Category Archives: Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

I have to admit I was thoroughly lost during Spider-Man: Homecoming. Throughout the entire movie, I kept wondering how this Peter Parker kid became Spider-Man. I mean, what’s the backstory here? Why does he just have these powers? This is the kind of thing that begs for an origin story.

I am of course joking. Spider-Man’s origin story is such common knowledge that he, like Batman, doesn’t need another cinematic retelling at this point. 2002’s Spider-Man remains one of the best super hero origin story movies (along with, ironically enough, Batman Begins), and there really wasn’t a need for us to hear it again through the less-than stellar 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. Besides, super hero films tend to be at their best once the origin story is behind them, with Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight remaining at the top of super hero storytelling, as they could focus more on the characters themselves and not have to worry about how their heroes earned their costumes and powers.

Spider-Man: Homecoming wisely does away with re-re-introducing us to Spider-Man’s origin story, with the details of being bitten by a radioactive spider only being mentioned in passing, and the death of his uncle Ben only being implied. So Spider-Man: Homecoming not only serves as another reboot to Marvel’s iconic web-slinger, but also, thankfully, works as something of a self-contained sequel to a narrative we are all beyond familiar with by this point.

This “proper reboot” of the franchise is only one of the newsworthy aspects of this new Spider-Man series, with the other big news being that this newest incarnation is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most prominent movie franchise not called Star Wars.

We met this newest Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, where he was part of Iron Man’s team who did battle with that of Captain America. But now we have Spidey’s first solo outing in the MCU, and it actually turns out to be one of the best entries in the mega franchise, due in no small part to the film taking cues from 2004’s Spider-Man 2 by creating fleshed-out, relatable characters in both its hero and villain.

Not only does Homecoming show us Spider-Man still trying to learn the ropes of being a super hero (and often stumbling), but it also dedicates a good deal of time to Peter Parker’s high school life, and the real-world problems and hassles therein.

Meanwhile, the film’s villain is the Vulture, whose secret identity is one Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). If the MCU has had one persistent problem – even in some of its better films – it’s that the villains have been largely forgettable, with only a select few standing out, and none of them really being anything more than a villain. What makes Toomes such a winning antagonist (along with Keaton’s excellent performance) is that, much like Peter Parker is depicted as a real kid, Toomes is a very relatable everyman. Tasked with cleaning up the damage that the Avengers leave behind (the film begins with Toomes’ crew beginning reconstruction on one of the set pieces of 2012’s The Avengers), Toomes and his men end up jobless as soon as the government decides to butt in. So Toomes, wanting to provide for his family and to keep his friends doing the same, goes rogue, and leads an underground operation that steals technology left in the wake of the Avengers, SHIELD, Hydra, and any other “super” organization, crafts their own weapons from it, and sells them on the black market.

The fact that Toomes is selling super-weapons to criminals obviously makes him the villain, but he’s also presented as a relatable figure who was wronged and simply wants to set things right. Unlike so many past villains in the MCU, Toomes actually has a strong motivation for his actions.

It’s because of how wonderfully realized both its hero and villain are that ascend Homecoming to being one of the better super hero movies of recent times, though unfortunately, it does suffer a bit from its supporting characters, which can be a bit of a mixed bag.

Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) provides some good comic relief, but some of his actions may not endear him to audiences (the trailers already reveal that he learns of Peter’s secret life as Spider-Man, and he almost outs his best friend’s secret at the first opportunity). Peter’s crush Liz (Laura Harrier) works well enough for the plot, but she doesn’t exactly get a whole lot of character development. They are forgivable though, since their characters have enough likable qualities about them. Less forgivable is the character of Michelle Jones (Zendaya) who, as you may guess by her initials, is to be the MCU’s equivalent of “MJ” Mary-Jane Watson.

Seeing as this is the second cinematic reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, I perfectly understand the filmmakers trying to change up the characters a bit so we can see something we aren’t already overly familiar with. But the Michelle character is simply unlikable. Zendaya’s acting is fine, but what she has to work with doesn’t exactly make Michelle an appealing character. She’s obnoxious, pretentious, brags about not having any friends… She’s basically like a checklist of all the things older generations ridicule millennials for.

But the rest of the characters are all well and fine. This being the MCU, we of course have to have crossover characters involved, though Homecoming is wise to keep them to a minimum as to not take the focus away from the story at hand: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) returns as Peter’s mentor. Meanwhile, Stark’s former driver and bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) returns to keep an eye on Peter while Iron Man is off with bigger things. And in perhaps some of the best uses of MCU cameos, Captain America (Chris Evans) is featured in public-service announcements in Peter’s high school.

I really enjoyed how Homecoming is a relatively smaller-scale Marvel movie. We’ve seen so many cities get leveled in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by this point, that I’m starting to get more tired of the mass destruction than anything. But Homecoming takes the time to humanize both Spider-Man and the Vulture, while also showing us how complicated the lives of Peter Parker and Adrian Toomes can be. The stakes aren’t to save the planet, or even a city. It’s just about a kid trying to be responsible and to do the right thing, and trying to stop a downtrodden, misguided man who’s caught up in doing wrong. And by this point, that’s pretty refreshing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t reinvent the super hero genre, but it does take inspiration from the better films from the genre’s booming early years (most notably Spider-Man 2) to make a film that may not be the most grandiose of super hero outings, but one that succeeds in the two areas where it most counts: story and characters. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have great action set-pieces, because it delivers on just that as well. But for the first time in a while, I feel like the MCU has a hero worth rooting for not just because of a charismatic on-screen presence, but also for his relatability. Just as noteworthy, the same can be said for its villain.

 

8.5

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Some Scoring Changes (Hopefully for the Last Time)

Being an independent blogger/critic has its ups and downs. On the plus side, you are more freely allowed to tweak your ratings to reflect your changing opinions. On the downside, doing just that risks making your ratings look fickle and wishy-washy.

I personally don’t like changing my ratings, but sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit), I find that in order to keep a level of consistency with my definitions of each score, I have to make exceptions and alter a score for better or worse.

Now is another one of those times, as I’ve changed the scores for a handful of games. Though, hopefully, this will be the last time I make such alterations (though I don’t want to make an absolute statement on that, since I still could make an exception or two).

Keep in mind that if I lower the score for a game or movie, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve grown to dislike the game more (or like it less), but that, upon further evaluation, I think my sentiments and complaints in regards to it are better suited to a different score.

Here are the game’s whose scores I’ve just changed, and my reasons for them.

  • Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble have swapped scores. DKC now ranks at an 8.5, while DKC3 stands at 9.0. When I originally reviewed them, the scores were reversed, but upon thinking more and more about it, DKC3 is the deeper platformer (though my complaints about the music being a massive downgrade for the series still stand). DKC2 still ranks at a perfect 10, however. And that won’t change.
  • Tetris Attack has been lowered from a 9.0 to an 8.5. Again, it’s not that I think any less of it, but I weighed it against another block falling puzzle game that I awarded a 9.0 (Tetris Battle Gaiden), and came to the conclusion that Tetris Attack, while great, is probably better represented as an 8.5 in the falling block puzzle game department.
  • Yooka-Laylee, which I originally gave a score of 8.5, has been slightly lowered to an 8.0. Again, I haven’t suddenly decided that Yooka-Laylee isn’t as good as I initially thought, just that I think – after re-reading my review and assessing my complaints – it fits more into the 8.0 range.
  • Star Fox Zero has been (further) lowered to a 6.5, because of those damn controls.
  • Perhaps most notably of all, Super Mario Maker has gone from a massive 9.5 to a (still fantastic) 9.0. Once again, it’s not that my opinion on the game has changed, I still think Super Mario Maker is, in a lot of ways, one of the best things Nintendo has ever made. If anything, I made this change to further boost what the 9.0 score means. After all, a 9.0 is the third-highest score on my system, and has been represented by such great games as Mega Man 3, Shovel Knight, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Overwatch. That’s a hefty lineup of games right there. Super Mario Maker also perhaps had a few more flaws pointed out in my review than most 9.5s. Though some of these issues have been addressed by Nintendo in patch updates, I still feel changing the score for SMM was the right call. Again, not that I think any less of the game, but if I want to be consistent with my scoring, I felt the change was necessary (I must also repeat that I feel this boosts the prestige of the 9.0 score).
  • I have also changed the scores for two animated films, Finding Dory and Wreck-It Ralph. Both of which were originally given 9.0s, but that I feel are better suited in the 8.5 level (an 8.5 is a great score, so please don’t think that I think any less of these movies).

Well, that’s all the changes I’ve recently made. Now I’m going to try my best to really evaluate if my words and feelings for a game (or movie) are best justified by the score I end up giving it. I don’t like changing my scores, and don’t want to have to change any of them again. So I want to make sure I get it all right the first time. This will be doubly true for games (and movies) rated 9.0 or higher.

In order to help me maintain this consistency, I soon plan to overhaul my Scoring System page, giving more detailed descriptions for each score, and even giving some prime examples of each score for both games and movies (Overwatch and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, for example, seem to be my measuring sticks for the 9.0 score for games). Since I have actually used every rating in my system for games (including one 0/10), I will probably update the page with the video game examples first, with the movie examples following not far behind.

Anyway, sorry for this rant. Hopefully you don’t think any less of my scoring system for my fluctuating feelings, and hopefully I can be more consistent in the future.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the follow-up to the 2014 TMNT reboot, but the sixth overall film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. As far as I’m concerned, it’s also the best of the lot. Sure, like any TMNT movie, it’s not exactly great filmmaking, and you can easily point to its many flaws. But it’s also the most “Ninja Turtles” of any of the Ninja Turtles movies yet made. If you’re a fan of the franchise, young or old, Out of the Shadows is hard to top in terms of fan service.

Let’s put it this way, after five previous films, two reboots, and twenty-six years after the Ninja Turtles’ first big screen outing, Out of the Shadows finally brought characters such as Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, and Baxter Stockman to the TMNT movie universe. It also marks the return of Casey Jones, it has the Technodrome in it, and it captures the feeling of the franchise better than any of its predecessors.

Again, Out of the Shadows isn’t what I would traditionally label as a “good movie,”and like any of the more enjoyable Ninja Turtles films, it’s a guilty pleasure. But it’s also the one I feel the least guilty for enjoying, because as a TMNT fan, Out of the Shadows is a fun ride.

The story here is that the Shredder (Brian Tee) is being transferred to a maximum security prison, but is planning a breakout via (wait for it) a teleportation device discovered by the mad scientist, Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). The Ninja Turtles Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) discover this news with the help of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), and try to prevent the Shredder from escaping.

Try as the Turtles (and the cops) may, the Foot Clan manages to successfully retrieve Shredder as well as two criminals being transferred alongside him, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly). Shredder’s teleportation is intercepted by Krang (Brad Garrett), a brain-like alien from another dimension. Krang has plans to dominate the Earth, but needs Shredder’s help to do so. Krang has been trapped in this other dimension, and informs Shredder that Stockman’s teleportation device is merely a piece of one of Krang’s inventions, with another two pieces being lost on Earth some time ago. Krang and Shredder form an alliance, with Krang sending Shredder back to Earth to retrieve the remaining pieces of the device to open a portal large enough for Krang’s moving battle fortress, the Technodrome, to make its way to Earth for Krang to declare war on the human race.

Shredder recruits Bebop and Rocksteady to aide him in this mission and, using a canister of alien mutagen given to him by Krang, transforms the two bumbling criminals into a mutant warthog (Bebop) and rhinoceros (Rocksteady) to combat the Turtles.

Naturally, the four Ninja Turtles, as well as Master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), April O’Neil and cop-turned vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) try to prevent the schemes of the small army of villains.

There are also some notable sub-plots this time around, with the turtles discovering that the alien mutagen could hold the power to turn them human, allowing them to live life outside of the sewers and be accepted by the people of New York, which actually gives the film some heart. There’s also a fun side-story revolving around Vern (Will Arnett) – April’s former cameraman – gaining celebrity status, as the Turtles allowed him to take full credit for defeating Shredder in the events of the first movie, as to keep their own identities secret.

Look, there’s a lot going on in the movie. When the story isn’t gobbledygook, it’s nothing short of insane. But again, if you’re a TMNT fan, it’s a whole lot of fun. Out of the Shadows may be nonsense when it comes to traditional storytelling, but it succeeds with flying colors in being a love letter to all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If I have to be serious and point out the obvious issues with the story, the sub-plot involving the Turtles’ yearning to be accepted – while well-intentioned – is a bit underdeveloped, with this narrative thread being forgotten for lengthy periods at a time before being brought up again. And of course, with so many characters, most of them don’t get a whole lot to work with.

Perhaps a notable quibble in continuity is that Erick Sacks, the evil businessman who aided Shredder in the 2014 original, is nowhere to be found, not even being mentioned in dialogue. Sure, he wasn’t a great villain, but he played a large enough role in the first film that his nonexistence in this sequel is noticeable.

Maybe I’m just overthinking things a bit, however. This is a Ninja Turtles movie after all, it isn’t exactly trying to tell a compelling story. It’s just here to have a good time. If you’re a fan of the franchise, TMNT: Out of the Shadows greatly succeeds.

Fans who have grown up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or young fans who are currently growing up with them, should have a really fun time. It’s obviously a flawed movie, not just in narrative, but even some of the jokes are a bit juvenile (do all kids’ movies that don’t come from Disney really need fart jokes?). And being a sequel to the 2014 film, the Turtles unfortunately keep their ugly character designs from that film (Bebop and Rocksteady’s animal forms are more humorous and fun to look at, however).

There’s a lot to gripe about if you’re looking at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows from a more analytical view. But for TMNT fans, it spoon-feeds them almost every detail they’ve asked for from Ninja Turtles movies for the better part of three decades. It includes the majority of the franchises most iconic characters, has some surprisingly enjoyable action scenes, and the actors seem to be having a fun time with it (particularly Tyler Perry and Will Arnett, who ham it all up in the best way). It even includes a Vanilla Ice gag, and the end credits feature a updated version of the classic theme song from the 80s cartoon series!

I seem to be repeating myself quite a lot, but I can’t stress this enough. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is not the kind of movie I would usually recommend, but if you consider yourself a fan of the franchise, Out of the Shadows pretty much plays out like a greatest hits of all things TMNT.

 

6.5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014 Film) Review

The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot was treading on thin ice. Not only are reboots so commonplace these days that they’re almost parodying themselves, but early script leaks showcasing massive changes to the source material had TMNT fans enraged years before its release. Not to mention the presence of producer Michael Bay – who has directed the Transformers series into one of cinema’s most ghastly and incoherent franchises – didn’t help things much.

As it turns out, the script leaks were one of the best things that could have happened to this TMNT reboot, as the filmmakers seemed to take note of the fan feedback to turn the 2014 film into a more traditional Ninja Turtles film… meaning that it’s not necessarily a good movie (as its storytelling is muddled and its characters underdeveloped), but it can provide a fun time for fans of the franchise.

In this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the four titular turtles Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson), as well as their rat sensei, Master Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), get a revamped origin story.

Here, the turtles and Splinter didn’t happen upon any mutagenic ooze, but were instead test subjects in a lab, who experimented on them in an attempt to create a mutagen that could make humans resistant to diseases. One of the scientists involved with the experiment is the father of April O’Neil (Megan Fox), who is working for Erick Sacks (William Fichtner). This being a Ninja Turtles movie, the experiment is actually a front to a darker purpose conducted by Sacks, under order from his master, Oroku Saki (Tohoru Masamune), who is secretly the leader of the Foot Clan, the Shredder.

April’s father of course discovers the true purpose of the experiment, and sets fire to the lab to destroy Sack’s plan from coming to fruition, before being killed in the ensuing chaos. A young April O’Niel rescued the turtles and Splinter from the fire, and set them free in the sewer, where they began to mutate over the years, as a side effect of the experiments. The mutated animals eventually gained humanoid properties and intelligence, becoming the Ninja Turtles and Master Splinter we now know.

Truth be told, I don’t really mind the change in the Turtles’ origins to give them a history with April O’Neil (she even gives them their names in this version). In this day and age, when we’re seeing so many origin stories from franchises we all know by heart being retold over and over, I suppose a tweak in an established origin story is actually kind of a nice change of pace.

The problem with this origin story, however, comes with the ninja aspects of the titular characters. In the traditional story, Splinter was the pet rat of a man who practiced ninjitsu, giving a stronger (albeit silly) reason why the these pizza obsessed, New Yorker turtles have learned the ways of the ninja from a giant sewer rat. But here, Splinter just happens upon a book on ninjitsu while sweeping the sewer floors one day, and decides to teach himself the art of the ninja, and pass it down to his adopted sons.

Granted, the Ninja Turtles, even in their original comic books, were supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, so a bit of nonsense is to be expected. But having Master Splinter know all of his ninja wisdom from some little book that he just happened to find in the sewers of New York is pushing things a bit.

Whatever though. This is still a Ninja Turtles movie, more so than Michael Bay’s atrocious Transformers films are Transformers movies, that’s for damn sure. So if there are stupid details in the plot, well, they aren’t exactly ruining a magnum opus.

Anyway, fast-forward to the present, and April O’Neil is a down-on-her-luck news reporter trying to find a big story to jumpstart her career. Together with her cameraman Vern (Will Arnett), April may have just found such a story as the villainous Foot Clan has started a crime spree in New York City, and that a mysterious, ninja-like foursome of vigilantes has taken the fight to the Foot. Unfortunately for April, her story about four humanoid turtles peaks the interest of Sacks, who seeks to find a way to resurrect his and Shredder’s long-dormant plot.

The plot is, as stated, quite silly. On the bright side, the story does allow for some good old-fashioned Ninja Turtles action (one action scenario sees the Turtles fighting the Foot Clan while riding down a mountain, which is far more exhilarating than any of the action scenes in the 1990s trilogy). On the downside, there are some questionable narrative aspects, even by Ninja Turtles’ standards.

Besides the aforementioned convenient ninjitsu book, the glaring narrative issue seems to be the villain scenario. Sacks seems to be the far more prominent villain than Shredder in the film. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if the movie more properly made Shredder out to be the “big bad” behind the scenes, but it doesn’t. The villainous plot all seems to be for Sacks’ benefit, with Shredder’s presence seeming tacked on. There actually is a reason for that, as the character who would become Sacks was originally intended to be the Shredder in the infamous leaked script, before fan outcry against the departure from the character’s Japanese heritage, which is a pretty prominent part of Shredder’s character. While the studio reconsidering Shredder’s overhaul was probably for the best in regards to future installments, it ends up leaving the Turtles’ arch nemesis feeling like an afterthought in this film.

If the movie has one other great flaw, it’s that the Ninja Turtles themselves are just too ugly. Sure, the CGI used to bring them to life is believable and detailed enough, but the art direction for the turtles is just unpleasant to look at. You get the feeling that the filmmakers wanted to “realistically” capture the look of a humanoid turtle, but maybe they should have stopped to think if that was the best route to go with the characters. By trying to make the Ninja Turtles look more human, they’ve only made them look creepy. More often than not, if a character is stylized to look cartoonish, there’s a reason for it.

Look, if you want a great piece of cinema, you’re obviously looking in the wrong place if you choose to watch 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But if you’re a long-time Turtles fan, or a younger TMNT tyke, then the first entry of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot is, much like the first two entries from the 1990s, a good dose of Ninja Turtles fun. Sure, its story is riddled in nonsense and the Turtles are rough on the eyes, but 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an easy guilty pleasure for those who know the franchise.

 

6.0

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III has got to be one of the strangest sequels ever made. Now, it’s rare for a third entry in a franchise to live up to its predecessors (which is very much the case here), because by the time a series reaches its third entry, the studios are usually just trying to cash-in on the name.

What makes TMNTIII such an anomaly is that it takes this to a whole new level. It really is cashing in on the franchise name alone. Aside from the main characters being the four titular turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael, and the presence of Master Splinter, April O’Neil (Paige Turco) and a returning Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), the film has virtually nothing to do with the franchise on which it’s based.

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, April O’Neil brings gifts to her mutant friends that she found in an antique shop. One such item is an ancient Japanese scepter, which April plans on giving to Splinter. As it turns out, this scepter is of the magical, time-traveling variety.

The scepter exists in two different time frames, one in the present, and one in ancient Japan. When someone from both eras touches the scepter at the same time, they switch places (and, for some reason, their clothes as well). Just as April is about to give Splinter his gift, she trades places with a Japanese prince named Kenshin (Henry Hayashi).

Naturally, the Ninja Turtles need to go back in time and retrieve April, and end up swapping places with the honor guard of Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), Kenshin’s father. To make sure the time travelers don’t cause too much trouble for Master Splinter, the turtles bring in Casey Jones to help their sensei.

Meanwhile, in ancient Japan, the turtles get involved in a scuffle between Lord Norinaga’s forces – who are being influenced by a western weapons trader named Walker (Stuart Wilson) – and a local village in danger of being destroyed by Norinaga’s war. All the while, April meets up with a distant ancestor of Casey Jones, who just so happens to be in Japan.

Truth be told, it actually has more of a plot (or, at the very least, the setup of one) than the previous two films. But that’s as far as any compliments can go.

The first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies weren’t particularly good, but they are harmless fun and, if you’re a TMNT fan, they definitely feel like TMNT movies. The same cannot be said for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

For starters, there are the visuals. Although they weren’t the best practical effects of their day, the costumes and puppets provided by the Jim Henson Company in the first two movies still look impressive. TMNTIII can’t even boast that, as the new costumes and puppets, no longer provided by the Jim Henson Company, are a marked downgrade in quality. The Ninja Turtles look way too goofy, and the puppet for Master Splinter is clearly unfinished (we only ever see his top half this time). It’s a visual mess.

Now let’s look at the villain scenario. Walker and Norinaga are as stock and generic as villains get, and I honestly can’t describe them any deeper than one’s a Japanese lord, and the other is a British weapons trader who is often accompanied by a caged bird, because there is nothing deeper to describe.

Even as a kid, I couldn’t wrap my head around how the mutated Super Shredder didn’t survive the climax of the second film, considering he survived much worse as regular Shredder in the first film. But even if Shredder didn’t return, there were no shortage of villains in the TMNT franchise to draw from. At the very least, they could have come up with original villains who actually fit into the nature of the series (like Tokka and Rahzar in the second movie).

Of course, this all goes back to the setting of the film. While time traveling to ancient Japan seems like something the Ninja Turtles would do, the lack of appropriate characters for the franchise really makes the setting a waste. It really is just the Turtles and April in ancient Japan, with nothing to speak of that even remotely resembles the look and feel of the franchise.

The action scenes have also been dumbed down far below even the second movie (in which the Turtles never used their weapons). Here, the fight scenes are just stupid gags (the Turtles enjoy giving “wet willies” to their opponents). There’s no seriousness to them.

Worst of all are the Ninja Turtles themselves. Sure, the Ninja Turtles have always made cheesy jokes and one-liners, but here it’s taken to absolutely ridiculous levels. The Turtles just never shut up, and are constantly making stupid jokes and references that make no contextual sense. And they never let up.

Not only are the constant barrages of unfunny jokes annoying, but the fact that all of the Turtles are constantly cracking them means that all four Turtles become indistinguishable, with none of their individual personalities ever on display.

Are there any good aspects to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III? Well, some of the antics between Casey Jones and the temporally displaced honor guards can be kind of funny (I especially like when the honor guards discover television). And I suppose the friendship between Raphael and a small Japanese boy is kind of cute. That’s about it.

The first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies are by no means classics, but if you grew up with the franchise, or are currently growing up with the franchise, they provide plenty of fan service and nostalgia. They actually feel like Ninja Turtles movies, and silly as they may be, they can provide some fun for fans.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III can’t even boast any of that. The dialogue is nothing short of obnoxious, the practical effects look notably worse than the previous films, the villains are nonentities, and the whole thing lacks anything that resembles the franchise other than the Turtles themselves. Even as a kid I didn’t enjoy this movie because of how far removed it was from the source material I loved so much in my younger days.

The first two TMNT features are guilty pleasures. TMNTIII, however, is just a curious, nostalgic oddity.

3.0

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) Review

Although today’s movie scene gets a lot of flak for an over-reliance on sequels, the 1990s were no better. In fact, they may have even have been more guilty, seeing as it isn’t totally unheard of for a sequel to be better than the original these days, whereas 90s sequels were seldom anything more than cash-ins.

This sadly applies to one of my favorite movies from my childhood, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Although I must also admit that TMNTII is something of a guilty pleasure. It’s even more campy and goofy than the original, but it’s also very much a Ninja Turtle movie, maybe even more so than the first. It’s not a good movie, but if you’re a fan of the franchise, young or old, it is what it is.

As a kid, I liked the second Ninja Turtles movie more than the first for one very simple reason: the Ninja Turtles fight other mutants in this one. That basically serves as the main difference between this sequel and its predecessor.

The story here is that a major corporation, TGRI, is trying to cover-up a toxic waste leak. It turns out this toxic waste is the very same “Ooze” that mutated the titular Ninja Turtles, and Master Splinter, into their current, humanoid selves.

It turns out that the Shredder has somehow miraculously survived the events of the first film (which included getting thrown off a building into the back of a garbage truck, and then being crushed by said garbage truck). Shredder has rounded out the remains of the Foot Clan, and plans revenge on the Turtles.

Shredder plots his revenge by kidnapping a TGRI scientist (David Warner), stealing a canister of the mysterious ooze, and uses it to create mutants of his own: Tokka and Rahzar, a monstrous snapping turtle and wolf duo of very little brain.

As you might expect, this means that the Turtles now have to deal with super-powered mutant enemies, in addition to the Shredder and the ninjas of the Foot Clan.

Like the first movie, it’s not much of a plot, but hey, the costumes for the Ninja Turtles (once again supplied by the Jim Henson Company) look great, as does the puppet for Master Splinter (Tokka and Rahzar’s costumes are less convincing, but fun to look at). The action scenes are cheesier (the Turtles don’t even use their signature weapons in battle this time), and the pizza jokes reach a new high. But what are you gonna do?

April O’Neil returns (this time played by Paige Turco), though Casey Jones is notably absent. Instead, the Turtles have a new human ally in the form of a young man named Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) who is, of course, a pizza delivery boy.

Look, the movie is completely ridiculous, and it’s a cash-in sequel. But I also feel like TMNTII sets up camp in the “so bad it’s good” territory. It’s by no means a good movie, but it’s an easy guilty pleasure that I still have fun watching from time to time.

As mentioned, this feels like even more of a “Ninja Turtles movie” than the first film (despite the lack of Casey Jones or the Turtles’ weapons). The mutant baddies, cheesy humor, constant mentions of pizza, it all feels like the 1980’s cartoon series was turned into a live-action movie. Shredder even wears a proper hue of purple this time, instead of the wine red-ish color scheme he had in the first movie.

Not only is TMNTII still an ironically fun movie to revisit, but it had a bigger influence on the greater TMNT franchise than possibly any of the Ninja Turtles movies. Tokka and Rahzor went on to be integrated in the comics, video games, and various animated series, as did the Shredder’s mutated transformation, the “Super Shredder,” who debuted here. Hell, Vanilla Ice and his featured song “Ninja Rap” are now strongly associated with the franchise, due to the rapper’s infamous appearance in TMNTII, as he inexplicably performs at a club located right behind Shredder’s evil hideout.

Over the years, I’ve grown more and more disgruntled with how strongly nostalgia seems to influence people’s taste in arts and entertainment these days. People often turn a blind eye to the quality of movies released in their younger days, simply because they enjoyed them in those younger days. Yet, here I am, going to give TMNTII: The Secret of the Ooze a very mild recommendation, largely because of the nostalgia.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a good movie. But if you’re like me, and you grew up with the Ninja Turtles, or are a kid who enjoys watching the more recent TMNT movies and series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze provides a stupid fun time.

Again, it’s a guilty pleasure. Vanilla Ice is performing at a club right behind Shredder’s hideout! If that doesn’t put a grin on your face, I’m not sure what will.

 

6.0

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990 Film) Review

Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the few 80s franchises that has remained popular even into today, the height of the franchise’s popularity was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the four turtles were inescapable.

The popularity of the franchise (particularly the original animated series) hit an apex in 1990, when a full-length, live-action motion picture adaptation of TMNT was released. If you were a kid at the time, the original TMNT movie was a big deal, and it was even the biggest family film released in its year. Watching it today, 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is obviously a product of its time, but it can still provide some silly, harmless, nostalgic fun.

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the titular reptiles are brought to life with costumes provided by the Jim Henson Company which, despite some humorous mouth movements, still look quite impressive. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael have their usual personalities (Leonardo is the brave leader, Donatello is the brains, Michelangelo is the joker, and Raphael is the tough guy). They are trained by their master in ninjitsu and adoptive father, a giant rat named Splinter. Together, Master Splinter and the turtles live in the sewers of New York City, fighting crime at nightfall, obsessing over pizza in the day, as ninjas do.

The mutants find allies in news reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) and the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones (Elias Koteas).

Unfortunately for this oddball troupe of heroes, a crime wave is sweeping the city. The samurai-like villain known as the Shredder (James Saito) has resurrected the Foot Clan – an army of criminal ninjas that once caused mayhem in Japan – in New York City. Shredder is recruiting easily-manipulated youths to join the ranks in the Foot Clan.

One of the downsides of the film is that the Shredder really doesn’t have a grander scheme than that. He’s just recruiting a bunch of kids to join his organization, and after that all they ever seem to do is steal stuff. It’s bad, sure. But not exactly a compelling plot for a mysterious, evil samurai.

Anyway, things get personal when the Foot Clan kidnaps Master Splinter, with the turtles, April and Casey then making it their mission to take out the Foot Clan and rescue the turtles’ mentor.

It’s as simple of a plot as it gets, but again, it’s harmless fun. There are plenty of fight scenes which are pretty entertaining, even if they play more like segments of music videos as opposed to traditional fight scenes. As stated, the costumes for the turtles themselves – as well as the puppet for Splinter – are one of the biggest highlights, especially when watching today, when such practical effects are a rarity.

Of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t a movie for everybody. It definitely caters to fans of the franchise, and unless you grew up with the Turtles or are currently growing up with them, there’s probably not enough here to keep audiences entertained.

If you are a TMNT fan, however, then the 1990 film does provide a good time. I myself fit into the TMNT boat, and the 1990 film is one I still watch from time to time. I’m not one to simply fall for nostalgia, with many 90s movies I once enjoyed being practically unwatchable today. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, despite being goofy and underdeveloped, still makes for a fun viewing every once in a while.

Even if some of the enjoyment is ironic, fun is fun. And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It’s fun.

 

6.0