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Rating History

Free State of Jones
30 minutes ago via Rotten Tomatoes

It's unfortunate that the main reason this Matthew McConaughey starring box office flop came in news is not because of its excellent portrayal of the counter-rebellion in a Mississippi town during the Civil War, but because for some reason the producers of the film, STX Entertainment, decided to release the film in center of summer popcorn films, hence its dismal performance. But like me, if you enjoy films on based on actual events or a real person, that has good writing, an actual story and good acting, you will like it. If you are looking for a war drama that is nonstop action with lots of battles, massive explosions and bloody scenes from start to finish, you will be disappointed. I did a little research on the history it depicts and it was a part of the Civil War that I knew nothing about. The film shows well the post-war conflict with the KKK. Like 'Lincoln', this film shows a world of political parties very different to present day. Then, white supremacists were loyal to the Democrats, blacks to the abolitionist Republicans. The film is done in a style that emulates Twelve Years a Slave, and as such it deals with topics of slavery and secession in a way that is poignant but also constructive. Despite running for over two hours, the film wasn't a drag to sit through, because the film was cramped with action, great acting performances, and a good character development. So you weren't left out to feel bored at any time throughout this film. Despite running for about 139 minutes, the film wasn't a drag to sit through, because the film was cramped with action, great acting performances, and a good character development. So you weren't left out to feel bored at any time throughout this film. The film starts pretty much like any Civil War film with battles, death and bloody bodies, but it progresses past that to the point where some people rebel against the Confederacy for the atrocities they commit against the southern farmers. The story is well told with some actual dates and a fact flashed on the screen from time to time which sort of gives it the feel of a documentary. It helps keep things in perspective without being intrusive. The story follows Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), a white Mississippi farmer, a Southern soldier who has had enough of war, had enough of fighting what he believed was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight, had enough of Confederate soldiers in his home county of Jones, Mississippi taking almost everything from poor families to supposedly help out with the war effort, and had enough of slavery and all the cruelties that go with one person owning another person. . He was outraged by the Twenty Negro Law that allowed families who owned twenty slaves to exempt one family member from service for every twenty slaves they owned. Knight's insurrection starts off small but dramatic, slowly building up until he and his company are at war with the Confederate States of America. This film doesn't just deal with what happened during the American Civil War, it also delves into the "reconstruction" phase after the war, and the barbaric and ironic aftermath for the former slaves. Adding further interest and depth to the film is the separate story within the film regarding one of Newton Knight's descendants (a white man who is part black) who is on trial for marrying a white woman in Mississippi - at the time of the trial, interracial relationships were illegal; and Knight's descendant, despite looking white, was considered black. How hypocritical, since white masters often raped their female slaves for hundreds of years while the Southern society turned a blind eye to it. Knight and other deserters formed The Free State of Jones, declaring their loyalty to the Union, and flying the stars and stripes rather than the stars and bars. After the war, Knight worked for Reconstruction and married Rachel, a freed slave woman. His children also married cross-racially. He died in 1922. As might be expected, he is a controversial figure in Mississippi. Fans of the Confederacy denounce him as a traitor. Others celebrate him as one white Southerner who had a conscience and resisted white supremacy. Yes, the film is receiving negative reviews. It's easy to see why. There is something in this film to anger multiple grievance mongers. First, race hustlers will hate this film. Race hustlers want the official story to be that all whites are supremacists and all blacks are heroic. A film that depicts a white man who worked for black rights is taboo. Race hustlers anathematized "Mississippi Burning" and "The Help" for the same reason. It's such a shame that the race hustlers' ideological blindfolds make it impossible for them to appreciate great art. Liberals might hate this film for a couple of other reasons. I don't know if I've seen a film where almost every scene hinges on how guns are used. Almost everyone is armed, and uses those weapons to keep breathing and to settle disputes. Even little girls have guns and use them heroically. Second amendment fans may love this film. It depicts what they dream of: oppressed citizenry taking up arms to defeat their own government. In addition to clinging to their guns, these rebels cling to their God and their Bibles. This is one of the most religious American films I've seen in a while. It's an historical fact that Newt Knight was a devoutly religious Primitive Baptist - he didn't drink, for example. The film drives home Knight's Christianity. He is shown in a long scene using a quill to record a birth in his Bible. In fairness, there are a few things that the film could be rightly critiqued for. The opening scenes of the film are fairly gory and filled with wartime violence, but fortunately that does not dominate the film. As it progresses, the plot of the film does meander a bit, including a fast forward to a scene from some 85 years after the majority of the film that is interspersed throughout the rest of the film. That technique felt a bit forced at times, but at the end of the film it made more sense why it had been used. Additionally, the film tells its main tale over the course of more than a decade, which makes for a bit of an odd cinematic journey--but, in my view, none of these issues are so problematic that they greatly take away from the film. Rather, what we have here is a film that was desperately trying to be Oscar worthy, and that perhaps pushes the creative envelope a tad bit too far. But again, the film offers more good here than the bad. The story that the film has to tell is both engaging and important--engaging in that it captures your attention and makes you care about the subject matter in a captivating way, and important in that it draws attention to historical facts that you probably were not aware of. I know it certainly highlighted some elements of Reconstruction that were new to me. Gary Ross, the director and writer, has previously penned 'Big' (1988) and 'Dave' (1993), both of which were comedies that also delivered serious thoughts too. In this serious work, with location-shooting that included Jones County, he has given us a very impressive piece of work. Two good touches that demonstrated attention to detail were; the clearly different bits of wood authentically used for a funeral coffin to give an authentic realism, and the authentically-looking slight graying of McConaughey's hair in later scenes. After good performances in 'Mud' (2012), and Interstellar (2014), here Mr McConaughey gives a convincing performance. Matthew McConaughey gets a lot of stick for his southern accent, apparently it's all he can do to some people, but it doesn't change the fact that he is a fine actor. Every emotion he has to display here he does so with grace and believability. His accent is changed, albeit slightly, to a different southern accent here and i didn't notice any slips or going back to his native accent. What's more, with his beard hair and teeth looking straight out of the history books, he IS the man he is portraying. OK so it is not doppelganger, but he does bear a great resemblance to Newton. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a convincing performance as does Mahershala Ali. Keri Russell is fine in a small role. She gives her heartbroken character dignity and resilience. On the whole, 'Free State of Jones' is a powerful film that tells a masterfully constructed important story with great period feel and realism. I recommend it for all as it does entertain and enlighten.

Keeping Up With The Joneses
6 hours ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Its hard to make a perfect comedy film, mainly because the the only thing that matters is that did the film make you to laugh? Comedy is the only genre where you find the most divide among the audience, as the sense of humor of each viewer varies plus it also matters in what frame of mind or expectations they have from a certain film. This will undoubtedly vary from the accounts of uppity film critics who will discount the basic plot and obvious laughs (which is the whole point). While I do enjoy the general Seth Rogen kind of films, spy comedies are one sub genre I hold a special place for. It's a genre so based on plot twists that most of them can be seen a mile away, especially if you've already seen some. This one is no different. No real plot twist is really surprising, including the final joke. And still, I had loads of fun watching it, because most of the jokes are actually character driven, and the characters are very well written, and well performed by most. Despite that you can't ignore the fact, save for maybe Bad Moms & Neighbors 2, 2016 hasn't been very kind to comedy. And after just recently being submitted to such atrocities as The Boss and Masterminds, I was ready for another big disappointment at the special screening of the now very stale Zach Gallifianakis brand of humor. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed this film! The film has this great nostalgic feeling, a kick back to those wonderful 80's comedies that fuse action and humor, while actually making you care for what the characters are going through. It's a bit of the oddball The 'Burbs with elements of classic spy flicks like True Lies or Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The latest entry from director Greg Mottola and writer Michael LeSieur offers a more balanced approach while being somewhat grounded in familiar suburbia. Perfect casting certainly helps. I found myself laughing, I was emotionally attached to the story and could relate to the characters, the trailer says it best, what you see is what you get. The story follows The Gaffneys, Karen (Isla Fisher) and Jeff (Zach Gallifianakis), who seem to be living the "American dream". They've got two pre-teen boys and live in cozy two-story home in an up-scale cul-de-sac. Karen takes care of said home, while running a part-time interior design biz from the study. Jeff, like many of his neighbors, works at a big local aeronautics company. He heads the human resources department in one of the more popular offices. That's because he has internet access (too many sensitive government projects are going on upstairs, so no web surfing). The Gaffneys are contemplating a romantic Summer when they load their boys into a bus bound for camp. As they clumsily try to heat things up, a moving van pulls into the driveway of the empty house across the street. New neighbors! And quite a glamorous duo, it's the Joneses, travel writer Tim (Jon Hamm) and food blogger Natalie (Gal Gadot). They soon pay the Gaffneys a visit, even bringing them a hand-crafted gift. Jeff develops a bit of a "man crush" on Tim, but Karen's radar is activated. Something's just not right about them. Tim just "happens" to run into Jeff and invites him to lunch where Tim is way too interested in Jeff's routine job (and his co-workers). During a late night exploration of the Jones house, the Gaffneys discover a room full of surveillance tech and gadgets. Could they be spies? And who are there bosses? This could make things very awkward at the next block party! Feature comedy director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Paul, Adventureland) deftly guides this terrific ensemble, keeping the story flowing, and happily avoiding that deadly lull at the one-hour mark that derails many a funny flick. Michael LeSieur's clever script delivers big laughs while making these characters feel real, never mere gag props. He also provides several great set pieces aside from the shoot-out and dressing room scenes. Marriage is a central theme in the film. Couples deal with communication, romance, respect, and trust. The idea of friendship is used to illustrate the importance of camaraderie and support, sacrifice, and encouragement to live a fulfilled life. The men head off for some male bonding - at a highly unusual specialty restaurant, leading to one of the more manic sequences in the film. The impressive thing about this latest is that the comedy mostly derives from character and situational interactions, and the expected steady stream of punchlines never materializes. There is even some insight into marriages that have become a bit too predictable, and the challenges of making new friends when all available energy is devoted to parenting and making ends meet. This film is a 100 percent a genre popcorn flick: nothing particularly innovative or stylish about the story or execution. There are recognizable tropes and common clichés, the framing of the film is fairly predictable, and it's filled with spy-like hijinks and the mandatory car chase. However, the charm and genuine comedic talent of the cast will make it easy for many to settle in and enjoy, without passing too much judgment. Action scenes are pretty good, not over the top, but still fun anyway. If you have seen the trailer you know what you're going see going in. This cast shines infinitely brighter than the usual cookie-cutter characters who emerge from similar types of action-comedies. Zach Galifianakis is hardly recognizable here, after shedding most of his weight. Galifianakis is much more grounded than he was in the very recent dud Masterminds, making Jeff less of an outlandish cartoon, more of a sometimes goofy, bewildered guy next door. Yes, he's got a weird fascination with home beer brewing and indoor sky-diving, but Jeff's a dependable Joe, who's pretty clumsy, but always sees the best in people. Still, he's yearning for something. Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher have some great comic chemistry, playing the zany sitcom like couple perfectly. Isla Fisher commits beautifully to her role. Isla Fisher is a great comic partner for Galifianakis, but also marvelous when she's intimidated by Gadot in the big changing room scene (showcased in the trailers and TV ads). Jon Hamm is the perfect debonair secret agent with a surprisingly vulnerable side. Hamm has finally gotten a film role that allows him to shed the ultra-cool brooding Don Draper of "Mad Men", while exercising his comic chops and flexing an action-hero swagger. Gal Gadot is the real surprise here and her scenes with Ms. Fisher are the film's best. The 31 year-old Israeli actress and Wonder Woman delivers her jokes while keeping a deadpan expression, and manages to steal almost every scene she's in with her exotic accent and stunning stature. Actually, Gadot alone is a good enough reason to watch the film - and throwing her into the heart of every-town America has a great payoff once push comes to shove. The brilliant Patton Oswalt is cast as the self-nicknamed villain, and is responsible for one of the film's biggest laughs. On the whole, 'Keeping Up with the Joneses' is an enjoyable film that allows its cast to drive and give us laughs (big and small), despite its predictable moments. This a film you could enjoy if you are having a bad day, you have to go in this suspending some disbelieve. So while this seems like the kind of film I would usually ignore, perhaps it arrives at a time when laughing is simply preferable to the daily grind of an embarrassing and humiliating Presidential race or a simple thing called shit life.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
1 day ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The original 2012 film was a fairly effective action thriller because it refreshingly summed up different elements of an old school thriller. The mystery was decent, the characters were engaging, the antagonist was enigmatic and considering the genre it even produced occasional timely humor. While the film may not be considered as one of the best of its genre, the presence of the awesome Tom Cruise garnered the film a respectable $218.3 million box office on a budget of $60 million, I guess an enough reason to green lit a sequel. Surprisingly, this sequel is quite different from the first one. The while the 1st film was a quiet and slow thriller. This one's completely opposite. Which isn't completely a bad thing as it's always throwing something at you, both good and bad, necessary and unnecessary. It's loud and brutal and wants to be heard and demands your attention but doesn't really reward you for it. This sequel is an odd mix of thrilling and inert: It's entertaining enough, and the fight sequences are heart-pumping good, but the pacing is sometimes glacial and the plot predictable. Without a doubt, the leads keep the film from going completely off the rails. Say what you will about Cruise, but he's as charismatic as ever and therefore compelling. If you're a die hard Jack Reacher fan, then you're going to love this film. If you're a fan of mindless action films in general, then you'll certainly like it. But keeping in mind the 1st film, you expect the sequel to be a bitter smarter, especially considering the fact that this is Tom Cruise's first sequel outside the Mission Impossible franchise, you expect the film to rise over its predictable plot. The only reason the film falls a little short compared to the first, is due to the writing. The dialogue isn't bad, but it is bland. I suppose it was to the credit of writer/director Christopher McQuarrie as to why the first film stood out as well as it did. Surely this script needed a punch-up writer on board to fix things. While I did enjoy the film very much, their were certain sections of the film, which could just not be overlooked. Based on a series of books written by author Lee Child, the story follows Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former US army Major, who as drifter has been solving cases for the Military police all around the country. After busting a corrupt sheriff's office in Oklahoma, Reacher finds himself convinced by commanding officer Mgr. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) to return to Washington DC to go on a date. Upon his arrival, Reacher finds that Mgr. Susan Turner has been arrested on charges of espionage. Believing strongly that Turner is being setup, Reacher doesn't hold back in solving the mystery and taking out those who would stand in his way. Crossing paths with the military police himself, Reacher soon finds out that the corruption runs deeper than he first thought. When faced with not only the dilemma of Turner but also the possibility that he may have fathered a daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh). Reacher must fight two concurrent battles. The three are forced to go on the run and, with limited resources on hand, try to find out the truth so they can clear their names. With mind and body under attack, Reacher stops at nothing to exonerate Turner and provide protection for his possible daughter. Now, if I felt the Christopher McQuarrie directed 2012 film was strong enough despite its flaws, I think I can say the same for this one as well. I think the first one was more of Tom Cruise playing a more impenetrable character, whereas you get him only slightly more grounded this time around. While the film started out a little strange and off-putting, it all un-raveled into a great finale. The film is a good sequel, yet doesn't quite live up to the thrill-ride of its predecessor. If you are in the mood for a good old-fashioned military conspiracy action drama, then look no further. Although the film is very well produced, there is a flaw in that it is apparent that Reacher wants to 'reach' further and delve deeper than the superficial plot allows for. In my opinion, this film followed a bad trend that is rising in action film sequels, where the main character is attempted to be given a much deeper persona, while also trying to be the same person from the first film, yet it comes out in a very odd, strange blend of who we knew from the first film, and who this new identification is. It was troubling to have to accept this new introduction to the main character, when we have already been identified with him from the first film. Evidence of this is in his dialog that suggests that he wants to be a more dynamic individual who is capable of love and devotion but gets stuck being the action hero all the time because violence is the only thing at which he excels. One of the most prominent themes in the film is the contrast between high intensity fight scenes and deadpan humorous family drama. By including contrasting elements, the film provides a real opportunity to love the protagonists and hate the antagonists. Another flaw of the film comes in the form of Samantha, who is 'presumed' to be Reacher's forgotten daughter. The introduction of this character really drags the film down since she only serves to be a feisty teenager and a catalyst for tension by the time the climax rolls around. Director Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs, Blood Diamond) does his best to fill the gap Christopher McQuarrie left but fails to do so. The film would have been a lot better with McQuarrie on board. The story was weak and incoherent at times. The villains lacked motive and there were plenty of things that were left unexplained at the end. Nevertheless, as I mentioned before the film, despite its shortcomings, is quite entertaining. The action (for the most part) has been amplified since the last film. You see arms, legs and even necks being broken which utterly makes you flinch. Even Jack Reacher himself proves to be human when you see him take some serious lashes throughout this film. For someone is his 50s, I give Tom Cruise a lot of credit for pushing the sheer physicality of Jack Reacher. However, I was equally impressed by the antagonist of this film, who simply goes by the name of 'The Hunter' (Patrick Heusinger). Every fight in the film is surely entertaining as much as it it brutal, so viewers beware. There is an awesome chase and fight sequence on Bourbon street in New Orleans for the climax of this film that really leaves you feeling like some part of your body is broken. For a female lead, Cobie Smulders really holds her own and boys does she know how to take a punch. There are so many cool things about this film yet it still feels like a step back from the first in some way. I suppose the cleverness of the script and the sense of it being a gripping mystery/thriller is what's missing. Don't get me wrong, director Edward Zwick did as good of a job as far as directing an action film based on the material he had to work with. Tom Cruise definitely displays some of the best acting of his career in this installment of the Jack Reacher series. He does an excellent job of communicating the difficulty in balancing both the defensive and offensive in terms of protecting his "family" and providing empathetic nurture. Cobie Smulders, best-known for playing Robin in How I Met Your Mother and Maria Hill in the Marvel franchise, looks absolutely beautiful, but she has virtually no chemistry with Cruise. Good thing she's more than just the romantic interest here, playing a woman as tough and self-reliant as Reacher. She absolutely stole the show and left me quite impressed. Aldis Hodge (Leverage) has a pivotal supporting role and he did pretty good. Danika Yarosh & Patrick Heusinger are alright. Robert Knepper Is wasted. On the whole, 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' offers the right amount of entertainment with Tom Cruise's solid action-star turn yet falls short in comparison to its predecessor. Give it a watch if you are looking for a mindless action thriller.

ARQ (2016)
5 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I am a massive fan of the science fiction genre, but equally frown upon the genre due to its lack of talented writers, the result I rarely check out very low budgeted film, who mainly suffer due to their lack of funds and inability to perfectly execute their innovative ideas. However, trusting how great the original content of Netflix has been recently, I decided to check this film out. Netflix pretty much had me at dystopian future and time travel. That said, I also had no idea this film was directed and written by Tony Elliott, a writer on Syfy's 12 Monkeys and Orphan Black. Had I known that, I would have easily overcomed my initial fears. I wasn't expecting a lot but was definitely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. This flick is smart! Suffice it to say, there are so many twist and turns within the loops themselves, there is no way to predict where the story is going next. I don't know about you, but that is thrilling for me as a viewer. There's nothing worse that figuring out the ending of a film, TV show or book in the first act. Right? Its based in the future but that doesn't impact too much on the film. The earth is dying, the air toxic. Mega corporations rule and of course you have the obligatory resistance. But this is more back ground information you pick up as the film progresses and just supplies character motivation. While you may initially think, that the film would disappoint you with its poor acting (as Robbie Amell & Rachael Taylor aren't exactly known for their acting skills), hapzard plot or cheap set pieces. However, this film was very well acted and the low budget didn't distract. Trust me, if you like your sci-fi films packed with frantic running, and a solid twist every 15 minutes, this film is your cup of tea. The story follows hero Renton (Robbie Amell) and his companion Hannah (Rachael Taylor) in an undisclosed time and location in the future. Each day starts with them waking up in bed then being taken captive. Each scenario ends when they are killed. What's causing the loop? It turns out that, besides getting in a workout every day, Renton is the inventor of the ARQ, which Hannah helpfully describes as "an unlimited energy machine that also produces unlimited time." For the most part the whole film takes place in one cramped house. The invaders aren't what they seem, but then neither is the couple. The basic premise is a couple keep reliving the same home invasion over and over, and try to use memories of the previous attempts to their advantage. Only there develops an excellent twist. Too say more on this point would ruin the film. The premise of the film is brilliant in its simplicity, and it's perfectly implemented into the reduced space of the main character's house. This means that the post-apocalyptic theme is expressed through conversations. However, that doesn't make the film monotonous at all, because the screenplay is fascinating and full of interesting dilemmas the main character has to solve, sometimes with intelligence, and sometimes, with his fists (or poisonous gas). His girlfriend Hanna is involved into the experience, bringing an emotional component which makes the aggression from the villains more personal. even though she isn't as defenseless as she seems. The re-tellings have enough variety with each go-through adding more to the plot twist to keep the viewer engaged. I didn't find myself looking at my phone or seeking other distractions, as I am want to do with less captivating films, so the story line was well constructed and the acting good enough to be engaging. This film is very familiar in the sense that the "groundhog day" concept has been beaten to death, then you wake up and it's beaten to death, then you wake, etc. However, I felt the film did an amazing job of realizing this, and ushered us into the story line of continuous time-loops relatively fast and efficient, while still keeping me intrigued to the background story taking place. There is a lot of information and history left to the imagination which will definitely turn viewers away, though I personally found quite refreshing. The loop concept has been done many times, from which Groundhog Day and more recently Edge of Tomorrow are the most memorable, and it's easy to burn your fingers on too many mistaken details that distracts from the story. In this film, I think they did a very good job. Sure, at times the film does feel a bit like a low-budget art-house film, due to the limited sets and modest special effects. That's okay though, because the characters are stuck in a time loop so it makes sense they're reliving the same events in a specific location. Ultimately, it's the subtle "time" changes that occur and building toward the big climactic finale that engage us while on this insane ride. Debutant writer/director Tony Elliott, follows Source Code's footsteps but adds to the formula his own sets of clever twists. He stuck to the main story line without jam packing a compendium of background knowledge into the film. Which is quite clear as he is isn't interested in emotions - at least, none other than the cheesy and thudding variety. It mainly goes all in on the relationship between Ren and Hannah, which is, to be fair, much more interesting and original than is typical of domestic thriller romantic leads. There is not a lot explained about why the world is dying or why Renton is hiding and from who exactly, but the story more develops around using the time loop in their advantage, which only works for so long. However, the writing left a lot to desire. For example, the explanation of the loop thing was quite dull and unsatisfying. Plus every now and then, a character manages to turn the tables in an interesting way, playing off his or her foe's weaknesses, figuring out what they do and do not know about the situation; mostly, it just turns into a series of scenes where characters chase each other around a house with no objective other than to do something other than what got them killed the last time. Eventually, for the sake of my own sanity, I stopped thinking about what I would try to do in their shoes because I realized the characters were never, ever going to do that (there comes a point where it would be extremely beneficial for the characters to just talk to each other about what's happening, but it takes forever for them to finally do so - and even then, they don't try to strategize or do anything that would meaningfully give them an advantage). The film tries to build it all into that aforementioned house-of-cards complexity but doesn't really earn that plot twist when it arrives. The performances were quite good. Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor could not have done a better job with their roles. The two leads killed it, keeping me at the edge of my seat the entire time. The two together put in a strong with-or-without-you performance. And Shaun Benson makes Sonny a force to be reckoned with. On the whole, 'ARQ' is a fun little fast-paced and compelling science fiction thriller which manages to keep you engaged throughout.

A Hologram for the King
6 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

There is no doubt that Tom Hanks is one of the most likable & bankable film stars of the world, especially considering his career graph, a film starring Tom Hanks can seldom be bad. However, this cross cultured comedy drama is not among those. Don't get me wrong, Tom Hanks is great here, possibly the only reason the film is eminently watchable, but its hard to deny that film any lacked a sense of direction. I am still not sure what this film was trying to achieve. Was it humor, drama, angst, sadness, happiness, or some combination of the above? As the end credits rolled in, I just felt lost. Here, director Tom Tykwer tackles the familiar "fish out of water" theme of an American being in unfamiliar territory and culture with his own touch by establishing some sort of whimsical rhythm to the story, to draw humor out of the monotonous, and to utilize Hanks' acting chops in a manner similar to Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel with Ralph Fiennes. However, where as Wes Anderson handles such a film with the delicate and meticulous approach of a true artist, director Tykwer missed his mark entirely, and the whole film played with a sense of directorial and writing laziness. There were at least three times when it seemed like an entire scene (possibly an entire reel) was missing, completely edited from the final cut, which gave the film a choppy feeling, like the studio had heavily (and poorly) edited the film prior to release. This fish-out-of-water-into-the-desert story follows a template similar to Bill Murray's 2015 Rock the Kasbah (which was more fun) and Tina Fey's 2016 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (which was funnier). Those films were marginally enjoyable, but this one is less so. Based on author Dave Eggers' best-selling novel, the story follows Alan Clay (Tom Hanks), a washed-up, put-upon Boston corporate salesman on a business trip to Saudi Arabia. Alan's father (Tom Skeritt) criticizes him, his ex-wife (Jane Perry) hounds him and his college-aged daughter Kit (Tracey Fairaway) is caught in the middle. Alan's boss (Eric Myers) belittles him and makes unreasonable demands, like the exact time when the ruler of a Muslim country will sit down for a tech presentation. Sent to Saudi Arabia with a 3-person tech team from his company, to sell the Saudi king a video teleconferencing system which features a hologram of the person on the other end of the call. The king is building a new business center out in the desert and Alan's team is in the exhibition hall waiting to hear when the king will stop by. The exhibition hall is a nearby tent where the air conditioning only works some of the time, the Wi-Fi doesn't work at all and there is no food. Alan's repeated trips over to the business center to find solutions are met with indifference and Alan grows increasingly frustrated. Personally, Alan is having a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings - in every way imaginable. He gets some help with the obvious culture shock from his driver, Yousef (Alexander Black), a Saudi national who once lived in the U.S., orients Alan to the culture and provides the film's comic relief. Alan also has problems with oversleeping, finding a drink in a country where alcohol is officially banned and is occupied with concern about a mysterious new growth in the middle of his back. For that first one, he has Yousef, for the second, a very friendly Danish businesswoman (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and for the third, a female doctor (Indian actress Sarita Choudhury), with whom he would like to become friendlier.  I thought the first hour of the film worked really well, and reminded me somehow in a general of Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation". The film falters when the (inevitable?) potential romantic interest develops between the Tom Hanks character and his doctor (yes, a female doctor in Saudi Arabia!). when he develops a bad cyst on his back. Honestly, I was really looking forward to seeing this film, partly because I like Tom Hanks and partly because of the quirky Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime" rendition in the trailer (which actually opens the film, and is great - I loved it). Scenes that made the greatest impression on me is when Alan makes a joke to a Arabic man while walking on a long stretch a highway that is surrounded by sand and dust., and that joke gets him in great trouble. Another scene where Alan has the opportunity to kill a wolf in clear view and questions whether to shoot or not is something that he struggles with. And scenes where Alan takes matters into his own hands but trying to cut way that mysterious large bump on his back; leads to disastrous results. There also a scene late in the film where Alan and Zahra and goes on a memorable swim in the ocean that leaves and indelible mark with the couple. There are also a host of enjoyable episodic plot elements set against spectacular Arabian vistas that are memorable. However, that is all they are - episodes. Unfortunately, the whole film is a jumble of tidbits that never gel into any sort of satisfactory story arc: We have an "infidel in the middle of Mecca" scene, that suddenly ends without event or note; We head off on a wolf hunt that subsides into nothing: perhaps the denouement was supposed to mean something deep and meaningful, I guess; Even the main storyline tends to fizzle out to be replaced with an aquatic-based sub-story of inter-racial love. True that this romance is both touching and well done, but it feels entirely bolted on at the point you expect the film to end - it really doesn't integrate well. The formulaic elements of this film were evident throughout. 1) Pressure at work for Clay so we feel some sort of deadline. 2) Daughter's tuition bills (because apparently the only way she can go to college is if he pays out of pocket) so we know the stakes are high. 3) Health concerns for Clay, which I initially thought would be some sort of personal dilemma situation, but turned out to just be a device to get him to meet the love interest. 4) unlikely cross-cultural romance develops. 5) The actual titular "hologram" turns out to not even be important, is really only one scene of the film, and even after the big IT pitch ultimately fails, we see that nothing particularly (or remotely) bad happens. The repeated waking up late, showering, and getting in the old car with his driver, and ultimately achieving nothing at the presentation site - became very taxing. There was no element of "can you believe this is happening again" instead, as Clay goes out and parties the night before, I just began to roll my eyes as the inevitability of this time filling sequence looms. Although the script was witty and quite funny in places, I didn't really see the point of the project, and the rest of the cast was a bit weak. I liked the banter and chemistry between Alan and the taxi driver but the sex scenes looked uncomfortable and it seemed to jump from a funny business storyline, to a love story. When making a film either about a different period or a location, some basic criteria has to be considered like local aesthetics, customs & traditions, understanding how local people behave, talk etc. This one shows a complete disregard of this research and all characters are played by Hollywood contemporary and veteran actors. The protagonist doesn't even struggle with the language difference shows the level of understanding the script has on the location where the primary language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. The receptionist, cabbie, doctor, his contact for arranging his presentation - all speak fluent English. Their local problems are very similar to the American white problems which is incomprehensible considering the huge cultural difference. The purpose of why the protagonist visits Saudi Arabia is shown in the first and last scene - no wonder he is a not so successful sales representative. The character Zahra of a female doctor in Saudi Arabia is one of the most ridiculously written characters I have come across. The film is definitely very quirky and strange, and I love quirky and strange. It's also very slow-paced, meandering and uninvolving though. Tom Hanks does his best in the lead to work with what he was given, and I the only marks I hold against him are for taking a film with the potential to go so wrong given the generally uninteresting script. Hanks looks fantastic and he just gives a very subtle and real performance like he does best. Sarita Choudhury is very good. She has a certain mysterious quality to her and her and Hanks have very good chemistry. Alexander Black in a wonderful in the comedic sidekick role (I could have watched a whole film with Black and Hanks together), Tracey Fairaway, Ben Whishaw, David Menkin,  and Christy Meyer although they really don't get much screen time and their characters are strictly there for Hanks' development. On the whole, 'A Hologram for the King' is a disappointing affair which despite the presence of Tom Hanks doesn't work due to its uninspired screenplay & unhinged direction.