Posts Tagged ‘Morally Reprehensible

04
Jan
15

Frailty (2001)

frailtyposterFor a long time, I’d been hearing really good things about Bill Paxton’s directorial debut Frailty. Naturally, I was skeptical: I’d only just recently admitted to myself that I like watching Paxton in action. Specifically, his turn in Near Dark delighted me to no end, and I finally had to come to terms with the fact that he is an enjoyable, if ridiculous, force on screen. After the endorsement of several folks, all of whom have opinions we normally respect, we decided to take a gamble. While I don’t necessarily regret it, I will say that a movie hasn’t inspired such passionate anger in me since that piece-of-shit Godzilla remake.

First things first: I can’t account for my disgust without revealing the film’s secrets. So, if you are stuck in the late 90’s/early aughts and still obsessed with plot twists, read no further. To the rest of you, it should already raise a red flag that the success of Frailty completely hinges upon its twist(ed) ending.

Now, let’s see if I can sum this shit up. Fenton Mieks (Matthew McConaughey) appears uninvited at his local FBI office. He’s looking for Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe), the detective searching for the “God’s Hand” serial killer. Fenton insists he knows, quite intimately, who the killer is. Doyle is skeptical, but with leads having run dry long ago, he has no choice but to hear him out. Long story short, when Fenton and his younger brother Adam were growing up, his widower dad (Bill Paxton) woke up in the middle of the night with a vision from God telling him it was his family’s job to kill sinners. The light of the lord bequeaths upon him a list of sinners by name and a few instruments with which to catch and kill them. Dad wastes no time getting the great cull started, and when he brings the first victim home, Fenton is horrified.  He is pretty sure his father has lost his shit completely. Young Adam is too little to know who’s right, and is more inclined to believe his father knows what he’s doing when he takes his hatchet to harlots and heretics.

We're a happy family, we're a happy family, we're a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

We’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

When Fenton decries his father’s actions and opts not to help murder people, dear old dad says the vision of God has told him that he should be next on the chopping block. But I guess he doesn’t quite have the strength of Abraham, and instead just has Fenton dig a giant hole in the ground that eventually will be his home for two or three weeks; just long enough until he sees the light of God, of course. Adam is allowed to give his brother one glass of water a day, but no food. I guess hunger can cause visions, right? So Fenton says he saw the light and is allowed out, and, you know, to eat and stuff, so that’s kind of nice. He still balks when his dad hands him the axe, though. Instead of whacking a sinner’s head off, he intentionally misses and sinks the blade into his father’s belly.

At this point Agent Doyle is  thinking ‘boy howdy, that’s quite a story, but them pieces don’t fit together.’ Fenton insists his brother Adam is the God’s Hand killer, carrying out the work started by daddy all those years ago. Doyle wants some sort of proof, and for whatever reason agrees to go to the plot of land where Fenton says all the bodies are buried. Finally, the two are alone and Fenton can reveal the truth: he’s not Fenton at all! He’s actually Adam! And his dad wasn’t crazy, he really did get a list of sinner’s names from the almighty lord and has carte blanche to murder

It's hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it's done to Paxton's forehead.

It’s hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it’s done to Paxton’s forehead.

them all! Even more twisty, Agent Doyle is just such a sinner and his end is imminent! OH MY (literal) GOOOOOODD!

Seriously? Seriously. How is this movie not an endorsement for religious zealotry? What. The. Fuck. At first I was thinking to myself: oh, okay, I get it; this movie’s going to say something interesting about religious fanaticism! BUT THE EXACT OPPOSITE HAPPENED! I am pretty sure I seethed and fumed about the irresponsibility of such an ending for entire days after I’d watched this. Aren’t we taking the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing a little too fucking literally here? The worst part of it is, after watching the special features on the disc it seems painfully clear that Paxton and writer Brent Hanley don’t seem bothered by this shit in the slightest. It’s almost as if the implications of their supposedly masterful twist ending didn’t concern either of them; they only wanted to make the audience gasp. And, I guess the second worst part is, it fucking worked. How is it possible that normal people are not bothered by the meaning behind this creepy-ass, evangelical ending?

McConaughey plots his next move...

McConaughey plots his next move…

While its politics absolutely disgust me, the truth is the film is not a bad piece of work, technically speaking. Paxton seems to know what he’s doing behind the camera, even if he can’t entirely pull off the devout dad role. He’s not the only one who seems to have trouble with his acting; McConaughey is no prince in this either. He’s not terrible, but after just watching (and loving) True Detective it’s pretty clear to see just how much he’s grown as an actor. And speaking of True Detective, I couldn’t help but see a lot of similarities between the two. Not to throw gas into the plagiarism fire plaguing writer Nic Pizzolatto, but there is a bit here that makes me wonder. Aside from the obvious McConaughey link, both pieces of work take place, in large part, in an office of the law. Both pieces center around a man, played by McConaughey, retelling a story in which he may or may not be suspected of committing serious crimes. Both have a weird Southern Gothic spiritualism thing going on, but thankfully True Detective‘s ending, while perhaps ultimately disappointing, was benign.

Anyway, whatever. This movie sucks. It’s irresponsible, reprehensible, and lazy. And, despite what Paxton and Hanley would have you believe, murder is not okay.

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17
May
14

Godzilla (2014)

godzillaposterTo say I have a soft spot for Soviet propaganda films isn’t exactly accurate; I’m certainly no authority on the subject, but there is one in particular I consider to be a favorite: Ballad of a Soldier. It’s a story about Alyosha, a very young soldier who shoots down two tanks. As a reward for his heroics, his superiors offer him anything he wants. All the young boy really wants to do is make it home to his mother, so he can help repair her roof. He only has a few days to get there and back, but he is determined. Along the way, he meets a lot of people, many of whom are missing their loved ones in the war. The valiant young soldier goes out of his way to help those in need, knowing that it will cut his trip home with his mother even shorter.

In the end, our young hero gets little more than a hug and a kiss with his mother, and then he’s off to battle again, never to return home. But what a guy! A real citizen. A true role model. If only everyone could be like young Alyosha.

What the fuck does this have to do with Godzilla, you ask? Well, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 remake of the Japanese classic giant-monster horror film is little more than military propaganda, with a whole crap-ton of sappy, tear-jerking family drama to round the whole damn thing out.

Ford Brody (yeah, that’s the hero’s name, Ford fucking Brody) has a history with nuclear energy. As a young boy growing up in Japan, his parents were bigwigs at the local nuclear power plant. It’s the usual perfect-family-how-could-anything-disturb-their-happiness bullshit, until one day something goes terribly wrong, and his mother (Juliette Binoche, totally wasted in this role, and why the fuck is she in this anyway?) dies, unable to escape the reactor’s core, or something. His father (Bryan Cranston) takes it pretty hard of course, and fifteen years later is arrested after he’s caught in the quarantine zone, attempting to retrieve old documents and discs from his family’s former home.

Enter steely-eyed Ford, freshly returned home to San Francisco from the war. Just after telling his droopy-eyed child that he’ll still be around tomorrow, he gets the call that his father needs help. So he flies off to Japan, where they go into the quarantine zone again only to find out that there’s no radiation there at all. So, what the hell’s going on? Well, there’s a giant fucking monster (let’s call it MUTO, or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object, because everything should be named like we’re in the fucking war room) feeding off all the radiation, silly, and it’s about to blow. And it does, and the shit hits the fan. And wherever the shit hits hardest, you’ll find Ford, willing to “do whatever it takes” to save the world from monsters, even if it means postponing his homecoming yet another day. What a guy.

The Americans swiftly take over because, America, fuck yeah!, and Ford has no problem suiting right back up for military duty. After all, he was warned that returning to civilian life is “the one thing they don’t prepare you for.” Good thing for Ford that the MUTOs are signaling one another across the Earth so they can breed. How the fuck will America save everyone? Oh, I know, I know! Let’s detonate a fucking nuclear bomb 20 miles off the coast of San Francisco, that’s a good idea, right?

If only the Americans listened to the advice of the wise, sage, Japanese scientist man (Ken Watanabe) who warns us all that our human arrogance will be the death of us. Seriously, instead of throwing more radiation out there, why don’t we just let the giantest giant monster of all, Godzilla, take care of it? Let them fight it out! There’s a natural balance to these things, after all.

No, the Americans didn’t listen, and (surprise!) their brilliant plan backfired! The MUTOs carried the nuclear warhead into the heart of downtown San Francisco; what better nourishment for a brood of fetal MUTOs than a nuclear warhead? D’oh! I guess it’s all in God(zilla)’s hands now. Oh, and Ford’s, because is there anything that guy can’t do?

Whatever. At least now we get to the good part: monsters fighting. This is what I came for in the first place. Just so you know, I’d estimate there’s a total of 10 minutes of sweet giant monster fights in this movie, which is, of course, over two hours long. There are some really great visuals of the monsters fighting throughout San Francisco. But there’s pretty much nothing else new, interesting, thought-provoking or entertaining in this movie. Why should I be surprised? And where the fuck did everyone’s sense of humor go? Why are all these movies loaded with sentimental music and sappy family bullshit?

Garbage.

24
Aug
12

Massacre at Central High (1976)

I can’t write this post only about Massacre at Central High. For me, and for many others, this movie is inextricably linked with Heathers, a movie I’ve seen literally hundreds of times. I can probably still quote it word-for-word. When I was a budding little cynic, I was known at the local video store as the-girl-who-only-rents-Heathers. Seriously, if it had moved on the shelf, they’d simply point to its new location. So it’s almost criminal that I’ve never seen Massacre, given that certain key plot points and pretty much the last act of Heathers are direct rip-offs from it.

Massacre starts off with a new kid, David, looking for the “student lounge.” It’s clear right away that the students of this school are scared shitless of a clique of tyrannical jerks who, unfortunately, have wrangled David’s friend Mark to be part of their crew.

Mark tells David this school will be nothing like the last; they’ll have the run of the place – just “do as I say.” Unfortunately for David, he seems to have a conscience, so when he sees the bad boys (Bruce, Craig and Paul) bullying other kids, instead of taking part or standing back and ignoring it, he stands up for them. The last straw comes when the terrible trio attempt to rape two girls in a classroom and David pretty much single-handedly beats them all to a pulp.

Dead Pool.

To shut David down, the boys wreck his knee permanently, which is a real low blow, because the only way David blows off steam is running. So now you’ve got an angry boy with no outlet for his emotions and a taste for revenge. One by one, David offs the jerks, mostly to get back at them for what they’ve done to him, but also in attempts to liberate the school from their tyranny.

Now, here’s where the movie starts to suffer from what I’ll call the Dark Knight problem: once the students are liberated from the power-hungry clique, all of them are now trying to find ways to gain control of the school’s population themselves. Everyone’s coming to David (the fat kid, the deaf dorky kid, the poor kid, etc.) and asking him to team up with them to provide the students with “leadership.” Of course, these kids aren’t actually interested in leading people, they’re only interested in control and power. So, much like in everyone’s favorite Batman franchise, we’re shown that without leadership, any human population will fall into chaos. Harmony is impossible without dictatorial leadership.

Dead dork.

David is, understandably, pretty disgusted with this finding, and so after killing a few other jerks, decides to blow up the school (yeah, sounds familiar, right?). Mark and his girlfriend, Theresa (who David is in love with, by the way) uncover his plot to do this and go to the school to stop him from blowing it to bits. Mark is confident that David won’t go through with it because he knows that David loves Theresa. When they show up at the school, David warns them to leave, ‘cause the school’s gonna blow in three minutes. Theresa refuses, and so David runs down the boiler room (again, sound familiar?) and removes the bomb, runs outside in his trench coat (remember?) and explodes with the bomb (yep). When everyone in the high school gym (mmhmm) hears the explosion, they all stop, frozen in their tracks (but it’s a prom here, not a pep rally) wondering what the noise was.

The noise is dismissed, but Mark and Theresa know exactly what it was. And, in another Dark Knight moment, Theresa suggests they blame the bomb on “Spoony and the others” (some students David offed earlier in the film) and make David out a hero. Because without a hero, what will the students have to believe in? What will keep them in check?

Ultimately, I did like this movie, despite its more-than-questionable political message. I was constantly surprised and delighted by the elements that Heathers clearly rips off. In the end I think it’s fine that Heathers stole so much, because a movie like Massacre needs everything done a little better: a better message, a better ending, better production. Though perhaps the biggest difference is that Massacre entirely lacks humor, while Heathers is absolutely known for its humor. And while certainly the hunger for power spreads from Heather to Heather, in the end, Veronica ain’t havin’ none of that shit, and I’d like to believe Westerburg High’s a better place for it. Furthermore, I felt like there were actually people worth saving at Westerburg. I can’t say the same for Central.

You can read a much better assessment of the movie at Vanity Fear, a blog I intend on making regular reading.

22
Jul
12

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

We’d planned on going to see this long before I even arrived here in Montana. I never would have thought I’d actually write a post about it. Let’s get real, who isn’t going to write about this movie? I remember when The Dark Knight came out every jerk off the street wrote a “review” of it. All that being said, I never thought I’d have such strong feelings about The Dark Knight Rises, and so I’m compelled to put them to screen.

I’m not going to lie – I liked its predecessor The Dark Knight quite a lot when I first saw it. I saw it again right before going in for the sequel and I still liked it, though I remembered that I was rather bothered by its message at the end – that the people just can’t be trusted with the truth about Harvey Dent – the people “need a hero” in order to give them “hope” and keep them “inspired.” In other words, they must be lied to so that they can be kept under control. Otherwise, hell, everyone might go apeshit. Well, The Dark Knight Rises sure takes up where the last one left off and shows us that’s exactly the case. Bane, the super-baddie in this film, takes over Heinz Field and gives “the power back to the people.” What do the “people” do when they have “the power?” Well, they riot. They loot. They murder. They “sentence” those who have supposedly commited crimes against them and give them the option of “exile” or “death.” Clearly, the citizens of Gotham cannot be trusted with “true freedom.” Their only hope, of course, is if everyone’s favorite richie Bruce Wayne can claw himself out of a hole, put on a cape, nix the guy who’s started this “revolution” and put the boys in blue back in control. 

It’s impossible not to watch this movie and see this as a metaphor for Occupy Wall Street. And at a time when I believe “regular people” should be receiving positive messages about the possibility of positive change, this movie spits in our faces. Nolan tells us that the people can’t be expected to do the right thing on their own – they need true leaders to keep them in line, they need people who can decide what truths should be known and what truths should be fabricated and dispersed. What’s worse, the millions of people sitting on those theaters seem to love it! They’re sopping it up like butter! Limbaugh calls this an “Anti-Romney Conspiracy?” Is he kidding? This is Romney’s wet dream! A veritable feast for the conservatives, and we’re all lapping it up!

Look, I don’t normally have such politically-charged feelings about films, but this just smacks you right in the face with politics. And it makes me angry. I hope Nolan wasn’t pulling our legs when he said this is the last Batman movie he’ll ever make.




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