The Simpson’s Movie: A Review…or, My Eyes, The Goggles Do Nothing!

The Simpsons Movie

Good Lord, this movie stinks.

I had high hopes for The Simpson’s Movie, and, indeed, it begins on a high note, with a great Itchy & Scratchy sequence that ends with Scratchy eating hundreds of nuclear warheads. Hah! Then the camera pans back to reveal we’re watching a movie, where Homer Simpson stands and berates the audience for paying money to see a show they’re already getting on television for free. Haha…more funny.

Homer wasn’t kidding. The jokes in this movie are good for about, oh, 20 minutes. Twenty minutes, the length of one decent TV. Then the writers lose any sense of creativity or wit, and plod along for two unbearably dull hours. The Simpson’s Movie is such a slave to Hollywood formula that I was looking behind my couch for a paperback copy of “Screenwriting 101.”

Do I really have to write more? I don’t feel like it. You’ve had more than enough time to see this movie if you’re so inclined. I’m really the last one to the party. I think the problem here is the same as the TV show: The Simpson’s has run out of gas. After 25 years on the air, every conceivable joke, story, and scenario has been played out a dozen different ways. The series is now reduced to the level of a simple gag show that sputters through tired routines and worn jokes, and has been so for years.

There’s no reason why a Simpson’s Movie couldn’t be clever, witty, biting, recapture some of that old magic. I could imagine a wacky comedy like one of Mel Brooks’ classic films — Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs — or any number of screwball farces. No such luck. What’s here is just a standard-issue formula picture that has been used on about a billion summer blockbusters.

About the only good thing to come out of this movie is the animation, which is much fuller than on TV. The production team definitely put a priority on animating The Simpsons as they never could on the small screen. For the most part, it works very well. They didn’t turn this movie into an overdrawn Disney cartoon, but augment the in-between animations whenever necessary.  Everything looks very nice, if still a bit bland, but that’s largely due to the art design of the series itself, and it’s far too late to do anything about that now.

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Gunstar Heroes (Sega Genesis)

Gunstar Heroes (Treasure for Sega Genesis)

Gunstar Heroes is just about the best videogame ever made for the Sega Genesis. It certainly symbolized everything that made Genesis so cool: terrific music, speed, innovation, and style, style, style. There is more style and clever ideas crammed into this game than in many consoles’ entire libraries, and I’m sure that sounds like some cheesy cliché, but this time it’s very true. Gunstar is the rightful heir to the greatest of all the run-and-gun shooters, Contra, filtered through 1990s pop culture, Japanese anime, channel surfing, and way too many explosions.

Here is a videogame where you face off against a giant bouncing cell with an enormous happy face. Here is a game where you venture through a giant dice maze. Here is a game where a villain, trapped on a burning train, hurls his own soldiers at you. In one of the early levels, you battle against suicide bombers, soldiers who set fire to houses, killer bees, flying drones, thugs who grab you from behind, and a creature, made entirely out of boxes, who attacks with the dragon punches and foot sweeps from Street Fighter 2.

That crazy sense of humor has since become a trademark quality of the game’s developer, a small Japanese studio named Treasure. The developers originally hailed from Konami during the 8- and 16-bit eras, and a number of them worked on many classics, although exactly which ones remain clouded in mystery. It’s commonly believed that they were responsible for Castlevania 4 and Contra 3 on the Super Nintendo (Gunstar’s first level is something of a homage to Contra 3), and possibly Bucky O’Hare in the arcades. I’ve heard assertions that some of these developers even worked on the original Castlevania and Contra, but I’m a little more skeptical. It’s all a part of the legend, I suppose.

In any case, these folks grew unhappy with having to churn out sequels and brand-name tie-ins. They wanted to break out and pursue their own original ideas. They wanted something new. So this small collection of programmers and artists left Konami and founded Treasure. They immediately set to work, churning out a number of games on Genesis; Gunstar Heroes was their first title.

Treasure immediately made an impact on the industry; with their first game, they demonstrated a technical brilliance and mastery of the Genesis. Truly Konami let some of their best talent slip out the door. Treasure also built up a fiercely loyal fan following, from fanzines (like mine) to magazines like Diehard Gamefan. To this day, you aren’t really considered a hardcore gamer if you don’t passionately love Treasure’s games.

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