Monthly Archives: September 2014

Films No One Should Watch: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT>

I remember being a kid under the spell of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. We kicked ass and ate pizza, and dreamt of nothing but hanging out with wise rats while spelunking through sewers of major metropolitan cities.

It made no sense, the cartoon, combining random ass-kickery and enthusiasm dedicated to all things ninja and coolness of katanas with pizza flavor, and yet we loved it. We didn’t try to make sense of why the turtles have morphed into TNMT. Today, a cartoon such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wouldn’t be made. Then again, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shouldn’t have been remade either, and yet here we are.

The latest stab at the childhood hearts and all things awesome by the crippling, life-sucking hand of Michael Bay, took victim of this simple nostalgic concept, and turned it into another action zombie that no one should watch.

This while elephant of a production that cost over $125m to make, and is bound to triple its money in sales, does share one thing with its cartoon inspiration: it makes little sense, except in all the wrong places.

The beauty of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was that the turtles were small, and feisty, and existed outside our reality. They were outsiders who felt it, allowing all the little kids to learn an important lesson: the size doesn’t matter, it’s the attitude and potentially those mean martial art skills that do.

We learned that the inner turtle is a fighter, and I clearly remember being surrounded by all those little kids who for the first time learned about Da Vinci, and the power of jiujitsu, and how much we all agree on pizza being the best food in the world.

In this version of TMNT, we have a convoluted back story of turtles who were really April’s turtles, but not really. You see, she would visit her father’s lab, and was carrying a super sophisticated camcorder for a child, and considered the lab animals her pets, turtles and a rat, feeding them pizza and whatnot. After rescuing the animals during a fire/murder of her father in the lab, she places them on a sewer grate, which is how they end up in the sewers.

Not sure what kind of heartless psychopath April is, but if I rescued pets from my recently departed father’s lab, I’d be taking them home, instead of condemning them to die from drowning or starvation.

You know what happens after that? April forgets all about the pets. She in fact needs to remember them using her video evidence and notebooks.

She is also a reporter. And she is Megan Fox.

This, mind you, is the very same Megan Fox who was banished from Michael Bay’s kingdom, for speaking out against the monarch.

There is the bad guy, played by William Fichtner, and his plan is to extract all the blood from the captured TMNTs, and then synthesize some kind of curative against a toxin that he will himself release onto the population, resulting in both riches and glory.

How blood + toxin + the lab backstory make a congruent narrative is… they don’t.

For some reason, there is also Will Arnett, who is presumably her less attractive, fumbling camera operator/driver. I am quite positive that Arnett is supposed to be the man-candy for the female audiences who are guaranteed to be horrifically bored during the entire film.

Will Arnett is an interesting casting choice, but also represents a painfully wasted opportunity.

The action is glossy. The film is heartless. Lots of jumbly bits convoluting the screen. TMNT win at the end. There are a few mediocre jokes thrown about, here and there.

Also, the new TMNTs are huge. Think “giant turtles.” Their actual size is difficult to approximate, but well above the 6′ mark.

These giant turtles have nothing to do with children, and even less to do with those nostalgic moments filled with laughter, eating ice-pops and playing good-guy ninjas on the playground.

I would go as far as to say that they don’t even have anything to do with teens, except that the film is rated PG-13 for “scifi action violence,” so I guess they are the perfect audience for this incredibly mind-numbing film. Teens, with their limited options for entertainment, are literally forced to go to the local mall and waste their time watching this. That’s the only real teen portion of this film.

Strati, the First 3D-Printed Car

The first 3D printed car is made of merely 40 parts, and is made by the Arizona-based Local Motors.

The process for this unique vehicle took 44 hours to complete, has a battery range of 120 – 150 miles, and sports some conventionally made parts, including tires, seats, wheels, battery, wiring, suspension, eletroci motor and windows. The seats, body, chassis, dash center consol and hood are printed out of black plastic reinforced with carbon fiber.

Read more at Techodrom.

Outlander & Extant: The Rise of Lady Sci-Fi

Outlander-Costumes

by Irma Arkus

There is a new generation of science fiction on television and I can think of no better way of calling it than Lady SciFi.

What is Lady SciFi? Good question indeed. I’ve been breaking my head trying to understand what Extant is, or whether Outlander even qualifies as science fiction, and indeed, they both belong in the same sub-category of shows with an appeal to primarily female audience.

On the one hand, these shows are a welcome change from the recent stabs at hard sci-fi, both in film and tv, largely oriented toward men. And lest not forget comic book films, which this year proved to be largely exceptional in storytelling, but continue to be abysmally weak (as always) in the female character development department.

Outlander is a little bit of romance, little bit of time traveling, but mixed with a lush, period drama. This high quality production is based on a series of best selling books by Diana Gabaldon, and represents a new era of high-production value for Starz network.

My guess is that Outlander is an answer to the powerhouse that is GoT by Starz, and is going to be a relatively successful one.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrKQH_vU0ps&w=560&h=315]

The show, created and produced by Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Galactica), stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Beauchamp, who while on post-war vacation in Scotland with her amateur historian husband, gets transported back in time to 1743, right in the midst of uprisings, political maneuvers and major conflicts between Scots and English.

In two blinks of an eye, savvy Claire becomes held by the “laird” whose illness forces her to show off her medicine woman skills, which the world of 1743 desperately needs.

The story itself is interesting, interspersed with lots of Scottish pride, pomp, and circumstance, tradition and incomprehensible Scottish dialects, peppered with numerous speeches that lack some much needed subtitles.

This is all very nice and dandy, but the production feels as if it is a brainchild borne of Scotland’s Ministry of Tourism, and that of Scottish nationalist party (whoever that may be). A lot of chest thumping and noble pomp, the show is a rudimentary propaganda piece with heavy separatist tones. To call them undertones would be a stretch.

These are not political messages of peace, love and understanding, but rather a call for war, honour, freedom, tradition and Scottish cultural integrity, and all that perfectly timed for the Scottish separatist referendum.

I cannot fault the show for it, but it feels somewhat burdensome to watch it. Despite the lush cinematography, and beautiful costumes, and some mighty handsome men who do what it is that Scottish men do, it feels like a beautified propaganda piece. Then again, perhaps it is time for some feistier political messaging on TV, subtlety be damned.

The other thing that bothers me is the acting. Claire is supposed to be this strong, smart, savvy, knowledgeable and even sexually provocative character, yet Caitriona Balfe appears to be incredibly waspy, cold and wooden actress who makes the likes of the queen of wasp, Andy MacDowell, look like a tropical heat pump with chortling laughter and a bubbly personality in comparison. And that is something of a concern.

Caitriona Balfe after all, is a model, considered beautiful by photographers and fashion designers alike, and she may have graced catwalks and magazine covers, but for the life of me, I fail to remember her in anything at all, despite her fair number of acting roles.

She feels wooden, she looks wooden, and while her body may represent the photographic ideal of the fashion world, I would have given my firstborn for someone more human and curvy, and with a bit more personality to have been cast for this role.

I thought it would become easier to connect with her character, that she would grow on me a bit, but as the show goes on, she is becoming mildly repellent, colder and less sympathetic.

CBS_EXTANT

Extant, on the other hand, is also Lady SciFi, but more of a Mommy SciFi. I’m not even sure that this is a television show, but the heavy marketing campaigns assure me that that is indeed the case.

Brought to us by Steven Spielberg, (which is strange, because the show has more in common with Ronald D. Moore’s Helix than anything else I can think of,) the show focuses on a mom, who is both a mother to an android and an alien newborn.
Extant_promo shot
Halle Berry, an accomplished actress for whom I have the utmost respect, stars in the protagonist role. Berry, as Molly Woods, is an accomplished scientist who spends some odd 13 months in orbit on a solo mission, only to come back with some interesting cargo on board.

Woods returns home to her loving husband and their solution to her barren state, a little android child, that looks and acts just like the tyke from AI.

In fact, the entire storyline feels like it has been pasted out of random, trashed pages from AI, and has been progressively getting less coherent.

Characters that were entirely in the background, such as the case with Alan Sparks or Gordon Kern, become suddenly enriched with flimsy backgrounds, and are pushed to the forefront in a matter of minutes.

Berry is mostly seen flailing, sweating, doing her best to keep up appearances. I am not sure that any of the actors know what is going on, and they get to read the scripts before they shoot the show. As for the viewers, I can assure you that we can only surmise that this show has been written by monkeys.

Extant fails to connect in terms of narrative integrity, timing, action, and is generally drowning in what I can only call an abysmal failure.

At this point, the show has hit its 11th episode, and let me assure you, things have not been getting better. Quite the opposite, in fact. At this point, the alien man-child is on the loose, and the action surrounding the chase after him is incredibly poor.

That said, the lighting is good. The costumes are great, and the future looks like it has been constructed out of catalogue pages. It’s also making me cranky, because there is a missing piece of the story that pertains to their society, aka. our future. They are either living in an era of prosperity because of some cataclysmic event, or the show is simply suffering from the fact that the peeps working on this production are entirely divorced from reality of human existence, which constitutes the extra insult to viewers, as the show is called Extant.

Those blind monkeys working on this show will most likely never see the second season, so I recommend you soak up as much Berry as possible.

These two shows represent an interesting new breed of television. They are grappling with science fiction themes while trying to connect to a less explored audience. Similar science fiction developments aimed at teen audiences also premiered this year, namely The 100, and Star-Crossed.

All of this implies is that science fiction is currently the less explored genre with a huge potential, and that there are indeed less explored audiences, which may result in that one new show to reach unprecedented heights of popularity.

With HBO raising the bar with GoT, I am hoping some of it will soon translate into not only ill-conceived Lady Sci-Fi, but excellent, high-quality science fiction television that will garner fans for generations to come.