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.

Movie Review ~ Earth to Echo

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The Facts:

Synopsis: After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Stars: Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt

Director: Dave Green

Rated: PG

Running Length: 89 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  More than likely had I not seen Earth to Echo at an advance screening for critics it would have been a film I wouldn’t have thought twice about missing in the theater…and probably would have skipped entirely when it popped up on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  I purposely hadn’t watched a trailer for it beforehand, relishing the rare opportunity in this day and age to go into a film having not been inundated with trailers and a marketing blitz that spoiled some surprises.

All I knew about this sci-fi adventure aimed at 8-12 year old boys was that it was funded (and, once production had been completed, subsequently dropped by Walt Disney Studios) and that it reminded me an awful lot of 80s fare like The Goonies, *batteries not included, Explorers, E.T., and a host of other films that I grew up with.

While Earth to Echo isn’t breaking box office records after being unceremoniously dumped into theaters right in the middle of this blockbuster heavy season, it’s one of the more pleasing summer entries so far in 2014.  Scoring high on sheer nostalgia factor alone, I couldn’t shake the feeling throughout that this was the kind of film I would have gobbled up back in the day.

The overly familiar plot finds three friends from a small Nevada development that’s being razed for a freeway expansion using their last days together digging into the mystery of why their phones seem to be pointing them to a spot in the desert.  On their final night in their homes they take off on their BMXs (with helmets on, in one of the film’s several safety first messages) and discover a cute as all get out alien that needs their help to get back home.

Employing a found footage technique that works more than it should, Earth to Echo makes decent use out of its short running length to find time to discuss friendship, loss, and family without shoving it down the throats of the young audience (and their parents) it’s targeting.  If the acting feels a tad on the amateur side (especially with the unfortunate late addition of a tween girl, introduced seemingly because the producers realized they needed to attract girls as well as boys) it’s because we’re dealing with mostly green actors that compensate for their lack of experience with a few nice moments of genuine sincerity.

Though it continues the trend of pushing the limits of the family-friendly PG rating with a fair share of perilous sequences, this is a nice little nugget of a film.  Even if the credits play over the too on the nose “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic, it manages to bridge the gap for parents of youngsters that are too old for silly animation and too young for those PG-13 comedies that have at least one scene that makes you regret you brought your 10 year old.