Archives for posts with tag: technology-skeptical

Circle

Feminist diversity cheerleader and global elitist Emma Watson stars in the near-future technological cautionary tale The Circle as Mae Holland, who goes to work for a Google- or Facebook- or Microsoft-like tech giant headed by the deceptively down-to-earth Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and finds it an altogether more sinister affair than the mere professional advancement she had expected. The film is more satire than suspense, its nightmare scenario of a progressive social media company assuming the de facto function of government being too close to today’s reality to do much to shock the audience. Watson is, as always, pleasantly watchable, and colorful little character parts are nicely drawn by the supporting cast, which includes Karen Gillan, Bill Paxton, Glenne Headly, and an understated Patton Oswalt.

Three out of five stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Circle is:

3. AltMedia-skeptical. After a character dies onscreen, an anonymous social media poster claims that the death was faked – a critique of the trend for alienated and insular internet-dwellers to assume the use of crisis actors in any significant event.

2. Luddite! People behave better when they are being watched, the Circle determines, and “Secrets are lies” becomes its mantra. In addition to its Orwellian scenario, the movie is critical of people’s reliance on social media for interacting with their fellow humans. In one scene, Mae suggests to her old friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) that he should text her later to arrange a time when they can meet. He points out that they could just do that now, while they are face to face, which puzzles her. “I’ve never been touched by someone who loves me,” an anonymous commenter confesses, illuminating the alienation and cost in terms of real-life social capital that the internet represents for some users. A social media clusterfuck later leads to one character’s demise. Qualifying the criticism, however, director James Ponsoldt claims in one of the Blu-ray features that the megacorporation at least “means well”.

1.Anti-White. Mae (of course!) finds herself drawn to a hyper-intelligent black computer genius named Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), who (of course!) is the actual inventor of the innovation that has made the Circle so powerful. Perhaps unintentionally, however, the filmmakers’ attempt to create a seamlessly multiracial milieu contributes to the movie’s sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, with annoyingly intrusive Circle zealots Smith Cho and Amir Talai being noteworthy in this regard. In addition, there appears to be a reference to much of the anti-white power elite’s antinatalism when one character observes that, “No one at the Circle has kids.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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cabin-fever-poster

This pointless reboot of the Cabin Fever franchise serves no purpose whatsoever apart from making a few cruddy shekels, as very little of value has changed since the original. Furthermore, most of the offbeat humor that was present in the first film is disappointingly missing from this comparatively straight-faced and innocuous remake. Most disappointingly, Deputy Winston, the inscrutable party guy played by Giuseppe Andrews in the 2002 version has been replaced by a scar-faced bisexual deputy played by Louise Linton. Curiously, like the first film, Cabin Fever ’16 also fails to exploit the comedic potential latent in the suggested premise of whether or not a character could survive a horror movie while only subsisting on beer. The leg-shaving scene is perhaps more horrific than in Eli Roth’s original; but, throw in a generic cast and some unappealing tattoos on one of the women, and what the viewer has is a passable but decidedly underachieving horror outing.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cabin Fever is:

4. Luddite! One vacationer mistakes his video game experience for “years of training” for the handling of a firearm. Karen (Gage Golightly), preoccupied by her cell phone, has to be reminded to enjoy the outdoors.

3. Anti-gay, furnishing publicity for an abnormal lifestyle but presenting a comically grotesque example of a lesbian in law enforcement.

2. Anti-redneck (i.e., anti-white), offering the typically creepy depictions of backwoods European-Americans. The film fails to reference any other races’ parasitic roles in the world economy, but does refer to “hillbilly vampires”. One rustic local is dubbed “Deliverance”. A faded American flag visible at the rednecks’ dilapidated gas station would seem to connect white trash with the idea of America’s decline – possibly in connection with supposed wars for oil.

1. Anti-gun. Bert (Dustin Ingram), the least mature of the vacationers, brings an “assault rifle” and accidentally shoots a man.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

antisocial poster

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

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

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

4 out of 5 stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Antisocial is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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canyons poster

Paul Schrader (Hardcore; Cat People) delivers a characteristically decadent study with this, his eighteenth film as a director. Scripted by Bret Easton Ellis of Less Than Zero and American Psycho fame, The Canyons is at once tawdry, elegant, and meanspirited, and one of the most notable films of the year.

An extremely frank narrative revolves around repulsively spoiled trust fund wastrel Christian (James Deen), who whiles away his days corrupting the people around him and manipulating them like so many toys. So as to satisfy his father that he has an occupation, he dabbles in movies as a producer, which brings him into indifferent contact with handsome, aspiring actor Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk). Christian professes to like to keep his openly open marriage with slut wife Tara (Lindsay Lohan) comfortably “loose” and “complicated”, but finds more complication than he probably desires when he discovers that seemingly wholesome Ryan has a previous history with Tara.

A constant doom hangs over The Canyons, its title both geographically and thematically descriptive of this sun-baked but gloomy experience. Punctuating the film are images of the empty marquees and ruined interiors of once-glorious, now abandoned movie theaters serving at once as commentary on an industry and on the characters’ inner desolation. Hollywood’s stories about itself, from Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place, and The Bad and the Beautiful through Day of the Locust, The Player, and Hollywoodland, have tended to be downbeat affairs, and The Canyons continues in that tradition – less gothically or spectacularly, perhaps, than the more grotesque entries in the genre, but no less despairing by any measure.

Classy in execution if totally tacky in subject matter, The Canyons is well worth seeking out. James Deen is perfectly detestable as Christian, Nolan Funk’s male beauty is appropriately vapid, and luscious but fading Lindsay Lohan is exquisitely cast as jaded but sympathetic hussy Tara.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Canyons is:

5. Anti-drug. “Why are you drinking tequila at noon?” The danger of date rape drugs receives mention.

4. Anti-gay. Homosexuality appears as a predatory symptom of personal and cultural decadence.

3. Class-conscious. Inherited, unearned wealth like Christian’s gives rise to degeneracy and arrogance.

2. Technology-skeptical. Y appears as a generation rotten in inception and already gone to seed, at once precocious and empty-headed, and incapable of conversing over drinks without texting or sexting simultaneously. One suspects that Schrader holds handheld and streaming technology to be at least partly to blame for the murder of those stately old movie houses. Technology, too, has contributed to these young ones’ flippancy with regard to sexual morality. “Nobody has a private life anymore” and “We’re all actors, aren’t we?” Identity theft also looms as a threat in the world of online everything.

1. Crypto-traditionalist/anti-slut. For all its blatant depravity, male frontal nudity, and other marks of deceptively casual nihilism, The Canyons views its characters through a detached but quietly tragic, judgmental, and conservative lens. “I’m just sick of the old school shit about fuckin’ propriety, etiquette, and all that crap [. . .] It’s like when you’re at your family dinner on Sunday and everyone’s just lying, lying . . .” Christian explains – and he and his peers suffer to the degree that they deviate from the outmoded norms. Christian’s name speaks for itself as a sarcastic commentary on an utterly godless generation given to hedonistic materialism and soulless egoism. The only thing missing from The Canyons is the compounded case of venereal pestilence these little horrors would (hopefully) catch if they lived as depicted for very long.

The-Internship-movie-poster

Wedding Crashers costars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in The Internship, adequate underdog comedy fare that plays it safe and superficial, never deviating from genre conventions, and gives audiences exactly what the trailer has led them to expect. Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, wristwatch salesmen who, finding themselves the latest casualties of modernization, apply for a competitive Google internship in the long-shot hope of employment.

The protagonists’ plight will be an uncomfortably poignant one to endangered data entry workers, Blockbuster Video clerks, and all of the other expendable relics of the late twentieth century, along with that general portion of the audience comprising the rear guard of the technologically squeamish. There is an irony to the early scene in which Nick and Billy cavalierly order a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, as they themselves, like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, are suddenly made conscious of the fact that the world they knew until now is gone. After being dismissed as dinosaurs by their younger and more brilliant rivals, however, the pair finds that their age and experiences lend them a skill set and a valuable difference of perspective, a reconciliation that finds expression in the image of a tyrannosaurus skeleton wearing Groucho glasses.

Nick and Billy’s obligatory (and unlikely) comeback notwithstanding, the film offers little hope to those still haunted by the words of former employer Sammy (John Goodman) when he tells them, “Everything’s computerized now. [. . .] They don’t need us anymore.” Then, too, there is one cynical young intern’s assertion that, “The whole American Dream thing that you guys grew up on – that’s all it is nowadays – a dream.”

Vaughn and Wilson make a great comedy team, and the supporting cast, from John Goodman to Josh Brener, Will Ferrell, and the delightfully arch Aasif Mandvi, greatly enlivens an uneven script by Vaughn and Jared Stern. The Internship is funny, if not, perhaps, as consistently hilarious as one might hope; but the pacing is impeccable, so that the movie is never in danger of grating on the viewer’s patience – even if that same viewer’s sense of the decent is in for a thrashing.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Internship is:

13. Statist. The eccentric Yo-Yo’s (Tobit Raphael) traumatic homeschooling serves implicitly to endorse the public education system (cf. The Bling Ring).

12. Feminism-ambivalent. Dana (Rose Byrne) admits that her single-minded careerism has prevented her from having a happy and normal domestic existence. Her solution, however, is not to quit her job and raise a family, but to begin an affair with a new coworker. (cf. The Heat)

11. Pro-gay. “Seriously, same-sex partners make excellent parents,” Neha (Tiya Sircar) gushes. “I so wish my parents were gay.” Strippers engage in lesbian play. Anal sex is a “life changer”.

10. Pro-miscegenation. The sight of curvaceous black booty gets an obnoxious mattress salesman (Will Ferrell) hot to trot. Asian guy Yo-Yo, meanwhile, receives serial lap dances from one or more white strippers. There is also flirtation between Indian Neha and white guy Stuart (Dylan O’Brien).

9. Pro-wigger. Lyle (Josh Brener) appropriates ‘hood lingo throughout. “Hells yeah,” fist-bumping, etc.

8. Anti-Luddite. Things are getting better all the time. One suspects that Nick (Wilson), after finally landing a job with Google, would retract his earlier words of despair: “People have a deep mistrust of machines. Have you seen Terminator? Or 2? Or 3? Or 4?” (cf. no. 7)

7. Technology-skeptical. Despite its basic endorsement of innovation, The Internship does imply critiques of what gadgetry and the internet have done to human interaction. “People hate people,” Sammy observes, and post-adolescent representatives of Generation Y exhibit social dysfunction ranging from crippling shyness to barely human rudeness and lack of any shame whatsoever in the discussion of matters best left private. Neha, like many of her generation, fetishizes Japanese pop-cultural garbage and says she enjoys cosplay (dressing up like anime characters). (cf. no. 8)

6. Pro-slut. Dana sleeps with Nick on the night of their first date.

5. Pro-drug. Billy (Vaughn) unwisely suggests he would be happy to have a “cold one” or “get high” with the severe Mr. Chetty (Mandvi). He also expresses a willingness to procure alcohol for underage co-interns. Students have the best night of their lives getting drunk and raising a ruckus at a strip club. The film does, however, at least discourage drunk driving and warns against overzealous imbibing (“I think my liver hurts”).

4. Anti-family/anti-marriage. Old client Bob (Gary Anthony Williams) has an ugly daughter who Nick and Billy have to pretend is pretty. Yo-Yo’s father (Fel Tengoncion) is a henpecked husband. His mother (Chuti Tiu) was overly protective, breastfeeding him until he was seven. She also mentally and physically abuses him, which has made Yo-Yo overly harsh on himself, so that he feels he must punish himself for “inferior performance”. “My mom calls me a maniac every night when I tell her I love her,” he says. (cf. no. 11)

3. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration. “Diversity is in our DNA,” Lyle says of his company. Intellectually bright non-whites appear in depressing abundance as juxtaposed with dopey white guys Nick and Billy. Anti-American zillionaire and ethnosaboteur Mark Zuckerburg will probably get misty-eyed when he watches The Internship‘s depictions of all the technologically adept diversity awaiting the country as soon as “immigration reform” is passed.

2. Progressive. Google is “an engine for change”.

1. Corporate. The Internship is essentially a feature-length Google commercial.

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