Power Rangers

March 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by: Dean Israelite (“Earth to Echo”)
Written by: John Gatins (“Real Steel,” “Flight”)

In this, the golden age of movies based on geek-friendly properties, there are still a few outliers that commit the cardinal sin of being ashamed of their source material. Captain America wears his red, white and blue costume on screen and will soon meet up with a talking raccoon and tree-person, for crying out loud. We’re through the looking glass, people, dance with the one that brought you! These comic book-adjacent properties are thriving in an environment that embraces all of the things we might have thought were too silly to put to film 20 years ago.

Nothing quite personifies ‘90s cheese TV as well as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” a show so earnest it makes “Saved By The Bell” look like “Beverly Hills 90210.” Even with it’s corny acting and repurposed Japanese special effects-filled monster battles, it became a sensation that’s still in production in some form today, nearly 25 years after premiering.

The new “Power Rangers,” seemingly borrows more from “Friday Night Lights,” “Chronicle” and even the “Star Trek” reboot. The film follows five bland teens as they meet in a “Breakfast Club” style detention, stumble across some color-coded power coins, gain superhuman strength, and plunge into an underground spaceship where they meet a very dickish Zordon (Bryan Cranston) who tells them they are now the Power Rangers. But before they get to don their helmeted battle armor (no spandex here) and ride in their giant robot dinosaurs, we have to suffer through a patience-testing hour and a half of plodding training montages, several horrible rollover car crashes, and a confusing sexting scandal that threatens to bring down one of the Rangers.

Why in Zordon’s name would anyone think a dour, deathly serious “Power Rangers” movie would be the way to go in 2017? Whatever the reason, it’s here, Morphin fans, so dance.

 

Project Almanac

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Johnny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner
Directed by: Dean Israelite (debut)
Written by: Josh Pagan (debut) and Andrew Deutschman (debut)

I have a soft spot for time travel movies. To date the only feature-length screenplay—obviously unproduced and likely kind of crummy– I’ve ever written was a time travel story. On the flip side, I have an ever growing disdain for “found footage” movies. Those, of course, are movies shot to look like there is some crazy person close to the action constantly filming every single thing. As a plot-related gimmick, it can be effective, but when used as simply an aesthetic, things can get kind of dopey. These two dynamics come together in the surprisingly fun teen time-travel adventure “Project Almanac.”

The movie opens with David (Johnny Weston) showing off some quad-copter control technology on video for his application to MIT. Soon afterward, David learns he’s been accepted, yet only offered a $5,000 scholarship. With his widowed mother putting the house up for sale, David is determined to find some old technology belonging to his late father to make some money. When he discovers his father’s old video camera, the footage recorded on it contains something shocking: video of teenage David at his own 7th birthday party. Looking to get to the bottom of things, David, along with his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and his best friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner) explore his father’s basement laboratory and find the parts and plans to construct a time machine.

“Project Almanac” packs some smart, solid entertainment into a movie filled with attractive teens with unbelievably advanced knowledge of nuclear physics and thermodynamics. In a sci-fi adventure film, I expect some credibility-straining traits here and there, but the found footage angle threatens to be the biggest obstacle of all for the film’s internal logic to overcome. Never mind the fact that these teens are apparently using high definition cameras with amazing shotgun mics instead shooting things on their iPhones, the real question is why are things like private rendezvous being recorded from afar, or nefarious uses of the time travel device documented when the whole goal is for no one to ever find out about the changes being made? Being presented as found footage offers absolutely nothing to the story, only conjuring up weird circumstances and stilted dialogue to explain why someone is recording yet again. Trust in the story, filmmakers, and leave the found footage format where you, uh, found it.