Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"ENCHANTED" (2007) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery featuring photos from the 2007 Disney comedy-fantasy, "ENCHANTED". It stars Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall and Susan Sarandon:

"ENCHANTED" (2007) Photo Gallery

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Glimpses of the Future" [R] - 1/2

Here is a STAR TREK VOYAGER story I had written, called "Glimpses of the Future". In it, B'Elanna Torres discovers a device that enables her to see the future. The story is set during Seasons 1, 7 and in between:


DISCLAIMER: B'Elanna Torres, Tom Paris and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.

Part 1

"I must say," Neelix commented reflectively, "this is a beautiful-looking planet. But then, Hotak was always a popular place to visit. Especially during its heyday."

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres glanced at her surroundings and grunted. She had to agree with Neelix about the planet's appearance. It did look beautiful. The green trees, sloping hills and the river nearby reminded her of Earth. At least certain parts of Earth. But the abandoned structures and crumbling ruins gave the planet's surface a desolate air. "What happened here?" she asked.

Neelix adopted a mournful expression. "War. About forty years ago, the two major inhabitants became involved in some kind of civil war. They literally wiped out each other. I recall hearing details about it, while I was a boy."

"How tragic," B'Elanna commented. She glanced at a one-story building, still scarred by scorch marks.

The Talaxian continued, "Legend has it that a holy man had premonitions of the upcoming war. Unfortunately, no one bothered to listen to him. He was among the first to die."

B'Elanna shivered. Her eyes remained fixed on the structure, nearby. For some reason, it reminded her of a religious temple. Or a shrine. She pointed at the building. "Did the holy man resided there?"

Neelix shook his head. He had no idea. "I don't know, Lieutenant. However, I believe we should continue helping the others search for that gallicite." Presently, the U.S.S. Voyager orbited over Hotak, a Class-M planet that the ship's sensors had detected, two days ago. The sensors had also detected signs of gallicite on the planet's surface. And Voyager needed the mineral badly to repair its eroding warp coils. B'Elanna found it frustrating that after six months in the Delta Quadrant, the ship was in danger of breaking apart.

The Chief Engineer heaved a sigh, as she and Neelix joined the remaining Away team on its search for gallicite. Two hours later, their search proved fruitful. B'Elanna figured they had collected enough gallicite to keep the warp coils in top condition for the next year or two.

While the other members of the Away team beamed back to Voyager with the gallicite, B'Elanna decided to indulge in some last minute sight seeing. Namely, the one-story building she had spotted earlier. B'Elanna approached the building and slowly entered. The dim light made it difficult to see. However, she was able to make out the remnants of what looked like an altar. It seemed that her first perception of this building being a temple had been correct.

Before she turned away, B'Elanna spotted an object on the altar. She picked it up. It was a small, rectangular-shaped box. A case made of dark-brown leather. Curious, B'Elanna unhooked the silver latch and opened the case. A blinding light flashed in front of her eyes . . .

* * * *

Three officers stood before the ship's warp core, as it shimmered with a brilliant blue. Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay grinned happily, while B'Elanna stared at the core with intense satisfaction.

"She is quite lovely, isn't she?" the Captain drawled.

B'Elanna frowned at the auburn-haired starship captain. "She?"

"Sorry. Figure of speech. I meant the warp core."

Chakotay added, "Discovering that gallicite on Hotak turned out to be a blessing. I understand the Away team managed to collect enough gallicite to keep the warp coils in condition for at least a year."

"Two years," B'Elanna corrected. "However, I do think it would be a good idea to collect more gallicite along the way. You know, to make sure that we don't find ourselves in this situation, again."

Janeway smiled approvingly. "An excellent idea, Lieutenant. In fact, I would like to commend you and your staff for a job well . . ."

* * * *

Once more, a bright flash blinded B'Elanna. She let out a gasp and immediately closed the case. It took her over a minute to realize that she had not left the ruined temple on Hotak.

"Lieutenant Torres? Are you okay?" Neelix poked his head inside the temple's doorway.

Breathing heavily, B'Elanna nodded. She immediately hid the case from the Talaxian's view. "I'm . . . I'm fine, Neelix. Just a little . . . the air is so dense in here. I'm having a little difficulty breathing. That's all."

As Neelix led her out of the temple, B'Elanna wondered why she had lied. And hid the device from Neelix. It would have been much easier to tell the truth. That she had stumbled across a device that allowed a person to view the future. Yet, B'Elanna knew that if she had revealed the device to Neelix, he would eventually inform the Captain. And Janeway would have insisted upon the device remaining on the planet's surface - where she had found it. The device had piqued B'Elanna's curiosity and she was not ready to relinquish her new discovery. At least not yet.

* * * *

Not long after the Away team's return to Voyager, B'Elanna's staff commenced upon refitting the warp coils. The half-Klingon spent the next two days supervising the task, while Voyager resumed its long journey to the Alpha Quadrant. On the third day, B'Elanna announced the completion of the job during a Senior staff meeting. Captain Janeway and Chakotay paid a visit to Engineering, four hours later. And the next moments unfolded just as B'Elanna had envisioned.

". . . your staff for a job well done," Janeway said, repeating the very words B'Elanna had heard in her vision. The Captain peered closely at the younger woman with blue-gray eyes. "However, you do seem a bit exhausted, Lieutenant. I suggest that you get some rest. What would you recommend, Commander? A day off? Maybe two?"

B'Elanna felt slightly affronted. Granted, she did feel tired, but she still had enough energy to sustain her for the rest of the day. "I'm fine, Captain," she replied. "Besides, there are other matters to attend to. Those irregular fluctuation readings in the sensor power couplings . . ."

Chakotay spoke up. "Minor repairs that your staff can deal with. As of now, you're on a forty-eight hour leave. That's an order, Lieutenant."

Her first instinct was to protest even further. Yet, B'Elanna noticed the adamant gleam in both Janeway and Chakotay's eyes. She had been outflanked and there was nothing she could do about that. B'Elanna heaved a silent sigh. What the hell could she do for a day? Harry will be on duty until this evening. And there was no one else, aside from Chakotay, with whom she could spend some free time. Including the ex-Maquis crew.

Then B'Elanna remembered her little souvenir from Hotak. Perhaps this leave would give her the opportunity for further examination of the device. And more glimpses of the future. Feigning defeat, B'Elanna gave a little shrug of her shoulders. "Oh well. I guess I know when I'm licked." Both the Captain and the First Officer smiled.

* * * *

The moment B'Elanna entered her quarters, she headed straight for her desk and opened the drawer. She sighed with relief. The Hotak device had remained where she had left it. After removing the case, she strode toward the sofa. After her last experience on Hotak, B'Elanna felt it would be more prudent to sit or lay on something in case she suffered another dizzy spell. Or passed out.

B'Elanna took a deep breath. Anticipation tingled with every nerve in her body. Then she opened the case. A familiar light blinded her eyes and once again, B'Elanna found herself in the future . . .

* * * *

Red klaxon lights permeated the Engineering section. Chakotay's voice announced over the Comm system, "All hands to battle stations!" The inhabitants inside Engineering, rushed to their posts. Their chief engineer barked out orders to check the engines and every system to make sure they were operating at a hundred percent. Seconds later, the attack commenced.

Voyager rocked from the enemy's first blow. One of the consoles near the warp core exploded in a shower of sparks. B'Elanna muttered angrily, "Damn Kazons!" A second blow followed, minutes later. One panel near the anti-matter chamber exploded. Sparks flew into the face of one of the engineers. "Ashmore!" B'Elanna rushed toward the injured man.

Chakotay's voice barked over the Comm system, again. "B'Elanna! Reroute power to the shields!"

"I can't! We need all available power to keep the war engines functioning! And one of the . . ."

Another blast rocked Voyager. More explosions followed. B'Elanna curtly ordered the computer to transport Ashmore over to Sick Bay. Then she turned her attention to another injured crewman, Lindsay Ballard. Just as she was about to attend the injured woman, the Captain's voice cried out, "Lieutenant! We need that extra power! Now!"

B'Elanna emitted a growl, before she transported Ballard to Sick Bay. Then she barked at one of her engineers. "Kurt! Reroute at least 50% of the warp plasma power to the shields!"

Kurt Bendara, another former Maquis, who now served under B'Elanna, reached for the nearest console and began entering data. Before the engineer could finish his task, and explosion blew up the console and sent him flying to floor. B'Elanna rushed to her friend's side. Kurt's face resembled a mass of molten flesh and blood. By some miracle, he had remained alive. "Computer!" B'Elanna barked. "Lock on to Crewman Bandera's combadge and initiate emergency transport to Sick Bay!"

Seconds later, Kurt's body disappeared from the floor. B'Elanna rushed over to another console to complete his . . .

* * * *

The bright light flashed once more, ending B'Elanna's vision. A surge of dizziness took hold of her and she fell back against the sofa. Seconds passed before the dizziness abated. B'Elanna took a deep breath.

Kahless! Kurt! Had she just witnessed Kurt's death? Or did he survive the attack? B'Elanna wished the vision had not ended so abruptly. If she knew more details, perhaps she could warn him in time. Not only was Kurt Bendara a fellow ex-Maquis, but also a close friend. He had once saved B'Elanna during an incident near the Cardassian border. And had met Chakotay at a bar on Telfas Prime. B'Elanna could imagine how the former Maquis captain would react to Kurt's death. The two men were like brothers.

B'Elanna glanced at the chronometer on the wall. The time read 17:03 hours. Which meant that Neelix had begun serving dinner. With the ship's power fully restored, B'Elanna considered replicating a meal in her quarters. But thinking about what she had just witnessed, she needed to see Kurt. Reassure her mind that he was still alive and well. Without further thought, B'Elanna donned a loose, pullover blouse, kept her uniform pants on and left her quarters for the Mess Hall.

At first, she could not find Kurt. Or Chakotay. Many crewmen filled the Mess Hall and most of the tables seemed occupied. Then B'Elanna spotted both men sitting at a table located in the left far corner of the room. Relief overcame her, as she strode toward their table.

"Kurt! You're here!" The words came out of B'Elanna's mouth before she could stop herself. The two men stared at her with surprise. Okay, perhaps she had sounded a bit too relieved.

Chakotay's dark eyes expressed concern. "B'Elanna? Is there something wrong?"

"I . . . uh, I was looking for Kurt," B'Elanna replied rather feebly. "I wanted to ask him about the warp coil. If there had been any setbacks, after the refit."

The concern in the First Officer's eyes gave way to a rebuke. "Pardon me, Lieutenant, but I seemed to recall that you were ordered to take leave."

"Of course I'm taking leave!" B'Elanna retorted flippantly. "I just . . ."

Kurt flashed a knowing smile. "You might as well give up, Chakotay. You can take the engineer out of Engineering, but you can't take engineering out of the engineer." He shook his head. "If you must know, B'Elanna, the warp engines are doing fine. You have nothing to worry about."

"That's what you think," B'Elanna muttered. Her slip of the tongue brought forth more stares from Chakotay and Kurt. Kahless! She really must tired. "I guess I better returned to my quarters. I must be more tired than I thought."

Chakotay added, "You do look a little exhausted."

B'Elanna mumbled a quick, "Yeah, yeah." Then she turned away and left the Mess Hall.

* * * *

The remaining evening passed uneventful for B'Elanna. But the image of a severely wounded Kurt Bandera refused to leave her thoughts. She tried everything to vanquish the image - going over old Engineering reports, and reading one of the two Klingon romance novels she had brought with her from the Liberty. B'Elanna even tried a trip to Sandrine's in the hope she would encounter her close friend, Harry Kim. Her hopes ended in disappointment after a quick trip to Holodeck One. Harry was no where to be found. And so, B'Elanna found herself back inside her quarters. Alone.

Her eyes fell upon the small leather case on the sofa. The Hotak device. Kurt Bendara flashed in her mind once more. She had to find out what happened to Kurt. She had to know if he had survived the Kazon attack.

B'Elanna plopped herself on the sofa and snatched up the case. She closed her eyes for a second. Maybe if she asked a question, the device would allow her to witness the answer. Taking a deep breath, she murmured quietly, "What happened to Kurt Bendara, after the Kazon attack?" B'Elanna slowly opened the case. The familiar light consumed her . . .

* * * *

The two senior officers inside Holodeck Two swatted a ball against the hoverball court's wall. At least B'Elanna continued to swat the ball. Her opponent, Commander Chakotay, seemed to be having less success. After B'Elanna returned his serve, he reached out to hit the ball and missed it entirely. Panting heavily, Chakotay's legs crumbled underneath him, as he fell to the floor.

A concerned B'Elanna stared at him. "What's going on, Chakotay?" she demanded. "I seemed to be beating you a lot easier than usual."

"Nothing . . . I'm fine," the First Officer said in between intakes of breath. "I guess . . . I'm out . . . of shape."

A mild smirk curved B'Elanna's lips. "Out of shape? After a three-month camping trip? You should be in perfect shape."


The morose tone in Chakotay's voice captured B'Elanna's attention. She glanced sharply at him. "Okay, now I know there is something wrong. Did something happened on that planet, between you and the Captain?" B'Elanna hoped that her friend had not heard the waver in her voice.

Apparently, Chakotay had not. He still seemed to be brooding over his problem. "Look B'Elanna, can we discuss something else? Nothing happened on New Earth that would make interesting conversation. Trust me."

"New Earth?"

A sigh left Chakotay's mouth. "Kathryn and I . . . I mean, the Captain and I named the planet, New Earth. Especially since as Humans, we were the only humanoids on the planet."

B'Elanna murmured, "How convenient."

"Yes, it was. And also very pleasant." Chakotay took a deep breath. "For the first time I . . . well, I got to know Kathryn very well." B'Elanna noticed that her friend had stopped referring to Voyager's commanding officer by her position.

B'Elanna quirked an eyebrow. "Really? So, you two became close?"

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Torres!" Chakotay retorted. "We weren't as 'close' as you might think." He paused. "Although . . . I wish we had. Listen, can you keep a secret?"

A small, mirthless laugh left B'Elanna's mouth. "If you're talking about how you feel about the Captain, I already know." She heaved a small sigh. "In fact, I've known for quite some time. And so have other members of the crew. You're not 'that' good at hiding your feelings, Chakotay."

A heavy silence filled the holodeck. B'Elanna gave her friend a sad look. Poor Chakotay. Nine months ago, she would have been devastated by his revelation. Nine months ago, B'Elanna had harbored a deep love toward the First Officer. Until she realized that what she had really felt was infatuation, fed by her gratitude toward him giving her a new lease on life, over two years ago.

"Wow!" Chakotay said, breaking the silence. "I . . . I had no idea that you knew . . ."

B'Elanna chirped in, "You don't have to say anything, Chakotay. As far as we're concerned, it's an open secret. Does, uh . . . does the Captain . . . feel the same way about you?"

Chakotay's shoulders sagged. "To be honest, I don't know," he murmured. "I think she might be attrac . . ."

* * * *

The blinding light ended B'Elanna trip into the future. The familiar wave of dizziness followed. Only this time, it took her a little longer to overcome the dizziness. After several minutes, B'Elanna's eyes flickered open. She heaved a shuddering sigh.

Recovering from use of the device seemed to be getting more difficult. But that did not disturb B'Elanna as much as what she had witnessed. Despite her efforts, the device had failed to give her an answer on Kurt Bendara's fate. Instead, it confirmed a suspicion she has harbored for the past three months.

Chakotay was in love with Kathryn Janeway. The realization hit B'Elanna with the force of a tsunami. She still remembered that moment when she first harbored suspicions about her mentor's feelings toward Voyager's captain. It happened three months ago - during the incident with that living organism they had mistaken for a nebula. Upon visiting Chakotay's quarters, she found him inside with the Captain, teaching the latter how to use his medicine wheel. It had been a startling moment for B'Elanna, finding the man she love being cozy with another woman. Granted, no sex had been involved. But there seemed to be an intimate aura between the two that made B'Elanna feel very uneasy.

Another thing B'Elanna remembered from her vision - the future Chakotay had seemed uneasy about Kathryn Janeway's feelings toward him. That alone gave B'Elanna hope that she still had a chance for a different kind of relationship with her mentor.

B'Elanna felt tempted to use the Hotak device again. To learn more about a possible future with Chakotay. But since the device never responded to her question regarding Kurt Bendara, she suspected that it would be hopeless to use it in order to automatically receive another vision about Chakotay - if asked. And to be honest, her last use of the device had left her feeling exhausted. B'Elanna realized that she would, instead, benefit from a good night's sleep. She returned the device to her desk and made her way to the bedroom.

End of Part 1

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Anthony's Doubts" [PG-13] - 1/1

Here is a "Pearl Harbor" vignette told in the first person, from the point of view of one of the movie's supporting characters, a New York born Italian-American named Lieutenant Anthony Fusco (portrayed by Greg Zola). It's called, "Anthony's Doubts":


E-MAIL: deerush76@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Anthony expresses his feelings toward the burgeoning relationship between Danny and Evelyn.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor", belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.

NOTE: This comes from that delicious line expressed by someone in the movie. I think it was Anthony Fusco, but I'm not sure. I only wish I could remember it, word from word.



I don't know why everyone seems to think it's a good idea for them to date. I certainly don't. If you ask me, they're making a big mistake. Danny and Evelyn, I mean.

I mean, jeez, anyone can see that Danny and Evelyn are only interested in each other, because of Rafe. Rafe McCawley - Danny's best friend and Evelyn's boyfriend. Well, dead best friend and dead boyfriend. Rafe has been dead for the past three months. Shot over the English Channel by the Germans. Damn Krauts!

Of all the people I could never see getting shot down, it was Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, of the U.S. Army Air Corps. I mean, hick or no hick, the man was a talented pilot. Even our old CO from Mitchell Field, the famous James Doolittle, had considered Rafe to be an outstanding pilot. And Rafe . . . well, he just seemed too talented and too alive to bite the dust over the English Channel. Then again, no one lives forever. Not even a walking live wire like poor old Rafe.

Danny Walker is another kettle of fish. Like Rafe, he's another talented pilot. Although not quite in Rafe's league. I guess you can say he was the second best pilot in our squad. Now that Rafe is dead, he's the number one guy. Now Danny is the quiet type. Sometimes, the man barely says two sentences during an entire day. Unless the subject happens to be flying. He had practically worshipped the ground Rafe walked upon – like a typical younger brother. Hell, they had seemed like brothers. I heard that Danny's pop had fought in the last war and came home, a drunken wreck. After he died, Rafe's parents took Danny in and the two practically became brothers. Now that Rafe is dead, he no longer has a family. I guess as far as he's concerned.

And then there was Evelyn Johnson. I still remember that evening in New York, when we all first met her and the other nurses. I had my eye on Sandra O'Connell, a pretty redhead with glasses and kissable lips. What is it with that woman, anyway? After ten months, she acts as if I've got the clap or something. Although I mainly had Sandra on my mind, I could not help but notice Rafe and Evelyn. The electricity between them was unmistakable. I swear it seemed as if they were in their own little magical world.

Poor Evelyn. Rafe's death must have hit her just as hard as it did Danny. Both Red and Betty told me that for the past three months - since Rafe's death - she had been crying herself to sleep. I remember how she seemed to be in a daze, during that little memorial service we had for Rafe at the Hula-La Bar. Come to think of it, Danny kept to himself a lot, during that period. The only time he seemed to come alive was during flight duty. I don't know. Maybe he had visions of avenging his buddy's death.

Then just a few days ago, Red proposed marriage to Betty. They, along with Billy and Barbara, spotted Evelyn and Danny together, inside the Black Cat CafĂ©. They had run into each other outside a movie theater in downtown Honolulu. Billy and Red talked of nothing but Danny and Evelyn. And how it would be great for those two to get over Rafe's death and start dating. Jesus, what a couple of morons! Meanwhile, Danny ran over to the nurse’s quarters at Pearl, to return Evelyn's handkerchief. Yeah, right. I saw how he looked. Like a man who had found a drop of water in the middle of the desert.

And now we have Evelyn, visiting Danny, here at Wheeler Field. Dressed in this little red Chinese number that fit her in the all the right places. It was obvious that she wore it to impress Danny. And the dumb idiot practically drooled over her like a dog in heat.

Being Danny, he asked us for advice. Should he or shouldn't he date Evelyn? Red told him to give her a shot. As far as Red was concerned, Rafe was dead and it was time for Danny and Evelyn to move on. That was the worst advice anyone could have given. I think I was the only one who thought differently. I said that if I were dead and my best friend was dating my girl, I'd come back and beat the shit out of him. Everyone laughed, thinking I was joking. Well, I wasn’t joking. Jesus, they can’t all be idiots, can they?

Red, Billy and the others don’t seem to understand that you can't stop grieving over someone, as if he or she was a sink you can easily turn off. I remember my Uncle Mario Fusco. He was a soldier who had served in China, some fifteen years ago. Poor Uncle Mario had been declared dead and his wife, Aunt Lucinda, cried over him something awful. Well, the rest of the family advised her to move on and she ended up getting engaged to one of Mario's buddies, this guy named Paul Rizzo. And guess what happened? After dating Paul for several months, Aunt Lucinda decided to marry him, because she was lonely. Despite the fact that she still had not recovered from Uncle Mario's death. Just before the wedding, Uncle Mario showed up, alive and well. And Aunt Lucinda dropped this Rizzo fella like a hat. It almost broke up Mario and Paul's friendship.

Now, I'm not saying that Rafe is going to appear from the dead or anything like that. But hey, you never know. Plus, I can see that Evelyn still has not recovered from his death. When she visited Danny, this afternoon, I had this weird feeling that her heart wasn't really focused on him. It seemed . . . well, as if she had to force herself to stop grieving. I suspect that the only reason both are interested in each other is because of Rafe. They're using each other to get over their grief, but they don't seem to realize that.

But it's too late now. Danny just left to see Evelyn. He told me that he plans to take her flying over Wakikki Beach. I don't know. Something tells me that nothing good is gonna come out of this. And my instincts are usually pretty on the QT. I guess all I can do is wait and see.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fans' Opinions' on Sean Connery as Bond


“No post-Connery Bond in his debut performance has shrugged off comparisons to his predecessors as successfully as Craig does in Casino Royale: before the movie is even halfway through his Bond is far more his own man than those of Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan were by the end of their first Bond films.”

“A splendid casting choice, Craig has a physicality that only Sean Connery and perhaps George Lazenby could approach.”

“I don't think he (Daniel Craig) can overtake Connery as Bond for me, but he's already running a damned close.”

I do not understand this. Are all James Bond fans in love Sean Connery? Are we all expected to accept the idea of him as the best James Bond as a matter of fact? I hope not. Because it is an opinion I have never shared during my thirty-four years of watching Bond movies.

While watching a commercial for the recent Bond movie, “CASINO ROYALE”, the announcer declared Daniel Craig as the best Bond. A relative of mine nearly jumped out of his seat and cried, “Sean Connery is the best Bond!” as if it were a matter of fact. I could only look away in amusement.

One reason why I have never accepted Connery as the best Bond is the fact that he was not the first actor I had seen in the role. And if I had, I still doubt I would have accepted him as the best Bond. Although Roger Moore was my first Bond (I first saw him in “LIVE AND LET DIE”), very little time had passed before I saw Connery as Bond television for the first time. From what I had seen of Moore on the movie screen and Connery on television, both seemed to be very effective as James Bond. But only different. To this day, I have never been able to decide between the two who was my favorite Bond. And when movies like “ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”, “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” and “GOLDENEYE” became popular with me, I found it increasingly difficult to choose any actor as the best Bond.

I am not saying that Sean Connery was a lousy James Bond. He obviously made a very good Bond. But after watching most of the Bond films over the past six months, I simply found it hard to accept the idea that he was the best actor to portray Bond. Quite frankly, I found myself equally impressed with those that followed – George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. For years, I have never had a “favorite Bond”, so to speak, until Daniel Craig’s debut in the role. Do I believe that Craig was the best Bond? No. But he has quickly become my favorite.

As for Connery, I was especially impressed by his performances in “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” and “THUNDERBALL”. He seemed to be at his most human in those two roles. And in 1971’s “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”, he seemed to be at his funniest. But honestly . . . I have never viewed him as the best James Bond. I certainly do not believe that his debut as Bond was the best. And I do not think I ever will. In fact, his debut (in “DR. NO”) is my least favorite Bond debut. His performance seemed . . . mixed. Uneven. In some scenes, his performance seemed very smooth and professional. At other times – especially in Jack Lord’s company – he seemed wooden.

He never really came close to the literary Bond penned by Ian Fleming. Both Dalton and Craig deserve that honor. Not that being close to the literary Bond mean much to me. Frankly, I could not care less how an actor portrays the 00 agent, as long as he gives a good performance, deal adequately with the action sequences and create his own style as Bond. Connery had created his own style – a mixture of rugged machismo and a touch of sophistication. But machismo seemed to dominate Connery’s Bond.

I don’t know. Perhaps many Bond fans – which seemed to be dominated by men – feel that machismo is the ultimate expression of a man. Personally, I do not agree. But we are all allowed our opinions. In adopting a machismo persona, Connery immediately created his own style of how to portray Bond. But the reason why I cannot give him credit as the ultimate Bond is that the other actors have managed to create their own style, as well. Why should Connery be given credit for something the other five actors have also managed to achieve?

But why do fans insist upon declaring Connery as the best Bond, as if it were a matter of fact? Some might point out that most Bond fans prefer Connery. I admit that it does seem to be the case that Connery is the most popular Bond actor. But I am the type of person who does not believe in the old term – ‘majority rules’. Especially in regard to art or entertainment. Hell, most Americans in the mid-19th century believed there was nothing wrong with enslaving African-Americans. But just because most accepted this opinion as fact, does not mean they were right. And I must say the same about Connery’s performances as Bond. Even if most fans accept him as the best James Bond, does not mean they are right. In the end, it is subjective. I only wish that many of these film critics and fans stop declaring Connery as the best Bond . . . as if it were a matter of fact. Would it really kill for them to add – “in my opinion”?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"LEATHERHEADS" (2008) Review

"LEATHERHEADS" (2008) Review

As a rule, I usually do not like sports movies. I can think of at least six or seven that are personal favorites of mine. After seeing the recent football comedy, ”LEATHERHEADS”, I can honestly say that the number has risen to eight.

George Clooney, who also directed the film, Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, captain of the struggling football team, the Duluth Bulldogs. Dodge is determined to save both his team and professional football in general when the players lose their sponsor and the league is on the brink of collapse. He convinces a college football star, Carter "the Bullet" Rutherford (John Krasinski), to join the Bulldogs, in order to capitalize on Carter's fame as a war hero. In addition to his legendary tales of heroism in World War I, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed and skill on the field. As a result of his presence, both the Bulldogs and football in general prosper. Rene Zellweger provided romantic interest as reporter Lexie Littleton, who becomes the object of the affections of both Carter and Dodge. Unbeknown to Carter, Lexie has been assigned to find proof that Carter's stories of military heroism are bogus. Meanwhile, Dodge's attempts to legitimize professional football start to backfire, as rules are formalized, taking away much of the improvisational antics that made the game fun for many of its players.

I had expected to mildly enjoy ”LEATHERHEADS” or at least enjoy the 1920s setting. Instead, I found myself really enjoying the story of Dodge Connolly’s comic attempts to legitimize professional football, and his romantic rivalry with Carter Rutherford for Lexie Littleton’s heart. The comic timing featured in the script written by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Duncan Brantley, Rick Reilly and Stephen Schiff is wonderful. The performances – especially the three leads – were fabulous. Clooney, Zellweger and Krasinski proved that they all possessed the skills and timing for comedic acting. And they were supported by a top notch cast that included Stephen Root, Jonathan Pryce, and Peter Gerety. And I must say that I loved the way Clooney and his production staff captured the mid 1920s America, right down to the chaotic world of football – professional and college.

However, ”LEATHERHEADS” is not perfect. The Chicago sequence leading up to the big game between the Duluth and Chicago nearly dragged the film. And I found the ending vague and lacking any real closure over Dodge, Lexie and Carter’s future. And that perfect capture of the 1920s? Well, it was not completely perfect. I have to blame Renee Zellweger’s hairstyle for this. It was fine when she had her hair pinned. But she spent at least two-thirds of the film wearing her hair in a shoulder-length bob. Is it any wonder I had originally believed this film was set in the early-to-mid 1930s?

It is a shame that ”LEATHERHEADS” did not prove to be a hit. It really is an enjoyable film. But I guess that it is the type of film that would appeal to older moviegoers who are at least in their 30s and 40s. It simply lacked the appeal for younger viewers that ”21” possessed. And to be honest, I am not a big fan of the latter film, even if it was not that bad. Oh well. If you do not want to go see ”LEATHERHEADS” in the theaters, at least give it a chance when it is finally released on DVD.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Neighbors" [PG] - 9/11


Part 9

From inside the warlocks' trap, Phoebe felt a familiar portent of impending doom. And her feeling had nothing to do with a premonition of any kind. But it felt hard to dismiss such feelings while a group of warlocks carrying daggers approached with evil intent on their faces.

Phoebe sighed. How she wished that she, Piper and Paige had heeded Olivia McNeill's advice to stay away. It seemed ironic that within a period of six months, the Charmed Ones would find themselves in a trap similar to the one that the Seer had imprisoned them within. Only this time, they would not be able to deflect the warlocks' attack. Especially since the latter planned to use a good old-fashioned stab fest to kill the sisters.

The dark-haired leader of the warlock coven raised his hand to send the dagger into one of the Charmed Ones. Before he could, a figure in black materialized beside him. Phoebe's heart literally jumped with relief. It was Cole.

"What the . . .?" Crozat stared at Cole in shock. "Who the hell are you?"

Cole's mouth stretched into a smirk. "What's the matter, Crozat? Forgotten me, already?"

The warlock's eyes grew wide. "Belthazor? But I thought you were dead?"

"Well, Belthazor is," Cole coolly replied. "Have been for at least a year. I was even the Source for a while. Which brings me to here." He seared the Charmed Ones with a death glare. Phoebe shivered.

Crozat declared, "The Source? I had heard about a new Source, last spring. But he was vanquished by the Charmed Ones."

"That's right." Cole continued to glare at the Halliwells. "But I survived. Ironically, thanks to my human side." His eyes veered back to Crozat. "And I'm here to take back what's mine."

Crozat sneered. "Take back what? Your loving bride?"

Blue eyes that once looked at Phoebe with love and passion, now regarded the warlock with icy rage. Crozat immediately assumed a more humble expression. "The only thing I want back is the Source's power. And the only way I can achieve that is through their whitelighter."

One of the warlocks cried out, "What a load of crap! He's lying! How can a whitelighter help him become the Source? I say we kill him now! He's just one demon." Before Phoebe could blink, Cole destroyed the dissenter with one quick fireball.

"Anyone else want to doubt my word?" Cole challenged. The warlocks remained silent.

Inside the trap, Paige whispered in a sarcastic tone, "I guess not. I see that Belthazor or maybe the Source is back. At least in spirit."

"Paige!" Piper hissed. The younger woman remained silent.

Phoebe, however, remained silent, as she continued to listen in on the conversation outside the trap. A frowning Crozat added, "Gregor was right. How can a whitelighter help you become the Source again?"

Cole nonchantlantly replied, "Easy. The Charmed Ones' whitelighter was the one who hid the Grimoire. And whoever possesses it, can become the Source. I intend to get my hands on that Grimoire."

"Leo destroyed the Grimoire, right?" a worried Paige asked.

Piper sighed. "Of course he did! He tossed it into the volcano."

"But that doesn't mean it was destroyed."

Irritated by their chatter, Phoebe snapped at her sisters. "Hey you two! Can you please keep it down?"

"Why bother?" Paige retorted. "It's plain that Cole wants to become the Source, again. At least he can't use possession as an excuse, this time. I wonder how he plans to use Leo."

Phoebe shot back, "Well, if you just keep quiet for one moment, we'll find out!" Everyone fell silent and continued to listen to the conversation outside the trap.

"What makes you think the whitelighter will tell you where to find it?" Crozat asked. Phoebe assumed he was referring to the Grimoire.

Cole replied, "You've got the Charmed Ones. You can kill them and steal their powers. But not until I lure their whitelighter here and get him to retrieve the Grimoire for me. He'll do anything to keep them alive. Especially his wife . . . who's carrying his child." Cole glanced at Piper. "He's broken the rules for her, before."

"Oh no!" Piper murmured to her sisters. "He's not serious, is he?"

Before Phoebe could reply, she caught sight of a flash of red in front of the one of the warehouse's windows. Red hair. Seconds later, her eyes adjusted to the sight of Olivia McNeill climbing through that window. The police inspector was followed by another redhead. Her brother, Harry McNeill. "Piper, Paige!" Phoebe hissed. "Look over there. Near the second window from the right. It's Olivia and Harry McNeill."

Piper frowned. "What are they doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? They're here to help us. And Cole. He must be distracting the warlocks."

A doubtful Paige added, "Are you sure? Maybe the good inspector found out about Cole."

"Paige." To Phoebe's relief, the hard tone in her voice convinced Paige to keep quiet. The three sisters watched in silence, as the two McNeill siblings cautiously positioned themselves for an attack. Cole, however, continued his conversation with the warlock leader.

". . . all a good story, Belthazor," Crozat was saying. "But you haven't told us how you plan to lure their whitelighter here."

Casually, Cole turned his back on Crozat and glanced around. Then he gave the warlock a chilling smile. A smile that Phoebe found disturbing. "Simple," he said. Then with a flick of his wrist, he vanquished another warlock.

The next thing Phoebe knew, all hell had broken loose. At least for the warlocks. While Cole continued to fireball more warlocks, Olivia McNeill sent others flying across the room and into large crates and the walls. Others she knocked unconscious using martial arts skills that Phoebe could only envy. One warlock flung a dagger toward her direction. Fortunately, she used her telekinesis to counter the attack and bury it into the warlock's chest.

Harry McNeill, like his sister, used martial arts on the warlocks. And he used something else that Phoebe could not see. She saw him stare at a pair of warlocks. Who eventually stabbed themselves with their daggers. And the realization finally hit Phoebe. "Of course! He's a telepath!" she murmured. "Subliminal suggestions".

Paige asked, "What did you say?"

"Harry McNeill. Didn't you see him? He used his telepathic abilities to force those warlocks to kill themselves."

Piper said, "Never mind that. I think this trap is weakening. See?" She pointed at the force shield and a hole immediately formed, thanks to her combustion power.

"Try it again," Paige suggested. Which Piper did. A second hole appeared. "Maybe if you keep using your power, the trap will finally break."

Piper retorted, "Are you kidding? I'm only punching holes in this thing!"

Phoebe added, "Maybe the only way for Piper to break free is for more warlocks to disappear. Remember, they're using the combination of their powers to keep this trap intact." She glanced at their saviors. To her relief, the McNeills and Cole were still alive. And kicking ass.

To Phoebe's right, Harry dispatched more warlocks using his telepathy. One warlock managed to jump him from behind. Fortunately, Harry viciously elbowed the latter in the gut, before knocking him down with a well-placed blow to the face. Before the warlock could recover, Harry tossed a small vial at him, and the warlock disintegrated in a ball of flames.

A small group of warlocks suddenly formed a circle around Cole and Olivia, causing the latter to gasp. Cole disappeared out of sight. A second later, he reappeared behind one warlock and quickly snapped the latter's neck. Then he reappeared behind another warlock. One quick twist and -snap- that warlock was dead.

A blond-haired female warlock in a security guard's uniform threw an knife at Cole. Olivia used her telekinesis to redirect the weapon, sending it straight into the warlock's throat. She flung another warlock against the wall, causing his back to make impact into a jutting hook.

Rage filled the dark eyes of the warlocks' leader. He stuck his arm out and sent a line of flames toward Olivia, much to Phoebe's horror. Now she knew who had killed that warlock in Candlestick Park, last Saturday. She blinked and the next thing she knew, Olivia and Crozat had changed places. Leaving the warlock leader to feel the impact of the flames. Cole. There could be no other explanation. Her ex-husband had just saved Olivia, using the same power he had used when he had saved Phoebe from Agent Jackman's bullet, last spring.

With Crozat and many other warlocks dead, the power holding the trap around the Charmed Ones, faltered. Once more, Piper used her combustion power to break the force field . . . and finally succeeded. The destruction of the trap seemed to stun the remaining warlocks, forcing them to reel about in confusion.

"Stand back!" Olivia barked. Once everyone followed her order, she used her telekinesis to gather all of the warlocks - alive and the remaining dead - to the same spot where the Charmed Ones had been held. Then the red-haired witch glanced at the Halliwells. "Okay, ladies."

Phoebe, Piper and Paige stared at Olivia, then at each other. "Jeez! Did you see that?" the youngest sister muttered.

"Hello! The Power of Three! Use a spell to get rid of them now!" Olivia seemed to be using her power to hold those warlocks still alive, at bay.

Her sisters faced Phoebe, as she struggled to create an impromptu spell. Unfortunately, this evening's events had left her in somewhat confused. And she found herself unable to think of a spell to vanquish all of the warlocks.

"What's the matter?" a concerned Piper asked. "Can't you think of a spell?"

Phoebe stared at her older sister in panic. "No. Can you?"

Olivia cried out, "Hey! What's taking you so long? I can't hold them forever!"

"Oh, uh, . . . evil that has formed here," Phoebe began. Then, "No, wait! Let's try . . . no."

An exasperated sigh left Olivia's mouth. She turned to the half-demon. "Cole! Could you, please?"

Cole nodded. Then he formed an enormous fireball in his hands and tossed it at the warlocks. Every one of them, whether they were alive, unconscious or dead, disappeared into a ball of explosion. Olivia shook her head with mild disbelief. "You are such a ham," she said with a teasing smile.

"It takes one to know one," Cole shot back. He was also smiling. Which disturbed Phoebe. Very much. She could almost feel the hot knife of jealousy, twisting in her gut.

Piper mumbled to her sisters, "Well, that's great. The Charmed Ones saved by two witches and a demon. Boy, do I feel like an eunuch." Phoebe could not have said it any better.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Here are a series of photos from "FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER", the new sequel to 2005's "THE FANTASTIC FOUR":


Thursday, September 18, 2008

"JUMPER" (2008) Review

"JUMPER" (2008) Review

Doug Liman ("THE BOURNE IDENTITY" and "MR. AND MRS. SMITH") directed this film adaptation of Steven Gould's science-fiction thriller about a young man who discovers that he has a teleportation ability as a teenager and finds himself the target of a group of bounty hunters known as Paladins. The movie stars Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, Michael Hooker and Diane Lane.

I really did not know what to expect of this movie. I have never read Gould's novel and the sequels that followed. The movie trailer looked promising. But with the film being released in February and the critics being lukewarm . . . I really was not expecting much. Lo and behold, I ended up enjoying "JUMPER" a lot.

Liman did a good job in keeping the story interesting and well paced. Hayden Christensen (dubbed "wooden" by the critics) gave a subtle, yet entertaining performance. And he seemed to have good chemistry with his co-stars Rachel Bilson and Jamie Bell. I have to admit there were times I could not understand Bell's accent, but at least he gave a solid performance. Samuel L. Jackson was particularly scary as Roland Cox, the bounty hunter (also called Paladin) who belonged to an organization that did not approve of teleporters or "Jumpers". These religious fanatics believed that people like Christensen and Bell had no right to such abilities. Only God. Hmmmm.

Judging from what I have read about Gould's novel, I can see that the film adaptation was not completely faithful. Not that it bothers me. I have never read the novel. And Hollywood - along with other film industries - never possessed the habit of being completely faithful to the literary source. But I must admit that screenwriters David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg did a pretty good job with their adaptation. Mind you, I believe that the movie could have been a little longer than 90 minutes. But it seems a little clear that the writers have set up a possible sequel in case the movie proves to be successful. However, I do wish they had cleared up two matters - 1) the fate of David Rice's father after the latter had been assaulted by Cox; and 2) the fate of David's former nemesis - high school bully Mark, after David had left him in a jail. But at least the story did not end in an abrupt manner that had left moviegoers slightly puzzled at the end of "MR. AND MRS. SMITH".

"JUMPER" is not exactly the best action film to hit the theaters. It is basically a good solid movie that will keep you entertained to the end. On the whole, I give it at least three out of four stars.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Neighbors" [PG] - 8/11


Part 8

The manor's doorbell rang constantly, luring Piper downstairs to the foyer. She reached the bottom of the staircase, strolled toward the front door and opened it. In the doorway stood a frantic Darryl Morris. "Hey Darryl," she greeted. "What brings you here?"

The police inspector brushed past Piper and into the house. "Where in the hell have you all been?" he demanded. "I've been trying to reach you all day!"

"Well, I've spent the better part of the day visiting my gynecologist and trying to book this new group for the club. Paige went to Sausalito to visit one of her Matthews cousins. And I believe Phoebe has been locked in her office all day, trying to catch up on the letters for her column. You know, now that I think about it, we've all been pretty . . ."

"Piper!" Darryl placed his hands on her shoulders. "Is everyone here, now?"

Seeing the consternation in Darryl's eyes, Piper immediately sensed trouble. "What's wrong? Has something happened?" she demanded. "Has another dead witch been found?" Before Darryl could answer, Piper called for her sisters. "Paige! Phoebe!"

A minute later, the other two Halliwells descended the staircase. "What's wrong, Piper?" Phoebe demanded. "Has something happened?"

Darryl shook his head. "Not yet. But I have some news." He paused to catch his breath. "Olivia McNeill has a lead on those warlocks you've been looking for."

"She has?" Paige demanded. "What kind of lead?"

Piper and her sisters listened with rapt attention, as Darryl revealed Olivia's discovery. It seemed the Crozat Coven owned a corporation called Malehex and one of its holdings was a San Francisco-based company called the Tower Bay Import/Export. "Did she give you an address?" Piper asked.

"Well yeah," Darryl answered, "but she said . . ."

"Never mind that," Phoebe interrupted. "What's the address?"

Darryl sighed. "_______ Bayshore Boulevard. But Olivia said . . ."

This time, Piper interrupted. "Let's go. Paige can orb us there."

"Wait a minute!" Darryl shouted. "Before you barge into there like John Wayne, I better tell you that Olivia said not to go."

The sisters stared at the inspector, as if he had lost his mind. "Why would she say that?" Paige demanded.

Barely containing his patience, Darryl continued, "Look, Olivia said to lay low, until you get a call from her. She also said something about reconnoitering the place, before going after the warlocks. Maybe you should follow her advice."

"We'd love to oblige," Piper commented sarcastically, "but we can't sit around and wait for Inspector McNeill to make plans, when there's a chance that another witch might get killed. Phoebe. Paige."

The three sisters linked hands. Before Paige could orb them out of the manor, Phoebe let out a gasp. Her eyes glazed over for a few seconds. Then she automatically released Paige's hands.

"What is it?" the youngest Charmed One asked.

After a large gulp of air, Phoebe replied, "I just had a premonition. About us. We orbed into the middle of this warehouse and got caught into this trap set by warlocks. We couldn't get out. Even without Piper's combustion power. But they were able to kill us. With daggers."

Both Piper and Paige fell silent. Darryl added, "Now will you wait for Olivia's call?"

Paige was the first to recover from Phoebe's revelation. "I say we should leave now. Like Phoebe said, it's better we go after those warlocks than take the chance of another witch getting killed."

"What about my premonition?" Phoebe asked uneasily.

The oldest Halliwell responded, "Paige can orb us outside the warehouse. Phoebe?" The latter took hold of Paige's other hand. And the Charmed Ones orbed out of the manor.

* * * *

Harry McNeill sat in the middle of his bedroom at the McNeill manor, deep in meditation. Just as his mind visualized himself stepping on that last stone toward the hut - his sacred place - a vision flashed before his eyes. A vision of the Charmed Ones being trapped in a warehouse filled with warlock. He let out a gasp and his eyes flew open.

Did he just . . .? Was that a premonition he had just witnessed? But it was impossible! Harry knew that he did not possess the power of premonition. Like his grandmother Elise, he was a telepath. He read and had the power to control the minds of others. So had he read someone else's premonition?

The only person he knew that had such a power was the middle Charmed One - Phoebe Halliwell. And since that vision involved the Halliwells, Harry could only conclude that they might be in danger. Unless Phoebe's premonition had convinced them to change plans.

Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes. If only he could focus upon Phoebe's thoughts again. Or those that belonged to the other Halliwells. After another few minutes of meditation, Harry made a psychic connection to another Halliwell. Piper. The sisters had just appeared outside the warehouse. Which meant there was a good chance they might be in danger, after all.

Fearful of any possible trouble, Harry called for his siblings' former whitelighter. "Leo! LEE-OO!" The whitelighter failed to appear. The twenty-five year-old heaved a frustrated sigh, reached for his telephone and dialed the number to his sister's cell phone.

* * * *

"Are you sure?" Olivia demanded. She stood off to the side of an empty corridor, inside the police station.

Harry's voice replied, "Yeah, I'm sure. I think I might have read one of Phoebe Halliwell's premonitions. That's one of her powers, right?"

Olivia took a deep breath and mentally cursed the Halliwells. They obviously decided not to heed Darryl's message, after he told them about the warehouse. Unless . . . "Maybe we don't have anything to worry about," she said to Harry. "Maybe they decided to wait for me after Phoebe's premonition."

"I'm afraid not, Livy." A pause followed, before Harry spoke up. "I managed to read the thoughts of another Halliwell. Piper, I think. They had decided to go to the warehouse, after all. Despite the premonition. And I can't reach Leo."

Another curse escaped Olivia's mouth. Then she sighed. "Okay. Listen. Get ready to leave and pick a few vials of Mom's vanquishing potions, while you're at it. I'll be there in a few minutes."

"A few . . . How?"

"Trust me, I'll find a way," Olivia quickly replied. "Just be ready." She disconnected the line, before dialing a new number. One that belonged to Cole Turner's penthouse.

After a few rings, Phoebe Halliwell's ex-husband answered, "Hello?"

"Cole!" Olivia declared in breathless relief. "This is Olivia McNeill. I need your help. It's about those warlocks that have been killing wit . . ." A second later, Cole appeared before her, looking concerned. "Wow! That was quick!"

Cole said in a curt voice, "You said something about warlocks. Where are they?"

"Actually, I know where they are. The problem is that Darryl told Phoebe and her sisters about the warlocks and there's a good chance they might be in trouble. We need to pick up Harry, first."

Cole took hold of Olivia's hand. "Okay. Let's go." And the pair disappeared from the corridor.

* * * *

Less than a minute later, Olivia, Cole and Harry reappeared in the parking lot of Tower Bay Imports/Exports. And the Charmed Ones were no where to be seen. "Where are they?" Olivia vented in frustration.

Harry closed his eyes for a few seconds. Then, "Inside. They've just been captured. I wonder just how powerful these warlocks are? I mean, they captured the Charmed Ones?"

A grim Cole replied, "Why don't we find out?" He strode toward the building. The two McNeills followed. Soon, all three found themselves peeking through one of the building's low windows.

The trio glanced inside and saw the Charmed Ones trapped within a dome-shaped force field. Piper Halliwell seemed to be making some kind of effort to break through the trap, using magic. But to no avail.

"It's useless," Phillip Crozat declared triumphantly. "You can't break free. Not even with the Power of Three. We found an old spell that once belonged to the Seer - you remember her, don't you? She had used it to create an inescapable cage. Mind you, our trap is not as powerful as hers - alone. But with the power of the coven, along with those belonging to three witches we've killed - it's impregnable. Even the old Source would find it difficult to escape.

Phoebe shot back, "It's a shame you didn't think of that, some years ago."

Nodding, Crozat added, "You're right about that. But with the Triad, the Seer alive and the Brotherhood of the Thorn breathing down our necks, we could have never created such a trap. Or attempt to grab control of the Source’s Realm. But thanks to you, both the Source and the Seer are gone for good. And the demonic world is in chaos . . ."

Olivia returned her attention back to Cole and Harry. "Okay," she whispered, "does anyone have a plan?"

Both men stared at her in shock. "What are you talking about? Don't you have a plan?" Cole demanded.

"Of course not! I had thought about coming up with something with the Charmed Ones. Unfortunately, they decided to attack head on like Custer at Little Big Horn!"

Cole grumbled, "All right! I get the picture." Then he sighed. "I think . . . I think I might have a plan. Or at least a distraction. If I can . . ."

Harry interrupted with a muted cry. "Someone's coming!"

Sure enough, a figure clad in black appeared from around the corner. Another Crozat, Olivia surmised. She hissed at Cole, "Get rid of him!"

"Like what? Kill him?"

Olivia shot back, "Well do something! Now!"

The warlock finally caught sight of the trio. Before he could do anything, Cole turned into an innate object. A pebble. Olivia sighed with relief and she, along with her two companions, returned their attention to the conversation inside.

A dagger appeared in Phillip Crozat's hand. The same happened with the other warlocks inside the warehouse. They all moved toward the trapped Charmed Ones. "What's that for?" an obviously disturbed Paige asked.

Phillip Crozat's thin lips stretched into an evil grin. "To kill you, of course. And steal your powers."

Piper asked, "How do you propose to do that, with us inside this trap?"

"I forgot to mention." Crozat tossed his athame back and forth in his hands. "Although you're unable to get out, our magic can get inside. Like the Seer's cage." He raised the knife, using telekinesis. The other warlocks followed his example.

Olivia turned to Cole. "I think it's time to use your plan," she whispered. "When do we attack?"

"When I kill a second warlock," the half-demon murmured.

Harry frowned. "A second?"

But Cole blurred out of view before an explanation could be given.


Friday, September 12, 2008

A Look Back at "STAR TREK VOYAGER: (5.08) Nothing Human"

A Look Back at "STAR TREK VOYAGER: (5.08) Nothing Human"

I came across an old episode of "STAR TREK VOYAGER" that I have not seen in a long time. It is a Season Five episode called "Nothing Human". And I must say that without a doubt, it is one of the most ambiguous Trek episodes I have ever seen.

In the episode, Voyager's crew found a stranded vessel with a wounded alien on board. Once the creature is beamed to Sickbay, Torres discovered that it uses biochemical secretions to give commands. Unfortunately, the alien attacked Torres, puncturing her neck and secreting fluids into her bloodstream. Unaware of how to extract the creature without harming Torres, the Doctor and Kim created a hologram of a leading exobiologist named Crell Moset — a Cardassian. And there the trouble began.

Torres eventually gained consciousness long enough to learn from Paris about the Doctor's new consultant and objected against him. Her main objection to Crell Moset was not his status as a war criminal that had killed many Bajorans. Her main objection seemed to have been focused upon the fact that he was a Cardassian. In other words, Torres' objection was centered around her own bigotry and not moral outrage.

And then we have Captain Janeway. Granted, she was not guilty of hypocricy or bad judgment. She really did not care less how the Doctor saved Torres' life. And I believe that she was right to give the Doctor permission to operate on Torres. Voyager needed its Chief Engineer and Torres was not in any condition to make an official objection. However, Janeway handled her confrontation with Torres very badly. She could have shown some sensitivity, despite Torres' hostility. Instead, she lost her temper (underneath the cool facade) and confronted the Chief Engineer in a manner that bordered on insensitivity - during a moment that called for sensitivity. Or she should have left Torres' quarters before tempers flared.

And judging from his behavior, one might suspect that the Crell Moset hologram was more interested in experimenting on the alien than saving Torres' life. He claimed to the Doctor that he had objected to Cardassia's occupation of Bajor. Yet, despite this "objection", Moset obviously had not been above using Bajorans for his medical experiments. Apparently, using his fellow Cardassians had been above him. This attitude seemed to have manifested in his handling of the alien that had latched itself to Torres.

But the biggest hypocrite turned out to be the Doctor - the very person who had originally argued for the use of the Crell Moset hologram. He had seemed willing to accept Moset's assistance . . . until he learned about the latter's past. And yet, he continued to use Moset as a guide for Torres' operation. Once Janeway left him with the decision to either keep the Crell Moset hologram in the ship's computer system or delete it, the Doctor decided upon the latter.

Personally, I have a deep suspicion that his true reason for deleting Moset's program came from resentment over having his hypocricy exposed by the Cardassian hologram. His arguments against Moset's medical procedures seemed to be a moot point. After all, why continue using medical procedures that had originally been gained from medical experiments on lower animals centuries ago, and not humanoids? Why would the Doctor contiued to use the knowledge of Moset's medical procedures to save Torres? Either one should accept all medical procedures developed over the years or reject them all.

I can understand the Doctor's willingness to rid Voyager of the Crell Moset hologram. But he could have retained the knowledge gained from Moset in the ship's program. Especially if he was willing to use it to save Torres' life . . . even after learning about Moset's past.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"SPEED RACER" Cartoon Pre-1990s Opening and Closing Credits

Here is a clip of the opening and closing credits of the American version of the cartoon first released in the 1960s. Enjoy:

"SPEED RACER" Cartoon Pre-1990s Opening and Closing Credits

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"JUMPER" (2008) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery of photos from the new science-fiction thriller called, "JUMPER". The movie stars Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, Michael Hooker and Diane Lane:

"JUMPER" (2008) Photo Gallery"

Friday, September 5, 2008



At least ten years or more must have passed since I last saw the 1969 Bond movie, “ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (OHMSS)”. EON Production’s sixth entry in the Bond franchise has the distinction of being the only movie that starred Australian male model-turned-actor, George Lazenby. It was the first EON movie that did not star Sean Connery – already fixed in the public’s mind as the only actor who can portray James Bond. And it was the only movie that was directed by former film editor, Peter Hunt.

I first became aware of “OHMSS” back in the mid-1980s. I had seen it on television once, when I was a child. But ABC Television’s botched editing had turned me off from the movie. I eventually became a fan during repeated viewings of the movie during the mid and late 1980s. By the beginning of the 1990s, “OHMSS” had been fixed as my favorite Bond movie. For years, it remained in this position, despite repeating viewings of other Bond movies, the release of the Brosnan films and my own mysterious reluctance to watch “OHMSS”. It seemed as if I was afraid to watch it again, fearful that my earlier adulation of the film might prove to be misguided. And then EON Productions released the new Bond film, “CASINO ROYALE” in the theaters. The latest entry in the Bond franchise had impressed me so much that my doubts about “OHMSS” increased even further. After seeing “CASINO ROYALE” for the third time, I finally decided to watch “OHMSS” for the first time in years.

In the end, my fears seemed groundless. My latest viewing of “OHMSS” proved that I had every right to view it as one of my all time favorite Bond movies. After 37 years, the movie still holds up as one of the finest Bond movies in the entire franchise, if not the finest. And it also one of the few Bond films to closely follow its source, namely the 1963 novel penned by Ian Fleming. What makes the latter remarkable is that the previous Bond entry, “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE” barely resembled its literary source, aside from a few characters and the setting.

“OHMSS” picks up with Bond searching for Blofeld, now wanted by various governments for his past forays into international terrorism and extortion. His search leads to meeting the most important woman in his life other than Vesper Lynd – Teresa (Tracy) Draco di Vicenzo. Not only will his meeting with Tracy lead to a serious change in his private life, it will also affect his professional life, thanks to Tracy’s father, Marc-Ange Draco when he provides Bond with information leading to Blofeld. Of course, Draco was only willing to provide this information, if Bond courts his daughter. In the end, Bond not only tracks down Blofeld, but destroy the latter’s latest attempt to extort the United Nations. But as many know, Bond’s latest professional conflict will result in tragedy for his private life.

I only have a few problems with “OHMSS”. One of them was the director Peter Hunt’s decision to have actor George Baker (portraying the real Sir Hilary Bray), dub Lazenby’s voice, while Bond is impersonating Sir Hilary at Piz Gloria. Why they had decided to do this confounds me. It seemed very unnecessary, unless the director was aiming for Sir Hilary to sound like a clichĂ© of a British scholar. Another problem I had were some of the jokes that came out of Bond’s mouth. I consider this problem minor, since “OHMSS” – like many other Bond movies (good or bad) had its share of bad jokes. One particularly good joke was the St. Bernard who came to Bond’s “rescue” after the latter had survived his bobsled fight against Blofeld. And last, but not least, there were a few moments when the editing seemed a bit . . . questionable. A good example would be the scene that featured Bond’s first meeting with Draco. There is a moment when it seemed that Bond had asked Draco for Blofeld’s whereabouts. It seemed as if Lazenby had spoken too soon, cutting off actor Gabriele Ferzetti’s lines too soon. Another viewing seemed to reveal that poor editing might have been at fault and not Lazenby’s acting. And another review seemed to agree with my findings.

Aside from the previously mentioned quibbles, I had no problems with “OHMSS”. In fact there is so much to enjoy about this movie – including the main star, George Lazenby. Many critics and fans either tend to dismiss his performance as wooden or give him minor credit for his valiant attempt at a decent performance. Frankly, I think that he was a lot better than many give him credit for. I must admit that he has a rather odd voice (which I suspect has been influenced by his Australian accent), but so did most of the other Bonds – including Connery’s tendency to indulge in pre-adolescent diction, Moore’s drawl, Dalton’s Welsh accent and Brosnan’s . . . well, I cannot really describe Brosnan’s voice. I just find it odd. But despite Lazenby’s odd voice, his acting comes off very natural and he seems to project Bond’s emotions with an ease that should not have come easy to him. But he does. And instead of portraying Bond as some kind of action/sexual icon, he portrays the character as very human. This is very obvious in the following scenes:

-Bond’s growing impatience with Tracy’s antics
-Bond’s surprise that M had given him leave instead of accepting his resignation
-Bond’s breakthrough with Tracy
-the Piz Gloria dinner sequence
-Bond’s fear of capture during his escape from Piz Gloria
-Bond’s proposal of marriage to Tracy
-Bond’s quarrel with M over Tracy and Blofeld
-Tracy’s death

Personally, I thought that Lazenby really shined in the marriage proposal scene, those scenes that featured Bond’s quarrels with M and the Piz Gloria dinner sequence. Despite having his voice dubbed by George Baker in the latter, Lazenby managed to express Bond’s emotions during that scene effortlessly without having to say a word.

The movie also benefited from the presence of Diana Rigg, who had recently left “THE AVENGERS” to begin a movie career. What can one say about the great Diana? Not only did she effortlessly combine all the complex personality traits of Tracy di Vicenzo – witty, emotional, sad, brave, determined, etc. Is it any wonder that Tracy is viewed by many actresses as the ultimate Bond woman? Even better, both Rigg and Lazenby managed to create great chemistry together as the romantically doomed pair.

Not only did “OHMSS” benefited from both Lazenby and Rigg’s performances, the pair was ably supported by a fine cast that included the warm and charismatic Gabriele Ferzetti as Tracy’s father, the talented Ilse Steppat who portrayed the intimidating Irma Bunt shortly before her death (she never lived to experience the movie’s release), the always dependable Bernard Lee as M – giving one of his better performances, and the charming and fun Angela Scoular as Blofeld’s English patient, Ruby. Of course one cannot forget the legendary Telly Savalas, who became the second actor to portray Ernst Blofeld on-screen. And as far as I’m concerned, he was the best. He was not impeded by Donald Pleasance’s ridiculous scar and questionable accent or Charles Gray’s foppish portrayal. Instead, he radiated intelligence and menace, making him the only Blofeld (in my opinion) worthy of being Bond’s nemesis.

I also have to commend Peter Hunt’s direction. “OHMSS” was his first time at bat as a director. Any other inexperienced director could have turned one of Ian Fleming’s best novels into a hash job. Fortunately, Hunt proved to be a talented director and did justice to the novel – although I did have a problem with the editing of a few of his scenes. Hunt was not only ably supported by a fine cast, but by screenwriter Richard Maibaum, editor and future director John Glen, and John Barry’s marvelous score and Hal David’s haunting lyrics to the song, “We Have All the Time In the World”. Cinematographer Michael Reed superbly recaptured the majesty of the Swiss Alps and the exotic elegance of Portugal with his photography. And one cannot forget skier Willy Bogner Jr. and Alex Barbey for creating the first and probably best ski chase in the Bond franchise.

I could probably go on about how much I love “OHMSS”, but I do not want to sound repetitive. What can I say? After 38 years, I consider to still be one of the best Bond movies in the franchise . . . and definitely one of my favorites. And I am happy to see that “OHMSS” is finally being recognized by many as the fine film it is. If you have not seen this film, I suggest that you rent or buy it as soon as possible. Or else you will be missing something special.

Below are some memorable lines from the movie:

Memorable Lines

Draco: My apologies for the way you were brought here. I wasn't sure you'd accept a *formal* invitation.
Bond: There's always something formal about the point of a pistol.

[a bad guy chasing Bond skis into a snow blower, which then spews red snow]
Bond: He had a lot of guts.

Sir Hilary Bray: Our methods are very exacting. We never like to speak until we're *absolutely* certain that there can be no possibility of error on our side or... forgery on anyone else's.
Bond: I hope I can live up to your high standards.

Tracy: You're hurting me.
Bond: I thought that was the idea for tonight.

Bond: [to the camera] This never happened to the other fellow.

Draco: She likes you, I can see it.
Bond: You must give me the name of your oculist.

Tracy: Why do you persist in rescuing me, Mr. Bond?
Bond: It's becoming quite a habit, isn't it, Contessa Teresa?
Tracy: Teresa was a Saint; I'm known as Tracy.
Bond: Well, Tracy, next time play it safe and stand on 5.
Tracy: People who want to stay *alive* play it safe.
Bond: Please, stay alive! At least for tonight.

[a girl writes on Bond's leg under the table, to which Bond makes an awkward face]
Irma Bunt: Is anything ze matter, Sir Hilary?
Bond: Just a slight stiffness coming on... in the shoulder.

Blofeld: Merry Christmas, 007.
Bond: [as Hillary Bray] I'm Sir Hillary Bray.
Blofeld: No no no, Mr. Bond. Respectable baronets from the College of Heralds do *not* seduce female patients in clinics. On the other hand, they do get their professional details... *right*. The De Bleauchamps tombs are *not* in the Augsburg Cathedral as you said, but in the Ste. Anna Kirsch. Sir Hillary Bray would have known.
Blofeld: [beat] A small slip. Takes more than a few props to turn 007 into a Herald. [breaks Bond's glasses]
Bond: [normal voice] It'll take more than cutting off your earlobes, Blofeld, to turn you into a Count.

[M refuses to authorize an attack on Blofeld]
Bond: And the girl who helped me escape? We just leave her there?
M: This department is not concerned with your personal problems.
Bond: This department owes her a *debt*. She saved my life.
M: Operation Bedlam is DEAD! Do you understand, 007?
Bond: Yes, Sir. I understand.

[Bond has realized what Blofeld is really up to]
Bond: Allergy vaccines? Bacteria. Bacteriological Warfare.
Blofeld: With a difference. Our big breakthrough since last summer has been the confection of a certain... Virus Omega.
Bond: Infertility.
Blofeld: TOTAL Infertility! In plants and animals. Not just disease in a few herds, Mr. Bond. Or the loss of a single crop. But the desturction of a whole strain. Forever! Throughout an entire continent.

[Blofeld wants to share his life with Tracy]
Blofeld: Now, if you're very, very nice to me. I could make you my Countess.
Tracy: But I'm already a Countess.
Blofeld: Whereas if you displease me, I can promise you a very *different* estate.

Bond: [Tracy has just been shot and killed] It's all right. It's quite all right, really. She's having a rest. We'll be going on soon. There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.

10/10 stars

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Neighbors" [PG] - 7/11


Part 7

Olivia spent half of the following morning at the police station, waiting for her friend's response to the e-mail message she had sent. And thinking about last night's dinner with Cole Turner.

The half-demon had done more than just tell her about his experience as the Source. Olivia also learned about his life as Belthazor and his experiences with the Halliwells from the past two years. Namely, the deal he had made with the Triad, his attempts on the Charmed Ones' lives, falling in love with Phoebe Halliwell, being hunted by demonic bounty hunters, the death of his mentor, Raynor, those trying months following Prue Halliwell's death, losing Belthazor to a vengeful woman, adjusting to mortality and finally, the circumstances that led to the Source's possession of his body. Cole also talked about being trapped in the Wasteland and acquiring his new demonic powers. Along with his failed attempts to win back Phoebe. Including his part in the recent death of a well-known slum lord.

In all, Olivia felt as if she had relived an engrossing, supernatural saga on good, evil, love and betrayal. Cole's life story would have made a great novel. Or autobiography. She could see the title now - "THE DAEMON FORMERLY KNOWN AS BELTHAZOR". Or perhaps "LIFE OF A DEMONIC ASSASSIN", or perhaps even "WITCHES AND DAEMONS IN LOVE". What amazed Olivia was that Cole and Phoebe's story bore a strong resemblance to her experiences with Richard. Except for the tragic ending. Cole still might have a chance to start over again with Phoebe Halliwell. At least, once she realizes that he had also been traumatized by the Source and the Seer's machinations. And Cole stops trying too hard to win her back.

Olivia contemplated the idea of a reunion between her neighbor and his ex-wife. For some reason, the idea did not really appeal to her. Her gut instinct told her that unless the middle Charmed One learned to accept Cole for himself, there would be no true happiness between them. And Olivia deeply suspected that accepting Cole was something that the Halliwells could not easily accomplish.

"Hey!" Darryl's voice snapped Olivia out of her thoughts. She glanced up and caught her colleague standing in front of her desk. "You've been staring at that laptop all morning. Are you some Internet addict, or something?"

Olivia gave Darryl a cool look. "I've been waiting for a message. From a friend of mine in Seattle. If you must know."

Darryl eased into the chair, opposite the redhead. "Seattle? What's there?"

"I had received a tip on those . . ." Olivia paused and glanced around. She wanted to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. ". . . on those warlocks." Her voice grew soft.

Dark eyes narrowed. "What kind of tip? From Cole Turner?"

Olivia heaved a frustrated sigh. "Oh God! Darryl, you're not going to start another lecture on not trusting him, again. Are you?"

"Look, you have no idea how dangerous he can be."

A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "Trust me, I have a pretty good idea." She paused, as her eyes returned to the computer screen. "In fact, I have more than a good idea. What would you say if I told you that I was once engaged to a warlock?"

Darryl's eyes flew wide open. "A war . . . What . . . What happened to him?"

Olivia struggled to quell a surge of grief. Her eyes focused on Darryl again, as she quietly said, "Richard was killed, while trying to save my mother and me."

"Oh." Darryl glanced away, unable to meet her eyes. "I'm sorry."

A bitter smile formed on Olivia's lips. "So am I. You know, Cole reminds me of Richard. At least on the surface. They have the same sarcasm. And air of loneliness. Only Richard wasn't as reserved as Cole. And his tastes weren't so . . . I don't know, expensive."

Darryl added, "But I bet your Richard never betrayed you in the end. Did he?"

"No," Olivia replied shortly. "He didn't. But are you so sure that Cole betrayed Phoebe in the end? Or were there other forces involved?"

Despite the chatter that surrounded them, Olivia and Darryl stared at each other in silence. Then Darryl began, "Are you talking about his clai . . .?"

Olivia's computer laptop beeped. "You've got mail," it announced. She immediately tore her attention away from Darryl and concentrated on the computer screen. Using her mouse, she clicked on the new message:

"To: Liv71@aol.com
Subject: Malehex Corp.
From: DGraySPD@hotmail.com
Date: Mon, _ Nov 2002 09:39:16

Malehex Corp has one holding in Frisco. Check out Tower
Bay Imports/Exports Co at _______ Bayshore Blvd. Phillip
Crozat, company director. Hope this helps.


"Got 'em!" Olivia declared triumphantly. "Tower Bay Import/Export. Now that name sounds familiar. Ever heard of it?" she asked Darryl.

The other inspector frowned. "Yeah. It's an exclusive company that imports and exports stuff like rare antiquities, expensive perishables - mainly food delicacies from other countries, and bond certificates. That sort of thing."

"Rare antiquities, huh?" Olivia became thoughtful. "Great way to distribute certain items to other warlock covens and demonic orders."

Darryl looked shocked. "You mean to say that Tower Bay is owned by warlo . . .?" He paused, as an office clerk walked by. "By warlocks?"

"The Malehex Corporation," Olivia clarified. "Which happens to be owned by the Crozat Coven."

"I better tell the Halliwells about this." Darryl stood up.

Olivia grabbed his arm. "Wait a minute, Darryl. When you do, tell them not to do anything."

"Why not?" Darryl demanded.

"Because I want to find out what we're in for. Reconnoiter the place. Get a layout. From what Cole told me, the Crozat Coven is pretty large. And I'm not in the habit of charging in like some overzealous idiot." Olivia reached for the telephone. Darryl asked whom she was calling. "The one person who can help me, right now. Well, actually there are two, but I don't think Bruce will be available, this afternoon."

Confusion whirled in Darryl's eyes. "So, who are you calling?"

Olivia shook her head. "Don't worry. I'm not calling Cole." She reached for her telephone. "And don't forget what I said. Tell the Halliwells to stay away, until I reach them." Darryl nodded and walked away. Olivia dialed the number to the McNeill manor.

* * * *

"Thanks for helping me out, Dad," Olivia said to her father, as she drove the car along Bayshore Boulevard. "I hope you weren't forced to interrupt anything."

Jack McNeill dismissed Olivia's worries with a wave of his hand. "You didn't interrupt a thing. I had already finished a board meeting. And the only other thing I had scheduled was a golf game with Cameron Douglas."

Olivia frowned. "Cameron Douglas? You can barely stand him. Has this anything to do with Mr. Douglas' sudden desire to retire? And his company?"

"Maybe," Jack replied airily. His blue-gray eyes radiated innocence. "Besides, I like golf. I think I can survive one game with Douglas."

A smirk formed on Olivia's lips. "Yeah Dad. Sure." She stopped the car at an intersection. "The least said, the better. Right?"

Jack's mouth twisted into a knowing smile. "Sometimes, Olivia, I think you know me too well." He glanced around the car's interior. "This isn't a police car, is it?"

The light turned green and Olivia stepped on the gas. "Not quite. I borrowed this from a friend at the U.S. Customs office. I have to return it before someone realizes that it's missing."

"Ah," Jack said, nodding. "You don't want this car traced to the police."

"That's right. If they had sent a warlock after me, they must know I'm a cop. And I don't want them to know I'm on their trail."

Jack continued, "Which is why you asked me to join you, this afternoon."

Olivia smiled. "You know me too well." She spotted a wide, one-story building to her left. Black letters across the top read: TOWER BAY IMPORTS/EXPORTS. "There it is," she commented.

"How did you find out about this place?" Jack asked.

"I traced it through a friend of mine in the Seattle Police. It's owned by a Seattle-based corporation called MALEHEX."

Jack's eyes widened. "Malehex? Of course! I should have known," he groaned. "I forgot that Malehex was owned by a warlock coven. I just didn't know which one. Who told you about them?"

"Cole. He used to be part of the Brotherhood of the Thorn, which has done business with the Crozats."

One of Jack's brows jumped upward. "Really?"

"Does that bother you?" Olivia asked in an anxious voice. "That I had asked for Cole's help?"

Her father shrugged. "Isn't that what Harry had suggested?"

"Yeah." Olivia stopped the car for a second, before she made a left into Tower Bay's parking lot.

Jack continued, "I bet the Halliwells won't be thrilled, when they find out."

Olivia snorted. "Do I look like I care?" She eased the car into a parking space. "I think I had made myself perfectly clear, yesterday."

"You don't like them very much, do you? The Halliwells, I mean."

A gust of breath left Olivia's mouth. "Dad, did I say anything of the kind? Besides, the only two Halliwells I personally knew, are dead. Prue and Aunt Penny."

"Uh-huh. But you don't like them. Am I right?" Jack insisted. He stared at Olivia. Who found it difficult to meet his eyes. "Look, honey, I realize they seem a bit self-righteous. Come to think of it, one could say the same about both Aunt Penny and Patty."

Olivia added darkly, "And Prue."

"Yeah, well self-righteous or not, they're not bad people. In fact," Jack paused, "I'm sure that they can be pretty nice. They must be, or Cole would have never stuck with them for so long."

Olivia switched off the car's engine. "I guess you're right. But we can talk about the Halliwells, later. It's showtime."

Jack nodded. He sat still for a moment. Within a blink of an eye, his body transformed into another body. He went from a six-foot-one man with graying chestnut hair, blue-gray eyes and ruggedly handsome features, to a stocky, forty-something man with gray eyes and blond hair. "How do I look?" he asked his daughter.

"Even better looking" Olivia joked wryly. "It's my turn." Jack leaned toward her and waved his hand in front of his daughter with one swipe. Olivia immediately transformed into a man - a tall, thin man with dark-brown hair and a perpetual frown. Olivia felt a certain physical addition between her legs. She squirmed. "Gee Dad, did you have to change me into a man?"

A smirk appeared on the older man's lips. "What's the matter? Afraid I won't be able to change you back?"

Olivia shook her head. "Sometimes Dad, I wonder how Mom has been able to deal with that sense of humor of yours, for so long. Let's go." Daughter and father stepped out of the car. Olivia handed Jack a phony U.S. Customs badge and the pair proceeded toward the building.

* * * *

Phillip Crozat eyed the new visitors warily. This was the company's second visit from the U.S. Customs in over a month. One visit could be construed as a nuisance. But this second visit . . . The warlock began to wonder if the company had attracted any unwanted attention from the Federal government.

His cousin, Andre wanted to kill the two customs inspectors. In case they discover something. Phillip pointed out there was nothing inside the warehouse to discover - aside from several boxes of stock certificates. Unless some idiot had left traces of the last witch they lured here.

Irritation rose within Phillip. With the exception of the witch they had killed at Candlestick Park, two days ago, the coven has been encountering a great deal of bad luck in acquiring witches' powers. The Charmed Ones prevented Cousin Simone from killing the mother of that unborn witch, last Wednesday. And a witch from the powerful McNeill Coven had killed Cousin Stephen, the following night. Phillip had them marked for retribution. But to go after such powerful witches required more fire power. With the powers of the Charmed Ones and the McNeills, the Crozat Coven could become rulers of the Underworld.

The sulky-looking inspector strode up to Phillip. "Looks like everything's in order," he said with a scowl. The man almost seemed disappointed.

Phillip haughtily replied, "I could have told you that. Tower Bay has been one of the most prestigious trading companies on the West Coast."

A sniff from the Customs inspector was the response. The scowling man added, "That's what George DeMere of DeMere Imports said. Two days before we discovered illegal arms in his warehouse. He was part of a big arms smuggling ring and have reason to believe that another company is involved." He turned to his companion, a stocky man with blond hair. "Hey Dan! Find anything back there?"

Seconds later, the other Customs inspector emerged from the back. "Everything's A-okay, Pete!"

Inspector Peter Zwick rolled his eyes. "Right. Let's get out of here."

To Phillip's relief, the Customs inspectors finally left the warehouse. The warlock ordered one of his minions to follow them and make sure they had left. "Think they might be a problem?" Cousin Andre asked.

Phillip shook his head. "I don't think so. But I want to make sure they really are customs agents." The minion returned inside the warehouse, breathing heavily. "Well?" Phillip demanded.

"I saw . . . them leave in a car with . . ." The minion panted between words. ". . . with government plates. U.S."

Andre said, "I guess they're genuine."

"Maybe so," Phillip replied. "But two visits within a month? And this visit just three or four days after Cousin Stephen failed to kill a witch - who happens to be a cop? I don't know." His eyes narrowed. "But in case they had been sent by that witch, I think we should prepare that trap. Just in case we have more visitors." His lips formed a thin smile.