Posts Tagged ‘values’

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Now that’s a satire. More.

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Capt. America v. the New World Order: The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Captain America, The Winter Soldier.

It’s big. It’s dumb. Its explosions are one louder. It feels a bit like The Avengers, which is not such a bad thing. The thing about Cap is that he’s an overgrown, science-enhanced Boy Scout. He always wants to do the right thing, no matter the cost. He’s got an innocence that’s sort of dischordant considering all the violence.

The Good

The Winter Soldier film is an allegory about the shadow government, the US deep state, the bowels of intelligence where Nazis were imported after WW2 to go to work supposedly in the service of America and its values. What’s good about this is that it’s true. It happened. Operation Paperclip gets a mention, although not much detail makes it into the final cut of these things.

In the Marvel World we have S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than the intelligence establishment, those alphabet soup agencies. It’s all a bit more super than that.

But the traitors are in our midst. They’re entrenched in power, inside the deep state. They are ruthless Nazis wearing our uniforms, flying our drones, inciting wars in our name. This is the main metaphor that provides Captain America with a foundation to its story. Our real values are not the values of those people, including those real people who appear on our very real televisions. The metaphor works, even if the film heads off the rails into silliness.

Spoilers

The Winter Soldier character himself, the assassin, is an interesting twist. He’s shooting Russian-made weapons, but he’s no Russian. He’s one of our own, actually Captain America’s boyhood pal, remade, reforged into the evil version of American power projection. He’s the covert assassin beyond the law, unstoppable and responsible for a slew of international crimes. This ties into the theme of the deep state, the Nazi state within the intelligence community that many people would recognize as a reality.

The Bad

Well, physics is of no concern here. Fall off a skyscraper. Whatever. At that point, it doesn’t matter what happens anymore. Nothing is going to alter the trajectory the screenwriters and producers have preordained, because physics is out the window. It sucks the tension and suspense right out of the thing.

The ending, reconciling with Winter Soldier, also fell flat. Cap just gives up, and it’s a blah anti-climax that felt cheap.

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He had a chance to go further with Black Widow as well, but nothing materialized. We had a kiss, a tactical kiss, and nothing more. It was broken wide open to explore Black Widow and Cap more, but the need to blow some more shit up pressured the thing.

The Ugly

Cap, the boy scout, and yet he’s a party to torturing a suspect. He lets Black Widow do it — gutting my view of her. And yet, it’s played for a laugh. Torture is a laughing matter in a movie about a spandex clad guy in red white and blue. Does anyone on the project have any sense? He’s supposed to be the good guy, but more than the good guy, the ultimate expression of lost American values. The torture question is no joke. It’s a felony war crime. Are these people taking their cues from principle, law and American history or from whatever sludge is selling on the other networks?

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The actual plot was a bit of an ugly pretzel, too. Not sure everything added up.

In the end, it’s worth about 3.5 stars for the positive messages concerning deep state covert abominations. We don’t tolerate Nazis and policies of murder. I just wish it would have been a bit more grown up about it.

3.5/5

 

 

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Never a fan of Sofia Coppola, I find her films long, tedious and with a warped take on class and privilege.  As a child of money and privilege herself, I can’t shake the feeling of being manipulated.  A cat’s paw seems to hover above the frame of her movies.

Bling Ring is no different, of course.  In fact, this could be Coppola’s most direct hammer to brain undertaking.  It does seem to be based on a pretty good idea.  The trailer revealed that a group of Hollywood high school fame whores go on a petty crime spree to adorn themselves with gaudy, ostentatious clothing and trinkets.

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As products of this fame whore society, their actions strike a natural evolutionary kind of chord.  On that front, it’s not such a bad film.  The mindless worship of money and brands leads to bad consequences, okay.  These bimbos are irredeemable and perhaps plausible.  The whole charade seems expected in that world.  People with too much glittery crap than they can keep track of robbed by the wannabes, what could be more natural?

The plot bogs down in the middle, as we’ve already seen robberies and gawking at shoes and jewelry, and so it becomes repetitive pretty rapidly.  We also know something bad will happen, and they’ll get caught; so that’s no surprise.  As usual with Coppola, it’s about the character study, not the plot.

Bling Ring’s concept used Internet surveillance pretty well.  If high school thieves can track famous people on the Internet, using metadata and logistical tips to rob their homes, can anyone imagine what NSA and CIA are capable of doing?

I did not take to the quirky religious nut mom thread.  Her oddness is inserted to distract from the obvious, that these Hollywood climbers are the norm and not a product of some aberrant philosophy or religion.  It was a bit too out of left field and irrelevant.

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I also couldn’t let the trademark fake rawness just slide.  Coppola is the one who throws punk rock onto Marie Antoinette, in a sort of pathetic attempt to appear edgy.  Here the sin is almost as egregious.  For the opening credits she takes a loud pop/techno track and then deliberately distorts the entire mix.  The result is hideous noise, offensive to the ears, and not in a musical way.  It’s offensive in a manipulative post-production crank an electronic effect too far way.

Similarly, she shoots several daytime shots with completely clipped, blown out footage.  This is someone with all the money to shoot it correctly that one could possibly need.  The cutting corners Youtube quality is a shallow attempt to establish credibility.  The bouncy handheld camera during the opening robbery is similarly fake.  It’s not a terrible idea to have a visceral movement for such a scene, but the way it was executed was too in your face obvious.

A lot of images are in your face obvious, and there is certainly no subtlety to be found.  Does Bling Ring tell us something about generations raised on TMZ and TV gossip?  Does it indict this shallow, mindless view?  Eh.

 

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Joe Giambrone

Trek v. Trek:  Who comes out on top?

Having been impressed by the latest Trek through the galaxy, Into Darkness, I came back and re-watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Both films are watchable, but the 1982 effort is really starting to show its age.

Now I know some nerds will be trying to hack the site and cause Khan-like havoc with my life for saying it, but Wrath of Khan, by comparison, isn’t really very good.  It reeks of old Hollywood, over the top lines, swelling orchestra, overly-hyped shots of space models, and some sub-par acting.  I mean, let’s get real here.  The actors may be loved and cherished, but beginning with James T. Kirk himself, the acting can send shivers down your spine.  The one-off supporting cast (son of Kirk?) are similarly second rate.  For performances, the new film stands head and shoulders above the original.  Even Ricardo Montalban (Khan) turns in a heartfelt but poorly scripted and staged effort.  His Shakespeare quotes from the bowels of hell routine inspire more laughter than any other emotion.

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Wrath’s clunky plot is hard to ignore, when Chekov and his captain could easily beam back up the moment Chekov discovers that he’s on Khan’s crashed ship.  Instead, they opt to go outside again and face the Khan contingent.  Still, they have time to beam up, but a quick cut erases that obvious solution.  Also, it’s absurd that anyone could survive on that hostile planet for more than a few months.  There’s no water.

Now if I’m going to nitpick stupid plot choices I may as well point out that in the new film (Into Darkness) we have a similar absurdity (or three) that deserves mention.  As Khan’s little fighter ship spins out of control, outside of Starfleet headquarters on Earth, we are supposed to believe that before hitting the ground Khan was able to beam himself accurately to another galaxy in Klingon controlled space!  Two seconds of contemplation renders that laughable as well.

But the new film makes up for its sins with a lot of bang for the buck.  More story, more humor, more interesting scenarios, more movie.  The new film feels like two movies compared to the old.  It’s also a hell of a lot funnier.  Into Darkness functions as a comedy as much as a drama, with slick references and inside jokes coming almost constantly.  Wrath, in contrast, contains long boring dead spots.  The first film could be seen as a blueprint for the second to expand on.

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The younger, sexier cast is also relevant.  In Wrath, we have an aging Kirk rotting away and waiting to die, longing to fly on a spaceship again.  In the new version, we have a false-flag covert setup.  Much more interesting on its face.  The warmongers position themselves as the enemies of The Federation, even though they essentially run it!  Count me in.

The new film’s plot, with Khan a wildcard, a partnership to defeat the greater evil, leads to better drama and more internal conflict.  The reversal of Kirk and Spock is also interesting, as we’ve already seen Spock’s ultimate sacrifice – which was the best part of the Wrath film – but now Kirk is constantly playing catch-up to his own legend.  He has to prove himself time and again, and the odds are always stacked nowadays against him.

Lastly, Star Trek Into Darkness brings out its theme about the values we hold dear and which form the foundation of civilization.  This powerful guiding principle of the story sews it satisfyingly together, giving it a consistency that Wrath of Khan just doesn’t share.  Into Darkness is a superior film in nearly every conceivable measure.

Most importantly, it starts with committed people working to change the Congress.