Crossbones (TV Series 2014) Poster


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Brutal, fairly entertaining pirate fable with a great cast and some nice set designs – no cheap CGI
gogoschka-131 May 2014
Opening with a healthy battle at sea makes a good start to any film about pirates, and 'Crossbones' plays it safe by delivering just that; ship cannons are fired, people get shot up close by muskets, throats get slit and heads get bashed in: welcome to the new NBC-show about one of the most famous – and notorious – pirates ever: Blackbeard.

Enter John Malkovich, the show's star, who delivers yet another great turn playing the outlaw legend. His portrayal of the character is rather original; instead of giving us a stereotypical, larger-than-life performance with a Keith Richards look, we get a coldly calculating older man, well spoken and with a nicely tamed - grey - beard.

Malkovich's portrayal might not even be so far off: according to Wikipedia, Blackbeard was not a tyrannical pirate and he commanded his vessels only with their crews' permission; apparently there is also no known account of him murdering prisoners and he preferred using his cleverly constructed fearsome image to induce terror over committing actual acts of violence.

But that is (probably) as far as historical accuracy will go in 'Crossbones', for this certainly isn't a history lesson (not that I complain), but solid entertainment with a historical background. So far, I'm satisfied with what I've seen. The cast – especially Richard Coyle, who plays the show's protagonist Tom Lowe – is very good, the plot evolves nicely and the set design looks real; fake looking CGI is – so far – mercifully absent. Judging from the first episode, my verdict is a solid (if not overly excited): "Yar!" – 7 stars out of 10.

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I would have liked to see more
Iv K.23 August 2014
It took few episodes to get interested in the show. A pirate/period drama seemed so out of place in contemporary culture (British series are exempt). Admittedly, I don't watch a lot of TV and have only recently heard of 'Black Sails'.

'Crossbones' grew on me with the very solid acting - 10 stars for most of the leading cast - the writing was intelligent, with high ideals shining brightly through all that history (accurate or not). Richard Coyle and Claire Foy were outstanding. John Malkovich's performance was uneven and that was unfortunate as everyone's eyes were on him. It was a complex role and he could have done a lot with it.

Mid-way through the series, I looked up the reviews. I was curious whether it was building a following. While I didn't think it would (a pirate/period drama built around complex characters set in a peripheral episode in history), coming across an open dislike was unexpected. It seemed that the series was doomed right from the start. It's a shame. I came to enjoy the characters and look forward to the next episode. It was interesting and entertaining, with minor flaws.
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Cool Show
Jack Rabbit23 June 2014
I like John Malkovich and he doesn't disappoint in this series...his first time doing television. The production quality is excellent and it is filmed on location. The storyline is interesting and intriguing. I will continue watching this series. It is on Hulu+ . I've read some negative reviews here and they mostly centered on the issue of historical accuracy and authenticity. This show is based on a historical figure but the storyline is fictional. As for authenticity, I am not an expert on pirates, nor do I watch or have I watched much in the pirate genre. Perhaps for me ignorance is bliss because this is not an issue for me. Or perhaps the other reviewers were nitpicking. This does not seem to be a huge issue to me at least. It seemed authentic enough for me. The production is high quality. If the story is unbelievable to some it is not to me. This show is highly entertaining and there are any twists and turns in the plot. John Malkovich's portrayal of Blackbeard leaves me hanging on his every word and action. Good show.
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sm-labehrns22 August 2014
i know maybe the cloths were to clean but the series was one of the best i have watched in a long time. John was excellent as Edward Teach. all the actors played there parts perfectly. Well Worth the watch. As pirates excellent, as towns people great, ship scenes were beautiful, Story line fresh and the use of the extended language was perfect, The island was good right plants for the area for a change. the idea of a British spy turning easiest thing in the world to be leave given the idea of freedom offered by the pirates even the idea that all pirates were equal as it was true and that they voted and followed by choice and not under rule of force but with a strong leader like black beard these men and women would follow to hell and back and all in all a TV series to be carried on and not to far in the future we can all hope. cheers folks you did your jobs to perfection
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Loved the ending tonight
thekitteey-70-8270932 August 2014
My husband and I looked forward to each and every episode of Crossbones. We very much enjoyed the two part finale tonight. We wish NBC would have kept it going a bit longer. No, it isn't historically accurate but it's still fun to speculate about Blackbeard the Pirate. The scenery was filmed on location so that was a plus. Also liked the acting and period costumes. I surprised myself when I found myself rooting for the Commodore. It seems that people who saw Black Sails didn't care much for Crossbones in the other reviews, we never saw that one. This is the first time we have seen John Malkovich, we think he is amazing and hung on every word. We also have found some new favorite actors and actresses. Thanks NBC for filling the summertime void. Great entertainment.
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If you haven't watched it. . .
Cornelius_Sneed7 September 2014
You really should, while it is still available for free on Hulu. Don't let the negative reviews deter you; you may have noticed that most of them are from people who gave up in disgust after the first episode or so. I eagerly watched the whole thing, and am sorry there will not be more.

This is a pirate tale, not a documentary, and yes, the writers have taken a bit (or more than a bit) of license with the Blackbeard legend. I for one don't care, to me it is an entertaining story, and an engaging application of "What if?"

I find the dialog to be exceptionally well written, especially the exchanges between Richard Coyle and Claire Foy. I think the writers may have overestimated their audience in this regard; it seems to me that of the people who complain about it, most simply haven't the vocabulary to understand it, therefore to them the dialog is "bad."

Regarding the much-maligned accent of Mr. Malkovich, it may be horrible, it may not, but I for one can't claim to be expert on the amazing diversity of accents to be found on that little island. I do know enough about them to realize that not everyone there sounds like (well, insert the name of your favorite posh-sounding English actor here.) In any event, I do not find it so off-putting as many seem to. And I am a Johnny Depp fan, but I really don't understand why so many people seem to find his Keith Richards impression preferable to John Malkovich's Blackbeard, at least regarding accent. To me, accents fade into the background as you become familiar with a character. I think if they do not, you may be focusing on the wrong things.

In my opinion this was very well cast. Of course I was familiar with John Malkovich, but the others were almost entirely new to me. Richard Coyle looked vaguely familiar, and it wasn't until I happened to re-watch his performance as Moist Von Lipvig that I realized from where. The same went for Claire Foy, though her Adora Belle Dearheart character was so different from Kate Balfour as to make her pretty much unrecognizable from one to the other. (Terry Pratchett fans will probably understand these references, the rest of you can look them up.) :)

The rest of the cast performed quite well, and all deserve mention, but I must say Ezra Buzzington stood out for me, for some reason, even though his appearances were few and far between. Julian Sands, as usual, made a great villain.

Whatever else it may be, this is an excellently written and acted pirate tale; if you are the sort of person who enjoys this sort of thing, you really shouldn't miss it.
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Crossbones: I expected more.
niutta-enrico31 May 2014
I just watched the first episode and I didn't feel the need to go on. I don't care to know what will happen to Mr Lowe, Mr Blackbeard or the other characters of this hasty paced mess.

John Malkovich looks lazy, he just sits and glorifies himself. Richard Coyle on the contrary is hyperactive, trying to overshadow his real rival, Doctor Stephen Maturin, from Patrick O'Brian's 'Master and Commander'. The only pearl is the beautiful Claire Foy, to whom the authors reserved an intriguing role and some very good lines.

The other characters are taken from comic books of the 1930s.

Did you know that Longitude could kill pirates? Socks could harm too.
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Another Dismal NBC Pilot
byers-849-6814241 June 2014
I had hoped that with John Malkovich starring, Crossbones would hold my interest. Alas, not so. This script must have originated in the Ministry of Silly Pirates, without so much as a nod to any kind of historical accuracy.

The Blackbeard character is written for Malkovich to mug as Malkovich. His every move and utterance seems to be designed to persuade us that Blackbeard was some kind of evil philosopher king. (Say, what?) You can literally feel the actor not caring. Worse, the sound editors seem to have processed his voice so as to sound unnatural.

So much craziness, so many other shows.

The rest is dross. A bunch of political correct casting, confused relationships and full on Hollywood banality. You can almost hear the pitch meeting: Okay, Blackbeard's not really dead, okay?

Not okay.
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Well... THAT sucked
runefanger31 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Acting is fine (for some), but abysmal writing and direction all the way through. Way to much exposition through the main protagonists deductive reasoning, up to a point it was a minor, but not insignificant annoyance, but the part where the man stands on the top a cliff at night, sees some people way down on the beach and is somehow able to both recognize them and deduce their purpose there in a matter of seconds was the straw that broke the camels back for me. It just murdered what little remained of my suspension of disbelief. Needles to say, I will not be continuing to watch this show.

A fail of epic proportions. 2/10
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Thoroughly enjoyable
Scott-1017 November 2014
Thoroughly enjoyed this pirate saga that has many of the elements of "Pirates of the Caribbean": beautiful shots of exotic Caribbean locales, swordplay, and the kind of plot twists that come from a pair of mischievous Jack Sparrowish characters who both possess a near-endless capacity for on the fly.

In one ring, we have Blackbeard (John Malkovich), who in this alternate take on history, faked his death and is now living large as a semi-peaceful ruler of an off-the-grid pirate kingdom of his own making. His main foil is combination doctor/spy/ tactician/lover Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle) who is originally sent to expose/kill Blackbeard but ends up in an uneasy alliance with the semi-erratic despot. There's also a love triangle between Lowe, free-spirited quartermaster Kate Balfour (I could easily write another paragraph about how enchanting Claire Foy is here) and her handicapped husband (Peter Stebbings).

As for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" comparison (a compare/contrast angle is inevitable considering that is the only other pirate film I have seen), this isn't the movies but an NBC show that's relegated to the summer schedule (AKA low-key filler) so adjust your expectations accordingly. It is worth pointing out, however, that while Johnny Depp anchored the Pirates series with a meticulously crafted iconic comic character in Jack Sparrow Jon Malkovich's humor is unintentional: His interpretation of Blackbeard's accent is suspiciously Malkovich-like (worth mentioning other than the accent, Malkovich is fine here). But hey, written history can only tell us so much about the accents of 18th Century pirates. Maybe Blackbeard did sound like John Malkovich?
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