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New in Theaters January 20: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Split, The Founder, Gavin Stone

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By Chris Kavan - 01/19/17 at 06:44 AM CT

Once again, so many new films, so little title space. In any case 20th Century Women is also expanding this week, along with the story behind McDonald's and Ray Kroc in The Founder, we see the return of Vin Diesel in an action sequel that is a long time coming, the latest twisted tale from the master of twists M. Night Shyamalan and another feel-good, faith-based film. I have a feeling this week is going to turn out a lot like last weekend - few winners and a lot of disappointments. In any case, we'll find out if my predictions are a bit more on point.

xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE I was a bit off on my estimation that last week the action film Sleepless would have a decent opening. I have a bit more faith this week as Vin Diesel has proven himself a box office draw and, even though it has been 15 year since we last saw Xander Cage in action, people are apparently keen to see what has happened (based on the response the trailers have received). In any case, while xXx was no Fast and Furious, it was a fun action romp. Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and Deepika Padukone care coming together to make this a multi-national action romp. I have a feeling it's not going to be the most comprehensive or intelligent film out there - but if it offers fun and action, why the hell wouldn't people show up (those not interested in Oscar-nominations that is).

SPLIT I admit, I had all but written off M. Night Shyamalan after he tired out his whole "twist" motif, and butchered The Last Airbender and the less said about After Earth, the better. But then he returned to his roots: horror. I loved The Sixth Sense (even without that twist ending, it's still creepy as hell) and although The Visit is no Sixth Sense, it was a much more subdued yet disturbing horror (and, yes, it also had a twist, but let's not dwell on it). That is why I have high hopes for Split. James McAvoy stars as a man suffering from multiple personalities - 24 to be exact - and he kidnaps several young women (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula and Anya Taylor-Joy) as his most dangerous and violent personalities, referred to simply as "The Beast" threatens to come out and kill them all. They must find a way to escape, working with some of his more normal personalities, before they fall victim to some of his other less-savory sides. The movie looks absolutely bonkers, it's true, but for Shyamalan, bonkers is better. The weirder his movies are, the better they turn out, in my opinion. I have no idea how it will play with general audiences. In any case, I may not see this in theaters, but you know I'll be looking out for it on streaming.

THE FOUNDER Although the story of Ray Kroc and his now world-famous (and ubiquitous fast-food chain) is somewhat known - how well do we really know the man behind McDonalds? I guess we're going to find out as Michael Keaton takes on the role and we find out that Mr. Kroc wasn't exactly the nicest guy and that in order to make his franchise succeed, he had to throw around some weight and make some tough decisions that work out great for him - not so great for those around him. The supporting cast looks strong as well - Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak and Laura Dern make up the core of that cast. The director, John Lee Hancock, is no stranger to true-life stories, having already directed The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks, but those were more feel-good stories - hopefully The Founder takes a more hard-hitting approach and continues Keaton's revival following Birdman.

THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE I am not one that is ever keen on faith-based films. I find most take the most obvious and easy route in order to appeal to the target demographic and, at worst, are simply pandering for the sole sake of bringing in that audience. In any case, I have a feeling Gavin Stone is going to be little different as it follows a washed-up child star, forced in to community service at a local megachurch where her learns they put on a massive play and, in order to land the lead role, pretends to be Christian but, in a not-at-all surprising twist of fate - learns a valuable lesson and accepts Christ into his heart (or something similar). I know these kind of films can always count on a built-in audience to support it (some films more than others) but I have no problem in saying I will never watch this.

20TH CENTURY WOMEN This one is expanding wide, but will probably be in far less theaters than any of the above films. An ensemble cast (of women - surprise!) follows three women in Southern California in the 1970s as they explore love and freedom. Those three women are portrayed by the three very talented actresses Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig. I'm guessing this will also draw in a mainly female audience (based on the title and premise alone). In any case, Billy Crudup, Alia Shawkat, Lucas Jade Zumann and Alison Elliott help round out the cast. I'm guessing this one will be happy with a top 10 finish but based on the amount of competition, that may be asking for a bit much. I don't know how much general audiences are going to support this arthouse type movie, even with a strong cast anchoring it.

Another packed weekend is going to lead to another crowded box office. Last week led to plenty of disappointment and I have a feeling, even though we have stronger debuts, this weekend is going to feel similar. I'll be back Sunday with the results.


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