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Pirate Radio

2009 movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh.

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Welcome to the (boat) party.

  • May 31, 2011
*** out of ****

"Pirate Radio", also known as "The Boat that Rocked", is pure fun. And it takes a lot of craft to create what I'd call "fun". A film that probably should have been mediocre and unfunny is turned pretty solid, and indeed funny, through a typically British sense of humor, a rocking-awesome soundtrack, and a big cast with a big heart. I won't call it great cinema, but I admire "Pirate Radio" for the good things about it, rather than scoff at it for its flaws. And while I shall not deny that "Pirate Radio" has its share of flaws, there's just something about it that makes the package irresistible and, well, worth it.

Not as raunchy as it might have needed to be, and not as tame as the studio may have wanted it to be, "Pirate Radio" anchors at a tone that, at least, agrees with me. It values its comedy as well as its performers. This isn't exactly the most common thing, especially from this genre, nowadays; and "Pirate Radio" might have indeed been one of the best times you were likely to have in the cinema in the year of 2009, which was overall decent. Not one of the best for its year; and far from one of the worst. Uneven, but certainly radical.

In the 60's, Rock-and-Roll on the radio was banned. It was thought to be too crass; it was thought to be too...outlandish, for its time. The authorities banned it from playing solely on public, legal radios such as the BBC, but there were always rebels.

Those rebels were like pirates. They broadcast from a "pirate radio"; which gets its name from its evasion of being legal. These radios broadcast the music that nobody else would; and provided the world with happiness; even if, at the time, it was dirty happiness.

Radio Rock was just one of these pirate radios. Headed by The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), these criminals of music and audio sailed the seas for months; and enjoyed every moment of it. I suppose it gave them a good thrill, to be evading the authorities as they were. Anyways, back to the main story. A young man named Carl (Tom Sturridge) becomes one with the crew upon arriving; making friends, making love, etc. He's at home with these people because his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy) has granted him "connections". Also, he's just a nice guy in general.

Of course, the movie itself is one big party; and it never really leaves this particular "scene" for too long. The film is fun when the music is playing; but kind of slow and even tedious when on pause. Granted, the little discussion between the authorities of Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) and Twatt (Jack Davenport) are amusing, but never as fun as the part. And then there's the ending, which just plain sucks. Even if it's still all happy and joyous.

Now, let the good times roll (yet again). The cast makes this film work superbly, and somehow, director Richard Curtis is able to have all these people and have them absorb/take-in their characters. Sometimes, characters feel less important than they are meant to be, but with so many performers, you can't resist. Supporting cast includes Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Rhys Darby, Chris O'Dowd, and Emma Thompson. Philip Seymour Hoffman often feels less important than he's meant to be.

The soundtrack is like the best thing ever. I love this music; I just love it. I've heard it all before, from my years of listening to 60's-through-80's pop and rock music on an internet radio. I'm glad I did this, because the more music that I recognized, the more I admired "Pirate Radio". It's a good movie to just kick back, relax, and enjoy. Little thought is required in the watching. But that's what I like about it, and that's why I enjoyed watching the sucker so much. There's enough spectacle and humor here for me to say: watch it.

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More Pirate Radio (2009 movie) reviews
review by . November 13, 2009
posted in Music Matters
Pirate Radio 2
The year was 1966.  Although the sounds of rock & roll, R&B , folk and soul were exploding all over the countryside the staid BBC continued to program only the news, interview programs and the same old dreary music.  The writer/director of "Pirate Radio" Richard Curtis recalled in a recent interview with Rob Lowman of the Los Angeles Daily News that "In my dad's generation they literally had eight records.  They …
review by . February 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
My mom bugged me about going to see Pirate Radio (original title: The Boat that Rocked) when it hit the theaters in 2009. I didn’t want to make the effort, blah blah busy life blah so she went and saw it herself like a boss. I only do that for movies like The Dark Knight, which nobody wanted to accompany with me after my fifth viewing. So, my mom came home raving about this film, how funny it was, how clever, how much she wants to make Bill Nighy my step-daddy (just kidding.) etc. etc. so …
review by . March 25, 2011
Over the last few years Hollywood has produced a number of films that I like to call "soundtracks to life". The teen generation recently had Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. Some people may not agree with me on this, but I feel that Adventureland was homage to classics of the 70s, and this weekend we get the wild adveture that Pirate Radio takes the audience on. It's a picture that brings laughs from start to finish.      Pirate Radio tells the story of a …
Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
Great ensemble piece! This mosaic of great acting and interesting personalities kept me glued and wanting more. Bill Nighy and Nick Frost as well as Rhys Ifans stood out in this outstanding cast. Kevin Branagh was so immersed in his character that he was unrecognizable as the posh, yet devious villain.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Rock and roll will live forever – but can it float?

Pirate Radio is the newest ensemble comedy from filmmaker Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, and writer/director of Love Actually), spinning the irreverent yet fact-based tale of a seafaring band of rogue rock and roll deejays whose “pirate radio” captivated and inspired 1960s Britain. Playing the music that rocked a nation and a decade, the group boldly and hilariously defies the government that tries to shut them down.

Broadcasting live 24/7 from an old tanker anchored in the middle of the North Sea (just beyond British jurisdiction), Radio Rock sends out a vibrant and unifying signal to millions across the nation, ranging in age from wide-eyed pre-teens secretly tuning in long past their bedtimes to everyday people in need of a musical pick-me-up. The Radio Rock roster, overseen by unflappable station owner (and ship’s captain) Quentin (Bill Nighy), includes a risk-prone American known only as The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman); mystic deejay royalty Gavin (Rhys Ifans); slyly amorous Dave (Nick Frost); idiosyncratic New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby); the rarely seen Bob (Ralph Brown); the aptly named Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke); lovelorn Simon (Chris O’Dowd); ladies’ magnet Mark (Tom Wisdom); shy Harold (Ike Hamilton); reporter News John (Will Adamsdale); and lesbian ship’s cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson). One night in 1966, ...

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Movies, Comedy Movies, Directors, 1960s, Comedy, Screenwriters, Richard Curtis, Universal Pictures, Focus Features


Director: Richard Curtis
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: November 13, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Richard Curtis
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures, Focus Features
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