Power Rangers

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPower Rangers

Director: Dean Israelite (Project Almanac)

Producers: Haim Saban (Power Rangers creator), Brian Casentini (Power Rangers TV series), Wyck Godfrey, and Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner franchise)

Executive Producers: Allison Shearmur, Brent O’Connor, John Gatins, Joel Andryc, Takeyuki Suzuki

Screenplay: John Gatins (Kong: Skull Island)

Story by: Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) and Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney (based upon Power Rangers created by Haim Saban)

Starring: Dacre Montgomery (Jason Red Ranger), Naomi Scott (Kimberly Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler (Billy Blue Ranger), Becky G (Trini Yellow Ranger), Ludi Lin (Zack Black Ranger), featuring Bill Hader (Alpha 5 cyborg), with Bryan Cranston (Zordon) and Elizabeth Banks.

Having never seen an episode of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV series (1993), loosely based on the Japanese 1970s Super Sentai TV series, I had no preconceptions or even expectations about the latest incarnation, Saban’s Power Rangers.

From the brief snippets I had seen, I knew there were energetic people who dressed in colour-coded costumes and leapt about doing heroic things, but that was the extent of my knowledge. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the new Power Rangers film entertaining, humorous, with effective use of the latest in spfx technology, and awesome Ranger suits designed by Weta Workshop.

The action is set in the small American fishing town of Angel Grove, and focuses on five teenagers, each with their own particular problems, who stumble upon an ancient, alien spacecraft and five coloured “coins” which bestow upon each of them extraordinary power and the ability to morph into Power Rangers, as they face a world-wide threat from an evil alien.

Television producer Haim Saban, who produced the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV series, wanted the updated cinematic version to retain the original’s idea of five teens with attitude who must battle evil whilst also dealing with “today’s issues of cyber-bullying, peer or family pressure and the uncertain future.”

I appreciated that sufficient time was spent to develop each Ranger’s backstory so that they all emerged as clearly defined individuals rather than anonymous teenagers, one with a “spectrum” disorder, another dealing with their sexuality and another with a sick parent.

For established fans of the series, the carefully plotted introductions of each teenager may drag, but I appreciated how their trust issues and self-imposed isolation made it difficult for them to quickly achieve the required togetherness necessary to become a team of Power Rangers.

The fact that they trained, fought and had their own individual problems to overcome before they could become a united fighting team made their eventual transformation feel more “earned” than if it had occurred within a shorter time frame.

Other supernatural hero films often lavish huge chunks of screen time on drawn-out action sequences where entire cities get obliterated in mind-numbing CGI effects extravaganzas, and

I find those types of films to be boring and non-engaging.

The battle sequences in Power Rangers still occur, but because they don’t happen until the last section of the film they seem more effective.

There is one rather large plot loop-hole involving the Power Rangers and their evil opponent Rita Repulsa (played with relish by The Hunger Games’ Elizabeth Banks in a gorgeously over-the-top green and gold costume), which would have ended the battle very quickly and with far less destruction, but aside from this, the story line and character arcs were all well written and believable within this specific world.

The fact that there was no swearing was a big plus in this age of profanities, which makes this a great family-friendly film, which won’t disappoint anyone seeking an entertaining and well-made diversion. (The version of the song “Stand by me” used during one scene made me want to dash out and buy the soundtrack.)

Before I Fall

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MBefore I Fall

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Producers: Marc Bienstock, Brett Boutier, Jessica Held

Written By: Maria Maggenti (screenplay)

Based on the novel by: Lauren Oliver

Starring: ZoeyDeutch, Halston Sage, ElenaKampouris

As a reviewer, this film was a rollercoaster of sorts.

The outline excited me at first, a teen who relives her last day on Earth, as it brought to mind philosophical questions. Although, I must also admit that I struggled as I endured the teenager’s squeaking while the story built up. Luckily for me, my companion, someone who had read Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel (that the film is based on), reassured me to stay in my seat.

So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Structure-wise, the film has a similar motion to Groundhog Day, where Zoey Deutch’s character (Sam) wakes up to the same day over and over until she figures out the only way to escape is to change.

Behind the scenes, every single person involved in this project was set to rehearse and explore their characters in depth, which transcends onto the screen.

Russo-Young did this early in the process, and was thorough in doing so, providing more texture in characters such as Kian Lawley’s (Rob), Sam’s boyfriend, who becomes more than just a highschool cliché.

RyYoung-Ross, the director, spoke about the changes made in the film, in particular the re-setting of the location from Connecticut in the novel to the Pacific Northwest in the film.

In her own words: ‘Setting the story in the Northwest gave a sense of awe to all the locations: big mountains, big trees, and a dark and foreboding landscape where people are small and dwarfed by the natural landscape, which reinforce aspects of the story for me. It suited the material well.’

As a viewer I cannot agree more with the above, there was something about the dramatic setting that really captured Sam’s struggle between life and death.

Ry Russo-Younghas received accolades from the New York State Council on the Arts, the TriBeCa Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, the Sundance Institute and Creative Capital. She majored in film at Oberlin College and grew up in New York City. Her work has been praised by The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, among others.

As a post-release review, I would lie if I said I haven’t read what others had to say about this film before I set to write my own thoughts about it. And to tell you the truth, I was genuinely surprised to find mostly reflections on the bullying themes as well as other teen related behaviours that are portrayed in the film.

And there is nothing wrong about that. But, in my humble opinion, this film was much more than that. It is a tale about the search for identity and authenticity, of empathy and acceptance, and ultimately of the courage it takes to do the right thing by yourself as well as others.

Sam’s post-mortem journey is a powerful story that leaves you pondering about your own existence. It is a book that, I have been told, was in the Australian school curriculum a few years ago and I hope still is for the sake of the coming generations.

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Kong: Skull Island

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MKong: Skull Island

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Produced By: Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia

Executive Producers: Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly

Story By: John Gatins

Visual Effects Supervisor: Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reily, Tian Jing, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Tody Kebbell, Eugene Cordero, Terry Notary.

A prequel to the story of King Kong (who first appeared on film in 1933) Kong: Skull Island is about the origins of Kong; hinting at a past battle on an island hidden from the world by a never-ending storm.

Set in the ‘70s just as the Vietnam War is ending, scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) takes a team to Skull Island to explore the possibility of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms).  Enlisting a military escort headed by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), this group of humans have no idea about the bizarre creatures they’re about to meet… or get eaten by…

The production team who created the 2014 film Godzilla have reunited here and some of the creatures on Skull Island reminded me of the Godzilla film, particularly those scary skull lizard creatures AKA Skull Crawlers.  But there’s a better story here.  Skull Island is more than the creatures and special effects although it was sometimes a close thing with the dialogue falling flat at times. 

There’s a touch of fun with the 70s soundtrack and humour in the script but some of the jokes didn’t quite come off.  The times when the film took itself too seriously were worse.  Where the sincerity was just too much to swallow, losing that suspension and ruining the fantasy.  But really, this was rare in the film which is a minor miracle when dealing with a MonsterVerse.

Samuel L. Jackson with those grouchy looks plays the villain well.  And Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, the hero, was believable as the British solider turned mercenary tracker – there’s a fantastic cast here.  The highlight for me was John C. Reilly as the stranded WWII solider Hank Marlow.  Now this guy was funny.  And a great way to get the audience on side.

The Visual Effects team have given Kong some magic that make it seem there’s thought and emotion behind those eyes.  And to really give the film that authentic flavour, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong being his second feature film) and the team film those beautiful tropical landscapes at real locations around the world: Oahu, Hawaii, the Gold Coast in Australia and Ha Long Bay (amongst others) in Vietnam.

There was some good action here and some tense moments with a conflict set up between those for Kong and those against. The script gives a bit of meat (ha, ha) to the story and there’s some good blood and guts with a setting that lives and breathes as an undiscovered world to frame Kong’s origins.

Great film to see on the big screen.

Fist Fight

GoMovieReviews Rating:
 Rated: MA 15+Fist Fight

Director: Richie Keen

Producers: Shawn Levy, Max Greenfield, John Rickard, and Dan Cohen

Executive Producers: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Samuel J. Brown, Dave Neustadter, Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Marty P. Ewing, Billy Rosenberg, and Bruce Berman

Screenplay: Van Robichaux & Evan Susser

Story by: Van Robichaux & Evan Susser and Max Greenfield

Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert

The last day of high school, referred to as ‘Muck Up Day’ in Australia, but ‘Senior Prank Day’ in America, is the backdrop for the new comedy film ‘Fist Fight’ from director Richie Keen, whose first foray into feature films bears a strong resemblance to a bland television movie, with unflattering lighting, poor pacing and pedestrian scene set-ups.

Ice Cube (‘Straight Outta Compton’) plays the strict, by-the-rules history teacher Ron Strickland (get it?) and Charlie Day (‘Horrible Bosses’) is the younger, popularity-seeking, wimpy English teacher Andy Campbell. Following a major meltdown by Strickland during a class, Andy Campbell is forced into exposing his colleague’s behaviour in order to protect his own employment at the school, leading to Strickland being fired. Frankly, after watching Strickland’s appalling behaviour, I would not only have dismissed him, but also imprisoned him for attempted assault.

This wafer-thin premise sets up the rest of the film’s action, such as it is, which consists of Strickland’s irrational challenge to Campbell for an after school fist fight, and Campbell’s escalating panic and extreme counter measures to avoid being beaten up.

Charlie Day (from TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, also directed by Richie Keen), relied on high-pitched or whiny yelling in place of acting, which wore thin very quickly, while his sneaky way of avoiding trouble didn’t endear him either.

Ice Cube fared better, with his inscrutable, intimidating manner well suited to the role of an old fashioned teacher fighting a losing battle to educate his students and instil authority.

Ice Cube featured in one of only two scenes I found genuinely amusing, where students and staff at the school speculate about his past before he was a history teacher, and a montage shows him as possibly a solider in Iraq, a rogue ex-cop, an assassin, or even a world-class pianist. Nobody ever discovers the truth, which makes this the only touch of wry sophistication in the film.

For the most part this wasn’t a style of comedy that I find appealing, as it lacked wit or originality, relying instead on excessive swearing, juvenile sight gags and offensive language for its laughs. Director Richie Keen and the writers had apparently heard about the kind of pranks that are unleashed on long suffering teachers at American schools, including parking a car in the main hallway, or letting a drug-affected horse roam the school corridors (not funny), so included these in this film (although I did find the recurring Mariachi band was an amusing touch).

Tracy Morgan (‘30 Rock’) successfully plays a not very bright coach; Jillian Bell (’22 Jump Street’) was frankly unfunny bordering on repellent as a guidance councillor with drug and sex issues; while it’s a mystery why Christina Hendricks (‘Mad Men’) or Dennis Haysbert (‘24’) lowered themselves to be in this frat-boy outing.

According to interviews, the cast and crew had a lot of fun making this film, but little of that hilarity appears to have ended up on the screen.

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Miss Sloane

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MMiss Sloane

Directed by: John Madden

Written By: Jonathan Perera

Produced by: Ben Browning, Kris Thykier

Executive Producers: Claude Leger, Jonathan Vanger, Patrick Chu

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow.

A perfectly layered political drama/thriller that plays out like an intricate game of chess.

As the character, Miss Sloane (Jessica Chastain, two-time Academy Award nominee) says, ‘Lobbying is about foresight, about anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising countermeasures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. It’s about making sure you surprise them and they don’t surprise you’.

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane is a fast-paced film as the audience is taken along with the calculating mind of Sloane. And what an amazing complicated character to watch: her ambition, misdirection, suspicion, lack of moral code; she’s portrayed as a sociopath and to watch this brilliant relentless mind at work is fascinating.

The film opens as Sloane’s held to account in front of a congressional hearing regarding her code of conduct and ethical standards.  Then flashes back to what led her to the ultimate confrontation: pushing to pass a Bill requiring the background check of those wanting to buy firearms.  Translating to: Miss Sloane versus the Gun Lobbyists.

In the supporting cast, there’s the well-known faces of Mark Strong as the CEO of the boutique firm she joins to fight for the Bill, and Sam Waterston as George Dupont: head of an old-school lobbying firm where she earned her name as one of the most cutthroat lobbyists around, willing to do anything to win.Miss Sloane

It’s hard not to think back to Law & Order when seeing Sam Waterston.  He plays the lobbyist so well but as a twist, he’s the bad guy here.

Screenwriter Jonathan Perera has had his first script translated to the big screen by director John Madden.  And what a pleasure it must have been pulling so many layers together into the glorious satisfying end.  When I say layers, there’s a lot going on here but the delicate touch of Madden let the story keep its own pace, with each move a further step towards a reveal you don’t see coming.

Perera was a U.K.-educated attorney who left his practice to write, his background adding an authenticity and edge to those cat-and-mouse games shown so well in this film.  But there’s also the revelation of how the whole lobbying business works in American politics.  And what it means to take on the power that is the gun lobby group, self-portrayed as the protectors of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. 

Madden and Perera went to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of how lobbying works, consulting a lobbying firm: Glover Park Group. 

I admit I was a little lost at the beginning of the film.  The character, Miss Sloane’s mind works fast and the audience is expected to keep up with the jargon.  My advice is if you don’t follow, let it go.  It’s worth keeping up with the film as it runs, and well worth the journey.

What makes the film truly successful is the complicated nature of the character that is Miss Sloane.  She’s certainly not the most empathetic woman, but the obsession to win at any cost was somehow relatable: I wanted to be as smart and sophisticated as her.  But the film also shows the cost of her success making Miss Sloane strangely likeable.

This is a thoroughly absorbing film because its cleverness is combined with an undercurrent of emotion that’s felt without needing explanation. 

Classy and smart all the way – brilliant.

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