Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review of THE YOUNG MESSIAH: Apocryphal Anecdotes

June 29, 2016




To place things into proper context in terms of expectations, it is important to note that "The Young Messiah" was NOT based on biblical text. It is a fictional account of how Jesus was as a child. It was adapted from a novel entitled "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" which was surprisingly written by Anne Rice, an author more known for her vampire novels. Expect literary artistic license here, not theology.

When news of King Herod's death was revealed to him, the carpenter Joseph decided to bring his wife Mary and child Jesus, together with some other relatives from Egypt back to Nazareth. Jesus was just seven years old then. Lately he had been discovering some new supernatural abilities he could do and this puzzled him. His parents though it was not yet the right time to answer his questions.In the meantime, the new King Herod Jr. got wind of the miraculous boy. Like his father before him, the jealous king ordered the chief Centurion Severus to go find the boy and kill him. 

The child actor Adam Greaves-Neal played the child Jesus aptly with convincing innocence, curiosity and confusion as his character was written. Sara Lazzaro looked right as the compassionate Mother Mary. Her shining moment was that climactic scene when she finally revealed to her son his divinity. This for me was the best scene of the whole film that saves it and made it worth the time spent watching this. Vincent Walsh played a very capable Joseph, defining him as the father figure we knew very little about.

As the Demon, Rory Keenan looked awkwardly out of place with his modern look. Jonathan Bailey continues to portray Herod Jr. as the effeminate yet ruthless Jewish king, as his father had commonly been portrayed in previous biblical films. The most recognizable actor in the cast is good old Sean Bean (best known as Ned Stark on "Game of Thrones"). Physically, he looked miscast as the Roman centurion Severus. However, he somehow gave the "bad guy" some empathy with his strangely benign portrayal of a poorly-written character.

As Catholics, we believe that the first public miracle of Jesus was at the Wedding at Cana. However in this movie, we see Jesus perform major miracles even at the young age of seven. We are told that the child Jesus was not aware of his divine origins and great powers at all. These are very contentious issues which some Christians may hold against this work. However, personally I felt these matters were handled by director/writer Cyrus Nowrasteh with deep respect, as he mixed these fictional anecdotes with biblical context.

On the debit side, I felt that this directorial respect for the material may have also caused the pace of the storytelling to be too slow, becoming unengaging at many points. For me, it picked up only in the last thirty minutes, and this was a rather lengthy one hour and fifty minute film. A cynical non-believer would probably have tuned out before then. However, viewers of religious films like this will most likely watch with a sense of faith, and this faith will give them the patience to watch this all the way through. In return, they will be rewarded with a most satisfying ending. 7/10.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Review of CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE: Reunion Revelations

June 23, 2016




When he was in high school, Calvin Joyner is the Golden Jet, an A-student, star athlete, prom king, voted most likely to succeed. 20 years later, Joyner (Kevin Hart) is stuck in a dead-end accounting job and is having marital problems. Because of his dissatisfaction and embarrassment on how his life turned out, he is not too excited to attend their 20th anniversary high-school reunion. 

On the other hand, when Robbie Wierdicht was in high school, he was an overweight nerdy guy who was the butt of bullies' cruel pranks. 20 years later, Wierdicht's baby fat have turned into the rock hard muscle of Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson). He reconnects with Joyner whom he considered his only friend. Secretly, he was actually a CIA operative who has gone rogue, needing to crack a case involving satellites and terrorists in order to clear his name.

The unexpected novel gimmick in this film is that it is Johnson who does the comic role, while Hart does the straight man role. 

Aside from his usual macho fight scenes, Johnson does so many embarrassing gags here, with a decidedly cheesy effeminate bent most unlikely of him. Imagine the Rock wearing a baby lavender t-shirt with a unicorn design on it, or singing along and dancing to En Vogue or talking about his favorite film of all time "Sixteen Candles". Hilarious stuff.

Hart, on the other hand, does well reacting as any nervous civilian caught in a crime caper would do, in his signature shrill motormouth way. His role is basically reactionary to the wild shenanigans of Johnson's character, so Hart relies on his exaggerated funny faces and awkward pratfalls to get the laughs, and he does.

Acclaimed actors Amy Ryan ("Gone Baby Gone") and Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") give effective supporting performances. Keep your eye out for uncredited cameo appearances of a couple of current comedy stars which were surprising. There were also some very funny candid outtakes shown during the end credits.

Of course, we can't really expect the script of a crazy film like this to be completely logical nor believable. However, because of Hart and Johnson's effectively comical "bromantic" partnership, audiences will easily give these funny scenes a pass and just enjoy them as they are. This movie does not aspire for Oscars, and nor should we expect too much when we watch this type of obviously shallow entertainment. Just sit back  and LOL! 7/10


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review of INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE: Vacuous Victory

June 23, 2016




The first "Independence Day" (1996) was a sci-fi alien-invasion disaster film which was also the #1 film of 1996. It presently still remains to be among the 60 biggest box-office hits of all time. It won an Oscar for its Visual Effects, the most memorable of which was the explosive destruction of the White House by a beam from gigantic spaceship hovering above it. 

While the effects of ID 1 were really spectacular by 90s standards, I honestly did not really like the film's paper-thin plot and one-dimensional characters portrayed by a cast led by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. Anyhow, 20 long years later, filmmakers decide to resurrect this film's storyline and produce a sequel which was in essence a rehash of the same paper-thin plot (but with updated technology) and one-dimensional characters (only older or their next generation). 

In 1996, 20 years ago, the defeated alien forces were able to send a distress signal to their home planet to send for reinforcements. In 2016, 20 years hence, even as the people of the earth had already united to form an international space defense corp, bigger and stronger alien forces once again threatened the earth with total annihilation by sucking out the very inner core of our planet. 

Characters from the first film still living now, like ex-President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), computer expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), his father Julius (Judd Hirsch), and the nerdy researcher Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) gear up to face the resurgent alien threat. The younger generation of fighter pilots are represented by Dylan Hiller (son of Capt. Steven Hiller - Will Smith's character in the first film, played by Jessie T. Usher), Patricia Whitmore (daughter of the ex-president, played by Maika Monroe) and Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). 

The visual effects in this new film are not really as groundbreaking anymore for this day's standards, as they were back then in the first film. Destruction of world landmarks have been done many times over in various films since then. Several action sequences have the feel of amusement game rides, such as we saw in the Transformers, Spider-Man and Harry Potter rides in Universal Studios. I was still impressed though with the sequence showing the destruction of Singapore (you can see the Marina Bay Sands) and the Petronas Towers were dumped on Tower Bridge in London, but that is just one extended scene.

As directed by the original director Roland Emmerich, it felt like it was still the 90s when you are watching this film given its throwback style of choreographed action and corny humor (care of Spiner, Goldblum and Hirsch). The aerial jet fights echoed "Star Wars" in its execution. The pacing tended to be leaden in the build up. The climactic fight with the Alien Queen had the all the breaks obviously favoring the human heroes. Neither Usher nor Hemsworth could match Will Smith's charisma. It was disappointing that the 20 years that passed for this sequel to come out did not really improve at all on the original. 5/10.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of FINDING DORY: Cuteness and Compassion

June 20, 2016




"Finding Nemo" (2003) was one of my top three favorite Pixar films. It was a tale of dedicated fatherhood following the harrowing adventures of an overprotective clownfish named Marlin who swam all the way from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney to recover his only son Nemo. One of my favorite characters of that film was Dory, a sprightly Blue Tang with short-term memory loss, Marlin's unlikely ally in his quest. Now 13 years later, a sequel was released with Dory as the central character, and I was excited to see it.

Dory begins to have fragments of vague memories from her childhood and she longed to look for her parents back in California. Marlin and Nemo sought the help of Crush and the sea turtles to bring them there. However, they lose each other and Dory finds herself caught by volunteers from the Marine Life Institute. With the help of her new friends she meets inside, namely Hank the cantankerous Octopus, Destiny the myopic baby Whale Shark and Bailey, the insecure Beluga, Dory tries to piece together the pieces of the puzzle as she persists in her seemingly impossible quest.

From the first film to this sequel, the voice work of Ellen Degeneres remained to be so memorable with its innocent energy. It was also just as touching in the emotional scenes. Those perfectly-written lines as Dory dropped in and out of memories were given life with such verve and pathos by Degeneres. This poor friendly creature was suffering from an unenviable condition which robbed her of her memories just as soon as they are formed, and her voice just makes me want to reach out to help her. The effect of her voice is just emotionally electric for me.

I think one important message the film is for the youth to develop compassion for people with disabilities, like most of the flawed characters in this film. The treatment of the various disabilities in this film tended to tread a fine line between depiction and parody. This may be misconstrued by some kids as making fun of them, so parental guidance is important here. 

The film also took a stab at the marine institutions and marine parks, and how these places may be actually be hurting the very creatures they were supposed to help. This is a mature topic which may disturb young kids. Kids were even shown as the "bad guys" in the hands-on Touch Pool exhibit scenes, so kids in the audience may get confused, again requiring parental guidance. Marine pollution was also addressed in some distressing scenes. I hope these serious messages sink in with the young audiences. 

I felt there were too many scenes in murky waters which I guess were there to represent how Dory was completely in the dark about what she was doing most of the time. However, these scenes were not too engaging to watch. When I watched this in 3D, the glasses made the dim screen look even duller which did not help those scenes. 

The scenes with the misleading concepts of echolocation, and about the truck being driven by a most unlikely driver did not sit too well with me. I know this is an animated feature which meant that anything the writers think of can go. However, for me this one was a major out-of-this-world leap of imagination that I did not like. This is not to say though that those scenes could not be exciting and cute at the same time.

While "Finding Dory" is an excellent film on its own, for me it does not exactly reach the high standard set by "Finding Nemo" overall, though not by much. I rate "Finding Nemo" as solid 10/10. "Finding Dory" is a 9/10.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Review of ME BEFORE YOU: Dealing with Debilitation

June 16,2016




I am not a fan of romantic films, be it comedies or dramas. However, occasionally, given the impetus of novel casting, I will check them out. The premise of this film itself did not exactly appeal to me. However, the casting of Emilia Clarke in the female lead really intrigued me. I had only known her before as Daenerys Targaryen the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi in "Game of Thrones", and I am very curious to see her in another role. 

Will Traynor is a very wealthy businessman who became a paraplegic following a freak accident with a motorcycle. Trapped in a bed, a mechanized wheelchair and extreme depression, Will was already seriously considering to end it all. Enter the colorfully eccentric waitress Louisa Clark whom Will's mother hired to be his caregiver and companion. Will Lou's quirky infectious joie de vivre snap Will out from his perpetual negativity about his life?

It is not easy to describe Emilia Clarke's performance. It starts off so annoyingly chipper, as reflected by her ridiculous wardrobe of iridescent colors and flashy designs. However, as the film went along, we will find her irresistibly delightful. With her uninhibited performance, you can truly feel the innate goodness of her person, a selfless and sincere dedication to her responsibility. Her smashing scene wearing the red dress drew audible gasps from the audience when I watched.

Sam Claflin portrayed Will very well, capturing his steely determination as well as his dignity in the face of his incapacity. That he remained debonaire and dashing and well-built despite his condition was not realistic in the least, but hey, this is a romance film so we cut it some slack. The chemistry between Lou and Will was not instant. We witnessed it develop and it definitely was THERE.

The ensemble of British actors in this film worked very well together. Janet McTeer and Charles Dance (yes, Tywin Lannister of GoT!) play Will's supportive parents, Camilla and Steven Traynor. Australian actor Steve Peacocke had significant screen time as Nathan, Will's nursing aide. Brendan Coyle and Samantha Spiro play Lou's supportive parents, Bernard and Josie Clark. A very trim Matthew Lewis (a guy we once knew as chubby Nevill Longbottom in the Harry Potter films) plays Lou's clueless health buff boyfriend Patrick. 

If I had any problem with the film, it is with a certain sensitive pro-choice topic upon which the whole conflict of the story was built upon. I cannot claim to know how paraplegics feel about their lives, but I feel it should not be with this ethically-problematic philosophy, especially as the patient here was basking in the warmth of all the love of the people around him. Selfishness is a loaded word in this discussion. Who was being selfish in this case  -- the patient or his loved ones? 

Director Thea Sharrock (in her feature film debut) skirted around the touchy issue using quirky humor and sweet sentimentality to bring to life the script by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the novel upon which this film was based. Sharrock was fortunate to have a very likeable cast of actors to mitigate the heaviness of the theme. Some opposing views about the issue actually spoken by characters in the film. Ultimately though, it may still send the wrong message to vulnerable audiences, and this bothered me. 7/10.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review of THE CONJURING 2: Diabolical Distress and Doubts

June 14, 2016




"The Conjuring" (2013) was one of the best horror films in recent memory. (My full review was posted HERE.) It told of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren helping the Perron family of Rhode Island with the spirit that haunted their farmhouse. It was a story formula that perfectly lent itself to possible sequels, and now, just three years later, here is the first one. 

The setting was 1977 in a simple townhouse in the borough of Enfield in London, England, where the Hodgson family (mom Peggy and her four children) lived. The second daughter Janet was seemingly being possessed by the malevolent spirit of Bill Wilkins, the previous owner of the house. The church of their community sought the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate the case and help free the poor family from their ghostly tormentor. 

There were so many parallelisms between the first Conjuring movie and this one in terms of story outline. Ed and Lorraine were investigating the Amityville Horror House, while the London incident was happening. The central victim family also had a distraught mother with four young vulnerable children. Eventually, the Warrens get called in to help get rid of the demons, at great peril to their own lives. It was good to revisit the Warren's museum and seeing its prize exhibit Annabelle again. 

If there was anything cheesy about it, I'd say it would be every time a CG demon was shown for a prolonged period of time. There was one prolonged scene where Lorraine was being taunted by a female demon dressed like a nun. While the ominous buildup to an attack was very suspensefully edited, it ended in a rather hilarious manner which made me laugh. There were many horror movie cliches as well, like people approaching a ghost they see, instead of running away from it. It is crazy why they do that. (But then again, we probably won't have a horror movie if they don't.)

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were credible as Ed and Lorraine, as they vacillated between faith and skepticism in this case. For one remarkable scene, we get to see Wilson play the guitar and sing an Elvis love song in full. This is the first time I've heard him sing since his turn as Raoul in the film version of "Phantom of the Opera." Farmiga was really very good playing a medium going in and out of her eerie visions, without the excessive hamminess lesser actresses may resort to. Young Madison Wolfe gave an affecting performance as the possessed girl Janet.


Director James Wan is really an expert in the jump scare.  We still get startled every time the demonic face was shown in a flash with a loud sound cue, even if we expect it. This one felt like a combination of various story elements from "The Exorcist", "Insidious", "Sinister," "Drag Me to Hell," yet executed in its own novel way. The first "Conjuring" had this memorably crazy game called "Hide and Clap" which provided some really spine-tingling scary moments. This sequel did not exactly have something distinctly its own, but the creeps were mostly still there. 7/10.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review of NOW YOU SEE ME 2: Inventive Illusions

June 13, 2016



The original "Now You See Me" was a sleeper hit of 2013. I rated it one of the top 20 films that I had seen that year. It began with an incredibly staged heist, and brought us along a puzzling roller coaster ride of a film that kept us wondering to the very end. Overall, it was, in my own words, "a very energetic, intelligent and most importantly, entertaining film". (My review was posted HERE.) 

Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Wilder (Dave Franco) were in hiding after their major caper from the first film, that led to exposure of the insurance fraud of Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and the incarceration of double-crossing magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). 

FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) reassembled the team, introducing Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) as the fourth Horseman.The mission was to expose tech businessman Owen Case (Ben Lamb) and his plan to use his new product to invade consumer privacy. However, their plans go haywire and the tables were turned on the Horsemen. From their getaway, the four mysteriously find themselves in Macau as the prisoners of eccentric millionaire, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who wants Case's vile technology for himself. 

Like the first film, this sequel relies on the magnetic charm of the Horsemen and their showmanship. Eisenberg, Franco and Harrelson (x2 in this sequel) all pour on the charisma to make this magical gem sparkle again. It was not too easy at first to accept Lizzy Caplan instead of Isla Fisher as the lone female member. Caplan does grow on you eventually in her awkwardly quirky way. The role of Rhodes takes on a different dimension this time because of the revelation at the end of the first film; and Ruffalo does the drama justice.

Radcliffe was a rather weird fit in all this ensemble, feeling he was miscast as the bad guy. Of course, senior stars Caine and Freeman can do no wrong in anything they do. It was very good to see Chinese actress Tsai Chin (best known to us for her role in "The Joy Luck Club") in an important role. However, as her son, Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou was sadly underused in a very minor role.

Even if they try to explain the magic tricks they show here, everything was just so over-the-top incredible. Anyhow, we are kept on the edge on another twisty ride until it reaches that final outcome in that New Year's Eve climax aboard a jet plane over London. Everything we loved about the first film -- the stylish CG visual effects and nifty exciting film editing -- makes this sequel a worthy one, and makes us look forward to the third installment. This same familiarity though makes it lose some points versus the totally unpredictable original. However, this still had its own entertaining surprises up its sleeve to the very end. 7/10. 


Monday, June 6, 2016

Review of MY SASSY GIRL vs. MY NEW SASSY GIRL: Outstanding Original, Spoiled Sequel

June 4, 2016

I have long heard of the very well-loved 2001 Korean film called "My Sassy Girl". But since I never really liked rom-coms, I have not seen it before. This summer though, with the release of its official sequel (yes, 15 years later!) "My New Sassy Girl", I thought this was the best time to check the original film out as well, before I watch the sequel.

MY SASSY GIRL (2001)



A homely young man Gyeon-woo saves an unnamed drunk Girl from falling into the subway track. From there begins a bizarre relationship where the Girl would swing wildly from loving to hurting Gyeon-woo, but he simply could not help but bear it all and fall in love with her. On the girl's suggestion, they leave letters in a time capsule under a tree on a hill and will meet each other again after two years. On that set day, confessions and revelations will redefine what they mean to each other. 

I am not surprised that this film has achieved iconic status among Korean film fans, achieving box office records not only in Korea, but all over Asia as well. This was really a very well-written, perfectly casted and wonderfully-acted film. The chemistry between the lead actors Cha Tae-hyun (as Gyeon-woo) and Jun Ji-hyun (as The Girl) was so charmingly and quirkily vital. The ending is one of the best rom-com endings I had ever seen. Anyone who had followed their journey together up to that point of the film will definitely be very emotionally engaged with what happens, and perhaps even tear up. The musical score and songs were beautifully fit to the scenes where they were heard. The direction of Kwak Jae-yong was faultless with the way he created romantic thrill. 9/10.



****************


MY NEW SASSY GIRL (2016)




Gyeon-woo is back, but without the original Girl anymore. This situation opened up the opportunity for him to meet and hook up with another "sassy" (also unnamed) girl.  (He is really a masochistic sort, isn't he?) Anyhow, this girl is Chinese this time, knows her marital arts and her cameras, They actually get married here in a charming indigenous ceremony. Conflict arises when Gyeon-woo gets a job at a tech company with an abusive boss. His Wife will not take that abuse sitting down, but will Gyeon-woo appreciate her for it?

Sad to say, watching "The New Sassy Girl" right after watching "My Sassy Girl" just emphasized just how bad this sequel by director Jo Geun-sik is. The comedy was terribly flat all the way, with nothing memorable that sticks at all. Even the romantic conflict is very lame, practically just tacked on without any emotional impact. The age of Cha Tae-hyun (already 40 years old now) shows, and his attempt to recapture his 2001 charm was largely ineffective. While she is pretty, Victoria Song (as the new Sassy) could not really measure up to the high level set by Jun Ji-hyun in the first film, in both charm and performance. Her role was very poorly developed. I thought this sequel did not really need to happen. It was but an insult to the former's memory. 2/10.




Saturday, June 4, 2016

Review of A HOLOGRAM FOR A KING: Arid Anecdotes from Arabia

June 2, 2016




Alan Clay was an American salesman who just lost his livelihood, his house and his wife. Desperate to prove his worth and earn big in the process, he grabs a chance to sell the King of Saudi Arabia an advanced holographic teleconferencing system. However, he never expected the endless delays he would encounter there, leading him to various encounter new people and experience their exotic culture first hand.

Having a look inside Saudi Arabia would have been very interesting for us who would probably have no real chance to go visit there. However, a failed depressed salesman was probably not the best tour guide to show us around. Even if that salesman was played by Tom Hanks. The humor was mild at best, and not really sharp. There was really nothing much Hanks could do to lift the tedium out of the dry, anecdotal, ultimately pointless material.

All the time Clay spent waiting for nothing and all the runaround he met with his contacts, these also took their toll on the glacial pace of the storytelling. He also developed a big lump on his back, which probably symbolized the internal pressure he was experiencing. (This lump actually reminded me of the big boil the character of Coco Martin had on his butt in Brillante Mendoza's "Serbis".) In separate episodes, Clay accidentally entered Mecca, told a lame joke about the CIA, saw a wolf in a rifle crosshatch, drove a sleek new Audi -- all of which led absolutely nowhere. 

I liked the chemistry between Hanks and Alexander Black (who played his gregarious driver Yousef) which was vital. Black though seemed more American than Arab. Clay's relationship with his lady Saudi doctor Zahra (Sarita Choudhury) was entirely unbelievable for me the way their story was told. I don't know anymore if all the other supposedly Arabic traits and culture being shown were accurate or not. Aside from Arabs, there were  indirect digs about the permissiveness of Danes and the cutthroat business sense of the Chinese.

This is not the typical Tom Hanks film we expect. Usually, even if it was deadly serious, like "Captain Phillips" or "Bridge of Spies", there is an engaging story to draw us in. In this uneven film, there was nothing to root for. If there was one positive element I could cite,it would be its rich cinematography of the barren Arabian desert and the crystal blue sea water with its rich coral bed. Otherwise, there was nothing really compelling in the story (adapted from the novel by Dave Eggers) to keep us interested or even awake. 

Director Tom Tykwer had previously gained my admiration for films like "Run Lola Run" (1998) and "Perfume" (2006), both stories told with cinematic skill. But this time, the two film veteran Toms (Hanks and Tykwer) have a misfire. 4/10.

P.S. This was rated R-13 locally. I believe there were scenes of a sensitive nature here that should have earned it an R-16 rating. 


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Testing Turtle Teamwork

June 1, 2016



The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as comic book characters in 1984, later spinning off to have its own cartoon series, toys, video games, and of course, films.  There was a cartoonish film trilogy in the 1990s. Recently, Michael Bay produced a franchise-reboot as a live action-computer-generated motion capture film. I did not particularly like this very dark 2014 film, rating it only a 5/10 (MY REVIEW). When trailers came out for this sequel though, I already saw that it looked like it was going to be a way better movie than the first one. 

The turtle heroes, along with old pals April O'Neil and Vern Fenwick, and new friend Casey Jones, spring back into action as Shredder was busted from incarceration. The arch-villain had inter-galactically nefarious plans as he conspired with mad scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman to bring into Earth an evil Dimension X being called Krang and his Technodrome in his wild dream of world domination. 

The way the turtles looked in this new film was way better executed. In the first one, they all looked too big, ugly and unwieldy. Their appearance now is more accessible, more in tune with their personalities. Even if the storyline will have their team tested, this was a truly excellent ensemble work among the four actors behind them, imbuing each one with individual charm. They are: Pete Ploszek (as conflicted leader Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (as muscle-bound rebel Raphael), Jeremy Howard (as brainy scientist Donatello) and Noel Fisher (as childlike spirit Michelangelo). 

Also similarly excellent were the CG artwork, performance and the onscreen chemistry between the two comical evil side characters, warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and the rhino Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly). They definitely stole their scenes from right under the main bad guy Shredder (Brian Tee), who felt rather lackluster among the other colorful characters of the film. The pinkish brain-like maniacal alien super-villain Krang was portrayed with gruesome glee by Brad Garrett.

The unconvincing and hammy acting of Megan Fox (as April) and Will Arnett (as Vern) were fortunately buoyed up the excellence of the CGI and story around them. Tyler Perry was an over-the-top nerd as Dr. Stockman, uncomfortably funny. Veteran acting nominee Laura Linney was uncharacteristically stiff as police chief Rebecca Vincent. The best live performer of the film was TV's "Arrow" Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. His graceful physicality (with a hockey stick and skates) and smart-alecky sense of humor made him stand out. 

The look of this new film is so much better than the first one, literally "out of the shadows" where the first one wallowed. There were brighter colors, a lighter mood, a more fun throwback general feel about it. The previous one was too dark and intense, and took itself too seriously, to its own detriment. With this one, we had our beloved Turtles back to the unpretentious way we knew them in our youth. Serious critics may be hard on this one, but I really enjoyed 112 minutes with it, right up to the classic TV cartoon theme song over the closing credits. 8/10.