A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING. The Tom Hanks of bygone days, of The Money Pit (1986) and Dragnet (1987) and The 'Burbs (1989), the long-suffering everyman with impeccable comic timing and no luck whatsoever, is a Hanks we likely will not see again. That Hanks existed in a specific point in cultural and commercial time. The movies he enlivened back then probably wouldn't make it to production today without the addition of a spring break backdrop or a kooky "grown-ups getting high" riff. But as his formidable career has progressed, particularly in the last decade, he has chosen some Very Mature projects. One can't fault the guy for aging on screen, for growing up, really, but some of the later-period work has felt so pointedly of a certain age as to be distancing — often too general and broad, too intentionally emotionally adult, to feel authentic or immediate, such as Larry Crowne (2011) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011). But he's also taken on tougher stuff, like the nerve-janglingly honest Captain Phillips (2013) and the ... difficult to describe Cloud Atlas (2012). So clearly Hanks hasn't decided to stop challenging himself as an artist. It seems he's been trying to say something real and relatable, maybe even personal (he is a Baby Boomer from Concord, after all).
So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised to find A Hologram for the King surprising. Hanks is re-teaming with Cloud Atlas co-director Tom Tykwer — he of Run Lola Run (1998) — so there was already the promise of thematic weirdness and visual flourishes. And the story concerns a divorced corporate shill with one last chance at salvaging his career, which dovetails nicely with much of Hanks' recent work. Maybe it's the weirdness balancing the candor as well as it does, opening the movie to vulnerability and legitimate emotional maturity, that took me by surprise.
Alan Clay (Hanks), on the rough side of an economic downturn and a nasty divorce, finds himself on a flight to Saudi Arabia with all his hopes pinned to a pitch. A former executive haunted by his decision to outsource his company's production to China, unable to pay the college tuition he has promised his daughter, burdened by a cyst growing on his back, Clay has a lot on his mind. Almost by accident, he lands a job selling IT to the king of Saudi Arabia for a city that hasn't yet been built. Ill-prepared for the cultural and professional atmosphere of the kingdom, Clay finds the job more daunting than expected. Aided by his alluring but troubled doctor (Sarita Choudhury) and a goofy driver (Alexander Black), Clay navigates potential physical and emotional collapse while spinning the plates of international business.
A Hologram for the King is satisfying and effective largely because it is so unassuming. It would easy for the characters to get lost in a vast narrative set against such a tremendous backdrop, but Hanks and Tykwer (who adapted the screenplay from Dave Eggers' novel) don't let that happen. Instead, the movie is alive and intimate; Clay's problems feel real, and all the less manageable for it. Too often we conflate maturity with oldness, when really we are talking about wisdom and emotional intelligence. A Hologram for the King is mature in a good and substantive way. R. 97m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
MONEY MONSTER. The trailers for Jodie Foster's latest directorial effort cast it as an indictment of Wall Street, and on some level it is. But it is also a much smaller thing: almost a thriller, with heart and immediacy upheld by strong performances.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosts a cartoonish, wildly popular stock tip show on a 24-hour cable news network. On the eve of his director Patty Fenn's (Julia Roberts) secretive departure to another network, the show is hijacked by an armed man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell). Kyle forces Lee into an explosive vest, alleging that one of Lee's bum stock tips cost him his life savings. As the situation unfolds, we learn that a lot of people lost a lot of money on that tip. The company's CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West) calls it a "glitch," to the tune of $800 million. There is more to the situation than he cares to reveal, though, and as Lee attempts to talk Kyle down, Patty and her team dig for the truth, all on live television.
Obviously this is a takedown of big finance, but it succeeds because it makes the story smaller, starting from the tight focus of one frustrated working man's desperation and gradually pulling back to reveal the greed and machinations that cost him everything. Money Monster, while perhaps putting a too-shiny bow on things in the end, refuses to back down from some tough moments. R. 98m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE. From your iPhone to the big screen, grumpy animated fowl hurl themselves at interloping pigs. Voiced by Jason Sudeikis and Maya Rudolph. PG. 97m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY. True story of an Indian mathematician (Dev Patel) and his British Cambridge mentor (Jeremy Irons). R. 97m. BROADWAY.
THE NICE GUYS. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are up to their polyester-clad elbows in conspiracies and porno mustaches in a 1970s gumshoe buddy comedy set in Los Angeles. R. 116m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING. Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen return as a couple plagued by the partiers next door, this time a sorority house. With Chloe Grace Moretz and Zac Efron. R. 92m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. The Avengers assemble and rumble in a well-made, satisfying action movie that handles tricky politics and gives promising starts for new characters. PG13. 147m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE DARKNESS. A family visits the Grand Canyon and all they get is this ancient evil haunting them and leaving creepy handprints everywhere. With Kevin Bacon. PG13. 92m. BROADWAY.
THE JUNGLE BOOK. The Kipling story returns to inspire real childhood wonder with seamless CGI, believable animal characters and grand adventure. PG. 106m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
MOTHER'S DAY. Chicken soup for the multi-generational-ensemble-comedy soul. With Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston. PG13. 118m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
ZOOTOPIA. An animated animal take on the buddy movie with Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba. PG. 108m. BROADWAY.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill