Archive for March, 2013

A 27 year old suddenly get the dreaded news that he has cancer. The film charts his struggle to beat it with the support of his friends and family. But will it be that easy?

Straight off the bat, I don’t know if this film would’ve worked as well as it does without a strong actor in the lead role. Luckily they hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is an amazing character actor after being in such amazing films as ‘Switching Parents’, ‘Killshot’ and ‘500 Days of Summer’. He is amazing here in the role of Adam (a 27 year old cancer sufferer). He is believable throughout and it is a remarkable performance.

That isn’t to say the supporting cast aren’t any good. Seth Rogen is especially good in a role a little less comedic then the usual character he plays. There is no denying though that he is ultimately the comedy relief in what is a pretty deep story about some pretty rough subject matter. That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny though. At times it is hilarious, but it is never over the top and is always pretty grounded. This is helped by the films relationships. Rogen and Levitt play off one another really well and they do feel like two friends who have built up an almost brotherly love for one another over the years.

The film is technically superb with great sound design and some truly great cinematography. The film, for what it is looks beautiful. This really helps draw you into the film and never jars with the on screen drama. The direction is also brilliant from Jonathon Levine. It’s amazing how far he’s come from ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’, which in my view was pretty bad in almost all areas. From 50/50 though you’d never know it. He’s since made ‘Warm Bodies’ which is yet another set up (which I’ll review at a later date).

Overall the film handles its subject matter very carefully and it pays off. It’s a film that makes you think ‘What if it happened to me?‘, while showing that it is something you can beat. It has some very interesting messages about life and death which stay with you long after watching. It’s a beautiful film about a hard subject. Well worth your time 8/10

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Hirokin must stand against a powerful emperor to free the people of the planet Aradis and become their saviour.

Well…. Where do I begin?

The film stars Wes Bentley (from ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Lost’) as the titular character Hirokin. I wouldn’t really call him a samurai, more like a wanderer of sorts who just so happens to have a sword (No your usual samurai katana either). I kinda like the character and even like his wonderful 80’s mullet he has going. I like the fact that his morals seem to lay in the grey area between good and bad. He goes on about how he doesn’t want to kill, but happily kills within seconds of saying this. (Some may call this bad writing, Myself included, but i find it more amusing then annoying) He is not alone in changing his mind on a whim, everyone’s doing it.  I also love the fact that he doesn’t initially care about anyone else until the evil man attacks him.

As an ‘experienced’ sword fighter, he really isn’t very good with his weapon. It’s almost like he thinks he’s good with it when he really isn’t. He also doesn’t watch his back which you would’ve thought would be quite important when you get into a fight with multiple opponents. This leads him to failing in battle and being captured (tut tut tut). The other fights in the film are much the same. No one really seems to know what they are doing until the final battle which, although really anti-climactic, isn’t that bad. The problem is the fact the films seems to want to have a large scale ‘epic’ feel to the film but never does. Everything is done on a small scale and you never feel there is a bigger power behind it all.

It’s sad really that the film tries to be bigger than it is. Mo-Sun clearly likes his science fiction and this can be seen throughout the movie. It takes things from so many other movies and books, but none more so than Frank Herbert’s masterpiece ‘Dune’. Say what you will about David Lynch’s version of ‘Dune’ but you can’t say it didn’t have that ‘epic’ vibe. It also helped that it had amazing actors, some great direction and a stunning source novel. This film however draws from it (sometimes horribly closely) but still doesn’t get it right. I decided to make a list of the comparisons I could find (it became an interesting game):

  •     DUNE:
  1.     Set on a desert Planet called Arrakis
  2.     Water is scarce meaning it is an invaluable resource
  3.     The planet’s natives , The ‘Freman’ are under oppression from an evil dictator.
  4.     Paul becomes an outcast and must find help.
  5.     Paul Atreides must conquer his fear and lead the Freman to victory.
  6.     Paul has visions of what’s to come in his future.
  7.     There is a power that Paul must master in order to win against the Baron. It is called ‘THE WAY’.
  8.     Paul fights one on one with the baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha and wins.
  9.     Paul leads the Freman to victory but sacrifices his family name and his loyalty to the empire.
  •     HIROKIN:
  1.     Set on a desert planet called Aradis
  2.     Water is Scarce meaning it is an invaluable resource
  3.     The planet’s natives, The ‘Arid’ are under oppression from an evil dictator.
  4.     Hirokin is an outcast and must find help.
  5.     Hirokin must conquer his fear and lead the Arid to victory.
  6.     People have visions of what’s to come in Hirokin’s future.
  7.     There is a power that Hirokin must master in order to win against the villain. It is called ‘THE WAY’.
  8.     Hirokin fights one on one with the villain and wins.
  9.     Hirokin leads the Arid to victory but sacrifices himself to do it.

Quite similar wouldn’t you say?

These are the similarities in story but we also have things such as the production design (albeit on a much smaller scale), music, costumes, hairstyles. That’s not to say that it is only Dune that it ‘acquires from’. It happily draws things from ‘Mad Max’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Chronicles of Riddick’, ‘Highlander’, ‘Gladiator’, etc…

It’s quite sad really as when the film isn’t trying to be ‘Dune’ it’s not that bad. It has a special charm about it. What it does with its small budget is quite inspiring. The sets are pretty good (if little more than a few huts) and the costumes are all top notch (if you get around the similarities to other films’. One thing I really liked was the torture device they’ve created with some big claws that impale the victims. It’s quite an interestingly designed machine (probably stolen from somewhere else but oh well). The musical score for the film is top notch (even if it is a little overpowering at times)

The script is pretty awful and at times really annoying. This is especially true when the characters keep repeating the word ‘Gig’ as apparently adding it to words makes them sound more futuristic. It also doesn’t help that ever line is delivered like some dramatic ultimatum by every character. What starts off as mildly amusing quickly digresses into pure annoyance. The acting isn’t great either. Wes Bentley is watchable and does the job well but everyone else is cringe worthy (not always in an amusing way either).

Pacing-wise the film was OK. It never felt overlong although I’d say the ending wasn’t great. The film builds to a large scale finale but never delivers and is little more than a few people waving swords around (and Hirokin shooting his sword from its handle because he can).

I guess for a directorial debut it could have been far worse. But on the other hand it could have been a heck of a lot better.

What we have at the end of the day is a reasonably fun rehash of far greater films. It passes the time OK but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again. 5/10

A terrorist threatens to launch a nuclear missile at the United States unless they put $1 Billion into his Swiss bank account. Jack Tannen (Frank Zagarino) is sent to secure the missile and disable the terrorists.

This is your typical mid-nineties action film. There is nothing about it that really makes it stand out, but then again there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it.

It’s very low budget which shows at times but it does look like they’ve squeezed everything they can out of it (mainly on explosions and bullets I expect). The action is competent with a pretty good action scene on a bridge around half way through in which Zagarino’s team gets ambushed. It’ a nice set piece which moves at quite a good pace.

The overall pace of the film isn’t too bad. It kinda drags a little towards the end but I didn’t really expect it to be perfect. The acting is above par for this kind of movie with Zagarino standing out as the best on show (not really saying much).

It’s OK I guess if there is nothing else to watch. Even if you usually like this sort of film I’d approach with caution as it’s not good and it’s not ‘too bad to be good’, it sits in that middle ground of being simply ‘MEH!’ 5/10

GIVE ME BACK MY…….UM……..SELF? THEN MY WIFE!

Liam Neeson is back as former CIA Operative Bryan Mills in the sequel that very few (myself included) wanted.

2008’s ‘Taken’ was a reasonable piece of fun but was nothing special in my eyes. It was essentially Liam Neeson running around punching people in the throats while shouting ‘GIVE ME BACK MY DAUGHTER!’. I watched it and found it took itself far too seriously and was frankly lacking in pretty much everything. The action wasn’t particularly well directed, the script was awful (which is a shame as it was co-written by Luc Besson who created masterpieces such as ‘La Femme Nikita’ and ‘Leon’). With my thoughts of the first film as they were, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I heard they were making a sequel in 2012. I ended up getting the chance to watch it so I thought I may as well.

The second film follows on from the events of the first film with Bryan having got back his daughter Kim and killing the people who took her. A while later (not quite sure how long) he invites his ex-wife and daughter to Istanbul where he is working. While there, Murad Krasniqi (the father of the main thug who took Bryan’s daughter) decides he wants revenge. He kidnaps Bryan and his wife. This time his daughter must find him……….

With essentially a rehashed plot from the first film, just in reverse I was really expecting nothing from this film, but I must say I was a little surprised. It seems to take itself tongue in cheek unlike the first film. This really helped me enjoy some of the ridiculous things that happen, such as Kim throwing grenades randomly around the city to triangulate Bryan’s position (it really is as stupid as it sounds). I love the fact no one pays any attention to all these random explosions or the random shootings in the streets. But they do notice a car travelling too fast! (they know where the real problems are.)

The plot is silly, the script is pretty dire, the acting is mainly bad (apart from Neeson who does occasionally look bored) but the film has got a few good points:

  • The action is very well directed and is pretty good. (although a lack of throat punching from Neeson). There is a good car chase towards the end which I really enjoyed (even if it felt slightly too long). This car chase did lead to the problem of the finale to the film being pretty anticlimactic coming straight after this high speed action.
  • The pacing isn’t bad for this kind of film and I never felt bored (or at least not for a prolonged amount of time
  • It has a good musical score that matches the film pretty well, although at times seems a little overpowering.

As I say the film isn’t too bad and if you can turn your brain off and accept it as the ‘popcorn’ flick that it is you should have a good time. 6/10

 

 

Dean Cain VS Eric Roberts in a shopping mall at Christmas!!!!!

-Need I say more?

Also known as ‘Christmas Rush’, this made for TV film offers Hollywood thrills in a small package finished off with a pretty bow. The film consists of Eric Roberts robbing a shopping mall at Christmas and taking everyone hostage, everyone that is except for Dean Cain (a cop who’s lost his badge and who has the name Lt. Cornelius Morgan!). Dean Cain takes it on himself to take down Roberts and save the day.

Think ‘Die Hard’ in a shopping mall and you’ve pretty much got a good idea of what to expect (although Roberts’ villain does have some interesting and well thought out motives for wanting the money) I won’t pretend that this is of the same quality of something like the masterpiece that is ‘Die Hard’, but what I will say is that this is just pure fun. It never takes itself seriously and just works. It’s what it says on the tin.

The action set pieces are great in the film especially a shootout between Roberts’ right hand man (who may be Russian) who has a massive light machine gun and Dean Cain. It’s just fun to watch and is a well filmed piece of action. In fact pretty much the whole film is really well filmed for what it is. I can’t complain about anything in the film really other than the fact it’s not particularly original. I will also say that I really like the end to the film which is far better than I expected.

The acting is awesome. Both Dean Cain and Eric Roberts are on top form and have a good chemistry between them. I love both actors and am sad that they’ve both disappeared into b-movie obscurity. I guess the one thing that kind of disappointed me was the fact that Eric Roberts doesn’t do any real hand to hand combat which I want to see in all his films. (He didn’t in ‘Raptor’ either, but we’ll get to that film at a later date.)

Overall this is a fun piece of action filmmaking and well worth checking out. 7/10

I will begin by saying this will be my most controversial review so far. (I considered not even reviewing it but thought what the hell. Please don’t think less of me.) The review will also feature major spoilers……..

Right…..

Well let’s start at the beginning;

  • Twilight – I hated it. I thought it was poorly directed, awfully scripted and really badly acted. It instantly put me off Pattinson and Stewart and their hideously soppy relationship that was basically a more girl friendly take on Romeo and Juliet or even Underworld. I guess the visuals were ok but they couldn’t save it. 5/10
  • New Moon – I liked the fact the film had more scope then the first but I thought it was equally as bad. The script was just as bad and the acting although slightly better was hindered by the introduction of Lautner as a main character and love interest. The three way relationship annoyed me and just came down to lots of overlong glances between each of the characters. 4/10
  •  Eclipse – I don’t even know why I watched this but I’m kind of happy I did because it did contain a pretty awesome fight sequence that used the fact that vampires shatter when killed to create some brutal beheadings and violence. I also thought that the CGI on the wolves was really good. That being said, the script was still awful and the acting pretty bad (but much better than the first two). The directing was a noticeable step up as well with David Slade bringing some of the style from his previous vampire film ’30 days of night’ across for good measure. 6/10
  • Breaking Dawn part 1 – kind of enjoying the third film I held out a bit of hope for the fourth. Visually the film was brilliant and I thought the score was great. The acting was better than all of the previous films (probably because of the mature nature of the film) but that still isn’t saying much. What we have is essentially a build up for the 2nd part which is just boring. It’s padded out as a way of splitting the film and making more money from all of the twilight fans out there. There is the odd scene like the wedding that does carry some kind of emotion but the rest was just rubbish. There is also a ridiculous amount of sex (not particularly graphic but still kind of out of place in a film like this.) The film just made me annoyed at the fact that I’d have to sit through another 2 hours of another film to see how it all ends. 5/10

This brings us to the final part in the Twilight Saga. The film many regard as one of the worst films ever made. I only wanted to see it because I felt cheated at the fact the previous film didn’t really end and left on a cliff-hanger (the best way to make someone see another film). I sat down in front of the TV and prepared for the worst.

The first thing that shocked me was the great music that accompanied the amazingly well filmed title sequence. I don’t usually take that much notice of title sequences as they usually serve as simply a list of names and add nothing to the film itself (except for some, most notably ‘Se7en’.) This was a bad sign as the film was bringing me out of defensive mode straight away. The Time-lapse photography is really great and is stunningly beautiful at times. The sequence does feel like it’s building to a finale and has a certain ‘epic’ feel none of the other films had.

I will say that as soon as you see Pattinson and Stewart you can see that they have developed as actors (Pattinson especially). That is not to say that they are great in the film, but they are highly watchable. I think it is also the fact that Bella is now a vampire. For some reason this instantly makes her a cooler character and the red eyes are awesome. They feel comfortable in these roles after the previous 4 films and it’s nice to see them not really looking like they’re acting, more just being themselves.

One thing that I really dislike about this film and the previous films is how they make the vampires move quickly. It reminds me of the old ‘Flash’ television series where they just sped up the footage. I find it just looks really bad compared to some of the great effect that the filmmakers use in the film. I will say that the seemed to give up on the whole ‘make the vampires glisten in the light’, which made me happy as I always found that kind of stupid and pointless. While I’m on the effect I will mention that the wolves are stunning to behold and the animation on the fur especially is true art. They move like real wolves and the look like they have proper weight to them. On the other end of the scale is the baby. The CGI baby is almost as creepy as the Baby in the film ‘junior’ featuring Arnie’s face. The baby just looks awful and is laughable.  (This leads me onto the side note of how they could have had a baby in the first place as no blood is running around Edwards’s body. How would he essentially get it up? It’s a question that worryingly stayed on my mind for quite a while.)

From here we’re pretty much straight into the point that they are preparing for battle (they say they’re not, but they are). This film has already got a better pace than any of the previous films. It still has the awful script and some truly laughable scenes and lines but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much. It felt like the cast knew this and they were just having fun. Every line is delivered like a statement with dramatic pauses added to make the characters think. They knew they wouldn’t be making any more so they just thought they’d play it more tongue in cheek. The film is so much better because of this. In the preparing for battle the Cullens gather a group of vampires who all seem to have powers much like the X-men. you have the electric one, the one that controls the elements, the one that can make a shield, the one that can trick the mind, the over strong one and the big furry one (although technically he’s been in the saga from the first film). I kind of liked this gathering of people as it felt like it was building to something, unlike the previous films flat line pace.

I quite like this new group of vampires we are introduced to. They’re all pretty likeable and actually seem to have had a little thought put into them. (It really does feel like the build-up to a massive X-Men fight though.) Also, when Alice disappears with jasper it just reminded me of Gandalf going off in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and saying that he will come with the coming dawn. (This film just takes bits from everywhere.)

We get a cool back history of the Volturi which features a cool beheading of a lady and Dakota Fanning throwing a baby into a fire. I thought it quite extreme a thing for a character to do on screen for a film aimed at young teenage girls. But to be fair this film has the same style sex scenes we had in the last film which I again think may be a little too much. (It also does not promote safe sex. Vampires may not worry but I really think that we should not be promoting young teenage girls to be having children at an early age in the current climate we are living in.)

I really like the idea of Resesmee (Bella’s daughter) aging ridiculously quickly as I thought it may have been going for the darker angle of Bella having to accept that she may outlast her own daughter who she barely knows. Alas the film didn’t go down this route. It went for a much happier tone with Jacob possibly becoming her future mate. (Which I thought really weird. ‘Can’t have the mother so he’ll have the daughter’. They have a weird relationship.)

The Volturi arrive and the two ‘armies’ square off against one another on an icy field surrounded by trees. (They just step into a massive arena for battle). It is here we get the most brilliantly bad piece of acting in the whole film. Michael Sheen, who is usually a great actor, here portrays an over the top leader of the ‘bad’ vampires. He plays it brilliantly over the top but during this sequence he does this thing after touching Renesmee. He laughs. It may not sound like much but trust me when I say it is so out of place. I could understand an evil laugh but what comes out of Sheens mouth is a crazy high pitched laugh like I’ve never heard before. (Just check it out on YouTube. It’s both brilliant and awful at the same time.)

Alice then turns up and grabs Sheen’s hand. This is when all hell breaks loose and the epic battle music begins. The vampires rush one another and start battling. The music and the combat paly off one another like a classic heavy metal music video. Characters are torn apart and burned while others flip in slow motion and behead the enemy. I loved every minute of the battle and was so happy seeing some of the characters die. I thought it was a brave move until….

IT ALL TURNS OUT TO BE A DREAM (well a vision).

It was like ‘Dallas’ all over again. No one was dead (well they are vampires so they are kind of). I was so annoyed. I was literally shouting ‘NO!’ at the screen. Why did they have to screw up this awesome battle by making it not happen? It is such a cop out and is the films biggest let down. After this we just have a bit more bad dialogue and a romantic bit in that field of flowers from the first film (or second. I can’t entirely remember.)

We then get a really beautiful credits sequence that sums up all of the characters that have come and gone throughout the 5 films. This sequence is possibly the most moving, romantic feeling scene in the whole franchise. It is a really great finale after the annoying ending of the actual film.

So it’s pretty obvious that I did enjoy this film. It was just pure guilty fun. I would argue that none of the other films are needed and that this film would work even better if it were entirely stand alone. You don’t need to know how she became a vampire or any of the padding that came before. You could just have this. A nice well-paced piece of guilty fun. You even get a little recap near the end which would work better if there were no films before it. I wanted to hate this film but I just couldn’t. It delivered what it’s been trying and failing to give for the last 4 films. FUN!

I advise people to watch this film without seeing any of the others as it is really what all of them seem to aspire to be. It’s the most adult, most well-acted and the best directed (it feels so different form part one which was also filmed by Condon). It’s really worth a shot and is nowhere near as bad as people say it is (I was expecting the worst but I don’t know if I’d even call it bad) It’s not going to be for everyone and there are those that have already made their minds up but for those who are open minded just go into it expecting fun. Its guilty entertainment and great fun.

7/10 (It may have gotten an 8 if they had the balls to not make the battle a vision.)

A remake of the classic 1980 musical focusing on the trials and tribulations of a group of aspiring students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts.

Let me begin by saying that I was never really a fan of the original film. The only scene that truly stood out for me was the dance number in the street. Nothing else really captured me. So I went into this remake with quite a lot of hesitation (even though I like a lot of musicals). I had heard the worst about it and heard some scathing reviews but I still thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m happy I did as I will honestly say that I find this version far superior in every way to the original. (I know many won’t agree and that’s fine)

So what did the film do so right?

Well firstly I thought it was a beautiful film to look at. the cinematography is truly brilliant and each shot is stunning. This is especially true of the various musical numbers that litter the piece. They are brilliant to watch and just stand out. The score is also amazingly strong beginning with a great remix of the Fame theme and through to the amazing final song which sums up everything the characters have been through. some may not like the modernised songs but I really think that they work in the film. The music and the visuals play off one another to create an almost theatrical feel to everything that helps express many of the films emotional moments.  The final song brings an uplifting end to an emotional story, while never feeling over the top.

There are lots of characters in the film, all of which seem to be written really well. It never feels like it focuses too much on one person and throughout it’s 2 hour run time gives each character a spot in the limelight. Even some of the teachers get some time in the spotlight which is nice. It’s a nice change that the characters aren’t perfect and that they each contain the flaws that real humans do. They also face real problems with real outcomes. None of this is more evident then the attempted suicide towards the end which really does highlight how much a person can truly live for what they want to do.

The structure of the classes that they attend also seem to be realistic in terms of art schools. they learn a bit of everything until their final year when they can specialise completely in the craft of their choosing. I think this is what helped me get into the film more as I could semi relate to the school itself and felt like it was run how a real school would be.

There are some truly cheesy moments of courting between some of the main characters but to be fair the love story angle isn’t over emphasised and is simply the story of two of the characters. Unlike most musicals that over present this love angle, Fame doesn’t. It highlights all aspects of life which happens to include love but never sets out as that as it’s backbone to the story.

Over all I really liked this film and can happily watch it again and again without ever getting bored. 7.5/10

Two fire-fighter brothers must get past their differences and work together before a dangerous arsonist strikes again.

That is the basic plot of the film, although the film has a lot more depth than simply that. The two brothers are played by Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. Russell plays the older brother who is a well-respected fireman following after their father. Baldwin plays a new recruit who people only recognise because he was there when their father was killed in an arson attack. They don’t get on very well and this love hate relationship is the basic backbone of the film.

Along the way we get other great actors such as Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland (although his role isn’t really necessary) and Scott Glenn. All of them are as good as ever and all gel into a great team. The actual fire fighting teams of the film actually feel like a unit and they do feel like they have fought fires together for years. This is helped by a great script and amazing direction by Ron Howard. I guess at times the script can get a bit corny and sentimental but this never took away from what was on screen (which is impressive when you consider it runs at just under two and a half hours in length.

The thing that truly makes this film stand out from everything else is the fire. It really does become a character in itself. Howard opted to use real fire instead of CGI as he realised it was the only way to make it look real. He also placed the actors in the fire which helps make everything believable as they are there. It was brave for all the actors to be willing to do this and it really shows.

the film culminates in an amazing inferno inside a warehouse. The VFX team did an amazing job. The fire looks truly threatening and having the actors in it really does make it that bit more special. The dialogue gets a little silly during the heightened tension between characters but it works.

The whole film feels very much like a Ron Howard film in the fact that it gives you that semi feel good feeling at the end and makes you think about the characters you’ve just been watching. I really love this film and think it is a brilliant example of pure filmmaking. 8/10

Andre Stander, one of South Africa’s best police officers. After witnessing the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the Apartheid system (some by his own hands) he becomes disillusioned. One day he decides on his lunch break he decides to rob a bank (as you do). He loved the rush so continued until he was finally caught. In prison he meets Lee McCall and Allan Heyl. They successfully escape and on the outside from ‘the Stander Gang’ and continue to execute elaborate bank heists. (a bit like a modern Robin hood. Except without the giving to the poor. Although they never take from anyone other than the bank.) Eventually their time will run out, but will they escape unscathed?

Based on the real life exploits of Andre Stander during the 1970’s, ‘Stander’ sets out to show the remarkable story to the world and to try and get into the mind of Stander.

Playing the title role is the amazing Thomas Jane who for me is a very underrated actor. He’s appeared in lots of films but it wasn’t really until ‘Deep Blue Sea’ that he truly got in the limelight. he’s since been in ‘The Punisher’ ‘The Mist’, ‘Mutant Chronicles’ (was an ok film but he was pretty awesome in it as always.) just to name a few. Here he isn’t his usual action hero. He feels very much like you would expect the real Stander to have been. He’s likeable but never over the top and he has flaws like everyone does. Lee McCall is played by the equally great Dexter Fletcher, who in my view doesn’t get given enough good roles. His character is much the same as Stander in the fact he is likeable while sitting in that grey area.

The film is beautifully shot and directed which helps emphasise the great script. The pacing of the film is pretty much spot on (possibly loses a little during the prison section) and the film never feels boring. That is not to say it is an action film. It’s more a crime thriller that happens to have some action scenes (Think ‘Road to Perdition’ or ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. although not as good as either of those)

Essentially everything comes together to create a great film that is highly watchable time and time again. (Although never truly breaking into the level of brilliance of some other heist flicks) 7/10

Growing up, it was all about running around the garden shouting the names of dinosaurs while holding our ‘morphers’ in front of us. We’d then fight each other like we were shown on television (this may be one of those times when violence on TV kinda did cause violence in the youth).  We’d continue this until the enemy was vanquished; we were called in for dinner. Or the program we that taught us these fight moves came on. That program was MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS.

Fast forward almost 20 years and the show is still going. It has lost most of the magic that once made it so great and made it truly stand out from everything else on TV but still its legacy continues. I remember the afternoon they aired the first episode in the UK. Me and a friend sat there glued to the screen (not literally), we had seen nothing like this before. Taking the kung Fu from its Japanese predecessor and the likeable American teens reminiscent of those from Saved by the Bell, Power Rangers broke new ground. Of course years before there were the badly dubbed episodes of shows like ‘Monkey’ and ‘The Water Margin’ but this was straight out of the west and just felt fresh.

The main group of rangers has changed over the years but during the first 3 amazing seasons (some of this team appeared in the third season), one movie, and one sequel series (Zeo) we had the best team of all Tommy, Billy, Kimberley, Rocky, Adam and Aisha.

I remember that as a kid the sheer amount of violence in the series was captivating. It was something you just didn’t see as much of in a single show. Sure you had things like Thundercats and He-man, but they were animated. Now we had real people beating up other real (when they’re not models) people. The media were all over this yet they never really won. I guess they’ve toned it all down a bit since the original 3 series and film but there is still a lot of fighting.  Power Rangers was essentially a combination or fighting, explosions, monsters, more fighting, bigger monsters and even more fighting.

As such a fan of the TV series I was so excited to see that they were making a feature film. I remember dragging my parents to the cinema to see what I hoped would be the ultimate Power Rangers experience. I wasn’t disappointed. The film blew my mind. The monsters were bigger, the villain more over the top, the fights were bigger (it was the first film I saw where a person backflips over another person). In fact it was just like an extended episode with a much bigger budget.

But has the film held up 19 years on?

The short answer in my eyes is yes. It may not be worthy of any awards but it is still a fun (violent) adventure film for children. Let me get the violence out of the way first. Unlike the series where the bad ‘lackeys’ were made of putty and kind of ran away clutching their chests when defeated, the film features ‘lackeys’ made from ooze. During one of the big (pretty well choreographed) fights in a construction yard, these villains are exploding from punches and splattering everywhere. If you changed the ooze for blood the film would easily have to be cut. There is one moment when a skip is dropped on a few of these Ooze creatures and they get crushed, ooze seeping from underneath. As a kid you don’t really question it but now it’s a bit close to having blood splattering everywhere and occasionally a little uncomfortable. The rangers don’t seem fazed by all this ooze exploding onto them, in fact they don’t seem fazed about killing anything that doesn’t look human (watch out E.T). The fights themselves are surprisingly well put together and are actually quite fun to watch.

The money has really be invested wisely while making the film as the locations and the costumes also are a massive step up from the series (they now have leather suits instead of spandex). There is also a far more varied variety of locations from forests to temples to cities to construction yards. It gives the whole film more scope and a more ‘epic’ feel.

Another thing the film gets right is the rangers themselves. They are all likeable and believable. They feel like real teens (well ok mid 20 year olds) who want to help and save the day. Many children’s shows feature annoying characters that whine and moan every step of the way. Here we actually have a good team of people that feel like the know each other (most worked together on the series) and trust each other to get things done.

I love this film. I really do. It brought back so much nostalgia. But that isn’t to say it’s perfect. Far from it.

The biggest flaw in my eyes is the use of CGI over miniatures. I’ve always preferred model work as I find it ages far less and looks more believable when done right. Just look at Star Wars a new hope. Not the redone version but the original. Sure it’s looking slightly ropey, but it always did. It hasn’t aged though. Now look at this film or the feature film version of ‘Lost in Space’. They look pretty bad. This especially. The Zords look terrible as does the ridiculous gigantic version of Ivan Ooze (the villain of the picture). It is horrible to watch. CGI can be used very effectively as can be seen in things like ‘Lord of the Rings’ but even then I find that any characters generated on a computer age quite quickly. I find CGI is better used to enhance what is already there or sculpting part of landscapes. The more hidden, the better.

I also didn’t care for the side plot of the film with all the parents of Angel Grove (home of the Power Rangers) turning into zombies under Oozes control. I’d have preferred to stick with the rangers training in the way of the ninja.

As a standalone film I think it is a great bit of entertainment. As an evolution and companion to the TV series I’d say it’s a complete success (excluding the CGI). I’d say it’s well worth a watch for nostalgia fans and a must see for current fans of Power Rangers who missed out on the very best of it… 7/10

GO GO POWER RANGERS!!!!!!!