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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The Muppets (2011)


No Drums!  No Drums!  Jack Black Said No Drums!

The impetus behind my decision to pull this movie out of a RedBox was the nagging of the inner child I had thought I had killed years ago.  That little bastard and I had a battle many years ago where I left him for dead, bleeding like a stuck Miss Piggy.  It turns out he had been nursing his wounds, waiting for the right moment to shoot himself out of a cannon and back into my heart.  When today’s movie came out in theaters, I started getting threatening messages with letters cut out of magazines that never really amounted to anything.  Today, when this movie came out on DVD, he knew this was his chance to strike.  That really strange story aside, I rented today’s movie from a RedBox and decided to give it a shot to live up to the love I had for this crew in my youth.  Today’s movie is The Muppets, written by Jim Henson, Jason Segel, and Nicholas Stoller, directed by James Bobin, and starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, and Sarah Silverman, the voices of Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Tyler Bunch, Alice Dinnean, and Jerry Nelson, and notable cameos by James Carville, Bill Cobbs, Feist, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski, Rico Rodriguez, and Mickey Rooney.

Walter (Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are brothers that live in a small town called … Smalltown.  But Walter was born with a birth defect of sorts that makes him a Muppet.  Because of this, Gary and Walter become big fans of the Muppet Show.  When they grow up, Gary is preparing to go on vacation to LA with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and surprises Walter by taking him with them.  While in LA, they visit the abandoned Muppet studio.  Walter sneaks into the office of Kermit the Frog and finds out that Statler (Steve Whitmire) and Waldorf (Dave Goelz) are selling the theater to oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who intends to demolish it and drill for oil beneath the studio.  Walter, Gary, and Mary manage to convince Kermit to get the band back together to raise $10 million to save the theater before it’s too late.

My inner child must’ve fixed his hooks in pretty deeply, because I was still charmed by the Muppets.  I realize that, beyond nostalgia, it doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for adults, but kids should probably enjoy it.  I base that mostly on the crap I’ve watched that kids are into today (I’m looking at you, Dora and Yo Gabba Gabba!).  The Muppets are way better than the crap kids watch today, and I stand by that!  I actually got goosebumps when watching the opening to The Muppet Show that I had not seen in ages.  It’s silly and ridiculous, but generally it’s well aware of that fact.  What’s more important is that it’s charming, and there are actually a couple of genuine laughs in the movie.  I especially liked some of the 4th wall-breaking jokes, like when Kermit said he wasn’t going to get the band back together and Mary said, “This is going to be a really short movie.”  I also liked when the Swedish Chef said, “Say hello to my little friend,” before using a flamethrower on a mold-infested fridge, mainly because it came out as, “Herdy gerdy me Gerdy Fler!”  If you want to nitpick (and you know I do), there are a couple of things in the story that didn’t make sense to me.  First, that Walter and Gary are so starstruck with the Muppets when Walter is, himself, a Muppet.  Okay, you let that one go.  The one that bothered me (and yes, I know, more than it should’ve) was the prospect of earning the money to save the theater.  I know that every problem in Muppetland is solved with a show; that’s not the problem.  The problem is, while getting the band back together, they had to get Gonzo from the business he owns (the world’s most successful plumbing parts business) and Miss Piggy from running Vogue Paris.  They couldn’t toss a couple of bucks towards saving the theater?  They might not have wanted to supply all $10 million, but you could’ve given them at least half and let the people do the rest.  The musical numbers were a little cheesy for my taste, but I didn’t really expect much else.  The one that Amy Adams does by herself is just sad.  Not because of her voice, but because doing a musical number about trying to act happy that you’re spending time by yourself while no one else is joining in is one of the most depressing things ever.  I also found it very amusing that they had an all chicken rendition of Cee-lo Green’s “Fuck You”.  That’s an interesting choice for a Muppet movie, but I guess “Buck buck” is not that offensive, even if it’s chicken for “Fuck you.”

The performances of the people had to be hammed up because it’s a kids movie, but no one really did bad.  Amy Adams is super cute, Jason Segel comes off as a nice guy, and Jack Black just acts nuts.  The performance of the Muppets is still a well honed art.  By this time, you know these guys are experts at making felt look like it has emotions and personality, and I don’t think enough credit goes to these guys for that skill.  We just take it for granted.  I’ve also notice that computer graphics (and probably green screens) have enabled them to do more things with the Muppets than they used to be able to, allowing them to do full body Muppet movements by having the puppeteer wear a green suit.  That ability doesn’t add a whole lot to them, but it’s interesting.  One of the most interesting things about this (and a lot of other Muppet movies) is the cameos.  Though many of them only pop in for a second, or just for one line of dialogue, the cameos are really widespread and eclectic.  Zach Galifianakis was funny in his part, and was actually around a bit longer than most.  Jim Parsons (of the Big Bang Theory) plays Walter’s imaginary human form, so people that watch that show might be interested in that.  I was also super impressed with myself that I was one of the few people that would be able to recognize the singer Feist and Bill Cobbs even though most people couldn’t recognize them given an entire day and their scenes combined added up to about 10 seconds.  You can read the credits up above to have as comprehensive a list of the cameos as I could muster.

I kind of liked the Muppets movie.  It’s both not meant for me and completely meant for me.  It’s made for kids, which I am not, but it’s also made for people who loved the Muppets when they were kids, which I am.  Speaking to parents, I would say to try to get your kids into the Muppets instead of the crap that they watch now.  Muppets are so much better than that shit they’re watching now, and you can actually watch and enjoy the Muppets instead of watching with a morbid curiosity in the same way I watched Yo Gabba Gabba.  Now that it’s available from RedBox, I’d say you should give it a watch, especially if you loved the Muppets in your childhood or if you have kids and you don’t want Dora to teach them Spanish.  The Muppets gets “Kermit, you’re my hero.  You’re on my watch” out of “We all agreed: celebrities aren’t people.”

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