Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Review - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Paul Bettany (voice), and Ben Kingsley 
Directed by Shane Black

After the overhype that was The Avengers -- yes, I didn't love it, so perhaps my thoughts on Marvel movies automatically get negated because of that -- I admittedly wasn't looking forward to tackling Iron Man 3.  In fact, my biggest issue with The Avengers was Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark who I found to be obnoxiously annoying in that piece.  [Yes, I realize that's the point, however, as I mentioned in my Avengers review, setting him amidst "nicer" superheroes made the character's self-important sarcastic nature more grating.]

So, color me surprised when I sat through Iron Man 3 and found it an enjoyable action flick.  Tony Stark is dealing with the aftermath of that wormhole/alien incident in The Avengers and it's mellowed him out, helping to build a character that has more depth than the playboy we've seen in movies past.  Stark still has his sarcastically quippy replies to most things, but the script (and Downey, Jr.) does a nice job of creating a few more emotional layers on the character.

In Iron Man 3, Stark is faced with battling The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an American terrorist who's hellbent on making the US pay for their "crimes" against humanity.  After a bombing outside the Chinese Theater in L.A., the police are unable to find any bomb residue or any evidence that a bomb even existed onsite which begs the question of how exactly the Mandarin is causing these disasters.  Despite being more based in reality than some of the previous Marvel flicks, let's just say that the cause of the explosions takes us down that fantastical comic book unrealistic path -- and I don't mean that in a condescending way at all.

Admittedly, director Shane Black hasn't had much experience behind the camera (this being only his second film) and it shows a bit when it comes to lensing action sequences.  While the quick cuts aren't necessarily abundant, I couldn't help but think that many of the "BIG" scenes felt a bit muted in terms of excitement and were a bit confusing and slapshot in the way they were filmed.  Still, Black does a very nice job in the film's quieter moments and gets some good performances from all of his players with Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Jon Favreau making return appearances and Kingsley, Guy Pearce, and Rebecca Hall making solid debuts in the Marvel universe.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Movie Review - The Last Days on Mars

The Last Days on Mars (2013)
Starring Liev Schrieber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, and Johnny Harris
Directed by Ruairi Robinson
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Seven astronauts are finishing up a research mission to Mars.  On their last day, one of the astronauts sees a spike in some scientific readings and goes out to investigate only to fall into a gigantic pit.  As other members of the crew go out to try and find the missing astronaut, they discover that some type of planetary bacteria has infected the crew member and turned him into a man-eating zombie.

Yeah...zombies...on Mars...

The Last Days on Mars is surprisingly well acted considering the ridiculousness of the plot, but the film isn't very tense and it certainly isn't scary.  With neither tension or scares, the film just falls flat and proves to be ultimately a bit boring.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review - Austenland

Austenland (2013)
Starring Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Georgia King, Ricky Whittle, and Jane Seymour
Directed by Jerusha Hesh

My Keri Russell fandom isn't unknown to those who know me.  I crushed on her when she first appeared on the 1990s incarnation of the Mickey Mouse Club during my formative early teen years and my fondness for her continues to this day.  Hence, she's the reason I desired to check out Austenland, a comedy in which Russell plays Jane, a dowdy office worker who is obsessed with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  With her apartment decked out from ceiling-to-floor in Austen memorabilia, Jane jumps at the chance to spend a boatload of money to visit Austenland in England -- a immersive Victorian-era experience that places guests squarely in the Jane Austen era.  While there, she finds herself in her own love triangle with a somewhat lowly stable man/maintenance guy named Martin (Bret McKenzie) and the uppity, cantankerous, and more aristocratic Mr. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild).

Unfortunately, it's the love triangle aspect of Austenland that never lands quite right and ruins much of the good will and humor that the rest of the script and the actors bring.  The film squarely sets forth her relationship with Martin and does so in a rather lovely and charming manner, but I kept feeling like the third part of the triangle -- her dalliances with Mr. Nobley -- felt forced and not well thought out.  There was never any sense of connection between the characters of Jane and Mr. Nobley, but rather a sense that the script was just forcing them together for want of tension.

Ms. Russell is charming as usual with that nice, calm, and sweet Felicity vibe being present for this one.  I loved seeing Bret McKenzie onscreen -- I'm not sure I've seen him in anything since Flight of the Conchords (with the exception of his fantastic behind-the-scenes songwriting for the past two Muppets movies).  Jennifer Coolidge is playing her typical brash, larger-than-life, idiotic, ditz persona...but for some reason I've failed to tire of it from her.  She's just so darn good at it that I'm able to overlook the fact that nearly every single one of her characters is interchangeable from one movie to another.  Still, despite these actors' charms, the script does them in on this one and, despite my goodwill going into it, I left a little disappointed.  (However, should you watch, make sure you stick around through the credits for a nice Victorian-era music video set to Nelly's "Hot in Herre" which was hilarious to me for some reason.)

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Movie Review - Closed Circuit

Closed Circuit (2013)
Starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, Anne-Marie Duff, Denis Moschitto, Hasancan Cifci, and Jim Broadbent
Directed by John Crowley

I keep waiting for the movie that's going to provide the breakout role for Rebecca Hall.  Not only is she incredibly attractive (with a British accent to boot), but she exudes an intelligence and a down-to-earth demeanor that I find appealing.  Closed Circuit certainly didn't provide the breakout, but it's a perfectly acceptable political thriller that is elevated because of the respectable cast.

The film opens with a bombing in a open-air market in central London.  The police arrest Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), a man who seemingly has ties to Middle East terrorist organizations.  When the barrister set to represent Erdogan in the public hearing commits suicide, up-and-comer Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is plucked to replace him.  However, prior to the public hearing, a private hearing needs to be held.  With many aspects of the bombing having the ability to compromise MI-5's terrorism investigations, the government appoints another lawyer to Erdogan's defense, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall), to look over all of the government's secret information relating to the attack and determine what, if anything, needs to be made public record in order to help her accused client.  While Martin and Claudia are supposed to not have contact with each other -- as Claudia's private information may affect Martin's public defense -- the two used to have a romantic relationship and find it difficult to cut ties.  Not only that, but as both Claudia and Martin dig into the Erdogan case, they realize that things may not be as cut and dry as MI-5 hoped it would be.

Closed Circuit is a solidly made thriller that moves along at just the right pace.  However, I couldn't help but think this belonged on the BBC rather than in a movie theater.  There's nothing about it that screams "THEATRICS," but that doesn't by any means signify it's not of a high quality.  Seeing as how this is out of theaters and you'd just be watching it at home anyway, it's absolutely worth watching should political thrillers be your cup of tea.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Movie Review - Noah

Noah (2014)
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Douglas Booth; with the vocal talent of Frank Langella and Nick Nolte
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

I go to church.  

I also go to movies.  

When I go to movies, they don't need to reflect any of the teachings that are espoused in the church, but if they do, I prefer not to be hit over the head with them.  I'm an intelligent enough guy to read between the lines and grasp any philosophical or religious undertones.  You won't ever catch me heading to the insanely (though perhaps dubiously) popular God's Not Dead for this very reason.  Blatant religious proselytization is a complete turn-off to me perhaps because it's not how I live my religious life.  (I'm one who you'll never find preaching my beliefs to others -- which perhaps makes me a bad Catholic, but I can't help but feel my beliefs are my own.)

The reason for that preface is to illustrate the point that those who are ragging on Darren Aranofsky's Noah for "taking liberties" with a Bible story that is two pages long don't know what they're talking about.  The criticisms lobbed at this one are utterly unfounded and quite honestly paint "religion" in a bad light.  Then again, I'm one of those religious folks who believe most aspects of the Bible are simply "stories" that present "how to live one's life" as opposed to "actual happenings."  But you Noah-complainers can go on believing that Noah lived to be 950 years old...

Noah is a beautiful film told by a talented director headlined by a movie star giving what could very well be the best performance of his career...and it espouses the overall tone of the biblical story of Noah to boot.  All of those reasons are why Noah is a success.  Granted, the film doesn't quite hit all the right notes -- Aronofsky (who also co-wrote the film with Ari Handel) throws in a "bad sheep" subplot revolving around one of Noah's sons Ham that proves to be the biggest issue -- but I greatly appreciated the film's attempt to display a man's religious convictions and how they shape his life.  While it's true that Noah may "go off the deep end" a little bit in the film's third act as he attempts to bring an end to all mankind as he feels that was God's plan for him, the film more than justifies that stance while also supplying an appropriate ending and epiphanic-type moment for the title character to realize the error of his interpretation of God's word.

Everyone knows the story of Noah (played by Russell Crowe) and his ark, but Aronofsky and Handel expand upon the short tale in great detail and with significant "free reign."  I'm pretty certain the Transformers-like Watchers -- six-armed stone creatures who protect Noah as he builds his ark -- didn't make an appearance in the Bible.  Nor was there an epic battle between Noah and the descendants of Cain headed by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who desperately want to find refuge on the ark to live through the water apocalypse.  Personally, I found that this expansion of the biblical Noah story added depth, heart, and even strengthened the religious aspects of the tale.

Noah is a man who wants nothing more for his family to live a life at peace with the Earth and the creatures and humans who inhabit it.  When we first meet Crowe's Noah, he's a humble, quiet man who we can tell deeply cares for the well-being of his family and has a strong faith in the Creator.  (This "Creator" nonsense is perhaps the biggest "uproar" the movie caused.  With only one mention of the word "God," opponents of the film are up in arms.  This criticism is utterly unfounded.)  However, when he "hears" God speak to him, telling him to build an ark to safely shepherd his family and two of every creature through the approaching storm, his calmness shifts to diligence and steadfastness to the Creator.  However, upon seeing the Creator's wrath upon humanity, Noah admittedly starts to go off the deep end, feeling that this horrific event imposed upon humans must mean that God doesn't want them to inhabit the Earth anymore.  (This religious fervor that Noah feels is essentially mirrored in the religious folks who don't want you to see this film.  To me, they're eerily similar in that they both feel they are fully aware of what God would want from them.)  Nevertheless, Aronofsky's Noah character is a tricky one and Crowe absolutely succeeds at portraying every aspect of the complicated and thought-provoking character.

Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife Naameh and Emma Watson as Noah's adopted daughter Ila also provide powerful performances in a film that also heavily focuses on the women in Noah's life.  In fact, it's when the film attempts to shift to the trials of Noah's two oldest sons Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman) that the film falters.  Their "love triangle" of sorts with Ila is disappointingly trite and Ham's attempts to undermine his father oftentimes feel cheap and overly dramatic.

As far as the cinematic aspects of the film are concerned, despite the subject matter this is most certainly Darren Aronofsky's most "mass appeal" film to date.  After the quick cuts of Requiem for a Dream, the somewhat erotic Black Swan, and the inward "simplicity" of The Wrestler, Aronofsky allows the story to take center stage (despite having a much bigger budget for this one than any of his other features).  That isn't to say that there aren't some typical trippy moments -- the "creation" story Noah details in the third act is beautiful in that it stands in such stark contrast to the rest of the aesthetic of the film while still feeling like it naturally belongs in the piece -- but this is the "least Aronofsky" Aronofsky film I've seen.  Personally, I love what he brings to the table and I think he created a very thoughtful big budget flick.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Movie Review - Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Starring Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and a whole mess of Muppets
Directed by James Bobin

I was inevitably prepared to be a little let down while watching Muppets Most Wanted after the genius that was The Muppets (the RyMickey Award winner for Best Movie of 2011) -- a film that provided the resurrection and "rebirth" of the Jim Henson-created franchise of characters whom I've loved since I was a wee lad.  I wasn't quite prepared to be let down as much as I was, however.

It's not that Muppets Most Wanted is particularly bad in any way.  It's just that the heart that permeated throughout the humor of The Muppets isn't present this time around.  Granted, Muppets Most Wanted is a completely different beast -- it's a caper adventure with the Muppets trying to solve a crime spree across Europe -- and nothing like the nostalgia trip of director and co-writer James Bobin's first venture with the felt characters.  (Like Bobin, co-writer Nicholas Stoller returns for this flick as well.)  Still, if you're going to drop the emotional aspect, the humor needs to be pumped up and Muppets Most Wanted doesn't adequately succeed in that department.

After having successfully returned to the Hollywood scene thanks to their last movie, The Muppets are trying to decide what to do next to capitalize on their revitalization.  They meet with Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who in a job interview to be the Muppets' manager suggests that the crew travel across Europe on a world tour.  Despite Kermit's misgivings, our favorite frog is outvoted by his friends and they agree to hire Dominic and head over to Germany to start their tour.  Little do the Muppets know that Dominic is a crook who works for the criminal mastermind known as Constantine.  With the exception of a mole on the right side of his face, Constantine is a dead ringer for Kermit so when Constantine escapes from a Russian gulag run by the hard-nosed Nadya (Tina Fey), he switches places with Kermit and, in a rather Superman/Clark Kent-ian manner, none of the Muppets (except for Walter, introduced in last year's The Muppets) notice a difference.  With Kermit being re-captured and taken back to the gulag, Constantine and Dominic set out on a mission to snatch the Crown Jewels of London, stealing a bunch of other valuable goods along the way as the Muppets travel across Europe.

The plot, while somewhat of a rehash in tone of The Great Muppet Caper, is actually humorously developed, but the film lingers around too long at 110 minutes.  Trimming twenty minutes would've done wonders for Muppets Most Wanted.  [As much as I love Sam Eagle, his lengthy bits with Ty Burrell as CIA and Interpol agents trying to track down the criminals could've all been left on the cutting room floor without me feeling the least bit depressed.]  Without the touching nostalgia of The Muppets and relying strictly on laughs, the flick is guilty of the typical 21st century "movie crime" of being a comedy that overstays its welcome.

Much like the rest of the film falling short of its predecessor, Bret McKenzie's songs don't quite have the same impact as his wonderful, ingenious, and Oscar-winning numbers from the first film.  Granted, there are a few moments thanks to McKenzie's music where the film really comes to life -- the 1970s-inspired "I Can Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)" sung by Contantine (the best moment in the film by far and an early frontrunner for Best Scene of 2014), the power ballad "Something So Wrong" performed by Miss Piggy and Celine Dion (!), and the opening self-referntial number "We're Doing a Sequel" -- but overall they're not as inspired as his first venture into the Muppet realm.

I must confess, though, that perhaps I'm being way too harsh on this.  Any Muppet movie is better than no Muppet movie and maybe if this was the first Muppet movie in over a decade (like the last one was), I'd have felt a little differently.  However, 2011's The Muppets was so fantastic that I can't help but feel let down on this one.  A second viewing with a little perspective at the end of the year perhaps will be necessary to be certain that the rating below is the rating I want to give the film.  But for now Muppets Most Wanted is just...okay.  And that one word -- "okay" -- is the most damning one in the whole review.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Movie Review - The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger (2013)
Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, and William Fichtner
Directed by Gore Verbinski

The Lone Ranger isn't nearly as bad as its dismal box office numbers last summer would have you believe.  However, it's not very good either.  Director Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame does know how to solidly lens an action scene and all of The Lone Ranger's souped-up special effects moments really excel, succeeding at not appearing the least bit computer-generated or post-produced.  For that, I give The Lone Ranger much credit.

Unfortunately, the film feels bloated and surprisingly empty on story considering its nearly 150-minute running time.  For a movie called The Lone Ranger, one would think that the title character would take top billing when it comes to story.  But seeing as how Johnny Depp is involved and isn't playing that title character, you know that scene-stealing has to take place on his part...and that's certainly the case here.  Depp is Tonto, the title character's trusty Native American sidekick who is quick with witty retorts and swami-like wisely sage advice.  No matter what he's saying, however, Depp decides to mumble his way through the words much like his Pirates of the Caribbean Captain Jack character only this time without the English accent and with less of a slurred/drunken vibe and more of a stilted/monotone one.

Unlike Depp, Armie Hammer actually has a presence that at least proves charming and watchable as John Reid (who later becomes The Lone Ranger).  His story about avenging some wrongs done to his family plays out in typical western fashion, but Hammer at least is somewhat captivating.  Unfortunately, the film pretends like it cares about him as a character, but really just wants us to place our attention on Tonto and that's just a premise I couldn't get behind.

Like I said above, Verbinski has lensed a nice looking film.  Unfortunately, the script does this one in.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie Review - The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now (2013)
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bob Odenkirk, Kaitlyn Dever, Masam Holden, Dayo Okeniyi, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kyle Chandler
Directed by James Ponsoldt

In this day and age when teens flock to movies like the Twilight and Divergent series that supposedly tell stories to which they can relate, I can't help but think we're also in the midst of a great era for dramas focused on the regular everyday stories of American youths -- you know, without vampires, werewolves, and dystopian governments.  I may not have loved 2012's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it was a film I could appreciate for what it brought to the table in its surprisingly dark and somewhat depressing look at teenage angst.  2013 ushered in The Way Way Back which proved to be another solid piece that gave new energy to a coming-of-age tale.  

Towering over both those films, though, is The Spectacular Now, a flick that earned significantly less dough at the box office than either of those aforementioned flicks, but is a gem that absolutely should be seen.  Led by two fantastic performances from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now is a touching look at young love and how early relationships can shape us into the person we grow up to be.  Teller is Sutter Keely, a hard-partying high school senior whose mixture of class clown-ish/cool guy demeanor masks the fact that he can't make it many hours throughout the day without sneaking a drink from his secret flask of alcohol stashed in his pocket.  His girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) has just left him for Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), the quarterback of the football team and the class president, in the hopes of finding a more serious relationship as she heads off to college.  While this upsets Sutter and certainly was a blow to his esteem, it doesn't stop him from partying even harder in an attempt to find a lady to latch on to even if it's just for a night.

After a night he can't remember, Sutter finds himself sprawled out on some unknown yard, discovered by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a mousy, smart, yet certainly attractive senior at Sutter's school as she performs her morning paper route.  While the two had maybe seen each other in passing, they definitely belonged to different social cliques.  However, with Sutter woman-less, he sees an opportunity to perhaps make his ex feel a little jealous that he's moved on from her.  Although their relationship begins thanks to a somewhat deviously selfish notion on Sutter's part, he begins to find himself falling for Aimee's simplicity and mild-mannered nature -- the complete opposite of his lifestyle.

Director James Ponsoldt previously directed 2012's Smashed and my complaint about that film was that Ponsoldt didn't allow his camera to linger long enough in certain scenes in order to gain the full emotional impact that the story inherently had going for it.  Ponsoldt has certainly learned his lesson as The Spectacular Now is rather beautiful in its usage of simplistic long takes, taking its time to allow the story to unfold.  There's a naturalness to the dialog that almost languidly and off-the-cuff transpires between leads Teller and Woodley that gives you a sense of improvisation, never feeling forced and creating an incredibly believable world these two characters inhabit.

While I knew Shailene Woodley from her role in The Descendants, Miles Teller was a new face to me -- although I'd apparently seen him before in a film called Rabbit Hole.  What a breath of fresh air Mr. Teller is.  First, it should be mentioned that nearly all of the main actors playing teens here are in their mid-to-early twenties, yet they all believably jumped back into the roles of high schoolers.  That's what took me by surprise first as I found myself checking Teller's age while watching the film to see rather selfishly if I could place him on my Best Younger Actor/Actress list at the 2013 RyMickey Awards.  Second, Teller lands on a perfect mix of smarminess, cockiness, and angst-i-ness for his character of Sutter.  Sutter outwardly seems to have it all, but his constant drinking obviously hides an inner disappointment in himself and Teller captures that wonderfully.  When he finally is able to open up to Aimee, the more mellow side of Sutter rings just as true as the "bad boy" side.

Admittedly, upon her introduction, I was slightly disappointed by the obvious way the filmmakers decided to portray Shailene Woodley's Aimee.  She was given more homely clothes, wore significantly less make-up, and had more tussled hair than Sutter's ex-girlfriend Cassidy.  It just seemed like too obvious a set-up for the audience -- "See!  Aimee is the nice girl!"  However, as the film progressed, I appreciated the fact that Aimee as a character didn't change.  She stayed the down-home, sweet, and calming presence that we first witness from her.  Yes, Sutter opened her eyes to love, but she was strong enough to recognize that she didn't need to change for him.  For some reason, this felt rather refreshing and Woodley's performance was subtle and gentle, lacking a showiness that we so often see.

The script isn't quite flawless -- there's a subplot involving Sutter's estranged father that plays out a little too melodramatically to work with the rest of the film, as an example -- but the relationship between Sutter and Aimee and the camaraderie between the two actors that play those characters more than makes up for it.  The Spectacular Now is one of those under-the-radar films that you may not have heard of, but is absolutely worth seeking out.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Movie Review - Jobs

Jobs (2013)
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, and Ahna O'Reilly
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

The best I can say about Ashton Kutcher's portrayal of Steve Jobs is that he's at least trying.  In fact, it's so obvious he's trying that I never once felt that I was watching anything other than an aspiring thespian attempting to act and emote his way through the life story of the founder of Apple computers.  I'm sure Kutcher studied Jobs' motions, mannerisms, and dialect, but he never embodies the man -- he comes across as some lower-grade B-movie actor attempting to be older and wiser (which is pretty darn accurate to the actor Kutcher is in general).

Putting aside Kutcher's sometimes laughable performance (man, when he tries to cry, it's painfully hilarious), Jobs as a movie just isn't good either.  The film begins by delving a little bit into Jobs' personal life, but that aspect thankfully is pushed to the wayside about thirty minutes in, focusing instead on the more boring (but less corny) incorporation of Apple as a company.  From that point on, it's just a series of "battles" Jobs must duke it out amongst his colleagues as they fail to see his vision for what Apple and its computers were meant to be in his eyes.

Listen...I'm an Apple guy all the way.  I have been forever and likely always will be.  While the film did make me want to read the giant Steve Jobs biography that came out a few years ago, director Joshua Michael Stern simply doesn't have the goods to deliver here.  The film plays out very by the book (a discredit to the screenwriter as well -- Matt Whiteley in his debut) and Stern doesn't do a thing to differentiate itself from anything we've seen before.  Just when one conflict is resolved, we move on to the next one.  Scenes are bathed in appropriate lighting (dark for somber moments and glorious golden for the happier ones), coupled with soaring or pensive music in a very paint-by-numbers manner that's not the least bit innovative or imaginative.  For a film that focuses on a guy who was all about thinking outside of the box, Jobs is anything but that.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

Friday, March 28, 2014

Movie Review - Turbo

Turbo (2013)
Featuring the voice talents of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Rodriguez, and Ken Jeong
Directed by David Soren
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

About 35 minutes into Turbo, I found myself thinking that I had a nice little surprise on my hands with this fairly little seen film (in terms of mainstream animated flicks).  A NASCAR-obsessed snail named Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is the problem child of a clan of snails headed by Theo's older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti).  The snails take care of a tomato patch, but Theo seemingly causes chaos with his daydreaming about one day matching the talent of his favorite NASCAR driver Guy Gagne (Bill Hader).  Discouraged by his brother's disappointment in him, Theo wanders away from the tomato patch and, in a freak accident, gets sucked into the engine of a drag racing car wherein, through some crazy DNA fusion, he gets his veins filled with nitrous oxide causing him to be able to move as fast as the cars he's dreamed about.

While I enjoyed the tale's relationship between brothers Theo and Chet, once Theo leaves his home and becomes a souped-up snail, Turbo begins to fall apart.  Theo finds himself at Dos Bros Taco store and, perhaps serendipitously, Tito (Michael Peña), one of the Dos Bro's, races snails for fun.  (Yeah...sure...)  When he discovers Theo's prowess, Tito decides to try and get Theo -- whom he names Turbo -- into the Indianapolis 500.

While Turbo looks decent and its main voice actors -- Ryan Reynolds and Paul Giamatti -- are solid, its story just doesn't work once Theo "becomes" Turbo.  While at Dos Bros, Turbo meets a slew of other snails -- voiced by people like Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, and Samuel L. Jackson -- who have ridiculously stereotypical personalities and don't do anything to advance the story whatsoever.  They all could've (and should've) been eliminated and the plot essentially could have been rolled out in the same manner.  The film's climax feels obvious and rather forced, allowing for very little tension which doesn't help things either.

The RyMickey Rating:  C