New ‘Ben-Hur’ leads September streaming lineup
Perhaps we should get this out of the way first: It likely was a bad
idea to re-make the legendary movie Ben-Hur.
The Charlton Heston-led 1959 version cost $15 million to make, grossed
$74 million, and won 11 Oscars. Contrast that to the 2016 film, which
cost $100 million, finished in the red with a $26 million gross, and
was widely panned by critics.
It was – without a doubt -- a financial disaster, a box-office flop
and an easy target.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good movie. In fact, the 2016
version of Ben-Hur was inspiring, entertaining and well-done. And
despite the fact that only 25 percent of critics at Rotten Tomatoes
liked it, it did get thumbs up from mainstream reviewers at CNN,
Huffington Post and RogerEbert.com. Not bad for a film that has
forgiveness at its core and features Christ.
The newest Ben-Hur (PG-13) – which begins streaming Sept. 2 on Amazon
and Hulu – differs slightly from the 1959 version. In the 2016 movie,
the main characters of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince,
and Messala (Toby Kebbell), who is Roman, are adoptive brothers. In
the ’59 film, they’re simply friends.
But that change benefits the 2016 plot, which is set during the time
of Jesus and highlights the brothers’ differences. They worship
different gods and come from different cultures, and the gulf between
them widens when Messala leaves the family to try and make it on his
Tragedy brings them back together when Judah is falsely accused of an
assassination attempt on Pontius Pilate. Messala – now a Roman army
officer – sentences Judah to work in the galley of a Roman slave ship,
where he will face a near-certain slow death. Yet Judah survives and
pledges payback against his brother. He will get his revenge in a
chariot race – a dangerous sport that kills most who attempt it. (The
chariot race by itself makes this one worth watching.)
Ben-Hur features one of the most powerful examples of forgiveness
you’ll ever see in a movie. It is rated PG-13 for sequences of
violence and disturbing images. It contains no coarse language or
Also streaming this month:
Akeelah and the Bee (PG, 2006). An 11-year-old black girl from Los
Angeles competes in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. The
story is fictional, but inspiring. (If you’re wanting a similar plot
based on a true story, then consider the chess-themed Queen of Katwe,
which is on Netflix.) Rated PG for some language. Sept. 1.
Barnyard (PG, 2006) – Otis is a carefree cow who would rather party
and play than accept responsibility. His father, though, is determined
to teach Otis how to work. Animated. Rated PG for some mild peril and
rude humor. Sept. 1.
Nacho Libre (PG, 2006) – A monk raises money for orphans by
moonlighting as a wrestler. This comedy was written and directed by
the same director-writer team that brought us Napoleon Dynamite. The
latter film is funnier, but both are worth a watch. Rated PG for some
rough action, and crude humor including dialogue. Sept. 1.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again (2017) – The classic 1990s animated
series about Ms. Frizzle’s class and their magical field trips gets a
2017 remake. Let’s hope the new series is every bit as good (and
family-friendly) as the original. Sept. 29.
Beauty and the Beast (PG, 2016) – Much controversy surrounded this
live-action remake and its inclusion of a gay character, LeFou. Here’s
what you need to know: Once you learn LeFou is gay, it’s difficult to
watch the movie and not see his sexuality in most scenes. That said,
children likely won’t view it through that lens. The most problematic
scenes take place in the final 10 minutes, when a character dons
women’s clothes and when LeFou is seen dancing with a man. Each scene
is very brief (a couple of seconds each). The music, not surprising,
is splendid. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening
images. Sept. 19.
Other notables: Disney’s Hercules (1997, PG, Sept. 1); Disney’s Mulan
(1998, PG, Sept. 1); Call the Midwife: Season 6 (2016-2017, Sept. 18).
Music from the Big House (unrated, 2010) – Blues singer Rita Chiarelli
and inmates at Louisiana’s Angola Prison put on a concert. Unrated; it
contains no language. Features a blend of music styles, including
gospel. Sept. 1.
The Black Stallion (G, 1979) – A young boy befriends a wild Arabian
stallion and enters it into a race. Based on a 1941 children’s novel.