Punch Drunk DVDs: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2', 'Neighbors 2', 'Free State of Jones'

In this sequel to the Michael Bay produced reboot of the cult-classic franchise, the titular turtles return to once again face off against the evil Shredder.This time, the villain has teamed up with both mutants of his own design and a vicious alien force out to destroy us all.

We Said: “The appropriately-titled sequel, 'Out of the Shadows', brings every bizarre facet of their comic book origins into the spotlight for an exercise in fan service that should leave them satisfied. Newcomers may be left shell-shocked, though, at the mutagenic madness posing as a plot.” Rating: 3 out of 5

The Good: Having somehow managed to sit through the first film in Michael Bay’s new Ninja Turtles series, I can say with absolute certainty that Out of the Shadows is an incredible improvement over its predecessor. The 2014 film had such a Transformers-style “Bayhem” to it. The movie was a big-budget adaptation of a silly cartoon and it absolutely hated that, choosing to take every opportunity it saw to steer into gritty-reboot territory instead of actually owning up to its own campiness. Fortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows does a lot to correct this problematic tone. This actually feels like a Ninja Turtles movie, unapologetically dropping in absurd fan-favorite plot points from the original series left and right. When it’s staying true to its silly cartoon roots, there’s some fun to be had with this movie, especially when compared to the disappointing first one.

The Bad: Unfortunately, “better than the last one” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” Out of the Shadows still attempts a million different tones that just don’t blend together. For example, a somber subplot about the turtles wishing they were human does nothing to move along the plot of the movie, and is very difficult to take as seriously as the film wants you to. While it is nice that the movie includes some of the  more outlandish elements of the original cartoon, it does very little to integrate them into its overall plot, making it rather hard to follow for audiences new to the franchise. It could be much worse, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows  is still an insane, rambling, hard to follow mess of a movie.

Overall: Grading on a curve, Out of the Shadows is a major upgrade. Fans of the series will have fun with the homages to the source material, but the uninitiated might find themselves a little lost. Ultimately, the movie is entertaining enough. It could have been worse, but it could also have been a lot better.

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Another better-than-the-first-one sequel, Neighbors 2 reunites us with the Radners, (Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen) who are now pregnant with their second child. Unfortunately, the couple’s plan to sell their current house and move into a larger one is stalled when a new party sorority (lead by Chloe Grace Moretz and the returning Zac Efron) moves in next door. Once again, the Radners must face off against their rowdy college neighbors, before they decrease the market value of their house and lose their potential buyers.

We Said: “[Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising] is the rare case of a comedy sequel that is even better than the original. ” Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Good: This is a much better movie than the original Neighbors on just about every front. The jokes land harder, the characters are stronger, and Director Nicholas Stroller pours as much visual comedy as possible into every moment of the movie. The plot is incredibly progressive, especially for a Seth Rogen “bro-comedy”, and best of all, it mostly stays away from being preachy about it. The original 2014 film was entertaining enough, but Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is miles ahead in every department.

The Bad: While most of the film is concerned with making the most of the comedic possibilities that the plot presents, in the third act of the movie the laughs do slow down quite a bit in an effort to pay more focus to the characters’ relationships and feelings. This was also the section of the film that does cross over into explaining to you how forward thinking it is, and patting itself on the back for it. I had appreciated how quietly progressive it had been at the start, so coupling this with the more dramatic tonal shift just didn’t work. Many modern American comedies tend to end their movies with scenes like this, and they consistently fall flat to me. I was disappointed by the otherwise really awesome Neighbors 2 falling into such a weak ending.

Overall: When it’s funny, it’s hilarious, and that’s the case for a great deal of the runtime. It slips a little toward the movie’s climax, but mostly Neighbors 2 is a surprisingly solid comedy.

Matthew McConaughey stars in this historical drama as Newton Knight, a former soldier of the Confederacy who has a controversial change of heart, and leaves the army to form his titular “Free State”: a self-contained area where black and white families can live together in peace at a time of war.

We Said: “Knight's story has no coup de grace moment, and his cultural impact is dubious at best. While he remains an interesting and unique figure, his relevance is impossible to quantify, and Free State of Jones doesn't do much to make it any clearer..” Rating: 2.5 out of 5