Archives for posts with tag: The Simpsons

Katherine

Katherine aka The Radical (1975) ****

Originally broadcast on television, this worthwhile film asks how a rich college girl from a respectable family could grow to so hate the society that has given her every advantage that she winds up as a bitter domestic terrorist and founding member of the murderous Weathermen Underground.  A pre-Carrie Sissy Spacek stars as the title character, with an unusually energetic Henry Winkler playing her quirky lover and fellow subversive.  To its credit, the film stops short of glorifying revolution, but it does humanize the aspirants in giving a glimpse into their experiences and motivations.  Balancing this, however, is the sympathetic portrayal of Katherine’s conservative parents (Art Carney and Jane Wyatt), who disapprove of their daughter’s decisions but love her and only want to help.  Rounding out the cast is Julie Kavner, future voice of Marge Simpson, as one of Katherine’s college friends whose life follows an entirely different course.  Some of the music is poor, but the film is recommended to anyone interested in the young stars or the radical politics of the period.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

KGB Connections

The KGB Connections (1982) ****1/2

Before Michael Moore and reality television programs popularized the obnoxious, attention-grasping gonzo approach, the documentary used to be a consistently fascinating and dignified form of filmmaking. Thankfully, The KGB Connections, an old-school black-and-white CBC documentary, hails from the days when stark truth was all that was necessary to hold the viewer’s attention. Consisting largely of interviews with CIA men and defectors from communist intelligence services, the film exposes shocking breaches of national security by the KGB, which utilized diplomatic missions (particularly the UN, described as a “nest of spies”) and “illegals”, spies smuggled into the country under false identities, to increasingly undermine U.S. interests throughout the sixties and seventies and into its last decade of existence.  If the film is to be believed, the Soviets even had the ability to monitor the phone calls at the White House and the Pentagon using harmless-looking antennae mounted on their consulate buildings.

The most amusing interviewee is easily Hedda Massing, who during the 1930s was one of the Soviet Union’s most distinguished recruiters of influential American citizens.  Massing and former communist Nathaniel Weyl dish the dirt on traitors Laurence Duggan, Noel Field, and Alger Hiss.  Also of interest is KGB proxy activity through Cuban intelligence and the recruitment and training of young American terrorists like the Weathermen.  There is a spareness to The KGB Connections that will probably not appeal to those with short attention spans, but history buffs and the politically aware will want to take the time to digest its abundance of information.  The unsettling electronic musical stings that introduce the different segments do much to enhance the film’s real eeriness.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Maximum Overdrive (1986) ****  Maximum Overdrive is a unique movie in that it was not only written but actually directed by author Stephen King; and, while it may have met with a less than glowing reception from critics and is not the best of the many films of the 1980s to have been inspired by the author’s work, subsequent viewings of Maximum Overdrive can reveal much more to appreciate and consider than might at first be obvious in its tale of a hostile planetary takeover by cars, trucks, radios, and other previously harmless electronic wares.

Even on the first viewing, Maximum Overdrive is a fun, somewhat silly and random speculative adventure, and perhaps a broad satire of man’s fear of technology as a potential Frankenstein’s monster that might turn against him; but further reflection concedes that King is up to more than one might at first imagine. To wit, the whole film can be seen as a commentary on the military-industrial complex and how it and war are driven and validated by America’s consumerism and debilitating reliance on labor-saving devices.

In one scene, a shady-looking young black man (Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito) appears to be seduced and hypnotized by an arcade game that flashes a series of abstract symbols at him: a star, zig-zags (like the stripes on an officer’s sleeve), and a plus sign (cross), indicating how religion and the media dupe young men into mindless stupors to make them subservient to the state and recruit them for the respectable but deceptive video game violence of military service. Christianity receives abuse throughout Maximum Overdrive, particularly through the person of a tawdry, cartoonishly hypocritical Bible salesman (Christopher Murney).

A little military wagon with a mounted machine gun appears as the director of the trucks at one point and leads them in the siege of the filling station, Gas World, a sequence that may seem somewhat dull or inconsequential on the first viewing, but which takes on greater significance as it becomes apparent that this, the need for fuel to power the trucks that deliver our consumer goods, is too often what drives the lust for conquest on this planet.  A blurb at the end credits aliens for the events of the film; but substitute the Bilderberg Group for the aliens and the story of their plot to exterminate the population of Earth with their commandeered “broom” of man’s own technological creation is straight out of Alex Jones’s worst nightmare.

Maximum Overdrive does have its failings.  After a wildly entertaining first forty or forty-five minutes, full of distinctive action set pieces, disgusting humor, and sight gags, the film slumps into a decrescendo and slows as the ensemble cast, headed by young Emilio Estevez (between That Was Then . . . This Is Now and Wisdom) and his tough romantic interest Laura Harrington, take refuge in Gas World’s diner, the Dixie Boy, where they will stay for the remainder of the story.  Enlivening the proceedings throughout, however, are a soundtrack of appropriately electric AC/DC tunes and a colorful set of character actors in the supporting roles.  Apart from the aforementioned Murney, Pat Hingle is nicely slimy as crooked, self-satisfied Dixie Boy proprietor Bubba Hendershot; and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) and John Short provide even greater comic relief as hick newlyweds Connie and Curtis.

The climactic action sequences, when these finally come, fall short of fulfilling the stunt-packed promise of the zany exposition, a few huge explosions notwithstanding, so that Maximum Overdrive is ultimately a flawed near-classic but still recommendable for watching and occasional rewatching.  Stephen King is commended by Ideological Content Analysis with a respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

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