Tag Archives: Dean Israelite

Power Rangers (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

POWER RANGERS

Director: Dean Israelite
Writers: John Gatins (screenplay),  Matt Sazama (story by)
Stars: Dacre Montgomery,  Naomi Scott,  RJ Cyler

So I finally got around to watching the bnew Power Rangers movie and as a fan and regular viewer of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show in the mid 90s, it would be fair to say that I was curious at how it would pan out. My memories from the tv show are bit vague, I was only 5 or 6 at the time, with the only clear things being the cheesy, but memorable theme and it bearing more than a little resemblance to the campiness of the 60s Batman show. The latter got its successful reboot into a more serious film franchise (before Joel Ely nearly destroyed it) in 1989 and it’s the Power Rangers turn in 2017, but how does it fair? Well, not too badly actually.

It starts off like most good origins stories do. I.e. Giving us a flashback and then introducing our new group of heroes. It does a very effective job of doing this too, spending the best part of forty minutes solely developing the troubled group of teenagers that are to be the Power Rangers. These consist of Angel Grove residents; Jason (Dacre Montgomery); Kimberley (Naomi Scott); Billy (RJ Cyler); Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.) It does this rather ingeniously too by bringing the majority of them together via detention in their high school. I imagine it can be a tricky business introducing so many characters without ruining the pacing or sacrificing in the story department and I felt they just about nailed the balance. Having said that, it wasn’t a terribly complicated story, so that maybe wasn’t an issue here.

With that being said, the convenience of all five, including Trini and Zack (I don’t believe they were in the detention with the others?), converging on the hillside at the same time just before Billy had his little accident with the explosives, was pushing it. Again, minor niggle and you could always say it was destiny, they were supposed to be the Rangers, the ship was drawing them together and all that jazz. Still.

During this extended introduction we also get to meet Alpha-5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston); the former looking much better in this than he ever did during the live action series; and the latter appearing as a giant, talking, head in what can only be described as the best looking pin art in the world. Alpha-5 managed to capture former red ranger and leader Zordon’s soul (might have been called something else in the film), trapping him onboard the ship for what I’d imagine was a good chunk of time. He certainly awakes with a fair bit of attitude and healthy dose of scepticism towards the upstarts set to take his old groups place. Meanwhile, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks); the villain of the film and the fallen, former yellow ranger, also resurrects on a fishing ship around this point to wreak some carnage on the sleepy, little town.

There’s a training a montage (again, every good origin story needs one of these) and much soul searching, when despite numerous attempts, they can’t morph into their armours. Rita amongst all this, is slowly going about her business of finding the Zeo Crystal and resurrecting the giant, golden, golem/monster, Goldar that she hopes will retrieve it for her. This all fits into place nicely, building to an action packed showdown. And I have to say, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed the final thirty minutes of this film. I enjoyed the entire film, I’m absolutely not knocking the rest of it, but particularly the action at the end. The film spent so much time developing the new Rangers, making them bond as a group, giving them a reason to fight and training them that it really had to pay off at the end. I’m pleased to say that Israelite and Gatins both succeeded in making it pay off.

Shoutouts to the Megazord birthing (can’t think of a better word?) moment, Zack’s near miss with the car full of nuns and the very nicely worked piece of symmetry at the end with the slap on Rita, which gave a nice little nod back to Billy and Jason’s first time meeting. I like little moments like that and do my best to mention them every time they occur.

In terms of performances, I’ll try not to break down each and every one, but I felt the young quintet of actors comprising the Rangers all did great jobs and had good chemistry on screen together. If I was pushed into picking a top three then I’d probably go with Lin, Cyler and Scott in no particular order. RJ Cyler in particular did amazing playing the autistic Billy and I’d say had the most development as a character throughout. Dacre Montgomery was giving me Chris Pine as Captain Kirk vibes and certainly did a fine job too, whilst Becky G. was maybe my weakest of the five. Hader did a good job as Alpha-5 and Cranston was magnificent as Zordon. I know it was only a voice part, but I love that man and his voice is tremendous. Speaking of voices, Elizabeth Banks was ok as Rita, but what was going on there? Was she channeling the Wicked Witch of the West or what?

I enjoyed this film, probably more than I thought I would’ve, I’d say. It felt like an attempt at an amalgamation between the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and whilst never coming close to either, it still easily held my attention for the two hour running time and was a fun, entertaining, family friendly film. Visually, it was stunning throughout and I loved the nods to the tv series with the score in the finale (I’m pretty damn sure that retro synth was similar to the show). I would absolutely recommend giving this a blast if you haven’t already.

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Project Almanac (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

PROJECT ALMANAC

Director: Dean Israelite
Writers: Jason Pagan (as Jason Harry Pagan), Andrew Deutschman
Stars: Jonny Weston, Amy Landecker, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Virginia Gardner

“Project Almanac” is about a bunch of teenagers finding and building a time machine after David Raskin (Jonny Weston) discovers shocking footage of his present self in a video of his 7th Birthday party from ten years previously. Using the “found footage” technique to me was a little off putting but the opening 15 minutes kept me intrigued as the storyline was interesting enough.

Finding and building a time machine doesn’t come easy as David uncovers his fathers buried government work (in the family basement) complete with blueprints etc and along with two other technical geniuses Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Allen Evangelista). “Project Almanac” really tries to explain the technical difficulties of time travel and how to overcome and manipulate the process.

Previous time travel movies haven’t really gone into the logistics and functions of making time travel possible as the audience doesn’t really care how it works but more interested in the rules, the process itself and the consequences. HG Wells Time Machine (1960) explains the space time continuum involving space and time briefly in its opening ten minutes before we are whisked off to fight the Morlocks with Rod Taylor. Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985) controls time with a Delorean, a Flux Capacitor and a case of Plutonium whilst Ashton Kutcher manipulates the past with his mind, blackouts and journals in The Butterfly Effect (2003)

After a build up of 45 minutes “Project Almanac” has a few tried and failed attempts before it works. I really was beginning to get bored at this point and felt the movies pacing was all wrong. The running time of this movie was 105 minutes and for the first 45 minutes apart from the video footage there really isn’t anything there that couldn’t just been condensed into 15 minutes. There was also contradictions in the time travel process as we see the character Quinn resit his science exam 4 times by leaping back to the event to get it right with the others waiting in the wings to see the outcome in the same spot in the same location without duplicating themselves with previous versions of themselves. Also, apparently time travel allows you to magically appear in a different space to where you began and transports you to a music festival with backstage passes and also allows you to appear on stage with your favourite artist and they don’t mind you joining them on stage.

I felt all the characters were undeveloped two dimensional and hardly change during the duration of the movie. The main character David is the only one that slightly changes as the film progresses. The other characters Quinn, Adam, Jessie, Christina seem to be in there for nothing more than convenience. None of this really helped the actors of course as they came off wooden and I felt we’re going through the motions at times with unnatural reactions to discovering time travel.

Director Dean Israelite uses the so called “found footage” technique and it does very little with it and i felt it seems to just cover up bad editing (the cuts are executed poorly and sometimes confusing) and camera-work. Israelite is directing this years Power Rangers movie and it will be interesting to see how he fairs on a more traditional filming process in this franchise.

The visuals faired better in the movie thanks to Eran Barnea who has previously worked with ILM on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) and both of these movies are remembered for their visual effects more so than their storylines.

Another standout was of course the soundtrack and music editing by Kevin McKeever who has previously worked on World War Z (2013) and xXx: Return of Zander Cage (2017) both the editing and how the music was used in this movie cannot be faulted although I would have preferred some score in in the movie which unfortunately wouldn’t and couldn’t work thanks to the “found footage” style of filmmaking.

I think overall, this movie was quite average and messy at times, as the opening 15 minutes promises so much and doesn’t really go anywhere and you are left waiting a long time before any time travel is achieved. Unless you like this kind of movies I do not suggest you watch it as the only ones I feel have lost track of time is the audience.