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In defense of Roger Moore

May 24 // Matthew Razak
First, Roger Moore could deliver a one-liner like no other. Part of this was the fact that he didn't really look like he could deliver a one-liner. Moore never had the rough suaveness of Connery, the playfulness of Lazenby, the sneering edge of Dalton, the boyish charm of Brosnan or the harsh facade of Craig. He was straight-laced, upright, and square-jawed so when he delivered a line like, "Just keeping the British end up," while raising his iconic eyebrow it was just mischievous enough to actually work. Only Connery could nail a one-liner like Moore did.  Often Moore is criticized for taking Bond in a comedic direction and eventually into camp territory. However, this trend towards a more ridiculous Bond was well in place by the time Moore took over, and, in fact, was clearly what audiences wanted at the time. After Connery left following You Only Live Twice, a film full of what would come to be known as Moore-style Bond action, Eon Productions actually did ground Bond. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the most prolifically grounded Bond films there is, and could fit right in with Craig's current slate of films minus a few sight gags. It did not do as well as hoped at the box office, so what happened? Full tilt the other way with Connery returning one last time for Diamonds Are Forever and the true birth of a less serious Bond. This is what audiences wanted from their Bond at the time, and Moore was way better than anyone else at playing it up with a wink to the camera.  Combining the newer direction of the franchise with Moore's uncanny ability to play it straight while still finding the fun of a scene worked really well for Bond. But he's still remembered for the excess and ridiculousness instead of subtle nods. And that is a fair complaint. He went to space and shot lasers (more on this later) for Pete's sake. However, lost in the mire of space stations (Moonraker), underwater sea labs (The Spy Who Loved Me) and hot air balloon raids with an all female circus (Octopussy), is that fact that a lot of Moore's bond films weren't that big at all. In fact he kicked off his tenure with the relatively subdued Live and Let Die, which featured an incredibly complex story that played Moore's stiff Britishness against a Harlem gang to surprising effect. The Man with the Golden Gun may start to show signs of the preponderance of overblown Bond that was too come (slide whistle car flips and Sheriff Pepper), but it also ends with a one-on-one showdown between two foes. Yes, it's in a ridiculous setting, but Moore actually pulls the tension out of it alongside the fantastic Christopher Lee. Then there is For Your Eyes Only, a film in which Moore's Bond is a complete and total badass. If it weren't for the Bibi scenes the film would be one of the straightest played Bond films around.  But Bond wasn't (and isn't really) about being subdued. In fact Roger Moore's best Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, is easily one of the best Bond films around specifically because it is everything that makes Bond great. Moore delivers a fantastic performance from the pitch perfect parachute-stunt opening to the inevitable victory in an evil villains base. The film is everything a Bond movie should be, cliche and all. If Goldfinger began defining what a Bond film is then The Spy Who Loved Me finalized that definition. Even in its overblown Bond glory the film finds time to hit some emotional notes, especially when Bond's late wife is brought up and Moore tersely shuts the conversation down. Moore's Bond is at its comic finest, but also some of his cruelest. At one point a henchman is grabbing Bond's tie to keep from falling off a roof. Once he gets the information he needs Moore simply knocks the tie away letting him fall with a stone cold, "What a helpful chap." Let's also give fashion credit where its due. While Connery's grey 3-piece suit in Goldfinger may be the gold standard of Bond fashion, sometimes he went a bit too high fashion to stay classically trendy. Moore will always look sharp for the most part. His long neck meant that the large collars of the 70s don't look out of style and his Savile Row suits couldn't get more British. In one of the the ugliest eras in men's fashion Moore's Bond stayed classic for the most part. Maybe it could seem stuffy at the time, but thanks to Moore Bond looks timelessly stylish in a suit.  Finally, Moore saved the franchise. After OHMSS people thought that Bond wouldn't be able to survive without Connery. Recasting seemed like a mistake, especially since Diamonds performed so much better. Then Moore came along and his take on Bond worked with audiences. People enjoyed watching his Bond, and the franchise stayed relevant. Moonraker might be ridiculous, but it bought full into the Star Wars craze of the time and remained the highest grossing Bond film for decades. No other Bond could have made Moonraker even remotely work. Thanks to Moore's performance its easy to see how he's metaphorically winking at the camera throughout the ridiculousness. At that time it is what Bond needed to succeed and only Moore's Bond could handle that. Moore took a fun approach to Bond that these days is often looked down upon, but while all his films weren't fantastic, and he easily should have stopped before A View to A Kill thanks to his age, what Moore did was truly define James Bond. His own delight in having fun with the movies shines through his performances. Maybe that fun has moved on from action cinema, and maybe that isn't entirely a good thing. Looking at modern Bond films its when the franchise finds that balance between drama and humor that it really works as Skyfall showed, especially when compared to the dour Quantum of Solace and the overly punchy Spectre. Moore might not be your favorite Bond, but he deserves to be remembered as a man who defined what we truly think of Bond overall. There would be no James Bond without Roger Moore.
Bond photo
Why his Bond is better than you think
Yesterday we heard the sad news that Roger Moore had passed away. If you're like me it hit you pretty hard, because if you're like me Roger Moore's James Bond is something you love. A lot of people are not like me. Most don't...

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This guy is this guy--not a real stretch
Last we heard on the Venom movie front, Andrew Garfield was still the defacto Spider-Man, Spider-Man had not shown up in the Marvel cinematic universe, and Sony had not learned it was more lucrative to play nice with Marvel t...

The Dark Crystal photo
Scariest childrens movie ever
Netflix -- because it evidently doesn't have enough things to get excited about -- has announced that it is working with the Jim Henson Company to produce a 10 episode prequel to the classic film The Dark Crystal, called The ...

Star Trek Discovery photo
This is before the original?
After delay and delay and delay we finally have our first look at Star Trek: Discovery. It is very confusing. Check out the trailer and you'll see the cast getting into plenty of scrapes and even some moral quandries (good), ...


Trailer: Bong Joon Ho's Okja looks like a gorgeous, Spielbergian eco-terror adventure

May 18 // Hubert Vigilla
As The Playlist notes, Bong decided to partner with Netflix for his newest film to avoid the distribution and release headaches he experienced working with the Weinsteins on Snowpiercer. (Ugh, ol' Harvey Scissorhands.) Okja's international cast includes An Seo Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Okja will be out on Netflix and in select theaters on June 28th. Let us know how you think and what that cuddly super-pig creature might taste like in the comments. (I mean, yeah, bacon, but with notes of what, exactly?) [via The Playlist]
Trailer: Okja photo
Tastes f**king good
Bong Joon Ho is one of Korea's most acclaimed and beloved filmmakers, and one of the most respected directors in the world. He made an international name for himself with 2003's Memories of a Murder, and went on to craft The ...

Review: Alien: Covenant

May 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221515:43550:0[/embed] Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley ScottRelease Date: May 18, 2017Rating: R  Coming from Covenant’s marketing campaign, you might be surprised by the first name in its opening credits: Michael Fassbender. And right off the bat we know that something is wrong, because in the trailer that was pretty cool for two minutes (before being very, very stupid right at the end), you see Fassbender… twice? We’ve been led to believe that Katherine Waterson is our protagonist, and yet we don’t begin the film with her (rather with Fassbender’s David character, from Prometheus). And then we go to Fassbender’s other character, an android named Walter. We aren’t introduced to the cast until after the first exciting thing happens: A solar event damages the ship and forces the crew members from their cryosleep. In the chaos that ensues, we finally meet our Ripley. And it just goes downhill from there. The first thing you see Daniels – the Strong Independent Woman who is going to take down the xenomorph at the end (one would assume) – do is fail to get out of her sleeping pod. You see some guys get out, then they help her. And then her husband, played perplexingly for less than two minutes by James Franco, can’t get out… but no one can get him out either and he burns up in his pod. And then we’re treated to our Strong Independent Woman being sad about her dead husband while watching a video he left her on a tablet. Ugh. But Daniels doesn’t take over; she’s second in command to Billy Krudup’s character, who is sad that no one respects him and thinks it is because he is a man of faith (there is no evidence to support this). Their ship is transporting a couple thousand colonists to their new home, but after the solar incident and the death of their captain, everyone is a little iffy about getting back into their cryogenic pods – especially since Walter tells them there is a not-insignificant chance that this kind of thing could happen again. Conveniently (or not), they receive a distress beacon from a nearby planet that falls perfectly within the habitable zone. It’s weeks away rather than years, so Krudup decides they should go check it out. When hell breaks loose however many minutes later, I found myself thinking not about what I was seeing but about my complete lack of reaction to it. Technically, there’s some good stuff here. There are some genuinely great shots, and the production design in general is very cool. But functionally there’s nothing. You know what emotion you’re supposed to feel because you have an understanding of cinematic language. The music swells, the camera gets shaky, and the editing gets jumping; oh, something tense is going on. But I don’t feel any tension. And then I’m watching Amy Seimetz fire on a baby xenomorph and thinking about why this doesn’t work for me. Even the body horror stuff that sort of worked didn’t really work. [embed]221515:43549:0[/embed] The Chestburster in the original Alien was a genuinely shocking moment. It’s probably one of cinema’s most iconic images, and works on pretty much every level. Alien: Covenant knows that a xenomorph bursting from a chest isn’t good enough anymore, so it has a few much more disturbing ways to birth aliens from a human body. And they’re definitely disgusting, getting the grossed-out reaction from the crowd that they were going for, but the intensity of the violence doesn’t actually serve the plot in any meaningful way. It’s just horrific imagery for the sake of it, there to shock the audience more than the characters in the film. You may appreciate the inventiveness for a moment, but then you have to deal with the CGI xenomorphs that come out and all the gorgeous practical effects that lead up to it can’t stop you from groaning. Or laughing. The audience laughed a lot. They actually clapped a couple of times, usually after the Xenomorph had killed someone in a particularly vicious way. I wondered about that: Why? Was it because the characters were so boring that everyone was just glad they were dead? I mean, I had already forgotten several of the characters by the time the credits rolled, only remembering once I rewatched the trailer just to make sure that it was, in fact, selling the same product that I had just witnessed. The crew on the Covenant probably had names, but I only remember two of them: Daniels and Tennessee. (There is also Walter, but we’ll get to that later.) Tennessee is played by Danny McBride, and he’s got a fairly unpleasant personality, but he’s the only one who actually has personality at all. The characters are largely expendable, and the script seems well aware of that, because it makes no attempt to develop anyone who dies early and only a marginal effort to develop the ones who make it to the third act. The four-plus-minute scene that I mentioned earlier, a slice of which is featured in that trailer, is important because it’s not actually in the movie. Like, at all. And it’s interesting because watching that clip after seeing the film, I saw more character development for some of those people than in the entire two hours of nonsense I sat through. I would assume that it was originally supposed to be part of the film; it seems odd that it wouldn’t be, and it’s the only time James Franco says things while alive. It actually feels like it’s from a completely different movie. They talk about the crew members, but make no reference to all of the other (sleeping) colonists on the ship. Watching that, I would never have known that they weren’t the sole bodies aboard the Covenant. And sure, it makes only marginally less sense than the stuff the characters actually do say, but it leads me to wonder what place it was supposed to serve… and what the movie was supposed to look like. Because I don’t believe for a second that Alien: Covenant is the movie that it was supposed to be. Clearly it’s not the movie that Fox’s marketing department wanted it to be, but I have trouble believing it’s the movie Ridley Scott was trying to make. Then again, I don’t have any idea what movie he was trying to make, because there’s no consistency of any sort. Really, it feels like the movie is fucking with you sometimes. Nowhere is this clearer than the truly bizarre sequences like the one where Michael Fassbender as David (who just-so-happens to be on this planet) is showing Michael Fassbender as Walter how to play the recorder. The camera swings back and forth in a long take as one Fassbender tells the other about “fingering holes,” something that happens for several straight minutes. That sequence is probably as long as the character-building clip I mentioned that didn’t make it into the film… yet somehow the innuendo-filled recorder scene is important? At first, I was convinced that David was going to kill Walter and take over his place at this point, maybe force the recorder through Walter’s throat, but no: He literally just shows him how to play the recorder. It’s just two Michael Fassbenders, like Ridley Scott finally figured out the facial technology that David Fincher has been using for years and wanted to show it off. Look, Fassbender is one of my favorite actors, and if they want to have scenes of just him talking to himself, that’s fine… but this is just stupid. As with most scenes David is in, there seems to be an attempt at philosophy. As I mentioned, Fassbender is the protagonist, both as David and Walter. They’re two very different models of the same Android, and the underlying logic behind their creation could lead to some interesting discussions. There are hints of that, and other things. David talks (constantly) about creation and perfection and humanity and love, but these proclamations aren’t part of a dialogue. It’s like listening to a college freshman who read “Ozymandias” for the first time and has now figured out the meaning of life and really, really wants to tell you about how cool he is. He says vapid things in vain attempts at profundity, and it’s just sad. It’s theoretically an extension of the ideas raised in Prometheus (particularly with regards to creation), but it’s ultimately nothing at all. And that’s Alien: Covenant as a whole. It’s nothing. By the time this review is published, I will likely have forgotten everything about it, except for the feelings it left me with. I wanted it to be good; I wanted that oh-so badly. I wanted Ridley Scott to prove he still had it. But Covenant proves that he does not. This is Scott giving up on his most famous franchise. This is me giving up on him.
Alien: Covenant Review photo
Fool Me Twice
As reviled as it is (justifiably or not), Prometheus deserves a little pass for being unlike its Alien siblings in large part because of its branding. It may be in the same canon, but it’s not pretending to be an Alien ...

Review: The Wall

May 03 // Rick Lash
The Wall photo
Anything but simple
The premise is simple, the film anything but. Iraq, 2007. The war is coming to an end, but maybe someone should have told that to the "bad guys." Two American soldiers. Not just any American soldiers, but a sniper team, ...

The Dark Tower photo
It definitely has a tower
First, if you haven't read Stephen King's The Dark Tower series go and do that. It's fantastic, and his greatest undertaking as a writer. It's a massive western, science fiction, fantasy, met narrative that can get ...

Tribeca: Arden's Wake and the Continued Brilliance of Penrose Studios' VR Storytelling

May 01 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221501:43542:0[/embed] There’s still no name for what Arden’s Wake is. Eugene Chung mentioned this in his interview with Hubert and with me, and I imagine probably every other one he did as well. And it’s an important thing to consider. It is, to some degree, a short film, since you are more-or-less a passive observer of a pre-scripted story that lasts fifteen minutes. But even if you’re a passive observer, you are an active part of the world. Thanks to the HTC Vive, you have a 15 x 15 square within which you can walk around. At the end of Allumette, I was handed a Vive controller, and I controlled a matchstick (relevant to the story) and watched as it reacted to the world and the world reacted to it, but this was very distinctly a thing that took place after the main narrative. Arden’s Wake had nothing of the sort. You can’t reach out and touch the world in any way, and this is important; as Chung wrote in a blog post in December of 2015, presence and storytelling are in conflict. The instant you take hold of that controller and start to watch as the match lights up the clouds around you, you forget about what you’re watching. You’re paying attention to yourself and what you’re doing. You’re taken out of the narrative as you’re pulled into the experience. And those things can exist side-by-side, but not in concert.  And, of course, this has serious implications for the design of VR experiences. Back in 2014, I interviewed Dr. Richard Marks, who was a key player in the creation of PlayStation VR, and he talked about the importance of Presence – how it was really the whole point of the thing. (About a year later, I would later inadvertently punch him during a demo of then-Project Morpheus, because he was standing where a virtual rack of weapons was.) And in a game setting, that’s more-or-less true, though arguably once you’ve reached a flow state, you’re no longer “aware” of yourself and have given over to the experience, at which point you can give your full attention to any narrative. But that doesn’t work for Arden’s Wake or anything like it. There is no flow state because there’s no gameplay. All it can do to keep you from distracting yourself is to limit your interactivity. So you can do one thing and one thing only: Look. You’re the camera, seeing the action from as close or as far as you like. You can, of course, ignore the story if you’d like, but without any interactivity, there’s not much reason to. A critical lesson used in Allumette and continued here is the addition of an acclimation period to the story. As with its predecessor, Arden’s Wake does not throw you directly into its story. You begin underwater, miniature debris sinking around you as the opening credits roll. This is the time where you get over the “Wow!” factor. This is when you get to spin around in circles and look at all of the cool things. By the time you see the characters coming into view, you’re ready to focus on them. Or, at least, that’s the idea. I found this to be more-or-less the case when I saw Allumette and definitely the case by Arden’s Wake, but I discussed it with another critic who had missed last year’s showcase, so this was her first time experiencing virtual reality of this sort. She told me that she spent most of the story looking around, too enveloped by the world itself to follow the story. That said, she also took issue with the presentation of the narrative, which likely factored into her distraction. The most crucial difference between Allumette and Arden’s Wake is the addition of non-player camera movement. Allumette was a basically static experience. You stood by a bridge and watched the tiny characters play out their story. A flying ship came in and offered another thing for the players to look at, but the world itself was locked in place. You were the only one who could affect what you were looking at. (This led to the life-changing moment, when I instinctively ducked under a virtual bridge so as not to hit my head;) Arden’s Wake takes place in two locations: Atop a sunken skyscraper (this is, presumably, many years in the future) in the protagonist’s small home and the water beneath it. There isn’t a cut from one to the other. Instead, the camera slowly descends into the waves as we follow a submersible deep down when the protagonist must go after her father. I was aware of the movement, sure, but this was a moment of transition; the momentary feeling of presence didn’t affect my experience of the story, and the shift itself felt natural. It was a logical extension of the purely static location, with the movement itself feeling oh-so-finely tuned, enough to get you where you needed to go without getting bored while also not so fast that you feel disoriented. Even though it’s happening outside of your control, you don’t feel like you’ve lost control. You can still move. You can look at the submersible from any angle, or walk around, though you probably won’t want to. The visuals are cute, the story is funny, and there’s voice-acted dialogue this time. You’ll get drawn in not just because it’s a story presented in a way that you’ve never seen but because it’s a story that is just generally well-crafted. As was the case with Allumette, the folks at Penrose have proven themselves to be storytellers first. In the early days of VR, that’s all the more crucial. There are many different kinds of VR experiences (the Tribeca VR festival had a number of them), as creators test the possibilities of the new medium, and the Penrose brand is just one of many viable options. But it’s also easily the best version of VR storytelling I’ve come across. Eugene Chung and his team have developed an understanding of what does and doesn’t work that far surpasses most of their competition. This is, in part, because they’re trying something different: this form of minimally interactive narrative is generally reserved for 360/spherical video live-action films. And, as we established from the outset, that’s not really what these are. We’ll come up with a name sooner or later, but it’s a type of story that lacks the inherent limitations of 360 video. The limitations are, for the most part, self-imposed, and we’ve already seen how that can and will change over time. Each new Penrose production is a step up from the one before it, which makes what’s to come all the more exciting. At fifteen minutes, Arden Wake’s prologue felt all too short, but it served as an effective teaser for the entire narrative to follow. I’m extremely excited to get my eyes –not my hands – on the final product.
Arden's Wake photo
VR's Best Storytellers Get Even Better
Last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, I was invited to a special preview of a semi-interactive non-movie non-game hybrid called Allumette, which would have its world premiere a few days later. It was a forty-five-minute sol...

Review: LA 92

Apr 27 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221425:43497:0[/embed] LA 92Directors: Daniel Lindsay and T.J. MartinRating: RRelease Date: April 28, 2019 (NYC, LA); April 30, 2019 (National Geographic Channel)  Lindsay and Martin start not with the LA riots of 1992, but instead the Watts riots of 1965. Another case of police brutality and violence, another instance of outrage and destruction. Riots might be viewed as a type of self-harm. When a community is helpless to redress a wrong, they wound themselves. It makes sense that the specter of Watts lingers through the film, suggesting an inescapable inevitability of violence in the face of cyclical, systemic, and maybe even perpetual racism. These are decades and decades of oppression manifested in a grandiose act of self-mutilation. Tensions ratchet up following the beating of Rodney King. LA 92 notes the death of Latasha Harlins as part of the fomenting rage, which would lead to a lot of Korean businesses getting targeted during the riots themselves. Harlins was allegedly trying to shoplift orange juice at a convenience store. She got into a struggle with store owner Soon Ja Du, who shot Harlins dead at the register. Harlins was just 15 years old. The verdict in the murder case implies a lot of unsavory things about how the minority status of blacks and Asians are so different in the eyes of white America. (This goes beyond the purview of this review, but I couldn't help but think of the myth of the model minority that seems to pit blacks and Asians against one another, as if the American experience for these ethnic groups are commensurate simply by dint of minority status.) The build to the riots themselves on the day of the Rodney King verdict is so ominous. It's played out through a series of escalations; an argument over donuts, shoutdowns in the courthouse parking lot, feet on the ground, gatherings in churches. The anger has been shut in so long, it can't be contained. The cops are evacuated out of fear for their safety. The social order breaks down. Then the riot happens. The riot on screen is an unrelenting cinematic assault for at least an hour. The rage is palpable, as are the confusion and sadness. There's also a lot of sadistic happiness, the type of manic glee that comes with vengeance and feelings of dominance. A man's face gets caved in on camera, and people laugh at him in triumph. One scene I can't get out of my head. A man gets beaten, and his genitals are exposed. His attackers spray paint his face and and his private parts black. He quivers on the ground in the way that people in movies quiver when they're about to die. And then a preacher approaches the man slowly, fire and rubble around him; there's a Bible in one hand and his arms are outstretched like Christ. That's end times imagery; it happened in my own lifetime. Occasionally it feels like the gyre of a score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans will completely overtake the madness on screen. Yet the imagery is so potently organized and the emotions are so raw; the music felt like perfect symphonic accompaniment. There is nothing subtle or subdued about what's happening or what anyone is feeling in those moments. That score also enhances the unfolding chaos of what happened. As businesses in Koreatown are targeted, Korean men with guns fire at passing cars. One guy unloads a whole clip from his handgun with abandon and a psychotic determination on his face. It's no surprise that LA 92 refuses to provide a conciliatory conclusion. Rodney King's "Can we all get along?" was such a punchline of a quote even in 1992, but to see the full press conference is another matter. King's so overwhelmed saying those words. There's nothing to laugh about. It's one of the most earnest expressions of empathy he could offer, tinged by an awareness of how meek and helpless it might sound. So many images and moments of LA 92 will haunt me, but the new context of King's question chills me when I think of it. The answer seems like, "I'm not sure."
Review: LA 92 photo
Chilling, apocalyptic, and timely
It's been 25 years since the LA riots, and there are a number of films coming out that revisit this harrowing moment in the country's history. The most high-profile might be Let It Fall: LA from 1982-1992 from John Ridley, sc...

Star Wars: Episode IX and Indiana Jones 5 get release dates

Apr 26 // Matthew Razak
Disney also announced a host of other release dates including a two year delay for Gigantic.  Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 has been pushed back from March 9, 2018 to November 21, 2018. A Wrinkle in Time will now open a month earlier, on March 9, 2018 instead of April 6, 2018. Disney Animation’s Gigantic has been delayed a full twoyears from November 21, 2018 to November 25, 2020. The live-action comedy Magic Campwill open in theaters on April 6, 2018. An untitled Marvel movie has been pushed from July 10, 2020 to August 7, 2020. Two new Untitled Disney Live-Action films have been set for release on April 3, 2020 and March 12, 2021. A new Untitled Pixar movie is now dated for June 18, 2021 An untitled Disney Animation movie has been pushed a year from November 25, 2020 to November 24, 2021. [via Collider]  
Star Wars photo
Yea, Indy is still happening
Two massive release dates landed yesterday. The first you knew was coming and isn't much of a surprise: Star Wars: Episode IX will release on May 24, 2019. With the last two Star Wars films hitting in the holiday se...

Last Jedi photo
Dark. Light. So much more.
We're going to get a lot of Star Wars trailers in the coming years. In fact we've had plenty just off of the first two Disney released films, and yet the second that theme kicks in I get excited like its the first time a...

Thor: Ragnarok trailer photo
Ahhhhh-ohhhh-aaaaaaaah-AAAAH!
If you asked me two years ago if I'd be excited about a new Thor movie, the answer would be, "No, not at all." Enter Thor: Ragnarok from Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It's... it... Guys...

Joss Whedon will direct a standalone Batgirl movie for the DCEU

Mar 30 // Hubert Vigilla
This also makes me wonder if this will feature a Dick Grayson/Nightwing appearance to set up the Nightwing movie that was announced a month ago. Is this the start of the DCEU Bat Family sub-universe, aka the DCEUBFSU? Whedon makes sense for Batgirl. The creator and driving force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a solid choice to steer a Batgirl story in a reliable direction. I wonder what iteration of Batgirl it will be, though. Will it be the new hipster Batgirl of Burnside (the Brooklyn of Gotham City) who sports the bossest new costume around, or will this be a more classic iteration of Barbara Gordon? We'll report more details as they arise. What do you think of this news? Is the DCEU doing something right? Will this wind up delayed by the summer? Let us know in the comments. [via Variety]
Joss Whedon Batgirl photo
BAH GAWD! THAT'S JOSS WHEDON'S MUSIC!
Variety reports that Joss Whedon will direct a standalone Batgirl movie for Warner Bros. and the DCEU. Whedon will also write the film and serve as producer. Variety notes that comics writer and producer Geoff Johns will be o...

New Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer has Peter Parker and Tony Stark at odds

Mar 28 // Hubert Vigilla
I wonder if this trailer gives too much away about the story. In particular, Spidey back in the low-fi/DIY suit seems like it should have been saved for the film itself rather than spoiled for the trailer. That would make for a dramatic reveal. What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Spider-Man: Homecoming will be out July 7th.
Spider-Man: Homecoming photo
Is Spider-Man more than just a suit?
The first Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer gave us a taste of the Marvel Studios webslinger, which seems to have a charm and ease that Sony never managed to get right in their Amazing films. The happy-go-lucky/I-love-savin...

Every Power Rangers Season, Ranked

Mar 27 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mention: Power Rangers Ninja Steel As of this writing, Ninja Steel is only ten episodes in (so halfway through the first half), so I can't fully rank it among the others yet. I've been enjoying what I've seen so far, however. Far removed from Neo-Saban's (when Saban reacquired the rights to the series' production in 2012) early growing pains, this season resets the age of the team -- they're teens in high school again -- and it's got all of the goofiness of the OG seasons but with better acting. I mean, they just introduced a gold ranger, who's a country western star and his helmet has a hat on it. What's not to like?  20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive Summary: Two brothers try to steal a legendary crown (the Corona Aurora), but are imprisoned. Years later, explorer Andrew Hartford uncovers the crown, freeing the two bad bros. Andrew then brings in five folks, including his son, to become Power Rangers and gather the pieces of Corona Aurora before the baddies do.  Operation Overdrive is just a huge mess. I'm not exactly sure who or what to blame for its overall terribleness, but it's a combination of terribly written plots, terrible acting, terrible suits, a rap opening theme, and a bunch of characters who were all awful jerks. Seriously, this is the only season in Power Rangers where each member of the team is a selfish person with little redeeming value. The worst season of the Disney era, and the worst season overall.  19. Power Rangers Samurai/Super Samurai Summary: After otherworldly monsters invade feudal Japan, the Shiba clan trains generations of samurai to fight them and keep the otherworld (the Sanzu River) from flooding into the human one.  After Saban reacquired the production rights to the series from Disney in 2010 (which fans have dubbed the "Neo-Saban Era"), they took one of the shows I never thought would be adapted, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. The original series was unequivocally Japanese, so naturally there would be translation pains. But Samurai was the victim of a lot of factors. The series had moved to Nickelodeon, seasons were cut down to 20 episodes apiece (thus separating each series into two halves), episodes were aired out of order (the premiere was the fourth one produced), acting was all around awful (not to mention the worst child acting of the series), and it directly adapted plots from the original Japanese series even if it didn't make much sense in English. But, regardless of all of these factors, the show became popular enough (again) to keep going, mostly due to how unique of the season's theme was.  18. Power Rangers Mystic Force Summary: After dark forces of magic threaten the world, a great sorceress gathers five destined teens to be become Power Ranger wizards and fight the armies of the undead.  Like Samurai, Mystic Force is another season with a theme unique from the rest. The magical world (along with the admittedly cool look for the rangers themselves) could've been a great thing. However, the season became too focused on world building, introducing new characters every few episodes rather than allowing the season to breathe and/or give its core Ranger team the focus necessary. It became a Red Ranger season, meaning the Red Ranger got the bulk of the character work, but this was also a huge misfire since the Red this season (named Nick, sadly) was bland and uninteresting. The finale also had a random "mystical creatures vs. normies" kind of thing that sort of popped up out of nowhere, but the less said about that the better.  17. Power Rangers Megaforce/Super Megaforce Summary: Five teens are chosen to defend the world from an invading insect army then unlock powers at an alarming rate, eventually resulting in the ability to morph into every generation of Power Rangers before them.  Okay, there's quite a bit to unpack here. Megaforce was technically announced as the 20th Anniversary of the series, but nothing was officially done about it until Super Megaforce. Imagine the combined 100 episodes of two different shows mangled into a 40 episode nonsense machine and that's Megaforce. Rapid pacing combined with random tributes to Power Rangers never seen before (not even editing the Sentai exclusive teams out of the footage), and an overall laziness contributed to this season's downfall. Even more troublesome was what happened behind the scenes during their big anniversary episode. Saban had initially invited a bunch of old cast members but rescinded many of those invites before filming because they had become too expensive. So that's why you get two minutes of Tommy toward the end of the season and not much more there. But the suits and power changes were cool, so whatever.  16. Power Rangers Turbo Summary: The Rangers drive cars really fast.  Turbo was such a bad season it nearly ended the series altogether. After debuting with Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (which is oddly counted in the series' story despite being f**king terrible), it took footage from the Japanese Carranger, which was made as an intentional parody and saved Super Sentai overseas, and gave it gritty overtones. Its constant need to be taken seriously clashed with episodes where they got baked into a giant pizza or that one where Justin was stuck on a bicycle moving on its own. None of it was helped by a major casting change midway through when the OG cast decided to move on from the project after a few of them had stayed on for like a billion episodes. The one thing that saves this particular series is the fact I liked the new cast quite a bit. Patricia Ja Lee was the first Asian American Pink Ranger, and Selwyn Ward was a great Red Ranger. The two injected much of the needed personality this season (and beyond).  15. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue Summary: When Demons attack Mariner Bay, the Lightspeed organization recruits five individuals with expertise to become a rescue squad of Rangers to save the day.  For these next few entries, there are seasons which were almost good but not quite there. These seasons often had great ideas but were hindered by other aspects of the production. Lightspeed Rescue was awesome for a number of reasons: The military theme gave the Rangers a more professional vibe than in seasons past; the suits had a nice, clean look to them; it had a good theme song; they created a unique power ranger for the series; and Carter Greyson was an awesome, no-nonsense Red Ranger who shot first and asked questions later. What keeps it from being great, however, is the lack of interesting villains, often befuddling writing (such as focusing the traditional team-up episode between seasons on some random child actor), and  the fact that one of the main villains was just terrible.  14. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S3 Summary: The Rangers get ninja powers before turning into children and then aliens show up.  While fans are nostalgic for Power Rangers' initial run, most seem to forget how bad the third season was. A strong brand with the gradual loss of popularity, the writers had no idea what to really do anymore. With an increased budget leading to less Japanese footage, it adapted Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie into the series proper, adding in Ninja Powers, the Tengu Warriors, the Ninja Megazord (even using toy footage when the Ninja Megazord combined with the old Titanus zord), and eventually turning the Rangers into kids for the last half of the season. The brief (and terrible) Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers mini-season debuted here, and those are probably the worst episodes of the initial run. And I'm including Trini's troll doll. Still a lot better than the seasons higher up on the list, however.  13. Power Rangers Wild Force Summary: Five people are gathered on the floating island of Animaria, an island full of ancient animals called upon to protect the earth from pollution and environmental junk like that.  Wild Force suffers many of Lightspeed Rescue's issues,  with uninteresting villains (until the last few episodes anyway), weird decisions (their mentor was the worst), increased focus on Red Ranger, and an overbearing environmental message, but it's a rung above thanks to some standout episodes. Its crossover, "Reinforcements from the Future," is one of the best; the 10th Anniversary "Forever Red" episode remains one of my favorites; the suits were cool, and I actually was a fan of its Red Ranger until he committed an actual murder. I can't look at this season the same anymore, sadly.  12. Power Rangers Dino Charge/Dino Super Charge Summary: Five, then six, then seven, then ten people gather together when each discovers a long hidden dino gem, full of a transformative power that helps them fight the forces of evil.  The reason Megaforce was such a hearty failure is that it no longer had the excuse of Saban re-learning how to produce the series. But apparently they needed two series to figure out exactly how to handle things, because Dino Charge was a major improvement all around. It had better pacing, better filler episodes (meaning they don't contribute to the story but often provide character growth or comedy), a better cast of actors (Brandon Mejia is a great Red Ranger), and goes down in Ranger history for having the most Rangers on a single team at ten. Though not all of the Rangers were worthwhile (it's hard to develop ten different people in 40 episodes) and it fell apart toward the end, Dino Charge was still more enjoyable than most.  11. Power Rangers Zeo  Summary: After the destruction of the Command Center leaves them stranded, Zordon unveils a new set of powers from the Zeo Crystal, and this new level of power is needed more than ever against an invading machine legion.  Although Power Rangers was no stranger to change the first three seasons, the series didn't officially receive its first major overhaul until Zeo. Accompanied by an opening theme touting these new powers (based off of footage of a new season of Super Sentai) as "stronger than before," Zeo was an interesting thing. The Machine Empire had a larger villainous scope than Rita or Zedd, but they never accomplished anything concrete. There may have been a new Command Center, powers that technically grow in strength forever (thus leaving a plot hole for fans to argue about ad infinitum), and a starkly different suit overall, but Zeo also felt like a step down from the original series. It was a strange but much-needed transitional period, resulting in the loss of David Yost (who stepped out of the series due to terrible conditions behind the scenes), the loss of Karen Ashley's Aisha (who was written out of the show as a child), and the loss of quite a few viewers. This is where the nostalgia ends for most folks. But there were some great episodes within, like "King for a Day," which featured one of the best Bulk and Skull plots of the entire series. 10. Power Rangers Jungle Fury Summary: Three students of the kung-fu Order of the Claw are chosen to fight an ancient evil, Dai Shi, and rebalance the chi of the world.  Almost the final season of the series (before Disney decided to give it one last victory lap, RPM), it would've been a fine one to go out on. While it's got some goofy qualities (like talking flies and master karate folks turning into animals at the end for some reason), it was an ambitious season. Featuring only three initial Rangers (with a fourth and fifth debuting much later), this season played out like a kung-fu movie for kids. The suits are pretty cool, the fights were well choreographed in-suit and out, and instead of making a motorcycle to promote toy sales like other seasons, Jungle Fury chose to add three unique Rangers (who were initially evil puppets: another cool layer).  The finale may have been a bit rushed and unfulfilling, but it featured all eight Rangers fighting an undead army of monsters before a giant King Faux-dorah showed up for ten seconds. Also, the villains had a face turn, and that was pretty cool.  9. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy Summary: Five strangers pull five mystical swords out of a rock and gain the power to save their floating space colony from an evil scorpion.  While Lost Galaxy isn't one of my favorites, I have to give credit where it's due. It's a season filled with so many of my personal favorite episodes ("The Rescue Mission," "To the Tenth Power/The Power of Pink," just to name a few) and one of my favorite sixth Rangers (Magna Defender, who eventually turned his powers over to Leo's brother Mike), but its shoes were just too big to fill. This was the first season of the series where the cast rotated out every year, and the first of the post-Zordon era, and after In Space's great finale everything felt lacking, naturally.  No matter how good in might've been in retrospect, it's another victim of growing pains. Quite a common problem for the series overall, as you might've noticed.  8. Power Rangers Ninja Storm Summary: After their entire ninja school was kidnapped by the evil ninja Lothor, three less than great ninja students are chosen to become the Wind Ninja Power Rangers and fight to save their fellow ninjas.  Though Disney acquired the production rights to the series mid-Wild Force, its first actual foray into the show was a fantastic debut. Though fans had to get used to a lot of new norms (32 episode series lengths, New Zealand locations and actors, less direct violence), there was an overall newness to the series that felt like a breath of fresh air. This first season focused on three initial Rangers (which had never been done before) before adding two Rival Rangers to the foray and had some pretty great acting from its main cast. The main villain, Lothor, was too hokey for it, and some of the episodes bordered on cartoonish terribleness, but the stark contrast of its style to seasons before and after helped make its mark among the others.  7. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S1 Summary: When evil sorceress Rita Repulsa escapes her prison of 10,000 years, a giant floating head and his robot butler recruit a team of teenagers with attitude. He endows them with dinosaur powers and they learn the value of teamwork and environmental friendliness.  Yes, the season of the series with the most fans isn't the best one. Though it began the Power Rangers legacy and introduced traditions (like the mythical sixth Ranger) and other mythos to the series, it was back before any nuance was added. There were monster-of-the-week episodes --  most of which are unmemorable (save for the "Rapping Pumpkin"), the teens themselves didn't have as much attitude as advertised (they were goodie goodies who recycled and the like), and it was back before good dialogue was a thing in this show. But, credit where it's due and all that.  6. Power Rangers Dino Thunder Summary: When the Mercer Corporation unleashes an army of dinosaurs, three kids stumble on dino powers and Tommy Oliver recruits them to form his very own team of Power Rangers.  When the ratings for the series began to falter, Disney brought the series back to its roots. A dinosaur theme, three Rangers at the start (which honestly might be why some of Disney's seasons worked so well), and the return of Jason David Frank as series mentor. Naturally, this meant Tommy Oliver got such a heavy focus (he became a Ranger again and got one of the best episodes of the series with "Fighting Spirit"), but the the rest of the cast were no slouches either. It takes quite a bit to take attention away from Tommy, but this team managed to do it.  The teens felt like teens for once (they fought among each other, hated school and things like training), the main villain was complicated (which was a welcome change post-Lothor), and it even managed an evil Ranger plot with everything else going on. It's not higher on the list because it has to compete with tighter series, but Dino Thunder is highly recommended.  5. Power Rangers SPD Summary: Space cops in the future.  I'll just say it outright: S.P.D. was slept on. With the best non-MMPR opening theme (which was no coincidence, as it brought back longtime composer Ron Wasserman) and the best suits from the Disney era, it nails a military theme that Lightspeed Rescue attempted years before. It also has a complicated set of Rangers in its core team, and is set years into the future, giving it a different vibe from previous seasons. Plus, there was a major story thread teased throughout which actually got the most focus toward the end of the season. A Power Rangers season with actual good foreshadowing? Yeah, it happened.  You see, this team was officially the "B Squad" or the second best. When the A Squad goes missing mid-season and re-emerges as bad guys toward the end. the final arc became overcoming their "second best" anxiety rather than taking on their generic villain.  4. Power Rangers Time Force Summary: Earth cops from the future.  Time Force is the closest to B-movie quality the series has ever come. With an older cast (some of whom with previous acting experience, which is why so much of the series is well acted), a team of Rangers from the future, some of the best suits the series has ever had, the best non-Tommy sixth Ranger (Eric the Quantum Ranger), and an unconventional villain (Rancic) who eventually gave up his evil ways when he put his daughter in danger. Though it's not a perfect series, as Rancic is the core of many of its problems (he's sort of an unsympathetic jerk despite the series trying to portray him as the opposite), and some of the team isn't as developed as others, the season featured quite a bit of nuance in its storytelling, which hadn't been present in the series before. It'd be years before it got that level of nuance again.  3. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S2 Summary: Zordon's team of teenagers with attitude face even greater challenges than before like how to negotiate proper pay per episode.  The best season of Power Rangers' initial run was after they worked out the kinks. Lord Zedd was introduced, Tommy lost his Green Ranger powers and became the White Ranger, there's an episode where Kimberly impersonates Rita Repulsa, three of the original cast were written out of the show due to contract disputes, Rita and Zedd get married, the Green Ranger and White Ranger fight in colonial Angel Grove, and Kimberly goes back in time and fights a Mexican stereotype cactus monster with the help of Wild West versions of her friends.  Writing this all out highlights how goofy the season was overall, but that's what I love about it. It wasn't overly serious like the first season, didn't have the budget of the third season, and it's the version of the OG series I remember most fondly. Still not great, but great by early Power Rangers standards for sure.  2. Power Rangers RPM Summary: After a computer virus creates an army of machines, the remnants of humanity retreat to the domed city of Corinth, where a team of Power Rangers is the last line of defense for everyone.  Intended to be the final season of the series, showrunners decided to go for broke and throw everything they had into creating a post-apocalyptic film for kids. Lifting creative elements from films like Mad Max and Terminator, then adding a Power Rangers layer helped give this season a vibe no other season had before. It was more creatively cemented than years past, and actually had good cinematography, which had made RPM look much different than its predecessors. It truly had a sense of finality and reverence that the series had only had once before.  What keeps it from the top however, is  that behind-the-scenes events (going over budget, shifting showrunners) led to problems toward the second half. Most problematical, one of its major plots aped a famous villain from many years before. This may not have mattered to most fans, but this one small flaw does keep it from the top spot in my eyes. But not by much.  1. Power Rangers In Space Summary: When an army of villains defeats the Power Rangers, the team escapes into space and gains a new set of powers before returning to Earth and laying the smackdown on errybody.  Like RPM, In Space was originally going to be the final season of the show, but it had such good ratings it basically saved the series. Going for broke, the production team decided to send it off with a space opera. A villainess fondly remembered for her multiplicity (which was huge for a kids show), the return of Adam for a guest-starring role in an episode as the Black Power Ranger, a set of evil Rangers that took multiple episodes to defeat, a Silver Ranger with a cool sword gun, and an actual end to the story started years before in Mighty Morphin episode one.  It featured a finale (which, admittedly, seems weak in retrospect when compared to the better written seasons of the later years) that not only captured Power Rangers at its best but also reflected the series' campy-yet-serious spirit. It had a scope no other kids show had at the time and truly set the series on the path it's on today. There you have it! Those are how every season of Power Rangers ranks among the others. If you're looking for particular episodes to watch, here are my favorites:  1. "Doctor K" -- Power Rangers RPM E11 2. "Countdown to Destruction" -- Power Rangers In Space E42-43  3. "Green With Evil" Mighty Morhpin Power Rangers S1 E17-21
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After 10,000 years and 831 episodes
It's been a weird twenty something years. Power Rangers has seen good days and bad days, both supreme bouts of popularity and near cancellation. Yet somehow, this series has survived so long that it's managed to get three dif...

Justice League photo
Oh...alright
Justice League is technically one of Flixist's Most Anticipated of 2017 out of morbid curiosity. After getting a glimpse at this first official trailer, I'm not really sure what to think. It seems it has a less dour tone than...

Review: Power Rangers

Mar 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221258:43472:0[/embed] Power RangersDirector: Dean IsrealiteRelease Date: March 24, 2017Rated: PG-13 Power Rangers follows the well-known roots of the original TV series. Five teenagers -- Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (RJ Cyler), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Zack (Ludi Lin), and Trini (Becky G) -- stumble on five mysterious coins granting them superpowers. Upon discovering a spaceship deep underground along with a giant face-in-the-wall Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), the teens learn they're the latest team of Power Rangers, colorful suited heroes who need to protect the Zeo Crystal from good-girl-gone-bad Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). The PG-13 rating and big screen budget affords the film some great updates to the original series' ideas, but at times also feels like a two hour fan film when the goofy series terminology (words like "morph" and the "Zeo Crystal," which will mean more to fans) is juxtaposed with the grounded world of the film.  Thankfully when I say "grounded," I actually mean a deeper look at characterization and themes inherent in the series and not "dark and gritty." You're not going to, say, see Zack shoot someone in the face but will definitely hear him make a masturbation joke. The risque' jokes and sultrier villain help carve out a much needed separate identity from the TV series, but these kinds of additions tend to make for a confusing film overall. It's hard to gauge exactly who the film is meant for when some of the jokes and situations may be a bit too complicated for the current intended fanbase (kids) yet it's not afraid to dive into hokey territory at times to make cede kids happy. There's also so much drastically different from the original production it'll alienate nostalgic curiosity. But in that same breath, Power Rangers often bends over backwards to include bits of unnecessary fan service to cater to old fans, undercutting its own footprint. So it ends up perceived as non-committal to either vision. No one is going to be truly happy with the film's tone.  While its tone may be at war with itself, Power Rangers absolutely nails the chemistry of the core five. Aided by the fact they're all relatively unknown (save for RJ Cyler and Becky G, who turn in the best performances of the group), these five carry the film through its rougher patches. Scenes that wouldn't work elsewhere or ebb the flow of plot, such as one where five teens sit around a campfire and share their biggest secrets without prompting, manage to land because the cast is so enjoyable to watch. The great focus on characterization allows each of them to find their groove in the film and give the Rangers a much needed personality. It's why you see their faces during the big Man of Steel/Transformers sequence (where the Megazord fights Goldar through Krispy Kreme Grove), too. As unique as Power Rangers' fights should be, they devolve into CG nonsense you'll find elsewhere. But the chemistry of the team I came to love by the end adds a much needed humanity and fun while teasing much better films (presumably) to come.  Elizabeth Banks' Rita is also truly remarkable. Finding the sweet spot between scenery chewing and serious, each of her scenes is a highlight. Banks helps to balance the sometimes overwrought seriousness of the Power Rangers' tone with her charismatic cheese. Bryan Cranston's Zordon is fine, but I'll give him credit for going full body make-up for the role. I find myself at war with my "fan" reaction to the film since I dig the layered characters (as Billy reveals he's on the Autism spectrum and one character hints at a potential homosexual identity), the original theme gets used once (it's poorly timed, but has a nostalgic angle fans would instantly recognize), and even the suits look nice when standing still (which is something I never thought I'd believe, really), but then there's a masturbation joke not five minutes in after a boring "gritty" title card once again revealing a clash of tones holding the film back. I suppose the project would have landed better had it a director who wasn't prone to much of the generic blockbuster film camera angles and quirks. Power Rangers' flow stutters as development often comes to complete standstills, but then moves to scenes where concepts are introduced pretty rapidly (and several poorly soundtracked montages). I know this is probably weird to say with as loud of a property as this, but I enjoyed the quiet moments of the film rather than when it played out like an expensive music video. The final battle has something, like, six track changes and that's only one example of the film never quite getting comfortable with itself save for a few brief scenes. Even if it's not comfortable with itself, that does not mean it escapes franchise building. There's no saving it from feeling like the first entry of a larger series rather than a single entity. Make no mistake, I have no delusions over the quality of the Power Rangers property. This was tough to adapt, I'm sure, and the end result is much better and worse than I had anticipated.  Much like Power Rangers, I too am confused. Although I didn't like a lot of its editing choices, and feel like it could've been trimmed for brevity, I want to see this cast in another film with all of the kinks ironed out. There's powerful potential here, you just have to sit through this one first. 
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Oh, I have a headache
More so than any of the reviews I've written, I feel I have to preface this one a bit. Since I (literally in some cases) hold the Power Rangers brand so close to my chest, I've been keeping a close eye on the reboot since the...

What if Lewis Tan played Danny Rand in Iron Fist instead of Finn Jones?

Mar 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221386:43470:0[/embed] We'd Get Far Better Fight Scenes Above is the Iron Fist fight scene that everyone's abuzz about. Lewis Tan is an actual martial artist. He's built like an athlete. He moves well. He looks comfortable throwing punches, kicking, and rolling around on the ground with a sense of purpose. By comparison, not once does Jones move like a martial artist. There's no rhythm or ease or fluidity. Jones moves like a guy fighting, not a fighter--big difference. The directors used a number of techniques to make up for Jones' shortcomings as a martial artist: odd camera angles, shaky cam, obscuring close ups and long shots, excessive cutting, fighting in shadows or bad lighting, fighting in a hoodie. Whenever I couldn't see Jones' face, I just assumed a stunt performer was doing the fighting for him. Watch the fight above again and notice how little you see Jones' face when complicated moves or reactions are required. (Also, who'd want to fight in a hoodie? That would cut off your peripheral vision.) Whenever Jones has to do the fights himself, he looks clumsy. He lacks the instinctual poise and physicality of a trained fighter. He doesn't even have the body awareness, confident footwork, or balance of a dancer. Had Lewis Tan been cast as Danny Rand, you wouldn't need to make up for a lack of martial arts skill. Tan would be able to perform fights and stunts at a high level. He'd collaborate with the fight choreographer and action director since he'd know what he's capable of doing as a martial artist. They might even go beyond drunken boxing and use animal styles, traditional weapons like jians and three-section staffs, or a good old-fashioned horse bench fight. (If there are two things I love, it's three-section staffs and a good old-fashioned horse bench fight.) [embed]221386:43471:0[/embed] Someone like Tan could radically transform the fight scenes in Iron Fist. Fights in the show currently feel like perfunctory spectacle. Instead, with a martial artist in the lead, we'd explore Danny Rand's character through action. He'd have an actual fighting style that's individual and idiosyncratic, something that Jones never develops in 13 episodes. Bruce Lee moves a certain way, Jet Li moves a certain way, Jackie Chan moves a certain way, Donnie Yen moves a certain way. Danny Rand, the world's greatest martial artist, should also have a character-defining physicality. It may also be a way to define K'un-L'un's martial culture and imply what its larger fighting philosophy might be. Tan doing the fights himself would change the way the fight scenes are shot. Camera angles and movements could be used with greater care rather than to obscure faces. Fight scenes could be edited with rhythm, and cuts would be defined by body movement and action. It's nice to have a hero who doesn't have to fight in a hoodie or in the dark so much. The fights may also be able to tell certain kinds of stories, with Danny not just overpowering his opponents but outsmarting them. Overall, I think the action in Iron Fist could potentially be on par with Daredevil. It would have its own flavor as well since the fighting in the show wouldn't be like any of the other Marvel shows. More than anything, Tan could make Iron Fist feel more like an actual martial arts series. Confronting Asian Stereotypes While I'm okay with Danny Rand as a white guy in theory, I'm also aware that he is an artifact of a time and an iteration of a well-worn trope. I'm also okay with Danny Rand as an Asian guy because that's far more interesting than what we got in the show. It's the 21st century, so maybe old versions of characters can be reinvented for their times and for a new medium while retaining the original spirit. By casting an Asian-American as Danny Rand, the show could explore issues of race, identity, Asian stereotypes, and orientalism. Even just optically or subtextually, these topics matter when it comes to the traditions and cultures involved. Finn Jones' constant meditating, doing origami, and spouting off fortune cookie mysticism is some unintentionally awful and unavoidable pseudo-yellowface dreck. It's not even quaintly bizarre appropriation like the Billy Jack movies; it's just uncomfortable. There are so many assumptions about Asian masculinity that can be explored through Danny Rand. Since we'd be dealing with an Asian-American character, that could lead to some exploration of different cultural expectations imposed on Danny by others. There's also the idea of an Asian in-between. Asians assimilate easily into American culture yet are simultaneously regarded as a racial/cultural Other. Or maybe the new version of Danny is half-Asian, which sets up another interesting racial dynamic. Ultimately an Asian-American Danny Rand would wind up playing with the idea of a return to a mother culture and how that affects personal notions of identity. In an interview with Vulture, Tan made a common yet astute observation about how Asian-Americans are viewed and view themselves: I think it would be really interesting to have that feeling of an outsider. There’s no more of an outsider than an Asian-American: We feel like outsiders in Asia and we feel like outsiders at home. That’s been really difficult--especially for me. It’s been hard for me, because in the casting world, it’s very specific. So when they see me and I’m six-two, I’m a 180 pounds, I’m a muscular half-Asian dude. They’re like, “Well, I don’t know what to do with this guy.” They’re like, “He’s not Asian, he’s not white... no.” That’s what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. So I understand those frustrations of being an outsider. (As an aside, I think Jordan Peele's Get Out offered a brief but memorable exploration of this Asian in-between state during the backyard party scene.) In addition to the above, the relationship between Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Danny Rand would feel much different. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about Jones as Danny that makes me think of guys who fetishize Asian culture (and especially Asian women) to an unhealthy degree. Maybe it's also the quality of Jones' performance--it's awfully patrician and leering instead of being flirty. The issues may be obviated with an Asian lead, or maybe these issues can become part of a more explicit exploration of racial fetishism. Representation in the Media On the note of Colleen Wing, I can't help but think of how cool it would be for a high-profile series to feature two Asians of mixed descent as leads. Admittedly, part of this stems from being an uncle now. I wonder how my niece might see some aspect of her identity reflected in pop culture. I suppose one day there may be a show about a half-white Jewish Filipina that will mirror my niece's own upbringing. When that happens, we'll probably have flying cars and be living in a post-scarcity utopia. Let's hope we get there. In all seriousness, I wonder who my niece's role models might be. I also wonder what people may think of my niece based on appearance alone. And that's why representation matters. More people and more voices and more experiences means more stories that we may not have heard and should hear. These narratives are machines for developing empathy and mutual understanding. In the case of Iron Fist, this machine also happens to hit bad guys in the face. (Woody Guthrie used to write that on his guitar until he thought of a punchier phrase.) There's something to be said about a show starring Asians just affirming the Asian martial arts stereotypes of the past. But that might be a lazy hot-take version of a bigger and more important conversation about old cultural ideas. Casting two Asian leads might be a chance to help deconstruct those antiquated notions about Asians whether they're the product of the 19th century, pulp fiction, or John Hughes movies. One show can't do it alone, so in an ideal scenario it will be one of many steps in the ongoing conversation of actual culture and how it's depicted in pop culture, and how both are these constructs in flux. The yellow menace can be inverted and undone, and ditto the sage-like magical Asian or the nerdy Asian math-god. I mean, come on, it kind of worked in The Last Dragon, all right? The Show Still Would Have Sucked Because of the Writing To paraphrase the bard of the squared circle Stone Cold Steve Austin, it's hard to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. With the current writers and producers, Iron Fist was going to suck no matter what. Even with a solid martial artist in the lead, it's hard to make a compelling character out of Danny Rand as written. He'd still be selfish and entitled. He'd still suck at everything. He'd still be prone to temper tantrums and amateur-hour decisions that wind up hurting people around him. I called him Anakin Skywalker with erectile dysfunction in the review because that's precisely how he comes across--a bratty crybaby whose rage gets in the way of his potential. Who wants to watch a frightened, confused jaboni as a hero? What's more, Iron Fist would still be rife with poor pacing and inert scenes. We'd still have to sit through conversations in corporate boardrooms, waiting for the delightful reprieve of someone philosophically punching bad guys in the face. To be honest, the Iron Fist fiasco makes me feel bad for Finn Jones. Even though he was on Game of Thrones, this was supposed to be his potential big break. It's been roundly panned, and he's taken the brunt of the criticism since he's the lead and has been inartfully defending an indefensible show during his press tour. This role has undermined whatever talents Jones may have. Now, he seems like the latest Blandy McBlanderson: an anodyne, interchangeable white male lead. Showrunner Scott Buck deserves a lot of the blame for the show's critical drubbing, and the same goes for the writers of Iron Fist. There's a fundamentally poor grasp of storytelling that goes beyond issues of representation and the problematic tropes of the past. Iron Fist is a martial arts show that doesn't give a crap about the martial arts. It's a crummy commercial for The Defenders, and it feels like it. Buck--who is credited with ruining the show Dexter in its closing seasons--is also the showrunner of Inhumans. If Iron Fist is any indication of how Scott Buck handles superheroes, I can't wait to watch Medusa and Karnak go over the finer points of purchasing supplemental insurance. Black Bolt will destroy a city with a whine. This is just a bigger indictment of the cynicism behind Iron Fist, a 13-hour set-up show for the next Netflix/Marvel product that fanboys and fangirls will watch anyway even if it's garbage. The writers and producers relied on old tropes and old approaches thinking they're sufficient, assuming people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad. The billionaire playboy who travels to the far east is played out and needs to be put to rest. We need new kinds of stories, and there are plenty of voices out there waiting for a chance to be heard. There are also many unfamiliar faces we should be seeing. Had Lewis Tan been cast as the lead in the current version of Iron Fist, he'd be anchored to Danny Rand the bratty milksop, the least heroic and least interesting character in his own show. What a waste of potential, but man, what a resume builder.
Lewis Tan: Iron Fist? photo
Missed opportunity by Marvel/Netflix?
The first season of Iron Fist was the worst kind of disaster--a boring disaster. At least half of the season was devoted to a corporate takeover plot. Iron Fist features more scenes in corner offices and conference rooms than...

Every Sixth Power Ranger, Ranked

Mar 17 // Nick Valdez
19. Blue Senturion/Phantom Ranger -- Power Rangers Turbo Look at these goobs. Though never officially designated as sixth Rangers, both the Phantom Ranger and Blue Senturion fulfilled the role normally designated for the sixth. While Blue Senturion was introduced with a new set of powers and a zord, the Phantom Ranger was a mysterious guy that never got developed. There was apparently a planned plot to make him Zordon's son, but it fell through. It was probably because no one cared. Turbo was such a bad season overall, and it definitely suffered more with its terrible sixth Rangers.  18. Solaris Knight -- Power Rangers Mystic Force Look at this goob. One of Mystic Force's core issues were the numerous introductions to new characters without much follow through. One victim of this was the sixth addition, Solaris Knight. Debuting alongside some weird cat genie (which got its own special episode, one more than Solaris Knight had gotten), this was a Ranger that could've gone somewhere. Revealed to be the Red Ranger's long lost father, this guy used a lamp blaster gun and was just kind of an overall lamewad. He didn't have any of the majesty a legendary warlock Ranger required and just fell by the wayside after his introduction.  17. Mercury Ranger -- Power Rangers Operation Overdrive Look at this goob. Operation Overdrive had an entire team of goobs, but the one who stood out the most was the sixth addition Tyzonn. His story seemed interesting at first since he was a guy from another planet suffering from survivor's guilt after a team of rescue explorers he commanded had died on a mission. This was after he had been wandering around in a monster form for a few episodes too. But much like everything else that season, Tyzonn was an idea that went nowhere. He was latter shunted in favor of making him a weird dad always disciplining the rest of the team.  16. Gold Ranger -- Power Rangers Samurai What do you do when you cast a Thai actor for a Latinx character? Samurai seemed to think that meant turning him into a fisherman speaking in Tex-Mex. After being introduced by a flashback featuring the worst child acting in the entire series (which is saying a lot), Antonio came onto the scene spouting "fantastico" and using a fish blade. Admittedly he had a cool fighting style and was a shinier version of gold than seen in the past, but I'm sure this is one of those Rangers that made more sense in the Japanese version of the show. His dialogue was always annoying, but it is neat that he created his own zords...uh a squid and a lobster.  15. Gold Ranger -- Power Rangers Dino Charge  As you'll notice with a lot of these sixth Rangers, they all seem to be from another time or place. In Dino Charge, the Gold Ranger was Sir Ivan, a knight from some made-up country of Zandar. He was trapped in the body of one of the season's villains, Fury, until being freed during a big battle. But once his unique reveal was out of the way (he's the only sixth Ranger literally stuck inside of a monster instead of being one, being evil etc.) he was super boring. With his only quirk being occasional formal speech, his personality was bland. This wasn't helped at all by the eventual addition of four other Rangers to the team.  14. Robo Knight -- Power Rangers Megaforce Like much of Megaforce, Robo Knight didn't make any sense. Just as Turbo's Phantom Ranger and Blue Senturion weren't technically sixth Rangers, Robo Knight was this robot who apparently rested in the Earth for centuries until there was a threat to the environment. I mean, even if monsters had already attacked this guy didn't deem it necessary to intervene until some pollution mutants attacked. Once he was introduced, his whole schtick was being a robot who wanted to learn about human things (thus reading in the library seen above), but what's gotten him here over the others is that he eventually sacrifices himself to save the Rangers. But what knocks him back down is a revival a season later for no reason or explanation.  13. Ranger Operator Series Gold/Ranger Operator Series Silver -- Power Rangers RPM RPM was one of my favorite seasons of the series overall, but it also has some of the worst sixth Rangers ever. Twins Gem and Gemma were kids stuck in a laboratory developing young geniuses until the robot apocalypse destroys the place. Thought lost forever, the twins show up years later as the Gold and Silver Rangers. The had better suits and weapons than the rest of the team, but they finished each other's sentences when they spoke. It was this constant, annoying character trait that never ceased even as the series rolled on. The two didn't have time for character development either as they were introduced so close to RPM's endgame. Because of this, it's yet another idea that didn't quite fit the serious vibe of the season.  12. Lunar Wolf Ranger -- Power Rangers Wild Force Look at this goob. Like Dino Charge's Gold Ranger, Wild Force's sixth Ranger shared a body with a Wolf monster guy without knowing it. Also like most of the sixth additions, he was a warrior from another time who had silver streaks in his hair and really loved to play pool (loved it so much that his big super attack was pool related). On paper he sounds too goofy to work, and in practice this definitely rings true. But there's something about his goofiness that was just right for the series. Wild Force's season, overall, was this goofy message about environmental protection and the Red Ranger eventually went on to commit actual crime so it's a wash.  11. Super Megaforce Silver Ranger -- Power Rangers Super Megaforce In Super Megaforce, the team from Megaforce gained access to the powers of every past Ranger season and the sixth Ranger had all of the sixth powers. As a refugee from a war torn planet, Orion had all the makings of a good sixth Ranger. He had the most character growth out of anyone in the two seasons, but like a common complaint seen here he was just kind of boring after his introduction. Suffering from Super Megaforce's rapid pacing (and random episodes celebrating the anniversary), he rarely had any lines. Honestly, he made it this far up the list because his super mode included the goofily awesome shield seen above.  10. Green Samurai Ranger -- Power Rangers Ninja Storm Ninja Storm had a few problems, including how goofy their sixth Ranger eventually became, but this season absolutely nailed their sixth Ranger. Cam, son of the Ninjas' sensei and basically the Billy of the season (serving as the guy who provides tech and info), became the sixth Ranger after being sent back in time, learning a bit more about the Ninja code, and having a discussion with his deceased mother in order to gain confidence. It was a two-parter that was a highlight of the season overall. It felt like an earned, natural evolution of a character we'd seen since the first episode. The only thing knocking him back is his stupid baseball motif and electric guitar weapon.  9. Silver Ranger -- Power Rangers In Space Oh guess what? It's another guy from another world and time! After sustaining a severe injury, Andros (the Red Ranger of this season) seals Zhane a tube and waits two years for him to heal. Other than taking the boss ass suit from In Space and making it even cooler, this guy had a laser sword. There hadn't been enough laser swords in Power Rangers, oddly enough so this was a delight. Although his actor was bland, they actually gave Zhane a lot of personality. He was in a faux love triangle with Ashley and Andros, he had an on again, off again thing with the season's villain Astronema, he tricked the rest of the team into thinking he was dying, and he even dressed up as one of the Psycho Rangers in a creative way to beat one of them. After Turbo's lackluster sixth additions, it really helped to get a guy who actually did things.  8. White Dino Ranger -- Power Rangers Dino Thunder The first Ranger on this list to not come from another world or time. Trent was the son of the season's villain, Anton Mercer (who himself was a split personality of the actual villain of the season, Mesogog...long story), and gains Ranger powers when he stumbles on the White Dino Gem. Since Mesogog had given the gem evil influence or something, Trent's Ranger form is actually an evil Power Ranger that he can't control. After throwing around the team for a few episodes, he joins them in full (sound familiar?). But what's different about his introduction is the eventual cloning of his power, leading to a White Ranger vs. White Ranger fight (...sound familiar?). Trent was a bit of a lamewad that wanted to pursue art (...terrible art), and his evil self didn't really accomplish much when you boil it down. But at least he's a lot cooler than others on this list!  7. Shadow Ranger -- Power Rangers S.P.D. Doggie was the Chief of Space Patrol Delta who's wife was presumably killed by the season's villain. When he finally confronted the main villain, he was attacked by 100 monsters (eventually reflected by the cool "100" on his suit) and became the Shadow Ranger. He probably had the coolest suit of S.P.D. overall, and Doggie eventually landed the final critical blow during the season finale, but as we reach the higher ranks on the list he's been bumped down by some personal faves of mine.  6. Magna Defender -- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy Magna Defender might not be considered a sixth Ranger by fans, but I've always considered him one. With two versions of the character (both badass), there was plenty to work with. The first Defender was a father avenging the death of his son (who was straight up killed on-screen), and the second was Leo (the Red Ranger)'s thought dead brother from the first episode, Mike. Using a sword (that also was a gun) to transform into a Knight looking guy, Defender was even able to grow and become his actual Megazord. He even sacrificed his powers to save the entire space colony toward season end, which was just another example of how selfless Mike was (as he both sacrificed himself to save his brother in the pilot, and refused to take the Red Ranger powers even if he was the rightful owner of them). He was also the first Ranger to have a cape in the series. Capes are cool.  5. Titanium Ranger -- Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue The Titanium Ranger may not be the coolest Ranger on this list (though try arguing an axe-gun isn't cool), but he cracks the top five by being unique. See, the rest of the Rangers on this list were a by-product of their parent Japanese versions. Kyukyu Sentai GoGoFive, the series Lightspeed Rescue took its footage from, didn't have a sixth Ranger so the showrunners decided to make one for themselves. It's why his suit's so bulky in comparison to the others, and the only thing that kept him relevant to the story was a snake curse that threatened to kill him everyday in his dreams or something, but I'll give credit where it's due. Being an entirely American invention was a risk, but it's one that paid off. If he didn't show up, fans would have definitely questioned why there wasn't a traditional sixth member.  4. Gold Ranger -- Power Rangers Zeo Zeo kind of fudged the Gold Ranger's first introduction by laying out this mystery before revealing his identity as a goob who turned into three goobs (who know one knew, so it was a wash). But it definitely made up for it the second time around. After introducing several candidates who could've been a great Gold Ranger (Tommy's brother, Billy), and after keeping his identity hidden, his eventual reveal as Jason (the former Mighty Morphin Red Ranger) was one of the biggest surprises (and bits of fan service) the series had since Tommy's reveal as the White Ranger. Jason fit the series like a glove, and the character's history with Tommy eventually led to the great "King for a Day" two-parter which had the two fighting for the first time since their season one days, and had a cooler look than the rest of the team overall. What keeps him out of the top three, however, is the fact that the goob triplets have to come back and take the powers away because story reasons or something, I don't know.  3. White Ranger -- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S2-S3 Well, at least one version of Tommy was going to get the top spot and it's definitely not the White Ranger. While he's cool and all (much cooler than a lot of the list by nature of his very existence), and he's the one thing taken from the Japanese series Gosei Sentai Dairanger from where MMPR season two got most of its footage from, Tommy doesn't really do much after his great introduction. His surprise reveal (coming down from a beam of white light in, uh, "White Light") after the loss of his Green Ranger power was a great moment, but he just became the de-facto leader of the team after the original Red Ranger was written out of the series. Despite his cool new theme and talking sword making him seem different, and fighting Lord Zedd to a standstill once, this was just Tommy all over again. To me it always felt like a downgrade from the Green Ranger power rather than the intended upgrade. I mean, just ask folks who remember the show. Do they say they want to be the White Ranger or the Green Ranger? It's always Green before White.  2. Quantum Ranger -- Power Rangers Time Force What? Tommy isn't both of the top spots? Well, no. Time Force was one of the best seasons of the series for its great villain, great Pink Ranger, great Red Ranger character arc, and notably, its sixth Ranger. In fact, the Quantum Ranger was so effective he was even brought back to a Red Ranger exclusive anniversary team up years later. As a rival to the richly born Wes (the Red Time Force Ranger), Eric was a poor kid who worked hard all of his life in order to prove he was just as good as the rich kids. Eventually growing to resent rich boys like Wes, he forced his way into Ranger powers by finding the Quantum Power first. Taking most things by force, he led a military team to attack the mutants (the baddies in Time Force), eventually gained control of the Q-Rex Megazord, and was more of an anti-hero through the season. Eventually he grew to be friendly with the others, even lending his Quantum Power to Wes toward the end of the season. On top of having a fantastic actor, Daniel Southworth, the Quantum Ranger was the first sixth member to have a full character arc since Tommy's in MMPR. With the added layer of not being mind controlled, or under some evil spell, Eric was just a guy who was so used to fighting for what he wanted he hated when others just seemed to get things handed to them.  1. Green Ranger -- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S1 As it could be any other Ranger. The Green Ranger is important for a number of reasons. It started the sixth Ranger tradition (even for the Japanese Super Sentai, as he was the first over there too), the "Green With Evil" story line is one of the most fondly remembered by fans (both hardcore and nostalgic), Jason David Frank's see-ayaaaahs became a hallmark of the series (with JDF starring in five seasons over the course of the series) as he eventually became the face of it, and it was the first time I remember being engrossed by a TV series as a kid. Here was this evil guy with all of the powers of the good guys, only much cooler with a friggin' Dragon and better fighting skills, who went from bad guy to good guy over the course of a week.  I remember school feeling so long that week as I waited to see the next part of the epic story. No other Ranger (sixth or otherwise) has left that big of an impression. So big, in fact, folks are clamoring for his addition to the new movies. While I'm sure the Green Ranger will be added to the films, the new version will never be as cool as the original. 
Power Rangers Month photo
Rangering through the six with my woes
Through its 24 seasons or so of existence, Power Rangers has become a show with its own set of traditions. Each season of the show may change, but a lot of the core elements stay the same: a rocking theme, colored spandex, an...

How To Do It: The Matrix Rebooted

Mar 16 // Hubert Vigilla
1. Treat the new Matrix as part of continuity When Neo meets The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, we learn a lot about how the system works and how it sustains itself. The current version of the Matrix is just the sixth version in a line of reality-simulating self-regulating programs, each designed to account for the complexities caused by human free will. The choice Neo makes will determine whether or not the human race survives. Certain programs carry over from each version of the Matrix even if each iteration is a new one--Seraph was apparently a former Agent in an earlier version of the Matrix; The Merovingian harbors obsolete programs; The Oracle, as a guide for The One, is sort of like the Clippy of the Matrix. Choice creates a series of forking paths in every iteration of the Matrix, all headed toward the inevitability of The One and the necessity of a reboot to eliminate The One from the system. Then a new version, and a new One, and so on. This offers a diegetic reason for a new Matrix to exist: it's built into the program, it's part of the way the world works. This also provides an interesting exploration of free will and agency viewed from a human perspective (uncertainty regarding outcomes) versus an analytical/machine perspective (contingent branches on a decision tree). There's another story element this in-continuity Matrix reboot offers, though I'll get to it at the end. 2. Pick the Wachowskis' brains The Wachowskis are the parents of this story, and while they may not have to give their blessing for the project, it would be great for someone to pick their brains about the Matrix. Was there anything they wished they could have done? Are there things they would have done differently in hindsight? What lore had they created for their world that they never talked about? There's probably a lot of unexplored material to consider. Come to think of it, there might even be too much to talk about. When the two Matrix sequels came out, a bunch of supplemental material got released between 2003 and 2005. There was The Animatrix (a collection of animated shorts), Enter the Matrix (a video game), The Matrix Comics, and The Matrix Online (an MMORPG). Some of this may have been crass merchandising--let's milk this cyberpunk, anime, Hong Kong action movie cow until it bleeds--but I also sense that there was a much bigger story the Wachowskis wanted to tell but never finished. Once again, I tie this back into the diegetic idea of the Matrix reboot just being the latest version of Matrix. Going to the architects of the original Matrix might improve the newest version of the program. 3. The Matrix > Zion and the real world Some of the weakest material in the Matrix sequels took place in the real world. Zion was a dingy, rusty place with steam, corridors, walkways, Cornel West, vanilla sex, and boring raves. The war against the machines wasn't all that fun either. Shoot them or use an electromagnetic pulse. Behold--boring, expensive naval combat. I remember the sickly green world of the Matrix better than the state college dorm of Zion. For the new Matrix, there may be a way to engage the real world without it seeming so banal. Perhaps it's a matter of increasing the stakes. Extinction level events are big, sure, but what matters in the abstract and what we form an emotional link to are different matters. The latter requires some concrete connection to people and places. What makes Zion worth caring for really? What makes a place a home? A place is not innately meaningful. And to that, did anyone get attached to the new characters fighting in Zion? They were mostly a bunch of Blandy McBlandersons doing action-things without emotional content. That brings me to the next point... 4. Stick with a core group of characters with well-defined supporting players The cast of supporting characters ballooned in The Matrix Reloaded. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately most of the new characters were forgettable. Did Niobe, Link, or Commander Lock add much to the story? Ditto that annoying kid in the giant mechanoid robot suit? Their screen time may have expanded the world of the movie, but they often sucked the air out of film's story since their actions were rarely significant to the plot. (The blunt difference between world building and storytelling.) Rather than putting your setpieces on the shoulders of bland supporting characters (e.g., the annoying kid in the defense of Zion in The Matrix Revolutions), keep the focus on a core group of well-defined characters. Why wasn't Morpheus manning a mech alongside Niobe during Zion's last stand? Come to think of it, what defines Niobe as a character other than the fact she's played by Jada Pinkett Smith? If supporting players are involved, give them personality rather than assign them a plot-based function. I still find it telling that the Nebuchadnezzar crew in the original Matrix has more personality than 95% of the supporting players in the two Matrix sequels. 5. Update the aesthetic to avoid the late 90s/early 2000s Let's come back to the diegetic notion of a new Matrix program rebooted for the umpteenth time. If the old Matrix was defined by the aesthetic of the late 90s and early 2000s, we can chock that up to a quirk of programming. (Obviously this is a paradoxical symptom of the era that birthed the first movie. Nearly every attempt to make something look futuristic winds up looking, in retrospect, like a product of its time. Why is it that conscious attempts to fuse the future with the past a la Blade Runner still look futuristic enough?) The new Matrix should depict a contemporary era's vision of the future rather than recapture the look of the millennial cusp. This goes for the manner of dress, the in-story technology, and the score (imagine how quaintly goofy a techno-classical hybrid soundtrack might sound today). And since the original Matrix drew on a hodgepodge of influences that were so 90s, the new Matrix can draw on things that define the 2010s in some way. Maybe the fighting style changes from the kung fu of 80s Hong Kong action movies to the faster, more functional striking and grappling of MMA. Maybe the G-men-like Agents become Slender Men and more menacing as a result. Are the rebels into post-rock or hip-hop? And how will smartphones and tablets figure into all of this? Ditto apps and the cloud. There's a lot to consider here, and I don't want to just list pop culture detritus for the new film. Those things will be carefully picked by the filmmakers, who will hopefully do more than show us shiny, fight-y, special effects-y things. 6. Find writers and directors with something to say A lot of reboots and remakes suck because they don't say anything. Instead they're selling empty nostalgia using a name you may remember. Yet there are solid remakes (David Cronenberg's The Fly) and reboots (Christopher Nolan's Batman movies) and soft sequels (Ryan Coogler's Creed), each of which does something new with familiar material. There's a sensibility behind the name, a human intelligence behind the IP. There are probably some filmmakers or writers out there who were influenced by The Matrix. Maybe The Matrix was their gateway drug into other aspects of geek culture. They might have a personal story they want to tell, and The Matrix may be the right vessel to tell it. It may be political, too--something about resistance and rebellion feels right these days. A recent report said that Warner Bros. is trying to get a writing room together for the Matrix reboot, sort of like how they write TV. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A guiding hand can steer the writing room into an interesting direction. Multiple ideas from solid writers can bounce off each other and synthesize and create better ideas. (I'm skeptical--and why shouldn't I be?--that Warner Bros. actually wants to make something that says anything. A writer room assembled by a studio reeks of film-by-committee-by-market-research.) 7. Avoid repeating the story beats of the original Matrix films Most reboots and remakes fail because they slavishly repeat the plot of the original film without offering anything original of their own. Even though I sort of liked the Ghostbusters reboot, the weakest material in the movie was anything that reminded me of the original Ghostbusters. Why would I watch a reboot if it's a pale imitation of the original? (That also applies to Ghostbusters 2.) For another example of this, think of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, which is a joyless, beat-by-beat recreation of the plot from Richard Donner's Superman. (Superman Returns is the Ghostbusters 2 of superhero movies.) There'll be a temptation to redo the red pill/blue pill scene. The same goes for Neo's first jump and cartoon fall. And the new filmmakers will probably want to do their own rendition of the lobby scene. The occasional nod to the past is okay, but why do the same thing again? Why not do something new? I suppose blank canvases are more intimidating than tracing paper, and the potential of an incomplete line is more stultifying than connect the dots. To put it another way, if you're going to cover a song, do it like Devo did "Satisfaction" or Johnny Cash did "Hurt". Someone has to make this material their own rather than just repeating the mistakes and successes of the past. There the line from Jose Lezama Lima quoted in Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch: "Let us try to invent new passions, or to reproduce the old ones with a like intensity." Yeah, do that. 8. E pluribus unum (Out of many, one) I mentioned there's another story element about keeping the Matrix reboot in continuity with the original trilogy. Here are preliminary thoughts on that, and the point where simple suggestions in approach veer into the realm of Matrix fan fiction. Say there's a new Neo in a new iteration of the Matrix. Neo is the latest in a line of Ones from previous versions of the Matrix, each of them an anomaly eventually accounted for and zeroed out to restart the system. What if the new Neo could access the old versions of the Matrix and see how they played out? Maybe they're archived even though the system has run its course. What if the new Neo could somehow learn from previous Ones? Maybe the Ones are iterations of a monomythic subprogram that eventually results in a prototypical, archetypal, chosen-one hero who follows the mechanical beats of narrative heroism to ensure the Matrix can eventually reboot. The monomythic subprogram comes from an AI's analysis of heroic legends from past human cultures. What if the way to beat this self-perpetuating system is to break the monomythic structure? To crap on the Hero's Journey? To intentionally subvert the heroic narrative and create a new kind of heroism? This is a larger meta narrative that's simultaneously diegetic. The Matrix Rebooted is about the nature of reboots, and also about the nature of narrative repetition, how it's a valuable part of our history and yet how it's essentially mechanical at this point and may require some sort of reinvention to be relevant rather than just comforting. We can choose to be heroes otherwise--we can invent our own heroism and a new morality. Neo is the hero gone rogue artist, the sort of person who comes away from a class on Nietzsche but isn't a total douchebag about it. Maybe the new Neo recruits an army of Ones from the archives to battle in the system like a bunch of cyberpunk Supermen, or perhaps Neo figures out a way to blow up the system through intentional acts of narrative terrorism. Maybe Neo turns everyone into the One by helping people see patterns in their own lives that tap into the monomythic subprogram. (This all sounds a little like a Grant Morrison comic book, sure, but the Wachowskis borrowed heavily from The Invisibles, so screw it.) Maybe Clippy the Oracle can help in all this. "It looks like you're subverting the Hero's Journey. Would you like help?" Yes, Clippy. Let's kung fu the hell out of traditional storytelling.
Matrix Reboot photo
I know reboot fu
The other night we learned that Warner Bros. is developing a reboot of The Matrix, with an interest in Michael B. Jodan as the lead. Zak Penn has been tapped to write the treatment for the reboot, but nothing else is solid at...

Every Power Rangers Suit, Ranked

Mar 15 // Nick Valdez
21. Power Rangers Megaforce Originally touted as an anniversary season of the series, Megaforce has plenty of problems. Least/Most of which is the costume design. While these suits have some good ideas such as the helmet's mouthpiece reminiscent of Mighty Morphin' (which must've been a happy little coincidence for Saban), and I do like some of the gold highlights, everything else is a mess. The suit's way too busy to actually work. I'm sure the outfits make sense in the Japanese original, but why do their chest emblems have different designs? Why do all of their pants ride so high up as to give them uncomfortable looking front wedgies? It's like a weird military outfit without any of the context. Just goofy and bulky.  20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive Like Megaforce, Operation Overdrive's suits are far too busy. There's some simplicity in the helmets (at least they have visors the suit actors can actually see out of), but there's so much to unpack at first glance. The motif this season was world adventuring (hence the compass insignia), but the helmets all reflect their vehicle zords so it gives them headlights like Turbo's ridiculous ones. Then add in the chrome shoulder plates, belts, and cufflinks and it's way too much. Not to mention the Silver Ranger's awful orange stripe and lavender shoulders which makes the entire team look worse each time he's near.  19. Power Rangers Turbo Speaking of Turbo, their helmets are the worst in the series. Replicating their vehicles gives them chrome and headlights coupled with tail lights (?) on their belts. The rest of the suit is fine, but you just can't take those helmets seriously. It was fine in a Japanese series parodying other Sentai shows, but didn't exactly work for a serious Power Rangers drama which included the team getting baked into a giant pizza.  18. Power Rangers RPM RPM was a fantastic send-off for the Disney owned seasons, but showrunners wanted their idea for a show, a post-apocalyptic thriller to somehow mesh with one of the goofier Japanese seasons, Engine Sentai Go-Onger. Fortunately it mostly works as there's a story reason behind the suit designs, but it always rubbed me a wrong way that these didn't reflect the story. They're not the worst suits, but they're by far from the best. Combining animals, cars, and everything else into their helmets, once again there's a lot going on. Doesn't help that the suits look baggy too without a true separation of tops and bottoms. The only thing which kind of works is the animal/number insignia since it does resemble flair soldiers are known to give their uniforms for morale. Otherwise, c'mon it's a mess.  17. Power Rangers Dino Charge I like a lot of the choices made with the Dino Charge suits, especially the slick helmets (which go full-visor when they're in the Megazord), but a major complaint I keep using once again rears its ugly head. There's just so much going on with these suits. It's indicative of the series as a whole (so many Rangers, zords, motifs), but just doesn't come together like the show does. A slick helmet juxtaposed with a bright tooth pattern, monochromatic pants and shoes, and grey-scaled sleeves? It aaaalmost works, but then you've got the random single shoulder pad and lose all sense of symmetry.  16. Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers I may appreciate simplicity in a design, but there's such a thing as too simplistic. There's a reason this entire season of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger was skipped over in favor of using the Mighty Morphin' suits for a third season. The design was used creatively (tweaking the "ninja" motif into an "alien" one), but that's only because of its stark contrast to the original suits. These are neat and uniform (more so than any other season). but they were too bare bones to work on their own. Which is why they're only around for a short time.  15. Power Rangers Zeo Zeo was a transition season for the series in a number of ways. New powers, new villains, new Command Center, colors were shuffled around (Tommy became the Red Ranger, Jason eventually became Gold), and the show started distancing itself from its original motifs. Gone are the spiritual animal and dinosaur powers, and replaced with full-on magic crystal powers. While I like the gold trim, I've never liked the suits overall. They seemed like a downgrade from the originals due to a general lack of white and the Yellow Ranger's loss of vision. But I did appreciate the shift away from the molded mouths. Instead of a grey standout, they're blended into the helmet. I also don't think I liked how everyone looked chunkier? I don't know, old school aesthetic I guess.  14. Power Rangers Jungle Fury Now these suits would crack the top ten if the Red and Blue Rangers had the same skirt as Yellow does. Skirts have always been a major problem for this series, and I don't really have the time or space to go into why they're a problem here, but Yellow's actually works the best. Like Purple and White, her suit most reflects a fighting gi which greatly suited this season's kung-fu movie theme. The White Rhino Ranger has my favorite design overall since he just looks like a kick-ass karate dude. That's never happened in the series before, and it still has yet to happen again. More blatant kick-ass karate folks please.  13. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy I feel like Lost Galaxy's suits were so middle-of-the-road, it deserved to be in the middle-of-the-list. I was always a huge fan of the helmet design, but hated the Charlie Brown stripes on their chest. This was another season in which the Rangers looked especially bulky, and they only looked worse following In Space's slimmed down and sleek design. I wish I had more to say, but honestly, these suits are boring though they don't look like they would be. 12. Power Rangers Dino Thunder Dino Thunder was Disney's attempt to wrangle in old fans of the series. Bringing Tommy in as a dope looking Black Ranger (not pictured here since I couldn't find one with a good enough quality) and an "evil" White Ranger with an also great design, the main trio was almost there. It's a simple aesthetic with the dino theme barely peeking through in the helmet, but from the neck down it's a little much. I'm a huge fan of the footprint insignia in the center, but these suits almost have too much white. The diamonds running down their arms and legs may serve a story and power purpose, but that doesn't mean I don't have to like them. But as we're getting closer to the top ten, I'm splitting hairs.  11. Power Rangers Ninja Steel It's only six episodes in, but I've been impressed by what Ninja Steel has offered thus far. Notably, the suits are fantastic. You've got the ninja sensibilities (done much better seasons before, but you'll see that soon), but since these ninjas don't really care about anything ninja-y the bold design on their sashes gives their insignia a bit of pop. It's simplicity masking outlandishness working especially well with the White Ranger and her pink outline.  10. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue Lightspeed Rescue was the first season of the series to have its team be a military force and it's look reflected that pretty damn well. A simple design shared between the entire team with only differentiating factors being visor and color. The white balance here works, unlike Dino Thunder, because it has a clear stopping point. It along with the crosses on their helmets reflect the rescue theme of the season and overall look good in motion too. This was a team where difference in appearance wasn't too necessary, yet felt like it was included to keep up the morale of the force like RPM.  9. Power Rangers Mystic Force Capes are cool, so I can't believe they've only been part of one season. A lot of things I thought would bother me at first glance actually works well in motion. There's a nice white/color balance as it's only relegated to the capes (and the women's white bottoms make them look like they're wearing tunics, which is a plus), the giant black and gold "M" is a great design choice that's totally not overpowering or super noticeable unless you really stare at it, and although the visors seems tough to see through there's an overall "grand" feeling in the design. It's kind of like what Megaforce wanted to accomplish but grandly failed at.  8. Power Rangers Super Megaforce Speaking of Megaforce, the second half of the series had one of the coolest costumes ever. I'm a big fan of this pirate look since it's so unique (with only small difference in visor design among them), and these looked really clean in motion. In fact, they even popped their collars during the Ranger roll-call and it was about as goofy as you'd expect. In a good way. However, since the pirate look was never capitalized on (or explained, really) these awesome suits were wasted. Not to mention that these are only powered-up versions of the Megaforce suits and not a full team of their own. If this look had been handled better, you could be damn sure it would've been in the top five.  7. Power Rangers Ninja Storm Although the Alien Rangers were technically ninjas, the first foray into a ninja ranger season was an impressive one. The first full season of the series to use a teal color for the Blue Ranger, a simple but expressive helmet design, and darker colors for the two Thunder Rangers really left an impression on me. The visors also opened in a cool way; only revealing part of the face when they were speaking to each other. Since we're getting into the nitty gritty of the list, I will say these suits were eeked out by some that did a liiiittle bit more. Especially considering how all of this awesome simplicity was tossed out the window in favor of the Green Samurai Ranger's obnoxious look.  6. Power Rangers Wild Force Wild Force is the only season of the series so far that comes closest to the first season in suit design. The gaudy, but slightly subdued helmets are a natural evolution of the dino helmets, except here more teeth come down over the visors. The shark helmet is a standout, and I'm very fond of the White Ranger's pink stripe highlighting her skirt. The one thing I'm not a fan of, however, is the huge gold strap on their chests. It's a little much coupled with the insignia, and its asymmetrical placement definitely throws off the look. The belt buckle also takes up too much real estate and makes the waist seem unnecessarily heavy.  5. Power Rangers S.P.D. S.P.D. was one of my favorite seasons for a number of reasons, and a great deal of it had to do with the look. While the visors are a bit too stretched across the helmet for my liking, everything from the neck down absolutely works. The asymmetrical design actually makes sense here (with one side reserved for their police badges and labels and whatnot) and their number leading to an all-black arm is so damn cool looking. The series has never made this kind of design choice before, so it really sticks out from the other seasons. It's uniform, yet flashy.  4. Power Rangers Time Force Time Force was another favorite of mine. Combining the simplicity I love, with the gaudy look of the original, the Time Force suits were a great uniform for the team. I'm not sure how any of the suit actors actually saw thing out of the colored visors, but I didn't care. These suits are great and the visors (meant to resemble clock hands) are an inspired choice. The only thing I never really liked was the Quantum Ranger's closely resembling Red, but it made sense story wise (a company developed their own Ranger tech based on Time Force). I think limited the white to the should up is what makes it work overall. It was fluid to see in action.  3. Power Rangers Samurai It's a shame such a great suit design ended on such a trash season. The unique samurai look (as the black straps on their chests resemble robes) is fantastic from head to toe. White is only used as a highlighter, the black bottoms makes a lot of sense as the fighting style is top heavy (there weren't kicks this season so subduing their color was smart), and the kanji visors are inspired. Even looking great during the morphing sequence as the kanji laid on their faces. Since I'm splitting hairs this high up on the list, the only reason it's in the third spot is because the Red Ranger looks like a bug.  2. Power Rangers In Space As the final season of the Zordon-era, In Space had a lot going for it. A space opera with layered villains, evil rangers, and fantastic suits.  Although the Japanese original had nothing to do with space, it helped that the suits all look like space suits. Stripping down the excess, the helmets are absolutely perfect (even adding in a tech holographic during the morphing sequence). There's personality in how different these looked from what came before, and still have yet to be matched sense. It truly signified how different of a story this season was telling. The only thing keeping these out of the top spot are the colored squares across their chests. It's an acquired taste.  1. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Like it could be anything else. The suits are one distinct reason the Power Rangers branded visuals have managed to stick around in pop culture for so long. Although the diamonds make them look like clowns, these suits set the tone for everything else to come. These suits help set the mythos of the series (colored spandex, crazy helmet design, a uniform yet differing look) and they still sort-of look good after all of these years. Not great. but good. That's not something you can say about the rest of the suits on this list. 
Power Rangers Month photo
Power stylin'
As I've learned watching through 831 episodes of Power Rangers for two thirds of my life, a Ranger is only as good as their suit. A suit design can make or break a series through first impressions, and bad designs have indeed...

The first teaser trailer for Pixar's Coco is all about music, magic, and dead people

Mar 15 // Hubert Vigilla
As our own Nick Valdez put it, "Oh cool. Pixar made Book of Life 2." Here's an official synopsis: Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”). Coco comes to theaters on November 22nd. [via Disney/Pixar on YouTube]
Pixar's Coco trailer photo
Seriously, that's a cool looking guitar
Pixar's Coco was one of our most anticipated movies of 2017. Disney and Pixar released the first teaser trailer for the film today, and it looks like a magical blend of music, mariachis, Dia de Muertos, and ghosts. This is the best kind of blend. Honest. Plus, check out that guitar. It is freakin' cool looking. Watch the teaser trailer for Coco below.

Every Power Rangers Theme Song, Ranked

Mar 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221220:43333:0[/embed] 20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (2007) Back when Disney owned the rights to Power Rangers, they made quite a bit of changes in order to reinvent it for their network. Punches and kicks were replaced by more lasers, explosions allegedly couldn't occur in front of the Rangers themselves, and they wanted to do a rap theme for some time. Unfortunately for all of us, their idea of rap was total garbage.  Highlighting the worst season of Power Rangers is faux-techno rap babble with the lyrics "There's treasures to be found, there's some lives to be saved, our planet to look after, there's a whole lot of space!" There's a whole lot of something, all right.  [embed]221220:43334:0[/embed] 19. Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers (1996)  I wasn't originally going to count this, as the Alien Rangers arc is the capper of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' final season and it's merely a copy of the OG theme with "alien rangers" in the lyrics, but you'll see in the next couple of entries this theme has a bit more effort in it than others.  I'm giving it credit for merely existing when it didn't need to. We didn't need a new theme, but it was nice to hear something different in preparation for the major reboot the series would go through a season later.  [embed]221220:43335:0[/embed] 18. Power Rangers Samurai (2011) / Power Rangers Super Samurai (2012) When Saban re-acquired the rights to Power Rangers (which fans have dubbed the "Neo-Saban"-era), they chose to reintroduce the series to kids on Nickelodeon with a remix of the show's original theme with the additional lyrics, "Rangers Together, Samurai Forever." But unlike the Alien Rangers theme, this remix is weak. I get the need to reintroduce the series' mythos to a new generation, but Saban missed the chance to highlight the show's obviously Japanese influences.  It's reflective of Saban's growing pains over the next few seasons that'll only get worse. Even worse is having the characters shout their names during the title sequence, treating kids like little idiots.  [embed]221220:43336:0[/embed] 17. Power Rangers Megaforce (2013) / Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014) Megaforce was a worse season than Samurai in a lot of ways. Chiefly it's biggest disappointment was in how lazy of a show it was. It's exactly the same theme, complete with characters shouting their names during the credits, but it's just slightly better thanks to the first couple of seconds. With a season as lazy as this was, take what you can get.  [embed]221220:43337:0[/embed] 16. Power Rangers Mystic Force (2006) Just as Operation Overdrive somehow needed a rap in its theme song, Mystic Force was the first attempt at it. It's not a full-on trash rap, nor is it just a retread, but it's not an accomplishment by any means. This season was weak for a number of reasons, but the theme should've been the first indicator of its overall terribleness. [embed]221220:43354:0[/embed] 15. Power Rangers Jungle Fury (2008) Remember the band Metro Station? What about 3OH!3? Well, if either or those bands wrote a Power Rangers theme song it'd be whatever the hell this song is. Taking advantage of the faux-emo wave at the time is this piece of work which in no way suited a cool season of kung-fu Rangers.  Jungle Fury had a lot of great things going for it, but I could imagine this theme song turning kids away. It's just way too in your face with its awfulness.  [embed]221220:43338:0[/embed] 14. Power Rangers RPM (2009) Originally intended to be the final season of the series, as Disney got tired of spending money on it, RPM was a surprisingly mature story of the last bits of humanity fighting against machine apocalypse. Borrowing imagery from films like Mad Max and Terminator, this series was as awesome as Power Rangers has ever gotten...but the theme didn't tell you any of that. Other than some techno mess in the middle of it, this theme was a little too generic. All it's got to offer are a few "Power Rangers RPM, get in gear!" thrown in every now and again, and it's a letdown for what's arguably the best season of the series.  But it's not a rap song, so there's that.  [embed]221220:43341:0[/embed] 13. Power Rangers Wild Force (2002) Wild Force was basically a Power Rangers version of Captain Planet, as the Rangers fought against pollution and what not, so a boring season unfortunately got an equally boring theme song. There's nothing technically wrong with the song, it's just a little too loud and busy to really hit home. Accompanying animal roars, a tone that's constantly aggressive, with nothing sticking out to make it unique. The best seasons (as you'll read in a bit) have themes with distinguishing, memorable characteristics. Don't expect anyone to remember this.  [embed]221220:43340:0[/embed] 12. Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)  Ninja Storm's opening theme is about as forgettable as Wild Force's, but what makes it win over in the end is how unique it is. Matching its series' tone of extreme sports loving ninja masters is a chill rock song that helps play up the "Storm" in the series title. There still has yet to be a theme like it.  [embed]221220:43342:0[/embed] 11. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (1999) Since Lost Galaxy was the first self-contained season of the series, not continuing the story started in MMPR, it needed a theme that sounded wholly different than what had come before. And it got that...for the first thirty seconds or so. As the first opening theme of the series not composed by Ron Wasserman (who's credits include MMPR through In Space and the Mummies Alive! opening theme), it's different enough to stand out yet feels similar enough to themes before. But after the great "ahhhhhhhh," it starts feeling repetitive. Granted all of these themes are repetitive, but this one really lets down its grandiose beginning.  [embed]221220:43343:0[/embed] 10.  Power Rangers Ninja Steel (2017) Since this season just premiered it might be a bit too soon to have the opening theme crack the top ten, but it's pretty dang good. It's the opening few seconds that really drive the point home. While I'm not sure if the series will live up to the Asian influences the theme presents, it already seems much different than seasons before. Coupled with a remix of the original theme (in order to keep building the mythos, as mentioned) thrown in for good measure, and I'm pretty stricken with it.  [embed]221220:43344:0[/embed] 9. Power Rangers Turbo (1997) As the only season of the series to premiere with a movie, Turbo didn't have to do much. The season itself had a ton of problems, but its theme has the best final seconds of any season. While the full version of this theme breaches hilariously bad territory (complete with a car starting up for the first 20 seconds), the show's 30 second cut was amazing. It's surprising the series never returned to 30 second themes, but it at least helped Turbo.  [embed]221220:43346:0[/embed] 8. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (2000) I don't know why, but Lightspeed Rescue has the one theme I found myself singing the most as a kid. Like Lost Galaxy, the second half doesn't have as much to offer as the first but I prefer the lyrics here than in most of the other themes. It's goofy, but in a series about an emergency rescue team of Rangers, the lyrics "the signal is calling, our planet is falling, the danger will test you, better make it Lightspeed Rescue!" are just hype.  [embed]221220:43345:0[/embed] 7. Power Rangers Zeo (1996) Zeo marked a lot of first for the series. It was the first reboot, it was the first time the Rangers had wholly new suits and powers, and it was the first real season to change the theme. Thankfully, it delivered on everything it was supposed to. With lyrics like "stronger than before" and "powered up for more," mixed it with the standard "Go Go Power Rangers!" you really got the idea that these new powers were different, better maybe.  [embed]221220:43347:0[/embed] 6. Power Rangers Dino Charge (2015) / Power Rangers Dino Super Charge (2016) Speaking of remixes, Saban wouldn't get it right until much much later with Dino Charge. The first good season of the Neo-Saban era, Dino Charge burst out of the gate with a theme sounding like an original until it reminded you that it's a remix of the original song. If Power Rangers could've been reintroduced with this series, this opening theme, than it be a much bigger hit for Nickelodeon than it is now. There's something about dinosaur themes that really makes Power Rangers pop.  [embed]221220:43350:0[/embed] 5. Power Rangers In Space (1998) Just as how RPM was intended to be the final season of the series years later, In Space was initially planned to be the final season before doing well enough in the ratings thanks to its space opera narrative. This theme may have an atonal quality to its lyrics, but the opening countdown has always set it apart in my mind. As the final theme (at the time) composed by Ron Wasserman, it has a ton going for it. The final half, while admittedly as repetitive as other themes on this list, is too hype to pass up. I think the "go go go fly!" always does me in, haha.  [embed]221220:43352:0[/embed] 4. Power Rangers Time Force (2001)  Time Force was a much better season than it got credit for. It was right around the time less kids paid attention to it as we were all starting to grow out of waking up early on Saturdays, but it had so much good in it. The actors were all great (most of them having had experience in film and TV beforehand, which is sadly notable for this series), the premise was great (time patrollers fighting mutants), and it had a memorable theme song. The guitar solo here was the best in a long time and it's better than a lot that came after it. Just like how In Space has a line that does me in, here it's "timeless wonders, fire and thunder, all to save the world." It's goofy when written out, but trust me on this.  [embed]221220:43351:0[/embed] 3. Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004) As I'm sure you've guessed, Power Rangers has gone through tons of reinventions and new beginnings in order to keep kids entertained. Disney bought the rights to the series mid-Wild Force, but it wasn't until after Ninja Storm that Disney had their own take on the series. To go along with another dinosaur themed team of Rangers, the series also tried to bring back old fans with Jason David Frank, an evil Ranger storyline, and most importantly, a kick-ass rock theme song. This theme is probably the closest to an actual "song" in the entire series, and it's the one theme that's most fit for a sing along. With the strongest lyrics of the entire series, this theme song is only beaten by musical greats. [embed]221220:43349:0[/embed] 2. Power Rangers S.P.D. (2005) Although Ron Wasserman composed a few demos during the Disney era, only one of them really made it to the actual show. Thankfully, it was the best one. The only theme on this list to highlight percussion rather than guitar riffs made it stand out for a number of reasons. It's entirely strong throughout with a kick-ass opening and a final ten seconds which elevate it over the other seasons' themes. It'd be the best overall if not for the final entry on this list.  [embed]221220:43353:0[/embed] 1. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1993-1995) C'mon, like I was going to put something else here. I'd be lying to myself, and you, if I didn't pay tribute to the original. It's the theme everyone remembers for a reason. With a harder rock composition than kids deserved, it treated this new series with an awesome reverence that would sadly never get matched again.   They just don't make theme songs like this for kids anymore. 
Power Rangers Themes photo
Go Go
[Editor's Note: This feature has been re-posted in honor of Power Rangers Month on Flixist] Pop culture is full of different kinds of media, but the ones with the most lasting power all do a very important thing: build mythos...

BADaptation: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

Mar 09 // Nick Valdez
[embed]215186:39856:0[/embed] Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The MovieDirector: Bryan SpicerRating: PGRelease Date: June 30, 1995 I'd like to clarify a few things before I get started. This article isn't a review of some kind where I'll point out whether MMPR:TM is a good or bad film (although a good deal of us can agree and which end of the spectrum it lies). I'm going to focus on why it's a bad adaptation of the original TV show, and how it's "badness" affects the property overall. Also, I'm very aware that the TV show itself uses Japanese blah blah blah (although I didn't learn about it until I saw an episode of VH1's I Love the 90s), but that doesn't matter here either since I'm going to reference the show as the standalone version it's meant to be. Okay now since that's out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a Saturday morning TV show on FOX Kids (then later weekdays) about five "teenagers with attitude" picked by a giant floating head named Zordon to fight the recently awakened Rita Repulsa (and later Lord Zedd). To fight this evil, they're given the powers of dinosaurs and were able to transform into five/six colored heroes. MMPR: The Movie however, greatly changes this formula. In the film, the six teenagers instead have to fight a new villain, Ivan Ooze (the amazing Paul Freeman!), but instead are launched to an alien planet in order to gain the "ancient powers of Ninjeti" (or ninja skills to pay the bills) and save Zordon, who has now been reduced from a floating head to a dying man.  One of MMPR:TM's (which I'm going to refer to as The Movie from now on to save time) first inherent issues is that it has to take a story from a 23 minute an episode series and expand it to fit at least a 90 minute film. And to fix the problem, The Movie's solution is to just tell a standalone story all together. While this all well and good, since not every adaptation needs to rely on the original's material to succeed, it's a little disheartening when you realize that the show's wide array of available, expandable stories weren't deemed worthy enough to get a bigger screen, wider audience version. By taking only key elements of the original, it's hard to see how The Movie is an adaptation at all.  But sadly it is. The Movie needs to be an adaptation to work since it apparently wants to be a companion piece to the show. It assumes the audience has an established familiarity with the franchise and eschews traditional character introduction. It boils down the "teenagers with attitude" to "teenagers who participate in extreme sports," there's no origin story (the Power Rangers are already Power Rangers), and lots of information and terminology are thrown around without real weight given to anything. And on top of this is the original story which introduces brand new characters to the franchise (Ivan Ooze, that pig thing, the Tengu warriors, and Dulcea) and treats them (with the exception of Ivan Ooze) like they've been a part of the series forever. I'm sure this must have been confusing as all get out for the poor parents (mine, of course) who were dragged by their kids to see this.  And if the new content is delivered in a confusing manner and not tied to show in any fashion, how important is that new content? The greatest thing about the Power Rangers television series is that despite the goofy look of everything and quirky dialogue exchanges, everything is given importance and weight while still tinged with humor. Every fight in the series is for the fate of the Earth and those five kids seem like underdogs who eventually overcome great odds. With The Movie's larger budget (which means mo' money mo' problems), the teens get new suits with all sorts of fancy gadgets like headlights and infrared vision, different weapons like tasers, and are now suddenly able to perform all sorts of fancy acrobatics and wire work. Even when they lose their powers for a bit (spoilers?) and become awesome ninjas, there doesn't seem to be a big difference between their powerless selves and powerful selves. These Power Rangers are unrecognizable.  So now we have an adaptation, that's not a true adaptation, full of unrecognizable characters. Were there any positives? Did The Movie manage to adapt anything well? Well...yes and no. For some reason when The Movie adapts a factor of the original series well, it somehow makes the adaptive material look more ridiculous than it should. For one, the series and film take place in the city of Angel Grove and answers a question I had for a long time. Where are all the people? With the extra run time and money available to The Movie, Angel Grove is full of people that do things. In the show, there's no room for normal people problems when there's giant robots to be had. But in giving the citizens something to do (and for having them exist in the first place), it makes the Power Rangers look like terrible heroes. In the film they're so wrapped up in defeating Ooze and saving Zordon, the citizens of Angel Grove nearly jump off a cliff. They're only lucky some random kid stuck his nose into their business.  Another great choice The Movie makes which hurts the TV show is giving the film a great standalone villain. Since the film's budget could afford a great actor like Paul Freeman (Dr. Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark), it unfortunately makes the TV show's villains seem more ridiculous than they purport to be. Freeman is great as Ooze. He hams up the screen, and his performance lies somewhere between perfect in tone and borderline ridiculous. And CG animating the giant robot fight at the end seems like a good decision, but it just takes what supposed to be a great event and turns it into a huge joke. The Power Rangers' new Megazord is now just some weird robot with no face (but still has a conspicuous blonde mustache) who crotch kicks to win.  All in all, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie was perfect to me at the time. As a kid, I was so enamored with the premise I had no idea The Movie actually takes the original's material and tries to turn it into some sort of epic story that doesn't work. There's an air of seriousness about the film (but without the accepted ridiculousness the TV show brings) which sort of takes the soul out of Power Rangers. Sure the goofy humor and all the characters you love and recongnize are still present, but they're not themselves.  Oh I almost forgot something. What kind of Power Rangers movie doesn't feature the ridiculawesome rawkin' theme song for more than thirty seconds? For all of the reasons above, my friends, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie is...a BADaptation. 
Power Rangers BADaptation photo
It's Morphin' Time...apparently
[Editor's Note: This feature was written four (!) years ago in anticipation of a rumored Power Rangers reboot. It has been re-posted for Power Rangers Month.] I knew as soon as I joined the Flixist staff that one day I would ...

Review: Kong: Skull Island

Mar 09 // Matthew Razak
[embed]221357:43453:0[/embed] Kong: Skull IslandDirector: Jordan Vogt-RobertsRelease Date: March 10, 2017Rated: PG-13 Kong: Skull Island is literally exactly about what the title is. King Kong is on Skull Island. The problem is some people are about to show up. In the 1970s Bill Randa (John Goodman), head of the nearly defunded Monarch organization, launches one last expedition to a previously undiscovered island that is perpetually surrounded by storms. He believes that monsters do exist as he's the only survivor from the monster attack on a U.S. military boat that was mentioned in Godzilla. Along with him comes a group of scientists, an Vietnam helicopter platoon led by Preston Packard (Samual L. Jackson), a tracker named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). They, of course make it to the island, and for some mcguffin of a reason start dropping bombs on it. Kong shows up and kicks there ass. And here's where Skull Island really starts to do things right. Instead of giving us 90 minutes of blurry fur and quick glimpses, Kong just shows up and starts being the man. This allows for not just one big monster sequence at the end, but instead battle after battle of insanely well designed monster fight scenes. Kong is actually the star of this movie, not a bunch of humans struggling to survive, but the ape himself. That's a lesson that so many monster films have yet to learn and one of the biggest problems with Godzilla. Skull Island knows what we came to see and it give it to us right off the bat. That's not to say there isn't plenty of human development. After Kong trashes the groups helicopters the survivors are left to try to make their way to the rendezvous point in order to get off the island. Packard, hell bent on winning "this war" against Kong, drives his group to get the ammunition to kill the primate while a smaller group led by Conrad wind up meeting the native people of the island and crashed WWII pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly). They learn that Kong isn't the bad guy, but the defender of these people and the world against those weird lizard monsters that Godzilla helped defeat in his film. Yea, it's that blatantly connected. And, yes, it is also that blatantly a metaphor for Vietnam to the point where toxic gas is dropped. But given Godzilla's roots in nuclear war commentary the war commentary actually fits well enough. Skull Island likes to play with its tropes while reveling in them at the same time. A perfect example of this is two soldiers running away from a charging Kong as one peels off yelling "Run to the side, you idiot." The other guy doesn't and gets crushed. This playfulness with cliche makes the movie work on its own accord and pulls the actual cliche stuff out of the mire. Yes, it can get a little goofy at times, and that's when the film is at its worst, but for the most part everything clicks and Kong (or some other giant creature) is never of screen long enough for you to really start to hate the cookie cutter characters.  Probably the most disappointing part of the film is how flat Hiddleston's character is. If they're planning on having this character be a central piece of the MonsterVerse puzzle they better get him some more interesting dialog and plot lines. It isn't clear, however, if they are. From the attitude Skull Island takes to its human characters the only important carryover is Kong. Human beings are just there to stare at him in admiration or die. That's the way it should be it turns out. If this is the tone for the rest of the MonsterVerse then count me in. Kong brings a bit more fun to the series than Godzilla did and a whole lot more monster action. While Kong: Skull Island can get drastically stupid at times it always seem aware of this and it has figured out an antidote: Kong smash.
Kong: Skull Island photo
Welcome to the MonsterVerse
The monster movie is making a comeback. No, not the still-odd-to-me Universal Monster Cinematic Universe. I'm talking giant, city-destroying monsters. And yes, they're getting their own universe. Unbeknownst to us the kick of...

Review: Before I Fall

Mar 03 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221343:43441:0[/embed] Before I FallDirector: Ry Russo-YoungRelease Date: Rating: PG-13  Up front (well, after the intro): I did not like the first third of Before I Fall. There are a variety of potential reasons for this, though most of them boil down to an inability to connect to the characters. They're popular girls; it's like a modern version of Mean Girls but without the funny. They're just terrible. And with a lack of humor, I had nothing to latch onto. I was never a teenage girl, but it's less that than the fact that I was never a popular teenager of any gender. I just simply couldn't relate. So, I was upset, because I wanted to like it, and the film was just making it so hard. But then things changed. Before I Fall's conceit is that its protagonist, Samantha (Zoey Deutch), dies in a car crash and then wakes up at the beginning of the same day. And even when she doesn't die in the car crash, she still wakes up the same day. It's "Cupid Day," a semi-bizarre variation on Valentine's Day. I've never heard anyone call it Cupid Day before, and at first I thought maybe it was a Pacific Northwest thing, since that's where the film is set, but apparently not; it comes from the book (which was actually set in New England). Looking up "Cupid Day" on Google brings up as its first result a question on Yahoo Answers specifically asking about its use in the book upon which this film is based (look at all the research I did for this review!). Still, it's definitely Valentine's Day because someone is like, "Happy Cupid Day" and someone else is like "THAT'S VALENTINE'S DAY TO YOU" and I dunno if that part was in the book. It felt kinda expository, like the moment was only there for the purpose of clarification... but whatever. Point is, its Cupid Day and that's what everyone says. (It's best not to get hung up on things like that.) We see the day play out. We see Samantha and her friends as garbage people. We see that there's something in Samantha that could be not garbage, but that only matters so much when she also shouts that the sad girl is a "Psycho." She piles on like everyone else. She's still a bad person. And then she dies, and she spends the rest of the film atoning for that sin.  Her first repeated day is whatever. I knew the conceit, so I more-or-less knew how it was gonna go down. She was still not a good person, but she was a not-good person who was starting her transition. But even if those glimmers of worthwhileness began around here, she was still fundamentally not worth caring about.  I don't remember if it's the next day or the one after, but at some point she decides to dress differently. She dresses like a goth kid. She wears all black, gets all made up, and then she starts speaking her mind to people. She calls out her friends on their shit. She then has a really awkward interaction with her teacher (I cringe just thinking about it), and she does it all because she has realized that it doesn't matter. That she is going to wake up the next day the same as ever. So why not be a different her for a day (maybe one that's closer to the real her? At this point, we don't actually know, though the answer seems to be "not quite" (though that begs the question of why she had those clothes in the first place))?  And that was interesting, of course, because we see different sides of the character, but it wasn't even that that did it for me; she goes in to the bathroom that I guess has been designated the one lesbian girl's bathroom, and then the two of them talk. And the talk that they have is genuinely interesting. It wasn't just showing more of Samantha, though it did do that; it was making a point about everything that those characters were. To paraphrase (because I didn't write down the actual line): "In two years, I won't remember any of you." And you look at Samantha's friends, the popular kids, and you think about where they're going to be in two years. After high school: Will they Matter? Will anyone remember them? The sickest parties and the cutest boys in high school are, one would assume, chump change compared to what's to come. But that's what they care about. Being cool. People thinking their cool. And the people who are actually cool are just biding their time until they don't have to deal with that shit anymore. (They'll have to deal with other shit, but that's not the point.) At that point, it becomes like a different movie, a movie about misfits. Because the truth is that, though Samantha somehow joined up with the popular girls, it's not really who she is. She isn't as "weird" as some of the people are, but she's definitely a lot less judgmental of oddities than she puts on. And as Before I Fall begins to explore that, it's suddenly like watching a different, much better movie. Samantha became multi-faceted, and her relationships became compelling. What happens with the family I found to be particularly feels-worthy, and it was this stuff, actually, that made me cry. Yeah. Before I Fall made me cry. And it wasn't like a cheap thing either. They didn't have to kill a cute animal (or even a person); they just had to start to mend something that was on the verge of being broken. I have a sister who is quite a bit younger than I am. I was definitely dismissive of her in the way that Samantha is of hers. But Samantha, as the day repeats and repeats, decides to own up to this and try to make things better. I felt that so freaking hard. (After the film ended, I immediately texted my sister to tell her I loved her.) And it wasn't just that. Many of the character arcs pay off in ways that feel honest in an almost surprising way, because sometimes the ways they get to those conclusions don't make a lot of sense. Certain characters do things that seem out of place, but where they end up as a result of them still works. It could be an adaptation thing: In the pages of the book, there is more time to get a character from A to B to C and so on, but we have to skip a few letters to get it into a film. But whatever the reason, it doesn't ultimately matter. What matters is how it feels right. Very right. In the first third of the film, I was just thinking, "Man, I want to go home and watch The Edge of Seventeen again." And, admittedly, I think that a lot, but after the switch, I thought, "No... this is the only thing I want to be watching. This is the thing that matters." And it does matter, because it really does get into some of the seedier aspects of high school popularity, and the gross things people do in order to move up a level. Also, it made me cry.
Before I Fall Review photo
Putting it on replay
If you read my Top 15 Movies of 2016 list, then you'll know that at the very top (number 0) was The Edge of Seventeen. Also worth noting: my favorite movie of ever continues to be Joseph Kahn's Detention. From that, we can de...

How To Do It: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Reboot

Mar 03 // Nick Valdez
1. Start over from the beginning. In the press release, the new film is classified as a "re-imagining" of the old show. This makes perfect sense given most of the audience of the first couple of seasons have now grown up and are willing to thrown down major cash on a nostalgic property. The problem with this is, those same people have too fond memories of the show. They've built it up to some pedestal, so any new film is already needing to prove itself. What most of you all out there need to remember is, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is really, really bad. Bad dialogue, bad acting, and some of the most 90s situations you'll find on children's television.  But that's also not a bad thing. If we go into this new movie with an open mind, and the new film starts over from the beginning,  then we're in for a good time. So to be successful, the reboot needs to use the bankable names of the original five (maybe six) "teenagers with attitude" (Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, Jason) because those are the names we'll remember. Most old fans won't remember who played those characters, so it's not important to bring the actors back, but we will remember the names. Start over from the beginning, tell the same simple origin story (teenagers are chosen by a floating space man to fight monsters), and we're golden. No need to reinvent the wheel.  2. Don't bring back old actors from the show.  When movie studios "reimagine" properties, they cast an entirely new set of people to play the characters we all know and love. That's going to be the case here. In order to completely separate itself (and thus create a new universe of movies), keep the television actors away. For example, Jason David Frank (who played Tommy in over 242 episodes of Power Rangers, and is arguably the most popular actor in the series) is already lobbying his fans to write to "lion gates" in order to get in the new movie. If they have to bring him (or anyone) back, and chances are they will, make sure it's only in a cameo capacity. Maybe have Tommy run the juice bar (like in the Wild Force episode, "Forever Red"), pass the torch to the new kids, and then disappear forever. As much as we might like the guy, seeing a thirty year old man run over in a tight spandex suit for a kid's show (like he is in the upcoming Power Rangers Super Megaforce finale) is kind of sad. Besides, the new kids watching this movie won't really know or care who Jason David Frank or any of these older actors are.  3. Use actors who can believably do their own stunts (and real suits!) One of the reasons Power Rangers became such a hit was because it delivered on things we've never had before. Although the acting and dialogue were bad, it had great action. It had cartoon action brought to real life, and it was pretty f**king cool. The series also still has some of the best fight choreography around. It's important to bring that back. Can you imagine what the fight effects could look like with a larger budget? Remember what the fights looked like in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie? Never mind, those were terrible. But a bigger budget could lead to bigger things. It's simple. Keep the suits real, but CG everything else. Like any other superhero, it's all about tangibility.  And that comes from the actors too. In the show, the teens would still kick butt out of the suits. Story wise, it shows the audience the effect of the power coins, and quality wise, it helps the audience attach the person to the hero. It's very important for us to remember who's in the suits. It's not enough for people to put them on, we have to believe people are in them.  4. Have a good villain.  Whether the new film goes with Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd or even Ivan Ooze, it's important to have a memorable bad guy. Once again, don't reinvent the wheel. Don't create a new, generic villain for the film unless the right person is behind it (Paul Freeman was the only reason Ivan Ooze worked in the movie), and there's plenty of material to draw from so there's no reason to create a new one anyway. If I could have it my way, I'd go for Rita Repulsa. She's the greater villain since she posed a threat, her powers led to the "Green With Evil" storyline which introduced a sixth ranger, and she has some of the best catchphrases ("You're giving me a headache!" "Magic wand, make my monster grow!").  If they went that route, they could introduce Lord Zedd for the sequel (just don't make him overtly dark or scary, remember it's for kids!), lead in to their wedding, Serpentera, and the possible stories are endless. All I'm saying is the material is there, so Lionsgate would be wise to use it.  5. Do it for the kids.  This is hardest thing to say, but this new movie isn't going to be for me or you, it's for the kids. Although the name is there to get butts to the seats, Saban's probably trying to make this work into a children's franchise. It's going to be an all ages affair, so don't expect a dark and gritty take on these heroes. No blood, no adult situations, and the word "kill" will be replaced with "destroy." But that's the way it's always been, and it's always worked, so no reason to be worried about that now.  As long as the new movie gets the tone right. That's actually the most important thing on this list. Please don't take this movie seriously as nothing about the Power Rangers is serious. And even when the show decides to lean toward heavier subjects, it's only because they're destroying all of the current zords to introduce a new line of zords/toys to kids.  6. Don't forget to have fun.  With the rising amount of gritty reboots these days (just look at Man of Steel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, and Transformers), I'm a little worried about how this'll turn out. Power Rangers has survived all these years despite its bevy of bad decisions because it's so lovably goofy. It's always so sincere about its laughably bad puns, heavy handed messages of protecting the environment and teamwork, and telling its stories with a half baked seriousness. Although every week a new monster threatens to destroy the world, there's still time to ride dirt bikes as part of the high school dirt bike club or something. It just all meshes together in a tone that works for everyone.  There's action, comedy, giant robots punching other giant things in the face, and lots of attractive men and women. If the new movie gets even one of those right, that'll be morphinominal. 
HTDI: Power Rangers photo
There's a wrong way, and there's a Morphinominal way
The Power Rangers series is an odd one. It started out as one of Saban Entertainment's many attempts to re-dub a Japanese kids show for American audiences and turned into a juggernaut spanning 21 seasons, comics, videogames, ...

Why Logan is the bravest studio film of the year

Mar 03 // Matthew Razak
We all like to complain that Marvel superhero films have become codified (and DC's just suck), but one of the reasons they have is because the formula works. It works over and over and over again. Hollywood sticks to formulas that work, and they do not tip the boat. When you're putting millions and millions of dollars into something you want that money back. It's a simple reason why studios are insanely risk adverse. For every Deadpool there's five John Carters. John Carters lead to people getting fired.  That's why Logan stands out so boldly among every studio film we'll see this year. The studio actually let it take risks. They actually let it do what it needed to do. Let's start with the R rating. Wolverine as a character desperately needed this, though, the comic books never had him or Professor X cussing this much. Anyone who saw the underrated The Wolverine knows that a good sharp dose of blood and violence would have made the character actually work. Constraining a wild beast to a PG-13 was not helping. You may say that this wasn't a big risk thanks to Deadpool pulling in massive money, but that's a completely different situation. The Pool isn't as well known as Wolverine, and didn't already have an established, and young, fan base. An R rating is alienating every kid out there who loves superhero movies, and there are a lot of them. That's a huge audience that was able to see the previous films that won't be able to see this one, and that makes Logan's R rating that much more risky than Deadpool's. But it's not just the rating that makes Logan brave as hell. In fact a lot of the risk comes despite the R. With that rating they could have gone full blood bath (Logan has plenty bloody, don't worry), with action sequence after action sequence. Instead director James Mangold rolls the film at a incredibly slow pace. While it doesn't pull this off perfectly, Logan is far more character study than superhero movie. It may fall into a few traps here and there, but just getting this screenplay greenlit must have been one hell of an uphill battle. The film goes long periods without a single claw being "snikted." For a film franchise that could barely stop the action when it first launched with X:Men Origins: Wolverine this is a major divergence. Though it may have been hinted at when Mangold deftly maneuvered The Wolverine into a samurai-style film, only to abandon that in that film's latter third, Logan fully commits to treating its characters as just that. Instead of action pieces to be moved around we get characters who happen to have claws and psychic powers. In the vein of the classic westerns the film apes a little too on-the-nose, our heroes are flawed and violent, but human. Other comic franchises do have well developed characters to be sure, but we rarely see such a focus like this that character. It was a hell of a risky move for a big studio considering no major superhero film as gone this headlong into thematic development.  On top of this the screenplay calls for an aging hero and a dying Professor X set in a future that is stunningly disconnected from the rest of the X universe. Logan could easily be a stand alone film, an almost alternate universe. Comic books do this all the time with one off or limited runs, but movie studios have been remiss to push outside their universes. Part of this resistance is because the idea of a cinematic universe is still so new. Marvel is defining and re-defining what having one means with every film they release. But Fox has finally decided to go their own route. Instead of mimicking Marvel's Avenger's universe they're branching out and defining theirs by a unique one-shot. If their plan is to bridge their X-Men tentpoles with smaller character studies then its a bold stroke in creating a cinematic universe differently from Marvel's cohesive whole and DC's... clusterfuck.  And now I really need to warn you about spoilers because probably the biggest and ballsiest move comes at the end of the film. They killed their star. No wait, they didn't just kill their start, they killed two of their stars. I doubt anyone is going to give this movie enough credit for doing this. You do not kill your heroic lead in an action blockbuster. Yes, it happens here and there as I'm sure many could point out, but it doesn't happen with established franchise characters twice in the same movie. Sure, you could argue that it was easier because the story is set in the future so it doesn't affect the current universe's "present" timeline, but that just makes the entire thing more of a risk. In order to execute this movie correctly they not only had to set up an entire separate time frame, but then pull the trigger on killing two X-Men (and major Hollywood actors) in one film. Hollywood doesn't do it like this, and yet here we have Logan. A movie that knew to be as truly powerful as it could be it had to break our hearts... twice. And they let it. The studio let them do it.  I am well aware that this is Jackman's goodbye to the character so a death makes sense, but that's just it. It makes sense! That's not something I'm use to saying about studio decisions when it comes to money making franchises.  It feels weird to commend a Hollywood studio for taking risks and doing things that make sense. This is what they should be doing, right? They don't, though. For many of the reasons outlined above it is not the norm for a studio to go out on a limb like Fox did with Logan. Yet in this case it truly paid off. By allowing Logan to be the film that it needed to be instead of meddling in what they thought it should be Fox let Mangold make the Wolverine film that everyone had always wanted, and then take it even further. So here's to a studio doing what it should be doing. Here's to Fox showing some guts, bub. Here's to more like it in the future. 
Logan photo
Balls of adamantium
By now we've all seen Logan, and if you haven't then you wasted your Thursday night by not going to it. My guess is that it's a bit of a divisive film. Some people are going to come out of it loving it, like we did, and other...

Review: Logan

Mar 03 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221303:43419:0[/embed] LoganDirector: James MangoldRelease Date: March 3, 2017Rating: R  Logan is both a sequel to 2013's The Wolverine and a ending to the entire X-Men franchise. In the far-ish future of 2029, we find Logan (Hugh Jackman) making his way across El Paso, driving a limo for money. It turns out mutants have essentially gone extinct, and he is only doing odd jobs in order to take care of the now dementia-suffering Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who's loss of control over his mind has made him a threat. But one day he's approached by a woman accompanied by a silent girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who needs help getting to the Canadian border and some place they call an "Eden for mutants." Begrudgingly accepting the task when he sees Laura shares a few similarities with him, revelations come to light as Logan has to come to terms with the man he's become. Logan is dramatically different than the rest of the X-Men films, and that's notably due to its R rating.  While I was initially afraid Deadpool's R rated success would mean Logan was full of extraneous foul language and violence (but without the cheekiness), what is present feels incredibly natural. Like we're actually seeing Wolverine for who he is for the first time, making every other performance seem neutered in comparison. This Logan is older, broken, and incredibly violent. He brutalizes enemies, but it's never portrayed as monstrous as his attacks could be because Jackman fills the role with a much needed humanity. The film always makes a point to note that he never initiates the attacks (unlike the brash Logan seen in, say, the first X-Men). The added caveat of slowly losing his healing abilities also grounds this comic book film in an unprecedented way. For all intents and purposes, Logan is a lonely, introspective character drama. While the character work admittedly will be more effective if you've seen some of the other X-Men films (at least the first one to explain some of the world's elements), it's not completely necessary. The film opens with a scene heartily establishing everything you need to know about this character, and I'll go as far to say it's the best opening scene in the franchise to date.  Logan is full of outstanding performances. While some kitchy turns from Boyd Holbrook's Pierce (a mysterious guy in sunglasses who's chasing after Laura, but Logan's not about that so mentioning his role in the story seems unnecessary), Stephen Merchant's Caliban, and a villain revealed later in the film tend to remind you it's a comic book film, the three central cast members anchor Logan's harsh reality. Hugh Jackman, drawing on his years of experience with the character, puts forth a stellar performance. As mentioned earlier, with the amenities afforded by the film's R rating, Jackman's performance rings more palpable than ever. Like this is the character he's wanted to portray since he signed on to these films all those years ago. His rapport with the sickly Charles is one of the best features in the film as he and Patrick Stewart have developed a mentor/pupil-father/son relationship over the years. Or at least ably portrayed as such. Then there's the young Dafne Keen, who's Laura is defined entirely through her physicality and manages to carve a distinct presence between the two.  Now Logan isn't perfect. One of the film's overlying themes of fighting one's past becomes a little too literal, the tone is so well established the encroaching X-Men talk feels out of place, and some of the dialogue unfortunately I felt I had to forgive under the "comic book film" qualifier, but thinking back on it, these issues didn't bother me as much as I thought they would have. Logan's imperfections lend credibility to the central character's imperfections. The film's problems mirror Logan's distraught sense of self. Is he the colorful hero of years past? Is he the beaten down man who's lost his sense of purpose after years of struggle? There's a distinct push and pull between the two tones as they blend into something not seen before in the genre. In fact, it seems, dare I say realistic?  Above all else, Logan is a film of consequence. It's the first comic book film weighted with actual drama and character work. There's an overwhelming sense of finality and dread permeating throughout making every one of Logan's struggles more tense than the last. If you've followed Wolverine through every one of his adventures, you're sure to be satisfied with Logan. If you haven't, there's still enough tactile emotion here seeping through Logan's ever-worsening wounds to draw you in even slightly.  I don't need to see another X-Men film, or another comic book film ever again. Thanks to Logan, they've become irrelevant. 
Logan Review photo
Brutal, harsh, and absolutely glorious
(This is a republishing of the original review, which posted two weeks ago.) Logan is a response to a litany of unprecedented events. Comic book films are more popular than ever, the X-Men series is still a via...


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