‘Power Rangers’ Review

Director: Dean Israelite

Writer: John Gatins

Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, David Denman and Bryan Cranston

Synopsis: A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

Power Rangers, if you’re like me and of the same age, that means something to you. Of course, the Power Rangers have gone through different incarnations since 1993, but that should show you that, not only is the brand still going strong, but it has a connection with people of every age. So when word broke that Hollywood was taking another stab at a big screen version of the Power Rangers, fans were concerned, intrigued and happy to see where this would go. So, does this new version of the Power Rangers work? Yes, yes it does.

Like mostly every incarnation of the heroes, the film follows five teenagers who are misfits in their own way. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), a now former football star who gets into an accident at the beginning of the film ruining the school’s chances of a championship; Billy (RJ Cyler), who is mildly autistic in this version; Kimberly, the popular one who now finds herself outside her popularity; Zack (Ludi Lin), who is a bit of an adrenaline junkie and is a caregiver for his mother; and Trini (Becky G), the new girl who doesn’t fit in with her “normal” parents.

One night all of them come together, by chance, and find mysterious colored coins which end up giving them special abilities. When they go back to the site they found the coins, they find an abandoned spaceship where they meet the android Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who tells them they have been chosen to be the Power Rangers. Moreover, they have to train because the evil force of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) has risen again and is in search of the powerful Zeo Crystals to destroy the world.

Power Rangers takes the basic premise of the first series – well, the American one anyway – and pulls concepts from other incarnations to reboot the whole thing and make it more modern and change the mythology we all know and love, which surprisingly works. The film feels like a mix of The Breakfast Club and Chronicle, but the story and characters stand on their own. Sure they have to save the world, but the characters try to find themselves amongst strangers, a mysterious head in a wall and a weird looking robot. Their journey is what keeps us engaged until we see them suit up. It’s a story that we can probably all connect to in our own way, but it’s the cast that makes it worth it.

For a group of relative unknowns, they did an awesome job making us by their characters. Dacre Montgomery’s Jason isn’t the typical jock although buying him as the leader was a little hard to buy at first, Naomi Scott’s Kimberly isn’t the Kimberly we all remember but carries something with her, Ludi Lin’s Zack is completely different from what we remember, but the caretaker aspect is an interesting one, Becky G’s Trini is the much talked about LGBTQ character, and while I was turned off by her attitude at first, she grew on me as the film went on. RJ Cyler’s Billy will undoubtedly be a fan favorite, and arguably is the heart of the film along with Bill Hader’s Alpha 5, which design is much better and less distracting once you see it move around. Bryan Cranston’s Zordon is perfect, but it’s Elizabeth Banks who fails on some levels. While she’s a bit of wildcard in terms of you never know what she’s going to do, she doesn’t really feel like a villain until the end. It’s nothing against Banks herself, but her Rita was just a little underwhelming for me. Oh, and Goldar is, well, he’s what we see in the trailers.

The film’s tone is also great. It’s got the right amount of cheesiness, humor, coming-of-age style and realness a new modern version Power Rangers needed. Sometimes the tone can be all over the place, but overall it’s pretty spot on. One scene, that is a great scene, but it came at a weird place is when the team start to really get to know each other. One complaint I know many will have is the amount of time the group have in the actual Ranger suits. It doesn’t come until the final act of the film, but I would say the team does deserve to earn the suits, which makes the wait for it to actually happen worth it.

All in all, Power Rangers is a great film for fans of the Power Rangers. The cast is great, the tone is spot on for the majority of the film along with the cheesiness the film needs. Also, for a film that is over two hours, it went by like a breeze. It’s also a great way to introduce new fans to the group of heroes we all loved as kids – and maybe even still to this day. It’s morphin’ time!

Power Rangers

4.5 out of 5

December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

jackie

 

Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

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Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

incarnate

 

 

9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

office_christmas_party

 

16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

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21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

sing

 

Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

patriots_day

 

Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

passengers

 

Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

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23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

monster_calls_ver2

 

Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

silence

 

Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

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25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

hidden_figures

 

Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

live_by_night

 

Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

fences

 

So, what are you looking forward to?

‘Godzilla’ Review

godzilla_ver13

Dir: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Stratharin and Juliette Binoche

Synopsis: The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The King of the Monsters is back! This time taking on a more gritty and realistic approach to the big monster. Of course the Godzilla monster has a huge fan base, and well deserved, but he hasn’t really had a well deserved outing in a long time. But it hasn’t really been directors, writers or producers fault all the time. Godzilla is a pretty difficult character to nail. He’s been a hero and a villain.  He’s been a loaded symbol and an just something to take a massive amount of space. Finally, he’s a cultural icon and a punchline. But, director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has created almost a labor of love that attempts to draw from the monster’s rich history to appeal to fans, but alienate people who are not familiar with the history and only know the name. It’s a rather ambitious and daring thing to do but Edwards somehow manages to pull it off.

 

The movie starts off in the Philippines in 1999. Scientists Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Hawkins) go to a collapsed mine and discover a cavern that houses not only a ribcage, but also two mysterious spores, as they call them.  But they soon realize that something has crawled out and has made its way to the sea. We then go to Tokyo, where a seismic event causes the collapse of a power plant, and engineer Joe Brody (Cranston) loses his wife Sandra (Binoche) in the tragedy (NOT A SPOILER since it’s in trailers).

 

Fifteen years later, their son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) is working in EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) in the navy, but is forced to travel to Japan and bail his estranged father out of prison.  Joe has been trying to figure out why the plant collapsed, and believes the answers are in Japan’s quarantine zone.  Ford reluctantly follows his father into the restricted area only to discover that his father’s crazy theories might not be so crazy after all.
I know one of the many things people are mad about this iteration of Godzilla is the fact that we don’t get enough Godzilla screen time. Instead the movie focus on the other monsters called “MUTOs” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). But I have to give credit to Edwards for his patience on revealing the big man himself. We get teases of Godzilla throughout the movie, first by seeing the spikes on his back in the beginning sequence of the movie. But after that, we get mostly see the destruction that he leaves behind with a tease of a tail or foot.

 

However, it’s not just the Godzilla monster, the whole movie is a slow burner. The structure and pacing is quite similar to the 1954 original. I think some people won’t appreciate the pacing because modern audiences what rapid pace storytelling. But, it is the pace that makes the final act mean a hell of a lot more and a spectacle to see. Moreover, it is that pace that makes the reveal of Godzilla just the more awesome. Once we get the full reveal with the roar, it is terrifying and an amazing sight to see.

 

But, as fun as it is to see Godzilla and the MUTOs smashing and destroying things as they fight to the death, it shouldn’t be what carries to the story despite how people feel about that. One of the things that every critic blasts in big monster movies nowadays is the human story. Now I’ll admit I liked seeing Godzilla go toe-to-toe against the MUTOs but we need to know what the people in the middle of these two behemoths are thinking and going through.

 

As mentioned before, the story mostly follows Ford as he becomes tangled with stopping the MUTOs and Godzilla with the military. Throughout all that, he also tries to get back to his wife Elle (Olsen) and his young son Sam (Carson Bolde). On the other side we have the government lead by Admiral Stenz (Strathairn) with the help of the scientists played by Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins. Wantabe’s Dr. Serizawa (the same name as the scientist is the original) is fascinated by the monsters, even seeing Godzilla as monster that is simply keeping the balance of nature. His sentiments fall on deaf ears as the government only sees the monsters as a threat and try to the keep the people that, unfortunately, are standing in the middle. Also, just a bonus, Wantabe does have the best line in the movie.

 

But possibly the strongest arc of the human story, is at the beginning with Cranston’s Joe Brody and wife Sandra, played by Juliette Binoche. It’s a bit rare to get such a strong and emotional beginning in these kinds of movies, but Cranston and Binoche performances make that beginning gut-wrenching even for a Godzilla movie. Cranston, to probably no surprise, gives the best performance as a man who has lost everything he cares about and just wants answers.

 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s hero character is not obviously going to eclipse Godzilla but he does a descent job of playing the human hero. Although as a man who is forced into the situation, I did hope that he would have been a little more to his character. Elizabeth Olsen, who is impressively talented, has very little to do in this.

 

But let us not forget the big man. Godzilla is truly a force of nature. His presence is felt every time he’s on screen and you can clearly see why everyone is in shock and awe. He’s also gone through so many different looks that seeing this version of him, it feels right. People have been complaining that his Godzilla is a bit “fat” which seems almost stupid to say considering he’s a force of nature. But his “fatness” doesn’t factor into his movements or even his attacks against the MUTOs. Briefly, the MUTOs have an interesting design themselves and play mostly the villains of the piece.

 

The movie does take itself seriously but there are welcomed amounts of humor that honestly surprised me. Not to the point where it takes away from the seriousness but moments that really fit into the story and feeling. But the other thing that movie does, that I’ve briefly touched on, is the movie pays a tremendous amount of the respect to the rich history of Godzilla. A Godzilla fan will catch most of the homage’s and references the movie makes. But, unlike most remakes, the movie makes the history an actual part of the overall story.
 

All in all, Godzilla shows that with the right approach The King of the Monsters can be the great monster that he once was and that we remember to be. The movie is a slow burner but once the action picks up you won’t be able to look away, especially when Godzilla shows up. The movie will divide fans but I hope that people will appreciate how much respect the filmmakers have put into this version of Godzilla.

 

 

Godzilla

5 out of 5