Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

2016 #48
Jonathan Liebesman | 97 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English & Japanese | 12 / PG-13

While I was killing time waiting for my coffee to brew before I sat down to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014 edition, I drafted the introductory paragraphs to this review. Yes, before I’d even started the movie, so sure was I that I would dislike it. Naturally they took an appropriately condemnatory tone, talking about how it was a product and not a movie, designed primarily to sell tie-in plastic to grown men who wish they were still children, etc etc. Unfortunately writing those paragraphs was a waste of my time, because I can’t use them, because — shock of shocks — I actually quite liked this movie.

Now, let’s immediately throw some caveats on that, because it’s clearly riddled with flaws. The story is slight and so filled with over-familiar tropes that it barely bothers to play them out in full. On the bright side, that does mean it rattles along. However, the grand plan/climax is lifted straight from The Amazing Spider-Man. The action is often poorly directed, a too-close whirlwind of pixels. That said, there’s one sequence so OTT crazy that — if you ignore that the film is supposed to be live action and embrace the wild camerawork, physically impossible antics, and mind-boggling speed — it’s almost impressive. The CGI is variable: the Turtles themselves actually look alright, maybe even good, but Splinter is piss poor.

Megan Fox is miscast, not that she can act anyway. She’s clearly only there because producer Michael Bay thinks she’s hot (bit too plastic for my taste). Shredder is Bay-ed to the max, essentially becoming a Transformer made of knives. The Turtles’ personalities are pretty one-note, but not unfaithful to the original — the franchise started life as a spoof of things like Daredevil, after all, not a realistic character drama. That said, turning Mike into basically a turtle version of Michael Bay — i.e. he’s focused on lusting after Megan Fox and occasionally causing explosions — is a little cringe-y. Quite a few bits are a little cringe-y, actually; but they’re tempered by a few comedic bits that hit home, and a general veneer of “well, it could’ve been worse”.

“Well, it could’ve been worse” is pretty much the definition of “damning with faint praise”, but for all those many problems, I actually enjoyed myself while watching the film. It was funny enough, it was exciting enough, it was almost well-made enough. It’s not a good movie, but I did think it was an “entertaining enough for a couple of hours on a particularly lazy evening” kind of movie. And, despite the weak reviews it’s been receiving, the trailers for the second movie make it look better. I’m not going to fork out cinema prices to see it anytime soon, but on the strength of this first one, I will eventually. Which may not please the plastic-pedlars, exactly, but is a better result than I’d expected.

3 out of 5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is in cinemas worldwide now.

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

2015 #159
Randall Lobb | 99 mins | streaming (HD) | 16:9 | USA / English | PG / PG

This informative documentary uses interviews with all the key players to tell the story of how a small indie comic, created incidentally and published almost on a whim, became a true cultural phenomenon.

And, despite how daft it all seemed (well, to adults — kids lapped it up), it really was huge. At first, co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird managed to scrape together enough money for a limited run of the first issue of the comic; three years later, it was outselling The Avengers, and they had deals for a toy line and animated TV series. Both of those were massive hits too… but it nearly ended after just five episodes and the first few action figures: toy manufacturer Playmates were so happy with the sales figures that they didn’t care about doing more. Seriously. Can you imagine that happening today? “We’ve made tonnes of money on this! Right, let’s stop it and think of something else.” It was the series’ producer who fought for more episodes, which must have made Playmates giddy with glee in the end: at its height, the toys shipped 100 million units a year, cited in the film as being probably the largest amount for a single toy line ever. I confess, I had a fair number of the toys; mainly early ones too, so there’s plenty of nostalgia-inducing focus on them here.

The film traces the story beyond that to the first live action film, which broke records for an independent production. There are some nice bits of behind-the-scenes trivia in this section, like how they shot dialogue scenes with the Turtles at 23fps, and action scenes at 22fps, so as to make the movements of the slightly-clunky suits crisper when played back at the regular 24fps. It’s around this point that the Turtles phenomenon began to wane, however, so it’s somewhere between a shame and unsurprising that the documentary stops shortly after — the sequel films were not very good and didn’t do very well, and it wasn’t long before the rights were sold on anyway, at which point the story of the creators’ relation to their creation essentially comes to a close. Is it right to gloss over this, or would it have been better to explore it in more detail? Both points of view have their merits, probably depending on how much nostalgia you hold for the property.

As for this documentary, it nonetheless finds an almost emotional conclusion with Eastman and Laird today talking about the chain of chance and coincidence that brought them together three decades ago to accidentally create something that transformed their lives, and which continues to endure in all kinds of media (no one liked that Michael Bay film, but it’s still getting a sequel; while the current animated series is apparently very good, for people who like that kind of thing). It makes for a surprisingly engrossing behind-the-scenes story, too.

4 out of 5

TMNT (2007)

2015 #99
Kevin Munroe | 87 mins | streaming | 2.35:1 | USA & Hong Kong / English | PG / PG

The kids’ phenomenon of the ’80s/’90s has never quite gone away, and this film is one thing that kept it ticking over in the ’00s. I watched out of nostalgia, which may’ve been a mistake.

Eschewing an origin story, it dives in as a sequel rather than reboot; consequently, you constantly feel you’ve missed something, particularly given the focus on the heroes’ fractured relationships. The plot’s alright, though it’s an odd choice to not use any of the franchise’s major villains. Some action sequences are moderately entertaining, but other animations have provided better.

I expected little and was still disappointed.

2 out of 5

The Centennial Monthly Update for July 2015

It’s a month of mixed emotions here at 100 Films, not least thanks to it being the earliest I’ve ever made it to #100.

But before even that, this month’s menu:


What Do You Mean You Haven't Seen…?

This month I was, happily, faced with the choice about what should be 2015’s #100. Fundamentally this doesn’t matter, of course — it’s just another thing watched, which just so happens to be the 100th new thing I’ve watched since a point in time we have decided marks the beginning of a new time-cycle (…just to suck all the romance out of it, there). Given the aim and title of this blog, however, of course #100 takes on significance. In a last-week-of-December scramble-to-the-finish situation, which film is #100 doesn’t matter so much as the very existence of a #100 does; in the more leisurely situation of reaching that point in July, however, there’s time to reflect and consider what film will join the likes of Citizen Kane, The Hurt Locker and Lawrence of Arabia in the 100 Films #100 Club. And I mention this in the WDYMYHS section, rather than Viewing Notes or Analysis or something, because the natural choice for such an accolade seemed to be a WDYMYHS film. So from the list of what was left, I selected the movie I felt most likely (based on its reputation and so on and so forth) to chime with my own tastes — the movie I most felt ‘should’ wind up being a personal favourite.

But first — I’m behind on WDYMYHS, so have been intending to watch multiple selections within a month for a while now, and this month I finally managed it. So before the glory of #100, another WDYMYHS graced my list at #97: John Carpenter’s The Thing. I thought there was a lot to like, but I didn’t love it.

Then on to #100 — the movie I felt most likely to love, that I should find a personal favourite. I have to say, it’s the kind of film I started WDYMYHS for — the very point of the exercise is to make me watch films like this; ones I’ve been meaning to for years, have been led to believe that I will love, but for whatever reason haven’t had a pressing enough reason to get round to. So that’s what led to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil being 2015’s #100. Thank goodness, it lived up to the hype. Naturally I watched the “final cut” he created for Criterion (is any other version readily available these days? Apart from the “avoid except for academic interest” “Love Conquers All” version Criterion bundle in, that is), which I might think is a little on the long side, but, well, I still greatly enjoyed it.

Anyway, that’s 100 done. Hurrah! And with that said, of course July wasn’t just about those two films…


July's viewing
Scanners
#91 Returning to Jedi (2007)
#92 Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)
#93 Scanners (1981)
#94 Song of the Sea (2014)
#95 The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)
#96 The Voices (2014)
Brazil#96a X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (2014/2015)
#97 The Thing (1982)
#98 Lilo & Stitch (2002)
#99 TMNT (2007)
#100 Brazil (1985)
#101 Salvation Boulevard (2011)
#102 RED 2 (2013)


Viewing Notes

  • I backed The Death of “Superman Lives” documentary on Kickstarter a couple of years ago now and have been patiently waiting for it to turn up ever since, so it was kinda weird when half the internet (not to mention Proper Film Magazines ‘n’ that) was talking about it a few weeks ago. At some point I’ll post a proper review, but if you’re interested in its topic then it’s definitely worth a look.
  • Utterly meaningless, but it’s also the first film I’ve watched this year that’s title begins with ‘D’. Odd for such a common letter. (The only other unrepresented letters at this point are Q, U, Y and Z. And X, technically, as Days of Future Past isn’t on the main list.)


Analysis

July 2015 was a month of mixed results. On the one hand, watching 12 new films ticks a number of boxes: it smashes July’s low average (previously 5.86, now 6.63); as that might indicate, it’s also the highest July ever; it continues my at-least-10-per-month-all-year goal; and it’s the ninth month in a row to show an increase year-on-year.

On the other hand, it’s the lowest-tallying month of 2015 so far, and only the second month to fall short of the yearly average (which still rounds up to 15). That said, not included is that I spent time this month re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in its extended form to boot. Add that to The Rogue Cut and you get 16 films for the month — much more normal (well, normal for 2015). So, y’know, swings and roundabouts.

And, as mentioned, I made it to #100 — that excuses plenty in my book. It’s the earliest I’ve ever reached it, the previous best being September 9th. That was all the way back in my first year, 2007, making it perhaps the only record 2014 didn’t claim. This year has been rather good by my standards, so it’s one I don’t foresee breaking again. I mean, if I had five consecutive best-ever months (i.e. better than I’ve ever done, x5) then I could squeeze it in by the end of May. Well, you never know.

Over in prediction corner, if I can keep up my ten-minimum for another five months, as desired, 2015 will end no lower than #152. Remember, my previous best is 136, so that alone would leave me feeling pretty darn chuffed. Bolder estimates: my pace so far has me reaching #175; if I could consistently reclaim the 2015 mode average (which is 15), I’d hit #177; if I can manage to continue the year-on-year monthly increases (an increasingly tough task, as the end of 2014 was so strong), I get as far as #178. A finish anywhere northwards of #170 is a 25% improvement on my previous best, so that’d be more than grand.


The Arbies
The 2nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A few films this month were good but didn’t quite live up to my expectations, which makes this feel like a pretty clear choice: it’s Brazil again.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
It’s taken me eight years to get round to it, so I clearly can’t’ve been that fussed, but I really wanted to enjoy TMNT. I didn’t not enjoy it, per se, but it wasn’t all I wanted it to be either.

Best Portrayal of a Dog, Cat, Deer, Fish and Bunny Monkey
Ryan Reynolds, your superhero sins are forgiven. (Also, the Comic-Con Deadpool trailer looked great, so that too.)

Most Evil Alien
The Thing from The Thing, or Stitch from Lilo & Stitch? Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, or the Thing from The Thing? Oh, it’s a tough call! Ok, Stitch does redeem himself (itself?), so I guess the Thing edges it.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
This award goes to another award — my Liebster Award! Maybe y’all want to know about me more than I thought you did.


Reviews


Archive Reviews


In Memoriam

Just a couple of weeks ago, I commented here on the enduringness of our elderly dog, Rory. Sadly, not very long after that post, his long-standing health problems meant it was time for us to choose to say goodbye.

I know non-pet-owners often don’t ‘get it’ when a beloved pet passes away — I grew up in a very non-pet-y home, so I’ve been that person in the past. However, it’s a terrible wrench, even when it’s been inevitable for a while and you know you made the right decision.

Rory was a rescue, found as a stray, with enough health issues that we’ve been taking him to the vet essentially non-stop since we got him. He certainly went through the ringer even with us, starting with a dreadful skin condition, which eventually cleared up entirely after years of uniquely-formulated treatment. He lost the tip of one ear in an assault by another dog, and had his neck punctured in another (both encounters entirely unprovoked!) Then there was the more regular old-age ailment of arthritis; and, two-and-a-half years ago, he slipped a disc and his gall bladder packed up at the same time, leading to a tense Christmas/New Year spent at a specialist vet hospital (and to me not making it to 100 films in 2012).

Experienced owners in the family said they’d never seen a dog be so ill and pull back, but pull back he did, and for another couple of years to boot. He’d been judged too old and fragile to endure a back operation, so he lived with that slipped disc for those years, on pain killers of course, but he kept on. He was a little fighter, right to the end. In his last week, his spine problems finally reached a point where he could only stand for short periods intermittently, even for his beloved food, and that really meant it was time.

We’ll never know what happened to Rory in the years before he knew us, but — in spite of his catalogue of woes — we gave him six years, one month and one day of loving happiness. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I do believe dogs are far more deserving of it than any of us humans. I’m sure Rory would enjoy being able to run free again, in between eating copious amounts of bacon and sausage. It breaks my heart that I’ll never see him again, but at least he’s at peace and out of pain.

(“From around the blogosphere”, the list of 5, and so on, will all return next month.)


Next month…

With the thrill of #100 passed, there’s a whole new level of excitement…

#1000 is coming.

The countdown begins imminently, as 2015’s #103 (i.e. the very next new film that I watch) will be the blog’s #991.

Expect banners, people.