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Movie Weekend Preview: January 20

Not sure what to see this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Split

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film just may be his most horror-tinged yet. James McAvoy plays Kevin – a man with more than twenty catalogued personalities who kidnaps college-aged girls. To escape, the girls have to work his personalities against each other . . . and prevent a new personality called the beast from emerging.

Shyamalan’s films have typically valued heroism, even while engaging in fear as a significant theme (Unbreakable is a great example of this). While this is being billed more as a straight horror film, his past record makes me think there will be more to this than meets the eye: possibly even some ruminations on mental illness and identity.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xander

Yet another film in the series about extreme athlete turned government operative, xXx is an attempt to revive the franchise that brought Vin Diesel much of his popularity (in addition to the Fast and Furious franchise). There’s nothing too special about this outing, and most legacy action films in recent years have been extreme disappointments. If you’re going to spend your money on an action film, and especially one that may have some content issues, better to spend on a film that has something to say – or at least has some decent entertainment value.

 

The Founder

Michael Keaton is enjoying something of a career renaissance. With the days of Mr. Mom far behind him, he’s starred in the last two Best Picture winners. The Founder, it would seem, is an attempt at another. He stars as Ray Kroc, the savvy salesman that took the McDonald’s restaurant a to a billion dollar business.

I’m excited about the opportunity to see Keaton on screen again, and it looks like he has really thrown himself into this character. But with the controversy that often surrounds McDonald’s (particularly after the Supersize Me documentary), this could easily become a lazy propaganda piece.  It’s intriguing enough that I will eventually see it, but I’m approaching it with something of a cynical eye, in case it become less about the characters, and the statement swallow up the story.

Yes, secular films can do that too.  Which, of course, leads us to our final film of consideration.

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you may not believe what I’m about to tell you: an actor who stars in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is starring in a cheesy Christian movie.  Brett Dalton (a.k.a. Grant Ward) is a Hollywood “bad boy” who is forced to do community service at a church after his latest episode of criminal behavior.  While there, he becomes interested in starring in the church’s play about the life of Jesus, which also causes him to examine Christianity more closely.

I want Christian film to succeed and make it difference in the broader culture, but I don’t expect that it will be through this film.  A problem with its approach can be found in the film’s tagline: “If church can change him, it will be a miracle.”  But church doesn’t change anyone.  God does.  A lot of the Christian films that portray conversions (and Christian films in general) tend to portray Christians as completely blameless and non-Christians as either clearly villainous or clearly without direction.  The problem with that is it doesn’t line up with reality.  Christians aren’t actually that perfect, and by portraying ourselves as that, we’re doing more harm in the wider culture than we are good.

Granted, much of this based simply on the trailer and what I know of the genre as a whole in recent years.  But I don’t see much reason to be any more hopeful for this release than I have been for previous ones.  If you want a good, wholesome movie for the family, this is a safe pick.  But I suspect it will, like the previous film on this list could, swallow up the story with the message, which does not make a good film.

Logan Judy
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At Cross Culture, Logan writes about film, comics, cultural analysis, and whatever else strikes his fancy. In addition to his work at Cross Culture, Logan also blogs and podcasts at A Clear Lens. You can find him tweeting about Batman, apologetics, and why llamas will one day rule the world, @loganrjudy.
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