More Rum, Please: Summer Means Malkovich, Crossbones and Blackbeard

Category : Entertain Me, Featured, Geek Out, Holiday, Literature, Television, Travel

If summer calls for sans souci, seaside days of sun and sticky sand, then summer nights, especially Fridays, demand a touch of gold bling and a white linen blouse to accentuate that tan, plus just enough coconut rum to help lull you to sleep by the sound of lapping waves … but watch your back, and your neck. Blackbeard’s in town for the summer and not since Jaws has the beach looked more inviting, relaxing … and deadly.

Ocracoke Island, NC Photo: Casey Robertson

In a sea of fictionalized Blackbeards, the latest incarnation cavorts freely outside the traditional, Pyrate King design book. Clean-shaven (gone is his namesake beard tied with multiple bows of red and gunpowder fuses), bald and casually styled in island linens and sandals, casting off his trademark black velvet frock coats and leather bucket-top boots, NBC’s Blackbeard appears more Gob Bluth than Rob Zombie. A mesmerizing figure to start, John Malkovich (Shadow of the Vampire, Being John Malkovich, Dangerous Liaisons, The Portrait of a Lady) portrays the 18thC. pirate with a soothing deadliness that lures the viewer into a unsuspecting trance: his escalating diatribes seep forth with an almost musical, rhythmic, Eminem-cadence, like an unsuspecting frog in a warm pot of slowly boiling water. Before you, or the frog, realize what’s occurred, your kidney has been cut out; but Blackbeard has left you a lovely shrub glass of port to ease your dying moments.

Given to way too many police melodrama and hospital backdrops, broadcast television has bravely left the shore of predictability and NBC has joined the ranks of writers and producers currently exploring that century chock full of not just high theater, but some damn fine wardrobes. Turn, Sleepy Hollow, Salem (although 17thC.) and now Crossbones have all not only done their homework, rewarding writers and creators whom clearly have studied their Colonial American history, but have skillfully engaged a 21stC. audience barely capable of understanding the difference between Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Button. This engagement may be partially due to a sagacity on the part of casting agents.

Be they Founding Fathers like George Washington, philosophers like René Descartes or medieval authors like Geoffrey Chaucer, varying forms of media have forever presented us with whiskered old men; when, in fact, most of them were in the ascent and apex of their careers about the same time as many of us today: 20s-40s. FOX’s reiteration of Sleepy Hollow casts the beauteous, theatre-trained Englishman Tom Mison as the heretofore, nebbish Ichabod Crane; AMC’s Turn gives us the chiseled Ian Kahn as George Washington and now NBC’s Blackbeard is a far more contemporary, if not quite Chris Hemsworth, version than any who have come before him. Whilst the historical-figures are given to us, visually, as men with whom we can identify by today’s standards, there is no mistaking the sartorial and language cues of the period. The frock coats and cloaks are as billowy and majestic as the dialogue. Contractions, abbreviations and slang be damned, the King’s English is securely, blessedly in place here.

Just as Bauhaus furniture was a severe reaction to Victorian and Edwardian flourish, perchance, conversely, this 21stC. trend toward the 18thC. may very well be a flouncy reaction to today’s nonchalant, terribly casual yet, simultaneously, hyper-agitated, get-it-by-yesterday, 140-character, “WhereUB?” schlubby kind of modern lifestyle. Casual historians and professional researchers alike of the Colonial period already know what TV audiences are just now learning: the 18thC. is far more hip than you thought and a dash of formality, in language and dress, is desperately craved.

Blackbeard’s End. North Carolina

Crossbones writer Neil Cross (Luther, MI-5, Doctor Who) knows both sleek, crime drama and dazzling, costumed fantasy. His treatment of the notorious Blackbeard, living an alternate, 1729 existence on the secret isle of Santa Compana, wherein he was never slain in 1718 by Lt. Robert Maynard and the British Royal Navy, is a thoughtfully imagined life of a temporarily land-stalled pirate, seeking to steal a proprietary technology, a chronometer, that will have him back on the Spanish Main and on top of the world by summer’s end.

“I thought it was a excellent piece of writing,” said Malkovich of The Devil’s Dominion, episode 1. So taken with it, he agreed to the role of Edward Teach, a.k.a. historically as Blackbeard or Thatch, upon finishing the script, he said in a Reuters interview.

As with many a film and theatre fixture gracing the small-screen as of late, Malkovich commands your attention. As author Jennifer Susannah Devore wrote of Tom Mison in a review of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow, “Mison brings a decidedly non-telly flip-of-the-cape to primetime viewing.; so can it also be said of Malkovich in Crossbones.

Pleasingly, Crossbones also employs the considerable talents of Englishman Richard Coyle (Covert Affairs, Coupling, The Whistleblowers) as Dr. Thomas Lowe, posing as ship’s surgeon, serving as foil and nemesis of Blackbeard. “Ohhh, Geoffrey!”

If you find your summer lacking the proper amount of tropical sun, salty nights, Beach Bum Rum, silk-embroidered frock coats and Shakespearean-level dramaturgy, Friday nights on NBC, in a clandestine cove somewhere in the Caribbean is just the place to pile your purloined silver platter high with the spoils of privateering, pirateering and stagecraft that far excels the likes of standard, broadcast production.

Graphic courtesy of NBC Universal

Graphic courtesy of NBC Universal

Crossbones airs Fridays at 10/9c p.m. on NBC.


“Savannah of Williamsburg”‘s Cap’t. Maurice Bloodstone. Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

… and in case ye be needin’ a pirate chanty fer those summer nights …

The Trials of Blackbeard and His Pirates ... free for Kindle!

The Trials of Blackbeard and His Pirates … free for Kindle!

“Me Cup Is Broke!”

A pirate chanty from Savannah of Williamsburg: The Trials of Blackbeard and His Pirates, Virginia 1718

lyrics by Jennifer Susannah Devore

Blow me sails full! Blow on! Blow on!
Pour me ale full! Flow on! Flow on!
Me treasure be waitin’, me lady tried ‘scapin’,
Me gold chest it swells, soon we’ll all go to Hell!
Ye Caribbean Sea so hot it drains me wit!
DREAD! Me cup is broke and who will fix it?!

Be ye a musician? Record a fine tune of “Me Cup Is Broke!” and let us hear it @JennyPopNet or Savannah of Williamsburg’s Facebook Page!

#Crossbones #pirates #summer

Movie Review – Transformers: Dark of the Moon


Category : Entertain Me, Movies, Reviews

Video credit: Paramount Pictures



Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released nationwide yesterday in IMAX and 3D. In New York, Times Square was shut down for the media circus to celebrate the release in grandiose style, with the red carpet premiere streamed live on the official movie website.  For weeks, the public relations machine has been hard at work drumming up interest in the latest installment based on the popular cartoon series. I headed to my local theater to see if the film would live up to all the hype.

In all honesty, I have been looking forward to Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I enjoy a movie with impressive effects and how can a gal resist big guns and even bigger explosions. Let me be clear, I was not expecting a substantive plot or incredible acting. If the past two films have taught us anything, it is not to hold out hope for a truly great movie. Yet, at the end of the 2 hour 37 minute feature, I found myself disappointed. No, that is not a typo. Transformers 3 times out at 2 hours 37 minutes!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon picks up one year after the end of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Megatron was damaged, but lives on in hiding with a select few Deceptacons. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and the remaining 7 Autobots work with the United States government on covert operations to help ensure political peace.  However, the story truly begins in 1959 when a craft from Cybertron crash lands on the moon, kickstarting earth’s space race with the United States and the Soviet Union competing for first contact.

The integration of the US/Soviet moon missions could have been an interesting plot point. However, it becomes nothing more than a vehicle to include archival footage of President John F. Kennedy and President Richard Nixon, along with 2 of the worst impersonations of these presidents I have seen.

Skip ahead 50 years and we meet up with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Freshly graduated from college, his previous adventures with Autobots have earned him a presidential medal and a new hot girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Sadly, like so many in today’s tough economic times, Sam has been unable to find a job where he can mean something. While his plight is understandable (how do you go back to being just another person after you have saved the world . . . twice?), it begins to border on annoying.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Sam’s misfortune gives us a device to meet some of the supporting cast, such as Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich) who ends up hiring Sam as a mailroom messenger. Also introduced in Dark of the Moon are Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong), a former NASA engineer who works at Sam’s company, and Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), an investment banker with a penchant for classic cars. Wait, there’s more! The geek set will appreciate some familiar faces/voices, including Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Serenity) and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek, Fringe). That concludes the spoiler portion of this review. While it is great to see these beloved actors and I hold great respect for them all, the comedic timing seems a bit off and borders on forced.

My main point of contention here is editing. Considering the complete plot, it is an interesting integration of an important time in mankind’s history and the science fiction story now embedded into the memories of most. There actually is a lot of story in Transformers: Dark of the Moon; however, an hour in and few action scenes will leave even the die-hard fans wondering why they paid the $15 to see this movie. Towards the end of the movie, the action heats up, culminating with a full on battle scene unlike any other. Make no mistake, this is an epic fight in the biggest arena possible! Sadly, this battle begins to drag on – almost to the point of wondering if you really care which side wins.

Look, Michael Bay brings an incredible elegance to Transformers. The stunning CGI provides an experience that truly helps bring the Autobots and Deceptacons to life, I doubt anyone would argue that. As always the voice acting is unmatched. Each voice actor allows you to connect with their character. For me at least, is a large part of why I actually enjoy the movies.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

I have no doubt Transformer: Dark of the Moon will be the summer blockbuster it is anticipated to be. As for my recommendation, I say wait and Rent It . . . on BluRay, of course. While you wait, you should absolutely check out the Soundtrack because the music is amazing! Watch the video for Linkin Park’s single from the movie, “Irredescent” below.


Video credit: Linkin Park