Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence

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Directed by: Dave Green

Written by: Joseph Appelbaum & Andre Nemec

(based on the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES comics by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird)

Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Brian Tee, Tyler Perry, Brittany Ishibashi, Laura Linney, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Tony Shalhoub, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus & Brad Garrett

Though it didn’t jive too well with hardcore fans and most movie critics, 2014’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was a box office success. Of course, this meant an inevitable sequel was on the horizon. Two years later, we have TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, a follow-up that noticeably improves upon its bland predecessor and yet still falls victim to a couple of the reboot’s shortcomings. It should be noted that I’ve never been a big TMNT fan, so I’m not exactly a person to ask regarding if this film delivers for fans of the comics, cartoons, and franchise as a whole. Strictly taken as PG-13 family fun and a big dumb summer blockbuster, OUT OF THE SHADOWS is by-the-numbers entertainment driven on a handful of cool moments and lots of questionable writing.


A year after the turtles saved New York from the evil Foot Clan, Shredder (Brian Tee) remains in police custody and cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) has taken credit for the ninja turtles’ heroic deeds. The teenage turtles (composed of: leader Leonardo, aggressive Raphael, geeky Donatello, and fun-loving Michelangelo) live in the sewer and observe the world from the shadows (hiding in the Jumbotron at Knicks games, stealing pizza from delivery drivers, etc.). When Shredder breaks out of police custody, it appears that the four turtles have their work cut out for them. It’s going to be harder to take Shredder down this time around, because he’s being assisted by warthog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and rhinoceros Rocksteady (Sheamus), and has also formed a world domination plot with tentacled alien Krang (Brad Garrett). To throw even more problems into the mix, Shredder has acquired a purple ooze that could possibly turn the teenage mutant ninja turtles into humans, which causes personal conflicts to emerge within the reptile team.


OUT OF THE SHADOWS is the first TMNT movie to feature Rocksteady, Bebop, and Krang. Even though I vaguely knew of these villains, I was pretty excited to see them on the big screen. Shredder is actually made into a real bad guy this time around and doesn’t look like a giant silver Transformer, all while Rocksteady and Bebop inject a sense of humor into the movie. You’d think that a film revolving around giant pizza-eating turtles who practice martial arts wouldn’t take itself so seriously, but you’d be surprised. Rocksteady and Bebop alleviate the brooding self-serious tone by being two goofball henchmen. They’re silly cartoon characters brought to life through computer effects, one happens to be a pig and the other is a rhino. Don’t worry about their origin story because it is given, albeit in a half-assed way.


As for Krang, I was mightily disappointed with his lack of screen time in this film. Even though the script sets him up as the main antagonist, Krang receives a total of two scenes (one of those being the finale). He only shows up to make a bad joke about his tentacle mucus to Shredder and eventually returns to fight the turtles. The final confrontation between the turtles and this gooey pink alien is fun to watch, but I wish this villain had more of a presence in the overall scheme of things. As a result, I cared more about Shredder, Rocksteady and Bebop than Krang…and this finale felt like an afterthought.


The 2014 installment focused on a convoluted and silly origin story, but the turtles are actually far more developed in this 2016 sequel. In the reboot, their only discernible differences were different colored masks. This time around, they’re given distinctly noticeable personalities from the opening frames. I was able to understand their differences better and the personal conflicts between them actually made sense, even if the story was repeating similar scenes from the first film. Because this sequel focuses on the turtles, the human characters are shoved aside as walking plot devices.


Megan Fox’s April looks sexy and gets info for the turtles, while never becoming the damsel-in-distress that she usually was in the cartoons. Will Arnett’s Vern is underused, but supplies one of the funniest scenes in the entire film. Tyler Perry isn’t bad as mad scientist Baxter Stockman and if they make a third installment, I’m positive that we’ll be seeing more of him. Stephen Arnell is boring and forgettable as masked vigilante Casey Jones. I guess this character is a huge fan favorite, but he seemed like a generic bland sidekick to me. Maybe, this movie just screwed up the character of Casey Jones? On a side note, Laura Linney seems noticeably embarrassed to be starring in this film.


There’s not a moment in OUT OF THE SHADOWS where you can’t fully predict the entire movie from start to finish. The script hits a series of expected beats and follows a familiar road that’s been seen in plenty of other movies, just not ones featuring giant talking turtles. The narrative is brainless, but the set pieces and effects are entertaining. I really enjoyed this sequel’s CGI, which looked like a monumental improvement over the first movie’s effects. The action scenes are mostly fun, but also get bogged down in distracting shaky cam. As a film made for families and people who want to watch ninja reptiles, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS is throwaway entertainment. Kids will love it. Fans of the series are likely to catch details that casual viewers will miss. SHADOWS is a step above its mediocre predecessor entry and there’s something to be said for that.

Grade: C+

GONE GIRL (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 29 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for a Scene of Bloody Violence, some Strong Sexual Content/Nudity, and Language

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Directed by: David Fincher

Written by: Gillian Flynn

(based on the novel GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson & Missi Pyle

Since 2014 began, I was looking forward to GONE GIRL. This was one of the most anticipated films that I’d been waiting all year to see and I’m so glad to say that it didn’t disappoint. David Fincher is one of  the best directors working today and continues to excel at telling dark stories with this diabolical thriller. It should be said right out of the gate that GONE GIRL is probably not the most ideal first date movie. The film is a complex piece of work that covers a variety of timely topics in a twisted story about a marriage gone very wrong.

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On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home from visiting his sister to find that his wife, Amy, has disappeared. There are signs of a struggle and the police are called. Though Nick is cooperating with the police and putting on the appearance of a good guy, there seems to be something off about him. It’s not too long before its revealed to the viewer that the situation isn’t quite as clear-cut as it seems. It would be sugar-coating things to say that Nick and Amy’s marriage was dysfunctional. Events arise, things get more complicated, and if anyone dares try to spoil this movie for you, punch them in the face!

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David Fincher has previously turned well-known novels into A+-worthy films (FIGHT CLUB, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO). It’s no easy feat, but Fincher does it yet again with GONE GIRL. Besides the man’s knack for directing awesome movies, it probably helps that the author of this source material has penned the screenplay for this adaptation. She knows precisely how the characters should behave and in what way certain plot developments should be given to the audience. The less said about the story itself, the better. You’ll be captivated if you go in knowing the general gist of the plot, but nothing else…unless you’re a fan of the book and then you’ll love it as well. GONE GIRL is a thriller that never goes in the direction you expect it to.

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Every actor in every single role (no matter how minor or large) nails their part perfectly. Ben Affleck (as questionable a Batman as he may wind up being) encapsulates Nick Dunne as a mysterious puzzle that the audience is dared to solve before the end credits roll. Rosamund Pike as Amy (seen in flashbacks) gets across the nervous wreck that this woman becomes due to many different problems caused by their crumbling relationship and the effects of a bad economy on a marriage before her ultimate disappearance. Neil Patrick Harris is suitably creepy as Amy’s ex-boyfriend/possible suspect. Of all people, Tyler Perry knocks it out of the park as a lawyer! Missi Pyle puts on her best Nancy Grace impression as a cable news host. Finally, there’s the relatively new Carrie Coon as Nick’s concerned twin sister. She was an unfamiliar face who put in a convincing performance and garners a lot of emotion from the viewer in her direction.

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Besides the phenomenal story and the great acting, GONE GIRL also has a sense of unease that lasts from the opening until the closing credits have begun to roll. The ending almost plays out longer than it should (in the same sense that GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO stretched its final minutes out), but it ultimately winds up paying off in spades. The final shot of the film is a haunting one that leaves you with a whole lot to ponder long after you’ve left the theater. This is an intelligent, compelling, intense piece of cinema that holds as a true product of our time too (there are plenty of news cases that resemble the one that this movie covers).

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There’s not a doubt in my mind that GONE GIRL will wind up on my top 10 films of 2014. It might even be my favorite movie of the year. I’m going that far because the film is that phenomenal. It’s a thriller that I’ll revisit over and over again for a variety of reasons. There’s not a bad thing I can say about GONE GIRL and to dive into specifics would give away too many details about the plot. Just know this is a thriller that does precisely what it should (thrills you) and leaves you with a whole lot to think about afterwards.

Grade: A+

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