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Season One of Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand is now available on DVD and Blu-ray and for download on iTunes. After watching the climactic episode, Steven declared the series “an astonishing tour de force” and rushed to put it on his Top 10 Ancient World Movies list. There was also a companion graphic novel, now a collector’s item, and a motion comic (see item below). The prequel series, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, is set to air in January, 2011.

To complement the Spartacus: Blood and Sand TV series, Starz launched a companion motion comic under the same title. You can download all four episodes at Amazon or iTunes.

Agora, a huge hit across Europe in 2009, was finally given a limited release in the US in summer 2010. The DVD is now available; you can also download at iTunes. Rachel Weitz stars as Hypatia, the scientist-scholar who ran afoul of the Christians in Egypt in A.D. 391. You can see a trailer and much more at the film’s official site, and read Steven’s complete review at his his Top 10 Ancient World Movies page. (Speaking of Hypatia, has anyone out there read the novels Lady Philosopher: The Story of Hypatia by Brian Trent or Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria by Ki Longfellow?)

The Kraken has been released—on Blu-Ray and DVD. You can also download Clash of the Titans at iTunes. Avatar’s Sam Worthington stars as Perseus, the son of Zeus who matches wits with Medusa. Steven’s take:
“This Clash is a big, brassy special effects bonanza, with a plot stitched together from Lord of the Rings (Hades = Sauron), Chronicles of Narnia (Zeus = Aslan), the original 1981 movie (“Release the Kraken!”), Gladiator (inspirational speeches), Dune (giant scorpions ridden like sand worms), Harry Potter (Quidditch using Medusa’s head)—anything and everything, it seems, except Greek myth. The story’s dualist, binary theology (Good v. Evil, man v. god) is essentially Christian, and cannot be superimposed on the ancient Greeks and their perceived relationship with their gods. The result is high fantasy in the Tolkien mold which takes place a world of Hollywood pastiche—and has nothing to do with ancient Greece.”
As 2010 drew to a close, it was announced that Worthington will reprise the role of Perseus in a sequel, Wrath of the Titans, slated for release in March, 2012, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and presumably based on the 2010 graphic novel/motion comic of the same title (see following item).

In 2010, the legacy of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen lived on in Wrath of the Titans, a motion-comic DVD sequel to the original 1981 Clash of the Titans that picks up the story five years after Perseus slew Medusa. Presumably, this material will also serve as the basis of the feature film Wrath of the Titans in which Sam Worthington will reprise his role as Perseus, slated for release in March, 2012. (The various movie incarnations of Perseus are becoming as complicated as the permutations of Greek myth!) The motion comic is from Eagle One Media and Bluewater Comics, produced under the “Ray Harryhausen Presents” imprint. Bluewater also offers a graphic novel version the story, plus The Kingdom of Hades, a comic book sequel to the classic Harryhausen movie Jason and the Argonauts, which also may be headed for a movie version.

Centurion had a very limited late-summer theatrical release in the U.S. and is now on DVD. You can also download iTunes or watch on demand at Amazon. Michael Fassbender stars as a fleeing survivor of the Roman Ninth Legion, destroyed in A.D. 117 by savage Picts, including Olga Kurylenko (seen above). Steven says: “This movie’s spectacular scenery and strong atmosphere are undercut by overly conventional storytelling; there’s even a scene where our hero, seeing something terrible about to happen, runs in slo-mo while shouting, ‘Nooooo!’ ” The Tatum Channing vehicle The Eagle, scheduled for February, 2011 release, draws on the same historical setting.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which kicked off 2010’s crop of Ancient World movies, is available on on DVD. You can also download the movie at iTunes. Think Harry Potter with Greek gods—the studio obviously did, since the first Potter director, Chris Columbus, was assigned to direct. Steven loved it: “This movie boasts all the advantages of a big-budget Hollywood production—terrific special effects, excellent storytelling, and perfect casting. Uma Thurman as Medusa? Yessssss!” Logan Lerman plays the teen who discovers he’s the demigod son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd of Rome). Sean Bean is Zeus, Rosario Dawson is Persephone, Steve Coogan is Hades, and Pierce Brosnan plays the centaur Chiron. The movie is based on the fantasy novel by Rick Riordan, first in series that’s insanely popular with younger readers. The movie probably didn’t perform well enough at the box office to merit a sequel...but if you have information to the contrary, please let Steven know!

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Prince Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on the popular video game. The movie is now on DVD and can also be downloaded at iTunes. Steven says, “While this movie may not be a scholar’s view of 6th century Persia (sets include some Thai wats and bric-a-brac from your neighborhood Asian import shop), it’s still quite an eyeful (and I’m not just talking about the two leads). The movie brilliantly uses at least one device from Classical myth—a wicked poison shirt!” The film underperformed at the box office, so don’t look for a sequel.

The series Hispania la Leyenda premiered on Spanish TV in 2010. The sprawling melodrama is set in the Iberian peninsula during the Roman conquest, inspired by the exploits of the legendary hero Viriato. (The series continued for a second searson in 2011 and a final season in 2012, when it was followed by a spin-off series, Imperium).Visit the official web site here. In Spain, Season One has been released on Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray, in Spanish only. However, Steven has seen cover art (see below) for a DVD set that appears to feature English subtitles.Only problem: he can’t locate this item anywhere online. Was this a mock-cover, or does such a DVD actually exist? If you know how to get hold of Season One of Hispania la Leyenda with English subtitles, please let Steven know! Meanwhile you can watch a preview with (homemade?) English subs at YouTube. There’s an interview (in Spanish) with the show’s historical advisor here.

Update: This movie was released on DVD in the US on November 15, 2013 under the title Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine. Augustine: Decline of the Roman Empire, premiered on Italian TV (under the title Sant’Agostino) in 2010 as a 2-part mini-series. The title role is split between Alessandro Preziosi (photo above) and Franco Nero (who plays the Roman African saint at age 75). It’s from the same production company that made Augustus, Nero, and St. Peter. There’s a German DVD with English audio, and imports may be found here and here at Amazon. Will there be a US DVD release? If you have any info, please let Steven know! Visit the official production page and watch a trailer here. (In 1972, Roberto Rossellini made a move for Italian TV, Agostino d’Ippona/Augustine of Hippo; if you know of any English-language release of that film, please let Steven know!)

Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic released on DVD in 2010. You can also download the movie at iTunes. It’s an anime movie (with six different directors) based on a video game based on the first part of The Divine Comedy—and absolutely riveting to watch. The movie is surprisingly faithful to the original 14th-century poem and retains many of Dante’s references to Classical literature and famous figures from antiquity, including the Roman poet Virgil (seen here), who plays our hero’s guide on a harrowing journey through the circles of hell. See the trailer here.

Arriving on DVD in 2010 (after years in the can): Little Hercules starring Michael Dolen, the child with a bodybuilder’s physique who enjoyed a flash of media fame a while back. Throw in Hulk Hogan as Zeus and Elliott Gould as Socrates, add Judd Nelson and Robin Givens, concoct a story about a child demigod in modern LA, and you’ve got a movie for the ages. (It was originally filmed in 3D, hence this weird-looking screen cap with Gould, who looks ready for his hemlock.)

In his auspicious debut as a BBC presenter, Michael Scott wrote and appeared in the documentary Delphi: Bellybutton of the Ancient World (broadcast in Autumn 2010). The program investigates the oracular sanctuary of Delphi in ancient Greece, acclaimed as the omphalos (bellybutton) of the ancient world for over a thousand years. More info here. If you know a US broadcast or DVD release, please let Steven know!

Aristotle wasn’t just a great philosopher; he was also a pioneering natural scientist. In the BBC documentary Aristotle’s Lagoon, first broadcast on January 17, 2010, Professor Armand Leroi goes to the island of Lesbos to have a look at the living creatures that inspired Aristotle to write his Historia Animalium. The viewer concludes that Leroi and Aristotle have more in common than just an insatiable thirst for knowledge; they both sport a great pair of gams. More info here. If you know of a US broadcast or any DVD release, please let Steven know!

In the exemplary BBC documentary Atlantis: The Evidence, which first aired June 2, 2010, Bettany Hughes took viewers on a journey to what remains of the legendary lost kingdom—the volcanic island of Santorini in the Aegean, which suffered a volcanic eruption ten times greater than the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii, and where archaeological excavations have uncovered a lost civilization of astounding beauty. Will there be a US broadcast or DVD release? If you have answers, please let Steven know!

Poet Simon Armitage takes a trip to Turkey and Greece to follow the voyage of Odysseus in Gods and Monsters: Homer’s Odyssey, first broadcast on November 8, 2010. The travelogue aspect of the show is fine, with a visit to the photo-op Trojan horse at the tourist-swarmed site of the city, remote fishing villages, and stunning Aegean seascapes. But Armitage is a lackluster host, and one is left wondering what Bettany Hughes might have done with this material. More info here. Will there be a US broadcast or DVD release? If you have answers, please let Steven know!

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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