Sunday, August 10, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review; another terrible reboot

The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film holds a place near and dear to my heart.  I was one of THOSE kids, that was obsessed with the Ninja Turtles.  The Saturday morning cartoon, the toys, the video games, I loved it all.  I vividly remember my brother and I waited in line to see the first live-action take on the turtles, and how much we absolutely loved it.  There was a charm to that film, that may not hold up after rewatching it today, but the magic was there 20 some odd years ago.  Now, 2014, we get a reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with all the digital upgrades you would expect.  Jonathan Liebesman directs a Michael Bay produced reboot of the heroes in a half shell.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Choreography / Action Set Pieces 
You may not know Liebesman's films by heart, but he has a decent enough resume, involving some big budget action films.  Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans had to have prepared him for this massive undertaking.  In fact, the action in the film is pretty much the only thing I liked about the film.  The action set pieces are thrilling.  Where the 1990 film showcased actors in suits fighting against other human actors, the stage is much bigger in this film.  Sure, there is hand to hand combat, but there is much much more.  The trailer showcased a tiny bit of an action scene that takes place on a mountain side, but let me tell you, the finished product is incredible.  Sure, there is a total disregard of time, space and physics, but nonetheless, it is entertaining as all hell watching the action.  The climax is very similar to the original film, in the sense of circumstances and location; but everything else is taken up a notch.  If there's one thing I couldn't complain about, it was the action.

What I liked and didn't like about the film:
The Special Effects / Design
I've only done this a few times, but there is an aspect of the film I liked and disliked... the special effects.  While the special effects during fight scenes like the one I described above are terrific, the overall design of the film is just bad.  The turtles look terrible in my opinion.  They are downright scary looking and do not look real, at all!  Splinter, the turtles' sensei and father figure is an awful design that does not look real in any way, shape or form.  Again, the 1990 film may not hold up today, but at least the animatronics/actors sold us on the fact that the characters inhabited a human world.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Writing
The movie is flat out bad, and I will attribute a large part of the blame on the writing, or lack thereof.  I will try to discuss as little as possible when it comes to the plot, which has an oddly similar climax to The Amazing Spider-Man.  But, I will say this... the film is not funny, and that was a problem for me.  Instead of smart and witty jokes, much like the original (sorry, I can't help but compare it, knowing I shouldn't).  Smart writing, and jokes for all ages is a very difficult thing to accomplish, I understand that.  But instead, we're treated to fart jokes and physical comedy that doesn't keep us engaged or interested.  This critique is especially apparent, considering the terrific Guardians of the Galaxy that absolutely nailed the comedy.

The writing is also bad in terms of story and plot... there is none really.  The 'plot' is so simple that you wonder why go through all this headache for something that seems so easily avoidable.  Without spoiling anything, the entire plot folds on itself with this simple notion... if the turtles lay low, there is no plot to the film.  It's simply a stupid story with disproportionate consequences to the action.

Finally, the characters and their development just plain sucks.  The human characters, made up of Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner, are not intriguing at all.  I'll start with Megan Fox; I didn't hate her in the film, I just thought there was very little material for her to work with.  And another gripe with the film, also without spoiling everything is, like I mentioned earlier... it has a serious case of The Amazing Spider-Man syndrome.  Why does the parent of the main character need to be a part of this much bigger conspiracy that lead to the hero's existence?  April O'Neil (Fox), didn't need to be at the center point of the origin story.  She could have simply met the turtles, after they became the heroes we know.

Will Arnett is supposed to be the comic relief in the film, I think.  I think Arnett is a gifted comedian, but he's just not very good in this film, and again, it may be due to the writing.  And if the turtles were funny, the way they've been in every previous incarnation, Arnett wouldn't have to be.  Lastly; it takes about 30 seconds of screen time for us to figure out where Fichtner's character is headed.  It's too bad too, because Fichtner is a tremendous talent who is often downgraded to a supporting character, with very little to do.  He does a fine job with his limited screentime, I just expected more.

The Verdict:
I wish I Didn't See it
I'm serious.  I wish I didn't see this film.  The 1990 film will always, ALWAYS, have a special place in my heart, regardless if it holds up today.  This film had no soul, it had no heart.  It's like a painting... it may look 'pretty' in some people's eyes; but if the artist who created it had no feelings evoked though the painting, it will never amount to much more than some paint on a canvas.  And that's how I felt about this movie.  I never got the sense that the filmmakers were creating this film out of a sheer love, respect, or admiration for the source material.  And I'm not one of those fanboys that feels that filmmakers shouldn't stray from the source material.  I understand a film is a film, and a comic book/tv show/etc. is a completely different thing.  But show us some life in these characters, tell us an engaging story, and you'll get my money everyday of the week.  This movie didn't do it for me.  Maybe I'll go back and watch the 1990 film instead tonight.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quickie: Paul Feig might direct an all female cast in Ghostbusters 3

Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, is rumored to be taking over the Ghostbusters franchise.  Rumors have been flying around about a part 3 to the hit franchise for almost a decade.  A few years ago it looked like there was a script in place and the movie was on the fasttrack.  There were a few hiccups that ultimately postponed the film.  Then came the untimely death of Harold Ramis, one of the writers and stars of the first two films.  A threequel may have worked still, considering there were rumors that the original characters children would be taking up the mantel.  Today, Variety reported that Feig, while not officially signed on, is in talks to direct.  And, that it would be an all female cast, Feig's specialty.  No other news regarding the remaining original cast was reported.

I am all for this news, if it turns out to be true.  I love Feig's films and watch them constantly.  I've seen several interviews with Feig where he explains why he enjoys working with female comedians so much; and you can tell he knows how to spotlight actresses better than others.  The talent is there, but it takes a director like Feig to highlight comedic actresses.  I'm all in for this, and hope it's solidified in the next few weeks.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy review; out of this world fun!

I have to be completely honest; before Marvel announced that it was releasing Guardians of the Galaxy in their line of films, I had no idea it was a comic book.  And after seeing some production shots, and a trailer, I started to get excited.  But none of that could have prepared me for this film.  Director James Gunn directs an all-star cast in a film unlike anything Marvel has done before, and totally nails it!  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Director
I usually save this 'like' to the end of reviews; but not today.  James Gunn has done such a magnificent job here, he deserves to be front and center.  Not only did Gunn direct the film, he has a writing credit as well.  Gunn's choices helped build the perfect world for these characters to inhabit.  Everything from the production design, to the casting, to the choice of make-up; all of it helps to bring this world to life.  This isn't Gunn's first foray into a 'super hero film'.  He directed the criminally underrated Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page.  He is just going to keep getting better at his craft too.  I am so glad he has signed on to direct the already green-lit sequel to GOTG.

The Guardians (The Actors)
I absolutely loved this cast.  Chris Pratt is the leader of this group of misfits, and he is perfect in the role of Star Lord.  I watch "Parks & Rec" religiously and Pratt's work has been my favorite of the hit NBC series.  He plays the part with child-like wonder and even a sense of vulnerability that we are yet to see in the Marvel films.  Pratt is a naturally gifted comedian, and his sense of timing really shines through in this well-written script.

Zoe Saldana plays a warrior who joins the Guardians, almost by accident.  Saldana is good in everything, I mean really; I am yet to see her in something I didn't like, and she didn't disappoint in this film.  Dave Bautista is probably biggest (and most pleasant) surprise in the film for me.  He plays the character so perfectly, you will fall in love with him the minute he shows up on screen.  Bautista's best scenes are where he's verbally sparring with the other characters.  Again, some great writing.

Bradley Cooper is so damn good in this film, and is given easily the best lines in the film!  Cooper voices a raccoon, who is the victim of numerous scientific experiments.  He has, almost, a Boston and New York accent mixed into one, which he is consistent with the entire film.  And even if Cooper isn't on screen, you could feel the emotion in his voice during a pivotal scene in the film.  I can't tell you enough how much I loved Cooper in this movie.  Terrific actors like Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close round out a fantastic cast.  Great stuff in this department.

The Writing
The story in the film is very simple, and easy to follow along.  This is very much a stand-alone film, even if you haven't seen the rest of the Marvel films.  The story is nice and tight, even if it is obviously a part of a bigger whole.  Nonetheless, all 3 acts in the film are well written; James Gunn and Nicole Perlman have did a tremendous job.  Even though there are 5 main characters, there was enough time spent on them all, to ensure they all mattered.  Also worth noting is that each character is fleshed out, and we get a really deep look into every characters.  Well, almost every character anyway...

The Visual Effects
Ok, Marvel may be notorious for being stingy with their money; they could have fooled me.  In my opinion, this is the best looking Marvel movie yet.  The galaxy never looked so good, and neither did all the alien life in it.  Flying aircrafts look amazing against a backdrop of the bright blue sky.  And the completely CGI characters are realistic and believable.  I am telling you, this movie looks amazing.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Villain(s)
Why can't Marvel get this right?  Other than Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), they are yet to showcase a memorable villain in their films.  Lee Pace plays Ronan, and does a decent enough job with the material he's given, but it's just not very good material.  The design of the character and the costume are amazing, but we have no idea who this person is.  Why is he really doing what he's doing?  What is the end game for this person?  Sorry Hollywood, it can't simply be revenge anymore.  The same goes for Benicio Del Toro and his depiction of The Collector.  When the character was teased during a post-credit scene in an earlier Marvel film, I was so excited.  Now?  All I can think to myself is 'who cares?'  I sincerely hope Marvel can get it together before the next Avengers film hits theaters, and we are left disappointed with another inadequate villain.  

The Verdict:
The Most Fun I've Had at the Movies in a Long Time
The title says it; this is the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time.  While X-Men: DOFP is still my favorite film of the Summer, this is a close #2.  And while X-Men was fantastic in my opinion, it wasn't this much fun.  Pratt and company had me wanting more by the time the credits rolled.  I seriously can't wait to see this movie again.  In fact, maybe I'll go check it out again tomorrow.  You should do the same.