Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

LORD OF ILLUSIONS discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Lord of Illusions Members of a cult rebel against their leader when he takes a young girl hostage, but thirteen years later the man they left for dead threatens to return from the underworld. Members still loyal to him begin slaughtering the innocent in preparation for his return, and a NYC detective (Scott Bakula) with a history of taking cases that lean towards the supernatural might be all that stands in the way of the murder of the world. Clive Barker‘s third and final feature as director brings together all of his trademarks — nightmarish visions, a disdain for religion, a terrible sense of fashion — and mashes them into a tale that combines noir elements with the supernatural. He delivers some wonderfully creepy and icky visuals involving the cult members and like the story it’s based on it makes me look forward to the return of Harry D’Amour in Barker’s upcoming novel. As much as I love Barker’s fiction though he’s not always the best person to bring them to cinematic life — because his appetite for cheese is never satiated. Some of the digital effects are dated too, although the practical work is all still stellar. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director’s cuts, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interview, photo gallery]

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Anna Kendrick in

We’ve made it to December, which hopefully means you have plenty of vacation days coming up with which to curl up next to a fire, throw on some Netflix, and indulge in various boozy nogs. Honestly, you’d be a fool not to spend your month this way, because, baby, it’s cold outside, and a whole bunch of great movies have been made available to stream in the last few weeks. Here’s a list to keep you going. As always, click on the movies’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix pages. Pick of the Month: Happy Christmas (2014) Looking for a new movie about the holidays to watch this year that isn’t all snowflakes, togetherness, and gooey sentiment? Then Joe Swanberg’s latest release, Happy Christmas, could be just the gift you’ve been dreaming of. Swanberg’s movies always have good stuff in them, and it seems like he’s been threatening to make something that I’d completely love for a while now, and finally Happy Christmas is it. This is a film that’s so dark and introspective and full of awkward social tension that Lena Dunham shows up playing the grounded, easygoing character. Think about that. Anna Kendrick stars, playing a lost soul in her late 20s who’s kind of a brat, and definitely a fuck up, and most of the movie is us watching her behave badly after moving into the basement of her older brother (Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey), and their new son (Swanberg’s real life, mental […]

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Dark Knight Rises

Lynchian. Kubrickian. Felliniesque. A directorial adjective can have strong, transportable power, even if its exact meaning may rely more on general impressions and evocations of inspiration than a concrete set of rules. Many of these terms, however, gain currency well after a director has established a set style, producing a moniker that results as a sort of shorthand for auteurism: a term pregnant with assumed meaning to describe an implied close familiarity with the themes, styles and obsessions that codify a filmmaker’s body of work. “Lynchian” was arguably solidified as popular parlance with David Foster Wallace’s 1996 essay from a visit to the set of Lost Highway, a work of writing that tied together both Lynch’s idiosyncratic film style and his esoteric personality as a person. And that’s the essential formula for the directorial adjective: unlike the auteur theory, which provides insights into the person but takes an analysis of the films themselves as a primary concern, the directorial adjective suggests a fluid coherence between the defining aspects of films and the outsized personality of their maker. To be Kubrickian is to be an obsessive perfectionist of form. To be Hitchcockian is to possess a sadistic sense of humor imbued through the events of the thriller, a personality that regularly makes murder into a game. You don’t know it when you see it with the directorial adjective, you know it when you feel it, when you sense the currents of that personality speak through choices of style and narrative. There […]

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RICK AND MORTY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Rick and Morty: Season 1 Rick is a scientist of great renown, probably, who lives with his daughter’s family in suburbia and spends his days tinkering and having adventures. His “partner” is his frequently unwilling grandson, Morty. Together they travel through space and time interacting with aliens, mutants and everyday people. And by interacting I mean causing trouble. The latest addition to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup comes from the twisted minds of Justin Roiland (who also voices both Rick and Morty) and Dan Harmon, and while it found its origin in riffing on Back to the Future it quickly develops a life of its own thanks to a steady stream of very funny gags and smart writing. There’s a hint of Futurama here, but it’s a darker and far more foul world much to our enjoyment. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see the episode where the human-sized jelly bean tries to rape Morty in a bathroom stall. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, commentaries, deleted scenes]

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TMNT Elevator

When was the last time a movie as bad as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a great sequel? There have been plenty of other comic book movie franchises where the second installment was a huge improvement over the first (X2: X-Men United; Spider-Man 2; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; The Dark Knight), but none of them started off nearly as terribly as this one. Although the TMNT reboot was a success at the box office over the weekend, and general audiences apparently liked it (as per Cinemascore and the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings), it still doesn’t seem like a movie that people loved. Just how many of the front-loading fans enjoyed it enough to return for another is a key question to consider. Paramount isn’t likely to worry about that when making the sequel, which was confirmed yesterday, because a $65m opening is enough to convince them that they did something right and shouldn’t change the formula. But even if it weren’t dumb of studios to believe their product is good just because people paid ahead for it, they should always be striving for better with their series anyway. What they qualify as “better” is another question. With franchises like this, the synonyms for the definition tend to be “bigger” and “more.” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 will look and feel the same for the most part, but you can bet there will be a lot of new characters added. Which characters, though, could be a very big deal as far as getting the fans back in […]

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TMNT Leo

By the second time Groot said his famous line in Guardians of the Galaxy, the little girl with the red-faced mother behind me in the theater had cracked the code. From then on, every time a character tossed a question or confused glance toward the arboreal humanoid, she’d yell “I Am Groot!” in unison with Vin Diesel. When Groot shoved a limb through a dozen henchmen and slammed them Hulk-style against a wall for good measure, she shouted out his catchphrase, and when he produced only a sheepishly demonic grin in return, she lost it. When he wrapped his limbs around the other guardians as they plunged from the sky, I could hear her whisper “Groot?” like an ad for Kleenex over my left shoulder. When he danced inside a flower pot, she danced too. She was probably about the same age I was when I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1990, so I imagine the memory will stick with her. She might dress up as Groot for Halloween, play with his action figure, eat sugar cereal with his face on it (that’s still a thing, right?) like I did with the talking turtles. After this weekend, there’s also a new generation of kids who will become Michelangelo on Halloween night as well as a group my age, shaking our oatmeal fists while ineffectually saying, “This is what the real Turtles was like.” As you could have guessed, the new incarnation of TMNT was big enough to launch a sequel, and it’ll be another adventure with […]

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Inbetweeners 2

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Mutant Turtles Superman Legend

“We’re turtles! Fighting turtles! Not normal slow-poke turtles!” The above quote is not, unfortunately, the refrain of a song in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The newest film in the franchise, demolished by critics, may not actually be much fun at all. Fortunately that doesn’t really matter for us, just as it didn’t matter for Hercules or Planes: Fire and Rescue or Maleficent earlier this year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great excuse to talk about cartoons, the bonkers relatives of this floppy blockbuster that share its reptilian heroes if not its sense of style. The (likely badly translated) quote above is from the theme of Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend. To call it a television “series” would be accurate but also something of a fib, given that this obscure entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles canon ended after just two episodes. It was produced in 1996 by the Japanese animation studio Ashi Productions, otherwise known for such television as Magical Princess Minky Momo and Space Warrior Baldios. They also produced Vampire Hunter D, the 1985 horror cult classic (though not its sequel, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust). I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would we take the time to look at this bizarre two-episode series, low-budget and entirely ridiculous, rather than the highly regarded and enormously successful American animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)?

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Crimson Gold

As our review has already pointed out, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a disaster. Even for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie. Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for the first one, released in 1990. But even though it has a certain goofy charm, it’s not a good movie. That’s a shame for someone like me, who actually enjoyed the cartoon quite a bit and before that grew up on the old, slightly more mature Eastman and Laird comics. This time both the Turtles and their movie are ugly and utterly unlikeable, but the worst part is probably in how ridiculously unoriginal the plot is. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is awfully similar to the story running through the first two Amazing Spider-Man movies, but it makes them look like Nolan’s Dark Knight films by comparison. The TMNT movie also reminds us of Tim Burton’s Batman, xXx, Howard the Duck and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And very slyly of the TV series Arrested Development. But this week I don’t want to just recommend mainstream movies you should know, even bad ones to make a point that even Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Howard the Duck are better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A movie this bad requires a real cleansing afterward. Therefore, I’ve selected 10 films you’d likely find in an art house theater, all docs, foreign films and classics to help wash away the filth staining your soul following the latest adventures of Leonardo, Donatello, […]

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TMNT 2014

New York City is under attack by a heavily armed gang of thieves called the Foot Clan, and while they’ve been happy committing a string of robberies their villainous leader, Shredder, has plans for something for more deadly. The city’s only hope rests with a quartet of ninja warriors who also happen to be obnoxious, horny, anthropomorphic turtles. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is a NYC fluff reporter who longs for a big story, the kind that matters, and she thinks she’s found it when she witnesses one of the turtles successfully interrupting a Foot Clan robbery. Her investigation reveals the truth behind the turtles, Shredder’s plans and why she’s been stuck doing puff pieces her entire career. (They’re mutants! He’s hungry for murder! She’s not that bright!) There are several questions raised by the big-screen reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The vast majority of them involve idiotic plot turns, continuity errors, who exactly the film is made for and what the screenwriters have against their dads, but one question stands out among all the rest. Could this entire movie be part of producer Michael Bay‘s elaborate and expensive revenge plan against Megan Fox?

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True Detective

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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TMNT Recycle Dudes

Rebooting a franchise can mean a lot of changes to a beloved film property, and that tends to inspire everything from angry Tweets to petitions and boycotts. Just recall all the complaints about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at various stages of both rumor and actual production. Fans are wary of there being too many alterations to their favorite heroes in a half shell, and they weren’t having any of that alleged alien race nonsense. But you know what would really have put pitchforks in their hands aimed at the throat of producer Michael Bay? The lack of a TMNT-centric rap song on the soundtrack. Fortunately, the upcoming movie does have one of those. We can all finally rest easy with this news. The tune this time is titled “Shell Shocked” and it’s performed by Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Ty Dolla $ign with material from Brian Tyler’s score for the film as the melody. You’ll be able to hear it during the end credits of the movie, but you can also download it now via iTunes. Reportedly everyone associated with the song is a huge TMNT fan, and that has nothing to do with publicity spin whatsoever, I’m sure. Wouldn’t want any fans criticizing the idea of a track in the movie being made by people just in it for the cash. After all, how would we otherwise know if one of the rappers wouldn’t have given a damn about the turtles originating from space? Disappointment could come — […]

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Annie at the movies

Six months ago, I compiled a list of movies to watch before going to the movies in 2014. It was a homework assignment for you all to become familiar with the old movies that were remade for this year, whether direct originals or early versions of the same stories retold. That was just the first part, covering only the new releases from January to June. As promised, here is part two. Looking over the second half of the year, one thing is apparent: there are fewer remakes. There are a lot of sequels, of all sizes, and I’ve avoided including the previous installments of series like Night at the Museum, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Trip, The Hobbit, Horrible Bosses, Madagascar, Dumb and Dumber, The Hunger Games, Paranormal Activity, Dolphin Tale, Cabin Fever, The Expendables, Sin City, Planes, Planet of the Apes and The Purge. Those are all givens. I also didn’t include the TV series of The Equalizer, which has been adapted into a feature, because that’s a TV series not a movie. Another note: fall release dates are never as pre-filled as spring and summer movie seasons. That’s because there are a number of movies that will premiere at Telluride/Toronto/Venice film festivals will wind up added to the slate for last-minute Oscar contention. I don’t know that any will be remakes or new adaptations of works previously filmed, but there’s a chance this list will wind up incomplete by the time late December rolls around.

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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves VHS

The best thing that Santa Claus ever brought me was a VHS copy of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I remember ripping off the wrapping and yelling out in excitement, pausing just long enough to let my mother snap a quick picture. Robin Hood was simply the coolest. The movie had lots of really neat sword fights, and every now and again, Kevin Costner would shoot an arrow at someone. I had spent years watching “grown-up” movies in my grandparents’ basement while the adults chatted upstairs and now, due to the magic of VHS, I finally had a “grown-up” movie of my very own. Life was pretty damn good for an eight-year-old boy. Needless to say, I was a pretty stupid kid.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

One would not have thought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was such a controversy-generating machine. They’re heroes. They’re in a half-shell. Just not that complicated. Until word got out that the 2014 versions of these intrepid Renaissance artists who also beat people up with kung-fu would be outer space aliens instead of mutants, causing a fan outcry so fierce and furious that producer Michael Bay had to author a post on the Official Michael Bay Forums, urging everyone to “take a breath, and chill,” and that the supposed changes were not as huge as our turtle-centric news media made them sound. Problem solved. At least until the trailer came out and people got their first look at the films heroes. The phrase “Jose Canseco in reptilian form” was thrown around. As was “babies with penis heads.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the new TMNT actually look like babies with penis heads, and also to decide what babies with penis heads would actually look like. You may also choose to abstain from this line of thought altogether.

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Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

Two years ago, the appropriate amount of outrage fumed when news circulated that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be aliens instead of, you know, mutants. Straight from Michael Bay‘s mouth, it was another example of the we-like-it-let’s-change-it thinking that infects so much of the worst of franchise filmmaking. Nevermind that the new incarnation was under Platinum Dunes’ wing. There’s also a long production history that has taken a cult comic creation and transformed it enough already. We’ll never get a true vision of what Eastman and Laird put down on comic book pages, but while accepting that, it felt even stranger to see large modifications made to an origin story for seemingly no real reason. Enter the trailer.

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The Birds

A few decades after the halcyon days of Mad Men, advertising began to give way to a terrible step-child called Public Relations. The goal of PR was to build brands because, as it turns out, telling people to like your product is much harder than having someone else tell people to like it. In fact the former is pretty close to impossible — otherwise new companies would pop up constantly with promises that their widget was the best, and we’d nod our heads thinking, “They seem honest and legit! Five widgets please!” There’s a lot of science to explain why we don’t trust advertising, and a pretty great book on the subject, but there’s a fundamental problem (for companies) with PR. While you can completely control the ads that people don’t trust, you can’t control public relations. At least not as much as you’d like. You can’t eat your cake and entice people to buy it, too. To be fair, movie studios have accepted that shift relatively well — probably because PR solves the age-old problem of having to advertise a new product (and make millions of people believe in it) every other month or so. But now that the Aint It Coolism of internet movie sites has reached gargantuan levels, studios are scrambling for some semblance of control over the things they don’t want out in the open yet. The latest, biggest example is Paramount sending copyright violation notices to random Twitter users for sharing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles concept art.

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Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems

What is Casting Couch? It’s casting news the way you like it: short and to the point. Today Paul Thomas Anderson has decided who he wants as the female lead of his next project, Inherent Vice. Read on to find out who he chose. You can’t make a new Expendables movie without rounding up a new crop of old action stars to join the dream team, otherwise you’d just be making a dumb movie about a bunch of people who have already teamed up, and who wants to dream about that? So, who’s going to be joining Sylvester Stallone’s crew of gun-toting retirees for The Expendables 3? Over the past few months we’ve heard rumors that names like Wesley Snipes, Jackie Chan, and Nicolas Cage were being sought after, and a new report from The Wrap confirms that they are all indeed negotiating to join the film, along with Resident Evil veteran Milla Jovovich, who isn’t quite as old as everyone else in the crew, but who probably gets a pass because she’s a chick. Clearly only men are allowed to look old on camera, so any ladies from the 80s are out.

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wilson

What is Casting Couch? Casting news. Today we’ve got updates on new roles for people like Michelle Williams, Laurence Fishburne, and—what the heck—let’s stick in a rumor about who might play the Scarlet Witch in Avengers 2 as well. It looks like Owen Wilson might be taking a trip back to the ’70s. The Wrap reports that he’s the latest name in negotiations to join Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film, his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Never ones to let a good PTA rumor go uncommented on, Cigarettes & Red Vines then took this story and ran with it, contacting their own sources and discovering that the role Wilson is in talks for is that of Coy Harlingen, who’s described as being a surf-saxophone player and a heroin addict, and who may be the most Owen Wilson-y role ever written.

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IntroSuperheroBeatdowns

The boring problem with almost every superhero is that if they existed in real life they would just win all the time. This is why we have super villains, of course, and this is why those super villains tend to get the upper hand at some point in the film. After all, what’s a good third act without some kind of obstacle to overcome? If your character can shoot fire from his or her nipples then the baddies better have some kind of ray gun that shoots ice pasties. Point is, we need a point where the hero gets their ass handed to them – something that some movies handle better than others. Here are eight of the darker moments where the hero hits rock bottom (usually in a pool of their own blood).

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published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B
published: 12.12.2014
D+
published: 12.05.2014
C+


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