The latest entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise hits theaters this weekend, aimed squarely at younger audiences, but with Michael Bay’s fingerprints all over it, how family-friendly is it, really? Read on for Christy’s thoughts on that, as well as a few new choices on DVD.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for sci-fi action violence.
The follow-up to the 2014, live-action incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, shockingly, an improvement. The action sequences have some real verve (and actual coherence) to them, and the humor isn’t quite as cringe-inducing. This time, the four crime-fighting turtle brothers – Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo – must stop the dreaded Shredder and his Foot Clan from teaming up with an alien enemy who’s hell-bent on world domination. Or something. That means plenty of massive chase sequences, car crashes, exploding vehicles, ninja battles and general destruction. There’s also a bit of language and some slightly suggestive content involving Megan Fox in a naughty schoolgirl outfit. I brought my 6 ½-year-old son with me to see it — nothing freaked him out, and I found nothing objectionable in it for him. But if you feel uncomfortable with your kids seeing this kind of CGI spectacle, it’s probably best suited for viewers around 10 and older.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements and language.
Tweens and older will probably be fine watching this earnest, well-intentioned biopic about prolific Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens. Stephan James stars as the legendary track and field athlete who was part of the controversial decision by the American team to compete in the Nazi-run 1936 Summer Games. Given the time period and the racially charged setting, you can expect lots of language and slurs, which may be uncomfortable for young viewers to hear — but it also may provide a teaching moment about history and racial struggles. (The title is a double entendre.) The film features Jews being forced onto transport vehicles and having their businesses vandalized. It also includes some sexual humor and shows Owens cheating on the mother of his child. But there are also many worthwhile themes here for kids to learn about and discuss, including perseverance, courage, and understanding.
Rating: PG-13, for zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
This time, the Bennet sisters aren’t just preoccupied with finding husbands — they’re fighting to stay alive. Because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, like the genre-blending, best-selling novel it’s based on, is essentially Pride and Prejudice… with zombies. So that means this version of the Jane Austen classic is a whole lot more violent, filled with shootings, stabbings, beheadings, bloody faces, and smashed skulls as the undead stumble and mumble their way through 19th century England in search of brains. Many of the classic exchanges between Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) take place either while they’re battling each other or teaming up to fight off a zombie attack. But the effects in writer-director Burr Steers’ film are often so poorly staged, shot, and edited, it’s difficult to tell what’s happening. I’d steer your kids toward a different cinematic take on Pride and Prejudice – the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley, for example — but if they’re insistent on seeing this one, it’s probably OK for mature tweens and older.
Rating: PG-13, for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality.
Not that I’d recommend seeing this with your family, but if you have to for whatever reason, it’s probably OK for mature tweens and older. Gods of Egypt is just a crazy, cheesy, over-the-top mish-mosh of history, mythology, and sci-fi fantasy. It’s basically about Egyptian gods (played by actors who are either Scottish, Australian, or Danish) turning into giant, metallic flying creatures that battle each other in the sky. There’s a ton of carnage and destruction, all of which is rendered in hilariously terrible special effects. One character gets his eyes plucked out of his face. Another takes a lengthy trip to the underworld, where some fellow travelers find themselves graphically obliterated if they don’t have anything valuable to secure their passage to eternal peace. There’s also a brief sex scene with partial nudity between Gerard Butler’s character, the power-hungry Set, and his mistress. This is super-violent and overlong but also just bad. Bad in a fun way quite often, but still — bad.
RT Senior Editor Grae Drake hit the red carpet to talk to the cast of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Will Arnett, Tyler Perry, Stephen Amell, Gary Anthony Williams, Stephen Farrelly, Brian Tee, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Tony Shalhoub), as well as producer Michael Bay, about how they would pimp out their personal garbage trucks, why everyone loves the Turtles, what they would like their dormant animal genes to be, and what fans can expect from the movie.
This week at the movies, we’ve got turtle power (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett), a tear-jerking love story (Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin), and a pop music satire (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, starring Andy Samberg and Imogen Poots). What do the critics have to say?
Beloved by middle schoolers the world over, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have yet to power their way into the hearts of movie critics, who say that while their latest big screen outing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, holds a slight edge over its 2014 predecessor, it’s still too noisy and juvenile to satisfy. The plot is the usual silliness — the evil Shredder is bent on world domination, and the Turtles must stop him — but pre-teens and nostalgic TMNT die-hards are unlikely to mind. The pundits say Out of the Shadows occasionally works as a cartoonish slam-bang popcorn flick, but mostly, it’s a relentlessly juvenile time-waster.
Films about beautiful people falling in love on their way to a weepy ending are essentially critic-proof — just ask Nicholas Sparks — so it’s hard to imagine anyone involved with Me Before You worrying too much about how critics are reacting to their adaptation of the Jojo Moyes bestseller. For what it’s worth, many reviews note the strong work delivered by — and solid chemistry between — stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin; it’s just that, as far as a good number of pundits are concerned, the movie doesn’t do a good enough job of handling its sensitive subject, and too often succumbs to sentimentality rather than treating its love story with the clear-eyed dignity it deserves. Still, if you’re looking for a tissue-worthy summer romance, you could do (and probably have done) a heck of a lot worse.
You really can’t make a rock mockumentary without being compared to Spinal Tap — and those comparisons, more often than not, turn out to be unfavorable. So if nothing else, Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island partners Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone would have earned points for moxie for even making an attempt to brave the genre with their feature-length debut, this weekend’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Happily for the comedy trio, critics say the film lives up to its title by lobbing a constant volley of often hilarious barbs at the modern mainstream pop scene and 21st century celebrity in general — and even if it can’t help but lose a little momentum after a sidesplitting first half, the end result stands as another solid entry in the SNL vets’ budding filmography.
A powerfully impressive — and still relevant — update on a television classic, Roots boasts remarkable performances, deep emotion, and occasionally jarring beauty.
The Dresser brilliantly showcases two of the most gifted actors of their generation within a thoughtful, well-executed production offering intelligent commentary on the human condition.
Despite impressive performances and attractive cinematography, Bloodline‘s second season fails to recapture its predecessor’s dramatic intrigue.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
There has yet to be a Fresh-rated entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie franchise (whose latest installment, Out of the Shadows, is out Friday), not that it matters much considering how deep “Ninja Rap” runs in our nostalgia veins. The Turtles, in fact, are in fine company as comic adaptations have walked a long, ignominious road in Hollywood, inspiring this week’s gallery: the 24 worst-reviewed comic book movies by Tomatometer!