Kroc Pot Founder

Kroc

DATELINE:  Your Inner Trump

Giving a tour de force performance, Michael Keaton almost wills the movie to be successful. Yet, there is the sound of Beetlejuice coming through when Ray Kroc makes his rapid-fire sales pitch. It is, at first, amusing—and then rather diabolical. It’s like watching Donald Trump’s “how to” video.

It was not the year for a movie about a Trump-style businessman in Hollywood. Just ask Meryl Streep. The Founder tells how McDonalds food chain grew to a billion-burgers-sold by hook and crook.

Other than that, the story reveals how Ray Kroc took the McDonald Brothers idea for fast food and ran with it.

Ray Kroc was not beyond taking credit for the ideas of the original McDonalds creators, but he also had to fight their small-minded integrity to quality. Kroc had traveled around the country selling milk shake mixers and recognized whatever quality McDonalds had was already ten times better than the competition in 1954.

He skimmed a little to expand the business. Shake well and stir.

When you hear Kroc’s explanation of how the Golden Arches fit in with the American flag and church crosses, you almost feel his fervor to eat a hamburger as an act of America becoming great.

What starts out as a visionary film depicting the wonderful ingenuity of the original McDonald brothers deteriorates rapidly into a tale of corporate greed, the side-effect of Ray Kroc’s vision. Beetlejuice in your head can do that.

The film has been ignored for probably glorifying crass commercialism in a Hollywood that thinks it is better than thou. This movie celebrates the Middle America out of fashion among those who hate fast food, environmental carelessness, and persistent ambition.

Dare we call them blue-nose Democrats?

You may not have to be a rugged individualist Republican to become a fan of this movie, but chances are you will be more inclined to see the virtues here among the dubious and ruthless business practices and Seven Deadly Sins.

As a movie depiction of an era and how to rake in a billion per year, this one will fascinate you– if you are willing to drive-thru.

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Beetlejuice, Then and Now

DATELINE:  Still No Sequel

Beetlejuice

After nearly 30 years, we took another look at Beetlejuice. It had been a seminal film of its era, popular and launching careers. We expected to see Tim Burton and Michael Keaton in a series of sequels to the ghostly ghoul.

The film featured a bureaucratic hereafter with endless waiting rooms and hideous looking victims of death. It was a winning formula.

Instead, several times projects were announced and fell through. Keaton worked with Burton again, but never could they come together for another Beetlejuice extravaganza. The latest one was rumored for 2014, but no one put film in the cameras.

As with any 30-year old movie, you may be struck by how timeless it remains. It seems fairly fresh with reviewing, but most unsettling is how youthful the cast appears. They are all so fresh-faced. It was a long time ago.

Gena Davis plays the dead young wife and is delightful, and the man who plays her husband Alec Baldwin may be the one with the biggest career in the past decades, though Keaton has had flashier roles, he has been inconsistent.

Winona Ryder was a slip of a morbid girl in this one, dressed in black, mourning her life, the only one who can see the specters. We thought Glenn Shadix as the rotund villain would have had a greater career, but this was his highlight. When he died in 2010, he wanted the “Day-O” song played at his funeral.

Others in the cast were Robert Goulet, Catherine O’Hara, and Dick Cavett. Two out of three have survived. Goulet is now on the other side. Jeffrey Jones was once everywhere, but has been less visible since an unseemly brush with the law a few years back.

If a remake were to occur, Keaton in his heavy makeup could still play it in timeless fashion—but the others, as ghosts, would hardly be able to play.

Birds Do It

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 byebye birdie

Michael Keaton’s tour de force in Birdman is vaguely reminiscent of Ronald Colman in A Double Life, more than Bette Davis in All About Eve.

Actors and their roles for $200 might put you in jeopardy. Keaton used to be Batman, but the insider joke of this movie is that actors playing superheroes retain some magical superpowers. We thoroughly enjoy Keaton flying, but apparently superheroes cannot write a good script, nor a good Broadway play.

Hollywood always loves a take down of off-Broadway, or nearer. This is the Sweet Smell of Success from the other side of show biz.

Making a movie that delineates a conflict between pretentious talky drivel and action heroic noise makes Hollywood a happy place. They can pat themselves on the back for having their cake and eating it too.

There are some wonderful actors giving smashing performances here: Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, and Edward Norton. None of these is unexpected. This is not unexpected in a film that has a subtitle of The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

In-jokes abound—references to other superhero actors—and how the characters and actors may start to become the same kettle of fish. Snide cracks about Robert Downey, Jr., and George Clooney don’t make a script, but they add up to moments.

This is a film of moments shot in a pretentious long shot that looks like one take. It’s illusion and Hitchcock did it better 60 years ago.

Not quite a movie, definitely not a play, not a think piece, and not a superhero action movie, this film probably will leave everyone a bit dissatisfied.