Monday, December 19, 2016

Looking Back: Power Rangers S.P.D.

Most seasons of Power Rangers are pretty consistent all year, whether they're great, mediocre or just ones you'd rather forget. The past 23 years have seen it all, but not many changed halfway through quite like SPD did.

Greg Aronowitz and Bruce Kalish brought a fresh take to PR with a fun two-part premiere - introducing the original A-Squad team and what would become the B-Squad team of Rangers. Decent storylines, episode plots and characters kept things up pretty well, capped off with a great two-part episode where Commander Cruger became Shadow Ranger. But around episode 18 the season started to go downhill in a one-two punch of dull episodes followed by the introduction of Omega Ranger who would be stuck as a ball of light when not in Ranger form, because an actor was never cast (of one the seasons major offenses). SPD also got in the habit of B-Squad acting like they never learned anything like teamwork, and plot points would come up that really should've been long resolved. Still, these weren't necessarily bad episodes I thought and most of them would get a 4/5, as the plots were usually decent. There was just always something wrong, something to be nitpicky about. The show also got a lot of flack for doing an awful teamup episode with DinoThunder after a separate one that would've been fine if it had been the only one.

In some areas SPD did thrive like having their own set of creatures to the sentai counterparts - which Greg did a great job with - and the cast would become of the best of the Disney years. Having aliens living among humans in the future was very ambitious and the A-Squad (who would become evil offscreen) was one of the best storyacrs. So that's SPD, for better or worse one of the biggest tale of two halves PR has ever seen.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Power Morphicon 2016: Forever Blue

Another Power Morphicon has passed in the midst of a great time to be a Ranger fan. It was one of the the first times the convention took place in the middle of a good season, while Bandai is really ramping up the Legacy toyline in addition to the toylines for the show and movie.

WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY: I got in at Burbank after 1:30. My sister Sarah picked me up and I got settled at her place. Eventually we headed out to Little Tokyo Mall I had looked forward to visiting again and later on, we had dinner at Salazar - a restaurant co-owned by Sarah's boyfriend (also named Aaron). Afterwards we pretty much lounged around the house the rest of the evening.

Thursday afternoon the three of us walked around Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade and the Pier after I realized I hadn't been to the ocean in about ten years. That evening we went out for burgers at Umami and then got ice cream at Churro Borough. Back at home, we turned on Netflix and marathoned a couple episodes of Stranger Things.

FRIDAY: Sarah dropped me off at the Pasadena Sheraton Hotel at 2:30. I got settled in what would be the Ranger Bar room, hopped over to the convention center and picked up my stuff - Gold membership badge, convention coins, Dino Charge pins, a water bottle and posters (The shirts and hoodie would come later). I figured I'd just hangout and watch for people... Sure enough a couple people I knew came by (Tyler W, Quispy and Eric). At one point Paul Schrier passed by and said hi to myself and Quispy as we were chatting, and Ciara Hanna walked by as well.

Batz and Sean arrived (who'd be rooming with me) and the convention officially got underway at 4:00. As always there was toys EVERYWHERE - Megazords, figures, a lot of old '90s stuff for sale - plus Bandai had a massive exhibit complete with Dino Charge, Ninja Steel, movie and Legacy toys. I met Justin Nimmo (Zhane, In Space) and ran into one of my PR friends for many years called BurgundyRanger who I talked with awhile. At 6:00 I sat in on a panel about props and creating/writing the show, followed by a panel with Turbo/In Space cast and a villains panel at 8:00. Back on the floor for the last hour of the day, I met Kate Sheldon (Nadira, Time Force) and Andrew Gray (Troy, Megaforce). I metup with the guys and it was a pretty chill night in our room.

SATURDAY: Anticipating one of most exciting days ever, I headed out to the floor after 10:00 and got busy meeting Latham Gaines (Anton Mercer/Mesogog, DinoThunder) and Megaforce cast John Mark Loudermilk (Noah) and Cameron Jebo (Orion). Then it was showtime for the Dino Charge panel, who then, after Q&A, revealed the cast of Ninja Steel. In one of the biggest surprises I've seen in 23 years of Power Rangers, the new Blue Ranger (Peter Sudarso) was none other than the brother of Dino Charge Blue Ranger, Yoshi Sudarso (who had absolutely NO idea). So many feels I tell ya. 😄 Afterwards I watched a presentation from Bandai, who talked all about the upcoming toys and toylines, followed by the Megaforce panel at 1:00.

Meanwhile, Batz and Sean headed to the store and In-and-Out Burger. I popped over to Jennifer Yen's booth (Vypra, Lightspeed Rescue) and finally went back to our room to refuel about 2:30. Back on the floor, I met Megaforce cast Christina Masterson (Emma) and for a second time following Lexcon in March, said hello to Ciara Hanna (Gia). At 4:00 I went to the Forever Red panel and then met Sasha Craig (Kelsey, Lightspeed Rescue) making her convention debut. After the floor closed for the day, I pretty much hungout with the guys as we started to get ready for the evening. A concert with Johnny Bosch's band Eyeshine was going on so we caught a bit of that as well for a minute. At 8:00 we saw No Pink Spandex Live - a celebration of ten years of Lisa J's podcast. We then headed back up to our room and got set for Ranger Bar's Pink Dolphin Party. Several folks came by throughout the night and around midnight we went to the hotel bar to check out the action there. After lots of fun and snacking it was past 4am before the night finally wrapped up.

SUNDAY: I killed time on the floor a bit before going to a Yellow Rangers panel at 11:00, followed by a 6th Rangers panel. Afterwards, I met Azim Rizk (Jake), completing the Megaforce cast (the only full Power Rangers team I've gotten autographs/pictures from, besides Zeo), and I chatted with JC of Henshin Vault as well, who still remembers me from the Rangerboard gathering at the 2008 ACEN. After going back to the Ranger Bar room for lunch, I stopped by Alyson Sullivan's (Taylor, Wild Force) booth, and saw Bulk & Skull duo Paul Schrier & Jason Narvy's panel at 3:00. At 5:00 the convention closed for good. That evening Batz setup game systems to some of the TVs he brought and we feasted on Dominos, while I started to get the room straightened out.

MONDAY/FINAL THOUGHTS: Sean left early for an 11am flight and mine was at 2:00. It was nice getting home in a few hours but I'll probably drive back with Batz next time.

It was an awesome trip for sure. I enjoyed seeing my sisters current place which is a lot bigger than where she & Aaron were living in 2014. Going to Santa Monica for the first time was pretty cool too. One nice addition to the trip was having a portable phone charger, especially as I'm pretty much on my phone more and more with every vacation (and sometimes it's just easier than bothering with my ten year old camera). Another difference was there were less people than years past, as most of Mutant Chat has moved on to Lexcon, plus Ryland & Evan ended up not making it out.

Registration felt like it went better this year and I enjoyed getting all the stuff gold membership attendees got. One thing I tookaway from the weekend was I was definitely slower than usual with getting autographs/pictures, party due to going to Lexcon again in 2017 and holding out that I'll do more there than I did when I went this year (especially if the amount of Power Rangers alumni grows). I also plan on going to Emerald City Comic-Con next year for only the second time. So the break between trips to Pasadena is sure to be busy, at least next spring.

PMC '16 basically started what I'd call a four-year cycle of meeting a cast four years after their reveal at the convention. Take Megaforce, an unexpected surprise in 2012, who then had a limited autograph signing courtesy of Saban Brands in 2014 (while Super Megaforce was airing) and now in 2016 I talked to them all. I expect the same will happen with Dino Charge I'll hopefully get to see in two years. And as each PMC goes on, I think more and more about who I've met before that I ought to get an autograph/picture from again in addition to who I've missed out on previously and who's making their PMC debut. Besides the Megaforce cast, I mainly went for first-timers, but there were a few I hadn't quite planned on skipping. I'll definitely have a bucket list of names ready at the next PMC.

My Photo Gallery

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Supercharged for New PR

Dino Super Charge started out pretty excellent. Heckyl/Snide's debut was good, and I enjoyed getting more backstory plus another plot involving Iceage. The team not bothering to check the ship wreckage is still ridiculous (Everyones fine expect for MIA Sledge), but the episode was strong enough I could get past it.

Shelby had one of the best episodes with James Gaylyn as her dad in what was one of the funniest moments ever on PR. I was surprised Heckyl got outed to the Rangers so soon. Chase had a good episode as well in another genuinely funny episode, that also sorta made up for no Yellow Ranger.

I liked how Tyler's Energem got infected causing him to act like a t-rex and forcing his dad to finally appear as Aqua Ranger, but Tyler was a little too excited to have him back after he had been in hiding for so long. Leaving to go look for the Silver Energem was a decent way to write James off (since he's not main cast like Phillip anyway) and I'm glad Tyler was not OK with him going. I just hope when the Silver Ranger storyline picks up soon there's some payoff and it doesn't leave James as a jerk for not really even doing anything.

We then got what I thought was the worst non-clip show episode of Dino Charge. The baseball plot just didn't work for me and Riley's attitude was bad. The timeline of the games was terrible. I'd like to think the Amber Beach Earthquakes are a minor league team but it felt like it was supposed to be the major leagues.

And the first half wrapped up with a fun Ivan episode. Also, I thought the new opening feels like something from the Disney era and isn't as creatively edited as last years. I do like the font change after nearly the same for five years but I wish they had kept the cast looking at the camera in their credits. I'd have to say Megaforce even had a better stylized opening. Now there's a lot to look forward to coming up between the Silver and Talon Rangers, the new General, Sledge's return and how Heckyl's double personality is resolved, all capped off with a BIG finale apparently.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lexcon 2016: Subtle, But There

There was a lot of hype going into the trip to Lexington, KY, as it'd be the first time I'd be flying alone, the longest flight ever at around 5.5 hours (between two legs), and besides Power Morphicon, the only major out of state convention I will have been to since ACEN 2008. This is now the big annual meeting place for Mutant Chat and some folks I'd be seeing for the first time, while others I hadn't seen since 2012.

After my connecting flight in Atlanta, I got to Lexington around 10:30 PM but then had to figure out how to get the shuttle to the hotel. Once I arrived, I quickly checked in, washed up, and joined the group in the lobby. My roomies Levi and Escobar got settled in my room, while I joined a few others in going to one of the bars in the hotel, and pretty much watched a few games of pool until it was time to call it a night.

The guys woke up early so I ended up getting up about 8:00. We checked out a store that had a ton of Power Rangers stuff,  other superheros and vintage comics. Gradually, others joined us and we hungout in the food court awhile. Later, I joined a group of others while Lisa tested mic equipment on six people to prep for an interview with the Power Rangers Time Force cast. Though I didn't participate it was cool seeing some behind the scenes. Off and on throughout the weekend we'd be in the lobby and sometimes cast members with friends or a handler would walk by. I saw Time Force quite a bit who had a big reunion panel on Saturday, The Comic-Con got underway at 4:00 and most of the group who had VIP Friday access made their way over, including Levi and Escobar who had weekend only like me, but borrowed VIP passes to get in. I just killed time around the lobby, food court, and went back to my room awhile, wondering if I should've gotten VIP. Finally, the group met in the lobby as the convention winded down for the day by 10:00. We headed out trying to figure out where to get dinner, a difficult task between a lot of places closed for the night and our large group of 16. After going back to the hotel lobby bar, we eventually feasted on pizza from Goodfellas (after midnight at that point). Afterwards, we hungout in Tanya's room awhile, who, ever the sweetheart, had brought a ton of treats, snacks and water for us all.

Levi and Escobar were up early again but I was having none of it and stayed in bed until 10:15. After a shower, it was con time at last. As I passed through the food court into the convention center one thing was clear -- It was gonna be CROWDED, as I slowly navigated over to the row of Time Force cast and a couple other past Rangers. The nearby entry way became a decent place to chill I discovered. Around 1:15 we all met up to go get carnival food near the St. Patricks Day festivities going on a few blocks away. Heading back to the con, some of us stopped in a fancy chocolates shop that was nearby the one with all the Power Rangers and superheros. We went up to the upper part of the convention and I ditched the group to continue doing my own thing back down on the main lower-level. I hadn't planned on meeting many actors here, but I did meet Ciara Hanna (Gia, Megaforce Yellow Ranger) and I'll probably say hi to her again at Power Morphicon, with hopefully the rest of her cast. After 7:00 when the convention floor closed for the day, we all met in the lobby and once again tried to figure out dinner. An hour went by and it was decided every man for themselves. A few of us walked several blocks over to a McDonalds and Chipolte, then took an Uber back to be on the safe side. It was a pretty chill night after of just hanging out and TV.

I was up a bit earlier and soon hit the con floor on a mission to figure out what to get Batz and "Kabuki Kelsey," as I started basically lapping the main lower-level floor. At noon I saw a Power Rangers panel with some of the old school cast, followed by Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy's "1000 Ways to Die" with audience participation. The "Bulk and Skull" duo always put on a show and I made sure to go over to their booth later on, run by Mutant Chat's Jason and Alison. And I couldn't have picked a better time as I sat on their couch waiting for them to pose with me for a pic, just as Karan Ashley (Aisha, Mighty Morphin) nearly ran into it horsing around on a cart with a group of Rangers. Steve Cardenas (Rocky, Mighty Morphin-Zeo) then jumped in the photo with us. Finally, the convention wrapped at 4:00. With everyone on their own for dinner, I decided to check out room service and got a delicious hamburger and fries -- like going to a real restaurant. The hotel service overall was good. You could choose from an entire list of amenities to borrow or keep and I stocked up on small shampoos and body wash. Before heading to Nick/Tom/Shamus' room for activities night I made sure to drop in Tanya's room to raid the snacks and to try to actually spend some time there before it was too late. We then watched (and some ripped on) The Power Rangers Turbo movie, a weird anime film and we all played Cards Against Humanity.

I was up by about 8:30 after Levi and Escobar were underway getting ready to leave. Gradually everyone filtered down to the lobby and selfies, hugs and goodbyes all took place in what I'd say became the greatest moment since Power Rangers discussion chatrooms began in 2003 (what would become Mutant Chat). My flight out wasn't until 3:30 so I wasn't going anywhere for now, and soon a handle of us flying to different parts of the world decided to head over to West Coast Pizza. I then hopped on a shuttle with Nick. Shamus and Vera to the airport. It turned out Vera was also taking the short flight I was on to Detroit and would be flying to Pittsburgh as I'd be going back to Seattle, It was nice having company as we hungout in Detroit's airport for an hour an a half (until she had to head to her own terminal). Plus I gotta say Detroit has the best SkyBridge I've ever seen. I got back to town, and jumped back 3 hours, about 10:30 PT.

I wasn't expecting the trip would have such a lasting impact. A few people who I've seen at the Morphicons I'd say I'm better friends with now and some I really got to know for the first time after talking online the past several years. There are still those I could've been friendlier with, something to work on in the future. And after a slow Friday, skipping VIP worked fine since I don't care about Lexcon swag nearly as much as Morphicons and I still had plenty of time for convention stuff on the weekend. It may cost an arm and a leg, but I can't imagine not doing this every year now. Gallery

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dino Charge first-half wrap-up

The season continued on with more straight up good episodes... Nothing too spectacular but much better than anything from the past couple years. Ivan becoming Gold Ranger was solid (along with the buildup to it and flashbacks), and putting together his own Knights of Amber Beach for a minute was funny. I liked the classic style plot of Bones "removing" courage in the form of backbones.

Chase had another decent focus episode and Prince Phillip had a fun episode becoming Graphite Ranger. The Rangers trip to New Zealand was alright. I liked Albert's episode and how they showcased the Purple Energem but then got kinda bored with the Dr. Runga plot.

Really enjoyed Heckyl's debut, especially as it would serve as sort of a setup for him to break free and takeover for Sledge (who I have to assume will return seeking revenge either before Dino Super Charge ends or in a teamup with Ninja Steel). Lastly, it was great to have an actual mid-season finale again. Kendall finally earning Purple, the zord fight and girls teaming up were done well. I loved how Tyler said the catch phrase as he was about to take the plunge off the ship. But the pacing got kinda out of hand and I thought they could've done some thing differently, like having a longer fight on the ship, or if Tyler had deliberately destroyed the console to send the ship to Earth to wipe out the prisoners. I also didn't really care for Get-bot as an easy plot device to get the Red Energem under the console, or how we probably won't ever see Kendall making sure no monsters survived.

Grades: "WHEN LOGIC FAILS/"THE ROYAL RANGERS" 4/5, "BREAK OUT" 5/5,  "KNIGHT AFTER KNIGHTS" through "WORLD FAMOUS! (In New Zealand" 4/5, "DEEP DOWN UNDER" 3/5, "WISHING FOR A HERO" 5/5 and "ONE LAST ENERGEM" 4/5. And for more, check out