Sunday, May 31, 2009

"X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" (2009) Review



Below is a review of the latest movie in the "X-MEN" franchise:


”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” (2009) Review

I must admit that when I had learned of Marvel’s plans to release a fourth movie in the ”X-MEN” franchise, I did not warm to the idea. And when I learned that this fourth movie would focus upon the origins of James Howlett aka Logan aka Wolverine, my wariness deepened.

Fortunately, ”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” eased most of my doubts. It turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining movie. Directed by Gavin Hood, it told the story of how a Canadian mutant named James Howlett (or Logan) became the amnesiac Wolverine first introduced in the 2000 film, ”X-MEN”. The movie not only provided a brief glimpse of his tragic childhood in mid-19th century Canada, which included the deaths of his stepfather; and real father and his relationship with his half-brother, Victor Creed aka Sabertooth, along with an extraordinary title sequence that highlighted the two brothers’ experiences as Canadian mercenaries for the U.S. Army during the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. But the gist of the film centered around their work as mercenaries for the U.S. Army’s “Team X”, led by military scientist Major William Stryker; and James’ (Logan’s) later conflicts with Victor and Stryker after he left the team.

”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” had received some bad word of mouth before its release at the beginning of May. A rumor circulated that either Marvel or 20th Century-Fox had meddled with director Hood’s finished work. Since I do not know whether this is true or not, all I can do is comment upon what I had seen on the movie screen.

First, I have to say that ”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” was not perfect. One, I never understood why James and Victor had served as mercenaries for the U.S. Army during both World War I and II, since Canada had participated in both wars and at least seven decades had passed between the deaths of John Howlett and Thomas Logan (James’ step-father and father) in 1845. And two, how did Stryker know that Victor had less chance of surviving the adamantium process than James? Was it ever explained in the movie? I also had problems with two of the characters in the movie, along with Nicholas De Toth and Megan Gill’s editing. But I will discuss those later.

Despite some of the flaws mentioned in the previous paragraph, ”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” turned out to be better than I had expected. The movie took viewers on James Howlett’s emotional journey that started with him as a young boy in 1845 Canadian Northwest Territories, who stumbled upon an unpleasant truth about his parentage in the worst possible way. By the time the movie ended, James (or Logan) had fought in several wars, participated in Team X’s black operations, estranged himself from Victor, fallen in love, experienced loss, acquired his adamantium claws and lost his memories. Several fans had complained that Logan’s character did not seem like the complex loner from ”X-MEN” throughout most of the movie. Instead, he seemed more like the slightly benign team player that had emerged at the end of ”X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND”. I must admit that these fans have a point. Only . . . I am not complaining. This only tells me that screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods had properly done their homework.  If Logan’s character had remained the cynical loner throughout the entire film, I would have been disappointed. One key to good writing is character development. In all of the previous three ”X-MEN” films, Logan’s character had developed slowly from the loner to the team player shown at the end of ”THE LAST STAND”. But ”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” is only one movie. And in that single film, the screenwriters, along with Hood and actor Hugh Jackman had to show the audience how James Howlett became that amnesiac loner. The last thing I wanted to see was a one-dimensional portrayal of his character. And I am thankful that I have no reason to complain about Logan’s character arc.

Not only was I impressed by Logan’s character development (which was the gist of the story), I was also impressed by how Hood, Benioff, Woods and Jackman handled Logan’s relationships with Victor Creed and William Stryker. I enjoyed how the screenwriters created the con job that both Stryker and Victor had committed against Logan. They had manipulated Logan into volunteering for the adamantium process, so that he could seek revenge against Victor for his girlfriend’s death. What Logan did not know was that he had been nothing more than an experiment – a test run – to see if the process would work for Stryker’s new weapon – a mutant called Weapon XI or Deadpool that had been injected with the abilities of other mutants, including Logan’s healing factor. I feel that Benioff and Woods’ creation of the con job was an imaginative twist to the story . . . and very essential to Logan’s character development.

Speaking of Logan, I must say that Hugh Jackman did an excellent job of conveying Logan’s emotional journey in the film. Thanks to his first-class performance, he took Logan from the loyal, yet wary half-brother of the increasingly violent Victor Creed to the amnesiac mutant who ended up rejecting Remy LaBeau’s help amidst the ashes of Three Mile Island. Mind you, Jackman’s portrayal of Logan has always been first-rate. But since this movie featured a more in-depth look into the character’s development, I feel that it may have featured Jackman’s best performance as aggressive and self-regenerative mutant.

Liev Schreiber seemed equally impressive in his portrayal of Logan’s half-brother, Victor Creed aka Sabertooth. Like Logan, Victor possessed a regenerative healing factor, an aggressive nature and superhuman senses. But Schreiber’s Victor seemed not to have embarked on an emotional journey. Instead, his character seemed to be in some kind of quandary. Not only did Schreiber portray Victor as a more aggressive and violent man than Logan, but he did so with a touch of style that seemed to be lacking in Tyler Mane’s portrayal in the 2000 movie. Schreiber also did a magnificent job in revealing Victor’s conflicted feelings toward the character’s younger half-brother. He loves James, yet at the same time, harbors deep resentment toward the younger man – including one toward Logan’s abandonment of Team X and him.

Normally I would pity the actor forced to fill Brian Cox’s shoes in the role of U.S. Army scientist William Stryker. The Scottish actor had given a superb performance in ”X-MEN 2: X-MEN UNITED”. Fortunately, Marvel hired Danny Huston for the role. Not only did he successfully fill Cox’s shoes in my opinion, he managed to put his own stamp on the role. Like Cox, Huston did a great portrayal of Stryker as the soft-spoken, yet ruthless and manipulative military scientist who would do anything to achieve his goals regarding the existence of mutants. But whereas the older Stryker simply wanted to destroy mutants, Huston’s Stryker seemed to desire control over them . . . for his own personal experiments. And Huston . . . was superb.

I felt more than satisfied with most of the movie’s supporting cast. Ryan Reynolds was memorable in his brief role of a wisecracking mercenary with lethal swordsmanship named Wade Wilson. He was both hilarious and chilling as the mutant who eventually became Stryker’s premiere experiment – Weapon XI aka Deadpool. Taylor Kitsch made a charming, yet intense Remy LaBeau, the New Orleans hustler and mutant who had escaped from Stryker’s laboratory on Three Mile Island. Rapper will.i.am made a solid screen debut as the soft spoken teleporter, John Wraith. Dominic Monaghan gave a quiet and poignant performance as Bradley, another member of Stryker’s Team X that happened to be a technopath. Kevin Durand as funny as the super strong Fred Dukes aka Blob, who developed an eating disorder after leaving Team X. Daniel Henney was intense and unforgettable as Team X’s ruthless tracker and marksman, Agent Zero. I enjoyed Tahyna Tozzi’s portrayal of the strong-willed Emma “Frost” so much that I found myself wishing she had been the movie’s leading lady.

Which brings me to Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox. I am sure that Ms. Collins is a competent actress. But her performance as Kayla, Logan’s telepathic girlfriend struck me as a bit uninspiring. Oddly enough, she physically reminded me of Evangeline Lilly of ”LOST”. In fact, her portrayal of Kayla damn near came off as flat so much that her acting skills almost seemed as mediocre as Ms. Lilly’s. Considering Ms. Collins’ reputation as an actress, I suspect that screenwriters Benioff and Woods are to blame for the flat portrayal of Kayla, instead of Ms. Collins’ acting skills. Tim Peacock gave a competent, yet unmemorable performance as the younger Scott Summers aka Cyclops – another mutant who became one of Stryker’s prisoners on Three Mile Island and a part of the Weapon XI experiment. If this Cyclops is supposed to be twenty years younger than the one featured in the first three ”X-MEN” films, then I believe that a younger actor should have been cast in this film. Why? I never got the impression that James Marsden’s Cyclops had been somewhere between 34 and 38 in the three previous films.

As I had stated earlier, I was not impressed by Nicholas De Toth and Megan Gill’s editing of the film. At times, it struck me as slightly choppy and amateurish. Only the editing featured in the opening title sequence struck me as impressive. And imaginative. However, Donald McAlpine’s photography and the visual effects led by Dean Franklin, Craig Veytia and Mike Rotella struck me as very impressive – especially in the title sequence and the scene featuring Logan and Victor’s fight against Deadpool on Three Mile Island.

In conclusion, I found ”X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE” to be surprisingly enjoyable. It turned out better than I had expected, despite some flaws. It would probably rank third for me in the ”X-MEN” franchise – somewhere between ”X-MEN 3” and ”X-MEN”. And so far . . . it is my favorite movie this summer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"LOST" - Who Ordered the Purge of the DHARMA Initiative?



Ever since Oceanic Flight 815 survivor Sayid Jarrah tried to murder young Ben Linus in (5.10) "He's Our You", and fellow survivor Jack Shephard refused to operate on the 14 year-old to save his life in (5.11) "Whatever Happened, Happened", I have heard comments that compared Ben to Adolf Hitler. I have also heard comments that compared Ben’s younger self to a "young Hitler". Many people have claimed that it was Ben who had ordered the deaths of the Dharma Initiative members on December 19, 1992. However, I have my doubts.


"LOST" - WHO ORDERED THE PURGE OF THE DHARMA INITIATIVE?

According to the series, Ben has offered contradicting facts on whether he had ordered the Purge of the Dharma Initiative or not. In (3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”, he had claimed to Jack that he was responsible for the Purge:

“Not so long ago, Jack. I made a decision that took the lives of over forty people in a single day"

Unfortunately, Ben contradicted this claim in the Season 4 episode (2.11) “Cabin Fever”, when he had the following conversation with another survivor of Oceanic Flight 815, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes:

HURLEY: So... This is where you shot Locke and left him for dead, huh?
BEN: Yes, Hugo, I was standing right where you are now when I pulled the trigger. Should have realized at the time that it was pointless, but... I really wasn't thinking clearly.
[Hurley steps back a little]
HURLEY: Is that why you killed all these people, too?
BEN: I didn't kill them.
HURLEY: Well, if the Others didn't wipe out the DHARMA Initiative--
BEN: They did wipe them out, Hugo, but it wasn't my decision.
HURLEY: Then whose was it?
BEN: Their leader's.
HURLEY: But I thought you were their leader.
BEN: Not always.


Interesting. He had admitted to trying to kill John Locke. But he denied being the one who had ordered the Purge. In the final flashback featured in another Season 3 episode called (3.21) “The Man Behind the Curtain”, viewers finally saw Ben’s experiences during the actual Purge. And most of his scenes featured his last moments with his abusive father, Roger Linus:

[Ben looks at his watch]
ROGER: Why do you keep looking at your watch? You got a date? [Pauses] Listen...if it makes you feel any better, I will do my best to remember your birthday next year.
BEN: I don't think that's going to happen, Dad. [starts to unzip bag]
ROGER: What do you mean?
BEN: You know, I've missed her too. Maybe as much as you have. But the difference is, for as long as I can remember, I've had to put up with you. And doing that required a tremendous amount of patience.
[Ben pulls out a gas mask]
BEN: Goodbye, Dad.
[Ben puts it on and then releases a gas canister]
ROGER: Ben?
[Roger struggles for breath, coughing and retching as blood spurts from his nose and mouth, clawing at Ben's mask]
[At the Barracks, Ben walks with gas mask on. He sees all the DHARMA employees lining the ground, all dead. He then notices Horace on a bench, and closes his eyes. Richard and the Hostiles arrive with masks on. Richard checks his watch, then removes his mask taking a deep breath. The rest of the team follow, as does Ben]
RICHARD: You want us to, um...go get his body?
BEN: No, leave him out there.


Does this mean that Ben had ordered the deaths of the DHARMA Initiative? I do not know. The only order Ben gave in the above mentioned scene was to leave Roger’s body in the van. Following the flashback, Ben said the following to Locke:

[In real-time, Locke stands over a mass open grave full of skeletons, some still wearing their DHARMA jumpsuits]
BEN: This is where I came from, John. These are my people. The DHARMA Initiative. They came here seeking harmony, but they couldn't even coexist with the Island's original inhabitants. And when it became clear that one side had to go, one side had to be purged, I did what I had to do. I was one of the people that was smart enough to make sure that I didn't end up in that ditch.


That last passage interested me. What exactly was Ben trying to say? That he had ordered the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative? Or that he made sure that he, as a member of the Initiative, would survive the Purge? Thanks to the most recent episode of ”LOST” - ”Dead Is Dead” - viewers know that Charles Widmore was the leader of the Others in 1988. And in another Season Four episode called (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, viewers learned in a flash forward that Ben had taken the leadership of the Others away from Widmore:

WIDMORE: I know who you are, boy. What you are. I know that everything you have you took from me. So... Once again I ask you: Why are you here?
BEN: I'm here, Charles, to tell you that I'm going to kill your daughter. Penelope, is it? And once she's gone... once she's dead... then you'll understand how I feel. And you'll wish you hadn't changed the rules.
[Widmore shifts in his bed.]
WIDMORE: You'll never find her.
[Ben turns to leave.]
WIDMORE: That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.


So, when did Ben Linus replace Charles Widmore as leader of the Others? Before December 19, 1992? Or after? The photograph below from ”The Man Behind the Curtain” hints that Ben was still a worker for the DHARMA Initiative during that period, despite the fact that he had been one of the Others since the 1980s:





But had Ben assumed leadership of the Others by then? If not, does that mean Charles Widmore was still leading the Others in December 1992? Both the LOSTPEDIA and the WIKIPEDIA sites claimed that Richard Alpert had led the Others in the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative. But neither site made it clear who had ordered the Purge. And ”Dead Is Dead” never gave a clear date about when Widmore was exiled off the island.

In the end, viewers know that Charles Widmore had been the leader of the Others in 1988-89, when Danielle Rosseau’s companions were killed and she gave birth to a daughter, Alex, before the latter was kidnapped by Ben Linus. Viewers also know that Richard Alpert led a group of Others in the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative on December 19, 1992. On that same date, Ben killed his father, Roger Linus, in a similar manner – toxic gas. And viewers know that Widmore was eventually replaced by Ben as the Others’ leader and exiled off the island. If we only knew when Widmore had been exiled, perhaps the mystery of who had ordered the DHARMA Initiative Purge will finally be cleared.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"The Helmsman's Logs - 2373" [PG-13] - Part II



Here is Part 2 of "The Helmsman's Logs - 2373":


THE HELMSMAN'S LOGS – 2373

Part 2


STARDATE 50536.19:

Voyager came across a planet during Alpha shift, called Sakari IV. And it seems to be rich with gallicite. Just what we need to reconstruct our poor, overused warp coils. B'Elanna will lead the Away team to find the gallicite. Because I have experience in rock climbing, she asked me to join her, Neelix and Vorik on the mission. I agreed. Hell, I couldn't say no to a pretty woman. End personal log.




STARDATE 50539.04:

(Sighs) God, I can't believe what I've just been through! What B'Elanna went through. It was just (Pauses) . . . Hell, it was just plain weird! Vorik comes down with something called pon far, infects B'Elanna and then she comes on to me like a bride eager to lose her virginity. It was all just so . . . And the weird thing is I would have happily complied to B'Elanna's wishes. God, I wanted her so badly! I . . .

Okay, I better simmer down. I'm beginning to ramble. I guess it all began before we beamed down to the surface of Sakari IV. When B'Elanna was in Engineering with Vorik, last night, he proposed marriage to her. Marriage! Between a half-Klingon and a Vulcan. Yeah right! I don' know what the hell Vorik was thinking. That pon far must have really made him delirious. It also made him attempt a telepathic mating bond with B'Elanna, after she turned down his offer. She responded by dislocating his jaw. Good for her!

I didn't know all of this when I met B'Elanna and Neelix in one of the Transporter Rooms, this morning. I guess I should have realized that something was wrong. B'Elanna had seemed too . . . I don't know, chipper. Flirtatious. I managed to put it all behind me, as we climbed down into the Sakari caves. But it all came back to me, after Neelix and B'Elanna's fall. While poor Neelix was on his back with a broken leg, B'Elanna began berating him for an accident that wasn't his fault. I tried to calm her down, but she . . . Good grief! She bit me, instead. On the chin. And to be honest, not only did it hurt . . . it also aroused me. God, I really must be sick! Anyway, B'Elanna ran off before I could stop her.

Well, I contacted the ship, and told the Captain what happened. Chakotay and Tuvok appeared on the planet with news on what happened between B'Elanna and Vorik, yesterday. We managed to find B'Elanna, and also a group of paranoid Sakarians, who thought we were an invading force out to destroy what was left of their world. Considering B'Elanna's aggressive behavior, I didn't blame them for being paranoid.

B'Elanna and I got separated from the others for a while. Chakotay and Tuvok managed to convince the Sakarians that we meant no harm. They also found us. And we were just about ready to return to the ship, when Vorik, acting very demented, appeared, demanding to bond with his "mate". Huh! That crazy idiot had disabled Voyager's Comm system and stolen a shuttle, just to reach B'Elanna. Anyway, Vorik challenged me to a . . . hell, I can't even pronounce the damn term! It was some kind of Vulcan combat ritual. And I had to fight it to win B'Elanna's hand. However, B'Elanna decided to challenge Vorik and soon, they were trying to tear each other to pieces. In the end, B'Elanna prevailed. At least she was the one left standing. That son-of-a-bitch Vorik was out cold and on the ground.

(Pauses)I wish I could say that was the end of it. But I can't. What happened today has finally forced me to admit a truth I've been afraid to face. B'Elanna. I love her. Hell, I'm in love with her. I don't know how long I've felt like this. Since Avery III? Or after my infatuation with Kes ended? I don't know. Hell, maybe the reason I was so attracted to Rain was because she strongly reminded me of B'Elanna. And I also remember feeling irritated by B'Elanna's infatuation with Chakotay. Along with the jealousy I felt whenever other men like Freddie Barstow and Vorik expressed interest in her.

She had been right about me when she said all those things in the cave. Those damn caves. I guess I'll never look at another cave without remembering Sakari IV. And that first bite, which gave me pain and unexpected pleasure. Or the way we wrestled each other over that phaser rifle. It had seemed as if we were engaged in some kind of mating dance. And I'll always remember the way she threw herself at me - rubbing her body against mine. And that kiss. God! She has the warmest lips! Hell, I nearly surrendered after that.

So why didn't I just give in and have sex with her? It would have spared her further suffering. Hell, my wildest dreams would have come true. But I also knew B'Elanna. If we had mated, she would have avoided me like the plague for the next 60 to 70 years. In the end, Tuvok urged me to have sex, since her fever was getting worse. After all that trouble I went to be a gentleman, I received permission to make a beast of myself. And I nearly did. At least after B'Elanna began sniffing me - and growling at the same time. Klingon custom, I guess. I have to admit that I was confused. But I also felt aroused. Then she tackled me to the ground (second time that day) and demanded to know what I was doing. When I told her that I was enjoying myself, she laughed. And so did I. God! She looked so wild . . . and beautiful! After our little wrestling match (something I'll never forget) we nearly had sex. Nearly. That was when Vorik decided to interrupt us in a fit of rage. Dammit!

I've already admitted that I'm in love with B'Elanna. But what about her? How does she feel about me? I still remember what she said in the caves about pretending disinterest in me. That she was afraid to reveal her true feelings. Was she speaking the truth? Does that mean she's attracted to me, after all? I mean, I wasn't the only man on Sakari IV, at the time. Even Chakotay was there. But she pursued only me. If she is attracted to me, then it's time to take this relationship to a new level. Like I said, I know B'Elanna. I'm sure she'll try her best to pretend that Sakari IV never happened. But I can't pretend anymore. I want her and I just can't let a good woman like her slip away. End personal log.


STARDATE 50541.57:

The crew spent the better part of the day, helping the Sakarians avoid any further detection from passing ships. In exchange, they gave us a large supply of gallicite. We also discovered why they were so paranoid. Someone found the corpse of a Borg drone. This means that we're not that far from Borg space.

Vorik came by my quarters to apologize for his behavior, yesterday. My first instinct was to knock his lights out. Or at least try. But I noticed the humiliation in his eyes and realized that he never wanted to attack B'Elanna or me in the first place. He also explained what going through pon far really meant. Chemical imbalance in the brain, every seven years? God! Pon far must really be a bitch to deal with. Thank God, I'm not Vulcan. I have enough trouble dealing with my Human emotions.

I also saw B'Elanna for the first time, since yesterday. We ran into each other in Turbolift Three and engaged in small talk for a few moments. But I couldn't take it any longer. I stopped the turbolift and demanded that we talk about what happened on Sakari IV. And B'Elanna did exactly what I had feared she would do - try to pretend that what happened was a mistake. And unfortunate incident caused by a Vulcan imbalance. But I wasn't having it. I told her that I refused to pretend that nothing happened. I also said that I saw her "wild Klingon side" and that I liked it. And that I wouldn't mind seeing it again. And guess what she said? "Be careful of what you wish for, Lieutenant." Was that a challenge? End personal log.


STARDATE 50607.31:

Voyager has been traveling through the Nekrit Expanse for the last month, now. Not only are we the first Alpha Quadrant natives to explore this part of space, but it hasn't even been charted by those in the Delta Quadrant. We have come across systems with inhabited planets - like Sakari IV. However, we mainly seemed to be encountering nebulas. And quite frankly, I'm getting a little tired of them. The Captain ordered Chakotay and Marie Kaplan to scout ahead for a shortcut through the Expanse. Huh. Good luck on that one. End personal log.


STARDATE 50616.23:

The Borg! I should have known we would encounter them, sooner or later. After all, we're in the Delta Quadrant, right? Voyager came across a Borg cube, hovering over some inhabited planet. It had been disabled by an electro-kinetic storm some four or five years ago. The survivors ended up on the planet below, disconnected from the Borg Collective. There, we found Chakotay . . . along with a dead Marie Kaplan.

Poor Marie. We had dated a couple of times, nearly two years ago. She was one of the few people aboard this ship that I really enjoyed being with. A lot of fun, yet passionate about her job. She was an engineer, but usually worked under Harry in Operations.

Chakotay made friends with the survivors, including a former Starfleet officer named Riley Fraizer. Very chummy, those two. Chakotay had been wounded by a group of renegades. Miss Fraizer and other former drones healed him, using some kind of temporary assimilation. I don't know if I would care for that. Even if it meant my life. I hate loss of control. And it didn't help Chakotay in the end. His new "friends" used his brief assimilation to force him to activate the neural transponder, so they could create their own little collective. He even shot B'Elanna (breathes deeply) and Tuvok with a phaser, while under their influence. (Sighs) I don't think Chakotay will ever trust the Borg again. Or maybe even ex-drones. End personal log.


STARDATE 50620.64:

B'Elanna has finally recovered from being shot by Chakotay, thank God. Naturally, she has forgiven him, realizing that he had acted against his will. I also heard that Vorik has returned to Alpha shift. According to B'Elanna, she got tired of Vorik skulking about like a whipped targ. And he also happened to be one of her best engineers. I guess I don't blame her. After having her sex drive tampered by a pon-farred Vorik and shot by an assimilated Chakotay, B'Elanna is having one hell of a month. I'm beginning to wonder what's next in store for her. They say trouble usually come in threes. End personal log.


STARDATE 50695.19:

Voyager came across a planet inhabited by aliens called the Mikhal Travelers. They usually traveled in vessels, big enough for only two occupants, exploring unknown space. Sounds like a great life, if you ask me. The Captain believes they can provide information in plotting a shorter course to the Alpha Quadrant.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has been using the holodeck a lot, lately. Becoming acquainted with historical figures in the Alpha Quadrant. Frankly, I have no idea on what he's up to. But it sounds dull. End personal log.


STARDATE 50697.31:

Another case for Inspector Tuvok. It seems someone has assaulted Kes' friend, Zahir, on the planet's surface. The Mikhal Travelers have asked Tuvok to investigate. I also ran into Doc in the turbolift. He looked . . . odd. Almost remote. And sinister. I wonder if he has been fooling around with his matrix. End personal log.


LOG SUPPLEMENTAL:

Poor B'Elanna. I once contemplated on what else could happen to her, after the incident with Chakotay. Well, it's happened. The Doc had used the holodeck to create a new personality improvement program for his matrix. He ended up becoming some kind of Jekyll and Hyde personality. It was the Doc who had assaulted Zahir. Jealous fit, perhaps? Maybe. He also kidnapped Kes and took her to the planet's surface. But not before paralyzing B'Elanna's legs before she could purge his new personality subroutines from his program. I just checked with B'Elanna. She's doing fine. I guess after Sakari IV and the Borg, she's taking this latest mishap in stride. And she has also purged the Doc's new program, thank God. End personal log.


STARDATE 50730.6:

Now it became Harry's turn to cause trouble for B'Elanna. It's almost becoming a sick joke. Harry didn't harm her directly. From what I gathered, Voyager had a first contact situation with a race called the Nasari. Before the Captain could establish friendly relations, Harry fired upon the Nasari ship, claiming their attentions weren't honorable. Well, the Nasari fired back, causing damage to Engineering. B'Elanna suffered major plasma burns from the damaged conduits. I just visited her in Sick Bay. She's unconscious, but stable. (Sighs) As for Harry, he's in the Captain's dog house, right now. End personal log.


STARDATE 50736.69:

Poor Harry! Because of a few spots on his face, he thought he had found his true home. A homeworld filled with lots of beautiful women. Instead, he nearly became a corpse and progenitor of future Taresian women. It seemed they travel to other systems to infect men with a retrovirus designed to alter their DNA. Apparently, some Taresian woman had infected Harry back at that last space station we had visited, some time ago. The DNA made Harry believe he was Taresian. Hence, his attack on the Nasari ship. Fortunately, Harry discovered that they wanted to use his genetic material for procreation. A process that would have meant death for Harry. We managed to beam him back to the ship and escape before he met that fate. Whew! The Taresians sure have one hell of a way of getting pregnant. Thank God they never became interested in me.

B'Elanna is doing okay. She regained consciousness, yesterday. The Doc kept her in Sick Bay for another day, due to the pain in her lungs. Right now, she's in her quarters, resting. Maybe I should pay her a visit. End personal log.


STARDATE 50763.54:

Miracles do happen, after all! I finally managed to convince B'Elanna to join me for lunch. Just the two of us. She had agree on one condition - that we don't eat in the Mess Hall. Apparently, she doesn't want to give the crew the misconception that we're dating. So, we ended up having pizza and wine in my quarters. It was nice. We discussed the party Neelix planned to hold in the Resort. Work also popped into the conversation, along with Harry's pursuit of Lyndsay Ballard. It seemed Harry and Ballard were old Academy chums. Harry had a crush on her back then, until he met the indomitable Libby. Ballard seemed oblivious to Harry's feelings for her.

Granted, our lunch wasn't exactly the romantic gathering I had envisioned, but it was better than nothing. End personal log.


STARDATE 50868:

Whew! What a day! Who would have thought an astral eddy would prove to nearly fatal? It had already destroyed a space station, where we were supposed to meet a race of aliens called the Vostigye. Since Voyager's hull was too heavy to withstand the eddy, I volunteered to investigate it from the Cochrane. And I nearly didn't make it back.

Before my Away mission, the Doc gave me a shot of hyronalin, while critizing my tendency to live dangerously. I later discovered that he was experiencing anxiety over the changes B'Elanna had made to his holofamily. Apparently, she found the Doc's family a little too perfect and decided to make a few tweaks, making them more realistic. Well, one of those tweaks resulted in the death of the Doc's holographic daughter, Belle. He wanted to end the program right there, but I convinced him to continue. He would have cheated himself of experiencing how families deal with tragedies - and how those tragedies brought them closer, because of the pain. Maybe B'Elanna went too far with her changes, but I think that the Doc might learn something valuable, in the end.

Speaking of B'Elanna, we had an interesting conversation in the Mess Hall before my trip on the Cochrane. It seems that Klingons also have a thing for romance. B'Elanna told me that romance for Klingons is a little more . . . "vigorous". Hmm, just thinking of that makes me . . . maybe I better not say anything. Anyway, after reading a small passage from her novel, I began to see that she hadn't exaggerated. Maybe I can ask her to lend me her copy of "Women Warriors of the Blood River" when she finishes. Who knows? It might turn out to be a convenient technical manual, after all. End personal log.


STARDATE 50878.57:

I finally managed to borrow B'Elanna's copy of "Women Warriors of the Blood River". From what I've read so far, it's damn good. I never thought I would enjoy reading Klingon romance novels. And it's also turning out to be one hell of a technical manual. End personal log.


STARDATE 50906.05:

Made a bet with B'Elanna. I bet that that the problem in the navigational conduits came from an anodyne relay. Naturally, I won. Which means we'll be using the new Klingon martial arts program I had just created inside Holodeck Two, tonight. Besides, it would be good for her. I love B'Elanna, but I wish she would be more willing to embrace her Klingon side. She doesn't realize that the combination of her two heritages make her so intriguing. Unique. Maybe this program will be the first step in the right direction for her. Maybe. End personal log.


STARDATE 50913.69:

God, she can be so damn stubborn! Would it have really hurt her to deliver the death blow? It's goddamn holoprogram, after all! (Pauses) Shit! I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm . . . now where in the hell are my trousers? Oh. There they are. (Pauses) Where was I? Oh yeah. B'Elanna and the martial arts program. (Sighs) Maybe it was a mistake to trick her into making that bet. She didn't m-m-m-phf-f-f-. . . (Sighs) mind at first. But when she had to deliver the final blow, she froze all of a sudden. I guess the idea of giving in to her Klingon side had appalled her. Instead, she stormed out of the holodeck. If we hadn't encountered that alien in the corridor, she probably would have gutted me with her bat'leth. Doc was right. I must like to live dangerously. (Sighs) Time to deal with our new visitor. End personal log.


STARDATE 50918.73:

Another bizarre adventure in the Delta Quadrant for Voyager's intrepid crew. For the second time, we had our ship taken from us. Only the Nyrians used more subtle methods than Seska and the Kazons. Very clever, really. They transported the crew, one-by-one, to their habitat . . . or prison. While they were transporting us off the ship, they transported their fellow Nyrians to Voyager. The gentleman B'Elanna and I had stumbled across on Deck Six, turned out to be the first . . . and leader of the whole operation. The Captain and Tuvok eventually discovered a way to regain Voyager . . . but not before B'Elanna and I ended up in another argument.

While on the Nyrian habitat, B'Elanna and I managed to make peace over our first argument. But good old Doc opened his big fat mouth . . . Okay, it wasn't all his fault. Maybe I shouldn't have agreed to his comment about B'Elanna's tendency to push people away. But the Doc was right. She does use her temper to keep others at a distance. Just as B'Elanna was right . . . (Sighs) She was right that I used humor to hide my own feelings. B'Elanna shut down the Doc's vocal subroutines to keep him from making it worse between us. It didn't help. By then, I had lost my temper and told her that she was afraid of making friends, and walked away before she could reply.

We made up - again. Of course, not after our little adventure in the Nyrian habitat. Dodging Nyrians in something that resembled the Artic Circle was no mean feat. Nor was preventing B'Elanna from succumbing to hypothermia. We eventually found ourselves back in the Voyager compound - with our arms wrapped around each other. Very embarrassing. I think Nagasawa was laughing. After our return to Voyager, B'Elanna found me in Holodeck One. We didn't say much, but we made our peace. And the smile she had on her face . . . God, it was beautiful! And so is she. End personal log.


STARDATE 50950.19:

B'Elanna and I were supposed to meet for lunch, this afternoon. Instead, I found her inside Holodeck Two, in the middle of a program. It seemed someone had created a program called Insurrection Alpha and it's all about a Maquis takeover aboard Voyager. It seemed so intriguing that I asked B'Elanna to reset it for me. The main character is a Starfleet Security ensign, who joins the mutiny out of his or her dislike of Tuvok. Only I botched it up. First, I betrayed Chakotay by warning Tuvok on the Bridge. Then, I rejoined the mutiny and ended up cleaning plasma conduits. Disappointing way to end a good story. End personal log.


STARDATE 50953.4:

I've decided to play along as a full-fledged mutineer. I hope it's more fun this time. End personal log.


STARDATE 50955.38:

What a relief it is to be finally out of the holodeck. I never thought I would say that, but I never thought I would be trapped inside one of the holodecks, trying to keep from getting murdered by a holographic Seska.

And to think, all of this came about, due to the imagination of one Lieutenant Tuvok, Chief of Security. During the early months of our journey, he had fears of a Maquis mutiny and created a program to prepare his junior officers for such an event. When his fears proved groundless, he abandoned the program. Unfortunately, Seska discovered Insurrection Alpha, about a month before she left and made some . . . adjustments. In case Tuvok decided to complete the program. Well, two years and five months later, Tuvok decided to complete it - after I had volunteered to do the same, myself.

Seska really laid out some traps for us. Which included getting shot by Chakotay, having the Doc put nitric acid on my wound, nearly being incinerated in one of the Jeffries tubes and execution by Seska. Whew! Thanks goodness the Captain added an attack by aliens to delay our execution. And thank goodness Tuvok managed to booby-trap that phaser. End personal log.


LOG SUPPLEMENTAL:

The Captain and others had suggested that Tuvok and I create a new story, together. Sounds like a good idea. Maybe I should follow B'Elanna's advice and add a little passion to it. A romance between characters similar to a handsome hotshot pilot and a feisty engineer, perhaps? End personal log.


STARDATE 50974.8:

We had a party for Kes, today. Ironically, it wasn't to celebrate her birthday, since that happened some four days ago. In some possible future, Kes became infected by chronoton radiation and later, began traveling backward in time. B'Elanna and the Doc found a way to bring her back in temporal sync with the rest of us. Kes didn't say very much on what happened . . . or should I say, what will happen. In fact, she seemed eager to write a report on a certain race of aliens we might encounter. Not long after B'Elanna, Harry and I left the Resort, we encountered her and again, tried to get more information on the future. She continued to be mum on the subject. However, she gave me the oddest look. I wonder why. End personal log.


STARDATE 50979.46:

Sad news today. Ensign Ane Jetal died from wounds she had suffered in an alien attack. Both she and Harry had been wounded pretty badly, during an Away mission. I was in Sickbay, when the Doc dragged me into assisting them. Kes was unavailable at the time. Poor Doc. He had the unfortunate task of choosing who to treat first - Harry or Ane. He chose Harry and Ensign Jetal died. End personal log.


STARDATE 50982.65:

Something happened to the Doc, this afternoon. He went beserk in the Mess Hall, not long after Ensign Jetal's memorial service. I guess he felt guilty for being unable to save her. The Captain decided to wipe his memory of the entire incident, much to Kes' distress. I heard she was furious. But not even Kes' anger was able to change the Captain's mind. End personal log.


STARDATE 50984.94:

Very chilling experience, this morning. B'Elanna came across what happened to our missing probe. It turns out it has been discovered by the Borg. Now it's official. Voyager has entered the heart of Borg space. You know, the idea of settling on some planet, light years away doesn't sound all that bad. End personal log.


STARDATE 50986.02:

Not long after our discovery of being in Borg space, preparation for surviving the upcoming journey began. The Captain had planned on taking the ship through an area unaffected by the Borg called the Northwest Passage. Only one problem. We would be traveling through a space affected by spatial distortions. But that's not all. The Borg is also on the run. It seems they are being hunted down by another race. It was a sight to behold - all those cubes zooming by, practically ignoring us. One cube did bother to stop and scan us. But it turned around and followed the others. Tuvok later discovered that all of the cubes had been destroyed. He had also picked up a strange reading. The Captain has ordered him, Chakotay and Harry to investigate. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not going. End personal log.


STARDATE 50987.24:

Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay's little Away mission nearly ended in disaster. And if the Doc doesn't find a way to help Harry, disaster might just happen. (Sighs) Harry is in serious trouble. The Away mission came across an alien aboard a Borg cube filled with dead and injured drones. According to the data that Tuvok had collected, the Borg called these aliens, Species 8472. And according to Kes' telepathic flashes, Species 8472 are determined to wipe out the galaxy. If that's so, why are they only going after Borg targets? Poor Harry had an encounter with one and now his cells are being eradicated inside out. The Doc is trying to keep him stabilized. I only hope that he succeeds. End personal log.


STARDATE 50988.54:

The Captain has made her decision. We're going to form an alliance with the Borg. Judging from the expression on Chakotay's face, I guess he thinks it's a bad idea. And I have to admit . . . I heartily agree. I'm not saying that we should form an alliance with Species 8472, but Kes' visions aside, we don't really know much about the war between them and the Borg. But, she is the captain, so . . . a Borg alliance it is. God! An M-class planet would really look great right about now. End personal log.


STARDATE 50991.02:

Just have time for another break. I feel as if I've been glued to the Helm station for the past three days. Well, the Captain has her alliance with the Borg. She also found herself stuck on one of the cubes, after an attack by a Species 8472 bio-ship. However, she's still alive. And unassimilated. She ordered Chakotay to match the cube's speed. Not a difficult thing to. And there is more good news. Harry has recovered. I don't know what miracle the Doc had performed, but performed one, he did and Harry is alive and completely recovered. End personal log.


STARDATE 50993.46:

Species 8472 struck again and destroyed the cube that the Captain and Tuvok were on. Fortunately, we managed to beam them off before it blew up. Both the Captain and Tuvok were injured. However, in the Captain's case, her injuries were severe and now Chakotay is in command. We also have five Borg drones in Cargo Bay Two from the now destroyed cube. (Sighs) What is the point in complaining? If all of us get out of this alive, it will be a miracle bigger than the one Doc had performed on Harry. End personal log.


STARDATE 50995.84:

We did it! We defeated Species 8472, thanks to those new weapons developed by the Doc, Tuvok and that Borg drone. We destroyed a few bio-ships in fluidic space and destroyed more in normal space. Species 8472 have ended the war. Unfortunately, our lone Borg drone, who survived Chakotay's purge of Cargo Bay Two, tried to send Voyager to the nearest Borg cube to have us assimilated. The Captain and Chakotay overcame their differences and came up with a plan to stop her. It worked, but not before she knocked me down on the Bridge. Ouch! Chakotay and B'Elanna were able to disconnect her from the Borg Collective and now, she's stuck aboard Voyager. With us. End personal log.


STARDATE 50999.37:

We've survived the Borg and Species 8472. And since today is New Year's Eve, Neelix and I have decided to host a party on Holodeck One, using the Resort program. After five days of being in the middle of a galactic war, we need a little fun. Harry and I were supposed to escort B'Elanna to the party. But I asked Lyndsay Ballard to talk him into escorting her, so I could have B'Elanna to myself. I hope my plan works.

I just realized that today marks the end of 2373. Looking back, I have to admit that it has been one bizarre year. We started out battling the Kazon and ended up fighting even more dangerous adversaries. And we even got to Earth - well, in the wrong century, but it was Earth. More importantly . . . at least for me, I've fallen in love. Twice, actually. The first time, I had to leave Rain behind in the late 20th century Earth. Too bad. She was one of the few people I had an immediate connection with. As for the second time, I can only hope that I'll have better luck in the following year. That is, if B'Elanna can finally let her guard down. Oh well. Happy New Year. And end personal log.


THE END


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Moore As Bond"



Below is an article I had written about Roger Moore's tenure (1973-1985) as James Bond:


”MOORE AS BOND”

I always found it odd that many Bond fans tend to dismiss Roger Moore's performances as a non-threatening Bond. While watching the "Special Features" segment for my "CASINO ROYALE" DVD, I saw the "Bond Girls Are Forever" segment in which Jane Seymour described her character's relationship with Moore's Bond. From what she and Maud Adams had said, I got the distinct impression that in his own way, Moore's Bond was just as ruthless as the other Bonds.

Unlike his fellow Bond actors, Moore’s ruthlessness usually did not involve grittiness of any kind or overt menace. Judging from Seymour's description of Moore's Bond and my own memories, I suspect that Moore's ruthlessness was a lot more subtle, but equally cold-blooded. I believe that Moore had portrayed Bond as a manipulative and cold-blooded cad, who would use anyone to achieve his goal . . . while smiling in their faces or whispering soft words. And thinking about this made me realize that Moore's portrayal of Bond had more than just tongue-in-cheek humor. He had portrayed a Bond that turned out tobe very unique from the others. Perhaps the other Bonds have used or manipulated others (think of Bond's use of Solange in "CASINO ROYALE"), but they have never done it with such cold-blooded style as Moore.

Roger Moore had first been considered for the role of James Bond back in 1961 or early 1962, about a year before he began his six-year run as another British literary icon . . . Simon Templar aka “THE SAINT”. He eventually took over the Bond role from Sean Connery in 1972 and his first movie became 1973’s “LIVE AND LET DIE”. Moore would spend the next twelve years portraying the British agent. And during that period, he would gain the reputation of being a lightweight Bond – one who resorted to jokes, light charm and gadget instead of ruthlessness and sheer grit. A reputation – in my opinion – that I believe was unfairly dumped on him.

Whereas other actors who have portrayed Bond (Connery, Dalton and Craig, especially) tend to show the agent’s more ruthless side in gritty action sequences and overt violence, Moore’s take on Bond’s ruthlessness tend to be a little more subtle. Moore has shown Bond’s grittier side in movies like ”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” and ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”. However, his grittiness more plausible in the 1981 film, in which he did not seem bent upon impersonating Connery like he did in the 1974 film. However, subtlety and caddish behavior seemed to be the hallmark of Moore’s performance. And here are a few examples (if you know of any more, please let me know):

- In ”LIVE AND LET DIE”, he deliberately tricked Solitaire into believing they were destined to be lovers, so that he could have sex with her and manipulate her into revealing all about Kanaga’s operation. One of the low moments in Bond’s career.

- Also in ”LALD”, Bond unceremoniously shoved a shark pellet into Kanaga’s mouth, causing the latter to expand before blowing up. Rather cruel way to kill someone.

- In ”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”, he seduced fellow MI-6 agent, Mary Goodnight into spending the night with him. But when Scaramanga’s mistress, Andrea Anders, comes knocking at his door, he forced Goodnight to hide in a nearby closet, while he has sex with Anders. Hmmmm . . .

- Also in ”TMWTGG”, Bond offered a young Thai boy to fix his boat engine for money. When the boy does as he asks, Bond shoved the kid into the water. That was . . . pretty shitty.

- In ”THE SPY WHO LOVED ME”, Bond started to enjoy the favors of a young woman that was hired to distract him at Fekkish’s home. But when he saw that Sandor is about to kill him, he used the young woman as a human shied. This is debatable, since there are those who believe that she simply became an accidental target.

- Also in ”TSWLM”, Bond shoved Sandor off a roof, after the latter grudgingly gives him the information that he needs. And later, he shot an unarmed Karl Stromberg in the chest . . . four times.

- In ”MOONRAKER”, Bond sexually seduced one of Drax’s employees, Corine Dufour, so that she could lead him to Drax’s personal safe for information. This action eventually led to Corine’s death at the jaws of a pair of Dobermans. I can only assume that Bond never realized the consequences of his actions.

- Finally in ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”, Bond shot Emile Loque in the shoulder, forcing the Belgian hitman to swerve to the edge of a cliff. In what is considered to be a very celebrated scene, Bond slowly sauntered over and kicked Loque’s car over the cliff.


I tried to think of any real cold-blooded acts on Bond’s part, in Moore’s last two films - ”OCTOPUSSY” and ”A VIEW TO A KILL”, but I was unable to. Perhaps by 1982 or 1983, Moore had slowly become aware of the fact that his Bond was a lot more cold-blooded than he had originally intended. Or perhaps his Bond had matured into a man who realized that he did not need to resort to cold-blooded and caddish acts to complete his assignment. Who knows?

But I hope that this puts an end to the idea that Roger Moore’s Bond was simply some light and sophisticated man who seemed more concerned with jokes and beautiful women. Because from what I have seen from most of Moore’s films, his Bond seemed quite capable of being ruthless. Perhaps he was not as gritty as the likes of Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig, but Moore’s Bond could be quite a dangerous and cold-blooded man.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"STAR TREK" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the new movie, "STAR TREK". Directed by J.J. Abrams, the movie stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Eric Bana:


"STAR TREK" (2009) Photo Gallery




















































Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - 14/18




"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"

Author's Note: Warning. This is a short . . . short chapter. Merely a set up for the final action.

------

CHAPTER 14


The telephone on Cole's breakfast table rang. He reached over to answer. "Hello?" he greeted. "Cole Turner speaking."

"Good morning, Mr. Turner. It's me, Suzanne Maxwell. What happened to you, last night?"

Cole paused momentarily, contemplating on what answer to give his . . . 'client'. For a woman who had been stood up last night, she seemed unusually chipper. Even if she had called him by his surname. Cole finally said, "Sorry to cancel our engagement like that. I had emergency. Actually, my neighbor did. I hope you're not angry at me for canceling last night's dinner."

Brittle laughter filled Cole's ears. That could either mean that Suzanne was truly angry about last night. Or she had some kind of plan in store for him. Cole suspected the latter. "Of course not," she cried. "Actually, I wanted to reschedule our meeting for this morning. Around nine?"

"Nine?" Cole recalled that he had an early meeting with one of the senior partners around eight-thirty. "How about nine-thirty?"

Suzanne paused. "Well, I guess. I'm . . . leaving for L.A., today. A friend of mine has invited me to join her for the weekend and my plane will leave around noon. I suppose I can spare you another thirty minutes to discuss a piece of property I had discovered."

Cole hesitated. He wondered what the warlock had in mind. Seduction? Attempted murder? Hopefully, he would ready for any surprise she might have. He had managed to surprise Dako with the strength of his powers. Cole decided that he would be ready for anything that Suzanne Crozat might inflict upon him. He answered, "I'll be there, around nine-thirty. At your home, right?"

"Actually, I'll be leaving for the airport from my office on Columbus Street. You can meet me there. The Vendrum Company at the Hopkins Building on Columbus. Fifth floor." She added in a sing-song voice, "I'll be waiting for you. Bye!" Suzanne hung up.

Cole placed the receiver on the telephone. And stared at it thoughtfully.

* * * *

A haggard-looking Louis Crozat strolled inside the dining room of the two-story townhouse being rented by the Crozats. The others, Suzanne included, glanced up from their breakfast to greet the newcomer. "Well, how is our guest, this morning?" Edward asked.

Louis sat down in one of the empty chairs around the table and sighed. "Eating. And after he eats, more meditation. He seems determined to gain complete control of the mortal's body before he goes after the witches."

"Oh God!" Suzanne exclaimed with a roll of her eyes.

Edward ignored her and asked Louis, "What about Belthazor? Has Dako mentioned him, this morning?"

"No. He seemed more interested in his plans to rule other sorcerers and daemons. Perhaps even the Source's Realm and a few others." Louis made a face. "He even suggested there might be a place for all of us in his 'kingdom'."

Henry grunted. "How benevolent of him!"

"Henry!"

He let out a huff. "I'm getting tired of this, Edward! And I'm getting tired of him. We all are! Let's just get . . ." He glanced uneasily at the doorway. ". . . get rid of Belthazor, take his powers and kill the witches, ourselves."

"And what about Piper Halliwell?" Edward replied with a sneer. "How do we deal with her baby without Dako's help?" To Suzanne's obvious discomfort, Edward's eyes slid toward her. "If there's a chance we can't get Dako to help us, we'll have to resort to our second plan in regard to the Halliwell witch."

A voice from the doorway boomed, "What about the witch?" All eyes stared at the bokor, standing in the doorway. "I assume you were referring to the pregnant witch."

Edward nervously cleared his throat. "Yes, Your Eminence. We, uh . . . Suzanne has discovered a spell to steal the witch's baby from her womb. This spell was once used by a powerful daemon with psychic abilities, last spring. Against the witch's younger sister. The other sister, Phoebe, was carrying the Source's child, at the time."

"The Source? I've heard of him," Dako replied haughtily. "A talented daemon, but obviously not as powerful as some have deemed him to be."

Henry retorted, "The Source was the ruler of a vast demonic realm."

"Maybe of your realm, but certainly not of mine." Dako rolled his eyes. "And yet three of these witches were able to kill him . . . three times?"

Edward frowned. "How did you . . .?"

"I told him," Louis said, looking guilty. Edward glared at him.

Dako continued, "You can used this spell on the pregnant witch. I will kill the others and steal this . . . Belthazor's powers, before killing him. You can have the witch's child. Compensation for helping me acquire power, again."

Suzanne repressed a retort. Then she glanced at the clock on the wall. Eight forty-five. Her appointment with Belthazor was in another forty-five minutes. In an effort not to raise the sorcerer's suspicions, she slowly stood up. And sighed. "It's almost nine. That herbal shop should be opened, soon. I have some shopping to do."

"Shopping?"

Coolly, Suzanne stared at him. "Yes. Shopping. For the spell to steal the witch's baby. Is there a problem?"

"No. As long as you're back in time to go after Belthazor and the witches. I will be waiting at the witches' home around midday. After we kill the witches, we'll go after the red-haired witch and her family. And then, I will take Belthazor's powers and kill him. Meanwhile, I will meditate some more." He left the room.

Suzanne sneered. "Thril-ling! A great being who can't even . . ." She paused under Edward's warning stare. "Never mind. I'll meet you all at the Halliwells' home . . . around noon." An impatient sigh escaped her mouth, as she stomped out of the room.

* * * *

Cecile stood inside Olivia's kitchen, as she put the finishing touches on a potion she hoped would free Darryl Morris from Dako's spirit. After tossing a pinch of dried amber into the saucepan, she muttered an incantation. A second later, a ball of smoke exploded above the saucepan, taking Cecile by surprise. Step one had been completed.

After a quick search through the kitchen cabinets, Cecile found a small bottle for the potion. She poured the saucepan's contents into the bottle. Just as she finished closing the bottle with a cork, the telephone rang. Cecile picked up the receiver and greeted, "Hello?"

"Cecile? Hey cherie!" a familiar deep voice boomed.

Relief flooded throughout Cecile's body, when she recognized her boyfriend's voice. "Andre? Is that you?"

"Yeah. I got the spell that you wanted. A friend of mine had just e-mailed it to me, a few minutes ago. You remember Thierry Devereaux, don't you? From St. Croix? Well, when I told him about your encounter with . . ."

Cecile kept her patience in check. She loved Andre, but sometimes she wondered if the man was in love with his own voice. "Andre! Honey? The spell, please! I'm in a hurry."

"Oh. Yeah."

Cecile listened patiently, as Andre recited a spell that had not been used in nearly 250 years. She did not bother to write it down, for she possessed an eidetic memory. When the houngan finished, Cecile replied, "Got it! Thanks baby. And tell your friend, Mister . . ."

The vision struck Cecile like a bolt of lightning. She saw Cole Turner inside an expensive office with a dark-haired, beautiful woman. Cecile saw Cole drink something and drop to the floor, disoriented. Then four men entered the office, and with the woman, formed a circle around the half-daemon. They chanted some incantation that left Cole powerless. Then Cecile saw one of them kill Olivia's neighbor with a fireball. The vision continued with a shadowy figure (whom Cecile figured must be Dako) and the warlocks killing the McNeills, Phoebe Halliwell, Leo Wyatt and Paige Matthews. Cecile also saw Piper Halliwell killed by the the shadow figure, and her own death at the hands of the same warlock she had spotted two days ago. The vision ended as abruptly as it had begun. Cecile dropped to the floor, gasping for air.

"Cecile?" Andre's voice could be heard from the telephone receiver she had dropped. "Cecile! Are you there?"

Slowly, the Vodoun priestess rose to her feet. She took a deep breath and picked up the receiver. "Andre, I . . . I have to go. There's an emergency. I'll call you back, later."

"Cecile! Dammit wo . . ." Unfortunately, Andre Morrell's voice went unheeded by Cecile, as she disconnected the line.


END OF CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Friday, May 22, 2009

"THE FOUR FEATHERS" (1939) Review


This year marks the 70th anniversary of the fourth version of A.E.W. Mason's adventure classic, "THE FOUR FEATHERS":


"THE FOUR FEATHERS" (1939) Review

There have been seven versions of A.E.W. Mason’s 1902 novel, ”The Four Feathers”. At least three of them were silent films. In 1939, British producer Alexander Korda released the first sound adaptation of the novel. This version was also the first one to be filmed in color. Directed by Korda’s brother, Zoltan Korda, ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” starred John Clements, June Duprez, Ralph Richardson and C. Aubrey Smith.

Not only was this version of ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” the first to feature both sound and color, it is regarded by many as the best adaptation of Mason’s novel. Fifteen years has passed since I last saw this movie. When I first saw it back in the mid-1990s, I was very impressed by this film. After seeing it fifteen years later (or more), I am still impressed. Somewhat. Granted, my admiration for the movie has dimmed slightly, but I still believe that it is a first-class movie.

Unlike Mason’s novel or the recent 2002 version, this version of ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” is not set right after General Charles Gordon’s death in 1885. Instead, the movie is set in 1895. Harry Faversham is an officer in the British Army and his regiment has been ordered to the Sudan to avenge the death of “Chinese” Gordon from ten years ago. On the eve of its departure, British officer Harry Faversham (Clements) resigns his commission. As a result, his three friends and fellow officers, Captain John Durrance (Richardson) and Lieutenants Burroughs (Donald Grey) and Willoughby (Jack Allen), express their contempt of his supposed cowardice by each sending him a white feather attached to a calling card. When his fiancée, Ethne Burroughs (Duprez), says nothing in his defense, he bitterly demands one more from her. She refuses, but he plucks one from her fan and leaves. While the officers go off to war, he admits to his old acquaintance Dr. Sutton (Frederick Culley) that he is a coward and must make amends. He departs for Egypt. There, he adopts the disguise of a native with the help of Dr. Harraz (Henry Oscar), choosing to play a despised mute Sangali to hide his lack of knowledge of the language.

What can I saw about ”THE FOUR FEATHERS”? For one, it is a beautiful looking film. I understand that it had been filmed in both Great Britain and in Sudan. And photographers Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile did a beautiful job in capturing the scope and color (via Technicolor) of both countries. It was not surprising for me to learn that the film had received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. I also found Miklos Rozsa’s score, Vincent Korda’s uncredited production design, W. Percy Day’s matte paintings, along with Godfrey Brennan and René Hubert’s costume designs impressive, as well.

But I am merely procrastinating. I have not discussed the meat of the movie – namely the story and the acting. Well, I might as well start with the first. R.C. Sherriff, Lajos Biro and Arthur Wimperis created a solid adaptation of Mason’s novel. They made a few changes. As I had stated before, they set the movie in the 1890s, enabling them to incorporate the British victory at the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898 into the plot. The novel was set around the mid 1880s. The character of Abou Fatma (featured in both the novel and in other versions, including the 2002 movie) is not this film. But these changes did not hurt the plot. ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” still turned out to be a rousing action-adventure film. When I first saw the movie back in the early 1990s, the patriotic jingoism surrounding the British Empire did not bother me at all. Fifteen years later, it did. Somewhat. I have seen plenty of old films from the 1930s and 1940s that painted the British Empire in a positive light. Unfortunately, this version of ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” did so at a level that sometimes came off as a little too heavy-handed for my taste. I suspect that the reason behind the three screenwriters’ decision to set the movie in the mid-to-late 1890s in order to allow the movie to feature an actual British imperialist victory – Omdurman - and a chance to wave the flag. The movie did question the idea of what constituted bravery or cowardice. But once Harry arrived in the Sudan, the topic never reared its ugly head again. Hmmm. Too bad.

The movie featured a solid, first-rate cast. John Clements gave an excellent performance as Harry Faversham, who is emotionally torn between his aversion to the idea of serving as a British officer and continuing his family’s military tradition. My only quibble with his performance was that I found his . . . ’portrayal’ of a mute Sangali exaggerated. The other first-rate performance featured in this movie came from Ralph Richardson, who portrayed Faversham’s best friend and romantic rival, Jack Durrance. I was especially impressed by how Richardson conveyed Jack’s desperation to hide his blindness from his command and his hopeless infatuation with Harry’s fiancée, Ethne Burroughs. Who, by the way, was portrayed by June Duprez. Ms. Duprez gave a charming performance. But aside from two scenes – one that featured her discovery of Harry’s resignation from the Army and her regret for pushing him away – Miss Duprez’s Ethne seemed to lack depth. Well known British character actor, C. Aubrey Smith gave a sprightly and funny performance as Ethne’s father, the irascible General Burroughs who continues to live in the past glories of his service during the Crimean War. In fact, the movie’s running joke turned out to be the General’s embellishments of his favorite war story – the Battle of Balaclava.

When one comes down to it, the 1939 version of ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” is a rousing and entertaining tale about a disgraced British Army officer who finds redemption through his private heroic acts to protect his former colleagues and friends during the last year of the Mahdist War. My main quibble with the movie centered around the script written by R.C. Sherriff, Lajos Biro and Arthur Wimperis. Granted, they did a first-rate job of adapting Mason’s novel. But aside from the first third of the movie in which the script briefly questioned society’s idea of bravery, the story seemed lack depth and in the end, came off as a propaganda film for the British Empire. However, Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile’s Technicolor photography of both England and the Sudan are absolutely breathtaking and deserving of an Oscar nomination. The movie featured a solid cast that included excellent performances by John Clements and Ralph Richardson. And Zoltan Korda kept it all together with his skillful direction that featured some excellent dramatic moments and great action.

I realize that many consider Korda’s version of ”THE FOUR FEATHERS” to be the best of the seven already made. This is an opinion that I cannot honestly share. It is also an opinion I have not harbored in the past decade. It is a little too jingoistic for my taste. And aside from the Harry Faversham and Jack Durrance characters, most of the other characters do not strike me as possessing enough depth. But it is a first-rate action-adventure film. And it is easy to see why so many fans still love it after seventy years.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy - Inaccuracies



After reading a list of historical inaccuracies in the movie, "TITANIC", I could not help but think about the historical inaccuracies I've found in the "NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy - no matter how much I loved it. So, here it is:


“NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy - Inaccuracies



1. George and Orry's journey to West Point - I could be mistaken, but I thought most cadets who traveled to West Point from New York City, did so by a steamer up the Hudson River in the mid-1800s.

2. Orry's sword duel w/Bent - I realize many of you found it exciting, but
after asking around, I discovered that it is impossible for someone with Orry's difficulties in studies to be an excellent swordsman. Actually, someone like Bent should have kicked his butt.

3. Ulysses Grant did not graduate from West Point two years ahead of George and Orry (as indicated in ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”). He graduated three years before them in 1843.

4. The Mains should not have been at Mont Royal during the summers of 1844, 1846 or 1854. Summertime was considered fever season in the South Carolina low country. South Carolinians planters usually vacationed in the upcountry or somewhere else - preferably at Newport Island.

****



5. When Virgilia made the "slave bordellos" reference in her speech during the abolitionist meeting in Philadelphia, she had been very close to the truth, despite Orry's reaction. Due to a Federal law that forbade the import of African slaves in 1808, prosperous slave owners like Tillet Main encouraged their slaves to breed. Female slaves were encouraged to breed by the age fourteen.

6. Fredrick Douglass never referred to God in his speeches. A bitter encounter with the clergy in Maryland erased any religious fevor that he had.

7. Robert Guilliame was too old to be playing Fredrick Douglass in 1848. During that year, Douglass was only 30 years old. Guilliame was at least 56 or 57 years old when he appeared in ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I”.

8. The song, "Dixie", was written by a Northerner in 1859 and became popular throughout the South in 1860. When James Huntoon sung it at a rally in New Orleans, he may have sung it a year or two early.

****



9. Orry had been premature in referring to John Brown as insane in December 1859. The abolitionist was never considered insane until the 1890s, when the "Lost Cause" myth became very popular.

10. Contrary to the miniseries, Major Robert Anderson was not in his mid to late 30s – the age of actor James Rebhorn, who portrayed the officer when the miniseries was filmed - around the winter of 1860-61. He was at least 55 years old.

11. Hiram Burdan, commander of the Sharpshooters, was not the stickler as portrayed by Kurtwood Smith in the miniseries. In fact, he was not a very good commander and left the Sharpshooters sometime in early 1864.

12. Lincoln had never made a comment about suggesting his other commanders drink the same brand of whiskey as Grant.

****



13. Although he remained sober throughout most of the war, Grant did go on an alcoholic bender sometime during the Vicksburg siege – May to July 1863.

14. West Point never held a ball for its graduates during the mid-1800s. The graduating class usually went to the Astor House in New York City for a graduation supper.

15. Generals Grant and Sherman had met President Lincoln a few weeks
before the war ended, they met on a James River steamboat around City Point, Virginia. They did not meet on the field, with General Sheridan, as indicated in "BOOK II".

16. William Stills had been 34-36 years old during the winter of 1855/56. The actor who portrayed him in ”BOOK I”, the late Ron O'Neal, was at least 47 years old at the time of the miniseries’ production.


If you can find any further discrepancies, please let me know.


Monday, May 18, 2009

"X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the new X-MEN about the origins of the Wolverine character called "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE". The movie stars Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, will.i.am and Ryan Reynolds:


"X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" (2009) Photo Gallery