Ninja Turtles and Jen Ann among this week's new celluloid releases
Time Out staff
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Director: Jonathan Liebesman Stars: Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville 2/5
‘A little froth’ is what NYC journalism-school grad April (Megan Fox) seems headed for, as her station steers her toward puff pieces. It’s a good thing, then, that one night’s snooping around the docks puts her in contact with our crime-busting ‘heroes in the half shell’, who quickly take over the movie (relegating Fox to the duty of cowering behind pylons).
Utterly inessential, this slightly cheap-looking reboot of the Turtles franchise is froth too – it might even be too tame for the kids who make up the target audience. Exec producer Michael Bay has put his stamp all over the thing, from the tower-snapping action mayhem in Times Square to the fair amount of flirty wisecracking (super awkward coming from the mouths of reptiles).
Mainly, though, this is as generic as Hollywood gets. Motion-capture technology doesn’t make the turtles any more believable – that is, if you can see them through the murky cinematography – and when you find yourself aching for more scenes with bad-guy William Fichtner, there’s a serious problem. The film is for all those painfully postironic teenage boys who don’t want to just watch Megan Fox. Have a good time, sirs, whoever you are. Joshua Rothkopf
Life of Crime Director: Daniel Schechter Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def, Isla Fisher 3/5
Dead or alive, Elmore Leonard’s still got the best ear in the business. The late author’s dialogue sparkles in Life of Crime, a perfectly fine double-cross comedy from director Daniel Schechter, who at least knows to keep things cooking. (Background: The original source material, Leonard’s 1978 novel The Switch, is set in the same universe as Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.) Actor John Hawkes finds a much-needed modulation from his onscreen creeps (eg, Winter’s Bone) as Louis, the film’s crafty Detroit operator, and Yasiin Bey (better known as Mos Def), playing an Ordell much younger than Samuel L. Jackson’s version, is excellent too.
But this one belongs to the women: As a gold-digging mistress, Isla Fisher does half-smart expertly, while Jennifer Aniston demonstrates her underrated timing as a wealthy kidnapping victim turned confidante. Nothing about Life of Crime is going to linger in memory, save the unassuming way Leonard devoted himself to character and story mechanics. If this diversion works for you, you owe yourself a book or two. Joshua Rothkopf
Third Person Director: Paul Haggis Stars: Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco 2/5
Hero or villain, writer-director Paul Haggis divides: He’s either the guy whose middlebrow Crash stole the Oscar from Brokeback Mountain, the scripter of the brutally effective Million Dollar Baby or a welcome critic of the Church of Scientology, from which he split in 2009.
All the different versions (flavours?) of Haggis are present in this cringe-inducing romantic drama, which skips from New York to Paris and Rome in a clichéd symphony of modern-day neurosis. Centrally, there’s aloof Michael (Liam Neeson), a best-selling novelist who toys with the affections of Anna (Olivia Wilde), an aspiring writer and his illicit partner.
If you’re not crazy about that plot strand, try on Adrien Brody as some kind of con artist who can’t wait to get out of Italy – until he falls for spunky gypsy Monika (Moran Atias) in a bar and gets swept up in her criminal drama. Still not sold? How about desperate Manhattanite Mila Kunis? She bounces from job to job in a sheen of flop sweat, while also trying to extract visitation rights from her smug ex-husband, a loft-lording painter played by James Franco.
The narrative pile-up feels like a game of Indiewood channel surfing, toggling between several mediocre options. To the cast’s credit, these self-deluding characters seem rawer than Crash’s ennui-laden Angelenos. And grappling with the film’s aggressive subtext of a missing third person – a wife, a child, a mysterious booty-caller – gives the roundelay some shape. Joshua Rothkopf
Deliver Us from Evil Director: Scott Derrickson Stars: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn 2/5
In his two previous horror films, Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, director Scott Derrickson displayed more flair for supernatural spectacle and jump scares than for narrative logic or exploring underlying themes. His latest, based on ex-NYPD cop turned paranormal investigator Ralph Sarchie’s 2001 memoir, suffers from the same weaknesses.
Eric Bana plays Sarchie, a lapsed Catholic with a murky past, an adrenaline-junkie partner and an uncanny ‘radar’ for abuse cases involving wives, children and pets. He is drawn back to the path of righteous by plain-clothes Spanish priest Mendoza (Edgar Ramírez), who believes that three domestic abuse cases linking three Iraq war veterans have their source in something more than post-traumatic stress disorder.
A pre-credits episode in an Iraqi cave daubed with obscure Latin inscriptions and an incident in which a soldier’s wife throws her baby into the zoo’s lion enclosure suggest the priest may have a point. An impressively staged climactic exorcism, during which British actor Sean Harris’s possessed ex-soldier contorts his body and distorts his voice in distressing ways, compensates in part for the random, far-fetched storytelling that precedes it. Nigel Floyd
The Single Moms Club Director: Tyler Perry Stars: Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Amy Smart
When their children face expulsion because of rule infractions, five single mothers must agree to organise the school’s upcoming dance fundraiser. Although they range from alpha professional to fast-food worker, the women find they have one thing in common: a need for support and an understanding ear. They form the Single Moms Club to help ease one another’s burdens and reclaim their freedom. As their stress begins to lessen, the women find that finding love may be possible again. Time Out staff