Monthly Archives: January 2017

xXx the Return of Xander Cage

If somebody told me that I’d be going to see a “XXX” movie back in the 70s, it would have meant something completely different. Vin Diesel has already appeared as Xander Cage in a  couple of previous films, but in this one he’s “pressed” into service when he hears about his old boss being killed.

xxx-poster The action starts within seconds of the opening credits and never lets up under the direction of D.J. Caruso. In fact, if you look up the definition of “action movie”, it would probably refer you to the film. In a nutshell: a device called “Pandora’s Box”, which can be used to direct orbiting satellites into becoming weapons crashing down from space is stolen by agents from a government headquarters. When the “brass” decides that this will require equally skilled men to bring them in, a female official says she knows of such a man.

xxx-1 She goes to Santo Domingo to “reactivate” Xander Cage and team him up with some military muscle, but Cage has these men “drop out” and assembles his own crew, which begins a series of deceptions, double crosses, and triple crosses that keeps the audience guessing. Cage and crew travel to the Phillippines to track down the thieves, who turn out to be xXx agents themselves, including UFC Welterweight Champion Michael Bisping in a cool role. Much of this cast were virtual unknowns to me, but they all gelled quite well together.

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, from left: Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Donnie Yen, 2017. ph: Michael The device is recovered, but as Xander points out when another satellite is highjacked, this was a “single unit” device, and the real one capable of accessing any satellite, is still out there. The real device is tracked down to Detroit, in a high-rise building, and the two groups of xXx agents work separately to get it, setting up a violent fight along Detroit streets until both teams decide to work together. It turns out the evil mastermind is himself a rogue CIA man with delusions of grandeur (old plot twist here).

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, Ruby Rose, 2017. ph: George Kraychyk / ©Paramount /Courtesy Everett

Just as the villain is “taken out” by sharpshooter Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), yet another development pops up involving equally crooked government agents (surprise) and even more shootouts and a harrowing plane ride that resolves it all in a neatly wrapped package that brings Xander and Serena (Deepika Padukone) together before the final scene in a church for the funeral of dead chief Augustus Gibbons(Samuel L. Jackson) who was killed all the way back at the film’s beginning.

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, from left: Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, 2017. ph: George Kraychyk / Diesel and Padukone, we deduce by the end, will definitely be an item. Diesel himself is listed as one of the producers in this movie, so he definitely has a vested interest in keeping the story going, and the end definitely points that way. “xXx” runs for just under two hours, and there isn’t time to get bored or even catch your breath, so if you crave action, you’ll get a full plate of it here.

Leave a comment

Filed under action films, Action-adventure, movies

Passengers Is Believable Sci-fi

passengers-poster   Passengers takes a fresh new look at an old problem which is currently on a lot of lips as we prepare to colonise Mars—how will people get there? This film concentrates on the “Homestead Corporation” which is sending thousands of people (in this case 5,000 passengers and 258 crew members) to a new world on a 120-year long trip under suspended animation on the Starship Avalon. At the beginning, we see the huge, essentially robotic ship and how it handles meteorites in space. It encounters a huge piece of space debris which figures heavily in the plot later.

passengers-2Jim Preston(Chris Pratt)is one of the passengers who awakens from the induced slumber and finds no one else has. He interacts with the ship’s systems and discovers that a malfunction has awakened him early and the ship still has 90 years to travel before it reaches its destination. Jim ambles around and encounters an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) who helps him keep a grip on loneliness until he finds another sleeping passenger named Aurora Lane(Jennifer Lawrence).

Jim agonizes over her, we eventually find out, for a whole year before waking her up for his own selfish needs, knowing that by doing so he basically ends her life prematurely. Jim and Aurora develop a friendship, then a romance, before she finds out Jim awakened her and grows to dislike him for it. Jim tries all sorts of tricks to win her back. About this time, several of the Avalon’s systems malfunction, and a crew member,Gus Mancuso(Laurence Fishbourne) also awakens.

Together, they figure out that something is causing the ship to malfunction, but it turns out Gus is ill and dying. In fact, he dies before the problem is found, which turns out to be a piece of the huge space rock that crashed in the Avalon at the film’s beginning.  Jim and Aurora have to fix it themselves,  which involves a highly dangerous extravehicular trip that costs Jim his life, although Aurora uses the ship’s robotic doctor to revive him.

passengers-3

Jim figures out a way to get Aurora back into suspended animation to finish the trip, but as the film ends we discover that she opted not to do that and made a life for themselves on the ship as the crew awakens when the Avalon nears the Homestead Planet 88 years later. Passengers,uses a sharp, credible script to work in the heavy, gee-whiz special effects in what turns out to be a formulaic romantic story on steroids that is highly enjoyable.

Leave a comment

Filed under science fiction