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Emily on ‘The Hour’ + ‘Ben Hur’ Review

Emily was a guest on the Canadian late-night talkshow ‘The Hour’ yesterday! She was there to promote the upcoming Ben Hur mini-series, which, as you guys probably know by now, is premiering exclusively in Canada this Sunday on CBC. You can watch the entire interview below!

TV Guide Canada also released a review of the mini-series, which you can read below:

In ‘Hur’ shoes
Classic Easter movie gets slick Canadian update
By Melissa Hank , TV Guide Canada

Funny thing about remakes — sometimes they work (the new 90210) and sometimes they don’t (the new Melrose Place). And when you’re dealing with an even more established franchise, like the 1959 Charlton Heston film Ben-Hur, the going is even stickier.

Even 51 years after it debuted, there’s still a grainy charm in watching the most recognizable version of the classic tale, complete with Heston’s grave intonations, the majestic music and sprawling cinematography. No wonder it won 11 Academy Awards.

Joseph Morgan (Alexander) tackles Heston’s role as Judah Ben Hur, while Emily VanCamp (Brothers & Sisters) plays Esther, Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) is Tirza, and Stephen Campbell Moore tackles Messala.

The film pretty much sticks to the 1959 version’s main plot — best friends Judah and Messala grow up on opposite sides of the tug-of-war between the Roman Empire and its conquest Judaea.

The period piece’s first half hit me with its bright and slick look, as it jumped from Judah’s childhood to his sentence to toil in the galleys, to the admiral taking him under his wing, to his mentor’s death and Judah’s avowed revenge on Messala.

With plenty of dusty-sandaled extras filling the scenes, a lush Moroccan shoot and special effects from Montreal’s Oblique FX (which also did the movie 300), it’s easy to see where Ben Hur’s $25-million budget went.

Still, I kept comparing it to the 1959 version, and Heston’s portrayal loomed large in my head. Though it touches on the requisite beatings, sexy relationships and gory sword fights, it does so with an eye to a family audience. And as family viewing, it works.

Me, though? I’m not asking for brutality at the level of, say, the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. And I can even put up with the British accents that seem to (unrealistically) saturate these types of period epics.

But I yearned for a slightly grittier portrayal. The story is powerful because of the tension between Judah and Messala, Rome and Judaea. The harsh nature of the times. The anguish of a man wrongfully condemned and his revenge.

And you get that with this Ben Hur. Just not at a Heston level.

Ben Hur premières Sunday, April 4, at 8 p.m. ET on CBC, and concludes Sunday, April 11, at 8 p.m. ET.