Six Picks for the Week of January 17-23

Series premiere of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Fri.)

ImageUn-American gladiators

The Starz six-episode miniseries and prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand starts Friday and acts as a stopgap between the first and second seasons of the show. Spartacus himself (Andy Whitfield) is featured only briefly, as the actor is battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and will unfortunately be replaced by another actor for the eventual second season of the series. For now, fans can watch returning stars John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia, and follow protagonist Gladiator Gannicus (Dustin Clare) as he tries to earn the title of Champion of Capua.

Enter the arena at the official website.

LittleBigPlanet 2 (Tue.)

ImageDon't cry -- your reviews are good

The follow-up to 2008’s sweet and quirky platformer and stage developer LittleBigPlanet arrives Tuesday and offers up more of what fans loved in the original. That means more of adorable lead character Sackboy, more original levels from developers Media Molecule, and more ways to easily create and share levels with other players all around the world. Among the strong reviews, criticism has been leveled against the new LittleBigPlanet 2 in that it’s more of the same, but with the original being so unique and charming, that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Explore the new community portal at the game’s website.

2011 Sundance Film Festival begins (Thur. through Jan. 30)

Image Tomorrow's great films, today

The long-running independent film festival (it’s been around since 1978) begins its 2011 iteration in Park City on Thursday. In response to big Hollywood premieres and celebs overshadowing past Sundances, festival planners have scaled back the glitz for the second year in a row. Be on the lookout for documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey about Kevin Clash, the man behind the popular Sesame Street character. Actor Michael Rapaport will debut his controversial documentary about A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes and Life, which group member Q-Tip took to task on Twitter. Notable film premieres include Kevin Smith’s Red State, the Paul Rudd comedy My Idiot Brother, and Grindhouse offshoot Hobo With a Shotgun, starring Rutger Hauer!

Get the latest indie film buzz (and find out when parts of the festival will air on the Sundance Channel) at the Sundance website.

Third season premiere of Parks & Recreation (Thur.)

ImageThe return of Ron Freaking Swanson

After an eight-month (!) hiatus, Parks and Recreation finally returns as a part of NBC’s expanded six-series, three-hour Thursday night comedy block, where it follows The Office at 9:30pm. Leslie Knope (Amy Pohler), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) and the gang are back after budget cuts by new regulars Adam Scott and Rob Lowe scattered Pawnee’s finest at the end of season 2. Swanson’s ex-wife Tammy (played by Offerman’s real-life spouse Megan Mullally) returns to wreak havoc in the premiere episode.

Check out Ron Swanson with the The Duke Silver Trio here, or take a trip to Pawnee at the official website.

Series premiere of Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies (Fri.)

ImageAll thumbs

Just when New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott and Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips hit a groove on At the Movies, the show was canceled last August. Now, series originator Roger Ebert revives his creation with two new co-hosts: Christy Lemire of the Associated Press and Odd Obsession video store co-manager and Mubi.com critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. The show starts airing Friday on public television in 48 markets… check your local listings for showtimes in your area. Online critics Kim Morgan and Omar Moore will also contribute to the first two shows.

Get more information at Roger Ebert's blog.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Thur.)

ImageGame on

Sure, you could watch American Idol on both Wednesday and Thursday, but you could also edumacate yourself on why playing MMOs isn’t such a waste of time after all. Reality Is Broken, written by game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal -- who has worked on alternate reality games for Halo 2, McDonald’s, and the 2008 Summer Olympics -- argues that games can bring people together, and the passions and collective intelligence engendered by some games can be harnessed to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Advance word on the book has it poised to be an epic win, but I’m hoping there’s a chapter in there that will make me feel better about all of the time I spend playing Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds.

Pre-order your copy, read reviews, and find out more at the book’s website.

Closing the book on last week

Weekend Box Office Champion (Estimated, U.S. only; source: Boxofficemojo.com)
The Green Hornet 38 $34.0 million; 1st week at #1
#1 Album on Billboard 200 (Source: Billboard.com/Nielsen SoundScan)
Taylor Swift: Speak Now 76 6th week at #1 (4th consecutive)
Top-Rated Primetime Broadcast Show (Source: Nielsen)
NFL Playoffs (Jets/Colts) (NBC) 33.4 million viewers; week of 1/3-1/9

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Comments (6)

  • Danny  

    @Nick Hyman I'm not big into quick fix games, but racing games usually do the trick for me. Not big into iDevice games, however. If you truly enjoy video games, you cannot go wrong with Mass Effect 2 (as long as you have some geek in you).

  • Nick Hyman  

    Yo Saucy, can you recommend some other games that will pull me away from Plants vs. Zombies?

  • k-mysta  

    the second half of spartacus was some of the best tv i watched last year.so under-rated.i hope this mini-series is as good.shame about andy whitfield

  • Saucy  

    "I’m hoping there’s a chapter in there that will make me feel better about all of the time I spend playing Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds. "

    There is nothing, just nothing, that will make you feel better about playing Plants and Zombie. That game is nothing but an easy Skinner Box, with quirky humor, sure.

  • conditionals  

    Parks and Recreation boyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Let's hope that the series continues for a long, long time after making us wait.

  • Stabbert  

    so basically, sparticus is going to be bastard 300 the series...?

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