Quick Movie Review: xXx (2002)

xxx

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

Quick Movie Review: Barbershop (2002)

barbershop

There are a lot of experiences that young men should have growing up. Being exposed to the barbershop culture is one of them. I loved going to get my haircut when I was a teenager. Not just because I felt rejuvenated with my fresh cut, but because I enjoyed the banter, the stories, and even the superfluous arguments. It’s something I still look forward to when I go get a trim. And it’s captured perfectly in this 2002 Ice Cube comedy.

The story isn’t anything too intricate. It surrounds Cube’s character, Calvin, trying to decide whether or not he should sell the barbershop passed on to him by his late father. But most of the film is spent filling us in on the happenings of the employees and patrons of the shop, and their own stories. By far the most interesting part, we get a great sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. We feel like we’re right there in the shop with them.

It has its fair share of broad comedy, but there aren’t a lot of moments of subtle humor. Which is okay, since it does the former so well. While it’s rarely hysterical, you can definitely appreciate the repartee. In fact, most of the highlights don’t come from the barbershop at all, but from Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate’s characters stealing and attempting to open an ATM machine. This subplot goes on throughout the entire film.

With an impressive cast and an even more impressive Ice Cube, the beauty of this film is in its characters. They’re not all likable, but you get to know them well enough to understand them. It’s deceptively deep.

Ultimately, Barbershop turns a very simple premise into something much bigger and more meaningful. And it does it without ever feeling like it’s being stretched too thin.

Although it’s not perfect, it’s perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a culture so beloved by American males.

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

my big fat greek wedding

Boy, how well does this film holds up 14 years later. Can we finally admit to its greatness now?

Whatever tropes it derives from the rom-coms of old serve only to make us feel comfortable in its grasp. But don’t let the formula fool you. This film is anything but cloying. It opts out of cliche and sappy–instead, giving us rompy situations that we could actually see happening in our own lives.

Toula, played by Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the film, is a 30-year-old woman whose family fears will become an eternal spinster. She doesn’t seem to care about her appearance, and she is very awkward when it comes to talking to other people. She is of Greek origin, and her family won’t let her forget it. They’re the type who only talk to other Greek people. On the other hand, Toula doesn’t care.

She meets Ian (John Corbett), who isn’t Greek. They fall in love and want to get married, but have to deal with the wrath of her family–mostly her father, played by Michael Constantine.

The cast is perfect–especially Constantine, who we are often times convinced is Vardalos’ actual father playing himself.

The humor is mostly made of inside jokes from Greek culture. If you’re not savvy on that, you might think you won’t understand. But the script does an excellent job of not making us feel like an outsider. And most of us have families with weird traditions and tendencies, too, so we get it.

There are a few lulls in the narrative, but the script always recovers well with something funny around the corner.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is truly funny in the most organic way possible. The scenarios all seem real. Vardalos is believable and hilarious in the lead role. She channels the sort of uninhibitedness that Lucille Ball was known for. Almost like a Kristen Wiig before her time.

But most of all, this film speaks to generations of society who can’t see past cultural differences. It was relevant back in 2002, and is still very much that way now. It’s a tale we’ve been seeing, in one way or another, for centuries now, but still can’t seem to get us to change our ways. Although no one’s life is at stake in this film, we could all learn a thing or two from the story. It’s deceptively deep.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: Comedian

comedian

As an aspiring standup comedian, I felt it necessary to watch Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedian” before I went any further with my set development. I have to say it was both entertaining and informative. Maybe I got more out of it considering my present circumstance, but I think that it’s great insight to a world that many never consider has much insight. It’s an art that’s taken for granted much of the time. It’s easy to laugh. We tell jokes with our friends, so it must be easy to do something that is so bare at its essence. “Comedian” proves that that’s not really the case.

The premise is to show the construction of a one-hour set. Seinfeld is scrapping all his old material and starting over. He’s made it and proven himself in the world of comedy, but seeks a higher challenge and meaning. This is paralleled with young comedian, Orny Adams, who tries to make a name for himself.

For those interested in pursuing standup comedy, this is a must-watch. It aims to motivate and is pretty unbiased in its effort. And for those who just like to spectate, it will show you a different side to that world.

Twizard Rating: 93

Quick Movie Review: Stealing Harvard

I know most people hate this film, and I suppose I can see why. However, I personally liked it a lot. Although there’s not much reason for the story and it is just a mashup of a bunch of funny ideas that are put into scenes, it actually has some really good bits. There are tons of quotables and running jokes in this one too. 

 

The humor in this film is found in the little things. Duff’s mom, Elaine’s gift baskets, Uncle Jack, John’s lawyer, the non-sensical jokes. For a 13 year old boy this movie is gold, and for an avid moviegoer this film seems dumb and pointless. Well, it’s definitely dumb and pointless, but that’s the point. You might have to watch it a 2nd time to really understand it. I’ve seen this film 4 times I think, and I still enjoy it. I know it doesn’t make much sense because we all know that the events in this film would never happen and the way the characters handle them are so unbelievable. And considering the ridiculous script, the acting is pretty impressive. The direction is kinda weak and there’s almost no character depth, but if you take this film for what it is–an asinine farce–then you won’t end up hating it quite as much.

 

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder

With tons of one-liners, a great main character, and an ending that will make you smile, Van Wilder is very much a product of the early 2000s. It also happens to contain probably the grossest scene I’ve ever seen in a movie (you’ll know what it is when you see it). Although I was impressed with the direction, the story is middle of the road and the acting is just average. However, I do like this movie and would not hesitate to watch it again if I had the chance–especially to let some of the lines sink in my brain better for my own personal use.

 

Twizard Rating: 75