The Founder

Posted on January 19, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Copyright 2016 TWC

McDonald’s began as a hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California, the idea of two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald, who brought to food what Henry Ford brought to cars: ultra-efficient assembly-line production: consistent, reliable, and scalable. But McDonald’s, the worldwide “billions and billions served” fast food franchise phenomenon with the iconic golden arches was the creation of the man who put “founder” on his business cards, Ray Kroc.

Balzac famously said that behind every great fortune there is a crime, and this story of one of the great disruptive forces in 20th century business shows us the vision, the passion, the triumph and the heartbreak behind it. Michael Keaton is well cast as Kroc, a struggling salesman who listens to motivational tapes about the importance of persistence — a more significant factor, according to the lectures, than ability or resources.

Kroc is on the road trying to sell milkshake machines to restaurants. He calls his secretary for messages. A prospect says no. A bill collector wants to be paid. And some hamburger stand in California wants to buy six. Kroc is sure that is a mistake. No one has ever wanted more than one. He calls and speaks to one of the McDonald brothers. He can hear the activity in the background. And the order gets upped to eight. Kroc has to go see it for himself.

The McDonald brothers (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman) welcome Kroc warmly, proud to tell their story and show off their innovations. In one of the movie’s highlights, they explain the trial and error and meticulous planning that led to their operational and conceptual innovation. They had three brilliant insights. First, they got rid of the inessentials: no wait staff, no plates to wash or break, and they limited the menu offerings to the items that were most often ordered. You want chicken — go somewhere else. They got rid of the cigarette machine and jukebox and thus got rid of the undesirable customers, teenagers and others who come to hang around instead of those who eat and leave. That left busy families, who appreciated the wholesome atmosphere and utter consistency and reliability. Second, they streamlined production, again reinforcing consistency and reliability and attracting families. One more difference to appeal to families: no waiting. Food was delivered almost instantly. Indeed, when on his first visit Kroc received his food neatly packed in a bag seconds after placing the order, he looked at it confused and asked, “What’s that?” The McDonald brothers realized they were not just providing customers with food; they were providing them with something even more precious: time.

The third brilliant insight created some conflict with their new partner after Kroc persuaded them to put him in charge of franchising. For the McDonald’s, money was not the top priority. They valued, well, values.

It is instructive that there are several points throughout the film where someone explains that McDonald’s is not about hamburgers. All of the other answers are right in their own way, along with many others. This is a rare film that looks at what it takes to create a globally dominant business, and what it costs as well.

Parents should know that this film includes one f-word, some predatory business behavior, illness, and marital strain and divorces.

Family discussion: How many things other than hamburgers did people say the business of McDonald’s really was? Why did Kroc call himself “founder?” Who was right, the brothers or Kroc, and why?

If you like this, try: “Tucker: The Man and his Dream” and “Joy”

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Based on a true story Biography Drama

Happy 2017! Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Month

Posted on January 1, 2017 at 7:00 am

Happy new year! Happy January! Here’s what’s coming to theaters this month, with a little bit about what else we’ll be seeing in 2017.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 6

Silence

Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver star in Martin Scorsese’s epic about faith and culture in 17th century Japan.

A Monster Calls

Liam Neeson won the DC film critics first-ever award for a voice performance for the title role in this story of a boy coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13

Live By Night

Ben Affleck wrote and directed this film about 1930’s gangsters, co-starring Elle Fanning.

Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg stars in the story of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and the hunt for the bombers.

20th Century Women

Set in the late 1970’s, this story of women trying to find their place stars Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning and is loosely based on the memories of writer/director Mike Mills (“Beginners”).

Monster Trucks

They are trucks and they are also monsters. What else do you need to know?

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20

The Founder

Ray Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman who wanted to know why the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stand was buying so many of his products. He ended up joining the company and making McDonald’s into the most successful fast food operation in the world. Michael Keaton stars as Kroc, with Laura Dern as his wife.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

Well, Vin Diesel has to have something to do between “Fast and Furious” movies, right?

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27

Gold

Matthew McConaughey stars in the story of a literal gold-digger, inspired by the rise and fall of John Felderhof.

A Dog’s Purpose

Just try to watch the trailer without tearing up. Just try.

And coming for the rest of 2017:

Justice League, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Star Wars VIII, Kong: Skull Island, John Wick 2, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, The Dark Tower, World War Z 2, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Fate of the Furious, Table 19, Coco, and, best of all, the movies that we don’t expect to fall in love with that change our lives.

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