Blu Tuesday: Return of Xander Cage and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”

Vin Diesel famously never made a sequel to 2002’s “xXx” because he didn’t believe in them, but that was before he became the go-to franchise guy with the “Fast and Furious” series, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, to a lesser extent, the Riddick saga. However, it seems unlikely that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” will reboot the stagnant franchise as intended, despite its blatant attempts to mimic the “Fast and Furious” films. Though it boasts the same over-the-top energy and its own multicultural cast, the movie comes off as nothing more than a second-rate rip-off with some truly ridiculous action sequences. It’s not a complete waste of time thanks to the involvement of Donnie Yen and Ruby Rose, but for a film that borders on so-bad-it’s-good territory for most of its runtime, “Return of Xander Cage” comes up short.

Extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes on Vin Diesel’s return, the supporting cast, location shooting and stunts, as well as a gag reel. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“The Space Between Us”

The basic premise of Peter Chelsom’s “The Space Between Us” – which follows a teenage orphan who comes to Earth after spending his first 16 years in a space station on Mars – is ripe with potential, but it’s largely spent developing a cheeseball YA romance that feels like an ill-advised mix between “Starman” and a Nicholas Sparks novel. Though it contains some solid performances from its cast, including Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman, they’re unable to save the movie from the minefield of plot holes (like how a couple of teenagers are able to stay two steps ahead of NASA scientists), tacky jokes (cue scene of Butterfield eating a Mars candy bar) and bad dialogue (“I didn’t get to choose where I was born, but I get to choose where I die.”) Houston, we have a problem, indeed.

Extras include an audio commentary by director Peter Chelsom, a featurette on the film’s various themes and some deleted scenes. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

“Return of the Dragon” / “Game of Death: Collector’s Edition”

Following Shout! Factory’s 4K restoration of “Fists of Fury” and “The Chinese Connection,” the indie specialty label has given the same treatment to Bruce Lee’s other two films not titled “Enter the Dragon.” Though they’re easily the weakest movies in his brief career, “Return of the Dragon” and “Game of Death” both have some redeeming qualities. For instance, Lee’s directorial debut may be best known for introducing Chuck Norris to the world, but it also features some excellent martial arts work from Lee himself. While the attempts at physical comedy don’t really succeed, at least they’re intentional, as opposed to the terrible Frankenstein monster that is “Game of Death,” a poorly cobbled together Bruceploitation film that only contains 12 minutes of the original footage shot before Lee’s untimely death. Granted, those 12 minutes are pretty great, but the rest of the movie is so bad (especially the ridiculous lengths that it goes to in order to shoot around its obvious stand-ins) that you’re better off just skipping straight to the end.

Extras include two audio commentaries by Asian cinema expert Mike Leeder, a pair of retrospective featurettes, deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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