Film Review: Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur

Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur is a sword and sandals movie that strives for epic status. The film does not reach it, in spite of trying.

Judah Ben-Hur is a wealthy prince living in Jerusalem with his family and adopted brother Messela Severus. When Severus joins the Roman army in an attempt to elevate his position, Judah and his family face unintended consequences…

Ben-Hur is based on Lew Wallace’s religious novel of the nineteenth century. Viewers familiar with the 1959 film adaptation will notice a few changes. It is clear that the filmmakers have realised how pivotal the chariot race scene is, foreshadowing it in the opening sequence. In this version of Ben-Hur, this important scene is moved to a later sequence, to give a climactic feel. However, this gives less time for the staid reconciliation scenes. This final scenes jar with the sense of feeling immediately before.

The Christian message is pushed throughout the film, as expected. However, the overt nature of this feels forced rather than natural. In straddling the line between Christian entertainment and Hollywood blockbuster, Ben-Hur does not really satisfy either of the camps. Jesus is a more prominent figure in this adaptation. Unfortunately, some of the sequences are more laughable than spiritual.

There are some redeeming qualities in the film, even if the redemption in the narrative is unconvincing. The rowing sequences works very well to depict chaos. The frequent cuts, close-ups, and sound design combine well to convey a confusing and dangerous situation. Early scenes do a decent job of portraying the friendship between Judah and Messela. The chariot sequence is one of the film’s more exciting moments. It is marred by some abysmal dialogue and the overuse of CGI.

Jack Huston is a good actor, yet is constrained by a lacklustre screenplay here. Toby Kebbell is well cast as Messela. Morgan Freeman takes everything in his stride, whilst Nazanin Boniadi comes across a bit stiff in some scenes.

Ben-Hur may appeal as a curiosity watch; viewers may wonder why and how the story has been remade. Beyond this, it holds little appeal.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Accountant Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Office Christmas Party Trailer

Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.

Ben-Hur Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.

T2 Teaser Trailer

This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.

Nerve Clip

Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.

Suicide Squad Video

This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.