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Prodigal Nerd – How I Rate Movies, and a Review of Power Rangers

As a nerd (albeit a prodigal, opportunistic one at this juncture in my life), one of the great joys I experience is watching movies and TV shows, reading books, etc., and then discussing them with fellow nerds. I think that’s a pretty universal experience, too. Whether it results in a huge mutual nerd-out, or a passionate and sometimes heated debate, it’s the community and conversation that matter just as much as the movie/TV show/book/etc itself.

The only real problem lies in how we talk about these things. There are oceans of ink (metaphorically) written about how to watch, appreciate, evaluate, and judge various types of media. Around Hollywood awards season you can find article after article about what elements objectively make a movie or TV show excellent, ordinary, or awful.

But I think we all know the truth – it’s probably more than 90% subjective. There’s just no way to authoritatively look at a piece of art or media and say, “This is amazing,” or “This is terrible.” For everything you think is amazing, you can find a person or group of people who think it’s awful, and vice versa.

So years ago I adopted a way of rating things that embraces both the subjective nature and the communal conversation of it all – the Cannarf Rating System. As far as I can tell, it was invented by a guy named Bryan Allain, and I think it’s beautiful. Let me tell you about it.

The Cannarf Scale is not an absolute measure of how good or bad you think something is. It’s a subjective measurement from, -10 to +10, of how good or bad it is relative to your expectations of it. So, for instance, you might see the greatest movie you’ve ever seen, and then give it 0 Cannarfs because it was exactly as good as you expected it to be. Also for instance, you might see a bad movie and give it +3 Cannarfs because you expected it to be worse.

That’s the benefit of the Cannarf Rating System – when you’re talking Cannarfs with a fellow nerd, you have to be able to talk about your expectations going in as well as what you actually thought of the movie, show, book, or whatever (I once gave a Cannarf rating to a wedding I attended…), relative to your expectations going in.

Plus, I think that Cannarf is objectively a funny word…

Here’s a brief example of a Cannarf review of a movie I watched this past weekend, 2017’s Power Rangers.

Power Rangers: +4 Cannarfs

If you’re like me, and of a certain age, then you probably spent a good deal of time in your elementary and middle school years watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the afternoons. If you were a lot more into it than I was, then you were probably really excited when you started seeing teasers and previews for this movie.

I was initially skeptical, but I’ll watch just about anything with Bryan Cranston and/or Elizabeth Banks in it. I definitely did not think, however, that it would be a movie that I would pay full price to see in theaters. I was mildly interested in a big-budget Power Rangers movie, but knew from the start that it would be firmly in Redbox territory for me. When it arrived in theaters, and then left theaters pretty quickly, it just cemented for me that if I ever took the time to watch it, it would be in some very inexpensive format. I was so uncaring about it that when I discovered that it was available on Hulu, I started watching it on my phone while I played baseball on my XBox.

It wasn’t long, however, before I found myself pausing the game in order to pay attention to the movie. I don’t know that I could pin my interest on one thing, but it might have been the nagging question of who voiced Alpha 5. It really sounded like Patton Oswalt at times, but at other moments I wasn’t sure. It turns out it was Bill Hader…

Regardless, it certainly wasn’t the teenage leads. I thought they were solid enough, especially with what they were given by way of a script (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie – the script isn’t great). No one really jumped out at me in a good way or a bad way. Except for Elizabeth Banks as Rita… She seemed to be the only actor/character who was as fully over-the-top in this movie as the character in the original TV show. Especially in her early scenes, it’s like the cartoonish Rita from the original series combined with a modern horror movie about witches.

Top to bottom, my overall impression is that they were really shooting for a DC Universe-style movie – tethered to the original material, but with heaps of grit and dirt and angst and “realism” piled on. That didn’t surprise me, though.

What surprised me was that I liked it. Like, I like it enough that I’m planning to find time to watch it again, this time on my TV instead of my phone.

Again, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what really won me over. I suspect it was when Bryan Cranston’s Zordon gave up the opportunity to cross back through the morphin grid (remember how I said the script was less than good…?) and return to life in order to continue the fight against Rita. Cranston is amazing, and somehow managed to portray (with just his digitized face!) the grief that he felt over losing his own Rangers, the uncertainty he felt over turning things over to these teenagers, and the certainty he felt that Jason could lead the team with the proper encouragement and support.

So, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure it’s not a very good movie, I give Power Rangers +4 Cannarfs because it was a good deal better than I expected it to be.

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