A Hologram for the King

Friday night is family movie night in our household, not that that’s the only night of the week we watch movies, we often watch movies on Saturday night too, but well we don’t have a name for that, and that’s ok, because… well the laws of logic get a bit loose when you have kids.

Anyway, this past Friday, we watched ‘A Hologram for the King‘, starring Tom Hanks. It was movie of the week on iTunes, rentable for just $0.99, the trailer looked interesting, and I had heard some good things about it, so we went for it.

The movie is about a washed-up corporate salesman, who looks to change his luck by traveling to Saudi Arabia to try and sell his company’s holographic teleconferencing product to the King.

It was a light, nice comedic movie. Not Hanks’ best by far, but was still fun to watch, and gave us some good laughs here and there.

Most of all, I was really impressed by the co-star of the movie, American actor Alexander Black, who plays the role of Yousef, a Saudi chauffeur who befriends and drives Tom’s character around in the movie. He was really funny and truly nailed the Arabic language dialogue parts; even doing the Saudi dialect better than some of the non-Saudi native Arabic speakers in the movie.

Usually, all Arabic dialogue in movies and TV shows is very bad and extremely cringe-worthy, sometimes even when they have native speakers in them, where they just butcher the language and the dialects they’re trying to use, so this was definitely a pleasant surprise. Lots of respect to Alexander Black!

There was a romance portrayed between Alan (Hanks’ character) and Zahra, his saudi doctor (played by Sarita Choudhury), and even though I get the idea of introducing an element like this in the movie, it just felt a bit rushed, and wasn’t developed enough, considering the characters and the context.
Given the story unfolds in Saudi Arabia, it would have been a lot more complicated for Alan to meet Zahra the first time, let alone keep easily meeting her on several other occasions, and starting a relationship with her.

The movie was based off a Dave Eggers novel, so I just might throw that onto my to-read list, to check out soon, and see how the events play out in the book, hopefully in a bit more detail.

It was also good seeing Tunisian actor Dhaffer L’Abidine make an appearance in this movie, even if for a small and secondary role.

Overall, I’d say it was a good movie, and worth watching if you’re looking for something light and fun.

Michael Moore Plans Free Net-Only Film Premiere

Slacker UprisingWith the US Election only weeks away now, Michael Moore has chosen the right time to release his new documentary titled “Slacker Uprising“.

His plans are to premiere it exclusively on the internet for free, on September 23rd, hosted on Blip.TV.
This will be followed by a DVD which will be available through Amazon.com and Netflix on October 7th.

The movie documents Moore’s 62-city tour through swing states during the 2004 U.S. presidential election to rally young voters.

Moore hopes “Slacker Uprising” will help spur young people to vote this November. After more than 20 million 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots in 2004 (an 11 percent increase from 2000), he’s hoping even greater numbers of “slackers” vote this year.

Moore said “Slacker Uprising” cost about $2 million to make and that he will end up paying about $1 million out of his pocket. Neither he nor the distributor, Brave New Films, plans to profit from the release.

To receive the download, people can sign up at SlackerUprising.com.

The trailer can be viewed on YouTube here: Slacker Uprising Trailer.

Abu Dhabi Media Company Sets Eyes On Hollywood

Interesting news from the Abu Dhabi Media Company today…

Abu Dhabi Media Company today announced the formation of a new company that will develop, finance and produce content for both the global and Arabic language markets. Imagenation Abu Dhabi, a wholly owned subsidiary, intends to spend in excess of US$1 billion over the course of the next five years in the creation of both full length feature films and digital content.

From its base in Abu Dhabi, Imagenation Abu Dhabi will enter into partnerships with high-profile US-based and other international producers to develop and produce content for distribution throughout the world. The company’s remit also extends to supporting Middle East filmmakers and Arabian film production.


Edward Borgerding, CEO of Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Media Company, said: “With Imagenation Abu Dhabi, we are bringing Hollywood and the international production community to Arabia. Our aim is to make award-winning films which are commercially successful and appeal to audiences across the world.

“Our target output of eight films every year will make imagenation abu dhabi one of the world’s top producers of feature films and establish Abu Dhabi as a leading centre for content creation,” said Borgerding.

[Source: BI-ME]

Hopefully the movies they’ll be producing will indirectly help pass on a more positive image about Arabs and Muslims, and break the negative stereotypes we see in hollywood movies these days.

Caramel (Sukkar Banat)

A few days ago we watched Caramel (Sukkar Banat), a Lebanese movie directed by Nadine Labaki.

I heard a lot about the movie and read many reviews of it on several blogs, and had wanted to check it out for months before I got the chance to.

The title Caramel refers to an epilation method used in the Middle East that consists of heating sugar, water and lemon juice.

The movie is a romantic comedy that revolves around the intersecting lives of five Lebanese women. Layale works in a beauty salon in Beirut along with two other women, Nisrine and Rima. Each one has a problem: Layale is stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man; Nisrine is no longer a virgin but is set to be married to a Muslim; Rima is attracted to women; Jamale, a regular customer and wannabe actress, is worried about getting old; Rose, a tailor with a shop next to the salon, is an old woman who had devoted her life to taking care of her mentally unbalanced older sister Lili, but has found her first love.

The film doesn’t refer to any of the political problems or recent warfare that has troubled Lebanon. Rather, Labaki’s tale paints everyday people with everyday problems.

I have to confirm the reviews; I really enjoyed this movie and think it’s a great effort from Nadine Labaki as her first feature film. I totally recommend it to everyone.

[More: IMDB, Amazon]

The Kite Runner, The Movie

Last night, I got to watch ‘The Kite Runner‘, the movie adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s marvelous novel, directed by Marc Forster.

‘The Kite Runner’ follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted.

Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule.

This is one of the best movie adaptations of a book that I have ever seen, really well done, very nice directing, great acting, very good casting, beautiful soundtrack; everything is really well done.
The book is still even richer and better, of course, and there are bits I think should have been in the movie that aren’t, but overall, a very successful adaptation, and a great movie, truly worth watching.

I totally recommend reading the book and watching the movie; both great works of art, very touching and unforgettable.

You can check my review of the book here.

[More: Amazon, IMDB]

The Great Debaters

The Great Debaters

A few days ago, I got to watch “The Great Debaters“, a movie directed by Denzel Washington, starring himself, Forest Whitaker, and a number of upcoming actors.

The movie is based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

If you’re following me on twitter, you probably already know that I really liked the movie.

The directing and acting are very good, and the story is a really nice one that keeps you engaged throughout it all.
Denzel Washington proves he’s great both in front of and behind the camera, Forest Whitaker is perfect as usual, and all the other actors do very good jobs as well.

I personally think it’s really worth checking out. Overall I think I’d give it a score of:

StarStarStarStarNo Star

[More: IMDB]

Atonement, The Movie

Last night, I got to watch “Atonement“, a movie featuring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, based on the book by Ian McEwan, and directed by Joe Wright.

I read the book a few years ago, and truly enjoyed it a lot, really great book.
Needless to say: the book is a lot better than the movie; but well that’s always the case; still this is a very good movie, worth watching, especially if you’ve read the book.

The movie is nominated for 7 Oscars this year; of which there is a ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’ nomination.

The story follows a 13 year old girl (Briony) who lets her imagination overwhelm her judgment leading to close family ties being irreparably severed, and a promising young man’s (Robbie) prospects being destroyed; as Briony grows up she comes to grasp the reality of what she did and struggles to atone for her acts.

The acting is very good, and so is the soundtrack, the directing and photography, and the way the story is presented and told. There were details and events that were omitted, as usual in movie adaptations of books, but overall it turned out good enough.
One important thing though is that throughout the movie I found myself thinking a number of times how great the book is and that I might just go back and read it again.

So finally, check out the movie, but you definitely have to read the book.
Check my review of the book here.

Olga Kurylenko is New Bond Girl

Olga KurylenkoProduction begins today in London on Bond 22, with Daniel Craig reprising the role of Agent 007.

Ukrainian bombshell Olga Kurylenko will be the Bond girl in this movie, according to a press release issued today by the film studios.

Early reports had actress Gemma Arterton as the new Bond girl, but even though Arterton has a role in the new film it is not as large as Kurylenko’s.

A former model, Kurylenko was most recently seen alongside Timothy Olyphant in last November’s “Hitman.”

The film, which is the 22nd in the series, is due in theaters in November.

French actor Mathieu Amalric will star as the film’s sinister villain Dominic Greene, a leading member of the villainous organization introduced in Casino Royale.

[Source: ReutersGeeks of doom].

Peter Jackson On Board For The Hobbit

Great news came out today that Peter Jackson, director of the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy, will be will taking part in the making of “The Hobbit,” the prequel to the great series, as well as a sequel to it, after settling disputes with New Line Cinema over LOTR residuals.

MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute the two films,


A couple of days ago, I watched “Stardust“, featuring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro and Sienna Miller.

I’d heard about the movie on TV a number of times, but there wasn’t much that pulled me in to see it. But then a friend at work told me he had seen it and that he actually liked it. So when I got the chance to see it, I was like: why not.

It turned out to actually be quite a nice movie, that I enjoyed. It’s sort of a light fairy tale about a young man who makes a promise to his beloved that he’ll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm that lies beyond a wall on the borders of their small village, finding himself on a fantastic journey and adventure with stars, witches, pirates and more.

I really like fantasy movies like this one and “Big Fish” for example, and how they take you on this amazing ride through a wonderful world of magic and imagination.

It was good seeing Michelle Pfeiffer back in action, she was very good in this movie; and Robert De Niro was really funny.

I think it’s a nice movie worth seeing if you’re into the genre. I think I’d give it an overall score of:

StarStarStarStarNo Star

[More: Amazon, IMDB]