The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from the ’90s was not the greatest but nevertheless it had heart, which is what the newest film is completely absent of. After the Turtles successfully hit the big screen in 1990 the franchise’s sequels have been a huge disappointment. So growing up as a huge TMNT fan I’ve always wanted to see my beloved turtles get another shot at the big screen, but when I found out that Michael Bay was involved I quickly became skeptical … sorry, a film requires more than explosions.
Yes, Mr. Bay was only a producer for this film, but even his presence reeks with bad a resume of garbage films. Of course, everything that Hollywood did to reboot our fighting reptiles did not redeem them, instead it depletes them. Paramount did everything wrong with its direction (director Jonathan Liebesman), cast (Megan Fox), dialog, editing and action scenes. Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans) was a horrible pick for this film. He doesn’t know how to rightly construct a film and failed at giving the turtles an even semi-worthy tribute. As for the cast, Fox can’t act to save her life and was probably only picked so Mr. Bay and middle school boys could drool over her on screen. Fox’s performance of New York’s most admired new reporter, April O’Neil, is like a slap in the face to turtle fans.
But enough of me ranting, let’s dig into the film itself … The plot, as in the other turtle movies, is rather simple: Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his evil foot clan are stirring up trouble and chaos in New York City. It’s up to the turtles, Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) to team up with news reporter O’Neil (Fox), eat some pizza and take down Shredder. Sadly, what could’ve been turned into a fun adventure turns into a brainless, worthless mess of a film. Yes, the special effects are top-notch and make our turtles look more real than ever (better that those puppet suits from the ’90s), but the overabundance of CGI and bloated action scenes wear this film down. Not to mention the poor dialog and sloppy editing that will leave you with a headache by the end.
What set the original apart from this film is that the original was actually enjoyable and full of heart. Now, we get a dull and lifeless turtles film lacking any sense of human touch or emotion. I was not looking for a masterpiece when I went into this film, but I would like to have seen a little more effort put in than what was shown on screen. It is so frustrating when you want to see at least a half decent film created by the studio, but in the end receive nothing. To make matters worse Paramount has already signed for another sequel in 2016. My hope is for other turtle fans to see that they deserve better and not stoop down to this rubbish. In the end, I’ll just continue to re-watch the amazing ’80s cartoon and the original on VHS. Hopefully, someday there will be a brighter future for our pizza-loving reptiles. Sorry dudes, no Chowabunga this time around.
In a year when faith-based films couldn’t get any cornier, The Identical comes to town. If you are an Elvis fan then you probably already know that he had a twin brother who was stillborn at birth. “The Identical” takes that ripe premise and changes it a little … what if Elvis’ twin had survived birth, but was secretly put up for adoption? And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, first-time director Dustin Marcellino spins it into a “separated at birth” drama. So these two identical-twin brothers (both played by Blake Rayne) are separated during the Great Depression (the most colorful Depression I’ve ever seen) because their dirt-poor parents (Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew) cannot afford to raise both of them.
They decided to give one of them up for adoption to a loving/preachy family (Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd), while raising the other. One becomes a ’50s rock ‘n’ roll singer, Drexel Hemsley (no joke), while the other, Ryan Wade, cannot find his true identity … melodramatic? Oh yay, now we get a sappy movie about one brother living in fame and the other brother living in the preacher world. Wade grows up as a preacher’s son, but doesn’t want to go into the ministry like his father, Reece Wade (Liotta). I am shocked that Liotta signed on to this mush. He is a brilliant actor and has been in many great films in the past (The Place Beyond the Pines, GoodFellas and Field of Dreams). Out of all the actors in this film his performance was the strongest, but his character still felt out of place.
The film then tries to dig into family drama between Wade and his father’s relationship, but scriptwriter Howard Klausner (Space Cowboys) fails in doing so. To make matters worst, first-timer Rayne cannot find the rhythm in either part (Hemsley and Wade). He might be a decent singer, but that doesn’t make him a good actor. This wanna be Elvis impostor is more of an insult than a tribute to the king of rock ‘n’ roll. The plot really becomes ludicrous when Wade decides to follow his music career by imitating rock icon Hemsley, but somehow doesn’t realize they look exactly alike … ? But when the two men’s destinies tragically collide the film turns into nothing more than absurdity and religious propaganda.
Along with the half-baked acting comes the ear-numbing songs (Boogie Woogie Rock and Roll). Once they’re stuck in your head you’ll never get them out. Now, I have nothing wrong with faith-based films as long as they are good … The Blind Side or Life of Pi for example. Sadly, 90 percent of them are cliched, over sentimental, poorly acted and only preach to the choir. Yes, I understand Christian films are usually low-budgeted, but that doesn’t mean they should be terrible. Look at the Oscars, most of the films nominated are independent low-budget films (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, The Artist, Beast of the Southern Wild, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave). The difference, of course, is the writing, directing, acting and source of material.
This is where most faith-based films get stuck in the rut, because they don’t know how to tackle their material seriously. The directors don’t dig deep enough into their material and often their films are way too squeaky clean. You know that your film is bad when you have to start up your own campaign to boost ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb against film critics and film snubs (myself) alike. In the end, mediocrities come and go and hopefully The Identical will eventually be forgotten. Sorry, this cheesy faith-based film just was not my cup of coffee.
It’s sad to say that this is the last full-scale Philip Seymour Hoffman performance we will see on screen. Luckily, his performance as Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence operative, is one of his best roles since 2005’s Capote. A Most Wanted Man also benefits thanks to director Anton Corbijn’s (Control and The American) touch and a top-notch cast (Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and Grigoriy Dobrygin). This slow-burning spy thriller will sneak up on you at the end.
Based on John le Carre’s 2008 novel, the film takes place post 9/11 where the stakes are high against Muslim communities. Hoffman runs a small-scale spy unit that tracks Hamburg Muslim communities. Tensions arise between the Germans and U.S. security when an unknown half-Chechen, half-Russian, tortured immigrant, Issa Karpov (Dobrygin) shows up in Hamburg. Karpov hires a human-rights lawyer Annabel Richter (McAdams) to collect his father’s fortune from a German bank run by Thomas Brue (Dafoe). So is Karpov doing this for his own pleasure or is it to fund terrorism?
Hoffman wants to know and so does American diplomatic attache Martha Sullivan (Wright). Things get twisted as Hoffman and Wright duke it out in a cat-and-mouse game until the end. This tightly packed script by Andrew Bovell (Edge of Darkness) relishes maximum suspense that will leave audience members at the edge of their seats. The true master in this film, of course, is Hoffman, who really transforms into his character. From the uncanny German accent, to the drinking, to the chain-smoking, to the lifeless glances at his workers … Hoffman does it all in his tour de force performance.
Many will be in awe with his performance, like I was, while others may have a harder time at the slow-burning spy pace. In the end, it was worth it. I have always admired Hoffman’s acting and it saddens me that we won’t be able to see anymore lead performances from him again. To the late Hoffman, who goes out with a bow … we will miss you.
While the average moviegoer may not know about this band of misfits known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, for Marvel fans this was the most risky and anticipated film of the summer. Clocking in at No. 10 for Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fresh and exciting film of the series thus far. Just what made this film so much fun? It comes down to the brilliant execution led by director James Gunn (Super), a talented and funny cast (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper), a witty and full-of-heart script (Gunn and Nicole Perlman) and a visually dazzling splendor … take that, Michael Bay!
The script, written by Gunn and Perlman, gives true homage to Marvel fans without throwing in the comic book cliches that so many superhero films fall under. At times it’s uneven but Gunn knows how to entertain and keep this sci-fi thrill ride moving along. Guardians kicks off phase two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a bang and starts our adventure off with Peter Quill (Pratt) A.K.A Star-Lord. Pratt excels as Star-Lord by providing wit and charm to the role. This has been a breakout year for him, previously being in the animated hit The LEGO Movie. Since age 9, when he was zapped into space after the death of his mother, Quill has been running around the cosmos as a bounty-hunter for the corrupt blue-skinned employer, Yondu (Michael Rooker).
While still carrying around his mom’s old cassette player, with a killer soundtrack of ’70s oldies rock songs, Pratt breaks out funky dance moves and nails every beat. His best is to the song O-o-h Child by Five Stairsteps. Other great songs added to this list are Hooked on a Feeling, Go All the Way, Spirit in the Sky, Fooled Around and Fell in Love, I Want You Back, Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. All help give the soundtrack a throwback feel.
Quill is set on an impossible task: to collect some major dough and to save the galaxy from the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) by stealing a mysterious orb from him. But he gets some additional help from his band of loser misfits A.K.A. Guardians of the Galaxy. Saldana is the seductive green-skinned assassin, Glamora. She brings fierceness and attitude to this strong female hero. WWE wrestler Bautista brings barbarity but feeling to the role as Drax the Destroyer. Lastly, we have Cooper and Diesel voicing Rocket the Raccoon and Groot. These computer-generated freaks are the real scene-stealers in the film. Cooper brings the craziness and sarcasm to his role as the gun-slinging raccoon, Rocket. He is a genetically altered raccoon with a troubled past, but in the end you feel for the little guy. Diesel brings heart and solemn to his walking tree whose one line is “I Am Groot.” Yet, somehow Gunn makes you share feelings for this tree and in the end Groot was my favorite of all the characters.
The praise of course goes to Gunn who, like his songs, never misses a beat in the film. He gives us characters whose hearts are bigger than them and an epic sci-fi experience Marvel fans have been eager to finally see. Packed in with zany thrills, witty humor, breakout roles and non-stop fun, Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest and best surprise of the summer. It gives The Avengers a run for its money as the top Marvel film to-date. I am excited for more adventures with these eccentric heroes to follow. Yes, I recommend this film to anyone who really wants to have some real entertainment … not that Transformers garbage. “We Are Groot!”
Remember Limitless, the 2011 American thriller with Bradley Cooper who takes a drug call NTZ, which allows him to use 100 percent of his brain? Well, Lucy is basically the same film just with Scarlett Johansson switched at the title role. Now, the similar storyline is not the problem here, it’s the direction. Even though Limitless was uneven at times, director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) was still able to keep the film going in the right direction. Lucy on the other hand ended up OD’ing halfway through the film. Director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element and Taken) knows how to pack in thrills, but doesn’t always follow through with the development of the story.
Lucy (Johansson) is a student living in Taiwan who ends up getting tricked into being a drug mule for a brutal Mr. Jang (Choi Min Sik). An accident arises after the drugs that are implanted into her intestines spring a leak. From the drugs she gains powers like telepathy and telekinesis. Lucy is suddenly a lethal superbrain and turns the tables on her captors. As she keeps growing stronger Lucy realizes that her powers could in fact spiral her out-of-control. Johansson does a knock-out job at the female-driven role, but Besson lacks the right execution here. Things become hokey when Morgan Freeman shows up, as professor Norman, to explain the “meaning” of what’s going on and the myths behind the brain.
Besson’s styles and visuals are on top-notch as ever, but the fast pace and nonsensical plot takes the film a step down. In the end, Lucy becomes a rather silly sci-fi thriller only to be mildly amusing thanks to Johansson’s superlative performance. Surprisingly, if you turn your brain off to watch this film Lucy becomes illogical entertainment.
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