Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
May 2020

I swear, some of the “alternative,” mostly cable and streaming, companies producing new films and miniseries are becoming increasingly good. The quality of the cinematography, the acting, much of the script writing, and even the CGI are becoming equal to, and sometimes surpassing, that of the major studios and networks. On the flip side, however, when doing a historical film or miniseries, frequently the actual history can be lost among all the scenes which have been added (or which bits of history were eliminated entirely from the script even before shooting) to add “interest” or “spice” or in some other way have been changed to make them more “appealing” to a modern audience. Because, apparently, simply chronicling the things that actually happened, even if fictionalizing them a bit because we don’t have the specific conversations or to tie various events into a single understandable narrative, just isn’t good enough anymore. No matter that the actual history is fascinating, somehow things just have to be “jazzed up” to keep modern audiences from becoming bored. I guess. In any case, those have been some of my thoughts about this particular miniseries set in the last half of the second century, a “stylish mix of documentary and historical epic,” which is a way of saying that they broke up the narrative of the story to give the viewer some insights from a number of historians who never even once mention that what you are seeing on the screen may not be what was really happening at the time. But thus it is, that this month, Da’ud Bob reviews for you the first episode of Netflix’s 1996 miniseries, Roman Empire: Reign of Blood.

Narrated by Sean Bean, and starring Aaron Jakubenko as Commodus, Edwin Wright as Cassius Dio, Genevieve Aitken as Marcia, Jared Turner as Cleander, Tai Berdinner-Blades as Lucilla, John Bach as Marcus Aurelius, Mike Edward as Narcissus, Carl Bland as Avidius Cassius, and Lisa Chappell as Faustina, some of the names of the characters here may be familiar to you from the Russell Crow’s movie Gladiator, which covers much of the same people and time period. Nominally about the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor (and son of Marcus Aurelius) Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus, emperor from A.D. 180 to 192, usually simply referred to as Commodus, but who apparently really preferred as his full style Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Herculeus Romanus Exsuperatorius Amazonius Invictus Felix Pius. (Now isn’t that a mouthful of a name?) The story as presented in this six-episode miniseries follows the basic arc of Commodus and his history, and it will give you a feel for what Rome and its citizens were facing at that time.

Good points: The armor. Much of the history. Some of the costuming. It gives a better understanding of the people and their histories than the movie Gladiator does.

Bad points: Some of the costuming. I have serious questions about Faustina’s “crown.” Sometimes they have the historians explain too much, instead of just letting the story tell itself. The series showing him defeating and killing (through a ruse) his opponents in the gladiatorial ring is not the real story. Commodus always won since his opponents always submitted to the emperor. Thus, these public fights would not end in death. (Privately, however, it was his custom to kill his practice opponents.)

Six breasts. One gallon of blood. 62 dead bodies. Gladius fu. Arrow fu. Wooden gladius fu. Spear fu. Dagger fu. Poison fu. Commodus rolls. Waves roll. Gratuitous cleavage. Gratuitous shot of Faustina standing overlooking the shoreline. A 62 on the Vomit Meter. Three stars. Da’ud Bob says, “It isn’t as historical as they would like you to believe, but it is more historical than many of the films made to date about this Emperor and this period. Check it out!”


Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

Release has been indefinitely delayed.
To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China's greatest heroines in the process. A live-action feature film based on Disney's animated Mulan, starring Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Li Gong, Jason Scott Lee.
The Last Duel
December 25, 2020, or January 8, 2021
Set in 14th century France, the movie is an epic tale of betrayal and justice, told from three distinct points of view: two knights (Matt Damon and Adam Driver) whose bond is tested by treachery and a young woman (Jodie Comer) forced to navigate the brutal and oppressive culture of the era in order to survive. Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

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