Since hitting the big time with “The Sixth Sense,” the work of quirky filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has been a hit-and-miss affair. His new horror entry “Split” is something of a return to form. James McAvoy is excellent as a man suffering from multiple personality disorder who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls. Betty Buckley is also fine as his sympathetic psychiatrist. There are plot holes and absurdities in “Split” that are hard to dismiss, but the actors make this taut chiller work as well as it does.

 

Michael Keaton’s dynamic performance is also the driving force in “The Founder,” the true story of the longtime chairman of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc. As in “Breaking Bad,” Kroc’s character arc takes a surprising turn, first winning audience support as an underdog and then losing it as he evolves into a backstabbing manipulator. It’s a distressing look at unbridled greed and ambition.

 

The talented cast also carries the day in “20th Century Women,” a comic drama about a free-spirited mom raising her teenage son in bohemian fashion in the 1970s. Annette Bening gives a nuanced performance sure to land her another Oscar nomination. It’s a melancholy coming-of-age flick.

 

A fine cast can’t quite save “Trespass Against Us,” a British gangster flick that is somewhat reminiscent of 70s drive-in fare. Michael Fassbender plays a small time hood who rebels against his dad, played by Brendan Gleeson, the head of a rag-tag band of gypsy-like thieves who live in a rural trailer compound. Even if you can navigate through the array of thick accents, this story and its strange conclusion will probably still be unsatisfying.

 

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is the third in the over-the-top action series. Vin Diesel is back as the extreme athlete now working as a CIA agent. He’s out to stop some bad guys who’ve gotten their hands on a doomsday weapon. It plays more like a stunt reel than a story.

 

The Screenland Armour presents the annual compilation of horror films, Panic Fest, Jan. 27th -29th. Info is available at panicfilmfest.com.

FREEZE FRAME: “Split,” “The Founder,” “20th Century Women,” “Trespass Against Us,” “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”

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Since hitting the big time with “The Sixth Sense,” the work of quirky filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has been a hit-and-miss affair. His new horror entry “Split” is something of a return to form. James McAvoy is excellent as a man suffering from multiple personality disorder who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls. Betty Buckley is also fine as his sympathetic psychiatrist. There are plot holes and absurdities in “Split” that are hard to dismiss, but the actors make this taut chiller work as well as it does.

 

Michael Keaton’s dynamic performance is also the driving force in “The Founder,” the true story of the longtime chairman of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc. As in “Breaking Bad,” Kroc’s character arc takes a surprising turn, first winning audience support as an underdog and then losing it as he evolves into a backstabbing manipulator. It’s a distressing look at unbridled greed and ambition.

 

The talented cast also carries the day in “20th Century Women,” a comic drama about a free-spirited mom raising her teenage son in bohemian fashion in the 1970s. Annette Bening gives a nuanced performance sure to land her another Oscar nomination. It’s a melancholy coming-of-age flick.

 

A fine cast can’t quite save “Trespass Against Us,” a British gangster flick that is somewhat reminiscent of 70s drive-in fare. Michael Fassbender plays a small time hood who rebels against his dad, played by Brendan Gleeson, the head of a rag-tag band of gypsy-like thieves who live in a rural trailer compound. Even if you can navigate through the array of thick accents, this story and its strange conclusion will probably still be unsatisfying.

 

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is the third in the over-the-top action series. Vin Diesel is back as the extreme athlete now working as a CIA agent. He’s out to stop some bad guys who’ve gotten their hands on a doomsday weapon. It plays more like a stunt reel than a story.

 

The Screenland Armour presents the annual compilation of horror films, Panic Fest, Jan. 27th -29th. Info is available at panicfilmfest.com.

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