Movie Review – ‘A Hologram for the King’

“Similar to the hologram virtual world concept itself, this movie’s plot never really materializes, nor feels reliable and trustworthy.  More like an illusion, “A Hologram for the King” has no clear point to make or message for viewers to hold onto going forward.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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Each high-caliber professional has a misstep or two along their climb to success.  Even Michael Jordan, the 14-time NBA All-Star who never went scoreless during his 1,251 professional games, didn’t put up double-digit numbers every night.  On thirteen occasions, “Air Jordan” scored fewer than 10 points during an NBA game, twice recording only a single bucket.  So, if Tom Hanks’ latest film seems out of character and bland for North America’s fourth highest-grossing actor of all-time, so be it.  Mr. Hanks will bounce back.  Guaranteed.

“A Hologram for the King” takes Hanks’ to Saudi Arabia as corporate salesman Alan Clay from Boston to pitch the latest breakthrough technology in long-distance communications.  Clay, we soon learn, is down on his luck following a strained divorce, losing his house and having his boss consistently needle him to close this massive hologram deal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The movie’s single-largest blemish is its overall believability.  A slow pace throughout allows viewers enough time to add up Hanks’ constant distractions away from the main plot…the numerous awkward chair-breaking moments, a hypocritical relationship with his taxicab driver and tenuous personal dealings with a Danish business woman.  Each of these subplots created but never fully explored…just tossed out to mark time and misdirect movie-goers.

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The implausible meter, however, gets pegged when a female Saudi doctor, in the midst of her own divorce, seduces Hanks at her swank oceanfront estate. Perhaps the film’s sensational camerawork and Muslim customs should’ve further examined those public execution plazas, noting the women and wives stoned to death for violating far lesser Saudi crimes.  The courtship between Hanks and his doctor feels contrived and comes across as another just diversion utilized for the sole purpose of ending the business side of the film’s main story.

Similar to the hologram virtual world concept itself, this movie’s plot never really materializes, nor feels reliable and trustworthy.  More like an illusion, “A Hologram for the King” has no clear point to make or message for viewers to hold onto going forward.  It does an admirable job pointing out the Kingdom’s reliance on Third Country Nationals, the Saudi’s lack of deference to firm schedules and the vast remoteness experienced in the Middle East.  But, despite above-average casting and acting, the film’s aura doesn’t score as a typical Tom Hanks feature.  I guess even Tom Hanks is susceptible to an off-night at the movies.  Like one NBA legend in particular.

Grade: C

“A Hologram for the King” is rated R for some sexuality and nudity, language and brief drug use.  Its running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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Sneak Peek: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

“★★★★★!”  “One of this year’s best stories!”  “An extraordinary film for the eyes and ears!”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

This summer’s potential source of “Oscar talk” is a movie set during the 1940s.  In what looks to be her best performance in years, Meryl Streep stars as a legendary New York heiress and socialite obsessed with her dream of becoming a great singer.

An electrifying story of love, perseverance and imagination abounds in this true story.

Florence-Foster-Jenkins-640x400“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a momentous film achievement by Academy Award-nominated Best Director Stephen Frears (for 2006’s “The Queen”).  Most viewers will remember Frears’ well-received 2013 masterpiece “Philomena”, which was nominated for an Oscar in four categories–including Best Picture.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a compassionate story about endless love and endearing support.  As husband and manager, Hugh Grant’s St. Clair Bayfield character is both protector and tempered watch dog.  His greatest challenge, a 1944 public performance by his beloved Florence in Carnegie Hall, weighs as heavily on his heart and mind as it does moviegoers.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” hits theaters on August 12th.

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Coming Soon – ‘Clown’

A father puts on a cursed clown costume at his 6-year son’s birthday. Worst possible scenario ensues.

Not exactly Bozo the Clown, huh.  A 2014 film released in Italy last November, “Clown” is a Canadian-American collaboration horror movie.  Frowny the Clown is played by Eli Roth (who also produced this creeper).  Jon Watts, who directs next year’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” for Marvel, took the helm on “Clown”.

The Weinstein Company purchased this horror flick last year to scare more people between “The Walking Dead” seasons. Good call.

“Clown” debuts in the U.S. on June 17th.

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Tucson Short-Film Screenings this Saturday at The Loft Cinema

Attention Tucson film lovers!  A spectacular film-watching opportunity is being offered this Saturday, April 30th, at 7:30 pm in The Loft Cinema (located at 3233 E. Speedway Blvd).  This “Film Fatales Shorts” presentation will include the screening of seven short-film features over 90 minutes in celebration of brilliant, meteoric rising female directors. Post-film discussions will take place with directors.

The Film Fatales is an organization of women filmmakers who support each other, share resources, and assist one another in the promotion of their projects while engaging audiences in moderated discussions about film.  The network was founded in New York City in 2013 by Leah Meyerhoff, providing hundreds of women directors the chance to meet every month to mentor and build a supportive community in an industry where less than 5% of the top box office film are directed by women.

For the normal cost of admission, The Loft Cinema will present all seven short-films.  Here’s the lineup:

The Last Cigarette

Olive & Mocha Playing House

Three Women Wait For Death

Behind the Wall

Love Comes Later

Everything All At Once

Bunny New Girl

I had the privilege to prescreen the 17-minute “Behind the Wall” short-film last week from director and Film Fatales member Bat-Sheva Guez. An up-and-coming visionary with style, Bat-Sheva’s film work incorporates a blend of characters from different worlds with small hints of magic brought into her storytelling.

Bat-Sheva Guez

Bat-Sheva, with a love for capturing dance on camera, directed films for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and the American Ballet Theater among others.

Inspired by Sylvain Chomet’s work in “The Triplets of Belleville” and “The Illusionist“, Bat-Sheva’s edgy character-driven “Behind the Wall” has no dialogue from the film’s main star.  Instead, the lead role of Katrin (played by Alexandra Turshen) uses facial expressions, life in Brooklyn, and a talent for dance to express her words. Her “Behind the Wall” is sure to surprise audiences and make them think.

Here’s a clip from the 17-minute short-film “Behind the Wall“.  Viewers with a keen eye will notice Karen Lynn Gorney’s dance moves–recognizing she’s “still got it” since her lead role opposite John Travolta in 1977’s hit movie “Saturday Night Fever“:

“Behind the Wall” stars Alexandra Turshen (Boy Meets Girl, Red Oak), Karen Lynn Gorney (Saturday Night Fever,) and Lou Patane (Rescue Me).  

Click HERE for Ticket Prices.

 

 

 

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Next Summer: The ‘CHiPs’ Reboot

Warner Bros. has announced that the studio’s reboot of the NBC’s hit motorcycle cop show CHiPs will hit theaters on August 11th of next year.  The successful television series that depicted fictitious California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers Francis “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker ran between 1977-1983.

“CHiPs” will be directed by Dax Shepard (from the TV series “Parenthood”), who will also play the role of Baker in the comedy.  Before you roll your eyes at this remake, note that the part of “Ponch” has been given to the Hollywood actor with the hottest Midas Touch over the last year–Michael Pena.  In 2015, Pena stole the show in “Ant-Man” and rocked it in “The Martian“.  Also scheduled to star is Mrs. Dax Shepard, aka blonde bombshell Kristen Bell.

Take a look at Pena on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show describing his training routine for “CHiPs”:

Sure, this film could turn out to be just awkward traffic stops of bikini-clad UCLA coeds with burnt-out tail lights along the 101 coastline.  But right now, any pro-law enforcement message is a good message in my book, supporting those along the Thin Blue Line who protect our communities.

Cue the “CHiPs” 1977 opening intro and music…

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Movie Review – ‘Demolition’

“Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal!… Gyllenhaal and “Demolition” ultimately succeed because they realistically take on the human psyche—with our flaws and all.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

Jake Gyllenhaal as "Davis" in DEMOLITION. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

(Jake Gyllenhaal in DEMOLITION. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved)

Three-time Academy Award nominated director Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”) introduces us to Davis Mitchell, an investment banker in New York City who we find nearly sleepwalking through life. Oblivious to his innermost surroundings, Mitchell fails to notice what’s going wrong on the home-front, in his marriage and at his workplace until tragedy strikes. Only after he unabashedly attempts to move along too quickly following his wife’s car accident, does Mitchell begin to confront the real reasons behind his lack of attention towards life’s fine print.

Demolition” is a film about one man’s grief. It masterfully projects how others expect and want people to grieve. Director Vallee keenly understands that how one faces distress and emotional life events is personal to each of us. Everyone grieves their own way. Expectations and timelines applied to one may not be of help or use to another. Family members and coworkers wanting to help may only block and stall this healing process.

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Mitchell must understand why his senses missed so many signals before his wife’s death…her note to him left in their refrigerator. Unusual noises and personal conversations. Even physical pain. All missing in action until Mitchell labors through a heartfelt penned complaint letter that turns into two. Then three letters.

Pouring his soul to a stranger through these series of letters, Mitchell begins his grieving process of demolition and destruction—taking apart his previous life. Or most specifically, his previous self, using power tools and a heightened sense of self-awareness.

As the atypical Davis Mitchell, Hollywood heavyweight Jake Gyllenhaal continues his phenomenal acting prowess firmly established in 2014’s “Nightcrawler” and last year’s “Southpaw”. Film veteran Chris Cooper, as Mitchell’s father-in-law and corporate boss, gives his most impressive big screen performance seen in years.

Gyllenhaal and “Demolition” ultimately succeed because they realistically take on the human psyche—with our flaws and all. This film ends honestly with a hand dealt from the deck of life’s cards. It unapologetically leaves Mitchell harboring guilt, remorse and still feeling somewhat broken. And that’s safe, but probably best. For viewers, this movie gives us time to reflect on our journey through life and pay attention to the conversations and people on that ride.

Grade: B

“Demolition” is rated R for language, some sexual references, drug use, and disturbing behavior.  Its running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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‘The Girl on the Train’ trailer

From the successful chart-topper on last year’s New York Times #1 Best Seller list comes the movie by the same name starring Emily Blount (“Sicario“).  This psychological whodunit by British author Paula Hawkins has been called “the next ‘Gone Girl’” film.

Let’s see if I can cut to the chase and set up the trailer properly…  Rachel (Blunt’s character) is having a hard time seeing her cheating ex-hubby move on in life with his mistress and their new child together.  Soon the child’s nanny (Megan) disappears and Rachel awakes after a potential all-night bender thinking she may have played a murderous hand in Megan’s current status and whereabouts.  Enough?

Action!

Those wishing to read Hawkins’ book as movie foreplay have just over 5 months to read the 336 pages.

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Sneak Peek – ‘The Magnificent Seven’ trailer

Set to hit theaters on September 23rd, this remake of the 1960 western movie reunites director Antoine Faqua (“Training Day”, “The Equalizer”) with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.  It also stars Chris Pratt from this mega-blockbuster.

Similar to the 1960 John Sturges’ film (which was based on the earlier “The Seven Samurai” movie), the 2016 version of “The Magnificent Seven” involves the protection of a small town that’s threatened by a ruthless businessman.  Desperate, the town takes extreme measures…hiring banditos to protect them.  Although Washington, Hawke and Pratt aren’t Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson from the roll-out 56 years ago, this film looks impressive.  And anyone who’s followed Chris Pratt on Instagram (prattprattpratt) knows that he had a blast making this film.

Roll the tape…

Gunslingers.  Mercenaries.  Colt .45 Peacemakers.  Yeah, count me in on this action western.

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Movie Review – ‘The Jungle Book’

“The impressive visuals make up motion picture’s finest CGI moment on film. Ever.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

The Jungle Book

Being considered a wolf hasn’t been this popular since 2009’s “The Hangover”, when Zach Galifianakis’ loner character Alan pronounced his one-man wolf pack allegiance to groom and groom-mates high above Las Vegas. Now seven years later and packing a legitimate PG-rating, wolf fans find themselves in an Indian jungle toasting a family movie about a young boy raised by a group of the carnivorous mammals in the wild.

“The Jungle Book” film is based upon the 122-year old collection of life lessons from Rudyard Kipling’s novel by the same name.  This book-to-film adaptation showcases an unassuming 10-year old boy named Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi) caught in the middle of a high-stakes fight between predators at the top of the jungle’s food chain.

Jon Favreau, the genius behind the original “Iron Man” back in 2008, directs this eye-catching animal adventure from Walt Disney Productions that is sure to please the mature audience of kids (and most adults) in their theater seats. After a chart-topping, opening weekend box office haul of $104 million, don’t look for any of these jungle inhabitants to become extinct in theaters anytime soon.

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An on-screen masterpiece of computer generated imagery (CGI), this year’s offering of Kipling’s work is vastly more watchable than the earlier 1967 animated release or the 1994 live-action film. It can be easily argued that the impressive visuals in this “The Jungle Book” tale make up motion picture’s finest CGI moment on film. Ever.

The realistic action sequences even offer up to viewers a few jump-out-of-your-seat scenes. These short moments of death and perilous times may be too much for younger eyes. But the Law of the Jungle and human’s reliance on the troublesome “red flower” (fire) aren’t enough to spark a substantial or deep plot.

While extraordinary visual effects are complimented with a splattering of humor throughout, generated mostly from comedian Bill Murray’s superb portrayal of Baloo the grizzly bear, the essence of “The Jungle Book” falls back to just an average, vanilla storyline. Kids will give this film a full letter-grade higher of love than adults. And maybe that’s alright. After all, your money is better spent watching this movie than on a trip to the zoo.

Grade: B-

“The Jungle Book” is rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril.  It’s running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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Movie Review – ‘Remember’

“Dramatic. Bold. A thrilling mystery about revenge…a dish best served cold–and old.”

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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Academy Award winners Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau star in the riveting retaliation story.  We find both of these old-timers living in a retirement home, mourning the loss of 90-year old Zev Guttman’s (Plummer) beloved wife, Ruth.  Providing comfort to Zev is his BFF Max (Landau), who hatches an elaborate plan for his sidekick to carry out.  A scheme that will give these men peace of mind in their final weeks or months.

“Remember” is a thrilling mystery about revenge…a dish best served cold–and old.  As Auschwitz prisoner camp survivors during World War II, Zev and Max seek out the Nazi guard responsible for the brutal deaths of their families.

Stroking the vengeance plot is the uncomfortableness of seeing our elderly attempt to cope and navigate our society even under normal circumstances.  Zev suffers from dementia and severe memory loss, handicapped by his constant need to review his marching orders–all meticulously written out for him in a several-page letter carried in his dress jacket pocket.

Armed with the new American name taken by the former Nazi prison guard, Zev embarks on the cringeworthy strategy to find, unmask and kill the man responsible for so much tragedy in his life.  But his travels are marked by empathy, bewilderment and a few tense moments for moviegoers as Zev’s murky past comes back into focus in the present.

Viewers will be mesmerized by this dramatic story and shocked at its boldness.  This whodunit packs a powerful punch due to Plummer’s remarkable job as the Glock-toting, older fellow seeking a punishment bestowed upon another.  He singlehandedly carries this film in his travel bag.  A must-see for audiences wanting to catch an unsolved mystery with twists, turns and a fascinating performance.

Grade: B+

“Remember” can be found in select theaters nationwide.  In Tucson, its being shown exclusively in The Loft Cinema, located at 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.  “Remember” is rated R for sequences of violence and language with a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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