Sorry - due to a number of converging deadlines, the poor blog has been left unattended for longer than it should have been. Rest assured that I've been writing posts in my head; they just haven't made it to the page!
I'm so far behind that I'm going to break this into two posts. Today, I'll touch on two films that I've seen recently that are well worth seeking out and in a day or two, I'll catch you up on some biopics/documentaries.
Kubo and the Two Strings, which you are going to seek out immediately. Kubo comes from the fine folk at Laika, a studio dedicated to producing fine stop-motion animation. Since this particular form of animation is so incredibly time-consuming, Laika has produced only a handful of films in its ten-year existence - Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and now Kubo. While all the films have had their high points, in Kubo, everything comes together. The animation is first-rate and the story - well. Kubo's tale begins, "If you must blink - do it now." It's a story about stories - those we tell others, those we tell ourselves, and those we create to explain things. Featuring Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, and Matthew McConaughey, Kubo is an astonishing film and certainly the highlight of my summer.
Skip Suicide Squad, which can't figure out which of half a dozen stories it wants to tell, and seek out this absolute gem about family, loss, and the power of tales.
Tom Hanks is a movie star. There's no doubt about that - attaching his name to a project carries a certain cachet and his projects tend to be box office gold. A Hologram for the King is an anomaly, for it's a teensy independent film that you're going to have to dig a little to find (let me help with that - check your local library!) Hologram is worth seeking out just to see the outline of what could have been a fantastic film. Based on a Dave Eggers novel, Hologram tells the story of Alan Clay, a down-on-his-luck salesman who is barely a step above Arthur Miller's Willy Loman. Things aren't going well for Alan - his marriage is dissolving, his career is floundering, leading his daughter to take a semester off from college until her tuition can be worked out, and everything is riding on this sale of high-tech to the Saudi king, who is in no hurry at all to meet with him and his team, who are stuck in a drafty tent in the desert just waiting. And waiting. And waiting. This fish-out-of-water tale is not without its flaws, but it has a certain charm, as well. This is due in part to Hanks' own abilities as an actor, but also to those in smaller roles, such as Alexander Black as Yousef, a free-lance cab driver who shows Alan the topsy-turviness of Saudi society, which boasts lavish wealth along with a regime so repressive women are not allowed to drive and are subject to intense social backlash just for being in a room alone with a man. Outstanding in portraying the down-the-rabbit-hole situations that leads to is Sarita Choudhury as Zahra, a Saudi doctor who shares some of the sorrowful circumstances enveloping Alan. Neither of these are Saudi actors, which seems to be a shame. Then again - it is a repressive regime. This is a quiet film, which might explain its lack of box office appeal. American audiences often don't like "quiet" much. Give it a try, won't you?