Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

Growing up, I was a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. From the movies, cartoon series, toys and video games, the Turtles were my favorite heroes. In my opinion, the first 2 films from the 90s still hold up extremely well. The Jim Henson-created suits look very life-like, the dialogue and relationships between characters were great, and the films are a lot of fun.

When the first new reboot came out a few years ago, I was cautiously optimistic about it, despite hating what the Turtles looked and sounded like. The hulking CG monstrosities were not what I grew up with, and upon seeing the film in the theatre, I hated every second of it. Flash forward to earlier this year, as the trailers began dropping for ‘Out of the Shadows’, a film that includes Casey Jones, Krang, Beebop and Rocksteady. 90s kids everywhere rejoiced in knowing their beloved characters from the animated series would finally be making their big screen debuts (sans Casey Jones, whom appeared in the 1990 film played by Elias Koteas).

I sipped the kool-aid just enough to want to see this film out of morbid curiosity, having been burned from the first one. I told myself that I wouldn’t go see it during its theatrical run and would wait for a home video release, which I stuck to. Boy, am I glad I did. This movie SUCKS. Filled with fart jokes, terrible looking CG and action scenes, and awful characters, ‘Out of the Shadows’ should’ve stayed hidden.

This movie was painful to watch. Megan Fox is probably the worst actress on the planet and is there purely for sex appeal, especially with the opening scene of the movie. I don’t like any of the Turtles, Splinter, and I even disliked Stephen Amell as Casey Jones (and I’m a big fan of him on ‘Arrow’). Last weekend on The Cinescape Podcast, I briefly talked about this film towards the end of the episode, as the topic of “bastardizing” past properties with new reboots was brought up. This movie was a kick to my 7-year-old gut.

It was so bad that it was actually comical. Krang was horrendously awful, making threats in the form of childish taunts, and Tyler Perry’s Baxter Stockman was the campiest cartooniest character I’ve ever seen on film in a live action format. Beebop and Rocksteady are insanely moronic and made me feel dumb for liking them as a child. And the main Turtle villain, Shredder, was barely in the movie. I just don’t understand what the people behind the cameras were thinking. Both new films have taken the Turtles out of New York into rural areas, mountains, rivers with waterfalls, and even on an airplane. It’s apparent that the people making these films have no idea what the core, essential values of these characters are.

I literally have nothing good to say about this movie other than the fact that a cover version of the 90s animated series theme was played during the credits. Congratulations, Michael Bay & co., you managed to ruin my childhood yet again. All we need next is for them to team up with Optimus Prime and the other Transformers to bring about the End of Days on Earth.

Looking at the numbers, the movie made $245 million on a $135 million budget, sadly leaving the door open for another sequel. Rotten Tomatoes shows a 38% critic rating and 51% audience rating.

My rating: 0 out of 10

The Nice Guys Review

The trailers for ‘The Nice Guys’ didn’t really sell me on the film initially, but after checking it out, I really enjoyed it. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling had great chemistry as two wanna be private detectives tasked with finding a missing girl. The outrageous ways their stories intertwine together and with the various plts in the film made for a fun, ridiculous movie.

There were so many different twists in this film that it made it seem very over the top, but in a good way. The banter between Gosling, Crowe, and young actress Angourie Rice (Gosling’s daughter in the film) was hysterical. She did an amazing job in going line for line with a world-class actor like Russell Crowe and I was really impressed by her. Her character, Holly, is a 13-year old that is more mature than her father (Gosling’s character, March), and Crowe’s character, Healy. The situations she’s put into were very intense for such a young actress, but she killed every scene she was in.

The supporting characters helped to round out the crazy people the trio encounter during their investigation, pulling them into a world of dead porn stars and directors in a DOJ murder cover up. Shane Black’s direction style is in full swing in this action dark comedy filled with nudity, graphic violence, and hilariousness. The 70’s time setting and stylings gave an added dimension aesthetically, as the fashions, designs, bright colors and culture make for a great world to inhabit.

The only negative thing to say about this film was that it did begin to feel a little long. The story began to drag a bit, as more wrinkles were added to the plot that maybe could have been trimmed down a bit, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. There weren’t any “bad” scenes, but getting to the point a little sooner could have made for a better flow.

Looking at the numbers, this film made $36.2 million and holds a 92% critic rating and 80% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d recommend this movie to fans of action comedy, dark comedy, and/or Shane Black.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Sam Review

‘Sam’ is a romantic comedy directed by Nicholas Brooks, son of famed actor/writer/director/producer Mel Brooks (he gets an executive producer credit for this film). When a douchy man named Sam drunkenly stumbles into an antique shop, he is offered tea by the owner. Upon awakening the next morning, Sam finds that he has been transformed into a woman.

Sam, now Samantha, must learn the ins and outs of what it’s like to be a woman, as she faces problems like gender inequality in the workplace, being objectified by men, and the different emotional and physical states in his (her?) new body. As Samantha gets acclamated into her new job (Sam’s old job), she begins feeling more confident and eventuall begins to have feelings for her (his?) best friend, Doc. After weeks of transitioning between genders, Samantha and Doc come to grips with their mutual feelings and develop a romantic relationship, as Sam chooses to remain as a woman.

I totally get what the director was going for in terms of the messages and themes of this film. Brooks did a good job in that sense, relating the struggles of both women and transgendered people in society and in the workplace. Natalie Knepp (Samantha) was very believable as a woman that doesn’t know how to be a woman, as she was initially very awkward, clumsy, and confused. The rest of the cast, however, weren’t all that great. They felt very stiff and seemed to be over-acting a lot of the time. The male characters, like Sam’s boss, Seymour, were completely one-dimensional and portrayed as mindless dopes, making them unlikeable and unrealistic. Doc’s fiance, Cynthia (Sarah Scott), was a very annoying character and the actress playing her wasn’t good at all.

I also had an issue with the pacing and editing of the film, as it felt uneven at times and the scene transitions felt cheaply done. I thought the music, especially in the first half of the film, was strange and out of place. I didn’t really care for the first half of the movie at all, but found myself liking the second half more, as the plots became more realized. This film could have been edited down to get more to the point and not spend so much time with schlocky characters. While I can appreciate the themes presented in this film, overall I didn’t really like it all that much, as it just isn’t the type of film that interests me.

My rating: 5 out of 10

Power Rangers Review

It’s morphin’ time! Fans of the Power Rangers TV series from the 1990s have eagerly awaited this new incarnation of the teenage super hero team, and it’s finally here. Taking concepts from the original series, this new Power Rangers film pays homage to the series including classic characters like Jason, Billy, Zack, Trini, Kimberly, Zordon, Alpha-5 and Rita Repulsa. While keeping some of the campiness that fans grew up with, this new film modernizes the story by switching things up and adding some grittiness that we’ve been asking for.

There were many great moments during the film that overjoyed my adolescent self such as Alpha’s comedic moments with the Rangers, the quick snippet of the new Power Rangers theme, the new-look zords, and some of the one-liners the characters use which were also a part of the TV series. The film did a really good job with character building as we’re introduced to the Rangers and their backgrounds. It was very refreshing to see a diverse cast in different aspects of race, sexual orientation, and the fact that Billy (who is African American in this film) is autistic. This point alone really warmed my heart and will hopefully serve as something people on the autistic spectrum can embrace.

The film was a lot of fun and the special effects were really cool for the most part, though I didn’t really like the look of Goldar. There were some times that the tone felt a little uneven, as it took itself seriously but then switched to more light-hearted, cheesy moments. There were also some logic points that left me a bit confused. How did Rita know about the new Rangers right away? How did the Rangers form the Megazord without knowing about its full functionality? These points are trivial, however, as they aren’t too glaring.

My biggest gripe about the film is the lack of actual Power Rangers action scenes. The majority of the film sees the team not knowing how to morph into their suits and only gets to it at the end during a short battle. I understand that they are just learning about their powers, but there could have been more time spent in the suits. The final battle wasn’t all that great and was mostly spent using the zords. Having more fight scenes in the suits would have made me happier. Rita, played by Elizabeth Banks, was extremely menacing during the first half of the film, but grew more campy as it went along. I appreciate the attempt at blending the two aspects, but I think the filmmakers could have done a better job evening her out. Zordon was also kind of a jerk…just saying.

There was also a cameo from familiar faces towards the end and the mid-credit scene certainly paves the way for a sequel. I can forgive the lack of action since this is the first film in this new franchise and look forward to more now that we’ve gotten a lot of the character-building out of the way. The new mythology the film introduced is a really cool spin on the story we thought we knew and should set up this new franchise nicely.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ was a film that I definitely wanted to check out, just not in the theatre. After checking it out, it was an ok film. It had a bunch of funny moments, jokes, and gags that had me laughing. It was over the top in terms of how far they took some of the bits and vulgarity.

Zac Efron just has that feel of his character from ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’ and Adam Devine can be a bit much at times, though I do love him in ‘Workaholics’. I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna Kendrick or Aubrey Plaza, I just feel like they were a bit off. I did like the alternate take on the “rom com” genre, as the film is filled with sex jokes and foul language. The supporting cast did a nice job to fill out the characters, who overall were funny, despite the issues stated above.

For an R-rated comedy, this film did its job in entertaining me and making me laugh, which outweighs any of my issues with the small things. For a fun, dumb comedy, I would recommend checking this one out.

The film has a 36% critic rating and a 63% audience rating and went on to make $$73.9 million worldwide on a $33 million budget, leaving the door wide open for a sequel.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Logan Review

The third and final installment of the Wolverine franchise, ‘Logan’ sees an aged Wolverine living in Mexico along with a frail Professor X and mutant-tracker, Caliban. Caliban was previously seen in last year’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in the underground fight club. It’s revealed that Charles is in poor health, having seizures that cause his powers to go uncontrolled. Logan is seen working as a limousine driver to help pay for Charles’ medication and to try to save up enough money to buy a boat and live out on the ocean. Logan is also in a bad way, health-wise. He’s not healing like he should; he’s coughing constantly and limping badly.

When a woman named Gabriella contacts Logan for a job, he winds up getting caught up in her business, as a man named Donald Pierce from Transigen arrives to get Logan to tell him where she is. Logan would later come to find that Gabriella and her “daughter” were on the run from Pierce and his Reavers. Gabriella pays Logan $20,000 and promises $30,000 more to take her and her daughter away to safety. As Logan is about to take them, he finds Gabriella murdered. He takes the young girl, Laura, with him back to his home. Charles had been having visions of her, saying she was a mutant. At this point in the story, there had been no new mutants born in the last 25 years. Pierce and the Reavers show up, Caliban is taken, and the other 3 escape. Pierce is now using Caliban to track the trio, as Logan & co. head to coordinates left by Gabriella. Oh, and did I mention that Laura has the same powers as Logan? She totally wrecks shop and kills lots of people with her claws.

Logan & Charles watch a video on Gabriella’s phone that shows children, including Laura, being experimented on at Transigen. These lab-created mutants were being developed as weapons. Laura, her designation of X-23, turns out to be Logan’s biological daughter, as his DNA was taken during the Weapon-X program at Alkali Lake. Alkali is also behind Transigen. With this new information, Logan seems unmoved, but still continues to trek on. When he finds X-Men comic books in Laura’s bag, he sees a page where a place called Eden is discussed. Eden is a so-called “safe place” for mutants in the comics, and Gabriella believed it to be a real-life representation. Logan becomes furious as he knows them to just be stories.

Flash forward: every once in a while the Reavers show up and there’s a fight. They also have another Wolverine clone, and he winds up killing Charles. Caliban also dies, as he gets a hold of some grenades and blows himself up in an attempt to kill Pierce. Logan and Laura find the other mutant children from Transigen and take shelter with them. Logan is given a serum to help him heal and increase his strength, which he desperately needs to fight the other Wolverine clone. During their fight, Logan is impaled on a tree stump, as Laura shoots the clone in the head with an adamantium bullet. Logan winds up dying of his wounds, as he can no longer heal due to adamantium poisoning that has been slowly killing him for years. Laura buries him and the film ends.

Now that I’ve basically gone over the entire film, let’s get into my likes and dislikes.

Likes: This film would not have been at all the same without an R-rating. And boy, did it warrant it. With lots of f-bombs, extreme violence and bloodshed, and even a boob shot, this film had all the action you could ever want in a Wolverine film. It was gritty, hardcore, and personal. Seeing Logan & Charles’ relationship at this point after 17 years in the film franchise brought things full circle. Charles’ death was impactful to Logan and to the audience in attendance. And yes, Logan dies at the end, leaving me to wonder if such a man could actually die and stay dead. Laura/X-23 was great. The trailers didn’t really get me interested in this film, and I didn’t much care for having a child as one of the main characters, but she proved me wrong. Her brutality and quirks really worked for her character and she was one of the best parts of the film. Even with such a somber tone, there was plenty of humor spread around to lighten scenes. The film was deeply personal and a great character-driven story.

Dislikes

There’s something in me that just feels like the solo Wolverine films are missing something. I’m not sure if it’s just because I prefer him with the X-Men, but I can’t help feeling this way. Throughout this film, Logan & Charles keep referring to an incident in Westchester in which lots of people were hurt. But it’s never revealed what actually happened. Westchester was the site of Charles’ school, and there are currently very few mutants left in the world. The X-Men are all dead. What happened? Did Charles do something that killed them? Did he destroy the school? The answers are never given and the plotline is left dangling. There are also times where the movie really slows down, making it feel longer than it was. As I saw this film at a press screening, I’m not sure if there’s a post-credit scene or not, but the abrupt ending to it after Logan’s funeral was a bit off-putting. He dies, is buried, and that’s it. No hint of anything else to possibly come, no indication that Laura and the other children made it to safety, nothing.

Previously, Hugh Jackman came out and said that ‘Logan’ took place in an alternate universe separate from the main timeline. Comments like this are frustrating to fans of the franchise. I don’t know why Fox has such a hard time with their shared universe, but it continues to be a mess. If that is the case, could Wolverine still show up in any new X-Men films? Hugh Jackman is on record as saying that ‘Logan’ would be his last time playing the character. Stranger things have happened.

Out of the 3 solo Wolverine films, this one is far and away the best one. The intense violence and action help to cover a repetitive storyline. Let’s hope that Hugh comes back to team up with Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Kong: Skull Island Review

Back in 2014, Gareth Edwards’ ‘Godzilla’ opened the door for a new shared cinematic universe of giant monsters. Though ‘Godzilla’ wasn’t the best movie, the framework was set for what could potentially be something really cool. The second film to continue this new universe is ‘Kong: Skull Island’. The mighty ape himself, King Kong would make his first big-screen appearance since Peter Jackson’s 2005 take.

I had been very excited for this movie, as the trailers and promo spots looked really cool. The look of Kong was incredible. The CG work in this film is top-notch. At no point during this film did I not believe that this giant gorilla was a complete digital projection. The action scenes, especially with Kong, were so much fun to watch. Kong is absolutely brutal and this film did such a great job of representing his bestial rage tapered with moments of subtle responsibility.

John C. Reilly’s character, who has been stranded on the island since WWII, has learned from the island natives about both the island’s and Kong’s history and serves as the audience’s insider for information. Knowing that Kong keeps the “skull crawlers” in check and keeps the animals and inhabitants of the island safe from them adds a layer of depth to Kong’s character. Obviously he would be ticked off at invaders dropping bombs on his island, leading to his attack on the helicopter squadron.

Samuel L. Jackson was really good in this film, as his need for revenge against Kong for killing his men is somewhat justified. And yes, there are a few “classic” Samuel L. moments with some of his dialogue. He is so enveloped in his need for revenge that his judgment is clouded even after John C. Reilly tells him of Kong’s importance. Tom Hiddleston was good and the supporting cast of soldiers was fun. But there’s one issue that will lower my overall score of this film: Brie Larson.

Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. I just don’t feel like this was the right role for her. I’m leaning towards the script and writing for her character being the issue, as she felt typecast in a female role in an action movie. She “tamed” the beast, was somewhat of a love interest for Tom Hiddleston, and was given a few things to do action-wise. For an Oscar-winning actress to be playing a role like this, I don’t feel like the writers or director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did her any favors. I would much rather have seen her take on more of a leadership role as the only female amongst a group of Army soldiers, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t think she was bad by any means, but I think her writing could’ve been better, especially as she is set to play Captain Marvel soon.

There were also some nods to the connection with the new shared universe, with references like the nuclear testing, MUTOs, and the end-credit scene. Overall, I really enjoyed this film. The action was exhilarating, the comedic moments were well-timed, and the world of Skull Island was really cool to explore. I’m very much looking forward to the big matchup between Kong and Godzilla, and I think I might put my money on Kong as the winner.

My rating: 8 out of 10