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Kaepernick, Wendy Williams, John Legend, Tyrese, and more | Ep. 117

Ava Duvernay, Issa Rae, Jay-Z are up for an NAACP’s Entertainer of the Year Image Award

In this episode of What's The 411 hosts Kizzy Cox, and Onika McLean are talking about Wendy Williams; Cynthia Bailey and Peter Thomas' business venture; John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, the NFL, Colin Kaepernick, Morgan Freeman, Diana Ross, Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, Jay-Z, Tank, The Rock, Tyrese, and much more.

  • Published in Episodes

Movie Review: Ben-Hur Races to a See It! Rating

It was 1959 when the epic story of Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston was released. While mostly remembered for its classic, spellbinding chariot race, there is so much more to the story. Judah Ben-Hur and his adopted brother Messala enjoy a deep affection for each other until they become young men. Ben-Hur born into status and privilege sees the excesses of the Roman Empire as a necessary component of maintaining peace. Messala views the Empire as the route to the status that Ben-Hur was born into, joins and quickly rises through the ranks of the Roman army. Esther, Ben-Hur's childhood friend and later his wife, resists the Romans and advocates for the infidels who suffer the most at the hand of the Romans. This sympathy and conflict of views lead to the dissension between Messala and Ben-Hur, and the imprisonment and loss of social standing for the Hur household members. And also ultimately results in the great chariot race between Messala and Ben-Hur. These activities occur against the backdrop of the rise of Jesus of Nazareth.

Ben-Hur methodically lays out the characters' relationships, their behavioral motives before culminating in the climatic competition. It's a See It!

One issue with this movie is the dialogue seems a bit too 21st century. For example, when one character responds to another by saying: "Well, that's life!" Or the comment: "Everyone act normal!" And the statement: "Those are the people you run with." Are these really the phrases people used in biblical days?

But this film does come into its own. Notwithstanding some of the questionable dialogue, the performances of Jack Huston as Ben-Hur, Toby Kebbell as Messala, and Nazanin Boniadi as Esther all give authenticity to this epic story. The cast is greatly enhanced by the majestic Morgan Freeman as Sheik Ilderim, Ben-Hur's mentor, and supporter. The Sheik's role is greatly expanded from the previous adaptions of this story.

Also, Ben-Hur is bolstered by the powerful scenes both on land and at sea captured by the outstanding cinematography.

Ultimately, the movie ends with the thrilling, climactic chariot races with takes 32 days in Rome to film. It's time well spent!

Ben-Hur gets a "B" for cast diversity. Morgan Freeman's central role, accompanied by a heavy presence of black characters in background scenes supports that rating.

Ben-Hur will have to bring in the crowds to recover its $100 million production costs. It's 124 minutes in length and rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing imagery.



Movie Review: London Has Fallen

The world is shocked by the unexpected death of the British Prime Minister. The leaders of the Western World including U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) immediately make plans to attend the funeral in London. The Secret Service navigates through what is security nightmare: multiple nations mapping out plans to keep their leaders safe while in England. Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), the Director of the United States Secret Service, even tries to keep the President from attending. But due to the longstanding bond between the two nations, the chief executive feels he has no choice.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) head of the Secret Service Presidential Protection Division whose wife is pregnant, and who plans to quit his dangerous job, drafts his resignation when he gets the call to lead the detail charged with protecting the president while attending the funeral. However, once they arrive in London their worst fears are confirmed. It's all a setup. A devastating barrage of bombs and bullets rain down on London.

London Has Fallen is a sequel to the 2013 film, Olympus Has Fallen. This version is shocking in its storyline – an organized attack on world leaders - and its execution of that story – seeing those attacks so ruthlessly carried out. The images are unimaginably destructive, historical and treasured British landmarks leveled before your eyes. The cinematography expertly captures every horrid angle of death and devastation. Frankly, this is the basis for my rating this film a "See It!"

This movie provides the excitement – and violence – that those who are most likely to go see this film will expect to see. An exceptional cast: Gerard Butler as the secret service lead, has that edge which gives his character credibility. Aaron Eckhart looks and behaves like what we would traditionally view as presidential. Morgan Freeman plays Vice President, Allan Trumbull, takes charge in a way that we would hope the VP would do in the absence of the president.

However, there are serious flaws in London Has Fallen. The almost complete success of this attack causes some credibility problems. No matter how well planned, things usually go awry. Much more than they did with this plan. At some points the story becomes completely predictable. This movie is also plagued by overly simplistic dialogue. When the attackers obviously have details that aided in their planning, President Asher opines: This had to be an inside job! Secret Service Director Jacobs also comments: They must have been planning this for a long time!

As to our diversity rankings, London Has Fallen gets a B+. It's very diverse in the sense black characters. Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Colin Salmon, who plays the Scotland Yard Chief, all have substantive roles. However, there is a lack of other people of color, specifically very few Asians and Hispanics.

London Has Fallen opens on March 4, 2016, is 1 hour and 39 minutes in length, and is rated R (for strong violence and language throughout). It receives our highest rating: See It!, for its action and excitement.

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