What We’re Watching – 5/4/11
This is my first post for the “What We’re Watching” column. The films I end up watching are an amalgam of what’s going on at that point in time. Did a new DVD come out? Is a sequel or remake coming out soon? If the answer is yes, then I’ll be watching that film or previous entries in a series. Of course, sometimes I just pick a random film, like the first one I’d like to talk about this week:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
I grew up during the height of the Ninja Turtles phenomenon. I had all the toys and watched the cartoon series on TV whenever I could. Watching the Turtles for the first time on the big screen is one of the earliest memories I have of being in a movie theater. Seeing the film again for the first time in a decade and a half was a strange experience. It was a lot darker than I remembered, which harkens back to the original comics rather than the lighthearted cartoon. Gone are the bright colors, silly monsters, and endless supplies of robot foot soldiers from the TV show. In their place are dirty streets, a gang of foot soldiers made up of teenagers (including Sam Rockwell with a wispy mustache), and Raphael yelling “Damn!” a lot. The jokes aren’t as funny at 25 as they were at five, but the animatronic suits from Jim Henson Studios still impress. My favorite sequence is the awesome fight that takes us from a roof, to the apartment below, to the basement, and then ends with the building burning down! Who needs a construction team when you have freaky mutants? With rumors of a TMNT reboot looming, the new filmmakers should look back at this original film to see how to do the Turtles right. Fans who have region-free capabilities should be on the lookout for a German special edition DVD of the film featuring an informative director’s commentary and an alternate ending.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
Peter Fonda has made a career out of playing a gearhead. It’s as if after Easy Rider hit, everyone told him that the film was only a success because of the bikes. This film sees Fonda as a racecar driver who has turned to a life of crime to fund his hobby. Joining him on the road are his mechanic (Adam Rourke, Frogs) and a groupie (Susan George, Straw Dogs). After they rob a supermarket (owned by one of my all time favorite actors, Roddy McDowell), they find themselves on the run from a whole mess of cops. There isn’t much more to it than that. Extensive character development and plot take a backseat to some wicked driving action. All of these car stunts are captured in camera, with Fonda actually driving a car going 90 MPH as he delivers dialogue. For me, this is much more impressive than the fast-cutting, CGI-enhanced car carnage of today. The ending is rather abrupt, but it’s maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen. It makes you think about the film you just watched in a way that The Fast and the Furious series never will. Shout! Factory recently put out a new DVD of the film as part of a loaded double feature with another Peter Fonda chase film, Race With the Devil.