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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Gold & Lion

Dearest Blog: After missing out last week, this weekend it was off to Marquee Cinemas for four--yes, FOUR--big-screen blasts. 
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know or have guessed from the trailers.
First on my agenda: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
Alice makes a last(ish) stand against the Umbrella Corporation.
With this ostensibly "final" chapter of Resident Evil coming so quickly on the heels of Underworld's potential finale, for me it was inevitable to draw comparisons between the two badass-broad-fronted movies. I think Resident Evil comes up on the short end, but it's still a fun watch.
Like Underworld: Blood Wars, RE6 kicks off with a refresher on how we got to where we are. In both cases, this proved a waste of time. These movies do a good enough job of (over)explaining themselves as they go along that a person wouldn't be too lost to enjoy, regardless of what he did or didn't remember. It's to Milla Jovovich's benefit that acting chops are immaterial, as she acrobatically faces off with living and undead. Iain Glen is about as subtle a baddie as Snidely Whiplash. Though it's hard, these days, not to see him as the perpetually-friendzoned Ser Jorah Mormont, he does his best to prove himself a Wicked, Wicked Person here. The 2D effects are nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing to recommend the 3D upcharge and headache. There's some nice disaster footage (think Deepwater Horizon, if everybody hated the undead instead of the planet), and some truly wacky stunts, but much of the action is so dark all you can do is cross your fingers and hope your favorite character is still standing when it finally gets light again. Clumsy storytelling makes the film feel overlong. There's a nice thank-you message from director and star before the show, and, if it turns out this really is The End, it's a satisfying--if hokey--finish.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter runs 106 minutes and is rated R for "sequences of violence throughout."
The premise is less interesting and the cast less enjoyable than Underworld, but Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is big, dumb fun. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter gets four.
Next on the docket, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
The original Triple X is back in business.
Well, dear reader(s)... Now. We. Are. Talking. Were you in the market for a great, fun actioner? Well, you found it! xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is filled with absurd stunts, good-natured humor, pretty faces, and hardbodies all 'round. The plot obviously won't tax those little grey cells too much, but there are a few nice surprises wrapped around edge-of-your-seat action and a truly likable cast. And did I mention ridiculous stunts? Over the top in the most fun way. Vin Diesel knows his niche as well as any actor, and, while there may come a day when I no longer get a kick out of watching him do what he does, it is not this day.
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage clocks in at 107 minutes and is rated PG13 for "extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material."
It's not brain surgery, but The Return of Xander Cage is about as much fun as I can imagine having at the cinema. Of a possible nine Weasleys, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage gets seven.
Movie Catchup Day Two kicked off with Gold.
Against all odds, a down-on-his-luck prospector and a geologist strike gold in Indonesia.
Initially, Gold appeared to be another potential awards goldmine (see what I did there?) for Matthew McConaughey, but his loony performance doesn't help this too-talky tale get off the ground. McConaughey underwent another extreme physical transformation to portray Kenny Wells, a doughy dude with a receding hairline, and nothing says "Oscar bait" like a handsome actor who looks nothing like himself in a based-on-a-true-story role. Sadly, neither the performance nor the picture is very memorable, and Wells' appearance is played mostly for mean-spirited laughs. Edgar Ramirez is the film's highlight, understated as Wells' partner Michael Acosta. The picture moves slowly and is never really that interesting, thanks to unlikable characters and twists that can be seen a mile out. Ultimately it's a nasty little tale about greed and willful cluelessness, The Wolf of Wall Street without the gripping relevance. Gold runs 121 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout and some sexuality/nudity."
Gold is a dull, disappointing movie with little to recommend it. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Gold gets four.
Fangirl points: An Iron Maiden t-shirt is pretty prominent in one important scene. This is not a drill: an Iron Maiden t-shirt is in the movie!
The final installment on the weekend's busy schedule: Oscar hopeful Lion.
A young man who was lost as a child in India, then adopted by an Australian couple, searches for his birth family.
Lion is a moving true story of love and, if we're being honest, not a little good fortune. The film points out that over 80,000 children go missing in India each year, but this is a story about one of the lucky ones. Lost and miles from home, Saroo faces many threats to his well-being before being adopted by a childless, loving Australian couple. The setup drags on too long, and, for my money, the film would have been better served if it were trimmed a bit and/or spent more time on the young man's search for his birth family and less on the travails of his younger self. Having said that, newcomer Sunny Pawar is delightful and absolutely heartbreaking as the younger Saroo, owning the screen like a seasoned pro. Early scenes of his time on the streets are tense and uncomfortable, but effective. Nicole Kidman and David Wenham are almost too good to be true as the boy's adoptive parents, challenges touched on but mostly airbrushed like an unfortunate wrinkle before botox. (Sorry, Nicole.) As grownup Saroo delves ever more deeply into his search, Dev Patel is brilliant; eager and terrified, desperate for information, but hiding his intent from even those who might be able to help. It's a testament to the power of this story that, in an age where everyone seems to have forgotten how to behave appropriately at the cinema, there was nary a peep from my audience for the duration.
Lion clocks in at 118 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic material and some sensuality."
Lion is a sobering but uplifting tale of love and luck. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Lion gets seven.
Fangirl Points: Did I mention David Wenham??
Until next time...

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