“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” Has a Long Title and is Also Terrible

Don’t let’s try to pretend that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have ever been the patron saints of verisimilitude.  Even in their original medium of the comics of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, there is a tongue-in-cheek flavor that is comfortable with the idea of anthropomorphized turtles who study the art of ninjitsu.  But, there’s a distinction between embracing absurdity for stylistic purposes and simply abandoning logic when telling your story, and the second TNMT film, Out of the Shadows, is embarrassingly guilty of the latter.  There are still moments that you can kick up your feet and enjoy some of the teenagers’ interactions and feats, but most of the time watching the latest Turtles is spent scoffing, laughing, and quizzically squinting at the screen in a vain attempt to understand why.

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“Captain America: Civil War” Scuttles Its Thematic Weight in Favor of Spectacle

As the thirteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and first of Phase Three, Captain America: Civil War is full of crowd-pleasing moments, but it fails to deliver on these on a thematic level.  Its neutered narrative pulls more punches than its heroes, the villain is more unnecessary and forgettable than the average Marvel fare, and a potentially powerful story line is treated with all the nuance of a Political Science 101 class.  As a comic book action film, it certainly manages to entertain, but it falls far short of any aspirations to be something more than the latest summer popcorn flick.

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Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Overwhelms With Wasted Opportunity

Batman v Superman plods along with the pacing of a courtroom, which may be why it is named like a civil suit between our two heroes.  Given the manufactured fighting between the two, there may have been more believable drama had Batman decided to sue the Man of Steel for destruction of property.  Instead, we are left with the standard flaws that always seem to accompany the direction of Zack Snyder:  bizarre use of music, rushed and unearned plotting, and action sequences that, while reasonably entertaining, strain comprehension.  It is altogether a shame, because the eponymous characters are iconic and beloved – and well portrayed in this film.  There simply isn’t anything terribly interesting for them to do.

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Back on the Big Screen: “Back to the Future Part II” (1989) and “The Iron Giant”(1999)

I am trying something new here on Plot and Theme: “Back on the Big Screen” will be a series of posts focused around familiar films that I had the opportunity to see screened in a theatre. Sometimes I will focus on a single film, but like today I will also use it as a way to comment on multiple films without delving into a full-on review. The first official Back on the Big Screen will showcase two films recently shown in theatres in the last month as a special occasion: The Iron Giant and Back to the Future Part II.

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“The Martian” Champions the Mind and Compassion as Saviors of Humanity

It is remiss to classify The Martian as “Ridley Scott’s” or “Matt Damon’s” or with any other possessive; it is a true ensemble film. Though the story begins in serious medias res with the crew of the Ares III mission escaping a Martian dust storm and leaving Matt Damon’s Mark Watney behind on the red planet, this is not Cast Away where we dwell on our lone character for the majority of the runtime. The success of the narrative and the impact of the theme require that seemingly infinite characters aid in Watney’s survival, but also that Watney himself is capable of titanic intellectual feats. What results is a film dictating that the strength of humanity is found in the reasoning mind – from an isolated individual struggling to survive to large teams working towards effecting a rescue.

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Duncan Jones to Squeeze in Blade Runner Homage, “Mute”

In an Empire exclusive interview at Comic-Con preview night, Duncan Jones revealed that his oft-delayed Indie sci-fi film Mute may finally have its shot. Jones has previously created two of the best science fiction films of the new millennium in 2009’s Moon and 2011’s Source Code. Both of those films were pleasant surprises. Source Code looked very foolish from the trailers, but other time-travelling movies could learn a great deal from how Jones navigates the difficulties with that particular subgenre (I’m looking at you, Terminator: Genisys). And, of course, Moon is a refreshing, feature-length bottle episode starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey’s voice. It would be a fantastic piece of work from any director – it was Jones’ first film.
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