A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Six Degrees (or more!)

We realized tonight that we’d managed to string together three movies in the past three nights – Richard Jordan from Logan’s Run to Dune and Patrick Stewart from Dune to TMNT. This was completely unintentional.

So we decided to see if we could get from tonight to Kevin Bacon. Since we’ve only got two Kevin Bacon movies in our collection and we’ve already watched one, and we’re limited to what we own, this took some doing. Anyone want to try and guess how we’re doing it? I’ll give a hint that Searching for Bobby Fischer would have made things immensely easier but we don’t own it. Anyhow, if one wanted, one could probably figure out a path. Given that one step is actually two movies (a pair with the same actor to link), we’ve got six more including our Kevin Bacon movie.

We’re limited to what we own and haven’t already watched for the project. That does make it tricky!

June 7, 2010 Posted by | we want information | , | Leave a comment

Movie 99 – TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007) – June 7th, 2010

This is not the original. We don’t own any of the 1990s movies. This is the 2007 computer animated movie. And right from the outset I’m not sure what to think about it. Maybe it’s that I loved the original movie in all its bizarre glory. Maybe it’s that I’m waxing nostalgic for one of the few things my brother and I both enjoyed thoroughly. I’m not sure. We owned the original movie (a professional copy, no less!) and watched it all the time, and later we owned the second one (though I never got into the third one). So yeah, there’s a fondness there and I find myself missing the live action costumes. But the story’s okay and when the characters are these characters it’s pretty easy to keep them in character, you know? The only real departure that I noted is that while the end of the movie makes it clear it’s in the same continuity line as the previous movies, April’s now apparently an archaeologist specializing in South and Central American artifacts. But then from what I can tell, she’s had more than a few professions over the course of the comics, television series and movies, so fine. Good for her!

Anyhow, this movie starts out with a basic rundown of who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are. They’re four turtles, brothers, who were mutated by toxic ooze and trained by a similarly mutated rat to be martial arts experts and who eventually did battle with their arch enemy, Shredder. Duh. While the original movies are very much the origin story for the Turtles, this one’s assuming you know the characters and the basic story and picks up some time after the originals with Leonardo somewhere in Central America playing Robin Hood in the jungle while Donatello does tech support, Michelangelo does the Ghostbusters gig and entertains at birthday parties in a weird meta-TMNT costume, and Raphael has turned into a cross between Iron Man and Ghostrider, with a dash of Batman for flavor. Dude, you have your own movie and comic books, stop stealing from everyone else. We get to hear all this courtesy of April while she tries to convince Leo to come back to the city with her.

Meanwhile, a rich tycoon named Winters (dude, Patrick Stewart! how do we keep doing this? and does he really like comic books or something?) has been gathering statues of ancient generals whom we know from the opening monologue are really petrified generals who were present when a warlord opened a portal to another dimension and unleashed some bad magic that resulted in thirteen hideous beasts. And the warrior king dude was cursed to live forever alone, unable to die, knowing what he’d unleashed. Soooo, three guesses as to who Winters really is and the first two don’t count. Winters hires the remains of the Foot clan to help out in capturing the monsters after bringing his generals back to life so he can undo what he did three thousand years ago. April knows who Winters is, since she was hired by him to find the statues, and Casey’s around too since he’s been doing the vigilante thing too, recently teaming up with Raphael, and they help out in the way they normally do, being backup and research help and comic relief for the turtles.

The Foot and the generals are all out in the city capturing the thirteen monsters, and obviously the turtles and Casey and April get involved and the movie laps itself by reiterating the myth of the warlord. At least it doesn’t linger. Leo and Raph are butting heads, because they’re Leo and Raph and that’s what they do. Splinter wants them all to work together and there’s plenty of family-based stuff that works into the plot of the movie better than many an action movie I’ve seen. Fitting the character building into the action plot can be clunky and this was surprisingly smooth. Huh. It’s a little bit of a sledgehammer to the head near the end, but it’s still done well enough.

I actually ended up being pleasantly amused by the movie. The animation is well done and the writing is good enough that I didn’t cringe once! As a matter of fact, much as they’re intended to, more than a couple of Michelangelo’s quips made me snicker. Aside from the repeat of the warlord myth the story runs at a good pace and the action scenes are fun. I do have to wonder if cities like Gotham and Metropolis and all have superhero insurance, cause every superhero action movie ends up with a lot of property damage. Sure, the movie’s not anything serious, but hello, it’s a movie about mutated martial artist turtles named after Renaissance artists. Who wants serious?

June 7, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

TMNT (2007)

June 7, 2010

TMNT

We don’t own the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early nineties – the ones with the great animatronic turtles created by the Jim Henson Workshop – so tonight we’re watching the computer animated movie from 2007. I’m pretty sure that this was intended to be a reboot for the Turtles franchise. There was bid media push to coincide with the theatrical release of this movie and of course videogame tie-ins. I’m not sure the franchise has been rebooted (I don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons any more, so for all I know there are new cartoons being broadcast now, but I don’t think so.) But it is a fun little movie, and maybe a little nostalgic as well.

At the start of the movie the turtles have gone their separate ways, somewhat like the start of Ghostbusters II (Indeed in what is probably a deliberate reference to Ghostbusters II Michelangelo has a job entertaining at childrens’ birthday parties.) Donatello is working on a phone in tech support line. Raphael is secretly the iron suited vigilante Nightwatcher. And Leonardo is away training to be a better leader in South America. So the movie has a sort of “getting the band back together” vibe for part of it. But that’s really only the b-plot. The A plot introduces a whole mess of new stuff to the Turtles universe.

The story goes like this: “Thousands of years ago…” there was a great leader fighting an unstoppable horde of foes. To defeat them he opens a dimensional portal – which has two unintended side effects. First it turns all his generals to stone. And second it unleashes thirteen monsters upon the world. Oh, and it makes the great leader immortal too. So three thousand years later in the present day the immortal guy has hired the Turtles’ old friend April to gather the ancient stone statues (his generals) and has hired the Foot Clan ninjas to help gather the thirteen monsters.

It might sound confusing in my summary there, but in the movie it’s very carefully laid out so that nobody gets lost. There’s a long opening monologue that lays out the events of three thousand years ago. Then in case you forgot that bit or went out to get popcorn or something, there’s a pointer scene about halfway through that goes over the same info again. The stone generals revolt, wanting to maintain their immortality, and try to trick Winter (the immortal leader) by substituting Leo for one of the thirteen monsters. And everything ends with a big climactic fight as the dimensional portal re-opens. Either the turtles win, banishing the monsters and stone generals to another plain of existence, or the stone generals win, releasing untold numbers of monsters on the earth and destroying all life as we know it. I’ll leave you in suspense as to which alternative comes to pass.

Overall it is a pretty simple movie, drawn in broad and simple strokes. Which is not surprising since it’s intended for the entertainment of a much younger audience than we. But what keeps it from being just another Saturday morning cartoon is the absolutely stellar animation. Not only is the animation in this movie very stylish (in particular the Turtles themselves have a lot of moments when their exaggerated poses and squinty eyes, with their masks flowing in the breeze behind them, look just like something out of the old black & white indie comic that is where they were truly born) but also there is a lot of technical wizardry as well. In particular there is a big fight scene between Don and Raph on a rooftop in the rain which involves some pretty impressive effects. And the very quick battle between the Turtles and the Foot Clan, although it has barely any screen time, is very cleverly put together with a single long sweeping, swooping, tracking shot. Of course in an animated film such a tracking shot is not so difficult because you can precisely dictate where every person is at every moment, but it must have been a challenge to storyboard an entire fight sequence that features a moment for each of the three Turtles in the battle as well as Splinter, Casey and April, all in one shot.

So, yeah, it’s extremely well animated, but fairly shallow childrens’ film. I might wish it were a little darker or involved some established characters from the comic (Kang, for example was never in any of the other three Turtles movies) but still I had fun seeing the Turtles in action again. Someday soon I’ll have to buy the first three movies so we can review those ones as well.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment