96. Stargate (B)
97. Ben-Hur (B+)
98. Bringing up Baby (A)
-- I know fans of the television series tend to dismiss the movie (heck, even the television series tends to dismiss the movie), but I think it's a rather fun sf action flick. Sure, the whole Children of the Gods premise is totally implausible (with a tinge of racism, since Africans couldn't have possibly built the pyramids -- it must have been aliens!), but without it, you don't have much of a movie. Jaye Davidson makes for inspired casting as the villain -- the television series would opt for casting heavies, mustache twirlers, or occasionally scantily clad women as Goa'uld. Kurt Russel is serviceable in the lead, although this is really James Spader's movie, and he makes it work, alternating as the protagonist and comic relief. When it became a franchise, the "mythology" became needlessly complicated, but here it's refreshingly straight-forward. David Arnold's score is terrific.
: This is probably the best biblical epic I've seen, no doubt aided by the fact that it's relationship to biblical history is mostly tangential -- this is really a movie about the character of Judah Ben-Hur, not "A Tale of the Christ" as the subtitle claims. And when it's about Ben-Hur, played well by Charlton Heston, a man who is wronged by a childhood friend turned Roman soldier, it makes for an excellent drama. When it's the kind of movie that Monty Python's Life of Brian
so deftly dismantled, it's not nearly as successful. Still, outside of the last 30 minutes, that's not really much of it. And in terms of spectacle -- the Chariot race, the naval battle, the Roman parade, etc. -- no CGI blockbuster will ever come close to the sheer size this film manages to pull off. That's the real appeal here, and it's unparalleled (if less well served on a television than it is on a massive screen). Of course, the television helps minimize other sins, especially Hugh Griffith's absurd and offensive blackface make-up, which is rather unfriendly around the character's white horses!
Bringing Up Baby
: Negatives: Cary Grant makes for a rather unbelievable zoologist (paleontologist?). Positives: everything else. Still an incredibly funny screwball comedy. Hepburn and Grant are as terrific today as thy were 70 years ago, and they're never better than here, under Howard Hawks' smart direction.
Home Video: 51 +3