Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Batman Returns (1992) by DB Movies Blog

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Next up is DB from DB Movies Blog with a sequel of the 1989 Batman by Tim Burton, Batman Returns! One of my personal faves because it has the fantastic Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. DB Movies Blog has a range of film-related posts from reviews to trailer to lists and awards recap, etc. Lots of great material to check out! Without further ado, let’s pass it over to her to talk about her choice!

batman returns

Batman Returns (1992)

Three years after directing “Batman” (1989), Tim Burton came up with yet another Batman film “Batman Returns”. Visually stunning and well thought-out, the film is about the rise to power of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito), who has been hidden away and shunned by society for 33 years in the city of Gotham. In his quest to become the mayor of Gotham, Penguin is unwillingly helped by a dishonest businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) as the Penguin’s freaky followers intermittently wreck havoc on Gotham to discredit the present mayor and eventually make it look like the Penguin is fighting crime. Meanwhile, Shreck’s shy secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), finds out too much about Shreck’s illegal activities, causing Shreck to try to get rid of her, and the result of his efforts is Selina’s transformation into a Catwoman. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) is also not indifferent to the crimes orchestrated by the Penguin and is determined to stop the Penguin and his gang while having a love-hate relationship with Selina/Catwoman.

From the very first scenes of the film, we are intrigued. We are confronted with a Dracula-inspired-setting and gothic surroundings as we see a couple who gives birth to a deformed baby, and then some time later, on a cold Christmas night, rushes across a Gotham park to throw their newborn baby into a river crossing the park. The eerie wintry landscape and the menacing soundtrack by Danny Elfman complete this picture as we then see a crib of a baby-monster floating down the sewer of the city.

Prior to “Batman Returns”, Burton also directed “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), already establishing himself as the director for shooting the themes of supernatural, odd, unknown and dark. In that vein, Burton makes “Batman Returns” his very own. With Burton’s flair for presenting a Gothic fantasy, “Batman Returns”’s cinematography is moody and grim, now reminding of “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) or “Sweeney Todd” (2007), but with a comical twist, a freaks-show setting and more stand-alone odd characters. Burton transforms the city of Gotham into a lavish wintry high-buildings landscape populated by mysterious pale-faced personalities, odd freaks and brave anti-heroes. In his prior and forthcoming work, Burton relied heavily on the old German expressionist cinematography and “Batman Returns” is no exception. From the very first scenes, the film is all about sharp dark edges, futurism, and the macabre, similar to “The Cabinet of DrCaligari” (1920). We also see the skyline of the Gotham City, and the tall buildings, grim atmosphere and fog reminds of “Metropolis” (1927). The elaborate sculpture work of the Gotham Zoo and the camerawork are also similar to the camerawork and the town scale model found in Burton’s “Beetlejuice”.

Action-wise, “Batman Returns” is also great. From the firebombing of Shreck’s department store to a faulty Batman car racing, the action is fast-paced with great visual effects. Add to this a rich animal symbolism, distinctively-gloomy, but deliciously macabre cinematography and a thought-provoking ending and it is safe to say that Burton has probably crafted the best Batman movie ever.

Having said that, “Batman Returns” is, primarily, a character-driven film. Michael Keaton reprises his role of the Batman, but the spotlight is not on him and he has to give way to “more interesting” and “crazier” characters. Keaton’s performance is unimaginative and unenthusiastic, though he is a very dignified and “intellectual” Batman; that kind of a Batman who will snug in on a weekend in front of a fireplace with a book rather than practise his combat moves in front of a mirror.

Every imaginable Hollywood actress was considered for the role of the Catwoman: from Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster to Cher and Meryl Streep. In the end, Annette Bening was cast, but was replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer is perfectly cast and gives a very convincing, almost iconic performance. She is good as a sexually-frustrated shy secretary Selina and as a confident and blood-thirsty Catwoman. Selina’s duality and her transformation into a Catwoman are particularly well-presented. We see something close to the nowadays “Black Swan” transformation, because Selina is first surrounded by her pink soft toys and immaculate kitchen and then goes berserk and lusts for a dark and mysterious side of life. Her chemistry with Bruce Wayne is also very good, and it is interesting to watch how the pair is mentally trying to figure out each other’s true identities and thoughts.

The real revelations in the film are Danny DeVito in the role of the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot and Christopher Walken in the role of Max Shreck. DeVito’s Penguin is very memorable: he is hideous, totally demented and power-hungry. Walken’s Shreck is also a show-stealer. Cool, strange and menacing, Walken as Max Shreck makes the atmosphere very uncomfortable, and it is a pity that the Shreck’s energy aspirations idea is left underdeveloped in the film.

It is true, however, that “Batman Returns” is not a perfect movie. We hardly get to know anything about the title character and his personal development (a hero’s journey) is questionable. The reason why Batman as a character is so neglected in this film is maybe because Burton/Waters/Strick is not really interested in him. In fact, Burton agreed to do “Batman Returns” only on condition that the studio gives him more creative control over the material and that Daniel Waters, a screenwriter known for his black-comedy “Heathers” (1988), comes on board. The influence of both is evident in the final product.

Another weakness of the film is that it has too many villains which form surprising partnerships, but the biggest criticism at the time of its release was that Burton’s version of a Batman movie was too gloomy and grotesque, sexually too suggestive (e.g. the Catwoman finds herself often on top of the Batman) and violent (e.g. child-kidnapping takes place on a regular basis). There are valid points, but should be seen in a perspective. Unlike the Superman and even the Spiderman series, the Batman series is all about the dark nature of humanity, mysterious personal duality, masks and camouflage, the colour black, unclear freaky characters’ origins, underlying childhood trauma and gloomy settings. Taking this into account, Burton’s gothic, macabre and dark take fits the Batman adaptation perfectly.

Batman Returns” may not be the film to immediately spring to mind when you think “the films of 1990s”, but its unusually presented-superhero theme, advanced computer-generated special effects and the director’s distinctive influence on the style and plot of the film are the features which later came to define films shot in 1990s (wasn’t it the decade of the rise of independent cinema after all?). “Batman Returns” is a Tim Burton film through-and-through. Rich in visuals, it is grim, dark, fantastical and strangely enticing. It also a film which is very entertaining: it has an interesting plot, perfect casting, great soundtrack and a very memorable presentation of such oddball characters as the Penguin and Catwoman.

8/10

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gotham

Thanks to DB for a fantastic review of Batman Returns. Definitely a great title (with its flaws) from the 90s!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday for the next entry!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Goodfellas (1990) by MovieRob

Ultimate 90's blogathon

Next up is MovieRob. MovieRob is the blogosphere’s movie watching beast! If you head over to his blog, you’ll see so many reviews already done.  He runs a monthly segment called Genre Grandeur and on this milestones, he’ll do various franchises or invite fellow bloggers to join in on a Movies From the Hat segment. If you haven’t followed him, you should to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun! He’s giving us a look at a 90’s favorite, Goodfellas.

Its all yours, Rob!

Huge thanks to Kim and Drew for hosting this awesome blogathon.

Here’s my review of Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas“For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States. To be a gangster was to own the world. ” – Henry Hill

Number of Times Seen – At least 5 times (Theater in ’90. cable, video, 8 May 2008 and 2 Feb 2017)

Brief Synopsis – Biopic of a New York gangster during the 60’s and 70’s.

My Take on it – This is one of the best films of the 90’s and it gives us an excellent look at how the life of New York mobsters were run in the 60’s and 70’s

The cast is superb and a little known Ray Liotta plays the lead role so well.  He is joined by excellent performances by Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.

This is Director Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece IMHO mainly because he is able to manipulate the audience into caring and in some cases even loving these characters no matter how terrible the things they do are.

In some ways, it is quite easy to see this as a continuation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather series and it’s somewhat ironic that the final chapter of that series and this film both vied for Best Picture in 1990.

Love how this film tries to show us the ‘modern effects’ of the mob on society.

This allows us to feel the realism of the story.

This film is classified as a biopic despite the fact that we will never truly know how much is fact and how much is fiction.

This is one of Scorsese’s best film mainly because of the fact that it feels so realistic and that the characters are so strongly created and likeable to us.

Bottom Line – Excellent look at the life of mobsters in New York in the 70’s. Scorsese does an amazing job getting us to love these characters despite everything they do. In some ways, its easy to see that this is a continuation of Coppola’s Godfather series to show the ‘modern’ effects of the mob on society. Works really well as a biopic despite the fact that we’ll never really know how much is true. Amazing cast led by little known Liotta.  One of Scorsese’s best films to date because of the realism and strong characters. Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The now-legendary Steadicam trip through the nightclub kitchen was a happy accident. Scorsese had been denied permission to go through the front, and had to improvise an alternative. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy (10/10)

Thanks to MovieRob for a great review! 🙂
Tomorrow’s entry will be over at Drew’s Movie Reviews, remember to head over there to check it out!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Pump Up The Volume (1990) by OC Movie Reviews

Ultimate 90's blogathon

Our first participant of Ultimate 90’s Blogathon is Mark over at OC Movie Reviews. If you don’t know him, OC stands for Operation Condor and over on his site, you can find tons of fantastic movie reviews. He starts us with a movie that just steps in the very beginning of the decade, Pump Up The Volume! If you don’t follow OC Movie Reviews, you should head over there and give him a follow.

Let’s hand it over to Mark!

pump up the volume

Pump Up The Volume Review – Talk Hard. So Be It.

“Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely f*cked up? You know that feeling? The whole country is like one inch away from saying ‘that’s it, forget it!’. Think about it, everything’s polluted: the environment, the government, the schools – you name it.”

That is Happy Harry Hard-On’s opening line from the 1990 sleeper hit Pump Up The Volume. As opening lines go it’s pretty cool, it’s also quite apt for now or pretty much any decade you choose. You could even change America for your own country.

Hard Harry is played by Christian Slater, who had already enjoyed some success with Heathers in 1988 and would go on to star in Young Guns II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, True Romance a host of other film and TV series and most recently Mr. Robot.

Slater plays Mark Hunter, a new student at Hubert H. Humphrey High School – hence the name of his alter-ego – in Phoenix, Arizona. Having moved with his parents from ‘out-East’ he is now a loner, struggling to make friends. His parents buy him a short-wave radio to talk to his friends back home (before the days of the internet) but he can’t reach them and so, instead, he begins broadcasting his teenage angst on the pirate airways.

What he doesn’t realise at first, is just how many people this angst is resonating with and more and more teens begin tuning in and hanging off his every word. He almost brings things to a halt when one student kills himself after speaking with Hard Harry on-air. Instead, he tells his listeners that suicide is not the answer and to rebel instead. Rebel they do, spraying graffiti over the school, microwaving possessions and more.

As the trouble reaches a crescendo the FCC are brought in to pin-point the radio broadcast and put an end to it. At the same time, it’s revealed that the school’s principal, played by Annie Ross (Superman III, Throw Momma From The Train) has been expelling problem kids but keeping their names on the books to get money from the government and make the school look better.

Despite not doing that well at the box office in the US, it has gone on to be a cult classic. Perhaps because its message that, if things aren’t ok, change them, speaks to people young and old. It’s also a message that doesn’t age, unlike some of the outfits and hairstyles in the movie!

Slater is brilliant in the DJ chair. He seems genuinely excited to be talking to whoever is listening and makes you believe in what he’s saying. The juxtaposition between that and this nerdy, awkward teenager in school, is a wonderful transformation (although physically it’s a bit Superman – just wear glasses) and another reason why it resonates so well; a lot of us can related to being different people at different times, whether that’s home and work or home and school.

Being a pirate DJ you’d expect the music of the film to be good. As an opening song, Hard Harry uses Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen but other than it’s more talking than music. Having said that we do get glimpses of cassettes (remember them?) of: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Soundgarden and many more.

Although supposed to be teenagers Slater was actually 21 when he filmed the movie whilst his female accomplice who discovers his true identity was actress Samantha Mathis (Buried, Broken Arrow, The Strain, Under The Dome) and she was 20.

Quite a few people in the film went on to have careers within the Hollywood machine. The guidance councillor who takes quite a bit of stick from Hard Harry is played Robert Schenkkan, you’ll probably know him as the writer of Hacksaw Ridge and The Quiet American. Ellen Greene plays English teacher Jan Emerson. Green is probably best known for her role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and was also in Naked Gun 33 1/3, Leon, The Cooler, Pushing Daisies, Heroes and many more.

A ‘blink and you’ll miss her’ role is also had for Holly Sampson who, well, she, erm, that is, well she went into the adult entertainment industry, where she has certainly been busy, according to IMDB. Star Trek fans can catch sight of Alexander Enberg, best known for Ensign Vorik in Voyager, Gregg Daniel from True Blood and Nigel Gibbs whose been in everything from Breaking Bad, House, Veep, The Shield and practically any other cop-based TV show you can think of, also show up.

Perhaps the best ‘look who it is’ moment is saved for Seth Green. You’ll know Seth Green from his voice work these days on Family Guy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robot Chicken to name but three. Prior to this he did used to show his face and was in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Sh*gged me and Buffy The Vampire Slayer amongst others. In Pump Up The Volume he sports the most magnificent red haired mullet you will ever see, truly glorious!

Writer and director Allan Moyle went on to direct Empire Records and Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story. Perhaps all his angst was used up on Pump Up The Volume? Who knows.

Whilst Pump Up The Volume isn’t perfect, and is often overlooked in 90’s films, for me, and anyone I know who’s seen it, it remains a true great. Whilst the technology may have changed, the angst felt by those young and old hasn’t: we want to be heard, we want to talk hard. But if Pump Up The Volume remains a great film under the radar, so be it.

Thanks to Mark for putting together this fantastic review on Pump Up The Volume! 🙂
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow for the next Ultimate 90’s Blogathon review!

Valentine’s Marathon: Romeo & Juliet (2013)

Next up in the Valentine’s Marathon is a tale really as old as time and probably one of the first Shakespeare plays I had to read in school but super renowned and adapted a ton of times and that is Romeo & Juliet. This version is the 2013 one with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth.

Let’s check it out!

Romeo & Juliet (2013)

Romeo and Juliet 2013

Director: Carlo Carlei

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Ed Westwick, Christian Cooke

Romeo and Juliet secretly wed despite the sworn contempt their families hold for each other. It is not long, however, before a chain of fateful events changes the lives of both families forever.-IMDB

 Its always hard to review Romeo and Juliet adaptations. We all know how the story will go and the tragic fate of these lovers. It becomes even harder each time to feel moved by the characters and the story somehow because of that familiarity. I’m not sure if this is the most recent movie adaptation but I think so with these young stars playing the popular roles. In reality, it feels like quite the task and one that I’d eventually like to do to talk about the play and all adaptations (or as many as I have access to). Maybe I’ll give that a go one day. However, we’re here to look at this adaptation and to be fair, it was fine. There were some familiar faces, some good performances, the set was pretty decent and so were the costumes. I’m not a Shakespeare extreme connoisseur so I don’t know the play front and back. It been a long time since I’ve read it but from what I remember, its seems pretty close (if not the same) in dialogue.  However, something seems missing which I can’t quite pinpoint so maybe as I write this out, I’ll figure it out.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet are played respectively by Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld.  I haven’t seen a lot of Hailee Steinfeld but I have seen Douglas Booth in few of his previous roles, probably the one I remember most is LOL and Jupiter Ascending (review HERE). To step into Romeo and Juliet is a big task (like I mentioned before), there was to be passion and believability in their roles. Perhaps one of the things I didn’t quite feel was their connection. Sure, they were passionate in their lines and I could see it working but when they were together, something just didn’t click. Although, I feel that it progressed a little fast also. I get that its supposed to be a few days of events like most Romeo and Juliet movies are set in but it took two seconds to jump to seeing each other, dancing and then going to to the back and kissing. I never felt like other Romeo and Juliet movies progressed the love arc that fast for them and maybe its why those movies had a more impactful performance. Oh, and I actually did like Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I feel that she has potential to do more and that’s where I think I probably should check out The Edge of Seventeen from last year.

Romeo and Juliet 2013

Talking about the Montague boys now, we’ve already discussed Romeo as the lover boy but possibly a great bromance trio goes to these guys who felt naturally good together. Somehow they worked well in showing their different personalities of Mercutio, Romeo and Benvolio. It was easy to believe that they all held different views of the rivalry between the Montague and the Capulets but also that they each also had different values. Mercutio is played by Christian Cooke, who is a familiar face and I liked him in the role. However, I love Kodi Smit-McPhee ever since I saw him in Let Me In (review HERE). This guy has some really great acting chops. He did a great job at Benvolio even if it was just a supporting role.

Romeo and Juliet 2013

The Capulets are much more individual but also has a lot more screen time. We have Tybalt, played by Ed Westwick who is incredibly known to me as Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl and I loved his character there. Ed Westwick does have some good acting and in the right roles, he can do quite a bit. As Tybalt, he really just does the cocky guy with a ton of anger issues who has incredible hate for Montagues who can barely keep his actions in control. Plus, he does a whole lot of odd grunting angry voices and always has a grimace, which I get is in character but something about his character felt a little overacted perhaps. I can’t say that its his best performance in my book. The other part of the Capulets is Damien Lewis as Lord Capulet. I honestly haven’t had much contact with Damien Lewis but he seems like a really powerful actor because Lord Capulet’s role really carried especially when he was having the whole scene with Juliet and making his point clear of her marrying Count Paris. That was a fantastic scene.

Overall, Romeo and Juliet in this 2013 adaptation was okay. It probably won’t be memorable but its not horrible either. The pacing of the script could probably use some work to help make us care more about Romeo and Juliet especially when everyone already knows how this all works out and pretty much knows what to expect. There are some decent performances that I haven’t even mentioned other than Hailee Steinfeld, Damien Lewis and Kodi Smit-McPhee but also we have Paul Giamatti who plays as the Friar and as always, he does a nice job in the supporting role. Its hard to not compare Romeo and Juliet adaptations to each other especially since there’s already been so many but here’s my shot at it.

Have you seen this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? Which adaptation is your favorite?

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

Whether you are new here or not, I guess I’d like to make sure that before you start this review, you should know that the Resident Evil franchise (as low rated as it is) is one that holds a pretty special place in my heart. While I’m not a huge fan of the second movie in particular, I still think there’s a lot to like in all its cheesy dialogue and over the top action. Plus, Mila Jovovich has made an iconic badass lady with Alice.

Lets check it out!

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

resident evil: the final chapter

Director (and writer): Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Mila Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, Ever Anderson

Alice returns to where the nightmare began: The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. – IMDB

The Resident Evil franchise has gone a long way and has really shed its skin from the survival horror genre that the first movie was about when it was based on the video game with the same name. In many ways, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter being released almost at the same time as the Resident Evil 7: Biohazard game being released seems like a really good movie. Although drastically different in story, both of them somehow turn back a little as they head back into their roots. We’re not here to talk about video games so I’ll put Resident Evil 7: biohazard aside and talk about Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the sixth movie in the franchise and also the wrap-up. If you’ve been following these movies like I have, Resident Evil was a survival horror. It introduced the AI at The Hive and Raccoon City, showed us Alice and her super soldier ways and a bit of her back story, it showed the effects of the airborne virus that attacked The Hive and turned everyone and the immediate aftermath. The wasteland that we see is fantastic. That was the events of ten years ago, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter makes the effort to cover whats happened over the years as it starts. One of the good moves to not only remind the audience of whats happened for those who have visited this franchise before but also help generally understand the situation they are all in and where this story is going in this final instalment.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter doesn’t only go back to its roots as a survival horror. In fact, maybe some might argue that it still is very much about action. I do agree with that but the balance of building the atmosphere of the movie itself and pulling it back towards the story it started in the first movie gives it a good wrap-up. We end things where we begin and in memory of many things. Whether you will find the finale surprising (in some ways, like I did) or predictable, the trip there is a good one. Going back through the familiar tunnels (for old viewers) or the dark tunnels (for the new) create a feeling of dread and danger. The cast emits that feeling and we know that the control isn’t really in their field because we get both sides of the story as Alice and the team she meets who Claire (Ali Larter) is with. Her team is a strong one fortified mostly by their reinforced tower from the undead especially as the main villain of the story approaches, a somehow alive Dr. Isaacs who is the partial owner of Umbrella Corporation who is the person responsible for the world apocalypse, comes with hordes of undead and big guns and giant tanks to put an end to Alice’s rebellion.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Before we talk about our villain, lets get back to our group here that assists Alice. Claire is a familiar face and she stays equally as competent. Her group that she’s with is made up of a few key characters that make it out to infiltrate The Hive. Their actual leader, Doc (Eoin Macken), Razor (Fraser James), Christian (William Levy), and Abigail (Ruby Rose). Ruby Rose seems to be hitting a ton of films in the beginning wave of movies and I’m pretty happy to see that. I’ve expressed how much I like her in both TV Binge of Orange is the New Black and the more recent xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. She is very unique, appearance-wise and gives off a really cool vibe. I liked her character quite a bit. In fact this team altogether is very competent in combat and coordination. One of the best scenes have to go to their tower defense moment against Dr. Isaacs.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

 The villain in The Final Chapter is no doubt Dr. Isaacs. Overcome with greed and whatever big ideas we have as we learn more about what happened, he is a villain that we thought had died but has come back to haunt us. However, nothing surprises us anymore in Resident Evil, especially when we’ve gone through stories of clones before. Faced with a restraint on the actual end of the world to wipe out even if the remaining few survivors, Alice fights to stop Dr. Isaacs. He is a strong villain who has actual fight in him and also a very deadly goal. Aside from him, there is another familiar face in Wesker, his minion in some ways who we face only behind his commands to the Red Queen in defense of The Hive. Then of course, we have the Red Queen, who was a huge part to what made the first Resident Evil rather eerie. What makes The Hive dangerous is not only the return of Red Queen but also the memories of the dangers lurking as protective measures. The Hive is a villain by itself. Of course, those familiar with the franchise also know to expect outrageous monster and creatures formed from the undead and the heavy results of the transformed T-Virus, making them huge and strong.

Overall, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter delivers a decent movie. After so many parts before it, Resident Evil has dropped to something of a guilty pleasure. This final instalment aims to wrap it up. In many ways, it does a good job by giving it a little more plot, balancing it with a good amount of action and adrenaline rush and keeping Alice as bad-ass as she always is. The villains, whether The Hive, Red Queen or Dr. Isaacs is always a threat. And they even try to add in a little something more. For that, I think its a great effort that works. I expected a guilty pleasure fun time with lots of action and bad-ass Alice and I came out getting more than that, plus a sense of the franchise finally having some answers. For me, this worked and probably for those still into the Resident Evil franchise, it’ll work. Whether it’ll end here, who knows, maybe if this does well, we’ll get more. For now, I’m happy with where this one went and the whole journey of it. And if it is the last one, I’ll miss watching Mila Jovovich’s Alice.

Are you fan of the Resident Evil franchise? Have you seen Resident Evil: The Final Chapter?

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

If you have seen my Top 10 Anticipated Movies  of 2017 here, you will realize that I don’t have a lot of popular choices but at least the beginning of the year is mostly fun sequels. Does that mean they are bad? I actually embrace movies that are in the cheesy and so bad its awesome category, embrace fun and action filled movies and from what I remember of xXx. That is exactlt what I would expect from this third one especially since Vin Diesel reprises his role as Xander Cage and his on screen presence is just simply awesome. Full transparency, I have seen xXx two times. The review is HERE. However, I have not seen the sequel with Ice Cube. Whether you call it a reboot or a sequel, I’m just excited to see Vin Diesel jump back into this role. I’m going to lie if after fifteen years, Xander Cage can still be revived without any disappointments but with the cast they have, its hard to not be impressed and excited.

Let’s check it out!

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

xxx the return of xander cage

Director: DJ Caruso

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Samuel L Jackson

The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. – Rotten Tomatoes

For those who haven’t seen the first xXx, you honestly don’t really  need to know much about it. The Return of Xander Cage, other than Xander Cage and the one appearance of his fluffy coat that shows up and super little tidbits on Samuel L. Jackson recruiting another agent in a restaurant (when he recruited Xander Cage from a diner), there really isn’t much crossover. That in itself, is good. One thing to remember going into xXx is that you don’t go into this for a strong storyline. I will talk about the storyline and what criticisms a serious movie goer may have with it (because I am fully aware of its flaws). With all that said, I had a great time watching xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. As much as it sounds like this movie is right up my alley, I like xXx but I’m not a die hard fan. However, this one was fun and thrilling (and probably my fave of the franchise thus far). The stunts were great because Xander Cage is a daredevil who loves risky and daring stunts. It has an amazing cast which gave it so much personality and charm and of course, action. Not to mention, despite having an unpopular sequel without Vin Diesel but replaced by Ice Cube as Darius Stone, they never forget that he was also part of the franchise.

xXx The Return of Xander Cage

Right from the opening scenes, I already knew this is my sort of movie because its fun. The style of introducing its characters and fun facts was humorous to give us an idea who this person is and fills in on people who didn’t watch the two movie before that was over ten years ago. There was a lot of upbeat music that meshed with the scene especially giving it more reason when the dj of the group, Nicks (Kris Wu) joins in the xXx team. They also go through a lot of locations and its really beautiful. All this is aside from the fun dialogue we get which reflects who these characters are. Before we jump into the characters, I said I would talk about storyline and its flaws. Much like you could point out all the flaws in the last few Fast and Furious franchise, they probably also apply here. Be it a storyline that is pretty linear or plot twists that are rather predictable or even over the top things like submerging a motorcycle underwater and it still works after it resurfaces. The storyline is only a means of everything they can pull off, be it stunts or guns or encounters.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xXx characters aren’t exactly deep, but calling them shallow makes me feel kind of bad also. However, they aren’t meant to be wildly constructed, just like its storyline. It really isn’t the point. These are agents and it wasn’t meant to have unnecessary drama (which might be one of the criticisms I remember having for one of The Expendable films, maybe the second one). We know the basics of their competency and the witty, quirky or completely eccentric personalities. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is the man here who has a lot of personality and he has built a great team. Donnie Yen plays Xiang, who has a fantastic entrance showing off his great martial arts skills and what starts off as a rickety role turns out to be a really fun time as we learn more about who he is. Toni Collette pulls off a stern vibe in the high leader or government somebody perhaps. Her role is a little odd at times but it is to offset or at least is there for Xander to be recruited and challenge the authority. Xander Cage’s team is the more highlighted factor here and aside from him and Donnie Yen, breathe an incredible amount of life, character and charm.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

Ruby Rose plays Adele Wolff, a sharp shooter who has masters her sniper skills with a lot of calm and fun attitude. Nina Dobrev plays Becky, the tech support and pretty much the brains of the operations who is scared of pretty much everything outside and she has a massive fan girl moments with Xander that is hilarious and says really awkward and random things. Its also nice to see that there’s more to her career than The Vampire Diaries (especially because I do like TVD). We’ve already talked about the casual fun-time Nicks who is the showstopper or perhaps the person who causes the distraction but he is well-matched with Tennyson, played by Rory McCann, who is a stunt driver always looking for his next crash. They make a hilarious duo. On the other hand, Xiang’s team consists of some competent players as well although they don’t get as much of attention. The pretty lady with lots of combat skills is Serena, played by Deepika Padukone. Along with her and Xiang are Talon, played by Tony Jaa, an odd character that does weird things to say the least (which I like his fighting skills but not so much the character or maybe the limited acting) and Hawk, played by Michael Bisping, who I assumed was some sort of MMA/UFC fighter in real life and turns out he is (because I don’t follow these things so I had to look it up). The deal with having lots of characters in not a long runtime is that not everyone gets the screen time they need but it also gives the audience a good idea, if there was a sequel who might be the returning team.

Overall, you don’t go to xXx for an award-winning life-changing movie experience, you go into this movie to just have fun and be entertained and maybe shut off your brain for a little while. Have a few laughs, watch some great stunts and awesome fight sequences, listen to some cheesy one-liners and bask in the badassery that these characters and Xander Cage’s team is all about. Sure, it might seem a little Fast and the Furious franchise with the bad ass team and over the top sequences or maybe its a little The Expendables, with the whole “retired” agent coming back to action or whatever you’d like to call it just with a younger cast, but The Return of Xander Cage has its own personality. Whether the revival of this franchise works or not, this is an awesome addition to the franchise and captures the right tone and adds lots of style to it. It delivered everything I expected and more. Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose was enough for me to love it so much. Everyone else meshing well with the movie just made it even better.

Have you seen xXx: The Return of Xander Cage?

Disney: Dumbo (1941)

And we are officially back! Next Disney project movie is Dumbo! I have finally, with some help, figured out the Fantasia baking creation. It is in the preparation stage but like I had said, I am moving along to keep this Baking Through Disney alive.

My first viewing of Dumbo was when I bought the Bluray a few years ago for the vault release. Before that I only knew the story because of a children’s picture book my mom used to read me when I was young.

Lets check it out!

Dumbo

dumbo

Director: Sam Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts

Voice cast: John McLeish, Edward Brophy Sterling Holloway, Herman Bing, Cliff Edwards

Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential. – IMDB

Dumbo is a rather calm Disney movie. That isn’t a bad thing. Where Snow White and Pinocchio had evil queens and a gigantic mean whales, Dumbo only had a cruel circus animal that breaks him away from his mom and the inner fear and confidence that stopped him from using his big elephant ears to fly and amaze. Dumbo is a lesson about being different and how it isn’t a bad thing. Being unique may be something others criticize but also something we can use for being more. You know, making lemonade out of lemons and half cup full sort of thing. For that, Dumbo is great! However, it does feel a little flat, starting with being a late delivery, losing his mom, meeting an unusual best friend then having to perform circus acts and eventually learning how to fly. There was never a big obstacle despite it being a sometimes heartwrenching and other times, fun times.

Dumbo

Dumbo isn’t a long animated film. One of the many aspects of classics that I love. This one is for the kids and it is incredibly that way with not a whole lot of dialogue and a myriad of literally colorful characters although they do have colorful personalities as well. Plus the circus is a child friendly atmosphere, most of the time. However, my favorite part of Dumbo are the characters even if the short run time really doesn’t give them a lot of space for growth. Keeping in mind that this is a children’s movie, it is fine to love the characters for being fun and/or cute such as the crows and particularly our main character Dumbo. How do you not love baby Dumbo and his big ears?  Adding onto a motor mouth mouse as Timothy Mouse, we have a fun and comedic duo.

dumbo

Overall, Dumbo delivers cute and endearing characters along with a message about being okay with being different and embracing being unique. However, the story lacks an exciting climax or inspiring villain but makes up for it with a few fun moments. Perhaps more for the younger crowd as it remains gentle and cute however the message is a valuable one. And its hard to resist how incredibly cute Dumbo is.

Have you seen Dumbo?