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Split the difference, hold the lettuce

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I didn't get any listings of what's opening locally this week so we're flying blind here. But that is OK because January, a.k.a. the cinematic doldrums, is where the Hollywood studios quite often dump the films that didn't quite live up to expectations (a.k.a.: they suck).

This week they've slotted the new M. Night Shyamalan flick in, which makes perfect sense because the last time that guy made a good movie was the first time (The Sixth Sense).

But Split may be the exception. James McAvoy stars as Kevin, a dude suffering from "dissociative identity disorder." Which means he has 23 personalities, and not all of them are nice. While one of the less amicable personalities is running the show, Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula and Anya Taylor-Joy), locks them in a fortified basement, and lets the psychiatric shit show commence. Rather than overpower him and escape, the three girls build tension by playing Kevin's different personalities (which include an old woman and young child) off against each other.

Of course, it wouldn't be Shyamalan without some kind of supernatural element and here that comes from 'The Beast,' an unreleased 24th personality that can potentially alter its own biological structure to gain superhuman powers (because we normal humans only use 15 per cent of our brain's potential, or whatever.) And the tension mounts....

The good news is Shyamalan (The Visit, The Village, Signs) has a solid team on this one. James McAvoy's performances carry the picture and strong camerawork from Mike Gioulakis (It Follows) give everything that creepy, grimy, claustrophobic, nightmarish tone that Shyamalan needs to help overcome a script that is almost totally unable to handle female characters who aren't victims (and that includes all the female personalities McAvoy plays, except one.)

If you can get over the old-fashioned gender roles though, Split is a solid B-movie thriller elevated by its acting and a banger grand finale. Held up to the majority of Shyamalan's output, Split is a masterpiece, but that's like praising the crispness of an apple while holding a wet bag of dog puke. Regardless, this one is worth seeing, especially for January.

The Founder is also opening this week and stars Michael Keaton (a.k.a.: the best Batman) as a wandering milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc who in 1954 stumbles onto a pair of California brothers with a good idea (fast-food hamburgers) and ends up not only owning their company, but franchising it into one of the biggest food businesses in history: McDonald's.

The script hammers the same points over and over but the takeaway is that this is not a feel-good story. In fact, it's greasy and kind of sickening (McDonald's!) but Keaton shines as a real-life villain and The Founder offers an interesting take on the problems with American capitalism, the rise of the business-first mindset, and the dangers of letting the fox into the McChicken coop.

If you plan on staying home this weekend, there is fun to be had on Netflix. Sing Street is a pretty fun '80s musical comedy set in Dublin about a teenaged boy who starts a band to impress a girl. It's kind of like The Commitments meets a junior high sequel to School of Rock with solid themes of brotherhood, loyalty, and sticking it to the man. Sing Street made a lot of Best of 2016 lists and it's easy to see why — you can watch this one with your parents (and they'll remember the songs.)

Also streaming on Netflix, Into the Inferno follows volcano scientist Clive Oppenheimer and documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog on a global journey to explore some of the world's most mythical volcanoes. Every Herzog movie is about the same thing — the ephemeral nature of mankind and how uniquely awesome Werner Herzog is — but this one ups the ante by featuring a host of truly obsessive characters (including the nation of North Korea), doing everything from digging up human fossils in Africa to building a chicken-shaped church in Indonesia. And tying it all together, amazing shots of boiling, churning magma.

The Download of the Week is Ouija: Origin of Evil, the best horror sequel since Final Destination 5 (the one where Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge collapses). Part haunted-house flick, part demonic possession, and all creepy suspense; this is the perfect flick for dark and rainy nights in January.

(Note: it is all but impossible to find a real Ouija board in stores nowadays, and we call ourselves a fear-based society... pffft.)

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