Property review: TMNT Vol. 1 (1987 animated series)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2004

Turtles fight bare bones DVD

True children of the ’80s will tell you that one of the things imprinted in their memory is what they watched on television. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were important then, and children soaked it up. So, imagine GI’s surprise when the DVDs were finally released for public consumption. Spanning nine seasons, some of the most important establishing material is found in the first season, and the DVDs provide a look at the opening five-part miniseries that launched the show. But, if you’re looking for a quality introduction to the Turtles, keep looking because this version isn’t all that great.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The quality of the presentation is terrible for starters. While it’s obvious this is a show from the ’80s and broadcast quality isn’t going to be as good as say 2004, when the disc was released, it still should be better than what’s here. Then, add in quite a few graphical errors, a lack of extras on the disc and the confusing inclusion of several episodes from the 10th and final season and you have a poor mess of a DVD.

Great voice acting and a killer soundtrack help, though. It’s something when a series can draw you in because of its soundtrack and perfect casting, and the first season of the show managed that greatly. Practically speaking, the first season’s merits save the DVD from most of its negative traits.

And, we can get around it all because it’s the Turtles, and having the series on DVD greatly increases the amount of problems we’re willing to put up with just to have the series in our collection. We can’t complain that much as children of the ’80s and as superfans of the series. We just wish the quality was a little better and some of the behind-the-scenes material had been added here. That would be have tubularly awesome.

Plot: 8

Like the comics: 3

Casting: 10

Total score: 21 out of 30 or 7

What to watch

The five episodes here are the five-part miniseries that introduced the Turtles in animated television.

1. Turtle Tracks: The introduction and origin story of the Turtles. Keep in mind that this origin story greatly differs from the comics and film.

2. Enter the Shredder: The introduction of Krang and Shredder, and also the creation of Rocksteady and Bebop.

3. A Thing About Rats: Baxter Stockman is introduced and joins with Shredder.

4. Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X: Krang’s partial backstory is given and Dimension X is named. Michaelangelo gains a love interest.

5. Shredded and Splintered: Shredder and Splinter switch bodies, and Splinter’s bond with Turtles is fleshed out.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 and 30 overall.

Property review: The Avengers (2012)

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Avengers assemble into a satisfying package

When GI first heard there was going to be an Avengers film made, we scoffed. “Seriously, who didn’t see that coming? And who’s going to be in it?” is literally what we proffered when we were told the news. We were initially skeptical in that we’d seen the offerings from the Marvel camp with regard to Spider-Man 3 and we weren’t buying. No way, no how. But slowly, things changed. The surrounding films were introduced and received warm reviews. The devil was in the details, as they say, and it seems the casting made the movies. Well, as luck would have it, The Avengers turned out pretty nicely. So nice, in fact, that we regret our early pronouncement and embraced the film with open arms. We even paid good money to see it twice.

Our love affair with the good folks at Marvel starts within the first five minutes as Samuel L. Jackson practically chews scenery with every move and line of dialogue. It doesn’t hurt that we are huge fans of Jackson, and thought he was the only choice for Ultimate Nick Fury. Throw in the subtlety that is Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and the glorious deviousness that is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and we would have been satisfied with everything that had transpired in that first few minutes.

But then, just as we thought we couldn’t be more amazed than Captain America stepping onto the deck of the S.H.E.I.L.D. Hellicarrier, in stepped the rest of the cast: Scarlett Johansson literally steaming up with the screen; Mark Ruffalo showing the tortured and vulnerable side of the Hulk and Bruce Banner; Chris Evans’ duty to his men, country and self as Captain America; Chris Hemsworth’s pained fight as Thor to redeem or stop Loki at any costs; and finally Robert Downey Jr.’s scene-stealing billionaire philanthropist playboy act as Iron Man. The parts, in this case, were strong on their own, but when combined hit every note and played every beat to perfection.

Of particular note were Ruffalo and Downey. It would take an entire review to point out the subtleties and nuance of Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Hulk, who had the character down to a fine science. Watching the two interact was like watching good poetry on screen. Though Downey has now had two movies to showcase his great timing and wit, it was on display here in all its glory and it was clear that he was the star from the beginning. We especially liked how both characters were dialed up when necessary but dialed down enough to share the space with everyone else. That’s a challenge for writers and directors, and Joss Whedon — who deserves just as much praise as the cast — made it work brilliantly.

Also that which deserves mention is the special effects. The Hulk looked believable, and it was accepted that Hawkeye lived up to his name. All of the characters looked and acted in character with their surroundings. Someone at Marvel must have taken notes from the Spider-Man 3 debacle, because the effects were outstanding.

If you’re among the three people on Earth that hasn’t seen The Avengers, it’s time to rectify the situation. Great casting, believable plot threads and superlative attention to detail and character history? You get that and more with The Avengers. Assemble some time to see one of the best comic book movies ever made.

Plot: 10

Like the comics?: 10

Casting: 10

Total: 30 out of 30 or 10

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Property review: Batman (1989)

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman

Warner Bros., 1989

Batman’s exploits begin in excellent 1989 adventure

When the Tim Burton-directed Caped Crusader’s vehicle hit the silver screen, comic book movies were in their infancy. Sure, there was the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher and numerous Superman movies featuring the irreplaceable Christopher Reeve. But there was no big screen adaptation of arguably the next-most important DC hero: Batman. Enter the 1989 feature with big-name stars.

Nicholson. Keaton. Basinger. Those three names were omnipresent then and now. Jack Nicholson stole the show outright as the Joker from Michael Keaton’s lead. Once Nicholson makes his grand entrance as Jack Napier/the Joker, you can’t go back. Being fans of the Joker (and Nicholson as well; we affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Jack” because of a shared family name), GI wholly encourages taking this version of the clown prince of crime as an altogether awesome spin on the malevolent DC supervillain. Earlier and later takes on the Joker, such as the late Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight, were well done, but Nicholson holds a special place in our hearts as the first movie version of the character.

Keaton, despite a well-reported reluctance for his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman, nails the part of the tortured playboy-turned-crime fighter. And though the comparisons to Christian Bale have been brought up, Keaton like Nicholson is special because he brought Batman to life with a thorough look at the inner soul of the man dedicated to avenging crime in Gotham City.

Kim Basinger rounds out the trio of leads and does an admirable job as Vicki Vale. It’s not often that someone can chew scenery with a man dressed as bat and another man sporting green hair, a menacing grin and face paint. Though we disliked the naivete of the character in the beginning, Basinger does a good job of leading you to believe in her gradual falling for Wayne as the story progresses.

It also doesn’t hurt that the chemistry between Basinger and Keaton is immediately palpable in their first scene together.

While Batman succeeds mostly because of the acting chops of its leading trio and surrounding cast, we would be remiss in not giving praise to the costume and set design. The background scenery and look of the movie is what really shines.

With the introduction sequence featuring Danny Elfman’s iconic score (later improvised upon in the equally iconic Batman the Animated Series) and Batman logo, you’re pulled into the world of Gotham from the beginning. It’s gritty and can be darkly humorous, much like Burton, but you know it’s right. Batman feels appropriately like Batman and the film is a template from which all comic book films could learn a lesson about quality showmanship.

Batman is, quite frankly, one of the best comic book films ever made. GI fell in love with the movie 23 years ago as it played in theaters and made its way home to VCRs. It’s stood the test time for film — far better than its later sequels — and stands admirably next to any of the modern-day reboots.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Casting: 9/10

Total: 28/30 or 9.3

Property review: Dr. Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme

Photo courtesy of the Marvel wikia

Dr. Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme

Lionsgate, 2007

Dr. Strange DVD conjures fine story

Dr. Strange is strange, indeed. He’s got the potential to be a top-tier character, yet he’s not out there for Marvel that much. However, he has received the animated movie treatment like most of the peripheral Avengers so he has some prominence. And his film isn’t that bad.

Dr. Strange takes some time getting into. Starting off slow, the film handles Strange’s backstory with care, mixing in different parts from the mainstream and Ultimates incarnations. We see how Strange is at the top of his game, loses everything and hits rock bottom and finally becomes Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. In his journey, Strange learns to care about others and that money and position in life aren’t everything. Even though Strange has one of the most cliché tales, especially involving a friend-turned-foe, the story isn’t bad and it’s paced pretty well. The addition of the backstory involving his sister’s death is slightly weird, since it’s not in the actual comics. While it gives Strange some emotional depth and makes him more relatable than his comic counterpart, it’s not actually necessary.

What really makes the film worth watching is its voice acting cast. The voices chosen are perfect. With Kevin Michael Richardson among them, the cast is pitch perfect and almost could have been considered for the same roles in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (ed’s note: Richardson does make an appearance in MvC3, not as Baron Mordo but as Galactus). Bryce Johnson, as the voice of Strange, is also excellent. There are a few more well-known names such as Phil LaMarr, Marvel stalwart Fred Tatasciore and Tara Strong that round out the strong cast.

Also standout is the quality of the animation. The characters animate beautifully and the lines and style are clean. It’s in the same vein as The Avengers movies, but look better than Hulk Versus.

Dr. Strange is an interesting character, and his animated feature provides a decent-if-not-cliché look at his memorable background and struggle to become something greater than himself. Give it a go if Strange’s tale of might and magic will intrigue you.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Like the comics?: 6

Casting: 9.5

Plot: 8

Overall: 23.5/30 or 7.8

Property review: Ultimate Avengers (animated)

Photos courtesy of the Marvel Database Wikia

ULTIMATE AVENGERS

Lionsgate/Marvel Animated Features, 2006

Ultimately awesome: Avengers cartoon passes test

We should start out by saying that we’re longtime comic fans. We’ve followed Marvel’s heroes for years and we’ve read issues of the Ultimates when it debuted. There’s one word that describes the Ultimates perfectly — cinematic. From the dramatic art to the epic storytelling, the comic had all the makings of a great film. We always hoped they’d make a live-action version of it, but it’s easy to see why Marvel would choose it as the first of their adult-oriented animation.

So, how did it translate from the printed page to the small screen? Not too shabby in our opinion.

The first thing any fan of Marvel will note about this animated movie is that the dark and violent edge has been taken off of Mark Millar’s story. This is understandable since they want to market this film to the widest audience possible, but it also removes some of the plot points that made it unique.

For example, Hank Pym doesn’t abuse his wife, Janet. They bicker, but there’s no domestic abuse anywhere. Captain America doesn’t beat the crap out of Hank and break his jaw. The Hulk is also violent, but he isn’t the embodiment of the male psyche run amok. (He doesn’t want to kill Freddie Prinze Jr. for being on a date with Betty.) That being said, though, elements of that edge are still present mainly in the action scenes. The Hulk breaks Giant Man’s knee. The Wasp flies into Hulk’s ear in a memorable moment. We also see Captain America fly a plane into a German base from the spectacular opening of the comic. So, though it has been watered down to a degree, there’s still a little bit of the edge left.

The film takes a few key scenes and the overall alien invasion plot and reshuffles it around to fit the needs of people with attention deficit disorder. For example, you have memorable scenes like the Hulk’s rampage (now at the end of the story), Captain America’s opening battle and Steve Rogers’ revival. However, you also have some changes like a new action scene involving a battle at a SHIELD base, a plane rescue scene by Iron Man and the alien invasion set in New York. There are also some changes to the characters. In the comic, Iron Man had a huge staff helping him maintain the suit while in this film Tony Stark works solo and anonymously. Thor is also a little different: He’s still an activist, but this time, the Norse god is saving the whales, which is ironic since Norway is one of two countries still hunting whales. You’d think Vikings would like whale burgers.

The animation in the film is a bit different. The character designs and backgrounds look pretty good, and the characters are highly detailed and full of color. There are times when the animation is spectacular, mainly during the fight scenes, however, the quality seems to waver between a Saturday morning animation and big-screen animation. It never quite achieves the level of excellence that most adult audiences have come to expect. They seem to be aiming for anime level of quality, but it never quite reaches it. The end result seems to be just what Marvel intends — animation that is just good enough to tell the story and cheap enough that they can crank it out quickly cash in, then move to the next film.

The voice actors of this movie did a great job. Each voice seemed to fit with each character. There is some heavy star power for this project. And you feel that experience in every line and scene. Fred Tatasciore, who voices Hulk on many projects is here. He makes you think that he has always been the Hulk with every roar, scream and referring to himself in third person. Justin Gross (Captain America) is Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden series and the Dead or Alive series. Nolan North has made his name known all over the place, notably as Deadpool in “Hulk VS.” The voice acting works great and nothing seems dry or out of place. And if you think you can make a better Thor, you should watch some of the other people try out for those parts and see if you add up to these experienced actors.

The Ultimate Avengers is a great movie for superheroes fans of all ages. There is something for everyone here: There’s a love story, someone trying to find their place in this world, a guy who wants to protect the world from the people in it, and a story of friends from different world. This is what the kids of all ages look for in a superhero story.

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 9/10

Plot: 9/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 8.6

Property review: Watchmen (film)

WATCHMEN

Warner Bros., 2009

Who watched the Watchmen? Sadly, not many

When you have a successful and highly regarded graphic novel as a basis for a movie, there shouldn’t be problems with the resulting product. And yet, Watchmen didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Maybe the movie-going public is or was tired of superhero flicks at the time, but “Watchmen” should have done better at the box office because it’s a fantastically made film.

The color choice and set pieces are amazing, and the atmosphere of slowed violence in motion will make your jaw drop. It’s visually striking in just about every take and coupled with smart, tight writing, the movie moves along at a decent clip. It is slightly too long but at least the story told within will more than keep your interest. This is a film that needed to be experienced on the big screen, and thankfully, that’s how we learned about it.

The tale of an alternate timeline of costumed superheroes, the continued Cold War and Richard Nixon managing the White House through the ’80s is a fantastic one, and we couldn’t help go in curious as to how it would all work. Having never read the original Watchmen graphic novel, we reserved judgment until after reading it and seeing the movie. It’s easily become one of our favorite comics since and with good reason: It’s smart, it’s gorgeous and it’s believable. The movie continues in the same vein and had most of the tools to succeed such as recognizable names attached to the project and established story.

The acting and casting isn’t necessarily the draw here but it’s serviceable. Everyone gives the same vibe off: They know their character and how that person or being fits into the larger scheme of storytelling. In particular, we salute the acting chops of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played The Comedian, for his ability to steal the scene in all of his appearances. He is one of the true draws here, and he gives you your money’s worth and then some.

There’s several minute changes overall that mostly the diehard fans will immediately notice, but to the standard moviegoer, it’s nothing that will make you stop watching. If you know nothing about the graphic novel, the movie will, if anything, create some curiosity for the original. Much like it’s earlier-reviewed brethren “300,” “Watchmen” lifts nearly every scene directly from its source material.

Some people have an issue with that, as it doesn’t exactly inspire creativity on the part of the director, but we disagree. This is one of the few instances where we’d rather have the graphic novel told directly with little to no changes than the translation screwed up (see: most video game movies).

If you’re looking for something a little different than the Dark Knight or mutants solving world crises, we suggest looking at the tale of non super-powered heroes who are just fighting for the right to exist. This one’s a gem.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Overall rating: 27/30 or 9.0

 

Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com

‘The Spirit’ lacking in focus, execution

“The Spirit”
Lionsgate, 2008

Despite reviews to the contrary, “The Spirit” isn’t a bad movie. It is a mess in some spots and it requires multiple viewings to fully understand what’s going on but, overall, it’s not bad; it’s just that its attention span is all over the place and could benefit from a pacing specialist’s undivided time.

Visually, it’s gorgeous. If you fell in love with the look of “Sin City,” you will love “The Spirit.” It sings for its supper in its lush graphics, and the mix of comic style and computer generated work does it a world of good. The costume direction is also a winner, and most of the characters look awesome with a softened glow about them against a gritty backdrop of crime, death and resurrection. Of particular note are the costume changes of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both who steal the show with their chemistry and impeccable timing. Gabriel Macht and Eva Mendes do a fine job in their lead roles and inspire feelings of sympathy and understanding for their predicaments.

“The Spirit” isn’t without its flaws, however. First of all, it’s not particularly true to the comics. The Octopus never shows his face in the original property. However, we can let it slide because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. He’s allowed to ham it up, and he’s a marquee name. Another change is the fact that the Spirit didn’t originally have the healing factor power he’s given. Again, the addition is jarring but it’s needed to pull the movie closer to the sensational to lure audiences in. However, it didn’t work as the film has only grossed nearly $39 million.

Thirdly, the story jumps around quite a bit. It’s not told nearly as well as “Sin City” and it’s not paced particularly well, either. In some parts — mostly those featuring Jackson — it’s hilarious and dark. In others, it’s slow and tedious, and you wish it’d pick up the pace and stop dragging its heels toward the inevitable Octopus-Spirit showdown climax. And finally, the climax, while it seems to take forever to get to, isn’t all that great. It’s really anticlimactic. What we really wanted was more of an emotional payoff for the Spirit’s romantic entanglements. Otherwise, it’s got a twitch factor that either you’ll get or you won’t. Despite its weirdness, we got a decent comic book movie fleshed out with interesting characters. Color us happy.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 9.5/10
Plot: 6/10
Like the comics?: 4/10
Overall rating: 19.5/30 or 6.5


Comic property reviews: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies

In the first quarter 2011 of Gaming Insurrection’s The Strip, we took a look at all three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Read on to see how we feel about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Before we start, a little bit of explaining:

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

A screenshot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles make an interesting discovery in their lair in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

TMNT movie origins great way to start franchise

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

New Line Cinema, 1990

Pulling from the comics to tell its origin story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does the franchise proud in its first stab at the movie business. With a few changes to some key elements, the movie Turtles still manage to convey the never-say-die attitude of the teen amphibians. Crucial fights and subtle humor are thrown in with great character development.

The casting is superb mostly. Judith Hoag was excellent as the plucky April O’Neil, and her pairing with Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones was enjoyable and believable. Shredder was menacing and imposing as well as his bodyguard, Tatsu (a movie only addition). The costuming looked great and so did the Turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Factory pulled out the stops to make the suits for the Turtles, and it shows. Our only quibble with the characterization was the inclusion and creation of April’s boss and his son. They weren’t wholly necessary to the story, and while they set up interesting subplots for the core group, they didn’t really add to the movie. In fact, it seems they dragged it down in parts.

We particularly enjoyed the fact that by the time the first movie was released, the cartoon was in full swing, thus making the movie possible. While the movie works to distance itself from the cartoon quite a bit, it still retains elements from it to draw in the younger crowd. Subtle nods to the franchise’s two origins (comics and cartoon) are featured throughout, helping the movie firmly ground itself as a sci-fi kung-fu flick. This is a must-own for the children of the ’80s crowd who remembers the days when Turtles fought with honor.

Like the comics: 7/10

Casting: 9.5/10

Plot: 9/10

Overall rating: 8.5

New character Keno joins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their quest to take on Shredder again in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

One liners’ add hilarity to Turtles’ movie sequel

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze”

New Line Cinema, 1991

What’s not to like about the sequel to one of the most successful independent movies of all time? Not much. Everything that made the first film a year earlier successful is back, though with a few changes. First, there’s no Casey Jones. And the actress playing April was changed. And there’s the addition of Ernie Reyes Jr. as the Turtles’ friend Keno and villains Tokka and Razhar. But other than that, the Turtles are still the Turtles.

There’s more action and more one-liners. And the return of Shredder makes it a little bit more believable that he’s a major villain for the Turtles than the comics would have you believe. It’s not very plausible that Shredder would be a one-note villain who only appears in a movie to try to kill the heroes, so it’s obvious that his role was increased here, tying in the various games AND cartoon.

Character development was handled in the first movie and not too much is dwelled on here. We wish more was written about Keno and why he was so proficient in martial arts and insistent upon helping the Turtles. His lack of explanation sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent tale for the Turtles. Also, is it too much to ask that Vanilla Ice should have been toned down? True, he doesn’t show up until the end, but really, Ninja Rap? It was odd and disconcerting as a child seeing him and that hasn’t changed in the 20 years since movie’s release. He does absolutely nothing for the film, and his cameo is beyond stupid. But, at least the Turtles got to dance.

Overall, watch the sequel if not for a laugh at the now-ancient fashions of the day, but for the ramped up humor that comes from creating a sequel for a TMNT movie.

Like the comics?: 5/10

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 7/10

Overall rating: 6.5

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles try to return home to their time in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

Boldly go where no Turtle should really ever go

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III”

New Line Cinema, 1992

A hackneyed plot and poor special effects make the third TMNT film the worst in the bunch. There isn’t much that could save the franchise from going downhill with the third movie. The plot of the Turtles time traveling literally doesn’t make much sense, and the first time that Lyndsey saw it in the theaters, she claims to have spent 20 minutes trying to make sure she was in the right movie.

The acting is garbage, the story is utter nonsense and has nothing to do with the TMNT universe, and there’s no mention of previous villains or characters that made an impact on the Turtles’ adventures. The bright spot in it all is the casting and return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones. He, despite some ham-fisted acting, is a beacon of hope in a movie that is far from shimmering.

There is nothing here that really resembles the TMNT universe save the abandoned train system home that the Turtles found in Secret of the Ooze and Jones. We had trouble understanding the point of adding the scepter and why even some of the strange plots from the cartoon universe weren’t expanded on, such as the Utroms or Rocksteady and Bebop. If the movie can introduce samurai that we’ve never heard of, the least the writers could do is include mutants that we have heard of. This is one sewer tale that should have stayed underground.

Like the comics?: 0/10

Casting: 2/10

Plot: 2/10

Overall rating: 1.5

Comic property review: “Punisher War Zone”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookResource.com

Third time’s a charm for Punisher

“Punisher War Zone”
Marvel Knights, 2008

If you can ignore the fact that this is the third attempt at bringing Frank Castle’s tale to big screen, you will love Punisher: War Zone. This is really what every Punisher film so far should have been: Gory, over-the-top action punctuated by the loss that Castle suffers.

With his family and humanity lost to senseless gang violence, Castle has to go the route of the Punisher. There is no other way and Lexi Alexander does an excellent job digging into the motif of Castle’s desire to lose himself in death. Using quick action shots, detailed costumes and a penchant for showing the worst ways to kill a man, War Zone achieves the effect that should have already been achieved by two previous actors: Death by Punisher.

War Zone’s Castle, Ray Stevenson, has the look of a man consumed with rage and revenge. He wears Castle’s raw emotions on his face well, and he makes an excellent dark anti-hero mired in a cesspool of a city.

Dominic West (who was also in last quarter’s review subject 300) is also excellent. Villains have become his strong suit and Jigsaw is a testament to his ability to take a character, immerse and make himself unrecognizable. Doug Hutchinson is a surprise standout as well. Having impressed us in his previous soap opera roles, he plays mentally insane well here. The other characters are rather stereotypical but they don’t necessarily get in the way of the story.

Overall Punisher: War Zone should have had a better draw in the movie industry. It received a bad rap because of its late-to-the-party status and drama surrounding production, but it really is a good adaptation of a comic book franchise and deserves to put ahead of the other attempts to bring the Punisher to the big screen.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Like the comics?: 10/10
Overall rating: 9