Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

teenage mutant ninja turtles

teenage mutant ninja turtle

 

Review By Rob Jefchak

             The Ninja Turtles are a staple of comic book and cartoon fandom that have been around since the 1980’s. Their first live movie premiered in 1990 and there hasn’t been a live action Turtles film since 1993 (and if you’ve seen Turtles 3 then you’ll understand why). Now the Turtles are back again in a reboot, helmed by “Wrath of the Titans” director and produced by “Transformers” director; Michael Bay (who for some bizarre reason more people blame than the ACTUAL director of the film). With a fresh new start, new computer looking Turtles designs and a slew of online controversy and concerns that have boiling since the movie was first announced, can the heroes in a half shell reclaim their fame from fans and film goers alike? Let’s find out.

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a daring reporter and with her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), she is desperate to learn more about the ruthless Foot clan terrorizing New York; run by the mysterious Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). During her sleuthing, April comes across 4 vigilantes fighting against the Foot; only they happen to be super-sized, mutant ninja turtles. Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher); along with their rat master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub) are tied to April’s investigation. Now April and the 4 turtles must work together to uncover and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan with Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) and save the city from this evil.

For a reboot on an old classic fandom, this new movie surprisingly does very little to “reinvent the wheel so to speak.” The basic plot for this film feels like it was ripped right out of the 80’s Turtles cartoon show and the Turtles themselves have the exact same personalities one would expect from past incarnations. In some ways, the Turtles are simplified and have the most basic of clichéd personality traits, on the other hand; the film presents the Turtles as if the audience already knows about what makes the Turtles tick. Showing the Turtles in this manner keeps them fresh yet old and familiar but also different. This new film plays it safe and acts like it’s trying to make a good enough reinvention to validate people are in fact interested in this new take.

Some of the biggest pros include the Turtles hilarious interactions with each other, the stellar action sequences (there’s a snowy mountain chase sequence that truly is a show stopper) and then we have April/Fox. Many fans kicked and screamed at their keyboards over her casting but after seeing the film, I feel Fox was not only justified in her performance but also intrigued with her character’s direction in the film. Fox plays April truthfully to her story sniffing roots but also makes her more involved, bolder in her decision to fight and help the Turtles rather than sit on the sidelines waiting for another rescue. The use of the Shredder was very interesting; there’s a lot of mystery about him though you see plenty of his CGI armor kicking the crap out of the Turtles.

Unfortunately, Shredder’s action scenes are the only things worth remembering; the film’s main villain he hardly gets any development or recognition considering his previous appearances in films. The Turtles personalities also seem a tad rushed, relying too much on fans familiarity with their personalities rather than developing them more intimately like the original live film did. Admittedly, the Turtles new designs take some getting used to and are far from kid friendly. Overall, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a decent reboot that proves all the horrible hype surrounding it didn’t prove accurate. The humor is fun and plentiful, the action is stunning and impressive and Fox turned out to be a rather commendable choice for April O’Neil. The villains and story may feel flat and way too familiar to be fresh, but there’s definitely enough pizza power and Turtle action to entertain people and breathe new life into an old franchise.

I give “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” 2 ½ stars out of 4 stars.

“Lucy” Movie Review

Lucy movie

Lucy wide for website

 

Review by Saumya Chandra

Science fiction movies are a rapidly trending genre in Hollywood made even more fascinating when paired with some action and adventure. This time it comes in the form of a new thriller by Luc Besson, a veteran French filmmaker, who is known for his unconventional and rather adventurous creative efforts. Although well-intentioned, his movies are known to range from daring to disappointing with the movie Lucy falling somewhere midway in the spectrum.

An action movie predicated on a scientific fallacy, Lucy revolves around the concept that human beings use a mere ten percent of their total brain capacity. Besson wonders that if humans were to unlock the entire hundred percent of their brain capacity, what would the result be? This forms the plot of the action thriller Lucy which stars prominent actors like Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi and Amr Waked.

The film starts off by presenting Lucy, played by Scarlett Johansson, as an average and innocent schoolgirl who is manipulated by her nasty boyfriend into taking a locked case to a high-end hotel asking for a Mr. Jang. Mr. Jang turns out to be an evil drug dealer who literally washes his opponent’s blood off his hands after dispensing some rough justice. Unfortunately for Lucy, the locked case is full of several bags containing a newly created drug of unbelievable power. Lucy is forced into being a drug mule and has to submit to a bag of the drugs being sewn into her stomach.

Meanwhile, a Paris based professor, Samuel Norman, who appears to be one of the leading experts on human brain, is shown to be giving lectures about how humans use so little of their brain capacity. On the other side, the bag of drugs breaks open in Lucy’s stomach and the overdose stimulates her brain into an evolutionary process that enhances all her senses as well as her cognition and memory to superhuman levels. However this comes at a price and Lucy quickly becomes aware that the drug overdose will kill her in 24 hours. Amidst the various action sequences and revenge confrontations that follow, Lucy turns to Professor Norman to find some meaning of her rapidly dwindling life.

While the psychedelic action thriller, Lucy, may not have the best plot, Scarlett Johansson’s charismatic presence as well as effortless acting carries the film well and goes so far as to bridge Beson’s narrative and logical lapses. Fully embracing the character, Scarlett very realistically depicts the psychological transformation of Lucy from an average schoolgirl to a girl with superhuman abilities and acquiring audience’s empathy in the process.

Besson, as a director, has a core of sincerity that drives his films. That coupled with his appreciation for strong female characters has led to the creation of Lucy. In spite of his best efforts though, Lucy falls short of its goal as science fiction and remains firmly in the realm of science fantasy. It may not win any prizes, but for those willing to accept the idea that humans use only 10% of their mental capacity, Lucy is certainly fun and engaging. It is certainly recommendable for a one-time watch!

The Giver Movie Review

The Giver Movie

the giver wide shot
The Giver Review
By Rob Jefchak

In a slew of teen focused fantasy books being rapidly bought and adapted for the big screen, it’s hard to tell where a film like “The Giver” really stands because it’s crutches are made almost entirely out of the recycled imagery and essences of past “Hunger games” copy cats like “The Maze Runner”, “Divergent” and “The Host.” I didn’t even have to see the title sequence in the trailer where it says “based on the hit novel series” to know this was based off a teen fantasy book series, the movie is literally shot the same way as every other teen fantasy formed flick. So does “The Giver” actually have anything different to give to book fans and movie goers at all? That’s what were about to find out as we delve into everything “The Giver” has to give us.

Set in yet ANOTHER dystopian future, this world is “perfect” where everyone here is happy, peaceful and is completely at ease with everything the way it is without any kind of negative emotions to emerge…or any emotions for that matter. When Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) turns 18, he is chosen to become the “receiver of memories” and undergoes secretive training with a man known only as the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Through the Giver, Jonas learns about real emotions such as fear, war, hate and all the secret unhappy truths about this “perfect world.” Once he realizes his world is an illusion, he goes on the run to escape this false life and the puppet master like control of the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep); who wishes to capture Jonas because of what he knows.

While at the core “The Giver” rings the same kind of bells we’ve all heard a thousand times before, in certain key areas there are quite a few interesting aspects that I actually found rather likable. While the teen leads act like they were picked just because they happen to look the parts (especially the boorish Thwaites), the cast you expect quality from thankfully deliver and give you someone worth looking at. Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are powerhouse actors; they are scene stealers, grand standers and they know how to make the best of each moment and line on screen. Usually big name celebrities only appear in these kind of films to boost non book fans interest and then are barely even shown in the film despite their name power (like Diane Krueger in “The Host” or Timothy Olyphat in “I am Number Four”.)

Here though, Streep and Bridges deliver actual characters and prove they are here for more than just generating popularity buzz. Another one of the few elements that actually intrigued me was the use of the camera work and unique color/visual schemes. When Jonas starts to see the world for all its actual real worth, the use of color and black and white use create a stark contrast that helps bring the audience to the striking conflict these two realities have when seen through the main character’s eyes. I feel I got a better sense of actual depth and understanding to the core of this film’s theme more so than any other teen book-to-film series before.

Even some of the smaller roles filled by the likes of Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and more serve well in this film’s casting choices. I can’t help but point out though that there is still far more materials in here that you have seen than there is of material of you have not seen before. The copycat tracks from other teen series are still fresh and are clearly (and painfully) structuring certain elements in the world of “The Giver”; even though this is supposed to be its own unique universe. It’s hard to say where this series will go and if it really deserves to be continued and expanded upon like “Twilight” did; there’s an equal balance of good and bad elements that constantly tip toe into different directions.

“The Giver” overall is a decent effort with a little bit of above average tossed into an otherwise adequate mix. The visuals are interesting, great performances and I appreciate the deeper and more complicated approach to the character’s roles. But it’s still in desperate need of a fresh scented bath to wash off the smell of teen copycat drama in order to come out creatively clean and crips.
I give “The Giver” 2 stars out of 4.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review

Sin City A Dame to Killer For

sin city wide picture

 

By Rob Jefchak

Robert Rodriguez turned visual effects inside out and blackened it out with the truly spectacular, eye stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel; “Sin City.” Now an astonishingly 7 long years later, a sequel arrives in a new film with multiple stories and characters bringing us back to the gritty gore soaked streets of Sin City in “A dame to kill for.” It’s been a long time since this film was first announce to arrive and since then, several actors in the first film have either declined to return (Clive Owen and Michael Madson: Dwight and Bob respectively) or passed away (Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy: Manute and Shellie respectively). Has all this turmoil affected the film’s quality as well as the release? We’ll see.

The story takes place not too long after the first film (at least most of the stories do), where Nancy (Jessica Alba) is plotting revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for causing the death of her beloved hero Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Marv (Mickey Rourke) joins forces with a love scorn Dwight (Josh Brolin) to stop a crazed man eater (Eva Green) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) challenges the senator in a live or die card game for glory. For the most part, the film logically follows the events of the first film and shows us how our previous “heroes” have fared since the last film’s events. However, due to the lengthy gap between films and replacing certain members; it becomes difficult to follow certain events in the film’s jumbled trilogy.

New comers like Eva Green, Ray Liotta and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bust their caps and bullets off creating new characters and they end up fitting into this dark world perfectly. The effort is there, the passion and silvery flare is all there and it keeps eyes and attention gloriously glued to the characters. Jessica Alba shines far beyond her stripper role and creates an even more dark and compelling personality that proves she is capable of deeper and darker material. Her entire segment in this film (like the first one) was the best tale out of the bunch and definitely made watching this film worthwhile. The gore and violence is indeed intense but oddly enough, the level of the gore has been toned down since the first film’s splatter spread.

Or perhaps the gruesomeness has been saturated in our systems long enough that it just doesn’t seem as barbarically bloody as it once did. I think that’s the biggest flaw with “A Dame to kill for”: we’ve kind of seen this before. When “Sin City” first came out; it was new and daring and completely different than anything we had seen before. Rodriguez created a whole new visual style of cinematic magic and reinvented certain actors in brand new forms that the audience never expected to see. But with “A dame to kill for”, nothing really feels as awe inspiring as it did the first time. The film feels confident relying on its original trick to be blinding enough that you won’t want to see any new tricks; despite the fact the film has had 7 long years to craft a new cinematic arsenal.

This is a sequel that should have been held at higher standards considering the time it took to make it and the obviously large shadow the first film left that still holds power by today’s standards. However, in reality this film just falls under “meh…it was okay”; the effort just feels half-assed and lacks any bite or ballsiness the first film so brazenly embraced. “A dame to kill for” continues the stories from before but does NOT reenergize them; it’s like riding a bike you haven’t used in 10 years and still expect it to be in tip top shape without applying any maintenance whatsoever. There’s still a lot of visual fantastical content, great performances and oodles of bloody body chopping to enjoy…it’s just not quite the same as it was the first time around. “A dame to kill for” still entertains but I can’t help wondering what it could have REALLY done if Rodriguez had put just a bit more bang for our bucks.

I give “Sin City: A Dame to kill for” 2 ½ stars out of 4.