Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
If I Stay
When the Game Stands Tall
As a kid back in the late 1980s I was a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. From 1987, when I was around 10 years old, to 1996, when I graduated high school, I would do all that I could to make sure that I was in front of a television whenever an episode would come on. The newest 30 minute adventure of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael were a highlight to my week.
Naturally, being the fan I was, I was also not going to miss the turtles’ big screen debut back in 1990. I saved up my money to make sure that I could go to the theatre with my friends to see my heroes on the big screen. When 1991 and 1993 brought sequels I couldn’t miss those either. Every offering got my attention; and because I was a kid that didn’t know any better, I loved them all.
Based on my history, I am the exact person that Michael Bay was after when he decided to make this new Ninja Turtles movie. I have the history with the brand to be inclined to come to the theatre and drop $10 for a little bit of nostalgia mixed with some cutting edge technology. In Bay’s eyes, if all goes well I will drop the cash on this movie and then several sequels.
In order for Michael Bay and his team to get me to love this movie, there were a few things that needed to happen…
1: The turtles had to be “right” as I remember them.
2: The story had to fit the characters and be in line with what I wanted out of a Ninja Turtles movie.
3: The origins of the characters that I fell in love with as a child could not be screwed around with.
4: The action scenes had to be truly bad ass!
I know that my list is rather short, but I think that despite the length it is a valid set of criteria for Michael Bay’s new movie to live up to. So, how did he do?
To start, the Turtles themselves looked more like monsters than the lovable group of teenagers that I remember. Instead of the soft and cartoonish mutants from the first incarnations of the characters on the big screen, we got 6 foot tall bundles of roided out musculature. I got the impression very early on that this version of the boys was going to be edgier and more “grown-up” than the versions seen in the past. Their movements, expressions, and demeanor fit with what I remember and expected but the overall visual impact of the characters really hit me in a way that I didn’t expect.
Putting the looks of the turtles aside, the worst looking of the characters has to be Shredder. He looks like the love child of a Swiss army knife and a cheese grater. Instead of being a martial arts master in a suit that emphasized various blades, he is a faceless dude in a robot suit that has remote controlled knives that he shoots out; blah.
On a positive note, I was happy with the voice actors that were brought in to give life to the turtles. Leonardo was voiced by Johnny Knoxville, Donatello by Jeremy Howard, Michelangelo by Noel Fisher and Alan Ritchson as Raphael. All of them did a good job with the respective personalities that they were assigned. To compliment them, there did seem to be an effort from the writing team put toward having the guys say what you expect and behave as they should even if they didn’t look right.
Next, the story was also not what I expected. Going in, I knew that Megan Fox was playing April O’Neil. I actually didn’t have any real issue with that casting choice considering the character of April was a supporting one only. Megan Fox can only do so much damage in playing a supporting role right? Well, about that…
It seems that the writers, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daughterty, missed the memo about April being a sidekick at best. They went out and wrote a story that could have been titled, “April and Her Turtle Buddies” as she was the central figure in the story. So much for Fox being in a supporting character role with minimal damage potential.
Third, everyone knows that Splinter is the teacher and father figure of the turtles’ right? But where did he come from? Apparently, that detail was up for revision from the original story, and not for the better. Gone is the backstory of Splinter being a Japanese master of the martial arts that gets exposed to the ooze that causes him to change into a human sized rat. Now he is a regular old lab rat that gets mutated into a human sized rat that can teach himself to read. Once he learns to read, he teaches himself and the guys Ninjitsu from a book he found in the sewers. Way to screw that one up guys. As for the turtles’ origins, I’m not going to spill that here, but suffice to say, April is pivotal to that as well.
Finally, we get to the action scenes. Here was the opportunity for Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman to really shine. Everyone knows the background of Michael Bay and action movies, but Liebesman is no stranger in that area either. He most recently directed Wrath of the Titans and Battle: Los Angeles from the action flick genre. I hate to say it, but I was not given what I expected in this area either.
The fight between Shredder and Splinter that happens early on in the movie looked okay, but the follow-up battles involving Shredder all looked incredibly cartoonish. There seemed to no attempt at making the movements of the fights look authentic in any way. To be honest, it looked like a scene from the Nickelodeon TV show and not what should be seen in a big budget summer action movie. The icing on the cake is the scene that can best be described as downhill skiing meets the movie Speed; very hard to watch.
If you have not caught on yet, I was very disappointed in this new incarnation of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am sure it is going to make a boatload of money and spawn a couple of sequels, but it is nothing like what those of us with memories of the past would want or expect. The new generation of fans will probably jump on board with the franchise without missing a beat, which is all Bay and company really care about anyway. I guess I will just sit back with my action figures and remember the good ole days on my own.
James Brown was a musical icon; a true artistic revolutionary. He was an innovator in regards to his musical style and a genius when it comes to the live performance. He overcame circumstances that had him born into extreme poverty to a violently dysfunctional family with little opportunity for education or success. He found success in a time when black people were struggling for equality in America. His story is a rags to riches story that we all can be proud of.
That is, if you can bring yourself to overlook the pattern of domestic abuse, prison sentences, and crazy drug use that also made up a huge part of his life.
Get on Up is a biographical story of James Brown produced by Mick Jagger (of the Rolling Stones) and Bryan Grazer. Tate Taylor, who most recently directed the acclaimed movie The Help, was brought in to direct a screenplay written by the team of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth; The Edge of Tomorrow was their most recent work. Fresh off of his performance as Jackie Robinson in 42, Chadwick Boseman was cast in the role of “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”
Biographical stories are often difficult to get “right” when making them into movies. Some people have stories that are incredibly interesting, but don’t translate well when put on screen. Other stories are just too complicated to make into a movie without having to really get “creative” with the subject matter. I think that the life story of James Brown is one of those stories.
What did the movie get right?
Chadwick Boseman is amazing in the role of Brown. He perfectly pulled off the appearance of the icon; down to the protruding lower jaw and varying hair styles that defied the laws of genetics. His physical performance was also noteworthy; the dances moves and general mannerisms that James Brown made so famous looked perfect. In the opening and closing sequences, we see the silhouette of Boseman walking through a poorly lit tunnel on the way to the stage, the way he walks, the way his hands and fingers twitch, and the overall swagger that he conveys screams, “I am James Brown.”
Nelsan Ellis, of HBO’s True Blood, filled the role of Bobby Byrd. Ellis and Boseman had a great on-screen chemistry that led to some dynamic scenes of the two of them performing Brown’s stage routines of the 60’s. He also served as the anchor, or balance, to the often over the top performance requirements that were required of Boseman.
Dan Akroyd played Brown’s longtime promotional/management partner, Ben Bart. Akroyd, who is best known for his comedic roles, was a pleasant surprise in the dramatic role. Although, Akroyd did end up being a source of comedic relief as his character developed.
What did the movie get wrong?
If the intent of Get on Up is to be a movie about James Brown the musical icon, then mission accomplished. The story depicts his start of being discovered by Bobby Byrd and his gospel quintet The Gospel Starlghters, the group that eventually morphed into The Famous Flames, in the early 1950s. It then progresses through the Mr. Dynamite era of the early 1960s when Brown found his first success as a “solo” act. The transition into Soul Brother No. 1 where he introduced the world to his sound and style that would eventually be referred to as Funk Music was also well done. As the story progresses into the 1970s and the time of The Godfather of Soul you see his steady decline and eventual fall from relevance in music. As the movie ends you see his return to the musical scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s that followed his last prison stint that he rode until his death in 2006.
Throughout the entire story, Brown is portrayed as the consummate performer and demanding perfectionist when it came to his shows and bands. What you don’t see really see is the rampant use of PCP and cocaine that took over his life in the 80’s. His first arrest and imprisonment were well covered, but the 15+ times that he was arrested before his most famous one in 1988 are all ignored. His history of domestic violence was also barely referenced. As a matter of fact, the wife that he abused the most, Adrienne Rodriguez, isn’t mentioned at all in the whole movie. Overall, many of the negative parts of his life were completely glossed over if even referenced at all. It was a story with a singular vision of “James Brown the musician” that largely ignored “James Brown the troubled man.”
As I left the theatre after seeing the screening, I was initially impressed with what I saw. The performances of Boseman’s, and the rest of the cast, really stuck out in my mind. The music was great, I don’t know how much post-production was needed to get it to the point where it is, but it sounded awesome. The direction was solid; the way Tate was able distinguish between the various eras of Brown’s career and also reference his history was very effective. Even with all of those positives, I just can’t seem to get past the oversights and glossing over of the darker parts of Brown’s life. The story, as entertaining as it is, just feels dishonest.
I am not going to say you should skip this movie, because, in reality it is really good if you can suspend your knowledge of history for 2 hours. But, if you are the type that needs accuracy and thorough authenticity in this type of movie, it might be a bit rough.
Okay, so there have already been a couple of good movies this summer. Godzilla was good, Rise of the Planets of the Apes was good, Lucy was good.
How about this instead?
Oh Wait, I almost forgot about Captain America: The Winter Soldier which was sort of awesome too.
All kidding aside, the much anticipated Marvel Comics movie The Guardians of the Galaxy is finally in theatres. Since the movie was first mentioned back in 2010, fans have been buzzing about this new entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now that Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax have all taken their place on the big screen for our enjoyment, peace and order may now return to the world.
Before I jump into my opinions about the movie, I have to confess one minor sin that the fan-boys might rip me over. I have never read one single issue of any comic that the Guardians appear in. I knew absolutely nothing about the characters before sitting down in the theatre. I think I did myself a favor in that.
The Guardians of the Galaxy consists of a group of heroes and villains that are all highly entertaining with a perfect cast to portray them.
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/ Star-Lord is great; his portrayal of the 80s music obsessed space pirate is almost equal parts, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark and Harrison Ford as Han Solo.
Gamora is an assassin as well as the adopted daughter of galactic nut-job Thanos and is played by Zoe Saldana. She was solid, not spectacular or anything, but definitely solid.
Dave Bautista is a pleasant surprise as Drax; the super-literal revenge driven alien warrior. Bautista is able to overcome his WWE attached stigma to offer a performance that is enjoyable and often very funny.
Rocket Raccoon is a 3 foot tall genetically engineered, wise-cracking, slightly emotionally unstable, galactic bounty hunter. Bradley Cooper was brought in to supply the voice work for the raccoon, and he is perfect in the role.
Groot is an 8 foot tall lovable, yet easily enraged to the point of homicide, tree creature that is the partner in crime to Rocket. Vin Diesel was cast as the voice to the character. Honestly, Diesel has to have the easiest gig ever in playing Groot, his total on-screen dialogue consisted of a grand total of FOUR words!
As for the villains, Ronan the Accuser is the main baddy. Lee Pace had the job of playing the genocidal alien maniac. Ronan is a very dark and brooding character; he is far darker than any of the other villains Marvel has presented so far. Ronan was aided by the expert hunter Korath, played by Djimon Hounsou, and Gamora’s adoptive sister and fellow assassin Nebula, played by almost unrecognizable Karen Gillan.
There are also several other notable actors that play substantial roles in the story like; John C Reilly as Nova Corpsman Dey, Glenn Close as Nova Prime, Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, and Michael Rooker as Yondu. All of them contributed to the movie and story is a very positive way, especially Rooker.
The story itself takes place in the same universe as the rest of the Marvel movies that have come out to date. It is also clearly related to the rest of the movies and will, obviously, contribute to the story arc that is currently in progress. Despite that commonality with the other movies, this film is able to stand completely on its own. By the end of the movie, the story is complete and at the same time open-ended for the upcoming sequels and related movies.
This cast of characters and actors kept my attention and kept me happy from beginning to end. The story moved along at a great pace and was a good mix of action, humor, and seriousness. The high points of the movie easily outweigh any negatives, the final battle with Ronan being a low for me. There are also a few surprises in the movie if you are paying close attention and can stick around long enough. Overall, I absolutely LOVED this movie. Get off your butt, go to the theatre and see this movie!
Comic book fans across the land rejoice, for Guardians of the Galaxy is about to premiere. The trailer begins with a spaceship swooping dramatically towards some interstellar phenomenon. Cut to a tape deck, playing Awesome Mix Vol. 7. Sadly, the sweet melody of “Hooked on a Feeling” does not pour out of the sound system in this version of the trailer. Instead, cut to the green assassin chick played by Zoe Saldana kicking somebody while Chris Pratt, who the entire internet already knows is playing Starlord because of the millions other versions of the trailer, narrating something or other. Blah blah, anti-hero, bah blah Chris Pratt is somehow incredibly likeable, blah blah Groot, Rocket, Gamora, Drax, blah blah.
Turns out that random rock music that is not “Hooked on a Feeling” is a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts song. I declare this acceptable but not as fun as “Hooked on a Feeling “(or “Spirit in the Sky,” which also appears in a few of the million trailers circulating for this film).
Hey, how many of the executives in charge of this picture would you assume are currently doped to the gills on anti-anxiety and anti-ulcer medicine? I mean, if this movie is X-Men: Last Stand levels of bad then fanboys and fangirls across the land will burn them to the ground, not to mention the assassins that Hollywood studio’s keep on retainer for such occasions. As much as Hollywood needs a major summer blockbuster and my tribe needs a Marvel movie that doesn’t disappoint, this film has been teased and hyped so much that it is almost guaranteed to be a total letdown. Gosh I hope it doesn’t suck.
More guns, more spaceships, more space, more fighting. Dialogue! Chris Pratt sounds very earnest. Can we revisit the shot that’s been in every other trailer but this one where his shirt is half-off? That was a nice shot.
Shot of Rocket the raccoon, who sounds like the distillation of every angry man-boy Bradley Cooper has ever played, but I like talking raccoons so I am withholding judgment.
Switch to some leading man/leading lady gender stereotyped compulsory heterosexuality. Gosh, that green lady is versatile. So far she has stood still looking sexy, she has done a sexy spin kick of some kind, she has stood looking up to Chris Pratt while gazing compassionately at his Look of Making A Difficult Decision, and she has stood behind Chris Pratt while he said Important Motivational Stuff. Also, she gets to co-pilot. Gloria Steinem must be excited!
Chris Pratt is likeable some more, Rocket mocks Starlord’s inability plan, green chick perches supportively near Chris Pratt while Rocket laughs at him. Amusing banter ensues, Groot nibbles on himself. Green chick gets dialogue! She says “eugh” and turns away in disgust.
Ok James Gunn. You did The Specials and the Dawn of the Dead remake and I love you for that. Don’t fuck this up.