Movie #119: Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson, BD Wong

Academy Awards (1994):

Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing: Gary Rydstrom, Richard Hymns

Best Effects, Visual Effects: Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, Michael Lantieri

Best Sound: Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom, Shawn Murphy, Ron Judkins

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“God help us, we’re in the hands of engineers.”

Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Attenborough) has built a park with genetically recreated dinosaurs on a remote island.  Prior to opening Jurassic Park, he invites palaeontologists Allen Grant (Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Dern), chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), and his grandchildren for a sneak preview that doesn’t go as smoothly as planned.

I was too young to see Jurassic Park when it first came out, and it’s one of those movies that I’ve only recently seen.  Also, I watched this on VHS, so while I’m sure the picture quality and some of the special effects have been tweaked over the years, I am for all intents and purposes unaware of them.

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Jurassic Park was enjoyable to watch.  It had engaging characters with witty dialogue.  Top to bottom the cast worked well together.  Though Goldblum has many of the memorable lines, it was interesting to see how each character interacted with everyone else.  Hammond realizing the dangers of what he had done and Grant’s interactions with Lex and Tim Murphy were two of the more notable examples of character growth.

It was interesting, and annoying, to see how quickly Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) switched from being the skeptical attorney to overzealous cheerleader when he realized how much money the park could potentially make.  Hammond’s enthusiasm for the park was infectious for most of the people who worked there.  There was almost a “nothing could possibly go wrong” feel at the island.  It was nice to see Gennaro get what he deserved.

There was also enough suspense to keep things interesting.  The first introduction of the T-Rex and the velociraptors chasing Lex and Tim had just the right amount of build-up to keep me on the edge of my seat.  Though I knew in the back of my head that most of the main characters would be safe, there was still just enough doubt to keep things engaging.

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Despite the great performances in Jurassic Park, the real stars of the film were the dinosaurs.   One of the biggest accomplishments of this movie is the special effects.  Although it’s primitive by current standards, in 1993, it was cutting edge.  The dinosaurs were impressive, even in a VHS format.  It’s not very surprising, though, given the fact that it’s a film by Steven Spielberg.

Though some elements of Jurassic Park have clearly become dated, it is still an enjoyable, suspenseful film.  It’s a franchise that I will probably someday get around to watching, but it’s definitely one worth watching.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Best Picture Winners. Movie #117: Braveheart (1995)

Director: Mel Gibson

Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brian Cox, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, David O’Hara, Brendan Gleeson and Agnus MacFadyen

Academy Awards (1996):

Best Cinematography: John Toll

Best Director: Mel Gibson

Best Makeup: Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison, Lois Burwell

Best Picture: Mel Gibson, Alan Ladd Jr., and Bruce Davey

Best Sound Effects Editing: Lon Bender, Per Hallberg

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Costume Design: Charles Knode

Best Film Editing: Steven Rosenblum

Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: James Horner

Best Sound: Andy Nelson, Scott Millan, Anna Behlmer, Brian Simmons

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Randall Wallace

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“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.”

In 1280,  King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan) of England claims the vacant Scottish throne for himself following the death of the Scottish king.  He kills a lot of the Scottish nobility, luring them under the guise of peace.  In the ensuing battles, Malcolm Wallace, a commoner, and his oldest son John are also killed.  William Wallace (Gibson), Malcolm’s other son, goes away to Italy with his Uncle Argyle Wallace (Brian Cox).  Returning 20 years later, he meets back up with childhood friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) and Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), a girl he has always been in love with.

Longshanks had issued a decree of “Prima Nocte” where English noblemen with land rights in Scotland can have sex with a new bride on her wedding night.  Wallace and Murron marry in secret to avoid this.  Some time later, Murron attacks an English soldier who tries to rape her, leading the local magistrate to tie her up and slit her throat.

Wrong move dude.

An enraged Wallace kills the local garrison, magistrate included, and declares that the Scottish people will no longer be ruled by the English.  His growing army takes the fight to the English, while Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFayden) acts as a go between for Wallace with the feuding Scottish nobles.

Historical inaccuracies aside, this is a pretty entertaining movie that offers a little bit for everyone.  It is primarily an epic, but it mixes in drama, action, comedy and romance and kept me engaged throughout the 177 minutes of running time.  I’ve seen this film plenty of times, and though it’s one I can quote extensively, I tried to come into it with a clean slate.

The countryside shots are magnificent, and James Horner write a dazzling soundtrack that complements the film’s cinematography.  The battle sequences were impressive given the scope and scale involved with each one.  Though mildly gory by my standards, this one had just enough blood and guts to be believable.  The only thing about the battle sequences for me was how long they lasted.  I feel like they could have been shortened up a bit while still getting the same message and point across.

Given the scope and massive undertaking Braveheart was, it’s not all that surprising that the next time Gibson directed a movie was nine years later with Passion of the Christ.

"What will you do with that freedom?"

“What will you do with that freedom?”

In addition to an impressive directing job, Mel Gibson’s acting was well done.  He balances the conflict with the Scottish nobles, the English, and his own internal driving force following the murder of his beloved Murron.  His character is macho, but also intelligent, sensible, and at times humorous.  It’s hard for me to criticize his performance.  I think the fact that he directed the film helped enhance his performance on-screen.

" I have nothing. Men fight for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk fought for William Wallace. He fights for something that I never had."

“He fights for something that I never had.”

"The trouble with Scotland is that it's full of Scots."

“The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots.”

Both Angus MacFayden and Patrick McGoohan did great jobs as Robert the Bruce and King Edward I.  McGoohan’s villain is relentless, conniving, and to the point.  It was interesting to see how his character changed as time went by health-wise.  He’s a guy you just want to hate.

Bruce’s character is almost more interesting as a character study than anyone else in Braveheart.  The internal struggle as he battles between what’s expected of him as a Scottish nobleman contrasted with what he believes is right is something I’ve always found intriguing.  Some of the best scenes of the film, in my opinion, take place with him talking with his father.

Stephen (David O’Hara) and Hamish are great supporting characters.  Though Stephen is mostly there for comic relief, he has a few moments of genuine and honest concern with some of the decisions William made.  It was also interesting in seeing Hamish as he fought alongside his dad, Campbell (James Cosmo), and how their relationship grew through the film.

"Why do you help me?" "Because of the way you are looking at me now."

“Why do you help me?”
“Because of the way you are looking at me now.”

One thing that sets this movie apart from your run-of-the-mill epic is the underlying romantic influence on Wallace and his relationship with Murron and Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau).  William is the most vulnerable and realistic when he’s with each woman.  Though the romantic development at times seemed cliché, here it worked well and integrated into the story.

When one thinks of Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take OUR FREEDOM!” and “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” comes to mind.  It’s more than just the battles and bloodshed.  A king trying to hold on to power, a noble son struggling with what’s most important, and a reluctant warrior carrying the burdens of a nation while coping with the loss of virtually everyone close to him all flow together to create an entertaining film worthy of the Best Picture Academy Award.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Best Picture Winners: Movie #114: Schindler’s List (1993)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle

Academy Awards (1994):

Best Picture: Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, Branko Lustig

Best Director: Steven Spielberg

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Steven Zaillian

Best Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski

Best Film Editing: Michael Kahn

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Allan Starski, Ewa Braun

Best Music, Original Score: John Williams

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Liam Neeson

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ralph Fiennes

Best Costume Design: Anna Sheppard

Best Makeup: Matthew W. Mungle, Christina Smith, Judith A. Cory

Best Sound: Andy Nelson, Ron Judkins, Scott Millan, Steve Pederson

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As World War II begins, the Nazis move Polish Jews into the Kraków Ghetto.  Businessman Oskar Schindler (Neeson), a member of the Nazi Party, arrives in Krakow to make a fortune.  Bribing local German officials and making connections with the local Jewish black marketeers through Itzhak Stern (Kingsley), Schindler opens a factory producing enamel ware.  He hires numerous Jewish workers, who cost less than Polish workers, and saves those workers from being sent to concentration and extermination camps.

SS officer Amon Goeth (Fiennes) arrives in Kraków to oversee the construction of the Płaszów concentration camp.  Once the camp is completed, he orders the ghetto be liquidated, killing many of the Jews in the process.  Schindler witnesses this from a distance, and shifts his priorities from making money to saving as many lives as possible.

This is Spielberg’s masterpiece.

There are very few films I’ve watched where I just have to sit and really let it soak in once the end credits roll.  Movies like this really put into perspective how pathetic and petty my “struggles” really are.  That’s been the case both times I’ve watched Schindler’s List.

Someone who makes a film about something as significant as the Holocaust has to be all in: directing, motivating performers, production, set design, etc.  Though the full scope of the Holocaust can’t be completely explored in one movie, Steven Spielberg has probably come the closest to accomplishing this.  Filming most of the movie in Poland instead of at a studio, using actors who work best in performing the complex emotions and actions of their characters are a couple of the things Spielberg nails spot on with Schindler’s List.

Stanley Kubrick was in production of his own Holocaust film, Aryan Papers, about the same time that Schindler’s List was released.  He abandoned it, though, in part because of the broad scope of the subject matter.  His critique centered on the fact that Schindler’s focuses on those who survived, a much smaller group compared to the more than 6 million who didn’t.

The black-and-white enhances the gravity of the subject matter.  The way Schindler’s List is filmed conveys the human element that a documentary can’t quite capture while still having that documentary-type feel.

schindlerslist1Liam Neeson gives one of the best performances of his career.  He handles the various emotional stages Schindler goes through authentically.  It’s interesting to see his transformation from a boozing, gambling, womanizing man living the highlife to a man hellbent on saving as many lives as he can.  Witnessing the ghetto liquidation and Goeth’s heartless treatment of the Jews forces Schindler to stop keeping everyone at arm’s length and really take stock in his main purpose.  Though he had done quite a few movies prior to Schindler’s List, he hadn’t had that one great breakout role.  As a result, his star power doesn’t overshadow his performance as could have happened had a more accomplished actor been chosen for this role.

Having already won an Oscar for his role in Gandhi, Ben Kingsley is a grounded, purposeful character with wisdom, insight, and perspective.  His nonverbal expressions provide a continuous reflection of Schindler’s character and his gradual transformation.  Stern acts as Schindler’s conscience to a certain extent.  He also offers perspective that Schindler has saved many lives when Schindler felt guilty for not sacrificing more to save more.

schindlerslistfiennesRalph Fiennes gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the heartless and cruel Amon Goeth.  His intimidation tactics with the Jewish prisoners works well in keeping them in line out of absolute fear.  He seems like the kind of person who keeps pushing to see just how much he can get away with.  It’s good, though, that he can be bribed and Schindler can help set some boundaries with his random and senseless killings.

"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."

“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

The final scene where the real life Schindler Jews placing stones on Schindler’s grave was especially moving.  I can appreciate someone like Spielberg wanting to tell their story and show the lasting impact that Oskar Schindler had on those that he saved.  The epilogue serves as a time capsule that reaffirms that tangible human connection to those who lived and survived something as horrific as the Holocaust.

Having seen Schindler’s List twice now, I highly doubt I could sit through it again aside from watching it with someone else.  It’s one of those films that is so powerful and moving that it only needs to be watched once.  It is most definitely deserving of the 7 Academy Awards it earned in 1994, and remains timeless as it explored one of history’s darkest events.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Movie #111: Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Emery, John C. McGinley

Academy Award Nominations (1996):

Best Film Editing: Richard Francis-Bruce

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Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.

Veteran Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Freeman) and newly transferred Detective David Mills (Pitt) investigate a series of homicides by John Doe (Spacey).  The pattern of murders is unique in that they are each based on one of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath.

This movie is a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I’m not really into the gruesomeness that can come with this type of movie.  David Fincher has done a good job of using just enough of the stomach-churning elements within the story.  With each new murder scene, he slowly builds the tension, each scene upping the ante.  Given the subject matter, it’s also good how he keeps the lighting relatively dark and depressing.

se7ensleeping This is also a great example of casting the right, if not perfect, actors for the central characters.  Morgan Freeman is great as that older calming voice of reason.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Freeman as an actor.  I can’t see anyone else being able to pull this off, and yet Freeman seems to be able to nail this type of character every time.

He is balanced out by Mills, the headstrong go-getter.  Pitt does great in this role, balancing the new job with his home life.  It’s not surprising that Pitt and Fincher have collaborated a few times since Se7en.  Mills and Somerset complement each other in a way that brings a balanced approach to finding the killer.

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Though Freeman and Pitt do well with their characters, Kevin Spacey really steals the show for me.  Though he doesn’t appear until much later in the film, he controls every scene in such a way that only he could do.  Spacey has the look and feeling of that creepy, mysterious guy.  He gives you a false sense of security and then he pulls off his ulterior motive.

It’s also interesting to see all of these people and how much different they are now twenty years later.

Though it’s not the type of film I’ll go out of my way to see, Se7en is engaging and entertaining.  It balances out three great actors, each able to place their own creative stamp within their relatively simple, straightforward parts.  It’s been long enough since I watched this one that some parts of it surprised me, however, I don’t think this is one I’ll revisit anytime soon.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I am reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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“Would somebody please tell me what the heck is going on around here?

“Well, relax, April. It’s just your, uh, ordinary time travel equal-mass-displacement kind of thing.”

With Shredder and The Foot defeated, New York City is safe once again thanks to the turtles.  Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael spend their time practicing their ninja skills, but Raph grows weary of it since they have no enemy to fight.  April O’Neil (Paige Turco), who is about to leave for vacation, has picked up some antiques for the guys to keep them entertained.  One of the items is an ancient Japanese scepter she’s gotten for Splinter.  It has the ability to switch people of the same weight in time.  The scepter is activated, whisking away April to feudal Japan, and replacing her with Kenshin (Henry Hayashi), a prince from that time.

Naturally, the turtles go back and face new villains: Walker (Stuart Wilson), an opportunistic Brit who does business with Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), Kenshin’s father.  Aiding the rebels, among them Kenshin’s mate Mitsu (Vivian Wu), the turtles try to end the civil war and bring April back to the present day.

Growing up I always thought this movie was entertaining and fun.  As time has gone on, though, the reality that this film does a lot of things wrong, ultimately being the last turtles film from New Line Cinema, have become very apparent.

Having killed Shredder at the end of Secret of the Ooze, the turtles have no real enemy to worry about.  The city is safe, and they’re left twiddling their thumbs and continually practicing their skills.

tmnt3walkerThe replacement villains just don’t match up with Shredder and the Foot Clan.  Though I don’t know what else they could have done with Shredder had he lived, I would imagine it would’ve been better than Walker, his bumbling sidekick Niles, and Lord Norinaga.

This was the first turtles movie that didn’t use Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for the animatronics, and it definitely shows.  The mouth movement with the turtles’ dialog wasn’t great in the first two films, but here it’s so far off it’s just plain sad.  Most of the time it’s not even close.

tmnt3caseyThis film brought back Casey Jones.  Though I prefer his character over Keno from Secret of the Ooze, here he’s used in a more comical surface-level character in Turtles III.  One of the things I enjoyed most about him in the original film was the depth and interconnectedness he had with both the turtles, April, and Splinter.  It was interesting, though, how they incorporated Elias Koteas into ancient Japan as Whit.

Unfortunately Casey, along with the rest of the cast, is reduced to juvenile comic relief.  As much as I was disappointed with how they used Casey, Splinter’s surface level role was more disappointing.  Whereas he provided depth, historical context, and fatherly insight in the first two films, here he’s just another comic.  Paige Turco returned as April O’Neil.  As with many other aspects of the film franchise, I thought she gave a much better performance in Secret of the Ooze.  Her character had a bigger part in the previous films, but here she’s somewhat a voice of reason for the turtles, but primarily used in a more comedic way.

One of the only redeeming qualities in this film is the development of the turtles as they try to get back to present day New York City.  They did move Raphael’s character forward in his relationship with Yoshi, Mitsu’s son.  Seeing Yoshi’s temper and watching as Raphael moves from student to teacher was interesting and overall well done.

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As a film in general, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was very disappointing, and it’s understandable why it was 14 years before another turtles movie, animated at that, was made.  By trading in-depth and a strong enemy like Shredder and his clan, the turtles franchise gave up some of the things that made the first two films great, and instead rely too heavily on comedy, comedy, comedy.  There was no balance of the serious sprinkled with the comedy.  It’s definitely geared towards a younger audience, but even at that it still wasn’t that great.  I’ll probably watch it again at some point, but that’s more because I’m a fan of the early franchise.

My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I’ll be revisiting my childhood and reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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Following the events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, the turtles and Splinter are living in April O’Neil’s apartment, much to her dislike.  Meanwhile, Shredder has survived and begins plotting his revenge.  April does an investigative report on TGRI, the company responsible for the ooze that mutated the Turtles and Splinter 15 years ago.  Shredder gets his hands on the last canister of ooze and uses it to create two new mutants, Tokka and Rahzar.

Growing up, this was the turtles movie I watched the most.  Probably because the first film had some profanities, hence my parents preferring that I watch this one.  The Secret of the Ooze takes some of the elements that made the first film great and either turned it to formula filmmaking or expanded and extended it.

turtles2tgriI enjoyed how they explored more of the turtles origins.  Though it’s explored much more extensively in the first film, the subject matter in this one kept it fresh and engaging without being too repetitive.

Some of the elements of this film were basically copy-and-paste from the first film: Raphael getting captured, Leo and Raphael’s back and forth, Mikey’s constant one-liners and bad puns.  There’s

Though I think this film is pretty close to the first film quality-wise, there are a few differences that give the first film the edge in my book.

tmnt2kenoCasey Jones is replaced by Keno, a less impressive, younger human counterpart for the turtles.  Don’t get me wrong, Ernie Reyes Jr. did a serviceable job as Keno.  His fight sequences were impressive, however, it’s hard to replace a character who played as essential of a role as Casey Jones did in the first film.  At times Reyes’ acting was more irritating than entertaining.  The martial arts elements were definitely more his strength.  The back and forth between Casey and April would have been nice to keep.

tmnt2pizzaPaige Turco replaced Judith Hoag as April.O’Neil.  Watching these films back-to-back was nice because I could see the two distinctive styles each actress brought to the role.  April had a more central role in the first film, offering observations on the turtles state while they were on the farm.  Here she’s another friend and messenger to the turtles from Shredder.  Turco does well with the smaller role her character has in this film.  The more helpful assistance for the turtles comes from Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner), a scientist for TGRI who is very familiar with the ooze.

tmnt2tokkarahzar

Tokka and Rahzar helped in keeping the battles between the turtles and Shredder fresh.  The filmmakers avoided the same old “we fight you, you fight us” back and forth by introducing these characters.  It also kept the story fresh by incorporating the ooze and helping the enemy evolve.  I’m a bit surprised that they chose Tokka and Rahzar over say, BeBop and Rocksteady.  Either way, it worked.

tmnt2supershredder

It’s a Super Shredder!

  Shredder’s motivation in this film isn’t to build an empire, rather, plain and simple revenge.  He had less face time in this film, probably because Tokka and Rahzar were the primary villains the turtles had to face.  Still, it’s good that they evolved his character instead of recycling the same old storylines.

 

 

"A true Ninja is a master of himself and his environment: so don't forget, WE'RE TURTLES!"

“A true Ninja is a master of himself and his environment: so don’t forget, WE’RE TURTLES!”

Following the successful live-action film from the previous year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze does a good job of keeping the story fresh and entertaining.  They do a good job of developing more of the turtles origins and evolving their confrontations with the enemy.  Though some of the casting and character changes hurt the film, it’s still very entertaining and enjoyable for me to watch nearly 25 years later.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

NINJA RAP!

NINJA RAP!

With regards to the new film:

Another thing I am concerned about with the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie is Shredder.  His original story has been left behind, or perhaps adapted to today’s world.  Either way, I’m skeptical about how his character is going to do.  I like William Fichtner as an actor, but I’m not sure he’s cut out for this kind of role.  He’s made a living being a strong secondary character, and I just don’t know if he’s got what it takes for a role like this.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I’ll be revisiting my childhood and reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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“For 15 years now, we have lived here. Before that time, I was a pet of my master Yoshi. When we were forced to come to New York, I found myself for the first time without a home, wandering thew sewers, scavaging for whatever I could find. And then, one day, I came upon a shattered glass jar and four baby turtles.  The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can and when I awoke the next morning, I received a shock. For they had doubled in size. I, too, was growing. Particularly in intellect. I was amazed by how intelligent they seemed.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the popular Nintendo video game and cartoon series, brings to life four mutated turtles and a mutated rat who have lived in the New York City sewers for fifteen years following exposure to radioactive ooze.  Splinter, the rat, is the father figure and mentor to Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael, and he has taught them the ninja fighting style and way of life.  They fight The Foot, an organized crime family targeting teenage men and causing all sorts of criminal problems for the city.

I’ll do my best to be impartial, but since this is probably one of my favorite movies from my childhood, that’s probably not going to happen.

Making a movie like this work is very difficult.  Since it was made in 1990, CGI was still in its infancy, so puppeteer effects are used in bringing the turtles to live action.  A problem with this was the mouth movements with dialogue.  It’s forgivable because a movie like this is targeted towards kids, but I can’t overlook it.  The puppeteer crew does an admirable job in bringing the turtles to life.

Each turtles represents an element in team chemistry.  Leonardo is the leader, Michaelangelo is the comic relief, Donatello is the intellectual who is also socially awkward, and Raphael is the angry loner in the group.

teenagemutantninjaturtlesmikedonnie

“Wise men say, ‘Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for a late pizza.'”

teenagemutantninjaturtlesleoraph

” Yeah? Well, you act like a JERK sometimes, you know that? And this attitude of yours isn’t helping anything.”

Something I enjoy about this movie, besides the fact that I can quote it almost verbatim, is the various relationships the movie showcases.  Though the characters roles become oversimplified in later films, here it’s interesting to see the balance and conflict as it plays out between the various characters.  The back-and-forth between Leonardo’s calm leadership with Raphael’s temper, Raphael’s and Casey Jones’ (Elias Koteas) anger issues, Casey and April O’Neil’s (Judith Hoag) back-and-forth, and Splinter and Shredder’s history, among others, provided some great lines and contrasting personalities.  They’re all entertaining, and none of them overpowers all the others in dominating the storyline.

I also like how the film takes a step back in assessing what is going on.  April’s reflection out on the farm helps sort the various layers of conflict and circumstance.  Splinter does fantastic as a voice of reason and demonstrates the fatherly elements both with the turtles and with Danny Pennington (Michael Turney).

 

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“A Jose Canseco bat? Tell me, you didn’t pay money for this?”

At its core, this movie is fun.  The scene when Raphael and Casey Jones meet for the first time is incredibly funny, and I like how they develop a mutual respect for one another.  Each of the fight scenes is complemented by a good amount of bad clichés, most coming from Michaelangelo, others coming from Donatello.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles works as a film adaptation for the popular television and video game series.  Since the formulas haven’t been set just yet with the film series, this film balances comedy with storytelling and developing the various characters history and relationship with one another.  Of all the films, this one is probably my favorite, and though I can quote most of the movie, I still enjoy watching it every time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

With regards to the new film:

One of my fears with the new film has to do with casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil.  Judith Hoag, and Paige Turco in the second and third film, are both strong characters who roll with the punches and handle themselves professionally.  Megan Fox is eye candy, and nothing more.  I think it’s very telling that she had no dialogue in the first trailer for the film, and she has a very limited role in the extended trailer.  We’ll see, but like I said, this is one of a few things I have serious doubts about with the upcoming film.