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  • Power Rangers (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Power Rangers (2017)

    Director: Dean Israelite

    Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cycler, Becky G., Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston & Elizabeth Banks

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Revitalizing the television phenomenon for the big-screen, Power Rangers centers on five ordinary teens, chosen by destiny, to form a superhuman team of defenders to save the world from the evil Rita Repulsa’s wrath.  Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) directs from a screenplay by John Gatins (Real Steel, Flight).

    Marking the famous franchise’s return to cinemas in two decades, Power Rangers uses the original and arguably, most popular iteration of the series as a springboard to reintroduce modern audiences and longtime fans back to an Angel Grove in desperate need of heroes.  Establishing an apocalyptic world where the Power Rangers, led by Red Ranger Zordon (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), are losing the battle against their former friend and betrayer Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games), the fading leader seeks to preserve the safety of the desired Zeo Crystal by hiding the coveted power coins in hopes of a new team one day emerging to protect Earth.  Juxtaposing to modern day Angel Grove, high school football star turned delinquent Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery, A Few Less Men) pulls an unruly prank, landing him in detention for the rest of the school year.  Shortly after befriending bullied and autistic classmate Billy Cranston (RJ Cycler, Me and Early and the Dying Girl), Jason is convinced to join Billy at a mine site where an explosion and chance encounters with several other troubled teens including, Kimberly (Naomi Scott, The 33), a former popularity queen now ditched by her friends, Zach (Ludi Lin, Monster Hunt), a wild teen tasked with caring for his ailing mother and Trini (Becky G., Empire), a loner struggling with her own sexuality, converge in an experience that will change their lives.  Discovering the hidden power coins and the nerve center of Zordon, now constrained to its matrix system, and his faithful robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader, Inside Out), the teens are appointed as new members of the Power Rangers and must prepare for the inevitable threat of their awakened nemesis, Rita Repulsa.  Learning to trust one another and believe in themselves prove difficult as the fate of Angel Grove and the world hang in the balance against the forces of evil.  

    Darker than its bubble gum pop series but never overly brooding, Power Rangers greatly impresses with its diverse up and coming cast that convey relatable teenage troubles with organic conviction.  Noticeably influenced by the works of John Hughes with so few modern day attempts at capturing youthful voices succeeding, Power Rangers is the rare feat that does so and genuinely makes audiences care through deep character development that, for better or worse, comes at the cost of more high-octane action.  While their self-doubts restrict them from morphing into their costumed counterparts for an extended period, the film’s final act finds the the heroes finally adorned in their eye-catching armored suits to do battle against the bolder-looking Putties and Rita’s visually disappointing henchman, Goldar.  Although a shameless product placement opportunity rears its head into the plot, Elizabeth Banks delivers an enjoyably over-the-top and occasionally frightening performance as lead baddie Rita while, the city-destructing climax of the Rangers facing off in the mighty Megazord is nothing audiences haven’t seen before.  Minor grievances aside for the film’s action set pieces which unfortunately seem to have caused the ballooning $100 million budget, Power Rangers is a surprisingly fresh and energetic effort that although, based on the nostalgically campy series of the same name, takes itself and its audience seriously while having a morphinominally fun time doing it.

    Lionsgate presents Power Rangers with a striking 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Exceptional-looking from start to finish, skin tones are naturally pleasing and detailed while, black levels seen during nighttime sequences at the mine appear deep and inky.  Digital manifestations such as, Alpha 5 and the literal looking Goldar all dazzle with the bolder colors of the rangers suits and Rita’s shimmering green garb leaping off the screen.  Without a false note to report, Power Rangers morphs into action with the utmost clarity.  Equipped with an equally perfect Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal clear with action scenes from the rangers’ training montages to the film’s final zord battle filled with explosive action greatly impress with grand authority.  Furthermore, song selections including, a contemporary rendering of the infamous theme song, all make noticeable statements on the track that push speakers to work overtime.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Dean Israelite & Writer John Gatins, The Power of Present (2:20:12), a comprehensively morphin’ nine-part featurette that looks back at the franchise’s early years to this film’s culmination.  Insight from original series creator Haim Saban as well as the cast and crew are on-hand while, the development of the film’s costumes, the cast’s intensive training and music are all explored in this perfect companion piece to the feature.  Also included, Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes (33:39), Outtakes (3:41) and the Theatrical Trailer with Audio Commentary by Director Dean Israelite (2:21).  Lastly, an Also from Lionsgate (4:40) section offers trailers and promos for Power Rangers: Legacy Wars, The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection, Allegiant and Now You See Me 2.  Additionally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Although struggling to be the massive moneymaker hoped for by the studio, Power Rangers may be the year’s biggest blockbuster surprise that balances the delicate line of respecting its franchise roots while injecting a youthful, harder-edged voice that lifelong fans will appreciate.  Planned for a whopping six-film story arc and teasing the arrival of a certain character of the green persuasion, Power Rangers is hopefully only the beginning in a great new series that deserves more installments.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s phenomenal high-definition release is a technical marvel with a staggering supply of bonus content ranger fans will eat up.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Power Rangers can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series DVD Review

    Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Yūta Mochizuki, Sejiu Umon, Hideki Fujiwara, Takumi Hashimoto, Reiko Chiba & Shiro Izumi

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as the first series in the popular Super Sentai franchise to be adapted for the American market, Super Sentai Zyuranger centers on the evil witch Bandora who after 170 million years of imprisonment is hellbent on exacting revenge upon Earth.  Meanwhile, five ancient warriors are summoned from their suspended animation to defend the planet and its citizens against Bandora and her wicked henchmen, utilizing enchanted weapons and giant robots known as the Guardian Beasts.  

    Beginning in 1975, the long-running Super Sentai franchise has marveled the imaginations of Japanese children since its inception while, casual viewers recognize their prominence for inspiring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series in the early 1990s that would rise to immense popularity in America and the rest of the world.  Interestingly enough, Super Sentai Zyuranger would mark the sixteenth season of the popular series with extensive footage from its 50 episode run incorporated into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers inaugural season.  With the exception of its action footage recycled and reformatted for the American audience, the majority of Super Sentai Zyuranger including its characters and episode narratives are vastly different to its American interpretation.  Instead of summoning five teens with attitude, Super Sentai Zyuranger’s protagonists are a team of ancient warriors utilizing the power of prehistoric dinosaurs and robotic beasts to battle Bandora.  More noticeable changes that left Mighty Morphin fans bewildered for years become clear in Super Sentai Zyuranger such as the original male yellow ranger explaining why the pink ranger was the only one bearing a skirt-like costume in its American incarnation.  While, devoted fans of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series will be familiar with much of the episodes’ footage, those uninitiated with the Japanese program will revel in each adventures original intent.  Noticeably more fantastical than its more superhero driven international version, Super Sentai Zyuranger also possesses a slightly more adult edge with characters using such mild language as “hell” and “damn”.  In addition, the sinister witch Bandora (Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) is often threatening to kill her colorful enemies instead of the more commonly used “destroy” term.  

    Filled with marvelous martial arts sequences, vibrant colors and countless Kaiju-like battles, first-time viewers accustomed to the teenagers of Angel Grove will discover a wholly unique experience in Super Sentai Zyuranger that is equally exciting and action-packed.  Containing all 50 episodes across a whopping 10 discs, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series is a long-awaited addition into every Power Rangers fans collection and one that will stand proudly next to its American offerings as the series that truly started it all.

    Shout! Factory presents Super Sentai Zyuranger full frame, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  True to its original broadcast appearance, Super Sentai Zyuranger appears murky at times with colors slightly diluted, no question attributed to the show’s low-budget.  Never deal-breaking and with expectations kept at bay, the Japanese program looks as good as can be expected after nearly 25 years and will most definitely please enthusiasts of Shout! Factory’s previous Power Rangers releases.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Super Sentai Zyuranger arrives with its original Japanese audio intact and optional English subtitles.  Dialogue, the show’s catchy theme song and its explosive battle sequences come across with no issues while, all subtitles appear clearly and easy to follow.  Special features include the sole Power Progenitors: Super Sentai Zyuranger Power Morphicon 2014 Panel where three cast members from the original show field questions from adoring fans with their responses relayed in English subtitles (26:54).

    Marking its DVD debut, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series finally offers likeminded fans the opportunity to experience the original Japanese hit that would eventually birth the global sensation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Endlessly fun and packed with dynamic eye candy, Super Sentai Zyuranger delivers everything that made its American rangers a blast but, with a slightly more fantastical flair.  After doing the impossible and presenting the first 20 years of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and beyond for home entertainment, Shout! Factory goes back to the franchise’s roots and delivers another bonafide helping of morphenomenal awesomeness.

     RATING: 4/5

    Available February 17th from Shout! Factory, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #8: Power Rangers, The Swimmer, August: Osage County, Beneath & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #8 includes:

    - Power Rangers Seasons 13-17 (0:44)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - The Swimmer (1968) (10:52)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Grindhouse Releasing: http://www.grindhousereleasing.com/

    - No Holds Barred (1989) (18:24)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Beneath (2013) (24:23)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - August: Osage County (2013) (31:53)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Little House on the Prairie Season One (37:47)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - The Jungle Book 2 (2003) (44:38)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo (2004) (50:19)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Dennis the Menace Volume One (55:51)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (1:00:44)