Thursday, April 30, 2009

Train Travel in Film

Below is a list of my favorite movies that feature train travel. Ironically, three of these movies feature Scottish actor, Sean Connery:


1. "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974) - Sidney Lumet directed this stylish adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1934 novel about the murder of a mysterious American aboard the Orient Express. Albert Finney led an all-star cast as Hercule Poirot. Ingrid Bergman won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as one of the suspects.

"Silver Streak" (1976) - Arthur Hiller directed this comedic mystery thriller about the murder of an art historian during a Los Angeles-to-Chicago train journey. The movie starred Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor, Patrick McGoohan and Ned Beatty. It marked the first pairing between Wilder and Pryor.

3. "The First Great Train Robbery" (1979) - Sean Connery, Lesley Anne-Down and Donald Sutherland are a trio of Victorian thieves determined to steal a cache of gold bound for the Crimea, from a train in 1855. This caper thriller was based upon Michael Crighton's novel, who also directed and wrote the screenplay.

4. "From Russia With Love" (1963) - Terence Young directed Sean Connery in the latter's second appearance as James Bond in this adaptation of Ian Fleming's thriller about the British spy's mission to retrieve a Soviet code detector from Istanbul. The second half of the film is set aboard the Orient Express. Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Pedro Armendáriz and Robert Shaw co-starred.

5. "Narrow Margin" (1990) - Gene Hackman portrayed a Los Angeles District Attorney who accompanies an unwilling witness to a crime from Canada to Los Angeles via train. Anne Archer portrayed the witness. James B. Sikking co-starred and Peter Hyams directed.

6. "The Twentieth Century" (1934) - John Barrymore and Carole Lombard starred in this classic screwball comedy about a Broadway producer who boards the famous Twentieth Century train in order to convince his former protegee and lover to star in his next play. Howard Hawks directed this adaptation of Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht's play.

7. "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) - Alfred Hitchcock directed this thriller about a rich, English playgirl who realizes that an elderly lady has disappeared from a train traveling through central Europe. Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas and Dame May Whitty starred.

8. "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007) - Wes Anderson directed and co-wrote this comedy-drama about three American brothers who travel by rail through India for a reunion with their mother, following their father's death. Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and Jason Schwartzman star.

9. "The Mystery of the Blue Train" (2005) - David Suchet portrays Hercule Poirot in this second television version of Agatha Christie's 1928 novel about the murder of an American heiress aboard the Blue Train from London to Nice. Georgina Rylance, Elliot Gould and Nicholas Farrell co-starred.

10. "Shanghai Express" (1932) - Josef von Sternberg directed Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong in this stylish melodrama about passengers aboard a train traveling through war-torn China in the early 1930s. The movie won a Best Cinematography Oscar for Lee Garmes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Consequences of a Crime"

I wrote this little RANT about what happened . . . or what did not happened to Piper at the end of the Season 2 episode, (2.12) "Awakened".


In the Season 2 episode, (2.12) "Awakened", Piper had deliberately purchased an illegal fruit from South America called "kiwano" - fruit that had NOT been inspected by the U.S. Customs - in order to get it at a cheap price for her customers at P3.

However, Piper had sampled the kiwano and became ill with a deadly and uncurable disease called Oroya Fever. Phoebe and Prue used magic to cure her by transfering the disease into a borrowed Ninja doll. Unfortunately, a consequence arose when the doll became animated and ended up infecting several patients at the hospital. The sisters realized their mistake and transfered the disease back to Piper, using another spell. But this time, Leo prevented Piper from paying the consequences of her actions, when he heals her. The Elders punished him by clipping his wings. But what happened to Piper?

[Scene: P3. Piper gives a box of fruit to a guy.]

Piper: These haven't been inspected yet. Put them in the back. We're returning them to the supplier.

(She walks up to Prue and Phoebe.)

Phoebe: Looks like someone learnt their lesson.

Piper: Yeah, the hard way unfortunately.

Prue: Still, the clubs doing okay. Doesn't look like quarantine ruined business too much.

How peachy! Piper learned her lesson. Unfortunately, she failed to face any consequences for her actions. Or should I say her crime? Piper had committed a felony. Even Dr. Williamson, her doctor, knew this. Piper should have been facing some serious fines for her actions. Or the Federal government should have closed down P3. Yet, by the end of the episode, P3 had reopened. Nor did the episode point out that Piper would be facing a court trial or fines for her crimes.

What the hell is this crap?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

”BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: Buffy and Riley"

Below is an article I have written about the breakup of Buffy Summers and Riley Finn in the Season Five episode of "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" called, (5.10) "Into the Woods":

”BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: Buffy and Riley”

I have read many opinions regarding the breakup of vampire slayer Buffy Summers and her Season Four/Season Five boyfriend, Riley Finn on many discussion forums, blogs and message boards about ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”. The prevailing viewpoint seemed to be that Riley had ruined the relationship with his behavior and attitude in Season Five. I might be one of the few fans of the show who might harbor another opinion. Then again, I might not. Let me explain.

At the end of Season Three, Buffy’s vampire paramour – Angel – had decided it would be safer for her if he left Sunnydale and her for good. Following Buffy’s graduation from high school, she enrolled in the University of California at Sunnydale. And not long after starting school, she met Riley Finn inside a student bookstore for the first time. As it turned out, Riley was not only a Teacher’s Assistant for one of the university’s instructors (Maggie Walsh), he was also an Army officer and demon hunter for a government-sponsored organization called ’The Initiative’. And unbeknownst to both Buffy and Riley, his mentor Dr. Walsh had been feeding him drugs to enhance his physical prowess. Not only did the couple spend most of Season Four coming to terms with Riley’s participation in the Initiative, but also dealing with Maggie Walsh’s other experiment – namely a human/demon cyborg hybrid named Adam. But after their adventures with the Initiative, Adam and other demons; Riley resigned from the Army and became part of the Scoobies.

But all was not as well as it seemed by the beginning of Season Five for Buffy and Riley. Buffy began sneaking away from Riley at nights to engage in her usual Slayer activities. She suddenly found herself the older sister of a fourteen year-old adolescent girl named Dawn, who was in reality a mystical object known as the Key transformed into human for by a group of monks and sent to Buffy from protection from a hell god named Glory. The drugs that Maggie Walsh had fed into Riley began having a deteriorating effect upon his health. Riley had the drugs removed from him via an operation by a former Initiative doctor and became slightly weaker. Buffy discovered that her mother, Joyce Summers, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Worst of all, Riley began harboring suspicions that the blond vampire slayer did not really love him. It finally ended for Buffy and Riley in (5.10) “Into the Woods” when two things happened: 1) Riley was approached by his old friend, Graham Miller, to consider rejoining the Army and a new version of the Initiative; and 2) Buffy learned via chipped vampire Spike that Riley was seeing vampire whores who suck his blood for money. After a bitter fight between the two, Riley left Buffy and Sunnydale for good.

Ever since ”Into the Woods”, many ”BUFFY” fans have placed either most or all of the blame of the couple’s breakup upon Riley’s shoulders. First of all, many have accused his character of over-the-top machismo. They claimed that Riley could not handle being physically weaker than Buffy after his operation in (5.04) ”Out of My Mind”. They used his actions with the vampire whores as example that Riley tried to be “monstrous” enough to be a worthy mate for Buffy . . . and fell short.

I must admit that I found the above claims about Riley very hard to accept. Granted, he possessed a black-and-white view of the world before meeting Buffy. And this conservative viewpoint led him to join the Army, allow Maggie Walsh to recruit him into the Initiative and help the latter capture Oz in (4.19) “New Moon Rising”, despite Buffy’s protests. But Riley made bigger mistakes. After resigning his Army commission, Riley should have taken the time to make a life for himself outside of Buffy. He could have continued his studies at UC Sunnydale or try to become a teacher. Perhaps one of the reasons he failed to pursue another profession was that the only life he really wanted was in the military. I see nothing wrong with that. As long as Riley went through life with his eyes opened and without the naivety that Maggie Walsh had exploited in the past . . . he could be on the right track.

But Riley tried to make his life all about Buffy (just as Spike would attempt to do so between late Season Five and Season Seven) and it was another mistake on his part. Even worse, he failed to inform Buffy of his true feelings about everything – his lack of a direction in his life, the vampire whores and Buffy’s growing emotional distance - until it was too late. Quite simply, Riley made three major mistakes. He failed to make a new life for himself outside of Buffy, he cavorted with vampire whores in order to explore his inner darkness and most importantly, he failed to communicate with Buffy.

On the other hand, Buffy also contributed to her breakup with Riley. I suspect that she had been using Riley as rebound from Day One of their relationship. She was not only rebounding from Angel's departure, but also from the idea of a relationship with a supernatural being. To her, Riley was her ”Joe Normal”. And this was a mistake. There is a chance that some part of Buffy had deep feelings for him, but I doubt that it was enough for a long term relationship.

But the one thing that really annoyed me was Buffy's habit of treating Riley like fine china, following the operation to remove his physical enhancements in "Out of My Mind". So what if he had lost some of his strength? He was still a competent demon hunter. He certainly proved that in (5.07) "Fool For Love". Instead, Buffy treated him like a damsel-in-distress by insisting that the Scoobies help him hunt down the vampire that attacked her. In other words, she became ridiculously macho when it came to Riley. She failed to remember that Riley was an experienced demon hunter, who could help her deal with vampires, demons, etc. a little more effectively than the other Scoobies. It almost seemed as if Buffy was treating Riley with a patriarchal air. And that was a major mistake for her to make with a strong-willed personality like Riley. Another major mistake that Buffy made was like Riley, she failed to communicate with her. Many fans pointed out that Buffy was too busy dealing with Joyce’s illness and the appearance of a new sister to deal with Riley’s demons. But if Buffy could confide with Spike about Joyce’s illness in (5.08) “Shadow”, why did she wait so long to do the same with Riley? Why did she confide in Spike first?

I suspect that in the end, the real problem with Buffy and Riley was that emotionally, they were too similar to each other. Each, in their own way, possessed a . . . masculine personality. And instead of creating a balance between two people, it created conflict in the end. Neither of them were really honest with each other. Both had a problem with communicating with each other. Is it any wonder that the relationship failed in the end?

Monday, April 27, 2009

"THE FOUR FEATHERS" (1939) Photo Gallery

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of its original release, below is a gallery of photos from the 1939 Alexander Korda classic adaptation of A.E.W. Mason's novel, "THE FOUR FEATHERS". The movie starred John Clements, June Duprez, Ralph Richardson and C. Aubrey Smith:

"THE FOUR FEATHERS" (1939) Photo Gallery

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Altered Lives" [PG-13] - Chapter Five




Palpatine glanced up from the data pad in his hand, as Sly Moore entered his office. She bowed to the new Emperor. "Pardon me, Your Highness. Senator Jaren Tagge of Bonadan awaits your presence."

The Emperor quickly switched off his data pad and tossed it on his desk. "Send him in." The Umbaran female started to turn away, when Palpatine added, "Also, send in the Jedi prisoner . . . after you have escorted Senator Tagge into my office."

Sly Moore nodded and left the office. Nearly a minute later, she returned with the senator from Bonadan, Jaren Tagge. A stocky human with pale skin and pale blue eyes, Senator Tagge happened to be a scion from a wealthy family that has represented Bonadan for the past twelve years. "Your Highness!" the visitor greeted Palpatine with a low bow. "As you can see, I have returned from Naboo. Very sad business. Very sad." He spoke with the sincerity of a smuggler from the Outer Rim.

"Ah yes," Palpatine responded with equal insincerity. "Senator Amidala's funeral. I regret not being there. Considering that she had represented my homeworld."

Senator Tagge heaved a feigned sigh. "And to have died so young . . . and violently." He paused, as a sly expression crept across his solid face. "By the way, did you know that she was with child at the time of her death?"

"Really?" Palpatine crowed inwardly at the comment. He had seen the news report of Amidala's funeral and recalled noticing her pregnant body being carried through the streets of Theed. The HoloNet News Service made no mention of the late senator's pregnant state. Obviously, the news service had decided to respect Nabooan tradition of respecting the citizens' private lives. It seemed that Senator Tagge could not care less about Nabooan tradition. Palpatine felt greatly relieved. He already has to live with the idea of Anakin Skywalker no longer within his grasp. A possible encounter with both Skywalker and his offspring could prove to be a greater threat.

"I wonder who was the father."

Palpatine deliberately hesitated. "I am not in the habit of spreading rumors, mind you, but I have been aware of a . . . friendship between the late senator and a young Jedi Knight."

Pale blue eyes widened with surprise . . . and pleasure. "A Jedi? No wonder they had her killed. I never believed the story that Senator Amidala had merely been caught up in the Jedi's attempt to grab control of the Senate."

Heaving a mournful sigh, Palpatine replied, "I can only say that we will never know the truth. By the way," he sat down in the chair behind his desk, "I wanted to discuss another matter. Namely, the hyperbarides that your family's corporation has been supplying the Empire. I . . ." He paused dramatically. "I have just received word from your sister-in-law, the Baroness that the Tagge Company insists upon charging the Empire 1,000 credits per kilo for the mineral. Is this true?"

Tagge's demeanor stiffened. The obsequious politician with a taste for gossip had disappeared. In its place appeared a cool and ruthless businessman. "Yes, I'm afraid so, Your Highness. My sister-in-law had been foolish to promise you that the price for the hyperbarides would remain at 600 credits per kilo. Considering the recent political upheavals and the costs of the war, we felt it was best to raise the prices. After all, hyperbarides is very expensive to mine."

Palpatine gave the politician a long, hard stare. He considered using the Force to manipulate the senator's thoughts. But instinct told him that corrupt or not, Jaren Tagge was not weak-minded. The Tagge family possessed a reputation for their business acumen, ruthlessness and strong will. So that left . . .

His office door slid open, revealing Sly Moore. The Umbaran aide entered the room. "Pardon me, Your Highness. The Jedi prisoner is here. I believe you wanted to see him before we send him to the detention center for execution."

"He's here?" Palpatine asked, feigning surprise.

Sly Moore hesitated. "Why . . . yes. He is . . . in the corridor, outside. I wanted to make sure . . ."

"Send him in," Palpatine ordered. "I want to speak to him, one last time."

A frowning Tagge spoke up. "Pardon me Your Highness, but is that wise? He could be a danger to you."

Playing her role to perfection, Sly Moore added, "The Jedi traitor has been slightly drugged. He is in no condition to be a threat."

Palpatine nodded. "Send him in," he repeated.

Sly Moore bowed and disappeared into the corridor. Seconds later, she returned with two red-clad Imperial Guards escorting a slightly dazed Romulus Wort. "Like I said, he is slightly drugged," the aide added.

From the corner of his eye, Palpatine saw his aide surreptiously inject the Jedi prisoner's arm with a needle . . . something to purge the drug from the latter's blood system. It did not take long for Wort to lose his dazed expression. "What hap . . .?" He glanced down at the shackles that bound his wrists. They snapped open. Tagge jumped back in fear. Using the Force, Palpatine refastened the shackles. The Jedi Knight stared at him with sheer hatred. The Sith Lord could barely contain his revelry in the young man's emotions. This should prove to be interesting.

"So, this is the Jedi," Tagge pronounced in a sneering voice. "Guardians of the galaxy. Or should I say . . . usurpers?" The Bonadanian senator regarded Wort with contempt. "Tell me Jedi, were you into seducing female senators, as well?"

Wort stared at Senator Tagge with shock and confusion. "What?"

The Bonadanian ignored the younger man's question, as he snorted with derision. "Jedi scum! You know, clone troopers managed to find two of your kind hiding out on my homeworld. Thankfully, they were cut down like the scum they were. It's a shame that you'll receive a military execution." He turned to Palpatine. "Your Highness, may I ask how you had captured him?"

The Emperor replied smoothly, "Our Imperial troopers found him inside the Jedi Temple." He found himself enjoying Tagge's harassment of the young Jedi. The Bonadanian not only enjoyed gossip, but intimidating his lesser opponents. This made Tagge well feared in the Senate.

"Probably hiding, while his comrades were finally being rid of." Tagge returned his attention to Wort. "You! Jedi! Did you hide, while your comrades were being killed? How did it feel to betray the Senate? To betray the Re . . . the Empire? I bet you enjoyed it." A sly smile curved his lips. "Just as you must have enjoyed Senator Amidala's favors. Were you the piece of scum who had conceived a child with her?

In a timely fashion, Palpatine intervened. "Now, Senator. Even though Senator Amidala had a relationship with one of the Jedi Knights, I do not believe that Master Wort here, was the father of her child."

Wort's eyes widened in shock. "Senator Amidala was . . .?" He shook his head. "That means Ana . . ."

Nodding, Tagge interrupted. "I believe you may be right, Your Highness. I doubt very much that this . . ." He sneered at the Jedi Knight. ". . . this scum has the energy, let alone the imagination to warm the late senator's bed. I can only imagine which Jedi filth had been responsible." He threw back his head in raucous laughter.

The next few minutes happened so fast that it nearly took Palpatine's breath away. Once more, Wort's restraints snapped open. He shook them off, grabbed one of the guard's pike and knocked both guards to the floor. Then the Jedi Knight let out a roar and swung the pike Senator Tagge's head. Three times. His left temple bleeding profusely, the senator slowly slumped to the floor. Palpatine quickly intervened by using the Force to thwack the back of Wort's neck, causing the latter to fall to his knees, bleeding.

"Good!" Palpatine cackled. "Very good!"

The second Imperial Guard examined the unconscious senator and announced sonorously, "He is dead."

"I assumed as much," the Emperor coolly replied. "Leave us. All of you." The guard dragged his unconscious colleague out of the office. A slightly shaken Sly Moore followed closely behind. Once the door slid shut, Palpatine turned to the slightly injured Jedi Knight. "Congratulations, Master Wort. I'm afraid that Senator Tagge was becoming quite a problem for me. However, you have managed to solve it, quite well."

Wort regarded Tagge's body with horror. "What have I done? I didn't mean to hurt . . . I mean . . . He was saying all those horrible things about the Jedi. I had to shut him up."

"Of course you did," Palpatine replied in his most sympathetic voice. "But you must realize that you have just murdered a member of the Senate and a member of a prominent family. The Bonadanians, and especially the Tagge family will not take kindly to learning of his murder."

"It's not true," Wort demanded, "about Senator Amidala being pregnant, is it?"

Palpatine sighed. "She was pregnant. Both she and the unborn child did not survive the recent upheaval, thanks to the child's father." He paused. "And I am quite certain that you now know his identity."

Disbelief and rage formed storm clouds within Wort's eyes. "Skywalker! This is all his fault! He is responsible! I never trusted him. Even from the day when he first joined the Order! And now, this? He had an illicit affair with Senator Amidala?"

"Yes, that did come as a surprise," Palpatine murmured. "Along with the unborn child."

Rage literally poured from Wort's eyes. "Where is he? Where is Skywalker? Before you execute me, I should at least have the chance to kill him! He deserves nothing less!"

Coolly, Palpatine faced the young Jedi. "I'm afraid that Skywalker is . . . missing. Disappeared. He has failed to return from an assignment on Mustafar."

"Is he dead?"

"Oh no, my young Jedi. No, I believe that he is still alive." Palpatine paused before he murmured, "Or else I would have sensed otherwise."

Wort's dark eyes bored into Palpatine's. "So, he has betrayed you, as well. I'm still asking for that chance."

Palpatine returned Wort's stare. "I sense a great desire to exact revenge, Master Wort. If that is what you truly desire, there is only one path in which to attain it." He paused dramatically. "By my side."

For a long moment, Wort hesitated. His eyes reflected a conflict between his past loyalties and oath and a new desire to inflict pain. The latter finally won out, as he slowly knelt on one knee. His face trembling with emotion, Wort declared, "The Jedi is gone. The Order no longer exists. Everyone that mattered to me in my life is . . . gone. I've committed murder . . . in cold blood." His eyes once again expressed rage. "And that scum, Skywalker roams the galaxy. There is nothing left for me . . . other than to spill that traitorous scum's blood. If serving you means allowing me the chance to do so, then so bet it."

"You cannot back away from this," Palpatine warned. "One apprentice has already betrayed me. I will not take kindly to another . . ."

Wort resolutely declared, "Unlike Skywalker, I am not in the habit of betraying one's trust." He lowered his head. "I will do . . . as you ask. Even if learning the Dark Side will achieve both of our goals. I . . . I pledge myself to the Empire, to the ways of the Sith . . . and to you."

Palpatine allowed himself a triumphant smile. "Arise, my young apprentice. From now on, you shall be known as Darth Rasche."

"Yes . . . Master." The new Darth Rasche rose unsteadily to his feet and faced his new master.

"And now, we need to see about your immediate needs." Palpatine activated the comlink on his desk. Sly Moore entered the room. "Please tend to Lord Rasche's injuries. And he will also need new clothes and new quarters. Also, have someone tend to . . . Senator Tagge's body. I will need to contact Baroness Tagge, as soon as possible."

Sly Moore bowed. "Yes, Your Highness." She turned to face Darth Rasche. "Please follow me, my Lord."

After his aide and new apprentice had left the office, Palpatine strode toward the new windows that overlooked Coruscant's skyline. Amazing, he thought. In one fell swoop, he had managed to rid himself of a troublesome senator and acquire a new apprentice . . . all at the same time. And this new apprentice might prove to be more malleable than his predecessor. Anakin Skywalker will rue the day he had turned his back on the Sith.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"STATE OF PLAY" (2009) Photo Gallery

Below are photos from the new political thriller directed by Kevin MacDonald. It stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Harry Lennix, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels and Helen Mirren:

"STATE OF PLAY" (2009) Photo Gallery

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

”LOST” – (5.08) “LaFleur” Review

Below is an article I had written on my opinion and observations of the latest episode of "LOST" - (5.08) "LaFleur":

”LOST” – (5.08) “LaFleur” Review

Many fans of ”LOST” have claimed that its Season Five has been the series’ best since the first season. I have to be honest. I do not think I can agree with that sentiment. At least not for Season Five’s first five episodes. I have mixed feelings for it, just as I had for Seasons Two to Four. But there are elements of the fifth season that I have enjoyed so far. And many of those elements had a lot to do with the story arcs surrounding the island castaways left behind when the Oceanic Six departed the island at the end of Season Four.

”LaFleur”, the eighth episode of Season Five, picked up where (5.05) “This Place Is Death” left off – when John Locke turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel from ”(4.13) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” and vanished from the island and into the future. Following Locke’s departure, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles and Daniel are relieved to discover that they no longer have to endure the constant time jumps that have threatened their existence and ended Charlotte Lewis’ in ”This Place Is Death”. However, they are surprised to discover that the time jumps have stopped in 1974, when the Dharma Initiative has been in existence for at least four years. The five survivors decide to return to the beach and make camp, when they comes across a pair of Dharma Initiative members who have been captured by some of the island's native inhabitants, known as the Others. Juliet and Sawyer kill the two Others and free Amy (Reiko Aylesworth), but her husband has been killed. The group returns to the Barracks, where Amy resides; however, she tricks them into walking through the sonic fence which surrounds the Barracks, knocking them unconscious. The rest of the episode focused upon how the five survivors ended up joining the Dharma Initiative in 1974 and the state of their lives, three years later in 1977.

Remember when I had stated that I had mixed feelings about the series’ Season Five? Well, some of those reasons had a lot to do with how Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof’s writers handled the story arcs surrounding the two groups of characters during this season. Of course, there are the members of the Oceanic Six who made it off the island – Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sayid Jarrah, Sun Kwon, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and the infant Aaron Littleton. And there are the members of those left behind on the island, included James “Sawyer” Ford, Juliet Burke, John Locke, Jin Kwon, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis, Daniel Faraday, Bernard Nadler and his wife, Rose Henderson. Quite frankly, I did not care for the episodes that heavily featured the Oceanic Six. One, I never cared for their lie that left the infant Aaron in the hands of fugitive Kate Austen for nearly three years. Two, I simply did not care for their story arc in the first half of Season Five. I found it contrived, trite and a waste of my time. On the other hand, the story arc featuring those survivors left behind turned out to be a different kettle of fish.

I found myself enjoying the segments surrounding the ‘Left Behinders’ in episodes like (5.01) “Because You Left”, (5.02) “The Lie” and ”This Place Is Death”. So, it is no surprise that after eight episodes, my favorite Season Five episodes turned out to be both (5.03) “The Jughead” and ”LaFleur”, which heavily featured Sawyer, Juliet and the gang. But . . . I am not here to discuss both episodes. Only ”LaFleur”.

What can I say? I loved the episode. I love it so much that I now consider it to be one of my ten favorite episodes of the entire series. And I never thought I would be saying this about a Sawyer-centric episode. Five days after it first aired, I found myself still thinking about it. I am sitting in front of my computer, trying to think of something meaningful or witty to say about this episode. But the words continue to elude me. I have a deep suspicion that my high opinion of ”LaFleur” had more to do with how this episode had such an emotional impact upon me.

Like the Left Behinders, I felt the relief they must have felt over the end of the time jumps, following Locke’s departure. Or the confusion and they had felt upon stumbling across Amy, her dead husband Paul and the two Others. I felt Daniel’s continuing grief over Charlotte’s death . . . or Amy’s grief over Paul’s death. I felt Richard’s curiosity during his conversation with Sawyer (from now on . . . James) about Locke’s appearance twenty years earlier. I felt Horace’s despair over his suspicions that his new wife, Amy, had yet to get over her grief for her husband now dead for three years. I felt James’ desperation to find help for Amy, who was in labor with Horace’s child . . . and Juliet’s reluctance to deal with another childbirth. I certainly felt James’ relief and happiness over the successful birth of Amy’s child and Juliet’s tearful joy. I felt James’ relief and disbelief in discovering that some of the Oceanic Six – Jack, Kate and Hurley – had made it back to the island. And I especially felt the friendship and love both James and Juliet had for one another.

But the above paragraph strikes me as being too simple a way to describe my enjoyment of ”LaFleur”. Foremost, I have to commend writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Kyle Pennington for penning a well-written episode that revealed the Left Behinders’ experiences with the Dharma Initiative in two time periods without disintegrating into a big mess. The fact that Sarnoff and Pennington also managed to inject some character development – mainly James and Juliet – into a complicated plot has raised my admiration toward their work. Another thing that I liked about ”LaFleur” is that for some reason, it strongly reminded me of my favorite ”LOST” episode of all time - (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”.

This episode is not an exact replica of the Season Two episode that revealed the backstory of the Tail Section passengers' first 48 days on the island. But I feel that both "The Other 48 Days" and "LaFleur" allowed viewers to experience the interactions of a small group - in the case of the Season Five episode, the Left Behinders - developing a close relationship through shared experiences. Mind you, most of James, Juliet, Miles, Jin and Daniel's worst experiences occurred in previous Season Five episodes like "Jughead" and "This Place Is Death". Still, we got to see how they became part of the Dharma Initiative in 1974. And how they had managed to settle into their new lives in 1977.

Josh Holloway literally owned this episode with a performance that nearly knocked my socks off. His James Ford aka James LaFleur has come a long way that rough-hewed Southern con man who had irritated just about everyone back in Season One. This transformation did not happen overnight. In fact, I suspect that it had its origins during late Season Three, when Hugo Reyes forced him to take the mantle of leadership of the Losties during Jack, Sayid, Kate and Locke's absence during that period. The Southern accent has remained intact and so did the snarky sense of humor and talent for pulling a con job. Not only did he managed to convince one of the Dharma Initiative leaders - Horace Goodspeed - that he and his fellow castaways were survivors of a wrecked salvage vessel looking for the Black Rock. Within three years, James had become Head of Security for the Initiative and found a new love, namely one Dr. Juliet Burke.

When I had earlier stated that Hollowy had owned this episode, perhaps I should have said almost. After all, Elizabeth Mitchell (who has become one of my favorite actors on this series) was just as good as Juliet Burke. After three years, she has forgone her profession as a fertility doctor by becoming an auto mechanic for the Dharma Initiative. At first, I was surprised that she would choose to become a mechanic, instead of continuing her role as a doctor. But considering her past heartaches in dealing with previously pregnant Others, I eventually understood. But the premature labor of one of the Dharma members, Amy Goodspeed (portrayed by Reiko Aylesworth of "24" fame), led James to convince Juliet to act as midwife for the new Goodspeed baby. The result of Amy's labor led to one of the most beautifully acted moments in the series' entire history, when Mitchell and Holloway expressed Juliet and James' relief and happiness over the baby's successful delivery. I could go on about the strong screen chemistry between the two actors. But I have been aware of that chemistry ever since the Season Three finale - (3.22) "Through the Looking Glass". The interesting thing about James and Juliet's relationship is that the series used their growing friendship in the previous six or seven episodes to show how they eventually became a couple. They seemed to have become the first romantic pairing, whose relationship started out as a mature friendship. Perhaps that is the reason why I find it so appealing.

The other cast members in this episode also did a fine job - especially Jeremy Davies, as the grieving Daniel Farady, Doug Hutchison as the Dharma Initiative mathematician who came off as less self-assured than he did in past episodes, Nestor Campbell as the Others' ageless second-in-command, Richard Alpert and Reiko Aylesworth's sly performance as Amy, another Dharma member, whose life James and Juliet save. Daniel Dae Kim had a nice moment when Jin witnessed Juliet's news about the successful birth of Amy and Horace's baby.

There were many moments in "LaFleur" that have remained stuck in my mind . . . even after five days. Here are a few that I consider truly memorable:

*James, Juliet, Miles and Jin spot a giant, Egyptian-style statue following Locke's disappearance.
*The brief look on James' face after Juliet saves him from being shot by one of the Others.
*Amy tricks the Left Behinders into walking past the sonic fence.
*James mentions Richard's encounter with Locke and the 'Jughead' bomb in 1954 to the very surprised Other.
*James convinces Juliet to remain on the island for a while.
*Juliet and James' happy reaction to the successful birth of Amy and Horace's child.
*James' conversation with Horace about dealing with past loves.
*The sight of James and Juliet in bed, with her body spooning his. She really 'had his back' in that scene.
*Jin delivers three of the Oceanic Six members - Jack, Kate and Hurley - to an awaiting James.

Even thought that last scene was memorable, I must admit that I found myself comparing it to the sight of a roach crawling across a white rug. It also made me wonder how the Oceanic Six's arrival will affect the Left Behinders - now members of the Dharma Initiative. Both Kate and Jack's presence might prove to be a trial for the James/Juliet romance. Right now, I am beginning to wonder if it will survive. And will the Oceanic Six's presence threaten the Left Behinders' standing with the Dharma Initiative? Or will another threat emerge - mainly in the form of the still grieving Daniel Faraday? I guess that in the remaining eight episodes, we will find out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

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



It was an angry sorcerer who appeared before the Crozats. Judging from his expression, Edward realized that the attack on the youngest McNeill had failed. "What happened?" the warlock asked.

Growling, Dako/Morris wrapped one hand around Cousin Louis' throat. "I'll tell you what happened! That witch had used his psychic abilities to summon help before I could kill him! I found myself surrounded by that girl's two sisters, the McNeill woman, a man surrounded by blue lights, some woman I don't even know and another man who just might be a daemon." He gave Louis' throat a slight squeeze. Edward's cousin gurgled. "And do you want to know what else I had discovered? One of the witches is not only pregnant, but she also might be as powerful as myself. And the same can be said about the man with the demonic powers. Something you had failed to tell me." Dako squeezed Louis' throat tighter, causing the latter's face to turn red.

A panic-stricken Henry blurted out, "We don't know anything about a daemon! As for the witch . . . well, we knew she was carrying a powerful baby, but we didn't realize it might be as powerful as you."

Dark eyes narrowed dangerously. The sorcerer released Louis, who promptly fell upon the floor, coughing. "You had extensive details on the other Halliwell witches and the McNeill witches," Dako replied in a crisp tone, "and you expect me to believe that you knew nothing about the extent of the pregnant witch's powers or the daemon? Do you take me for a fool?"

Feeling the extent of the sorcerer's dark power, Edward immediately bowed. "No, Your Eminence. We sim . . . our source had failed to provide this information to us."

"Then I suggest that you make your source understand the repercussions of his failure to inform you." Dako paused. "Now, I want to know everything about these people. Their secrets and the extent of their powers. Including the daemon."

Edward, Henry, Rudolf and Suzanne responded as one, "Yes, Your Eminence."

Dako stared at the trio. "One question - is there a way to steal this daemon's powers? He struck me as being very powerful."

An uneasy Edward glanced at his fellow warlocks. "If this daemon was with the Charmed Ones and the McNeills, he must be Belthazor. I understand that he is very powerful. Even more powerful than he had been as the Source. Together with his powers and yours, we could possibly kill the pregnant witch."

The bokor stared at the warlock for a long, terrifying moment. Then he declared, "I will kill the witch. I take the demon's powers, and together with mine, I will kill her child. Am I clear?"

His emotions in turmoil, Edward struggled to keep them in check. He had no intention of helping Dako take Belthazor's new powers. But it did seem prudent to keep his intentions to himself. And healthier. In the end, Edward merely nodded in agreement and murmured, "Yes, Your Eminence."

"Start preparing a potion or spell that will help me steal this Belthazor's powers." The sorcerer glared at the warlocks. "You have the knowledge to create this, I hope."

Edward turned to Suzanne, who kept her mouth shut. Good. "I'm sure that we'll be able to, Your Eminence. It's just a matter of time."

"We don't have much time," the bokor snapped. "Once the potion or spell is completed, inform me." Dako glanced down at Louis, who was struggling to stand up. "Meanwhile, I will be in my room, meditating. I . . . this mortal. He is still making it impossible for me to completely control him. And have this one," he pointed at the unfortunate Louis, "deliver my morning meal at sunrise, precisely." With a frown on his face, the sorcerer disappeared.

Edward heaved a large sigh and turned to Suzanne. "Belthazor. What happened to him, tonight?"

Suzanne responded with a glare. "Don't blame me! He stood me up, thanks to 'His Eminence'!"

"All right! No more procrastinating! Make an appointment to see Belthazor, tomorrow. Get him to meet you at the office," Edward snapped. "We have to get our hands on his powers, as soon as possible!"

* * * *

Cole sat in one of the plush chairs inside the McNeills' long drawing rooms. His eyes followed Olivia, who was engaged in a telephone call with an agent from the U.S. Customs Office. He had returned to the family's residence, after dropping off Cecile at Olivia's apartment.

"Yeah Martin, it has been a long time. Like three weeks," Olivia was saying. "I guess you heard about Ben Mallard." She paused. "Yeah, well your boss wasn't exactly thrilled to see me. What can I say? It was San Francisco PD who stumbled across his body." Another pause. "What do I want, this time? Marty, why do you always assume I'm after something?" Olivia threw back her head and laughed.

It was a rich, throaty laugh that seemed filled with warmth and promise. For a brief moment, Cole felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. He wandered what this Marty could have said to generate such a response from Olivia. Something personal? Intimate? Deep down, Cole knew he had nothing to worry about, but speculating the reason behind Olivia's laugh seemed a hell of a lot more preferable than brooding over what was really bothering him.

"Harry's fine. Gwen and Bruce are upstairs with him." The statement came from Jack McNeill, who loomed above Cole. "I guess dodging that sorcerer's attack must have taken a lot out of him."

His eyes still fixed upon Olivia's smiling countenance, Cole nodded. "I'm not surprised. This Dako seemed very powerful. Harry's lucky to be alive."

Mr. McNeill sat down on the sofa, near Cole's chair. "I understand that Paige was also lucky. Third-degree burns." He shook his head in disbelief. "Whew!"

Cole's gaze wrenched away from Olivia. Mention of Paige's name brought back memories of Piper and Phoebe's reaction to his encounter with Dako. He recalled the anger and contempt in their eyes. "Yeah, lucky," he murmured.

Silence followed, broken only by the sound of Olivia's voice. She said, "All right, Marty. You got me. I do need a favor. Is there a way for me to get a copy of the S.S. Enigma's manifest? It had arrived in San Francisco, the day before yesterday. I also need its manifest before it had departed from Singapore." She paused. "I don't know. Maybe two weeks ago." Then, "How soon can I . . .?" Another pause. "That soon?"

"Cole?" The older man's voice drew Cole's attention away from Olivia. "Is there something wrong?" He nodded at Olivia. "She and Marty are old friends. He used to work for San Francisco PD. They tend to flirt sometimes, but it's nothing serious. He's married."

Nodding, Cole merely replied, "Oh." Once the mystery behind Olivia's relationship with this Marty vanished, Cole's real reasons behind his blue mood came back in full force.

Still staring at the half-daemon, Mr. McNeill continued, "But that's not the problem, is it?"

Cole assumed an innocent expression. "What problem?"

Blue-gray eyes bored into the half-daemon's. The latter squirmed uncomfortably. "Okay Cole, what the hell is really bothering you?" the middle-aged witch gently insisted.

Heaving a large sigh, Cole explained what had occurred inside Harry's office, about an hour ago. How Piper managed to deflect one of Dako's attacks and how he did the same, but with different results. "I deflected his electrokinesis right back to him, hitting him in the chest."

"I know," Mr. McNeill calmly replied. "Olivia told me what happened."

Cole continued, "Did she also tell you how Phoebe and Piper had reacted?" He sighed again, as his mind relived that moment, over and over. "Piper . . . well, both she and Phoebe pointed out that I had used unnecessary force to stop Dar . . . uh, Dako. And that I could have killed Darryl." He shook his head. "You should have seen the look on Phoebe's face. I never realized until now that I have lost my chances with her. Things will never go back to what it used to be."

To Cole's surprise, Mr. McNeill shrugged. "So what? Why should you care about what they think about you? You're not part of their family, anymore." He paused. "Unless you plan to change that situation, sometime in the future."

Cole shook his head. "That's just it. I don't see it happening. It's just . . . I'm tired. I'm tired of taking the blame for all that happened, earlier this year. And I'm tired of their self-righteous crap over everything that I do."

"Then to hell with them." Cole stared at Olivia's father. "Look Cole, I know what you're going through. I've been through the same, myself. Believe me." Mr. McNeill paused. His eyes assumed a distant air, as if remembering things past. "Her name was Pamela. Pamela Davidoff. I had met her during my first year in college. At first, she seemed like the world to me. I thought that she liked me for myself, Jack McNeill." A wry smile touched his lips. "I've never exactly been a . . . promising child, if you know what I mean. Many other McNeills tend to view me as morally ambiguous and have always disapproved of me. And perhaps they're right about me. Being the perfect citizen or the perfect witch has never been my forte. Hell, I went through three whitelighters before I was twenty-one."

The revelation took Cole by surprise. Ever since he had recalled Jack McNeill from his past, he knew that Olivia's dad was capable of great ruthlessness and intelligence. Yet, he never realized that the witch had such a troubled past.

The other man continued, "My parents, on the other hand, had treated me differently. And thank God, because if they hadn't, my life would have been hell."

"What about this Pamela?" Cole asked.

"Well, like I said, I had met her during my first year in college. The McNeills were well-known. Still are. And Pamela's family didn't like the idea of us dating, regardless of how much money my family had." Mr. McNeill added, "The Davidoffs were also witches, by the way. I had met her at a Wicca club. But not many of them had a psychic ability, like the McNeills or the Morgans. As for Pamela, I thought she was different from her family, until I found out differently." Blue-gray eyes became clouded. "Pamela . . . she found out that I had helped a daemon. This was back in early '67. The demon name was Marbas . . ." Cole nearly twitched when the other man mentioned the familiar name. ". . . and I helped him after discovering that another daemon was using him as a diversion, in order to steal this pendant. I didn't bother to vanquish Marbas, since it was obvious that he was being framed. Well, Pamela and her family found out, they hit the roof. She dropped me like a hot potato, making it clear that she regarded me no more than a borderline warlock."

Cole murmured sympathetically, "I'm sorry. Did you . . . did you try to win her back?"

Mr. McNeill sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. But Pamela wouldn't have anything to do with me. And I became bitter. I would have stayed that way if hadn't met Gwen. Who, by the way, had also found out what happened between Marbas and me. But as far as Gwen was concerned, I did right. Marbas was the innocent in that incident, regardless in whether he was a daemon or not. She's a true Wiccan, by the way. I can't say the same about a few of my in-laws."

"And you never saw Pamela again?"

After another shrug, Mr. McNeill continued, "Yeah, I did. Not long after I had met Gwen, she decided that she wanted me back. But in the end, I realized that it was too late for us and I had fallen in love with Gwen, by that time. Don't get me wrong. I had some happy times with Pam, but she never seemed willing to accept me for myself. And to be honest, I've never regretted marrying Gwen. Not in a long shot," he added with a small smile. Then Mr. McNeill gave Cole a stern look. "As for Phoebe, I don't know if she'll ever change, but it's obvious that unless you're willing to become the man she wants, she'll never accept you. Not really. And quite frankly, I think it's time you stop worrying about what she and her family thinks about you, and live your own life."

Olivia hung up the telephone, distracting her father and friend from their discussion. She flopped down on the sofa, next to Mr. McNeill. "Why is it that every time I talk to Marty, I end up finding myself in the middle of a bargaining session?"

"Perhaps poor Marty has finally realized that he's given you one too many favors over the years," Mr. McNeill replied with a smirk.

"Thanks a lot, Dad!" Olivia shot her father with a mild glare.

The older man's eyes grew wide with innocence. Cole looked away, as he repressed a smile. The former continued, "So, what was it that you asked Marty for? A manifest?"

"Yeah, one for the S.S. Enigma. I have this suspicion that Dako had somehow arrived on that ship, thanks to the Crozats. Don't ask me why, but I find it odd that our troubles with both them and Dako had occurred during the same week."

Cole sat up. "You're saying that the Crozats might be responsible for this bokor? I guess it's possible, if they knew someone connected with Vodoun. Especially if the Crozats probably considered us too powerful to deal with, themselves."

"The problem is," Olivia added, "that the Crozats might have bitten off more than they can chew. If they have a spell to vanquish Dako . . ."

A short, mirthless laugh escaped from Cole's mouth. "If they have, it won't do them any good. They're missing one important factor."


Cole nodded. "Right. Only a Vodoun houngan or mamba can vanquish Dako. Whoever sent Dako to the Crozats, probably forgotten to mention that one little matter. Or did he?"

* * * *

Piper poured the contents of the pot into a small glass jar. "That's it," she declared. "The potion is ready. All we have to do now is find Darryl."

"And what happens after that?" Phoebe asked. She regarded her sister with anxious eyes. "This potion is only good for freeing Darryl's body from Whatshisname. How do we vanquish it?"

A sigh left Piper's mouth. "I don't know, Phoebe. The Power of Three?"

"What Power of Three? Paige is in the hospital. And we can't get Leo to heal her without drawing suspicions from the doctors." Phoebe paused, as she carefully contemplated her next words. "Maybe . . . maybe Olivia was right about Cecile being the only one who can vanquish this spirit. I mean, think about it. Even though her premonitions were being blocked, Cecile managed to detect that something wrong would happen to Darryl. The only premonition I had was one with him at a crime scene. And even when I had been with Paige all morning, I didn't get one premonition of her being attacked. Yet, Cecile managed to get one, even if she didn't see the attacker."

Irritation flitted across Piper's face. "C'mon Pheebs. Do you really believe that Cecile is the only one of us capable of defeating Dako, just because she's into Voodoo? If I recall, all of us helped An-Ling defeat Yen-lo inside the Zen Limbo. And you and Paige helped Ava vanquished Orrin when he had the Evil Eye. Using both a Gypsy spell and Wicca magic, I might add." She plugged the small bottle with a cork. "If Cecile can find some Voodoo spell, I have no problem with using it. But I still think we'll have just as much chance with success with this." Piper held up the bottle with a flourish.

"And what about vanquishing that sorcerer?" Phoebe asked.

Piper cocked her head. "Maybe we can't use the Power of Three, but with the Power of Two and the baby . . ." she patted her slightly protruding belly, "we should do just fine."

"Yeah. Along with Olivia, Cecile and maybe even Bruce or Mrs. McNeill. Right?" Phoebe added.

Piper's mouth formed moue. "Yeah," she replied unenthusiastically. "Right."


Sunday, April 19, 2009

"AN IDEAL HUSBAND" (1999) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery featuring photos from the 1999 comedy based upon Oscar Wilde's play, called "AN IDEAL HUSBAND". The movie starred Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Northam, Minnie Driver and Julianne Moore:

"AN IDEAL HUSBAND" (1999) Photo Gallery