Matias Pineiro's Hermia & Helena is subtle yet rich, a beautifully constructed film about dead ends and new beginnings, capturing the idyllic uncertainties and decisions which sculpt life itself. Following a young Argentina theater director, who travels from Buenos Aires to New York to attend residency and help with the Spanish translation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Pinerio's Hermia & Helena is a character-driven story, which uses narrative structure and artistry to near perfection, in telling its tale of a young woman who has come to both physical and emotional crossroads in her life. Through its oscillating structure, which goes back and forth between New York and Argentina, Hermia & Helena slowly unravels the character of Camila, revealing more and more of herself to the audience as the film progresses, exhibiting a woman who is vibrant yet also feels a sense of alienation, a character who herself is simply trying to make the right decisions for the sake of her future and her overall happiness. Details of Camila's life are slowly revealed throughout the cleverly structured narrative, detailing a woman whose at somewhat of a crossroads in her life, unsure about not only her professional life, but also her personal life, as the film slowly reveals a character who is indecisive when it comes to romance, while also establishing later in the film that she never met her biological father, a man who lives nearby in upstate New York. Hermia & Helena's visual design is structured yet free-flowing, using cinematography which is very precise in its use of static composition, yet often delivers moments of free-flowing camera movements which also give a sense of freedom, an air of uncertainty and intimacy, visually expressing the introspective nature of our main protagonist, a woman whose work as a translator is full of precision, yet whose life itself is stuck between two worlds, yet full of endlessly possibilities. Pinero's direction is understated, yet creative, with his interlaced photography, particularly during slow-forming transitional shots, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and change, visually expressing the main protagonist's entangled emotions. One of my favorite sequences involves when Camilla goes to see her father, a man she has never met in person. During a powerful scene where they get to know one and other, they ask each other questions, each getting a turn to ask the other what they want. Instead of going back and forth between these two characters, PInero's lens statically focuses on each character for an extended period of time, not changing up the composition when the other person asks a question, opting instead to stoically stare into the soul of each of these characters, exposing what they are like both on the offensive, when it is their turn to ask their question, and when they are at their most fragile, when it's their turn to answer a question from the other. This decision, Pineiro's insistence in not letting the character's breath, visually goes a long way in capturing both these characters internal state, one where inquisition, fragility, honesty, and openess, all converge in a moment of quiet, touching jubilation between father and daughter. Perhaps the filmmaker's most clever yet telling directorial decision comes literally over the final credits of the film, a static shot of a door opening and closing, a simple yet effectively use of symbolism that exhibits the oscillating nature of Camila, a character who is full of indecision, stuck at a crossroads of life, between her old life in Buenos Aires and her potential new beginnings in the states. The way Hermia & Helena unravels, through its oscillating structure and light tone, Pineiro has delivered a film which manages to be breezy yet introspective, full of universal truths and emotional honesty, which beautifully exhibits the inner workings of a character who feels stuck between two worlds, full of uncertainty, yet driven by the promise and endless possibilities which are presented for her to explore.
James Gray's The Lost City of Z is a rich, layered tapestry about the human condition, an "adventure film" based on the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, which is complex and introspective, examining various aspects of humanity as it relates to family, status, ambition, culture, nationalism, and power. The Lost City of Z tells the story of a man who journeyed deep into the Amazonian jungle at the onset of the 20th century, intent on discovering an advanced, lost, civilization despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment, who regarded the indigenous people of the region nothing more than savages. Through Gray's engrossing and detailed narrative, The Lost City of Z is a film that touches on the absolute necessity of individualism, with Percy Fawcett being a character who routinely must resist the indoctrination of his culture, one which has narrow-minded convictions about the potential of another culture unlike their own. Through Percy Fawcett's pursuit of evidence, The Lost City of Z details how complex it is to deconstruct a mind which has been so indoctrinated by its version of truth, detailing the arrogance of humanity which runs rampant and restricts progress, whether it be fueled by cultural, state, or religious indoctrination. James Gray's film is both intimate and grandiose in its deconstruction of this character, detailing a man who is first a foremost a truth-seeker, who refuses to simply accept what he is told. Humanity pretends to have such a great understanding of the world, but Gray's biopic of British explorer Percy Fawcett reminds the viewer that this is merely a deceit we tell ourselves as individuals, with The Lost City of Z exemplifying the importance of dreaming big and never letting society define or dictate one's beliefs or pursuits. James Gray is a filmmaker who fully understands that little decisions in life are simplistic or binary, and his treatment of Percy Fawcett is a beautiful illustration of that, exposing a man who is partially fueled by status and pride. When we are first introduced to Percy Fawcett he is a man who is chasing rank in the military, a man who doesn't feel accomplished at all due to his inability to receive accolades in the form of medals for his accomplishments, a struggle he faces due to his individualistic decisions that didn't conform to the group identity. It's his desire to prove his worth which initially sets him on his quest in Amazonia, with his pride blinding him to what is right in front of his face, in the form of his loving wife and young son. Through Percy Fawcett's intent to gain notoriety, he sacrifices time away from his family, and while James Gray's film never demonizes him for these actions, the film doesn't shy away from showing the pain and strain it causes, as Percy Fawcett attempts to forge his own path and legacy despite the forces of society which oppose the mere though of a civilization other than theirs sharing the same potential for knowledge and innovation. Percy Fawcett is a man who only has his families best intentions at mind throughout, but he at times, especially early on, is too consumed by societies' definition of personal worth and prestige. Through this man's journey, The Lost City of Z captures the utter importance of culture itself, showcasing how our differences aren't a curse but a blessing in a lot of ways, with humanities abilities to share these distinctions and differences being the key to prosperity, mutual gain, and hopefully peace. One example of this captured through the rich socialite James Murray, who accompanies Percy Fawcett on his journey to find the Lost City of Z, a man whose arrogance and preconceived notions about a culture different than his nearly destroy him, with Gray capturing how he is the real savage, a man whose only mission in the end is self preservation. Gray's film wisely exhibits the distinction between individualism and selfishness through the juxtaposition of Percy Fawcett & James Murray, something which is often conflated by many who foolishly view them as one and the same. Through this film's praise of Percy Fawcett's individualistic pursuits, The Lost City of Z also says something about nationalism and the destructive power of nation states themselves, detailing how states, in their quest for more power or influence, tend to bring nothing but pain and suffering to the individual, who often feels a false notion of allegiance to this tribalistic, collectivist ideal of a nation state. A complex, intricate, wholly introspective biopic about British explorer Percy Fawcett, James Gray's The Lost City of Z is a grandoise examination of humanity and life itself, a film that beautifully and un-sentimentally pleads to the viewer to dream big.
F. Gary Gray's The Fate of the Furious is another high testosterone, stylish entry in the monstrous franchise, that once again ups the ante in its attempt to throw all the laws of physics, and much of the laws of logic, out the window. The Fast and Furious Franchises has gone through one of the most fascinating evolutions in mainstream cinematic history, starting as a small "point break" knockoff about fast cars, that slowly evolved into what can only be described as a global espionage thriller where street racers who can drive really fast are the best hope for humanity against elitely trained cyber terrorists. The Fate and the Furious finds Dominic Toretto being enthralled into a state of betrayal by a mysterious new enemy, played to perfection by Charlize Theron, who forces Dominik to go against the very thing he treasures the most: Family. The Fate of the Furious has reached such levels of over-indulgent heroism that it at times feels as much of a superhero movie as it does a spy thriller, with one example being how the The Rock is essentially The Incredible Hulk in this franchise, dispensing those in his way with his masculine-dripping, brute strength. Dominic Toretto on the other hand, his decree of family and general presence, particularly in the opening sequence in Cuba, has reached a borderline prophetic/ supernatural levels, a character who carries an aura about himself throughout the film, as if he is a force of nature who simply can't be stopped. Of course, what makes The Fate of the Furious work, much like many of the franchises recent efforts, is the continued chemistry shared by Dom's team, with the various characters all slotting into their roles, and delivering more so than not what fans of the franchise would expect - loud, dumb, fun. That being said, the introduction of Scott Eastwood into the mix, his infusion into the team, simply doesn't work, as he lacks charisma, feeling simply like a less-Paul Walker substitute that I'm not sure they should continue to use. While The Fate of the Furious doesn't reach the same heights as its recent predecessors, it's still a fun entry in the franchise, with Charlize Theron's character being a gleefully diabolical entry in this franchise, regardless of the conceit of how she gets Dominik to betray his team being a tad flimsy from the onset. Charlize Theron's Cypher character is the thematic enemy to Dominik Toretto's whole way of life, a character who deconstructs the idea of family throughout the film, a snake who believes any empathy to others is merely a deep-rooted, evolutionary-rooted survival instinct, a villain who wishes for Dominik to live his who life "free" of the burden of family. While the pacing of The Fate of the Furious isn't as streamlined as previous efforts, getting bogged down a bit in the middle by the character's struggles to accept that Dominik is now the enemy, The Fate of the Furious still manages to deliver with a few highly entertaining action set pieces, as well as a finale that finds (spoiler alert) Jason Statham decimate some baddies with fisticufffs while holding a baby! For all the film's pacing issues, The Fate of the Furious' biggest problem comes from F Gray Gary's direction, which is repetitive and lacks imagination at times, overusing slow motion to the point of agitation, which only stalls the film's action sequences from being as visceral and chaotic as they could have been. I'm sure most film critics will simply scoff at this brain dead franchise, but they miss the point, as The Fate and Furious knows its audience and delivers simple yet visceral thrills, relying heavily on its relative self-awareness and the chemistry of its characters to create another enjoyable film in the franchise, regardless of some of its undeniable flaws.
Stephen Frear's The Grifters begins with a stylish prologue, introducing the viewer to three grifters, each working their racket in their own unique way. Lily makes her way to the track, where she places bets to change the odds for her bookie. Roy, whom we soon learn is the son of Lily, performs simple, two-bit con's on unsuspecting bartenders and patrons, stealing petty cash out from right under their eyes. Lastly there is Myra, Roy's girlfriend, who uses her body to manipulate men to get what she wants. While these three character's stories are intertwined, Frear's introduction to them only implies they have some connection, using a three-way split screen image instead of any didactic method, visually expressing their connection without outright stating it in a stylish and atmospheric introduction which sets the stage for his neo-noir. Featuring strong performances from John Cusack, Annette Bening, and in particularly Anjelica Huston, Stephen Frear's The Grifters is a story akin to a game of chess, with three character's ethos creating an intriguing web of deception, uncertainty, and impending consequences which lurk in the horizon. Through the film's plotting, The Grifter's plays out like a maternal battle for Rory's soul, with both his mother Lily, and his girlfriend, Myra, each trying to gain the allegiance of this man, who himself is stuck in the middle of a deadly game, with his own intentions being hidden from both the viewer and these two women. Each of these character's persona is built upon deceit, and what unfolds between Roy and his mother Lily, encapsulates the tragic consequences, both emotionally and physically, of being driven completely by selfish means, deconstructing how a grifter's nature is driven by selfishness and greed, being out for themselves first and foremost, an ethos that in itself is even stronger than the maternal connection between mother and son. Frear's direction embraces the style of the noir, almost intentionally making it unclear as to what time period the film is set, featuring heavy use of impressionistic lighting and composition, which along with striking the right tone, feels very much like a noir story for the new generation. While The Grifter's is well-crafted, and extremely well-acted featuring intriguing characterizations that play off one and other well, the film is too mannerist at times, feeling constricted by the confines of its noir structure, unable to transverse the expectation of the 'noir' archetype, and deliver anything truly unique.
Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski's The Void is a horror throwback, a film which gleefully goes off the rails, conjuring up an old fashioned horror film full of practical make-up, non-digital gore, and enough hellbent energy to make the likes of John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon proud. Taking little time establishing itself as a horror film where atmosphere, mood, and ingenuity trump the necessity for a fully-defined story, The Void finds a group of individuals fighting for their lives in a local hospital, when immense evil bares down on their small town. With cloaked, cult-like figures surrounding their location, the patients and staff, which also includes police officer Daniel Carter, experience unimaginable horrors, as they fight to stay alive and get to the bottom of these strange, supernatural happenings. Atmospheric, extremely violent, and creative in its use practical makeup and creature design, The Void is a fitting homage to Reagan Era horror, where stomach-inducing gore, extreme violence, and ingenious makeup design reigned supreme. The plot of The Void is minimalist, and quite frankly a bit hard to grasp, but lets be honest here, it hardly matters as the filmmakers have created a film thats unpredictability is one of its greatest assets, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat and wanting more from start to finish. The escalation of the film, becoming more and more subversive as it moves forward is what really keeps the film engaging from start to finish, with the main struggle of the film being its actors and characterizations, all of which struggle to maintain the same sense of energy as the filmmakers exhibit in delivering this horror throwback effort. A strange blend of John Carpenter film's such as The Thing and Prince of Darkness, as well as Stuart Gordon's From Beyond, The Void introduces the viewer to a Lovecraftian cosmic horror opus where escalation and 80's FX overshadow the film's weaker elements, mainly its razor-thin narrative and characterizations that leave something to be desired. Simply put, horror fans of the 80's should seek out The Void, which has a bit of everything: body horror, psychological horror, demonic possession, and lots and lots of blood; it's a film that knows what it's is, and with its thumping synthesized soundtrack, ingenious sfx makeup, and subversive gore it certainly should satisfy fans of the genre.
The coming-of-age motif is one of the most common stories throughout the landscape of cinema, with its overabundance at times making many modern offerings feel trite or inconsequential due to their inability to break from the mold. With All These Sleepless Nights, Michal Marczack has created an utterly singular coming of age story which encapsulates the atmosphere and mood necessary, exhibiting the transitional life blood of adolescence where limitless possibilities and mindless exuberance come face-to-face with the responsibility and uncertainty of adulthood. A film that completely blurs the lines between documentary and fiction filmmaking, Michal Marczack's All These Sleepless Nights is a tone poem to the bliss, exuberance, and angst of youth, following two art school classmates in Christopher and Michal, who are on the precipice of adulthood. While All These Sleepless Nights is an evocative and intense portrait of hedonism, it's an extremely introspective study of the human experience through the lens of adolescence, providing a window into the time in one's life where self-indulgence crosses paths and comes to a head with personal growth and self discovery. Taking place almost entirely between dusk and dawn, All These Sleepless Nights is an hypnotic, dreamlike excursion into the hazy nights of two adolescence youth, who desperately cling to their fleeting moments of freedom. Daylight is a foreboding force, a visual representation throughout All These Sleepless Nights which encapsulates the fleeting nature of this time in their lives, with the morning sunrise often being a force that brings their blissful nights to an end. The cinematography, much like the narrative itself, is atypical when it comes to structure, framing, and composition, using a much looser, floating-style of visual acumen which perfectly encapsulates these characters and their experiences, whose nightly excursions and relationships they share feel constantly fleeting. This visual aesthetic evokes the unstructured nature of these characters, which eventually catches up to them as the film progresses, specifically through the character of Christopher, who begins to find his carefree, lackadaisical lifestyle crashing down around him when the threat of personal solitude and societal conventions bare down on him. All These Sleepless Nights is a film about youthful rebellion which manages to capture the gravitas of adulthood when it comes to personal responsibility, selflessness, and connection, detailing in Christopher a character whose exuberance was always framed by hedonism, which eventually leaves him in a rather lonely place. Christopher's inability to place himself in anyone else's shoes leaves him in a place of emotional and physical solitude, with his only way out being his acceptance of others, as towards the end of the film he begins to show a general sense of empathy and understanding for others who conduct themselves differently. All These Sleepless Nights beautifully evokes the unknown of adolescence and personal identity, detailing how we often as individuals look for those who merely reinforce the ideal of what we want to be instead of opening up ourselves to true self discovery. Through this journey of Christopher, All These Sleepless Nights stunningly encapsulates the flaws in this, detailing that true self discovery lies in ones ability to open up to the world around oneself, accepting the fact that not all things must conform to one's liking in order to be threopuetic to one's soul. The film exhibits how one can maintain their own sense of self worth, individualism, and independence without conforming to societal expectations, with human connection and the differences it often brings, being the true key to personal groth and self discovery. Simply put, Michal Marczak's All These Sleepless Nights is a brilliant and singular deconstruction of the coming of age motif, a rapturous and introspective examination of the human condition that shouldn't be missed.
Nacho Vigalondo's Colossal is a potent study of the destructive power of alcoholism and self hatred masquerading as a romantic comedy, an utterly unique story which is fortunately just as strong at delivering genuine characters and emotions as it is at creating a fantastical world for its characters to inhabit. Centered around the tumultuous life of Gloria, a young woman whose become a full blown alcoholic after losing her job, Colossal introduces us to a character right of the gate who is headed nowhere. She drinks and parties constantly, creating massive strain which her boyfriend can longer take, leading her to being thrown out of his apartment until she can find some semblance of help for herself. Moving back to her home town, Gloria rekindles her childhood friendship with Oscar, who is now running the family bar. After a night of heavy drinking, Gloria wakes up to discover that catastrophic events are happening in Seoul, Korea where a gigantic monster rampages the city. At first merely horrified for the loss of life, Gloria soon discovers that this monster's mysterious emergence is directly linked to her and her actions. Featuring a creative supernatural set storyline which finds our main protagonist, Gloria, controlling a Godzilla-size monster halfway around the world, Colossal is an outlandish comedy that skillfully and almost deceptively slowly reveals itself as a soulful exploration of self-worth. Gloria is a character who simply can't get her life together, stuck in a spiral of alcohol-fueled despair. Her newfound relationship with Oscar is touching at first, with the film playing up to the tropes of the romantic comedy genre, presenting Oscar as a lonely, nice guy- a man whose never been able to make something more of himself, who begins to affection for the one who got away. Setting up the viewer in a sense, the filmmakers eventually subvert the viewers expectations in a wonderfully twisted way, as Oscar himself becomes mean-spirited and hostile towards Gloria after he discovers she slept with one of his younger, more attractive friends. While it's quite obvious that the monster itsself is a symbolic representation of Gloria's downward spiral and alcoholism, It's through this transition of Oscar's character that Colossal really hits its stride, exhibiting in Oscar a character who has reached a high level of self hatred and destruction, a man whose been consumed by his inner demons, with the perpetual heavy consumption of alcohol being his only form of therapy. Oscar, and his subversive and unexpected plight in the film, is the reflection of Gloria and what she could eventually become, a character whose own self hatred and alcoholism could lead her to repel everyone who cares about her, or anyone who doesn't do exactly what she wants. In this sense, Colossal isn't just about the self destructive nature of alcoholism and self hatred, but also the importance of personal responsibility and self worth. The film understands that it's Gloria and Gloria alone who can set her life back on track, with the film skillfully touching on the need for personal responsibility, exhibiting how in the end, it's up to the individual to change, to have the desire to make oneself better, regardless of how much others hope and push them to get their lives together. Tonally light throughout, regardless of the film's darker treatment of Oscar's character as the film progresses, Nacho Vigalondo's Colossal is a highly creative and enjoyable film about the self destructive nature of self hate, recognizing that alcoholism tends to be more the symptom than the cause of such tumultuous inner struggle felt by many.
Heya (1992) - Shion Sono
Shion Sono's Heya (The Room) is a quietly menacing mood piece, a film of utter simplicity in its structure and narrative form that manages to deliver a constant existential dread that envelopes the entire experience, perhaps being best described as an art installation in cinematic form. Shot in stark black-and-white cinematography, Sono's early effort is centered around a mysterious, stoic man in search of an apartment in Tokyo, one which is small, yet spacious, positioned as far away from peoplee as possible. Enlisting the help of a real estate agent, a young, shy expressionless woman, the two set out to look at vaious apartments, though they struggle mightly to find one that satisfies the man's need for peace and quiet. While his recent output is best summarized as artistic excess, Heya (The Room) is the complete opposite, a minimalist tail of isolation and torment, told entirely through Sono's use of barren compositions and disquieting, atmospheric sound design. Nihilism runs quietly rampant through this overlooked entry in Sono's Canon, with nearly the entire film being presented in stoic, forboding nature, where desolation and decay are the main bedside companions for these two individuals, each whose self torment is shown more through their stoic silence than any type of inciting incident or plot mechanics. Nothing is given to the viewer throughout Heya, but as the film progresses we become to realize that this mysterious man has led a life of a hitman, who now finds himself cold, barren, detached from society and the connection to life which human contact brings to the individual. His search for this room is a symbolic representation of his search for finding some semblance of meaning in life, with his very distinct description of the room being at odds with itself, a manifestation of how nearly impossible it is for such a tormented man to ever find some semblance of peace, happiness or hope. While there is little dialogue throughout, a genuine bond does begin to form between these two tormented characters, each sharing the same disillusionment and quiet desperation about their place in this world. They can't help each other literally, but they do provide at least the slightest tinge of hope for one and other, as both these individuals see that they are not completely alone in their dissatisfaction with the world they inhabit. Nearly everything about Sono's Heya (The Room) is cold, discouraging, and nihilistic, as the filmmaker has crafted a menacing, atmospheric mood piece in which pain, isolation, and torment reign supreme.
Drenched in religious theology and heavy metal attitude, Sean Byrne's much anticipated follow-up to The Loved Ones, The Devil's Candy, is a tightly-paced, atmospheric horror film which fully encapsulates the spirit of metal, delivering a diabolically enjoyable experience which shouldn't be missed by fans of the genre. Centered around a struggling artist, Jesse Hellman, who along with his family has just moved into their dream home in rural Texas, The Devil's Candy details the slowly deteriorating psyche of Jesse, who seems to be slowly falling under the grasp of malevolent forces. Unable to control himself, Jesse begins to paint dark, unsettling imagery, but as he descends further and further into this state of possession, he begins to realize that the paintings themselves may be linked to what is happening in the real world, which in turn could place his daughter in great danger. Sean Byrne's The Devil's Candy is a deceptively smart, highly enjoyable piece of horror filmmaking, which beautifully plays with religious theology, the struggle between good and evil, to present an engrossing story of one man's struggle to support/save his family. The affection the filmmakers have for heavy metal is a major aspect of The Devil's Candy, as the film routinely draws parallels between this music and demonic possession, using metal to reinforce its atmospheric undertones, harkening back to the time where metal was viewed as morally corrupt by the establishment. The Devil's Candy isn't a densely plotted film, quite the opposite, but its overall simplicity works in its favor, with its deconstruction of evil being very biblical in nature, showcasing how it's all around us, a consuming presence. Pruitt Taylor Vince, a recognizable character actor, especially in horror circles, is very well cast as Ray Smilie, the man who becomes the main antagonist of this story, a character who once lived in the Hellman's home. Tormented by demonic possession himself, Sean Byrne's The Loved Ones uses this character as a rope-a-dope on the viewer, as it becomes apparent by the end credits of the film that his character and our main protagonist's character weren't possessed by the same forces, but rather forces at odds with each other. I haven't seen many reviewers talk about this, so maybe I'm simply seeing something that is not truly there, but The Devil's Candy seems to be in the end a story of two characters in Jesse and Ray, who are merely manifestations in a sense of a much larger spiritual confrontation, with their blood-and-flesh conflict eventually being a symbolic representation of all religious theologies battle between good and evil. The filmmaker's use of juxtaposition, routinely doing so between Jesse and Ray, before they ever meet, seems to support this observation, with perhaps the best example of this being a scene in which they intercut between Jesse's oil paint and the blood caused by Ray's mayhem- visually similar, yet one is destructive, the other creative. Sean Byrne's The Devil's Candy is the type of film that should be enjoyed by all fans of the horror genre, and while its narratively simplistic, i'd argue the film is deceptively rich thematically, delivering a fast-paced yet thought-provoking story about the nature of good and evil.
Dean Israelite's Power Rangers is a rare mainstream blockbuster in that it places its priorities behind delivering strong characterizations, a compelling story, and real emotional turbulence first, with the film's more bombastic, spectacle moments placing a distant second when it comes to the overall structure of this reboot. The story of five high school outcasts who together stumble upon an old alien spaceship, where they acquire extraordinary powers, only to learn that the world as they know it is on the verge of utter-annihilation if they don't work together as 'the Power Rangers', Dean Israelite's reboot checks all the boxes when it comes to the superhero genre, but it's the film's willingness to place the supernatural elements secondary to the characterizations that makes this worthy of your time. Power Rangers uses the mythology of the superhero story, one steeped in the paramount relationship between extreme power and selflessness, and projects it into a high school teenage drama, being a film just as much about the importance of general empathy, companionship, and understanding as it is about the typical tropes of the superhero genre. The film doesn't have much action, outside of the final 15 minutes or so, but Power Rangers remains engaging from start-to-finish, due to the charismatic nature of its characters, particularly RJ Cyler as Billy, showing a general ability to capture the ethos of being a high school student, one in which the responsibility of adulthood is right around the corner, and the exuberance of adolescence feels like it is slowly fading away. All of these characters are outcasts, in one way or another, in their small town of Angel Grove, and when they are granted these extraordinary powers, it takes quite a long time for them to learn to trust each other, as each character has lived most of their lives lacking this ability. Through their somewhat tumultuous journey to become "Power Rangers", the film captures the essence of why companionship and/or friendship is so important, exhibiting how friendship is rooted in this idea of not being afraid to reveal one's vulnerabilities or share ones' doubts and fears with no concern of repercussion, exhibiting how you only have to be yourself around true friends. While the action itself in the Power Rangers is nothing more than average, at best, one barely seems to care due to the film's ability to capture the high school experience so well, making the action and end-of-the-world stakes almost feel like an afterthought. The other aspect of Power Rangers that did surprise me is the direction by Dean Israelite, a filmmaker whom I was not familiar with. Israelite's direction in general is surprisingly more artistic and thoughtout than I would have expected from a Power Rangers film, routinely using all sorts of directorial techniques, such as well-placed long takes and canted angles, both of which elevate the film in subtle ways, making it not feel as by-the-numbers as so many mainstream blockbusters these days tend to be. Dean Israelite's Power Rangers is a teen drama masquerading as a superhero film, a surprisingly well-told story, which outside of a few small moments of eye-roll inducing forced melodrama, is an emotionally compelling story from start to finish.
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