Davis: Vin Diesel back in familiar role

Action star returns in the aptly titled XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.

Vin Diesel (left) and Nina Dobrev star in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.

Vin Diesel (left) and Nina Dobrev star in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.

In 2002, Vin Diesel was one of the most sought after action stars with the success of Pitch Black and the original Fast and the Furious and continued with the movie XXX. The action-packed story of a thrill seeking extreme sports enthusiast named Xander Cage who becomes a reluctant spy for the National Security Agency became a moderate hit grossing $277 million worldwide. Diesel did not return for its sequel, XXX: State of the Union in 2005, replaced by Ice Cube as a new agent for the Triple X program and was not nearly as successful as its predecessor.

However, Diesel is again an action star thanks in part to his return to the Fast and the Furious franchise and so he decided to return in the aptly titled XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Cage, thought to be dead, comes out of hiding to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. He recruits a new group of thrill-seeking cohorts who find themselves in a deadly conspiracy that could lead to the highest levels of world governments. The only consistent cast member is Samuel L. Jackson and he returns for the third installment as well as newcomers Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and former NFL star Tony Gonzalez.

Back when he created The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, I thought M. Night Shyamalan was going to be an “above the title” director like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. But after a string of disappointments including The Last Airbender and After Earth, it looked like he was heading towards being a footnote in cinema history.

But Shyamalan made a small comeback with 2015’s The Visit (it grossed almost $100 million on a $5 million budget) and now with Split, he seems to be gaining back his former glory. James McAvoy (X-Men: Apolcalypse) stars as a man with 23 distinct personalities. After one of the personalities abducts three teenage girls, the trio must convince one others inhabiting his mind to set them free before a 24th reveals itself one that will dominate all the others.

On the topic of comebacks, Michael Keaton continues to do so portraying Ray Kroc, a struggling salesman who met Mac and Dick McDonald in the 1950s and was so impressed by how speedy their Southern California hamburger restaurant operated that he saw franchise potential. The Founder details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull McDonald’s from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire. Also starring Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonald brothers, it is directed by John Lee Hancock, who has proven himself with biographical dramas like Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side.

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