REVIEW: BEN-HUR (2016)

CAST

Jack Huston (American Hustle)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises)
Toby Kebbell (Warcraft)
Nazanin Boniadi (Passengers)
Rodrigo Santoro (Focus)
Sofia Black-D’Elia (Project Almanac)
Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil)
Haluk Bilginer (W.E.)
Moisés Arias (Ender’s Game)
Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones)
Marwan Kenzari (The Mummy)
James Cosmo (Highlander)

Ben-Hur (2016)A Jewish nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adoptive Roman brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are best friends despite their different origins. While racing horses, Ben-Hur is hurt and Messala carries him back to their family home in Jerusalem. Despite the hospitality of Ben Hur’s mother Naomi (Ayelet Zurer) and the affections of sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia), Messala feels alienated in his adopted family. He enlists in the Roman army and fights in the Roman Empire’s wars in Germany. Ben-Hur also develops feelings for the family slave Esther (Nazanin Boniadi) although their different station in life compels him not to pursue her. But when her father Simonides (Haluk Bilginer) seeks to marry her off to a Roman, Judah declares his love for her and takes her as his wife.Morgan Freeman in Ben-Hur (2016)Three years later, Messala returns as a decorated Roman officer. His return coincides with a rising insurrection by the Zealots, who are opposed to the oppressive nature of Roman rule. Judah treats and shelters a young Zealot youth named Dismas (Moisés Arias). Messala reunites with Ben-Hur and attempts to convince his adoptive brother to serve as an informant. Following a reunion dinner with Ben-Hur and his family, Messala informs them that a new Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Pilou Asbæk) will be taking residence in Jerusalem and that no incidents must occur.Jack Huston and Nazanin Boniadi in Ben-Hur (2016)Days later, Pontius Pilate marches into Jerusalem with Ben-Hur and his family watching from a balcony. Dismas attempts to assassinate Pilate with a bow but fails. In retaliation, the Romans storm Ben-Hur’s household and arrest him and his family. Rather than betray a fellow Jew, Ben-Hur takes responsibility for the assassination attempt and is sentenced to enslavement aboard a galley. His mother and sister are sentenced to be crucified. Ben-Hur and Messala fall out with the two hating each other for their perceived betrayals. While being led to the galley, Ben-Hur encounters Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro), who fetches him some water.Ben-Hur endures five years of slavery as a rower aboard a Roman galley under the command of Quintus Arius (James Cosmo). During a naval battle against Greek rebels in the Ionian Sea, Ben-Hur’s galley is boarded. The drummer pressures the slaves to row, but the galley collides with another ship and is destroyed as Ben-Hur manages to cling to a floating mast. He is washed ashore and is found by Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), who recognizes him as an escaped slave. Ben-Hur manages to convince Ilderim not to hand him over to the Romans by treating one of the Nubian’s racing horses. After Ben-Hur develops a bond with the four racing horses, a grateful Ilderim then trains Ben-Hur to be a chariot racer.Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)Ben-Hur and Sheik Ilderim later travel to Jerusalem to take part in a grand chariot race at the newly built Roman circus. Jesus’ preaching ministry draws the attention of governor Pilate and Messala, who is now the commander of the Roman garrison and a champion chariot racer. While visiting Jerusalem, Ben-Hur encounters Esther, who has become a follower of Jesus and is involved in charity work. Esther tells Ben-Hur that his mother and sister are dead, and despite their reunion, the two are kept emotionally apart due to her new cause which is contrary to Judah’s insistence on seeking revenge against Messala. Ben-Hur later confronts Messala alone in their former home but is forced to flee when Roman soldiers turn up. After the Romans execute twenty Jews in reprisal, Esther completely falls out with Ben-Hur. Sheik Ilderim instructs Ben-Hur in chariot racing techniques. Later, Ben-Hur encounters a former Roman soldier named Druses (Marwan Kenzari), who informs him that his mother Naomi and sister Tirzah are still alive. However, their reunion is soured when Ben-Hur discovers his mother and sister have leprosy, the former also appearing to have lost her memory.Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)Sheik Ilderim bribes Pilate into allowing Ben-Hur to compete by proposing a high wager. Esther tries to convince Messala not to race Ben-Hur, but he is adamant that he will win. On the day of the race, Ben-Hur follows Ilderim’s instructions to hold back from the race until the final laps. Using dirty tactics, Messala manages to knock out the other competing charioteers. Following a brutal and grueling race, Ben-Hur wins the race. Messala survives but is badly wounded and loses a leg. Ben-Hur’s victory embolden the Jewish spectators and yields dividends for Ilderim. Despite his victory, Ben-Hur is despondent about his family and his former friend Messala. Later, Esther witnesses the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Ben-Hur and Esther witness a bruised and beaten Jesus being forced to carry his cross through the streets. Mirroring his first encounter with Jesus, Ben-Hur tries to offer Jesus water but is beaten by a Roman soldier. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, a rainstorm occurs. Naomi and Tirzah are miraculously healed by rainwater containing the blood of Jesus, and Sheik Ilderim pays a ransom to set them free. In the end, Ben-Hur reconciles with Messala. Despite his anger, Messala finds the strength to forgive Ben-Hur and is reconciled to him and his family. Together, Ben-Hur, his mother, sister, Esther, and Messala accompany Sheik Ilderim’s caravan as they leave Jerusalem.Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston in Ben-Hur (2016)The main actors and actresses do a good (not great) job. I felt Morgan Freeman may have phoned it in a little, but he delivered one of my favourite lines of the movie. My favourite actors were the slave drivers on the galley along with the drummer. They have small roles but I loved them. I didn’t care for the Jesus scenes though. He is a hard character to portray, and I just didn’t like it when he spoke. Overall, I felt it was a pretty good movie that succeeds in many aspects with the themes of revenge/forgiveness and delivers one exciting race. It’s not perfect but a good movie overall.

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REVIEW: THE GREAT WALL

 

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Jing Tian (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Andy Lau (A Simple Life)
Zhang Hanyu (Operation Red Sea)
Pilou Asbæk (Ghost In The Shell)

Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Tian Jing, and Cheney Chen in The Great Wall (2016)Searching for the secret of gunpowder, twenty European mercenaries have traveled to China during the reign of the Renzong Emperor (AD 1010–63). A few miles north of the Great Wall, they are pursued by Khitan bandits, who kill some of the men. Upon escaping, they seek refuge in a cave but are attacked by an unknown monster, leaving only William and Tovar alive, with the former having slashed off the monster’s hand. The two decide to bring the arm with them. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect, called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao and Strategist Wang.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of monsters called Tao Tieh who rise every sixty years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the monster’s severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still a week away. Suddenly, a large wave of monsters attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized.Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal in The Great Wall (2016)The Nameless Order is divided into five special units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop, the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the horse-mounted Deer Troop. Losses are sustained on both sides before the monsters’ queen recalls her warriors. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Sir Ballard, a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder and had been serving as an English and Latin teacher. William saves Peng Yong, a warrior in the Bear Troop, from the attacking monsters. William and Tovar’s battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin, leader of the Crane Troop.The Great Wall (2016)Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied in battle. Later, Wang meets William and explains the situation: the monsters that he fought were Tao Tieh, which originated from a green meteor that crashed into Gouwu Mountain two thousand years ago. The Chinese believe the Tao Tieh were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and its people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)During the night, two Tao Tieh reach the top of the Wall and silently kill several watchmen. Shao and Lin lead the Deer soldiers to investigate, but are ambushed. The Tao Tieh are slain but Shao, wounded beyond recovery, succumbs to his injuries and dies, leaving Lin to take command of the Nameless Order. Around this time, an envoy from the capital Bianliang arrives with an ancient scroll which suggests that the monsters are pacified by magnets. Wang believes that the stone William carried all this time enabled him to slay the Tao Tieh he fought before entering the Wall. To test the hypothesis, William suggests that they should capture a Tao Tieh alive and agrees to help. This results in his delaying his escape plans, which puts him at odds with Tovar who nevertheless delays his escape plan to assist William, much to Ballard’s chagrin.During the next attack, the Tao Tieh are numerous enough to cause Lin to resort to using black powder rockets, whose existence had been kept secret from the Westerners until now. They manage to capture a living Tao Tieh and prove the hypothesis. The monster is taken to the capital by the envoy. A short while later, a tunnel is discovered at the base of the Wall, which the Tao Tieh queen has used to lead her hordes to the capital. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard try to escape and knock William unconscious for resisting. William is then arrested by the Chinese soldiers, and despite being saved by a statement from Peng Yong, is locked up in the Wall. Some distance away, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but is himself captured by the Khitans, who inadvertently kill themselves and Ballard after carelessly igniting the powder. Tovar reclaims the horses but is recaptured by the Deer Troop. At the capital, the envoy shows their theory to the Emperor, but the Tao Tieh wakes up and signals to the Tao Tieh queen.Tian Jing in The Great Wall (2016)Knowing that the horde is approaching the capital, Lin orders the use of unstable hot-air balloons to follow the Tao Tieh. Before setting out for Bianliang, the capital, Lin passes word to set William free, with Wang telling him to tell the outside world about the danger about to come. However, William decides to stay and boards the last balloon with Peng and Wang. They arrive just in time to see Lin’s balloon crash-landing in the now destroyed capital, and save her from being devoured. They land safely in the Emperor’s palace, where Wang proposes an idea to kill the queen by tying explosives to the captured Tao Tieh and giving it meat to be delivered to the queen. While transporting, a horde of Tao Tieh breach the sewers. Peng Yong sacrifices himself to save the others.Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016)With the Tao Tieh released, Lin and William climb the tower to shoot a black powder rocket and detonate the explosives. Wang sacrifices himself to buy time for Lin and William to move to the upper floors. Two of William’s arrows are deflected by the Tao Tieh queen’s bodyguards, but William throws the magnet into the horde, creating a gap in the shields and allowing Lin’s spear to breach the defenses. The queen is destroyed, and the rest of the horde is frozen solid. With the horde destroyed, William is given an offer, forgoing the powder to instead free Tovar, much to the latter’s annoyance. The two, guided by cavalry, begin their journey back to Europe as Lin, now the General, watches from the Wall. William says that he wants to go back, but jokes that he doesn’t trust Tovar going home alone.Overall, the plot is quite linear and simple and is centred around one important moment. Character development was welcoming, but not impressive and definitely not unexpected. The best part was not fulfilling the love sub-plot, even though I half expected this and I would have been really disappointed if it had happened. It was an enjoyable film with better effects than I expected and many other films, so give it a try. But be open minded and admire what is to be admired.

REVIEW: GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

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CAST

Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Takeshi Kitano (Boiling Point)
Michael Pitt (Hannibal)
Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones)
Chin Han (The Dark Knight)
Juliette Binoche (The 33)
Peter Ferdinando (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Lasarus Ratuere (Mabo)
Anamaria Marinca (Fury)
Michael Wincott (The Crow)
Daniel Henshall (Okja)
Rila Fukushima (Arrow)

In the near future, the vast majority of humans are augmented with cybernetics, enhancing various traits like vision, strength, and intelligence. Hanka Robotics, the world’s leading developer of augmentative technology, establishes a secret project to develop a mechanical body, or “shell”, that can integrate a human brain rather than an AI. Mira Killian, a young woman who is the sole survivor of the cyberterrorist attack which killed her parents, is chosen as the test subject after her body is apparently damaged beyond repair. Over the objections of her designer, Dr. Ouelet, Hanka CEO Cutter decides to use Killian as a counter-terrorism operative.A year later, Killian has attained the rank of Major in the anti-terrorist bureau Section 9, working alongside operatives Batou and Togusa under Chief Daisuke Aramaki. The team successfully thwarts a terrorist attack on a Hanka business conference, and Killian destroys a rogue mechanical geisha after it murders a hostage. Killian, who has been experiencing hallucinations that Ouelet dismisses as glitches, is becoming increasingly bothered by how little she remembers about her past. After learning that the geisha was hacked by an unknown entity, known only as Kuze, Killian breaks protocol and “dives” into its AI for answers. The entity attempts a counter-hack, and Batou is forced to disconnect her. Using the information she was able to gather, the two trace the hacker to a Yakuza nightclub, where they are lured into a trap. The resulting explosion destroys Batou’s eyes, and leaves Killian’s body severely damaged. Cutter is enraged by Killian’s actions, and threatens to have Section 9 shut down unless Aramaki keeps her in line.Kuze tracks down Section 9’s Hanka consultant, Dr. Dahlin, and kills her. The team links her murder to the deaths of other senior company researchers, and realize that Dr. Ouelet is the next target. Kuze takes control of two sanitation workers and sends them to kill Ouelet. Batou, now with cybernetic eyes, kills one of them while the repaired Killian subdues the other. During interrogation, Kuze briefly speaks through the surviving worker before compelling him to commit suicide. Togusa traces the hack to a secret location, where the team discovers a large number of humans mentally linked together as a makeshift signal network. Killian is captured, and Kuze reveals that he is a failed Hanka test subject from the same project that created Killian, otherwise known as 2571. He urges her to question her own memories before freeing her and escaping.Killian confronts Ouelet, who admits there were 98 test subjects before Killian but she was the only one to survive the process and that her memories are fake implanted ones. Cutter has decided that Killian is too much of a liability, and orders Ouelet to euthanize her after she returns to Hanka Robotics. Instead, Ouelet gives Killian an address and helps her escape. Cutter kills Ouelet, but blames Killian, saying that she has gone rogue. He subsequently informs Aramaki and the team that Killian must be terminated by any means necessary.Killian follows the address to an apartment occupied by a widowed mother, who reveals that her daughter, Motoko Kusanagi, ran away from home a year ago and was arrested, before taking her own life while in custody. Unable to process her emotions, Killian leaves and contacts Aramaki, who intentionally allows Cutter to eavesdrop on their conversation. Batou, Togusa, and Aramaki each eliminate Cutter’s men trying to ambush them, while Killian follows her memories to the hideaway where Motoko was last seen. There, she and Kuze meet, and recall their past lives as anti-augmentation radicals who were abducted by Hanka for use as test subjects.Cutter deploys a “spider-tank” to kill them, and Kuze nearly dies before Killian is able to tear off the tank’s motor, losing her left arm in the process. Mortally wounded, Kuze offers to merge his “ghost” with Killian’s before a Hanka sniper kills him. Batou and the team rescue Killian, while Aramaki executes Cutter with Killian’s consent. The next day, Killian, now repaired and embracing her true identity as Motoko, reconnects with her mother before returning to work with Section 9.I came into this movie not knowing anything about it, besides the fact that it was an adaption. I was absolutely blown away. The look, the story, the acting, all spectacular. I enjoyed every second. I felt every emotion. I was amazed by every visual. I walked away from the film in awe.

REVIEW: GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 6

MAIN CAST

Peter Dinklage (The Boss)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters)
Lena Headey (The Purge)
Emilia Clarke (Terminator: Genisys)
Kit Harington (Pompeii)
Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises)
Liam Cunningham (Dog Soldiers)
Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Natalie Dormer (The Forest)
Indira Varma (Human Target)
Sophie Turner (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Nathalie Emmanuel (Fast & Furious 7)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Maisie Williams (Cyberbully)
Conleth Hill (Serena)
Alfie Allen (The Other Boleyn Girl)
John Bradley (Patient Zero)
Tom Wlaschiha (Valkyrie)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Hannah Murray (Dark Shadows)
Jonathan Pryce (Stigmata)
Kristofer Hivju (After Earth)
Michiel Huisman (The Young Victoria)
Michael McElhatton (Blow Dry)
Iwan Rheon (Misfits)
Dean-Charles Chapman (Will)
Isaac Hempstead Wright (The Boxtrolls)
Jerome Flynn (Ripper Street)
Iain Glen (Tomb Raider)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Daniel Portman (Outcast)
Natalia Tena (Harry Potter)
Max Von Sydow (Conan The Barbarian)
Ellie Kendrick (An Education)
Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: DS9)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Keisha Castle-Hughes (Star Wars – Episode III)
Kristian Nairn (Ripper Street)
Gemma Whelan (Gulliver’s Travels)
Joseph Mawle (Abrham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Diana Rigg (The Avengers)
Julian Glover (Troy)
Finn Jones (Iron Fist)
Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold)
Owen Teale (King Arthur)
Patrick Malahide (Fortress 2)
Joe Naufahu (Power Rangers RPM)
Ben Crompton (All or Nothing)
Brenock O’Connor (Dickensian)
Charlotte Hope (The Musketeers)
Elizabeth Webster (Cockneys vs Zombies)
Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill)
Bella Ramsey (The Worst Witch 2017)
Michael Condron (High-Rise)
David Bradley (Harry Potter)
Tamer Hassan (Sucker Punch)
James Faulkner  (Underworld: Blood Wars)
Toby Sebastian (The Hollow Crown)
Clive Russell (The 13th Warrior)
Brian Fortune (The Inside)
Jacob Anderson (Adulthood)
Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist)
Ian Whyte (Prometheus)
Luke Roberts (300: Rise of an Empire)
Murray McArthur (The Last Legion)
Anton Lesser (Wolf Hall)
Roger Ashton-Griffiths (The Brothers Grimm)
Eugene Simon (Casanova)

Following their escape from Winterfell, Sansa Stark journeys to the Wall, while Theon Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands. In Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton secures his claim on the North by killing Roose and Walda Bolton and his new-born half-brother. At the Wall, Melisandre resurrects Jon Snow, who is reunited with Sansa; they gather loyalists and a battle ensues. Aided by the Knights of the Vale, the Starks defeat the Bolton forces. Sansa feeds Ramsay to his hounds and Jon is proclaimed the King in the North. At King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister and the Tyrell army attempt to liberate Margaery and Loras, but Margaery capitulates to the High Sparrow and Tommen forges an alliance with the Faith. During Loras and Cersei’s trial, Cersei uses wildfire to burn the Great Sept, killing the High Sparrow, Margarey, Loras, Mace, Kevan, and Lancel, while Tommen kills himself after witnessing the events. Unopposed, Cersei is crowned Queen of Westeros. Ellaria Sand and three of Oberyn Martell’s daughters kill Doran and Trystane Martell and seize control of Dorne, and Olenna meets with Ellaria to discuss an alliance. In Braavos, Arya continues her training with the Faceless Men, and soon regains her eyesight. When she refuses to accomplish a mission, the Waif is ordered to kill Arya, who kills her instead. Arya reasserts her identity as a Stark and returns to Westeros. In the Riverlands, the Hound pursues the Brotherhood Without Banners for massacring the people who saved him. He finds Lord Beric Dondarrion executing his quarry, and is asked to join the Brotherhood traveling north. Jaime Lannister besieges Riverrun and takes the castle, killing the Blackfish after forcing Edmure Tully to order a surrender. Walder Frey celebrates the victory before being killed by Arya. Beyond the Wall, Bran Stark trains with the Three-Eyed Raven but alerts the Night King, who launches an attack of White Walkers. Bran and Meera escape and are rescued by Benjen Stark. Sam Tarly, Gilly, and Little Sam travel to the Citadel at Oldtown, stopping to visit Sam’s family. In Essos, Daenerys Targaryen is captured by Khal Moro who takes her before the khals; she burns them alive and takes command of the Dothraki. Tyrion Lannister brings a short-lived peace to Meereen, which is reinforced when Daenerys returns and flies her dragons into battle against the slavers. Yara and Theon arrive and pledge allegiance to Daenerys after Euron Greyjoy kills their father and usurps leadership of the Iron Islands. Jorah Mormont departs to find a cure for greyscale and Daario is left in command of Meereen, while Daenerys sails for Westeros. Game of thrones is without a doubt the best show on tv ever! Hooked from the very beginning. Season 6 is packed full of beautifully shot battle scenes and exquisite smaller moments, all of which showcase the immense talent of the entire cast and crew.

REVIEW: LUCY

 

CAST

Scarlett Johansson (Avengers Assemble)
Morgan Freeman (BAtman Begins)
Min-Sik Choi (Lady Vengeance)
Pilou Asbæk (Hijacking)
Amr Waked (Syriana)
Julian Rhind-Tutt (Rabbit fever)
Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies)

 

Lucy (Johansson) begins her day ruffled after an evening with this week’s boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbæk). After much finagling, Richard gives up trying to convince Lucy to drop off a mysterious suitcase to Korean mob boss Mr. Jang (Min-sik) and instead handcuffs the valise to Lucy’s arm and shoos her in the door. Cut to Jang’s luxury suite, where Lucy is forced to reveal the possibly dangerous contents, which turn out to be bags of a synthetic drug capable of boosting brain function. Jang implants bags of the stuff inside Lucy and several other unwilling drug mules for travel, but the contents in Lucy’s stomach leak, instantly giving her an acute awareness of her surroundings and the ability to fight like a trained assassin. Lucy contacts scientist and professor Samuel Norman (Freeman), who lectures on the would-it-be-possible science of increasing brain function, and dodges Jang’s incoming assassins as she uses increasingly more of her brain.Besson inserts title cards each time Lucy’s brain usage hits a new milestone. Her powers at first consist of lightning-fast reflexes and the ability to solve problems without hesitation, and quickly grow to include a plethora of lethal fighting moves and the ability to control electrical current. Each cheeky title card bookends another explosion of drug-fueled super powers, and anyone complaining about the film’s science should be infuriated by the time Lucy starts manipulating technology and her own physical form. Johannson’s wide-eyed concern and cautious embrace of Lucy’s newfound gifts buoys the film. She is a fine actress doing a good job with less-than-serious material. Rarely are female leads given anything of substance to do in action films, so I applaud Besson for writing this role for a woman. Lucy allows its heroine to teeter on the brink of annihilation. Lucy is both resigned to die and determined to use the synthetic boost to overcome the otherwise-fatal drain on her body.Director Luc Besson returns to his European action roots in Lucy, a lightweight but wholly entertaining actioner with Scarlett Johansson in the lead as a woman whose inadvertent ingestion of a synthetic compound unlocks the full capacity of her mind. The science may be junk, but the action is exciting and there is plenty of humor from the able cast, which also includes Morgan Freeman.