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The Bib-iest of Nickels

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I canít say I had high expectations for Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Iíd call myself a fan of both, but itís very rare when crossovers succeed beyond achieving a mild level of enjoyment. DC Animated fare is often hit and miss, as well, with every Batman: Under the Red Hood followed by a Son of Batman or The Killing Joke. I was curious about how Nickelodeonís involvement would change things, and whether itís because of them or not, I can say the film has a higher production-value and attention to detail than the average DC fare, which is usually aesthetically appealing but has limitations with certain aspects like character movement and often has trouble with how stilted or stiff characters come off. That, and the warm critical reception from critics and audiences alike helped my enthusiasm. I always intended to watch it, but I soon let myself actively become interested. Does Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles provide the cross-over fans deserve, or is it a cash-in with little to say for itself? Here are my thoughts Ö

As I think everyone would anticipate, the animated film has a simple, straightforward narrative that mixes up characters from Batman and the Turtlesí rogues-gallery. Shredder and the Foot Clan align with Raís Al Ghul and the League of Assassins to bringdown Gotham City, other notable villains who appear include Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bane, Mr. Freeze and The Joker. In other words, they donít shy away from stuffing the film with as many baddies as they can. The Turtles arrive in Gotham City and shortly find themselves thrown into the mix. Likewise, the film sees a lot of heroes brought in for the occasion, including Damien Wayneís Robin, Barbara Gordonís Batgirl, and, of course, our caped crusader. Troy Baker has become a mainstay for the Batman series, in Arkham City, he voiced Two-Face, in Arkham Origins, he voiced The Joker, then, in Batman: The Telltale Series, he took up the voice-role of Batman, in this film, Troy Baker does his best impression of Kevin Conroyís Batman and Mark Hamillís The Joker, and, although it might feel like an insult to call it an impression, he does both of them very well; itís uncanny, really. Other familiar voice-actors include John DiMaggio (Gears of War, Bender from Futurama), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), and Tara Strong (everything), and together, all of them deliver admirable contributions.

Something I hadnít expected early-on is how many times I smiled or even laughed while I watched. I mean, if I had to absolutely be a stickler, Iíd say Michelangelo jumps-the-shark once or twice, but, for the most part, I enjoyed the zaniness and how humorous he was. I donít think I can think of any other film in DCís animated catalogue Iíd describe as a ďsuccessful comedy,Ē instead, I usually find enjoyment through the animation and narrative depth. This film, however, blends it well throughout.

The fight-scenes are enjoyable as well. I think the film feels consistent to its own world, which has been a difficult task for a lot of films when they try to blend comedy and any level of dramatic depth. One scene involving Scarecrow and one of the Turtles in-particular stuck out as having a certain depth I hadnít anticipated. Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might have involvement from Nickelodeon, but it isnít the type of film youíd ever see shown on their channel. If youíve watched DCís later movies like Batman: The Killing Joke or Batman: Assault on Arkham, youíve seen how theyíve begun allowing darker, more mature themes to bleed into their animated features (often, literally). This film sees a certain uptick in violence and word-choice, but it isnít as gratuitous as what weíve seen. I donít have an issue with either violence or profanity, but I find that it can often be used as a crutch or the fact the movie-company is trying to be ďhip, cool, and edgy,Ē becomes transparent. This film, it feels more natural than that, and, like I said, feels consistent with what the film is.

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isnít a high-brow film by anyoneís imagination, nor does it reinvent the wheel. Instead, itís exactly what you (or, ďI,Ē at least) would want from a film seeing the Turtles and Batman cross-over. Itís a film that doesnít attempt grandiose, epic-scale depth, but also doesnít coast off fan-service and its own novelty, willing to deliver a film thatís fun and adventurous for its own sake. Itís one of my favorite DC animated features, and Iíd recommend it.





House of 1,000 Corpses
Review originally written in 2019

I haven't seen this since about 2006/2007, I think that it was in my DVD collection, can't be sure. Pretty good horror, I also recommend The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, equally as good. Back then the "captain spauldings death ride" was the baddest trip ever.

I'd have rated it higher than you but I guess maybe I should re-watch it sometime.
__________________
Signed,



When I was a kid this movie marked that big turning point in popculture and the transition from 80s/90s. It was the Crow, The X-Files, Alien Autopsy, goth culture, Mallrats. This weird post grunge goth stuff and in the beginning there this movie was sort of the unspoken center of it and with the death of Brandon Lee that sort added to the legend. Personally, I didnt really get it. I saw it in theaters and then many times on video. There was a dark mysteriousness about it but at the time I would much rather watch a comedy or action film. And truthfully, the soundtrack became more popular than the movie in the following years. It was like everyone had the soundtrack in their collection but nobody had the movie.




The Last House on the Left
A friend of mine mentioned this movie numerous times when we discussed horror and then one day it happened to be on TV at his house, so we watched it, but I wasn't that impressed and thought meh another gratuitous sex/violence thrillscare and it seemed to be more about shock value and pushing boundaries.



The Bib-iest of Nickels
I haven't seen this since about 2006/2007, I think that it was in my DVD collection, can't be sure. Pretty good horror, I also recommend The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, equally as good. Back then the "captain spauldings death ride" was the baddest trip ever.

I'd have rated it higher than you but I guess maybe I should re-watch it sometime.
I prefer The Devil's Rejects over it, personally.



The Bib-iest of Nickels
When I was a kid this movie marked that big turning point in popculture and the transition from 80s/90s. It was the Crow, The X-Files, Alien Autopsy, goth culture, Mallrats. This weird post grunge goth stuff and in the beginning there this movie was sort of the unspoken center of it and with the death of Brandon Lee that sort added to the legend. Personally, I didnt really get it. I saw it in theaters and then many times on video. There was a dark mysteriousness about it but at the time I would much rather watch a comedy or action film. And truthfully, the soundtrack became more popular than the movie in the following years. It was like everyone had the soundtrack in their collection but nobody had the movie.
Don't feel that way at all. I know a lot of guys who love The Crow, don't hear a lot about the soundtrack. But, to each their own. I'm also a wrestling fan, which meant The Crow (via Sting) was always a prevalent part of my social circle.



The Bib-iest of Nickels
A friend of mine mentioned this movie numerous times when we discussed horror and then one day it happened to be on TV at his house, so we watched it, but I wasn't that impressed and thought meh another gratuitous sex/violence thrillscare and it seemed to be more about shock value and pushing boundaries.
It isn't without its faults (I hardly gave it a glowing review), but I liked it more than his follow-up film The Hills Have Eyes and I admired what I thought was a unique approach.



Don't feel that way at all. I know a lot of guys who love The Crow, don't hear a lot about the soundtrack. But, to each their own. I'm also a wrestling fan, which meant The Crow (via Sting) was always a prevalent part of my social circle.
I found this fun fact on Google search.



The Bib-iest of Nickels

Influencer

On the outside looking in, I felt confident that I knew what to expect from Influencer. Directed by the capable hands of Kurtis David Harder, with a script he co-wrote alongside Tesh Guttikonda, Influencer struck me as another of the Shudder streaming servicesí more modest, but solid horror offerings.

That isnít meant as a knock, but, rather, how I adjusted my expectations and prepared myself for what I was signing up for. For the most part, I really like Shudder and I consider myself mostly satisfied with the context they put out. The strongest works I can think of, off the top of my head, being Unlucky, The Boy Behind the Door, and Spiral, respectively. As fate would have it, the director of this film also just so happened to have directed Spiral, hence why I said this film was made by his Ďcapableí hands.

The most significant comparison I made to this film, and the one I think holds the strongest, is Shudderís film Shook. Both filmís content and subject matter parallel in numerous ways, offering a twisty, fun handling of social media influencers and the culture it evokes (compared to a film like Spree, which was a found-footage horror with a more harsh, almost American Psycho-esque approach).

Influencer follows a social influencer named Madison who has been staying at a luxury hotel in Thailand. Her life seems perfect for all intents and purposes, but when the camera is off, we are let in on the deeper emptiness she feels, brought on largely by her boyfriend not accompanying her to the resort. She befriends a young woman named CW and, from there, the horrors of our story truly start to unfold. The description for Shudder reads that ďCWís interest in Madison takes a darker turn.Ē, thus, I wouldnít consider it a spoiler to say she is largely the main-antagonist of the film.

Although, by closing, I wasnít left with a whole lot to say about Influencer overall, it is an enjoyable, and, even, solid film. That is my closing summation I have for it. The story itself doesnít have anything particularly profound or original to say about social media or the influencers who bank off of it, other than reasserting the phoniness of it all, which is more fitting as the foundation of any real commentary than it is the single thought.

The film is nicely shot and aesthetical appeasing, carrying an efficient production-value that may or may not seem a little rudimentary to single out, but whose absence would be sorely missed were the film to be without it.

The acting is decent throughout, with Cassandra Naud receiving the most screen time and doing what she can with it. None of the characters have a whole lot of depth or substance to work with, and so it really comes down to the basics of memorizing your lines and making it seem like youíre not reciting them from memory. Everyone pretty much does. The characters are decent as well, with the biggest ailment being that none of them are propped up or developed enough to be invested into them.

The film feels a little like a busybody in how it is conducted. Although it is contained in a brisk, concise 92 minutes, I canít help but feel like it had one too many subplots packed snugly inside itself. I believe this could have been a film solely about the relationship between Madison and CW, with little else in-between, and yet, that isnít even the main course of the film.

The filmís main course is, effectively, CW and everybody else, and, while fine, means you find yourself a main conflict without a strong combatant.

Likewise, too, they make the boyfriend seem unlikable, yet try to elevate his role to someplace where heíd be expected to be likable, and he isnít.

It is neither a scary film nor a gory film, nor is it a lot of other things, rather it is a more-mechanized, old-school helping of terror. It isnít a whodunnit, but it stills right at home with something you would dust off from the bookshelf and read. It calls for you to enjoy the ride, and I think it does appropriately well at that.

Influencer is a film I would recommend, but I would keep expectations reasonably in-check. It has some neat ideas, but it doesnít explore them beyond a surface-level. I would have been on-board with certain threads being strung along further, as I was genuinely curious where they could lead, but the film simply had different aspirations. Taken for what it is, itís a decent film and I donít walk away with a whole lot of criticisms, only what-ifís and wish-itís.




The Bib-iest of Nickels

Phantasm

Phantasm is a film I felt like I would never watch. For all intents and purposes, it lands exactly in my ballpark. I love goofy, absurd horror films (they are a majority of what I review on Nickelbib.com, after all). I am even more interested when I know the film is a part of a franchise, which Phantasm just so happens to be (for better or for worse, the jury is still out). And yet, in spite of having known about the series for as long as I can remember, it has always precluded the archives of the ĎBib. Well, no more!

Directed, written, photographed, and edited by Don Coscarelli, Phantasm is a 1979 science fantasy horror film. The film stars the late-Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man, a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who gathers up the deceased from Earth to be turned into dwarf zombies meant to be used as slaves on his home-planet. If youíre like me, that description was enough to make me do a Michael Myers head tilt.

I was aware of Phantasm, but I didnít actually know much about it heading in. All I knew was to keep my expectations in check (as I always try to do for some of the lesser known cult horror), and prepare for an unorthodox, peculiar film.

Attempting to thwart the Tall Man, we have a young boy named Mike, played by Michael Baldwin, who attempts to convince everyone that the threat is real.

Straightaway, I am taken in by how aesthetically pleasing Phantasm is to look at. This is because I am watching Phantasm: Remastered, a neat-and-tidy restoration of the film done by Bad Robot, J.J. Abramsí production company. Good on them for bringing the film up to code as it were.

Something else I am relieved to see is how narratively coherent the film actually is. I will be honest, although I always knew I needed to watch the Phantasm series as a horror fan, a lot of what made me apprehensive was how fearful I was of its quality. Frankly, when a film has so much riding on one man (the director, writer, photographer, and editor), I usually expect a surrealist, experimental, and perhaps, incohesive final product.

Although Phantasm is certainly surreal and weird, it is also conventional and easy to follow along with. A young boy sees something weird, he goes looking for answers about that something weird, and weirdly enough, he finds them. It is a classic story formula and I was happy to see that. This isnít to say the film wonít leave you scratching your head in its closing minutes, however, because it absolutely will.

The acting admittedly leaves a little to be desired. It isnít putrid or godawful, but it is clear we are dealing with a cast still honing their craft. I would call it par for the course. The actors range from over-acting to a more stilted, underplayed approach, creating a certain thematic dissonance. Both approaches can be a little off-putting throughout the film, but neither ultimately damages the film beyond repair. Our lead protagonist is satiable, especially for a young-actor, and while the Tall Man is over-the-top and cartoony, I believe it is suitably so.

The violence is mostly scarce, and when it does happen, itís bloody and absurd. The film didnít strike me as so much scary as it was shrouded in mystique (although I am desensitized enough I havenít the faintest idea what affects the average person these days).

The antagonist and the filmís conflict are unique and a welcome change of pace from a lot of the horror we often get. I equate it as similar to Hellraiser, where we donít have a slasher villain, but a character close enough to a slasher villain that it scratches a similar itch.

I wasnít sold on the end of the film. I can see what it means to say on grief and mourning, and I am all for a film that is up for interpretation, but the end opens up a whole can of worms for a payoff that is a little more nonsensical than it is profound. There are too many cogs in motion for the payoff to land, and I believe the film wouldíve ultimately benefited from a conventional, normal end, Iíd say.

The film has a ďdream-likeĒ quality to it, and it was something I appreciated more in-retrospect than I did as I watched the film. It has a bit of a Ďfractured dream logicí throughout, with characters drawing conclusions and making sense out of things they shouldnít. According to my research, this was halfway intentional and halfway an outcome of a lot of post-production decisions and backstory ending up on the cutting room floor.

My favorite aspect of this film is, ironically, one of the only aspects the director didnít create himself. The score is mesmeric and was a real highlight for me. It has a familiar, classical late-seventies / early-eighties horror vibe to it, akin to a lot of what was released in the time-period. It has a fairly thematic and distinct core sound, but, pleasantly, they modify it and diversify it throughout, adding new instruments and tone, rather than pasting the same loop over each scene ad nauseum.*

In summation, I liked Phantasm a lot more than I thought I would. It isnít without its warts, mind you. The acting is a mixed-bag and I really could have done without its ending (of which, the film had multiple made), but I loved the score and I enjoyed the oddball premise, which I think was executed well. Considering its limited resources, itís a real feather in the cap of everyone involved, especially Coscarelli. Itís an old-school horror gem and I recommend it to anybody who hasnít seen it - donít wait as long as I did!




The Bib-iest of Nickels
It is appropriate I am writing my review of Last Night in Soho immediately after writing my review of The Menu, not only because I watched them back-to-back, and not only because they both feature Anya Taylor-Klaus, but because I had a similar attitude about both of them prior to.

Despite the names and talent attached to Last Night in Soho, which includes the talented Thomasin McKenzie (who I last saw in the very good film Jojo Rabbit) and director Edgar Wright (who directed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film I positively reviewed, amongst other well-received features) at the helm, I have spent the better part of two years actively ignoring this film like the plague.

This film received a positive reception from audiences, but failed to light up the box office the way I am certain Universal Studios would have hoped, with Edgar hot off the success of his film Baby Driver.

Last Night in Soho is a peculiar film, which is something I am always enthusiastic about. Anytime a filmmaker tries to do something different than what is expected, especially a made-man like Edgar Wright, it is something I fully commend.

The film follows an aspiring fashion designer named Eloise as she moves to London to begin her pursuit at a fashion career. The film portrays the character as having a romanticized perception of what it was like in 1960s London, visualizing it with a glitz and glammed tinted lens, glamorizing what the film reveals wasnít actually a great time for everyone involved. This bodes true particularly for a dazzling singer named Sandie, and the many hardships she faces in pursuit of fame and notoriety. As Eloise discovers herself able to mysteriously enter the 1960s, or, at least, immerse herself into Sandieís perspective, she discovers the dark underbelly lying beneath.

I went into this film mildly intrigued and walked away from it very impressed. If nothing beyond what I am about to go in depth on, it is very unique from what is usually released, especially at a mainstream level.

Last Night in Soho plays out as an old-fashioned, twisty-turvy ghost story. If stripped to the bare essentials, I could almost imagine this type of film marketed toward a younger crowd. It feels sweet and sentimental, and yet vicious and mean-spirited. As a film, it has a sort of tonal mishmash that feels like it shouldnít work and yet, it does. Thomasin McKenzieís portrayal of Eloise has a child-like naivety to it that feels like it radiates through the entire film, a hopeful radiance that always feels present in the darkest of times. Even when the film goes off its rocker and starts to deal with much darker subject matter, like rape and murder, or features drug use and profanity, it never fully shakes off that radiance. I believe a lot of credit goes to McKenzie for helping instill that feeling of enchantment.


It captures a nostalgic depiction of the 60s nightlife district, that sours into ugly hard truths, making for a spellbinding, unique blend of elements. The cinematography in this film is fantastic, and enough credit can not be afforded to Edgar Write and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung for the sheer about of flash and style the film carries from start to finish. There is an argument to be able made style and substance in this film, whether it tries to do Ďtooí much in a Ďman of all trades, master of noneí type way, but I would commend it as managing to knock many of what it does out of the park. The film is a highlight reel of genuinely neat visuals and creative camerawork.

On the subject of substance, neither Eloise nor Sandie has a whole lot of depth. Whether it be the relationships they cultivate, their pasts (Eloise has a deceased mother that is vaguely touched on, but never really developed beyond the initial fact Ė there is also a history of mental illness that could likely have been expanded on), or some of the other character smaller characters that are established but donít ultimately play as big a part as one might expected. This is a film where the style is heavy and the emotion is there, but the smarts and heavy-lifting to earn that emotion isnít always apparent. The storyline is simple, in retrospect, but can feel a little unnecessarily convoluted and messy in its execution, verging a little on absurdity.

I believe all of what I said is a fair and reasonable criticism to levy against the film. Regardless, I will say I found myself enthralled with the film from start to finish. McKenzie dazzles as the ďnew in townĒ, doughy-eyed girl whose hopes and dreams are brutally stomped out, whereas Anya Taylor-Klaus delivers a strong performance as the starlet met by misogyny and hatefulness, feeling both effectively glamorous and larger than life and sympathetic when bad people make her feel small. They arenít necessarily fleshed out characters, but they are both characters that Klaus and McKenzie are natural fits for.

Last Night in Soho is an absolute feast, bolstered by strong actors and a thematically powerful narrative. Even when it may not be Ďearnedí, per se, itís so damn-good it is hard to tell the difference. It is so refreshing to see a film with so much vision behind it, and I think in this instance, that was enough to carry the film. If you step back and look at it, a lot of it may start to feel disproportionate or uneven narratively, but I found the film so fun and watchable that I never felt compelled to do that.




The Bib-iest of Nickels
The Menu is a film I had heard a lot about, but couldnít say I was particularly interested in. I knew the reviews were positive, and I recognized the pedigree of those involved, the largest standout amongst them being Anya Taylor-Joy, whose resume includes notable horror fare like The Witch (which I saw in theaters and enjoyed, although unfortunately not nearly as much of some of you may have), Split (which I enjoyed a fair amount), and superhero horror film The New Mutants (which I didnít particularly enjoy). Yes, every time my wife and I browsed the Max streaming service, we would briefly consider the film, and then, subsequently decide on a different film, leaving The Menu forever in the dreaded queue.

If I am honest with myself, I believe the reason I kept second-guessing myself about the film was to do with its trailer Ė a lot of artsy-fartsy food aficionados preparing themselves for an exquisitely prepared feast. How, oh how, would this become a horror film? In retrospect, I believe the trailer may, in fact, be intentionally deceptive about the filmís actual story, meant to surprise the viewer when it doesnít head in the obvious direction. What I expected from the film Ė that it would be an artsy-fartsy film that eventually ends up with them all partaking in cannibalism, isnít actually what the film is about.

Instead, the film heads in a different, fairly unique direction, and I believe it is best I leave it at that. I could try to unravel its tangled web for you and offer you a proper summary of what it is actually about, but I believe The Menuís mystery meat is best enjoyed as such.

Directed by Mark Mylod (a director whose prior credentials might surprise you Ė a lot of goofy, light-heart comedies that didnít do very well critically) and written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, The Menu doesnít reinvent the wheel, per se. Although it doesnít ultimately become what my preconceived notions envisioned, it does work with a lot of the same ingredients (aha, see what I did there? Ingredients? ĎCause itís about food! Haha, professional film critic.) that I originally expected. A lot of the film is, in fact, spent with pretentious people gawking over fancy food, either worshipping the head chef as a God or trying to find ways to criticize every dish. This means that a large part of the film is spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak Ė waiting for the horror component of it all to factor in.

Thankfully, this isnít as dull as it could have been, benefited by a largely entertaining performance by Nicholas Hoult, whose character plays the snooty food smarty-pants to sometimes hilarious effect (in which case, maybe it does make sense that the directorís previous efforts were in comedy). This leaves Anya Taylor-Klaus to play an everyman type, reacting to the absurdity of everyone around her.


The cinematography is stylish, benefited by its luscious cuisines that help set the table in a Hannibal Lecter kind of way (still not about cannibalism though!), along with some other comedic choices that play well into its concept.

When the horror comes, although it subverted my initial prediction, its largely conventional fare, building off simple, rather superficial social commentary and outcomes that are easy to predict.

Thankfully though, The Menu benefits from its cast and the charming, witty absurdity of itself. Ironically, I came here to see Anya Taylor-Klaus (who does very well, mind you), but it is Nicholas Hoult and, especially, Ralph Fiennes, as the proud and obsessive chef, that really work to sell the film. The film is filled to the brim with sassy quips and one-liners, and although they may not make the film add up to anything wholly substantial, their dedication to their roles and the general charm of the film makes the 107 minute runtime go down easy.

I would identify The Menu as a black comedy first and foremost, that leans heavily on its concept more than it does the depth of its characters or any particular horror component. The horror is there, absolutely, but it isnít the main course being served (no pun intended). It wants you to take everything it throws at you with a wink and a nod, stuffing itself full of gags and goofy moments, but never quite going beyond the point of no return with them.


I would recommend The Menu as a solid film, and a solid feather in the cap of everybody involved.




The Bib-iest of Nickels

It might sound peculiar, but I feel like I may actually like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even more as an adult than I did as a kid. Back then, I certainly liked the Ninja Turtles, in fact, I liked them a fair amount. I missed the cutoff age for the original animated series and Turtles in Time (but I did experience and enjoy the SNES classic later on in life), but I thoroughly enjoyed the 2003 cartoon (which is personally my favorite representation of the Turtles aesthetically) and I watched the original 1990 film more times than I can count.

I believe my appreciation for the series has deepened the more I started to realize the audacity of its existence and the sheer fun of its absurdity. All of us know the story by now.

Four turtles were altered by a radioactive chemical that spilled into the sewer, they were then adopted by a rat who trained them in the ways of ninjutsu.

That in itself is a concept so beautifully goofy that you canít help but smile at it.

As I have gotten older, I can appreciate even more how absurd their backstory is. The Ooze was (kind of) officially (but unofficially) the same chemical that blinded Marvelís superhero Daredevil. Not only that, but the series is filled to the brim with references and parodies of Daredevil. The main bad-guys are the Foot Clan (instead of the Hand) and they were trained by a rat named Splinter (instead of Stick). If you take a step back, it can really be seen how ludicrously bonkers everything about the series is. Similar to Deadpool, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really feels like a series that was never meant to break into mainstream culture the way it has. That, in and of itself, makes the joke only that much more enjoyable.

They skateboard in the sewer. They love pizza. Theyíre named after famous painters. Itís a wacky time and I am all for it. Cowabunga!

Adaptations beyond the animated seriesí and Turtles in Time have left a lot to be desired, however.

I loved the original 1990s film as a kid, but when I went back and re-watched it, I couldnít help but believe it left a lot to be desired. I still enjoyed it. I still largely prefer the cheesy-looking rubber suits over the ugly CGI-laden representations shown in the more recent duology. However, I will admit that the characters and how they are developed, and how certain things were portrayed, werenít as realized as they could have been. What I think it comes down to, for me, is that they simply didnít capture the sense of personality for the Turtles and the world they were in as well as best case scenario. The best case scenario being the animated seriesí, which I may talk about one of these days on Nickelbib.

After the 1990s film, I can more or less take or leave everything afterward. I didnít care for Secret of the Ooze or Ninja Turtles III, and although I firmly believe the characters are best suited in the animated medium, the 2007 film was a swing and a miss. The Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a beautiful disaster. It was a disaster in the sense that I thought it was a terrible film, but it was beautiful in the sense that it managed to make nearly half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Meanwhile, while its sequel Out of the Shadows, while a considerable improvement over its predecessor, was too little too late in my opinion. As strange as it may sound, in spite the hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown at it, the best film to be made about the Ninja Turtles since the 90s original is actually the Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that was released a few years ago.

What I am trying to say in a meandering, dithering kind of way is that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a whole, across all mediums has a lot of untapped potential. It is one of the things that makes me love the series as much as I do. Before watching the latest film Mutant Mayhem, I was excited about two projects on the horizon for Ninja Turtles. This film and an adaptation of The Last Ronan graphic novel. Both could land either way, and I have no misconceptions about THQ Nordic and its shoddy track record, but what also excites me is out completely, utterly different both are. The Last Ronan is a story of dark subject matter, looking like a white-knuckle, gritty story for the Turtles, akin to Samurai Jack or a classic revenge-story. The comparisons to God of War: Ragnarok are a little too ambitious for a company like Nordic, but I still think it could a lot of fun. Likewise, it could lead to further developments for the characters. Sometimes, unexpected properties can be the source of new, groundbreaking developments in established intellectual properties. In 2010, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was released and helped to lay the groundwork for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which helped lay the groundwork for Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the most recent Across the Spider-Verse seeing some of the most ambitious developments to the Spider-Man canon in ages.

To me, it is always exciting when old seriesí can find facelifts or fresh developments, so I am exciting and hopeful The Last Ronan videogame will be able to usher new developments into popular canon, the new Turtles, for instance, would be very cool.

With Mutant Mayhem, we find ourselves on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. This isnít uncharted territory for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the least, instead, it is a new reimagining of the characters. Although some of us may have to shake off the initial cynicism of having to turn the clock on yet another interpretation of TMNT, I was very excited about it.

I believe that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse may have changed the game for animated superhero in a dramatic fashion, as you can clearly see the heavy inspiration and influence with Mutant Mayhem. The blend of different styles and that sense of kinetic, frantic animation Across the Spider-Verse had bleeds into Mutant Mayhem and sticks the landing with flying colors.

I know I heard some mixed responses about the Turtles re-design, with some purists criticizing new developments to the characters and some simply not liking the approach. For me though, I had a fairly unanimous affection for the new approach and I would call it the best visual depiction I have seen on film, but not overtaking my affection for the 2003 series. I am all for the different ways the artists went about making each Turtles have his own personality and identity to them. The only thing I am a little mixed on is certain ones having braces, but I might retroactively warm up to it if the film receives sequels showing the characters age and grow out of them.

As a film, I was excited at the prospect of being able to bring things back to the basics for the Ninja Turtles. As a personal observation, after watching Mutant Mayhem shortly after seeing Across the Spider-Verse, I feel they provide a compelling argument that superhero films were always better suited for animation. The medium simply allows the characters and their personality to pop off the screen in a way live-action is usually incapable. For a long time, it always felt like there was this stigma about animation, this perception that something isnít real or mature enough when it is an animated film. It is a stigma we should have bucked off a long time ago. These films work great as animated films and I find it so weird that we have allowed ourselves to ever believe it is some kind of handicap or detractor when the opposite is true.

Mutant Mayhem has style to spare. The soundtrack is composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the art style is fun and filled with personality. It feels like a labor of love, at a time when, for as long as I can remember, Ninja Turtles movies have let like they are made on a conveyor belt.

The approach to make the characters actual teenagers was an inspired decision. It certainly creates a unique effect for the film overall. At the same time, I do believe the film has a rapid-fire, million-words-a-minute feeling to it, with character development sometimes left by the way side in favor of overstuffing the film with as many name-drops and cultural references as its runtime can contain.

Iím not criticizing it. Not really. I can appreciate it. I can appreciate the fact that, for the first time, the Turtles act and talk like actual teenagers (and, by teenager, I mean thirteen), but, perhaps, I wasnít ready for what that entailed. The film doesnít go for a grandiose or big-time villain for the Turtles first go-around, which is both a common sense decision, given the prospect of many sequels, and a logical decision.

For me, this is a simple, straightforward film, largely benefited by the technique and behind-the-scene talent hard at work. As a story, as a portrayal of its characters, and as a film overall, however, I canít help but believe it is only a good film. Which isnít anything to be ashamed of. This is, in my opinion, the best portrayal of the Turtles ever brought to film, simply because of how it accomplishes having the charm and lovability of a good, fun superhero film. However, I did leave the film thinking to myself that the best, in theory, is what comes afterward.

As much as I am interested in the journey to the Turtles becoming the characters they eventually become, of establishing its roguesí gallery, and the fun that will ensue, the biggest steps toward that are what will come after this film. We can only hope that Mutant Mayhem has a healthy run at the box office and is allowed to lay the foundation for the series to come.

I would recommend it.




The Bib-iest of Nickels

Terror Train

In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis became a horror mainstay after her breakthrough performance in John CarpenterĎs slasher film Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis has become so synonymous with her portrayal of Laurie Strode that it can sometimes be forgotten her legacy goes far beyond that. In 1980 alone, she starred in both Carpenterís The Fog and a new horror franchise in the shape of Paul LynchĎs slasher film Prom Night. She also starred in another slasher film Ė an independently produced film called Terror Train.

Terror Train isnít as revered as Halloween or even Prom Night, but it was a modest, appreciated addition to Jamie Lee Curtisí filmography, boasting middling reviews and a subpar return at the box office. In the grander scheme, the film was mostly forgotten by the average horror casual. It wasnít revered a classic like Halloween nor did it attain a cult like following on the order of, say, Chopping Mall. The film fell someplace, somewhere with Tourist Trap, as a film released in that same period, with familiar young talent involved, but not a lot else to say about it.

This is the reason it might be a surprise to many of you that Terror Train actually received a remake this year Ė released exclusively on the Tubi streaming service. I have championed the Tubi streaming service a lot in the last few years. It may not have the more intimate touch of a more horror centered service like Shudder, but, pound for pound, it is a platform rich in lesser known, low-budget horror cinema Ė Iíd highly recommend it.

As for whether Tubi has a future as a connoisseur in the fine art of original horror, that is something I am less sold on.

Early on, 2022ís Terror Train can feel a little jarring to look at.

Although I havenít seen the original Terror Train in ages, I have seen enough eighties horror to understand the playbook Ė the concept is one weíve seen a lot. In a hazing prank gone wrong, a man is seriously traumatized and now finds himself donning a mask to seek revenge (if not him, then somebody else Ė like his mother or a close friend). Itís a classic middleweight slasher film premise and Iím open to it.

Terror Trainís characters often come off as sleazy in a way that is insincere, a little like they are trying too hard to capture an edgy, party vibe to them. Chances are, you know what I mean by that. Itís a difficult needle to thread. How do you succeed at displaying something thatís, ultimately, obnoxious, without it feeling obnoxious on-screen? If you were to equate it to a camp slasher film, like, say Friday the 13th or The Burning, a similar plight would be how to capture the camp vibe without it feeling like youíre watching an hour of counselors tying knots or rowing canoes? You donít want to feel like youíre merely padding the runtime out til your masked antagonist can wreak havoc.

This film struggles with that key obstacle, tackling it not through interesting character development or witty banter, but, instead, through what feels like a double edged sword. Itís sensory overload and yet it feels like nothing happens Ė it calls to mind the age old refrain of having so much that you have less as a result.

Observe that I said Terror Train lacks interesting character development. Given its due, the film does have a story line at play and characters that are at least somewhat fleshed out and work off each other. Primarily, this is two characters Ė you see, one character is the voice of reason (that is, the one who feels most guilty about the prank gone awry), the other is the instigator (the one who takes no responsibility and shows no guilt). These characters play off each other throughout the film, butting heads and spearheading all the conflicts that arise in the film. It exists, but it isnít interesting to watch.

Youíll notice on Nightmare Shift, I donít scrape from the bottom of the barrel very often. When I seek out a film, it is because, ideally, I want to like that film. Any time I highlight a lesser seen film, Iíd rather it be a recommendation. Thus, when I canít finish a movie, I donít review the movie. I finished Terror Train, but, I have to say, it was a bit of a slog to get through.

Terror Train feels both predictable and melodramatic, like watching a cheaply made-for-TV (made-for-Tubi) impersonation of better, more fun horror fare. The film houses no interesting deaths to speak of, all straightforward and basic, and the cinematography does nothing to heighten the suspense or intrigue. The score, early on, harks back to the glory days of old eighties fare, with scenes backed by a string of notes, but it is superficial and forgotten before it is even a quarter of the way through.

I always try to be considerate when I write reviews for any film. Even if a film is Ďbadí (in my opinion), I often can find merit (even films everyone hates Ė if I find a sense of ambition / a desire to do something unique, Iíll write about it). However, Terror Train doesnít feel like a love letter shy a proper editor, or an ambitious idea stretched beyond the means of its creator.

Have you ever bought a cheap t-shirt on Amazon? Letís say you find a shirt with a cool looking image and buy it on a whim. A few days later, the shirt arrives and you take a look at it. The image looks blurry and faded, just a low-quality t-shirt. This is because what happened was, there is a factory that has all these shirts for print-on-demand. What the seller did was, he took a photo he ripped off Shutterstock and pasted a stretched out image over that black shirt. All of that aside, youíre not that mad about it. You didnít pay a lot, you didnít expect a lot. Take it for what you will, but thatís 2022ís Terror Train.