Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


The 99% Cheese Pizza.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)I, as many other longtime fans of these movies, was a little nervous going into the movie. That was mostly because of the rumors I had heard before the movie’s release and because of one name attached to the project: Michael Bay. When I’m going to see a stupid action movie, I’m perfectly comfortable seeing that name attached, but when the property is one that I’ve loved since my youth, I fear that all of the memories of the things I loved with spontaneously combust in my brain. But I could not allow the movie to pass me by because I love the property too much, and that’s why I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, produced by Michael Bay, and starring Megan Fox, Tony Shalhoub, Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Tohoru Masamune, William Fichtner, Will Arnett, Minae Noji, Whoopi Goldberg, Abby Elliott, and Taran Killam.

April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a reporter for Channel 6 news in New York that hopes to graduate from fluff pieces into serious news by researching a gang called the Foot Clan. Her investigation eventually gets her stuck in a hostage situation that is broken up by some unseen vigilantes. She follows their trail up to a rooftop where she discovers (and photographs) 4 giant, young adult, genetically altered, unseen warrior amphibians. …They should come up with a better name. These turtles delete her pictures, but introduce themselves as Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard). Eventually, they take April to meet their master, an elderly, mutant, sensei rodent named Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), and the group discover that the leader of the Foot Clan, the Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), is trying to poison the city and use the turtles’ blood to make sure the Foot Clan are the only ones that survive.

I predicted the outcome of seeing this movie pretty well. The movie wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible enough that it ruined my entire childhood and caused my brain to combust in my skull. That would make writing this review rather difficult. The movie was what it was. It was fairly dumb, but entirely tolerable. As with most fans of things, I found that I didn’t really appreciate some of the changes that were made. For instance, this movie decided that the Foot Clan was so named because “they step over people.” Yeah? It’s not because they’re foot soldiers? Also, since when does the Foot Clan use guns? They were supposed to be ninjas like the turtles! And since they’re ninjas, their preferred form of martial arts would obviously be karate, right? Because they decided that ninjutsu was entirely overrated and too predictable? Well that all makes perfect sense. I would also say that I normally find product placement a little icky, but it would have been a travesty to not have some form of pizza product placement in this movie. Strangely, they went with Pizza Hut, so I assume the turtle’s choices are somewhat limited by living in the sewer. I mean, they live in New York City. There must be any number of better pizza options nearby. And Papa John’s delivers too, so they have no excuse.

I’m sure we’ve all seen what the turtles look like and are capable of reaching our own conclusions based on that. But you’re reading this so I assume you’re at least vaguely interested in my opinion. I liked how they looked … except for the nostrils. That made them look weird to me. I would also argue that some of their getups were a bit too busy for my taste. They have natural armor, so why are they wearing armor on top of that? And wouldn’t it get annoying to be doing flips and such with Michelangelo’s puka shells and gold necklaces flying into his face? Also, Splinter just looked icky. And more so than usual. Besides those minor gripes, I was mostly satisfied with the look and the action in the movie, especially the downhill diesel sledding scene that can be seen in the trailer for the movie. That scene was pretty ridictacular.

The cast did a decent enough job in the movie. I wish they had played more towards Megan Fox’s sexuality as they have in every other movie of hers I’ve seen. Mainly because she’s hot and she doesn’t seem to have much more to offer than that. She certainly doesn’t play her characters as if they were intelligent, or at least good at decision making. I mean, she saved the turtles and the rat from the burning building, but it was never addressed that she attempted to save her father at all? William Fichtner did a good job too, but at one point he said, “April has arrived early,” when April O’Neil arrived. I know he didn’t write the line, but it gets associated with him because it came out of his mouth. I didn’t have too many problems with the turtles themselves. I mean, Leonardo did all the leading, Donatello did machines, Raphael was cool, but a little crude, and Michelangelo was just a party dude. I did appreciate that they did Michelangelo well enough that he leaned more towards funny than annoying. It’s a fine line to walk with that character.

I would highly recommend going into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with low expectations. It might be the only way it doesn’t disappoint, especially for fans of the Turtles. It’s not bad enough to ruin the brand, but it’s not good enough that I can fully recommend it. It’s just okay. The story is simple and unimpressive, the action is fine, the turtles look a little weird and Splinter looks icky, and the performances are fine. If you’re comfortable with that, see the movie. Otherwise, it’s probably only really worth a RedBox. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gets “So they’re aliens? No, that’s stupid. They’re turtles” out of “Hey, have you seen that video where the cat is playing Chopsticks with chopsticks?”

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Men in Black II (2002)


The Last Suit You’ll Ever Wear … Again.

Still leading up to my review of the newest addition to the Men in Black movie, we come to the second movie in the series.  After the popularity gained by the first movie, it seemed obvious that they would follow it up.  But there’s always a bit of trepidation going into a follow up movie because they are usually rushed and/or forced which has a negative effect on the quality of the product.  I really have no predisposition towards the answer on this one because I have barely any memory of the movie.  I remember thinking the first movie was very fun, but I have no memory of the second.  So let’s find out how it went in my review of Men in Black 2, written by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosario Dawson, Johnny Knoxville, Rip Torn, Tim Blaney, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton, Jack Kehler, David Cross, Colombe Jacobsen, John Alexander, Peter Graves, Biz Markie, Nick Cannon, Jay Johnston, Martha Stewart, and Michael Jackson.

After the events of the first movie, Men in Black agent J (Will Smith) has become the top agent for the secret government organization.  A challenge arrives for him in the shape of a shapeshifting Kylothian queen named Serleena, who disguises herself as a lingerie model (Lara Flynn Boyle).  She recruits a stupid, two-headed alien duo Scrad and Charlie (Johnny Knoxville) and sets about her task of finding the ”Light of Zartha”.  When J finds out about it, the chief of the Men in Black, Zed (Rip Torn), says that the only person that might know about what happened to the Light is J’s former partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who had his memory erased by the neuralyzer at the end of the last movie.  J must find K and get his memory back so they can find the Light of Zartha before Serleena does.

I don’t think this movie was nearly as bad as many people did, but the movie does hurt my feelings a little.  At the end of the first movie, it was a sad and poignant moment when J had to neuralyze K so that he could go back to his old life.  This movie just shits right on that by going exactly backwards from it.  It’s preferable to the alternative of leaving K out of the movie because K was a great character, but it does deflate that moment from the first movie significantly.  The mystery in this movie is a little better done, as it becomes a treasure search once K has been brought back into the picture.  They follow clues to finally reach their destination and it’s an interesting new way to go about the story of their movie.  There were some good jokes in this one, but I felt like they really took it easy in some places.  Most of the jokes they went through in the middle of the movie were just the reverse of the same jokes they made in the first one.  Things like giving the “Noisy Cricket” to K, and even using some of the same exact lines, but his time it was J saying them to K.  The look of the movie has not changed drastically for this movie.  It’s still really good and really creative.  I would say the only thing that I would count as an improvement in this movie is the song that Will Smith made for it.  Nod Ya Head is a much better song than Men in Black, and I don’t care who knows that I think this.

The returning performances for this movie were of the same quality, but I would say the new additions do nothing to help the film.  Will Smith is mostly just as charming and funny as he was in the first movie, but he came off as a bit of a dick for the first part of the movie when he was too preoccupied being the best MiB agent.  I like him better as the fish out of water, but he gets back to that.  Tommy Lee Jones is pretty much unchanged in this movie.  He’s still a great compliment to Will Smith.  Lara Flynn Boyle didn’t work for me though.  She was great to look at, especially when she was in her underwear, but she was not at all intimidating as the main bad guy in the movie, and she was barely convincing to boot.  Johnny Knoxville played the role as classic comic relief, but was completely hit or miss.  Rosario Dawson was great in the movie, however.  Not only am I always happy to look at her, but she’s got this great charm to her that makes you instantly like her and seemed like she would be a great compliment to Will Smith.

Altogether, Men in Black 2 makes no drastic steps forward, but does make a few steps backwards, though not enough backwards to make the movie a bad movie.  It’s just inferior to the original.  It’s still pretty funny, but some of the jokes are easy, it’s still got a good story with a little more mystery to it, and the performances that return to the movie still bring it, though Rosario Dawson is the only new performance that’s any good.  But Men in Black 2 still manages to become a fun watch, so I’d still recommend it.  I own both, and it probably wouldn’t hurt for you to own it as well.  Men in Black 2 gets “I’ve dated worse” out of “Your brain needs to reboot.”

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