xXx: The Next Level (xXx: State of the Union) (Blu-ray) (2005)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Visual Effects Crew
Featurette-Making Of-From Convict To Hero
Featurette-Bullet Train Breakdown
Featurette-Top Secret Military Warehouse
Featurette-xXX: According To Ice Cube
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
|Year Of Production||2005|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Lee Tamahori|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Samuel L. Jackson
John G. Connolly
Ramon De Ocampo
Michael Don Evans
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Italian Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
If xXx 2: The Next Level, sounds like a video game, wait until you see the film, which is all about eXXXplosions!!! Indeed, you'll need a small crane to help you suspend your disbelief in the story. If xXx was a like James Bond meets Tony Hawk, xXx 2 is like James Bond meets Wile E. Coyote. Anyway, all the explosions and mayhem of xXx 2 can now be enjoyed in high definition on Blu-ray disc.
The first problem xXx 2: The Next Level (AKA xXx: State of the Union) has, is that there is no Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). As I mentioned in my review of xXx: Director's Cut, as with any true movie star, Diesel can make an otherwise rather ordinary film, exciting and interesting. With his muscular swagger, gravel voice, wry one-liners, and laid-back style, Diesel's presence alone made The Fast and the Furious watchable. If there's any doubt about this, consider the lackluster sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, that sank quickly without him.
Early in xXx 2, we're told Xander was killed in Bora Bora, which of course conflicts with The Final Chapter: The Death Of Xander, included with the DVD's Director's Cut. Personally, I think this film's opening would have been vastly improved if it had included the death of Xander - even if Xander was played by another actor.
As I mentioned previously, xXx is a little bit like James Bond meets Tony Hawk. While the Bond-like sexy and dangerous girls, and the nihilistic and nasty Villains with henchmen, are all still here, the gentleman secret agent, risking his life for his country has been replaced, for a far more cynical generation, in a post-9-11 world.
However, the Producers of xXx 2, and James Bond Director, Lee Tamahori, abandon the xXx extreme sports theme, and decide to go way-over-the-top with a new xXx, and a series of ridiculous, implausible stunts, explosions, and some very cheap-looking CGI, with dodgy compositing. While some of the sets and stunts are impressive, just about everything in this film looks fake, artificial, and unnatural. But then again, in this world the President quotes dead rapper, Tupac.
In xXx 2, the NSA, and indeed, US democracy itself, is under attack. After the NSA's not-so-secret base is invaded by mysterious Special Ops commandos, NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), flees in a rocket-firing muscle car, and recruits an unjustly imprisoned, Darius Stone (Ice Cube), a former Navy Seal and Special Forces soldier, to become the new xXx.
Sadly, Cube has none of Diesel's charisma, and he is certainly no Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or The Rock. Throughout this movie, Cube's grumpy sneer never seems to leave his face. Indeed, in terms of acting, he has two expressions - he can raise his left eyebrow, or his right eyebrow. I found it hard to accept Cube as a Navy Seal or Special Forces hero. While he's a fairly big bloke, the tubby Cube doesn't look particularly fit, and often appears awkward on-screen. Anyway, despite his tubbiness, his body seems to defy gravity in this film, as he leaps and dives miraculously and effortlessly throughout. Also, despite having been in prison for almost a decade, Darious strangely seems to be very comfortable with all the latest high-tech weaponry and gadgetry.
Fortunately, Jackson, and Willem Dafoe (as the sinister Secretary of Defense), help carry the film in the acting department, and make the most of the ridiculous, action-movie cliché lines the cartoonish, script provides. Comedian, Michael Roof, also makes a very welcome return as the comic sidekick, Agent Shavers.
In the movie's waiver-thin plot, when the President (Peter Strauss) and US democracy is threatened, somehow, Darious and his old chop-shop homies from da 'hood, rise up as patriots and flag waving heroes, cruisin' the streets in their car-jacked tank, to fight the power of the white, military-industrial complex.
xXx 2 is presented with a high definition transfer, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. The film has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
The sharpness of the image is excellent throughout, for example consider the detailed interior of the White House at 6:39, or the rolling landscape at 20:38. The black level is excellent, with deep and true blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent, for example look at the textures in the dimly-lit scene inside the house at 41:17.
As with the DVD, the colour is excellent throughout, with a well-saturated colour palette and accurate skin tones. That said, there seems to be a lot of digital grading throughout this film, which occasionally adversely affects some of the colours in the 'night' shots.
While some of the film stock appears a little grainy at times, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts. There are also no Film-To-Video Artefacts such as aliasing, nor film artefacts such as small black or white marks. Rarely some edge enhancement is noticeable, but I never found it distracting.
29 subtitle streams are present, and the English subtitles are accurate to the spoken word.
This is a BD-50 (50 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 16 chapters.
This movie is very loud and crammed with explosions, and fortunately the audio quality does it justice.
The DVD came with a few audio options: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Audio Commentary 1 Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary 2 Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). For the feature, the Blu-ray offers the choice of English, Spanish, or Italian Dolby TrueHD 5.1, as well as the two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
Dolby TrueHD Lossless audio is capable of carrying up to eight discrete audio channels, at a sample depth and rate of 24-bit/96 kHz. The maximum bitrate that can be encoded is 18 Mbps.
As the characters are often in helicopters, on top of trains, or in speeding cars, there is extensive use of ADR, but the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout on the default English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.
The movie's instantly forgettable, orchestral musical score is credited to Marco Beltrami, but the movie is dominated by hip-hop tunes. There is also an appearance by the group, Bond, who also provide some source music in one party scene.
As one would expect, this movie has a very aggressive surround presence, with plenty of surround activity. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide ambience throughout, such as the background noise in the restaurant at 34:28. There are also plenty of split-rear directional effects, and panning between speakers throughout, such as during the firing of automatic weapons on the aircraft carrier at 57:57.
The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout, especially to support the many, many, massive explosions.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a number of genuine extras included on this BD disc, but most have been lifted from the previous DVD release, and are still presented in standard definition.
As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.
Audio Commentary 1
Lifted from the original DVD release, Director, Lee Tamahori, and Writer Simon Kinberg, provide a screen specific commentary, in which they admit the film is a "summer action movie" aimed at an audience of young males. They also discuss the characters and story, and how they wanted the sequel to differ from the original.
Audio Commentary 2
Also lifted from the original DVD release, Director, he movie's VFX Supervisor, and CGI Supervisor provide a screen specific commentary, looking at the film's use of models, sets, locations, green screen, and CGI work. There are some interesting points on how CGI can now easily fix sloppy continuity and other filming mistakes,
Featurette - Making Of - From Convict To Hero (48:46)
Presented in standard definition, this featurette has also been lifted from the original DVD. It is divided into two parts:
Also presented in standard definition, these three short featurettes have been lifted from the original DVD:
Deleted Scenes (2:25)
Also presented in standard definition, and lifted from the original DVD, there are three short deleted scenes, with optional Director's commentary.
BD-Live promises to include advanced web-based features in a Blu-ray title, that might include downloadable video content, 'wallpaper', mobile phone ring-tones, interactive movie-based games, or even web-based shopping for product-placed items in the film. Furthermore, with BD-Live, some movie distributors will attempt to create online movie fan-based communities, such as those currently found on Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. In time, BD-Live should create a far more interactive home theatre experience, and perhaps more importantly, the distributors are no longer limited by the finite capacity on the Blu-ray disc in providing extras.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) recently launched its first BD-Live enabled Blu-ray title outside the US market, with the release of Men In Black in Australia in June 2008. This local release followed the recent Blu-ray Disc Profile 2.0 software update for Sony Playstation 3 (Version 2.20), which made the PS3 the first Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player available on the market. SPHE promised that BD Live will bring network connected Blu-ray features to Australia for the first time, but unfortunately there was no online content at time of reviewing.
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xXx 2: The Next Level was released on DVD in Region 1 and 4. It has not yet been released on BD in the USA, but I expect it will be the same cut as their DVD, which was released there without the UK censorship cuts we had.
xXx 2 is all about bling bling, and boom boom.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is excellent.
The extras recycle the DVD's bonus features.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|