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2017 & Beyond
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How did a mediocre city in central Italy come to dominate such a huge area? What held the empire together and tore it apart? Mary Beard takes in the history and archaeology of the ancient world in Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limits (now that’s a mouthful!), a 4-hour series which commenced on BBC on April 27, 2016. See the official page with streaming info (UK only) here. The series dovetails nicely with Beard’s big book, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.

In production for 2016 (to coincide with the Summer Olympics) is the hour-long documentary Olympia: The Origins of the Games from Séquana Média of France. Drone cameras among the ruins, CGI models of the Temple of Zeus and other sites, and re-enactments of the events (though not with authentically nude athletes) will explore the original Olympic games of ancient Greece. See a trailer and more info at the official site. See also the item on this page about another Séquana Média production, Seven Wonders: Secrets of Lost Monuments.

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.

Last Days in the Desert, an imagined chapter from Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert, features Ewan McGregor playing both Jesus and the Devil. The film, which debuted at Sundance in 2015, is scheduled for limited US release on May 13, 2016.

The new big-screen version of Ben-Hur is set for August 12, 2016 release. Seen here: location shooting in the Sassi di Matera “stone city” area of Italy. Timur Bekmambetov directs, based on the classic novel about a wealthy Jew who falls from grace, then finds another kind of grace thanks to Jesus, with slavery, sea battles, chariot races—and Morgan Freeman—along the way. On board as producers are Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the married team who brought you The Bible miniseries, so expect heavy marketing to the Christian audience. Trailer here. The Charlton Heston version set a record for Oscar-wins back in 1959; a TV miniseries made a lesser splash a few years ago.

Opening wide for Easter release on March 11, 2016: The Young Messiah, the big screen version of Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which follows the fortunes of young Jesus and his parents as they leave Alexandria to return home to Nazareth. Trailer here. (Spoiler alert! Sean Bean dies…of course…but the strange little boy in this photo does not become a vampire.)

British actor Oliver Rix plays David in the ABC TV series Of Kings and Prophets, premiering March 8, 2016. Ray Winstone plays King Saul in the Biblical saga. Earlier screen incarnations of David include Gregory Peck and Richard Gere. Official page with trailer here.

The hour-long BBC documentary Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed with Mary Beard premiered on March 3, 2016. CT scanning, x-ray eq uipment, and point-cloud scanning technology bring new light to the secrets of the victims of the AD 79 AD eruption, as presenter Beard goes behind the scenes of the Great Pompeii Project. Official page with broadcast dates and streaming info here.

Just Jared grabbed this shot of Gerard Butler (as Egyptian god Set) and two minions being filmed against blue screen for Gods of Egypt, a CGI epic in which a young thief (Brenton Thwaites) joins a mythical god on a quest through ancient Egypt. The advance review in Variety could wound even a god: “ extravagantly silly foray into Afroasiatic mythology…the film enters theaters already in its death throes—undone by toxic word of mouth, much criticism of its predominantly white cast, and an opening-weekend box office projection of about 10% of its $140 million production budget…” US release date: 26 February 2016.

Risen follows the investigation of a Roman tribune (Joseph Fiennes) tasked with finding the truth about a reputed resurrection from the dead, in order to quash a possible uprising in Jerusalem. (Treating the death of Jesus as a mystery has been done at least twice before on the screen, in the excellent 1986 intellectual thriller The Inquiry, and its not-so-excellent 2011 remake, The Final Inquiry).The film releases on February 19, 2016.

Hail, Caesar!, the latest Coen Brothers movie, is about a vintage Hollywood production also titled Hail, Caesar! that goes into crisis mode when the lead actor (played by lead actor George Clooney) is kidnapped. The meta-Hollywood comedy about Hollywood features an array of stars, including Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton. Release date is February 5, 2016. See a trailer here.

Is it a videogame? Will it be a movie? Is there an English version? Steven, a stranger to Playmobil, is not quite sure, but the trailer for Fluch der Pharaonen (Curse of the Pharaohs) published at YouTube on February 1, 2016 looks fantastic! Here's a translation of the text: “For the first time the young legionnaire Quintus is with the Roman fleet on a long journey. It goes to distant Egypt. Caesar and Cleopatra finally want to make peace. But Cleopatra’s conniving brother Ptolemy is up to no good. To prevent the treaty, he wants to unleash the Curse of the Pharaohs. Quintus falls headlong in the crossfire. Will he manage to thwart the evil plans and to secure peace? An exciting adventure begins.”

Immortal Egypt with Joann Fletcher, a 4-part series, debuted on BBC on January 4, 2016. The estimable Professor Fletcher travels hither and yon to show how Ancient Egypt’s 20,000-year story fits together, from nomads to pyramid builders, from tomb robbers to the last of the pharaohs. Official page is here.

The UK production Victrix is set in AD 402, as the last remnants of the Roman legions in Britain must contend not only with barbarian tribes, but also with supernatural forces led by the warrior goddess Morrigan intent on seizing the Holy Grail. Fantasy/horror projects set in Roman Britain have a poor record of making it to the screen (see Steven’s On the Shelf page), but this one boasts a cast headed by Rutger Hauer and Brian Blessed (as the Green Man), and IMDb shows a release date of 2016. Shown here: art by Steve Simmons. See more concept art for the movie at

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. Look for release in 2016.

Mark Wahlberg has signed as producer for The Roman, an action biopic about the young Julius Caesar’s adventures when he was kidnapped by pirates. In the history books (following Caesar’s version of events), the snotty upper-crust captive lorded it over his rag-tag captors, was ransomed, then came back and crucified all the pirates to teach them a lesson, thus establishing his bona fides as a no-nonsense law-and-order politician; will Hollywood deliver the same stern moral lesson? Mary Butts wrote a great short story about this episode, “A Roman Speaks,” included in the collection The Classical Novels, and the Sword & Sandal genre gave us Caesar Against the Pirates (1962), with Uruguayan actor Gustavo Rojo as Caesar and Gordon Mitchel as the pirate king—read a review here, But if you want the real story of Caesar and the Pirates, Roman historian Josiah Osgood explores all the sources here. Illustration above: artist unknown. (If you can identify the source, please let Steven know!) Look for The Roman in 2016.

.Israeli actress Gal Gadot will play Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, who also happens to be the daughter of the Greek god Zeus, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Will there be other Classical allusions in this action film from Zach Snyder, director of 300? Look for release in 2016.

ITV has commissioned a new four-part drama, Tutankhamun, about British archaeologist Howard Carter’s long journey to the discovery of the tomb of Ancient Egypt’s boy-king, Tutankhamun. Written by Guy Burt (The Bletchley Circle) and set against Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the story begins in1905 when Carter, in his early twenties, is fervently leading an expedition with a grim determination to find lost antiquities. Look for broadcast in 2016. More info here.

Yet another Bible movie: Mary, about the mother of Jesus, with Ben Kingsley playing King Herod, aiming for a release date in 2016.

In the works for 2016 is 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.

Coming in 2017 and Beyond…

Tom Cruise is set to star in The Mummy (previously called Untitled Mummy Reboot), set for release in 2017. Expect a ginormous action-adventure extravaganza. Photo above: Tom Cruise before he puts on his face in the morning. (No, just kidding! That’s the mummy of Ramses II.)

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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