Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

August 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans,” “Battle Los Angeles”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum & Andre Nemec (“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and Evan Daugherty (“Divergent”)

We should all be resigned to the pop culture of our youth being strip-mined for lackluster, cash-in film franchises by now. Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs have all made their way back to the big screen in the last few years, all with middling-to-terrible results. But nostalgia is a potent force, and retreads of popular characters from the movie going populace’s respective childhoods act as powerful magnets for hard-earned cash, with each property making enough money it its initial theatrical outing to warrant at least one sequel. That said, nostalgia can only go so far before the true aroma—or stink, if you will—starts to waft through the perfume of reliving a youth gone by. And with the latest cinematic incarnation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” the smell is reminiscent of a slightly overripe turtle terrarium: not bad enough to stink up the whole house, but smelly enough to be a nuisance you don’t want to spend too much time around.

The shell of the story remains the same as previous TMNT outings, with a nefarious gang of criminals known as The Foot terrorizing New York City. Intrepid reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) in intent on exposing the truth behind the crime wave, only her news director (Whoopi Goldberg) has her working the fluff news beat instead. When April makes her way down to the docks on her down time and witnesses four vigilantes—those being our turtle heroes—take down a gang of Foot, she unknowingly becomes embroiled in a long-simmering plot orchestrated by The Shredder to hold the city of New York hostage to a poisonous gas, where the only remedy is the mutagen which created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

When this version of the film was announced with schlockmeister Michael Bay in the producer’s chair, the collective internet immediately dismissed the film based on the lack of merit awarded to Bay’s treatment of the Transformers, to put it kindly. While nothing in this incarnation of TMNT sinks to the levels of stupidity present in the four Bay-directed Transformer films, the movie is just sort of there. Not good enough to recommend, and not terrible enough to inspire rage—especially with at least one or two well-received films under the franchise’s belt from decades past to satiate fans. Yeah, the film makes some stupid choices, like tweaking the origin story to make the Turtles and their rat sensei Splinter childhood pets of April O’Neil, a claustrophobic decision that echoes the worst ideas in the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” films. But the action scenes are well-orchestrated in a cartoony way, and the CGI—in spite of what you think of the Turtles’ nostrils—is a definite step up from the animatronic costumes of the ‘90s trilogy. You know, maybe you should just watch those instead.

Wrath of the Titans

March 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”)
Written by: Dan Mazeau (debut) and David Leslie Johnson (“Red Riding Hood”)

When we last left our hero, half man/half god Perseus (Sam Worthington), he had saved a princess, squared off with the gods, and defeated the Kraken to wrap up 2010’s “Clash of the Titans,” the poorly-received remake of the 1981 film of the same name. While the weak script was about as deep as a Grecian urn, the spectacular action sequences drove the mythological motion picture to nearly half a billion dollars at the box office, paving the way for more adventures featuring the ass-kicking demigod in the sequel “Wrath of the Titans.”

“Wrath” picks up the story 10 years after the events of the first film. The time of the gods is drawing to a close thanks to humanity’s lack of devotion and worship, and their weakened state has made containing the imprisoned Titans a difficult task. Led by Kronos, a giant lava monster and father to Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the angered Titans threaten to wipe out both the gods and mankind. The world’s only hope lies in convincing Perseus, content as a father and a fisherman, to hop on the back of his Pegasus and wield his sword once again.

Even with a sparse script that seems better suited for a video game, “Wrath” manages to improve on its predecessor in the screenwriting department. That isn’t to say it’s well-written or anything, but at least the brevity of it leads to it being not quite as big a mess of mythology and melodrama this time around. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”) wisely amps up the action, pausing only long enough on plot points to set up the next set piece. From a forest battle with a pair of giant Cyclopes to perilous trek through a massive labyrinth to a final battle with the aforementioned towering lava monster, “Wrath” rarely lets up the visual assault.

Worthington’s Perseus remains a hero of few words, which is probably for the best. As estranged godly brothers, “Schindler’s List” co-stars Neeson and Fiennes bask in the cheese while making the most of their expanded screen time, getting a chance to enter the battle this time instead of standing around in the heavens unleashing Krakens and whatnot. While Rosamund Pike’s Queen Andromeda (replacing “Clash’s” Alexa Davalos in the role) merely fills the generic love interest role in Perseus’ team, Toby Kebbell’s demigod Agenor brings some welcome comic relief to the quest. And an always-welcome Bill Nighy delights as daffy fallen god Hephaestus, who’s choice in a conversation partner proves that the only people who still want a goofy clockwork owl hanging out in their fantasy action movies are, indeed, crazy.