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A late addition to this page: In the Name of Ben Hur, a low-budget production filmed in Wales that no doubt sought to capitalize on not-so-phenomenal release of this year’s Ben-Hur. (How low-budget? They couldn’t even afford the hyphen.) The movie had a US DVD release in August, 2016, followed by a theatrical premiere in Hungary. Plot synopsis: “Retired gladiator Juda Ben Hur helps a group of young vigilantes in their quest to remove the Romans from their homeland once and for all.” Suitably hunky Adrian Bouchet stars in the title role. Trailer here.

Netflix debuted its 6-part docudrama Roman Empire: Reign of Blood on November 11, 2016, all about the scandalous reign of the emperor/wannabe-gladiator Commodus. Sean Bean narrates (and presumably does not die), various scholars appear, and there’s lots of blood and sex and gladiator shenanigans a la Spartacus. The story appears to take place in an alternate universe where wise Marcus Aurelius and his dissolute son Commodus (last seen in Gladiator) are clean-shaven, despite every image from antiquity which shows them with beards. But since Commodus was said to be the best-looking man of his generation, casting Aaron Jakubenko is certainly an improvement over Joaquin Phoenix. A reappraisal of Commodus is overdue, but this may not be it. Trailer here.

Tutankhamun, a four-part miniseries, debuted on Britain’s ITV in October, 2016. The handsomely mounted production follows the dogged pursuit by British archaeologist Howard Carter to discover the intact tomb of Ancient Egypt’s boy-king, Tutankhamun. The fiercely charismatic (especially with a moustache) Max Irons stars as Carter.

The Spanish-language US network Univision is broadcasting a Spanish-dubbed version of a popular Brazilian telenovela, Moisés y los Diez Mandamientos (Moses and the Ten Commandments). The story meanders from the Bible account into a rambling soap opera with lots of feminine intrigue and male beefcake. Lots of beefcake. The apparently complete removal of all hair from everyone’s body may be the only historically accurate element of the show. (The ancient Egyptians did depilate, to avoid lice…and to keep that squeaky clean feeling.) Seen here is Guilherme Winter as Moses. Under its Portuguese title Os Dez Mandamentos, the show first premiered in Brazil in 2015; a two-hour film version, Os Dez Mandamentos: O Filme, came out in 2016. See a photo gallery from the show here.

History Channel kicked off a new docu-drama series called Barbarians Rising on June 6, 2016 with an episode on Hannibal; subsequent episodes will focus on other enemies of Rome, including Viriathus, Arminius, Boudicca, Spartacus, Attila, and Fritigern the Goth. As usual, diverse talking heads (including novelist Valerio Massimo Manfredi and historian Lindsay Powell) are interspersed with poorly produced battle re-enactments. How scrupulously accurate is the series? Just take a look at that Christian Chi-Rho symbol on the helmet of Hannibal, who lived two centuries before Christ. (On the casting of a black actor as Hannibal, no comment.)

Plebs was back for a third uproarious season on ITV in the UK. As always, any resemblance to actual ancient Roman daily life is purely coincidental, and the delicate, understated humor is in the very best of taste! The Region 2 DVD releases July 18, 2016 in the UK. (If you know any of US broadcast, stream, or DVD release, please let Steven know!)

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. (Was this doc ever broadcast or released on DVD? If you have info, please let Steven know!)

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, had a limited US release on May 13, 2016. Now available on DVD and Streaming.

The new big-screen version of Ben-Hur premiered August 12, 2016. 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. 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.) Now available on DVD and streaming.

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. Now available on DVD and streaming.

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 released on February 19, 2016. Now available on DVD and streaming.

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. Now available on DVD and streaming.

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.

.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. Are there other Classical allusions in this action film from Zach Snyder, director of 300? Release date: March 25, 2016. Now available on DVD and streaming.

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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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