Monday, December 2, 2019

DOUBLE REVIEW: “Paradise Hills” / “Cuck”

Taking a fond look back at two limited-release flicks from October that literally nobody watched … and for a reason, probably.

By: Jimbo X

Whenever someone asks me if I “support the troops,” I can’t help but feel like it’s some kind of trick question.

First of all, they never seem to specify which troops they’re talking about. Now, considering I live in the United States, usually when I hear it, it’s referring to the men and women of the U.S. military — presumably. But even then, the question is open to interpretation. 

To begin, what do they mean by “support?” If we’re talking about basic taxation, then I really don’t have a choice in the matter — before I even get my check on Friday afternoon, Uncle Sam’s already rooted around in there and taken out a good 25 percent of it, so by default, I am supporting the troops simply by being employed. Now, I’m not sure how much of that 25 percent is directly used to buy tank armor and PTSD counseling for women who got gang-raped on shore leave in Yokosuka, but I’m guessing at least a penny or two gets siphoned into the F-22 Raptor fund every two weeks or so. So yes, I am involuntarily supporting the troops financially, but that’s the kind of thing I ain’t got any kind of say in to begin with.

From my experiences, when people ask me if I “support the troops,” very rarely do they mean directly in terms of monetary contributions, though. Oh, sure, you might hear it from time-to-time through fundraisers and other organizations trying to guilt trip you into forking over an extra $10 because you feel bad about 30-year-old guys named Zach blowing their brains out all because George W. Bush was bad at geography, but most of the time the inquiry is posed as some sort of quasi-existential moral dichotomy.

As in, the way most people seem to mean it, when they ask somebody “do you support the troops?,” what they’re actually asking is “do you support the bullshit geopolitical reasons responsible for these people being sent to Bumfuck, Syria in the first place?” or, at the absolute least, “do you agree to not bring up the bullshit geopolitical reasons responsible for these people being sent to Bumfuck, Syria, in the first place, so WE will feel better about ourselves?”

It’s amazing just how much American society has forgotten since the War on Terror began. Around 2002/2003, the powers-that-be actually managed to convince the masses that “supporting the troops” LITERALLY meant not asking questions about why they were being sent to war in the first place, and the only way to PROVE your allegiance to the country was to fervently pride yourself on how little you were questioning the war-waging policies of the Bush Administration altogether. Of course, it was all a bunch of paranoid political propaganda that ONLY served to absolve the shit out of the guys blowing up Iraq for no discernible reason under some childish, unthinking cloak of herd loyalty. Deep down, nobody physically supported the troops, and that’s evident by just how many GWOT vets we’ve got coming back that everybody treats like embarrassing relics of the mid-aughties, kind of like Lip Glass and Lil Mama’s entire musical career. 

Apparently, “supporting the troops” means supporting the guys calling the shots just long enough that you don’t have to blame them for reneging on all of their promises to the troops themselves.

After the one-two punch of Obama and Trump, it seems like the whole “support the troops” shtick is WAY more of an abstract notion than the concrete concept it used to be 15 years ago. Back then, the term more or less represented a sort of blanket endorsement of the Bush war machine, no matter how boneheaded the administration's blunders may have been. Yet today, the term kinda’ feels like some sort of sad sack, wishy-washy plead to the lower proles, basically the Red State equivalent of all those ASPCA commercials where Sarah McLaughlin sings over montages of sad looking basset hounds and malnourished cats with goopy stuff running out of their eyeballs. In 2005, “support the troops” had this sense of force behind it, a slogan of unmistakable political power. But in 2019, “support the troops” is all in lowercase, not so much a declaration of might and strength as it is a muted cry for attention. You say “support the troops” in ‘05 and you think of a muscular dude riding a tank through Baghdad, throwing grenades and shit at dudes wearing turbans named Habib; you say “support the troops” in ‘19 and you think of a heroin-addicted veteran curled up in the fetal position in an economy hotel somewhere in Newark, wondering whether or not he should play the Smith and Wesson clarinet and repaint the ceiling with his own grey matter and skull fragments.

So basically, the exact same thing that happened to Vietnam veterans in the ‘80s is happening to GWOT veterans in the 2020s. Funny how society can be so cyclical and all, ain’t it?

But you know, feeling sorry for somebody ain’t the same thing as “supporting them.” Right off the bat, I can tell you I don’t support all troops, because let’s face it, a lot of troops are a bunch of wife-beating, child-molesting, taxpayer-swindling, deadbeat-junkie sacks of shit who were afforded every opportunity to better their lives through free public education but instead used all of their V.A. money to buy crack and motorcycles. Jeffrey Dahmer, the BTK Killer, John Wayne Gacy and Timothy McVeigh were all ex-military people, and they’re ALL horrible, horrific failures of humanity who don’t deserve respect from nobody for nothing. And from my vantage point, simply signing up for military duty doesn’t negate any of the other awful shit one does in his or her life — in other words, being a “troop” shouldn’t shield you from the flak you catch for being a terrible human being in every other facet of life, regardless of the war wounds or military badges or whatever else you bring back with you to civilian-hood.

And even those who DIDN’T do a whole bunch of awful shit when they got back, I still have a hard time feeling totally sorry for them. Even the guys in Vietnam had the option to not participate in active combat, and come on, you mean to tell me none of these pre-Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell pricks ever thought of the idea of pretending to be homos to skirt around the selective service? For the last 70 years, if you DIDN’T want to participate in military combat in the United States, nobody could make you; you can piss and moan over the semantics all you want, but deep down, we all KNOW the “troops” brought this shit upon themselves, and at the end of the day, the only person they can really blame for their miseries are … well, the guy staring at them in the mirror.

So from here on out, you know what I’m going to say when people ask me if I support the troops? It’s real simple. I’m just going to say “I don’t know, when are they going to start supporting me?”, walk away and let whoever asked it just stand there and stew in their own anger.

Not because they disagree with my response, naturally — but because they know I’m speaking god’s honest truth on the subject.

No ... it really doesn't make that much more sense, in context.

Speaking of things the general public has been avoiding, our first flick in this week’s double review is Paradise Hills, that big budget fantasy-adventure opus starring Emma Roberts that cost upwards of $10 million to make and didn’t even gross more than $300,000 back when it played in like three or four theaters last October. Considering the high production values and big name cast, there has to be some reason why the flick never got any bigtime studio traction, so what kept this one from getting all the usual Hollywood hype that most of these pre-teen, post-Hunger Games dystopian thrillers seem to always generate, no matter how bad they always turn out?

Well, I’ll let you read my thoroughly in-depth recap of the whole damn picture, then you can tell me. 

So the flick starts off promising enough, with Emma Stone (I mean, Roberts) singing this really shitty love song while wearing a humongous wedding dress and lots of shiny blue lip gloss. So, uh, everybody at the party has these really weird hairdos and costumes, and there are these guys in faceless S&M costumes guarding the doors. Oh, and the cars can fly, too. Then we cut to Emma getting deflowered while she wears bright pink eyeshadow and this super-frilly costume.

Then the movie cuts back to something that happened months earlier, as these types of movies are prone to do. Emma, wearing less garish regalia, wakes up on a bed in some weird room painted like a forest, with this robot telling her she's in “Paradise,” with these dudes with really nice haircuts offering her fruits and water in fancy looking glasses. She gets chased down a beach and runs into this cavern where this one broad is smoking a cig while wearing a PVC evening gown. She returns Emma to her handlers, while a buncha' black dudes and Asians trim rose bushes on the stairwell.

So Emma is taken to the head mistress' quarters, and what do you know, it's what's her name from all of those Resident Evil movies. And yeah, even at 50, you would tap, smash and about 50 different other adverbial euphemisms for fuckin'. Then Emma meets Chloe, this fat bitch with a southern accent, and then the dress up in these lavish gowns to eat dinner with this Asian broad with turquoise hair and spiked-headphones. Then Emma brushes her teeth, just in time for the cave-bitch to show up and give her some exposition about how she's really a famous pop singer with an alcohol problem. So, basically, the entire place is supposed to be some sort of super-grandiloquent rehab center out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or something. Also, the lesbian overtones on this one are strong, so here's hoping we get some girl-on-girl smooching and touchin' soon in this motherfucker.

Then everybody gets electro-facials while guys in white suits give them makeovers and they dye Emma's hair pink and Milla Jovavich gives her a lecture about "telling the story of who she truly is" and starts asking her what's the one thing her mother never gave her while staring into a mirror. Also, she really wants him to marry this random guy in a white suit, for no discernible reason whatsoever. So yeah, we're only a half-hour into the movie, and NOTHING makes any sense yet.

Then Emma and that one broad from Crazy Rich Asians start doing back exercises together, then they tie her up to a porcelain horsey ride and make her watch a profile video of her suitor over and over again. Then everybody runs through bamboo for a while and bond over childhood traumas, then Emma tells the rest of the girls how she's in love with this lower class boy and she shows off this one holographic memory locket with an image of her dad throwing her around in the air like a wad of pizza dough.

Then Emma's boyfriend shows up out of nowhere and tells her he's going to help her escape and then they do it and that one cave-bitch cries while watching 'em bump uglies through a glory hole. Then she tries to demonstrate her lesbian love to Emma through this one ballad, but the white-suited guys unplug her microphone before Emma can get any wacky ideas about twisting their tuna tacos together. Then she has a guy smuggle a boat into the cave and then we find out they're drugging the milk and kinda-sorta implied that they're passed out carcasses are used for sex tourism or something. But again, it's only IMPLIED at this point.

Then Emma and the cave-smoker smooch on the lips and Emma pretends to be passed out in a hallway and she's secretly awake when these two orderlies plop her on a gurney and wheel her off to ... wherever. Then they give Emma another mind-warping horsey ride, where we learn that her daddy committed suicide after his company fell to a hostile takeover. Then she backhands Milla and she cuts her forehead on a mirror and she responds by calling her a "prickly little pear." Then she has a powwow with the rest of the girls in the cave and she says "fuck this, I'm making a break for it" and then they take turns puking up their drugged milk, then the fat girl gets scalpeled, only for Emma to make the save with a can of pressurized oxygen to the noggin.  Then they sneak into the secret control room where they find out they're all being observed for some sort of Jeffrey Epstein reality TV show or something.

Then they find a whole buncha' rhinoplasty mummies hanging out in a wading pool in the basement and we learn they're going all Invasion of the Body Snatchers on 'em. Then Emma and the fat girl get chased through this underground thicket where there's a bunch of corpses everywhere and then a whole buncha' living vines choke the fat girl to death and then we find out Milla is LITERALLY fuckin' Poison Ivy, right down to the rosebud bustier. Holy shit, how D.C. didn't sue the fuck out of these people, I'll never figure out. So Milla keeps using her plant telekinesis powers to drain the life out of Emma, and then Emma's clone attacks her, but she gets tied up in vine bondage, too. Of course, that gives the real Emma ample time to pull out Chekov's scalpel and knife her good, presumably killing Milla deader than, uh, something that's dead, I guess?

Then we've got the requisite "let's hurry and get out of this cave while it's coming down on us sequence," and then the "real" Emma escapes on the boat from earlier while her clone holds her boyfriend at scalpel-point. Then the clone says she wants to be free, too, so they decide to row away together, and the clone talks about coming from a puebla where she worked in a nylon factory 16 hours a day. Of course, the clones decide to go back to the island and stab a couple of more motherfuckers, and then the "real" Emma makes a run for it, and ... you know, like fuck anything about this movie made any sense, so who cares, right?

I’m not even going to try to deconstruct the ending, so let’s just hit the highlights, why don’t we? Ten dead bodies. No breasts. One lesbian kiss, albeit with no visible tongue. One fatal gassing. Gratuitous vine squeezing. Gratuitous brain-scrambling amusement park ride hypnosis subplot. Scalpel fu. Drugged milk fu. Nostalgic childhood memories fu. Self-induced vomiting fu. And, of course, the one thing responsible for this movie even existing in the first place — you better goddamn believe the pastel scenery set piece fu is off the charts on this motherfucker.

Starring Emma Roberts is Uma, the pink-haired trust fund baby who don’t want to marry for money, even if it means she’s gotta’ stick a couple of ice picks through some fools; Milla Jovavich as “The Duchess,” in what is secretly the best adaptation of Poison Ivy ever committed to celluloid; Danielle MacDonald as Chloe, the fat friend with the Dixie lilt who complains about having to watch videos of people jogging and eating celery over and over again; and Awkafina as Yu, who — as if she had any choice in the matter — is the Asian one. 

Written by Brien DeLeeuw and Nacho Vigalondo and directed by Alice Waddington, who I’m pretty sure just walked onto the set and said “paint everything goddamn hot pink and we’ll make a movie around it” and that was that

Eh, I’ll give it a respectable TWO AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FOUR rating. This is one of those flicks it’s hard to not see becoming a cult classic a couple of years down the road; tell Hot Topics to get their inventory plans in early, because something tells me the tweens of 2029 are going to be all about the Paradise Hills merchandise in about ten years’ time.

What the — an alt-lite caricature, depicted negatively in a mainstream-ish Hollywood production? Get outta' here!

Speaking of commercial failures, the second stop on our double-header this week is a movie that bombed at the box office so badly, it makes Paradise Hills look like the goddamned Avengers. And when I say Cuck is a colossal financial dud, I’m talking this fucker made ZERO dollars during its very short-lived theatrical run back in October. I guess in hindsight you could say running the flick opposite Joker was a marketing misfire, but really, the WHOLE movie itself is a marketing misfire. It wallows too deeply in alt-right identitarian rage to be palatable to the intended left-leaning audience, and obviously, its intrinsic political message is far too progressive to draw in the /pol/-tards. The really shameful thing here is that, taken as a whole, Cuck really isn’t a bad movie at all; it’s just that it didn’t have the chutzpah to go all the way with the concept, ultimately giving us a wishy-washy, slightly better than mediocre character study of a autistic, white nationalist strawman that ultimately feels like a VERY watered down remake of Falling Down

We open with a quote from Immanuel Kant and a shot of California's sprawling urban hellscape, while a buncha' AM talk show radio goes on and on about diversity and political correctness. Then we cut to this one fat bald guy who watches alt-lite YouTube videos all day and dresses in military fatigues, even though he's never actually been in the military.

Then he goes to a laundromat and reads a magazine literally called "WEAPONS" and laments all the Hispanics and Moslems being there, so he goes home and plays with his airsoft rifle some more. Then he stares at a dead rat on a string for a little bit and eats microwaved biscuits while wearing a nasty tank top, because apparently, that's what Republicans do. Then he takes his shirt off and watches videos of this butterface shooting a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama, then he gets bored on goes on to Pornhub and chokes his chicken to MILF videos, then he goes to a convenience store and gets made because the Indian guy gave him the wrong flavor of Skoal.

Then he tries to get a job for Uber but they don't like all his anti-abortion stickers on the back of his mom's mini-van and the THOTS down at the bus station tell him he's a weirdo and the local mechanic tells him there's nothing but transgenders in the military now and then he goes to a pawn shop and lusts after a Desert Eagle that costs $1,200. 

Then we find out he's on probation for something, and of course, his probation officer is black and he's tired of taking care of his quasi-autistic ass, and his mom doesn't even CARE that he goes to jail for not having a court-mandated job. So then he makes a YouTube video about how all of the illegal Mexicans are taking all the jobs and blames the "libtards" for making him feel bad about being a white male. Then he ends up getting a job mopping up floors at that Indian guy's convenience store. Then he makes a profile on and his mama makes him give her a sponge bath and OH MY GOD ARE HER TITTIES LEATHERY.

Then he actually GETS a date with a girl at Starbucks and she gets offended by his use of the term "pussy" and she makes fun of him for not being in college and then he gets thrown out for calling her "a fucking bitch" so then he goes home and makes a video about college turning women into whores. Then he finds out his next door neighbor is actually a DIY porn star, then this black dudes show up and call him Forrest Gump and he responds "why don't you go back to Africa with your legs" and, of course, they beat the shit out of him, then he calls his boss a "sand nigger" and is promptly fired. But then he goes next door and asks his Pornhub neighbor for a job cutting grass, and if you're wondering why the movie is called "Cuck," now we find out — because she wants to pay our protagonist to WATCH her get railed by her 50-year-old husband. So things are going well enough, up until the moment she asks him to star in a video where she has sex with this big black buck while he just stands there holding a buncha' golf clubs. So he uses all of the porno movie he makes to go out and buy a whole bunch of handguns on the black market. And just when you think things CAN'T possibly get any worse for him, she makes a Mexican dude spunk right in his face. So to make up for it, she teaches him how to snort cocaine and deflowers him on a lawn chair. Of course, he lasts about 20 seconds, then her husband gets mad at him and makes him pay her $500 for shooting his load in her. 

Then he puts in a wad of Grizzly wintergreen and points a gun at his computer and talks about concealed carry laws, then he decides to go an "alt-right" rally in Anaheim while a whole buncha' people say stuff about "safe spaces" and there's a giant paper mache Trump and his hero — who I think is supposed to look like Gavin McInness — takes him to dinner at Denny's and it kinda' sounds like he's asking him to shoot up a whole buncha' minorities or something. Then his mom turns him in for writing bad checks and he goes to the slammer and he's bailed out by the mechanic from earlier. Then he goes online and finds out all those videos of him getting cucked have gone viral and now all of his YouTube subscribers thinks he gargles a gallon of black person jizz every morning before breakfast, which, naturally, means it time for RAMPAGE CITY.

I guess you really don’t need me to tell you how this one ends, do you? Instead, let’s just hit the highlights real quick. We’ve got four dead bodies. Twelve breasts (including at least two you DEFINITELY don’t want to see.) One strangulation. One convenience store shootout. One suicide by cop. One racially-motivated beatdown. Gratuitous masturbation. Gratuitous vlogging. Gratuitous Donald Trump references. Water hose fu. Feminism fu. Ejaculation fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place, plenty of Asperger’s fu

Starring Zachary Ray Sherman as Ronnie, the ASD-addled mama’s boy who ends up using all his SpankBang royalties to buy a small arsenal and camouflage face paint for totally innocuous reasons; Sally Kirkland as the oxygen-tank-dependent, chain-smoking, ultra-possessive mother figure, who calls her own son a “nigger” for stealing checks; Monique Parent as Candy, the nympomaniac camwhore next door who takes Ronnie’s virginity and teaches him the joys of substance abuse; and Travis Hammer as Chance Dalmain, the caricature of about five or six different “alt-lite” celebrities that kinda-sorta asks our main character to murder ethnic minorities so he’ll get more YouTube views.

Written by Joe Varkle and director Rob Lambert, who at least get at least somestyle points for conjuring up lines of dialogue like “Anybody who defends feminism is a cuck or a fag.”

The best I can give this one is a middling TWO AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FOUR rating. The acting is quite a bit better than I anticipated, and there was far more character development than I expected — indeed, it’s almost like the writers TRIED to make the main character sympathetic, but they just couldn’t push the button far enough because God help ‘em if they make an alt-right villain even remotely relatable or understandable. The build-up to the mayhem is pretty good, but the last hour of the movie is just bogged down in too much filler, especially some of the subplots involving the Pornhub starlet next door. And once things finally reach their violent climax, the end result is pretty disappointing; the movie telegraphs everything it throw sat the viewer, and frankly, pretty much everybody who gets killed in the flick deserves it, to some extent, so you never really feel for any of the carnage. It’s not the self-righteous polemic we all feared it would be, but it’s nonetheless an underwhelming feature, which just didn’t have the huevos to take the material to the extremes, in either political direction. Your morbid curiosity might get the best of you, but honestly, there’s nothing here that you didn’t see in Joker — tis a pity, ‘cause I’m thinking a director like Uwe Boll could’ve really pulled off the material.


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