REVIEW: POWER RANGERS (2017)

CAST

Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things)
Naomi Scott (Terra Nova)
RJ Tyler (War Machine)
Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt)
Becky G. (Empire)
Elizabeth Banks (The HUnger Games)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
David Denman (Outcast)
Sarah Gray (Legends of Tomorrow)
Wesley MacInnes (Smallville)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Erica Cerra (The 100)
Jason David Frank (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Amy Jo Johnson (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

Twenty years after the last Power Rangers theatrical release, the sci-fi series returns with an updated visual style and reconfigured storyline, as the Saban Entertainment property moves from 20th Century Fox to Lionsgate. Unlike the TV program (still running after 24 seasons), the feature films faded away after 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, the follow-up to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, released two years earlier.
This version creatively reimagines the Power Rangers’ origins by establishing them as a team of intergalactic protectors, which certainly provides a high degree of flexibility for potential future iterations. Its worldwide appeal should assure satisfactory initial results.

An opening flashback reveals that the original Power Rangers were actually humanoid-like extraterrestrials, arriving on earth millions of years ago as Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his team of Rangers attempted to defend the planet from power-hungry alien invader Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). When an errant meteor strikes, Zordon’s Rangers are all killed and he almost perishes before his loyal robot assistant Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) saves him by uploading his consciousness into their spacecraft’s computer system, while Rita’s body is consigned to the depths of the ocean. Digitally imprisoned within the ship indefinitely, Zordon will have to wait until the power coins that enable the development of Ranger superpowers are discovered sometime in the distant future before he can be freed.More than 60 million years later, a decrepit gold mine outside the rural California town of Angel Grove attracts the attention of outcast teen tech-whiz Billy (RJ Cyler), who’s focused on a project started by his late father to unearth a mysterious energy source within the mountainside. Billy gets some unexpected assistance from disgraced football star Jason (Dacre Montgomery), who needs his help hacking the tracking anklet the local police department forces him to wear after he’s apprehended for staging a disastrous high school prank. It turns out that some other marginalized teens are also drawn to the mountain, including bad boy Zack (Ludi Lin), ostracized cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and (in one of the first representations of an LGBTQ superhero character) gay-questioning Trini (Becky G).
After Billy’s homemade explosive device blows away the wall of the mine, they discover the buried power coins and quickly begin developing unexpected super-abilities, including incredible strength and agility. It’s not until they discover Zordon’s buried spaceship and encounter Alpha 5, however, that they begin to understand their anointed role as Zordon’s next team of Power Rangers. As the kids struggle to control their newfound talents, the revival of Rita from deep beneath the ocean snaps their situation into sharp focus when she arrives in Angel Grove seeking Zordon and begins destroying the town. If the Rangers can’t find a way to come together and form a cohesive team, they’ll never be able to defeat Rita and save the world from her destructive ambitions.
For longtime fans, the newest installment preserves some of the most beloved characteristics of the original franchise, updated to reflect technological advances. The Rangers’ color-coded power suits now benefit from nanoparticle properties and the robotic mecha assault vehicles known as Zords that they pilot take on enhanced battle capabilities, while Rita’s menacing sidekicks the Putties and the gigantic warrior Goldar get more polished, fluid CGI representations. (And yes, the “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song makes a triumphant return.)

Screenwriter John Gatins succeeds in effectively distilling the Power Rangers’ sprawling mythology into a manageable scope and dialing back the campy humor and martial arts fixations that characterized the TV series and liberally informed the feature films. The current version instead emphasizes more realistic dramatic situations by imbuing each Ranger with some type of personal issue. Whether they’re dealing with bullying, alienation or sexual orientation, these teens are more three-dimensional than their Ranger predecessors.Standing out in a field of largely emerging young talent, Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) strikes a heartfelt balance between Billy’s obsessive and creative tendencies, playing them against one another for both humor and emotional impact. Cranston as the pompous alien with unrealistic expectations and Hader as the ever-optimistic robot form a resourceful if unexpected comedic team, but can’t quite match Banks for Rita’s sheer delightfulness , she is having fun and it shows oin the big screen.Israelite, building on his experience with teen sci-fi feature Project Almanac, orchestrates a vastly more complex array of characters, action set pieces and technical resources for a combined effect that maintains dramatic tension. CGI characters and special effects sequences by Weta Workshop are seamlessly integrated and consistently thrilling. This is a brilliant retelling the classic story for a new age.

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REVIEW: IZOMBIE – SEASON 2

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MAIN CAST

Rose McIver (Power Rangers RPM)
Malcolm Goodwin (The Bellman)
Rahul Kohli (Happy Anniversary)
Robert Buckley (Killer Movie)
David Anders (Alias)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Aly Michalka (Two and a Half Men)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Leanne Lapp (No Clue)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Molly Hagan (Sully)
Nick Purcha (Angels In The Snow)
Adam Rose (Up In The Air)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Justin Prentice (13 Reasons Why)
Kurt Evans (Sanctuary)
David Starzyk (Hot In Cleveland)
Ona Grauer (V)
Jessica Harmon (Hollow man 2)
Bryce Hodgson (Falling Skies)
Ian Reed Kesler (2 Broke Girls)
Eddie Jemison (Waitress)
Jerry Trimble (Heat)
Steven Williams (LA Heat)
Greg Finley (The Flash)
Brooke Lyons (2 Broke Girls)
Anna Galvin (Warcraft)
Daniella Alonso (The Hills Have Eyes 2)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Bradley Stryker (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls)
Sarah Grey (Legends of Tomorrow)
Andrea Savage (Episodes)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)

Consistently offering clever, witty and fun episodes, iZombie solidified itself as one of the most entertaining series on TV in its second season. Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright had already created an offbeat yet inviting world in Season 1 and in Season 2 they built upon it, putting the characters into more intense and involving situations, all while still maintaining the show’s crucial, knowing sense of humor.The cast continue to be one of the most likeable you’ll find, anchored by the excellent Rose McIver. Okay, it’s one of the show’s reaches that pretty much every brain Liv eats is a very focused, specific type of person, but that’s just part of the deal here. And it gives McIver so much to work with, as she goes all in playing Liv taking on personas as varied as a coach, a stalker, a costumed vigilante or a tough stripper. Every week, McIver is given something different to play and she consistently nails it, with ongoing mileage gotten out of how out there and uncharacteristic Liv gets, depending on her latest brain meal.After his heartbroken ex-fiancé character take a surprising (and awesome) turn at the end of Season 1, Robert Buckley’s Major got a great storyline in Season 2, as he found himself working for Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber), tasked with assassinating zombies – all while actually locking them up instead, which put him in a very precarious position both with Du Clark and the cops and the FBI, who were getting closer and closer to him for his actions in both Season 1 and 2.The fact that those investigating Major’s crimes were Clive (Malcolm Goodwin) and his FBI partner/love interest Dale Bozzio (Jessica Harmon) only increased the tension, even while Clive and Dale made a great pairing – with Harmon effortlessly fitting in on the show, as the somewhat goofy Dale provided a great foil for the somewhat stoic Clive. And in the midst of this, having Clive begin to slowly notice the things that were off about Liv was continually intriguing, since it was inevitable that Clive would one day find out The Secret.Blaine (David Anders) in the meantime had to adjust to life as a human again – for awhile at least, as he never kept his nose clean and eventually became one of the undead again, with Anders always bringing a wonderfully quirky/funny approach to the character. McIver and Rahul Kohli continued to be a delightful duo in all the scenes between Liv and Ravi and Kohli shined throughout the season, though I do hope Season 3 can perhaps give Ravi more of his own storyline at some points beyond the ongoing search for a cure or the burgeoning love triangle between Ravi, Peyton (Aly Michalka) and Blaine. The end of the season, as Ravi began to suspect Major was up to no good – and their big confrontation about it – showed how strong it can be to use the usually comic presence of Ravi in a dramatic manner that would be interesting to explore again.As Season 2 progressed, one really strong element was how it began to bring together several storylines. We began to see Major’s growing interaction with Blaine begin to bring him even more in focus as a suspect for Dale and Clive, while Peyton’s return — it was good to see Michalka, who also fits in great with this cast, get more to do — had her wrapped up with Blaine (in more ways than one) and helping lead us to a new villain on the show, Stacey Boss (Eddie Jemison).

Best of all, the “brain of the week” storylines began to becoming increasingly tied into the main stories as well. And yes, this meant sometimes you had to accept a bit more coincidence on the show, but it still was exciting and gratifying to see how all the different elements were intersecting in different ways and how Liv could learn new info thanks to a new murder victim connected in ways that were sometimes not apparent on the surface.When it came to Big Bads, Vaughn Du Clark certainly delivered. Stephen Weber seemed to be having a ball in the role and was delightfully awful as the energetic, confident mega-douche of a sports drink company CEO. He was also given a great foil in Gilda (Leanne Lapp), his daughter, who was just as corrupt as her dad. Gilda has no qualms about manipulating Major, Liv or anyone else and Lapp brought just the right attitude to the character – even as we saw just how awful Du Clark was as a dad, giving us a tinge of sympathy, or at least understanding, about why she was the way she was, even as it was clear she needed to be stopped. The season also ended in an epic, satisfying manner, with Clive finally finding out the truth, an all-out “Romero Zombie” attack and both Du Clark and Gilda being taken out – all while we met a huge new player on the scene that looks to be upending the show in a huge way.Nearly every week, iZombie continued to deliver in its second season and the show easily overcame any sophomore slump worries. The creators and cast seem to know exactly the right  tone to go for here, offering up a show that has a fun, accessible vibe but can get suitably intense, dramatic and gory when need be. When the CW gave all of their series early renewals last year, iZombie was one of the ones I know I was celebrating the most. Bring on Season 3!