‘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

‘The LEGO Movie’ Review

https://i2.wp.com/www.thismamaloves.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/the-LEGO-MOVIE-poster.jpg

Dir: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Cast (voice): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Liam Nesson, and Morgan Freeman

Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.  Sorry for the lack of reviews lately. I live in Chicago and if you’ve been watching the news, we (like many other people as well) have been hit with a ton of snow.  But I’m back!*

 

On paper, the movie sounds a little crazy. I think just about everybody was saying “what the hell are they going to do with a Lego movie?” and I’ll admit I was one of those people.  However, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) have blended together a unique blend of wit, humor, and heart.  And like most kid films, The Lego Movie is really about what it means to be a child but also a person in general (too cheesy?).

The movie follows Emmet (Pratt) who is the most ordinary “person” in his city of Bricksburg.  He follows the instructions for everything, loves the most popular stuff – that includes a lame TV show – and the infectiously catchy pop song “Everything Is Awesome.”  However, when he stumbles into a pit at his construction job, he unintentionally finds the “Piece of Resistance” that is part of a prophecy set by the “Master Builder” Vitruvius (Freeman) to defeat the evil Lord Business or President Business (Ferrell).  When the rebels discover Emmet’s just an ordinary person and not the “Special One” they must work together with his help.

Emmet is joined on his journey mostly by Wildstyle (Banks) who is also a Master Builder. Think of them like Neo in The Matrix that can see things around them and build anything.  Banks does pretty well as the kick ass heroine that does everything she can to protect Emmet and herself.  Freeman is pretty cool as the hippy-like wizard Vitruvius that ranges from wise to comic relief.  Will Ferrel’s Lord Business is maniacal but has depth to stop him from becoming a cliché villain. But it’s really Chris Pratt who steals the show as the endearing and sometimes dopey (in a good way) Emmet.

However the other familiar faces, drawing on some of LEGO’s strongest licenses, such as Batman and Superman for example pop up. But it’s testament to the film’s integrity that such well-known characters never really become the focus of the film.  Batman, even with substantial screen time and a strong supporting role, doesn’t steal the movie.  They even make Batman into a bit of a dick and relish poking fun at Green Lantern, who’s so desperate to make friends with the cool heroes.  But others are entirely original creations like Metal Beard – a gigantic mech topped off with the head of a pirate.

The use of LEGO also gives the film a style of its own and gives the action a distinctive look.  Set pieces often involve characters frantically building new vehicles or special items to help them escape.  It’s exciting to watch these items appear rapidly before your eyes, and they really give the film some great kinetic sequences.  Elsewhere, the solidity of LEGO adds a unique look to environments, especially elements like smoke and water.  Hell, seeing the Council of Master Builders is awesome to see. We see about every famous LEGO you can imagine ranging from; Shakespeare, Ninja Turtles, Ninjas, and Abraham Lincoln. It makes total sense because that’s the kind of freedom and creativity the movie is ultimately encouraging

However, for a movie that is promoted as a comedy, the movie has an unsuspected but welcomed emotional kick to its final act.  Dare I say the best moments of the movie are toward the end.  It’s in these final moments that The LEGO Movie becomes a little bit special

All in all, The LEGO Movie has it all; humor, action, emotion and even some twists that make it just more than a LEGO movie. I completely was blown away by a movie I wasn’t original excited for.  Everything about this movie was truly awesome.

 

The Lego Movie

5 out of 5

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Review

hunger_games_catching_fire_ver32

Dir: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth and Donald Sutherland

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always*

 

I’ll admit, I didn’t like The Hunger Games and I read the book (yes I know, “the book is always better” blah blah blah).  I had nothing against anybody in the movie but the movie to me was a bit on the boring side and some of the changes they made were a bit iffy to me.  But, that is the nature of Hollywood adaptations.  So saying Catching Fire is better than The Hunger Games for me isn’t really saying that much.  However, it is a better movie than the first and the performances this time around better too.

The movie starts off showing Katniss (Lawrence) hasn’t forgotten her time during The Games right before President Snow (Sutherland) shows up at her house and asks her if she’s ready to be in a real war and ready to lose everyone she cares about die.  Snow knows that Katniss risking her life to save her and Peeta (Hutcherson) lives has started a revolution that he doesn’t want.  Snow then puts forth The Quarter Quell.  The Quarter Quell puts all past victors from past Hunger Games into the games. Snow sees this as an opportunity to not only get rid of the other victors but also squash a rebellion, and even get rid of Katniss.

The first half sets up our past characters in Katniss, Peeta, Gale (Hemsworth), Haymitch (Harrelson), even Effie (Banks) and Cinna (Kravitz) although their characters have very small roles compared to the newcomers.  Speaking of them, our main new characters include the Capital’s favorite Finnick Odair (Claflin), Johanna Manson (Malone), and Beetee (Wright).  All have their moments but Claflin and Malone stick out and are the better of the new additions that also include the new Games Maker, Plutarch Heavensbee played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman nearly steals the show next to the always reliable Stanley Tucci playing energetic TV host Caesar Flickerman.

The movie does have a different feel to it and it’s because of the director change from Gary Ross to Francis Lawrence.  Lawrence’s world is cold and hopeless which fits how everyone from Katniss to the other victors feel about the situation.  However, one of the things that Lawrence keeps, that isn’t for the better, is the certain beat the movie has before it gets to the area.  It is structured that way in the book but the way Katniss and Peeta scope out the new competitors in the training session and their individual tests does feel like a “been there done that” feel.

Once we get to the area, that’s where things start to gear up.  The action starts right away (and shaky cam free in case you were wondering) and a bit more violent than then first movie but again it does make sense since the stakes are bigger this time around and it’s no longer “a game.” Even when the action is at a standstill the characters are being developed so we can care about them, which I know sounds weird but considering this is a movie about people killing each other left and right this kind of stuff matters.

Acting wise, Jennifer Lawrence is the star of the show.  Her performance ranges all over the place from heroic to vulnerable to scared and proves that his role is hers and hers alone.  Hutcherson has more to do this time around bringing empathy and being the mouth-piece in a sense. Sutherland’s President Snow is a little more menacing this time around.  He’s still the man behind the curtain but he does everything he can to make sure Katniss doesn’t survive.

All in all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a better outing from the first movie along with the acting and action.  The set up for the next two movies, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, should get fans of the book and non-fans excited.  But again, for me, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first movie but this was an improvement.

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

3.5 out of 5