Quotes of the Week: Trashing the Turtles

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Copyright 2014 Paramount StudiosThe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie inspired some howls of outrage from critics.  As usual, when movies are good, the writers I admire are good, but when they’re bad, they’re better.

I enjoyed this one from Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir:

Yes, every moment when the ultra-buff turtles are on screen, busting each other’s chops, doing human beat-box routines and ineptly pitching woo at Megan Fox (because they’re, you know, teenagers) was so acutely painful that I had to draw on my own ninja training and reflect intensively on the transitory nature of all phenomena, just to fend off the profound yearning for death.

Charlie Jane Anders spells it out in the headline over at i09: The New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Fails in Every Possible Way.  Count number one:

Any time you revamp a beloved series like TMNT, you have to please the die-hard fans while also appealing to newcomers. And unfortunately, this film feels like it’s not quite going to do either of those things — I’m guessing the redesigned turtles are too weird-looking, and the storyline is too generic and off-base, to please long-time Turtle-lovers, while neophytes will wonder what the fuss was about.

It’s the classic problem: this movie goes out of its way to shoehorn in all of the trappings (pizza, ninjitsu, “heroes on the half shell,” etc.) but misses the core of what made people love the Ninja Turtles back in the day — their basic weirdness and silliness. Great care is taken with the surface, but the core is completely empty.

(Plus in a weird echo of last year’s Lone Ranger, the Turtles are apparently embarrassed to say “Cowabunga,” and apologize profusely before actually saying it.)

She goes on to take down the film in every category: not funny, poorly staged action, poor use of CGI.  Basically, she’s a ninja critic.

On Grantland, Wesley Morris uses a variation on Karl Marx (who would approve this update, I am sure):

 In Hollywood, history repeats first as farce, then as marketing.

And Chase Whale needs just one word.

Cowabummer.

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Critics Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week: Jeff Daniels

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Jeff Daniels is interviewed in the current issue of Esquire, where he made an important point about the difference between the way a character actor and a star approach a role.

Stars like to be likable. The Squid and the Whale is a perfect example. You get to the end scene, and that’s the point where the star turns to Noah Baumbach, the director, and says, “You know what’d be good? If I had a speech, heart-to-heart, a lot of tears. I’ve actually written something you might like.” It happens all the time. Noah and I — never. Not a word. If the guy’s got flaws, wear them on your sleeve. And stars don’t like to do that. And they’re paying you $20 million to do that thing you did that America loves, now just do it for them. It’s true.

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Quote of the Week: Dana Stevens on Michael Cera

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Dana Stevens liked “Year One” more than I did and she nailed the Black-Cera chemistry with this beautifully written assessment:

has a way of stepping on the very end of Black’s lines with quickly blurted put-downs that gets me every time; it’s the comedy of passive-aggression, a tart counterpoint to Black’s oleaginous self-assurance. Cera’s critics complain that he always plays the same role, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We need Michael Cera to keep being Michael Cera. Nobody else knows how.

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Quotes of the Week — ‘Seven Pounds’

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Will Smith’s latest got only a few positive reviews, 29% according to Rotten Tomatoes. One was from USA Today, where Claudia Puig said, “Concerned with how people overcome trauma and tragedy, the film focuses on universal themes of loss, forgiveness and redemption. While it doesn’t break any new ground or provide any revelations, Seven Pounds is unabashedly emotional and cautiously hopeful. It’s the feel-good movie for these feel-bad times.”
But it most critics placed it somewhere between “feel bad” and “feel furious” and the frustration of writing about what they did not like without giving away the ending had some of them just about foaming at the mouth. SPOILER ALERT — DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING It is clear from the very beginning of the film that Smith’s character will at least attempt to commit suicide and that he is preparing to make a great sacrifice to benefit seven people he considers deserving, including a character with a congenital heart defect played by Rosario Dawson. It turns out that he carelessly caused a traffic accident (don’t text and drive, my friends) that killed seven people, including his wife. At the end of the film, after giving up a lung, a part of his liver, his bone marrow (with no anesthetic), and his beach house, Smith’s character kills himself so that he can give up his heart and corneas. This is Puig’s idea of a feel-good movie?
I would not go as far as the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, who called it “among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made.” But I see his point. Scott Foundas of The Village Voice called it “a morbid morality play that rivals The Reader for the bottom spot in this season’s celluloid martyrdom derby” and “dispiritingly obvious and phony from top to bottom.” It is not the obviousness and phoniness and manipulation that bothers me as much as the clueless and even condescending immorality of it. No one thinks that suicide, even to benefit others, is a legitimately redemptive act and it is contemptible and irresponsible of the movie to suggest otherwise.

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“Gothika Rule” Quote of the Week

Orr and Jenkins on ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

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Slumdog Millionaire” is a Dickensian story of orphans in India. The movie is not for everyone. It combines the most harrowing abuse, betrayal, and tragedy with a piercingly romantic fairy tale. It is the story of a young man who is accused of cheating when he wins “Who Wants to Be a Millionare?” because he has no education and lives in the slums. In flashbacks that reveal his whole life to that point we learn how he knew the answer to each question. The movie has one of the most transcendently romantic moments of the year and concludes with a rousing dance number under the closing credits.

Mark Jenkins has an illuminating interview with director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later,” “Millions”), putting this film in the context of favored Boyle themes like sudden riches and the guerrilla filming style in the streets of Mumbai (Bombay).

Jenkins: How difficult was it to shoot in Bombay’s slums?

Boyle: The slums are great! You have to contact the right people to go in there, but once we were there and got to know the people, they’re extraordinary. They’re so resourceful, considering how little they’re given by the state. There’s no toilets, there’s no running water, no electricity. It looks filthy and disgusting, and it is around the edges, but you go in the homes and they’re absolutely spotless.

I think the energy of the film is a tribute to the slums. Everybody imagines people just hanging around, sleeping in the sun and not working. They’re incredibly industrious! Working in these cottage industries, and trading. That’s why they don’t want to move out of these places. Because the land is so valuable now, the municipal councils want to move them out to these tower blocks they built in New Mumbai. But they don’t want to go there. They do forcibly move them, but the people come back. They want to live amongst their own kind. Because what they get from their own kind more than compensates for the bricks and mortar that’s on offer out there. To be in the hub of the city, the maximum city, is priceless.

And Chris Orr’s superb review of the film appears in “The New Republic.”

Working from a script by Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”), Boyle stages every scene with verve and brio, confidently flashing forward and back from Jamal’s boyhood to his quiz-show appearance to his mid-game interrogation by a police inspector (Irrfan Khan) who suspects him of cheating. Throughout it all, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s camera bounces giddily through the tin-roofed shanties of Mumbai, while Indian superstar A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack throbs seductively. Not since Fernando Mireille’s “City of God” has a film about poverty and violence been told with such extraordinary panache.

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