Review: Treasure Island – 1990 (starring Charlton Heston)

Rating: ★★★★½
It’s a shame this is so hard to find because it’s clearly the most accurate, and I believe the best, version of Treasure Island out there. The script is very loyal to the book and the actors do an incredible job. This holds particularly true for Christian Bale, who plays Jim Hawkins. As anyone who’s seen a movie where kids outwit adults knows, it’s a terribly awkward thing to portray with any amount of believability. But Christian pulls it off with great finesse – Watching him it’s easy to picture this boy growing up to be an admiral some day. Charlton Heston as Long John Silver, however, was somewhat disappointing. He just seemed wooden to me. But then again, I can’t really picture Heston ever being anything but.

Heston’s lackluster performance aside, it’s a fantastic movie, and definitely my favorite interpretation of a fantastic book.

Review: Treasure Island – 1950 (starring Robert Newton)

Rating: ★★★☆☆
I must confess that I never saw this movie as a kid. Or if I did, I don’t remember it. As such I’ve no sense of nostalgia or childhood fondness attached to it. If you do, that’s fine – we love what we love, and we don’t need to justify it. But having seen it for the first time as an adult, I just don’t think it was all that great. Jim Hawkins was much too young to believably outsmart everyone, and his pudgy baby-face only made it all the more silly to watch. Long John was a giant, one-legged grease ball, more goofy than anything else. And the pirates, with their peculiar jaunt and super curly hairstyles, were just plain silly. I suppose the story was more-or-less loyal to the book, but it all had that dated and muted feel that is so common amongst older Disney movies.

In a word, “eh.”

Review: Cutthroat Island

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Ummm. Yeah. Where to begin? Well – er – what went wrong here? They actually built pirate ships to make this movie (which is bragable), and Geena Davis isn’t entirely un-cute. But, well… and Mathew Modine manages to crack out a funny line or two. Yeah.

For crying out loud! Even the monkey is bad! He’s ugly and he can’t even look cute when saluting! The plot was tired, the action was dull, and only Mathew Modine and Frank Langella put up even passable performances! Disagree? Watch it again and then try to defend the line “Bad Dawg” to me – AWFUL!!!

The only reason I’ll watch this movie again (and I will, God help me) is in that sick hope that somehow it will be better next time around. It won’t be though – and I’ll curse Geena Davis for it.

Review: Captain Ron

Rating: ★★½☆☆
I should hate this movie. It’s full of bad jokes, predictable plotlines, and Martin Short. But then, it also has just enough surprise gags to partially redeem itself. Not enough to make it actually GOOD mind you, but enough to make it a so-so flick that’s worth watching with your buddies, especially if there’s rum on hand. Just be prepared to groan through some of the jokes, and try to think of your own happy place when Martin Short and his movie wife both scream in unison “HoneyAreYOUAllRight???”.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl

Rating: ★★★★★
So I’ve been asked when I would get around to reviewing Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. To be honest, I haven’t bothered because I really don’t think I can contribute much to what’s already been said. Most reviews have been glowing, and I agree with them. Those that have found nits to pick, I think, are just trying to be contrary. If you haven’t seen it then do so. Now.

OK, fine. While I’m here I suppose I should say a little about this movie that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Much that’s been said elsewhere is worth repeating – Jack Sparrow is fantastic. Elizabeth Swann is a wonderful actress and sooo very hot. Will Turner, well, I’m not all swoony about Orlando Bloom, but the character he’s meant to portray is a hotheaded blacksmith, and he portrays him quite well. But the one under-rated character in all this is Commodore Norrington. By all rights, this character should have been the butt of the movie. He’s a pompous authority figure who dresses like a dandy and manages to lose his captive (twice,) lose his ship, and lose the girl – yet through it all he remains honorable and comes across as the noblest man of the whole lot. I think this is an incredible achievement by both the writers and the actor. And it’s details like this that make this a remarkably splendid film.

Review: Seawolf – The Pirate’s Curse

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
In the true spirit of Xena: Warrior Princess comes this low budget movie that, while technically not at all that good, has just enough fun with itself to remain enjoyable. Captain Thorpe is a modern day pirate – but he’s not some lowlife like those actual modern pirates out in Asia with their uzis, this guy’s a class act. He’s always got a half-empty bottle of rum in hand, and since he only steals from bad guys he doesn’t even have to worry about a tainted conscience. Hired by a german chick to escort an aging mexican with the secret to lost treasure, Captain Thorpe naturally ends up with more than he bargained for, including evil twins, storming castles, and a duel with flintlock pistols. Of course, his real challenges are the movie’s continuity issues – in some parts of the movie Thorpe speaks spanish fluently, while in others he can only say “comprende?” Even worse, there seems to be an entire scene missing from the end of the film since we cut directly from the bad guy’s victory to a scene were the good guys congratulate themselves on saving the day. Go figure.

Not really a good film, but hardly a bad one. And definitely unique – if it’s in your video store I’d say give it a chance.

Review: Roman Polanski’s Pirates

Rating: ★★★★★
I think this is the single most under-rated pirate movie of all time. I’ve read review after review that criticizes it, claiming it’s too slow, too silly, too lacking in plot, etc, etc. Heck, one reviewer even rates it the same as that true disaster, Cutthroat Island.

So let me set the record straight – this is an absolutely gorgeous, terribly fantastic movie. The costumes are phenominal, as are the sets, the acting, and the writing. The story itself revolves around Captain Redd, a down-on-his-luck pirate adrift on a raft with his first mate, the Frog. Vulgar, crude, greedy, and scheming, Captain Redd is a walking cliché who shows us why the cliché became a cliché in the first place, capable of shouting such catchphrases as “me hearties” and “by thunder” with ease and gusto. Rescued by the Spanish Galleon, Neptune, Redd and Frog soon grow weary of the ill-treatment they’re forced to endure at the hands of the ship’s First Officer, Don Alfonso. A pompous peacock of a man, Don Alfonso soon suffers a humiliating defeat when Captain Redd convinces the crew to mutiny and turn to a life of piracy. Control of the ship then changes hands a few more times throughout the Caribbean as Captain Redd and Don Alfonso repeatedly butt heads and take it in turns to reseize the Neptune and, more importanly, its precious cargo of a golden Aztec throne. Continue reading

Review: Pirates of Silicon Valley

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
“Pirates of Silicon Valley”? Yeah, right. This is the most fraudelent movie title since “The Neverending Story.” Not one freakin’ pirate, just a bunch of computer geeks going to meetings. No ships, no wenches, not even a single “Yarrr” throughout this entire 95 minute disaster. This movie claims to be based on a true story, but I looked up Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in every pirate encyclopedia I have, and neither is mentioned even once – so they weren’t even real people, apparently.

I mean, if they had a movie about Blackbeard going to business meetings, then I could at least give them partial credit for putting a real pirate in the film – even if he wasn’t doing piratey things. But this is a movie, supposedly about pirates, that depicts non-pirates doing nothing remotely piratey. What a crock.

Review: National Lampoon’s Last Resort

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆
From the creators of Family Vacation comes this movie with a rather unique premise: Two teenage slackers, having gotten fired after blowing up the burger joint they worked at, land a couple of scuba instructor jobs at a swanky resort by pretending to be former Navy seals. The resort is owned by their uncle, a has-been Hollywood star who’s constantly trying to relive his glory days as a pirate captain on the silver screen as he wanders his island in full pirate garb whilst seeking buried treasure. Of course, the real action starts when these…

Oh jeez – I just realized you might be starting to think this sounds like a decent movie. My bad. Did I mention that they didn’t have enough actors, so many of the extras are played by cardboard cutouts? Or how about the fact that the underwater scenes are shot in a room painted blue with someone just offscreen blowing bubbles? And don’t overlook the fact that this little gem stars Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. This is a bizarre flick, and while it seems to try to poke fun at its own absurdity, it doesn’t do so nearly enough to be forgiven. But it does make lots of pirate references, so watch it if you must – I won’t hold it against you. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.