Movie Review – “Beauty and the Beast”

Using the most impressive animation features I’ve ever seen on film, “Beauty and the Beast” lavishly ties the Disney spirit with the eye-raising brilliance of a Broadway production.

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

In the best opening weekend for the month of March ever, Disney’s live-action movie “Beauty and the Beast” hauled in a record-breaking $170 million in the U.S. alone.  The wholesome love story also flexed its animation muscle globally, taking in a record $350 million worldwide—making it the biggest PG-rated film opening in North American history and the 7th best grossing weekend of all-time.

Using the most impressive animation features I’ve ever seen on film, “Beauty and the Beast” seamlessly blends its charismatic Disney characters amongst some of Hollywood’s biggest names.  Academy Award-winner Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”) directs a talent-rich cast that includes Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

Although easily predictable, the lone letdown in the film is the performance by leading lady Watson.  The “Harry Potter” veteran is the movie’s weakest link–both in her acting and singing.  Watson’s tentative and lackluster showing as Belle gets magnified opposite a stellar job from Dan Stevens as the cursed prince and Beast. Likewise, a superb supporting castle crew invokes charm and laughter amidst a handful of dangerous, uncertain moments.

“Beauty and the Beast” sells its heartwarming romance tale through sheer compassion and straightforward storytelling.  Nicely sidestepping too graphic altercation scenes, the movie promotes goodness from within its varied animated souls.  Racing against time, Belle and Co. are challenged to save others…beginning with her father.

This invigorating love story gets stronger in its pointed message and comedic delivery as the film gallops forward.  It lavishly ties the Disney spirit with the eye-raising brilliance of a Broadway production. Even Watson’s underwhelming song and act routines can’t dull a likable Beast and magical cast. In the second strongest, non-summer opening weekend ever, “Beauty and the Beast” shines bright.  Very bright.  Take the entire family and enjoy!

Grade: A

“Beauty and the Beast” is rated PG for some action, violence, peril and frightening images.  Its running time is 2 hours and 9 minutes.

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Movie Review – “Kong: Skull Island”

 

 

“Aside from the film’s spectacular cinematography and CGI realism, this film smartly brings two dozen expendable roles to keep the beast fed.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

As we enter the annual post-Oscars drought season of movies that will be deemed unworthy of awards consideration come December, theater expectations must be lowered accordingly.  Lest viewers feel cheated on memorable acting performances and classic narratives destined to become part of our pop culture, films hitting the big-screen through summer pose as mere appetizers to bigger, more jarring movie experiences later in 2017. No cinema screening could usher or epitomize these waning months more than “Kong: Skull Island”, an over-hyped throwback with A-list actors caught in an average movie.

Erase the weak and convoluted first two dozen minutes of “Kong: Skull Island” and we’re left with a satisfying beginning to the mediocre movie stretch of 2017.  This gorilla story reboot takes us back to the introduction of King Kong, joining the original stop-motion great ape film from 1933 and its remakes in 1976 and 2005.

“Kong: Skull Island” dramatically captures the discovery and dangers of a new island through its camera lens.  It’s an eye-pleasing experience of special effects but gets watered down with a nuanced cast of forgettable characters and names.  Seeing such a deep, rich talent pool, including Academy Award-winner Brie Larson (“Room”), get hamstrung by a bland script lacking any emotional tie with the audience is unfortunate.

Aside from the film’s spectacular cinematography and CGI realism, this film smartly brings two dozen expendable roles to keep the beast fed.  I always tip my hat to storytellers who can sacrifice their lead performers mid-movie to impart shock upon the audience. If that character isn’t safe, no one is.  In “Kong” we care little for any of the human hunters, but do wonder who will be left standing in the end?

The island faceoff between gorilla and man exposes more than just fiery personalities.  Poor decisions resulting in even worse outcomes gets repeated enough times to almost incite laugher aloud.  Alpha males demonstrate inept skills to their followers, each of whom elects to continue along the bad karma cycle of rinse and repeat.  Thankfully, enough surprises emerge on the island to keep us guessing as to who will die next and how?

Post-Oscars doldrums pose a challenge to avid movie-goers.  Expectations must be tempered and kept in check, replaced by the escapism from reality that theaters afford us.  The time now is for thoughtless action, followed by reboots (“CHiPs”, “Baywatch”), comic book adventures (“Wonder Woman”, “Spider-Man”) and highly anticipated Star-Lord comedy (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”).

Until the Academy Award-worthy World War II true story of Operation Dynamo hits theaters as the film “Dunkirk” in July, we must sit-back and enjoy these types of popcorn movies.

Grade: C

“Kong: Skull Island” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.  Its running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.

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Movie Review – “Logan”

 

“Logan” offers plenty of entertainment to X-Men purists… Others, though, seeking to continue the outlandish fun and lightheartedness of 2016’s “Deadpool” formula will find “Logan” missing one-liners and playful banter towards the audience.

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

With DC Comics and Marvel adventures spurning film releases at nearly the rate of presidential tweets, these filmmakers must strive for freshness on-screen that goes beyond only well-choreographed action sequences. These studios must balance staying accurate to their comic book inspired storylines while eliciting excitement for continual rollouts of new big-screen superheroes. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has easily overmatched DC Comics in this difficult task, mostly by infusing well-liked and funny characters as the foundation for their narratives.  From snarky “Iron Man” Tony Stark, the quintet of laughable rogues in “Guardians of the Galaxy”, to Paul Rudd’s “Ant-Man”, Marvel has mastered the successful 3-part ingredients of action, drama, and stand-up comedy.  But that successful recipe hasn’t always been followed by Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox’s release of their X-Men franchise since 2000.

Last year’s Oscar-deserving X-Men spinoff “Deadpool” celebrated the series’ best reception to date.  Now, however, comes the third and final “Wolverine” saga starring Hugh Jackman as Logan. Reprising his role as the mutant with his trademark claws, Jackman’s Logan finds himself working as a chauffeur along the Mexican border before trouble meets up with him.

Related image

Joining Jackman’s Logan is the X-Men leader, Professor X, portrayed by Patrick Stewart and albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant).  The trio do an excellent job bringing viewers up to speed on the fallout from the mad science experiments found in 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and 2013’s “The Wolverine”.  With fewer mutants in existence, Logan must leave semi-retirement to protect those closest to him.

“Logan” offers plenty of entertainment to X-Men purists.  Those avid followers will enjoy the action drama and further developments of this “Wolverine” finale by Jackman.  Others, though, seeking to continue the outlandish fun and lightheartedness of 2016’s “Deadpool” formula will find “Logan” missing one-liners and playful banter towards the audience.  Still more watchable than any recent offerings by DC Comics, “Logan” straight-forward connection of dots minus any plot surprises or cliffhanger ending.

This film provides us and Jackman with a solid final Wolverine chapter that encompasses the usual action-packed dramatic fighting between superhero and a group of villains still wishing harm to others.  Be prepared for less humor, a few slow movie scenes, and more reluctance by Logan to draw out his claws.  There’s no typical Marvel post-credit movie spoilers after “Logan”.  But be sure to be in your seats for the film’s beginning to see a hilarious short skit performed by Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool character. 

Grade: B-

“Logan” is rated R for strong, brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.  Its running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes.

 

 

 

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My Top 5 Oscar Moments of All-Time List

5. Cuba Gooding Jr. back in 1997.

Lots of talk about what to expect from Hollywood’s acceptance speeches this Sunday at The Oscars. Here’s how it’s done.

 

4. Charlie Chaplin receiving his honorary award in 1972.

His name is synonymous with the word film. His fingerprints remain on every movie made since he arrived on the world stage 100 years ago.

 

3.  Italian Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful” wins Best Foreign Language Film in 1999.

I had the same reaction in high school when I passed the SAT.

 

2.  John Wayne accepts the Best Actor award in 1970 for his performance in “True Grit”.

It was The Duke’s first and only Oscar win after 3 nominations.  But John Wayne also earned the two highest civilian decorations in the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

1.  Matthew McConaughey’s Best Actor win in 2014 for “Dallas Buyers Club”. 

Who is your hero?

Alright, alright, alright…

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My 2017 Oscar Picks!

And the Winner is…

This Sunday night’s 89th Academy Awards show on ABC is one of the most uncertain and open races in recent years.  First-time Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel kicks off the telecast at 5 pm, Arizona time.  Despite La La Land netting a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations (joining Titanic and All About Eve for the most ever), Oscar Night always manages to entertain and surprise viewers.  Expect the Hollywood love story to get stiff competition from Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight for the 8 ½ pound golden statuettes.

Here are my selections for who’ll win this year’s Academy Awards, honoring the highest achievements in filmmaking:

 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Despite not being enthralled with either Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea, both films provided exceptional performances from their talented casts.  My vote would easily go to Viola Davis in FencesLion and Hidden Figures are the best movies on this 5-picture list, but Kidman and Spencer face an uphill battle.  And Williams?  Come on, she was barely in Manchester by the Sea…but her one memorable scene may be enough to sway Oscar voters.

Viola Davis (Fences) – Winner

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Never one to underestimate “The Rock”, I would be surprised if Moana mounted a serious enough challenge to Zootopia.  In fact, I’d place Kubo and the Two Strings slightly ahead of the Baywatch lifeguard.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life As A Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia – Winner

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The best early indicators as to which film will take the Best Picture award is usually found in the winner’s circle of the acting, directing and cinematography categories. Without Amy Adams (Arrival) in the running for Best Actress, the edge here goes to La La Land, Moonlight, and Lion—in that order.

Arrival

La La Land – Winner

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

Although Doctor Strange didn’t gain tons of critical acclaim from either movie reviewers or audience members, everyone agreed that it look phenomenal on the big-screen.  The Doctor’s closest competitor is The Jungle Book, which I wouldn’t mind watching it take a well-deserved Oscar in this category.

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange – Winner

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

COSTUME DESIGN

Early favorite Jackie still poses the greatest threat to Fantastic Beasts, followed by Florence Foster Jenkins.

(PHOTO: Russell Crowe in “The Nice Guys”.  Not nominated for any Oscars.)

 Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Winner

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

If you’re going to live long and prosper in the future, you need to look good doing it.  Mr. Scott, one golden statute to beam up.

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond – Winner

Suicide Squad

(PHOTO: Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella, and the late Anton Yelchin in “Star Trek Beyond”)

 

SOUND MIXING

If Hacksaw Ridge has any hope of scoring gold in the telecast’s last hour, the World War 2 true story will need to mount a serious charge to this objective. Doubtful, but the spirit of Desmond Doss can’t be ignored or downplayed entirely.

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land – Winner

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

SOUND EDITING

Most winners in the Sound Mixing category run the table and take this Oscar too.  I’m counting on it.

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

 La La Land – Winner

Sully

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

If Bridges doesn’t walk out with the Oscar in his hands, I’m going be unearthing some west Texas oil lands to find out who stole it! The scene near the end of Hell or High Water–where Bridges takes a rancher’s rifle into his own hands—should be studied in acting classes.  His range of emotions as grief, shock, elation, and back to sadness overwhelm him is fascinating to see unfold.  In the end, though, I think Academy scorecards give Ali the win with a TKO decision.

Mahershalia Ali (Moonlight) – Winner

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

 

FILM EDITING

So far, La La Land has been dominating Oscar Night.  This category will let us know which film has the best chance at taking the night’s top prize –Best Picture. La La Land is the heavy favorite in this category, but don’t discard Moonlight too quickly.  Outside shot…Arrival.

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

 La La Land – Winner

Moonlight

 

 

 

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

La La Land will withstand the test of time.  An instant classic that will continue to gain popularity in the next few decades a la Titanic.  Long shot is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

 La La Land – Winner

Passengers

 

ORIGINAL SCORE

This one feels like a no-brainer.  If the popular musical can’t take the top prize in this category, they’re going to have a bad night.  A very bad night.

Jackie

La La Land – Winner

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

 

ORIGINAL SONG

Again, this should be an easy-peasy victory for the song and dance number from director Damien Chazelle. But from here on out, La La Land will have a serious fight on its hands in the acting, directing and best picture categories.

Audition – The Fools Who Dream (La La Land) – Winner

Can’t Stop The Feeling (Trolls)

City of Stars (La La Land)

The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)

How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

I initially had given this one to Hidden Figures. But that was my heart talking, telling me that a win by the feel-good NASA true story would make Oscar’s trajectory all good in the world.  Or, perhaps, 2016’s most emotional film—Lion.  Unfortunately, the crack-addition narrative Moonlight makes her move here.

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight – Winner

 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I’m hoping to see some west Texas justice for Hell or High Water, but think that it may actually come to Manchester by the Sea, which steals an Oscar from the City of Stars.

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea – Winner

20th Century Women

 

DIRECTING

As the youngest director to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, the now 32-year old Chazelle is the heavy favorite.  Moonlight’s leader Barry Jenkins is a close second. Outlier: Lonergan for his Manchester by the Sea.

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)

Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson)

La La Land (Damien Chazelle) – Winner

Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

If were based solely on an actor’s ability to carry a film, Denzel Washington wins this easily.  Packing a stronger storyline with a larger supporting cast, Affleck’s distraught uncle character in Manchester by the Sea outshined Washington’s Pittsburgh garbage collector.

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) – Winner

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

One of the night’s biggest upsets could happen here.  Huppert’s portrayal of a rape victim in Elle has earned her numerous awards late last year and into 2017.  This remains, though, Stone’s Oscar to lose.

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone (La La Land) – Winner

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

 

BEST PICTURE

I only gave 3 films in 2016 an A+ letter grade—Hell or High Water, Lion, and La La Land.  But 3 of these nine nominees didn’t even make my Top 20 List for last year (Arrival, Fences, and Moonlight). Deservedly, Hidden Figures has gained momentum in recent months. Enough to earn the top award?  Probably not.  This one comes down to Moonlight and La La Land.

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

 La La Land – Winner

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Congratulations to all the winners!

 

 

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Movie Review – “Fifty Shades Darker”

Great (ben wa) balls of fire!  “Fifty Shades Darker” contains exactly one titillating (and humorous) string of events that quickly escalates from foreplay to masquerade dinner, before climaxing into mattress mayhem. 

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Once again, the month of February has drawn upon us and a handful of friends sheepishly asked if I were going to see this second erotic rollout based upon best-selling author E.L. James’ trilogy collection?  Yes, I unabashedly responded.  And, no, like most book-to-film endeavors, I haven’t read any of the James’ three “Shades” smut novels.

These questions point to the fact that sex fantasy films generate a whole different theater vibe and allure for viewers than a typical movie due to their more graphic sexual and kinky content. Such soft-porn movies create the need to review both the overall storyline and the over-publicized sordid sex scenes.

Great (ben wa) balls of fire!  “Fifty Shades Darker” contains exactly one titillating (and humorous) string of events that quickly escalates from foreplay to masquerade dinner, before climaxing into mattress mayhem.  Young Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) resumes his control freak persona into Anastasia Steele’s personal and professional life. This time, however, we find Dakota Johnson’s Miss Steele character never taken aback by her former lover… a more willing accomplice to Grey’s dominance between his 1800 thread count bed sheets.

Christian Grey is the same helicopter boyfriend who never allows his possessions or women to stray far outside of his arm’s reach. Everything must be available at his disposal to provide immediate gratification and stimulation. In a subtle scene as the always working Anastasia, Dakota Johnson pays a small on-screen tribute to her true-life mother, Melanie Griffith, and 1988’s “Working Girl”.

Unfortunately, this film’s story is not nearly as entertaining as last year’s predecessor, “Fifty Shades of Grey” — which I gave a B+ letter grade.  Little heartache or convincing is required of Christian Grey to pursue and compel the younger Anastasia to recommence her submissive afterhours sexual prowess.  The true culprit for the movie’s less satisfying plot resides in its lack of depth given to several competing, smaller sub-stories…none of which spurns any excitement, interest, or suspense for viewers in this installment.

While “Fifty Shades Darker” is a major drop-off from the series’ original bedroom punisher, it does faithfully accomplish its main goal of creating the potential for a thrilling finale in 2018.  Unapologetically, I will be there to review it.

Grade: C

“Fifty Shades Darker” is rated R for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity and language.  Its running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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Movie Review – “The Lego Batman Movie”

KAPOW!  After two dreary, less fulfilling gambits last year in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”, leave it to this animated action pleaser to pump much-needed life back into DC Entertainment.

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Three years after co-directing the wildly successful and Academy Award nominated “The Lego Movie”, Chris McKay finds himself sitting alone in the director’s chair for this sequel.  And the same can be said for Gotham City’s own Caped Crusader—as Batman headlines this Lego spin-off and must come to terms with his lonely, inner-self and inability to share his crime-fighting success with anyone else.

This adventure-comedy offers the perfect mix of funny one-liners with an explosive and emotional archrival, The Joker, who once again acts as the nemesis to Batman. The computer-generated animation film features dozens of superheroes and villains for viewers to choose from and watch throughout.  With a serious-minded human element softly added thanks to Tom Cruise’s “Jerry Maguire” character, “The Lego Batman Movie” brings smiles to viewers of all ages over its 90-minute therapy session for Bruce Wayne.

Will Arnett’s likable voice as Batman will draw easy comparisons to Facebook and YouTube viral sensation BatDad (“JEN!”).  That’s a good thing, with Arnett oozing overconfidence and an uneasiness to play well with others. Likewise, similar spectacular performers who make this film feel fresh and on top of its DC Comics’ game include Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, and Ralph Fiennes as the consummate professional butler, Alfred.

Rated PG for crude humor and some action, the very few adult jokes all fly by fast and high enough to probably miss any attentive youthful ears.

KAPOW!  After two dreary, less fulfilling gambits last year in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”, leave it to this animated action pleaser to pump much-needed life back into DC Entertainment. With rapid-fire laughs and well-timed hat tips to the 1960s “Batman” television series and Adam West, “The Lego Batman Movie” not only saves Gotham City, but, perhaps DC Comics as well. It nicely introduces us to a pair of main characters and their lesser known backgrounds, both of which have become staples in the Batman storyline.

Once again, everything is awesome.

Grade: A

“The Lego Batman Movie” is rated PG for crude humor and some action. Its running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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Movie Review – “The Eagle Huntress”

“The Eagle Huntress” is bigger, though, than just one girl or what she achieves for women everywhere. It’s a charming cinematic and first-hand account of a culture that has withstood centuries of extreme cold and severe conditions.

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF.com

The uniqueness of documentary films affords us with an unfiltered, first-hand glimpse into a person’s life adventures.  These “reality” movies place us–the filmgoer–directly into the world of non-actors doing what they do best…being themselves.  Through these documentaries, we partake in history as it’s recording, warts and all, starring those who make it all happen.

In “The Eagle Huntress”, we are invited into the nomadic culture of one family living in the snow-covered Altai Mountains of Mongolia near the border with China.  This film’s deeply powerful and rich story develops as a young girl attempts to enter the competitive Mongol world of eagle hunters.

Narrated by The Force Awakens’ heroine Daisy Ridley (who played Rey in the 2015 Star Wars classic), “The Eagle Huntress” introduces viewers to a 13-year old girl named Aisholpan, as she learns the 1,000-year old trade skill of training golden eagles to help a tribe hunt for elusive foxes…a desperate source of food and clothing in Mongolia’s harsh 40-degrees below zero Asian climate.

Tackling strong stereotypes and the custom of male-only eagle hunters, this young girl must convince her father to alter her family’s twelve-generation practice of a patriarch teaching his son the time-honored art of taming predatory birds.

Gorgeous cinematography educates and inspires throughout.  With today’s over-reliance upon computer-generated imagery to create the perfect shot, it’s breathtaking to see a movie captured on the big-screen using only natural, postcard-quality outdoor scenes. In fact, while this film’s story is largely singular and focused solely on Aisholpan’s attempt to become the first woman to earn the coveted eagle huntress title, the English subtitles and amazing photography masterfully transplants us deep inside the nomadic tribal lifestyle.

Combined with its feel-good underdog narrative and mesmerizing images resides a galvanizing soundtrack that warms one’s heart and soul.  No music is more stirring than Sia’s song, “Angel by the Wings”, booming during the film’s credits and a handful of final photographs depicting Aisholpan.

“The Eagle Huntress” is bigger, though, than just one girl or what she achieves for women everywhere. It’s a charming cinematic and first-hand account of a culture that has withstood centuries of extreme cold and severe conditions.  All the while, the Mongol people have continued to thrive as a society and tribe.  And thrive they have.  We witness long-standing Mongolian norms challenged with perseverance and demonstrated skills.   For that, we can all stand and applaud one girl’s triumph.

Grade: A

“The Eagle Huntress” is now playing for a short period at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway, in Tucson.  You may call (520) 322-5638 for show times. It’s rated G for all audiences with a running time of 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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My Oscar Nom Predictions

Tomorrow morning at 8:24 a.m. East Coast time, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce their 89th Academy Awards nominations in all 24 Oscar categories at a special two-part live news conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

 

Here are the my REEL BRIEF predictions:

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

 

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

 

Costume Design

Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

The Dressmaker

 

Documentary Feature

Cameraperson

I Am Not Your Negro

O.J.: Made in America

13th

Weiner

(more…)



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Movie Review – “The Founder”

“The Founder” is not a glaring 2-hour promotional commercial for McDonalds.  Aside from its business merits and trendsetting fast food branding, the tense relationships between Kroc and his wife (Laura Dern), the financiers, and the original McDonalds franchise owners are the best dishes served on the film’s menu.

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Sixty-three years ago, they owned the fast food hamburger market, outpacing even Burger King (Insta-Burger King at the time) nationally. Soon McDonalds offspring popped up along almost every U.S. main street nearly as fast and efficiently as their burgers, fries and milkshakes arrived at the front counter of each franchise restaurant. Now the burger giant serves 1% of the world’s population. Every day.

“The Founder” traces the chaotic mid- to late years of Ray Kroc, the Illinois salesman who sold milkshake makers–and just about everything else—back in 1954. Academy Award winner Michael Keaton nicely plays Kroc, the future head of The McDonalds Corp., as business plans and relationships form to develop the world’s model for fast food customer service.

(HO/AFP/Getty Images)

While this chronological true story feels documentary in style, it doesn’t usher many outward emotions from viewers, either good or bad.  Mostly informative in nature, only a few times during the movie are we given glimpses behind the golden arches into the unpleasantness of Kroc during his dramatic rise to Franchise King status.

The film’s interesting story parts boil down to the relationships in Kroc’s life at the time. Case in point: His discovery of the McDonalds brothers in San Bernardino, California…soaking up their revolutionary business model and floor plan ideas. Both ingredients key to an assembly line of burgers so fast, efficient, and successful it would make Japanese car manufacturers stand up and applaud with envy.

This movie is not, however, a glaring 2-hour promotional commercial for McDonalds.  Aside from its business merits and trendsetting fast food branding, the tense relationships between Kroc and his wife (Laura Dern), the financiers, and the original McDonalds franchise owners are the best dishes served on the film’s menu.  The less endearing picture painted of Kroc is underscored by his hijacking of the McDonalds trademark name and his ruthless negotiations that made it happen.

Viewers go from supporting Keaton’s earnest salesman character and chain-food vision as Kroc, to switching restaurant tables to watch his troubles get unwrapped from afar.

Unfortunately, “The Founder” storyline is slightly overcooked and drawn out.  Do not go see this movie on an empty stomach or without a caffeinated beverage in hand.  The reward is a historic look back to the beginning of the first widely successful fast food industry that decidedly paired down its meal options while streamlining its delivery method to customers.  Hidden inside this Happy Meal are relationship time bombs that prove both fascinating to understand but not necessarily enjoyable to see.

Grade: B-

“The Founder” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.  Its running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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