‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ Review

xxx_return_of_xander_cage_ver14

Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: F. Scott Frazier

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Al Sapienza, Toni Colette and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: Xander Cage if left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

After sitting out the sequel of xXx, Vin Diesel returns to the series he helped create with the appropriately titled Return of Xander Cage. It also has Diesel’s fingerprints all over it, as it now involves Xander Cage having to work with a group of people like him to bring down a dangerous weapon and people that cause mayhem on Earth. Sound familiar? That’s not necessarily a bash at the film, but knowing that you’ll see some of the comparison. Also, if you’re looking forward to a smart action film, no, just no. This, like the other xXx films are dumb fun action films that is filled with cheesy and ridiculous moments.

After a crashed satellite seemingly kills Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is alive and well, and decides to bring him in after she finds out that the satellite was brought down by a device called Pandora’s Box. Cage then finds out that Pandora’s Box is being held by a mysterious figure named Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his own dangerous group – Serena (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa) and Hawk (Michael Bisping). Cage knowing that they can’t stop him the “traditional” way gets his own team in sniper Adee Wolff (Ruby Rose), stunt man Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann) and “fun guy” Nicks (Kris Wu) to bring them down.

mv5bmje1mjmzmdu0nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtuzndk0mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr0017741000_al_

While there are some descent actions scenes, thanks to the always reliable Donnie Yen, the film fails to make us really connect any sort of connection to the characters. While most of the names may be familiar to some all of them have mostly one quality that you can remember. Although, all of them are better characters than Diesel’s Xander Cage. Xander still feels like he’s stuck in the first film, and comes off just a bit smug and thinks he’s better than anyone else. We probably shouldn’t suspect different, but you would think that he would change a bit since then. Also, if you looking for an elaborate reason to why he’s still alive, won’t happen.

The film of course tries to add the big extreme scene like the avalanche scene from the first film. Here the film has the heavily promoted riding on the ocean scene that has a more ridiculous scene that if you roll your eyes or laugh, it will be okay. That being said, the film is cheesy and fun in a good way. While it feels like Diesel, who is a producer on the film, is trying to recreate the Fast & Furious formula, it could help if fans go out to see it.

mv5bmjm0otk2mja4mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzuzndk0mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr0014991000_al_

All in all, xXx: Return of Xander Cage does have some problems with its tone, and while the cast works together nicely, a majority of them are not developed enough. Is the film fun and enjoyable? Yes, for the most part it is. But Return of Xander Cage hits the mark for enjoyable dumb fun action films, but misses when it comes to almost everything else.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

3.5 out of 5

578fd53e28c5c-image

Advertisements

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

furious_seven

Dir: James Wan

Writer(s): Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Jordana Brewster, and Kurt Russell

Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It’s hard to believe that a series about street racers has become so beloved and able to change itself with every film that precedes it. It’s gone from the streets of L.A to Miami, to Tokyo, back to L.A to Rio de Janeiro, then to London and Spain, and all the way back to L.A. Needless to say, the series has gone all over the globe and has connected to fans in such a way that the filmmakers want to keep upping the ante. Furious 7 continues the tradition, but at the end of the day, this installment serves as a fitting goodbye to not only a favorite and original character, but one their actors.

 

Furious 7 starts rather unusually for a Fast & Furious movie. They usually start with the main characters and a possibly car race/chase. However, Furious 7 beings by showing us Deckard Shaw (Statham) finding out about his brothers and showing just how dangerous he is, it’s a rather great opening too. Deckard then ends up in a DSS building with Hobbs to get information on the group that took out his brother Owen in Furious 6. The two get into a major brawl, which ends up with Hobbs (Dwayne) getting seriously hurt and Deckard getting away with the information he needs.

 

2431_D038_00307R_CROP

 

We switch over to see Brian (Walker) and how he is adjusting –somewhat– to domestic life like: living in a house, taking his son Jake to school, and not dodging bullets, which he misses according to Mia (Brewster). Dom (Diesel) visits Brian and Mia, when Dom gets a phone call from Tokyo from Deckard Shaw saying he’s going to get to know him, and sets off an explosion in the Toretto home. No one gets killed, but this leads Dom to go into revenge mode and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

 

All of this leads into Hobbs telling Dom who is responsible and Dom ends up working in a government official named Mr. Nobody (Russell) promising him he can get him Deckard, only if he can get him something the government wants. Mr. Nobody puts Dom and his crew of Brian, Letty (Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris), and Roman (Gibson) to rescue Ramsay (Emmanuel) in a great mountain side sequence (which is heavily promoted in the ads). Ramsay created something called the “God’s Eye” I won’t get too into the details behind “God’s Eye” but let’s just say it’s the NSA’s wet dream.

 

maxresdefault

 

Everyone knows that the Fast & Furious films are known for their crazy car scenes, and like I wrote earlier, Furious 7 has a good chuck of them. Obviously the cars dropping from a plane which leads to a great mountain side road sequence, you also have the car jumping from The Sky Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the great final sequence that is a bit tone down from the past final sequence like the bank vault in Fast Five and the tarmac sequence in Furious Six, but is still great to enjoy as it rolls on. There are also some pretty descent fight scenes, including one with Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey’s body guard character.

 

New director to the series, James Wan, fit perfectly into an already established franchise taking over for Justin Lin, who directed the series since Tokyo Drift. Wan does some great stuff with the camera and certain angles that are pretty unique to the series and fit right in. Wan definitely had a hard job taking over the reins from Lin, but he holds his own with the ensemble cast.

 

furious-7-paul-walker-2-600x246

 

The cast itself is as great as always. One of the themes in the series is Family, and that is nothing but at the forefront here. Not only as the characters, but of course, saying goodbye to Paul Walker (I’ll get to that in a bit). Walker and Vin Diesel do their usual thing, while Ludacris and Tyrese continue to play off each other very well with their comedy chops. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty keeps going with her arc from the previous film, although here it has more of a payoff than it did in the last film. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is great as always with his one-liners and overall manliness.

 

The new cast members also hold their own against the original cast. Jason Statham is a worthy villain to the team as a whole and is deadly in every way possible. Djimon Hounsou, who is left out of the promotional material for some reason, plays Jakande, a mercenary who has Ramsay hostage, and while it is nice to see Hounsou among the cast the character doesn’t really do much and they could have gotten anyone else. There is also Tony Jaa’s Kiet who gets into some fights with Brian – which being nitpicky for a second, I had to really suspend disbelief that Walker, and obviously no disrespect to him, could go toe-to-toe with Jaa in a fight. Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsay fits right into the cast and even has a scene essentially telling us who the members of the group are, ie: Roman being the “Joker” of the group.

 

MV5BMjI1NzkxMDg5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIyNjcxMzE@._V1__SX1218_SY577_

 

Finally, Kurt Russell plays government agent simply known as Mr. Nobody. Russell is a great addition to the cast and seems to be enjoying himself very well. He also has a descent amount of screen time which kind of surprised me to be honest, but it was welcomed. Also, early reports suggested that Russell’s role could lead to a bigger role in the sequel, which I can totally see.

 

There are some great surprises in the film and some revelations that really add more depth to the series and film itself. With all those revelations, Furious 7 feels like at times it is a close to the series and also open ended for another sequel (which they already sort of announced, but not really confirmed). However, Furious 7 is also a tribute and dedicated to the late Paul Walker.

 

There is a very bittersweet tribute to Walker and his character Brian at the end of the film. I won’t go into detail about it, but like I wrote, it is very bittersweet. It’s a touching and tear-jerking tribute that I’ll admit, I started to tear up watching it. Walker had completed most of the role, and going back to the family theme, Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb came in to help out, by acting as body doubles. The crew also had help with the use of CGI, which was more obvious at the end and using used footage from earlier films. It’s really hard to tell, again until the end, where they used it, so you won’t really be distracted trying to figure out if where they used it.

 

All in all, Furious 7 brings us back to the characters and world that we have fell in love with. The action is still over-the-top at times and the cast is as great as always. While the film isn’t perfect, it feels long even though it’s literally a few minutes longer than the last film. However, at the end of the day Furious 7 is a great ride to behold and the tribute to Paul Walker at the end is beautiful.

 

furious-7-featurette-paul-walker-128570

R.I.P Paul Walker

 

Furious 7

4.5 out of 5