Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Best of Me, Northern Soul, and Showrunners reviews
I'm not really sure what to say about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a Michael Bay-produced action caper that rehashes a rather tatty 1980s franchise.
In fact, the pesky ectotherms never really went away: a TV animation has survived with a few blips since 1987, and Mr Bay and co obviously reckon there's still a big market for their reptilian charms. They've spent $125m on this reboot, but have hedged their bets by making it a fairly straight remake of the original, 1990 Turtles film.
To that tried-and-tested formula has been added the loud and clumsy, effects-heavy aesthetic of Mr Bay's Transformers films: southern belle Megan Fox starred in the first few of those, and in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (12A, 101ms 2*) plays beauty to the mutants' beasts. New York city is plagued by attacks from a mysterious crime gang, the Foot Clan. Hungry young TV news reporter April O'Neil is spying on a Clan heist at the docks one night when she sees them being attacked by giant, shadowy figures.
These are the Turtles, genetically mutated reptiles who've been trained in marital arts by their mentor, who's a rat. Though a little taken aback at first, April joins forces with them to save the city from an existential threat. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is noisy, brisk and charmlessly efficient, but lacks a heart. And a few feeble jokes and a lifelessly wooden turn from Ms Fox are not enough to save it from banality.
In Nicholas Sparks' fuzzy romantic novels, men and women are drawn together by fate and epiphany, and true love always wins the day. A good 10 of them have been turned into films, and watching them feels like barging into the daydreams of a not-very-bright greeting card writer. The Best of Me (12A, 119 mins, 2*) is very much business as usual. James Marsden plays Dawson Cole, who's working on a Texas oil rig when a huge explosion blasts him into the freezing waters.
Miraculously, he survives, and goes back to his home town to recuperate. There he meets Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) the love of his life whom he hasn't seen for 20 years. She and Dawson reconnect, but fate has a few nasty surprises in store for them. Slushy but watchable for the first hour or so, The Best of Me races towards a conclusion full of coincidences so glaring they'd make Charles Dickens blush. It's a very silly film.
Elaine Constantine's Northern Soul (16, 102 mins, 2*) represents an opportunity missed. A low-budget debut feature set in Lancashire in 1974, it stars James Elliot Langridge as a lonely teenage boy who finds meaning and redemption in music. Unhappy at school and at home, John Clark is fascinated when he meets Sean (Jack Gordon), a budding DJ and member of the 'northern soul' craze. Together they begin exploring the darker corners of American soul music, and plotting to buy a dance hall of their own. The dancing's great in Northern Soul, but the plotting isn't, and Elaine Constantine's film falls to bits entirely after making a fairly decent start. Which is a pity, because it's a very interesting subject.
As is the pretext of Showrunners (12A, 86 mins, 3*), Des Doyle's studious examination of the business of TV drama-making. In this watchable documentary, such luminaries as JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Michelle and Robert King describe the trials and tribulations of producing primetime shows. Sometimes they're so melodramatic about the difficulties involved that you'd think they were coalminers, or deep sea divers, but nevertheless Showrunners offers a fascinating insight into their high pressure world.