Ben-Hur

Morgan Freeman Dolphin Tale

Somewhere, someone owes Morgan Freeman $20. Because someone was foolish enough to bet Hollywood’s sagest actor that he couldn’t land roles in both the Ben-Hur remake and the pot-smoking teddy bear sex comedy in the span of 36 hours. And Freeman has proved this poor fool wrong. At least, that’s what I assume has happened. Here’s the news, which brings us the first official cast member for the latest adaptation of Lew Wallace’s classic Christian novel: Deadline announced that Freeman has come aboard Timur Bekmambetov‘s remake-stravaganza. He is playing Ildarin, the sheik who instructs Judah Ben-Hur in the ways of chariot racing. It’s most definitely a “wise old man” role, but that fits Freeman to a T — after all, he is our nation’s foremost expert in dispensing time-tested wisdom and then chuckling to himself, softly. It’s been said roughly six billion times that doing a Ben-Hur remake is some kind of film blasphemy (although it might just be following the example set when Exodus: Gods and Kings stepped on the toes of another Charlton Heston religious epic). Even though the Ben-Hur everyone knows was actually a remake of a 1925 silent Ben-Hur. Which, in turn, was based on a 1907 film reel, which was based on a book. Plus it was already redone as an animated feature in 2003 and a mini-series in 2010. So it’s not as though remakes have no precedence here.

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Gore Vidal The United States of Amnesia

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” I’m not sure there is a better, or more important, example of someone not giving a damn than the late Gore Vidal, who died two years ago this summer. As a public voice for seventy years, Vidal unforgettably ruffled many feathers, not just as a provocateur, but as an intellectual whose opinions often came well before society was ready to hear them. Vidal was the man who warned about the five-percenters well before they became the one-percent; who stated that “homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality;” and warned of the “corporate grip on opinion.” He was the controversial author, and more controversial public speaker. Vidal was the man who sparred with Joe Pesci in With Honors, lent his pen to some of Hollywood’s most iconic and notorious films, was close with icons from the Kennedys to wonder-couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and was even interviewed by Ali G. Now he’s the subject of Nicholas Wrathall’s new documentary, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, and it’s a perfect time to take seven peeks into his legacy.

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Ben-Hur

It really has been a good year to be in the business of God. The Year of the Lord 2014 has brought us, among others, films that chronicle the story of the Great Flood and animals that came by boat, two by two (Noah), a five-year-old’s near-death experience that showed him that Heaven is definitely, totally more than just a place on Earth (Heaven is For Real) and a college student’s quest to prove his evil college professor wrong when he makes his case for atheism (God’s Not Dead). And later this year we’ll get another entry with Ridley Scott‘s take on a Christian Bale Moses with Exodus. The mega-successful, god fearing producing duo of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are old hat with the genre, churning out the popular miniseries The Bible for the History Channel in 2013. It did exactly what the title suggests, telling in glorious live action the stories of the Old and New Testament — all the way up to the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ — so that those who weren’t satisfied with repeatedly drilled Sunday School tellings of the tales or old technicolor movies could see for themselves what Jesus was all about. Apparently, it’s ratings.

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ben-hur-image

The story of Ben-Hur has a long history of success. It started off as an 1880 novel by Lew Wallace called “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” which was so popular upon its release that it trailed only the bible in sales up until “Gone With the Wind” came along and usurped it. It was then adapted into a film, called simply Ben-Hur, by William Wyler in 1959. That film starred Charlton Heston, it won 11 Academy Awards, and it has been pretty continuously watched by every new generation that’s come along since its release. If there’s one thing the story of Ben-Hur probably isn’t though, it’s hip, so MGM has plans to remake it with modern actors and a more modern touch. The plan started out when the studio bought a spec script by Keith Clark (The Way Back) that offers up a new adaptation of the classic tale of a Jewish prince sold into slavery, so the logical next step toward making this new Ben-Hur a reality seems to be finding a director. Who would be a safe bet when it comes to retelling such a beloved, epic tale? Maybe someone like Peter Jackson, who did a good job handling epic scope and sacred material with the Lord of the Rings movies? Maybe someone like Darren Aronofsky, who just got done making a biblical epic with Noah and is probably still in the zone? Nope. Turns out they’re looking at the guy who directed Wanted.

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Odyssey in Space

The evergreen method of adding “…in space!” to the end of an existing title in order to pitch a “new” film has finally blindsided Greek poet Homer. Good thing he’s not around to not see it. According to Deadline Hollywood, Warners has hired James DiLapo to write a new version of “The Odyssey” that takes place in space. Yes, they literally want to make a space “Odyssey.” DiLapo is a recent NYU grad who earned a Nicholl Fellowship and placement on the Black List with his first script, Devils At Play, but there’s no word yet on how the young talent will be engaging the story and transmitting it into the world of science fiction. At its very core, it could a tale of a captain trying desperately and difficultly to get home, or it could involve more of the direct elements of the classic epic poem. Undoubtedly, it won’t look anything like Ulysses 31 at all.

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Warners is hoping to start a beautiful friendship with movie fans by offering digital copies of classic scripts – complete with background information and scenes embedded amidst the dialogue and description. Their digital distribution arm has announced the “Inside The Script” program which makes available these beefed-up versions of the original screenplays for classics for iBookstore, Kindle and NOOK. In addition to the script, a veritable book of production history, production notes, storyboard, pictures, posters and behind-the-scenes pictures are all included in the ten-dollar download (or $9.99 if you’re a stickler for exactitude). Right now, the program includes work from Casablanca, North By Northwest, An American in Paris and Ben-Hur with plans to add more shortly. This seems like a treasure trove of movie geek goodness, but it’ll be interesting to see if fans will shell out ten bucks for the privilege. What’s most interesting here is that this is the kind of material normally relegated to coffee table books and historic tomes that could double as anchors. It’s a sign that the studio is interested in engaging on a digital level. Now to see if that intuition will translate to film distribution itself. Either way, this program is a spectacular idea that could give a lot of fans the chance to delve deeper into a part of the movies they love. I’ll take 3 Casablancas please. For more information, check out Inside The Script’s Facebook Page.  

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of trinkets for the weary-eyed, movie-loving masses. A testament to man’s quest for knowledge, the internet’s infinite wealth of silliness and cat videos, and a totem for the lost souls of movie fandom. Come here, my children, come here and bask in the glory of the best links of the day. We begin tonight’s sermon with a shot of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence looking very 1929 in Serena, the upcoming film from In a Better World director Susanne Bier. It’s about a pair of newlyweds who move from Boston to the wild mountains of North Carolina and produce off-spring. Shenanigans ensue.

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In our inaugural weekly edition of Scenes We Love, I wanted to find a perfectly topical scene, seeing as it is Easter Sunday. But as it turns out, there aren’t too many great scenes worth revisiting from “Easter movies.” Unless, of course, you’d like to re-watch Jim Caviezel being whipped to shit as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of the Christ. It’s a well constructed scene that delivers the maximum possible emotional impact, especially for those who really love their Jesus, but it’s not exactly a scene we love. We appreciate it, but we don’t love it. So instead of making you watch Jesus get brutalized, lets watch one of the all-time great race scenes, the Chariot Race from the 1959 William Wyler epic Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot today. Almost as much as “awesome.” It’s been all but rendered meaningless when connected to how great those buffalo wings were or how pleasing it was to hear the news that the local library was extending its hours. But EPIC used to mean something. And when it did mean something, it was this. This trailer. This movie. All the splendor of Golden Age Hollywood shoved onto a chariot with Charlton Heston cracking the whip and charging full speed ahead. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Yesterday was a tough day for movie fans, and even after writing a lot about Leslie Nielsen, it’s things like this old (unsuccessful) screen test for Ben-Hur that forces a smile even after devastating news. Nielsen did a great job here in the role that would go to Stephen Boyd in William Wyler’s classic. He may have not gotten the part, but his career speaks for itself. All we can do is sit back and enjoy this visual aid in imagining what could have been. [Roger Ebert]

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revenge-header

There’s a long, illustrious history of movies that feature characters on quests for vengeance. Here are what we believe to be the ten most notable.

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Classic 3D Cinema

What if the studios had stepped in and mandated that certain projects be 3D. FSR wondered aloud and we came up with 10 films that could’ve, nay, should’ve been made in vivid 3D.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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