Archives for posts with tag: psychopath

batman-the-killing-joke

This animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel presents a much darker universe than the nineties TV show Batman: The Animated Series that this reviewer remembers watching at the tail end of his childhood. Batman: The Killing Joke is by no means a juvenile outing, and contains some decidedly adult content, themes, and insinuations. The story concerns the origins of the Joker, but Joker enthusiasts may be disappointed that the Clown Prince of Crime does not appear until half an hour or so into the program. Before that, the screenplay is preoccupied with the complex relationship between Batman and his protégée Batgirl. One of the most bizarre of the Batman storylines, The Killing Joke gives viewers a sensitive Caped Crusader who worries about the nature of his “relationship” with the Joker and even offers to “rehabilitate” him and maybe collaborate – even after Joker has shot and possibly even raped Batgirl! The ending, too, is a bit of a head-scratcher, and likely to be a conversation-starter after viewing. The idea of the Joker and Batman having a laugh together might seem too insane to consider until one begins to understand the characters as a pair of Judaic archetypes.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Batman: The Killing Joke is:

6. Anti-bankster, literally depicting a banker as an organized crime figure.

5. Anti-nuke, referencing the danger of nuclear holocaust, which, as one character puts it, could be ignited by a flock of geese appearing as a blip on a computer screen.

4. Family-ambivalent. Viewers are treated to a touching father-daughter relationship with Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon, but the Joker’s origin story, in which the financial and psychological strain caused by his wife’s pregnancy and death precipitates his downfall and transformative madness, is arguably antinatalist in character.

3. Pro-gay, perpetuating the homos-are-a-girl’s-best-friend convention.

2. Pro-miscegenation. “I don’t understand why you’re having fishing troubles when we are in the middle of a lake,” Batgirl’s gay friend tells her as he gestures toward a table full of young men including a bespectacled, intellectual-looking congoid. “What do these guys have to do to get your attention?” A white man and black woman are shown studying together in a library – marking race-mixing as the preference of the sophisticated – and a black floozy is also shown caressing the face of a white bad guy.

1. Sexist! The first act of Batman: The Killing Joke is concerned with young heroine Batgirl’s frustration with the limitations placed upon her by her mentor. She aspires to take more active part in Batman’s crime-fighting, but Batman views her as a rookie whose inexperience represents a dangerous liability. A burgeoning feminist, Batgirl objects to him “getting protective and sitting in judgment”, and confronts him with her previous understanding that they were supposed to be partners. “We are – but not equal,” Batman tells her, laying the bat-smack down on that uppity ho.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Black Mass poster

A decidedly drab and unglamorous but still magnetic Johnny Depp appears as South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass, a true crime film from Scott Cooper, the director of the excellent Out of the Furnace. As much as it constitutes a crime saga, however, Black Mass is also a cautionary study of ethnonationalism. The film’s handling of the material is mostly sober, but veers dangerously close to the glorification of violence in more than one sequence – with, for instance, dance floor booty intercut with the discovery of a body in the trunk of a car. Depp maintains a controlled burn throughout, and the other players – Joel Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, and Dakota Johnson among them – are also commendably strong. Definitely worthwhile for crime film fans.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Black Mass is:

6. Pro-miscegenation. Joel Edgerton enjoys a lewd dance with a black woman.

5. Anti-Christian, but not as vociferously so as one might be led to expect by the film’s title and the promotional trailer. Christian paraphernalia loses its meaning in the context of remorseless murderer Bulger’s participation in empty rituals.

4. Anti-drug. Aspirin doses debilitate Bulger’s son (Luke Ryan) with Reye’s Syndrome, which leaves him braindead. Bulger, while heartbroken by this, shows no concern for the neighborhood kids who buy his drugs. Learning that Bulger participated in government LSD experiments, the viewer is left to speculate that this might have exacerbated his madness and criminal inclinations.

3. Euthanasist. Bulger’s wife (Johnson) prefers to take their son off life support rather than see him continue as a vegetable. “He’s never gonna be our little boy again, ever. […] He’s braindead. He’s on life support. He can’t move, and I don’t want him like that. I can’t have my little boy be like that. I’ll pull the plug myself. I will.” Clashing with the mother’s reasonable assessment of the situation is Bulger’s irrational anger as he curses his wife, kicks over a chair, and knocks a table on its side, with the heavy irony here being that a gangster and murderer, of all people, has become the advocate for the sanctity of human life.

2. State-skeptical. Government is only as worthy as the men who fill the responsible posts. The Winter Hill Gang bribes “local street cops, feds, whatever” in exchange for the cooperation of authorities.

1. Anti-white. Black Mass opens with an interrogation conducted by a federal agent resembling Eric Holder. James “Whitey” Bulger’s nickname is highly significant, as well, as is brought to the fore in a brief scene in which a black man tells him, “This ain’t your neighborhood, Whitey,” and receives a brutal beating in reply. Bulger is an Irish nationalist determined to retake territory from Boston’s “oppressor” Italians, and he and his gang have nothing but contempt for an Irish-American “turncoat motherfucker” like Officer Flynn (David Conley), who works for the other side. Bulger, as his empire grows with the help of childhood acquaintance and FBI investigator John Connolly (Edgerton), who sees to it that the Bureau overlooks his activities, even assists the IRA with shipments of arms. “What is written on a piece of paper [i.e., law] is less important than blood,” Connolly excuses his actions.

“The only time he ever seemed happy was when he was talking about the IRA,” one of Bulger’s associates remembers – the implication being that European ethnic exclusiveness holds a special attraction for gloomy people with unsatisfying lives. The name of the boat, the “Valhalla”, used to transport the weapons, carries associations with Nordicism and Nazism, and that Black Mass should be largely concerned with discrediting ethnonationalism is hardly surprising when Hollywood Zionist sleazoid Brett Ratner’s name shows up in the end credits as an executive producer. Ethnic solidarity is framed as a hollow ideology providing protection for white crime and terrorism. Bulger’s “code of honor”, furthermore, does not prevent him from introducing drugs into his own neighborhood. A Jewish actor, Corey Stoll, plays the upstanding FBI investigator who finally brings “Whitey” Bulger to justice.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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antisocial poster

A future film historian compiling a list of the most representative and sociologically reflective horror films of the present decade could do worse than to include Cody Calahan’s feature debut, Antisocial. Redolent of the contemporary fears of intrusive surveillance, vile conspiratorial plots, drones, martial law, cyber-bullying, terrorism, flash mobs, viral epidemics, internet addiction, and civilizational collapse, Antisocial is more than a mere splatter film.

A gaggle of vapid college coeds gather to throw a New Year’s Eve party, unaware that the sudden outbreak of a 28 Days Later-reminiscent rage plague will soon have them barricading themselves inside and suspecting themselves and each other of infection. And what role does ubiquitous website the Social Redroom play in the chaos? “If you’re not on Facebook,” some have suggested, “you’re probably a sociopath.” Antisocial, thankfully, begs to differ with this assessment.

The story wastes little time in getting to the action and suspense, which is fresh while also respectful of genre conventions and traditions, with the themes, scenario, and spare, electronic moments suggesting influences from George Romero, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter. A guaranteed good time; recommended to horror fans.

4 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Antisocial is:

6. Anti-Christian. Some respond to the epidemic by holding exorcisms, but the explanation for the plague turns out to be decidedly more sublunary. A newscaster’s wish of “Happy New Year, and may God be with you,” rings hollow given the situation on the ground.

5. Gun-ambivalent. The partiers are frightened by shots from outside, but it is unclear whether these are from the police or private citizens.

4. Pro-slut, pro-miscegenation, and anti-racist. Heroine Sam (Michelle Mylett) is pregnant with some guy’s bastard. Cheap tramp Kaitlin (Ana Alic) is an item with black dude Steve (Romaine Waite). As the two are making a sex video, one of the afflicted bursts in on their fun through a window. The fact that the attacker appears to have a skinhead haircut may be intended subtextually to suggest lingering racism and resentment among whites toward those who choose to mate outside the species.

3. Feminist. “Final girl” Sam, once forced to fend for herself at the end, has little difficulty adjusting to the role of the badass. A bandage she ties around her head gives her the martial appearance of an Apache warrior.

2. Media-critical and anti-corporate. Social Redroom executives have secretly implemented a subliminal pattern designed to induce addictive behavior in visitors. Characters are unsure whether to trust material coming out of the mainstream media and look, rather, to grassroots sources of information available online.

1. Luddite. The title, Antisocial, serves a dual purpose, referring both to the nasty behavior of the afflicted and to the film’s critical stance toward social media. The script is full of apprehensions about a world in which “private life is public knowledge”, cruelty is as easy as clicking a key, and lovers break up remotely, by way of handheld devices.

Appropriately, social media darling Kaitlin and her boyfriend are among the first to develop symptoms. Sam and Jed (Adam Christie), who have deleted their Social Redroom accounts, retain their sanity longer than others. “How do you keep in touch with people?” Kaitlin asks. “I see them in person,” Sam deadpans. Significantly, Sam later repurposes a laptop as a murder weapon.

The internet itself is not necessarily to blame, and an online video actually provides the means of overcoming the crisis. What worries Antisocial, however, is the addictive potential and hive mind pull of ubiquitous sites like Facebook. Fear of mass loss of privacy also looms large, and in one of Antisocial‘s more outrageous moments, Social Redroom users’ bodies function as organic surveillance devices.

 

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Public Ransom

A psychological quasi-thriller for the Clerks crowd, A Public Ransom stars Carlyle Edwards as Steven, an unemployed fiction writer, self-described “twat”, and moocher who gets an idea for a story when he spots an unusual, crayon-scrawled notice about a missing child. Hoping to do some research for his fiction, Steven calls the number on the poster and gets into contact with a mysterious man named Bryant (Goodloe Byron). It never occurs to Steven, a bored and callous intellectual, that a real person might actually have been kidnapped, but that is exactly what Bryant nonchalantly admits to doing. Steven is informed that he has two weeks to produce $2,000, or else the little girl is going to be killed. Steven, preferring to believe that the whole affair is a prank – and yet perturbed by what seems to be Bryant’s story’s authenticity – sets to composing “A Public Ransom”, selfishly hoping for the best. The premise is a bit outlandish, but after all requires only the viewer’s belief in an individual of extreme eccentricity and sadistic inspiration, of which history offers more than a few examples.

A Public Ransom is as dark a film as one is likely to see this year. The viewer must endure the uncomfortable tactile presence of waste and moral grime and spend time with unappealing characters. The film makes other demands of its audience, as well: to be patient, enjoy joylessness, and find entertainment and tension in such sights as a guy in a t-shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; a guy in a plaid shirt sitting alone and talking to somebody on the phone; and a guy who, to the untrained eye, appears to be sitting at a table, doing absolutely nothing. Fortunately, Carlyle Edwards is an actor who can make such moments not only tolerable but interesting. The strongest, most haunting scene in A Public Ransom has solitary Steven waiting at a bus stop in the middle of the night, with nothing but the sound of the void around him.

A Public Ransom advertises the influence of Jim Jarmusch, with the poster for Stranger than Paradise visible on Steven’s wall. Like Jarmusch, director Pablo D’Stair’s film shows a fondness for static shots and the intermingling of the strange and mundane; but it is not nearly as outsized or as affected in its weirdness. The sharp, icy exchanges between Steven and Bryant are highlights and filled with the loudest silence. Elsewhere, music is superfluous and annoying and hurts scenes that would have been better served without adornment. One crucial dialogue at the end of the film is damaged by the less-than-convincing performance of Helen Bonaparte, who plays Steven’s platonic friend Rene. These failings, however, temporarily mitigate rather than sabotage the story’s overall effectiveness. Never in recent memory has the disclaimer that “The preceding film is a work of fiction” been so reassuring. Or is it?

4 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Public Ransom is:

3. Tobacco-ambivalent. A cigarette serves as the death-teasing prop of a vulgar and frustrated ne’er-do-well who nevertheless cuts a sophisticated figure while smoking and gesticulating with it.

2. Un-p.c. Steven makes liberal use of words like “cunt”, “bitch”, and “slut”, and says that Bryant looks “retarded”.

1. Anti-feminist. Rene’s “militant feminism”, Steven informs her, “keeps the elusive gentleman caller from the doorknocker – that, you know, long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.” The fact that the creepy Bryant is apparently representative of the sort of men who make themselves available to Rene would seem to corroborate Steven’s claim. Even more devastatingly, Steven himself, in his worthlessness, illustrates the undying crime done to this civilization by feminism. In the absence of actual ladies (i.e., women of decent behavior, moral merit, and femininity), men have much less motivation and warrant to be polite, to advance themselves (“Work is a cunt,” Steven gripes), or to give the weaker sex the respect they have come to demand instead of earn. Women no longer inspire in men (as Jack Nicholson’s character puts it in As Good as It Gets) the necessary desire to become better men. The result, of course, is suggested by the working title of Steven’s story: “A Society of Fiends”.

[A Public Ransom can be seen at Vimeo, and more information is available here.]

mischief-night-poster

Director Richard Schenkman, whose previous efforts range from Playboy documentaries to the abysmal Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, delivers a surprising winner with this tense home invasion shocker.

Mischief Night evokes immediate sympathy and concern for protagonist Emily (Noell Coet), a girl psychosomatically blinded after her mother died in a car accident. When Emily’s father (Daniel Hugh Kelly), with her encouragement, leaves her alone in the house on what happens to be her community’s annual Mischief Night – an occasion for spooky pranksterism – she finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious intruder (or is that intruders?) in a raincoat. The resulting film is a genuine tingler that raises the bar for blind girl terror, besting Wait Until Dark and Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out in terms of its sheer contagious fright.

The most frustrating aspect of Mischief Night is the muddiness of its moral universe – and, ultimately, its consequent meaninglessness. A fun but superfluous prologue that punishes two fornicators suggests that the Mischief Night killer or killers are disgruntled moralists or judgmental fire-and-brimstone vigilantes of the type represented in The Collection. Subsequent murders, however, lack this puritanical dimension, with victim selection failing to point to any unifying principle other than maximum terror. For most of the movie, the killers function as personifications or agents of a personal Hell for Emily, taking out of commission one by one the people and things that give her a sense of security – a theme that would have been strengthened if the screenwriters had excluded some of the extraneous deaths.

Flaws aside, Mischief Night is as scary as anything the viewer is likely to find at the Redbox, and is therefore happily recommended.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mischief Night is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

7. Class-conscious. Wealth and a comfortable home afford no protection from reality or from the moral ramifications of sin.

6. Pro-castration. Emily’s father, somewhat reminiscent of Henry Winkler in wimpy Waterboy mode, is a model sensitive man.

5. Liberal. An old man (Richard Riehle) listening to a conservative talk radio program is dispatched almost as soon as he appears. This might be interpreted as an indication that the old conservative certainties of traditional values and Constitutional republicanism are dead or no longer a feasible defense of America; but more likely is that this is simply gratuitous spite directed at Limbaugh listeners.

4. Anti-slut. An adulteress (Erica Leerhsen) is terrorized during the opening sequence. Emily’s physical closeness with and trust of her boyfriend (Ian Bamberg) is a source of discomfort for the viewer.

3. Anti-gun. Emily’s father accidentally shoots her boyfriend, believing him to be an intruder.

2. Feminist. Emily’s disability has caused her to become highly self-reliant in ordinary circumstances. She proves more valiant than her father in the defense of their home and even asserts an imaginary phallus in the form of a chainsaw.

1. Pro-family. Emily is close with her father, and her disturbance after her mother’s death, a rupture of the family unit, has left her blind and, if not helpless, then at a significant disadvantage. The father, however, is rather girly and ineffectual, thus mitigating the movie’s pro-family credentials.

barrio tales

Nothing short of an incitation to racial hatred and genocide, the horror anthology Barrio Tales is a useful specimen of the burgeoning Mexploitation genre. The frame story has two foulmouthed but naive American punks venturing south of the border to buy some inexpensive drugs, where they meet a scary, scarred, and crooked-nosed lowlife (Alexander Aguila) who proceeds to tell them a trio of sordid and spicy campfire tales comprising the bulk of the film.

In the first story, newly arrived Mexican domestic servant Maria (Ana Corbi) is humiliated and victimized by a rich American college brat and his spoiled, decadent cronies. The second segment has David Fernandez playing a Hispanic variation on Clint Howard’s character in Ice Cream Man, with mobile taco chef Uncle Tio kicking it up a notch with his secret ingredients. Finally, a gaggle of wetbacks valiantly attempting to smuggle themselves into a better life in the United States are captured and tortured by rednecks until nationalistic Mexican gangsters ride to their aid like the ghetto version of the cavalry.

Imbued with genuine race-baiting venom, Barrio Tales is certain to entertain what would appear to be a target audience of alienated, Raza-minded Hispanics and America-loathing white liberal self-immolators. Fast-paced, passably humorous, and packed with gratuitous grossness, the film may also appeal to a broader horror audience willing to forgive or to take in stride the mean-spirited tone, taking the guano with the good.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Barrio Tales is:

12. Relativistic. “But who’s to say what a monster is? Maybe a monster to me is not a monster to you.”

11. Family-ambivalent. Mexicans come to family members’ aid, while whites, as exemplified by the rich absentee parents in the first story, would appear to be less motivated by family ties.

10. Feminist. A young girl (Elizabeth Small) bests the murderous Uncle Tio despite his telling her, “You can’t beat me. You’re just a stupid-ass little girl.”

9. Christ-ambivalent. Insane hicks pick out “Amazing Grace” on the banjo (and where banjos play there must be inbreeding!) between torture sessions, which would seem to cast their religion in an absurd light; but one of the heroic gangsters (Fabian Lopez) who stops them is, as a counterbalance, named Christian, the implication being that Mexicans are more authentically devout than whites.

8. Pro-miscegenation. Redneck bitch Didi (Jamie Wozny), like all white women, naturally lusts after men with brown skin and delights in tying up, straddling, and torturing a Mexican. “This is kinky,” she giggles when he resists. A black boy (Christopher Meyer) and a white girl (Elizabeth Small) are companions. There is also more than a hint of lust when Uncle Tio seizes and sniffs the latter in anticipation of doing her harm.

7. Drug-ambivalent. Hard drugs are depicted as harmful to the user, but a good way for Mexicans to make money off of stupid white people. Heroic gangsters Christian and P (Isait De La Fuente) are seen drinking from sneaky Petes.

6. Diversity-skeptical. The first and third stories in Barrio Tales are rabidly anti-white, peddling trite victimologies and Chicano moral superiority, while the second, at least at first glance, is something of an odd man out with its tale of a murderous Mexican taco cook. Even this entry, however, presents opportunities to make whites look dumb. Drug dealer Javi (Carlos Ramirez) boasts of duping white kids into paying exorbitant prices for his substandard product. The characterization of pothead Les (Hunter Cope, in the film’s most engaging performance) presents a surprisingly candid parody of the dumb white liberal. Even after it becomes obvious that Uncle Tio is a psychopath and a serial killer, Les clings tightly to his illusions, insisting, “He’s a kindhearted Mexican man who’s been serving this community for many years.” “I’m fuckin’ sick of people prejudging Uncle Tio before they give him a shot,” he says before himself being murdered by this “kindhearted” pillar of the “community”.

5. Anti-American. At the rednecks’ ranch, the American flag flies over a “No Trespassing” sign, representing the country in microcosm as a distrustful, ignorant, selfish, isolated backwater. More than one unlikable Caucasian character wears red, white, and blue (cf. no. 1).

4. Class-conscious. “They never had to work for anything their whole life. Everything is handed to them on a plate.” The raconteur of the wraparound story foretells that his guests will be chopped into tiny pieces and fed to homeless Mexicans. See also nos. 1 and 2, as all of the class conflict in the film is framed as poor, hardworking, innocent Mexicans vs. lazy, wealthy, and evil whites.

3. Alien-delugist. The film presents a sympathetic portrait of wetbacks and characterizes those who would secure the American border as uneducated sadists and bigots.

2. Anti-white. Whites, as depicted, are arrogant, stupid, rude, foulmouthed, murderous, and generally inhuman. Learning that there is a Mexican maid in the house, they are prone to call “dibs” on her, request “el blowjobo”, and say condescending things like, “Smokey el weedo?” “You sound like an idiot,” Jack (Glen Powell) says when he hears Spanish being spoken. Barrio Tales more than once suggests that whites quite literally desire to make Mexicans their slaves. In the first story, spoiled rich twit Trevor (Matt Shively) says of his servant, Maria, “I want to thank my parents for purchasing me this fuckin’ amazingly hot maid that I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I want with.” “I’m gone make you ma slave,” says Didi to her captive in the third story. The most exaggeratedly outrageous portraits of whites, however, are animalistic, growling El Monstruo (Scott Pollard) and his retarded son Reggie, whose one-strap overalls costume mimics archetypal caveman garb. “There’s no punishment that can do to you, you piece of white trash, that would even compare to what you’ve done to my people.”

1. Razist. “Don’t you know brown is the new red, white, and blue, puto?”

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