The third and probably final season of KUNG FU has Nicky Chen (Olivia Liang) continuing her fight to rescue her mentor Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai) from possession by Xiao, the immortal alchemist. She also has to deal with a shady cybersecurity company that wants to set up a Big Brother level of supervision under contract with San Francisco, a new bad boy-lover, Bo (Ben Levin) and her mother’s conflict with the big corporation that invested in the restaurant. It’s a solid season and ends with a great call back to the original David Carradine series (this review of the current series’ S1 includes links to the three seasons of the first series); the showrunner says they have plans if they’re renewed but I’m okay if not. “One must not mistake stasis for peace.”
As part of a presentation on pirate movies I gave recently I watched the 1956 TV season THE BUCCANEERS, in which a reformed pirate turned Caribbean colonial governor (obviously based on Sir Henry Morgan) sets out with middling success to convince his fellow privateers to accept a pardon and go straight. In the third episode we meet Dan Tempest (Robert Shaw), a pirate who has no interest in settling down as a farmer. Fortunately the colony needs someone to help defend against the pirates who haven’t reformed and Tempest soon discovers using his skills to protect people scratches his itch for adventure just as much as buccaneering. This UK-produced series lacks the charm and verve of other productions of the era such as Richard Greene’s Robin Hood so I gave up after three episodes. “I think a man who knows how to die should also know how to live.”
THE SPANISH MAIN (1945) works much better as a pirate adventure, a great swashbuckling yarn despite Paul Henreid as a Dutch colonist lacking any flair for swashing his buckler. After Henreid’s ship crashes at the Spanish colony of Cartagena, governor Walter Slezak decides to keep Henreid and his fellow colonists as slaves; Henreid, however, recruits a few pirates already in the cells, busts out and five years later is the Barracuda, most feared pirate on the Spanish Main. When he captures and marries Slezak’s intended, Maureen O’Hara, the other pirates, particularly Binnie Barnes as Anne Bonney think this is a fatal mistake. Their efforts to get her back to her rightful husband, even if she doesn’t want to go, cascade out of control and Henreid winds up in even more trouble.Slezak is a treat as the villain (“We did agree to 50,000 in gold but 10,000 is the figure I was thinking of.”) and Barnes steals every scene as Bonney (including the one above, holding a pistol on Henreid). On the downside, as the Bad Girl Bonney turns out as doomed as Anne of the Indies and the no-means-yes treatment of O’Hara won’t be to everyone’s taste (though I don’t find it as bad as The Black Swan). “Unless you believe the words I say simply because I say them, I have no proof.”
WOMEN TALKING (2022) has the woman of an Amish-esque religious community discover the freakish nightmares they’ve had for years are the work of a rapist armed with cow tranquilizers. They’ve turned him over to the law but the community’s men are bailing him out; the women have 24 hours to forgive him or go into exile.
The debate that follows feels oddly old-fashioned — with a little tweaking it could be a women’s liberation rap session from the 1970s — but it still makes absorbing drama that kept me watching attentively for the length of the movie. It doesn’t hurt that we have Frances McDormand (now aged into grandmotherly roles), Rooney Mara and other talented women delivering the lines. Not for every taste, I’m sure, but thumbs up for me. “Leaving’ and ‘fleeing’ are two different words.”
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