‘The Founder’ Review

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Director: John Lee Hancock

Writer: Robert D. Siegel

Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern, Justin Randell Brooke, Kate Kneeland and Patrick Wilson

Synopsis: The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant business in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence and ruthlessness.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

We all know it, you’ve all eaten there, and its easily recognizable anywhere we go: McDonalds. Now the question is, do you know what the story behind the mega food chain is? Do you care? That’s what The Founder wants you to know and feel while watching. It’s a interesting, frustrating and engaging story that I’m surprised I’ve never heard before, and maybe you haven’t either.

The Founder tells the true story of Ray Kroc, a down on this luck traveling salesman, who at the beginning of the film is selling milkshake machines. When he hears about a surprisingly large order, he decides to check it out and travels to San Bernardino, California and finds McDonalds. Surprised by the quickness of getting orders out, he meets the owners in brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald and convinces them they should franchise the restaurant. Mac and Dick reluctantly agree and give Ray the run down and have him go do just that. What follows is the story of how a small family business became a world phenomenon, the lives it affected.

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The film is built around Michael Keaton, who hits it out of the park as Ray Kroc. Seeing him go from barely selling machines to owning a business is a performance that needs to be seen. Going from a somewhat modest seller to becoming a bit snarky back-stabbing business man is something where it’s hard to imagine this was the same person. You can make the argument that maybe Ray is in the right, and maybe he was to some extent, but the way he treats the McDonald’s and takes the credit does make him an easy villain, for the lack of a better word. Also, seeing a man being slowly corrupted by the idea that he sees could be a massive success is worth the price of the ticket alone, and makes a great character study.

When it comes to the McDonald’s, John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are equally fantastic in their own right. Their portray as the brothers does make Ray’s betrayal harder because the two really are extremely likable, and you know from the very beginning they aren’t in it for the money, but for the pure joy of being the best burger and “fast-food” place around.

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The rest of the cast does great in their small roles, although some are overshadowed by Keaton. Laura Dern plays Ray’s first wife Ethel Kroc, who is a stay-at-home wife and handles a lot of the drama-side of the things, Linda Cardellini and Patrick Wilson pop in as Joan and Rollie Smith, who invests in Ray and leads to subplot that is a bit ham-fisted for me personally, but Cardellini gets the bigger role there. B.J. Novak plays Ray’s lawyer, Harry J. Sonneborn, near the end of the film, and Kate Kneeland plays June Martino who is Ray’s secretary.

All in all, The Founder will definitely strike a cord with people. Whether you see Ray as taking an opportunity and running with it, or seeing him as the villain for stealing a great idea from people who worked hard to get it. The film really lets you decide for yourself, and makes that debate even harder with the standout performances by John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman, and more importantly, Michael Keaton.

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The Founder

4 out of 5

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘The Conjuring 2’ Review

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Director: James Wan

Writers: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Javier Botet and Bonnie Aarons

Synopsis: Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

James Wan surprised everyone back in 2013 with his surprise summer horror hit film The Conjuring. Based off the case files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film put Wan back on the map. When it was announced that a sequel would happen, many thought that maybe Wan wouldn’t make an equally good film that The Conjuring was. Well, it turns out, it is, and arguably better than the first.

The Conjuring 2 is based and inspired (as some things were added for the sake of story) by the Warren’s case, the Enfield Poltergeist in London. The case follows single mother of four, Peggy Hodgson (O’Connor), who is just trying to get by. However, when her children in Margaret (Esposito), Johnny (McAuley), Billy (Haigh) and Janet (Wolfe) starts experiencing strange occurrences throughout the house and Janet starts showing signs of demonic possession, Peggy has no choice but to call for help. Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), who are called in at first to just oversee and report if this is truly a case of demonic activity or a hoax, which many believe it is. Of course, thing progress very fast and dangerously that the Warren’s have no choice but to help and save the family, especially Janet.

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The Conjuring 2 had some big shoes to fill, but thankfully, the film steps up its game and brings a little more scares and ups the creepiness factor from the previous film. Wan has already established himself as a great horror director, but if it wasn’t clear by now, Wan is a great director, period. The way he sets up the shots and brings the story together is done effectively, and his collaboration with cinematographer Don Burgess makes the film feel more eerie than the first. There are a few particular shots that still give me chills just thinking about them, one of them involves an out of focus character.

Wan is also able to make some horror clichés work for him. Like his previous horror films, the jump scares are scattered throughout, but still manage to work and don’t feel like there are forced like other horror films. Also, the dreadful scenes are enhanced by the villains. There is Bill Wilkins (Adrian), the demon scaring the Hodgson family and seemingly possessing Margaret. The Demon Nun (Aaron), which is creepy in name itself, but more creepier in the film I assure you, and one of the standouts The Crooked Man (Botet), who I won’t ruin, and I sure many will think is mostly CGI, but he isn’t.

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Like The Conjuring, the leads may be Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine Warren, but the sequel spends a lot of time with the Hodgson’s that we feel emotionally connected to them and worry for them when things start to go down. However, we do spend most time with Janet, played impressively by Madison Wolfe. Wolfe really owns every scene she’s in and you can feel the dread along with her. Frances O’Connor’s mother character Peggy starts by not believing her children until she sees it herself and will do anything to project her children no matter the cost. Patrick McAuley and Laruen Esposito don’t really get too much screen time, but you can sense that they want will stand by their sister. Finally, Benjamin Haigh, who plays the youngest child Billy, is given a different trait than the others that shows that the family is dealing with their own problems.

Wilson and Farmiga, once again, are fantastic as the Warrens with Farmiga getting more of the meatier material. Lorraine is still struggling to adjust and control her ability to tap into the supernatural, but also trying to live a normal life with her family, which is always at risk with their line of work. Wilson takes a bit of a backseat this time around, but does have his moments to break through.

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All in all, The Conjuring 2 is as effective, if not more, than its predecessor. The cast, more specifically Madison Wolfe, bring life to the dreadful and scary story of the Enfield Poltergeist. Filled with great scary moments and overall terrific cinematography, The Conjuring 2 is worth the watch for horror fans and people that love being scared alike.

The Conjuring 2

4.5 out of 5

‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ Review

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Dir: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson

Synopsis: The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world

 

*Reviewer Note: If you have not seen Insidious, which I recommend you do, then you maybe shouldn’t read this. There will be things from the first movie that will coincide with Insidious: Chapter 2. So if you don’t want to be spoiled by either movie then go watch them first and come back*

 

Picking up right where the first movie left off, Insidious Chapter 2 finds the Lambert family reunited after Josh (Wilson) ventured into the Further to retrieve his son Dalton (Simpkins). However, the hauntings continue to occur, and Josh doesn’t seem to be quite himself anymore. Josh’s wife Renai (Byrne) starts to be haunted again and Josh’s mother Lorraine (Hershey) enlist the help of paranormal investigator Carl (Coulter) and ghost hunters Tucker (Sampson) and Specs (Whannell)

In the first Insidious, Wan and Whannell’s story was mostly centered around the Lambert family, as Josh and Renai focused on getting their son back. With the sequel there’s more of a mystery element, and the cast is split into two core groups for most of the film. One is Josh, Renai and their kids and the other is Lorraine, Carl, Tucker and Specs, who try to figure out why the Lamberts are still being haunted and if there is something else going on.

The nice thing about the sequel is that it doesn’t hold anything back. We know the family, the story (to some extent), and who the characters are. So James Wan doesn’t wait until the half way point of the movie to crank up the scares and doesn’t build the tension or atmosphere because it pretty much starts off right away, and more importantly it works. But it’s also not necessarily a sequel either per se. The movie, with the exceptions of flashbacks, is told right after the first movie. So the “mythology” is in tact. We don’t have a “six months later” text which is nice. They make no apologies in trying to obscure any of the events from the first movie, they revel in them.

This is one of the reasons why Insidious 2 is different from your average horror sequel, because you actually have to know something about the first film before you watch the second. However, one of the things I keep hearing is that the movie is a bit tonally different from the first and in a way I have to agree.  Tucker and Specs’ roles are expanded in this and continue to provide the comic relief and some people feel it as a “campy.” I don’t know if I’d go that far since they really only showed up in the last thirty minutes of the first movie so they have obviously have more to do this time around with their Ghostbuster-y gimmick.

Meanwhile, Wilson does a fine job of portraying the inner struggle between Josh and the after effect of going into The Further in the last movie. Byrne does a good job as Renai again but it almost feels like her screen time is shorter here. While Insidious 2’s marketing would have you believe that Byrne is the leading lady, it’s kind of feels like its Hershey who has more screen time, which isn’t really that bad.

All in all, Insidious: Chapter 2 is once again a pretty good haunted house movie. It’s scary and intriguing and even puts a fun spin on what we’ve already seen. I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as the first movie, again with the exception of a few scenes, but still worth checking out to see the conclusion of the Lambert family mystery.

 

Insidious: Chapter 2

4 out of 5

‘The Conjuring’ Review

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Dir: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton and Sterling Jerins

Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

The synopsis for movie seems like maybe every other haunted house movie right? A family dealing with their nice new house with a troubled history that they don’t know about and when it becomes too much to bare they hired someone to help. The Conjuring is based on a true story off a case by the Warrens and the Perron family. But unlike other movies this is a refreshing take on the story.

In the 1970’s Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) made a name for themselves as paranormal investigators. He was a demonologist, she was a clairvoyant, and together they gave lectures and visited homes to help people get rid of any darkness lurking about. The movie even starts with them working on a case (the famous Annabelle Doll).

After setting up the Warrens and what they do, the film introduces us to Carolyn and Roger Perron (Taylor and Livingston) and their five daughters, who have just moved to a beautiful old lake house in Rhode Island. They soon experience terrifying, unexplainable happenings, which leads Carolyn to beg the Warrens to come and help them. When they do encounter something even the Warrens know this is something truly evil.

As the paranormal events escalate the five young actresses playing the girls do a great job making us feel for them when the entity starts messing with them. The same goes for Lili Taylor playing their mother who steps up her game in the third act. The highlight of the cast is Wilson and Farmiga who, next to Taylor, carries a bit of the emotional aspects of the story. That secondary plot line, which we get just a tiny bit of, is about the Warrens and offers a tiny bit of relaxation from the otherwise tense action. Make no mistake even though we start off with Perron family the movie really is about the Warrens.

Also, in true James Wan fashion and unlike other horror films the movie starts off a bit slow but not too slow and the scares come pretty early. So if you’re easily scared the movie will likely give you some nightmares for awhile. James Wan, in my eyes, has become the go to man for modern horror films using old-school horror tricks and using little to no CGI to his best advantage. Even though we get some similar sequences from other horror movies that Wan is clear paying homage to it still works. The atmosphere that Wan and cinematography Frank Leonetti created really puts the viewer in the mood and the music that Wan uses it makes the tension and scary moments work better.

Another couple things that make the movie work is that it stays in the time period. Meaning there’s no cell phones that add to the helplessness that the characters feel when they are getting haunted. And even with the R rating the movie doesn’t have gore or nudity that most horror movies sometimes rely on.

All in all, The Conjuring is said to be James Wan’s last horror movie (Insidious Chapter 2 comes out in September but I’m talking about filming wise) and if it is he truly went out with a bang. Filled with tense and terrifying moments the movie does have some humor to it too which is nice to see before Wan scares the crap out of you

 

The Conjuring

5 out of 5