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The Founder (Blu-ray Review)

Food, folks and now a film. I’m lovin’ it. Okay, I’ll stop with the silly McDonald’s puns. Like the fast food empire it became, everyone pretty much knows the name Ray Kroc when you hear it. You know him just like you know Colonel Sanders in association with KFC. He’s someone studied in the history, economics and business books. But does anyone know the real stringy details of how he got to where he is? Well, now the director of The Blind Side and writer of The Wrestler want to give you a chance to learn more of Kroc’s rise to restaurant king. Armed with award friendly Michael Keaton, The Founder shows Kroc’s start as a lowly salesman to falling in love with a burger stand and making it national. While it didn’t quite hit the award season hard like the Weinsteins may have wanted, it did get some buzz around release and now will probably find a solid audience here on Blu-ray and streaming when it becomes available April 18th. 

Film 

The Founder features the true story of how Ray Kroc, a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. The film details how Kroc maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.

Of course I was interested in a little biopic about McDonald’s starring Michael Keaton.  Who wouldn’t be? I don’t even eat there anymore, but I grew up here as a kid in America and enjoyed it just as much as anyone (Even though I’ve always been a Burger King fan through and through). I knew the name Ray Kroc, knew he was big time and people had to learn about him and McDonald’s. Heck, you associate him with creating McDonald’s yet his last name is Kroc. So where’d the McDonald come from anyway?

John Lee Hancock crafted a film that is a bit above average both does something rather brilliant. And I hope its by intent that it comes across this way. This film oozes with that appeal of McDonalds, but in its back pocket carries a pretty strong sense of darkness to it, only coming out in full force by the end. The movie is very well lit, bright and colorful. It features a silly character of a lead in Keaton’s Kroc, even boasting someone we associate with funny in Nick Offerman with a McDonald role. Storywise, it feels uplifting, with a man going against the odds, putting all his eggs in one basket, helping two brothers to make even better on their dream. But, in reality, we are actually watching a sort of egotist and master manipulator at work. We laugh, we root, but by the end we realize we’ve made a mistake and you feel pretty dirty during the film’s epilogue. Said epilogue, by the way, is played just as any other scene was before in the movie, you just have the curtain completely pulled back.

Michael Keaton leads the way in a role you can tell he’s quite committed and having loads of fun with. I’m sure this was hoping for another awards smooze with it, but he was really much better in his previous years outings (Birdman, Spotlight).  Still he’s fantastic once again. People think he’s found something recently, but he’s always been great, he’s just been getting cast in more high profile projects.  Almost stealing scenes from him though are the lovable pair of John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman as the McDonald brothers. Offerman gives one of his career best performances and excels in just conveying so much with his eyes in this movie. The cast is rounded out with Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson and BJ Novak delivering good in their roles.

The Founder is a pretty solid little biopic that does right by just picking a section of Kroc’s McDonald’s reign (The beginning) and running with it. John Lee Hancock’s film has a really fun and game cast that sell a script that teeters on just being solid with more emotion and depth than seems to be on the page. Its a rather dark film disguised as a bright pleasant fun one. I’m not sure on going back to it with any frequency, but I think its something to recommend to watch, especially for us in America as love it or hate it, McDonald’s is a big part of our history and a big part of our youth.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  The Founder comes to Blu-ray with a very crisp, sharp image that gives off a real polished look with some smoothness seeping in at times. Details are pretty strong and the image has a real sort of dark look to characters and such, not really hiding detail, but sort of making it a stronger more solid image. The CG McDonald’s restaurants do look pretty obvious at times in this transfer.  Overall, this is a real good image and fine enough for this film.

Depth:  Depth is okay. Characters move naturally with no real jitter or blurring problems. Spacing is good enough between background and foreground, but things lean a little flat at times.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and rich. Shadows look very dark and some details can be hidden, but mostly are still visible on clothing, surfaces or darker hair follicles. No crushing was witnessed during the viewing of this film for the review.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are nice and bright. Greens, yellows, oranges, reds and blues all saturate nicely and pop pretty good on the screen. Lots of the film is in bright daylight and even things like browns come off strong and vivid.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and are consistent throughout the duration of the feature. Facial details can be hampered with some light smoothness at times, but details are pretty solid in medium shots, definitely swell on the close-ups.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  The Founder doesn’t get excessive and sticks with a nice, solid 5.1 track that really delivers a good presentation of the film. It features a balanced mix of vocals, sound effects and musical score that, unlike the business trio in the film, never finds one another barging in or stepping on the others toes. Environments get an accurate appeal in this solid representation of the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Things slamming down on surfaces, car engines and bass in the score really are some of the stronger things for the subwoofer to do in what is a more dialogue driven film.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Feels a very front heavy track, but really it doesn’t need to be any more than that. Motion and action placement on the screen is accurately depicted. Good ambiance and unique sounds at times from the rear speakers.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are good, loud and crisp. Volume placement for characters is good and accurate to screen.

Extras 

The Founder comes with the DVD edition and an UltraViolet digital copy.

Behind The Scenes Gallery – Available in PLAY ALL or individually. Separated into 5 parts, this little documentary goes through the production of the film via on set and press junket interviews with the cast and the crew. Overall the information and discussion is very basic/soft ball and its padded too much with scenes from the movie.

  • The Story Behind The Story (HD, 4:32) 
  • Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc (HD, 3:08) 
  • The McDonald Brothers (HD, 4:01) 
  • The Production Design (HD, 7:06) 
  • Buidling McDonald’s: Time Lapse Video (HD, 1:21)

Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast (HD, 37:44) – This little Q&A features a lot more in depth discussion lacking in the BTS Gallery as well as being able to reflect back on things since they are now discussing a finished film and not one they are currently shooting.

Summary 

The Founder is a pretty good little biopic, fueled by fun performances, on one of American history’s biggest business empires.  This Blu-ray release features some really polished looking video to go along with solid, above average audio.  Extras are light, but the press conference is meatier than where the Behind the Scenes documentary is entry level information and safe. Check out the movie for sure, but overall, if you’re wanting this Blu-ray, wait for a little bit of a price drop.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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