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Treading Water

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There are so many to choose from for this theme. War as a subset yields numerous excellent choices, and the non-fiction selection is amazing. And of course Hollywood just loves putting people in peril on, in and under the water, so lets see what we can sea.

Poseidon Adventure- the newer Kurt Russell from 2006---corny,over-the-top disaster movie, but I always find that no matter what the movie, Kurt delivers a watchable performance.

The Perfect Storm--- Mark Wahlberg, George Clooney, and some other guys. Not as good as they hyped it, but still worth a watch.

Night To Remember---before the mega hit, king-of-the-world, billion dollar, multi-award winning, James Cameron extravaganza,Titanic, there was this quieter, more realistic movie of the doomed ship. We also have the documentary Titanic: Born in Belfast.

LIfeboat---ahhh---Hitchcock. Ask yourself what you would have done?

And of course Mutiny on the Bounty- any number of versions.

This was one of my very first recommendations back when we started the blog. It bears mentioning again- the wonderful Das Boot. This will make you think twice about signing on as crew in a submarine (were you even thinking of doing it once?).

Speaking of submarines, check out Harrison Ford in K19, the Widow Maker. This is the story of Russia's first nuclear sub and a whole lot of radioactive trouble.

Sinbad- we have the Dreamworks animated and the wonderful 1958 version. Long before all the CGI and green screen technology things were done the old fashioned way- stop-motion animation. And no one did it better than Ray Harryhausen. Yes, kids might think it looks a little cheesy these days, but just think of the craftsmanship that went into these scenes.

The Abyss- before Cameron turned his hand to Titanic, he offered us this solid undersea action/thriller/sci-fi movie. Bit of trivia-the always innovative Cameron actually invented the diving masks used in the film. He found he wasn't getting enough of the actor's faces with the traditional style so he designed and patented these masks, which are now pretty much standard fare.

Old Man and the Sea- Spencer Tracy portraying Hemingway's Cuban fisherman in this classic tale of perseverance.

African Queen- if you have never seen this Bogie and Hepburn classic, treat yourself. This just works on every level-drama, adventure, romance, action.


Deep Water-documentary about a doomed 1968 round the world yacht race

Sinking of the Lusitania--- an excellent offering from PBS about the sinking of said ship off the coast of Ireland in 1915

Shallow Seas--- from the excellent Planet Earth series. Watch this one- watch them all.


Of course what list would be complete without The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Sponge Bob Square Pants.


Attention Hornblower fans

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It recently came to our attention that some of the dvds in the Horatio Hornblower series, based on the popular novels by C.S. Forester, have variant titles for the same show and the dvds are not numbered on the cases. You can find the episode titles on the backs of the dvd cases. If you wish to watch them in sequence, here's the order. Simply click on the title if you wish to place a hold:

1. The Duel (Even Chance)

2. The Fire Ships (Examination for the Lieutenant)

3. The Duchess and the Devil

4. The Wrong War (Frogs and Lobsters)

5. Mutiny

6. Retribution

7. Loyalty

8. Duty


Give me life of the sea

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We are pretty much landlocked here in Calgary (no, rivers and prehistoric seas don't count) so some ocean viewing is essential.

Behold these watery wonders

The Ebb Tide

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's fiction, The Ebb Tide stars Robbie Coltrane in a 19th Century adventure on the high seas. Coltrane is famous for his role as a forensic psychologist in the British series Cracker, and he's great in this role as a fortune seeker with a leaky ship.

Ah, the Kraken!...Watch National Geographic's Devils of the Deep: the Jumbo Squid and you'll question whether "jumbo squid" sounds like a tasty dish. This documentary explores squid communication and intelligence but also exposes their violent side. They'll eat ya as soon as look at ya with their great, staring eyes.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Based on fashion editor Jean-Dominic Bauby's memoirs transcribed by a therapist, the movie gives insight into a man trapped in his own body after a stroke. In his hospital beside the sea, Bauby has time to reflect on his past loves.

We could do a whole post (at least) on naval movies. In the "let's question the captain's judgement" category of cinema, one of the best is The Bedford Incident starring Sidney Poitier. Poitier plays a journalist sent to work aboard ship with a taciturn captain (Richard Widmark) obsessed with destroying a Soviet submarine.

The Piano. Holly Hunt stars in this award winning film in colonial new zealand. Hunt's character is a mute pianist with a daughter from a forbidden love affair sent to New Zealand to marry a colonist in want of a wife, played by Sam Neal. Harvey Keitel is unforgettable as the rival for Ada's affections. The ocean features prominently.

If you like pirates, watch The Pirate Queen: Grace O'Malley (part of the Warrior Woman series) and National Geographic's The Pirate Code: Real Pirates ,which examines the wreck of the Wydah and the life of Samuel Bellamy. We learn from these documentaries that O'Malley was a chieftan protecting her clan's rights to resources while Bellamy stole from slave traders to raise money to win his lady love.

Speaking of pirates, try Johnny Depp in the three fun Pirates of the Caribbean movies if you missed them in the theatres: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End.

We also have two versions of Mutiny on the Bounty, with Clarke Gable (1935), or Marlon Brando (1962), The Horatio Hornblower series, based on D.S. Forrester's novels and, of course, Spongebob Squarepants.


Feeling Mutinous?

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Based on the true story -- albiet a heavily flavored Hollywood retelling -- of Captain Bligh and his crew, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the wonderful story of the harsh life in the British navy circa 1780. It has gone through several big screen reimaginings, going as far back as a silent offering from 1916. Version two 'In the Wake of The Bounty' from 1933 starred Errol Flynn but did not amount to much at the box office. CPL has the excellent 1935 version with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as First Mate Christian Fletcher. Sent on a two year mission to bring breadfruit plants from Tahiti, the two protagonists lock horns from the beginning. Dangerous assignments, reduced rations, floggings and an horrific keel-hauling, set the stage for the mutiny. It took home Oscars for Best Picture and Best director in 1935 and was nominated for many others.

For a little different retelling there is the 1962 version with Trevor Howard donning the captain's hat, and a young and intense Brando bringing a completely different take than Gable to the role of Fletcher. For a fifth take on the story there is the 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, that actually stands up quite well. I would have to say that I have never been able to decide whether I like the 1935 or 1962 version better---they are both among my favorite movies and I watch them again and again.

Although Captain Bligh has come to be synonomous with the cruelty of the duty-obsessed, he was thought by his superiors in the British Navy to be only slightly harsher than he need have been. In fact, the real life Bligh was quite well regarded by his peers and his superiors thought enough of him to decorate him. This was for what is still considered to be one of the most exceptional feats of survival ever. With only a sextant and a pocket watch (no charts, no compass and certainly no GPS !) he successfully navigated across 3600 miles of open ocean in a 23 foot launch, bringing to safety himself and 17 of the 18 members set adrift by the mutineers.

Still feeling mutinous ?

The Caine Mutiny with Humphry Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred McMurray. This tells the modern day tale of another first mate who wrests power away from his captain. In my opinion, one of Bogart's best performances.

Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny I previously reviewed this under Pick of the Week for December 7 2008. It's a good enough series to warrant two mentions.

Damn the Defiantfrom 1962 with Sir Alex Guinness, Dirk Bogarde and yet more cat o' nine tails and navy battles.

And although not about mutiny, but a good swashbuckling tale nontheless, try Master and Commander with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany from 2003.

Moe's Picks of the Week

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Man Who Would Be King 1975

Based on the popular short story by Rudyard Kipling and directed by John Huston, this is one of my all time favorite adventure movies. Michael Caine and Sean Connery are ex soldiers of the British Raj who set out to try their luck in distant Kafiristan. They make a solemn oath not to return until one or both of them have become kings. Along the way they amass wealth to satisfy all dreams of avarice, but it is still not enough. Stunning scenery, excellent performances and a tremendous story- this movie has it all!

Horatio Hornblower 1999

This Emmy winning series from A&E follows the adventures of Horatio during the Napoleonic War. The young 17 year old midshipman rises quickly through the ranks of the British navy, proving himself again and again. Ioan Gruffudd (The Fantastic Four) is perfect as the swashbuckling hero in this highly watchable series. Although each episode is complete unto itself, they do build on each other, so watch in this order: The Duel,Fireships, Duchess, Wrong War, Mutiny, Retribution, Loyalty and Duty.