Review: Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Ye gads! I’m not sure what the motivation was behind this movie, but I can’t help but wonder how it ever ended up in a video store.

What intrigued me about this movie was the box’s mention of a search for pirate treasure in Lake Michigan. Careful viewers know that 1) Bilgemunky pities the Great Lakes for being sad little puddles of salt-water-envy, and 2) Bilgemunky lives right next to Lake Michigan. So I figured this might be an interesting premise for a non-ocean pirate adventure. That’s why I rented it – and that’s why I watched the first 20 minutes. I watched the other 72 simply for your benefit, dear reader. Lord knows I had better things to do with my time.

The plot could be decent enough. The basic idea is that hundreds of years ago a pirate buried a bunch of treasure in Lake Michigan. It was subsequently discovered by mobsters in the 1920s or so, but they had a shipwreck and had to abandon it – but they made a map. Now, Danny Quinn is obsessed with discovering said treasure, as his own father died searching for it. From there it’s all pretty basic fare: “oh no, Grandpa has tragically died in a deep-lake diving accident – yikes, the government wants to repossess the family schooner and send me to a foster home – hey, let’s go find the treasure and solve all our problems – oh no, it’s the one-eyed banshee!!!” Continue reading

Review: The History Channel Presents – True Caribbean Pirates

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Historical documentaries walk several fine lines. They need to stay true to history, but they should also get us an “up close and personal” exerience – a tricky combination when much of what we know is incomplete and splotchy. They also have to weigh the tricky balance of being approachable to the novice, while also offering some worthwhile content to the seasoned student (indeed, sometimes I feel that if I hear one more explanation about the difference between pirates and privateers, I might scream. But I also recognize that most viewers haven’t heard this explanation thousands of times before.) Continue reading

Review: Crossbones

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
I have no way to put this gently – this movie bites. It’s bad. It’s awful. It has not one single redeeming quality that bears its viewing. Watch it sober, watch it drunk – it won’t be good. The acting is bad, the script is bad, and the action is worse. It just might be the worst pirate movie ever. Not “Plan 9 from Outer Space” goofy bad, just bad.

Still want to know the plot? OK, a bunch of “Survivor” style contestants run around an island and get killed by a cursed pirate. Now go and rent something, anything, else.

Review: Jolly Roger – Massacre at Cutter’s Cove

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆
This was bad. Really bad. But it was also amusing, which makes it kind of good.

Jolly Roger features all the typical elements of most teeny-bopper straight-to-video slasher flicks in the vein of such classics as “Leprechaun in the Hood” and “Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman” – a supernatural villian in search of his treasure kills many people along the way, some of whom get naked first. And while the costume of Jolly Roger himself is actually quite impressive, not much else is. Unbelievably, the best scene in the whole movie, in which Jolly Roger has a heart-to-heart while sharing rum with a bartender, got edited out – you can view it in the “deleted scenes” segment of the DVD.

Jolly Roger is bad. But watch it anyways. If you’re old enough to drink, watch it drunk. If you’re not, well, wait until you’re 21, and then watch it drunk.

Review: Captain Kidd

Rating: ★★★★☆
I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this film, partly because it features a rather robust, unintimidating looking actor as Captain Kidd, but mostly because I bought it at Walgreens for about three bucks. As it turns out, I was in for quite the unexpected treat.

Captain Kidd, as played by Charles Laughton, is rather atypical for a Hollywood pirate – more large and lazy than swashbuckling, he can nontheless fight when need be, and he conveys a brutishly scheming demeanor that makes his character surprisingly believable as a leader of cutthroats. Laughton really shines in this role, and I was delighted to learn that he portrays Kidd again in the film “Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd”, which I must rent immediately.

The story revolves around Captain Kidd and his two-timing efforts to move upward in polite society while at the same time betraying the English Crown in an effort to conive his way to wealth and nobility. Continue reading

Review: Peter Pan

Rating: ★★★★½
A very loyal take on Peter Pan, and drop-dead gorgeous!

It’s a shame this film did so poorly in theaters. I’m sure this was due in no small part to the hype of adolescent sexual undercurrents, which is both unfortunate and unfounded. The only sexual currents in this film are those you bring yourself – this is a film about a struggle to cling to childhood, a resistance to growing up. And in this struggle we have two opponents – on the one side is Peter Pan, the boy that revels in childhood and wants nothing more than to hear stories and play games. And on the other side is Captain Hook, an adult stagnated, surrounded by a crew of intellectual infants and discontent in the lack of any meaning or satisfaction in his own life. And between them both is Wendy – a young girl on the brink of becoming a woman, not yet ready to leave childhood behind, but at the same time anticipating the new adventures that come with growing up. It’s sad that a few vocal lopers chose to see Wendy’s relationships with Pan and Hook as metephorically sexual. It’s not about sex, it’s about choosing between toys and bills, between being the cared-for or the care-giver. It’s about finding that time in your life when you realize it’s time to realize you’re no longer a child, and to start behaving accordingly (but not too soon.) Continue reading

Review: Pirates of Tortuga

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Just because a movie is old doesn’t make it a classic. I don’t know what deranged minds decided this snooze-fest was worth digging out of the vaults for re-release, but their time could have been better spent elsewhere. The story is tired, the action lame, the acting uninspired – I genuinely can’t think of a single level on which I could recommend this. It’s bad – not funny bad, not salvageable bad, not ironically bad – just bad. From the lead actor (Ken Scott) that actually pauses during lines as though remembering what to say next to the atrocious story and choreography (choreography shouldn’t be noticed – if you can tell an actor is posing for the camera, something’s wrong) this movie is just one mis-step after another.

Most likely this lame effort at a pirate movie was originally created to cash in on the more worthy films of the time, and this re-release is probably a similar effort to cash in on today’s success of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Don’t bother.

Review: The Pirate Movie

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Oddness compounded with oddness is the order of the day with this painfully 80’s pop-culture pirate flick (and I say that with nothing but love for the 80’s.) Based on the Pirates of Penzance, we follow the adventures of Frederic (Christopher Atkins) and Mabel (Kristi McNichol) – Frederic as he tries to escape his pirate foster-family, and Mabel as she tries to concoct a scheme to marry off her dozen or so older sisters, thus freeing herself to marry Frederic. It sounds simple enough, but their plans are consistently stalled by a relentless barrage of keystone cops, cartoon fish, and ruby-red codpieces. Dated pop-culture references abound, including an Indiana Jones “cameo,” and even a blatant nod at Star Wars as Frederic uses the force to levitate his glowing green light-rapier (no, I’m not kidding.) The opening sequence, featuring an 80’s style pirate rock song paired with visuals from a classic pirate film(The Black Swan, if rumor serves,) might lead you to believe this will actually be a decent film, but Atkins’ stilted acting, McNichol’s mullet, and a virtual blitzkreig of sexual innuendo delivered with all the taste and subtlety of your average 12-year old will quickly convince you otherwise. Continue reading

Review: Treasure Planet

Rating: ★★★☆☆
A surprisingly fun (and even touching) version of Treasure Island that, if not loyal in the strictest sense, manages to stay true to the original spirit of the book. The imagery is very good. At times it’s amazing. John Hawkins, the Doctor, and the Captain are all nicely portrayed. And Long John, you ask? You may hate me for saying this, but in its own weird way I think this is the best version of Long John Silver I’ve ever seen. He’s both endearing yet sinister, believable as a pirate and yet he still manages to show paternal affection for Hawkins. Making him into a cyborg was a very clever, and highly appropriate, touch. Sadly, any genius that went into creating Long John was offset by the dopey lameness of the Ben Gunn android, but such is life.

Review: Treasure Island – 1999 (starring Jack Palance)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
What the hell was this?

Not quite bad enough to be a complete mockery, but not terribly good, and the filmmakers made some very strange choices in the creation of this film. Most noteworthy is their departure from any faithfulness to the book by having the officers of the Hispaniola betray Jim, thus forcing him to join the pirates. Now, I’m all for trying new things, but it just felt awfully contrived. The Captain’s character especially may as well have been written by a twelve-year-old, right down to when he grabs Long John’s crutch and throws it out of reach like a playground bully. And rewriting the beginning to attribute Long John’s wooden leg, Pew’s blindness, and Black Dog’s scars all to a single fateful day may have looked good in script, but struck me as dopey. Continue reading