On Thursday, November 11, at 7 p.m., filmmaker Michel Gondry will sign copies of his new book and short film project, My New New York Diary, a collaboration with cartoonist Julie Doucet, at the Family Bookstore in Los Angeles. Presumably he will not be appearing in paper-mache costume. For more information, click here.
One of the most incisive and telling jokes in the misunderstood, under-appreciated, highbrow-masquerading-as-lowbrow Idiocracy, from writer-director Mike Judge, is that in a dumbed-down dystopian future the reigning Best Picture Oscar winner is called Ass: The Movie, with all the attendant creativity that title suggests. Which brings us to Fart: The Movie, a flick apparently from 1991 but only now receiving its DVD debut.
Not to be confused with this Fart: The Movie (sigh…), a newer flick from the year 2000 costarring two of Chris Farley’s brothers, Fart (or F.A.R.T., as it’s being billed in some circles, despite its cover art to the contrary) centers on Russell (Joel Weiss), who has but two passions in life: passing gas and watching television. His girlfriend Heather (Shannandoah Sorin) hates his flatulence, but still kind of tolerates him. When Russell falls asleep in front of the TV one night, he dreams a little dream in which all the programming seems to be fart-centric, from infomercials and newscasts to scripted dramas and comedies.
Interestingly, Fart: The Movie is actually co-written by film critic and entertainment journalist Drew McWeeny, of Ain’t It Cool News and now Hitfix, though to be fair it’s hard to cast blame with much of a high-and-hard fastball, since there are eight credited screenwriters, including director Ray Etheridge. (A much better snapshot representation of McWeeny’s work and talents is available here, in the form of his “Masters of Horror” entry Pro-Life, directed by John Carpenter.) The set-up, of course, allows for an endless, sketch-style cycling of flatulence humor, loosely in the vein of something like The Kentucky Fried Movie. Absolutely terrible production value hampers this effort from the start, however, and the jokes are largely stale and predictable as well, never really trying to mine any deeper sense of discomfort about something so, well, universal. Even adolescent boys — the target demographic for this, one presumes — won’t be guffawing much, given the lack of imagination in set-ups and what not.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Fart: The Movie is not presented in smell-o-vision, thankfully, but instead in a fairly (appropriately?) cruddy 1.33:1 full frame transfer, alongside a PCM 1.0 mono audio track. DVD bonus features include only a handful of trailers. If you really must give this a spin, I suppose search on Amazon, or click here to purchase via Half. It will quickly, however, end up back in your unwanted garage sale box of Don “The Dragon” Wilson DVDs and old Doctor Who VHS cassettes, I can assure you. F (Movie) D- (Disc)
A somewhat buzzy entry at both the South By Southwest and Los Angeles Film Festivals earlier this year, writer-director Gareth Edwards’ spare, guerrilla-style Monsters tries to put a low-fi spin on the science-fiction genre, giving an intimate, ground-account view of a much bigger event, not unlike Cloverfield, Right at Your Door or The Crazies. Despite some engaging production design and budget-level effects work, though, the film bogs down at the midway point due to an inane script, and never really recovers.
Monsters unfolds in a near-future or alternate present day state of distress. It centers on a jaded photojournalist, Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), who finds himself tasked with locating his corporate boss’ daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able, above), and escorting her to safety, along the edge of a perilous border region infected with extraterrestrial creatures.
In certain ways, the movie feels like a little brother or youngercousin of Neill Blomkamp’s much more organized and disciplined (and, tobe fair, bigger budgeted) District 9, where crash-landed alien creatures are confined to a cordoned off sector while the world around them goes on doing its thing. The backstory here, though (a space probe launched a half dozen years earlier to collect extraterrestrial samples crashed uponre-entry over Central America, spawning aggressive new life forms), is neither particularly clearly delineated or compellingly interwoven into the narrative. So we’ve got a wasteland road trip with a pair of mismatched non-lovers and some Moonlighting-lite bickering. Does that hold up for an hour and a half? No, not really.
The behind-the-scenes story earns the movie a hearty dose of respect and admiration. Shot with just a five person crew and a cast of essentially two, Edwards and his creative team traveled through Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, finding andutilizing their locations and supporting actors as they went. The result is loose-limbed, and unfolds against a backdrop that isn’t overly processed.
Edwards’ technical proficiencies are obvious and quite real (in addition to writing and directing, he also takes cinematographer, production designer and visual effects supervisor credits), but do not extend to the written realm, alas. There is quite obviously a sociopolitical undercurrent to the movie (the entirety of Mexico is deemed a quarantined infected zone), but Edwards only engages fitfully on this front, and when he does, it’s often in clumsy metaphor, as with the alien creatures who display more aggression whenever American warplanes pass by overhead. (Get it?) It’s clear that he wants Monsters to mean something in addition to entertaining an audience, but it’s just as clear (if the perfectly generic, rather ill-fitting title wasn’t already an indicator) that he hasn’t figured out what exactly it’s supposed to mean.
Nevermind, too, some howlingly bad dialogue and wrongheaded vocalizations (upon stumbling across a candle-laden church with commemorations to the dead, a character actually solemnly utters, “The vibe just changed”), as well as myriad other narrative details that don’t add up — the fact that Andrew is laboring for a compelling still photo of these supposedly elusive beasties, for instance, even though cable television runs wall-to-wall images of them. Edwards has the nuts-and-bolts talents of a filmmaker, but Monster seems, on whole and in piecemeal fashion, a sop to audiences, a work of commercial pandering in lieu of any actual burning passion.
Apart from its impressive production design (forlorn and of a piece) and a rather relaxed pacing that isn’t interested in attempting to make a play for breakneck scares, the strongest thing going for Monsters is Able’s performance. With her short bob haircut and conflicted awareness of her own entitlement, she takes her unhappily engaged rich girl character and breathes into her a three-dimensionality and life not present in the written word. McNairy, on the other hand, never seems particularly believable as a photographer (a maladjusted indie band drummer is more like it), and so his arc, and indeed presence, induce at first sighs, then irritation, then hostility. In a movie called Monsters, someone should get eaten. It’s a shame that it’s not him, leaving more one-on-one time with the very able Able. (Magnet, R, 93 minutes)