Twenty years after their first appearance on The Tracey Ullman Show, America’s favourite dysfunctional cartoon family finally makes it on to the big screen. Cheekily described by creator Matt Groening as Homer’s Odyssey, this is certainly epic, with 11 writers, a team of South Korean animators and a plot that follows Homer from Springfield to Alaska and back again after he accidentally causes an environmental disaster in his home town (D’oh!). The script is glorious in its ambition, tackling everything from lowbrow slapstick to inventive visual gags (Bart’s naked skateboarding is a highlight), barbed political comment (an ill-informed President Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring “I was elected to lead, not to read”) and irreverent swipes at its competitors (Walt Disney gets a bashing). The rich relentlessness of the jokes demands at least two viewings and, while some fans will undoubtedly be upset that a few of their favourite characters are sidelined (including villainous Mr Burns), this re-establishes The Simpsons as the jewel in the crown of American animation.
Before he took to destroying the world with blockbusters likeArmageddon and the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay’s directorial career began with this buddy cop movie. Of course, there is more to Bay than just an affinity for explosives and Bad Boys is a perfect example of his slick directorial abilities. In fact, this is probably the best buddy movie in years, with Bay’s eye for inventive destruction and cool ultra-violence being further enhanced by the inspired double-act of a pre-Independence Day/Men In Black Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, at the time best known for his supporting turns in such films as House Party andBoomerang. Indeed, such is the impact of Smith and Lawrence, it is hard to believe that Sylvester Stallone was rumoured to be linked with the project. The plot revolves around the audacious robbery of a huge cache of heroin, stolen almost literally from under the noses of the police (the drugs were being held as evidence). Enter our two heroes: Smith as the womanising bachelor and Lawrence as his married, strait-laced partner, who, in the only really fresh spin on the buddy format, are forced to swap lifestyles to fool the only witness to the crime (Téa Leoni). However, the plot and characterisation are largely irrelevant – just sit back and feast on the adrenaline-pumping action and the live-wire banter of the two stars.
This involving, atmospheric but often scrappy thriller marks the Hollywood feature debut of Ami Canaan Mann, the daughter of Heat director Michael Mann, who acts as producer here. Sam Worthington stars as Texas cop Mike Souder, who reluctantly joins forces with imported New York detective Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to solve a baffling series of murders that seem to criss-cross local state boundaries, much to the annoyance of the fiercely provincial local lawman. While the film doesn’t add much to the police-procedural genre and certainly never delivers on its initial splurge of whodunnit intrigue, Texas Killing Fields does sustain a pleasurable intensity – largely due to an excellent and well-assembled supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Chloë Grace Moretz and Stephen Graham. However, the standout here is Morgan, who gets a rare showcase to demonstrate his credentials as a likeable, no-nonsense leading man. Ami Canaan Mann’s film may not be up to her father’s meticulous and exacting standard, but it does show a degree of promise.
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