Tag Archives: Megan Fox

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

tmnt-poster

They’re the world’s most fierce fighting team. They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green.

That’s right, I still remember the song words. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as encapsulated by the 1987 cartoon series, will always have a soft spot in my heart. I’d watch it every morning before schoo. I collected all the toy figurines, and distinctively recall lining up outside the department store and rushing in as soon as it opened to get the latest additions. I had Ninja Turtles stationery, I played Ninja Turtles video games, and I even bought a whole bunch of crap just so I could collect these stupid complimentary Ninja Turtles coins. Those were the days, and Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo were the shit.

And so I’m not ashamed to say that I was kinda looking forward to the new live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, even though I have not followed the franchise for a couple of decades and did not watch the new cartoon series nor the 2007 computer animated feature film. And dammit, even if Michael Bay was involved and Megan fox plays April O’Neil, I was still determined to see it.

If I could sum up the film in one word, it would be: underwhelming. I don’t think it is as bad as some critics have made it out to be (must be the automatic bias from knowing that Michael Bay produced it), but everything about it is too “by the book.” From the plot to the action to the humor, there is absolutely nothing to get excited about. Director Jonathan Liebesman, who doesn’t have a terrible track record with a CV that includes Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans, treads too lightly to make waves. As a result, the film is cookie-cutter. It’s pure vanilla. If not for the CGI, motion-capture turtles, the film doesn’t add much, if anything, to the legacy of the franchise.

The story could not be more conventional, even by Hollywood standards. It’s an origins story, so you’ll get the whole spiel about how the turtles mutated and were turned into martial arts experts by a mutant rat named Splinter. There’s the evil Shredder, there’s his Foot Clan, and there’s the reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett). They made a few minor tweaks around the edges of the script and added the new character, Eric Sacks (William Fichtner)– whom I initially and erroneously thought was Shredder — but apart from that everything stays quite close to the cartoons I watched.

The action generally lacked creativity. With martial arts movies taking it to the next level these days, it’s disappointing to not see something with a little more flair considering that the turtles are CGI. Yeah, I know they are motion captured, but it doesn’t hurt to give them some additional enhancements. The only time the action tried anything daring was in an extended snow sequence that reminded me a lot of the river scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And like that scene, this one also felt somewhat cartoonish — yes, even for a film largely based on a cartoon.

As for the turtles, while I liked the idea of CGI motion capture, I wasn’t a huge fan of the designs. I didn’t mind the Kanji characters and little bits and pieces added to their respective bodies, but they looked way too big and muscular (the original Ninja Turtles were supposed to be only about five feet tall). And they’re ugly fellas too, with the beady nostrils and menacing faces. They looked more like villains than heroes, to be honest, and the performances from the actors (Alan Ritchson, Shawn Kavanaugh, Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville, and Jeremy Howard) didn’t make them any more likable. Too much cheese, not enough charm.

Fortunately, my favorite turtle, Michelangelo, looked at least semi-normal. But the glasses thing with Donatello made him look like a freak, while Rafael, who for some reason always get special attention in the movies despite being an angry, unreasonable douchebag, just looked gross.

And Splinter, strangely voiced by Tony Shalhaub of all people, was just weird. I thought the turtles generally looked realistic enough, with the exception of a couple of close-ups under bright lighting conditions, but with Splinter, he looked too CGI almost all the time and came across as more of a creep than the trusted and loving sensei of my childhood.

I’m a fan of William Fichtner and thought he would excel as the villain Schredder, whom they more or less turned into Edward Scissorhands with a helmet. I actually thought it was a nice modern adjustment to fuse the look of Schredder’s traditional samurai armour with advanced weapons technology, but unfortunately, Fichtner was not Schredder, who turned out to be some lame Japanese guy whose face you barely saw for the entire movie. Honestly, it would have been so much better had they just made Fichtner Schredder. It would have made more sense too, plot-wise. Maybe he could fulfill that destiny in the planned sequels.

The one thing the film got right was making sure the turtles, rather than the humans, were the stars of the show. Megan Fox is not someone I had pictured for the role, but she’s actually not awful here. She’s OK, and that’s good enough for a supporting actor.

The film’s biggest asset turned out to be Will Arnett, who provided all the jokes in the movie — at least the jokes that were funny anyway. and he did it by unashamedly channeling GOB Bluth from Arrested Development. Not that I am complaining, because GOB is one of the funniest TV characters of all time. AD fans will get a kick out of his performance, as well as the AD Easter eggs they put into the movie.

Perhaps I’ve become too cynical of a moviegoer after all these years, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, despite not being a complete failure, didn’t do much for me. Granted, it is better than the recent Transformers entries. It’s less loud, less obnoxious and less long (101 minutes), and for some, that’s probably enough. The 1990 film was most likely not very good either, but I loved it as a kid. Accordingly, I think it’s possible that younger viewers could enjoy the 2014 version a lot too. Sadly for me, no amount of nostalgia can make me come to the conclusion that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is anything more than average.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3D) (2011)

I’m a sucker for big blockbusters and they don’t come much bigger or louder than Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon (let’s just call it Transformers 3).  And even after telling anyone who would listen that 3D is a complete waste of money, I inexplicably forked out the extra dough for the 3D experience. (Why am I such a tool?  Is it because Transformers 3 was allegedly filmed with the same 3D cameras as Avatar, the only worthy 3D film I’ve seen?)

Anyway, I had heard some good things about the film (apparently ‘the best of the series so far’) and I knew Steven Spielberg was an executive producer, so I had reasonably high hopes.  But ultimately, while it was visually spectacular, full of star power and contained some fairly good action sequences and clever ideas, Transformers 3 was one insanely overlong, unnecessarily convoluted and uncompelling disappointment.

The Story

Transformers 3 takes off not long after Transformers 2 finished.  Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has just graduated college and is looking for a job, while his Autobot friends have all but abandoned him for top secret government missions.  Megan Fox’s Mikaela is of course gone after that very public dismissal, replaced by British lingerie model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (horrible replacement in my opinion, and it’s not just because she has a Cameron Diaz-ish face), who plays Carly, his new girlfriend.  A bunch of stuff happens and as it turns out it was all related to the original Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 (hence ‘Dark of the Moon‘).  Autobots and Decepticons fight, humans get in the way, things get blown up.

Stunning Visuals

The good thing about Transformers 3 is that visually, it is another step above the previous two films, which were already amazing.  I’m not sure if it was the 3D (I highly doubt it), but from memory the robots from the first two films were not this finely animated, to the point where you could see each scratch mark on the outer shells and every little piece of machinery moving inside.  And as I recall, the robot fight scenes in the previous films (especially the first one) were criticised for not being very clear — there are no such issues in this one.  Every move, every thrust of the sword, every blast of the gun is crystal clear in Transformers 3 (complete with crafty slow motion shots for emphasis), creating by far the best robot-on-robot battles in the series yet.

Tremendous Action

Speaking of battle scenes, there were some whoppers.  Sure they were improbable and ridiculous, but man they were fun.  Without giving away too much, there was one particular sequence inside a building that ranks as the best in the franchise.

Having said that, we’re accustomed to expecting wild, crazy action from Transformers, so to some it might not be anything special.  I guess that’s also true to some extent because, to be honest, we’ve seen most of these action sequences before (there’s only so much robots can do), just not with such great execution.

Alternate History

Another thing I liked about Transformers 3 was the clever intermeshing of real-life people and events, something I enjoyed immensely in the recent X-Men: First Class.  In this case, it was the Apollo moon landing (amongst others) but I was appalled by the atrocious ‘lookalikes’ they got for famous figures.  Even with the intentional blurring and angling it was embarrassingly unlike the real-life counterparts.

Super Cast

The Transformers films have always had star-studded ensemble casts, and this one is no different.  In addition to the regulars such as LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson, Michael Bay brought out the big acting guns this time with John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey and Francis McDormand.  While it’s always good to see these three on screen, it was sad to see how poor their roles were.  They played important roles but terribly lean characters with horrible dialogue that was unworthy of actors of their calibre.  And I think it showed.  None of them looked like they were there for anything other than the money.

The highlight of all the additions was actually Ken Jeong, the Asian guy from The Hangover movies.  Unfortunately he didn’t have a meatier role.

As for Shia LaBeouf — I do like him, even though I think he has been over-exposed the last few years — but by now Sam Witwicky’s in-your-face personality was wearing a little thin.  LaBeouf isn’t afraid to make fun of himself, but at times he treads a fine line between being funny and being  obnoxious, and I think this third time around he fell to the obnoxious side more often than he should have.

The big replacement — Huntington-Whiteley — was better than I expected as an actress, but I still don’t think she was right for the role.  And it’s not just because I don’t like her face.  Her chemistry with LaBeouf was almost non-existent.  Not even the 3D could bring her character to life.  On the other hand, it just shows how thankless the female lead role is in the Transformers franchise.

Convoluted Plot

Now that I’ve ventured into the negatives, I might as well keep going.  I’ll admit I didn’t entirely understand what was going on with the robots and their business, and it was because I didn’t care enough to put in the effort.  I have no idea why they had to make things so convoluted but it was totally unnecessary.  Was it so they could throw in some plot twists?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that I didn’t go to see a Transformers movie for the brilliant plot, that’s for sure.

Far Too Long

Another thing I didn’t understand was why the movie had to be 155 minutes long (and it felt that long too), which was 5 minutes longer than the already overlong Transformers 2.  And like that film, it didn’t have to be.  This was at the very most a 2 hour movie.  So much of the fluff at the start of the movie could have been condensed.

The staggering length of the film was not helped by the strangely uneven tone, which made it feel like several different movies.  Transformers 3 started off as kind of a teen comedy, then morphed into a serious historical re-envisioning before becoming an all-out alien invasion action movie for the final hour or so.  It didn’t quite fit together.

Conclusion

While we’re on the subject of far too long, so is this review.  So I’m going to wrap it up.  For me, Transformers 3 was better than Transformers 2, but not as good as the original.  There were parts I found enjoyable, but despite being bigger, louder, and with better special effects and being in 3D,  it just didn’t have that freshness and spark it once had.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: Was the 3D worth it?  I can’t be conclusive as I haven’t seen the 2D version, but I can’t honestly say I noticed that much of a difference.

PPS: I heard in an interview with Patrick Dempsey that Michael Bay goes off at people who cross his line of vision.  What a nut.  Maybe Fox wasn’t exaggerating after all.

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part I

I’ve been watching too many movies lately and I don’t have the time or energy to review them one by one…and hence, here is my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’…Part I!

Do you remember when Jonah Hex seemed like a promising film?

Jonah Hex (2010)

 

I remember when I first saw the trailer for this comic adaptation starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich and thought it was going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.  And I waited and waited for its release until the entire film vanished in a puff of smoke and never made it Australian cinemas.  Somehow, Jonah Hex, a film that cost $47 million and featured three big stars, went straight to DVD.

After watching this fantasy western, I can see why.  Jonah Hex, the titular character, is a scarred hero who is after revenge and killing bad guys.  Megan Fox plays herself as a crackwhore.  Even John Malkovich couldn’t save this mess of a film, which was all over the place, confusing and unengaging.  There were some visually impressive elements, a few good ideas and several valiant attempts at action sequences, but on the whole Jonah Hex was an uneven failure, which is a shame considering how much promise it appeared to have.

2 stars out of 5

Lots of great posters for Pandorum, but this is my favourite

Pandorum (2009)

Here’s an underrated sci-fi horror that few may have heard of, but it’s a good one for hardcore fans.

Not an entirely original premise — Earth is running out of natural resources and send a colony of humans to the only Earth-like planet they’ve found in the galaxy.  But as usual, something goes wrong, and when Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid wake up from their hypersleep (or whatever it is), the ship has become a dangerous survival ground.

Pandorum works well as a dark, atmospheric and thrilling sci-fi action horror.  It’s entertaining, frightening and sickening, and it’s made stylishly, with good performances (including from German babe Antje Traue and MMA star Cung Le) and special effects all round.

Some might find it derivative or a bit ‘out there’ for them, but for me, it’s exactly the type of film that I can really get into and enjoy.

4 stars out of 5

The Japanese poster for this movie made it look fairly good

Tekken (2010)

The first ever game I got on my PS2 back in the day was Tekken.  I never thought it was a great game, but I was still intrigued when I heard that Americans had decided to make a film about it.  Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat — I don’t know what possessed me to watch this one, but I guess I deserved what I got in the end.

Tekken was horrible horrible.  Horrible.  It stars a British, half-Asian martial arts guy by the name of John Foo, who decides to enter  the ‘Iron Fist’ (in Japanese that’s ‘Tekken’) tournament for revenge.  His mother is one of the ladies from The Joy Luck Club (Tamlyn Tomita) and his love interest is the lovely Kelly Overton (mostly from TV), also a contestant in the tournament.  And one of the bros from Bros (Luke Goss) is his ‘sponsor’.

There was basically no plot, just a bunch of okay-choreographed fights and guys and girls looking pretty.  The script, seriously, was like a ninth grade school project.  The acting was awful, but I blame a lot of that on the dialogue.  Except for John Foo.  In a world where everyone spoke in American accents, including his mother, this guy couldn’t even make an effort to disguise his distinctive British bite.

No wonder Katsuhiro Harada, director of the video game series, tweeted that he thought the film was a piece of crap.

1 star out of 5

 

You're the loser

The Losers (2010)

Another comic book adaptation, one that didn’t look particularly interesting to me.  However, The Losers is fun, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than popcorn entertainment.  I read that the film drew comparisons to The A-Team, but I actually thought this was better.

Yes, it’s silly, over the top, and the characters take themselves way too seriously, but the action is good and the laughs are decent — plus there is one saving grace, which I will get to shortly.  The Losers stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Avatar) and Chris Evans (Push), and the absolute standout — Jason Patric, who is simply hilarious as the villain.  I haven’t seen Patric in such terrific form since that sauna scene from Your Friends and Neighbors, which I have taken the liberty of posting below.

The Losers is a slightly above average comic book action movie, but including the extra half-star just for Jason Patric, I’m gonna give it 3.5 stars out of 5

There’s going to be at least two more instalments in this DVD Blitz.  At least.  Stay tuned.  Anyway, here is Jason Patric from Your Friends and Neighbors.


Movie Review: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Talk about a letdown.

You have Diablo Cody, the creator of cult favourite Juno, which just won her the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (and also the award-winning TV show The United States of Tara).  You have Amanda Seyfried, the up-and-coming star of Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!.  You have director Karyn Kusama, who was at the helm for Æon Flux (I know), but also the critically acclaimed Girl Fight.  And of course, there’s Megan Fox, who is widely regarded as the most desirable woman on the freaking planet.

On paper, Jennifer’s Body looks like a sure winner.  But somehow, the film received a lukewarm reception and totally bombed out.  It will go straight to DVD in Australia early next year.

After seeing it, I can kinda understand why.

As per usual, I’m not revealing the any more of the plot than necessary.  Just know it is set in a high school and is a horror comedy about two teenage girls.  One good thing is that the previews are somewhat misleading and don’t give away too much.

In a way, I can see where the movie was coming from.  At its heart, Jennifer’s Body is a very dark black comedy which pays tribute to the old school horror movies (and has a certain 80s feel to it).  There are parts that are genuinely funny if you appreciate dark humour (I certainly do), and there are a couple of scenes which may give you a fright, or at least make you cringe in disgust.

However, watching it, I got the distinct feeling that Cody deliberately set out to make a ‘cult’ movie – and that just doesn’t work.  Movies are given the distinguished ‘cult’ status by the fans.  When you try too hard to make a film quirky and wacky, it just gets weird – but without the accompanying unintended laughs.  There were so many WTF moments in Jennifer’s Body, but they weren’t necessarily good WTF moments.  Don’t get me wrong, Cody is a skilled screenwriter who writes witty, crisp dialogue and creates great characters, but it feels all too polished and packaged.

It’s a difficult film to rate because it has some great elements to it.  It’s sexy, hip and stylish and knows how to manipulate the audience, especially teenage boys (whom they probably thought would flock to see Fox and Seyfried get it on).  The performances are solid, especially Seyfried, who manages to pull off an ‘average’ teenage girl convincingly.  And Megan Fox surprised me with her acting ability.  Yes, she was playing a skanky, bitchy slut of a girl so it might not have been a stretch for her (think Eminem in 8 Mile), but she was actually very good.

On the other hand, Jennifer’s Body just wasn’t that enjoyable.  There are solid moments but it’s not particularly scary nor particularly funny.  It was a little all over the place (though this was probably intentional).  It’s unfortunate because I think they had something going here with the premise and the concept, but the pieces just didn’t fit together for some reason.

2.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

transformers_revenge_of_the_fallen

I’ll tell you a conversation I heard in the men’s room straight after the film between two young boys (that probably just hit puberty) that sums it up pretty well:

“Man, what an awesome movie!”

“Yeah!  But what I didn’t get was why they had to [spoilers].”

“I didn’t get that either.  And who was the robot that [spoilers] and the one that [spoilers] in the end?”

“I’m not sure.  I think it was [spoilers] and [spoilers].”

“Really?  I thought it was [spoilers].”

“Who cares?  Megan Fox was hot though.”

“And the cars and robot fights were really cool.”

“Yeah, what an awesome movie!”

Overview

The second film (there will inevitably be more) of Michael Bay’s Transformers series is bigger, louder, longer and dumber than the original.  So if you’ve seen the first, expect more of the same except with everything magnified.  For some, like the teenage boys described above, that’s awesome.  For most others, it’s downright unbearable.

As for me, I went into the film with sub-zero expectations because everything I’ve come across about the film shreds it to pieces.  And while the film does fail miserably in most departments, it is not a complete waste of time and money.  Some parts were exciting.  Some were a little funny.  So if you can put up with the rest of the parts that weren’t (and those were in the clear majority), then you might find it okay.

What’s it about?

Next.

The good

There were 2 things in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (let’s just call it Transformers II) that improved on the first film: (1) robot fight scenes; and (2) special effects.

One of my gripes about the original Transformers movie was that you couldn’t tell what was going on in a lot of the fight scenes between the Autobots and the Decepticons.  All you could see were some quick flashes and giant balls of metal rolling around before one of them would stand victorious.

Transformers II rectifies the problem in a big way.  The camera pans back this time and stays on the robots long enough for audiences to see and appreciate the action.  So much so that kids can probably recreate the battles with their licensed Hasbro toys afterwards.

Seriously, the robot action was a lot smoother and more fluid this time.

Less noticeably, perhaps, were the special effects, which also improved from the original.  Apart from the robots themselves, many of the fight scenes involved destroying well-known landmarks.  This was done with amazing realism.  Further, the robot transformations were even more intricate and visually impressive than last time.

The bad

Yep, there was a lot of bad.

For starters, the movie was way too long, clocking in at 2 hours and X minutes.  I wouldn’t have had a problem had the film felt shorter, but it didn’t.  It felt like a really long movie.

Secondly, the plot.  It’s hard to know where to start with it so I won’t even try.  I hadn’t expected it to be original but this was derivative to the point that you couldn’t simply ignore it.  Let’s just say they could have put a little more effort into disguising it better.

Even the jokes were bad this time.  There were some decent laughs too, but many of jokes in Transformers II fell flat.  Like bad ‘Scary Movie’ jokes flat.  Especially when it tried to be ‘cool’, it turned out to be lame.  The twin Autobots were the prime culprits.

The film took a turn for the better when John Turturro arrived.  Like the first film, he was the comic highlight, but although he had some good lines he had limited screen time and dare I say even some of his antics wore a little thin at times.

The ugly

Transformers II has some of the worst editing of any film I have seen in recent times.  It’s not bad to the extent that you don’t know what’s going on, but it provides plenty of ‘WTFs?’.  For a major blockbuster like this, there’s no excuse.  To me, it reeks of laziness.  It’s as though the makers only cared about the cars, the action and the girls, and forgot about everything else.

Case in point – you know how when lead actor Shia LaBeouf injured his hand in a motor accident in real life and Bay said that they would work that into the movie?  Not really.  They just kind of fudged it – the idea wasn’t awful, but the execution was.  If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean.

The performers

The majority of the main cast from the original returned.  Shia LaBeouf is getting over exposed these days, so he may be losing his charm, but he still does a reasonable job as the hero.  There were a few scenes where he demonstrates that his head hasn’t gotten so big that he’s unwilling to be ridiculed.

Megan Fox returns to play another sexy role as his girlfriend and doesn’t do much other than trying to look and sound appealing.  She’s actually not bad, but for some reason really looks like she could use a nice long bath.

The key new addition is the new roommate, Leo Spitz, played by Ramon Rodriguez, who is the primary comic relief until John Turturro returns.  Both men provide a spark to an often sagging film, though their jokes can be uneven.

On the military side, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return to their rather useless roles.  If they wanted to trim the fat off this movie then these guys should have gone first.

Final word

Michael Bay didn’t try to cater for all audiences like say JJ Abrams did with Star Trek – it’s very clear from the first few minutes that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is nothing more than a bit of brainless fun targeted at overly excited teenagers.  However, even if you accept the film for what it is, it doesn’t necessarily succeed.  It’s still far too long and disjointed, and everything other than the special effects and action sequences feel extraordinarily lazy, as though they didn’t think anyone would notice or care if they put no effort into it.  That said, if you can put all of that aside…

2.5 stars out of 5!