My Month in Movies (October 2021)

Hey! I’m doing this again!

Somehow, my October movie watching managed to surpass my September movie watching. So I figured a second edition of this “My Month in Movies” thing was in order. But I stress this again, don’t expect this to be a monthly thing. Only something I’ll do when I feel I’ve watched enough movies to warrant it, and if I have the interest. But I certainly had the interest this month!

I managed to watch twenty-five feature films throughout the month of Halloween, with the holiday itself inspiring me to watch a number of them as a means to get in the holiday spirit (I’m festive like that). And somehow, I still managed to find the time to rewatch the entirety of what is arguably the best television show of all time. I honestly don’t know how I managed to watch everything I did in October, but I guess a bit of insomnia freed up some of my usual sleep time, so that probably “helped.” Additionally, the only video games I put any time into during the month were Metroid Dread and Mario Party Superstars, the latter of which wasn’t released until the tail end of the month (but it was still released before Halloween, which is what Nintendo should have done with Luigi’s Mansion 3 a few years back. No, I still haven’t forgiven them for releasing Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the day of Halloween but constantly advertised it as being “just in time” for Halloween).

*Ahem!*

Anyway, my point being my free time this month was basically in watching, not playing. Which is another reason why I may skip writing another one of these next month (we’ll see). I’m so backlogged in my reviews and write-ups for video games, that I really should prioritize that aspect of my website for a while.

Why am I explaining all this to you? I have quite a few movies to talk about, so let’s get cracking at this.

Here is the full list of movies I watched in October 2021, in chronological order of when I watched them. Once again, movies I watched for the very first time are marked with asterisks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

The Maltese Falcon

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3

Spirited Away

Casablanca

Venom: Let There be Carnage*

The Addams Family 2 (2021)*

No Time to Die*

North by Northwest*

Dick Tracy*

The Adventures of Tintin

Jaws

Jaws 2*

Jaws 3(D)*

Jaws: The Revenge*

The Evil Dead*

Evil Dead 2*

Army of Darkness*

Dune (2021)*

Psycho

Rear Window

Howl’s Moving Castle

The Birds

Ghostbusters

In addition to all these movies, I also watched all 180 episodes of Seinfeld, as well as the 50-minute Disney+ special, The Muppets Haunted Mansion, which was cute (Gotta love The Muppets).

So quite the eclectic lineup, I must say. While in September my overall “flavor of the month” seemed to be action movies, for the obvious reasons in October it seemed to be various forms of horror and suspense. But if that’s too obvious, let’s say the flavor of the month was Alfred Hitchcock, seeing as I watched no less than four films by the great director. And yes, I started things off by watching the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy again. What of it?

After Ninja Turtles, I rewatched The Maltese Falcon for the first time in a few years. A classic Humphrey Bogart film, and the first to pair him up with actors Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, the latter of which made his acting debut in The Maltese Falcon as the villain, Kasper Gutman, AKA “The Fat Man.” The Maltese Falcon is often considered the first film noire, but that’s debated. Either way, it’s a great piece of classic cinema.

Then I had the terrific opportunity to once again (more specifically, thrice again) see my all time favorite movie, Spirited Away, on the big screen. With Spirited Away’s limited re-releases in 2016 through 2019, as well as these three viewings and when I first saw it in 2003, this brings my overall theatrical viewings of Spirited Away to 14! That’s the third most I’ve seen a movie in theaters (or fourth, depending on how you view a tie), and if these re-releases keep up (please do), it will climb it’s way to the top in no time. It would be fitting, seeing as it is my favorite film.

You know, I’ve made it no secret that Spirited Away is my favorite movie (along with My Neighbor Totoro), and yet I still procrastinate on making my lists of favorite films (whether by decade, genre, overall, what have you). And I feel like I’m not alone there. It seems like a lot of people can point out their absolute favorite of something, but then when it comes to making some kind of concrete list, there’s some pressure with making it for some reason. You’d think knowing your favorite would make everything else fall into place. I don’t know, that’s just an observation.

Next up was Casablanca, one of the most acclaimed and beloved films of all time, and another that starred Bogart and featured Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. It also features one of the most famous misquotes in movie history (“Play it again, Sam!” is never actually uttered. Though Bogart’s character does tell a character named Sam to play a song on a piano, the words are never in that specific order). Another great classic.

After that I saw some recent movies in theaters. I’ve already reviewed Venom: Let There be Carnage and The Addams Family 2, so you can go ahead and read those if you want. But I also saw the newest James Bond film, and the last to star Daniel Craig: No Time to Die.

I mostly enjoyed No Time to Die. It featured some exhilarating action scenes, and it was a fitting, melancholic sendoff to Daniel Craig’s James Bond. With that said, I don’t think it was as good as Casino Royale, Skyfall or Spectre (I actually still haven’t seen Quantum of Solace). Despite doing most of what it did well, I don’t think No Time to Die did them as well as those aforementioned movies. But one thing that was a huge downgrade from the past few Bond films was the villain. The past two films featured Javier Bardem and Chrisoph Waltz as the villains (the latter as James Bond’s big bad, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, no less). The former was physically imposing, the latter was mentally intimidating. So when No Time to Die wheels out Rami Malek as the bad guy, he kind of falls flat. He just doesn’t have a villainous presence like his predecessors, and his character’s motives are murky, at best. Not to mention his defining physical trait is that he has bad skin. A lot of Bond villains have some hook to their appearance: Blofeld is usually bald and has a nasty scar across his face; Oddjob has his hat; Jaws has, well, a big metal jaw. But No Time to Die’s villain, Lyutsifer Safin, has bad skin… Yeah, not quite the same.

What’s really disappointing is that No Time to Die brings back Christoph Waltz as Blofeld, but just for a single scene cameo. He should have just been the villain again, really. Especially since this was Craig’s last Bond film, it would have made all the more sense for Blofeld to be the final villain, given the character’s history in the franchise. By making Blofeld the villain of the previous film and then ending this current James Bond series with a new villain, it actually makes the whole scenario feel less important. Why doesn’t Hollywood have any faith in the idea of returning villains anymore?

I really should just review No Time to Die. Maybe some day I’ll rewatch all of the Craig Bond films and give them all a write-up.

North by Northwest was the first Hitchcock film I watched in October, and was the only one of the four I watched during the month that I watched for the very first time. Even if you’ve never seen North by Northwest, if you’re familiar with iconic movie moments, you’re probably familiar with this one.

The fact that I watched North by Northwest right after a James Bond film was coincidental, but fitting, seeing as it greatly influenced the spy thriller genre, most notably James Bond. The twist here being that the main character isn’t actually a spy, but gets mistaken for one. This is another great Hitchcock film, but one that I feel has one major flaw: the ending is waaay too abrupt.

I know, I’ve committed cinematic blasphemy once again. But the film has such a great build and execution to just about every moment beforehand, and then it literally wraps up seconds, seconds, after the final confrontation with the bad guys. If a modern movie did the same thing, all people would ever talk about would be the abrupt ending. With classic Hollywood it’s the opposite, and we skirt over something like that and only highlight the good. Granted, I would prefer people be more positive and have the outlook that the good outweighs and overpowers the bad, but it does seem like film buffs have a bit of a double standard with these things.

Otherwise North by Northwest is another winner in Hitchcock’s belt. The film’s writer even mentioned that he wanted to make sure he wrote “The Hitchcock film to end all Hitchcock films” (which admittedly seems a bit odd. You’d think Alfred Hitchcock would be the only person in the film’s production who could rightfully make that call, really).

Next we have Dick Tracy from 1990. What a wild ride this movie is. Although its story and characters are very simplistic, what really makes Dick Tracy stand out is its utter commitment to style. While modern comic book movies try to make the worlds of the comics look “grounded” and “more realistic,” Dick Tracy had the complete opposite mentality. It wanted to make reality look like a comic book! Talk about being ahead of its time!

There’s so much color and style in Dick Tracy, that its imagery really sticks in the mind afterwards. Not to mention its wild parade of villains, with pretty much all of them hiding under heaps of prosthetic makeup. You have guys with tiny faces, guys with no faces, and guys with prune faces!

Dick Tracy kind of reminds me a lot of The Rocketeer (1991), which I guess is fitting, seeing as both films were attempts by Disney to create their own Indiana Jones-esque franchise. The key difference between the two is that Rocketeer was released under Disney itself, while the (relatively) more mature Dick Tracy was released under Disney’s now-defunct Touchstone brand (which, despite popular misconception, was just a brand name Disney used for more mature movies, and not a separate studio). Both should be ranked among Disney’s best live-action films.

I also reviewed The Adventures of Tintin already. And Fun Fact: I posted that review on the tenth anniversary of the film’s original release in Belgium (which is appropriately where the film was released first). Again, I’m festive.

After that, I watched the Jaws movies. Or should I say I watched Jaws, a genuine classic of horror, suspense and action, and then proceeded to watch three fanfictions that somehow got turned into feature films?

Okay, so in all fairness, Jaws 2 isn’t so bad, it’s just that it really had no hope to live up to the original. Jaws 3 is pretty darn bad though, but it actually got off a little easy over time because Jaws: The Revenge is so bad that it became the one everyone talks about in hate and disgust to this day.

At any rate, I don’t think anyone would blame me that I’ve seen the original Jaws many times over the years, but only just now watched the sequels for the first time. The first Jaws is an all-time classic, and the film that made Steven Spielberg Steven Spielberg. It was the first-ever Summer blockbuster, and it still has to be one of the best.

Steven Spielberg’s films are rarely complex, but they’re so well done at everything they do that he makes them unforgettable. Jaws really is a simple horror movie at heart, but it’s surely one of the best ones. It really helps give the film some emotional weight that Spielberg made the three main characters into complex figures, and that each of the shark’s victims aren’t simply treated like mere “movie kills,” but are made appropriately tragic (two concepts that seem lost on most horror movies). And the shark (which is its name, not “Jaws” like the James Bond villain, just “The Shark”) is one of the great movie villains. A mostly unseen presence of terror and death, defined by its theme music.

Jaws really hasn’t aged a day. In fact, in some respects, it may resonate even stronger today in many ways. A deadly problem arises that could be resolved if a few simple rules are followed, but some selfish, greedy, stupid people blatantly ignore those rules and make the problem worse. Why does that sound so familiar?

It’s definitely worth mentioning that Spielberg had no hand in any of the Jaws sequels. Though to their credit, I suppose the Jaws sequels produced two of the most famous/parodied taglines in movie history. Surely you’ve heard some variation of “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” (Jaws 2) and “This time, it’s personal” (Jaws: The Revenge).

After Jaws I went into even more horror territory with the Evil Dead trilogy by Sam Raimi. The first Evil Dead is a straight-up horror movie. A low budget affair that sees the now iconic Ash Williams character (Bruce Campbell) survive a haunted cabin as his friends are possessed by demons one by one.

Evil Dead 2 is probably the best movie of the trilogy, and combines the horror with comedy. Interestingly, it’s as much a remake as it is a sequel, with its first ten or so minutes retelling the events of the first film while omitting most of the characters from the original (save for Ash and his girlfriend) and retconning the ending. And then many of the events of the first movie that involved the characters left out of the sequel are redone with different characters and situations in part 2. It’s an interesting take on a sequel, to say the least. I admit I have some mixed feelings about how it wipes away certain elements of its predecessor (effectively making the original movie a half-canon prologue), but Evil Dead 2 really does outdo the first film in basically every way otherwise. Plus, this is the one where Ash gets his chainsaw hand.

The third film of the trilogy, Army of Darkness, is relatively less acclaimed, but kind of brilliant in its own way. Although it’s still classified as a horror movie, it feels more like a total change of genre, doubling down on the cartoonish comedy of the second entry and placing the action in a swords and sorcery setting (okay, chainsaws and sorcery). That’s right, Ash goes back in time to medieval days and battles an army of skeletons. You have to respect a sequel that’s willing to be so different to what came before. It’s one of the most bonkers sequels ever.

We go back to modern releases with Dune, the latest cinematic interpretation of Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi epic. Like No Time to Die, maybe I’ll write a full review of this in the near future, but I have to say I wasn’t won over by it. I feel like Dune is one of those things where you really, really have to love sci-fi to get into it. I don’t know, it feels like one of those sci-fi stories that’s more about the situation and politics of its world than it is about story and characters. I find it really difficult to get into that kind of thing. And when turned into a movie it kind of works against itself. It’s basically watching a movie where people are constantly explaining things, but you don’t really feel for any of it. The new Dune movie takes its sweet time with so many things, but little of it goes into making you care about who the characters are. And I found the constant presence of big name celebrities to be more distracting than anything (a guy takes off his mask to reveal, dun dun dun, it’s Javier Bardem!).

I will say, the film is a spectacle, sometimes an effective one. And I think Bootstrap Baron Harkonnen is a good bad guy. A big, floating fat guy. Now that’s a villain! More villains need to be big, floating fat guys.

Back to Hitchcock with Psycho and Rear Window.

Psycho is probably Hitchcock’s most widely known film, and one of my favorites. The first half is more of a suspenseful movie, as a young woman steals forty-thousand dollars and runs off to start a new life with her boyfriend, only for it to switch into a horror film once she stops at the Bates Motel on her way to reunite with said boyfriend. The switch occurs, of course, in the infamous shower scene, which has to be the most famous “movie kill” in any horror movie. It also has to be the biggest switcheroo of a movie plot, and Alfred Hitchcock went to great lengths to ensure theaters wouldn’t permit anyone into the movie after it had already started, as to avoid spoiling the surprise. Wouldn’t that be cool if such a thing could still happen today? A classic.

Rear Window is less horror, but more suspense. The Entire movie takes place in a single location, but you really forget about that fact when watching it because it’s so engrossing. Rear Window is, of course, the movie where James Stewart plays a photographer (L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries), who has a broken leg which is keeping him stuck in his apartment. So he takes on the hobby of peeping at his neighbors to pass the time (yikes!), but suddenly his pastime has some importance, as he realizes one of his neighbors has murdered their wife in the middle of the night. Another very effective thriller by Hitchcock.

Along with Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle was also given another limited re-release in theaters (though I only saw Howl once this time around). I’ve stated in the past that Howl’s Moving Castle is the only Miyazaki film that’s notably “weaker” than the rest of the great director’s works, but that really is a very relative complaint. Howl’s Moving Castle still is a magical, imaginative movie with memorable characters. I got very nostalgic watching Howl this time around, with memories of seeing it in theaters when it was first released in the US sixteen years ago (geez, how has it been that long? How?). The screening of Howl’s Moving Castle even featured a showing of On Your Mark, the only music video directed by Miyazaki.

Going back to Hitchcock yet again, I watched The Birds, probably the most famous post-Psycho Hitchcock film (unless I’m forgetting the ordering of his movies, which is possible because he directed a ton of them). Another great horror movie. You could even make the argument that The Birds is a zombie movie, even though there’s no actual zombies, just (quite living) birds. But the way the movie plays out certainly feels like a zombie movie.

The Birds tells the story of a young woman who, after an encounter with a man at a pet store, decides to purchase him some birds (it’s more complicated an encounter than it sounds, but we’ll save the details for another time). She buys a couple of lovebirds, and shortly after delivering them to the man’s family home in the middle of a fishing hamlet, all of the birds in the area – regardless of species – begin to attack people. The film has a nice slow burn, with about a full half hour going by before the first bird – a single seagull – attacks our heroine.

One of my favorite things about The Birds is its heavy use of uncertainty, which really adds to the horror element. There’s never a given reason why birds start violently attacking people. It’s implied to the audience (not the characters) the presence of the lovebirds is the cause. But that’s – quite wonderfully – an explanation that creates more questions than answers. Hitchcock didn’t want to give a detailed explanation for why the birds start going crazy, which I can’t imagine a movie like this would do these days. If there were a modern movie like this, it would no doubt have to explain away every last detail. But Hitchcock was wise enough to know that the uncertainty of it makes it all the scarier.

That uncertainty is also present in the birds’ attacks. In the film, birds just start gathering in large numbers, and will swarm and attack at seemingly random moments. To add even more uncertainty to the picture, The Birds doesn’t really have a traditional ending. It ends with the surviving characters quietly leaving town after another attack – with the lovebirds in tow(!!) – amidst a currently tame mass of birds.

I kind of like that The Birds doesn’t really have an ending. Some may say that’s hypocritical, given my complaints with North by Northwest’s ending. But the difference is I feel like the vague ending of The Birds fits with the kind of movie it is, whereas the ending to North by Northwest is so abrupt it feels out of place in a movie that otherwise takes its time.

Finally, the last movie I watched this month was Ghostbusters, the 1984 comedy that was one of the biggest hits of its decade, and still a comedy classic. It was followed by a disappointing sequel in 1989, and an even more disappointing and unnecessary reboot in 2016. Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a third film in the original series (finally) comes to theaters later this month. Here’s hoping that Afterlife ends up being the first worthy sequel to Ghostbusters (not counting the animated series The Real Ghostbusters or the 2009 Ghostbusters video game, both of which seem to have a mostly fond reception).

It’s kind of funny that Ghostbusters spawned such a big franchise, because it really wasn’t that kind of movie. It was a comedy starring SNL alumni that was based in Dan Akroyd’s interest in the paranormal. But the film was just so well made, from writing and dialogue to its special effects, and perhaps most importantly, it had an imaginative story that in turn captured the imaginations of audiences. Ghostbusters is one of those comedies that stops being “just” a comedy and is simply a great movie all around.

Also of note, Ghostbusters was the first “visual effects comedy.” Before Ghostbusters, comedies weren’t considered commercially viable enough for studios to spend the money required for big visual effects. In that regard, Ghostbusters opened the door for movies like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It’s just a shame that visual effects comedies are now basically extinct (can you think of a modern example of the sub-genre?).

Now I’m turning into a Ghostbusters history book. Point being, it’s a great movie, and one of my favorite comedies. But I guess I’ve rambled enough and we should be moving on. Let’s dish out some awards to the movies I watched in October!

Best Movie I Watched All Month: Spirited Away

Seeing as Spirited Away is my favorite movie, it’s guaranteed to be the best movie I watch in any month I watch it (if I watch it in the same month as My Neighbor Totoro, I guess it would be a tie between the two). With all due respect to the numerous great movies I watched this past month like Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Psycho, Ghostbusters and Jaws, Spirited Away of course wins the crown. Chihiro’s odyssey to save her parents in a world of spirits and monsters is unforgettable from beginning to end.

One of the funny things about having favorites of anything (movies, video games, TV shows, songs, etc.) is that after a while, you tend to only think of the “whole” of your favorites, and take for granted the little details that helped make them your favorites to begin with. And when you experience your favorite things again, every now and again you’re reminded of those little things.

Spirited Away is a beautiful, touching film. But something these recent viewings reminded me of is its sense of humor. There are so many funny little touches to Spirited Away: The witch Yubaba using her magic to repair the damage done to her office, only to manually straighten a lampshade. A bowl of rice melts into goo due to the stench of a Stink Spirit. There’s the famous scene with the soot sprites carrying coal to a furnace. Chihiro notices one such sprite struggling to carry his lump of coal, and takes it upon herself to carry it for him (struggling herself in the process). Afterwards, all the soot sprites purposefully drop their coal in hopes Chihiro will do their work for them.

As an added bonus, the English dub features a small role for John Ratzenberger (remember that the Pixar guys helped in the dubbing of Miyazaki’s films), and the actor delivers some terrifically funny adlibs (that also don’t detract from the spirit of the movie, importantly).

Spirited Away is my favorite film, so I’ll continue to talk about it whenever I can. But because these recent viewings really made me appreciate Spirited Away’s many humorous moments all over again (and reminded me the part they played in me loving the movie to begin with), I figured I’d highlight those here. Spirited Away is widely (and rightly) acknowledged as one of the greatest and most influential animated films, but its sense of humor doesn’t get talked about as much as many of its other aspects. It should be talked about more, because along with everything else, Spirited Away is also a very funny film.

The best movie.

Worst Movie I Watched All Month: Jaws: The Revenge

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows…

Last month, I mentioned how Speed 2: Cruise Control is sometimes considered the worst sequel ever. While Speed 2 is a bad sequel, and sadly crushed any hopes for a Speed 3, it did have some merit. The same cannot be said of Jaws: The Revenge. Behold, the worst sequel of all time!

Well, I may have to double check that later. But considering how great the original Jaws was in relation to how truly, unspeakably awful Jaws: The Revenge is, it has to be the greatest drop in quality a movie series has seen. It just has to be. How could something be worse?

Sure, there were two other Jaws movies in between the first Jaws and The Revenge, but The Revenge is so bad it could have been 16 sequels worth of diminishing returns. The Revenge is an insult to Jaws 3, let alone Jaws 2, let alone the original!

Why is it so bad? Geez, where do I even begin? Wait, I know a good spot to begin: the fact that the shark in this movie is literally out for revenge on the Brody family for what happened to the sharks in the first two movies! Oh yeah, I say the first two movies because Jaws: The Revenge ignores the events of Jaws 3 and is its own third entry. So it’s basically Jaws 3-2.

Not only is the idea that a shark could actively seek revenge absolutely ludicrous, but it even contradicts a line of dialogue from Jaws 2. This is also the movie where the shark roars like a lion. The movie where the shark blows up after getting stabbed by the front of a ship. And I don’t mean its body pops and blood and guts fly everywhere, I mean the shark actually explodes into a fireball!

Okay, so the movie is insulting to the audience’s intelligence, but even if we try to look past the idiocy, it’s still a bad sequel all around: Chief Martin Brody is dead from the get-go, having died of a heart attack in between Jaws 2 and this movie. So Roy Scheider is sorely missed (by the audience, I’m sure Scheider was happy he wasn’t featured). I guess he wasn’t in Jaws 3 either, but at least that continuity didn’t kill Martin Brody off screen. Though I guess getting killed off screen is a better character fate than surviving one horror film only to get killed by the same/virtually the same villain in one of the sequels, which just undermines their victory in the first movie. I hate that!

So the widowed Ellen Brody is the main character here. Her younger son is engaged to be married, only to be killed by the revenge-seeking shark…at Christmastime, of course (let’s kick Ellen Brody while she’s down). So Ellen leaves Amity Island to stay in the Bahamas with her older son, where the shark naturally follows her in a matter of days. That is one fast as hell shark!

And did I mention that Ellen Brody seems to have a psychic connection with the shark, and is able to sense its presence when it’s near? She also has flashbacks to events from the first movie in which she wasn’t even there to witness them. Geez…

Do I have to keep talking about Jaws: The Revenge? Maybe one day I’ll review all of the Jaws movies. But damn, what a fall from grace.

The worst sequel.

Best Movie I Watched for the First Time This Month: Dick Tracy (Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness are close runners-up, and let’s include North by Northwest out of obligation)

If we’re being technical here, then sure, North by Northwest was the “best movie” I saw for the first time this past month. But I really can’t get past that abrupt ending. So North by Northwest seems like the answer I’m supposed to say here, but not the one I pick.

Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness may have also taken the crown, but I’m undecided as to which one I actually prefer (Evil Dead 2 is probably the best of the trilogy from a pure filmmaking perspective, but I really like how Army of Darkness just changes genres and goes nuts). Since I’m undecided there, I guess I can go ahead and select Dick Tracy as the winner for now.

Okay, so maybe my pick here isn’t as definitive as last month’s, but it’s something.

Again, Dick Tracy isn’t anything complex, but it’s a very easy movie to appreciate, perhaps more so today than it was in 1990. This is a movie that is unapologetically faithful to its source material. If anyone in the audience is confused or weirded out by it, that’s their problem. That’s a beautiful mentality that I wish we saw more of in movies today, when comic book movies and fantasy and science fiction feel the constant need to compromise.

As mentioned earlier, Dick Tracy reminds me a lot of The Rocketeer, released by Disney a year later. But where The Rocketeer had one villain encased in prosthetic makeup, I think Dick Tracy has more actors wearing prosthetics than those not wearing them. What other movie would give Al Pacino a hunched back, a goblin nose, and a butt chin? Or give Dustin Hoffman crooked lips and have him speak in incoherent mumbles?

Dick Tracy’s use of bright colors and cartoony sets are a constant delight, and its sheer commitment to bring the look of a comic to life in the most literal sense is admirable. Some might say that Dick Tracy is an exercise in style over substance, but so are Quentin Tarantino movies, and people seem to like those just fine. Not every film has to be deep.

On the downside, Dick Tracy is (like last month’s The Fugitive) one of those rare movies that was a really big deal the year it came out, but then fell under the radar over time. That’s a shame, because it really is something to see. Let’s start talking about Dick Tracy again! But let’s all try to forget the NES video game adaptation…

Another issue is that Dick Tracy is one of those movies Disney seems embarrassed of today, and the film is unavailable on Disney+. Probably because you can see boobs in one scene of the movie. Disney is okay with Thanos murdering half the population of the universe, but showing boobs? That’s going too far!

It may not be as readily available as other Disney movies, but Dick Tracy is definitely worth seeing. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but expect something that looks unlike anything else, and is defiantly itself.

One more thing: Big Boy did it.

The Guilty Pleasure Award: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

This crown really belongs to the 1990s TMNT trilogy as a whole, but I think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is the one that best exemplifies “guilty pleasure.”

The first TMNT movie is probably the most genuinely liked of any TMNT movie. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 is probably the most hated (though I can certainly find joy in it, if even ironically). But the second entry is the one where things started to get goofy, what with the “traditional pre-fight donuts” and the annoying pizza delivery boy sidekick and that Vanilla Ice scene. Not to mention the titular “secret of the ooze” isn’t actually revealed in the finished film (in early drafts of the script, the film would have revealed David Warner’s character to have been an Utrom, the same alien species as Krang. So the “secret” would have been that the ooze was created by aliens. Good thing they cut that but kept Vanilla Ice).

It’s a silly movie, but one in which my enjoyment of it is genuine. The first two TMNT movies remain some of my earliest movie memories, and while the first film is the better movie, as a wee tyke I preferred the sequel because it had mutant bad guys for the Turtles to fight (perfectly sound reasoning for a young child). It’s a nostalgic treat for me. But a really powerful one where it doesn’t merely bring back fond memories, but watching the movie takes me right back to the feelings I had when watching it as a kid, as if no time has passed. It’s hard to explain.

Simply put, TMNTII: The Secret of the Ooze is dumb fun. And I love it.

Just don’t ask me how regular Shredder survived getting crushed by a garbage truck in the first movie, yet meets his ultimate demise in TMNTII when a bunch of planks of wood fall on him after he mutated into the Super Shredder. I’ve been pondering that one since I was a kid…

The Best Sitcom Ever Award: Seinfeld

As mentioned, October wasn’t all about the movies for me, as I watched the entirety of Seinfeld (again), the best sitcom of all time. One of the few shows I appreciate in the same way I do a great movie.

Seinfeld began airing in 1989 (the year I was born, no less). Interestingly, that’s the same year The Simpsons debuted, and unless you count the locally broadcast “season zero” of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it’s the same year that show debuted as well. So 1989 was basically the most significant year ever for television comedy, but that milestone rarely gets brought up for some reason.

Seinfeld, the “show about nothing,” really was one of a kind. A show of a thousand catchphrases, that permeated through pop culture and created (or popularized) terms and phrases that people still use today (“Yadda yadda yadda, anyone?). Virtually every episode provides something memorable and quotable. And what other show continued to create iconic moments even in its late seasons (the infamous “Soup Nazi” episode was a product of season seven)?

An important element to Seinfeld’s enduring appeal is that it ended. When the show was at the zenith of its powers as the zeitgeist of all pop culture, Jerry Seinfeld and company decided to end the show on their terms, as to not overstay their welcome. I can’t think of another show that decided to end when it was still the show. In true George Costanza fashion, Seinfeld went out on a high note. If only The Simpsons had been so wise.

Sure, Seinfeld hit some bumps along the way (unpopular opinion, but Elaine really became insufferable in the later seasons), and the finale itself may not be so fondly remembered, but it wasn’t anything that damaged the reputation of the show (it wasn’t the Netflix seasons of Arrested Development, after all). Hey, with 180 episodes, it can’t all be perfect. There were bound to be some missteps. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The best sitcom.

And there we go. It’s done! Goodness gracious, I did not intend for this post to be this long at all. This My Month in Movies could eat the last My Month in Movies. If I decide to write any more of these down the road (emphasis on if), I certainly hope they don’t end up this long by default. I don’t know what happened here, I just started writing and then couldn’t stop.

There are a few movies I’d like to review soon: the fact that I still haven’t reviewed Luca and The Mitchell’s Vs. the Machines is dumbfounding for me. I should have reviewed them sooner. I would also like to review Ghostbusters: Afterlife once I’ve seen it. And I may review The Eternals, seeing as I’ve reviewed so many Marvel things already it feels like I’m obligated to do so by this point (though truth be told, I think I’m finally getting a bit Marvel’ed out… I blame Loki). Aside from those, and maybe a review for an older movie or two, I really want to start focusing this site on video games again for a while. Remember when this site used to be focused entirely on animated films and video games? I do. And I kind of miss it.

I have a whole stack of games that are ready and waiting for their reviews, I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to them yet. Maybe I just needed a break from writing about games and just needed to enjoy them for a while? Playing video games for fun… what a concept!

Anyway, I hope you had a fun read with this. It certainly was fun to write. It’s kind of nice to just write a bunch of quick things about a bunch of movies, as opposed to one big review for each individual movie. In a way, this felt like the “writing about movies” equivalent of WarioWare. Which reminds me, I still need to review the newest WarioWare. Dang it!

At the very least, I like to think I gave a sneak peak into my love of Spirited Away and Seinfeld, and gave you a place where Casablanca, Psycho and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all live in harmony. Now I’m off to review some video games.

Until next time… do something!

My Month in Movies (September 2021)

Well, here’s something a little bit different. I had a pretty solid month in movie-watching this September (the month of my birthday!), so I figured I’d write something quick about it here.

I watched over twenty movies in September, which may not be a whole lot for some people, but for me (these days) it’s something. Quite an eclectic lot of movies too, I must say. A number of them I watched for the first time.

Despite the name of this post, I don’t think this will be a monthly thing (if it were, I should have started this a couple of years ago when I was watching movies more frequently), but I thought it’d be a fun thing to write for a change of pace, and maybe I’ll write more of these here and there in the future. We’ll see.

Here is the full list of movies I watched in September 2021 in order of viewing. Movies I watched for the first time will be marked with an asterisk.

Shan-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings*

Bright*

Speed*

Demolition Man

Superman (1978)

Lethal Weapon

The Rocketeer

Last Action Hero*

Lethal Weapon 2

The Fugitive*

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

TMNT (2007)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Jurassic Park

Tron

Speed 2: Cruise Control*

Citizen Kane

Goodfellas

Up

So yeah, quite the variety of movies. I like to think of myself as someone who can appreciate both Citizen Kane and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thank you very much.

Speaking of TMNT, as you probably guessed by this list, along with my recent review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, I’m on a bit of a Ninja Turtles kick as of late (I can’t wait for that Shredder’s Revenge game next year). I actually reviewed all of the TMNT movies a few years back, but I feel like I have more to say about them. Maybe soon I’ll write an entire retrospective of the TMNT movies, and some other stuff about them as well.

Anyway, a number of the movies I have listed here that I haven’t reviewed, I would like to review some day. Some sooner than others, as I have a lot of things to say about the Speed movies, The Fugitive and Last Action Hero.

I also have to say, after watching the original Superman movie for the first time since I was a kid, I think THAT is how Superman should be depicted. I’ve grown something of a disdain for the character over the years, but I think that has more to do with the depictions of the character in the years since than it does the character himself. People are always trying to make Superman “cool” or “gritty,” or coming up with dumb ‘what if?’ scenarios like “what if Superman went bad?” and crap like that. A lot of what works for other comic book superheroes just doesn’t work for Superman. Keep him simple: a beacon of hope and optimism. The 1978 movie, despite some flaws, gets that so right. Just make Superman THAT.

Of course, there’s a lot to say about Citizen Kane and Goodfellas. Great movies, to be sure. However, if I’m being completely honest, the best film I watched last month was Up. I know, I’ve committed cinematic blasphemy by daring to say anything is better than Citizen Kane, and I’d be shunned by movie buffs by even suggesting that something could be better than the work of the movie buff man-god Martin Scorsese. Hey, I’m not saying Citizen Kane and Goodfellas are bad, just that I think Up is better. Of course, so much as suggesting such a thing – particularly of an animated film – would get me disgraced as a “serious” movie buff. Oh well, I’d rather enjoy movies than fit into some club.

It seems action movies were my overall flavor of the month for September . While most of the action movies I watched were good, the best of the lot has to be Speed. I can’t believe I had never watched it before.

I also watched some notable “technically revolutionary” films in Jurassic Park and Tron. Two truly pioneering movies that I’ll no doubt talk more about later. Speaking of Tron, I also watched The Rocketeer again. Like Tron, The Rocketeer deserves mention with the best live-action Disney movies, alongside the more obvious choices of Mary Poppins and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

I already reviewed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was also a lot of fun. My apologies to Mr. Scorsese that I watched a Marvel movie in the same month as one of his films. Or maybe he should apologize for being such a prude. That works too.

Best Movie I Watched All Month: Up

Still one of Pixar’s best films. Part of me is tempted to even say it’s the best Pixar film, but when I remember Inside Out, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Toy Story 2 (still the best Toy Story) it gets difficult to pick a definitive winner. But Up is probably in the top three at least. Still one of my favorite movies full-stop.

Sure, Citizen Kane and Goodfellas are classic films that have earned their acclaim: Citizen Kane is widely considered the greatest film of all time, and I can understand it being considered the best up until that point. Though if we’re being honest, it isn’t magically better than any other great movie to be released since, as critics would have you believe. It’s just kind of become that “safe pick” for critics, similar to what Ocarina of Time would become for video games. It’s great, but many other works are just as great. Meanwhile, Goodfellas is often hailed as one of the best films of the 1990s, and rightfully so. It’s also often considered to be Martin Scorsese’s best film. To that I say… yeah, it probably is.

My point though, is that I can appreciate Citizen Kane and Goodfellas as great, groundbreaking films. They make for great conversation and it’s fun to dissect and analyze them. But Up is the kind of film that really moves me. It makes me appreciate life and its little things more. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me cry. No Citizen Kane or Goodfellas has affected me on that level. So Up gets the crown. Sorry/Not sorry.

Best Movie I Watched for the First Time this Month: Speed (The Fugitive being a close runner-up)

I’m not sure if it’s the numerous references to Speed made in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, or my need for more Dennis Hopper in my life, but I finally decided to check Speed out. Boy, am I glad I did. It’s honestly one of the best pure action movies I’ve ever seen. It deserves to be mentioned with the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and Terminator 2. It’s pure popcorn bliss.

Shame about Speed 2: Cruise Control. Talk about a dip in quality between a movie and its sequel. Woof. Very ouch.

The Fugitive is also a classic 90s film, released a year earlier than Speed. Though it’s more of a suspenseful thriller than pure action. A feature film remake of the 1960s television series, The Fugitive was actually a really big deal in 1993, but for some reason doesn’t get talked about much anymore. We need to fix that and start talking about it again.

Worst Movie I Watched All Month: Bright

Speed 2 may be a disappointing sequel, but it isn’t entirely without merit (there are a few brief moments of suspense, and Willem DaFoe is fun as the baddie, even if he’s not an equal to Dennis Hopper’s villain from the original). Bright, on the other hand… Whoo boy….

In case you’ve forgotten (hopefully you’ve forgotten?), Bright is that Netflix movie from a few years back starring Will Smith as an LAPD officer in a modern world filled with fantasy races and creatures, with Will Smith’s partner being an orc. It isn’t the worst concept ever, but I always wonder why Hollywood and the like are constantly trying to “reinvent” fantasy. Fantasy opens the door to literally any story, in a way that no other genre can. So why not use that to tell an original story, instead of trying to reinvent fantasy itself?

Anyway, Bright is from the same director as 2016’s Suicide Squad, and somehow makes that movie look like a joy by comparison. The social commentary – while perhaps well meaning at some early point – is so heavy handed and constant (and I mean constant), that it just comes across as trying way too hard. The movie may have had something with that if it knew how to dial it back a little, but instead its constant shouting of its themes make it seem like it’s trying desperately to be important.

Basically, it’s like a Niell Blomkamp movie. Only fantasy instead of sci-fi.

On top of that, we have action that isn’t really exciting, comedy that isn’t funny, and a wildly inconsistent tone (note to filmmakers: if you’re going to go into as dark of territory as having the villains in your film murder a family, don’t try to be a jokey buddy cop movie two minutes later. It just doesn’t work). It’s a messy, ugly, unpleasant movie.

The Guilty Pleasure Award: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

I genuinely love this movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not what you would call a “good” movie. It’s just that I don’t care. I’m having too much fun.

While none of the Ninja Turtles films would be considered fine cinema, I enjoy them greatly. As someone born during the boom of Turtlemania, I have a soft spot for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The first two films, in particular, are some of my earliest movie memories.

But Out of the Shadows is the Ninja Turtles movie I always wanted as a kid, but didn’t get until 2016. While the ugly character designs for the turtles are carried over from the (also enjoyable) 2014 movie, everything else is like the 1987 cartoon and the toys brought to life on the screen: It has Krang, it has Bebop and Rocksteady, it has Baxter Stockman, it brought back Casey Jones, it has the Technodrome, it has the theme song!

Due to Michael Bay being attached as producer, a lot of people seem to lump the 2014 and 2016 Ninja Turtles movies together with those awful, awful Transformers movies. They really don’t deserve that. The Transformers movies are bad. The Ninja Turtles reboot movies are fun. Dumb fun. But a whole lot of it!

It’s a shame Out of the Shadows was a box office bomb (which I once again attribute more to the Transformers/Michael Bay connection than the movie itself), because I feel like the series finally got on track to replicating the TMNT we all knew from the cartoons and video games, and could have had another fun sequel or two. But it was a dead end. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now being rebooted (again) with two different movies (one animated, and a new live-action one), so it’s unfortunate that Out of the Shadows won’t have a proper follow-up. At the very least, please don’t recast Tyler Perry. He seemed to be having the time of his life as Baxter Stockman.

And there you go!

Again, hopefully I’ll be able to write about these movies more in-depth at some point, whether through reviews or other such write-ups. I already have so much more to say about some of them, that I really should get to those soon. And some of the movies I didn’t talk about as much here definitely deserve more love. We’ll see how quickly/slowly I get around to all of these.

September was definitely an enjoyable movie watching month for me. I’ll have to wait and see how October stacks up. If it does I may have to write another one of these (the fact that I already have my tickets to see Spirited Away – my favorite film – on the big screen is already a great sign). But please, don’t expect me to write these every month. I’m already backlogged with my video game reviews, I really should emphasize those for a while before I think about writing something else…

Hopefully you had a fun little read here. It was fun to write, and something a little different for me. So I hope you had a decently good time with this. At the very least, I gave you a place where you could read a little bit about Citizen Kane and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in one spot. I see this as an accomplishment.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES) Review

In the late 80s and well into the 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled the world. Although it started as a comic book by the recently defunct Mirage Studios, it became a pop culture phenomenon with the 1987 cartoon series. TMNT would go on to become one of those rare franchises that hasn’t really lost its popularity in the years since that early booming period, with several movies and subsequent comic books and cartoons that continue to this day. And of course, we can’t forget the many video games to star the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Although the Turtles are most associated with the beat-em-up genre in the world of gaming, they’ve appeared in a number of other genres as well. Strangely, even though the peak years of Turtlemania coincided with the fighting game boom of the early 90s, the Turtles only starred in one such fighting game during that timeframe: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters by Konami.

I suppose you could say the Turtles starred in three fighting games of the time, seeing as Tournament Fighters saw releases on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in 1993, and weirdly made its way to the NES afterwards in 1994, with each version having notable differences from one another (with most praising the SNES version as the best of the lot, because of course it was). Although the pairing of TMNT and fighting games seems like such an obvious success, Tournament Fighters doesn’t seem nearly as remembered as some of the other Turtles games of the time.

Perhaps that’s due in part to the game’s selection of playable characters, many of whom would still be considered deep cuts to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aficionados even today. The SNES version contains ten playable characters, but only half of them would be very familiar to Turtles fans. Four of those are obviously the Ninja Turtles themselves: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo. The other familiar face is their archnemesis, the Shredder (though he is bizarrely labeled as “Cyber Shredder” in the game).

The remaining characters are varying degrees of niche. There’s Armaggon, a shark-like mutant; Wingnut is a humanoid bat; and the oddly-named War is a purple triceratops-like creature who is not in fact a member of the Triceratons (triceratops-like aliens from the franchise). These three characters all originated from the Archie Comics TMNT series, which I emphasize is separate from the original Mirage Studios comics. Of the lot, only Wingnut appeared in the 1987 cartoon, though Armaggon would eventually show up in the 2012 series. And then we have Chrome Dome, a robot character who appeared in a few episodes of the original series. But the last character is the real odd-duck of the lot.

The final playable character is Aska (which really should be spelled “Asuka”), a ninja woman who made her first and only appearance in the TMNT franchise in this game (meaning we have at least one more deep cut character the newer cartoons can resurrect). Apparently, Aska was intended to be the character Mitsu from the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, to which she bears a strong resemblance (though the video game character is a little ‘bouncier’ in certain areas). But due to that film’s poor reception from fans, the character was hastily tweaked to the Aska seen here.

So if you were hoping for fan favorites like Master Splinter, Casey Jones, Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang, or frequent crossover character Miyamoto Usagi, you’re out of luck. Splinter is kidnapped in the game’s story mode, and Bebop and Rocksteady are background characters on one of the stages. So the character selections may have been off-putting to fans at the time. Seeing as this was around the height of Turtlemania, fans were probably hoping to see more of their favorites in the game. Though perhaps the more obscure selections make the game more interesting in retrospect.

Anyway, aside from the lack of fan favorites, Tournament Fighters has a lot to offer TMNT fans, and is a solid fighter in its own right.

The game features three different modes: Tournament, Versus and Story. Tournament is your expected arcade-style mode, where you pick any of the ten characters, and go through a series of fights. You have unlimited continues, and can switch characters if you lose. Versus allows players to fight matches at their own leisure, and can be played with two players (making it the game’s real main event, and what will keep you coming back if you have other players available). Story is similar to the Tournament mode, but fittingly features more cutscenes and dialogue boxes. You can only play as the Ninja Turtles themselves in this mode, with the order of opponents differing depending on which turtle you select, and you only get three continues here.

The story is that the Shredder has been defeated and is no longer in New York City (though he’s still an opponent, so maybe “Cyber Shredder” is like a robot or something?). But the Foot Clan returns under the leadership of Karai (marking the character’s first appearance outside of the Mirage comics, further playing into the game’s love of lesser-known TMNT characters). Seeking revenge for Shredder’s defeat, the Foot Clan kidnaps Splinter and April O’Neil to goad the turtles into combat. It’s a fighting game plot.

Additionally, players can go to the option menu to alter the difficulty of the game, and even choose a setting that speeds up the gameplay. The Tournament and Story modes end earlier on easier settings (Tournament ends against the non-playable Rat King, and Story against Cyber Shredder, with players only facing Karai herself on more difficult settings). But the easier settings will probably be more enjoyable for most players, since it seems like Tournament Fighters is one of those retro fighting games where the AI opponents can seemingly break the rules of the game on harder settings.

This is the game’s most annoying drawback. I admit I’m not the best player of fighting games, particularly against other people. But I usually enjoy trying out the more difficult settings in the single-player modes. Though some of the older fighting games can get ridiculous on higher difficulty settings. They don’t simply get harder, but the computer AI seems to be able to do things the human player can’t, and unfortunately Tournament Fighters is one of those games. The AI opponents spam moves faster than you can react to them, and on several occasion when I knocked my opponent down and approached them to follow up, they somehow managed to grapple me before they even stood back up! It’s cheap little things like that that make this one of the fighting games where I just don’t want to bother with the harder settings.

I suppose the higher difficulties are only there for those who want them, however. The easier settings will provide some good fun while they last. Though the game’s lasting appeal will of course be its two-player versus mode.

The gameplay itself is tight and intricate, and actually feels on par with Street Fighter II. Each character has two punch/weapon attacks and two kicks (a weak and strong variation) mapped out to the four buttons on the SNES controller. There are familiar button combos and a good variety of moves for each character. Additionally, continuously attacking an opponent will fill up a green meter under your health bar. If you can fill up the bar completely, you can unleash a powerful special move by pressing both of the stronger attack buttons. Sure, by today’s standards, Tournament Fighters may feel a little slow. But for its time, this is as good and fleshed-out as fighting mechanics got. It’s still a fun game to play.

To top it all off, the game looks great. Although maybe not as colorful as the more famous Turtles in Time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters features the kind of detailed, fluidly animated character sprites you would expect from the SNES. The sound is maybe a bit less consistent (Rat King sounds kind of like Sylvester Stallone), but it does what it needs to.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighter may not be the most remembered Turtles game, but it has perhaps held up the best out of those released during the early days of Turtlemania. It clearly took more than a little inspiration from Street Fighter II, and I’m actually surprised how well it compares to the influential fighter.

If you still have a Super Nintendo at the ready, Tournament Fighter is a fun time. And if you have a friend over, it should be a great time.

7

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

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.

 

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TMNT (2007) Review

TMNT – the strangely titled fourth feature film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise – is kind of the odd duck in the series. It’s the only fully animated film in the entire TMNT franchise, was produced by the now-defunct Imagi Animation Studios, and is ambiguous as to whether or not it keeps continuity with the three live-action films of the 1990s (there are hints and Easter eggs that imply it does follow those films, with contradictory elements leaving that connection in question). TMNT often seems forgotten in the Ninja Turtles movie lineage – despite just recently becoming a decade old – which is both understandable and a shame.

This is understandable because, despite a genuine effort by Imagi Animation Studios, TMNT is largely forgettable in plot. But it’s a shame because, when it works, TMNT hints that a bright future may have been in store for animated Ninja Turtles films, if such films were allowed to continue.

The story here is that, 3,000 years ago, a warlord named Yeotl discovered a portal to another dimension. The portal granted Yeotl immortality, but at a price: his four generals, whom he loved like brothers, were turned to stone, and thirteen immortal monsters were released from the portal, who proceeded to destroy his army.

Fast-forward to present day New York City, and Yeotl has taken up a new name, Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), a wealthy businessman seeking to undo his immortality, as he’s spent centuries tormented by what his actions did to his friends and his army.

To accomplish this, Winters needs to capture the thirteen monsters who escaped from the portal, and send them back through. There’s an impending alignment of the planets that will allow him to reopen the portal to send the monsters back.

Anyway, Winters has hired April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) – who now owns a company that locates relics for collectors – to retrieve four statues for him; with these statues being his petrified generals from the past. Meanwhile, Winters has also secretly recruited the remnants of the Foot Clan, now lead by the mysterious Karai (Zhang Ziyi), to retrieve the monsters.

All the while, the Ninja Turtles have gone their separate ways in life: Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) has been sent to South America as some kind of vaguely detailed training, where he stops bandits and saves villages. Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) is now an IT operator. Michelangelo (Michael Kelly) is an entertainer at children’s parties (“Cowabunga Carl”). And Raphael (Nolan North) stalks the streets of New York at night as the vigilante “the Nightwatcher.

As you might suspect, the Turtles become involved with all the goings-on with Max Winters’ scheme, though they also have to deal with familial issues, as their separate paths have caused a divide in their brotherhood.

Geez, you think that’s enough build-up?

There are two main issues with the plot: The first, as you’ve probably guessed, is that it’s just too convoluted. There are just too many characters and elements at work for the short running time to know what to do with. In fact, there’s so much going on with the dilemma between the Turtles and Max Winters’ plot, that they barely cross paths until the third act, almost making things feel like two different movies collided with each other.

The other problem is that, because there’s so much going on and not enough time for it all, a number of elements feel underdeveloped or poorly thought-out. It’s one of those movies that will have you asking yourself questions about the film’s finer details as you’re watching it.

One of the big lingering questions is why the thirteen immortal monsters are all suddenly showing up at once in New York City. Perhaps it has something to do with the planets aligning, but that’s never explicitly said. Just what were these monsters doing for three-thousand years?

Another question arrises once Winters reanimates his stone generals. At first they seem like mindless zombies who follow Winters’ orders, in which case it makes sense that he’s still trying to break the curse on them. But later it’s revealed that they can indeed think independently. So does Winters really need to proceed with his plan, seeing as he now has his lost friends, albeit they are now made of stone instead of flesh and blood? Hey, if I waited three-thousand years to see my friends again, I wouldn’t mind too much if they just so happened to be made of stone. Take what you can get.

Okay, so the plot is gobbledygook. That seems to be par for the course with Ninja Turtles films. But TMNT is considerably more serious in tone than the 90s live-action movies, so the nonsense of the plot rings all the louder.

With all of this said, TMNT still has some positives going for it. Though the animation is certainly not on par with the films from bigger studios like Disney and Pixar of the time, it still boasts a stylized look that worked for the material. The voice acting is also pretty solid; and includes Captain America himself, Chris Evans, as Casey Jones, and the late Mako Iwamatsu as Master Splinter in his last film role.

On top of that, the action scenes are well made, with a duel between Leonardo and Raphael being a particular highlight. Though maybe the film should have cut back the number of monsters, since most of them are dealt with via montage, and only a few allow for any full-on fight scenes.

TMNT may not have been the full-blown franchise revival it was hoping to be (as evidenced by the fact that it never got a sequel, and another live-action reboot happened seven years later), but it has enough Ninja Turtle-ness that may make it worth a look for fans (the action scenes are an improvement over the 90s films, and it’s fun to see the Easter eggs that allude to the original trilogy). And unlike Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the original villains introduced here at least feel like they fit in with the franchise.

For fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT can provide some fun. But its murky plot certainly holds it back as a movie in its own right, and unlike the first two 90s films, it lacks the campiness to make it a guilty pleasure.

If nothing else, TMNT is an interesting piece of Turtles history.

 

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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.

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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.

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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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time Review

In the 1990s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere. Though the series got its start in the 80s, it was so popular that its presence remained in full force for years, and is one of the few 80s franchises that has retained a good amount of its popularity to this day.

Also popular in the 1990s were beat-em-up arcade games. One of the most simple but fun genres in video game history, beat-em-ups made up in sheer fun what they lacked in depth. Simply make your way to the end of the level, and beat the ever-loving crap out of the bad guys, often times with a friend or two (or three).

With two such popular trends, it only makes sense that they would come together. In fact, Ninja Turtles and beat-em-ups came together on a few different occasions, with none more beloved than the second such arcade game by Konami, which – in a rarity for the genre – was ported to a home console, the SNES, in the form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (the “IV” being added to keep continuity with the previous three NES titles).

Turtles in Time was a notable title for three main reasons: for being a great beat-em-up title, for being a pretty impressive arcade port, and for being a Ninja Turtle fan’s dream, as the game includes most of the series’ classic characters (even those who have yet to appear on the big screen) as well as boasting a visual style that replicates the look of the 80s cartoon surprisingly well.

In Turtles in Time, on or two players can take control of the four different Ninja Turtles, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo, each one using their respective weapons. Leonardo and Donatello have greater reach with their katana and bo staff (respectively), while Raphael and Michelangelo’s si and nunchaku give them quicker strikes.

Additionally, you can even throw some enemies into the screen or slam them on the ground, provided you’re close enough to them. Sadly, this proves rather difficult to pull off. By attacking the enemies and stunning them, you’re supposed to press a direction on the D-pad plus the attack button in order to perform these melee attacks, but they seem incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes you’ll throw an enemy, other times you won’t. This is particularly frustrating on the boss of the game’s fourth level, as it requires you to throw enemies towards the screen.

Unfortunately, this inconsistency in control isn’t limited to these attacks. Other moves are also difficult to pull off, and seem to require the player to pay attention to the character’s animations, as pressing the attack button during certain frames seems to trigger a different move. Pressing the attack button at different points during a jump, for example, can result in your turtle either doing a forward jump kick, or an ariel weapon attack.

One can assume this is how things worked in the arcade, and under those circumstances it would probably work better. But on an SNES controller, it just feels off. And paying attention to character frames may work in some fighting games, but in a beat-em-up where there can be a dozen enemies on screen all attacking at once, it just gets too chaotic to pay that close attention.

Now, that’s not saying that the controllers are terrible by any means, just that there may have been something lost in the translation to a home console, with the end results feeling less than ideal.

Otherwise, TMNT IV is a pretty satisfying experience. You beat up wave after wave of Foot Ninjas, can interact with the environment (like breaking a fire hydrant to knock enemies down with the water that bursts out of it), and fight bosses like Baxter Stockman, Bebop and Rocksteady, and Kraang.

In fact, it’s the Ninja Turtles fan service that may just be the highlight of the whole game. So many licensed games seem to get only about half of what fans love about the source material, but Turtles in Time manages to squeeze in most of namable characters from the beloved franchise (except Vernon Fenwick, unfortunately). This doesn’t just include the cartoon, but other Turtles offshoots as well. Tokka and Rahzar from the second Ninja Turtles movie of the 1990s show up, and the final battle is against Super Shredder, who also originally appeared in that film.

Considering that series regulars like Kraang, Bebop and Rocksteady didn’t appear in any of the Ninja Turtles movies until 2016, it’s easy to see why any Turtles fan would have went crazy with what Turtles in Time brought to the table in the early 90s.

Aside from an impressive characters checklist, Turtles in Time also did a fantastic job at capturing the look of the original series, which would definitely add to the appeal for any TMNT fan. While the NES games only barely replicated the series’ characters, the 16-bit graphics of the SNES faithfully recreate the visuals of the cartoon (one could even argue that, because the game lacks the notable animation flubs of the series, it might actually look better than its source material). It’s a game that looks like an interactive cartoon even today.

We even get some great synthetic recreations of the series’ music to go with the visuals. Aesthetically speaking, a Turtles fan couldn’t ask for much more back in the 90s, and it still looks and sounds great.

Aside from the somewhat inconsistent moves, the game is a whole lot of fun, if incredibly simple. Playing as the Turtles and pummeling enemies as you make your way to the bosses is entertaining. And every time you bring down a particularly difficult boss, it’s really satisfying. Though it must be said that there isn’t much else to it than that.

One could argue that that’s par for the course for the beat-em-up genre, but there are other titles that prove otherwise. Guardian Heroes on the Sega Saturn, for example, threw RPG elements and branching story paths into the mix, leading to greater replay value. Turtles in Time, while fun, feels like a lesser experience by comparison.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is a fun game, particularly with two players and, most especially, for fans of the franchise who can appreciate how faithfully it represents its material. But it also didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for the genre, and the inconsistent attacks do detract a little from the experience.

A fun, satisfying beat-em-up to be sure, but TMNT IV is perhaps not quite the Turtles masterpiece it’s often made out to be.

 

6