My View: Ben-Hur (2016) PG-13 A nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), is falsely accused of an assassination attempt by his childhood friend and adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell). After years of being a slave under the Romans, Ben-Hur returns home to seek revenge, but, instead, he finds redemption. The problem is when you remake a big, old-school Hollywood spectacle like Ben-Hur, you have to be bigger, more spectacular than the original, and this movie does the opposite. Other than a dazzling, impressive chariot race, this film feels and look flat, almost subdued. One of the mistakes is when we meet Jesus, we never feel that he is different than other people, except that he is preaching a nonviolence message. We should believe he is the son of God, but I never got that feeling. The water scenes in the 1959 film were much more moving, mostly because we never see Jesus’s face, just the reactions that everyone has when they see him. I was most disappointed in the screenplay because I greatly respect one of the screenwriters, John Ridley, but the storyline is slow moving, and the ending seems to have been written by a ten-year-old. I never thought Charlton Heston was a great actor, but he had a great “movie star” presence and charisma, which Jack Huston doesn’t have. It's not worth paying the extra money to see it in 3-D or IMAX for just the chariot scenes and it wasn't shot in 3-D. While not a bad movie, Ben-Hur (besides the race) is dull and lifeless. Maybe they should call it Ben-Blah. My Rating: Cable Ben-Hur Website
Indiefest: Hell or High Water (2016) R A divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) plan a series of bank robberies to save the family farm from foreclosure. A tough Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingham) are hot on the heels of the bank robbers. One of the best films of the year, mostly due to the outstanding, spot-on performances by the full cast. Writer Taylor Sheridan (who wrote the excellent “Sicario’) and director David Mackenzie have conceived a moving and exciting modern western set in the small towns of West Texas. The characters, even down to the smaller parts, like a grumpy old waitress, are rich and complex. The backbone of this film is the performances by the main cast. Foster and Evans play off each other so well; it makes the idea that they are brothers easy to believe and even easier to understand their relationship and motives. Jeff Bridges is scintillating to watch as he melds into the Texas Ranger who just might be hoping to go out in a flurry of bullets rather than fade away in retirement. This is one film you will not want to miss. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Hell or High Water Website
My View: War Dogs (2016) R Two young men (Jonah Hill, Miles Teller) win a 300 million dollar contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. Let me stress that this is not a comedy, because the TV ads and the trailer make it look like one. Yes, there are comedic bits, but this is a drama about two men whose friendship is threatened when they get in over their heads with a contract they may never fulfill. I like the performances of Teller and especially Jonah Hill, who plays a man so unlikeable you began rooting against him from almost the start of the movie. My problem with this film is it’s too long and takes way too much time to get the story going. The backstory of Teller’s character takes almost the first third of the film, and it makes the film drag, so that by the time the story picks up, you just don’t care what happens. My Rating: Bargain Matinee War Dogs Facebook Page
Family Faire: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) PG A young boy named Kubo, aided by a talking monkey and samurai beetle, must locate a magical suit of armor that was worn by his late father to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. Unbelievably beautiful stop-motion animation combined with a brilliant storyline make this film one of the best movies of the summer. The plot is simple but nuanced with a great message about believing in yourself and your abilities. The animation is beautiful and some of the best I have ever seen. Kids will enjoy the fast moving storyline, and grownups will thoroughly drink in the gorgeous animation. Outstanding voice work by a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, and Rooney Mara add flavor and texture. The film is worth the extra money to see it in 3-D, as it was made in 3-D and uses the technology to it's full extent. Go on an adventure with Kubo and his friends this summer; you won’t be disappointed. My Take: I Would Pay to See it Again Kubo and the Two Strings Facebook Page
Forgotten Film: The Hospital (1971) An overly stressed doctor (George C. Scott) tries to stay sane while a hospital is collapsing around him. This movie, written brilliantly by Paddy Chayefsky, is part farce, part drama with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The movie starts out with a series of deaths, most due to the incompetence of the staff, making the film seem like this will be a comedy of errors. By the middle of the movie, it takes a turn and becomes a riveting drama bolstered by the dazzling performances of Scott and Diana Rigg, who plays his love interest. Scott gives one of his best performances as the Doctor who might not survive, either by his hand or someone else’s. You wouldn’t want to be a patient at this hospital, but you will enjoy watching the staff. My Rating: Full Price The Hospital Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Ben-Hur: Leather Master
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Hidden Figures (2017) Three African-American women provide NASA with critical mathematical data which enables the launch of the program’s first successful space missions. The trailer looks awesome and with a cast of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, how could it not be a hit? Hidden Figures Website
Until Next Time!
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