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?

New Year’s Eve: A Long Way Down (2014)

I think I might have skipped this last year. I just might have…but I’m a little lazy to search for it now.  The holidays kind of murdered me a little but I’ve been thinking about watching a movie set around New Year’s Eve. I did watch one earlier this year called Jump that might have inspired this thought. You can check out that review HERE.   Its funny (well, not really) that New Year’s Eve inspires so many of these sorts of dramedy centred around suicide. While a lot of us are thinking about the new year bringing on new beginnings, some people just think its time to end it all before we let our failures continue on. I say this because Jump focuses on that sort of messed up night which starts in the same way and dramatically ends differently than this one does.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and check out the synopsis!

A Long Way Down (2014)

A Long Way Down

Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill

Four people meet on New Year’s Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives.-IMDB

Dramedies are hard to master.  There has to be a balance.  Plus it has to embody the comedy and the dramatic style that works for the individual audience that its aiming for. I’m guessing its because of that IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes has such a huge difference in their scores. A Long Way Down may be a little cliche and could have worked harder to make you connect to the characters but the effort and message and heart that this story has is really great.  It doesn’t force you to feel anything.  You have to observe the characters and listen carefully to their dialogues and their reactions.  Maybe I think too much and read more between the lines than I’m supposed to but I watched this once and enjoyed it, then watched it a second time and got a little more out of it and turned it on a third time and realized that the message this one has is actually really good. Sometimes, wanting to watch a movie over and over again is not a bad thing and in this case, its because I wanted to get something more out of it, wondering if I missed something (because I do tend to multitask when I watch movies).

A Long Way Down

There’s a few things I truly love about A Long Way Down, which has me wanting to grab a copy of the book because I’m sure it outlines each of these characters even more thoroughly.  First, in setting up this movie, it gives time to showcase our four main characters here and their backstories to let us understand them a little more.  Whether you catch the reasoning of why they were on top of that tower is totally your experience but they do answer it in the end.  While showing them apart, it also takes time to build on their dynamic together and how their oddball relationship grows as they fulfill their pact of postponing their suicide attempt till Valentine’s Day. Second thing, I really like is the relationship between the characters Jess and JJ, played by Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul respectively.  They are almost completely different characters but they have a much deeper sorrow that weighs them down and they both live with it in a different way.  While it doesn’t make sense that they become incredibly affectionate and close with each other very quickly, I didn’t really mind because their chemistry worked for me.

A Long Way Down

The entire movie is pretty predictable but while Imogen Poots’ Jess is all sorts of unpredictable and crazy and desires attention. She really just has to feel desired and important but in the background, Aaron Paul’s character is the one we focus on.  He doesn’t talk much and many things happen but we soon realize that he is the one that is broken.  Something doesn’t add up for him.  We found him in the most casual on the roof at the start and he doesn’t really stick out during the movie but this leads to some of the best dialogues that he says throughout the whole movie. It gives the movie meaning and a look at what depression is, when there’s something that doesn’t quite work inside and there’s nothing that seems to help. While the other three all have reasons to be up on that roof at the beginning, we never really learn the reason of why he wants to be there until the very end. Maybe this is really spoiler-filled, but there are a lot of powerful scenes, a few bittersweet moments and a movie that holds some truth to what its trying to say, maybe because I’ve been implicated into a situation similar to this one that I can relate a little to it.

A Long Way Down

I’ve been going on and on about Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul but fact is Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette are the older views with a much more mature situation that has lead them to where they are.  I have to admit that I’m still trying to coming to terms with Pierce Brosnan in drama/comedy and not the action James Bond that I see him in. It get a little cheesy feelings sometimes but that isn’t saying that he doesn’t have a good character and he does a decent at delivering the person who kind of grows a lot in his views.  Toni Collette is the one that seems most unlikely to get back on the roof.  The older characters have concrete solutions to their problems and they just kind of need to open up and see things in a different light.  They have good back stories but they are the supporting to the young two who seem to be a little more lost.

A Long Way Down A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down is about finding hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.  It sends a message of the underlying depression that sometimes is the culprit to undefinable feelings. Its finding people that unexpectedly help you experience things that allow you to see things differently.  Its a journey of friendship, finding a second family who helped them find themselves or just see themselves a little more clear.  Its not a perfect dramedy that works hard at making how to feel obvious but its all about how much you can connect to these characters to fully enjoy A Long Way Down and since I was able to do that, I found this one rather meaningful and it pulled up some feelings that I have been tucking away for a while.  While it seems like it kicked up some bad feelings, this one does have a positive touch to it and its the ending of it that really brings meaning to what “a long way down” refers to.

Have you seen A Long Way Down? 

Have a great New Year’s Eve!!!
I’ll be back tomorrow with the New Year’s Special Weekly Adventures! 🙂

Christmas Kicks Off with: Krampus (2015)

Talk about kicking off Christmas over here in style! We’re right on track on December 10th.  I started the same time last year.  It gives us 2 weeks to get all the Christmas out of our system with tons of fun stuff on the way.  Some book reviews won’t be quite as festive or like Star Wars review (I already have tickets) but every day will have some festive fun.  I promise you that! 🙂

Now, why are we doing this in style? We’re starting off with a new movie release! I managed to get my husband to go downtown with me (because it was only showing in English there) to see Krampus. I had a glimpse at the Rotten Tomatoes ratings and they seemed alright so without knowing anything about the movie, not even trailers, we bought out tickets and went to see it.  The most painful part was actually the previews because I wanted to walk out of the theatre during the ENTIRE Zoolander 2 trailer….but I lived through it, luckily.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Krampus (2015)

krampus

Director: Michael Dougherty

Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler

A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.-IMDB

Where to even start for Krampus? I love legends and lores and all that stuff.  Those sorts of movies are awesome (unless its Asylum, then I might get a little worried). Let’s focus on the positive here. Krampus is not your normal holiday  movie.  For one, its not happy happy joy joy. Its a horror comedy.  Any of you like those? I sure do, when its executed properly!  For starters, I don’t know anything about the Krampus legend so talk about going into a movie blind. However, Krampus is different.  I needed to give it some thought before writing this up.

Krampus

Its hard to determine where I stand with Krampus.  I guess I should get the negative out first.  My main issue is with the beginning being slow.  For a short film like this, the build up seemed forever as the family was arriving.  It gave a watered down version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Except, once the blizzard hits and they get snowed it.  Now, we are talking about some fun times.  Plus, the danger hits a lot faster than I would’ve expected. I’m convinced that because of that slow, slightly comical first part, it helps when the story just flips around and we enter the dark and gloomy blizzard.  The first time we see the dark form of Krampus on the rooftop.  That was some effective atmosphere building.  He was absolutely creepy. The sound design and effects and just what goes on from jumping roof to roof sent shivers down my spine.  Equally, it has the feels of Gremlins and that Krampus symbol is like visiting a dark version of Polar Express. None of that is a bad point though.  However, I think that the marketing campaign did a bad job where if you don’t know the legend (which I don’t), I didn’t see the trailer and I called the ending in the last third. You’ll know what I mean if you saw the poster.

Krampus

 With the bad out of the way, Krampus does excel because its a dark movie.  I’m not totally for the beginning bit with the family and their humor.  But when the creepy dark stuff starts, it gets a lot of more dark humor that works.  My favorite is a line from the character Aunt Dorothy, played by Conchata Ferrell about life.  I’m not sure if anyone else laughed because my husband and I laughed pretty hard over that. For a comedy, we didn’t laugh all that much.  But then, the creature designs here are really smart.  I double checked the trailer to make sure there isn’t any spoiler territory but that Jack in a Box thing was creepy as hell.  Not to mention, Krampus’s other helpers like elves and snowmans and the likes. I haven’t even mentioned Krampus other than his creepy shadow. You know, I always have an issue with the creature reveal. But then, is any of these considered creatures? Regardless, there are some pretty creepy features about Krampus.  I do like the fact of how they build up revealing his physical features. However, the reveal of Krampus’s purpose is that he is the opposite of Santa, not only in his darkness but the fact that he takes instead of gives to remind people to believe and have hope. At least that’s what I got, I could be wrong.

Krampus

Other than a brief mention of Conchata Ferrell’s Aunt Dorothy who offered  a lot of dark humor here, the cast deserves some mention.  They are made out to be the highlight of the lack of Christmas spirit candidates but it all gets pushed over when Max loses his believe and hope in Santa and ends up summoning Krampus. So look, the characters here aren’t exactly likeable and they aren’t meant to be because they  are on the “naughty list”. If it wasn’t for that, Krampus wouldn’t be here, right? The acting is not a problem here.  The cast is completely competent, including the kids. What I do question at times was the normal illogical horror movie decision-making. Just one example, I’m not a parent but would you let your teenage daughter go down the block in a blizzard to see if her boyfriend is okay? I know that my mom wouldn’t but then some would say that she’s overprotective. There are some things that happen that just doesn’t make sense in why the characters would do that.  However, Krampus never does give you a moment to linger on those thoughts before dishing out some other abomination. I’m going to be honest here and say that, I don’t think I cared much for the characters other than Aunt Dorothy and Max and Grandma.

Overall, I’m lukewarm on Krampus.  I think that as a horror, it builds atmosphere very good.  Was I scared? Not really. But it did have moments when looking at the creature reveals from Krampus to his various helpers that sent chills down my spine.  There was some funny moments in their fights and retaliation moments.  The characters never had a chance for us to bond with or maybe they just didn’t get enough time for their roles to mean much more.  Some good and some bad here but overall, I think its worth checking out if you can appreciate a non-traditional holiday movie.  Krampus is a good legend to base on and Krampus itself has a good creature design.  The beginning could’ve been paced better but for 75% of the movie, it is worth it. I enjoyed myself a good bit.

Have you seen Krampus? What did you think?

Valentine Marathon: Enough Said (2013)

Finally, we’re back with the next Valentine Marathon review! I’m falling behind with my originally planned schedule.  It was a little ambitious to say the very least but thats okay.  I’m still choosing romance/rom-com choices that I’ve been really wanting to check out.  Its a little weird that this year’s list is full of a lot of pretty seemingly sophisticated choices and with a lot of actors and actresses that I’m pretty unfamiliar with.  Thats exactly where my next choice, Enough Said, falls.  I didn’t have cable when I was younger so The Sopranos never exactly caught on for me and well, even if I did have cable, most likely my parents wouldn’t let me watch it.  Still, I’ve seen James Gandolfini in a few movies before this one, never romance though. Honestly, I’m a little intrigued by how he would do. Plus, this is about divorced middle-aged so I’m not exactly the target audience either.  Regardless, I’m not too picky so here we go!

ENOUGH SAID (2013)

ENOUGH SAID

Director & Writer: Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Julie Louis-Dreyfuss, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Tracey Fairaway, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone

Eva (Julie Louis-Dreyfuss) is a divorced masseuse living with her daughter (Tracey Faraway) who is about to leave for college.  While she struggles to find another man that interests her, she finds it in another divorced individual, Albert (James Gandolfini). Albert brings her lots of happiness and they quickly embark into a relationship however much to her surprise, she realizes that her new client and becoming best friend, Marianne (Catherine Keener) turns out to be Albert’s ex-wife.

enough said

Enough Said breaks out from the romantic comedy to be a sophisticated and charming one.  Most more middle-aged ones feature a lot of falling back into love with your divorced half or whatnot and just having silly situations and whatnot.  This one is different.  Enough Said is very grown up but also extremely fun to watch because our characters Eva and Albert are absolutely lovable.  They are humorous naturally with just the way they say things and having the respect of each other and their situations.  Enough Said brings a maturity to a genre that really hasn’t been really excelling in that and it mostly have to do with how they bring forth some more serious issues but use such charming and well-written characters.

enough said

Enough Said has a lot to thank for the fine acting and irresistible chemistry between Julie Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini playing Eva and Albert respectively.  Their characters radiate with this sweet romance of falling in love a second time and finding this happiness and joy that they didn’t when both their marriages ended.  Both are in similar life situations and they understand and need similar things to each other.  It also hits the second thing that in a second relationship there are other issues that they need to deal with and it has a lot to do with being able to let yourself become vulnerable again in this love.  As much as the amusing part is seeing Eva and Albert’s love grow, there’s also the issue of how her opinions could be influenced because of her own insecurities. This is where the character of Marianne becomes slightly crucial to this story because she becomes that person that you know is offering a skewed third person’s opinion that starts making you question your own beliefs and its knowing when to put a stop to this, which Eva doesn’t do and finds excuses to keep her friendship with Marianne regardless of how it could potentially hurt this great relationship that she’s in, turning this love story somewhat bittersweet in its own way.

Enough Said

I really have no words to describe how great Enough Said is.  It really took me by surprise mostly because I didn’t really know what to expect.  I didn’t expect to connect with it as well as I did.  Just goes to say that love is universal and it really doesn’t have an age limit.  The key is that to get back into anything, you need to have the courage to stand up for what you believe and who you believe in.  There was a conversation about protecting relationships and ourselves that I really loved among many things.  Plus, there was the backdrop with Eva and her daughter’s relationship and that was a pretty well done as well. Its a great story with well written characters that carries a ton of charm and chuckles.  I totally recommend it 🙂

Have you seen Enough Said? What are your thoughts on it?