Reel Reviews

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

Audience:
A-II – Adults and Adolescents

 

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Animated thriller has lessons about honor and family

Thirty years after bursting onto the comic book scene, the wise-cracking, pizza-loving “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Paramount) reemerge from the sewers of New York City. Their mission, once again, is to save the world.

This reboot marks the fifth film to feature the reptilian heroes created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. With Michael Bay of the “Transformers” franchise on board as producer, action and destruction (and noise level) are ramped up in vivid 3D, with the Turtles effectively rendered through live action and motion-capture technology. The script by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty honors the ridiculousness of the subject matter and keeps tongue firmly in cheek. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans”) joins in fun that adds a few good lessons about honor and family.

The backstory and mythology surrounding the Turtles are extensive, to say the least. Simply stated, there are four, each named (for no particular reason) for an Italian Renaissance artist: Leonardo (voice of Pete Ploszek), Raphael (voice of Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (voice of Noel Fisher) and Donatello (voice of Jeremy Howard). Products of an experiment gone wrong, they have grown into rambunctious anthropomorphic teenagers, mask-wearing 6-footers who shout “Cowabunga!” and scarf down pizza. The Turtles live beneath the Big Apple with a wise Japanese rat named Splinter (voice of Danny Woodburn), who has trained them in the martial arts.

“My sons, you will become the warriors that legends are made of,” Splinter says. “You live, you die, you fight as brothers. Remember, nothing is as strong as family.”

As Leonardo admits, “We were created as weapons, and we knew the world would never accept us ... but one day, it would need us.”

That day is now, for a reign of terror has gripped Gotham, thanks to the notorious Foot Clan, a seemingly invincible gang of criminals led by a razor-sharp monster appropriately dubbed Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).

At first, the turtles do battle at night, fighting the Foot Clan while protecting their identity. All that changes when April (Megan Fox), an intrepid TV reporter, stumbles upon their ninja moves. Excited by her first big scoop, April has a hard time convincing Vern (Will Arnett), her cameraman and Bernadette (Whoopi Goldberg), her skeptical boss, of the turtles’ existence. So she turns to an old family friend, billionaire industrialist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), for help. He's a scientist with more than a passing interest in mutated reptiles – and a wicked secret alliance with Shredder for (of course) world domination.

If it all sounds silly, it is, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is more thrill-ride than serious drama. As such, the action sequences may be too intense (and loud) for young viewers. Everyone else, however, will have a ball careening down sewer tunnels as though they were water slides on steroids.

The film contains intense but bloodless cartoon violence, some bathroom humor, and a few vague references to sexuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’

Audience:
A-II – Adults and adolescents

 

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Good take off for second in series

Anthropomorphic aircraft take to the skies again in “Planes: Fire & Rescue” (Disney), a lively follow-up to last summer’s franchise kickoff, “Planes.”

It is that rare sequel which surpasses the original in action, adventure and 3-D animation. That last element is especially vivid and immersive. In fact, the looping aerial scenes may even make some viewers queasy.

The humanless universe that originated with the “Cars” film series is cleverly expanded, with new autos, boats and trains joining the fun. Amid the many sight gags and puns, there’s a positive message about personal sacrifice on behalf of those in need, expressed by the fearless air-attack teams and smoke jumpers battling fires deep in the California forest.

Picking up where “Planes” left off, the sequel finds Dusty Crophopper (voice of Dane Cook), the humble cropduster-turned-racing-champion central to the first movie, an international celebrity. Life is good, until an accident reveals a deadly secret: Dusty’s gearbox is failing.

For a racer, this spells doom. Unless Dusty slows down, he may never fly again.
An opportunity to switch gears – and careers – arises in Piston Peak National Park. There an elite firefighting crew, led by veteran rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris), is dedicated to protecting the forest – and the tourists who frequent a new hotel, the Grand Fusel Lodge.

Assisting Dusty in his training regimen are Lil’ Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), a love-struck “super-scooper” aircraft (which carries water or flame retardant), and Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), a heavy-lift helicopter who serves as the park’s resident sage. When a major fire burns out of control and threatens the hotel, Dusty is put to the ultimate test and witnesses true heroism in action.

Some of the nail-biting action scenes in “Planes: Fire & Rescue” may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers. Additionally, a few double entendres – presumably aimed at adults – may raise concerns for parents. While these one-liners are likely to pass at an elevation well above kids’ heads, their slightly incongruous presence precludes endorsement for all.

Adults, on the other hand, will appreciate the cameo voices and inside jokes. As one depressed car says to a hotel bartender, “She left me for a hybrid. I didn’t even hear him coming.” Also, Blade Ranger’s backstory includes being the star of a cult television series called “CHoPs,” short for California Helicopter Patrol, a riff on the 1977-83 television series “CHiPs.” His TV sidekick, Nick “Loop’n” Lopez, is voiced by none other than Erik Estrada, the original Ponch of “ChiPs.”

The film contains a few perilous situations and some mildly suggestive humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (July 2014)

CNS classifications: A-I -- general patronage; A-II -- adults and adolescents; A-III -- adults; L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O -- morally offensive.

MPAA ratings: G -- general audiences. All ages admitted; PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17 -- no one 17 and under admitted.

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A-II (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)

B
Bad Words, O (R)
Bears, A-I (G)
Blended, A-II (PG-13)
Brick Mansions, L (PG-13)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)

C
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, A-II (PG-13)
Cesar Chavez, A-III (PG-13)
Chef, A-III (R)

D
Divergent, A-III (PG-13)
Draft Day, A-III (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)

E
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)

F
Fading Gigolo, O (R)
The Fault in Our Stars, A-III (PG-13)
Frances Ha, L (R)

G
God's Not Dead, A-II (PG)
Godzilla, A-III (PG-13)

H
A Haunted House 2, O (R)
Heaven Is for Real, A-I (PG)
How to Train Your Dragon 2, A-I (PG)

I
Ida, A-III (PG-13)

J
Jersey Boys, A-III, (R)

K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)

L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, A-I (PG)

M
Maleficent, A-II (PG)
Mary of Nazareth, A-II (not rated)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
A Million Ways to Die in the West, O (R)
Moms' Night Out, A-I (PG)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman, A-I (PG)
Muppets Most Wanted, A-I (PG)

N
Need for Speed, A-III (PG-13)
Neighbors, O (R)
Noah, A-III (PG-13)

O
Obvious Child, O (R)
Oculus, A-III (R)
The Other Woman, L (PG-13)

P
Phantom, A-III (R)

Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
The Quiet Ones, A-III (PG-13)

R
The Railway Man, A-III (R)
Rio 2, A-I (G)

S
Sabotage, O (R)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)

T
Think Like a Man Too, O (PG-13)
Transcendence, A-III (PG-13)
Transformers: Age of Extinction, A-III (PG-13)
22 Jump Street, O (R)
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
The Wind Rises, A-III (PG-13)

X
X-Men: Days of Future Past, A-III (PG-13)