Monday, April 16, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)


This movie is attached to countless memories of mine.  What an incredible leap to the live action scene for the turtles!  It’s very funny and blends story with simple battle scenes that entertain quite well.  It’s loaded with turtle power too.  I was that eight year old boy that ran around pretending to be a ninja turtle.  I remember in my teenage years I grew embarrassed of that because let’s face it those years are just chaotic for everyone.  One of my personal favorite memories is getting the nunchucks Michelangelo uses stuck in trees over and over.  Why did I throw them twirling into the air towards branches?  There are still things I can’t explain even as an adult, I suppose it was just fun.  When you know a movie by heart line for line I would say you can call yourself a fan or a parent.  This is one of those movies that falls under that category for me.  When I recently watched it I still was rattling off the dialogue in excitement.  Without further ado though let’s get to the film itself to see how much you remember.

Kitchen utensil extraordinaire
                New York City (where everything always happens) is being victim of an organized crime spree lead by one bad dude, the Shredder.  April O’Neil is reporting the story on TV as the mini-montage shows thugs and the foot clan stealing electronics.  It’s interesting to see Shredder using rejected from society young men to do his stealing for him.  I wonder why he came to America to train Americans in the way of the ninja to merely steal small time style.  I want to say he had something sinister and far better going for him in Japan but was forced to flee to the states.  He did murder people there so I guess it pans out.  He wouldn’t want to get his butt shredded in prison over in Japan now would he?  When I think of the evil Shredder I think of a more elaborate grand scheme that’s all.  I take it Shredder is hoarding money for a future endeavor.  Now I get it he is saving up money to purchase a technodrome.  I would really like to see that huge golf ball on crack in the live action world of cinema.

I may not act like a reporter but I swear I am one!
                April gets mugged right outside her news station by some thugs and gets saved by the turtles in their first battle.  I always remember Leonardo saying, “I got her watch!”  Was he retrieving it for her in that darkened chaos?   She also sees a rat in the parking lot that will get comically referenced later.  Raphael loses his sai and April slides it into her bag without realizing he is watching her.  That crime scene evidence April, you’re tampering for shame.  Lucky for Raphael though, it would have been a souvenir at the police station for who knows how long.  He mutters, “Damn” as he lowers the sewer lid descending downward.  I love his attitude; it really throws a wrench into the brotherhood of the turtles. The turtles are excited over their first victory and an awesome intro for them comes as they head home.  Just before they walk into their lair Raphael says, “Damn” one more time as he looks at his lone sai in his hand.  He really misses his weapon, I wonder if he’ll try to get it back somehow?

Raphael you lose sai faster than I lose my hearing
                Splinter is patiently awaiting their return as he sees his exuberant turtles come back home.  Leonardo is still pumped up over their battle but calmly stops himself as he briefs his master on the encounter.  It’s a great moment as Splinter is explaining the importance of what it takes to be a true ninja but Michelangelo is ordering pizza on a pay phone disturbing him.  He eventually throws a book at him to get him off the phone.  Michelangelo is insistent to not put anchovies on the pizza.  “If you put anchovies on this pizza you’re in big trouble OK?”  I lose it every time I watch that part, it’s hilarious!  Who talks like that on the phone while ordering?  Splinter ends by saying they have but one lesson still to learn.  Splinter meditates as the turtles dance.  They’re still teenagers after all.  Raphael complains he lost a sai and he can get it back.  Splinter doesn’t seem to mind that it’s gone though.  If you lost your walking stick how would you feel rat?  It’s more of a lesson to not cling to possessions if anything at all.  Raphael goes out to a movie alone to vent some steam.  He has quite a short fuse.

Long story short, I spent a lot of time in the penalty box
                Raphael leaves the movie disgusted, well you were apparently watching “Critters” dude, and stops some thieves from robbing a lady, now that a good turtle!  He opens his brown trench coat to show a sai to the punks who in turn take off into the park.  It was intimidating as a kid watching that moment but as an adult it’s a bit funny, it’s not like it’s a gun Raphael.  I admit it’s a great scene.  Doesn’t everyone notice he’s not quite human?  He walks around with no shoes exposing his big turtle feet.  I suppose it would put a damper on things if everyone was shouting freak when they saw him and I’m pretty sure Raphael would slip with his sai at some point injuring somebody.  Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) makes his appearance in the park as he wants to beat the young thieves up.  Raphael puts a stop to it and battles Casey.  The dialogue isn’t up to par but it’s a decent enough scene.  Raphael gets bested and rolls over a taxi hood while pursuing Casey trying to get even with him.  He exclaims, “Damn” once more as he loses the chase.  The cab driver takes it all in stride, typical New Yorker; they’ve seen it all right?  I want to add that think Elias Koteas was a great Casey Jones, liked the performance.

Clearly not a turtle
                One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Raphael returns home to Splinter.  Splinter senses from his “son” that he is troubled.  It’s viewed that Splinter is like a father to the turtles in the way he brought them up.  Raphael wants to wait until morning to discuss it but that doesn’t happen.  You better listen to your master boy!  It’s actually a touching moment as Splinter tries to channel Raphael’s anger but his student keeps it as an inner struggle.  Splinter reminds him that he and his brothers are always there for him.  He also states how he is unique among his brothers.  You can really feel the bond the two have and how much they mean to one another.  It’s very well executed.

Perfect crossover
                April O’Neil interviews the chief of police, Sterns a very volatile man, the turtles are watching it on TV.  Raphael wants his sai back so he goes out to follow her to retrieve it.  Chief Sterns tries to verbally rip April in his office but she runs off.  The foot clan catches April in the subway as she feebly attempts to ward them off with a sai.  Where’s the mace April?  Spray those guys in their beady eyes.  They deck her being the noble guys they are after telling her to watch her mouth about the stories she has been reporting on them.  Shredder was very upset with her as he threw a dagger into a TV screen at his warehouse hideout.  That’s right he has a cliché warehouse as a base of operations.  Raphael comes to her rescue and makes short work of the foot clan.  He doesn’t knock them all out though or even tie them up.  Raphael I wouldn’t tell Splinter if you killed them with your sai.  You were defending April, he’ll understand or he’ll take both of your sai away.  That would really make him sad.  He is very attached to them.  Anyway he grabs April up and takes her back to the sewer den.  Little does he know that one of the foot members has followed him all the way back home.  Way to go Raphael, now they know where you live!  He had baggage though what could he do right?  The turtles need some security cameras or a crocodile guarding the sewer den.  Wouldn’t that make for a classic character in a future movie, Leatherhead.  It’s also funny to use a crocodile to guard the sewers since that’s where they get tossed once they grow too big as pets, ha-ha.

Finally fresh air, I was tired of smelling crap all the time
                Donatello keeps asking Raphael why he brought her back to their home.  It’s a funny back and forth moment with them two.  Raphael lays her out on the couch and delivers this hilarious line, “a couple of throw pillows, a TV news reporter what do you think?”  She wakes up and freaks out naturally at seeing giant turtles and a big rat staring at her.  Splinter goes on to tell her the back story of them.  “He talks and he even knows my name, perfect.”  April delivers a hilarious line.  The foot clan member is spying on them all at this time.  Who is the better ninja now?  A guy who used to flip burgers at McDonald’s before Shredder persuaded him to join the foot clan or the ninja turtles?  The turtles escort April home to her apartment to make sure she’s safe and stay for frozen pizza.  It’s funny and it builds the relationship between April and the turtles.  When the turtles leave Leonardo suggest it as he knows Splinter worries about them, aww so sweet, err.  They arrive home to find their place ransacked and more importantly Splinter gone!  Raphael is extremely upset and shouts “Splinter!”  A man walking up above on the street cautiously walks around the vent from the yelling with a funny mannerism.  They decide to return to Aprils place in sorrow and sadness, the poor guys.
Cut him Shredder!

                Charles Pennington is April’s boss and he visits her the next morning, great.  He wants to know if his ace reporter is alright after an alleged attack.  He brings his rotten son Danny along who spots Michelangelo hiding under the table.  Come on Mikey, can we try a bit harder?  Are you 3yrs old?  That’s a horrible hiding area!  Danny is a follower of Shredder and tattle tails on the turtles.  Danny you’re a turd you know that?  And give April her $20 back you petty thief.  Danny and his father have a tough time getting along although his dad seems like a decent guy.  They never mention the mother so if she’s gone at least dad is trying right?  Perhaps Charles murdered her and Danny knows it so he resents his father severely for it, too harsh for a turtle movie, probably.

They look like insects don't they?  The eyes..
                Raphael gets ticked off that his brothers are cowering in April’s apartment.  Michelangelo is sitting extremely close to the television watching a cartoon of the tortoise and the hare.  Are you eyes that bad dude?  They will be if someone doesn’t pull your sorry shell away from the TV.  “Ninja kick the damn rabbit!  He blew right by you!”  His commentary is very funny.  Donatello and Michelangelo smell a fight coming up with Leonardo and Raphael and hid in the kitchen eating some food.  Raphael mocks Leonardo while Leonardo calls Raphael a jerk; it’s a great sibling argument leading Raphael to leave to go vent his frustration.  Casey Jones sees Raphael on the roof from across the city, since Casey is a pervert that spies around with binoculars?  I’m just saying, seriously why is he up there?  Purse snatchers don’t find many purses on rooftops you know?  April gives the other turtles a tour of her antique store downstairs.

No smiling in the foot clan!
                Raphael, meanwhile, is battling against all odds on the rooftop against countless foot clan members that jumped him and he’s doing well to start.  He even asks how they think they can win against him.  Numbers prove too much for Raphael and they throw his angry shell through the rooftop window in Aprils place.  The foot crash into the place hungry for some spankings!  It’s awesome to see Michelangelo and a random nunchucking foot member have a “chuck off”.  The battle ensues with some awesome action and even some comedy.  Casey Jones arrives to help out since he so enjoys beating things up with sporting equipment, watch out for the jock strap sling shot!  Ahh herpes infection!  I love the line by Michelangelo when asked who Casey is, “Wayne Gretzy, on steroids?”  It’s not terribly funny but for some reason hits my funny bone.  The building catches fire, naturally, thanks to the foot clan and the good guys head out a secret exit.  Casey also overhears April getting fired.  They escape in a van, not the turtle van, while April watches her building burn down.  It was her father’s antique shop and you can see the sadness it causes her.  Off to the old farm where time stands still.

I can't believe we put him in the bath tub!  Classic!
                Shredder has Splinter captured and questions who these turtles are.  He back hands him and everything, he’s a boss alright.  He’s also pissed at his right hand man’s, Tatsu, failure at defeating the turtles.  Tatsu makes a fool of himself by trashing his own men after Shredder gives him the silent look of death.  Why dude?  You trained them so if they suck it’s your fault, why don’t you kick your own sorry butt?  He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed anyway.  At the farm the turtles are somewhat down about losing their last battle.  Leonardo is sorrowing over Raphael who is in a bath tub!  Why there?  Are there any beds in this place?  They treat Raphael like crap, I would hate to wake up in a bath tub, but at least it’s not the toilet right?  He does wake up and Leonardo gets hysterical which is funny and silly.  Raphael tells him to get a grip, ha-ha classic.

Proof that spiritual enlightenment can go a long way
Casey and April seem to be hitting it off in an awkward way, acting wise anyway.  Casey and Donatello fix a truck to drive back to the city but not before Leonardo receive a telepathic message from Splinter.  I had no idea telepathy existed in the turtles.  It’s constricted to the father and son bond so it’s not something they do with anybody.  The turtles head out at night to meditate at a campfire.  This is possibly my favorite scene.  Donatello brings marshmallows but has to put them away.  Leonardo is dead serious, look out guys.  The turtles learn their final ninja technique of the mind, apparently to be telepathic, as Splinter shows up in the fire in spirit.  The visuals are still fantastic to me.  He encourages and says to them his final words in life that he loves them.  It’s touching actually, let yourself feel it, the concept of the turtles and a rat seems ridiculous but it’s an emotional display correctly executed.  Leonardo confirms it time to go back, in which it’s been a few days since they were gone I think.

I'm too old for this sh!t
                “Now I know how it feels to travel without a green card” says Raphael exiting the back of the truck in the pouring rain.  I didn’t know what that meant at all as a kid but it’s rather funny now.  It’s a bit racist in referring to people smuggling in a pickup truck through whatever weather necessary to reach America.  Danny Pennington is hiding in the turtle’s home then being the confused teenager he is leaves in the dark of night to go back to the foot clan’s warehouse.  You better not rat the turtles out again Danny, sorry Splinter for that pun.  Casey Jones follows him as he was sleeping in the truck.  Why is he in the truck and not the comfortable hygienic confines of the sewer?  I’ll explain.  Donatello notices Casey to be claustrophobic and points it out.  Casey replies, “Hey, I never looked at another guy.”  He thought he was claiming he was a homosexual but when he learns what it really means he has a Raphael like moment and goes topside.  Danny, back at the warehouse, has a rap session with Splinter and gets turned into a good guy realizing how evil Shredder really is.  About time dude, he wears sharp metal all over his body; he’s up to something man.  Shredder catches Danny and discovers the turtles are back, he decides he will kill them since Tatsu can’t handle it.  He orders Tatsu instead to kill Splinter, he can handle that right?

Sam Rockwell says cigarettes are cool
                Casey now catches Danny and they set off to rescue Splinter from certain death.  Casey tangles with Tatsu and wins with a driver to the head of Tatsu.  You have to love his taste in weaponry, I know I do.  Luckily for Tatsu it wasn’t a gun or butcher knife, ouch.  Sam Rockwell, I mean “Head Thug” makes an awesome appearance. I had no idea he was in it until this very recent time I watched it.  You should have seen me staring closer and closer at the TV trying to figure out who he was.  It’s as if by getting closer I could be revealed as to who this mystery actor is.  I’m a fan of Rockwell so it was worth it for me and now I have one more reason to love this movie.  The foot clan invades the turtle’s home, big mistake; on their home turf they don’t stand a chance.  You might be better at spying on people foot clan but not actually ninja fighting it out!  It’s a fantastic battle sequence that any turtle lover will enjoy, even casual fans or non fans would get a kick out of it.  The shell smash by Donatello and Michelangelo is great as they mention the classic, shell-shock after it.  The two as they often do in the movie go back and forth on what a good catch line for the shell smash should be.  They settle on, “It was a shell of a good hit.”  They dispatch the ninja’s easily and come face to face with Shredder.

Cowabunga always says it all, there is no substitute
They attempt to fight him but are no match in the one on one arena with Shredder.  He is far beyond their skill which is actually neat, a story where the heroes have limits.  Shredder finally gets Leonardo at the point of his weapon forcing the other turtles to throw their weapons off a rooftop in which they now fight upon.  Except that the nunchucks have caught around the fire escape ladder!  I love Shredder’s line, “The three of you might have over powered me with the loss of but one.”  But Splinter shows up and Shredder loses it, he charges, gets out maneuvered and left dangling over the edge.  Shredder tries to throw a dagger at Splinter but he catches it, wow.  He freefalls into the back of a garbage truck and Casey says, “Oops” While turning it on, crushing the Shredder to death if he wasn’t already from the fall that is.  I love that line by Casey; it’s hilarious to see it at just the right time.  You don’t expect a good guy to do something like that!

Henson isn't gone he just lives with the turtles now
                A hardy cowabunga is chanted by the turtles as the movie comes to a close.  Danny and his father reunite and make amends, which is rather heartwarming.  Casey and April get it on, and then we get an amazing song.  Before we get to that though let's remember Jim Henson's work on creating the costumes.  I'm a big Henson fan myself and only thought it proper.  I may make fun of or joke about certain aspects of this movie but that doesn’t stop me from really enjoying it after all these years.  It has much to offer in the way of humor and it’s a pre-CGI era film I’ll always appreciate. 

                Rating: 10 of 10


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