‘Ninja Storm’ Is One Of The Power Rangers’ Best Series Since ‘MMPR’

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban

There’s a storm brewing.  But this time it’s a good storm.  How can a storm be good?  It can be good when it’s a Ninja Storm.  Earlier this week Shout! Factory released Power Rangers Ninja Storm: The Complete Series on DVD.  And there is plenty to appreciate about this installment of the long-running franchise beginning with its writing.  The writing applies first and foremost to the series’ plot.  The fact that the writers would go back to the franchise’s interstellar/sci-fi roots this time out is impressive in its own right.  The ultimate reveal, which is made later in the series makes the plot all the more interesting.  That leads to another of the series’ most important elements, the writing within its episodes.  That will be discussed later.  Last but not least of note in this series is the work of the series’ cast.  Each element is important in its own right to the series’ overall presentation.  All things considered they make this series one of the franchise’s best so far in its post-Mighty Morphin’ era.

Late next year, Lionsgate is set to release the new big-screen reboot of Saban’s beloved Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  Needless to say it has already created quite a storm among fans of the beloved series.  Some people love it.  Others hate it.  Regardless which side one takes on the upcoming adaptation, audiences will just have to wait until the movie comes out to see how it actually turns out.  While they wait, Power Rangers fans have another classic Power Rangers series to take in.  It comes in the form of Power Rangers Ninja Storm: The Complete Series.  This installment of the long-running franchise is one of its best so far in its post-Might Morphin’ era.  This is due in part to the series’ writing.  More specifically it is due in part to the series’ plot.  The plot behind Power Rangers Ninja Storm follows a trio of Rangers, tapped to fight the evil interstellar space ninja Lothor.  It marks the first time since the days of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers that the franchise has gone the full-on sci-fi/interstellar route.  The closest that any previous series came in that avenue, was Power Rangers Time Force.  Even that series didn’t go the full-on sci-fi route taken by MMPR (as it will henceforth be known here).  Lightspeed Rescue and Wild Force were more based in fantasy than science fiction.  Keeping that in mind, that approach in itself makes this series’ plot an important part of its presentation.  Add in the fact that for the first time the Power Rangers start out as a 3-person team and only grows to 6 members, and audiences get another important part of the series’ plot.  Again, none of the franchise’s former installments had taken that course.  Though, it did become more commonplace as the franchise progressed.  It makes this aspect of the series’ plot just as important to note as the larger story.  The two plot elements together show clearly why the series’ plot is so important in examining its writing.  The plot is just one part of the series’ writing that should be examined.  The overall writing within the series’ episodes is just as important to note as its plot.

The writing behind Power Rangers Ninja Storm’s plot is its own important part of the series’ writing.  It isn’t the only important part of the series’ writing to be examined.  The writing within the series’ episodes is just as important as the writing behind the series’ plot.  Audiences will find that the writing within the series’ episodes is relatively familiar from one to the next.  One episode that exemplifies that familiarity comes in the form of “The Wild Wipeout.”  It sees Tori end up in an alternate universe in which the Rangers are the villains, and Lothor and company the good guys.  It is a story line that has been used time and again throughout television’s modern history in so many series.  That includes series aimed at adults and children.  What sets this adaptation of the classic story line apart from others is that it also uses a sort of Wizard of Oz approach, leaving both Tori and audiences to wonder, was it all just a dream sequence, or actually another universe.  As if that isn’t enough, the writers also added in the story of Rangers being turned from the evil side to that of the good guys in the multi-part “Thunder Rangers” story arc.  It includes both the three-part “Thunder Strangers” story arc and its lead-in “Looming Thunder.”  The evil Ranger-turned-good story arc is an element that has been used in every installment of Power Rangers going all the way back to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  Though, the writers this time have switched things up at least a little bit.  What sets this story line apart from those previous stories is that 1) it involves here not just one Ranger but two.  And in this case, the Rangers in question weren’t under some evil curse to start off their multi-part story arc.  Rather they had just been brainwashed by Lothor’s propaganda, not to reveal too much.  Though, they were eventually put under a brainwashing spell of sorts at one point.  Of course that was only a one-episode story line that saw the Rangers break that spell and win the day.  Audiences can discover that story for themselves.  If these episodes aren’t example enough, the writers also take on the evil twin story line in this series.  It’s yet another way in which the writing within the series’ episodes proves so important to the series’ presentation.  Any of the series’ other episodes could be cited just as easily in this argument.  Considering that it becomes increasingly clear why the writing within the series’ episodes is just as important to the series’ presentation as the writing behind its plot.  What’s more the two elements together make perfectly clear why the series’ writing in whole is so important to its presentation.  The writing is, of course, not the series’ only important element.  The work of the series’ cast is just as important to note as that of the series’ writers.

The work put in by the writers behind Power Rangers Ninja Storm is undeniably important to its presentation.  This is clear in examining both the series’ overall plot and the plot behind each of its episodes.  Of course in examining the series’ writing it becomes clear that the writing is just one of the series’ most important elements.  The work of the series’ cast is just as important to the series’ presentation as its writing.  While audiences might think that the actors who portrayed the Rangers are real stars of note here, that is not the cast.  That is at least the view of this critic.  In all honesty, the real stars of the series are Katrina Devine and Katrina Browne.  The pair portrayed Lothor’s nieces Marah and Kapri respectively.  While the pair ultimately turned out to be quite the devious evil duo, they do a wonderful job of tricking both Lothor and audiences.  The pair’s comic portrayal makes for so many laughs throughout each episode as they present themselves as stereotypical air headed valley girl types.  The personalities that they portray couples with their physical comedy to keep audiences entertained every time that they are on camera.  It would have been so easy for them to go over the top in their portrayals.  But they manage to successfully keep that reined in, thus leading to so many great moments right up to the point that they reveal their true personalities.  Even when they do reveal that truth they  are still just as great to watch.  To a lesser extent, Grant McFarland is entertaining in his own right as the evil space ninja Lothor.  Those that are familiar with the Power Rangers’ history will note a certain throwback to Robert Axelrod’s portrayal of Lord Zedd from the days of MMPR in McFarland’s take on Lothor.  He is clearly devious.  However one can’t help but laugh at his facial gestures and general reactions from time to time.  It is just a great reminder of the franchise’s old days.  The rest of the series’ cast impresses in its own right.  There is not denying this.  But the work put in by McFarland, and the duo of Devine and Browne is at least to this critic the most notable in this series.  In the end, their work couples with that of the rest of the cast to show in whole why the cast’s work is, in whole, just as important to the series’ presentation as that of the series’ writers.  All things considered Power Rangers Ninja Storm presents audiences with plenty to appreciate.  There is a lot of familiarity throughout this series and just as much new material.  All in all it makes this installment of the Power Rangers one of the franchise’s best in its post-MMPR era.

Power Rangers Ninja Storm is one of the best installments of the Power Rangers franchise to come along since the days of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  That is due in part to writing that boasts its own share of familiar and new elements.  This applies both to the series’ plot and the stories presented within each of its episodes.  The same can be said of the cast’s work.  Grant McFarland conjures thoughts of Robert Axelrod with his portrayal of Lothor in this series.  Axelrod handled the role of Lord Zedd in MMPR.  Katrina Browne and Katrina Devine are just as entertaining as Lothor’s nieces even when their characters reveal the truth of their personas.  The rest of the cast impresses in its own right.  These three just shine brighter than the others in the eyes of this critic.  The cast’s work couples with that of the series writers to keep audiences engaged and entertained from one episode to the next.  The end result is a series that, again, audiences familiar with the Power Rangers franchise will agree it is one of the best installments to come along since the end of the franchise’s Zordon era.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store now at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-action-adventure/power-rangers-ninja-storm-the-complete-series.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

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Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 Box Set A Must Have For Any Diehard PR Fan

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory’s release of Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 is an absolute must have for anyone that is a true hardcore fan of the Power Rangers franchise.  This latest box set was released in late 2013, only months before the planned release of the franchise’s next box set, containing Seasons 13 – 17.  Audiences that grew up watching Seasons 8 – 12 will appreciate this box set primarily because of its writing.  Seasons 8 – 12 mark a complete cutting of ties so to speak from the original Power Rangers franchise, which ended with Power Rangers Lost Galaxy.  It was a surprisingly clean cut, too.  The bonus DVD included in this set adds to its value for any true hardcore Power Rangers fan.  That’s because of the abundant amount of extras included just on the one disc alone.  And rounding out the whole thing is the bonus booklet that comes with the set.  All of this together makes Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 a set that the most hardcore Power Rangers will want to add to their personal collection.

Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 is an important addition to any hardcore Power Rangers fan’s collection first and foremost because of the writing behind each season.  It all starts with Season 8 a.k.a. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.  This season and those that follow mark a clean cut from the Power Rangers’ original franchise, which ran technically six seasons.  The franchise’s seventh season saw what would be the first attempt at cutting ties from the original franchise.  But even that season maintained at least some link to the original franchise with the re-introduction of the Astro Megaship, which was used in Season 6 (Power Rangers in Space).  That essentially makes Season 8 the very first time that the franchise’s writers made a complete and clean break from the original series.  It did this quite well, too.  It is interesting to see the Power Rangers go from almost superhero-like status in its previous incarnations to being made into a semi-militaristic force in Season 8.  A similar approach is taken in Power Rangers Time Force.  The writers behind Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue made a clean, solid break from the Power Rangers’ original franchise.  For all of their ability to break from that franchise, audiences will appreciate that they did throw back to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers with the introduction of the Titanium Ranger in this series.  Just as Tommy was originally brainwashed by Rita, so was Ryan brainwashed by Diabolico.  Fans that grew up with the original Power Rangers franchise will appreciate this throwback, whether it was intentional or not.

The eighth and ninth seasons of Power Rangers exhibited brand new chapters in the long-running franchise’s mythology.  They showed in their writing that the Power Rangers brand could keep running even in a whole new universe separate from the one created in the its first seven seasons.  This trend continued on through Seasons 10 and 11.  The most intriguing of the seasons included in this set would have to be Season 12, though.  Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) returns in Season 12 a.k.a. Power Rangers Dino Thunder as the head of a new team of Power Rangers.  What makes this season so enjoyable is that while it lives within the confines of its own universe, it also makes no attempt to ignore Tommy’s past as one of the original Power Rangers.  The very fact that it would be titled Dino Thunder and that the new Power Rangers would have their own dinozords of sorts is a full on throwback.  It brings everything full circle in this set.  It goes without saying that this was not the longest series in the Power Rangers canon.  But it was nice to see the writers and the franchise’s heads make that re-connection with the early days of the Power Rangers once again, just as Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue did in Season 8.

All involved behind Power Rangers Season 8 – 12 are to be commended .  These five seasons prove to be some of the best from the Power Rangers franchise in its post-Zordon era.  Fans will see this for themselves when they order the complete five-season box set from Shout! Factory.  The solid writing in each season and the inclusion of each season are only the starting point in what makes this collection a must have for any hardcore Power Rangers fan.  The set also comes with an extra sixth disc loaded with bonus material that fans will love.

The bonus sixth disc that comes with Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 is a bonus in itself.  It is loaded with more than its share of background on each season beginning with an in-depth look at how the actors voiced their parts for the big fight scenes.  Audiences will laugh along with the cast members as they recall being in the recording booth, recording their lines and even fight sounds as they see the action on screen.  The “Ranger Tales” segment is just as in-depth.  It offers insight on each season from different members of each season’s cast.  What’s more, this segment proceeds chronologically from Season 8 – 12.  Viewers will also enjoy watching “A Web of Fans.”  This bonus feature takes a look at the impact of the show on its fans and vice versa.  It showed how close-knit the Power Rangers fanbase is to this day and how it has helped to keep the franchise alive such a long time.  There are even more bonuses including one that discusses the introduction of the Titanium Ranger and a semi-promo from Tommy himself pushing Power Rangers Dino Thunder and even a promo by two members of the Dino Thunder cast for Power Rangers S.P.D. which is part of the next Power Rangers box set.  The bonuses don’t end here.  There is still at least one more aspect of this set that fans will appreciate being included.  That bonus is the booklet that comes with the box set.

Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 includes as a companion to the bonus sixth disc, a bonus booklet that includes character bios for each season as well as a complete episode guide for each season as well.  Along with the character bios are the actual names of each cast member from each season.  This includes both the Rangers and the villains.  There are even stills of various scenes taken from different episodes of each season to enhance the booklet even more.  From the stills to the episode list and character guide, those responsible for assembling this booklet put in a lot of work to make it the perfect addition to the overall set.  Together with the bonus sixth disc, the two bonus additions collectively make for one wonderful bonus to a set that simply put is a must have for any true hardcore Power Rangers fan.  Power Rangers Seasons 8 – 12 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-seasons-8-12.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Power Rangers Zeo Volume One Another Success From Saban, Shout! Factory

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Thank goodness for Shout! Factory. This critic has said that of the company many times before. And this critic will continue to do so as long as it keeps releasing titles such as the latest in Saban’s classic Power Rangers franchise. Power Rangers: Zeo Volume 1 picks up where the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangersmini-series “spinoff”, Mighty Morphin’Alien Rangers left off. The Rangers’control center had been destroyed and new Yellow Ranger Tanya had been added to the team. She would be the third person to don the Yellow Ranger’s outfit in only a matter of three seasons. The Command Center being destroyed, the Rangers were left without their powers, albeit temporarily, which leads to the first important aspect of this latest incarnation of Saban’s hit franchise. The first important aspect ofPower Rangers: Zeo Volume 1 is the writing in the episodes culled for this volume. In direct connection to the writing, the episodes in this volume do something that the episodes from MMPR didn’t do nearly as much. They developed the characters more. This includes the show’s comic relief, Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy (Bulk and Skull). And one can’t ignore that the special effects used throughout MMPR were carried over into this “season”,too. This too helped maintain the feel of MMPR thus doing even more to help keep fans from MMPR on board. And together with the writing and character development, it shows even more why this latest release is a must have for any longtime Power Rangers fan.

The writers responsible for the first incarnation of the Power Rangers series did an impressive job with that series. They wrote plenty of solid stories. Those scripts did an excellent job of balancing their action with the team’s development. They also had plenty of comedy thanks to Schrier and Narvy. The pair’s Laurel& Hardy style comedy was stepped up throughout Power Rangers: Zeo Volume 1, making for even more enjoyment. From trying to save Detective Stone’s roses to their antics with Goldar and Rito, Bulk and Skull get more camera time this time out. And it makes for plenty of laughs. Their increased comedic additions to the series are just part of what makes this incarnation of the Power Rangers franchise fun to watch. Fans of the series will also appreciate in this volume how the writers handled the transition of both villains and team members among the Rangers. The story arcs used throughout MMPR were good in their own way. There’s no denying that. But fans will appreciate that the writers hit the ground running this time. Even starting the new “series” with an extended story arc, the transitions still moved particularly rapidly. So the writers didn’t waste any time getting the new series moving. The only other real extended story arc in this volume is “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” It’s a three-part arc. And while it isn’t a major story arc, it does do something important. It helps to illustrate the increased character development that took place in this series.

The writers on Power Rangers Zeo handled the transition from its predecessor quite well, all things considered. They developed new story lines and grew the show, too. That’s thanks to the increased character development in this series. Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) is fleshed out even more as he takes over the lead role in the show. He takes over the role of the Red Ranger as Billy (David Yost) steps down and takes more of a “tech assistant” position in the team’s new command center. Audiences see more of the confident, heroic side of Tommy as he takes over the team. But he also presents a more human side after getting a breakup letter from former love interest and Pink Ranger, Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) in the three-part story arc, “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” Audiences also get more view of Tommy’s softer side in a two-part episode that sees Tommy introduced to his long lost brother. That more vulnerable side is something that he didn’t really show a lot of throughout MMPR. So it makes for an interesting look at this character. Newcomer Tanya also gets her time in the spotlight in this volume. She gets the chance of a lifetime when she is discovered by a record producer after singing at the Angel Grove Youth Center. It was the final episode in Volume One. But what better way to close out the volume than to focus on her again. Just as she was introduced in the volume’s opening three-part story arc, she was re-introduced in the volume’s final episode. So she really got her time to develop as a character and as a member of the team.

Both Tommy and Tanya get more time to develop personally as characters in Power Rangers Zeo: Volume One. Their development helps to make this “season” more interesting for viewers. They aren’t the only characters that get to show more of themselves. Both Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy (Bulk and Skull) get to show that they are more than just comic relief, too. Although they still offer plenty of laughs. The pair is now working even more to try and be junior police officers.  While their segments are still largely for comedic relief, it’s nice to see that they are getting to be more than just lowly comic support.  They actually get to be more involved in the show at this point.  Again this goes back to the show’s writers.  It’s just one more positive to the show.

The writing and related character development that takes place in the episodes collected for Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 1 do a lot to make this underrated incarnation of the Power Rangers enjoyable in hindsight.  There is still at least one more factor that audiences will appreciate in this set.  That factor is the special effects.  Whereas so many of the “seasons” since (E.g. Power Rangers Samurai, Power Rangers Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Power Rangers Mystic Force) became more spit shined and slickly produced, the more raw special effects and general production values of PRZ were more akin to those of MMPR.  The show’s creators and staff made do with what they had.  And it showed, too.  Sure, they might have been slightly cheesy.  But there’s something more special about them because of that.  And it’s that special something combined with the writing and the character development that make this “season” of Power Rangers definitely worth having for any true fan of the franchise.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, November 12th.  It can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218412.  More information on this and other Power Rangers releases from Saban and Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

It’s Morphin’ Time Once Again Thanks to Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Shout! Factory has done it again.  This company that specializes in nostalgia television has brought the children of the late 80’s and 90’s another childhood favorite in the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  That’s right, everyone.  The team that started it all back in 1993 is finally seeing its adventures released both in a triple disc set containing the show’s first thirty episodes, and in a box set containing the entire original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series.  For the sake of this review, the main focus is going to be on the very first release that is Season 1 Volume 1.

In Season 1 Volume 1, fans see the very first team of rangers assembled by the interdimensional leader Zordon, and his robot assistant, Alpha.  Fans will also get to see the complete five-part “Green With Evil” story arc in which long time ranger Tommy is introduced to the show.  And in one of the better stand alone episodes, fans see Billy, the Blue Ranger, face Bulk and Skull with a little help from Trini’s uncle, Howard.

The massive franchise that is the Power Rangers all started with the episode, “Day of the Dumpster.  Audiences discover that Rita escapes when her “space dumpster” is opened by a pair of curious astronauts.  When Zordon and alpha learn of Rita’s escape, the first team is chosen.  Jason, Billy, Zack, Trini, and Kimberly are transported to Zordon’sCommandCenter.  What fans will really get a kick out of is Alpha’s response.  He pleads with Zordon, saying, “Not teenagers!”  Zordon’s comment that sets up Alpha’s response adds to the moment of laughs.  He tells Alpha, get me five overbearing, overemotional humans!”  Who wouldn’t laugh at that joke?  At first the Rangers don’t’ believe Zordon.  But when they have to face Rita’s Putty Patrollers, they morph for the very first time, and are sent back to Angel Grove to face Rita’s henchman, Goldar.  Goldar almost has the Rangers beat until they get the Megazord’s Power Sword.  Seeing that, Goldar retreats back to Rita’s moon base.  In the end, the Rangers all agree that they’re in it for the long haul, and vow to protect the world from Rita and her attacks, thus marking the beginning of the now long running Power Rangers franchise.

The very first season of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers could be summarized as a season of firsts.  It’s the season when the original team of Rangers is formed.  And it’s the season when the very first “extra’ Ranger is introduced.  The five-part story arc, “Green With Envy” sees the introduction of new team member—and long time Power Ranger—Tommy.  Tommy starts out in this story arc as a new “kid” in Angel Grove.  Rita sees this and takes advantage of it, putting a spell on him, forcing him to serve her and fight the Rangers.  He serves her as the evil Green Ranger.  But when the rest of the Rangers realize it’s just because Tommy’s under a spell, they learn that they have to destroy his Sword of Darkness to break the spell, which Jason does in a final showdown.  Rita’s spell is broken, releasing Tommy.  When he agrees to join the team, Zordon reveals to the Rangers, the very first brand new Megazord alternate combination when Tommy’s Dragonzord combines with three of the Rangers’ zords to make the Dragon Megazord.  Of course, as any true Power Rangers fan knows, Tommy’s first incarnation as the Green Ranger is short lived, thanks to Rita.  But he would later return to the Power Rangers as the White Ranger.  And years later, he would return as the head of the Power Rangers Dino, too, making mention of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers team.

The firsts experienced in Season 1 are great moments for this show.  But they aren’t all that made the show great.  There were also life lessons in the show, such as in the episode, “The Dark Warrior.”  Blue Ranger Billy learns about facing bullies in this episode, when Bulk and Skull start harassing him.  Thanks to teaching from Trini’s uncle Howard, he learns how to handle them without fighting.  And of course, Howard’s (Trini’s uncle)  invisibility formula helps, too.  That formula is also the basis for the Rangers’ adventure in this episode.  Rita sends down the Dark Warrior to steal the formula and use it to make the Rangers disappear.  That, of course, doesn’t happen, as the Rangers defeat the Dark Warrior, and Howard retrieves his formula that he had accidentally misplaced.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 1 Volume 1 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s store at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/ 381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.