Empire

Empire has a lot of little things going for it but at over four hours they don't add up. Strong performances from a talented, veteran cast, picturesque landscapes and a sweeping narrative encompassing several generations of Roman history seem like good miniseries material. Unfortunately, the story drags along and by the three-hour mark it's a real effort to pretend you still care. Canadian stage and screen veteran Colm Feore plays Julius Caesar; the bulk of the narrative concerns his nephew, Octavius (Santiago Cabrera), and his struggle to survive ambitious wannabe emperors and his eventual rise to power. Also featured prominently is Tyrannus, (Jonathan Cake), a gladiator charged by Caesar to keep Octavius safe. Sadly, this won't even appeal to Roman history buffs. Minor inaccuracies most won't care about will have history professors writing the producers and posting scathing corrections on IMDB. A high-school history class might like Empire if it's brought in to cover a week's worth of classes by some dubious supply teacher but even they will yearn for textbooks and dry lectures by day five. Those looking for quantity over quality in a DVD purchase might want to give this one a look though. HBO's miniseries Rome easily surpasses this pedestrian effort. (Disney/Touchstone)