenga, understandably eyeing the Witch’s shapely rump, observes, “Ooh, you know I might be missing out on some stuff with all this purification.”

3 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Snowflake the White Gorilla is:

11. Class-conscious. Dr. Pepper, though wealthy, is a miserly tipper.

10. Media-critical. Media reliability is implicitly questioned when a news broadcast about Snowflake erroneously uses footage of Petunia instead.

9. Pro-police. Cops, after catching Pepper, flash peace signs.

8. Secularist/skeptical. Reason is more valuable than superstition or new age spiritual notions of karma and meditation, Jenga’s jargon stock-in-trade.

7. Animal rights militant. Hunters, ivory collectors, and other victimizers of animals are depicted negatively.

6. Anti-colonial. Just as progressivist wisdom dictates that the Third World must liberate itself from its western masters (even when, as in the case of Equatorial Guinea, this invariably results in terror, tyranny, and a degraded standard of living), it is part of Snowflake’s coming of age that she separates from her adoptive family of humans and self-actualizes among her own kind. (To the extent that the representative of the colonized country is an animal, the film is perhaps unintentionally racist.)

5. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger. Jenga, making the racial subtext of the film explicit, says, “She wants to be black, you moron. It’s actually not uncommon in teenagers.” Snowflake and friends, during the end festivities, do a negroid dance to kiddie hip-hop. Jenga sassily calls Snowflake “girlfriend”.

4. Mildly feminist. Snowflake is tough and adventurous. Wendy’s mother, though the typical homemaker of Franco’s traditionalist Spain, perhaps hints at the advantages of sexual equality and women in the workplace when she observes, “It’s not easy living off of one income.”

3. Arguably irreligious, specifically constituting a coded attack on Catholicism. Dr. Pepper derives his outmoded superstitions from an ancient Latin text full of arcane lore and prescriptions, and his devotions include the lighting of candles on an altar. His beliefs and his yearning for eternal life are psychologically unhealthy “childhood hangups”, the viewer is told. Jenga mocks him and possibly alludes to Jehovah’s Witnesses when he says, “Shouldn’t you be going door to door telling people about your weird obsession?” The Witch of the North, looking into Dr. Pepper’s favorite book and seeing what it has to say on the subject of white gorillas, objects, “Oh, my God, that must be a mistake.” Religion, Snowflake the White Gorilla teaches, must be bent to accord with social progress. Subversively, the Witch is the more likable character.

2. Pro-family. Families, though not perfect, are generally useful and loving units. Wendy, thinking she might die, reflects, “I should have been nicer to my parents.”

1. Pro-miscegenation and anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). The film ends with a white gorilla/black gorilla kiss. A red panda may also have the hots for a human.

Sofia Coppola’s latest effort is very much her own. Bright, punchy, or ambient music, an elegant eye, and a sardonic sense of humor imbue yet another examination of rampant girldom with Coppola’s trademark sensibility. Unlike Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, however, The Bling Ring features no strong or particularly likable central protagonist, and is consequently a much more detached and ironic study than its predecessors.

The Bling Ring opens with shots of the Facebook pages of characters Marc (Israel Broussard), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Rebecca (Katie Chang) – an appropriate means of introduction in this true crime story set in an amoral teenage order founded on trendiness and popularity. All attending a high school for affluent problem kids, these are the more sophisticated and fashionable counterparts to the hedonistic nihilists in Larry Clark’s Bully, operating out of the sinister psychological intersection of thug chic and a privileged entitlement mentality.  Along with like-minded recruits Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (adorable Taissa Farmiga), the group combines its vapid interests in celebrity, pop criminality, and haute couture by committing a series of casual burglaries of the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and others.

An odd feature of these young people’s lives is how little concerned with love they appear to be. Tawdry apparel, dirty dancing, sex, and group acceptance interest them plenty, but these new teen creatures bear almost no resemblance to their grandmothers, the malt shop loiterers of old, with their puppy love crushes and idealism. The new teen queen is a kind of ravenous beast sustained by a constant regimen of dope, dainty baubles, irresponsible escapades, and protected from introspection by forbidding walls of abrasive music preoccupied with self-determined fabulousness.

It is difficult to watch The Bling Ring and not be reminded of another group of young Californians who targeted celebrity victims – namely, the Manson Family. In both cases, pathological fascination with the rich and famous, coupled with peer pressure, drugs, and an unhealthily violent cultural diet, result in celebrities being simultaneously venerated as idols and dehumanized as potential victims. Marc, reflecting on the meaning of his acts in the aftermath of his arrest, confides that after the story of his involvement hit the news, he received over 800 Facebook friend requests, suggesting that it is criminality itself as much as fame that attracts the adulation of the unsavory masses.

If The Bling Ring has any discernible shortcoming, it may be the dearth of surprising event, as the film proceeds along a fairly straight, predictable line as far as the plot. Apart from the signature Sofia Coppola seal in terms of color, design, and atmosphere, the film’s most attractive strength must be its delightful cast. Israel Broussard, featured in what, for lack of any real hero, is The Bling Ring‘s lead role, has a Byronic look and an enigmatic vulnerability that complements the Coppola aesthetic nicely; and all of the damsels in dissipation, from Katie Chang to Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, and Emma Watson, are irresistibly vile, divine, and luscious.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis kisses Sofia Coppola’s ring and indicates that her most recent flourish as a dependable writer-director is:

11. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation.  People of different races interact as without the least consciousness of their physiological or cultural differences. One of the girls has a thug Latino boyfriend. The camera lingers longingly over untouchable Katie Chang.

10. Anti-wigger.  Pop veneration of the ghetto mentality goes hand in hand with nihilism, crime, and self-destruction.

9. Pro-police.  Authorities conduct their investigation and effect the necessary arrests professionally and without inflicting unnecessary harm.

8. Anti-religion.  Modern woman’s faith is junk spirituality, “the philosophy of the Secret”, a kooky, relativistic melange in which words like “Lord” rub shoulders indiscriminately with new age talk of “karma”.

7. Anti-gun.  Privately owned guns, this film appears to want to convince viewers in one very frightening scene, make homes less safe and endanger the mentally deficient.  However, the fact that one of the girls steals a gun and gives it to her thug boyfriend demonstrates that criminals are not above obtaining their guns illegally and that gun control legislation is therefore futile.

6. Philanthropy-skeptical.  One suburban family claims a commitment to charitable causes in Africa, but cannot identify the specific country where they are active.  This pretended philanthropy is played as a sympathy card after the girls are caught by the police.

5. Statist.  The pitiable demonstration of home schooling as practiced by one ditzy mother (Leslie Mann) is an implicit endorsement of public education.

4. Anti-drug.  Drinking and driving results in a non-fatal accident, which, however, fails to prevent the girls from going out and behaving just as carelessly as before. Accelerating substance abuse parallels the girls’ increasingly poor judgment and carelessness in their criminal endeavor.

3. Pro-gay.  Sexually ambiguous Marc shares his girlfriends’ interest in fashion (including high heel shoes) and refers to a male schoolmate as “hot”.

2. Class-conscious.  Coppola (perhaps responding to the criticism that Marie Antoinette depicted a self-absorbed aristocrat sympathetically without taking into consideration the economic plight of the French peasantry?) depicts moral decay as in part deriving from wealth and privilege (cf. Billy Madison).

1. Pro-family.  The horror wrought by permissive or absentee parenting is the unstressed theme that haunts The Bling Ring.

Tyler Perry, wearing men’s clothes for a change, plays the titular Detroit police detective in this adequate serial killer thriller.  Cross, along with partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), comes up against a worthy adversary in a sadistic assassin (Matthew Fox) dubbed “Picasso” for his eccentricity of leaving charcoal drawings as signature clues.  The leads are serviceable, with Fox turning in an intense performance, but the script is uninteresting.  Neither woefully dull nor particularly memorable, Alex Cross is a passable evening’s diversion, but hardly essential action viewing.  It earns 3 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Alex Cross is:

12. Anti-corporate/philanthropy-skeptical.  European magnate Monsieur Mercier (Jean Reno), who poses as the industrial savior of Detroit, is actually just a criminal and murderer.

11. Anti-drug.  Mercier’s assistant is a drug addict.

10. State-skeptical/ambivalent.  The police chief (John McGinley) is running for mayor and so speaks in platitudes and thinks only of what will benefit him politically rather than what will protect the citizens.  The federal government, however, receives an endorsement when Cross and Tommy decide to apply for gigs with the FBI.

9. Anti-military/anti-torture.  Cross, going by the killer’s refinement of torture techniques, guesses that Picasso is ex-military.  “Inflicting pain is a crucial part of my true calling,” the killer says later, seeming to validate Cross’s hypothesis.

8. Feminist.  When Tommy surmises from a victim’s lavish lifestyle that the woman must have had a rich man in her life, his tough girlfriend/colleague Monica (Rachel Nichols) objects, “Is that your only idea for how a woman could get money?”  “It was very sexy to be saved by a beautiful woman,” one of the Germans (Werner Daehn) flirts.

7. Pro-police.  With the exception of top brass, policemen are honest and hardworking.

6. Pro-vigilante.  Notwithstanding the above, Cross and Tommy find it necessary to throw out the rulebook and do things their own way, breaking into a station at night and stealing evidence.  Cross understandably has personally motivated vengeance in mind after his wife is killed.

5. Christian.  Cross’s name suggests the special relationship of blacks with God and Christian suffering, and the character is an appropriately spiritual man, retreating to a chapel for meditation after the death of his wife.  Blacks enjoy singing a hymn at a funeral (“I sing because I’m free” – from slavery, presumably, in black-run Detroit).

4. Multiculturalist.  Alex Cross celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, other minorities, women, and even whites.  The friendship the protagonist shares with partner Tommy Kane handily demonstrates the multiculturalist ideal of color-blind brotherhood.  (Together they eat at McDonald’s, probably worthy of their patronage and of mention in the film because of its progressive 365Black promotion.)  Detroit appears as a mostly orderly and suprisingly Caucasian multicultural city.  Mrs. Cross (Carmen Ejogo) even puts in an endorsement for the city’s post-apocalyptic public schools when she voices reluctance to move because it would mean taking her children out of Detroit’s public institutions of learning.  “I have no idea what the public school system is like in D.C.,” she worries.  (Could it be worse?)  Glimpses of the actual Detroit occur, however, in a few ruined buildings and abandoned theaters like the Michigan Palace, once home to rock bands like Iggy and the Stooges, but now just a picturesque parking garage.  Also, an indication of the city’s real crime problem is given when Tommy says, “Witnesses?  This is Detroit.  Nobody’s sayin’ anything.”

3. Anti-white male.  Apart from Tommy, white men are either dishonest, incompetent, cowardly, rude, or psychotic.  The white male as usual furnishes the profile of America’s typical terrorist threat.  Picasso’s close haircut also reminds viewers to be aware of the undying skinhead menace.  A group of German security guards illustrates the tight-assed, “Ja wohl”-spitting constipation of personality to which whites are prone when left to themselves on whole continents for centuries (and also the inferiority of private security contractors to public authorities like Cross).

2. Pro-family/pro-marriage.  Cross is a model husband and father.

1. Black supremacist.  Alex Cross is the sort of character one only encounters in the movies: the hyper-intelligent, cultured, spiritual, upstanding black citizen, family man, badass, invaluable public servant, and super-sleuth who could probably catch Sherlock Holmes napping on the job.  Alex Cross is the paragon Shaft only dreams of emulating, a character who exists not in any recognizable reality, but solely for the purpose of salving blacks’ insecurities as to what they like to imagine is their superiority in every category of human or animal endeavor.  He inhabits a fantasy world in which black people practice at the piano, play chess, eat in fancy restaurants, and respectfully say, “Yes, Ma’am” to their elders.  Also possessed of Lecter-like superhuman senses that enable him, through faint odors or minute stains, to divine everything his wife has eaten or what errands she has run during her day, Cross is uniquely suited to perfectly, almost psychically, reconstruct crime scenes.  “It’s like working with sixth-graders with you two,” he tells colleagues.  One assumes that his penis is also quite large when he makes a condescending reference to Tommy’s “little chip”.  An establishing shot of a sculpture of the Madonna creates a parallel between Cross’s murdered pregnant wife and the mother of Jesus, hinting that the hero, if not for the evil meddling of his white antagonist, might have fathered a new messiah, which in turn would suggest that Cross, the son-sacrificing black man, is, as Jeremiah Wright would aver, the manifestation of God on Earth.

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.

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