Tag Archives: elizabeth banks

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

Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Review

7 May

I’m sure that by now, a hefty amount of people have seen Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and it’s safe to say that I’m a little late to the party. This movie did very well at the box office and has since done well in sales. I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith as a director but appreciate his body of work the most as a writer. I was excited to see this movie because of the combination of Smith and the rest of the cast, but I have to say I was really disappointed by what I saw. Zack and Miri isn’t what you call a bad movie or a completely unfunny movie, but if you look at movies like Clerks and Chasing Amy, it’s pretty obvious that Smith is capable of much better work.

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Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) and Miri Linky (Elizabeth Banks) are two slacker best friends whose least most concern is paying their bills on time. As the unpaid bills pile up, their luck finally catches up with them and their water and electricity are turned off and an additional threat of getting locked out of their apartment also looms over them. Zack finally hatches a get rich quick plan that, in his mind, seems fool proof. That is to shoot and distribute pornography. As the two gather friends from work and around town which include an overly sensitive Delaney (Craig Robinson), they also begin hiring talent like the astoundingly oblivious Lester (Jason Mewes). Things start looking up for the make shift crew of pornographers, but it isn’t long before real human emotion starts to penetrate the lustful set of the porn movie.

As a comedy, it is pretty average when it comes to the jokes. Something that I really love about Smith’s writing is his ability to write long and drawn out conversations and speeches that seem random, but oddly intelligent and thoughtful. The writing in this movie is pretty average. There are some funny references about film thrown in that made me chuckle, but the really heavy laughter was pretty few and far between. The witty writing and dialogue that seemed to have confidence all its own is nowhere to be seen. Instead, I mostly heard a constant barrage of sex and poop jokes. Now don’t get me wrong. These can be really funny, but when that’s all a movie is I feel kind of ripped off.

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There is some joy to be had in this movie, however. A lot of the laughs in the movie didn’t come from the writing, but more so from the delivery of the jokes that were already written. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks work very well off each other and I feel like a lot of the funnier things in this movie were improvised between the two of them. My favorite part of Zack and Miri is when the two title characters have to film their sex scene for the porno and the way the whole beginning of the scene plays out is incredibly awkward for the both of them. The quick lines of dialogue they say are really funny and just the way they play off each other is great. It was also cool to see Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson, both of whom acted side by side in the two Clerks movies.

As much as I’m putting the writing down, I have to give it to Smith for creating two characters whose developments work very well in the context of the movie. Let’s just say, I buy everything that’s happening between the characters. No one is a cardboard cutout of other characters in comedies like these, and while this isn’t an absolutely hilarious movie, it is nice to see originality in it. For that, I can’t say that this is a bad movie, because any movie that shows honest to goodness originality and spirit put into it, I have to respect and appreciate on at least some level.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a pretty weak attempt by Kevin Smith, especially compared to his other movies that are so memorable and well done. This is also definitely not a comedy for people who can’t stomach things that get too raunchy or dirty, because that’s pretty much all of the comedy involved. I makes me miss the times where Smith made movies that examined a level of society and philosophies that aren’t always explored out of fear of offending people. This movie seems to want to offend just for the sake of offending. If you’re a Kevin Smith fan it’s an alright movie to see, especially for the cast and cameos (including one hilarious one of Kenny Hotz from the show Kenny vs Spenny). Don’t expect too much out of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but it does have some heart and may be good for a chuckle.

 

The LEGO Movie – Review

24 Feb

Ever since 1949, it is safe to say that a majority percentage of children have had the wonderful opportunity to get their hands on some LEGOs and build something. LEGOs stimulated the imaginations and allowed people, sometimes not even children, to look at something they built and be proud. When I heard of The LEGO Movie, I automatically assumed this was going to be a LEGO commercial in movie form, and it certainly had advertising in it and LEGO sales will skyrocket after this, but it’s more than that. The LEGO Movie is a hilarious and kinetic ride that made me laugh harder than I expected I ever would.

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Emmett (Chris Pratt) is a nobody and blends into society without even needing to really try. He falls into step with everyone else, listens to the same song on the radio, and watches the most popular television show without fail. Life is easy for Emmett until he finds a mystical LEGO piece called the Piece of Resistance. Finding this Piece, according to Emmett’s new and rambunctious partner Wyldestyle (Elizabeth Banks), makes Emmett the “Special,” who is someone destined to be a “Master Builder” and stop the evil Mister Business (Will Ferrell) from unleashing his super weapon, the Kragle, on the entire world. Soon, the duo meets Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the person who proclaimed the prophecy and now they are on a quest to Mister Business’ headquarters to stop him once and for all.

Something that really was great about The LEGO Movie is that all of the funny parts weren’t shown in the trailer, which I really thought was going to be the case. I also was just expecting to see a mediocre animated movie whose sole purpose it to make us all buy more LEGOs. Well, like I said, I was wrong on both accounts. This movie works really well as a superbly animated comedy with a lot of heart and jokes that come so fast a frequent that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. That was the first thing I noticed in the movie.

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When the movie first started, I found myself laughing, but I wasn’t really sure at what. It took me a few seconds to realize that everything going on was a joke. Everything. That’s how it was in the beginning and it was really strange at first because there was just a constant flow of laughter that I wasn’t expecting and wasn’t really sure what it was directed at. As the movie goes on, the amount of jokes per second slows down, but not by much. The LEGO Movie is a very funny movie that never stops, so by the end you may need to take a break from laughter for your own health. Too bad that’s going to be really hard with all of the thinking back you’re going to do. A lot of this has to do with screenwriters Phil Lord and Chris Miller (both Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies, 21 Jump Street) and the rest of the cast who give excellent and funny performances. My personal favorite was Liam Neeson as Bad Cop, who sounded like he was having more fun than he has ever had in his entire career.

With a movie that moves as fast as this, you wouldn’t really expect it to be too long. Unfortunately, this is really the movies only drawback: it’s runtime. I’ve complained about runtimes of some movies before, because it’s really a factor that has the potential to ruin an entire movie. In The LEGO Movie, there are scenes that shouldn’t go on for nearly as long as they do. One LEGO world in particular was completely out of place and ran pretty dry in terms of jokes. Once that part was over, the movie picked right up again, but it was an awkward slow down and one that added an extra fifteen minutes onto the movie that didn’t need to be there.

The LEGO Movie was a fun, often exciting, and kinetic movie that just went on a little to long. It’s written wonderfully by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the voice acting really brought the movie to life. I was really surprised by this movie and when it was over had a hard time stopping my talking about it. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to get it when it comes out! It’s an unexpectedly great time at the movies.

The Next Three Days – Review

16 Jul

Thrillers are a difficult genre for me because these movies have to be really good for me to enjoy them. If they move too slow, I get bored. If they move too fast, the suspense lacks. This made me have a feeling that I wasn’t going to be too into The Next Three Days , but I actually really did, despite a few plot contrivances and implausible scenes.

John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennan are living the American Dream complete with fine jobs, a comfortable house, and a young son. This is all ripped away in a matter of hours when Lara is abruptly arrested from their home and charged with murder. All the evidence points to Lara’s guilt, but John refuses to accept that, and after years of appealing to the courts he decides he’s going to have to get Lara out on his own. John soon finds himself planning not only a breakout, but a new life and fending off the criminal underworld getting closer to his front door.

The intriguing thing about this movie is that it isn’t about politicians, spies, or criminals (for the most part). Our protagonist is just an English teacher at community college. Crowe’s character starts out as just a confused and broken man, torn to pieces by the accusations made towards his wife. However, over time, we get to see him evolve into a man who is willing to do anything to save her. This may sound overused or cliché, but the way it is done in a slow paced and meticulous way makes me believe in this evolution.

The plot begins to collect more and more contrivances as it nears towards the end, but the do not have to do with Crowe’s character. The beginning of Act 3 introduces to new characters who are detectives and on John’s trail. They not only figure out what he intends to do but does so in a manner of minutes (no spoiler here). If we got to travel with these characters and were shown over the course of the movie how they worked, then I wouldn’t have a problem. As it stands, the writing for them is just pretty lousy.

Although the writing for these characters is pretty bad and half-assed, the rest of the screenplay is exciting and well crafted. One of the hardest things to write for with a thriller movie (or any movie in general) is a correct pacing that will keep the viewer engaged. The smart dialogue and character development and relationships were enough to keep me going, along with the gripping and dramatic story.

But all of this would hardly mean anything if it wasn’t acted well, and Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks put their all into their roles and shine. Crowe displays the correct balance of sadness and anger, which drives him, along with the love for his wife, to attempt to break her out of prison. Elizabeth Banks isn’t in a lot of the movie, but her time onscreen is powerful enough to make her a memorable character. Great performances all around.

I’m glad that I can find thrillers that excite me, because it is a really cool genre. Unfortunately, are bores, like State of Play, which also stars Russell Crowe. This is something entirely better. I cared about the characters, their plight, and the outcome. There are also great nail biter scenes that will make the most avid film goer nervous with anticipation. If you’re a fan of thrillers, Crowe, or prison break stories, The Next Three Days is just for you. Hell, check it out anyway. It’s worth it.