Coming Down the Pike: Major Obama-Netflix Deal?

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Trump as president and Obama on TV? It’s a role reversal probably no one could have predicted, but it may be one step closer to reality. Per CNN, Obama is in negotiations regarding a “production partnership” with Netflix, in which the former president and Michelle Obama would be involved in creating exclusive content for the streaming service. What that content would be, and how much of it, is still up in the air, though ideas floated include everything from inspirational narratives, Michelle-hosted shows on topics like nutrition, or Barack moderating episodes on hot-button subjects such as health care and immigration. Also unclear is how much the Obamas would earn, though one analyst estimates it could be as much as $500 million, per Newsweek.

The move could be an Obama attempt to push back against the misinformation and “manipulation of news” he has complained about in recent months, giving him “an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media,“ per the New York Times, which describes the negotiations as “advanced.“ (Netflix has 118 million subscribers.) What the shows won’t be doing, sources say: getting directly combative with either President Trump or conservatives who’ve been critical of Obama. Netflix would get new original content out of the deal to keep it competitive against HBO, Amazon, Apple, and the broadcast networks, as well as another big name to boast of in its portfolio—not bad for a company that “began by distributing DVDs,“ the Times notes.

Review: In reboot for Netflix, ‘Benji’ is still a good boy

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It’s been a mere 14 years since the last “Benji” movie. But in dog years, that’s an eternity.

“Benji,” which lands on Netflix on Friday, is an earnest attempt to rekindle the most earnest of film franchises, which dried up with “Benji: Off the Leash!” in 2004. In an entertainment world more cacophonous than a kennel, bringing back such an exceedingly wholesome creature is a kind of a test: Can the humble, wordless tricks of a mongrel born and bred in the ’70s still charm young viewers?

“Benji” is a remake of Joe Camp’s 1974 original, an independently released film (all the studios passed) made as scrappily as its mangy mutt star, played by the then-veteran pup Higgins, co-star of “Petticoat Junction.” Yet “Benji” became a bona fide pop-culture sensation and the year’s 10th biggest box-office hit, ranking among the likes of “Blazing Saddles,” ″Young Frankenstein” and “The Godfather Part II.” (It was, um, a different time.)

But the appeal of a heroic pooch is, of course, eternal. There remains no better way to separate the wheat from the chaff of humanity than the moral calculus offered up by dog movies: The good are those who are kind to canines; the bad are those who aren’t. Simple as that. Unlike that prissy Lassie or that show-pony terrier from “The Artist,” Benji is beloved because he’s a flea bag off the streets. Benji is Every Dog, with just a touch more training.

“Benji” is written and directed by Brandon Camp, son of Joe Camp, and he’s aimed to preserve much of his father’s template. The location has been switched from Texas to New Orleans. The single parent skeptical of adopting a stray is now an EMT mom (Kiele Sanchez) instead of a dad. But the basic formula is much the same, down to even the inclusion of Charlie Rich’s original theme, “I Feel Love.” A brother and sister pair (Gabriel Bateman and Darby Camp, unrelated to the director) get caught in a pickle and Benji comes to the rescue.

This is a movie about a dog that not only thoroughly understands English but also grasps the importance of forensic evidence in a police investigation. And yet “Benji” is less believable when the superdog isn’t around. There’s an implausible kidnapping plot, some rather grating and over-acted family dramatics and villains who appear to be going for a record in cliche ne’er-do-welling.

But the dog is, as ever, irresistibly winning. Here, his feats surpass even those of the door-opening Raptors in “Jurassic Park.” Benji does them one better, opening a locked room with a key he grips in his mouth.

For those looking for the most benign family-friendly entertainment, the nostalgic and corny “Benji” will do the trick. The greatest irony is that the film is produced by Jason Blum, whose production company, Blumhouse, has become synonymous with contemporary R-rated horror. Now he has proven — so long as he doesn’t have more sinister sequels for “Benji” planned — that he can raise loveable beasts from the dead, too.

“Benji,” a Netflix release, is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. It contains some intense scenes, mild violence and growling that could contain dog expletives. Running time: 87 minutes. Two stars out of four.

National Geographic Admits Past Racist Coverage

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National Geographic has acknowledged that it covered the world through a racist lens for generations, with its magazine portrayals of bare-breasted women and naive brown-skinned tribesmen as savage, unsophisticated, and unintelligent. “We had to own our story to move beyond it,“ editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg tells the AP in an interview about the magazine’s April issue, which is devoted to race. National Geographic first published its magazine in 1888. An investigation conducted last fall by University of Virginia photography historian John Edwin Mason showed that until the 1970s, it virtually ignored people of color in the US who were not domestic workers or laborers, and it reinforced repeatedly the idea that people of color from foreign lands were “exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.“

For example, in a 1916 article about Australia, the caption on a photo of two Aboriginal people read: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.“ In addition, National Geographic perpetuated the cliche of native people fascinated by technology and overloaded the magazine with pictures of beautiful Pacific island women.“I think National Geographic was a product of its time,“ Goldberg says. “It started at the height of colonialism and that is the lens through which it covered the world.“ In the April issue, Goldberg, who is National Geographic‘s first woman and first Jewish editor, wrote a letter titled “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.“

Tim McGraw Collapses on Stage

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Country music star Tim McGraw collapsed on stage during a performance in Ireland. Rolling Stone magazine reports McGraw fell to his knees then sat down while performing Sunday night in Dublin. McGraw’s wife, singer Faith Hill, can be seen in a video on a fan’s Instagram page saying, “He’s been super dehydrated. I apologize, but I made the decision that he cannot come back out on stage.“ A representative for McGraw issued a statement saying McGraw was attended to by local medical staff on-site and will be fine, the AP reports. McGraw, who was performing as part of the Country to Country festival in the UK, had performed Friday night in London and Saturday night in Glasgow. The duo is scheduled to begin their 29-city Soul2Soul tour in the US on May 31 in Richmond, Va.

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