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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Gone Girl (Film Review)

Gone Girl (Film Review)

As much as I hate to do it, I am going to have to become one of those people that cannot discuss a film without mentioning that I have read the novel first. Such is going to have to be the case with Gone Girl, recently added to the list of shows on Netflix Canada.

I was late to the game with Gone Girl, and only recently read the novel, and absolutely loved it. So I was pretty excited to watch the film, especially since it has already come with such incredible and glowing reviews, widely considered to be among the best films of last year.

girlReading the book, I figured it would be difficult and interesting on how the narrative would shift, once the secret is revealed half way through the story. How would a screenwriter and director be able to create the amazing suspense, and then completely flip the narrative, basically starting the story over again, from the point of view of Amy? The task was difficult, and the film only mildly succeeded at doing so. It never felt as thought Nick’s world was crashing down on him, as the evidence against him killing his wife piled up against him. He just never really seemed that guilty in the film, whereas he was very much portrayed so in the book.

girl3As for the film itself, it is very well directed by David Fincher. The guy knows how to direct a dark film, and he pulls out all the stops in his guidance of Gone Girl. The film is quite morose, from the very beginning, taking away from the ideas that there really were some good times between Nick and Amy, instead focusing on the glumness of it all. The soundtrack plays along, creating ominous tones throughout the film, keeping us well aware that this was not a happy film. It definitely evoked a mood, but it took away what little levity there was in the story to begin with. Even the charms of Nick’s twin sister, Go, were muted down due to the dank atmosphere and deadpanned deliveries.

The actors here are very straightforward. At points, it was like they were trying to out-morose one another, to be as deadpanned as humanly possible. I found that there is very little life behind them, and well aware that this is part of the point of the performances, I found it difficult to take at times. I just wanted a little bit of inflection!

It is understandable that someone as cold and calculating as Amy speaks in such a cold and calculating voice all of the time, but during the first half of the film, it makes her difficult to like, which is the point of the first half of the novel. There could have been more here, to make for a more dramatic shift part way through.

girl4But I digress. Gone Girl is a very good film. It really is. It easily is a 4/5 star movie, and despite my random pickings at it, it is a very good thriller. For those who have not read the book, it will definitely keep you interested until the very end, to see how everything will turn out, including the wild ending that lacked a couple of key parts (as husband and wife write their respective stories, essentially racing against one another to get it done- I thought that was a great part of the resolution of the novel). For those who have read the book, it will be impossible to not compare it to the original text, and nitpick the details that you would have wished were included in the film, or omitted, or whatever.

I somehow feel that Gone Girl should have gone in reverse for me. I kind of wish that I had seen the film before reading the book. Then I could have the one, very strong version, and then use the novel to fill in all the gaps, and get even more of the story. Either way, Gone Girl is a strong adaptation, and should be seen as what it is: one of the better films, with some of the best twists and turns in recent memory.

World War Z (Film Review)

World War Z (Film Review)

New to Netflix Canada this week is the Brad Pitt interpretation of the incredible zombie novel, World War Z.

The first thing I will say about this film, goes to those who have read the book. The film is nothing like it. Might as well forget that you have actually read the thing. In order to enjoy this movie, don’t worry about the connections to the book, as this is as loosely based on a novel as possible. The basic idea is the same, and…that is about it.

WWZThe novel did not set itself up to be a movie. It was based on a series of interviews conducted after a zombie apocalypse, in a variety of locations across the globe. In order to get a real interpretation of the novel, the film would have had to be ten hours long.

As a film, this one is mildly entertaining. It really felt as though there was a lot of buildup and a really quick payoff, finishing with an unsatisfying voice-over montage to conclude. Some good things about the movie were the special effects, Brad Pitt himself, not too much cheesiness with him trying to save his own family, a pretty interesting way to avoid the zombies, and the creatures themselves were the fast kind, not the slow, moaning type. I like a good zombie that can put up some serious 40-yard dash times.

There is some good violence to be seen in here, but this isn’t a splatterfest as some zombie films are. It is more cerebral than that, and it does it in a pretty entertaining way. They think about the zombies, where they came from, and how to identify what the issue is. The concept behind the film isn’t simply Armageddon survival tactics, with Brad Pitt saving the world, and going across the planet to save his family. There is more to it than that.

Zombie movies are awesome, for the most part, and World War Z sort of fits into the middle of them. It is not the best one that is out there, but it definitely isn’t the worst. Watching this won’t be a waste of a couple of hours.

Just forget that it is based on a novel.

New Trailer: The Fault in Our Stars

When you love a book so much, it is scary to see it come to the big screen. And I love The Fault in Our Stars. I had long wondered why no John Green books had been transformed into films, given that there is such an appeal to his stories, and such a massive popularity among teens. Who of his fans don’t believe that Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns or Will Grayson, Will Grayson would make a great movie? It almost seems as though his novels are made to be classic teen love story films.

I was dreading to see what would become of TFiOS the moment that I heard it was being made into a movie.

And I hate to say it, but I think my fears have been realized. I know that Nerdfighters everywhere will be ecstatic about certain aspects of the trailer. I, unfortunately, am not sold.

The first trailer for the movie has been released, and upon first viewing, I instantly hated it. Upon further viewings, I have softened up my stance, but still am decidedly on the fence as to the results of what this film could be.

The lines, so beautifully written on the page, come across as hokey when heard aloud, delivered by actors (specifically, the actor playing Augustus Waters) that may not have the gumption to handle such a complex role as Hazel and Augustus. The trailer gives us the outline of a definite love story, which the novel is, but holds none of the humour or sarcasm that made the book so completely memorable. If the film lacks this, and it may not, as this is only a preview, then it is simply a sad love story that is left over. And the book is so much more than that. The greatest thing about Hazel in the novel is her unique way of looking at her life. She is going to die, she knows it. She is well aware that she is a grenade, but she deals with this reality in a way so uncommon across literature.

Some positives is that there seems to be many things that have made the cut from the novel into the film. Such as the literal heart of Jesus, a brief glimpse of Hazel reading An Imperial Affliction, going after Isaac’s ex-girlfriend. All of the big speeches from the novel seem to be there as well, although I was pretty surprised to hear chunks of them in the trailer.

I will still see this movie, if only as a sign of my dedication to John Green. As of now, I am uncertain to how it will translate on to the screen, and I am infinitely worried that the incredible story that Green put on to paper will not fully be told on celluloid. Time will tell. I want so badly for it to be a great adaptation. I want to love it like I love the novel. I want to be able to show the movie when I teach this novel to my class, as I already have done a couple of times. I want The Fault in Our Stars, the movie, to be as classic and memorable as the novel.

A Love Letter to Daenerys Targaryan

dany3Dear Daenerys,

I’m not really sure if I love you because of your character, or because of Emilia Clarke playing you on TV in Game of Thrones, but I will count these two separate entities as one and the same.

First off all, I am impressed with how you have overcome being a girl simply used for the gains of men. You have gone from being the demure, fragile, person that your brother sold into marriage, to a scared and unsure woman married to a terrifying Dothraki warlord. But you gained confidence, you began to assert yourself, and you finally used your voice. You found love where there was initially only fear, and you discovered that there was something powerful inside you that could get out, and could help others. Granted, many of these learned things came from your sexual awakening with Khal Drogo. But this further demonstrated your assertion of who you really had become.

dany2The dragons may be the source of your power, but you have nurtured and cared for them, in order to become a more powerful person. You understand their abilities, and what having them means to you and your future in Westeros. You have harnessed their strength, and along the way, have become the mighty Mother of Dragons.

There is much power in your tiny frame. There is a lot of rage. You make promises to burn cities to the ground, no longer the weak girl you were when we first met you. You have sought what is yours, and you are willing to pay whatever price to get it. As you grow in your power, you have become a good leader. You are freeing the slaves along your journey, and this is commendable, not only because it makes you a better person and more respected among your followers, but because it is a shrewd move, both in the military and political sense. You know that by promising these people something- their freedom- they will follow you to the ends of the earth. Where, one would imagine, is where you will ask them to go at some point.

You have been able to play your beauty and innocence as a strength, using it against your enemies. They see a young girl who is nothing but afraid of the things she has already done. We know that you are willing to go further, and are not afraid to spill a little blood along the way. This, coupled with your cunning (upon learning of Old Valerian as your mother tongue, that warlord probably still hasn’t removed his jaw from the ground- that was seriously badass), has created a force to be reckoned with in Daenerys Stormborn.

The game of thrones is something that is being played by the women of the story. It is becoming more evident that the men are merely their pawns in their deadly game, and I cheer for you, to take back the Iron Throne that is rightfully yours to begin with. These women already have varying degrees of power, but no one has risen from the ashes (literally), as you have. From weak to strong, you are perhaps destined to become the one true leader. For that, we will have to wait and see and continue to cheer along when you are on the screen.

Red Waste- Rakharo is ahead of the gameSure, I understand that you are not a real person, that you are a character in a story. But you are the best character, because you have undergone the most thorough change. While time passes and other people remain the same, you have become a true force to be reckoned with in the development of these novels and TV show. You are learning along the way, becoming a true player in the game of thrones. A player that many people in Westeros do not even understand or realize yet. But they will, when their castles burn from the fire of the dragons.

This may be the nerdiest thing I have ever written.

From Book to Film: The Great Gatsby

It feels like I have been waiting a long time to write this post. Maybe even one of the reasons I started this blog was to write this post. And I know that when I am done, I will feel like it is woefully incomplete.

I love The Great Gatsby. It is my all-time favorite novel. Since the first time I read it in my first year of college, I have felt an attachment to the story. Someone so haunted by their past, so faithful to the idea of the green light, so hopeful that things can be the same as they were. It is beautifully written, perfectly romantic, and wonderfully simple. It really is the greatest example of American literature that we have. I have read and re-read it, studied it and taught it in the classroom. It is the first book I will recommend to anyone looking for something good to read, regardless of the person. Millions have poured over Fitzgerald’s words already, and I hope that millions more will. The Great Gatsby is one of those novels that should never die, and never fade away. There is no more perfect explanation of the American Dream, and no more perfect commentary on its failures than in this book.

So, naturally, I was excitedly terrified when the new film came out. Maybe one of the reasons I waited so long to try and write a review or comment about it, is because I wanted to digest it. I have now seen the DiCaprio film version three times, and I only now have some concrete thoughts on the movie. I could go into details about plot changes, but I just want to highlight some of my pros and cons of the film. For people who know Gatsby, they already know the manipulations undertaken to take this work of art to the big screen (again).

+ This film version is essentially two films. The first half illustrates Baz Luhrmann’s reckless direction and love of in-your-face, over-the-top, visuals. But is works. Sort of. Aside from the cartoonish scenes with the cars, the garish and decadence behavior of the 1920’s lends itself perfectly to his style. He seems to demand nearly hammy performances from his actors, and he gets it from them. For the second half, he reins himself in and manages to tell a tender love story, where the eyes of the viewer are drawn to the character, and not the impressively high confetti budget.

– This movie is a waste of 3D (for those who saw it in the theatre). Yes, the party scenes were cool, but aside from that, I wished I had seen it in good, old fashioned, 2D. Wearing the stupid glasses on top of my glasses was not worth the couple of scenes where it was visually interesting.

+ The casting for this film was sound. DiCaprio was the perfect choice as the titular character (can you really think of anyone else who should have played this role?), partially because DiCaprio is very much a real-life Gatsby. Daisy, Tom, Myrtle, George, and Jordan were all physically perfect for the film, and they could act as well, which helps.

-Tobey Maguire was very hit and miss as Nick Carraway. He plays the nerdy third-wheel well, but I wonder if there could have been a more capable actor, that could have brought some guts to Nick, to make him a more loveable character, instead of one who we feel is being used over the course of the entire film. This film adaptation embraces the idea of Nick as a watcher an enabler, when there is more substance to his character, in my opinion.

jordan+ Jordan Baker is my favorite character in the novel, and she was as well in the movie. And not only because she is played by an absolutely beautiful Glamazon of an actress (Elizabeth Debicki). At 6’2 1/2″, she towered over her co-stars, but she also humanized Jordan a little bit more than she is in the novel. She is not an awful, dishonest, person, but one who believes in the love story that Daisy and Gatsby shared. I like Jordan because she is beautiful, selfish and kind of evil. She came across perfectly in this movie. And wow, absolutely stunningly beautiful.

– I hated that Nick was in a sanitarium in the film. He doesn’t need this made up excuse to be telling the story of his former neighbor. I thought that was a weak choice, as it spoonfed the audience too much and also crippled our views of Nick as being a reliable narrator.

– Too much narration crippled some of the performances in the film. When you have strong actors like Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio, let them act. It was unnecessary that so many of their scenes were spoken over by Maguire. I understand that there are so many beautiful lines in the novel that they didn’t want to leave out, but I felt that it was overkill.

+ I have gone back and forth on the soundtrack for this movie. Luhrmann traditionally puts modern music into his movies, regardless of the era of the setting, and I think, in the end, it worked on this movie. Sure, there was a lot of Jay-Z in a movie about the 20’s, but it lent itself well, specifically to the party scenes where 20’s inspired music was amped-up with modern techno-style synthesizers. As a separate entity, the actual OST for the film is excellent, highlighted by Jack White’s fantastic “Love is Blindness.”

– According to IMDB, the phrase “Old Sport” was uttered 55 times in the film. That is a lot. Tone it down, as it lost some of its effect. I know that they use it often in the novel as well, but at times it seemed like every line Gatsby said ended with his catchphrase.

– The funeral was a huge miss on the part of the screen writers and director. One of the saddest parts in American literature is the fact that nobody went to Jay Gatsby’s funeral aside from his own father and Owl Eyes. That he was the most famous person on Long Island, a man surrounded by mystery and excitement, and nobody would come to say their final goodbyes is the most gut-wrenching part of the novel. And they blew it in the movie. Having the media there ruined the sadness of the moment, and we never even saw Owl Eyes there, to utter his disbelief that people used to show up at his house by the hundreds and couldn’t make it out for his final appearance. The narration Nick provides over this moment is lost in the visuals of dozens of reporters and flashbulbs looking over Gatsby’s body. Definitely the biggest missed opportunity of the film.

+ The scene where Nick pays Gatsby his only compliment was perfect. The look on Gatsby’s face was one of pure happiness and understanding, perhaps the last moment of that in his life. Luhrmann kept this simple, and it worked wonderfully.

I could probably go into far too much detail on what I liked and didn’t like about this movie. Overall, I would say that I wanted to love it, and despite the parts that I hated, ended up liking it. This is definitely a valued addition to the Gatsby collection of adaptations. Despite being both helped and hindered by an eccentric filmmaker, the strong cast bring my overall view of this movie into the plus side.

And now that I have pretty much finished writing this post, I realize that there are a million other things I would like to add. But I will leave it here. The Great Gatsby is a million miles from being perfect, but I don’t think that it is possible to adapt a text that is so famous and so beloved into something that everybody will love. This version gave it a shot. And for the most part, succeeded.