The Founder: Ray Kroc or Dick & Mac McDonald?

When Joan Smith asked Ray Kroc in words something to the effect ‘When did you start McDonald’s’, there was just a small flicker in his eyes before he answered ‘1954’. That flicker indicated the moment in the film, The Founder, when Kroc (Michael Keaton) lied about the beginnings of the famous fast food chain McDonald’s. Kroc was not the ‘founder’. The developer, yes, but not the founder. That title in fact belonged to brothers Dick and Mac McDonald who came up with the concept many years earlier.

The Founder Poster HR

Michael Keaton plays ‘Kroc’ in The Founder. Image: supplied.

Kroc had been a struggling but optimistic salesman who met the brothers when he sold them milkshake machines. He had been so impressed with their flagship store in California that he persuaded them to go into business with him and roll out more franchise stores like theirs across the USA. But the McDonalds’ conservative stranglehold on progress frustrated Kroc’s ambitions and Kroc managed to override the brothers, buy them out and take the chain to global reach.

That flicker moment also pretty much indicated when Kroc, in The Founder, stepped over the integrity boundary in his personal and business life. As his personal life went south so did his business ethics, and Kroc’s wife, and the McDonald brothers received a raw deal. Kroc is not painted in the film as an all-out baddy, however. His tenacity, business sense, and focus are shown in a way that make you admire him. And the balance between his business success and some unfair (though not technically illegal) dealings is this this film’s strength.

The Founder does not come across as a typical Hollywood ra-ra-America film. I enjoyed the story about how Dick and Mac came up with their simple menu and scientifically developed service offering. How Kroc, with the help of lawyer, Harry Sonnenborn (B J Novak), turned the focus from purchasing franchise stores to purchasing real estate, and how the McDonalds’ focus on marketing to the family was changed by Kroc to marketing that appealed to people’s religious-type passions.

The Founder opens at cinemas in South Africa today 19 May 2017.

The Finest Hours is the making of two captains

All I could remember about the film I was about to preview was that it was about a boat. As we switched our cell phones to silent another reviewer reminded me that it was based on a true story. I was surprised, therefore, to see the Disney logo come up on screen as I adjusted the 3D glasses I had, for once, remembered to bring. My expectations were primed: a story that would doubtless have a happy ending and one with great cinematic effects. I was right. And the journey there was a fine one indeed.

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Philomena a touching film, but puzzling at the climax

A review by Brenda Daniels

Philomena, starring Dame Judi Dench in the title role, is a drama based on a true story. Its plot revolves around Irishwoman Philomena Lee’s search for her son, adopted when he was just four. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a former British Labour Party member, writes her story and helps her in her search.

The story was eventually published (in real life) and revealed the shocking practice of a Catholic convent’s cruelty towards unwed mothers and their babies during the 1950s.

Philomena is played by two actresses – Sophie Kennedy Clark as the young Philomena and Dench as the 70-year-old Philomena. Philomena, along with other young women like herself, was sent to a convent in Roscrea, Tipperary, as penance for falling pregnant out of wedlock. Here the girls are made to work hard and allowed to see their children for only an hour a day.

Gradually, the children mysteriously disappear, ostensibly adopted by wealthy couples, without the mothers’ permissions.

Having always longed to find her son, Philomena, now 70, accidentally comes across Sixsmith, who she enlists to write her story. Martin is a typically cynical journalist, more so because he was recently “given the sack”.

Philomena is a simple, forgiving Irish woman with a firm Catholic faith despite the startling cruelty the convent meted out to her. The two characters and their differing reactions to events create the tension – and humour – in the story.

The pair’s search takes them to the USA where they find traces of Anthony (Philomena’s name for her son) or Michael (as he was renamed). It is while in the USA that the story takes a revealing turn, sending Philomena and Sixsmith back to the Irish convent where their investigations first began.

Despite physically speaking to people in America, I thought Martin and Philomena’s visit to the States a bit unrealistic, given today’s worldwide web search capabilities. I also found the penultimate scene in the film a puzzling one. It at once reveals Philomena’s poignant grace and takes the oomph out of an otherwise beautifully told, very touching story.

Philomena is rated 13L, runs for one and a half hours and opened at NuMetro theatres in South Africa on 28 March.

Judi Dench plays the leading role in Philomena. Dench has been nominated for several awards for the role.

Judi Dench plays the leading role in Philomena. Dench has been nominated for several awards for the role.

 

Message in The Monuments Men meanders vaguely

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Monuments Men is a World War II drama based on a true story. It recounts how artworks in the form of paintings and sculptures, stolen by the Nazis during the war, were recovered. The film features a cast of big names including George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray.

Seven men, previously unconscripted because of age, are handpicked by Frank Stokes (Clooney) for their art expertise. They don uniforms right near the end of the war and set out on their mission to find the artworks and return them to their rightful owners.

There are no flashy heroics in this film. The characters are old and ordinary. And their mission of saving artworks seems silly when compared to saving human lives. But, argues their leader Stokes, preserving art is preserving culture. And culture reflects the importance of a people and their achievements.

What the group did recover is indeed staggering. What they helped prevent is monumental. Hitler had plans to build his own Führer Museum. He needed art, books and other treasures to fill it so stole what he needed, storing it up in hiding places. This ragtag bunch of chaps was instrumental in putting an end to his dreams.

Unfortunately The Monuments Men meanders through a vague plot, throwing in some sentimentality and personal suffering just for good measure. This makes what promised to be a fine film slow and unnecessarily long.

The actors do a good job, particularly Cate Blanchett as a sour but helpful source of intelligence. As a group they don’t leave a lasting impression nor do they capitalise on some potential for humour. Although The Monuments Men fails to make more of its noble message, the message does get through and is worth watching just for this.

The Monuments Men opens at NuMetro Theatres in South Africa on 14 February.

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle               (Source: Creative Commons)

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle (Source: Creative Commons)