Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT Revamping a beloved franchise isn't an easy task. Just ask Michael Bay, he gets an incredible amount of well deserved hate for his reboot of the Transformers series which are indeed garbage. However, they make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office so someone likes them. I am not one of those people. So, it stands as no surprise that when he announced that he would have a hand in bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle back to the big screen everyone had there reservations. After over a year of controversy and script rewrites and fan hate before the movie even came out once again, director Johnathan Liebsman and the John Cena of the film industry delivers a movie you'll either accept for what it is or rip to shreds.

The movie opens with a brief voice over by Splinter voiced by Tony Shalhoub about how the Turtles are about to face there biggest threat NYC has ever seen. Of course if you are well versed in the Turtle lore you know he is talking about the foot clan. They want to "reclaim" the city for some reason. April O'Neil played surprisingly solid by Megan Fox is introduced as a head strong reporter who isn't happy with her station at the Channel 6 News. She wants to cover the hard hitting (no pun intended) news that's taking place in the city but she's stuck reporting on the feel good stories with her trusty cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). Once she goes out on her own to find out whats going down she brings information back to her boss Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg). She's basically laughed out the room. It's not clever or inventive but it gets the movie going.

Once the Turtles are on screen we are introduced to four six foot plus hulking beasts. You've got Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville) Raphael (Alan Ritchson) Donetello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noe Fisher). They look like they're on steroids and you know what, I've got no problem with there redesigns. I don't know what a giant bipedal turtle looks like but I'd have to imagine, they might look like this. Once the whole crew is acclimated to each other we are treated to the new incredibly convenient origin story of the turtles and master splinter. It's far fetched but I wasn't mad at it. I feel like the origin story was created to simply showcase O'Neil a little more then she needed to be.

The best parts of the film are the Turtles interactions with each other. They actually feel like they're brothers. The dialog between them is amusing more often then not and the comradery was actually endearing. The humans take a backseat to these four halfway through the movie as it should be. I didn't come to see people talking to each other, I came to see Turtles beat people up. It didn't disappoint. The fight sequences between them were actually coherent. Liebsman pulled the camera back so we could actually see what the hell was happening on screen. When they go toe to toe with Shredder who is the main villian of the film all of those sequences were damn entertaining. The stand out set piece is easily the downhill chase sequence.

Speaking of Shredder, this brings me to the worst aspect of the film: The villains motivation. It really makes no sense whatsoever. It's the worst Saturday morning cartoon motivation you can think of. Maybe that was the point but come on man, do better. I don't know which one was worse The Dark Knight Rises or this (Yeah I said it and what?). William Fichtner's performance as the evil Millionaire Sachs was fine but then again I've never seen a bad performance by him. He really didn't need to exercise his acting chops. No one does honestly. It all boils down to the Turtles in action and if nothing else, it at least delivered on that front.

I'm probably going to be in the minority but the kid in me that used to watch the cartoon every day and still loves the original live action movie enjoyed it. Is it a good movie? By hollywood standards probably not. To me, it accomplishes what it sets out to do and it's incredibly entertaining. There were some genuine laughs throughout the movie and those of use that know the turtles will appreciate the nods to the cartoon intro, the script controversy and a host of other things. It never takes itself too seriously and it shouldn't. I've no doubt that the movie will be slammed by critics for being brain dead and stupid but let's just remember what the name of the movie is. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.

[easyreview title= "Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cat1title="Terrence's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.0" overall= false]

Review: Lucy

Lucy The Year of Scarlett Johansson continues as she takes on the roll of Lucy. This contemporary sci fi flick continues the often used highly debated "fact" that we as humans only use 10% of our brain capacity at any given time. It asks what happens when we are able to use 100%. The movie answers that question in its own ridiculous yet enjoyable way. The title character Lucy (Scarlett Johannson) finds herself in Tawain for some reason which I don't think was ever explained. She ends up getting kidnapped by Asian drug kingpin Mr. Jang (Oldboy/Min-sik Choi) and against her will becomes a drug mule. They are trafficking a new drug that looks surprisingly like the blue meth that Walter White was cooking. The enterprising kingpin traffics his drugs by placing them inside his mules abdomens. During Transport, one of his employers apparently forgot how things work and begins to go to work on Lucy. The bag is damaged and she gets a massive dose in quite possibly the craziest acid trip anyone could ever have. When she awakens, she realizes she's got powers that she didn't have before. She frees herself from her captors and is on a quest to find out whats going on.

Throughout the film, there are scenes of exposition about the the human brain by Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) and what is possible when we are able to unlock its true potential. During all of this, Lucy needs to retrieve the rest of the drugs and get into contact with the professor all while being tailed by Mr. Jang and his band of thugs.

The film clocks in at a tight 90 minutes and moves at a fairly steady clip so it never gets boring. Johanssons dialog may seem a bit corny but damn if she doesn't deliver it to where you feel it. One thing that director Luc Besson knows is action and while there are very few action sequences, They are pretty solid. The car chase scene is easily the stand out.

It feels like the movie wants to be smarter then it actually is and while I commend them for trying it goes so far off the rails by the final act, you're just kinda left sitting there scratching your head as to what the message was. The premise is ludicrous. The dialog is incredibly heavy handed but handled with care by the actors and the action is solid. It's a very interesting movie because it should collapse under its own foolishness but it comes out being very entertaining. It seems crazy but for a movie that literally is all about the brain this is one of the few times I can truly say turn your brain off and enjoy the ride.

[easyreview title= "Review of Lucy" cat1title="Terrence's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.0" overall= false]

Review: Fast & Furious 6

Fast & Furious 6

When you go to watch the 6th iteration of a franchise, your first thought is probably to expect a terrible mess of a movie. I'm here to tell you that with this particular movie it not only destroys that notion but ends up being if not the best or one of best movies in the franchise. When we last left our rag tag team of criminals, they were robbing a big time drug dealer in South America. With that task out of the way they've all gone their separate ways to enjoy the fruits of their labor. We open to Dom Torreto (Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Walker) racing down a winding mountain side road to meet up with his wife as she is pregnant with child. The rest of the crew are scattered across the world until Hobbs (The Rock) needs their help to take down an extremely efficient criminal named Shaw (Evans) who somehow has ties to Letty (Rodriguez).

From here on out the movie moves from one insane action sequence to another. Within 10-15 minutes of the opening credits (which are badass by the way) we are treated to a 10 minute car chase the likes of which I have personally never seen before. While this sequence was amazing the only issue I had with it was the fact that the cameras were way to close to the action. I'd would have liked to see some more wide shots but that's just my personal preference. Each scene in the movie does a great job moving the plot along nicely. Yes this movie actually has a fairly decent plot that you'll actually remember when all is said and done. The cast feels really comfortable with each other. From Roman's (Tyrese) constant wise cracks which are actually pretty damn funny to Tejs (Ludacris) calm demeanor, everyone meshes with each other which really adds to the movie's charm. Aside from obvious plot points, nothing seems really forced. There are some cool twists and turns for those that have followed the series since the beginning and some nods to previous films. If you're the type of person that doesn't give a damn about plot however, this movie caters to your action fix in spades.

Most movies of this type have one final action sequence to wrap everything up. This movie punches those movies square in the face and steals their lunch money because it has two sequences! The first of which I yelled out (which I never do) "This movie has gone off the rails." I was cackling like a child in the theater at what I was witnessing on screen. To my delight this wasn't even the final showdown. It's hard for me to even say which one I enjoyed more. I will say any wrestling fan will get an absolute kick out of one scene.

I absolutely loved this movie and would not mind in the least going to see it again. Hey Die Hard, you need to take a cue from this franchise and come correct with your next movie because that last one sucked!!!

4 1/4 miles out of 5

Review: Act of Valor

Where jingoism and realistic military action meet we find Act of Valor. The plot of the movie is very basic, arguably cliché. We are to follow a group of highly trained Navy Seals around the world as they try to foil the efforts of a terrorist group focused on performing a heinous act on American soil. However, Act of Valor has a different hook to get your butt in the seats. That hook is the fact that all the Navy Seals that you see in the film are real active duty guys. They are, in reality, badasses. Trained to kick ass and take names in God forsaken places around the globe. Before the movie began the directors treat us to a five-minute introduction. This was a cool idea because they give you some insight into certain scenes and how they were performed. I will not spoil that here, as I think its better to get this info when you go see it for yourself. We are also told during this intro that the soldiers’ actual families were used in the movie. Any actor could not copy their real emotion and behaviors, we are told, more on that later.

So the movie begins and we are treated to about 30 minutes of build up of the good guys and the villains. Make no mistake the directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, really make you hate the villains and feel for the band of Seals. The villains stand out more with the cavalier murderous tendencies. The Seals are painted in the absolute light of heroism. They have no faults. The villains have no redeeming qualities. This is a Cowboy vs. Indians movie but shot with real servicemen. After the story building is finished we get right to the action, and it's awesome. Scenes of sniper fire, covert take downs, and nighttime halo jumps is just the tip of the iceberg. Fans of the Call of Duty video games will be in 7th heaven. The occasional moments of first person perspective makes you feel like you are in the action. However, this is the highest point of the movie.

When the Navy Seals aren’t putting boots to asses, the dialogue is cringe worthy. I have met some hardcore military guys in my life and the dialogue in the movie is accurate to their interactions. This however doesn’t mean it translates well to the screen. The talking seems very stunted and forced. Remember none of the Seals are actors, just professional warriors. I was leery about their ability to deliver lines and sadly my lack of faith was justified. However, I give them a huge pass because it’s simply not what they are trained for. The better route would have been to have these guys do all the stunts and have actors do the acting. Earlier I stated that the soldiers’ families were used to get that real emotional edge. This was completely lacking in scenes they were featured in. The emotional scene where the guys are leaving home is anything but. Once again this is not particularly surprising. I would have done just as good if you asked me to pretend to be me in a movie. Spoiler alert, I would suck at being me.

In the end, the patriotism is cranked to 11 and we are supposed to cheer when America is kicking ass, and at times you do. I found myself sitting up when the halo jump scene takes place; thinking hell yeah! Unfortunately, when the time came for talking and advancing the plot it fell apart and takes you out of it. The good parts are great, but the bad parts are awful. Sadly, the awful overwhelmed the great. It was a valiant effort and a great concept movie, but it fails in the end. One thing that I learned is these Navy Seals are doing some things that are worthy of commending. Trying to step into the world of acting is also something they should be commended for even if it wasn’t successful.

[easyreview title= "Review of Act of Valor" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.0" overall= false]

Review: Drive

As I sit and listen to the soundtrack to Nicholas Winding Refn’s 2011 film Drive, I can’t help but to think how many cool points I just accrued. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Carry Mulligan as star-crossed lovers in the modern age. Gosling’s character who is only known as the driver is a character for the ages. This generation’s Steve McQueen. Refn’s ability to make Gosling into, what can only be described as, a genuine action star is nothing short of amazing. Much like Refn’s previous films (Bronson and Valhalla Rising specifically) the hero is damaged in ways that are not readily apparent to the audience. When we first meet the driver he is playing the getaway driver to a robbery. The nature of the robbery is unimportant, what is important is the calmness that is exuded from Gosling while panic and uncertainty are all around him. As the film goes along we get small but significant glimpses into what makes the driver who he is and why we should care about him as the audience. The first 30 minutes of the film we are given a look at how Gosling and Mulligan establish their obviously doomed relationship. The chemistry between them is less in dialogue but rather in glances and slight smiles. This method of unfolding their attraction gives the audience a chance to put themselves in the situation and guesstimate what Mulligan and Gosling are really thinking. Like a duck on the surface of a lake all the fury and intense happenings are just below the surface. That intensity drives the duck and this film forward, seamlessly.

After Oscar Issac, who plays Mulligan’s husband, returns from jail the more obvious tension sequences begin to take shape. When a robbery goes wrong and Issac’s character is killed the white knight that we have grown fond of changes and becomes more like us than we would care to admit. The mob, the villain, the mad man. Ever the hero, the driver sacrifices his chance with Mulligan to be the better man. The scene in which Gosling morphs from the sweet, yet slightly creepy guy, to the needed mad man is beautiful. Refn’s control over the soon to be infamous elevator scene shows his real skill as a director. The violence is incredibly visceral and hard to watch at times. If you have seen Refn’s aforementioned previous films this will come as little to no surprise.

Refn’s film ends with our hero doing what he has to do and that is what makes the movie really work. Tons of movies address the revenge themes, but few make you feel like you could bring yourself to do what you see done on film. However, in Drive, you feel like you could do it, but you would hate yourself for it. Gosling is able to pull off something that just isn’t common anymore. You want him to win, but more importantly, you want to be him. That is why in the end you have a sigh of relief because its over for the protagonist and for you. Go see Drive.