Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Hologram For The King

Movie:  A Hologram For The King

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Middle age can be a very tough time in life; just ask Alan Clay (Tom Hanks).  He used to be the bright young man on his way to the top in the business world, had a beautiful wife, had a wonderful daughter named Kit (Tracey Fairaway), the huge house in the suburbs – it was the American Dream come to fruition.  Until it all started to turn to crap.  The economy took a down turn, the marriage fell apart, and even after being forced to sell the house in the divorce, Alan can’t even afford to send his daughter to college.  Clay’s boss bluntly lays it on the line to him, as Alan prepares to go to Saudi Arabia to make an important sales pitch for the company.  “The only reason we are sending you, Alan Clay, is your connection to a nephew to the King of Saudi Arabia.”  It is pretty much understood that either Alan makes the sale, or doesn’t bother to come back.

Soon Alan is in Saudi Arabia, a country totally foreign to him in every way.  He discovers his careful plans and agenda have gone to hell in a hand basket.  His small team of three young Information Technology (IT) experts are stuck in a tent in the desert with no Wi Fi connection, or even air conditioning.  Saudi officials are never around when they are supposed to be.  It seems problematic as to whether Alan Clay will even get a chance to pitch his company’s cutting edge holographic IT system, to the king or anyone else.  Alan seems destined to travel forever from his luxury hotel to the desert site with his loyal driver Yousef (Alexander Black), because Alan can’t seem to wake up in the mornings to catch the shuttle.  To make matters worse, Alan has medical issues, and finds himself relying on the care of Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), one of the very few women physicians allowed to practice medicine in the country.

This is a very good film for a number of reasons.  Tom Hanks is superb in the role of a middle aged man who feels his life has peaked, and he is desperately trying to hold it together to make one last sales pitch to save his career and maybe his self esteem as well.  Sarita Choudhury is a marvelous actress, portraying a dignified and talented professional woman in a society that frankly discourages those traits.  The movie also gives a few glimpses into what a totally different world Saudi Arabia is.  To the American eye, things move very slowly there, if at all.  Their culture has subtle currents that we just cannot understand.  The movie plot develops slowly, but that is intentional.  This is not an action movie, this is a tour de force for Tom Hanks.  Go see it to savor a great actor in his prime.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Alan to Young Woman – “They can only kill me with a golden bullet.  Get it?  Lawrence of Arabia.”  Young Woman – “Who?”

Alan to Yousef – “You were in the lobby for five minutes.  What kind of bomb could anyone install in five minutes!”

Alan – “There was a lot going on over there yesterday.”  Yousef – “Yeah, that’s where they hold the executions.”

Hanne – “The king hasn’t been here for a while.”  Alan – “How long is a while?”  Hanne – “I’ve been here for 18 months, and he hasn’t been here yet.”

Yousef – “He’s a swinger.  He goes to Europe to have sex with boys.”  Alan – “So he’s gay?”  Yousef – “Gay?  No.  You think that means he’s gay?”

Zahra – “Divorce is pretty complicated in this country.”  Alan – “Divorce is pretty complicated in any country.”


Barbershop: The Next Cut

Movie:  Barbershop: The Next Cut

Rating:  3 and 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   The south side of Chicago is a violent place to live and work.  Gang violence and gunfire is a daily occurrence, and the citizens are fearful even as they have learned to accept it as a way of life.   Calvin’s Barbershop is something of a landmark on the south side, with a thriving clientele.  Even the leaders of the two rival street gangs come to Calvin’s, although they are careful not to be there at the same time.  Calvin (Ice Cube) is the primary owner of the shop, with several barbers helping him with the workload such as Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), and Rashad (Common).  Calvin’s also caters to the ladies’ hair needs, with stylists Angie (Regina Hall), Terri (Eve) and Draya (Nikki Minaj) snipping hair and sniping at the menfolk.  Then there is a shady character called One-Stop (J.B. Smoove), who can get all sorts of things for the clientele, legal or not so much.  All in all, a thriving bee hive of activity, and you can even get meals there from J.D. (Anthony Anderson), proprietor of the Gangsta Grub food truck.

The action is as fast paced as the chatter at the barbershop, and insults are zinged at a rapid fire pace.  Calvin is worried about raising his 14 year old son in the south side environment, and the barbers and hair stylists talk about politics, race issues, and the seemingly unsolvable conundrum of gun violence.  And yet, they do try in their own way to start a movement to quell the level of violence in their part of the city.

This turned out to be a good movie on several levels.  This third Barbershop movie could have been a tired rehash of the previous ones, but this story was fresh and timely.  It sizzled with good dialogue and quick laughs with a very attractive cast, but had a serious side that debated the gun violence issue that is a national tragedy.  The film is well done and definitely worth seeing.

Actors To Watch:  It is hard not to be mesmerized by Nikki Minaj on the screen.  If this is the age of the booty, she is a superstar.  But she also has talent, as was previously seen in a small role in the movie The Other Woman.  Look for Nikki to get mainstream film roles.   A not so pretty face is Deon Cole, a former writer on the Conan talk show, and talented stand-up comic.  His role as Dante was a major comic boon to the film.  All he needs to do is use those eyes to get a laugh.

Dialogue Nuggets:   “I used to come here to get away from women.  It used to be the original man cave!”

Dante to shop folks – “Last week I got robbed twice on the same day, and got my ass beat by the second robber for giving all my money to the first robber!”

Calvin to son – “You know what all these people have in common?”  Son – “They old?” Calvin – “This ain’t the Oprah show.  You can’t just show up and get free stuff.”

Draya – “When I walk out with this hair and this booty it’s like a black Amex card, and I never get denied!”  (Blog editor’s comment – “Damn straight, Nikki!”)

Hair Stylist – “For years there has been a war between good girls and ho’s, and the ho’s have won.”

Raj (Indian Barber) – “The president of the United States is black.  The only person I have to look up to is a character on The Big Bang Theory.”

Calvin – “We’re crazy to think that hair cuts can stop bullets.”

End of Film:  This film is basically a love letter to Chicago.  As Calvin states, “I never gave up on Chicago, because you never gave up on me.”



Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Movie:  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Rating:  2 Stars (Out of 5)

Quickie Review:   Batman (aka Bruce Wayne, aka Ben Affleck) has got a bee in his bonnet.  Even though Superman (Henry Cavill) has saved the world a zillion times, something goes wrong just once and now he thinks Superman is a menace and has to go.   How can Batman possibly be a match for Superman?  Well, in a confusing and convoluted storyline, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) gets his maniac hands on a meteor, which of course is loaded with kryptonite, yada yada yada.   Superman is called in to explain himself to a Senate committee, and he just looks confused.  Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets shoehorned into the plot to help out, looking a whole lot like Xena Warrior Princess.  No doubt this sets her up for her own action picture down the road.  By the end of the movie, mucho mayhem ensues, and a city is mostly wrecked, though I am darned if I could tell if it was Metropolis or Gotham.  Fans of special effects who just crave action may enjoy the show, but it was pretty much a stinkeroo.  When it comes to movies, DC Comics are getting their butts kicked by the Marvel Comics crew.

Best Scene:  Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is shacked up with Clark Kent, and has discovered he is the “Man of Steel”.  Thank goodness for a gratuitous scene of Amy naked in the bath tub.