The Founder directed by John Lee Hancock
(PG-13, 1 hour, 55 minutes)
For some reason, nobody knew about this film when it was released earlier this year; it’s been said that the studio (Weinstein) wasn’t interested in promoting it. Too bad, as it’s an intriguing character study of how Ray Kroc, played with a chameleon clarity by Michael Keaton, transforms from a 1950s-era none-too-successful traveling salesman into the guy who ran across, explored, exploited, and eventually took over a San Bernardino, Calif., burger-making concept that evolved into McDonald’s.
Keaton is a master at earning the affection of an audience even while his appealingly hapless, ever-striving character (complete with a tendency to drink) devolves into a scheming, sleazy plotter who wrests a modest business away from its earnest do-gooder creators Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman) to create a billion-dollar empire. The story is surprising in its uncompromising cruelty about what happens to those who are too trusting of smooth operators, for which no apologies are made.
With Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern. The Blu-ray special features include four featurettes and a news conference with the filmmakers and cast.
Punching Henry (not rated, 1 hour, 38 minutes) A snappy, cleverly written observational humor film in which a middling comedian (Henry Phillips), tempted by a TV producer who promises to make him a reality star, is unclear whether he’ll be telling jokes or serve as a punchline. With Sarah Silverman, J.K. Simmons, Mike Judge, Tig Notaro; directed by Gregori Viens.
Split (PG-13, 1 hour, 57 minutes) The latest horror mystery from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan — with fine performances, a decent premise, but sloppy presentation — involves Kevin (James McAvoy) whose dissociative identity disorder has revealed 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). There’s more ready to emerge that will dominate all the others. With Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson.
Donny Darko (R, 1 hour, 53 minutes) Made back in 2001 when Jake Gyllenhaal was practically unknown, Donnie Darko is a bizarre and unpredictable indie satire about a well-liked high school student who enjoys challenging adults and gets advice on how to be rebellious from a six-foot-tall rabbit named Frank. With Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Seth Rogen, Patrick Swayze, Mary McDonnell; directed by Richard Kelly.
The Handmaid’s Tale (R, 1 hour, 48 minutes) A melodramatic, violent, self-important yet often intriguing 1990 film based on the 1986 novel by Margaret Atwood (which is enjoying a surge of popularity on best-seller lists), The Handmaid’s Tale — now available on Blu-ray — is a dystopian vision of right-wing religious tyranny in which a woman is subjected to sexual slavery because she, unlike 99 percent of the women around her, is capable of having children. With Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant, Blanche Baker, Robert Duvall; directed by Volker Schlondorff and written by Harold Pinter.
Toni Erdmann (R, 2 hours, 42 minutes) Although it’s far too long, Toni Erdmann attempts to justify keeping audiences in their seats by often unnervingly accurate examinations of the inner workings of ambition, father-daughter relationships, career-building, and myriad ways to achieve happiness. Ambitious and fretful Ines, intent on climbing the corporate ladder of business consulting in Bucharest, gets knocked down a few rungs when her capricious practical-joker father Winfried decides to get reacquainted with her by visiting her office. After being rebuffed, he decides to return as his alter ego, Toni Erdmann, with plans to masquerade as Ines’ life coach.
With Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller, Lucy Russell; written and directed by Maren Ade. You might want to wait for the anticipated Hollywood remake with Kristin Wiig and Jack Nicholson. Or not. In English and German with subtitles.
Lion (PG-13, 1 hour, 58 minutes) Reality can be as strange and unbelievable as the most original and creative storytelling, and here it makes for compelling drama when 5-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar), briefly unsupervised by his older brother, climbs on a train in India and ends up far from home, where life on the street eventually takes him to a prosperous existence in Australia with a loving adopted family. But, as he becomes an adult, he wants to go home. With Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman; directed by Garth Davis.
Hidden Figures (PG, 2 hours, 7 minutes) What filmmaker could resist taking on the story of three ambitious, brilliant black women who use their math and science skills in the 1960s to help launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit? Although its arc is predictable and the ending is known from the get-go, it’s a rewarding journey for fans of history and civil rights. With Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons; directed by Theodore Melfi.
Walking With the Enemy (PG-13, 2 hours, 4 minutes) This earnest, melodramatic 2013 adventure drama doesn’t come anywhere near the heroic goals it attempts to reach. Set in Hungary near the end of World War II, it concerns a young man who steals a Nazi uniform so he can pose as an officer in order to find his displaced family — a dangerous plan with little chance of success. With Jonas Armstrong, Simon Dutton, Hannah Tointon, Ben Kingsley; directed by Mark Schmidt.
Brimstone (R, 2 hours, 28 minutes) Moody, violent and too sadistic for many tastes, Brimstone is the grim story of a frontier woman, wrongly accused of a crime, who’s being pursued by an avenging preacher across the wide, desolate terrain of the unforgiving American West. With Dakota Fanning, Carice van Houton, Kit Harington, Guy Pearce; directed by Martin Koolhoven.
War on Everyone (R, 1 hour, 38 minutes) A dark comedy with no apparent purpose — other than celebrating police brutality — in which two crooked cops (Trueblood’s Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena), who find success by blackmailing criminals, mistake a strip club manager (Caleb Landry Jones) and his drug-abusing boss (Theo James) as easy pickings. With Tessa Thompson, Paul Reiser; directed by John Michael McDonagh.
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