JUPITER ASCENDING (2015)
Directors: The Wachowskis
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Plot: Mila Kunis is a lowly Chicago maid until she learns she owns the planet Earth, and Channing Tatum is a half wolf space soldier who, um…you know what, you’re on your own here buddy..
Rating: PG-13 for laser gun fights and CG space gore and one bare bottom. No, it’s not Mila’s.
Poor Jupiter Jones. Working her fingers to the bone day after day cleaning rich peoples homes while having to live with a cutesy comic book character name.
Jupiter Jones… Didn’t she date Peter Parker?
No. Jupiter Jones was a cub reporter for the Daily Planet, right?
I know! Jupiter Jones was Jughead’s sister!
No, that was Jellybean Jones. Is Archie Comics still around? Archie has to be in his seventies by now..
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah..
One day Jupiiter (Mila Kunis) is scrubbing toilets and thinking about some serious life changes when a bunch of alien bounty hunters try to kill her. She is saved from assassination by a human/wolf warrior named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum sporting Spock ears and guyliner) who flies around on rocket powered hover boots. Seriously.
Why do a bunch of bad guy aliens want to off the adorable little maid from Chicago? Is she a White Sox fan? No, she’s not that awful.
Let me esplain, No, there is too much, let me sum up:
Jupiter is the genetic double of the head of the House of Abrasax, one of many ancient families of humans that throughout time have colonized all humanoid planets in the universe and now covet them like so many green and red houses on a galactic monopoly board. The Abrasax matriarch “owned” Earth, but since Jupiter is an exact DNA match for the dead Mom, Jupiter now owns Earth, much to the chagrin of the other three Abrasax family members who each want Earth for their own because they plan to mine the entire planet and turn it into a magic elixir that extends the life of whomever drinks it, is the most valuable commodity in the universe, and looks like Crystal Pepsi.
Got it, Chachi? Good, I’m glad somebody does.
Jupiter is taken up to space where he meets the Abrasax children; Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) who takes a dip in the youth juice and shows Jupiter that 15,000 is the new 40!
Then she meets smooth talking Titus (Douglas Booth) who wants to take over the family by marrying Jupiter and take Earth for himself without acknowledging how creepy it is that he wants to marry the exact double of his Mother. Ew.
Caine saves Jupiter before she marries Titus, but they soon run afoul of Balem (Eddie Redmayne) the Abrasax sibling who cornered the family market on batshit crazy and homicidal. Balem and his hoard of CG minions kidnap Jupiter’s family and threatens to turn them into gazpacho unless she signs the earth to him, and that includes the entire earth, even the useless parts like Antarctica and Greenland. Can Jupiter save her family and her planet so she can fly off into the sunset with her man-wolf boytoy?
Between all the palace intrigue, Jupiter Ascending is packed with weird creatures, outlandish costumes, and people saying weird things. It’s kind of like Burning Man, minus the sand and hippies.
I give the Wachowskis credit for trying to give the movie audience an original sci-fi adventure in a world of sequels and remakes, but Jupiter Ascending didn’t rock my world.
I do like the idea of a magic drink that can make you young and healthy again. So get on that right away sort drink companies. Oh, it better not have a nasty after taste like Red Bull. Also, it should come in regular and diet.
I’m watching my figure.
Let’s face it. Everyone loves movie villains.
They live in really cool underground lairs complete with armies of henchmen and swimming pools loaded with sharks. They have all these meticulously detailed plans for acquiring wealth or dominating the planet depending on whatever mood they’re in on that particular day.
And most important; they are cool. The best villains can keep it together and not go all spazzy when the good guys are closing in and it looks like they won’t be ruling the world.
We at DVD Critics Corner love movie villains, and we love hanging out. So here is a list of some cinematic baddie we wouldn’t mind kicking it with for a day, week, or long holiday weekend. Or at least until the Avengers bust in and ruin the fun.
Occupation: Sentient Robot/Meglomaniac
As Seen In: The Avengers Age of Ultron (2015)
Why so cool: Okay, Ultron isn’t too crazy about us human beings, but he’s got the qualities we look for in a guy to hang out with. He’s witty, sarcastic, intellectual, and since he controls the internet he could score you a deal on a hotel or shut down the power where your ex girlfriend now lives.
Best Party Trick: Since Ultron is voiced by James Spader, he’s full of great stories about working with Molly RIngwald!
Occupation: Freelance Terrorist, Exceptional Thief
As Seen In: Die Hard (1988)
Why so cool: Hans appreciates the finer things in life, like money, fancy clothes, money, explosions, and money. I can picture Hans hosting lavish dinner parties with his terrorist pals, where they discuss art, politics, and pesky wise cracking cops who ruin the most perfect of plans!
Best Party Trick: His killer impression of Bill Clay. Spot on.
Occupation: Henchman, Assassin
As Seen In: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979)
Why so cool: It’s Friday night. You’re siting at the local Applebee’s checking out the Happy Hour action, when you spot a bevy of beauties splitting a plate of pot stickers. What’s your in? You introduce the ladies to your towering pal Jaws who bites a barstool in half and orders a double platter of Double Crunch wings for the group! Best night ever!
Best Party Trick: Pretending to get beaten up by an elderly James Bond in 2 movies!
Occupation: Ruler of the Universe, Emperor of the Galaxy
As Seen In: Flash Gordon (1980)
Why so cool: What makes Ming so Hellacool? Is it his wicked facial hair? No. His complete change of wardrobe for every scene he’s in the movie? Nope. His super hot daughter Princess Aura? Maybe. I mean NO! It’s gotta be the weather machine. Who wouldn’t want to hang with a guy that can freeze the Great Lakes and burn to ashes the city where your ex-girlfriend is now living. Dude. Let it go. She’s not coming back.
Best Party Trick: Using his magic ring to make your Aunt Sally twerk like a busload of Miley Cyruses!
Occupation: Wicked Witch of the West
As Seen In: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Why so cool? Two words: FLYING FREAKING MONKEYS.
Best Party Trick: Uh, FLYING FREAKING MONKEYS!
JOHN WICK (2014)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, and Willem Dafoe
Rating: R for bad language, graphic violence, gunplay up the wazoo and a bad thing happening to a poor widdle doggie.
Plot: Retired hitman John Wick goes on a monumental kill spree when Russian mob guys steal his car and kill his dog. What? They killed his dog? What the Helll man? Go get those bastards, John!
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is having a bad week. His beloved wife has just died, leaving him emotionally shattered and grief-stricken.
A delivery truck arrives with an adorable beagle puppy his wife sent him so he will have someone to care for, which will hopefully heal his broken heart.
If you aren’t crying now, you must be a robot.
As John and his pup – who he names Daisy (awww) begin to bond, John runs afoul of a trio of obnoxious Russian dudes who take a liking to John’s totally bitchin’ 1969 Mustang.
The Russian baddies attack John in his home, and in a frightening fit of bad guy evil, the head Russian douche Iosef (Alfie Allen) kills Daisy and takes John’s car.
There is a supercomputer that has yet to be invented that can design the algorithm required to calculate how freaking huge a mistake that was.
See, John Wick isn’t your average bro with long greasy hair and a movie named after him. He’s a former mob assassin who has killed more guys than the Death Star. The guy buys bullets by the pallet. The Grim Reaper sends him thank you cards.
In summation, John Wick was really good at killing people. And some jerk killed the dog his dead wife gave him.
CUE THE BLOODY RAMPAGE.
Wick learns Iosef, the no good dog killer is the no good son of Viggo Trasov (Michael Nyqvist) the Russian mob kingpin of New York City and John’s former boss. Knowing that his former top assassin will kill everyone in his way to get to Iosef, Viggo sets a bounty on Wick’s head and sends a hit squad to take him out, but Wick dispatches his foes with an amazing display of hand to hand and gun to gun combat.
Seriously, the kick ass fight moves Keanu pulls off in John Wick make his Kung Fu in the Matrix trilogy look as lame as his British accent in Dracula. Whoever choreographed the fisticuffs in this movie deserves a gold star. And a cookie.
Wick heads into New York City where he checks into a swank hotel that caters to assassins only; which is a smart move by Wick since hotel rules state that no assassins can kill anyone on the premises. Plus they have free Wi-Fi and a make your own waffle bar at breakfast! I wonder if Travelocity can hook me up with a reservation..
Wick immediately goes to work hunting down Iosef and making hamburger out of any mob goon who is standing in his way. Making matters worse, a crazy female assassin named Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) and Wick’s former mentor Marcus (Willem Dafoe) have joined in on the hunt to take out Wick because a bounty is a bounty and they obviously didn’t hear the part about Iosef killing Wick’s puppy!
John Wick is a no nonsense shoot em up thriller with a simple plot and awesome action. Reeves is a man of few words in this movie, which is great because the talking thing was never Keanu’s go to move. Reeves has signed on to star in a sequel to John Wick so I’m not giving away the ending by saying our hero avenges Daisy’s death and cuts the Russian mob population in the greater New York City area by about 85 percent.
You the man, John!
Maybe you should get a cat this time.
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Rebecca Ferguson, and John Hurt
Plot: Hijinks ensue when Hercules and his mercenary pals get more than they bargained for when they are hired to train an army to fight a war.
Rating: PG-13 for swords and spears and bloody combat that’s not bloody enough for an R rating.
I don’t know much about the Greeks, but I am a fan of their philosophers, their yogurt, and feta cheese, which is simply smashing on a burger. Seriously. try it some time. Dee-lish.
The Greeks also had a bunch of Gods, demigods,and fantastic creatures that throughout the centuries became a huge part of popular culture. One of the most famous of the Greek mythological figures is Hercules, the half God son of Zeus who righted wrongs and performed amazing feats of strength while sporting some awesome 1980’s rocker hair.
Hercules is so popular even to this day that two movies were made in 2014 about him and his legendary journeys: The Legend of Hercules stars a guy named Kellen Lutz. The other simply titled Hercules stars DVD Critics Corner Hall of Famer and ass kicking action star Dwayne Johnson. Needless to say we’re reviewing Hercules because we like shorter titles and Dwayne Johnson is wearing a freakin lion for a freakin hat!
Hercules takes the legend of the demigod son of Zeus and tosses it out with the bathwater. Hercules (Johnson) is just a really strong mercenary travelling the world with a team of skilled warriors. Since the internet hasn’t been invented yet, Herc’s action packed exploits have spread word of mouth and have become legend across the land, and with the help of his nephew Iolus (Reece Ritchie) who acts as Herc’s PR man, some of the good but gullible people believe he may really be the son of Zeus.
Let’s face it, people will believe absolute nonsense if you let them: like alligators live in the sewers and Two and a Half Men was a good show.
Herc and his team – Amphiaraus, master spear fighter and future predictor, knife guy/wisecracker Autolicus, blonde archer chick Atalanta, mute asskicker Tydeus, and Iolus – are hired by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) of Thrace to train his depleated army to fight off neighboring warlord Rheseus who wants to take over Thrace for reasons never disclosed. Maybe Thrace is closer to the highway and has a killer beach.
Anyhoo, Herc and his pals train Coty’s troops to fight like soldiers, and soon they charge into highly choreographed battle scenes with plenty of slo mo shots and CG blood splatter made famous by 300. But truth be told I can forgive that because nobody wields a club better than than Dwayne Johnson.
Except for Bamm Bamm. That kid had skills.
Coty’s army is victorious and they return to Thrace with Lord Rheseus as a prisoner, but Hercules begins to think that Rheseus may not be the bad guy in this movie. When Coty’s daughter Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) confirms Herc’s suspicion that her dad is a treacherous a-hole, he has a huge decision to make: take the huge pile of gold given to him or give it back and make things right in Thrace by kicking Coty’s lying butt?
Spoiler Alert! Herc’s team doesn’t get their retirement fund. But they do get to help their boss overthrow a kingdom in a bloody climactic battle which is just as good as a huge bag of gold! It is! Honest. Look, just go with me on this, we’re almost done.
In conclusion, Dwayne Johnson’s huge presence and even huger willingness to cave in a head or two elevates Hercules a few levels higher over other recent sword and sandals movies. However, I didn’t like the idea that the mythical creatures that are real in similar movies didn’t exist in this one. No Centaurs? No Cerberus? No three breasted gladiator woman with the head of a Burmese Shrike and the legs of a liger?
Okay that last one isn’t an actual mythical creature.
But it should be. I’m getting my sketchbook!
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Gary Oldman
Plot: Survivors of a cataclysmic plague battle Caesar and his clan of super smart apes for control of the greater San Francisco area.
Rating: PG-13 for gun violence and ape violence and explosions and world ending apocalypse stuff.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Click here to read DVDCC’s immensely entertaining and informative review of that monkey filled movie!
When last we left Caesar and his ape pals, they had trashed most of San Francisco and settled in the Muir Woods on the far side of the Golden Gate Bridge to start their own world away from the stupid humans and their tumblrs and apple phone whozywhatsits.
As Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins, ten years have passed, and Caesar’s apes are thriving in their wooded community, teaching their kids about “ape law” and wondering what ever happened to those pesky humans.
Turns out the humans haven’t been doing so well. In fact, they’re pretty screwed.
As the last movie ended, a deadly pandemic was rapidly spreading across the globe. Now ten years later 90% of the earth’s population is dead, which when you think about it greatly cuts down on highway traffic, but overall is a huge bummer for the few hundred survivors living in the ruins of San Francisco.
But the San Fran survivors have a plan. If they can get the hydro electric dam deep in the woods running again, they can restore power to the city and begin to rebuild their shattered civilization. Unfortunately the damn repair party lead by Malcom (Jason Clarke) and Ellie (Keri Russell) runs into Caesar and his massive army while heading for the dam. Seriously, none of them remembered the apes were still there? Oh I forgot. They were busy dying from the word ending pandemic.
Caesar banishes Malcom and his pals from the forest, and a few days later rides into San Francisco with his ape army to remind the humans and their leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) that the welcome mat is not out in their territory.
But Malcom begs Casear to let him repair the hydro electric plant so his fellow humans can get back their electric lights and waffle irons. Caesar relents and lets a small team of humans conduct their business, which angers Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s trusted lieutenant who never forgave the humans for all the cutting and dissecting they did to him when he was a baby ape. Koba’s mistrust of the humans is reinforced when he finds that Dreyfus has stockpiled a ton of guns and ammo to attack the apes should Malcom fail his dam repair mission.
Meanwhile in the woods Malcom fixes the hyro plant thing and Ellie uses her human doctor skills to cure Caesar’s ailing wife Cornelia (Judy Greer), which convinces Caesar that the humans aren”t so bad and the ape utopia he’s created seriously needs a comprehensive health plan.
Electrical power is resorted to San Francisco, but before Malcom and Caesar can join hands and sing Give Peace a Chance, the treacherous Koba shoots Ceasar and frames one of Malcom’s team for the crime. This whips the apes up into an ass whipping frenzy and they head off across the Golden Gate Bridge to give Dreyfus and his pink skinned pals a little payback.
Caesar and Malcom formulate a plan to stop the fighting but will it be too late to stop a full out war between the last surviving humans and the really pissed off apes?
Spoiler alert: This movie made lots of money, so there’s gonna be another movie.
And it probably won’t be titled Planet of the Happy Humans and their Talking Ape Pals!
Like the previous movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes features that state of the art motion capture computer process that can turn a human actor into a monkey. Truly amazing stuff.
I wonder if they can turn a monkey into a human?
Now THAT I would pay to see in IMAX!
Every February DVD Critics Corner takes a look at the movies that have been taking up space in the My List section of our Netflix page.
They could be movies that barely made it to the local multiplex. Or, movies that became “Direct to DVD” gems just waiting to be noticed.
Or movies that are so terrible Redbox kiosks are getting physically sick just having these movies inside them. You be the judge!
Director: Paco Cabezas
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Rachel Nichols, Peter Stormare, Max Ryan, Michael McGrady and Danny Glover
Plot: A reformed criminal gets his old crew back together to beat the crap out of the bad guys who killed his daughter. What a great Dad.
Rating: Not rated, but there’s enough gunplay, stabbing, and fisticuffs for either an R rating or a really good Irish wake.
Nicholas Cage. A man with one of the most interesting careers in showbiz. He’s starred in critically acclaimed dramas, Coen brothers comedies, and action blockbusters. His name has appeared over he titles of quirky indie films and mediocre comic book movies. He’s won an Oscar and has been nominated for a Razzie.
To put it another way, Nicholas Cage’s career has had more ups and downs than Courtney Love off her meds riding The Cyclone at Coney Island.
I will say one thing for the Nickster; he does manage to keep busy. Unfortunately it seems that many of the movies he’s appeared in recently are the “direct to DVD” variety, which may help pay the bills (and I’ve heard that Mr. Cage has had trouble paying his bills) but they don’t get you many rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Which brings us to Rage, a 2014 crime drama which is not much of a drama and has very little crime. But it is filmed in scenic Mobile, Alabama. So there you go. I have no idea what that means either.
Paul McGuire (Cage) is a well respected Mobile Alabama construction magnate. He’s wealthy, connected, and a loving husband to wife Vanessa (Nichols) and daughter Caitlin (Aubrey Peeples). He was also a former thief and brutal thug who worked for the local Irish crime boss O’Connell (Stormare) when he was a teen – who loved to dispatch his foes with a rather large knife.
Hey, we all have some things in our past we want to forget about. I was in the Webelos for a week!
Paul’s normal life comes to a screeching halt when Caitlin is violently kidnapped from her home by masked gunmen while she was entertaining friends. When the local detective St. John (Danny Glover, way too old for this shit) has no leads and Caitlin’s lifeless body is recovered a few days later, Paul grabs his trusty knife, assembles his old crime buddies Kane (Ryan) and Danny (McGrady) and heads out for a little justice – Irish mob in Alabama style!
Paul suspects the local Russian mob killed Caitlin in retaliation for a robbery young Paul committed a while back that left one mobster dead and Paul and his crew very rich. Paul used that money to buy his freedom from the mob, which apparently harder to get out of than a gym membership.
O’Connell warns Paul that picking off Russian mobsters will lead to an all out war that be very bad for both mobs and lots of innocent bystanders. But since Mobile appears completely empty except for bad guys during the entire film thinning out the mob population might be a good idea.
Rage has fits and spurts of violence and Paul and his crew trash a few Russian mob joints and beat a few mobsters for clues to the identities of Caitlin’s killer, which cheeses off the head Russian mobster Chernov (Pasha D. Lynchnikoff) who now wants to break the mob truce with O’Connell to kill Paul.
Seriously, who knew Mobile Alabama was such a hotbed of Irish and Russian mob activity? Lynard Skynard never mentioned this in their song. Sweet Home Alabama indeed.
With all the buildup Rage reaches a not very exciting climax when Caitlin’s killer is revealed. I’m not going to ruin the plot twist for you, but let’s just say that fewer Russian and Irish mobsters wouldn’t have died if Paul let Detective St. John investigate things thoroughly before he got all stabby. As the movie ends poor Paul is left to contemplate his mistakes as his enemies close in for the kill. I guess his construction business is up for grabs.
Rage is not a very good movie, but it taught me a few things – Mobile Alabama is pretty quiet except for all the mobsters, carrying a big ass knife in a shoulder holster is not only practical but pretty bad ass, and Nicholas Cage deserves so much better.
How about a sequel to The Rock?
No, not Guarding Tess. That movie said all it had to say.
Every February DVD Critics Corner takes a look at the movies that have been taking up space in the My List section of our Netflix page.
They could be movies that barely made it to the local multiplex. Or, movies that became “Direct to DVD” gems just waiting to be noticed.
Or movies that are so craptacular everyone involved has publically disavowed ever taking part in their creation. You be the judge!
I, Frankenstein (2014)
Director: Stuart Beattle
Starring: Aaron Ekhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, and Bill Nighy
Plot: Dr. Frankenstein’s creation is alive and well in 2014 and battling demons in an unnamed European city because Mary Shelley is dead and can’t see what’s become of her beloved characters.
Rating: PG-13 for gargoyles killing demons and demons killing gargoyles and so on and so on….
Victor Frankenstein’s monster is alive and well and battling the forces of evil bent on tearing the modern world apart in I, Frankenstein. If you think the monster was angry when he was awakened in 1795, imagine what kind of a mood he’s in in after wandering the world for over 200 years keeping up with current fashions and learning how Tinder works.
Nobody should know how Tinder works!
As the movie opens, Dr. Victor Frankenstien is hunting his monstrous creation across the globe. It seems the monster wasn’t so happy about being born and killed Victor’s wife. The chase takes to the two all the way up the Artic where the frigid weather is just fine for an electric powered monster, but not so fine for Victor, who dies.
The Monster (Aaron Eckhart channeling Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine) takes Victor’s body back to the Frankenstein family plot for burial (even walking abominations have a sense of closure) where he is attacked by some demons who look human but morph into humans in ugly rubber masks. Before Monster Aaron can lay a beatdown on the demons, a couple of the gargoyle statues come to life and join the fight.
Worst funeral ever.
Anyhoo, the human looking gargoyles take the Monster to Lenore (Miranda Otto) who is Queen of the both the Gargoyles and plot exposition. She dubs the Monster Adam and tells him gargoyles have been protecting earth from demons for centuries using magic weapons and highly choreographed movie fighting. She asks Adam to help them battle demons but he refuses because Dr. Frankenstein didn’t build his kid to be a team player.
220 or so years later, Adam is still alive, and thankfully has traded in his tattered rags for a stylish hoodie and coat combo to better blend in with the other skateboarders and baristas. Unfortunately those pesky demons have not left Adam alone the past two centuries, so he has supplemented his lonely brooding with occasional demon killing.
While in some unnamed European city (maybe London, I’m not sure) to do some slaying, Adam’s bloody antics attract the attention of Lenore (who looks fabulous after 220 years) who wants to punish Adam for killing demons without a permit or something.
Meanwhile, Demon Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy) who is a bazillionaire in human form, is trying to unlock the secrets of reanimating the dead for reasons that can’t be good. When he learns that reanimated dead guy Adam just so happens to be in town, he dispatches every demon in the city (Paris? not really sure) to capture Adam to help unlock the secrets of Dr. Frankenstein’s science.
All heck breaks loose in the last half of I, Frankenstein as Adam and his Gargoyle pals wage a war to stop the Naberius from reanimating the dead with dead demon spirits thus causing a huge surge in the undead population in WHATEVER GODDAMN CITY THIS MOVIE TAKES PLACE IN.
WHY CAN’T THEY TELL US WHAT CITY IT IS?
I don’t ask for much.
If you watch I, Frankenstein and notice some major similarities between this movie and any of the Underworld movies, give yourself a high five because I, Frankenstein is basically Underworld with Gargoyles instead of vampires, demons instead of werewolves and Aaron Eckhart subbing for a rubber suited Kate Beckinsdale. Even Bill Nighey plays basically the same character in both movies!
When I first noticed this movie was ripping off Underworld I thought the producers of the Underworld movies have grounds for a huge lawsuit, but then I learned Kevin Grevioux, creator of Underworld is behind I, Frankenstein as well.
So, he basically ripped off his own idea and sold it to Lionsgate who made the exact same movie another studio made in 2003.
Bravo Kevin. Bravo.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Directed by: Jonathan Liebsman
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fitchner, Tohoro Masamune, and for some reason Whoopi Goldberg.
Plot: Genetically mutated turtles trained in the martial arts battle Shredder and his army who are terrorizing New York. Just like they did in the 80’s comic book. And the 80’s animated series. And the 90’s live action film series. And the 90’s live action TV series. And the second animated series. And the CGI animated movie in 2007. And the third animated series.
Rating: PG-13 for martial arts violence and the near death of a friggin talking CG rat.
Unless you’re a bear living in the pacific northwest for the past thirty years (and congratulations to you – most Grizzlies don’t live past 25) you’ve probably heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
These “heroes in a half shell” have been fighting bad guys and scarfing pizza for generations of fans on TV and in movies. Plus, the turtles have had their names slapped on tons of merchandise over the years. including toys, videogames, bed sheets:
and breakfast cereal!
Nothing says “you’re famous” like a sugar loaded cereal with pizza shaped marshmallows!
Their first live action movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was a huge hit with fans. The two sequels that followed were moderate successes, which is amazing considering one of the films featured an appearance by everybody’s least favorite 1990’s white man – Vanilla Ice.
After a two decade break from the big screen, the TMNT returned big time in the big budget action movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This reboot is produced by Transformers guru Michael Bay, so it’s chockfull of explosions, destruction of property, slow motion explosions and slow motion destruction of property. Oh, and our teenage turtles (along with Master Splinter are now computer generated which makes them look even more freakish even for creatures that live in a New York City Sewer.
TV reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox, who looks about as Irish as a San Genaro festival) is looking for a great story that will make her top dog at her station, but her bosses want her to keep doing fluff stories while everyone else reports on the dangerous Foot Clan, an armed gang that has been looting and terrorizing New York City. Against the advice of her lunkheaded cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett, who really needs to start saying no to a script or two), April strikes out on her own to track down this powerful crime organization.
While observing a Foot Clan robbery at the docks, April sees a quartet of ninja warriors take out the Clan and foil he robbery. A few days later the same mysterious group lays a smackdown on a squad of Foot Clan soldiers who took hostages in a subway station. Intrepid April learns the identities of the four vigilantes who have the courage to stand up to the evil Foot Clan: They’re the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
and great googamoogle are they scary looking!
April befriends the freakish ninjas and learns from their Master Splinter that they were part of a lab experiment run by (surprise!) April’s late Father and his partner Eric Sack (William Fitchner) to test a miracle mutagen that would cure all diseases, even that toe fungus thing that makes your feet all gross.
A lab fire destroyed the research lab and killed April’s father, but young April rescued a lab rat and four tiny turtles and set them loose in the sewer, where they mutated into giant walking talking creatures who know ninjitsu and bicker like any other loveable sitcom family!
But Sachs, now an evil billionaire is hell-bent on making more evil billions by capturing the turtles and using their blood to make an antidote for a virus he’s about to unleash on the unsuspecting citizens of New York City!
Oh, did I mention that Sachs is in cahoots with Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), the maniacal leader of the Foot Clan? He is. I told you – Sachs is evil!
TMNT as I said before, is loaded with plenty of action, violence, and mayhem, which can be expected from a Michael Bay production. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much you enjoy Michael Bay’s movies. I happen to enjoy Bay’s movies as much as I enjoy a trip to the dentist for a long slow root canal while fighting a very bad stomach flu, but your love of the Bayman might differ.
But on a positive note, at the midway point of the movie there’s an extended chase down the side of a snow covered mountain that answers a question I’ve been pondering for two decades: can the shell of a mutant ninja turtle crush a Humvee?
The answer is yes. I can move on with my life now.
47 Ronin (2013)
Directed by: Carl Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Jin Akanishi
Plot: A few hundred years ago in Japan, a group of disgraced Samurai vow revenge when their lord is dishonored and murdered by the treacherous lord Kira. And for some reason Keanu Reeves is there too.
Rating: PG-13 for swords and the stabbing and slashing that comes with swords.
The swords and samurai epic 47 Ronin takes place in medieval Japan, where according to the narrator, Emperors and Lords ruled the land, Samurais protected them with honor, and there was magic, witchcraft, and dragons.
Hey, you weren’t there. How do you know there weren’t any dragons? They probably rode them around like horses or kept them as pets. We really can’t be sure. Even Wikipedia doesn’t know. I checked.
One day Lord Asano, leader of the Ako domain, finds a little boy lost in the woods. The boy appears to possess magic powers, but Asano decides to take him home to his city, but since the boy is half English, his status among the townspeople and the Samurai is somewhere between village leper and a three legged dog. The half Japanese boy Kai grows up to be Keanu Reeves, who as an adult is still scorned by the Samurai, particularly Asano’s chief Samurai Oishi (Sanada) but is secretly dating Asano’s daughter Princess Miko (Shibasaki) because she’s attracted to unpopular bad boys her Dad won’t allow in the house and on the carpet.
Asano and Miko are pleased as punch because the big honcho of Japan – The Shogun is visiting Ako to inspect things and to make sure everyone is Japanese enough I guess. But evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) with the help of his sexy Witch (Rinko Kikuchi) has a plan to mess things up at the big Samurai duel and humiliate Asano. Kai tries to stop Kira’s treacherous plans, but since he’s half English he’s beaten like a drum at Burning Man and a disgraced Asano must commit seppuku (a real ugly form of suicide) because The Shogun is a real hardass.
Oishi and his warriors are now Ronin, master less Samurai who must live the rest of their lives in shame and never seek revenge against the man who dissed their master. Oishi is thrown in a dungeon to keep him from going all stabby on Lord Kira, who plans to marry Miko in a year and take over Ako.
Nearly a year later Oishi is released from captivity. Kira thinks he has broken Oishi’s will to seek revenge, but Oishi is determined now more than ever to go extra stabby on Kira before he can take over his kingdom.
Note to all bad guys out there – never release the man who wants to kill you from the dungeon a week before your big plan is about to come to fruition! Come on! That’s on page one of the bad guy manual! Get your head out of your back porch rookie!
Anyhoo, Oishi sets out to reassemble his army and stop Kira. He first sets free Kai who has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for an infielder and a minor league prospect and..
Oh. Sorry, Kai was sold to a band of pirates and spends his days fighting in an arena of death.
I think I would prefer the latter. I’ve seen the Pirates play.
Oishi, Kai, and Oishi’s son Chikara (Jin Akanishi) locate the other Ronin, who have conveniently been living in the woods about a mile outside of Ako and together form a plan to take out Kira or die trying.
47 Ronin moves along as Kai meets up with some mystical dudes he knew as a kid who inform him he’s got magic powers that enable him to do incredible things very much like another Character Reeves played in another action epic 15 years earlier minus the long dark coats, the endless gunfire, and that Morpheus “he’s the one” crap.
Oishi and the Ronin bluff their way back into their old castle where Kira and reluctant Bride to be Miko are having a party on the eve of their wedding. Swords are drawn, armies clash, witches do witch stuff, foes are vanquished, and the palace caterers have a lot of cleaning up to do when the smoke clears. Unfortunately Oishi, Kai, and the Ronin don’t ride off happily into the sunset because they signed an oath to kill themselves when they avenge their Master’s death.
Which they do.
And then the movie is over.
47 Ronin is a valiant effort by everyone involved, but the results are more “direct to DVD” than “big time blockbuster.”
Plus, you see this menacing tattoo covered guy with the flintlock pistol who is featured prominently on the movie poster?
He’s in the movie for three seconds.
I kid you not. This freak has a smaller part in 47 Ronin than Stan Lee in every Marvel movie, and he’s hanging with Keanu on the one sheet. No, don’t put Oishi or Chikara on there, give the tattoo boy with one line second billing!
I guess it’s all about who you know. Typical Hollywood!
If superhero movies have taught us anything, it’s a team of awesome and capable characters are better than one when it comes to kicking butt.
Iron Man? Good. Iron Man plus Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow? Skadoosh.
Without teamwork, you are lost. And without Lost, we never would have known about the Dharma Initiative.
Actually, not sure if that’s a bad thing.
Anyhoo, here’s another list of badass movie characters you’d want on your team when trouble comes calling.
Occupation: Bounty Hunters, galactic lawbreakers
As Seen In: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Pros: Rocket is a technological genius, hacker, escape artist. Groot is Groot. Cons: Rocket is homicidal, Groot is….well he’s Groot.
The Deal: It would be hard as heck to find a duo that did more damage on screen in 2014 than Rocket the Racoon and his houseplant/muscle Groot. Rocket is feisty, murderous and angry, and Groot is kind, gentle and strong. They’re the Odd Couple for the new century! Who wouldn’t want them on the team? Plus Groot can really bust a move.
Shining Moment: We are Groot.
Occupation: Game Show Contestant, Over thrower of Evil Governments
As Seen In: A bunch of those Hunger Games movies.
Pros: Expert archer, brave and selfless. Cons: Dates idiots.
The Deal: Not just another pretty face, Katniss is a plucky gal who doesn’t like to play games; especially when that game is a twisted reality show that’s a gory fight to the death. But Katniss took her first appearance on The Hunger Games and became a symbol of a strength and bravery, making her the perfect leader for a revolution. So if you need a team member to make a rousing speech, Katniss is the one to go to. Plus she can kill lots of bad guys with her bow and arrow. Winning!
Shining Moment: That flaming dress. All kinds of fabulous, girlfriend!
Occupation: Paranormal investigator, monster puncher
As Seen In: Hellboy (2004), Hellboy: The Golden Army (2008)
Pros: Practically indestructible. Cons: Smoker, eats a lot, cat person
The Deal: You want muscle? Hellboy has muscle to spare. It’s probably because he’s a demon from Hell. I hear most Hellspawn are pretty jacked. But it’s okay, he’s on our side. As a lead investigator for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy has seen a lot of weird stuff, and has a huge assortment of weapons to combat weird stuff, so keep him fed and try to ignore his huge collection of pet cats, and things will be hunky and dory.
Shining Moment: Dropping a huge gear on Kroenen in Hellboy. Big time pwnage.
Occupation: LAPD Detective, suicidal loner
As Seen In: Lethal Weapon 1-4
Pros: Martial arts master, very good with guns. Cons: Uses lots of ammo, could be crazy, smoker.
The Deal: Look up loose cannon in Wikipedia, and you’ll see a picture of Martin Riggs firing hundreds of bullets at bad guys while destroying a ton of police and city property. He loves to break stuff. Like Hellboy, Riggs is pretty much indestructible. He’s been shot, stabbed, hit by cars, yet he keeps coming back for his weekly paycheck. Don’t let him show you that trick he does with his shoulder. Not pretty.
Shining Moment: Beating the crap out of Gary Busey in the first Lethal Weapon. You deserve a medal, dude.
Occupation: Doesn’t matter. He’s Morgan Freeman.
As Seen In: Wherever he is needed.
Pros: Have you heard his voice? Cons: Shut up.
The Deal: Whatever character Morgan Freeman plays is really good at what he does. From outfitting Batman to fixing a crippled dolphin, the man has skills. Use them!
Shining Moment: Didn’t you get the memo?
This is DVD Critics Corner’s 100th post. Thanks for reading.