In this EMERGENCY edition of Shirtless Symposium, the guys talk about the VMAs and rate every performance (yes, even Miley). They talk about Ben Affleck as the new Batman and what that means for the franchise and Warner Bros, and round out the evening with the latest on Eminem (He has a new album coming in November!)
GUEST COMMENTARY: Braden King - A Love Letter to the Cornetto Trilogy
Syvology is PROUD TO PRESENT a very special guest commentator for your intellectual enjoyment:
My roommate and I were running late for the 8:30pm showing of The World’s End on Friday. Late by my standards at least. We took our seats at 8:23ish and didn’t miss the previews. We were, however, stuck in the second row, which meant stiff necks all around for the rest of the weekend. Don’t worry, I didn’t write this to tell you about the overwhelming hardships in my life, I just want to tell you about some great movies and why I love them so.
Shaun of the Dead, the first film in Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ (named for the ice cream cones featured in each film) debuted in 2004 to strong critical reviews and quickly developed a cult following. It stars Simon Pegg as Shaun, a directionless goof searching for meaning in his otherwise-bland life. It co-stars Nick Frost as his slacker roommate Ed, an unemployed man-child who refuses to even pretend about the world outside the duo’s living room.The set-up could be used to describe any number of Judd Apatow movies, except for the wonderful complication of a burgeoning zombie apocalypse wreaking havoc on their suburban town (and the world).
Simultaneously satirizing and paying homage to the zombie-horror classics of George A. Romero, the film mixes subtle wit, physical comedy, solid action, and surprising heart throughout its efficient ninety-nine minutes. From the opening scene it’s clear that co-writers Pegg and Wright have a great deal of admiration for Dawn of the Dead, and the feeling resonates throughout the film and to the audience. The first time I saw Shaun of the Dead, I didn’t just leave the theater happy because the movie is hilarious and heartfelt (it is, and if it were 2004 I hope that quote would make the poster), but also because Pegg, Wright and Frost tap into the shared cultural experience of watching zombie movies and loving them. They speak the language of pop-culture like their contemporaries Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (Wright did a fake trailer for the Grindhouse films) and help give new life (zombie pun!) to a genre that had otherwise grown stale through years of laziness and neglect.
Hot Fuzz (2007) is a similarly smart send-up of blockbuster action films, particularly buddy actioners like Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys and (of course) Point Break. Pegg plays by-the-book police officer Nicholas Angel, a cop so good he is asked to leave London for making the other officers look bad. He meets bungling officer Danny Butterman (Frost) on his new assignment in Sandford, and yes, hilarity ensues. The movie features remarkable set pieces given the paltry (by blockbuster standards) fourteen million dollar budget, and mixes in the humor and warmth that is a hallmark of all three films.
I recently re-watched the film in anticipation of The World’s End and was excited to see how well it holds up. A great deal of the comedy is referential, but even my viewing partner who hadn’t seen Bad Boys, Point Break OR Lethal Weapon found it entertaining and fun. For me, it brought memories of the first time I saw Mel Gibson and his glorious mullet electrocuted by Gary Busy, the first time I saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hold up a store clerk for Tropical Fruit Bubblicious and Skittles, and the first time I saw Keanu Reeves shoot up in the air and shout ‘AARGHGH!’ The beauty is that the movie is not a schlocky, one-note rip-off (I’m looking at you, Scary Movies 2-5) but an excellent original work, and as good a buddy action film as I have ever seen.
I obviously had high hopes entering The World’s End and it did not disappoint. I won’t give away too much, but Wright, Pegg and Frost are all on top of their respective games. Even though years of success have brought bigger budgets (the effects of The World’s End dwarf the combined effects of other two films), the movie still has the heart that so many movies lacked this summer. It was as much about growing up as it was about fighting a crew of science fiction foes; equal parts Say Anything and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and if you know how much I love John Cusack movies, you know how big a compliment that is.
With so many sequels/prequels out this summer, I had almost forgotten how good multi-film series can be. As much as I enjoyed Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, Man Of Steel and even Fast 6, I never walked away from any of those films feeling like they did much more than satisfy a corporate need to create another blockbuster. The World’s End is a great original work that lovingly-satirizes sci-fi and popular culture, while maintaining the verve of the previous Cornetto features. Numerous supporting actors from the first two films are involved. The camera work and script immediately slides back into a familiar groove. The music instantly reminded me of the British Invasion of the early 90’s (Ok I was a bit young for that, but who doesn’t love Blur?!), and the science fiction references are everywhere without becoming a burden. The film manages the wonderful trick of speaking a familiar cultural language while bringing something new to the table, something that most movies this summer were too lazy or scared to even try.
It was a fitting end to a great trilogy. I laughed, I cried, I did neck rolls to try and avoid minor paralysis (it mostly worked) and I left smiling because I was reminded of the great movies I’d seen before, and the great one I’d just left.
TAKEAWAY – Go see it right now! Are you really going to skip it for The Butler?
Michael Bay caught dismissive guffaws when he described his latest film as a “small character piece.” As absurd as that statement sounds coming from his lips, Bay was telling the truth. Pain & Gain takes a frantic look at some very twisted people, with minds deformed not only by steroids and supersets but by American pop mythology itself.
Nationalist imagery and references to the concept of the “American” permeate the film. The story’s pro/antagonists (who’s who?) engage in a vague debate about what is “American” and what is not. To Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), America means hatching a brutal proletarian revolt drenched in capitalist blood. To Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), the victim of Lugo’s caper, America means his rags-to-riches immigrant journey, fraught with tax evasion and vile business practices.
Lugo is pumped and Kershaw is shrimpy. But on the inside, both think they’re Tony Montana.
From both sides of this crude dialectic emerges a truly American synthesis: The Virtue of Selfishness. This leads to a powerful moral ambiguity throughout the film, with reasonable viewers left wondering who -if anybody- there is left to root for.
Bodybuilding provides the film with a stunning metaphor. It’s a conceptually narcissistic hobby, in which one essentially competes against oneself. The lifestyle fosters obsession with personal gain and self-betterment through complex workout regiments, meal planning, and chemical supplementation.
But in a deeper sense, the essence of bodybuilding is a reified expression of gruff ambition, a physical analogue to the intangible American Dream. Even the scrawniest dweeb can build himself into a Greek God, rep by rep and protein shake by protein shake. If you think I’m crazy, recall the scene towards the end of The Great Gatsby, where they discover one of Jay Gatsby’s notebooks. His detailed, meticulous workout routines were no accident of characterization.
Structurally and visually, the movie feels a bit like an overdose on JACK3D. What starts as a high-energy adrenaline rush quickly devolves into a nightmarish struggle with reality. Conventional heist flick slowly turns to black comedy, and before you know it we’re watching the characters gleefully dismember corpses and barbecue body parts.
Inevitably, some viewers will either miss or ignore much of what this movie has to say about modern capitalist norms, amoral socialization, and the mythology of success and ambition in America. But at the very least, we have here a disturbing true story of despair, transgression, and systemic injustice. Bay’s concoction of characters are as warped mentally as they are physically, and their story serves as an expert satire of the way we treat each other -and the way we treat ourselves.
In this week’s episode the guys talk about the break up of My Chemical Romance and take a look back on the band’s body of work. They also discuss the latest album from rapper Lil’ Wayne (I Am Not a Human Being 2), the downward spiral of Justin Bieber, and offer a few thoughts on the tragic death of Shain Gandee.