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The Island

This futuristic thriller deals with a colony of survivors who live in an enclosed environment after a deadly virus has contaniminated the earth. One of these survivors is Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor), who is getting fed up with his orderly existence and starts to question why he is remembering certain events from his past. He also wants to know the secret of ‘The Lottery’, in which certain residents are chosen to travel to a tropical island. The person in charge of the band of survivors is a scientist, Merrick (Sean Bean), who has his own agenda from keeping secrets from them. One day Lincoln discovers a deadly secret about the island and tries to save the life of a friend, Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson). What follows is a story of double cross and deception, as the two survivors discover that all is not what it seems, and that they have to fight for their very existence.The director of this, Michael Bay, is no stranger to big budget action fests. His previous films includes ‘The Rock’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘Bad Boys’, and ‘Pearl Harbor’. His films have hardly been high art, but they always delivered on spectacle - and he doesn’t disappoint with this film either. ‘The Island’ is a slightly more intelligent film than usual for him to direct, although once the main story is set up and going, he then reverts to form and brings on the massive explosions. If the pace of the story begins to sag, then it’s a case of ‘blow something up’.

Ewan McGregor does his usual fine job as a man who thinks who knows who he is, but then discovers his identity is not what it appeared to be. McGregor makes a fine action hero, but gives a better performance in the ’slow’ sections of the film. He appears to be more comfortable in these scenes than in the big action ones. Scarlett Johansson is quite good in her first action role, and gives her role a subtle charm amid all the chaos that follows. Sean Bean makes an arresting villain and chews the scenery as only he can. Steve Buscemi turns up as a worker in the colony, and gives his usual hammy performance. The rest of the cast do what they can with the material, but once the explosions start, the body count goes up and the quality of the performances goes down!

Mention must be made of the production design of the film, which is fantastic. Most of the costumes that the survivors wear are all white, which goes with the white decor in the place they live in. This gives the film a very stark look - although it must be said, it does add to the cliché that is found in most sci fi films that the future is either bright or a dark grungy place. The story in the film is quite interesting, with a few surprises, but once the explosions start, plot and pacing go out the window, and it essentially becomes a very long chase film. In the hands of a better director, this could have been quite an intelligent film. As it is, this is basically a popcorn entertainment movie for undiscriminating types.

Rating out of 10: 5

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The Simpsons Movie

Generations of American TV viewers have had family sitcoms that have gone onto lasting popularity.  The 50s had Leave It to Beaver, the 70s had The Brady Bunch, the 90s and beyond have belonged to The Simpsons.  As an antidote to those sugary offerings, The Simpsons have shown more of the American psyche than any homogenised sitcoms put together.  After a long wait the citizens of Springfield finally branch out onto the big screen.
Dopey dad Homer and his family - Marge, Lisa, Bart, Maggie - get involved in an environmental nightmare. This is due to Homer adopting a pig as a surrogate son, inadvertently causing a catastrophe of epic proportions.  Wanting to avoid an eco disaster, the government encloses Springfield in an unbreakable dome with no escape.  After the residents find that Homer is the cause, his family manage to flee North to Alaska to start anew. But Homer and co refuse to go down without a fight and attempt to save Springfield and its crazy inhabitants.
One of the pleasures of the series is the multi layered comedy it displays.  On one hand it can be seen as a devastating critique of current universal trends, and on the other it can be enjoyed by children who like its outrageous cartoon silliness.  Free from the TV confines, the first half hour fires on all cylinders, attacking several sacred cows in a scattershot manner.  But when they head off to Alaska, the momentum noticeably sags.  By taking The Simpsons out of Springfield, the plot loses that quirky sensibility that makes the show so great.  While the family on their own are funny, without the wonderful supporting characters the satirical edge is missing.
Generally there is much to enjoy here with the writers remembering to move the story along, rather than tacking together three half hour episodes.  The characters are all in place still representing a microcosm of everyday personal characteristics.  The Simpsons have the pop culture references down to a fine art and the animation utilises the scope of the widescreen process very well.
This is unlikely to be the only cinematic outing for the warped family, which the writers can improve on in terms of pacing.  In this current commercially sanitised world, it’s a pleasure to see that some subversive humour is allowed to creep through that is more mind bending than anything with which Walt Disney could have come up with.
Rating out of 10:  6