So I saw it. I saw TMNT as an adult. One of my earliest memories was of sitting on the playground of my kindergarden, squishing the head of a ninja turtle. It was Leo because I was young and naive. From 18 on it was Raph. It was inside a giant empty tire. I don’t remember the name of the girl I had a crush on, but I remember that tire. We’d put dirt on the rim and pound the side until all the big rocks fell out leaving a beautiful fine powder. We’d sit for hours just tapping that big ass tire and sweeping our gold dust into piles. A goddam quarter century has passed and last night I found myself in a theatre with my good friend Will, a helluva guy. If for no other reason than he’s probably one of a handful of my friends who still read all my blogs.
I went in under the erroneous assumption Michael Bay directed it. A guy named Jonathan Liebesman directed it; Bay just produced it. And his footprints are apparent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe he was directing it until people found out he wanted to make them aliens and then abdicated? Either way, I think the controversy is a tiny microcosm for the TMNT culture. Adult men and women fervently defending an IP they adored as children, furious about an already absurd comic backstory being altered for film adaptation.
Sounds about right.
And the turtles have come under some pretty intense scrutiny, both critical and from the core fan base. People are screaming Transformers all over again. Shocker the movie based on a toy line didn’t live up to our cinematic standards.
It turns out, I’m the worst breed of comic book movie fan. On one hand, I’m deeply familiar with the source material, apt to scream out story and character inconsistencies (e.g. Rogue and Gambit!!!!!! Not Rogue and Iceman!!!!). On the other horn, I’m actually pretty into film. I care about cinematography and screenplays. Their combination is altogether a tragedy. I end up going to every comic book movie and hating it for not being Chinatown.
But last night I tried something. I went into a theatre knowing full well I was watching a comic book movie about ass-kicking, skateboarding buddies who love pizza and having fun. I tempered my expectations and turned the fanboy on low. Sat with eyes wide and my kid heart open.
And I enjoyed the shit out of it. I fully believe that most movies can go either way. About half-way though you decide if you’re going to let them take you on the journey or you decide to start picking it apart. I could have let the fact that Splinter’s voice never matched his characterization and Shredder looked like a goddamn Michael Bay Transformer piss on my $8. But last night I let TMNT open a childhood treasure chest of nostalgia. I laughed; actually cried a little.
I had a really good time with one of my best friends. TMNT captures the original spirit of those four green buddies and passes the baton onto a new generation. And while I did see a silly comic book movie last night, I made it through this entire post without making a turtle pun. It’s a funny breed of adulthood my generation is experiencing.
Deadpool and I are having steak for breakfast. Let’s hope my colon regenerates like his.
I’m a goddamn comic book nerd a longtime fan of the Merc with a mouth. His costume is beautiful, his wit acerbic and biting, and his tendency to break the fourth wall kills me. I was super bummed when X-men Origins: Wolverine came out with Ryan Reynolds (whose shoulders make me question my staunch record of heterosexuality) as Deadpool, I lost my mind. Turns out that movie blew and they mangled his character.
Luckily, the Marvel gods smiled upon us. A standalone film was planned with Reynolds and without the sucking. It’s been in development hell for a while and a few weeks ago some test footage leaked as a kind of proof of concept of what the film would be like.
Google it now. I’ll wait here.
I’ve watched it maybe twenty times if I’m being honest with myself, and I am pumped. I’m talking elementary-school-snow-day pumped. The writer of the film has taken to Twitter to start a kind of grass-roots campaign to try and get the film made.
Check it out here. I’ll wait.
Welcome back. Now, the cynical adult side of me suspects this might actually be a publicity stunt to drum up excitement about the movie which they fear doesn’t have a wide enough audience. BUT I DON’T CARE. They can have my retweets. They can have my favorites. I want to see this movie. I want to see decapitations and meta humor. I want a hard R but will totally take the handjob PG-13. I want to see Reynolds off the leash and wrecking shit. And chimichangas. So many chimichangas!!!1
Please share this with your indoor-kid friends and we’ll all go see a midnight showing.
His and hers
I honestly am not sure if Star Wars is any good. Though I can say this: when I was a kid, my Dad would put on a VHS copy of Empire when I was sick. And before the 20th Century Fox logo faded, before the epic fanfare of the opening titles blared, I started to feel better.
I have seen the original trilogy easily 50 times. During my summer vacations, partially because of laziness, partially from love, I would rewind the tape as soon as it ended and start it over immediately. It was a primitive two hour Vine loop. I can recite the shooting script nearly verbatim and could name the planet of origin of most of the creatures in Mos Eisley. I saw every one of the Special Edition midnight showings and ROTJ opened the day after I was born. I like to think Lucas was waiting for me.
Yet, adults who didn’t grow up with the franchise hardly rave. From shrugging shoulders to a one-word “Meh” reviews, the discrepancy between youthful converts is palpable.
Some suggest the original series was propelled by special effects. The groundbreaking special effects don’t really concern me. Citizen Kane achieved a similar feat and bores me to tears. I don’t think they mattered when I was ten and they don’t seem to matter to me now. For a film to stand the test of time, effects aren’t enough. Technology catches up and it must persevere on other merits.
So, is the original trilogy any good?
I don’t care.
Nostalgia clouds artistic evaluation. For me, Star Wars is wrapped up in the best parts of childhood. Of wonder and awe. Of friendship and toys. My rose-colored glasses are a vivid and magnificent fuchsia.
I recuse myself from the debate. I’m not interested in arguing whether the acting is good, whether the story is original, or whether the Ewoks ruined ROTJ. I know that it brings a smile on my face from ear to ear and I don’t intend on explaining it away.
The magic of the world is sapped away by time and cynicism. We ought to protect the things that make us smile with force and vigor. And if films are measured by their power to make us feel, Star Wars might not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.
[Tetris Color Change Mug. Gift from Will Russo.]
My father is the greatest Tetris player I have ever known. He was also the first kid on my block to beat Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. I used to read Nintendo Power as a kid and they would publish the highest scores on a bunch of different games. Most of them were unfathomable to me. Not the Tetris scores. I routinely witnessed higher scores from my bunk bed.
I fell asleep most nights to the sound of Music B on Tetris. My Dad was a block juggernaught. His scores were routinely over 500K. He refused to clear any line that wasn’t a four-line Tetris. He lived and died by the long piece.
After a while, he realized you could warp ten levels ahead by holding A and pressing start. Maybe it was B. It was a long time ago. He never started on a
His journey to greatness was not without peril. He met his white whale in the form of a tiny spaceship next to the castle. The players of Tetris are rewarded with a victory screen after their games in the form of a series of ever increasing spaceships. They got bigger. And they would take off. That was the rule.
After getting the castle to take off and earning an extraordinary score, a lone alien spacecraft appears. It blew my mind as a kid. It drove my Dad crazy. He, rightly, assumed a high enough score would cause the spaceship to launch. He worked tirelessly for years to make the craft jettison. It was a Sisyphean task in both its absurdity and difficulty.That was my bedtime story. I was lulled to sleep by that Russian serenade everynight. I can’t hear the theme music without smiling. I always admired him for it. He banged his head against the wall of impossibility and came back for more. He blew a soap bubble and took it seriously. I am my father’s son and inherited his obsessiveness and diligence. And I hope someday that tiny spaceship lifts off and Ahab gets his fish. Maybe we all need to believe that someday our labors will pay dividends. I fear the world doesn’t care about our projects and we will stare into the abyss until our last breaths. But it still makes me smile.
I want your skull.
I owe my beliefs evenly to existential philosophers and punk DIY culture. And though my Chucks are dusty, few things are as close to my heart as the Danzig-era Misfits. The Fiend Skull is as recognizable as a Coke bottle. And handsome as shit.
If Elvis died, came back from the dead, and played a zombie prom, that would be the Misfits. Whether it’s the (literally) one-note solo of “138” or the tasteless brutality of “Last Caress,” the Misfits brought the lo-fi graveyard to my bedroom.
I saw Danzig with Doyle at Riot Fest in Chicago last year and it felt like I had kissed the girl I’d had a crush on for most of my life. Stop what you are doing and start a punk band.
I have done a bunch of shit in my life. I’ve been a performer, teacher, business owner… and I can say this with absolute certainty: nothing is better than being in a band. Playing music with your friends is unparalleled.
Pick up a guitar. Get some friends together and suck. Suck for a while. Then get pretty good. Then do that until you can’t pick up a guitar any longer.