TMNT: Out of the Shadows

June 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell
Directed by: Dave Green (“Earth to Echo”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) and Andre Nemec (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”)

As an 11-year-old in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fandom hit me right in the gut. When the first feature film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” hit theaters, my friends and I were puzzled by the differences from the beloved cartoon series that was all over afternoon and Saturday morning TV. Where was the turtles’ armored transport, the Party Wagon? Why was Shredder so scary? And where were the other bad guys: mutants like warthog Bebop and rhinoceros Rocksteady, or extra-dimensional brain-in-a-robot-body Krang? While the 1990 film remains the best, most competent movie from point A to point B, it’s the newest film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” that captures the goofy spirit of the property kids fell in love with nearly three decades ago.

Picking up a year after 2014’s dismal, dumb reboot, “Out of the Shadows” opens with our CGI heroes – helpfully labeled on screen as Leo, Mikey, Don, and Raph – jumping off the Chrysler Building and into Madison Square Garden to watch a Knicks game from inside the Jumbo Tron. As Mikey laments that their status as mutated turtles keeps them out of the spotlight, motor mouthed cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) returns to be honored at halftime for saving the city from Shredder, part of an agreement with the turtles to keep them from being exposed to the city they saved.

Meanwhile, convicted terrorist(!) Shredder (Brian Tee) is set to be transported to a maximum security prison, escorted by corrections officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and in the company of street punks Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus). That’s when Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), a mad scientist who is under investigation by reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) uses a teleporter to retrieve his sensei from the prison van. Something goes awry in the teleportation, however, and Shredder ends up in front of Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), a talking brain inside the belly of a robot body. Krang recruits Shredder to put together pieces of something or another that will allow a battle station called the Technodrome to travel to earth in order for Krang to enslave humanity. To help him in his mission, Krang gives Shredder some purple ooze, which he uses to create his own mutants to battle the turtles.

Look, the plot is junk, there are too many lowbrow fart-type jokes and the music is bombastic and ill-fitting, but holy shit, they got the four turtles and villains Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang exactly right. Leo, Mikey, Don, Raph and the aforementioned bad guys are essentially perfectly transplanted from the original cartoon series, and it’s just so much fun. The highlight of the film, a mission to Brazil that starts with our heroes diving from a cargo plane and ends with fight on a river revolving around a floating tank, is energetic and exciting and the best example of these motion-captured turtles as living and breathing characters. The humans don’t fare so well, however. Shredder, outside of his trademark costume for most of the film, is relegated to a mere middleman, while newcomer Casey Jones never really settles in to a groove as a trusted-yet-unhinged partner to the turtles or a love interest to April O’Neil, here again nothing more than eye candy in the sexy, sexy form of Megan Fox. While a vast improvement on the reboot from two years ago, it’s not without its pitfalls, one of which is the very modern problem of keeping one looking ahead toward a sequel at all times (i.e. not a single villain dies in this movie – even goons tossed out of airplanes are given parachutes). Grab yourself a big, cheesy slice.

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.

Jennifer’s Body

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons
Directed by: Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”)
Written by: Diablo Cody (“Juno”)

Actress Megan Fox may be drop dead gorgeous, but there’s nothing pretty about “Jennifer’s Body.” The film is screenwriter Diablo Cody’s first script since winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for 2007’s slightly overrated “Juno.” (I still highly recommend “Juno,” but some of its pretentious dialogue bothers the hell out of me…”Honest to blog.”) Anyway, in “Body,” Cody and director Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”) spew out as much unoriginality as the demon-possessed Fox does prickly, black vomit. It’s going for campy, but there’s really nothing too hilarious or scary to make it memorable. When a lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried is the only thing luring boys to the movie, you know you have yourself a guilty pleasure that’ll only be worth a few seconds on YouTube once the buzz dies down.

Transformers 2

June 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro
Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”)

The robot war wages on in the inevitable summer blockbuster that is “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” While the 2007 film may have filled a void for fans of the 80’s animated TV series and Hasbro action figures, director Michael Bay and crew prove that bigger, louder, and more obnoxious isn’t always better when it comes to nonstop action sequels. Who knew endless explosions and computer-generated combat could be so tedious?

In “Revenge of the Fallen,” actor Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Whitwicky, the geeky high school kid in the original who is now on his way to college and looking forward to putting the intergalactic battle of two years ago behind him. Sam wants a regular life and even goes as far as leaving his beloved Camaro Bumblebee in his parent’s garage. Even more irrational, he leaves his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) behind and hopes occasional web chats will be enough for their relationship to survive a long first semester.

Sam goes to school just long enough to meet his roommate, Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez), a conspiracy theorist who runs his own website on the subject. Before Sam realizes it, the two shape-shifting robot species, the Autobots and the Decepticons, begin to butt machine parts again in an attempt to save the universe and destroy the universe respectively.

In the sequel, many of the same robots are back. You can’t have a “Transformer” movie without leaders Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). For diehard fans, more advanced characters rear their metal heads on screen including Jetfire, Sideswipe, Soundwave and, of course, The Fallen, who is considered one of the original and evilest Transformers. There are also annoying additions to the CGI cast like Mudflap and Skids, who are about as funny as electric shock therapy.

Aside from the chaotic and devastatingly long script penned by return writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and newcomer Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”), “Revenge of the Fallen” is brash and boring and exactly what you would expect from director Bay, whose cinematic track record is consistent at best. It’s always the same with Bay. There is no volume button; no room to breathe; no climax. Everything he does is in one whirling motion where by the end of it you feel more scatty than satisfied.

It might be a visual bonanza when you can actually tell what’s going on as the robots fight to the death (that’s probably why we see more slow-motion action in places where you can’t distinguish one metal appendage from another), but “Revenge of the Fallen,” like its predecessor, is a meaningless diversion that’s an hour too long and devoid of any human value or emotion.