Monday, March 27, 2017

Kotas Reviews Power Rangers

You know how it is, right? You grow up in a small town, and you got some troubles in your life. Maybe a parent left your life and you are upset about it. Perhaps a close relative is sick or your grades are slipping because you've overloaded yourself. Maybe you just screwed up something socially and now you are some sort of outcast. Then you and 4 of your friends/acquaintances/some randos get superpowers from an alien being who is basically a head in a jar with a wacky robot sidekick. Typical Tuesday really. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a look at Power Rangers!

Mass Effect has really gotten weird.
I'll be honest, I'm a huge Power Rangers fan. I know it's cheesy and goofy as hell, but as a lifelong kaiju movie and superhero fan, Power Rangers (and its ancestor Super Sentai) hits a lot of the right entertainment notes for me. Plus it has like 24 seasons worth of material, and usually people can find at least one season they really like. Good martial arts action, fun monster and robot designs, crazy weapons, a a touch of charm make Power Rangers into generally an entertaining romp, though not without its missteps (Operation Overdrive is a travesty). That said, how does it hold up on the big screen? There have been two previous Power Ranger theatrical releases and both of them were, at best, "not a complete shit show". It's Morphin' Time! With some spoilers! Skip to the end for a summation and review.

Our movie opens with a Red Ranger crawling through the muck of a battlefield, wherein he retrieves the power coin of a dying Yellow Ranger, who is also an alien. Our Ranger has retrieved all the coins from his fallen comrades and places them, along with his own, in safe keeping, just as he calls down a meteor strike to take out him and his foe, Rita. This is our introduction to Zordon. This happy scene is followed with a sequence of a high school prank gone awry as Jason, our hunky football star lead, is in crippling accident that ruins his chances for ever playing for the NFL during the course of which is a pretty explicit masturbation/bestiality joke. Go go Power Rangers! 

We follow him through is first day of detention, where we meet Kimberly, who's done something vaguely bad that causes her to lose her friendships and cut her hair, Billy, a mildly autistic kid who is picked on by the bullies at school and has a penchant for exploding lunch pails, and...well, that's it. Jason stands up for Billy, who in gratitude offers him use of his van if Jason will come over and help him. In addition, since Jason has an ankle bracelet for his house arrest, Billy can fix that too. Because, you know, science or some shit. This leads to a number of shenanigans that vaguely introduce Trini and Zach, and the whole gang is together when Billy blows up a wall and exposes some "weird ass glass" that they find the Power Coins in. Then there is a wacky chase scene where they bond to outrun a train horribly. Then they wake up with super powers, and begin to explore both their new powers and their burgeoning relationships to each other. 

Ultimately this is a film about teen drama and finding friendships that happens to have some Power Rangers stuff bolted on top of it. The acting is all pretty solid, with a great cast and some good writing. The Teen Drama isn't so much of the "after school special" variety (compared to say, a 90s TV show), but it does feel like this is a series of television episodes that has a bigger least until the last 20 minutes of the film or so, which I'll get to in a bit. I liked the characters, and even cared about them, and I wanted to see them succeed. Elisabeth Banks is clearly having a blast chewing all the scenery as Rita, and Malcolm's Dad is kind of weird as a less obviously benevolent Zordon, but it works out. Bill Hader as Alpha 5 did not make me want to punch things, which is always good. 

There are some twists and turns along the path to the epic (I guess) climax. Zordon's main motivation in getting them trained up and morphing is that it will allow him to come back from being just "dude in a wall". The teens have to learn to morph...and they suck at it because it requires the Power of Friendship or the Heart of the Cards or something, and Billy is basically the only one who is really trying at some point. Kimberly is clearly a not nice person who is trying to do the right thing and still occasionally fails. Rita straight up kills a Ranger (Well, along with Super Drowning Skills), which is less of a setback than you might think. Still, when the film is ending, I felt like the team really pulled together to save the day. The film might not have impressive skill, but it's got heart!

Of course, now we get into the more questionable parts of the film. So, Rita kills Billy by throwing him into the water at a dock and maybe zapping him too? Hard to tell, but it mostly seems like he drowned. The other Rangers pull him out, and he eventually is resurrected, but I was like "Dude, at the beginning of the film you held your breath for like, 10 minutes, and you were underwater here for maybe 2 or 3." Goldar looks like absolute garbage. While I mostly liked the individual Zord designs, the stand outs being the T-Rex and the Pteradon ones, the Megazord looked like Optimus Prime forgot to put on clothes and then decided to go be in Pacific Rim. Krispy Kreme must have paid out the fucking nose for its incredibly plot relevant product placement in this film, as LITERALLY the location of the "source of all life" Zeo Crystal. I did laugh when they also failed to move the Megazord right after forming it, but that bit ruined the momentum of the scene. I would have liked to see some more action scenes too. Some of the "for fans" lines were reeeeeeaally shoehorned in awkwardly, particularly "Make my Monster Grow!". The end of the film just rushed through a bunch of stuff to get to the final action sequence.

On the FACE Rating System, this film gets 1 Smiley Face. I rather enjoyed it, and it had some great callbacks to previous Ranger series (and cameos by Amy Jo Johnson and Jason David Frank from the Mighty Morphin' days). The acting was a step above Power Rangers in general, and the script mostly worked within its bounds, even if there were holes the size of Zords in the plot at times. It's a big, not too smart Teen Drama with some Science Fantasy parts tacked on. If you are a Power Rangers fan, you should go see it. Everyone else...maybe wait for the Redbox and a time when your brain won't nitpick some stuff. If you are into CW shows, this should make you happy. Goldar sucks though, and oddly I really wanted a doughnut when I walked out of the theater. May the Power Protect You!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kotas Reviews Lay's Beer and Brats Potato Chips

Oh man it's my favorite time of year again! The sun is starting to peak out more, the cold weather is (slowly) being replaced by warmer days, the monsoons are showing up with more frequency, and yes, the Lay's Do Us A Flavor promotion is back again! These periodic flavor experiments fill me with delight because while they aren't always good, they at least show that Frito Lay is willing to think outside the box and really let their creativity shine by taking suggestions from the public and turning them into marketable goods for which the originator will get no compensation, no matter how popular they become! Hooray capitalism! Anyway, this year's chip adventure begins with Lay's Beer and Brats chips. Let's take a gander.

Sausage fest joke? Sausage fest joke!
I guess I was a little too bitter before, since this time there is a prize for coming up with "the best" flavor, which amounts to one MEEEEELLION dollars, or roughly equivalent to the spare change that the CEO pulled out of his car seats last Thursday. The packaging is surprisingly, uh brown, though DAT SAUSAGE, amirite? The beer looks remarkably like the beer from the old video game Tapper. Honestly, this theme surprised me, but upon reflection it makes absolute sense. One of the best times I've had at a cookout was scarfing down wieners and chips in massive quantities and washing it all down with cheap beer, and if they could encapsulate that experience in a potato chip, it would certainly save me the embarrassment of buying shitty beer. Let's crack 'em open!

Considerably less sausage than I was expecting. Less beer too!
Well, these are certainly chips. They have an amount of flavor dust on them, but they are not completely covered in it. The scent is vaguely backyard grill out, but not what I would call "bratwurst". Definitely sausage-esque though, so you know, decent effort. Of the beer there is but the faintest note of something that might be "shitty domestic", but really, it's hard to tell. Let's dig in, shall we?

The flavor is definitely savory and meaty, though identifying a particular type of "meat" would be difficult. I suppose you could call it roasted sausage, but I suspect that if I didn't know what it was supposed to be, I'd probably consider it just "meat-ish". There is more of the beer-ish flavor here, but not much. Still, it is definitely "shitty domestic" beer flavoring, so it's got that authentic American Backyard Cookout feel to it. You'll probably be surprised to hear that, despite it's inability to be a spot on flavor, it is very tasty on it's own merits. The savoriness compliments the potato and salt excellently, and the little bit of beer like overtones help clear the palette after eating (though not entirely). 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets One Smiley Face. These are very munchable, though if you were expecting a distinct "Beer and Brat" type flavor you will be somewhat disappointed. Definitely go try a bag if you are into savory chip flavors, and honestly, these would go great with Beer and Brats. Perhaps not Lay's finest effort, but it certainly isn't the Wurst!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kotas Reviews Logan

I've been watching X-Men movies since the first one came out in 2000. Admittedly, after the mediocre X-3 and the abysmal Wolverine: Origins movies, I fell out of love with the series. I hear good things about some of the other films though, and I hope to find time to see them eventually. Still, when heard about the premise of Logan I knew I had to see it. Getting to see Hugh Jackman's last turn as the character, along with Patrick Stewart? Yes, please. Saddle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

I know that look.
Image Source:
I am going to try and keep any spoilers to a bare minimum, or keep it to stuff revealed in the opening moments of the film. A lot of what I'm going to talk about is in the trailers and such, so it shouldn't be too spoilertastic. Anyway, we open on Logan blearily waking up and stumbling out of the limo he's in, only to discover a pile of gangbangers trying to strip his tires. This goes about as well as you'd expect, though Logan looks like he's been through an inordinate amount of shit as of late. His hair is graying, his clothes, while presentable, are worn, and his wounds heal, but not like they used to. In fact he looks very scarred, which wasn't something you'd ever expect to see on the Wolverine.

Later on, Logan is confronted by a cybered up fellow named Donald Pierce, head of the Reavers. They're looking for someone, and want Logan to call them if he finds that someone. This goes about as well as you'd expect, but Logan doesn't just go apeshit on this guy, and for good reason. He's got bigger problems.

Eventually we get to see Professor Xavier, or Charles, as he's referred to here, and I have to give credit to Sir Stewart here, you feel the age of the guy. He's old, decrepit, and his mind is slipping away. Given that mind is also one of the most powerful weapons on the planet, that thought should scare you. It certainly scares Logan. Still, obligations being what they are, Logan is caring for him, along with a mutant named Caliban who is a mutant tracker and an albino, and thus, doesn't have a lot of career options.

To sum up, mutants are dying out as no new ones have been born in years. Logan is the last of the X-Men, and just trying to make enough money to survive and eventually whisk Charles off to the ocean to get away from everyone. Mostly because Charles has seizures that psychically paralyze everyone around him in incredibly painful ways, and Logan seems to be one of the few that can fight through it to get him his medication. It's...grim, dusty, and filled with emptiness of the soul, but things pick up when Laura shows up, showing off some very familiar claws...

From this point the movie is basically a road trip movie with three people just trying to get through the journey: Charles, Laura, and Logan. The plot isn't too complicated (at least for this part of the film), but the interactions between these three really sell the movie, more than anything else. This is a tightly focused character piece about a man dealing with regret finding some way to muster up the ability to have one final adventure. There is a ton of emotion and meaning conveyed with body language and inflection, which goes to show how skilled the acting is here. Sure, it's not perfect, but damn if it isn't firing on all cylinders at times. Then there are the fight scenes.

The cinematography here is actually really well done. You feel the hurt that Logan is in, and the fights are frenetic, brutal, and gore filled, but not to the ridiculous levels shown in the much more comedic Deadpool. There is a touch of realism and grittiness in the fight scenes that normally isn't present in films about dudes who can pop claws out of their wrists. Every crunch, every stab, every flip is there to be felt and make the audience just cringe in shared empathy, even for the nameless mooks who I'm sure were just two weeks from retirement.

There are some interesting parallels between Logan and Charles I want to touch on. In a lot of ways, Professor X and Wolverine were opposites. One has incredible physical prowess, the other mental. One is nearly feral with rage, the other as calm as a lake in spring time. This movie sort of flips it all on its head. Now Charles is the one nearly mad (at times) due to his age and the ravages of onset mental deterioration. Logan has to be the responsible one, the one who keeps his cool because it wouldn't do to have the bachalorette party in the limo flip out when you accidentally pop claws. On the other hand, both men suffer from a similar malady: Their most powerful weapon is now slowly killing them. The adamantium in Logan's skeleton is finally, after all these years, overwhelming his ability to regenerate and boy howdy does it show. Seeing Charles curse and be incredibly childish while Logan has to take on the more parental role is heartbreaking, but it is just so well done.

There are a lot of feels in this movie, so be prepared for a few (or maybe a lot of) tears. Even something as cheesy as an old western is made pretty damn meaningful, and sometimes the victory isn't pretty or sweet, or happy. Still, it is very fitting, and a good way to send off the character. Whoever wrote the very last bit should get a fucking raise too. It did not end the way I thought I wanted it to, but it ended in a way I think was just right. Even if I didn't know it. This is a Western wrapped in a road trip that throws its superhero trappings on just long enough to remind you where it came from.

On the FACE Rating System, Logan gets 3 Very Sad Smiley Faces. If you don't understand that now, you will after you see the film, because you should see the film if you are a fan of the X-Men, the characters, or even just Hugh Jackman or Patrick Stewart. Damn good film. Oh, it also has boobs in it. So you know, there's that. Man, this film couldn't have been made if Deadpool didn't do so well, but boy am I grateful that it exists. Just go see it!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Kotas Reviews Peeps Oreos

Easter Season should be the biggest deal of the year. Spring has sprung, the sun is shining, food is plentiful, and pastels are in fashion. Still, I suppose a fat guy in a red suit has more marketability than a bunny that poops out brightly colored eggs. Even the Cadbury Bunny's peddled treats, delicious as they are, still make one vaguely uneasy if you think about it too much. Then again, the whole egg/chicken motif brought us the humble Peep. Good or bad, it's here to stay. So of course they would make an Oreo out of it. Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of Most Ages, let's take a look at Peeps Oreos.

Not since Victor Frankenstein has the phrase "My God, What Have I Done?" been so appropriate.
Nabisco has been on the ball as of late with their flavors. Love them or hate them, they are exactly what you would expect from [Object] + Oreo. The Peeps Oreo is no exception. The packaging is glorious, with the bright yellow and pink colors highlighting its duel Peep/Oreo nature. Nabisco went with the vanilla Oreo as the base here, and I think that was a good choice. Chocolate and Peeps have never been particularly good together, because the overwhelming chemical sugariness tends to turn the chocolate into mostly texture. Vanilla and...uh...Peep should compliment instead. Good call. Also, the easy open package is in attendance. Let's rip it open.

Not much to say about this one. I wanted screaming hot pink, and that's exactly what I got. The eye searing nature of this color is not done justice in the pictures, because pictures can be faked. Trust me though, these things practically glow. The smell is vanilla laced with a hint of laboratory and a general "sweetness" that is hard to describe. My pancreas trembles in anticipation. Also, the pink creme has pink sugar sprinkles embedded in it, for that authentic Peep texture. Let's see how it all goes down.

Well, that wasn't so bad. And then all my hopes turned into nightmares as the overwhelming bitterness swept aside any lingering remnants of joy, leaving only terror in its wake. Now, I've always enjoyed Peeps for what they are: Chemical trickery. I'm a heathen who prefers them aged (read: stale as shit), because it dramatically cuts down on the chemical aftertaste they leave. Not every Peep does this, but the pink ones especially left behind an unwelcome chemical visitor. Well, the Oreo version ups the ante to unwholesome levels. The initial flavor isn't terrible, tasting mainly like a vanilla Oreo with sugar sprinkles in it, but then the sour, bitter flavor wallops you in the mouth. The creme by itself tastes like...well, sugar, and then horror. Even grape soda didn't wash that taste away, and it lingered for hours. I ate two of these things before I gave up. I'll note that whiskey helped wipe away the taste, but even then it lingered longer than I felt it should have. Holy Jeez, they SELL THIS to people. Oddly, my spouse said they tasted just fine to her: sweet, a little bit of crunch from the cookie and the sprinkles, and that was that. Maybe it's just me then?

On the FACE Rating System, these get 3 Frownie Faces, however I am qualifying this one. I absolutely detested these cookies, but I must admit they did exactly what they set out to do: Create a Peep cookie. I also speculate I have some sort of sensitivity to the dye they used to color this, because I seem to be the only person who hates these as much as I do. The only silver lining here is that they stain your tongue bright pink for a long, LONG time. They also have more...interesting side effects when eaten in large quantities. This gets a tentative "try" from me, if you like Peeps or super sweet things. I hate these things though.