The Founder

Did you think McDonalds just sprang onto this earth fully formed? Au contraire.... Here's how it happened. Writer Robert D. Siegel ("The Wrestler") has provided a script which shows us who started it, and who saw its potential. Director John Lee Hancock ("Saving Mr. Banks") takes it from there.

His cast includes:
  • Michael Keaton ("Birdman") is Ray Kroc, the discouraged but persistent milkshake-machine salesman who changed the face of fast food, for better or for ill.
  • Nick Offerman ("Fargo" TV series) Dick McDonald just wants to make a living doing what he knows best: feed hungry families. He does NOT like it when people hang up on him!
  • John Carroll Lynch ("The Architect") Mac McDonald has a couple of problems: His bad kidneys and his good heart.
  • Laura Dern ("Certain Women") Ethel Kroc keeps changing her expectations, depending on what her volatile husband is promoting this time...
  • Patrick Wilson ("Fargo" TV series) Rollie Smith is a successful restaurateur, but he can see the potential in Kroc's dream...
  • Linda Cardellini (Lots of TV) Joan Smith plays piano in her husband's restaurant. She too, recognizes potential when she sees it... 
  • B.J. Novak ("The Office") Harry J. Sonnenborne is a lawyer who sees a completely different potential, to Kroc's surprise. We didn't see it coming.
This story is as old as time: Greed vs Morality. So why do we still view Ray Kroc with a bit of sympathy? For one thing, we saw him at the bottom of his career, scrounging for sales and struggling to keep an optimistic attitude. The McDonald brothers have already tried to branch out and the montage of their attempts is funny, even though they didn't think so at the time. They do NOT trust him nor do they share his latest vision, because visionaries are notoriously single minded. We, on the other hand, grudgingly respect someone who is determined to find, and then march, to his own drummer.

Keaton does an exemplary job as his character segues from desperation to confidence, ultimately displaying the rapacity Kroc became known for.  You will enjoy the postscript as it tells what happened AFTER the (sorta) happily ever after.

Rated PG-13, you can expect quite a bit of talk about efficiency in the fast food business, little or no profanity, no vehicular mayhem and no blowie uppie stuff. Just remember, "It's Founders Keepers."
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Check out this preview:
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xXx: Return of Xander Cage

He's BACK? I thought he was DEAD!

Former exXxtreme athlete, former government operative, former self-exiled warrior, Xander Cage reluctantly heeds the call once more. Pandora's Box has gone missing. It is an electronic gadget that can seize control of any one of the thousands of satellites orbiting earth and turn it into a missile. His objective is to find this deadly electronic marvel and return it to the good guys. Although left for dead, he quickly reassembles his team of trusted thrill seekers, briefs them on their new objective and sets out to save the world... again.

Action director D.J. Caruso ("Eagle Eye"), works with a script adapted by Rich Wilkes ("xXx") who collaborated with F. Scott Frazier ("Collide") to create this chaotic PG-13 action thriller. The opening scenes feature one white-knuckle feat after another while later sleight-of-hand stunts remind us that as movie goers, we absolutely MUST suspend disbelief. (Watch the 3-handed game with grenades in the trailer!)

Some of the BIG cast:
  • Vin Diesel ("Guardians of the Galaxy" the voice of Groot) is Xander, the big bad (good) guy. Of course he is larger than life, indestructible and the women adore him (he calls it "undercover work). He seems to be living every guy's fantasy but I must say, his lame dialogue had the screening audience snickering from the beginning.
  • Donnie Yen ("Rogue One: A Star Wars Story") is Xiang, another indestructible fellow who tangles with our hero, as they both try to recover that powerful device. His team of trusted operatives reminds us of our hero's.
  • Deepika Padukone ("Tamasha") is Serena Unger, the gorgeous agent working with Xiang. She is smart, sexy and very, very capable. As things heat up, Xander gives her a small apparatus and tells her to "Dial 9" if she needs help. You'll love what happens!
  • Samuel L. Jackson ("Avengers") is Augustus Gibbons, Xander's handler. And he has his hands full! He says "We are not at war; we are at peril!"
  • Toni Collette ("Miss You Already") Government agent Jane Marke is tasked with the recovery of the device. She will do whatever is necessary to make it happen.
  • Nina Dobrev ("The Vampire Diaries") is Becky, the very welcome comic relief. She is a techie who has no intention of being where the action is!
  • Rory McCann ("Game of Thrones") Tennyson Torch will make you laugh as he commemorates the survival of his 200th vehicular crash with a proud selfie.
This is classic cartoony Vin Diesel, so expect fisticuffs, gunfire, vehicular mayhem, and blowie uppie stuff but I only counted three mild swear words plus I noted very little blood. I heard a few double entendres, which I can't repeat in this review, but they made me laugh. The movie features the world's longest airplane dive; we kept expecting a crash any second, while a physical melee rages amidships.

The 3D was noticeable in the opening scenes when debris from the screen seemed to be floating over the heads of the people sitting in front of us. The action-loving screening audience exited the theater sated but happy. They don't judge a Vin Diesel movie by its dialogue, but by the chase scenes, the fights, the scantily clad women and the happy ending. It's their money!
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Here is a trailer:
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Hidden Figures

What a wonderful, wonderful film! Here is a PG movie we can all be excited about. It features a team of African-American women who served as mathematicians (they were originally called "computers") for NASA's first space missions. IBM's new Univac was being evaluated for possible use.

Director Theodore Melfi ("St. Vincent") worked with Allison Schroeder to create a screenplay based on Margot Lee Shetterly's inspiring book which reveals an untold true story from the pages of American history. It opens with a bright little girl naming various types of triangles, but we are soon in Virginia a few years later with a Chevy that has broken down alongside the road. We quickly learn there will be a LOT of humor.

Here is a small part of Melfi's terrific cast:
  • Taraji P. Henson ("Empire") is Katherine Johnson, the shyest of the trio we come to know. She is a widow with two daughters; she specializes in analytic geometry (Google it!). Her mother helps with childcare so she can work. We quickly see that Jim Crow is alive and well in Virginia at that time as we watch her cope with the simplest of needs, like coffee and a women's restroom.
  • Octavia Spencer ("Fruitvale Station") Dorothy Vaughan helps her colleagues move on while she seems to be stuck. She can't get a promotion, but she DOES have access to a library!
  • Janelle MonĂ¡e ("Moonlight") We can count on Mary Jackson to add an attractive mix of sex appeal and brains to the situation. Her presentation to the judge is brilliant!
  • Aldus Hodge ("Leverage") Levi Jackson is mystified by his wife's work but is distracted by the civil rights movement which is gaining momentum under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King.
  • Kevin Costner ("McFarland, USA") NASA Project Head Al Harrison may have some initial misgivings, but he needs a brilliant mathematician who can double-check his engineers' work! I love what he says about restrooms at NASA.
  • Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang")  Paul Stafford can't stand the idea of his work being checked by a woman, and a Black woman to boot! He does a great illustration of the need for analytic geometry during a space shot (they have to calculate where the astronaut should come down).
  • Kirsten Dunst ("Fargo" 2016 TV) Vivian Michael wants to promote Dorothy, but, 'There's nothing I can do; you know the rules...'
This is PG, so expect a humorous script with no sex, no profanity, no gunfire and the blowie uppie stuff is limited to a few of the early (unmanned) rocket launches at NASA. Sputnik, Laika and Yuri Gagarin have officials at NASA tearing their hair. As Harrison puts it, "We came in second in a two-man race!" We applauded the wrap up after the closing credits because we were so satisfied by what we learned.

See this film and take along any school children who need to be reminded of the value of education.

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Take a peek:
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