REVIEW: AD ASTRA

Starring

Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time…Hollywood)
Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black)
Ruth Negga (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
John Ortiz (Fast & Furious)
Greg Bryk (Bitten)
Loren Dean (Bones)
Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll)
John Finn (Cold Case)
Kimberly Elise (Pride)
Sean Blakemore (Star Trek Into Darkness)
LisaGay Hamilton (Vice)
Donnie Keshawarz (The Adjustment Bureau)
Ravi Kapoor (Flight)

Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)In the near future, the Solar System is struck by mysterious power surges, threatening all human life. After nearly dying from an incident caused by a surge, Major Roy McBride, son of famed astronaut H. Clifford McBride, is informed by U.S. Space Command (SpaceCom) that the surges have been traced to the “Lima Project” – created 29 years earlier to search the limits of the Solar System for intelligent life, under Clifford’s leadership – from which nothing has been heard for 16 years after reaching Neptune. Told that Clifford may still be alive, Roy accepts a mission to travel to Mars to try to establish communication with him, joined by his father’s old associate Colonel Pruitt. Roy, famed among his fellow astronauts for keeping calm under pressure, shows little emotional reaction to the news that his father may be alive.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)After taking a commercial flight to the Moon, Roy and Pruitt are escorted by US military personnel to the SpaceCom base, located in a disputed war zone on the far side of the moon. En route in lunar rovers, they are ambushed by scavenging pirates, who kill their entire escort and severely wound Pruitt. Upon arrival at the base, a dying Pruitt is placed into intensive care. Roy transfers to the ship Cepheus, bound for Mars. The ship receives a distress signal from a Norwegian biomedical research space station. Captain Tanner has the Cepheus stop to investigate despite Roy’s protests, and Roy and Tanner make their way to the station. It appears abandoned and the two split up, but Roy soon discovers an escaped baboon test subject feeding on Tanner, who is severely injured. It attacks Roy when it notices his presence, but he manages to kill it along with another escaped baboon that attacks him shortly thereafter. Despite Roy’s attempts to save him, Tanner dies from his injuries, and a brief service is held where Tanner’s body is ejected into space. Again, Roy shows little reaction to Tanner’s death, but in a psychological evaluation, he admits that he experiences rage and recalls his father expressing his own rage.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)Another surge hits as the Cepheus lands on Mars, requiring manual piloting to complete the landing. The interim captain freezes in fear, while Roy using his vast experience as a space pilot remains calm and takes command of the ship, landing it safely. Roy is led to the underground SpaceCom base, where he meets facility director Helen Lantos and is tasked with recording voice messages to send to the Lima Project in hopes that Clifford will respond. Roy goes off-script with an emotional appeal to his father and is abruptly removed from the mission on the grounds of his personal connection posing a risk to himself and the mission’s success. From the reaction of the observation team to his emotional recording, he assumes correctly that an immediate response from his father had been received and demands to hear it.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)Sequestered in a “comfort room,” he is visited by Lantos, who reveals that she was born on Mars and was the daughter of Lima Project crew-members. She shows Roy classified footage revealing that Clifford’s crew had mutinied and tried to return to Earth, causing him to turn off their life-support systems; her parents were among those killed by Clifford. She tells Roy that the crew that brought him to Mars is leaving on the Cepheus to destroy the Lima Project station with a nuclear payload. The two decide that Roy should confront Clifford himself, and Helen leads Roy to an underground lake beneath the rocket launch site.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)Roy clandestinely climbs aboard as the rocket takes off and is subsequently discovered by the crew, who are instructed to neutralize him. The entire crew is inadvertently killed in the ensuing confrontation. During the long journey to Neptune, a solitary Roy reflects on his relationships with his father and Eve, his estranged wife. The isolation and stress of the mission take a mental toll, but after a couple of months, he arrives at the Lima Project. While approaching the station in a shuttle attached to the Cepheus, the shuttle is damaged in a collision with objects in Neptune’s rings and from another surge, preventing it from docking with the station. Roy enters the station via a space-walk while the shuttle drifts away. Finding the station abandoned and encountering the dead bodies of its crew, he plants the nuclear payload before encountering Clifford, the station’s sole survivor, who explains that the surges are coming from the ship’s malfunctioning antimatter power source, which had been damaged in the mutiny. Clifford has continued to work on the project, refusing to lose faith in the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Clifford admits to Roy that he never really cared about his own family and no longer considers Earth his home.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)Roy copies data gathered by Clifford and his team for the Lima Project and persuades Clifford to accompany him back to Earth. He arms the nuclear payload, and they climb out on the station’s surface to return to the Cepheus. Clifford suddenly uses his spacesuit’s thrusters to launch the two of them off into space. Clifford pleads for Roy to untether them from each other; Roy reluctantly does so and watches his father drift into space. He manages to propel himself back to the Cepheus using his own spacesuit. Without enough fuel to return to Earth, he relies on the shock wave from the nuclear explosion in the station to gain the required speed. The data retrieved from the base suggests that humans are the only intelligent life in the galaxy. This inspires Roy to reconnect with those closest to him, and he returns to Earth with a newfound optimism. After expressing his opinions in a psychological evaluation, he reconnects with his estranged wife Eve.Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)The story is interesting, but some parts of it is kind of confusing and leave you with questions. And when I say questions, don’t think that this is Interstellar or 2001 Space Odyssey level movie. It’s not even close to those classics. The plot starts off by showing what the main character’s mission is, what he is going to do, but then they end up doing something else instead. So huh? The opening scene was really interesting. I can see this movie having lots of fans. Some people will really love it, and some people ( like me) won’t be really that impressed. Overall, I do recommend seeing it for yourselves to form your own opinions.

REVIEW: THE SIMPSONS – SEASON 7-9

CAST

Dan Castellaneta (Super 8)
Julie Kavner  (Dr. Dolittle)
Yeardley Smith (Dead Like Me)
Nancy Cartwright (Kim Possible)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Pamela Hayden (Recess)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Maggie Roswell (Pretty In Pink)
Russi Taylor (Babe)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Phil Hartman (Small Soldiers)
Mickey Rooney (Night at The Museum)
Marcia Wallace (Full House)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Doris Grau (Babe)
Paul McCartney (Help!)
Linda McCartney (Back To The Egg)
Paul Anka (Ordinary Magic)
Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction)
Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Lawrence Tierney (The Naked Gun)
Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
Kirk Douglas (Spartacus)
Alex Rocco (the Godfather)
Suzanne Somers (Step By Step)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds)
Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Rodney Dangerfield (Back to School)
Jon Lovitz (Big)
Johnny Cash (North and South)
David Duchovny (Zoolander)
Gillian Anderson (Hannibal)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Jack Lemmon (The Apartment)
John Waters (Seed of Chucky)
David Hyde Pierce (Frasier)
Dave Thomas (Bones)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Tim Conway (McHale’s Navy)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Mike Judge (King of The Hill)
Jan Hooks (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog)
Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!)
Jim Varney (Toy Story)
James Earl Jones (Star Wars)
Janeane Garofalo (Wet Hot American Summer)
Bobcat Goldthwait (Freaked)
Jay Leno (Family Guy)
Steven Wright (The Emoji Movie)
Hank Williams Jr.  (A Time To Sing)
Helen Hunt (As Good As It gets)
Michael Carrington (Think Fast)
Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island)
Randy Jones (The Joy of Disco)
Rod Steiger (Mars Attacks)
Steve Martin (Cheaper By The Dozen)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Brendan Fraser (Bedazzled)

One of the hallmark seasons of The Simpsons, season 7 features some of the strongest episodes produced during the show’s run. Considering that this is The Simpsons we’re talking about here, that’s saying a lot, but this collection deserves the accolades.

SEASON 7 HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE

7.1) WHO SHOT MR. BURNS – PART TWO

In the previous episode, Mr. Burns was shot by an unknown gunman. Mr. Smithers believes he may have shot Burns while in a drunken stupor, and turns himself in. However, it is discovered that he is innocent, so the police question several other suspects and eventually discover Simpson DNA evidence on Burns. Mr. Burns himself awakens and is only able to say “Homer Simpson”. The police immediately arrest Homer, but he manages to escape. Lisa investigates the clues herself and discovers vital evidence that clears Homer but at that moment he is spotted at the hospital. Lisa, Smithers, the police and many townsfolk go to Mr. Burns’ hospital room where they find Homer strangling Burns. Burns is shaken out of his daze and reveals that he was really shot by Maggie Simpson. Marge apologizes for Maggie’s actions and everything returns to normal.

7.2) RADIOACTIVE MAN

It is decided that filming for the new Radioactive Man film will take place in Springfield and the producers decide to cast a local child in the role of Fallout Boy. Many of Springfield’s children, including Bart and Milhouse, audition for the role, with the part eventually going to Milhouse. However, Milhouse decides he does not like being a star and flees the production. He refuses to return and play the role and the producers, having been bankrupted by Mayor Quimby and the townsfolk, decide to close production and leave town.Homesweethoeddd7.3) HOME SWEET HOMEDIDDLY-DUM-DOODILY

Several misunderstandings at home and school cause the child welfare dept. to accuse Homer and Marge of being negligent parents. As a result, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are taken away and put in the care of Ned Flanders and his family. To get their kids back, Homer and Marge must pass a parenting class, while Ned discovers the kids are not baptized and decides to do it himself. Homer and Marge are allowed to get their kids back and manage to stop the baptizing ceremony. Homer eventually takes the baptizing for Bart and experiences momentary religious enlightenment before returning to his original self.7.4) BART SELLS HIS SOUL

While forced to clean the organ pipes after playing a prank against the church, Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars, to prove his point that a soul does not exist. Bart begins to regret it when weird things begin happening to him such as not finding cartoons funny or not accepting hugs. Meanwhile, an encounter with the Hibbert family results in Moe converting Moe’s Tavern to a family restaurant to make more money. The Simpson family eat there one night and after taunting from Lisa, Bart erupts and leaves to find his soul. It turns out that Milhouse had given Bart’s soul to Comic Book Guy who in turn had sold it to someone else. It turns out that it was sold to Lisa, and she gives Bart his soul back. Back at the family restaurant, Moe loses his temper and swears at a child, resulting in him losing his customers and converting back to his tavern.Homesweethoeddd7.5) LISA THE VEGETARIAN

After a visit with a lamb at a petting zoo, Lisa decides to become a full vegetarian. She tries to draw others towards it, but her efforts are wasted. At the same time, Homer decides to throw a barbecue and Lisa is outraged when those in attendance laugh at her suggestion of eating Gazpacho. She ruins the barbecue by destroying his main host (a roasted pig) and after refusing to apologize to Homer, runs away saying Homer is a prehistoric carnivore. She goes to the Kwik-E-Mart and meets Apu who reveals he is a vegan and tells Lisa to be tolerant and not go pushing her own views on everyone else. Lisa apologizes to Homer, admitting she had no right to ruin his barbecue.King-Size_Homer7.7) KING-SIZE HOMER

Unhappy with the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s new exercise program, Homer decides to get on workman’s comp by purposely gaining 61 pounds. He succeeds in his goal and is able to work at home. He spends a lot of his time goofing off and tries to go see a movie. When he is turned away because of his weight, Homer returns home but finds that a nuclear meltdown is about to take place at the plant because of his inattention to his work. He hijacks an ice cream truck and rushes to the plant and is able to save everyone when he falls into a tank and prevents poisonous gas from escaping. As a reward, Mr. Burns guarantees to make Homer thin again, but gives up and decides to pay for a liposuction.7.8) MOTHER SIMPSON

On a Saturday morning Homer fakes his death in order to get out of working at Mr. Burns garbage collecting event and is later forced to go to the records office to verify that he is alive. The clerk reveals that Homer’s mother is still alive but Homer disagrees and goes to his mother’s grave for proof. The grave actually belongs to Walt Whitman but Homer by chance does meet with his mother. He takes her home to meet his family, but she remains silent as to where she was for the past 27 years. The family finally forces her to reveal her secret: she was part of group of Hippie radicals in the 1960s and is on the run from Mr. Burns and the FBI. Mr. Burns later discovers Mona’s whereabouts and she is forced to return into hiding.7.9) SIDESHOW BOB’S LAST GLEAMING

Sideshow Bob escapes from his prison guards and steals an atomic bomb at an airshow and threatens to detonate it unless Springfield gets rid of television. The city is forced to obey, but Bart and Lisa discover that Bob is hiding in the Duff blimp and confront him. Bob discovers that Krusty is still broadcasting his show, so he captures Bart and an airplane and goes on a Kamikaze mission to kill Krusty. However, he fails and is sent back to jail.7.10) THE SIMPSONS 138TH EPISODE SPECTACULAR

Troy McClure hosts a special episode of The Simpsons that gives viewers a behind the scenes look at the show. It features clips of the series’ beginnings as filler on The Tracey Ullman Show, fan mail readings, a look at the “real” Matt Groening, Simpsons trivia questions and unaired scenes from popular episodes, including the alternate ending to the “Who Shot Mr. Burns” two-parter.7.12) TEAM HOMER

Homer assembles a bowling team consisting of Apu, Moe and Otto so he can play on league nights. He gets the team funding from Mr. Burns during one of his ether-induced hallucinations. The team does well until Mr. Burns discovers that he paid for them and decides to join the team. The team starts losing games but still manage to make it to the league championship where they manage to win. The team is overjoyed but Mr. Burns has a change of heart and takes the trophy for himself. Meanwhile, the students of Springfield Elementary School are forced to wear uniforms after Bart comes to school wearing a T-shirt with a shocking message on it.7.13) TWO BAD NEIGHBORS

Homer assembles a bowling team consisting of Apu, Moe and Otto so he can play on league nights. He gets the team funding from Mr. Burns during one of his ether-induced hallucinations. The team does well until Mr. Burns discovers that he paid for them and decides to join the team. The team starts losing games but still manage to make it to the league championship where they manage to win. The team is overjoyed but Mr. Burns has a change of heart and takes the trophy for himself. Meanwhile, the students of Springfield Elementary School are forced to wear uniforms after Bart comes to school wearing a T-shirt with a shocking message on it.7.16) LISA THE ICONOCLAST

While doing research for an essay, Lisa finds a confession written by town founder Jebediah Springfield revealing that he was a murderous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld who tried to attack George Washington and never cared about the people of Springfield. Homer decides to help Lisa get the message out, but they are arrested by the town council. Lisa claims Sprungfeld had a silver tongue so the council decides to exhume Jebediah to prove Lisa wrong. It turns out that there is no silver tongue but Lisa later discovers that it had been stolen from the grave by Hollis Hurlbut, the local historian. The two rush to reveal the truth about Jebediah, but Lisa realizes that the myth had inspired the entire town and decides to keep it a secret.7.17) HOMER THE SMITHERS

At the advice of Mr. Burns, Smithers takes a vacation and hires Homer to be his replacement, thinking that Homer could never outshine him. However, Smithers’ plan backfires when Homer’s incompetence causes Burns to learn how to do things for himself resulting in the now useless Smithers losing his job as Burns’ assistant. Homer decides to help Smithers get his job back, but their plan backfires and the two get into a fight in Mr. Burns’ office. Burns is accidentally knocked out of a window and needs Smithers to do things for him again.7.19) A FISH CALLED SELMA

Troy McClure tries to save his dying career and debunk the rumors of his bizarre sexual life, by marrying Marge’s sister, Selma. Selma discovers that the marriage is a sham but decides that being a sham wife is okay. However, Troy is informed by his agent that becoming a father will help his career even more but Selma refuses to bring a child into their loveless marriage and leaves.7.20) BART ON THE ROAD

While stuck at the DMV with Patty and Selma on “Go To Work With Your Parents Day,” Bart creates a fake driver’s license for himself and uses it to go on a spring break road trip with Milhouse, Nelson, and Martin. Meanwhile, Homer and Lisa bond after spending “Go To Work With Your Parents Day” together and the two have a lot of fun. Bart and his friends decide to go to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville but discover that their guide book is outdated and the fair ended years ago. Stuck in Knoxville with no money, Bart becomes a courier and calls Lisa for help. Lisa convinces Homer to order a nuclear console from Knoxville, thus helping Bart get home.7.23) MUCH APU ABOUT NOTHING

After a bear wanders into Evergreen Terrace, Mayor Quimby is forced to raise taxes so they can pay for a new bear patrol. When the citizens are outraged, Quimby blames illegal immigrants and creates Proposition 24, which will deport them. The family discovers that Apu is in fact an illegal immigrant and decide to help him get his citizenship. Apu succeeds and Homer gives a heartfelt speech about why Springfield should reject Prop 24, however, it still passes with 95% majority and Groundskeeper Willie is deported.7.24) HOMERPALOOZA

In an attempt to show his kids how hip he is, Homer takes Bart and Lisa to the Hullabalooza music festival where Homer is hired as a sideshow freak who can withstand the force of cannonball blasts. As a result, Homer gets to go on tour with the festival and suddenly finds himself living the high life. As the tour approaches a stop in Springfield, Homer’s stomach begins to hurt and he is sent to a veterinarian who advises Homer that if he performs his act one more time, his stomach will burst and he will die. Homer shrugs this news off, not wanting to lose his popularity. At first he decides to do his job, but at the last second he loses his nerve and dodges the cannonball. He is released from the festival and goes back to being not respected by his children.7.25) SUMMER OF 4 FT. 2

At the start of summer, Ned Flanders asks Homer to take care of his beach house in Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport. The family decide to go there and Lisa, realizing that she is not as cool as she thinks, uses the new locale as a chance to rid herself of her nerd image and becomes a surfer girl. She becomes best friends with a girl named Erin and a group of locals, but Bart becomes jealous and reveals to them that Lisa is in fact a teacher’s pet. Lisa runs off crying, thinking that she has lost her new friends, but the next night they surprise her and say she was a good friend.

Quite simply the best season of the Simpsons to date in my opinion. Hank Scorpio and Frank Grimes to this day remain the best one time characters the writers have ever produced and every single episode (barring the spinoff showcase one nearer the end which didn’t hit it for me) is pure Simpsons gold.

SEASON 8 HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE

8.2) YOU ONLY MOVE TWICE

When Homer accepts a new job at the Globex Corporation the Simpson family moves to Cypress Creek. Homer enjoys his new work and his easy-going boss, but is completely unaware that his boss is an evil genius and that the company is a vehicle for international extortion. The rest of the family have trouble settling in Cypress Creek and begin to get homesick so Homer must make a choice between Cypress Creek and Springfield.8.3) THE HOMER THEY FALL

When Bart is beaten up by school bullies, Homer takes matters into his own hands. Although Homer is unable to make his point, Moe is impressed by his ability to withstand a beating. Moe talks Homer into becoming a boxer with Moe as his manager. His sole strategy is to let opponents knock themselves out while pounding on Homer. Promoter Lucius Sweet becomes aware of Homer’s rise as a boxer and wants him to fight Drederick Tatum, the heavyweight champion.8.4) BURNS, BABY BURNS

A man named Larry’s jaw drops when he sees his father Mr. Burns on a train from Yale to Springfield and Larry immediately follows the train. When he arrives at Mr Burns’s mansion he identifies himself as Mr. Burns’s long lost son. Burns admits that Larry is the result of a one-night stand and accepts him as his own. Soon, however, Larry proves to be an incurable oaf and Burns gets tired of him. Homer befriends Larry because they share similar interests. Together they fake Larry’s kidnapping to win back Burns’s love. But when Burns is told that Homer has kidnapped his son Homer and Larry are chased by reporters and the police. When told of the fake kidnapping Burns cannot continue as Larry’s father and Larry leaves Springfield to return to his family.8.5) BART AFTER DARK

Bart does property damage to a house and Homer makes him do chores to pay for his misdeed. The house turns out to be a burlesque saloon and a group of concerned citizens confront Homer on Bart’s work. Marge agrees with the group and joins them in their attempt to oust the saloon from Springfield. In a town hall meeting, Marge convinces the townspeople to demolish the old house, but when the destruction team begins, Homer sings a song that changes everybody’s mind. The demolition stops, but Marge’s bulldozer accidentally slips out of gear and damages the house.8.6) A MILHOUSE DIVIDED

Marge decides to host a dinner party at the Simpson house. They invite their friends to it, but the Van Houtens have a very bad time and argue and fight throughout the night until Luann announces that she wants a divorce. Luann happily settles back to single life with Milhouse, and starts dating an American Gladiator named Pyro. Homer is confident that it will never happen to him, but Kirk tells him how quickly things can change. He realizes that he has taken his marriage for granted and overcompensates by smothering Marge. Deciding that their marriage is finished, Homer secretly files for a divorce from Marge. Homer then surprises her by asking her for her hand in marriage again and Marge accepts. Kirk tries the same strategy with Luann, but she refuses.8.7) LISA’S DATE WITH DESTINY

Nelson is punished for vandalizing Superintendent Chalmers’ car and has to help Willie around the schoolyard. When Lisa watches Nelson torment Willie, she finds herself attracted to him and decides to try to change Nelson into a better person. Lisa goes on a date with him and they kiss, but when he is later revealed to be lying about vandalizing Skinner’s house, she loses the attraction. Meanwhile, Homer finds an autodialer and starts a telemarketing scam.8.8) HURRICANE NEDDY

A hurricane strikes through Springfield and only destroys the Flanders’ home and they have to move into the church basement. The people of Springfield gather to rebuild their house, but when Ned sees the poor workmanship, he has a complete breakdown. Ned commits himself to a mental institution and his psychiatrist discovers that Ned’s past has taught him to suppress his anger. The psychiatrist then teaches Ned to express his anger with Homer as a role model and Ned gets cured as Ned reunites with the people of Springfield along with the rest of the Simpsons and his family.8.9) EL VIAJE MISTERIOSO DE NUESTRO JOMER

Homer begins to hallucinate after eating a dish laced with potent Guatemalan peppers at the chili cook-off. In this hallucination he meets a mystical coyote, which tells him to find his soul mate. After a fight with Marge, he is concerned that she is not really his soul mate. Homer leaves the house and seeks solitude in a lighthouse. Marge arrives at the lighthouse and apologizes and then Homer realizes that Marge is his soul mate after all.8.10) THE SPRINGFIELD FILES

Homer walks home one night from Moe’s Tavern. On his way he sees an eerie glowing creature. The next day Homer’s story is printed in the local newspaper. FBI agents Mulder and Scully read the story and go to Springfield to investigate this X-file. After talking with Homer they find his credibility shaky and quickly leave again. Bart and Homer then set up a camp to videotape the creature. When the creature appears, Lisa reveals that the creature is actually Mr. Burns after a medical treatment by Dr. Riviera.8.12) MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS

To encourage teamwork, Mr. Burns takes all of his employees to a corporate retreat in the mountains. The employees pair up and Homer becomes Burns’s partner. The challenge is to find a cabin on the snowy mountainside. The pair to finish last will be fired. Burns and Homer cheat by using a snowmobile and make it the cabin before everybody else, but an avalanche buries the cabin. Homer and Burns go insane in the cold and get into a fight. In the fight they ignite a propane tank, which rockets the cabin to safety8.13) SIMPSONCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALAD’OHCIOUS

Marge is stressed by the demands of motherhood and the Simpsons get a magical British nanny, who floats down from the sky holding an umbrella. The nanny is a miracle worker, who teaches Bart and Lisa how to clean and charms everybody. However, the Simpsons cannot stop living their messy ways and the nanny’s spirit gets crushed. She leaves the family realizing that she has taught them nothing.8.15) HOMER’S PHOBIA

The family tries to sell an old heirloom at a collectibles store and strike up a relationship with John, the store owner. The Simpsons invite John over to their house to assess their other belongings and Homer takes a liking to him. Marge then informs Homer that John is gay and he refuses to see him again. Afterwards Homer notices changes in Bart’s behavior and fears that John has turned him into a homosexual. Trying to make Bart manlier, they go on a hunting trip, but get attacked by a herd of aggressive reindeer. Suddenly, John arrives and saves the day. Homer then thanks John for saving his life and accepts him as a friend.8.16) BROTHER FROM ANOTHER SERIES

Sideshow Bob is released from prison and his brother, Cecil, hires him to supervise the construction of a dam. Bart suspects that Bob is up to something and sneaks into his office along with Lisa. There he discovers a suitcase filled with money. Bob enters and explains his innocence, but Bart and Lisa do not believe him. Cecil now enters and holds them all at gunpoint. His plan is to blow up the dam and walk away with the $15 million he embezzled from the project. Bob would naturally be blamed allowing Cecil to get revenge for Bob stealing his part as Krusty’s sidekick. Cecil now locks up Bob, Bart and Lisa, but they manage to escape and stop Cecil.8.17) MY SISTER, MY SITTER

Lisa wants to start babysitting, but Marge thinks she is too young. Flanders urgently needs a babysitter and Lisa gets her first job. When Flanders gives her a glowing review, she starts to get steady work. Then one evening, Lisa is put in charge of babysitting Bart and Maggie. Bart is outraged and embarks on a series of pranks. When Bart refuses to go to bed, Lisa accidentally knocks him down the stairs which dislocates his arm. Lisa tries to help him by transporting him in a wheelbarrow to Dr. Nick. Bart falls out of the wheelbarrow and rolls down a hill. The townspeople are mortified, but Lisa continues to get jobs the following day.8.18) HOMER VS THE EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT

Alcohol is banned from Springfield after Bart accidentally gets drunk at a town parade. Rex Banner is appointed to replace Chief Wiggum as police chief to enforce the new laws and stop Fat Tony from smuggling. Rex is successful, but then Homer starts to smuggle alcohol. Eventually, Homer ends his bootlegging ends and approaches Wiggum with a plan to expose himself and restore Wiggum’s good name. Homer is about to receive punishment by being catapulted, but he is saved by an impassioned speech by Marge. The liquor ban is then lifted and the town celebrates by getting drunk.8.19) GRADE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

Seymour Skinner and Edna Krabappel strike up a conversation at a party and take a romantic interest in each other. They try to keep their affair a secret, but Bart sees them kiss. The following day the couple hears Bart telling his classmates about it and silences him by deleting his permanent records. Bart becomes their go-between for exchanging love notes, but he gets tired of that and exposes Skinner and Krabappel in the janitor’s closet locked in a passionate embrace. The word spreads all over town and Superintendent Chalmers gives Skinner an ultimatum – either end the relationship or face dismissal. Skinner pretends that he is in fact a virgin and the matter is cleared up..8.21) THE OLD MAN AND THE LISA

Mr. Burns loses his fortune in a bad investment. He is not doing well alone and is committed to the Springfield Retirement Castle. Disgusted by his surroundings, he vows to get his fortune back. He then sees Lisa collecting recyclables and remembers her opposition towards him. He believes that the reason for losing his fortune was that he was surrounded by “yes men” and therefore asks Lisa to help him. Lisa introduces Burns to recycling and by collecting these he soon gets enough money to buy a recycling plant. In reality this recycling plant captures all aquatic life and grinds it into to all-purpose goo. Lisa is horrified, but Burns regains his fortune and buys back his power plant.8.22) IN MARGE WE TRUST

Marge is concerned that Reverend Lovejoy does not meet the needs of his parishioners and becomes the new advice giver at the Church. When Marge gains a loyal following, Lovejoy gets concerned that he has become “shepherd without a flock”. Meanwhile, Homer finds an old Japanese product, “Mr. Sparkle”, a dish-washing detergent, with a logo that oddly resembles him. When he calls up the company behind the product, he finds Mr. Sparkle is a composite of two company logos. Marge is unable to help Ned Flanders in a crisis and calls up Lovejoy for help. Lovejoy solves the crisis and gets his congregants’ interest in his next sermon telling the story.8.23) HOMER’S ENEMY

Frank Grimes, a new employee at the Nuclear Power Plant, is a hard-working man who has never been given a break in his life. At work he meets Homer and takes an instant dislike to his poor job performance and attitude. Meanwhile, Bart steps into a tax auction and buys an abandoned factory for a dollar, which he uses to play factory with Milhouse. Homer tries to win Grimes approval by inviting him over for a family dinner. When Grimes sees Homer’s accomplishments and home, he becomes even more bitter. Imitating Homer’s behavior at work, he runs amok and electrocutes himself.08-248.24) THE SIMPSONS SPIN-OFF SHOWCASE

Troy McClure hosts a show which features three ideas for spin-offs to The Simpsons:
Chief Wiggum, P.I. – Chief Wiggum and Seymour Skinner are detectives in New Orleans.
The Love-Matic Grampa – Grampa’s soul is contained in Moe’s Love Tester machine.
The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour – The Simpsons host a 70s variety show.8.25) THE SECRET WAR OF LISA SIMPSON

Bart is enrolled in a military school after unintentionally pranking the whole town. After seeing the school Lisa decides she wants to join too. Lisa is the first female cadet and therefore gets to stay in her own private barrack. This move creates resentment among the boys at the facility and Bart refuses to speak to his sister. Later, Bart secretly apologizes and helps her train for a test. When Lisa has trouble completing the test Bart publicly encourages her at the expense of his own reputation, and she finally passes the test.

The argument will rage long after the boxset of The Simpsons: Season Nine has been released about when exactly America’s finest television animated export actually peaked. Some arguably, with genuine gusto, that it was a year or two before this series was first shown. Most purists though satisfy themselves that it’s the single digit seasons where the best of The Simpsons, and there’s certainly plenty of gold in this latest set.

SEASON 9 HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE

19731877_723484524525792_8206049530370741217_n9.1) THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS HOMER SIMPSON

Homer allows Barney to use his car when Barney is picked to be the designated driver for that night at Moe’s Tavern. However, Barney disappears for two months with the car, and returns without it. Homer searches for his car, and eventually receives a letter from the City of New York. The family is excited to go there to obtain the car, but Homer, who had had a bad experience in New York when he was younger, is reluctant. After reaching New York City, Homer sees the car parked near the World Trade Center, where he must wait by so that an officer can remove the wheel clamp. He is distracted from standing watch for the police when he has to go the bathroom, and causes him to miss the police officer. Homer gets angry, and leaves the city with the clamp on.9.5) THE CARTRIDGE FAMILY

After a large soccer riot leads to an extended period of mob rule throughout Springfield, Homer decides to forgo an expensive security system in favor of a gun. As Marge disapproves of a gun in the house, Homer takes her to an NRA meeting to sell her on the concept. Marge’s objections continue, finally forcing Homer to agree to get rid of the weapon. Unfortunately, Bart and Milhouse later discover it concealed in the refrigerator. Infuriated and frightened, Marge takes the kids and leaves Homer. With nothing but his gun and his indignation for company, Homer hosts an NRA meeting in his empty house, only to be kicked out of the group when the members themselves acknowledge his reckless and irresponsible treatment of firearms. Thus humbled, Homer seeks out his family to admit his mistake.9.7) THE TWO MRS. NAHASAPEEMAPETILONS

After Marge enters Apu into a bachelor auction, many women find an interest in him. However, Apu soon receives a letter from his mother, regarding the arranged marriage he is supposed to have. He does not want to marry the stranger, and following the advice of Homer, tells his mother that he is already married. Curious, his mother comes to America to see his wife, which Homer says Marge can pretend to be. But his mother soon realizes that she is not actually his wife, making the plans for the arranged marriage to continue. Apu becomes depressed until he learns at his wedding that his arranged wife, Manjula, is actually quite lovely.9.8) LISA THE SKEPTIC

Lisa discovers that a shopping mall is going to be built at a site where prehistoric fossils were found. Afraid of there being more prehistoric items at the site, Lisa complains to the developers and starts an archaeological survey at the site. Late into the dig, Lisa unearths a skeleton with bones that resemble wings, similar to an angel’s. Despite the whole town believing it to be an angel, Lisa takes a sample of the skeleton and has it tested to see if it is one of a human. The results are inconclusive, leaving Lisa still skeptical. After an interview about her beliefs, there is a town riot against the science community. During the riots, the skeleton is stolen. The town finally discovers it on a hillside with the message, “The End Will Come at Sundown” carved into it. However, the entire ordeal turns out to be publicity stunt that was pulled off by the mall’s developers. Surprisingly, the town is not angry, but is instead fascinated by the low prices at the mall.
9.12) BART CARNY

While the family is at a traveling carnival, Bart accidentally crashes Adolf Hitler’s car. To pay off the debts, Homer and Bart get jobs at the carnival by helping with the booths and exhibits, where they befriend Cooder and Spud, a father-and-son carny team. Unfortunately, Homer causes their booth to get shut down, when he does not recognize the bribe Chief Wiggum was asking for. Homer decides to allow the two carnies to stay at his home. The next day, the family goes to a glass bottom boat ride with the tickets Cooder gave them, only to discover their house has been taken over by the two carnies when they return. After brainstorming on how to get the house back, Homer decides to make Cooder a deal: If Homer can get a hula hoop around the house’s chimney, he can have his house back, but if he does not, he will sign the deed of the house to Cooder. However, the family fool the two carnies, and rush back into the house before the two can do anything.9.13) THE JOY OF SECT

After encountering two recruiters of a sect called “The Movementarians”, Homer attends a session that teaches about their sect, where he is brainwashed to join. Homer moves the entire family to their compound, where the entire family, except Marge, is brainwashed. Marge escapes through a dangerous getaway, and finds Reverend Lovejoy, Ned Flanders and Groundskeeper Willie for help. The four manage to kidnap the family back. They are able to persuade Lisa and Bart to not believe in the sect anymore, but are unable to get Homer back, as the sect’s lawyers take him back before they are able to. However, Homer no longer believes in the sect when he arrives, and manages to expose them as fake. The group then disbands, and the family goes back home.9.14) DAS BUS

As the students of Springfield Elementary are being driven to a model UN conference, Otto drives the bus off a bridge after his brake pedal is blocked by a grapefruit. To obtain help, Otto swims off, while the kids are still in the bus. Soon, when the bus is nearly full of water, the kids manage to escape and swim to an island. Once there, the kids find no food, causing Bart to swim back to the sunken bus to get the cooler full of food. Lisa advises everyone to not eat much, as it may be the only food they could have for some time. However, the cooler is found empty the next morning, with the food wrappings discarded around Milhouse, who claims a monster ate it. Lisa champions the charter of the Model UN and insists on giving Milhouse a trial, wherein he is found innocent. The verdict angers the kids, however, inciting violence against Lisa, Milhouse, and Bart, who are forced to flee. The three hide in a cave, but are chased out by a boar, which is soon found out to be the “monster”. The kids kill the boar and eat it, and a narration assures that Moe saves the kids. Meanwhile, Homer starts his own internet company, but it is eventually destroyed by Bill Gates.9.15) THE LAST TEMPTATION OF KRUST

After a rude awakening to his own hackneyed and dated comedy act, Krusty does some heavy drinking and wakes up in front of the Flanders’ house. Bart takes him inside his house and into his room, where Krusty, looking at all the Krusty merchandise, realizes that he has sold out instead of focusing on comedy. Bart invites Jay Leno to help clean up Krusty, and modernize his jokes. However, Krusty’s attempts fail, causing him to announce his retirement. During his announcement, the group of reporters find his tirade against modern comedians hilarious, influencing Krusty to try a hipper, more honest blend of comedy and social criticism. Although he becomes a popular comedian again, Krusty ends up selling out once more when some advertisers bribe him to endorse a car, in return for a free one.
9.16) DUMBBELL INDEMNITY

After several unsuccessful attempts at getting a girlfriend, Moe finally gets one after walking away from a disco with Homer. The woman, Renee, surprisingly finds Moe attractive, resulting in Moe treating her lavishly. After spending too much, Moe’s credit card maxes out, causing him to become desperate for money. He soon devises a plan to have Homer steal his car and crash it to accomplish insurance fraud. Unfortunately, Homer gets caught and ends up in jail. With the insurance money, Moe decides not to bail Homer out of jail, but instead take a Hawaiian vacation with Renee. After finding out, Homer escapes and decides to find Moe for revenge. Meanwhile, Moe confesses the truth to Renee, who is happy at first, but is disgusted with him after his plans to free Homer involve lying again. Renee leaves Moe, then he accidentally starts a fire at his tavern. At the same time, Homer comes to fight Moe, but both faint from smoke inhalation. Finally, Barney comes and saves the two, and Homer allows Moe to temporarily run his bar at the Simpsons’ house.09-179.17) LISA THE SIMPSON

Soon after being unable to solve a brain-teaser that several others at school were able to solve, and forgetting some of her day to day tasks, Lisa learns from Grampa that the Simpsons have a long history of losing their intelligence in late childhood. Lisa soon realizes that she cannot escape genetics, and accepts that she will soon be very unintelligent. After realizing the importance of sharing what you can with the world while you still have the chance, she lies her way onto a news broadcast to deliver a message on treasuring your brain. Homer sees this and, upon learning what Abe told her, attempts to disprove the theory of the “Simpson gene” by gathering every Simpson in the area together to showcase their merits. Unfortunately it is quickly apparent that Homer did not research this project much, as many of his guests prove to be simpletons, deadbeats, and stooges. Lisa’s salvation only comes when she begins to meet the Simpson women, including a doctor who submits that the defective “Simpson gene” is located only on the Y-chromosome. Re-validated, Lisa celebrates that she is once again herself, an event aptly crowned when she finally manages to solve the brain-teaser that so plagued her. Meanwhile, Apu finds out that Jasper has locked himself inside a freezer at the Kwik-E-Mart and decides to turn it into a freak house.9.18) THIS LITTLE WIGGY

When Marge realizes that Ralph Wiggum has no friends, she volunteers Bart to be his friend. Initially unwilling, Bart discovers that Ralph’s father, Chief Wiggum, owns a key that opens every lock in Springfield. The two go out at night and open many places to have fun, but soon encounter bullies Nelson Muntz, Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney. The four pressure Bart and Ralph to sneak into an abandoned prison, but Bart decides not to when he sees that Ralph is scared. The key is thrown over into the prison by the trouble-makers, causing Bart and Ralph to go retrieve it. While in the prison, the two find an old electric chair, which they turn on to see if it still works, and later go home. The next day, Mayor Quimby announces the prison is reopened, and decides to demonstrate what criminals could face by sitting in the, unknown to the police and the mayor, active chair. Bart rushes to Lisa for help to tell the mayor that the chair is active, leading Lisa to fire a small rocket with a note attached to the prison. The rocket misses and crashes into the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Mr. Burns responds and, upon realizing the prison has been using free electricity, turns off the power, saving the mayor.9.19) SIMPSON TIDE

Homer is fired from the Nuclear Power Plant following a near meltdown, and decides to join the Naval Reserve. Meanwhile, Bart decides to get an earring. Homer graduates from basic training, and must go of on a mission of war games, but not before taking Bart’s earring, which he disapproves of. Later, on the submarine, Homer befriends the Captain, who leaves him in charge when he goes to check a blocked torpedo. Homer believes the ship is being fired at, and launches a torpedo, accidentally ejecting the Captain. Homer eventually gets the submarine lost, and is considered a traitor by the media. The United States Navy fires at the submarine, causing a leak which Homer stops with Bart’s earring. The submarine is soon surfaced, and Homer is taken into custody by the Navy. However, he escapes any trouble due to the Navy judges having to resign over various scandals that they are involved in. Homer then leaves the Navy with a dishonorable discharge.9.20) THE TROUBLE WITH TRILLIONS

Forgetting to do his annual income taxes until the night they are due, Homer rushes to fill out his forms with false information. Soon after, he is arrested for tax fraud, but makes a deal to work for the FBI for immunity from the IRS’s prosecutions. After a successful operation made by Homer, the FBI decides to have Homer obtain a one trillion dollar bill that is in the hands of Montgomery Burns. Homer leads Mr. Burns to believe that he is a reporter, causing Mr. Burns shows him the bill. The FBI rushes into the mansion and arrests Mr. Burns, but Homer decides to rescue him. Mr. Burns gets the help of Waylon Smithers, and with Homer, the three escape in Mr. Burns’ plane. Looking for an island to buy, Mr. Burns decides to land in Cuba, where the three meet Fidel Castro. Castro does not wish to sell Cuba, but is interested in seeing the trillion dollar bill. However, after he is handed the bill, he decides to not return it. The show ends with the three on a raft back to the United States.Simpsons_09_14_P19.22) TRASH OF THE TITANS

When Homer is unable to take all of his trash to the curb, barely missing the garbage truck, Homer insults the garbage men, leading the family to have their garbage collection service cut off. After the house collects a huge amount of trash, Marge writes an apology letter to the sanitary commission, signing with Homer’s name. However, Homer finds out and goes to city hall to rescind it. Following an angry meeting with the commissioner, Homer decides to run for his position. Homer’s campaigning fails to win much support, until he promises the town that they will no longer need to do any garbage-related work. This causes Homer to win in a landslide. Initially, Homer is able is keep his promise, but he uses an entire year’s budget in a month, causing the workers to go on strike, fearing they will not be paid. Homer makes a deal with neighboring towns to dump their trash in Springfield’s abandoned mines to make money, but when the mines are filled, trash starts to burst out of the ground. The town is then forced to completely move five miles away.9609.24) LOST OUR LISA

When Bart comes home with some novelty items superglued to his face, Marge takes him to the emergency room, spoiling Lisa’s chance to go the Springfield Museum to catch the last day of the Isis Exhibit. Marge forbids Lisa to take public transportation to the museum by herself, but Lisa is able to manipulate her father for his permission to take the bus. However, Lisa takes the wrong bus and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Homer realizes that he should not have given Lisa permission to take the bus by herself. He rushes to the museum to find her, but she has managed to get downtown after much travel. Near the museum, Homer decides to use a cherry picker to locate Lisa, but the cherry picker loses control and falls into the pier, and floats off to a drawbridge. Lisa sees this, and quickly tells the bridge operator to lower the bridge, which catches Homer by his head to save him. Unfortunately, the exhibit is closed, but Homer promises to break into the museum at night with Lisa, where the two discover one of the exhibits’ objects is a musical boxNatural_Born_Kissers_409.25) NATURAL BORN KISSERS

Homer and Marge go out on their anniversary dinner, but are forced to take the kids. They end up having an unromantic dinner, and lose interest in being intimate later that night. Later, the two must go purchase a new refrigerator motor, but during a rainstorm, their car gets stuck in the mud, so the two rush into a barn. When the farm owner nearly discovers them, the two become excited and have sex. When they return home, they decide to spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast, but when they are there, they find themselves romantically uninspired once again, until a maid discovers them on a bed. They then realize that the fear of getting caught makes them excited. Later, they decide to go to a miniature golf course to have sex in the windmill there, just like they did when they were younger. The people there soon realize there is something inside the windmill, and the two barely manage to escape unseen. However, the people see their underwear, and realize someone was there. To get home, the nude couple steals a hot air balloon, but they accidentally wind up landing on a football field full of people. Homer and Marge travel back home, and are in the newspaper the next day.960With the conclusion of Season 9 the series hit it’s 200 mark, These three seasons here have some the best episodes between them , highlighting the comedy gold that is the Simpsons.

 

 

 

REVIEW: FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

CAST (VOICES)

Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Keith David (Picth Black)
John DiMAggio (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)After the runaway success of Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation, Sony greenlit a Final Fantasy movie. The final result, The Spirits Within, didn’t appear on movie screens until 2001, the same year as Shrek. However, unlike the unfunny green ogre, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to generate any meaningful business at the box office, and it was the biggest bomb in film history up to that point. It’s admirable for its sweeping alien vistas and imaginative space-age designs, but the story just doesn’t have enough in it to keep the audience’s interest.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film follows Doctor Aki Ross (Ming-na) as she and her mentor, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) attempt to discover a way to clear Earth of a strange race of alien beings known as Phantoms. These Phantoms have made Earth uninhabitable, aside from a few protected cities. The film opens with Aki dreaming of an alien world, only to wake up on a space shuttle. She takes the shuttle down to Earth to find remnants of organic life. However, she’s soon trapped by Phantoms, determined to kill her, when she’s saved by a group of space marines, led by Captain Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin), Aki’s former lover. It’s soon discovered that the plant Aki was after was part of a series of organisms that Aki and Sid are collecting to assemble a spiritual wave that they believe will counter the alien infestation at its source (a giant asteroid from which the Phantoms spawn).Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Their theory is not a popular one, however. The human government still has armies, and their general, Hein (James Woods), has erected a giant space cannon which he intends to use to blow the asteroid to smithereens. Sid and Aki contend that this would irrevocably damage the planet, but without further proof, their protests fall on deaf ears. Now it’s up to Aki, Sid, Gray, and his team to find the remaining organisms so they can finish the wavelength before Hein uses the cannon. And Aki keeps having these strange dreams.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within feels like what Aliens might have been like had James Cameron been into New Age philosophy. The space marines (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Frasier’s Peri Gilpin, and Ving Rhames) are reminiscent of those more famous marines in Cameron’s film. The overall design feels like it could have been in line with that world, and the idea of the Phantoms infecting you and taking you over from the inside feels very similar to the parasitic nature of Alien’s xenomorphs. In point of fact, the one thing it doesn’t feel similar to in any way, shape, or form is the Final Fantasy series of video games from which it derives its name. Dr. Sid is the most notable callback, as in almost every Final Fantasy game there is a character named Cid. Also, some of the other character names vaguely resemble those found in the games. The Gaia theory posited in the film is very similar to the Living Planet of Final Fantasy VII, but to no real effect. I can understand wanting to create a fresh story that newcomers and old fans alike could enjoy.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film’s half-baked idealistic philosophies, combined with its often groan-inducing dialogue probably killed the movie more than any lack of resemblance to the video games. The whole conceit of the wavelength, while explained repeatedly and in excruciating detail, never quite gels. Similarly, Hein’s Zeus cannon doesn’t seem like a much better alternative, and it doesn’t help that he’s a terribly written villain. Of course, you have to respect James Woods’ ability to chew the scenery even when there isn’t any actual scenery to chew. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Woods, as he’s one of my favorite actors, but he’s so over the top here it hurts.The rest of the cast fare marginally better. Ming-na has a respectable voice acting pedigree that serves her well, as does Peri Gilpin (most recently heard in the animated Hellboy projects). Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames don’t take their roles too seriously, which works to their advantage. Alec Baldwin, aside from being a great actor, lends his voice to one of the most memorable cartoon characters of recent memory (that of Leonardo Leonardo from the Clerks animated series), but he plays it straight here and is fairly disappointing. It doesn’t help that his character is animated to look exactly like Ben Affleck. I’m not kidding. This movie’s worth renting just to see how meticulously the filmmakers recreated every facet of Affleck’s face–only to give him Baldwin’s voice.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)That does bring up an important point, though. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was meant to be the first in a series of computer generated films that were photo realistic. And while it’s clear the film is CGI, it still looks damn impressive. The character models are exquisite, making the more cartoony offerings from Pixar or Dreamworks just seem amateurish by comparison (and I know that Pixar and Dreamworks aren’t striving for realism, I’m just saying how one looks against the other). The environments are amazingly detailed, and the movie is just a beauty to behold. Unfortunately, the film’s complete and utter financial failure bankrupted Square Pictures, although they did manage to make The Final Flight of the Osiris for Warner Bros. Animatrix project before closing shop. Square returned in 2005/2006 with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which looked even more spectacular than Spirits Within, but did not see a U.S. theatrical release.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within deserved a better fate than it got at the box office, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great movie. While it certainly was a great technological breakthrough, it didn’t have the story or characters to make it work.

REVIEW: FALLEN

CAST

Denzel Washington (Training Day)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
Embeth Davidtz (The Amazing Spider-Man)
James Gandolfini (8mm)
Elias Koteas (Shutter Island)
Robert Joy (Land of The Dead)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Aida Turturro (Junior)
Barry Shabaka Henley (Heroes)
Ray Xifo (Stargate SG.1)
Cress Williams (Black Lightning)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Breaking Bad)
Jason George (Station 19)
Graham Beckel (LA Confidential)

 

MV5BMTcxNDk5MzQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk2OTIwMjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1513,1000_AL_A voiceover says that this is the story of how the narrator almost died. NYPD Detective John Hobbes visits serial killer named Edgar Reese, who he helped capture, on death row. Reese grabs Hobbes’ hand and says something in an unknown language, later identified as Aramaic. After Reese is executed, Hobbes and his partner Jonesy investigate a string of murders by an apparent copycat killer. Hobbes, through hints given initially by Reese, and later by the apparent copycat killer, tracks down a woman named Gretta Milano, the daughter of a former detective. Gretta explains that her father, a detective in the same city killed himself after being accused of a series of demonic-themed murders. Hobbes goes to the Milano family’s lake-house, and finds books concerning demonic possession, and sees the name Azazel written on a wall.MV5BODE2MjIzNDI4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk2OTIwMjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1489,1000_AL_Hobbes inquires after the name to Gretta, who gravely advises him to drop the case to protect his life and family. Gretta explains that Azazel is a fallen angel with the power to possess human beings by touch. Hobbes realizes that Azazel, while possessing Edgar Reese, touched Hobbes before the execution, but was not able to possess him. Gretta explains that the demon will try to ruin his life by another way, and warns him of the inevitability of Azazel’s victory. Azazel finds Hobbes at his precinct, and through his coworkers, torments him. Hobbes reveals his knowledge of Azazel’s true identity, to which the demon responds, “Beware my wrath”, and disappears into the city.
MV5BODE2MjIzNDI4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk2OTIwMjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1489,1000_AL_To provoke Hobbes, Azazel possesses his nephew Sam and attacks John’s intellectually disabled brother Art in their home. He flees into other people on the street, ending up in a schoolteacher. As the teacher, Azazel draws a gun and forces Hobbes to shoot his host in front of a group of bystanders. Azazel boasts to Hobbes that even if his current host body is killed, he can transfer to any new host body in the surrounding area, without even needing to touch them. Lieutenant Stanton informs Hobbes that his fingerprints were found at one of the murder scenes and along with the bizarre circumstances of the shooting of the teacher Azazel possessed, he has become a suspect for all the murders. Azazel inhabits several of the witnesses and gives false accounts that the shooting was unprovoked, thereby throwing further suspicion on Hobbes, framing him for the crime. He also comes into his home and murders his brother, whilst also marking Sam. Hobbes then takes his nephew to Gretta’s house, to keep him safe.

Hobbes, after consulting with Gretta, formulates a plan to end Azazel. He escapes to the lakeside cabin where he originally found Azazel’s name and draws the demon to him. Stanton and Jonesy show up, to talk to Hobbes. Jonesy, possessed by Azazel, kills Stanton and pursues Hobbes into the cabin. After ambushing the demon, Hobbes shoots Jonesy in the stomach. Azazel takes possession of Hobbes’ body and learns that Hobbes has poisoned himself. He frantically searches the remote wilderness for another host, but succumbs to the poison and dies. Azazel, in a voiceover, reminds the viewer this is the story of how he almost died. A cat, who becomes possessed by Azazel, emerges from underneath the cabin.

Fallen is a dark supernatural thriller that is definitely worth watching. The plot is very clever, beautifully constructed and acted, with a superbly thought-provoking ending. Denzel Washington does a really good job as the homicide detective Hobbes being chased by the fallen angel, Azazel. Excellent support is provided by John Goodman as his partner. The film is genuinely creepy in places and Azazel’s transference from person to person produces some really good scenes. Overall, this movie was excellent, thanks to the superb acting from all the cast, and the great direction of the film.

REVIEW: COLD MOUNTAIN

 

CAST

Nicole Kidman (Bewitched)
Renee Zellweger (Jerry Maguire)
Jude Law (Spy)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Brendan Gleeson (Troy)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Ray Winstone (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands)
James Gammon (The Iron Giant)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim)
Jena Malone (Sucker Punch)
Lucas Black (Fast & Furious 7)
Taryn Manning (The Breed)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)
Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising)
Philip Seymour (The Ides of March)
James Rebhorn (Big Lake)

 

MV5BZjZlMzRlOGQtMzViMS00NDk4LWFmOWUtZDRiZWZjYWE3Y2ZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTYxNzc0NjU@._V1_When North Carolina secedes from the Union on May 20, 1861, the young men of a rural, provincial, North Carolina backwater known only as Cold Mountain hurry to enlist in the Confederate military. Among them is W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada (Nicole Kidman), a minister´s daughter, and finds their whirlwind courtship interrupted by the American Civil War.

Cold Mountain 550Three years later, Inman finds himself in the trenches of Petersburg, Virginia, during the Battle of the Crater. Union soldiers tunneling beneath Confederate fortifications detonate over 300 kegs of gunpowder, in a futile attempt to undermine the position prior to their assault. As the ill-fated attack begins, Oakley (Lucas Black) an old acquaintance of Inman’s from Cold Mountain, is impaled on a bayonet and mortally wounded. Inman rescues him from the fighting and takes him to a field hospital. Later that day Oakley dies in the hospital, with Inman and Stobrod Thewes (Brendan Gleeson) beside him. The next night, Inman, along with his Cherokee friend Swimmer (Jay Tavare), are sent to flush out surviving Union troops trapped behind their lines. During the raid, a burst of friendly fire kills Swimmer and seriously injures Inman. As Inman lies in the hospital near death, he has a letter from Ada read to him in which she pleads with him to stop fighting, stop marching, and come back to her. Inman recovers, and—with the war drawing ever closer to an inevitable Confederate defeat—decides to go home to Cold Mountain.

On his journey he meets the corrupt preacher Reverend Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is about to drown his pregnant slave lover. Inman stops Veasey, and leaves him tied up to face the town’s justice. Exiled from his parish, Veasey later rejoins Inman on his journey. They help a young man named Junior (Giovanni Ribisi) butcher his cow, and join him and his family for dinner. Junior leaves the house after the feast, the women in Junior’s family seduce Veasey, and Junior’s wife, Lila, tries to seduce Inman. Junior returns home with the Confederate Home Guard, and both Inman and Veasey are arrested and led away with other deserters. During a subsequent skirmish with Union cavalry, Veasey is killed and Inman left for dead. An elderly hermit living in the woods (Eileen Atkins) finds him and nurses him back to health.
Cold Mountain
Inman later meets a grieving young widow named Sara (Natalie Portman), who is raising her infant child Ethan alone; he stays the night at her cabin. The next morning, a party of Union foragers arrive demanding food. Sara orders Inman away for his protection, but he hides only a few feet away from the house. The leader, Nym (Richard Brake), and his lieutenant harass Sara, steal her livestock, and leave Ethan in the cold, though the third soldier (Cillian Murphy) attempts to keep the baby warm. Nym tries to rape Sara but both he and the lieutenant are killed by Inman. Inman forces the kind forager to surrender and lets him go, but as the latter flees, an enraged Sara fatally shoots him. In parallel with Inman’s adventures, the film follows Ada’s wartime experiences. Ada is a city gentlewoman who only recently moved to the rural farm named Black Cove. She met Inman on her first day at Cold Mountain and had a brief, chaste romance with him the night before he left for the army. Shortly after Inman leaves, Ada’s father (Donald Sutherland) dies, leaving her alone on the farm with no money, food, or livelihood, and with little prospect for help, as the young, able-bodied men are off at war.
nicole-kidman-cold-mountain-qa-1Ada is completely inept at working the farm, having been raised as a southern lady. She manages to survive thanks to the kindness of her neighbors, one of whom eventually sends Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) to her. Ruby is a young woman who has lived a hard-scrabble life and is very adept at the tasks needed to run the farm. Ruby lives at the farm with Ada, and together they take the farm from a state of disaster to working order. Meanwhile, Ada writes constant letters to Inman in hopes of meeting him again and renewing their romance. The two women form a close friendship and become each other’s confidantes. They also are friends with the Swangers (James Gammon and Kathy Baker), who live down the road from Ada’s farm Black Cove. It is at the Swangers’ well that Ada “sees” a vision of Inman coming back to her in the snow, surrounded by crows.
During the war, Ada and Ruby, and other members of their community, have several tense encounters with men of the Home Guard. This branch of the Home Guard is led by Captain Teague (Ray Winstone), whose grandfather once owned much of Cold Mountain. He and his deputies hunt deserters, partially with the goal of Teague’s seizing their land. Teague also lusts after Ada. Although the purpose of the Home Guard was to protect the South and its citizen population from the North, they have become violent vigilantes who hunt and often kill deserters from the Confederate Army, and terrorize citizens who they believe are housing or helping the deserters. This includes the Swangers’ sons, who, by torturing their mother, they coax out of hiding and kill. Esco Swanger—the family patriarch—is also killed protecting his sons.

Ruby’s estranged father Stobrod, a Confederate deserter and a violin player, arrives, reconciles with her, and convinces her to make a coat for his intellectually challenged banjo player Pangle (Ethan Suplee). Ruby finds herself drawn to mandolin player Georgia (Jack White). While camping, Stobrod, Pangle, and Georgia are cornered by the Home Guardsmen led by Teague. Pangle unintentionally reveals the band as the deserters Teague is seeking. Georgia is hidden a few feet away and witnesses the shooting of Pangle and Stobrod. He escapes to Black Cove Farm and informs Ruby and Ada, who rush to the campsite to find Pangle dead and Stobrod badly injured. Ada helps Ruby remove a bullet from Strobrod’s back, and they decide to take shelter in some cabins in the woods to avoid Teague and his men.
At this point the two story lines come together. Inman, half-dead from starvation, finally reaches Cold Mountain and is almost killed by Ada before she recognizes him. They later consummate their love and spend the night together.  The Home Guardsmen, however, soon find them, having captured and tortured Georgia to learn that the women are harboring deserters. In the ensuing gunfight Inman ambushes and kills Teague and most of his band, but Teague’s violent young lieutenant Bosie (Charlie Hunnam), escapes up the mountain. Cornering him near the top, Inman urges him to surrender peacefully, but Bosie draws, forcing him to fire; both men are mortally wounded. Ada goes after Inman, and finds him just as she saw him in her vision at the well… coming back to her in the snow surrounded by crows. He dies in her arms. The film ends several years later with Ada, Ruby and their families celebrating Easter. Ruby has married Georgia, and the two have a young daughter and an infant child. It is also revealed that Ada’s night with Inman has produced a child, Grace Inman.MV5BMTQwNTE5MjE4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDc2ODAxNw@@._V1_A very intense and sometimes moving movie experience with a brutal battle sequence, and indeed many further violent incidents both at Cold Mountain itself and indeed on ‘Inman’s’ journey. The film harbours many fine performances from it’s star-studded cast-list. Well worth a re-visit or indeed a first viewing.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Josh Hutcherson (The Forger)
Liam Hemsworth (Knowing)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Elizabeth Banks (The Lego Movie)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Julianne Moore (Freedomland)
Willow Shields (beyond The Blackboard)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Mahershala Ali (Alphas)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
April Grace (Lost)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

Katniss Everdeen is recovering after being attacked by Peeta Mellark, who has been brainwashed by the Capitol. The rebels attack and disable the Capitol’s weapons arsenal in District 2. Katniss tries to rally the loyalists against the Capitol, but is shot and injured in the confrontation. Despite Katniss’ desire to kill President Snow personally, Alma Coin refuses to allow her into battle. At Finnick and Annie’s wedding, Johanna Mason suggests Katniss sneak aboard a supply ship leaving for the Capitol, where Commander Paylor is planning an invasion. Unable to bring her back, Coin has her assigned to the “Star Squad”, led by Boggs and includes Gale, Finnick, Cressida, Messalla, Castor, Pollux, Jackson, the Leeg twins, Mitchell, and Homes; they will follow in relative safety behind the actual invasion of the Capitol providing video of their incursion for propaganda purposes. Boggs carries a holographic map (the “Holo”) to help them evade known booby trapped “pods” which line the streets of the Capitol. Coin also sends Peeta to join the squad, even though he has not fully recovered from the Capitol’s conditioning.

As they venture deeper into the Capitol, Boggs triggers a pod which sets off a land mine and mortally wounds him, and transfers command of the Holo to Katniss before dying. The squad triggers another pod, which releases a flood of lethal black tar. Peeta momentarily succumbs to his conditioning and attacks Katniss, pushing Mitchell into the tar and killing him. The group takes shelter in an abandoned building, where Jackson, the second-in-command, attempts to commandeer the Holo, until Katniss convinces them she is under secret orders from Coin to kill Snow. Katniss and most of the group escape just before a squad of Peacekeepers arrive and destroy the building, killing the Leeg twins. The Capitol broadcasts a message announcing Katniss’s death, which is interrupted by Coin, who delivers an impassioned eulogy for her, to rally the rebels.

The team descends into the Capitol’s sewers to avoid further pods, but they are attacked by a horde of genetically engineered creatures called “mutts”. Jackson, Castor, and Homes are killed as the squad flees through the sewers. Finnick is overwhelmed as he fights off the swarm to allow the team to escape, forcing Katniss to set the Holo’s self-destruct, killing him and the remaining mutts. The surviving team members reach the surface but are chased by Peacekeepers, and Messalla is killed by a pod that melts and disintegrates him. The team takes refuge in a shop, where Tigris, a former Hunger Games stylist and rebel sympathizer, hides them in her basement.

As rebel forces gain ground, Snow invites fleeing Capitol citizens into his mansion for protection. Katniss and Gale join the crowd, posing as refugees to gain access to Snow. Rebels arrive and attack, killing many in the crossfire. In the chaos, Katniss pushes forward to Snow’s mansion, where Peacekeepers are herding Capitol children toward the closed gates. A hovercraft flies overhead, and drops small parcels by parachute into the pen of children. The parcels explode, killing them. A team of rebel medics attempt to help the injured, among whom is Katniss’s sister Prim. A second wave of bombs detonate, killing Prim and knocking Katniss unconscious. Upon recovering, Katniss learns the Capitol has been conquered, and Snow captured. When Katniss confronts Snow, he claims that Coin orchestrated the bombing outside his mansion to turn his soldiers against him. Katniss realizes that the incident resembles a trap that Gale had developed earlier. When Gale is unable to assure Katniss that the bombs were not of his design, Katniss cuts all ties with him. Coin invites the remaining Hunger Games victors to vote on a proposal to have another Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol, as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the districts. Katniss swings the vote in favor, in exchange for the right to execute Snow personally.

At the execution, Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow. The rebels take Katniss into custody, while Snow is tortured and killed by the angry mob. Katniss is eventually pardoned for her crime and returns to District 12, where she is joined by Peeta, who has recovered from his conditioning. Commander Paylor is elected the new President of Panem, and Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch bond over their shared trauma. Years later, Katniss and Peeta play with their two children, as Katniss contemplates the nightmares of her past, and somberly reflects that “there are much worse games to play.”

The special effects are amazing, and the film gripped me throughout. There are some chilling and sad moments and with some twists along the way. Music from previous films is used to powerful effect. Jennifer Lawrence puts in an incredible performance as Katniss, and there are other strong performances from the cast. I was sad to see this end series, but feel everyone involved can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved. An outstanding and thought provoking finale.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Behind Closed Doors)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Jeffrey Wright (Ali)
Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Julianne Moore (Hannibal)
Mahershala Ali (Predators)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

After being rescued from the destroyed arena in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, along with fellow Victors Beetee and Finnick Odair, are taken to District 13, an independent district isolated from the rest of Panem that has been spearheading the rebellion, where she is reunited with her mother and sister Prim. While recuperating, she is introduced to President Alma Coin, the rebel leader, and is told that her actions in the arena sparked riots and strikes against the Capitol. Coin asks her if she will become the “Mockingjay”—the symbol of the rebellion—as part of their “hearts and minds” strategy. Katniss flatly declines, angrily reminding her that they left Peeta Mellark, her portrayed lover and fellow District 12 tribute, behind in the arena. At the suggestion of Plutarch Heavensbee, the former Gamemaker, she is taken to see the ruins of District 12, which was completely leveled by a Capitol bombing campaign (with the exception of the houses in the Victor’s Village). After seeing that Peeta is being used by Capitol state television to quell the rebellion, Katniss reluctantly changes her mind and agrees to become Coin’s Mockingjay, on the condition that Peeta and the other victors will be rescued and pardoned at the earliest opportunity, and that her sister, Prim, will be allowed to keep her cat.
After Haymitch notes that Katniss thrives on spontaneity, she is introduced to her film team (led by Capitol escapee Cressida), is dressed up in a specially-designed outfit, and given Effie Trinket as a stylist and close friend Gale as a bodyguard. They go out to District 8 to visit a hospital, but as the visit concludes, a Capitol bombing squadron arrives and bombs the hospital, killing everyone inside. In her rage, Katniss gives a rousing speech to the camera, which is broadcast when Beetee hijacks the Capitol’s news feed. After it is broadcast, strikers in District 7 kill an entire team of Peacekeepers with hidden land mines.
After seeing a weakened Peeta on a TV propo (propaganda shots) the team then go back to District 12, where Gale tells the story of its destruction, and Katniss is filmed singing “The Hanging Tree”. Soon after, hundreds of protestors in District 5, singing the same anthem, launch a suicidal human wave attack against a hydroelectric dam that is the Capitol’s primary source of electricity. The attack succeeds, forcing the Capitol to revert to backup power generators and weakening their ability to broadcast their propaganda.
That night, Katniss watches Peeta being interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, the Games’ former presenter, when, in an apparent defiance of his captors, Peeta suddenly shouts a warning that the Capitol is about to attack District 13. Coin orders a mass evacuation into the underground shelters. While Prim is nearly locked out when she goes back to get her cat, everyone manages to get inside safely, and the facility survives the attack unharmed. Upon emerging, Katniss discovers that the area is littered with white roses, realizes that President Snow has sent them to taunt her, and presumes that he is about to kill Peeta. As Peeta’s warning gave the District an additional eight minutes evacuation time, Coin dispatches an elite special forces team, which includes Gale, to rescue him, along with Johanna Mason, and Annie Cresta, the remaining Victors, from their prison in the Capitol’s Tribute center. The rescue is successful. However, when Katniss goes to greet Peeta, he unexpectedly attacks and strangles her into unconsciousness, before being knocked unconscious himself by Boggs.
mockingjay-1920-554390-1920x1200
Katniss wakes up in the medical facility, and is informed that Peeta has been “hijacked” — a form of physical/mental torture in which he is brainwashed into wanting to kill Katniss by associating memories of her with the psychological terror created by tracker jacker venom — explaining why the Capitol allowed Gale’s team to escape. Peeta is strapped to a bed and placed in a solitary confinement, while a serum is being developed to undo the effects of the hijacking. Meanwhile, Coin announces the successful rescue of the Victors, and that their next objective is the Capitol’s principal military stronghold in the ravines on District 2.
Excellent performances by actors and a very dramatic, dark mood rather.
An awesome film and a great build-up towards the grandiose finale .