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2019 & Beyond
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141 A.D Mission in Dacia opened July 22, 2018 in Romania. A portentous comet and a deadly plague send a Roman centurion on a misison to the mysterious Serpent Mountains beyond the empire’s frontier, into territory ruled by the last free Dacians. Trailer at the official facebook page here. Available to watch via Amazon Prime.

The PBS series Ancient Invisible Cities premiered August 29, 2018 in the US with three episdoes exploring the “mysteries and secrets” (isn’t it always so?) of Cairo, Athens and Istanbul. Presenter Darius Arya’s relentless gee-whiz enthusiasm irritates; the astounding VR fascinates. (BBC appears to have broadcast the same series in the UK…but with Michael Scott rather than Darius Arya as presenter.) Official PBS page with streaming info and clips here; BBC page here.

Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence premiered May 30 4, 2018 on the UK’s Channel Five. The 3-part documentary challenges “what we think we know about the end of Pompeii. Bettany Hughes, Raksha Dave and John Sergeant join a live dig, forensically scan victims, and learn how Roman life has survived for 2,000 years.” Viewers in the UK can stream the series at My5. Viewers in Australia can stream the series at SBS:

Is that a wine-maddened maenad I see? Why no, it’s globe-trotting scholar Bettany Hughes, presenting Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy, first broadcast on April 4, 2018 on BBC4. Since Bacchus (aka Dionysus) plays a rather important role in his novels Roma and The Throne of Caesar, Steven was eager to see how Hughes approached the strange and twisting tale of the twice-born god of many names. Happily, Hughes doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of Dionysus. Official page with streaming info and clips here.

A fourth season of Plebs is coming to the UK’s ITV on April 2, 2018. It’s one of Steven’s guilty pleasures, but brace yourself for a major cast change. Joel Fry, who played Stylax, has left the show. The trio of leads (left to right) is now newcomer Jonathan Pointing as happy-go-lucky Jason, Ryan Sampson as the squirrely slave Grumio, and Tom Rosenthal as the easily flustered Marcus. Carry on, plebs!

Paul, Apostle of Christ opened in the US on March 23, 2017. James Faulkner plays the title role; Jim Caviezel stars as Luke. Seen above: Olivier Martinez as the Roman persecutor Mauritius, in a decidedly pagan moment of widescreen wonder. Official page here.

Mary Magdalene opened in the UK on March 16, 2017, with no US release date yet announced. The movie is director Garth Davis’ follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Lion. Rooney Mara plays the woman who becomes a follower of Jesus, played by Joaquin Phoenix (whose resemblance to Charles Manson is surely unintentional). Despite the cringe-factor that Harvey Weinstein was among the producers, the Times of London says that “this sometimes moving, sometimes rather dull film…is the New Testament told through the feminine gaze of Jesus’s 13th disciple…if this is the Me Too Bible movie, it can be a bit meh too.….The whole thing is very tasteful and restrained, full of whispered dialogue delivered by candlelight and campfire, and gilded sunset shots of Mary taking in the fishing nets amid crashing waves.” Trailer here.

Decidedly offbeat: The BBC documentary Akala’s Odyssey, first broadcast February 17, 2018. From the program’s page at BBC: “Writer and hip-hop artist Akala voyages across the Mediterranean and beyond to solve some of the mysteries behind Homer’s monumental poem, the Odyssey…Along the way, he finds out what Homer’s works may have sounded like to their first audiences, discovers how the rhythm of those ancient words connect to the beats of modern hip-hop and comes face to face with the characters from the masterpiece.…Akala has undertaken this quest as part of his mission to compose his own response to the Odyssey—a new hip hop track called Blind Bard’s Vision, which turns the tale on its head all over again.”

Co-produced by Netflix and BBC from script by David Farr (The Night Manager), the 8-hour series Troy: Fall of a City debuts February 17, 2018 on BBC. Netflix will stream the show internationally. Casting is multi-culti colorblind, so that the racial mix of ancient Greece and Troy (and Olympus) is surprisingly similar to that of modern Britain. Farr says: “Fall of a City aims to convey in all its emotional richness, the effects of war, and the toll taken on city and family by the horrors of siege. Though one of Europe’s oldest stories, it could not be more sadly pertinent today.” A £2,000,000/episode budget promises big effects—including appearances by the gods and goddesses. Above: David Gyasi as Achilles; Louis Hunter and Bella Dayne as Paris and Helen. Official BBC page here.

The recent wave of Bible movies has slowed to a trickle, but you didn’t think it would pass without a new production of Samson, did you? This crowd-pleasing mix of muscles, misogyny, and mayhem has been a staple of the movie biz since the silent era. The Hebrew strongman’s latest incarnation is Taylor James, whose previous credits at IMDb show him playing “Potwasher,” “Stag,” “Centurion,” “Big Simulant Advisor,” “Atlantean Military Messenger,” and “Gym Assistant.” Delilah is Caitlin Leahy, whose previous roles include “Receptionist,” “Pretty Woman,” “Victim,” “Reporter #2,” “Vermillion #4,” and “Call Girl #1.” Produced by Pure Flix, purveyors of Christian entertainment, the movie opens in the US on February 16, 2018. Several trailers are up at IMDb.

Mary Beard resorts to graffiti to suggest that Caesar coined the “original soundbite” with his famous line, “Came—Saw—Conquered!” in Julius Caesar Revealed, a BBC 1-hour doc that debuts 12 February 2018. Official page (with preview clips) here.

Britannia, a 10-part miniseries set in AD 43, premieres in the UK and Ireland on Sky/NowTV on January 18, 2018 and in the US streaming via Amazon Prime on January 26. Brutal Roman invaders encounter daunting Druids and rustic Britons who will have none of it. (For you League of Gentlemen fans, think: “This is a local island, for local people!”) “Terrifyingly bonkers!” raves The Guardian. Your choice of trailer music includes Donovan’s mellow “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (here) or raving-mad “Psycho” by Muse (here). Carry On, Britannia!

In 2011, Channing Tatum starred in The Eagle, a big-screen version of Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth, about a young Roman commander in Britain who ventures north of Hadrian’s Wall to recover the eagle standard lost by his father. That release conjured memories of a long-ago series broadcast by the BBC in 1977—a prominent item on Steven’s Wish List page. At long last, the 6-part mini-series of The Eagle of the Ninth will be released on Region 2 DVD in the UK on 15 January 2018.

Coming in 2019 and Beyond…

Steve Reeves played Romulus in 1961’s Duel of the Titans; Alessandro Borghi will take on the role in filmmaker Matteo Rovere’s Il Primo Re (The First King), about the legendary twins who founded Rome. According to Variety, the movie will be shot “in Proto-Italic language, the ancestor of Latin.” (We’ll believe it when we hear it.) IMDb shows Italian release scheduled for January 31, 2018.

Horrible Histories: The Movie—Rotten Romans will be released in UK cinemas on 26 July 2019. Spun off from the long-running book and BBC TV series for kids, the movie will focus on Roman teenager Atti, played by Sebastian Croft (young Ned Stark in Game Of Thrones), who runs afoul of the emperor Nero and is sent to miserable, cold, wet Britannia, where the natives are revolting—quite literally. Emilia Jones plays his Celtic rival, Orla. A host of British comic actors fill out the cast, including Sir Derek Jacobi reprising his iconic role as Claudius. Many more details here.

In the works: a TV series about The Caesars, with a pilot written by Viking and Tudors creator Michael Hirst (above) and Martin Scorsese somewhere in the mix. You can read a Guardian article about the project here, which yields this curious passage: Hirst “says his dramas are not documentaries but the details are rooted in history: ‘Just like Shakespeare’s history plays, they only start with some historical facts, then the drama takes over. You can’t have both.’” Seriously?

A new TV series is in the works about Cleopatra, but it sounds like such a “tale o’ crap.” (That's an anagram). From the press release: “After being exiled as a young woman, Cleopatra decides to stand up against the patriarchy and fight back for her freedom.” You go, girl! “This tale will follow her rise and transition to becoming the first, last and only female pharaoh.” I guess none of the preceding Ptolemaic queens count, not to mention good old Hatshepsut. More details here. (Pictured above: another sassy Cleo, this one envisioned by Sid Meier’s Civilization VI game.)

Yet another Bible movie? Mary, about the mother of Jesus, lists Ben Kingsley in the cast, playing King Herod. This seems to be a troubled production, with release date repeatedly postponed. (Instead of a year for release, the IMDb page now shows four question marks.)

In development: Jason and the Argonauts: The Kingdom of Hades, apparently based on the graphic novel of the same name, which follows the fortunes of the Argonauts after the quest for the Golden Fleece—essentially a sequel to the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts.The same publisher, under the “Ray Harryhausen Presents” imprint, gave us the graphic novel Wrath of the Titans. This seems to be a troubled production, with release date repeatedly postponed. (Instead of a year for release, the IMDb page now shows four question marks.)

In production from Séquana Média of France is a 7-part TV series Seven Wonders: Secrets of Lost Monuments—one documentary episode for each wonder plus a single-episode docudrama recounting a visit to the all. The production seeks to take advantage of the latest research plus CGI modeling to present a panoramic tour of the ancient world. (Hopefully the overall accuracy of the series is not represented by the fanciful recreation of the Colossus stradling the harbor of Rhodes.) See a trailer and lots of other info at the official site. See also the item on this page about another Séquana Média production, Olympia: The Origins of the Games. (Was this series ever broadcast or released on DVD? If you have info, please let Steven know!)

In Ovid and the Art of Love, a young boy learning about Ovid in school begins to see ancient Rome come to life around him in his native Detroit. The independent production, the first feature by director and writer Esmé von Hoffman, stars John Savage as Augustus. You can watch a short TV news report about the on-location filming in Detroit here. (Has this film been released? If you have info, please let Steven know!)

Gertrude Stein Matisse Picasso SFMOMA modern art
From the introduction to Seneca: Four Tragedies and Octavia, by E. F. Watling:

Cicero, at the festival celebrating the opening of Rome’s first permanent theatre, complained of the pathetic performances of old-fashioned actors past their prime, and of the spectacular ostentation which had been imposed on the old tragedies: “Who wants to see six hundred mules in Clytaemnestra or three hundred goblets in The Trojan Horse, or a battle between fully equipped armies of horse and foot?”

What would Cicero have made of 300?

From Achilles to Zeus: Stephen Moss, film writer for The Guardian, offers an A-Z guide to Ancient World movies. His spot-on entry for the letter S: “Slaves: Notable by their absence in films about Sparta, even though they were the bedrock of Spartan society. Presumably acknowledgment of Sparta’s large slave population would sit oddly with a portrayal of a heroic society that valued freedom...” Click here to read the entire alphabet.

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But wait—there’s more!

Steven’s International Online Ancient World Film Festival
Watch this collection of mini-movies right here, right now!

Steven’s Wish List
Will we ever see these legendary
movies and TV shows?
Where Are
the Euro Movies?

Movies and TV shows from England & Europe, never shown in the US.


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