A Hooded Commentary on Michael Bay’s TMNT

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DISCLAIMER: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

I love the Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles. The first cartoon was my favorite thing ever as a kid. I have watched the original live action films more times than I can count. I have been reading and loving the current run of IDW comics, and I enjoyed what I saw of the new Nickelodeon series. I have been a fan of almost every adaption of the Turtles I have ever seen. So, when  heard that there was a new Live action film in the works I got super excited…. until the next sentence of the press release said that it was being produced by Michael Bay. So, when I got the opportunity to go see the new film, provided by my generous friend Charles, I went in with trepidation. My expectations were low, but I had hope that it would be fun and maybe not, you know…the worst. As it turns out, it was a pretty terrible film. However, it was simultaneously not a completely terrible TMNT adaption.

Devil bay

  As a film it suffered on all the fundamental levels. The pacing was bad, it seemed like forever before the first decent action sequence. After that first short action sequence there was even more dull exposition as April does her reporter bit. If I wore a watch, I would have been checking it constantly as I waited for the incredibly predictable story to unfold for me.

  In addition to having a completely generic plot, there were numerous elements that ranged from silly to stupid. The Shredder had these blades that he could launch and recall. While kind of cool, they were unexplained and kind of ridiculous. There was a moment, when The Evil Plan required the blood of the mutants, in which Shredder has Splinter in his hands, but after using him to make the Turtles surrender he just drops him to the ground. Apparently, they don’t need it that badly… except that right afterwards one villain expends several minutes of standard villain exposition explaining how important having ALL of their blood is. The inevitable breakout/rescue scene that follows is one of the mostly painfully stupid things I’ve seen on the big screen in a while. It was a clear sign of sloppy, uncaring writing.

  The dialogue and acting were mediocre all around. The poster child for this was April O’Neil. The intersection of generic dialogue and poor acting left April as hands down the most boring part of this film. Every scene focused on her suffered for it, and the film pays the price because she was pretty much the most central character of the film. This poor performance is something of a tragedy for reasons I will go into later. On the positive side, I enjoyed Will Arnett’s performance, but am a little appalled that he ended up delivering my favorite performance in the movie. I mean since when am I supposed to like Vernon?

Most annoying character EVER!

  The action sequences suffered from too much Michael Bay. This left them feeling incredibly generic, some scenes leaving me with a strong sense of deja vu with flashbacks to Transformers. There was way too much slow motion accompanied by that deep bass sound used to punch up the tension in so many films these days. This slo-mo also detracted from most of the fight scenes, too much emphasis on the cool effects and not enough on good fight choreography.

  The character designs for all the CGI characters, the turtles, Splinter, and the Shredder, were pretty fugly. While the turtles grew on me as the movie progressed, Splinter just creeped me out the whole time. The worst of the bunch was the Shredder. His design was eye bleedingly bad. While the Shredder has always been defined by his excessive bits of spiked and bladed armor, this new design takes it way too far. He looks the way Iron Man would if Tony Stark had a blade fetish.

You know, I kind of miss all the purple

  As I said in the beginning I’m a big fan of most versions of TMNT. It’s one of the few fandoms in which I enjoy seeing new versions and different takes on the concept. Despite the many, glaring failures of this film, it is not without some redeeming qualities. It is actually an interesting adaptation of the Turtles.

  One of the biggest themes of TMNT is one of family and brotherhood. Individually, the characterization of the turtles in the film was a mixed bag. Michelangelo and Donatello were well done, although Mikey was kind of super creepy hitting on April all the time. Raphael was unexceptional this go around and Leonardo was terrible. However, as brothers, they worked really well. It’s clear that they have lived an isolated life with nothing but themselves and a steady stream of internet and television. This means lots of dumb pop culture jokes and sibling banter. Normally I would be annoyed with a film that was so heavy handed with such humor. However,. references to a hip hop album, the celebration after their first victory against the Foot Clan, and a beatboxing session during a long elevator all felt endearingly appropriate for the Turtles. I also enjoyed the updated media references and use. One must remember that ever since the 80’s cartoon wacky, self-referential, and pop humor dominated Turtles media. If you want gritty Turtles, I suggest reading the various comic runs.

  There were a couple of large deviations from traditional TMNT lore, i.e. the original comics and the 80’s cartoon, in this movie. One is that the “Foot Clan” never feels remotely like a ninja clan. It just a generic group of gun toting thugs that happens to be lead by a couple of Asians, only one of whom ever displays any kind of ninja prowess.

Do these look like ninja?

  Another major change is that April O’Neil was much stronger character than she was in the early iterations of TMNT. She is the lynchpin of the turtles origin, the catalyst for their rise to the surface, she rescues three out of four of them at the end, and that not all the important things she does. This is by no means the only time April has been badass in the various re-imaginings of the Turtles, but it’s still good thing to see. The only concession this film makes to the damsel in distress version of April O’Neil is that she still faints after first seeing the turtles, but that’s a very classic part of the TMNT lore and it’s once and done.

This version was still better.

  The final big change from standard TMNT lore is that the mutagen gives the turtles super strength. I was actually pretty interested in that take because it’s different, but it makes a certain amount of strength. However, I then realized that their super strength is why the Shredder had to be in a damn power suit. That suit hurt the film and hurt the adaption of the characters. The super strength also sets up the reasoning behind the ultra-stupid climax of the film. In the end, I have to say that while I don’t mind the idea of super strong turtles, it was poorly used in the film.

  So, in summation… this a pretty awful movie, yet it still somehow appeals to the Turtles fan within me. I would recommend seeing it in an affordable manner like a local discount theater, Red Box, or Netflix, but only if you are the kind of Turtle fan that enjoys seeing the mythos worked different ways. This is not the worst adaption of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not by a long shot. However, that’s mostly because Saban’s Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was such a crime against the franchise.

There is EVERYTHING wrong with this show!

An Advanced Hooded Commentary on Guardians of the Galaxy

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DISCLAIMER: I tried not to have any spoilers. However, read at your own risk.

Thanks to a generous friend, I was able to attend an advanced showing of Guardians of the Galaxy. It was the 3D version in one of those premium theaters with highly touted sound and projection quality. Guardians of the Galaxy was the last must see film I had lined up this summer, and I was afraid I was going to miss it due to my continuing lack of funds. So, thanks for the ticket Hudson.

Good guy Hudson

Now that the sappy shit’s out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. I went into this movie with fairly high expectations. The trailers had done good job of presenting the feel of the film with their excellent comedy. I was worried that all the best parts may have been used for the trailer, but luckily that was not a problem. Oddly the scene that the trailer was based on was not quite as good in the film. But the film had the entire theater laughing regularly enough that I didn’t feel gypped. While I enjoyed the comedy in the film immensely, I am slightly worried that it will not stand up well to subsequent viewings. It feels like it might have been a little heavy handed. But hey, I was laughing and that’s the point right?

guardians-galaxy-movie-trailer-humor

Besides comedy, the trailers implied that there might maybe be some kind of action. Since they named the talking raccoon Rocket, there were really only two ways this action could go down violence or racing. Despite Vin Diesel’s involvement, there were no drag races…not even any drifting. That leaves us with violence. I’m of two minds about the action sequences in Guardians of the Galaxy. Actually… while writing this and reviewing the fight scenes in my head I find that is not actually true. At first I was going to say that there were no great set pieces, but then I realized that the set were never supposed to be the ones leading up to the climax of the film. Instead, they were the ones that open the film. The fight scenes that establish who these characters are and how they interact were excellent. They stand out and are spectacular and a whole mess of fun. The fights at the end of the film were fine, but they did not maintain the pure joy of the earlier ones. So, these fights I’ve been talking about were not the only action in the film. There were also several really good dogfights. And they looked freaking fantastic in 3D.

audience-with-3d-glasses

This brings me to my next talking point, THE THIRD DIMENSION! (Now in convenient 2D packaging) Unlike The Winter Soldier I have not had the opportunity to see GotG in both 2D and 3D versions. (Cut me some slack, it hasn’t even officially released yet.) Therefore, I can’t directly compare the two. However, I will say this the third dimension felt good on this movie. There was a sequence early on in the film that reminded me of Captain Eo without the creepy muppets…or the creepy Michael Jackson, and the 3D helped make it work. As I just mentioned, the dogfights looked phenomenal in the 3D. Oddly enough, this film had more than a few scenes were something lunged towards the foreground which I traditionally hate. Even though one of those did make me jump, I noticed something. The 3D was mostly being used to give depth of field, and when the characters leaped toward the camera they were going from the middle ground to the foreground. Not actually popping of the screen, at least most of the time. It’s the reaching out at the audience that always made 3D feel like a gimmick. I am really starting to come around to the post-Avatar world, where 3D is used to give film depth and character instead of gimmicky schlock.

 

So, what else is there to say… the violence in the film seemed a little extreme for a Disney backed comic book film especially one advertised as so lighthearted, but it simply made generous use of the range of content covered in a PG-13 rating. Oddly enough, I can’t tell you to wait at the end for the standard Marvel post-credit scene, because I waited until the projector cut off and didn’t see one. However, since this was an advanced showing, it is possible that they cut that to try to hold back spoilers until it releases proper. If I was you, I’d wait to be sure. All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy has action and comedy in spades, and you should really consider seeing it in 3D. This film had a lot of heart, and really reminds you that comics were once called funny-books for a reason.

A Hooded Commentary on the New Thor and Captain America

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Disclaimer: I don’t keep up with the current status quo of Marvel and DC outside of the Internet scuttlebutt. I also don’t delve too deeply there so that when I finally get to play catch up via graphic novels at my local library I’m not completely spoiled. Thus, any opinions I form are subject to change upon a proper evaluation of the material.

 

Come October, Thor is going to be a woman. It seems that Thor Odinson has done goofed and is no longer worthy of his own hammer again. Its new wielder is a woman, but her identity is still being kept under wraps. There has been some speculation that Angela would be Mjölnir’s new wielder. However, I think that’s a bit unlikely since in the promo poster red headed Angela is standing right next to the still blonde  FemThor.EW Avengers NOW! Poster

So, what’s my opinion on this new development? Having just read through The Odison’s  wikipedia page, I have confirmed that there is lots of precedent for this kind of thing, and precedence is very important to me. For a period of time Eric Masterson replaced Thor. It is not even the first time that a woman has had the power of Thor. The idea has been explored in a couple of What if’s over the years. But seeing a woman take on the role in the mainstream 616 universe is kind of exciting. The question becomes how long is she going to be THE Thor, and when the Odinson takes over again is she going to remain a recurring character  like Beta Ray Bill? Marvel editor Wil Moss has claimed, “And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute…” But we all know that isn’t true, no matter how awesome she is it is in the nature of these things for them to snap back to the status quo eventually. If we are lucky, she will be given ample time as Thor and become popular enough to remain a front line character after the reversion.

Sidenote: I really like the costume redesign. It stays true to the classic look and removes most of the elements that I always thought looked dumb. They even manage to make the helmet, hands down the worst part of Thor’s costume, look great. The one bad thing about the outfit is that there seems to be a patch of skin below the breastplate and before the belt… that seems out of place. But it’s a fairly minimal flaw, especially considering that Odinson had several periods of midriff bearing costumes The 90's were on odd time for comics

 

Also part of the Avengers NOW! announcements is that Steve Rodgers is having to retire. This leaves a huge set of shoes to fill and Marvel is filling them with Sam Wilson. This is a good fit. There is plenty of precedence for Captain America being a legacy persona, passed from one person to the next. There is also precedence for Cap’s former sidekick to be the one to take over. As Bucky Barnes donned the red, white, and blue so too shall Steve’s modern sidekick Sam Wilson. An interesting thing about both of those transitions is that each brought some of their unique style to the persona. Bucky kept his trusty guns and Sam is keeping the wings from his Falcon suit. Sam Wilson is obviously having a resurgence in popularity since appearing in the MCU. This makes him a good choice not only for the story, but also a timely one for the company. Diversity in comics, and media….hell society in general, is an increasingly big deal. As Sam Wilson happens to be black, this allows Marvel to utilize the momentum of The Winter Soldier to add a feather to their diversity cap. However, as with the Thor change, it is unlikely to be permanent. CBR Sam Wilson, Captain America

As it also pertains to the Avengers NOW! announcements…. I think Tony Stark’s new armor looks dumb. He looks like a fucking iMac. That’s all I have to say about that.

EVA via google image seatch

A Hooded Commentary on Short Peace

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    I did something that I don’t normally do. I went to go see a movie completely cold. A friend of mine invited me to go see Short Peace. All I knew about it was that it was anime, Sentai Filmworks tweeted about it, and it may or may not have been nominated for an Oscar. (It was…kinda) So, despite my paucity of funds, I decided what the hell and ordered my ticket.

    While it turned out to not be a film I would normally go see in theaters, I was very glad I went. Short Peace turned out to be a collection of four short films. Each had startlingly different art. The stories were each compelling in their own way. There was action, there was laughter, and  there were feels. The final scene of the last short spoke to me on a very deep level, which is odd because it is played mostly for laughs according to the rest of the theater. I would expound more on the elements that I liked, but I really feel that it’s best to go into this one cold. I know it certainly enhanced the experience for me.

A Hooded Commentary on Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Since its release on April 4th, I’ve gone to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier twice. Why would I pay to go see a movie in theaters twice these days? You might think it was because it was  good, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s really because I wanted to see it with certain people that had scheduling conflicts which meant that the first viewing was in 2D. I try to go see the fancy new 3D versions of a film, since I can’t get that experience at home, and I’m eternally curious about how filmmakers choose to use the extra dimension. So, I went to go see it again in 3D with the biggest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I know. It was a good call.

First, let’s talk about the difference a dimension makes. The early fight scenes of the movie had breakneck pacing that were hard to follow in 2D and downright jarring in 3D. Yet, the problem seems to disappear later in the film. I posit that it may have been an issue with my eyes having to adjust to the speed instead of a genuine flaw in the film. I’m happy to report that there were zero attempts to use the 3D gimmick of things popping out the of the screen at you. Instead the 3D was used to add depth of field. This mostly went unnoticed seamlessly letting the background go back for forever. However, there were at least two shots where the extra dimension elevated the scene to striking while the 2D versions were bland. There may have been more, but I was too caught up in the action to notice. All in all, I would say that the 3D version is the way the film was meant to be seen, but there were no parts of the film that did not function in 2D.

Alright, now that we’ve talked about the dimensional issue, let’s discuss the film itself. In general, I liked the film quite a bit. The action was lots of fun, I found the dialogue to be fairly snappy, and the reverberations of Steve Rogers being a man out of time were solid.

Despite its April release, I feel Captain America: The Winter Soldier qualifies as a summer blockbuster, it surely fulfils the explosion quota. The action throughout the film is frankly bonkers. It’s also remarkably brutal in its violence. Cap and his cohorts flat out kill motherfuckers all throughout the film. Personally, I really liked it. I like the idea of Captain America as fundamentally a soldier, willing to kill for the cause he’s fighting for. I won’t say it’s not for kids, because that’s the parents’ call. Brutality aside,the fights are well choreographed, and there aren’t to many instances of ridiculousness from Cap.

One of the things the MCU has had going for it is great characterization and solid dialogue. The repartee between characters in Winter Soldier  is consistently fun, be it exchanges between Cap and Sam Wilson, Black Widow and everybody, or Nick Fury and his car. Honestly, it feels a little Whedonesque.

There is a clear theme of Steve Rogers being lost. The opening of the film shows him filling in a notebook of things to catch up on. Played for laughs at the time, it sets up the disconnect that he feels throughout the rest of the film. This ranges from him visiting Peggy Carter, his love interest from The First Avenger, to him struggling with the idea of a SHIELD police state. The loss is best underscored by a scene where Rogers walks through a Smithsonian exhibit about himself and the Howling Commandos. Tangentially, the film also made up for a flaw in its predecessor. The First Avenger never really drove home the connection Bucky and Rogers had. In Winter Soldier, they used some very good flashbacks, conversations, and that museum display to drive home the depth of their relationship. Without that improvement, the entire idea behind the Winter Soldier would have fallen apart.

That wraps up the major points. Robert Redford and Anthony Mackie were excellent additions to the cast. I loved a certain reference that may hint at future film plans. I really like the way the film looped through Agents of SHIELD. I didn’t feel like the film presented much in the way of surprises plot wise, but a comic book film has to get up pretty early to catch me out. Other than that, I didn’t find a whole lot of issues to bring up. Captain America: The Winter Soldier may very well be my new favorite film in the MCU.

 

Image Source: http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Captain_America:_The_Winter_Soldier