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Power Rangers – Review

30 Mar

When I was a kid, it was a joy to tune into whatever version of Power Rangers was playing. The original show, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, was such a touchstone in my childhood that I’ve never really outgrown it and still have fun revisiting the show when I can, no matter how silly it can be. When I saw that a big budget movie reboot was in the works, I was equally excited an nervous. It’s pretty hard to mess up something so straightforward as Power Rangers, but I believe Hollywood can ruin anything if they put their minds to it. I went and saw the new Power Rangers movie opening night, and I’m so relieved to say that while it isn’t a masterpiece, it’s still a entertaining time at the movies and a great way to reboot the concept for the big screen.

After accidentally finding mysterious crystals at the edge of a mine, five teenagers from Angel Grove are about to experience something they never thought possible. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a disgraced athlete whose only friends at this point is Billy (R.J. Cyler), an autistic loner who has a penchant for technology, and Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a former cheerleader who also has disgraced herself out of that particular group. These three, along with the new girl Trini (Becky G) and outcast Zack (Ludi Lin) notice how much their strength has increased since finding these crystals. Upon further investigation at the mine, they find an ancient spaceship and meet its only inhabitant, Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) who awakens the mysterious entity, Zordon (Bryan Cranston). Zordon and Alpha 5 explain to the teenagers that they are the next Power Rangers, whose task it is is to defend the planet and the Zeo Crystals from any and all threats. The newest threat is one Zordon knows very well. His arch enemy Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) has awakened after thousands of years and will use the Zeo Crystals to take over the world with her minion known as Goldar. Now the five teenagers have to work together to find their inner power and learn to understand and respect one another. Only then can they truly become the Power Rangers.

I had such high hopes for this movie, but deep down I expected it to fail completely. That’s why I still can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. First off, the new group of teenagers are great, and the decision to make them outcasts rather than the perfect role models was a good choice for a modern update. The first act of the movie really establishes their personalities and dynamics with one another while also giving you brief glimpses into their lives which are then elaborated on in a moving scene towards the middle of the movie. A moving scene? In a Power Rangers movie? Who would have guessed it? The whole idea of them learning to trust and understand each other in order to morph fits in well with the show, but I can see people getting off put by this difference. We also get really solid performances by all of them, with the stand out being R.J. Cyler as Billy.

Where Power Rangers starts to get lost is in the second act of the movie. Without spoiling anything, this is where the real meat and bones of the story happens, and while there’s a lot to fit in, the whole thing starts to really drag out. This is where Alpha-5, Zordon, and Rita are introduced, which is all really cool, but that happens towards the beginning of the second act. The rest of this it is all character building, which is necessary, but there were scenes where I thought the whole thing could have been cut completely. There’s one weird decision that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something happens that feels really forced and long winded that made me start to get really antsy. I knew that the suits would be saved for the finale, but it was at this point that I just wanted the story to move along since certain plot points finally ran out of steam. Instead of moving on, however, things just kept on going.

Once the third act hits, however, it gets awesome. This is one the Rangers finally get suited up for the big showdown and it’s so much fun. The Zords all look awesome, and while some of the CGI gets a little wonky, it has this gleeful over the top element about it that is impossible to resist. It also helps that the movie took so much time to give the team distinct personalities and backstories to make me feel invested in their efforts. There were parts towards the end where I was actually on the edge of my seat, desperate to see the Power Rangers win. It’s something I can remember feeling as a kid and it was really exciting to feel it again. I just wish that it lasted a little bit longer, because I was really enjoying the spectacle. If some of the unnecessary scenes in the middle of the movie were trimmed down or cut, and the finale made longer, I would have been a very happy camper.

I really can’t believe I’m saying this, but Power Rangers is actually a good movie. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but it’s a fun, nostalgic hit of adrenaline and it succeeded in modernizing the lore and turning it into a big budget action extravaganza. The pacing of the movie can be a little weird, and there are some plot holes and inconsistencies that you may notice if you look hard enough. Even with that, the characters are great and everyone seems to be giving their all. We live in a world where the new Power Rangers movie is better than a movie called Batman v. Superman.

Final Grade: B

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Godzilla – Review

18 May

Godzilla is a name that any person knows, even if they’ve never seen a movie starring the King of Monsters in their entire life. This larger than life lizard has had plenty of chances in his 60 years in the film business to show just how tough he is wether he’s engaged in a monster rumble with King Ghidorah in Destroy all Monsters or running around New York City, destroying whatever is in sight in his 1998 American remake. Now we have the 2014 Godzilla, and I’d say there is a lot riding on this to be good, especially after so many people despise his 1998 run. This version hearkens back to the original 1954 Gojira in more ways than one, and even though there’s some terrible flaws in this movie, it made for some excellent monster movie madness.

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In the Philippines, scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are investigating a collapse in a mine when they find two giant pod-like eggs that have recently hatched. In Tokyo, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are working in the Janjira Nuclear Plant when unexplained seismic activity causes disaster not only for the plant, but also for Joe. Cut to 15 years later. Joe has become obsessed with exposing the cover up that was put in place after the accident at the plant, causing his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to become more and more estranged from him. Ford now works for the army as a bomb specialist and has a wife (Elizabeth Olson) and a son, but all of that is put in jeopardy when he goes with his father to investigate further, only to find giant winged monsters called MUTOs begins a path of destruction for breeding purposes. Now, mankind’s only hope is lies in the actions of another awakened behemoth. One that is called “Gojira.”

To start off with, this is not a movie that is like other entries in the franchise like Mothra vs Godzilla or Godzilla vs Gigan. Sure, we get to see Godzilla fight, but that doesn’t happen right away. Think of Godzilla in the same way that you think of the 1954 original. That film is mostly about the human characters with Godzilla showing up a little bit, until the climax in Tokyo where we really get to see the destruction he is capable of. That’s how this movie is. Godzilla isn’t in this a whole hell of a lot, but when he is it is nothing short of epic. Director Gareth Edwards stated that he got inspiration from films like Jaws, where the monster isn’t always seen, but it’s unseen presence is enough to create an even greater amount of suspense.

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So keeping Godzilla pretty much hidden until the end isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is that every time I thought I was going to see at least a little bit of action, the scene cut away. That would be fine if it happened once, but it happened at least three times. That’s just overkill. One time is enough to make me crave to see some monster action, but the amount of times the film did that just started to annoy me. Another problem I had with the movie was with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Now, he’s a fine actor in the Kick-Ass movies, but I couldn’t really get into him too much here. He is the main character, but he was pretty one-dimensional. Cranston and Watanabe’s characters were far more interesting and into their roles, but sadly they weren’t in it nearly as much as they should have been, especially with Watanabe playing Serizawa who was a very important character in the original film.

Still, there was plenty in Godzilla that kept me more than entertained. The MUTO monsters are cool, especially their reveals and how they are differentiated between male and female. They had some really awesome scenes and powers that made them more the welcome in the Godzilla canon. Godzilla also looks and sounds great. My absolute favorite part of the movie is when he finally gets around to using his atomic breath. I was waiting patiently for it to happen, and when I finally saw that blue glow break through the fog all the way up Godzilla’s back, I knew what I was in for and I wasn’t disappointed.

Being a huge fan of Godzilla movies, I can honestly say that this one didn’t disappoint even though it was nowhere like what I thought it was going to be. It is the Christopher Nolan Batman compared to Tim Burton’s Batman. They may be very different, but that isn’t a bad thing. This is a much more realistic way to show the monster and his possible effects on the world, but I still really enjoyed it. I do wish there was a little bit more monster action and interesting characters, but that’s not enough to totally ruin the movie for me. This is still an excellent popcorn flick that should please Godzilla fans enough to make them ask for more.

Drive – Review

29 Aug

It’s nice to be out from under my rock and enjoying the fresh air and watching Drive. Seriously though, it seems like everyone and their mothers have seen Drive, and they all have their own differing opinions on it. Critics praised it, and audiences were torn apart like God parting the Red Sea. Some enjoy the aesthetics and plot of the film, while others condemn it as derogatory art house crap. Well yes, the film is highly artistic and stylized, but it comes nowhere close to crap.

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The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a man of many occupations and a lot less words. By day, he is a part time stunt driver for films and also works his close friend’s Shannon’s (Bryan Cranston) garage, but by night he is a getaway driver for the criminal underworld. After helping his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos), the trio forms a bond that seems unbreakable. Trouble soon interrupts their little paradise when Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is let out of jail and the Driver helps him on a job that will pay off a debt that he owes someone during his time in prison. Of course, this job goes completely awry, which draws the attention of mobsters Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), who will stop at nothing to silence everyone involved in the heist gone wrong.

By just reading the synopsis, I kept thinking that this is The Transporter‘s new wave younger brother. Much like Statham’s character in The Transporter movies, the Driver has a very strict set of rules that he applies to his more illegal means of income. He can also take care of himself, which provides some of the best parts of the entire movie. Unlike The Transporter and its sequels, the Driver is much more conservative with his time taking down his enemies, but he doesn’t spare on the brutality. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this movie is brutal as all hell, and it was so entertaining. As brutal and unforgiving as the violence is, the scenes are pretty few and far between. This is not an action movie after all.

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I can’t really talk about Drive without talking about the soundtrack. What kind of music would you put to a brutal art house heist film? Electronic synth-pop, of course. Cliff Martinez composed a fantastic, and at times ironic, soundtrack that lingers in your mind along with the rest of the movie. While the synth-pop is blaring at full volume, and excellent story begins panning out. It’s subtle, yet strangely overt. There’s little dialogue, but actions speak louder than words. But, apply enough pressure even to the most comfortable of situations, things are bound to burst. The second half of this film is the exact opposite of the first. The pacing is strange, but this movie is pretty strange. Not in the David Lynch type of strange, but it’s not your average, everyday heist film. I really can’t stress that enough.

There’s been a lot of jokes and complaints about Gosling’s character. He is definitely a man a very few words, but the Driver is as strong a protagonist as the most obnoxious action hero. Hell, he’s a much stronger character than the most obnoxious action hero. The chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan are great, and the relationship of their characters is pretty unique. Literally nothing can tear them apart, as the Driver completely dedicates himself to protecting them. Bryan Cranston is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to acting, and this film just goes to show how great his range is. The man of the hour, though, is Albert Brooks, who plays a menacing villain that just makes your skin crawl.

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The fact of the matter is, you may not like Drive right away, or you may be pretty unsure about it. Give it time to really sink in, and really start to think about all the characters and aesthetic choices that make Drive what it is. After all this time, I’m still not really sure what it is. It’s a film that seems to bend the rules of a genre to make a movie that is unique and a complete thrill to watch.

Argo – Review

1 Mar

It’s hardly even an opinion to say that truth is stranger than fiction. There are some things that happen in this world that make me stop and say, “How could someone ever think of this?” Now take a film like Argo, which is based on the true story of the Canadian Caper in 1980. Again, how could someone ever think of this? The story is so hard to believe that I almost dismissed the movie, but in light of overwhelmingly positive recognition, it was about time I gave it a watch.

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In 1979, the American Embassy in Iran gets over run by protestors who are demanding the return of their exiled leader for his prompt execution. Many workers are held as hostages, but six manage to escape and take refuge in the home of a Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber). The CIA brings in an expert in exfil missions, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), who is at first unsure with how to go about a rescue mission. It comes to him one night. Enlisting the help of Hollywood make up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), Mendez heads over to Iran under the guise of a film maker doing location scouting. With the escapees acting the parts as film makers, the group attempts to leave Iran in plain sight.

Just writing this small summary, I find it hard to believe that a lot of this actually happened. A portion of it is definitely dramatized and the roles of the Canadians are downplayed while the roles of New Zealand and Britain are left out all together. Affleck said this was to keep the film at a quick, but steady pace and I can agree with him there. This movie does feel very Hollywood in a couple of ways. For one, it is partly a satire of the Hollywood business, but the entire feel of the movie feels like something that would have been made in the classical period in film history.

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It’s become quite clear with Gone Baby Gone and The Town that Ben Affleck is a much better director than he is actor. To me, his acting is nothing special, including his performance in this. His “character” is very passive in this movie up until the end, which was when I really got into his performance. His directing is impeccable, however. With Argo, my opinion about Affleck has only gotten better. This is a completely different film than his previous two, which only proves that he is versatile and can cover any number of genres. Speaking of genres, Argo quite clearly blends a few.

It’s actually kind of amazing how well this movie combines a human drama, a political thriller, and a satirical comedy. A lot of movies try to do this, but they unfortunately don’t always measure up to what they’re trying to accomplish. I feel like I reference Hitchcock a lot in this blog, but with good reason. Think of North by Northwest and how it’s a thriller, but also an excellent comedy. Argo works just as well. I laughed as hard as a bit my fingernails. The writing is sharp, witty, and smart.

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Argo has swept the awards this year, and I think with good reason. It was an excellent film about an incredible true story. It’s expertly written, directed, and acted (especially Goodman and Arkin). I’m content with this movie winning Best Picture, amongst other Academy Awards, but I can’t say it would’ve been my choice. I’m still going to stick with The Master as my favorite film of 2012. Still, Argo is an excellent movie that deserves all of the recognition it is receiving.