Monday, May 23, 2016

Second trailer for Justin Lin's 'Star Trek Beyond' astonishes fans

It's safe to say that Star Trek Beyond did not get off on the right foot with fans. When the first trailer for the third installment in the rebooted series debuted in December, there was an immediate outcry from Trekkies and even casual fans. Set to "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys, the action-heavy teaser trailer seemed to eschew traditional Trek material in favor of a Fast and Furious vibe, made worse by the fact that Beyond director Justin Lin is a long-time player in that franchise. Many wrote off the film right away, especially after a large segment of the fans were alienated by J.J. Abrams' previous efforts in the new franchise (notably 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, which at one point, was voted as the worst Star Trek film). For some reason, Paramount waited six months to do damage control, and after allowing the awful teaser to play in front of countless films, the studio is finally releasing the full trailer for Justin Lin's film. The trailer for Beyond debuted at a Star Trek fan event to a rather strong reaction. Check it out below!

I've always been a Star Wars fan. Just like Abrams, I never really watched Star Trek as a kid, and even now, I struggle to get hooked on the old series. However, when Star Trek came out in 2009, I thought it was a blast. I really loved that movie and couldn't wait for a sequel. When Star Trek Into Darkness dropped, I was initially disappointed, but later came to appreciate the pure spectacle and character work that flows throughout that movie. I've been cautiously excited for Star Trek Beyond, but by no means was I sold. After this trailer, I'm feeling slightly better. This looks like the mix of sci-fi action, character drama, and comic relief that this franchise thrives on, and with Lin's eye for action, this could ultimately be one of the most beautiful entries into the Trek series. The plot still seems heavily guarded, which gives me some pause, but with Simon Pegg on screenplay duty, I must say that my faith is pretty high. All in all, this trailer was a huge bounceback. I'm still worried about the film's box office potential, but as long as Star Trek Beyond delivers, I'm all in.

Star Trek Beyond stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, and Sofia Boutella, and will hit theaters on July 22.

Image Credits: Screen Rant

'Money Monster' review

At this moment, the political climate of the United States is extremely contentious. There is enormous anger on both sides, fueled by a hatred of the system and the unshakable feeling that we're all getting screwed over. It's the reason why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are doing so well in the election season. While the two candidates take very different approaches, the basic message is similar. Trump's rhetoric rallies around a dislike for political correctness and the Republican establishment, a message that has allowed him to become the GOP nominee. Bernie's language is calmer, but he has built his candidacy on the idea that the average American has been destroyed by the financial system and the rabid corruption of Wall Street. Trump's message has had a wider impact that could very well win him the Presidency, but Sanders' Rage Against the 1% platform is deeply felt in our modern culture. Ever since the 2008 crash, there has been a lot of distrust for the people at the forefront of the American financial markets.

This can be reflected in the release of films like The Big Short, and now, Money Monster. Jodie Foster's drama about a Wall Street guru (George Clooney) and the disgruntled investor (Jack O'Connell) who takes him hostage taps into a lot of the fury and rage that is so pervasive in today's world. In between the tense standoffs and the shootouts, there is a lot of topical content at the heart of this movie. Money Monster is very angry at the financial system, and there are some points throughout the movie where it feels like the characters are speaking directly from the perspective of the screenwriters who are certainly mad as hell.

Unfortunately, Money Monster is an incredibly difficult film to pull off. And despite a game effort from a talented group of people, director Jodie Foster's falls just short of the lofty mark. Walking a strange tightrope between absurd comedy and high-stakes drama, Money Monster emerges with a tonal clash of satirical strangeness. In a better film, as the stakes elevate and the consequences pile up, the tension would raise and the craziness would amount to something overwhelmingly terrific. In Foster's film, the story progresses in a way where the craziness rises, but in a way that totally sucks the air out of the tonal intensity. What amounts is a mostly fun thriller filled with a whole lot of unfulfilled potential.

Money Monster takes place mostly in real time, focusing on the life of financial TV guru Lee Gates (George Clooney), which is evidently based on Mad Money host Jim Cramer. The day before the taping of Gates' latest show, the stock for IBIS (a tech firm that Gates was overly fond of) crashed, sending Wall Street into a total panic. Gates had previously called IBIS stock "safer than a savings account," and unfortunately, Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) listened to that advice. The down-on-his-luck delivery guy put a $60K windfall into IBIS, and when it crashed, he lost everything and potentially destroyed his life. Kyle blames Lee Gates, and because of his deep anger against the system, he makes a life-changing decision.

Kyle decides to break into the set of Money Monster (the name of Gates' show) with a gun, hold Lee hostage, and demand answers for what happened in the crash. Lee is strapped with a bomb, further complicating the situation. The hostage crisis gains national attention, while Lee's producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), attempts to keep Lee alive from inside the studio. But despite his initial bewilderment and hesitation, Lee eventually comes around to Kyle's complaints and begins asking questions of his own, pressing IBIS heads to find out what went wrong. The answer lies deep under a web of lies and deception, and the truth may ultimately not be what it seems.

There was a point in the production of Money Monster where the filmmakers sat down and fought over what this movie should be. One side argued that the film needed to be a grim, intense drama, told with edge-of-your-seat ferocity. The other side disagreed, proposing the idea that it needed to be a preposterous, over-the-top financial satire. Those two sides never came to an agreement, instead settling for something in between the two. This is the fundamental problem with Money Monster, and it's ultimately what keeps it from ever completely working. Network and Dog Day Afternoon (the film's clear influences) both had undercurrents of satirical comedy, but those humorous inclinations never dominated the movie. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Money Monster.

If you've ever listened to a conspiracy theory-obsessed friend ramble on about how the government was involved with some tragedy or happened to come across a Twitter account all about crazy occurrences in history, Money Monster sorta creates the same sensation. It goes into some truly ludicrous directions, and its plot is a series of events that could never happen in a fully realistic world. It almost plays like wish fulfillment for conspiracy theorists, as the movie delves into its deep and twisted webs where the financial leaders are actually mustache-twirling villains. In that way, it's a movie for our very angry times. It's crazy, it's strange, and often, it is literally laugh-out-loud funny.

However, mixing these nonsensical plot devices with the nail-biting action setpieces probably wasn't the best move on the part of the filmmakers. We're left with a movie that is just kinda entertaining. It isn't as deep as it wants to be, isn't as sharp as it aspires to be, and not nearly as thrilling as it should be. It ends up just being a light diversion, a pleasantly fun action movie with some old-fashioned star power. This in and of itself is not a disappointment. We need these kinds of movies in the current Hollywood marketplace. Unfortunately, with the talent involved, the virulent, topical subject material, and the flashes of satirical and dramatic brilliance, Money Monster's status as a warmly enjoyable film feels like a letdown.

Foster has flashes of directorial control, highlighted by sequences of gripping intensity. Her skills matched up with the terrific cast is mostly what keeps this movie afloat. George Clooney is in prime form as Lee Gates, the charismatic and lonely stock expert. This is mostly material in Clooney's wheelhouse, but it never manages to feel stale or uninteresting. Julia Roberts isn't working with a whole lot as Patty, a character that rather thinly drawn, and yet, she manages to always convey just the right amount of feverish anxiety. Jack O'Connell has the showiest performance, screaming and shouting his way through the wild ramblings of Kyle Budwell. It alternates between shrill and show-stopping, occasionally finding the happy medium. O'Connell is an actor with a lot of skill and raw power, but I think he's still searching for that great mainstream role that caters to his specific talents.

Money Monster never delivers on the promise of a slam dunk thriller, instead settling for something a little more light and fluffy. Hell, they even play a rap song over the end credits. This definitely isn't Dog Day Afternoon. Coming in with those expectations and witnessing something that aims for a much lower bar is undoubtedly disappointing. But coming in at a compact and quick 98 minutes, Money Monster is fun and efficient, loopy and diverting without ever piercing the cold heart of the financial sector. Clooney, Roberts, and O'Connell make for a periodically terrific trio, and Foster's direction is often razor sharp. I came in hoping for something more precise, focused, and engaging, but in the end, I got a highly entertaining movie without much staying power. Make of that what you will.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.7/10)

Image Credits: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Guardian, Variety, Joblo

Thursday, May 19, 2016

First trailer for Ben Affleck's 'The Accountant' previews intriguing thriller

When Ben Affleck was first cast as Batman in Warner Bros.' newly minted DC Cinematic Universe back in 2013, my reaction was one of anger. But I wasn't angry for the same reason that most fans were. Comic book fans didn't believe that Affleck had the right skill set to play Bruce Wayne, and there was a resounding cry when his casting was announced. Meanwhile, I was let down because I knew that it meant that we would be getting fewer Ben Affleck movies for the next few years. In August 2013, Affleck's next project was set to be an adaptation of Dennis Lehane's Live by Night, one of the most captivating crime novels I've ever read. There were a few other projects on his radar, and after the Oscar-winning success of Argo, Affleck's career had seemed to be on the right track. And frankly, a trip back to the land of blockbusters and superheroes seemed like an awful idea.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice landed with a booming thud earlier this year, putting added pressure on Warner Bros. to make their franchise better. Affleck is taking a leading role in the DCCU, putting his non-comic book projects in jeopardy. However, the multi-hyphenate has still managed to sneak in a few other movies in between Batman entries. Live by Night will finally hit theaters on October 20, 2017, but first, Affleck will star in Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant. The first trailer for the thriller hit the web last week, check it out below!

This looks like one wild ride. It's an incredibly well-cut trailer, one measured on precision and an intensity that consistently builds throughout the brief clip. And plus- the premise itself is inherently interesting. Affleck appears to play a mathematical and technological savant of some sorts, who also happens to be an assassin with brutal skills. That's a unique and fascinating concept, and I can see it translating really well to the big screen. The supporting cast is phenomenal as well, with J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Lithgow leading the way. Overall, The Accountant looks like a razor sharp thriller, and one that could be a major Oscar player if it connects in the right way.

The Accountant is directed by Gavin O'Connor and will debut on October 14, 2016.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lupita Nyong'o and Michael B. Jordan join Marvel's 'Black Panther'

My review of Captain America: Civil War is coming in just a little bit (spoiler alert- I loved it), but it's safe to say that one of the highlights of the film was Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther. The mysterious and intensely focused Wakandan hero had some spectacular action scenes and an enigmatic energy that was felt during each moment on screen. Marvel fans had been dying to see Black Panther on the big screen, and thanks to the Russo Brothers, the character became a show-stopper. In less than two years, the Wakandan Prince will be getting a solo movie of his own. Creed superstar Ryan Coogler is already on board to direct, and for many, this is one of the most anticipated movies of Marvel's epic, sprawling Phase 3. And after two casting additions last week, it's looking like Black Panther could be one of the most intriguing superhero movies in recent memory.

According to sources at Variety, 12 Years A Slave Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o is in talks to join Black Panther as T'Challa's love interest. This would continue Nyong'o's successful relationship with Disney as the acclaimed actress has also appeared in The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will appear in Queen of Katwe and Intelligent Life under the studio's banner. Later in the week, The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed that Creed star Michael B. Jordan is also in talks to join the film for what could be a potentially villainous role. Jordan previously starred in Fox's Fantastic Four, but this would be his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I've already been rather excited for Black Panther, and the casting of two of the best young actors today only increases my anticipation. Jordan should have received an Oscar nomination for his role in Creed, and Nyong'o brings such an intense passion and complexity to her roles. Marvel doesn't have a great track record with love interests, but in my mind, Nyong'o could do something special in this film. And if Jordan is the villain, I have no doubt that he'll be magnificent. With such a plethora of talent in front of and behind the camera, I'm starting to think that this could be one of Marvel's best films.

Black Panther debuts on February 16, 2018.

Image Credits: Forbes, Joblo

Sunday, May 15, 2016

'Green Room' review

Green Room is vicious. I can't think of any other word that describes this movie better than that. From start to finish, Jeremy Saulnier's horror thriller is gruesome, grisly, and a hell of a good time. If you can stomach the violence, you're in for a treat. Staged as a battle royale between Neo-Nazis and punk rockers, Green Room is one of the most shockingly entertaining films of the year so far. Appalling in its treatment of horrendous violence and electrifying in its constant suspense, this is a movie that will push you beyond your limits and then some. It's pulpy, it's nasty, and it's gory enough to make you cringe. But you won't look away. Created masterfully by Saulnier, Green Room is a movie that fits together almost perfectly, facilitating an atmosphere of dread before pummeling you with another act of hideous carnage. And frankly, it's the kind of film that we don't see enough of anymore. As visceral film experiences go, Green Room is up near the top of the list.

The Ain't Rights are out of luck. The punk band, comprised of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat), and Tiger (Callum Turner), is almost completely broke, living in their van and siphoning gas out of cars. They take a couple of lackluster gigs and do an interview with college journalist Tad (David W. Thompson), but they need something more. To wrap up their tour and make their way back home, The Ain't Rights will need one final performance. With the help of Tad, the band signs up to perform at a Neo-Nazi club run by some very strange white supremacists. It's an unfriendly arena, but it pays a nice fee. Even though they piss off the customers at times, it's a successful show and The Ain't Rights walk away with what they wanted.

But it turns out that they might end getting a little more than they bargained for. After the show, Pat walks into the green room and finds a dead body. Yup, this is no longer just a slightly sketchy racist bar- this is a crime scene. The leaders of the club (Macon Blair, Eric Edelstein) try to keep the band contained in order to control the situation, but things go south rather quickly. After a few nasty and tense standoffs, the club's menacing manager, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), is called in to take care of the band. With only a few makeshift weapons, The Ain't Rights will have to fight their way out of the club, facing down a terrifying army of Darcy's most fearsome men. It's safe to say that it won't end well.

Coming in at 95 minutes, Green Room is an incredibly economical film. This is a movie that is exceptionally quick and frighteningly efficient. But that doesn't diminish its impact one bit. Green Room is one of those movies that feels like a punch in the face. From the first burst of shocking violence that pops vividly onto the screen, this movie will have you in its grasp and it will never let you go. It's a film of great passion and violence, dominated by actors who maintain that level of steely intensity for the entire runtime. It's a roller-coaster ride that will have your head spinning, thrusting you back against your seat. And it might just make you grip the armrests a little bit tighter. Green Room is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and just utterly insane.

But Green Room isn't a great film because of its unpredictability or because of the disturbing impact of the violence. No, this is a phenomenal film because it's coming from a director who has a superb control of tension and mood, a director who is extremely comfortable in this genre. I haven't seen Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin, but after seeing this film, it's definitely on my must-watch list. Saulnier is a very precise filmmaker, and every scene in Green Room conveys a mood and evokes a specific feeling or emotion. You feel the desperation of the band at the beginning of the film. You see the panic as things go south at the club. You shake as these unprepared kids go up against a full-blown army. It takes a special filmmaker to create that consistent level of intimacy, and the hard-hitting authenticity of Saulnier's vision is on full display throughout Green Room.

Green Room is firmly based in a graphic reality that is often difficult to stomach, yet at the same time, it's an incredibly flashy and unhinged grindhouse film. Saulnier is terrific at inducing a mood of anxiety and vigor, but he also excels at blending beautifully strange genre elements with his exceptional filmmaking craft. I think it's safe that say that I've never seen a film quite like Green Room before. Sure, there have been plenty of other siege thrillers and backwoods horror movies, but nothing that quite strikes this specific tone. Mixing the thrills of an absorbing action flick with the gory sensibilities of a horror film and the setting of a chamber piece, Green Room is a gritty, colorful, and utterly riveting genre clash.

Saulnier's vision is elevated by a phenomenal cast of actors who fit their roles perfectly. This is even more impressive considering that we know so very little about each of the characters, as Saulnier gives a limited amount of background info in regards to the personalities of the actors. The lack of exposition gives the cast free reign to explore these characters and create their own distinct flavor, which works wonders. If there's a lead in the film, it's Anton Yelchin, who plays the reluctant head of the band. Yelchin conveys Pat's absolute terror at every turn, but as the movie goes on, there's an assertive anger that turns him into one of the movie's most dynamic characters. The rest of the band is rounded out with strong performances from Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, and Callum Turner. Their arcs are slightly more limited, but they all have great chemistry, which works wonders for the film.

On the Nazi side of things, Patrick Stewart is the obvious standout performance. His turn in Green Room was the big marketing pitch for this movie, and thankfully, the iconic British actor doesn't disappoint. Stewart's Darcy might not quite be the villain that you're expecting- he never kills anyone on screen or commits any horrendous acts of violence. Instead, Darcy hangs in the shadows. He manipulates and executes, commanding his troops around like a general. His calm demeanor and laser focus is chilling, and that's what makes it work. Another standout among the ranks of Darcy's men is Gabe, played by Macon Blair, who previously starred in Blue Ruin. Blair was unknown to me before this movie, but it was his performance that stuck. There's so much haunting conflict in his eyes, and his character becomes one of the most compelling in the film.

Finally, Green Room is just a fantastic-looking and sounding movie. As blood-soaked as it is, this flick is just an astonishingly beautiful audio/visual experience. Sean Porter's cinematography is so splashy and rich, contrasting the abrasive tone with a strong sense of visual energy. Porter accurately nails down the desolation of the venue, the grungy, sticky grime that pulsates through the walls. By the end of Green Room, I felt like I had just spent 95 minutes in that distinct, striking location. That's a feat that very few films pull off. The sound design in this movie is also astounding, mixing a constantly vibrating punk music vibe with the creeping sense of dread that permeates through every frame. This film is simply a vision.

2016 is already growing into one of the most impressive years for genre pictures in recent memory, and Green Room is another rollicking masterpiece to add to the growing list. It won't be for all tastes, but film fans will be appreciating this depraved, diabolically entertaining piece of cinema for ages. I walked out of Green Room with the feeling that I just been punched in the gut and smashed over the head with a sledgehammer of brutal, bloody force. I stumbled out of the theater in a complete daze. In less metaphorical terms, I felt energized by Saulnier's captivating vision of horror. It's an awe-inspiring ride that is simply unforgettable.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                              (9.2/10)

Image Credits: Deadline, Rolling Stone, Indiewire, Guardian, Joblo

Saturday, May 14, 2016

'Assassin's Creed' trailer teases Fox's major video game adaptation

I feel like I've written this intro before, and without a doubt in my mind, I'm sure that I'll write it again. For many video game fans, 2016 is supposed to be the year where their favorite properties translate to success on the big screen. Fans have been putting their chips on 2016 for years. While we already saw the failure of Ratchet & Clank, the first true test of the video game brand arrives on June 10th, when Duncan Jones' Warcraft smashes into theaters. The big-budget adaptation of popular PC game World of Warcraft comes with a lofty price ($100 million +) and high expectations, and so far, it's not looking great. The trailers have been mediocre, and Box Office Pro is currently projecting the film for a total gross of $78 million. It could break out, but in the case that it falls flat at the box office and with critics, video game fans will turn to another movie- Assassin's Creed. Directed by Macbeth's Justin Kurzel, the adaptation of the popular video game series is bolstered by a prime Christmas release date and a solid cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and more. The first trailer for the film debuted earlier this week, check it out below.

This is a very strange trailer for what looks to be a very strange movie. And despite some poor choices by the studio, I kinda dug it. First, let's get the obvious out of the way- scoring this trailer with Kanye West's "I Am A God" was probably not the best choice. Juxtaposing Kanye with The Spanish Inquisition was a move that turned off a lot of people, which is understandable. However, when you move past the music, this is actually a pretty cool preview of this film. The blend of adventure with science fiction is really fascinating, giving Assassin's Creed a unique quality in the modern blockbuster climate. In addition to that, this is just a spectacular-looking film. The visuals appear to be stunning, the stuntwork looks eye-popping, and with esteemed actors like Fassbender and Cotillard, I truly believe that this could end up being a great film. I wasn't initially a huge fan of the trailer, but I'm starting to really warm up to what this movie could be.

Assassin's Creed stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Callum Turner, Michael K. Williams, Brian Gleeson, Ariane Labed, and Matias Varela. The film will debut on December 21.

Image Credits: Joblo

'A Hologram for the King' review

Did you know that a new Tom Hanks movie debuted in theaters a few weeks ago?

Yeah, I didn't think so. When Tom Hanks stars in a movie, people usually notice. For some reason, A Hologram for the King got lost in the shuffle. Premiering in 401 theaters with a limited marketing campaign, the latest film from Tom Tykwer feels like a movie that Roadside Attractions just wanted to push under the rug. Which is unfortunate, because A Hologram for the King is a pleasant, expertly crafted film that works in nearly every way. It's not one of Hanks' most impressive films nor is it one of his most ambitious, but with a light, easy-going tone, and a captivating performance from Tom Hanks, this low-key character drama is a film that could surprise some viewers looking for a nice slice of counter-programming in this action-packed summer.

At this point in his life, Alan Clay (Hanks) has failed. He's divorced, losing credibility at work, and slowly finding himself without the modern furnishings that he's come to expect. Searching for a change of pace, Alan heads to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to propose a holographic meeting system to the King. Alone and confused in this strange new land, Alan meets a few people who change his life. First, there's Yousef (Alexander Black), the funny and charming cab driver who becomes his best friend. And secondly, there's Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), a Saudi doctor that treats a bizarre wound on Alan's back. Throughout his time in Saudi Arabia, Alan will find a way to becoming a better person and discover the beauty of change in his life.

Judging by that synopsis, you'd probably think that not much happens in A Hologram for the King. And you'd be right. Tom Tykwer's film never really sticks to one plot or focuses enough to tell a complicated story. It just meanders through the desert oasis, while creating enough interesting scenarios to keep the audience hooked. If there is a glaring issue with A Hologram for the King, it's the pacing and the focus. The narrative can be a bit all over the place during the course of the movie, and it seems like on the story front, Tykwer never really knew what he wanted to tell. One moment it's focused on the sale of the hologram, and the next, it flips into a totally different area. There are times where the movie just seems lost in its own world.

But at the same time, even without a really strong focus, A Hologram for the King flows beautifully. By choosing to eschew a carefully calibrated story, Tykwer (who wrote the screenplay as well) is able to create a free-flowing atmosphere that allows us to really get to know the character of Alan Clay. Despite the often drifting nature of the film, A Hologram for the King is a constantly lovable, diverting film. Tykwer is terrific at creating mood and tone, and the spiritual, lighthearted sentiment that runs through this film is soothing and entertaining. There isn't a boring moment in the film, and even though the material is relatively routine on the surface, Tykwer blends in enough directorial energy and panache to make A Hologram for the King feel fresh and delightful.

There's no getting around it though- without Tom Hanks, this movie doesn't work. Undoubtedly one of the most talented actors on the planet and one of my personal favorites, Hanks injects magic into even the most basic of roles. On the surface, Alan Clay isn't a super compelling character. He's a checklist of things that we've seen in movies like this before. He's lost direction, he's searching for something new, he finds new life in a new land, etc.- it's not overly fresh material. Some of Tykwer and novelist Dave Eggers' symbolism is a little on the nose, and in the hands of another actor, the overt nature of the material may have consumed the movie and suffocated it, preventing it from ever growing into anything.

With Hanks, that is never the case. From start to finish, A Hologram for the King is his movie and it's his amiable, good-humored performance that holds everything together. Hanks carries every scene of the film, giving a sympathetic charm to Alan that works magnificently. It isn't on the level of his iconic performances, but this is a purely character-based film, and Hanks is able to exploit that to his advantage. By the end of A Hologram for the King, I cared deeply about Alan and his decisions, and after the serio-comic adventures of the film, it was refreshing to watch it reach a simple and happy conclusion. When you buy a ticket for this film, you're buying a ticket to see Hanks at his subtle best- and in that way, you won't be disappointed.

Beyond the terrific central performance of Hanks lies a supporting cast that often adds a fun and fascinating element to the movie. Alexander Black is tremendously funny as Yousef, standing toe-to-toe with Hanks and stealing each scene he's in. Black has very limited acting experience, but if his role in this film is any indication, we're going to be seeing him for a long time. Sarita Choudhury appears more in the final act of the film, but she's terrifically subdued, and her chemistry with Hanks is palpable. There's also one scene where Tom Skerritt shows up. I can't really tell you why he's in the movie, but he is.

A Hologram for the King is good cinematic comfort food. It isn't an overly ambitious drama, nor is it a film with incredibly weighty themes on its mind. Instead, it's a well-made, exceptionally acted film completely centered around its star performance- something that is all too rare in our modern cinematic landscape. I walked in with little to no expectations at all, and I walked out feeling a little bit better about the world. Very few people will see A Hologram for the King, and it won't have a real lasting impact on Hanks' career, but this sweet little film pays a nice emotional dividend and works as a solid slice of character-driven entertainment.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.6/10)

Image Credits: Indiewire, Variety, Yahoo, Joblo