With the finish line to Blockbuster Season ‘16 in our sights and Suicide Squad poised to fall out of the top spot by the weekend, two new wildly different big budget movies step into the cinematic squared circle for a shot at the box office championship belt. These two movies could not be any further from each other and it will be interesting to see which one gets the audience cheering.
One one side, we have a (most likely) completely unnecessary remake and on the other, we have two of Hollywood’s most promising leading men, who as of this posting, have enjoyed most of their success in ensemble roles. Someone is breaking out in a big way this weekend, but just exactly who that will be is yet to be determined. Who is America ready to embrace as a leading man: Jack Huston, Miles Teller, or Jonah Hill?
Starring in Ben-Hur, Jack Huston is best known for his work on Boardwalk Empire – HBO’s prohibition era drama from Terence Winter, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Scorsese. Huston played Richard Harrow, the gravel-voiced Army sniper whose injuries in WWI left him wearing a Phantom of the Opera-esque half facemask. If you watched Boardwalk Empire, there is a very good chance he was your favorite character.
The original Ben-Hur, a William Wyler masterpiece, is the definition of an epic. It commanded the highest budget in movie history for it’s time ($15MM– which is the cost of one episode of Game of Thrones in 2016), won a record 11 Oscars including Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture, and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being culturally significant. Those are impossibly large shoes to fill, so right off the bat, I’m wondering why this movie is being made – I am most likely not the only one.
War Dogs, on the other hand, is the story of how two men won a $300MM arms deal from the US Government to arm American allies in Afghanistan with guns. An epic of a completely different variety. Directed by Todd Phillips, War Dogs stars Jonah Hill – an actor we care greatly about in supporting and ensemble roles – and Miles Teller – an actor who we’re supposed to care deeply about, but refuse to when he is in supporting or ensemble roles. Both actors do tremendous work; Jonah Hill is more often than not the best part of every movie he has ever been in from SuperBad to The Wolf of Wall Street. However, when he is the main star of the movie, audiences don’t necessarily support him – see The Sitter and True Story.
Miles Teller, on the other hand, could wind up being the American Colin Farrell in the sense that he is an incredibly talented actor taking leading man roles when maybe he is destined to be playing super weird character parts. The dude starred in two franchises that America didn’t fully embrace – the Fantastic Four reboot and the Divergent series. Maybe more nuanced roles are just what the doctor ordered.
Paired with Todd Phillips – director of The Hangover trilogy and Old School – War Dogs might be the effort that puts both actors where they should be; he boosted Brad Cooper and Will Ferrell into the stratosphere and gave Vince Vaughn back the career we thought he lost after Swingers.
Both movies open this Friday. I know which one I’m going to see.