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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO
Director:
DJ Caruso
Cast:
Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette
Writing Credits:
F. Scott Frazier

Synopsis:
Believed to be dead, Xander Cage secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment.
Box Office:
Budget:
$85 million.
Opening weekend:
$20,130,142 on 3651 Screens.
Domestic Gross:
$44,898,413.
MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English Dolby Atmos
English Audio Description
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/16/2017

Bonus:
• “Third Time’s the Charm” Featurette
• “Rebels, Tyrants and Ghosts” Featurette
• “Opening Pandora’s Box” Featurette
• “I Live for This Sh#t!” Featurette
• Gag Reel
• DVD Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


xXx: The Return of Xander Cage [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 14, 2017)

In the 15 years since 2002’s xXx became a moderate hit, two things happened. First, a sequel came out that left the original film’s hero for dead, as a featurette on a 2005 DVD killed off the character in no (seemingly) uncertain terms.

Second, original star Vin Diesel – who skipped the first sequel – became part of a massive franchise. Sure, the original Fast and the Furious predates xXx, but that series didn’t turn into a true commercial juggernaut until much later, a factor that seemed to give Diesel increased commercial credibility.

In the face of these factors, Diesel came back to the franchise with 2017’s xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, though the series’ future seems up for grabs. While Return bombed in the US, it did well enough overseas to allow it to turn a profit, so perhaps we’ll get The Re-Return of Xander Cage down the road.

In the meantime, Return allows us to observe new adventures with its unusual title hero. Though believed to be dead, it turns out government operative Xander Cage (Diesel) just went into exile instead.

Cage comes back after he hears from Jane Marke (Toni Collette), his new “handler”. A rogue agent named Xiang (Donnie Yen) threatens the peace after he nabs a deadly weapon called “Pandora’s Box”, so Xander and his new team of colleagues must retrieve the device.

What you won’t find in Return: a real explanation for the death scene found on the 2005 featurette I mentioned earlier. That reel didn’t leave much room for his resurrection, so I hoped the movie would at least attempt to explain what happened.

Nope. While Return pays lip service to the notion Xander faked his own death, it doesn’t directly look at the actions in the featurette. This isn’t crucial, but it would’ve been nice to see a connection to that reel.

Logical inconsistencies aside, Return actually starts out fairly well, especially when we meet Xiang and his cronies. The scene in which they steal Pandora’s Box delivers real thrills, mainly due to Yen’s talents, as he brings a dynamic sense to his stunts.

Once we get our formal reintroduction to Xander, though, Return begins its descent into action film clichés and tedium, some of which stems from its lead. Now on the verge of his 50th birthday, Diesel seems old for the role, especially because the movie surrounds him with actors half his age.

Granted, 50 isn’t the death knell it used to be, as “older” actors can pull off action roles better than in decades past. Daniel Craig isn’t much younger than Diesel, but he just seems “less old” and feels better matched for the world of the secret agent.

That means I can accept when Craig’s James Bond woos much younger women but I find it tough to accept the sight of hotties barely old enough to drink who swoon over Xander. Craig simply holds his age better than the craggy, lumpy Diesel.

It probably also helps that the Bond films at least try a little harder to keep the age difference from becoming too extreme. In Return, we see Diesel matched with women born in the 1990s, for God’s sake – one of whom was 8 when the first xXx came out!

Age-related concerns aside, Return sputters just because it offers the proverbial triumph of style over substance – and its style isn’t that great. After that impressive opening, we get a couple of pretty good sequences, especially during the climax. This sequence almost manages actual excitement, and a fun cameo gives it a kick.

However, the rest of Return feels like little more than semi-random, not-very-coherent action scenes in search of a story mixed with cheap clichés. Xander and his pals all seem as one-dimensional as can be, and even with wild stabs at action, the movie rarely delivers real excitement.

Admittedly, I’ve seen worse action flicks than Return, and the film comes with some glimmers of life. However, these remain few and far between, so we’re left with a loud, often-cheesy collection of violent scenes in search of actual thrills.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus C-

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.

Sharpness worked fine, with virtually no softness on display. This meant the vast majority of the film was accurate and well-defined. I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and the film lacked edge haloes or print flaws.

If you suspected Return would come with the modern standard teal and orange palette, you’ll get what you expected. I’d like to see action flicks dispense with those conceits, but given their restraints, they looked appropriate here.

Blacks came across nicely. Dark tones were deep and rich, without any muddiness or problems. In addition, low-light shots gave us smooth, clear visuals. All in all, this became a pleasing presentation.

I also felt happy with the solid Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Return. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the mix offered plenty of opportunities for lively auditory information, and it took good advantage of these.

From the opening scene on a plane to road chases to gunfire to explosions to other action elements, the mix filled the speakers on a frequent basis. The track placed information in logical spots and blended all the channels in a smooth, compelling manner.

Audio quality was also positive. Music sounded lively and full, while effects delivered accurate material. Those elements showed nice clarity and kick, with tight low-end. Speech was always distinctive and concise, too. This mix worked well for the film.

The set includes four featurettes, and we begin with Third Time’s the Charm: Xander Returns. In this eight-minute, 13-second piece, we hear from executive producers Vince Totino and Scott Hemming, producer Jeff Kirschenbaum, screenwriter F. Scott Frazier, director DJ Caruso, and actors Vin Diesel and Ruby Rose.

“Charm” looks at the franchise’s revival and story/characters. It lacks much substance and feels promotional.

By the way, Diesel claims xXx became a “Bond killer” that outsold the same year’s Die Another Day. Nope – by no box office measure did xXx win that battle.

xXx made $142 million US and $277 million total worldwide, while Day grossed went $160 million/$431 million. Some predicted xXx would be the bigger hit – and due to a much smaller budget, it did make a greater profit – but Bond still sold more tickets.

Next comes Rebels, Tyrants and Ghosts: The Cast. It fills 20 minutes, 18 seconds with info from Diesel, Rose, Kirschenbaum, Caruso, Hemming, Totino, Frazier, director of photography Russell Carpenter, and actors Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Tony Jaa, and Nina Dobrev.

As implied by the title, “Rebels” examines the movie’s actors and characters. Like the prior featurette, this one tends toward praise and fails to provide many useful facts.

Opening Pandora’s Box: On Location goes for 16 minutes, 10 seconds and features Caruso, Carpenter, Totino, Hemming, Kirschenbaum, Diesel, McCann, production designer Jon Billington, Pinewood Dominican Republic VP Albert Martinez Martin, visual effects supervisor Jasen Nannini and camera operator Angelo Colavecchia. “Box” relates notes about sets and locations, lighting and cinematography. Though more informative than its predecessors, “Box” still fails to give us a consistently compelling show.

Finally, I Live for This Sh#t! runs 15 minutes, 17 seconds and includes Diesel, Caruso, Carpenter, Frazier, Kirschenbaum, Rose, Collette, Bisping, Yen, supervising stunt coordinator Bobby Brown, and actor Tony Gonzalez. Here we get info about stunts and action. Like “Box”, “Live” mixes details with happy talk to become a passable overview of the subject matter.

A Gag Reel lasts two minutes, 12 seconds. It delivers the usual goofs and giggles, so it never becomes anything memorable.

A second disc brings us a DVD Copy of Return. It lacks all of the Blu-ray’s extras.

15 years after the first movie, Vin Diesel comes back to the franchise via xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Unfortunately, this sequel works little better than its ineffective predecessor, so it winds up as a lackluster attempt at an action experience. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio as well as mediocre supplements. Despite occasional thrills, Return mostly sputters.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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