The Simpsons Movie

Now the longest-running TV show in history is the funniest movie of the year…That’s right, our friends Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Flanders, Barney, Moe, Itchy, Scratchy, Lovejoy, Apu, Wiggum, Ralph, Skinner, and Dr. Nick plus Green Day, Albert Brooks, Minnie Driver, and a special guest appearance by Tom Hanks. Call it an ensemble cast, and a fine one at that.

The Simpsons is up with I Love Lucy and Seinfield as the greatest American TV shows ever. I mean, this show has been running for 18 years, with 400+ episodes and countless bootleg Bart Simpson T-shirts and has really became part of American culture. And with that, this is probably the most anticipated movie of the summer, for most TV watchers. Considering the relative disappointment of The Spongebob Movie, a lot of people (including myself) were very skeptical as the trailers debuted.

I assure even the most hardened and skeptical moviegoers that they will have the most fun at the theaters than any other movie this year at The Simpsons Movie. This is so gut-bustlingly, and consistenly funny that I swear I need a surgery on my gut. The humor ranges from the most obvious to the most cynical, political gags in recent memory. A guest appearance from the popular rock band Green Day is one of the highlights of the film, despite being killed by an angry mob two minutes into their performance. (A reference to Titanic follows).

Here’s the plot. Homer adopts a new pet pig, who he names Harry Plopper. Marge is nervous about the pig, especially concerning its droppings. And seeing as their town Springfield is the most polluted town in America, the corrupt government (headed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sees fit to put an unbreakable dome over the town, thus sealing them in. Things get much worse when Homer drops the pig’s poop in the lake. Now, the water is completely contaminated, and an angry mob goes after the Simpsons. After a bizarre escape from the dome, Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie go on the run. But after the government decides to blow Springfield away, the Simpsons must unite to save the town that tried to kill them. And along the way, discover the importance of family.

Oh, and Bart skateboards around Springfield naked, and discovers the wonders of whiskey.
And Lisa gets a boyfriend, Colin.
And baby Maggie knocks out a politician.
And Dr. Nick gets blown up. (Oops.)
Sound entertaining? Boy, get down to the theater and BUY THAT TICKET! A-

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Evan Almighty

The amazing thing about Evan Almighty is not the special effects, nor the comic talent of Steve Carell, but how $175 million bucks was squandered on a movie so unfunny. To see that the most expensive comedy of all time barely has a laugh to show for it. No, because every half-laugh that there is in the film is in the trailer. It feels like they spent all that money to make a comedy whose laughs were compressed into a 3-minute advertisement.

Actually, it feels more like a Sunday school lesson instead of a comedy. Whereas it’s predecessor, Bruce Almighty, balanced the morale AND the laughs, (while keeping it under a steady budget), this is the absolute opposite. The morale is bloated at the expense of the laughs, and all they did was spend money, money, money.

Congressman Evan Baxter is successful, has a great family and a huge house. But God soon shows up, telling Evan to build an ark an load animals and people on it, as a huge flood will soon occur. Now, God makes Evan’s hair grow rapidly and demands he wear a ragged, torn robe. Ha ha, we get it, he looks like Noah, and despite the best scene in the movie comes of this, the joke is vastly overused and, evidently enough, gets old.

Steve Carell was on a real hot streak, with Little Miss Sunshine and Over the Hedge. And his performance is much, much better than the script, but still falls slave to it. The movie tries to be too much, but really, falls prey to every family movie cliche in the book.

Truly, this is a most terrible movie. Even if you liked Bruce Almighty and are a fan of Steve Carell (like me), you won’t like this movie…Don’t see it, I beg you. D

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Is there a larger cultural phoenomenon than Harry Potter? From the large lines of fanboys who hungrily digest the next book to the increasingly casual question “So, have you read the Harry Potter books?”, to the increasingly casual answer “Yeah.”. I’m truly beginning to think that there isn’t. I mean, who doesn’t love a huge epic fantasy? According to the countless ripoffs like Eragon and Charlie Bone, probably no one.

But they are not just great for their well-written scope and action, they are fascinating in watching these characters grow up, in the movies and books. I have grown up with these people, and I will be very sad when the last book comes out. But that out of the way. I was kinda worried about Harry Potter when I heard that first-time director David Yates would take the helm. And admitedly, compressing a 900-page book into 2 hours isn’t the smartest move, as some important stuff gets kicked out, but the general look and feel of the book is replicated. And answering the next question, this captures the emotion, the action, and the magic (irony intended) of the earlier films.

Mind you, this is not perfect…In fact, most characters are wasted: Ron only says “Bloody hell” and casts a few spells, and Hagrid is reduced to a monologue on how there’s a storm coming. Harry as always has the most to do, and Daniel Radcliffe handles Harry Potter growing up with expertise.

Harry Potter is in his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There is the wizarding world he is a hero, a celebrity. But back in our world, the ‘Muggle’ world, he is treated like vermin by his only family, the Dursleys. So when Dementors from the wizarding world attack Harry and his cousin Dudley, Harry gets unfairly expelled from Hogwarts for using a spell in front of a Muggle. But, thank God for Headmaster Dumbledore, he saves Harry singlehandedly. Ever since the Dark Lord Voldemort returned, the wizarding world is split between disbelief and confusion, very few believe Harry’s tragic eyewitness testimony.

So Harry gets to Hogwarts, and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge is straight from the Ministry of Magic, who after Voldemort’s return are paranoid and disbelieving of Dumbledore and Harry. After last year a Hogwarts student was murdered, everyone is kinda scared from Harry now that The Daily Prophet (wizarding equivalent of The National Enquirer) is writing rubbish about Harry left and right – and everyone actually believes it.

The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher doesn’t teach actual spells, a change that sits well with no one. So Harry’s best chums Ron and Hermione convince him to form a club called ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ to secretly teach other students spells for self-defense. It is a big success, as the students progress greatly. Better yet, it nets Harry his first kiss. But Voldemort is rising and building an army, resulting in a tragic end battle that will haunt Harry for the rest of his life.

Imelda Staunton is excellent as Dolores Umbridge, the powerhouse performance of the film. She is deliciously evil. She loves to be bad and we love watching. Ralph Fiennes is back as Voldemort, in a very chilling cameo. Helena Bonham Carter is wasted but good in a brief role as mentally insane wizard Bellatrix Lestrange

Despite having only one major action sequence, it is the most dark of all the Harry Potter films with some really gruesome stuff. But at the same time, oddly enough most of the movie is focused on Harry’s inner demons, not his adventures…I, along with the other 28 million Harry Potter fanatics await the next film in 2008, and the last book later on this week…One might complain that the action is gone and so is the magic. I say the action is gone and the magic remains, stronger than ever. B+

Transformers

Here’s a sample of dialogue from ‘Transformers’.

“Bumblebee was a good soldier. We will not let him have died in vain! Now we will fight! To! Avenge! Bumblebee!”

Let me get this straight: for this stupid mess of a movie and the stupid toys of which it is based: I hate the source material on which it is based. That is the huge obstacle, the bridge, that you have to overcome to enjoy Transformers, and whilst I had no I idea I possibly had it in me, I jumped that bridge and made it. Despite almost being knocked back over.

So yes, it is a stupid mess of a movie, but a deliriously entertaining, shamelessly corny, stupid mess of a movie. It takes pride in the one-dimensional characters, the corny dialogue and clichés. But, while not being anywhere near greatness, it does quite well with the casting decisions…Especially that of Shia LaBeouf. He demonstrated his appeal in Holes and Surf’s Up, but the recent smash hit Disturbia showed his potential as an actor, a leading man. Here, he’s charismatic, charming, and can cook up a punch here and there too. He’s the best thing about the film, aside from the robots themselves.

There’s no real plot. There’s two races: Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (bad guys). Their energy source is the Cube, which along with the leader of the Decepticons have been under military security for 60-odd years. Now, the Autobots and the Decepticons have awoken, and will duke it out on Earth in grand fashion…And the key to the Autobots’ victory lies in teenagers Sam Witwicky and Mikaela, whose destiny was intertwined with the Transformers nearly a century before.

Newcomer Megan Fox is generally easy on the eyes, and surprisingly good in the film as the teenage galpal. Along with Jon Voight as a military commander, John Turturro as a cocky general, Anthony Anderson as a computer hacker, and Tyrese Gibson & Josh Duhamel as two brave soldiers, it’s a pretty cool live-action cast.

And yet, the Transformers are so cool you almost forget about the corny dialogue, the huge explosions and…dare I say it…Megan Fox. Michael Bay has done The Rock, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor. The Rock was the only one that was any good, but not the only one that was entertaining. But despite The Rock being more mature and violent, Transformers is Bay’s best film. Why? Because the film is a dream come true for Transformers-die hard fanboys and casual moviegoers alike: A big-budget action flick with awesome movie stars: human and otherwise. B+

Sicko

Ever-controversial filmmaker Michael Moore has tangoed with General Motors, firearms, and George Bush in his documentaries. Now, in his softest and most sentimental film yet, he takes on…AMERICAN HEALTH CARE! (Dramatic fanfare)

Moore has stirred up controversy with every documentary he’s made. With Bowling for Columbine, Roger & Me, and Fahrenheit 9/11, his films normally are much more one-sided. Where Fahrenheit 9/11 viciously, repeat, VICIOUSLY, attacked the Bush administration. And within the first two minutes of this movie, you can tell that he isn’t gonna change his opinions, but he’s lightening up dramatically.

The movie starts out with a lot of true stories of the wrath of health care. A man saws off two of his fingers in an accident. He can either replace the middle finger for $60,000, or replace his ring finger for $12,000. He picks the sentimental choice, the ring finger. As Moore points out, the middle finger is now in an Oregon landfill. It is disgusting to me that…that American health care is now putting values on people’s body parts.

Another story has a woman whose little girl died after she was denied an operation. And they had full insurance coverage. Another shows a doctor confessing on C-SPAN that she was forced to deny a man an operation that would have saved his life because it would have saved the company half a million dollars.

Where in America the doctors get raises for turning down patients, in Britain, France, and several other countries not only is health care almost free (aside from taxes), in France child care is $1 an hour and they have people do their laundry free of charge. And yet here, in America, it costs thousands of dollars for a minor surgery.

The controversial trip to Cuba is the subject for the last 30 minutes, with Michael Moore taking 3 9/11 workers to Cuba to get proper, free, health care. A moment of sheer emotion is when one of the 9/11 workers gets medicine she couldn’t afford from Cuba for 5 cents in what would have cost thousands in the U.S.

Much of the material covered here is very, very tragic, but Moore has a tendency to meld devastating material and gut-busting humor, and yet make it smooth and zippy. This is a sad, furious, hilarious open letter to America: Get universal health care. Well, Mr. Moore, you’ve got another believer here. A-