Michael Pena

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Movie Review: Turbo

Published July 23, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the Voices of: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes.

Honestly, Ross & I were not expecting too much from this one, but Ethan was intrigued when we peeped previews before Despicable Me 2.  The premise didn’t really appeal to either of us.  Snail wants to be fast, snail becomes fast, snail competes at Indy 500.  It’s a unique concept, but centered around things I’m not very interested in.  However, it surprised me to some extent and ended up surpassing my expectations.  The story had an encouraging and uplifting message: Follow your dreams.  But the message was delivered with a noticeable lack of laughs and the final result was underwhelming.  The tale begins in a garage bordering a lush garden of red, ripe tomatoes.  Our main character “Turbo”, or as his snail kin call him, Theo, is watching car racing on a small television.  He has a race track set up and he is working on improving his lap time of 2 minutes, while playing out his ‘speedy’ fantasy.  His brother instructs him to get some rest for a big day of work that’s ahead of them.  The snails travel in force, but slowly, toward the garden where they harvest the fresh tomatoes and send the duds hurtling toward “Turbo”, who is having a difficult time dodging the fleshy, large orbs.  He vocally daydreams about racing as he completes his daily tasks and the other snails castigate him for what they believe to be a fruitless dream.  But can we blame them…he is a snail – one of the quintessential slow creatures of the Earth.

Snail ends up falling on drag racing car, gets dose of nitrous, becomes super fast.  Turbo was mildly better than I expected, but still very mediocre.  And as Maria pointed out, seriously lacking in the humor department.  Ethan seemed to like it which is the most important thing really.  I’ve made this point before, the bar has been set so high for animated films that when you see one that is not spectacular, it is a major disappointment.  That being said, even though Turbo was an average offering, I was okay with it because my expectations weren’t very high going in.  My favorite part of the movie was Turbo’s sidekick snails which included Samuel L., Snoop and Maya Rudolph (think Lightning McQueen’s pit crew).  Michael Pena as Tito, Turbo’s manager of sorts, was okay as well.  Just a mostly forgettable hour and a half, but not so bad you want to demand your money back.  If it’s a rainy day and you literally have nothing else to do with the kids, maybe point the car toward your local theater.  Maybe.  But you know, bowling can be fun too.

The bar is really up there, so it’s understandable when one of these kids movies doesn’t make the cut as one of the elite.  With so many classics in the rearview mirror, the more recent stuff starts to blend together.  The theme of this film echoed that of many other animated features, but without the clever writing and entertainment.  Perhaps if I were a die hard car racing fan I would have found the plot more enticing.  It felt like a convoluted concoction of Epic, Cars and Antz all mixed up into one picture.  Turbo was good for a few smiles and for entertaining Ethan throughout the afternoon.  He enjoyed himself and as Ross said, that’s what really matters.  If I were you, I’d skip the theatre on this one and wait for the DVD release.  You’ll save some cash and your precious time.

Actually, I have another ideaGo see Despicable Me 2 again, that movie is awesome!  Hey, if you love auto racing, Turbo is worth a watch.  Also, figuring out who the voices are is a fun game, I nailed Richard Jenkins in this one, a decent snipe.  And if you are into motorsports, keep a sharp ear to see if you can ferret out Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti.  Or you could take Maria’s advice, wait for video.

Maria’s Rating:  2 Gummy Bears out 5.

Ross’ Rating:  2.5 Gummies.

Recent DVD Release: End Of Watch

Published February 25, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo, David Harbour.

Rated: R.  Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

It was refreshing to watch a buddy cop movie where the protagonists weren’t caricatures of policemen making bad jokes, or corrupt, or dealing with corruption.  End of Watch is the story of partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Pena), and they are most certainly serious peace officers.  They patrol the worst streets of L.A., and yes they are young and eager but also very competent.  And you truly get the feeling that these guys care about the job, each other, and want to make a difference for the better.  The film is shot from the viewpoint of a school project of Taylor’s, and he has a camera with him all the time, much to the chagrin of his sargeant and fellow officers.  The faux documentary style is unique, but some of the quick jerks and changing angles were a bit reminiscent of the fantastic, long-running TV series NYPD Blue.  We follow Taylor and Zavala as they answer calls to some extremely dangerous places and situations, and it makes you think that the real-life men and women doing these jobs are definitely not getting paid enough.

End of Watch was unique, adrenaline pumping and suspenseful.  This is not my favorite genre of movie and I wasn’t especially excited to see it, but it was surprisingly charming.  Gyllenhaal and Pena have an on screen chemistry that is not only believable, but also a pleasure to watch.  The banter between the longtime partners appears genuine and would lead any viewer to believe that the actors bonded in real life as well.  Anna Kendrick is not to be overlooked.  She does a spectacular job as Gyllenhaal’s love interest.  Her career has seriously blossomed over the past few years with notable performances in Up in the Air, 50/50 and Pitch Perfect.  I would never have guessed that she would be the most successful actor (at least regarding roles) to come out of the Twilight series.  End of Watch has a gritty style of filming that makes it sometimes difficult to watch, especially during some of the chase scenes and action sequences.  I understand the desired effect the director was trying for and I commend him for taking a risk.  However, the filming style was vastly overshadowed by the fantastic acting.

The film was superbly acted, no doubt.  The group of actors that portray the street gang are chillingly menacing.  As the story continues, Taylor and Zavala in the performance of their duties tumble into some truly serious criminal activity that is way over their heads.  It is here and into the climactic scene where the movie loses me just a bit.  I was reading this article the other day in Entertainment Weekly that was about how we’ve become a nation of nitpickers when it comes to movies and TV shows.  Man, am I guilty as charged there.  Maria and I are forever breaking down what’s wrong with Homeland or The Following or Dexter or Boardwalk Empire.  I just get so pissed off when common sense is ignored or when the outskirts of what could happen in real-life are stretched to their limits and beyond.  I know I should just enjoy the ride, but I can’t.  And there is a moment near the end of End of Watch that I found myself screaming at the screen.  I’m not going to spoil anything because we don’t do that, but I know Maria was in the same place I was.  It certainly didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it definitely dropped it down a notch or two.

I’m a fellow nitpicker and proud of it.  Judging entertainment is one of my favorite outlets.  That is what defines us as Americans and as people.  It’s what makes some stuff amazing and other crap mediocre.  Well, let me step off my soap box for a minute and finish up my assessment of Watch.  I enjoyed this movie, mainly because it had tons of action keeping me on the edge of my seat and it was something new.  It’s exciting to see somebody try something a little bit different, even if it doesn’t fully translate.  My praises slightly waned at the ending, but not enough to allow me to discount the entire film.  Perhaps we have become exceptionally critical, but I think we’ve contributed to making entertainment better.  The recent offerings on television and movies reflect the high standards we’ve adopted.  The important thing is that we each have the freedom to go see what movie we want, follow whichever shows appeal to us and read any book that piques our interest.  I may strongly disagree with the millions of readers who liked 50 Shades of Grey, but I sure as shit support your right to enjoy it.  So watch what you want, enjoy what you like and feel free to bash anything as you see fit.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummies.