Tag Archives: RJ Cyler

POWER RANGERS

“A group of ever so slightly wayward kids… A sort of watered down Breakfast Club for this generation…”

Wayward Wolf.

The relentless drive to rediscover every ‘lost’ super hero franchise of yesteryear continues unabated with this very 2017 take on the old ’90s kids TV series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

A group of ever so slightly wayward kids thrown together through various improbable circumstances – A sort of watered down Breakfast Club for this generation – unwittingly find themselves to be the ‘chosen ones’ in the fight against the dastardly deeds of Rita Repulsa, a fallen Ranger-turned evil entity, whose reign of wrong-doing had actually commenced many millions of years previously.

Indeed, her initial plans to weave a web of wickedness had unfortunately (for her) been thwarted by the minor inconvenience of a meteor wiping out all life on planet earth.

Fast forward then to the present day, and a group of fishermen catch the preserved remains of Rita on their boat, in amongst their fishy loot. Apparently this is the cue that Rita’s grisly remains has been waiting for, all these millions of years, and she doesn’t waste any time jumping back to life, and wreaking havoc upon the local community.

Meanwhile, our angst-ridden teen heroes-to-be unearth some lost power crystals which are by all accounts of great importance to Rita and her pernicious plans for world domination. It’s not long – again through sets of circumstances too silly, convoluted and improbable to go into – before our new Power Rangers are fully embroiled in a bid to oversee Rita’s downfall, whilst she, in turn, plans to disarm them of their shiny crystalline bounty, and make good on her manifesto of mayhem.

Or something.

Naturally it’s all nonsense, and it’s fair to say that by the time we reach the film’s cacophonous conclusion, any semblance of subtlety the film may have professed to entertain, has been well and truly trodden underfoot both metaphorically and literally, by some ham-fisted direction and an array of huge CGi creations, intent on beating seven bells of shite out of each other.

Nevertheless, and rather unexpectedly, there actually is a certain element of charm (of sorts) about Power Rangers. The five teens-turned-Rangers succeed in being fairly quirky, almost likeable characters, albeit ones playing up to clichéd stereotypes: The Jock (Dacre Montgomery), the cheerleader (Naomi Scott), the autistic nerd (RJ Cyler), the ‘don’t label me / I’m far too alternative’ character (Becky G), and, errr, the other one (Ludi Lin).

Each has a story to tell comprised of their own particular flavour of angsty issues, and it’s only by sharing and overcoming these and thereby successfully bonding together as one, that they can achieve their collective goal, and morph into fully-armoured Power Rangers – and other such Sesame Street-inspired life lessons.

It’s certainly true that Director Dean Israelite’s personal vision of Power Rangers frequently teeters on the brink of plunging over the precipice into a hellish mixing pot of sickly unrealistic, ever-so-clever dialogue in combination with that oh-so-tiresome emo-esque, furrow-browed  inward reflection so typical of modern teen film and television. But somehow, Power Rangers escapes the dreaded drop of misfortune, and muscles on through to become what on balance is actually a reasonably watchable piece of family entertainment, and that in itself is probably some cause for celebration.

It’s certainly nothing special though, even within its own limited genre, but it’s not nearly as forgettable as had been both feared and predicted.

Just exactly what I was doing, watching something like this on the big screen, however, we’ll leave for another day…

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FILM REVIEW: Me and Earl and the dying girl

If there’s one thing that the passing of time has taught me, and this is very much flying in the face of popular opinion and accepted wisdom, it’s to never trust my first impression of anything…
The opening scenes from Me and Earl and the dying girl (MEDG) briefly reminded me of the opening exchanges from another ‘kooky’ indie offering, Juno, and much like my early reaction to Juno, I feared my toes may never fully uncurl again.
I don’t do ‘kooky’ well.
Smart-ass kids with their overly world-savvy, sharp and deeply unrealistic dialogue. It just doesn’t sit well.
MEDG falls into this category, at least initially. Split into sections, each pre-empted with an on-screen ‘the part where {such and such happens}…’ text moniker, I’m suddenly watching Friends again and although Friends was admittedly well written and witty, there were aspects of its overall aura that, in the words of Friends’ own Joey Tribbiani, “made me want to rip my own arm off and hit myself with it.”
But, in the spirit of humble pie and with arms thrown aloft, conceding defeat, this is the part where I give in to the kookiness and reveal that MEDG is actually a slick, emotional and above all very poignant piece of film making; a film that has stayed with me long since the final credits rolled.
Greg (Thomas Mann) is our lead; all gangly awkwardness and self deprecation, coasting through life, shying away from interaction, genuine friendship and going to great lengths  to ensure that he remains on the path of least resistance in whatever he does. A sort of survival for the relatively anonymous.
On hearing that one of the pupils at Greg’s school, Rachel, has been diagnosed with cancer, Greg’s mother and  ‘man of the world’ father (Nick Offerman) agree that Greg, despite his reluctance to do so, should spend some time with her.
Rachel (a perfect casting for Olivia Locke), if nothing else, is surprisingly receptive of Greg’s own particular brand of clumsy, nerdish humour, perhaps offering a welcome distraction to her own problems, and despite a most inauspicious of starts, a hesitant yet tender friendship somehow begins to blossom.
Earl (RJ Cyler) is, in Greg’s own words, not his friend but his his ‘co-worker’; a straight talking kind of fella whose no nonsense approach to things often shakes Greg from his insular existence, forcing him to face up to life and his own responsibilities within it. They’re an unlikely, seemingly mismatched pairing, but through their appreciation of cult and classic movies, and more importantly their own kooky (there’s that word again) B-movie re-imagining of them, each seems to get what they need from the other in their partnership.
Together they share their creative exploits with Rachel and importantly, she seems to ‘get’ the pair of them.
In light of Rachel’s worsening health, it’s perhaps left to Greg’s tutor, Mr McCarthy, (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame), to impart the film’s core message, pointing out to Greg that sometimes it’s often only after someone’s gone that we truly learn about them, who they were and crucially, how they’ve shaped and will continue to shape our own lives, helping us to overcome our inadequacies and to become the person that we have the potential to be.
Although Greg is quick to dismiss this as some kind of unnecessary life lesson, these are words that might prove to be strangely prophetic.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon judges the mood of MEDG superbly. It’s sweet, not saccharine, sad, yet not overly melancholic and amusing yet never really resorting to cheap laughs.
Enhanced by an excellent, Brian Eno-infused and predictably indie soundtrack, you could say that MEDG strikes just the right balance, exuding both warmth and charm and I suspect a longevity that perhaps wouldn’t be expected from a film within the ‘teen’ genre.
A kooky, indie gem.