Greetings, ‘The Founder’ is a biographical film from 2016 that was directed by John Lee Hancock, who is also known for directing ‘Saving Mr Banks’ a few years prior in 2013. While ‘Saving Mr Bank’s was about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney creating the ‘Mary Poppins’ movie, ‘The Founder’ is about the transformation of McDonalds from a small family orientated restaurant into a globe spanning empire. It stars Michael Keaton as businessman Ray Kroc, Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds brothers, Richard and Maurice, with Laura Dern and Linda Cardellini in supporting roles. The score was composed by Carter Burwell who mostly works with the Cohen brothers in films such as ‘Raising Arizona’ and ‘Fargo’ but was also involved in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ and Netflix’s ‘Space Force’.
The plot begins with Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, travelling across America and trying to sell his wares to restaurants in 1954 through a charismatic pitch. After failing to shift much of his product, Ray becomes increasingly frustrated with his lack of progress and relies on recorded speeches to inspire him in his darkest days. The record explains that what makes a man successful isn’t his vision, his natural talents or his intelligence but his persistence and his ability to keep getting up after being repeatedly knocked down. With this mind-set firmly entrenched, Ray believes that he will eventually find his path to wealth and power as a golden opportunity will arise if he just keeps working on it with gritted determination. That very opportunity comes one day when a request for an unusually high number of milkshake machines is made by two brothers named McDonald. An intrigued Ray travels down to the McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California with the milkshake machines in his car.
As he arrives, he sees a throng of people standing in line to get their orders in. Kroc is now even more curious and he joins the line of customers who vary in age range. Once he gets to the top of the queue, Ray is baffled by how different it is to any eatery he has been at before and is shocked to learn they only have a limited menu but are producing quality food at a rapid rate. After getting his meal, he learns that he can eat it anywhere due to the disposable and minimal wrapping. Kroc sees very clearly that this was just the moment he was waiting for. An opportunity that could start a franchise and revolutionise the gastronomical experience. He meets the McDonalds brothers and despite initial rebuffing from them on an offer to build their restaurant into a chain, Ray keeps coming back as per his inspirational record’s instruction and refuses to give up his dream.
I really liked this movie and found it interesting how easy it was to sympathise with the struggling Ray Kroc at the beginning until slowly but surely he became more and more ruthless as the film progressed. Keaton brought a real sleazy charm to his portrayal and I found him to be one of the highlights of the film alongside Offerman and Lynch’s performances as they struggled to contain Kroc’s intense ambition. It will be of no surprise to anyone that ‘The Founder’ ends on a sombre note for the McDonalds brothers but it is a fascinating tale to learn how their unique business idea became such a giant transnational corporation once it was guided by Kroc’s hands. This is one movie that I’d definitely recommend to others.
Quote of the Day
Young men love risk because they can’t imagine the consequences.
On Becoming A God In Central Florida
Greetings, ‘On Becoming a God in Central Florida’ is a dark comedy television show from 2019 that was created by Matt Lutsky and Robert Funke for Showtime. The series, which was cancelled after one season due to production difficulties in the era of Covid despite initial promises of a second instalment, stars Kirsten Dunst, Mel Rodriguez, Théodore Pellerin, Beth Ditto and Ted Levine among some of the top cast members. The music was composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans who also worked on the score for ‘American Gods’ and ‘Ozark’ but, like the creators of the show, they don’t seem to have been involved in many other notable projects.
The plot, which as its title suggests is set in Florida, begins in 1992 and focuses on the impoverished Stubbs family. The small family consists of spouses Krystal and Travis, alongside their infant named Destiny, who are struggling to get by and are living from pay check to pay check. Travis, while holding on to a stable but unfulfilling office job, has managed to get himself involved in a pyramid scheme which he believes will make him richer than his wildest dreams if he just puts in the hard work. He is moonlighting as a member of FAM, a cult like organisation called Founders American Merchandise, that sells cheap products for everyday needs. Travis believes that he can climb the organisational ladder by bringing in more recruits and making them sell wares on his behalf. This belief is spurred on and intentionally stoked by the motivational tapes of FAM’s founder, Obie Garbeau II, who Travis and other FAM participants have deified in their search if wealth.
Travis is eventually convinced by the tapes and is egged on by his friend, a fellow FAM member named Cody Bonar, to quit his job with the intention to become a full time salesperson for FAM. This naturally frustrates Krystal who is very sceptical that the system even works but Travis will not listen to reason as he believes that his old job was holding him back from greatness. Krystal can see that the attempts to peddle FAM products by trying to sell them across greater and greater distances has only brought an exhausted Travis closer to ruin. Travis is either too ignorant or unwilling to accept this reality until tragedy strikes. While driving his car, a delirious Travis accidently steers his car into an alligator infested river and is mauled to death by the apex predators. The distraught and angry Krystal, now on her own with a baby to raise, sets her sights on destroying FAM and its founder from the inside in an act of revenge.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and found the characters to be compelling as they navigated through the seedy world of Multi-Level Marketing. This is particularly the case for Dunst’s portrayal of Krystal, who I found was easy to root for early on, and Levine’s take on the wealth and image obsessed Garbeau II. While I was familiar with most of the cast, there were some actors and actresses who were new to me who I found had provided solid performances. If you are looking for some intriguing character drama, I’d certainly recommend giving this one a try. Even though the show was cancelled with plenty of story left to tell, it concluded on a perfectly satisfying ending in my opinion.
Quote of the Day
Does your incompetence know no bounds?
Lord Nelson Rathbone
Greetings, ‘Amélie’ is a 2001 romantic comedy film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet which was also titled ‘The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain’. The director of this French language film has done little else of note bar a directorial effort for ‘Alien: Resurrection’, perhaps regarded as one of the weakest in the famed horror series, and a new release for Netflix called ‘Bigbug’. Due to its nature as a French film, it would star many actors and actresses who may not be well known beyond its national borders. The main actress is Audrey Tautou who also played a major role in 2006’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ while other stars include Mathieu Kassovitz as the love interest and André Dussollier as the narrator. The soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen who also wouldn’t be popularly known by English speaking audiences.
The plot begins in 1974 with birth of Amélie to the eccentric parents of Raphaël and Amandine Poulain. The years roll by and Amélie grows up while having no friends of her own to interact with, so she resorts to inventing her own imaginary companions instead. She develops a quirky attitude after being reared and socially formed by her overly anxious mother and emotionally distant father. Her personality is impacted detrimentally when, visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral with her mother, a suicidal Canadian tourist leaps from the top of the Cathedral and lands on Amandine. The collision kills Amélie’s mother and the event causes her father to drift further into isolation. More years pass until Amélie is a young woman serving as a waitress in the Café des 2 Moulins in Paris which is staffed and inhabited by other oddballs. It is revealed that she is a romance craving singleton and although she had an unnamed boyfriend in the past, she never clicked with anyone on a satisfying level.
Amélie spends her days enjoying the simple things in life, like dipping her hand into bags of grain, as well as partaking in flights of fancy as she goes about her rather lacklustre life. Her life, however, takes an interesting turn on Sunday 31st August 1997. She is preparing to spray some perfume on herself in her bathroom while a news station reports that Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car accident. In her shock, Amélie drops the perfume stopper which rolls across the floor and dislodges a wall tile. Once she absorbs the news, Amélie is surprised to discover the tile was loose and removes it properly to find a secret compartment which contains an old box. She rubs the dust off the metal box and notices it is full of childhood memorabilia from the 1950s. Amélie decides in that instant that she wants to track down the owner of the box, a previous tenant, and that if he is overcome with joy, then she would dedicate her life to making other people happy.
I enjoyed this movie in all its surreal quirkiness and was never sure what was going to be in store from one scene to the next or how the story was going to progress. I liked the off-kilter characters, of which everyone in the cast appears to be portraying in one way or another, and found the central character of Amélie to be easy to sympathise with. The vivid colouring certainly deserves a mention as it stands out and the movie is very stylistic in part because of its bright contrasting colours. Even though I believe ‘Amélie’ may have been a little too long, I’d recommend this movie if you are searching for something a bit different and are in the mood for a whimsical, artsy film.
Quote of the Day
I am not a number! I am a free man!
Greetings, ‘The Prisoner’ is a British television programme from 1967 that was written, directed and stared Patrick McGoohan. It has since developed a cult following. There was only one series ever made, which consists of 17 episodes, but there has also been one remake in the decades that followed the initial release. The mainstay of the cast is Patrick McGoohan as the mysterious spy given the moniker of Number Six while the most other notable role, that of Number Two, is rotated between different actors for most episodes. There are no shortage of cast members involved but due to its age, I’d argue that most of the actor’s involved simply wouldn’t have much name recognition for the modern audience but would have held more relevance to their contemporary viewers. The music was composed by Ron Grainer who had also worked on ‘Doctor Who’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, a series not dissimilar to ‘The Twilight Zone’.
The plot begins, interestingly, in the intro sequence that plays at the beginning of most episodes. A man, later revealed to be an agent for a British intelligence service, gets in a heated confrontation with one of his handlers and angrily hands in his resignation in protest due to an unknown reason. After resigning, the man makes his way to his home in London but doesn’t realise that he has been followed by a shadowy figure. While in the midst of packing his things to leave, the secret agent realises too late that gas was seeping into the room. The spy collapses after inhaling the knockout gas and wakes up in a strange location known only as the Village. One of the first things noticed by the man, now assigned the title of ‘Number Six’ as a means of taking away his identity, is that the fellow residents of the Village have all had their names wiped as well. In the Village, everyone is a number.
Number Six comes to learn that the residents are free to roam around the Village as they please but that any attempts to escape will be stopped by various methods including capture by a sentient white sphere known as Rover. It quickly comes to Number Six’s attention that no one in the Village can be trusted for the jailors are intermingled in with the prisoners and some of the residents have come to accept or even love their captivity. Shortly after arriving, Number Six is greeted by Number Two who is an important figure that is deeply entrenched in the Village’s authoritarian structure. Number Six has been brought to the Village for one reason. The forces behind the Village, presumed to be either the Western or Eastern hegemonic powers, want to know the reason for Number Six’s resignation. While they try to coax it out of him or break him with forceful measures, Number Six remains stubbornly resolute to keeping that secret with him and is always planning to escape the clutches of the Village.
Despite the premise of each episode being essentially the same, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Prisoner’ and its colourful sixties feel as well as its utterly surreal moments that permeate throughout the show. The series is propelled by the inherent mystery of its premise and it is clear that even when the strange finale has concluded, it has no interest in providing answers to any of the questions it raised. I believe this quality would irk a lot of potential viewers but I found it to be intriguing nonetheless and simply appreciated the quirky story it was telling. I was particularly struck by Number Six’s constant struggle to remain an independent thinking individual, frequently challenging overbearing authorities that wanted to keep everyone imprisoned and in line. The attitude of those nameless residents who had acquiesced and conformed to the demands of the Village was a stark contrast to the freedom loving and charmingly rebellious Number Six. You might very well think that some of that description could resemble the political scene of the last few years but I, of course, couldn’t possibly comment.
Quote of the Day
I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I... am... a man!
The Elephant Man
Happy New Year: 2021 Review!
Greetings, New Year’s Eve is finally here and, to mark the occasion, so is my last blog update for 2021. As per usual, I will be discussing my picks for the best titles in the entertainment categories that I experienced or wrote about during these past several months. Feel free to comment below on what media you enjoyed in 2021 or if there are any particular upcoming projects that you are looking forward to in the next year.
Unfortunately, 2021 felt like a bit of a washout due to the lack of cultural events or memorable moments and a more cynical or perhaps, by this point, a more realistic person would argue that 2022 will be more of the same. Despite this, one thing to note about this year was the great effort made to celebrate 10 years of Write Wise. It is a great credit to this small community that the site is still growing strong after a decade in existence, that the stories are getting bigger and better and that there is no indication that it is slowing down. I am looking forward to what will happen next year on the site but for now I’ll be discussing my winning choices.
Television Show of the Year: GLOW
Staring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron to name a few from a large and memorable cast, ‘GLOW’ lasted for 3 fantastic seasons before being cancelled by Netflix due to Covid-19 restrictions. As a result, the last planned season will likely never be seen which is a shame as it had ended on something of a cliff hanger and there were still many plotlines left to explore. The series is a dramatization of the real 1980s show, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and follows the increasingly complicated relations between the numerous women who participate in the theatrical wrestling matches. The tenuous friendship and personal rivalry between the leads of Ruth Wilder and Debbie Eagan is one of my favourite aspects about this programme and I’d recommend that you watch it if you haven’t done so already.
Book of the Year: The Hellbound Heart
Known for being the source material of the famed horror movie ‘Hellraiser’, the Hellbound Heart was written by Clive Barker in 1986. The book, published one year before the film was released, introduced readers to the horrifying and sadomasochistic world of the Cenobites and the iconic Pinhead as Kirsty attempts to escape their pleasurable torture. It is similar to the aforementioned movie for the most part but one key difference is Kirsty’s relationship to Rory for in the film adaptation she is his daughter but in the novel Kirsty is merely a friend. If you enjoyed the story on the big screen then I imagine you would appreciate the one on paper as well.
Game of the Year: Half-Life
There is not much that needs to be said about this classic first person shooter game. Released back in 1998, Half-Life lets the player control the silent protagonist of Gordon Freeman as he battles his way out of the Black Mesa Research Facility after an experiment goes horribly wrong. There is no shortage of enemy AIs in this beloved game, either extra-terrestrial or human, and the game play has a developed a nostalgic feel to it over time. Despite being a few decades old by this point, Half-Life and its sequels still stand out as a creative high point for gaming industry.
Film of the Year: The Elephant Man
A much more down to earth film one would expect from the surreal director David Lynch who introduced the world to the bizarre series of ‘Twin Peaks’ and the cult hit of ‘Eraserhead’, the Elephant Man is based on the life of Joseph Merrick and the deformities that made him a celebrity in Victorian England. John Hurt gives an impressive performance as Merrick, while under heavy prosthetics, and his touching friendship with Anthony Hopkin’s Frederick Treves is most certainly a highlight of the movie that is worth emphasising. I also appreciated the decision taken to have it in black and white as this give the picture an almost timeless quality to it.
That about wraps it up for 2021. I hope we will be able to look upon 2022 with fondness 12 months down the line. My blog will return in January, with its usual style, to review a famous pop culture television show from the 1960s that I enjoyed watching recently for the first time. Have a great New Year!
Quote of the Day
Can the Spider-Man come out to play?
The Green Goblin / Norman Osborn
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Merry Christmas 2021!
Greetings, it is that time of year again and that means it is time for me to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope that you have a good day tomorrow and are taking it easy for the next few days. As per usual, there is only one blog update left for the year in which I will be doing my annual review of the media I enjoyed. I had a lot of fun entering Write Wise’s challenge this year with my novelette, ‘The Night of the Gremlins!’, and found the entries submitted in the entirety of 2021 to be among some of the best work that we have produce as a blogging community so far. I’m already drawing up plans for my writing projects for the next year and I can’t wait to see what you are going to do next. Have a merry Christmas!
Quote of the Day
Merry Christmas, Alfred. Good will toward men... and women.