Tag Archives: Ben-Hur

Pre-Code Hollywood #11 – The Sign of the Cross (1932)

The_sign_of_crossThe Sign of the Cross (1932)
Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille
Written by: Waldemar Young, Sidney Buchman (based on The Sign of the Cross by Wilson Barrett)
Starring: Fredric March, Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton

Famous producer Cecil B. DeMille made a career out of forging some of Hollywood’s grandest epics, including The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Show on Earth, Cleopatra, and Union Pacific. DeMille’s religious epic The Sign of the Cross is another in a series of films at least partially responsible for the creation of the Hays Code, and it’s easy to see why when looking at it in a historical context. DeMille’s 1932 epic is filled with sexuality and violence, and tells a story that is chock full of intense bigotry and hatred. The Sign of the Cross is perhaps one of the ultimate examples of the sheer potential held by filmmakers in pre-code Hollywood – it’s full of ambitious filmmaking, passion, and depravity.

The Sign of the Cross takes place in the year 64 A.D., where the Roman Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) has just burned down the city. The action has been blamed on those of the Christian faith, creating an extremely anti-Christian sentiment without Rome. A young and lustful Marcus Superbus (Fredric March), prefect of Rome, is taken by Mercia (Elissa Landi) who he sees defending her fellow Christians. Marcus tries everything he can to seduce Mercia, but her devotion to her faith will not allow her to fall for Marcus’ games. When she hears of Marcus’ new infatuation, a jealous Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert) demands that Mercia be killed. This puts Marcus into a complicated and dangerous situation, torn between his beliefs and the beliefs of his nation – no matter what decisions are made by Marcus and Mercia, it surely won’t be pretty.
Sign Of The Cross, The
Religious epics have always been one of my favorite genres, with both Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments being lifelong favorites of mine. Unfortunately, The Sign of the Cross doesn’t hold a candle to either of those terrific pictures. While I can admire the grandiose nature of DeMille’s pre-code classic, very little of it actually stuck with me in any meaningful way. It stands as more of a fun, deranged curiosity than most of the true greats of the genre. That isn’t to say it’s all bad – the production design alone makes The Sign of the Cross more than worthy of a watch, especially in the context of pre-code Hollywood. Costumes and sets feel lavish and genuine, transporting viewers to the Roman Empire – the entire film feels as large in scale as many epics from the time period. It’s immediately clear that DeMille had an eye for detail, and a knack for capturing detailed period pieces on film. The film’s dark cinematography helps set the mood, featuring some terrific use of light and shadows during its many nighttime scenes. Cinematographer Karl Struss was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts, making it the only nomination that The Sign of the Cross would receive.

The memorable performances by great actors like Charles Laughton, Claudette Colbert, and Fredric March all help to further The Sign of the Cross’ terrific mood and atmosphere. Laughton steals the show (as he always did) as Emperor Nero, whose sinister nature and indescribable prejudices make him very easy to hate. Nero is portrayed as a lazy, spiteful, worm of a man, and Laughton plays it up perfectly. Colbert’s sexually-charged performance as Empress Poppaea is every bit as memorable as Laughton’s, only for completely different reasons. Poppaea uses her beauty and sex appeal to her advantage in every scene, creating some of the film’s most titillating moments – the most iconic of which being an early scene that sees Colbert bathing in asses milk. Unfortunately for The Sign of the Cross, many of the supporting performances can’t exactly live up to those of the legendary main cast.

The Sign of the Cross’ weakest aspect is its story, which feels inconsequential in comparison to the sheer size and scope of the film. While there are many iconic and memorable moments throughout, there is little to nothing substantial connecting these moments to one another. The movie is ultimately a love story at its core, and not a terribly compelling one either. This is a shame, because the brutality and visceral nature of DeMille’s film could have made it truly unique had it featured stronger writing and pacing. Clocking in at over two hours long, I found myself begging for more of the aforementioned iconic moments. Luckily, the pre-code content of the film is consistent throughout, with scenes of brutal violence and outright sexuality being enough to hold viewers’ attention. This is certainly a film that would not have been possible following the enforcement of the Hays Code – in fact, DeMille’s film was heavily edited and censored until its restoration in the 1990’s.
While Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross is a far cry from some of the incredible films we’ve taken a look at throughout our Pre-Code Hollywood marathon, there are hints of greatness throughout. The lavish set decoration and costuming rival some of the greatest epics of its time, the lead performances are wonderfully exaggerated and theatrical, and the film’s pre-code nature still does enough to shock and titillate today. It’s unfortunate that the film couldn’t overcome a weak central story, bloated run-time, and some underwhelming supporting performances – there’s a masterpiece in here somewhere. With all that said, The Sign of the Cross is sadly not recommended – it’d be best to see this one as a curiosity, much in the same way people view Caligula today.

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Top 100 Films – Full List & Stats


Top 100 Films – Full List

100. Rope (1948) (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
99. The Jerk (1979) (dir. Carl Reiner)
98. Office Space (1999) (dir. Mike Judge)
97. American Movie (1999) (dir. Chris Smith)
96. Touch of Evil (1958) (dir. Orson Welles)
95. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
94. The Wrestler (2008) (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
93. The Virgin Spring (1960) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
92. United 93 (2006) (dir. Paul Greengrass)
91. Brokeback Mountain (2003) (dir. Ang Lee)
90. Election (1999) (dir. Alexander Payne)
89. Close-Up (1990) (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
88. Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) (dir. John Cassavetes)
87. Chungking Express (1994) (dir. Wong Kar-wai)
86. Stand By Me (1986) (dir. Rob Reiner)
85. Blazing Saddles (1974) (dir. Mel Brooks)
84. Metropolis (1927) (dir. Fritz Lang)
83. Boyz n the Hood (1991) (dir. John Singleton)
82. A Man Escaped (1956) (dir. Robert Bresson)
81. Manhattan (1979) (dir. Woody Allen)
80. Sunset Boulevard (1950) (dir. Billy Wilder)
79. All That Heaven Allows (1955) (dir. Douglas Sirk)
78. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
77. No Country for Old Men (2007) (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
76. The King of Comedy (1982) (dir. Martin Scorsese)
75. Short Term 12 (2013) (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)
74. The Fighter (2010) (dir. David O. Russell)
73. Ben-Hur (1956) (dir. William Wyler)
72. There Will Be Blood (2007) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
71. Playtime (1967) (dir. Jacques Tati)
70. My Darling Clementine (1946) (dir. John Ford)
69. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) (dir. Andrew Dominik)
68. The Sting (1973) (dir. George Roy Hill)
67. Sherlock Jr. (1924) (dir. Buster Keaton)
66. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) (dir. Michel Gondry)
65. Kagemusha (1980) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
64. Citizen Kane (1941) (dir. Orson Welles)
63. Raging Bull (1980) (dir. Martin Scorsese)
62. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) (dir. Sidney Lumet)
61. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) (dir. Wes Anderson)
60. Some Like it Hot (1959) (dir. Billy Wilder)
59. Pulp Fiction (1994) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
58. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) (dir. Jacques Demy)
57. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (dir. Frank Capra)
56. This is Spinal Tap (1984) (dir. Carl Reiner)
55. M (1931) (dir. Fritz Lang)
54. When We Were Kings (1996) (dir. Leon Gast)
53. The Gold Rush (1926) (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
52. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (dir. Roman Polanski)
51. The Wages of Fear (1953) (dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot)
50. The Great White Silence (1924) (dir. Herbert Ponting)
49. Autumn Sonata (1978) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
48. Withnail and I (1987) (dir. Bruce Robinson)
47. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) (dir. Wes Anderson)
46. Before Sunrise (1995) (dir. Richard Linklater)
45. True Romance (1993) (dir. Tony Scott)
44. Before Sunset (2004) (dir. Richard Linklater)
43. Inglourious Basterds (2009) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
42. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007) (dir. Cristian Mungiu)
41. The African Queen (1951) (dir. John Huston)
40. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
39. Days of Heaven (1978) (dir. Terrence Malick)
38. Rushmore (1998) (dir. Wes Anderson)
37. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) (dir. Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
36. 12 Angry Men (1957) (dir. Sidney Lumet)
35. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) (dir. Don Hertzfeldt)
34. Casablanca (1942) (dir. Michael Curtiz)
33. Scenes from a Marriage (1973) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
32. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) (dir. John Cassavetes)
31. Brief Encounter (1945) (dir. David Lean)
30. The Godfather Part II (1974) (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
29. Do the Right Thing (1989) (dir. Spike Lee)
28. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) (dir. Vincente Minnelli)
27. The Godfather (1972) (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
26. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) (dir. Stanley Donen)
25. Wild Strawberries (1957) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
24. Seven Samurai (1954) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
23. All That Jazz (1979) (dir. Bob Fosse)
22. Fargo (1996) (dir. Joel Coen)
21. Dersu Uzala (1975) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
20. Grizzly Man (2005) (dir. Werner Herzog)
19. The Thing (1982) (dir. John Carpenter)
18. A Serious Man (2009) (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
17. The Searchers (1956) (dir. John Ford)
16. Dazed and Confused (1993) (dir. Richard Linklater)
15. The Social Network (2010) (dir. David Fincher)
14. The Apartment (1960) (dir. Billy Wilder)
13. Rear Window (1954) (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
12. Winter Light (1963) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
11. The Graduate (1967) (dir. Mike Nichols)
10. Harakiri (1962) (dir. Masaki Kobayashi)
9. The Night of the Hunter (1955) (dir. Charles Laughton)
8. Paris, Texas (1984) (dir. Wim Wenders)
7. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (dir. Frank Capra)
6. Rocky (1976) (dir. John G. Avildsen)
5. Harold and Maude (1971) (dir. Hal Ashby)
4. The Exorcist (1973) (dir. William Friedkin)
3. Annie Hall (1977) (dir. Woody Allen)
2. City Lights (1931) (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Top 100 Films – Statistics

Movies by Decade:
2010’s: 6
2000’s: 15
1990’s: 13
1980’s: 9
1970’s: 18
1960’s: 8
1950’s: 15
1940’s: 8
1930’s: 3
1920’s: 5

Best Year:
2007 – 4 (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days)

Most Popular Actors/Directors/Writers:
Ingmar Bergman5
Diane Keaton – 4
Wes Anderson – 3
John Cassavetes – 3
Seymour Cassel – 3
John Cazale – 3
Joel & Ethan Coen – 3
Robert De Niro – 3
Akira Kurosawa – 3
Richard Linklater – 3
Bill Murray – 3
Al Pacino – 3
Brad Pitt – 3
Talia Shire – 3
James Stewart – 3
Max von Sydow – 3
Quentin Tarantino – 3
Billy Wilder – 3
Owen Wilson – 3

Counting down 100 films in just 50 days was one heck of an adventure, and something I was fully prepared to give up on halfway through. The list got me through some tough times recently, and provided a nice goal and distraction for me to build towards. I’ve never been more proud of myself as a writer, and seeing #1 finally pop into my feed has been the most rewarding experience yet here at Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Film Club! Thanks to everybody who joined me in the journey, liking, sharing, and commenting on posts, and to all those who read them in their spare time. Your support means the world to me, and I couldn’t have done it without you. Here’s to another great year of films and writing for everybody!

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Top 100 Films #59 – Pulp Fiction (1994)


ffc39ebe6c87b384c277ca8ce3a63ba4#59. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken

Pulp Fiction is a film that needs no introduction to anybody who even remotely cares about movies.  Quentin Tarantino’s revolutionary 1994 film changed the way people look at films and their structure, at least in terms of mainstream motion pictures. Pulp Fiction weaves multiple boundary-pushing narratives together into one of the most entertaining, remarkable tapestries ever put to celluloid, with stories that saw hit-men Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) collecting a mysterious golden briefcase, having the interior of their car cleaned after an unfortunate accident, and being held at gunpoint in a local diner.  Another saw a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) throwing a fixed fight and fleeing the city, only to encounter Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), the man he double-crossed, in a bizarre torture/sex dungeon.  Tarantino’s film was a massive financial and critical success, being nominated for several Academy Awards like Best Picture, Best Director (Tarantino), Best Actor (John Travolta), Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), but only won the award for Best Screenplay (Tarantino) – which it undoubtedly deserved. Tarantino’s screenplay is one of the greatest of the 1990’s, combining gut-busting humor, raw violence, satisfying character arcs, and Tarantino’s unique brand of bizarreness into one beautiful package.  Quentin Tarantino’s direction of Pulp Fiction is another element that cannot be understated – using high energy techniques, great music, and paying homage to some of his favorite cult films of yesteryear, every frame of the film has been carefully constructed and labored over.  The ensemble cast of the film features more than a few memorable performances, from John Travolta’s reluctant swagger, to Samuel L. Jackson questioning his faith and the world around him, and even Uma Thurman’s cool, sexy Mia Wallace.  It’s nearly impossible to argue that Pulp Fiction is not a masterpiece – even if you’re not a fan of the works of Tarantino, there’s something here for nearly everybody. While Ben-Hur is the film that hooked me on movies, Pulp Fiction is the work that made me appreciate how they were constructed, and made me dig far deeper into the rabbit hole than I had ever expected.  It’s been a lifelong favorite of mine and no doubt to millions of others.

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Top 100 Films #60 – Some Like It Hot (1959)


some-like-it-hot-di#60. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond (story by Robert Thoeren, Michael Logan)
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown

Billy Wilder’s trailblazing comedy Some Like It Hot is regarded as one of the all-time great screen comedies, and for good reason.  Wilder’s uproarious 1959 film stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as Jerry and Joe, or Daphne and Josephine respectively.  The two men are on the lamb after accidentally bearing witness to the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and have decided to take refuge with a train full of female musicians.  In order to blend in more, the two decide to dress in drag so as not to raise suspicion.  Along the way they meet Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), whom Joe immediately falls for, and a wealthy man named Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who falls for Jerry’s Daphne.  The film’s premise has been spoofed countless times, and several loose remakes have even been attempted, but not a single adaptation has ever managed to match the magic of Some Like It Hot.  It’s a progressive film with both bite and heart – something that Billy Wilder managed to do time and time again.  The script co-written by Wilder and longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond is intelligent in its use of the idea of two men in drag, and even goes as far as exploring themes of sexuality and homosexuality – a rarity for films of the era.  Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis have tremendous on-screen chemistry, and play off each other well as Daphne and Josephine.  Jack Lemmon’s reluctant relationship with Joe E. Brown’s Osgood is perfect, but Tony Curtis’ Josephine falling for the beautiful Sugar is the highlight of Some Like It Hot.  The film was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, including Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), and Best Screenplay (Wilder & Diamond), but was beaten out by films like Ben-Hur and Pillow Talk.  Some Like It Hot’s most famous moment comes in its final minute, where Joe E. Brown’s Osgood tells Jack Lemmon’s Daphne “nobody’s perfect” after finding out that Daphne is a man. The moment is brilliant, progressive, and hilarious, and furthers Some Like It Hot as one of the cinema’s greatest comedies.

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Top 100 Films #73 – Ben-Hur (1959)


ben-hur_6783571#73. Ben-Hur (1959)
Directed by: William Wyler
Written by: Karl Tunberg (based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace)
Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Sam Jaffe

William Wyler’s biblical epic Ben-Hur is the movie that served as my introduction to classic films, creating a lifelong obsession with the silver screen in the process. I saw it as part of my grade 7 religion class all the way back in 2003-2004, and was captivated by every minute of the 3 ½ hour film.  Ben-Hur tells the classic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a wealthy prince living in Jerusalem with his mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Cathy O’Donnell).  His best friend is a man named Messala (Stephen Boyd), who after some time away from Jerusalem, returns to the city as a commander of the Roman garrison.  After an accident nearly costs the life of the governor of Judea, Ben-Hur is sent to the galleys by his once best friend, and his family imprisoned.  What follows is an adventure the scale of which had rarely been seen on screen before 1959.  The film spans several years, and sees the rise and subsequent fall of Jesus Christ, who plays a prominent figure in the film.  Wyler’s Ben-Hur is mostly remembered by the public for its incredible chariot race scene, which is still just as thrilling and visceral today as it was more than fifty years ago.  The film’s few action scenes feature a sense of realism and brutality that is not often seen in film’s of this era, and adds to Ben-Hur’s unique nature.  It’s never exploitative in this way, but instead uses its visceral nature to further the story along, and convey the weight of the situations faced by Judah Ben-Hur and those around him.  Charlton Heston’s performance as the titular character is tremendous, bringing an undeniable charm and charisma to the role that has proven to be unmatched in subsequent retellings of the story.  While Ben-Hur is more than 3 ½ hours long, it never feels slow or bogged down by its run-time, mainly due to its incredible writing and pacing.  Every scene feels meticulously crafted and has a sense of purpose, and major milestone moments are evenly spaced out throughout the film.  An example of the film’s excellent sense of pacing comes in its final act – even after the chariot race is done, the film manages to keep its hold on viewers with a rigorous journey to the leper colony, where we finally get some much needed emotional payoff.  Ben-Hur would go on to win 11 Academy Awards in 1960, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Charlton Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), and Best Cinematography – only losing in one category.  Every minute of Ben-Hur is captivating and finely crafted – there’s no wonder why it was so well-received by a 12-year old me.

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Worst Films of 2016 (So Far)

While we’re taking time to acknowledge the very best films of the year before the prestige picture season, it’s also important to tackle some of the not so great movies we’ve seen, too.  Bad films aren’t without merit, and often serve as a great opportunity for studios, filmmakers, and audiences to learn from.  Why was it bad? Where did it go wrong?  How could it have been improved?  No filmmaker is perfect, and everybody is capable of turning out a less than stellar project.  The following five films are the worst, most disappointing releases I’ve seen this year.  If you feel I’m off on my assessment of a film, or maybe just plain wrong about something, let me know in the comments.

maxresdefault-15. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot

Superhero movies are, by their nature, formulaic almost to a fault in most cases.  It’s no wonder why somebody like Zack Snyder would want to subvert the formula and try something new and bold.  Unfortunately for Snyder and company, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice falls into the same pitfalls that 90% of big screen comic book adaptations fall into, only with more dream sequences and hokey allegory.  Henry Cavill, reprising his role as Superman, is as stale and uncharismatic as ever, having almost nothing interesting to play off.  His co-star in Ben Affleck is quite possibly the most brooding, generic portrayal of Batman seen on film yet.  Affleck, normally a competent actor, fails on nearly every level thanks to Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s embarrassingly cliched script.  By the time the two icons of pop culture finally come to blows, we just don’t care anymore because we’ve seen it all before.  The tension between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the death of the Wayne parents, Alfred struggling with the dangerous behavior of Master Wayne, and an over-the-top supervillain chewing the scenery in an attempt to save the film (but seriously, Jesse Eisenberg is one of the film’s saving graces).  It’s tired, it’s boring, and it’s just too damn long.  Somebody ought to tell Snyder to stick to something he’s good at, because it sure as hell isn’t superhero films.

tumblr_nz47gl5pbf1uj9ivco1_12804. Dirty Grandpa
Directed by: Dan Mazer
Written by: John M. Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Dermot Mulrooney

How the mighty have fallen!  Robert De Niro, star of films such as The Godfather Part II, Goodfellas, Casino, The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, was once known as the finest American actor to ever live.  That was back then, before the days of Dirty Grandpa.  It’s clear to me that De Niro feels like he’s earned his place in cinema history, because now every project he takes on is done in the name of the almighty dollar.  Dirty Grandpa is perhaps the ultimate example of this.  Featuring a cast of perfectly likable actors, an Oscar-nominated director, and a somewhat promising (if heavily cliched) plot, what could go wrong?  Well, everything it seems.  Dirty Grandpa is embarrassingly unfunny, almost as if it isn’t even trying to get a laugh out of the audience.  Zac Efron is an actor I’ve come to greatly admire over these last few years, but him playing the straight man to De Niro’s “crazy ol’ grampie” is just plain wrong, and completely unbelievable.  Efron’s straight man act ensures that the young actor can’t show off his true comedic skills, never giving him anything promising or subtle to play with.  Dirty Grandpa is lazy in the worst way, with a predictable script and lazy performances from a usually funny cast, there’s very little to like about this thing.  I tried, I really did.

160708_mov_ghostbusters_light-jpg-crop-cq5dam_web_1280_1280_jpeg3. Ghostbusters
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

Ghostbusters was my most anticipated film of the year, even amid all its controversies. While I don’t care about the original film in any way, I saw a great deal about it to be excited about.  Its director, Paul Feig, had previously released Bridesmaids and Spy, two hilarious female starring comedies featuring two of the hilarious stars of the new Ghostbusters in Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Ghostbusters was the subject of months of debate over the all-female cast, prompting feminists and anti-feminists alike to fight tooth and nail to decade whose ideology is the “right” one.  I’m sad to report that this is not a hill I want to die on, nor should anybody else.  Ghostbusters is at best one of the more mediocre films ever released, and the amount of attention and controversy it garnered is baffling to me.  Its script is awful, providing almost no laughs from me or the audience in the theatre that warm Summer afternoon.  The stars, normally funny, are instead shovelled into straight-laced and unremarkable roles, destroying any charm they may have brought to the film.  Its co-stars, including Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, are embarrassingly bad, giving some of the worst comedic delivery I’ve seen in a film this year.  While they may be funny outside of Ghostbusters, this certainly wasn’t a showcase to be proud of in any way.  With the exception of some interesting special effects, this is a bland, dry, and soulless film.  I really wanted to love it, but instead I walked out wondering what all the fuss was about.


2. Mother’s Day
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by: Tom Hines, Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant

Poor, poor Garry Marshall.  The famous Happy Days creator and director of Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, and other such beloved properties passed away in July of this year, leaving behind Mother’s Day as his final project.  While I can’t claim that I’ve ever enjoyed one of Marshall’s film, I certainly see value to the entertainment they bring with them, and I respect anybody who finds enjoyment out of them…but Mother’s Day is void of entertainment.  It’s a contrived mess of a film, even for Marshall’s famous late-career ensemble films.  Starring washed up names like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Timothy Olyphant, there’s literally nobody to get behind in Mother’s Day.  Every single character is annoying, grating, or are just plain terrible people.  The plot is about as believable as any modern contrived romantic film, featuring twists and turns that come out of nowhere that the audience is somehow supposed to care about.  It’s bad in every single way, and I beg you all to stay far, far away from it, no matter how curious you may be.  It’s not even good enough for a quick “so bad, it’s good” laugh, because you’ll be too busy tearing your own hair out to enjoy this loud, pointless mistake.

maxresdefault-31. Ben-Hur
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Written by: Keith Clarke, John Ridley
Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Morgan Freeman

Yikes.  1959’s Ben-Hur is the film that got me into the movies as a young lad, featuring excellent performances, a fully realized ancient world, incredible action set pieces, and a wonderful story loosely revolving around the last years of Jesus Christ’s life. Ben-Hur 2016 has none of these things, instead resorting to cheap, tired cliches and TV-level actors to somehow replicate the incredible Best Picture winning film.  Timur Bekmambetov’s films are usually quite brash and loud and meandering, but Ben-Hur absolutely takes the cake.  Instead of opting to faithfully re-tell the story of the 1959 film, it attempts to bring its own small unique elements into it, failing on literally every level.  There’s absolutely nothing subtle about Clarke and Ridley’s script, making the religious tie-ins much more eye-roll inducing than they should be, and transforming the character of Judah Ben-Hur into a completely unlikable, vengeful man.  The chariot race at the center of the film is unmemorable and unfocused, losing any of the grit and brutality found in the 1959 film’s epic race scene.  Don’t even get me started on Morgan Freeman, who is quickly becoming my least favorite living actor by taking roles such as these.  His role is forced and entirely cheesy, bringing nothing to the film except some laughs at his awful wig.  The man is a shell of a former self, much like director Timur Bekmambetov, who was once seen as an innovative mind. There’s nothing innovative about 2016’s Ben-Hur.  It might actually be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, so I don’t expect it to be dethroned by anything in 2016. Only time will tell.

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