Review: “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” (PG-13)

Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone/Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios(NEW YORK) -- Vin Diesel continues his climb back to past glory, reprising another role that helped turn him into, at one time, the world’s biggest action star.  Fifteen years after first playing Xander Cage in xXx, he reprises his role as X-games-type super-agent Xander Cage.

Only this time, Cage is no longer a government agent. Instead, presumed dead, he’s stealing transmitters from tall towers, skiing down a mountain of shrubbery, then skateboarding the rest of of the way while being chased by soldiers, all in an effort to allow a small village to be able to watch a soccer game. He’s a man of and for the people!

But the government comes calling when a group of lethal assassins, with a skill set not seen since Xander and his crew last worked for the government, infiltrates a top-secret meeting in an impossible-kind-of way, stealing a device that can activate any one of the thousands of orbiting satellites and turn them, essentially, into guided missiles, pointed at Earth.

Xander’s mission is to find the crew that hit the meeting and retrieve the device. Lending some acting gravitas to the film is Toni Collette, who plays the CIA agent in charge of getting Xander back in the game and, essentially, running the mission. She also introduces Xander to his team, which consists of military operatives, including a solider played by former NFL great Tony Gonzalez. This doesn’t sit well with Xander , who naturally replaces the soldiers with his own team.

This could’ve been a predictable story about Xander’s crew taking on a crew of equal, if not superior, skill. Instead, writers Rich Wilkes and F. Scott Frazier and director D.J. Caruso do an admirable job of kicking the story up a notch to something that is, at the very least, less predictable and mildly interesting.  Caruso also does a nice job of using the action as a character in itself, displaying a deft hand with the thrilling and creative action sequences.

Make no mistake, though: like the first two films in this franchise, this one’s replete with fits of utter stupidity, as well as being exploitative and misogynist.  We see plenty of handsome, chiseled men, but the camera doesn’t linger on their physiques nearly as much as it does on those of Deepika Padukone, Hermione Corfield, Ruby Rose and Nina Dobrev. These women are also formidable and smart, but apparently not enough to avoid the gratuitous way they’re depicted.

But that’s exactly what the audience for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage wants, and that’s exactly what they get: a stylish, fun, sexy movie that simultaneously manages to be exploitative and kind of dumb.

Three out of five stars.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


"A Dog's Purpose" Star Josh Gad "Shaken" by Alleged Cruelty Video From Set

Universal Pictures - 2017(LOS ANGELES) -- After TMZ obtained and posted a video allegedly taken on the set of A Dog's Purpose, animal advocate group People for the Ethical Treatment of Anmials has called for a boycott of the movie -- and now its star and director are speaking out, too. 

The movie, which hits theaters next week, details the relationship between dogs and their owners.

The video, which was released yesterday, appears to show a German shepherd named Hercules fighting his handler, who is trying to lower him into a pool of turbulent water for one of the film's planned scenes.

"[The] footage shows a terrified dog who is forced into churning water on set," PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange told ABC News in a statement. "PETA is calling on dog lovers to boycott the film in order to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props."

The film's producer, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and the studio distributing the movie, Universal Pictures, told ABC News in a statement that the recording and the incident's circumstances are being reviewed.

"Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German shepherd Hercules throughout the production of the film," it read in part.

Amblin added that the scene in question was scrapped because the dog was not comfortable.

"Hercules is happy and healthy today," the statement said in closing.

Actor Josh Gad, who is the voice of the dog in the film, issued a statement calling the video "disturbing." In a long Twitter post, the actor wrote that he signed on to the movie because he saw it as "one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen."

"While I do not know all the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment [in the video], I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will," he continued. "I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images."

The movie's director, Lasse Hallstrom, a "lifelong animal lover," also tweeted, stating in part, "I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Miguel Ferrer, Star of "NCIS: Los Angeles," "RoboCop," "Crossing Jordan," Dead at 61

David Livingston/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Miguel Ferrer, star of shows like NCIS: Los Angeles and Crossing Jordan, has died of cancer, according to a statement from CBS.  He was 61.

The actor was the son of Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer and legendary singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, and was George Clooney's first cousin.  His breakout role was as Bob Morton, the man who designed the experimental RoboCop cyborg, in 1987's RoboCop.

In addition to playing Dr. Garret Macy on Crossing Jordan and Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles, he played Vice President Rodriguez in Iron Man 3 and FBI forensic pathologist Albert Rosenfield in Twin Peaks.  He will appear in that role in this year's reboot of the show.

Ferrer also lent his voice to characters in movies like Mulan, Rio 2 and The Lion King II, as well as Superman: The Animated Series.  Before his acting career, Ferrer worked as a studio musician, playing drums behind Bing Crosby, among others.

NCIS: Los Angeles showrunner R. Scott Gemmill issued a statement that said, "Today, [we] lost a beloved family member. Miguel was a man of tremendous talent who had a powerful dramatic presence on screen, a wicked sense of humor, and a huge heart.”

Ferrer is surrvived by his wife Lori, and sons Lukas and Rafi.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Octavia Spencer Named Harvard's Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year

ABC/Alex Scott(MASSACHUSETTS) -- Octavia Spencer will be honored -- and roasted -- by one of the top Ivy League schools in the nation.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Hidden Figures star has been named the Woman of the Year by Harvard University's Hasty Pudding student theatrical group. The honor, which is given to performers who have made a notable contribution to entertainment, will be given to the Academy Award-winning actress on January 26 as part of the organization's first-ever live-streamed ceremony.

Previous recipients of the award have included Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Amy Poehler and Kerry Washington.

On February 3 Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds will also be honored by Harvard as the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Chris Evans Plots An Escape for Charity

Marvel - 2016(MASSACHUSETTS) -- Once again, Avengers series star Chris Evans has become a hero in real life.

To benefit one of his favorite charities, Christopher's Haven, which provides housing for families whose children are undergoing cancer treatment at MassGeneral Hospital in his native Massachusetts, Evans has launched another Omaze charity experience

A donation of just $10 can earn you 100 chances to join Captain America's alter-ego in an escape room -- a team building experience that has participants hunting for clues to spring themselves from a locked room. As always, various higher donation levels can also secure you goodies like autographs, t-shirts, and the like.

A win also lands you a chance to grab burgers and beer with Evans afterwards.

To promote the campaign, Evans and the company Trapology rigged the Boston comic store Comikaze into an escape room, and pranked a group of unsuspecting customers into playing along.

Feeding them clues via a walkie talkie strapped to a Captain America doll, Evans walked groups of players through a series of puzzles to get them to find a "secret Hyrda base" -- then jump scare them in the pitch darkness. 

Omaze has hosted similar one-of-a-kind charity experiences for Evans' other Marvel movie pals, including Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr. Pratt even visited Christopher's Haven in his Star-Lord costume after losing a Super Bowl bet with Evans.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


"American Crime Story" Planning Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky Storyline

Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- American Crime Story is trying to catch lighting in a bottle again, after its series The People v. O.J. Simpson became a smash with critics, awards voters, and viewers alike.

The affair between former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky will be the subject of a future season, according to Variety.

Author Jeffrey Toobin, whose book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, provided the storyline for the last season, has teamed up again with FX for the Clinton-Lewinsky season, which will be based on Toobin's book, A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.

The title refers to then-first lady Hillary Clinton's assurance that linking her husband to the 19-year-old intern was merely part of a "vast, right-wing conspiracy."

The book centers on Lewinsky's affair with Bill Clinton while she was a White House intern from 1995-96. Clinton was ultimately impeached on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice.

Two seasons of "American Crime Story" are currently in production. The first, Katrina, which will reportedly air in 2018, explores the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while Versace delves into the 1997 murder of designer Gianni Versace. There's no air date for Versace yet.

ABC News reached out to FX to confirm that the Clinton-Lewinsky-themed series is in development, but has not received a response.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Final "Logan" Trailer Puts the "R" in "Wolverine"

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine and Dafne Keen as Laura in LOGAN. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.© 2017 Marvel. TM and © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation(LOS ANGELES) -- 20th Century Fox has released the final trailer for Logan, Hugh Jackman's superhero swan song as the X-Man also known as Wolverine, and it seems to reflect Deadpool's R-rated influence.

The movie takes place after the other installments in the X-Men franchise, with both Logan and Patrick Stewart's character Professor Xavier mere shells of their formerly-powerful mutant selves, in hiding near the Mexican border. 

According to a synopsis tweeted by Jackman himself, "Logan's attempt to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces."

The young mutant is a girl named Laura, whose youth is a stark contrast to the fact she shares many of Logan's powers, like an unbreakable adamantium skeleton and razor sharp claws. The "dark forces" are apparently The Reavers, a group of mutant hunters led by a cyborg played by Narcos' Boyd Holbrook.

In the snippet, set to Kaleo's "Way Down We Go," we see Laura shoplifting at a gas station convenience store, until a clerk makes the mistake of scolding her for it. We then learn the little girl -- also known as X-23 -- also inherited Logan's temper, flipping the poor guy and almost running him through until Logan stops her.

The heroes on the run exist in a world where the exploits of the mutants have been immortalized in comics, but as Logan explains -- and the trailer demonstrates with R-rated levels of violence -- that "in the real world, people die."

Two versions of the trailer exist, one of which also makes use of the more adult rating's freedom from language restrictions. Even Professor X drops an F-bomb in the uncensored version tweeted by Fox Thursday morning.

The movie, from Oscar winner James Mangold, who directed The Wolverine, opens February 3. 

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


"black-ish" Stars Want Trump to Succeed

ABC/Kelsey McNeal(LOS ANGELES) -- Last week's headline-grabbing episode of ABC’s black-ish focused on the presidential election and the Johnson family’s reaction to it. But despite the characters' occasionally negative take on the results, the stars of black-ish, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, are very clear: they’re rooting for Donald Trump.

“We want  President Trump to succeed,” Ross tells ABC Radio.  Anderson agrees, adding, “I want him to prove all the naysayers wrong.”

That doesn't mean they don't have concerns, however, which is why Ross is joining the Women's March on Washington, taking place Saturday.

“The experience of actually being in a sea of women and feeling the magnitude of our power, as a collective group, in and of itself is important,” says Ross.  “And I think as women we have an ability and we have for, since the beginning of time, been representing more than just ourselves. And I think that we will continue to do that and that's part of what the march will be about.”  

There are marches planned in D.C. and across the country Saturday.  black-ish airs on ABC Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Ellen DeGeneres Makes People's Choice Awards History

Sonja Flemming/CBS(LOS ANGELES) -- Ellen DeGeneres made People’s Choice Awards history Wednesday night, winning three trophies to bring her lifetime total wins to 20, the most of any person in People's Choice history.

Ellen won Favorite Animated Film Voice for Finding Dory, Favorite Daytime Talk Show Host for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Favorite Comedic Collaboration, for the “Mall Mischief” bit she did on the show last month with Britney Spears.

DeGeneres joked when she accepted her record-breaking award: "Seventeen, I get it; eighteen, sure; nineteen, I can see that.  But twenty is outrageous."

It was also a big night for country star Blake Shelton, who became the first country artist to take home the all-genre Favorite Album Award.  The Voice coach also won his second consecutive People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Country Artist, and gave a shout-out in his acceptance speech to girlfriend and fellow The Voice coach Gwen Stefani, whom he called "the hottest date here tonight."

Favorite Humanitarian recipient Tyler Perry used his acceptance speech to note that, "As I look at the state of the world and the state of our country and everything that is going on, it is so important that we know that no matter how dark it gets, we all know that we have to be light for each other."

Johnny Depp, winner for Favorite Movie Icon, referenced his highly publicized divorce from actress Amber Heard, noting, "I was very deeply affected by the kindness of your recognition and by your well-wishes to my family and myself, which is why it's especially meaningful for me to be here in front of you to say thank you,"

Thursday night also marked the debut of all-girl singing group Fifth Harmony as a quartet, following the recent departure of original member Camila Cabello. They also won for Favorite Group.

The Great Indoors star Joel McHale hosted the awards, which were broadcast live from the the Microsoft Theater on CBS.

Here's the complete list of winners:

Favorite Movie
Finding Dory

Favorite Movie Actor
Ryan Reynolds

Favorite Movie Actress
Jennifer Lawrence

Favorite Action Movie

Favorite Action Movie Actor
Robert Downey Jr.

Favorite Action Movie Actress
Margot Robbie

Favorite Animated Movie Voice
Ellen DeGeneres, Finding Dory

Favorite Comedic Movie
Bad Moms

Favorite Comedic Movie Actor
Kevin Hart

Favorite Comedic Movie Actress
Melissa McCarthy

Favorite Dramatic Movie
Me Before You

Favorite Dramatic Movie Actor
Tom Hanks

Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress
Blake Lively

Favorite Family Movie
Finding Dory

Favorite Thriller Movie
The Girl on the Train

Favorite Movie Icon
Johnny Depp

Favorite TV Show

Favorite Network TV Comedy
The Big Bang Theory

Favorite Comedic TV Actor
Jim Parsons

Favorite Comedic TV Actress
Sofia Vergara

Favorite Network TV Drama
Grey’s Anatomy

Favorite Dramatic TV Actor
Justin Chambers

Favorite Dramatic TV Actress
Priyanka Chopra

Favorite Cable TV Comedy
Baby Daddy

Favorite Cable TV Drama
Bates Motel

Favorite Cable TV Actor
Freddie Highmore

Favorite Cable TV Actress
Vera Farmiga

Favorite TV Crime Drama
Criminal Minds

Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor
Mark Harmon

Favorite TV Crime Drama Actress
Jennifer Lopez

Favorite Premium Drama Series
Orange Is the New Black

Favorite Premium Comedy Series
Fuller House

Favorite Premium Series Actor
Dwayne Johnson

Favorite Premium Series Actress
Sarah Jessica Parker

Favorite Network Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show

Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show
The Walking Dead

Favorite Premium Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor
Sam Heughan

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress
Caitriona Balfe

Favorite Competition TV Show
The Voice

Favorite Daytime TV Host
Ellen DeGeneres

Favorite Daytime TV Hosting Team
Good Morning America

Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host
Jimmy Fallon

Favorite Actor in a New TV Series
Matt LeBlanc

Favorite Actress in a New TV Series
Kristen Bell

Favorite Animated TV Show
The Simpsons

Favorite New TV Comedy
Man with a Plan

Favorite New TV Drama
This Is Us

Favorite Male Artist
Justin Timberlake

Favorite Female Artist
Britney Spears

Favorite Group
Fifth Harmony

Favorite Breakout Artist
Niall Horan

Favorite Male Country Artist
Blake Shelton

Favorite Female Country Artist
Carrie Underwood

Favorite Country Group
Little Big Town

Favorite Pop Artist
Britney Spears

Favorite Hip-Hop Artist

Favorite R&B Artist

Favorite Album
Blake Shelton, If I’m Honest

Favorite Song
Justin Timberlake,  “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

Favorite Social Media Celebrity
Britney Spears

Favorite Social Media Star
Cameron Dallas

Favorite YouTube Star
Lilly Singh

Favorite Comedic Collaboration
Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears’ Mall Mischief

Favorite Humanitarian
Tyler Perry

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Producer Says Team Toned Down Violence After Reaction to Bloody "Walking Dead" Premiere

AMC/Gene Page(MIAMI) -- In response to feedback from viewers shocked by Negan's bloody rampage on the season premiere of The Walking Dead, producer Gale Ann Hurd says the creative team has adjusted the level of violence on the show. 

Some viewers balked at the premiere, which saw Glenn and Abraham bludgeoned to death -- and in Glenn's case, his head smashed into a puddle of goop -- by Jeffrey Dean Morgan's baddie and his barbed wire-covered bat. 

"We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season," Hurd explained Wednesday at the annual National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Miami. She added, of the highest-rated series on TV, "This is not a show that is torture porn." 

The Walking Dead returns to AMC February 12 at 9 p.m.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio