Archives for posts with tag: Riley Keough

It Comes at Night

A plague has decimated the United States, plunging the population into anarchy and reducing living standards to the bare rudiments. Rather than offering a panoramic view of the cataclysm, however, It Comes at Night opts instead to tell this story on an intimate level, with a minimal cast, and through the interactions of two families trying to survive in a forested wilderness.

Joel Edgerton lives in a remote house with wife Carmen Ejogo and son Kelvin Harrison. The death early on of the mother’s father, played by David Pendleton, serves as a reminder of the family’s continued vulnerability to the mysterious pestilence even in their isolation and haunts the remainder of the film.

New tensions are introduced when another family, headed by Christopher Abbott, enters their lives. Edgerton never completely trusts Abbott’s motivations, and lonely and sensitive Harrison finds himself drawn to Abbott’s attractive wife, portrayed by Riley Keough.

Highly effective moments of paranoia reminiscent of John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing enhance this morose and often oppressive horror drama, tipping this review in favor of a recommendation. 4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that It Comes at Night is:

3. Anti-gun, with firearms contributing to a tragic denouement instead of successful home defense.

2. Pro-miscegenation, with Edgerton married to a black woman and helping to raise her black son (it is never clear whether Harrison is supposed to be Edgerton’s biological or adopted son, but he looks too dark-skinned to be the former). The film includes a dream-turned-nightmare fantasy scene in which Keough grotesquely straddles and smooches the congoid boy before spewing black plague-slime into his face. Perhaps inadvertently, the scene conveys the temptation to miscegenation as well as the sense that there is something wrong and unnatural about it.

1.Borders-ambiguous. Writer-director Trey Shults has said that It Comes at Night is fundamentally about “fear of the unknown”; and one expression of this in the film is instability created by the unexpected presence of an outsider. Viewed microcosmically, It Comes at Night can be interpreted as an allegory about the immigration debate and the popular call for a wall and strong protectionist measures. Christopher Abbott, who plays the stranger, has some Italian ancestry, but could easily read visually as a mestizo. His character enters the lives of Edgerton and his family when he breaks into their home hoping to find supplies – he is, in other words, illegal and undocumented – but is allowed to move into the house with his wife and child after winning Edgerton’s trust with successful food-for-water barter. His presence, tolerated on pretexts of mutual economic benefit and universal compassion, also represents a threat to Edgerton’s family’s domestic security, however; and, just as Mexicans entering the United States have brought with them illnesses such as highly virulent strains of tuberculosis, Abbott and his family carry with them the risk of plague contagion. Perhaps endorsing this reading is Shults’s description of the climactic sequence as a “Mexican standoff” and his confession during his commentary on the film that, “I was reading books on genocide and thinking about, like, us as humans, you know, and how long we’ve been on this planet and that […] ingrained in us is tribe mentality, you know, and, like, basically, these two families are these two tribes.” The inability of the two men to maintain a peaceful collaboration is treated as a tragedy, but one that could have been avoided if their paths had never crossed – if, for example, Edgerton’s home security precautions had been more thoroughgoing and Abbott had never been able to break into his home in the first place.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Magic Mike poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Orlando Bloom is Martin Blake, a man frighteningly unsuited to his profession in this downbeat and ironically titled film, which falls somewhere between a drama and a medical thriller.  A young doctor in his first year of residency, Blake is in over his head and a prey not only to his professional inexperience, but to his emotional susceptibility and mental instability.

When teenage patient Diane (Riley Keough) develops a crush on Dr. Blake, the attraction is, as it turns out, mutual, and Blake begins to do what he can to prolong her hospital stay – including sabotaging her treatment and endangering her life.  Michael Pena, meanwhile, provides some of the comic relief as Jimmy, a sleazy hospital orderly who discovers Blake’s doings and promptly blackmails him.

The Good Doctor provides a fair number of shocks, not from jump scares but from Blake’s consistently irresponsible behavior as his crimes multiply along with his lies.  If the film has a single major flaw, it is perhaps the idea that such an intelligent man could be so stupidly erratic; but viewers are constantly reminded of Blake’s aloneness in his secretiveness and the sterility of his surroundings.  Cringe-inducing from start to finish, The Good Doctor is recommended and earns 4 of 5 possible stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that the film is:

2. Pro-castration.  It is healthy for men to cry.

1. Diversity-skeptical.  Martin has strained relations with black nurse Theresa (Taraji P. Henson).  There is nothing overtly race-relevant in the characters’ conflict, but the racial tension here is palpable.  An exclusively Spanish-speaking patient (Gary Cervantes) presents a problem to exclusively English-speaking doctors.

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