Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial

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The Best Offer Is One Of 2014’s Best New Movies

Courtesy:  IFC Films

Courtesy: IFC Films

IFC Films’ new drama The Best Offer is one of the most original stories to be released this year. The movie, which stars Geoffrey Rush (The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The King’s Speech) and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, The Dirty Dozen, Backdraft) sees Rush as a devious art appraiser and auctioneer. The film, which was written and directed by legendary director Giuseppe Tornatore, is another masterful work from a master filmmaker. In an era in which Hollywwood’s major studios are relying almost one hundred percent on prequels, sequels and remakes to bring audiences into theaters, Tornatore has crafted a work that is original. That is the foundation of why any true movie buff should take the time to see this movie at least once. The original script is the foundation of this film’s success. Resting comfortably on that originality is the story’s pacing…at least to a point. Rounding things out for the reasons for the movie’s overall success is the acting on the part of the cast. Rush is the true star of the story. Though co-star Sylvia Hoeks deserves her own kudos for a job well done, too. The pair’s acting will keep viewers mesmerized through the course of the movie’s near two and a half hour run time. All things considered, this drama proves to be one of the year’s most original works and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The Best Offer is more than deserving of being called not just one of the most original works, but also one of the best movies of the year. The very first reason for this is the story’s originality. It is not a prequel. It is not a sequel. And it is not a remake. On another level, it isn’t even another of the seemingly countless overly embellished movies based on actual events. It is an original drama centered on an art appraiser and auctioneer named Virgil Oldman (Rush) who has spent the better part of his life secretly deceiving others. Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore deserves a standing ovation for having crafted the story. That’s because every time that viewers think they have everything figured out, Tornatore throws in a twist that leaves them guessing in the best way possible. Not to reveal too much for the sake of those who have yet to see this masterwork, but by the story’s final minutes, audiences will find themselves torn as to how to feel about what happens to Virgil. The only downside to the entire story is that (again not to reveal too much) it could easily have been shortened. And that leads to the next aspect of The Best Offer worth discussing. That aspect is the story’s pacing.

The run time on The Best Offer just barely tops the two hour mark. To be more precise, it comes in at roughly two hours and eleven minutes long. Over the course of that two-hour plus mark, Tornatore manages to keep the story’s pace relatively solid. At least that is to a point. It would have been so easy to let this story drag considering everything that occurs throughout the story in terms of character development and relationships. But much as with fellow legendary director Martin Scorsese, Tornatore manages to make that run time pass by almost effortlessly. The only time that the pacing suffers is the movie’s final act. It suffers because again as audiences will see, that final sequence is unnecessary. Other than that though, the movie’s overall pacing is spot on and will keep viewers fully engaged. To that extent, the story’s overall pacing becomes another positive to the presentation. It’s flanked by one final positive—the acting on the part of the entire cast.

Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s original script and the story’s pacing both play important roles in the overall success of The Best Offer. The very fact that this movie is neither a prequel nor a sequel, and not even a remake or a piece based on actual events is a major plus. That instantly pulls in any viewer looking for something original. The story’s pacing helps keep viewers engaged. The acting on the part of the cast—specifically that of co-stars Geoffrey Rush and Sylvia Hoeks—makes this work even more worth the watch. Rush breezes through the story. He makes viewers believe in Virgil’s growth, thus leading viewers to be so torn at his final outcome. On the other hand, Hoeks is just as believable as the rather emotionally unstable Claire. There is such chemistry between the pair. It’s obvious considering the believability of the character development between the pair as its relationship grows. That development is another part of what makes the story’s final outcome so surprising in turn leaving viewers torn in the absolutely best way. That feeling of being torn will lead to quite a bit of discussion. And that it could generate more discussion than any major motion picture just goes to prove once more why The Best Offer is one of the best independent movies of 2014 and one of the best movies of 2014 overall.

The Best Offer is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Best-Offer-Geoffrey-Rush/dp/B00GS08Y3Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1400892448&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Best+Offer. More information on this and other releases from IFC Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and http://www.IFCFilms.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Thank Goodness For This House

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

While it may not be the most original of stories, House at the End of the Street is a story that will keep audiences watching right to its conclusion.  That is thanks in large part to scriptwriters David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow.  What Loucka and Mostow have done with House at the End of the Street is taken a time honored story and updated it for a new generation.  There’s no denying that as predictable as it is, it does do an impressive job of keeping audiences’ attention.  It does this by throwing in just enough plot twists to keep audiences thinking they know what’s going on, only to have their minds twisted.  As the near two-hour story proceeds, audiences find that everything they thought they knew was wrong.  That even applies to the story’s conclusion.  Loucka and Mostow leaving audiences guessing right up to the end, wondering about Ryan (Max Theriot) and his sister, Carrie Ann.

Perhaps part of the reason that the story manages to keep audiences engaged and wondering–as predicatable as it seems–is that unlike so many movies in today’s horror/suspense/thriller genre, it doesn’t rely on blood and gore to call itself a horror.  It’s really more of a psychological horror in the vein of classic Hitchcock and King stories.  Audiences get a slightly better understanding of this in watching the movie’s sole bonus feature, “Journey Into Terror: Inside House at the End of the Street.”  Star Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) makes a brief mention of this.  But it isn’t until she makes mention of it that audiences might catch onto it.  As the old adage states, hindsight is 20/20.  And in an era when so many horror movies are more bloodshed than story, it’s nice to have a movie within the genre that takes the road less travelled.  It’s that same road hat any true horror purist will want to watch at least once.

House at the End of the Street is available now in stores and online.  It can be purchased online at the 20th Century Fox online store, http://www.foxconnect.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Hunger Games Will Feed Any Movie Lover’s “Appetite”

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Hunger Games is quite the interesting work.  It’s one more work that has greatly divided audiences.  It’s one of those movies which audiences and critics alike have either loved or hated.  It has been most closely compared to the Japanese flick, Battle Royale (2000).  But in its deepest roots, The Hunger Games lifts very liberally from Greek mythology.  Keeping this in mind, it would be wrong for any one person to come down on the movie for essentially telling an updated version of that story.  So many of modern Hollywood’s most well known movies have been little more than liftings from classic Shakespeare plays.  This being the case, a more fair way to analyze The Hunger Games would be to look at it purely from a standpoint of film making, rather than storytelling alone.

On the positive side, once the movie does get going, the action sequences in the battle are more than enough to keep audiences’ attention.  The backdrop of North Carolina’s Henry River Mill Village and the DuPont State Park made for quite the contradiction to the dystopian world of The Hunger Games.  Here are these young combatants fighting for their own survival in a violent and bloody contest.  Yet all around them is what would otherwise be an entirely peaceful and serene setting.  The juxtaposition of the two is really quite interesting 

On a more mixed positive and negative side, the writing on which The Hunger Games is based is problematic, but very good in its own right.  The downside to the story’s writing is that it does take far too long in leading up to the actual competition.  The actual back story and setup takes at least an hour, if not more, of the movie’s near three hour run time.  Most of that time is spent focusing on the pomp and circumstance around the Hunger Games’ opening ceremony and Katniss’ own personal drama.  A good portion of all the pomp and circumstance could have been cut out, saving a least half an hour. 

The positive side to the writing for this script is that while it does spend an inordinate amount of time on back story, the story itself is one that is entirely relatable today.  Having the “games” televised the country over hints at our country’s growing love affair with reality television and with violence on television.  In relation, audiences’ blood lust could be argued to be pointed out here, too.  Forcing young adults into the games could be argued to be linked to America’s obsession with youth.  Except in this case, that obsession is twisted to say the least.  One could also argue that what The Hunger Games does is it points out young adults’ increasing exposure to high levels of violence in the media today, and the resultant desensitization to said violence, and the consequences therein.

Whether for its beautiful scenery or for its messages (intended or not), The Hunger games has a lot going for it.  Yes it does get off to a rather slow start.  But looking at it from a much deeper, more analytical vantage point, it has the ability to create so many discussions.  That alone is the sign of a very good movie.  And The Hunger Games is just that; a good movie.

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