Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book I




"THE RAIN CHRONICLES" [PG] - Book I

RATING: [PG] For mild language. Very mild.
SUMMARY: By some twist of fate, Rain Robinson from Season 3's "Future's End", ends up on Voyager. Told from Rain, B'Elanna and Janeway's POV. Book 1.
FEEDBACK: deerush76@yahoo.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B'Elanna and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be. Dammit!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've always wondered if there would have been a Paris/Torres romance if Rain Robinson had ended up on Voyager.


----------

RAIN ROBINSON - May 2, 1996:

It began with a simple touch. Can you believe it? A simple touch. One little act that would change my life for good. Why did I do it? Was it my natural curiosity, first sparked by that radiation signal I had detected at the Observatory? Or was it a pair of warm blue eyes that led me to give in to such an impulse? Maybe the latter. Who knows?

It was the signal started everything. Signs of Gamma emissions that drew the attention of my sponsor at the Observatory and all-round creep, Henry Starling. It also attracted the attention of the owner of those blue eyes - Tom Paris - and his two oddball friends, Tuvok and Mr. Leisure Suit. Thanks to Tom and his friends, I discovered that Mr. Starling could not be trusted and wanted me dead. Tom and Tuvok wanted him for another reason. Something to do with a ship in Starling's possession. A timeship, I believe. Despite what Tom may think, I was paying attention. Tom and I eventually chased Starling's pet thug into the desert, outside L.A. The poor bastard ended up blown to bits by some strange aircraft. One that I suspect Tom was very familiar with.

Tom Paris. I once told him that he reminded me of Howdy Doody, but in a sexy way. He still does. Strange guy, very good-looking and charming, but also very smart. Nor did he seem turned off by my own brains and my big mouth. In short, I wanted him to stay. But he couldn't. He had to return to from wherever he came from.

So there we stood in the middle of the desert, facing each other. Tom said that he had never met anyone quite like me and probably never will. Then he kissed me. Properly. Not like others who usually gave wet, sloppy kisses or timid ones. A real, honest-to-God kiss with the pair of the warmest lips I had ever felt. When he eventually turned his back on me, something inside could not give him up. A strange, blue light enveloped him and with my usual impulsiveness, I touched his shirt and found myself caught up in the light. One moment we had been surrounded by the California desert, the next inside the strange aircraft, which had even stranger technology. Before Tom or anyone else could spot me, I ducked behind some console and out of sight.

"Chakotay to Voyager," a soft, deep voice called out. "We've picked up Tom. All are accounted for."

A husky, female voice that sounded slightly familiar, responded, "Acknowledged Commander. Report to the Bridge as soon as you return. Janeway out."

Voyager? The only other Voyager I could recall was a satellite probe that had ended up missing years ago. Judging from Ms. Janeway's voice, Voyager seemed to be more than a satellite. Instinct also told me that it was not on this earth. Okay, actually it was my stomach that conveyed the message. Especially after the way it bounced to my throat after the craft rose further in the air. How far we traveled? I have no idea.

We finally arrived at our destination and I ducked my head behind the console once more. Tom, Tuvok and the others filed out of the aircraft. The moment their voices vanished, I decided it was safe to leave my hiding place. Upon leaving the aircraft, I found myself alone, surrounded by similar aircrafts - much to my relief. It looked as if I was in the middle of an airplane hangar. Or something similar. I glanced to my left and nearly passed out with shock. Instead of a solid wall, I faced a blanket of space - namely outer space. Good grief! Where in the hell did I end up?

* * * *


LIEUTENANT B'ELANNA TORRES - STARDATE 50316.95:

We did it. Believe it or not, Voyager managed to save Earth's future by preventing that greedy bastard, Henry Starling, from traveling to the 29th century and destroying it. Idiot. The man was an idiot whose greed led him to his destruction. Well, the Captain actually destroyed him and the timeship. It was either that or allow him to destroy Earth.

My adventures with Chakotay nearly proved to be just as interesting. It seemed that Voyager's two senior ex-Maquis would end up meeting their counterparts in 20th century Arizona. Although I must say that I found it difficult to consider those Neanderthals as freedom fighters. Their goals seemed a lot less noble and more self-serving than our own.

But I must remember that I'm no longer with the Maquis. I'm an officer and chief engineer aboard a Starfleet vessel. And have been for the past two years. That scenario almost ended, thanks to Henry Starling. Who knows how our lives may have ended on 20th century Earth. I remember Chakotay expressing an interest in becoming an anthropologist at some North American university. I cannot imagine me finding it so easy to blend in. What in the hell could a half-Klingon with forehead ridges do in the 20th century? Before Earth had ever made any contact with another alien species?

I had no doubt how Tom Paris would have fared. Probably spend his time exploring his favorite period in history. And with that Rain Robinson woman he had befriended, as his companion. I finally saw her. While our shuttle hovered above the California desert. I still remember the way he kissed her before we beamed him aboard.

Stop! What in the hell is wrong with me? Why am I thinking about Tom Paris, of all people? And why would I even care about his latest conquest? So what if he had once propositioned me? Big deal! I had immediately informed him on how I really felt about a date with him on the holodeck. Or did I? Would an hour or two, sailing on Lake Como had been that bad? Oh hell! Why bother contemplating on that now? Paris has not made an attempt for another date, since. And he'll probably spend the next few days or so, remembering the charms of Miss Rain Robinson. Yet, in the end, he will forget her. Like he has forgotten the other women in his life.

"Senior staff to the Conference Room," I heard Chakotay's voice announce over the Comm system. Another senior staff meeting? We just had one not long after our return to Delta Quadrant. Oh well. Maybe the Captain had decided to plan a celebration for saving Earth's future.

* *

Kahless! What a day! A surprise awaited the senior staff when we reported to the Conference Room. Captain Janeway was furious! I have never seen her look that angry since the time the Vidiians had stolen Neelix's lungs. I still remember what those bastards did to me. But I'm digressing.

Upon our return to the Delta Quadrant, the Captain and Chakotay discovered that Captain Braxton, that stupid p'tak from the 29th century, had failed to realize the new passenger we had picked up during our time travels. It seemed that we - and I mean myself, Chakotay, the Doctor and Tuvok - had not only transported Paris to the shuttle, but also another passenger, from the California desert. That extra passenger turned out to be none other than Tom's friend, Rain Robinson. Tom had no idea that Miss Robinson had decided to hitch a ride when we beamed him up. In fact, no one had even spotted her on the ship - until after our return to the Delta Quadrant. A Security detail caught her roaming around Deck Seven.

Typical Braxton. The idiot was so determined to return us to our proper time and place in history that he failed to account for a 20th century woman aboard Voyager. So much for his temporal magic. What an idiot!

When I said that the Captain was angry, I was not joking. She castigated Miss Robinson for sneaking aboard the ship. She almost accused Tom of helping his friend, until Miss Robinson took full responsibility and insisted that she had acted alone. Janeway, however, did chastise Paris and the rest of us for our "lack of diligence" - her words, not mine.

Rain Robinson. What an odd name for a Human! Now, she was a permanent member of Voyager's crew. Like Neelix and Kes, she decided to remain a civilian. The Captain assigned her to Stellar Cartography, since she was an astronomer. Now I ask you, exactly what good is a 20th century astronomer aboard a 24th century starship? Personally, I suspect that no one has any idea, including the Captain and Miss Robinson. I bet that Tom Paris doesn't care. Now that he has his lady love by his side. Of course, I must admit that Miss Robinson seemed a little displeased when the Captain ordered Tom to act as her escort aboard ship. Any other woman would be thrilled.

* * * *

RAIN ROBINSON - April 26, 2373:

Oh. My. God! Ohmigod! I can't believe it! I'm on a spaceship nearly 380 years in the future! In the future, for crying out loud! Oh God! What have I done? No wonder that Captain Janeway was pissed! Kathryn Janeway. Now there is a woman Gloria Steinem would love to meet. Personally, I think she is a bit uptight. All right, she's a little pissed that I decided to hitchhike on her ship and I don't blame her. But Jeez! By the time she finished lecturing me, I felt like I was seventeen again being nagged to death by my mother. I really think that woman needs to get laid.

According to the Captain, what we are traveling on is a starship. Namely a space-traveling vessel that is part of some organization called Starfleet. And Starfleet happens to be the military arm of another organization called the Federation of United Planets or something. Like a futuristic version of the United Nations, only it's an alliance between different planets. Although most of Voyager's crew consists of Humans, there are some who came from other planets. Agen . . . uh, Lieutenant Tuvok happens to be one. He came from a planet called Vulcan. With those ears and his HAL-like personality, I'm not surprised.

Oh God! This is wonderful. I'm a 20th century woman stuck on a 24th century space . . . starship. And I'm attracted to a man who happens to be over 300 years younger than me. Great! Now I understand why Tom's dialogue seemed a bit . . . . well, dated at times. I mean, who uses "groovy" in 1996? Or spy against the KBG? I wonder if I was just another assignment to Tom? Or someone to be used to stop that creep, Henry Starling, from blowing up the future? I have a bad feeling that I had stowed away on that shuttle for nothing. And that Tom Paris saw nothing more than some loud, annoying woman whose company he had to endure. Just like the others. Damn!

As for my position here on Voyager, Captain Janeway assigned me to some place called Stellar Cartography. Apparently, it's where the crew map the unexplored regions of space. Hmm, sounds like my cup of tea. My first assignment is to catch up on 377 years of astronomy, astrophysics and Earth history. Easier said than done. Then again, I do like an interesting challenge. Hell, it's a lot better than roaming the ship with nothing to do. Janeway asked if I would like to become part of the ship's Starfleet personnel. Let's just say it took a great deal of effort not to laugh in her face. Instead, I merely smiled and said, "Thanks, but no thanks." What the hell? I was never the military type and I'll be damned if anyone caught me wearing one of those god-awful leisure suits.


END OF BOOK I

Monday, June 29, 2009

"THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES" (1965) Review




”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” (1965) Review

Many comedies featuring a long running time and a cast of celebrities were very prevalent in Hollywood and Europe during the 1960s. One of the more famous of these films happened to be the epic 1965 comedy titled ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes. Directed and co-written by Ken Annakin, this two hour and eighteen minutes film depicted an comedic air race between London and Paris in 1910.

Director Annakin first came up with the idea of a pre-World War I air race while co-directing Darryl Zanuck’s World War II epic, ”THE LONGEST DAY” (1962). He pitched the idea to the producer and the latter agreed to bankroll the film. Zanuck also came up with the movie’s title, after Elmo Williams, managing director of 20th Century Fox in Europe, told the producer that his wife had written an opening lyric to the movie’s song:

Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
They go up diddley up-up, they go down diddley down-down!


Annakin complained would eventually "seal the fate of the movie". However, after being put to music by composer Ron Goodwin, the ”Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines” song would become the "irresistible" jingle-style theme music for the film and go on to have a "life of its own", even released in singles and on the soundtrack record. I can relate. To this day, I still consider the tune one of the best theme songs in movie history.

Annakin, along with Jack Davies, wrote a story that opened with a brief, comic introductory segment on the history of flight, narrated by James Robertson Justice and featuring American comedian Red Skelton (in a cameo appearance) that depicted a recurring character whose aerial adventures span the centuries, in a series of silent blackout vignettes that incorporate actual stock footage of unsuccessful attempts at early aircraft. As the story unfolded, Lord Rawnsley (Robert Morley), a newspaper magnate whose favorite to win his race is his daughter's ( fiancé, Richard Mays (James Fox). Lord Rawnsley summed up the expectation that a Britisher should win the competition: "The trouble with these international affairs is they attract foreigners." An international cast plays the array of contestants, most of whom live up to their national stereotypes, including the fanatically by-the-book, monocle-wearing Prussian officer (Gert Fröbe), the impetuous Count Emilio Ponticelli (Alberto Sordi), an amorous Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Cassel) , and the rugged American cowboy Orville Newton (Stuart Whitman), who falls for Lord Rawnsley's daughter, Patricia (Sarah Miles).

The main entertainment came from the amusing dialogue and characterizations and the daring aerial stunts, with a dash of heroism and gentlemanly conduct thrown in for good measure. Terry-Thomas portrayed the cheating Sir Percival Ware-Armitage, an aristocratic rogue who "never leaves anything to chance". With the help of his bullied servant Courtney (Eric Sykes), he sabotaged other aircraft or drugs their pilots - only to get his comeuppance in the end. The film is also notable for its use of specially constructed reproductions of 1910-era aircraft, including a triplane, as well as monoplanes and biplanes. Air Commodore Wheeler insisted on using the authentic materials of the originals, but with modern engines and modifications (where necessary) to ensure safety.

In the end, ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” became one of the most successful ”epic comedies” to emerge from the 1960s. Not only did it score top notches at the box office, it was also nominated and received various movie awards in both the U.S. and Great Britain. The original screenplay written by Ken Annakin and Jack Davies was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing Directly for the Screen (1966). The film was also nominated in the category of Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written. At the 1966 Golden Globes, the film won Best Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy for Alberto Sordi, as well as being nominated in Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy and Most Promising Newcomer - Male for James Fox.

I can say with true honesty that ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” has become one of my favorite movies from the 1960s. Ken Annakin and his production crew had created a stylish and funny movie. The movie was filled with memorable characters like Terry-Thomas’ dastardly Sir Percival Ware-Armitage, Alberto Sordi’s eager aviator Count Emilio Ponticelli and Gert Fröbe’s by-the-book Prussian Colonel Manfred von Holstein. One very witty moment featured the arrival of the Japanese pilot, Yamamoto (Yujiro Ishihara), whose description of his journey from Japan to Great Britain turned out to be less exciting than a reporter had assumed.

Thomas N. Morahan’s production design and Osbert Lancaster’s costumes managed to evoke the bygone era of Europe and especially Great Britain during the last years before the outbreak of World War II. Christopher Challis’ photography and the Special Effects department led by Ron Ballinger did a great job in re-creating the actual air race shown during the last third of the film. Two of my favorite scenes featured the contestants leaving Dover to cross the English Channel and the race’s exciting finale in Paris. I also enjoyed the pre-race interlude at Dover in which the contestants and their families/companions spend a few hours frolicking in the sea and sipping champagne.

Not all seemed perfect with ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES. One tiresome aspect of the film included the running joke featuring Pierre Dubois’ (Jean-Pierre Cassel) encounters with six women of different nationalities that all look alike and are portrayed by Irina Demick. I found it slightly amusing when Dubois encountered two of the women. By the time of Dubois’ encounter with the fifth Irina Demick, I found myself screaming for the joke to end. Romance did not fare very well in the movie. Granted, James Fox’s Mays and Sarah Miles’ Patricia made a quaint couple. But Whitman’s arrival as Orville Newton, Mays’ rival in the race and for Patricia’s hand, did not improve matters. The problem was that Whitman and Miles made a poor screen team. According to Annakin, the two actors had a falling out after Whitman attempted to romantically pursue Miles and the two ended up disliking each other so much, they had trouble portraying a romance between Orville and Patricia. Mind you, Whitman and Miles had a few scenes that did generate chemistry. I suspect those scenes had been filmed before the fallout.

I must admit that ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” can boast some hilarious moments and dry wit. But most of the humor seemed focused upon the Keystone Cops antics of the aviators during the days leading up to the race and the race itself. Most of the film’s humor featured bizarre plane crashes, hackneyed stunts and cliché portrayals of the various nationalities featured in the film. I rather liked the comedian Benny Hill . . . but not in this movie. In ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN”, he portrayed a fire chief, whose job was to keep an eye out for aviation accidents. And whenever a crash occurred, it gave Hill and his cronies the opportunity to engage in an extreme form of slapstick humor that forced me to press the Fast Forward button of my DVD player . . . every damn time. But if there is one aspect of the movie I find frustrating, it is the fact that ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINE” is a two hour and eighteen minute film about an air race . . . that does not occur on screen until the last 45-47 minutes. The movie’s first fifteen or twenty minutes focused upon the characters’ introduction. But most of the movie’s action does not focus upon the race. Instead, it focused upon the few days before the race in which one has to endure practice flights that include countless crashes and slapstick humor. And every time I watch this film, I find this aspect so . . . damn . . . FRUSTRATING.

Technically, ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” is a first-rate film. Although I found some of the dry humor to be rather sharp and entertaining, the slapstick humor that dominated the film became very hard for me to bear. I am also not thrilled that only one-third of the film had focused upon the actual race. But I have to give the movie points for the creation of interesting characters like Sir Percy Ware-Armitage and Count Emilio Ponticelli, along with a memorable and catchy theme song. And I must give Annakin and his production crew credit for re-creating a charming look at the elegance of pre-World War I Europe. Overall, ”THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES” has remained a fun and entertaining look at the early days of aviation that moviegoers today might still enjoy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new remake of the 1974 crime drama, "THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3". Directed by Tony Scott, the movie stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta:


"THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3" (2009) Photo Gallery


































Friday, June 26, 2009

A Second Look at "STAR TREK" (2009)



Below is my second look at the new "STAR TREK" film, after seeing it for the second time:


A Second Look at “STAR TREK” (2009)

Not long after J.J. Abrams’ new TREK film, ”STAR TREK” hit the theaters in early May, I wrote a review of it. Despite some criticisms of what I had believed were flaws in the film, I concluded that it was a pretty good film. Well . . . I saw it for a second time, yesterday, and realized that my view of the movie has changed.

When I said that my view of ”STAR TREK” had changed, I meant not for the better. The number of plot holes that had caught my attention astounded me. And considering that Abrams and screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, had decided to create an alternate reality in the script, my opinion of the film has become even worse.

First of all, I want to point out one thing. This alternate reality or timeline created by Orci and Kurtzman has its origins in the arrival of late 24th century Romulan mining ship – the Narada – and its captain, Nero (Eric Bana), to the year 2233, 154 years before his time. His arrival marked the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin, along with its captain, Richard Robau (Faran Tahir), and first officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth). Just before the Kelvin’s destruction, Winona Kirk (Jennifer Morrison) gave birth to James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), aboard one of the ship’s shuttles.

It is here – Kirk’s birth – where the movie hit its first snag. Many TREK fans pointed out that James Kirk had been born in Iowa, not aboard a Starfleet vessel or one of its shuttles. Robert Orci replied that Kirk would have been born in Iowa if Nero had not arrived from the late 24th century and attacked the Kelvin. I say . . . bullshit to that. Why? One, Winona Kirk was never a Starfleet officer in the original timeline. This has been supported in ”THE ORIGINAL SERIES” (1966-1969). And Nero’s arrival would have NOT changed that. She had no business being aboard the Kelvin . . . even before Nero’s arrival. Orci and Kurtzman also failed to hint that Kirk had an older brother named Sam.

Another problem I had with the film was the manner in which Kirk joined Starfleet Academy. At a bar near Kirk’s home in Iowa, Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) urged him to apply for the Academy, claiming that Kirk would attain an officer’s commission within four years and command of a starship within eight. So, what does Kirk do? He shows up at a Starbase the following morning on his motorbike . . . without even encountering one sign of security. Then he boards a shuttle for San Francisco . . . just like that. He never submitted an application. Nor was he wearing the uniform of an Academy cadet. Come to think of it, neither did Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban). Was this Starfleet’s idea of military discipline in the mid-23rd century? What the hell was this, anyway?

Within three years, Kirk is close to completing his Academy training. Yet, he ended up getting into trouble, when he passed the Kobayashi Maru test by cheating. When Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan regarding a lightning storm in space, the cadets are mobilized to help the Starfleet ships in orbit. Kirk is unable to join this expedition due to being suspended from the Academy. I have two problems with this scene. One, why on earth was it necessary for Starfleet to mobilize so many cadets for a distress signal over a lightning storm in Vulcan space? Two, no one inside the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Sick Bay bothered to questioned Kirk’s presence on board and McCoy ended up ordering others around, despite the fact that he was a mere cadet and not the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. In fact, where was the CMO before his death? And why was it so important for Uhura to join the Enterprise’s crew? She was a cadet. She was not supposed to be there on a permanent basis, in the first place. And could someone please tell me why the cadets assigned aboard the Enterprise were wearing the same uniforms as the regular crew . . . instead of cadet uniforms? They had not graduated from the Academy.

Upon reaching Vulcan space, the Enterprise finds the fleet destroyed and the Narada drilling into Vulcan's core. Pike promotes Kirk to First Officer. Then he orders Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu (John Cho) and Chief Engineer Olson to an orbital skydive onto the Romulan drilling platform and destroy it before it can drill a hole into Vulcan’s core. Meanwhile, he would meet with Nero aboard the Narad. Unfortunately, Olson is killed during their dive. Kirk and Sulu are forced to fight Romulan miners aboard the drill platform before stopping the drill, using phasers. However, Nero manages to successfully drill the hole, drop the red matter into the planet’s core and destroy Vulcan. Spock transports to Vulcan to save his parents and the planet’s High Council. However, his mother, Amanda Grayson (Winona Ryder), is killed before she could be transported safely from the planet. Not only did I find this sequence, heavily contrived, I found it so unnecessary. Why was it necessary to promote Kirk to First Officer? Aside from identifying the lightning storm for what it was, he did nothing to earn that promotion. What was Amanda doing with the Vulcan High Council? And if Starfleet issued phasers could stop the drill, then why not the Enterprise’s phasers? If Captain Pike had simply ordered his Weapons Officer to fire at the drill, then perhaps it would have been destroyed before it reached Vulcan’s core. Alas . . . we are given this exciting, but contrived nonsense with a fight on the drill platform, the Chief Engineer and Amanda Grayson dead, Vulcan destroyed and Captain Pike a prisoner of Nero’s.

Chekov manages to transport Kirk and Sulu back to the Enterprise. Pike is tortured by Nero for information on Earth’s defenses. Meanwhile, Kirk (who is now First Officer) and Spock (the Acting Captain) have a quarrel on the Bridge about Spock’s decision to return to Starfleet. Kirk wants to go after Nero. During the quarrel, Spock has Kirk marooned on Delta Vega. There, Kirk has an encounter with snow monster straight out of ”STAR WARS” and meets the elder Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Old Spock informs Kirk about what led Nero and himself to the 23rd century. He then leads Kirk to a Starbase, where they encounter engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). I really disliked this sequence. Nero needed information on Earth’s defenses, but did not need the same for Vulcan’s defenses? And both planets were the premiere members of the Federation? And why maroon Kirk on some snow planet? Spock could have easily hauled the Human’s ass into the brig for insubordination. As for Kirk . . . what is this guy’s problem? Confronting the Captain on the Bridge? Kirk would have never tolerated any officer or crewman doing the same to him. Kirk’s monster encounter was a joke. And after meeting Old Spock, the latter reveals his knowledge of a nearby Starbase. Now, I really have a problem with this. Why did Spock fail to warn Starfleet about Nero? He was pulled into the 23rd century, captured and marooned on Delta Vega by Nero at least two days before Vulcan’s destruction. This was not merely a joke. This was criminal. And why was it imperative to transport Scotty to the Enterprise, along with Kirk? Without Starfleet knowing?

Before Spock transported Kirk and Scotty to the Enterprise, he informs Kirk that the latter needs to assume command of the Enterprise. Once aboard, Kirk deliberately enrages Spock to force him to acknowledge that he is emotionally compromised, thereby forfeiting command which then passes to Kirk. Here was another scene with which I had a problem. Kirk . . . should NOT have assumed command of the Enterprise when Spock removed himself as captain. You see, Kirk had been relieved of duty by Spock before the latter marooned the former on Delta Vega. And Kirk was never reinstated back to duty upon his return to the Enterprise. Nor do I recall Spock deliberately handing over command to Kirk. Whoever was acting as Spock’s first officer during Kirk’s adventures on Delta Vega, should have assumed command. Not Kirk.

Spock, Scott, and Chekov devise a plan to ambush the Narada by dropping out of warp behind Saturn's moon, Titan. Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada. While Kirk rescues Pike, Spock retakes the elder Spock's ship, destroys the drill and lures the Narada away from Earth before piloting a collision course. The Enterprise arrives and beams Kirk, Pike, and Spock away before the collision, which ignites the remaining red matter and creates a black hole within the Narada's superstructure. Kirk offers to help rescue Nero and his crew, but the Romulan refuses and the Narada is destroyed. The Enterprise escapes the same fate by ejecting and igniting the ship's warp drive reactor cores, the resulting explosion pushing them clear. Why were Chekov and Scotty needed to devise a plan to ambush the Narada in the first place? What was Scotty doing on the Bridge? What was he doing aboard the Enterprise? He was not an official member of the crew. And could someone please explain how Spock managed to fly a starship that was 154 years ahead of his time? Who was in command of the Enterprise, while Kirk and Spock were aboard the Narada?

The movie ends with Kirk receiving adulation by Starfleet for his actions against Nero and command of the Enterprise. Spock decides to remain in Starfleet and become the Enterprise’s First Officer. God, I hate this. What exactly did Kirk do in this movie, besides act like a complete asshole? Well, he did rescue Captain Pike. But the latter also assisted in the rescue. It was Spock who came up with the plan to ambush the Narada. It was the person in command of the Enterprise who prevented Spock from being blown to bits by Romulan missiles, while he was inside Old Spock’s ship. It was Spock who destroyed the Narada. Sulu’s flying and Scotty’s engineering skills prevented the Enterprise from being destroyed by the black hole that destroyed the Narada. Why in the hell would Starfleet give most of the credit to Kirk? How in the hell did a cadet, who had yet to graduate, end up with command of Starfleet’s flagship? What kind of military organization is this?

I had one last problem with the movie . . . namely one Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin). In the original timeline, Chekov was born in 2245, which would have made him thirteen years old in this movie. According to one of the screenwriters, Roberto Orci, Nero’s appearance in the past caused a ripple effect, allowing Chekov to be born four years earlier in 2241. God, how lame! I suppose one could accept this explanation. But how does one explain Chekov’s transformation from an intelligent and competent Starfleet junior officer to a child prodigy? I really cannot see how a time ripple effect could change a character’s personality traits. Not to that degree.

Look . . . I will admit that ”STAR TREK” had a lot of exciting action sequences. And some of the performances seemed top-notch. But upon second viewing, I discovered that I disliked Daniel Mindel’s photography. I especially disliked the fact that most of the scenes seemed to have been shot with close-ups. I disliked the new transporter style that featured swirling circles. But what I realized that I disliked the most was the script penned by Orci and Katzman. Not only did I disliked the fact that they used an alternate timeline plot device to stray away from the franchise’s original continuity; I disliked that they used badly written plot holes to achieve this goal. ”STAR TREK” might be considered the best movie of the summer, so far. In my opinion, it is the worst movie I have seen since the summer movie season began.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

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




"RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 18

Three people sat in lawn chairs, as they watched the couple engage in a martial arts match on the McNeills' sprawling back lawn. Harry could not help but admire the couple's skills, especially those that belonged to one Cole Turner.

"Not bad," he murmured. "I had forgotten what a good fighter, Cole was."

Cecile tore her eyes away from the sparring couple and gazed upon the red-haired witch. "You forgot? You've seen him fight before?"

"Yeah. When we had rescued the Halliwells from the Crozats, last month." Harry saw Cole skillfully deflect a potentially lethal punch from Olivia. "Only, he didn't look this good."

Bruce commented, "You have to admit that Olivia seemed to be holding her own, pretty good."

Both Cole and Olivia continued their sparring session. The trio held their breaths, as Cole sent Olivia off her feet with a low kick. However, the latter quickly recovered with a gymnastic roll and landed back on her feet.

"By the way Harry," Cecile continued, "how did you managed to send a telepathic message to all of us, when Dako attacked you? I mean I can send one without being in the same room with the other person, but to send a message to more than one person?"

Bruce said, "If you thought that was impressive, you should have been here, last month. Harry had picked up on Phoebe Halliwell's premonition from across town."

"Really?" Cecile's dark eyes gazed curiously at the youngest McNeill. "Now that's impressive."

Feeling embarrassed and pleased at the same time, a wave of heat washed over Harry's face. "It only happened once," he replied. "I had been meditating at the time."

Everyone returned his or her attention to Cole and Olivia. "You know, if I didn't know better," Cecile continued, "I'd swear that I was watching some kind of sexual foreplay."

"Maybe you're right," Bruce added. "I think Livy is attracted to him."

Cecile shot back, "I'd say that in Cole's case, the feeling is mutual. I had sensed something between them when I first met him."

Harry frowned. "Sensed? What did you feel?"

"Something." A cryptic smile curved Cecile's lips.

But Harry refused to let the matter drop. "C'mon Cecile. What did you sense? Did you see their future?"

"Well, let's just say there is a very good chance they might have a future together." Cecile paused dramatically. "If they let it happen."

Their eyes returned to the couple. Both Olivia and Cole were engaged in a series of punches and defensive blocks. Then Olivia grabbed Cole's wrist and in a sudden move, threw him over her shoulder. The victory only lasted for a second or two. Cole managed to grab her wrist and jerk Olivia downward, forcing her to land right on top of his body. For several seconds, the couple stared into each other's eyes, breathing heavily. And then they broke into laughter.

"Jesus," Harry muttered. "Why don't they just get a room?"

Cecile added, "Tell me about it."

Bruce responded with a slight cough. Then, "Leo! Ladies! I see you finally made it!"

Harry tore his eyes away from the couple in front of him and saw his whitelighter and the Halliwells standing beside Bruce's chair. Staring at Olivia and Cole with horror and shock.

Olivia caught sight of the newcomers and quickly rolled off Cole. Who scrambled to his feet and helped Olivia stand up. Both smiled at the new visitors. "Hey Leo!" Olivia greeted happily. "Glad that you could make it."

* * * *

After a quick shower and a change into fresh clothes, Cole returned outside to the McNeill's back lawn. There, he found the family's Sunday brunch in full swing. He saw that Darryl Morris had arrived. Darryl's wife could not make it, due to family obligations in Oakland. But their two sons could. Cole spotted them playing with Harry McNeill. Everyone else, except for Olivia, were either sampling the food or sitting down in lawn chairs. Cole noticed one empty chair near Jack McNeill and moved toward it.

"Hey," he greeted. "Mind if I join you?"

Mr. McNeill glanced up and smiled at Cole. "Don't mind at all." Cole sat down. The former continued, "But I must warn you, I'm expecting someone . . ."

A figure appeared before the pair. It was Piper Halliwell, holding a plate of food. She rolled her eyes and muttered, "Great. I guess I better see how Leo is doing." And she walked away.

Cole sighed. And to think he had been enjoying this day.

"Sorry about that," Jack McNeill said with an apologetic smile. "I should have warned you that I was speaking to Piper."

Another sigh left Cole's mouth. "That's okay. Maybe I'm getting used to being regarded as a pariah or monster by a Halliwell. But I am getting tired of it."

Gray-blue eyes stared at him shrewdly. "You still want their forgiveness, don't you? Their acceptance?"

Cole opened his mouth. "I . . . I don't know. Maybe. It's not easy trying to get over the fact that one's ex-wife and her family regard you as evil. Then again, maybe I should have asked Paige to take away my powers, again. After I had killed Barbas."

Mr. McNeill shook his head. "You weren't meant to be mortal, Cole. It's not what you are. And I don't think being mortal would make you happy."

"Yeah, but I would still be with Phoebe, if I had remained . . ."

The middle-aged man's gaze became intense. "Listen to me! The last two times you became mortal, disaster followed. First with the Source, and later with Barbas. I wouldn't tempt fate for a third time."

Cole paused and reflected on the other man's words. "I guess you're right," he finally admitted. "Too bad Phoebe doesn't understand."

"I don't think she wants to understand. In fact, I get the feeling that she has never understood you. From what I've seen of your memories, she seemed incapable of accepting your true self." Mr. McNeill paused. "I wonder if she had ever really loved the real you."

Those last words struck Cole like a thunderbolt. Mr. McNeill had outwardly stated one of his major fears in regard to his relationship with Phoebe. Except for those few months following Prue's death - when Paige was still a novice witch - Phoebe had always seemed willing to accept him - with conditions. Those conditions - not using his powers, and becoming mortal - had brought out a deep resentment that Cole kept hidden from Phoebe, due to his desperation to maintain her love.

"As for Piper," Mr. McNeill continued, "I don't think she has ever liked you. Or ever will. This is something you might have to simply accept. Can you?"

Cole stared at him. "Do you only mean Piper? Or the entire family?"

"All of them."

A long pause followed, before Cole finally answered, "Ask me again in a few months." He smiled.

* * * *

"So, it wasn't the warlocks who had summoned this Dako?" Paige asked Cecile. The Vodoun priestess and Darryl Morris sat in lawn chairs, several feet away from the refreshment table.

Cecile shook her head. "No. I doubt they had the ability to summon him. Olivia, Bruce and I found out that Dako's spirit had arrived, trapped in an urn. And that urn came from someone named William Dagbani, who might be a bokor. You know, it's interesting. When did Dako took possession of your body? When you were asleep?"

Darryl nodded. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well, practioners of Vodoun believe that a person's soul has two parts - the gros bon ange or the big guardian angel and the ti bon ange, the little guardian angel. The ti bon ange usually leaves a person's body when he or she is asleep, making it easy for a spirit to possess the body," Cecile continued. "It's interesting that Crozats knew when to allow Dako to take possession. This Dagbani person must have told them."

"Did he give them a spell to vanquish that bastard? I thought Bruce found one inside the Crozats' office." Darryl added. He forked off a piece of quiche.

"He did, but it probably wouldn't have worked. They weren't Vodoun." Cecile paused. "Unless they have some West African ancestry."

Paige nodded. "Phoebe told me about that. I wonder if the Crozats knew."

Cecile shrugged. "Apparently not. It makes me wonder if this Mr. Dagbani knew the Crozats would fail to vanquish Dako. Hell, I wonder what he was really up to. It's too bad he had left Singapore before the cops could question him."

This sobering thought left the trio silent for a moment. Then Paige said to Darryl, "Uh, by the way. I'm sorry for giving you the third degree, yesterday. The last time I saw you, I nearly died. I guess I forgot that it wasn't really you."

"It's okay," Darryl replied with a smile. "I'm just glad that Cecile and Cole finally freed me from that bastard."

A frown crept into Paige's countenance, at the mention of her ex brother-in-law's name. "Piper and Phoebe told me that Cole had hit you pretty hard, when he drove Dako out of your body."

"He had no choice. Your sisters' potion didn't work."

Cecile added, "And I had forgotten to bring my potion. I have to admit. It was pretty smart of Cole to use Dako's power against him. He told me that something similar happened to him, when he was possessed by some daemon named Andras."

Paige shook her head. "Yeah, but . . ."

"Honey, why are you dragging this out? Cole did what he had to do to save us all. Especially Darryl." Cecile gave Paige a hard stare. "Besides, didn't you once help him, when the others had refused?"

Memories of the Charmed Ones' last encounter with Barbas rushed back into Paige's head and she shuddered. She had seriously believed that Cole needed help. And she had been right. Yet, never did she imagine that his powers would prove to be so . . . powerful. Invincible. Even against the Power of Three. That little discovery had made Paige even more leery of her former brother-in-law. Matters only became confusing, as she began to question what really happened between Cole and the Source.

She sighed. "Okay, so I did. He needed help at the time. Still . . ."

"Still what?" Cecile's eyes remained fixed on Paige's face. "Look, whatever problems you have with Cole, you really need to get over them. Seems to me that he's trying to start a new life. If you don't want to be a part of it, fine. But there's no need to make it difficult for him - even behind his back."

Paige found herself growing uncomfortable . . . and embarrassed under the other woman's steady gaze. Darryl focused his attention on the food spread out on the table. "I . . ."

"Hey!" Bruce McNeill's voice carried across the lawn. "Are you three going to just sit there all day?" The three people finished filling their plates and joined the group that had begun to form around Cole and Mr. McNeill.

* * * *

Feeling refreshed in clean clothes, Olivia joined the others on the lawn. She glanced around and noticed that everyone seemed scattered about. Darryl, Cecile and Barbara had gathered in one small group. Harry and Paige, the youngest Halliwell, were preoccupied with Darryl's two sons. Phoebe sat nearby, observing them with great amusement. The others - her parents, Bruce, Cole, Piper and Leo had formed a large group near the garden. Olivia headed toward them. "Hey guys! What's the topic for today?"

"That urn I had found inside the VENDRUM office," Bruce replied. "And the file Cole had sent to Dad."

Olivia's father added, "Which I've read, by the way. Do you all realize that the Crozats had a detailed file on each of us? It had information on nearly everything we've done in our lives, whether normal or supernatural. All of us. Cole included."

The half-daemon gave Jack McNeill a sharp look. "Even before I had met Phoebe and the others?"

"Well, I can only assume information like that came from the Source's Realm. However, they certainly had plenty of information on your life, since your return from the Wasteland."

A frowning Piper asked, "What about my baby? Was there any information on . . .?"

"That your baby is a powerful being?" Dad finished.

Everyone, including Olivia, stared at both Piper and Leo in shock. "Piper's baby is powerful?" Olivia asked.

Piper remained silent, while the whitelighter looked uneasy. "Well . . . yeah. There's a chance the baby might be as powerful as Cole."

A mixture of surprise and disbelief filled Cole's eyes. "How did that happen?" he asked. "Who else knows about the baby?"

Leo frowned. "What do you mean?"

Looking somewhat earnest, Bruce continued, "Someone knows a hell of a lot about us, Leo. All of us. And he or she was willing to give this information to powerful warlocks, like the Crozats. And since information about your baby was found in those files . . ."

"We know," Piper interjected sharply. "Phoebe, Paige, Leo and me."

Leo added, "And the Elders, of course. In fact, a certain number of them had foreseen the baby's powers before we even knew about it."

"Anyone else?" Dad asked. "Like a daemon or warlock?"

Piper stared at him. "Why is it so important that we find out? I'm sure there are plenty of demons and warlocks who know about the baby."

"Like who? I found a spell in the Crozats' file that enabled a fetus to be transferred from one womb to another," Dad continued. "Sound familiar?"

"I . . ." Piper glanced uneasily at Cole.

Leo spoke up. "Last spring . . ." He paused, before continuing. "Last spring, Phoebe was pregnant with Cole's . . . the Source's baby. The Seer used a similar spell on her."

Cole's blue eyes grew wide with shock. "Is that how she lost the baby? I thought you all were forced to vanquish it. Or that Phoebe had a miscarriage."

Piper's face turned pink with embarrassment. Olivia noticed that she shot a quick glance at her younger sister. "I guess that you and Phoebe haven't had a chance to talk since you came back from the Wasteland."

"And whose fault is that?" Cole muttered angrily.

Outrage replaced the embarrassment on Piper's face. "Hey! At least Phoebe had never decided to become the Source and turn you into some evil consort!"

"I didn't exactly volunteer for that particular job title!" Cole's angry voice attracted the attention of others, Olivia noticed. Including Phoebe's.

Gweneth McNeill's voice rang with authority. "Enough! This is not the time to be pointing fingers! Leo, who else knew about your baby?"

The whitelighter hesitated. "Well . . . uh, that warlock . . . Eames . . ."

"An alternate future Eames," Piper corrected. "And he's dead. Along with that darklighter who tried to kill Paige's dad, nearly three weeks ago."

Dad asked, "What about other whitelighters?" Leo responded with an uneasy nod.

"Wait a minute!" Piper demanded. "Are you trying to say that a whitelighter may have given that file on us to the Crozats? That's ridiculous!"

All of the McNeills stared at the oldest Halliwell. "Why?" Olivia demanded. "Four whitelighters have turned since you last killed the Source, last spring. And according to Dad's former whitelighter, the last one became a darklighter just several days ago. I guess Leo didn't bother to tell you." She shot a dark look at her former whitelighter.

"Of course I didn't!" Leo retorted, looking very upset. "And none of you weren't supposed to even know about that. It's a whitelighter matter!"

Dad glared at him. "This whitelighter matter may have cost us a lot, Leo! I had warned you about this, last month! About the Source's Realm being in chaos and how it can upset the balance between good and evil. But apparently, you weren't listening!"

Piper stared at her husband with shocked eyes. "Leo, is this true? Is this what that last whitelighter meeting was about?"

Olivia saw the dumbfounded look on her whitelighter's face. She had never felt so sorry for Leo than she did at that moment. Poor bastard. Before anyone could speak, Cecile appeared, holding her cell phone. "Hey Cole!" she cried, unintentionally easing the tension within the group. "Guess who's calling right now? An old friend of yours! Andre!"

"Huh?" Looking bewildered, he stared at Cecile, as she thrust the phone into his hand. Then he excused himself and walked away.

Olivia's stomach rumbled, signaling to her that she needed food - right away. And with Cole now speaking to Andre and Piper giving Leo the evil eye, she saw no need to hang around. Olivia stood up and happily made her way to the table.

* * * *

From her spot on the lawn, Paige observed the large group that had gathered near the garden. She noticed the McNeills' concerned faces, the anger that seemed to crackle between Cole and Piper. And Leo's bewildered expression. Paige also watched Cole abandon the group, after Cecile Dubois handed him a cell phone. The latter walked away for a private conversation. Olivia McNeill also left the group and headed for the buffet table. And to Paige's dismay, she saw Phoebe follow the redheaded witch. Instinct told Paige that heads were about to butt between the two women in Cole's life. She stood up to follow Phoebe.

"Where are you going?" Harry demanded, distracted from his horseplay with Darryl's sons.

Paige shot him a nervous smile. "Uh, I'm feeling a bit hungry right now. I'll be back." She rushed away.

When she came upon the buffet tablet, Paige heard Phoebe's first words to Darryl's partner: ". . . if I talk with you for a moment?"

Olivia gave Phoebe a polite smile. "Sure. What is it?"

"Well, first I want to thank you for saving me. From Dako," Phoebe replied. Paige heaved a silent breath of relief.

Olivia shrugged. "You're welcome."

"And I want to repay the favor," Phoebe continued. "I think you should know something." Oh no! Dread welled within Paige's chest. She had a pretty good idea whom Phoebe wanted to discuss.

Sure enough, the first word that came out of Phoebe's mouth was . . . Cole. "What about him?" Olivia asked warily.

Phoebe took a deep breath. "I realize you believe that Cole is wonderful, or that you have nothing to fear from him. And maybe you don't, at the moment. But one day . . . Look, what I'm trying to say is that knowing Cole, one day he'll betray you. Sooner or later. And you'll regret letting him get close to you."

A sheen of ice glazed over Olivia's green eyes. "Really? I guess I now know who sent had Leo to give me that little speech about Cole, last Tuesday. And who had sent Piper and Paige to talk to my dad and grandmother. So, what is this? You've finally decided to do the job, yourself?"

"Hey, look! There's no need to get hostile!" Phoebe retorted. "I'm only trying to warn you for your own good! I'm not the enemy, here!"

Paige closed her eyes. Wrong move, Phoebe.

But the red-haired witch did not regard Phoebe with hostility . . . as Paige had feared. Only pity. And contempt. "You really are a pathetic woman, you know that?" Olivia replied. "Let me do you a favor. Let's end this conversation right now, before one of us say something that the other will regret." She returned her attention to the food on the table.

"You're not doing your family any favors with this friendship with Cole," Phoebe insisted. "Or Leo. I still feel guilty for letting Cole into our lives. If I had stayed away from him, years ago . . ."

Olivia shot back, "You would have all been dead, years ago. Or Prue would be alive and in prison for a murder she didn't commit. Or Piper would have remained a Fury. And Paige would have been dead, thanks to Shax. Or a servant of the Source, or a vampire. Or the Source would have killed all of you, over a year ago. Is that what you mean?" She glared at Phoebe.

Even Paige had to admit that Cole had done a lot for them. Then again, he had also put them through a lot of misery. Especially during his two-month stint as the Source. Which Phoebe so adroitly had pointed out.

"And none of you have ever done the same with each other?" Olivia replied. "When you became possessed by some evil? You know, Leo has done a lot of talking over the years and I have a pretty large list of deeds, already forming in my mind."

Phoebe cried out, "All of that happened against our will! Cole chose to become the Source!"

Now, Olivia's green eyes regarded Phoebe with sheer disgust. Paige nearly cringed at the other witch's expression. "Are you in the habit of using your brain? Because I'm beginning to think, otherwise."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Phoebe retorted.

"Only a person with a brain would have bothered to study the true nature of the Hollow. Or bothered to learn how Cole really became the Source. Tell me, did the Source become a Charmed One when he had absorbed Piper and Paige's powers?"

Phoebe frowned. "What are you getting at?"

Olivia heaved a frustrated sigh. "Do I have to spell it out for you? If the old Source didn't become a Charmed One after taking your sisters' powers, what makes you think Cole became the Source, after taking the latter's powers? Think about that . . . if you're capable."

Similar words had been spoken by Elise and Jack McNeill, and it struck Paige with the impact of an energy ball. Phoebe's own open-mouthed expression told the youngest Halliwell that her sister felt a similar impact.

"I . . ." Phoebe began, choking on that one word.

The contempt on Olivia's face deepened. "You what? You've finally starting to use your brain? It's a shame neither you or your sisters had considered doing that when you vanquished Cole, last May."

"We had no choice! He was about to kill us!"

"Really?" Olivia retorted. "Are the words, 'Don't make me kill you' a definite declaration of the intent to kill? Or was it just a warning to back off?"

Confusion whirled in Phoebe's eyes. "How did you . . .?"

"Didn't Leo tell you? Gran read Cole's memories, last month. And projected them to us. It's a shame you were never given the opportunity."

Dark brown eyes hardened, as Phoebe's face became pale. "I don't have to listen to this!" she hissed.

"Fine! Now please leave me alone, so I can get something to eat!"

Unfortunately, at least in Paige's opinion, Phoebe decided that she would end the showdown. "You know, whether or not Cole had decided to become the Source, his powers alone make him dangerous. And evil."

Rolling her eyes, Olivia heaved a sigh. "Oh God! Please spare me the 'evil powers' theory! That is such a load of crap! I can't believe this is coming from a woman whose hide he had saved, last month. Let me enlightened you on a few facts of life, Phoebe. There is no such thing as evil powers or good powers. There are just powers. It all depends upon how you use your powers." She gave Phoebe a hard look. "You know, sometimes I wonder if you ever really loved Cole."

"I did loved him!" Phoebe shot back.

Green eyes glimmered dangerously. "Really? First you had insisted upon Cole not using his powers, for fear that he might 'give in to evil'. Then you didn't even bother to accept his marriage proposal, until after he lost his powers."

"That wasn't about Cole being a half-demon!" Phoebe shot back. "It was . . . it was about me."

Olivia continued, "And your lack of understanding over his loss of powers - was that also about you? And when he finally regained new powers, you pushed him away. You wouldn't even bother to talk about what the both of you went through, last spring. You know, I'm beginning to think that what you loved was the idea of what you could turn Cole into and not his true self." A sneer formed on Olivia's face. "I guess your idea of love is playing it safe." The sneer disappeared, followed by a contemptuous look. "How sad. Now if you'll excuse me, I would like to enjoy the rest of this day." She walked away with her plate of food.

Phoebe stared at the other woman's retreating back, wearing a devastated expression on her face. Then her eyes focused upon Paige, standing behind. Shame reflected in her dark eyes and she quickly walked away.

Paige wanted to rush after her sister. Reassure Phoebe that Olivia's words did not mean anything. But she remained frozen in that same spot near the table, as the realization of the redhead's words overwhelmed her.


THE END

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"THE SIGN OF THE CROSS" (1932) Photo Gallery and Video Clips



Below are photos and two video clips from the 1932 Cecil B. DeMille classic epic drama about the Roman Empire - "THE SIGN OF THE CROSS". The movie starred Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Elissa Landi and Charles Laughton:

WARNING: Brief nudity and violence


"THE SIGN OF THE CROSS" (1932) Photo Gallery and Video Clips


Photo Gallery


























































Video Clips

“The Sign of the Cross” – The Coliseum Scene








“The Sign of the Cross” – Claudette Colbert

Friday, June 19, 2009

"TERMINATOR SALVATION" (2009) Review



Below is my review of the fourth installment of the TERMINATOR franchise - "TERMINATOR SALVATION":


”TERMINATOR SALVATION” (2009) Review

For some particular reason, I have never been in the habit of anticipating a movie from the ”TERMINATOR” franchise. I never saw ”THE TERMINATOR” (1984) or ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY” (1991) in the theaters. Not that I really cared, since I never did make the effort to go see either movie. I had to be dragged to the theater to see ”TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES” (2003). And as for the latest installment in the franchise, ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” - again, I had to be dragged to the theater. Yet, every time I have seen any of these films, I end up enjoying them. Or being intrigued by them – including this latest film.

Directed by McG, who was responsible for the two ”CHARLIE’S ANGELS” movies and "WE ARE MARSHALL", ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” told the struggles of Resistance leader John Connor during the war between humanity and Skynet – the artificial intelligence system that became self aware and revolted against its human creators – in the year 2018. For the first time, a movie in the ”TERMINATOR” franchise did not feature the time travel of one or two of its characters. The movie not only revealed how John Connor first met his father – the teenaged and future time traveler, Kyle Reese, it also focused on how a death row inmate named Marcus Wright had signed over his body to Cyberdyne Systems and ended up being used as a model for the T-800 Model 101 Terminator and to lure Connor to Skynet. The movie starred Christian Bale as John Connor; Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright; Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams, a Resistance pilot who falls for Marcus; Anton Yelchin as the teenaged Kyle Reese; Byrce Howard Dallas as Kate Brewster Connor, John’s wife; Common as Barnes, Connor’s second-in-command; Jadagrace Berry as Star, Kyle’s nine year-old mute companion; Helena Bonham-Carter as Dr. Dr. Serena Kogan, the cancer-ridden Cyberdyne scientist who had convinced Marcus to donate his body before Judgment Day; and Linda Hamilton as the voice of Sarah Connor.

As far as I know, the movie has received mixed reviews from both the critics and moviegoers. How do I feel about ”TERMINATOR SALVATION”? Well . . . it was not perfect. First of all, singer-turned-actor Common seemed incapable of acting worth a damn in this film. Which I found surprising, considering how impressed I had been by his performances in movies like ”SMOKIN ACES” (2007) and ”STREET KINGS” (2008). It could be that McG might be one of those directors incapable of handling actors with little experience. Another problem I had with the movie was Conrad Buff’s editing. In fact, I have been complaining about the editing in a good number of movie during this past year. I am beginning to wonder if the new and cheap editing style created by Christopher Rouse for the last two ”BOURNE” movies seemed to be getting very popular in the movie industry, these day. And, quite frankly, I found Jane Alexander’s presence in the film as another Resistance leader named Virginia to be a complete waste of time. Aside from a few lines in the movie, she barely said a word. Another problem I had centered around John Connor’s inability to remember that two previous T-800 Terminators had saved his life in the past. Instead, the only thing remembered from his first meeting with Marcus Wright was that the latter reminded him of the cyborg who tried to kill his mother, Sarah, in 1984. I had posted this complaint on one of the movie’s blogs and was told that it was possible that fifteen years of fighting machines may have eroded John’s memories. Hmmm . . . perhaps. However, I am still slightly uneasy about it.

One last complaint – namely the ending. Many fans have been complaining that the filmmakers did not stick with the original ending that called for John Connor to die and for his command to have his skin grafted upon Marcus Wright’s body in order to continue the Resistance. But when the ending was leaked on the Internet, the screenwriters created a new ending. First of all, I thank God for the person who had leaked the original ending, because I hate it. If that had been the ending shown in the theaters, I would have been tempted to throw my shoe at the movie screen. Yes, I hate it that much. Now, I like the new ending. I like it a hell of a lot more than the original ending. But . . . I feel that director McG or screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris had rushed it a bit. I feel that it could have been better paced.

Okay. Despite my complaints, I discovered that I liked the movie . . . a lot. Like I did the three previous ”TERMINATOR” movies. Brancato and Ferris’ screenplay for this new installment is quite different from the three previous ones in which no one character had traveled back in time to protect a member of the Connor family. For once, Arnold “the Govenator” Schwarzenegger did not appear in the movie as a major character. And ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” revealed an interesting twist from the last two films in which a cyborg was used to form close ties with John Connor in order to arrange for his death, instead of to protect him. Another interesting thing about the story is that the aim of Skynet was not to kill John Connor before he could become a Resistance leader. Instead, it seemed determine to kill him, while he fought with the Resistance. And it also targeted Kyle Reese in order to lure Connor to Skynet and kill Kyle before his future trip back through time. However, I did notice that Skynet had targeted both son and father, before the son could become ”the top” leader of the Resistance. And when you think about it, with the character of Marcus Wright, Skynet had damn near pulled a con job on both Connor and the Resistance. The reason I found this interesting is that Skynet’s future dealings with John Connor, Sarah Connor and Kate Brewster Connor will never be this subtle again.

Another major virtue of ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” turned out to be its cast – with the exception of one or two. I have already made my complaints about Common and Jane Alexander, so I will sing the praises of the rest of the cast. Helena Bonham-Carter made a brief and memorable appearance as Dr. Serena Kogan, the Cyberdyne scientist who convinced Marcus to donate his body, following his execution in 2003. For the past two to three years, a good number of child actors have caught my attention with some pretty damn good performances – like Dakota Blue Richards in ”THE GOLDEN COMPASS”, Paulie Litt from "SPEED RACER", Jaden Smith in ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” and Brandon Walters in ”AUSTRALIA”. The fifth child who has managed to recently catch my eye turned out to be Jadagrace Berry, who portrayed the nine year-old mute/Resistance fighter, Star. I found it amazing that a nine year-old girl who had not only made her film debut, but managed to remain silent throughout the film, gave one of the best performances in the movie. And she did it with good old fashioned screen acting . . . by using her eyes, expressions and body language. Anton Yelchin is no longer the child actor he used to be when I first saw him in the 2002 miniseries, ”TAKEN”, but he is still a first-rate performer with a strong screen presence. Actor Michael Biehn had made the role of Kyle Reese memorable in the franchise’s first movie in 1984. And Yelchin proved that he could be just as memorable as Biehn, as the teenaged Kyle. Both Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood portrayed the two female leads in the movie – Kate Brewster Connor (wife of John) and Blair Williams (Resistance pilot who ends up falling in love with Marcus Wright). And both women gave first-rate performances and managed to stand out on their own, despite being surrounded in heavily male-dominated film. Howard – who had taken over the role first created by Claire Danes – had a very memorable moment in the film when her character first realized that Marcus was not as human as he had professed to be.

The director of the first two "TERMINATOR" movies, James Cameron, had recommended Australian actor Sam Worthington to director McG for the pivotal role of Marcus Wright, the death row inmate whose body ended up being used as a prototype by Cyberdyne and later used by Skynet to lure John Connor to his doom. Not only was Worthington was memorable, he almost ended up stealing the picture. He effectively portrayed Marcus as a tough and ruthless who was haunted by his past, fell in love and was determined to maintain his individuality despite what Cyberdyne and Skynet had done to him. The reason I had stated that Worthington had ”almost” stolen the film was due to Christian Bale’s presence in the film as future Resistance leader, John Connor. Like he has been in nearly every film he has appeared in, Bale was an intense performer with a strong screen presence. Hell, he was like this nearly twenty-two years ago in the 1987 film, ”EMPIRE OF THE SUN”. There were scenes in which Bale loudly and clearly expressed Connor’s emotions – whether it was anger, fear or concern. Only a very few actors and actresses can get away with openly expressing their characters’ emotions without being hammy. And consummate actor that he is, Bale happens to be one of them. Frankly, I really do not see the need to compare or choose on whether Bale or Worthington was the better actor. Both gave superb performances and both . . . performed with each other so well that I found myself wishing they had more scenes together.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the editing, there were other areas in the technical department where ”TERMINATION SALVATION” shone. Martin Laing’s production designs and Troy Sizemore’s art direction beautifully created an apocalyptic Southern California set some nine to ten years in the future. And Shane Hurlbut projected their work with some exciting photography. Aside from the franchise’s familiar theme that first appeared at the beginning of the end credits, I did not find Danny Elfman’s score that memorable.

Despite some of the movie’s flaws, I ended up enjoying ”TERMINATION SALVATION” very much - much to my utter surprise, thanks to McG’s direction, Brancato and Ferris’ screenplay, and the excellent cast led memorably by Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ten (10) Favorite Films Set in CHICAGO



With the new movie, "PUBLIC ENEMIES" due to release in a month, I decided to post this list of my favorite movies set in Chicago, Illinois. Although the last two Batman films were shot there, both are set in the fictional Gotham City and therefore, not on my list. Enjoy:


TEN (10) FAVORITE FILMS SET IN CHICAGO




1. "The Sting" (1973) - This Oscar winner is about two Depression-era grifters who run a detailed con job on a dangerous local gangster. Directed by George Roy Hill, Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw starred.





2. "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote, what I believe to be one of the best comedies ever made, about two jazz muscicians who witness a mob hit and hide out by disguising themselves as women and joining an all-female band. Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon starred.





3. "The Untouchables" (1987) - Brian DePalma directed this version of the conflict between Treasury agent Elliot Ness and mobster Al Capone in 1930 Chicago. Kevin Costner, Oscar winner Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Billy Drago and Robert DiNiro starred.





4. "The Road to Perdition" (2002) - Tom Hanks portrayed an early 30s hit man for the mob who is forced to protect his son, when the latter witnesses a murder. Adapted from Max Allan Collins' graphic novel, the movie wsa directed by Sam Mendes and co-starred Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Daniel Craig and Tyler Hoechlin.





5. "The Fugitive" (1993) - Harrison Ford and Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones co-starred in this execellent screen adaptation of the famous TV series about a doctor wrongfully accused of his wife's murder. Jerome Krabbe, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas and Sela Ward co-starred.





6. "While You Were Sleeping" (1995) - An elevated train ticket collector pretends to be engaged to an unconscious man she had rescued and ends up being drawn into his family. Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher and Jack Warden starred.





7. "The Blues Brothers" (1980) - John Landis directed this musical about the Blues Brothers (characters from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch) who attempt to reform their band in order to raise money to save their old Roman Catholic orphanage from foreclosure. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd starred.





8. "Chicago" (2002) - Rob Marshall directed this Oscar winning adaptation of the stage musical that explored the themes of celebrity and scandal in Jazz Age Chicago. Renee Zellweger, Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah and Richard Gere starred.





9. "Eight Men Out" (1988) - John Sayles directed this tale about Major League Baseball's 1919 "Black Sox" scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series. David Strathairn, John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney, Charlie Sheen and John Maloney starred.





10. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) - Matthew Broderick starred in this winning comedy about a high school senior who decides to skip school and spend the spring day in downtown Chicago with his girlfriend and best friend. Directed by John Hughes, the movie co-starred Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - 17/18




"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 17

Blue eyes fluttered open and Olivia sighed with relief. She sat on the edge of Cole's bed and gave him a warm smile. "You're finally awake," she declared, keeping her tumultuous emotions in check. "How do you feel?"

"Fine," Cole croaked. "How long I have been out?"

After a brief hesitation, Olivia answered, "A little over eight hours. It's almost eight-thirty. The potion that Suzanne Maxwell had given you must have been very potent."

Cole sighed. "No kidding." He struggled to sit up. "Wha . . . what happened after Cecile had vanquished Dako?"

Olivia helped Cole sit up. "Oh, Phoebe got Leo to heal Darryl, Bruce, Piper and myself. And Leo helped us get you home. He and Bruce undressed you and put you in bed. Poor Leo, he was . . . well, a little uneasy about orbing a half-daemon."

"He'd done it before. When I was the Source." Cole sighed. "What about the police? Did they buy your story?"

With a shrug of her shoulders, Olivia replied, "Well, Captain McPherson did. By the way, you'll have to go by the precinct tomorrow, to file a statement." She paused momentarily. "But before you do, we have a little . . . file manipulation to take care of."

"Like what?"

Olivia continued, "Well, I had went by your office to inform them about your encounter with Suzanne. And I learned that Mr. Jackman was the one who had recommended you to her. He recalled first meeting her at a party, only he doesn't remember exactly when. Probably after the Tower Bay warehouse incident, which was a little over a month ago." Olivia noticed that Cole seemed to be wavering. "Are you okay?"

He took a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Listen, about that . . . I've got this idea, regarding Suzanne."

"Are you about to bring up that police report you had filed back in late October?" Olivia's question drew a frown from Cole. "I came across it, some time ago. About how someone had slipped a drug in your drink, at a party. I've always wondered how you managed to keep your job, after nearly strangling your secretary."

Cole rubbed one hand over his bewhiskered chin. "Well, it was either that or tell Jackman, Carter and Kline that the Daemon of Fear was manipulating my mind at the time."

"And they believed you?"

Wariness crept into Cole's eyes. "They did after the police confirmed my story."

"So, are you telling me that the police actually found traces of a hallucinogenic drug in your bloodstream?" Olivia gave Cole a shrewd look.

Cole returned her stare. "I'm sure you have a pretty good idea how I had convinced the police." He glanced away and sighed. "All right. So I had used the old Jedi mind trick on the cops, and on my bosses. And I had also conjured up evidence to back my story. I had lost my job, thanks to Barbas' tricks. So, I had to do the same to get my job back." His eyes returned to Olivia. Wary. "Disappointed?"

Was she? Olivia could honestly say no. Hell, she would have done the same, faced with a similar situation. And if she could look past Cole's actions in the death of that slimeball Ed Miller, she should have no problem with this. "Do I look disappointed?" she shot back, with a smile.

Cole responded with a warm smile of his own.

Olivia added, "Besides, Mrs. Maxwell should fit perfectly with your story. Murderous widow tries to kill attorney after he rejects her. And confronts her with criminal action."

"How did you know about . . .?"

"When I was at your office, your secretary gave me that private detective's report. I was surprised to find out that Maxwell was her real married name. And that she was married to a murdered man named Anton Maxwell." Olivia paused. "Did you know that he wasn't the first? That Suzanne was married, twice before, and 'widowed'? She had built up quite a fortune in the past five years or so. Also, our young warlock was identified by the police as one Rudolf Crozat. According to the Vancouver police, he was last seen with Anton Maxwell, before the latter's death. And dear Suzanne disappeared from Canada, six days later . . . after dissolving most of her husband's assets."

Cole murmured, "More profits for the MALEHEX Corporation. What about the urn that Bruce had found? What happened to it?"

"The police has the urn," a third voice added. Cecile entered the room, carrying a steaming mug. "Or maybe Customs have it by now. Olivia told us that many of the artifacts found in that office may have been smuggled into the country, illegally." She walked over to Cole and handed him the mug. "Boy, you really looked wasted. This should help. It's tea. Help you cleanse the last of that potion out of you." Cole sniffed at the hot liquid. "Don't worry. It won't kill you."

Dark brows cocked upward. "Are you sure?" Cole took a sip of the tea. "Hmmm, not bad. Actually, it's pretty good."

"Naturally," Cecile retorted good-naturedly.

Olivia added, "After you finish your tea, you should get some more rest. I think battling Dako and nearly getting your powers stolen may have taken a lot out of you."

"I'm fine."

"Uh, huh. You're lucky that you're still alive," Olivia shot back.

Cole gave her a curious look. "Do I detect a rebuke coming?" He drained the rest of his tea and handed the mug back to Cecile.

Hands on hips, Olivia faced the half-demon squarely. "That's right. I'm a little pissed at you."

"For what?"

"For not bothering to tell me that you had a meeting with Suzanne Maxwell. If Cecile hadn't received a premonition, you would have been dead. And probably the rest of us, as well."

Cole rolled his eyes and sighed. "Look, I thought I could handle her."

"Cole, did you ever stop to wonder why she was so interested in you? Hell, it's been preying on my mind all week! And all powerful or not, you're not invulnerable. Barbas had proven that when he managed to manipulate your mind, over a month ago. And even Paige managed to come up with a potion to strip your powers. She didn't need the Power of Three!"

Cecile added, "She's right. That was pretty stupid." She left the room.

"Thanks a lot," Cole grumbled. Then to Olivia's satisfaction, he expressed regret. "Okay, I'm sorry. It was pretty stupid of me. First of all, I couldn't reach you." He paused, his eyes focusing on his sheet-covered lap. "And I had forgot to call you, again. I'm sorry."

Olivia allowed a small smile on her lips. "Apology accepted. Just don't do it again," she said, softly.

As Cole stood up, the sheet slid off his lower torso. He glanced down, realizing that he wore underwear and nothing else. Olivia struggled to contain her amusement, as he jumped back on the bed and covered himself with the sheet. He glanced at her and frowned. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing. I just realized that you have answered the age-old question of boxers or briefs. Considering how tight those things are, you might as well be al fresco."

Cole's face turned red. But his embarrassment did not last long. "Well, I've also discovered something," he said.

"What?"

A wicked grin curved his lips. "That you give new meaning to the phrase 'French kiss'. All I can say, Livy, is that the man who marries you is going to be one lucky bastard." His grin now became downright lecherous.

Embarrassment washed over Olivia, followed by a wave of heat. She picked up a pillow lying on the floor and threw it at Cole's face. Then she fixed him with a fierce glare. "Get some sleep, Turner."

* * * *

The black SUV pulled into the Halliwell driveway and stopped. Paige, who sat in the back seat, let out a sigh. "Boy, am I glad to be home. I hate hospital food."

The two older Halliwells exchanged brief smiles and climbed out of the vehicle. Phoebe opened the back seat's door and helped Paige climb out. "Watch your step, honey. We don't want you to trip and get hurt, again."

"That's all I need, another trip to the hospital. At least I can't blame some Voodoo witch doctor."

The words immediately tumbled out of Phoebe's mouth. "Vodoun sorcerer. A bokor. Not witch doctor." Paige stared at her. "At least that's what Cecile keeps telling us."

Paige opened her mouth to speak, but closed it immediately when two figures approached the sisters. Their next door neighbors, the Murillos. "Miss Halliwell, I see that you're back," Mrs. Murillo greeted.

"Matthews," the youngest sister grumbled.

Oblivious, Mrs. Murillo continued, "I'm relieved that you're okay. Both Antonio and me. Right, querido?"

The elderly man nodded and mumbled, "Good to see that you're okay."

"Did the police ever catch the man who attacked your sister?" Mrs. Murillo asked Piper and Phoebe.

Piper shook her head. "I'm afraid not. But I don't think he'll come back."

"But if Miss Halliwell saw her attacker, surely he will come back to make sure that she doesn't . . ."

Phoebe cut in. "He won't be back. According to the police, he was last seen in . . . I mean, down south in Oxnard."

"Oh." The elderly woman nodded. "You know, for a moment I thought that thief or whatever he was, looked a lot like your friend. The police inspector."

Time to nip this suspicion in the bud, Paige decided. "It wasn't him," she said abruptly. "The guy who attacked me only looked like Darryl. But it wasn't him."

The Murillos smiled with relief. "That's good to hear," Mrs. Murillo said. "Well, we better get going. It's time for Antonio's lunch. Good day." The elderly pair started back toward their house.

Paige shook her head in disbelief. "How on earth did you two ever deal with that woman as a neighbor and be witches at the same time?"

"We usually tried to ignore her," Piper caustically replied. "It's not easy when living next door to a real live Gladys Kravitz."

Phoebe grabbed Paige's arm and escorted her inside the house. "I wouldn't be too hard on Mrs. Murillo. She and her husband did save your life, Paige."

"That's what I don't understand," Paige shot back. "Why didn't Whatshisname simply kill the Murillos?"

Piper closed the front door behind her. "I don't know, honey. Maybe some part of Darryl managed to stop Dako from killing them."

"Like . . ." Paige stopped herself. During the last two days, she had time to reflect about Elise and Jack McNeills' comments about Cole. That perhaps her former brother-in-law may have been the victim of the Source. She remembered her close calls with death, last spring - during Phoebe and Cole's wedding, her encounter with the power brokers and her brief period as a vampire. Each time, it had been Cole (as the Source) who ended up saving her. If Darryl, while under possession by that sorcerer, had managed to save the Murillos, why couldn't Cole do the same?

Snapping out of her reverie, Paige realized that both Phoebe and Piper were staring at her. "Like who?" her middle sister asked.

Paige thought quickly. "Like you," she said to Phoebe. "When you were . . . you know, Queen of the Underworld. A part of you was still trying to save an innocent." A faraway look clouded Phoebe's eyes. Paige wished she had not opened her big mouth in the first place. "Phoebe, I'm sorry. I didn't mean . . ."

"No, it's okay," Phoebe replied, giving Paige a dim smile. "I understand what you were trying to say. That a small part of Darryl had fought to save you and the Murillos. Like a small part of me tried to save Greg Conroy."

Or a small part of Cole may have tried to save all of us on numerous occasions. Paige kept the thought to herself. She knew that Phoebe and Piper were not ready to deal with that possibility. She also realized that one day they would all have to face it.

"By the way," Piper said, breaking the somber mood, "I received a call from Mrs. McNeill. Gwen McNeill. She invited us to another one of the family's Sunday brunches, tomorrow. I told her we would think about it."

Paige immediately spoke up. "I want to go." Her sisters stared at her. "I want to see Olivia's friend. Ask her a few questions about this Voodoo, or whatever you call it."

"Thinking of converting?"

Paige gave her sister a teasing smile. "Maybe." To her delight, both sisters responded with shock. Nice to know that life was back to normal, again.

* * * *

"I want to thank you, Mr. Turner, for coming down here, today," Captain McPherson said. The burly police captain sat behind his desk, opposite Cole and Olivia. "Inspector McNeill tells me that you've gone through a traumatic experience."

Cole merely shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Not too traumatic. Suz . . . uh, Mrs. Maxwell only managed to drug me. That's all." Can't talk about his experiences with Dako. "I'm only glad that Olivia had showed up before Mrs. Maxwell's boyfriend could kill me."

"He was her cousin, not boyfriend," Olivia explained. Cole gave her a quick glance. Their little script for today's trip to the police precinct seemed to be progressing well. Cole and his neighbor had spent the early morning, visiting the police offices of both Vancouver and Seattle, making adjustments to Suzanne Crozat's record. He had been surprised to learn that the late warlock had already accumulated quite a criminal record during her 32 years on Earth. Drug use, theft and assault.

Captain McPherson grunted. "Nonetheless, you had a very narrow escape. The next time you have any suspicions about a client or a potential client, Mr. Turner, we would appreciate it if you inform us. Or your employers." He gave Cole a pointed stare.

The half-daemon squirmed with discomfort. Which became annoyance, when he saw the amused smile on Olivia's lips. God, he is never going to live yesterday, down!

"I'm sure that Mr. Turner will be more cooperative in the future, Captain. Right Cole?" Olivia looked at him with innocent eyes. She smiled.

Cole responded with a lukewarm smile. "Yeah."

Olivia added, "By the way, I had spoken with one of your senior partners. A Mr. Jackman." Cole perked up. Time to resume their script. "It seems that he was the one who recommended you to Mrs. Maxwell. At a party, over a month ago. The very one at which you claimed you had been drugged."

Knowing what was expected of him, Cole sat up. "Really?" he said with false interest. "You mean to say that she . . .?"

"There is a good chance, Cole. In fact, I'm only surprised that she didn't approach you sooner." Olivia paused dramatically. "She had a history of drug use."

Still in his role of outraged citizen, Cole continued, "But why would she do that to me? Slip a drug in my drink?"

Olivia shook her head. "I have no idea. Personally, I think she was a disturbed woman. Maybe she had some kind of fixation on you. At least you proved to be a threat." She turned to Captain McPherson. "You know, I'm beginning to wonder if Mrs. Maxwell and this Mr. Crozat were responsible for the disappearance of the staff at the Tower Bay warehouse. It was owned by the Crozat family."

To Cole's relief, a knowing smile touched the captain's lips. "Yes, I've considered that possibility. I understand that Mrs. Maxwell and Mr. Crozat were the last remaining members of MALEHEX's board of directors. Looks like a case of theft and murder. I wouldn't be surprised if they had been plotting to get their hands on the company for themselves."

Cole added, "But the MALEHEX Corporation had been liquidated. It's in the report I had received on Mrs. Maxwell."

"Yes, we know," McPherson replied. "The Department has decided to consider that case close."

Olivia protested, "But that doesn't explain how the entire staff had dis . . ."

"The case is closed, Inspector." McPherson gave Olivia a hard stare. Cole managed not to smile. Then the captain closed the open file on his desk. "By the way, how is Morris? Is he still sick?"

Nodding, Olivia replied, "He's getting better. His wife thinks he should be back at work on Monday morning."

* * * *

"I should be back to work on Monday," Darryl was saying to the Halliwells. "Fortunately, my captain thinks I'm sick, so I shouldn't be in trouble." Just several minutes ago, the three sisters had dropped by to pay Darryl a visit. Leo was busy elsewhere, attending to 'heavenly' duties.

Piper smiled at him. "That's good. I'm glad that you're okay, Darryl."

"How about you?" Darryl asked. "I understand that Dako, or whatever his name is, tried to take your ba . . ."

A frown darkened Piper's countenance. "Fortunately, he failed." Her smile returned. "And the baby's fine."

"Yeah, thanks to Cole." The moment Darryl had mentioned the half-demon's name, the three sisters stiffened. He silently bit his tongue. "Uh, sorry about that. I didn't mean . . ."

Phoebe added, "Well, I guess we can't deny that he did save the baby."

"Oh. Yeah." Darryl found himself wishing that this visit would end. Of all the stupid things to do - open his mouth and mention Cole Turner. It felt bad enough remembering what he - or Dako had done to Paige. Since her arrival, the youngest Halliwell had barely said a word to him. He wondered if . . .

Sheila burst into the Morrises' recreation room. "Hey honey! You have three new visitors. Do you mind?"

Darryl sighed. "Yeah, sure. Show them in."

Piper added, "We better go. This house is getting crowded already . . ."

"No, no! Stay." Darryl signaled to his wife. "Send them in."

Sheila disappeared. Seconds later, three people entered the bedroom. "Hey Darryl!" Olivia greeted gaily. She spotted the Halliwells and her gaiety dampened. "Ladies. I didn't realize you were here." Cecile Dubois and Cole, whom Darryl had never expected to see inside his house, tramped into the room. "So," Olivia plopped down on the sofa, next to Darryl, "how are you feeling?"

Darryl grunted. "Okay. Despite being possessed by some Voodoo spirit for nearly two days."

"Vodoun," Cecile corrected. "Don't forget."

To his dismay, Darryl saw Piper roll her eyes. He suppressed a sigh. "Whatever. I'm just glad to be free of it." He paused. "Exactly what was it?"

Cecile replied, "The spirit of an 18th century bokor named Dako."

"Bokor. That's like an evil sorcerer, right? One who practices black magic?"

Paige spoke up. "I think that's what Phoebe said."

From the corner of his eye, Darryl spotted the other two Halliwells stiffened with discomfort. Phoebe shot a wary glance at Cole, who seemed bent upon ignoring his ex-wife.

Olivia said, "I'm surprised that you knew, Darryl. Been doing some research?" She pointed at the computer laptop on the table, next to Darryl.

Darryl's face grew hot with embarrassment. "I was just . . . I mean . . ." He saw the smirk on Cole's face and growled, "Never mind!"

"No, it's great!" Cecile declared. "It's great that you're showing interest in Vodoun. After all, it's part of your heritage."

Memories of his church-going parents popped into Darryl's mind. "I don't know if my parents would agree." His eyes rested upon a large black pot that Cecile held. "What's that?" he asked.

"Jambalaya," Cecile answered. "My mama's recipe. A little gift for you. I better give this to your wife." She faced the Halliwells. "Would any of you like to sample a bite? If Darryl doesn't mind."

Paige opened her mouth to speak, but Piper beat her to the punch. "Thanks, but we were about to leave," she said with a polite smile. "Maybe another time." She waved at Darryl. "See you later, Darryl. I hope you get better."

"Thanks."

Before the Halliwells left, Olivia cried out, "I understand that my mom invited you over for brunch. Will you be there?"

"Yeah!" Paige shot back before her sisters could answer. "See you!" She left the room, followed by Piper and Phoebe. The latter shot an impassive Cole another glance, before leaving the room.

Olivia said to Darryl, "Well, at least you'll have a chance to sample Cecile's jambalaya. It's great. Mom tried to get the recipe."

"But I wouldn't give it to her," Cecile added. "Family recipe. I'll be in the kitchen." She left.

Darryl shifted the conversation back to Dako. "By the way, what happened to those warlocks? Phoebe told me . . ." Darryl noticed the uncomfortable expression that flitted across Cole's face. "She told me that you had killed them."

Cole replied, "It was Olivia, Bruce and Cecile. They saved me from getting my powers stolen. And killed."

"Huh."

Olivia added, "They were the ones responsible for Dako possessing you. It seems someone in Singapore named William Dagbani had sent them an urn with Dako's spirit inside. I've asked the Singapore police about him. Apparently, he's left the country."

"Great," Darryl replied. "At least he doesn't have Dako."

Cole said, "There's a good chance this Dagbani is a bokor. Which means he probably knows how to summon Dako from the Underworld. He's done it once. He can do it again."

Olivia started toward the door. "Time for some jambalaya." She left the room.

Darryl turned to Cole. "Mind if I ask you a question?" he said.

Regarding the other man with a wary eye, Cole asked, "What is it?"

"Olivia told me that you were possessed during the time you were the Source," Darryl continued. "Is it true?"

Cole gave Darryl a long, cool look. "You believe her?"

Darryl shrugged. "As long as I've known her, Olivia has always been pretty sharp. She could spot a lie or that something wrong better than anyone I've ever known. Including Prue."

A pause followed before Cole finally answered, "Yeah, it's true. I was possessed."

"So why didn't you tell Phoebe and the others, when you came back?"

Cole glanced away. "She didn't want to hear the truth. Or speak to me. And I was so obsessed in getting Phoebe back, I figured that if I accept responsibility, she would see that I was remorseful and could change. In a way, I was responsible. I had allowed the Seer to trick me into using the Hollow. Giving the Source the opportunity to possess me."

An uncomfortable silence followed. Darryl recalled that moment inside Cole's penthouse, when he had convinced the latter to let Phoebe go. And Cole seemed prepared to do just that when Paige stopped him. "If that's all," Cole added, "I'll leave you to your resea. . ."

"I have another question," Darryl said, interrupting. "What was it like . . . being possessed?"

Cole sighed. "Frustrating. Scary. Like being trapped in a dark box. You can't do anything, while some bastard uses your body to commit all sorts of acts."

Darryl nodded. "Yeah, that's exactly how I felt. There were brief moments of freedom, though."

"When you prevented Dako from killing Paige and the Murillos?" Cole nodded. "Yeah, I've been there, myself."

The two men fell silent again. Then Darryl said, "Look, I uh, I want to apologize. For believing the worst about you. I didn't realize until now, how much hell you had went through. I guess . . ."

"Once evil, always evil?"

"Yeah." Darryl paused momentarily. "As a cop, I guess I should have known better. A lot ex-cons tend to go back to their old ways, simply because everyone else judges them by their past. And never give them the chance to redeem themselves. I guess I forgot that."

Cole smiled. "Well, you're forgiven, if it makes you feel better."

Cecile popped her head into the doorway. "You two better get a move on, or else the 'Red-Headed Creature That Ate Frisco' is gonna to finish this jambalaya." Her head disappeared.

The two men exchanged smiles and followed the woman out of the room.



END OF CHAPTER 17


A/N: Damn! I should just finish it right here and now. But I've got one more thread to tie.