Tag Archives: Toni Collette

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

“Welcome to the moment.”

Oh for fuck’s sake!

When I said that I like popcorn flavoured junk food movies, what I MEANT was that I like fun films that don’t necessarily have something big or important to say. Daft action flicks that don’t take themselves too seriously.

It’s how I can watch the early Fast & Furious films without rolling my eyes to the point of agony. It’s how I can watch The Expendables without feeling the urge to push a biro through my ear. It’s how I can watch films like 2002’s xXx and 2005’s xXx: State of the Union and see them for the beer and pizza films they are and forget about them ten minutes after I’ve had a blast watching them.

I’m sitting down three nights after I saw Xander Cage return to write this review. I’m still furious at the insult to my intelligence I paid to sit and watch.

Years and years after Ice Cube saved the world, the Triple-X program is no longer a clandestine agency. It’s a full strength government funded organisation taking the most extreme people with the most fearless attitudes towards danger and turning them into super spies.

While on a recruiting missing, Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), the agency’s founder and leader is killed when a bad guy, with a weapon that drops satellites out of orbit, drops one on him. Not long afterwards, a team of highly trained agents (that includes legendary martial artists Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen and British Cage fighter Michael Bisping) break into a government meeting being led by big wig Jane Marke (Toni Collette) and steal the device.

Going straight to their last resort, the program hunts out and re-recruits the long thought dead Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) and send him and his team of reprobates to find the device and save the day.

So, yeah. I repeat: For fuck’s sake!

This film has two very clear, very distinct sides to it. Its first part is the cast. This is the part worth focusing on if you’re going to sit through this two hour cabbage fart. It’s the part where you see Donnie Yen kicking ass in spectacular fashion. It’s the part where Tony Jaa continues his amazing life-long audition to be the next Jackie Chan. Honestly, it’s even the part where Michael Bisping doesn’t make himself look like a complete tit and puts on a half decent show.

It’s these moments where the guys on screen are clearly having fun, and you get to have fun. For want of a shittier, more overused term: All those on screen have a chemistry that really shows when you watch them. Action stars doing action star things and having a damn good time doing it. Jaa and Bisping have an on screen bromance similar to Lundgren and Li in The Expendables, while Vin Diesel, the man that has become a Tesco Value Dwayne Johnson with this film, has a blinding time with relative newcomer Ruby Rose. This is absolutely because she is the one and only woman in the film he doesn’t awkwardly flirt with like a dog with three cocks; and these moments are much better for it. Even the surprise cameo that isn’t a surprise by the time it happens is a reason to grin like a fool.

Unfortunately these genuinely fun parts don’t make up for the shit show that is part two.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is so insulting to its audience, so unwilling to admit that those of us happy to watch them and give them the benefit of the doubt have more than two brain cells to rub together. In the space of less than two hours, this film managed to drop so far in my estimation that words simply cannot describe how insulted I felt as a fan of the series and how angry I was at how stupid it made me look. I’m willing to give most films a chance and I try so very hard to see them for what they are and enjoy them as such. But this film with its unforgivable jumps in logic and its inane, dried up dog shit excuse for a story take swings at my good nature every. Single. Second. It pretends to have something interesting to say.

As the thoroughly embarrassed Toni Collette tries her best to persuade herself of the legitimacy of the script she’s wasted valuable brain space memorising, she does nothing but put across the same brave face you’d expect to see on a kidnapped journalist trying to blink her way into a rescue, shitting herself as her captors threaten to end her but keeping a stern, straight face the whole time.

The film as a whole displays a level of stupidity that I simply can’t comprehend. Super-duper signal jammers find themselves a prime location in the film’s plot. Yet, every time one of them is switched on, everyone’s phone still fucking works. The latest recruit to the program is apparently a real life soccer star, so desperate are these people for soldiers that they stole a dude who can kick a ball in a straight line. But, it turns out, this was after they recruited a DJ in an Assassin’s Creed hood and an imbecile that likes to crash cars into things for a laugh. I mean… a super spy disc jockey? Really? What is he gonna do? Drop the bass on the twats with guns? Just please stop treating me like a fucking moron and put a little fucking effort into your film.

I was fully prepared to watch a mildly rubbish film, come out and review it saying it was fun but it’s one that’s to be watched with friends and beers and not taken too seriously. Having seen it, my tone has changed dramatically. There is no need to watch this film at all; I can’t recommend it to anyone, at all. I wouldn’t wish it in my worst enemy. It should be cast into the bowls of hell, along with La La Land and The Absolutely Fabulous Movie and forgotten about entirely, only ever to be brought up if you meet director D J Caruso as the reason you punch him in the dick.

Krampus

Krampus

I have a funny relationship with Christmas. I love the festive season but not too early. Decorations in October? Adverts in November? Not for me, it gets on my nerves. But usually a week or two before the big day I get swept up in the holiday season.

This year my Christmas spirit arrived earlier than usual and rather strangely through the horror comedy Krampus, about an evil Christmas spirit, and I don’t mean your dad’s homemade sloe gin.

Krampus was written and directed by Michael Dougherty (the man behind cult horror Trick r Treat) and stars Adam Scott (of Parks and Rec fame) and Toni Collette (from The Sixth Sense), as well as a few other recognisable faces.

The film begins as a traditional dysfunctional family Christmas; unwanted family coming to stay, issues at hand and things not being ready on time. In fact the opening scene set in a shopping mall is brilliantly done.

Things come to a head when youngest child Max – after bullying by his cousins and the contents of his letter to Santa being revealed – stops believing in the real meaning of Christmas and accidentally invokes a horribly dark and evil incarnation of Santa, Krampus, encountered once many years previous by Max’s gran Omi.

The film plays for laughs as much as it plays for shocks and scares, which was something I did not expect going in, thinking it would be a straight forward horror.

Whilst it is a horror film and is extremely dark in places – horrible creatures taking children and so on – it certainly draws influence from the likes of Gremlins and Cabin in the Woods, playing up to many horror tropes. Evil gingerbread men and toy robots get as many laughs as they do jumps.

You also get a creepy feeling. Elves, snowmen, toys and reindeer should not be twisted and intimidating but here they are and with good effect.

Performance wise everyone is good but not great. No-one stands out as amazing but as a cast they pull together to make the film funny and very, very dark.

Krampus himself is a creepy and intimidating creature, briefly seen until towards the end, and you almost want the real Father Christmas to swoop in to banish Krampus back to the underworld.

With so many films, past and present, being overly saccharine and ramming Christmas down our mince pie filled throats and falling flat, Krampus almost scares you into believing in the true meaning of Christmas.

If you want to start feeling Christmassy, don’t bother with Love Actually, Muppets Christmas Carol or Die Hard, but instead watch this ho-ho-ho-rror and let Krampus make your spine tingle all the way.

The Way, Way Back

THE WAY, WAY BACKThe success of winning an Oscar for their screenwriting work on Alexander Payne’s The Descendants opened some doors for Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who have spent most of their careers acting in minor roles in US sitcoms and comedy films. The Way, Way Back is their directorial debut, and is a sweet and very funny coming-of-age story with a whiff of autobiography.

Duncan (Liam James with the adolescent awkwardness of a young Michael Cera, but countered by a beautiful melancholy) is a 14-year-old spending the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell in brilliantly dickish mode) and his daughter at Trent’s beach house. Duncan and Trent’s relationship is strained, and it only gets worse when Trent attempts to give the young man a pep talk and ends up writing him off as a “3-out-of-10”. Duncan spends the summer trying to avoid the embarrassingly debauched antics of Trent and his friends, and is befriended, and then employed by Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manger of a local water park.

As soon as Rockwell hits his stride the film takes off in a wonderful fashion. Owen is the perfect Peter Pan-esque blurring of surrogate father and elder brother that both Duncan, and the film, needs. Too often I’ve seen promising US indie films stare at their navel and forget to make the audience smile (Adventureland, I’m looking at you), but Rockwell delivers a performance of such charm, energy, and out-right hilarity that the audience never gets a chance to think about the possibility of getting bored.

Yet despite Rockwell doing his best to hog the limelight, this is one of the finest ensemble cast performances I’ve seen all year. As well as Carell and Collette, the roll call of supporting actors is pretty much a who’s who of US indie comedies, with great performances from Alison Peet, Rob Corddry, and Maya Rudolph; meanwhile Nat Faxon and Jim Rash also get a chance to show off their comic skills as employees at the water park, And almost stealing the show from Rockwell is the incredible Allison Janney as Trent’s flirtatious, drunken neighbour, and it’s a good job she doesn’t share any screen time with Rockwell as I’m not sure the fabric of the universe could cope with the awesomeness that would entail.

Although the film briefly wallows in sentimentality and hackneyed nostalgia, it’s such a warm and funny film that I am more than prepared to forgive its minor flaws. In a decent year for comedy, this stands out as one of the best yet.

The Way, Way Back is released in cinemas today.