- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

Viacom-owned BET Networks has signed on as presenting sponsor of the 12th annual Urbanworld Film Festival, reportedly the biggest movie event devoted to minority fare, Variety reports.

“We’re so confident that BET is the right fit for us that we’ve signed a rare three-year sponsorship deal,” says Stacy Spikes, founder of Urbanworld.

According to Variety, BET will cablecast some of the brouhaha surrounding Urbanworld as well as promote it on BET.com.

Mr. Spikes says he can’t announce any movie titles yet for this year’s festival, which begins Sept. 10, but the five-day event usually screens about 70 pictures. Urbanworld.com is still accepting submissions, he says. The gathering always takes place in New York.

BET’s sister network, MTV2, was the presenting sponsor in 2004 and 2005; Vibe magazine has done the honors for the past two years.

Previous Urbanworlds, Mr. Spikes says, have premiered movies such as “Rush Hour 2,” “Collateral,” “Barbershop,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “The Original Kings of Comedy.” He adds that three directors received first recognition for their early work at Urbanworld: Tim Story, who went on to direct “Fantastic Four” and its “4: Rise of the Silver Surfer”; Malcolm Lee, who directed the recent Martin Lawrence vehicle “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins”; and Charles Stone, who directed “Drumline.”

NBC has formally picked up the “Kings” series, the Hollywood Reporter says.

The project, a contemporary take on the David versus Goliath tale, was ordered originally as a two-hour pilot, although NBC announced it as a midseason replacement at 10 p.m. Sundays at its “in-front” presentation in April.

The official series pickup was made after NBC brass saw footage from the Francis Lawrence-directed pilot, currently in production. The series, written by Michael Green, stars Christopher Egan and Ian McShane.

“Kings” is set in a modern metropolis under siege, where the fighting has gone on too long and cost too many lives. When David Shepherd (Mr. Egan), a brave young soldier, rescues the son of the king (Mr. McShane) from enemy territory, he sets events in motion that finally will bring peace. Suddenly, David is thrust into the limelight, earning the affections of women - including the king’s daughter.

Sebastian Stan, Susanna Thompson and Allison Miller also star.

Worth a look over the next few days:

Today

* The Tyra Banks Show (noon, Fox 5-WTTG) - In an episode titled “Where Have All the Good Black Men Gone?” the catwalk-queen-turned-talk-show-host tackles what’s sure to be an explosive forum about the often strained romantic relationships between black men and women.

Tomorrow

* 300 (8 p.m. HBO) - The Persian army wages war against the Spartans in an attempt to conquer ancient Greece in this 2007 action-packed adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham and Dominic West star in the epic drama, which chronicles the Spartans’ bloody struggle to retain Greece during the Battle of Thermopylae.

Sunday

* National Memorial Day Concert (8 p.m., WETA-Channel 26) - Oscar nominee and “CSI NY” star Gary Sinise hosts the annual program for the third time, airing live from the West Lawn of the Capitol. Tony Award winner Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”) joins Mr. Sinise for this year’s event, which will pay special tribute to the veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and the memorials built in their honor. Actor and highly decorated World War II veteran Charles Durning also will be recognized for his bravery and sacrifice in a tribute to the “greatest generation.” An all-star lineup of dignitaries, actors and musical artists also will join the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Erich Kunzel.

* Recount (9 p.m., HBO) - The controversial 2000 presidential race is seen through the eyes of Ron Klain, Al Gore’s former chief of staff (two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey). A heavily made up Laura Dern plays Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

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