REVIEW: The Simpsons Movie

I don’t like the “The” before “Simpsons Movie” in the title. It feels like it’s trying invest the proceedings with a level of import or portent that it neither requires nor should even have in the first place… as though the film marks some kind of definative evolution of the franchise – “it’s not just ‘a’ Simpsons movie, it’s THE Simpsons movie!” And at this point, it wouldn’t only be a mistake to try and make “THE Simpsons movie,” it’d be a bad idea and probably impossible.

There’s not a tremendous amount of precedent for TV shows, especially animated TV shows, getting the feature-film treatment while the original show is still airing; but the ones that are remembered stand out for a reason. “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” to use the best example, came along at the initial zenith of the series’ introduction to the pop-culture mainstream and was able to act as a “coming out party” for the creators’ potential genius: “Oh my God… THIS is what these characters and their world are capable of being!!??”

What MUST be realized is that “The Simpsons,” 18 full seasons old and counting at the time of IT’S movie release, can’t and really oughtn’t be aiming for that level. Now the longest-running and possibly greatest sitcom ever created, “The Simpsons” has ALREADY stretched it’s wings and shown it’s full range of capabilities hundreds of times over – it has nothing to “prove.” Having gone from subversive to celebrated to INSTITUTION, Matt Groening’s yellow-skinned creations have already shown their chops for all manner of comedy, plus genuine drama and multiple levels of fantasy. Want to see the Simpson family head off on a flight of fancy? You get it once a year in the Halloween episodes. Looking for an epic citizens-of-Springfield ensemble yarn? Hello, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” In other words, don’t go looking for the movie to take “The Simpsons” to the next level… there IS no next level. “The Simpsons” already beat the game.

And so, the movie wisely heads in the opposite direction. You’ll find no huge make-or-break experiment or day-of-a-thousand-inside-jokes fan-wank here. Instead, what’s offered is a “typical” classic-formula “Simpsons” adventure, one that easily could’ve been an episode of the series (for fans: It has the overall air of a “Season 1” story with a “Seasons 3-5” aesthetic) but with a specific set of occurances JUST large-scale enough to require an extra hour of running time. In shorthand: Homer and his new pet pig innadvertently cause an evironmental disaster, (the effects of which ought to put a smile on longtime-fans faces) leading an overzealous EPA leader (Albert Brooks) to trap the residents of Springfield in a giant glass dome to “protect” the rest of the country. While Homer tries to escape his responsibility, the family finds themselves less inclined to continue supporting his cluelessness – and Bart has even started to envy the parenting of neighbor Ned Flanders. The animation is just a bit more detailed and sharper, the language is just a bit rougher, a few gags just a bit more risque, the dramatic stakes just a bit higher… but when all is said and done it’s unmistakably and unashamedly a Simpsons story.

Which makes it hard to review, when all is said and done, other than to say that it’s funny as hell and you should go see it. There’s really no way to discuss “how” it’s funny, and even quietly brilliant, without giving away the jokes. For what it’s worth, I AM glad to see how “retro” it is in it’s choice of show-eras to encapsulate – overlooking the “yeah, even WE know we’ve been on forever at this point” winking of the recent seasons in favor of the foundations: Springfield as an eco-catastrophe waiting to happen, Homer as a dolt, Bart as troublemaking brat, Lisa as brainy knowitall and Marge as the put-upon glue holding it all (barely) together. But fans of winks and nudges and in-jokes don’t worry, you’ve got plenty to look forward to as well: Including a tremendous bit of business with Martin Prince and one of the most instantly-quotable Ralph Wiggum lines of all time. And yes, the trailers are correct to dwell on it: “Spider-Pig” rules.

So, then, it’s funny as hell and you should go see it. Quickly, so that we can all get about the business of memorizing the gags and quoting them back and forth to one another. It is, after all, “The Simpsons.”

FINAL RATING: 9/10

"Cloverfield" has a poster

Hey, look! I’m blogging about “Cloverfield.” I feel so… “in.” 😉

Anyway…

The best movie poster of 2007 was/is the initial teaser poster for “D-War” (aka “Dragon Wars” now.) Now, while it doesn’t even have an official title yet (“Cloverfield” is a code-name) JJ Abrams mysterious “giant monster attacks Manhattan as seen by people with camcorders” movie already has the early lead as the best poster of 2008:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

First thought: Whoa.

Second, longer thought: Umm… wow. Does that shot sorta… I dunno, REMIND anyone of anything? Something like this, for example:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The similarity seems to either be intentional or at least unnavoidable. In fact, I can easily imagine some NYC theatre locations not wanting to put it up. Now, Michael Bay can get away with it when he claims that he doesn’t think of 911 when crafting city-destruction scenes because, well, Michael Bay was born without a human soul. But Abrams and company, being both human and extremely insightful about humanity, MUST have either intended the analogous gut-punch this poster provides or at least recognized it and decided it was appropriate. I’m now even more strongly thinking what I was only considering when the blurry “spy” shots of this first appeared: Is this the real key to what this mystery-movie actually is?

Any monster movie lover worth his salt will tell you that the original “Gojira,” (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters,”) the giant-monster-attacks-city movie by which all others MUST be judged, is in large part so effective because of it’s broader metaphoric meaning: It was a bombing-of-Hiroshima movie with a massive irradiated dinosaur standing in for the Enola Gay’s atomic payload. Japan made THE rampaging-behemoth movie because they were able to draw on the recent memory of what it was ACTUALLY LIKE to feel the ground shake and see buildings turned to ash by sudden, unnamable force.

The 1998 American remake failed in no small part, by contrast, because of how little weight and meaning it’s carnage had. Don’t believe me? Go back NOW and try not to cringe at how flippant it is in it’s playful trashing of the Big Apple (“Wheee! There goes the Met Life building!”) and then remember that, in 1998, WE (Americans) had no shared national experience to draw on when imagining a metropolis crumbling under what seems like the wrath of a god. But that was 1998, and as photo #2 should remind you: Now we do.

So, is THAT the idea here? If “Gojira” was Hiroshima with a monster standing in for The Bomb, is THIS going to be 9-11 with a monster standing in for Mohammed Atta? Given that camcorder and news footage is how the majority of the country “experienced” the WTC attack, and that that’s how we’ll “experience” the events of Abrams’ film, I’m definately intrigued.

Holy. Mother. Of. GOD: Part II

Some of you may recall THIS post… http://moviebob.blogspot.com/2007/06/holy-mother-of-god.html …wherein I offered my not-exactly-subdued enthusiastic optimism for the upcoming Korean monster movie “Dragon Wars,” which as near as can be determined is about a FUCKING ARMY OF DRAGONS, KNIGHT’S RIDING THERAPOD-LIKE DRAGONS, QUADRAPEDAL DINOSAUR-LIKE DRAGONS WITH FUCKING CANNONS MOUNTED ON THEIR BACKS AND SOME “GODZILLA”-SIZED COBRA MONSTER… ahem, sorry… waging war on some fuedal Korean village and then later waging more war on the city of Los Angeles whereupon the GIANT FUCKING COBRA MONSTER STRANGLES A SKYSCRAPER AND FUCKING DRAGONS HAVE FUCKING DOGFIGHTS WITH FUCKING APACHE ATTACK HELICOPTERS!!!!!

Who stars? What else is it about? Don’t know. Don’t care. See above. My ticket is bought, my DVD is bought, my Region Zero 3-Disc Korean Special Edition is bought, my Sideshow Collectibles Resin Statue of the big whatever-it-is coiling up the building is bought. In any case, the film (which will apparently screen at Comic-Con) now has a trailer for it’s September 14 U.S. release, which some nice fella was nice enough to put on youtube:

Bob. Want. Movie. NOW!!!

REVIEW: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

The advantage of mid-budget, studiously-mainstream comedies like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” is that they can be made with relative-quickness enough to be “of the moment.” It probably won’t even take a full decade for this age-of-gay-marriage-as-a-talking-point riff on the old “buddy comedy/false-identity scam” routine to feel as dated as it’s spiritual ancestor “The Gay Decievers,” but for now it’s a genuinely hysterical comedy mining the zeitgeist of the day for every just-uncomfortable-enough gag and well-intentioned message it can. It doesn’t quite unseat Frank Oz’s underappreciated “In & Out” as the Citizen Kane of “gay” movies aimed at a mostly-“straight” audience, but it’s heart is in the right place and it’s cheerfully comfortable with it’s own modest aspiration – namely to deliver unto, well.. Adam Sandler fans a genteel message of tolerance for gays (and maybe even gay marriage) while admitting and benefitting-from the fact that the gay/mainstream culture-clash and the “gay aesthetic” itself remain ripe comic targets in their own right.

Granted, the basic premise – two devoutly heterosexual men, one a widower and the other a self-styled lothario, pretend to be gay in order to collect Domestic Partner benefits – was innevitable the moment “gay marriage” became a national topic, and the film doesn’t really have much interest in straying from what you imagine the basic outline to be. But then, given the subject matter at play, that was probably the smart move: When an unfortunately-sizable portion of the population is primed to be enraged at the very IDEA, familiarity and safety are the way to go with the execution.

Thus, you won’t be too surprised to learn that our heroes are a pair of regular joe Brooklyn firefighters, nor that they’re squad is populated by a colorful collection of wacky sidekicks primarily played by Sandler’s Happy Madison regulars. You will also be correct in assuming that Larry (Kevin James) is the more grown-up “serious” of the pair, while Chuck (Adam Sandler) is a devil-may-care wiseacre with a sex-drive roughly equivalent to “Family Guy’s” Glen Quagmire. You’d also be correct in assuming that the main antagonist, a city insurance auditor determined to sniff out the fraud (Steve Buscemi, who incidentally actually was a firefighter in New York at one point) is a snively beaurocrat and that the lawyer assigned to defend their case is a hottie (Jessica Beil) with whom Chuck is immediately smitten. You’ll probably also prefigure gags, twists and reveals involving Larry’s “disturbingly” effeminate son, a surly new fireman (an intimidating Ving Rhames) and Beil’s flamboyant brother (Nick Swarsdon) and the unfortunate under-use of Dan Akroyd as the Fire Chief.

All said, it’s kind of dissapointing that James, a hugely talented comedian who previously stole “Hitch” right out from under Will Smith and who really can’t be blamed for how bad “King of Queens” usually is, is here mainly playing the “straight man” with the weightier dead-wife backstory and young-kids responsibility angle while Sandler get’s to cut loose as the “fun” one. On the up side, this arrangment has it’s benefits: James get to show some subtle dramatic chops as he comes to terms with his wife’s passing, while Sandler’s Chuck is freed by James-as-Chuck’s “handling” of the nice-guy chores from the super-nice/super-naughty schizophrenia that afflicts too many of his past characters. Chuck is a “Moe” cut loose from the obligation to also be Larry and Curly, and it’s fun to see Sandler actually play a charming but also frequently-crude jerk who’s not (as) constantly stopping to remind us he’s actually a swell guy (it also makes it easier to forgive Sandler for having the “so whats” to produce himself into a movie where he’s having group-sex with “Hooters Girls.”)

What it comes down is that “Chuck & Larry” isn’t really inventive enough to be a great movie, but it’s polished enough to be a good one and it’s DEFINATELY a funny one. It covers the bases of it’s “hot” topic broadly enough that, if it becomes a hit, it’s going to be something you’ll eventually feel obliged to see to join the conversation. Good news: You’ll probably like it, to boot.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

Mario & Sonic E3 Trailer

People who say that the Wii doesn’t have enough coming out to appeal to “Hardcore” gamers… I don’t get `em. Textbook example: I’ve been waiting for THIS GAME for SIXTEEN YEARS. And I know I’m not the only one. If THAT’S not “hardcore,” I dunno what is.

In any case, this is it: The official E3 trailer for “Mario & Sonic at The Olympic Games,” in which the longest-running and onetime most-heated character rivalry in video game history finally comes to a head in an actual game. My inner-child (is that even still a term of use in psychiatry?) is still pretty mopey from “Transformers,” but THIS did an awful lot to cheer him up. And, hell, adult-me will have to admit as well: When I saw the shot of the two sets of shoes walking into the auditorium, the hair honestly stood up on the back of my neck.



Words fail me. Well done, Nintendo/Sega… now, REALLY thrill me by secretly dropping Sonic into Smash Bros.

Mitt Romney’s anti-freedom campaign ad

Mitt Romney is running for President. Putting aside any personal politics for a moment, think about what it means to run for President right now. Regardless of who you are or what party you represent, if elected you’ll be facing an ongoing (or, hopefully, recently-concluded) unpopular and disasterous war, looming nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, a rising China, an ongoing war with Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists and the very real possibility that the planet might be COOKING US TO DEATH. These are huge questions of immediate and vital importance, so when campaigning it’s equally vital that YOU tell the American voters what issues are most important to you.

With that in mind, I give you the Romney campaign’s latest TV commercial, as posted on the Romney camp’s official YouTube page:

Yes, folks. In the face of war, climate-change, terrorism and worldwide instability, Mitt Romney wants YOU the voter to know that he’s all tore up over… um… violent video games and internet pornography. Way to prioritize, Mitt. He goes on to wonder-aloud about how “we” can clean the culture up – the obvious implication: Make me president and I’ll try to make the objectionable stuff go away. He even goes so far as to echo Peggy “What’s My Relevancy Again?” Noonan’s opinion that this “culture” was the cause of – wait for it – The Columbine Massacre.

Now, let’s just be clear here: My problem isn’t if Romney actually believes that the existance of Grand Theft Auto and MrSkin causes schoolchildren to become mass-murderers. It’s his RIGHT to believe that if he wishes – it makes him an IDIOT, yes, but it’s still his right. No, the problem is the unmistakable implication that Romney ALSO believes it’d be his job as president to forcibly remove such “toxins” from the culture. THAT I have a problem with. This is the United States of America, a Constitutional Republic. As such, the government is to have no influence or interferance with the content of the press, art, TV, movies, etc. In a free, capitalist-oriented society, such things are the realm of the private sector and the citizenry. Period. A system where the government would be “cleaning” the culture of objectionable material would be fascism. Or Socialism. Either one works, in this case.


Here’s the thing: Romney is running as a Republican and calls himself a “Conservative.” But look at the ad, and what it suggests. He essentially advocates a government deciding what content is “good for the culture.” That’s not any kind of Republic I’ve ever heard of. The word “conservative,” as applied to politics, has only ever ACTUALLY meant one thing: limited government. In what Bizarro World does increasing the role of government in private citizen’s decisionmaking LIMIT it? If this silliness was coming from, say, Hillary Clinton (spoiler warning: It will be soon enough) it’d at least be consistent: Mrs. Clinton, a liberal, is SUPPOSED to support increased government. Ayn Rand and George Orwell would BALK at this kind of Nanny State nonsense coming from a “conservative” politician. But Rand and Orwell were of a time when politicians still respected the English language and politics was still the realm of intellect and reason, and that’s no longer the case. Politics is now about whipping up “the base,” and “conservative” politics especially. is all about genuflecting in the direction of paranoid, backward-looking religious/superstitious regressives who actually DO believe that GTA will turn their lil’ darlings into murderers.


Credit where it’s due: Jason Apuzzo, the high muckety-muck at the right-wing “Libertas” blog, had this to say about the ad: Why does the odor of McCarthyism still cling to conservatives? Precisely because of rhetoric like Romney’s.” http://www.libertyfilmfestival.com/libertas/?p=5891

In any case, ads like this are designed to influence voters, and in my case I can safely say it has made up my mind about Romney for me: I won’t vote for him. If he is the nominee for president, I will vote for the Democrat. If the Democrat is Mrs. Clinton, I will vote for a third party. Period.


P.S. Settle down. No, I don’t have anything against Mormons. Just this one.

Called it!

Sadly, given my luck THIS will be my one “Harry Potter” prediction that comes true…

Reviewing “Harry Potter & The Order of The Pheonix” yesterday, I wondered aloud about the likelihood that the same “conservative” film critics who tried to claim “300” and “Transformers” as “part of the family” would make a similarly silly jump in the the direction of Hogwarts based on the film’s “Harry forms paramilitary squad” storyline. As it turns out, said jump-of-silliness was taken today by one “Dirty Harry,” resident-reviewer over at the pachyderm-enthusiast Liberty Film Festival “Libertas” blog, (whom I will say for the record, though I find his premise in this case to be kind of a reach, is a generally fine critic in his own right and author of an immensly readable how-to film production series at the same blog,) in his review of the film: http://www.libertyfilmfestival.com/libertas/?p=5846#comments

Money-quote from the review: “The bottom line is that Harry’s readying his troops for war here. The word “war” is even used. They’re going to fight evil even if the Democ– er… Ministry of Magic won’t.”

Bee Mario Revealed!

You’ll find few bigger “Super Mario Bros.” fans than me, but even I’ve got my likes and dislikes. And one the big DISLIKES about the franchise lately (at least since the N64 days) has been the lessening of Mario’s once ever-expanding “power-ups.” Yes, I’m firmly in the “Super Mario Bros. 3′ was the BEST entry in the series” camp, and all the fun costumes and extra powers are a big part of it. Face it: Mario has never had a cooler weapon in his arsenal than the mighty Tanooki Suit.

Well, my Nintendo related dreams have a habit of coming true lately thanks to the Wii: Nintendo back on top of the gaming industry? Check. Playing original-style NES/SNES and Genesis (which I never got to own for real back in the day) games on one machine? Check. An actual-for-real Mario versus Sonic the Hedgehog game? Check. And now Miyamoto-san and company have gone and given us the return of the power-up costume in the form of “Super Mario Galaxy’s” E3-revealed “Bee Mario!” (pictured below with a series of it’s fellow Mario suits, for nostalgia’s sake.)

Pictured (counter-clockwise): Bee Mario, Fire Mario, Hammer Mario, Frog Mario, Dr. Mario, Tanooki Suit Mario, regular Mario