REVIEW: XXX

CAST

Vin Diesel (Riddick)
Asia Argento (Marie Antoinette)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)
Marton Csokas (Sin City 2)
Michael Roof (The Dukes of Hazzard)
Richy Müller (The Poll Diaries)
Werner Daehn (Speed Racer)
Tom Everett (Die Hard 2)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Thomas Ian Griffith (Vampires)
Eve (With This Ring)
William Hope (Slumber)

An NSA mission to collect information on Anarchy 99, a mercenary group of former Russian soldiers goes awry when the agent’s identity is discovered. Anarchy 99 has a biochemical weapon named “Silent Night,” missing since the fall of the Soviet Union, and NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons believes the only way to get close is to recruit an agent that would not have any ties to the United States government or any formal training that Anarchy 99 would recognise. He selects Xander Cage, also known as X, an extreme sports professional and host of his own television show, who was recently captured by the FBI for stealing and destroying a prominent California senator’s car as an act of protest. Gibbons puts Cage through two tests– stopping a staged diner robbery and escaping from a drug cartel’s plantation in Colombia during an army raid, each test seeing Cage demonstrate both his physical and psychological skills as he both defeats his foes and rapidly assesses the situation before him– and offers Cage the mission. Cage is convinced to accept the mission after Gibbons uses a carrot/stick technique, with a clean slate as the carrot and a prison sentence as the stick.Xander goes to Prague and meets with the NSA support team including Czech agent Milan Sova, who explains that Cage is only in Prague because Gibbons had put pressure on Sova and if he does anything wrong, he will be deported back to America. Cage flips this show of authority by saying that he doesn’t want to be there and pointing out that he’s never been under anyone’s jurisdiction. While scouting an Anarchy 99 party, Xander purposely reveals Sova’s cover, which allows him to gain the confidence of Anarchy 99’s leader, Yorgi. Through Yorgi’s brother Kolya, who is a fan of Cage’s show, Xander gains critical information on the military background of Anarchy 99’s members. Xander is attending a car deal with Yorgi at his invitation when Sova shows up and starts a firefight. Xander shoots Sova with a fake blood-splatter round to make it look like he is dead, which causes Yorgi to fully accept Xander as a member of Anarchy 99. Xander returns with Yorgi to their headquarters, a castle outside of the city, where he meets Yorgi’s girlfriend Yelena. Xander finds Yelena trying to break into Yorgi’s safe and, taking her to a nearby restaurant, tells her he is an American agent. Yelena gets a call from Kirill, a sniper working for Yorgi, who reveals they know of Xander’s true identity before he starts firing on them. Yelena and Cage work together to help each other escape by staging a fight between them, which results in Cage knocking Yelena out with a serving tray. Cage is then kidnapped by the NSA team and taken to Gibbons, who tells Xander to return home since his cover is blown, but Xander refuses as he fears for Yelena’s safety from both Yorgi and a planned attack on the castle by special forces. Xander learns that Sova purposely blew his cover.Xander sneaks back to the castle and overhears Yorgi’s plans to equip a waterborn drone named Ahab with “Silent Night” to release the biochemical in the middle of every major city, starting with Prague. Yorgi tests the weapon on his scientists, killing them. Xander rescues Yelena from Yorgi and kills Kolya. At a safehouse, Yelena explains she is an FSB agent, working undercover to get close to Yorgi two years ago, but six months after the start of the operation, her contacts abandoned her. Xander organises the rest of the NSA team in Prague for an assault on Yorgi’s castle. Xander himself jumps out of a plane and snowboards to a nearby monitoring station which Anarchy 99 uses to secure the castle and destroys it by starting an avalanche, but is captured by Yorgi’s forces. Xander is taken back to Yorgi, who reveals he has captured Yelena again and has known about her true identity all along. As the special forces attack starts, Xander and Yelena use the opportunity to escape, killing Kirill and Yorgi, who already launched Ahab towards the center of Prague. Xander alerts Gibbons, who has the Czech military prepare to destroy the Ahab via airstrikes with the unfortunate side effect of releasing some of the biochemical agent. Xander harpoons Ahab from the car, grabs the hard drive containing the priming and targeting information and flips one of the primed bio-warheads, causing the drone to sink underwater. Xander is rescued from the freezing river and Gibbons promises Yelena American citizenship. Xander and Yelena are relaxing in Bora Bora when Gibbons calls, telling him there is another mission. Xander ignores him and goes with Yelena.XXX is a good film, and is moderately entertaining, though considerably too long; trimmed to 95 minutes or so, it could have been an even more decent movie.

REVIEW: MARIE ANTOINETTE

CAST

Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgram vs The World)
Judy Davis (Barton Fink)
Rip Torn (Robocop 3)
Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids)
Asia Argento (XXX)
Molly Shannon (Life After Beth)
Shirley Henderson (Trainspotting)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises)
Steve Coogan (Philomena)
Molly Shannon (Bad Teacher)
David Walliams (Little Britain)

Fourteen-year-old Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna Habsburg (Kirsten Dunst) is the beautiful, charming, and naive archduchess of Austria, youngest of Empress Maria Theresa’s (Marianne Faithfull) daughters. In 1770, the only one left unmarried among her sisters, she is sent by her mother to marry the Dauphin of France, the future Louis XVI of France (Jason Schwartzman), to seal an alliance between the two rival countries. Marie Antoinette travels to France, relinquishing all connections with her home country, including her pet Pug “Mops”, and meets the King Louis XV of France (Rip Torn) and her future husband, Louis Auguste. The two arrive at the Palace of Versailles, which was built by the King’s great-grandfather. They are married at once, and are encouraged to produce an heir to the throne as soon as possible; but the next day it is reported to the king that “nothing happened” on the wedding night.

As time passes, Marie Antoinette finds life at the court of Versailles stifling. Her husband’s courtiers disdain her as a foreigner, and blame her for not producing an heir, although the fault really lies with her husband. The French court is rife with gossip, and Marie Antoinette consistently ruffles feathers by defying its ritualistic formality. Marie Antoinette also refuses to meet with Jeanne Bécu, Madame du Barry (Asia Argento), the mistress of Louis XV. Over the years, Maria Theresa continues to write to her daughter, giving advice on how to impress and seduce the Dauphin. Unfortunately, Marie’s attempts to have sex with her husband fail and the marriage remains childless. Marie spends most of her time buying extravagant clothes and gambling. After a masquerade ball, Marie and Louis XVI return to find that the King has smallpox; he orders du Barry to leave Versailles, and soon dies. Louis XVI is crowned King of France, with Marie as Queen.

Marie Antoinette’s brother, Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor (Danny Huston) comes to visit, counseling her against her constant parties; advice that she finds easy to ignore. Joseph meets Louis XVI at the Royal Zoo and explains to him the “mechanics” of sexual intercourse in terms of “key-making”, as one of the King’s favorite hobbies is locksmithing. Thereafter, the King and Marie Antoinette have sex for the first time, and on December 18, 1778, Marie Antoinette gives birth to a daughter, Princess Marie Thérèse of France. As the baby princess grows up, Marie Antoinette spends much of her time at the Petit Trianon, a small chateau in the park of Versailles. It is also at this time that she begins an affair with Axel Fersen (Jamie Dornan). As France’s financial crisis worsens, food shortages and riots increase. Marie Antoinette’s image with her subjects has completely deteriorated by this point: her luxurious lifestyle and seeming indifference to the struggles of the masses earn her the title Madame Déficit.

As the queen begins to mature, she focuses less on her social life and more on her family, and makes what she considers to be significant financial adjustments. A year after her mother’s death on November 29, 1780, Marie Antoinette gives birth to a son, Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France on October 22, 1781. She also gives birth to another son, Louis XVII of France on March 27, 1785, and another daughter, Princess Sophie of France on July 9, 1786, who dies on June 19, 1787, a month shy of her 1st birthday. As the French Revolution erupts with the storming of the Bastille, the royal family resolves to stay in France, unlike many of the nobility. Rioting Parisians force the family to leave Versailles for Paris. The film ends with the royal family’s transfer to Tuileries Palace. The last image is a shot of Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, destroyed by angry rioters.

I think the reason this film is so often bashed and panned by critics and public alike is because they expect far too much of it. Many don’t seem to realize that this film is supposed to appeal to the senses, most importantly sound and sight. Its not trying to be some complete cinematic masterpiece, its simply trying to tell a story about a teenage girl married beyond her will and thrown into situations which mostly were not of her making. The most poignant thing about the film is the way in which towards the end her beautiful, carefree world fall apart as her child dies and the revolution looms over her family. Visually, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The sumptuous costumes and the outstanding use of the palace of Versailles really are a feast for the eyes. The use of 1980’s and modern indie music is a bold move but i think it works very well in line with the teenage queen gliding through the palace and its grounds. Do i think that Marie Antoinette’s story could do with a proper all out cinematic retelling? Yes, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this film. If you want an evocative drama then look elsewhere but if you want to escape into another time and place for a couple of hours then look no further than this film.