THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: NC-17 for some Graphic Sexual Content

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Directed by: Kirby Dick

Written by: Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt & Matt Patterson

Starring: Kirby Dick, Becky Altringer, Darren Aronofsky, Jamie Babbit, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan, Mary Harron, Wayne Kramer, Kimberly Peirce, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Michael Tucker & John Waters

My hatred for the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) burns with the white-hot rage of a thousand suns and I respect nearly everyone who stands up to them. You may know of the group as they are responsible for dictating which films are appropriate for what age group through a backwards system. In 2005, documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick put together a highly ambitious project that would shed light on the reclusive movie ratings board. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED thoroughly examines the organization that determines which movies are G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 and points out the hypocrisy in this deeply flawed system.

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Fed up with the silly actions and illogical secretive nature of the MPAA, filmmaker Kirby Dick recruits a private investigator to find out the identities of the ratings board members. While Kirby’s investigation intensifies, we are shown interviews from various filmmakers, critics, and former MPAA raters about the double-standard of sex being more taboo than bloody violence. There’s also a special examination spent on the dreaded NC-17 rating (formerly X) that prevents a film from going into nationwide theatrical release at any of the mainstream theaters. A special focus is on specific directors speaking up about their experiences with receiving an NC-17 and going through complex appeals process.

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The way in which Kirby Dick goes about proving valid points against the MPAA are extreme to say the least. He straight-up hires a private eye complete with hidden cameras and stake-outs. Though it’s very entertaining to watch, one could argue that the ethics behind this approach are a bit questionable. I do agree that names of the MPAA board members need to be made public, but could draw the line at flaunting their personal information (revealing the ages of the children and digging through their trash). At times, it seems like Kirby is going too far. I know that some may disagree, but he could have condensed this information down into a small piece near the conclusion.

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As far as Kirby does go, the big complaint I have regarding THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is that it offers brief throwaway glimpses of other problems with the MPAA (including ridiculously strict piracy laws and possible propaganda). These are coincidentally both brought to light to in two separate clips of one interview with a guy who seems to be straying off topic onto completely different things. Either Kirby might have devoted a more time to these topics or he could have cut these pieces out entirely because they seem out-of-place.

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Interviews with filmmakers and former MPAA board members more than make up for this documentary’s faults. These snippets are far more revealing and interesting than anything that Kirby or the private investigators offer. Most hilarious are Matt Stone’s experiences about the puppet sex scene in TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and John Water’s possible reasons for A DIRTY SHAME receiving an NC-17. Filmmakers shed light on the MPAA’s prejudice towards pubic hair, gay sex, or a film’s overall tone being “too extreme” for an R rating, but other potentially harmful stuff skates by with a PG-13.

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There are annoyances in Kirby Dick and the private investigators going too far and unrelated interview clips, but this is a very well-executed and important documentary nonetheless. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is highly recommended for those who want to know more about the mysterious all-powerful MPAA and essential viewing for those who blindly judge movies simply by their ratings. I know some people who don’t bother watching an R-rated movie (let alone one with an NC-17) based completely on the MPAA’s decision to dictate what’s appropriate for certain ages. If you want to be informed about double-standards of a broken system that’s not likely to change any time soon, then this is a must-see. In spite of a few faults, THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is one of the most important documentaries about filmmaking ever made.

Grade: A-

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Crude and Sexual Humor, Violent Images and Strong Language -all involving Puppets

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Directed by: Trey Parker

Written by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone & Pam Brady

Voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris & Phil Hendrie

With the recent fiasco over THE INTERVIEW, it seems appropriate to review the most crude, darkly hilarious and brilliant example of freedom of speech ever constructed in the Hollywood system. In 2004, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of SOUTH PARK) delivered the most outlandish comedy that was ever graced with a glorious nationwide theatrical release. Though it’s not a conventional masterpiece or classic, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE delivers on the levels of offensive humor and absurdity that anyone familiar with this comedic duo should come to expect. TEAM AMERICA ridicules everyone (regardless of nationality or political beliefs) as well as riffing on Michael Bay blockbusters at the same time. It’s ludicrous and ludicrously entertaining!

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Gary Johnston is a simple, naïve Broadway actor. After his latest performance of LEASE: THE MUSICAL, Gary is recruited by the underground police force known as Team America. This group is dedicated to taking out all terrorist groups across the globe, but has caused a stir among outspoken celebrities (particularly, the Film Actors Gild a.k.a. F.A.G.) and the general public. However, Team America is needed now more than ever as Kim Jong-Il is springing forth a master plan that could mean the end of the world. It’s up to Gary and the other Team America members to stop to Kim’s plan, but can they work as a team long enough to do so?

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There are obvious shots taken at various nationalities and political views, but TEAM AMERICA simultaneously mocks big budget action films by including such self-aware clichés as montages, characters who are only identifiable by their jobs, and explosions galore. The animation (puppets in hand-crafted environments) is legitimately great. Parker and Stone were apparently sticklers for every detail looking as realistic as it possibly could. I’m sure this was a pain in the ass during the filming process, but the results are fantastic. Big laughs come in apparent restrictions of using puppets for certain scenes. There are hand-to-hand combat moments and a quick dance scene, but the unforgettable piece is in an exaggerated sex scene that has now become infamous. Pushing the boundaries (apparently, the film received an NC-17 multiple times before being edited to an R) in this raunchy joke results in a sequence that has to be seen to be believed and will haunt your mind with puppets simulating various sex positions for the rest of your life.

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Though the Team America members are entertaining in their individual ways, the villains are where this movie broke me into laughing so hard that I was crying. Opening with an introductory action scene that features the most stereotypical middle-eastern terrorists imaginable (complete with obvious villain music), these bearded maniacs from Derkaderkastan only speak a handful of words (Derkaderka, Muhammad, jihad, and Allah) that are combined in various ways for their conversations. That cracks me up. It’s childish, but I laughed loudly during those scenes. Then there’s the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), which is pretty much just an excuse for Matt and Trey to make fun of outspoken celebrity types (including Sean Penn, who wrote them an angry letter about his inclusion in the film). Finally, there’s Kim Jong-Il, who’s fuelled by a little-man complex and speaks Engrish. The script seems to give him as many words with the letter L as possible so he can mispronounce them. All of these are juvenile jokes, but it works masterfully well in the context of the movie.

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The film may have a steady fire of witty dialogue, offensive jabs at just about everyone, over-the-top violence, and ridiculously graphic sex jokes, but the finale is where TEAM AMERICA really excels. While Matt Stone and Trey Parker are hilarious guys and construct the best satire around, they sometimes have a problem in sticking the landing. This was probably most apparent in the conclusion of SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT where it almost felt like they ran dry of creative ideas and took an easy way out. That’s not at all the case in TEAM AMERICA as the final third is gloriously hilarious and insane. The entire movie is crude, rude and lewd, but it’s unabashedly so and made specifically for the crowd that loves Parker and Stone’s nasty (almost always on point) sense of humor.

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TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE is one of the best comedies to come out of the new millennium. I’m going that far in my praise of this film. It’s absolutely ridiculous and revels in it. The animation is great on its own merits, but made even better with the use of violence, gore (the last act really does get crazy in that department) and sex (in a scene you’re not likely to ever forget). TEAM AMERICA is so hilarious that you might have to fight away tears from laughing too hard or pause the movie to catch your breath. It’s not considered a masterpiece of cinema or a fantastic work of art, but this film is a classic in its own sense. America, fuck yeah!

Grade: A+

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (1999)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Vulgar Language and Crude Sexual Humor, and for some Violent Images

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Directed by: Trey Parker

Written by: Tray Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady

Voices of: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, George Clooney, Dave Foley, Eric Idle, Mike Judge

A common problem with turning a TV series into a movie is that the film version might wind up feeling like an extended episode of the show. Trey Parker and Matt Stone definitely have a knack for comedy. Their long-running animated comedy series SOUTH PARK has only grown in quality over the years. Each season comes funnier than the last. SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT was released midway through the third season of the popular animated satire. As a result, it feels as if Parker and Stone are trying too hard to push boundaries in their early years and only care about throwing as many outrageous things on the screen for the sake of being offensive. There’s social commentary in BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT that holds plenty of relevance to this day, but some of it gets bogged down in this feeling like an elongated episode of the series.

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It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in the quiet little mountain town of South Park. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny are heading to the movie theater for the brand new Terrance & Phillip film. This popular flick is a heavily profane R-rated comedy from two Canadian actors and the boys are denied tickets due to the Restricted MPAA rating. They sneak in any way. Three hours later, they walk out with a whole new vocabulary of curse words and creative combinations of swearing. As any kid in this situation would, they unleash these newly learned phrases on their fellow peers. Soon every child across the country has seen the R-rated comedy that was never intended for children to begin with. The outraged adults look to blame anyone but themselves for their children’s misbehavior and Canada becomes their target. A war is brewing between the USA and Canada, all while the possibility of Hell literally rising on Earth is growing. It’s up to the band of potty-mouthed friends to save the day.

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One thing I’ve noticed about Parker and Stone’s humor is that it’s fantastic in small doses. Don’t get me wrong. I can and have watched episodes of SOUTH PARK for hours on end. Everything from the fifth season forward has been comedy gold. However, if too much time is spent on certain storylines, then the jokes wind up becoming tiresome and overstaying their welcome. A good example of this in the series is the three-episode story-arcs that come every few seasons. There are brilliant moments in each, but overall I kind of wish that these storylines would conclude faster than they do. This all being said, SOUTH PARK is a series loaded with crude humor and social commentary. There are points being made behind all the stupidity. In BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT, Parker and Stone tackle the hypocrisy of the MPAA Ratings board (apparently, this film had a long-running battle with the organization and received its final R rating only two weeks before the release) and freedom of speech. The jabs at the hypocritical organization and people looking for an easy scapegoat are more than a little well-deserved.

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The jokes range from hilarious to a little lame. The latter being shown in a homosexual relationship between Satan and Saddam Hussein. It’s supposed to be dumb, but I didn’t find it very funny. It was overplayed and the running gag just felt stupid. The biggest laughs come in the promising first third through some clever bits of dialogue and insults. You can almost feel the point where the movie begins to run out of steam and get dragged down from great to the level of alright. It’s not nearly as solid as you might expect walking into a SOUTH PARK movie. The same thing being said about jokes can also be said for the musical numbers. The series has quite a few songs, so does this movie. Some of these musical numbers come off as either trying too hard or not being that funny to begin with. The best songs also come in the first third of the film. BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT starts off really strong and concludes in a thoroughly mediocre way.

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I did enjoy the no-holds-barred approach being taken and the extreme lengths that some jokes would go to for a laugh. The war on Canada segments have deliberate echoes of wars past (including shipping off Canadian-born US citizens to death camps…I mean, happy camps). A few short-lived celebrity cameo voices are thrown in for good measure too (George Clooney appears for a few minutes as a doctor treating Kenny). Trey Parker and Matt Stone never seem afraid of pushing boundaries and taking risks. That’s exactly what they do every step of the way in BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT. Some of them pay off and others don’t.

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SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT is essentially just one long episode of the series. This idea may entertain some, but when I watch a movie based on a TV series, I expect a storyline slightly grander than what you might see on the small screen at home (e.g. THE SIMPSONS MOVIE). Rest assured, SOUTH PARK makes every possible use of its R rating from an absurd amount of profanity to graphic nudity and disgusting sexual innuendos. The plot needs some work though, especially with the lackluster final act. Parker and Stone have drastically improved their animated series since it’s inception over a decade ago, all while nailing satire in far more interesting ways (e.g. THE BOOK OF MORMON musical and TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE). SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT is a strictly fans only affair. Even then, some fans might just want to stick to watching half-hour episodes on TV.

Grade: C+

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