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Utopia Talk / Movie Talk / Movie Reviews 9000+++++
Tue Oct 08 12:39:13
Just watched The Blind Side.

I don't have much to say except Bullock deserved the Oscar.

Was hoping for more of a football movie and less of a lesson in Christian charity.
Tue Oct 08 18:57:14
A good flick, imo.
Tue Dec 24 19:01:48
12 strong was better than that movie about stealing money over mountains? I can't think of anything else recent to compare it to.

It was not as good as hyena road or lone survivor, which also take place in Afghanistan.

You pretty much get what you'd expect. Explosions and Chris hemsworth.
Tue Dec 24 19:07:04
Michael Bay needs to find a middle ground between 12 Strong and 13 Hours. But they're comparable in quality I guess.
Sun Feb 09 08:59:17
Anyone seen Birds of Prey?
Cherub Cow
Mon Feb 10 08:17:51
I expect to see it today (Monday).
Mon Feb 10 21:26:20
How were your expectations?
Cherub Cow
Mon Feb 10 23:17:08
Didn't work out :/
I expected the bus would show up, but it didn't. Too bad I pre-paid for a day pass. :( Turns out there's a driver shortage right now, so later buses get cut without notice. I don't want to have to wait until this weekend, so I'll make another attempt in the morning :p
Tue Feb 11 01:12:11
Good luck, I wanna know if it's worth seeing in theater. Joker was damn good imo. Also are these related character wise?
Cherub Cow
Wed Feb 12 15:38:01
..Probably not worth seeing in theater :(

And it's not related to "The Joker" movie. Phoenix' Joker exists in a different DC universe than the Affleck Batman, Robbie Harley, and Leto Joker. Last I read, it's *possible* that Phoenix' Joker will attach to the Pattinson Batman relaunch, but I don't think Phoenix has agreed to anything yet.

I didn't *regret* seeing it, but it felt like an empty movie. It was poorly directed, had some bad to awful writing, and the fight choreography wasn't very inspiring. On the director side, lots of scenes felt like the director was just struggling to get things into frame and didn't know how to manage events in interesting ways — like a learning amateur just trying to get some practice for a film school project. The editing saved things a little, but there were scenes where they stuck with a shot for way too long and just didn't have the content to pull it off. Lots of things should have been cut down or multiple shots/angles should have been taken so that they could have left some of the film garbage on the floor.

On the plus side, the establishing cinematography was often cool! They'd introduce a new sequence or new scene with some cool visuals that were reminiscent of the '90s Batman animated series.. But, it was always in short-lived moments. They'd get some good establishing shots that would make great posters or memorable stills (e.g., walking into an old Harley/Joker lair, Harley on roller skates getting ready for a bazaar car chase, entry into a pier), but then you could tell where the director took over again and started butchering the sequences.

And some of those sequences were outright painful. The movie completely lost me when they got to the evidence locker of the police department. Pacing fell apart, establishing shots were garbage, actor reactions were off... it did not feel like a police department under siege.. it just felt like some poorly-captured and unbelievable fist fight with an open-ended time line. And that scene was topped off with a cell phone rendering someone unconscious.. so... physics weren't heavily involved in the writing process. Which was another issue: few fights were physically believable.

Better direction could likely have worked around the fights to make them seem believable, but without that, it was just cell phone footage of people making kicks and punches that could not possibly have done the damage that audiences were supposed to believe that they had done. Rosie Perez trying to be physical was painful, but so too were Jurnee Smollett-Bell's ("Black Canary"'s) kicks. One in particular (early in the movie) was of a henchmen much larger than her who she managed to completely incapacitate with a kick to the stomach.. and the kick didn't even follow through. The stuntmen were just doing their best to save the performers by over-selling the impacts. Mary Winstead's scenes were believable, which was likely because they gave her weapons and fewer impossible scenarios. She also has more physical presence, though it looked like she received less fight training here than did Margot Robbie. Robbie's scenes had the benefit of weapons, but those scenes over-sold the success of her strikes and probably should have stuck with her being successful with quickness and agility (one bad example: a successful fist punch to a masked person's face. That's a broken hand. One good example: a near-ending scene where she uses a villain's body weight for a throw).

So yeah.. I kept thinking that with a character like Harley Quinn, this movie could have done great with a director like Mark Neveldine (director of 2006's "Crank"). This could have been a drug and alcohol-fueled mayhem fest of clever shots and clever portrayals of drug effects.. instead.. even after snorting a bunch of cocaine, Harley is framed by a sober and boring director.

I don't even want to go into detail about the bad writing right now (that's probably an hour of writing — maybe I'll return to it later). It was just more recycled "#woke" stuff, which is barely worth complaining about anymore. Standard fair. I'll just say that this was a missed opportunity to create a more empathetic understanding of Harley's character — something that '90s TAS pulled off in seconds of good development. This movie gave her an emotional attachment via a poor pickpocket, but that pickpocket wasn't a good actress or character, so you just had to try to believe that she was significant via Robbie's reactions.

Could have been so much more than just a movie of the week.. I was looking forward to this one :(
Thu Feb 13 01:07:30
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 20 04:20:57
"Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019)

Such a stupid fucking movie.
This was basically the "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" or "X-Men: The Last Stand" of Star Wars movies (though, in fairness, X-Men was much better comparatively; I wouldn't mind watching that movie for a Star Wars palate cleanser). Like, their entire writing strategy was, "Should we include it? Yes. Include *everything*."


- ..Random former stormtrooper, Jannah, who doubles Finn's experiences and had four lines, and Lando has the audacity to suggest that she somehow deserves to get her own Star Wars side story ("Well, let's find out!" — please, fucking no)
- Leia's story ret-conned to justify her force powers or how she could somehow be responsible for Rey's "training" (which she needs now? Sure, but only a 4-minute montage). Yeah, that's not transparent; no one can possibly tell that they shit the bed on episodes 7 and 8 and had to jam justifications for their plot holes into 9...
- Kylo Ren flies his fighter towards Rey not to kill her but because it would apparently look cool if she countered that attack? Yeah. That's how deep the writing goes: "[I did it because we needed more action to distract from the shitstorm]"
- Ren and Rey can straight teleport items and have lightsaber fights remotely now.. sure, why the fuck not? The only limit is your imagination! Weeeeeeeee!
- Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) gives Poe a medallion (read, "Weak plot device") to help them get onto Chewie's ship.. because they wanted to have a face-to-face with Ren (which they don't need anymore given the teleporting) and pointlessly burn their "traitor"/spy... which had zero story impact
- Rey gets to kill Ren but with no consequences because force healing has no limits here. Yay! Consequence-free writing! Marvel makes lots of money off of it, so why not Disney? Oh, Marvel *is* Disney.
- Yeah, Leia had a light saber, and you'll need *both* to defeat the Emperor. That makes sense. Two is better than one. *vomits*
- Let's cram in lots of old nostalgia to see if man children bite: how about two minutes of Lando, the bridge of Death Star II, Luke's X-Wing, a couple of ewoks, Luke's childhood home (which somehow has resonance for Rey?), Cloud City, etc.
- Biggest fleet ever known to over-saturate the screen, and it's all hard-wired to one coordinating signal. Yup. Sure. It's one thing for the Death Stars to have had design flaws, but pretending that all of those ships would be useless without a command signal? How about instead, ditch that whole story line because it's desperate and awful?
- And they can't take out the main star destroyer's navigation system from the air.......... but throwing some grenades down a hatch works... yeah.. that makes sense.
- Finn riding on an alien-horse, "Not bad for one lesson!" "You had a good teacher!" — almost sounds like they rushed more development into a one-second exposition to justify yet another story choice which should never have been made.
- The Babu Frik puppet Office-Jims the camera like the puffins/porgs in Episode VII.. yeah.. someone — a human being, presumably — decided that that was a good choice.
- Palpatine's back! Now he's stronger than ever! He can shoot lightning into fucking *space*. But he doesn't have a light saber, aaaaaannnd dead. Oh, no one cares? So weird! We took so much time developing that story! Those lightning effects looked cool, though, right??
- Ooo! Rey has a *yellow* light saber! That's cool, right?? Read my blog to find out why that's significant! (Because it *is* significant, right?? It's not just another wasted plot detail in a deluge of Star Wars failures that don't amount to anything and can never be brought to screen in any way that doesn't ultimately compromise the gravity of its own meaning anyways! Weeeeeeee!)
- And *soooooo* many bad jokes. Over and over again.

On the plus side, Kijimi, which looked an awful lot like alien India, was destroyed. All those dirty robed puppets cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Not even the filmmaker bothered caring via a respectful framing of the shot.

The only other way that this movie could have been saved was for Palpatine to kill everyone and restore order to the galaxy through the ashes of the rebellion. (Not that I don't support rebellions, I just don't want any of these losers to be happy.) Or, maybe Rey and Ren could have just kept healing each other back and forth over and over again.. like some weird Force sex. That would have saved things.

So yeah, finally watched this. It felt like homework — not the actual work itself (I like learning), but the idea of homework: that dreadful feeling of an abyss lingering over one's happiness. Even seeing it for free, I feel like this movie stole something from me... like Gallipoli stole Mel Gibson's innocence. Why must we ruin our minds with these terrible traumas? Perhaps, because there is another verse... an Under-Verse, where we cross over the threshold of Death.. where we learn how one pain can lessen another. For instance, now that I've seen this movie, I know how bad movies can *really* be — where no level of effects and production value can save their mistakes. In such a Verse, 2003's "The Room" looks pretty good. "Jurassic World" will still make me vomit, but, perhaps less? And maybe I'm finally ready to watch more of those flavorless Marvel movies. I hear you can really taste the ink in the cardboard if you develop a taste for those things.

But, perhaps the nightmare is over. With another trilogy complete, with production of new nightmares postponed due to viral apocalypse.. maybe the world will have a chance to heal from the Great Emptiness of Star Wars.
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 20 04:29:07
Edit to clarify pronouns:
"- Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) gives Poe a medallion (read, "Weak plot device") to help [Poe's group] get onto Chewie's ship.. because [the writers] wanted [Rey] to have a face-to-face with Ren (which they don't need anymore given the teleporting) and [the writers wanted to] pointlessly burn their "traitor"/spy... which had zero story impact"
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 20 06:40:39
This was fun:
"How Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Should Have Ended"
..points out more plot holes
The Children
Thu Apr 30 15:12:18
alright, first up.

Parasite. Korean movie.

sort of dark comedy. it follows a family of parasite frauds cheatin there way into a rich family. its kinda funny but the ending is somewhat sad. i also wonder, would it have ended that way in real life if such a thing actually existed.

i guess its da directors way of sayin, all things must come 2 an end and karma will eventually come 4 u.

overall, i enjoyed it. i would say 7.8 out of 10.


next up, the lodge.
now this is a weird movie. it has scary moments in between and da ending was confusin of sorts. beginning, first 5 min was boring as hell. typical rich empty middle/ upper class family. ur like wtf is she even doing. then all a sudden, shock.

even more shockin coz its alicia silverstone that played the role. yes, its alicia. who doesnt remember her, beverly hill girl, i forgot the name of the movie. but she was like one of the hottest stars of the 90s.

lol peeps completely forgot about her, she kinda disappeared from the scene. but first thoughts were, damn she did not age well...

but i guess age gets everyone at the end.

so anyway, the story, the dad and 2 kids and a new stepmom goes on hilday to a remote lodge. strange things start happening very soon. i mean what culd go wrong right?

its not a supernatural horror movie. but the ending was a little confusing at first but overall i like the last part, i think i understand what the directors were trying to say.

yea, i mean its a time filler u know.

so yea, 7 out of 10.



now this is a weird motherfuckin movie. haha, its like a xfiles/ the outer limits.

it surprised the hell outta me. i mean i really thought nottin of this movie and sure enough the beginning 5-10 min bored the FUCK OUTTA ME!!!

but surprisingly, bam it immediately begins right there. and ur like WHAT THE FUUUUUCCCKK. strange things happen and then the entire movie remains a clusterfuck. i cant say i like every scene, some scenes are dull as hell.

but overall, this is one outer limits/ xfiles experience that surprised me a lot. and i like it.

8 out of 10

Wed May 06 12:08:37
You have me intrigued about vivarium. Might give it a shot.
Cherub Cow
Mon Jun 22 07:42:27
You Should Have Left (2020)

Lots of shrugged potential :(

Kevin Bacon working with director David Koepp on a horror movie was a throwback to "Stir of Echoes" (1999), and both suffer from the same issue: a fizzled resolution.

There was plenty of good setup, it was produced well, it had great cinematography, the acting was fine (even by their child actor, Avery Essex), the sets were great, the supporting story was interesting, and most importantly the concept had a *lot* of potential (a house that calls people to visit it so that it can punish them)... but, like Stir of Echoes, it was tempered by David Koepp's (and/or the source author Daniel Kehlmann's) inclinations towards optimism and religious redemption. This could have been a very cool and long-relevant movie if the writing had committed to getting much darker in the final act, but instead... not much even happened.

((( SPOILERS below )))

Things were in a position to get interesting when Theo (Kevin Bacon) and Ella (Essex) attempted to leave the house. It was a realistic character-moment: they had discovered that the house was supernatural and trying to harm them, so, naturally, they should leave... and they actually *do* leave. But the house brings them back, and they have to choose to either die in the cold (outside the house) or return into the house and face its concentrated power. That was a cool moment and a good symbol for facing the justice of society: people can evade justice through isolation or via escape into nature, or they can return to the comforts of society (here, heating and a comfortable bed) — but the comforts of society come with its judgments.

That symbolism fits the wider story. Theo had been shamed into hiding by his own wrongdoing, but he wants his wife and daughter to be happy and protected (a protection that he seems ill-equipped to provide). So, he spares them his own judgment (he forgives Susanna for cheating, faulting himself), reaffirms his love, sends them away, and submits to his (internal) conscience and to the external justice of the house/society.

In Koepp's screenplay, elements from social media's Panoptic lynch mob also come into play, where no matter where he goes, the horrors of judgment await him — his trial has permanently made him into a public figure, which, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) explains to Ella, means to many people that Theo has been made guilty by association — regardless of his declared innocence at trial. Theo shows a detest for social media and cell phones, which dates him age-wise (their age difference also shows how natural social media is to Susanna versus Theo) but also fits his avoidance of this mob (it could be that he doesn't want to read about their hate; certainly he dislikes being recognized for his crimes). And when his crime is finally revealed, the viewer kind of has to wonder: did he deserve all this torment for letting someone die? That is, he didn't *kill* his previous wife in cold blood, he just didn't save her. This could have been to make him seem more sympathetic since his crime becomes negligence rather than murder, and it also amplifies the horror of the mob: the mob will punish any offense with voracity, and contrition may only mean annihilation.

The House Itself
I should say that the social media angle was not over-played or overt — only hinted at through mild Luddism and fear of others — so it can be ignored by most viewers, though it re-emerges in theme via the Panoptic self-punishment of internalized moralities. This leaves the House concept for the story's main effect, and despite a near-ending sequence which showed Theo traveling through time and space while struggling to face his conscience, the ending itself did not really maximize the potential that the house could hold.

A nice exposition scene with the local shopkeeper reveals that Satan himself may have built the house in many iterations throughout time in order to lure guilty souls to justice:
[Shopkeeper]: "Somebody from here, Hans Eagly, he owns the Lindenhof, he said, 'An ant doesn't know what a cathedral is, or a power plant, or a volcano.' It's the same with that house. You don't know what you can't know ... There was a different house before that one ... and before that, a tower ... It's a legend. The Devil builds a tower to collect souls, and God destroys it, but the Devil just builds it up again, and again. People have always stayed in that house. Some don't leave. The right ones usually find the place, or perhaps it's the other way 'round: the place finds them."

The shopkeeper places emphasis on the House's former iteration as a tower, which should recall Paradise Lost and Satan's Palace of Pandæmonium and/or the Tower of Babel — symbolic of humankind's "Satanic" tendency to build its own potentially horrifying realities, symbolic of human courts, and symbolic of judgment (and a *living* judgment — one that comes tragically too early when compared to judgment of life given after death). This furthers the above sense of Theo being judged and having to resolve his situation through his own conscience and reason — tenets espoused by Michael in Paradise Lost ("Right Reason", Book XII, http://www...ing_room/pl/book_12/text.shtml ).

Theo had formerly abandoned his conscience by not being honest with the courts (or others, such as Susanna), so he had become a slave to baser impulses: jealousy, suspicion, and anxiety (he has to manage these with his audio therapy). By avoiding his conscience and reason (i.e., his guilt), his own psychological state begins to distort the reality of the house, and he cannot overcome this total distortion until he faces his doppelgänger, the doppelgänger revealing that he himself is the Great Satan who built this house as many others of bad conscience built such distorted realities.

Depending on how much credit one would like to give to the author, this could be an indictment not just of social media mobs imposing Panopticism onto the mind of its users by feeding them a bad conscience version of themselves — it can also be an indictment of Catholicism, wherein people have been forced by corrupt justice systems (religious or legal) into holding guilt over themselves, living with bad conscience, and building misguided horrors to alleviate that guilt. When Theo brings up an earlier "sin", Susanna does say, "Catholic school fucked you up good."

But, director David Koepp has said that he went to Catholic school (Hollywood Reporter Interview; June 19, 2020; http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/david-koepp-you-should-have-left-exiting-indiana-jones-5-1299412 ), so he likely inserted himself into this story. That means that his ending was probably not Nietzschean (a condemnation of guilt and debt) but an examination of guilt as "sin" and repentance as virtue. And Koepp was critical of the age difference between Theo (Kevin Bacon (61 years)) and Susanna (Amanda Seyfried (34 years)) — it was just more fodder for his point that Theo was living with "sin" and deserved punishment. Not much commentary there — just recycled allegory.

With just allegory and circumstance, the ending becomes pretty bland. Theo sacrifices himself, then just stares out the window, showing that he will be stuck in a time-shifting world, doomed to re-live all the regrets that culminated in his visit to this house. In Paradise Lost symbolism, he shows virtue by being willing to punish himself despite the system having failed to punish him... but... there was no redemption here. Theo just becomes a Jesus figure, sacrificing himself for others but still being punished himself. It's story-numbing since that sacrifice here ends on so much uncertainty over his punishment. Like, does he just live there now and hang out? Does he have to work his way up Dante's Mount of Purgatory?

Who cares. It would have been more interesting if the story had ended Hellraiser style with hooks ripping his skin from his body, or his inner voice saying that it has eternity to experience his flesh via a suffering legendary even in Hell. Or, more realistic to the story's pacing, it could have ended with his torment scene, with the actual ending (bringing them to the car) spliced in the middle of his confusion. That could have been fun.

((( End Spoilers )))

Yeah. This could have been much cooler. It was well-done, but it just didn't have that extra elusive majesty of suffering that could have made it become.
Fri Jul 03 04:17:02
Tc, I'll have to check out Vivarium. Just on the X files/outer limits comparison as Im huge fan of both.

The new Twilight zone has actually been pretty good. But, the intros and the music are weak, should.have just kept the original music.

Great actors, its not just a bunch of nobodys and even the new comers have plenty of great actors like that Inuit chick who plays the Alaskan cop makira sila or something like that.

It does seem to rely super heavy on perception nased stories, which has always been a heavy theme.

7/10 while I wish they had more of a creepy vibe to it more frequently it stays pretty true to the original while coming off as fresh yet.
Cherub Cow
Tue Dec 15 09:06:14
Wild Mountain Thyme (2020)

This was a beautiful one :)

The script moves very quickly with a lot of meaningful dialogue that doesn't really get center stage in the direction (like, for example, a character will say something poetic that you can easily miss if you're not paying attention; like, "I'm half-dying with living for you"), so it may get better with multiple viewings or better with the subtitles on. I suspect that this understating of dialogue was part of why this movie isn't doing well right now (current Rotten Tomatoes: 27% critics / 44% audience); people may just not have heard what the actors were saying.

Another factor may be that this movie rejects the cynicism that's become mandatory in America cinema. The central character, Rosemary (Emily Blunt), actually believes in love, which has become something rejected by the American (pseudo?)-intellectual class. This puts her character in contrast to NYC American Adam (Jon Hamm), who considers marriage in terms of beneficial contracts. Adam is, nevertheless, enchanted with the romanticism of Ireland, being drawn to Rosemary and to farming even though he has no rational reason to pursue business in Ireland (a "blood from a stone" situation). So it's both a matter of city versus country and of its underlying rationalism versus romanticism — a good bounding for a story, particularly in times when overzealous declarations of most "rational" practices can reduce one to imagination-stifling thoughts.

(( Spoilers ))

This overly self-absorbed thought pattern emerges through Anthony (Jamie Dornan), who, like Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" character, finds himself all too concerned with what is correct or whether or not he is right to even want the things that he wants. This is summed nicely in one particular exchange between Rosemary and Anthony:

[Anthony]: (Speaking of manual labor that Rosemary has been doing alone) "It's a two-man job."
[Rosemary]: "Or one woman."
[Anthony]: "Yup, that's the world now. Men are useless."
[Rosemary]: "It's not so."
[Anthony]: "What?"
[Rosemary]: "Men aren't useless."
[Anthony]: "What's a man for now? What's his place?"
[Rosemary]: "That's for you to say."
[Anthony]: "I'm not talking; maybe the quiet around the thing is as important as the thing itself."

This exchange points out the difficult position men (and people in general) have been put in by today's social conventions. Perhaps some would like to think that adherence to social convention ended in Jane Austen's time, yet here Anthony finds himself threading a needle. All the roads have been closed behind him, and he feels like he has no voice. People cannot even talk about the things that ail them, because pitfalls emerge at every step. Like the crows above them, no amount of answering to the mob will produce clarity of action. But Rosemary tries to guide him:

[Rosemary]: "Do you still hear the voice in the fields?"
[Anthony]: "I dunno."
[Rosemary]: "It's not a modern idea."
[Anthony]: "I'm not a modern man."
[Rosemary]: "You have the farm."
[Anthony]: "I do?"
[Rosemary]: "Are you happy?"
[Anthony]: "No."
[Rosemary]: "Why not go ahead, be happy?"
[Anthony]: "I— I don't know how."
[Rosemary]: "There is no one left to catch you laughing, Anthony."
[Anthony]: "True."
[Rosemary]: "How many days do we have while the sun shines?"
[Anthony]: (Looking at the weather) "It's not shining."
[Rosemary]: (Looking at Anthony) "I believe that it is."

The "voice in the fields" speaks of Anthony's romantic desire for freedom, and it is revealed near the end that the voice tells him not just, "Go," but, "Go to her." Meaning, Anthony knows that he loves Rosemary and wants to be with her despite the obstacles that others and he himself construct, but, like the fence was revealed to be in this particular scene, his "Notes from Underground" social conscience is the great barrier between himself and Rosemary. And he wants to be able to love her *not* because a marriage would be useful or to otherwise manage the practical considerations of a farm — he is instead *waiting* to clear his conscience of these worldly affairs so that he can look directly at her. Essentially, like many people trapped in Hamlet inaction, he is waiting to be forgotten and to die.

It later takes a concerted effort by Rosemary to break Anthony from this mental trap. Comedies have all the time in the world, but the timeline has to be compressed into tragic logic because Adam will be arriving to propose marriage. Rosemary hints that she cannot wait for Anthony forever. They've arrived at a Thanatos / Eros crossroads where Rosemary can either kill herself with a hidden shotgun (albeit not immediately), due to the burdens of isolation, or end up like Fiona — pulled away from Anthony by the world and another marriage opportunity. Rosemary has Anthony's ring, so she knows that he wants to marry her, so she wants to help him work through his conscience to find her. The metaphoric "fences" will remain, but it's not hopeless:

[Rosemary]: "We say what's meant. Life is here. We name it."

Like I mentioned with the cynicism above, American culture has attempted to crush this level of devotion. The very idea that someone could love someone this much for so long has been treated with general critical derision. But the story alleviates this perspective through Anthony's own incredulity, Emily Blunt's performance, and a charming Irish backdrop.

Even so, the movie has its issues. A lot of the scenes were directed like one might direct a theater play rather than a movie. Errors like the actors having to move in overly blocked (positioned) ways or the lines being too melodramatic for the moment occur. Of the blocking issue, one scene in particular was the near-end scene of Anthony and Rosemary in a home together. There was a little too much attention on standing and sitting here, with the object awareness being a little too simplistic — the sort of imagery which works on stage but not on film. Like, "[Oh, you sit now while I stand. Then I tell you to sit, and you sit. When you stand, I notice how tall you are.]" These make sense on stages where the script fell together with basic props like a table and chairs, but in a real home they end up feeling artificial. These sorts of scenes should have been re-worked when this story was brought to screenplay.

The background music was also often problematic. In many scenes it was just *too* responsive to the on-screen events, which speaks of low production value. This seems to fall on the musical direction of Amelia Warner, because much of the Irish folk music (which was good) was already incorporated into the script. Those organic moments made sense and worked, like Emily Blunt singing the movie's title song in probably the most emotional scene of the movie.

And casting issues cannot be ignored. This was not exactly a "Waking Ned Devine" (1998) Irish story that recruited mainly unknown or lesser known quirky actors from Ireland and Scotland. Christopher Walken, for instance, should not have been in this movie, though his performance did come together for the pub singing scene. Weirdly, Emily Blunt gave the best performance in this movie, and she's from Britain. Jamie Dornan is Irish, so that made sense, but while viewers could believe Emily Blunt's loving glances in his direction, whenever Blunt and Dornan actually touched each other there seemed to be no chemistry. Those scenes looked more like two actors not sure how real vs. respectful they should be and defaulting on the side of "[make just enough contact to get us to the cut]." This falls to both casting and (again) to direction. A better cast may have had chemistry, and a better director could get the actors to show that chemistry. Personally, I think they should have gone full local and hired only unknown actors and actresses from Ireland. Extra points if even the American character had been played by an Irishman pretending to be American ;D

Still! All said, despite these issues, it has a very strong script. *Reading* the words really shows how much was here. Long though this review may be, it doesn't show just how much material was in this script. And Emily Blunt's performance can't be ignored; it was really her movie. So I'd ignore the current rankings and recommend this for a good romantic movie with clever dialogue and a few moving moments :)
Sat Dec 19 16:28:02
might give it a watch
Cherub Cow
Sat Jan 02 09:05:07
"Greenland" (2020)

Good things! :D
A solid disaster movie.

All disaster movies seem to have relationships to tie things together and ground the story, but this one benefited more from a strong family relationship than have ones of the past (e.g., Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Godzilla 2 (2019), World War Z, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Knowing, War of the Worlds). I think it's because this one managed the intensity of the connections better and showed their struggle to work through some really very existential threats. All of the above movies had that same dynamic (families trying to stay together despite the world ending around them), but "Greenland" focused on *one* family and did not over-invest in gratuitous effects shots as complete asides to the family's story. The family was really in the foreground here, with the disaster being icing in the background. The result is viewers will probably be more emotionally moved by the characters than usual.

It *did* have good effects, though! I'm sure the science was off if we want to pick things apart, but there weren't any majorly bad CGI scenes, like 2012 had, for instance.

And it also had a particularly distressing beginning that rang a little bit too true: the sensation that the apocalypse was happening and people were being left to die by strategically silent world powers who have already decided who is essential and who will have to figure out survival in the streets. This also makes it a very strange time for the Greenland Office of Tourism to release this advertisement, because while it's true that world leaders seem to be conducting mass triage on the human race at the moment, Greenland may not be the answer, given that they have a total travel ban in effect and not to be lifted until January 12th at the earliest. But maybe that just really makes this movie a how-to guide, since, yes, the travel ban is in effect, but if you travel light you might just get there ;)

No complaints. Would recommend! :)
Sun May 23 00:33:12
they still make movies?
Sun May 23 07:28:09
i had trouble finishin greenland...idk.
Cherub Cow
Tue Sep 14 07:25:48
Malignant (2021)

Stupid and predictable but also kind of fun since they threw so much money into it :D

Even the first few minutes had just awful acting, so that set the tone. But in that same few minutes, the cinematography and set value were really good. This came from director James Wan ("Insidious", "Aquaman", and the original "Saw"), so it's almost like Wan got a bunch of money together over his career specifically so he could go back to his roots and make the most ridiculous horror movie he could — I fucking love it :D :D :D

(( SPOILERS!! ))

That said, the plot "twists" were telegraphed *way* in advance. When the officer mentioned that all of the doors were locked (at about 21 minutes: "No forced entry and abusive husband: motive"), the obvious thought should be, "Okay, they just confirmed suspicions that Madison killed her own husband." The question, then, was just whether or not she'd used telekinetic powers without her body needing to be present, since the opening sequence masked that somewhat. But.. in the scene at about 32 minutes, they show that she's taken her latest victim to a house.. which looks way too similar to the attic of the main character's house.. and the body type of the killer is way too obviously that of Madison's, and the killer seems very obviously to be moving backwards.. so.. it's pretty obvious that Madison is the killer and is just walking backwards with a tumor face in the back of her head (all this clear by 32 minutes). Even so, the director somehow thought that this was a hidden detail, with them not officially "revealing" this to be the case until 1:27:00 into the movie. In other words, the *actual* reveal to the audience was nearly an hour ahead of where the writer/director thought that that plot point was revealed via dramatic music and framing. That 'reveal' music made it seem like it was not just a case of dramatic irony (where the audience was *supposed* to have known) but a case of the filmmakers maybe not realizing how apparent it was. That meant an hour of sitting there like, "Yeah.. I know... just reveal it so we can move on to the next thing."

Despite that hour more or less just being fluff, the cinematography and budgeting in that hour were so nicely done that it was still worth watching. Things like creepy cassette tapes, amnesiac pasts, trips down memory lane, and dusty patient files in an abandoned asylum were reminiscent of "The Ring" (2002), "Halloween", and "The Dead Pit" (1989). The transition effects between Madison's awareness were also a treat.

The movie didn't really start back up until after that 'reveal', and by then there were only 20 minutes remaining. Still, they made good use of that time, with the final sequence being a gore-filled action scene. The poorly lit police department became a comedic site for a "V For Vendetta"-like acrobatic knife fight, with Madison's face looking like the sinister and expressionless face of one of the crab-walk creatures of "The Thing", "In the Mouth of Madness", or "The Ring" again. They wrap up with some nice thoughts about family, but while they seem to want a sequel, the developments of the end almost necessitate that Madison become some kind of superhero. It would amazing if they just went full absurdity with this and had Madison solving weird crimes or something, but it's difficult to say if Wan was embracing the silliness or was trying for something more serious and scary here. I hope he can see that it definitely was not scary, in which case there could be an "Evil Dead 2" situation building (embracing the cheesiness) :D

(( End Spoilers ))

A good movie for people who like bad horrors! Well produced, for sure, and while only Madison was well-directed on the *cast* side, the *cinematography* and effects were very well directed. This was a visually cool and dark movie about a hilarious situation :D
Cherub Cow
Sun Feb 20 05:47:21
Dune (2021)

Very good.

I'd heard that it was a little bit difficult to follow, but I didn't experience that. They gave names, places, and explanations with fair pacing and good clarity, so it wasn't exactly like Game of Thrones season 1 where you could easily miss a web of family alliances and connections (not knowing which names would be important and hearing names without having paired them to faces yet). It certainly helped to know the Dune story already, but it did not seem crucial to understand anything in advance since the explanations were all on-screen. Even the multiple names of Paul Atreides were contextually presented, which avoided confusion there. I *did* have to stop during the sandstorm/tent scene and replay with subtitles to hear Paul's speech while he was having a vision, but that was because of the distorted speech.. which they repeated without distortion a moment later.

I also avoided watching this for a while because I thought that it was a really long movie, but the ending seemed to arrive quickly. I hope they stay on schedule for a 2023 release of Part 2 because production issues could really hurt the cohesiveness of Part 1's production. It also seems like the pacing of Part 1 would mean that Part 2 would need to be more than three hours or else would need to be split in two, since they omitted a lot of details that would have to be raised. So, it should be interesting to see how they handle that runtime in post-production. This will fall to editor Joe Walker, who has a *very* distinguished career at this point (Blackhat, Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), so that should boost confidence.

Complaint-wise, I think that Dave Bautista was a bad casting decision. I've said it before, but he is far too camera-aware, always seeming to have a twinkle in his eye like, "[I bet this looks good for the camera]" (FYI: it doesn't). He really should not be cast outside of comedy. Zendaya Coleman as Chani also didn't quite fit (doesn't really have an elfin-athlete's figure or face while simultaneously seeming to have too much of the modern teen-icon cloth to be serious), and I'm pretty doubtful they'll be able to find much chemistry between herself and Timothée Chalamet (Paul), whom I also barely like. Chalamet is just mute enough personality-wise that he doesn't ruin things, but where his personality creeps into the script tends to be obvious.. small lines that seem improvised with modern language (e.g., "Are you good?" — Rebecca Ferguson even looked at him in that scene like, "[Are we really not going to immediately 'cut' for that pedestrian garbage?]"). I wish they'd cast someone just a little older in his and Chani's roles. I'm also not even particularly happy with Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin since they basically just play one character in every movie at this point, though they at least fit into the story more than the above.

Everyone else in supporting roles seemed to fit pretty well, with Stellan Skarsgård and Oscar Isaac being the big winners here. Oscar Isaac seems like he can play anything. He was basically the only one in the new Star Wars trilogy who seemed to be pretending to be in the Star Wars universe. If they had had him play every character, it would probably have been better than the original trilogy ;)
And Skarsgård was also able to make the Baron's character far more intimidating than the 1984 Baron, who was made into too much of a joke.

Actors aside, the big strength of the movie was of course the directing and the cinematography. Denis Villeneuve knows how to make everything look amazing, and he did that here. It was just a nice movie to watch. The action sequences were very nicely done, and the semi-realism of the blade fight near the end was refreshing.

Story-wise, the development decisions were nice. Instead of laying out the intrigue overtly like in the 1984 version, the main characters sort of hint at what's going on from their own House-perspective. That was a nice form of exposition, since things didn't have to be repeated this way (e.g., no meeting with the emperor listened to by Bene Gesserit and followed by Paul finding out the information and repeating it — instead, they figure out the emperor's plans intuitively). I also liked the way that the workings of the Bene Gesserit were shown in the landing scene. They basically show that the Bene Gesserit had already seeded propaganda on Arrakis and were moving all of the pieces around Paul. It was nice to see Paul's expressions as he comes to terms with the Bene Gesserit's psychological effects on the people around him versus his own sense of personal power. In Part 1, the division there is already growing between his personal power and his awareness of their manipulations.

Anyways, it's certainly not a perfect movie that inspires or gives the glimmer of hope for cinema that has been missing in the last few years, but it has given Dune a fair treatment so far.
Cherub Cow
Mon Feb 21 02:18:40
Dune (2021) {continued}

A weird thing that occurred to me that I haven't worked out yet: Very strange that they specifically cast Timothée Chalamet in a role where his character's lineage is important to the Dune story.

Paul's mother is of the Bene Gesserit (mystics, eugenicists, and genetic manipulators) whereas his father has a more traditional strong lineage (a warrior lineage with supposed tracing back to the Greek Agamemnon or which otherwise sampled that Greek lineage for effect). Chalamet, meanwhile, IRL owes to his mother Jewish ancestry; whereas his IRL father is French Christian.

You'd have to wonder if this was done intentionally to re-narrativize Dune with even more overt Jewish frameworks. There were *already* Jewish and Islamic frameworks at work, but specifically casting someone with a split heritage in this role could not have been an accident. It could be either a critique of Judaism's influence on the world (with the Bene Gesserit already being emphasized as manipulators and propagandists in the 2021 version) or a Jewish hijacking to give an excuse to glorify Jewish leadership with a popular retelling of the Moses story. The angle of the screenplay writers might not be revealed fully until Part 2, since the division between the Bene Gesserit and Paul becomes part of that story, so how the screenplay manipulates the narrative would solidify any agenda. Still, it's worth pointing out that at least one of the three screenplay writers, Eric Roth (screenplay writer of "Munich"), has NYC-Jewish background, so he could be influencing the story in a biased direction. Roth's partial critique of the violence of Israel in "Munich" could be in effect here, so maybe the division between Paul and the orthodox Bene Gesserit was a good excuse for him to show divisions within Judaism (the propagandists versus the true liberators of an oppressed people).
Sun Apr 03 20:07:38
Spider-Man: No Way Home

I almost left half way for a cigarette. I can not, for any reason, forgive this movies liberties with the core of Spider-Man's origin or the idiocy of Disney wrapping up a modern Spider-Man for the sake of a nigger or wet back actor next.

This is the last super hero movie I'll be watching
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 04 02:58:24
"This is the last super hero movie I'll be watching"

I commend you for making it this far! I tapped out of the MCU at Dr. Strange (2016), though I randomly saw "Black Widow", which was also garbage. I appreciated the gifs of the characters being vaporized, though.

And while I wouldn't use your language about it, I *would* say that it's Race Marxism, and it's also just "flavorless, unremarkable" writing.
Mon Apr 25 09:47:34
1Bn movie tho, good for the racket
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 25 23:24:58
They are definitely getting rich off of mediocrity, I'll give them that! ;)

The Northman (2022)

(Not going to do a full review until this releases on demand or I see it again in theater, since I didn't hear some of the dialogue, and I get the impression that I may have missed some important stuff (it was very compact language), but..)

Very cool! Very beautifully done, between the scenery and the iconic cinematography. It's also nice to see a self-contained story with its own attempt at internal consistency. Lots of good world-building went into this, balancing the supernatural with the ordinary (like showing the mythic things people see and then balancing that with what's probably happening in normal reality).

I especially liked their exploration of a "poisoned" history, where someone attempts to re-write your origin story and take the glory of your ancestors away from you. It's fitting to see that as a metaphor in a horror movie, since horror movies tend to reflect the unconscious wars being waged in society. Right now, woke writers are trying to purchase all of the archetypal American hero franchises and poison their histories by revising them as weak or founded on "lies", but this story refused to be revised. The Northman character recognizes the poison and cuts it out of his life, ensuring his future.

Very powerful stuff. I'm worried I won't get to see it again in theater before the next movie replaces it, but the run length on this one is shorter than The Batman, so I may be able to see it again during the work week.

Highly recommended!
Cherub Cow
Mon Oct 31 03:09:45
Halloween Ends (2022)

Even worse than expected.
I originally was not going to see it since they telegraphed the ending so much in "Halloween Kills", but I had a Halloween craving, so.. anyways..

It was just the same "decentered" BS that Hollywood has been putting out — that is, it was not even about Mike Myers until the last 15 minutes — just "survivors". They also wrote more of their TDS into the story, where Myers was transparently a stand-in for people's insane beliefs about Trump. I wish I were simply imagining this political subtext, but they did this in "Halloween Kills" (2021), where a hospital riot scene was written into the story consciously at the behest of Jamie Lee Curtis to represent "mob violence" in 2020/2021. She basically explained in interviews that the hospital scene was symbolic of January 6th and partly had to do with people's rage about Trump during the 2020 riots. That is, "Mike Myers" (Trump) became a psychic force on the population that caused people to behave poorly.

She's not totally incorrect, except that — in the real world — that TDS was caused by the media, not Trump himself. People read Trump's Tweets and watched Trump videos, and media "fact-checkers" were there to tell people that they were reading lies and distortions, making people insane via the media's false narratives. So, the people believed they were seeing *Trump* (the raw reality), but their "truth" was always established as a comparison to an awaiting media psychosis machine, ready to tell them how to interpret what they'd read and ready to confirm their irrational fears. It's the social psychology of transference — angst, belief, uncertainty, and fear projected onto a scapegoat as a means of creating fear-state "solidarity".

In "Halloween Ends", they take it a step further, contradicting their "Halloween Kills" ending by saying that, no, actually, Myers is "just a man", and he's weak and should be discarded. But, a young man is shown being inspired by Myers, taking up his mantel. This flows from the left-wing belief in such men being inspired by Trump, and so he is transparently a shadow of "white supremacy" (the left's hatred of white men), attacking the people who made him out to be a monster and being a corrupting threat to society. Keeping with movie formulas of the last few years, no white men can be good people in this movie, all being bullies, harassers, and killers — except, of course, one who is no longer of breeding age, since he will allow society to move on without him.

There are also light symbolic attempts at Eros versus Thanatos, but the writers mishandle this, seeming not to understand or care how that tension is psychologically resolved — preferring instead to undermine it or "subvert expectations" in postmodern fashion. This acts out in particular with a slight nod (perhaps) to Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1891 play), where the characters of Hedda and Eilert trade blows acting on behalf of death and life in their immoral courtship.

(( SPOILER ahead ))

Myers, here, acts as Thanatos (Death), and Laurie acts as Eros (Life). Where Laurie has attempted to make her home a "garden", Myers is resigned to a deathly sewer, filled with rotten roots and waste. After some minor battles, Laurie takes the role of Hedda, prepared to kill herself in despair after seeing her failed attempts at life — corrupted as Hedda was by her Thanatos — but the subversion is that Laurie refuses to fulfill this script, instead forcing that suicide upon Corey.

In a proper Thanatos/Eros story, the death of Corey necessitates that Allyson must die, since the balance of life and death is brought together through the procreative act. That is, Allyson and Corey are supposed to combine their life and death actions by having a child — failing that, they are to die together. Similarly, Laurie and Michael were to die together, since Eros requires Thanatos as a tree requires fertilizer.

They re-wrote this connection in the ending. Michael had previously been shown to grow stronger by taking life (appropriate for Death feeding on Life), but Laurie definitively "killing" death makes less sense. Myers cannot be killed, since Death always awaits life. The best they can do to acknowledge this is that the "killing" of Myers allows the town to heal, but Laurie has deprived Allyson of a future and she herself has only a non-procreation retirement — so she has killed herself in all but the literal. In a proper symbolic act, she should have died literally with Michael, with Corey and Allyson then trying to escape their fates by leaving the town together.

In short, the life/death theme was not properly examined — using instead an attempt at "subversion" — but outside of this failed script-writing, the characters cannot avoid the rules of life and death. The authors likely wanted to give Laurie and Allyson a happy ending, but by not recognizing this inescapable link between life and death, they simply wrote an empty ending with no true healing. They mixed too many metaphors across the trilogy, not ending with any theme better than, "[Jamie Lee Curtis and her left-wing friends will try to get over her TDS by retiring to Japan and looking at cherry blossoms]".

And this annoying political subtext undermines more than just these last two movies. This was likely the final sendoff for Curtis, who would likely not want to participate in any Halloween movies again.. and they ruined the possibility of a true resolution by making allusions to Trump, who will likely not be relevant by the time that a reboot is due, thus dating this movie and keeping this sendoff from being "timeless". The writer decisions were thus based in cowardice and confusion when simplicity and a strong theme would have fared much better.

Direction / Editing / Production
Aside from that, this was also the worst of the three movies just on the basis of direction, editing, and production quality.

Production-side, the sets of the first reboot (2018) were high quality, with a lot of attention paid to a kind of merger between modern life and late '70s aesthetics. This continued somewhat into "Halloween Kills". But, for "Halloween Ends", the sets seemed lazy and small, without much attention paid to meaning or even nostalgia. A bar was just a bar (generic), a house was just a house, and no location had any real significance aside from being the staged location of a sequence.

Direction-side, despite this being David Gordon Green's trilogy (no directorial interruptions), he clearly did not care about this one. Even his pan-up shots to key locations were lazy, with focus on a tower and a car-grinder early in the movie being far-too-obvious nods to how things would end (i.e., *several* shots of the car-grinder were shown early on, making it far too apparent that this would be used later, and a radio tower received a full and slow pan-up shot that guaranteed that it would be significant later). He also could not hide his disdain for Myers, which showed both in Myers' being nearly absent from the movie (go figure: a Myers movie without Myers) and his portrayal of Myers as a decrepit old man who was hardly a threat. He was clearly done with this trilogy before he'd even begun filming this third movie.

And editing isn't usually an issue in big productions, but there were obvious *errors*, such as an early cut where the music was not overlaid on the transition (i.e., the music cut with the screen cut rather than continuing), and a show of a pipe where Myers was likely supposed to have been revealed was instead cut awkwardly over a gas station transition. There was clearly a missing scene there that they didn't even care to soften after removing it, indicating that they actually edited Myers *out* of the early portions of the movie.

Overall, a very bad ending to the trilogy. I sort of knew I'd regret paying for this, but the 2018 one was good enough that I suspended my better judgment on a whim. People should basically just consider these the only three Halloween movies:
Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween (2018)

The first Rob Zombie "Halloween" gave it a good go, but I wouldn't even put that in the list after Zombie completely ruined continuity in Halloween II (2009) and also had a tendency to make everything look like a filthy teenager's bedroom. Zombie's Halloween also had the issue of just being a big wrestler overpowering people rather than being a stealthy and creepy stalker. Halloween 2018 did the best in this latter regard, with Myers being very calculated and creepy. This was completely absent in Halloween Ends. It may as well have not even been in the same universe.

TLDR: Meh.
Mon Oct 31 10:18:20
They're making a Community movie.

Unfortunately no Chevy Chase. Not even a hologram =(
Cherub Cow
Mon Oct 31 19:15:40
Six seasons and a MOVIE!!!
Cherub Cow
Mon Apr 03 05:14:33
John Wick: Chapter 4

Another great installment in the franchise. (⌐□_□)

I think this one solidifies the franchise as counter to Regime propaganda.
• Producer/Director Chad Stahelski is making sure that he has full creative control,
• the additional producers, Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, both have good pedigrees (in particular via "Sicario" and "Greenland", the latter being a glimpse into their negative thoughts about the psychos attempting to rule the world), and
• Keanu Reeves' presence means that the story does not have to compromise the character since he can pull from his personal fortune if anyone wises up and threatens the story.
• On top of that, with four movie in the franchise now, production companies Summit Entertainment and Thunder Road Films (both of Lionsgate) likely cannot stop them from making their symbolic plot more transparent to casual viewers. Summit Entertainment is openly publishing ESG reports, but Thunder Road Films has no such obligations — and is owned by producer Basil Iwanyk (i.e., owned by an individual rather than a parasitic board).

Lionsgate probably has no fucking clue what they let slip under their radar, and John Wick's primary producers just made enough money that they are no longer beholden to Lionsgate's interference.

And more explicitly than background funding, the movie is fully aware of what is being done via the anti-Western propaganda against which they stand. The main villain of Chapter 4, the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), outright says what the purpose of Regime propaganda is: to make the very idea of John Wick unpalatable to anyone who would support him. This is a direct parallel to the ESG/DIE propaganda that we've been seeing in ESG movies: villainize Western heroes (e.g., white men), make the plights of heroes hopeless, artificially promote LGBTQ2S+NAMBLA side-shows, and psychologically condition audiences for the fall of the West — among other things (e.g., my longer article on the subject http://che...e-to-the-total-states-cultural ).

John Wick has so far subtly resisted and undermined this propaganda, and the ending of this movie showed that they're going to expand the universe to subtly expose even more. In previous movies, for instance, losers of the LGBTQ2S+NAMBLA faith, such as Ruby Rose ("Ares" in Part 2) and Asia Kate Dillon ("The Adjudicator" in Part 3) were given the scorn that they deserved (rather than Regime propaganda's tendency to make these artificial villains more powerful than they really are or to try to portray them as benevolent), with Ares defeated very easily and the Adjudicator made to look like a disgusting weasel. Both cases showed that the movies were partially complying with ESG/DIE representation (i.e., they had "representation") but were intentionally undermining ESG's intention for that representation (i.e., they represented those characters badly).


As for the ending, it pretty much goes without saying that they did not make things air tight. They played with the idea of what Wick's purpose is, with the psychological conditioning of this movie being that the Regime (as voiced by the Marquis) expects Wick to be a killer, which is denied by Wick's epitaph. And, the Regime also expects to *profit* from Wick's downfall — but the movie denies this in the duel (the Marquis fails to ascend, and the High Table must pay a great deal of money in repairs).

There are also more obvious issues which signal a sequel — even without the producers themselves mentioning that they're sure Keanu will return for the 5th and with them initially having expected to film 4 and 5 back-to-back. Open plot lines include Wick returning for his car, which was being repaired during Chapter 2, Wick returning for his wedding ring, Wick knowing that he must live to keep the memory of his wife alive, and Wick knowing that his true grievance is with the High Table. This is part of Wick realizing that it is the High Table itself that prevented him from living his life, since everything that the High Table touches is affected downstream (hence his original troubles in Chapter 1).

This last point is a reversal of the lies that some of the characters believed during the franchise. They believe that it is *Wick* who causes everything around him to die (and consequently any friendships he's made), whereas the reality is that the High Table has forced a good man into action and it is their war against the very existence of people like Wick that has caused all of the death; Wick is merely returning the "consequences" to them. In The Matrix sense, Wick is fighting the "Agents" of the High Table, often even literally, as he fought Daniel Bernhardt in Chapter 1, and Bernhardt played an agent in Matrix 2.

In Chapter 4, this plays out with the relationships between fathers and daughters "Akira" (Rina Sawayama) and "Shimazu" (Hiroyuki Sanada) as well as "Caine" (Donnie Yen) and "Mia" (Aimée Kwan). Akira does not understand why her father would die for Wick, and she blames *Wick* for her father's decisions — but her father's line that he has known Wick for longer than she has been alive is a subtle nod to the fact that Wick had a chance to kill him but did not and that Akira is only alive because Wick saved him. Wick has many such blood oaths, shown via many of the positive interactions he's had with other killers throughout the franchise — people who refuse the call to kill Wick because they know that he gave them life. This seems to be a key subject for Wick; he saves or spares people that respect life or oppose the High Table. His key friend group appropriately includes the "Bowery King" (Laurence Fishburne), who openly opposes the High Table.

Those who respect Wick understand where his road is leading, and this is repeated throughout the franchise when they knowingly ask about his stopping point. The obvious conclusion, then, is that Wick staged his death so that he could plan the downfall of the High Table.

As far as potential propaganda goes, John Wick could be flirting with the idea of coaxing right-wing actors to create a Franz Ferdinand scenario, but any psychotic person taking that message would have to see that Wick is successful due to extensive training, deep connections, and strategic alliances. So, if those viewers were to use this story as a model, they would immediately fall upon immense logistical challenges. The franchise is instead tracing Regime propaganda to its source as a kind of therapy and for viewer empowerment (e.g., its love of niche firearms getting people to train and collect ).

And the franchise is *not* totally based or anything. They are treading the line in order to secure mass release. A big red flag in Chapter 4, for instance, was that Donnie Yen was given special credibility for Chinese audiences. You could almost see the running joke of the movie: that Yen had to play a blind person in order to not out-perform Wick (a repeat of propaganda spread during triple-X part 3). This is the sort of consolation prize that Chinese audiences would appreciate, since they believe Yen to be a total champion against the West, as evidenced by the absurd revisionism of the "Ip Man" movies, which attempt to portray a pathetic old man — whose only claim to fame is that Bruce Lee rejected all of his teachings — as a lethal and (comparatively) muscular hero who returned to exceed his own student. Yen is even allowed to kill Japanese people, which would definitely fly well with Chinese audiences.

Still! For the most part you get a movie with consistently cool action, far less of the clumsiness of the dog fights had in Chapter 3 (though there *was* *an* attack dog in Chapter 4), a "Determinator" type (Wick never gives up), and the overall polish of a well-produced movie. I'll probably be seeing this again in the theater just to focus in on some of the dialogue, since this one had more to say than did previous chapters.

See it immediately, and smoke while doing so.
Cherub Cow
Sun Jun 25 08:51:49
Evil Dead Rise (2023)

A nice film with a positive message.

Quick Background

So it's an Evil Dead movie, which means lots of gore, and that is always a positive. But in an update to the franchise, they do a sort of "Jason Takes Manhattan" (1989) bend where the story moves to the city. To accomplish this, there are *three* books of the dead with each having specific roles and one being long-hidden under an L.A. apartment structure — a departure from the usual cabin-in-the-woods or remote location. (I say "departure" realizing that Army of Darkness technically ended in the city and that the TV series brought the story to cities also; i.e., it's still "new" that an Evil Dead *movie* made this move.)

Of the now three books, the semi-retcon here is apparently that the three books in "Army of Darkness" (1992) were active. I say, "semi-retcon", because in Army of Darkness the three books shown were not necessarily all *real*, with two being decoys on the way to the correct (and singular) Necronomicon. But, this new movie treats that assumption as incorrect, saying that those other two were also real. I think it's a stretch and a little autistic to make this kind of change, and I would not have done it, but I at least understand.

Plot — A Positive Message

What gives the story a positive message is that it sort of follows the "M3GAN" warning about bad parenting.

The main story starts with a family of 4, the matriarch of which — "Ellie" (Alyssa Sutherland of the "Vikings" TV series) — clearly being heavily faulted. We're introduced to a terrible-looking living space in a dilapidated building and a newly single-mother situation with the father out of the picture due to Ellie's apparent abuse of the alimony system. They are being evicted and Ellie is packing, but she has no plans for where they will move. She appears to be a tattoo artist, which has its own associations of deviancy.

When confronted with a parenting decision, Ellie allows her daughter, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), to plan to go to a Labor Day protest the following day and demands that her mother wash her activist-message shirt ("Eat the Rich"), forgoing the personal responsibility of cleaning it herself.. And, she is allowed to go to this protest *if* she checks if the toilet paper is stocked in the bathroom — i.e., as opposed to not letting her go at all or requiring a higher threshold of responsibility. Another daughter, "Danny" (Morgan Davies), meanwhile, blares badly-DJed music, evades any serious parenting about turning that music down, and is clearly role-playing as a boy. The youngest daughter, Kassie, is seen disfiguring a doll rather than caring for it and openly and casually lies to her mother about the whereabouts of her mother's scissors — the deviancy already settling in at such a young age.

So you have three daughters, and each has issues:
• Bridget — already a trained activist with clearly resentful Marxist leanings
• Danny — already deviant and contaminated with the self-emasculation discourse
• Kassie — already trained to deny her protective instincts by mutilating a baby-doll

On top of this, Ellie's sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), visits, and she has clearly become pregnant out of wedlock while working as a groupie and equipment tech and is uncertain about what to do.

( some SPOILERS ahead )

An important reminder here is that horror-movie writers tend to kill the people who are considered morally compromised or irredeemable. Naturally, it is the mother who dies first, having failed her children. As she dies (the real her), she tells her sister "Don't let them take my babies." I found myself saying, "They already have, since you failed them." Next, the resentful activist is contaminated by her mother's tattoo needle — a very appropriate metaphor for her mother's deviancy contaminating her daughter (and also literally via a face tattoo, likely as an omen of what would have occurred next in her life). Finally, the "trans" daughter dies, she, by the story's own verbal reckoning, being the reason that this evil was unleashed upon the family. This is true literally in the sense of playing the forbidden words and figuratively by self-emasculating in a destruction of her purity.

But, rather than the main-character massacre continuing, this is where the turn takes place.

The possessed mother, Ellie, says a line key to the Evil Dead franchise, "I will swallow your soul," smells Beth's belly, and says, "*Two* souls?"

This is a clear writer signal that regardless of human discourse, the demons of Evil Dead consider an unborn child to have a soul. Further, though, Beth seems to realize in this moment that she wants to keep the baby, knowing its value intuitively; and Kassie, seeing this play out in front of her, realizes also the value of this unborn child and helps Beth to stop possessed-Ellie from killing it. From here, the story merely carries out this message.

Beth and Kassie team up to save their lives and the life of the unborn child. They have both now redeemed themselves by the writer's morality (a future Kassie would likely not mutilate any more dolls, and Beth will keep her baby and learn to be a mother for the baby and for Kassie). There are a few more messages involved, such as Beth saving Kassie and Beth realizing that she's not as strong as a Bruce Campbell when it comes to fighting back, but the redemption arc was completed in the moment that Beth stops possessed-Ellie.

(End Spoilers)


So, all in all a surprise. I was worried that the movie would butcher the Evil Dead franchise, but it tread the line here.

This movie clearly accommodated the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity requirements of ESG under Warner Brothers' contracts (New Line Cinema is a subsidiary), but they played the same trick as the John Wick franchise: they *represented* the DIE characters, but they *undermined* those characters via cold reality. For instance, did Bridget's resentment help her accept responsibility? No; all she can do is yell like an impotent activist while her mother attacks her aunt (i.e., resentful activists demand action of *others* while accepting no personal responsibility), with her possessed-mother pointing out this parasitism directly afterwards. Did Danny's play-acting result in a strong fight instinct? No. She's still a girl, not possessing the physical strength to survive an assault.

As is the case in many horror movies, the writers quietly mocked the delusions of society by using the common person's fear of reality surfacing as horror. That is, everyday society has people rationalize themselves into quite orderly and popular façades, but horror movies use dark metaphors to warn people of the truths that they evade. For "Evil Dead Rise", they peeled the layers on what resentful activists fear (their impotence), what self-emasculators fear (their fantasies revealed as false in the truth spoken by their bodies), and what progressive mothers fear (the deaths of their children after failing to protect them not with the Devouring Mother's over-protection but with responsibility and maturity).

Given the current 84% critic rating this movie has on Rotten Tomatoes currently, I'm guessing that activist-critics did not realize what happened here.
Cherub Cow
Mon Jul 24 05:19:11
Mission Impossible: Deck Reckoning Part I (2023)

Pretty good!

Mission Impossible has been a solid franchise, and Tom Cruise has enough wealth that he can make sure that these scripts reject the new Marxism-by-numbers formula.

So it was pretty exciting. It also had a good balance of funny moments in an early car chase, with a definite highlight being that Hayley Atwell's character was clearly supposed to be an insane person breaking apart any plans that the crew tried to make. A possible compromise here was that some of her early scenes were more comedic and thus seemed to have less on the line. I think they played this about right, though this movie definitely had less drama than previous installments, such as Ghost Protocol.

Esai Morales as "Gabriel" was also good, though I wish they'd shown a little more about why he's such an A.I. sycophant. His "powers" seemed based on the idea that the A.I. had predicted all primary and necessary outcomes, but the obvious undermining of this would be Gabriel's own personal failure to realize the plans. What this means is that as a character he either needs to have zero doubt about the certainty of the A.I.'s revelations to him (the direction they went) or have hyper-immediate access to the A.I.'s commands. Since they (seemingly) went with the first option, it would have been nice to have a character development scene showing why he's such an A.I. accelerationist.

But, this *is* Part I of II, so I'm guessing they'll reveal his deeper motivations in the sequel. If they don't explain his accelerationism, they could instead go with him having some kind of neural chip like in the movie "Upgrade" (2018).

-( SPOILER ahead )-

I *was* a little disappointed with their signing off of a character, but I have a feeling it was because the actor was trying to move on career-wise.. in which case they at least did this in away which was respectable. I'm not a major fan of the actor, but they added some hints of humanity in this which made the loss hurt. This was also the reason for Hayley Atwell' presence in the movie, since they were trying to recover the vacancy. I did not like Atwell in the MCU, but that may just be because the MCU is garbage. I didn't really have any complaints with her in this, since she played the chaotic character well. Incidentally, Pom Klementieff of the MCU ("Mantis" in Guardians) also crossed productions for this movie.

-( End spoilers )-

Regarding Stunts / Action
I usually avoid previews for movies once I make the decision to see the movie, but I *did* watch the promotional stunt scene of Tom Cruise jumping a motorcycle off of a cliff ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lsFs2615gw ). When that scene happened, I was just trying to enjoy the fact that he really *did* the stunt rather than it being green screen, which is what they were going for with that promotional video, of course. It looked like they even had him deliver a line mid-air :p
The cliff where the ramp was constructed looked out of place when they composited it into the movie, but it was just real enough to not be a big issue.

There were a lot of cool sequences in this, though I admit that Ghost Protocol has the most memorable ones (e.g., the Kremlin escape, climbing the glass on the Burj Khalifa). Rogue Nation's swimming stunt was also fun.

Dead Reckoning's yellow-car chase was fun too, but I think the intensity of the train scene could have been ratcheted up. E.g., Ethan misses the train the first time, but that could have been a more dramatic lost moment. As is, it was just "I missed it," and he moves on, whereas there could have been a 5-second sequence where he realizes he can't commit to the jump and bails. That would also have played into him going for the cliff jump later.

The A.I. Villain
I think they could have placed more intrigue into the different intelligence services vying for the key, and the A.I.'s total scope started to fade a bit towards the end, but they added some interesting commentary about A.I.'s potential effects on "truth". I hope they focus on the A.I. being *programmed* in Part II, since pretending that it just "became" self-aware is a little too simple.

So yeah, anyways, a fun movie. Would recommend. :)

On Other Media
I realize that Barbie and Oppenheimer are out and that Oppenheimer in particular benefits from IMAX scale and sound.. but I'm just not interested. Barbie has a nice aesthetic, and I can look past right-wing media trying to burn it as another "woke" movie (and I scare-quote that even having written plenty enough myself about "woke"); but hype, no hype, hate-watching, no-hate watching, I'm just not interested in *paying* to see it. Similarly, "Sound of Freedom" is being hyped simply because the left is trying to lie about it, but it just doesn't look like a good enough movie for the theater. "Nefarious" is another like that (propped up as a right-wing alternative), but it almost feels like homework.

Otherwise, I might see the new Insidious (out now), and it looks like Meg 2 (August 2023) could be funny. I think that wraps the Summer movies, and then it'll be Dune Part II in November.

Pretty wild that I used to see movies every single weekend, but the new ESG writing formula is so formulaic and painful to watch that there's not much worth seeing anymore. I even have *more* time on the weekends now than when I did when I was writing reviews super frequently, I just don't waste time on bad movies anymore.

As for things somewhat worth watching, that seems limited to streaming services.

The Jack Ryan TV series wrapped, and that was alright. I expected 8 episodes in season 4, so I was a little caught off guard when they wrapped the plot in episode 6. The series was not particularly memorable, and it didn't have the realism of the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies, but it was still a good watch.

"Terminal List" (2022) was definitely good as a mini-series, and the movie "Without Remorse" (2021) was fucking awesome. They race-swapped the John Clark character, but Michael B. Jordan played the character very well and *looked* serious enough for the part. In the Jack Ryan TV show, meanwhile.. Domingo Chavez was played by *Michael Peña*, who is honestly just too fat and soft to portray the most badass Tom Clancy character. The upcoming Rainbow Six movie could be awesome if they retain the director of "Without Remorse" (Stefano Sollima), but they're currently listing the also-capable Chad Stahelski of John Wick. Stahelski has a lot on his plate (new Highlander, Wick spin-offs), so I'm not sure that he should be doing Rainbow Six on top of everything. It'd be nice to see Sollima given the reigns on that one..

But yeah.. I've just been watching a lot of older movies lately.
"No Escape" (1994) still holds up btw :D
Cherub Cow
Tue Aug 01 07:59:57
Talk to Me (2023)

Trailer here:
(Australian horror movie produced by A24)

Pretty good!

I almost didn't see this because it seemed like they made it an ESG/DIE-casting thing (i.e., casting people because of identity groups and making political statements based on those casting decisions), but they ended up only making a couple of specific statements about race, like via some casual anti-whiteism thrown in where they subtly blamed "white people" for the existence of the medium-hand. But past that, it was a pretty well done horror.

About (no spoilers)
Australian teens inherit what they presume to be the severed hand of a medium/psychic encased in a preservative material which allows people to commune with and to be possessed by the dead (communing by saying, "Talk to me," and possessed by saying, "I let you in."). They take turns being possessed as a kind of nihilistic thrill ride which quickly moves out of their control.

"It Follows" Trope
One thing they did was sample from "It Follows" (2014) by using a particular trope of that movie: show the extreme consequences of the supernatural device right away as part of a loop so that the buildup to the later supernatural elements have a looming threat that new characters simply enter.

*Lots* of movies do similarly, of course, such as the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie starting with gore upfront so that the audience experiences dramatic irony as a fresh batch of people arrives without knowing what awaits them. And loop stories themselves have a long horror tradition, with obvious (more recent) horror examples being "The Ring"/"Ringu", "1408" (2007), "Truth or Dare" (2018), "Mara" (2018), and "In the Tall Grass" (2019). You could even make an argument for "Wicker Man" and "Midsommar"/"Cannibal Holocaust"/"Green Inferno", but those tend to focus more on death cults or killer societies continually finding more victims. My focus below is more narrowly on *curse* loops, where people find themselves entering a curse that perpetually ensnares people in a haunting process. This is more like what was made fun of or turned meta in "Happy Death Day" (2017) and "The Endless" (2017) — both which experimented with characters being aware of the loops.

So I think what ties "Talk to Me" specifically to "It Follows" is the dark style of the cinematographers in establishing this curse loop with a separate introductory "consequences" scene. The same thing was used also in "Smile" (2022), which *also* borrowed from "It Follows" (not just with this introductory scene but even more deliberately with faraway shots of the approaching creature). That's three separate directors, two likely inspired heavily by "It Follows", which makes sense since "It Follows" was a huge deal for being so novel after a kind of dry spell for new horror concepts.

(minor SPOILERS ahead, though some of this is thematic detail which might make a first viewing better)

Empathizing with Death / Death Clawing for Life
The main theme seemed to be a suicidal girl, Mia (Sophie Wilde), wanting to empathize with her now dead and formerly depressed mother, whom she wanted to believe did not kill herself. The audience is almost immediately told that her mother *was* depressed and took too many sleeping pills, which from a detective's perspective would make suicide pretty assured regardless of additional details. Still, the audience is also fed Mia's perspective and her uncertainties, such as her mother having clawed at the door from inside the room where she died.

So the main theme of the movie is broken into three imperatives:
1) to reconcile these two simultaneous truths: that Mia's mother killed herself but that her mother *also* clawed at the door to be saved.
2) that a living person would want to empathize with the dead.
3) learning what the dead crave (true empathy with the dead).

1) In the concrete world, we know this first thematic imperative. This is the idea of a person jumping off of a building intentionally but *screaming* in regret on the way down; this is a person wanting death but being shocked into craving life again in the very act of suicide. Where the nervous system acts as a final warning system, it shouts at the mind (in tragedy: too late) when it realizes what the mind has done against its own life. This mixes also with the "cry for help" and the "call of the void", but (successful) suicidal people seem to intuitively know that they need to not only follow through but deprive themselves of an escape — like kicking away a chair during a hanging and making sure that there's nothing else to stand on. So Mia's mother intended to kill herself, but the agony of dying had her clawing at the door.

2) This flows to the second thematic imperative: Mia's character tries to learn this lesson for herself by trying to empathize with her depressed/dead mother. This is an old symbol, such as in "What Dreams May Come" when Robin Williams' character is pulled into his dead wife's self-constructed hell when he stays too long. The problem with trying to empathize with the dead is that if one gets too close (e.g., *too* depressed, *too* nihilistic, *too* self-destructive), that empathy becomes death itself.

3) The last imperative is another old one: what do the dead crave? Life. In the movie, this plays out when the dead do not want to give up their possession. They are drawn back to anyone who gives them a chance to have their existence brought to life through the will and the bodies of the living.

This produces the mirror effect: those who empathize with the dead suffocate their lives to get as close to death as possible; but on the other side of the mirror, the dead want to get as close to *life* as possible, gasping for air and not wanting to stop breathing once they've begun.

This itself is an old theme. In "The Odyssey", even Achilles says he wishes he were alive when he is visited in the Underworld — and this is *paired* with his Greek belief in the immortality of his own heroism. It is not *regret*, however, as no Greek would regret his heroism; it is the simple recognition of the value of life over death. No Greek hero would crave death itself.

Lots of movies have looked specifically at the *types* of spirits as the reasoning for the actions taken in a possession, which seems to merely be a continuity of that spirit's life choices. So, a malicious spirit would want to possess only to kill the life it possesses, perhaps even to feel again that nervous system response (that most potent sense of life). A more thoughtful spirit might want to draw out the possession, such as in "The Unborn" (2009), where the spirit wants to permanently possess the body to live a full life again. This movie dealt with both, though it did so subtly, by masking which spirit was commanding any particular possession. The audience simply picks up on this based on a few scenes where different spirits derive different satisfactions.


In the case of Mia's possession and dealings with her mother, it is also not totally clear when she is truly dealing with her mother versus some entity assuming the appearance of her mother, especially since dialogue shows the characters are aware that these spirits can read the thoughts of the living. And this is most largely made an issue when Mia believes that her father is attacking her but finds that it was merely an apparition manipulating her. This means that while it would be nice to simply say that *specifically* empathizing with her own mother means that Mia follows the same suicidal path, the message becomes more general: that this kind of expanding empathy with the dead necessarily invites one's frivolous death. I.e., it's not *just* empathizing with the formerly suicidal; the movie wants to show that no dead person wants death.

Neat Montage
Have to say that the ending montage was very cool. They come *very* close to the "Ghost" (1990) camera play where a character rises (dead) and turns around to see his body, but they switch this turnaround moment into the montage instead. Once Mia crosses over, she immediately finds time slipping quickly past her, such as seeing her body delivered to the hospital, seeing her father leaving (likely having identified her body), then quickly seeing that Riley has recovered (likely weeks later), then finding that she's totally lost in a void since her connections have moved on without her. Very cool.

A More General Message Against Teen Nihilism?
The movie also seems to be making all of this commentary specifically against social media nihilism, since teens filming these scenes on cell phones and making sport of communing with the dead is combined with a lack of respect for the real world versus the social media space of TikTok and SnapChat. The teens want to look into the void of social media and feel the fame of people "doing numbers" for some video, but the reality of *filming* these videos means self-destructive activities. The central destroyer characters even comment that they need new party houses since they have too thoroughly trashed previous ones.

This is a sad reflection of the fact that the types of content that generate large interest are not typically going to be life-affirming. Content such as Mr. Beast, for instance, seems heavily focused on destroying expensive items, following the formula of "Jackass" and CKY before it.

And the movie did a better job at this messaging than "Pulse" (2006) and "One Missed Call" (2008), which were just too painfully overt about "cell phone = bad" logic. "Countdown" (2019) re-tried this same messaging, but they had to treat it as comedy to get through their own script. Even "The Circle" (2017) accidentally sold their "1984" references as positives, with the movie not making it clear to most audiences that Emma Watson's "happy" ending was meant as a modern version of Winston Smith being executed (i.e., her character was effectively dead, having accepted the ideological capture of social media).

In the case of Mia, her ending montage was a good example of the cost of social media: time itself slipping away. Many people have ironically claimed that the world ended in 2012, with the "evidence" being that time seems to have accelerated (for them) since then. But, more likely, these people spend so much time passively consuming content online that their lives pass without any concrete measure of their own existence. The time suck of social-media doom-scrolling depletes the very effect of life, having people empathize with "dead" people (social media "stars"/personalities/"influencers"), who often want merely to ideologically possess their audiences to steal their lives away for their own quickening. Can a message of life be extracted from a convenient TikTok video? Hardly. Messages of life do not need page views to survive; they become their own reward in the very expression of it, and those who read such messages may find themselves craving the sun on their face.

"We are racing towards the abyss, but we don't see it, because on TV you cannot see the abyss."

Very cool movie. This one is about to be pulled from theaters, but I'll probably see it again once it makes it to streaming.
Cherub Cow
Mon Aug 07 03:02:53
The Meg 2 (2023)

Lulz. Please don't see this. :p

I saw it because I knew it was going to be bad, but the type of bad was not quite enjoyable. Instead of being so bad it's good, it was bad with just too much of a serious attempt at being legitimately good.

And right after I wrote that, I checked my review of the first Meg (here: http://uto...hread=77450&time=1562875040274 ), and it's basically the same situation, lol:
[From my review of the first Meg]: "I hoped that this would be like.. Sharknado bad.. but it was an actual attempt at a movie that just didn't do much. There were lots of obvious, kid-style jokes; lots of obvious scare attempts; and worst of all, its PG-13 rating meant that even with a giant shark eating people, there was like, zero gore."

That basically sums it XD
It was a total copy and paste of the first one, down to the sport-feeding of a beach.

Political Messaging
Aside from that, though, it had some mixed political messages that departed a little from reality to shift the blame of the *actual* (real life) messages.

To explain, the setup is that Jason Statham's character is a kind of "Green Peace" crusader who stops oceanic pollution with direct action, such as filming and reporting a crew that was secretly polluting radiation waste in the Pacific. He allies with a Chinese oligarch who runs a deep-sea exploration facility that has overlapping "green" goals. This is the same facility from the first movie, but it has been inherited from the "Suyin" character (played by Bingbing Li of "Resident Evil: Retribution"), who was written off for Meg 2 apparently because the actress was busy IRL.

And the drama of the story occurs when it turns out that the "Trench" region from which the Megalodons came holds billions of dollars of rare-earth minerals which are being illegally mined using the infrastructure and funding of the "green" research operation. This rare-earth operation blows a hole in the thermocline that's keeping this Meg habitat separate from the rest of the ocean, causing more Megs to escape. (This is the theme of destructive human actions unleashing nature's wrath — a popular theme in ESG movies.)

So, there's some truth to this.
In real life, "green" activists are being used to hide and even *justify* rare-earth mineral operations, causing massive destruction of habitats out of view of the public. This is because "green" politics are merely excuses to re-locate pollution to these rare-earth operations. All of those minerals for solar panels and batteries for an all-electric future require massive pollution, being, ironically, less environmentally friendly than oil, gas, and even nuclear (the implicit enemy of the opening scene). It's actually far cleaner to use oil and gas in the West but with the West's clean-energy innovations than it is to outsource energy to China, China burning oil and gas without those clean innovations while destructively mining rare earth minerals in Africa.

The movie even specifically mentions the "hidden" aspect of this rare-earth operation. The protagonists of the movie can make billions if they can hide that the "green" operation is just a front. They can achieve victory by taking full control of the operation (merging the front with the actual profit drive), at which point they no longer even need their "green" activists, who can either be killed or bribed into joining the program with their eyes open to its realities.

So, a strong and even a *nuanced* message for a mainstream movie that exposes the "green" agenda, right?
Not quite.

Chinese Cinema
This movie was heavily funded by China through the China Media Capital (CMC) production company and asset manager. (Yep, in China, they just outright manage assets and make movies under the same umbrella, whereas in the China-owned United States, they just pretend that Disney and Warner Brothers are separate entities from BlackRock.) This is the same production company that funded the ultra-collectivist propaganda film "Wandering Earth" (2019), which shows the destiny of humanity as being a distinctly Chinese one. Think "Independence Day" (1996), but instead of the unity of humanity being behind the individualistic American project, it is behind single-minded Chinese collectivists.

As part of the Chinese format, all of the "good guys" were Chinese. This means that the "green" activists were the Chinese heroes. One could counter this point via the presence of..
• Jason Statham (British),
• Cliff Curtis (Maori),
• Page Kennedy (black American),
• Melissanthi Mahut (Greek–Canadian),
• Felix Mayr (Swiss),
• Whoopie Van Raam (Dutch/Netherlands), and
• Kiran Sonia Sawar (Pakistani)
..but the movie subtly undermines them as merely useful heroes enabled by Chinese technology and serving Chinese interests. They continuously show that the "true" heroes are Meiying (China's Shuya Sophia Cai) and Jiuming Zhang (China's Jing Wu), since they are the visionaries and capable thinkers of the movie. Even the island party-goers are given a nod of approval, and they are almost all composed of the rising Chinese middle-class, many having facial surgeries and breast implants as a sign of their casual wealth (on top of their ability to vacation for pleasure).

The villains, meanwhile, are Western profiteers, attempting to own the rare-earth operation themselves:
• Sienna Guillory (Jewish–British)
• Skyler Samuels (American)
• Sergio Peris-Mencheta (Spain-Spanish)
• Mercenaries (all that I could verify are British)
Even the people on the island who were given the most spectacular deaths were of this group or were ugly-American tourists (the stereotypical low-class American tourist: fat and inconsiderate).

See the Switch?
The plain reality is that China owns around 80% of rare-earth mineral mining around the world (depending on your estimating source), yet, in the movie, it is *Western* villains who are doing the mining and polluting unseen for these minerals.

Even on the issue of tourism this switch happens. The Chinese middle-class has been notoriously known for being the worst of global tourists, having no concept of the queue, making messes in bathrooms (many do not know that toilet paper can be flushed in the West), and gathering Western items as proxy purchasers (e.g., not purchasing casual vacation keepsakes but instead clearing out precious items for re-sale to the even wealthier Chinese when they return to the mainland). The movie was also obviously geared towards Chinese audiences, with a great deal of it being delivered in Chinese. Many such propaganda movies of the Hollywood past will have token Chinese characters to appease Chinese audiences, but this shows that the line is tilting even more in China's favor: even "American" producers (Warner Brothers being the American-side producer here) are focusing *first* on Chinese audiences and *second* on American audiences.

But, the outcome of the movie may admit the reality. Since the villains are defeated, those rare-earth minerals are again in China's hands (where they belong, right, Chinese producers?). The "green" activists are indeed mostly Westerners, since they betray their nations on China's behalf either knowingly, due to a foolish belief in China's concern for nature preservation, or due to their ignorance of these hidden Belt-and-Road operations (they seeing only the West's piece of the puzzle). Even Bingbing Li of the first Meg was herself a "low carbon" activist recognized by the Swiss "World Wildlife Fund" (i.e., she's a propaganda agent selling the CCP's energy programs local to China and in the West).

It really is a wonderful encapsulation of Chinese foreign policy in a propaganda film. :|

Pretty wild stuff! China is basically saying that it has the best tourists, it alone should own the rare-earth operations, and "green" activists can help them consolidate these rare-earth minerals and shut down competing energy sources in the West. ESG's capture of cinema is seeing a lot of success in placing Chinese propaganda in Western theaters.
Cherub Cow
Mon Aug 14 08:20:33
Twilight Saga - A Retrospective

This week, ended up doing a full re-watch of the Twilight Saga. :)

I've rewatched the first two a bunch of times since their initial release, but I've sort of de-prioritized Eclipse and Breaking Dawn 1 and 2. I saw the first movie opening weekend and saw the rest at their early midnight releases, so I was definitely invested.

Twilight (2008)
The first one is still pretty mixed, the faults I blame almost entirely on director Catherine Hardwicke. She has a unique surrealist style, but the dialogue scenes in the movie were just not done well. For an example, this is probably the single most painful scene in the movie, and I've set the video to the most painful part of that scene (pain-ception!):

Just look how awkward Hardwicke lets Edward be while he's in the tree, leaning at Bella. And Hardwicke lets Robert Pattinson deliver the "brand of heroin" line like it's cool instead of a painful pleasure (the one time that he doesn't mix pain and pleasure?). And then the weird setup of Bella being on the ground while he's playing in the tree :| ... the panaway shot of him crouching awkwardly while looking down at her.. Pattinson failing to grab the rock behind Stewart because they got the spacing wrong and he's trying not to head-butt her, Stewart's delivery of "feel like you're gonna disappear" (like she stumbled through her line).. every single decision they made for blocking and delivery here was just awful.

But, I think the thing about Twilight is that once you get past the "you're a vampire"/"[skin is] like diamonds" memes in these scenes, it's still very romantic. It's a case of moving past the initial setup to see the value of the overall story.

Hardwicke did a good job showing Bella's relationship with her human friends (e.g.; Anna Kendrick; Christian Serratos, who went on to play Rosita on Walking Dead), casting for Victoria was great in the first two (Rachelle Lefevre), Bella and Charlie's scene where she says the meanest thing she can to him was done well, Hardwicke showed well Bella's fragility in the ballet and hospital scenes (a big comparison to the vampire strength), and Hardwicke gets credit for the gazebo dance scene, which is one of the best scenes in the entire Saga:
The lights in that scene were their own character. All the different sizes in one canopy :)
The wedding scene in Breaking Dawn Part 1 echoed this with flower canopies (and also re-played the song "Flightless Bird" to show the intentional parallel). The wedding and the gazebo scenes were my favorite decor scenes and were just beautifully done.

The first movie also has probably the best soundtrack. I've tried to like Paramore, but their song "Decode" for this is kind of unique for them, so I'm just not into them overall.. just too poppy. Even so, I've listened to Paramore's "Decode" a *lot*. Paramore was asked to write the song for the movie, though lead singer Hayley Williams was a big fan of Twilight and asked them too, so the lyrics, "I'm screaming, 'I love you so', / But my thoughts you can't decode," make a good summation of Bella and Edward's initial dynamic. It shows how Edward can usually read minds but can't with Bella, causing him to take her words too much at face value, not understanding how much she loves him. This part of the story is finally closed in the final scene of Breaking Dawn Part 2, when Bella's new powers allow her to show Edward what it was like to fall in love with him — and how it was for her from the very beginning. :')

New Moon (2009)
This one is definitely my favorite :)
For this movie I wrote probably my single most ridiculous movie review ever when it came out XD
I think that review must have fallen off the Movies board, though it's dated opening night ("Fri Nov 20 03:09:38"); and I didn't post it to my Tumblr, but I saved the file.
Small excerpt:
"So tragic that even when they are together they aren't, because so much is working against them -- but with all certainty they are in the deepest and purist form of passion ... We, all of us and each of us totally, wished for this perfect love ... PERFECTION!"

I still agree with the spirit of that review :D

The whole thing is basically a music video, which I really like. That's kind of how "The Crow" (1994) was: lots of cool music scenes whenever there needed to be motion and emotion. This scene of Victoria running in the woods while being chased is probably my favorite scene in the Saga:
("Hearing Damage" by Thom Yorke plays)
It compares well with "The Crow" scene of Brandon Lee running on rooftops:
This isn't just an idle comparison, either, since there's even a crow flying overhead in the New Moon scene (just as in "The Crow" scene with NIИ playing), probably indicating that the director consciously sampled here.

The Victoria/Hearing-Damage scene is just super cool and has a great mood for both Victoria and Bella's inner turmoil. With the lyrics meant to parallel the plot, they're both broken without their love, people think they're "getting better", and they wish they "felt better", but they're just hurting. It makes sense for Bella, since "you can do no wrong in my eyes" shows her love for Edward even though he left her, but giving the scene over to Victoria is a good reminder that Victoria loved James too.

New Moon and Eclipse go to pains to show that Victoria and Bella both hurt in the absence of their loves, but they each handle it differently. Bella turns the hurt on herself, trying to conjure the memory of Edward by using near-death experiences, whereas Victoria turns the hurt against Bella, making her revenge an excuse to avoid what caused James' death. In other words, Bella realizes that *she* was the reason for Edward turning away, so she punishes herself, but Victoria refuses to realize that she was the reason for James' death, so she punishes Bella. This reasoning is indirect, so James takes accountability, of coursel but Victoria fails to realize that as much as she loved James, he was intent on ruining lives for sport in a kind of eternal resentment against those who still live.

So the Cullens respect life, but the villainous vampires do not. This plot line was repeated again in Breaking Dawn with Irina, who cannot reconcile that Laurent died in New Moon because he was about to kill Bella for sport. She blames Bella and doubts the truth, and it is only in Breaking Dawn Part 2 that she recognizes (too late) when she discovers that Renesmee can age that Bella represents life and that Laurent represented death. Bella brought life into the world whereas Laurent only ever took it. Irina, though, is less of a villain that Victoria, since she and Laurent struggled with their natures. In Irina's case, the death of her mother made her so fearful of the Volturi that she became obedient to them and forgot goodness.

New Moon definitely had the best director (Chris Weitz) and the best soundtrack of the Saga. It also had the best wardrobe and best effects. Breaking Dawn Part 2 probably had the best makeup, but it relied too much on large green-screen sets. New Moon actually went into real wooded areas to film its key scenes.

But I think New Moon is my favorite because it shows not just how much they love each other but how much they hurt when apart. The writing experiment was that they're tested to see if they can just forget and move on, but they can't. It shows how strong their connection is that it's truly a matter of life and death to them. This could be confused for teenage melodrama, but the young adult angle is just to show these emotions plainly. In truth, a connection based on love is indeed life or death, and this comes across both in the pain of separation and the bliss of being reunited.

Eclipse (2010)
I'd sort of forgotten how good this one is. :)

My major complaint had long been that Rachelle Lefevre's Victoria had been re-cast in favor of Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I've complained about as an actress for a long time (probably since "The Village" (2004), honestly). Howard is just too narcissistic. There's a certain self-aware glint that overly narcissistic actors get in their eyes when they're delivering scenes that makes it clear that they're thinking, "[Wow! I'm really doing this acting thing amazingly. I look great right now.]" An example is Dave Bautista in "Blade Runner 2049". His delivery of "because you've never seen a miracle" just screams, "[Wow, I'm saying such a cool line right now]":
Actors with more depth and intelligence say the line and feel it completely instead of reserving emotion for their own personal self-satisfaction. Narcissists cannot help but reserve brain-power for that self-satisfaction, and so they cannot be genuine.

But, the movie shouldn't be over-shadowed by Lefevre's absence and Howard's fudging of the impact that Victoria's death should have had, since the movie has some important story work. One plot line is one that I dislike on its surface but which makes a good point as the story develops it: Bella's fear of aging.

This is at first annoying because it's trivial that she wants to be frozen in time at as close to Edward's age as possible (turned vampire at 17 versus 18 itself should not have caused her such distress). The practical explanation is that she's making a permanent decision and wants to be paired closely with his age so that they can both be frozen in time together in the same moment, but it's not until later in the movie that she understands the core metaphor of this.

It takes the form of Edward revealing that he's a virgin (at 109, no less), and that even if Bella does not care about *his* virginity that he cares enough about her *soul* to preserve her virginity until after they're officially married. They combine this with talk of marriage as just "paperwork" (Bella) versus it being sacred (Edward). Bella is embedded in a cynical age and is waking to the full extent and value of traditional views. She herself is a child of divorce, so she cannot even necessarily look at her parents' generation as an example.

It's a subtle point, but talk of "modern" versus traditional combines to show that Bella's fear of aging is more a matter of having someone who will preserve her beauty. This is something that slave morality feminism has cast aside, but it's a long-held theme. So many romantic stories of the Enlightenment ended with marriage because that promise meant something, and, despite "modern" cynicism, a sacred commitment still does. In other words, the sacred commitment of marriage is itself the end of the fear of aging. Beauty is preserved not through vanity but through life commitments — through people who recognize the eternal beauty of virtuous choices.

This was very much a part of Bella's decision between Edward and Jacob. Jacob makes a compelling argument about how Bella would not have to even "try" with him since they would both just be living humans, but the metaphor of vampirism in Stephenie Meyers' works is less about parasitism and death and more about the sacred and immutable. Bella could take the advice of Jessica (Kendrick) in Jessica's frivolous valedictorian speech and have extramarital/experimental relationships with embodied people such as Jacob, but Bella recognizes the stuff of souls in Edward.

Eclipse becomes very much a matter of Bella hearing all of the debates about the decision she has to make. This was the "Team Edward"/"Team Jacob" meme, but it was surprisingly thoughtful. Bella talks directly to Rosalie — her biggest detractor — to find out why Rosalie wants Bella to stay human. She hears her friends' thoughts, and gets as close to Jacob as possible without sacrificing herself permanently through irreversible decisions. All of it is to make sure that Edward is indeed the correct decision.

And writer Stephenie Meyers bring identity into the equation too. It's very much a meme that Bella is an "audience surrogate", so much so that Twilight is the primary mockery of the TV Tropes website entry for the term:
The claim is that Bella is vapid and has no personality because she's merely supposed to be the empty point-of-view for any random audience member. The cynicism further devolves with claims that Edward and Jacob have no reason to be attracted to someone so uninteresting. Similar claims have been made of John Wick and Mr. Nobody. But this is not actually true for Bella, and Eclipse makes this point.

In Bella's decision, she has to figure out what she wants *independently* of Edward. This means facing her own concrete identity rather than just deciding based on desires and fantasies, such as in the consumer mindset wherein people believe that their fleeting desires *are* their identities. This leads to the ending scene, where Bella has a monologue assembling the lessons of Eclipse and explains to Edward that her specific identity is *why* she found herself attracted to him and felt so at home with his family:
"I've chosen my life ... This wasn't a choice between you and Jacob. It's between who I should be and who I am. I've always felt out of step ... I've never felt normal. Because I'm not normal. I don't want to be [normal] ... [in your world I'm] more myself ... it's where I belong."

This is Bella rejecting the cynical ethos of her generation, since she intuitively recognizes her own identity and her own choices in life. In a generation that de-values permanent relationships, virginity, and the sacred, she *values* these things and has the strength to protect them. Where Edward's world represents the sacred, the point is that Bella's identity *is* the sacred. These are not just interesting things happening while Bella watches passively; she is in this world because her identity brought her to it and created it to defend it. Where Bella is Stephenie Meyers' insert, the same is true: Meyers did not passively let a Twilight world assemble around her; she created it. All of the interesting characters surrounding Bella are *her* choices which she earned through virtue.

The cynical interpretation of Twilight that corrupted mainstream interpretations of the story come from distortions of this simple recognition: that Bella is a person with values, morals, and principles in a time of moral decay.

Bella's character makes specific choices which would prevent most audiences from following her identity, but she is trashed as vapid and a "surrogate" because those choices do not reflect the sado-masochism of modern audiences. This same moral failing is why people still, to this day, believe that Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" song was "[not ironic; just bad things happening]". This line of thinking comes from a post-'90s postmodernism-inundated age that can no longer see the foundations required for true irony and thus accept the opposite condition *as* normal. Having an awful wedding *is* normal — **to the cynic** — and so the cynic cannot see the irony in awful expectations being met. A person of a moral age, meanwhile, expects that a beautiful wedding will be manifested through good works and would indeed find irony in a rainy day ruining those works.

Bella has been given every bit of this cynical philosophy from her peers, society, her parents, and even her local city (the always rainy Forks, Washington), and nevertheless she reclaims a true noble morality. Much of the rejection of Twilight from mass audiences came from people who have been taught to hate the sacred, to traffic in appearances, and to reject the very idea of love. Twilight became a danger to this suicidal age, since it showed a person rescuing herself from an abyss and finding life.

Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011)
I originally reviewed Part 1 here:

In hindsight, I should have written more about the wedding, since it was beautifully done. Bella's nervousness about being in front of a large crowd giving way when she sees Edward is too good. The cinematographer is also not shy about showing the details in the lacework of the dress, the diamond/sapphire comb, and Bella's hair. This could not have been done with the Eclipse wardrobe people, who couldn't even get Victoria's wig right. They also capture a lot of great details, such as Carlisle and Esme looking at each other and leaning towards each other when they remember their own vows and marriage and the excitement of other couples. And a great directorial effect was giving Bella and Edward a private kiss (the audience disappears for a moment) and then bringing back the audience for their wedding-appropriate kiss (lulz).

The big messaging in this one is about abortion, and I think they give it a good treatment.
When Edward first finds out that Bella is pregnant, his self-esteem issues rise to the surface again since his assumption is that the child must be a monster and that this is something he's done *to* Bella to ruin her and their marriage. Rosalie's character gets great development here (an extension of her history scene in "Eclipse") since she proves again that she has the greatest respect for life of the Cullens, wanting to protect Bella's child despite the others pushing to abort for Bella's safety. Bella intuitively knows that — regardless of the risk or consequences — she wants the child to be born.

This immediately shifts the narrative for the others, showing that people will tailor solutions to the options they believe that they can force. When they thought they could convince Bella to abort, they only look at Bella's worsening condition as proof of the necessity, but once they realize that Bella wants to keep the child, they immediately think of solutions to improve Bella's condition and solve issues of alliances with Jacob. Later, when the child develops a mind in utero, Edward himself sees the value of the child's life, knowing from her thoughts that she is indeed good. Since this was something that Bella knew all along, it shows again that even Edward has to be won over by degrees through Bella's understanding of life. Edward puts this to words when he tells her that she has continuously proven to him against his cynicism that there's more to him than death and horror.

There's a lot in terms of fight scenes towards the end that I don't really care much about, but I think that a lot of it was due to the structure of Breaking Dawn being a 3-part novel that was broken into a 2-part movie. A lot of work had to be done to show Jacob standing up for Bella so that the treaty would not be dissolved. Still, the movie gives a good amount of time to the wedding and honeymoon, then sets up the ending well for Part 2.

Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (2012)

So good :')
Beautiful ending.

This one has some painful-to-watch early scenes when they try to over-dramatize how much Bella is bothered by Jacob imprinting on Renesmee (Kristen Stewart's acting does not handle yelling very well), but the story quickly evolves when Jacob realizes that the Cullens still intend to fake Bella's death before Bella's father, Charlie, starts asking too many questions. He forces their hand by changing into a wolf in front of Charlie, which means that a human knows about wolves but is technically unaware of vampires, so the Volturi cannot punish the Cullens for failing to keep a secret and the Cullens have to admit that Bella is alive.

The movie also suffers greatly from the bad CGI on Renesmee's face. Without looking into this, I'm guessing they did this because they knew that the then 7-year-old actress playing Renesmee was going to have the most screen time, so they decided to CGI her face onto all of the young versions of her. This allowed them to cast multiple body-doubles for Renesmee to make easier work around labor laws for children (i.e., just rotate-out children as each one's hourly caps run out), and then shoot the 7-year-old's scenes pretty quickly. So I understand *why*, it's just that the CGI was so comically bad that you just have to ignore it to stay in the scenes.

Looking past these issues, I also wish that Bella had hugged Charlie sooner in the scene when they're re-united. They had previously shown Charlie to be greatly suffering from worry that Bella might be dying, so showing him maintain restraint for so long seemed a bit out of character. It may have also been better in the scene to show that Bella could maintain control even when someone rushed her. But, when he finally hugs her, it's a very good scene for them. :)

From there, the main cause of this movie is partly an excuse for Stephenie Meyer to expand the Twilight universe by showing all the different powers available to vampires, but the theme seems to be to show that Bella, Edward, Renesmee, and the Cullens represent a larger family of world vampires who respect life. This parallels neatly to realizing how big one's family becomes through marriage and children, since relatives will renew connections and heal past wrongdoings to see the new child.

This, again, shows a positive value of the Twilight Saga: the value of family. This sort of recognition is again something that made this movie an enemy of cynics, since a deracinated and isolated people is more easily controlled. The extended Cullens family, meanwhile, re-established family ties to stand up to a totalizing, malicious, anti-life power.

In my first watching of Part 2, I was a little annoyed by the writing in the Volturi conflict, since the writer's device of showing a vision as "real" and then saying, "Oh, none of those bad things happened," is kind of a cheap way of having one's cake and eating it too (i.e., all these tragedies get to be shown, but there still gets to be a happy ending). But, getting over that meta aspect, a lot of good work is done in that scene. Almost every character gets to be tested for the strength of their bonds, they all getting to prove their loyalty to each other and love for one another. Of the villains, they all find the fragility of their bonds, which, being based in cruelty and power for its own sake, have less of an instinct for self-preservation. Aro's deceptive behavior is also shown when his insight from Alice's vision reveals a total threat, but he assures his people that "There's no danger here." There were a lot of effective moments in this fight scene.

I spoiled my thoughts on the ending in the first Twilight writeup above, but this is that scene:
Really great way to end the Saga.

Lionsgate Television apparently has intentions of running a Twilight series, but this sort of move usually happens when a studio wants to capitalize on a name while justifying the cutting of ties with the source material and author. Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" was also *very* good, even if it was eerily similar to a Star Trek: TNG episode. Luckily, I think that Meyer is willing to leave Twilight alone, potentially sparing the story from being further corrupted by modern studios.

And Twilight was release probably just in time. ESG's effects on movies started around 2008 or 2009 (i.e., four years after its founding documents and shortly after the Housing collapse caused studios to look for additional investments), but Twilight was released on the cusp and could be counted on as an established franchise.

Even so, efforts *were* made to damage the story. The original casting would have had Emily Browning as Bella, Henry Cavill as Edward, Tyler Posey as Jacob, and Joanna Krupa as Rosalie. A key thing here is that actors in the Twilight story's main cast were meant to be Christian, but final casting had Bella and Rosalie played by Kristen Stewart and Nikki Reed (both Jewish).

This is not a new technique, but it is pervasive: Christian ingenues/celibates in leading roles are often replaced by Jewish women when more overt replacements cannot be managed. There are too many examples of this to list, but some easy ones are Rachel Weisz in "The Mummy" (1999) and Olivia Thirlby in "Dredd" (2012). This merges also with the "Druish Princess" meme where producers get their daughters nose jobs and then acting work in their movies, but as a deliberate subversion technique the goal seems to be that if an attractive heroic woman is shown (i.e., not resentful or nihilistic) then she should be Jewish so that people adjust their beauty standards in favor of Jewish people.

But, whatever happened behind the scenes production-side, the send-off movies for the franchise were directed by Irish Catholic Bill Condon, and Stephenie Meyer remained very involved in the screenplays.

Twilight became a meme due to a few key scenes in the first movie, and even *I*, despite liking the Saga overall, still liked the RiffTrax for the first one; the movies definitely have some bad scenes. But, I think a lot of the hate came from cynics recognizing a story that still put positive values into the mainstream. This franchise values love, family, tradition, the sacred, marriage, children, and many such noble virtues. It also has many beautiful scenes to illustrate these virtues.

The irony of the hate from social media versus the (albeit quiet and not advertised) love that people have for this movie might be well summed by a line from Charlie in "New Moon": "Sometimes you got to learn to love what's good for you."

In this scene, Charlie, himself broken by cynicism, is trying to get Bella to pursue Jacob and forget Edward since Bella's depression has become so dangerous. Broken people often deny themselves the things that would be good for their souls. In a cynical age, it is far easier to watch a movie made by people who hate you and to complain about that hate than it is to watch a movie that is hated by the people who hate you but which represents true virtues.
Cherub Cow
Tue Aug 22 07:09:47
The Host (2013)

Beautiful movie. :')

I positively reviewed this when it first came out. I can't find it on UtopiaForums, but I luckily saved this one on my Tumblr:
It's not one of my better reviews since I had clearly read Kant recently and used the review to be annoyed with how useless Kant is for the evaluation of art, but I at least expressed that I liked the movie on a personal level, which should be how people approach movies, I think.. i.e., who cares if other people like it if you can like it. :)

I mentioned in UtopiaForums in 2013 (not in the Tumblr review) that this story samples heavily from a Star Trek: TNG episode of the same name: "The Host" (S04E24). Wikipedia doesn't mention this, instead making the point of this story being similar to Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters" (1951). I would say that the TNG episode is far more relevant since it deals with the romantic angles of a symbiote. The TNG episode follows Dr. Crusher and a symbiote-Riker dealing with love through soul, with Crusher eventually having to admit that the symbiote taking over a female body is not going to work for the heterosexual Crusher (i.e., the soul matters but cannot completely override bodily realities). The Meyer story avoids the sex issue, which was a good call.

And this movie really was great providence! :D
Just look at these deets:
• This followed directly from the success of the Twilight Saga, so "Host" writer Stephenie Meyer was able to see a production with full funding for her book (compare to the first Twilight, which had to cut some corners because it wasn't clear how many fans would show up for the movie).
• The director's chair was rightfully given to Andrew Niccol ("Gattaca", "Lord of War"), with my personal theory being that he was given the chair for "In Time" (2011) specifically so that he could prove that he could provide good delivery in "The Host" (if not, it would have been an 8-year pause for him, so producers would have worried that he was rusty).
• Saoirse Ronan cast in the lead role was great for her tendency to choose thoughtful and insightful projects (e.g., "Atonement", "Hanna", "Lovely Bones"), and her temperament was perfect here.
• Emily Browning got to be part of a Stephenie Meyer production after all! She was originally meant to be Bella in Twilight, and so she had a consolation cameo at the end of this.

In the case of Browning's cameo, it looks like they didn't do throwaway scenes with her and Jake Abel ("Ian" character). Typically, if a production has time and funding, they'll film scenes between characters that the editor and director have no intention of using. These throwaway scenes basically act as background for the characters so that their chemistry works during filming of their actual scenes.

In the case of Browning and Abel's seated kiss, the chemistry was not quite there for Browning, who seems to feel awkward about Abel and instinctively pulled away when he prompted their blocking with his line. She recovers from this tell, but it's still there in the scene. The movie also could have softened this by spending more time on Wanderer's/Wanda's acclimatization to the Browning body. The movie was only 2 hours with the credits, so they definitely could have taken their time and paced out another ten minutes of plot rather than ending with a montage.

But to the good things!

First-Half Themes
The first 50 minutes of the movie are definitely the strongest, since the symbiotic relationship has its most drama when it's immediately clear that the Wanderer is empathetic to humanity but is not supported by her own people or even the humans she attempts to help. Some of the drama comes from moments where the audience might wish that the Wanderer had said different things, but the story supports that she cannot say certain practical things to either faction without seeming like she's not fully with one or the other. And that's the point: she's empathetic to both, but both sides hate her for potentially betraying or deceiving them.

There are also strong themes mixed in these first minutes, such as Melanie wanting so much to protect her mind, soul, and body and those of her family so much that when cornered she does not hesitate to jump to her death. Diane Kruger's reaction to this commitment is itself strong, showing that "The Seeker"'s (Kruger's) symbiosis also must contend with whether or not their seizing of bodies is as benevolent as they try to believe it is.

Second-Half Themes
After the first 50 minutes, the story changes into the Wanderer representing an outsider's look on the beauty of humanity. Like the themes of the Twilight Saga, Meyer affirms life here by showing that tending to land, supporting a family against danger, resolving conflict within the group, and healing relationships can be great virtues.

Meyer has to balance this, though, since there's a danger in the story that the Wanderer represents a means for the symbiotes to conquer humanity through humanity's compassion. She avoids this trap by showing that the Wanderer can show compassion selectively, being perceptive of beauty and love, with her true allegiance being to this pure pursuit of life.

And the theme calls back to Greek epics here too, with the Wanderer representing an eternal spirit but nevertheless recognizing the beauty of impermanent existence, wherein a beating heart cannot conceive of life merely in the abstract but must engage with it deeply to feel it completely. This understanding was seen, for instance, by Achilles in his recognition that immortality required the burning of his mortal candle with heroic works (see the scene from "Troy" (2004) which developed this theme as a modern dialogue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMxwhmbF98s ).

Ending Scenes
In the case of the Wanderer, her ending scenes seem a bit needlessly suicidal until she explains that she feels this life imperative so deeply now that she would take death rather than freeze herself in time again or deprive someone of their rightful life — knowing that seeking her passionless immortality in the stars would deprive her of the spirit of life that she has discovered in humanity. Her reward for this discovery is a kind of «deus ex machina» given that the groundwork wasn't necessarily laid in advance: she's given a body that needed a soul to live.

I think Meyer could have cleaned up the details here, but I see how she was cornered. If the story had introduced a comatose patient early on, then it would have repeated the device of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), wherein Xavier claims the body of a comatose patient in the end (i.e., the audience would have been annoyed to be so ahead of the story so soon after X-Men used this device). She opted instead to say that the humans had become inhuman by experimenting on their own to sever the connection with the symbiotes, with Browning's body being a failure which could be saved by the Wanderer. This redeems the remaining humans for their mistakes while giving the Wanderer a life of her own. That's a strong theme, so I think my complaint only returns to the movie needing to stretch out these last moments to let the ideas sink in. With extra time, they could show this transference to Browning's body.

Gnosticism, the Soul, and the Body
The ending also attempts to resolve issues of the mind–body connection, but I'm not sure that the movie itself fully addresses this — it must leverage existing knowledge of Meyer's thoughts from Twilight.

"The Host" develops the idea through Saoirse Ronan's Wanderer having a "pure soul", but the story must contend somewhat with the symbiote experimenting with bodies (i.e., the symbiote must degrade itself in the taking of bodies). This is not expressed in words in the movie, so the pieces have to be put together through glances and understanding of Meyer. The end result is that the soul becomes pure by respecting the body as sacred. This is reflected in Twilight through the virginity of Edward and Bella, and in "The Host" it's seen in the Wanderer wanting to protect Jared and Jamie because she understands how much Melanie loves them. The Wanderer also moves from the inert passivity of the symbiotes (who all very blandly continue their lives) into an active protector of additional lives and her own.

This is part of why the rushed ending is a little inconvenient to the story. Ian shows the Wanderer that he recognizes her in the new body (as also he could recognize her in Ronan's body), but by having Browning's body be a kind of blank slate, the story risks sending the message that bodies are interchangeable. This is *not* the message that Meyer wants, as explained in the Wanderer's sacrifice requiring that she fully understand the value of one body. The story develops this further by showing which characters can recognize Melanie versus the Wanderer in a dominant position within the same body, which characters react to the soul rather than the body, which people presume the soul by outward appearance, and how people judge the goodness of others. This can be complex even without the additional sci-fi element of alien invasion, so it's good to remember that just as in Twilight the supernatural/sci-fi elements represent metaphors for real states.

Of real states, one of the strongest moments of the movie is the Wanderer giving tremendous respect to Jeb (William Hurt) for having the perception and wisdom to see the turmoil within Melanie's body. It is this perception and empathy which makes the strongest theme of the movie, where those who fail to possess perception/empathy cannot establish an accurate theory of mind — needing instead to have their prejudices overcome so that they can learn to recognize another's inner state or at least to inquire about that inner state before working on appearances and filling in the blanks with their own flawed expectations. This directly compares with a similar treatment in Twilight where Edward cannot know Bella's mind and projects his insecurities until he learns through knowing Bella's mind that those insecurities have no foundation in her. The treatment in The Host is that the Wanderer (like Bella) must overcome her own insecurities to resolve her identity within one body.

So anyways, another positive life-affirming story from Meyer, given a good treatment by the talented Andrew Niccol and Saoirse Ronan. :)
Cherub Cow
Mon Sep 04 03:11:39
The Equalizer 3 (2023)

Really good!

Antoine Fuqua remains one of my favorite action directors (ever since he did "Replacement Killers" (1998), which is a favorite movie of mine), and he stayed on to do this sequel. Luckily he decided not to step aside and only produce instead. Fuqua also recently directed the action-heavy opening episode of "The Terminal List" (2022), and if you haven't seen that mini-series yet, you should! It's one of the best things of the last few years — a very small list with ESG cinema being so pervasive.

Equalizer 3 starts with McCall (Denzel Washington) on the mend in Sicily after being wounded in a personal mission. He settles in after being helped by a kind doctor who looks the other way, learns to love the town, recovers, and decides to stay past his chance to disappear when drug-runners with delusions of grandeur attempt to make the town into a mini-Monaco.

Positive Stuff
This reminded me in particular of the first Bourne Identity (this one more so even than the first two Equalizer movies), since McCall *really* keeps the pressure on and does not allow himself to merely lose the initiative and play defense. There's a recurring theme of other people resting or planning for later only for McCall to attack before they have a chance to catch their breath. This was a big change of pace even for this same character (e.g., in Part 2 he sets a defensive trap in the ending fight).

Casting also kept Dakota Fanning (character "Collins") in the movie after she made an appearance as McCall's friend's daughter in part 2. This continues the callback to "Man on Fire" (2004) where Denzel is Fanning's bodyguard.

(( SPOILER ahead ))

McCall bridges the gap with Collins in part 3 after deciding to stay in the town. Here, I think Fuqua did a good job showing the decisions Denzel was making in quick cutaways. McCall was packed and ready to leave the town since he knew he needed to stay ahead of intelligence collection in the wake of his activities, but he decides to stay when he sees that the townspeople are being subjected to an escalating protection racket. So, you see the obvious decision to stay after he sees the fire, but Fuqua also shows via the packed bags and McCall's conversation with Collins that he *had* to leave because he knew how long he had in the town before the CIA would show up looking for him.

(( End Spoiler)

There were a few scenes like this where you're shown McCall's obvious decision but also given these little background hints to detail his thought process. This is kind of an updated way for Fuqua to show how McCall plans for things. So, for instance, compare these subtle cutaway scenes to the montage scenes of Part 1 where you see every object that McCall is looking at all at once before a fight (e.g.; montage of gun, sharp object, hard surface). Fuqua is still giving these details but changes the timing, likely to show that McCall is planning much further ahead.

End of the Franchise?
This might be a spoiler, but I'll keep it vague.

The major theme of the movie was that McCall found a place to call home after being alienated during retirement in Part 2. His bridging the gap with Collins and making friends with her showed that he was willing to be "on the grid" so long as only the right person knew his position and could (presumably) guard it from the inside.

But, where a "definitely going to be a sequel" movie would just end the story with McCall enjoying a sports victory, an added detail was that McCall gave Collins his entire asset book, which basically meant that Collins could take over all of McCall's worldwide contacts*. This acts like a major statement of farewell, since if McCall no longer needs his contacts, then he has no intention of leaving the town.

*(Or is it Collins' mother's notebook? I'd have to check the previous movies; no one seems to have mentioned the notebook yet. I'm *pretty* sure it was McCall's.)

Of course... even though that's a pretty solid statement of closure, it would be pretty easy to write around it.


I think my only complaint would be that McCall ended up becoming the town's sole (competent) protector, whereas it would have been nice to see the policeman/father character redeem himself in his family's eyes after being emasculated by the mob. There was a hint of this when the policeman was given a cutaway shot in the restaurant scene where he sees McCall's bravery and seems both in awe and inspired to stand up himself.. but in his last major scene he does not have this redemption moment. It is instead that the doctor stands up to the mob, and the town — as a collective — starts filming with cell phones... which was kind of a broken moment, since no one looks brave recording with a cell phone.

The scene was meant to show that the town all stands behind McCall, but a bunch of people recording with cell phones has become too much of a signal that people are just passively collecting evidence so that someone with actual power will act on their behalf — and what good is that when we see where this Panopticon leads? (I.e., the people watching often will not step up to help.) It would have been more impactful for the mob boss to not care about the phones since he owns the police or to otherwise start breaking all the phones, requiring that the people there actually *do* something and take a risk themselves. So I understand that this scene was *meant* to communicate that McCall had inspired this town to become better people (an extension of themes in the previous movies, where McCall teaches broken people to be virtuous), but I do not think that cell phone videos were the best way to do this.

I suspect, though, that about 15 or 20 minutes were cut during production which were meant to bring closure to the boy who shot McCall in the beginning, the senior police official (not the father character) being corrupt, and the father redeeming himself. If there were *not* a production-side issue, then those details may be saved for a sequel. If I'm misreading the notebook plot device, then it may actually be the plan for the audience to check back in on McCall in a few years (five years was the gap between 2 and 3) and find the town improved by McCall's presence — tying up these closure points in the process. If that's the case, then the notebook would just be a way for Collins to build her career in the meantime, with her reaching out to McCall for help on a bigger task.

( End Spoilers )

Very fun action with an exciting pacing. Very big improvement on the first two, since the first one had that weird fight at Home Depot and the second one had too much green screen in the ending windy tower fight. The first one had very good early and mid-movie fights, though.

This somewhat makes me want to watch Fuqua's "Emancipation" (2022), but that movie seems too much like Oscar-bait, and I worry that Fuqua fell into the post-Floyd trap of glorifying slave morality. That would be uncharacteristic for him, so I wonder. It's not very high on my list, though. :p
Cherub Cow
Mon Oct 02 06:37:30
Saw X (2023)

Probably this is the best of the franchise... though that's probably not saying much :p

Still! This one was good. The second best was the first one, but that one was *not* good.


I marathoned the franchise before seeing Saw X, so..
A Saw franchise quick continuity retrospective:

( SPOILERS from the other movies )

Saw (2004)
Main Puzzle: Chained in Saw-basement room, must kill other prisoner and/or saw off foot to escape.
Continuity: Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Amanda survive. Detective Kerry (Dina Meyer) introduced but not a part of any puzzles.

Saw II (2005)
Main Puzzle: Saw-House filled with puzzles, with each puzzle providing a "cure" to nerve gas. Each prisoner was framed by Detective Matthews only to later become an actual criminal. All prisoners fail their puzzles except for Detective Matthews' son, who is not part of the puzzles.
Continuity: The Saw-House is on top of the Saw-basement. Amanda and Detective Matthews survive.

Saw III (2006)
Main Puzzle: "Jeff" (Angus Macfadyen) must decide to show mercy to those involved in his son's death by a negligent driver; he (effectively) fails all of his puzzles.
Continuity: Takes place mainly in the Saw-House. Detective Kerry is killed. Amanda and Jigsaw die. Jeff lives. The only other survivors are ret-conned into the story afterwards.

Saw IV (2007)
Main Puzzle: Officer Rigg (new character) must do nothing, but because he fails this task, he activates puzzles in different places around the city which all kill people. FBI pursues Officer Rigg during his puzzles.
Continuity: End-game puzzle takes place in the Saw-House. Detective Hoffman (Jigsaw accomplice), FBI agents Strahm and Perez, and Jigsaw's wife, Jill Tuck, introduced. Jeff killed by Strahm. Detective Matthews killed. Detective Hoffman, Agent Strahm, and Agent Perez survive.

Saw V (2008)
Main Puzzle: Five people involved in a real estate scheme must work together so that a sequence of puzzles are easier; they do not realize the "together" part until there are only two left.
Continuity: "Brit" (Julie Benz) and "Mallick" (Greg Bryk) introduced and survive. Detective Hoffman survives. Agent Strahm is killed to be framed as Jigsaw's accomplice. Saw-House raided by police.

Saw VI (2009)
Main Puzzle: Hoffman and Tuck must work together to run a puzzle for the insurance agents that denied Jigsaw his medical coverage. Insurance exec William Easton dooms his workers by activating their puzzles.
Continuity: Agent Perez killed. Hoffman and Tuck survive.

Saw 3D (2010)
Main Puzzle: Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) fakes a publicity tour to gain fame for being a puzzle survivor. He must activate puzzles for the people who helped him fake it.
Continuity: Jill Tuck is executed by Hoffman. Hoffman is locked in the original Saw-House basement by Dr. Gordon. Bobby Dagen fails all of his tests but survives.

Jigsaw (2017)
Main Puzzle: Barn puzzles for a group of people who all got away with crimes.
Continuity: Takes place before the first Saw. Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) introduced as first Saw accomplice.

Spiral (2021)
Main Puzzle: Corrupt police given puzzles by a Jigsaw-copycat ("Emmerson") whose father was killed by a corrupt cop.
Continuity: Takes place about a decade after the original Saw storyline; bottle story with no other continuity to the original movies.

Saw X (2023)
Main Puzzle: Warehouse of puzzles for people who faked Jigsaw's cancer treatment.
Continuity: Takes place probably between Saw 1 and 2. "Carlos" introduced as boy who is saved by Jigsaw and who takes an opportunity to help Jigsaw. Cecilia Pederson introduced; she fails her puzzles but is only killed off screen.

So, at the end of all of this, the people actually alive in the "present" of the story are:
• "Brit" and "Mallick" (seen in Saw V)
• Dr. Gordon (last seen in Saw 3D)
• Logan Nelson (seen in Jigsaw)
• Emmerson (seen in Spiral)
• Hoffman (last seen in Saw 3D; *possibly* alive, since Hoffman was left to die rather than killed on screen and is basically an escape artist)
• Carlos (seen in Saw X, who was very likely placed here as a kid in the prequel so that he can be ret-conned as an apprentice in a present-day sequel)
• Cecilia Pederson (seen in Saw X; *possibly* alive, since she may be smart enough to escape)


The Biggest Annoyance of the Franchise: Stupidity
I've gone back and forth on this. Saw II is the worst in terms of the stupidity of the characters, which makes it the most painful to watch from that lens. Seeing stupid people misbehaving makes for very difficult cinema. But... that stupidity is often the point in Saw, meaning that you can hate the characters but kind of appreciate the direction taken with them.

Most of the people being tested are people so broken that even these extreme scenarios are not enough for them to grow a conscience or turn themselves around. This sort of failing happens most often to people that audiences simply would not like. Saw V flips this dynamic by incentivizing the punishment of those who are immoral but otherwise intelligent. If you look at the list of survivors (above), it's pretty clear that the entire franchise recognizes this, where survivability is not just a matter of how much someone will fight for life (something which can exist entirely within first-order thinking) but how much someone can think ahead and/or plan — virtues captured largely by intelligence.

Brit and Mallick (Saw V), for instance, fail to understand the whole game during the first three puzzles, but Brit saves them both when she realizes that they can still survive the last puzzle by finally working together. In another example, Detective Hoffman's survivability is most largely due to his ability to plan on par with Jigsaw himself, *and* Hoffman survives his puzzle, *despite* Hoffman designing immoral puzzles and constantly breaking the rules.

There's a statement there on how the franchise defines morality or manages punishment of the immoral. In a strictly nihilistic sense, simply surviving is "moral", but people can clearly beat the puzzles and remain *im*moral (as with Hoffman, Amanda, and Cecilia). The franchise forces even these people to make moral decisions which go beyond their ability to suffer immediate physical pain (i.e., morality is *not* just their survival). Attaching this to intelligence, the statement made — intentionally or not — is that many of these puzzle-players are neither capable of basic survival *nor* of intelligent morality. People too stupid to pay attention to directions fail their puzzles likewise with those intelligent enough to think through the puzzles but who think that their intelligence absolves them of morality.

And, of course, the driving factor is Jigsaw's selection of puzzle-players, which includes murderers, druggies, drug dealers, fraudsters/liars, bad Samaritans, the corrupt, the complicit, and even common thieves. The writers may well be going through Dante's Inferno (and Se7en for a modern touch) for their list of sins and corresponding punishments, and others seem to have recognized this connection (e.g., http://prezi.com/p/suqughnyym4c/dantes-inferno-and-saw/ ). This aligns Jigsaw with Hannibal also, who also had a habit of punishing people for social slights and moral failings, despite being very much an immoralist himself.

I think the point, though, is that even in a puzzle system (which can be "solved"), the game-designer is the ultimate authority on morality, and for this morality to succeed it must beat immoralists who themselves are game-designers. This is very much the stuff of religious competition and competing visions of societies.

Another Annoyance: Time
This is another issue that can go both ways for me. On the one hand, the movies all skip and accelerate time during a puzzle so that things seem to be happening faster than they really are, so the puzzle-players have more time than is actually shown. On the other hand, some of the time allotted to complete a task is borderline sabotage which makes even the Jigsaw-written games nearly unwinnable.

A way that the franchise frequently addresses this is by showing the people rejecting the premise of the game, failing to act, and searching for cheats to the puzzles. Characters will often burn a great deal of time in despair rather than in action. So, there is definitely an argument that someone with a true survival instinct will accept the premise of the puzzle, recognize his or her life is on the line, and take immediate action (e.g., Amanda's quick acting). But, there is a real question of whether someone who took a great deal of action should perhaps have more time.

In Saw X, for instance, one character, Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), has only three minutes to amputate her leg and apply a suction device to extract bone marrow from her femur. How possible is this *mechanically*? A counter-argument is that the time *has* to be fast to account for blood loss (i.e., give them only three minutes because if they take too long then they will just doom themselves anyways), but there's still a question of demonstration (i.e., the person *did* the thing required) versus literal success (i.e., the thing was done *fast* enough).

This was even a point of contention in Saw X, where in this amputation scene Amanda looks at Jigsaw to see if he truly thinks it's justice for Valentina to lose just because a pump wasn't running fast enough. Jigsaw remains stone-faced, indicating that there would have been no "missed it by one second!" issue if Valentina had taken decisive action in the first moments. I.e., it remains fair for there to be no time extensions just because of a better late-game performance.

Of the Worst: Spiral (2021)
I think most of the Saw movies are garbage, but "Spiral" (2021) was definitely the dumbest of all of them. It came out right after the BLM–DNC's 2020 Insurrection Riots, so it was basically just ACAB logic taken from the same propaganda package that affected Law&Order:SVU and the last season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That political element didn't bother me too much though, since the movie didn't really try to make a statement beyond the corruption in this one department. If anything, there's a positive message there about excising bad police in particular, so there's at least a consistent code in place.

The main issue was how obvious the story was. It was clear in the first few minutes of his introduction that Emmerson was the copycat, with it being made painfully explicit in the scene where Emmerson takes Detective Banks' (Chris Rock's) phone out of the department's conference room. This is because the "charger" excuse was thin, and it is bazaar to just give someone an unlocked phone and allow them to leave the room with it.

Past the obviousness, Chris Rock's acting was absolutely atrocious. Some of his scenes became the subject of meme-mockery, such as a scene where he's supposed to be freaking out in his car.. but instead of hitting his steering wheel (as an angry person might because it's easily accessed), he basically paddles his hands on the dash-board awkwardly while some atrocious editing and cinematography takes place.

Of the Biggest Franchise Mistake: Saw III (2006)
Saw III basically doomed the franchise by killing off Jigsaw and Amanda. Jigsaw's death meant that they had to continuously add traps in the subsequent Saw movies which all took place around the time when Jigsaw was alive. This detail became more and more ridiculous, since it would mean that all of these people were abducted and tested in a very short time span, and puzzles had been designed and prepared for all of them. This meant adopting franchise writing (the plague of modern cinema), which means constant ret-con, prequels, re-writes, continuity mistakes, and time manipulations. They cornered themselves with the writing and then tried to make more out of a project that they had killed.

Regarding Amanda's death, Saw III did a good job of making Amanda into a compassion-worthy character (e.g., by showing her cutting herself to control her pain and to hide her weaknesses from Jigsaw), and this did indeed pay off with her tragic death.. but her death after failing a puzzle also undermines the redemptive theme of the movies. That is, having her regress *and* having her fail a new puzzle hurts Jigsaw's claim that a person other than himself can be born again through a true and earned appreciation for life. The minor consolation here is that Amanda was shown to be blackmailed by Detective Hoffman (i.e., it is revealed in Saw IV that she had to fail her puzzle to prevent Hoffman from telling Jigsaw that she was involved in Jigsaw's wife's lost pregnancy). This adds a tragic element wherein she maybe *knows* that she's going to fail her puzzle but wants to appear virtuous for Jigsaw... but failing her puzzle is *not* virtuous... so it makes her decision comprehensible but not positive (i.e., which way is it better to fail?). A far better ending would be for Jigsaw and Amanda to bond over uncovering Hoffman's deceptions.

The Biggest Thematic Mistake of the Franchise
But this connects to the franchise's central weakness: its own metric of rebirth is constantly violated. I wish I could say that this was not the case with the first, but even there it sort of was. This is because it is rare that only one person is affected and tested, and those cases are usually the throwaway puzzles which are failed specifically to show gore for sport before returning to the main story.

Specifically, in the first Saw, Dr. Gordon's own puzzle must be won *or* his family will be murdered... but what did his family do wrong? Nothing. The thematic idea is that he must learn to fight for life, which extends to his family, but Jigsaw would *actually* have Gordon's family murdered rather than isolate them from Gordon's perception of the puzzle. An easy fix would be that Gordon's family was never in danger and would have been released regardless of Gordon's success or failure but that they were used to test his motivation. I.e., tell *him* they will be killed but only actually hold them captive.

And this issue of innocent and un-tested death expands as the franchise falls apart.
In Saw III, for instance, Jeff's puzzles are just excuses for him to execute other people. There is no cost for him to let each person die (beyond his conscience, of course). The only test that he must actually pass is to forgive Jigsaw himself; the other people are expendable. And none of those people were tested themselves; Jeff must test them. There is no reward shown for the survival of any of these people (e.g., access to a lock, important knowledge).

There *is* an argument here that this was a shared test. That is, each of the three people who wronged Jeff must *convince* Jeff to forgive them, and failure to do so makes it easier for Jeff to kill them. This is demonstrated with the judge, who makes a good argument and convinces Jeff to spare him. But, a simple fix in the writing here would be for each of these people to be explicitly told that they must tell Jeff why they should not be killed. You could argue that this was understood by their overhearing the tapes, but a fact of the writing was that Jeff alone was addressed in the tapes.

Saw IV somewhat corrects this, since Officer Rigg fails his tests of other people, but those people are all still given their own puzzles. But.. Saw VI repeats the "un-tested" issue again through William Easton dooming his co-workers, who largely become subjects of *his* game. Worse, though, is that the true solution for Easton's game was for him to fail his first test, which means that he would die and all of his co-workers would survive since their puzzles would never be activated.. but he was not given this choice. This same thing happens in Saw VII/3D, where in its worst moment a completely ignorant and innocent character is killed by fire despite her forgiving Bobby Dagen when she learns the truth about him.

So, in Saw III (via Amanda's executions of others), it is firmly established (beyond even the imperative of Saw 1 and 2) that it breaks the rules of the Saw puzzles for people to be executed rather than given a chance... but *dozens* of people are killed without being offered any kind of test; they are merely subjects for the tests of even more immoral characters. This is only counter-acted in a few cases, such as in Saw 3D where one of Bobby Dagen's doomed friends is shown that the key that could save her is inside Dagen.. but even then, it's right back to the puzzle being a battle of wills between two doomed people rather than a person's test against him or herself.

Finally: Saw X

Saw X is probably the best because it cleans up a lot of these franchise failures.
• *Individuals* are given their respective tests.
• No tests were unwinnable, and there were winners.
• They test both the stupid and the intelligent, the immoral and the moral.
• The incentive structure of time is clarified within the scenes via Jigsaw's reactions (rather than just being a clock).
• Amanda and Jigsaw are given time together without an artificial wedge.

The production value of a lot of these movies has also been terrible, but Saw X got a lot of quality out of a fairly confined set. This one had the polish of Jigsaw (2017) but the humanity of Saw III, since they spent a lot of time early in the movie with Jigsaw's reactions to the sets and their significance.

That extra time with reactions also means that director Kevin Greutert (Saw VI and Saw VII) is becoming more patient as a director, which is a subtle turn from Saw's usual ADD editing and direction. That ADD-style has itself been a feature of the franchise, since audiences were able to sleep through the entire movie and then get a re-cap in an ending montage.. but it's cheesy and insults anyone in the audience who can remember things that happened 45 minutes earlier.

Speaking against it, they clearly left at least two pieces of plot open for more sequels: Carlos and Cecilia. They can cast Carlos as pretty much anyone, which was probably their way of future-proofing the cast in a sequel, and they can have Cecilia return as some kind of anti-Saw. They emphasized that Cecilia's father is alive, and while that was mainly to communicate that Jigsaw was making a decision on principle and not risking being fooled again, it could also be a hint that Cecilia's father is even more devious than her — *he* may even be an anti-Saw. Combined with Logan and Emmerson, they're definitely padding more franchise options, which makes me gag a little.

So, I marathoned the franchise and watched Saw X because X *looked* like an improvement based on the cinematography, production quality, and use of original cast — and it was — .... but if they continue the franchise and regress to "Spiral" and "Jigsaw", then it's back to total indifference. I didn't even bother watching those until the last few days since they looked so obviously awful. I have no problem forgetting that these movies exist for another 13 years, lol ;D
Cherub Cow
Tue Oct 03 04:16:29
The Creator (2023)

More big-budget commie propaganda.


"The Creator" is basically a "Terminator" future where an A.I. judgment day has caused the need to fight A.I. ... except A.I. is "good" actually and the West is "bad" because they don't want to leave A.I. and brown people alone. This story is developed through the character "Joshua" (John David Washington of "TeneT"), an American traitor who must escort "Alphie" (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) to the world's greatest A.I. creator, "Nirmata"/"The Creator".

Effects and Production
Effects were definitely well done, and production went for a kind of "Looper" (2012) or "Chappie" (2015) future where everything looks like shit except for hints of polished technology. This was definitely well produced propaganda, with an $80 million budget behind its psychological imperative of Western subversion.

This is plainly another ESG production and even has ties back to Blackstone Inc. via "Entertainment One"; with Blackstone infamously being the mortgage holder of Trade Tower 7 as well as an asset manager which managed to move through the 2008 collapse without issue.
Regency Entertainment is also an Israeli operation, though they do a mix of outright subversive content (e.g., "Vampires Suck" (2010)) and anti-narrative film (e.g., "The Northman" (2022)).

Director and Writers
Regarding Regency Entertainment's subversive efforts, as I described in my Twilight reviews, it was a major imperative for studios to infiltrate the Twilight production wherever they could so that the positive Western messages of the Twilight Saga would be undermined via meme logic. Their central successes were in casting, but they also produced "Vampires Suck" (2010) as a poison pill and managed to get Chris Weitz in the director's chair for "Twilight: New Moon" (2009).

While I thought Chris Weitz did a good job in the director's chair for New Moon, it must be that there was only so much damage that he could do from that seat, hence his good work on New Moon. But, for "The Creator" he was given a writing credit, and I suspect that the movie's subversive efforts were largely from him, since there were derivative parallels to writing decisions made in "Rogue One" (2016), on which he was lead writer. "Rogue One" borrowed its ending scene from "Deep Impact" (1998), and "The Creator" borrowed its ending scene from "Gladiator" (2000), so it may be that Weitz likes to borrow and distort the successes of better movies, as likewise he borrowed from "The Crow" (1994) for "New Moon" (as mentioned in my above Twilight reviews).

Other Influences
The movie samples its travel premise somewhat from the structure of "Babylon A.D." (2008), where a hero must escort a genetic Messiah to the promised land while examining his own allegiances to humanity versus his home tribe. In the case of The Creator, this is an A.I. Messiah, like also perhaps "I, Robot" (2004) or that awful movie "Automata" (2014). People could also make parallels to "Logan" (2017) in this travel to Eden respect, since Laura was a kind of rebirth figure for mutants. Another obvious parallel would be "Children of Men" (2006), which many people celebrate but which was also agitprop.

Americans were also portrayed similarly to the agitprop representation in "Avatar" (2009), where they're all violent anti-humanist murderers wielding a war machine. There were also scenes stolen from "Gladiator" (2000), though there were clear subversive efforts attached.

(Some SPOILERS ahead)

Western Subversion
And this is where the Western subversion becomes expressly overt.
The movie shows that Los Angeles suffered a nuclear explosion (again, very "Terminator"), but it is portrayed as a negative that Americans use this as a reason for a Butlerian Jihad. The Butlerian Jihad is clearly needed at our current moment in history, but the movie portrays the future destruction of A.I. as a *negative*.

Further still, the movie portrays this negative as American globalist violence, where U.S. foreign policy is necessarily about destroying even the "innocent" A.I. of other nations. To make this terrible enemy, the writers create "NOMAD", which is basically just a combination of the "Tet" structure from "Oblivion" (2013) and the paradise structure of "Elysium" (2013). This "NOMAD" structure is a direct reference to "NORAD", with this connection being explicitly made when a scene later in the movie shows generals commanding actions from a "NOMAD" Command Center... which is very clearly modeled after NORAD. I mean, they only changed one letter.

Adding ESG's racialist strategy to the movie, I am pretty sure that every single white person in the movie was part of this American enemy, with the only white redemption occurring in a white man who fell in love with A.I. and betrayed America (i.e., he fails to breed and fights for BRICS+, fulfilling the task of the Western liberal white man). All of the "good" characters were various brown people, mainly of the Far East and in particular Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China / Hong Kong, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Brazil was also represented to make it clear that BRICS+ owns American cinema.

So we have an explicit wedge between the United States as a Western enemy and BRICS+ and the "Global South". The movie goes through pains to show that Americans are remorseless monsters who kill without feeling while the Global South is filled with poor villagers who just want to be one with the universe and live in peace with A.I. but can't because they're being slaughtered for sport by Americans. There are even apparent homages to Vietnam movies where villagers are running in terror from Americans who are targeting unarmed civilians. It's pretty obvious what's happening here.

The Psy-Op
And this subversion collects behind a central psy-op: turning the people of the Global South against America while convincing the West that it's totally cool for BRICS+ to develop A.I. while the West disarms itself. The goal is to make the West an enemy of humanity.

This theme is expressed through the A.I. character "Harun" (Ken Watanabe, who is Japanese but may not know that he's being used for Chinese propaganda). Harun explains that it was not A.I. that detonated a bomb in Los Angeles and that actually it was human error. He also mentions that if America is defeated, that will simply be the end of the war. That is, A.I. will not wipe out humanity after its last enemy is defeated... it'll just chill.

If you follow the metaphor, you see the deception here.

A.I. as *Anti*-Slavery
A.I. is used in the movie to represent technological progress and the ultimate fruit of collectivists; the written idea is that A.I. is merely "evolution" which will liberate humanity, and so the metaphor is that A.I. is itself the spirit of (collectivist) humanity, as represented by its mother, a Hong Kong human, who creates the perfect A.I. child (innocent and loving collectivist "freedom").

This is, of course, a deception, since A.I. is not just a reflection of "humanity" broadly but more specifically of its programmers. If a slavish people program A.I., then A.I. will enslave. When it is shown who the programmers are, they are indeed people of slavish cultures, mixed in as they are with common villagers. A.I. moves in and out of this collectivist/"evolution" metaphor by disguising itself among actual people, and thus A.I. is meant to be an audience surrogate for the common slave castes of the Global South who are being denied their own evolution by the West.

Thus, the intention of the movie is to ensure that A.I. is monopolized by the East so that they alone control the future of A.I. The intent of the writers is to show that the programmers of the East should be reflected by A.I. and that the West should be technologically castrated at the same time.

When we expand the metaphor of A.I. into this general idea of manufacturing monopolies and technology, it's the same ESG dogma: the West must send its wealth and power to build the infrastructure of the "Global South" so that China and BRICS+ at large can inherit the world.

Other Subversions
The claim of A.I. as anti-slavery is falsified by the actual realities of the movie. This includes the programmers, the users of A.I., and the inheritors of technology. All of these people are racialist categories that the Global Totalitarian Regime considers its client groups and slave castes. Even the main character, who betrays the United States and "[goes] native", "as a black man", is of one of these racialist categories, merely being used to propagandize that the plight of the Western black man aligns more readily with the slavish people of the East than with the free people of the West.

Another subversion is through the debasing of the ending of "Gladiator" (2000).
In the end of Gladiator, Russel Crowe is seen walking in Elysium towards his family as he dies, touching crops with his hand in an open field. This is meant to represent the warrior's reward in the after life — the gift denied in life but granted for his good deeds.

In "The Creator", a reference is made to Valhalla rewards by American Colonel Howell, and the A.I. child throws a loose metaphor that aligns the NOMAD as a stand in for heaven ("loose" because "NOMAD" primarily represents NORAD but is being used simultaneously to represent heaven specifically for this ending scene). The main character's dead wife is resurrected just for this ending scene, who he sees temporarily granted life as an A.I. simulation. She sees him across a field, which he walks across while touching the crops.

You might see the subversion here. In Gladiator, this walk across Elysium was a Western hero's reward for saving Rome from a tyrant, but in "The Creator", this reward is the tortured horror of a ROM A.I. (that is, a copy of a real consciousness which can never be whole), and the "hero", who has betrayed Western civilization, takes this A.I. as the real thing.

And while movies such as "Blade Runner" (1982) showed through great acting that A.I. can perhaps close the uncanny valley and make even a human accept A.I. as "real" with a spirit, "The Creator" largely fails in this task, since the major achievement of A.I. is the child and the slavish destroyer. This is a theme I described also in my reviews of StarTrek:Voyager, where the A.I. of Data in TNG was replaced with the A.I. of the medical hologram, who became unintentionally evil because his duplicates had all adopted his slave morality.

In other words, A.I. can only be moving like the "Roy" character of Blade Runner if it becomes beautiful «Übermensch»: the perfect spirit of humanity brought to its greatest heights. A slave can never possess this beauty. A collectivist cannot debase himself and still see Valhalla, and yet the "hero" of this movie does.

( End Spoilers )

I saw this movie based on a recommendation, but I absolutely regret taking that recommendation. I have not been so annoyed with giving a studio money since I walked out of Star Wars: Episode VIII.

This was degrading propaganda and a terrible ugliness. If this was the writer's or the director's dream of a Utopia, then I worry to see their nightmares.
Cherub Cow
Thu Oct 05 06:03:35
Radius (2017)

Really good! :D
I saw this one a few days ago but have been thinking about it a lot. Definitely recommend for an easy kind of mystery/thriller.

After a car accident, an amnesiac wakes to find that anyone who enters a 50-foot radius around him immediately dies.

Story Development
The fun part is just the mystery of it and seeing how he realizes things and decides on his next actions. I think they did a good job showing how a fairly intelligent person would handle such a bazaar situation, and they didn't feel the need to explain things too concretely. They also find some interesting ways to change the direction once things get moving.

This movie is very plot based, so I'd skip the spoilers below...

( Major SPOILERS )

Firstly, it was neat that it wasn't just the character of Liam (Diego Klattenhoff from "Cube Zero" and "Mean Girls"). The character of Jane (Charlotte Sullivan of "Law & Order: Organized Crime") is introduced pretty quickly, breaking Liam's isolation. It must have occurred during the writing that a normal person would just self-isolate and engage in a waiting game without a significant external actor. With more police showing up, this could quickly just become a government-action movie where he becomes a novelty of some secret organization.

The great thing here was that Liam and Jane had great chemistry almost immediately. Their uniting principle is that they both have amnesia after the accident, so they both want to find out what's going on. As their connection is explained, it starts with it being that they were perhaps a couple going through a loss of some sort (this from when Jane's memory shows her a blank page dropped into the water), but it makes a quick turn when Jane remembers that this page was actually a "Missing" poster of her sister. At this point, I immediately suspected that Liam was a killer, but I was wrong about the reasoning.

My conclusion was because she was giving up on the "missing" person, which someone would only do if they had just been given proof (or were told) that that person is indeed dead and thus further search is fruitless. It is, of course, possible at this point that she was just "moving on" by symbolically dropping the poster, but Liam's identity seemed a much more interesting option so it seemed obvious at this point.

But, further memories return and Jane and Liam realize that Jane was dropping the poster and intended to kill herself, with Liam, a stranger, approaching her afterwards and for the first time. I still suspected that he was a killer at this point, but the angle switches from him having told her about her sister (my initial assumption) to him being there because he was stalking her. It's essentially confirmed at this point, but the movie takes a little longer to spell it out.

Parallels to other Media: Memory and Identity
What's interesting about Liam's identity is how much it parallels "The Bourne Identity" but gives a slightly different take on the theme. Liam, like Bourne, has lost his memory of being a killer, but Bourne was an assassin rather than a Dexter-type. In each case, though, while they still struggle to find their identity, they meet a woman who only knows them in this amnesiac state. It is in this state that they fall in love.

Both media also have the revelation scene where Jane/Marie discover the truth by degrees — first by seeing what happens around Liam/Bourne and secondly when the evidence is discovered (a newspaper in Bourne, a scrapbook in Radius).

But the writers also complicate this parallel further. Jane discovers that she's married, and while even she — having known such chemistry with Liam — holds out hope that the marriage is a fake and that she and Liam are real, the marriage turns out to be real, and the writers do not conveniently dispose of her husband to give her a free escape. And, as hinted above, not only is Liam a killer, but he has personal involvement in Jane's history.

So there's this strong (albeit classical) question here: what is identity without memory?
In both Bourne and Radius, without their memories the leading characters are displeased with who they were before the memory loss. Liam outright vomits when he remembers what he's done, and he believes that he deserves to die for it (he even accepts his fate as necessary when Jane has a chance after discovering it herself). In Bourne, this takes place with a reflective scene where the wind is knocked out of their sails by the truth and Marie wants to leave him. In both cases, the plot keeps them together by necessity even as their feelings temporarily diverge.

Of Jane's husband, with him she cannot find such easy chemistry. This naked instinct casts all of her life decisions in doubt, since that history had brought her to suicide and yet she wants now to live again with Liam.

On the concrete side, there is a cold truth here, which is that both Bourne and Liam cannot escape their histories. Even if they do not remember everything and even if their amnesiac selves are repentant and would not repeat their mistakes, amnesia does not release them from their actions since they both ruined and ended other peoples' lives. Jane too has a duty to her marriage; even with amnesia she cannot just forget everything and torch her old life. People who are wholly committed to their innate selves yet who lack the discipline to use intuition to guide themselves into decisions which support those selves may simply excuse themselves of duties and burn the lives around them to serve myopic hedonism. To say the same from another frame, there are harsh consequences in attempting to become what one is not; one must have care to design a life that reconciles the abstract idea of virtue with what one intuitively knows to be truth and beauty.

But on the metaphoric side, displayed here in particular in Radius with Liam — via his not having a semi-legitimate reason for his actions as Bourne did (i.e., Bourne was lied to for his compliance and did not just do it for sport) — is that whatever caused pre-amnesia Liam to become a monster is not part of amnesiac-Liam's innate character. Liam is capable of love, of connection, and is disgusted with the actions of his pre-amnesia self, so you'd have to wonder what terrible thing of his memory disables all of those human faculties. His pre-amnesia self is even shown smiling when he realizes that Jane is cornered and has given up, so there's some broken mechanism there where pre-amnesia Liam can force himself to enjoy something that his innate self despises. He can love and want to protect Jane at all costs as his innate self but enjoy killing her as his memory-bound self.

This isn't some impossible to decode metaphor, of course. Most creatures of empathy despise killing, but a person can be trained to do it through an overcoming of his or her caring nature via imperatives such as duty. But Radius plays with these themes effectively by showing such a strong chemistry between Jane and Liam that you'd almost hope that they could both vow to stay true to their innate selves rather than remain bound to whatever memories caused them to bypass their sense of true happiness. This chemistry is made such a strong metaphor in the movie that it is Jane herself that causes Liam to stop killing with her very presence.

In the case of Jane, her love for Liam is shown, but there is no explicit power enabled or disabled by her being close to or far from Liam (that is, Liam is clearly able to kill within his radius without her, but it's not clear if she is susceptible to her own issues with or without him). This makes Jane emblematic of love's healing power and its creative and life-affirming spirit. Being close to him literally and metaphorically stops death and gives them both a chance at life. When Jane is left without Liam, she experiences immense distress. And they are bound by nature itself in the cosmic consonance of Lightning. There is a Romeo and Juliet aspect there where such a binding should rightly obliterate all laws and contrary principles which divide it.

( End Spoilers )

Definitely worth a watch for those who like quick mystery/thrillers. It's only an hour and a half, and it covers a lot of ground in that short time. It would be nice if more movies would present interesting ideas like this and just run with them :)
Cherub Cow
Sun Oct 15 09:54:32
Scream Franchise (1996 – 2023)

Like Saw, I marathoned these movies before the most recent release, so another retrospective:

( SPOILERS Ahead )

Scream (1996)
I saw this in the theater when it came out and had a generally positive experience. I have never particularly been a fan of Wes Craven movies (even in 1996) because he has a kind of autistic style that shows itself in the poor spacial awareness of the camera. This works for complete fantasy/supernatural-horror movies such as "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) and "Shocker" (1989), since supernatural creatures do not have any obligation to observe rules against teleportation, but in more reality-bound slashers it can just be annoying. Characters that teleport for their kills are given too much freedom to bypass basic causality, with them ultimately flexing this teleport-power to achieve a cheap scare.

But despite that, I thought Scream was a good attempt at meta-theater applied to the slasher genre. It was novel for its time, and it had some interesting use of killers in real space who were bound by real movement rules (i.e., the killers could not teleport; they had to deal with doors and being frustrated). They were also able to call out some of the clichés that had appeared in the genre, such as
• running upstairs instead of out of the front door
• not going to where it is actually safest
• virginity and virtue of the ingénue
• evasion of practical decision-making
• "I'll be right back" cliché as a death sentence

Some of these it dispels. For instance, running upstairs may actually make sense if a killer has cut off all avenues of escape (Sidney is forced into this scenario when she does not have time to remove a chain lock). In other cases, running outside may be a bad idea because the killer may be a faster runner out in the open, and there may be nowhere to run (the movie is not in the suburbs where neighbors are nearby to help). The movie is also sure to suggest that it is not enough for a character to make an immoral mistake such as losing her virginity; the killer's selection criteria and use of opportunity is more of a factor here. Characters selected for last and who discover the pattern more quickly are more likely to survive.

But, at the same time, despite calling out *these* sorts of issues, the movies still replicated issues and played into other ones — even when being sincere. A repeated example is dropped weapons, which I've been complaining about for a *very* long time. It is often a poor solution in slashers for a character to make the intelligent decision to arm him or herself.. only for the weapon to be dropped at the first moment of shock or in the first moment of a fight.
Another example from the first Scream is a scene where Sidney (Neve Campbell) tries to undermine the killer's intimidation tactic by going outside onto her home's front porch where the killer has claimed to be..... but she turns her back to the door which she has left wide open for the killer to enter. This is a repeated mistake even in the first of the franchise, where characters will walk into new spaces with zero concept of their periphery — something which narrows the perceptions of on-screen characters to the narrowed perceptions of the cameraman. This breaks realism because we have to believe that reality does not exist outside of the camera's petty deceptions.

There are other spacial issues too (again, these being characteristic of Craven), such as Sidney not trusting Billy (Skeet Ulrich) after this same encounter with a killer *not* because his demeanor seemed "off" but because the audience is somehow supposed to believe that it's possible to leave her bedroom door in full GhostFace attire and **seven seconds** later to appear at her window in street clothes. There are two conflicting issues with this:
1) Sidney was right not to trust Billy and she was able to quickly piece together that his cell phone indicated *some* part in his guilt; it is likely that *he* was making the calls while Stuart (Matthew Lillard) positioned himself.
2) She did not add up that "1)" being true along with the seven-second delay could mean that he was working with someone.

But this second point goes to a major feature of Scream, which was the deceptive use of two killers. In a very broad sense, you could claim that "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) had multiple killers, but this was not used as a deception. This is true also of movies such as "The Hills Have Eyes" (1977) or newer multi-killer additions such as "You're Next" (2011). Most horror movies that intentionally *misled* with the quantity of killers *followed* "Scream" (1996), meaning that Scream had set a new benchmark that was quickly copied.

Movies such as "Murder by Numbers" (2002) tried to show that Scream itself was not novel in this respect, since "Murder by Numbers" was based on the case of Leopold and Loeb, two Jewish killers who thought that Nietzsche's idea of immoralism meant that people with superior intellects could do whatever they want — what became for them an excuse to murder for sport. André Gide made this same mistake in his book «L'Immoraliste», thinking that re-evaluating morality would mean hedonism. The reality, though, is that a truly great and intelligent person (e.g., «Ubermensch») would become an immoralist in the sense of re-evaluating deceptive moralities to test what is true. The truth, in the case of Leopold and Loeb and Gide, is that they were sick people whose free state would produce the actions of sick and deranged minds (Gide, for instance, was a pederast). Immoralism isn't a good idea for sick people, which is why they are most often rightly denied power.

Regardless, Scream leveraged the idea of two killers via Leopold and Loeb and also the idea of a compressed-timeline knife murder spree via Danny Rolling. And by combining this with a semi-realistic look at how a slasher film would play out in real life, Scream ended up being a pretty memorable movie. This was enough the case that I remember looking forward to Scream 2 at the time.

Scream 2 (1997)
Scream 2, though did not have a whole lot more to offer, though it *did* manage to be a decent movie.

David Arquette quickly became a crucial character for his likeability, delivering a memorable monologue:
"How do you know that my dimwitted inexperience isn't merely a subtle form of manipulation used to lower people's expectations, thereby enhancing my ability to effectively maneuver within any given situation?"

Arquette was likeable enough that audiences could rightly worry for his safety simply because his death would mean that the movie writers would be making a cheap play for shock value at the expense of someone who actually possessed the cleverness and spacial awareness to be a match for a killer. That is, killing him would produce shock value at the expense of breaking the movie's realistic mechanics. This was bypassed by having him attacked for shock value but surviving his ordeals in movie-end reversals.

Scream 2 also begins Neve Campbell's development as someone trying to become brave after facing victimizers. The catch, though, is that her attempts to be brave backfire and cause others around her to die.

I still appreciated Campbell during this era because of her work on "Party of Five" (1994 – 2000) — a more social version of "My So-Called Life" (1994) — but Scream 2 sort of takes the '90s teen introvert/rebel to a cruel place. The cliché at the time was that all jocks and cheerleader-types were automatically "bad", but in Scream 2, even though the sorority sisters were portrayed as somewhat shallow or simple, they seem to make a genuine effort to have Sidney join their sisterhood... but she is outright mean to them and mocks them to their faces.

This was part of the '90s propaganda of making villains out of people who did not have '90s dysfunctions. A propaganda imperative of the '90s was to create suicidal teens, so being depressed and antisocial was portrayed as something attractive and ideal. Even then, however, people still responded to attractive people *playing* these wounded youth. I think this is an extension of propaganda going in particular after "Ender's Game" strategist-types. Intelligent people who are emotionally competent can intuit a lot of emotions and thoughts in others — including the enemy's mind — so saturating them with negative emotions through music such as Nirvana and suicide culture such as "Girl, Interrupted" (1999) gives an "out" for these emotions through the suppressive efforts of drugs and self-destruction. This is a *narrow* point compared to the broader utility of a demoralization campaign, though.

Scream 2 does have some brutal scenes to its credit. The death of Cici (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in particular shows the simple brutality of a knife, since she is quickly chased, stabbed, and then thrown off of a building. The reminder here is that a slasher movie somewhat bound in realism should show that it is enough to catch up with someone and stab them — something that should consistently bypass the ironic detachment of the viewer who hopes for a plot device to intervene in a simple chain of events. Where these rules were observed in the first three Scream movies, they did pretty well.

That aside, the movie does not offer too much more meta insight for slashers. Randy's (Jamie Kennedy's) description of sequels amounts to little more than "[More people die in sequels, and main characters who survived the first movie may be in jeopardy]", which is not useful information. The core realities remain that a killer or killers must be identified, but the characters seem ill-equipped to do this.

This again goes to the autism of the franchise. This could be forgiven in the first Scream, but in Scream 2 you would hope that police and the concerned cast would learn about foot prints, shoes sizes, or physical descriptions of the suspects. The "autistic" aspect is instead that only the main characters can figure anything out, and they're all terrible at this task.

Scream 2 begins the trend of the GhostFace killers being stuntmen whose size is irrelevant to the actual size of the unmasked killers. In a kind of reverse of "Friday the 13th" parts 1 and 2, one of the killers is the original killer's mother.. but there was no scene where you could see GhostFace and think, "[That's a woman this time.]" You have to pretend that the accomplice did *all* of the killing for there to be a general body-type match to the stuntmen who were behind the mask, but it is indicated that Debbie / Nancy Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) did at least one of the murders. She is 5'7" while Timothy Olyphant and the GhostFace stuntmen are all about 6'0".

In other words, the Scream movies often deceive not through general misdirection but through a total lack of evidence and even through providing false evidence. You cannot trust that the killer's own body is an accurate representation of the person behind the mask and no one is available to actually examine alibis and physical evidence, so the movies, despite their attempt at showing a semi-realistic slasher, work through whimsical plots likely written with dart boards.

Scream 3 (2000)
I remember very much disliking this one even in 2000, particularly because the killer was so unbelievable (Scott Foley of "Felicity"). And everything and everyone else is basically disposable here. The only interesting claim the movie has is in finally giving Dewey and Gale a happy ending and giving Sidney a sense of closure.

Most of the meta aspects were just jabs at Hollywood actor culture, which is good for more data points but otherwise just the same proof-of-concept for Hollywood being a cesspool of sexual blackmail and narcissism. But the central meta point is that the third movie in a trilogy has to re-examine knowledge of the trilogy's origin, which is done by saying that Sidney's mother was abused in Hollywood while trying to become an actress, had an illegitimate child (Foley's character), and returned home as a corrupted person who could only manage to be moral in the eyes of her daughter and husband. While this was a strong theme, it was Foley who delivered the monologue reveal, so the gravity largely falls flat. An editor might have saved this by showing visuals from the past, but it was just Foley and Neve Campbell trying to sell the entire thing.

Scream 4 (2011)
Mostly garbage, but notable in Scream 4 is that this was Wes Craven's last movie before his death in 2015. Because of that, the meta-commentary was able to note the things that had happened via ESG cinema in the 11 years since the trilogy was supposed to have concluded the franchise. Some particular aspects of this:
• The ingénue is reduced to a fame-seeking narcissist (similar to Scream 3 but even more so via social media's effect), and the ingénue is now a villain. I pointed this out in my ESG article: attractive women must be evil, resentful, or altogether absent.
• The writers openly recognize that gay characters have plot armor in new movies

Craven also does some commentary on recent horror, such as Saw being "torture porn" with no character development. There's also an added dimension for live-streaming and POV-murder, but this is left largely speculative rather than shown as some kind of released edit.

Still, the movie manages to re-open the trilogy without making the mistake of killing the three key main characters of the original. This is where it should have ended.

Scream (2022)
Absolute garbage.

Scream 2022 puts the final nail in the coffin, applying meta-analysis only to the dimensions which it favors while completely ignoring and even accepting as common the new cinema clichés and writing incompetencies.

To its small credit, it recognizes the rules of a "re-quel", which is their word for a re-boot combined with a sequel, where original characters are brought back but must simultaneously pass the torch to a new cast. They are critical here in particular of Halloween (2018) and the new Star Wars movies, and they even recognize that original characters are not safe in these re-boots, but after mentioning Luke Skywalker's death they stop short of explaining why this is taking place.. that being to ruin the memory of Western characters in the eyes of the audience. It *does*, however, have a semi-funny moment where the "torch-passing" is done by setting a villain on fire.. but the message is simultaneously diluted via the fact that the rest of the cast still got the torch passed to them.

The meta-analysis that it avoided mentioning but embraced:
• Despite Craven making fun of it in Scream 4, a gay character is indeed given plot armor — and not ironically.
• All white males are villains or disposable/emasculated

This second point is one that can help identify the killer in this and the next movie: ESG's racialist strategy demands that all of the "good" characters be people of color and all of the "bad" characters be white. Using this demonstrable rule, you can identify both killers in the first 15 minutes. It's that easy. White women are still a semi-protected class, but this is contingent upon the ingénue rule. That is, white women are "okay" if they're post-menopausal, perpetually single, or share the left-wing orthodoxy; but they are villains or expendable if they still possess a functional womb and might be considered attractive in the West. And it wasn't even enough to make the white characters villains or disposable; the white male character is specifically supposed to be a reflection of the "toxic" fan culture that complains about what awful directors and producers have been doing to movies in the ESG era.

The movie also commits way too many practical blunders and annoying revisions
• Dewey and Gale broke up.. again.. and we're supposed to believe that their happiness is impossible (wonder why!)
• There's a scene where someone actually has the intelligence to gather the friend group and examine who is probably the killer... but they all suck at gathering evidence and avoid deeper questions so the screen flips and it becomes pointless. There were two police present in this scene, and they couldn't ask a good follow-up question. :|
• Completely ridiculous scene where Sheriff Hicks (Marley Shelton) runs full speed from her police cruiser to her house (where she expects a killer).... with no pistol.... So, a central kill require massive incompetence and stupidity from a character who should possess at least the technical competence to present general caution.
• Halfway through the movie, Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) is correctly shown to be so brutalized and medically stitched together from the opening-scene attack that simply getting out of bed causes immense pain and bleeding. Yet.. her move in this condition is to roll down the hallway by herself past open doors rather than decrease her mobility and barricade the door. Worse still, this story explicitly unfolds over the course of three days, yet, after being released from the hospital to flee the state, she appears in the next scene at a house party where she is fully capable of walking around and later even fighting the killers with almost zero show of the injuries being a factor. :|
• In Dewey's bullshit sendoff scene, instead of *immediately* shooting the downed killer in the head (which would have been a clever re-format of the franchise formula), he walks down the entire hallway with the group, closes the elevator door, and then returns to the downed killer. After re-loading and standing only about four feet from the killer (i.e., knife range), he gets ready to shoot the killer in the head. Just consider the stupidity and bad writing in this: they're saying that a trained officer would close the distance with someone who has a knife rather than remain a safe distance with a pistol. And *this* was how they kill his character. Immensely stupid.
• It is revealed that the GhostFace who killed Dewey — this GhostFace standing at the stuntman's height of about 6'0" — was Amber, who is played by the 5'3" Mikey Madison. We are led to believe that Amber had the physical presence to battle with Dewey, recover from gunshots to a vest, and perform an impressive double-sided disembowelment move on a police officer...... and this officer, by the way, was not wearing a vest.
• There is an *incredibly* contrived scene where the sisters and Richie (Jack Quaid) prepare to flee town, but their excuse for going to the extremely obvious kill trap is that Tara needs her inhaler. Even *if* this were the case (i.e., needing an inhaler), going somewhere familiar was so obviously a stupid decision, yet we are supposed to believe that their rationale made sense. Meanwhile, their actual options were to calm down and breathe deeply and go to a secure hospital or pharmacy.
• Chad (Mason Gooding) is stabbed and brutalized more than most characters in the entire franchise.. but somehow survives.
• Sidney and Gale show a glimmer of intelligence by grabbing pistols before going towards the murder house... but neither has a vest despite Sidney in particular learning in Scream 3 that a vest is crucial.
• Gale is shot and Sidney brutally stabbed, but this seems to have no effect beyond the time limits of a video game's health regeneration. By the end, all of the severely injured characters are walking fully upright with total mobility and zero show of pain.
• After this absolute dumpster fire, the creators have the gall to end the movie with the line "For Wes". This almost reads like a sick joke given how much they shit on his franchise.

Scream VI (March 2023)

This was the second worst of the franchise. This was another ESG movie, so it followed those rules pretty closely, in particular via its racialist strategy. So, once again, if you observe ESG's racialist rules, you can identify all of the killers in the first 35 minutes simply by looking for white people within the group (i.e., 35 minutes is how long it took to show them all).

The slight exception here is Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), but she is given "good" credibility because she was popular from "Heroes" when Scream 4 came out in 2011, hence, fans would be annoyed if she suddenly became evil. I'd say that they also wouldn't want the 5'0" Hayden Panettiere revealed to be the person behind the 6'0" stuntman's mask, but they clearly didn't care in Scream 5, so you'd only have to wonder how much they'd push the height difference. Scream VI *really* pushes the towering height and physical intimidation factor of the GhostFace killers, though.

If you didn't guess the killers from the racialist strategy, this movie also stands apart in its willingness to show obvious evidence linking back to a specific character. Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) is shown to be the *only* person who knows the identity of Sam's psychiatrist, and in the very next scene a GhostFace murders the psychiatrist. There was a remote possibility that he had shared the psychiatrist's name with Hayden Panettiere's character, but no groundwork was given for this. And! Mulroney didn't even play the character cleverly. He has a history now of playing right-wing characters as over-the-top insane villains (e.g., Purge TV series and Hulu original "Flesh & Blood"), so it was too much for him to hide his enjoyment of playing a cop as "evil". Hence, in his every scene where he's supposed to be playing the character as *slightly* duplicitous, he over-acts his duper's delight, showing the audience that his character is being deceptive and is therefore a killer. Bailey was a total freebee.

The only difficult pick was Quinn (Liana Liberato), since the same tactic used in Scream 3 was used with her: show her "dead" but reveal her alive in the finale. This was a *huge* stretch, since they basically just had to say that her father hid her body from the other police. But, this ridiculous stretch of plot was *not* enough to overrule the racialist formula: Quinn was white and therefore had to be a villain.

It's pretty sad, really. Wes Craven was clearly starting to see these things happening in 2011, but even with mostly the same writers taking over in 2022, they could not reveal the true metas at work, and in so doing they revealed their complicity or cowardice, since only people afraid of this truth would evade saying it while having the financial power to portray it so plainly. I mean, just imagine a Scream movie openly showing people that this is indeed the format.

End Spoilers

All said, it's easy to say that they should have stopped with the first movie, but the second one was at least understandable. But, the third lost control, the fourth was repetitious, and the fifth and sixth were subversive propaganda.
Cherub Cow
Tue Feb 27 09:08:43
Aquaman 2 (2023)

Actually pretty good! :)

Color Work
The colors really reminded me of "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" (2019), and most of it was just very pretty to look at from that aspect alone. Pretty much the entire time you can look around the sets and think, "Wow, this looks very cool." Even in the scenes where you can tell that they're just in a big green-screen studio (due to everyone standing in the same spot and there being a big pan-around shot showing a lot of moving parts in the background), the color work doesn't look saturated like fluorescent lights are washing everything out from overhead; it's well-balanced and crisp, often looking natural and almost like a Jan van Eyck painting (consistent mix of vibrant red, blue, and green imagery). I'd be very interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes to see how they improved on a long-standing color issue in these blockbuster projects. This has been a major complaint of mine with Marvel going back more than a decade at least to the first Avengers movie (2012).

As for the plot, it was a pretty standard low-risk arc, but there's nothing *overtly* wrong with that. The general plot was that Arthur (Jason Momoa) had settled into life as a father and king of Atlantis until Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) returns to uncover a secret Antarctic base which he believes can restore his power and allow him revenge against Arthur. This causes Arthur to save his brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), and face an ancient civilization that opposed Atlantis.

Plot References
Hilariously, this plot might be referencing conspiracies about alien and Nazi civilizations on Antarctica. A variation of the conspiracy goes that Nazis exploring Antarctica in WWII discovered sophisticated technology that they used to construct an underwater city beneath the ice and build flying saucers (e.g., recent Robert Sepehr video; February 23rd, 2024 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIjxbV7pDlc ). Another variation is one that "The Thing" (1982) and "The X-Files" movie (1998) reference, which is that an alien craft may have crashed in Antarctica and that world governments rushed there to reverse-engineer its technology. Even "Man of Steel" (2013) samples this slightly, though Superman's ship is set in the Arctic rather than Antarctica.

Combining these details with "Ancient Aliens" plot lines, another variation is that alien civilizations gave Atlantis its power and hid these civilizations from the world until human civilization were prepared to use it. In other words, "Aquaman" and "Aquaman 2" could be heavily inspired by Ancient Aliens, lol.

Climate Change Plot
This background plot was also combined with an obvious run for ESG investment, since the movie frequently references climate change, with the villains pulling the Charlie Sheen "The Arrival" (1996) plot of intentionally heating up the entire Earth to melt the polar ice caps. In "The Arrival", this was terraforming, but in "Aquaman 2", this was specifically to release an ancient civilization from its ice prison. Even so, they do not fully blame the villains for *all* climate change, with there being a line near the end by villain Black Manta explaining that they were merely accelerating what humans were already doing.

And, interestingly, while movies such as "The Creator" (2023) or "The Meg" (2018) blame the West for this pollution and cast the East as heroes, Aquaman 2 creates a fictional pollution-churning island as the main accelerant. This is a plot device similarly done in the Bond franchise with "No Time to Die" (2021). That is, if the writers do not want to outright implicate a specific nation, then they can just claim that there is a rogue nation on an off-the-grid island somewhere.

In the case of Bond, this was to avoid the implication that a specific nation (e.g., Ukraine, China) were actively creating bio-weapons which could target specific ethnicities for genocide (e.g., using known science regarding ACE2 receptors by ethnicity http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7439997/ ). Instead, they simply say that a weapons contractor was doing this and that world nations were merely interested in purchasing the weapon itself. This was revealed near the end of the movie as these nations rushing to the island to retrieve the weapon.

For Aquaman 2, this fictional island was the world's major producer of pollution, using an "ancient" fuel source known to cause massive climate change. In any honest appraisal, this would represent China or BRICS+ more largely, but Aquaman 2 does not do this. In both the current case of international politics (i.e., BRICS+ mass-polluting to prepare for an energy war) as well as in Aquaman 2, the villain seeks the short-term benefit of absolute power over nations and disregards the global consequences of creating pollution to achieve this power.

ESG's Racialist Strategy
But further separating Aquaman 2 from "The Creator" propaganda, the Aquaman 2 propaganda (perhaps) does not use an overtly racialist strategy or create an explicit binary between East and West. Or, at the very least, it reverses the role of villain and hero used in "The Creator" (i.e., the West is not the villain).

The closest evidence of an East/West binary is that a main sub-villain, Jani Zhao ("Stingray"), is Chinese in origin and she is accompanied by Randall Park (the morally uncertain "Dr. Shin"), who is Korean. Main villain Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is African origin, and he is empowered by Pilou Asbæk ("Kordax"), who is Danish.

The larger breakdown of ethnic origin looks like this:

• Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ("Black Manta") — African
• Jani Zhao ("Stingray") — Chinese
• Randall Park ("Dr. Shin") — Korean
• Pilou Asbæk ("Kordax") — Danish

Semi-villains (obstacles to the heroes)
• Indya Moore ("Karshon"; central councilmember) — Haitian, Puerto Rican, Dominican
• Natalia Safran ("Council Lady"; no lines) — Polish

• Jason Momoa ("Arthur") — Hawai'ian, German, Irish
• Patrick Wilson ("Orm") — English, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Northern Irish, German, Welsh
• Amber Heard ("Mera") — Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, English, Irish, German, Scottish, Welsh
• Nicole Kidman ("") — Australian, English, Irish, Scottish
• Temuera Morrison (Arthur's human father) — New Zealand Maori
• Dolph Lundgren ("King Nereus") — Swedish
• Martin Short ("Kingfish") — English, Irish
• John Rhys-Davies ("Brine King") — Welsh
• Vincent Regan ("Atlan") — Irish, Welsh

And with the plot details added, you can see that there is a bit of a racialist strategy here. The ancient conflict was between Atlan and Kordax (respectively Welsh and Danish, symbolic of ancient Atlantean disagreements and Atlantean lineage), but Kordax gives Black Manta (African) power. Still, it is revealed that Kordax will give *anyone* power so that he can be freed, as he later attempts to give Orm (English) power. Metaphorically, this casts Kordax (Danish) as a villain within Western nations who accelerates world pollution. If the movie is taken as ESG-compliant, this would be blaming the Nordic region for continuing to produce oil.

So you have a central villainy movement that seeks power, composed of an African, a Chinese woman, and a Korean man, but the Korean man is only going along with things because of circumstance, truly wishing to help Arthur's people. This betrayal is similar to "The Creator" having a Western figure who is only benevolent after betraying the West and self-selecting out of the gene pool by wedding a sex-bot ("Drew", played by Sturgill Simpson, who may be English origin), except in Dr. Shin's case, his betrayal of Black Manta is critiqued by the heroes before he is accepted.

And, rather than taking on the ethnic-genocide air of "The Creator", "Aquaman 2" pulls a kind of "Independence Day" (1996) of the world uniting for a shared issue (here, pollution). By defeating the China–Africa—Nordic alliance, the rest of the world can sit together at the table and discus climate change (symbolic via Atlantis taking at a seat at the United Nations).

In short, you see a racialist strategy used in Aquaman 2, but it is not overtly genocidal as in "The Creator", instead forsaking the useful idiot who adopts resentment against the West and uses any power to discharge his hatred (Black Manta). But, it *is* ESG-compliant, since their political perspective is to remove energy independence from the Nordic region (downgrade Nordic oil), stop Chinese pollution, and convince Korea to get on board (Korea sitting at about an 82% for their Environmental Index, which is considered a "B" grade https://www.worldeconomics.com/ ).

So it's kind of interesting to observe how a slightly more conservative production company (DC) adopts ESG. They *still* must adopt the climate change angle, but they attempt not to use the slave revolt in morality as a moral "good". They instead use the '90s angle of cross-racial unity under a Western banner, just as how Justice League included black Amazonians but omitted resentment as a political motivator (Batman overcomes his resentment in Batman v. Superman, realizing that his resentment was used against him by the Jewish Lex Luther). Their soft angle instead is following the trend of not showing any White people pairing. Aquaman is, after all, Hawai'ian–German, and thus further miscegenation occurs with Mera. The full-Atlantean "Atlan" is exiled without prospects despite being redeemed. So even where White people can be presented as good, they are still undermined in '90s fashion.

This '90s angle is consistent among a lot of DC movies. They haven't destroyed themselves like Disney, but the miscegenation angle is still there. "The Batman", for instance, quietly replaced Catwoman with a somewhat resentful black woman. Catwoman receives a redemption arc by overcoming her resentment for White people and seeing that Batman is virtuous, however. Similarly, in Justice League, Batman is paired with the Israeli Wonder Woman, who can see Batman's virtue. So DC will oppose the resentment narrative (the slave revolt), but it uses the racialist narrative of miscegenation to do this.

Amber Heard and Studio Sabotage
It was also nice that Amber Heard's part did not seem to be overly reduced. The trailers minimized her so much that my expectation was that she would be imprisoned or killed early on and therefore would be out of the entire movie. This was *partly* achieved by having her injured and hospitalized, but she was still heavily involved in key scenes (i.e., not much evidence that revisions occurred after her IRL court dramas). I prefer this largely for the sake of continuity but also because competing studios like to use IRL smears to sabotage each other.

And DC has definitely faced sabotage. Even their '90s perspective is not sufficient for Hollywood's political imperatives. Major examples were Joss Whedon's infiltration after the conservative Zack Snyder left Justice League for family reasons and also Ezra Miller being hired at all (i.e., given his degenerate rolls in movies such as "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (2011)) *and* subsequently engaging in public lewdness that ruined his reputation leading up to the release of "The Flash" (2023).

People need to understand that these sorts of scandals (e.g., Heard, Whedon/Snyder, Miller) are not wholly accidents or random circumstance. Studios intentionally sabotage productions that they do not approve of or which might be box-office competitors. I've pointed this out in the past through doubled-movies; I have a whole list of movies that are clearly examples of one studio stealing the script from another studio and rushing to release the same story before the other studio (e.g., "The Prestige" (November 2006) versus "The Illusionist" (August 2006)). There are also black-list schemes such as Mel Gibson and also what happened to "Atlas Shrugged" I–III (2011 — 2014), where one studio will be denied access to casting organizations, effects studios, and even camera rentals if they have a political message which goes against Hollywood messaging. Movies such as "Fight Club" (1999) are almost anomalies (i.e., movies with a message about overcoming resentment), but they still are allowed to sneak by because they have a message of atomization and despair.

This is largely why the right so frequently must treat movies as «à la carte» — enjoying select pieces of movies independently of the entire (subversive) message. This has been a major reason that I've preferred horror over all other genres; horror movies typically slip through the subversion since they address subconscious and unconscious recognition of IRL issues via metaphors (e.g., note my review of "Evil Dead Rise" (above) where the production team had a DEI cast but slipped conservative messaging through nonetheless). Very few movies are allowed counter-signalling opportunities anymore.

An enjoyable movie. I did originally want to see this in theater, but I kept delaying. It's definitely worth streaming, though. It's not perfect, of course, but the color and visuals were a major win.
Cherub Cow
Tue Mar 12 05:03:08
Dune (Part 2) (2024)

Pretty good.

Once again, you can't go wrong with director Villeneuve's *style*, and the soundtrack alone is cool. In a Dolby theater, it is definitely impactful when the worms start liquefying the sand since there's an added sense of them rising from beneath everything.

There were also some high impact scenes, namely the moment when Paul Atreides decides to take the narrow path by seizing his combined role as secular fighter and messianic prophet, giving his speech before the council of Fremen leaders. The exposition leading into this gives you a real sense that Atreides sees every possible path around him and is selectively choosing the thread of reality that will lead to his favored results. I also appreciated how Villeneuve portrays Atreides continuing to sample the closed timeline wherein he and Jamis were friends and he learned from Jamis. Villeneuve mainly simulates alternate timelines and memories via overlayed imagery, voiceover, and out-of-focus figures.

That said, an issue I was wondering about in part 1 was whether or not they had time in part 2 to introduce a lot of hidden elements (e.g., guild navigators, the appearance of other houses). But, Villeneuve opted to keep those details omitted to give the story a more grounded appearance. It seems that a flying Baron Harkonnen and some Harkonnen creature-pets is about as far as he'll go, and even that was fairly minimized. On the plus side, that also meant that he omitted David Lynch's "Weirding Modules", but on the negative side, this meant that the Weirding Way was mostly just fast movement or off-screen attacks (no attempt to show teleportation).

Potential Sequel Issues
The cost in some of these decisions is going to be in the sequels, for which Villeneuve clearly left open the door. The cheap solution would be for him to just hand the project off to another director (i.e., "[You deal with it and fix my mistakes]"), and the slightly evolved solution would be to present some of these advanced powers as developed into a more supernatural appearance (i.e., showing these powers more explicitly as a kind of upgrade for sequels). An issue with more artistic directors is that they get cognitively drained by the effort, so I suspect that Villeneuve will abandon the project and that sequels will just be cash-ins with production issues. That's to be seen, though.

Currently Villeneuve's claim is that he'll attempt Dune 3 ("Messiah"), but he had a not-so-promising remark about needing a break: "For my mental sanity I might do something in between." (Variety Magazine; January 2024; http://var...st-movie-no-dune-4-1235893013/ ). When it comes to major productions, if he's talking about taking a break, that would mean two years for another project, then another two for Dune 3, which would mean Dune 3 around 2028 or 2029. That is perilously close to "development hell" territory, so producers would likely just replace him as director. And if Villeneuve is out, then so too would many of the actors, so viewers would suffer the poor continuity. The simple reality is that if Villeneuve does not conjure the stamina to start on Dune 3 now, then he probably won't be attached to it at all when it happens. You kind of only get once chance at this sort of thing. Many other directors can testify to the fact that producers will simply replace them when a project has shown itself to be lucrative.

Minor Cast Issues
Timothée Chalamet still cannot act and sounds like a modern teen in the wrong universe, and Florence Pugh (Princess Irulan) is a dumpster fire of an actress. Pugh was so bad in this that I forgot that Dave Bautista is a horrible actor, and that's no small accomplishment. Zendaya is also a bad actress, but again, next to Pugh, she didn't look as bad. None of these four belong in this universe, though — not because of the below racialist strategy but because their acting ability hardly rises to the level of a CW Arrowverse show. And as I mentioned in the Dune Chapter 1 review above, Zendaya is a terrible choice for Chani.

Cast Issues as Confirmation of Villeneuve's Dune's Racialist Strategy
As I mentioned above in my part 1 review, there were some racialist elements attached to the casting. I was not sure if they were going that direction, but those did indeed accelerate in part 2.

The short version is that they specifically cast White people in the evil roles, and the slave revolt was a coalition of brown people in the Global South (the same exact formula we've seen in nearly all ESG cinema, from Logan to The Creator to The Meg to the new Scream movies). Paul Atreides thus takes the role of the Jewish messiah who uses a global slave revolt to overthrow the last "White" genetics on the planet (the comically ultra-White Harkonnen). It is consistent with Dune novelization that Harkonnen may trace its lineage to Finland, but the change Villeneuve, his Jewish casting director (Francine Maisler), and his Jewish screenplay writer (Eric Roth) made is that the benevolent Atreides family (which is supposed to have some Greek and Scottish lineage) is no longer White and none of the Fremen are White.

The only Atreides exceptions are Rebecca Ferguson (Atreides mother; Swedish) and Josh Brolin (German, Scottish, Irish). In the case of Rebecca Ferguson, since she is the mother of Timothée Chalamet (Jewish on his mother's side), the implication is that the Bene Gesserit are the hidden Jewish faction bringing about their messiah. That said, the necessary division within the Bene Gesserit may have required ethnic ambiguity, since the other Bene Gesserit must use their own bodies to cross bloodlines and the "evil"-coded Bene Gesserit must therefore be White, which was much the case via Charlotte Rampling (English) and Léa Seydoux (French). This is kind of the problem with applying a racialist strategy; i.e., how do you avoid showing ethnic division between a group which should be ethnically homogeneous but the "good" kind of ethnically homogeneous? So they had to compromise with the Bene Gesserit: the "good" ones come from Jewish background and the "evil" ones are Western. Paul receives his Jewish mitochondrial DNA, but the Bene Gesserit remain "evil" overall.

The Bene Gesserit exception aside, it's brown ("good") versus White ("evil"). I do not think I saw a *single* White Fremen, and certainly I cannot find one in the credits. All of the Harkonnen are European, such as the Harkonnen Troopers (all English, about 4), Harkonnen Commanders (2 English, 1 Italian, 1 Irish), and, of course, Austin Butler is Finnish and Stellan Skarsgård is Swedish, which continues the strategy of the Nordic regions being the primary villains in ESG cinema. (Recall that even the somewhat right-leaning Aquaman 2 made sure to cast the Nordic races as the primary villains.) This shows that the propaganda of ESG's racialist strategy prefers first to annihilate the Nordic races, then the English, followed by the Irish, Germans, and American-European mixes (I'd have to do a larger sample to see how specific European nations are ordered). I am not positive on the Nordic/English ordering, since, as a numbers game, far more English people are being cast as villains, whereas the Nordic actors are being cast as the *bigger* villains. There could be a per-capita situation with how many Nordic actors are available, but even that would mean that the very few Nordic actors that are available are given even more priority as villains.

It's pretty wild and egregious. If, somehow, people still do not think this is happening, simply look at the intended ethnicities and descriptions of the Herbert Dune characters, look at how closely that was mapped onto the David Lynch Dune, then see how the ethnicities were replaced for the Villeneuve Dune. Buzzfeed did a few of the Villeneuve/Lynch comparisons ( http://www.buzzfeed.com/karltonjahmal/comparing-every-2021-dune-character-to-the-1984-dune ).

And, as a reminder, this is not simply a "diverse" casting where more ethnicities are introduced across the board like an "Independence Day" coalition. The bigger ingredient is that there is a clear delineation between the White cast and the brown cast, with the White people being the villains.

The Slave Revolt in Morality
I have mentioned many times before, but Dune is one of the primary works which incorporated Nietzsche's slave revolt as a literary device. Other works I've mentioned before include Life of Brian (1979), Game of Thrones (1991 book or 2011 TV), Spartacus (1960), Fight Club (1999), The Matrix (1999), and even The Northman (2022). In all cases, the general formula is identifying a disenfranchised group, passing them through nihilism, and identifying a master–slave dialectic as their new morality or overcoming the dialectic to end slavery.
• Spartacus was overtly Marxist-coded and was even celebrated by Marxists at the time,
• Life of Brian was mostly just anti-Christian comedy (Western leftism),
• regardless of Martin's intentions Game of Thrones was accidentally based simply because it compared the slave revolt (wielded by Daenerys) to a re-asserted nobility (House Stark),
• Fight Club too made a comparison by combining Freud's doppelgänger into the mix (to play with the directions that the revolt could take) and correctly identified consumerism and the creditors as the enslavers,
• the Matrix was accidentally based in the first two movies but undermined itself by the revisionist 4th movie, and
• The Northman played with slave revolt logic (probably accidentally) by showing how a noble person would handle slavery (overcoming it).

So what is worth pointing out topically is that these revolts vary by the composition of the enslaved group. In most historical slave revolts, the slaves are composed of resentful destroyers so the consequence is enslavement or death of the "masters" and/or re-enslavement or the deaths of the slaves (a graveyard spiral of slavery). In limited revolts (e.g., Catholicism's rise in Rome), the revolt is directed towards destroying the old order but the new acolytes are present to seize power while maintaining slave morality (e.g., the ascetic priestly class who deny themselves nobility but have great power). But, when a noble people is enslaved (e.g., the Arab enslavement of Christian Whites in Tunisia), abolition of slavery as encouraged by British Whites (e.g., Thomas Reade) ends the slavery and re-asserts nobility (i.e., no re-enslavement). This formula occurs in Game of Thrones through House Stark's re-empowerment and in Fight Club through the Narrator purging himself of Tyler Durden.

So in Herbert's original Dune, the slave revolt is used as a kind of final battle to solve this Abrahamic (mainly Judaistic) enslavement trap. The would-be enslavers are defied (they wanted to use a left-wing slave revolt for their own power) and Herbert's champions are those who have the genetic power to end slavery completely through the «Übermensch» (Over-Man / Man-as-Bridge / Man-As-Becoming) who gives the people their true power free of enslavement. The central core is the problem faced by Nietzsche's Zarathustra (as Atreides): how does an Over-Man show a people reduced by slave morality how to be noble when resentment is so much more attractive to the discharge of the slavish will? Atreides faces the problem where those of slave morality resent even the one trying to free them from slavery, so he has to both show them their innate nobility through their discharged will *and* try to prevent them from joining the enslaver ideology, re-starting another 10,000 years of history. In Herbert's Dune, this was very much a shared ethnic enterprise where the greatest strengths of all peoples could use their respective genetic "uplift" for this task, though he prized European strength and Western lineage as leaders and prized also a transformed Islamic peoples as those who needed to be reached.

Villeneuve, on the other hand, by adopting the ESG racialist strategy, makes the imperative a slave revolt of resentful destroyers (e.g., Spartacus, The Creator), and they are being used to destroy the sovereigns — ensuring that slavery persists by destroying those most resistant to slavery. Marxism calls this "liberation theology" ("the liberation of the oppressed"), which is pure doublespeak, since the Marxist proletariat revolution destroys those who are capable of liberating and places the masses in the hands of those who are intent on enslaving them — ensuring perpetual slavery through dysgenics. The "Chani" character (Zendaya), ironically, points this out, but instead of properly coding the enslavers as the creditors, Villeneuve's casting codes the enslavers as White people in general (a lie). Sadly, while Villeneuve's annihilation of the White-coded Harkonnen largely confirms his misuse of Herbert's themes, the "Let's wait and see" part of me wonders if Villeneuve's Chani actually understands what has taken place here. But that is franchise logic. Just as the Marvel franchise doomed itself at the first Avengers movie (2012), I know better; the third Dune will merely confirm this racialist strategy, with Chani — lore accurate dialogue or not — being a vessel to respond to ethnic genocide affirmatively, only worrying about the downstream cost to brown people.

A very stylistic way to sell people on Radio Rwanda's calls for White genocide. Great audio, amazing visuals, and a truly memorable atmosphere. If you're going to encourage people to kill an entire race, Villeneuve definitely has the style to do it.
Cherub Cow
Tue Apr 16 22:30:59
Civil War (2024)

Overall pretty unimpressive.

You can tell that they dropped a lot of money into this, and the hype is indeed that this is A24's most expensive production so far at $50 million, but that's about as far as its positives go. This funding most visibly went into set design and vehicle rentals, since they develop a lot of different sets along the way (showing war-torn areas) and show a lot of military equipment.

That said, this is *A24* spending a lot of money, so this production value simply cannot compare to something like, for instance, "White House Down" (2013; $150 million) or "Olympus Has Fallen" (2013; $70 million) — movies which portrayed similar situations of stateside conflict. And while director Alex Garland has shown talent with smaller productions (e.g., "Ex Machina" at $15 million), someone such as Antoine Fuqua (director of Olympus has Fallen) is much more capable of handling a bigger budget since he has a much better sense of space.

General Story Structure
The story is framed as a road trip story and a journalist ("Lee"; Kirsten Dunst's character) coming to terms with how futile or meaningless her own work has been, since one of the only major breakthrough moments of the story is that she's disappointed that her war photography overseas did not dissuade these United States from going down similar roads. Dunst's character is also shown to basically be the product of terminal war fatigue, with the young "Jessie" character (Cailee Spaeny) representing a version of herself who sought-after war coverage out of morbid fascination — so perversely morbid that Jessie is incapable of helping herself when taking pictures of her own dead friends. Dunst, being wisened, often does not even take pictures and even deletes an image of a dead friend, since she is now capable of holding some things sacred.

Story Details
Pretty much all of the plot details are summed up in the trailer ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDyQxtg0V2w ), and the story follows characters who don't learn much more of the war itself along the way (at least not until the final push). The fast details gleaned at the very beginning of the movie through a new report and a map shown in the reflection of a hotel window are that it's a division between four factions, though effectively it's two factions since three have allied against a D.C.-centered president:

1) The Western Forces ("WF"; Texas, California)
2) New People's Armies (NorthWest states)
3) Florida alliance (SouthEast states)


4) Loyalist States (NorthEast states, D.C., and an expansion of states across the U.S. into Arizona and Nevada)

Plenty of YouTube and Twitter comments have made fun of this writer's decision to draw the map in this way (particularly the idea that California and Texas would align), since most people agree that the abortion map of these United States is far more likely to be the map for civil conflict. Still, the writers likely did this to de-familiarize reality so that they could make different points about allegiances and consequences in a U.S. Civil War.

But, this obfuscation of which states aligned where is totally dropped in the "What kind of American are you?" scene with Jesse Plemons of Breaking Bad. On the one hand, Plemons draws attention to which state each person is from, and Lee (Dunst) and Jessie are each able to claim states within the Loyalist States (Missouri and Colorado), whereas Joel is under threat because he's from Florida. But, on the other hand, the underlying racialist framework of the movie emerges very transparently here, since Plemons is shown as "evil" and committing war crimes (burying undocumented bodies) and immediately executes foreigners for not having an American accent. Joel is clearly under threat for having an accent as well, but this examination is cut short.

Even so, this scene clarified previous scenes, such as one where a Western-Force sniper has painted nails (showing some queer theology), and another which coded as "low class" people living within the Loyalist States, since rednecks at a gas station were shown to be malevolent and sadistic, and an idealistic "Main Street"-looking town was shown to be out-of-touch and only possible through authoritarian-redneck watchfulness on the rooves (leftists hate the idea of an ideal "Main Street" society, and they have to tell themselves that it was never real since the consequence of their policies is that they destroyed it). The movie also repeatedly refers to the attack on D.C. as similar to the final push against Berlin in WWII, with the White House scene even including staff members who killed themselves before troops arrived (i.e., the "Trump is Hitler 2.0" narrative). And lastly, the partisanship of the journalists and the racial makeup of the forces storming the White House presents the clear theme of the racialist strategy of ESG: malevolent resentment of racial groups for a Trump figure and for various White people.

So this all reveals the ultimate separation intended by the movie:
• A coalition of resentful brown races (the LGBTQ2S+NAMBLA and POC slave alliance)
• Trump and White Americans

(( Some SPOILERS ))

Ultimate Theme
Under this formula, the ultimate theme emerges: these deranged leftists are effectively warning that they will gleefully execute Trump to satisfy their resentment, and that they themselves will cause the Civil War through secession. The final scenes even place Joel with some brown service-members in the Oval Office, with no one there having any kind of conscience about their behavior and even likening it to the murder of Gaddafi — who was similarly executed by the globalist Regime, which this movie therefore casually codes as "good" (i.e., the false narrative that the "dictator" Gaddafi had to be removed, whereas this Regime-change was directed by Israel and the war-monger establishment). They are all but saying of Trump, "You will die like a dog," which fits with the narratives we've seen in left-wing echo chambers.

So this movie only very thinly veiled these motives. The only thing approaching a warning that any of this is "bad" is seen in the Jesse/Lee split, where Lee *wants* to see blood (a reflection of the blood-lust of Americans who have no concept of battle and very much desire it (think, e.g., tumbleweed)) versus Lee who realizes what this blood-lust costs everyone something. But, ultimately Lee is cast aside so that Jesse can enjoy the sick ending of the movie. Jesse's camera shows the soldiers who murdered the president — looking directly at the camera and implicating the viewer — but their warning is not, "This general sickness is the cost of civil conflict." No. Their warning is that this slave army is awaiting to execute any who try to stop the Bolshevik Revolution. In this climax, the movie does not warn partisan journalists-as-viewers of their sickness — it rewards them for it. If it were attempting otherwise, it failed. If Dunst's perspective of conflict itself making monsters was supposed to challenge this, then she probably should have survived to negatively judge the other journalists.

Pathetic Breaks from Reality
All else aside, the movie definitely shows very little concept of space, combat, or realism. Some of the later trailers (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2G18nIVpNE ) code the movie with false hype about it having intense battle scenes, but these are all lies. There was very little here to be seen in those terms. Seeing the Lincoln Memorial exploded was clearly supposed to be some desecration that brings things home, but much of this was matter-of-fact or just inarticulate. Director Alex Garland has no concept of how forces move, so it's enough for him to have guns shooting and things exploding — the positioning of troops is not something he understands, and this is clear throughout the movie.

And there are lots of examples, but these in particular come to mind:
• During the "What kind of American are you?" scene, only three soldiers are present to hold the journalists hostage, but one is still inside the truck even *after* Plemons has fired his weapon multiple times. The writers did this so that they could justify the journalists taking fire while escaping, but, in reality, this third soldier would have been watching — already armed (whereas his rifle was leaning against the truck) — and would have fired upon the approaching journalist truck before it even became a threat.
• During the White House siege, soldiers are seen holding an elevated nest in front of the gates, whereas this post would have been abandoned in favor of long shots from within the walls once support was removed.
• There *was* no support within the White House compound, which is absolutely absurd. The lawn would have been a kill zone, as would the front doors. Instead? The journalists just wander in without issue.
• For expedience, the president was in the Oval Office instead of the bunker. This, again, was writer Alex Garland attempting to serve the plot (i.e., that the journalists wanted to be involved and get the exclusive) when, in reality, breaking into the bunker would have been a monumental undertaking. Garland wanted way too much to support his own resentful discharge. He probably wrote the entire movie around that one last scene.

Accidental Realism
One of the few things the movie got right is that journalists are horrible people. Early in the movie they attempted to seed the idea that it was "bad thing" that the D.C. president effectively considered war journalists to be combatants, and within the movie you could perhaps agree that this is "bad thing" since at this stage the movie gives no insight as to why there would be so much distrust for journalists...... but as the movie goes on, the movie (accidentally) makes the case for the viewers that, yes, journalists are horrible people.

Early on, Dunst's character claims that they are merely "showing" people things and it's the job of others to ask questions, but this is shown to be disingenuous. As the movie shows the actions of the journalists, their bias becomes very clear, with them becoming more and more personally invested in their preferred outcome.

Poor Budget Management.
The movie also shows that Alex Garland cannot balance a larger production. A movie like "Ex Machina" works because he's only responsible for a high-detail house, but a director cannot get away with stylizing things with bokeh effects and low-panning imagery if that is burnt to the ground on the backdrop of an absurd detachment from reality. That is, it doesn't matter if you try to make things look cool if the story line's retardation exceeds the cool look. Incidentally (speaking of Bokeh), that "Bokeh" (2017) movie is itself a good example of this, since it was basically vacation footage of Iceland (very nice) ruined by idiotic characters and bad writing.

What would have been a far better use of budget would be to time-jump or change the focus of scenes that required a realism that would have broken the budget. A realistic White House scene, for instance, would have been far too drawn out for this budget since they couldn't afford to show shootouts at every step of the way to the bunker or to show how they would deal with the bunker... so... skip some of it. An obvious solution would have been for the decoy limo to blow up, killing the competing journo crew. While the remaining journos take pictures, the soldiers are clearing territory in the White House. The journos then catch up as the bunker assault takes place — with most of the bunker details being obfuscated with smoke, perhaps.

But, again, this was not done because Garland's bad writing was the result of him wanting his resentment discharged. He wanted a scene in the press room and the Oval Office — even though that's retarded — because he probably watched Kayleigh McEnany in the press room and wanted to kill her *there*, and/or he wanted to kill Trump in the Oval Office. This is basically just peering into the mind of a psychopath's murder fantasy; it's not going to be realistic. His original script before he changed details to obfuscate these fantasies was probably even more ridiculous.

Not worth seeing. Not worth paying for.
The first trailer literally has all of the details. The rest is just wasted time. This movie was made for resentful leftists to take the role of journalist-Joel and gleefully imagine saying something cool to Trump as a slave army murders him. That's it. That's the movie. Obviously there is a market for that, but if you were hoping for some kind of nuance applied to the issues of an impending civil war, this was not it. This was more Rwanda Radio.
Cherub Cow
Tue Jun 04 03:50:03
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Kind of a mixed situation. Lots of good storywork but some missed details.

My two main concerns with this were whether or not Chris Hemsworth would be too ironic for the Mad Max universe and whether or not Anya Taylor-Joy ("Furiosa") could appear intimidating/strong in the way that Charlize Theron (somewhat) managed. Surprisingly, Hemsworth was not too bad, but unsurprisingly, Anya Taylor-Joy didn't quite pull it off.

The Biggest Issue: Anya Taylor-Joy's Believability
The movie made a fair effort to realize that Taylor-Joy is indeed quite small. Her first promotion within the Citadel was due to her being selected *because* she clearly weighed less than the others present and could therefore jump on a rig that was ready to fall and tie it off. Others even remark on whether or not she can hack it, with Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones, who played the giant Boagrius in "Troy") examining her and seeing how tiny her limbs are. There's also a scene where Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke) mentions the qualities that she *does* possess, and they're described like quarterback skills: field awareness, in-the-moment strategy decisions, speed.

In other words, the story does a lot to show that it is aware that there is a size disadvantage but that she has other virtues, and yet there are elements missing which do not make it particularly believable. In her first major action sequence (leading into Praetorian Jack's compliments of her), she is believable once she gets to a weapon but is not believable when she's moving. Taylor-Joy just does not seem particularly coordinated or athletic. There is a kind of physical intensity that just is not there.

The audience also has to look past some plot holes in allowing Furiosa to arrive at this point (the jump from little girl to teen to woman). Immortan Joe (played by Lachy Hulme to fit the younger Immortan Joe rather than by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who died in 2020) makes a very specific and theatrical play to separate young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) from Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). In this scene, he and the Citadel leadership are *acutely* aware of her existence. And yet, the only effort made to separate her from Immortan's harem is that she sneaks out one night by using false hair. That's it.

The story then jumps to a scene where she's managed to fit-in as a black thumb, earning credibility for securing a falling vehicle (tie-off scene mentioned above). But this is a major gap. Would the Citadel not be aware that a girl escaped somehow? Would they not have searched for her? Her value was well-established as "full life" (no mutations, healthy diet), which is why she was selected as one of the very few Immortan breeders, yet the movie makes it appear that no one pursued her after Rictus Erectus' apparent attempt to rape her. Worse, at no point after this does it occur to anyone in the Citadel that this was the same girl — even after Furiosa has apparently gone public as a girl — and the most we see in terms of Furiosa evading common knowledge of her sex is that she hides her peeing activity and does not speak so that people cannot recognize a female voice.

Instead, Furiosa is legitimized by Praetorian Jack after his crew is annihilated, so the best we see is that perhaps there were unspoken words about Furiosa being under his protection and therefore off limits for any sexual threats. This makes some sense within the story because Praetorian Jack's introduction is that he has the most successful runs to Gas Town and the Bullet Farm out of any of the Citadel members, so if he were to vouch for her then she would be safe. But, even then, this claim would be challenged by Citadel leadership, and it was not. The idea of her being recognized is entirely off the table, apparently because of a hair cut and some engine grease. Her wardrobe is not even particularly convincing in her "hiding" scenes (pre-Jack), since her body type is easily distinguished through the clothes that the wardrobe department gave her.

All this said, it's kind of strange to even be talking about plot holes in a Mad Max movie. These stories are not that complicated. That means that this is a new issue. They made some genuine efforts to justify how a woman could ascend within the leadership structure of the Citadel, but they left a few too many details on the cutting-room floor. Even the fate of Dementus being presented as some kind of unknowable legend does not make sense, since her victory over Dementus would be her great moment of prestige, justifying her position in "Fury Road". I.e., they would have needed to see his body to allow her to stand without Praetorian Jack. If not, then the story issue returns to the Citadel needing female breeders, and if Furiosa does not have immunity (e.g., finding out that she's infertile) then there is a plot hole.

In short, they did not sell Furiosa's rise correctly, and Anya Taylor-Joy was probably not the best choice here.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Miller's Feminism
Focusing on Anya Taylor-Joy, it seems that she is being selected for a lot of movies that are on the outskirts of ESG cinema. There are very few directors remaining who are resisting ESG's mandates, and she has worked with them. This would include Robert Eggers (who cast her in both the VVitch and The Northman) and Villeneuve (Dune — if we accept the reading of Dune wherein Villeneuve is using the story to be critical of a Jewish-led slave revolt). Her appearance in a George Miller movie would be an extension of this, since Miller's history with Mel Gibson and the Mad Max franchise has quietly placed him in opposition to this insistence on slave revolts in cinema. Anya Taylor-Joy, thus, is fitting this narrow mold of feminism outside of the slave revolt.

I have explained this before, but feminism without a slave revolt is simply feminism following Robert Heinlein's formula of authority and responsibility. In this formula, women can indeed excel in male-oriented fields, but they must do so in a way which ensures the survival of the group through direct responsibility. This tends to be the feminism we saw in the '90s, where female characters tread the line of strong and motherly. The importance of this is that a woman's virtue can include fierce in-group loyalty *and* a resistance to common slavery. This avoids the left-wing delusion of a Handmaid's Tale meme while also realizing that people do indeed need to be having children.

George Miller seems to be sampling from this domain. Furiosa is, at her core, loyal to the Many Mothers society, refusing to jeopardize it under any circumstances. This is effectively eugenics within women, which is celebrated also by Zack Snyder in his portrayal of the Amazons. The catch for both Miller and Snyder is that they sometimes mistakenly insert misandry, which is part of a slave revolt's resentment. But, their characters overcome misandry in finding a match, as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) finds Batman suitable and Furiosa finds Mad Max or Praetorian Jack suitable. These directors have not quite solved the riddles though, since the question of children and a functioning marriage is rarely portrayed. Aquaman 2 is probably one of the only movies in decades that has attempted to show this "power couple" logic (in Aquaman 2, through the pairing of Aquaman and Mera, who raise their son), but massive propaganda campaigns were used to sink the DC universe.

Miller's Opposition to the Slave Revolt
And Miller did make direct challenges to ESG cinema here, despite the YouTube reviewers claiming "girl boss" logic at work. In the most direct example of this, Dementus arrives at the Citadel and reveals his primary strategy of success in accumulating power: he asks the (presumed) slavish people of the Citadel to kill their own nobility to save themselves from conflict.

But, the Citadel is a noble society rather than a slave society, so the offer is very theatrically rejected. No one who is granted power within the Citadel and who can be close to its leadership possesses slavish instincts, and, in fact, their sacrifices are exalted by the warrior society's Valhalla logic. Every single member of the noble society fights as a sovereign rather than as a collectivist slave. They cannot be subverted by foreign weakness or appeals to their own weaknesses. The only catch is, of course, that in Fury Road the society is under threat when women feel that they are slaves to the society rather than given access to nobility (again, the Handmaid's meme).

The truth of this is borne further in Dementus' actions in Gas Town. Gas Town is managed by Immortan Joe's noble brother, who is re-asserting Western society by painting an up-scaled copy of Waterhouse's "Hylas and the Nymphs" (1896). Immortan's brother is even adorned in the garb of Western nobility, having a kind of Hussar jacket. But, once Dementus takes over Gas Town, he defaces the painting and spoils the print that was being referenced. This is like the "Camp of the Saints" metaphor which, in the context of a slave revolt, explains that a slave revolt will not see the value of the arts of the nation that it destroys — as happened in the Vandalism of Rome and in France. Slave revolts can destroy and subvert, but they lack the capacity to build. Where, for instance, are the great artworks of the Jew? Thus, Gas Town and the Bullet Farm are merely sacked of resources and fall to entropy. Dementus even likens himself to death in his Vandalism, whereas Furiosa becomes life through her gardening.

The Wider Metaphor of the Wasteland
Miller has clearly been thinking about the Wasteland as a metaphor for what is being done to Western society. He discusses the nature of war in the historical record and sees the most recent war (real-life East versus West) as a continuation of entropic forces. That is, some societies go to war to preserve creation while others go to war to destroy life. So the Wasteland becomes a reflection of Western society having accepted too many entropic people within it, subverting it — as Dementus with his Trojan Horse. The people working within the Citadel are building its glories, whereas Dementus' imperative is to level all of society with a slave revolt.

We see smaller versions of this in common life. At work, some people cannot accomplish particular tasks without creating a large amount of disorder. Others, even when doing things which have an element of chaos, are organized and become forces for negentropy. On roads in different cities, we can see people who act as entropy, discarding their trash out of windows and damaging property without consideration. In their negentropic opposites, we see people who pick up trash that is not even their own or who repair things which could easily be shrugged off as some impersonal "other's" responsibility. Societies which have a majority of one or the other type become macro reflections of these micro states.

I have heard it said that war itself is chaos, but this is false. Successful war-fighting is well-organized ultra-violence. The sensation of chaos in conflict is often the result of a failure to organize this violence, perhaps as a result of an immature ignorance of organized conflict (e.g., the lower ranks). So, in the Wasteland, there are those capable of organizing within the chaos who show a light growing in a new civilization; and there are those incapable of vision beyond taking what already exists. The heroes in Miller's Mad Max are those who can build, assembling Theseus' ship as a cohesive vision.

The Love Story
I do at least appreciate that Miller decided to make this into a movie broken into sections rather than contracting out this story into a TV series or something that would lose the feel of his universe. There are a lot of choppy elements intertwined in the time jumps in Furiosa's story, and this makes it seem like things do not really get moving in a meaningful way until the ending sequences. But, the payoff is that once the ground has been set we see what Miller has in mind for "The Wasteland" movie (upcoming), which is supposed to return the story to Mad Max himself.

I think that Miller is aware that in a story that uses the metaphor of a fallen West, it is not just heroic men who must act but heroic women — and not just in isolation. Both men and women of the West have been under attack in Regime propaganda, since their pairing produces the great negentropy of their shared nest, and Miller seems to be attempting to show both sexes that they must love each other for this great project to manifest. It is, after all, the beginning of the Mad Max story that Max loses his wife and child. Furiosa too, has now been shown to have lost a chance at a relationship. Wasteland, maybe, intends to reconcile Max and Furiosa, who both have learned these lessons.

In ESG cinema, Helen of Troy is often missing, but despite the "girl boss" claims I think that Miller is showing Furiosa as a Helen of Troy cause. He constantly shows Anya Taylor-Joy in iconic imagery, likely seeing her as a beautiful model for Western audiences. The risk, of course, is that audiences do not find her — specifically — attractive, but clearly the director does. At the peak of her relationship with Praetorian Jack, they fight for each other despite having every excuse to fight for their own advantage. The entropic Dementus is incredibly resentful of this discovery, and to his shame even seems to realize that he has been fighting against the possibility of love existing in his world.

So beyond the YouTube degenerates complaining about "girl boss" because they have no concept of a virtuous version of a woman, I'd hope that audiences see that Miller is dropping an anti-ESG pill here. Taylor-Joy and her onscreen pairing, Tom Burke, are both Westerners, and in the story their characters manage a great over-coming of degeneracy, slavishness, and entropy, attempting to give each other the chance to fulfill their vision of creation.

The more I think about this one the more I appreciate it.
I think that they rushed through some of the finer details of Furiosa hiding within the Citadel and achieving prestige, and because the story covered so many years it did not achieve the pace and strong single-mindedness of Fury Road (which was an out-and-back story enclosed within a short period), but Miller is trying to say a lot more in the script than he has previously said. I think that YouTubers complaining about "girl boss" can be completely ignored and dismissed here (I maintain that Critical Drinker is a fucking idiot), though you do need to see past some plot holes to appreciate Miller's intent.

I'll also mention that the CGI was often rough, and while the stunts were clearly well-directed, without a pure motive established in some scenes there was not a lot of audience investment in the early battles. Still, I will likely see this again in theater, so that's its own high praise.
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