Sunday, August 28, 2016

Movie Review … Ben-Hur

The phrase ‘bigger than Ben-Hur’ dates back to the famous 1959 version starring Charlton Heston.  The chariot race is the most celebrated scene in the biblical epic which various versions have tried to emulate.  Based on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel, ‘Ben-Hur’ has reached cinema/TV screens six times over the last century, including this latest version.  With CGI being as dazzling as they are, ‘Ben-Hur’ uses it to beef up many action scenes.  But is this ‘Ben-Hur’ bigger than the previous one?  On evidence, that would be no due to script problems and acting making this less than enormous.

Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a prince falsely accused of treason by his ambitious brother Messala (Toby Kebbell).  A Roman army officer, Messala banishes Judah from his country.  Years after tolling as a slave on sea vessels, Judah returns to seek revenge. Stronger and more determined to undo Messala’s corrupt ways, they accept the challenge of a furious chariot race to decide the ultimate victor.

Whilst it would be unfavourable to compare this to the 1959 version, ‘Ben-Hur’ suffers from its shadow.  The action sequences and battles are suitably grand with the pacing flipping through the story at brisk speed.  Therein lies the issue as ‘Ben-Hur’ feels too condensed to do the story justice.  Characterisation is only briefly tackled with the focus on spectacle more evident.  The best of the roles belongs to Kebbell as Messala who shows more charisma than the bland lead.  Messala elicits more sympathy than Ben-Hur which shouldn’t be the case.

The awkward blending of religious themes amongst the high-gloss action scenes jars.  Drifting from bloody battles to seeing Jesus Christ help his followers creates a tonal imbalance from which the script never escapes.  It’s difficult fully believing in events because the crucial epic-feel of the tale are missing.  It’s strange how current remakes forget to inject vitality and magnetic characters into the narrative. This detracts to the reason why a remake should exist with the temptation to just watch a better previous version surely paramount.

Despite succeeding in its own version of the chariot race, ‘Ben-Hur’ is a largely forgettable affair.  The uneven direction, generally poor acting and clich├ęd story-telling fail to justify its existence.  Movies should be made right the first time with the Charlton Heston version remaining the one to watch.
 

Movie Review Rating out of 10:  4

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia. 


TRAILER


SOUNDTRACK

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Movie Review … The Shallows

Since 1975 any film with a great white shark in it is inevitably compared to ‘Jaws’. The Steven Spielberg directed horror yarn made audiences afraid of the water with its chilling depiction of primal terror.  Similar movies have had to live up to the kind of suspense ‘Jaws’ generated with many failing.  In spite of the occasionally outlandish moment, ‘The Shallows’ is a rare example of one that works.  An effective chiller filled with many nail-biting moments that carves its own niche amongst the plethora of shark-infused tales.

Nancy (Blake Lively) is a keen surfer always on the lookout for nautical adventures.  When surfing near a secluded beach she receives more than she bargained for.  Trapped only 200 metres from shore, she becomes hunted by a great white shark.  Using her skills and ingenuity, Nancy attempts to free herself from the deadly predicament.  Faced with rising tide and lurking danger of the watery beast, Nancy’s future looks bleak with each passing second.

‘The Shallows’ is a shocker making much of its limited budget.  It looks a million dollars due to the excellent photography with each crest of the wave over-lapping Nancy like pleasurable rainbows.  This aids in creating the scene of both beauty and horror she witnesses.  How she tries to out-smart her insidious foe is part of the macabre ‘fun’ refusing to let go until the final reel. Basically playing the only character you mostly see in the film, Lively excels in showing the terror and courage her character endures.

The rendering of the CGI shark is well handled, looking incredibly vicious in its ferocity.  Making it less effective are the increasingly silly scenarios placed with Nancy.  ‘The Shallows’ almost veers into ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ territory, with a seemingly super-human creature able to correctly predict Nancy’s actions.  How it is able to leap obstacles is far-fetched, taking away from the early realism for which the film apparently strived. 

Despite an uneven tone, ‘The Shallows’ is a fair horror flick teasing out what it can from the surrounds.  It may not linger in the memory like ‘Jaws’ but is a reasonably entertaining slice of hokum sure to make viewers think twice about taking a dip into the ocean.



Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


TRAILER

Friday, August 5, 2016

Movie Review … Suicide Squad

After seeing Marvel comics find great success with their superhero films, rivals DC Comics have tried catching up.   Attempting to begin their own ‘cinematic universe’ with the Henry Cavill-starring ‘Superman’ movies, ‘Suicide Squad’ is the latest in their master-plan.  After the mixed reviews for ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, a lot was riding on ‘Suicide Squad’. Unfortunately it shows DC still has a lot to learn in terms of presenting a satisfying production in spite of the mega-bucks thrown at it.

Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) are two of the most dangerous super-villains around.  They are also imprisoned with other like-minded baddies by a secret government agency.  Regularly called upon to participate in black ops missions in exchange for clemency, their newest assignment seems the most deadly yet.  Fighting against the magical mayhem of The Enchantress (Cara Delevinge) the self-styled ‘Suicide Squad’ face a foe whose nefarious ways are more wicked than anything they could dream.

‘Suicide Squad’ is a very uneven film gradually falling under the weight of its excess.  Whilst its first half is reasonably interesting with some engaging characters, its second is pure formula.  There’s a definite sense of having seen it all before with predictable fight sequences and plotting making for somewhat dull viewing.  The biggest problem is the over-abundance of characters, as there are too many to do them full justice.  Each only receives sketchy introductions before thrown into the action.  This results in not really caring what happens to them, in spite of the solid performances.

Although Jared Leto’s role as The Joker has received much coverage, he only really has a cameo role. It feels as if he’s there to serve as a teaser to another movie in which he’ll no doubt appear.  ‘Suicide Squad’ generally feels like an extended ad for a better film, only occasionally embracing the colourful fun it promises.  David Ayer’s direction is fine without being remarkable. He shows little flair in action scenes with some characters getting badly short changed. 

‘Suicide Squad’ is much better than ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ in terms of being more fun.  In other areas it falls far short of its potential.  Hopefully the next DC film will overcome the stuttering start they’ve had with their cinematic output thus far and show how high their heroes can fly.



Movie Review Rating out of 10:  5

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.



TRAILER


SOUNDTRACK