Film Review: “Power Rangers”

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 124 minutes
Lionsgate

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

As a Millennial, I watched the “Power Rangers,” but I was not old enough or smart enough yet to do it ironically. Every day after school I’d plop my butt in front of the TV and watch a mindless repackaged Japanese TV show and enjoyed it like it was high art. My mom even suffered through the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” in theaters so I could get my fix. But here’s the thing, I couldn’t tell you a single Ranger’s name, villain or plot from the shows or movie. So it wasn’t memorable for me, but I’m sure the agony of having to endure it still lingers with my parents. Well, they’ll be happy to know what goes around has come around.

A prologue, millions of years in the past on Earth, sets the stage. We see that circular crystal discs are what give powers to the Rangers, an elite class of protectors. Cut to the future where we meet the next batch of Rangers, but they don’t know it yet. This is the movie’s first mistake as it spends an awful lot of time setting up Jason (Montgomery), a directionless high school football superstar who plans a juvenile prank that ruins his life. He ends him flipping his truck, damaging his knee and being relegated to detention, seemingly forever.

In detention he meets Kimberly (Scott), a former cheerleader who’s betrayed her friend’s trust, and Billy (Cyler), a brainy, yet slightly autistic student who we’ll eventually come to find out is the only originally pure of heart teenager in this movie. “Power Rangers” eventually introduces Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin), but never cares enough to give us any background information on them until right before the third act. But by that point it feels unnecessarily crammed in, like most of the film’s character development.

The movie sometimes chooses to be subtle with its character’s traits, yet at other times slaps audiences across the face with thick intelligence insulting exposition. But this is one of many problems plaguing “Power Rangers.” The movie never seems to settle on if it’s for a new generation of young “Power Ranger” fans or nauseous nostalgia for those who grew up in the 90’s. It’s a mix of both, but the direction choices clash so much, it makes for a jarring cinematic experience.

At times we get that TV safe Saturday morning feel from our future Rangers, like cutesy physical humor montages and a “Kingpin” joke about “milking” a cow, but other times we get blasts of teenage reality like the fallout of revenge porn and drowning your sorrows in beer. I’ll admit that the latter makes the characters a lot more human and relatable, but none of it feels natural. The happenstance of how they all meet and become friends is about as logical as a Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks playing intergalactic warriors who’ve been comatose for millions of years, simply waiting for the right moment to awake.

Cranston, as Zordon, is mildly wasted here, as his only on-screen performance is on a green-screen set covered in thick make-up. He shows up throughout the rest of the movie as a disembodied voice attached to a CGI grid screen, dispensing plot points and ridiculing the teenagers for not being able to come together as a team. Cranston’s delivery is too serious, never taking on the role as mentor. However, he’s complimented by the jokey robot, Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), who seems to fluctuate between hammy and cynical.

Banks plays the movie’s main villain, Rita. She’s the only one in the movie who chews on the green screen scenery. There are moments where Rita is truly delightful to watch because of how cheeky Banks’ delivers her dialogue, but there are certain elements to Rita that are unnecessarily included like when she commits cold-blooded murder or when she crawls across the screen like Regan spider walking in “The Exorcist.”

“Power Rangers” is glum and tonally frustrating, relying on concepts found in the recent trend of gritty reboots while attempting to be a self-serious homage to the original TV show. There are obvious editing flaws that even the average moviegoer should notice. It’s either bad storytelling and pacing or a baby playing with the buttons in the editing studios. Compounding these frustrations is a blatant product placement that would make NASCAR cringe. Was a “Power Rangers” movie ever supposed to be good? No. But it’s not supposed to be this bad.

Film Review: “Sausage Party”

Starring the voices of: Seth Rogen, Kristin Wiig and Salma Hayek
Directed by: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 29 mins
Sony Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Have you ever thought about the food you eat? Until this morning I didn’t. I’ll explain that comment later.

As the lights come on, signaling a new day at the local supermarket, the various food items sing a song, paying homage to the food Gods and hoping that today will be day they are “chosen” to go into the Great Beyond. Among those singing are Frank (Rogen), one of many sausages in a package, Brenda (Wiig), the sexy bun that Frank pines for and a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride). Honey Mustard is chosen but later returned. Instead of great tales of the Great Beyond, he begins to tell wide-eyed stories of horrible atrocities. Of course he is not taken seriously, which leads to some pretty tragic – and hilarious – results.

Sidesplittingly funny, the first half-hour of “Sausage Party” is a comedy masterpiece. With great jokes and an amazing musical number, the film delivers on all cylinders. However, when the “chosen” ones realize what the outside world has in store for them, it becomes a hit or miss comedy. And a filthy one. Parents who may think they are taking the little ones to see a family film about a talking hot dog are going to be in for a HUGE surprise.

That being said, there are some great things about the film. The voice cast is perfect. Besides the three mentioned above, you have Edward Norton as a Bagel, in constant conflict with David Krumholtz’s Middle Eastern flatbread, with additional great work from such familiar names as Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, James Franco and Paul Rudd. You even get a nice musical montage sung by…wait for it…Meatloaf himself.

The animation is well done and, overall, the film entertains. If you don’t have a problem learning that your bacon may be suffering when you throw it in the pan, I highly recommend it. Which reminds me. Every day I take a snack to eat mid-day to work, usually some raw veggies. This morning, I took some green peppers. And I must admit, I did take pause before I thrust my knife into them and sliced them up. Sorry my crispy, green buddies!

Win Tickets to the Kansas City Premiere of “Sausage Party”

Media Mikes has teamed up with Sony Pictures to give (10) lucky readers, and their guest, a chance to attend the Kansas City premiere of the new animated comedy “Sausage Party.”

The screening will be held on Monday, August 8, at the AMC Studio 28 Theatre in Olathe, Kansas. The screening will begin at 8:00 p.m., preceded by a cocktail party before hand. Pass winners will also be allowed to attend the cocktail party and they and their guest will each receive one free drink.

To win, all you have to do is head here and get your tickets. This is a first-come, first-serve promotion and, once all of the passes have been given away, the contest is over. Good luck!

Film Review: “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”

Starring: Andy Samberg, Imogen Poots and Bill Hader
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 26 mins
Universal

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Film Review by Mike Smith

You may not know it but you are a fan of The Lonely Island. Fronted by Andy Samberg, this three-man group has created some of the most popular digital shorts for television’s “Saturday Night Live”, including “Mother Lover” and the Emmy award winning “Dick in a Box.” Hollywood has finally caught up with the trio and the result is their first motion picture, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.”

It is a story as old as show business. A group explodes on the scene but, for some reason, only one member really grabs the spotlight. Sometimes that member refuses to let this happen. There is a great story about how the Beatles were offered a major tour when they were just starting out, with the caveat being they had to drop their then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. John Lennon refused. Still, when the talent rises, things change. The Supremes become “Diana Ross and the Supremes” while Destiny’s Child pretty much became Beyonce. Here the Style Boyz are soon taken over by their photogenic lead singer, Conner 4Real (Samberg). He becomes the face of the group, which includes DJ Owen and songwriter Lawrence, played respectively by co-directors/writers Taccone and Schaffer. As the two fall behind, Conner continues a Justin Bieber-like rise. His first album, entitled “Thriller, Also,” wins many awards. However, when Conner accepts credit (and ANOTHER award) for a song he didn’t write, the group dissolves. When his latest album doesn’t perform like it should, all of the stops are pulled out to ensure that Conner remains on top.

There are very few “SNL” inspired films that can sustain 90 minutes. For every “The Blues Brothers” or “Wayne’s World” that come out there are dozens of “Night at the Roxburry” and “Superstar” to contend with. “Popstar” is right in the middle. It does drag on some but Samberg’s performance is so infectious that you’re willing to let a couple slow parts go by. Part of the fun is the sheer number of musical cameos that fill the film. From Ringo Starr to Adam Levine to Seal to Snoop Dogg, I counted no less than ten musical icons that drop by. The film also satirizes “message” songs, including one that praises gay marriage while still inserting quick cuts of Conner asserting that he, himself, is not gay.

Besides Samberg, the supporting cast is also strong. It’s nice to see the other Lonely Island guys get some screen time, and it’s always nice to see some of Samberg’s former “SNL” cast mates working, including Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Jimmy Fallon and Tim Meadows. Special kudos go to Will Arnett as the “boss” who is constantly sucking on a big drink in a brilliant parody of the current “TMZ” television show. And extra credit to producer Judd Apatow, whose cameo is both brave and revealing. Conner 4Real may be hitting some hard times, but he is truly never stopping!