BLACK SAILS Premiere Sails Into Homes On Demand And OnlineJanuary 26, 2014

BLACK SAILS Premiere Sails Into Homes On Demand And Online

"Black Sails" (Starz)

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies and shows on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: “Black Sails.”

Seemingly in an effort to outdo HBO, Starz’ “Black Sails” is stuffed to bursting with sex, violence, and foul language. What else would you expect from pirates not brought to you by Disney? PS, there are also no parrots, peglegs, or eye-patches.

Gorgeous locales (shot on the coast of South Africa) and a fine attention to details, especially in the weaponry and shipbuilding make Starz’s “Black Sails.” The stunningly turquoise waters make a stark contrast to the blood and gunpowder exploding on its surface, of which there is a lot. A LOT.

With the success of “Game Of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” it makes sense that someone would decide it was a great idea to make a TV show based on an historical time period full of lawlessness and violence (and sex). According to the publicity interviews, “Black Sails,” while fictional, is trying to show what life was really like during the “golden age of piracy.” For all the historical accuracy of the shipbuilding, it seems doubtful that the island’s societal structure managed that way, but thinking logically will just get in the way of the fun

So far the fun seems to reside in two characters: Luke Arnold’s rakishly charming bad boy, John Silver (part of the fun may be in guessing where the “Long” part of his name comes from!); and Jessica Parker Kennedy’s saucy wench of a whore, Max, who is not only the pirates’ favorite, but is the brains behind many a scheme. Other saucy wenches include the lovely, but tough, Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) who runs her daddy’s black market, and Clara Paget (Anne Bonny), the baddest of bad girls.


Toby Stephens / "Black Sails" (Starz)

That is about it for female characters of any substance. This is mostly a man’s world, and there are many fighting to be the top dog in the pack. First among them is Toby Stephen’s Captain Flint. Stephens manages to make Flint seem noble. Even when he is a stone cold killer who lies to his crew, it is because he has a dream to take the richest Spanish galleon to ever sail the seas. 


Flint’s leadership is threatened by both external and internal forces. The British Fleet are coming to clean out the monsters they created by setting the British sailors on the Spanish Fleet, and rival Captain Vane (a sullenly charming Zach McGowan) is determined to be the numero uno of pirates. Another internal threat of a crewmember campaigning to be voted in as captain over Flint is dispatched in this first episode in an extraordinarily bloody fight to the death with our fearless Captain Flint.

Unlike “Game Of Thrones” or “Boardwalk Empire,” “Black Sails” does not immediately give the audience complex characters who intrigue. As one would expect from them, executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer (PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN) and Michael Bay (TRANSFORMERS) are more interested in starting off with a bang and keeping the action going. But with an actor of Toby Stephens caliber, we can expect layers to come.

So if you are in need of blood and boobs, give it a try!


Note: And if you don’t subscribe to Starz, the “Black Sails” pilot episode can be viewed without subscription on demand via traditional pay-TV providers (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Charter Communications), as well digital (Apple,, Microsoft Xbox, Machinima on YouTube and on its Facebook page). 

Since it is available publicly, they do have to alter it a bit, which means blurring out certain images (i.e. boobs) and bleep out certain words (the usual). In a show like this, that means a lot of blurs and mouths moving with no sound coming out! 





- Jean Tait


Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.


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