Friday, September 30, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows


Over the years, the various films in the Ninja Turtles series have received criticism for different reasons. Though most fans enjoyed the original 1990 movie, a frequent complaint since then is that we've never seen other villains from the TMNT lore besides Shredder. And the first film in the new reboot was also criticized for not enough of the turtles, and for the turtles themselves being hideous CGI abominations (for the record, I don't hate them as much as most), way too much Megan Fox, and no Casey Jones. 

Now, normally, film studios don't generally seem to listen to the fans' complaints. They'll do whatever the heck they want as long as you still come to see it. But oddly enough, it seems they actually listened--for better or for worse. They can't fix the look of the turtles, but the turtles are actually truly the main characters this time. There's not as much Megan Fox (though she's still annoying). Casey Jones finally got brought in. And they finally involved the villains that many were asking for--all of them, pretty much. Which normally isn't a very good idea. 

In total, there are about *four* villains from the lore; Shredder, of course (who doesn't even get his battle armor on until the very end, thus making him pretty boring); as well as Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang, and Baxter Stockman (played in a ridiculous performance by Tyler Perry). And if you include Karai, then that makes for a total of five freaking villains in a plot that involves Krang using pretty much all the other villains to open a dimensional portal to bring his war machine to Earth to destroy it. 

For a movie that actually does almost everything the fans asked for, this film still somehow managed to be a bit of a letdown. Sure, Bebop and Rocksteady are involved, and they are pretty cool in their action scenes at times, but they're given some absolutely ridiculous dialogue. Krang? Well, he's pretty cool, but based on what little I know about the Ninja Turtles lore, I feel like he's the kind of villain you'd put in your last movie or something like that. In other words, they kind of almost pulled a Doomsday from Batman v Superman. Baxter Stockman and Karai? Well, they're just kind of there. They don't do that much. But probably the dumbest thing about all of this is when the humans (not just Casey Jones, even though he feels oddly held back in this movie) are actually able to hold their own against some of these villains. 

So what is there to like about this movie? Well, as mentioned earlier, Krang is a pretty decent villain to bring in. There's a few cool action sequences, such as the convoy breakout early on in the movie, and a fight between the cops and Foot Clan ninjas, and Casey's face-off with Bebop and Rocksteady late in the movie. There's also some better moments of humor in this movie than the last one, even if there's also some moments that are even more ridiculous as well. There also actually seems to be a little more character development between the turtles in this one than the last movie. 

Ultimately, per the usual, this one's probably not going to appeal to very many people besides hardcore TMNT fans. It's difficult to say whether they'll love having all of their various favorite characters/villains finally thrown in, or if they'll be frustrated by the way they're used in the pretty ridiculous script (I know I was frustrated with this new depiction of Casey Jones, and I'm not even a huge fan of this series), or if they'll just be overwhelmed by it all. It looks like the guys at Paramount are going to back to the drawing board; however, you really have to wonder where they can go from here. By still not getting as much as positive reception as they were hoping for, they've kind of dug themselves into a hole they may not be able to dig themselves out of. It may be for the better to just put the turtles back in the shadows for a while. 

Friday, September 23, 2016



Now here's an interesting case: in a modern-day Hollywood littered with remakes, here's a movie that apparently might as well have been a remake of an older one, were it not for different character names and what not. The movie in question is a 1966 flick named "Seconds," which I haven't seen, but it seems that this movie (from 2015) took its plot from Seconds so much that it might as well have been a remake. So it's not a remake... but at the same time, it kind of sort of is. Now poor Hollywood's trying to be sneaky with putting out remakes. 

Anyways, the film centers around a dying wealthy businessman named Damian (Ben Kingsley) who is offered the chance by a mysterious organization to keep on living. To be immortal. They do so by transferring his consciousness into a brand new body (Ryan Reynolds); and how exactly they're able to do that is never really explained, but in these kind of movies (with transferring of consciousness), I get the feeling that's a common thing. 

So, he's got a new body. But inevitably, all is not as it seems; and he goes on a crusade to uncover what the organization is hiding--about themselves, and the new body he has. In some ways, the plot that ensues is pretty predictable. Is it a bad one? Not particularly, but it telegraphs itself all too often so there's not that much that's an actual surprise. 

Despite having a couple decent stars, this movie was unfortunately kind of doomed to a degree by being stuck with a low budget. Hence, the direction is a bit mediocre and it feels a little sloppy occasionally. Ultimately nearly everything about this film is pretty middling. Nothing is particularly great, and nothing is particularly bad either, per se. It's a movie that's often just too average for its own good. 

It's not without its moments, though. There's a couple of nice action sequences, including a decent car chase scene. The ending is pretty good as well. But it also doesn't help that some of the things that the film is based round--such as the immortality conversation--aren't dwelled on quite as much as I'd like. 

It's certainly not a terrible film, but it's also probably easy to see why it was overlooked by virtually everyone. It's a decent movie, but it's also a bit forgettable, so if you even saw it when it first came out, you probably forgot about it when you were looking back on movies of 2015. And while one could certainly do worse with their two hours, the feeling still cannot be shaken that this film could've been done better. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction


The Transformers movies were in an interesting spot after the third one. For starters, they'd killed a *lot* of the robot characters off. About half the Autobots were dead and the Decepticons were basically decimated. So they were going to have to dig further into the Transformers universe for robots. But also, Shia LeBeouf left the franchise. So ultimately, we ended up getting an almost-reboot where none of the human characters from the last three movies were around, and though the events of the last three movies were acknowledged, it's never explained why Optimus Prime and Bumblebee don't seem to care what happened to Sam Witwicky. 

So now, we're stuck with Mark Wahlberg as the lead. And ultimately, I preferred Witwicky's dumber moments. Cade Yeager is a stupid lead character, but then again, virtually all the new human characters are stupid. There's nothing really appealing about any of them. Not that the horrible script helped them or their actors out much. 

We are introduced to a whole new host of Transformers in this movie--most of the Autobots are dead, so they threw in Hound, Crosshairs and Drift out of desperation. Hound is the only one who fares that well, mostly due to being voiced by John Goodman. As for one of the new villains, they bring in Lockdown (neither Autobot nor Decepticon) who is actually pretty awesome and introduces a pretty interesting new plot device involving the Transformers and their "creators"--which is what I guess the fifth movie is going to be about. 

As for the Decepticons? Well, they pretty much exhausted the roster there apparently. So now they've resorted to a stupid plot where *humans* are building Transformers. *Humans.* They create Galvatron out of that, who sadly is hardly even in the movie, especially considering how important to this and future movies he turns out to be. And instead of the usual Transforming effects, these new human-made bots have some awful transforming effects where they turn into a swarm made up of block cubes. Normal Transforming is pretty awesome, so I don't understand why they felt the need to screw it up. 

So yeah, there's a lot of new in this movie--but in some ways, things are still the same as ever. Cool action sequences. Horrible attempts at comedy involving humans. And the plot? The plot is almost nonexistent. Much of it revolves around the idea that somehow all Transformers including Autobots are at fault for the Decepticons destroying Chicago in the last movie. At least in the last two movies, it felt like they were kind of trying--albeit still ultimately failing. It's also beginning to feel like they keep reimagining the Transformers universe and its past just so they can make those movies. 

There are likable moments here. There are still some isolated awesome action moments. The Dinobots, though they aren't in the movie nearly enough, are pretty cool. There's an hilarious sequence where Bumblebee reacts to the human-made Transformers and how one specifically was modeled after him, but "better in every way," leading him to freak out. 

But on the whole, this is definitely the worst of the Transformers movies. With no decent human characters, very little plot and being too long even for a Transformers movie (165 minutes), it's pretty difficult to ultimately redeem this movie even if there are some isolated enjoyable moments. I still didn't quite cover everything wrong this movie, but when a movie is this long, it's pretty difficult to hit all the points, good and bad alike.

The set-up for the next one actually looks kind of interesting, with the concept of the "creators" of the Transformers and such. But it's difficult to see it turning out any better than the others as long as Michael Bay is at the helm. Yes, he creates some good action and visuals, but he can't create a good enough story, and he can't resist putting other stuff in like human drama that no one who's interested in the Transformers cares about. If we got a new director (a proper one, mind you), we might sacrifice some of the visuals, but it might be worth it so we can finally get at least a B-grade movie out of these  movies. And they better hurry before they run out of material to do that with in this series. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon


Wait, what? Is that really what the subtitle there says? "Dark of the Moon?" I have to wonder just how this weird seemingly-broken-English title happened, especially considering that the proper term "dark side of the moon" is used a few times in the movie. That probably left the more skeptical ones already knowing how this was going to turn out, but seeing as Michael Bay was still attached to these movies, they probably should've known anyway if they saw the last two movies. 

Coming off the heels of the sloppily plotted Revenge of the Fallen, we're now given a plot where the 1960's Space Race to get man on the moon was actually a disguise to get to a crashed Transformer spacecraft before anyone else. When the Autobots discover this, a race begins to get to the spacecraft and the technology and knowledge within before the Decepticons do. Sam Witwicky gets thrown into the fray again as well when a co-worker gives him knowledge of the conspiracy, leading him to discover the truth of the newest mess he's found himself in. 

Although this movie has a better plot than its predecessor, that's really not saying much; because it's still pretty sloppy and there are still quite a few discrepancies as they end up contradicting certain events from the first movie. And if they hadn't embraced the more brainless thrills of their movies before, they do now more than ever before; to the point where things are just so ridiculous that I basically turned my brain off around the two-hour mark of this 155-minute movie and just enjoyed the robots slamming each other around and the destruction. 

As a Transformers movie, it delivers more or less what you'd expect. You still have the great action sequences (though more unrealistic than before). You still have the appallingly dumb human interaction stuff aside from that. You still have the much more interesting robotic conflicts, and you also have the stuff during the first act that is genuinely insulting to the viewer--such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's "performance" and the way she is used that was so bad it actually made some people wish to have Megan Fox back. 

Probably the most insulting part of the movie, though, is when Leonard Nimoy's new Sentinel Prime character quotes Nimoy's most beloved character Spock in one of his most memorable lines ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few") in a manner that is definitely not logical and straight up feels random and out of place, making you wonder just what Michael Bay was going for and if he was trying to insult the memory of Wrath of Khan and how in the world Nimoy was convinced to repeat his own line in that manner. 

So once again, as usual, it's the action sequences and the robot fights that make the movie worthwhile. There are some scenes that stand out more than others, such as the spectacular highway chase/fight scene and Optimus Prime's street rampage near the end. And in general, the whole final hour of the movie or so is pretty riveting. Bringing in Shockwave was pretty awesome as well, as was involving Soundwave more. I do wish Megatron hadn't been reduced to a mere afterthought until the final ten minutes of the movie, but whatever. 

All in all, this Transformers movie is basically more of the same, so it kind of depends on how you viewed the previous two. And it's not a movie you should go in planning to take very seriously, because you will definitely walk away frustrated. If you found enjoyment in the action scenes of the previous two movies, you'll enjoy those parts of this third one, which manages to often outdo the previous installments in that regard. So once again, a movie pretty strictly for fans of the characters and for people who are fine with non-demanding action movies; everyone else should probably skip out. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen


When you go to watch a movie about robots that can transform into cars, you go to watch that movie  pretty much just to watch the robots fight each other, right? Just verifying as I get underway with this one. Because both Michael Bay and some of the audience don't seem to entirely get this. 

The Transformers series continues as the Autobots are still working on cleaning up some of the remaining Decepticons on Planet Earth with Megatron dead, but turns out his master is still alive--The Fallen. (If he ever had a different name, we never hear it.) And he's ready to begin his conquest to exact his "revenge" upon Earth; which includes resurrecting Megatron. So now the Autobots and Decepticons are going to war again, and Sam Witwicky gets dragged into things again when he looks into a shard of the All Spark, which transmits a bunch of symbols into his mind--which supposedly lead to an Energon source. Or something. 

If you didn't care much for the first one, you're going to have a difficult time with this one. Following a pretty awesome opening sequence in Shanghai, the movie's next 45 minutes are spent around stupidity regarding the humans, a Decepticon that can turn into a human, and boring college stuff, and more horrible attempts at comedy that feel out of place in a movie about robots fighting each other. In other words, it's more of the same of what you saw in the first movie... only put some emphasis on the word "more." 

Unfortunately, the plot (which was just okay in the last movie) takes a bit of a dive in this one. There are bits and pieces of a decent story here and there, but there are quite a few inconsistencies. Namely, this legendary key that can supposedly only be used by someone who's earned it--and then the villain proceeds to use it right away.

There's some issues also regarding the usage of the robots. Of course, there's a pretty long stretch where we don't see much of them early on in the movie same as the first one. The good news is, Megatron gets a lot more screen time than the first one. The bad news is, Optimus Prime doesn't. The good news is, Soundwave is finally brought in. The bad news, The Fallen doesn't really do much despite being a pretty formidable villain until the very end--and then is killed in three minutes in a pretty awesome but incredibly rushed final fight. And of course, now there's a LOT more robots on both sides and it's getting more difficult than before to tell who's who. Not to mention the fact that a few robot characters just disappear completely without explanation and are never seen again. 

So what is there to enjoy about this film exactly? Well, watching the robots fighting each other or just wreaking havoc in general is pretty great as before. There are some genuinely awesome fights and visuals. Although most of the cast isn't that good (*cough* Megan Fox), Shia LeBeouf fares better in the second movie as an actor, and John Turturro is actually more funny for most of this one. Oh yeah, and Steve Jablonsky writes a fantastic soundtrack. 

So really, what much of this comes down to (again) is if you enjoy watching robots fight each other and if you enjoy the Transformers to begin with. If you don't, this will probably be a dumpster fire of the highest order, due in part to the sloppiness of the story and the idiocy of the script. If you do, you still won't find this to be a classic by any means, but you might want to check it out if this kind of thing is up your alley. Otherwise, you probably shouldn't bother.