Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Blindspot: What's Eating Gilbert Grape


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What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is essentially a coming of age story set in a small town. Gilbert is a young man living in a small town, and has a lot of responsibility. His father passed away several years ago, he has a mother who is so overweight she barely gets off the couch (much less out of the house), has several younger siblings to take care of, but mainly needs to look after his youngest brother Arnie, who is mentally disabled. Arnie was never supposed to live very long as a baby, but is now about to celebrate his 18th birthday.

This movie is not an overly acclaimed movie, if I'm correct. However, what it's most known for is getting Leonardo DiCaprio his first acting nomination, and what some would say is his very best performance. To be honest, this was pretty much the only reason I put this film on my list. There are a lot of opinions about what Leo's best performance is (and I selected this film before I had seen the Revenant last year), so I really wanted to see what other people saw. Because it was 1994 and Leo was nominated for his first Oscar and was also up against Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List, which is also another fantastic, for the history books performances. So when people always complained that Leo didn't win this Oscar, I always wanted to point to Fiennes also having lost that year, but I wanted to truly see which of the performances was more deserving.

In all honesty, I do actually think this might be Leo's best ever performance. To be fair, I haven't seen his performance in Wolf of Wall Street, but this performance is so unique from a lot of Leo's other performances. Maybe because this was essentially his first big role and what planted him on the map. But his performance here is so pure, and I feel like it's so natural and authentic of children/teens with autism. A friend of mine growing up had an autistic little brother and the character of Arnie and how he acted reminded me a lot of this boy/teen I knew. The mannerisms were just right and the writing behind it felt so true.

Besides Leo's performance, I felt the movie was just kind of okay otherwise. It was a pretty typical coming of age story for Gilbert. He's dealing with all his responsibility of constantly looking after Arnie while also trying to figure out his life and is falling in love. Johnny Depp did a good job here but he was thoroughly outshined by Leo.

Had Leo not been in this film, I would probably have forgotten about the film by now. It's a film similar to many I've seen before, though that doesn't necessarily make it bad. But the character of Arnie and his relationship with Gilbert is what makes this movie interesting.

7.5/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sully


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Sully, 2016
Directed by Clint Eastwood

I roughly remember "The Miracle on the Hudson". It was January 2009 and I was in grade 11. I remember hearing about a plane landing on the Hudson River in New York (a city I had just been in a few months earlier) and thinking that was pretty neat. It was a good story! So naturally, I wasn't surprised to hear a film was being made several years later.

Sully is a pretty typical story of a big event that happened. It shows the major event but also deals with the aftermath, and even gives us a little of the beforehand. However, to me, Sully was a slightly roughly chopped film. There didn't seem to be a good flow to the scenes and they seemed to be in an odd order.

The film opens with the days following the "miracle landing". We follow Sully, the pilot of the plane, and how the landing has affected him. He's suffering PTSD and keeps seeing the plane he flew and landed crashing into buildings instead of landing in the river. We go through a few deposition scenes and then suddenly, and slightly unceremoniously, we get the flashback to the crash/landing. The sequence comes about 30 minutes in and lasts probably 15 minutes. We then cut back to Sully speaking to his wife on the phone and we continue with the aftermath depositions and trials, and while Sully is in a bar, seeing himself on TV, we get another long flashback, etc, etc. I think the film could've been better laid out. Either show the entire sequence at the beginning, the entire sequence at the end, or evenly sit in the present and flashback. But this film was just inconsistent in when they would flashback and when they would sit in the "present". It's hard to describe, but it could've been better laid out and flowed better.

Tom Hanks as Sully was an incredibly obvious choice. Just like Captain Phillips, it seems like a role that Tom Hanks has been playing for roughly a decade now. He does a fine job but it didn't feel like we were seeing anything new from Hanks. Undoubtedly Hanks is a great actor, but I feel he's been playing the same role for a while now.

Honestly, I felt like Sully could've been a lot better. The first 15 minutes showed the PTSD of Sully and his co-pilot, which was something I would've liked Clint Eastwood to focus on more. But after those 15 minutes, it's not touched on much at all. The film just touches on a few things like this briefly, but doesn't focus on it throughout the film. There's a lot of interesting pieces here, but it kind of felt thrown together. This film could've been really great, because it's awesome to see some good news sometimes. But this film didn't do the film justice. It felt like there was some created drama just for the sake of having drama (the question of whether Sully made the right choice in landing in the Hudson or if he should've tried to go back to the airport). But it was a fine film, though I don't think it deserves any sort of awards attention. It's a good film that isn't overly creative or original. It's very typical for this type of film.

7/10

Arrival


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Arrival, 2016
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Honestly, Arrival is by far my favourite film of 2016 thus far. I mean, this isn't saying a lot because I haven't seen very many good films this year at all. But Arrival is an incredibly-made and a very intelligent film about Earth's first contact with an alien race.

Arrival is a film about communication, about humanity, about love and about how we perceive time. About how everything in our lives affects the way we see things and they change our perceptions. It's a story about Louise Banks, a world-renowned linguist, and how she is used by the army to try to communicate to aliens that have landed on Earth. 12 "pods" have landed all over the planet with no seeming pattern. And the aliens do not speak any Earthly language. Louise, with the help of Ian (a scientist), attempt to teach the Aliens English, and attempt to learn the language of the aliens.

For a long time, the human race has been obsessed with the idea of aliens and first contact. There are countless film about Alien invasions, about first contact, about friendly aliens, but just generally this idea that there is another, more intelligent race out there. But Arrival is a much different animal than many of the other "Alien" films out there. Arrival is both grand in scale but also an intimate human drama. It both tackles how this "arrival" impacts the entire globe, but also very specifically about how it is impacting Louise and her past and future.

Without giving out specifics or spoilers, Arrival is a film that actually knows how to deal with time. I'm not going to say any more about this, but this movie really understands the time aspect of it's film, which I find a lot of other movies don't. It uses time in different ways than other movies have done. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense to people who haven't seen this film, but trust me, you'll understand once you've watched it.

Also, Amy Adams give an incredible performance here. It's so internalized and subtle, but at the same time she's so in control and powerful. Louise is an incredibly strong character and she's incredibly brilliant. Amy Adams was such a great choice to bring Louise to life.

Honestly, Arrival is just an incredibly beautiful film about communication and how we come together as a planet. It taps into this idea that newcomers we don't understand are often automatically a threat. It shows how well and how badly we communicate with each other, both person to person, and on a global scale. Honestly, the ending will probably destroy you (the choice of music picked was 100000% perfection) and it's something very different for this genre.

I don't know how to articulate enough that Arrival is honestly a must-see film this year. It transcends so many different genres and takes the time to actually think through the science and the time of the story and just takes the time to build character. This is not a film with loud booms and lots of explosions. This film is cerebral and intelligent, but also human and heartbreaking in the best way. I would love to see this film make good money so it can tell Hollywood that these kind of intelligent film are important and they are good and are worth making. This should 100% be up for Best Picture come February, and I would love to see Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams also singled out with individual nominations.

9.5/10

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

October Blindspot: Breakfast at Tiffany's


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Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
Directed by Blake Edwards

Based on a Truman Capote novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's is about a young woman named Holly Golightly and the interest she has in an older man that moves into her building. But Holly is mainly obsessed with finding a rich husband.

Honestly, I do not understand the hype over this film. I know the opening shots of Audrey Hepburn in this are classic, and even her performance in this film is really good (and quite different from other roles she has played), but I do not understand the love for this film, sad to say. I really did want to like it, but the story was just kind of weird and bland and Holly wasn't an overly sympathetic character. She has a complicated past and the new man who moves into her building (Paul Varjak), she keeps referring to him as her brothers name. Holly was a borderline Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I don't know whether this was Capote's doing (I feel like a novelized version of this is probably much more interesting), or whether this was the director/screenwriters doing, but Holly was just that typical character who seems to live vivaciously, but then has a dark past and isn't actually as happy as she seems.

Like I said, Audrey Hepburn does give a very good performance here, and the music was definitely a deserved Oscar win (as well as the original song). But I just found the movie kind of weird and boring and just not really what I expected. I almost wonder if most people just like to remember the classic-looking opening sequence and forget the rest of the movie.

6/10




Saturday, 29 October 2016

Mini-Reviews

Sing Street
Sing Street is an 80's Irish musical about a young high school boy who starts a band in order to impress a girl. It's simple, but it's done really well and the music is really great!

Conor lives in Dublin in the 80's, where lots of the people around him, including his own family, are very poor. Lots of people are fleeing to England for a better life. I really enjoyed Sing Street! The music was actually really good and I thought it was a quirky, charming movie. While I couldn't always 100% understand the characters, because of the thick Irish accents, it was a fun movie with some good child performances, and some actually awesome 80's style music!


The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe starring in a 70's buddy-cop comedy? I'm not sure a lot of people expected this duo to be the comical success that they were.

Directed by Shane Black, Gosling and Crowe play two detectives looking into the murder/death of an adult film star and a missing woman. The pairing of Gosling and Crowe is really quite brilliant. They are so different from each other and it's an unexpected pairing that works incredibly well. Ryan Gosling is really fantastic in this film and it's so much fun to see him act so ridiculous. His physical comedy is really hysterical (specifically a scene with him in a bathroom) and he actually gives a really good performance. I'd be bitter if he didn't get nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe Comedy/Musical but I'm sure his performance in La La Land is even more exceptional. The Nice Guys is a fun movie, if somewhat a little too chaotic at times. But it benefits so well from Crowe and Goslings chemistry and humor.

Swiss Army Man
I do not think I have ever watched a stranger movie. Nor do I think I have ever liked a movie that was this strange. Honestly, the major draw for me here was the pairing of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. However, the idea of Paul Dano's character about to commit suicide after being stranded on a desert island for so long, only to be distracted by Daniel Radcliffe's corpse washing ashore and Paul Dano rides him as a boat while Radcliffe's farts propel them to land. Yes, that actually happens. And no, it doesn't stop there.

Somewhere, Swiss Army Man becomes a story about fitting in, about taking risks, about love and about life and grief. It's about living live vivaciously and taking a risk on love. But also about not caring what others think of you. It's a very, very strange film which has Daniel Radcliffe playing a talking corpse (and his body being used as an all-purpose tool, from a water tap to chopping wood) and has Paul Dano "dressed" as a girl for a large part of the film. But it's strange and wonderful and weird, but I kind of also really loved it. The music is honestly breathtaking and amazing, and I feel like this film really proves that Daniel Radcliffe can act (and reminds us why it's frustrating that Paul Dano is so underrated)

Deadpool
Finally, finally got around to watching Deadpool. Yay, Canadian Netflix! Deadpool is probably one of the very few superhero films I've been somewhat interested to actually see. It's R-rated (and takes full advantage) and is snarky, sarcastic and is constantly breaking the fourth wall.

For the most part, I really did like Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds gives one of his best performances in a role that seems tailor-made for him. As well, the movie is legit funny (Deadpool quipping, "McAvoy or Stewart?" when an X-Men threatens to take him to go see Professor X). The jokes land and the idea of breaking the fourth wall so much is a lot of fun.

However, I felt like it almost got a little too cutesy in it's quips. Sometimes it was a little too much (like the constant jokes about sequels in 22 Jump Street that was funny at first and were funny individually but overall was a little too much). As well, the plot line itself was not overly original either. In fact, it was pretty run of the mill. But Reynolds performance and about 95% of the script and humor are what make it worth it's while. I'm glad a film like this was eventually made and that it did indeed prove that R-rated films like this make money, if they're made right.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

September Blindspot: The Pianist

The Pianist, 2002
Directed by Roman Polanski

The Pianist piqued my interest, mainly because of how often I see Adrien Brody winning the Oscar for this film on the list of "biggest shocks/surprises" at the Oscars. As well, Roman Polanski is extremely controversial (duh) and I wanted to see the movie that won him his Best Director Oscar, a movie that is based very much on his own childhood.

The Pianist tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a famous Polish pianist, who lived through the ghettoization of Warsaw.

My husband commented after the film that it was disappointing there aren't more movies set around the Polish Ghettos during WWII. And after watching this film, I do agree. Not that it was a comfortable movie to watch, but because there are so many stories to be told! And indeed, while The Pianist isn't quite on the level of Schindler's List, in terms of Holocaust/WWII movies, The Pianist is indeed beautiful and heartbreaking.

Adrien Brody is indeed exceptional as Szpilman. He goes through so many different stages and Brody plays them all so well. He has just such an emotional face and he carries the weight of Szpilman's experiences so well.

As well, just the storytelling in general is just so heartbreaking. It's not a quick flip through the scenes, but a studied look at the Polish ghetto and how demeaning that experience was. But also you think about how much luckier they probably were there than at any concentration camp, and you completely depress yourself.

The Pianist is a beautiful and heart-wrenching film that should be seen by more people. This is a movie where I can absolutely separate art from the artist. While what Polanski did was so sketchy and wrong, he was also a man who grew up experiencing the things that we see. And stories like this, about Jewish discrimination and extinction is so important.

9/10

Mini Reviews: Cafe Society, The Light Between Oceans, Where to Invade Next

Cafe Society
I would compare Cafe Society to a beach read, a book you bring on your beach vacation. It's pleasant and even sometimes charming and fun, but overall, it was nice in the moment but it's not overly memorable. However, that's not at all to say Cafe Society is a bad movie. In fact, it's probably Woody Allen's best movie in a few years.

It's the simple story of Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) who leaves New York to come to Hollywood in the 1930's. He gets a job working for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) at a casting agency for Hollywood stars, and falls in love with Phil's assistant Vonnie. Vonnie is beautiful and cool and she and Bobby become only friends because Vonnie is in a relationship with Bobby's uncle Phil (unbeknownst to Bobby).

I actually loved Kristen Stewart in this movie. I think she finally found the right part that made me think she was so cool and I wanted to be her! Kristen's performance as Vonnie was cool girl with a hint of hypocrisy. She was just so great to watch, and I'm happy she's finally coming into her own as an actress. As well, I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg, though it was once again a role similar to many things he's played before, this time with a little less arrogance. It was a fun, simple film with some nice performances and left you feeling nice.

7.5/10

The Light Between Oceans
I actually read this book about a year ago and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to see this film, despite the middling reviews. And honestly, it deserves a little more credit than it got. Michael Fassbender is in a role unlike I've seen him in before, and Alicia Vikander reminds us why she won her Oscar.

Tom is a lighthouse keeper and he and his wife Isobel work on Janus island, miles and miles from civilization. After several miscarriages, a boat washes ashore with a small, crying baby and a dead man. Instead of reporting this to the authorities, they decide to keep the baby and claim her as their own.

I was excited that Derek Cianfrance would be directing this because I felt like the subject matter was up his alley in terms of grim portraits of relationships and people. However, it was much more "soapy" than I was expecting from him, which indeed was a disappointment. However, the film was one of the most gorgeous I've seen all year, with beautiful cinematography, costumes and a lovely score from the ever-dependable Alexandre Desplat. Again, the performances were good and I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the film very, very much. It starts to get a little long in the end and it takes its time about wrapping up, but it's still an enjoyable movie about life and love, and doesn't deserve to be quite the bomb that it was.

6.5/10

Where To Invade Next
I saw one Michael Moore film once and I remember not enjoying it at all. To me, Michael Moore is that guy who knocks on peoples door and confronts them and yells at them about injustices/conspiracy theories/etc. So when my parents recommended I watch this, I was a little skeptical but thought the premise was interesting.

Indeed, I enjoyed the film very, very much. In this film, Michael Moore visits other countries around the world to see what things they are doing well (things like education, women's rights, vacation pay, etc) and "claiming" those ideas for America. In fact, I felt this film really communicated a lot of the frustrations I have with the United States while actually being somewhat gracious and hopeful about it!

Michael Moore was not angrily banging on peoples door here, but he was sitting down with real people from and having real conversations about how France treats lunchtime as a class and teaches kid manners and proper nutrition, how Slovenia has free college education, how Norway has a much more rehabilitation approach to prison, and how Italians get a lot of vacation time and how employers want their employees to be happy. It was a great look at so many countries around the world and how backwards the US is in a lot of these ways. Michael Moore was much more gracious than I had ever expected, and it ended on a much more positive and hopeful note rather than an angry/negative one. This film is definitely a must-watch!

9.5/10

Monday, 26 September 2016

Deepwater Horizon


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Deepwater Horizon, 2016
Directed by Peter Berg

I was a really big fan of Peter Bergs last film, Lone Survivor. I think it was a really well made and well told story. It was a simple story, but it was treated with complexity and subtly. And it also kind of made me believe in Mark Walhberg again. So naturally, I was actually kind of looking forward to this one. While it's a little less nuanced, even in just the subject matter of the story, it was still a well made film.

Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the biggest oil spill in history and gives us a full picture of what "oil spill" actually means. We follow Mike Williams and his crew as they board the Deepwater Horizon to find out the previous crew left early before doing some cement tests on the actual well. The crew insists that they need to do more tests before actually drilling, which the visiting BP men are hesitant to do because this rig is already 43 days behind schedule. However, even after the test results are sketchy at best, BP insists that it's fine. But only a few hours later does everything go wrong.

I vaguely remember hearing about this spill when it happened. It was 2010 and I  was a senior in high school. I remember hearing the term "oil spill" and pictured one of those Captain Phillips-like freight boats was carrying oil and somehow the ship was sideways in the water, oil spilling out. To me, back then, that's what I pictured when someone said oil spill. I don't remember hearing about the fires that took days and days to put out.

Peter Berg makes a smart move and contains the events of the movie simple to April 20th 2010. The first part of the film is a little disorienting, as it jumps straight into oil rig jargon and we don't have a "new person" to have all these terms explained to, for us. While you don't 100% know what's going on, you do get the gist. But the second half, with the explosions and the oil spill, you don't really need words. It's almost like watching Titanic, where nowhere the crew can go is safe.

To me, the films running time at 1 hour 47 minutes is perfect. It's not too long and Berg knows not to draw things out. He keeps the beginning simple, and the second half of the film is just as long as it needs to be. It's a brisk film but it really gets to the point. The only drawback is we probably don't get enough blame pushed onto BP and the big corporations that skimped on a lot of the safety tests, but when you limit your film to only the day-of, that happens. We get enough blame and questions asked as you can for a setting like that.

Honestly, I actually quite enjoyed Deepwater Horizon. In a summer of really meh movies, this is probably the first movie I've genuinely liked in a while. Mark Walhberg does a serviceable job, and it's nice to see Gina Rodriguez up on the big screen. Deepwater Horizon is simple in premise, and while it doesn't make as huge an impact as Lone Survivor did, this is still an admirable film that treats the subject matter with both anger and dignity.

8/10

Monday, 29 August 2016

August Blindspot: Blade Runner


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Blade Runner, 1982
Directed by Ridley Scott

I watched this film actually about a week ago, though I'm not sure why I waited so long to post my Blindspot review of it. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I thought of Blade Runner. In a way, I don't really think I thought much of it, neither good nor bad.

The concept and the world-building of Ridley Scott's cult classic is really great. The basic premise is that Deckard is a former Replicant Hunter who is asked to return to his job by his old boss when 4 Replicants escape their colony and need to be eliminated. What are Replicants? They are bioengineered androids that can pass for humans. They've been deemed illegal on Earth and are kept as slaves on other planet colonies. Like I said, the world-building of the idea of Replicants and how humans deal with them is really awesome. Even the story itself is really interesting.

I don't know though, something just didn't strike with me. To be honest, there was a scene jump early on in the film that left me confused and I was left feeling a little confused for the rest of the movie. Whether it was a choppy scene jump that actually confused me or if I got distracted and ended up confused, I'm not entirely sure. Also, I was watching The Final Cut. Does this make much of a difference to the film? I know there are quite a few cuts of this film out there.

Anyway, Harrison Ford is just really cool as Deckard, obviously. The 80's were definitely prime Harrison Ford era and this is something cool for his resume. However, was anyone hoping there'd be a big twist and that Deckard is a similar kind of replicant to Rachel? I was seriously hoping that would happen, but it did not. Twist for the sequel?

Honestly, I wish I had enjoyed the film more and maybe after another viewing I probably will. I am eager for the sequel as I'm very excited that Denis Villeneuve was selected as the director. The original had a really cool vibe and was much slower than I was expecting (which I liked) and I think it's definitely right up Villeneuve's alley. Also, Jared Leto better be playing some sort of Replicant because he completely looks the part.

Anyway, I did somewhat enjoy Blade Runner but did feel a bit confused for most of the time. I do plan to try to rewatch this film in the near-ish future (when I get some time!) So hopefully I can change my initial opinion on this film.

7/10

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Ben-Hur



Ben-Hur, 2016
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

I think I can probably count myself as one of a small group of people under 25 that saw the 1959 Charleton Heston version of Ben-Hur. In fact, I ranked it as my 3rd favourite Best Picture winner, so I actually liked the film very, very much. So when I heard that they were doing a new version of Ben-Hur, all I could ask was "why?"

And even after finally watching the new 2016 version, I still don't fully understand the need for this remake. In fact, I'm still fairly unsure who the target audience for this even is. Is it those who saw the 1959 version? But would 3D appeal to that 65+ audience? Is this targeted at the Christian community? Is it trying to draw in new and younger viewers who didn't see the more famous (and long) version? So while I can't exactly figure out who this was aimed at or why it was even remade to begin with, I can say that this remake was much better than I had imagined it would be.

Ben-Hur, if you dont' already know, tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince living in Jerusalem. His adopted brother, Masala, is Roman, and when they are grown up, Masala leaves Jerusalem to become an officer in the Roman army. However, Judah is falsely convicted of treason by his adopted brother and becomes a slave, separated from his family and the woman he loves, Judah is driven to return and to have revenge on Masala.

While I did mention this version is much better than I expected, it is in no way a perfect film. In fact, the first 30-45 minutes are a little confusing and not well explained. There is a lot of drama with Romans vs the zealots in Jerusalem but it's not really made all that clear. As well, I feel like who characters even were was not overly explained either. It took a while for the film to eventually find it's feet. But eventually it did, and for quite a while the film was actually really good. Basically, it isn't until Judah becomes a slave that the film really picks up. However, the ending became somewhat clunky as this is the part where the story of Jesus is interwoven into the story and I don't know if the filmmaker really knows how to deal with this part. Without too many spoilers, I felt like it was much more a painting of "Jesus was a really, really good person with great ideas about how to live" instead of telling the audience that Jesus was in fact God and was here to save the world from sin and that he was much more than just a "good man". While I found the lessening of the religiousness and having it turned more into moralism to be somewhat disappointing, I was not overly surprised.

And how can I not mention the chariot scene? I saw it in 3D which was honestly pretty neat, even if my eyes kind of suck at seeing 3D stuff. I can tell this new version really tried to make the chariot scene, which is the most iconic scene from the 1959 version, much more epic, but I really feel like the original chariot scene still holds up so well and is still quite thrilling. Again, this is more a complaint of why remake something that is such a classic, but I digress. The chariot scene was well done, although I feel like most of it was Judah and Masala just grunting at each other and making faces.

Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur was quite good. He really nailed the air of a rich naive person who thinks everything can resolve nicely. And Toby Kebbell is also really good as Masala. Morgan Freeman's dreadlocks I found to be extremely distracting, but it was nice to see him around and he was solid (as usual) in his part as Ilderim, the man who makes money off these Roman circuses. Everyone was quite serviceable in their roles, and Jack Huston was actually quite good, but there was nothing that overly stood out to me about their acting.

To be honest, do yourself a favour and see the 1959 version of this film. I know not everyone agrees that it has held up, but it really is a good watch for a 3+ hour movie. However, this 2016 3D Ben-Hur is a serviceable remake of an absolute classic and isn't the worst remake of something I've seen. The pacing is really good despite the confusing beginning and clunky end, and doesn't feel nearly like it's 2.5 hours long. It's not a perfect film, but I've definitely seen far worse this summer.

6/10