Category Archives: spartacus

Arrow S02 E06: "Keep Your Enemies Closer"

At last, we’re going to find out where Oliver got his Russian mob cred, and where he got that Bratva tattoo, as the crew takes a trip to Russia. Almost sounds like an “I Love Lucy” episode, doesn’t it? Just not as funny.

In our opening sequence, after some Lucy style secret identity shenanigans with Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev, Arrow and his sidekick, um, snitch, um, sidekick, Roy Harper bust up some counterfeiters in short order. In the midst of it, and here’s where it gets good, Diggle gets kidnapped.

Diggle gets kidnapped by dudes namedropping Task Force X, the Suicide Squad’s official codename, and answering to Mockingbird, who gave orders to the Secret Six in the comics. When he comes to, he is confronted by, da da da dum, a very svelte looking Amanda Waller, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who you might remember as Naevia from “Spartacus,” which also starred our Deathstroke, Manu Bennett.

Waller, who Diggle identifies as being with ARGUS, tells him that Lyla has vanished after following up some leads in Russia. Specifically Lyla was tracking Deadshot for Diggle. Waller, who also knows what Diggle and Oliver Queen do with their nights, wants Lyla extracted. So much for sightseeing in Russia, it sounds like it’s all business.

Back on flashback island, or more accurately, the Amazo boat, Professor Ivo interrogates Oliver with Sarah present. It seems that the island was where a Japanese World War II secret super soldier formula is, and Ivo’s looking for it. The formula, that gifts super strength and enhanced regeneration, is called Mirakuru – miracle.

Or is that Miraclo? With the recent announcement of an Hourman series possibly in development, I can’t help but wonder if The Flash isn’t the only back door pilot being prepped here… For those who don’t know your Golden Age comic lore, Miraclo is the drug that Hourman takes to gain super strength, super stamina, and yes, even regenerative abilities for one hour.

Dylan Neal’s dad next door portrayal of Anthony Ivo is extremely creepy when you think about this guy was up to in the comics, and what he’s probably up to here. There is just this very scary chord of quiet menace in his performance. Factoid: Neal played a character ironically linked to Amanda Waller back on the CW’s “Smallville.” And could the sadistic Captain of the Amazo… be the future Amazo??

Back in the present, Wendy and Marvin, ahem, I mean Isabel insists on tagging along to Russia with the Arrowcave trio. It’s like a sitcom setup almost, and infuriating. They have to avoid Isabel while trying to find Lyla and Deadshot. Let me tell you, this does not make Summer Glau any more likable or tolerable. She is even less likable drunk, and downright hatable as a one night stand.

We do get the goods on how Oliver is a Bratva captain. Anatoli Knyazev, known as the KGBeast in the comics, was his prison mate on the Amazo boat. Oliver saved his life, and was rewarded with tattoo and rank. Anatoli helps them find Lyla and Deadshot, beginning Diggle’s brief prison movie inside the show. In the end, everyone gets saved, but Diggle can’t kill Deadshot.

However Diggle does learn who hired Deadshot to kill his brother. In a reveal that may bring some loose ends full circle to a knot, Deadshot says he was hired by H.I.V.E. Not in the comics, but in the “Teen Titans” cartoon, the H.I.V.E. was run by a guy called Brother Blood. Da da dum.

On the subplot track, Jean Loring makes her third appearance as Moira Queen’s attorney. This is the first time however I was aware of her name. This is Jean Loring?? I was very surprised. Teryl Rothery is a beautiful but older woman, but based on the character’s previous mention (‘Ray and Jean’), I would have assumed she was younger, much younger, a contemporary, a peer, of Laurel and Oliver. Let’s just hope she’s not being paid in white dwarfs or black diamonds…

The Blood Rush mini-adventure starring Felicity and Roy, and sponsored by Bose, is dumb. There I said it. It’s out of continuity, confusing, and dumb. Just give the actors more screen time in the real show and give the audience a real Bose commercial. Otherwise, this is a waste of time.

Speaking of dumb and waste of time, it seems that Felicity is being groomed for the role of Oliver’s romantic interest, or worse than that, his fawning crush. She tells him he deserves better, regarding Isabel. I’d like to tell the producers that Felicity deserves better than this kind of crap. Come on. Make Felicity a strong female character on television, not another one of Oliver’s failed attempts at a relationship.


Next week: The return of (The) Count (and) Vertigo!

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Arrow: Betrayal

“Arrow” is at a point now where you need a score card to know what’s what and who’s who. I’m not sure that’s a place this show should be at right now. I’m sure there’s a core audience, but despite the handy elevator pitch origin story in the opening of every episode, I’m not sure that any new viewers wouldn’t be hopelessly lost. No matter how you slice it, even I was having trouble keeping all the balls in the air at the beginning of “Betrayal.”

Oliver confronts his mom about the notebook full of names that he got from Felicity last episode. She throws it in the fireplace, suggesting the only way the family can heal is to stop asking questions. Diggle tails her throughout the episode, discovering some nasty secrets. When Oliver confronts her later as Arrow, heh, well, that’s this episode’s cliffhanger.

In the main story this episode, Cyrus Vanch, former muckety-muck of the Starling City underworld has been released from prison, Iron Heights specifically – nice shout out to the comics. He wants what’s his back, as well as the Triad’s and the Bertinelli family’s (I guess that means we haven’t seen the last of China White or the Huntress). And he also wants Arrow out of the way. Using his contacts on the police force, he learns Laurel knows Arrow, so he kidnaps her. This forces Dad to cooperate with The Hood.

In the attack on Vanch, I am again struck by the violence of this so-called hero’s methods. By my count, there are at least eight of Vanch’s men who take arrows right in the chest. Can you live through that? It’s what bothered me about previews of the show before it aired. Have they made Green Arrow into a serial killer? Man, give me an old-fashioned boxing glove arrow any day.

In the soap opera portion of the show, honesty gets between Laurel and Tommy. Disappointingly this coupling has yet to be used to its potential as far as being a plot complication. So much unused potential, but I’ll keep waiting. Laurel’s relationship with her dad is suffering from problems similar to hers with Tommy as well this episode. I wonder what’s next on “All My Arrows”…

On the island, Oliver meets Slade Wilson, played by Manu Bennett, Crixus of Starz’ amazing “Spartacus” series. Comics readers will immediately recognize the name Slade Wilson as the not so secret identity of Deathstroke. Again, for TV they have flipped things. Wilson is apparently one of two Deathstrokes, and not the one Oliver encountered earlier. Apparently Slade is who trains Oliver. I won that bet.

There are other cool shout outs this episode as well. Vanch’s lawyer worked for Wolfman and Perez, referencing the writer/artist team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who created the New Teen Titans, a team that occasionally featured Speedy. They also, most notably, created Deathstroke. Laurel wants to call DA Kate Spencer for help to put Vanch back in prison. Kate is of course the civilian identity of Manhunter. Arrow and Laurel meet atop the Winick building – Judd Winick, former MTV “Real World” wrote the Green Arrow comic for a while.

Be here next episode when Oliver tells his mom that she’s failed the city, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.

Spartacus: Vengeance

I recently had the chance to see a sneak peek of “Spartacus: Vengeance” from the Starz network. This is a very different television series from its predecessor “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and its sequel, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.”

“Vengeance” is not just different for the obvious reason, Liam McIntyre replacing the late Andy Whitfield. McIntyre is a different Spartacus. This is not just a Darren Stevens type change out. He plays the character differently. In comparison to Whitfield, he seems smaller, softer, and tense, rather than intense. He also has compassion, and appears to care, and be more of a leader than Whitfield’s predominantly loner from “Blood and Sand.” While there’s nothing lacking in McIntyre’s performance, there still needs to be quite a bit of suspension of disbelief that McIntyre went through all that Whitfield did to get Spartacus to the place he is now.

And the place he is now is what the major difference in this cycle of the show as compared to the first two. The story has left the arena and the world of the gladiators, which was where much of the show’s charm was in my opinion. Let’s hope the characters, those that remain from the previous series, are enough to propel viewers along this new path.

Having freed himself and his allies from slavery in the house of Batiatus, Spartacus is now on the run and rampaging hit and run style against the Romans and the city of Capua. We see a brief glimpse of the arena, and I have to admit it’s a highlight, but I wish there was more. I loved the first two series so I’m willing to give the new season, and Whitfield more than a fair chance.

“Spartacus: Vengeance” starts on Starz on January 27, 2012.

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Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

I’ve been looking forward to this six-part prequel to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” since I first heard of it, and that was before I had even finished watching that entire series. Yeah, that’s how good it is. As with most prequels, we know the way things are going to turn out, we just don’t know how they’re going to turn out.

The series follows the young Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as they rise to the top of the gladiator management game in Capua. We get to see their early doings as well as those of “Blood and Sand” favorites Crixis (Manu Bennett) and future Doctore, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah).

We’re also introduced to an earlier and cockier champion of Capua, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and the seductive Gaia (Jaime Murray). You might remember the latter as Dexter’s sociopath girlfriend and as H.G. Wells on “Warehouse 13.” Both characters are much fun, and a reason to watch even if you already know what happens to everyone else.

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” airs Friday nights on Starz. Check it out.

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Best of 2010, In My Opinion

Movies ~ I tried to limit this list to movies that came out in 2010 as opposed to movies that I had first seen in 2010. If it were the latter, I would definitely include things like Suck, Gran Torino, Whip It, Big Fan, Me and Orson Welles and the best flick I saw this year, which is in fact from 1999 – Cradle Will Rock.

Nevertheless, here’s my top ten or so (fourteen actually) for 2010: Julie & Julia, HBO’s multiple Emmy Award winning Temple Grandin, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Despicable Me, the Danish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shutter Island, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, should-be Oscar contender Secretariat, the surprising Megamind, the equally surprising Hot Tub Time Machine, The Runaways, Tangled, from the Cartoon Network Firebreather, and my favorite film of the year Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Among the worst I saw this year, again, of those movies that came out this year, would be Dinocroc Vs. Supergator, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and the second and third installments of The Twilight Saga.

Television ~ My favorites on the TV this year are pretty predictable, sadly enough, but at least there’s a quorum. The top three for me are obviously “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Boardwalk Empire,” that’s easy. I was also a sucker for “Doctor Who,” “Misfits” and “Castle” this year, caught on to the amazing “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” better late than never, and I got my comic book geek groove on with “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Still hanging in there with my favorites, but a bit on the decline in quality would be “Chuck,” “Glee,” “Entourage,” “True Blood” and as much as I hate to say this, “Dexter.” Here’s hoping they improve in coming seasons. This is not to say these are bad series, mind you, they are all head and shoulders above most of the stuff out there.

Music ~ While I was still riding high with Lady GaGa and “Glee” from 2009, 2010 will go down as the year I discovered nerdcore. I spent a lot of my time listening to MC Frontalot, MC Chris, Beefy, Schaffer the Darklord and especially Adam WarRock. As a matter of fact, “The War for Infinity” and the West Coast Avengers Mixtape from Adam were among my favorite albums of the year. Also in there I would put “Something for Everybody” by DEVO and just to make it an even nostalgic choice, the just released “All You Need Is Now” by Duran Duran. I also kinda dug the soundtrack to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” by Joseph LoDuca.

Songs that I loved this year would have to include that song by Cee Lo Green, edited or unedited version, it was great. The Human League had a nice comeback with “Night People,” I also liked some stuff by Arcade Fire, Ke$sha and Florence + the Machine, but my real favorite of 2010, for both all the wrong and right reasons would have to be “Miracles” by ICP.

Everything Else ~ My favorite books this year were “Pandemonium” by Daryl Gregory and “Heart-Shaped Box” and “20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill. Comics by Paul Cornell, Gail Simone and Jim McCann were the best this year. My favorite podcasts included “Tom Vs. Aquaman” and the excellent “Better in the Dark.” My favorite blogs included “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” by Fran Metzman and “The Aquaman Shrine” by Rob Kelly.

Here’s to a great 2011!

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Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

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