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imagesThis weekend was yet again jammed pack with wins, losses, and drama surrounding the Summer Rio Olympics. Check out the highlights and stories you may have missed.

Michael Phelps swam third in the 4×100 meter medley relay, a race the Americans would ultimately win and set a new Olympic Record. This was Phelps’ 23rd gold medal (28th overall), however the limelight was stolen by Ryan Murphy who also set a new backstroke world record in the first leg of the race.

Michael Phelps also set the record straight this weekend, and confirmed that he would not be back for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Ryan Lochte had originally hinted to reporters that Phelps would return.

Simone Manuel was at it again this weekend when she took silver in the women’s 50 freestyle and then anchored as the U.S. women won the 4×100 medley. Winning the medley, the American’s clinched their 1,000th Summer Olympics gold medal.

The Rio Olympics has had its fair share of distractions that only got more intense when American swimmer Ryan Lochte was held up at gunpoint along with three other U.S. swimmers. Their wallets were taken by men posing as police officers.

The American gymnastics team took center stage this weekend again, as Simone Biles took her third gold of the Olympics for her performance on the vault. To no one’s surprise, the competition wasn’t even close. Madison Kocian secured the silver medal in the uneven bars event on Sunday with a score of 15.833, her second Olympic medal. Russian Aliya Mustafina took the gold with a 15.900 mark.

The United States women’s national soccer team took a stunning loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals. The two teams played to a 1-1 thought two extra time periods, and it came down to penalties. Sweden took the American’s out in the shootout 4-3, kicking the gold-medal favorites out of the competition early.

Monday is going to bring some exciting matches as well. Men’s beach volleyball quarterfinals, women’s gymnastics balance beam final, and women and men’s cycling trials aren’t to be missed.

#6-side-by-side_largeTwo s’more flavors to love are coming!

For the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout cookie-selling, the Girl Scouts announced that they will be introducing two brand new types of cookies.

The two new cookies are both named Girl Scout S’mores, and were announced in conjunction with the all-important National S’mores holiday. Both cookies are inspired by the summer campfire treat we all know and love.

According to the Girl Scouts blog, one Girl Scout S’mores is a “crispy graham cookie double dipped in a crème icing and enrobed in a chocolatey coating” and the other is a “crunchy graham sandwich cookie with a chocolate and marshmallowy filling”

To celebrate, Girl Scout councils all over the country are hosting campfires, inviting communities to join in the fun of making s’mores and learn about the exciting and impactful programs Girl Scouts offer (while also promoting the new cookies!)

These newest additions come a little over a year after the group launched three other new flavors, and will be available during the always highly anticipated 2017 cookie season.

One hundred percent of the cookie earning stays with local councils and troops, benefiting girls through fun program experiences. Girl Scout troops can then decide how those funds are invested in different educational experiences, volunteer work, or other activities. Girls who participate in the cookie-selling program learn great skills such as how to manage money, set goals, make decisions, and communicate with adults. All qualities that are necessary for a growing girl, but aren’t always taught in schools.

To find out about the new cookie varieties and when the Girl Scouts will be selling cookies near you, visit  www.girlscouts.org/meetthecookies or use the official Girl Scout Cookie Finder app that is free for iOS and Android phones.

iThe United States continues to dominate in the Olympics due to some very talented athletes.

Michael Phelps won a gold in the 200-meter individual medley beating out Ryan Lochte who wasn’t even close. Neither was anyone else in the pool.

Phelps won with an astounding 1.95 seconds over Japan’s Kosuke Hagino. China’s Wang Shun won the bronze, and Ryan Lochte fell behind in 5th. Phelps won the event for a fourth time, an Olympic record. The win makes 22 career gold medals for Phelps, who is hinting that he may not retire after these Olympic Games after all. The win for Phelps left him with 13 medals for individual events, a record that has not been broken since 152 B.C. by Leonidas of Rhodes.

Simone Biles, the 19-year-old gymnast who is taking the Olympics by storm, cemented her position as the most dominant gymnast in the world on Thursday when she won the individual all-around competition. Biles outscored her nearest competitor, teammate Aly Raisman, by a mammoth margin of over 2 points.

Biles has not lost a gymnastics meet since 2013, and it is widely accepted that she is the best in the world, and possibly the best of all time. The real competition was for the silver between Ali Raisman and Russian Gymnast Aliya Mustafina. Aly Raisman said, “Simone’s just in her own league. Whoever gets second place, that’s the winner.”

Fiji, who has participated in 17 different Olympic Games, has never won a medal of any color until now.

The island of 900,000 people can now celebrate after its team won gold in a match over Great Britain, 43-7. The victory, even though it was assured early, still left players on their knees and sprawling on the turf weeping.

Simone Manuel made headlines by becoming the first African-American woman to medal in an individual even in swimming. Her historic win lead her to winning the gold in a stunning win in a dead heat with Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak. Manuel also made a record time of 52.70 seconds for the 100m freestyle.

Phelps and Ledecky will be back in the pool this weekend, and gymnastics enthusiasts can catch the individual apparatus events this upcoming weekend.

On August 19, Paramount/MGM will release the new, highly-anticipated motion picture, “Ben-Hur”. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the latest film-adaptation brings a fresh approach to the classic story. With all the advances in film-making, it creates a spectacle even more thrilling for audiences today.

The film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jake Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother and friend Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer of the Roman army. Ben-Hur’s story takes a turn for the worse after he experiences a series of setbacks, including being stripped of his title and being separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi). Ben-Hur is ultimately forced into slavery and despair. But after years at sea, his story takes a breathtaking turn after a series of encounters with Jesus of Nazareth (Rodrigo Santoro) transforms not only his outlook, but also his faith, leading him to discover grace, mercy and redemption.
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If you’re wondering how the movie stacks up against the 1959 MGM film-adaptation starring, Charlton Heston, it does not disappoint. Yes, attempting to remake such a classic film, especially one that defined the term epic during the golden ages of Hollywood is a herculean task but Paramount/MGM has done just that with this film. The new release is a fresh imagining of Lew Wallace’s timeless novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” and the 1959 MGM classic, following in the footsteps of its previous incarnations, but also creative in its own right. It’s bursting with action and a number of new twists and turns – including a new portrayal of Ilderim, played by the talented Morgan Freeman, a clearer perspective of Jesus and a chariot race for the ages. You can expect epic from director Timur Bekmambetov, who is known for sensational action and spectacle in his films. I couldn’t stop holding my breath until the final chariot race scene entire scene was over.

But the chariot scene is not the only part of the movie that left a lasting impression. The personal conflict between Ben-Hur and Messala, former friends, is just as memorable as the climactic chariot race. The scenes that feature Jesus Christ, who crosses paths with Ben-Hur at several crucial points in the story, are also extremely moving. In the beginning of the film, we see Jesus depicted as a simple carpenter with a radical message of love – a message that gains Him many followers, including Esther, the woman Ben-Hur loves, but also a lot of enemies. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Pontius Pilate and Messala are riding through Jerusalem and encounter Jesus protecting a leper from stoning by the crowd. Jesus says to the crowd, “Hate, anger, fear, those are lies they say to turn you against each other.” In protecting the leper, Jesus Himself is injured by stone-throwers but the effect of His words on the mob is long lasting. Pilate warns Messala that Jesus offers the people “something more,” that by calming the crowd through compassion, He is more dangerous than all the zealots combined. The emotional themes throughout the film including radical love, forgiveness and healing are especially relatable today in a climate of such brokenness in our own world.

Stacked with unforgettable performances, powerful themes and a rich film experience, “Ben-Hur” is an epic and thrilling adventure for the ages. You don’t want to miss it!

Brother against brother. Slave Against Empire. Learn more about Ben-Hur today.

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