Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - 4/18




"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 4

Olivia and Cecile strode inside the police squad room, attracting admiring glances from the former's co-workers. And a hard stare from her partner.

Darryl stabbed a finger at the squad room's clock. "Do you see that?" he demanded. "Exactly what time is it?"

"Eight after ten," Olivia coolly replied. "And if you're trying to point out that I'm late, don't bother. I had called the Captain and told him that I would be late, this morning."

Darryl's shoulder's sagged. "Thanks a lot. And I was about to give you a good tongue lashing." His eyes fell upon Cecile. "Who's this?"

"This is my friend, Cecile Dubois," Olivia answered.

"Oh? The one from New Orleans?" Darryl nodded at the other woman. "Hey, nice to meet you. I'm Olivia's partner, Darryl Morris."

For the first time, Olivia noticed that her friend seemed to be in a trance. Frowning, she gave Cecile a slight jab in the side. "Cecile? This is Darryl Morris, my partner," she repeated.

"Huh?" Cecile blinked. "Oh, nice to meet you." Her eyes roamed appreciatively over the tall man, as she shook his hand.

Knowing what was on her friend's mind, Olivia quickly hissed into the latter's ear, "He's married."

"I see the wedding ring," Cecile hissed back.

Darryl's gaze shifted between the two women. "What are you whispering about?"

Cecile quickly replied, "Nothing. Well, it's nice to finally meet you, Darryl." Once again, there seemed to be a glazed expression on her face.

Both Olivia and Darryl stared at her. "Is there something wrong?" the latter asked. "You seemed a bit . . . I don't know. Preoccupied?"

Cecile flashed a quick smile - one that seemed much too bright to suit Olivia. "No, no! I'm fine. I was . . . uh, just thinking of some errands I have to run. A little shopping." She turned to Olivia. "Livy, mind if I borrow your car, today? I'll pick you up, this afternoon. What time do you get off?"

Taken aback by her friend's mercurial behavior, Olivia hesitated before she answered, "Uh, around four-thirty. Don't forget that we'll be having dinner with my parents, tonight." She began digging into her purse for her keys. "Are you sure that you're okay, Cecile?"

"I'm fine. Just a little tired. After I finish shopping, I'm going to take a long afternoon nap." Cecile smiled as Olivia handed her the keys. "Well, I'll see you later. Nice meeting you, Darryl." And she strode out of the squad room.

The two partners continued to stare at Cecile's retreating form. Darryl turned to Olivia. "What was that about?" he asked.

Olivia shrugged. "I have no idea. Maybe she's just tired." Then she recalled the gasp Cecile made when the latter first met Cole. "Then again . . ." Still deep in thought, she headed for her desk.

Darryl followed. "Then again . . . what?" He eased into the chair, behind his desk and leaned forward. "You know, she reminds me of Phoebe Halliwell, a little. Especially when Phoebe would get a premonition." He paused and frowned. "Is your friend . . . like you? And the Halliwells?"

After a moment's pause, Olivia shook her head. "No, not quite."

"What do you mean . . . not quite?"

Olivia glanced around to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. "Cecile is a Vodoun priestess, not a witch. Her family practices Vodoun."

Darryl frowned. "Practice what?"

Olivia leaned forward and hissed, "Vodoun. Otherwise known in Hollywood circles as Voodoo."

Darryl's eyes grew wide with horror. "Are you kidding ME?" His voice boomed throughout the squad room, attracting stares. He sighed and lowered his voice. "If she practices this . . . what exactly are her powers?"

"Telepathy and premonitions."

Darryl stood up. "That's it. Something is wrong. I don't know, but if your friend is the same as Phoebe, something doesn't bode well for me. Let's go. Maybe we can catch up with her in the parking lot." He grabbed his jacket and started toward the door.

Heaving a sigh, Olivia slid out of her chair, grabbed her jacket and followed her partner out of the squad room.

* * * *

The intercom on Cole's desk buzzed. His secretary, Eleanor, announced, "Your eleven o'clock appointment has arrived, Mr. Turner."

"Okay, Eleanor. Thanks. Send her in."

Eleanor replied crisply, "Yes, Mr. Turner." Over a month ago, Barbas, the Demon of Fear had plotted to steal his powers, by manipulating his mind. The former tricked Cole into believing that Lauren, his first secretary, was actually an unforgiving Phoebe bent upon convincing him that he was evil. In a desperate attempt to cease what he believed to be Phoebe's endless words, Cole nearly strangled Lauren. He eventually managed to convince both Lauren and his bosses that some stranger at a party he had attended the night before, had drugged his drink with a hallucinogenic. Thanks to a police officer working on a case involving recent assaults upon wealthy partygoers, the firm's owners and Laurel seemed willing to accept Cole's explanation. Laurel also accepted Cole's apology. But she refused to continue as his secretary. Cole did not blame her. Instead of crying over spilled milk, he decided hired someone new upon his return to the firm. Namely Eleanor.

The door to his office swung open and Eleanor escorted a beautiful woman with pale skin, dark eyes and dark shoulder-length hair inside. Cole's eyes swept appreciatively over the visitor's lithe figure and elegant appearance. A scent of orange blossoms surrounded her. Not bad at all, he thought. She could prove to be quite interesting for a night or two on the town.

Cole flashed a smile at his new visitor. "Good morning, Miss . . .?"

"Mrs. Maxwell. Suzanne Maxwell." She smiled and offered her hand to Cole. "And you're Mr. Cole Turner, I believe?"

"Just call me Cole. Why don't you have a seat?" Cole indicated one of the empty chairs on the other side of his desk. He turned to his secretary. "Eleanor, why don't you get Mrs. Maxwell a drink? A . . .?"

The new client spoke up. "I'd like a cup of coffee, thank you very much. And you can call me Suzanne." Again, she smiled. It struck Cole odd that her voice reminded him of Olivia's.

Once Eleanor left to fetch Suzanne her coffee, Cole settled in the leather chair behind his desk. "So," he began, "how may I help you?"

Suzanne Maxwell explained that following a year after her husband's death, she had decided to move to San Francisco. Not only was she interested in finding a new attorney to handle her affairs, but she also needed help in investing in property in the Bay Area. "Back in Vancouver," she continued, "my husband and I had created a non-profit organization that provided housing and jobs for the needy. I would like to create something similar here in San Francisco."

Cole took a deep breath. "Well, I can think of a few real estate agents you might consider meeting with. But first, let's see about establishing your file with the firm."

"Does that mean you will consider me as a client?" Suzanne leaned forward, her eyes wide and appealing. Orange blossoms filled Cole's nostrils.

His lips curved into a smile. "I guess I can say yes. I'll have Eleanor draw up a contract."

Suzanne returned his smile that seemed to hint promise of something more than business. "That's wonderful. Listen, why don't we discuss this matter over dinner, tonight?

The idea of an evening with Suzanne Maxwell seemed appealing to Cole. He found her very attractive. And he could not recall spending a romantic evening with someone since his marriage to Phoebe, nearly nine months ago. Those evenings with Olivia had been spent with a close friend. Even if a part of him secretly wished it could be more.

Cole paused, as he contemplated his last thoughts. Did he just say . . .? "Mr. Turner? Cole?" Suzanne's voice cut into his reverie. "About tonight?"

"Oh." Cole remembered. He had been invited to join the McNeills for dinner, tonight - in honor of Cecile Dubois' visit. "I'd love to join you for dinner, but I already have plans this evening," he politely answered. "Perhaps tomorrow."

The Canadian woman gave him a tight smile. "Perhaps." A chill seemed to have settled in the office. It left Cole feeling very uneasy. Suzanne Maxwell seemed disappointed. Too disappointed, considering they had just met. And he wondered why.

* * * *

"Aren't you supposed to be working right now?" Cecile asked. She, Darryl and Olivia stood next to the latter's BMW convertible, in the middle of the station's parking lot. The two inspectors had caught up with her, before she could leave.

Olivia sighed. "It's Darryl. He's worried that you had an odd reaction to meeting him. And he wants to know why." She paused. "Quite frankly, so do I. You did seem a bit . . . distracted."

"What are you talking about?"

Darryl Morris spoke in an urgent voice. "Olivia told me that you're a witch like her. Only you practice Voodoo or something."

"Vodoun," Cecile automatically corrected.

"Yeah. She also told me that you receive premonitions. Visions of the future." Darryl hesitated. "Did you see something when we first met?"

Cecile took a deep breath. She glanced at Olivia, who nodded. Oh well. "I didn't see anything," she said.

"What?" Both Olivia and Darryl had spoken at the same time.

"But I felt something," Cecile continued. "I don't know. Trouble. Impending doom. Something like that."

Olivia frowned. "You didn't have any vision? That's strange. Is there a chance that your visions are being blocked?"

"By whom?" Cecile shot back, now feeling very concerned. "Or what?"

Inspector Morris interrupted with a frustrated cry. "Hey? Remember me? The one who might be facing impending doom?"

"Darryl, you don't know that," Olivia said, trying to reassure him. "Cecile doesn't have to touch anything to receive a vision. For all we know, she had a vision about something else."

The tall inspector looked doubtful. "Uh-huh. If you don't mind, I think I'll get confirmation from someone else. Maybe Phoebe can help."

"Phoebe?" Cecile frowned. Who in the hell was this Phoebe?

Olivia answered for her. "Phoebe Halliwell. One of the Charmed Ones? Cole's ex-wife. You know, the one who has premonitions."

Now Cecile remembered. Obviously Darryl Morris believed that this Phoebe could receive a clearer vision. Perhaps she could. Cecile was not about to stand in his way. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion," she finally said, feeling a bit put out, but hiding her feelings. "As for me, I have a few stores to visit. Starting with Macy's. Excuse me, but I'll see you both later." Cecile climbed into the BMW.

As she steered the car out of the parking lot, Cecile's thoughts returned to her recent premonition. Olivia must have guessed right. None of her premonitions have ever been so vague. At least not until she met Darryl Morris. Either there was something about his essence that blocked her vision, or the good inspector seemed destined to encounter something that might prove to be very powerful. Cecile hoped it was the former.

* * * *

Darryl knocked on the front door of the Halliwell Manor. A minute later, it swung open. In the doorway stood the middle Halliwell sister. "Darryl, hey! What are you doing here?"

"Hi Phoebe," Darryl greeted. After spending a few hours on the DiMatteo case, he had convinced Olivia that they should pay Phoebe's office at the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR a visit. The two partners discovered that Phoebe was on vacation this week and that she could be found at the manor on Prescott Street. "I heard you were on vacation, this week."

Phoebe shot Darryl a bright smile. "Yeah, Elise finally decided to emancipate me for a few days. I would have started yesterday, but I had some work to finish." Her eyes shifted to Olivia and her smile disappeared. "Olivia."

A small smile touched Olivia's lips. "Phoebe. Nice to see you."

The two visitors stepped inside the manor. Phoebe led them to the Sun Room. "So, what brings you two here?" she asked. Concern suddenly filled her dark eyes. "Is there something wrong? Piper? Paige?"

"More like Darryl," Olivia responded laconically.

Phoebe frowned. "Huh?"

Darryl took a deep breath. He told her about Olivia's friend . . . and the premonition the latter had recently experienced at the police station. "I wondered if you could get a clearer vision, since you're stronger."

"You don't know that," Olivia added. "Cecile is a very powerful psychic."

Darryl shook his head. "But Cecile isn't one of the most powerful witches of all time."

"Maybe not among Wicca practitioners. But Cecile does not practice Wicca. She's Vodoun."

Olivia's words fell upon deaf ears. Darryl returned his attention to Phoebe. "Could you give it a try? See if a premonition will come to you?"

Phoebe glanced uneasily at Olivia. Who remained silent. Firm determination gleamed in her eyes. "I'll give it a shot. But I can't guarantee anything. Give me your hand."

Darryl allowed Phoebe to take hold of his hand. She closed her eyes. He could hear her breathing heavily. Then . . . a gasp escaped her mouth. "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing, except . . ." Phoebe's eyes flew open. She heaved a deep breath. "I saw you in an alley, surrounded by onlookers, the police and paramedics. It looked as if you were at a crime scene. Both you and Olivia. And both of you were staring at the body of a Latino man. That's it."

A frown creased Darryl's forehead. "That doesn't sound like something foreboding," he said. "Just another case to work on. Olivia's friend told me that she had sensed something more serious." A gust of breath left Darryl's mouth. He saw a flash of doubt in Phoebe's eyes. "Maybe she was imagining things," he added.

Olivia opened her mouth to speak. Instead, she shook her head and looked away. Somehow, the gesture did not make Darryl feel any better.

* * * *

Edward Crozat's eyes glowed with delight, as he stared at the small crate on his desk. "That's it," Ben Mallard declared. "The package you wanted. The Enigma had arrived in San Francisco, sometime before noon."

"Well done!" Edward declared. "How did you know . . .?"

Mallard explained that a contact at one of the piers had alerted him to the ship's arrival. "My . . . friend held it for me, until I could get there." He paused before adding, "I had to pay him $5,000 of my own money."

"Then you shall be compensated," Edward added smoothly. Men, he decided, can be incredibly greedy. He had seriously considered killing the Customs agent. But as he had told Rudolf, Ben Mallard might prove to be useful in the future. Edward nodded at Cousin Henry, who opened the safe.

Henry returned to Edward's desk, carrying a wad of bills. "Here you go, $67,000, plus an extra $5,000. All unmarked." He stuffed the bills into a large yellow envelope. Just as Henry began to hand over the envelope to Mallard, a noise caught the attention of those inside the office.

Everyone turned to stare at the figure standing in the doorway. A janitor, whose eyes were fixed on the envelope in Cousin Henry's hands. Edward's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"Pardon me," the janitor began nervously. "I didn't realize . . ."

Henry's hand shot up. Edward slapped it down before the former could use any magic. Then he gave the newcomer a polite smile. "Are you looking for someone?"

"Actually, I thought the office was empty. I came here to clean . . ."

"Rudolf, why don't you show the man out?" Edward nodded at the young warlock. Who strode toward the nervous janitor. The latter's eyes popped out, as Rudolf slammed a wicked-looking knife in the janitor's gut.


END OF CHAPTER 4

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"VALKYRIE" (2008) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the new Bryan Singer World War II thriller about the last assassination attemp upon Adolf Hitler. "VALKYRIE" stars Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branaugh, Tom Wilkerson and Terence Stamp:


"VALKYRIE" (2008) Photo Gallery








































Friday, December 26, 2008

"Character Development . . . or Regression?"



The following is an essay I had written about the Phoebe Halliwell character on "CHARMED":


"CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT . . . OR REGRESSION?"

Recently, I had read Lisa Eiseman's review of the "CHARMED" Season Five episode, "Necromancing the Stone" and found the following:

“Phoebe has always sought out the stronger "alpha" male, and really is best when she is the "damsel in distress" needing rescuing. She has an innate need to be watched over, her own self-assurance was very low when the audience was introduced to her five years ago. Over the years her confidence grew, only to be beat down after Cole’s second turn to the dark side. Yet, her self confidence has been getting stronger and stronger this season after fighting and vanquishing Cole and, of course, her success in the business world. However, this episode only showed how much further she has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Ms. Eiseman’s words had led me to thinking about Phoebe Halliwell’s development on "CHARMED". I must admit that I agree with her original statement about Phoebe. She has always been the type who wants an “alpha male” to look over her. A recent example is a description of a scene from the upcoming “Generation Hex”:

“Cole does appear in a few flashbacks-- once in his first meeting with Phoebe when he grabs her calf (Coops says it was a cute meet but Present Phoebe just tells Coop that Cole was setting her up, and another flashback from Cenntenial Charmed when Phoebe throws the potion vial at him and Coop hugs Present Phoebe as Cole vanquishes into flames.”

Not only does the above statement verified Ms. Eiseman’s statement that Phoebe will always require an alpha male in her life (at some point, Prue had served this role before Phoebe met Cole), but that Phoebe had never overcame this desire. Even now, she is using Coop as the role of “prince charming” or “knight in shining armor” in her life.

On the hand, I disagreed with Ms. Eiseman’s statement on one matter. I DO NOT believe that Phoebe had displayed any strength when she finally rejected Cole in Season Five. In fact, I believe that she had behaved in a cowardly manner. Instead of facing the troubles of her marriage, she ran away. Neither she nor her sisters had ever bothered to find out how Cole became the Source back in late Season Four or in early Season Five. When he finally came back, she pushed him away – refusing to discuss their problems or what happened. I cannot help but feel that if Phoebe had not done this, she could have learned the truth about the Source’s possession of Cole. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed Cole aside and ran away. She behaved in a cowardly manner. In the end, her behavior drove Cole to an emotional breakdown.

Had Cole been wrong in his attempt to keep Phoebe in his life? Yes. Back in late Season Three, he had proven with his decision to infiltrate the Brotherhood of the Thorn that he was capable of making a morally correct decision without Phoebe’s encouragement or approval. But one-and-a-half years later, Cole seemed incapable of remaining “good” (if that is the word most fans are willing to accept) without Phoebe in his life, because of his fervent desire to hold on to his marriage. Cole was wrong in his attempt to cling to Phoebe to make his life better. But Phoebe was wrong to push him away, especially when she knew that he was on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

The show’s portrayal of the sisters’ emotional breakdowns in compared to Cole’s struck me as interesting . . . and perhaps a little hypocritical. Prue had suffered an emotional breakdown in “Death Takes a Halliwell” and nearly beat a Seeker to death for the wrong reason (Cole had to stop her). Piper in “Hell Hath No Fury” and Phoebe in “Look Who’s Barking” both suffered from emotional breakdowns and found themselves at the mercy of supernatural entities due to their inabilities to get over their problems. The writers made sure that the viewers would be sympathetic to the sisters’ . . . even when they were doing wrong. But when Cole had his own breakdown in mid-Season 5, the writers had expected the viewers to be glad that Phoebe was pushing him away . . . even when he tried to commit suicide twice. What makes this worse is that even after all of these years, Phoebe still does not have the guts or is too blind to realize that BOTH she and Cole were responsible for the failure of their marriage – and not just Cole. In the end, Cole erroneously believed that he could not stay good without Phoebe in her life. And the Halliwells’ continued declarations that he was “evil” did not help overcome this state of mind. Alyssa Milano once stated that Cole was nothing more than a “bad boy” for Phoebe to indulge for at least two years of her life. I hate to say this, but I find Ms. Milano’s statement very hard to accept. In my opinion, I believe that Phoebe was simply too immature to deal with being involved with someone as complex as Cole. She wanted a one-note heroic alpha male. And Cole proved to be a complex individual with a light and dark side – something that Phoebe could not handle or deal with . . . even within herself.

In another passage of Ms. Eiseman’s review of “Necromancing the Stone”, she claimed the following:

“However, this episode only showed how much further she (Phoebe) has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Apparently, Ms. Eiseman had been premature in this assessment of Phoebe. The latter eventually did accept Jason Dean’s offer to accompany him to Hong Kong. And in the course of their ten-month relationship, failed to tell him that she was a witch. He had discover this, accidentally in “Used Karma”. Why? Because Phoebe was afraid that such a revelation would end her relationship with the millionaire (or billionaire). Ironically, it was Phoebe’s ten-month lie that eventually destroyed the relationship and not her role as a witch. The end of her relationship with Jason ended up signaling nearly a two-year search for Phoebe to find her “true love” and a father for her future baby. In the end, Phoebe still needed a man . . . and apparently a child, to find meaning in her life. And she found her “Prince Charming” in a man who obviously did not have any problems with serving as Phoebe’s future “alpha male protector”, if that scene in “Generation Hex” is anything to go by.

Did Phoebe develop as a character? I cannot honestly answer “yes”. Granted, many fans will argue that Phoebe eventually acquired a career. She also moved out of the house . . . something I believe that she had to do to stop revolving her life around her sisters. Moving out of the house may have helped her learn to become Phoebe Halliwell, instead of part of the Charmed Ones. But in the end, I do not think that Phoebe really developed as a character.

Many believe that her romance with Cole had stunted her growth. I agree. But unlike others, I do not believe it was Cole’s fault. I believe that Phoebe could not handle dealing with the moral ambiguity that he represented.

As Paige once stated, whenever Phoebe found any of her relationships in trouble, instead of dealing with it, Phoebe ran away from her problems. I believe she did just that with Cole by pushing him away. She did the same with Leslie St. Clair in early Season Seven. And with Jason Dean and Dex Lawson, she resorted to lies to avoid any problems that might arise with them discovering her role as a witch. With Coop, one of the Cupids, she finally gets her knight-in-shining armor or her “alpha male protector”. But she did so without really developing as a character. Personally, I find that sad. Phoebe gets her fairy tale ending without really growing up as a character.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"AUSTRALIA" (2008) Review




”AUSTRALIA” (2008) Review

I might as well say it. I have never been a fan of director Baz Luhrmann’s films. ”STRICTLY BALLROOM” (1992) had failed to generate my interest. I could say the same about the 1996 version of ”ROMEO AND JULIET” As for ”MOULIN ROUGE” (2001), I loathe the highly acclaimed film. Considering my views on Luhrmann’s past films, I had no desire to see his latest endeavor – namely ”AUSTRALIA”, which stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

”AUSTRALIA” struck me as a character study of its three main characters – Lady Sarah Ashley, a British aristocrat who inherits her late husband’s cattle station (Kidman); her Drover (Jackman); and Nullah (Brandon Walters), the mixed blood child of Lady Ashley’s Aborigine maid and a white man. Written by Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Richard Flanagan and Ronald Harwood, this three-way character study focuses upon Lady Ashley’s attempts to maintain her fortune and cattle station, and keep her newly formed family together that includes Nullah and the Drover. Threatening Lady Ashley’s plans are a greedy cattle baron named King Carney (Bryan Brown), Australia’s ”Stolen Generation” policy regarding mixed blood children, World War II, the Drover’s emotional cowardice, the villainous machinations of a station manager named Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) and her own possessive nature. All of this is set against the epic backdrop of Australia’s Northern Territory between 1939 and 1942. The story reaches its apex in the Japanese bombing of Darwin on February 19, 1942.

If I must be frank, ”AUSTRALIA” is not the type of film I could see earning nominations for any major movie awards. Except for one possible category. It is not perfect film. Let me rephrase that. ”AUSTRALIA” struck me as the type of popcorn epic that would be more appreciated during the summer season. Personally, I would compare it to Michael Bay’s 2001 film, ”PEARL HARBOR”. Only the latter struck me as slightly superior. Thanks to Luhrmann’s direction and the screenplay he co-wrote with Beattie, Flanagan and Harwood, ”AUSTRALIA” had the bad luck to be marred by overblown melodrama that had seen its heyday in television soap operas like ”DYNASTY”. This seemed very apparent in the film’s last act that followed the Darwin bombing. Obstacle after contrived obstacle popped up endlessly to prevent Sarah Ashley, the Drover and Nullah from enjoying a tearful reunion.

Another aspect of the film that annoyed me was its first twenty minutes that introduced the main characters. Quite frankly, those early scenes baffled me. What exactly was Luhrmann trying to achieve? I found myself watching a badly acted spoof on costume epics or Australian culture with exaggerated performances by Kidman, Jackman and Jack Thompson, who portrayed Lady Ashley’s alcoholic accountant, Kipling Flynn. Speaking of Thompson, the poor man seemed truly wasted in this film. He only hung around long enough to give an over-the-top portrayal of a drunken man who ends up being killed by stampeding cattle. And all of this happened before the first hour.

Judging from the above, one would assume that I disliked ”AUSTRALIA”. Heartily. Guess what? I don’t. In fact, I found myself becoming a fan of the movie by the time the end credits rolled. How was that possible? Well, once Luhrmann’s tale rolled past that . . . bizarre first twenty minutes, it actually improved. To my utter surprise, I found myself getting caught up in Lady Ashley’s horror at the discovery of her husband’s murder, her growing affection for Nullah and the other hands on Faraway Downs, her new cattle station and her growing attraction toward the Drover. The movie’s first main action piece centered around Lady Ashley’s attempt to save her station with a cattle drive to Darwin. Not only does she develop a close relationship with Nullah, but falls in love with the Drover. And she also earns a strong enemy . . . not King Carney, the cattle baron who is determined to monopolize the cattle industry in the Northern Territory, but her husband’s former station manager who not only works for Carney, but longs to take possession of Faraway Downs for himself.

One of the amazing aspects about ”AUSTRALIA” is that the movie managed to provide an entertaining romance between two interesting, yet flawed people. Despite their hokey acting in the film’s opening sequences, Kidman and Jackman did a solid job in creating chemistry between Lady Ashley and the Drover – two people who seemingly had no business in becoming a couple. Kidman eventually portrayed Lady Ashley as a warm and passionate woman who was afraid to let go of those she loved. This Lady Ashley was a far cry from the ridiculously shrill woman that first arrived in Australia. And Jackman transformed the Drover from the blustery and macho Australian male archetype into a caring man who was also afraid to become emotional close to anyone. David Ngoombujarra gave solid support as the Drover’s close friend and colleague, Magarri. Well known actor-dancer David Gulpilil was very imposing and unforgettable as King George, a magic tribal leader suspected of killing Lady Ashley’s husband. And veteran actor Bryan Brown was very entertaining as the charismatic cattle baron, King Carney. Surprisingly, Brown’s character did not end up as the movie’s main antagonist. That task fell upon David Wenham, who portrayed Neil Fletcher, Lady Ashley’s station manager and later, business adversary. Recalling Richard Roxburgh’s over-the-top performance as the Duke of Monroth in ”MOULIN ROUGE!”, I had feared that Wenham would utilize the same approach. Thankfully, Wenham’s villainy turned out to be more nuanced and low key. He gave a perfect portrayal of an insecure man who not only harbored a deep resentment toward the more privileged types like Lady Ashley and King Carney, but was too racist to acknowledge his own half-white/half-Aborigine son, Nullah, who also happened to be tribal leader King George’s grandson. But the real star of ”AUSTRALIA” turned out to be the young Aborigine actor, Brandon Walters, who portrayed Nullah. All I can say is - where did Baz Luhrmann find this kid? He was phenomenal! This is the second movie in which Nicole Kidman found herself co-starring with an inexperienced, yet very talented child actor (the first being Dakota Blue Richards of ”THE GOLDEN COMPASS”). Walters, who turned out to be a very charismatic and talented young actor, literally stole the picture from his co-stars. And I suspect that must have been unusual thing to do in a movie that was nearly three hours long. Whether Walters prove to become a future star - only time will tell.

But ”AUSTRALIA” is not just about the characters. Luhrmann did a pretty good job of re-creating Northern Australia during the early years of World War II. And he received able support from people like Production Designer/Costume Designer Catherine Martin (Academy Award winner), Art Directors Ian Gracie and Karen Murphy, Cinematographer Mandy Walker, Special Effects Supervisors Aaron and Brian Cox, and Visual Effects Manager Katrin Arndt. I was especially impressed by Walker’s photography of Sydney, Bowen and Northern Australia locations such as Darwin and Kununurra. She did a beautiful job of capturing the rugged and dangerous cattle drive that dominated the movie’s first half. I also have to commend both her photography and Arndt’s special effects team for the sequence that featured the Japanese bombing of Darwin. My only quibble about the bombing sequence was that it did not last very long. Granted, ”AUSTRALIA” is not ”PEARL HARBOR” and its plot did not revolved around the Darwin attack as the latter film revolved around the December 7, 1941 attack in Hawaii. But, I must admit that I had been looking forward to a sequence with a little more depth than was shown.

The Japanese attack upon Darwin was not the only historical topic that dominated ”AUSTRALIA”. The movie also focused upon Australia’s policy toward those children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian and State government agencies and church missions between 1869 and 1969. One of the victims of this policy turned out to be Nullah, who is Aboriginal on his mother. The movie featured three chilling scenes that conveyed how this particular policy affected Nullah’s life. The most chilling centered around Nullah and his mother’s attempt to hide from the local police inside Faraway Down’s water tower – an act that leads to his mother’s death by drowning.

I realize that ”AUSTRALIA” eould never be considered Best Picture material. Not even by me. Luhrmann had indulged in a little too much melodrama – especially in the film’s last half hour – to suit me. And I found the movie’s first half hour very confusing. I did not know whether Luhrmann had expected the audience to take it seriously or realize that he was trying to spoof epic movies or Australia in general. Whatever he was trying to achieve, I feel that he had made a piss poor effort. But as I had pointed out earlier, once Kidman’s character arrived at her late husband’s cattle station, the movie found its groove and Luhrmann proceeded to unveil an engrossing, yet entertaining epic tale.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Lover Man" [R] - 2/3




"LOVER MAN"

PART TWO

TWO WEEKS LATER . . .

B'Elanna and Harry strode along the corridor of Deck Six, on their way to Jeffries Tube 69. There, they planned to work on a set of ESP conduits for repair.

"Poor Neelix," Harry bemoaned. "It must have been hell getting his lungs ripped away like that." He referred to a recent incident, in which the Talaxian had his lungs stolen by a pair of aliens, during an Away mission.

B'Elanna grunted. "If you ask me, I think Janeway let those monsters off too easily. Stealing other people's organs, for Kahless's sakes!"

Harry added, "I guess that what happens when a species has been crippled by a deadly disease. It takes away their compassion. Their morality. And it makes them dangerously desperate."

"That's no excuse!" B'Elanna angrily shot back.

"No, it isn't. But understandable."

B'Elanna bit back an exasperated sigh, as she tried not to feel irritated by Harry's compassion. She had great affection for the young ensign, but sometimes his Federation ideals really got on her nerves. For once, she wished he could be a little more . . . ruthless.

The two friends finally reached Jeffries Tube 69. B'Elanna grabbed hold of the handle for the tube's door, when Harry glanced down at his hand and let out an oath. "Dammit!" he cried.

"What's wrong?" B'Elanna demanded.

"My PADD. It has the schematics we need on it. I must have dropped it on my way here. I'll be right back." Harry turned on his heels and quickly retraced their path from the turbolift.

Meanwhile, B'Elanna attempted to open the tube's door. Only, it refused to budge. Someone had either jammed or locked the door. Muttering an oath, B'Elanna punched a few codes into the console nearby. The door finally opened on her second attempt. She grabbed her toolkit and proceeded to crawl inside the tube. The sight that greeted her inside, stopped her in her tracks.

Low moans filled the interior. Discarded uniforms were scattered about the floor. And just several yards ahead laid a completely nude Tom Paris, on his back. Straddling his waist was a female crewman - also nude - whom B'Elanna noticed was not Ensign Telac. Her breasts swung tantalizingly over Paris's face. Her body bucked up and down above the pilot's, like a rider on an unbroken horse. B'Elanna immediately recognized her. Crewman Mallory Aiwa from Security.

"Ooohh! Oh yes! Harder! Harder!" Aiwa cried. Both hers and Paris's bodies continued to move in rhythm, as they made love. Aiwa leaned closer to Paris, situating the tips of her breasts above his face. He took the bait, leaned upward and covered one breast with his mouth. His hands maintained a firm grip on her hips.

Feeling hot and embarrassed at the same time, B'Elanna immediately crawled out of the tube. She shut the door and took a deep breath. "Something wrong, Maquis?" Harry had returned with his PADD.

Breathing heavily, B'Elanna shook her head. "No! I, uh . . . It's nothing, Harry. Look, why don't we do this later? Someone else is inside, right now."

"Well, I'm sure he or she won't mind if it gets a little crowded inside." Harry knelt down on the deck and opened the door.

"Starfleet, no!"

Too late. Harry did not hear. He crawled inside the tube. B'Elanna heard a gasp. Along with Aiwa, screaming Paris's name. Seconds later, the Ops officer re-emerged from the tube and closed the door. "Oh God!" he murmured. "I didn't need to see that."

Anger toward the pilot overwhelmed B'Elanna. She wondered aloud if they should report Paris and Aiwa to Chakotay. "Why?" Harry demanded. "I doubt that sex inside a Jeffries tube would constitute as an offense. Or a danger to the ship."

"Isn't fraternalization between Starfleet personnel, prohibited?" B'Elanna demanded.

Harry quickly replied, "No, it isn't. Not as long as they are discreet."

"I wouldn't call sex in a Jeffries tube, discreet."

A sigh left her friend's mouth. "B'Elanna, let it go. They're in a Jeffries tube, not in the corridor or anywhere else for the entire crew to see. Just let it go."

B'Elanna remained silent. She and Harry could barely meet each other's gaze. Sounds of giggling and someone opening the tube's door filled their ears. Embarrassment immediately became anxiety. B'Elanna said to Harry, "I think we better get out of here." The younger man quickly agreed and the two friends quickly scrambled away.

* * * *

Once again, Tom found himself strolling along Deck Nine. He had just left Telac Mara's quarters, following a slightly difficult conversation. After two weeks of fun and great sex, the Bajoran woman had decided to end their romance.

Tom had foreseen the breakup. In fact, he helped set it in motion. Mara began expressing more than a passing interest in him. She wanted to know everything about Tom - his fears, his desires and most inner thoughts. Tom immediately realized that she wanted to move their relationship to a serious level. Only, he had no desire for such a relationship.

Rejection from a girlfriend at the Academy, a distant father and plenty of insincere friends had taught Tom to be wary of love and romance. He did not want or trust it any longer. Aside from Harry Kim as a close friend, he preferred mere acquaintances, brief sexual partners and nothing more.

To stave off the danger of Mara's increasing interest, Tom began to hold her at arms' length. Treat her in a cool manner when they were not engaged in sex. After a week of such treatment, it worked. Not only did Mara backed off, she began showing interest in other men. Just this morning, Tom had found her in the Mess Hall, sitting with Crewman Jarvin. Both seemed intensely interested in each other. Tom got the hint. Not that he really minded. He no longer had Mara in his hair. And compensation awaited him in a Jeffries tube on Deck Six. With Mallory Aiwa. Tom allowed himself a smile. A pleasant way to spend a few minutes. Now that Mara has officially ended their relationship, he was on his way to Aiwa's quar . . .

The door to one of the cabins slid open. Tom gasped at the figure standing in the doorway - completely nude. "What the hell are you doing?" he growled, shoving her back inside the cabin. "Someone could have seen you!" The doors slid shut.

A satisfied smile curled her lips. "That was the point," she said. "For you to see me. After I found out you were on this deck, I came here and ordered the computer to track you all the way from Telac's quarters."

"If you're expecting a repeat performance of two weeks ago, don't waste your time," Tom retorted. "I have other plans."

Her smile grew wider. "Certainly not with Ensign Telac, I assume. You were only in her quarters for ten minutes or less. Break up?"

Tom's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "How did you find out? I haven't told anyone, yet."

"I saw the good ensign with Jarvin during breakfast, this morning. It wasn't hard to guess what was going on." She reached out and stroked Tom's cheek. "I thought you needed a little consolation."

"I already have my own ideas about that. And it involves someone else."

Slowly, she wrapped her arms around Tom's neck. "I bet she can't console you the way I can." Her mouth hovered inches away from his.

Tom inhaled deeply. He could already feel his body reacting to her nearness. And the last thing he wanted was a repeat of their last time together. Seconds later, his hopes dissipated. As she leaned forward to plant a light kiss on the side of his mouth, the tips of her breasts brushed against Tom's chest. His member automatically began to twitch. Much to his embarrassment.

"Okay, that's it!" he roared and pushed her away. Laughter greeted his ears. "If you want to get laid so badly, find someone else." Tom marched to the door, opened it and heard voices in the corridor. He immediately slid the door shut.

Her voice, smooth and taunting, said, "I thought you were leaving."

"I will," Tom coolly replied. "Just as soon as the hallway is cleared."

A soft body pressed against his back. Tom struggled to ignore it. "In that case, why don't you stay here, a little longer? Pass the time, until the corridor is cleared."

"I doubt that mere seconds is enough time to do what you really want."

Slender hands gently forced Tom to turn around. He found himself staring into a pair of eyes that brimmed with desire. "Maybe you want what I want. Can't you stay longer than mere seconds?"

Tom blinked. He felt no love for this woman. Hell, he hardly felt any kind of affection toward her, whatsoever. Desire, however, was another matter. He had to admit that she was one of the most sexually satisfying women he had ever met. And unlike other partners, she demanded nothing more than sex. At least from him. Tom did not mind. Aside from his friendship with Harry, love and affection rarely played a part in Thomas Eugene Paris's life.

She planted a kiss on his mouth. And another. And another. "Just stay a little longer," she whispered between kisses. "Just a little . . ." Unable to ignore his desire any longer, Tom drew her into his arms and crushed his mouth against hers.

* * * *

The couple was inside the Jeffries tube, just as she had remembered. He lay stretched out on the floor. She straddled his waist. Neither wore a stitch of clothing.

She allowed her fingers to run through the red-gold hair on his chest. A pleasure-filled sigh escaped her mouth. So thick and luxuriant. She could do this all day. Then his member twitched against the crack of her backside. Then again, why bother? There were other parts of his anatomy she could also enjoy.

Sliding down his body, she raised her slightly and sat down, once more. His member impaled the wet folds of her flesh. A deep moan rose from her throat. His hands gripped her hips, forcing her to match the rhythm of his body.

Up and down, they moved. Faster and faster. She could feel him stab deeper and deeper inside her. One of his hands traveled up past her waist, until it cupped one tender breast. His thumb pressed against a taunt nipple and again, she moaned. Then it moved to another breast. Her moans grew louder.

Their bodies moved faster. His thrusts became harder. Deeper. Until his entire length filled her walls. Unable to hold back any longer, she climaxed and the muscles within her folds ruthlessly constricted his member. He called out her name and exploded inside her. As she finally fell over the edge, she threw back her head and called out his name. "Tom!"


* * * *

B'Elanna gasped out loud, as her eyes opened. Her body snapped into a sitting position. Had she just . . .? Once the fog cleared her brain, she realized that she was inside her quarters and not in a Jeffries tube. With Tom Paris. B'Elanna also realized that she had thrust her hand inside her pajama bottoms and they now rested on the damp mound between her legs. Embarrassed, she immediately withdrew it.

Then it came back to her. Every detail of her dream. It had been a replay of what she had witnessed inside Jeffries tube 69, this afternoon. Only, the woman having sex with Tom Paris had not been Mallory Aiwa, but her - B'Elanna Torres.

B'Elana's cheeks grew hot. Erotic dreams were not new to her. She had them before. Only, they had usually consisted of her with a young man she once worshipped from afar, back on Kessik. And later, of her and a certain Maquis captain, turned first officer. B'Elanna never thought she would have dreams about a womanizing pig like Paris.

Slowly, she crawled out of bed and headed for the wash basin. B'Elanna washed her hands and splashed water on her face. The chronometer in her cabin read 01:37 hours. Duty awaited her in less than seven hours. B'Elanna groaned. She hoped it would not be difficult for her to return to sleep.

A heavy thump dashed any hopes of continued sleep. The thump came from next door. A loud moan followed. B'Elanna sighed. The phantom couple had returned.

"Oh yes! Oh . . . oh . . . ah! Faster! Faster . . . oh gods! Fas . . . aaaah!" The cries and moans, accompanied by more thumps followed.

B'Elanna took a deep breath. She tried to ignore the sounds from next door. Yet, it seemed very difficult, especially with them becoming increasingly loud. And her growing more aroused.

At last the noise subsided, but not before the female next door shouted a name that took B'Elanna aback. "Oh yes! Oh . . . oh yes! Oh . . . aaah! Oh Gods! To-ooo-omm!"

Tom? B'Elanna sat on her bed in deep shock. Did she just hear some woman cry out Tom Paris's name?

* * * *

Harry stared at B'Elanna in disbelief. "Are you sure that was Tom's name you heard?" he demanded.

"Of course I'm sure!" B'Elanna snapped back. The two friends shared a small breakfast table, in the Mess Hall, the following morning. "How many Toms do you think are on this ship?"

"Tom happens to be a common name," Harry explained. "It could be someone else."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Starfleet, I checked the list of personnel on this ship. There is only one Tom aboard Voyager. And his name is Thomas Eugene Paris." She scoffed with derision. "Eugene. What were his parents thinking with a name like that?"

Eventually, Harry conceded that B'Elanna was right. "Okay, so it was Tom in that cabin, next door to yours. So what? Maybe whomever he's dating, lives there. What's her name? Crewman Aiwa."

"Crewman Aiwa's quarters are located on Deck Seven," B'Elanna coolly retorted. "I checked. And no one occupies the cabin next door to mine."

Harry paused. "Oh. Well, even so . . ."

Exasperated, B'Elanna cried out, "Dammit, Starfleet! Don't you get it? Paris and Aiwa weren't supposed to be there. I'm going to report this to Chakotay."

"Oh come on, Maquis! You've got to be kidding!"

B'Elanna gave her friend a pointed stare. "Do I look like I'm kidding? Paris has overstepped the line, this time."

"Overstepped the . . ." Harry heaved an exasperated sigh. "C'mon B'Elanna! Listen to yourself! You sound like some by-the-book Starfleet officer! Not even the Captain or myself are that bad!"

"Paris is using an empty . . ." B'Elanna lowered her voice, after she noticed several pairs of eyes, staring at her. "Paris is fraternizing in an unauthorized area. No one is supposed to be in that cabin. And both he and Aiwa are keeping me awake with all that noise. I intend to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Harry's face became hard. B'Elanna had never seen such an expression on his face, before. "I'm telling you, Maquis. You're making a big mistake. Granted, Tom might find himself in trouble. But sooner or later, word will circulate that you were the one who snitched on him."

"So what! Aside from you, Janeway and Kes, there isn't a soul on this ship who wouldn't like to see Paris get his comeuppance!"

"Perhaps," Harry replied. "But they'll also remember that you snitched on someone. Sooner or later, they'll become wary of you and eventually, you'll become ostracized on this ship. Like Tom."

B'Elanna opened her mouth to protest, but Harry seemed to be on a roll. "Tom may not be popular right now. But if word gets around that your reported him for having sex in some empty cabin, he'll be a hero in compare to you. No one likes a snitch, B'Elanna. Isn't that why the Maquis dislike him in the first place? Because you all believe he had ratted on you to the Captain?"

In one of those rare moments in her life, B'Elanna found herself speechless. She could not believe the words coming out of Harry's mouth. After several long seconds, her voice finally returned. "Tell me Harry, are you saying that you would tell Paris that I snitched on him?" B'Elanna tried to sound menacing, quiet. Unfortunately, wavering insecurity came out, instead.

"C'mon B'Elanna! I'm not a snitch!" Harry expressed outrage. "Besides, I wouldn't have to. Tom is a pretty smart guy. He would have found out, eventually. And knowing him, he would have found some way to get even." He leaned forward, his face radiating intensity. "Please, Maquis. Don't do it!"

B'Elanna, most reluctantly, realized that it would be wise to heed Harry's warning. She did not fear reprisal from Tom Paris. Yet, she had no desire to become an even bigger pariah on the ship. Her anger toward the pilot's sexual escapades, however, remained. A new obsession sprung within her. An obsession to discover the identity of Paris's paramour. Whom she suspected was Mallory Aiwa. And when she finally confirms Aiwa as Paris's partner-in-crime, B'Elanna promised herself that she would get even with both.

* * * *

Dark eyes seemed to follow Tom Paris nearly everywhere. They scrutinized him whenever "she" was on the Bridge, at her station. Those same eyes observed him in the Mess Hall, during breakfast, lunch and dinner. And whenever he appeared in Engineering to deliver a report or work on the navigational array, the dark eyes observed him . . . closely. Tom could also recall seeing those same eyes along Voyager's corridors, on occasion. After nearly two weeks of such scrutiny, Tom came to the conclusion that he was being stalked.

He had heard about Klingon women who stalked potential mates. Yet, the deep suspicion and dislike in B'Elanna Torres' eyes led Tom to believe that she did not view him as a potential mate. Which led him to speculate on her sudden interest in him.

"Quite frankly, I don't know what the hell is her problem," Tom complained to his best friend. The two officers sat inside the shuttlecraft, Cochrane, as it sped toward the Banean homeworld.

Voyager had came across the M-class planet two days ago. After learning that its inhabitants possessed warp technology and promised to help Voyager with its damaged collimator. Captain Janeway ordered Harry to work with one of the Banean scientists. And ordered Tom to fly Harry to the planet's surface. It seemed that Banea was at war with another race who occupied the planet, called the Numeri. Who had established a blockade around Banea.

Tom spared the younger man a quick glance. "Torres is your friend, Harry. Do you know why she's suddenly so interested in me?"

Harry sighed. Which told Tom that he knew something. And was reluctant to reveal. "What? C'mon Harry. Spill it."

"Okay." Another gust of breath followed. Then, "Tom, have you been seeing anyone on Deck Nine, lately? Other than Telac Mara?"

It took all of Tom's skills in dissembling to maintain his usual mask. How did Harry know about his trips to Deck Nine? Better yet, what did it have to do with Torres? "I don't know what you're talking about," Tom mumbled.

"Cabin Nine-I?" Harry continued. "It seems you've been using it for a little private down time with a certain someone, this past month. Only you haven't been that private."

Tom sighed in defeat. "Okay. I surrender. How did you find out?"

"I didn't. B'Elanna did. She could hear you two."

A hot flush crept up Tom's neck. "How did she . . .?"

Harry added, "B'Elanna's quarters are next door - Cabin Nine-H. She heard everything."

"Great!" Tom pursed his lips in irritation.

The younger man continued, "She knows it's you in there, but she doesn't know who your friend is."

"She isn't exactly a friend," Tom retorted.

Confusion filled Harry's dark eyes. "Huh? What are you talking . . .?"

"So B'Elanna knows," Tom said, interrupting the other man. "I suppose she plans to go running to Chakotay."

According to Harry, the Chief Engineer almost did. Until he talked her out of it. "And it wasn't the first time, Tom. We caught you and Mallory Aiwa inside Jeffries tube 69, around the same time B'Elanna found out about Cabin Nine-I."

Tom sighed. "You two seem very familiar with my love life, lately. Anything else?"

"Well, you haven't exactly been discreet," Harry retorted.

"Who has? Do you think Mallory and I were the only ones using the Jeffries tubes? Hell, I'll bet that half the crew are doing the same. I've caught at least four couples inside the Jeffries Tubes, since we blew up the Caretaker's array."

The disturbed expression on Harry's face told Tom the extent of his friend's innocence. Poor Harry. His mind jumped to the half-Klingon. Poor me. Tom realized that he had a hostile senior officer on his hands, just itching to get him into trouble. He would have to be more careful in the future.

"What I don't understand," Harry continued, "is why you and Aiwa would even bother using an empty cabin on Deck Nine in the first place?"

Might as well be truthful. Somewhat. "I've never been with Mallory on Deck Nine," Tom explained. "I was with someone else."

"Does Aiwa know?"

A curt laugh escaped Tom's mouth. "Of course not, Harry. I doubt that she would really care, these days." He paused. "We broke up just four days ago. Mallory began having delusions that she alone, could finally get to know the real Tom Paris. Naturally, I had to disappoint her."

Harry shot Tom a sharp glance. The latter ignored it as he continued to guide the shuttle toward the Banean homeworld.

* * * *

"Hey!"

Tom's cry startled the woman, bent over one of the consoles inside a junction that connected two of the Jeffries tubes on Deck Five. She glared at him. "Dammit Paris! What the hell is your problem?"

"I've been looking for you." Tom jumped off the ladder and landed next to her.

She gave him a sniff and returned to her work. "You've found me. Now what do you want?"

Tom grabbed hold of her shoulder and forced her in an upward position. "I want to talk to you, not your ass."

"That's funny. You seemed to be in backsides, lately. Including one that belong to a certain Banean woman."

Laughter bubbled up inside Tom at the absurdity of her jealousy. "What is this? Don't tell me you're jealous?"

"Of course not! Now what do you want?" she shot back in an acid voice.

Tom became sober. "Just to let you know. The next time you get any ideas about a quick roll in the hay, find someone else. It seems that a certain friend of yours has found out about our little activities in Cabin 9-I. And considering her volatile nature, I have no desire to find myself facing the Captain. Or Chakotay."

"Are you saying that Torres is a snitch? B'Elanna?" Disbelief shone in her eyes.

Tom shrugged. "Normally, I'd say no. But this is me, we're talking about. Just about ninety-eight percent of the crew would love to see me in trouble with the Captain. And guess what? I won't be alone, this time."

She sniffed. "Fine. If it makes you feel any better. Of course . . ."

Oh God, Tom thought. Trouble. "I'm getting out of here. See you around."

"Wait!" She grabbed Tom's arm. "Does B'Elanna know about me, as well?"

Tom stared at her uneasily. "No, just me. Why?"

A seductive smile appeared on her lips. "Well, since I don't want to get into trouble, any more than you do, I promise I won't ambush you on Deck Nine anymore. That is . . . if you don't mind meeting me at my favorite cabin, later this evening. Say around 1630 hours? Torres usually likes to hang around Engineering a little longer than the usual eight-hour shift."

Tom wandered if she had lost her mind. Why was she so interested in him? Was she that desperate for sex? "Are you crazy?" he exclaimed. "No! Didn't you hear what I said?"

"Yes. But you obviously didn't hear me. What's wrong with a little afternoon sex? Trust me, B'Elanna won't be there. Meet me at Cabin 9-I at 1630 hours. Unless," a sneer crossed her face, "you've developed a taste for Delta Quadrant women."

Coolly, Tom responded, "Maybe I have."

"Oh." She paused. "Well." She reached up and brushed a finger across his lower lip. "Too bad. I had hoped to work up an appetite before dinner."

Tom's body immediately stiffened. He grabbed her hand and drew her against him. Damn that woman! She always had a talent for breaking his defenses. Or perhaps a year in prison had rekindled his sex drive. "I'll see you in Cabin 9-I. Sixteen thirty hours."

"I'll be there." She forced her mouth upon his for a brief, passionate kiss, ending it with a bite on his lip. "Just a reminder of our appointment. I'll see you later." Then she turned her back on him and resumed her work. Tom took a deep breath and started up the ladder toward Deck Four.


END OF PART TWO

Friday, December 19, 2008

"LOST" - The Island Guru




"LOST" - The Island Guru

There have been countless number of character essays and theories posted by ”LOST” fans about Island Destiny Man – John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). Quite frankly, I have only read a small number of those articles. But recently, I have been watching some of the series’ episodes from Seasons One and Two. After viewing some of them, I have grown aware of a certain trait of Locke’s that I find annoying.

When John Locke’s back story was first introduced in the episode, (1.04) “Walkabout”, viewers discovered that he had been a wheelchair bound employee of a box company in Tustin, California. Viewers eventually discovered that Locke was the illegitimate son of the fifteen year-old Emily Locke and a con artist named Anthony Cooper. Locke spent most of his childhood and a great deal of his adult years longing to be a man of action and someone special. He spent those years honing his skills as a hunter and gathering a great deal of knowledge on so many subjects.

On September 22, 2004, John Locke had traveled to Australia to participate in a ”walkabout tour” that would allow him to ”live in the wilderness” for a certain period of time with a group of tourists. Employees of the Melbourne Walkabout Tours took one look at Locke’s disabled state and refused to accept him on one of their tours. Forced to return home to California, Locke boarded the Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 that would take him from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California. Only he and his fellow passengers never reached United States soil. Instead, they found themselves stranded on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. Locke also discovered that the island had somehow cured his crippled legs. From this moment on, Locke became an acolyte of the island. And judging from his interactions with characters like Charlie Pace and Boone Carlyle, he searched for his own band of acolytes to share his beliefs.

Locke spent most of Season One helping the castaways survive those first 44 days on the island and offer them sage advice. He also had two encounters with a mysterious smoke monster, became the survivors’ “great white hunter”, helped Boone Carlyle deal with unhealthy for his stepsister, Shannon Rutherford, helped Charlie Pace kick a heroin addiction and convinced spinal surgeon Jack Shephard to assume leadership of the castaways. This all changed in the episode, (1.19) “Ex Deux Machina”, when Locke and Boone discovered a Nigerian plane filled with heroin and bodies in the jungle. In that episode, he had convinced Boone to crawl into the plane to examine it. Because he had failed to inform Boone that he had a prophetic dream that the plane would lead to Boone’s death, he lied to Jack about the true situation of Boone’s wounds after the actual accident. From that moment on, the series began to unravel even more of Locke’s less admirable traits. Many fans and even actor Terry O’Quinn have expressed regret that Locke had not remained the wise, self-assured man from Season One.

But my recent viewings of some of the Season One and Season Two episodes have led me to wonder if Locke’s ”self-assuredness” had been nothing more than a façade. Also, that same self-assuredness seemed to have revealed a trait within Locke that I found personally distasteful. Superficially, John Locke’s willingness to help others like Charlie and Boone seemed may have seemed admirable. It certainly did to many viewers. No one has ever complained about his “methods” in helping those two. And for me, his methods in helping Charlie and Boone has made me wonder if John Locke was – like Jack Shephard – a slightly bullying and controlling man.

Charlie Pace
I had first noticed these traits in Locke during the Season One episode, (1.06) “House of the Rising Sun”. This episode’s subplot featured an expedition in which Jack, Charlie, Kate Austen and Locke examined a large cavern as a provision for housing and water for the castaways. While alone with Charlie, Locke took the opportunity to reveal his knowledge of the musician’s heroin habit:

[We see Charlie walking away from caves trying to take drugs out of his pocket, looking behind him. But Locke is coming from the opposite direction.]
CHARLIE: Listen to me, you old git, I'm going in the jungle. A man has a right to some privacy.
LOCKE: Just hand it to me. You're going to run out. My guess is sooner rather than later. Painful detox is inevitable. Give it up now at least it will be your choice.
CHARLIE: Don't talk to me like you know something about me.
LOCKE: I know a lot more about pain than you think. I don't envy what you're facing. But I want to help. [Charlie walks away]. Do you want your guitar?
[Charlie turns and comes back.]
LOCKE: More than your drug?
CHARLIE: More than you know.
LOCKE: What I know is that this island might just give you what you're looking for, but you have to give the island something.
CHARLIE [giving Locke the drugs]: You really think you can find my guitar?
LOCKE: Look up, Charlie.
CHARLIE: You're not going to ask me to pray or something.
LOCKE: I want you to look up.
[Charlie looks up and almost cries when he sees his guitar on a cliff above.]


Judging from the above scene, Locke’s idea of helping Charlie was to insist that the latter hand over the remaining heroin he had left. He insisted. That was Locke’s initial idea of helping Charlie. Knowing the location of Charlie’s guitar, which the latter valued more than anything, Locke then maneuvered Charlie into giving up the drugs in return for the guitar.

In the following episode, (1.07) “The Moth”, Charlie had demanded that Locke return his drugs – which the former agreed to do – ONLY when the former asked for the third time:

[Shot of Charlie running from a boar. Some luggage falls, the boar is trapped in a large net trap.]
LOCKE: Nice work, Charlie. You make excellent bait.
CHARLIE [angrily]: I'm glad I could oblige. Now give me my bloody drugs.

Act 2
CHARLIE: Did you hear what I said? I want my drugs back. I need 'em.
LOCKE: Yet you gave them to me. Hmm.
CHARLIE: And I bloody well regret it. I'm sick, man. Can't you see that?
LOCKE: I think you're a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I'm going to prove it to you. I'll let you ask me for your drugs three times. The third time, I'm going to give them to you. Now, just so we're clear, this is one.
CHARLIE: Why? Why? Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just get rid of them and have done with it?
LOCKE: If I did that you wouldn't have a choice, Charlie. And having choices, making decisions based on more than instinct, is the only thing that separates you from him [indicating the boar].


Now I realize that Locke simply wanted to help Charlie. And I realize that he honestly believe that he was giving Charlie a choice. But if that was John Locke’s idea of a choice, he could keep it, as far as I am concerned. I found Locke’s idea of giving someone a choice rather boorish and controlling. He did not simply give Charlie a choice. What Locke did was manipulate Charlie into making a choice . . . but only on his terms. If Locke really wanted Charlie to utilize his free will to make a choice – one way or the other – about the heroin, he should have given Charlie the heroin when the latter first asked. Some fans have argued that Charlie would have never given up the heroin if Locke had handed it over right away. My answer to that is . . . tough shit. Seriously. Charlie should have made the decision to either continue taking the heroin or stop using . . . on his own. Without Locke’s interference or manipulation.

In the Season One finale, (1.24) “Exodus II”, Charlie accompanied Sayid in a search for Danielle Rousseau, a long time castaway who had kidnapped Aaron Littleton in order to exchange him for her own kidnapped daughter. During that search, the pair came across a Nigerian plane with dead bodies and Virgin Mary statuettes filled with heroin. In a weak moment, Charlie took one of the statuettes behind Sayid’s back. It turned out to be the first of many trips in which Charlie ended up filching a statuette or two, until he managed to build up quite a collection. The ironic thing is that Charlie managed to refrain from using heroin in his possession. Claire Littleton – Aaron’s mother, Mr. Eko and eventually Locke discovered in Season Two’s (2.10) “The 23rd Psalm” and (2.12) “Fire and Water’ that Charlie had possession of the statuettes. This, along with Charlie’s frantic concern and actions over Aaron, led Locke to assume that Charlie had resumed using drugs again:

CHARLIE: Hey, John, can I talk to you for a second?
LOCKE: Yeah, what is it, Charlie?
CHARLIE: I take it you heard about what happened last night.
LOCKE: If you mean you taking the baby out of Claire's tent in the middle of the night -- yeah, I heard.
CHARLIE: This whole thing was a big misunderstanding, John. I was sleepwalking. I don't how or why --
LOCKE: Is there something you want from me, Charlie?
CHARLIE: I was hoping you could speak to Claire for me. You know, put in a good word.
LOCKE: Are you using?
CHARLIE: What?
LOCKE: Heroin. Are you using again?
CHARLIE: Kate sees a horse -- nothing. Pretty much everybody's seen Walt wondering around the jungle. But when it's Charlie it must be the bloody drugs, right?


Charlie did lie about having the drugs in his possession. But he had been telling the truth about using. When Locke found Charlie’s stash of statuettes, he reacted in the following manner:

[Back on the Island, Charlie holds a couple of baggies of heroin in his hand.]
LOCKE [suddenly, off camera at first]: I'm disappointed in you, Charlie.
CHARLIE: You following me?
LOCKE: How long have you been coming out here?
CHARLIE: John, you've got the wrong idea, man.
LOCKE: You said you destroyed them all, and yet here they are. How is that the wrong idea?
CHARLIE: I came out here to finish the job. I'm going to get rid of these right now.
LOCKE: Yeah, that's very convenient now that I found you. [Locke goes to the statues with his pack.]
CHARLIE: What are you doing?
LOCKE [putting the statues in his pack]: There was a time when I let you choose whether or not you were going to do this to yourself. Now I'm making that choice for you.
CHARLIE: Oh, you don't believe me? Give them to me. Give them to me right now; I'll destroy them. Look. [He breaks up the baggies in his hand] I'll throw them in the sodding wind. Look, John, I know I lied, alright. [Locke starts walking away] Wait, wait, wait. Remember all those talks we had, you and me? You said everything happens for a reason -- this island tests us. That's what this is, John, at test. This is my test. That's why these are here.
LOCKE: These are here because you put them here, Charlie. [Locke starts to leave again.]
CHARLIE: Wait, John, wait. [Charlie grabs Locke's arm, and Locke angrily breaks free.] What are you going to do? Are you going to tell Claire? You can't. If she sees them, I'm done. She'll never trust me again, and she has to, John. It's about the baby, alright? Aaron's in danger. You have to believe me.
LOCKE: You've given up the right to be believed, Charlie.


Now, I can understand how Locke would be pissed off that Charlie had lied to him about having the statuettes. But the manner in which he took possession of them reminded me of a bullying parent. At that moment, Locke decided that he would do something about Charlie’s drug problem by taking away the heroin without the latter’s permission. Like a parent would act toward an errant child. All Locke could have done was express disappointment at Charlie for the latter’s lies. But he behaved as if he had the right to take the drugs away . . . and ”make the choice” for Charlie to stop using. The sad thing is that Charlie allowed him to get away with such controlling behavior.

Booone Carlyle
By mid Season One, John Locke found another disciple to mentor. It all began when Charlie and a very pregnant Claire had been kidnapped by a spy for the Others – Ethan Rom – in the episode (1.10) “Raised By Another”. In the following episode, (1.11) “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”, a party that included Locke, Jack, Kate Austen and a wedding planner named Boone Carlyle set off into the jungle in search of the two kidnapped castaways. Eventually, the quartet split into two teams when Kate revealed that she also had tracking skills. Jack and Kate formed one team, and Locke and Boone formed the other. And at this moment, the master/apprentice relationship between the latter pair was born.

This relationship between Locke and Boone lasted approximately eight to nine episodes – between ”All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” and (1.19) “Ex Deux Machina”. During this period, Locke and Boone discovered a steel door to the hatch (Swan Station) that would dominate Season Two. The two men spent several episodes trying to find ways to open the hatch, while lying to the castaways that they were on expeditions hunt for boar. These expeditions were briefly postponed in the episode, (1.13) “Hearts and Minds”, when Boone decided to tell Shannon about the discovered hatch:

BOONE: Look, at least I've got to tell Shannon.
LOCKE: Why?
BOONE: What do mean, why? She's my sister.
LOCKE: Why do you care about her so much?
BOONE: You don't know her man. She's smart, she's special in a lot of ways.
LOCKE: Fair enough.
BOONE: She's been asking me about this. I can't keep lying to her.
LOCKE: You mean you can't keep lying to her, or you can't stand the way she makes you feel because you're lying to her?
BOONE: Both. Whatever. Look, she can keep a secret.
LOCKE: You're sure?
BOONE: Yes, I'm sure.
LOCKE: No, I mean, are you sure you want to do this?
BOONE: I've got to get her off my back. She keeps asking me about this, she keeps asking me about you, about the whole thing.
LOCKE: You're sure you've thought through the ramifications?
BOONE: Yes.
LOCKE: So be it.
[Boone turns around, Locke clocks him with a knife handle.]


After this surprising moment, Locke tied Boone to a tree and used drugs to force the latter to experience a vision quest :

[Shot of Boone tied up. Locke is mixing the stuff in the bowl.]
BOONE: Locke, what is this? Do you hear me? Untie me right now.
LOCKE: Or what?
BOONE: I swear I won't tell anyone about the hatch thing, okay? I promise.
LOCKE: I'm doing this, Boone, because it's time for you to let go of some things. Because it's what's best for you. And, I promise, you're going to thank me for this later.
BOONE: Hey, I don't think this is best for me. [Locke smears the stuff he's been mixing onto the wound on Boone's head.] What is that?
LOCKE: An untreated wound, out here, is going to get infected.
BOONE: You're not going to just leave me here.
LOCKE: Whether you stay is up to you. The camp is 4 miles due west.
BOONE: Which way is west?
[Locke throws a knife into the ground, just out of Boone's reach.]
LOCKE: You'll be able to cut yourself free once you have the proper motivation.
BOONE: Locke!
[Boone is struggling in the ropes, trying to reach the knife.]
BOONE: Help, help!


Locke claimed that he was forcing Boone to submit to a vision quest ”for his own good”. Perhaps helping Boone find closure in his relationship with Shannon had been on his mind. But I find it interesting that Locke had decided to manipulate Boone into this situation after the latter decided to reveal the secret about the hatch. And regardless of whether Locke truly had Boone’s interests at heart or not, he really had no business forcing Boone into that situation in the first place. No wonder the younger man attacked Locke upon returning to the camp.

It all worked out in the end. Locke’s enforced ”vision quest” convinced Boone to leave Shannon alone and allow her to continue her romance with Sayid. More importantly – at least for Locke – the two men continued to maintain the secret of the hatch within the next six to seven episodes. However, Boone never really forgotten Locke’s heavy-handed method of coercing him into a vision question. He made this perfectly clear in ”Ex Deux Machina”:

[The scene switches to Boone and Locke at the hatch.]
LOCKE: I had a dream last night. I asked for a sign and then I saw a plane crash—a Beechcraft [pointing] right out there. It was a dream, but it was the most real thing I've ever experienced. I know where to go now.
BOONE: Go for what?
LOCKE: To find what we need to open this bastard up.
BOONE: Have you been using that wacky paste stuff that made me see my sister get eaten?
LOCKE [laughing]: No, no.
BOONE: Because, John, I've got to tell you—signs and dreams...


In the end, Boone paid a heavy price for becoming John Locke’s protégée . . . assistant . . . or however you want to call him. In the same episode, Locke dreamt of the following - a Beechcraft plane crashing, as well as his mother pointing in its direction; a blood-stained Boone; being confined to his wheelchair and a woman from Boone's past who had died from a fall. As shown in the above passage, Locke did reveal some of his dream to the younger man. Unfortunately, he failed to tell Boone about seeing the latter covered in blood. With Locke’s legs temporarily paralyzed, he urged Boone to climb into the Beechcraft. The younger man managed to briefly contact someone via the plane’s radio (it turned out to be Bernard Nadler from the Tail Section of Flight 815) before the plane fell over and severely injured Boone. Locke managed to regain the use of his legs and carry Boone back to camp. But since he had failed to inform Jack about the nature of Boone’s injuries, the latter eventually died in the next episode, (1.20) “Do No Harm”.

Other Castaways
Charlie Pace and Boone Carlyle were not the only survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 to whom Locke had volunteered his advice. In (1.14) “Special”, he tried to give parenting tips to Michael Dawson on how to handle the latter’s ten year-old son, Walt Lloyd. Being older than Charlie and Boone, and resentful of Locke’s growing relationship with Walt, Michael angrily rejected Locke’s advice. Ironically, I sympathized with Michael. God knows he barely knew anything about being a parent, considering Walt’s mother kept Michael away the ten year-old away from him. But Michael had never asked for Locke’s advice or sympathetic ear. And the older man did not help matters by attempting to teach Walt on how to throw a machete without Michael’s permission.

Locke’s relationship with spinal surgeon Jack Shephard is practically legendary amongst ”LOST” fans. And yet, their relationship had begun on a harmless note when Locke informed Jack that most of the castaways regarded him as their leader. This was Locke’s way of convincing Jack to accept the mantle of leadership. In the end, Locke grew to regret the advice he had given for by Season Two, he ended up clashing with Jack over the leadership of the castaways. Which I did not found surprising, considering that both men shared a penchant for controlling others . . . in their own fashion.

There have been other instances in which Locke inflicted his own will against the desires and choices of others . . . or manipulated others. In ”The Moth”, he prevented Sayid from setting up a signal to help the castaways get rescued. He committed a similar act in Season Three’s (3.13) “The Man From Tallahassee”, when he blew up the submarine that the Others had provided for Jack’s departure from the island. In (3.19) “The Brig”, Locke manipulated James “Sawyer” Ford into murdering his own father, Anthony Cooper. It seemed that Cooper had conned Sawyer’s family of their money back in the 1970s – an act that drove Mr. Ford to commit the double act of murder/suicide. And in the Season Three finale, (3.24) “Through the Looking Glass II”, Locke murdered island newcomer Naomi Dorrit in cold blood to prevent her from signaling her companions from an offshore freighter.

For me, there is one scene that truly symbolized the conflicting and sometimes hypocritical nature of John Locke. In Season Two’s (2.11) “The Hunting Party”, Locke and Jack had discovered that Michael had left the camp in a desperate search to find Walt, who had been kidnapped by the Others in ”Exodus II”. And the two eventually clashed over how to react over Michael’s desperate flight:

LOCKE: Doesn't seem to be -- trail's as straight as the interstate -- the path of a man who knows where he's going. [Locke stares at Jack a moment] Where are you going, Jack?
JACK: What?
LOCKE: Well, let's say we catch up with him, Michael. What are you going to do?
JACK: I'm going to bring him back.
LOCKE: What if he doesn't want to come back?
JACK: I'll talk him into coming back.
LOCKE: This is the second time he's gone after Walt. He knocked me out; he locked us both up. Something tells me he might be past listening to reason.
JACK: What? You think we should just let him go -- write him off?
LOCKE: Who are we to tell anyone what they can or can't do?


What exactly did Locke say to Jack? Oh yes . . . ”Who are we to tell anyone what they can or can’t do?” I found the comment a very ironic comment for John Locke to make, considering his past history with Charlie, Boone and Michael. Judging from the above dialogue, Locke seemed to be a fervent believer in free will and choices. Yet, he seemed incapable of practicing what he was preaching. Despite his belief in free will and free choices, I suspect that John Locke suffered from a malady that afflict many human beings – namely a desire to inflict one’s will or control over others. Power over another is a heady drug and many would bend over backwards or make any excuse to indulge in that desire. A very popular excuse, at least with Locke, seemed to be that he had acted for the greater good on behalf of his fellow castaways – regardless of whether they had asked for his help or not. From what I have seen of Locke’s character over the series’ past four seasons, he reminds of a certain type of character who has appeared in many forms of literature over years. This type happens to an individual who has exercised very little control over his/her life and who has spent most of his/her life being manipulated by others. This has certainly been true of Locke’s character in his relationships with his parents, employers and other acquaintances. Especially his father. This could explain why given the opportunity, Locke never hesitated to make decisions for others without their consent or manipulate them with a Draconian touch that seems rather sinister.

The ironic thing is I have rarely come across any criticisms regarding Locke’s penchant for inflicting his will upon others. Many fans have complained about his willingness to be manipulated by others, especially his father Anthony Cooper and leader of the Others, Ben Linus. Some fans have complained about his obsession over the island and his long-running feud with Jack. But I do not recall coming across any complaints about his actions with Boone in ”Hearts and Mind”. And many have complimented him for the way he dealt with Charlie’s drug addiction in Season One. I wish I could share in this adulation, considering that Charlie did give up his heroin addiction. But I cannot. I believe that Locke – and possibly many fans – was more focused upon the endgame, instead of the journey. What I am trying to say is that Locke seemed so intent upon achieving a goal – whether it was to get Charlie to give up drugs or convince Boone in getting over Shannon – that he failed to realize that such goals required a great deal of work on their parts. I would have been more impressed if both Charlie and Boone had come to the realization that they needed to get over their desires and obsessions on . . . their . . . own, or made the decision to achieve these goals without being manipulated by Locke. But since Locke had decided to interfere in the lives of both men, he pretty much robbed them of their struggles.

After reading this article, one would believe that I dislike John Locke. I do not. Frankly, I consider him to be one of the most fascinating characters on ”LOST”. Like many other fans, I bought into that image of him as this mysterious and all wise man who not only understood the island better than the characters, but also understood them and their situation better than them. What I had failed to realize back in Season One that underneath the persona of the all wise island guru, John Locke was an insecure man whose enthusiasm over being healed by the island led him to interfere and manipulate the lives of some of his fellow castaways. This enthusiasm not only led him to wallow in a delusion that he knew all there was to know about life, it also hid the fact that as an individual, Locke still had a long way to go in achieving self-realization.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"MAD MEN" (1.05) "5G" Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery of photos from the Season One episode of "MAD MEN" called (1.05) "5G":



"MAD MEN" (1.05) "5G" Photo Gallery