Archives for posts with tag: steroids

Michael Bay is a filmmaker famous for his slick style-over-substance approach to the medium, and in Pain and Gain, a vibrant, blackly humorous meditation on the American dream by way of an injection of style steroids gouged straight into the audience’s eyeballs, the Bay formula pays entertainment dividends.  Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, an ambitious bodybuilder with an unhealthy fixation on self-improvement.  He claims to approve of the meritocracy that has made America great, but unfortunately finds exemplars of Americanism in figures like Michael Corleone and Tony Montana.  Consequently, he sees crime and not legitimate business success as the most promising road to riches, and recruits fellow bodybuilders Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap oily Schlotzky’s proprietor Victor Kershaw (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) in the hope of getting him to sign over to them his home and all of his possessions.

Mark Wahlberg is intense as musclebound loser Danny Lugo, and Dwayne Johnson, who demonstrated a knack for comedy even as a professional wrestler, here delivers a hilarious performance to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s versatility as an action hero equally adept at goofiness.  As with much of Tarantino’s work, Bay’s film constantly runs the dangerous risk of glorifying or trivializing its subject matter by making its criminals such funny and charismatic characters.  The misadventures of Wahlberg and company are so exciting, fun, and involving that someone could almost forget that these likable bunglers, for all their charm, are really just murderers and thieves.  In the end, however, those who do wrong are punished in this grotesque and shockingly true crime story based on events that occurred in Miami in the mid-90s.  The use of period-faithful tunes from C+C Music Factory, Bon Jovi, and Coolio give an added nostalgic kick to this punchy, pleasantly gross, and perfectly edited dark comedy.

4.5 of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pain and Gain is:

11. Anti-gay.  Paul, seeing a warehouse full of gay sex toys, expresses discomfort with “homo stuff”.  He deals viciously with a gay come-on (see no. 4).  Danny makes a pejorative reference to “pickle-licking”.

10. Arguably anti-Semitic.  The oily, irascible Kershaw’s Star of David pendant hangs conspicuously as he prattles and makes a sleazy annoyance of himself at the gym.

9. Gun-ambivalent.  Men with criminal records have no difficulty buying weapons from an effeminate and masochistic gun dealer (and Stryper fan) who enjoys being stunned with a taser.  A Confederate flag hanging in his store is probably intended for this film’s purposes to associate gun ownership not with liberty, but with racism.  A woman attempts unsuccessfully to defend herself in her home with a gun.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  As in Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson plays the shameless tubby sexpot.  Other tubs of lard are featured in the film strictly for gross-out humor and audience derision, however.

7. Misogynistic.  Apart from one character, women are in the main represented in Pain and Gain as sluts and slobs.

6. State-skeptical.  Miami police are at first uninterested in investigating Kershaw’s story of how he was kidnapped and dispossessed, citing his Colombian origins as cause for skepticism.  They later admit their mistake.

5. Anti-drug.  Steroids render Adrian impotent.  Paul blows his cut of the loot on cocaine and starts to lose what limited wits he has.

4. Anti-Christian.  Paul’s religious beliefs, which vie with his cocaine problem for possession of his soul, make him susceptible to manipulation.  His professions of Christian devotion constantly clash with his criminal projects and outbursts of violent temper.  Furthermore, the judgmental attitude he derives from his faith finds expression in his belief that he might cure Kershaw of his Judaism.  A homosexual Catholic priest compliments Paul’s physique and tries to put the moves on him.

3. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Adrian, a black man, marries Robin (Wilson), a fat white woman, who recounts at their wedding how her racist grandfather had warned her against black men.  (Ironically, the grandfather’s advice proves to have been valid at least in Adrian’s case.)  Nasty interracial dancing disgraces the screen.  Kershaw, half Colombian and half Jewish, likes Cuban women.

2. Immigration-ambivalent.  Victor Kershaw is the old type of coarse but fiercely entrepreneurial immigrant who through his own talent and efforts has become wealthy.  Two Slav women are depicted as oversexed ditzes.  The fact that one of these entered the country illegally through Mexico highlights America’s border insecurity.

1. Capitalist.  The unsung protagonist of Pain and Gain is Kershaw, the self-made man who, while less handsome and likable than his victimizers, is in the right in seeking lawful revenge against Lugo and his collaborators.  Lugo believes in the American dream and understands that meritocracy plays a role in this; but like others who would redistribute wealth, he is motivated by envy and spite.  This derives from his mistaken notion that all people are equal at birth, the implication of which belief for his type of mentality is that unequal distribution of wealth must be some kind of injustice if two people’s apparently equal origins and efforts result in inconveniently unequal outcomes.  Ed Harris represents the private sector positively as a private investigator who comes to Kershaw’s aid when police fail to act on his client’s allegations.

[UPDATE (8/14/13): A Christian YouTuber offers his disapproving observations on Pain and Gain‘s detrimental cultural significance here.]

DoggieB

Pat Buchanan has said, “If you want to see what the future of America is going to look like, I think you ought to look at California.”  San Francisco – or, as Michael Savage would have it, San Fransicko – is one of the most progressive cities in the Golden State; and if the cinematic acid trip Doggie B, aka Doggie Boogie: Get Your Grrr On!, serves as any kind of mental health forecast for the country as a whole, then these Disunited States are definitely nightmare-bound.

Doggie B introduces children to Peter Wolfe (Scott Cox), a gay San Francisco man who, apparently having despaired of finding love in the AIDS capital of California, has devoted his life to dancing with dogs, even going so far as to make it his life’s calling and dancing with his dog professionally in competitions with other dog dance teams.  His dream of interspecies Astaire-and-Rogers-dom is cruelly dashed to pieces when evil competitor Gertrude Spinner (Bettina Devin) causes him to have an accident with his dog, which drives Peter into a downward spiral of junk food obsession and gloom.  Fortunately for everyone (excepting the viewer, that is), his niece Cassie Barbizon (Jesse Draper) has a more optimistic outlook and hopes to pick up where her uncle left off, with puppy Pijo as her partner.  Complicating her blueprint for self-actualization is Cassie’s mother, ambulance-chasing attorney Karen Barbizon (Barbara Tintori), who expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps by studying law.

Doggie B plays a bit like a Rick Sloane film sans the nasty humor (minus the good parts, in other words), with Gertrude recalling cartoonish villainesses Queen Bee and Malathion from auteur Sloane’s Vice Academy series. That a film about dog dancing proves to be less than spectacular can hardly come as any surprise, but the autistic canines in Doggie B have little to do and evince an unusually low level of animal charisma.

Doggie B does, however, have two major strengths in its favor. The first is its amazing visual flair, with no inch of footage escaping without generous splashes of color and zaniness, whether in the art direction or the actresses’ coifs and costumes that at times make the film appear to be peopled entirely by auxiliary members of the B-52s.  The second thing this film has going for it is its cast of colorful, perky character actresses.  Men hoodwinked into renting Doggie B for their children can be consoled at least that, while they are certainly in for a long and grueling haul, there are several attractive actresses in the film, with tall, shapely Jesse Draper quite the knockout, other kooky San Francisco ditzes looking very edible, and scary Bettina Devin perhaps appealing to fetishists of the mature.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Doggie B is:

9. Anti-Christian.  This film’s good book is the “Dog Dance Bible”.

8. Anti-drug.  Gertrude has secretly been injecting her dance partner with “doggeroids” from a glowing green Re-Animator syringe.  Though there appear to be no adverse effects for the dog, the doggeroids, it turns out, are extremely damaging to a woman’s complexion.

7. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration.  A nice Caribbean (?) doctor introduces Cassie to holistic dog therapy after an old white doctor proves ineffective at treating Pijo’s malaise.

6. Pro-gay.  Though his orientation is never made explicit, Peter’s choice of costumes (beginning with the sweater tied around his shoulders and ending with his climactic John Travolta leisure suit) and make-up for his performances leave little room for doubt.  He wipes his mouth in disgust after a cute fag hag plants a big juicy one on him.  The whole film is a fabulous high camp fever dream.

5. Racist!  Doggie B perpetuates the Magical Negro stereotype with a kinky-afroed black yogi-priestess who can communicate with dogs.  Jews are mercenary, neurotic, and cynical, with personal injury chiseler Karen getting excited at hearing about a terrible car pile-up.  Her practice’s slogan is, “Get hit, get rich quick.”

4. Pro-miscegenation, breaking down prejudiced species barriers.  Doggie B blazes trails by proving that canines are suitable dance partners for Jews.

3. Individualist.  “Mom, this is not about you,” Cassie tells her mother prefatory to her intention of going for the gold with Pijo.  “Believe it or not, I’m growing up.  I’ve changed.  I’m creating my perfect life.”

2. Pro-family.  Despite disagreements, relatives maintain ties, share affection, and help each other.  Parents concerned about adult content are, however, alerted to the off-color inclusion of a sexual slap on the butt.  Also, Cassie’s love interest Roman (Patrick Alan Davis) says to her at one point, “You look hot – I mean, it’ll stand out on the dance floor” [italics added].

1. New Age.  “This stuff really works!” Cassie exults after taking Pijo to Shangrrrla, a clinic for dogs where their spirituality finds alignment.  At Shangrrrla, too, the viewer learns that, “In rare cases, when our souls are wounded, certain quite special dogs become spiritual healers.”  Peter wears an ankh during his climactic routine, which begins with his emergence from a giant disco ball in the shape of a dog’s head, the lowering of which occasions a kind of religious experience in the crowd.  San Francisco’s hippie drum beaters also put in a cameo.

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