The Turtles Still Can't Make a Movie, But Lonely Island Can

Reviews of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows," "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" and "Me Without You," plus local film news and notes.

"teenage mutant ninja turtles" photo Credit: Lula Carvalho © 2015 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
"popstar" photo Copyright: © 2016 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Plenty of box-office hay has been made by revisiting properties and characters that current adults loved as kids. Comic-book flicks, the “Star Wars” franchise, ’80s hits (barely) remade — all have been revived for the appreciation of a nostalgic audience.

In better efforts to re-attach our grown-up hearts to our adolescent predilections, however, the new film is made into an entertainment for older audiences (or, at the very least, for all ages). “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” engaged parents and children alike; all the best Marvel movies have spectacle for teenagers and political commentary for adults.

In contrast: the two recent live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies, including this weekend’s “Out of the Shadows.” These are not all-ages pictures that resurrect the appeal of the long-running cartoon characters. Rather, they’re just movies for kids.

And not particularly good ones, at that.

This time around, villain Shredder is sprung from captivity by alien warmonger Krang, who wants to use the former baddie to assemble pieces he needs to bring a superweapon to Earth. (Franchise favorite henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady are created in the process.) Meanwhile, the Turtles find themselves divided as they begin to resent the imperative to remain forever in hiding.

“Out of the Shadows” is better than its predecessor, but that’s only because its predecessor was almost inconceivably awful. The sequel is more of a garden-variety sort of a failure; the plot is weak, the effects look less realistic than anything you’re likely to find on an XBox and the gags are irritating. The few respectable actors to be found — including an inexplicable appearance by Laura Linney, who must’ve had her eye on a new house when the Turtles showed up with a big check — couldn’t seem less interested.

The filmmakers, whom I will spare the indignity of being associated with the film in this space, clearly want to imply that “Out of the Shadows” is the sort of kids-and-adults alike entertainment mentioned above; a number of jokes seem focused at older viewers, and the film earns its PG-13 rating. But this is simply a bad kids movie. Fans who grew up with the turtles will have a better time playing with their old action figures. — SC

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In sharp contrast to the amphibious offenders who will get the lion’s (tortoise’s?) share of the box office this weekend, I am happy to report that the best film I’ve seen so far in 2016 also debuts this weekend — and it’s certainly not a movie I expected to love as much as I did. “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” the music mockumentary from “SNL” vets The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) is one of the most hilarious and pointed parodies I can name. In skewering pop-star worship pseudo-documentaries from the likes of Justin Beiber and Katy Perry, the Lonely Island team has found a perfect vehicle with which to link a series of choice sketch ideas; each scene could’ve been the best bit on an episode of “SNL.” And, of course, a number of new songs from the crew appear; each left me rolling. Had these premiered as part of the group’s Digital Shorts run, they likely would’ve been as beloved as “I’m On a Boat” or “Lazy Sunday.” The constant run of celebrity cameos is used perfectly, and few jokes miss. It’s a decidedly adult comedy — prepare for nudity and precision-fire vulgarity — but I can’t recommend it highly enough. — SC

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The hype is true: the chick flick of 2016 (it deserves that descriptor as well) is a tearjerker. (At one point during the movie I leaned over to my friend and said, “I’m not just crying. I’m ugly crying.”) “Me Before You” follows Louisa Clark (“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke), who gets a job as companion to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin of “The Hunger Games”). Will has been injured in an accident and is now a quadriplegic, and he’s not dealing with it well. Louisa’s endearing personality begins to bring Will around, and eventually they fall in love. That’s the part you know is coming — but you may be surprised by what comes after that, unless you’ve read the book the movie is based on (the author, Jojo Moyes, also wrote the screenplay and has penned a sequel as well). It’s not a perfect movie. At times I wondered if Louisa was falling in love or just really desperate to cheer Will up, especially since she’s tied to boyfriend Patrick (played by Matthew Lewis, Neville Longbottom of “Harry Potter” fame) for most of the film. But it’s a welcome romance when you consider Nicholas Sparks hasn’t crafted a decent story in a decade, and the two main characters are sweet to watch. Romantics will love it, and even non-romantics should bring the tissues. — LD

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The Montage: Director Luc Besson gets the retrospective treatment at Row House Cinema this weekend. His two most well-known ’90s films, “Léon: The Professional” and “The Fifth Element,” will be screened alongside two less-seen works from the early 2000’s, “District B13” and “Wasabi.” Click here for showtimes and info … The Hollywood Theater Dormont’s beautiful merging of charity, film and beer returns tonight. This month’s Brew Cinema features a screening of “Fargo” and offerings from Voodoo Brewery. Click here and get your tickets now … The acclaimed indie hit “The Man Who Knew Infinity” will be paired by a discussion on paradox and proof as part of the “Science on Screen” program next Wednesday at Regent Square Cinema. Click here for tickets and more info. — SC


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