Power Rangers (2017) Written by John Gatins Directed by Dean Israelite Runtime 124 min. 4 out of 5
Sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, a war raged between Rita Repulsa and the Power Rangers. All the Rangers were killed—except one, who in a last-ditch effort defeated Rita and hid the power coins should she rise again. Now, Rita has returned and five accidental friends discover the power coins and must learn to work together as a team before Rita captures the Zeo Crystal and destroys all life on Earth once and for all.
Like most of my reviews, this one is written upon first impression—in this case, the same night I saw it at the theatre—and, man, this was a cool movie. Power Rangers is a guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve seen most of the entire saga. To find out it was hitting the big screen again and was to be done in a more serious manner—instead of an extension of the TV show—made my inner fanboy squeal with delight.
This is an origin story, so we get the personal backgrounds of Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (R.J. Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin), Trini (Becky G.), and Kimberly (Naomi Scott), as well as how they found their place on the Power Rangers team and, ultimately, as friends. What I particularly liked was a glimpse into Zordon’s (Bryan Cranston) and Rita Repulsa’s (Elizabeth Banks) origins. It was a cool twist on the Rangers mythos that I thought was clever.
The movie is a bit of a slow burn in terms of so much origin building before Power Ranger action, but once the team gears up and heads out, it’s good times, with loads of martial arts and mech excitement. The zords rocked, and the Megazord was reminiscent of Pacific Rim in terms of its operation.
On the visuals, the SFX were great. In terms of style, they were a touch too mechanical for my liking, but that same mechanical extreme also made sense in this morphin’ world and the alien tech used for the Rangers. Same with the Rangers’ costumes. Very Iron Man-like but, again, it makes sense for the world they inhabit. They certainly couldn’t have fought in tights. The only other option, I suppose, would have to have given them their “tights,” but modern day Superman- or Batman-style, that whole “armory fabric” thing.
The flick is perfectly set up for a sequel, and given the few sequences we see at the end, doors were left open for a certain favorite character as well as a certain base of operations.
I should also add we were treated to a couple fan-favorite cameos, which made me cheer despite how brief it was seeing them.
If you’re lookin’ for a morphin’ good time, Power Rangers is a great all-ages movie despite one or two bad words (I mention this for the parents). Like the TV show, the movie is filled with heart and good old-fashioned moral values.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer Directed by Zack Snyder Runtime 151 min. 4 out of 5
After witnessing the battle between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to ensure the Man of Steel isn’t a rogue alien who might one day enslave the human race. In the meantime, Lex Luthor has sworn to ensure humanity’s survival by securing for himself Kryptonite, which is later discovered to be the one thing that can weaken Superman. Worse, Luthor has a secret project tracking metahuman activity across the globe, which prompts Diana Prince to obtain the confidential data he has on her. To complicate matters, Luthor has also acquired the body of General Zod and creates from it an unstoppable killing machine—Doomsday, a being more powerful than even Superman. It’s going to take Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to take down the beast lest the city—even the planet—is destroyed by this destructive force.
Okay, this is a first impression review, with some processing time after.
Batman v Superman is a comic book movie, and not in the campy sense. It has the feel of DC’s direct-to-video animated features and there’s an atmosphere to the movie that superheroes belong in the world created.
The downside to the flick is it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film. There’s no strict A to B to C to the story. It’s more an introduction of story elements that will all play out in future DC movies instead. It’s like the first part of a giant graphic novel, and it is my hope that years down the road when all the other DC movies are released, what we will have is one massive story instead of what is usually given to us in today’s superhero flicks: each one a self-contained tale with subplots running through them that culminate in team-up adventures. If indeed DC’s plan is to make one giant movie, then that’s something never attempted before and never in the superhero genre. If this is the case, that’s brilliant and should be applauded. It’s jarring for moviegoers, but once they catch onto what’s going on, they’ll no doubt be amazed. After all, we do like our epics both on the big screen and TV.
Superman/Clark Kent. Once again, Henry Cavill delivers as the Last Son of Krypton. In fact, I think his performance is a step up from his previous outing in Man of Steel. That first flick was about Superman finding his footing, and while there is still some of that here, it’s more about the world finding its footing now that Superman is on the scene. You can tell Superman has become a beacon of hope to the world despite how some might view him as a threat. He’s bigger, stronger, and carries with him that air of awe and wonder Superman should. We’re not supposed to relate to this god-like being, but instead look up to him as something and someone to aspire to, and Superman is very much coming into that form as the flick goes on. As for the Clark Kent side, reporter Clark in this flick was pretty much just Average Joe. There wasn’t all that much involved in creating a clear line between Superman and Clark Kent, that strong sense of two separate people. I wish there was, but I also see how Average Joe works better in the reality established in these movies than someone who’s an over-the-top nerd. At the same time, it would’ve been nice to see Clark trip over his own feet or bump into a desk or something to really give off that whole there’s-no-way-this-guy-can-be-Superman thing. There was also one scene I had so hoped for in this movie that never came and that was the classic Clark ripping his shirt open to reveal the S. Perhaps in another movie.
Batman/Bruce Wayne. When Ben Affleck was cast, I got behind it right away. I’m an Affleck fan and knew he could deliver on what would be a worn-out Bruce Wayne, which would eventually give way to a worn-out Batman. What can I say? Affleck did a superb job. He did the playboy thing—though he could’ve played up the douche bag part a bit; yet at this point in his life, a cocky playboy might not be in the cards for him—and also did well when it was just him and Alfred. As Batman, this is the Batman we’ve been waiting for. Finally, oh finally, we got to see the comic book Batsuit and a Batman who’s fighting and action was the stuff that made the Arkham games so darn good. He also played the detective, which was never really in the other movies. And the bat-atmosphere? That part where he’s hanging in the corner in the dark and the light shines on him? Spooky and gorgeous. I also enjoyed the final fight and how Batman was portrayed. His limits as a human being with gadgets was shown, which is good, because I’m tired of stories where Batman somehow saves the day instead of the beings that are so much more powerful than him. I’m really excited for the forthcoming Bat-flicks with Ben Affleck in the lead.
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Small hero part in this movie, comparatively speaking to the two male leads. As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot was mysterious and intriguing. There was also a sense of detachment about her which, once you learn who she really is, makes perfect sense since she’s from Themyscyra. When the Wonder Woman reveal happened, she stole the show. Sorry Superman and Batman, you were outshone big time. She had a heroic entrance—which is so important in superhero movies—a killer score, and was completely badass when she got down to business and helped in the fight against Doomsday. What was also interesting is while the movie didn’t get too much into who she was, she stilled carried her own weight and felt fleshed-out anyway. Of course, this could all be in my head since I know who Wonder Woman is and enough of her backstory to fill in the gaps. With the Wonder Woman movie in production as of the writing of this review, I know I’ll be one of the first in line when it comes out. She was that good.
Lex Luthor. If Jesse Eisenberg is good at one thing, it’s playing the prideful I’m-smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room guy. And, yeah, that’s who Lex Luthor is. He’s a genius, and despite what he tells the public, has a contempt for humanity because he thinks he’s above it. Of course, the paradox is that he himself is human. In that regard, Jesse Eisenberg did a fine job. However, I still feel he was too youthful for the role since Lex is older than Superman in other incarnations, and Lex—as crazy as he can be sometimes—is more of a reserved crazy than someone more animated. It was this animated part that brought Lex down, in my opinion. Crazy is fine. Smart crazy is even better, but this kind of Joker-esque displays that happened now and then were out of place. Maybe given the ending Lex’s personality will change and he’ll be more reserved. We’ll see.
Lois Lane. Amy Adams works for me. She does the hard-nosed journalist thing quite well, and the standard Lois Lane thing of getting herself into hot spots so only Superman can come to the rescue. I don’t mind this trope so long as it isn’t all the time. Her role in this flick wasn’t a main one like in Man of Steel. She was more part of Superman’s support team despite her entanglement in some of the later conflicts in the movie.
Alfred Pennyworth. What can I say? Jeremy Irons did a good job as Alfred, who is also Batman’s co-combatant. Sure, he didn’t don a costume and get out there and fight bad guys, but helped Batman from the Batcave as a sort of special ops overseer. More importantly, he acted as Bruce Wayne’s conscience and wasn’t afraid to go up against him when he disagreed with something. As much as Robin’s job is to keep Batman grounded, it’s Alfred’s job as well, and since he is older than Bruce, he can provide wisdom in areas Bruce isn’t familiar with. Good choice having Jeremy Irons in the role.
There were a few moments in the film where I wished things had gone in a different direction, but that could just be my taste as opposed to my ideas being better.
Unfortunately, WB and DC marketed this movie as one thing and what it was was something different. Once you get over that hurdle and see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for what it’s meant to be in the greater DC Universe, then a lot of pieces fall into place and it’s highly enjoyable.
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) Written by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris Directed by Steve Pink Runtime 101 min. 4.5 out of 5
Four friends, all failures. Adam’s (John Cusack) wife just left him. His nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), is a stay-in-the-basement nerd. Nick (Craig Robinson) works at a pet spa and Lou (Rob Corddry) is suicidal.
And it’s Lou that gets them into trouble because when a suicide attempt lands him in the hospital, the four friends decide to return to a small town, the glory place of their youth, and try and cheer him up.
Greeted by a bellhop named Phil (Crispin Glover), who lost his arm long ago, the four friends try and party like they used to in a town that is no longer the cool place they remember.
After one drunken night in the hot tub, they suddenly find themselves back in 1986, and what’s even weirder is they also look like their younger selves. (Though onscreen we see their present-day selves but in mirrors it’s their younger versions and that’s what everybody else sees. Nice touch on a time travel story.) Once coming to grips of their predicament and while trying to figure out a way “back to the future,” they vow to maintain the space-time continuum and repeat what they did back in 1986 so as to not accidentally execute the butterfly effect and destroy the timeline. They swear to do things as they did it and how they did it back in 1986. Except little do they realize it’s much easier said than done because no one wants to go through that horrific break up all over again (great white buffalo), or get their face bashed in, or sleep with a hot blonde though you’re married to someone else in the future. (Actually, this last scene was done quite well.)
Guided by the aloof and cryptic hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase), these four misfits either accept the misfortunes of their past or, if they’re daring enough, try and right what went wrong in the past in the hopes for a better future.
Being a time travel nut, I had to see this movie. I went opening night. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
This flick was an ode to time travel movies, especially Back to the Future (and having Crispin Glover in it, who played George McFly in BttF only added to it). The 80s fashions, gadgets, phrases, music all amounted to a true trip through time and really convinced you that you were along for this crazy ride via hot tub time travel.
This movie is so tongue-in-cheek yet at the same time wasn’t just stupid slapstick comedy, but instead opted to take itself seriously enough to sell you on the concept.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re like me or not, but I really appreciate buddy-buddy humor—you know, the teasing, the kicks between the legs, the sarcasm—and the time-traveling quartet were just loaded with it, so much so you wished you were a part of their little group. And, really, the way the tale was presented in this flick, yeah, you were.
So many jokes, so much sarcasm, so much fun. This movie was just amazing and I’m counting the days ’til I can grab the Blu-ray for my collection and watch it over and over.
My only gripe was the coarse language. A handful of times in a movie—though, for me, a bit jarring—I can live with, but when it’s every second word then it becomes too much and it pulls you out of the flick during those little blurts of profanity.
Now I just need a hot tub time machine of my own to go back in time and check this flick out in the theatre again without having to spend the $10.25 (Canadian) all over for it.
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) Written by Wes Craven and Jonathan Craven Directed by Martin Weisz Runtime 89 min. 4 out of 5
A group of rookie soldiers head out to top secret government area, Sector 16, to bring supplies to a bunch of scientists who are out in the rocky desert conducting tests. When the soldiers arrive at the camp, the scientists are missing. Soon, they discover the surrounding hills are infested with mutant cannibal killers bent on slaughtering anyone that comes their way.
Simple story, but enough of a premise for me to enjoy this The Hills Have Eyes sequel. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the first one, but we all knew the sequel was coming given this flick’s predecessor’s ending.
While the mutants in the first one were just plain disturbing to look at, in this one they were downright ugly. Warts, misshaped body parts, skewed eyes, drool, bad teeth—they really upped the gross factor with the makeup and prosthetics this time.
The army-based cast of characters are stereotypical, sure, but in these types of movies—I’d almost say a “post-apocalyptic” one albeit a localized apocalypse—army characters fill a need that regular Joe Blows don’t. After all, it’s always the army that’s supposed to come to the frontlines in extreme circumstances. However—and granted I’m not a military man myself—I did find the army folks lacking in the areas of intelligence and overall combat skill. Yes, they weren’t seasoned vets, but at the same time, you’d think they’d be better trained to handle formidable foes hand-to-hand if needed be.
The dark tunnels and caverns in this flick added a level of spookiness that regular rooms or basements can’t. No one likes being trapped in the dark even if it’s the dark of your own living room. Get trapped in a foreign location not made of wood and drywall and you got a rough terrain for anyone to endure.
Will they make a third one? I don’t know as it’s been awhile since this installment, however this fan of the franchise wouldn’t mind another sequel, though I’d be more thrilled if it was in the vein of the first rather than the second.
All in all, still an enjoyable late-night flick, especially if you’re into mutant terror.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Written by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur Directed by Alexandre Aja Runtime 107 min. 4 out of 5
The story is simple: a family’s off on a holiday and have taken a short cut through the desert to get there. In order to make the trip, they pull up to a lone gas station in the middle of nowhere to top up the tank. Problem is, the gas attendant is in on a little secret and points them to a “short cut” that’s supposed to save them a couple hours. Instead, this short cut leads the family on the fast track to death as a pack of bloodthirsty mutants hunt the family as their next meal.
No, really, that’s the story. But you know what? I love it. Simple horror, straight and to the point. Here’s the good guys, here’s the bad guys, here’s the setting. Let’s see what happens. It works for me and it works for The Hills Have Eyes no problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the 1977 original so I can’t compare the two, but what I can tell you is the idea, as presented in the movie, of human-mutants caused by nuclear testing’s radioactivity was done well, especially since the mutations aren’t over the top but very believable (i.e. a guy with a big head; a little girl with a lopsided face; even the grossest of the bunch just seemed to have a few tumors the size of pool balls bulging under his skin).
This movie started off with a quick action scene, then the credits rolled, and the main story got under way. Since we as the viewers knew this family was in jeopardy almost right from the start, the slow build-up leading to the explosion of danger and gore was well worth the wait. Actually, I’m glad there was a long lead up before things went crazy. Made you care and relate to the family first before things started happening to them. Made it all the more painful when they got killed.
The one part that really got me jumping was the involvement of the baby who, it seemed, was around six months old. Being a parent, the thought of your child getting kidnapped is just terrifying. Add getting kidnapped by cannibal mutants to that and it really makes for sensitive watching. Every scene where I thought maybe something would happen to the kid, I was, like, “No, not that baby!” (What? Horror fans can’t be sensitive?)
The 180-degree character development of our hero, Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford) , was impressive especially since I really didn’t like him at all in the beginning, which was the point, and which was a success on the part of the filmmakers. Truly awesome.
The Hills Have Eyes was a fun horror movie that pleased this roadside horror fan to the nines. Going to be renting the sequel. Definitely.
Doghouse (2009) Written by Dan Schaffer Directed by Jake West Runtime 89 min. 4.5 out of 5
A group of friends head out to the town of Moodley for a “boys only” weekend in an attempt to get away from their significant others back home and also rediscover themselves. All is well and good. Drinks are had before they left, a fun roadtrip, jokes, ribbing—but everything changes when they find the town of Moodley deserted.
Soon it is discovered the only folks left are the women—and they have a deadly appetite for human flesh. Grotesque female monsters send the boys on the run and into a battle for survival in this throwback to classic horror.
And that’s what really sums up this flick for me: classic horror. Prosthetic monsters, excellent makeup, and good old-fashioned blood and guts, along with a storyline that carried with it a sense of depth ala Shaun of the Dead.
This is one of those flicks that are worth watching again because the writing is quite good, with each line feeding off the other—whether subtly or overtly—references to earlier lines/comments, objects and people. Extremely well done.
Not only that, but the cast also had great chemistry and created a buddy-horror flick that reminded me a lot of hanging out with my friends back in the glory days of all-night partying and crude jokes (minus the cannibalistic women, of course).
The ’80s-style soundtrack gave this flick an eerie mood that reminded me of the old Nightmare on Elm Street stuff, really setting the tone.
Really happy with this film, and would recommend it in a hot minute.
In Hell (2003) Written by Eric James Virgets and Jorge Alvarez Directed by Ringo Lam Runtime 98 min. 4 out of 5
Kyle’s (Jean Claude Van Damme) wife is murdered and, though the culprit is caught, when the case goes to trial, there’s not enough evidence to convict him. Taking matters into his own hands, Kyle kills the man himself right after and is sentenced to life in Krava prison in Russia. Once there, Kyle discovers the crooked warden hosts fighting battles on the grounds and bets with other wardens who bring fighters in from other prisons.
At first content to fight, Kyle makes a name for himself as someone not be messed with, but when a close friend is killed, he decides to lower his hands and fight no longer. Following his example, the other inmates no longer fight as well, and the entire order of the prison is challenged.
But one of the inmates has a secret and in order for the prison to be brought down once and for all, Kyle must step into the ring one last time.
I got to say I was really impressed with this. This was the first Van Damme prison movie I’ve seen since Death Warrant and, frankly, had a blast watching it. This flick has a strong story and isn’t your usual fair of Van Damme merely fighting and winning the “big one” at the end. Instead, it’s the story of one man’s journey to do what’s right inside prison walls and learning when it’s time to walk away.
As for the fighting, though, yeah, much more realistic than other JCVD flicks. Lots more wrestling, arm holds, close toe-to-toe stuff, and, dare I say, didn’t have a single patented Van Damme 360-kick in it. The matches were also pretty much 50-50 in terms of blows exchanged, instead of Van Damme winning all the fights until the final guy, then gets his butt beat for ten minutes, before having a big comeback where he dominates and wins (with that 360-kick). The fights in this flick were more blow-for-blow, with one guy winning after the other guy gets knocked out.
I really enjoyed this, so if you’re in a JCVD mood but also want a good story that sucks you in from the start, In Hell is the way to go.
2012 Written by Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser Directed by Roland Emmerich Runtime 158 min. 4.5 out of 5
The Mayans warned us thousands of years ago that 2012 would mark the end of the world as we know it.
They were right.
We just didn’t listen.
Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), separated dad and small-time novelist, goes for the ride of his life when him and his family are caught up in the end of the world in the year 2012.
Dr. Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry) stumbled onto the truth of what was really happening to the Earth back in 2009. He showed his friend and colleague Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who in turn told Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who in turn told the President (Danny Glover). Plans were made. Research done. Even some advancements were made . . . but all for naught.
Catching wind from lunatic conspiracy theorist and radio broadcaster Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) that all the rich folks in the world plus those who would create the perfect gene pool were to be held up in a series of arks ’til the disasters ran their course, Jackson Curtis takes his family on an adventure to head them off and get onboard themselves.
Disaster after gigantic natural disaster ensues and the Curtis family narrowly escapes with their lives, that is, until they find the arks somewhere in China and learn that the powers that be have other plans in mind for humanity’s survival.
If there was any one word that I would use to describe this film, it would be “big.” Actually, not just “big,” but “BIG!!!!” HUGE! COLLASSAL! GIGANTIC and UTTERLY MASSIVE!
At the time of this review, this movie is still in the theatre. It definitely is a must-see-at-the-theatre movie. You need that big screen and surround sound to do it justice.
Everything is big scale in this one: the collapsing buildings, the giant earthquakes, the mountains crumbling, land folding over itself and falling a zillion feet to the Earth’s core, the tsunamis, the dust clouds—the list is endless, and everything is done HUGE. The whole time I was just sitting there with my mouth hanging open going, “Whoa . . . whoa . . .”
Sure, there are a few convenient plot devices and a few impossible odds are overcome, but I went into this thing expecting a popcorn blockbuster with over-the-top special effects and that is exactly what I got. I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face.
Though I personally don’t buy into the world ending in 2012, this is still one worth seeing.
Flight of the Living Dead (2007) Written by Sidney Iwanter, Mark Onspaugh and Scott Thomas Directed by Scott Thomas Runtime 94 min. 4 out of 5
A team of scientists creates a virus that kills the victim then regenerates the body. The idea: sell it as a biological weapon. The plan: one of the scientists is infected so is transported via plane in a special container under armed guard. Not that they think the scientist within is a threat, just that they don’t want anyone stealing the container.
The plane encounters a severe thunderstorm and is rocked all over the place. Sure enough, the container is no longer secure and the person within is brought back to life. First goes the guard . . . then goes everyone else.
Also on board—in coach—is a cop named Truman Burrows (David Chisum) and a criminal, Frank (Kevin J. O’Connor), being transported for trial. Soon these two must set aside their differences if they are to survive this doomed flight.
Outbreak on a plane? You bet.
Big trouble? You better believe it.
The premise for this movie is just plain cool: zombies on a plane (sounds familiar, don’t it?). Good stuff. My question going into this was: okay, you got a plane full of zombies, but only so much room. How can you fill a whole movie without people getting slaughtered inside of fifteen minutes? Sure enough, the writers thought of that and managed to at first slowly let the zombies rise then, due to the large plane and various compartments therein, give our main band of heroes some room to run around and not get eaten.
The zombies were scary, especially their eyes. Really good makeup. There was plenty of action and enough blood and guts to make any horror fan happy.
The only thing I thought was kind of weak was the pilot’s insistence on not setting the plane down once the undead outbreak occurred. Can’t you land on more than just a long stretch of road? How about a field? Even a water landing? Better to take a chance with those than watch your passengers get eaten.
This is one of those B-movies that make you happy you love B-movies, you know? There’s a sense of B-horror pride with this one. Hard to place it, but it’s there. More than once I was going, “Oh man, this is so good!” Maybe it’s the acting. Maybe it’s the grade of the film. Maybe the effects. I don’t know . . . but it’s good.
Fun flick. Check it out.
I’m glad I added Flight of the Living Dead to my collection.
And on a personal note, I had the privilege of publishing one of the co-writers of this movie, Mark Onspaugh, in my science-gone-wrong zombie anthology, Dead Science. His story is called “The Decay of Unknown Particles.” Cool.