Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

(directed by Dominic Abel, 84 minutes, 2017)

Inoffensive. Occasionally funny. Helps one understand what the French see in Jerry Lewis. More enjoyable than hitting oneself in the head with a hammer for 84 minutes.

Jim Bob says, “Vous devriez aller voir, pour verifier.” (That is, “check it out,” for all you furriners.)


Sharp and Pointed has been around for just over three years, and we’ve put up just over 1,000 posts —  this  is number 1,001 — in 37 categories. Coincidentally, we reached 30,000 hits yesterday.

Science fiction is probably our most popular category, and we’ve put up nearly 100 sci-fi posts. Here, in no particular order, are those we consider the best.

This is the first of our first-1,000 “best of” posts. We’ll shortly be putting up other “best ofs” in several other categories, including Addictions, Anarchism, Atheism, Economics, Humor, Interviews, Music, Politics, Religion, Science, and Skepticism.

Master(The Master, 2012. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)

A few years ago, my GF (a former high ranking Scientologist) and I went to see, with high hopes, “The Master,” the Philip Seymour Hoffman film supposedly about L. Ron Hubbard and the birth of Scientology. (My GF is a “squirrel,” who thinks some of the lower-level Scientology material — basically abreaction “therapy,” a dangerous therapy (similar to “co-counseling”) with no scientific evidence of efficacy — is valid, and that LRH was genuinely insightful and wasn’t a megalomaniacal, pathologically dishonest charlatan.)

Well, to put it mildly, we were disappointed. The primary problems are that this film has essentially no plot, and that both lead characters are simply loathsome. There’s no one to root for, and not even enough structure to allow you to root for a sympathetic character if one existed — and there are none.

The sequence of events (not plot) follows the chance encounters of Phoenix’s intellectually challenged, alcoholic (to be PC about it — “dumbshit” drunk in plain language) character as he intersects with Hoffman’s LRH character in chance encounters in the early 1950s. There is simply nothing to hold this film together, other than than Hoffman’s and Phoenix’s portrayals of these two disgusting characters in familiar (to those who have studied Scientology) locations. Anyone not already familiar with the history of Scientology would be totally lost.

The only positive things to say about the movie are the Hoffman’s performance is great, and that Anderson really got some of the bizarre “training routines” right. Beyond that, it’s a total waste of time. On the way out of the theater, we stopped to chat in the lobby with an older couple. We looked at each other, and the guy asked, “What the hell was that!?”

Very much not recommended.

The two fairly current Scientology documentaries, “Going Clear” and “My Scientology Movie,”  haven’t shown yet in Tucson. If the likely venue (The Loft)  hasn’t been intimidated into not showing them, I’ll review them when they appear.

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What brings this relatively ancient history up is that I have a new musical project — “Enturbulation Blues” — which will consist almost entirely of COS jargon.  If anyone can suggest any especially bizarre terms to incorporate, please leave a comment.

To give you an idea of the tone of “Enturbulation Blues,” here’s a recent song on a somewhat similar topic, Abductee Blues.

Hail Caesar! posterThis latest from the Coen Brothers will appeal to Coen Brothers fans. It should also appeal to film buffs. As for everyday movie goers, it’s anyone’s guess. (I saw the film opening night, and it’s a good bet that most of the audience consisted of Coen fans.)

Set in 1951, Hail Caesar is a mostly appreciative, often funny, in part contemptuous look at the Hollywood system of the times and the genres of the films it produced. Those genres include the biblical epic, the aquatic spectacle (think Ethel Merman–played here by Scarlet Johannson), the naval musical (yes, they existed), film noir, the drawing room farce, the singing-cowboy western, and one nonHollywood genre: the socialist-realist propaganda film, complete with a male chorus singing a mock-heroic minor key dirge in the background.

The story revolves around two central characters, Josh Brolin as hard-driving studio head and fixer, Eddie Mannix, and George Clooney as the leading man in the biblical epic, “Hail Caesar! A Tale of the Christ.” Both are very good, and Clo0ney, as clueless actor Baird Whitlock, is quite funny in many scenes. There’s also a group of Communists, including one screenwriter who looks very much like Bryan Cranston playing Dalton Trumbo. But among the minor characters, Tilda Swinton, playing on-the-outs, one-upping twin gossip columnists stands out; she’s simply spot on, and I’d liked to have seen more of her.

The plot, which concerns the disappearance of the hard-drinking, womanizing Whitlock near the end of the filming of the biblical epic, and the attempts to find him, is minimal. It largely serves as the glue holding together the very well staged and well shot “homages” (“mockages” might be closer) to the various genres and the many jokes, both obvious and “in,” throughout the film.

The secondary nature of the plot, and the film’s many disparate elements, make it difficult to classify Hail Caesar! Is it a farce, a satire, a detective film, an homage, a historical “dramedy”? Who knows. Who cares. It works.


MooreMichael Moore’s new film, “Where to Invade Next,” is a near-perfect antidote to the “No we can’t!” message of the Republicans and Hillary Clinton, who maintain that it’s simply not feasible to have universal healthcare, free higher education, six-week vacations, paid maternity leave, a higher minimum wage, free daycare, rational sex education, etc., etc., because “the money’s not there.” Clinton and the Republicans make this “lack” of money sound as if it’s like earthquakes, the result of unalterable natural causes, and not the result of perverted political and social choices. But those choices are exactly the reason there’s “no money,” as Moore well demonstrates.

The premise of the film is that Moore “invades” other countries to seize things from them that we can use, and bring them back to the United States. He travels from country to country in western and central Europe, Scandanavia, north Africa, and the north Atlantic, showing that other countries have all of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph–plus others, notably better cuisine (Britain–just kidding, France actually) and legalization of all drugs (Portugal), a policy that would save tens of billions of dollars annually in the U.S., cut our grotesque incarceration rate, and that has already drastically cut the rate of addiction in Portugal.

Other policies Moore “seizes” would also save vast amounts of money and improve people’s lives, as Moore pointedly shows–notably universal, publicly funded healthcare and rational sex education. (Non-universal U.S. healthcare is by far the most expensive in the world and has worse outcomes than the cheaper, universal European systems; and rational sex education in European countries has resulted in drastically lower teen birth rates, and hence drastically reduced the economic–and social and psychological–costs of masses of unwanted babies and children. )

Throughout, Moore interviews citizens of the countries he visits, from everyday working people, to cops, to heads of corporations, to heads of state, and virtually all are amazed, amusingly incredulous that the social and economic benefits they take for granted do not exist in the United States–“the richest country on earth.”

The one real problem with the film is in Moore’s visit to Germany, where he reveals a nasty aspect of his Catholicism: the belief in retroactive collective guilt–guilt for things that happened before you were born (“original sin,” anyone?). It’s one thing to acknowledge the past, learn from it, and do what you can to avoid repeating past atrocities. It’s entirely another to take on guilt,  heap it on others, and pretend that you’re responsible for things for which you simply cannot be responsible. Yes, do what you can to make the world a freer, more just place, but leave the irrational guilt and its attendant guilt-tripping behind. They serve no one.

One would hope that Moore and other PC types would learn this very obvious lesson, but that’s probably a forlorn hope.

This is far from my favorite Moore film, but it’s worth seeing nonetheless. It’s oftentimes funny and it makes you think, as it’s intended to.


by Zeke Teflon

Late at night, when I’m done working, I usually watch a video on Netflix or Youtube. Lately, I’ve been watching Star Trek fanfic series. Wikipedia has a page listing most such fanfic productions, and over the last couple of months I’ve gone through all of the ones they list, plus a few others I’ve found. I’m not a hardcore Trek fan, but I do like the various Trek movies and TV series to one extent or another, and it’s been fun checking out all of the fanfic shows. They’re all labors of love, and they’ve all involved a lot of labor, so I’ll (mostly) keep negative comments to myself, and will list here only the three fanfic series I think are the best.Tar Trek Phase II poster

Star Trek Phase II (formerly Star Trek New Voyages) has been around since 2003, and is a continuation of the original Trek series. To date, they’ve produced eight episodes, including some from unproduced scripts from the original series and the aborted 1970s “Phase II” project. Unfortunately, CBS refused to give them permission to use Norman Spinrad’s unproduced script, “He Walked Among Us,” from the original series, which decades later he turned into (or at least reused the title for) the wonderful novel He Walked Among Us; I’d have loved to have seen that episode. This is the most “fannish” of the more professionally produced fanfic series, and the acting isn’t great, though Walter Koenig (Chekov) and George Takei (Sulu) have both appeared in episodes.

Star Trek Continues poster

Star Trek Continues appeared in 2013, and has five episodes so far. It’s also a continuation of the original series, but is more professional in quality than “Phase II.” All scripts are original, and like the scripts for the movies and all of the Trek series, vary considerably in quality. At best (“Fairest of Them All”), they’re quite good; at worst (“Divided We Stand”), they’re painful. The acting is professional, and guests have included Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn (both from TNG); regular cast members include Grant Imahara (“Mythbusters”) and Chris Doohan (James Doohan’s son, reprising his father’s role).

Star Trek Renegades poster

Star Trek Renegades is the newest (2015) and very probably best funded of the not-for-profit,  fan-financed spinoffs. It’s also, by far, the most professional looking of them. It’s more of a miniseries than an ongoing series, and so far they’ve produced one 90-minute episode. Renegades largely involves the same crew who produced Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, whose cast included Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Graham, and Tim Russ, and which is a 90-minute movie rather than a series.  (A bonus — SETI Institute director Seth Shostak makes a cameo in Of Gods and Men.)

Renegades  takes off approximately 10 years in the future in the Voyager universe, and the actors are largely the same as in Of Gods and Men, but include other notables such as Edward Furlong and Robert Picardo. They released the first 90-minute episode earlier this year, and it’s entertaining though not especially plausible. (Just don’t think  too hard about plot holes and you’ll enjoy the episode.) They’ve raised another$378,000 via Kickstarter, and presumably are just starting work on the second of the projected three episodes.

As well, if you’ve read this far, you’ll almost certainly enjoy William Shatner’s recent documentary, Chaos on the Bridge,  which concerns the development  of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its first two seasons. “Chaos” refers to the mind-boggling amount of hassling among the writers, producers, and the show’s creators. “Chaos” is both funny and fascinating, and is currently available on Netflix.

Finally, if you’re a Trek fan you’ll love (well, probably — it’s dark), the brand new Season 4 Episode 1, “Callister,” of the Netflix series Black Mirror. It’s alternately funny and horrifying, and probably the most intelligent Star Trek takeoff I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of Galaxy Quest).

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–Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover

(Hard to be a God, directed by Aleksey German, 2013)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Plan 9 from Outer Space, Troll 2, and Battlefield Earth have met their match, in fact have been left in the dust — rather, the muck. In contrast with Hard to be a God, all of those films are masterpieces of understated acting, special effects wizardry, and tightly plotted, concise storytelling. Hard to be a God is hands down the worst–or at least the most insufferable–science fiction film ever made.

But why is it so bad? It’s based on what might be the best Soviet science fiction novel, Hard to be a God, by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky (rivaled only by Roadside Picnic by the same authors). It would be quite possible to make a very good low budget sci-fi film based on Hard to be a God, but German didn’t. (The story takes place in a medieval setting, thus no need for expensive special effects.)  So, points off for turning a very good book into a very bad movie.

Many points off also for the horrendously translated (from Russian) subtitles. They’re so badly translated that they read, for the most part, like passages from a poorly written absurdist play. Think Ionesco on PCP run through an automated translation widget. In one scene near the beginning we find the following consecutive lines:

“Piga, did you get the egg?”

“The bees are killing their queen.”

“He bites like a ferret.”

“Found this under the pig.”

My favorite line, though, comes about 48 minutes in: “The dog is sprouting.” Amusing in isolation, yes, but in toto the subtitles are nearly incomprehensible.

Still more points off for the cinematography: minute after minute after minute of low contrast grey (not black) and white footage. I only made it about 50 minutes in, and there was no relief from this dreary visual pallet, though German had hammered home the idea that the Hard to be a God world is a dismal, depressing place in the first 30 seconds of the film. To hammer the point, and the viewer, even further into the ground, German has rain coming down incessantly — it was still pouring when I couldn’t take it any longer and switched off.

Even more points off for having the characters pointlessly degrade themselves, and for gratuitously dwelling on degrading images. Characters are crawling around in the muck and smearing it on themselves and others in almost every scene; one character near the beginning of the film is wallowing about in the muck directly beneath a privy jutting out from a wall; and very shortly after the “dog is sprouting” dialogue gem there’s a gratuitous close up  of a donkey schlong. (No, I’m not kidding — I couldn’t make this up.)

At that point, I said “Enough!” and quit watching, still having no idea where the film was going  (except from having read the book the film is based on) .

The topper is that Hard to be a God is almost three hours long!

I’ve been trying to think of ways to enjoy its sheer awfulness, and the only thing that comes to mind is drinking oneself into a near coma and watching random five-minute snatches of the film for the dialogue. But I doubt that even that’s a good idea.

Recommended only for those into boredom, degradation, and donkey schlongs.

For those who are, Hard to be a God is currently available on Netflix. For those who aren’t into such things, the strangely watchable, unintentionally funny-in-almost-every-scene Troll 2 is also available there.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (which features moons named after the Strugatskys). He’s currently working on the sequel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

It’s not quite time for a good old-fashioned satanic dogfood revival, but it is time for more Internet crap. Here goes.

Every now and then something good happens. This week’s example: Bloom County, the best comic strip of the 1980s, is back (as of July 19)–and with a dig at one of the comics I despise the most (for the very poor quality of its artwork and its relentless triviality).

For some unfathomable reason, almost all ISPs limit attachment size to 25 Mb or less. This is often more than a bit irritating, but there are ways around it. Tyler the Tech Guy has a nice short article on how to do it.

Fifteen years ago I learned html,  wrote my business site,, and haven’t updated my skills since. As a result, my site is now in Save Walter White territory. I finally have the time, so I’ve investigated free online coding sites, and found two that I’d recommend:  Dash and Codecademy. I’m currently working my way through Codecademy’s html5, css3, and javascript courses, and am impressed. The lessons are broken down into modules, flow in in a logical manner, and are interactive, providing real-time feedback. Highly recommended.

Open with Photoshop is an extremely useful Firefox add-on for bloggers and web developers. If you see a graphic you want to use, all you need to do is right click on it, and it’ll automatically open it in Photoshop if Photoshop is open. If it’s not, Open with Photoshop will open Photoshop for you and open the file in it.

You probably missed it, perhaps skipped it deliberately because of it’s unfortunate title (what were they thinking!?), but The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is available on Netflix (still the best entertainment value on the market). Contrary to what you’d expect from the title, it’s an often amusing, highly cerebral examination of the pervasive ideologies (capitalist, communist, consumerist, religious, etc.) that dominate our lives, seen through the lens of movies (Jaws, Full Metal Jacket, Taxi Driver, Titanic, The Sound of Music, and They Live, among others). There are so many stimulating ideas coming at you so fast that this flick bears repeated watching.

Finally, for perverse, sick laughs, you can’t go wrong with the Biblical Gender Roles site, especially the jaw-dropping post “Christian Husbands — you don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!“, which provides helpful hints on keeping the little woman in line–and in the sack when you want her. The piece barely stops short of recommending marital rape. It’s yet another fine example of the respect for women inculcated by reading and obeying the Bible.


Space Station 76

(Space Station 76, directed by Jack Plotnick, starring Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson.  Rival Pictures and Om Films, 2014, 93 minutes)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon


Space Station 76 disappeared without a trace shortly after its release last year. But based on glowing recommendations on the sci-fi site io9, I rented it with high hopes. The first few minutes were promising:  gloriously cheesy special effects and spacecraft models, cheesy voiceover narration, a cheesy synthesized soundtrack, and cheesy looking, impossibly closely packed asteroids floating by–all seemingly straight out of low-budget 1970s sci-fi. That sequence culminated with a very funny sight gag.

So, I sat back expecting what the posts on io9 had promised: the best sci-fi comedy since Galaxy Quest, a sight gag-oriented self-parody. And then I waited, and waited for anything even remotely funny or clever. I finally gave up after 35 painful minutes, not having laughed once since the initial sight gag.

On the positive side, the costumers, set designers, et al. really got the ’70s look and feel right: the clothing, hair styles,  music, the gadgets in the crew’s quarters, even the wall background in one scene–waves of medium brown, white, burnt orange, and sickly yellow. This is what hooked the writers on io9. But it’s not enough to carry a movie.

The plot is virtually nonexistent. After more than a third of the movie, the closest thing I could see to a plot was the attempts of the primary character, Jessica (Tyler), to fit in with the oddball crew. The acting doesn’t help, either, though that’s very probably not the fault of the actors themselves: it’s almost certainly the fault of the writers and director. The only thing approaching an acting bright spot is Marisa Coughlan’s spot-on caricature of an obnoxious new age flake, and even it’s not remotely funny. It’s too bad Coughlan, and the other actors, didn’t have better material to work with.

Space Station 76 sets itself up as a comedy. And then it doesn’t deliver.

Very much not recommended.

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Zeke Teflon is the  author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover







Whitey(Whitey, documentary directed by Joe Berlinger, CNN Films / RadicalMedia, 2014)

reviewed by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

To call Whitey disturbing would be gross understatement.

It’s the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, a vicious criminal, and his protection by the FBI and Justice Department. Through the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s,  the FBI and federal prosecutors protected Bulger, who was the head of the Winter Hill gang (“Irish Mafia”) in Boston, as Bulger and his underlings engaged in drug dealing, extortion, loan sharking, and committed dozens of murders. Why? The feds claim that Bulger was an informant. Bulger in turn maintains that he bought FBI agents and federal prosecutors.

This in fact was one of the main points of contention at Bulger’s 2013 trial, even though it wasn’t relevant to the charges against him(!): he knew that the feds had him dead to rights, and he openly admitted to dealing drugs, but he wanted to prove that he wasn’t a rat, that he was a “buyer, not a seller” in relation to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

The evidence Berlinger presents supports Bulger’s contention. His FBI file reveals that Bulger provided the feds not a single “name” during his long career as an “informant.” He provided no actionable information. So, why would the feds maintain to this day that Bulger was an informant? There seem to be two answers: one is that the feds fraudulently used Bulger’s name when they obtained warrants to bust the Italian mob in Boston in the 1980s.

The second is that FBI agents and prosecutors, including the head of the Boston FBI office and the head federal prosecutor in that city, were on the take. Bulger’s FBI handler, John Connolly, was  sentenced to 40 years for his dealings with Bulger. And Connolly’s boss, John Morris, admitted that he took cash payments from Bulger. Yet Morris served not a day in jail for it. The head federal prosecutor in Boston at the time of the Mafia indictments in the 1980s, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, also protected Bulger, allegedly for protecting O’Sullivan from the Mafia. In one instance, where FBI agent Bob Fitzpatrick had obtained an informant to testify against Bulger in a murder case, both Simon and O’Sullivan refused to put the informant in the witness protection program. And the FBI tipped off Bulger about the informant. As a result, the informant and an innocent neighbor were gunned down by Bulger and his lieutenants.

The crowning touch came in 1994 when Bulger was finally indicted. Connolly (or possibly another corrupt agent) tipped off Bulger prior to the indictment, and he disappeared for 16 years until he was arrested in California.

But why would federal prosecutors still maintain that Bulger was a valuable informant, when his FBI file and the proven FBI corruption show that he was indeed a “buyer, not a seller”? If they would admit that he wasn’t an informant, the Mafia convictions from the 1980s (based in part on fraudulent warrants) would likely be overturned, the FBI and Justice Department would be revealed as engaging in wholesale corruption, and the FBI and Justice Department would face massive civil liability.

So, the federal prosecutors in the Bulger trial handled the turncoat mobsters from Bulger’s criminal gang with kid gloves–one of them John Martorano, who admitted to killing 20 people, only got 12 years in exchange for his testimony–while they viciously bullied Fitzpatrick, the FBI agent who obtained the murdered informant. Again, why? Fitzpatrick’s testimony revealed FBI and Justice Department corruption, and that Bulger was a “big problem” and worse than useless as an informant; and the prosecutors were intent on maintaining that Bulger was a valuable informant and that Connolly was simply a rogue agent.

In terms of documentary film making, Whitey is about as far as you can get from Ken Burns’ emotionally manipulative, maudlin The Civil War, considerably different from the works of Errol Morris, who’s an integral part of his films, and even more different from the works of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, who star in their films. Joe Berlinger is almost entirely absent from Whitey–in a single scene the brother of a murder victim addresses him as “Joe,” but we never hear Berlinger’s answer. Instead of inserting himself into the film, Berlinger tells the story through interview excerpts and statements from, among others, reporters who covered Bulger’s criminal career and trial, Bulger’s attorneys, Bulger himself (with the questions asked by one of his attorneys), former FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and surviving victims and the survivors of murdered victims. He fits all of these pieces in this complex tale into a multifaceted, horrifying mosaic. There’s no wasted motion (or emotion) here, and that’s refreshing.

Whitey fell through the cracks this summer, but is now available on Netflix.

Highly recommended.

If, like me, you use a lot of freeware and shareware, you’ve almost certainly had bad experiences with previously trusted download sites, which recently have begun downloading malware along with the programs you want. Probably the worst sites are,, and They now download malware with pretty much every download. Why? They sold out. They went for the money. They decided to screw the people who trusted them.

Fortunately, there are still a few sites that offer freeware and shareware without the malware. You can find more on this topic and the URLs of the trustworthy sites here.

Next up, we previously recommended Louis CK Learns About the Catholic Church. If you want something equally funny, but far more brutal (and NSFW), check out Louis Ck’s Last Chance

Also, if you have Netflix, check out the indie film (gross first run about $50K, and a gross but funny film), Bad Milo, about murderous ass demons.

Then also check out Bobcat Golthwait’s incredible God Bless America. Two or three decades ago, I thought Bobcat was a gimmicky panderer.  I was wrong. This is probably the film I’ve most enjoyed since Downfall. Check it out. It’s simply wonderful–very funny, very pointed. Arguably, Joel Murray should have gotten “best actor”  for his role, Tara Lynn Barr should have gotten “best supporting actress,” and Bobcat should have gotten “best screenplay.” Bobcat’s 2012 standup special on Netflix is also very funny, and is what spurred me to give God Bless America a look in the first place.



World's End

(The World’s End, 2013, directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman; written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright–now available on DVD)


reviewed by Zeke Teflon

The World’s End is from the same team (Pegg & Wright) responsible for Shaun of the Dead, and it shows. In a lot of ways it seems like a mashup of Shaun of the Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with “pod people” standing in for zombies. Unfortunately, The World’s End isn’t as funny as Shaun of the Dead, nor is it as frightening as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 

It begins as a standard drinking comedy involving five old friends on a road trip to their college town, and works well enough to keep viewers interested. There are enough laughs to make it worth watching. But as the film nears the midpoint of their drinking spree, our anti-heroes discover that the town has been taken over by what are in essence “pod people,” and the film devolves into a seemingly endless series of fight and chase scenes. There are still some–but not enough–laughs mixed in, but other than that there’s nothing out of the ordinary about these scenes.

Revealing more of the plot (more accurately, the series of events) would involve major spoilers, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that the plot is nonsensical, which isn’t the worst thing in the world in a light comedy. Especially if you’re drinking while watching it.

In the case of The World’s End, you wouldn’t miss anything essential if you were fairly soused while viewing it. And in that case you’d probably enjoy it if you were watching with equally soused friends. So, if that sounds like fun, do pick up a cheap used copy of the DVD, stock up on the adult beverage of your choice, invite a few friends over, and have at it.


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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

He’s currently working on the sequel.

Free Radicals front cover


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passionofchristreviewed by Earl Lee, author of Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity, Raptured, and the foreword to The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition


The Passion of the Christ
While Hollywood insiders were predicting that Mel Gibson‘s film The Passion of the Christ was going to be a box office flop, Gibson was cleverly manipulating the situation to make sure that his film would be a major success—at least financially. Gibson made sure that no film critics would be able to see the film before its release date, thus making sure that his critics would be muted. At the same time, he made sure that Pope John Paul II got an early look at the film. The Pope’s diplomatically vague “it is as it happened” was quickly spun into official approval for the film. As a right-wing conservative Catholic, Mel Gibson was now ready to push the film with other conservative Christians.

Leading up to its release, Gibson made numerous appearances on television, and in each interview he squirmed and complained about any criticism of the film, quickly playing the “martyr” card when people suggested that the film was anti-Semitic. Again Gibson controlled access to the film itself, finding selected religious “authorities” who would be sure to praise the film as free of anti-Semitism. Similarly, when film critics trashed the film for its extreme violence, Gibson fell back on the claim that the film was “historically accurate.” If The Passion of the Christ was gory and violent, then that was only because crucifixion is gory and violent.

Gibson’s martyr card quickly brought him support and cover from a variety of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. As the television evangelists began crying “poor Mel, look how he’s being persecuted” the evangelical Christian churches began organizing their support. Soon theaters were sold out-for weeks in advance-by church groups who bought blocks of tickets and promoted the film in their churches. These groups rightly saw the film as the best propaganda film ever made. The churches also made sure that there were many “counselors” available at each screening to “help” those people who were emotionally distraught from viewing the extreme violence.

This is probably the most disgusting part of how this film was used. Church members often coerced and manipulated people into going to see this “spiritual” film. Then, after being emotionally shaken by the horrible violence of the film, they were pounced on by religious “counselors.” This “offer to help” was used as an opportunity to evangelize and manipulate them even more. I’ve heard of several reports of counselors taking crying women into the restroom while assuring them, “Yes, this is how Jesus suffered and died—for you!”

You could see these “counselors” standing around in the hallways of the theater—just like hawks read to swoop down on their prey. And the people who reacted most strongly to the violence-the people who were psychologically raped by this film-then had to deal with emotional predators pretending to be their “friends.” Instead of trying to minimize the psychological damage, the “counselors” were there to further manipulate and proselytize those who wanted only to forget the horrors they had just witnessed.

This was the first time that millions of evangelical Christians saw the full bloody horror of a sado-masochistic faith. The consequences of their exposure to this form of Christianity could be disastrous, mainly because we know from history that the death of Christ has been used, over and over again, as a justification for murdering non-Christians (especially Jews); and, as one reviewer put it, you walk out of this film “wanting to kill someone.”

The Passion as an Anti-Semitic Film

The claim of “anti-Semitism” is one that Mel Gibson has struggled to avoid. He has had ample help from various conservative Christians. You only need to do a google search on “anti-Semitism” and “Passion of the Christ” to find hundreds of websites devoted to defending and justifying this film.

Over and over again, Gibson and his right-wing conservative Christian supporters have fallen back on the argument that the film is scrupulously accurate to the historical events. This claim has several large holes in it.

First, the gospels on which this film is based were written to curry favor with the Romans and with a gentile audience. Blame is shifted to the Jews whenever possible, sometimes in ways that are laughably fake. For example, Pilate, the Roman Governor, asks the Jewish leaders to let Jesus off with a flogging. The Jews respond, “let his blood be on us and our children.” This line is so historically ridiculous that most mainstream Christian churches recognized it as being phony many years ago. It is obviously a lie written to absolve the Romans from responsibility for crucifying Jesus, while putting the blame on the Jews. This fraud clearly dates from a time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 77 A.D., when Christianity had shifted from converting Jews to evangelizing gentiles.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion included “let his blood be on us and our children” in its original version. This line was removed later, under pressure from the Vatican. Mel Gibson was very upset at being forced to remove the line, but he did not blame the Vatican. Instead he told the New Yorker that “they” would have killed him if that line was in the movie. We can assume that the “they” he was referring to wasn’t The Vatican. Once again, Mel tries to play the victim. And he is ready to blame a nameless “they” for his problems.

The Passion of the Christ is an anti-semitic fraud. The Romans are portrayed as wise and reasonable, except for the soldiers who actually do the crucifying. And even some of these war-hardened thugs are saved in the end. On the other hand, once again, the Jews are portrayed as a bloodthirsty mob, bent on murder and delighting in the slow torture of this “false Messiah.”

As the film’s producer and director, Mel Gibson has to take full responsibility for what he has created. He could have made an effort to mute the anti-Semitic elements in the story. For example, as several critics have pointed out, there is precedent in the gospels for giving Caiaphas the same moral complexity and depth that he gave Pilate. Mel only had to include the line where Caiaphas says, “It is better for one man to die for the people, so that the nation be saved.” The critic Steven D. Greydanus, in his analysis of the film, said, “Had Gibson retained this line, perhaps giving Caiaphas a measure of the conflict he gave to Pilate, it could have underscored the similarities between Caiaphas and Pilate and helped defuse the issue of anti-Semitism.” But where Pilate, as a gentile, can be redeemed, Caiaphas the Jew must be condemned.

Instead of muting the anti-Semitism, Mel went out of his way to put the Jews front and center at the cross. For example, Mel chooses to have the leaders of the Temple dress up in all their Temple finery and ride their donkeys out to the hill of Golgotha to witness, with their own eyes, the crucifixion. This part is clearly fraudulent, as it makes no sense whatsoever historically for the priests to witness the crucifixion. And just in case we missed the point (Mel Gibson is not one for subtlety), the earthquake that occurs when Jesus dies (another bit of mythology) also shatters the walls of the Temple and a rock lands on one of the priests (in the manner of Sampson and the Philistines). And if this is not enough, the High Priest burns his hand, in a blatant foreshadowing the burning he will soon receive in the Christian Hell.

There is no way to avoid the blatant anti-Semitism of this film. The only Jews who come out of this story looking good are those who convert to Christianity. This is, of course, the same message we get from evangelicals: In the “End Times” a small minority of Jews will convert to Christianity, but the rest are doomed to the Lake of Fire. The only good Jews are the Christianized Jews. In his review of The Passion, Roger Ebert claimed that the portrayal of Jews was “balanced.” This is only true if you balance the good (pro-Christ) Jews against the bad (anti-Christ) Jews.

Mel Gibson’s religious background suggests that he would be sympathetic to such a portrayal. His father, Hutter Gibson, has strong ties to right-wing Christian groups in Australia and he has said publicly that The Holocaust didn’t happen. So it can be said that, in this case, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

The Passion as a Historical Film

Any attempt at a historically accurate “Passion” needs to take into consideration the vast amount of historical research done during the past century. For example, we now know that none of the gospels were written until many years after the events portrayed, and scholars (except fundamentalists) generally concede that the authors of the gospels were not actual witnesses to the events they described. In a very real sense, Mel Gibson is already dealing from the bottom of the deck in claiming historical accuracy based on these gospels.

In addition, there are serious problems even in the details of the crucifixion itself. It is generally believed today that the spikes were not driven through the palms of the hands. Doing this would be pointless, as the flesh of the hand cannot support the weight of a human body. It is far more likely that the spikes were driven between the two bones below the wrist. Since the Romans were experts in these matters, it is unlikely that they would have made the mistake of driving a spike through a hand. This, then, is another place where the gospels have led Mel into a historical mistake.

Mel tries to adjust for this by having Jesus’ wrists bound to the cross. But this makes no sense. If the ropes are sufficient to hold his weight, why bother with the spikes? Why use such enormous spikes, if the point is simply to torture the victim? The portrayal gets even stranger when the soldiers drive the spikes through his palms. At one point the soldiers stretch out Jesus’ arms so they can reach a pre-drilled hole in the wood. Yes, a pre-drilled hole! Maybe the Romans bought this cross on sale at Wal-Mart and assembled it themselves from pre-drilled materials.

Mel shows his further ignorance of carpentry (a carry-over from his role in The Patriot) when the soldiers drive a huge spike through a beam at least four inches thick and then they flip the cross over in order to bend over the points of the spike. Honestly! A spike driven through a four inch beam could hold up ten men. What’s the point of bending over the points! Are these Romans idiots? They’re going to have to re-use this cross next week for the next group of criminals. How are they going to get that spike out? These are just a few of the bizarre historical bloopers in this film.

Mel Gibson claims to be going for historical accuracy, but in fact he is trying to match his film to the iconography of the Catholic Church. He shot the scene of Mary at the cross, for example, to match the layout of the Pieta.

Part of Mel’s claim for “historical accuracy” rests on his decision to shoot this film entirely in Aramaic and Latin. As a right-wing Catholic, it’s not hard to see where Mel’s going by his insistence on Latin over English. But Mel’s mania for historical accuracy did not extend to his casting decisions. When it came time to cast an actor in the role of Jesus, Gibson selected Jim Caviezel, an actor who is not at all semitic looking. This blue-eyed actor’s best-known role before The Passion of the Christ was in a film with Dennis Quaid called Frequency, in which he played an Irish-American cop. If Mel Gibson made “scrupulous” efforts at historical accuracy, how did he convince himself to cast a “Jesus” with light skin and North European features? Maybe Tony Shaloub was too busy doing episodes of “Monk”?

Or maybe Mel Gibson is one of those strange religious throwbacks who believes that Jesus was really a white Aryan. That would certainly tend to explain several odd things, and a light-skinned Jesus fits in well with this theory. How else do you explain this strange inconsistency in this “historically accurate” film? Mel Gibson’s Aryan Jesus is in sharp contrast to historical documents which suggest that the “real” Jesus was short, swarthy, balding and rather homely. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld just didn’t have enough sex appeal. Maybe Mel Brooks was just too old for the role. If Mel Gibson was honestly concerned with historical accuracy, Tony Shaloub, Jerry Seinfeld, or Mel Brooks would have been a better match than the actor he cast as his phony Jesus.

The Passion as a Violent Film

Historically, since the beginning of film making, motion picture studios have been able to show a considerable amount of nudity and violence by including it in Biblical epics. The sensuality of films like The Ten Commandments was masked by their overt religious message. This was necessary during the time of the Hayes Code, which restricted what could be shown in films. Religious and historical themes were a convenient cover for what was—at the time—mild violence and rather soft-core sexual matter. This tradition continues even today, with films like the made-for-television Samson & Delilah.

Historically, too, audiences have accepted considerable amounts of violence in films, compared with sexuality. Mel Gibson has made a career out of starring in many hard-core violent films, from The Road Warrior to the “Lethal Weapon” series. Mel Gibson took a risk in making The Passion of the Christ in that it is possible that this hyper-violent film might have drawn an NC-17 rating, or even an X rating, instead of an R rating. This was probably Gibson’s greatest concern during the making of this film. An NC-17 rating would have damaged the film. And an X rating would have killed the film at the box office, especially with a religious audience. Film critic Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, concedes that, except for the religious theme, this film would certainly have gotten an NC-17 rating for violence.

However, even if that occurred, Gibson could probably have negotiated to get an NC-17 rating lowered to an R rating by cutting some violent scenes. In fact, Gibson may have anticipated this by adding in extra gore (an extended slow-motion flogging scene) that could be cut later, if needed. This would not be the first time a film maker has negotiated with censors to get a lower rating. Several critics were surprised that the film got the lower R rating, which suggests the MPA censors were wary of an attack from Mel’s supporters. But once the film got its R rating, cutting the gore would only have raised questions. Also, the extended violence makes The Passion a more effective propaganda film for conservative Christians.

By centering on the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, Gibson boxed himself into a corner. The trial and crucifixion are clearly the center of this overly long, bloody extravaganza. Although the Hayes code prohibited violence to the extent that “Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail,” this film ignores this quaint, old-fashioned notion.

The focus on blood and gore is so pronounced that it leads Gibson into historical inaccuracies. Even if you assume that the Bible presents an accurate account of the crucifixion, it states that the Roman soldiers “cast lots” for Jesus’ cloak. But in The Gospel according to Mel, by the time they reach the crucifixion, the cloak is little more than blood-soaked, tattered shreds of cloth–hardly the kind of thing soldiers would squabble over.

The Passion as a Pornographic Film

One CNN news commentator reported that 92% of the Christians who saw The Passion praised it as a great film. It’s fair to assume that the other 8% had some reservations—perhaps having to do with its containing not enough violence and gore. You would probably get similar statistics if you questioned the audience as it left a porn theater. “What did you think of that last scene, the one with Ron Jeremy?” It’s easy to imagine a middle-aged man pulling his raincoat tight and saying something like, “Yeah, it was pretty good. Especially that facial. And the gagging during the blow-job. I thought she was going to vomit—it was great!”

Actually, you probably have trouble imagining someone saying that. Like most people, you probably would prefer not to see the facial or the gagging. But the inclusion of such things in a pornographic film seems to be driven by the wacky 8% or 18%, the kinky fetishists who enjoy such things. And therein lies the problem

The enjoyment of extreme violence in films is a fetish, much the same way that enjoying watching a man ejaculate on a woman’s face is a fetish. Most normal people view these things with revulsion. But in both cases the movie makers are driven by a minority of fetishists who enjoy that kind of thing. Until recently, these types of fetishes were found only in underground films, but that seems to be changing.

American films—including mainstream films—are often made by fetishists, or at least those who cater to them. And a significant minority of American audiences (way over 8%) are attracted to violence as a fetish. Worse, they are becoming desensitized to the mixture of violence and sexuality. There is a clear danger in mixing the two, as the mixture of sex and violence can be even more explosive than violence and sex viewed separately. This is why reputable pornographic film makers have generally avoided violence in their films.

The Passion of the Christ not only combines violence and sex, but with sex having a strong homoerotic element. The strongest bond in the film develops between Jesus and Simon, the Good Jew who is pressed into carrying the cross. There are several moments of tenderness there, as Simon has to carry the cross and physically support Jesus. The flogging and torture serves to whet the appetites of the violence fetishists who sit in the audience. At the showing of The Passion of the Christ I attended, there were dozens of people weeping in the audience. But no one left the room during the extended torture scene.

Finally, the film reaches the point where three nearly naked men are hoisted onto wooden crosses. Ironically, Mel Gibson chose do drive the spike through Jesus’ hand, himself. And Mel has earned the right to be the first to penetrate the flesh of the victim. I don’t think Mel could have resisted the opportunity to “do” Jesus.

This is the main problem with The Passion of the Christ. If you ignore the religious story line, what you have left could have been shot as a episode of the HBO prison series Oz. A young man of extraordinary physical beauty (obviously not Tony Shaloub) is slowly beaten and tortured to death. It is a very long, slow death. It is shown in intimate and graphic detail, with plenty of blood and even chunks of flesh flying onto the people standing nearby. This film’s audience views it as a religious movie, but eroticized violence is clearly a central part of this film, too.

On the other hand, maybe The Passion features too much sexualized violence even for Oz. Episodes of Oz are only an hour long, and this much violence would have probably provoked a reaction from the satellite networks which carry HBO. Five minutes of this kind of violence is too much for most people—and The Passion of the Christ has over two hours of it! Maybe only Mel Gibson could imagine and create this sustained level of violence and sadism.

It’s fair to ask whether Mel Gibson is a violence fetishist. It’s difficult to explain why he would make The Passion of the Christ with so much eroticized violence, unless he was drawn to graphic images of violence and death.

The Passion of the Christ is a direct descendent of the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan era, filled with murder and mayhem. This may explain Mel Gibson’s earlier film Hamlet, not to mention the scene in Braveheart where the hero is drawn and quartered (a particularly brutal and violent way to die, in which a man’s entrails are torn out while he is still alive). A close look at The Passion of the Christ seems to reveal a lot about its creator. And it’s not pretty.

The escalation in violence from The Road Warrior to Lethal Weapon to Hamlet to Braveheart to The Patriot to The Passion of the Christ is all too clear. We should have seen it coming. Like many people, I am attracted to a certain amount of violence, especially when it is portrayed in a certain way, as in defense of a child. In The Patriot, when Gibson rescues his son with pistols and a tomahawk, I can empathize. But the later murder of the Heath Ledger character in The Patriot was excessive, as was the burning of a church full of people. No wonder the Brits complained about this film. The Patriot is full of realistically violent battle scenes, but the British “war crimes” are made up out of whole cloth. So much for historical accuracy! Mel knows that his audience wants blood and gore.

Even worse, the execution scene in Braveheart was simply grotesque and gratuitous. If Gibson had used the same level of detail in that film which he used in The Passion of the Christ, people would have been puking in the aisles.

As it is, The Passion of the Christ is clearly pornographic. It is in fact a snuff film showing the slow torture and deliberate murder of a helpless victim. Enough said.

The Passion as a Catholic film

It makes sense to compare Mel Gibson’s career to that of another famous Catholic actor, Gregory Peck. While Mel’s specialty is acting in violent films, and in making ultra-violent films, Gregory Peck’s acting career was quite different.

Where Mel is famous for films like Lethal Weapon and Braveheart, Gregory Peck is largely remembered for films such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Yearling, and Spellbound. That’s not to say that Peck doesn’t have a few kinky roles here and there. His portrayals of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick and as Dr. Mengele in The Boys from Brazil were very, very convincing. Like Mel Gibson, Gregory Peck was a good Catholic actor, and played in religious dramas like David and Bathsheeba, Keys of the Kingdom, and The Omen. Where Mel Gibson is different from Gregory Peck is in his fetishization of violence and in his attitude toward Jews. In contrast with Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, we have Peck stepping into the role of the Jewish King David. More importantly, we have Peck in the groundbreaking film Gentleman’s Agreement.

Rarely seen anymore, except on classic movie channels,  Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) examined the pervasive anti-semitism that existed in America through the 1940s. According to VideoHound, “this film was Hollywood’s first major attack on anti-Semitism.” Gregory Peck plays the role of a reporter who pretends to be Jewish in order to experience first hand the sneaking, back-door kind of bigotry that was common in the United States at the time. Gentleman’s Agreement was very controversial, but won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

This first time I saw this film was on television, as a young boy in Arkansas. I don’t think I had ever met a Jew, and except for Sunday school classes I’m not sure I would have known what a Jew was. But living in Arkansas in the 1960s, I had a pretty good idea of what hatred and bigotry were.

And this is the ultimate test for a film and for the man who made the film. Did the movie contribute something to humanity, or did the film subtract from the total sum of humanity.

And this is where Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ fall far short.

The Passion of the Christ grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Mel Gibson came out well financially, no matter what the critics said. He made millions, and quite possibly tens of millions, of dollars from his film.

And Judas only got a lousy 30 pieces of silver.

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Ender poster(Ender’s Game, 2013, directed by Gavin Hood, starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon, author of Free Radicals

Let’s just look at the movie as a movie–let’s not compare it to Orson Scott Card‘s 1985 novel of the same name.

The film opens with a quote to the effect that to understand one’s enemy is to love him. That line sounds very much like it was written by someone who has taken one too many acting classes, and actually believes the dictum that in order to play a character you have to love the character. Wrong.

Marlon Brando gave one of the all-time great performances as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Did he love Kowalski? Hardly. Brando despised him, and said as much. He said that all that’s necessary to playing a character is to understand the character, which is not the same as loving the character. Brando’s performance is powerful evidence that he was right.

Going beyond the opening quote, Ender’s Game‘s stated premise is that to combat a race of aggressive ant-like beings, the Formics (as in formic acid), it’s necessary to turn over tactical control of Earth’s combat forces to the most talented of Earth’s children, who have been immersed in video games since birth. That premise was serviceable (barely) three decades ago when Card wrote his novel. Today, after thirty year’s of Moore’s Law increase in computer processing power–with computers expected to surpass the processing power of the human brain within the next two to three decades–it’s not. It’s dated and outright embarrassing.

Other, worse, absurdities abound. Ants the size of elephants? Physiologically impossible. (There are reasons why elephants have massive legs and insects never exceed a few inches in size.) Prolonged interstellar war? No. Accelerate even a very small asteroid to just one percent the speed of light, slam it into a planet, and it’s Game Over. And … But why go on?

Even ignoring its absurdities, Ender’s Game is still a lousy movie. The dialogue is serviceable. The acting is serviceable. The characters cardboard. And the pacing is terrible. The first hour of Ender’s Game consists of little more than standard boot-camp scenes (featuring a blustering d.i.), unusual only in that the “soldiers” are barely pubescent, interspersed with what for all intents and purposes are zero-g paintball sequences. The first hour or so is both slow and boring (the two aren’t synonymous–see Tarkovsky’s Solaris), and then the film proceeds at breakneck speed.

Another problem involves the training regimen depicted in the film’s first hour. It’s ultracompetitive, and those in charge of it tacitly encourage bullying behavior–it’s a regimen designed to produce “leaders” who in all but name are sociopaths. Yet very few of the kids act like sociopaths, including Ender, who shows surprising concern after accidentally injuring a bully who’s been tormenting him. Very few people would show such concern–let alone a young teenager conditioned to be  sociopathic.

One final aspect of the film that adds much to its dreariness is its muted, low-saturation color palette, especially in the first hour. The apparent purpose of this is to provide contrast with the flashy space-battle sequences toward the end of the film–which is evidence that the director knew that the sequences themselves weren’t enough of a payoff.

Ender’s Game is even worse than Oblivion, which in a few spots is so bad it’s good. Ender’s Game is simply bad.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover

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europareport copy(Europa Report, 2013, directed by Sebastian Cordero, starring Christian Camargo, Embeth Davidtz, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon


“Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.” —Joseph Heller, Catch 22


Meet Europa Report, the science fiction equivalent of skeet shooting; its 89 minutes feel like 89 years.

One can forgive quite a bit in a sci-fi movie if it has an interesting premise, is well acted, has sympathetic protagonists and believable villains, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. A good current example is Elysium, which has a ridiculous central plot premise–essentially that those controlling a computer system with nearly godlike powers wouldn’t have the sense to back up its operating system or data–but has all of the other features which ultimately make it a dumb but enjoyable sci-fi flick. Even the recent Oblivion, a truly awful film, at least has the virtue of occasionally being so stupid it’s unintentionally funny.

Europa Report has none of these saving graces. It’s a faux-documentary with story scenes interspersed with cringe-worthy, solemn narration scenes, which gives it a disjointed feel. The most irritating feature of this film, though, is the manner in which it’s shot and edited: frequent video and audio freezes and breakups, jittery hand-held shots a la Blair Witch Project, very frequent cuts, pointless multi-monitor screen shots,  one deliberately off-kilter camera angle after another, plus too-frequent closeups. All of this is apparently intended to convey a claustrophobic  sense of being in a spacecraft in distress. It doesn’t.  Instead, this herky-jerky auditory and visual assault takes the viewer out of the story by  incessantly calling attention to itself. At many points, I found myself muttering, “Okay, okay. We get the idea. Just get on with the goddamn story.”

Europa Report, of course, has more to it than unbearable camera work and editing: it also has the usual features of bad sci-fi flicks, notably  getting the science wrong and having supposedly smart characters doing dumb things. The most obvious example of getting the science wrong–and something that goes back to schlock 1950s sci-fi–is that “mission control” and the spacecraft communicate instantaneously while it’s en route to Jupiter. There are other science problems as well, but there’s no point in going into them. Likewise with the smart characters doing dumb things; the two most important instances of this occur in the latter part of the film, and describing them would introduce major spoilers, so I won’t. But have no doubt, if you’re paying attention, it’s palm-to-the-forehead time in a couple of places.

What little dialogue there is, is dry to the point of desiccation. This is a major reason the male characters are near-zeros. One can’t blame this on the actors, though, because they have virtually nothing to work with. The portrayals of the female characters, however, aren’t boring–they’re excruciating. They either involve gross over-acting (in particular, Wydra in a pivotal smart-character-doing-dumb-things scene), but more often involve under-acting to the point of being totally flat. This is likely the fault of director Cordero, because Davidtz, Marinca, and Wydra cannot all possibly be as bad as they seem to be here.

Watching Europa Report is the cinematic equivalent of spending eternity shooting skeet with people you hate.

Not recommended.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover.