Around 1996 and in to 1997, the “Power Rangers” pop culture phenomenon had just about died down and Saban entertainment were looking to re-invent the series for a new wave of toy buying tween boys. I was a big “Power Rangers” fan for many years and, like most people my age, I checked out once “Turbo” was introduced. It just felt so tired once they devolved from mystical giant dinosaur robots to… cool cars! Forget a giant dragon that can smash buildings, you have a red car that goes vroom! Of course, I opted out of seeing “Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie” for a very long time, and for good reason. “Turbo” is a movie apparently made on half of the budget of the 1995 movie, and with none of the ambition. You can say whatever you want about the “Mighty Morphin” movie, but it was at least ambitious and tried to take the series in to a bigger scope.
Say what you want about Frank Henenlotter, but even when he makes a bad movie, it’s a guarantee you won’t see another movie like it ever again. I am by no means a fan of “Basketcase” but I still have yet to see another movie like it. “Brain Damage” is another movie so far ahead of its time and so surreal that it didn’t stand a chance at being recognized in 1988. It’s too bad too, since the eighties embraced a lot of interesting premises, so “Brain Damage” should have caught on. Thankfully it later garnered a following in the VHS rental market, and it’s a horror comedy that deserves to be embraced by the horror community. It’s short, and simple but absolutely gruesome, and a unique spin on the theme of drug addiction and substance abuse.
Bill Paxton could play any character. He could play anyone, at any time, from anywhere. He was a cowboy in the old west, he was a soldier in the future fighting aliens, he was a tornado chaser, a leather clad vampire, a slimy car salesman, an obnoxious big brother, a dad burdened with the knowledge of demonic entities, a punk, et al. He could be anyone. I am one of the many kids who grew up watching Paxton give riveting performances on film, no matter how big or small the role was. Paxton was a man who could appear in any time period on film and you bought his performance and his place there.
By all accounts, Paxton was a very nice and warm man who loved his fans, and treated everyone with immense respect. I was born in 1983, so I was old enough to remember a time where Paxton was in a lot of movies, and was a constant face on film. He’d just pop up, and it was a pleasant surprise every single time. Paxton even helped invent a ton of imitators who would walk around screaming “Game over man! Game over!” over and over and over. It never got old.
While many science fictions films in the past have confronted the idea of communication with alien species, as well as building a language with said species, no film like “Arrival” has accomplished the examination of the inherent importance of language with other species as a means of keeping peace and preventing disaster. Films like “Prometheus” have tried and failed to tackle the concept of galactic travel to learn about ideas. “Close Encounters” which is typically celebrated for being a film about communication never quite rises to the idea that interplay between species could hinge on peace and total war. When we meet the alien species we can never really be sure what their intent is. When the time comes to meet them face to face, “Arrival” is a world that side steps military interference in exchange for linguistic help.
Director Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner’s short “Scavengers” originally premiered on cable television and is admittedly at home in the Adult Swim studio library. The studio that thrives on creating different entertainment, “Scavengers” is an ambitious and thought provoking animated film with no dialogue, but incredible sound design. The experience of “Scavengers” hinges on every sound we hear in this new environment, and we’re thrust in to a new world without having characters over explain and hold our hands through what we’re watching.
I wish Mattel would stop forcing Max Steel on the unsuspecting American public. After many years, the company insists on introducing this action figure line in its new forms, and it’s exhausting to say the least. Back in 2000, Mattel re-introduced Max Steel in a very entertaining CGI cartoon with the main character as a cybernetic spy–because CGI and spies were big in the early aughts. When trends shifted, Mattel re-re-introduced the character in 2013 in to a younger character and in the mold of a pseudo-Iron Man since Iron Man has changed how movie studios approach science fiction now. After that failed, Mattel has given us Max Steel once again, and turned him in to a cybernetic superhero with an enigmatic past. This Max Steel is an amalgam of Guyver, Iron Man, and Star Kid, and is an infinitely grating, and ugly kids film.
A small group of rebels sets off to go retrieve the plans to the Death Star after receiving a communication that seems to indicate that they will be the downfall of the Empire in this sequel/prequel/side story to the Star Wars prequels/original trilogy. Touted as the first standalone Star Wars, Rogue One is heavily entrenched in the Star Wars lore and fills in gaps and what could have been considered plot holes in the past. The story here is easily to follow for people who may have never seen a Star Wars film, but it feels like a story built for the fans of the franchise. The story feels like a Star Wars one and the characters feel like they belong in the universe with many cameos and full presences by some very familiar faces and names. This leads the story to feel familiar and yet the changes, the connections that could have been or the additions or who knows make it feel like something is missing to the story. Rogue One is a hard one for this review to fully embrace while wanting to, which is an odd place to find one’s fan brain in.
While I wasn’t keen on Disney and Lucasfilm approaching the prequel so quick in to the rebooting of the series, “Rogue One” really serves us one of the most important chapters in the fall of the Empire beautifully. While “Rogue One” certainly isn’t a perfect film, it sure is a fantastic action adventure that attempts to break the mold. Gareth Edwards transforms his tale of the stealing of the plans of the Death Star in to a last stand mission in the vein of “Saving Private Ryan” and “Inglorious Basterds.” Though director Edwards offers up the usual nods to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” thankfully “Rogue One” also manages to stand firmly on its own. It’s a compelling tale of the rebellion, and pure evil trying to maintain its strangle hold on the galaxy.