Movie Review ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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The Facts
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Synopsis: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

Stars: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Laura Linney, Brian Tee, Stephen ‘Sheamus’ Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams

Director: Dave Green

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 112 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review: On the way out of the theater after my screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, I had to sit down. Feeling like I just got off of a carousel I rode upside down going backwards, my brain was mush, my eyes unable to focus. It’s only then that I realized that, like a crazy ride I rode recently at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, I had only myself to blame for feeling queasy.  I’m not saying I knew I’d hate this sequel to producer Michael Bay’s mindless remake/reboot from 2014, but I didn’t know I would hate it so very much.

Where to begin when discussing this second installment in a franchise requiring a wealth of suspension of disbelief for its talking turtles, a crusty old rat father figure, and Megan Fox (This is 40) as a serious television reporter?  It’s been several years since the events of the first film which saw the teenage reptiles and their human helpers (Fox and Will Arnett, The LEGO Movie, who gets smarmier with each passing hour he’s alive) send big bad nemesis Shredder to prison. Preferring to stay underground, the turtles let Arnett take the credit for stopping the crime wave and while becomes a NYC hero the real champions are stuck eating pizza and watching basketball from the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, Gone Girl) breaks Shredder out of prison in an elaborately staged (and seemingly endless) action sequence for reasons never made totally clear to anyone, least of all audience members. There’s some mumbo jumbo about black holes and the time space continuum before Shredder comes face to face with another villain, Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb).  Looking like a Jell-O-molded brain creation housed within a titanic robot, Krang wants Shredder to gather some alien remnants on earth in order to create a portal between Krang’s world and ours.  In return, Krang gives Shredder a vial of purple ooze that will help enact revenge on the teen turtles that did him wrong.

Back on Earth, Shredder uses the purple ooze on fellow prison escapees Bebop and Rocksteady, turning them into a warthog and rhinoceros in order to take down the turtles. TMNT fans have been waiting a long time for these two popular villains to appear onscreen and if the overall result is less than satisfying (imagine Beavis and Butthead but uglier and stupider) it at least takes some attention away from Brian Tee’s stilted Shredder.  Add in some paltry dissention in the turtle ranks and you’ve got a lengthy film that eventually rendered this viewer completely numb.  At one point I considered taking a walk on the nonsense but the neverending onslaught of quick cut 3D action scenes coupled with a blaring soundtrack left me paralyzed.

Director Dave Green helmed the respectable family sci-fi yarn Earth to Echo so I was interested to see if he’d add the same heart and curiosity he brought to that little seen film. Taking over the reins from the bombastic Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans), Green succumbs to the Michael Bay side of his directing psyche and delivers a movie that’s all noise. The CGI turtles feel less life-like than the previous entry and so much of the film is computer generated that action passages (nearly all at night in dark locales) turn into washes of greens and dark blues, indistinguishable from one moment to the next.

Fox manages to retain a pouty face even in the most dangerous of situations while Arnett chews so much scenery I’m shocked he wasn’t 500 lbs by the time the film wrapped. Perry continues to be an absolute disaster of an actor but he’s given a run for his money by Stephen Amell as fan favorite Casey Jones. Poor Amell has to recite the most terrible dialogue from Josh Applebaum (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and Andre Nemec’s pathetic script, though I think if Amell was a better actor he could have made it less laughable. I mean, the awful lines can be given some dramatic weight and three-time Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes) shows us how its done. Make no mistake, Linney’s performance is as terrible as the rest but at least she knows she’s slumming it and nabbing a neat paycheck for her trouble.

It’s a pity that this turtle turd of a film will make enough money to warrant another installment while smaller films deserving of a TMNT -sized audience will go unnoticed this summer. Representing everything that’s terrible about summer blockbusters (no heart, no brain, no point), these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need to be grounded.

The Silver Bullet ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Out of the Shadows

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Synopsis: The Turtles return to save the city from a dangerous threat.

Release Date: June 3, 2016

Thoughts: The 2014 reboot (the second attempt at one, mind you) of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a loud, crass, critically reviled bit of summer dunderheadedness…but it made a hefty profit at the box office…which leads us to this sequel subtitled Out of the Shadows.  Where the first film seemed to at least attempt to find a bit of grit, this one looks like a pure  gonzo fest of oversized performances, special effects, and cleavage shots of star Megan Fox (What to Expect When You’re Expecting).  Fans of the TMNT franchise will likely warm at the sight of villains Bebop and Rocksteady but I see just another questionable use of CGI and likely a large waste of time.

 

 

Movie Review ~ Now You See Me

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The Facts:

Synopsis: An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Common, Mélanie Laurent, Dave Franco

Director: Louis Leterrier

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 105 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (4/10)

Review:  Back in November when I reviewed the trailer for Now You See Me, I mentioned how difficult it was for films about magic to really draw movie audiences in because seeing disappear on screen is much less interesting than being dazzled in a live environment.  Well it turns out that drawing the audience in is the least of the troubles the film is saddled with because the movie itself is too lame brained for words.  While not as big of a loser as The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, it’s a bummer of a summer flick that does its best to distract you with smoke and mirrors but ultimately can’t disguise the fact that it’s a second rate act with no impressive finale.

The film has a fairly solid opening as we are introduced to four illusionists that are brought together to form the Four Horsemen.  Though all four seem to know each other, there’s not a lot of back-story offered up so we’re just supposed to accept that everyone is aware that the others are equally smart tricksters.  Soon the Four Horsemen are doing a show at the MGM Grand and in performing one masterful trick that’s tied to a bank heist they catch the attention of the FBI (Mark Ruffalo, Marvel’s The Avengers), Interpol (Mélanie Laurent), and a sly former magician (Morgan Freeman, Oblivion) now more interested in pulling back the curtain on other magic acts.

Like most magic tricks, the film becomes less interesting the more that things are explained.  Aside from the swift opening, much of the film feels deliberately manipulative to continue to support the overblown set-up.  Some of the magic is revealed in ways that are easy to accept but too much of the tricks on display have no basis in reality.  Had the movie employed more of a sci-fi/alternate reality aspect to it like Looper it may have made the more eye-rolling moments easier to digest.

Part of the problem is that there are just too many cooks in the script kitchen.  Boasting a remarkable five (FIVE!) screenwriters, the movie feels like a heavy bowl of stone soup with multiple people contributing to the pot.  I’ve mentioned the curious (but obviously intentional) lack of back-story but also offered up for evidence are large gaps of time and information that simply aren’t accounted for.  The script so clearly wants to keep us in the dark that it becomes frustrating to watch.  The best films with twists and turns handle their misdirection with a proper plan for revealing the man behind the curtain but it’s patently clear that no such pre-planning was done here.

The finale of the film feels like the fourth or fifth one that was shot.  It comes out of nowhere and feels like one screenwriter was mailed the outline of ¾ of a script and told to write the rest without consulting with anyone else.  It also cheats the audience by asking us to accept s certain fact without referring back to what we already know is true.  This is not the way to make a satisfying caper film and audiences that are paying good money to see the film deserve better.

Assembling an interesting array of actors is probably the best trick that the film achieves though not everyone is quite as successful.  I’m officially over Jesse Eisenberg as he turns in his umpteenth version of the same character – a cocky annoyance that fancies himself an elevated David Copperfield.  Also on the low end is Isla Fisher, normally put to good use but who is strangely out of place and out of a consistent American accent.  And why her character wears these tiny motorcycle gloves for the whole film may be the biggest mystery of all…dry skin, maybe?

Harrelson, Caine, and Freeman are their dependable selves but it’s Ruffalo and French star Laurent that are the most interesting people to watch.  I wasn’t too keen on Laurent as the movie opened but Ruffalo is a good cinematic partner that can make his co-stars shine.  Though Ruffalo winds up being shorted as the film progresses, he soldiers forth gamely — though he must have been asking himself, “I went from playing The Incredible Hulk to this?”

Speaking of The Hulk, Now You See Me is directed by Louis Leterrier who was in the director’s seat for the 2008 failed reboot of The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton.  Leterrier brings the same energy he brought to that film and two Transporter films by keeping the camera in constant motion with little reprieve for the audience.  Though the camera work is not hand-held, it’s a whirling dervish of movement that could send weak stomached audience members on a queasy adventure to the lavatory.

Though some of Now You See Me is interesting in passing, it’s not worth your time and money in a busy summer movie season.  Even on Redbox or Netflix the film would only be a middling choice for the savvy movie-goer.  Now You See Me…you shouldn’t.