Morgan Freeman to play an Arab sheikh in Ben-Hur?

MorganFreemanRecent Bible epics like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings have been dogged by controversy for casting white actors in all the main roles — or at least in the most prominent roles. The makers of the newest version of Ben-Hur, however, may have steered clear of all that by announcing today that the first actor to sign on for the movie is none other than Morgan Freeman.

Deadline reports that Freeman will play “Ildarin, the man who teaches the slave Ben-Hur to become a champion caliber chariot racer.” Presumably the name “Ildarin” is a variation on “Ilderim”, which was the name of the Arab sheikh who sponsored Ben-Hur’s chariots in the original novel. In the 1959 film, he was played by Hugh Griffith, a Welsh actor in dark make-up who won an Oscar for his performance. In the 2010 mini-series, he was played by Art Malik, who hails from Pakistan.

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Review: Transcendence (dir. Wally Pfister, 2014)

Transcendence is, in theory, the sort of film I ought to like. It’s a science fiction film with big ideas about the increasingly blurry line between humanity and technology, and it addresses the question of whether some creations can ever outgrow or improve upon their creators. The film also has some fantastic production design. It’s a treat to look at.

But in execution, the film — the first to be written by Jack Paglen and the first to be directed by Wally Pfister, a cinematographer who has shot all but one of Christopher Nolan’s films — leaves a lot to be desired, almost as though the ideas at play were simply too big for the filmmakers to really get a handle on.

Most significantly, the film sets up a conflict but can’t decide whose side it’s on — which makes for a curiously subversive bit of entertainment but also leaves the story feeling quite muddled, especially in its final moments.

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Interviews: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, Tom Shadyac (Evan Almighty, 2007)

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon on the Universal Studios back lot, several journalists are preparing to interview the cast of Evan Almighty, many with one question on their minds:

Where’s God?

Most everyone here is impressed by the performance of Morgan Freeman, who is back playing God four years after he, um, created the role in Bruce Almighty. But Freeman himself is nowhere to be found. This is not too surprising, as Freeman is a busy actor whose talents are constantly in demand; but it does mean the most authoritative voice in the movie won’t be here to chat it up.

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Review: The Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont, 1994)

Prison films are a tricky genre. The prisons themselves become metaphors for the shackles of authority, society, or psychological inhibitions that prevent people from being completely free human beings. We empathize with the prisoners, and never the warden (unless, as in Brubaker, he fights for the prisoners’ rights), because they are supposed to represent that nebulous quality known as “the human spirit”.

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