FUCK (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

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Directed by: Steve Anderson

Starring: Steven Bochco, Pat Boone, Drew Carrey, Billy Connolly, Ron Jeremy, Bill Maher, Kevin Smith, Hunter S. Thompson & Alanis Morissette

A documentary centering around the most taboo word in the English language sounds interesting to say the least. There’s always a liberating power and automatic judgment that occurs when someone drops an F-bomb in public. I tend to not swear in my movie reviews, but I do cuss (F-bomb included) quite a lot in my day-to-day life. Swear words don’t bother me, because I just see them as words. Curse words are “sentence enhancers” as Patrick states in a SPONGEBOB episode and they’ve become so routine to myself (and most of the people I associate with) that I don’t put a ton of value into them. However, there are groups who are devastated when someone uses profanity around them, especially the F-word. This evolution of the F-bomb, its usage and cultural impact surrounding it are intensely analyzed in F**K. Some might argue these are a bit too analyzed to the point of becoming sort of repetitive by the time that the end credits roll.

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F**K examines the supposed origins of the F-word, including various theories about it originally standing for Fornication Under Consent of the King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. However, a piece involving the origins of what giving someone the middle finger actually signifies cracked me up. I now have a newfound respect for the bird. Hilarious bits include Billy Connolly addressing how the word is universal and Hunter S. Thompson being…well, Hunter S. Thompson. Also interesting are the first documented uses of the word in different mediums shown throughout (including a satirical poem from 1475, its overuse in HBO’s DEADWOOD, movies like MASH and SCARFACE, the controversial CATCHER IN THE RYE, and various stand-up comedians).

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There are also interesting debates included between those using the F-bomb on a regular basis and those deeply offended by it (a.k.a. the profaners and the prudes). Arguments of overstepping boundaries and tasteful limits in Freedom of Speech (e.g. a broken law at a national park) are examined as well. The main issue with F**K is that it seems unfocused. There’s this great idea about the history and evolution of a taboo swear word, but the movie tries to do everything with it and doesn’t quite know what to focus on more. There’s also a feeling by the end that the concept has almost worn out its welcome (with the F-bomb being dropped 857 times in the space of just over 90 minutes). Though it becomes repetitive about halfway through, this documentary is still entertaining for those who don’t mind profanity or use it on a daily basis.

Grade: B-

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Extreme Drug Use and related Bizarre Behavior, Strong Language, and brief Nudity

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Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Alex Cox & Tod Davies

(based on the novel FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz & Christopher Meloni

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS didn’t do well upon release (grossing little over half its budget back) and surprisingly garnered a large cult following shortly after. However, it shouldn’t surprise many that this film is highly divisive. Like another movie that came out in the same year and similarly went on to be a highly regarded cult classic THE BIG LEBOWSKI, FEAR AND LOATHING lacks a solid three act structure. It’s a plot that wanders aimlessly for two hours, but the joy of spending time with these wacky characters and the surreal atmosphere makes this an entertaining experience for anybody who doesn’t mind an unconventional plot that’s more of an excuse to show frantic goings-on.

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Raoul Duke (Depp) is a journalist with the hot assignment of following a Las Vegas desert race. His lawyer, known simply as Dr. Gonzo (Del Toro), advises on renting a fast car and bringing a limitless supply of extreme drugs and narcotics. The two wind go to Vegas and get high off their asses. They travel to different casinos/hotels/theaters, encounter various oddball people, and wind up in a couple of tense circumstances (wrecking more than one hotel room along their way). Like I stated before, FEAR AND LOATHING isn’t so much about an interesting story as it is about spending time with these two lunatics (mainly Raoul Duke, as his inner monologue lays each situation out for the viewer) and laughing your ass off at their antics. It will either work for you or it won’t. It charmed me into liking this bizarre film based on the drug-fueled ravings of an author who pretty much went through the exact same experiences that Duke goes through in Vegas. The old saying of “write what you know” is very apparent here.

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Terry Gilliam is known for his weird sensibilities and quirky style. With off-center camera angles, various special effects, and two highly capable actors in the center roles, Gilliam has brought to life a mere two-hour film that gives the viewer the exact impression of what it feels like to be on drugs. I felt like I was high without ever once having to drink, smoke, snort, or inject something potentially dangerous into my body. This film might be described as the safest drug experience you’ll ever have and it’s legal. Through the script (also co-written by Gilliam, among three others) and direction, Gilliam captures paranoia, hallucinations, danger, fantasies and pleasure that come through Raoul Duke’s illegal adventure. The excellent choice of songs are a nice touch too.

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The biggest issue that many people might find annoying and did decrease some of my enjoyment/interest in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS is the lack of a flowing plot. The many appearances by big name celebrities ebb and flow through comedic scenes, some of them work and others don’t. Tobey Maguire as a disheveled nervous hitchhiker, Cameron Diaz as a reporter in an elevator, Gary Busey as a Nevada desert cop, and Christina Ricci is an artist of Barbara Streisand paintings. These are among many faces that quickly pop in and leave the film just as fast as they appeared. The story may be frenetic and an excuse for a series of drug-fuelled experiences in a city full of gambling, shows, and all sorts of craziness. Depp’s ranting and raving narration puts the viewer squarely into his life, which makes everything as coherent as it can be given the circumstances that frequently venture into hallucinations and hazy memories. It’s still enjoyable for anyone who loves Johnny Depp, the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Terry Gilliam’s filmography, or all of the above.

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According to Terry Gilliam, Hunter S. Thompson was freaking out during his first viewing of FEAR AND LOATHING at a test screening. When asked about his vocal reactions and wild response to this adaptation of his work, Thompson related that it was like living the whole hellish experience all over again. With that seal of approval, you know that FEAR AND LOATHING greatly accomplishes what it set out to do. However, your enjoyment will purely depend on what that means to you. Frankly, I have never done drugs, drank or smoked and don’t plan on it because these things are simply not for me. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS is a wonderfully weird cinematic experience that puts you in the constant drug-addled mind of its main character. I can definitely understand the love for FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (like the love for the similarly wild BIG LEBOWSKI) and appreciate the cult following it has gained, but I only like the film. It’s one I will definitely watch again in the future, but I’ll have to be in the mood for it. FEAR AND LOATHING is the closest thing the world will get to a legal form of binging on ether, pills and other hallucinogenic drugs.

Grade: B

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