Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Power Rangers (dir by Dean Israelite)


So far, on this Christmas Day, I have posted three reviews for films that featured plots that made little to no sense to me.  Well, here’s a fourth one.

Power Rangers is a cinematic reboot of the old Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show from the 90s.  It deals with five teenagers who meet in detention and, though a series of events that I really don’t feel like wasting my time recounting, end up in an old gold mine where they find five coins, which allow them to turn into … well, I guess they’re Power Rangers.

There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), who was a star football player until he stole a car as part of a prank and ended up crashing it.  (The initial car crash is entirely filmed inside the automobile, which adds some deceptive excitement to the film.)  And then there’s Kimberly (Naomi Scott), who is the mean girl who actually has a good heart.  She’s in detention because she’s a cyber bully.  Billy (RJ Cyler) is the genius, which means that he’s the type of socially awkward student who accidentally blows up his locker.  And then there’s Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin), who are both just kind of there.  Every good group of three has to have two extra people to get in the way and that’s pretty much the function of Trini and Zack.

Anyway, after they discover the Power Coins and share a few moments that feel as if they were lifted from Chronicle, the new Power Rangers are trained by a robot named Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and a former Power Ranger named Zordon (Bryan Cranston) who died at around the same time as the dinosaurs.  Apparently, finding the power coins has allowed the ancient evil of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) to be reborn and now she’s threatening to destroy either Earth or the universe.  Actually, I was never quite sure what Rita was trying to do.  But the Power Rangers have to set aside their differences, learn to work as a team, and come together to defeat her.

Or something like that.  Honestly, this film featured a lot of exposition about people with names like Zordon and Rita Repulsa and Goldar and my eyes pretty much glazed over while I was trying to listen to it all.  Listen, I am a fidget spinner-carrying member of the Severe ADHD Club.  The minute they started explaining the lengthy history of the Power Rangers, my mind pretty much started looking for anything else to focus on.  It would have been different if the film has some sort of epic scope or if it made it look like it would actually be fun to be a Power Ranger.  Instead, it just turned into another franchise-opening action film.  Basically, it felt like The Fantastic Four movie, with one extra member of the team.

I should admit that I’ve never seen an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Perhaps if I had, I would have gotten more out of this movie.  The five actors playing the Power Rangers are all talented and charismatic and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.  But this confusing mess of a movie just left me with a headache.

A Few Thoughts On The Martian…


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I’m a few weeks late in reviewing The Martian, largely because I was on vacation when it was first released.  When I finally did see The Martian, it was at the wonderful UEC theater in beautiful Russellville, Arkansas.  As opposed to my experience when I saw The Green Inferno, the theater was packed and, throughout the entire movie, it was obvious that the audience absolutely loved what they were seeing on screen.  They laughed, they applauded, and it was obvious they had a great time with the movie.

And why not?  After the commercial failures of both The Counselor and Exodus, it’s obvious that director Ridley Scott was not going to take any chances with The Martian.  There’s not a single scene that is not specifically calculated to keep the viewer as complacently satisfied as possible.  Telling the story of how botanist Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) gets stranded on Mars and must figure out a way to survive until he can be rescued, The Martian is such a positive film that its total lack of cynicism almost gets overwhelming.  The end result is a film that is a 100 times better than Exodus but never as interesting or challenging as The Counselor.

In fact, as I watched The Martian, I kept thinking about another film about a man stranded out in the middle of nowhere, Into The Wild.  The main character in Into The Wild spent his isolation contemplating the meaning of life and finally reaching some sort of spiritual peace before starving to death.  Mark Whatney, on the other hand, spends his isolation recording a snarky video diary and listening to classic disco songs.

And, before anyone gets offended or accuses me of being a film snob, allow me to say that I enjoyed The Martian.  I thought it was an entertaining movie and I especially loved the soundtrack.  But, at the same time, one can enjoy The Martian and still acknowledge that there’s not much going on underneath the crowd-pleasing surface.

Looking back on the film, I find it remarkable just how little we learn about Mark Whatney.  We hear at one point that he has a family but we really don’t learn anything about his life on Earth.  In a way, he’s a bit like Robert Redford in All Is Lost.  Except, of course, Mark Whatney talks.  He talks a lot.  Fortunately, Mark is played by Matt Damon, who is a great talker.  If I think that The Martian is entertaining but also a bit overrated (and I do), I also think that Matt Damon deserves every bit of praise that he’s received for his performance.

Interestingly enough, The Martian not only features Matt Damon’s best performance but it also features Jessica Chastain’s worst.  Chastain plays Commander Lewis, who is in charge of the Mars expedition and who take it upon herself to bring Mark Whatney home.  And really, this should have been a great role for Jessica Chastain but, for the first time that I can remember, she gives a performance that just isn’t that interesting.

Then again, there’s really only one interesting character in the entire film and that’s Mark Whatney  (though I would have liked to learn more about the astronomer played by Donald Glover, who gives an appealingly eccentric performance).  This is Matt Damon’s film and it’s best moments are the ones where Mark deals with life on Mars.  In fact, there’s a part of me that almost wishes the majority of the NASA scenes had been left on the editing room floor and almost the entire movie had just been Matt Damon on Mars.

In the end, I did enjoy The Martian.  It’s a good film that some people are insisting was great.  (Of course, a lot of that is because it’s trendy to be into science.  Fortunately, Mark Whatney isn’t as much of a pompous blowhard as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, nor is he as creepy as Bill Nye.)  Some people are even suggesting that The Martian is the new Oscar front runner and maybe it is.  (After all, it’s not like there was much going on below the surface of Birdman either.)

But for me, in the years to come, the main thing I’ll remember about The Martian is the totally kickass soundtrack…

 

The Martian Arrives With An All-Star Cast


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Ridley Scott, master filmmaker with a talent for visual storytelling, has had an uneven string of films the last decade or so. His last couple of films have either been underwhelming or divisive. One thing that hasn’t failed him has been the look of his films which continue to be great.

His last film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, wasn’t what one would call a great film. One could even say it wasn’t even a decent one. Hopefully, his latest will break his prolonged streak of misses and get him back on the hit column. This film is the adaptation of the Andy Weir best-selling novel, The Martian.

Ridley Scott has Drew Goddard’s screenplay adaptation to work with not to mention a star-studded cast led by Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain (the inclusion of the latter already makes this a must-see for one of the site’s writers). From the first released trailer we seem to be getting a film that brings back memories of Apollo 13 and Cast Away.

The Martian is set for a November 25, 2015 release date.