Has action changed all that much since 2002? Because action in movies has. Back before about 10 years ago, characters were much less jokey, things blew up a lot more, and bad guys had terrible aim.
While dated as can be, xXx is an enjoyable watch. The film's inspiration is questionable, but Vin Diesel plays the title role exactly how you'd expect him to. There is no shortage of platitudinous quips, but he delivers them in a way that makes you forget that the dialogue is terribly written.
Diesel plays Xander Cage, aka Triple X, a criminal stunt man hired by the US government to infiltrate the international mercenary group, Anarchy 99. There's not a whole lot more to it than that, yet the film seems to be able to stretch itself to nearly 120 minutes (132 in the director's cut).
xXx is so 2002 that, at times, you can't differentiate it from a early 2000s Disney Channel Original Movie. It sacrifices practicality for spectacle whenever it gets the chance. But considering its action-based modus operandi, the film still tends to drag at times.
Ultimately xXx does nothing new. At all. The only reason why anyone would watch this film is to experience Vin Diesel's charisma and charm. Because that's really the only unique aspect brought to the otherwise trite premise.
But it's entertaining. Mindless, but entertaining. Despite the hackneyed script, you have to commend the movie for not taking itself too seriously, ultimately not making it a chore to watch. It's actually quite fun and ridiculous in all its glory.
Twizard Rating: 72
Strangely enough Zac Efron was in 3 comedy films in 2016, when the man lacks any sort of comedic conviction whatsoever. It's a good thing he has Adam DeVine to compensate for him in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
The film follows Mike and Dave (DeVine and Efron), brothers who are always screwing up family parties with their wild sensibilities and attempts to snag women. So for their sister's wedding in Hawaii, their parents give them an ultimatum--either they bring nice girls as dates or they don't show up at all.
Right away you think to yourself, "Well they probably have a couple of female friends that are parent approved." Whether or not this would work for the characters' dilemma, this simple solution is never addressed. Mike and Dave jump straight to placing an ad on Craigslist, advertising a free trip to Hawaii, because that's the easiest way to get strange women to go on vacation with you. The unrealistic thought process of the characters not only insults the audience's intelligence, but lets us know that the film is just a means to an end, uninterested in actual logic.
Situations within a ridiculous premise still have to be cohesive to that ridiculous premise. Writers can't just do anything they want just because they've established a impractical scenario.
After placing the ad, the guys get thousands of responses but inexplicably can't find girls who are acceptable enough for their parents' standards. Eventually, a pair of trashy girls (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick) decide they want a free vacation and put on a nice-girl front so the guys will want to take them.
There are plot holes galore in this setup, but it's also the time in the movie with the best comedy. The rest of the way includes some funny isolated moments, but for the most part it tapers off. Then when it tries to stretch the already-thinning plot, things get weird and unnecessary.
With that said, I laughed more than I probably should have. DeVine has a true knack for comedy, which only serves to outshine his costars, constantly creating a juxtaposition of how poor the rest of them are.
Besides the initial archetypes set for the characters, their personalities are constantly wavering. We're made to like and dislike certain characters on a whim based on what's convenient to the story at any given moment. I do applaud, however, that the film doesn't really waste time trying to create conflict and develop a relationship between the two girls. Whether this was inadvertent or intentional, it works in favor of the overall product.
At one point in the story the film Wedding Crashers is mentioned, which only reminds us of what we could be watching instead.
Twizard Rating: 60
Great sets, cool effects, and an outer space setting--all the typical makings of a sci-fi movie. Don't let this fool you. It's a romance film. And a good one at that. It delves deep into the psyches of two characters and sees it all the way through.
Chris Pratt plays Jim, a passenger on board a spaceship heading towards a distant planet in order to repopulate away from Earth. The journey lasts 120 years and all 5000 passengers are supposed to remain in hibernation up until the final descent. After the AI wakes up Jim, he's excited about all the new people and opportunities he'll face. Except he discovers he's been awoken 90 years too early. And he's the only one who has.
Unable to put himself back into hibernation, he's alone for over a year. He contemplates ending his own life until he discovers the hibernation pod of a woman, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). Her presence gives him hope. He learns all about her from her passenger profile and ultimately falls in love with her. With nobody else on the ship--except a robot bartender (Michael Sheen)--he mulls over the idea of waking her up so she can share in his miserable desolation.
In some regard you can't imagine another actor in Pratt's role. His distinct brand of humor and timing gives us the levity we enjoy throughout the film. Then we ask ourselves if we really need it in the first place. He has a chance, here, to showcase his dramatic acting chops. And he really tries, but with somewhat diminishing returns. It's not terrible, but it's just enough to question his casting--other than the fact that he's a marquee name.
His tongue-in-cheek persona just adds to the film's already-uneven tone, which is only exposed more by its all-too-telling score. I enjoy a couple of the motifs, but I also don't like being told when my mood should change from happy to sad.
Yet we get a lot out of the performances. Emotions from both leads are felt. Lawrence perfects chilling anger and Pratt does fine with his drowning-soul melancholy. Once she's in the picture, Pratt's acting improves drastically. Not many will deny the pair's chemistry. But you can also make a case that either would have the same chemistry with anyone else they were to share the screen with.
There are a couple of details that are lazily missed, but those plot holes don't really make or break the overall story of the film. Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) gives us some lazy cuts, but the DP makes up for it with some deceptively beautiful cinematography.
Although the tonal shifts are all but jarring, its ruggedness works in favor of its self-created hybrid genre. The big reveal is a bit disappointing, but necessary to the greater good of the story.
Passengers is a fantastic love story whose premise only makes sense amidst its intergalactic setting.
Twizard Rating: 90
I've always said Ryan Gosling was meant to do comedy. I think very highly of the guy, but I hold the unpopular opinion that he's not necessarily the best dramatic actor in the world. In La La Land he gets a chance to utilize some dramatic-acting skills, but strays away from his usual angst-filled characters as he showcases his humor chops.
It helps that he and Emma Stone have such great chemistry. With their third feature together (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad) the pair demonstrate why they may be our generation's Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers--two actors that are paid homage to in this film.
La La Land is about a struggling actress, Mia (Stone), who is constantly being rejected at every audition she has, and a mercurial jazz pianist, Sebastian (Gosling), who dreams of opening his own jazz club. He is a talented musician but often finds himself going against his own integrity playing pop music and simple lounge standards. The two meet in a way that would make any classic cinephile proud, and over time develop a relationship, each dealing with his and her own floundering careers is the process.
The film acts as a love letter to Los Angeles. It's not necessarily a nice letter, but it's not a breakup letter either. More like a letter to an abusive partner who you keep coming back to for some inexplicable reason, only for them to spit on you and tell you you're worthless.
It pokes fun at the city, constantly saying out loud the things most of us would be tried for treason for ever thinking. But they've all been actual thoughts lingering in our minds at one point or another.
It's a quixotical view of what LA is supposed to be--or used to be. The two characters are old souls adamantly romanticizing what they view their ideal careers to be, only to realize that they view this city in an antiquated way that no longer really exists in today's world. Things such as technology and loss of nostalgia are ruining it, and they struggle to find the balance between the new and the old without wanting to compromise much.
The film, on the other hand, compromises the new and the old very well in its every moment. The songs don't feel modern, but they don't feel dated either. They're not necessarily poppy and affable at first--fitting well into the film's jazz theme.
Gosling and Stone are not fantastic singers, but they're not bad either, which makes their performances all the more appealing--they're one of us.
Much like a non-New Yorker can empathize with a film that pays homage (or lack thereof) to New York, one doesn't have to be from Los Angeles to get what the film is trying to say. Viewers can see where the movie comes from. LA is everywhere. We experience it in almost every movie we watch in one way or another.
La La Land isn't just for Los Angeleans. It's for dreamers and people with big visions. For people who have been rejected over and over and over again, told they're not good enough, and still, for some reason, keep going back at it. But like anything we love, it takes a lot of work. La La Land makes you believe in your dreams again.
Twizard Rating: 100
If you want to talk about consistency between the two Neighbors films, they do a great job. Unfortunately, the first film isn't good. And its sequel is perhaps slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor, but suffers from so many of the same fundamental issues (see Neighbors).
I didn't need to revisit the first film in order to prep for this one. All I had to remember was how much I hated it.
This one features the same unbelievable amount of plot holes, the same immature and derivative humor, yet lacks the somewhat "relatable" theme. However, I can probably say that I laughed a bit more this time around (twice is still more than once, right?).
In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, husband and wife duo, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, sell their house, which is now in escrow. So the new owners have 30 days to back out if anything seems fishy about the situation. It just so happens that a new sorority, headed by Chloe Grace Moretz, moves in next door. Apparently sororities in America have a strict "no party rule," but THIS sorority vows to ignore that rule and throws one every night of the week.
One of the things I hate about the first film is repeated once more here. The filmmakers want us to root for both sides, trying to make us empathize with both Rogen/Byrne AND the sorority sisters. But reality is, Moretz and her gang are really terrible people. What halfway-decent person would throw bloody tampons at a window with a 2-year-old on the other side watching? I'm literally not exaggerating.
Then, in comes Zac Efron reprising his frat-guy role from the first film. But he's not just featured in the film--he becomes a third protagonist. We go into his whole story of being kicked out of his apartment after his roommate gets engaged. Now he feels all alone and is unsure of where his life is going.
So the film is jumping around all three stories and winds up covering zero ground because of it. And Rogen, who's the only funny person out of the leads, is featured the least. Moretz and Efron are great and all, but they're not funny. This is a comedy.
Pretty much the whole film consists of the married couple and the sorority going back and forth pranking each other. Rogen and Byrne report them to the university's administration, so to get back at them, the sorority steals all of their belongings and sells them (?). The filmmakers obviously assume that no one watching this is trying to solve any of these elementary conflicts themselves. Instead, they just keep piling on a series of unrealistic events where nobody is rational at all, and we're supposed to laugh about it.
The movies boasts a couple of nice cameos, which go underutilized for the most part. And the comedy scenes have no real structure or pacing--the takes are all just thrown in there in a seemingly unorganized way.
So if you loved the first film, you'll probably love this Neighbors 2. If you hated the first film, you probably won't even consider watching this one. It's a win-win!
Twizard Rating: 54