Trailer: Professor Marson & the Wonder Women!

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Luke Evans (recently Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast”) plays the remarkable William Marston, psychiatrist, lawyer, inventor of the lie detector, and creator of Wonder Woman.

For more background, read my interview with Noah Berlatsky and Jill Lepore’s terrific book about Marston.

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Based on a true story Biography Trailers, Previews, and Clips

A United Kingdom

B+

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality
Profanity: Some strong language including racist epithets
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Peril, threats, violence including street fight
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: February 10, 2017

Copyright Harbinger Pictures 2016
Copyright Harbinger Pictures 2016
In Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Lysander says, “aught that I could ever read/Could ever hear by tale or history/The course of true love never did run smooth.” It may just seem that way because the most enduring loves are those where challenges bring the couples together instead of tearing them apart. To quote Shakespeare again, this is the love that “looks on tempests, and is never shaken.” “A United Kingdom” tells the true story of a love that triumphed over the most intense opposition from both families and at least three countries.

Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo of “Selma” and “Queen of Katwe”) is studying law in post-WWII London when he meets Ruth (Rosamund Pike of “Gone Girl”) and they are instantly drawn to each other. They share a love of jazz music and a passionate commitment to the public good. Before they realize what is happening, they are deeply in love. Seretse explains that he is not just another law student; he is heir to the throne of his country, and his uncle is acting as Regent until he returns. He asks Ruth to take time to think about marrying him but she does not need time to think.

Even though they have already experienced some unpleasant, even threatening responses to their relationship, they believe that their good intentions and mutual devotion can overcome any obstacles. They will see that post-war optimism about a new era of tolerance and mutual commitment to continuing the progress toward freedom tested more intensively than they could have imagined.

Ruth’s sister is sympathetic, but she correctly predicts that their father “will hate him on sight. He is cleverer than him and he is black.” And indeed, he says, “You may deserve a life of insults and shame, but what about us? I can’t see you again.”

And then they go to Botswana, where his uncle and the community see his marrying a foreigner and a commoner as a betrayal, calling into question his loyalty and his ability to understand them. Has his time in London caused him to abandon the ways of his people?

And might his uncle have other reasons for wanting to stay in power?

The British government, in the form of the wonderfully condescending Jack Davenport (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), is even more disturbed. They have important business and political interests in the region, particularly in the adjoining country of South Africa, which is in the middle of adopting the 20th century’s most viciously racist laws, known as Apartheid.

Director Amma Asante (“Belle”), the British-born child of Ghanaian parents, has a sure sense of the worlds she is depicting. The Botswanans and their land are portrayed as respectfully and “normally” as the Londoners, with no sense of quaint or lesser “otherness.” And while the culture is not entirely equal (apparently only men vote), the female characters, including Seretse’s sister, have dignity and agency. This is a true love story, not just between Seretse and Ruth, but between the filmmakers telling this story and the people and the country where it is set.

Parents should know that the theme of the movie concerns an interracial marriage that was objected to by both families and their governments. There are some scenes of peril including racist street thugs, some strong language including racial epithets, and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: How did Ruth prove her sincerity to the Botswanans? Why did the British government intervene?

If you like this, try; “Loving” and the BBC program about Seretse and Ruth Khama.

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Based on a true story Biography Drama Movies Race and Diversity Romance

PBS: John Lewis — Get In the Way

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Congressman John Lewis was the youngest person to speak at the March on Washington organized by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This week, PBS will show a documentary about Lewis, a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and a genuine statesman and hero. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He was one of the leaders of the SNCC and a Freedom Rider and his three-volume memoir March is a best-seller and the first graphic book to be given a National Book Award.

A film by Kathleen Dowdey, “John Lewis – Get in the Way” is the first biographical documentary about John Lewis, an inspiring portrait of one man cast into extraordinary times and his unhesitating dedication to seeking justice for the marginalized and ignored. The film spans more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontations and hard-won triumphs.

At the age of 15, John Lewis’ life changed forever when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio. It was 1955, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Lewis listened with rapt attention as the young preacher called for resistance to the harsh injustice of segregation. Notably, Dr. King exhorted those listening to fight not with weapons but with proven tools of nonviolence.

Lewis embraced Dr. King’s spiritual call with a fervor that would determine the course of the rest of his life. A student activist in the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was arrested and jailed for the first time during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. A front-line general during the 1961 Freedom Rides, he was repeatedly assaulted by angry, unrestrained mobs.

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Biography Race and Diversity Television

The Founder

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MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Profanity: One strong word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense confrontations, illness, marital difficulties and divorces
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 20, 2017
Date Released to DVD: April 17, 2017
Amazon.com ASIN: B01LTIAQEQ

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”

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Based on a true story Biography Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week
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