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: Alex Cross

Alex Cross Once again we are thrust into the world of Alex Cross, which is a series of novels written by author James Patterson. In the two previous movies god himself Morgan Freeman played the beloved character. This time around we get Tyler Perry as the title character. If this sounds like something you're going to enjoy, you probably will. For the rest of you, it is what it is. What it is, is not good movie by any stretch of the imagination.

Here we have some what of a reboot or prequal to the previous movies as we see Cross (Perry) a homicide detective criminal profiler on the Detroit police force. He's got a wife, who is pregnant with his third child and a best friend Tommy (Ed Burns) who also happens to be his partner. We learn very early on in the movie that Cross is extremely good at what he does when he is able to profile a killer named Picasso who is played not so well by Matthew Fox. He's a crazy psychopath MMA fighter/artist/assassin. After Cross examines a crime scene and figures out the killer's next move, he is instantly put on the top of the killer's list. From here on we get a series of events that in the end don't really add up and to be perfectly honest with you, you've probably seen 1,000 times in even the worst television cop procedurals.

The problems with this movie are many including bad acting, a terrible script, an extremely predictable plot and one of the worst fight sequences I have ever seen in my entire life. For starters, Tyler Perry is not a good actor. He's got very little range and he cannot seem to break away from his stage play acting style. The script didn't help either as the monologues he was given when he was tasked with profiling the killer were laugh out loud funny when they were not supposed to be. Ed Burns as his partner did the best he could with what he had to work with. He played the same character he always plays which is funny because he cannot seem to drop his New York accent which doesn't fit when you're born and raised in Detroit, but whatever. Then we have Matthew Fox as villain. I'm not quite sure what he was going for in his portrayal but it damn sure didn't work. I can only assume he was having fun with the character but once again poor line delivery and odd acting choices made the character comical. There are some supporting characters but nothing is actually worth mentioning. The final nail in the coffin for this movie was the directing itself. There were scenes where the camera would pan from one person to the next and then inexplicably pan to an inanimate object only to pan back to the conversation. For those that are not fond of the shakey cam, there is a scene in this movie that will probably make you throw up. I've never seen anything quite like it before.

With all this movies faults, it somehow manages to stay slightly entertaining I guess. I mean I didn't walk out so that's saying something. This could have easily gone straight to DVD but then again I've got a feeling it's going to make its money back based off of Tyler Perry alone. All in all it is not the worst movie I've ever seen but it isn't any good either. I can't stress that enough.

Stick to Madea out of 5!!

[easyreview title= "Review of Alex Cross" cat1title="Terrence Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.5" overall= false]

A Second Opinion: Total Recall Review

This is the second review of Total Recall by Terrence. You can read Micah's review here

When one thinks of Total Recall, you're first thought is the 1990 Schwarzenegger cult classic. What we have here is another remake that didn't seem necessary. What was a campy action movie with charm turns into a banal run of the mill action laden snore fest.

We are introduced to a world at the end of the 21st century that has been ravaged by chemical warfare. The inhabited world is now divided into two land masses. The opulent United federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony located on Australia which for some reason looks like China. These two land masses are connected by a transporter called The Fall. A giant elevator that goes through the core of the earth. The Science in this completely escapes me. It's here that we meet Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell). An assembly line worker who is none to pleased with his life. He keeps having a recurring dream that strengthens this feeling and he isn't sure why. This drives him to visit Rekall. A place that implants memories into your brain and allows you to live out whatever fantasy you desire. While setting up his trip, things go crazy and he finds out that things are not what they seem to be. When he leaves Rekall he finds his wife Lori (Kate Bekinsale) is trying to kill him and after a fairly decent yet all too familiar chase scene we meet up with freedom fighter Melina (Jessica Beil) who is tasked in helping him remember who he is. From here on out we get what I have dubbed Quaid Runner.

The movies plot quickly takes a back seat to chase scene after chase scene with enemies that were taught at the Cobra Commander school of weapons training. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn let alone a moving target. None of it is particularly spectacular or memorable. It's all just extremely dull. The action drives its way to the inevitable conclusion with the true danger Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) which was also very anticlimactic. Throughout the movie, they throw in some nods for those that have seen the original movie. One in particular is so out of place they should have scrapped it all together. The biggest problem I had was that it was hard to care about anything going on as the movie never really shows the struggle or plight of the Colony. So what is the fight for. Hell, Quaid's apartment looks pretty stylish to me.

The one thing that is done right is the design of the locales. The Colony is clearly inspired by Blade Runner and The UFB is pretty much a throwback to Minority report. It's clear this movie had a budget and the CG shows it. However that's not saying much as the best part of Batman and Robin was also the set design and we all know that was god awful.

In the end, Farrell was serviceable, Beckinsale reprized her roll as the death dealer from Underworld as she was a bad ass Beil was meh and Cranston is always awesome. The plot was paper thin the action was abundant yet boring and the film as a whole was just dumb. It's sad when your exhausted after watching an action movie and its for the wrong reason.

Rating = Dumb out of 5

We will talk Total Recall in depth on this week's episode of The Nerdpocalypse podcast

Review: Ted

If Ted is all about growing up and becoming an adult, I think it might be its own worst enemy. Ted is the story of John Bennett (Mark Walberg) and his magical teddy bear, named aptly Ted, that comes to life when he is a child. The two live in a perpetual cycle of bong hits and liquor shots. Its the college man and bear's dream.

When John and Ted's relationship seems to stand in the way of the adult relationship John has with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis) conflict begins. What happens next is fairly obvious. Frankly, the entire movie is obvious and fairly simplistic. Ted and John get drunk and/or high then get into trouble. Rinse and repeat.

So it should come as no surprise that I didn't care for this movie at all. Seth MacFarlane  basically crafted a real life version of his successful tv cartoon show, Family Guy. However, I think that MacFarlane miss the point of his own movie. While Ted walks us through what changes have to be made when we throw away our childish toys and become an adult it tries to do it with cheap fart jokes. While watching the movie there were so many jokes that simply fell flat with the audience, and with me. There are some chuckles but nothing long lasting. I found myself really regretting ever sitting down in the theater for this.

So why are so many raving about this movie? Product loyalty is my guess. If you are a hardcore fan of Family Guy or perhaps The Cleveland Show then you will most likely enjoy Ted. However, if you aren't a super fan of those properties then I would argue that this might not be for you.

[easyreview title= "Review of Ted" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.5" overall= false]

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Review: 21 Jump Street

In 1987 when the original 21 Jump Street was first brought to television we received a great procedural police drama series with young and upcoming stars. In 2012, we revisit the franchise but this time with crude comedy. On the surface, the remake of 21 Jump Street seems like the most ludicrous idea proposed by Hollywood in some time. However, with Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall writing we get a fresh take or an old property. Let’s get the most important part of this review out of the way: Is 21 Jump Street actually funny? I am happy to say, it’s absolutely hilarious. So now that we have the basics established let’s talk story. The premise is simple and is treated as such. Two cops, who are worthless upon first glance, are assigned to work undercover at a local high school to bust a drug ring. Nothing too complicated, just straight to the point. I enjoy movies that don’t bother with unnecessary exposition and know what they are and stay within that context.

Meeting the main characters Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and establishing how they get to Jump Street takes about 15 minutes. This part of the movie zips by so fast that you realize early that the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have an agenda and no time for deviation. This part feels very rushed, but frankly you don’t care because you are waiting for the comedic high school scenes anyway. However, once Hill and Tatum take on their high school identities we really get to see the two shine. I am no fan of Tatum’s previous work but I have to admit he is pretty great here. He works well as the handsome idiot with a heart of gold. Jonah Hill has had great success with his roles in arguably similar movies like Superbad and he doesn’t disappoint here either. Hill does an exceptional job as the awkward-cool-smart-ass teenage persona. Overall the chemistry between the two stars is genuine and makes you want to see more of their adventures.

The movie has a nice overarching message about high school and the day to day nonsense that is teenage life. It handles delivering this message well without beating you over the head with the obvious. The movie is very silly, but in a good way, yet it isn’t mindless. Tatum and Hill do well addressing high school stereotypes while at the same time showing the changes that have occurred since their time in high school. Some of the funnier scenes happen when the two characters try to pigeon hole other students into their perceived high school stereotypes.

Like I said earlier, the movie is hilarious. Once Hill and Tatum make it to school they are surrounded by a whole host of characters. The awkwardness and crudeness of the movie works much like it did in Superbad. The level of in your face comedy harkens back to the days of Animal House, Bachelor Party, and the Revenge of the Nerds series, which is never a bad thing. All in all, I think this is the first good mainstream movie of the year. Go see 21 Jump Street you won’t regret it.

[easyreview title= "Review of 21 Jump Street" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

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: Chronicle

What would you do during the most awkward time in your life if you were given unlimited power? This is the ultimate question in Josh Trank’s debut movie, Chronicle. Three high school boys make an incredible discovery in a crater during a party that gives them superhuman abilities. What they do with these powers is heavily influenced by the lives that they led before the incident.

The school outcast and general dweeb about town is Andrew (Dane DeHaan). He is the social pariah standard. With one sickly parent and another who is distant at best and physically abusive at worst, Andrew decides to “film everything.” This gives us an immediate reason for the use of the found footage style that takes place in the movie (ex: Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project). The only friend that Andrew has is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), who gives him rides to school but is clearly not in Andrew’s social circles, if he belonged to any. When Andrew informs Matt that he will be filming everything from now on we get a glimpse at the notion of barriers, both social and physical that Andrew sets up. Matt is not a fan of the initial barrier that is created with the use of the camera but quickly acquiesces to the idea of it and we move forward. As much as Andrew is the social pariah high school cliché, Matt is the trying to find myself guy. This is the average high school kid and he is here for us to relate to, awkward at times but sometimes has moments of cool. Matt, during a moment of cool takes pity on Andrew and drags him to a party to truly experience high school life. They are seniors and as an outcast Andrew doesn’t have much but the ridicule of his father to contend with. The two boys link up with a new partner in crime named Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the popular kid stereotype. Soon to be class president, classic overachiever, and star athlete Steve is everything that Andrew isn’t. This makes for a great dynamic when Andrew is more timid during times of stress throughout the movie. Once together, the three make a discovery that changes them forever.

When the boys start to realize what they can do, they do what any red-blooded teenage boy would do…they have fun. Trank’s ability to convey the situations that these kids find themselves in was perfect. I found myself thinking, yeah I would do that. The hijinks that ensue are some of the movie’s best moments. From extreme baseball to flying, Andrew and his crew become a family. He now has equals who understand him and want to be around him. He has never had this. As their powers increase the boys try to develop rules so that things never get out of hand. When a tragic eruption happens in Andrew’s life the boys are forced to pull together like a family or be fractured just the same. The existence of their powers never allows them to run away from life.

For Josh Trank’s directorial debut he does well, honestly better than I expected. Trank along with Max Landis wrote the original story and the care of a writer/director can be seen throughout. While Chronicle is not the next Batman or X-Men: First Class it is a nice entry into the superhero-esque genre. The visual effects do leave something to be desired. The wireworks on the flight scenes were just low quality. A budget of $15 million will only get you so far. During scenes on ground level you could see some cheap yet effective cgi. The dialogue was definitely no Shakespeare, but were you expecting it to be? The movie knows what it is and never played it any different. A fun Friday night date movie, you won’t be disappointed. I look forward to seeing what Trank can do with a larger budget. The story telling is well paced and never gets bog down with trying to be existential with questions of godliness or higher purpose thinking. With more money and movie time this could have been flushed out into a big summer movie blockbuster. However, the low budget keeps it intimate and seemingly meaningful. You cared what happen to these boys on a certain level. When watching them you can’t help but say, “how would I have handled this power!”

[easyreview title= "Review of Chronicle" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]