The Founder (2016) 4/5 – Top Shelf Keaton as Fast Food Mogul Ray Kroc

Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc works as well as a 30 second service cheeseburger in a bag with fries and a vanilla shake. His superb acting performance leads the incredible story of how the American fast food restaurant started its empire. The story alone is powerful but does the film produce ultimate customer satisfaction?

The Founder
“The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.” -IMDB

Cast

Michael Keaton Ray Kroc
Nick Offerman Dick McDonald
John Carroll Lynch Mac McDonald
Linda Cardellini Joan Smith

Directed by

John Lee Hancock

Written by

Robert D. Siegel

Other Info

Biography, Drama, History
PG-13
Fri 20 Jan 2017 UTC
115min
IMDB Rating: 7.2

The Founder was directed by John Lee Hancock who has a nice resume of films behind him: 2013 Saving Mr. Banks, 2009 The Blind Side, and more. I particularly enjoyed The Blind Side, I thought it portrayed a true story quite emotionally on-screen. I feel has made another winner true story adaptation with this film.

Nick Offerman plays Dick McDonald, one of the two brothers who started the legendary franchise. He’s been around the block but is probably best known to the masses for his role on Parks and Recreation. He is the shrewd one, not allowing Kroc to succeed in some of his schemes to make himself rich. Having read about him apart from the film, I can tell you we have him to thank for anything wholesome about the food.

The amazing and well-known actor John Carroll Lynch (Fargo, The Walking Dead …) plays Mac McDonald, the jolly supportive brother who likes to believe in Kroc. It was his support that really allowed the franchises to start. These two are excellent in their roles. Michael Keaton steals the movie with a dab of every role he’s played thrown into the character. Suffice it to say, the acting is top-notch. You definitely get a show between the three of these. Patrick Wilson and Laura Dern both have small roles and I love their performances as well.

While not the full story of McDonald’s up to Kroc’s death, there is a lot here to satisfy the curious McDonald’s lover (like me). With retro cars, buildings, props, and wardrobe, it’s fascinating to watch how things started and got into full swing. You see it through the point of view of Kroc, who is a very passionate and ruthless dreamer. Many questions are left unanswered, most especially the one of what’s more important in business: money and success or people and integrity.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I loved this movie. It’s a chance to see Keaton play his famous pissed off maniacal self. I saw a little of his Gung Ho performance along with Mr. Mom and even a little bit of ruthless Birdman. The McDonald’s story is an American treasure. It shows the pitfalls of free enterprise alongside the pleasures. Kroc gave a lot of joy to people with McDonald’s food across the globe. It’s a good question to think about though whether it gave him true joy or partial heartache. Knowing his story, that was left out and I kind of missed it.

4/5

Boyhood

I waited a while to review this movie because I had a feeling it would age better in my memory. This movie doesn’t show life before our eyes, it puts us among it. I loved this movie for so many reasons, let me set down a few. This film project took 12 years to complete. The director, Richard Linklater, had a vision of using the same actors over a long period of time. The idea was that is would be good cinema, and it is but not for a whole lot more than that. If the film wasn’t so long, I think more people would have found the aging actors thing stunning. As it is, not many people have seen this movie.

Sarah and I drove down the hill to see it at the Ontario Mills mall. We love that place, it has many happy family and couple memories. That could be why we were emotionally MOVED by this film. We have been through the years with kids presented in the film. I have looked in the mirror through decades and seen the changes so evident in this avant garde film. I would say we are given permission to be among the family as it weaves through. The boy reminds me of Hayden Christensen. He does an okay job. Actually I thought the title was lost on such a one dimensional actor. The teen years ad up really show he can’t carry a movie. Still, having once been a boy, I appreciate the title. You’re going to see and feel a whole lot more in Boyhood than the boy. A better name might have been something like Travellin’ thru time with the fam. But hey, I wasn’t around when they were batting around names right? It’s a novelty and if you have a family with kids you’ll pour your own experiences in and have a great time. Unfortunately the film relies solely on its novelty and not enough on a believable script and actors.

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (2010) 5/5 – Ghost Paintings Ancient Walls

Extremes in geology have always amazed me like how lava is melted rock. To watch a film about caves and paintings that are 32,000 years old, captivated me. Werner Herzog did an amazing job explaining and presenting these ghostly artifacts.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams“Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.” -IMDB

Cast

Werner Herzog Himself/Narrator
Jean Clottes Himself
Julien Monney Himself
Jean-Michel Geneste Himself

Directed by

Werner Herzog

Written by

Werner Herzog

Other Info

Documentary, History

G

Fri 25 Mar 2011 UTC

90min

IMDB Rating: 7.4

Among other arcane effects in these drawings, the most alluring to me was the “animated” horse head. The cave person tried to make the animal appear as it does in life, moving.

I think about the significance of the years gone by. We lie about 100 years in one lifetime. 32,000 divided by one lifetime then is 320 lives back to back, one death signaling a birth every 100 years and so on, 320 times. All those lifetimes ago, someone painted these cave walls. The film takes you into the caves and tells you haunting stories that summon images of people like us, living and creating art.

An archaeologist explains in vivid detail the mental anguish he suffered being in the cave for weeks doing studies. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the film for me. I can almost feel what he’s talking about. Seeing what they painted without seeing them. He is, and so are we through the film, observing a way of life portrayed in images without having anyone connected with and living it to explain.

If their way of life seems simple to us now, how will future generations view ours? In fact, will ours have any artifacts at all?

This is an example of a perfectly done documentary film. I highly recommend it.

5/5

Man on Wire (2008) 4/5 – Your hands and feet will sweat

Phillipe Petit is the subject of the feature film on this event. This is a different film, a documentary covering the idea to walk on a tightrope across the late World Trade Center. This film is much better than the Hollywood version. It does an amazing job of bringing you into Petit’s world and even onto the wire itself.

Man on Wire“A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, “the artistic crime of the century.”” -IMDB

Cast

Philippe Petit Himself
Jean François Heckel (as Jean-François Heckel) Himself
Jean-Louis Blondeau Himself
Annie Allix Herself

Directed by

James Marsh

Written by

Philippe Petit

Other Info

Documentary
PG-13
Fri 29 Aug 2008 UTC
90min
IMDB Rating: 7.8

The early part of the film shows Petit practicing his unicycle and wire walking skills in Paris. He knew he was destined to do something amazing with his talents but he didn’t know what. Early on, in a dentist’s office he saw the towers in a magazine and got his inspiration to do it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The best feature of this film is that you get Petit himself talking about why and how he pulled off this feat of art. The amount of work and stealth trickery involved is staggering. It is mindblowing what he was able to do but you keep asking yourself, “why?”

In comparison to the Hollywood version, this film draws you in to a real event. That’s why this one makes my great 100 list and the Hollywood version does not. The documentary is not perfect in that it does contain a lot of interview footage, and that can get less than exciting if you aren’t really into the topic.

4/5

Chimpanzee (2012) 5/5 – Amazon views of a chimp named Oscar

Few nature films capture the violent and beautiful situation we find in the rainforest. In this case, we have a nature documentary film that says so much. The film is shot through the point of view of a small endearing chimp named Oscar.


Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee

“A 3-months-old chimpanzee is separated from his troop and is then adopted by a fully-grown male.” -IMDB

Cast

Tim Allen Narrator (voice)

Directed by

Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield

Written by

Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield

Other Info

Documentary
G
Fri 20 Apr 2012 UTC
78min
IMDB Rating: 7.2

Oscar plays, he eats, he sulks, he has so many emotions that would be lost without the cameras. It’s easy to forget he’s a chimp and see him as a human little boy, foraging his way in the Amazon. His life would be footloose and free were it not for the hells of nature. The death of his mother causes hardship almost too unthinkable to imagine. The cameras keep rolling, even when it seems all is lost.

Family swoops in to save what is left of its own. That’s what happens in this film. The cinematography is breathtaking. We see Oscar fght for his life and we see him triumph, assumedly all in reality footage taken by these brave and indefatigable camera people.

One of my favorite scenes is where the old uncle teaches the orphaned Ocasr how to break nuts. Without this skill, we can clearly see he would perish. Watching this film I can cleary see we have so much in common with these animals. Something in common I hadn’t figured on is family togetherness and nurturung. If you like nature films, this one is a must see. Otherwise, I recommend for anyone with a heart for animals. As a nature documentary, I give it a perfect score.

5/5

Previewing Best Documentary Short Nominees – My post on the LAMB

The Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB), run by Jay Cluitt, has been sort of my conduit to blog film criticism and specifically posdcasting. I was on the MOTM episode last weekend and found out I had time to submit an article for ‘Best Documentary Short’ nominees for the Oscars. I was quite happy about that.

I watched all 5 short films and wrote mini reviews. Jay was kind enough to publish my post today on the LAMB.

Below is an excerpt, you can visit the LAMB site to read the whole thing. I found these shorts to be some of the most powerful films I’ve seen ever, even just at 20 minutes or so each. A common theme is “connectedness” of the humans on several levels.

This year’s short film documentary nominees are all excellent, however they aren’t really “feel good” films but they use the documentary short genre to deliver important and powerful information of our time. Recurrent themes like the plight of refugees and the Holocaust abound. This is great news to me because I believe in these causes and movies are a powerful medium to broadcast them. I rate this type of film by how captivating the presentation is, and my how captivating they can be! Since the Oscar should go to the film as an art form, the topic is actually secondary.

Extremis

Currently streaming on Netflix. This difficult short film takes the viewer into the real ER and hospital beds of the critically ill. Whether it’s cancer or a disabling disorder requiring a breathing tube, we see what doctors and families face every day. I have become increasingly interested in the right to die with dignity movement. This short really makes a great case for consideration. These are real patients filmed in a real hospital setting. The interviews with their families as well as the footage of them being interviewed by doctors are all real. It is almost impossible to watch in a comfortable way but then again, impossible to turn it off.

The White Helmets

Also streaming on Netflix. The Syrian conflict is unknown to a lot of Americans. It’s relevant because Obama’s administration gave a lot of aid and assistance to the refugees. I was always a proponent of this because I hated to think people had nowhere to go except into the bombs. This film made me realize I was right to support the Syrian aid. It focuses on a group known as the White Helmets. They are a volunteer Syrian force that assists those in the bombing zones. Like Extremis this is a hard short film to watch. It’s also a great film because you can’t turn away from it, it draws you in. …

Read the rest of my post at the LAMB site.

Super 8 (2011) – A mediocre ‘Stand By Me’ meets ‘Stranger Things’

The trailer for this poses as a fun childhood movie with a strange unknown thing looming. Since I was age 10 when this movie takes place (1979) I was really excited to see the custard colored refrigerators and old school gas stations as well as other stuff from that year. I remember

The trailer for this poses as a fun childhood movie with a strange unknown thing looming. Since I was age 10 when this movie takes place (1979) I was really excited to see the custard colored refrigerators and old school gas stations as well as other stuff from that year. I remember it as a humane and inspiring time. Some images of 1979 really made me nostalgic in the first hour. After that however, the movie began to sputter like a 70’s moped in need of a fill up.
Super 8

Super 8

“During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.” -IMDB

Cast

Elle Fanning Alice Dainard
AJ Michalka Jen Kaznyk
Kyle Chandler Deputy Jackson Lamb
Joel Courtney Joe Lamb

Directed by

J.J. Abrams

Written by

J.J. Abrams

Other Info

Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
PG-13
Fri 10 Jun 2011 UTC
112min
IMDB Rating: 7.1

The sweet childlike homes, schools, and connected-ness of the kids all was like 1979. Unfortunately, the story couldn’t continue in that era and turned to your typical violent alien film of the 90’s or 2000’s like Independence Day. Spoiler ahead (sort of). One difference from other alien movies is that there is just one alien. It is quite ugly but not much different from most in movies extant. The alien is not as scary as the gratuitous shocks the director gives the audience.

I counted 6 but there are surely more. Be warned, especially if you are annoyed by these things. There is only one thing that can save a movie with these, in my opinion. That thing is a great ending. Unfortunately, you won’t find that here either. Young kids aged 15 and below will like this movie. A couple times it looks like Transformers. Most above that age will look at their iphone to see the time as it plays out.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There is enough nostalgia and cgi here to entertain but not fully satisfy me as a viewer. They had a good set of images to start with but they just aren’t developed enough to keep me from looking at my watch. I recommend to young kids and die hard fans of Spielberg (those who watch even his mediocre stuff).

2/5

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This movie opinion piece is based on my article first published as Voyage of the Dawn Treader Actors Grown into Their Skin on Blogcritics.

Much can be said in praise of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Among those praises is the acting. We saw most of these characters in the prior Narnia films, but never so grown up in their acting skills. In a way I think the franchise would have been better with all of them at this age (2010). I don’t know if the messages of Narnia can be properly played by kids who haven’t lived much. Maybe I have to go back and see the old one again? Whatever I may find in reviewing prior films, the actors in Voyage of the Dawn Treader are grown up to perfectly play the kids of Narnia.

The director Michael Apted is one to be respected. His back catalog includes Nell with Jodie Foster, a Bond film The World is Not Enough, and a slough of other films through the years that most any fan of film culture has heard of. All his efforts come together and make this movie appear a professional, emotive film for our times. It is regal, like the impression you get looking at a fine chandeliers.

There are three screenplay authors: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni. The first two worked together on the previous Narnia films while Petroni was brought in just for this one. This may be what adds a new dimension to this film for me. Of course, with three writers adapting a novel to a screenplay, it’s impossible for a humble viewer to say who brought what.

Stellar acting is delivered by the once small Lucy Pevensie, Georgie Henley. I can’t say enough good things about her. She is growing into an accomplished actress and yet she maintains an unassuming air rarely seen in big time actors. There is a scene before she goes into Narnia when she is in her school uniform talking with her siblings and I could tell by her experiences voice and movement that she had grown into a more soulful, mature actor.

Another actor grown into his own skin is Skandar Keynes, Edmund Pevensie. His interactions with the white witch in this film are much more believable than the ones previously. This is crucial to the impact of this film in as much as “dealings with the devil” are important to all the works of C.S. Lewis.

Ben Barnes, who plays Caspian, also plays a very maturely acted role and adds a lot to the film. When I look at photos of him off camera I am struck by how much older and mature he looks in the movie than how he appears in real life. I think all the characters really grew up to act in this film and it provides a positive impact.

Last but not least, Will Poulter plays Eustace Clarence Scrubb. This character by far gives the film more depth than previous Narnia ones. While we may not find him a loveable figure, we see ourselves in Eustace. Whoever has been self conscious or fearful can find relatable material in his character. He does an excellent job conveying an “unlikeable” character to the audience. The payoff? In the end we learn it’s ok to be imperfect. Aren’t we all? Furthermore, the imperfect can inherit the promised land.

It is clear to me the Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be remembered more than the prior ones in this franchise. This is due in large part to the actors having grown into their own skin and their craft.