2 items from 2016
Now that “Blair Witch,” the abysmal shaky-cam horror sequel that no one was waiting for, has come and bombed, you might be tempted to say that a certain genre is ready to lay down and die. But you’d be wrong. In the megaplex, of course, the found-footage horror film enjoyed a quick rise, a brief reign, and (now) a spectacular fall. It was launched, in 1999, with “The Blair Witch Project,” which in addition to being a highly original and — yes — unsettling movie became a fascinating phenomenon in two ways. First off, its success was beyond staggering, and not just because its $140 million domestic gross gave it the greatest budget-to-profit ratio of any movie ever made. Budget aside, “The Blair Witch Project” put more butts in seats than “Pulp Fiction” did. Clearly, that had something to do with the dread and intrigue generated by the uniquely austere thriller up onscreen, »
- Owen Gleiberman
The good news is that the story of Ben-Hur is so rock solid that not even the director of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” can screw it up completely. The sixth feature-length film or miniseries to be adapted from Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ,” Timur Bekmambetov’s take on the religious epic inevitably lacks the grandeur of Fred Niblo’s 1925 silent or the girth of William Wyler’s 1959 Oscar-hoarding classic. After all, this is 2016 (more specifically, the summer of 2016), a time when movies about Jesus are pitched only to the converted, and blockbusters can only be longer than 120 minutes if they end with two iconic superheroes fighting each other to a stalemate.
But if this new “Ben-Hur” was only provided with a fraction of the potential that’s been afforded to its predecessors, it sometimes finds the strength to reach out and scrape against its frustratingly low ceiling. »
- David Ehrlich
2 items from 2016
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