Jun 062013
 
Spartacus Season Three

The third and final season is simply dull, as if all of the producers were more interested in their next projects. Admittedly, the season was always going to be challenging since it is common knowledge that all of the slaves were either killed or crucified. However, there are no records from the slaves’ side of the revolt, so the producers could have had the slaves say whatever they want, but the opportunity for a dialogue between slaves and masters was ignored in favor of more romantic subplots. Love must have been in the air in the writing room because every single character was involved in a romantic subplot. Worse, the Romans were blander than Wonderbread. All of the characters with moral complexity have died, and the new Roman characters are merely cardboard villains, and flimsy cardboard at that. While the leaders of the rebellion were a blank slate, a great deal of information was recorded about Marcus Crassus, the main Roman antagonist, and the writers clearly tossed most of it in the rubbish bin. In fact, many viewers probably finished the season with the impression that the slave rebellion was defeated single-handedly by Crassus. Once a proud, stimulating show, Spartacus has become a flaccid imitation of its former self. A depressing end for such an amazing series. Read More…

Jan 242013
 
Spartacus: War of the Damned

Spartacus: War of the Damned will be the third and final season of Spartacus. Judging by the trailer, character development will take a back seat to hacking and slashing with periodic pauses for sweaty sex by candlelight. The producers face an interesting challenge. Viewers know that the revolt was eventually broken, and Spartacus and all of his followers will die, so the question is who will die first. All of the potential personality conflicts that could have brought more nuance to the story have been resolved, usually through the violent death of one or both of the people involved. While there will probably be disagreements among the rebel leadership over the most effective tactics, they will be preoccupied with survival. Fortunately, the Romans can undoubtedly be relied upon to scheme against each other.
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Apr 222012
 
Spartacus: Vengeance

The second season of Spartacus took a few episodes to get its groove back but it had a stellar finish. When I heard that Liam McIntyre would take over the role of Spartacus after Andy Whitfield’s death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I wondered if the show would be the same. While McIntyre does not have Whitfield’s mojo, there is nothing wrong with the actor, and he starts to grow into his role as the series progresses, but I realized that the show might not have worked without Whitfield. Read More…

May 162011
 
The Borgias Season One

There is a new show that is surprisingly addictive due to its generous helpings of incest, intrigue, and shifting political alliances. Children are showered with love until they are old enough to be used to cement political alliances between noble families. At one point, an adolescent girl is married to a powerful yet brutal lord who treats her as a brood mare, rather than as a lover and partner. Unfortunately, this description fits HBO’s Game of Thrones, not Showtime’s The Borgias. Read More…

Mar 202011
 
Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Spartacus: Blood and Sand may be a sex-and-sandal series but it is worth watching. It would be unfair to compare the series to HBO’s Rome, since the producers clearly intended to emphasize entertainment, not historical accuracy. At first glance, Spartacus probably looks like a trashy soap opera about gay bodybuilders. However, it is surprisingly entertaining and even more surprising, good history. Read More…

Feb 252011
 
Rome vs The Tudors

Whenever I mention that I have a web site that reviews historical movies, the conversation inevitably turns to the recent crop of historical series put out by HBO, Showtime and AMC. After debating whether Band of Brothers is grimmer than The Pacific, the odds are that the next topic will be why The Tudors is not as good as Rome. My fervent defence of The Tudors usually produces an expression of disbelief, so clearly there is a need to set the matter straight. Rome is the more entertaining series but The Tudors is by far the more important series. Read More…