Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Preview: September

The Summer movie season has officially come to an end and now we’re closing in on the last third of 2014. We’re not quite into the ‘Oscar season’ yet and, to be honest, there’s not that much to talk about in regards to this month but of course there are still some noteworthy releases that will be hitting theaters in the next few weeks. Welcome back to Rhode Island Movie Corner’s year-long preview of the films set to come out in 2014. This is Part 8 of 11 (previously 12) and today we’ll be looking at the films that will be hitting theaters this September.

SEPTEMBER 5


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a first for me in regards to this monthly preview. There are no notable new films hitting theaters this weekend. The only thing worth mentioning is a special one-week limited engagement of the 1994 Oscar-winning film ‘Forrest Gump’ in IMAX Theaters.

SEPTEMBER 12- Now we’re getting back on track as two new films will come out this weekend.


*2011’s ‘Dolphin Tale’ fared pretty well with critics and audiences when it was released that year. This month sees the release of its sequel ‘Dolphin Tale 2’. Like the first film, it is also based on a true story regarding the dolphin Winter who had lost her tail when she ended up getting caught in a fish trap. In this film, the members of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who helped save Winter by giving her a prosthetic tail, are faced with a new challenge as they must find a new companion for Winter after her surrogate mother dies in order for her to stay at the Aquarium. The main cast of the first film (including Henry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, and Morgan Freeman) all return for this film.


*In ‘No Good Deed’, Taraji P. Henson stars as a former District Attorney who assists a stranger (played by Idris Elba) when he gets into an accident but it turns out this man isn’t as friendly as he seems.

SEPTEMBER 19- The busiest week of the month sees four new releases, including the newest young adult novel adaptation (in fact, three of these films are adaptations of novels) and a horror film from director Kevin Smith.


*The latest adaptation of a popular young adult novel, ‘The Maze Runner’, based on the book of the same name by James Dashner, centers on a boy named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who ends up being put into a mysterious place known as the ‘Glade’ that is surrounded by a giant maze that is guarded by creatures known as Grievers. With no memory of his past or the outside world, Thomas tries to figure out a way to escape.


*In ‘This is Where I Leave You’, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver star as a group of siblings who reunite with their mother (Jane Fonda) following the death of their father. The film, directed by Shawn Levy, also stars Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shepard.


*The final major ‘adapted’ film of the week is ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’, based off of the book of the same name by Lawrence Block. Liam Neeson stars as an ex New York cop who is hired by a drug dealer to find his missing wife.


*Closing out the week’s new releases is ‘Tusk’, a horror film from director Kevin Smith. In it, Justin Long stars as a podcaster who ends up getting kidnapped when he goes to interview a sailor. It is set to be followed by a spin-off film in 2015, ‘Yoga Hosers’, which also stars the same cast from ‘Tusk’ but is set from the perspective of two convenience store clerks (Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin Smith’s daughter, and Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp, who stars in these movies as an ex-cop).

SEPTEMBER 26- Closing out the month is a pair of new releases; one a stop-motion animated film and the other an adaptation of an old TV series.


*Laika, the studio behind ‘Coraline’ and ‘Paranorman’, debut their new film, ‘The Boxtrolls’, based off of the novel ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow. It centers on a boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright (‘Bran Stark’ from ‘Game of Thrones’)) who is raised by a group of underground-living trolls known as the ‘Boxtrolls’. The film’s voice cast also includes Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.


*To close out the month, we have ‘The Equalizer’, based off of the TV series of the same name that ran from 1985 to 1989. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’), Denzel Washington stars as an ex-special ops agent who faces the Russian mob after protecting a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) from them.


And those are the films that are set to come out in September. Check back next month for Part 9 in which we look at the October lineup.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

End of Summer Announcement

Overall, the 2014 Summer Movie Season was pretty solid. Sure there were certainly some stinkers that came out, as it has been every year, but overall I’d say that this year the good managed to outweigh the bad. Now I’m not doing a recap of all of the films that came out this summer because I already sort of did that back in July in my ‘2014 Midyear Recap’ minus the films that I would see in the next two months. So instead ladies and gentlemen, I’m letting you create a Top 10 list for your favorite films that came out this summer. The link below is for a survey where you can vote for what was your number one favorite film from this summer season. I’ve basically listed almost all of the films that I covered in my monthly ‘preview’ posts but if you feel that I’ve forgotten a film, feel free to include that film in the write-in section. The final results will be tallied and a Top 10 list consisting of the films that received the most amounts of votes from those who took part in the survey will be posted a few days after the voting period is over (which will probably be in about a week or so… I’ll keep you notified via Twitter). I’m very eager to see what films you all will pick as your favorite film of the 2014 Summer Movie Season.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Expendables 3 (2014) review


I will admit that I’m a fan of ‘The Expendables’ films and I am also aware that I’m kind of in the minority on that. I mean sure when you really look at these films, they’re generally nothing more than dumb cheesy action films that are very much in line with the action films from the 80’s. Still, even with that in mind I still find both ‘Expendables’ films to be very entertaining. The first film, despite some occasionally clunky editing and for also being a bit too serious at times, managed to still have some awesome action sequences that I feel managed to make up for a good chunk of the film’s shortcomings. But ultimately I prefer the sequel, ‘The Expendables 2’, more than I do the first one. It didn’t take things as seriously as the first film did and it had much better action sequences and a far more memorable villain compared to the generic warlord and CIA agent from the first film. So now we come to the third ‘Expendables’ film, this one helmed by Patrick Hughes, who has recently been hired to helm an American remake of ‘The Raid’. As for this film, it’s faced quite a bit of controversy recently for a few major reasons. The first, and clearly the most infamous, was when a Digital Copy of the film was leaked online by piracy sites a few weeks before it was set to be released in theaters. Seeing how it is estimated that the leaked copy of the film was viewed more than 2 million times, it certainly is playing a key factor in the film’s poor performance at the box office. But then you also take into account that this is the first film in the series to be rated PG-13 after the far more violent/bloody R-rated first two films. Some may feel that this means that the new film will be ‘watered down’ compared to its predecessors. However, ‘The Expendables 3’ still manages to be a fun and corny action film that actually isn’t affected by the PG-13 rating that much.

After rescuing one of their old teammates, ex-medic Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from prison, the mercenary group ‘The Expendables’, led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), are then tasked with intercepting a shipment of weapons that are set to be handed over to a Somalian warlord. However, once there, they soon find out that the arms trader providing the bombs is none other than Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the group with Barney many years ago. He was believed to be dead after being ‘killed’ by Barney when he found out that he had gone rogue but it turns out that he’s still alive. When one of the members of the groups is severely injured in the operation by Stonebanks, Barney ends up disbanding the team so that none of the others would end up the same way. He then proceeds to enlist a new younger group of mercenaries (played by Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, and Victor Ortiz) in order to capture Stonebanks and take him into custody. However, the operation soon goes haywire and Stonebanks ends up taking the new recruits hostage, leaving Barney with no choice but to reassemble the old gang in order to take down their former ‘ally’.

Like the two films that came before it, ‘The Expendables 3’ is an incredibly cheesy action film that very much feels like it came from the 80’s with its constant one-liners and its fair share of story clichés. However that’s part of what makes these films fun to watch in the first place. They harken back to the classics like ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Rambo’ and while I may not have been an ‘80’s kid’, I can certainly see the impact that those films have made on the action genre. I also have to give these last two films a lot of credit because after the first film tried to be more serious than it needed to be, the sequels have thankfully not made the same mistake. They opt for a much more light-hearted tone which is much more suited for films of this nature. There has been quite a lot of speculation regarding this film being ‘toned down’ to a PG-13 rating after the previous two films were rated ‘R’. However I can assure you that this is not that big of a problem. Sure, that does mean that there are some really noticeable instances where the violence is heavily edited so that we don’t see anything too violent or bloody. But at the same time, this film does get rid of something that I’m well-aware has been a major problem for a lot of people and that is the use of CGI blood squibs whenever someone is killed so the downgrade to PG-13 isn’t all that bad. Heck, even under a PG-13 rating this film is still pretty damn violent, especially during the insane finale.

It’s clear that because this film is rated PG-13, the filmmakers are trying to market the film towards younger audiences than they used to. That fact is most noticeable in regards to how this film spends more time on the new young members of the Expendables than the older ones. So with that said, if you’re going into this film expecting to see a lot of the main members of the Expendables, you’re more than likely going to be disappointed (I can safely say that fans of Terry Crews will be especially disappointed in regards to the amount of screen-time he has in this film though from what I hear, this was due to scheduling conflicts) because aside from Stallone, most of them disappear for a good chunk of the film. Despite this, the film still has its fair share of stand-outs within its very large cast. The biggest standout would easily be Antonio Banderas as Galgo, a sharpshooter who is initially turned down by Ross to join the team but ends up getting hired eventually. Banderas steals every scene he is in, mostly because he gets a lot of the best lines in the film and that’s because he’s always talking, which ends up annoying most of the other Expendables because of his motor mouth. As for Mel Gibson as the main villain, his presence in the role more than makes up for the fact that he actually doesn’t do jack for most of the movie. Overall, every member of the cast does their job even though some don’t have as much screen-time as others.

These ‘Expendables’ films aren’t for everyone, so if you’re not already a fan of these movies, ‘The Expendables 3’ isn’t really going to change much for you. It’s just like the last two that came before it; it’s cheesy, it has a fairly standard plot and little to no character development. It’s more about the action and how many action stars can fit into one cast, so much so that some don’t get the proper screen-time they deserve. Yes, these films haven’t fully delivered on the action spectacle that the first one promised back in 2010 and there are quite a few things that could have been done to improve them but I still managed to enjoy this new one just as I did the other two. This film may not be as violent as the two that came before it as evident by its PG-13 rating but aside from a few occasionally heavily-edited action sequences and a greater focus on the newer additions to the Expendables, the film isn’t affected too much by the lower rating. It’s sad that this film had to become a victim to piracy because it’s clear that the whole ‘leak incident’ played a key part in the film’s incredibly poor opening weekend. Now considering the general critical reception towards these films, franchise fatigue might have been another factor as well. However, I hope that this film’s bad luck may change soon because it’s a really entertaining film just like the other two that came before it.


Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) review


As we all know, there have been plenty of controversial films over the years, including ‘Passion of the Christ’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ just to name a few, each controversial for their own unique reasons. But the newest ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film easily takes the cake as one of the most controversial films in recent memory. That’s because pretty much every major bit of news surrounding the film since the day it was first announced got heavily scrutinized by fans of the franchise. For those who weren’t aware of all this, here’s a general recap. First of all, the project was to be produced by Michael Bay and given his track record with audiences,  mostly in regards to his work on another extremely popular 80’s franchise, ‘Transformers’, it’s no surprise that a lot of TMNT fans got worried, even though Bay wasn’t even going to direct the film. But then it was none other than Bay himself who dropped a bombshell in March 2012 at a Nickelodeon press conference where he said that there was going to be a change to the turtles’ origin; now they are from an ‘alien race’. This really got the fans pissed off and it also didn’t help when a supposed early script utilizing that alien origin story-line was leaked online. In it, the focus was more on the character of Casey Jones than the Turtles themselves, which was similar to a problem that many people have had in regards to Bay’s ‘Transformers’; not enough focus on those who should be the ‘main’ characters. However, Bay later stated that this script was written before his company joined the project and that ultimately nothing was going to change regarding the Turtles (including their origins).

But that wasn’t the end of the ‘TMNT’ reboot controversy; it was then announced that Megan Fox, who apparently repaired her relationship with Bay after the whole incident where she compared him to Hitler, which resulted in her being booted off ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, was cast in the major role of the Turtles’ main human ally, reporter April O’Neil… and really folks, I can go on and on in regards to the controversies that have surrounded this film because there are plenty. Pretty much everyone has been predicting that this was going to be an epic disaster. Well after seeing the film I can safely say this… this is ultimately not the disaster everyone was expecting it to be. Now let me be perfectly clear about this; I’m not saying that this is a masterpiece. In fact, compared to some of the other movies we’ve seen this summer, this one is kind of, shall I say, ‘light’ by today’s standards. But really… it’s frigging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for crying out loud! You should seriously know what to expect from a movie like this just from that title alone. In the end, this is just a fun little action movie that at least manages to entertain with some fairly good action sequences and visuals. Also when compared to Bay’s other 80’s franchise, this at least feels like they’re staying true to what made TMNT as popular as it was in the first place.

The city of New York has been facing an increase in crime recently due to the rise of the criminal organization known as the Foot Clan, led by the mysterious Shredder. Hoping to investigate further into the matter, as well as trying to get away from doing nothing but puff pieces, Channel 6 reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) discovers that there is apparently a vigilante in the city that is fighting off the Foot Clan. She soon discovers, however, that this ‘vigilante’ isn’t alone; instead there are four ‘vigilantes’, more specifically four genetically-mutated talking turtles; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael (portrayed via motion capture by Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Alan Ritchson, respectively (Leonardo is voiced by Johnny Knoxville)). These ‘Mutant Ninja Turtle Teenagers’, who used to be experiments in a lab where April's father used to work, live underground in the sewers with their master/‘father’ Splinter (portrayed via motion capture by Danny Woodburn and voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who trains them in the art of ninjutsu. April ends up befriending them as they look to stop the Shredder before he ends up taking over the city of New York.

Like I said, you really can’t take a film centered on a group of walking, talking, pizza-loving Ninja Turtles that seriously. The plot is pretty stupid and it even copies the ‘bad guy releasing a toxin into the city’ plot-line from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Heck, this film even tries to attempt to connect April O’Neil to the Turtles more than ever before by having them be experiments in the laboratory April’s father worked at (in other words, they were once her ‘pets’) and having her be the one who saves them when a fire destroys the lab and releasing them into the sewers. But really I went into this knowing that it was going to be stupid and ultimately I thought it was pretty fun. The best parts in this movie are when the Turtles are on-screen because it really feels like this is staying true to the essence of the franchise; they’re wisecracking heroes in a half-shell and they do maintain the proper character traits that define each of them. However, that does mean that any of the scenes where they are not on screen are fairly weak by comparison. That does include the opening which kind of goes on a bit too long. Now for those who are really worried about Michael Bay’s involvement with this film, this actually doesn’t feel too much like a Bay film; if anything, it’s not like there are hundreds of explosions going off every minute. Plus, compared to Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films, I’d say that this film is actually fairly harmless towards kids even with a PG-13 rating because it’s less intense than those films.

I know I’m going to be in the minority on this, but I really don’t mind the new CGI designs of the Turtles. I mean I will admit that it did take me a little bit to get used to them but overall the CGI is actually pretty good, especially during the action sequences. I also have to give credit to the four guys who portrayed them through motion capture (and that also includes having Johnny Knoxville be the voice of Leonardo) as they did have really good camaraderie together. The biggest standout amongst them is easily Noel Fisher as Michelangelo as he gets the funniest lines in the movie. But what about Megan Fox as April O’Neil, the casting choice that has faced nothing but scrutiny ever since she was cast? Look… the role of April O’Neil hasn't always been the most ‘well-written’ in the world. The April from the 80's was known more as a 'damsel in distress' who always got kidnapped by Shredder and had to be saved all of the time by the Turtles and for the most part that was sort of the same scenario with the previous 3 live-action movies. With this film, I do have to give the writers a lot credit for having her be more involved in the action, more so than any of the live-action TMNT movies from the 90's. As for Fox herself... yes there clearly were much better choices to play the part but at the end of the day, she’s not THAT terrible. You can’t fault her for at least trying. As for some of the other members of the cast, Will Arnett gets a few funny lines here and there as April’s camera-man Vern and William Fichtner does a pretty solid job as well in the role of Eric Sacks, a scientist who used to work with April’s dad years ago. And for the record, he’s not playing the Shredder as it was reportedly supposed to be during pre-production; he’s actually Shredder’s ‘protégé’.

I’m not saying that the new ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a masterpiece… in fact, it doesn’t really stand out compared to some of the other films we’ve gotten this summer. But if anything, it’s still a fun little action movie. Yes, it’s stupid and silly but really that has always been the case with this franchise from the very beginning. I would be incredibly surprised if someone actually went into this film and tried to take it seriously because you really can’t. How can you with a franchise with a title like ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’? Still, the action sequences in this movie are pretty good as are the visuals (e.g. the Turtles themselves). The best scenes in the film are when the Turtles themselves are on screen. In the end, this film, compared to Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films, actually does feel like a TMNT movie and is also less intense so it’s more family-friendly even with a PG-13 rating. Some people will say that this is a ‘severe mishandling’ of the franchise; in fact, I’m pretty sure some people already thought that before they even saw the damn film. Well, I can assure you folks that it really isn’t. It does stay true to what makes this franchise so memorable in the first place. Again, I’m not saying that’s a great film, but I at least managed to have fun with it.


Rating: 3.5/5

In Memory of Robin Williams (1951-2014)


Sad news came yesterday when it was announced that actor/comedian Robin Williams had died by suicide. Like everyone else, I’m at a severe loss for words; any death is tragic and this one is no exception, especially when considering the impact that Williams has had on many of us, myself included. Now for the record, I’m not a comedian or an actor, but I did grow up watching a lot of Williams’ films. When I was young, he was my favorite actor and even as I got older, he was still one of my favorites. I know that some are critical about how a lot of the comedies he did had the same inspirational message in them but as for me, Williams’ charm and comedic ability managed to overcome that. Now I haven’t actually seen any of his major dramatic roles in films like ‘Good Will Hunting’ or ‘The Fisher King’ but I can tell, even without seeing them (and I assure you that I will see them soon), that Williams’ performances in films like those were always top-notch. What’s my favorite film of his? That easily has to be ‘Aladdin’, in which he played my personal favorite Disney character; the Genie. Williams may have asked that his name and image wouldn’t be used in the marketing, along with not having the Genie dominate the advertising (two conditions that Disney did not abide by, by they way), but in the end his performance was the highlight of the film.

But on another note, I hope that this will result in us all contributing more to the cause of helping people deal with depression. No one wants to go through it and unfortunately a lot of people have, and many tragic turn of events similar to what happened with Williams have happened before and unless we do something about it, it will continue to happen.

What else more can I say but… we’ll miss you, Robin. Thanks for the laughter.


R.I.P. Robin Williams: 1951-2014


Friday, August 8, 2014

TMNT: Film Franchise Retrospective


This weekend sees the release of the new live-action ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film and as many of you are more than likely aware by now, there has been quite a lot of controversy surrounding this film pretty much literally ever since the project was first announced. First off, the fact that it was to be produced by Michael Bay clearly must have had plenty of TMNT fans worried after his work on the ‘Transformers’ movies. Of course we all know how those films fared reviews-wise amongst critics and audiences. But really, the fact that Bay was producing it (he wasn’t even going to direct it) was relatively minor compared to the other major controversies that emerged during the film’s production. There was the supposed change in the Turtles’ origin (as reported by Bay himself) in which they would be aliens. Then there was the supposed leaked script which used that origin story and focused more on the human character of Casey Jones than the actual Turtles themselves (which is a problem that many people have had with Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films). Ultimately, the alien ‘origin’ back-story was abandoned; however, the controversy towards the film continued. It clearly must have reached its peak when Megan Fox was cast in the major role of fearless reporter April O’Neil. In other words, almost every major bit of news surrounding this film has faced quite a large amount of scrutiny from TMNT fans.

But even though I’m certainly going to be in the minority on this, I must say… I’m actually really looking forward to this movie. I mean I’m kind of obligated to see the film anyway given that I did two separate posts on the film during its pre-production period back in 2012 (one on the controversial ‘alien’ back-story in May and another on the ‘leaked script’ in September) but I really think that this movie is looking really good. The second trailer that was released is what sold me on it; it made the film look much more appealing than what we saw in the first trailer. If anything, I’m hoping that this will stay true to the essence of the franchise more than the ‘Transformers’ films… and yes I’m saying this even though I’ve made it clear that I am a fan of those films. However, if this new ‘Turtles’ film does suck, this time we can’t put the full blame on Michael Bay because he didn’t direct it; he only produced it. That’s like saying he’s the main one to blame for all of the horror remakes his studio has made. Still, if Bay’s toughest critics do need something to fuel their fire, I guess if the film doesn’t turn out that good we can blame him for picking Jonathan Liebesman (a director who doesn’t really have that good of a track record) to direct the film but that’s really about it.

But for now, before the new film comes out, today we’ll be looking at the previous TMNT movies, which includes the original trilogy of live-action films that came out during the 90’s and the 2007 animated film that was supposedly going to revive the film franchise but it seems like that didn’t really go too far seeing how this new film is now coming out. Plus, I’ll even throw in a little bonus review of a made-for-TV TMNT film that was released a few years ago. Now this is not going include much about any of the TMNT television series that have come out over the years, which include the original cartoon from the late 80’s, the incredibly weird live-action series titled ‘Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation’ which ran for one season in the late 90’s, the 2003 revival, and the recent computer animated series on Nick. That’s because, aside from the last film I’m covering here, they really don’t factor that much into any of these films. However, I will add that I did watch a few episodes from both the 80’s and 2003 series before watching these films, which for the record I had never really watched before now, so that I could be a bit more familiar with the franchise. So with that said, it’s time to look back at the films starring our favorite ‘heroes in a half-shell’; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)


When the first live-action TMNT film came out, I’m guessing that most of the TMNT fans at the time might have been expecting something that was more in line with the animated series, which had just finished its third season just a few months earlier. However, the film turned out to be something a bit more mature than the cartoon. Instead, it is based more on the original TMNT comic book series which, for the record, I haven’t read but I am aware that it is much darker and more violent than the cartoon. As for this first film, I have to say that I think it actually does hold up pretty well. The film does a pretty good job of mixing the darker elements of the comics with some of the more light-hearted elements of the cartoon. I mean, if you look at it nowadays, the film isn’t really ‘that dark’. I mean sure, there are a couple instances of mild language, easily the most infamous example of that being the scene where Raphael just yells ‘DAMN!!!’ at the top of his lungs while chasing Casey Jones through the city (I also want to use this time to point out my favorite line in the film where Michelangelo and Donatello are watching a cartoon and at one point Michelangelo says, ‘Ninja kick the damn rabbit!!’). Also the film is a bit more ‘violent’ than the cartoon when it comes to the action. Still, in retrospect, there have definitely been a lot of other ‘PG’ rated films that are much more violent than this one. In the end, this one is pretty tame by today’s standards.'

Aside from that, the fight sequences are pretty good, which actually does say quite a lot considering that some of the participants of these fights are wearing giant turtle costumes. And on that note, the Turtle suits, which were designed for this movie by Jim Henson, who of course many of you will know as the creator of ‘The Muppets’, are also really good as well. I mean, let’s be honest… this movie is fairly cheesy. This is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film… that title alone should give you an idea of what kind of movie this is. Is it perfect? No, not really but it’s still pretty entertaining and the main edge that this film has over the other films in the series is that it did take the bold route of staying more true to the original comics than the cartoon and keep in mind, this was 1990, right during the peak of the franchise’s popularity. I have the feeling that most TMNT fans at the time were more familiar with the cartoon than the comics so hopefully this film might’ve made those fans of the cartoon interested in the comics that started it all. So overall, the original ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film may not be a perfect movie, but at the end of the day it is still the best of the original live-action TMNT films. In fact on that note it’s also still the best TMNT film period.

Rating: 4/5

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE (1991)


So because the first ‘TMNT’ film was more dark and violent than I’m guessing that many people were expecting, this led to some backlash by parents which then resulted in the next film, ‘TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze’, which was released just one year after the first film, being much more light-hearted than its predecessor. In this film, the Turtles rarely use their actual weapons and the action is this film is much more comedic in tone… oh yeah and to top it all off, Vanilla Ice makes a cameo where he does an impromptu ‘Ninja Rap’ (‘Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go!’). In other words, this film is clearly more oriented towards kids than it is towards adults. So for older TMNT fans, I kind of feel that this movie isn’t really for you because it doesn’t have the same edge that the first film had; whereas that film felt more like the original TMNT comics, this one feels more like the cartoon. But really, that’s not entirely a bad thing. The way I see it, for kids this film is pretty harmless. It’s cheesy, playful fun and as one might expect from a Ninja Turtles film, it doesn’t take itself ‘too seriously’. The action sequences are still pretty good as are the Turtle costumes and this film even gives the group some mutant enemies to fight, a key element of the cartoon. So if you’re a younger TMNT fan, then I believe that you’re really going to like this film. However for adults, your enjoyment of this film may vary.

Rating: 3/5 (just keep in mind that is in the perspective of its target audience)

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III: TURTLES IN TIME (1993)


First off I just want to note that the actual movie does not have the subtitle ‘Turtles in Time’, which was also the name of one of the most popular TMNT arcade games. That subtitle only became part of the title in recent home video releases. As for the film itself, this is widely regarded as the worst of the live-action TMNT films and after seeing it… I definitely agree with that statement. Now I don’t know how much I can add to this discussion considering that James Rolfe (AKA the ‘Angry Video Game Nerd’) did an excellent video review for it a few years ago. But regardless of that, I will still note some of the biggest problems that I had with the film. The whole idea of the Turtles going ‘back in time’ is a fairly interesting concept but it’s not really done well here. Now for the record I’ve never played the arcade game ‘Turtles in Time’ but from what I can tell that game kept the characters in New York whereas here they’re sent back to Ancient Japan. In other words, a good chunk of the film really doesn’t feel a whole lot like ‘TMNT’. Not only that, but early on Michelangelo is briefly captured meaning that there’s only about one major fight sequence that involves all four of the turtles, which must have pissed fans of the franchise, especially those whose favorite turtle was Michelangelo (being that he is my favorite as well, I’m right there with them). In fact, there aren’t even many action sequences in this film, so it kind of drags at points.

Instead of the filmmakers using villains from the cartoon series like Krang or Baxter Stockman, they instead give us a rather generic Japanese warlord and a kind-of out of place English trader. The dialogue is incredibly cheesy, and while that is something to expect from this franchise, it comes off way too cheesy in this film. Some of the jokes don’t even make sense and some of the references come out of nowhere like a weird moment where Raphael imitates Schwarzenegger by saying ‘I’ll be Back’ and another where Donatello goes, “Were you expecting maybe the Addams Family?”. As for the Turtles themselves, the costumes weren’t done by Jim Henson’s company this time and because of that, they really don’t look as good as they did before. Also, the dialogue doesn’t always sync up with their mouth movements. Now, I don’t think that it’s all ‘that bad’ as I will admit there were a couple of funny moments here and there but for the most part, this is a pretty weak sequel that really doesn’t feel much like a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film. So overall this is the one film in the franchise that I just can’t recommend because it truly is the worst of the live-action ‘TMNT’ films.

Rating: 1/5

TMNT (2007)


So because the third Turtles film performed poorly with critics and audiences, it ended up being the last live-action TMNT film until the new reboot. In 2007, the film series was revived with the release of a computer animated film simply titled ‘TMNT’. It performed fairly well at the box office amidst mixed reviews and it seems like plans were set for this film to get a sequel. However, that never happened hence the new film coming out this weekend. But as for this film, overall I’d say that it’s a fun and entertaining animated film and a fairly solid addition to the TMNT franchise. However, at the same time, I can’t say that it’s ‘perfect’ as there are some rather odd problems with it, most of them come from the overall story. Now I do like the idea of the Turtles trying to reunite after they start to grow apart but I’m not as crazy towards the main plot of the film, where they fight a group of ancient warriors and a series of monsters. It’s like the third live-action film; I really don’t see how this connects with TMNT. The opening prologue that sets up the whole story feels more like ‘300’. Now I know that there have been ‘strange’ plot-lines that have been done before in this franchise, but why not do something connected to Dimension X, the alternate dimension where one of the Turtles’ major villains, Krang, resides. In fact, that whole concept has not even been done in any of the films. I’m not going to say anything more about that but I’m kind of hoping that this new live-action film series does something with that storyline.

Anyway, despite the rather odd, and sometimes occasionally over-complicated, story, there are still some really good things about this film. The animation is pretty good and the action sequences are fairly well-done, even though they do sort of have a ‘video-game’ quality to them. The voice acting is also pretty good with a cast that includes the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans, Patrick Stewart, and the late Mako. Plus, when the film does focus on the Turtles, this does feel like a TMNT film. So overall, I’d say that young TMNT fans will like this movie; it’s colorful, fun, and action-packed. As for the older TMNT fans, this is sort of similar to the case of the second live-action film in that your enjoyment of the film may vary but overall I’d still say that is an enjoyable and solid addition to the TMNT franchise. However, it could’ve benefitted from a stronger story, one that focused more on the Turtles themselves and not some fantasy storyline that doesn’t really feel like something you would normally expect to see from this franchise.

Rating: 3/5

BONUS REVIEW: TURTLES FOREVER (2009)


I’m finishing off this retrospective with a review of the made-for-TV Ninja Turtles film, ‘Turtles Forever’. The main reason why this film is so special is because it’s a big crossover event (released in 2009, the year which marked the 25th anniversary of the franchise) between the original 1987 TMNT cartoon and the more recent TMNT series from 2003 (this was before the Nickelodeon series that debuted in 2012). It’s a film that I believe will appeal to pretty much every major fan of TMNT as it pays tribute to numerous interpretations of the franchise; they even feature the Ninja Turtles from the original comic book series, which is pretty cool. It balances the roles of the 80’s Turtles and the 2003 Turtles pretty well with a pretty well-written story that doesn’t feel like it’s being done as a ‘cheap’ crossover. I will admit that I’m not that familiar with the 2003 series but you don’t really need to be in order to enjoy this movie. You can clearly tell that all of those involved with the project really worked as hard as they could in order to make this special as good as it is. My only complaint, which is a fairly minor one at that, is in regards to the voice acting for the 80’s versions of the main characters. It’s not bad, but none of the members of the original cartoon’s cast return for this, apparently because they were union actors whereas 4Kids, the company behind the 2003 cartoon, is a non-union organization. The actors who do portray the 80’s characters here do at least try their best to try and imitate the voices of their predecessors but it is a little distracting at times. Still, in the end, ‘Turtles Forever’ is a must-see for any TMNT fan as it does an excellent job at paying tribute to this long-running media franchise.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: SPOILER POST



(WARNING!!!)

The following post contains spoilers for the 2014 Marvel Studios superhero film, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. If you have not yet seen the film, I’d recommend that you please refer to my Spoiler-Free review of the film (and then see the film) before reading this post for here I will be discussing key moments of the film in detail.

You have been warned!!!



Well, considering that this year I’ve done spoiler posts for every major superhero film that has come out this year so far: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, I figured that I should finish this year 4 for 4 and do a spoiler post for Marvel Studios’ latest and strangest film, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which I have to say really impressed me considering how I was fairly hesitant about it when it was first announced. My original reaction to this announcement can best be summed up by what Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou) said after Peter Quill pronounced to him that he was Star-Lord: “Who?” I legitimately did not know who the heck these characters were and I remembered at the time that I was even questioning why Marvel was deciding to go with this fairly obscure group as the focus of one of their Phase Two films. Well, that hesitation soon began to go away after the marketing campaign for the film began and I was very eager to see how this film turned out… and sure enough, it did not disappoint. So today, as I’ve done with all of the other Spoiler Posts this year, I’ll be talking about a few of the aspects of this film that I wasn’t able to talk about in my original review of the film for fear of spoiling things for those who haven’t seen the film.

THE SOUNDTRACK


I only briefly mentioned this part of the movie in my original review so now I’ll elaborate on it a little bit further. The soundtrack to the film is, quite simply, phenomenal; it’s easily one of the best soundtracks to ever grace not just a superhero film, but any film for that matter. While I haven’t seen the other two films he directed, ‘Slither’ and ‘Super’, I can tell that James Gunn definitely has quite the keen eye when it comes to picking really good soundtracks for his films, and here it’s no exception. It also works incredibly well within the context of the film itself. In the film, the songs that are played in the movie (a great selection of 70’s and 80’s tunes) are on a mixtape that Peter Quill has in the Walkman that he always has with him. He had it when he was taken by the Ravagers when he was a kid so, in other words, this is how he stays attached to the world that he left behind. While I do question why ‘I Want you Back’ by the Jackson 5 and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ are on the official soundtrack for the film, titled ‘Awesome Mix Volume 1’ (like the mixtape in the film itself), when in the movie they are actually part of ‘Awesome Mix Volume 2’, which was the gift Quill’s mother had given to him before she died (by the way, I cannot wait to see what songs will be in the sequel), this is a great film soundtrack that complements the movie incredibly well, in terms of both the film’s overall tone as well as being a crucial part of Quill’s character.

THE HUMOR


Pretty much every film in the MCU has had a good amount of funny dialogue and of course the same can be said for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Of course, as you expect from a superhero film, ‘Guardians’ does play things seriously when it needs to but at the same time it’s not completely serious compared to some of the recent films from DC. As I noted in my review, one of the main reasons why I prefer Marvel films to DC films is because they’re much more light-hearted. ‘Guardians’ in particular is easily one of the funniest out of all of the MCU films (arguably as much or possibly even funnier than ‘Avengers’ though that might be up for debate). In fact, there were even some lines that I’m amazed managed to appear in a film that is part of the generally family-friendly MCU that is owned by Disney. The one that stands out to me the most when it comes to this film’s more risqué jokes occurs before the final battle when the Guardians return to Xandar to warn the Nova Corps about Ronan’s impending attack. Of course, they’re still considered criminals by Nova Corps after their capture and arrest on Xandar and later escape from prison, so Star-Lord sends a message to one of the members of the Nova Corps, Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly), which basically says that ‘he may be an a-hole but he’s not 100% a dick’. Ultimately, the Nova Corps accept their help with Star-Lord noting that ‘they got my dick message’. I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on that. It speaks for itself.

Aside from that, here are some of my personal favorite hilarious moments from this film; there’s the sort of random reference to ‘Footloose’, the story of the great hero Kevin Bacon and how he convinced a town full of people ‘with sticks up their butts’ that dancing is the greatest thing in the world, during a scene where Star-Lord is talking with Gamora (Gamora’s response, asking ‘who put the sticks up their butts’, is priceless). There’s the scene where Rocket lays out his plan for getting the group out of prison, part of which apparently involves in them needing to steal one prisoner’s prosthetic leg. Star-Lord then proceeds to acquire the leg… but it turns out that Rocket was just joking; he didn’t really need the leg (though in a later scene, he asks if he can take a Ravager’s robotic eye). But probably my favorite moment in the film occurs during the finale on Xandar. The group is on Ronan’s ship, the Dark Aster, when they are approached by a group of his soldiers. Groot then proceeds to impale quite a few of them (did I also forget to mention this is probably the most violent MCU film to date) with one of his arms and slams them against the wall multiple times. Once he’s done, he turns to the group and innocently smiles. Of course, these are just my personal favorites but there are plenty more incredibly hilarious bits of dialogue in this film. Sound off in the comments below about your favorite lines/moments from the film.

THE EMOTIONAL RESONANCE


Probably the one thing that surprised me the most about this film was how much I was emotionally invested in it. For being one of the funniest of the MCU films, it actually starts off on a pretty damn depressing note as a young Peter Quill watches his mother die before his eyes before he is taken by the Ravagers. Talk about a dark way to start off a superhero film. Anyway, the emotional resonance of this film is easily one of its greatest strengths. Despite the fact that the Guardians are criminals and, to quote Peter Serafinowicz’s character, ‘a bunch of a-holes’, you do care about them because they’re all just trying to find a place where they belong and over the course of the film they become quite the close family. The scene where Rocket gets emotional over someone calling him ‘vermin’ certainly hits in the feelings department as is the scene during the finale when Groot sacrifices himself to save the group when the Dark Aster crash lands on Xandar despite Rocket pleading with him not to do it (also, the bit where Groot puts one of his twigs on Rocket’s face to comfort him… let me tell you folks that really got me teary-eyed).

Thankfully, as we see, Groot does survive because he has the ability to regenerate. This results in an incredibly cute mid-credits scene where he dances to ‘I Want you Back’ behind Drax’s back (he stops dancing when Drax looks over at him, continuing to do so once Drax looks away again). And yes, despite this, I am aware that now every MCU film since ‘The Avengers’ has had a character supposedly die but then come back (Coulson in ‘Avengers’, Pepper in ‘Iron Man 3’, Loki in ‘Thor: The Dark World, Nick Fury in ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’, and now Groot in this movie) a little bit later, which some feel is one of the big ‘problems’ with the MCU (I’ll get into another problem some people have with the franchise when I talk about the villains). This has never really bothered me before and it certainly didn’t here. Though I will say this… even though Marvel has pulled this trick for every Phase Two film (as well as the first ‘Avengers’ film), I have the feeling that a permanent death will happen sooner or later… maybe in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (we all know how Joss Whedon likes to kill off major characters so I’m guessing one could potentially kick the bucket in the film). Ultimately though as I said, I’m not too bothered by this recent trend.

THE GUARDIANS


If I was asked who my favorite member of the Guardians were from the five in this movie, it would actually be a little tough for me to decide because I really like all five of them. Though, if I had to choose just one, I guess I’ll have to go with Groot. Yeah, I know that it’s an obvious answer but Groot’s just so likable. Sure, he’s Rocket’s partner-in-crime but he’s also the most innocent of the five. Rocket was also one of the best of the bunch with his hot-headed nature. But I have to say that the one that surprised me the most was actually Dave Bautista as Drax. I remember reading an article somewhere online in which the writer predicted that Drax would end up being the least popular of the five Guardians because he was the most serious in nature given his whole backstory and his thirst for vengeance. However, that serious persona actually resulted in him having quite a lot of funny lines with my favorite occurring during the scene where Rocket says that metaphors will go over his head (“Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast… I would catch it…”). Gamora, like Drax, is also more serious in nature which means that she doesn’t have as much comedic dialogue as the rest of the group. However, I will say that she had two of the best lines in the entire film; one is during the escape from prison where, during an argument amongst the group, she laments that she is “going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy”. The other is during a scene between Gamora and Star-Lord where he tries to kiss her but she stops him before he can do so, saying that she wasn’t going to fall for his “pelvic sorcery”. Finally, we have Star-Lord, the ‘Han Solo’ of the group perfectly portrayed by the charming and hilarious Chris Pratt, the third major Chris of the MCU after Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans.

THE VILLAINS


As I noted in the review, I’ve heard a lot of people say that the weakest part of the film for them is the villains which I also noted apparently connects to a major problem that some people apparently have with the MCU in that the villains of the MCU films, to put it simply, ‘haven’t been that good’. Now I hate to be controversial here, but I feel that this is being incredibly unfair to any of the villains in the MCU who aren’t named Loki. Sure, at the end of the day, Loki is still the best MCU villain by far and there have been some fairly weak MCU villains, like Malekith in ‘Thor: The Dark World’ or Ivan Vanko in ‘Iron Man 2’ or Emil Blonsky in ‘The Incredible Hulk’. But even with that said, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some really good MCU villains. Obidiah Stane was a pretty awesome villain in the first ‘Iron Man’. Red Skull (‘Captain America: The First Avenger’) may not have been the most ‘developed’ superhero film villain ever but he still had a great villainous presence which I’d say can sometimes make up for a lack of proper character development. Hell, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ actually got by without really even having a singular main villain at all. HYDRA was the ‘main threat’ of the film and the titular ‘Winter Soldier’ was more of a henchman. So in short, even if most of the MCU villains haven’t been as great as Loki, that doesn’t exactly mean that a lot of them are ‘bad’ villains. Case in point, I really liked both of the main villains of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’.


First off we have Ronan, played by Lee Pace. I thought that Pace did an excellent job in the role. The makeup for the character was phenomenal (as it was for the other main villain, who I’ll get to momentarily) as Pace was quite unrecognizable as Ronan the Accuser. That and I do feel that if anything, it wasn’t like he didn’t have any villainous motivation other than the whole ‘just because he’s evil’ thing. He’s a radical Kree who opposes the peace treaty between his race and the Nova Corps’ home world of Xandar so he teams up with Thanos. He agrees to get him the orb that Peter comes across on the planet Morag in exchange for Thanos destroying Xandar for him. However, after he acquires the orb and realizes the great power within it, he makes the incredibly ballsy move and defies his ‘ally’. I felt that there was at least more depth to Ronan than Malekith, who had a lot of his scenes (including one that showcased what clearly must have been his major motivation; his family) cut from ‘Thor 2’. I also liked that the final battle between him and the Guardians wasn’t so anti-climactic. I was worried that it was going to be that way when Star-Lord fires a weapon at Ronan, and it almost looked like he was instantly defeated but thankfully that wasn’t the case. And then guess what… they do it again. Rocket crash-lands Star-Lord’s ship the Milano into Ronan’s ship where he then proceeds to hit Ronan with the Milano. But after the Dark Aster crash-lands on Xandar, Ronan still manages to survive and it isn’t until the Guardians use the Infinity Gem within the Orb (more on that in a little bit) that Ronan is finally defeated. Whether or not you think he’s a good villain you at least have to give him credit… he endured more than some of the other MCU villains.


If we’re focusing on character development, then I’d say that Nebula (Karen Gillan) was a more interesting villain than Ronan was, given her relationship with Gamora. They’re both adopted daughters of Thanos and there is quite the sibling rivalry between them, especially considering that Thanos favors Gamora over Nebula. Like Pace, Gillan was fantastic here as she had quite the menacing presence in the role (her first major role as a villain). However, I do wish that she had more to do in the first half of the film because during that part of the film, she’s really just ‘there’ and doesn’t really do much other than just doing whatever Ronan tells her to do. Thankfully, she does get more to do in the second half of the film (after the Guardians visit the Collector on Knowhere) and her fight sequence with Gamora on the Dark Aster is one of the major highlights of the film. Also, unlike Ronan, she does survive the final battle. After her battle with Gamora, she falls off the ship (after cutting off her robotic hand) but then proceeds to land on a Ravager ship which she then commandeers. I’m glad that this happened because I am interested in seeing more of her in the MCU. I am aware that in the comics she started out as an enemy of the Avengers so… given that ‘Avengers 3’ is likely focusing around Thanos, maybe she can be in ‘Avengers 3’, perhaps? If anything, I’m just glad that there are more opportunities for her to appear in future MCU films because she wasn’t killed off in this movie.

THANOS AND THE INFINITY GEMS


While he may not be the main villain of ‘Avengers 2’, it’s very much clear that they’re clearly building up Thanos’ role as the main villain of ‘Avengers 3’. This film gave us our first look of the character as portrayed by Josh Brolin and I must say that even though he’s only in the film for a very brief amount of time, he’s already made quite the impression. The motion capture effects for him do look pretty good… not only that, but he looks frigging huge compared to what he looked like in ‘Avengers’. This film shows that it’s looking like Marvel will be exploring more of the ‘Cosmic Universe’ in the next few MCU films. One way these films will impact future events will be the introduction of the rest of the Infinity Gems, the six stones (Soul, Time, Space, Mind, Reality, and Power) that, when used with a glove known as the Infinity Gauntlet (which made a brief ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance in Odin’s treasure room in the first ‘Thor’ movie), gives the user god-like powers. As of now, three (potentially four) Infinity Gems have been revealed.


The first was the Tesseract from ‘The First Avenger’ and ‘The Avengers’, which has been confirmed to be the Space Gem. That makes sense considering that the Tesseract was, to put it simply, a ‘portal’ between worlds. The second Infinity Gem introduced in the MCU was the Aether from ‘Thor: The Dark World’. Now I don’t know if it has officially been confirmed yet but some reports are stating that it is the Reality Gem, which allows the user to fulfill any wish they might have. Finally, the one that appears in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, contained in the orb that Star-Lord finds on Morag, is the Power Gem. However, while so far these three have been the only official Infinity Gems revealed in the films, there is supposedly a fourth that is in Loki’s staff that he used in ‘Avengers’. If so, I’m guessing that it’s the Mind Gem considering that Loki used his staff to brainwash people like Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig. So in that case, we have yet to see the Time and Soul Gem but it’s pretty much a given that we will soon see them. One thing I’m interested in seeing is how Thanos will collect all of the Gems because right now he actually does not have any of them, nor does he have the Gauntlet. The Tesseract and Gauntlet are on Asgard, the Aether is with the Collector, the Power Gem is with Nova Corps, and (again, if it does contain one of the Gems) Loki’s staff is currently under the ownership of Baron von Strucker (as seen in the mid-credits scene of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’).

THE POST-CREDITS SCENE

Well, I guess I’ll finish this off by just briefly going over the post-credits scene for the film; not the mid-credits scene where a baby Groot dances to ‘I Want You Back’… I’m talking about the other one. Now for the record, this scene doesn’t actually really add much to the story but I felt that it was at least worth it just for the incredibly odd/random cameo that occurs in it. Earlier on in the film, the Guardians had met with the Collector on Knowhere where they learned that the object within the orb that Star-Lord found is one of the six Infinity Gems. The Collector’s assistant Carina then proceeded to grab the stone in defiance for his abuse towards her, causing an explosion that destroys his archive. We return to him in the post-credits scene as he sits in his archive drinking when one of his exhibits, the telepathic Russian cosmonaut dog Cosmo, comes up to him and licks his face. Someone else starts talking and then we find out that this ‘person’ is actually none other than Howard the Duck. Yes, the same duck that appeared in the infamous 1986 bomb of the same name is in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and would you believe it, he’s voiced by Seth Green. I have to admit… I did not see that coming… that being the fact that Green voiced him (I actually did know he was going to be in the post-credits scene).

Howard The Duck2 low
"What do you let him lick you like that for?...Gross!"


Like I said, this scene actually doesn’t add much. According to James Gunn, this was just done for fun and wasn’t supposed to be taken that seriously. Still, it is pretty surreal that Howard the Duck appears in this and for that matter is now officially a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I’ll let that sink in a moment for you folks…). Then again, he did appear in the ‘LEGO Marvel’ video game so maybe it’s not that surprising that he would appear in the MCU, even if it was basically just done as a joke. So that’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for you. It’s certainly one of the strangest superhero films ever but it’s also one of the best in the entire MCU. It’s incredibly funny but also takes itself seriously when it needs to. Not only that, but I found myself emotionally invested in the film… a film that stars a talking raccoon and a tree creature that can only say ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot’ (in that order). Because of that, I say the following… Kudos Marvel Studios, Kudos director James Gunn, and Kudos to the great cast and crew of this film; you truly made a phenomenal superhero film. When this was first announced, I had no idea who most of these characters were. Now, I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel that is set to come out in 2017.