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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - The Movie

Whatever Wednesdays have been a bit of a hit since I began the feature this past September 11, and I'm beginning to understand that by leaving the decision up to fate, it's challenged me to come up with topics at the drop of a hat.  And, I think that on the whole, it has made me a better writer.

Or, so I keep telling myself, that is.

Anyway, as most of you know, the Whatever Wednesday blog entry is such that the topic I choose is linked to whatever Clue character card I draw out of a bag.  Each Clue character is linked to one of the six theme days of the blog (minus the Tuesday Timeline), and whatever character I draw from the lot is the theme day that I will be choosing a topic from.  Makes sense, right?

So, let's see which Clue character's name comes up on top this week.

Ah, Colonel Mustard.  That lovable scamp.

(In all actuality, whenever I play Clue, Colonel Mustard is one of the characters that I NEVER play as.  But then again, yellow has never really been one of my favourite colours anyway - despite the fact that yellow happens to be one of the dominant colours in this blog's colour scheme...but I'm going off on a tangent and I'm just going to button my lips now.)

Okay, so Colonel Mustard.  This means that we're going to pretend that today is actually Monday.  But, don't groan too much all of you channeling Garfield right now.  Mondays mean movie discussions.

And you know what?  I'm thrilled that today's topic is a movie discussion because a blog entry that I did this past Monday gave me the inspiration to pick today's topic.

Forty-eight hours ago, I talked about the movie "Ernest Scared Stupid".  But I also talked a lot about my own movie outings.  I talked about how most of the films that I paid money to go and see in the movie theatre were worth the price of admission and then some.  I talked about some films which I used to like as a kid, but find that I like less and less as I get older.  And, I even came clean about the one and only movie that I have ever walked out of in my life.

And I still haven't forgiven Tom Green for that disaster.

But it's very rare that I like a movie so much that I have to go and see it again in the theatre.  And yet, I ended up seeing today's film twice when I was a kid.

That film was the 1990 release "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".  And, we'll talk a little bit about the plot of the film in just a second.

But before we go into that, I feel the need to talk a little about my Ninja Turtles obsession as a child.

Over two years ago, I did a blog entry on the cartoon series featuring the Ninja Turtles, so I may have touched upon my obsession a little bit in that piece.  But again, I wrote that piece two years ago and a lot of you who may be reading this didn't know that this blog existed back then, so for all of you - it's like brand new!

Anyway, I don't quite remember how my idolization of Raphael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello began, but I do know that by the time I entered third grade, I was absolutely hooked on them.  I watched the cartoon series every single day on a cable television channel called YTV, and also remember being excited when CBS began airing new episodes of the series in the early 1990s.  I used to read the comic book adaptations that Archie Comics used to release around that time, and still have all seven issues of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Digests that were released beginning in 1993.  I had all the Ninja Turtles action figures (I still remember Leonardo being insanely difficult to find for whatever reason), as well as the Turtle Blimp and the Pizza Thrower toy.  And although I no longer have the toys, I still managed to save a set of Ninja Turtle fridge magnets that I received for Christmas one year.  I even had a Donatello wristwatch which I wore every day until the digital clock on the inside got cracked.

Now, if I stopped right there, you would probably agree with me that I had an obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  But wait, there's more.

When I was in the third grade, I would finish my schoolwork, and then spend the rest of the period ripping pages out of my notebook (well, without the teacher noticing, that is), and pulling out all of my Crayola markers and I would draw little Ninja Turtle comic books, which I would then place on the table in the classroom that had random books and magazines scattered all over them.  I even remember a few kids picking them up and reading them.  I don't know if they liked them or not, but at least I could make the claim that at the tender age of eight and a half, I was a "published author".

Hmmm...maybe in third grade I knew back then that I wanted to do writing as a career.  I knew I certainly wasn't going to get into any art institution as my Ninja Turtle drawings resembled green and brown blobs with multicoloured headbands.

Anyway, as if that wasn't enough, when the local shopping mall held a costume contest a few days before Halloween (I think it was either 1989 or 1990, I can't remember what year), my parents thought that it would be a good idea if I entered the contest.  And, I knew exactly what I wanted to dress up as.  My costume was especially impressive.  Having a mother and two older sisters worked to my advantage, as all three took turns and made my Halloween costumes.  And my eldest sister made me a really awesome looking turtle shell.  Some of the costume was bought at Woolco (we had to purchase the orange headband and armbands for my Michaelangelo costume), but the rest of it was homemade.  And I was so excited that I was on the shortlist for best costume in the mall.

But then the results were announced.  I lost to E.T.  A character from a movie that was released when I was a year old.  I was so upset.  And then to add insult to injury, my mom had to go inside of Woolco to pick up something from layaway and she dragged me inside of the store in full costume to show off my second prize winning costume.

Yeah...I'm still slightly not over it.   But, that's okay.  I don't even remember what the prize was in hindsight.  The costume got rave reviews when I went trick-or-treating.  That's all that mattered.

And of course, there's my obsession with the live-action movie.  A movie that I had to see in theatres twice.  I don't remember when the first time I saw the movie was (I know it was sometime after March 30, 1990, as that's when the film was released), but I went to a screening with a few people from karate school and loved every single minute of it.  I loved it so much that I wanted to have my ninth birthday party at the movie theatre so that I could invite five of my friends to watch the movie with me.  And surprisingly enough, my family agreed - and so did the movie theatre!

Surprisingly, the movie was still playing - given that my birthday was almost two months after the film debuted in theatres, it was a miracle that it was still screening.  As luck would have it, that weekend was the final weekend that it was being shown, so the timing ended up being absolutely perfect!

But then there was the fact that in 1990, my birthday fell on a Friday - a very popular day for people to go to the movies.  Fortunately, there were more people in line waiting to go and see "Pretty Woman" than there were to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, so my party of eight (me, my five friends, and two chaperones) got in fairly easily.

Ah...the little minor details that flash through your head as you remember childhood memories.  I love it!

All in all, the party ended up being a huge success.  I got to see the film again with five friends, and all my gifts were Ninja Turtle themed.  It really was a great day.  And, as of this writing, I'm still in touch with at least one of the boys who attended my party.  I lost contact with three of the other boys, and the last boy on the guest list became an enemy in our junior high years and I have no desire to extend another olive branch to him any time soon.  But, I still look fondly on my ninth birthday as one of the best birthday parties that I have ever had.

But, that was back in 1990.  Do I still have the same love for the film some twenty-three years after it was released?  Of course.  Regardless of how dated the soundtrack is (click above for one of the songs on the film soundtrack - which I also owned), and regardless of the fact that a reboot of the franchise is slated to be released sometime next year, I still have a soft spot for the film.  And so did other film goers.  The Steve Barron directed film did make over $200 million at the box office, making it the most financially successful independent film ever, and the ninth most successful film of 1990.

Though, I have to admit that some of the casting choices were a little bit sketchy at first (even though in hindsight, the casting was absolutely perfect.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  Elias Koteas was a solid choice as Casey Jones.  But Judith Hoag's biggest credit prior to playing April O'Neil in the movie was a year and a half long stint on the soap opera "Loving".  (Ironically enough, when Hoag did not return for the two other films in the trilogy, she was replaced by another former soap star, Paige Turco.)

And just picture this for a moment.  The person who voiced Splinter in the movie was Kevin Clash.  The same Kevin Clash that voiced Elmo on Sesame Street for nearly three decades!  Yeah, just let that sink in for a second.

And then there are our four heroes in a half-shell.  And with one exception, two different people were credited with each turtle.  The first name is the voice actor and the second name is the actor inside the costume.

DONATELLO:  Corey Feldman/Leif Tilden
LEONARDO:  Brian Tochi/David Forman
MICHAELANGELO:  Robbie Rist/Michelan Sisti
RAPHAEL:  Josh Pais

TRIVIA:  Yes, the voice actor and costume actor for Raphael was the same person - which made sense given that Raphael had a larger role in the film than the other three turtles.  It's just too bad that the actor who played Raphael suffered from claustrophobia and had to take frequent breaks to keep his fear under control!

EVEN MORE TRIVIA:  None of the voice actors in the movie worked on the animated TV series.  Just in case you were wondering, the voice actors in the cartoon were Barry Gordon, Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen.

Now, I don't want to go too much about the plot, as the main plot of the movie is more or less an origin story of how news reporter April O'Neil ended up crossing paths with the four mutated turtles.  As April reported from her newscast, criminal acts in New York City have skyrocketed, and the gang to blame is the group that call themselves "The Foot Clan" - a group of ninjas linked to The Shredder, a metal garbed evil man who has a rather personal connection to the mentor of the Ninja Turtles, but I think that I'll just leave that part out.  Again, I don't want to spoil the whole plot.

But all you need to know is that poor April O'Neil is attacked by members of the Foot Clan (who are later revealed to be street kids, juvenile delinquents and runaways recruited to continue the crime wave), and at first it looks like she could meet a terrible fate.

At least until four angels in green come to her aid, and chase the thugs away.  Unfortunately, April does not see who her saviours are, but she does happen to find one of their weapons - Raphael's sai.  And as April picks up the sai and carries it away, Raphael is upset at his own clumsiness, and makes it a mission to get the sai back from her at all costs.  So, when April is once again attacked by the Foot Clan and knocked unconscious from the battle, Raphael comes to her aid, and this time, he decides to bring her to him home underneath the streets of Manhattan so she can recover.  Of course, when April comes to, and she realizes that her rescuers are four giant turtles who eat pizza and an overgrown rat named Splinter, she naturally freaks out and screams bloody murder.  But once Splinter calms the reporter down and explains how they came to be, April begins to trust them.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Over the course of the film, April ends up homeless and jobless, one of the Turtles is almost killed in a battle with the Foot Clan, Splinter is kidnapped, and the Ninja Turtles have to go to battle with The Shredder in an effort to dismantle the Foot Clan.  And over the course of the film, we find out the answers to the following questions.  Is the mysterious Casey Jones friend or foe?  Who is Daniel Pennington, and why is Splinter so eager to help him see that joining the Foot Clan would be the biggest mistake of his life?  And, why didn't April O'Neil think about getting fire insurance for her apartment?

Well, okay...maybe we don't find out the answer to that last question.

Whatever the case, that's my report on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie...a movie that only served to fuel my Ninja Turtles addiction even more.

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