- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
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BEST BETS OF THE WEEK:
Best Action: Rogue One
Best Animation: Sing
Best Comedy: Why Him
Best Documentary: Bugs
Best Drama: Manchester by the Sea
Best Foreign: Julieta
Best Horror: Split
Best Romance: La La Land
Opening this weekend are SPLIT, THE FOUNDER and the new xXx film.
THE FOUNDER (USA 2016) ***
Directed by John Lee Hancock
THE FOUNDER an American biographical drama that tells the story of of Ray Kroc, the self-claimed founder of McDonald’s. Whether he is the true founder or not, it is up to the audience to decide, but the film written by Robert Siegel and directed by John Lee Hanccock tries to reveal the real story, warts and all.
Just as THE FOUNDER could serve as an educational film on business success strategies, it could also be a classroom model for ethical practices.
The film follows the trail of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman for milkshake mixers to restaurants - indeed a hard sell. After receiving word that a small diner is ordering an unusually large number of milkshake makers from his company, Ray decides to go visit the enterprise in question. What he finds is a highly popular diner by the name of McDonald's. Ray is immediately struck by the fast service, the high-quality food, the novelty of disposable packaging (versus cutlery) and the family-focused customers who regularly consume the food.
Ray meets with the two brothers who own and operate the diner. Maurice "Mac" McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) is elder and more simple-minded but extremely hard-working. Richard "Dick" McDonald (Nick Offerman) is younger and known for being an ideas man. Ray is given a tour of the kitchens and immediately is struck by the strong work ethic displayed by From them, Kroc acquires the fast food chain, growing it to a full state business to much more. His marriage to Ethel Fleming (Laura Dern) eventually lands in divorce with him marrying one of his franchise owners.
The film takes its time to get the audience on the side of Ray Kroc. Ray is depicted as a hard-working salesman with initially good honest practices with solid family values like caring for his loving wife. As greed gains control over Ray with the McDonalds empire expanding, Ray resorts to unethical tactics to take control over the two brothers. His marriage ends as well though the details are not shown on screen. He learns more about the dirt in the business and in his own words, he would drown a competitor by sticking a hose up his mouth. So, director Hancock slowly shifts sides as Ray’s good side eventually erodes when he finally cheats the brothers out of their agreed 1% stake in the business.
Michael delivers another outstanding performance as Ray Kroc, a man that the audience can both admire and despise. Patrick Wilson is largely wasted in a small role as the husband of the girl Ray stole to be his second wife. Offerman and Lynch play the brothers perfectly.
If Ray was depicted totally as a scheming unethical cheat, the film would turn away both its audience and McDonald’s customers. McDonald’s has become an American icon and Hancock is smart enough to treat the material as well as the character of Ray Kroc with respect. Besides Kroc has also demonstrated that the American dream can be achieved from pure persistence.
SEARCHERS (MALIGLUTIT) (Canada 2016) ***
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
If the English title of this movie sounds familiar, it is because the film is taken from the plot of John Ford’s classic John Wayne western THE SEARCHERS. The Inuk title translates literally to ‘followers’. The simple plot involves an Inuk man searching for his kidnapped wife and daughter.
The film begins with a quarrel as an Inuk man is upset that a man has been fooling around with his wife. The words ‘f***ing asshole’ and ‘***ker’ (in Inuk) are exchanged frequently. It is the omen of what is to occur. The Inuk man has his wife and daughter are later kidnapped by marauders. He and his son set out to find those responsible and rescue the wife and daughter. The revenge plot gives the film, at times the feel of an action flick like TAKEN.
The film is a bit confusing at the start. All the characters are heavily clothed and it is at first hard to tell who is who and which one is the villain. It does not help that the Inuk man and son as well as the maunders take out an expedition at the same time, so that one has to recall the faces to figure out what is going on, in terms of plot.
What is most fascinating about the film is the Inuk culture depicted. The daily routines like making tea, eating and sewing are on display. If one has never seen what he inside of an igloo looks like, the film offers plenty of opportunity to see both the insides and exterior, as well as the brief construction of one. The chopping of frozen food that makes the daily diet, as well as eating of the food frozen.
The cinematography of the real ‘great white North’ is nothing short of stunning. Like David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia where a lone figure stands in the vast spaces of sand, lone figures are seen in the mountains of snow and ice with no other signs of civilization. One wonders how the filmmakers managed to get all the filming equipment way up to the Arctic.
The film is necessarily violent from the kidnapping to the revenge scenes. The latter is satisfying, seeing how director Kunk has primed his audience for anger and a thirst for revenge. The tracking of the kidnappers, Inuk-style is like nothing anyone has seen before. Suspense is also heightened as the Inuk man has only one bullet left at the end, so that he has to kill two men with one bullet.
Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk broke into the film scene 15 years ago when his film, the excellent ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER won the prestigious Caméra d’or for Best First Feature at Cannes. SEARCHERS can nowhere can be compared to ATANARUAT, but the film is still definitely worth a look. The film has also been selected as Canada’s top 10 films of 2016.
SPLIT (USA 2017) ***1/2
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
The first thing on the mind of anyone venturing to see a new M. Night Shyamalan film is whether the film is going to be a bomb like AFTER EARTH and THE LAST AIRBENDER or a hit like his early films THE SIXTH SENSE, SIGNS and UNBREAKABLE. His last film THE VISIT pleased the majority of filmgoers and SPILT should do the same.
The film begins with the abduction in a car in broad daylight of three teenage friends Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and difficult outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). The three girls get seated in the car while the father of one of them puts their gear in the trunk. “Can I help you?” the father says to a stranger whose face is off-camera. From the car mirror, Casey senses something is wrong when she sees their bags on the road. She turns to get a glimpse of the man who has just moved into the driver’s seat and it is not her friend’s father. This is top notch camera work worthy of Hitchcock and proves a hard act to follow. True enough, none of the rest of the film can match the first 10 minutes of pure suspense.
Their captor Kevin (James McAvoy) locks the trio in a windowless room, then proceeds to frighten and baffle them. One minute he's wearing eyeglasses and obsessive about cleanliness, the next he is presenting as female (PSYCHO style), and later he acts like a nine-year-old boy. It is revealed that Kevin exhibits 23 alternate personalities, and in order to escape, his captives must convince one of the personalities within him to set them free, before the arrival of the 24th and final personality, the “beast”.
James McAvoy delivers a really creepy performance worthy of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Teen actress Taylor-Joy need not have to do much. The film is scary enough and all she has to do is register fear in hr face. Shyamalan often has the camera in close-up.
To add more to the simple plot of abduction, the story of Casey’s life is told in flashbacks. Her father has passed on from a heart attack and she is looked after by a creepy uncle who may be a pedophile. Kevin is a patient under study by Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who hopes to rehabilitate him.
As in all Shyamalan’s films, there is a surprise twist - the best of which were in his first two films. There is a big surprise at the end of this one too, but only consequential to the goings-on. Still, Shyamalan fans should not be disappointed.
Shyamalan’s films all make money even his two big critical flops. SPLIT only cost a paltry $10 million to make, primarily for its use of inexpensive stars and absent unneeded special effects. SPLIT is expected to gross $20-25 million this weekend alone which means that there should be another Shyamalan thriller/horror the next year. No one should be complaining.