Tom Hanks faces recession in comedy-drama film ‘A Hologram for the King’

Award-winning actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks stars in “A Hologram for the King” set in recession-ravaged 2010 as an American businessman named Alan Clay adapted from the book of the same title by acclaimed author Dave Eggers.

Hanks’ role in the movie is a broke, depressed and freshly divorced man who arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to close what he hopes will be the deal of a lifetime. His mission: sell a state-ofthe-art holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government. Adrift and alone in an unfamiliar land, Alan befriends taxi driver Yousef (Alexander Black), who chauffeurs him through the desert to the “King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade,” a surreal ghost town of vacant skyscrapers and half-completed construction projects. Baffled by the bureaucratic reception he gets at the so-called “Welcome Center,” Alan struggles to figure out why his small IT support team is being forced to spend its days in a sweltering tent as it preps for the big presentation. Worse, because of the Saudi way of doing business, he’s unclear if the king will ever show up for the long-scheduled meeting.

Clay arrives in Saudi Arabia without any prior knowledge of the place, other than his own cartoonish, stereotypical concept, according to Hanks. “Though he’s not a happy guy, when Alan tries to sell the upbeat nature of the 3-D hologram and rally his team, he becomes this other guy, the former Alan Clay, a man with energy and vibrancy. That’s where the comedy comes from.”

In addition to emphasizing the book’s humor, Tykwer bolstered the romantic elements as he translated Eggers’ story from page to screen. “The longer I worked on the script, the more profound the love story became because it connects to this whole third-act decision where the movie becomes a more optimistic tale,” Tykwer says. Alan is coaxed out of his funk by Zahra Hakem, an alluring, talented surgeon portrayed by London-born Sarita Choudhury. In her role as CIA Division Chief Saul Berenson’s long-suffering wife Mira on the Emmy-winning series “Homeland,” the half-Indian, half-English actress developed an avid following that included Hanks himself. “I remember seeing Sarita for the first time on ‘Homeland’ and thinking, ‘Alright, I don’t know who she is, but that woman is riveting. I don’t know where she comes from but I can’t take my eyes off her.”

In Hollywood’s finest black-comedy tradition, “A Hologram for the King delivers laughs spiked with bittersweet undertones. “We’ve made a crisis comedy that points the finger at the fact that our economic structure is falling apart and the apocalypse seems to be looming just around the corner,” Tykwer says. “We use comedy as a tool to embrace tragedy like a balloon you stick with a needle so it explodes and the energy that comes out is cheerful. Despite all of Alan’s problems, I hope this movie cheers people up.”

For Hanks, who’s earned iconic status and five Academy Award® nominations by playing regular, good-hearted Americans who triumph overhard luck circumstances, A Hologram for the King is the story of a man who stumbles upon an emotional and spiritual oasis after wandering in the desert. “Why make a movie about a guy where nothing ever works out for him? That might work fantastically as a piece of literature but as far as the cinema goes, the story requires this other thing — for want of a better word, let’s just call it hope.”

“A Hologram for the King” is now playing in cinemas from OctoArts Films International.

Winning the war against zombies in horror film ‘Generation Z’

“Generation Z” (also known as The ReZort in other territories) introduces a new kind of recreation when humans have won the war against zombies. Considered as the ultimate therapeutic revenge, “Generation Z” brings humans face to face with zombies for a shooting spree in an exclusive island to release one’s rage after being deeply damaged by the zombie outbreak years back. Unbeknownst to them, this is a process where humanity is doomed to continuously repeat.

The audience enters a different world in “Generation Z” through Melanie (played by Jessica De Gouw), who is still reeling from her traumatic experience of losing her family during the zombie outbreak. On the verge of anger and revenge, Melanie’s repetitive nightmares haunt her. Desperate to help Melanie overcome her tragic past and save a relationship that’s crumbling under the pressure, Melanie’s boyfriend, Lewis (Martin McCann), books them a trip to the five-star ReZort. But just as Melanie prepares to face her demons, all hell breaks loose when a zombie- rights activist hacks into the park’s security system and uploads a virus which disables all security settings releasing thousands of zombies back into the wild. The ReZort experience just got real. Outnumbered and isolated, Melanie and the few remaining guests at The ReZort must work together to battle their way to safety. And the only way Melanie is going to get out of this alive is to face her worst nightmare head on.

Jessica De Gouw, who plays the protagonist Melanie sums it up as “a hybrid of genres. It is zombie horror in some respects, but it’s also more of an adventure and quest story than zombie films normally are with a very weighty truth about the human condition.” While The ReZort is an ensemble film, the role of Melanie is integral to the film as she is a conduit for the audience into this post-apocalyptic society: “She lost her dad during the war, so she’s on a path of discovery, it’s through her eyes that we go on this journey and navigate this world,” adds De Gouw.

Such a layered role was a difficult one to portray, according to writer Paul Gerstenberger, “Her character is a tricky one to pull off as she’s someone who has a lot of demons and is damaged and broken in a lot of respects. The role required someone to portray that without coming across as simpering”. In rising star DeGouw, Gerstenberger feels they found that quality and more, “In many respects, Jessica as Melanie is a lot stronger than I imagined or hoped she would be.”

“I was a huge fan of Michael Crichton and his tech thrillers, like Jurassic Park and Westworld”, says Gerstenberger. ”So those were some of the influences in writing this. The parallels to both films are clear, in that The ReZort is set in a Safari Park on an island, where an environment is created for entertainment for visitors to interact with unnatural entities, but eventually become overrun by the inhabitants under containment.”

“Generation Z” is a slick and contemporary thrill ride offering a fresh twist on the zombie film genre but first and foremost it is fun and entertaining, made to appeal to a broad audience of film fans: “it has a great sense of escapism and entertainment” explains director Steve Barker. “When I first read the script I was immediately struck by the unique proposition presented by the concept itself. It was a brilliant read and great fun to bring about”.

“Generation Z” will finally open on June 15, 2016 and will be released by Axinite Digicinema.