TMNT: Out of the Shadows - Movie Review


* SPOILER-FREE *

On Sunday, May 22nd, I had the pleasure of attending the movie premiere of TMNT: Out of the Shadows, held at Madison Square Garden in NYC. With attendees ranging from A-list celebs (not me) to die-hard fans (me), the event was oozing with Turtle Power. It was a mutated carnival, with a bunch of activities, photo opps & free merch on-hand.


It was easy to get caught up in the buzz of excitement. The festivities were booming. My usual partner in crime, and movie premiere date, somehow listened to my suggestion of getting her face painted. She mutated into Michelangelo while I sadly stuffed my pockets with free swag. That's true love.


But, what about the film itself? That's the biggie here. Cheap parlor tricks can't mask a bad movie. We ventured inside the theater, took our seats & waited for the sequel to begin. After a surprise introduction by Vanilla Ice (along with a performance of Ninja Rap), the lights dimmed, the crowd exploded with thunderous cheers & the movie began.

When the credits rolled, what did I think? Let's look at the key elements of this mutant flick.


Out of the Shadows
The Turtles might be in the shadows, but in this sequel, they're totally in the spotlight. They're the primary focus of the film, the show-stealers of every scene. Each Turtle gets a decent amount of screen time too - no one is left out. The film does an incredible job of juggling all four characters, even when they're all in the same scene. This dynamic serves as the backbone of the film - giving it an enthusiastic boost of fun. 

No Helmet, No Problem
Shredder's most iconic trait is absent for most of Out of the Shadows - his iconic helmet and mask. Fans will be divided over this creative choice, but I liked it. It's an attempt to give our favorite villain more depth. Instead of looking at a lifeless hunk of metal, the audience gets a human face for a change. And this human face belongs to Brian Tee - who does a solid job portraying old chrome dome. The source material prevents Shredder from being anything more than one-note, but Tee's venomous performance is a refreshing spin on the 30+ year old character. In Out of the Shadows, we see Shredder in new situations thanks to ditching the constant use of a helmet and mask.

The Humans
April, Casey & Vernon all handle their respective characters well. Their interactions with the Turtles are some of the movie's best moments - especially Casey Jones. No actor could ever dethrone Elias Koteas' legendary performance as Casey in the 1990 film, and Out of the Shadows doesn't even try. Instead, Stephen Amell gives the character a fresh spin with a different brand of humor. I would never say he's better than Elias Koteas, but his performance is so different that the comparison seems trivial. Experience Casey for who he is in this movie and you'll enjoy it.

The Mutants
The main bad boys of this flick are Bebop & Rocksteady. Their humor is exactly what you'd expect - brainless stupidity. This formula has worked for decades, so why change it? The big difference in Out of the Shadows is that they aren't endearing like their original cartoon counterparts. These boneheads are pretty gross. They act like actual animals. Without giving too much away, there are a few scenes that will leave you saying "eww." An interesting take on our favorite warthog and rhino, but was it a needed one?

Krammed
Krang is one of the biggest draws for Out of the Shadows. Marketing has been purposely slim for the pink blob from Dimension X. Brief glimpses of the squishy dude have only drummed up more excitement. The good news is audiences will get a good look at this ugly guy throughout the movie. He has a decent amount of screen time and plenty of squirm-worthy close-ups. Unfortunately, his character seems crammed into the film. His introduction, evil motivations & allegiance with Shredder all seemed forced. Fans were clamoring to see Krang on the big screen, and many of them will walk away happy. But as a sucker for a good backstory and strong characters, Krang is underwhelming. He's only there as a visual, an ode to fans - not a driver of the story or an engaging presence.

Action Overload
Action-packed is a descriptor for most summer blockbusters. But Out of the Shadows is 112 minutes of pure octane. Don't get me wrong, I love a solid action sequence. But victims of motion sickness beware, this is one wild ride. The movie is like a juiced up, blockbuster version of The Blair Witch Project. The camera movement is relentless, swooping and shifting in (what seems like) every shot. It's often hard to gauge what's happening on-screen, especially towards the film's climax. When the ending credits eventually rolled, I was exhausted and in need of a nap. Am I just getting old? Maybe. But, the brother-sister duo sitting in front of me were often hiding their eyes and holding their ears during the big action scenes.


Conclusion
Out of the Shadows has heart. Although the film isn't perfect, it's clear the filmmakers followed an outline to ensure fan respect and appreciation. All the crucial boxes have been checked, but a couple storytelling basics slipped through the cracks. Some of these flaws can be chalked up to pacing - assuming everyone already knows these characters and their backstories, not needing to dive deeper into them. Despite these shortcomings, the movie has several scenes that I genuinely loved. Each Turtle's personality is at its truest form and it's bona fide awesome. Mikey brings his best jokes, Raphael isn't dumbed-down to a hothead, Donatello does more than "just machines," and without spoiling anything, Leonardo leads in a way that's one of my favorites to date. The story explores a few new elements in the Turtles universe and it's a surprising success. No, this movie isn't the holy grail of TMNT cinema, but it is pure Turtle Power.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows hits theaters June 3.


ALSO - I walked away from the premiere with a few fun pieces of junk - a sewer lid bean bag & a TMNT-branded pack of Tastycake Minis. I also had 2 movie-themed cans of Crush soda in my pockets, but alas, the security team forced me to toss those beauties. Too bad, but still worth it!

NORWAY: PART 4 - The Quest For Cowabunga


Oslo, the capital of Norway. Like a viking exploring the sea, I navigated the waters of this foreign city. By bicycle, train & bus, I explored the Scandinavian metropolis by visiting museums, meeting locals & searching for Turtle Power. Join me and my Norwegian pal, Mathias, as we tour Oslo in a quest for culture and cowabunga!

PART 4, the final chapter of the 4-part travelogue!


The final day of my trip had arrived. Despite little sleep, I forced myself out of bed and hit the ground running. The clock was ticking - my plane departed later that afternoon. I only had a few hours until my time in Norway came to a close. With Mathias by my side, we climbed on our bikes and embarked on one last excursion.

NORWAY: PART 3 - The Great Outdoors


Oslo, the capital of Norway. Like a viking exploring the sea, I navigated the waters of this foreign city. By bicycle, train & bus, I explored the Scandinavian metropolis by visiting museums, meeting locals & searching for Turtle Power. Join me and my Norwegian pal, Mathias, as we tour Oslo in a quest for culture and cowabunga!

Part 3 of the 4-part travelogue!


After a few nights of Norwegian birthday celebrations, the time came to tame our party animal selves. One of the key reasons I came to Oslo was to help Mathias film a music video. Since our friendship was formed over creativity, we wanted to keep that momentum going during my visit. We once again combined my passion for filmmaking and his love for music. Our location for the project was Gullbaren ("Gold Bar" is the literal translation). The refined decor of the intimate speakeasy served as the perfect set to tell our story. The video has a simple premise - Mathias and his mother enjoy a drink at the bar. Between sips they discussed how artistic ambitions should never get too far ahead of themselves - to the point where they can't be explained to parents. Not exactly something you'd see on MTV, but hey, it was way cooler than anything on MTV.



Oslo had already given me so much at this point in the trip. Tasty food, local experiences & a wealth of fun memories. But in the department of Turtle Power, I was empty-handed. The window of opportunity was closing as the end of my trip was quickly approaching. With our music video complete, I began exploring the city with a newfound confidence - determined to uncover cowabunga. On a sunny afternoon search, I stumbled upon a familiar sight. No matter where I am on this planet, a flea market never slips by me. The usual junk-covered tables and pop-up tents were scattered across a small park. Along with Mathias' girlfriend, Marte, we joined the locals and strolled through the makeshift aisles in search of cheap treasures.

NORWAY: PART 2 - Biking, Vikings & Beyond


Oslo, the capital of Norway. Like a viking exploring the sea, I navigated the waters of this foreign city. By bicycle, train & bus, I explored the Scandinavian metropolis by visiting museums, meeting locals & searching for Turtle Power. Join me and my Norwegian pal, Mathias, as we tour Oslo in a quest for culture and cowabunga!

PART 2 of the 4-part travelogue!


After a ten-hour night of sleep, I woke up the next morning feeling rejuvenated. The jet lag subsided and normalcy had returned. Increased energy levels had me itching to do something more active. Being in Norway, Vikings were on my mind. Mathias climbed on his bicycle, I rented my own, and together we pedaled through the city streets and country-like roads to the Bygd√ły peninsula. Our first stop upon arrival was the Viking Ship Museum.

NORWAY: PART 1 - Hello Oslo


PART 1 of the 4-part travelogue!

All good things come to an end. From the tastiest foods to mundane household items, everything expires. But sometimes a conclusion acts as an inspiration. With the expiration date on my passport only a few months away, I wanted to squeeze one last international adventure out before the slow renewal process reared its ugly head.



I settled on Oslo, the capital of Norway. Like a viking exploring the sea, I navigated the waters of this foreign city. By bicycle, train & bus, I explored the Scandinavian metropolis by visiting museums, meeting locals & searching for Turtle Power. While most of my travel adventures have been with my partner in crime (Jess), my trip to Norway will introduce you to a new character - and he is a character.

I Spent Over $200 On Old Toys


Through a series of connections, I was offered an exclusive opportunity to purchase some of the rarest of TMNT toys. Larges bins were exhumed from the back of a New Jersey toy shop in my honor. This lost loot of treasure wasn't available to the public, making me feel like a celebrity. We carefully emptied the contents onto the floor, creating a pile of TMNT rarities that made my sewer-dwelling heart flutter with enthusiasm. Like Gollum searching for the ring, I got on my hands & knees searching for my precious. I sifted through dozens of figures, wandering though this living dream. I had never seen some of these toys in real life! They were perfect by my standards - opened from their packaging, included all their accessories & were in beautiful condition. I combed through them, analyzing them in awe, like a jeweler inspecting a flawless diamond.


Most of the fun came from just seeing these extremely uncommon TMNT toys in person. But of course, I had to buy something. Avoiding bankruptcy, I managed to leave by only spending a little over $200. Yes, I spent over $200 on old toys. Take a peek at the haul that still has me in disbelief.

Haircuts In A Halfshell


Bravery. Honor. Hair gel?

When it comes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, lots of things come to mind, but haircuts are not one of them. Yet somehow, lots of wacky hairdos can be spotted in my TMNT toy collection. Why do good guys, bad guys & other freaky mutants have hair? The 90s were weird times, man.
Let's take a trip to the sewer salon & see which characters have bodacious locks. Snip, snip.