Free Birds

Year: 2013
Directed By: Jimmy Hayward
Written By: Scott Mosier, Jimmy Hayward, David I. Stern and John J. Strauss

 

It suddenly dawned on me tonight, on the eve of Thanksgiving, that I haven’t reviewed a movie with a Thanksgiving theme. Over the past couple of years at least I have liked to drop a movie review that correlated with America’s mostly passed over holiday. So suddenly did the realization hit me that I had little to no time to consider an appropriate film. In years past we have reviewed Dutch and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, both excellent movies for the holiday. This year on short notice I had little time to consider before the most practical film of all was suggested by Amber. So, I may have dipped into my children’s fledgling DVD collection for this title that I think works all too well.

There are several films made for my children that I find myself liking just as much as they do. Titles that immediately come to mind are The Croods, Big Hero 6, and of course this film. Pixar makes great films for all ages too but all too often now they are trying to make me cry and it pisses me off. I will never get over that bullshit at the end of Toy Story 3. I’m referencing the scene in which all the toys find themselves in the trash compactor with no hope of escape. Instead of trying to come up with some new escape plan they all hold hands and accept their imminent death in what last for many many seconds before they are saved. Come on Pixar, why don’t you just kick me in the balls and make me cry honestly??? It’s obscene to have this kind of moment in a children’s film and nothing makes me feel sillier than bawling my eyes out in a Toy Story film.

I find that I cry far more often in children films than in adult films these days. I am unashamed of it in most cases but Pixar gets under my skin because they are just laying it on too thick. In The Croods when the dad has to throw his entire family across the gap in the Earth only to be left behind himself I cry like a baby, but that’s different. There’s the father daughter aspect that hits me in the heart and I feel like they earn my tears honestly. Pixar cheats by going too hard for that punch in the gut, and really letting the moment linger.

This movie however does not make me cry at all and in fact it’s quite the opposite as the laughs keep on coming. I think the story about these turkeys time traveling to get themselves off the Thanksgiving menu is hilarious. The two main characters are voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson making the movie that much cooler. You even have a lot of other great voices filling up other roles like Amy Poehler, Keith David, Colm Meaney, and even George Takei. They all sound fantastic and deliver on a script that will keep you laughing.

It’s easy the older we get to dismiss animated films for being nothing more than babysitters for the youngins but if you sit down and watch some of them with them you might find yourself surprised. I didn’t particularly like Boss Baby, but for every five of those movies there’s a Shrek, Wall-E, an Up and I know I’m starting to contradict myself naming a few Pixar films but those are exceptional films and Pixar has, in the past made some truly exceptional movies.

So if you get bored with parades and football this Thanksgiving day check out this movie with your kids. You will probably be surprised to find out you enjoy it just as much as they do. Whatever you do try to do something to celebrate the family fun day and not move immediately to Christmas. Take some time to eat turkey, congregate with loved ones, sit through at least one ridiculous argument, and honor the memory of a make believe history. If you already have your Christmas lights up shame on you, that’s Friday work. Tomorrow, that’s all about family, fun, some drama and a lot of thankfulness. I hope you all have a happy one and find plenty to be thankful for.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Year: 2016
Directed By: Dave Green
Written By: Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec. Based on characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.

RYAN’S REVIEW

OK OK OK, I may have stood next to the first film on the pretext that the good outweighed the bad but the scales are tipped differently in this one. There is still the same old good in the Turtles and their great character development but they are not enough to overcome the bad this time around. The bad isn’t just bad in this one but it skips right over into the ugly zone. I think ultimately they made some seriously poor decisions in some places and they tried to cram way too much into the film. I would give this franchise another go if they were to make a third film but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen after this debacle.

To start with what I like, I continue to love the turtles. This movie is worth watching multiple times if for no other reason than them. There is so much going on in the background when all the turtles are on screen and they are really really funny. They each bring their own personalities to each character and I think they hit another home run a second time around, but only where the turtles are concerned. I actually really enjoyed the inclusion of Bebop and Rocksteady. Childhood favorites finally hitting the big screen was a lot of fun for me and I didn’t mind how stupid they were. Yeah they were really stupid, but if nobody remembers correctly that’s exactly how they were supposed to be. When I was a 5 year old kid watching blocks of turtle episodes every weekend I remember that these two were always the morons that screwed everything up for the Shredder. I think in this movie they looked really good and they were as stupid as they were supposed to be.

It’s hard to go on any further with what I liked about this movie because there was so much dragging it down. Specifically Stephen Amell as Casey Jones was just flat out awful. I don’t know this guy because I have never seen Arrow, but I have heard plenty of people say good things about the show. Now, either they are all completely out of their mind or maybe he was intimidated by Megan Fox’s hotness on set I don’t know. If his performance in this movie is any indication of what the show is like I definitely won’t be watching it. When he and Fox are together on screen it is at its worse. Why did they give so much screen time to these two? I can handle Megan Fox sucking all the fun out of the screen but when they are paired together I can’t help but feel embarrassed. Embarrassed for them, everyone involved, and even myself for spending my time in this manner.

Not only was Stephen Amell really bad performing the part but the part was just completely stupid. Casey Jones is supposed to be a vigilante and sports enthusiast. Not an airheaded cop with an affinity for hockey. The strapping of the wheels onto his feet so he could skate was even lamer than his hockey stick shenanigans earlier in the film. Elias Koteas was so much better in the part, and I didn’t think he really set the bar that high.

In the first film Megan Fox was paired mostly with Will Arnett and he was able to keep things cool. In this movie she doesn’t have the luxury of a really funny and awesome wingman and she suffers for it. It’s like she has no self respect in that scene where she goes “undercover” as a sexy school girl. So shameful Megan Fox, you’ve lowered yourself to being nothing more than eye candy. I happen to like Megan Fox as eye candy but when you overdo it it just isn’t tasteful. It’s like the second Transformers movie when we see her for the first time and she’s ridiculously draped across a motorcycle painting it. It just isn’t even practical and it’s overkill.

I like the way Krang looked well enough and I thought it was really cool to see the Tecnodrone develop above New York City. The inclusion of Krang also brought the movie down though. The movie had already introduced two new villains and a new ally they didn’t need to go all out and bring in another supervillain. The Shredder is supposed to be a lackey of Krang but in this movie he didn’t have enough to do. If they had been smarter they would have climaxed with something different and let Krang lead into a third end all be all film.

Sadly it doesn’t seem like this franchise will be strong enough to overcome this disappointing second step. There has been little to no talk of a third film and the franchise has more or less been pronounced dead. I find that really disappointing because I still liked so much of what they did with this poorly received rendition.  You never know what will happen so there is always hope, but I’d hate to see it simply rebooted another ten years down the road when I’m definitely too old to be getting into the turtles.

So as I close the chapter on the ninja turtles portion of our collection I will leave it by admitting that this last turtles movie was crap. Truthfully this movie probably never would have authentically made it into the collection this day in age. I received it as a gift and decided that it was a good idea to own all the turtles movies and got myself a copy of the first one too. I really enjoy watching the first film but this one is only fun here and there. If you’re a fan then I think this movie is worth your time, and try not to be too harsh on it, but if you never got into the turtles to begin with this movie is going to do nothing to win you over.

NEXT MOVIE: Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006) 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Year: 2014
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman
Written By: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, and Evan Daugherty. Based on characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

RYAN’S REVIEW

Some movies you just can’t take too seriously or you miss out on all the fun. Yeah there is plenty that could be criticized in this movie but who goes to see the heroes in a half shell expecting an award winner? Maybe I am still a sucker for the turtles after all these years but I can’t help but have a good time whenever I watch this movie. I have gone into it trying to be critical but still find myself overwhelmed by something I seriously enjoy. Plenty of people had problems with this new incantation of the ninja turtles but I feel like they’re just trying to take it too seriously.

People really love to hate on Michael Bay and I agree with those haters on most of what they say. Nevertheless I think when Bay does something good people are too determined to hate on him to appreciate it. At the very least give the guy credit for bringing the turtles back to the big screen. The franchise was so dead that the first installment in eleven years was animated, until this came out. This may not have made everybody happy but I think they are simply too critical of it because Bay was involved as a Producer.

I think there are plenty of things to criticize in this movie, but not enough to overshadow the things that I like about it. I think the shredder was too over the top. Why cast a cool looking actor to play the part then overwhelm him as a mutant Edward Scissorhands? He would have been much cooler had he had a more traditional costume and just manhandled the Turtles because he was that badass. I don’t understand what they were going for with the Shredder in this movie but that’s a criticism I have no counterpoint for in an argument.

Another criticism I simply can’t argue with is the casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil. I don’t mind her personally because a movie like this only benefits from a bit of eye candy but I get it. It’s totally ridiculous and along with Michael Bay, she has manage to ruin another beloved franchise from the 80s. What I wonder these days is how long it is going to be before we hear what Megan Fox had to do to get back into the good graces of Michael Bay. I imagine it was something so dirty that she won’t even come public about it. After bad mouthing him and losing her job in the Transformers franchise there had to be something inappropriate going on to explain her presence here.

The last of the criticisms I’ll give credence to is simply Splinter. What a God awful work of CGI animation that thing was. I almost find him too repulsive to look at in this film and it is the main point where the original trilogy was better. All the CGI in the world couldn’t overcome what Jim Henson studios did back in the nineties. Nineties Splinter wasn’t repulsive at all, but more like a dear old grandpa rodent you’d want to take home and feed soup to. Maybe he’d teach you a bit of ninja shit after you fed him. In this film he really kicks some ass but he looks so disgusting that I can’t bear to keep my eyes on it.

Now, where I think this movie succeeds, and succeeds well enough to overcome any and all flaws is the Turtles themselves. I really love the distinct personalities they each have and how they flow into all the dialogue between them. They are exciting to watch in action and funny when they start talking. I love the immaturity that comes from them as they are actual teenagers with all the hormone madness that goes along with youth. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when they are riding the elevator and start beat boxing with their weapons. Hilarious. I think the CGI work on them was a bit weird at first but the more I get used to it the more I like it. They don’t look so uniform in this movie, with each not only having different body styles but so much personal gear that enhances their personas.

I think another big win in this movie was the casting of Will Arnett as Vernon Fenwick. Arnett is a really funny guy and brings a lot to a film like this. The character of Fenwick has never been brought into the movies before and I like that they made room for him in the script. It’s hard for Arnett not to steal nearly every scene he is in playing opposite Megan Fox. So many of us remember him lovingly as “the MAGICIAN!!!!…….Gob” from Arrested Development. I for one can’t help but laugh involuntarily every time I hear the Final Countdown by Europe. You know what? Here you go, for old time’s sake:

Probably could have found a better video but this was the first one I came to and it serves the purpose. I freaking love that guy and him simply being part of this movie makes me like it all that much more.

This movie is far from perfect, but anybody demanding perfection from this movie has gone into it with the wrong attitude. The ninja turtles were never perfect, and our memories of them are a product of the age we were when we were introduced to them. Could this movie have been better? Absolutely, but was it good enough? I think so and I can honestly say I enjoy it every time I sit down to watch it. At the end of the day that is all that really matters. So I absolutely think this movie is worth your time, just not worth your criticism because there’s no need to take some things so seriously.

NEXT MOVIE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

TMNT

Year: 2007
Directed By: Kevin Munroe
Written By: Kevin Munroe, based on characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was the next movie up but sadly we won’t be able to review it. Under circumstances I find both disappointing and fulfilling the DVD has been lost. My kids have gotten into the turtles enough to have asked to see this movie and I let them take it off the shelf only to be lost in the madness kids create. There’s a playroom that they have run through like tornadoes, a playroom they will one way or another they be cleaning themselves…… They clean on child time and there is no telling when and if the DVD will be recovered in the effort. Meanwhile I want to go ahead and move along in these reviews.

I hate to admit it but I don’t really remember enough about this ten year old movie to know what I liked about it or saw in it that made me purchase it. I have always been a sucker for the turtles and I imagine there was something here that caught my attention. There had to be something because I can’t imagine why I would have added an animated film otherwise.

I might have thought it was an interesting bridge between the two live action franchises and would have been interested in rediscovering what prompted me to buy it. Nevertheless I won’t have the opportunity anytime soon and doubt I will make the effort to go back and do this one again. We are in the Turtle zone of the collection and once we pass it we’re heading straight on to Terminators, Thors, and all the T’s in between and thereafter.

If this movie is worth the time to come back to then by all means someone let me know and I’ll come back to it. Otherwise this one will have to be at your discretion to watch.

NEXT MOVIE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

 

 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Year: 1974
Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Written By: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here we have reached the creme de la creme of horror flicks. A true classic that should have never been sullied by a remake or multiple spin offs. This movie didn’t need to be remade but simply re-released because the screams would have continued. The blood may have run more red in the remake but there hasn’t been enough advancement in film to recreate what this movie accomplished.

2003’s version offered plenty of bells and whistles but it couldn’t bring the fear like this one did. This movie is about more than a crazy guy wielding a chainsaw and that’s one of the immediate places it is better. Yes Leatherface is in action here, killing the shit out of anybody he encounters, but for me it really gets scary when the damsel in distress is “rescued” by the father. She escapes the metal teeth of the chainsaw only to be bagged and gagged by the sire of the bloodshed.

The remake put all the focus on Leatherface himself but in this movie he is just one of the group. Albeit the one that does the most killing but also the one who cowers in fear when his father scolds him. As crazy and sadistic as the father is he is “just a cook” and the off the hinges brother may take take the cake. He sets the tone in the beginning of the film being eerily and then violently crazy as a hitchhiker the group picks up. That scar across his face makes him more menacing but he doesn’t sit at the top of the crazy food chain. That spot goes to the seemingly dead grandpa who will wake up for a bit of blood sucking and killing.

The grandpa might not have the strength to physically do the killing anymore but with a little help from crazy junior he gives it his best go. The dinner scene is entirely missing from the remake and I think that is really where it failed. The dinner scene is the scariest part of the movie by far. I love the close up shots of the eye as the poor girl freaks out over the situation. She’s tied to a chair with actual arms on it and a dead looking geezer is sucking blood from her finger. Absolutely terrifying and nothing in the remake comes close.

There is so much more to say about this movie but I started this review a week ago and sat on it too long. Soon as Stranger Things 2 dropped Amber and I suddenly had no free time left. So a day late and a dollar short here is what I’ll close out the horror month with. A weak effort that started but never finished. Maybe I’ll revisit this movie next Halloween and give it another go. For now, here’s the movie you should have watched a week ago, it’s worth your time and worth your fear.

 

 

 

 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Year: 2003
Directed By: Marcus Nispel
Written By: Scott Kozer, based on the original screenplay by Tobe Hopper and Kim Henkel

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie gets props on a few points but loses by stealing the name of a true classic. It may be called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I like to think of it as Tank Top City starring the bouncing Jessica Biel as she runs and screams for an hour and a half. In this movie Biel runs where there shouldn’t even be room to run. Just a seemingly never ending series of long hallways in which the villain knows all the shortcuts. Not that I’m complaining, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half and what a terrific midriff Biel has to bottom out her tank top. However I don’t think this movie should be associated with the original. You got a guy in a skin mask wielding a chainsaw with some real crazies to support him but other than that the only similarity is in the name.

In fact those crazies are where I really think this movie gets the props I mentioned to start off with. It’s always a pleasure to see R Lee Ermy on screen and he really thrives in this intimidating role. The whole family is terrifying in their crass way about violence but Ermy is the gem that shines in this movie. Ermy has a way with profanity; it’s made him famous. I mean he’s no Joe Pesci or Billy Bob Thorton, but he has a way that sets him apart. Being a real life badass, Ermy has never had a hard time letting his wilder side loose on camera.

I watched this movie without seeing the original when it first came out; I think I was 18 or 19 at the time. Oh how young and foolish I was as I liked it quite a bit and added it into my baby movie collection in the beginning. It would probably be another ten years before I saw the original and realized how silly this one really was. I hate that studios think they can simply turn up the volume on something classic and cash in on name recognition. This movie is for people just as I was when it came out, young and dumb. An entertained fool bedazzled by the special effects and the boundaries pushed on violence and gore.

We’ll put a hottie on screen and make her run down never ending corridors. We’ll crank up the violence and add more body parts. We’ll even throw the head of a big time fan into the background. The youth of America, the world even, will tune in and we’ll make big time money. More chainsaw plus little tank top to the power of bouncing Biel boobs equals success! This line of thinking is sad in the reality of movie making because it happens far too often and simply sullies the memory of something great. Take me for example, I saw this movie and never bothered with the original.  I even liked this movie enough to add it to the collection at a 2003 high price for the special edition DVD. Such is the unfortunate decision making that goes on in Hollywood, particularly too when it comes to horror flicks.

I do feel the need to touch on one other thing before I close this out and this is simply for the people in the mode I was when I first saw and became enamored with this film. This movie lies, as they all do, there was no real Texas chainsaw massacre and there was no real leatherface. Certainly there have been horrible things in Texas before but nothing along the lines of what is claimed to have been true in this movie. Leatherface, like many famous movie serial killers, is a combination of others. Mainly Ed Gein, who would grave rob and make things from human material. Purportedly making a face mask on occasion that he would wear around his property. He didn’t do anything with a chainsaw but I don’t know why anybody would. It’s a really dangerous and problematic weapon to use. I know it’s often been used as a weapon in movie lore but in real life it’s a power tool that can dismember you with one careless move. Not to mention the cumbersome nature of the thing and trying to carry it around, much less chase really fit teens with it.

I can think of a few scenarios where this movie would be worth your time. Mainly if you’re looking to “Netflix and chill” this is a great one for the background. Other scenarios involve…nothing, I can think of no other scenarios in which this movie is worth your time. It is Halloween and I suppose you could do worse in choosing a horror flick to pass the time with but I would really suggest you go all out and just watch the original. This movie isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be but it is definitely nothing exceptional. I think it all depends on what you’re looking for as to whether or not it is worth your time.

 

 

 

 

The Awakening

Year: 2011
Directed By: Nick Murphy
Written By: Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie caught me by surprise a couple of years ago when it was streaming on Netflix or some other streaming site. It was this time of the year and we were looking for something spooky to watch. I had never heard of this movie but gave it a shot and was thoroughly surprised.

It has an interesting setting in post WWI England that I like. The aftermath of WWI is important in this movie as more spirits than ever would be haunting the world. WWI is an era that doesn’t see a lot of screen time and I think that is because it was such a nasty war. WWII gets all the glory and Vietnam all the controversy but WWI was probably the most devastating conflict in history. War tactics had not changed but weapons had. With no strategy to account for the difference millions were lost in the fight against weapons that were more powerful and wicked than ever before.

I really like Rebecca Hall as the lead in this movie. She doesn’t get many opportunities but I think she thrives in the role. I fear she probably gets passed over too often because she looks like other actresses. In this movie I thought she played a strong minded and determined character who is both right and wrong about the world.

The movie immediately sucked me in with her aggressively debunking some frauds. From there you can trust that she will get to the bottom of the new ghost mystery at hand. The fact that she does get to the bottom of the mystery is interesting because it is only half way through the movie when she does. It keeps you sucked in because where will it go from there? It’s clever in that it hits you with a twist that isn’t easy to see coming. Not only is there a real ghost but there’s history for our main character as well.

This is a spooky movie that can make you jump now and again. It was a pleasant surprise when I sat down expecting little from a movie I had never heard of. One click on the computer later and it was part of the collection via Amazon. I think if you’re looking for a good movie to watch this Halloween you can’t go wrong with this one that flies under the radar. I really enjoyed it and I think it is worth your time.