Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Tale of Two Liberals

I'd like to contrast two videos which talk about how John Oliver criticized Green Party candidate Jill Stein's platform on last week's Last Week Tonight segment on 3rd party candidates, and if you haven't watched the segment, I highly suggest that you do in order to understand the arguments both folks are saying. (watch here). The main arguments that Mike from The Humanist Report and current whipping boy for this site Jimmy Dore are making is that Oliver's piece was shameless propaganda to make the audience vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election. Now while I disagree with both gentlemen about how to take Oliver's skit, I'm highlighting how both guys go about deconstructing the British comedian's claims. The first video from the host of THR breaks it down point by point and explains why he has this opinion.

Again, I may not agree with the overall viewpoint, but I enjoyed watching his take because the host didn't resort to acting like some loudmouthed jerk to argue his observations and his opinions, and I felt like, at the very least, I gained a new perspective from watching that I, otherwise, never would have gotten about his admiration for Mrs. Stein. Now allow me to show you the inverse of Mike's mostly even-tone argument against Oliver's segment with Dore's argument, which, if you've read the last two posts on this guy, you get why I don't like him very much.

I don't have to necessarily agree with with one's point of view, but I'm more inclined to listen to it and engage in a debate with Mike, than I would with a screaming, loudmouthed, obnoxious jackass like Dore is. And that's really my overall issue with the guy: I can't stand the yelling; I can't stand how he dismisses just about everyone who dares hold a different perspective than he does, especially when it comes to people on our side of the aisle, You're not winning over folks when you call everyone else a sellout, a corporatist, or just telling everyone to get stuffed if they aren't on the same level as you are, dude. It's also important to note that John Oliver has, over three seasons, used his format to discuss drone strikes, torture, government surveillancepolice brutality and income inequality, as well as various topics in our politics and culture. Oh, and here's this interesting tidbit I found out while researching for this latest rant: Oliver has full creative control on the content which airs on his show, including the freedom to go after corporations.

Did you miss all of that, Jimmy? Did you?

Of course you did, because we can't let a pesky think like facts get in the way of smearing a comedian for having the audacity of taking a closer look at Saint Jill Stein's policy platforms....right, Jimmy? I mean, God forbid that someone like me catches and calls you out on your bullshit!

Friday, October 21, 2016

This Is Why I Don't Completely Miss My High School Days

WARNING!!!! This review will contain spoilers regarding the show's twist ending, as well as most of the plot. You have been warned.

I'm exhausted with the last few posts where I went political, so here's me taking a break from all that shit and making another venture into the land of the small screen. Unfortunately, I'm not recommending about a good show - no, this is me ranting about one of the worst Anime programs I've ever encountered in the form of School Days, a romantic drama/teen soap opera in cartoon form. Yes: in addition to film and TV, I like the realm of Japanese Animation, primary because of the various sub-genres and avenues it covers, from science fiction/dystopian settings like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Outlaw Star, to slice-of-life comedies/harems such as Tenchi Muyo! and Love Hina. There's a genre for every sort of taste, and it's interesting to dive in and see what's there. However, in the case of School Days, it's a trip that will infuriate and frustrate the viewer to the bloody end.

On the surface, School Days starts off like your typical high school romance movie: our lead character Makoto Ito has fallen head over heels for the soft-spoken Kotonoha Katsura, only he's too shy to muster the courage to tell her how he feels about her. Makoto's tomboy, no-nonsense friend Sekai Saioniji takes matters into her own hands by befriending his crush and playing matchmaker between the two parties. Kotonoha agrees to give Makoto a shot and they go on a date, only for it to end badly due to the latter making unwanted advances, thus making the former uncomfortable around her. Thanks to a scolding by Sekai, telling him the way he went about trying to woo his date the wrong way and to consider her feelings, Matoko persuades Kotonoha to give him another chance, which she does. Sekai's advice takes, and because she believes him to be sincere, she gives our hormonally driven, but earnest lad a kiss on the lips, thus cementing their relationship status as an item, She invites his new boyfriend over to her house for a date later on, only to wind up babysitting Kotonoha's sister for the duration of the date.

So far, this seems like your mull-of-the-road courtship, right? Here's where we start going off the rails: Matoko calls up Sekai to tell her about the date, which can be summed up in his own words: "Dating Kotonoha is...tiring." I should probably tell you right now, because the rest of the plot won't make sense if I don't (not that it does in this series): School Days is meant to be a deconstruction of the harem romance genre where one hapless lad ends up romantically linked to two or more women, who, at the end, wind up confessing their love to said hapless lad and/or being his lover. I like the idea of turning the genre on its head to show us what's left once we peel away what's on the surface (see David Fincher's Gone Girl, the sci-fi crime drama Psycho-Pass and Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen), but if you're going to play the deconstruction card, the characters need to be developed (or at the very least recognizable by the character tropes confined within the genre) and/or likable in order to throw the world topsy turvy, and this is where the story and its execution goes seriously wrong.

Seemingly bored by Kotonoha and her unwillingness to put out for him, Makoto instead becomes romantically linked to his best friend, Sekai, who suggests that she and him have "special sessions" in order to get Kotonoha in the mood for knocking boots. Really - I'm not joking: The pair fondle and engage in heavy petting on top of the school roof as Makoto's girlfriend begins to worry about why the former has acted so distant towards her. If you think Makoto's actions made him into a jerk now, it only get worse as the series progresses. Kotonoha invites his boyfriend, as well as her other classmates to a water park, in the hopes of re-igniting the spark in their relationship; she even begins to show more suggestive attention toward Makoto, which only makes her boyfriend more uninterested and distant towards her, in addition to making him lust over Sekai further, despite her constantly telling him that they are just to be friends and nothing more. Eventually, both Sekai and Mokoto exchange their feelings for one another, along with body parts, and end up fucking each other. You can see why I don't like this show thus far, right?

Days pass since their lovemaking/backstabbing, and Sekai's guilty conscious begins to grow. She tells Makoto he needs to stop leading his girlfriend on before she catches them cheating and end the relationship before they can continue further. The cheating bastard doesn't, and Makoto continues to lead her on, as if there's nothing wrong between them! There are various reasons why I hate this anime, and right near the top is the atrocious characterization of Makoto and Sekai. To put it very bluntly: Makoto is one of the most uncaring, un-likable, selfish and just plain deplorable fictional characters I've ever come across. I get he's supposed to be this horny stereotypical teenagers (a la Jim, Stiffler and/or Oz from the American Pie movies), but those characters evolved and grew over the course of four films. Makoto constantly uses the gullible and forgiving nature of Kotonoha to continue to act like a cheating scumbag as he winds up two-timing both his first girlfriend and Sekai for her friends, Otome, Hikari, and any one first-year female who, inexplicably, ends up sleeping with Makoto. Again, I could at the very least, get past some of his behavior if the character began to have any sort of remorse or felt awful for what he's been doing, but he doesn't show it, and he never feel much guilt for letting his dick get the better of him until near the end, where his screwing around (sans condom, no less!) gets one of his schoolmates seemingly knocked up and the rest of the female population shunning him, *as well as getting themselves tested for STD's . It isn't until he sees a mentally broken Kotonoha that he begins to see the error of his ways, but by then, he's too much of an irredeemable prick for us to care for him. (*emphasis mine, of course)

Sekai isn't much better, to be honest.While she does tell him several times to keep it in his pants when it comes to Kotonoha, as well as to stop hitting on her so blatantly, and despite the fact she does tell him to break it off with his girlfriend to put her mind at ease, it's still hard for me to feel for her when she's as much in the wrong as Makoto. Her case for being a victim goes out the window once she lies about carrying the bastard's child and being shunned by Makoto completely, telling her it's not his problem and to go get rid of it (do you see why I hate this little shit so much?) as a way to keep him from going back to the now mentally unstable Kotonoha. How do you keep you man from staying too far? Why, you grab a chef's knife and stab your lover to death with it, of course! No joke - the final act of this tragedy becomes a bizarre mix of macabre and sleazy exploitation, but I'll come back to this part later on.

The one character the audience does have some sort of sympathy for is Kotonoha Katsura. She is this sweet, kind and caring figure, and yet this character is mostly written as a doormat, as she is constantly bullied by her peers in club activities, in addition to being mentally abused by her prick of a boyfriend. At one point, and as her fears of Makoto losing interest in her deepens, she buys him two cell phones - one for him, one for her, as a means to keep him close. He responds by eventually deletes her from his contacts and blocks her cell phone number though help of Sekai's most trusted confidant, Setsuna - again, what a fucking dickbag! The one time she grows a spine in this series is when she confronts her former friend, slaps her in the face, and then begs; no, pleads, that she stay away from her boyfriend. Driven further into denial, she is promised by Makoto that they'll share a dance, which never happens, as he ends up dancing with Sekai. Whilst the two end up dancing the night away, the poor girl ends up being stalked by Makoto's only male friend, Daiskue......who rapes her. They added a rape scene as the breaking point for Kotonoha to have her mental breakdown. Again, I've seen plenty of nasty things both in film and on TV, and this has to rank as one of the most shameless, vile and deplorable acts ever to put to celluloid; yet still, it somehow manages to get worse from there.

As you may or may not have noticed, the anime has many big events which, for the most part, act as a plot device to move the story forward even when it doesn't make sense in the context of the story. For example, the rape scene: the character of Daiskue can be boiled down to outright pervert: he constantly thinks about wanting to have sex and he pesters Matoko about reaching the stairway to adulthood. Even when he attempts to hit on Kotonoha in earlier pats of the show before the sexual assault, there's nothing to suggest he would force himself onto another woman. When he does force himself onto Matoko's girlfriend, the result feels like an out-of left field play, in addition to reaching the point of no return in being utterly reprehensible. Let's also take the resting room revelations that come to light. Apparently, the bitchy mean girls on the festival committee set up a camera to catch all the students get hot and heavy in a make-out room. Why did they do this? 'Who cares - they're a bunch of vicious cunts and that's what they do!' is something I can hear the writers of this garbage yelling during script sessions. By sheer coincidence, Makoto and Otome are caught doing the deed, much to the horror of Sekai watching the footage. Or how about when Setsuna takes advantage of a passed out Makoto and starts making out with him, only to be caught by Kotonoha. Her reasoning for doing what she does is explained in a flashback where Makoto finds her alone and crying over being bullied for her small stature, and shows her kindness by saying she's tough and should run for Student Committee; and while her motivation in that scene does make sense, the fact Makoto's girlfriend just happened to walk in on that moment feels forced. All these plot points happen because the story requires these chance situations to occur, rather than being apart of it. To quote Mathew Buck of Channel Awesome, these things happen "because the plot says so!"

Which brings us to the final third act of this dreadful story, where Kotonoha texts Sekai to meet her on the roof of the school building. There, she confronts her former friend and rival over the latter lying about her supposed pregnancy - how she knows this was a lie is anyone's guess at this point and makes her open a duffel bag containing the severed head of Matoko. Kotonoha then reveals she has a dozuki saw in her hand, which she uses to slit Sekai's throat, causing her to bleed out and die, as revenge for her killing Makoto Yes, you're reading all of this correctly: Kotonoha, the sweet, innocent girl from the beginning of the series, sawed off Matoko's head from his lifeless corpse, threw into a duffel bag and went into a murderous rampage. And as if that act wasn't disturbing or brutal enough, the sequence goes one further and, I shit you not, has her cutting open her stomach and uterus to see if her suspicion that Sekai's pregnancy act was bogus, which it was. The whole act itself is so bizarre that it feels like I've stumbled into a double billing of a Nicholas Winding Refn/Quentin Tarantino film, and not in a good way.

I'll keep this brief: watching School Days was a dreadful, joyless experience, one that I haven't encountered since my very first review of That's My Boy. The characters are mostly shallow idiots who lie, hurt and betray each other at random and the overall flow of the story just feels like one big plot point after another. Makoto is right up there with Bella Swan of Twilight in being an infuriating, careless and all-around awful character ever created for any entertainment medium, and Sekai ends up being just as selfish and cruel as her lover. Kotonoha does have a believable arc, but I hated how her characterization is being an abused victim by her peers, both in mental and sexual ways. All of this cultivates in a twist ending that's shocking, but not in the way the people who made this show wanted: instead of being a dark and twisted macabre tragedy of star-crossed lovers, the result is a cheap and grossly disturbing ending which borders on absurdly ludicrous at best and exploitative at worst. It's a show where even fine ideas can be undone by bad character writing and even poor storytelling.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Enough is Enough!

For the past year, Donald Trump has gone out of his way to offend anyone and everyone in his path in his quest to obtain the White House.

Donald Trump has insulted and dismissed John McCain, a celebrated and decorated Vietnam War veteran, claiming that being captured didn't make him a hero.

Donald Trump made fun of a disabled journalist while the cameras were rolling.

Donald Trump openly accused a judge of Hispanic decent of bias due to his heritage. That judge was hearing a lawsuit against Trump's latest scam, Trump University.

Donald Trump accused Ted Cruz's father of conspiring to kill JFK during a primary debate. There is no evidence of this claim being true.

Donald Trump attacked Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, two Gold Star parents who lost their son, Humayan, an Army Captain, serving his country. The patriarch spoke at the Democratic National Convention and attacked Trump for his his hateful attitude towards Muslim-Americans.

Donald Trump attacked Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe winner, by criticizing her weight and calling her "Ms. Housekeeping" because she was Latina.

Donald Trump had referred to Mexican-American immigrants, on camera, as "rapists" and "drug-dealers".

Donald Trump has called for a ban from letting Muslims -- an entire religion of 1.6 billion people -- from entering the United States, along with calling for a database to monitor Syrian refugees & mosques, as well learn whether or not those refugees hold ties to the Islamic State.

This man has highlighted his xenophobia, his racism and his misogyny, as well as incite political violence at his rallies time after time during this unique and deeply embarrassing campaign season and each time Trump says something lurid and crass, it has surprisingly been brushed aside.

Until Friday.

Donald Trump, on a hot mic, made an admission that he can make unwanted advances on a woman; that he could kiss, fondle, violate, a woman if he wanted to and get away with it because he's a star and, in his own words, "they let you do it." For months, I've heard him say gross things, engage in dog-whistle racial politics and display his shocking ignorance on national security issues, from dissolving NATO, to letting countries build nukes, so Trump's vile and degrading comments towards wanting to have sex with a married woman and speaking about a woman like a overgrown frat-boy douchebag doesn't surprise me, but there are a few aspects that make this latest outrage even more disturbing.

First, it's how he and then-host of Access Hollywood Billy Bush talked about Nancy O'Dell -- Bush's colleague at the time.
"I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture and I told her 'I'll show you where you can get some nice furniture...I moved on her like a bitch, and I could not get there, and she was married. And all the sudden I see her and she's got the big phony tits, she's totally changed her look." 

Trump talks like O'Dell isn't even a person, but something for him to play with so he can get his jollies off, then discard when he's done. (Side note: who the hell tries to get a woman to sleep with them by taking her to buy a couch?!) It's even more creepy when you take into account that Trump was, by this time, ha just married his third and current wife, Melania. Despite that inconvenience to Trump, it didn't stop him from trying to hit on O'Dell, as he made it a point of reference.
"I moved on her actually, she was down in Palm Beach and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try to fuck her, she was married … and I moved on her very heavily..."
And then, there's the whopper that's been played ad nauseum on every cable news network for the past 48 hours.
"I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab 'em by the pussy."
This time, Trump is referring to Arianne Zucker, a soap opera actress, but the language used remains the same: referring to her as "it", as if she's not a person, but a thing. The comments themselves reveal what we already knew about Donald Trump, but it's the apology, or lack thereof, of one, that is really disturbing to me:
This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course -- not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.
First: I've been around my guy friends. I've heard guys talk about girls, and I've been apart of the chatter. I have never, in my life, heard any guy talk like a sexual predator, nor have I ever spoken to a woman in such a manner. Second: There's no proof, no audio tape, no hot mic incident, that could back up Trump's claim, and given that he's falsely accused Machado of having a sex tape and Secretary Clinton of stepping out on her husband, his word is useless. Lastly: Donald Trump isn't sorry about this. He isn't sorry for trying to come on to a married woman & he isn't sorry for speaking like a predator. He's just sorry he got caught on mic for being the way he is. How do I know this? because if you're trying to express remorse for one's actions, the word "if" doesn't appear in your statement, and neither does the word "was". Of course people were offended - I'm offended that you, Mr. Trump, honestly believe that all guys like me are like you and behave in such a crude, despicable manner!

But the worst aspect of this story, by far, has been the defense of Trump's demeanor and language towards these women. From pundits pivoting to bring up how much worse Bill Clinton was to Scott Baio and Rudy Guiliani claiming that this is just locker room talk and that all guys speak like this when the women aren't around, it is utterly revolting that every time this man -- no, I'm not going to call Trump a man, that would be an insult to decent men everywhere -- that this spoiled 13 year-old little boy in adult form has been defended every time he makes a nasty sexist comment, every time he displays his ignorance on international issues, every time he utters some blatant dog-whistle racial remark, the Republican party has tried to normalize the individual that we see today.

This isn't normal. 

Befriending white supremacists shouldn't be normalized.

Making Mexican and Muslim immigrants feel frightened for their very being for the sake of catering to racist white Americas and the Tea Party types shouldn't be normalized.

Casually treating women as if they're merely eye candy and degrading them shouldn't be normalized.

Sexual assault shouldn't be normalized.

This cannot be who we are: a nation that says all the things I've mentioned above are totally acceptable in a modern society, because they're not. That's the risk we have taken just by merely having this narcissistic, privileged sociopath representing our values, our ideals and our beliefs as Americans. We all should be horrified that this walking, talking buffoon with cash has gotten to the level that's he's gotten, and we all need to tell him what he's told countless contestants on his own show:

You're fired!!!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Let's Hope So

Save for the third installment of the Resident Evil series, Extinction, I've never been a fan of these movies about zombie mayhem, bullets, blades and bad acting (and yes, I've seen all of them, from first to recent.). Sure, the series has its moments where I can watch 'em, ignore the inconsistent storyline and have some fun with it, but I could never fully appreciate it as a guilty pleasure.. However, I am a fan of Milla Jovovitch because she's an action star that can hold her weight with the Stallone's, the Schwartzenegger's, the Statham's of bad-ass action heroes and be totally nonchalant about it. So, of course, there's a new trailer for the latest RE movie, dubbed The Final Chapter, where Alice, now re-bonded with the T-virus that gives her superhuman powers (it's best not to ask why the Umberalla Corp. does this after taking them from her in the fourth installment of the series, Afterlife), goes back to Raccoon City, the epicenter of where the virus began, to destroy Umbrella and the hordes of undead they unintentionally created. I'll just say this: anyone who uses Guns N' Roses "Paradise City" this well and makes the song even more bad-ass than it already is has my full attention, but please, Sony: when your marketing campaign says it's the final chapter, let it be so. It would be incredible to watch Milla team up with Tom Cruise in a Jack Reacher/Mission Impossible installment; seeing two actors who throw themselves into every action sequence bounce off one another; or throw down with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and company in one of the two remaining Fast & Furious movies. Jovovitch has proven time and again she can throw down with the boys, and we need more of her in the action movie genre. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

We Can Do Better, Folks.

If I have one plea to ask of my fellow liberals, it's this: please, please -- regardless of what happens with the election, don't make comedian Jimmy Dore the spokesperson for the blue cause. In case you don't know who he is, here's a brief recap: Dore is what you get when you combine Glenn Beck's wing-nutty bullshit ideas and theories, mixed with Bill Maher's smug, sometimes condescending demeanor, if you removed his ability to make an audience laugh. Lately he's been the voice for disgruntled and disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters who believe the choice between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a vote for the same-old establishment politics that have screwed over the middle class and enriched the top 1% and that Bernie Sanders was the only candidate that could break the spell of business as usual with a political revolution.

Dore's argument boils down to the following: the Democratic establishment needs to return to its FDR roots; the only way to do that is to let Trump win the election, that way the establishment will either have a choice of going with a moderate and further alienating millennials and angry liberals (I'm using the term liberals rather than progressives because it's just the same label, only longer), or nominating a "true" liberal, uniting the base. Dore also believes that four years of Trump will end up benefiting our cause because he'd be a completely ineffective President who would divide the Republican party and bring more independents to our side, thus bringing about a revolution in 2020 where Democrats sweep into power in both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Here's the full case Dore is making with radio host Sam Seder, as well as him highlighting his case on his own show.

At one point, a guy on the show named Robert basically tells Jimmy that his idea of persuading his audience to vote for a third party candidate is "pissing up a rope," and the product of wishful thinking. I feel he's correct: Dore's calculation, his idea that voting for Jill Stein would put the Democratic party on notice, as well as a Trump presidency would benefit Liberalism long term is bogus.

Don't let this fucking asshole speak for us.
The idea that Donald Trump, should he capture the White House, would be inept at running the country, I do agree with. He'd be a walking catastrophe, and the Republicans wouldn't give a shit, as long as he rubber-stamps every piece of legislation -- be it making the tax cuts for big business permanent, or introducing laws that would make it all but impossible to a woman to have an abortion, or rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them back to Mexico, etc., -- that is brought to his desk to sign. Do you really see House Speaker Paul Ryan telling a President Trump that his overreach of power is a bridge too far? Can we really count on Majority Speaker Mitch McConnell to stand up to Trump if he starts a Twitter war when he doesn't get his way? And do you really think, for one minute, that the man would care? He already sees himself above everyone else, so you think Congressional Hearings or Impeachment proceedings would make him think he's not above constitutional law?

Dore points out that the Democrats would band together in unison with independents and some Republicans to obstruct Trump. That could be a possibility, but it wouldn't do them much, save making appearances on MSNBC and the occasional dissenting opinion that can only be seen on C-SPAN. Even then, McConnell and Ryan would demand complete loyalty with their president to keep their people in ranks, or face the idea that the RNC money chest might not be so generous when you're facing a primary challenger (a threat which has already been leveled by the Speaker). Furthermore, should a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren continue to bitch, holler and yell about a congressional budget that guts the Affordable Care Act, or continues to place the burden of paying for increased tax breaks on the backs of the shrinking middle class, who's to say McConnell might call for the Nuclear Option and destroy the filibuster completely? Lastly, given how Republicans have already gerrymandered the hell out of congressional districts, don't you think they'll go out of they way to make it harder for certain people to vote, like, say....African-Americans, Latinos and young people?

And as for Stein getting 15% of the vote in this year's election? All it would do is help Trump get elected President. The Greens don't have the finances to make any sort of strides in the political process, and I haven't seen one Green party member make it to Congress, the Senate, a Governorship or even make it on the local ballots for state senator or a run for mayor. While I understand this election is between two highly polarizing figures, let's not pretend that there's not a difference between them. One wants to expand a Medicare by-in to aged 55 and support a public option; the other wants to eliminate the ACA entirely. One wants to give women equal pay for equal work to their male counterparts, the other spends his time calling women pigs, slobs and determining their worth to his brand by whether or not their fuckable. One candidate want s to do something about climate change, the other has tweeted out that it's a hoax. And on down the line it goes.

The ideas that Jimmy Dore are throwing out there to the disheartened and bitter Bernie or Bust crowd aren't based in political reality. The conspiracy theories he's now parroting and selling to his audience about Hillary Clinton (allegedly) wanting a well-known whistle-blower executed is dangerous and irresponsible. Look, I get that you hate Hillary Clinton: you hate her politics, her decisions made as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, the fact the Democratic base elected her to be our nominee for President over Bernie Sanders, and probably just her as a person, but floating these sort of conspiracy theories that she's nothing but a cold-blooded killer is simply reprehensible.

This is the sort of baseless, gutter-level vitriol I expect to hear from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, even from Donald Trump himself, but not from our side.

I always believed that, as liberals, that we were above letting scumbags like that speak for our causes and our beliefs, on our behalf.

We can do better than a delusional, smug, arrogant, dismissive fuckwit like Jimmy Dore. We have to.

Monday, October 3, 2016

I Might Have Been Too Harsh on Independence Day: Resurgence

Pure Flix -- the same production company that gave us God's Not Dead, the previously reviewed Revelation Road and Old Fashioned, are now making a film on the Columbine High School massacre.
Really. This is a thing.
Look: a film about Columbine, or Rachel Lee Scott and the two killers would be an engrossing character study on how their lives intersected and collided on that fateful day, kind of like the multiple points-of-view of random teenagers in Gus Van Sant's haunting Elephant, but again -- this is Pure Flix. I wouldn't trust these guys to make a miniseries on 9/11 without being heavy-handed on the religious angle, let alone make this movie.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Netflix Files: Road Warrior, This Ain't

I owe Mad Max: Fury Road and apology.

I'm sorry, Mad Max: Fury Road -- I was too harsh on you. I said that you were overrated; I called your action scenes a one-note car chase/gunfight through an apocalyptic wasteland & thought they got repetitive very fast; I thought some of the characters like Immortal Joe's prized Breeders and the title character didn't get enough characterization; etc. Sometimes, you have to own up when you're wrong, and I was in this instance, especially when you come across watching something so laughably bad that it makes you pine for a better, more competently made picture.

Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End is just that sort of movie that made me pine for George Miller's expertly made, but flawed action-thriller, warts and all. In fact, this is a low-budget action movie that will take its cues from other better movies, but more on that later. Revelation Road was made by Pure Flix Entertainment. Who are they, you ask? They're a faith-based studio who churn out feature films and television programs with a Christian edge to it. They're also responsible for the surprise 2014 hit and previously reviewed drama God's Not Dead, which I called as one of the worst, most insulting films I've reviewed since doing this blog, and with this crappy action film, along with the bland action-thriller Jerusalem Countdown, they're 0 for 3 in my book.

Josh McManus  (David A.R. White, who also serves as a producer) is just your ordinary salesman, traveling the road to sell a bulletproof vest for a few dollars. Yes, I said that he's selling protective gear, and yes, he apparently only has one item. No forums, no boxes full of bulletproof vests...just one vest he tries to sell to a gun store owner, Frank (Ray Wise), only to be asked whether or not he places his faith in the thing he's selling, or in God. A tip for all salesmen out there: if someone asks you if you place your trust in the Almighty or in gear that can stop a bullet and save your life, just walk away, because it's not worth dumbing yourself down to earn a sale. Unfortunately for Josh, Frank and his granddaughter Beth (Noell Coet), they are held at gunpoint by the least-threatening gang of bikers I've seen on film. The actors playing them try to look tough and intimidating, but I don't know what's less believable: their posturing or David A.R. White suddenly flipping the script and becoming a gun-toting bad ass.

Yes, you heard that right -- Josh turns his personality on a dime and suddenly takes out three members of the biker gang as if he's Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall from A History of Violence. Frank is thankful for his bravery, and he begins to tell the audience that he's a man with a dark past and can't ask for forgiveness for what he's done over the years, as if the audience don't have the brain capacity to see that cliche coming from a mile off. Also, if you're trying to explain that Josh has a dark past and that he was trained to be an emotionless killer, here's a tip: show, don't tell!

The Bikers, led Brian Bosworth (yes, 'The Boz' himself is in this) swears brutal vengeance on going after Frank, his wife and granddaughter. Why do they do this? Never once explained. Frank wasn't the one shooting up the place, so why go after his ass? Even less understandable than the bikers going after the wrong target is David A.R. White cast as a character that direct-to-video has-been actors like Steven Seagal or Dolph Lungren could play. Simply put: the man doesn't have the presence or the look of an action hero, and seeing him take on biker thugs or an irate domestic abusing husband in a motel brings nothing but unintentional fits of laughter.

In fact, the cheapness of the whole thing, coupled with the abysmal fight choreography would make this a really entertaining "so bad it's good!" episode for Internet reviewers like Allison Pregler and Brad Jones to endlessly mock, as well as seekers of B-grade schlock, but the film takes its premise way too seriously, thanks in part to how much the filmmakers lay the religious angle on thick. In key scenes where other characters interact with our main hero, the dialogue goes something like this: "Put your faith in Jesus Christ, and he will absolve you in all your sins!" or, "God has a plan for you, if you just open your heart."; etc, etc. The preaching gets really old really fast, and it feels as if I've stepped into a church sermon with Mad Mad Rockatansky as pastor.

To be fair and completely honest? Although Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End is a cheap, poorly made and construction action-thriller; it isn't the worst thing made by Pure Flix Entertainment. If anything, it's just really dumb and corny as hell, and if you take a look one night, it's good for some laughs and pretending you're with Kevin Murphy, Michael J. Nelson and the rest of the MST3K crew, providing commentary and hilarious analysis on what's being depicted onscreen.