Reviews written by registered user

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84 reviews in total 
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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Binge-Worthy, 15 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At first glance, Black Sails is just another offering of sex and sadism in the tradition of Game of Thrones. Stick with it and you'll find the show moving past that. This is definitely a show that will suck you in.

If you don't know, Black Sails is a semi-historical story about the pirates of Nassau, but it is also a loose prequel to "Treasure Island." As such, you'll follow John Silver, Captain Flint, Billy Bones, and other characters from the novel as they earn their fierce reputations from the book. These fictional characters interact with historical figures such as Jack Rackham, Charles Vane, Edward Teach, Ned Low, and Woodes Rogers. It takes an unflinching look at life in 18th century Nassau, London, Carolina, and Philadelphia (and other locations). This show neither glamorizes nor vilifies pirates, colonial governors, and others. They are all shown complete with virtues and flaws.

The cast is excellent, as are the plot and character development. You are pulled into each episode wanting to know what happens next. Of course, if you know history and/or if you know the story of Treasure Island, you pretty much know how the story ends for some of these people (whether they make it or not). That said, the show takes creative license with many of the historical characters and events.


In the first season or two, but especially in the first few episodes, the sex and nudity are absurd. Everyone is having sex with everyone, all the female characters are bisexual (with one or two exceptions), and the sex scenes are over the top. Fortunately, this is faded out and the show focuses on characters and plot, thankfully.

I did feel the romantic relationship between Flint and Thomas was a bit contrived, and it was done to be culturally relevant in modern times. I also felt the resolution to Flint's story was silly--that he'd find Thomas alive and well, but as a slave laborer in Georgia. Of course, this very well could have been lie told by Silver to appease his wife. But if this was the actual ending, it is hardly a happy one. Life as a slave laborer or an indentured servant under those circumstances wouldn't be happy in any sense. And it's unlikely the overseers--in those times--would have allowed a homosexual relationship like that to exist.

There are other aspects of the show that took liberty with history-- but I didn't mind them so much. In some instances, the fiction is better than the reality.

Many of the actions that Flint did were done by others in real life. -The 1715 Treasure Fleet did sink in a hurricane, of which the Urca di Lima was a part. The Urca itself allegedly wasn't carrying treasure. Anyway, pirates did raid the survivors camp and carry away a sizable fortune--but it was Henry Jennings and Charles Vane who led the attack.

Charleston was blockaded by pirates, but it was Blackbeard who did it ... and he didn't raze the city afterward.

Black Bart Roberts did allegedly take revenge on royal governors after they hanged pirates.

Charles Vane did escape Nassau when the royal navy arrived and he did use a fireship to escape. However, he never returned to Nassau. He was deposed as captain by Jack Rackham and was captured on Jamaica were he was hanged.

Blackbeard's historical end, I think, is far better than the keel- hauling he endured in the show. Blackbeard fought two royal navy ships in Okracoke Sound. He is said to have endured dozens of stab wounds and had been shot several times before finally going down. That said, keel hauling was a real-life punishment used by all sea- faring men of the time ... and the results were horrible.

Woodes Rogers was indeed imprisoned after his first stint as governor, but he returned later, albeit in ill health and he died shortly later.

Ned Low, who was killed early in season 2, actually outlived all the fictional pirates, being killed in 1724.

Jack Rackham, Ann Bonney, and Mary Reed were all caught and put on trial. Rackham was hanged, while Bonney and Reed claimed to be pregnant and thus were saved from the noose. Reed died in prison, while Bonney disappeared. It is thought that she died of old age.

One thing is true though. After Nassau was closed as a pirate port, piracy fell into decline. While it still existed well into the 19th century, it never had the same threat/prestige as it did from 1650- 1720.

Allied (2016)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Disappointed, 28 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was curious as to how this movie would play out. I enjoyed the film, but I was disappointed with the ending. With a different ending, I could have overlooked a lot of the other flaws. (Obviously this will include spoilers).

The story is somewhat basic--two operatives on a mission fall in love and get married. Then, one of them is revealed to be a spy for the Germans, though a reluctant one at that. Half of the film is devoted to developing Pitt and Cotillard's relationship. It starts with a thrilling mission in Casablanca and ends with their eventual marriage, birth of their daughter, and Pitt's humdrum life as a desk officer in British intelligence. The second half of the movie revolves around Pitt being briefed that his wife is a German spy and that he must cooperate in a "blue dye" operation to know for sure. Over the course of three days, he must act normal and go along with the operation. Pitt is told that if she is found to be a spy, he must execute her immediately, or they will both be executed. But he loves his wife and he wants to prove her innocent, so he goes to great lengths to get information ... only to find out that she is indeed not the person she claimed she was. But she loves him and she was only cooperating with the Germans out of coercion. Pitt decides to spirit his family out of the country (in a single engine plane that couldn't have taken them anywhere useful, except maybe Ireland) but they are stopped and Cotillard, knowing her husband won't pull the trigger, shoots herself after confessing her love and telling Pitt that he must take care of their daughter. The end of the film is the verbal reading of a letter Cotillard wrote on her last day with her family (she knew she'd be caught).

This ending really left a hollow feeling in me. It would have been better if Cotillard had somehow been saved. Indeed, there is historical precedent that the movie ignored.

The whole "you must execute her on the spot!" thing was contrived. The British routinely turned German agents into double agents. Only the most hardened of spies who refused to turn would have been executed, and even then, most were imprisoned. Cotillard would have eagerly agreed to work as a double. It would have been a nice ending if she passed fraudulent reports to the Germans in the lead-up to D- Day, thus "saving the day."

In reality, by the time D-Day kicked off, all of Germany's spies in the UK had been rolled up (either executed, imprisoned, or turned), so the whole notion that Cotillard's character would have been working for a German network is pure fiction.

It's also fiction that Pitt (who is in his 50s) would be a "field man." At his age and with his rank, he would have been a senior officer working out of England, not parachuting into Morocco.

And if Cotillard was suspected as a spy, Pitt would have also been investigated. He would not have been told to go along with this scheme. Why? Because of what we saw in the film. He would have been emotionally compromised. Therefore, the first Pitt would have heard of this would have been when she was arrested and he along with her. They would have interrogated him and ensured that he wasn't a witting accomplice.

It was later stated in the film that the ambassador they assassinated in the beginning of a film was actually a dissident whom Hitler wanted killed. If so, Hitler would have just recalled the man and executed him in Berlin. He would not have allowed some long-odds intelligence operation to go forth in which he'd lose a number of SS and Abwehr officers. In short, there would be easier ways to get an agent into the British network.

Anyway, I wanted to like this film better. If they had given it a happier ending, I would have. I thought the whole "Allied" title might be a nod towards how a husband and wife are allied together.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Totally Unnecessary, 20 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like Arnold. Even though most of his movies are kind of dumb, I still enjoy them. But Terminator Genysis really is bad.

While Terminator Salvation wasn't great, it at least didn't make time travel the central theme, like this film. In fact, this is the first film to adopt the "Back to the Future" zaniness of time travel as part of the core plot. Time travel was simply a means to get the main players on the stage in the first three films, and the fourth dealt entirely with the war between humanity and the machines. No, this film has our main characters going backwards, forwards ... ugh....

Yes there are spoilers below:

The first problem with this film, in my mind, was the lead for Jon Connor. Nothing against the guy who played him, but he just didn't fit. I don't know what it is, but I couldn't buy him as the leader of the resistance. I have no idea who played the adult Jon Connor from T2, but that guy at least looked the part. Surely, they could have found someone better.

Anyway, what happens in this installment of the Terminator series is a total unraveling of everything that came before. In a bad way.

While it was cool to see the final future battle and the use of the time machine, that's where it kind of went off the rails. Apparently, Skynet knew immediately when it sent the "first" Terminator through that it failed. So, somehow, it was able to send through a few more terminators ... all of which would end up failing as well. So then it decides to take control of Jon Connor's body and then send him back to jumpstart Skynet in 2017. Honestly, it's getting to be that Skynet is a B-horror movie monster. No matter how many ways you kill it, it will just return in some absurd fashion in the next sequel!

I will say that I enjoyed the 1984 part of the film. It was fun to see them recreate the original in so many ways. But aside from that, there were so many odd moments of forced humor (Bad Boys song during the mug shot sequence? This isn't 1988). And the plot just got to be so so weird. And that's where it fell apart:

Since Sarah and Kyle are stuck in 2017, that means Jon Connor can never be born without them returning to 1984 ... unless this film intends to totally do away with the character entirely, replacing him with Kyle Reese as the guy who somehow saves humanity. Either way, it renders Sarah Connor irrelevant as well.

If Skynet (in the beginning of the film) knew the T-800 would fail, it then sends over at least one T-1000, and a T-3000 (or whatevr). Why not just send those in the first place?

JJ Simons character was really forced. Yep, it just happened to be one of the cops in 1984 LA who encountered Reese ... and 33 years later, he happens to be a detective in San Francisco ... because of course he was.

If "Pops" was able to get on the construction crew for the new Cyberdyne building, wouldn't he be somewhat aware of the "secret" basement where Skynet's core really was (as shown in the mid-credits scene)?

Etc etc etc

Miami Vice (2006)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You either love Michael Mann-directed Movies or...., 5 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Whenever Michael Mann is directing a movie, his films suffer from the same problems (usually). Heat, Public Enemies, and ... Miami Vice.

He never quite develops the characters in a way that the audience knows (or even cares) who they are.

The dialogue in most of his films ... what is wrong with it? The dialogue is so subdued that you can barely hear what they're saying part of the time.

The plot ... it just sort of meanders.

Great music, very stylish scenes, good acting ... but in typical Mann fashion, all that gets muddled by his directorial style.

Freetown (2015)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Better Than What These Reviews Say, 2 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First, I'm not a Mormon. I'm not from Africa.

I watched this film the other night and while it's not great, it's also not as terrible as some of the bigots on here claim. Yes, this is a religious film, which is why some people hate it.

But the film shows the struggles of people during a time of civil war and uncertainty. The acting isn't bad--it's not great, but it isn't bad. I felt the tension was well done, and the story is one that any human being can identify with.

Freetown is especially relevant today as many parts of Africa are in conflict. Everyone's worried about what ISIS is going to do, but they don't realize that Boko Haram has been wiping out Christians and Muslims alike and there's hardly a peep in Western media.

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
JJ Abrams is overrated, 9 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was pessimistic when I learned JJ Abrams was going to be taking on Star Wars. While he was "successful" in the reboot of the Star Trek films, he seems incapable of directing a film without a contrived plot that is about as coherent as something written by a 5th grader.

Okay, I had no problem having Finn crash land and run into Rey and BB-8. It's everything after that. Amazing that the Millennium Falcon just happens to be on the same planet in the same village that these two need to escape from. Amazing that they get picked up in space by non other than Han Chewy. Amazing that Han and Chewy decide to take them to the same backwater world where there is a wise ... individual who just so happens to have Anakin/Luke's lightsaber. Yeah, I get it, the Force works through everything, but come on. This isn't the Force at work. We've seen this sort of collection-of- coincidences-equals-plot in the Star Trek reboots. When looked at with a critical eye, this sort of plot is about as sturdy as a cardboard box in a hurricane.

The rest of the story was pretty simple. There's a giant planet- destroying base (quite original) and it's going to destroy the Resistance. This is the third such super-weapon plot device in the Star Wars franchise. They've ceased to become impressive, especially given how easily they are destroyed.

And the characters? Han Solo ... the best you could do was make the hero of the Galactic Civil War reverting back to a smuggler? It's like his character did absolutely no evolving in the 33ish years since we first met him at that cantina. Rey was fine, but I think we all sort of can predict her future. Why not giving us her full name or showing us who her parents were, that means you're hiding something. I wouldn't be surprised if she is a Skywalker. What a great story to pit two descendants of Anakin against one another? Finn. A bit over the top, and it didn't necessarily fit in with the Star Wars universe. They should have toned down his character a bit. Kylo Ren. Not bad. I think everyone was expecting a Vader clone and we got a guy who is still learning. Captain Phasma. Who? Everyone got excited about the chrome stormtrooper. All she did was walk around issuing orders and then get taken prisoner. That stormtrooper with the shock stick thing was more of a bada^^ than Phasma. General Hux. Definitely not on par with previous villains. Too young. They could have cast a much older actor and the role would have done better.

I'm glad that Abrams ISN'T running the next installment. Maybe we'll get more story--a more complete story

Standoff (2016/I)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Flawed but Enjoyable, 25 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Obviously this includes spoilers...

Here's a simple film that manages that keep tension throughout it's entirety.

Thomas Jane plays an Army veteran with a troubled past. That troubled past is revealed throughout the first half of the film. Jane and his wife were having arguments ... Jane promised to clean up the yard of junk ... their son tripped and hit his head on a piece of junk, dying in the process ... Jane's wife left him. Jane is planning to kill himself when the story starts. This is kind of a clichéd role, but Jane does play it well.

Lawrence Fishburne plays a hit-man/assassin who is seen killing a woman at a cemetery. He chases the little girl to Jane's farmhouse. Jane has a shotgun and holds off Fishburne. The rest of the film is the cat-and-mouse between the two actors.

The tension is well-done, and the acting is good.

The thing is, Fishburne plays arguably the worst hit-man/assassin. These guys are supposed to invisible, only killing their target. But this guy kills a priest, a bodyguard, an innocent guy (the little girl's uncle), a cop ... Who would hire this guy who leaves such a large body count?

The whole "getting a new lease on life" trope for Jane's character is a bit overdone, but that's okay.

Anyway, this isn't a film you list as one of your favorites, but it is one you'll enjoy watching. It doesn't try to be more than it is.

"Gotham" (2014)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyable, though with some Flaws, 15 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes, there are spoilers here:

I was skeptical about this show--who really wants (or cares) about Gotham when there is no Batman?

Well, the show is actually quite entertaining. It is definitely a police procedural/action show, focusing on Detective Jim Gordon as they work to solve the Wayne murders and the subsequent reaction by the city.

The premise is interesting: Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder essentially pushed the city over the edge so that all the "Crazies" came out. This is why the city will deal with all the super-villains in years to come.

The show does have some flaws. Any tension where Gordon or Bruce Wayne's lives are on the lines are flat. Nobody really believes that they're going to kill off the guy who becomes Batman ally and police Commissioner. And nobody believes they will kill off Bruce Wayne before he becomes Batman. The same goes for a few other main characters: Selina Kyle, Alfred, etc.

Still, the show has plenty of action, and it is fun to see the rise of future criminal masterminds like Penguin, Riddler, and others.

I do feel like they might be introducing too many future villains so early on. If Bruce is around 14 in this show, we've got to wait at least seven years or so before he can become Batman. At the rate we're going Penguin, the Riddler, Victor Zsasz, and all the others should have come and gone. I wonder if they shouldn't have held off on some of those characters, or introduced an older Bruce Wayne.

At any rate, whether this was done intentionally or not, the show has several points where you can almost see Batman swooping down to save the day, only for the criminals to get away. The camera angles at certain points show a bad guy about to kill a guy and a looming tower behind him. If it were a Batman movie, you'd see the Cape Crusader gliding down to take care of the criminal.

Anyway, the show is a lot of fun. It definitely provides a fresh and interesting take on the Batman universe.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I Wanted to Like This More, 25 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now You See Me is a fun movie that keeps you interested until the end. The cast is superb and the acting is great. The premise is an interesting one, but the big twist at the end really ruined the movie for me.


It's obvious from the first scenes that there is a mystery man behind everything in the movie. You, the viewer, are left to guess who that is. They really push you into believing it is the female Interpol agent, but that really was too obvious. You might also think it was Morgan Freeman, but it's Mark Ruffalo, who is the head of the investigation into the heists.

There were many coincidences and perfectly-timed events that had to happen for the movie to play out like it did. For one, before Ruffalo's character set all these things in motion, how would he know he would be the lead for the investigation? During the whole movie, his character does things that are inexplicable if he was really the master magician behind everything.

Yes, you can explain away his persistence in trying to catch the 4 Horsemen in that he wanted to test them, but other actions don't make sense, like getting drunk at a bar after a failure to catch the thieves, or browbeating the female Interpol agent because he "believes" she's in cahoots with the 4 Horsemen. This twist just seemed too forced. Like the writers really wanted to surprise you, so they make it impossible to ever suspect Ruffalo's character. The result is that you feel cheated. This isn't an ego thing, I enjoy a good twist, but it has to be reasonable, and it just wasn't here.

At other times, you really have to suspend your disbelief for the movie to work. Franco's character happens to escape a certain way just when an FBI unmarked car pulls up. He later escapes by having an identical car set up on the Brooklyn Bridge. In order for this to work, they would have had to know the exact make and model (and color) of the FBI car that would be pulling up at the complete other end of the building. I hate to feel like I'm overthinking the writers, but I think they overthought the movie. Keep it simple and this movie would have been a lot better.

Twixt (2011)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Muddled and Incoherent, 26 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I feel like this movie was filmed on the first draft of a script. There were good ideas and an interesting overall plot, was just too disconnected to make a great movie - or even a good movie.

Val Kilmer did a good job in this role, as did Bruce Dern. The rest of the cast did just fine as well.

The special effects had that sort of artsy feel to them - which is short-hand for low budget but dressed up in a creative way.

Anyway, the plot consists of Kilmer's character on a book-signing tour. His character is a drunk and his home life is in turmoil. Dern approaches him with an idea for a new story involving death, vampires, and a a few other interesting tidbits. After that, the movie takes a turn for the worse.

Long confusing dream sequences interspersed between odd directions in the plot...

The introduction of a convincing Edgar Allen Poe as a dream guide was cool, but everything else was just too weird. I know it was trying to be clever and artsy, but it failed to do even that.

The ending was just a mess that made no sense.

Unless you don't have anything else to watch, just pass on this movie.

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