Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Movie Review: Power Rangers

Power Rangers is the third film installment of the popular kids program Power Rangers that ran on the FOX network from 1993 and now continues 24 years strong. The series used footage from the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that aired on Japan's Asahi network produced by Toei Studios. How the 16th season of a longtime running show featuring superheros became a sensation in North America is very much owed to Haban Entertainment, an American/Israeli company that would purchase Japanese entertainment product and dub it for the English world-wide market. Along with Bandai Entertainment that did merchandising such as toys, it was a formidable enterprise.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a TV series featured five teenagers given powers by the wise Zordon to combat a extraterrestrial threat in the form of the evil Rita Repulsa.  The California setting interspersed with Japanese shot action and fresh faced American actors made for great kid entertainment.

The TV series spawned a movie in 1995 called Might Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie featuring the TV cast. It did well enough at the box office but the critics were fairly negative. A second movie was released in 1997 called Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. It fared worse in critical response as well as box office and the show retreated back to its TV stronghold.

The nostalgia for 1990s entertainment inspired the original producer Haban to re-imagine a new Power Rangers franchise and a number of producers and writers passed through the development stage. There are five writers listed which is not usually a good sign. Eventually, John Gatins (Real Steel) was listed as final writer and Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) was director. It is obvious both were chosen for the fantasy. teen and superhero characteristics of their other Hollywood fare.

A new group of actors was enlisted to suit up for the Rangers and some cameos of old cast were sprinkled into the story. The selection of some name actors cast such as Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Zordon generated excitement. For Cranston it was a return to the Rangers as he voiced Twin Man and Snizard from the original series.

The 1990s Power Rangers was shamelessly kid fare but today's audience while nostalgic now look for something more in their movies. Dacre Montgomery playing Jason the Red Power Ranger, Naomi Scott as Kimberly the Pink Power ranger, Becky G as Trini the Yellow Power Ranger, RJ Cyler as Billy the Blue Power Ranger and Ludi Lin as Zack the Black Power Ranger all have back stories. They are all high school students sentenced to detention.

The audience might feel that there are several lifts from a number of movies and they wouldn't be wrong. However, the young actors tasked with carrying the story are likeable and relateable. The plot of the story is that the previous Power Rangers who were humanoids died defending the earth 65 million years earlier. In the re-imagined movie version, the teenagers are all drawn to the same site where they discover coloured coins that give them powers. While this is happening, a fishing boat pulls up the body of Rita Repulsa who is not quite dead from her last battle.

The fun in the movie is watching the teens figure out their new powers and learning something about themselves and what being a Power Ranger is. The audience learns one of the heroes in on the autism spectrum while for the first time in the genre, one of the five is openly gay. Training of the kids if done by android Alphas 5 (Bill Hader) while a pixelated Bryan Cranston as Zordon tells the recruits they will never get their armoured suits if they won't work together.

Meanwhile Rita (Elizabeth Banks) is tearing up the kid's hometown of Angel Grove creating the moment when the teens become true Power Rangers working together. At this point the movie is a special effects extravaganza marked by the Go, Go Power Rangers song in the background. The Rangers ultimately have to use Zords and Megazords to fight Rita and the forces she sends against our heroes.

Enjoyment of the Power Rangers movie will come from not thinking too deeply on it. If it has a failing, it is that is a whole bunch of things wrapped up in one story.  However, if the audience is set for silly fun, a little nostalgia and a lot of action, they are likely to be entertained by what the new teen Power Rangers are doing. Bring your popcorn!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Movie Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers

Goon was a top box office success from the moment it was released in 2012. It beat out American competitors from opening weekend and generally garnered positive reviews. Based on the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, it tells the story of what it was like in minor league hockey in Canada. The book was picked up by Jesse Shapira and David Gross and adapted for the screen by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, noted comedy performers in TV and film. Baruchel would also act in the film.

The plot of the movie followed sweethearted Doug played by Seann William Scott (American Pie) being enlisted as an "enforcer" to the local hockey team after protecting his gay, loudmouthed brother Pat (Jay Baruchel). As a goon, Doug is there to protect Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin, C.R.AZ.Y), a big league prospect demoted to the minors due to a hit sustained from Ross the Boss Rhea played by Liev Schrieber (Spotlight).

The first movie culminated in Doug earning the respect of Laflamme and his teammates and the affection Eva played by Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs The World). It also had him knock out Rhea in the moment everyone was waiting for.

Despite the sheer violence and vulgarity of the film, it succeeded with great writing and acting and felt authentic in its treatment of the subject. Filmed in Portage la Prairie, Brandon and Winnipeg had a passion within it that resonated throughout every scene. Naturally, it was a hit in Canada. Unnaturally, it warranted a sequel. It is rather unheard of for a English language movie to be successful and appear to be franchise material.

The premise of Good: Last of the Enforcers is that Doug (Scott) has retired early as the result of injury at the hands of another enforcer Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell). Now married to Eva (Pill) who is pregnant with their first child, he sells insurance which is a tough adjustment. It is especially hard when the man who knocked you out of the game becomes captain of your team. Motivated to make a comeback, he seeks out Ross the Boss (Liev Schreiber) to give him tips to re-join his beloved Highlanders as a goon.

Jay Baruchel returns as screenwriter with Jess Chabot (Just for Laughs: All Access). He also is back as brother Pat to our hero Doug. However, for the first time Baruchel takes up the role as director. It is an interesting choice because action is as important as the comedy in Goon. A lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, Baruchel wanted to achieve a certain authenticity in everything about the story and how it looked and felt. Many former NHL players appear in the movie lending it weight in the realism look.

Many of the actors who appeared in the first movie reprise their roles. Foul mouthed coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates), star player LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) and Eugene Levy as dad Dr. Glatt. Elisha Cuthbert is new. She join as Mary, sister to Eva (Alison Pill). Interestingly, Cuthbert and Baruchel used to co-star in the the program Popular Mechanics for Kids many years ago.

So how does this embarrassment of riches in comedic and hockey talent stand up? Well, it is rude, crude, super violent but like the first movie tender in all the right spots, down right sweethearted, Baruchel as director shows a flair for action that captures the speed and drama of hockey. As writer, he is able to create believable and enjoyable characters. This isn't a movie that only Canadians will like but it surely will be one that we'll get more than others in terms of inside jokes, music and hockey, hockey, hockey.

Ultimately, the story leads to the fight between the enforcers on the ice. The journey to get there is a laugh out loud fun.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Outlet Collection of Winnipeg Opens May 3

Outlet Collection of Winnipeg has announced that it will open May 3 of this year. They will be holding a job fare to hire 1000 staff members. It will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, 2017, at Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg downtown.

These will be the anchor stores:

◦DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
F21 Red
◦Saks OFF 5TH
◦Old Navy
◦Winners (Opening September)

Here are the other 45 stores to open:
  • Aldo
  • Ardene
  • Banana Republic Factory Store
  • Bentley
  • Bluenotes
  • Boathouse
  • Bombay
  • Bowring
  • Browns Outlet
  • Call it Spring Outlet
  • Calvin Klein Outlet
  • Chatters Salon & Beauty Supply
  • David’s Tea
  • Dynamite/Garage
  • Ecko Unlimited
  • Famous Footwear Outlet
  • Gap Factory Store
  • GNC
  • Guess Outlet
  • La Vie en Rose
  • Levi’s Outlet
  • Lids
  • Lindt Outlet
  • Lucky Brand Jeans Outlet
  • Michael Hill
  • Mountain Warehouse
  • Naturalizer Outlet
  • Perfumes 4 U
  • Quarks Outlet
  • Roots
  • Samsonite Outlet
  • Skechers
  • Softmoc Shoe Rack
  • Suzy Shier
  • The Body Shop
  • Think Kitchen
  • Tommy Hilfiger Outlet
  • Under Armour
  • Urban Kids
  • West 49

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sunrise Records Coming to Polo Park

There was a lot of sadness when HMV Records announced they were closing. For a time it seemed they were going to big enough and strong enough to last. In recent years they started losing money to changing tastes in how people consume media. Some if due to illegal file sharing but streaming music and video has meant consumers have chosen not to own but rather rent their collections.

HMV had tried to find areas of the market that they could make a profit in such as cultural goods that had a better mark-up. However, the leases inside the malls might have just been too pricey to make the numbers work. In the end, the company folded its tent and called it a day.

Manitobans would remiss if they thought this was the last multi-store record chain in Canada. Sunrise Records has been around since the 1970s and was once thought of as the big five in Canadian retailing along with Sam the Record Man, Music World, A&A Records and HMV. Even Sunrise appeared to struggle and closed the original 1977 built store on Yonge Street in Toronto in 2014.

The downward spiral might have continued save for the fact that Sunrise Records was bought by Douglas Putman, owner of Everest Toys. Instead of closing stores, the new owner started to open stores in Ontario defying the trend. Going against the grain was familiar ground for Putman. As owner of Everest Toys since 1992, he offered traditional quality toys using an online platform and found success in Canada, the U.S.  and beyond.

In 2017, Sunrise had nine locations throughout Ontario when it was announced that HMV would be shutting down all Canadian operations. In the last several days, Sunrise has jumped at the chance to go national and has taken over 70 of HMV's leases including Polo Park Winnipeg.

The re-branding of HMV to Sunrise will be occurring soon. The new company intends to carry more niche market product like vinyl records which is making a bit of a comeback. They also intend to carry more local artists in each market. Like HMV they also will be stocking higher margin entertainment apparel and merchandise.

There is probably room in the market for a music and entertainment store. Like bookstores, there has been a return to old product for the right price and for the niche market. There will never be a return to the grand days when several stores competed on one street for attention. However, well curated and local oriented stores could possibly be the right antidote to an online world.