In terms of spectacle and emotional power, few films have equalled the 1959 epic, “Ben-Hur.” Although the new version big screen version is adequate for the uninitiated, it pales by comparison.
Jack Huston steps into the role that won Charton Heston an Oscar, a Jewish aristocrat who is betrayed by his Roman best friend during the days of Jesus in Jerusalem. Purists may balk at some of the changes the filmmakers have made in the story, but visually, the new version delivers.
It may be too early to talk about Oscars, but we may well be mentioning the modern Western “Hell or High Water” at awards time. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster star in this terrific Texas bank robbery flick that may have the best screenplay of the year. It’s a social commentary and character study disguised as a thriller.
Every frame of “Kubo and the Two Strings” is work of art. The visuals for this stop-motion animated tale about magic in ancient Japan are deserving of the term “stunning.” The story may be too intense and tangled for the very young, but older kids and adults should enjoy its opulent pleasures.
“War Dogs” tries to do for arms smuggling what “The Big Short” did for the economic meltdown. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in this comic true story about old friends who get in over their head when they try to cash in on the military’s open bidding for weaponry during the Iraq War. It’s funny, scary and profane in equal measure but relies a bit too much on voice-over narration.
When a improv comic, played by Keegan-Michael Key, gets a job on a popular TV comedy show, the other members of his improv group become jealous and resentful. “Don’t Think Twice” is a bittersweet comedy from writer/director/star Mike Berbiglia about unfulfilled dreams and unused potential. It’s smart and sometimes touching, but not quite as funny as it could have been.
Also opening this week, Daniel Radcliff plays a federal agent who infiltrates a white supremacist group in the thriller, “Imperium.”