Blackbeard’s Ghost

Earlier in the week, I found myself writing a tribute to an actress that most had forgotten about.  This was made clear to me tonight as I started this review and received an IM from a friend who had not heard of Suzanne Pleshette because my friend was too young to have seen Pleshette’s work.  No worries — maybe this review will encourage her to see something Pleshette has done.

Blackbeard’s Ghost is what I would call a Golden-Age Disney film.  Made while Walt was alive, it fit the standard look and feel of many Disney movies of that time.  Dean Jones, one of Walt’s favorites, stars as the new track coach for tiny Godolphin College located on the East Coast.  As he arrives in town, he learns many a things and is soon victim to a spell that allows him to see Blackbeard’s ghost when no one else can.  Of course Jones falls for Pleshette’s character, another professor at the college.  There is the over-the-top villain and the ever-present disapproving dean of the college.  Peter Ustinov had great fun with the role of Blackbeard and it is evident in every frame.

Looking at the movie, I am reminded how certain things have changed.  Back in the day, all of the credits would run at the beginning of the movie with maybe a cast list at the end.  Nowadays, you have two sections of credits.  No one’s named appeared above the credits except for Walt’s.  The colors actually seemed more vivid and the movie more real than some of today’s big blowouts.  One could also argue that this was Walt’s way of doing a pirate picture without basing it on a ride.  Speaking of rides, the portrait paintings in the inn appear to have been painted by the same person who did the paintings in the Haunted Mansion attractions.

One scene that brought me personal amusement was the scene in the casino where Jones and Pleshette are trying to win all of the money.  Even though Jones knows the ghost is helping, Pleshette pushes him aside and bets her own way.

Pleshette:  What are you doing?

Jones: Put all of the money on one number

Pleshette: Have you ever played this before?

Jones: No

Pleshette: Well I have and I have a system

Jones: A system?!?!?

Then Jones smirks at the camera with an imaginary eyeroll.

The reason I liked this bit is because it reminds me of many conversations between me and my mother or my mother and father.  Even spookier is that my mother at times has resembled Pleshette in looks.

There are no features on this DVD, which is a shame.

My advice: watch it one night when you want to see a fun example of movie making from the ’60s — you won’t be disappointed.

Rambo (2007)

1984, what a year…..

Communists boycott the Olympic Summer Games in retaliation for the US boycott in 1980.

Eddie Murphy explodes onscreen with Beverly Hills Cop.

Arnold becomes a household name by hunting down Sarah Connor.

And Sylvester Stallone cements his claim as one of the top action heroes in ’80s cinema with not one, but two films.  He continued his success with Rocky IV.  Then came the anti-Rocky movie:

First Blood

We are introduced to a man, who is peaceful until pushed, but once pushed, fury is unleashed.  First Blood yielded two sequels: Rambo and Rambo III.  By the release of Rambo II, the public had tired of the character and showed it by not watching Rambo III.

So Rambo went away to the jungles, presumably gone forever….

Until now.

I got out of 27 Dresses in time to catch the start of Rambo (and even some trailers).  I decided I needed to get some testosterone pumping again.  And Rambo delivered.

This is a gritty movie, with very real looking effects not polished in a CGI lab.  I have not seen gun violence like this since Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down.  The volume was up, because I felt every explosion, every crack of gunfire.  It is an older Rambo, but it is still Rambo; one content to mind his own business while living with his nightmares.

Yet, trouble comes, as it always does.  This time it takes the form of a missionary group.  What convinces our hero is a young woman, played by Julie Benz (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel).  I liked Julie’s work here — being vulnerable and scared, exact opposite of the vampire I knew for years on TV.

Naturally when she gets in trouble, Rambo feels a need to rescue her.  What ensues is what most guys want to see: unharnessed violence and action.  This is not for the faint of heart — Blood flows and not one drop feels gratuitous.  Casting is good, and the cinematography is great.

My Advice: See it at full price.  Definitely not a date movie, but one hell of a ride with some things that make you think….

27 Dresses

No matter how many years pass, one always remembers their first , true love.  I don’t just mean the good things, but all of the things: quirks, pet peeves, and events.   This is sometimes good and sometimes bad.  After all, everyone you are with gets judged against that first person, even without us recognizing it.

I remarked in an earlier review this year that the main character had some the things I hated about one of the women I have loved over the years.  I guess Karma is deciding to have fun with me through Hollywood.  But I will get to that in a minute…

So after busting out of a poker game early, I decided to go to the movies instead of waiting around for 2 hours for the next game.  I drove up to the Oveido Marketplace to see what was playing at that time.  27 Dresses started in three minutes, so I chose it.  The theater was packed and I ended up in the third row, looking up at the screen.

27 Dresses focuses on one woman’s efforts to be all she can be while having a crush on her boss and helping everyone she knows with their weddings.  Katherine Heigl stars as our poor, lonely girl that is so sweet and pretty that it is hard to believe that she has not found someone yet.  Until you see how she makes eyes at her boss, who is oblivious.

What follows is a fairly formulaic story from the person who wrote The Devil Wears Prada.  Once again, good casting pulls this movie together.  If you stay in the shallow end of thought, it is a fun movie.  However, the editor needs to be hit over the head.  We have a scene where Heigl talks about her favorite part of a wedding, followed by a scene 10 minutes later where she expresses surprise and tells the SAME character about the SAME favorite part.  That pulled me out of the story.  Directors and Editors have a basic responsibility to watch for things like that.

So why all of that stuff before about a woman I loved?  Well, in watching the movie, I felt like I was watching a 30-something version of her.  Subscription to Bride magazine? Check.  Always reading the announcements? Check.  Always knowing and planning details about weddings? Check.  It was as if I had teleported back to 1991, sitting beside her as she rambled on about some cool wedding thing.  Very eerie…

My advice:  Grab a date and check it out — good date movie; might even score a few points…

Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

Actors are tortured souls.

The past 100 years of American cinema are littered with stories of actors and actresses who burned brightly for a brief time and then were tragically gone from our midst.  In my life, I have seen many such tales: Bruce Lee, Jon Erik-Hexum, John Belushi, River Phoenix, Chris Farley, and Brandon Lee.  While three involved famous, on-set accidents, the others were at their own hands.  With each case, families, fans, and entertainment history suffered great losses.

Like many others, I first saw Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You.  Originally intended to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt to break into movies during the peak of his Third Rock popularity, this movie ended up launching two careers: Julia Stiles and Ledger.  Over the next couple of years, I enjoyed watching Ledger in The Patriot and A Knight’s Tale.  It was A Knight’s Tale that showed me the range he had and how he looked like he was having pure fun on the set, similar to 10 Things.  The Four Feathers was not a good movie, but he made it better; you could tell that he would make better movies one day.  I chose not to see Brokeback Mountain; regardless of the “novelty” of two men in an affair, I was simply not interested in the story.   Then Ledger seemed to disappear from my radar of movies.

Batman brought him right back.  Upon hearing the news of his casting as the Joker, I was excited.  You could see elements of the character in A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things during the times of fun.  As promotional materials started appearing, I was even more excited — Ledger was invoking the Joker of “The Killing Joke” and getting rave reviews based on promotional pics only.

That is what makes his passing all that more tragic.  It doesn’t matter how he died — nothing can be done to change that.   Like Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee are linked to their last film roles, Ledger will now be always linked to Batman first.

Like all of the Joker’s jokes, this one is sadly on us and no one is laughing…

Suzanne Pleshette, 1937-2008

Men may go after the “traditional” trophy-wife looking woman, but they are always interested in those that show a little backbone.

Disney and Bob Newhart are responsible for introducing me to Suzanne Pleshette.  Wait, that’s not exactly correct — My parents insisted on watching two things early in my life that introduced me to her.  Blackbeard’s Ghost was a fun Disney movie with Dean Jones and Peter Ustinov that my mom loved.  In this movie, Pleshette played the woman fought over by Jones and the villain.  At the same time, TBS aired nightly reruns of The Bob Newhart Show, which my parents always had on.  Here, Pleshette’s Emily advanced how women were played as wives in sitcoms, actually laying groundwork for Roseanne and company in later years.  The common thread for the two roles is that she never backed down from a challenge and refused to wait on the sidelines to be rescued.  At some point, I have to watch The Birds — for several reasons.

Here’s to a funny lady that I was lucky enough to grow up watching — Hopefully, she and Blackbeard’s Ghost are out having fun…