I Still Believe Movie Review

“I Still Believe” is a Christian themed story about a current Christian music star – Jeremy Camp – and the difficult journey he had with his wife, Melissa. Since this person is still around, the creators had Camp’s feedback and even his blessing on the way they tell his story. The story begins with him, but it ultimately gets back to his wife. She was stricken with a terrible physical burden and saw that it was lifted for a short time. Melissa then became ill once more, but her love and inspiration outlived her short experience on Earth.

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Breakthrough Movie Review

“Breakthrough” is a faith-based story of Missouri family rocked by a tragedy that turned into medical miracle. It was all because of the unshakable faith of the mother. Based on a true story from 2015, a young adopted son fell into an icy river and was submerged for over 20 minutes. But the faith and prayers of his mother seemed to bring him back to life at the hospital. The family struggle is depicted in a very straight-forward and moving way.

Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) and her husband Brian Smith (Josh Lucas) have an adopted son named John (Marcel Ruiz). They are very involved with their local church. Joyce and Brian went on a mission trip to Guatemala where they adopted John. Joyce has loved John with a fierce protective nature, even when he would rather ignore her feelings. He is a star player on the basketball team, and the family attends church every Sunday. Joyce is not happy with the new leader, Pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace). She likes more traditional ways, and Pastor Jason is there to shake things up. Joyce still will not call him by his first name, and she hates his 90’s boy band style haircut.

Over a long weekend in February, John and his friends go over to the frozen lake in the town and are goofing around on the ice. The ice suddenly breaks, and the boys are in the icy water. The Fire Department rescue people show up quickly, but by then John Smith has sunk down into the murky depths. A water rescue EMT named Tommy (Mike Colter) is in the water, about to give up on the search – but he hears a voice telling him to “Go back”. He tries again, and finds the body of John underwater. John is brought to the ER, and the doctors are unable to revive his lifeless body.

Joyce is beside herself when she gets to the hospital. She is allowed time with John, until they need to take his body to the morgue. She prays and cries and prays and yells and prays for God to answer her prayer. John’s pulse revives and he is a weak condition. But John is still alive, so they rush him to the Children’s Hospital. A specialist is there named Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), and he has treated many drowning patients. But there has never been a patient who had been underwater for so long. John might survive, but he could have severe mental difficulties. Brian Smith is so distraught that he cannot be in the hospital room. But Pater Jason shows up to support Johan, and especially Joyce.

Dr. Garrett has put John into an induced coma, so that his body can adjust to trauma that he has gone through. Many of the nurses and other doctors openly speak about John’s condition is tenuous, and that Joyce and Brian should prepare for the inevitable. Joyce is a fierce Mama Grizzly, and she chastises anyone who does not believe that John will be OK. Her strength, which can sometimes turn into pig-headedness, is overwhelming. She finally breaks down and realizes that Pastor Jason is doing the right thing, and she accepts him. She has some medical issues herself, but is strong enough to be a powerful voice for John. She wants the doctors to give him a chance to fight on his own, and orders him taken out of the induced coma.

At the moment of greatest need, Joyce unites her church and her community with enough faith and power to see John back from the dead. Even medical EMT Tommy comes by to tell Joyce that he heard a voice that day to ‘Go back’. But it was not his Fire Chief, or any other human voice that told him to do that. Tommy is not a religious man, but he says that he knows that there is someone above looking out for John. The people from church sign outside of John’s window at the hospital to show their support. So, will John make a ‘Breakthrough’?

Given that a story such as this could be very predicable and could turn very mawkish, the level of acting and direction raises it up to higher standard. You actually do start to care for the predicament that Smith family find themselves in. The human and emotional honesty with the characters turns it into a very uplifting and heartwarming story. Chrissy Metz is a large woman, but she needs to be to contain the size of her heart. Her performance was really emotional and true. Topher Grace is also really good in his role. Dennis Haysbert has the type of gravitas to pull off the role of an experienced Doctor. You just wish that he would turn to Joyce when John is put into the hospital room and tell her – “He’s in Good Hands”…

All in all, it is strong contender for a wide and positive audience reception, even outside a faith-based community. There is a little bit of a play on words with the title of the movie, “Breakthrough”. It could stand for the time when the boys ‘break though’ the ice of the river. But it could also be reflective of the medical ‘break though’ when John recovers. God Only Knows…

The Front Runner Movie Review

“The Front Runner” invites you to come and ride on the campaign bus with the leading Presidential candidate in the 1988 Democratic primary. Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is a US Senator from Colorado, who is smart and well-spoken. He came in second during the 1984 Democrat race, so his star is rising in the party and with people in the country at large. He is from the West, and he believes that the future will be based on leaders from the Western states. He is well-read when it comes to politics, trade policies and economics.

But when it comes to his personal space and his family, Hart is aloof and distant. He is a Democratic fresh face, attractive and ready to lead. However, he does not know that he has created a big target on his back. The press has become more aggressive and intrusive on the past four years. Hart makes personal decisions and mistakes that take his campaign from ‘Front Runner’ status to drop out, all in a matter a few weeks.

Gary Hart and his wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) have gone through the campaign wringer before, and they expect more of the same. Hart has a campaign manager named Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons), who is ready to gather an army of young people that will handle Hart’s march on Washington. Hart plans to do things his way, and not follow the stale old advice of consultants and party bosses. He plans for a Presidential run declaration up high in the foothills of the Rockies. The press starts to grumble that Hart is not keeping with the usual traditions. There are some reporters who start to whisper of Hart having a troubled marriage. Hart continues to concentrate on policy and protocol, proclaiming the first and ignoring the latter. But there is a meeting with a large donor and fund raiser in Miami. He takes a trip on the donor’s yacht, called – of all things – the ‘Monkey Business’.

He meets a very lovely young woman named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). She is looking for a job with Hart’s campaign, but she winds up catching Hart’s eye. They spend some time together, and he later invites her up to his townhouse in Georgetown. She flies up from Miami, but the Miami Herald catches wind of something going on. A group of reporters and a cameraman camp out outside Hart’s place near Washington. They see various people who come and go, including Hart and an unidentified young woman. The reporters start sending up red flags to the Herald editors. They must run with this story, even if they do not know all the details or the facts surrounding the young woman. They meet Gary Hart in an alleyway near his place, and he demands to know why they are trailing him. He wants his privacy and they do not have his permission to snoop. But they tell him it is a free country and the First Amendment gives them the right to write and publish the news, even if it seems to have become the trashy tabloid variety.

In the next week, the press is all over this story. They are staking out Lee Hart, out in her country home in Colorado, in a tiny, out-of-the-way place called Troublesome Gulch. It becomes an apt description, because soon the towering pines on the dirt road stand next to TV satellite dishes and large antennas. The Press, especially the TV media, have planted themselves there to report that Lee has not left the building. Other reporters chase down Donna Rice for an exclusive story about her time with Gary Hart. Hart is still on the campaign trail and stops to make a speech about economic policy.

But the only thing the press wants to know about is Hart’s relationships. Is he faithful to his wife? Is he in the middle on an adulterous affair? Can he continue to be Front Runner with all these unanswered questions surrounding him? The media and press turn into paparazzi and Hart undergoes scrutiny unlike any other candidate. Even the Washington Post gets into the examination, led by Ben Bradlee (Alfred Molina). The boxing gloves had come off and it became bare-knuckle fighting…

Jason Reitman has created, in terms of directing and co-writing, a powerful story of what can happen when the Press decides to pull out all the stops. Before anyone come up with calling the press “Fake News”, they held a powerful grip on the political system and who was able to get to the top. Hugh Jackman does a fine job playing Hart, who is caught up in his own position papers that he doesn’t realize that he put himself into a compromising position. Vera Farmiga and Sara Paxton play the two women in Hart’s life that lead him into the abyss. J. K. Simmons is also good as the campaign manager that cannot believe his campaign is falling apart around him.

“The Front Runner” gets you into a wild and crazy world of campaigning. It is a world that is made even crazier when Hart goes from being “The  Front Runner” to “Front Page News”…

The Miracle Season Movie Review

“The Miracle Season” is a positive and uplifting sports story of .. girl’s high school volleyball? Yeah, it is based on a true story of a small town high school and the volleyball champions who want nothing more than repeat and win the state top prize this year. But there is a tragic accident that causes the team to falter and lose their mojo for the game. But spurred on by the memory of the effervescent team captain who was has died, the team rebounds and goes all the way to “Just Win, Baby”.

In Iowa, in 2010, the West High School girls’ volleyball team became the Iowa state champions. It was a proud moment for Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) and the team captain Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh). Line, as she is known, is bubbly and outgoing and she has a major positive attitude. Her friend and teammate Kelly (Erin Moriarty) does not know how Line can be so sure about the next year’s team and if they can get to the championship game. Line as other things to worry about, like a mother dying of cancer and her dad – Dr. Ernie Found (William Hurt) – who is preoccupied with his wife’s fragile condition.

But before the new season starts, Line is tragically killed in an accident. Dr. Found has lost his daughter, and soon after, also his wife. He is devastated. The volleyball team is emotionally ripped apart and unable to practice or compete. Kelly becomes the new team captain, but there is no enthusiasm. Coach Bresnahan is emotionally troubled, but she tries to get the girls to work through the pain and the grief. At first there is little cooperation. But Kelly becomes a key figure who can turn the spirit around and get into a 15-game win streak. She convinces her teammates that they all need to “Live Like Line”. That is, take a tragic life event and deal with it with passion and purpose.

And before the season ends, the West High School team is back in the driver’s seat. They have made the playoffs and they can contend for the state champion title once more. They struggled and worked through their pain, based on the affection they had for Line. But in the end, they needed to play for their own reasons; to become the best and the most effective team that they could be. But will that be enough for the scrappy little team from the small town high school? Can Coach Bresnahan break them out of the funk of losing a great friend and a really good player? Can the tough coach and the new team captain Kelly lead the way to a repeat victory?

Of course you know the answer, if you have seen any high school sports related movies in the past few decades. Take “Hoosiers” for a basketball story line. Or “Friday Night Lights” for a football based story line. Or possibly “Bring It On”, regarding cheerleading. But perhaps as a first, this is a movie about a girls high school volleyball team. I’m not sure that there are any others like that. So this is refreshing, and so is the fact that this movie works against a couple normal movie tropes. Such as: the ‘inspiring’ speech given by the coach. Here, the coach says – “Ok, we went to state last year, and here we are again. Thanks…”

Helen Hunt and William Hurt use their years of experience in making something more out the characters they have to play. Erin Moriarty likewise does a very good job as the player who need to find the leader within. Danika Yarosh has the most difficult job, seeing that her character is gone after the first 15 minutes or so, but she needs to make her portrayal very memorable. The story is very good, and it sometimes falls into the old stand-by sports movie tropes: the quick-cut training montage set to beat-heavy music, the changes between super slo-mo and regular speed during the games, for example. But one in while it finds something fresh: a scene where all the team, and the coach, stop the bus on the way to the Big Game – and they get out to make angels in the snow…

“The Miracle Season” is a well-made heart-tugger that tells the true story of overcoming the obstacles of grief by being your best. Yes, it plays many of the well-worn clichés about sports teams and life in a small town. But there is a real shining star in the memory of Caroline “Line” Found. She still urges you to “Live Like Line”.

7 Days in Entebbe Movie Review

In July 1976 almost all people around the world were enjoying the upcoming U.S.A. Bicentennial celebrations. Except a handful who happened to be aboard an Air France jet that was hijacked in Athens. The jet left Israel and was taken over by Palestinian extremists and two German revolutionaries. The plane finally found safe passage into Uganda and landed in Entebbe. That country was led by a dictator named Idi Amain, and he gave the hijackers a place to stay. The Israeli government was backed into a corner, and something had to be done.

The hijackers were from split between Palestinians wanting a homeland, and the Germans, who had no other revolts left to join. The German authorities had shut down the German terror cells, and these two headed off to hang out with the others. Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) had no prior experience doing something major like this, so they decided to help the Palastinians.  Idi Amain (Nonso Anozie) had no love for the major world powers, so he thought he would shove their nose into the situation. Amin let the hijackers use the airport in Entebee as a place to conduct negotiations, or perhaps executions. Air France was helpless to end the stand-off, so it left it up to the Israelis.

The Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) knew that they could not negotiate. If they gave in, then more planes would be taken and more hostages would be in danger. The Defense Minister was Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) who knew that as things went on, he could persuade Rabin to eventually take military action. Not action that would confront Uganda directly, but a stealth operation that could get done under cover of darkness to free the passengers. This would not be an easy mission, but Peres believed that it needed to be done.

Böse was becoming more discouraged by the actions of the Palestinians. They had no respect for any of the hostages, and even less for those who were Jewish. Kuhlmann had turned the corner in her sanity and was popping more and more drugs to stay awake. She would lose touch with reality every now and then, but she was a brutal soldier in the fight. The crew of the Air France flight acted bravely and took special care to see that all the passengers were treated OK. But they had no control over anything. They could only hope for some type of rescue.

That rescue did come, by the way. There can be no spoilers about this, because it all happened more than 40 years ago! Amin’s forces helped to guard the old terminal where the hostages were held. But when the Israeli Special Forces arrived, the rescue operation would take down many of the Ugandan forces. Then they focused on the hijackers, and all of them were eliminated. The initial group of 248 taken hostage was then down to 94 by the time the rescue team arrived. Of those, only three people died in the fight, plus one Israeli soldier. The soldier killed was named Netanyahu. His younger brother went on to become the current Prime Minister of Israel.

For some reason this movie was made now, after several other films have already been made about the same events. This movie is over 40 years after the incident, so in does not reflect any breaking or recent news. The director, José Padilha, does a weird thing in the final act by cutting between the hostage rescue and a modern jazz dance recital. Yes, that does sound odd, but the actual depiction is even stranger. Perhaps it means that the soldiers are fighting for the right of dancers to make jazz hands? Don’t know…

The biggest actors of note are Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike. But there is something creepy about humanizing a couple of leftist anarchists who help hijack a plane. They are portrayed as wanting to make a big difference in the world. But doing that by holding hostages and threatening to kill them might not win any arguments.  All the Palestinians portrayed as mean and belligerent. Idi Amin is mostly a joke character.

If any portrayal is positive, it is in the way that the Israeli government finally made the gutsy decision to make the rescue attempt. The entire thing was fraught with risk, and the fact that they made it out with as such a small number of causalities is amazing. In short,

Watching “7 Days in Entebbe” makes one weak…

The 15:17 to Paris Movie Review

Europe be saved from extremists by a young group of Americans on vacation, going to France?  Well, in one case, that is exactly what happened. In the summer of 2015, there were three friends who were backpacking across the continent, and they managed to be in the right place at the right time. It also helped that they did the right thing, that is – stop a major attack from happening on a high-speed train traveling to Paris. Everyone could have been killed, and they helped to stop the worst-case scenario. This movie is a depiction of that event, and the lives of the three young American men. They also happen to play themselves, not as a gimmick, but to keep the story as true as possible.


“The 15:17 to Paris” gets into the events of the train attack, but first it goes back to the high school days of the three guys who develop a bond that will last for many years. When they are finally out of school, each will decide what they will do with their lives. Spencer Stone (played by Spencer Stone) joins up with the Air Force and learns some life skills. Alek Skarlatos (played by Alek Skarlatos) gets into the National Guard and spends a tour in Afganistan. Anthony Sadler (played by Anthony Sadler) goes to college to become smarter and to learn about the world. They all decide that a trip to Europe would do them all a world of good. Spencer and Anthony get to Italy and then go to Venice. At that same time, Alek meets up with an exchange student in Germany.


The early years of the three guys get illuminated in flashbacks about how they all met. Young Spencer and his mom (Judy Greer) and neighbors to young Alec and his mom (Jenna Fischer) The two boys meet with young Anthony at school, and they all get along quite well. They spend time playing and sometimes get into trouble. But when they all grow up, that is when the real adventure starts. They all meet up in the Europe trip in Germany, and then spend some time in Amsterdam. But they are convinced by many people to make a final trip to Paris, just because it is a beautiful place. And they are in luck, because they can take the 15:17 to Paris…

However, on this particular train, there is also a passenger with very bad intent. Ayoub El-Khazzani (Ray Corasani) has brought aboard a few extra items, such as an AK-47, a hand gun, a knife, and large supply of ammo. This guy decides to take out as many people as he can in the train compartment. But little does he know that Spencer, Alek and Anthony are also aboard. It just so happens that they have a particular set of skills that just might save the day. They all face-off against El-Khazzani to give him a very bad, very no-good day. Of course, there are a couple of other people involved with taking down the terrorist and saving the day, but the biggest flag waves for the Americans.

Clint Eastwood has taken a big chance and made a bold gamble. With casting the actual guys that where there on that day, he gives a large responsibility to some people who are not professional actors. In fact, many of the actual passengers on that train are given an opportunity to recreate a moment of terror and the relief of getting control of the situation. The three come through with excellent results; after all they are playing themselves. They might have a handful of times that the acting is a tad bit rough and unrefined. But it does shine through to give a very unique view from the eyes of those who were deeply involved.

Eastwood takes his steady and trained hand to guide the (non) actors to perform the events of their lives again, but this time for our benefit. The movie is focused on the one main event, but it goes into details about how all three of these guys wound up there on that train. There are times where the movie starts to drag a bit, as you learn a little more about what these guys want out of life. But with a brisk run time, there is no time to get bored. That is because each scene is designed to being you to the main event.

This movie has the ‘true story’ aspect down to a tee. That is mostly because the actual participants are the actors. That says a lot about how important Eastwood thinks this movie will be. His vision keeps “The 15:17 to Paris” on track…

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” is a spritely look at the creation of a small book in 1843 that led to a revival and appreciation for the Christmas holiday. Charles Dickens came up with “A Christmas Carol” a couple of months before Christmas in that year. It was major effort on his part, but he felt inspired to create a book that would counter his critics. They had called him out after poor reviews on his recent books. This is a fanciful retelling of how Dickens came up with the ideas for “Carol”, and how he got inspirations to write the characters of the novella. In this version, the actual characters of the book become real to Dickens and lead him on to finish the book.

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is a popular author in London who has had a major hit with ‘Oliver Twist’. But his recent work has been lackluster and the public is less than enthused. Dickens needs to create a new book and do it soon, and it must be a smash hit. His agent, John Forster (Justin Edwards) tries to get the publishers to advance Dickens money to create a new book. Dickens wants to do a book about Christmas, and he decides to handle it all himself. He will write and book in two months’ time, get it illustrated, published and into the stores by Christmas time. Too bad he is suffering from major writer’s block…

Dickens starts to come up with a way to tell the story of a miserly old man and how three Christmas spirits visit him one Christmas Eve and change his life. The old penny-pinching scoundrel is named Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and that character comes alive in Dickens’ real world. Scrooge, and many other fanciful characters from “A Christmas Carol”, join with Dickens on his quest to write the book. His wife (Morfydd Clark) thinks that Charles is acting a little funny, but that is par for the course. His father, John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce), also comes to stay for a few months and that adds to the commotion. John had been an uneven influence on Charles growing up. John had spent time in the Debtors Prison, which caused Charles to be put into a terrible workhouse environment.

As Dickens becomes more obsessed with getting the book out in time, the figure of Scrooge and others from the book haunt him all the time. In his first draft, he decides to let Tiny Tim perish from illness. But his agent and his wife overrule the cruel outcome that would have pleased Scrooge. Scrooge’s delight at the little Tim’s passing makes Dickens change the story and makes Scrooge change his mind. The story gets completed and the illustrator gets the pictures done. The final book gets into bookstores before Christmas and soon everyone loves “A Christmas Carol”. The book is resounding success, and it has never been out-of-print, beginning in 1843

The idea to delve into the back-story of how the influential book was created is a fresh approach to the Christmas classic. Luckily, the story behind the story is enthralling and it is filled with as many interesting people as the book. Charles Dickens life and times growing up in London and becoming a famous author is a fun and uplifting story. Dan Stevens does wonderful job with such an expressive face and knowing eyes. His portrayal is also balanced with Christopher Plummer as Scrooge. It is a role that is comfortable for the experienced actor and he nails it.

The movie moves quickly into a world filled with Dickens’ imagination and his literary friends. The soundtrack, by Mychael Danna, is bright and gives an appropriate bounce to the proceedings. The story gets into a somewhat dark area right near the end, but it rebounds again into a light and breezy ending. The treatment of the events that surround the creation of “A Christmas Carol” can make even a Scrooge be thankful for the holiday spirit.

Only The Brave Movie Review

“Only The Brave” deals with the tragic death of the 19 Hot Shot firefighters in Yarnell. They died as they were fighting a huge wildfire in 2013. But the end of the story only enforces the prior build-up of these brave men. They were ordinary people put into extraordinary situations, time and time again. The purpose of the Hot Shot crew was to be the ‘Seal Team 6’ of wildfire control. They went into dire and deadly circumstances with little more than 50-pound packs and knowledge of the terrain. The Hot Shot crew stood between a forest fire and the local community and towns that were in peril.

Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) is known as “Supe”, as the Superintendant of the firefighting crew in Prescott. They had 20 members who were all young and ready to take on the worst that Mother Nature can give them. When a couple of openings pop up, one of them is filled by Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller). Brendan was a low spot in his life; with a recent drug habit and felony record, plus an unplanned child from a past girlfriend. He can barely make it through an initial run up a mountain, but he perseveres. Eric sees that Brendan can have the discipline to make it, while the other members of the crew scoff at him.

Eric’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) is very supportive, but she wants Eric to stay around more so they can plan a family. But it all changes when the local fire chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) tells Eric that the US government has approved his crew with an official Hot Shot status. Eric and his second-in-command Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale) look forward to being sent around the region to fight the biggest blazes. Brendan does everything he can to make things right with his old girlfriend and get to know their little girl. Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) at first rejects Brendan, but he soon sees the attitude and spirit in him that keeps the team going. All the other team members also accept his hard work to better his life.

The Granite Mountain Hot Shot team is born, and the group gets called on for fighting fires all over the state of Arizona. They do amazing work, and every place they go, their reputation grows. Eric leads them in a tough but fair manner. He does not expect anything more from his team than he expects from himself. He has his own demons inside, from the past, living in a bottle. Brendan and his addiction problems hit Eric very close to home. Jesse, Chris and all the other crew accept Brendan as an equal. Many of them have wives and children of their own, so family is very important to them. Almost as important as making a dent in a raging wildfire…

They go on deeper into the fire season, and they finally get to June 2013. There is a new fire in the rocky hills near Yarnell. Brendan had a recent leg injury and has limited mobility. Eric Marsh sends him up to a ridge to be a lookout. Brendan is nearly overtaken by a fire roaring up the hill. Another Hot Shot crew finds him and takes him back to the base camp. Eric and the other 18 fire fighters lose contact with Brendan and with everyone else. They decide to hike/run back to the base camp. They are unaware of a major firestorm and winds that have pushed the fire right over the ridge. They are trapped on all sides by the raging blaze. They deploy the safety shelters that they carry, to hide them from the flames. But their luck has burned out…

“Only The Brave” does a spectacular job recreating the personalities and the environment that was the Granite Mountain Hot Shot team. The scenes of the forest on fire are totally realistic. The work and sweat of each crew member is shown in detail, along with ways in which they saved homes, property and lives. The story is true-to-life and makes for a compelling viewing, even when you know the sad outcome. The only issue is that with 20 different characters, it is very hard to know any but selected few. Also, the wives and family are important, but they take second-place to the few main characters.

Josh Brolin and Miles Teller are both excellent in their roles (Eric and Brendan). James Badge Dale and Taylor Kitsch are also very good (Jesse and Chris) but they are not quite as well-defined. Jennifer Connelly is very powerful as Amanda, Eric’s wife. All the other acting is great, with Jeff Bridges even getting a chance to sing and play guitar. The story of the Granite Mountain crew is examined in detail, and it shows the dedication of each member. The soundtrack (Joseph Trapanese) is very noble and moving, and suits the firm perfectly. Director Joseph Kosinski has taken a careful look at these very special people and has creating a very fitting tribute to their life and their life’s work.

This movie really has almost no downside, unless you are afraid of fire. It does go a tiny bit long, and it does limit the people who are the main characters. But each and every one of that crew would give anything for their fellow Hot Shot. On June 28, 2013 – the ‘Seal Team 6’ of Granite Mountain Hot Shots made their last stand.

A Red Carpet preview was held at Tempe Marketplace with many of the people involved with making this film. See the terrific pictures from that event, with many of the stars from this movie…

Photos from the “Only the Brave” Red Carpet event

The Founder

Fast Food. Dietitians hate it, society tolerates it, but most people just love to consume it. So when you get a movie about the origins of the most popular fast food restaurant in the world, you know people will eat it up. “The Founder” will be like a satisfying meal, and will fill you up more than two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, and pickles on a sesame seed bun.

“The Founder” is the tale of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) and how a milk-shake machine salesman turned into a fast food titan. Ray is downtrodden and getting along with minimal sales, until learns of two brothers who run a new-fangeled restaurant that carries their last name. The McDonald brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) have started something new and different. Ray wants in on the ground floor.

The brothers very reluctantly agree to Ray setting up franchise McDonald’s restaurants around the country. They have a very tight contract with Ray, and make sure that the emphasis is on quality and speed of service. Ray does great, but he does not let his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) know that he mortgaged the house to get it done. The expanding number of restaurants is not paying Ray enough, due to the tight contract details. Ray meets Harry Sonneborn (B. J. Novak), who explains that Ray should own the land and then lease it to the franchise owner.

Soon Ray has created a new company to buy land and create franchise owners. The original McDonald brothers are furious that Ray has taken liberties with their concept and product. Ray meets the wife of a new franchise owner named Joan Smith (Linda Cardellini). Before too long, Ray Kroc has bought out the McDonald brothers, divorced Ethel, and married Joan. He had become an unequaled giant in the fast food business.

Michael Keaton does a stupendous job playing Ray Kroc. Here is a story of a man who created a monster-sized business, yet he sometimes was brash, rude and uncaring. He saw what he wanted and took it, regardless if that was a burger chain or someone else’s wife. Yet he thought deep down that everything he did was to make himself, and the country, better.

As the two McDonald brothers, Nick Offerman & John Carroll Lynch also are terrific. They seems to convey and deep sense of pride in what they have accomplished, and each of them always is looking out for the other. They are also stubborn and small-minded. So when the business began to really grow, they rebelled against Ray Kroc instead of working with him.

If there are any problems at all with the movie, it is the ‘side dishes’. Other than the three main characters, the other roles are ‘undercooked’. Laura Dern has not much to do, and Linda Cardellini comes into the picture way too late. B. J. Novak blends into the other minor characters, also, so it is hard to tell him apart.

“The Founder” can also be compared in a way to ‘The Social Network”. Both feature a strong leader who finds a unique concept, and then battles two brothers for the ability to take something brand new worldwide. McDonald’s, like Facebook, is an international brand that took a visionary leader to get it there.