REVIEW: THE ORDER – SEASON 1

Sarah Grey in The Order (2019)

Starring

Jake Manley (Heroes Reborn)
Sarah Grey (Power Rangers)
Sam Trammell (Imperium)
Matt Frewer (The BFG)
Max Martini (The Town)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Jewel Staite (Firefly)
Kawennahere Devery Jacobs (American Gods)
Louriza Tronco (Make It Pop)
Ty Wood (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Adam DiMarco (The Magicians)
Aaron Hale (Miss Sloane)
Jedidiah Goodacre (The Originals)
Dylan Playfair (Descendants 2)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Emily Holmes (Snakes on a Plane)
Julia Benson (Stargate Universe)
Kayla Heller (Snowcoming)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Françoise Yip (Aliens vs Predator 2)

a4763c55-70a8-4acf-a9c2-4b41593fd64d-screen-shot-2019-03-06-at-31130-pmNetflix shows like The Order have an advantage that series that release episodes a week apart don’t have. Potential audiences can give a new show a quick opening binge right away rather than only viewing the always tricky pilot to prove that it’s worthy of being added to their viewing schedule. The Order is definitely a supernatural show that stands alongside The Magicians or The Vampire Diaries, but the true twist to the witches versus werewolves premise doesn’t show up until third episode. College campus drama tropes bog down the first episode a bit, but the central conflict is wholly unique with plenty of humor and well-written dialogue to smooth out the rough edges.MV5BZjZmYjQ2ZTktY2NjOS00NTg5LWJlYWMtNDE5ZDhhNjg5ODYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQW1yb3NzZXI@._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_On the one hand, The Order should be commended for not holding the viewer’s hand during key parts of the opening narrative. Jack Morton (Jake Manley of iZombie) and his grandfather (Matt Frewer of Orphan Black) clearly have some sort of ulterior motive for getting him into Belgrave University as a freshman, but the audience has to figure out why on its own, and the details that unfold go from simple to complex pretty quickly. On the other hand, the manner in which Jack is admitted and his almost immediate encounters with frat boys and townie-hating rich kids is meant to be accepted with a hand wave and does feel a bit rushed.the-order-netflix-season-2-4-1551991441704Given the hurry to establish the campus atmosphere, it’s remarkable how quickly chemistry forms between Jake and sophomore college tour guide Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey of Legends of Tomorrow). Despite moments of overt flirtation on Jake’s part and even briefer flickers of mutual attraction, The Order is not in any rush to bring these two together or create any weird love triangles. A level of respect is built between them based on intelligence and an understanding that some of those around them, both magic users and regular students, are jerks with poor judgment.ty5y54yIt’s interesting that The Order pokes fun at ritualistic fraternity initiations immediately before bringing us into the pledge process for the titular Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, which includes — you guessed it — the presentation of a magically appearing blue rose to the potential Neophytes. Even those established in the Order, such as college chancellor Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle of The Arrangement) and the higher level students like Alyssa, indulge in the use of robes and masks, but somehow the secret society comes across as neither haughty nor ridiculous. It’s just Hogwarts or Brakebills with a dash of alumni politics, and it works.the-order-e1551988902714The question is how many viewers will stay tuned in long enough to realize that the initial conflict that’s presented in which Neophytes are supposedly being killed by werewolves is not nearly as Saturday B-movie as it may sound nor is it in fact a true representation of the nature of the animosity between witches and werewolves at all? Jake’s place in the Order may have a lot to do with the mission imposed upon him by Grandpa Pete, but by episode three, it becomes so much more than that. And again, the friendships that Jake makes along the way (some of which lie in direct opposition to each other) are a bit rushed, but the humor that comes from the Neophytes playing with magic way beyond their understanding or Jack’s R.A. (Adam DiMarco of The Magicians, oddly enough) trying to figure out what to do with his new resident is definitely worth overlooking the artificially acclerated bonding. Fellow Neophyte Gabrielle (Louriza Tronco of Spiral) is especially delightful and will quickly remind The Magicians fans of an early Margo, and she and Brandon (Aaron Hale of Pure) importantly add some much needed diversity to the lily white cast.the-order-season-1-on-netflix-ofSo ignore the loglines and stick around until The Order shows you what it’s really all about. With engaging characters and with several compelling paths set before its protagonist, this show has legs if it plays its cards right. Characters whom you assume are good might not be so honest, and those portrayed as evil aren’t necessarily so. Achieving that level of complexity so quickly is worth the sacrifice of a little exposition. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have seven more episodes to binge.

REVIEW: POWER RANGERS (2017)

CAST

Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things)
Naomi Scott (Terra Nova)
RJ Cyler (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)
Anjali Jay (Supergirl)
Caroline Cave (Van Helsing)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

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.