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observation notes: Pirates of Treasure Island

What we have here is a rare and elusive thing, a thing of which until now only rumors have existed, a thing such as the Minotaur or the Loch Ness monster, more myth than reality, yet here it is, in all its shimmering uniquity: The Asylum PG(at least in Canada) picture! 

(WTF to the WTF power!?!?)

Okay, so maybe I'm going a little over the top, but there's something about watching weeks' worth of brutal horror, gory sci-fi, boob-y adventures and whatnot then suddenly switching to something tween appropriate; it's as jarring as walking in on your grandparents, but...opposite. I digress (too much).

This one's a double tie-in, tapping into the pirate popularity resurgence kicked into high gear by Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos, but also going to a source of sorts, the original pirate blockbuster, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." Either way Disney's calling their lawyers.

Of course The Asylum puts their twist on things: in this version it's young Jim Hawkins (Tom Nagel) who's the treasure hunter, and Long John Silver (Lance Henriksen) is nothing more than a scurvied bilge-rat of a mutineer and privateer with designs of his own on Master Hawkins' treasure. See, as the opening scene shows us, Long John's been on that island before, and not only does it hold great treasure, but also great peril in the form of things Mysterious, Jules Verne Mysterious, not the man, but...shit, this is getting convoluted, even for me; the island has a bunch of big insects on it, like the titular island of Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island." There we go.

So the men set sail, Jim above and Long John below, Jim's lady (Rebekah Kochan) secretly stowed away on board - for spoiler reasons I shan't mention - avoiding detection beneath an oversized coat and a tri-corner hat from under which only a few flaxen ringlets spill. What beautiful lady?

And the lady's just the first of the spoilers that start to unravel once Jim and Long John are finally on the high seas, and L.J.'s set his plan in motion. If that seems fast, it's because this one only clocks in at 80 minutes, a good 100 less than your average Johnny Depp seafarer.

Pirates was written in part and directed in full by - here's a familiar name - Leigh Scott, who though he produced some less-than-fluid fight scenes, managed the chaos and ribald choreography of pirates a'pirating with aplomb. As for the performances, Tom Nagel (Hillside Cannibals, The Apocalypse) was plenty heroic if a little plain-faced, the kind of actor you know considers Chris Evans and Sam Worthington role models, or at least templates. He was the only one who seemed to remember the era the film was supposed to be set in, and as such he stood out, which wasn't always a positive thing. Lance H. (Da Vinci Treasure, "Millennium") as Long John Silver was just plain fun to watch; his pure, animal intensity oddly works in this softer-than-usual setting. It's almost like he thinks he's in a comedy, which amused the shit out of me. The standout, however, for me at least, was the aforementioned Ms. Kochan (When a Killer Calls, Freakshow), who plays the pub-wench-love-interest with secrets to hide very effectively, very...wenchful: buxom, blond and grizzled, the kind of gal who could kick your ass just by thinking about, and look damn fine doing it.

Bottom line, Pirates... is a lighthearted and spry action-adventure, an equal balance of mirth and mortality. As for the PG rating, it's certainly not inappropriate for kids by any means, but, I mean, I wouldn't let my kid see it unless that kid was 10 or so, but I don't have a kid, I have a cat, so what the fuck do I know? Nothing, that's what. But some scenes still might be too intense for younger viewers, especially those afraid of loud noises, large insects, or creepy old dudes (sorry Lance, but you scare children, you know you do.).

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