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Thanks to Andy Blood for interviewing me about my favorite movie of the century (so far) and my thoughts on corporate governance, movies, politics, and culture.

Movies are not just a way to pass the time. They are a way to connect to ideas and situations and characters who challenge our assumptions and make us see the world in a new way. I like to remind people who read my reviews that movies are just the beginning of a journey of exploration and imagination and give them some ideas about where that can take them next. Plus, it gives me a chance to recommend some of my favorite books and movies and museums!

Copyright 2016 TWC

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”

Copyright BH Tilt 2016

Copyright BH Tilt 2016

A spoiled former child star makes some bad choices and ends up sentenced to 200 hours of community service as a janitor in a church, where he is cast in the annual Easter passion play — as Jesus — in the light-hearted Christian romantic comedy “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” Handsome “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” star Brett Dalton stars in the title role, with stand-up charmer and “MADtv’s” Bon Qui Qui Anjelah Johnson-Reyes as Kelly, the by-the-rules preacher’s kid who directs the play.

We get a glimpse of Stone in his cute sit-com years, catch phrase and all, and then a look at some wild partying with a side of mayhem when he happens to be back in his home town. And so, with the sentence of community service and not being in demand any more as an actor, he has no choice but to move in with his estranged dad (“The Middle” and “Scrubs” star Neil Flynn) while he works it off, with the 200 hours counting down on his phone.

He shows up at the church, looking dissolute and louche, and asks the man fixing the furnace where to find the pastor. Of course that is the pastor (“The Cutting Edge” star D.B. Sweeney). He not unkindly hands Gavin a mop and bucket — the sharper sting is that he doesn’t recognize Gavin or know anything about his fame. The 200 hours seems like forever.

But then Gavin sees the auditions for the play and suddenly he is at home. He explains that he knows about acting and wants to try out for the lead role. It’s a lot easier than mopping, and, at heart, he really is an actor, as we see when he chooses a surprising speech for his audition — a monologue from “Hamlet” — and performs it surprisingly well. He lies and says he is a believing Christian. Kelly is pretty sure that is not true but casts him in the role of Jesus because he is a good actor and because her father reminds her that they believe in second chances.

Gavin is humorously ignorant about the details of the story and at first impetuously offers to improve the script. But as he plays the role and is inspired by the faith and kindness of the people around him, he reconciles with his father, makes new friends, begins to fall for Kelly, and looks forward to the performance — until his dream job offer comes in and in order to take it he has to leave right away.

The sweet story has no surprises, but the humor and the very capable and appealing cast — including Shawn Michaels from the WWE, which co-produced the film — make it fun to watch, and make it touching as well.

Parents should know that this film includes some bad behavior and mayhem and a passion play with a bloody crucifixion image.

Family discussion: Why did Gavin make so many bad choices? What surprised him about the people in the church?

If you like this, try: “Brother White” and the church/study guide resources made available for the film.

Copyright 2016 Paramount

Copyright 2016 Paramount

This ridiculous but ridiculously entertaining third chapter in the “XXX” action series is basically script by Mad Libs: Let’s have Vin Diesel [action verb] in a [location completely unrelated to action verb]. Which is how we get a motorcycle race over water and a ski jump into jungle. Plus a shoot-out in zero gravity. And why not. Sick of winter? Tired of the news? Here is a summer movie in January, with chases and explosions for days, badassery of all kinds, and many thousand yard stares, all presented for your delectation in gorgeous IMAX 3D.

So, to recap. In the first XXX movie, released in 2002, extreme sports and extreme tattoo anti-hero and adrenaline junkie Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) was recruited by federal agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to do some tasks that normal military and government operatives were not cool and crazy enough to do. Chapter 2, “XXX: State of the Union” (2005) had Ice Cube stepping in for the reportedly deceased Cage. Twelve years later, it turns out that Xander Cage was just too cool to kill. He’s been enjoying life with crazy stunts and beautiful ladies. But [government special ops boss] tracks him down because [bad thing that does bad things in the part of the MacGuffin] has to be taken away from [bad guys who stole it], and so once again his special skills are needed. [SPOILER ALERT: the trailer spoils one of the movie’s best surprises, so I suggest you wait until after you see the film to watch it.]

That special ops boss is Marke, played by Toni Collette as though she is doing a bad drag queen impression of herself, as opposed to the good drag queen impression she did in “Connie and Carla.” She helpfully provides X with a team of military tough guys. He dispatches them quickly by throwing them off a plane and rounds up his own Benneton ad of a team, a motley crew of wisecracking [ethnicities] with [mad skillz] and no fear: “the bad, the extreme, the completely insane,” we are reminded, as though that isn’t the very reason we are there. The movie helpfully skips over exposition that might get in the way of chases, explosions, shoot-outs, fight scenes, and quippy threats and bragging by providing helpful title cards for each character outlining, like Power Point on crack, their most significant achievements, characteristics, and useful other information like their go-to karaoke song or the fact that one of them, meeting with Samuel L. Jackson, thinks he is being recruited for the Avengers. Everyone loves to run, jump, shoot, and fight except for Nina Dobrev as the Velma of this Scooby-Doo crowd, with oversize glasses, super-duper tech ability, and an inability to stop talking around X. She babbles anything that comes into her mind, explaining so thoroughly (in the world of this movie, more than six words in a row is a monologue) that she is not a field agent that we know eventually she will have to shoot a gun at someone, and adding, as she swoons over X’s muscles, “It’s not that I have a safe word or anything; it’s kumquat.”

X-Men style, this Island of Lost Toys bunch of misfits keeps shifting loyalties, so, [character] gets to fight [character] and fight alongside [character], too. It’s all delightfully preposterous but crazy fun and [indicator of enjoyment].

Parents should know that this film includes constant action-style peril and violence, chases, explosions, assault weapons, knives, terrorism, sexual innuendo and non-explicit situation, and some strong language.

Family discussion: Do you agree with Xander’s comment about rebels and tyrants? How do the characters decide when to be loyal and who to be loyal to?

If you like this, try: the earlier “xXx” movies and the “Transporter” and “Fast and Furious” series