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The Founder Review: Michael Keaton Shines As Ray Kroc In McDonald’s Biopic

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Back in 2014 Michael Keaton came back to film in a big way, creating an unforgettable character in what is an unforgettable masterpiece of a film in Birdman. When he lost the Best-Actor award to a much deserving Eddie Redmayne, which I thought he’d win, it made us wonder how Keaton would get back to that Oscar contention again. Thankfully, his run since then has been pretty stellar to say the least thanks to Spotlight which ended up taking home the gold for Best-Picture making it the second film Keaton has been a part of within only three years.  Unfortunately, The Founder went unnoticed by audiences and Academy members alike this time around, but that doesn’t take away the effort brought into this astonishing true story about the genesis of the global fast food chain that is McDonald’s.

Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a smooth talking, unsatisfied salesman in the 1950’s, traveling the states to sell products of all types, but it’s when he gets a chance to sell his milkshake makers to a couple of friendly New Hampshire born brothers by the name of McDonald does he see, and manipulate the potential that be. John Carroll Lynch and an outstanding Nick Offerman play the tender, morally strong brothers that Kroc tries to take advantage of which leads to some of the most potent scenes of betrayal that only add to the treachery of what really happened. Biting at the toes and hands of the audience, the dialogue is purposeful, and about as sour as a lemon in some scenes.

Keaton proves to us again that there is power in range and there is a fine line between protagonist and antagonist of a story, and this film is no question about a pretty bad man whose selling out of two good people created a billion dollar franchise that would pollute the world globally in ways you may not have realized. To see the transformation of the company through John Lee Hancock’s directing is riveting, but can sometimes be a little dull in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, his eye for understanding what to show and what not too show between the characters makes for a stronger delivery of emotion as the story progresses.

Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, and Linda Cardelini make strong appearances that bolster the acts that happen between each character as Kroc commandeers an empire that was never meant to be, and that’s exactly what Kroc was, a pirate that had the smooth talking of Jack Sparrow, and the lack of empathy like a Blackbeard. Keaton just magnifies an already fascinating person in history by giving us that calmness that you’d get from his Bruce Wayne, but also the insanity of a Beetlejuice without ever being a cartoon or mockery of himself. It’s a character driven story that does a great job handling the treachery, the intellect, and the overall controversy of the man who stole the McDonald’s brand and company for his own selfish gain.

SCORE: B+

Live By Night Review: Affleck Misses Mark By Casting Himself In Lead Role

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Ben Affleck has not had an easy time in the last few months, with all the Batman drama at Warner Brothers and DC don’t help anything, but after seeing his latest directorial effort, I may see why he didn’t want the stresses of directing another big film for a little while. Affleck transports us into the roaring 20’s in Prohibition-era Boston and Tampa in his latest crime drama where he brings an ensemble of talent who get lost in the shuffle of a film that focuses too heavily on Ben Affleck rather than the character he is portraying. Instead of getting lost into a period of rich mythologies, you are stalled by Ben Affleck seducing beautiful women in a fedora that feels like a parody of itself more than a legitimate style choice.

The story in of itself should be a sweeping epic through a period in time whose natural flare is rarely seen done well on screen. Instead, Affleck puts himself front and center in what felt more like an exercise of ego instead of a role to get lost into a character with. As an auteur thus far, there’s nothing wrong with Affleck trying to find a balance as a writer, director, and actor, but there’s a time when you have to realize that films are a collaborative medium and can’t be created by just one person’s biases and visions. There’s a level of arrogance in the lead role than nuance and subtly that the role was likely better suited for. This is a violent, corrupt ecosystem that feeds off of itself and others alike, I wouldn’t imagine after getting beat up, you just rise from the ashes so easily, but that’s where the film quickly ends up going with Affleck’s character. For me, it feels more like ego getting in the way of the performance which for future films he directs can easily be solved by just taking himself out of the starring role, and letting his actors do the literal talking.

Instead of getting an actor who can show us the fear and danger of prohibition era criminals, Affleck stands awfully comfortably as Joe Coughlin, quickly proving that this was more of a miscast that he may have hoped. His prowess as a crime-thriller director is set, nowhere in trouble nor will it be tainted by this attempt, but it may be time for Affleck to focus on one whether he’d prefer to direct or act in each project he takes on. His work in Gone Girl under David Fincher proved to be a landmark of his acting ability while still being in his realm of familiarity for him while still grasping the character he was portraying. Sadly, Affleck drops that same Boston accent we’ve heard since Good Will Hunting without any real differentiating factors to set his character apart from other roles he’s done.

For a film that was only two hours long, the editing made it feel incredibly dull and boring at times then entirely too quick at others, leaving you nausiated by the lack of focus the film seemed to not bring in the editing room. Quick cuts to montage or to cheaply move sections of a story along that could have just let the images do the talking, I got taken out of the film early on rather than honing in on the details. Affleck is a man who is best when he is pulling the strings – like a director and the characters he’s played before – like Geppetto only to be gobbled up by a whale sized level of monosyllabic flatness that hurts the overall production. Affleck will recover very quickly and having such great vision for films whether good or mediocre is as clear as day, I’d hope he figures out that he needs to be the world class director that he is, and let the other actors do the acting to carry the films.

SCORE: D+

Hidden Figures Review: Hidden Figures Is The Feel Great Oscar Hopeful You’d Hope It’d Be

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You may have heard about a little film recently that centers around what may be one of the more surprising subjects in history that has never been told. You have NASA, the iconic space program that advances almost everyday in the hopes of traveling beyond our atmosphere and exploring planets, stars, and galaxies far far away, but beyond the men in suits there are women making sure they hold down the fort the best they can. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner is unabashedly uplifting, warm, and overall empowering.

Some of you will scoff at the idea of a film depicting women, in this case black women, succeeding because you haven’t dropped your spears yet, but for the rest of us, there is a film that shows us that film-making in the realm of drama doesn’t always have to be depressing. Based on the astounding true story of three women who defied the odds with their intellect, perseverance, and the desire to better themselves and the American people. Leading the film is Henson as math genius who must figure out how to make it in a program dominated the white men, but contrary to popular belief, not all of them are so bad. Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer play Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, respectively, in ways only they can, with charisma, heart, and a genuine fire that you know burns through them both.

While the racially segregated 1960’s weren’t the prettiest of times, director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) doesn’t choose to give us that rugged look like we’ve seen in other movies of that, but rather a more lightly colorized depiction of what is very much an optimists look at the hardships these women of color faced at NASA, and beyond. There will be scenes that satisfy your squishiest of muscles and joints, as what happened to me, with certain scenes that confirm that Melfi is a man of happiness and romance without draining it of it’s honeymoon like bliss. It’s only fitting that the music makes you feel the same way. Thanks to super producer Pharrell – a Virginia native himself – produced the music, and the main theme for Katherine Johnson (Henson) which will be sure to give you a vibe that will make you want to groove in your sticky theater seat.

Even through the killer soundtrack – that also throws in some Ray Charles for good measure – you resist the charm these women use  in order to cope with the realities of their struggles as not just women, but working mothers of color in a time when bathrooms and water fountains become the most unbearable and inconvenient delays in a time when they want to work on their assignments, only to be ignored through ignorance, and condescension from their white colleagues. There’s a great scene involving Octavia Spencer and her boys that will hopefully perk you up like it did me. No spoilers of course, but it does make you appreciate a certain inconvenience we all can obtain nowadays.

All in all, this is such a charming and inspiring film that is unapologetic for being sensitive and bathed in warmly conceived emotions while being, motivating, and lighthearted all at once. It’s a film that will make you wonder who and where else these “hidden figures” are in our histories and why we haven’t made films on them either. The team for this film brought a film that you can all watch without the stresses of something like 12 Years A Slave or give the overly realistic view of what life was really like for these brilliant women. It makes it’s points and entertains you with ease thanks to a snappy, but never preachy nor pretentious manor, thanks to former NASA employee and screenwriter Allison Schroeder. The box office hasn’t lied thus far, people want to see this film, and you should follow suit.

SCORE: A 

Ghost in the Shell Full Trailer Shows Us What Kind of World We’re Going To Be In

Like most of you, I wasn’t thrilled when I heard Scarlett Johansson was cast in an adaptation for the hit anime film Ghost in the Shell, but as each trailer has shown us, it’s all about making an overall great film with a story that should intrigue us.

Whether you know about the anime or not is irrelevant at this point because regardless of Scar-Jo’s casting, she looks terrific as the Major within this Blade Runner meets Lucy type of universe. It’s visually spectacular, but we all know that visuals don’t constitute a great film in the long run. This looks grim, focused, dark, action packed, and surprisingly fun. It isn’t exactly Avengers style fun, but there’s a lot to behold from the trailers alone.

The best thing about Hollywood and fans is that we both say the same thing, “what have you done for me lately?” That’s the mindset I have for these trailers Ghost in the Shell keep pumping out as they’ve only grown to be more promising with each video. Are you excited or still not impressed? Let me know in the comments.

The Circle (2017) Trailer Review: A More Focused Trailer Presents A Fascinating and Timely Book Adaptation

When I saw the first trailer for the film two months ago, the tone seemed to be more of a pseudo horror film to some degree, but it looks like the tone of the film is more set in this trailer which gives a far better glimpse to the world of The Circle. 

Starring Emma Watson, John Boyega, and Tom Hanks we can only be excited for what these stars have signed onto. The best-selling book follows the story of a young woman who gets a chance to be a part of the largest, most powerful tech organization around where her charismatic boss feels that there is no such thing as too much information. The idea of cameras and phones and information being everywhere is all too appropriate in American society and could come as stark and frightening in ways we hope it would, ways that 1984 could bring.

It’s nice to see Hanks in a not so good guy role as well with his charm always coming from his all-American persona as the neighborhood friendly that no one can dislike. Boyega getting another feature role is also promising as his breakout role in The Force Awakens proved he can handle even the biggest stages after coming from smaller movies. The concept and the music within the trailer look great and give a far better glimpse into what could be a strong drama come April 28th.

 

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Could Catapolt LEGO Movies Even Further In New Trailer

The LEGO movies so far aren’t exactly PIXAR, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t succeeding in getting that same respect. Their films mix a perfect amount pop culture references for both kids and adults alike while also presenting themselves as an animation studio that takes their stories, action, and of course their animation styles seriously. That seems to be no different with their latest project The LEGO Ninjago Movie.

Not only does the voice talent and sarcastic humor work perfectly for the trailer, but I actually caught myself laughing out loud more than I may have with the LEGO Batman trailer that is more recent.

Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Michael Pena, Abbi Jacobson, and Fred Armison lend their voices to the film which seems to only better the already comical motions and actions of the characters. With The LEGO Batman doing well with critics, I have no doubts this will be another film in their growing catalog that will blow us all away with the charm and wit of the other two films.

Beauty and the Beast Final Trailer Review: Chills, Chills, and More Chills

Chills, chills, and more chills! While the Beast doesn’t look at flawless per say, the cast and the trailer with the music meshed just perfectly. Arianna Grande singing “Tale As Old As Time” also gives dead people life so there’s that.

The musical numbers with Gaston and Lafou look terrific, Emma is just beautiful, the voice talent proved to us why they were the perfect choices, and I’ll be damned if some of you realized Kevin Kline was playing Maurice because I didn’t. If this movie doesn’t make a ton of money opening weekend it will prove society is lost forever.

I get the feeling of disinterest for these live-action remakes of classic Disney films, but the more we see and hear from this one, the more it’s proving to us why they make them in the first place. If a trailer is supposed to get you more interested in a film then Beauty and the Beast’s final trailer did it’s job flawlessly.

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