Advertisements

Snarcasm: The New ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake Is Amazing, I Promise

ben-hur remake

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Sarcastically reviewing film reviews may sound like a total waste of time, but it has nothing on reading said sarcastic film review reviews. So I think you’ll enjoy this gem of a film review from that news outlet you’ve never heard of that has inexplicable access to Rotten Tomatoes.

That outlet is Baret News Wire, which describes itself on its own page as (and this is lifted directly from their site):

“Baret News  Wire is a Association of talented writers, and Social Media Professionals.  At”

We’re off to a great start.

Writing for BNW, Kam Wiliams recently “reviewed” the latest Ben-Hur remake, AKA the film classic that was already perfected in 1959, 30 years after the exceptional 1925 silent version, which was an adaptation of a book written in 1880. Who said Hollywood is out of ideas these days? They’ve been out of ideas for a while.

Ben-hur remake
Case in point.

Anyway, Kamtastic mysteriously titles his review, “Faithful Remake of Oscar-Winning Classic Revisits Biblical Themes and Breakneck Chariot Race.”

Yes, this noticeably leaves out the actual name of the movie, and as you’ll quickly find, Kamtastic actually gave this movie a perfect score (4/4).

Wow! Well, let’s read this review then, because that’s certainly the most contrarian opinion of this movie out there. You know, since even the most positive reviews by comparison are all closer to “meh” than “10 thumbs up!”

Fresh off his interview with Seth Rogen, aptly named “Rappin’ with Rogen!” (I’m not joking), Kamtastic kicks off his review with nothing in particular:

It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history.

It also takes a lot of chutzpah to use the word chutzpah.

But that’s irrelevant. What does Kamtastic think of the movie?

But that’s just what we have in Ben-Hur, a fairly-faithful version of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston.

Fairly-faithful you say? Well, is that good or bad? Should a film be faithful to a half-century old property or strive for something new? And if so (or not), what does that mean to the viewer?

I hope you’re not expecting any sort of answer to these obvious questions.

The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880 which quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel to date.

Uh…OK. That’s definitely information, alright, but I’m not sure that has anything to do with—

The book’s author, Lew Wallace, was a Civil War General who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.

…that’s great, Kamtastic, but maybe—

His inspirational tale of redemption’s success was credited to the fact that its timely  themes of family, freedom and patriotism helped unify a citizenry torn asunder by years of war and then Reconstruction.

That’s really nice, but can you start talking about the movie you came to review, now? Or how/why this is at all relevant? I would understand commenting on the 1959 film to lend context to your review, but going on and on about the book is like filming a movie about sharks inside a poorly-lit library in Kansas.

Its compassionate tone particularly appealed to Southerners, because of its sympathetic treatment of slave owners, encouraging resolution via reconciliation rather than revenge.

What is this, Wikipedia? If I wanted your surface-level book report on barely related (or interesting) facts that have nothing to do with the movie you just saw, I would go back to your Seth Rogen interview.

Next, Kamtastic finally talks about the movie!

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Keep it coming!

this incarnation of Ben-Hur stars Jack Huston as the title character,

…uh, he sure is!

although the supposed star is easily overshadowed by the film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, 

Really? The main character is overshadowed by the narrator?? I know it’s Morgan Freeman, but shouldn’t you be complaining about this?

It doesn’t end there. Kamtastic goes on to list more facts about the movie you probably don’t care much about. He just mentions the casting and some minor backstory for each person of interest.

And this is all fine for a review, but we’re halfway through a review with a perfect store and Kamtastic hasn’t said a single insightful thing about the movie he supposedly loved. I’ll give him credit, though, for successfully translating monotone to the written word.

The plot thickens when the fully-grown Messala, by then a Roman soldier, unfairly fingers the Ben-Hur family for an act of treason perpetrated by

I can’t even finish this sentence. It’s just a paragraph that literally walks you through the crucial plot points of the movie. There’s no commentary. No language to paint these plot points in a way that lets us know how Kamtastic experienced the film. Just spoilers via run-on sentences.

And yeah, I get that most people already know the set up of Ben-Hur, but Kamtastic actually spoils one of the big reveals of the third act, just so he can stall from saying something opinionated or, dare I say, purposeful.

Before the review ends, and yes, it’s already over, Kamtastic wraps it all up with the most ambiguous piece of film criticism I’ve ever read out of a Rotten Tomatoes-aggregated review:

Distracting CGI mob scenes and heavy-handed sermonizing aside, Ben-Hur 2016 is nevertheless a very entertaining variation on the original that’s well-worth the investment.

Yeah. This perfect 4/4 film as graded by Kamtastic has a flaw for each nice thing he has to say about the film. Seriously, here’s what you just read:

Distracting CGI mob scenes? Well, it’s an entertaining variation on the original! Heavy-handed sermonizing? No worries, it’s well-worth the investment. Used car salesmen come off more sincere.

And that’s it! Kamtastic gives Ben-Hur a perfect score because…what do you care?! It’s not like his literal job is to share constructive opinions on the art of film, commenting on what it is about a given movie that makes it worthwhile or meaningful. This guy is seriously giving the Ben-Hur remake a glowing recommendation based on the fact that the narrator steals the show. I bet he lost his lunch when he watched Morgan Freeman play God on Bruce Almighty.

Now, I would never get on someone’s case for liking a movie, no matter how bad it is. But if they’re a person whose “grade” affects something as far-reaching and influential as Rotten Tomatoes, then they seriously need to give themselves a leg to stand on.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Advertisements

Review: ‘Hardcore Henry’ Lives Up to Its Name, But Not to Its Promise

hardcore henry review

Hardcore Henry is a film shot entirely in first-person view, from the perspective of a silent protagonist. If this sounds a lot like a video game, then you’re on the right track to understanding the appeal — and limitations — of this thoroughly brazen action film.

The plot is especially ripped out of a fun hybrid between Call of Duty and Dead Rising (if only for the amount of gore), as it follows a day in the life of a newborn cyborg in search of his captive wife, who happens to be the one who put him together.

Throughout the film, you never hear or see Henry himself, save for shots of his tattooed arm and clothed body, which both work to hide the stunt actor portraying him and preserve a semblance of identity that the viewer can shift themselves into. To mix up the narrative, Henry frequently comes across eccentric characters meant to counteract his stoic bravado.

hardcore henry review

Sharlto Copley plays Jimmy, a rogue spy who helps Henry get up to speed on his capabilities and drives most of the early plot points. But his memorable performance is rivaled by Akan, the film’s telekinetic Russian bad guy with red-stained eyes and pale-white hair. Because Henry is such an intentional blank slate, the other key players in this film are far more interesting to watch, making every scene they’re not in noticeably lacking.

Hardcore Henry has a lot of excellent features that help it stand out. The premise is a valid, even admirable attempt at innovating the action genre with massively entertaining pyrotechnics and stunt work. The soundtrack carries a lot of the film’s biggest moments, including Henry himself. Though it makes no sense when you think about it hard enough, the music in Henry’s head is our only real glimpse into what his character is thinking, and that’s probably as novel as shooting this entire film facing forward.

Unfortunately, Hardcore Henry also stumbles as much as it runs. The film borrows a little too much from the video games that inspire it, but also not enough. Unlike a video game, this film lacks any sort of interactivity or sense of discovery that makes the first-person perspective so immersive. Worse, it follows a repetitive narrative that doesn’t deviate much from running to checkpoints and hearing exposition while incapacitated.

hardcore henry review

The same story beats happen so often — yet in such diverse locations — that Hardcore Henry feels more like an extended tutorial to a better movie, rather than a thrilling adventure. This could be easier to forgive if these sequences were at least a little more watchable, but more than half of what you see in Hardcore Henry is either a blur or riddled with insufferable, jerky, shaky cam that would make the Bourne movies shake their head in disapproval.

While the movie has plenty of strong moments, too many of them are crammed in between practically unwatchable action scenes that make you want to turn away from the good content that is sitting right in front of you. All this and a pretty mundane story are just a few reasons why only the most hardcore action fans will enjoy viewing Hardcore Henry, at least on the big screen.

Grade: C+


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Cloud Atlas’

Image Courtesy of Forbes.com

I saw Cloud Atlas at a second-run theater over the weekend and hesitated to write such a late review. My justification is that many people either skipped this one at first run, are waiting to rent it because of the long runtime, or have just not heard enough about it. Well, here’s my take.

THE CONCEPT

Take six short stories (essentially) that span six completely different time periods, highlighting the connections that bind people together across the span of humanity. You’ll see a composer struggling to find success as a bisexual in in the 1930s, a journalist attempting to take on Big Oil in the 70s, all the way to a group of revolutionaries exposing the corruption of cloning in 2144. That barely covers what you are about to see with this film. Put simply, it is a mosaic tied together by string.

WHAT WORKS

Many of the visual effects are just stunning, especially for an independent film (this is the most expensive indie film to date, costing over $100 million). The most impressive scenes come during the action-packed future timeline in 2144 New Seoul. Really, the rest of the movie doesn’t even compete with the visual flair of this time period, not even the period set further than this.

Image Courtesy of askkpop.com

Many elements of this film are fantastic. The acting is well-done, as this film boasts a huge A-list cast, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Jim Sturgess dominating most of the standout roles. You’ll recognize Ben Whishaw, who played the new quartermaster from Skyfall, and my favorite character turned out to be Doona Bae’s Sonmi.

The pacing is very impressive as well. The stories begin chronologically, introducing us to the characters in a slow, gradual pattern. The film then shifts stories at random, giving only minutes to each story. In theory, I should have hated this, as there was no cohesion behind the transitions. It worked for me, however, and will probably work for people who are inattentive, as this will force them to constantly pay close attention.

cloud-atlas

Finally, the soundtrack is easily the best of the year, which turns out to be the film’s biggest downfall.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

Unfortunately, the stories just aren’t that interesting. In a novel, they definitely would be. With more details and context, I probably would have been rooting for the sympathetic abolitionist played by Jim Sturgess in 1849. I would have cared that Timothy Cavendish broke out of the nursing home with his band of carefree elders in 2012.

The problem is that a movie that brags about how epic and grand it is with its moving, powerful soundtrack just doesn’t match up with the simplicity and (ultimately) irrelevant stories we’re being told.

I just couldn’t figure out if the movie was trying to be a mosaic or not. At one point, you’re seeing how all of these stories are connected, but then that anxiety is rewarded by conclusions that really make no difference or impact. It’s a mosaic tied together by string, which is great for some, I suppose, but frustrating for me.

When it comes down to it, I had no idea what the film was trying to say.

IS IT WORTH WATCHING?

I’m conflicted here. The film got everything right except for the problem that its source material just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve never read the novel, but I’m guessing that the book has the same mosaic format to it. I’m someone who has been raised on Assassin’s Creed, a franchise that is all about connections between ancestors and how that makes a significant impact on the story being told.

Cloud Atlas was disappointing to me. I loved elements of it, such as the pacing, some characters, and the score, but the content just didn’t live up to how great these elements are. It is an ambitious film, for sure, in that it tells 6 different stories in 6 completely different settings and actually nails the presentation. Unfortunately, I feel like I gained nothing from watching it.

I don’t think this is worth watching if you are a casual moviegoer looking for something interesting to take up your time. It is a long 3 hours, and many are bound to lose interest after the first hour. If you are a lover of film, however, and want to see some great set pieces, beautiful effects, and listen to an amazing score, you’ll like this film.

 

%d bloggers like this: