This month Simon watched an Old Testament epic, the latest Hobbit instalment, and enjoyed revisiting a rather famous bear from darkest Peru.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Rating 7/10 12A 150 mins
Christian Bale plays Moses in Ridley Scott’s fairly straightforward re-telling of the Exodus story. Scott – who directed Gladiator, with which EGAK shares a similar sword and sandals feel – does play a couple of controversial cards. God speaks to Moses through the presence of a rather precocious young boy. Representing God is always a challenge in the visual arts, but Scott has not chosen the most obvious option. Giving God a human face in this way has something in common with the portrayal of Satan in the CBS TV film Jesus. The miraculous nature of the plagues and parting of the Red Sea was also down-played in favour of giving them a more rational explanation. Some viewers may find the differences between this film and the Old Testament text to be a problem. There has also been criticism of the lack of African actors in key roles. However, the film’s main problem might be that it is a little dull.
Rating 8/10 PG 95 mins
Paddington is a live action version of Michael Bond’s story about a bear who came from darkest Peru to be adopted by the Brown family. The story begins in Peru where an explorer encounters Paddington, an orphan, and his uncle and aunt. Growing up it was Paddington’s dream to come to England where, according to the explorer he would always be welcome. When Paddington arrives at the eponymous station, he finds that he is anything but welcome. Some have seen this as an allusion to the reception received by some immigrants and perhaps especially to the ‘Windrush generation’. Paddington’s cast includes a number of well-known British actors – Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins and Peter Capaldi – plus Nicole Kidman as a Cruella De Vil-type baddie. Paddington is a charming film with some good jokes and it should appeal to all-ages, although some younger children may find it a little scary.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Rating 8/10 12A 144 mins
When The Hobbit was published it was a fairly slim book for children. In Peter Jackson’s hands, it has become a trilogy of films with a total length of nearly 8 hours. This final film begins where the last film ended – with Smaug, the great dragon attacking and destroying the village of Laketown – and it takes us through to climactic battle of the title. Viewers will probably need to have seen the previous two films to have a grasp of the story and its characters, otherwise it can seem like a lot of human and humanoid characters waving swords at each other. There are a number of interesting themes that thread through the film, including the value of friendship and home and the danger of ‘storing up treasure on earth’. If the story doesn’t appeal, there’s plenty of time to try work out who the actors are behind the makeup and CGI effects.