Review: Split

Click Here to read our review of Split.

Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Click Here to read our review of xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Review: The Founder

Click Here to read our review of The Founder.

Review: 20th Century Women

Click Here to read our review of 20th Century Women.

Review: xXx Return of Xander Cage

Another X Movie? Bring your popcorn.
12 years after the 2nd installment, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is the third film that brings the xXx series back to the big screen. After years of making the world think he was dead, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) reappears after being confronted with a mission that will save the world from an unstoppable device called Pandora's Box.

This film started with Xander Cage caught in the middle of action and kept up the pace from there. I really enjoyed the action and fight scenes mixed with the occasional explosion that all add up to a cliche action film. While the genre didn't disappoint, the plot was somewhat of a let down as it was basically the cookie cutter recipe for an action movie.

Don't let that deter you from seeing it however because while the plot wasn't too interesting, the stunts and acting were. I was taken aback at how far the fight scenes have come since the first xXx movie. Several moves had me as well as the audience gasping and cheering as Xander Cage and his team fought various battles along the way to save the world from the bad guys.

Even if you haven't seen the previous two films, you won't be lost with the characters because for the most part they are all new, with a few originals making their return as well. Also there were several funny scenes that was a refreshing against all of the action. I also liked that they included a mini biography in the form of a pop-up on screen about each character which usually made 2 out 3 of their bullet points funny.

If you like movies about "guns, girls and looking dope while doing it" then this is the movie for you.

3 out of 5

What would I have changed? (Spoilers)
Click here to read what I would Change
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Ashley Ashley (Contributor) is an Orlando native who loves watching movies. Her favorite genres include comedies, thrillers and sci-fi

Review: Split

M Night Shyamalan’s new horror film is bound split audience opinion.
Signs, the Sixth Sense… The Happening? Some of Shyamalan’s entries into the film world have truly created movie history while others… well some of us just refuse to acknowledge that they even exist (there is no movie in Ba Sing Se). With Shyamalan returning to the low-budget horror film trademark that defined his early career, will Split be enough to revive his legacy?

Split sets the scene by introducing us to three high school girls who quickly find themselves victims of a crazed kidnapper. Locked away in an underground bunker, the three start to realize that something is amiss with the man that took them captive. On the first night, their captor comes in dressed and acting like a woman. Suspecting this as a ploy to get in their heads, they begin their quest to try to find a way out. But when they are once again visited by their captor, but this time acting like a nine year old boy, the three girls start to piece together the truth of what their kidnapper suffers from. Taken in by a man that suffers from dissociative identity disorder, the girls have to navigate his multiple personalities all the while they uncover the much darker, more sinister plan he has in mind for them.

Split gives us the signature Shyamalan treatment: you get mystery, you get supernatural, and how could we forget, you get twists. The film does a great job of setting up its world. Although it has horror elements, the film is certainly more of a mystery thriller. It reveals a little bit of itself at a time. And as you get shots of the captor’s therapist and her explanations of dissociative identity disorder, it sinks in that something paranormal is hidden beneath the surface. Split builds plenty of intrigue and it does a good job of pulling you in. It also does a good job at making the audience feel uneasy and uncomfortable. This is in no small part to the brilliant performance by James McAvoy and his chameleon-like ability to shift in and out of different characters with ease. He truly makes the performance feel real and alive.

With all that Split does right, the expectation is set for another great film in the recent series of kidnapping films like Room and especially the paranormal-influenced 10 Cloverfield Lane. For a majority of the film, I definitely felt the Shyamalan influence, and I think many in the audience are going to hail this as his return to the spotlight as a result. However, this is more wishful thinking than reality. For all the things the film does right, it also does a lot wrong. For someone hailed as the king of twists, a lot of the reveals throughout the film were predictable. The backstories to several characters were expected, and the direction of the film becomes apparent very early on. As much mystery as the film tries to build, very little of it turns out to be shocking or satisfactory. And to avoid spilling the beans on the very very big twist (do not read the spoilers if you plan on seeing the film… and honestly, avoid reading anything about the film), I will say that although it was shocking and completely took me by surprise, it also did not feel like it at all fit with the film or did anything to add to it. In fact, I would even argue that the entire film is pointless if not for the major twist. Which leaves me feeling even more disappointed as I just watched an entire movie for a two second payoff. It just felt like it was trying too hard to make itself into something bigger.

All in all, the film just didn’t have very much payoff. If you are a fan of Shyamalan, I strongly suggest seeing this film as it is bound to have all of your favorite things. For the rest of us, it built itself up to be something much bigger than it really was, and the whole movie just ended up being a hollow shell created for a two-second shocking moment. Although it is better than most of the mediocrity shoveled out by the director in the past, I don’t think this is a great bar to set the standard. Shyamalan is back, but he’s back to his same-old, subpar filmmaking.

1.5 out of 5

What would I have changed? (Spoilers)
Click here to read what I would Change
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Johnny Johnny (Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you go another place. 

Review: The Founder

“The Founder” or The Fast Food Social Network.
“The Founder” tells the story of the founding and franchising of one of the world’s largest and most recognizable restaurant chains, McDonald’s. With a (likely intentional) slow start in which we are introduced to Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), an Illinois businessman and traveling salesman with ambitions beyond that of his slow, comfortable, and quiet little life and a various array of attempted business ventures to achieve them, the most recent being the selling, or lack thereof, of Prince Castle (falling under to Hamilton Beach) milkshake mixers. To Ray’s good, and unexpected, fortune he receives a large order for his mixers from a burger restaurant in San Bernardino, CA. Driving across country to check the place out for himself, Ray- frustrated with his regular and consistently shoddy experiences with the inefficient drive thru restaurants of the time- discovers what he later determines could become “the new American church”, McDonald’s hamburger diner. Witnessing the large but quickly moving lines, tasting the delicious burger (and fries), and seeing the euphorically satisfied families of customers, Ray is fascinated by the efficiency and success of the (newly defining) fast food restaurant. After meeting entrepreneurial brothers Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), receiving a tour of the restaurant, and hearing the story and innovative thinking behind their founding of the restaurant, its “speedee service system”, and awe-inspiring “golden arches”, the wheels in Ray’s profit-seeking mind start turning as he dreams up a new business venture between he and the brothers who after some convincing, though reluctant and with prior bad experiences, agree to take Ray on as a- contractually limited- partner in franchising McDonald's.

Rushing in headfirst and headstrong Ray begins quickly expanding the chain and dealing with the growing pains of doing so. To open his first franchise restaurant at home, he applies for loans with multiple banks that- familiar with his previous unsuccessful business schemes- refuse him. He faces frequent arguments with and lack of idea approval from the humble and wary brothers who fear that his too many and too quick changes, though they may be business savvy/good for the bottom line, would put the quality and name of McDonald’s (that they worked hard to establish) at risk. And finding and navigating the franchisee relationships proves more difficult than he originally expected. And though he finds a way to deal with these issues and build the McDonald’s brand and reputation, he’s unsatisfied with the lack of substantial profit he’s seeing, partly due to the limitations of his contract (and relatedly, the brothers’ refusal to approve certain cost-saving and profit-increasing ideas). Playing up his own involvement in the company’s “founding”, partnering with savvy financial consultants, and lawyers, a frustrated and greedy Ray begins finding ways to increase his profits and control over the franchise that go around the brothers’ “purview” and, with the newfound success of his own endeavors and positing himself as the face of and mind behind McDonald’s, begins looking for ways to cut the brothers out completely.

What follows is the compelling, stomach turning (in more ways than one) story of business and betrayal that likens “The Founder” to a fast-food restaurant oriented version of “The Social Network”, with less legal vindication, consolation, and story closure.

Keaton is perfect as Kroc, inspiring initial sympathy and understanding in the frustrations of the unfulfilled (though partially just unsatisfiable) man still trying to find his passion and pursue ambitions late in his life, earning respect for the efforts, determination, and forward thinking that lead to his success, but then eventual anger and even malice- maybe mixed in with a bit of begrudging respect depending on your (professional) personality- for the behavior and that same, yet increasingly twisted, ambition (and sense of morals) that gets him there. Lynch and Offerman offer charming and sympathetic, if at times a bit melodramatic, performances as the humble and seemingly incorruptible McDonald’s brothers.

In the end, though we feel for them and are upset at how wronged they were, maybe even a bit outraged by it, we can’t help but look back (in hindsight of course) at the places THEY went wrong; all the ways they could have prevented themselves from getting so majorly screwed over and even have ended up riding the massive wave of success of the business they started. But a lot of those ways would, if the script was true to the character of the brothers, have forced them to compromise who they were (their morals, their integrity, their brand) and tarnish the “glorious” name of McDonald’s. But, as Ray questions in the end (the answer to which he makes a point to drive home in the final scenes) who really has the name anyway? As Ray and “The Founder” posits and proves (in a somewhat both satisfying and unsatisfying/upsetting way), when it comes to the cycle of business, wealth, and success, it’s a dog-eat-dog (or maybe more appropriately kroc-eat-kroc) world and to the victor go the spoils. And, as the story and symbol of McDonald’s, that’s America...and, sadly, probably one of the truest and greatest stories of attaining “the American Dream.”

4 out of 5

What would I have changed? (Spoilers)
Click here to read what I would Change
_________________________________________
Liz Liz (Contributor) is an ardent cinephile from West Philadelphia. She enjoys all genres and generations of cinema and has a particular love for independent and foreign films

Review: 20th Century Women

Women are Power in 20th Century Women.
20th Century Women is the story of a single mom and boardinghouse landlord, Dorothea, who recruits her two female tenants, Julie and Abbie, to help parent her teenage son to become a man in 1979 California. Since the three women fall into different age groups, their approach to how to help mold 15 year-old Jamie into a man causes them to clash at times.

This movie was boring to me because it didn’t have any plot twists or surprises. Most of the things you assumed were going to happen actually happened which left me bored and wondering when it was going to end.

I did enjoy the characters however because of their like-ability. They were quite relatable and since they were each presented in documentary form with their name, explanation of personality/background and birth year, I found myself getting a real understanding of who they were which was refreshing.

I also liked how they magnified the approach from the women helping to raise Jamie being that they were from different generations - Dorothea a mature woman, Abbie in her late 20’s and Julie an older teenager. Each one thinking their method was better than the other with Jamie keeping them on their toes.

If I were you I would save this movie to watch at home because of the lack of twists and turns but it wasn’t awful enough totally skip.

2 out of 5

What would I have changed? (Spoilers)
Click here to read what I would Change
_________________________________________
Ashley Ashley (Contributor) is an Orlando native who loves watching movies. Her favorite genres include comedies, thrillers and sci-fi

Contest: The Sleeping Beauty Admit Two

Enter to win an Admit-Two Pass to see The Sleeping Beauty Live!
Mind on Movies is very excited to announce that we are working with Fathom Events on The Sleeping Beauty, in selected theaters on Sunday, January 22nd, 2017 (LIVE) 12:55pm ET to giveaway an admit two to select winners.
On her 16th birthday, a curse by the evil Carabosse causes the beautiful Princess Aurora to fall into a deep slumber for 100 years and only the kiss of a prince could awaken her. In this resplendent and magical classic, the Bolshoi dancers take us on a dream-like journey through this classic fairytale complete with jewel fairies, a magical kingdom, a youthful princess and a handsome prince in this purest style of classical ballet. The Bolshoi’s sumptuous staging with its luxurious sets and costumes gives life to Perrault’s fairytale unlike any other. New production: recorded live earlier that day on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

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