Archives for posts with tag: tattoo

Shallows

Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a medical student who, following her mother’s death from cancer, treks to the same beach in Mexico that her mother visited while pregnant with her. Hoping to enjoy a little sentimental surfing, Nancy instead finds herself the victim of a shark attack and ends up stranded off the coast on a rock as the hungry monster circles her. The Shallows is an okay survival movie and goes by pretty quickly, the dramatic limitations of its essentially one-person story notwithstanding.

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

7. Propertarian! A would-be thief is physically removed by the natural order.

6. Pro-gun, if a flare gun counts.

5. Christ-ambivalent. Both good and bad Mexicans are shown with crucifixes.

4. Green. Sony Pictures hopes for “a greener world,” according to an end credits statement. Thinking of the environment rather than herself, starving Nancy opts to help an injured seagull rather than eat it. A hook lodged in the shark’s mouth could be interpreted as an indication that a revenge is being exacted by nature against humanity for some previous wrong.

3. Feminist. Nancy survives on her own, with little to no help from men. The film’s director, in one of the Blu-ray extras, claims that the shark is female; but the creature’s connotative presence onscreen is that of a predatory male, a giant, angry phallus pursuing a woman against her wishes. Poisonous jellyfish, with their dangling tentacles, mimic a threatening swarm of sperm cells that Nancy must avoid. End credits appear over shots of reddened surf, the menstrual coloring celebratory of the avoidance of pregnancy. Instead of raising a family, she will pursue a career as a physician. Her mother, it may be worth noting here, has been punished with cancer and death for procreation. Alternately, The Shallows can be read as a torture porn film masquerading as a women’s empowerment trip. Nancy’s tattoo and bizarre earring mark her as a typically damaged and self-mutilating young woman of her generation – and her carefree display of her body is sure to incense the girlfriendless members of the audience.

2. Anti-racist. The viewer is teased into fearing for Nancy’s safety as she rides in the company of a Mexican stranger, Charlie, on her way to the beach. So friendly is this man that he even refuses to accept money for the ride. Likewise, two young Mexican surfers are employed as red herrings of a sort. They make no attempt to molest the beautiful, solitary gringa, and her brief apprehension that the pair might steal the bag she left on the beach turns out to be unfounded. The only negative portrayal of a local in the film is a drunkard who does, in fact, intend to make away with her belongings. Recent news out of Mexico suggests that The Shallows is probably overly kind in its depiction of this Third World country’s hospitality.

1. Anti-white. The “shallows” of the title are, of course, the waters around the beach; but this word could also refer to those naïve, bumbling Americans who, like Nancy, expect there to be Uber service in rural Mexico. White is associated with death. The antagonist in the film is a “great white”, and the stinging jellyfish glow white at Nancy’s approach. An exception is the wounded seagull, whose company Nancy comes to enjoy. Weak, dysfunctional whiteness, it seems, is the only acceptable kind.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Deathgasm

High school heavy metal outcast Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) has little going for him until he meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake) in a record store. Along with a couple of hopeless nerds, they paint their faces a-la-KISS and form the ominously named band Deathgasm. The group would seem to be doomed to obscurity until Brodie discovers an ancient satanic manuscript and turns it into one of Deathgasm’s songs – the resulting dirge unleashing demonic forces that turn the people of their sleepy New Zealand town into rabid zombies. It then falls to Brodie, love interest Medina (Kimberley Crossman), Zakk, and the rest of the gang to rid the planet of the impending ultra-bogusness.

A New Zealander film, Deathgasm follows in the tradition of Peter Jackson’s early splatterfests Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992), and might also appeal to those who fondly remember such metal-themed horror outings of the eighties as Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Trick or Treat (1986), and The Gate (1987). Gorehounds and aficionados of things gross should definitely come away from this feast satisfied, with Deathgasm’s veritable buffet for the depraved boasting mass blood-vomiting, forcible earring removal, dildo violence, blood-shitting, urine-squirting, decapitation, sodomy with a chainsaw, and a demonic zombie’s penis getting weed-whacked off.

4 out of 5 flaming pentagrams. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this “brutal as fuck” Kiwi film experience is:

Fucking Andrea Dworkin A Wyatt Mann9. Anti-Semitic! During band practice, Zakk wears a t-shirt bearing a caricature of Jewish feminist Andrea Dworkin created by the infamous Nick Bougas, aka A. Wyatt Mann.

8. Pro-gay. Medina, on hearing her first blast of metal, envisions herself as a warrior goddess with fawning lesbian slaves at her feet.

7. Anti-bully. Medina is turned off by her boyfriend’s bullying of Brodie. The film even treats Brodie’s coldblooded murder of this character as a moment of comedy.

6. Feminist/pro-slut. Boringly, once the supernatural splat hits the fan, Medina (of course) transforms into an ax-wielding, zombie-butchering metal chick. “I was thinking about getting a tattoo,” she says, because “It would drive my dad crazy.” She then displays to Brodie the spot on her chest she would like to disfigure.

5. Pro-drug. Brodie gets high with Zakk, who is also shown drinking and driving with no adverse outcomes. It is noted that Brodie’s mother was institutionalized after going nuts and debasing herself under the influence of meth, but this information is presented with irreverence rather than caution.

4. Anti-family. None of the characters like their parents. Zakk’s father even has to be killed after he turns into a zombie. In addition to its subversive treatment of conventional domesticity, Deathgasm also features a dashboard trinket in the shape of a baby smoking a cigarette – antinatalist imagery celebrating death, corruption, and nihilism.

3. Anti-Christian. “Hell is awesome,” the viewer learns. Brodie’s churchgoing aunt and uncle, described as “balls deep into Jesus”, are revealed to be hypocrites when anal beads and dildos are discovered in their bedroom. “Older Christian people maybe should steer clear,” star Milo Cawthorne says in an interview included on the DVD.

2. Conformist. Getting across the stupidity of “conspiracy theories” and those who espouse alternative interpretations of history and current events, the unsophisticated Zakk attributes his neighbors’ strange behavior to “the Illuminati pourin’ fuckin’ fluoride in the water or something.”

1. Superficially anarchist. Though stupidly consumerist in their obsessions, Zakk and Brodie steal the things they want – even stooping so low as to siphon fuel from an ambulance.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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American Johns

Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns (2015)

This 12-minute short from writer-director C.L. Hoffa depicts a few episodes in the life of Melissa Masters (Natalia-Christabelle Serrano), a former child actress who now works as a call girl. Unfortunately, the story is told entirely in images and a couple of captions to identify the principal characters, with the viewer left to connect the dots of whatever semblance of nonlinear narrative is to be had. Melissa specializes in boring kink, alternately crawling around on the floor like Ai in Tokyo Decadence (1992) – though the director cites The Canyons (2013) as an influence – or playing the dominatrix and stepping on masochists. Unfortunately for her, this results in one of her johns lying face-down dead on the floor of a hotel room, which brings the creepy and haggard Detective Steve Scott (Christopher Loring) into her life.

Lyle

When Lyle Lovett attacks! (Rey Marz and Natalia-Christabelle Serrano in American Johns)

A man who appears to be a slumming Lyle Lovett (Rey Marz) is shown being confrontational and then more adoring of her, but the exact nature of the transaction remains unclear. Hoffa advertises American Johns as “experimental“, so one assumes that any ambiguity is intentional. Minimalist electronic music abstractly suggests moods for the episodes, but one is sometimes unsure how to feel. Not much interest, for instance, attaches itself to scenes of Melissa walking around and chatting on her cell phone outside Bob’s Big Boy – particularly when the viewer has no idea what she is talking about. Maybe the idea is that men see her as fast food?

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that American Johns is:

3. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Melissa appears to enjoy a non-platonic relationship with a tattooed black woman.

2. Misandrist. Men, in their relationship with women, are either customers or inquisitors. Melissa’s past as an actress finds a continuity in her work as a prostitute, in that men expect her to play a role – they do not accept the real Melissa, in other words. The tramp, in the course of her duties, discovers that even the most seemingly masculine man is only a writhing maggot at heart – they, too, are actors.

1. Feminist (i.e., anti-human). American Johns, unlike The Canyons, appears to aim not for an implied moral judgment in its portrait of soulless squalor, but to aspire to some sort of seedy chic, a de facto glorification of the protagonist’s AIDS-tempting lifestyle. Mise-en-scene of the character’s introduction to the audience – framing her through and against the vertical lines of blinds and railings that convey the impression of bars of a cage – suggests that Melissa is a prisoner; but the heroine’s final moment onscreen indicates that she is in control – she is the zookeeper minding the cage – and firmly in command of the men in her life. Her nihilism and capitalist degeneracy, it seems, are some form of women’s empowerment – a realization of some mutation of the American Dream.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Equalizer

Denzel Washington stars as the title character in The Equalizer – a superhuman bundle of Robin Hood, Barack Obama, Angus MacGyver, and Jason Voorhees rolled into a single American hero. Perhaps the most preposterous film in which Washington has yet appeared, The Equalizer concerns an ex-CIA spook who comes out of retirement to save filthy, greasy-lipped prostitute Chloe Moretz from the clutches of the oil-and-pimping syndicate run by ridiculously named Russian gangster “Vladimir Pushkin” (wink, wink), played by Vladimir Kulich.

Washington’s genius allows him to improvise endlessly inventive and cruel methods of dispatching his enemies, frequently by means of split-second calculus – cogitations conveyed cinematically by extreme close-ups of Washington’s all-seeing eyeball – and always directed at Caucasian men. The Equalizer is silly, offensive, inorganic, and way too long at a run time in excess of two hours, but those who suffer the full duration of its unending equality mandate will at least be treated to an awe-inspiring rap by Eminem.

3 out of 5 stars for the unintentional humor. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Equalizer is:

6. Pro-torture. Enhanced interrogation be da bomb.

5. Black supremacist, pro-immigration, and anti-white. The titular hero, living up to his name, disburses the villains’ ill-gotten gains among a group of Asian immigrants. Juxtaposed with the brilliant, polite, well-read, and fastidious Washington – an extraordinary specimen of Africanus cinematicus – white men appear as boorish ogres who mistreat women. Washington scolds a white co-worker for his foul language, and one scene even shows a white criminal in a hoodie robbing minorities at gunpoint. In still another scene, he literally uses a book to disable a Caucasian. “Change your world,” the Equalizer advises, a recommendation that screenwriter Richard Wenk seems to have taken to heart in depicting lifeforms on this planet.

4. Anti-police. Boston cops – white ones, of course – are on the take and extort protection money from minority businesses. In a lame reversal of the famous scene in Dirty Harry (1971), a black man points a gun at a white cop and calls him “punk”.

3. Anti-Russian and pro-war. As in all recent Hollywood output – The Heat (2013), Bullet to the Head (2012), and Pain and Gain (2013) being other examples – Slavic women are depicted as prostitutes. Moretz’s pimp, played by David Meunier, is even named “Slavi” so as to as to scream his ethnicity into the viewer’s ears in case the fact of his being a Russian was not already obvious.

Marton Csokas portrays Itchenko, the iciest and most bestial of the Russians – a character whose name suggests that he is subhuman (i.e., an “it”) as well as being a biological nuisance (an “itch”). Itchenko also has epaulette tattoos on his shoulders, a detail which implies that imperious militarism constitutes a physiologically inextricable aspect of the Russian subhuman’s being. Of “Pushkin”, it is said that “his money and political ties make him untouchable”, which can only suggest that he is somehow connected with Russian government officials – Putin himself, perhaps?

In one scene, an assembly of Russian mobsters refuses Washington’s offer of $9,000 in exchange for a hooker’s “freedom”. “You should have taken the money,” he taunts after murdering all of them. The significance of this confrontation, almost unrecognizably distorted in its filtering of geopolitical reality, is that Russia, by rejecting America’s globalist porno-economic order of capitalo-totalitarian usury, has invited its own extermination. At the film’s conclusion, Washington travels to Russia to assassinate “Pushkin” – and, like a proper slasher movie serial killer, confronts him while he is taking a shower.

2. Pro-N.W.O. CIA officials appear as tender and devoted nurturers. Clearly, the casting of Washington as the hero also carries an onomatological resonance.

1. Anti-Christian and Jewish supremacist. “I will have vengeance,” one hears muttered repeatedly during one of the songs featured on the Equalizer soundtrack. Indeed, it has been some time since this reviewer has seen a movie as viciously and mockingly anti-Christian as this one. Early on, The Equalizer associates and nearly equates Christianity with Russian brutality, with gangsters sporting crucifix tattoos and lounging around a bar with an Orthodox icon on the wall. When Washington intrudes and casually slaughters them, the icon is splattered with their blood.

An early scene that establishes Washington’s character and trajectory draws a parallel with the protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. On the surface, this refers to Washington’s being an older man of former achievement who rises from mediocrity to take on a massive challenge, or catch the big fish represented by “Vladimir Pushkin”. So blatant is The Equalizer’s hatred of Christianity, however, that the significance of the fish allegory is multiple. At the deeper level, Washington is the personification of Judaic vengeance, the golem, the butcher, and fisherman who has finally, triumphantly, reeled in Christendom. The script, at the moment of Washington’s summary of the novel, warrants quotation:

Old man tied the fish to the side of the boat, had to row back to shore. The fish bled in the water, sharks came, and ate the whole fish till there was nothing left. [. . .]  The old man met his greatest adversary when he thought that part of his life was over [. . .] Came to respect it the more it fought.

Asked why the fisherman refused to relinquish the fish, Washington replies that, “The old man’s gotta be the old man. Fish gotta be the fish.” The big fish is Christendom, its bleeding either the vivisection of Christ or the degradation and rot of the West by corrosive culture-disease. European man, in the allegory, is Jewry’s big trophy catch – and neither, if it is to be true to itself, can ever give up the struggle against the other’s all-or-nothing efforts.

In the climactic scene, the hissing and superficially civilized Itchenko is transfixed in a ritual sacrifice by Washington, whose sadistic choice of a nail gun to do the job is the key to understanding the movie’s subtext. Here, for America’s rooting enjoyment, is a thinly disguised Christ-snuff film framed as a thrilling adventure in which ZOG saves the world again from crypto-tsarist-fascist bigotry. For the cherry to top the cloying Jewishness of the whole tawdry abomination, in an earlier scene Washington even subjects Itchenko to psychoanalysis before committing a massive act of industrial terrorism to spite him.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Ready 2 Die

After robbing a Federal Reserve Bank branch and leading the LAPD on a televised freeway chase (“like O.J., Holmes”), four luckless desperadoes find themselves stranded without a car in East L.A., pursued both by the authorities and – after a “ghetto APB” and word of their loot gets out – their greedy fellow gangstas as well.

Writer-director John Azpilicueta stars as the bereaved Lucky, dismissed from a SEALs training camp for “emotional problems”; Jacob Martinez is Smiley, a chubby old thug who tried in vain to go straight, but whose financial troubles have thrust him back into a life of crime; and Pablo Hernandez is Psycho, a hitman who pretty much lives up to his name. The most interesting character, dishonorably discharged Ranger and Coolio haircut hood rat Sniper, is played by Bless May, who unfortunately receives the least screen time of the foursome.

Azpilicueta’s film, typical for an Asylum release, is shoddy and rough-hewn, with crap special effects, some substandard acting, too little coverage for action scenes, and overreliance on quick cuts and shaky-cam cinematography. A series of black-and-white flashbacks, intended to humanize the leads, only succeeds in stalling the action; but sleazebags attracted to a movie as underachievingly titled as Ready 2 Die will no doubt be entertained by its ready abundance of murder, profanity, rape, and pandemic nastiness.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ready 2 Die is:

7. Anti-Christian. More than one thug is adorned with a cross, either as a necklace or a tacky tattoo.

6. Anti-marriage. A mulatto wife is a lazy, unfaithful freeloader.

5. Miscegenation-ambivalent. The aforementioned wife is, however, depicted as quite the sexual trophy and gets the hiding heroes excited as they voyeuristically enjoy the sight of her in the act of adultery.

4. Anti-bankster. The fact that the crooks attack a Federal Reserve bank makes them, if not quite sympathetic, at least not as dastardly as if they had robbed a small business like a liquor store. Ready 2 Die conveys a generalized anger at the economic plight of the country; and, without articulating any particular argument, the movie seems to be suggesting blame by flashing the Federal Reserve Bank sign during the opening robbery. Sniper is unemployed, and the fact that Smiley is behind on his house payments reminds viewers of banks’ predatory lending tactics.

3. Anti-police. Ready 2 Die evinces either indifference toward the “fucking po-po” or, if anything, actual hostility, casting them as the pesky antagonists who pursue the central characters.

2. Anti-war. Sniper expresses the nihilism of war brought home when he says that shooting at police cars and helicopters is “just like Fallujah, baby – just different motherfuckers.”

1. Racist! Ready 2 Die demonstrates as well as a movie could why even minorities have reason to fear the eventuality of their neighborhoods going majority non-white. Gangs, drugs, and scary tattoos are the norm, with mothers living in fear that their children will be murdered not by white supremacist pigs, but by members of their own wretched raza. Furthermore, blacks appear in an almost uniformly unfavorable light in the film. Sniper is one of the movie’s most coldblooded killers. “Fuck that funny-lookin’ bitch,” he excuses himself for shooting a bank teller. “She was lookin’ at me all crazy and shit.” He robs and kills because he would rather do this than “flip some burgers”. A black cop lounges around his home milking “disability”, while his misbehaving son ludicrously claims to have been suspended from school just for being black.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Future Sodom

Future Sodom (1987) ****

An initial viewing of Future Sodom may be a disappointment if viewers allow the stylish cover photo of Laurel Canyon to lead them to expect a dark, creative vision of a futuristic world. When friends Mickey (Frank James) and Morgan (Jesse Eastern) find themselves transported into an unknown place and time – “to grow, to advance” in their sexuality – their sylvan surroundings resemble the idyllic woods around a summer cabin more than a dingy, urban vice capital. What follows is mostly a plotless succession of sexual encounters between the visitors and the carefree inhabitants of this sunny natural paradise.

First, Mickey and Morgan double-team a blonde beauty (Canyon), Mickey receiving a boisterous blowjob as Morgan bumps her from behind, all while ethereal synthesizer and mechanized tribal beats convey that this is the future – either that or the 80s. After trading orifices and having their fill, Mickey and Morgan relax indoors and exchange philosophies about sex. Morgan, a hopeless romantic, is disillusioned with what seems to him to be the mechanical nature of sex; but Mickey is perfectly content to screw anything that moves. “It was so impersonal, man, it was hot as hell,” he says, describing why phone sex gets him excited.

Group play follows: first an enthusiastic threesome set to languid electric guitar with Laurel Canyon, Britt Morgan, and Peter North, who find that an open door policy spices up the boredom of marriage; and later a more elaborate session conducted by a toga-bedecked Instructor (gross Jew William Margold) who sets a proper orgy in motion – complete with oral and anal sex and disgusting asshole-licking – before joining the fray himself, ultimately slurping his own semen off of a woman’s back. All of this unfolds to some drab 80s disco.

In one of Future Sodom’s few acknowledgments of the notion that this is all supposed to be taking place in some kind of futuristic setting, one of the sordid celebrants is a tattooed, freakish “robot”, Lucy (played by Viper), who has been “specially programmed as an anal participant.” This bargain basement production’s idea of an android, alas, is a tramp in a Mardi Gras mask, with chains strapped across her chest, nipple and clitoris piercings, and obscenities like “motherfucker” and “eat shit” scrawled all over her body. Lucy explains that mischievous Boy Scouts are responsible for the physical graffiti. “They raped me anally and I castrated ten of them,” she says in Future Sodom’s most outrageous scene. “Yes, I programmed myself to castrate Boy Scouts.”

In the second of Future Sodom’s two standout performances – the first being newcomer Laurel Canyon – Frankie Leigh plays the mysterious “Woman”, a sexual chameleon who suits her behavior to the fantasies of her partner of the moment. This cute but thoroughly debauched brunette has the best scene in Future Sodom, sneering her needs at horny Mickey: “Nah, I don’t think you fucking understand. I want dick, dick, and more dick,  you hear that? And I want buckets of fucking cum. I wanna fuckin’ swallow it, I wanna choke on it. I wanna fuckin’ wallow in it. I wanna fuckin’ bathe in the fuckin’ shit, you know? I want you to turn my mouth into a fuckin’ sewer, into a goddamn toilet.” Leigh then proceeds to blow three guys in creepy transparent plastic masks like the ones in Last House on Dead End Street.

Underlying the flimsy excuse for a story, specifically in the old-fashioned Morgan character, is an awareness of a discomfort left in men’s hearts in the wake of the sexual revolution. Now that moral constraints are no longer an issue, do men really want their women to be voracious sexual beasts? What do women want? Paula Damiano’s script, unfortunately, leaves this speculative thread underdeveloped, the only semblance of resolution to Morgan’s uncertainty being his sullen resignation and determination of, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Future Sodom, though nothing particularly special, does have a few things to recommend it. The hair is big, the action is hot, and the actors are clearly enjoying themselves; and, with the exception of Viper, whose damaged goods and devilish scowl are a little intimidating, the principal actresses are exquisite. 80s aficionados will appreciate Jesse Eastern’s mullet, and may also be interested to learn the ultimate fate of Ronald Reagan. Viewers, however, should expect nothing profound from a film which, after all, was produced and directed by Deep Throat auteur Gerard Damiano.

4 out of 5 stars.

Load Warriors

The Load Warrior aka The Load Warriors (1987) ****1/2

From the first bleak, synthesized notes queuing up The Load Warrior’s ugly orange pixelated opening credits, all the makings of a 1980s pornographic classic are present: movie parody premise, pun title, hokey electronic music, garish eye makeup, and big, beautiful, puffy manes of whore hair. Peter North portrays the titular titillationist in this post-apocalyptic tale of a world devastated by a “great fire” (i.e., nuclear holocaust) followed by the “invisible fire” of radiation that causes fertility to plummet. The result is a wasteland in which “seed became money and men became cattle”, with female barbarians unceremoniously milking their slaves like farm animals, the old ways of love, foreplay, and even vaginal penetration having been forgotten by most – all but the Load Warrior.

The Load Warrior satirizes the seeming reversal of sex roles effected by the sexual revolution, the entry of women into the workforce, and the cold commoditization of reproduction through sperm banks. “‘Married’?” Willow (Krysta Lane) asks, puzzled at hearing the word for the first time. “What’s ‘married’?” Men, reduced to utilitarian sex slaves, are left wanting foreplay, affection, and some sense of sexual autonomy, while women have become violent, impersonal brutes, as typified by ruthless businesswoman Queen Humongous (Lois Ayres), who reigns like a callous CEO over a “bustling rat hole” called Motherload. Here the remains of the wasteland’s men come to sell their sperm at the trading post of Dr. D (Jesse Eastern), who hands out “antique” broccoli and rotten chicken (“Of course it’s got maggots in there. That’s the nutritious part.”) in exchange for their more or less ineffectual sperm. Fortuitously, the Load Warrior comes and pounds into the women an important truth: “A load in the bush is worth far more than any in the hand.”

Sharon Mitchell, who participates in an ambitious fivesome (!) with Eastern and others in the “Blow the Man Dome”, is typically tough and charismatic as the aptly named Wilde, who threatens to cut off a woman’s tits and make lampshades out of them. Too much time is spent on an interracial scene between Eastern and Angel Kelly; but the sex, if not consistently scorching, is solid, and for the most part tastefully photographed, greatly enhanced by the scuzzy art direction of “C.L. Jaz”. Much of the action in The Load Warrior plays like a music video, with the imitation Tina Turner theme song smoothing North’s scene with delectable Gail Force being a definite highlight of the show. Also, the manner in which the hero dispatches the bitchy Queen Humongous is not to be missed! Hot, heavy, and humorous, The Load Warrior is mandatory sleaze for 80s strokers.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

bullet_to_the_head

Action specialist Walter Hill has always had a fondness for hero odd couples, a formula the director exploited with memorably entertaining results in 48 Hrs., Red Heat, and Another 48 Hrs.; and now Hill returns to the genre in triumph with Bullet to the Head, the director’s first feature film in many years, but a worthy addition to his impressive filmography and well worth the protracted wait.

Bullet to the Head is a near-perfect showcase for the haggard and frightening gravitas of over-the-hill Sylvester Stallone, who as cynical but likable hit man Jimmy “Bobo” Bonomo looks as chiseled, sleepy-eyed, and casually homicidal as ever, his voice so inhumanly deep and guttural that it sounds as if he has a football-sized phlegm wad and a few shell fragments lodged behind his chest. Veins protrude from his arms like earthworms writhing under the flesh of this man so old he seems just as likely to keel over dead from petrifaction as lash out and take off an enemy head.

But fortunately for action fans, Bobo makes it through the flick and takes out the trash in classic style, gunning for the gangsters and dirty cops who double-crossed him and killed his partner and teaming up for the purpose with D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang), whose own investigation of a fellow officer’s murder has led him to Bobo’s own New Orleans. Sung Kang packs about as much charisma as stale tofu, but his presence allows for politically incorrect fun-poking from Stallone along the sarcastic lines of, “Nice goin’, Oddjob” and “Why don’t you go read some fuckin’ tea leaves?” The generational-technological gap between the two is also effective, recalling the dynamic between Bruce Willis and Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard.

The culprits turn out to be high-rollers Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a cane-pimping African emigre with a knowledge of classical literature (of course!), and his sleazy associate Marcus Baptiste, played by Christian Slater, who seems to have transitioned gracefully enough from weaselly 80s alt-heartthrob roles to weaselly middle-aged bad guys. Bobo himself, meanwhile, is also being hunted by mercenary Keegan (Jason Momoa), a mean-eyed menace whose constant scowling is reminiscent of Ed O’Ross’s turn in Red Heat.

Bullet to the Head makes a decent (if perhaps too-obvious) effort to give its story a bit of the spice and flavor of its New Orleans setting, and a sassy blues score by Steve Mazzaro sets the unpretty tone of the film, with Sarah Shahi furnishing skank appeal as Bobo’s bastard tattoo artist daughter. But the main attraction here is always Sylvester Stallone. In addition to getting into a brutal Turkish bath fight, Stallone has a climactic, adrenaline-pumping axe duel with Momoa that earned the movie an extra half-star from this reviewer. Truly an experience to elicit affirmative Tim Allen chimp grunts from seasoned remote control warriors everywhere, Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head is aggressively recommended to proud dick owners only.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bullet to the Head is:

11. Sexist! One of Bobo’s rules as a hit man is “no women, no children”. A modern, sexually enlightened, and gender-blind gentleman would be just as eager to kill marked women as men. The climactic confrontation involves a damsel in distress.

10. Anti-Christian. A foul-mouthed, coke-and-booze-binging jerk (Holt McCallany) wears a crucifix. One of the villains is named Baptiste.

9. Anti-redneck. “I don’t trust that redneck prick.”

8. Pro-gay. Lesbians tango at a costume ball.

7. Anti-Slav. As in Pain and Gain, The Heat, and A Good Day to Die Hard, the Slavic woman is defined by sleaze.

6. Pro-torture. Sadism is an asset in interrogating a captive.

5. Drug-ambivalent. Bobo is a heavy drinker, but is no less effective for it. His daughter’s mother is a dead junkie hooker. (see also no. 10)

4. Un-p.c. Bobo calls Kwon “Confucius”, etc.

3. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation. Kwon hooks up with Bobo’s daughter. New Orleans appears as a happy (albeit catastrophically corrupt) multiracial city, with blacks and whites mingling to hear some jazz.

2. Anti-police. Wooed by graft, cops become killers.

1. Anti-state/anti-cronyism. Motivating much of the killing is Morel’s plan to knock down poor (presumably black) people’s housing and throw up condominiums. “This goes way up, man. We’re talkin’ ’bout Washington.”

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.

Rock DJ Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) launches upon a series of strange and frightening experiences after mysteriously receiving a goth record credited to “The Lords”. But are her ordeals real or just hallucinations? And is the elusive tenant down the hall in apartment 5 just another figment of her imagination? Meanwhile, museum curator Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) investigates what he believes may be a link between the Lords’ surprising new hit song and the local heritage of sorcery and witch burnings. Could the eccentric old ladies living in Heidi’s building be the remnants of Salem’s seventeenth century coven, and, if so, do they have plans for their young friend?

Rob Zombie’s latest horror opus, The Lords of Salem, is impressive in a number of ways. Ambitious, consistently atmospheric, and occasionally quite unsettling, the film is filled with images that will remain with those who view it. Cinematographer Brandon Trost deserves much of the credit for the veneer, somewhat tenuous, of something approximating class, which keeps the show afloat over the stinking morass of its unsavory obsessions. The special effects and art departments are equally commendable, as are the contributions of musicians Griffin Boice and John 5.

The Lords of Salem does, however, begin to overstay its welcome as it becomes increasingly apparent that the film has little or no purpose apart from cramming as much blasphemous shock value onto the screen as possible while maintaining a stylish pretension to some kind of seriousness. Still, horror fans should find much to enjoy, and may detect and appreciate the writer-director’s indebtedness to genre classics including Black Sunday, Rosemary’s BabyThe Wicker Man, and The Fly. These same fans, unfortunately, may be disappointed to learn that familiar performers like Michael Berryman, Meg Foster, Richard Lynch, Andrew Prine, and Sid Haig are squandered in worthless, unrecognizable cameos.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Lords of Salem is:

9. Media-critical. Pop culture carries the potential for mass hypnosis. Rock in this case is literally “the Devil’s music”.

8. New age. Wicca is “a positive, earth-centered religion”.

7. Multiculturalist/pro-wigger. Heidi sports ratty dreadlocks and gets along swimmingly with her non-white coworkers.

6. Pro-miscegenation. Herman “Whitey” Salvador (Jeff Daniel Phillips) – a white Hispanic, presumably – is something like Heidi’s occasional guyfriend. Matthias is married to a Latina (Maria Conchita Alonso).

5. Anti-family. Matthias, appalled at the thought of changing diapers, has never wanted children. An attendee at a drug rehabilitation support group recalls that his mother was also an addict and responsible for his own drug problem. (see also no. 3)

4. Drug-ambivalent. Hard drugs are a problem from which Heidi is still recovering, but cigarettes and liquor receive a free pass. Mrs. Matthias smokes marijuana.

3. Pro-choice. “Children are a bit of a waste.” Childbirth is more than once depicted horrifically. First a witch licks a newborn infant and spits on it, disgusted by the taste. Later scenes depict a human mother giving birth to inhuman invertebrate offspring. (see also no. 5)

2. Feminist/pro-slut/pro-castration. In the opening scene, a coven of seventeenth century Femen disrobe and disport without shame. “That felt good,” Sonny (Dee Wallace) says after braining Whitey with a pot, thus repurposing traditional women’s domestic wares into the means of gender retribution. Heidi, Zombie’s feminine ideal, is a tattooed eyesore who sleeps bare-bottomed and experiences sexual self-actualization with a goat. Her guyfriend Whitey, a sensitive nurturer, does a weenie dance to the Velvet Underground’s masochistic paean “Venus in Furs”.

1. Anti-Christian. The Lords of Salem is a veritable cavalcade of blasphemous celebration. Images likely to offend religious viewers include monstrous, masturbating clergymen, Christian objects juxtaposed with liquor, and a priest (Julian Acosta) forcing Heidi to give him a blowjob. Church is “slavery”. The Bible is “the Book of Lies”. “Our philosophy,” says rock musician Count Gorgann (Torsten Voges), who no doubt speaks for Zombie himself, “is to expose the lies of the Christian whores and Jesus the true bringer of death.” “God must die. God is the unholy pig,” he adds for those in need of further clarification on his views.

yourenextposter

Inexplicably neglected since 2011, with no wide release until now, You’re Next is not only one of the finest film surprises of 2013, but one of the greatest slasher movies ever made. Affectionately versed in its 80s genre heritage, Adam Wingard’s film is a combination slasher and downbeat, darkly comedic family melodrama, almost as if Noah Baumbach had decided to direct a horror movie.

Middle-aged couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are celebrating their wedding anniversary, for which occasion their grown children and their significant others are gathering for a celebration at their country house. Before very long, old sibling rivalries and resentments resurface, both to the family’s chagrin and the audience’s delight; but the funny display of dysfunction at dinner is disrupted when an arrow flies through a window, lodging itself in one guest’s head, and the group realizes that the house is being attacked by an unknown entity or entities. What follows is a Straw Dogs-style siege, a tour de force of storytelling, creative suspense, and invested work from an excellent cast led by Sharni Vinson as Australian heroine Erin.

You’re Next has clearly been crafted with love by people devoted to the genre, and nearly everything in the film is perfect. From delicious moments of tension to elegant use of slow motion, unexpected bits of humor, the obligatory final girl structure, and the reverent casting of genre favorite Barbara Crampton as Aubrey, this is a film by and for those who appreciate the 80s horror inheritance. The experience is further intensified by a supremely effective soundtrack of gothic noise and energizing and inhuman electronica courtesy of scorers Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee, and Kyle McKinnon. Director Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are also collaborators on The Guest, a film presently in production, so one can only hope for more morbid magic from that one whenever it gets its release.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that You’re Next is a horror which, in the grand old slasher tradition, has a pronounced sense of morality, and also indicates that it is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

11. Anti-drug. Vicodin abuse is a sure invitation to victimhood in a slasher film.

10. Anti-police. A police officer, arriving on the scene of the horror too late, gets the wrong idea of the situation in the house and makes what the audience can only view as a fatally tragic error.

9. Anti-miscegenation and anti-Arab. One of the young women is involved with a quiet (or is that aloof? – and presumably somewhat pretentious) “underground” documentary filmmaker named Tariq (Ti West), whose name (“to reek”) suggests offending armpits. These miscegenators are among the first to die. It is worthy of note, however, that this minor character seems to have been designed so as to contradict stereotypical depictions of Arabs (cf. no. 7).

8. Anti-Christian. Paul and Aubrey’s faith is formal and superficial and not shared by the younger set, who give evidence of their contempt as prayer is said at dinner.

7. Immigration-ambivalent. Erin, of tough, self-reliant Australian stock, is the sort of immigrant that the country arguably needs. Tariq’s death is undignified and will not be mourned by the audience (cf. no. 9).

6. Anti-state. The resourceful Erin, the audience learns, was raised by an extremist survivalist father in the Australian outback. Though she is somewhat embarrassed by her past, her father’s doomsday scenario teachings definitely come in handy (see also nos. 3 and 10).

5. Anti-slut. In the film’s opening scene, a couple has what is obviously loveless sex. The shameless woman then gets up and goes to a window without even bothering to cover up her semi-nudity. Naturally, this wanton specimen is the first to die. Goth girl Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a far worse degenerate and demands to have sex next to her boyfriend’s mother’s corpse.

4. Anti-weenie. Generation X/Y men are worthless and incapable of defending themselves.  Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a spoiled brat and philistine, and one senses that devious brothers Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Crispian (AJ Bowen), apart from being motivated by the fortune they stand to gain (see no. 2), are haunted by a sense of having been insufficiently nurtured as children. Both devoid of anything resembling a work ethic, neither man has the taste for doing his own dirty work. Crispian is a struggling writer who fails to meet with his father’s approval and has probably grown a beard partly to cover up his pudgy features, but also so as to seem to be more of a man, which may also explain his lame tattoo (cf. no. 1). The relativistic hypocrisy of the neutered liberal American male is also spotlighted when Crispian, after having his family slaughtered, actually claims to be a pacifist. (For more on Generation X/Y, see Creep Van)

3. Antiwar. Just as, in the years during and after the Vietnam war, movies exploited the phenomenon of psychologically scarred and dehumanized veterans taking the terror of foreign conflict back to the streets of America in Motor Psycho, Forced Entry, Rolling Thunder, First Blood, Combat Shock, and others in this vein, a wave of films including recent entries Savages, Jack Reacher, and You’re Next has emerged to continue this simultaneously salacious and critical tradition. In You’re Next, a team of coldblooded mercenaries, probably veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, have been hired to exterminate most of the family for the father’s fortune. Mild-mannered “fascist” Paul, who acquired his wealth as a public relations shill for a defense contractor, has surely guaranteed for himself a painful demise in the unforgiving moral universe of You’re Next.

2. Anti-family/anti-marriage. A wedding anniversary is the occasion of a massacre. Parents Paul and Aubrey are self-absorbed, faintly distant, and perhaps inconsistently affectionate with their children. Felix, along with girlfriend Zee and brother Crispian, plot murder against their parents and brother Drake. The man murdered in the film’s opening scene has, it is later revealed, left his wife for a college girl.

1. Feminist. Erin is forced to lead the home defense and proves to be quite the adept at forging makeshift MacGyver-style weaponry. Of interest is that she uses kitchen wares, the trappings of traditional woman’s work, for violent self-assertion (cf. Vile). Also interesting, though, is that Erin makes a kitchen blunder that might, were she not the final girl, actually have cost her her life. Imagining she has flung boiling water on adversary Felix, she forgets that she earlier turned off the heat. “The water’s not even hot, you dumb bitch,” Felix tells her. Erin, however, quickly recovers and handily dispatches this sexist swine (with his insensitive expectation that women ought to know how to cook) with a triumph of poetic justice, taking advantage of a blender’s exposed mechanism to give him a gruesome homemade lobotomy. Zee, in a parallel characterization, is more ambitiously wicked and assertive in her villainy than wimpy co-conspirator Felix.

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