Critics Consensus

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Is an Absurd but Action-Packed Revival

Plus, Split, The Founder, and 20th Century Women are Certified Fresh, and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone wasn't screened for critics.

by | January 19, 2017 | Comments

This week at the movies, we have the return of a super-spy (xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, starring Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen), a kidnapper with multiple personalities (Split, starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy), the early days of McDonald’s (The Founder, starring Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman), a teenage boy coming of age at his single mom’s boardinghouse (20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening and Greta Gerwig), and a down-on-his-luck actor on the brink of a spiritual transformation (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, starring Brett Dalton and Anjelah Johnson-Reyes). What are the critics saying?


xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) 45%

Say what you will about Vin Diesel as an actor, but he’s nothing if not a man of his time. In today’s Hollywood, nothing’s quite as appealing as a franchise, and he’s got ’em falling out of his pockets: in addition to toplining the Fast and Furious movies and starring as the Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Groot in the MCU, he’s spearheaded the Riddick movies — and now, with this weekend’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage, he revives an action saga we once thought was long since finished. As the title implies, the third xXx finds Diesel returning as the no-nonsense secret agent, lured out of retirement (and his presumed death) to battle a bad guy (Donnie Yen) out to control the world’s military satellites; as you might expect, explosive set pieces ensue. Critics tend to give Diesel some extra latitude due to his easygoing charm, and that’s basically the case here; although it isn’t destined to rank alongside his more esteemed efforts, reviews describe an amiably entertaining outing that should satisfy fans while amounting to a painless diversion for everyone else.


Split (2016) 77%

M. Night Shyamalan‘s name was once synonymous with creepy thrillers and breathtaking twists. The writer-director has long since tumbled from the lofty heights he reached with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but he’s put together a quiet comeback of sorts over the last few years, and this weekend’s Split suggests he might have truly regained his creative mojo. Starring James McAvoy as a kidnapper who takes three girls hostage — all while coping with dozens of personalities that threaten to either fix the situation or make it much worse — it serves up satisfying genre thrills in the service of a story that manages to stick its twisty landing while offering its leading man plenty of room to put on a career-defining show. Critics admit Split may not be one for the ages, but if it’s a nasty good time at the movies you’re after, this is one Shyamalan production that delivers.


The Founder (2016) 81%

The early years of Michael Keaton’s career were dotted with projects that found him playing fast-talking glad-handers, so even though it’s been a little while since we’ve seen him with that Night Shift or Beetlejuice-style twinkle in his eye, it sounded like perfect casting when word got out he’d be playing McDonald’s mastermind Ray Kroc in The Founder. Fittingly, reviews say Keaton’s performance as the ruthless visionary is one of the things that helps make this biopic more than just the story of a salesman who worked his way into an efficient drive-through and turned it into one of the world’s most successful businesses — to the eventual chagrin of the brothers who started it. Much like the restaurant’s food, it may leave you feeling a little unsettled after you’re done, but The Founder is a solid match for its leading man as well as a uniquely resonant look at modern American commerce.


20th Century Women (2016) 88%

Writer-director Mike Mills earned raves for his semi-autobiographical Beginners in 2011, and he’s tapped his own memories again for this weekend’s 20th Century Women, with similarly lauded results. This time around, he’s telling the story of a single mom (Annette Bening) who parents her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann) in the midst of a boardinghouse filled with eclectic tenants that include an artist (Greta Gerwig), a handyman (Billy Crudup), and a slightly older girl with a fondness for platonic bed-sharing. It’s the sort of quietly absorbing character study that can really be something special with the right filmmaker and cast, and critics say that’s exactly what we have here — Mills again turns out affectingly empathetic work, aided and abetted by a Bening performance that’s earning some of the best reviews of her distinguished career.


The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2017) 54%

Nothing triggers a spiritual reassessment quite like a personal setback, and acting is a uniquely high-stakes profession that can send a person soaring from poverty to riches and back again — so The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, starring Brett Dalton as a former child actor whose poor choices get him slapped with community service, has a certain amount of built-in dramatic potential. We know Gavin ends up serving at his local church, where he tries to worm his way into the starring role in their annual Passion Play, and the title makes it pretty clear he’ll undergo a religious reawakening in time for the final act. Unfortunately, because there are still only a small number of reviews for Resurrection, we can’t really offer a clear picture of what the critics think. You know what that means: it’s time to Guess the Tomatometer!


What’s New on TV

 

SIX: Season 1 (2017) 62%

Six‘s well-crafted action and engaging characters are intriguing in spite of the show’s trite premise and familiar narrative.


 

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Starless Dreams (2016) , a documentary about teenage female prison inmates in modern-day Tehran, is at 100 percent.
  • They Call Us Monsters (2016) , a documentary look at the lives of juvenile offenders in the California penal system, is at 100 percent.
  • The Sunshine Makers (2015) , about the two men who helped fuel 1960s counterculture by manufacturing high-quality LSD, is at 100 percent.
  • Antarctica: Ice and Sky (2015) , a new nature documentary from March of the Penguins director Luc Jacquet, is at 94 percent.
  • The Red Turtle (2016) , the latest acclaimed effort from the renowned Studio Ghibli animation house, is Certified Fresh at 91 percent.
  • Strike a Pose (2016) , a documentary reuniting the surviving dancers from Madonna‘s 1990 Blond Ambition tour, is at 89 percent.
  • My Father Die (2016) , about a man’s quest to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of their father, is at 86 percent.
  • Staying Vertical (2016) , a dramedy following a man’s hapless efforts to raise his child after being abandoned by the mother, is at 72 percent.
  • Trespass Against Us (2016) , starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson as a father and son divided over the future of their family’s life of crime, is at 57 percent.

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