Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Giver

"It's just a bad adaptation. As a movie it's just boring." Lindsay Ellis (The Nostalgia Chick)

I feel compelled to put a quote like that for this movie as it appears a lot of people are saying this about it. And, speaking as someone who hasn't read the book, this does seem to be about right. I wouldn't be able to tell you how well it lives up to the book, but, seeing other people calling this a "bad adaptation," it's pretty clear that the book was doing something a lot more compelling than the movie was trying to do. Apparently, there are a lot of concepts and ideas that don't get explored in the movie as it makes room for a vague set of rules in this new world so we can have a vague sort of destiny that our protagonist goes through where he goes on a quest that has a vague goal on breaking the system somehow. Eventually, the movie ends.

The book might have had more detail on what the hell was going on and there might have been goals and motivations from characters that were probably clarified. If that's the case, then this movie fucked up hard. I already have a Ninja Turtles movie that's fresh in my memory in reminding me how badly things can go when you don't have clear characters and a lot of loose plot-threads, but The Giver takes everything to a whole new level in lazy story-telling.

The Giver is about a young, teenage boy, named Jonas, who lives in a future where everything is boring. However, this is a trade-off so people can live a perfect life as kids are born and start doing activities that will determine what their job is in their adult lives will be. People live happy, boring lives just as long as they take their daily medicine provided to them by the government. But the protagonist feels like there isn't going to be a job that fits him in the future because he feels like he's a special snow-flake who always saw things differently(making him instantly relate-able to every teenager ever). They reinforce this by having the entire world in black and white and there are scenes of Jonas where he catches glimpses of color. Anyways, it turns out he's right because, as they go through the job process, he turns out to be the chosen one and he must learn the ways of the not boring life for some reason.

To teach him the ways of the not boring life is Jeff Bridges, who plays a guy who carries memories of the life that was happening before this society was created. Jonas's new job is to be the next person to carry these memories so he knows what the world was like before it was boring. Through this process, he learns to see colors, to think for himself, and to feel emotions. And, it's at this point where the movie falls apart and doesn't even bother to make sense anymore.


The biggest problem is the lack of...establishing of whatever the hell is going on throughout this movie. Jonas gets appointed this job, but it's never really explained why this job is necessary for this society. Wouldn't it benefit the people in charge to not have anybody remember what the past life was like in case people start thinking the old way was better? What do these people get out of having somebody being the memory carrier when they can't share these memories?

The Giver gets killed by establishing a premise that somehow doesn't even make sense within its own context of the film. It's clear that they needed this whole memory plot to be there in order to have a story of some sort. Otherwise, the entire population would just go about their daily lives without a care in the world as it turns out the medication they are forced to take is what robs them of all emotions and free thinking. So, of course, the plan is to break the system and help everyone else free themselves from being controlled. In order to do this, the protagonist must...ummm...cross the barrier that's shielding this society so it will break and cause everybody to not be boring anymore. Forget that it was the medication that everyone was forced to take, breaking this barrier is what causes everybody to see clearly.


The worst part about The Giver is that it's a lot more boring than I'm probably making it out to be. From describing it, it sounds like one of those cases where they got things so wrong that it's laughable. If you read the book, this might be the case. Otherwise, the movie just gets by on being vague on its own plot details so it'll have the illusion of any sort of conflict or drama or story-telling and it's also what causes this 90 minute movie to feel like it's 10 god damn hours long. If The Giver is any hint on what's coming out in our future of boring, soulless adaptions of young adult novels, then we're in for a pretty painful ride.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Preface: This review is assuming that you're smart enough to figure out that the good guys win in the end. Thank you!

I really wanted to hate this movie. Every new detail I heard about this new Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles iteration gave me every reason to not expect anything good out of it. And the final result pretty much confirms everything I thought was going to go wrong. This movie feels like it's doing everything it can to make me want to hate it. It's got Megan Fox reminding us why we hated her in the Transformers movies, the new designs for the turtles and even Splinter himself are on par with the robots from Transformers in being the ugliest, busiest computer generated things to ever be produced from a budget that you'd think would be able to conjure up something better, and it's got story and structural problems that would make the most amateurish writer of writers(people like me) scratch their heads in confusion.

This movie gave me every reason to hate it, but, for some reason, I just couldn't.

Maybe it's because the Ninja Turtles didn't have that much of an affect on me throughout my childhood and, if they did ruin these characters(which they did), it isn't on par with, say, ruining the Super Mario Bros. But to say that it had no affect would be an overstatement. I grew up watching the Second Animated Series that started in 2003. I don't remember a lot from that show other than that they weren't afraid to branch off into weird settings with inter-dimensional beings or something like that. They made ballsy moves that only inexpensive shows and big-budget Marvel movies can pull off for some reason. Also, I loved the crap out of the first two 90s movies and I remember being the only 7th Grader at school to actually be excited about the animated feature that came out in 2007, which wasn't a classic but it was functional and something that's now been elevated in quality thanks to this new movie.

The story starts with our lead character, April O'Neil, who's a reporter that's sick of getting B-news stories as everybody only treats her by her looks. Did I mention that she's being played by Megan Fox? Holy shit, movie! Are you trying to make a statement in showing off that Megan Fox can be taken seriously as an actress and that we should treat her more seriously than we do now? Well, apparently not, because Megan Fox looks like she'd rather be anywhere else than in this movie. But it's okay, because the movie can't even take her seriously as her entire character is undermined by one butt-shot that they some how sneaked into this movie.

But the entire movie can't even take itself seriously by giving us the most lazy, generic screenplay since Divergent(which at least tried to take itself seriously). April goes off on an investigation to figure out who's been stopping these terrorist attacks from the Foot clan. As it turns out, the titular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the ones who are helping out, who turn out to be April's pets during her childhood, who turn out to be part of an experiment to create a cure of some sort, which turns out to be the plot device for the bad guy, who turns out to be the guy behind these experiments, which, in turn, is there to make the dumbest bad guy scheme since Christopher Walken's plan from A View to a Kill. Seriously, the main bad guy's plan is to release a disease that only he has the cure for, except his disease kills off everybody. It doesn't exactly take a keen eye to see the problem with his plan there. Also, I'm starting to wonder if the entire world revolves around these events since nothing that happens in this movie is due to chance or coincidence or, god forbid, actual character choices!

Oh yeah, and Shredder is in this movie as well.

Formulaic stories that involve destiny, or stuff like that, does seem like the easy option as it does the work for you in basically giving you all of the character and story arcs that you need. So, be ****ing surprised that they even messed that up. I've talked about how they set up April as someone who people don't take seriously, so maybe they're going to complete her arc with her finally proving herself to everyone or with her figuring out that this messed up world isn't going to let her get anywhere without her breaking the system or something like that. But, no, that doesn't happen. Instead, she starts off with figuring out who the turtles are and then....she just watches stuff happen...

Cue Mr. Plinkett quote.

But, hey, maybe that's the point, right? Maybe they did it this way so they can give something for the Ninja Turtles to do. Except, they don't, as the Turtles are introduced, they have a fight with The Shredder, they fail, they have their second fight, and then they finally defeat him by playing this sort of childhood game on him. That sounds like it could be a Chekov's Gun moment, but they never show us a scene where they play in order to defeat The Shredder. Seriously, there were obvious arcs they could have used like team-work or mastering their ability to be ninjas or proving themselves to the outside world. Ya know, stuff that doesn't even need the whole damned "destiny" trite!

There is no way I'm going to be able to list every single thing that's wrong with this movie in this review without it turning into a long, thesis length essay. However, loose plot threads and unfinished character arcs are the big main problems that no movie will ever survive.

But, with all that said, I couldn't hate it.

There are a couple of good action scenes, one involving a tumble towards a cliff and a couple of decent moments of ninja action. Were these moments enough to save this movie? Of course not. But I wasn't bored or angry throughout the entire run-time, even though this movie is still probably going to end up on my top ten worst list because there are still too many damn problems to just ignore. In fact, thinking about this movie, writing this review, and mulling over on all of the story issues that this movie has really, really makes me want to hate this movie.

But I can't, as it's probably because it's hard to conjure up any sort of strong emotion when I care about this movie as much as the people behind this film. Here's hoping for better run in round 2.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let's Be Cops

We'll get to the movie I'm supposed to be reviewing, but I need to backtrack and talk about movies I probably should have reviewed.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - As awesome as you've heard!

Lucy - An action movie that that takes a left turn into 2001: Space Odyssey territory. Honestly, it was kind of awesome.

Guardians of the Galaxy - As awesome as you've heard. Also, just like all of the other Marvel movies, stay through the credits!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - To Be Continued(Haven't seen it yet)

Alright, let's talk about this piece of shit!

To be fair, I guess it's not too bad. There were parts where I laughed and there was one part where it was pretty hilarious, but, throughout most of the run time, it's not even all that funny and it weirdly doesn't even try to be throughout some long stretches. The entire premise sounds like it should be giving this movie a lot more mileage than it actually gets. Two guys decide to dress up as cops, but, after getting mistaken for actual cops and getting some unexpected benefits out of it, they decide to actually pretend to be cops. I've heard of worse ideas that have turned out well, but I guess bringing up Lord and Miller would be cheating. Anyways, here's a question that the filmmakers didn't seem to ask.

"Since when the hell does being a cop make you the life of the party?"

Seriously! You kind of have to wonder why being a cop suddenly made these guys the cool kids when virtually everyone I know seems to have a big distrust with the cops because they totally got pulled over for no reason that one time. Things that did happen that actually worked a little better was when the main characters got confused for being male-strippers and another time when they got involved in actual police work where everything just fell apart for them. But, other than that, It kind of feels like that the people behind Let's Be Cops forgot that they were making a movie about two guys pretending to be cops. Either that, or they had a serious crime drama under works and some joker decided that it would be a fun twist if they threw in guys who weren't really cops.

Anyways, the story of this movie involves two, down on their luck guys who aren't really getting anywhere in life. One guy is named Ryan and he got a sum of money that he's been living off of after doing a herpes treatment commercial. The other is Justin, who works for a game place...thingy(it's kind of hard to tell what kind of place this is) and is trying to pitch a video game idea, but nobody is willing to listen to him. Also, he's black and is the somewhat useless, comic relief side-kick because this is a comedy...I think. One night, they're invited to a masquerade party but Ryan confuses it for a costume party and they decide to dress as cops. After some embarrassment of being guys who are sort of stuck in their own life, they leave the party feeling down until they get mistaken for real cops and start getting treated like...awesome people, for some reason.

The thing behind this movie is that it's completely interchangeable with damn near any other low-end, formulaic comedy. To be fair, it does a decent job of following the guidelines for a decent script, but the end result clashes against the idea of this movie being a comedy or even a movie about guys pretending to be cops. In fact, the entire idea that these guys are pretending to be cops is inconsequential for the entire movie. Most of the jokes don't even require them pretending to be cops and a lot of the jokes don't even make sense, ESPECIALLY within the context of its own film. I mean, yeah, I guess it's funny that they held up some guys for a search and seizure and, while that whole thing is happening, Justin starts making the guys dance while he's holding everyone at gunpoint. You'd think the guys getting held up would have at least said something, but they're being held at gunpoint and, to be fair, it's probably not the strangest thing a cop has asked them to do. So, I guess I'll let that one slide.

Oh yeah, and since they were using the most generic screenplay possible, they have to put conflict into the movie somehow. So, the main characters have run ins with a gang of drug dealers. This is the part where the movie gets weird and is the main cause of why the movie has long stretches of it not being funny. As in, they suddenly want you to care about what's going on with actual stakes and drama after the movie had us try to laugh at all of the "cccrraaazzzzyyyyy" situations these guys got into. Seriously, why would a movie have us laugh at how these guys shouldn't be cops and then suddenly make us think that they should be cops after they were failing so badly at it?

There's one action beat in the movie that has the movie shift tone and it puts the characters in real danger. It's honestly a well done scene, but it's at this point I was kind of thinking "Wasn't this supposed to be a comedy?" After this well done scene, the movie throws away any promise it has at having chops for a decent action movie by giving us a bad action movie at the end of it all. There are cases where the movie still tries to be funny involving jokes where...umm, I guess where there scenes that come off as them accidentally doing gay things to each other? Honestly, it's kind of hard to explain, but the movie doesn't bother to even try to make sense out of the situation, so it really doesn't matter.

I honestly felt like this had potential to be a really funny movie. But the whole thing feels like a result of the filmmakers not really knowing what to do with their own premise. It's not really even a gimmick, it's just feels more like the two main characters just happen to be mistaken for cops. Other than that, it's a below average comedy that just runs into a brick wall by the end of it all. I think the movie even indulged in some racist and sexist humor, but the movie was so boring that I doubt anybody would care enough to get angry. And that alone shows just how empty this movie is.