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. The plot holes and absurdities in “Split” 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 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 the British gangster flick “Trespass Against Us.” 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. 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 trying to thwart bad guys who’ve stolen 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.