15th & 16th April, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Eric Yeager ©2009 All Rights Reserved

A Thought for Today

Blind faith is as dumb as uninformed investing.

 

TO BEGIN WITH

Few things are more pleasurable than developing a crush on a new film or TV series and spreading the word about it.

McKUEN AT THE MOVIES

A LITTLE SAND AND A LOT OF BLOOD

If you have been following the naughty, fetish fulfilling, bloody but beautifully executed (add any other adjectives that come to mind) “Spartacus: Blood And Sand” series on Starz TV you’ll know that the first season of this engaging endeavor is coming to a close Friday (4/16) when its final episode unspools.

This is a Spartacus writer Dalton Trumbo and producer star Kirk Douglas of the famed film version could only dream of. While the film was plush and lush and pushed the barriers of its time this series pile drives through anything offered in a sword and sandal TV or film epic that’s gone before. According to The Hollywood Reporter while most of the new shows on network and cable have stumbled this past season “Spartacus: Blood And Sand” hasn’t just held its own but as word of mouth spread it has added a growing number of viewers each and every week since its start date establishing it a cult classic. .

Camera work, production values and editing are all exceptional. Ditto the stunts and specialty acts including unblushing battles, women to die for, men who die for, buggery in the shadows, a lingering full frontal shot of an hermaphrodite (gorgeous from the waist up and dubious waist down) and doses of S&M by those who seem to know what they are doing. I’m only guessing at the expertise of the latter since I haven’t been there, haven’t done that and don’t have the Tee shirt attesting to the veracity of my statement.

Thirteen weeks of body bunting and blood letting (it’s all part of the plot folks) have led us to this weeks episode not so timidly titled “Kill Them All.” If you recall your history or myth-tery Spartacus was Roman slave who led his fellow slave/gladiators in a revolt that brought them freedom.

Filmed in beautiful New Zealand we haven’t seen much in the way of pretty places yet since most of the action so far has taken place in the crowded arenas, a bit less crowded bed and brothel and on the gladiator training ground. These Roman games are a kind of casting call where despite already having secured the part, however brief, body builders flex flaunt and faux fight while the blood hungry mob plays Siskel and Ebert (mostly thumbs down).

Then there’s The House of Batiartas, a kind of upstairs / downstairs as the well built service the well healed on several levels. In addition to this decidedly Latin Kama Sutra of plan and fancy fornication this particular Rome adventure has been fleshed out with more intrigue, constant conspiracy and multiple plot lines than any toga Technicolor trip you or I have ever taken or will take at the movies. Until perhaps season two. There’s a slight hitch though since Andy Whitfield, who plays the title role, was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and will be undergoing treatment before shooting on the upcoming season can begin. Alas those of us who are true fans are in for a longer than planned intrigue-interuptus.

Andy Whitfield as Spartacus

Back into storage go all those designer togas and padded jock straps that barely cover the bare necessities of the cast and very often deliberately don’t. And, if the already planned second season is anything like what’s gone before the prop room will have to add an additional locker unit for the sliced and diced body parts and blood by the barrel load that must have already started arriving at the studio to augment the swords, spears and severed heads already on hand.

For those of you who didn’t catch up with this ––has to be seen to be believed –––Spartacus, I recommend you hasten to the net and Starz On Demand where every episode is available for viewing and re-viewing. FOR FREE. And good news English fans the series is coming to a TV set near you starting next month.

As you call up episode after episode for (pardon the expression) viewing orgies be warned that junior should be sequestered with his Nintendo at the other end of your villa because the dirty dialogue flies faster than the spitfire “F” words (of which there are plenty here) at a Chris Rock concert. Who knew that the citizens high and low of Rome’s glory days only mastered four letter words? Socrates it aint.

Lucy Lawless as Lucretia

Please pay attention to the emoting of my musical friend Lucy Lawless whose acting chops get a workout as Lucretia wife of our heroes’ evil master Batiartas. As the queen of mean Ms. Lawless, best know for her kick butt role of Xena, Warrior Princess, matches her dirty dealing hubby (played by John Hannah) deed for deed and always looks gorgeous in the processes. Of course, set in the producer’s imagination of ancient Rome villains and the victors you root for are all hunks and hotties. Erin Cummings, Peter Menseh, Viva Bianca and Manu Bennett are among those deserving of mention but it’s unfair to single out a few with a cast full of so many well chosen actors. The ensemble work is splendid with one caveat; the writers and producers seem to take special delight in bumping off characters just as you begin to identify with them. Still there seems to be an endless supply of newbie’s who show promise. The ongoing meanies are delightfully mean and the hero’s flawed and never one-dimensional.

Whitfield is just right as the stoic Spartacus combining more than basic brawn and an always-working brain with or without dialog. Life after lymphoma treatment and gladiatorial glory for this talented British born and Aussie educated actor will be as big as he wants it to be. Add another budding super star to the ranks of the crowded field of leading men imported from Oz. What is it with Brown, Crowe, Gibson, Jackman, Thompson, that guy from Avatar and the other divos from Down Under? Must be something in the out-back water.

But I digress. Spartacus: Blood And Sand, it’s all good dirty fun and sunny spectacle with a tongue in whatever cheek seems to be available. I love it, so will you.

RM 4/14/2010 Previously unpublished.

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ROD McKUEN CONCERTS

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notable birthdays

Thursday 15 April
INCOME TAX DAY (USA)

Michael Ansara o Linda Bloodworth-Thomason o Leonardo da Vinci o Claudia Cardinale o Roy Clark o Hans Conried o Henry James o Harvey Lembeck o Neville Marriner o Elizabeth Montgomery o Wallace Reid o Leo Schotter o Bessie Smith o Julie Sommars o Emma Thompson o Robert Walker, Jr. o Emma Watson

Friday 16 April

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar o Edie Adams o Ellen Barkin o Perry Botkin Jr. o Charlie Chaplin o Jon Cryer o Merce Cunningham o Anatole France o John Hodiak o Michael Jackson (commentator) o Don Kirshner o Martin Lawrence o Henry Mancini o Herbie Mann o Alexander McQueen o Spike Milligan o Barry Nelson o Selena o Dusty Springfield o Peter Ustinov o Bobby Vinton o Wilbur Wright

Rod's random thoughts Count twenty shades of green in April, and you still miss half a hundred.

A sweet tooth doesn’t always crave the richest cake. Sometimes cookies and a glass of milk will do.

If work isn’t fun then I’ve been deluding myself ever since I discovered it.

IOWA FROM AN AIRPLANE

Above Iowa and looking down
the patchwork quilt of farms
unfolding through the oval window.
Now short green squares,
now broad triangles
and oblong stretches
of fresh-turned chocolate earth
that surveyors would find hard
                            to pace off.
Plots and pleats of land
orphaned from a quilting bee.
Though mid April grapples
            with the middle earth
bare trees still stand bare.
Airports are the only eyesores
as silos dot and red barns dash
                               the land,
and God plays bridge
with unseen friends
and shows the world his hand.

Tractors track the squares
and fences follow
every crooked line
they helped create,
though even fences
make no boundary lines
and Iowa in the eye seems full enough
to spill across the continent
if not across the world.

-from: "And To Each Season", 1972

 
    AND FINALLY

The weekend’s on the way, play safely, and if it isn’t as warm as you’d like it to be wherever you are, pretend it’s spring anyway. Sleep warm and join me Friday and Saturday while I peruse the e-mail bag.

RM Holmby Hills CA / 6:04AM PDST 14 April 2010

 
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