Power Rangers (2017)

Released: March 24, 2017. Directed by: Dean Israelite. Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G. Runtime: 2h 4 min. 

Nostalgia is a big appeal of this Power Rangers reboot, and as a 90s kid, the Rangers were definitely a part of my childhood. A problem of the original TV series, or at least the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie, is that it feels like it runs out of budget before the big finale.

This fixes it because the final battle with the Rangers’ Zords against Goldar is great, visual eye candy. The cinematography also captures the settings well and the film looks great.

It’s fun mecha action and it’s great that there’s enough budget for a solid finale, even if it feels derivative of The Avengers and Transformers, but it’s still fun. And that’s one thing about this reboot: It’s fun.

The new Rangers crew meet in detention and their introduction feels like The Breakfast Club. At least Saban’s Rangers have super powers – and John Hughes’ crew only power was teenage angst.

Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is the team leader looking for redemption after losing a football scholarship, and now has a chance to lead the Rangers. Montgomery (in his first blockbuster) has enough presence to be a believable leader, even as a bland character.

Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler), is a lovable tech wiz of the group and he works as comic relief and being one of the most interesting characters. Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin in his English-language debut) is the Black Ranger and he’s the most forgettable Ranger.

Naomi Scott as Kimberly Hart (the Pink Ranger) is impressive, convincingly playing a bitchy side while trying to be a better person. We catch her in a transition from Queen Bee to social pariah with the popular kids.

Trini Kwan (Becky G) is the Pink Ranger and is one of those characters who has trouble fitting in – which makes her relatable. Bryan Cranston is a compelling Zordon who unites the crew and offers guidance.

The Angel Grove crew gain super strength after finding the Power Coins entrapped in crystal. The Coins are there after a prehistoric fight between Zordon and the treacherous Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). To protect the Zeo Crystal (which can destroy planets) against Rita, Zordon had to order a meteor strike which sent Rita to the bottom of the sea.

Rangers (1)

Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Dacre Montgomery, Ludi Lin and Becky G. in Power Rangers. (Source)

This is basically The Breakfast Club with mecha action. The crew even have a heart-to-heart around a campfire. Their comradery’s realistic, and it’s nice watching their bond grow after being strangers. The casting of little known stars is smart. I only recognized RJ Cyler for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Becky G for that annoying song “Shower” about singing in the shower.

Tonally, the film’s wobbly. The movie writes a love letter to the campiness of the original TV series, but it’s hard to see what mood the writers and director Dean Israelite are going for.

It tries to be a dark and mature origins story (like Chronicle, and there’s also a bit of that film’s visual style). It also has enough angst to make John Hughes blush. The film also takes itself too seriously and Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) feels so out-of-place because of it. She has the most personality but she’s so campy that it doesn’t work when she tries to make threats and be serious. There are times when her character is so silly that I couldn’t contain my giggles.

Banks finds a finesse of chewing the scenery so much that there’s a sense that she’s in on the joke of being campy and she embraces it. It’s great in that sense and Banks seems to be having the most fun out of anyone.

The film’s a good origins story, but it’s easy to get antsy on the road to the film’s finale because the crew don’t put on their Ranger suits until the last 30 minutes. It’s part of their development because the armour is this weird alien thing that needs to decide that they’re worthy to wear them. It’s super different from their usual spandex armour. It forces them to unite but it makes their training less compelling since they’re in civilian clothes.

The 22-year-old critical me has a few criticisms with this reboot but the 10-year-old me loves it. It’s fun and it writes a love letter to the original series’ campiness, while creating believable characters that are a good new team.

Score: 75/100

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Godzilla (2014)

GodzillaReleased: May 16, 2014. Directed by: Gareth Edwards. Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston. Runtime: 123 min.

Gareth Edwards brings his latest film to life with ambition and a great scope. Edwards previously dabbled in the monster genre with his refreshing low-budget film called Monsters, which was impressive in its effectiveness. This time, Edwards gets a gargantuan budget of $160 million for Godzilla, which only seems right for the King of the monsters. Godzilla thrives in its cinematography, visuals and score. It’s a visually stunning film, but it’s disappointing that there’s only twenty seconds of daylight monster clashes. At least there isn’t as much rain as in Pacific Rim, but it’s a bit disappointing that the monster clashes are basically all at night. It must be less expensive to render the creature effects in a darker setting. 

The plot is that Godzilla has to stop these malevolent creatures who threaten humanity. They gain their strength by absorbing radiation as a food source, and there’s no short amount of that in 2014. The strange creature design makes them look like hybrids of a praying mantis and a pterodactyl covered in some sort-of metal coating. Well, that might be the worst explanation of what they look like, but trust me – they look weird. A team of anthropologists and scientists were experimenting on the radiation beasts to learn about their species. Ken Watanabe is only okay but that’s basically because his character, the boss behind the research in Japan, is so boring. David Strathairn has a role as a military general who orders bombs to be brought into this whole situation. Their interference is how the film suggests that humans only make matters worse. Just let the giant lizard handle it. Why not, right? 

Godzilla is the star of the show, even if his screen time is basically the same amount as Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love. But when he’s on-screen, the film is an absolute blast. And when fire-breathing is brought into the mix, it’s truly exciting. Director Gareth Edwards is able to orchestrate fine intensity throughout the film. He does it like a master with the film’s phenomenal score. Edwards has Godzilla swim beneath boats, teasing characters like Bruce the Shark of Jaws might. (Edwards is smart to take tension building inspiration from Spielberg’s films.) Since Godzilla has mildly limited screen time, Edwards spaces out four nifty action set pieces with intelligence – the HALO jump is awe-inspiring, made even better being set to the Monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey – teasing us with little tastes of what’s to come before a memorable finale. 

His direction is the film’s saving grace. Godzilla’s most disappointing aspect is that it is phenomenal in so many areas but just awful in so many others. When action isn’t happening, or when Godzilla isn’t on-screen, this is so boring – save a great opening half an hour, because they are emotionally charged and gripping. During those thirty minutes, Bryan Cranston compels as Joe, the film’s strongest character. He delivers the film’s only strong performance. Joe becomes obsessed with a project after a loss (his drive as a character, as well as sacrifice and love) which leads his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to assume that he’s bat sh-t crazy. The strong character development for one person is strange, because this way you’re allowed to expect other characters to be solid as well, but nope – the others are quite poor.

Elizabeth Olsen’s Elle Brody is mediocre. She’s okay for what she is, either a crying or smiling character. She’s only elevated by Olsen’s appealing tenderness as an actress. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford is a different story. After the death of his mother, he picks the basic human reaction of the latter of the fight or flight concept, while his father goes deep into the former. Ford, a military Lieutenant whose expertise is bombs, initially gets separated from his wife when he is called to Japan to pay his dad’s bail after he is arrested for trespassing on an evacuated radiation site, which is the location of his old home. Ford’s motivations are his family – and that’s the only reason you’ll want him to get home safely and see his lovely movie family again. He’s one of those average guy characters plunged into a greater situation, but he’s so freaking boring. Taylor-Johnson isn’t able to make this character remotely interesting. Where’s his charisma from Kick-Ass? He doesn’t bring any of that to the table, and he’s like a different actor with little charisma. The only strong aspect of his performance is his chemistry with Olsen. 

The boring characters might stem from the film’s grave tone and Gareth Evans’ inability to make his film consistently fun. I haven’t felt this dead inside since August: Osage County. This is like the monster movie equivalent of Man of Steel because it will either be perceived as fun or boring, and if anyone makes a joke, it feels foreign. You will beg for the so-called comic relief character that is usually a point on the modern summer blockbuster checklist. Couldn’t have they broken tone by having a well-known comedian roaring back at Godzilla? That would be welcome as one of his long roars feels empty. Maybe Godzilla could have broken the fourth wall and said something witty. Like this for example: “If I’m monster royalty, I need a stronger Hollywood film for me to headline next time.” 

Score: 58/100

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Release Date: June 8, 2012

Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon

Stars: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Six years ago, they disappeared without a trace. Next summer, they finally resurface

After Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) get abandoned by the penguins and the monkeys, they have to find a way to get off the African island. They swim to Monte Carlo to reunite with them, so they can get a ride home. They run into the antagonist of the movie when their actions attract the attention of Animal Control. How does the king of the jungle, a zebra, a hippo, and a giraffe get around Europe without attracting attention? The answer: they bamboozle their way into a circus. The penguins buy the circus with their earnings from Monte Carlo, and the gang try to find a way home.

The message is pretty nice and the story is great; the characters they meet are great, too; but most of all, this feature is fun.

It’s the ultimate road trip film of all animated films. It’s really the longest detour to home of all films. This is the third film featuring the New York Zoo gang, but they still haven’t found their way home. The Madagascar trilogy isn’t a great one, but it’s a good one. It isn’t great because the first two features aren’t anything special. This is a series that has improved in quality each endeavour. That is quite rare for a trilogy (the only other that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings), and that makes it admirable.

The new characters they meet along the way are quite great. The character of Vitaly (voiced by Bryan Cranston) is a reserved character with a grudge toward life and the circus, itself. Though, the mystery behind this towering tiger is sort of intriguing. The other character of Gia the jaguar (voiced by Jessica Chastain) is nice. The potential relationship between Alex and Gia at first feels forced, but then it gets a little charming. Lastly, the other new main character is the scene-stealing Stefano (voiced by Martin Short). Stefano is hilarious, and he’s my favourite sea lion, ever (sorry scary sea lion from Eight Below and any sea lions at Sea World, but you guys can’t talk and this guy can, so he wins). Sometimes, he’s funnier than the primary characters themselves.

The message is a little preachy. It’s all about having a passion and finding one’s homeland; home is where the heart is, apparently. They don’t water this one down. It’s way out there.

Sometimes, the filmmakers just don’t give enough focus on the primary characters of Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman. The supporting characters are so vast in numbers, they just make the story feel a little flooded. Though, they’re all screen stealers and they offer some jokes the feature – so I won’t complain that much. The biggest screen-stealers are, as expected, the penguins. They’re masterminds at work, and they could probably work for the penguin version of James Bond. They’re little penguin Q’s in the making! The other large screen-stealer, besides Stefano, is King Julien, Maurice and that little big-eyed lemur, Mort. That little dude just multiplies the cuteness factor by 1002. Maurice may not get a big part in this (he has about two or three lines of dialogue) but when they’re all together [Julien, Maurice, Mort] – they make one of the funniest scenes in the film, possible.

The main antagonist, Captain Chantel DuBois (Head of Monte Carlo Animal Control), is simply annoying and over-the-top. Whenever she comes onscreen, it may make the viewer quite exasperated. She plays out sort like a parody of Cruella DeVille. She is despicable like Cruella DeVille, but she isn’t nearly as good a villain. Also like DeVille, their motivations are, in a way, similar. DeVille wanted the dogs to make herself a fur coat, and DuBois wants the lion’s head to put on her wall. They both wants trophies of sorts. Anyway, back to DuBois. I realize that the film must have a main antagonist, but it’s just a tad ridiculous to think that she’d have the audacity to follow this lion to Rome and London, while she only has any real authority in Monte Carlo. A few more notes on her: Why is her butt on backwards? And what’s up with that when she sniffs and crawls on the ground? She’s like a psychic spider. Her portrayal makes the people of France seem like a very animated and despicable people, and it’s sort of just a smack in their face. I’m not sure how much those from France would appreciate this sort of humour.

Madagascar 3 is filled with so many scene-stealing characters, that at times, they feel like the primary focus instead of the intended four zoo animals. The message is quite preachy and the antagonist is very irritating, but this is still great animation. The experience it offers is fun, and at times it is very exciting. There’s great humour for children, and for the older audience, too. It’s a great installment to the series, but in all honesty, I hope it’s over. They should really end it on a good note.

70/100

Argo (2012)

Argo

Release Date: October 12, 2012

Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman

Runtime: 120 min

Tagline: The movie was fake. The mission was real.

Argo is one of the best films of 2012.

Argo tells the story of the Iranian revolution, and hostage situations that were involved with it. On November 4, 1979, the Iranian revolution reached its boiling point, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was stormed by militants, and Americans were taken hostage. During this revolution, six American citizens manage to escape and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. It was only a matter of time before the citizens’ cover was blown, or they were rescued. A CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) specialist, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), concocted the best bad idea the CIA had to rescue the citizens, and get them out of the country with their lives.

This was a covert operation that wasn’t known to the public eye until the 1990s. The story is amazing, and extremely memorable. This story was back in 1979 and 1980, so it definitely makes for an early 80s atmosphere. It’s nice that this revolution gets revisited, it brings knowledge of something that happened a fairly long time ago. The impact it had on the world at the time seems large, but, apparently, not large enough for me to hear of it in this day and age.

It’s sort of fascinating how Affleck made it feel more like the 80s, and he did it in quite the innovative way: according to IMDb, he shot it on regular film, cut the frames in half and blew those images up to 200% to increase their graininess. The viewer can also tell that they’re in for an older styled atmosphere because of the old Warner Bros logo which was to match the time of the 80s.

I recall seeing this W in the logos, or at least something similar to it.

Ben Affleck’s pure Hollywood acting career may be dust in the wind (or at least starting to feel a bit like that) but his directing career isn’t going South anytime soon. He has a real knack for making great and memorable films.

It’s an extremely thrilling and captivating film experience, and is the most riveting film of 2012 thus far.

There are history and politics thrown in here, but politics only crossed my mind a few times. It feels more like a great CIA rescue mission more than anything else. It’s intense and there’s some great comedy thrown in there. There’s one great joke that gets used a few times, but doesn’t get overused because it’s thrown at you at times you least expect it.

The rescue mission is a great gamble, because Affleck’s character is both risking his life and theirs.

The characters are fine, because they are real and none feel expendable at all. Affleck’s character has a son and a wife; and some of the Americans stuck at the Canadian Ambassador’s house are married. Each actor and actress wonderfully capture emotions of stress, anxiety and intense worry.

One of the most captivating things about Argo is the boiling suspense of the situation, and the viewer can just feel it build throughout. It also really is quite nerve-racking.The pacing is great, and it doesn’t feel slow in a lot of places. There are a lot of memorable scenes, and then others just build up the plot. There aren’t any bad scenes, though, so that’s great. Argo sort of plays out like an assassin giving you his first choke-hold, he’s inexperienced and you may feel the grip loosening from time to time, but then it strengthens again and doesn’t let go until the very end.

Something that annoyed me is the odd time when there wasn’t any subtitles when the Iranians spoke their language (Farsi, maybe?). Still, you can tell the emotions that they are feeling, so I guess it doesn’t matter very much, now that I think it over more.

The use of old footage really interested me some. It worked into the film well and didn’t feel out of place at all.

The film does live up to its hype, and to its trailer. The use of Aerosmith’s song Dream On, was extremely effective and amped it up about ten times as much. I wish they didn’t use some of the film’s best lines in the trailer. Yet again, studios do that a lot. They still were great when I heard them during the film though.

Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek and Titus Welliver make up this great cast.

Argo offers an incredible true story, a lot of fine action, and a lot of great suspenseful scenes. It’s one of the most riveting films of 2012, and definitely the most intense. The direction, acting, story, the amount of memorable scenes are all great. It’s such an impressive piece of cinema, and will be a real contender at the Oscars this year.

90/100

Box Office Predictions #1 – October 12

These are my box office predictions for the weekend of October 12-14, but only for the four brand new releases: ArgoHere Comes the BoomSeven Psychopaths and Sinister.

Argo

Plot: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Argo is Ben Affleck’s third feature film as director, the other two being Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Affleck’s last directing, and acting, gig – The Town – made $23 million in its opening weekend, and Affleck usually makes a pretty large box office splash. Town is a bank heist thriller, and that sort of concept may appeal to a larger audience than this, because political thrillers aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. This though, has the whole ‘true story’ pitch, and it has a lot of fine performers like Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film’s trailer makes itlook great, so hopefully the film will live up to its trailer.

Argo Prediction: $34 million

Here Comes the Boom

Plot: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.

Here Comes the Boom is the newest Happy Madison Productions film that is a martial arts action-comedy. It reminds me of 2008’s Never Back Down, which opened to $8 million. Sandler’s films often make over $100 million, when he’s headlining. Kevin James’ last headlining film, in relations with Sandler, was Zookeeper which opened to $20 million. His last action comedy was Paul Blart: Mall Cop that opened to a bit over $30 million. This seems like another mindless comedy, but those can be fun.

H.C.B. Prediction: $20 million

Seven Psychopaths

Plot: A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Seven Psychopaths is a crime-comedy that is Martin McDonagh’s second feature film, and he also wrote and directed it. A huge attraction for this is the great cast that includes: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Abbie Cornish. McDonagh’s last film was the British crime-comedy In Bruges that in total grossed $7.7 million, and a little under $450 thousand in its first weekend. It has grown in audience since its release, though. I think this one will make a greater splash because I’ve seen one trailer for this on a popular channel, and I can’t recall seeing any for In Bruges. This also has a better-known cast. The comedy may not appeal to all, but it seems just hilarious to me.

S.P. Prediction: $4 million

Sinister

Plot: Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.

Sinister has been given a great advertising campaign. I’ve probably seen the trailer a good six times, but not because I looked it up or anything. The story seems pretty interesting and quite scary. A big advertisement hook has been it’s from the producer of Insidious and Paranormal Activity. Insidious grossed $13.2 million in its opening weekend, and $97 million in total – and P.A. grossed $193 million in total. The hype for this has been great, and horror lovers are going to be lining up to see this one.

Sinister Prediction: $30 million

1. Argo – $34, 000, 000                       2. Sinister – $30, 000, 000

3. Here Comes the Boom – $20, 000, 000

4. Seven Psychopaths – $4, 000, 000

Do you readers have any predictions?