Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Below is a gallery featuring photos from the 1989 miniseries, "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS". Based upon Jules Verne's novel and directed by Buzz Kulik, the three-part miniseries starred Pierce Brosnan, Eric Idle, Julia Nickson and Peter Ustinov:
"AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" (1989) Photo Gallery
Monday, March 30, 2009
"RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE"
"Who in the hell is Dako?" a perplexed Piper Halliwell demanded. "I feel like I've been asking that question ever since we left the hospital."
The grandfather clock inside the McNeill manor read three-forty. After nearly an hour in the operation room, Paige's doctor had declared her stable. He also advised her family and friends to leave, since the only thing left for her to do was rest. The Halliwells, the two McNeill women, Cecile, Leo and Cole accepted the doctor's advice and headed for the McNeill home to discuss the situation.
Cecile spoke up. "Dako was a bokor. A sorcerer who practiced dark magic."
Cole added, "He was an eighteenth-century bokor." Cecile glanced at him. Cole stared back. "Andre once told me about him."
"And who is this Andre?" Phoebe asked.
Cecile replied, "My boyfriend."
"How do you know about him?" Phoebe directed her question at Cole. There was something in her manner that annoyed Cecile. It seemed almost accusatory. Suspicious.
Apparently, Cole felt the same. Instead of answering his ex-wife's question, he snapped back, "Why do you want to know?" He gave her a cool stare. Phoebe looked away.
Sensing the tension in the drawing room, Cecile continued, "Dako was a powerful 18th century bokor who was the illegitimate son of a female sorcerer and a Dahomey prince. At least we think so. The mother named her son after her lover's ancestor, a 16th century king named Dako. After his mother's death, Dako had offered his services to a local trader. Needless to say, thanks to Dako, the trader became a rich landlord, and later something of a tyrant. His people killed the former landlord and tried to get rid of Dako. They failed. Unfortunately for them, Dako took over his former employer's holdings and property and became an even worse tyrant."
"From what Andre told me," Cole continued, "a powerful houngan, or Vodoun priest named Ehioze eventually came up with a spell to vanquish Dako." He added, "And please don't ask me what that spell is, because I don't know. But Cecile might."
Leo asked, "Why is that?"
Cecile sighed. "Because one of my ancestors was a houngan named Ehioze." All eyes turned to her. "Unfortunately, I have no idea what that spell is. It probably hasn't been used in over two centuries."
Olivia added, "And how does Darryl fit in all this?"
With a shrug, Cecile replied, "Looks like he's been possessed by Dako's spirit."
"His spirit?" Piper shook her head. "I thought you said that Dako had been vanquished."
"He was," Cecile insisted. "His corporeal body was destroyed and his spirit, sent to the afterlife. Apparently, someone has managed to summon his spirit, again. Maybe those warlocks you've been so concerned about. Vodouns believe that death isn't permanent. Which is why it’s possible that Dako's spirit still exists."
Phoebe sighed. "Great! Because some sorcerer's spirit refuses to die, our friend might be possessed and our sister is in the hospital. Why couldn't he just stay dead like the other demon and warlocks we've gone against?"
"Ten to one, their spirits aren't completely gone, either," Cecile commented. "Look at the Source. Despite you killing him, he managed to possess Cole."
Both Halliwell sisters stared at Cecile. Then at Cole. "Possessed?" Piper said in an arch tone. She glared at the half-daemon. "Is that what he told you?"
"Yeah, I did," Cole retorted. "Is there a problem?"
Another moment of uncomfortable silence followed. Then Piper spoke up. "Since we don't have the spell to vanquish this Dako, does anyone have any other ideas? Perhaps a potion?"
Olivia commented, "I'm sure that we can get our hands on that spell." She glanced at Cecile. "Maybe your parents or Andre might know where it can be found. Then you can use it."
"Why don't we just create a potion or a spell to vanquish it?" Phoebe asked. Everyone stared at her. Especially Cecile. "I mean, why is it so important that Cecile use that particular spell?"
"Because she's Vodoun," Olivia coolly replied. "And the spell that had been used to vanquish Dako came from a Vodoun priest. Chances are a Vodoun would know the right spell to use."
Leo frowned. "Are you saying that those who don't practice Voodoo . . ."
"Vodoun," Olivia corrected. Cecile smiled at her friend's blunt tone.
"Right, Vodoun. Are you saying that those who don't practice it, cannot vanquish this guy?"
Olivia sighed. "All I’m saying, Leo, is that a Vodoun spell might be the correct one to use against Dako. And I don’t recall Piper and Phoebe being Vodoun practitioners."
Cecile realized that her friend's answer deserved an explanation. "You have to understand. Vodoun is an ancestral religion. West African ancestry. The spirits of those like Dako – whether they are good or evil, are part of that ancestry. This spirit is also known as the Diaspora. And those who possessed the Diaspora are namely those with West African ancestry in their blood."
"Not exactly an equal opportunity religion, is it?" Piper murmured sarcastically. However, she had spoken loud enough for the others to hear. Including Cecile.
The New Orleans glared at the oldest Halliwell. She did not care for the witch's words or tone. "I’m sorry. What was that?" she demanded coldly.
"What?" Piper's eyes widened in innocence. Too late, as far as Cecile was concerned. "I didn't . . ."
Cecile snapped back, "Do you know anything about Vodoun?"
An embarassed Piper cleared her throat. "Uh . . . no, I don't. Sorry."
Her eyes still boring into the oldest Charmed One's, Cecile relaxed. Somewhat. "It's okay. Apology accepted. As for Vodoun, non-Africans who are interested are not excluded. In fact, you don’t have to be born in Africa or have brown skin to have African ancestry. But Vodoun is an ancestral religion, like it or not. Those with no ancestral ties to West Africa probably lack the lwa or spirit. Of course . . .” Her mouth briefly curved in a mischievous smile. “. . . there is a good chance that all of us in this room might have some African ancestry.”
Piper’s eyes grew wide before she murmured, “Oh. Huh. Yeah, of course.”
Cecile returned her gaze to Olivia. "I'll call my folks and Andre, tonight. See if they know how to get their hands on that spell and a potion to free your friend, Darryl. If not, I'll try to think of something. Meanwhile, I suggest you all keep your eyes open for Dako. He's very powerful. And I'm not joking."
"She's right," Cole added. "Andre told me that he might be more powerful than the Source."
Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Again, how do you know about this Andre?"
Cole hesitated. He glanced at Cecile, who merely shrugged. "Andre is Cecile's boyfriend." He paused. "And he’s also an old friend of mine. Andre used to . . ."
"He used to be a bokor," Cecile finished bluntly. "Like Dako. Only Andre decided to reject black magic and become a houngan."
Cole added, "Andre and I first met ten years ago. During my glory days as Belthazor. He was a bokor at the time."
Unease crept into Phoebe's eyes. "Wait. Are you saying that your boyfriend used to be evil?"
"Well, he practiced magic for evil purposes. If that's what you mean." Cecile gave Phoebe a direct stare. "Anything else?"
Phoebe turned away. "No. I guess not." She immediately switched to the subject of their present problem. "As for Dako, I guess we should be able to handle him. Vodoun or not, we are the Charmed Ones. I mean, with the two of us and the magic of Piper's baby, we should be able to handle him." Phoebe hesitated, as she spared Cole a glance. "Or maybe Cole can."
In other words, Cecile translated, the Halliwells planned to create a potion or spell to use against Dako. Despite Olivia's warning. She shot a look at her friend . . . who merely glanced away. How on earth did Cole Turner fall for this one? Cecile failed to see the attraction.
"We still have one matter to consider," Olivia added. "Darryl. Before Cecile can vanquish Dako, we have to free Darryl. I mean, after all, we don't want a repeat performance of an innocent getting killed, along with evil."
Phoebe opened her mouth for a retort. Not one word came out. Piper glared at the red-haired witch. Leo merely squirmed with discomfort. Mrs. McNeill maintained an innocent expression. Cecile glanced at Cole, whose mouth formed the beginning of a smirk. Apparently, everyone fully understood the implications behind Olivia's words.
The phone rang. Olivia's cell phone. She stood up and walked away from the others, while they continued to discuss Dako. The Halliwells made plans to create a potion that would free Inspector Morris' from the bokor's spirit. Cole tried to explain that it might not be possible for them to accomplish this, but both sisters seemed determined to ignore him.
Olivia returned to the group, looking grim. "What's wrong?" her mother asked.
"It's Mallard. Ben Mallard. He's a U.S. Customs agent I told Cole about. It seems that he's dead. Someone found his body in an alley off Kearny Street. Stabbed with a sharp object."
* * * *
Ben Mallard's employers proved to be very difficult. And uncooperative. They tried to claim Federal jurisdiction over the agent's death, but Olivia reminded the agency's head that Mallard's body had been discovered by a city police officer. And that the agent had been linked to a local murder.
Following a cool interview with the office's head honcho, Olivia interviewed Mallard's secretary. She was a pleasant-looking woman in her late thirties named Ms. Dominguez. "Nothing special really happened, today," the latter said. "In fact, Mr. Mallard had lunch inside his office."
Olivia asked, "So why did he leave the office early, today? A meeting?"
Ms. Dominguez, who continued to look stunned over her boss' death, paused to wipe a few tears from her eyes. "He had received a call after lunch. No, wait. The phone never rang. It was sometime after one, when I got back from lunch. I saw Mr. Mallard on the telephone. He immediately left after the call." The secretary led Olivia to Malllard's office. "I think I saw him scribble something on his calendar pad, before he left."
A quick glance at the calendar pad revealed an address scrawled in Mallard's handwriting. 5725 Kearny. Right next to the alley where the agent's body had been found. Olivia flipped through the previous pages. She spotted an inscription on the page for Tuesday - ”S.S. Enigma; Pier 34 @ 11:30 am." Interesting. What was so important about the S.S. Enigma? Olivia felt tempted to ask Mallard's supervisor. However, instinct told her that he might prove to be difficult.
"Is there anything else you want?" Ms. Dominguez asked.
Olivia shook her head and smiled. "Not at the moment. I'm afraid I have a dead end, here. But I might return with more questions." You can bet your sweet ass I will.
* * * *
"What happened to the Halliwell witch?" Cousin Henry demanded. "She's still alive. And so is the McNeill witch!" Edward winced, as his cousin confronted the Vodoun sorcerer with his usual bluntness.
Seconds later, a bolt of lightning struck the warlock and sent his body crashing into a wall, thanks to Dako. The latter glared at Cousin Henry's semi-conscious body. At least Edward hoped that the man was semi-conscious. "Don't you ever talk to me in that tone, again!" Dako boomed. Then he glared at the others. "Either learn to hold your tongue or suffer the consequences! All of you!"
Three of the other Crozats squirmed with discomfort. Edward bowed deeply to the bokor. "Yes, Your Eminence. It will never happen, again." Silently, he damned the turn of events. Nothing seemed to be going well. Dako not only failed to kill both Paige Matthews and Olivia McNeill, the latter managed to discover Ben Mallard's connections to the janitor that Rudolf had killed. Which forced Edward to order the death of the Customs' agent. Even more frustrating, Suzanne had failed to begin the first step that would give them Belthazor's powers. In other words, everything seemed to be going wrong. Perhaps he should use the spell given to him by his old friend, William Dagbani, and vanquish Dako. And find another way to get rid of the McNeills and the Halliwells.
"As for the two witches," Dako continued less spiritedly, "I could not kill the one with the red hair. Someone had appeared. As for the other witch . . ." He looked disturbed. "This mortal . . . Morris . . . He stopped me from killing her and the old couple. He is stronger than I had thought possible. Are you sure he is a mortal?"
Keeping his frustration in check, Edward assured the bokor that Darryl Morris was mortal. He delicately added, "Perhaps you're not as strong as you thought, Your Eminence." The other Crozats stared at him as if he had gone insane. Edward ignored them.
Morris/Dako gave the warlock a long, hard stare. "You might have a point," he finally conceded. Relief flooded through Edward's body. "Perhaps I need a little more meditation to gain more control over this body. But first, I will go after the third witch you had recommended. This Harry McNeill. Where can I find him?"
Edward replied that the McNeill telepath could be found at the family's business office. "At the McNeill-Ross Building on Montgomery. According to my nephew, his office is located on the 23rd floor. He usually works late at night. At least on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And today is Thursday. He should be alone."
The sorcerer paused. Gave Edward another piercing stare. "Is there something I should know about this particular witch? You failed to inform me that the last one could teleport."
Fear threatened to overwhelm Edward. He took a deep breath and answered, "Other than him being a telepath . . . no. And I apologize for failing to inform you everything about the other witch. I should have. As for this second McNeill witch, not only is he a telepath, but a powerful one. Like his grandmother."
"That should be no problem," Dako said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I have strong resistance to those with psychic abilities." He smiled. "And when I'm finished with this witch, I'll tend to his sister, followed by the other two Charmed Ones." To Edward's relief, he disappeared.
Suzanne sauntered over to Edward. "God! I can't wait to get rid of that bastard!" she seethed. "Exactly when can we vanquish him?"
"After he has killed the others and we kill Belthazor," Edward calmly replied. All of you be patient. And Suzanne, perhaps you should see about setting up another date with Belthazor." A sigh left Suzanne's mouth. "What?" Edward demanded. "Do you have a problem with Belthazor?"
"It's not Co . . . Belthazor I'm worried about," a petulant Suzanne shot back.
Cousin Louis, along with Rudolf, helped Cousin Henry stand up. He asked, "Then what's wrong?"
Suzanne continued, "It's the Halliwell baby. I don't like the idea of being pregnant for the next four or five months."
Edward sighed. Not only did he have a megalomaniac sorcerer to deal with, but a petulant cousin as well. Of course, he could understand Suzanne's reluctance to carry the Halliwell baby. His cousin was not exactly one would label as the maternal type.
"Perhaps you will not have to carry the baby," Edward suggested. "If we can get hold of Belthazor's powers, together with our friend, Dako, we might be able to destroy the baby. And the oldest Charmed One."
Rudolf frowned. "Do we really need Dako's help in getting rid of that baby, Uncle Edward?"
"According to my sources, the witch might be carrying a powerful baby. Perhaps just as powerful as Belthazor. A group of whitelighters seemed to view it as some prophecy child. Only, they did not count on Belthazor returning from the Wasteland just as powerful. But once we steal his powers, we and Dako can destroy the witch and her baby." He looked at Suzanne. "It's either that, or we steal the womb and you carry the child."
Suspicion gleamed in Suzanne's dark eyes. "How did you get all of this information, anyway? Surely not from some daemon in the Source’s Realm. It's chaos over there."
Edward smiled. "Like I said, I have a source. A very interesting one." His smile disappeared. "Now, don't you think it's time to call Mr. Turner?"
Suzanne rolled her eyes and headed for the nearest telephone.
END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN
Thursday, March 26, 2009
”MAD MEN”: The Specter of Intolerance
Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed television series, ”MAD MEN”, has addressed many issues that American society had faced in both the past and today. Issues such as class, sexism, religion and race have either reared its ugly heads or have been brushed upon by this series about an advertising agency in the 1960s.
The center of ”MAD MEN” is mainly focused upon advertising executive named Don Draper. But the series also focuses upon his co-workers at the firm he works at – Sterling Cooper – and his family in the suburb of Ossing, New York. But this article is about two of Don’s co-workers – namely a junior copywriter named Paul Kinsey and the firm’s office manager, the red-haired Joan Holloway.
In the series premiere, (1.01) ”Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, Joan was engaged in the task of introducing the newly hired secretary, Peggy Olsen, around to Sterling Cooper’s other employees. One of the employees happened to be Paul Kinsey, who briefly hinted that he and Joan had a romantic history in the past. This was confirmed several episodes later in (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy”, when Joan and Paul had a bittersweet conversation about their past romance during an election party (Election of 1960) held at the office. Apparently, Joan had ended the romance when Paul revealed too much about their relationship.
Joan and Paul’s relationship – or should I say friendship – took an ugly turn for the worst in Season Two’s (2.01) ” 1”. Although this episode mainly focused upon another Sterling Cooper employee, Pete Campbell, facing his father’s death; it began with a party held by Paul at his apartment in Montclair, New Jersey. Paul’s guests not only included co-workers from Sterling Cooper, but also some of his African-American friends (or neighbors). One of those guests included Paul’s new girlfriend, a black woman named Sheila White. Paul introduced Sheila to Joan as his girlfriend. He also added that Sheila worked as an assistant manager at her local supermarket. Then he briefly dismissed himself to see to another guest. Once Paul left, Joan turned to Sheila and said the following:
”"When Paul and I were together, the last thing I would have taken him for was open-minded."
In one sentence, Joan managed to stake her claim on Paul as a former lover and make a racist comment. Sheila merely responded with a polite compliment about Joan’s purse. She must have eventually told Paul, because within a day or two, Paul angrily confronted Joan on the matter. She merely responded by accusing Paul of using Sheila to look bohemian and ”tolerant” to his friends and co-workers. She also managed to conveniently forget that Sheila worked as an assistant manager at the Food Fair and dismissed the latter as a mere check-out clerk. Too angry to respond, Paul stalked away. Later, he got his revenge by stealing Joan’s drivers’ license, making a copy of it and posting that copy on the office bulletin board. He did this to expose her age (which was 31 years).
Paul and Joan did not share any scenes together until the recent episode, (2.10) “The Inheritance”. In this particular episode, Sheila paid a visit to the Sterling Cooper office to meet with Paul for lunch. She also wanted Paul to join her on a voters’ registration trip to Mississippi. Did Joan notice the brief kiss exchanged between Paul and Sheila? Yes. Nor did she look particularly happy about it. This episode exposed Paul’s blowhard attempts to make himself look good in the eyes of others . . . especially in the eyes of Sterling Cooper’s black elevator operator, Hollis and the other members of the entourage he and Sheila accompanied on their trip to Mississippi. But I feel that it also exposed Joan’s own feelings about Paul’s relationship with Sheila . . . again.
Don Draper gave Joan the opportunity to exact revenge upon Paul. In ”Inheritance”, Paul and accounts executive Pete Campbell were ordered to Southern California to recruit future clients in the region’s aerodynamics industry. At the last minute, Don decided he would replace Paul on the trip. He ordered his temporary secretary, namely Joan, to inform Paul in a memorandum that he would be taking the latter’s place on the trip. Instead of informing Paul by memo, she verbally told him in front of the other Sterling Cooper employees, during a baby shower for father-to-be Harry. And publically humiliated the copywriter, in the process. Joan got her revenge . . . for something she had set in motion, when she insulted Sheila in an earlier episode. Curious.
And yet . . . most of the fans of ”MAD MEN” seemed to sympathize with Joan and vilify Paul, in the process. Many of them seemed so intent upon pointing out Paul’s pretentious behavior or claiming that he does not really care for Sheila that they have ended up ignoring Joan’s racism. And there have been those who claim that Joan is not a racist. They insisted that she simply wanted to expose Paul’s poseur attitude. My question is . . . why? Why would Joan even bother? Both the series’ viewers and Joan received a firsthand glimpse of Paul’s pretentiousness back in the Season One episode, (1.12) ”Nixon vs. Kennedy”. In that episode, Paul had Salvatore Romano and Joan performed his one-act play that he had written, during the office party for the 1960 elections. The viewers also received an example of how dark Paul’s poseur streak can be when he expressed jealousy that Ken Cosgrove managed to get a short story published in ”The Atlantic Monthly” in (1.05) “5G”. Why did Joan wait until she met Sheila to point out Paul’s pretentiousness? Why did she not do this earlier? I have asked this question on several occasions. Most fans either ignore my questions or insist that Joan is not a racist . . . while at the same time, continue to deride or make a big deal out of Paul’s pretentiousness.
In a ”Christina Hendricks Interview”, the red-haired actress had expressed dismay over the possibility of Joan being a racist, when she read the script for ”Flight 1”. Series creator Matthew Weiner told her that Joan was not a racist. He added that Joan was simply trying to expose Paul’s pretentiousness over his relationship with Sheila. Like many of the series’ fans, Ms. Hendricks accepted Weiner’s explanation. But after viewing ”Flight 1” and ”The Inheritance”, I can conclude that the writer/producer did a piss poor job of conveying Joan’s intention . . . or he had lied to Christina Hendricks. Right now, I am inclined to believe the latter.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Romulus finally arrived at the galaxy's bustling capital. Thanks to the ARC-170 that he flew, the planet's security controller did not demand any identification. In fact, the young Jedi Knight managed to guide the starfighter toward the Jedi Temple with no problems. Only . . . the temple that he had remembered no longer existed.
Heavy rainfall nearly shielded the smoke that billowed from the temple's center tower. A closer look revealed that three of the Temple's surrounding towers no longer stood. His heart filled with anxiety, Romulus disregarded any thoughts of caution and landed the fighter on the nearest landing pad.
The Jedi Knight climbed out of the vehicle and immediately raced inside the temple's hangar. When he finally reached the main building, he found three bodies clad in the uniform of a clone trooper. He raced along the main corridor and did not find a soul, let alone a body around. Although there seemed to be no signs of corpses, Romulus could detect the odor of dead flesh in the air. Whatever bodies there had been, someone had them removed. For which Romulus felt eternally grateful. Facing the ruined temple had been bad enough. His mind reeled at the idea of being confronted with bodies of his fellow Jedi.
Romulus continued to march along the temple's desolate corridor. He meant to reach a room where he could learn the whereabouts of all the knights. Perhaps he could rendezvous with one or more of them. Find a way to fight back and finally oust Palpatine from office.
"Hold it right there!" a voice barked. Romulus whirled around and saw a squad of clone troopers aiming blasters at him. The squad's leader cried out, "He's Jedi! Fire!" And the troopers attacked.
Fortunately for Romulus, his Jedi reflexes allowed him to fight off the attack with his lightsaber. Despite the troopers' continuing fire, Romulus managed to deflect their blasts and kill them in the end. After the last clone trooper fell dead, Romulus continued along the corridor. He had reached the temple's records room when two more clone squads appeared.
Once again, the Jedi found himself deflecting blaster fire. He had the oddest feeling that someone had been expecting him. The Jedi Knight tried to fight off the troopers as best as he could. Deflecting their shots, he managed to kill a good number of them. But despite his Jedi reflexes, he found himself growing increasingly exhausted. He deflected one last shot before a sharp pain struck his left shoulder. This is it, he told himself, before he finally slipped into oblivion.
Inside the Tantive IV's conference room, Bail met with his two Jedi guests to discuss an important issue - namely what to do with Padme Amidala and her newborn twins.
"Arrange her death we must," Master Yoda pronounced. "To make sure the Sith does not find her. Or the children."
Bail felt slightly uneasy that the Jedi Master would make such a decision without considering Padme's consent. Before he could protest, Master Kenobi asked, "Arrange her death? Do you mean . . .?"
Master Yoda nodded. "Yes. Fake her death. Pregnant, she must still appear. Hidden, safe, the children must be kept."
"We must take them somewhere the Sith will not sense their presence," Obi-Wan added.
The older Jedi Knight countered, "Split up, they should be."
Finally, Bail decided to speak up. "Surely, you plan to discuss this matter with Senator Amidala before you set all of this in motion?"
"I believe that would be an excellent idea," a light, female's voice added. The three males glanced at the figure standing in the doorway. A very pale Padme, supported by her protocol droid, slowly made her way into the conference room. All three men stood up, while Bail helped the droid escort her to an empty seat. "Gentlemen."
Both Masters Yoda and Kenobi bowed at the senator. "Milady," they murmured simultaneously.
Slowly, Padme sat down in an empty seat and regarded the two Jedi Knights with chilly eyes. "Exactly when were you planning to inform me of your plans regarding my children, Master Yoda?"
The diminutive Jedi Master bowed again. "Senator Amidala, feel, how do you?"
"I am well as I can be, Master Yoda." Padme inhaled sharply. "Considering I have recently given birth to twins. Speaking of my children, what were you planning to do with them?"
An uncomfortable silence filled the starcruiser's conference room. As much as Bail felt sorry for Masters Yoda and Kenobi, he could not help but feel a small twinge of satisfaction at their discomfort. They had brought it upon themselves by assuming authority over his colleague's children.
Kenobi said, "Please Padme, you must understand. We are only thinking of your safety. And the children's safety. One day, they might be able to defeat the Emperor."
"Strong the Force runs in the Skywalker line," Master Yoda added. "Until the time is right, disappear they must."
Padme's eyes hardened. "Is that all my children mean to you? A tool to defeat Palpatine? What makes you think I will allow them to become Jedi?"
Kenobi sighed. "Padme . . ."
"Allow me to make something clear," Padme said, interrupting the Jedi Knight. "I . . . will decide my children's future. And until they assume the age of consent, they will stay with me. I will not split them up."
Anxiety flashed in Master Kenobi's eyes. "Padme, you cannot be serious! You simply cannot take your children back to Naboo. It will not be long before the Emperor finds them!"
"I will not return to Naboo."
Again, silence enveloped the room. The two men and Yoda frowned at the Nabooan senator. "But . . . we are bound for Naboo at this moment," Bail said. "In fact, we should arrive within a day."
Padme sighed. "Then I suggest that we adopt Master Yoda's idea . . . fake my death. However, my parents must know the truth." Kenobi opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. "I need them to help me acquire all of my personal assets, Obi-Wan. I will need those assets to maintain a comfortable life for my children and myself."
Bail asked, "And after that? After the funeral?"
Padme hesitated. "I don't know. Find a new home for us. I might consider asking Ani . . . Anakin's family on Tatooine to allow us to stay for a while. At least until I can find a new home."
"Why don't you stay with us?" With a jolt, Bail realized that he had spoken. Yet, the more he considered his suggestion, the more he agreed to the idea. He felt certain that his wife, Queen Breha of Alderaan, would not mind the company. Padme could pose as a distant Organa kinsman.
Everyone else in the room stared at Bail. Both Yoda and Kenobi looked skeptical. Padme, on the other hand, seemed conflicted by the idea. "Bail, I don't . . . I don't know what to say. I would love to accept your offer, but Alderaan isn't exactly located in the far reaches of the galaxy. If the Emperor happens to sense the twins . . ."
"It will not matter," Bail replied. "Trust me. I am sure that Master Yoda can attest to the fact that being inclined toward pacifism, many Alderaan citizens were reluctant to hand over their Force-sensitive children over to the Jedi Order. They did not approve of the martial arts."
Padme blinked. "Oh. Then . . ." A bright smile - the first he had seen in a very long time - illuminated her otherwise pale and drawn face. "Then I accept your offer. Thank you, Bail."
Skepticism remained stamped on the two Jedi Knights' faces. Kenobi opened his mouth to speak, but Padme added, "Would you all please excuse me? I need to see to the children. And I need more rest." She turned to the protocol droid. "Threepio?"
"Yes, Miss Padme." The droid rushed over to help his mistress stand up. The men also stood. Bail summoned Raynor to help the droid escort her back to her cabin.
The Alderaanian senator realized that he need to make arrangements for their arrival on Naboo - and for the deception they were all about to perpetrate. He excused himself and started toward the door. As he paused in the doorway, he glanced over his shoulder and saw that the two Jedi Masters were already deep in conversation.
". . . any way to change Padme's mind?" Obi-Wan was saying to Yoda. "Surely she must realize that keeping the twins together might be dangerous."
Yoda closed his eyes and sighed. "Clouded by her emotions, the senator is. Trust us, she no longer does."
Obi-Wan glanced away. "Speaking of which, I have yet to tell her about Anakin." He paused. "And I have not decided whether I should I or not. What do you think, Master Yoda?"
"Find him, she will not," Yoda proclaimed. "Not without great risk to her children." He gave the younger Jedi Master a surreptious glance. "As for your decision to search for him . . ."
With a slight cough, Obi-Wan declared, "My decision has remained firm on this matter, Master Yoda. I must be certain that he has not returned to Lord Sidious."
Yoda nodded. "And your plans, if you do not find him?"
Obi-Wan searched his mind for an answer. "Find a permanent home. Since I am headed for Tatooine, it seems like a good place to stay."
The other Jedi Master leaned back into his chair. "In that case, in your solitude on Tatooine, training I have for you."
Leaning forward, Obi-Wan said, "Training?"
"An old friend has learned the path to immortality."
The Jedi Master's eyes grew opaque. "One who has returned from the netherworld of the Force to train me." He paused dramatically. "Your old Master, Qui-Gon Jinn."
The news took Obi-Wan by surprise. His heart nearly leapt at the mention of his former master. "Qui-Gon? But how could he accomplish this?"
Yoda leaned forward. "The secret of the Ancient Order of the Whills, he studied. How to commune with him, I will teach you."
Obi-Wan shook his head in confusion. "I will be able to talk to him?"
Nodding, Yoda replied, "How to join the Force, he will train you. Your consciousness you will retain, when one with the Force." His small eyes glittered with promise, as he added on a final note, "Even your physical self, perhaps."
Accompanied by his aide, Sly Moore, Emperor Palpatine slowly walked along the wide corridor of the new Imperial Security Bureau. The pair finally came upon a pair of double door that led to the Bureau's rehabilitation facility. Two members of the Red Guard, now renamed the Imperial Guard, flanked the doors.
"Stay here," Palpatine barked at his aide. Sly Moore nodded and remained outside, while the Sith Lord entered the facility. Inside, he found his new prisoner laid across a gurney that also served as a bed. Metal clamps stretched across the prisoner's chest, while other clamps imprisoned his arms and legs. Palpatine nodded at the FX-9 medical droid. "Wake him."
The droid glided over to the gurney and inserted a drug-filled injector into the prisoner's left arm. Nearly a minute passed before the prisoner's eyes flickered open. Palpatine pressed a button, allowing the gurney to rotate into a vertical position. The prisoner glanced around and groggily asked, "Where am I?"
"You are inside the Imperial Security Bureau," the Emperor replied. "Here on Coruscant, of course." He continued in a polite voice, "May I ask what where you doing at the Jedi Temple? Hoping to meet a few of your conspirators, perhaps?"
The prisoner frowned. "Conspirators? You dare question . . ." He paused. "The clone troopers on Dallik had mutinied against me and my master. And when I had arrived here . . . I was attacked. By other clones."
Smoothly, Palpatine replied, "Naturally. You are Jedi. What did you expect? Your masters had committed treason against the state. Both Masters Windu and Yoda had attempted to assassinate me . . . due to a plan by the Jedi Council to take over the Senate."
"You're lying!" the prisoner exclaimed. A piece of equipment zoomed across the room, narrowly missing the Sith Lord's head by inches. "The Jedi would never have made any assassination attempts. That is not our way. If they . . . if they had tried to kill you . . . they must have had a good reason. Many of us knew of your connection to a Sith Lord named Sidious."
The news startled Palpatine slightly. He had been aware of the Jedi Council's suspicions and the evidence they had discovered. But he never realized that the Jedi rank-and-file also knew. "From whom did you learn this?" When the prisoner failed to answer, Palpatine smiled. "Ah, of course. I should have known that Jedi Master Wo-Chen Puri must have said something to you. I understand that he had been a friend of Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, who was a member of the Council."
A startled expression flitted across the prisoner's face. "You . . . you know who I am?"
Palpatine's smile widened. Like a reptile that had ensnared his prey. "Of course. Jedi Knight Romulus Wort. You were considered one of the Order's most promising knights of your generation. Along with Ferus Olin and Anakin Skywalker . . . also known as the Chosen One." He inhaled slightly to mask his own frustration and anger at his former apprentice's defection.
"If you're asking for their whereabout, I don't know," Wort spat out. "Ferus had left the Order before he could be knighted. Before the war. As for Skywalker . . . I assume you had him killed."
His voice dripping with false modesty, Palpatine countered, "Now why would I do that? Master Skywalker had been a great help to putting down the Jedi rebellion." Savoring Wort's surprised reaction, he added, "Did you know that he had saved me from Mace Windu, when the latter tried to kill me? He even ended the war by destroying the Separatist leadership on my orders." He paused. "And helped end the Jedi Order's rule once and for all."
Palpatine could practically feel the Jedi Knight's consternation rising. In fact, he savored every moment of it.
"What are you saying?" Wort demanded. "For all his faults, Anakin Skywalker would never betray the Order. He has always been a loyal knight."
A heavy sigh left Palpatine's mouth. "Really?" Using a remote, the Sith Lord activated a holoprojector situated not far from the gurney. A holographic image of the late Mace Windu wielding a lightsaber, a fallen Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker appeared before the pair. With concealed glee, Sidious watched the Jedi Knight stare at the unfolding scene:
A holographic Palpatine gasped, "I can't . . . I give up. Help me. I am weak . . . I am too weak. Don't kill me. I give up. I'm dying. I can't hold on any longer."
Windu growled, "You Sith disease! I am going to end this once and for all!"
"You can't kill him, Master!" the holographic Skywalker begged. "He must stand trial."
"He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts!" Windu retorted. "He is too dangerous to be kept alive!"
Palpatine watched his holographic self beg once more for Skywalker's help. And as he had recalled, the latter demanded restraint on the Jedi Master's part. He then watched as the holographic Windu raised his lightsaber for the death blow.
Skywalker demanded, "He must live . . ."
"Please don't," the holographic Palpatine begged.
Skywalker added, "I need him . . ."
"Please don't . ."
Then Palpatine's missing apprentice cried out, as he stepped forward to chop off Windu's sword hand. Palpatine had to refrain from chuckling aloud at the moment. He then reveled at the sight of his holographic self blasting the Jedi Master with Force lightning.
Gasps escaped from Romulus Wort's mouth. The Sith Lord could feel the young man's anger growing stronger.
Then the holographic Skywalker bemoaned, "What have I done? After the Palpatine hologram reminded the Chosen One of destiny being fulfilled, the latter pledged, "I will do whatever you ask."
"Good," the holographic Palpatine said.
"Just help me save Padme's life. I can't live without her. I won't let her die. I want the power to stop death." While the holoprojecter displayed Skywalker pledging his life to the Sith, Palpatine switched it off.
"This . . . this isn't true!" a horrified Wort exclaimed. "Anakin would never be . . ." He turned accusing eyes upon the Emperor. "You're Sith! You deserved to die at Master Windu's hands! Anakin would never betray the Order!"
"Are you so certain, my young Jedi? Then I suggest that you continue to watch." Again, Palpatine switched on the holoprojector.
A holographic image of Skywalker as Darth Vader surveyed the carnage inside the Jedi Temple. Palpatine could not help but admire his former apprentice's handiwork. Then his holographic counterpoint appeared.
"The traitors have been taken care of, Lord Sidious," Vader declared.
Nodding, the holographic Palpatine murmured, "Good . . . good. You have done well, my new apprentice. Do you feel your power growing?"
"Yes, my Master."
"Now, Lord Vader," the other Sidious added, "now go and bring peace to . . ."
"NOOOOO!!!" The cry escaped from Wort's mouth, as medical equipment zipped back and forth, across the room. Droids crushed into pieces of metal without any effort. The Jedi Knight's restraints snapped free. Using the Force, Palpatine detached a needle from one remaining medical droid and inserted its tip into Wort's neck. Seconds later, the Jedi Knight slumped to the floor, unconscious.
The Sith Lord heaved a sigh of relief. He had no idea that Romulus Wort would prove to be so powerful. True, he may never match Vader's raw strength, but he came pretty close. Developing this young man into a Sith apprentice might just make up for the loss of Vader.
Satisfied with his work for the afternoon, Palpatine left the room. He found Sly Moore, as he had left her, standing in the corridor. Only, she now held a data pad in her hands. "This is for you, Your Highness," she said in a solemn voice. "It is news from Naboo."
END OF CHAPTER THREE
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Below is a gallery of photos from the 2003 movie, "THE MOTHER". Directed by Roger Michell, the movie is about a recently widowed English grandmother who has a passionate affair with a man half her age. This same man is also sleeping with her daughter. The movie stars Anne Reid ("CORONATION STREET", "HOT FUZZ" ), Daniel Craig ("MUNICH", "CASINO ROYALE") and Cathryn Bradshaw ("BERT RIGBY, YOU'RE A FOOL").
"THE MOTHER" (2003)
"THE MOTHER" (2003)
Friday, March 20, 2009
Below are my top ten favorite movies directed by the Academy Award winning Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz, who was considered the top director at Warners Brothers during the 1930s and 1940s:
Ten Favorite MICHAEL CURTIZ Movies
1. "Casablanca" (1942) - Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Curtiz went to this classic World War II tale about an American expatriate, who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. Featured fine performances from a cast that included Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Heinreid and Claude Rains; along with a superb script filled with some of the most memorable dialogue in Hollywood history.
2. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936) - Despite having nothing to do with the Crimean War until the last 15 to 20 minutes, this costumed action flick is my favorite Errol Flynn movie. Slightly darker than most of his other swashbucklers, this movie is about a British regiment that seeks revenge against an Indian rajah for a military massacre that occurred in British India of the 1850s. This movie not only featured one of Flynn's best peformances, but also a love story with a twist and the chilling and very memorable adaptation of the famous military charge.
3. "Kid Galahad" (1937) - Edward G. Robinson and Bette Davis starred in this exciting and well shot film about a tough boxing manager who finds a potential boxing champion, while dealing with a corrupt racketeer. The movie featured an excellent supporting cast with Humphrey Bogart, Jane Bryant and newcomer Wayne Morris as the young boxer. One of my favorite boxing movies of all time.
4. "The Sea Hawk" (1940) - This adaptation of Rafael Sabatini's novel about an Elizabethan privateer featured an excellent performance by a more mature Errol Flynn, able support by Brenda Marshall and Henry Daniell, a first-class story and excellent action - all put together by Curtiz.
5. "Mildred Pierce" (1945) - Joan Crawford won a well-deserved Academy Award in this slick and noirish adaptation of James M. Cain's novel about a sacrificing mother and her ungrateful older daughter. Ann Blyth is also memorable as the selfish and bitchy Velda.
6. "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) - Errol Flynn was at the pinnacle of his success in this Technicolor favorite about the legendary 11th century English outlaw. Olivia DeHavilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains co-starred. Although William Keighley was first assigned as director, Curtiz polished the movie with better action and pacing.
7. "Life With Father" (1947) - Curtiz's last memorable film was an adaptation of Clarence Day's Broadway play about his family in New York of the 1880s. William Powell and Irene Dunne are memorable as the heads of the Day family.
8. "Captain Blood" (1935) - Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland became stars in this exciting adaptation of Rafael Sabatini's novel about a 17th century Irish doctor who finds himself as a slave in the West Indies and later, a pirate.
9. "Female" (1933) - Ruth Chatterton starred in this comedy-drama about a female business executive with a penchant for available young men, falling for one of her employees - George Brent. William Dierterle and William Wellman also directed scenes of this sizzling Pre-Code movie.
10. "Dodge City (1939) - Filmed in Technicolor, this sprawling Western chronicles the rise of the small frontier post of Dodge City, Kansas to civilized and respectable town and trading place for cattle after the end of the Civil War. The movie starred Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland, Bruce Cabot, Ann Sheridan and Alan Hale Sr. Pretty solid, with every movie Western cliche thrown into the plot.