Tuesday, February 28, 2017

RECORD BREAKING Anti-Christmas Creep UPDATE!

Back on November 8, 2016, I wrote that I spotted the first Xmas tree of the season in the window of a home in my neighborhood. That was almost two full months before Xmas, which seemed way, wayyyyy to early to be puttin' up a damned tree.

Then on January 29, 2017, I went for a walk and around the neighborhood and noted that the tree was still up, over two months after it first appeared.


So far the tree's been blazing brightly all through February. I kept hoping it'd make it to the end of the month, but I was sure there was no way. No one could possibly be that lazy busy to keep a tree up to the end of February.

Welp, I went by today and it's STILL up! That's right, it's now February 28, and the tree's still shining merrily away in the window. Amazing!

For anyone who picked February 28 in the "How Long Will The Xmas Tree Stay Up" pool, congratulations! 


For those of you scoring at home, this Christmas tree has now been in the window of this house for at least 112 days. As I said, I first spotted it on November 8 of last year, so it's entirely possible it was put up a few days before I saw it.

112 days! That's almost four months! Almost a third of a year! Can the tree stay up until this Christmas? A month ago I'd have said "impossible," but now... I think it has a shot!

Today's Trump Tidbit: D'oh!

Man, Glorious Leader's been busy this week! It's honestly tough to keep up with all the things that have spewed out of his mouth this week, and it's only Tuesday!

This week the father of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed during a military mission slammed the Trump administration, and is calling for an formal investigation into the operation.

William Owens was killed in late January, during a disastrous U.S. military raid in Yemen, authorized by President Trump.

Trump, never at a loss for words, expressed sympathy to the soldier's family, but defended himself by saying the mission was one "that started before I got here."

Yeah. That really happened.

Apparently our President is now invoking the Homer Simpson Defense. Got it.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly-Poly Fish Heads!

Over the weekend I saw this new billboard for regional Mexican restaurant chain Hacienda (that means "house!").

OK, I get that it's supposed to be humorous, but I'm afraid it's gonna backfire on them. Somehow the image of an entire dead, raw fish wedged between two bun doesn't exactly whet my appetite, or make me want to rush out to Hacienda.

One of these days I would dearly love to sit in on one of Hacienda's marketing meetings, if for no other reason than to see what horrifying ideas they decide NOT to use in their advertising!

This isn't the first time bizarre ad Hacienda has run. You can see a brief history of their insane marketing here.

The Voice Of Reason

Last week Glorious Leader Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a controversial and unprecedented press briefing that excluded several major news outlets.

Among those shut out were the New York Times, CNN, Politico, Buzzfeed and the majority of foreign press.

Spicer hand-picked several news agencies to attend the briefing, including NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, the Washington Times and the One America News Network, whatever the hell that is. Far-right racist and homophobic conspiracy theory rag Breitbart was invited to attend.

Needless to say, this is a shocking and worrying turn of events.

When questioned about the ban, Glorious Leader Trump went on an angry tirade, saying, "Many of these groups are part of large media corporations that have their own agenda. And it's not your agenda and it's not the country's agenda, it's their own agenda. They have a professional obligation as members of the press to report honestly, but as you saw throughout the entire campaign and even now, the fake news doesn't tell the truth.”

Trump went on to say that the "fake news media is the enemy of the American people."

Jesus Christ!

I'm pretty sure that "media is the enemy of the people" part is on page thirty three of the book So You Want To Undermine Your Democracy And Start A Dictatorship.

Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush was interviewed this week on the Today show. In the interview, Bush said, “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Bush also had a few thoughts about immigration, saying, “It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean the bedrock of our freedom— a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”

Asked if he supported a ban on Muslim visitors to the United States, the former president said, “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”


Congratulations, Universe! You win! You just made George W. Freakin' Bush look like a wise elder statesman, and the voice of reason.

I need to go lie down in a dark room.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Meanwhile, On Bizarro World...

I've never been a fan of the Oscars, as I think they have no relevance, they're a piss-poor measure of what films are actually good and they're just an excuse for Hollywood to dress up and pat itself on the back.

So as if I needed another reason to ignore the Academy Awards, it turns out that 2016's execrable Suicide Squad is now an Oscar™ winning movie. 

Yeah. Let that sink it for a minute. From this point on, in the unlikely event you'll ever talk about the film, you'll have to call it the Oscar™ Winning Suicide Squad.
We are now officially living on Bizarro World...

Today's Trump Tidbit: Running The Country's HARD!

On President Trump announced that Republicans are hard at work, hastily trying to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something substandard or nothing at all looking for ways to improve the Affordable Care Act

The President said they're working on not just a good plan, but a "very good" plan, which should ease the minds of the nation's sick and invalid. He assured the country that the new plan would provide "insurance for everybody" and be "something terrific."

Trump admitted that the "repeal and replace" process hasn't been without its pitfalls."It's an unbelievably complex subject," said Trump. "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

Of course you're right, Donald. No one knew health care was a complicated topic. Other than the entire insurance and medical industries, hospital staff and administrators, the entire drug and pharmacy industry, the news media and of course the general public.

Jesus wept. It's like Josh from the movie Big suddenly grew up overnight and somehow became President.

And The Oscar™ Goes To...

Did you catch the 89th Academy Awards show last night? You know I was parked in front of my set watching for the entire seven hour broadcast! Yep, every year around this time I catch me a bad case of Oscar Fever!

As always, the Oscars were filled with enough pageantry and spectacle to entertain even the most jaded viewer.

Of course the highlight of the evening was the announcement that the 1988 film Hell Comes To Frogtown won the 2017 Oscar™ for Best Picture! Congratulations! The late Roddy Piper would be proud!

The win stunned the audience, particularly since it wasn't listed among the nine Best Picture nominees. The twenty nine year old film tells the heartwarming story of Sam Hell, the last fertile human male living in a post apocalyptic wasteland populated by mutated, intelligent humanoid frogs. Hell is captured by a group of warrior nurses who have to transport him across a dangerous desert to a human outpost, where he'll help repopulate the species.

Veteran actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presented the Best Picture Oscar™ before the puzzled, murmuring audience in attendance. Sandahl Bergman (who played Spangle in the film) and Julius LeFlore (who played the villainous frog-man Squidlips), the last surviving members of the cast of Hell Comes To Frogtown, made their way to the podium and accepted the Award.

Said Bergman, "I'd like to accept this award on behalf of the remaining cast and crew of Hell Comes To Frogtown, and I know that if Roddy hadn't died in 2015, he'd be proud to see the film finally get its due after twenty nine long years. #notmypresident!"

Although the film's win was a complete surprise to oddsmakers, it wasn't as big an upset as the award for Best Supporting Actress, which went to Hymen Goldblatt, a chiropractor from Schenectady, NY.

Seriously, Academy Award producers! You had one goddamned job. Best Picture is the most important part of the whole ferkakte show, and the reason everyone tunes in. Is it really that hard to hand someone an envelope a movie title in it?

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, IDIOT!

I mentioned this the following briefly in last week's The Walking Dead review, but there's been a new development, and the story bears repeating.

Lastly, this week in England, a controversy erupted when a customer complained about a Walking Dead t-shirt carried by Primark stores (a department store chain in England and Ireland, similar to J.C. Penneys).

The shirt featuring Walking Dead villain Negan's catchphrase "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe," along with an image of his iconic baseball bat Lucille.

A shopper named Ian Lucraft saw the shirt and flipped his sh*t over it, claiming it was offensive and outright racist (!). According to Lucraft, 

"The slogan is 'Eeeny meenie miny moe." It stops there, but of course we all know what the original said: 'Catch a nigger by his toe.' The graphic has a large American baseball bat, wrapped round with barbed wire, and covered with blood. This image relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America. It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood."
And there it is right there, ladies and gents "and if I were black." No blacks complained about the shirt, as it was the duty of Ian Lucraft, a Guilty White Person, to do so. Because it's the job of a GWP to be offended FOR a particular group, whether they're outraged or not.

To make things even worse, it's patently obvious that Lucraft doesn't even watch the show. If he did, he'd know that in the infamous scene in which Negan's choosing his victim, he doesn't say "nigger (Sorry everyone, I'm not gonna say "N-word." I'm not six years old)." As Negan contines the rhyme, he says, "Catch a tiger by his toe." The tiger version may very well not be how the original rhyme went, but it's one I, and everyone I know, recited as a child. 

Seems to me if that Ian Lucraft is thinking and hearing the word "nigger" when he sees this t-shirt, HE'S the one who needs to sit down and reevaluate his life.

Nevertheless, logic and reason were ignored, and Primark pulled the "offending" shirt from their stores, all due to the complaint of one jittery, easily-startled, politically correct pinhead. Way to crumble to non-existent controversy there, Primark!

A day or two after Primark pulled the shirt, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan on the show, got wind of the incident and tweeted, "Holy crap people are stupid. "Walking Dead' Shirt Pulled From Stores  After Complaint of Racism."

It makes me happy to know he thinks the whole incident is as ridiculous as I do. You go, Jeffrey Dean! I agree with you 110%!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

R.I.P. Bill Paxton

Well this well and truly sucks. Actor Bill Paxton, star of Weird Science, ALIENS, Near Dark, Predator 2 and many, many other films, died February 25 at age 61, which is much, much too early to go.

Paxton passed away Saturday from complications arising after heart surgery. Damn.

I first saw Paxton in ALIENS way back in 1986, and have been a fan of his work ever since. He brought an energy and intensity to every role, no matter how minor. I always enjoyed seeing him pop up onscreen, as he could make even a less-than-great movie watchable.

I think my favorite Bill Paxton performance is in the little-known cult film The Dark Backward. In it, Paxton plays Gus, the disgusting, overbearing, accordion-playing best friend of Judd Nelson's Marty Malt character. Trust me on this one— after you see him in this film, you'll never look at him the same way again. Check it out of you get the chance or can even find it!

I've had encounters with a few of the actors from ALIENS over the years, but sadly I never got the chance to meet Bill Paxton. Those who met him and worked with him had nothing but good things to say about his friendliness, energy and positivity. There are no scandals or bad stories about him to be found anywhere, which makes me happy.

Paxton is survived by his two children and his wife of thirty years, Louise Newbury. THIRTY YEARS! It's rare for ANY couple to stay together that long these days. For a Hollywood couple to be married that long is practically unbelievable.

Paxton also starred as the villainous John Garrett in Season 1 of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Coulson on the show, had this to say of Paxton: 
"We just hit it off like old pals. I think he had that affect on a lot of people. We stayed friends. You say you want to stay close but this is a nomadic business and you hit it off and but may not see them again despite any promises. He left the show after season 1 and I showed up for work next season and they said Bill is in your trailer. People don’t do that. That doesn’t happen. He ended up doing Training Day on the same lot and I’d get to work and they’d say Bill is in makeup he’s waiting for you. He was just the most incredible friend. He would come by all the time and we would just hang out.”
Here are just a few of the many films Paxton starred in:
The Terminator (as the Punk Leader), Weird Science (as uber-bully Chet Donnelly), Commando, ALIENS (as Private Hudson), Near Dark (as Severen), Navy Seals, Predator 2 (as Jerry Lambert), The Dark Backward (as Gus), Boxing Helena, Tombstone (as Morgan Earp), True Lies (as Simon), Apollo 13 (as Fred Haise), Frank & Jesse (as Frank James), Twister (as Bill Harding), Titanic (as Brock Lovett), A Simple Plan, Mighty Joe Young, U-571, Frailty, Spy Kids 2: Island Of Lost Dreams (as Dinky Winks), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, Million Dollar Arm and Edge Of Tomorrow aka Live, Die, Repeat (as Master Sergeant Farell).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: xXx: Return Of Xander Cage

Hey guys, it's finally here! It's The January/February Film Dumping Ground! Yes, it's that magical time of the year when the major studios burn off all the celluloid bombs they didn't dare release during the all-important Summer and Xmas blockbuster seasons! Awesome! Brace yourselves for two solid months of watered-down PG-13 horror films, cheap CGI kid's movies and fart comedies. It's a fantastic time to be a film fan!

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage was written by F. Scott Frazier and directed by D.J. Caruso.

Frazier previously wrote The Numbers Station and Collide. He really needs to step up his game and become a better writer if he's gonna insist on calling himself "F. Scott."

Caruso previously directed The Salton Sea, Taking Lives, Two For The Money, Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four, Standing Up and The Disappointments Room. Well, at least his work's consistent.

I've always been a fan of action movies. The dumber and more outrageous they are, the more I like 'em. Nothing pleases me more than watching a beefy action hero spout a horrible one liner before killing a room full of thugs.

That said, when I saw the trailer for xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen and not in a good way. I rubbed my hands together with glee, anticipating just how I'd rip it apart in my eventual review. Then a funny thing happened. I went to the cineplex and actually watched the movie, and... it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be

Oh sure, it's completely ludicrous and doesn't make a lick of sense, but it was never boring. I was thoroughly entertained throughout. And in the end, isn't that a movie's job?

So I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think I kind of liked xXx: Return Of Xander Cage! I'm going to make an appointment with my neurologist first thing in the morning.

This is probably the only time in my life I'll be able to go to the cineplex and say, "One ticket for Triple X, please," and not be embarrassed. Now that I think about it, maybe I should have been embarrassed by buying a ticket for this film after all.

I could have sworn I saw the original xXx, but I read the plot synopsis online and it didn't ring even a single tiny bell. Either I watched it and literally forgot every second of it, or I never saw it to begin with. At this point I honestly can't say either way. I do know for a fact never saw xXx: State Of The Union, so there's that.

This marks the second time that Vin Diesel has abandoned a franchise, only to come crawling back to it later. Fresh off the success of Boiler Room and Pitch Black, Diesel starred in 2001's The Fast And The Furious. The film was a big hit, and made Diesel a bona fide star. 

When it came time to shoot a sequel, Diesel turned a $20 million paycheck for 2 Fast 2 Furious, in order to star in The Chronicles Of Riddick, for which he made a whopping $50,000! Um... smart business decision, Vin!

Diesel made a VERY brief cameo appearance at the end of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, before returning to the franchise full time.

History repeats itself in the xXx franchise. Diesel starred in the original xXx, but opted out of the follow up, 2005's xXx: State Of The Union. And once again he's returned for the third film.

At this point there's very little difference between the Fast & Furious and xXx franchises. Both feature diverse teams of super-humans performing physically impossible stunts as they travel the world searching for a high tech device that does a thing. I cannot emphasize this enough at this point the two franchises are virtually interchangeable.

In 2016's Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios cast the whitest woman possible as The Ancient One, a traditionally male Asian role from the comics. Predictably, the internet at large flipped its sh*t over this controversial casting, labeling it "whitewashing" and basically saying it was the worst thing to happen since 9/11.

Meanwhile, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage features an amazingly diverse and international cast. There are blacks, whites, Chinese, Japanese, several Brits and even an Indian woman. All kinds of different races, nationalities and genders teaming up and working together. And guess what? No one's saying a thing about this. I've not heard one single peep of positive buzz about the casting.

So I guess the PC Police can only be bothered to bitch and moan when a movie ISN'T diverse, but don't feel the need to praise one if it IS. So as far as I'm concerned they all need to shut the f*ck up then. You can't boo unless you're willing to applaud.

As I predicted back in January, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is a huge bomb here in America, grossing a very anemic $44 million against its $85 million budget. These days a film generally has to gross twice its production budget just to break even. It's barely managed to do that here.

Fortunately for the producers, foreign audiences can't get enough of the film. It's grossed a whopping $287 million overseas, for a combined total of $332 million! I guess Vin Diesel's still a box office draw in the rest of the world.

This is about on par with the first film, which grossed $277 million against its $70 million budget way back in 2002. Although back then, $142 million of that gross came from the U.S. I guess Diesel was a bigger deal in those days.

SPOILERS!

The Plot: 
In space, a small satellite falls out of orbit and plummets toward Earth.

In a Chinese restaurant in Brazil (?), NSA operative Augustus Gibbons (played by Samuel L. Jackson) tries to recruit Neymar Jr. (played by Neymar Jr.) as an xXx agent. Neymar Jr. declines, saying he's not a hero. Just then an armed gunman bursts into the restaurant. Neymar Jr. kicks a napkin dispenser at the gunman's head, knocking him out. Gibbons says Neymar Jr. is a hero after all, just as the satellite crashes and explodes, seemingly killing them both.

At CIA Headquarters, Jane Marke (played by Toni Collette) informs a group of government and military leaders that the satellite crash was caused by a terrorist device called Pandora's Box. The group that crashed the satellite can use the box to bring down thousands more any time they want, using them as makeshift missiles.

Suddenly four skilled infiltrators Xiang (played by Donnie Yen), Serena (played by Deepika Padukone), Talon (played by Tony Jaa) and Hawk (played by Michael Bisping) use their xtreeeeme skills to burst into the building and eliminate the guards one by one. Xiang steals the Pandora's Box from Marke and he and his team make a hasty exit. Marke says they need to retrieve the Box pronto, and that Gibbons worked with someone who can do it.

Now that we're fifteen minutes into the film, we're finally (re) introduced to Xander Cage (played by Mark Sinclair, er, I mean Vin Diesel), our protagonist. Xander is living in the Dominican Republic, and uses his xtreeeeme skills to climb a tall TV tower and steal a cable box. Diesel's stuntman, er, I mean Xander then skateboards down a steep hill and arrives in a local pub just in time to hook up the box, so the village can watch the big football game. Hooray! He risked life and limb for a stupid sporting event! He's a hero to the villagers! Xander then goes home to his girlfriend Lola, and they make sweet, passionate xtreeeeme love.

The next day, Xander sits in a town square in Santo Domingo. An old white man sits next to him on a bench for a while, then gets up and leaves his case behind. For some reason, Xander opens the case and sees a bomb inside, its timer counting down to zero. Suddenly a SWAT team moves in, seemingly thinking Xander's the bomber. Holy Mistaken Identity, Batman!

Xander begins taunting the SWAT team, obviously not taking the situation seriously. Marke appears and admits it was all a setup and she was testing him. She asks him to rejoin the xXx program, but he's not interested. She mentions that Gibbons is dead, which finally piques Xander's interest. Marke explains that Xiang and his team have the Pandora's Box, and they need to get it back before they use it or sell it to an enemy state. Unfortunately, Marke has no idea where Xiang is hiding. Xander says he knows someone in London who can help. 

Xander flies to London to meet his pal Ainsley (played by Hermione Corfield), who the movie would like us to believe was in the first film, even though she wasn't. She tells Xander he can find Xiang and his gang in the Philippines. Really, that's it? Just "The Philippines?" Why not just say "They're on Earth?" After that, Xander has an orgy with Ainsley's scantily clad female "assistants." This entire scene was completely pointless, and exists solely to pad the runtime and inject a bit more sex into the film.

Meanwhile in "The Philippines," Xiang and his gang are hiding out. Serena tells him they're being hunted and they should destroy the Pandora's Box, but Xiang says they need it.

Marke welcomes Xander back into the xXx program and presents him with his very own C-5 cargo plane, along with a hand picked team of Special Forces soldiers. Donovan, the leader of the soldiers, mocks Xander's dated 90's xtreeeeme look, as well he should. Xandder then stealthily (?) attaches the Special Forces soldiers' parachutes to a cargo crate and jettisons it. The soldiers are then yanked violently out of the hold, as their necks and spines no doubt snap in half. Haw haw! Attempted murder is hiLARious! 

Xander says he'll only work with a hand-picked team he trusts. We're then treated to a montage of this team, complete with onscreen stats. First up is Adele Wolff (played by Ruby Rose), who's in the African Savannah observing a pride of lions. She uses her sniper skills to shoot several hunters in the leg, disabling them. They try to crawl away in panic as the lions pounce on them. Haw haw! Premeditated murder is hiLARious!!

Next up is Tennyson Torch (played by Rory McCann, aka the Hound of Game Of Thrones fame). He's some sort of driver with 198 crashes on his record. Lastly is Nicks (played by Kris Wu), a DJ with no apparent skills that I could see. 

The three are brought in to meet with Xander, and agree to join the mission. Marke introduces them to Becky Clearidge (played by Nina Dobrev), who plays the "Q" role here and gives them high-tech gadgets such as bionic gloves.

The team lands in "The Philippines" and head for a nightclub, which is a front for an arms dealer named Lazarus. Xander finds Serena and Xiang, who has the Pandora's Box. Xiang insists the three of them play "hot potato" with live grenades, in a scene that I'm sure was supposed to be xtreeeeme, but just looks silly. Xander apparently wins the game (I guess?) and Xiang reveals that he and his team are actually xXx agents with their own agenda. Suddenly Russian troops enter the club,  and demand the Pandora's Box. Adele, who's hiding in a nearby tree, shoots all the Russian soldiers as all hell breaks loose. 

Xiang runs off with the Box, and Xander follows. They have a high speed land/sea chase, on motorcycles that can inexplicably transform into jet skis. They surf along a massive wave, and Xiang wipes out. Xander recovers the Pandora's Box. As he wades back to shore, Serena shoots the Box, destroying it. She then decides to join Xander's team (?). For some reason, he welcomes her aboard (??). 

Marke then informs Xander that the Box Serena destroyed was just a prototype, and there are apparently many more. One was just used to destroy a Russian stadium. For some reason, Xander comes to the conclusion that someone inside the CIA was in on the plot to help Xiang steal the Box. He reviews security footage of Marke's briefing, and notices that Director Anderson, whoever the hell that is, was the only one who didn't flinch when Xiang attacked.

Xander then somehow locate Xiang, and chases him through the streets, while Tennyson, and the others pursue Hawk. Xander catches Xiang, and the two engage in an epic hand-to-hand battle in a warehouse. They stumble into Director Anderson's lair, which is filled with multiple Pandora's Boxes. He monologues that he crashed the satellite that killed Gibbons. Adele sets up her sniper rifle in a building across the street, and shoots Anderson in the head.

Marke arrives, and her people recover all the Pandora's Boxes, and arrest Xiang and his teammates. Marke, Xander and Xiang board the C-5 plane, while the other two xXx teams stay on the ground. 


Marke informs Xander that now that the mission's over, the xXx program is being shut down. He realizes this means ALL agents are to be immediately terminated. She shoots Xander three times in the chest, and he collapses. She then radios her men on the ground to eliminate both Xander and Xiang's teams.

The two xXx teams then join forces, as they fire several hundred thousand rounds at the approaching CIA agents. Even Becky gets in on the action, clumsily shooting a few CIA grunts. Eventually the xXx teams run out of ammo and are surrounded.


Just when it looks like the two xXx teams will be executed, they're saved when Darius Stone (played by Ice Cube), appears in a rousing "audience cheer" moment. GASP! Stone, who was the hero of xXx: State Of The Union, blows up the attacking CIA agents, saying "X takes care of its own!". Hooray! Treason is hiLARious!

Back on the plane, Xander wakes up, revealing he was wearing body armor. He and Xiang join forces to defeat Donovan and his Special Forces goons. Donovan puts on Becky's bionic gloves and battles Xander in another big action setpiece. 

During the fight, the pilot is shot & killed, and the plane goes into a steep nosedive. In the resulting freefall, Xander, Xiang and the others fly around the plane like astronauts. Donovan punches a hole in the side of the plane (!), and Xander shoves him through it (without a parachute this time!). 

Meanwhile Marke uses a Pandora's Box to send a satellite crashing toward the warehouse, where the two xXx teams are. She's then about to shoot Xiang, but he notices that for some reason, her foot is caught in the loop of a parachute strap. He activates the chute, and she's yanked violently out the cargo hold. Xiang then jumps from the plane as well (with a chute, of course). 


Serena somehow knows a satellite is heading their way, and radios Xander. He regains control of the plane and steers it toward the incoming satellite. He jumps out just as the plane collides with the satellite in a fiery explosion.

Xander's troubles aren't over though, as he's falling with no chute. He sees a falling cargo crate in the distance, and zooms over to it. He activates the cargo crate's chute, and rides it safely to the ground. 

Xander and Serena kiss, and Darius pulls up in Xander's old car, as the two agents meet for the first time. The two separate xXx teams then decide to join forces, as they realize they're now considered outlaws by the U.S. government.


Annnnd cut to the entire team attending Gibbons' high profile funeral. During the funeral, Xander's approached by Gibbons (GASP!), who admits he faked his own death (again!). Gibbons is accompanied by Neymar Jr., who's apparently become an xXx agent. Gibbons tells Xander he's glad to see him back in action, and give him some sage advice: "Kick some ass, get the girl and try to look dope."

Thoughts: 
• There's really not much to say about xXx: Return Of Xander Cage. The movie's so over the top and ludicrous (in a good way) that nitpicking it would be pointless. As you would expect, I will strive to do my best though.

• At the very beginning of the movie, Gibbons tries to recruit Neymar Jr., as an xXx agent. Not being a fan of international football (aka soccer), I had no idea who the hell he was. Heck, I didn't even know he was supposed to be famous. I thought he was just some nondescript guy who wandered onto the set of the film.

I looked him up, and it turns out that Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. is a popular Brazilian football star who plays forward for FC Barcelona. And that's one to grow on!

So why the hell is Gibbons recruiting an internationally famous football player for his spy program? Aren't secret agents supposed to be anonymous? One would think celebrities would make poor spies.

By the way, Neymar Jr. says he's disappointed that Gibbons wants him for the xXx program, as he "thought he was being recruited for the Avengers." Haw! OK, I have to admit, that was pretty funny, and obviously a shoutout to Samuel L. Jackson's role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

One last thing about Neymar Jr. before we move on. At the end of the movie, Gibbons appears at his own funeral to have a chat with Xander. Neymar Jr. stands next to Gibbson the whole time, and they leave together. I was going to say that he must have decided to join the program after all, and now the CIA has an internationally famous secret agent. 

But wait a minute earlier in the movie the government told Marke they were shutting down the xXx program, and ordered her to eliminate all remaining agents. Either Gibbson secretly reopened the program, or Neymar Jr. is just hanging out with him for kicks (See what I did there? Kicks? Eh?). Is he Gibbons' houseboy now?

• When I first saw the trailer for this film, I laughed long and hard at the sight of Vin Diesel riding a skateboard. Diesel's FIFTY years old (as of 2017) and looks absolutely ridiculous as he flies down a steep hill on a board, in a desperate attempt to convince us he's twenty five at the most.

Fortunately this scene comes and goes pretty quickly, and the rest of the movie's not that bad. Vin Diesel's days as an action hero are definitely numbered though.

I honestly don't know which is worse: an aging action star who tries to act thirty years younger, or one who constantly whines "I'm gettin' too old for this sh*t" all through the movie.

• When we first see Xander Cage, he's living in the Dominican Republic with his girlfriend Lola. They have a brief sex scene, and that's the last we ever see of Lola! Xander's approached by the CIA about joining the xXx program and instantly leaves. Not even a goodbye scene with poor Lola, as she completely disappears from the movie.

Later Xander goes to London to see his informant Ainsley, and while he's there has an orgy with three of her friends. Apparently it didn't take long for him to get over Lola. 

I guess this is one more example of his xtreeeeme lifestyle!

• Earlier I mentioned the amazingly diverse cast of xXx: Return Of Xander Cage. Here's a rundown of all the main actors and where they're from:

Vin Diesel as Xander Cage: American
Donnie Yen as Xiang: Chinese from Hong Kong
Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger: Indian, born in Denmark
Kris Wu as Nicks: Chinese-Canadian
Ruby Rose as Adele Wolff: Australian
Tony Jaa as Talon: Thai
Nina Dobrev as Becky Clearidge: Bulgarian
Rory McCann as Tennyson Torch: Scottish
Toni Collette as Jane Marke: Australian
Samuel L. Jackson as Augustus Gibbons: American
Ice Cube as Darius Stone: American
Hermione Corfield as Ainsley: English
Tony Gonzalez as Paul Donovan: American
Michael Bisping as Hawk: English

• The McGuffin in this movie is the Pandora's Box, a piece of tech that can hack into any satellite orbiting the planet. Anyone possessing the Box could cause a satellite to hurtle toward the Earth like a bomb.


Hmm... why does that sound so familiar? Where have I heard of a device like that before? In a Bond movie? No, that's not right. One of the Jason Bourne films? The Mission: Impossible franchise?

Ah, I remember now. In Furious 7, Dominic Toretto, who just happens to be played by Vin Diesel, is approached by Mr. Nobody to steal the God's Eye. It's a device that can hack into orbiting satellites or any piece of tech with a camera, and allow the user to locate or track a person anywhere on Earth.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that xXx: Return Of Xander Cage and Furious 7 both star Vin Diesel, and feature identical plots in which he has to find similar magical gizmos. Yep, totally coincidental.

• Man, Ruby Rose is having one hell of a year. In the past two months she's been in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, John Wick: Chapter 2 and in this film. She's a busy gal!

Note that her biggest part is in this film. She's in Resident Evil for a grand total of about five minutes. She has a bigger part in John Wick, but plays a deaf mute assassin (?) and as such has absolutely zero lines.

• I don't understand why Tennyson Torch is so proud of his record of 198 crashes, and constantly brags about it. How is crashing 198 cars a good thing? Anyone could crash a car 198 times! That doesn't take any particular skill. 


Wouldn't it have made infinitely more sense if he had a record of 198 missions without a crash?

• Someone please, PLEASE, take Vin Diesel aside and tell him that his incredibly hideous coat with the massive fur collar is NOT a good look for him. Please.

Yeah, I know he wore it in the first movie, but it does not look cool, and it does not look xtreeeeme. It looks absolutely ridiculous. He looks like he just stepped out of The Revenant.

• When the C-5 plane nosedives, everyone on board experiences weightlessness and floats around the cabin (actually it's "free fall," but whatever). The movie actually got something right here, as this would actually happen in a steep dive. It's how NASA trains its astronauts to function in zero G. They use a plane, affectionately nicknamed the "Vomit Comet," to fly to the upper limits of the atmosphere and then dive almost straight down, giving the occupants a few seconds of simulated weightlessness.

In the real world, the Vomit Comet's period of free fall lasts around twenty five or thirty seconds before they have to level off. Here in the movie of course, the characters experience a good five minutes of weightlessness. Ah well.

• I know this is just a dumb action movie, but I don't understand how the DARPA bionic gloves are supposed to work. They're gauntlets that somehow enhance the wearer's strength, allowing one to punch through walls.

How the hell would that possibly work? It's just a fancy, high-tech glove! You can stuff all the bionics and circuitry you want into it, but it's still going to be limited by the user's strength. You'd need something that covered your entire arm, and probably your shoulder as well in order to increase punching power.

The only way these things could make you hit harder is if they had rockets on the back of them to propel your hand at the target faster.

• I never saw xXx: State Of The Union, but I'm aware of its existence and I know it starred O'Shea Jackson, er, I mean Ice Cube instead of Vin Diesel. So I was pleasantly surprised to see Cube's Darius Stone character make a surprise cameo appearance at a crucial moment in the film.

Unfortunately Stone's big reveal was ruined by one of the trailers, which contains pretty much his entire appearance in the film. Why the hell would they do this? Why would they release a trailer that spoils one of the few surprises in this movie? I feel bad for anyone who saw this ferkakta trailer and had their moviegoing experience ruined for them. Luckily for me I didn't see that particular trailer and was suitably surprised.

• After the plot's resolved, Xander tells the xXx agents that by refusing to hold still and let the government kill them, they've all gone rogue. From now on they're all wanted men and women, and the CIA will be looking for them.

So it only makes sense that the very next thing they'd do is attend Gibbons' funeral. A funeral for a government agent, which is likely being attended by numerous officials from various branches of the government, and is likely surrounded by hundreds of FBI, CIA and Secret Service agents. And yet Xander and his crew make absolutely no attempt at hiding their identities. Got it.

• Gibbons appears at his own funeral to give Xander some advice. This is the second time in the xXx franchise that he's faked his own death.

When he appears, we see he's now wearing glasses with a darkened left lens. I'm assuming this is another little nod to Nick Fury of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is a ludicrous and over-the-top action movie, whose indestructible characters ignore the laws of physics as they search the globe for a high-tech weapon. Despite its ridiculous premise, I found myself actually kind of liking it. It ain't high art, but as big, dumb and loud action movies go, it's not bad. I give it a B-.

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