Jon Turner's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Smurfs: The Lost Village
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Only kids might get some entertainment value out of this colorful but bland, predictable, and frankly not even remotely interesting CG animated flick. This is the third entry in a series of SMURFS films; the first two being live-action/CG hybrids, this one simply being CG. But the cartoonish flair of the characters, particularly the comically evil Gargamel, doesn't translate very well to this flashy style. Bad enough, but the real problem is the film itself. It's simply noisy, overstuffed with unfunny humor, wastes the talents of all actors involved, and above all, is totally devoid of genuine heart or substance. Financial gain and selling merchandise are the only major reasons films like this exist. The fact that it's not even good is all the more regrettable.

Your Name. (Kimi No Na Wa.)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Makoto Shinkai's YOUR NAME achieved what would arguably be a most improbable feat: it dethroned Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY to become Japan's most successful film. And what a movie it is! Heartfelt, hilarious, moving, thrilling, and enthralling, this movie cleverly mixes together the central idea from Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY with a bit of BACK TO THE FUTURE for good measure.

It's about two teens -- Taki and Mitsuha -- who somehow find themselves switching places in their bodies periodically. (A running gag involves Taki waking up in Mitsuha's place noticing "his" breasts.) Stakes get higher in the latter half when the two star-crossed strangers use that connection to avert a tragedy. Sounds like a bizarre story for an animated film, doesn't it? But it works. The first half in particular, where we see the difficulties that Taki and Mitsuha experience during their supernatural "body swapping" episodes, is hysterically funny. It's only in the second half when things get a little slower, but even then, Shinkai manages to maintain a lot of interest for the viewers, notably in the form of a stylized "time travel" sequence and of course the chemistry between the leads.

The dubbing is very well done as well, as per usual by NYAV Post. Both Mike Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh voice the lead characters (and apparently directed each other as well), and turn in great performances. The show stealer, though, is young Catie Harvey as Mitsuha's little sister Yotsuha, who arguably gets the best lines in the film: "I see you're not touching your boobies this morning!" she snarks at her sister.

YOUR NAME is more of a story for teenagers and adults, but kids might enjoy watching it, too, for aside from the occasional sexual innuendo (which is mostly played for laughs and frankly, is tame compared to what you would see in raunchier Anime), there's little else to offend.

The Happytime Murders
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Sesame Street" this ain't. Neither, unfortunately, is it AVENUE Q. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, a pet project of Brian Henson, the son of the famous Jim Henson, is an ambitious and technically amazing but uneven and at times, too distractingly vulgar, production which aims to be primarily for adults. Although capably directed and packed with a likable cast of stars and an interesting if familiar mystery plot, the end result is a mixed bag more than anything else. Critics were especially harsh on this film, declaring it to be an unfunny mess and one of the worst films of the year. My opinion: it's nowhere near that. But it's not exactly a great movie either. It's somewhere inbetween.

The best part of the film is the puppetry. Although the characters in question are a far cry from the likes of Big Bird or Kermit the Frog -- they swear constantly, snort drugs (read: rock candy with a Twizzler!), have sex, and in one disgustingly overlong scene ejaculate silly string over the room(!). But the puppeteers and the technical wizardry behind making these puppet characters as convincing and believable as they do cannot be faulted. This is top notch work. Particularly impressive are some wide shots where we see the puppets in full size walking across the street without having to look at them from the waist up. (As a bonus, there's an end credit sequence in which we see outtakes -- or rather, footage of how this stuff works.) The lead character, a disgraced police officer named Phil Phillips, puppeteered by Bill Barretta, goes through a relatable character arc to keep one invested in his plight.

The other assets are live actresses Melissa McCarty and Maya Rudolph. McCarty shares the top-billing as Phillips' ex-partner, Connie Edwards, and while your opinions about the actress may vary, she actually gives a great performance in this film. She treats the puppets as equals and is a lot of fun to watch. Ruldoph gives a more tender turn as Phillips' secretary, oddly named Bubbles. Although she doesn't have many scenes, she brings a lot of much needed heart to the picture.

The idea behind the picture is sound: a world where puppets are treated as second-class citizens (think WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT but with puppets instead of cartoons and you get the idea), and a murder mystery which involves puppets getting bumped off by a mysterious assassin. These murders, oddly enough, are actually among the most visually humorous moments in the film! Rather than spraying blood, we see stuffing pop out of these puppets as they are gunned down, decapitated, or mutilated -- you name it! It's oddly funny in a twisted way. And the plotline, although not especially original or groundbreaking, at least builds well to its climax, even if the final showoff is disappointingly short.

The primary problem with THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is that it spends much of its 90 minute running time indulging in a lot of tastelessly vulgar stuff. Although meant to provide humor, sights of seeing these characters doing the things mentioned earlier actually proves to be more off-putting than funny. An overlong sex scene involving Philips and another puppet, femme fatale Sandra, which culminates with a gross, extensive silly string gag, in particular, left me sick to my stomach and did take me out of the picture. The wonderful Broadway musical AVENUE Q had a similar scene that was nowhere near this disgusting and arguably funnier.

Worse still, there's no major purpose to a lot of this shock value stuff. It feels as though Henson was trying to push as much comfort zone as possible, but I feel that bad taste for bad taste's sake does not a great movie make. I can't help but wonder if maybe the film would be better off toning down a lot of this over-the-top raunchiness, as it would at least make its storyline more tighter plotted. There are also some implied ideas that puppets are treated as second class citizens, but the script doesn't delve into them as deeply as it could have.

There are flashes of brilliance in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, and it isn't an altogether failure, but the inconsistent shift in tone and overemphasis on the shock value cause the picture to be a mixed bag. It is worth watching for the amazing puppetry and McCarthy and Ruldolph's performances, but as the show is quite profane and extreme, it's definitely not for kids.

Cheetah
Cheetah (1989)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

It's no match for BORN FREE, but this tale of two California kids who team up with a friendly goat herder to rescue a cheetah from gamblers is good old-fashioned Disney fun. As expected, the cinematography of the African wilderness is beautiful and of course the title character, aptly named "Duma" (who doesn't turn up until about 15 minutes into the film), will capture your heart the moment you first set your eyes on her. There are shades of the aforementioned British lion story in this movie, particularly in the scenes where the kids attempt to train their household pet to become wild. But the real heart of the story is in their friendship with the native goat herder Morogo; the chemistry between them is funny and enjoyable to watch and one cannot help but root for them when they set off on their daring adventure to rescue their pet (even if it means purposely missing their flight home and lying to their parents to do so). CHEETAH will not go down as an all time great, but it's a pleasant way to spend 83 minutes, especially in the scenes involving the cheetah and the perils across Africa (particularly a brief elephant chase). And of course, the "Jumbo" song is catchy (listen carefully for a mention of "Hakuna matata!").