Archives for posts with tag: romance

space

The appropriately odd-looking Asa Butterfield is cast as Gardner Elliot, the first human being born on Mars, in an ultimate emo romance fantasy that might just as well have been titled The Perks of Being a Mars Baby. The loneliest teen in the universe, Gardner, orphaned when his astronaut mother (Janet Montgomery) dies giving birth to him, is restricted to the planet of his birth because his heart and bones, having developed in the gravity of Mars, are unsuited to life on Earth. Consequently, he lives and mopes among the scientists living on Mars but strikes up a touching internet correspondence with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an alienated high school girl living back in the States. Eventually, after surgical modifications allow Gardner to make to journey to Earth, he of course rejects being grounded by NASA and hatches a plan to escape, meet Tulsa, and track down his father, about whom he knows nothing. Robertson is too attractive to be convincing as a high school outcast, but does create a tear-jerkingly irresistible chemistry with Mr. Butterfield, who is perfect as the quintessential socially awkward Gen-Z outcast hothouse flower. Gary Oldman, too, is commendably present as the complicated elder statesman of the Mars program. A sweet film, and heartily recommended to angst-ridden teens of all ages.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Space Between Us is:

5. Class-conscious. Blue-collar Tulsa steals a BMW, confident that the presumably wealthy owner can afford the loss.

4. Family-ambivalent. The horror of Sarah Elliot’s childbirth scene is arguably antinatalist; but the film is largely concerned with the hole left in young people’s lives by the absence of conventional family structures.

3. Green. The exposition suggests that the likelihood ecological catastrophe on Earth could serve as a motivator for colonization of other planets. Wind turbines, meanwhile, illustrate the availability of alternative energy sources.

2. Capital-ambivalent. Sam’s Club, Tulsa explains, is like shopping a million stores at once with a trillion dollars to spend. In other words, she appreciates the cheap goods that neoliberalism has made available to the consumer. Gardner becomes ill during a visit to Las Vegas, however, when he is confronted with the dark side of globalization. Gaudy imitations of world cities thrown together in one neon hodge-podge disorient him and prompt him to observe that these things are not supposed to exist side-by-side. During this same sequence, Gardner appears to be horrified at the sight of a mulatto child.

1. Sexist! The Space Between Us seems at first glance to be promoting feminism with its depiction of a valiant female astronaut leading a trailblazing Mars expedition. It quickly undermines this deception, however, by having her turn out to be secretly pregnant, demonstrating that men and women bring different liabilities to the workplace.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Men Women and Children

This ensemble film follows the interrelated lives of a set of high school students and their parents in the context of twenty-first century connectedness that paradoxically has resulted in a profound disconnect for them all. Jennifer Garner plays a paranoid mother obsessed with controlling and filtering her daughter’s online activities. The daughter, Kaitlyn Dever, strikes up a friendship-cum-romance with Ansel Elgort, a sensitive, gloomy boy who quits the school football team after realizing that sports are meaningless. Meanwhile Elgort’s gruff football enthusiast father, played by Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, attempts to cope with his wife’s abandonment of the family. Norris thinks he may have found a new love with Judy Greer, whose trampy daughter, played by Olivia Crocicchia, aspires to become an actress and promotes herself online with risqué photographs. Adam Sandler, meanwhile, adds another “serious” role to his résumé as a dull accountant whose marriage to Rosemarie DeWitt has lost its magic, with both seeking sexual satisfaction on an extramarital basis.

On the whole, Men, Women and Children makes for an engrossing and mildly artsy Hollywood social commentary, but some threads of the story are definitely more rewarding than others. The insights about the debilitating effects of online pornography are welcome, and the portions of the film concerning young lovers Dever and Elgort are touching and nicely played; but the story about the straying spouses takes Men, Women and Children into regions of moral repugnancy too extreme to qualify as entertainment – a circumstance that militates against what otherwise might have been this critic’s unmitigated recommendation. The film does, however, have much to say about the consequences of living in a deracinated, nihilistic, high-tech society centered on empty civic nationalism and in which “football served as a common language for which they [i.e., father and son] had no substitute.”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Men, Women and Children is:

6. Anti-Christian. The actions of Jesus Christ mean “absolutely nothing”.

5. State-skeptical. Garner’s surveillance of her daughter’s devices, while attacking the “helicopter parent” phenomenon as a sort of irrational paranoia, also serves as an allegory about the post-9/11 regime of domestic spying as the norm. The flaw in the analogy, of course, is that it suggests domestic surveillance is motivated by a misguided maternal devotion rather than a hostile mania for control.

4. Anti-porn. Sandler’s imagination has been vitiated by the instant gratification of online pornography. His computer, as a result, is also riddled with malware. His son, played by Travis Tope, has been rendered sexually dysfunctional by his own pornography habit. “By age 15,” narrator Emma Thompson informs the viewer, “Chris found it difficult to achieve an erection without viewing a level of deviance that fell well outside societal norms.” Now only the idea of female sexual domination arouses him, and he is incapable of performing with an actual girl. One wonders if Hollywood’s anti-porn stance as articulated in this film and in Don Jon (2013) is motivated by genuine concern for the public health or by worry about online pornography’s competing share of its target audience’s disposable time and income.

3. Slut-ambivalent. Elena Kampouris plays a girl who gets pregnant and has a miscarriage after losing her virginity in a sordid episode in the home of a friend. The audience is invited to hold blonde “bitch” Crocicchia in contempt when she says, “It’s a new era for women, okay? Just because I’m comfortable with my body and enjoy hooking up doesn’t make me a slut.” The film’s anti-slut credentials are, however, undermined by its comparatively casual treatment of marital infidelity.

2. Anti-marriage, pro-miscegenation, and anti-white. Sleazebag Sandler seeks and finds sexual gratification with a prostitute while his shiksa wife, Rosemarie DeWitt, signs up for an account with the Jewish homewrecking site AshleyMadison.com and takes the Allstate congoid, Dennis Haysbert, for her lover. DeWitt is eventually embarrassed to be found out by Sandler when he catches the witch in a bar with still another man, so that the film ostensibly shows that cheating carries risks; but Sandler’s response is tolerance, and his wife evinces embarrassment rather than actual regret. She clearly enjoys what she is doing, and Men, Women and Children makes a great to-do of eroticizing her first encounter with Haysbert. “I’m excited,” she says as she straddles the hulking, gorilla-faced lothario. “I want it […] in my mouth. I want that big penis of yours. I want it. I want your dick. I want you to destroy me with your big fucking cock.” The film, furthermore, could be argued to constitute de facto product placement for AshleyMadison.com’s AIDS-procurement service, suggesting as it does that women of Rosemarie DeWitt’s level of physical attractiveness can actually be met through the site. The viewer is left to assume, too, that, had Sandler’s wife not been caught in her infidelities, she blithely would have continued enjoying her shameless escapades.

1. Luddite. Technology has profoundly complicated the human condition, disrupting male-female relations and isolating individuals in a lonely cacophony. Like the Voyager outer space probe featured more than once in the movie, humanity has now entered treacherous “uncharted territories” thanks to technology.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY THIRTEEN

If I Stay

Concocted as catnip for teenage girls, If I Stay is likely to please that audience with its story of sweet and insecure high school cellist Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her cute rocker boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley). The title refers to the limbo in which Mia finds herself when she has an out-of-body experience following a car accident. As a bald black woman (Aisha Hinds) does what she can to revive her, Mia revisits her memories of the events leading up to the tragedy. Mostly pretty sappy stuff, If I Stay does contain a powerful breakup scene and manages in a few moments to be genuinely touching. The great Stacy Keach gets an innocuous supporting role as Mia’s devoted grandfather.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that If I Stay is:

5. Christ-ambivalent. A priest consoles Mia’s grandmother (Gabrielle Rose), but the movie’s Christian credentials are undermined by Mia’s irreverent suggestion that “Christmas threw up” to produce a mug of chai.

4. Pro-gay. “Go, Astrid,” Mia cheerleads on seeing two girls kiss.

3. Pro-slut. “I didn’t think you had it in you,” Adam says approvingly when he sees Mia dressed up like a rocker chick – which is to say, like a hooker. (see also no. 2)

2. Pro-drug. “I’m feelin’ good, I’m feelin’ high,” Adam sings in one of his songs. Mia’s hip parents and their friends drink beer and joke about drugs around their children. Mia drinks a shot at a rock concert on the night she tenderly loses her virginity. To deprive Mia of her caffeine, meanwhile, would constitute “child abuse”.

1. Pro-family. Mia’s father (Joshua Leonard) gave up a burgeoning rock band career to devote himself to his family, while Mia’s mother (Mireille Enos) is a “full-time supermom”. The clan demonstrates high levels of affection and mutual reinforcement throughout, and Adam admires the fact that Mia has “a real family”. “This is exactly why I could never procreate,” says Willow (Lauren Lee Smith), who, however, goes back on her word.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Rewrite

Hugh Grant, never an actor this critic particularly liked, has become more palatable with age – tarnished, less handsome, and hence more accessible. These qualities are on fine display in The Rewrite, which reunites the leading man with Music and Lyrics writer-director Marc Lawrence. Grant is Keith Michaels, a has-been screenwriter who, failing to find new work, takes a job as a writer-in-residence at an unglamorous public university.

Irreverent and a womanizer, Keith finds a capable foil in snooty and arch Austen scholar Professor Weldon (sexy over-the-hill performer Allison Janney), who does what she can to bring his sojourn at the school to an end. Complicating Keith’s private life are amorous coed Karen (Bella Heathcote) and single mother Holly, the latter part enlivened by an astonishingly well-preserved Marisa Tomei, who exhibits wonderful chemistry with Grant.

Certain supporting characters, particularly among the students, may be too broadly drawn for all tastes, but each serves a purpose and is more or less amusing. Whiplash’s monstrous J.K. Simmons demonstrates his remarkable range here by essaying the instantly lovable role of Dr. Lerner, the avuncular head of the English department, while still-boyish Get a Life clown Chris Elliott turns in the expectedly funny turn as the university’s dweeby Shakespeare specialist.

A touching and sharp romantic comedy that transcends the ghetto of its genre, The Rewrite ought to appeal with equal charm to discriminating men and women moviegoers alike. Consistently interesting and rewatch-worthy, this one is highly recommended.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen's body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) regales Dr. Weldon (Allison Janney) and Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) with his unorthodox take on the merits of Jane Austen’s body of work, drawing the scandalized glares of bystanders in the process.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Rewrite is:

10. Drug-ambivalent. Weed seems to be okay – with Keith, if not with Dr. Lerner – but the film’s attitude toward alcohol is more nuanced. Proving true the adage “in vino veritas”, Keith is overly frank in unfriendly company, and Holly feels obligated to drive him home in another instance. He is described as “trying to fill a spiritual vacancy with alcohol.” Fraternity hazing leads to the hospitalization of sci-fi nerd Billy Frazier (Andrew Keenan-Bolger). Notwithstanding all of this, a tipsy Hugh Grant remains very charming.

9. Pro-gay. “Are you a lesbian?” Keith asks Holly. “I wish,” she responds.

8. Anti-gun. “I was hoping you were pro gun control,” Keith says to Dr. Lerner.

7. Irreligious. Heaven is “a fairy tale designed to make a five-year-old boy go to sleep.”

6. Anti-slut. Keith’s brief fling with sexually experienced student Karen leads to disaster.

5. Anti-Semitic! 9/11 criminal Michael Chertoff’s body scanners, Keith suggests, are merely “cancer-causing cash conduits”.

4. Family-ambivalent. His wife, Keith says, was “smart enough to divorce me”. Karen hates her father. Balancing the story’s failed relationships, however, is Dr. Lerner’s lachrymose domestic bliss with his wife and several daughters.

3. Egalitarian. At stake is Keith’s initial conviction that talent cannot be taught – an assertion that the people-loving Holly intends to challenge. Falling on the side of nurture as opposed to nature, The Rewrite to this extent lends itself to the programs of leftist social engineers.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Keith, tasked with selecting his students based on the strength of their screenplay submissions, instead looks at their online profiles and stocks his roster with a bevy of multicolored cuties including an Asian, two negresses, and a Jewess. The viewer is given to understand at the end that an unexpected Jew-congoid hookup is imminent.

1. Sexist! Dr. Lerner diagnoses icy bitch Professor Weldon as “elitist, lonely, [and] miserable.” Keith, meanwhile, earns major Nazi shitlord points with this drunken faculty cocktail party rant:

Forgive me, but I’m just a little bit tired of female empowerment. […] Well, just, honestly, though, everything seems to be about female empowerment nowadays, you know. Any meeting I go to in Hollywood, someone says, “You know what we need? A kick-ass girl, that’d be a great twist.” Except every movie has a kick-ass girl, you know, some martial arts CGI slow motion woman who kicks the crap out of every man in her path. Can I tell you what would be truly innovative? A movie without a kick-ass girl, or better yet, a movie where a woman gets her ass kicked.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Magic in the Moonlight

With Magic in the Moonlight, degenerate Jewry’s auteur laureate Allan Konigsberg (alias Woody Allen) returns to his beloved Jazz Age and to the theme of the enchantment in life and love that began to preoccupy him sometime around A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) – as well as to the contested existence of God, a subject that has obsessed him throughout his career. Colin Firth plays a celebrity illusionist invited to debunk spiritualist Emma Stone. The results, pleasantly enough, are quintessential Woody – witty, romantic, and generally wonderful. Blu-ray was invented to showcase Emma Stone’s immaculate, strange, and exquisite face. Highly recommended.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic in the Moonlight is:

6. Anti-family. Stone’s father abandoned her.

5. Class-conscious. “Unlike you, we’re members of the working class.” Emma Stone’s character comes from a much humbler background than those who patronize her services as a spiritualist.

4. Racist! Firth refers to Stone’s “confused black little criminal’s heart”. Konigsberg is hereby sentenced to make amends by appearing in Tyler Perry’s next Madea vehicle.

3. Anti-Semitic! “Hoodwinking is what we do,” confesses the hero’s trusted Jewish magician colleague Burkan (Simon McBurney), who presents himself as an exposer of hoaxes but turns out to have been a conman himself and a traitor to his friend. He is motivated, he concedes, by “envy and resentment”.

2. Redpilled. Stone rejects fawning, ukulele-strumming beta male suitor Hamish Linklater in favor of masculine, dignified Colin Firth.

1. Agnostic. “I think Mr. Nietzsche has disposed of the God matter rather convincingly.” Or has he? Maintained throughout is a tension between protagonist Firth’s rational understanding that spirituality is a fraud “from the séance table to the Vatican and beyond” and his simultaneous longing for some transcendence. Is it true that “happiness is not the natural human condition”? Is willful ignorance really bliss? “You were much happier when you let some lies into your life, Stanley,” Konigsberg seems to want to suggest with Magic in the Moonlight.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

A chick flick truffle to induce salivation in women moviegoers made weak in the knees by tart, cockney-accented romantic comedy or who find the idea of an elderly Englishman dancing in his shower to the beat of “Le Freak” to be irresistibly hilarious, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slick but superficial offering sure to satisfy its target audience and annoy everybody else. Full of dry wit, spirited performances, and dramatic scenes that allow for a liberal range of hues of geriatric heart-tuggery, this tale of a gaggle of English geezers who retire to live out the remains of their lives in a ramshackle Indian hotel is a more than adequate vehicle for a strong and colorful ensemble cast that includes veterans Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and British bulldog Maggie Smith, who resembles Michael Caine in drag.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is:

6. Pro-miscegenation and pro-gay. Graham (Wilkinson) has returned to India to see his old Indian lover, Manoj (Rajendra Gupta). As a sensitive gay man, Graham is naturally more desirable to Jean (Wilton) than her heterosexual husband (Nighy). Shameless tramp Madge (Celia Imrie) spends her time trying to meet a rich Indian husband. After a woman mistakenly gets into her bed, Madge, rather than being upset, reflects pleasantly, “That’s the most action I’ve had in weeks” (cf. no. 3).

5. New age. Douglas (Nighy) is impressed with the sense of peace he feels in an Indian temple. Hindi moaning features prominently on the soundtrack. The group disposes of one of its members in a spiritually piquant funeral pyre. The film generally does its best to perpetuate the idea of the East as the place where westerners can most successfully actualize themselves.

4. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Evelyn (Dench), a recently widowed housewife, has been left with debts by her controlling husband, who never communicated with her. The Ainslies (Nighy and Wilton) are both drawn to other people, and their union ends in separation. Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and the woman he loves (Tena Desae) must both oppose their families’ wishes in order to be with each other.

3. Feminist/pro-castration. Evelyn’s mannish haircut is a horror. The viewer is left with the impression that Douglas will become the mincing, tea-serving common law househusband of this former housewife, now a strong and empowered woman in control of her life (cf. no. 6).

2. Globalist. The film depicts business ventures sympathetically and gives a smiling human face to the phenomenon of Third World outsourcing of jobs.

1. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). “Old habits die easier than we think” and “we must celebrate the changes.” Britain’s Third World influx, this film would have viewers believe, simply means more skilled professionals to serve the public interest. Wheelchair-bound bigot Muriel (Smith) is at first reluctant to be treated by a minority doctor, objecting to immigrants’ “brown faces and black hearts”, but comes to see the error of her ways in the light of Indian kindness. Sonny makes a show of Indian grace and genius with his florid speech and quotation of Shakespeare. The film opens itself to an accusation of insensitivity, however, when Douglas recommends a temple, but jokingly admonishes visitors to “maybe take a clothespin for your nose.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Fading Gigolo poster

Celebrated pedophile Allan Konigsberg plays an elderly pervert who gets the idea to pimp his buddy John Turturro to rich New York bitches Sofia Vergara and Sharon Stone. Vanessa Paradis, meanwhile, is a rabbi’s widow and object of Turturro’s infatuation, while Liev Schreiber is the neighborhood watchman who has his eyes on both Paradis and Turturro for different reasons. If one can get past the goofy concept of Sharon Stone paying to have sex with John Turturro, Fading Gigolo is a nicely played (if imprecisely titled) drama that shines particularly in moments of intimacy. The film conveys a real sense of the tension, suspense, and awkwardness that occur when a man and woman meet and find themselves alone in a room. Writer-director Turturro’s storytelling is slightly sloppy, and one character’s arc makes a rather abrupt angle without sufficient articulation or warrant; but the fine performances make most of the material work.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Fading Gigolo is:

5. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Konigsberg’s family is black. Arguably the most disturbing moment of the movie (given Konigsberg’s history) is when a black kid comes out of the bathroom and announces, “My butt hurts.”

4. Anti-marriage. “Fuck you, Claude!” Stone shouts at a photograph of her husband as Turturro screws her.

3. Pro-slut. The film at no point evinces a judgmental attitude toward any of the various characters’ nihilistic depravity. Prostitution is no more or less respectable a profession than fixing pipes or driving a cab.

2. Anti-religion. Conservative Judaism places unnatural constraints on Paradis, who is never at leisure to feel comfortable as a sexual being. A gathering of rabbis appears as backward and petty.

1. Jewish supremacist. Notwithstanding Fading Gigolo’s irreverence toward Judaism, there is one revealing scene in which Konigsberg, in giving Turturro a pep talk before an appointment, compares the necessity of enabling (gentile) women’s debauchery to a butcher accustoming himself to dismembering cattle. A sinister meaning might also be read into a scene in which Paradis explains the best way to cut a fish into fillets.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

The Christmas Gift (1986) ****  John Denver, who in 1972 extolled his “Rocky Mountain High”, heads back to his beloved Rockies for this decent television production. Denver plays George Billings, a New York architect and recent widower who travels to Colorado for Christmas along with his little daughter Alex (Gennie James, who appeared in another TV movie, A Smoky Mountain Christmas, that same December). Ostensibly, Billings is on vacation and only seeking a change of scenery in the rustic hamlet of Georgetown; but Billings’s callous and greedy employer, Mr. Renfield (Edward Winter), has actually sent him to scout and survey the location of a future commercial development.

Billings begins to have second thoughts about the plan, however, when he meets local beauty Susan (Jane Kaczmarek) and comes to an appreciation of Georgetown’s unspoiled small-town charm and innocence. Exactly how innocent becomes clear to Billings when he realizes that even the adults in this backwater still believe in Santa Claus. Some in the town have fallen on hard times – chief among these being rancher Jake (Kurtwood Smith, whom viewers may remember as one of the villains in the original RoboCop), who has been unable to pay his debts and faces impending foreclosure – so that the lucrative proposition of Mr. Renfield, who has the connivance of Georgetown’s well-meaning Mayor Truesdale (James T. Callahan), presents a genuine temptation to a community faced with the difficult choice of modernizing and so losing its identity or struggling on and facing a possible future as a ghost town.

John Denver is effortlessly likable in the lead, and gets to sing one of his own songs, “Love Again” (from his 1986 One World album), in addition to joining with townsfolk for a couple of Christmas carols. Gennie James is cute, Jane Kaczmarek is wholesomely sexy, and Pat Corley (Murphy Brown), who comes across as a poor man’s Jonathan Winters, is amusing in his role of daffy old taxi driver Bud, with clown-faced veteran character actress Mary Wickes adding some extra color as Bud’s hotel proprietress sister. The Christmas Gift is harmless fun and worth an unwrapping if shoppers are snowbound, particularly since (as of writing) it has been uploaded in its entirety to YouTube. The Christmas Gift gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Christmas Gift

From Rocky Mountain High to Mount Zion rock bottom . . .

Israel O Blessed Israel!Israel, O Blessed Israel! (1992) **  Subtitled A Gospel Music Journey in the Holy Land, this dogforsaken howler from the VHS ejection heap is part sermon, part cheapjack music video, part travelogue, and part symbolic act of fellatio performed for the gratification of organized Jewry. Pat Boone, who shamelessly threw in with the Zionist lot back in 1960 when he warbled the overwrought anthem to Otto Preminger’s six-million-hour Israeli epic Exodus, returns to glowingly tread the paths that Jesus Christ Himself walked, sing some hymns, and drum up tourism dollars for America’s favorite Middle Eastern welfare case.

The show opens with “Israel, O Blessed Israel”, probably the worst piece of junk Boone ever recorded, stinking up the place over images of innocent children, flowers, mountains, and the majestically fluttering Israeli flag. Has-been Boone almost seems to fancy himself a kind of peripatetic holy man as he wanders about in his clean white shirt, beige slacks, and all-American tennis shoes – with a picture of Jesus disconcertingly fading into Boone’s faintly evil features at one point. In addition to singing tepid arrangements of “How Great Thou Art” and other standards, Boone recites uplifting passages from the scriptures – promising, for instance, that Israel’s enemies “will forever be destroyed” – and, so as to drive home the all-important point of the Savior’s Jewishness, more than once makes a point of referring to Jesus as “a rabbi”.

Unintentional humor occurs as a slack-jawed camel comes lumbering into view in slow motion to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and when a fly whizzes by Boone’s head as he renders “In the Garden”. For some reason, viewers are treated to the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii also makes an unexpected appearance. The tape even takes a brief turn for the scary, slipping into gray, vague, and indiscernible visuals, when Boone recounts a hoary anecdote about reanimated skeletons. To its credit, Israel, O Blessed Israel! does provide a showcase for the country’s bountiful natural beauties and impressive air of antiquity, but let these commendations not lead prospective viewers into any undue temptation, for this VHS relic, verily, brethren, is for hardcore schlock aficionados and Zio-masochists only. 2 out of 5 blue Stars of David.

teenbeachmovie

Teenage surf enthusiasts Brady (Ross Lynch) and Mack (Maia Mitchell) find themselves transported into a 1962 movie musical called Wet Side Story after they catch a bogus wave and wipe out via a magical time warp, thus setting into motion Teen Beach Movie, a weak Disney Channel send-up of the classic beach party vehicles of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The two modern protagonists naturally set about infecting their more picturesque forebears with cultural Marxism, all while singing several songs, and also succeed in halting the dastardly plot of villainous real estate developer Les Camembert (Steve Valentine), who of course has no other aim in life than to rain on the fun of young, freewheeling surfers and bikers.

The songs, all fairly generic, are too obviously lip-synced, and an inescapable air of the plastic prevails for Teen Beach Movie‘s grinding duration. The principals in the cast, however, are uniformly photogenic, bright, and enthusiastic, doing whatever they can with such substandard material. Top-billed Ross Lynch and super-suave Garrett Clayton, who resembles young George Hamilton in Where in the Boys Are and may have been cast as “Tanner” for that reason, definitely have the look of ascendant stars, while fathers goaded into subjecting themselves to this wacky butt-wipeout of a flick may at least console themselves that the girls on display, from Mitchell to Grace Phipps and Chrissie Fit (who does a trampy Fran Drescher impression throughout), are all pretty easy on the eyes. Barry Bostwick – who, against all odds, has managed to add to his resume a movie even gayer than The Rocky Horror Picture Show – has a minor supporting role as Big Poppa, Mack’s grandfather.

ICA’s advice: gather the family around the tube for a wholesome screening of Point Break instead.

Point Break

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Teen Beach Movie is:

9. Pro-gay. The aerial view of a Busby Berkeley-style surfboards-and-beach-balls dance number is vaguely homoerotic.

8. Christ-ambivalent. Big Momma (LaVon Fisher-Wilson) is given to exclamations like “Hallelujah!”, but Big Poppa’s pendant resembles an inverted crucifix.

7. Antiwar. “All fighting ever did for us was stop us from seeing what we all have in common.”

6. Pro-immigration. Territoriality and tribalism are hangups to be overcome. Mack and Brady, when they first wash up on shore, are given a chilly reception as “ho-dads” or outsiders, but the bikers and surfers all come to accept them. “You guys are strange. I like that.”

5. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. The 1960s “gangs” are retroactively integrated, with whites, blacks, and browns intermixing in dance.

4. Green. Camembert threatens to cause party-pooping climate change with his secret weapon.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Bad guy Camembert is described as an “evil real estate mogul”. Private schools, in this case the ominously monickered “Dunwich Preparatory Academy”, are characterized derogatorily. Riot and industrial sabotage win the day.

2. Pro-castration. Brady dyes his hair. Butchy (John DeLuca), the leader of biker gang the Rodents, cries with emotion and is revealed at the end to have an irrational fear of lighthouses.

1. Feminist. That protagonist MacKenzie goes by the mannish-sounding “Mack” for short is significant, as her abrasive feminism rears its nasty snout at every turn. Mack hates Wet Side Story, objecting to all of the motivationless singing and the fact that “the girls never surf as well as the boys.” Showing her stuff, she easily out-surfs the arrogant Tanner. “Why does she need a boy to be happy?” Mack asks Brady about one of the girls. “Because it’s 1962,” he explains. “Why should a boy influence what you choose to wear? Or anything you do?” Mack exhorts her still-feminine early 60s counterparts. “We can do anything a guy can do.” She encourages them to become more sexually aggressive and generally more assertive as well as less appealing in their apparel.

To take in Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is to experience a mingled frustration, pity, awe, amusement, bewilderment, and regret.  The contents of the novel are among the ingredients of this ambitious and idiosyncratic film, which displays a high degree of fidelity with respect to the choice of imagery; but included, too, is a lot of consciously anachronistic pop music and tacky computer-generated manipulation of the visuals, so that The Great Gatsby is a film very nearly ruined in the post-production.  In particular, the floating digital monogram bookends and more than one disorienting sweep from one location into another are unkind on the viewer’s eyes.

The film is most clearly in its element when depicting the outrageous, outsized decadence and debauchery of the twenties.  The Great Gatsby‘s greatest asset, however, is definitely its cast, with nearly every actor conjuring into convincing life the characters as described in the novel.  Tobey Maguire, who even now retains his air of youthful naivete onscreen, could not be bettered as Nick Carraway; and Leonardo DiCaprio, who with his substantial and growing body of lowlife and criminal parts, brings a handsome but soiled baggage to the showcase role of Gatsby, is a genius bit of casting; while fresh-faced Carey Mulligan is absolutely Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton is suitably icy as her philandering husband Tom.  Jack Clayton’s 1974 film remains a stronger and more polished effort overall, but the charms of Luhrmann’s new vision are undeniable.

3.5 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Great Gatsby is:

7. Anti-Christian/anti-gun.  Loser mechanic George Wilson (Jason Clarke) is the film’s representative Christian, whose faith in God naturally inspires him to commit a murder out of a sense of divine vengeance after his wife is killed.

6. Arguably feminist.  Daisy reflects with sadness that the best thing for a girl to be is a fool, a suggestion that a woman’s position in her era and at her social level was an unenviable lot when viewed with scrutiny.  Taken at face value, however, the line could also be interpreted as piggishly anti-feminist.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  White speakeasy patrons watch black booty-shakers.  An overweight white man is glimpsed through a window with a black prostitute.

4. Anti-state.  Prohibition has backfired and made alcohol less expensive.  Police are in league with and even subservient to the gangsters whom Prohibition has made into powerful millionaires.

3. Drug-ambivalent.  Liquor flows copiously at Gatsby’s parties and Nick even pops a pill in a near-orgy scene, but immediate consequences are scarce.  The automobile fatality of the denouement is more the result of emotional stress than drinking, most probably.  Nick does end up in a sanatorium, however.

2. Anti-marriage.  Everybody cheats.

1. Class-conscious/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Unlikable Tom is the film’s representative bigot.  He recommends that everyone should read an unsettling book on The Rise of the Colored Empires.  (The irony here, of course, is that, in forecasting demographic decline and the consequent eclipse of the West, he is correct.)  Images of black poverty, toil, and subservience are frequently juxtaposed with white privilege and irresponsibility.  However, the depiction of gangster Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan), though lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s description, is likely to strike ADL types as anti-Semitic.

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