BYH, I am an ardent GPD fan but I just don’t the understand why I never see anyone being pulled over these days for...

Front Row at the Movies

Film Review The Great Wall
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Matt Damon as William Garin in a scene from "The Great Wall."

Film Review The Founder-1

Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, February 17, 2017

Matt Damon saves “The Great Wall”

Since President Trump is planning to build a great wall to keep out hoards of Mexican illegals, there should be some interest in its historical precedent: The Great Wall of China. That wall was built to keep out Mongol invaders and various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.

Trump’s wall proposes to run 1,000 miles along the U.S.-Mexican border, while the Chinese wall stretches some 5,500 miles across the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. Yes, it’s huge.

If we give Trump credit for the new American wall, there must be a similar heroic figure in Chinese history. Turns out, it’s Matt Damon.

Movies are happy to deal with alternative facts. And the new epic action-adventure film titled (you guessed it) “The Great Wall” abounds in them.

As directed by Zhang Yimou (“Hero”), with a script by Tony Gilroy (those “Jason Bourne” movies) and a host of other writers, this turns out to be a monster movie.

Set during the Song Dynasty, a European mercenary named William Garin (Matt Damon, that is) is looking to score some black powder but gets embroiled in a battle where the Great Wall is the only thing standing between the Chinese capital and invading monsters known as Taoties.

Believe it or not, there is a mythological basis for these Taoties. Depicted on Chinese bronze vessels, these zoomorphic motifs have been referred to as “children of the dragon.”

According to the movie, these alien monsters came to earth on a green meteor that crash-landed onto Gouwu Mountain some two thousand years earlier. Every 60 years they attack.

A prototypical white savior, Garin and his pals join forces with the Nameless Order, a secretive military sect that has been training to repel the monsters. With the aid of hot air balloons, black powder rockets, and some archery skills to equal Robin Hood, Garin helps the Chinese win this round.

In December, the film premiered in China, where it took in $67.4-million on its opening weekend. Now if it can conquer American movie audiences as handily as Matt Damon vanquished the Taoties …


“The Founder” Is more about greed than burgers

Think of “The Founder” as one big infomercial for fast-food hamburgers.

Even so, Michael Keaton makes it interesting with his determined portrayal of Ray Kroc, the guy who “founded” McDonald’s.

As the history unfolds, we learn that Ray was a salesman peddling milkshake machines before he stumbles across a little diner called McDonald’s that sells high-quality hamburgers at low prices. An entrepreneur at heart, Ray convinces the brothers who own the diner to let him franchise it.

Ray expands the restaurants, increases profits by using powdered milk to make the ice cream, gets richer still when he sets up a real estate company to own the land the McDonald’s restaurants occupy, and finally rooks Mac and Dick McDonald out of the fast-food chain with a handshake deal that promises them money they never get. And their original restaurant went bankrupt while today The McDonald’s Corporation is worth more than $110 billion.

“I consider myself blessed to go from ‘Birdman’ to ‘Spotlight’ to ‘The Founder,’ says Keaton. “McDonald’s Ray Kroc is not a lovable guy, but he’s got an extraordinary work ethic and a decency — although once he sells his soul to the devil, he becomes a different, almost sadistic human being.”

In the movie, Dick McDonald asks Kroc why he wanted to own the McDonald brothers’ chain of diners when he would have stolen their idea and created his own fast-food franchise. Ray says he simply fell in love with the name “McDonald’s.”

Guess ol’ Ray knew what he was doing. McDonald’s is now considered the ninth most valuable brand in the world.

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. He can be reached at srhoades@aol.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


April 22, 2018

I’m stuck with a hoarder’s memory.

My brain — my attic, if you will — is entirely too full of random stuff. Entire passages of books I’ve read. Minor details of geography. Lyrics of Broadway show tunes. Odd bits of trivia with little apparent use or connectivity.


Bob Garner

April 22, 2018


Dear Short Answers: My girlfriend has become obsessed about the way she looks, and I think it might be the end of our relationship. Every day she asks me questions about her hair and her dress and her makeup, and honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care.…

Short Answers

April 20, 2018

The 14th Community Youth Arts Festival will bring 150 visual and performing artists to Greenville on Sunday, leaving some people to wonder how on earth they had never heard of this before.

The newly named festival is actually two celebrations in one. The event combines the ECU Youth Arts Festival…


April 20, 2018

“I Feel Pretty” suffers from a fatal flaw: its premise. Built around the notion that there’s something inherently hilarious — even crazy — about a woman not supermodel-thin or -gorgeous behaving with the confidence of one who is, the comedy treats its star, Amy Schumer,…


April 20, 2018

Capsules of movies playing locally. New releases are indicated with an asterisk.

BLOCKERS — Three parents try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night. (1 hour, 42 minutes) Rated R.

BLUMHOUSE’S TRUTH OR DARE — A harmless game of Truth or Dare among friends…


April 20, 2018

The Grifton Shad Festival, Pitt County’s oldest festival, celebrates its 48th year with events this weekend. For a complete schedule, visit griftonshadfestival.com. Here are some highlights:


5-11 p.m.: Carnival rides open (also 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday)

4-11 p.m.: “Be Mo…


April 20, 2018

Gray Gallery

A bachelor of fine arts senior group exhibition will open Tuesday. The exhibit will feature the work of Timothy Bada, Brittnee Bade, Tristan Freitag, Lyndsay Hutchins, Hillary Lehman, Elysia Netter, Michael Richardson, Jordan Scurlock, John Sommer and Clinton Todd. A reception will be…


April 18, 2018

Dear readers: the local markets are reopening. The Leroy James Farmers Market on County Home Road is open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. The Town of Winterville opened its Thursday night “make it, bake it, craft it or grow it” Market on the Square again. Hours are 4-8 p.m. Support our…


April 18, 2018

Last year, I introduced you to the widely popular restaurant Dickinson Avenue Public House (DAP House). It offers a rotating menu of inventive dishes to take you from season to season utilizing fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bread, honey, wine and other North Carolina produced items.

Head Chef…


April 18, 2018

If you like spring rolls, then you will love this salad. All of the goodness typically stuffed into a rice paper-wrapped Thai or Vietnamese roll — rice noodles, shrimp, crisp veggies, fresh herbs and peppers — is jumbled together in a big bowl of salad. The result? You might be tempted…

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