Feb 022017
 
Black Sails-Season Three

This season deals with the occupation of Nassau by a British fleet led by Woodes Rogers. Or as I like to call it, The British Empire Strikes Back. At the end of last season, Jack Rackham and his crew had captured the Urca gold, brought it back to Nassau and then decided to invest it in a shared trust to defend the island against England. Interestingly, the season starts after Rackham and his partner Max had dealt with the understandably angry Flint and Vane when they had returned from bombarding Charleston into rubble, enabling the writers to avoid explaining how the confrontation was resolved without violence. As ever, the show is exciting. This season is fun, lots of fun, but frustrating, since the writers are mixing fantasy with large chunks of historical accuracy. Read More…

Apr 142016
 
Captain Blood

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Arrested for treating a rebel during the Monmouth Rebellion against King James II, Doctor Peter Blood is sent to Jamaica to be sold into slavery on a sugar plantation, where he escapes and becomes the most feared pirate in the Caribbean. The huge success of Captain Blood made Michael Curtiz one of the leading directors in Hollywood, and transformed Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland into stars overnight.
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Mar 312016
 
Blackbeard the Pirate

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Although Blackbeard operated roughly fifty years after Henry Morgan, he has been placed in Morgan’s era. To be honest, the movie is such a mess that it does not really matter. The script goes all over the place, but it is a surprisingly fun movie, and parts of the story are accurate. Viewers will not really learn anything about the period but they will be entertained. Robert Newton is simply awesome as Blackbeard, whose vocabulary primarily consists of Arr and Belike. Read More…

Mar 102016
 
The Black Swan

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Although he became famous leading raids against Spanish colonies, newly appointed governor of Jamaica Henry Morgan enforces the new peace between England and Spain, hanging any pirate he finds. unfortunately, his second-in-command Captain Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) is more preoccupied with his pursuit of Lord Denby’s daughter Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara), than hunting down his former colleagues. While Tyrone Power seems perfect to play a swashbuckler, the romance is flat. One of the first movies filmed in Technicolor, The Black Swan is bursting with color, which compensates for the relatively weak story. Read More…

Feb 182016
 
Black Sails-Season Two

None of this happened, but it has ooodles of violence, steamy sex scenes between physically perfect people who are good actors, wearing mostly period clothes, and the constant betrayals are fun to watch, so you can be entertained while pretending to learn something. Kind of.
Sadly, the writers clearly have no interest in the fascinating history of the golden age of piracy. The historical narrative that caused the increase in piracy is not complicated. Black Sails could have been Spartacus on ships, instead it is merely an enjoyable melodrama.
Nothing makes any sense but it is astonishingly melodramatic. However, I have to give credit, the plot moves along at a breakneck pace like a proper soap opera, where a new crisis appears just when the last one was resolved. Read More…

Dec 172015
 
Crossbones

Crossbones was a pirate series about Blackbeard that aired on NBC but was cancelled before its season ended. Those who suffered through it, like myself, understand why it was cancelled. It is less clear why it was greenlit, although John Malkovich’s involvement was probably a key factor. There may have been a more messed-up historical show, but I have not seen it. Read More…

May 292014
 
Crossbones Season One Trailer

I hope that people like pirates because Crossbones is coming out roughly a month after Black Sails finished. Crossbones is the vision of Neil Cross, who worked on Spooks (MI-5 in the United States) and created Luther. I have not seen Spooks, but I am watching Luther now, and I am loving its moral complexity, where the lead characters wrestle with the gap between the law and their own moral codes. John Molkovich plays Edward Teach, the unofficial leader of the pirate colony at Nassau. Richard Coyle is Tom Lowe, an English secret agent sent in to the pirate republic to kill Blackbeard, the leader of the pirates, so presumably the assassin will become conflicted as he grows to admire the pirate leader. Black Sails was fun but far from amazing, so there is room for another pirate show. My main concern is that it is shown on NBC, rather than one of the cable networks. Read More…

May 292014
 
Black Sails Season One

Set twenty years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island, which revolves around the search for a treasure that had been hidden by Captain Flint, Black Sails shows how Flint had found the treasure. A weird mix of history and fiction, the portrayal of the pirates as independent operators who are dependent on a kingpin of crime who fences their stolen cargoes and feeds them leads on potential targets weakens the show. While the overall story is silly, the ships are gorgeous, and the scenes at sea make up for the tawdry soap opera that fills most of the episodes. The series was fun, but it never really rose above a teenage boy’s hormone-driven fantasy of rock-hard abs, plentiful sex and admittedly cool battles. Read More…

Jan 232014
 
Black Sails Season One Trailer

Starz’s new series, Black Sails, is set twenty years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which my generation probably read during high school and forgot about. The series takes place near the end of the Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730). Following the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), thousands of British privateers decided to adjust their business model, and attack ships from all nations, not just Britain’s enemy Spain. Black Sails is a weird mix of history and fiction, since the lead character, Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) is taken from a novel. However, there are quite a few historical figures in the show, including Charles Vane, Anne Bonney and Calico Jack Rackam, but Edward Teach, better-known as Blackbeard, is missing. It is Starz, so there should be a fair amount of sweaty flesh, um, for those who like that kind of thing. Read More…