“Mommy, this new Jungle Book movie ain’t too bad!”

“Mommy, this new Jungle Book movie ain’t too bad!”

Catching a Matineé: The Perfect Indulgence During a Staycation

Catching a Matineé: The Perfect Indulgence During a Staycation

Ben-Hur, 2016

The bar is set high – and why ever not – because if you’re going to remake a film that is American canon, you need a very good reason to do so.  And while it might not be too challenging to explain the failures of this classic motion-picture – that predominantly consist of a somewhat lackluster script and regrettably wooden performances – the real problem is almost spiritual.  Because while the filmmakers of this retelling demonstrate superb technical prowess, they woefully fail at providing a good reason for why this story needs to be retold.  And retold in a way that perhaps rivals if not exceeds the spectacular drama of the original.

For starters, the set-up is laborious and taxing, and I remember turning to my firstborn seated next to me to actually say, “this is taking forever…!”  Imagine that.  But John Huston as Judah is no Charlton Heston, and he unfortunately does not possess the emotional intensity nor the range to pull off the emotional transformation from wealthy Jewish citizen in Roman-governed Jerusalem to galley slave who beats the odds of survival and trains to ride the chariot to beat his nemesis, Messala.

And what of the chariot race, you ask?  Well, it is what you’d expect, I suppose, only, it fails to overwhelm, which is what you’re hoping for.  You’re hoping for the race to leave you breathless and speechless and exhausted, not to mention to propel you from your seats to cheer along with the crowds for Judah.  But, alas, you sit there, waiting for what you know to be the inevitable end just around the corner which couldn’t come a moment sooner.

The only parts that truly moved me were the cameo appearances of Jesus who is true to character in appearing at all the right times to overwhelm and perplex you with his style and words.  What manner of man is this? How can one forgive? What does he mean? Is this what love truly is?

And yet, despite these brief moments of satisfaction, the whole is not always a sum of its parts.  If the casting and the script is lacking, so is the cinematography and the dialog.  And in the overzealousness of the remaking, by altering certain fundamental pieces of the story, the filmmakers have done a disservice to the purist in the likes of yours truly who has read both the book and seen the original movie multiple times to deeply frown upon the license taken in this regard.

Final verdict: nice try, but I’m afraid I can’t give it a full thumbs-up.  I guess you win some, and then you learn some…

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All My Peeps with Me, and Something Else to Go with the Raisinets

All My Peeps with Me, and Something Else to Go with the Raisinets

Star Trek Beyond, 2016

I loved when the Star Trek movie franchise was revived some years back, and I was eager to go see this third one since its release.  And while I am not disappointed, I am certain that I preferred the other two to this one.  I had gotten used to the brilliant dialog, the thoughtful  development of each of the characters, the fine balance of space and time relative to the insatiable spirit of adventure and discovery, and the many perils of exploration.  And while this latest offering had all of the above, it still didn’t completely meet, let alone exceed the bar set by the previous ones.  Capt. Kirk and Spock and Bones and Scottie, and a few newbies were all in fine form, and even whilst traversing through space into other universes, the common qualities of the human condition including joy, pain, sadness, and even ennui were in full display by the crew of the USS Starship Enterprise.

The one complaint that I doubt I shall ever have is find anything wrong at all with Chris Pine’s Capt. Kirk.  So supremely confident and beautiful is he, that he can almost do no wrong.  Well, you know what I mean.  LOLOL.  And I suppose this might be the first time I am incorporating this lofty colloquialism into a serious piece of writing.  Which isn’t all that serious.  But then again, it was never supposed to be.

Bottom line:  not a bad use of your time or money.  A thumbs-up.

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Jason Bourne, 2016

Everyone’s favorite forgetful CIA agent is back. I’m not even sure if this is number four or number five, and it really doesn’t matter. Because this is how a franchise works, I suppose.  If you’ve seen one Bourne film, you might just as well have seen this one too.

Jason Bourne is on the run, again; and he’s struggling to remember details of his murky past, again. There’s a nameless and almost faceless unsavory character on his trail, again. The CIA is developing a shady new espionage program, again.  And of course, there’s a dubious good-guy playing a corrupt CIA chief, again, only this time around Tommy Lee Jones is perfect in this role.

There’s plenty of foot-chases and motor-cycle chases and riot-filled streets in Athens and London.  In fact, there’s so much of all kinds of chases, and for such extended durations, that it all feels like a big blur, and by the time one chase is over, you’ve almost forgotten what it was for in the first place, but you don’t have too much time to reflect on this because the next chase has started up again.

Okay, so, you get the picture.  You’ve basically seen all of this before.  When the franchise first came out, we were all thrilled with the character and the story, but with the passage of time, Jason Bourne, the character, has gotten tired and predictable, and dare I say it, somewhat dreary.  Matt Damon was born for this, we know that for a fact.  And he does not disappoint, only he’s gotten a lot of grays in his hair, and his face is weathered with time.

But when you’re a Bourne fan, you know you have to go see for yourself.  Which is exactly what I did.

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In Hopes of a Better One this Time 

In Hopes of a Better One this Time