Saved By The Bell
Saved By The Bell is one of those shows from my early childhood that I remember my older siblings laughing at, but never quite understanding myself because I was too young. Years later, I grew up to actually watch the show and see what all the fuss was about. Why did so many people like this, and why do so many people to this day still wear Saved By The Bell retro TV show t shirts? Whether you remember the 90s or not, Saved By The Bell is one of the most iconically 90s pop cultural items. It’s something that just screams “1990s!” by even being mentioned.
Come on, you remember crop tops. And if you were old enough at the time, you probably enjoyed seeing them (if you’re a guy) or wearing them (if you’re a girl). Crop tops, in case you didn’t know, are shirts that cover the top of the torso but not the midriff, leaving the stomach exposed. This article of clothing was so popular in the 90s that even cartoon characters could be spotted wearing them. They disappeared sometime around the year 2000 and vanished for twenty years. Since 2018 or so, they’re beginning to make a comeback, much to the delight of adolescent males everywhere.
A lot of people now don’t even know what a soul patch is. A soul patch is the tuft of facial hair just under the lower lip, in the center. It’s that tuft of hair that grows independently of the rest of the beard. Back in the 90s, it was fashionable for a short time to save everything but the soul patch. Unlike the crop top, the soul patch has, unfortunately, not experienced a revival, and still appears gauche even in 2021. We can still hold out hope, though, for some celebrity to decide that he’d look good with a soul patch and make an appearance on YouTube.
Nu-Metal had some unlistenable acts, but it also had a lot of great songs. It’s true that Limp Bizkit did not age well. But the 90s also brought us acts with some staying power, such as Disturbed and System of a Down. The distinctive sound of nu-metal guitar can never be forgotten: de-tuned, with the treble turned down and playing thumping palm-muted riffs with bouncy offset rhythms. Anybody who has listened to Korn’s “Here To Stay” can hum the riff from memory. And of course, System of a Down tracks, such as Chop Suey! and Toxicity are immortal classics.
If Nu-Metal was the late 90s personified, then grunge was the early 90s. As the musical craze that marked the transition from 1980s to 1990s, grunge combined riffing that was too sloppy to be metal, but far too heavy to fit into any of the softer genres, with depressive lyrics and the trademark 90s “Who cares?” attitude. By catering specifically to the teenage mindset, Nirvana was able to touch off a musical craze overnight from their home city of Seattle. Complete with flannel, body odor, and a stale cheeseburger, grunge is the Platonic form of 1990s music.
Supernatural isn’t a perfect show, but then again, nothing is ever perfect and if it were, would we as a viewing audience still tune in? The Walking Dead is massively flawed, but sometimes I get the impression that people tune in just to try to parse out what they might have done differently as writers/ producers or even actors. Back to Supernatural, and to shows that do well, specifically within a certain demographic: What do shows such as Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time and even the original series of Star Trek all have in common? Well, they are or were all wildly popular and successful, especially among women ages 18-35, though still appealed to the “target demographic” of straight (ostensibly white, cis-gendered) men of the same or even broader ages.
(image from one of the many Star Trek novelty t shirts in our collection)
Science Fiction and to some extent, fantasy has always been a man’s world. The writers are men, the show’s producers are men, the showrunners and the majority of the lead actors and characters are all usually male. But so many of the fans are female, and straight females who are either tuning in with hopes of seeing two men in an intimate relationship with each other, or creating works of fan-fiction, better known as “Slash” in which their own fantastical, sexy projections and/ or interpretations of characters and events can finally manifest. (Star Trek T Shirt “Shoot that Thing!” because Kirk/ Spock was the original Slash.)
This episode always brings a big smile to my face. As a kid my favorite episodes always had a lot of hand to hand combat and this episode was nothing but that in all of Shatners greatest shoulder roll glory.
This was also the episode that as a preteen boy most flipped my hormone switch, if you know what I mean. To this day whenever I see a girl with green hair (and/or a silver lame bikini) I flash back to the gorgeous Angelique Pettyjohn as Shahna. My ultimate fantasy would have to be her and metal bikini Leia. Yes, I know I’m a pig. At least I’m a nerdy pig.
This episode also introduced us to the currency I plan to use to replace all world currencies once I conquer this pathetic mudball, quatloos (I also plan to have martial combats be a means of settling legal disputes and caning be an Olympic event). I see the Canadian habit of calling their one dollar coin a loonie a sign of their connectivity with the gestalt human consciousness since I believe quatloos will be called “loos” for short. Kudos to our friends in the Great White North.
On a side note if I were a lowlie crewman on board the Enterprise doing my daily job of mucking out the toilets and exterminating Tribbles I think I would have a problem with Kirk betting my life and freedom in a 3 to 1 fight to the death. I’m pretty sure there is a Starfleet regulation somewhere that says your commanding officer cannot sell you into slavery. Image courtesy of the retro TV show t shirt category.
“the Infamous Dave” Inman
Not 100% painless.
This movie is a bit of a conundrum for me in that here I am 24 hours later and I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. There were parts that I enjoyed. There were parts that annoyed me. I did like the fact that this is a true story, which makes it extra cool. However the movie’s comedy is so at odds with the grim real life content that I can’t figure out what the tone was (or if there was even an attempt at a tone).
I did learn something important during the course of this film and that is I have been spelling Michael Bay’s name wrong for the last three years. I thought it was spelled Bey. I will apologize to him when he apologizes to me for making me sit through 30+ minutes of Shia LaBeouf attempting to inject himself into the working world like the wimpiest plague ever in the last Transformers movie (actually how about an apology for Shia LaBeouf in the whole series in general? Michael Bay, you owe me a coke).
Now that I have settled the matter of spelling his name I realize that the parts of the movie I enjoyed had little or nothing to do with the direction. I said when I reviewed Snitch that I have somehow become a Dwayne Johnson fan. In that review I said one of the reasons I liked him is that he seemed to have a good sense of humor and is the kind of guy I could have a drink with. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously (Christian Bale, I’m looking at you) and that shows up in a really positive light here. He was easily my favorite character in this film, and the chemistry he had with Mark Wahlberg was really enjoyable.
Given that most of his movies involve CGI robots who deliver a better performance than any of the human actors I am at a loss how Bay managed to assemble such a crew of accomplished actors and get a great performance out of all of them. Not just Johnson and Wahlberg, but even the secondary characters like Tony Shalhoub and Rob Corddry were rock solid. This is why I am not inclined to give Bay credit for the parts of the movie I enjoyed. The best parts were the actors and their interaction, which is more a reflection on their individual talent than the director. Makes me wonder what a great director like Scorsese could have done with this cast and story.
I will however give Bay just due for all the parts that bugged me. For one thing this film is a painfully long 130 minutes and believe me you will feel every grindtastic one of them. The fact that the ending is revealed in the first 30 seconds pretty much drains the suspense from the film, although by the end of the second hour I was having a hard time remembering my dad, much less how the film started. There is a voice over monolog but the voice shifts depending on who the camera is focused on. The final denouement is delivered by a guy we don’t even meet until 2/3rd of the way through the film yet he acts like he was there the whole time. Bay has a love of back story that manifests itself in a life montage of pretty much every character, including the stripper. It’s one of those things that’s like a 7 out of 10 the first time he does it and loses a point every time after that. He also managed to take three fairly cool, interesting characters and turn two of them into flat, two dimensional stereotypes by the third act (Johnson’s character stayed cool throughout the end, but that was because he was constantly evolving). Speaking of acts, I had a hard time figuring out where they were. The instead of a story arc the movie felt like a flat line.
The biggest issue here is the tone. This is the true life story of the grisly murder and dismemberment of two people and the kidnapping and torture of another man and Bay transformed (haw!) it into the Three Stooges Meet Hercules. A fictional comedy is one thing but making light of the death of real people is more than a little off putting. The humor actually ramps up along with the gruesomeness of the film which I found confusing and disconcerting.
The story. (some spoilers coming here, BTW. Nothing really surprising and the real spoiler is delivered by the film in the first minute) Danny Lugo (Mark Wahlberg-Boogie Nights, Contraband, Entourage) is a body builder and personal trainer who feels like he isn’t being given his share of the American dream. He works and works out at Sun Gym with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie-Hurt Locker, Real Steel, the Adjustment Bureau). One of his clients is a real ass named Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub-Monk, Men in Black, Cars) who has a lot of money. While working there he meets Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson-Snitch, GI Joe Retaliation, Fast Five), an ex con who has found Jesus.
Together they come up with the plan to kidnap Kershaw and torture him into giving them all his stuff. They do so and the torture is considerable. They somehow get hooked up with a stripper (Bar Paly-The Ruins, Stiletto, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III) who starts off with Danny but ends up with Paul. The get all of Kershaw’s stuff and attempt to kill him in a burning car and later by running over his head but fail (by this point the spirits of the Three Stooges have possessed these guys).
The police fail to believe Kershaw (if this weren’t based on a true story I would be black holing the hell out of it for lame story. The truth is stranger than fiction) so he is forced to hire a private investigator (Ed Harris-the Rock, a History of Violence, a Beautiful Mind). He pretty much uncovers everything but the police still won’t believe it. Meanwhile Doyle goes back on cocaine and the gang starts to run out of money. They opt to run the same game on local porn kingpin Frank Griga (Micheal Rispoli-Rounders, Kick Ass, the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) and his girlfriend (Keili Lefkovitz-Malibu’s Most Wanted, Scrapbook, On the Edge of Innocence). Things go badly and they end up killing both of them. They have to dismember the bodies and dump them in the swamp.
Dwayne Johnson knocked this one out of the park. One star. His chemistry with Mark Wahlberg was really fun to see. One star. The entire rest of the cast was really good. Two stars. Based on a really weird real story. Two stars. A smattering of nice gratuitous nudity. One star. Generally a fun experience. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The Black Holes:
Long, long movie. Towards the last 40 minutes you keep expecting this thing to end and it never does. Then, when you hit what is set up to be the ending it still doesn’t end. The last 20 minutes could have been covered with a 1 minute “Where are they now” montage ala Animal House. One black hole. The inappropriate comedic tone was distracting. One black hole. The repeated monolog with shifting voices was kind of annoying. One black hole. So were the continuous back story pieces. The really felt like extra padding. One black hole. By the end of the film two of the three characters had shifted from being cool to being cartoon characters (I believe this is the direct result of the movie dragging on too long. There is only so much of an outrageous character we can absorb before he starts becoming ridiculous). One black hole. Total: five black holes.
So a grand total of four stars. I can honestly say once I get past my Transformers fan boy-ism that this is probably the best Michael Bay film I have seen (Decepticon Logo from my retro TV Show t-shirts collection). While that may or may not be saying much I did enjoy this film. It’s worth seeing just for Dwayne and Mark, plus the fact that it’s based on a true story. Nothing on the screen would require a big theater so if you don’t want to go out wait for NetFlix. Date movie? Kind of. However if she is turned on by yoked out muscular guys and you aren’t one of those I would steer clear. Bathroom break? There are a number of scenes that are pretty redundant. Once it is established what they are trying to do most of the torture scenes could be missed. Also there is a bizarre scene towards the end where Danny is trying to establish himself in the local community by forming a neighborhood watch that is five minutes of your life wasted so I’d go then. With a movie this long you will probably need it.
Thanks for reading. I’m in LA (a mix of business and Warhammer) and will try to see something down there but won’t be able to write again until Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post here if you see this movie and have a comment. Off topic questions and suggestions can be sent to [email protected]. Talk to you soon.