Balls of meat, milkshakes and French fries. Oh, my!
by LaRue Cook
If you're a complete novice to the Adult Swim programming block on the Cartoon Network and its most popular show Aqua Teen Hunger Force , then any non-drug-induced effort to get some sort of coherent satisfaction out of the film adaptation will likely prove unfruitful.
You may have heard about Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters by way of the Boston bomb scare back in January. Co-creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis went on a guerilla marketing campaign to promote the movie, displaying devices depicting villains that often appear in their cartoon called the Mooninites. The Mooninites are reminiscent of the ghosts from the old Pac-Man arcade game, and Boston authorities mistook them for bombs and shut down the city. Turner Broadcasting has shelled out about $2 million to keep the case out of court, and surprisingly enough they'll probably make their money back from the sheer number of stoned cult-followers that will flock to theaters to see Meatwad, Frylock and Master Shake on the big screen.
The three main characters are anthropomorphic fast food items that exist in non-sequitur plot lines. They play sadistic pranks and partake in gross-out humor with their New Jersey neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski. Meatwad is a childish, endearing ball of meat that rolls around aimlessly, feeling the brunt of sarcasm and practical jokes dolled out by Master Shake, who can shoot pistachio milkshake out of his straw. Frylock, a giant floating box of French fries, is the most intellectual of the trio and acts as a father figure for the group, usually attempting to provide sanity and morality to an otherwise hopeless bunch of misfits.
Their name is actually a misnomer since they have nothing to do with water and they have no definitive age. The show began with the premise that they would be a crime-fighting team, but that was shelved in favor of disconnected misadventures that don't save much of anyone and usually wind up getting at least one character in the show killed.
It's with this in mind that the film begins with a spoof on the 1950s short Let's All Go to the Lobby, which also used food for its characters. The good natured concession-stand food is overcome, however, by an amalgam of new-age food items played by the heavy metal group Mastodon in one of the most hilarious and inherently wrong film intros of the year.
During the opening scene, we find ATHF high atop the pyramids of Egypt. Then we're swept away in an off-road jeep toting a dead Frylock. Master Shake and Meatwad unwittingly run across a caricature of Abe Lincoln, who can transport them through time to resuscitate Frylock but instead stop to play a video game that pits Union soldiers against Confederate soldiers in a duel to save/abolish slavery.
In a matter of minutes, this all adds up to nothing. The plot centers on ATHF's quest to save Jersey from the â“Insane-O-Flex,â” which is a piece of exercise equipment that could possibly destroy the world. Subplots include the true origin of Frylock, Meatwad, and Master Shake and there are guest appearances by the Plutonians, the Mooninites, the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From the Future and rock drummer Neil Peart as himself.
On the Cartoon Network, ATHF rarely exceeds a run-time of 12 minutes, though the film attempts to maintain this surrealistic pace for 87. It's obviously not a chore for Maiellaro and Willis, who voice some of the characters, to think up outrageous gags. Carl becomes captive of the â“Insane-O-Flexâ” and is bulging with muscles after the machine straps him to one of its legs and continuously forces him to work out to an annoying dance beat. Oglethorpe, who is one of the Plutonians and speaks in a Schwarzenegger-esque accent, realizes he likes to make out with the Cybernetic Ghost, only when the Ghost isn't humping everything within range. And Frylock is unveiled as a lesbian woman trapped in a man's body with a VCR behind the magical blue diamond in his back.
There is the occasional laugh-out-loud scene, or one-liner worth a chuckle. But will this be a crossover film, one that is recited and accepted on a universal level consistent with cult hits like Napoleon Dynamite ? Probably not.
Still, Premiere critic Glenn Kenny went so far as to call it â“the most successful full-on surrealist film since Bunuel and Dali's L'Age d'Or .â” Un chien andalou ( An Andalusian Dog ) Kenny does have a point; ATHF Colon Movie Film for Theaters is one of the most intriguing takes on veristic surrealismâ"save the need for highbrow interpretationâ"in the last half-century.
But if all you possess is a deep appreciation for the work of Thomas Kinkade, then it would be senseless to waste money on a painting by Rene Magritte or Marcel Duchamp. To state more clearly: Don't go see this if you're not high.
Movie Guru Rating:
The Shepherd and the Don
By Mike Gibson
Arguably one of the most underappreciated films of 2006, The Good Shepherd is a riveting epic that led more than one critic to invoke the name of The Godfather by way of comparison. The analogy is an apt one, and not just because The Good Shepherd was directed by Robert De Niro, the man who won a Best Supporting Actor in 1974 ( Godfather II ) for his indelible rendering of a young Don Corleone.
Shepherd presents a fictionalized version of the rise of the Central Intelligence Agency at the end of World War II and the early years of the Cold War. Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is its Michael Corleone, the son of a late U.S. intelligence officer who seeks to forge his own legacy of service when he joins the OSS upon graduating college at the outset of WWII.
Depicting the evolution of modern-day counterintelligence through the eyes of a handful of key players, The Good Shepherd revels in the same sort of familial intrigues and political machinations that made Godfather so compelling. There's less pageantry, perhapsâ"spooks are a furtive, even diffident lot, much less given to ostentation than gangstersâ"but there's also more suspense. After all, it's hard to keep friends close and enemies closer when you can scarcely tell them apart.
Damon is masterful in his depiction of a man so given over to self-restraint that he seems ever on the verge of being consumed by a lifetime of suppressed emotion; Damon's jawline is implacable, but his eyes speak volumes. He's joined by a stellar supporting cast that includes, among many others, Angelina Jolie as his long-suffering wife; Alec Baldwin as a wily FBI veteran; and De Niro himself as a high-ranking military intelligence official.
But it is Edward who, like Michael C. before him, stands as the central, tragic figure at the heart of this parable of lies and secrets. He, too, is a man driven to escape his father's shadowâ"albeit for very different reasons than Michaelâ"driven so hard and so far that his very soul is placed at hazard.
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