Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

TMNT-III know that this is grounds for getting my “90’s Kid” membership card stripped from my hands, but the more I see “TMNT II,” the more I dislike it. Yes, it has camp value thanks to Vanilla Ice, but nostalgia lens aside, it’s a pretty crummy follow up to the 1990 movie. It’s basically the “Batman Forever” of the original TMNT movie series, a movie that waters down the formula of the Ninja Turtles. Hell, even like “Batman Forever,” the turtles are no longer urban legends working in the shadows, and become virtual celebrities by the climax. Much to the shock of everyone involved, 1990’s “TMNT” movie was a film for all ages that took violence seriously, and depicted actual consequences to actions and decisions.

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

TMNToutoftheshadowsWhile 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was a watered down remake of the 1990 Jim Henson production, “Out of the Shadows” is a larger and sillier remake of “Secret of the Ooze” taking a lot of the ideas from the aforementioned film and realizing them to a more “TMNT” accurate vision. “Secret of the Ooze” had all the implications of the Krang, Baxter Stockman and the like, but “Out of the Shadows” takes that and re-introduces it to make about as much sense as it can. Rather than Tokka and Rahzar, we finally have Bebop and Rocksteady in their full disgusting glory, battling the Ninja Turtles, and playing stooges to the Shredder. “Out of the Shadows” isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it’s ten times better than its 2014 predecessor.

That might be because it comes up with a radical new idea and focuses the majority of the sequel on the titular Ninja Turtles. April O’Neil is still a major character but is pushed to the sidelines more and more, allowing the characters we came to see a bigger spotlight and more of a chance to grow and blossom. The Platinum Dumbs version of the turtles is still wildly imperfect and stupid, but “Out of the Shadows” is at least fun, and tries to give us as many elements from the canon as possible. After Shredder’s plans from the first film are thwarted, he’s taken to jail and sent to a maximum security prison, supervised by Officer Casey Jones. When Shredder is broken free by his foot clan, he brings along thugs Bebop and Rocksteady to set off a plan to take over the world alongside a new alien ally.

Armed with mad scientist Baxter Stockman, Shredder plans to build a mutant army, and use his alien allies to help him rule. When the Turtles, with the help of April, learn of the mutagen, they learn the ooze has potential to turn them in to humans. With the turtles still pariahs of the city, Raphael is tempted to become human, while Leonardo tries to convince them to stay true to themselves. This time around there’s a larger focus on the dynamics of the brothers, as Leo and Raph bicker and fight for command over this current development, while Michelangelo is no longer making erection jokes, and is now the party dude we know and love, making cracks, fawning over pizza, and approaching every challenge with a chuckle worthy of Spiccoli. Stephen Amell is also a fun addition to the cast, providing a charismatic take on Casey Jones.

“Out of the Shadows” is a really good time and about as close to great as can be expected from something starring Megan Fox. I wish she’d drop out and allow an actress with actual ability and chemistry with her co-stars to take the reins as April. “Out of the Shadows” also has no idea how to handle so many elements of the narrative as there’s so much going on for a hundred minute movie. A lot of conflicts are tacked on, sub-plots go nowhere, and Splinter being retconned to have no connection to Shredder makes him a virtually pointless addition to the team. He literally does nothing but meditates in the background and offer convenient pearls of wisdom to his sons, with no actual emotional investment in their battle. You could have cut Splinter out of this movie, and it would have had no effect on the overall production.

Meanwhile there is the gaping wide hole of the new mutagen presented from Dimension X and the Krang. If the mutagen turns Bebop and Rocksteady from humans to animals, why can the mutagen possibly turn the turtles in to humans? They weren’t humans before they became teenage turtles. The implication of being mutants is that they’re anthropomorphic and human like, so wouldn’t they revert back to normal everyday turtles if given the mutagen? Also, I’m not a science wiz, but since when do the turtles have human DNA in them? Wouldn’t becoming human being a mutation be very redundant to the narrative? That said, if you can forgive the canyon wide plot hole, “Out of the Shadows” is an entertaining diversion that improves on a lot of the glaring flaws from the 2014 reboot.

Top Five Favorite Moments in 1990’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

TMNT1990In 1990, just two days after TMNT 1990 premiered in theaters, my dad took my brother and me to see it in theaters in Manhattan one afternoon. It was just the three of us in what felt like a humongous theater, draped in the dark as the Turtles my brother and I worshipped finally jumped on to the screen after saving April O’Neil from being killed by the Foot Clan.

While I don’t particularly love the current cinematic incarnations of the TMNT, I hope there are kids out there getting the same awe inducing experience with “TMNT: Out of the Shadows” as I did when I was seven. “TMNT ‘90” still holds up very well today, with some excellent action set pieces, great humor, and so many quotable moments. Here are only five of my favorite moments in a movie filled with some banner scenes.

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My Top Five Favorite TMNT Rip-Offs

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In case you didn’t know and were a bad bad fan boy, Saturday March 19th was Ninja Turtles day. To celebrate the four heroes in a half shell, I compiled a list of my five favorite TMNT wannabes. Remember in the mid to late eighties when every studio wanted their own Transformers, GI Joe, and TMNT series to collect the sweet sweet dollarydoos from kids? Then suddenly the mid-nineties came and everyone wanted their own Power Rangers? Well, once the nineties popped around every studio or company had heroes that were either created by mysterious ooze or were anthropomorphic talking animals with attitude.

Here are five of the best in a decade filled with some pretty awful ones, altogether.

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Top 5 Baffling Aspects Of “TMNT: We Wish You a Turtle Christmas”

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There are no weapons, there’s no fighting, no Shredder, no April, no Casey, and no foot clan. And those aren’t the worst crimes this monstrosity commits. This is the definition of a quick cash grab. I am quick to believe someone raided a storage closet from a party entertainers’ warehouse, and decided to release their own Christmas themed Ninja Turtles video. Even at eleven years old, I would have shut it off after the first few minutes. “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas” doesn’t even last longer than twenty five minutes in length, and still feels long as hell.

The plot to this anomaly is that the turtles are trying to find a present for Master Splinter. So they prepare for Christmas, and go looking for a perfect present. Cue the mind numbingly terrible cash grab that is “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas.” Here are five of the more head scratching aspects of the twenty minute “special.
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Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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I’d be very hesitant to call “Turtle Power” the definitive history of the Ninja Turtles franchise since it’s only ninety minutes, covers only the nineties portion of the series history, and feels like a glorified DVD extra, but all in all it’s still a worthwhile documentary. Director Randall Lobb composes an entertaining history of the series teeming with excellent nostalgia that chronicles the origins of TMNT from their introduction as an independent comic book, to their inevitable domination of the world in the eighties and nineties. “Turtle Power” definitely has some interesting tidbits and trivia about the franchise and the series in general, while the producers are slick to feature some of the 2014 TMNT posters in a few timeline graphics.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

856118c8610e45827078b86cbe164263It’s pretty sad to see “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which understands the idea of dysfunctional warriors coming together for a common purpose and becoming heroes, while “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” gets it so wrong. Speaking as a fan of the TMNT franchise, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” not only gets it all wrong, but it accomplishes what not even the worst adaptations could in the past. It turns the Ninja Turtles in to generic heroes with almost no personality. Beyond Michelangelo, no one in the film has an actual unique personality I could think of. Director Jonathan Liebesman and Platinum Dumbs take the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in to a whole new arena of bland, lifeless, nonsense. What’s pretty much always been a franchise meant to sell merchandise for decades, becomes even more

Director Jonathan Liebesman and Platinum Dumbs take the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in to a whole new arena of bland, lifeless, nonsense. What’s pretty much always been a franchise meant to sell merchandise for decades, becomes even more soulless than ever. In this unnecessary rehashing, April is a fluff news reporter anxious to be taken seriously, so she begins investigating the foot clan and their reign of crime. During an investigation, she’s taken hostage, and witnesses the Ninja Turtles bring down a troop of the Foot Clan.

Despite being ninjas, April is able to follow them and sneak up on them, prompting her discovery of the four anthropomorphic turtles, all of whom are committed to fighting crime. After meeting them and their master Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat with knowledge of martial arts, the turtles are kidnapped. Apparently the turtles have magic blood, and the Foot want to spread a lethal plague across New York, synthesize the turtles’ mutagen blood as a cure, and sell it to the US government for big profits.

If you can believe it, Shredder is awkwardly shoe horned in to the movie, never really doing much but confronting and taunting the turtles, and donning robotic armor that looks like the Foot strip mined a Decepticon and used its parts for a suit. The Shreddertron 3000 is also turned in to a generic foe; it’s quite obvious the script was hastily retooled to turn Shredder and Sacks (William Fichtner) in to separate characters. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” completely re-writes the entire mythos for the sake of propping up future installments, and selling toys, never actually touching on what’s so much fun about these characters.

Splinter now becomes a martial arts master because he read a book, the turtles were once pets of April, and for some reason the turtles now look like dinosaurs. With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s always been that thin line that separates them from being moronic creations, and fun underdog superheroes, and Liebesman seems to want to embrace both sides of the coin. He mocks the characters for the adult audience, while giving them their own moments of martial arts bad assery for the sake of the kids. He also throws in a fart joke, and an honest to goodness erection joke. Shredder is barely the villain of this piece, the foot clan is generic soldiers, and (for the sole reason of Megan Fox’s sex appeal) April O’Neill is now the main character. Not to mention the entire reasoning for the turtles existing. It’s disheartening that a movie about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” takes almost twenty minutes until we see the foursome. Even then they’re really just nothing but plot devices for April confronting her tortured past, and becoming an actual news reporter.

Not to mention the entire reasoning for the turtles existing. It’s disheartening that a movie about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” takes almost twenty minutes until we see the foursome. Even then they’re really just nothing but plot devices for April confronting her tortured past, and becoming an actual news reporter. The movie relies on Megan Fox reacting and interacting with the turtles, and that’s a travesty considering Fox’s performance is god awful. It’s cringe inducing how she can barely deliver a worthwhile line of dialogue convincingly, and never seems at all lifelike in the role. April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants.

April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants. April should be a foil, and unofficial part of the team, and yet she’s really just this pouty cardboard cut out who barely has any kind of chemistry with the computer animated mutants. There are glimmers of fun moments between the team which include an impromptu beat box session in an elevator, and Raphael’s conflict with Leonardo. I wanted so much more of that. Instead all we get is another loud, obnoxious, ninety minute commercial with no grasp on what makes the source material it’s adapting so appealing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

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It’s surprising that for a movie about anthropomorphic talking turtles that director Steve Barron takes the premise with as much seriousness as possible. Director Barron just seems to get the appeal of the Ninja Turtles, walking the line between the mainstream versions and the original Eastman and Laird R rated comic book. The turtles here have a hard edge, but are entertaining sympathetic heroes, and they’re the center of what is still a damn good action film about family, revenge, unity.

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