Friday, July 29, 2016
I apologize, but things have been busy this Summer and I haven't had a chance to give the full review treatment for all the films I've seen lately. I'll try to make it up to you all with a few small mini reviews of the last 5 films I've seen in the theater over the past month. Some were really good and some were pretty bad, and here they are in chronological order of viewing.
The Nice Guys
Teaming up Russel Crowe with Ryan Gosling in a retro buddy-cop movie seems like a good idea on paper. The execution is mixed though and under the shaky direction of Shane Black (Iron Man 3), the final product is a little disappointing. Both leads are good but the movie is not as funny as it's trying to be and the plot is really convoluted and boring at times. This is a movie I really have no interest in seeing again. 2.5 / 5 JR Rating
Independence Day: Resurgence
Oh man is this movie a mess. The public wasn't really clamoring for a sequel to the classic 1996 ID4, but director Roland Emmerich made sure we got it anyways. Jeff Goldblum and a handful of returning characters are back 20 years later to help. This includes a grizzled old Bill Pullman as the ex-POTUS, Brent Spiner as that crazy annoying scientist and three totally throwaway appearances by Vivica Fox, Judd Hirsch and Robert Loggia in a brief appearance in what very well might be his LAST film (dude looks like he's about to keel over). Hirsch's character in particular is totally forced into a useless side-plot where he outruns a giant wave and spends half the movie driving a school bus filled with random kids cross-country. The big problem is that Will Smith is not one of those back for this go-around (WISE move on his part) and the movie's plot makes sure we KNOW about it with CONSTANT references to his character including having his son take on a lead role in the film. Add in easily the WORST performance of Liam Hemsworth's young career and you have a steaming pile of crap. The story stinks, the acting stinks and ONLY a solid special effects sequence in the final act saves this from getting ZERO JRs. To make matters worse, the ending features everyone getting together and saying they want to go find and kill the evil aliens in ANOTHER movie. You can count me out this time. Avoid this at all costs! 0.5 / 5 JR Rating
I wasn't wild about this concept when I heard about it and the trailers for the film did not entice me at all. I still decided to go see it (yay MoviePass!) and I have to say it was a LITTLE better than what the trailers make it out to be. That being said, this movie simply didn't need to exist. Not even close to the quality/humor of the first two, this film spends too much time on special effects and a forced plot that features an annoying little evil loner. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are the best part of the film and there are some good laughs here and there. Be prepared to see an awful lot of forced cameos from the original cast that simply bloats the movie. I was entertained at times but I don't need to see this again and I'm NOT excited for a sequel. 3 / 5 JR Rating
The Secret Life of Pets
Crafted by the same team that brought us Despicable Me and Minions, this story of what pets do when their owners are not around is a real joy to watch. To put it simple, this is a VERY funny animated film with a good story, great voice acting (including a scene-stealing turn by Kevin Hart as a bad-ass bunny) and some stellar animation. This is easily the funniest computer animated movie I've seen since Lego Movie and should get an Oscar nom for Best Animated Feature. For those of you who have seen it, the sausage-land scene is worth the price of admission alone. 4 / 5 JR Rating
Star Trek Beyond
When the trailer for this film first came out it looked like a total disaster. Directed by Justin Lin of Fast & Furious fame, it seemed like one big action film and looked nothing like a typical Star Trek film. Thankfully, the trailer was all off and while there is indeed a lot of great action, the plot, acting and pacing of this 3rd film in the reboot series is easily the BEST of the bunch. Having spent two films laying down the groundwork for having this cast gel together, we are able to see the entire cast react to a classic stand-alone Star Trek plot. There are several nods to the old television series including a fond farewell to Leonard Nimoy. Unfortunately, the ghost of the recently deceased Anton Yelchin is on screen a lot and while Anton's performance as Chekov is excellent as usual, you can't help but watch him like a hawk in his scenes knowing he is no longer with us. I do like the recent idea that came out in the news of not re-casting Checkov in future films as a credit to the young actor gone too soon. Chris Pine, Zach Quinto and (in his funniest performance yet) Karl Urban are spot-on reprising their iconic roles as Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The added shine that makes Beyond such a good film is the addition of two new characters. Sofia Boutella plays a new alien named Jaylah who ends up helping the Enterprise crew. Her makeup and costume design is awesome and Boutella's performance is a fresh and welcome addition to the Star Trek universe. I hope she stays on in future films. Idris Elba plays the role of Krall, the latest franchise villain and gives the character a fierce determined presence. Towards the end of the film when Elba is allowed to give a real unencumbered performance, he shines and proves he's one of the better actors working today. This is one of the most entertaining and well crafted films of the year and totally raises the street cred of Justin Lin. 4.5 / 5 JR Rating
Monday, June 20, 2016
Kevin Hart is a one trick pony these days. He consistently stars in buddy comedies as the short, manic African American alongside a funny, TALLER partner. Having performed on-screen shenanigans with Will Ferrell, Ice Cube, Josh Gad and other comedic talents, Hart is fortunately good at what he does and I find him to be very funny overall as a comedian. Thankfully his partner in Central Intelligence is the supremely talented Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) who gives a flawless comedic performance and balances Hart perfectly. The result is one of the funnier movies of the year and a reminder to all of us that The Rock is cemented as a legitimate actor in today's Hollywood landscape.
Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a former high-school star athlete and homecoming king who is stuck in a boring accounting job 20-year-later with a troubled marriage. The Rock stars as Bob Stone, a former fat kid who was picked on and bullied at the same high school but grew up to be and a is-he-or-isn't-he CIA agent. Joyner and Stone get mixed up in a national security snafu as they meet us for a 20-year high school reunion. Amy Ryan plays the CIA operative who tries to track down the whereabouts of Stone. Hart as always plays the scared fish-out-of-water character perfectly and the audience can totally relate to his Joyner character as he tries to make sense of all the craziness that occurs during the movie. The real star here though is Johnson who does a great job of playing a happy-go-lucky dimwitted big guy with a heart of gold. His awe-shucks demeanor is refreshing and you really see his range as an actor. Unlike Hart's one-note performances, The Rock bring unique characteristics to most of his roles.
The film is paced well and features a variety of quality cameos including Jason Bateman as the older version of the bully who picked on The Rock in high school, and Aaron Paul as a CIA agent. NOTE: There is a line towards the end of the film that gives a great shout out to Jessie Pinkman from Breaking Bad. Another note to mention is that the CGI early in the film that shows The Rock's face superimposed on an overweight actor is pretty awful. All of those sequences are critical to the film's plot but I couldn't help but find the visual effects to be distracting and definitely not well-executed.
This movie is worth a rental for sure (don't really need to see something like this in the theater) and it sets itself up for a sequel down the line. I laughed a lot throughout and give Hart's latest effort a 4 out of 5 JR rating. It's good to see The Rock balance comedy with action (Fast & Furious franchise) and I expect him to be a very busy man on-screen over the next decade. He currently has the charm and physical skill set to work on big budget films like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in his prime.
Finding Dory is the latest offering from the Pixar machine and yet another sequel. (If you love Pixar sequels, get ready because Cars 3 and Toy Story 4 are two of the next three offerings from the Lamp Laboratory) Andrew Stanton is back in the director's chair and he submerges us once again in the underwater world of Nemo, Marlin, Dory and other sea creatures who return from the first film Finding Nemo. Voice actors Ellen DeGeneres (Dory) and Albert Brooks (Marlin) return along with a new cast of characters including Hank the Octopus (voiced by Ed O'Neill), Destiny the nearsighted Whale Shark (voiced by Kaitlin Olson) and Bailey the Beluga (voiced by Ty Burrell although I was 100% sure when watching the film that it was Jim Gaffigan in that role).
Themes of disability, fear and family are all touched on throughout the movie and the addition of Hank and some other new characters are welcome additions but the overall synopsis is a little similar to the first film. Instead of tracking down Nemo, Dory and friends are tracking down Dory's lost parents. The journey brings Dory to the Marine Life Institute (an aquarium/research center on the coast of California in which Sigourney Weaver's voice narrates the action) which features a variety of exhibits that Dory gets mixed up in. The highlight of which is a children's touch area where little rugrats try to touch Dory and her friends in a humorous setup that makes children's fingers look like objects of war. Dory must overcome her disabilities, work with her friends and try to escape the Institute and find her parents in the process. The end sequence featuring a crazy truck-chase (yes, a land-based truck chase) is well executed and the final action scenes are shot beautifully along the California coastline. Hank is probably the best part of the film as his character gives the Pixar animators a lot to work with due to his tentacle-powered movements and ability to camouflage within any environment.
This movie is entertaining and I had fun seeing it with my kids on Father's Day, but I just found myself looking for more from Pixar. There isn't much revolutionary in this film and while everything looks great under the sea and in the Marine Life Institute, I wasn't really blown away by what I was watching. Inside Out was a far superior and more original film and I really can't give Finding Dory much more than a 3.5 out of 5 JR rating. It's kind of a shame that the now #1 animated movie opening weekend belongs to a so-so sequel instead of a more deserving entry. In fact I think I might have liked February's Zootopia a little bit more than this movie.
BONUS Netflix Review for the movie Creep that was recommended to me by one of my friends and co-workers. Mark Duplass (who can really do no wrong in my book) plays a man with terminal cancer who lives in a cabin in a remote area. Director Patrick Brice plays a videographer hired by Duplass' character to film his last few moments of life for his unborn son to see. The movie is essentially a found-footage mystery with a few jump scares and a dark plot. I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't seen it but Duplass does a great job of being "creepy" and demented and the movie churns along at a brisk pace (only 76 minutes long) leading to a satisfying/disturbing ending. This is small-budget gem and another reason to watch anything that Duplass is involved with (even if HBO TAKES IT AWAY FROM YOU!!!!). I don't give ratings for rental films of previous-run movies I see on Netflix, but this movie would probably get a solid 4 out of 5.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Most horror fans I know really liked James Wan's 2013 70's fright fest The Conjuring. The premise was simple, a husband and wife investigate a haunted house that is affecting a family in Rhode Island. The couple (real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren), played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, tries to perform an exorcism on the Mother of the family (Lili Taylor). I thought it was rather average for a horror film (3 JRs) but I really didn't find it overly scary or creepy. With Wan's follow up, The Conjuring 2, featuring the same two lead paranormal investigators and using plot lines ripped from actual events in London, England, everything seems to be kicked up a notch in the creep factor thanks to a demonically possessed 11 year-old and a trio of evil manifestations.
The sequel picks up shortly after the original ends. Ed and Lorraine are continuing their careers as paranormal experts and appearing on various talk shows as others try to debunk their work as elaborate hoaxes. When a family in a row house in London (a single Mother, two sons and two daughters) start experiencing strange occurrences at home including moving chairs, teleportation, loud noises and possession of daughter Janet, word spreads and the Warrens make a visit across the pond to investigate. The bulk of the film consists of the paranormal investigation and attempts to interview the possessed subject and find out if everything that is going on is real or a hoax. Wan does a great job of using long takes to prolong the creep factor. I actually jumped a few times but most of the scares are atmospherical and not cheap. A scene in particular where Wilson is talking with the spirit through Janet is shot with an altered depth of field in a single take so when Janet speaks in a demonic voice, she is blurred in the background while we see Wilson's face the whole time and can focus on his reactions.
In comparison with the first movie, I believe I found the sequel to be much more frightening because of the different levels of evil manifested on-screen. Without giving much away in the spoiler department the film employs (in order of least-to-most disturbing) a creepy deceased 72-year-old man who is trying to possess Janet, an evil nun-man with a demonic pale face that somewhat resembles Marilyn Manson and The Crooked Man, a tall skinny Slenderman type of childhood character come to life. All three "monsters" are scary in their own right, but Wan uses them sparingly in just the right amount of screen time to make them very effective. The Crooked Man moves really erratically and I was sure the effects were done via CGI, but I have since read about a tall skinny actor named Javier Botet who plays the creature. Real life practical effects are always a welcome sight in the horror genre. In contrasting the two films, the difference really is in the subjects of possession. The Conjuring had a middle-aged woman being possessed by a demon. The Conjuring 2 has an 11-year-old girl being possessed by a deep-voiced old man. I'm sorry, but Exorcist-style possession always trumps adult possession for me. Seeing a child affected the way Janet is in this movie is far more disturbing as a viewer.
The acting is solid throughout. Farmiga emotes well on her character's fears of the supernatural and on the premonitions of her husband's death. Wilson is great as a father-figure and gives a few scenes of some well-needed comic relief, including a hilarious line that references the bulky videography equipment of the era. Two actresses who shined in the early 2000's give good performances in supporting roles. Franka Potente plays a skeptical scientist in the first time I've seen her on-screen since Run Lola Run and Frances O'Connor plays the mother of the family in the first role I've seen her in since being Haley Joel Osment's Mom in A.I. Madison Wolfe does a fabulous job of playing Janet with a mix of innocence and fright. Without her believable performance, the movie would not be as effective as a whole.
James Wan seems to be the new master of horror. His most recent films have all been relatively well received (including a turn at the helm of the Fast and Furious franchise). I wouldn't mind seeing a third Conjuring film down the line and judging by early box office receipts, I'm thinking New Line will be heading in that direction. This movie should be seen in the theater and is a must-see for EVERY true horror movie fan. Not only is The Conjuring 2 the scariest movie I've seen this year by far (take THAT!, The Witch), it is simply the BEST movie of 2016 to-date. A near perfect 4.5 out of 5 JRs for a disturbing time in London.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Today I bring you two new reviews from two movies with a colon in the title. We'll start with Bryan Singer's latest mutant-fest X-Men: Apocalypse, the SIXTH X-Men ensemble film in the franchise and the fourth directed by Singer. This movie picks up where X Men: Days of Future Past left off. Proffesor X (James McAvoy) is back in school leading a new class of mutants including the return of some favorites from the original trilogy (Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jean Gray - played by Sophie Turner aka Sansa Stark from GOT), and a few memorable returning characters from the previous film led by the very entertaining Quicksilver (Evan Peters). He ends up doing battle with an ancient mutant named Apocalypse from ancient Egypt played with gusto by the current it-actor Oscar Isaac. The entire mutant squad ends up banding together and doing battle with big bad Oscar in a plot that's not all that original.
The CGI and the action are decent overall and the story is pretty entertaining but just like Captain America: Civil War, we suffer from superhero bloat in this film. There are just too many mutants to keep track of and some extra character we really don't care about. I don't know why Rose Byrne was even written into this film. Her character simply gets in the way and we never get a proper back story (well those of us who are not comic book nerds). As for the acting, Michael Fassbender as Magneto is at the top of his game. He has some great sequences of personal grief and you keep thinking to yourself that he is above this genre of film and should be hunting a long overdue Oscar elsewhere. Speaking of Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence is back for her third spin as Mystique/Raven and from what I could tell she seems to be checked-out of this series. I just don't think she "fits" in these films anymore. Her range is so much broader than the source material and it almost comes off as she's not being challenged enough in these roles. A lot of the "new/returning" mutants are well cast (even Storm isn't THAT bad), but there's one glaring problem and it lies in Olivia Munn's acting. As Psylocke (a character I had never heard of before this movie BTW), she doesn't have many lines to deliver and she looks good for the most part but her character just seems forced and TOTALLY not needed. She really doesn't even do much until the final battle sequence and I just felt that she was stuffed in to give some added eye candy. I really do think that in the next franchise installment there needs to be some thinning of the mutants. Less is more.
So, yes this movie is entertaining and it does fit well in the overall X-Men universe but it's not particularly memorable. Despite a lot of good action sequences and some much needed comic relief from Quicksilver and Nightcrawler this movie just didn't live up to my expectations overall. The film needs to be a little shorter and not have Olivia Munn in it but as-is, I can only give it 3.5 out of 5 JRs. Civil War was definitely better and I'm kinda personally tapped-out on comic book movies for a while.
Saturday Night Live has without a doubt contributed the most to comedy in film over the past few decades. Some of the best comedic movies in recent memory probably have at least one SNL cast member involved. One of the better recent exports is Andy Samberg and his two buddies Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer that form The Lonely Island. The trio is let go and not restrained in any way in their latest collaboration Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping, a This is Spinal Tap take on the boyband/pop era of music. The movie comes off as a sequence of SNL Digital Short sketches that are very funny and witty and serve as a showcase for the collective creativity of The Lonely Island. In fact, one of the song sequences from the film was already released as a Digital Short on a recent episode of SNL.
Directed by Schaffer and Taccone, Pop Star brings the audience into the ridiculous life of Samberg as Conner 4 Real, a solo pop artist who recently broke from his rap trio The Style Boyz (Schaffer and Taccone once again). All of the production excess and bloated entourage that Conner employs is lampooned to great heights. There are quite a lot of cameos that play along with the proceedings including Seal, Michael Bolton, Simon Cowell, Adam Levine, Snoop Dogg and countless others. The movie itself is a hard R, with a lot of cursing (fuck yeah!) and one really awkward but hysterical scene showing full frontal male nudity for a minute or two too long. The acting is pretty solid for a comedy (including a LOT of supporting SNL stars) and relative unknown Chris Redd shines as Conner's opening rap act on tour Hunter the Hungry. Samberg and company don't take themselves very seriously and if you do the same, you'll find this movie very funny.
What makes this movie better than what we see on screen is the movie soundtrack itself. Even though The Lonely Island is clearly goofing on pop music throughout, the songs themselves are actually quite catchy and hilarious to listen too outside of the theater. I was set to give this movie a solid 3.5 rating but the next day I spent my morning commute listening to song after song from the film and laughing my ass off. Everything is over the top and there is this perfect amount of randomness to The Lonely Island's humor that it totally works for me. The end product is a very entertaining (albeit brief) parody of the pop music landscape. A 4 out of 5 JRs for one of the funniest movies of 2016 thus far. These three talented friends and comedians should now have free reign to continue to collaborate and create quality comedy at a larger scale. You can probably wait for video on this one though as most of the film comes off as a Digital Short that you would usually watch on TV anyways.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Check out this premise for a movie:
"Set in a dystopian universe, the film is set in a city—known only as The City—where singles are given 45 days to find a romantic partner or otherwise be turned into animals."Frightened? Intrigued? I was all of the above as I went to the theater not knowing what to expect. With a talented cast that gets the tone of the film and a director that is not afraid to tell his story, The Lobster is nothing short of a VERY interesting time at the movies.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos paints the peculiar picture of a special hotel where single people are taken to where they are given 45 days to find a partner. Those who fail to find a match are turned into an animal of their choice and released into the forest. Self gratification is banned but sexual stimulation by the hotel maid (without completion) is mandatory. The guests of the hotel attend dances and watch various propaganda extolling the virtues of partnership. They can extend their stay by hunting escapees (a group of outsiders called The Loners) with tranquilizer guns in the woods. Each captured Loner affords an extra day to find a partner. Yes THIS REALLY is the plot of the film. It's so bizarre to watch and one can not help but be intrigued.
Colin Farrell plays the lead role of David, a middle-aged man who is ending his marriage after his wife had been unfaithful to him. He checks into the hotel and meets other single people in similar situations including a hilarious lispy character played by the always amazing John C. Reilly. David tries to force himself to fall in love with an emotionless woman in an attempt to get back to the city and avoid becoming an animal. The title of the film stems from David's personal choice of animal should he not find love in 45 days.
Towards the middle of the movie, David attempts to escape the hotel and live with the group of Loners on the outside. We meet two key characters during this portion of the film in the Leader of the Loners (Léa Seydoux from Spectre) and "The Short Sighted Woman" played by Rachel Weisz. David finds a suitable match in the latter and they try to fall in love despite all the rules of the Loners (different rules than the Hotel rules, but particular and strange all the same).
All of the actors are great in this movie. Farrell is muted and nuanced almost like Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Seydoux is so intriguing to watch. She has this unique, beautiful face that pulls you in every-time she's on-screen. Weisz is not in the movie all that much but her narration pulls the whole film together. The film sort of falls apart a bit towards the end but I have to say that I was full-on engrossed in the story the whole time. I think part of the. Lanthimos is trying to give some sort of social commentary on modern-day marriage but I'm not sure I really got his message. That being said the entire movie is fascinating to watch.
The Lobster is an extremely unique and strange film. The ending is so abrupt and slightly frustrating that it makes you angry at first but then sits with you for a while. I have been wavering back and forth between 4 and 4.5 for rating this movie. I finally decided to go with 4.5 simply because this film has just sat with me for a while since watching it a few days ago. Movies that stay ingrained in your mind deserve a little extra bump in rating. If you go see this, go in with an open mind and just have fun watching this wacky story unfold. Suspend all disbelief and enjoy the ride. We'll probably never see another movie like this. 4.5 out of 5 JRs for definitely the strangest movie of 2016 so-far.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Two quick reviews today for films I've seen over the past week. The first film I saw is Jodie Foster's latest directorial effort Money Monster, a film that looks at corruption on Wall Street through the eyes of a "terrorist" Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) who hijacks a live stock-tip TV show (very much like Mad Money with Jim Cramer) hosted by the eccentric Lee Gates (George Clooney in a very hammy role). Budwell tells the American public through Gates' assistance that a fictional company has cheated stock holders during their recent dive in the market. Gates tries to work with Budwell to get to the bottom of things with the help of resourceful producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts).
Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry here (picking up where they left off in the Oceans 11 franchise). It's easy to relate to them at the end of the film because we have so much history with them together as likeable actors. O'Connell is really good as a slightly psycho nutcase who just wants his money back that he lost in the fictional financial company's downfall. He was in Green Room as well and seems to be on fire after his breakthrough role in Unbroken. Roberts is solid in a "voice-in-the-ear" role and Clooney is pretty good overall but wears thin a bit. After seeing Hail, Caesar and now this effort, I'm wondering if Clooney's talents are slipping a bit.
My biggest issue with the movie overall is how cheesy it is. The intro sequences for the Money Monster show (see example at right) feature two fly-girl type dancers who gyrate while Clooney's Gates tries to attempt some sort of hip-hop dance in a funny costume. I know this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek but it comes off as tired and unneccesary. Watching George Clooney trying to be "street" is very painful. There are other plot issues and a bit of drag at times and it doesn't really seem like a typical Jodie Foster film. Still though this is an interesting take on financial corruption and a good look at behind the scenes production at a major network TV news show. The tension builds towards the end as Clooney and his hostage taker head to the streets of NYC trying to find direct answers from the source (think panicked CEO) to Budwell's questions. This is worth seeing but not necessarily on the big screen. A descent 3.5 out of 5 JRs for Money Monster. Jack O'Connell is going to be a star and I'm not sure how much Clooney has left in the tank.
Love & Friendship is the latest Jane Austen story to get the big-screen treatment. Directed by Whit Stillman and starring one of my movie crushes in Kate Beckinsale and another who I can't really stand in Chloe Sevigny, this film tells the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), a recent widow who takes up residence at the estate of her in-laws and ends up trying to be a matchmaker for her daughter. I saw this movie at the request of my lovely wife so this is not the normal type of film I would see on my own. Still I have liked other movies like this much better (see Belle and Downton Abbey is interesting at times).
I could just not get interested in this film and most every joke went over my head. I find it hard to focus on the language of that period, and all around me others (mostly older people) were chuckling left and right at a variety of on-screen puns. I only laughed once (at a joke about green peas) and spent the rest to the film unsure of what I was watching and trying to keep track of all the characters and their relationships to one-another. I would give this a 0 rating but I can't give anything with Beckinsale in it zero JRs (see Total Recall). I'm glad my wife liked it (but she was even lukewarm on the comedy aspects of the film and the fact that it was not a typical Jane Austen offering). If you like period pieces, please go see it. If you LOVE "funny" period pieces, please RUN and go see it. But if you like the type of movies that usually make my Top 10 list every year, please DON'T SEE THIS. 0.5 out of 5 JRs for one of the worst (based on personal preference) movies I've seen in years.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tom Hanks continues to chug along as America's favorite actor. Even in movies that have no other major stars such as A Hologram for the King, Hanks keeps delivering the every-man performance time and time again. Audiences are easily able to relate to him and at the ripe young age of 59,
Hanks single-handedly helps make Hologram a pleasant movie that portrays the fish-out-of-water nature of a global businessman.
Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas - another Hanks vehicle), Hologram centers on Alan Clay (Hanks), a failed businessman assigned to broker a deal with a rich Saudi king in the Middle East. Clay represents a fictional IT firm who is planning to pitch a virtual hologram powered method of remote meeting communication software to the Saudis. The film pretty much starts with Clay landing in Saudi Arabia where he must navigate the cultural differences and prepare for a unscheduled upcoming technology demonstration meeting with the king.
This movie does a good job of portraying IT business travel. As someone who has spent many a week working on-site for a client around the world, I was able to empathize with the perils that Clay had to tackle. Spotty WiFi, limited food for his staff and both language and climate issues are some of the challenges depicted in the film. The way that Clay tackles these issues as well as issues with a failed marriage and a relationship with his daughter back in the USA makes up the majority of the key plot points. Through an unusual bump/cyst that Clay develops, he ends up starting a relationship with a Saudi female doctor (Sarita Choudhury). (I found it particularly nasty that Tykwer chose to focus on that cyst so much. There are many sequences that show Clay and other doctors try to cut into the infection and it's all very unnecessary and extremely disgusting to watch.) The chemistry between Hanks and Choudhury is slow-building but works in the end to help ground the story for Clay.
This movie is not ground breaking and is not even all that interesting at times. But with Hanks at the wheel we can't help but feel for his Andy character. The end of this movie is a bit open ended and the supporting acting (especially the team of IT consultants that Hanks manages) is very wooden. This is worth a rental however if only for a decently realistic look at IT corporate travel. 3 out of 5 JRs for A Hologram for the King, a questionable film choice for Hanks in this stage of his career. Let's hope he's given a better script and supporting cast next time around.