Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If you haven’t seen the original 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I’m not sure how you’ve made it this far. Even worse, if you haven’t seen the original  but HAVE seen the unacceptable 2014 Megan Fox version, I am undoubtedly judging you.

Jim Henson puppeteered the pants off this movie. Other names associated with the film include Elias Koteas (bad guy in Shooter and cop on Chicago PD)  as the ever-epic Casey Jones, and Sam Rockwell as a degenerate teenager. Perhaps the strangest casting choice for this film was Splinter, the wise, radioactive rat/father raising the turtles. He is played by none other than Kevin Clash, the man behind the iconic voice of Elmo. Splinter’s voice is not even close to Elmo, so, congratulations to that guy on his vocal range.

And — I didn’t know this until I looked it up — the guy who voices Shredder (hilariously over-the-top villain) was a random voiceover in several children’s films including Oliver and Company, The Lion King, Nightmare Before Christmas, and something called Casual Sex?, which is not a children’s film, but I just really want to know about that question mark.

The Story: April O’Neil is a feisty New York reporter asking the tough questions about crime. But one night while leaving the TV station, not even her hard-hitting eyebrows can save her. A team of teenage criminals attacks her, prompting the ever-vigilant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to karate chop those bad guys into submission. Unfortunately, one of the turtles, Rafael, loses his sai (a giant fighting fork) in the process.  This is April’s first clue to the existence of the Ninja Turtles.

Shredder may be a bad guy, but he’s a well-informed bad guy. When he turns on the news and hears April asking too many questions about recent crimes, he orders she be silenced. His hit on April’s life brings the turtles back into her world, giving her a chance to learn about their past.

April and her new turtle posse work to uncover the crime ring destroying their city, finding a few friends along the way. 

Casey Jones, a fellow vigilante and 100% non-turtle, comes into the picture as a smart-mouth adversary who eventually joins the crew to deliver JUSTICE.

If you have absolutely zero idea about this film, I suppose I should take a moment to describe each of the turtles. The four turtle brothers were named by Splinter. As a deep mind and spiritual rat-soul, Splinter named each of the turtles after a revered Renaissance thinker or artist:

1ade153a-8e3a-4294-b889-87bb07dc7cac.jpgRafael – Rafael wears red. He’s the angriest, most aggressive of the turtles. Rafael has some rage issues but he genuinely cares about his family. His weapon of choice is the Sai, a pronged pair of Asian weapons/forks.

 

Leonardo – Leonardo is the ying to Rafael’s yang. Instead of being reactionary and hot blooded, Leonardo is calm and logical. Leonardo wears blue, because he’s chill. He rocks two long sticks for his weapon, which he keeps crossed over his back so he can look like a badass when he pulls them from his shell-holster.  

 

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Michelangelo, causing trouble again.

Michelangelo – Michelangelo is every teenage boy you ever met. All he wants to do is eat pizza and make wisecracks. Michelangelo wears orange because he’s INTENSE. His weaponry is all about the nunchucks. A fun weapon for a fun guy!

 

Donatello – Donatello is a balance between the personalities of the other three Turtles. While he is sensitive like Leonardo, he’s a bit more practical. He shares the wit and humor of Michelangelo, but is more understated. He speaks his mind, but with controlled intensity, unlike Rafael. Donatello wears purple, the color of royalty, and he uses one stick as his weapon, because he doesn’t NEED more than one, ok! teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles.jpg

I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, because I do love them all, but if I had to pick ONE turtle, I’d say Donatello is my choice. I appreciate his level-headed but passionate and charismatic nature.

There’s an underground hangout in TMNT where all the rowdy teenagers go to hang. Every time I watch it, even as an adult, I wish the place was real. Even the song playing over the loudspeaker is gangster. Of course, I would never have been edgy enough to hang out in such an establishment as a high schooler, but I can pretend. It has an indoor skate park, a bunch of video games, blaring music, and all the children are smoking cigars. It’s amazing.

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Joey just loves his Cohibas.

Shredder has a very Darth Vader vibe going on, even saying at one point “I am your father” to the misfit boys who follow him. It makes sense that his secret hangout is so fancy because he clearly understands style. He wears a sparkly, red onesie with a full-on metal face mask and spiked metal shoulder pads that makes Prince look like an amateur. 

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It must be difficult to fight with a garbage can on your face.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was made early enough in the 90s that is still rides the coattails of the 80s — oversized hair, questionable adult innuendos, lack of technology making life 5,000% harder, and hip hop music. This is not just a mutant-turtle kids movie, it’s a family classic. You need to stop what you’re doing and watch this movie or you’ll be dead in seven days. I’m just kidding, you’ll be fine, but seriously, see this.

T-U-R-T-L-E POWER!

Death Race

As the title blatantly states, Death Race is about a race…to the death. The movie is set in a hypothetical 2012 where a spike in unemployment and rise in crime result in an overflow of the prison system. So, naturally, the powers-that-be decide to go “America” on it by privatizing the prisons to run them for profit. The director (Paul W. S. Anderson) shot the film as a prequel to the 1975 film Death Race 2000 starring Sylvester Stallone. 

So, how do these for-profit prisons make the profit?

At first, they use throwback Gladiator fights. But, when the desensitized population grows weary of the archaic sport, the talking heads realize they need to change things up. Hence, they initiate paid Web streams of the inmates racing each other in jacked-up, armor-clad, explosive cars. They call it DEATH RACE.

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Ain’t no race like a backwards race.

Why would the inmates risk their lives for this?  Well, you can only drink so much toilet-water-vodka before your liver bleeds. But, the other reason is probably because any driver who wins five races earns his freedom.

Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames, a hardworking welder with a wife and baby who’s just trying to live his life. One fateful day, Jensen gets laid off and returns home to tell his wife the news. While he washes up in the other room, an intruder murders his wife, steals his baby, and renders him unconscious. Jensen wakes to a bloody knife in his hands and a team of police above him. He is now part of the prison system, and if he ever wants to see his baby daughter again, he’ll have to drive his way out.

It isn’t long before Jensen realizes who framed him for his wife’s murder. It’s Hennessey, the warden, slash president, slash pancake-faced witch of the prison. Her race ratings, which were dependent on a fan-favorite driver named Frankenstein, are in jeopardy. “Frank” recently died in a fiery crash, but luckily for Hennessey, he was so disfigured from OTHER fiery crashes, that he always wore a mask to cover his hideous face. This makes him easy to replace. Not wanting to lose her main money maker, Hennessey blackmails Jensen to pose as Frank in the upcoming race. Frank was one race away from his freedom, so if Jensen can complete one race for her, she’ll let him go free and give him his baby daughter back. But, in typical villain fashion, the game is secretly rigged against Jensen.

Apparently, Jensen has some background in car racing, which they casually breeze over to give at least some context to why Hennessey chose him, but we never really get the full story on that. 

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Jensen now finds himself deep in the underground world of prison racing. He and his pit crew must make sure “Frank’s” car is supercharged with as much smoke, oil, machine guns, steel shields, bullet proof glass, and napalm to barrel through all the other drivers. Yes, napalm. This movie is not messing around with the explosives. Meanwhile, the prison ships in some female inmates to serve as the eye candy co-pilots. 

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I’m not going to try to convince you that Death Race is some sort of Academy Award nominee. Especially by today’s standards, the sexist and homophobic undertones are a little much, but I’ll be damned if it’s not entertaining. It has all the major components of a great action film:

  • Insane cars
  • Flamethrowers
  • Punching
  • Body tattoos
  • Aggressive rock and rap music
  • Male co-stars with masculinity issues
  • Objectification of every woman
  • Overly exaggerated explosions
  • Machine guns that are way too large NOT to be compensating for something
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Muscle Tower flaunting his Sharpie tattoos.

Death Race is a delightfully virile thrill ride with a couple of surprises along the way. Jason Statham’s dry humor and fierce staredowns are at it again, maintaining his persona of a likeable, sarcastic, muscle tower. 

I’m pretty sure they made a plethora of sequels to this movie, but I never saw them. Once you’ve seen the Death Race, no other race will do. 

 

Reign of Fire

There are certain films that just bring people together. This one was an unlikely surprise. One cool Autumn evening, I sat in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house watching the ultimate dystopian dragon movie: Reign of Fire. The first person to join me was my younger sister, Danielle. In some ways, Danielle and I have very similar tastes, but when it came to dragons, I wasn’t sure of her stance. She stood there momentarily, absorbing the visual story in front of her, and then sat down silently to continue watching. Not long after, my older sister, Dana, entered. Dana and I also share some similar tastes, but less so than Danielle and me. Dana loves cooking shows, comedies, and quirky RomCom films — none of which are my go-to entertainment choices. So, when she saw screeching dragons and giant tanks pummeling across a grayish, fiery landscape, she was skeptical. “What….is this?” she inquired, amused.

I explained the premise of the movie and said, “Just watch.” She did, and after a little while, she too became engrossed. Both sisters ended up watching the whole film and found it to be very entertaining. While I would like to believe my adoration of ridiculous sci-fi and action films had finally passed on to my sisters, the more probable answer for their intrigue was that the movie stars Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, and Gerard Butler.

reign1.jpgReign of Fire is the story of Quinn (Christian Bale) an English man holed up in an old castle, trying to protect the remaining human refugees after an apocalyptic influx of dragons destroyed the world. Quinn is a serious man. He is practical, intelligent, and a pseudo-adoptive father figure to many of the children in the small community. His character is reluctantly brave, but mostly afraid. As viewers, we sympathize with his fears because A.) I think we all can say with relative confidence that if we saw fire breathing dragons we’d probably poop ourselves and B.) we learn at the beginning of the film how the dragons first came to be and how they changed Quinn’s entire life.

It’s a classic tale of a single mother, working hard as a project engineer on a railway tunnel in London, who accidentally drills into an ancient dragon cave while her young son, Quinn, is down there with her. The inaugural dragon burns his way out, leaving Quinn as the sole survivor. Meanwhile, incredulous humans waste a bunch of time not believing the dragons are real. When they finally realize dragons are “a thing” and also happen to be multiplying, it’s too little too late for the feeble homosapiens.

c1a3ffa5df92de00f5dc75c627ef4f28.gifGerard Butler plays Creedy, Christian Bale’s BFF and fellow Dad-figure to the plethora of kiddies in the community. He and Quinn run a tight ship, making sure the castle is on lock down any time a dragon approaches. Some stuff happens – like the scene where the token idiot jeopardizes everyone’s safety by deciding he’s going to go pick some apples with his kids, even though Quinn told them it’s not safe. During this first half of the movie, we get a sense of what life is like for these people, but mostly, we get to watch Christian Bale sweaty and shirtless swinging a hammer…or an axe…I really don’t know which it was because I was too distracted by his glistening, bronzed chest.

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Oh, hi.

But anywho, at some point, Denton Van Zan (ridiculous name) enters the scene. Van Zan is Matthew McConaughey’s character. He’s an American soldier with an elite team of dragon killers at his back. Van Zan embodies the quintessential American rogue – he’s abrasive, loud, overly aggressive, bullish, super judgey, and his intimidation is turned up to a solid 14. He’s constantly chewing on ¼ of a gnarly looking cigar and whipping his shiny, bald head around to stare down anyone who crosses him. Van Zan’s one redeeming quality is his sensitivity when he loses someone to the dragons.

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He has the tooth to prove it!

So, Van Zan and his ragtag military team come barreling onto Quinn’s turf demanding sanctuary for the evening. Quinn initially tells them to piss off, but reconsiders after a riveting story from Van Zan about his mad dragon killing skills. According to Van Zan, he and his team just need a night of rest and refueling before heading on their way to kill more beasts, but Quinn quickly learns that he expects much more (It’s not sexual if that’s what you’re thinking!).

The two men are suspended in perpetual tension and dick measuring competitions as they attempt cohabitation. Both want to be the alpha, but Van Zan seems to conquer the pack nine times out of 10.

Inevitably, Quinn and Van Zan must learn to work together to have a chance at killing the dragons descending upon them. They realize the only way to TRULY get rid of their fiery adversary is to kill the king, the alpha dragon going around spreading his seed to all the ladies. It’s Alphaville (not the band) as the two men combine forces to do the impossible.

See this movie if you enjoy:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Sci-Fi
  • Dragons terrorizing people
  • Decent CGI
  • Shirtless sweaty dudes
  • Watching the world burn
  • Dingy castles
  • Tanks
  • Motorcycles
  • Helicopters
  • Skydivers plummeting to their deaths
  • Too much testosterone
  • Eagles
  • Star Wars reenactments (you’ll see)

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To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar

Have you ever wondered what Patrick Swayze would look like in drag? No? Me either, but if you watch this movie you will never be able to unsee him. You also won’t be able to unsee his co-stars, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo, who incidentally make pretty decent looking females. Wesley Snipes has legs FOR DAYS and John Leguizamo’s silky skin would put Maybelline models to shame. These three actors were an incredible choice for these roles. Initially, seeing the usually sexy and macho male actors as drag queens is emotionally confusing, but once you start to watch their character portrayals, you become mesmerized. 

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He’ll need more than thick sleeves to hide those Swayze guns.

 

The story is of three drag queens traveling across the country on their way to a national drag show. Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes)  have just tied for winner of the New York Drag Queen pageant, and as such, received round-trip airfare to California to compete in the Hollywood Drag Queen of America pageant. As the two ladies gab excitedly about their drag futures, they run into a young drag queen crying on the stairs. Chi-Chi (John Leguizamo) is new to the drag scene, and losing the New York competition is making her doubt herself.

 

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She’s a genie in a bottle, baby.

Vida, who has a decidedly tender heart, empathizes with the child and devises a plan — they will sell their plane tickets, rent a car, and take Chi-Chi with them to Hollywood to teach her what being a real drag queen is all about. Noxeema — the sassy and skeptical one of the group — vehemently opposes this idea, but eventually bends to Vida’s will.

 

lady-yacht.gifThe three Queens embark on their adventure in a bomb-ass, blue convertible. Despite a few minor mishaps, everything seems to be going well. That is, until their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Desperate and alone, the Queens are picked up by a local teen out for an evening drive. He takes them back to his podunk town so they can have their car repaired. When they learn the repairs will take the weekend, Vida and her friends must settle for a sleepover in small town America.

Although it’s a mostly funny and light-hearted film, To Wong Foo does address some darker themes. Most predictably, the film tackles sexual prejudice. Small towns haven’t exactly been known for open-minded and progressive populations, so it’s a prime location for three drag queens to face animosity. The townspeople have mixed reactions to the women: some don’t seem to realize they are drag queens, others whisper quietly amongst themselves, but a few — including the innkeeper, Carol Ann (Stockard Channing) — are perfectly aware of the womens’ differences and don’t judge them for it.

To-Wong-Foo-Thanks-for-Everything-Julie-Newmar-to-wong-foo-thanks-for-everything-julie-newmar-41172965-300-170.gifVida is the strong leader of the crew, encouraging the other ladies to show kindness and tolerance to their unwitting hosts. At the same time, however, she makes it known that she will not be a victim. Noxeema’s confidence and sass also command respect, albeit a bit more aggressively than gentle-giant Vida. 

To Wong Foo dips into issues of domestic violence, too. Carol Ann is the scapegoat to an abusive husband. The longer the women stay at her inn, the more they are witness to the conditions Carol Ann must bear. Vida and her Queens spend much of their time in the town helping Carol Ann and her repressed female cohorts emerge from their shells, learn to be proud of who they are, and actually have fun for a change. Even Robin Williams makes a cameo in this unsuspecting little film. And what’s the significance of Julie Newmar, you ask? Julie, an actress-dancer-singer-sex-symbol-superstar of the fifties, is the inspiration for it all. Watch the movie to find out how!

This charismatic film is playful, humorous, and a surprising gem. You’ll start watching it for the sheer hilarity of seeing Patrick Swayze,  John Leguizamo, and Wesley Snipes in drag, but you’ll finish watching it feeling FABULOUS and with a new respect for these actors’ diverse skill sets. You’re welcome. 

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The Secret Garden

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I almost resent that this film is categorized as a “family movie” because it is so much more than that. This film is the definition of art. The score, the scenery, and the eeriness alone are masterful. Then throw in the incredible talent of the girl playing Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) and the acting force that IS Maggie Smith, and it completely blows you away.   

If you don’t know the story (shame on you!), The Secret Garden is about a young girl named Mary who lives in India with her selfish, wealthy parents. When an earthquake leaves her orphaned, she is sent home to Britain to live at her estranged Uncle’s manor. Maggie Smith plays Mrs. Medlock, the head of the household and resident grouch-ass of the estate.

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Death rays.

Both Mary and Mrs. Medlock are ruthless humans. Mary never smiles and is constantly making malicious comments and throwing tantrums. Mrs. Medlock gives zero shits about Mary and makes sure to tell Mary how ugly, pathetic, and unlovable she is whenever she gets the chance. They have some ISSUES. In fact, I’d say about 95% of the characters in this movie are hateful, bitter, suicidal, or all of the above. But isn’t that the foundation of any classic family film?

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That’s some high-quality keymanship.

On her first day at the mansion, Mary goes exploring without permission and finds an abandoned wing of the house. It reminds me of the forbidden West Wing in Beauty and the Beast – a.k.a the place is a dump. She comes across her Aunt’s dressing table and opens a jewelry box.  Inside, she finds an exquisite skeleton key (aaand cue my 25 year obsession with skeleton keys), which she promptly puts back. The table also houses a picture of her Aunt and Mother, who apparently were identical twins, as they sit on a swing in a garden.

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As she continues to roam, she is drawn further into the house by the sound of a person crying and moaning. Before she can discover where the sound is coming from, Medlock is assaulting her and ushering her back to her prison/bedroom. When Mary tries to ask about the voice, Medlock tells her it’s the wind, which Mary reads as complete B.S.

Meanwhile, Mary befriends the only slightly normal person in the estate, Mrs. Medlock’s servant, Martha. Martha tells Mary about her Uncle’s solitude after the passing of his wife, and how he hardly ever comes home to his estate. When they finally let Mary out into the prison yard…I mean gardens, to play, she discovers a locked garden door that intrigues her. According to the old gardener working the land, no one’s gone in since the passing of her Aunt. Mary wants to know why. Eventually she remembers the key she found in her Aunt’s dressing table and uses it to enter the forbidden garden.

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Mary and Dickon, turning the pre-teen passion up to 11.

Mary isn’t sure if the garden is alive or dead, so she enlists the help of Martha’s vagabond younger brother (and underage HOTTIE), Dickon to help her. Dickon has the personality of a young Bob Ross — he’s gentle, friendly, and caretaker to all animals. Unfortunately though, he does not share Bob Ross’ out-of-control white man’s afro.

As the story progresses, Mary discovers the source of the moaning in the house: her bedridden cousin, Colin. Colin’s an entitled, translucent little child who spent his entire life in a bed being told he’s going to die soon. Uplifting.

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I’d be sour too if I was that pasty.

Mary’s outspoken voice teaches him to move past his hypochondria and explore the garden with his cousin. Soon the three children are playing in their new secret garden and planning how they’ll use magic to force Colin’s father to finally return.

But not everyone at the manor is happy with this change, most notably Mrs. Medlock. Medlock struggles with her new uselessness as Colin bosses her around and resists her care. She blames Mary for the changes and becomes increasingly hostile and defensive. Mary forces Medlock and every other character to face their realities and come to terms with their demons, and the revelations are hard to swallow. But Mary’s biggest hurdle is learning how to simply be a child – to be happy, and to know what it’s like to be loved.

The Secret Garden is an elegant story about the innocence and struggles of childhood. There’s a dark beauty in the suffering the characters must endure to come into the light, and it’s visual poetry watching it all unfold. Also, it has cute baby animals.

 

Moonstruck

Maybe it’s because this movie is about an Italian family. Maybe it’s because of my deep love for the moon. Maybe it’s because young Cher reminds me of my mother or because I find Nic Cage to be accidentally hilarious in every film he’s in. Regardless of what makes this movie meaningful for me, you must witness it with your own eyes to relate to my passion.

As the title suggests, Moonstruck’s premise has a lot to do with the power of the moon. The turning point of each character’s story happens under stunning moonlight on the same evening. It is a familiar moon; a moon that was seen once before:

I never seen anybody so in love like Cosmo back then! He’d stand outside the house all day and look in the windows. I never told you this cause it’s not really a story. But one time I woke up in the middle of the night cause this bright light was in my face. Like a flashlight. I couldn’t think a what it was. I looked out the window, and it was the moon! Big as a house! I never seen the moon so big before or since. I was almost scared, like it was gonna crush the house. And I looked down, and standing there in the street was Cosmo, looking up at the windows. This is the funny part. I got mad at you, Cosmo! I thought you brought this big moon over to my house cause you were so in love and woke me up with it. I was half asleep I guess.

Before I sum up the storyline, consider some of the major elements of this film:

  1. It stars Cher and Nicolas Cage.
    I should just stop now because what else do you need to know?
  2. The film is abundant in tiny, old men and dogs.
    Seriously, do I have to keep listing things?
  3. It takes place in New York in the late eighties, hair included. 
  4. MOON. Big, beautiful, seductive moon all over this movie.

The story is of Loretta Castorini (Cher), a 30-something widow who’s given up on love because she thinks she’s past her prime. So, she settles for Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), a 40-something Italian Mama’s Boy with an itchy scalp and a pinky ring. He’s a nice guy, but he’s basically just a blob of nervous man-flesh without any true substance. Loretta doesn’t love him, and she’s honest about it, but her desire for companionship makes her feel safe in settling. Unfortunately, after Johnny’s awkward marriage proposal to Loretta, he must leave immediately for Italy to take care of his dying mother. He promises they will be married when he returns, and he asks Loretta a favor in the meantime: Call his estranged brother, Ronny Cammareri (Nic Cage) and invite him to the wedding.

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Reality check, bro.

In order to understand the magic of what’s about to unfold between Loretta and Ronny, you must first understand a bit about their characters’ personalities. Loretta is a snappy, firecracker of a woman, always ready with a sarcastic quip and roll of her eyes. Ronny is the original Emo with a healthy dose of Stanley Kowalski (Stella!) torment. He is dead inside, and only his passion for the opera remains. Both characters have a romantic past riddled with bad luck and freak accidents, and they blame all of life’s subsequent disappointments on these tragic incidents.

Back to the story: Loretta calls Ronny, who promptly screams through the receiver like a man-beast and hangs up. Loretta, being the fiery Italian she is, isn’t satisfied with this encounter, so she decides to pay Ronny a visit at the bakery he owns.

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Drama queen over here.

After a signature Nic Cage tantrum that involves violent threats, aggressive bread chucking, and plenty of crazy eyes, Loretta calmly continues to engage the apparent psychopath. She asks Ronny if they can go somewhere and talk it out. Ronny, now exhausted from his absurd rant, invites her upstairs to his apartment.

As they sit in Ronny’s kitchen, Loretta and Ronny experience an immediate and unexpected intimacy. Each of them laments about the woes of their past loves, but instead of consoling one another, Ronny and Loretta respond to each other with a brutal honesty that one would only expect from a very close friend. The conversation is raw and visceral, and both characters are a little taken aback. In that moment, all the fear, the passion, the hate, and the vulnerability that was dormant inside of them is laid out as plainly as the rare steak on the table between them. Finally being real with themselves, Ronny and Loretta are unleashed and hungry for one another. The tension is tantalizing as Ronny whisks Loretta from the kitchen to make love to her.

While Loretta and Ronny experiment with the volatile mixture of pent up passion and loneliness, the rest of Loretta’s family deals with their own life struggles. Every character in this movie — from the lead roles played by big names like Cher, Nic Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, and John Mahoney, to smaller characters like Bobo the waiter and the gypsy woman at the airport — is an unmistakable gem. No small roles or small actors in sight! Whoever cast this film should get a Lifetime Achievement Award. Here’s a quick insight into some of these perfectly faulted characters:

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Cosmo Castorini (Vincent Gardenia) – Cosmo is Loretta’s father. Wealthy from his lucrative plumbing business, Cosmo is seemingly living the dream. However, his character remains stubborn and unsatisfied. Cosmo’s wife, Rose, suspects her husband is having an affair.

Rose Castorini (Olympia Dukakis) – Rose, like her daughter, is a hot-blooded Italian steamroller. She’s dry, she says what she thinks, and she’s the family matriarch. Rose is struggling to understand her husband’s recent distance from her by analyzing every male she comes in contact with.

Sound advice, Rose.

Rita and Raymond Cappomaggi – The signature Italian Aunt and Uncle, and signature adorable elderly couple, Rita and Raymond are light-hearted and can always be found at the Castorini dinner table. Their supporting characters give us insight into Cosmo and show us there’s always hope for true love and laughter with your soulmate.

Perry (John Mahoney) – John Mahoney’s character can’t seem to make it through a scene in this movie without getting some sort of beverage thrown in his face. He’s a handsome professor trying to relive his youth by chasing women, particularly his students, and continuously failing miserably to relate. He meets Rose at Bobo’s restaurant and becomes an important piece of her internal struggle.

Old Man – “Old Man” is the actual name they gave the character (hilarious!), although he is supposed to be Loretta’s grandfather. He lives with Loretta and her parents in their gigantic New York house, along with his dogs. This character is mostly defined by his facial expressions and gestures, as he tends to embody the quiet, ancient grandpa blending into the drapes. But in typical grandpa style, the few comments he does choose to make are some of the simplest and wisest of the film.

As Ronny and Loretta realize the mistake of their passions, Loretta is determined to make things right. She must never see Ronny again. Ronny is willing to make the sacrifice as long as Loretta spends just one more evening with him at the opera. Although Johnny’s unexpected return looms over Loretta, she agrees to the night out. All the characters’ storylines converge and take shape at this turning point, so I’ll leave the rest of the story a mystery for you to uncover when you watch it.

My cup runneth over with memorable scenes and dialogue from this movie. The two best monologues are performed by the brilliance that is Nic Cage – first with his rant in the bakery, and second with his desperately romantic (and kind of depressing) plea to Loretta, part of which includes this intriguing observation:

We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and love the wrong people and die!

Moonstruck is raw, charming, and relatable for everyone. If you watch this film and still don’t understand why it’s so extraordinary, you have no soul.

 

 

The Harvey Girls

Strap on your cowboy boots and brimmed hat, we’re taking a musical ride to the old West. The Harvey Girls is one of my favorite musicals ever. It has something for everyone: The classic charms of Judy Garland, the ambiance of an old Western, young Angela Lansbury slutting-it-up in a corset, a pissed off snake in a closet, an all-female bar fight, historical fiction, a sensual mustached man, FIRE, steaks, and horrifically oversized head bows. While the storyline has “romance”, I like that the romance isn’t the ENTIRE focus. As those who know me well will attest, I’d rather absorb the rays of a 1985 microwave than watch a RomCom. The plot never makes sense, the female is always doing something annoying and stupid, and all I feel the entire time is anxiety. No, thanks.

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Angela Lansbury rocking some fish nets after murdering 1,000 flamingos to make her boa

The Harvey Girls story has some romance, and some comedy, but the other aspects of the movie still have room to breathe. The basic plot is that a young, extremely naïve (but badass) farm girl meets a group of women on the train as she is traveling to marry a guy she’s never met. The women she meets are on their way to open a Harvey House restaurant – a real chain of restaurants in the 1800’s set up at railway stations across the country to feed hungry travelers. Fun fact: It was the first restaurant chain in the United States. So anyway, her hubby-to-be is a man she’s been writing letters to after she answered his ad for a mail order bride. Did I mention she’s also desperate and apparently not afraid of murder?

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Judy Garland giving Sensual Mustache the what-for!

Well, as plot twists would have it, when she arrives in the town she finds out she’s been duped. The guy sending her the letters is a greasy looking fellow with the IQ of a piece of bread. He’s had the sensually mustached saloon owner writin’ dem perdy things to her. Naturally — as any woman who just travelled 1,000 miles to a desert in the middle of summer on a train with no air conditioning would be — Judy Garland is PISSED. But, now she thinks, “Well, I’m poor AF, so I guess I’ll just stay here and open this restaurant with these broads I met on the train.” Seems reasonable. Before she rolls up her sleeves though, she makes sure to give Sensual Mustache the what-for. Now it’s a battle between the white-aproned Harvey Girls representing decency and conservatism and the free-ballin’ rouge-smeared saloon girls trying to defend their turf. The whole town is forced into the tug-of-war as Sensual Mustache’s friends try to drive the Harvey Girls out of their town.

One of the defining aspects of this movie is that, while it reeks of 1946 sexism in many ways, the representation of women overall is pretty gangster. The women aren’t the side piece, they’re the story.

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Judy Garland has had enough of your shit.

They struggle, they brawl, they even go H.A.M. on some blacksmithing. These are independent and strong females. Angela Lansbury kills it as the sassy leader of the saloon girls. No man owns her, except maybe *Spoiler Alert* Sensual Mustache, who she’s desperately in love with — because who wouldn’t be?

Judy Garland and her Harvey Girls posse share the estrogen empowerment as they go to work with their female bosses slinging steaks and whacking weeds, all while pointing guns at anyone who gets in their way. Their resilience makes you root for them, even as they do ballet on a rickety balcony and sing about how old and sad they’ll be some day.

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