I'm really violating my own rule this year about not seeing remakes. This time it was Pete's Dragon.
I saw the original Pete's Dragon the week it opened, but I've not watched it for years. I don't remember the ending.
With the exception of the characters of Pete and Elliott, the new characters are completely different from the old one. It's not as lighthearted or silly as the first version. One detail I noticed in this new one is that, unlike umpteen other fantasy movies, all the characters see the dragon halfway through or before. Most fantasies only have the main character seeing the make-believe character, with no one believing him or her, until the end of the movie.
The only person in the movie I recognized was Robert Redford, and he was part of the reason I saw Pete's Dragon. I believe this is the first Disney movie he's ever been in.
It's been decades since I've seen Charlton Heston's Ben-Hur or read the Lew Wallace novel, so I don't remember much about each one. A friend and I saw the remake today, and both of us enjoyed it.
The chariot race does not last as long as the 1959 version, but it is far more graphic. I jumped in my seat and/or gasped a number of times. It hurt just to think about what was happening to the racers, both the men and their horses. And I thought the ending was much too idealistic, and happily-ever-after-ish.
But otherwise, the movie was very exciting, extremely elaborate and well-done.
I suspect that The BFG was originally supposed to be a Christmas release but got pushed back (or forward). It just has that "look."
I can't compare The Big Friendly Giant movie to the Roald Dahl book because I haven't read it. I am assuming the book was written in the 1980s, and that the movie also takes place then. There is one scene in the movie that indicates it, and a small child will never get the reference anyway.
It's about a little girl named Sophie who is taken away by BFG after she sees him one night wandering the streets of London. She learns what his job is, and who his enemies are. She enlists the Queen of England to help the two of them against his enemies.
The only person you will recognize in the movie is Queen Elizabeth, played by Penelope Wilton, who was Mrs. Crawley on Downton Abbey.
I enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would, even though it is kind of creepy in places.
I've never read Robinson Crusoe, so I don't know how closely the plot of The Wild Life follows the 1700s novel. But then again, this new movie is computer animated with talking animals, so obviously it can't be that close!
It's the tale of a young man who is shipwrecked alone on a deserted island and befriends the animals living on it. Again, since I haven't read the book, I don't know if the critters are supposed to represent the characters in it. And I always thought Crusoe's best friend was named Friday, yet the parrot in the movie was called Tuesday.
The movie is cute at times, but towards the end I got a little bored. You're supposed to stay for the closing credits, but I thought they dragged on too long.
Birth of a Nation is very good but not excellent. It's a little slow in places, and it's hard to keep all the characters, both black and white, straight. Even though it's rated R, it's not nearly as violent as Unbroken was which was only PG-13. There are two brief shots of women's breasts, but that's the only nudity. There isn't even any swearing, except for the N word.
Nate Parker, the actor who plays Nat Turner, looks so much like Denzel Washington that I kept thinking that Parker was Washington. Armie Hammer is a quasi-bad guy and quite charismatic.
Disney has been going out of its way to create non-Disney movies for adults. The films are still sensitive and funny but nowhere near as innocent as they used to be.
Its latest is Queen of Katwe. This is the story of a teen girl in the slums of Uganda who is an excellent chess player. She lives in two worlds--that of her extremely poor family, and that of the upperclass chess players. The slums scenes are real--the movie was filmed in Uganda--and at times can make you sick to your stomach. And the chess competition scenes are actually quite nerve-wracking!
This is not a Disney movie for small children, but it is a very good one for teens.
The Arrival is a slow-moving movie about alien contact. Twelve ships are hovering over Earth, and various countries try to make contact with them. Each country learns something about the aliens. The ultimate message from the creatures is that the countries must work together to figure out the aliens' message.
The story jumps back and forth between the past, present, and as we the viewer learns, the future.
I had never seen the two lead actors before, Emma Stone and Jeremy Renner. I kept thinking they were Nicole Kidman and Tim Robbins! The only actor you will recognize is Forest Whitaker, who truthfully, seems extraneous to the plot.
Rules Don't Apply may be the strangest movie I have ever seen. I had a hard time following all the subplots. This is the story of Howard Hughes and (1) his affair with a young actress in the late 1950s, and (2) a plot I could not follow regarding his government involvement with military planes and TWA, and (3) the attempts to get Hughes committed because of his dementia.
How much of this movie is true I do not know. Warren Beatty plays Howard, and there are guest appearances by actors all over the place: Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick (who seems to be playing his befuddled The Producers character again) and Martin Sheen. I was never quite sure of the relationships these folks had with Howard. I think this movie would best be seen on DVD where you can rewind the film if you miss something the first time.
Passengers was supposed to be a blockbuster movie but it's not doing as well financially as expected, which is why I am writing about it. Passengers is a contemporary and clever retelling of the Adam and Eve story, although you don't realize it at first. It's about Jim and Aurora (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence), the only two people awake on a huge ship called the Avalon where everyone else is in suspended animation. Why are they awake? What happened to the ship that caused this? That's the premise of the story.
The movie really keeps your interest and you will marvel at the size of the ship, although I don't know how much of it is computer animation. I suggest seeing this on the big screen to get the full effect of the Avalon. However, the pool scenes freaked me out!
Patriots Day is an excellent and very intense movie. There were several stretches where I completely forgot everything and wasn't aware of time passing. There have been a number of real-life disaster movies lately and this one is the best. This one is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
It is violent, and the F word is used a lot, so I don't know how this will be edited for regular TV. You will get tears in your eyes a few times.
The one detail from the actual bombing that is ignored is the story of the man in the cowboy hat. Although he appears at the end in one of the actual photos, I wish he could have been included in the story. There are several other stories in the movie about the injured and their rescuers, so I don't know why his wasn't.