MAD: Power Rangers
Mar25

MAD: Power Rangers

(2017 Lionsgate/Watched in the Cinema) The silhouettes of five teenagers team up, jump in some Bayformers and fight something that wouldn’t have gotten past the first draft of Pacific Rim. Honestly though, I really kinda liked it. I’m never going to be a fan of Power Rangers and there is a lot of confusion involved in the making of this reboot as to who it’s actually aimed at. As Bob Chipman said, it’s way too dreary and serious and real for the kids currently watching its twenty fifth season, still as bright and simple as ever, teenagers are too young to remember its heyday and adults will be turned off by the teen-friendly focus. Longtime fans will hate it for not being faithful enough and longtime haters of the show aren’t going to get an eleventh hour conversion. I guess the ideal audience is… me. Someone who knows a bit about the shows, remembers it looking shonky on TV, just saw the first two movies and wants something that focuses more on drama, something that actually endeavours to characterise these guys and girls. Because that’s what it does, in a way that I’ve never seen done with this show. We get the five introduced, using a model so obvious I can’t believe they’ve never tried to relaunch it with this remit before; The Breakfast Club. There’s Jason the jock, Kimberly the prom queen, Billy the brain, Zack the outcast and Trini the lonely girl. (I don’t think Zack qualifies as a criminal and I never liked pigeonholing Alison as the basket case). Notice there was no confusion about names or character types this time around. The way they are defined is clear and not especially deep, but it made them likeable and engaging *enough* for me to get through all the space mumbo jumbo. Elizabeth Banks as Rita is a snarling, leering crazy person, finally giving this villain her movie spotlight (in both previous movies she only cameoed). Now PR fans could tell me that high school drama did occur in the TV show, but since all I saw were the movies there is no excuse whatsoever to not define your characters there for a fresh audience, and put them through some real drama. That makes those first two manifestly fan films that display not the tiniest shred of interest in appealing to non viewers of the show. PR17 explains everything… rather a few too many times in fact, this is not a rich saga we’re recounting here, it could fit on the back of an action figure box. But when the kids talk about their personal problems, the...

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MAD: Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie
Mar24

MAD: Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie

(1997 Fox/Watched on DVD) This disc came with the original movie as a double bill and holy shit, within seconds I knew I was in for either a treat or some severe brain punishment. It literally couldn’t be anything in between. I’m going to see the new movie tomorrow so this was some final prep work to allow me to say with total assurance that I cannot understand what PR fans are complaining about when they imminently lament the fresh incarnation of their heroes. It surely could not get any worse than this! Gone is all the budget of the first movie, what we are looking at is an extended blast of the TV show, this was the opening salvo of its fifth season. It made less than ten million dollars so god knows what it cost, but I suspect if there had been no chimps involved you could have quartered the budget, those monkey handlers aren’t cheap. The plot is that some alien chap named Laredo is being stalked throughout the universe by a dominatrix who wants an “Unholy union” with some Demon or other and for reasons she needs this little Station-looking fellow. Larago is rather like Gwildor from the Masters of the Universe movie but without the movable face or ability to speak so he may in fact be the bug-eyed mascot for the Minnesota Sloths or the less annoying cousin of Nukie. He comes to Earth, falls out of a tree and is taken in by chimps, then almost immediately kidnapped by this cosmanatrix. Rocky the blue (?) ranger hurts his neck high kicking in the ring, distressing his kid brother whose name is probably Joey, so Tommy, Kimberly, Yellow Ranger and Green Dude (two characters with so little personality they may not even have names and might exist only when observed) all have to save the day without him. Lots of things happen without anything happening if that makes sense. If it doesn’t you should thank your stars you aren’t watching the movie, which makes less sense. The kid brother gets to be Blue Ranger but retains his eight year old voice which sounds creepy emanating from a blank-faced eunuch martial artist adult. At least the Voltron at the end looks more solid than the awful CG one in the first movie. The hardest thing for me while watching was gauging the maturity level required for optimum enjoyment. There was a time before He-Man when all I could do was dribble on myself and crap my pants, but even then I found Postman Pat a little tame. I still think had I been shown...

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MAD: Beauty and the Beast
Mar23

MAD: Beauty and the Beast

(2017 Disney/Watched in the Cinema) This one is going to be difficult to review. We won’t be doing a podcast on it for a while for three reasons 1. We already covered the 1991 animated classic in three exceptionally thorough hours. 2. This adaptation follows the lines of that version so closely that the only things to remark upon are the additions and deviations. 3. I love all of these additions and deviations… …but saying this immediately draws in the attention of people fairly desperate to tell me how much they hate the film, how they’ve heard it’s just SO bad, how they will never, ever watch this film, none of which in any way correlates with what I’ve been saying. It’s just a bunch of foghorns trained to go off when a title triggers their blast of response. It can work the other way too, where saying how much of a bad experience you had with something draws a foaming sea of adulation for the thing you don’t like (which is especially disheartening if you’ve clearly explained yourself in either direction and your words haven’t been read). I don’t know what people think yelling out hate for something that the person has just declared they love is going to achieve. I can sort of see the other stance, fuelled by a frantic desperation that something you love will be diminished in the eyes of the world if this critic is not informed of its hidden charms in a convincing enough way to totally reverse their standpoint, but I cannot fathom a need to destroy something beloved. Last year I noticed that The Legend of Korra was on sale at a crazy price on Amazon. I pitched that on Twitter as a must-have bargain and a good friend of mine immediately jumped on my case to tell me how much she hated The Legend of Korra. I’ve dedicated hundreds of hours of my life to watching Avatar and talking about both shows extensively on the podcast. it is in fact one of our most popular series’ and I am in a melancholy position regarding a possible future for The Four Nations. These are things I hoped were clearly known about me to this friend. It behoves me to encourage the few Twitter followers I have who are unaware of this show, or haven’t ever been in the position to pick up the whole lot for a song to do so, and spread that experience. Notice this is not me jumping on somebody personally and touting Avatar as the way forward for them at the slightest provocation, the very thing that prevents...

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MAD: Collateral
Mar22

MAD: Collateral

(2004 Paramount/Watched on DVD) Max drives a cab around Los Angeles at night and dreams of running his own limo business. Max’s world is turned upside down when tonight’s fare, a hitman named Vincent forces him to drive him to his remaining targets. This is a superb example of evolving, non-polarised moral opposition on film. Vincent is Neutral Evil, utterly unashamed of the things he does, and Max starts out Lawful Neutral and struggles the whole story to contain his ultimately irrepressible Lawful Good nature. It’s those differences in perspective that create the sparks between these two great characters. Almost immediately Vincent starts by breaking Max down, working at his will to craft him swiftly into a subservient chauffeur and accomplice. Then he sticks up for him over the radio, berating the man’s boss and encouraging Max to show some backbone for his legal rights. It’s a curious, bonding moment between the two. Superficially Vincent is doing this purely for his own interests but scratch the surface and you will find a man who has made little impact upon the world save for taking people out of it, attempting in some small way to impart some inspiring state of mind into a stranger. Max, likewise, works away at Vincent throughout the night, prodding at the area that might contain his conscience. Max himself has failed to make even as much impact on the world, governed as he is by an ever-present fear of taking any kind of risk, and he is beginning to quietly panic, well before Vincent gets into his cab. Max is given to taking refuge in a photograph of a desert island, and seeks to spread that feeling to his charges with a cool chillout experience in this hypothetical limo company, offering a drive so smooth you won’t want to leave. Living a life on the L.A. freeway you can see why he would want to reduce the stress he sees in others every day, and how kind an intention that is. This makes him an instantly engaging character and Vincent’s black sense of humour about his baleful, vicious career does likewise. It’s shot digitally with one of those early 2000s cameras that wasn’t quite as good as something you could get for a few hundred on Amazon today, and proceedings have that weird high frame rate feeling to them, like you’re watching through a plate glass window rather than a cinema screen. It never bothered me before, but having recently invested in a 4K TV I’m now all too familiar with having this effect forced upon what I’m watching. I have various setups to avoid...

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MAD: Ultraviolet
Mar21

MAD: Ultraviolet

(2006 Screen Gems -yet again proving they refuse to live up to their name/Watched on DVD) [Once again We Hate Movies were covering something awful that I’d never seen so I figured I’d watch the movie and give you my report before listening] Imagine being the man who greenlights scripts written by fifteen year old boys who read nothing but comic books from the 90s of the kind that aspire to be Top Cow but just never get as deep as Witchblade. Comic books about scantily clad gun toting ninja women who are also sword-wielding vampires that have super acrobatic powers, who spend every moment of their day getting into fights with ninja stormtroopers. In fact imagine being one of those fifteen year old boy writers whose favourite movie series is Resident Evil and who aspire to no greater achievement than delivering that same soulless, brain-dead experience time and time again to an audience composed of copies of themselves. Imagine fucking ANYTHING because it will be more imaginative than anything in this film. It’s all action, all super colourful, superficially stylish 100% of the time. All green screen, all focusing on Milla Jovovich posing in tight outfits with bare midriffs. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING registers as real. None of the action has any weight to it whatsoever. She could be racing a CGI bike up a CGI skyscraper pursued by crashing CGI helicopters or gunning down thirty heavies at point blank range, but because of the way the imagery is slapped onto the screen with such absence of gravity your pulse will never alter, your mind will never register a bleep of stimulation. The McGuffin: Everyone is after a mute Cameron Bright for his special blood. So precisely the same hand-wavy concept as the very worst X-Men movie then. And everything is shot through this bizarre Instagram filter that makes the cast look like Vaseline-coated glowing elf babies inside a PlayStation 1 game. Jovavitch has the entire film resting on her willowy shoulders. If you check the script, 90% of it is her character of Violet either talking to us about the world (which is entirely populated by buildings full of evil scientists and henchmen) or talking AT someone. The concept of character or plot development, arcs, subtext, actual drama, anything resembling something that isn’t a splash page from Aphrodite IX never gets a look in, and Jovovich, as a model turned actress with nothing to do but posture between action sequences stands simply as a reminder of how you’ve seen her be so much better in The Fifth Element. A far better example of conveying a crazy, colourful, animated...

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MAD: Moonwalker
Mar20

MAD: Moonwalker

(1988 Warner Bros/Watched on DVD) This, surprisingly is about the best way of conveying who Michael Jackson was to the world in the late 80s. Before Dangerous, before the river of legal shit he would wade through, before his less popular Blood on the Dance Floor and the die hard fans-only Invincible, before his death hit the world out of the blue and his posthumously released concert preparation footage film from the director of High School Musical. But it was also after his miraculous childhood rise to megastardom, his solo split and recording a bunch of the highest selling albums of all time. This is, in short a scrapbook of memories and footage presented without commentary, it’s several music videos ranging from farcical to very effective and for the second half it’s a creepy-as-fuck sci-fi. If you take this first half as how the world sees Mike and the second half as a glimpse inside his mind to see how Mike sees Mike, it all makes perfect sense. Somewhere underneath it all is the truth of a troubled man and his relationship with fantasy. I’ll divide this into sections to help focus what is otherwise a dizzying Vegas weekend that picks you up and propels you through one crazed situation after another. Man in the Mirror: A brilliant song to get everyone emotional and introspective. It intersects live performance footage with his hysterical crowds as well as key historical figures of the twentieth century who each made a significant change to the world. It is a presentation that suggests everyone has that potential. Montage: A journey through Michael’s years from being a kid with the Jackson Five, through their disco period, and several of his earlier solo hits. It’s a nice bit of historical perspective and I would have loved a feature-length documentary along these lines, which we may one day see anyway. Badder: This is Bad, but swapping out the ludicrously dressed Sharks and Jets street thugs for their tween alternatives. Since this was his target audience around this time, and since I was in the exact bracket, it’s hard to call it inappropriate until the young lad playing Michael (Brandon Quintin Adams) enthusiastically slams himself in the testicles and buckles. Zeke (played by the same actor) later on does a little Mike freestyling complete with multiple pelvic thrusts. While adult Michael’s raw dance energy originates in his knob chakra (I believe that’s the scientific term), it’s not a prudent manoeuvre to replicate in the young when you’re puppeteering them. It’s hard to tell whether he’s making a satirical observation about his own manipulation at that age or...

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MAD: The Fugitive
Mar19

MAD: The Fugitive

(1992 Warner Bros/Watched on DVD) One thing about Warner Bros DVDs that I have always loved is their complete lack of pageantry before the movie begins. You just start it playing and within seconds you get the quiet, confident WB shield and you’re watching the movie. With Universal you have to choose your language (because there’s no possible way that modern players could just remember that simple bit of information and default to it each time), you get the Universal fanfare and turning of the Earth (a sequence so grand you’d think they were taking credit for CREATING said planet) then a menu, then a warning, another warning, a notification that the commentaries are not official Political statements on behalf of Universal, a little advert congratulating you for not pirating the disc, a warning advert reminding you that if you ever DO pirate a movie they WILL hunt you down and shoot you in the back of the head (which you wouldn’t have to wade through if you did breach copyright), five trailers for movies that came out ten to twenty years ago and you either already own or have seen or never want to see, another warning in another language, a menu with some of the film moving on it to make sure that those in the room who haven’t seen it know the best stunts before going in, a loading screen, the Universal circling of the Earth AGAIN, a few verses of God Save the Queen, an introduction from the director, a disclaimer that the film may not be any good at all, a seizure warning, the first season of M.A.S.H., Andy Kaufman reading you the entirety of The Great Gatsby in real time, a third Universal logo… and then the movie (which presumably plays to a lounge full of bearded, emaciated corpses). The Fugitive is an unexceptional movie. It was unexceptional back in 1993, only the grown ups didn’t think so because they were fine with Harrison Ford’s post Indiana Jones period of playing uptight businessmen. This guy is radiating Hollywood charisma and he’s been restrained in a TV movie with a pair of quite good stunts involving a train and a waterfall. The two most gratifying things to be found during Doctor Richard Kimble’s search for who set him up for the murderer of his wife (an upsetting scene returned to frequently) are the Doc’s almost Bourne-level abilities to craftily blend into the surrounding populace (though arguably a little too smooth, leaving you with scant tension that anyone will discover him) and Tommy Lee Jones as U.S. Marshall Gerard, whose narrow-eyed, drily humorous, dogged, stalking...

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MAD: Air Force One
Mar18

MAD: Air Force One

(1997 Touchstone/Watched on DVD) I haven’t seen this film since the Clinton administration. In it, a post Jack Ryan Harrison Ford scowls around the bowels of the most famous plane in the world, trying to work out a way to overcome wicked ex-Soviet terrorist Gary Oldman who wants a despotic Russian leader released from captivity and is prepared to hold the first family hostage to achieve his aims, in a joyless melange of the first two Die Hard movies. This President kicks off proceedings by changing a speech and improvising America’s new plan to not stand by and let other countries suffer under tyrannical regimes. It is time for the terrorists to be scared. This was only four years until 9/11 when America started seeing Osama Bin Laden lurking in their cereal, and by today, may as well have been delivering the speech to a different planet. It made me wonder, considering the two good Commander-In-Chief movies, Independence Day and White House Down, why we never got to see a President Schwarzenegger kicking terrorist ass. Had he not gone off to be Governor of California, and had there not been an outside chance that he might one day actively try to defy that “No-Non-American-Born” rule and actually shoot for the Oval Office, we might well have seen that happen. The core of the film appears to be the very clear ideal *Never, EVER negotiate with terrorists, even when they will execute hostages*. This is ultimately a political theme of incredible weight, requiring a choice between black and white OR shades of grey, in a world that has to be able to accommodate both or the debate is meaningless. It is one to be explored in a far more intricate setting, not one where everything is broad and simplified like this. But in most movie contexts it is simply the backdrop for a lone hero to be the magical element that means the decision never really has to be made. Hell, even Michael Bay’s The Rock does a better job of handling this double-edged sword. Side note, Philip Baker Hall played the Chief Justice in that film and the Attorney General in this. He’s pretty much the same guy both times. One of the drawbacks of the way they play this game is that Ford works best when he’s a little bit hapless. For all the dignity and determination Indiana Jones operates with, he’s occasionally clumsy and makes mistakes, he’s unlucky and often everything seems wildly stacked against him, but always in an exciting *How the hell is he going to get out of this?* way. John McClane is annoying...

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MAD: Shane
Mar17

MAD: Shane

(1953 Paramount/Watched on DVD) Shane, a man with a shady past falls in with a family in the Wild West, Joe, Marian and little Joey. He has to defend them against bastards. The fact that this film is presented in 1.66:1. aspect ratio (effectively pan and scan) and betrays those sensibilities of its era, clean, colourful outfits (of the kind Emmett Brown of the 50s sends Marty back to 1885 in), clean, detail-free sets, (even the outdoor scenes often feel like studio lots) full on Shatner fighting, (since they carried that stuff on into the 60s) and a rambunctious score that is dramatic when later, in the same scenarios, it would be creeping and tense, all serve to anchor this film in the first half of the 20th century. I watched this for the first time for its ties to Logan, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of presenting an early version of the regretful gunslinger archetype (made archetypal by this kind of film) trying to find a measure of peace and pass on a little something to the next generation. Joey in particular is the kind of child you will never see again, wide-eyed, simple and adoring he admires and is fascinated by Shane, but lives in a place that by today’s standards would not allow him to be this soft, pink, naive little thing. Modern westerns would leave him solemn and flinty-eyed, with all-too much understanding of the grave and desperate living situation on the frontier. But ultimately in ’53 he was the target audience. The homesteaders are all good-hearted, salt of the Earth and the troublemakers are all twisted, amoral, self-entitled, threatening and cruel. A particularly tense centrepiece features Jack Palance mirroring the footsteps of a frightened sheep herder he’s about to gun down in the street. There’s something more at play here though. Something elemental. This isn’t a struggle between a farmstead and its oppressors, its a battle for America. These were the formative years that laid down what the West was going to be, and in our ideal, good people won. There are stirring quotes woven into proceedings that are so strongly applicable to contemporary situations that it’s rather unnerving. “A gun is as good or as bad as the man holding it.” “We’d all be much better off if there wasn’t a single gun left in the valley, including yours.” “You talk about rights. You think you got the right to say that nobody else has got any. Well that ain’t the way the government looks at it.” And Alan Ladd as Shane is a fine revision of the cowboy hero. He is...

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MAD: X-Men Days of Future Past
Mar16

MAD: X-Men Days of Future Past

(2014 Fox/Watched on Blu Ray) This is a very mixed bag of a film, with some of the best moments in the series and some awful backsliding towards its lowest points. The irony is that this film was supposed to marry together the original trilogy with the new First Class continuity, but only serves to further distance them (as detailed in my new timeline). The opening salvo is about fifteen minutes worth of needless narration, clumsy, mediocre action to illustrate the dark future and the sci-fi concept with black-suited, character-free mutants as a background fireworks display, followed by an equally clumsy and exposition dumping verbal explanation of this already established scenario to Wolverine. This is a macrocosm of pretty much everything wrong with those first movies, putting us right back on the Singer train to Mediocrity Junction. Once Logan comes round in 1973 the film actually starts and it made me wonder why they didn’t just launch like that, with an amnesiac Logan recalling a few important details sharply, and then have the future explained in brief, violent flashbacks once Charles starts prying. It’s less faithful to the narrative structure of the two-issue running exposition-dump that constitutes the original Chris Claremont story, but that’s surely a GOOD thing. It’s cinema aimed at a time-travel-savvy modern audience who already know exactly what’s going on thanks to all the marketing; we respond well to elegance and clarity of character motivation rather than being patronised repeatedly. Whichever way you slice it, murdering all the mutants at the beginning, diminishes the impact of doing that on a grander scale at the end and actually LOWERS the stakes. There’s still that confusion as to how great a fighter Mystique is. Bryan Singer appears to be under the impression that she’s The Raid, and if you recall that one time in the first film she kicked seven bells out of Wolverine in his prime without breaking a sweat, or a toe. Ultimately shapeshifting into different people doesn’t mean you can dodge bullets and having every man around her clumsily fail to draw and discharge their firearms and moving into kicking distance while Lawrence is spinning around that Stiffler-looking version of young Stryker does not make her more awesome, it makes her enemies more inept. They’re still chasing mutant juice though, even now. Every single X-Men movie is defined in some small or big way by the villain wanting to create super soldiers by kidnapping kids or sucking out mutant juice for some other purpose to do with achieving disproportionate power. X-Men 1 Erik wants Rogue’s powers for his daft machine to turn all humans into...

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