Mr. Nostalgia reviews the fan film Casey Jones…

Casey Jones movie Hockey mask

It’s not often that a fan film exceeds ones expectations but Casey Jones does that with a well written plot, excellent cinematography and acting.  Just the very words “fan film” brings images of thinly plotted ideas filmed with wobbly camera work that goes in and out of focus and is nothing more than just two friends trying to make a movie out of poor fight scenes.

Casey Jones  is the opposite of that definition. This isn’t your Saturday morning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the very first cartoon series where Casey Jones never took off his mask. This is a Casey Jones set in reality.  A Casey Jones who declares a one man war against gangs in his neighborhood be it The Purple Dragons or The Foot Clan and is an origin story told in the best way, one that doesn’t lose its audience in the smallest details of an origin they already know while they sit halfway through a movie until the hero emerges. Instead, in this thirty minute short, we see the origin of Casey Jones told from tough hockey player to a Casey Jones who has sworn to clean the town up.

When we first meet Casey he is a very angry young man.  His anger rules everything whether he is on the ice playing hockey and taking his own hockey team on in a fight, to stopping a punk from defacing his building with graffiti, to standing up to the Purple Dragons. It is this anger that gets him nearly beaten to death and fuels his crusade.  If young Casey had a mentor like Splinter, he would have delivered a speech much like he did to Raphael in the first movie, saying something like, “…Anger clouds the mind. Turned inward it is an unconquerable enemy. You are unique…for you choose to face this enemy alone.” But instead, Casey is more likely to use this line when dealing with gang members from the first film,”Well, it looks like you’re the one who needs to be taught a lesson, pal. (pulls out two baseball bats) The class is Pain 101. Your instructor is Casey Jones.”

Casey begins training, lifting weights, punching a punching bag, even slamming  it with his head, using his hockey stick and baseball bats in a junkyard, learning ways to fight with them.  He begins to gather his weapons of choice, sporting goods equipment, and has a golf bag to carry them in.  He even has the perfect face protector in a hockey mask.  With a pair of biker gloves and a tougher personality, Casey Jones is ready to face the town, and clean it up one gang member at a time. Casey has become a one man wore against crime. He isn’t going to fight dirty, he’s just going to even the playing field. If the Purple Dragons are going to bring chains and pipes and wrenches to a fight, he’s going to bring a hockey stick, baseball bats, a cricket stick and even a sledgehammer. “An eye for an eye” seems to be his motto of fighting.

Poster Guiding Star Productions

But Casey’s anger gets in the way of his justice, and this is the one place where Casey Jones would differ from the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in that when Casey battles his foes, we see the outcome of his attack, with blood pooling from his enemies wounds.  His anger runs so deep that he isn’t even above taking their lives if it means keeping the streets clean.

That is until one night, after beating some foes; Casey sees two car thieves and tries to stop them when he is stopped by Michelangelo who tries to teach him that extreme violence isn’t the answer.  When The Foot Clan suddenly attack, Casey Jones and Michelangelo team up to take on the ninjas. By the end of the film, with Casey’s armor seeming to have been upgraded and an alliance formed between him and the turtles, Casey has learned to go easy (but not too easy) on the foes when it comes to bringing in justice.

Casey Jones ties in well with the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (which was a cross between The Mirage comic book and slight additions from the popular cartoon series of the time) with everything from the casting of Hilarion Banks who looks and even sounds like a younger version of Elias Koteas ,who fist played Casey on film, to the nods of the animated series with things like having  April O’Neil as a news reporter for Channel 6 News and wearing a yellow jumpsuit, to even certain phrases of dialogue quoted in the short such as  “I love being a turtle!”.  Best of all, and I have no idea how they did this, they got the original Michelangelo voice from the first movie, Robbie Rist, to provide Michelangelo’s voice.

Image from film Guiding Star Productions

Casey Jones was filmed in Dallas and Austin Texas and was released on September 18th, 2011. Written and directed by Polaris Banks (who also plays Casey’s Cousin Sid in the movie as well as provides the voice of Donatello) and released by Guiding Star Productions, Polaris must have been a fan of the Mirage series for it strikes such a familiar tone to the book.  Watch the credits and you’ll see Polaris’ name appear again and again as he immersed himself completely in the making of his movie by doing things such as: Executive Producing, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Art Director, Property Master, Prop Fabrication, helping with Sound Editing, ADR Mixer/Editor, Dialogue Editor, Location Sound Mixer, Boom Operator, Foley Artist, Foley Mixer/Editor, Recordist, helping with Location Scouting, Voice Casting, helping with Stunt Coordinating, Fight Choreographer, Stunt Work, Storyboard Artist, Costume Supervisor, Costume Crafts, Seamstress, Additional Make-up, Hair Stylist, Gaffer, helping with Mould Making, Suit Design and Fabrication, Visual Effects Animation, Visual Effects Retouching and Research.

A film, with all the effort and talent that went into making it, shouldn’t be considered a “fan film” by any means whatsoever.  Instead, it should be listed as an Independent Film Short, and shown regularly on the channel IFC (Independent Film Channel).  Casey Jones deserves just that honor.

The directing, cinematography, acting, all of this makes this film one of a kind. It’s rare to find such talent making a story about a comic book character, but here it is. Everything from Casey’s background to his costume to even Michelangelo was researched and details were highlighted that Polaris felt needed to be in the film, which makes this movie all the better. The professional film score by Zane Effendi, the stunt coordinating by Matthew Lee Willis, and even the end credit song “Goongala” (a Casey Jones battle cry) by Johnny October, just add to that.

The Michelangelo costume, created by Oliver Luke plays well for this film.  Yes, it is not like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume that Jim Henson’s Creature Shop built in the 1990 film, but this costume has a grittier edge to it, one that would most likely resemble  a mutant turtle if one was to exist, and works well in this film with the night filming and shadows hiding any flaws in the costume if there are any (besides, I’d rather see this suit than the ones that the Nickelodeon Suites Resort use for their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet and Greets which are much too plushy and goofy looking based off their current television series). The suit is a nice touch of the Mirage look with a long bandanna and belt around Michelangelo’s waist and allows the actors inside to do the necessary stunts such as flips, martial arts and working with the nunchucks.

Image Guiding Star Productions

But don’t just take my word for it.  Click the link and see for yourself. Watch Casey Jones and make your own opinion.  If you like it, click the donate button and if you donate $20.00 or more they’ll even send you a FREE version of the film. Help an independent filmmaker out. Here’s the link to watch the film:  http://caseyjonesthemovie.com/

The highest compliment I can give this film is this.  When I first watched it I didn’t want it to end, and once it ended, I wanted to see more of Casey Jones.  Pretty good for a half hour film, no?

“Goongala!”

Mr. Nostalgia

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