Review: Ben-Hur (dir. Timur Bekmambetov, 2016)

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In theory, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t make a new version of Ben-Hur. Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel has been dramatized several times already, and the most famous film of them all — the 1959 adaptation with Charlton Heston — deviated from the book in ways that arguably made it a less-than-definitive adaptation of the source material. (Among other things, the Heston film is less overt about its Christianity than the silent 1925 version.) So I was prepared to give the new movie a chance.

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The first four clips from Ben-Hur are now online, and a few other things we learned about the movie today

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A lot of new footage from the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur went live today.

First, the ShareBenHur.com website posted four clips from the film as part of a “faith-based” discussion guide. And then, a 20-minute montage of film clips was included in a simulcast hosted by Rick Warren and producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey that was streamed to churches and other venues across the country.

These clips give us our best look at the film yet, and they reveal some of the ways that this new version of Ben-Hur will differ from the versions that came before it.

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Risen on Blu-Ray: some quick notes on the bonus features

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It took a while for my review copy to arrive, but I finally had a chance to check out the bonus features on the Risen Blu-Ray. Here are a few quick thoughts on them.

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The shortest Ben-Hur ever? Timur Bekmambetov says his version will be “two hours”, “not a four-hour story”

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Admittedly, the headline on this post may be a tad misleading. The shortest version of Ben-Hur to date is a 16-minute one-reeler produced in 1907, before feature-length films had really become a thing. And there are also at least two animated versions of this story (made in 1988 and 2003) that are an hour in length, give or take.1

But as far as feature-length live-action adaptations go, the shortest version of Ben-Hur to date is the silent film produced in 1925, which has a running time of 143 minutes. The 1959 version with Charlton Heston runs 222 minutes (including eight minutes of overture and entr’acte music). And the 2010 miniseries runs about 180 minutes.

And it sounds like this year’s version might be shorter than all three of them.

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Bible movie of the week: The Last Days of Pompeii (dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1935)

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Bible movies were big in the silent era, which came to an end in the late 1920s, and they were big again in the 1950s, when pious spectacle was all the rage — but very few were produced during the two decades between those eras.1 Hollywood, in particular, seemed to lose interest in the genre entirely during this period. Nevertheless, a few films did at least touch on the genre, even if they did not commit to it fully.

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Review: Risen (dir. Kevin Reynolds, 2016)

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The Jesus movies of the past dozen years have followed a trajectory that is almost the complete opposite of their counterparts in the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood.

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