I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
After the abysmal first chapter in the rebooted series, we head back into the sewers for some more (not-so) hot turtle action.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Rated PG-13, 112 minutes.
Director: Dave Green
Cast: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee and Laura Linney
Radioactive fighting turtles are not exactly a concept built for adult minds. Even the original Ninja Turtles of the ’90s were a stretch, Vanilla Ice and all. So not much enjoyment will be had for those beyond 13 years of age, but children will fork it down like a tasty cheese pizza.
2014’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES bombed with critics. But because we move toward idiocracy at hare speed, the film swept in half a billion dollars in box office sales. Cowabunga, everyone!
So of course there’s another.
Since the first film served as the origin story, OUT OF THE SHADOWS dives right into the action: The Darth Vader of the franchise, Shredder (Brian Tee), has escaped from custody and joins forces with a mad scientist (Tyler Perry) who plans to use a serum to take over the world. Jumping on this bandwagon are Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), two feebleminded henchmen who provide some more muscle to the baddies.
Fortunately for the Turtles (motion-captured performances by Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek), they have troops of their own in reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), celebrity cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) and the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). As the pizza-loving heroes prepare to take on this new threat, uber-villain Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) emerges to intensify the danger clouding over New York City.
There are far worse movies to put in front of your children, and to say this is total disaster will be dishonest. Even if by a small margin, OUT OF THE SHADOWS is an improvement over the 2014 reboot. There are still some major tweaks that need to be made, but at least it’s crawling toward something better.
Extras: Deleted scenes and a handful of making-of featurettes that provide insight into the new direction taken with the sequel.
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING
Rated R, 92 minutes.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Carla Gallo, Dave Franco and Selena Gomez
Following the unprecedented success of 2014’s NEIGHBORS, Universal Pictures has brought us back to check in on Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) to see how their now-quiet household has been since they successfully gave the boot to the frat boys of Delta Psi Beta.
Well, as luck would have it, things are not too good. There’s a new situation brewing, and this time it’s the ladies of Kappa Nu raising Cain.
Chloe Grace Moretz (THE FIFTH WAVE), Kiersey Clemons (DOPE) and Beanie Feldstein (sister of Jonah Hill) play college freshmen who are eager to make a name for themselves, but discover that the Greek life is built upon sexism, as sororities are not allowed to throw parties of their own on campus.
As a result, they create their own sorority (in the same house that used to be Delta Psi Beta’s), with an agenda that’s more than merely getting trashed and dressing for the male gaze. They’re partying to show defiance and prove their worth among the college community.
Making a near carbon copy of the original isn’t always the worst idea in the world. What matters is the creativity in the humor, both remixed and new. NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING isn’t quite as appalling as THE HANGOVER PART II, but it’s hardly a sequel to emulate, as its more accomplished qualities (gags about being a bad parent) are held back by its tasteless tricks.
Extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, line-o-rama, making-of featurettes (“Nu Neighbors,” “The Prodigal Bros Return,” “Girls Rule” and “The Ultimate Tailgate”) and a very funny and informative feature commentary with co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller and producer James Weaver.
Also available on DVD and streaming: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, BEWARE OF THE BLOB (1972), BLOOD SIMPLE (1984): Criterion Collection, CAT PEOPLE (1942): Criterion Collection, DESPICABLE ME 1 & 2 Presents: MINION MADNESS — 3 Mini-Movie Collection, FANNY (1961), THE FREE STATE OF JONES, INTERROGATION, LABYRINTH: 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, MA MA, THE ORIGINALS: SEASON 3, SACRIFICE, SALEM’S LOT (1979), TWIN PEAKS: THE ORIGINAL SERIES and THE ULTIMATE JAMES BOND COLLECTION (1962-2015).