Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Your Clowns Bid You Goodbye: THIS IS THE END, IT'S A DISASTER

A cohesive, 'tight' film, funny even into the maw of Hell, THIS IS THE END (2013) comes long after 12/21/12, late to the apocalypse party, which is of course in character considering the cast of stoner royalty --James Franco and Seth Rogen, still soaring on PINEAPPLE EXPRESS fumes, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Jay Baruchel, Emma Watson, Channing Tatum, and so on--all playing themselves. Unlike 95% of its ilk, END skips the zombies and instead goes full literal-biblical, mixing heavenly ascension, childhood buddy friendships stressed by fame and distance, growth and kindness as essential to survival, an actual bible, LA vs. NYC rivalry, raping demons, ethical dilemmas, and lots of weed. The genius touch is to have them all play themselves (only more so) and they bring a lot of brutal self honesty: Jonah Hill acts like Oscar's A-list sycophant, bandying the word "tight" around and treating resentful New Yorker Jay Baruchel like a special needs child. Jay instead blames his own paralyzing social shyness on LA; Michael Cera snorts coke and bullies groupies in fits of drunken Reptillian overlordsmanship; Daniel McBride ramps up his dirtbag townie craziness; James Franco is a vain but guarded host with a weird bi-curious vibe; Rhianna, Aziz Anzari, and countless others disappear down a giant blast furnace hole in the ground. Being a star guarantees nothing as the flame pit widens and the stars are revealed to be tough and resourceful only via movie magic. While the demons howl outside and devour those unlucky stragglers, these dudes duct tape the cracks in the concrete of Franco's party fortress, pool their booze, and wait for the cable to come back on.

When I was counting days inside the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I used to like to imagine Armageddon as a great excuse to relapse on whiskey, and hoped one day I would get the chance, for whiskey is so so good. But if an alcoholic vows to drink again only when hell froze over, sooner or later he'd drive down into the flames on a stolen Zamboni. That's in the bible... if you know which bible I mean. Still, for some of us, the apocalypse is our last chance to reunite with our deranged lover in all her brown... intoxicating....  proof.

In other words, I would be the first to volunteer to leave the compound and forage, because maybe... maybe somewhere in the hellish mist of the Hollywood Hills... there might be unbroken bottles of sweet sweet booze. That's the comfort for a recovering alcoholic in the apocalypse. No demon can compare with that one, no scare or threat can stay that eternal thirst. Without that carrot lure I can't see ever stirring from my bunker. But I am the alcoholic thing in the black crib with the upside cross baby mobile ROSEMARY'S BABY dashboard. I am the third heat, the eternal thirst carved large as Asmodeus' initials into the EQUINOX oak tree soul. I guess we all have our reasons for wanting this damned parade to finally end, in a blaze of glory. That's one of mine.

But these guys--Seth Rogen, Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, all playing themselves-- are more grounded than I am... which is odd, considering they don't seem to have girlfriends and the first thing they wish for (outside of weed) is a Back Street Boys reunion (nope, nothing gay here). Perhaps that's the secret to success: girls always Yoko up a band sooner or one of you goes to college, or leaves it. I can only imagine what would happen if I never moved to NJ or my buddy's parents didn't get divorced and turn him militant, or if I never became a hippy punk rock boozer. All these things killed our comic book making, super 8mm filming, dungeon and dragons module creating, and selling, and marketing company. Girls were but the coup de grace. 

If I had known nerds would conquer the world, that the "Comic Con" would one day be a prestigious event, I might have never have choked down that first pilfered warm beer at my punk rocker friend's graduation party. I'm funny, too, man. Can't you tell? Why did I give it all up for a life of hipness, boozy abandon, and relationship-attempting? None of the dudes who wind up at Franco's seem to have any long term relationships, or kids, to worry about, and it's damned refreshing. At no point does any character say, "I can't leave without my children!" or "If Kathy's back there, I'm going to get her!" These guys don't give a shit!

The main star of THIS IS THE END though is the raw kinetic energy and flow of weird ideas that doesn't stop, just snakes forward from LAX to chillin' with buds to a party at James Franco's house all the way to....  The big budget CGI in the film isn't used for guns and nonsense. There's only one gun in the whole damned movie. Instead there's great towering demons to rival The Night on Bald Mountain sequence in FANTASIA, and Jonah Hell spewing green bile like a portly homoerotic Linda Blair, but no monster is quite as scary as Emma Watson with an axe. Or more balls-out-gonzo than McBride gone cannibal --the role of the year in the movie of the year.  Like many Piscean artists and writers, I've always admired--from a distance--the McBride type. We Pisces never invite them to parties but they always show up, draining our bar but bringing us awful weird new drugs like angel dust, jimson weed, and crank and introducing us to carnivorous whores. You can't get rid of them, so you may as well enjoy their ferocity, use it before it destroys you. When the world ends and the savage monsters reign, we could use a man like Frank Booth again.

Didn't need no welfare state
I don't want to spoil what may be my favorite movie so far this year, but if you haven't seen it yet, you can still take a page from its bible and start to be nicer to people; even if there is no one true God it couldn't hurt your chances for ascension. I've written extensively on my arcane beliefs regarding soul density, in that the more self-centered and hateful you are, the more dense your soul gets, allowing demons to capture it when you try to ascend; it follows then that the more positive and selfless you are, the lighter and more expanded your soul gets, so demons can't catch it anymore than one can catch smoke in a butterfly net. Hence demons are all about convincing you goodness and lightness is for suckers. It's just a theory, based on a mix of Thaddeus Golas, Egyptian mythology, and David Icke, but it's a solid way to structure it.

If only life were just buds and booze, how simple and joyous! But instead how complicated and downer-ish it is to watch dudes from your crew marry and--unless you join their creepy 'we have kids' cult--never be seen from or heard through again. Maybe that's the real fantasy, that the world will end before maturity's inevitable bro-pocalypse wipes out your network. I hear it's just like falling asleep. Push... push... and then, I hear, lots of worry about the right schools. Dragged to recitals... pretending to give a shit about Little League. Oh the smell. Pass. I'll stay awake.

And that brings me to the stifled world of the couple's brunch where--if they had girlfriends with bourgeois hipster tastes--the dudes in END would be going on Sunday afternoon (after a nice early bedtime) instead of to Franco's on Saturday night (or if I was there and it was the 90s, both). I'm of course referring to the 2012 'couples' comedy IT'S A DISASTER.

David Cross is the stranger being vetted by his internet-met steady Julia Stiles' posse. He moseys around the nice house, drinks some Scotch with the boys, hears how they got problems of their own, blah blah. Suddenly, a neighbor comes in decked out in a hazmat suit. A dirty bomb has gone off downtown, poison gasses everywhere. Commence duct taping! And then the couple who are always super late try to come in, coughing and hacking and begging to be let it in. But the duct tape is on. What do you do?

Damn right you don't.

That kind of satiric moral querying is welcome when the less humanist decision is pre-empted, and the swinger couple (Rachel Boston and Kevin Brennan) slipping a subtle menage a trois come-on to Cross are hilarious; America Ferrara mixing all the drugs in the house together to create some homemade ecstasy--determined to get super high to face the end--she is my hero. While her beau seems to think ranting about conspiracies will turn the deadly real situation abstract enough to deal with, i.e. what you can deconstruct can't kill you, she's doing the right thing, the thing the old black jazz pianist on the cruise ship or Woody Harrelson does in the movie 2012, get lit bright as a Lincoln Center Xmas Tree.

Overall it's some good ensemble work, giving off the impression these people all know each other and respect one another's comedic rhythms, and if it all seems over before there's any special effects fire and brimstone to run up the tab, well, it makes up with in the kind of inner-hell only the relationship-anchored truly know.

So what, in the end, is the right scenario for you? A lot of us were hoping the world would end last December 21st, so we could skip that much-needed root canal, or get out from under our credit card debt. Now here it is a year later and we know we're saddled with seemingly immortal life. So pick your poison and live to die another day: going out with the bros is of course the more fun option than meeting the new girl's posse at a petit-bourgeois couples brunch, because the deeper you look the more you see how hard it is to grow when you can just blame your significant other for holding you back.

Unfortunately real personal growth only seems to come with pain, fear, and trauma. With the boys up in the Hills of THIS IS THE END, though, there's no one else to blame, no one to take the bottle out of one's hands and wag her finger, and so, convexly, no escape from the awfulness of one's own true self and one's own addictions. If that's not a reason to relapse I don't know what is, 'hic'.

Oh how time flies / with crystal clear eyes


  1. I remember seeing a trailer for It’s a Disaster a few months back but then I completely forgot about. So, thanks for reminding me. I’ll be sure to stream it on Amazon while I’m at work tonight.

    As for This is the End, I have to admit, I liked it. I went in with mild reluctance, skeptical to the possibility that our current roster of ragtag comedy buffoons wouldn’t outstay their welcome after the first 20 minutes or so; skeptical that the film’s premise would do anything other than spiral quickly into a self-indulgent circle-jerk of adlibbing shtick. But the boys flew straight enough and won me over with their collective charm. And while I can’t say I was laughing out loud at every other scene (few comedies ever achieve such a level), a grin was nonetheless planted firmly on my face throughout the running time.

    Perhaps it’s because a certain sincerity to the horrors of a biblical apocalypse are not only maintained in contrast to the Hellywood lampooning and casual atmosphere of man-child shenanigans, but that it’s further welcomed into the very naval of numerous juvenile pranks which the narrative has to offer: Jonah Hill’s hyper-narcissistic prayers being answered with less-than-conjugal, demonic coitus sparks a moment that is at once silly and genuinely disturbing, and note the rather authentic depiction of civility decaying into savagery; that if a friend of yours, or an acquaintance, or just some guy you work with (e.g. Ted, from Kinkos) turned cannibal on you, he would likely do so with his goofball personality still intact; with a kind of 'I’m a cannibal now! Isn’t that crazy?!' everyday surprise.

    Even peculiar is how the sincerity itself is laced with the absurdity of those involved, such as Franco chiding Baruchel in earnest, with a school teacher tone, for being no more worthy of the Rapture than the rest of the crew, or a moment when Robinson confides, albeit ambiguously, to doing some bad things in his past. It’s not that the film ever goes deep or dramatic in this respect, but it never spills so far into jokes that the circumstances end up feeling trivial. It never loses its edge.

    Overall, though, the movie is just fun. It’s fun to watch ineffectual fuck-ups running around a severed head in their socks and boxers, screaming like girls. Its fun to watch them disco-trip on ecstasy and make home-video sequels to their own hits, or react with today’s hyper-PC paranoia to the mere mention of 'rapey vibes'. It’s fun to watch Emma Watson with an axe (or without one). Each cast member is given their due, but the highlight for me is Danny 'I hear everthing' McBride.

    Seriously, is this guy not the ultimate scallywag? He practically steals the movie for me. The onscreen persona he has fashioned for himself truly is as you described, and I’d further wage that transporting such an entity across state line would be illegal; taking him south of the border could spell international incident ...or, ironically, serve as your party’s best line of defense. I’m even tempted to nominate McBride as the best antagonist for 2013 or, at the very least, as having the best character intro.

    "Danny, no. Don’t walk away! Danny, don’t walk away from me!"

    "It’s too late, Seth! I’ve already walked away too much!"

  2. Apocalypse and Cat Power lyrics? I can get down and groove to that.


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