Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer movie season and review TMNT: Out of Shadows – a sequel that nobody asked for?

IMDb summary: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

I’ve already done a review for the 2014 reboot of TMNT/the first film in the new series, you can find it here.

Reasons for Going

The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film was watchable but nothing great. Previous Michael Bay films were all (almost all) terrible, awful and tragic (Transformers). So, why did I subject myself to TMNT 2? Well, because Stephen Amell joined the cast. I’m a huge fan of Arrow and I’m also a fan of Amell himself, not only as an actor but also as a person. I admire his activism on social media, his charity work and his honest and open communication with the fans. He was the sole reason why I went to see this film.

Writing

The film was written by a duo of screenwriters – Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. I have mixed feelings about their previous work. They scripted the 2014 TMNT movie, which was average at best, as well as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – my favorite MI film. The narrative that they created for Out of Shadows is also of mixed quality.

To begin with, I appreciate the inclusion of iconic characters from the TMNT history like Casey Jones, Krang, Rocksteady and Bebop, and Baxter Stockman. At the same time, I don’t think it was such a good idea to bring some of these characters to live-action just because of how cartoonish they are, while, simultaneously, not staying true and faithful to the most realistic character from TMNT animation and comics – April O’Neil. Wouldn’t it be better to give us a proper April O’Neil and leave talking/floating brains behind? Or just bring everything as it is, not just half of it. Why bother with realism, when you have talking ninja turtles as protagonists? Just a thought.

Moving on to the film’s plot, it was convenient AF. The exposition was obvious as well as the villain motivations. The character of The Shredder, while somewhat fixed with the recast, was totally useless, because he was defeated so easily. The teleportation plotline was interesting but the more it was developed, the worse it got. The 3rd act of the film was worth a Transformers movie.

The writing for the turtles improved a bit. They weren’t just one sided cliches – the leader, the brains, the muscle and the jokes. The roles were switched up a bit and the ideas that ‘our differences make us stronger’ and ‘the family always accepts you’ were kinda nice. The other message of the film – that the turtles would go ‘out of shadows’ was touched upon but never fully realized because the public still doesn’t know about the heroes in a half shelf. They probably left that for a 3rd movie.

A few other characters had their own arcs as well. I felt that Casey Jones fit into the story organically and was a nice addition. On the other hand, Vern, once again, was totally unnecessary and was basically shoehorned into the plot. April O’Neil felt like a less sexualized character, but still, she is not the O’Neil from the animated series, that I grew up watching.

Directing

TMNT 2 was directed by Dave Green, whose only other feature film is 2014’s Earth to Echo, which received mixed reviews from the critics. Green’s efforts for this film were good, but the final product – not so much.

The opening shot of the film seemed really cool…until it turned into a product placement. The Halloween parade was visually interesting…until it turned into a plug for Transformers. The action was exciting…until the screen was overloaded with explosions or with unnecessary slow motion. You get the point.

The CGI looked kinda nice (I could almost deal with the fact that all characters looked like they were on steroids) – the turtles’ faces actually had expressions and they even actually seemed realistic-ish – they had sweaty skin during the action scenes and teary eyes during the more emotional sequences. Nevertheless, the CGI of the villain – Krang – was terrible and cartoonish not in a good way/caricature-like. The film perfectly described the look of the character itself – ‘a chewed up piece of gum with a face’.

My favorite visual was probably the traditional graphics of the comic books during the credits. They felt somewhat refreshing, after staring at CGI for 2 hours.

Producing

I mentioned a lot of faults of the movie, but I don’t blame the director or the screenwriters for them. I actually think that they had little to do with the film, as this picture felt like it was made by the studio suits and the executives. TMNT 2 had too many producers and like 5 different production companies. If it was made by a director, a screenwriter and a few producers, it might have turned out much better.

Acting

  • Megan Fox as April O’Neil was fine. Her acting is getting better and I wish all the best for her, but still, she is not the April O’Neil. Her next film is James Franco’s Zeroville.
  • Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, not surprisingly, was my favorite part of the film. I liked his humor as well as his action scenes, which were the most realistic. I hope that Amell can get more movie roles after this as he is absolutely amazing on Arrow. He is also currently working on a film project with his cousin Robbie AmellCode 8.
  • Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick was annoying, as expected. He should just stick with voice work or TV projects.
  • Brian Tee as The Shredder. The decision to recast The Shredder was a good one, however, the decision to make him totally useless and irrelevant to the plot wasn’t. Tee did an okay job, I liked him the beginning of the film, but after that, he became a parody of himself.
  • Tyler Perry as Dr. Baxter Stockman was absolutely the worst. He seemed like a parody of Madea and not a good one. If you want to see a good film, starring Perry, just watch Gone Girl.

The voice work and motion capture for turtles were done by Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), and Jeremy Howard (Donatello). Donatello is still my favorite turtle, although, I really liked Raphael in this film, especially after I found out that his idol is Vin DieselGary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly played Bebop and Rocksteady and were fine. Cartoonish, but I guess they had to be like that.

All in all, TMNT: Out of Shadows was an okay film. It was fun but nothing too spectacular. I feel like this is a film for little kids (so I shouldn’t judge it too harshly) that they cannot technically watch because of the PG-13 rating. In short, it had one too many fart jokes for my liking, but was definitely watchable and an improvement on the first film.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows trailer

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Movie review: The Huger Games Mockingjay Part 1

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just come home from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 premiere at my local cinema. This is going to be my completely biased review because I am a huge fan of THG and I would much rather turn a blind eye to anything they did wrong than admit that it was wrong. SPOILERS AHEAD

Book to Movie changes

I have read all 3 The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins 4 years ago when they were released in my mother tongue because, back then, I couldn’t read in English well enough to understand the story. So, since I have read the books quite a long time ago, I couldn’t remember the exact events to the smallest detail. However, this made the movie even more enjoyable for me because I knew that something big was going to happen but didn’t actually know what and could be as excited as other non-readers.

Visuals and Music

The visuals, the scenery and the special effects were great. Cinematography was done by Jo Willems. The film was edited by Alan Edward Bell and Mark Yoshikawa. The district 13 looked exactly as I have imagined it. The musical score by James Newton Howard as well as Katniss’s song were also special additions to the film. Moreover, the whistling of the Mockingjay theme is my ringtone and I jump every time somebody calls me.

Directing

The director Francis Lawrence did an amazing job as with the 2d film .I wish he would have directed the 1st film as well, but they probably will reboot The Hunger Games in 20 years, so he might get his chance.

Touching moments

I have already mentioned one of my favorite touching moments – that Katniss’s song about a hanging tree. I loved how the people sang that song while going to a fight. Plus, the hospital scene and the hand sign sent shivers down my back. All the propaganda videos also contained powerful messages that were touching and terrifying at the same time.

Character by character

Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Katniss as you would expect. I have so much respect for Lawrence as an actress and I will always be a huge fan of her and will go to see any movie she is in. Katniss is an idol to so many girls in a contemporary world. We can all find a piece of ourselves in her. I can relate to Katniss because we are both stubborn and don’t give up without a fight even if we know that we might definitely lose or at least het hurt in a process. Of course, I haven’t faced the challenges that Katniss has faced with but I channel her strength, energy and power to fight my own everyday battles.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta: Josh had a chance to shine as an actor and he delivered for sure. Even though you saw him only through a double screen, his eyes, and his facial expressions portrayed so many emotions. And the physical and mental changes he went through were also mind boggling.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale:  I really enjoyed Gale as a character, just wish he would have gotten more screen time. Although, the scene where he is talking about the destruction of the district 12 was an extremely powerful moment.

Sam Claflin as Finnick: I am a huge fan of Sam Claflin. (Review of his last film Love, Rosie here). I really wanted to see more of Finnick on screen. The way he delivered the monologue which was used as a distraction was amazing. His eyes showed so much hate and so much disgust towards capital, although, behind the toughness you could see that he was hurt deeply.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch: It was strange to see Haymtich sober but I loved his and Katniss dysfunctional/ loving relationship.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie: Effie has undergone so many changes through the franchise. Both her looks and her way of thinking changed tremendously. And I have to say – for the better. She looks so much better without the wigs and the make-up and the puffy dresses. Also, we all know that she grew up in the capital and her ability to see that the capital needs to be destroyed gives me hope that other capital citizens will turn to the good side too.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch: I have a strong admiration for this actor’s work and I was really sad when I’ve heard the news about his death. The world lost a remarkable talent who will be missed.

Julianne Moore as President Coin: Moore’s performance was great. I have two completely different emotions when talking about her character. I understand that she has to be a cruel and serious president in order for the rebellion to succeed. However, her intentions seem shady to me. It might be the problem only for me because the one thing I can clearly remember from the book is that Coin is not what she seems to be.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow: I have such strong and hateful feelings towards Snow. He is a natural dictator. The biggest problem is, however, not his decisions as a dictator but the pleasure he gets from making them.

Natalie Dormer as Cressida: Natalie is such an intelligent young woman who I admire. I have recently seen the press conference and a few interviews with her about this film and she is so well spoken and so smart. I am also a huge fan of her on Game of Thrones.  Cressida was the most relatable character for me because I would like to make movies one day and I can understand that the events in real life and through a camera lens look completely different.

I also loved Willow Shields as Primrose and Stanley Tucci as Caesar.  Willow grew as an actress alongside her character and Tucci is amazing with fake acting.

Themes

This movie has so many meanings and so many layers. You can talk about it without a break.

The first and the most obvious theme is the fight against dictatorship. Throughout history my country has been occupied several times, and since I am familiar with my country’s history, I can understand the cruelty, the insanity and the inhumanity of dictatorship. But history has already happened and we live in a now and we are dreaming about the future.  This film hits the audience right where it hurts: if we don’t take actions to preserve democracy, we will end up under the iron fist of a dictator once more in a near future.

You can also draw similarities between the movie and the current actions in the Middle East, Africa, Ukraine and other countries where rebellions are rising and where people are fighting for their beliefs. I just wish their beliefs would be based on facts and not speculations and I only want the people to know what they are truly fighting for.

Another theme of the movie is the power of propaganda and the media. As I have said, the camera lenses can manipulate the truth and turn it into a weapon.

Another theme that stuck in to my mind was the inner fight of Katniss. She is dived between her personal and public goals. She wants her nation to be free but she also wants to be happy with Peeta or Gale. I have recently written an essay in my Literature class on this topic and I have come to the conclusion that you cannot succeed in both spheres, you have to pick one. And Katniss still haven’t made a clear decision but she will do it in a 4th film.

The film also portrays the war very realisticly and shows that, in war, there is no honor, no heroism, and no humanity. (This is the view of authors, painters and philosophers from the
Romanticism movement.)

These are the main themes I wanted to discuss. However, the film has so many more details and metaphorical meanings. Every character’s ark is full of examples that we can learn from. For instance, Effie shows us that the upbringing isn’t the only thing that defines a person. Gale’s story ark is all about the ability to cope with the losses and the understanding that sometimes it’s enough to be your best self.

All in all, since I am a huge fan of THG, I can’t give it a bad review even if I wanted to. But I don’t want to! I loved the movie, the themes, the acting, the visuals and, basically, everything about it. The story was smooth and it had flown perfectly, I couldn’t divide the movie into 3 separate acts. Although, some scenes could have been longer and some actors could have gotten more screen time. But I am not complaining, this was only a Part 1 and they were just laying the ground work for an epic closing chapter to this worldwide phenomenon.

Rate: 5/5 (no surprise here, huh?)

Trailer: Mockingjay trailer

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