*NEW* xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE REVIEW *NEW*

He should have stayed dead.

Left for dead, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson).

Let’s be honest. You should know what to expect with Vin Diesel. I actually enjoyed the first xXx. It had the right balance of action, fun and stupidity perfectly crammed into 90 adrenaline-fuelled minutes.

But this latest offering was just ridiculous. And not in a good way.

The opening sequence didn’t give me high hopes. Had the writers even seen xXx? NOT even Samuel L Jackson could save the day. He delivered his usual shtick BUT he seemed to forget the character he was supposed to be playing.

I always remembered Augustus Gibbons as a real hardass. His “Have you ever watched lions in the zoo?” speech left goosebumps.

His fractious relationship with the deluded Cage was the movie’s unique selling point. BUT why did they turn him into this?

 

His scar mysteriously gone. Some stupid Harry Potter glasses and a cringe-inducing cameo with the Barcelona attacking midfielder Neymar Jr.

Really?

Neymar Jr looked genuinely confused as if he had stumbled on the set by mistake.

That was only the tip of the iceberg.

Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) did her best as Cage’s new handler Jane Marke BUT her pale complexion and stern demeanour did nothing to spark any life into this incredibly droll plot line.

Donnie Yen wasn’t in this enough. The force was not with him on this one. Thank God he delivered a scene stealing supporting turn in another sequel. He smiled and shrugged away as he threw one horribly CGI’d kick after another.

NOT even the enchanting Deepika Padukone could save the day. By 20 minutes, I was ready to switch off.

However, once the main man appeared. My grumbling subdued. Diesel did his thing. Leaping off 50 foot TV antennas and skateboarding off cars. Enjoying sun, sea and sex in a beautiful exotic location.

I have to admit this was the liveliest acting I’ve seen from the guy. Less gristle and mumble. It was just a shame that the banter and one liners just didn’t work.

Lapping up a rapper’s paradise with a ridiculous fluffy coat and dozens of ladies. James Bond on Red bull and adrenaline.

And they still managed to make that boring?

Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) was incredibly annoying as the uber keen computer nerd Becky Clearidge. Ogling over Cage and chatting utter nonsense. Dreadful.

I couldn’t believe how surprisingly slow and drawn out this film felt. It didn’t help that the rag tag team of kn*bheads that Cage recruited were irritating.

The silly credits popping up with each member’s special party trick and unofficial Guinness world record attempts for achieving something completely stupid did NOT help.

The Wolf from Game of Thrones?! Oh how the mighty have fallen? A retarded conspiracy nut obsessed with Lockerbie? Really? Ruby Rose played on her bisexual vibe again. Seriously? Is that all she has?

Kris Wu’s character was woeful. His only ability appeared to be hijacking DJ booths and delivering “bangers” as a distraction. Yikes.

Vin Diesel was having fun and not giving a damn. BUT it felt like he gave his best in the wrong movie with the wrong character. Unintentionally comical and cringe-inducing.

By the hour marker, I conceded and accepted the stupidity. Some of the action sequences were actually quite watchable.

Rolling grenades while taking vodka shots? No. Motorcycle chases through a jungle rave? Surprisingly entertaining. Even if Cage was smacking opponents around with wheelie kicks.

That was until the bikes were miraculously equipped with water sleds to continue the pursuit across the river.

If you’re smiling at those quips then this might be for you.

The plot line was weak. Some mumbo jumbo about a Pandora’s box that can pull satellites out of the sky. Didn’t make sense. Didn’t care by the end. Got even worse when numerous xXX operatives crashed the party.

And yes, XXX 2 fans (Are there any?), there is a gratuitous cameo from one ice cold operative (Okay, confession time, I actually didn’t mind xXx: State of the Union. Say whaaattt).

The closing act was bearable as Cage and co. raced across gridlocked traffic to save the world. The mad highway punch up was a riot. Dancing around CGI’d cars and jumping across trucks. My God.

The laughable banter got better. If anything, it would have worked better if it was just Yen and Diesel. Rose and Padukone had their fiery bad ass moment in the finale BUT it wasn’t enough.

I can’t say I enjoyed it BUT it got more watchable as you accepted what it was. A mindless actioner that offered little BUT stupid moments.

I think it’s safe to say that franchise will be like its protagonist. Lost in the wilderness. Hopefully.

2/5

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THE BOY NEXT DOOR REVIEW

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The horror, the horror!

Oh boy. NEXT!

1 star for J-Lo. 1 for the laughs.

I think this film proved only one thing. J-Lo is still looking mighty fine at 45.

Anyway, critical cap back on.

I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with . . . nothing.

To be honest,  all the slating on IMDb really did make me dread this.

It was watchable. BUT oh so laughable.

My doubts crept in from the badly edited and poorly dubbed flashback opening sequence that quickly summed up that John Corbett (Sex and the City) had been cheating on Jenny from the Block.

Director Rob Cohen certainly tried his best to skim through all the predictable back story guff to get to the juicy stuff BUT by doing so made it even cornier and naffer!

Seriously it rushed along too much that you couldn’t really take it seriously.

I certainly wasn’t bored. BUT it felt like someone was fast forwarding one of those late night TV movie thrillers.

Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) was looking rough. Bearing in mind she is only two years older than Jen.

However, she manages to make as memorable a turn as she can as J-Lo’s BFF.

Ryan Guzman’s entrance (Step Up: All In) was corny as hell.

A frustrated J-Lo struggling with a broken garage door. The door looks set to crush our dozy and ill fated heroine.

Cue handsome muscle bound stranger. Insufferable drooling and cringeworthy dialogue.

It made me laugh that J-Lo’s character lets her son go off with said stranger without asking any real questions until he is gone. Nice one, Mom.

Lopez and Guzman don’t have bad chemistry BUT the poor set up and execution  felt like something you would expect to see in a certain adult movie.

The film does its best to zip along through the predictable soapy elements.

Guzman plays the mysterious and charismatic boy next door quite well.

However, we have to chug through the endless staring and checking each other out.

J-Lo biting her top lip. Guzman walking around any house and lawn in stereotypical greased up mechanic gear, white t-shirt or no shirt. Bleurgh.

The inevitable bonding between Claire (Lopez) and Noah (Guzman) over little things was so bad. Seriously their conversation over literature was unbelievably cheesy.

And then the son goes away with dear old dad for the weekend and while the cats away, you get the picture.

The leads deliver a raunchy encounter. BUT then the film takes a predictable turn. And one that didn’t quite come off that well.

The premise is a MTV take on Fatal Attraction.

BUT that’s the rub. Fatal Attraction was slow burning, tense, suspenseful. The ending . . . wow!

This was just utterly bonkers.

Claire instantly regrets the one night stand while Noah has other plans.

His sudden change in behaviour was too quick. Too volatile.

The film had a chance to be a slow burning thriller BUT the writer and director couldn’t be that bothered with the build up.

The little mind games were watchable enough.

Corbett’s love cheat trying to get back with the family. Noah dropping suggestive one liners. Seriously, the “I love your mother’s cookies” and “we got pretty wet last night” (Implying the storm) felt like expired American Pie gags.

The games soon crank up to 11 within a matter of a few scenes. Too sporadic. Fast, frantic and violent.

BUT it always felt and looked like nothing more than a bad B-movie that you wouldn’t expect to see on the big screen.

I have seen a lot worse. This at least breezed through and didn’t infuriate me. It was just funny for all the wrong reasons.

I mean, the allergy scene with Claire’s son (Ian Nelson)? Hardly spoilers. Noah goads him into having a fit. BUT Guzman’s reactions were so OTT.

You actually couldn’t work out if that was an accident or planned?

The music was silly. It really didn’t help add any tension. In fact it killed what little Cohen mustered.

You could write a checklist of things that Noah will do to spite Claire and tick them off while watching.

The sneaking around Noah’s house was a little tense. That was until Claire’s neighbour walked in. A scream off. A nervous knife wielding J-Lo hiding in her kitchen.

The son’s reaction when he walks in on a screaming J-Lo. (No, not like that). Priceless. “Hey Mom, what’s with the knife?”

The explosive finale was relentless and incredibly violent. It’s a shame that it just ends so abruptly. No, seriously. It just ends. Job done.

Rob Cohen does his best with a B movie. Which doesn’t say a lot. Yes, he directed XXX and The Fast and The Furious but he was also the guy that brought us Stealth, The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Alex Cross. Yeah . . .

It’s OTT, corny and ridiculous. If you want a laugh or something to “hate watch”, then I give you The Boy Next Door.

J-Lo does her best and her acting isn’t that bad. In comparison to Gigli, well . . .

It would be nice to see her with a good script. If she still acts like this, then I will throw in the towel.

It’s watchable for all the bad rap it got.

BUT it’s still pretty bad.

2/5

THE EQUALIZER REVIEW

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Denzel + Hit Girl = a dull long winded action flick. Redeemed by a few moments of carnage.

The Equalizer or Man on Fire 2 (if Creasy chose retirement and decided to work in a DIY store) proved one thing. That Denzel Washington is still very much the man.

He provides yet another powerhouse performance proving why he is one of the best actors going. But I fear he may have taken too much on with this one.  Normally you can bank on Washington to carry films that (on paper) may be a little lacklustre but this really did test me.

Washington’s presence certainly makes this just about watchable but it’s still a disappointing mess reprieved by two good performances and some moments of mayhem.

An agonizing coma-inducing opening did not help matters. We get an idea of Washington’s life in a few shots that should have taken up a couple of minutes not twenty. It meandered along as Washington keeps up appearances blending in and trying to maintain a peaceful (and incredibly boring) life.

It was incredibly clichéd and predictable as Washington banters with the staff. That and a tedious subplot in which he helps his best friend Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) train for his security guard exam. However, his little improvised dance routine is one I will be busting out the next time I hit the town.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Washington worked well together. You felt for her character instantly but the constant café meetings to build up a relationship that was clearly established just further slackened things.

I was waiting for the inevitable incident that would activate Washington to take action. An incident that would put Moretz out of action until the closing minutes when she pops back up as a mere afterthought. It’s surprising to see how grown up she has become but anyone could have played her. Anyhoo . . . By the 45 minute marker. FINALLY things got a little bit more interesting with Washington cracking skulls, taking names and dispensing B-movie one liners.

To be honest, every time he glared and tortured someone, I saw Creasy. The frenetic fist-fighting was a feast for any action junkie. The only problem is that the disposing of unmemorable henchmen was dealt with too quickly.

One niggle that irritated me through this. The Equalizer’s thing was his timing. In one particular scene, he threatens to dispose of the East (Or West. Not relevant) Coast Russian mafia in 16 seconds. Washington does his business in a bloody and incredibly violent fashion. BUT in . . . 30 seconds?

This happens constantly. He says 90 seconds to one person and takes five minutes instead. Is Washington getting too old for this shit? I may not have seen the famous TV series starring Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) but messing up one of his hallmarks does not bode well.

The final 20 minutes made up for a film that desperately wanted to be cooler than it was. The DIY Die Hard sequence offered everything I expected throughout the film . . . NOT just for the ending. I am happy to wait for the violence and destruction.

BUT only if there is enough story or something going on that’s worth filling in that time. 132 minutes is far too long. The action that was delivered was fast and furious. Washington can most definitely still play the hardened action movie veteran.

Antoine Fuqua may have reunited with Washington for their second outing but Training Day, this ain’t. All the other supporting characters were so unmemorable and clichéd that it frustrated me. All except for Marton Csokas (XXX)

He was absolutely brilliant. A worthy adversary to Washington’s peace-keeping protagonist. His lines may have been hammy in parts but Csokas’ expressions and dead pan delivery made him a villain to remember. His presence in every scene created tension and suspense. Something that was much needed.

After commending David Arbour (End of Watch) for his performance in A Walk Among The Tombstones, I found his character in this very dull, passive and generally unnecessary. David Meunier (Justified) made a more memorable turn in just one scene.

I was annoyed that we barely scraped the surface of McCall (Washington)’s past and the only taster we get is a boring encounter with Melissa Leo telling us what we already knew. And Bill Pullman? Remember him? President of America in Independence Day (Or the dad in Casper). A mere chess playing cameo? Terrible.

Washington makes it rain with quality acting, charisma and some fist-fighting, blood curdling violence. Csokas offers a villain that makes up for the lumbering pace. However, all it made me want to do is watch Man on Fire.

It got there in the end but boy, oh boy. If the credits suggested another one in the pipeline, get a better storyline. Or least some more action. Give it a go but me . . . I’m going to get Man on Fire out of the DVD cupboard.

2.5/5 for me.