Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Film Review)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Film Review)

Despite not really wanting to watch this film, I was sucked in by the nostalgia of my childhood love of TMNT. The toys, the cartoon series, and even the mediocre live-action movies. It was a pop cultural phenomenon, and I was in the middle of it, being the perfect age for the release of all of the things related to the Turtles. Hell, I even owned a tape of the movie soundtrack, when they were released in the four colours of each turtle (my copy was the purple Donatello version of the cassette).

So, with hesitation and trepidation, I went ahead and cued up the reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Netflix. Why not? How bad could it be? I’m sure it wouldn’t be able to retroactively ruin my childhood.

Well, it can be pretty damn bad.

There are a lot of terrible things about this film, and very few redeeming ones. Let me count the ways, starting with the negatives:

  • the acting is absolutely terrible. Megan Fox brings us to new levels of bad in this role. But even she is surpassed by William Fichtner in this movie. It is not good at all. Not that they were working with a good script, or anything. This was a paycheque movie for both of them, and they acted like it.
  • Shredder looks absolutely ridiculous. When he finally gets his Shredder armour, which isn’t until nearly the end (since when do we ever see Shredder’s face?) it looks like it was made up of all the spare parts of a Transformers movie. It looked terrible, and during his fight sequences, it was pretty ridiculous. tmnt3
  • How much stuff are the turtles going to carry around with them? Donatello constantly has a massive amount of crap on his back. And Raphael annoyingly has a pair of sunglasses on his forehead for the entire movie. Seems pretty impractical for ninja stuff, if you ask me. tmnt2
  • The fight sequences are definitely from the school of Michael Bay directing. A lot of action that is very hard to decipher what is actually going on. They just end up being messes of noise and colour, and lose any impact of the events that are actually transpiring.
  • The directing of Jonathan Liebesman is pretty poor. It is like he just discovered that you can tilt the camera for shots, and then decided that he should probably just go ahead and do that for every single scene. If you like low angled, tilted shots, then this is the film for you.
  • The story itself somewhat follows the original, but it is managed to be rendered pretty silly (well, even sillier given the source concept of this whole thing). The childhood connections of the turtles with April O’Neil is ridiculous and not needed. How would she not remember these things from her childhood, like saving a bunch of turtles from a fire? Not easily forgotten, one would assume.
  • There really is poor development of the turtles themselves. One part of the original series was that they were so unique from one another. That comes across a bit in the film, and they touch on it, but it isn’t enough to really make a difference. Not that anybody is watching this film for the characterization or anything, but a little bit would have helped.
  • The whole April O’Neil story line of wanting to be a serious reporter is pretty dull.

These are some pretty big hits against the quality of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is not a good film, and perhaps worst of all, it is not very entertaining to watch. I honestly don’t care if a movie is bad, but at least make it fun. TMNT does neither.

However, there are a couple of decent things in this movie.

  • Megan Fox is still pretty damn good looking. And she can really fill in a pair of jeans, so that is a plus, I suppose. tmnt4
  • There are a couple of funny parts from Michaelangelo. Of course, he is the goofy one, but he actually gets to provide some humour to the film, and some levity from the general stupidity.
  • A funny scene when the turtles are in an elevator and start to make music as they ride up for their final fight. It was weird and out of place, but it was actually pretty fun.
  • I didn’t hate the way the turtles looked, as many people have. The CG is well done (until the clusterf*ck of the fight scenes).

Not exactly a stellar list of pros for this movie.

I get that some people quite liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I feel that were a lot who were happy that it was “just ok,” and not complete childhood blasphemy. And we have a plethora of options of films that are just ok.

TMNT doesn’t even make it to that low standard, making it a film that I would recommend skipping.

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Friends: Seasons 3-4 (TV Review)

Friends: Seasons 3-4 (TV Review)

By the time seasons 3 and 4 of Friends rolled around, it was a full-on cultural phenomenon. Everybody knew the names of the 6 characters on the show; everybody had their favorite. The “Rachel” cut was the most popular hair style among women, and people began to mimick the catchphrases of the characters from the show.

At this point, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross had become a part of our lives.

friends6And the show was still rolling, able to produce consistently funny episodes along the way, while starting to veer off into the ridiculous, but only a little bit to start with.

Some of the central plot highlights in these seasons include:

  • the Ross and Rachel blowup. Rachel begins working in fashion, and Ross is incredibly jealous. This leads to him cheating on her, their breakup, and the running gag of, “We were on a break.”
  • Joey meets the possible girl of his dreams, and actress in a play he is working on.
  • Phoebe meets her half-brother.
  • Monica dates Pete the Millionaire.
  • Chandler falls for Joey’s girlfriend.
  • The potential getting back together of Ross and Rachel, which ended with a Season 3 cliffhanger. This lead to some funny fights. “18 pages. Front and back!”
  • Phoebe becomes the surrogate mother for her brother’s triplets. (One of the more annoying and insane stories ever to be on Friends, but it was a way to mask that Lisa Kudrow was really pregnant during filming of this season).
  • Monica gets a head chef job.
  • Ross meets Emily, and their whirlwind relationship ends with them getting engaged. The season ends with Ross’ wedding to Emily, which includes Rachel deciding at the last minute that she still loves Ross and has to tell him. She never does, but on the altar, Ross says Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s, setting up the major plot line for Season 5.

friends8The stories in these season of Friends become more serialized, which worked in truly making it Must-See-TV. Nobody wanted to miss an episode, because the plots ran together for several episodes at a time. It got viewers hooked, but it also lead to us having to endure some of the crazier stories.

Either way, during season 3 and 4, Friends was rolling along. It was still quite funny, and the characters had only begun their development into complete caricatures of themselves. This would get worse as the show wore on, but at the time, everybody was enjoying the ride.

During the first four years, there are so many truly memorable episodes, that it is really worth going back over them again, to watch them in order.

One annoying thing about Friends on Netflix though…the theme song. Since the show always had a lead-in prior to the opening credits, you have to manually fast forward through the theme song so that it doesn’t completely ruin your life.

First world problems, I guess.

Friends: Seasons 1-2 (TV Review)

Friends: Seasons 1-2 (TV Review)

There may be little point in writing anything about Friends, one of the most popular network sitcoms of all time. But with its recent release of the full 10 seasons on Netflix, it warrants another viewing, and a few notes on the early years of the show we are so familiar with.

Going back and re-watching the early episodes of such a classic show offers a few points that may have been forgotten as the show dragged on towards its conclusion, essentially becoming a drama with the occasional giggle thrown in.

friends2Seasons one and two of Friends offers some definitely hilarious moments, and some excellent episodes. The show could change from goofy and fun, and was always able to drop in the right amount of seriousness to keep viewers endlessly entertained. There is little doubt that during its initial run, the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship of Ross and Rachel was one of the best on television. Binge watching on Netflix takes some of that away, as there is no waiting to see what is going to happen next between the two of them. I recall waiting in agony to see what would happen after Rachel goes to meet Ross at the airport, or what would happen with Julie, or how they would react to their first kiss, or the fallout from The List.

The writers of the show did a good job in managing to wait about a season and a half before getting the two central characters together. In a current era where we can guess from the pilot episode which characters are going to hook up (think of New Girl, or The Mindy Project), Friends really did keep us on the edge of our seats waiting for the inevitable love connection between the two.

It is nice that a new generation is able to watch the show. For those who missed the initial run on TV, they can now see the whole thing, and “get it” whenever someone who is now in their 30s or 40s makes a reference to an episode, or to a character. This is a major advantage of Netflix, and it has ensured that Friends will remain a part of our popular culture for a long time to come.

friends3As for the episodes themselves, the first couple of seasons offer up some of the best single episodes that the entire series had to offer. There are some classics, including when Joey and Chandler get their chairs, and refuse to leave their newly found comfort for any reason. Or when Chandler gets Eddie as his new roommate. Or the one where nobody is ready, and Joey brought the term “going commando” into the popular lexicon. There is the museum date between Ross and Rachel, or the flashback episode to Rachel and Monica’s prom.

There is something comforting about watching these episodes again, because they are so familiar. We know the six characters of the show, because we grew up with them on Thursday nights. It is kind of nice knowing that they are always there now, with a quick scroll through your Netflix list, and that you can bang out a few episodes here and there, whenever you feel like it.

friends4The first two seasons of Friends offers us the best view of the characters, as well, before they essentially became caricatures of themselves as the series plowed along. Sure, Joey is still a little dumb at the beginning, but it was a new joke, and was still funny before his complete buffoonery in the later seasons. And Phoebe is always weird, and kind of the most annoying of all of them, but there is something endearing about her at the beginning, before the convoluted story lines of her family start creeping into the show too much. They were all such distinct and new characters, and looking back at seasons one and two, we see so much of the gang in the sitcoms that have followed, with too many other shows trying to capture some of the magic that made Friends such a massive success.

I remember the debates on who the funniest character was, or the Rachel vs. Monica debate taking over from the ages old question of who was hotter, Betty or Veronica. How every person in the world, seemingly, knew the theme song inside and out, and how it quickly became impossible to watch the intro to the show without clapping at the appropriate moment. How Rachel’s haircut became a phenomenon, perhaps one of the most copied hair styles of all time. Everybody from the 90s knows what a “Rachel” cut is, and probably knew at least one friend in their real lives who tried to rock it. This show launched the careers of the actors into super stardom, even if it never really lasted for any of them.

That famous haircut.
That famous haircut.

Now, Friends offers some great 90s nostalgia, and that is never a bad thing.

For original fans of the show, it is nice to go back to Central Perk, and remember the episodes with shocking clarity. For those who have never seen it before, it is a must-see, since along with Seinfeld, Friends created a massive pop cultural hit that helped to define the 90s for millions of people.

“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

The day that Laura Palmer was found dead on the beach in the small Washington town of Twin Peaks, a cult-classic was unleashed.

Even though the series only lasted for a total of 30 episodes spread across two uneven seasons, Twin Peaks has remained a phenomenon, and consistently viewed as a show that was able to change the face of network television. 30 episodes have created a ton of fan websites, a yearly festival, magazines, books, and even after much desire from the public, who was both fans of the show when it initially aired, and those who have discovered it in the quarter-century since, there will be a new run of episode of Twin Peaks starting in 2016.

plastic2I have written a few items on the show on this blog, as well as more on my often-neglected Twin Peaks blog. If you want to read a review of another book related to the show, please check out https://gatsbyfuneral.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/reflections-an-oral-history-of-twin-peaks-book-review/.

Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks provides us with another view on the series, and one that is incredibly well done in a very short amount of space. As a part of the Pop Classics collection (which also includes books on Showgirls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), this story of Twin Peaks is done in a great way that provides more information for the Peak Freak out there, as well as the casual viewer, or one just getting into the show. There is much repeated information in here, if you are a die-hard fan and follower of the show, but it still provides enough insight to keep it interesting, over its very brief 101 pages.

Something I especially enjoyed about the book was the nods to the humour in the show. So many things that are written about Twin Peaks focus on the darkness, on the strangeness, and on the the murder of Laura Palmer, and then the following decent of the show from the heights of pop culture after the murdered was revealed. But so many people forget that there were so many moments in the series that were very humorous, and they no longer deserve to be neglected. Author Andy Burns does a great job of reminding us of those funny moments, and how it added so much to the show, as well as giving us a break from the messy lives of the people that inhabited the small town.

plastic3Wrapped in Plastic also does a strong job of citing the influence that Twin Peaks has had on modern television. We often hear about how influential it was, but Burns goes to the point where he describes the impact that this show had on other major dramas of our time, from The Sopranos to The X-FilesNorthern Exposure to Psych. It really brings everything all together, and after reading the book, it gave me a new appreciation of how important this series really was in changing the way that networks viewed the shows they were airing, and how people were watching them, and what they were willing to deal with.

Burns takes us quickly through the development of the series, the casting, and the magic of David Lynch and Mark Frost in creating the show, along with notes on several of the episodes in the series. He writes like he truly loves the show, which is great, because let’s be honest…the vast majority of the readers of this book are also going to be fans of the show, and want to read about it by someone who loved it too. He also focuses a fair amount of his time on the development of the themes in the series, such as the duality of the characters, demonstrated primarily by the role of the Black Lodge, and the dopplegangers that are found within. I found this quite interesting, especially when many more connections were made to the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, as it offered me some views that I had not thought of before.

While Wrapped in Plastic is not as in-depth and intensive as something like Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, it still manages to get to quite a bit. With the book being so short, I had no trouble reading it in one sitting, in a little over an hour. This speaks not only to the brevity of this work, but to the readability of it. It is very interesting, and it is always great to be taken back into the town of Twin Peaks, and into the lives of the characters in it. And Burns does a great job of doing that, exploring the relationships between the characters, pointing out his observations, along with generally maintained theories about the show.

For those die-hard fans of Twin Peaks, who are clamoring for something to keep them occupied until the much anticipated Mark Frost novel, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks comes out at the end of the year, and then the 2016 episodes, Wrapped in Plastic is a fantastic place to get back into the world of our favorite town. It does well to be nostalgic, so fans can remember the lofty heights of the show, even remembering its demise with some affection, and it does well to look forward, to see how the fingerprints of Twin Peaks are all over our current television landscape.

“Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” (Book Review)

“Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” (Book Review)

Author Brad Dukes has put together an amazing compilation of interviews that took place over the span of a few years, and has managed to piece it together into a compelling narrative that describes to fans the creation and execution of one of the greatest cult TV shows of all-time, Twin Peaks.

In his novel, Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, he managed to gather most of the important people that made this seminal 1990’s drama possible, and charts its rise to the peak of popular culture, and its quick fall from grace, and the legacy that the show has maintained 25 years later.

reflections2One major strength of this book is that Dukes himself rarely interjects into the story that is being told by the cast, crew, directors, and writers of the series that he interviewed. He allows them to tell the story, from their first person experiences, and this really allows us, obviously the fans of Twin Peaks, to enter into the universe of the small Washington town, where everybody has secrets. The only notable absence from Dukes’ impressive list of interviews is David Lynch, who served as one of the creators of the show, and directed many of its most famous episodes, with his weird style and twists that can only be described as Lynchian. Everybody else was gathered, from the central actors (such as Kyle MacLachlan and Sherilyn Fenn), to the other creator, Mark Frost, and what they have provided is an insightful and honest look at the series.

It is interesting to see how everything was conceived, and surprisingly sold to the network, before it went on its magical first season run that took the TV viewing nation by storm. Twin Peaks, and the central questions of finding out “Who killed Laura Palmer?” became front page gossip and the ultimate water cooler talk. People hosted Twin Peaks parties every week, and the actors (and more specifically, actresses) of the show gained instant fame- including the rare (at the time) non-musician cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The show was a massive hit, but the network stepped in a little too much during the second season, changing Twin Peaks from a Thursday night hit, to a show buried on Saturday nights. Numerous of the interviewees state that the network was never really on board with the show, and they didn’t really know what they had. The time slot change was a huge blow for the show, but not as bad as them desperately wanting the writers and producers to reveal Laura’s killer as soon as possible. While the series was absolutely incredible through the reveal of the murderer, the rest of the second season began to lose its way, veering into the territory of slapstick comedy at times, and introducing many new characters and story lines that were never able to grab the audience in the same way as the Laura Palmer murder did.

reflections3It is extremely interesting to hear everyone involved in the show, and their dismay with the way the second season went. Some of the actors hated what was happening to their characters, and hearing them not believing in their stories is a little sad, regardless of the honesty. There were should have been storylines that were quashed for one reason or another (to which Fenn is pretty honest…the lack of Lara Flynn Boyle being interviewed for the book was notable, as there is not a second side of that story for her to explain), and a growing rift and disconnect between the original creators, Frost and Lynch. The show was more frequently left in the hands of other producers, and a new batch of writers, who were trying to recreate the genius of the first season, and often failing miserably.

Eventually, Twin Peaks was able to save parts of its second season with the introduction of the Windom Earle story, as he served as a nemesis from Agent Cooper’s past that brought tension, murder, and mayhem back into the sleepy town. But we were still never as captured as we had been with Laura, and the characters that were created, written, and acted so beautifully in the first season of the show. Ratings declined, and despite an avant-garde and shocking finale to the second season, the show was cancelled.

And now it lives on as a cult classic (that will be returning to the air in 2016 with new episodes). Reflections is not the only book that has been written about this show, but it is one of the better ones, if only because it really does tell us the oral story of how everything happened on the show, and how it changed the lives of the people involved. Brad Dukes did an excellent job of conducting the interviews, and piecing them together in a way that makes us feel like we are reading a story. There are great details and tidbits about most of the episodes, and for true Peak Freaks, this book is an absolute must-read. There is the retelling of the stories we have heard before, and the revelation of stories that had not come out previously. All of it is in this book, and it is very insightful.

For now, while we anxiously await the new season in 2016, and the upcoming Mark Frost novel, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, in 2015, Reflections allows us to go back in time, and view the creation of an amazing show, through the eyes of those who lived and created it.

A great read.

Twin Peaks 2016

Twin Peaks 2016

There is no possible way in which I could be more excited for the return of Twin Peaks to television. Sure, I will need to wait until 2016 for it to happen, but this is one of the many good things about this recent announcement.

TwinPeaks_openingshotcreditsI am so excited, that it has taken me a week to really process this news, and consider the possibilities, before I was even able to write about it.

Typically, I would be afraid of the return of the show, in the same way that I am always leery about a film adaptation of a favorite novel: you want it to be incredible, but typically it falls flat, leading to disappointment. There is always that voice in the back of your mind telling you that whatever the new thing is, it is going to be terrible, and it will end up ruining the source material.

audrey3I have considered this, and have decided that even if the new version of the show is no good, it will never be able to ruin the original series for me. I simply love it too much. The new version will add to the story, and to the lore, but it can never take away from what has already been done on the screen with the original run of this show in 1990-91.

Some of the things that I am excited about:

  • They aren’t releasing the new Twin Peaks until 2016. Which means they are not going to rush through writing and production. They are going to be taking their time to make something wonderful, which is great news. With fans of the show clamoring for new episodes, it would have been a huge mistake to rush something out.
  • It will be on Showtime. While part of the lore and incredible nature of Twin Peaks is that it was a strange, boundary-pushing show on network TV back in the day, we no longer need that. Network TV has become its own thing, and it is the cable networks that are showing us the new kind of shows. TP doesn’t need to push the boundaries anymore; that is done by a ton of cable shows. Now it can just tell the story, in the most David Lynch-ian way possible. Being on cable will also allow new freedoms that would not have flown during the original airing.
  • Being set 25 years later, the story lines are infinite. What has happened to all of the characters? Did Cooper end up going on a killing spree, now that he was infected by Killer Bob? Will he have become a new version of Wyndam Earle? Could the show focus on Harry Truman hunting his pal Cooper, somehow knowing that Bob became a part of him at the end of the series? I am giddy thinking about it.
  • Both Mark Frost and David Lynch will be behind the 2016 version of the show. Twin Peaks should not be in the hands of anybody else.
  • Will all of the original cast be returning? Amazing if they did. There always seems to be holdouts when these kinds of reunions/long awaited sequels happen. Of course, a couple of casting changes could be survived, but it would be really cool to see absolutely everybody back in action.
  • I hope they do a couple of small things to keep the show grounded to its roots: keep the original opening credits and theme song, as well as the music in the show needs to be the same. I can’t wait for the jazz drums to fire up when Audrey Horne first walks into a scene.

audreyI feel like this continuation of the show will be great for the viewers who have made it a cult classic over the past 25 years. Surely, there will be a ton of curiosity from new viewers, but I can envision this new version being just as weird as the original, making it something that is not necessarily made for a new audience. There are a ton of fans out there, salivating at the idea of more of their favorite show. And I am extremely excited to see what they are able to do with it.

Take me back to the Great Northern!

Happy 40th, Kelly Kapowski!

What male didn’t have a crush on Tiffany Amber Theissen when she was on Saved by the Bell, and then again when she appeared as a vixen on Beverley Hills, 90210?

She was hot, she was cute, she was cool. She was the object of Zack Morris’ affections, and she was the object of our desires.

Portraits of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen
How could you not love her?

Today, she turned 40 years old, which serves to remind us of how old we are getting, but a casual reminder that our idols and crushes from our pre-teen and teen years must age as well. As much as we remember our teen crushes as they were back in the day, they get older, as we do. In a way, it is sad, but at the same time, it is interesting to look back, and know that we have all gone through so many changes. Things were so much different when Kelly Kapowski would come on the TV in the afternoons after school. They probably weren’t any better, but our retrospect makes it seem perfect. The idolization of youth.

So, here is to a happy birthday to the one and only Tiffany Thiessen. Still definitely have a crush on her.

Deadly at 39, will still be deadly at 40.
Deadly at 39, will still be deadly at 40.