REVIEW: WOLF CREEK: THE MINI-SERIES

CAST

John Jarratt (Django Unchained)
Lucy Fry (Vampire Academy)
Dustin Clare (Spartacus)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Deborah Mailman (Offspring)
Maya Stange (Love In Limbo)
Damian De Montemas (In The Red)
Miranda Tapsell (The Saphires)
Robert Taylor (The matrix)
Richard Cawthorne (10 Terrorists)
Rachel House (The Dark Horse)
Jessica Tovey (Wanderlust)
Alicia Gardiner (Fergus McPhail)
Fletcher Humphrys (Rush)

Mick Taylor’s  murderous rampage continues in a new six-part small screen spin-off. The producers understand it needed to start hard, fast and gore-splattered, lest the target demographic find their slaughterhouse thrills elsewhere – in competition like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Wolf Creek’s protagonist is now 19-year-old American college student Eve (Lucy Fry), who is in the outback on holiday with her parents and brother. Mum, dad and bro get minced post-haste by Mick (the running time barely clocks double digits), who chortles, snarls and makes jokes to himself, clearly chuffed to be back on screens.


Eve escapes the (very literal) chainsaw, more or less unscathed. But the cop assigned to her case, Detective Sergeant Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare) proves less than helpful. Early on we learn Eve is battling an addiction to painkillers, setting the story up with an internal/external horror juxtaposition: she must confront the demons inside herself while dealing with the very tangible spectre bloodying up the dust-caked neighbourhood. Instead of returning to the US, she resolves to find Mick and get revenge. The format is not quite hunter-becomes-hunted, given the villain is hardly the kind of character to run away or be intimidated.


The first episode establishes Lucy Fry’s performance in the nobody-left-to-turn-to lead role as killer, in more ways than one, material. Her pig-headed problem-solving presence is countered by Jarratt’s maniacal carefree glee. But like the shark in Jaws, the writers (Peter Gawler and Felicity Packard) keep him as an ace up their sleeves, the trump card to play when pace might have otherwise lagged. It’s clear early on we’re going to have to wait for a direct showdown between the two main characters; the series is geared towards that as an endgame.


Wolf Creek boasts considerable gnarly thrills and the staging is consistently impressive. A great series for the Wolf Creek Franchise.

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REVIEW: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED

CAST

Liam McIntyre (Legend of Hercules)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)
Cynthia-Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Pana Hema Taylor (Dead Lands)
Simon Merrells (The Wolfman)
Ellen Hollman (The Scorpion King 4)
Anna Hutchison (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ditch Davey (Crawlspace)
Christian Antidormi (Strike Back)
Jenna Lind (Burning Man)
Colin Moy (Xena)
Jared Turner (Filfthy Rich)
Anthony Ray Parker (The Matrix)
Stephen Lovatt (Neighbours)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Todd Lasance (The Vampire Diaries)
Joel Tobeck (Young Hercules)

And so comes the beginning of the end as War Of The Damned brings to its conclusion series’ creator Stephen DeKnight’s take on the story of Spartacus. Picking up where the last arc in the continuity left off, the ever controversial show once again takes us back to the days of ancient Rome to offer up the final chapter of the slave revolt around which the show is based. As with the story arcs that preceded it, the show does not want for sex, nudity and graphic violence, much stronger than most have seen on TV before, but that there is half the charm. Everything about the series, from the performances the set design to the digital effects work is so over the top that it’s hard to imagine the series being nearly as fun had the exploitative elements been toned down in the least. When the story beings, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) has teamed up with Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Gannicus (Dustin Clare) to lead the slaves in bloody revolt against the armies of the Roman Empire. They won’t win an easy victory but Spartacus figures that to really win their freedom they’re going to have to set up a city fortress of sorts in order to have a location that will serve not only as a stronghold but also as a headquarters.As they set about making this a reality in hopes that once accomplished it will allow them to really ramp up their military operations, the powers that be in Rome lick their wounds and look for ways to replace soldiers lost in battle and refill their coffers. The Senate decides that the best man for this job is a wealthy Roman named Marcus Licinius Crassus (Simon Merrells). He comes in with enough money to help and is more or less put in charge of the military forces dedicated to putting the slaves back in their rightful place. While Crassus sets about doing this, a young Roman man named Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) is brought on board for the specific purpose of going undercover and making his way into Spartacus’ inner circle. The series sticks to the same formula that made the earlier storylines so much fun: lush production values,  epic and bloody battles, sex, backstabbing political types. A series that makes no qualms whatsoever about playing up not only the decadence of the Roman Empire during which it has been set  but also the more violent side of life during those times. The series is all the better for it. Underneath all of this surface level insanity, however, is the final chapter of a pretty well told story. Characters develop nicely and are given interesting personalities and the various plot lines that are woven throughout the series can occasionally be intricate and genuinely surprising. As such, there’s a good amount of suspense here.McIntyre shines in the lead again, showing a confidence and a naturalness in the part that really helps to carry the series. The other cast members all do good work here as well. Merrells and Lasance are both great on the opposing side of McIntyre and company as the soldiers. Performances are rarely, if ever, subtle but they fit the tone of the story and of the series as a whole. Merrells, in fact, tends to steal any scene he’s in even if he occasionally chews the scenery. Throw Ellen Hollman as a female warrior named Saxa and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia, Crixius’ main squeeze, and you can see that the ladies not only look great here but they hold their own in front of the cameras as well.The series ends on a high note, bringing together everything it laid out beforehand rather nicely. Would it have been possible to stretch it out further? Sure, but then you run the risk of the series starting to become old hat and with it already being repetitive in certain ways this far in, that was probably a legitimate concern on the part of the writing crew. As it stands now, the series remained a solid watch all the way through, a show that put entertainment first and succeeded in doing so. It’s easy to see why this quickly became and stayed a fan favorite.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE

 

CAST

Liam McIntyre (Legend of Hercules)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Viva Bianca (Showing Roots)
Katrina Law (Arrow)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)
Nick E. Tarabay (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Brett Tucker (Thor: The Dark World)
Kevin J. Wilson (Legend of The Seeker)
Brooke Williams (12 Monkeys)
Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Acolytes)
Tom Hobbs (Winners & Losers)
Pana Hema Taylor (The Dead Lands)
Mark Ferguson (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Peter McCauley (The Lost World)
Bede Skinner (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Delaney Tabron (Deathgasm)
Stephen Ure (Xena)
Ellen Hollman (The Scorpion King 4)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)

After triumph and tragedy, the Spartacus saga returns to the small screen to continue the tale of a former slave who has lost everything and will do whatever he can to exact vengeance on those that have done him wrong. Spartacus: Vengeance picks up after the events of the first season, which was called Blood and Sand. The show went into production, but had to be delayed due to Andy Whitfield’s illness and subsequent death. Gears shifted and a prequel was created that follow the events that led up to Blood and Sand called Gods of the Arena, which introduced more characters that carried over into Vengeance.

Spartacus: Blood and Vengeance picks up shortly after the events that culminated with the House of Batiatus massacre where Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) freed all of the gladiators and led them to revolt. He and his comrades carry on freeing slaves and adding them to their ranks. Since the House of Batiatus no longer stands Spartacus’ new quest is to kill the man who committed his wife to slavery, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker).

Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) has returned, and this time she bears the gift of foresight from the Gods. Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) is back and even colder,conniving, and more delicious than ever. Along with her husband and Rome emissary  husband, they will try to squash the uprising led by Spartacus and his legion.

I loved Andy Whitfield’s performance in Blood and Sand, because it’s what cemented that season’s success. We were there for the journey, side by side with him until the end. Gearing up for season two, he took ill, and would not come back to finish the series. I was sort of skeptical, because I didn’t think the show could carry forward without Andy. Gods of the Arena was awesome, because it introduced Gannicus (Dustin Clare).

The show retains its quality while adding colorful embellishes here and there – more notably, the slow-motion scenes seem to have been tweaked, which gives them a faster look even though we’re watching it in slow motion. I really enjoyed that the full supporting cast was made the primary character of the series.

As far as the new Spartacus goes – Liam McIntyre had some pretty big shoes to fill, although it takes a few episodes to get use to him, he becomes a welcome addition to the cast and makes the character his own. The relationships of some of the other characters like Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt); and the Gannicus and Oenomaus dynamic carried over from Gods of the Arena were fascinating.  Spartacus: Vengeance brings on the blood, sex, and violence and reaches new heights in its depiction of it all. It’s hardcore to the max.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA

CAST

John Hannah (Agents of Shield)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)
Jaime Murray (Ringer)
Marisa Ramirez (Blue Bloods)
Antonio Te Maioha (Zoolander 2)
Nick E. Tarabay (Arrow)
Craig Walsh-Wrightson (Vertical Limit)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jeffrey Thomas (The Hobbit)
Temuera Morrison (Tatu)
Stephen Lovatt (Neighbours)
Jessica Grace Smith (Home and Away)
Steven A. Davis (Power Rangers Samurai)
Peter Feeney (30 Days of Night)
Jason Hood (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Stephen Ure (Deathgasm)
Andy Whitfield (The Clinic)

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was one of 2010’s great television surprises.  it soon established itself as a smart, well acted, viscerally entertaining piece of entertainment that defied conventions by knowing just how much to take itself seriously while not being too embarrassed to be over-the-top and sleazy. Two of the biggest revelations of “Blood and Sand” were John Hannah as Batiatus  and Andy Whitfield as Spartacus, an unknown actor at the time, who over the initial 13 episodes of the series made a steadfast march towards stardom, displaying a healthy balance of humanity and brutality, giving viewers a true hero to root for. Sadly, Mr. Whitfield was forced to pass the mantle to another actor as his ongoing bout with cancer proved to be too much to handle while shooting such a physically taxing series. In place of a second season, a six-episode prequel was commissioned, titled Gods of the Arena, it would tell the tale of Batiatus’ rise to power in Capua as well as provide much desired backstories for some of Blood and Sand’s more memorable supporting characters. While, a prequel in nature, Gods of the Arena begins where Blood and Sand left off, so new viewers take heed and leave this title be until you’re caught up, otherwise face having the many twists and shocking revelations of Blood and Sand spoiled. That said, Gods of the Arena manages to shake off many issues inherently present in prequels, but falls victim to a few nearly unavoidable ones. Without Spartacus to focus on, a new hero must step forward and Gods of the Arena provides two. First up is perhaps the most fearsome and brutal gladiator to enter the Spartacus mythos, Gannicus (Dustin Clare), a practically unstoppable warrior whose boredom with low-level fights results in him toying with opponents, grandstanding, and ultimately taking a lax attitude towards training. Clare steps up to the task of giving a hero viewers can cheer for, bringing a level of humanity to the character that echoes Whitfield’s own talents in Blood and the Sand. Gannicus’ quieter moments come in private conversations with his friend, fellow champion, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah), who viewers will surely recognize as”Blood and Sand’s”head trainer, Doctore. The inclusion of a pre-Doctore Oenomaus, is a stellar example of the little character details Gods of the Arena is able to provide.Also returning are Manu Bennett as Crixus, Spartacus’ main rival throughout Blood and Sand, however here, Crixus finds himself a newly purchased slave and raw gladiatorial talent, making his attitude toward the brash Spartacus resonate with greater meaning. Bennett really puts in overtime playing a character we know, but don’t fully recognize as first. As his story progresses, Gods of the Arena manages to nicely fit in backstories for Ashur (Nick Tarabay), who has yet to become the crippled Assassin for Batiatus and Barca (Antonio Te Maioha), one of Blood and Sand’s more pleasant supporting surprises. Added to the chaos of the arena, is Batiatus’ current Doctore, a much welcome Temuera Morrison. As fascinating as the politics of the arena and training grounds are, what likely has fans checking the series out is John Hannah and Lucy Lawless as Batiatus and Lucretia, respectively. Gods of the Arena is truly their show, giving Hannah and Lawless free range to go over-the-top without once losing credibility. While Blood and Sand was firmly the story of Spartacus’ rise in the gladiator circuit, Gods of the Arena is the tale of Batiatus’ entry into the big time fights and his first step into the web of Roman politics that came as a shock in the preceding series. Hannah firmly sheds any mainstream association with his goofy sidekick roles in “The Mummy” films and every moment of his screen time is a treat as the writers up the ante on the absurd and profane statements spilling from his mouth, that only Hannah seems to be able to make sound Shakespearean. Likewise, Lawless is as over-the-top, but not as blatantly animated as Hannah and there is no question her character’s true love for her husband despite known infidelities, as Lucretia positions herself as a deadly Roman viper, refusing anyone stand in the rise of Batiatus.Gods of the Arena introduces some new characters, namely Batiatus’ father (Jeffrey Thomas) and Oenomaus’ wife Melitta (Marisa Ramirez) whose fates are probably easily guessed by their obvious absence from the previous series. That’s not to say every new character in Gods of the Arena leaves a corpse, the reality is quite the opposite. The events set-up here will have ramifications that will continue throughout the series. Ultimately, a few characters, namely Melitta come off as more necessary evils than flesh and blood characters we should emotionally invest our selves in.Fans of  Blood and Sand should be entirely pleased by this solid prequel.