A cohesive, 'tight' film, funny even into the maw of Hell, THIS IS THE END comes long after 12/21/12, late to the apocalypse party, which is of course in character considering the cast of stoner royalty. Unlike 95% of its ilk, END skips the zombies and chainsaws and instead starts mixing heavenly ascension, Emerson's self reliance, an actual bible, LA vs. NYC rivalry, demons, ethical dilemmas and lots of weed. I would love to party with these guys, but might want to kill them all too, once the booze and weed ran out. And that all comes from the heart, bro. The genius touch is to have them all play themselves and they bring a lot of brutal self honesty: Jonah Hill acts like Oscar's A-list sycophant (you know, Moneyball); New Yorker Jay Baruchel 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 a dirtbag edition of Frank from BLUE VELVET; 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 damned are left to die. While the demons howl outside and devour those unlucky stragglers, these hearty dudes, including THE OFFICE's Craig Robinson 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. Still, knowing this doesn't always help. I don't get very far in the fantasy after the first drink, because I know that once the whiskey ran out I'd be seeing demons too, regardless of whether or not they were there. That's fact. That's in the bible... if you know which bible I mean (hint: it's blue).
In other words, I would be the first to volunteer to leave the compound and forage, because maybe somewhere in the hellish mist of the Hollywood Hills, there might be unbroken bottles of bourbon. That's the comfort for an alcoholic in the apocalypse. No demon can compare with that one, no scare or threat can stay the thirsty drunk. Without that carrot lure I can't see ever stirring from my bunker. But I am alcoholic. I am the thing in the black crib with the upside cross baby mobile in ROSEMARY'S BABY. 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 or to miss sex. 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 taken that first sip! 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! Man, we need more of that.
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! Why would there be? These are the Hills, Manson Family-free since '69! Instead there's great demons that rival PUMPKINHEAD and The Night on Bald Mountain sequence in FANTASIA, and Jonah Hell spewing green bile like a portly Linda Blair, but no monster is quite as scary as Emma Watson with an axe. Or funnier than McBride gone rogue.
The apocalypse turns out to be the ultimate challenge to being decent, but what about those terrifyingly charismatic if hollow-pointed dirtbags like McBride's screen personae? Most of the characters here find the apocalypse a struggle, but when McBride's masks are ripped off his true wild side animal persona is unveiled in all its mounting a boar's head on a pole and piercing a bone through his nose savagery. Like many Piscean artists and writers I've always admired--from a distance--this sort of animal man, having known a few in my time. You never invite them to your parties but they always show up, draining your bottle but bringing you awful weird new drugs like angel dust, Jimson weed, and crank and introducing you to carnivorous whores. You can't get rid of them, so you may as well enjoy them as they sit on the couch playing your guitar, performing their godawful raps, and ranting about all the fights they've been in (but never started).
I have issues, with them, still, clearly, and I apologize.
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, which is why they fill the news with horrors; more positive and selfless you are, the lighter and more expanded your soul gets, so demons can't capture it anymore than one can catch smoke in a butterfly net. Just a theory, based on a mix of Thaddeus Golas, Egyptian mythology, and David Icke.
So, yeah, bro, 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 again. Maybe that's the real fantasy, that the world will end before this true bropocalypse wipes out your network.. before you have to join them and be 'continued' forth through generations, just like falling asleep.
And that brings me to the stifled world of the couple's brunch where, if they had girlfriends with bourgeois hipster tastes, he dudes in END would be going on Sunday afternoon instead of to Franco's on Saturday night (or if I was there and still partying, both). I'm of course referring to the 2012 disaster comedy currently streaming on a Netflix near you, IT'S A DISASTER (2012).
David Cross is the nominal star as the stranger being vetted by his internet-met steady Julia Stiles' posse. He moseys around the nice house, drinks some Scotch with the boys, but they got problems of their own, blah blah. Suddenly, a neighbor comes in decked out in a hazmat suit. 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?
That kind of satiric moral querying is welcome, 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, 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. 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 you can really get a bead on it, so what? It's not like you paid to see it in the theater on your first internet date. And what it lacks in fire and brimstone it makes up with in the kind of inner hell only the relationship-encumbered 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, but the less sane. The couples thing seems to be the more mature idea but 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, and so, convexly, no escape from the awfulness of one's own true self. The End.
|Oh how time flies / with crystal clear eyes|