Search This Blog

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Bits and Bobs

There are a bunch of films I haven't seen thanks to a mixture of Jewish holidays and a lack of screenings but here are my thoughts on a few films released over the past couple of weeks that I haven't managed to touch on. What, you didn't really think I'd pass up my turn to pass judgement on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, didja?

As a child of the '80s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obviously have a particularly special place in my heart so you would perhaps understand my trepidation when I heard that Michael Bay and one of his hellish acolytes would be foisting upon the world their own interpretation of this apparently unkillable franchise. The acolyte in question, incidentally, is none other than Jonathan Liebesman, whose Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans are so bad they manage to give Bay's own Transformers travesties a run for their money in the blockbusters-from-hell stakes. Things did not look promising.

And, would you know it, the latest representation of the Ninja Turtles is easily one of the worst to date. The Turtle redesigns are hideous, the story is nonsensical and the action scenes entirely uninspired and overly busy. It's a humourless, boring and instantly forgettable reboot that doesn't even come close to replicating the cheesy charm of the original couple of films and the 80's cartoon, let alone the satirical edge of the original comics.

Still, for a Michael-Bay-produced trainwreck, this certainly isn't in the same horrible league as Transformers, both because it's mercifully short and because it's dull rather than objectionable. Plus, William Fichtner is fun as always as the (secondary) bad guy and at least they basically got the Turtles' personalities right: they aren't (as was once rumoured) aliens or anything! They don't really look like the Turtles we all know and love but at least they pretty much sound like them.

Never mind that, though: if you want to see a good, modern Ninja Turtles film, check out the direct-to-video animated film, Turtles Forever, which, as a celebration of all things Turtles, is a genuinely funny, fresh and enjoyable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Hell, it's probably the best TMNT film to date. Would that I could say the same about Liebesman's current effort. (3/10)

Keeping things on the b-grade side of cinema, much, much better is Eliza Graves. Taking the pulpy psycho-thrills of Shutter Island and transporting them to an Asylum in Victorian England, Eliza Graves is a barmy, silly and effortlessly enjoyable slice of schlock that may feature Kate Beckinsale as an aristocrat suffering from "hysteria" and Jim Sturges as a likeable young doctor, but is really all about Ben Kingsley chewing up the scenery in his fruitiest role in a long time. Sadly, Michael Caine and Brendan Gleeson only get a few minutes of screen time each, as a showdown between the three legendary Brit actors would obviously have been pure cinematic gold but we do at least get a deliciously menacing turn from David Thewlis, who more than holds his own as Kingsley's right hand man.

Ultimately, it doesn't really add up to very much and it's certainly not in the same league as the genuinely great Shutter Island, but Eliza Graves is a fun, pulpy time and should provide more than their money's worth for all fans of the trashier side of the psycho-thriller genre. (7/10)

More respectable, but a whole lot less fun is A Most Wanted Man, the latest John Le Carre adaptation and one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last roles. There's plenty to admire here as even a dubious German accent doesn't detract from the sheer force of Hoffman's typically masterful performance and the film's iconoclastic examination of the War on Terror is ultimately very interesting. Unfortunately, though there is plenty to be said for "realistic" spy stories, A Most Wanted Man is ultimately dull and too overly convoluted for its own good. This sort of meandering pacing and overly intricate telling of a fairly simple story may work brilliantly in print but it doesn't really work on screen. I wish I could have been more enthusiastic, considering the pedigree on display here, but unfortunately can't bring myself to give it any more than the mildest of recommendations. (5/10)

Sticking firmly to the middle of the road, we also have Oculus and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. One is a horror film and one is a goofy family-comedy (I'll leave it up to you figure out which is which) but they're both decidedly unremarkable entries into their respective genres. Oculus is a moronic haunted-mirror flick that does at least rip along with a certain amount of professionalism, while Alexander is very silly indeed but is largely saved by its very likeable cast and a keen acceptance of its own disposability - though, Steve Carrell is clearly just passing the time here before his much-lauded role in Foxcatcher. That's a 4/10 for the one and 5/10 for the other but for films this unremarkable, I frankly couldn't care less which is which.

Finishing off on a couple more positive notes, a word or two about the oft-derided Magic in the Moonlight and the messy but intriguing Horns. The first is Woody Allen's latest and the amount you enjoy it will probably depend largely on how you react to lightweight, utterly unambitious Woody Allen. Personally, I very much enjoyed this whimsical tale of magic and romance with its many solid laughs and its terrific performances from Colin Firth and Emma Stone - even if they really don't work as a romantic pairing. In its flippant, undemanding way, it also weirdly covers similar philosophical ground to the decidedly more serious I, Origins. It's not indispensable Woody Allen then but it's still a must-see for his many fans and a passably enjoyable truffle for everyone else. (7/10)

Finally, Horns is a hodgepodge of a film that mixes a murder mystery with black comedy, dark fantasy and tragic romance and, though it is therefore obviously a total mess and even if the ultimate answer to the film's central whodunit falls a little flat, it's still a basically enjoyable bit of madness. Daniel Radcliffe is very good in the central role of a young man accused of brutally murdering his girlfriend who one morning wakes up with horns protruding out of his head and the uncanny ability to cause people to tell him their deepest and darkest secrets just by being near them. The pacing is uneven, the tone inconsistent and it doesn't exactly make an overabundance of sense, but Horns still manages to be a fun, admirably nuts little movie that once again gives Mr Radcliffe plenty of opportunity to spread his wings and show that he's a lot more than just a former boy wizard. Still, for a movie that's based on a book by Joe Hill - whose Locke and Key comics series is an obvious high point in 21st century dark fantasy fiction - I did expect more. (6/10)      

No comments:

Post a Comment