Monday, November 30, 2009
”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” (1999) Review
I must admit that when I first saw "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" in the theaters ten years ago, I was not impressed. Well, to be honest, I did not like the movie at all. But after my recent viewing, I could not help but wonder if I had allowed my mild dislike of the previous Bond entry, "TOMORROW NEVER DIES" to spill over in my view of the Bond franchise’s 19th entry.
Although the movie’s title comes from the Bond family’s motto, first revealed in the 1969 movie, "ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE", its story started with the murder of a British oil tycoon and old friend of M’s named Sir Robert King, inside MI-6’s London headquarters. Bond traced the assassination to an anarchist terrorist named Renard, who had once kidnapped Sir Robert’s daughter, Elektra King. Fearing that Renard wants revenge for his failure at profiting from Elektra’s kidnapping, M assigned Bond to act as her new bodyguard in Uzbekistan. To make a long story short, Bond and Elektra formed a romantic relationship . . . before he learned that she had been behind her father’s murder and MI-6’s humiliation. Elektra was also behind Renard’s theft of a quantity of weapons-grade plutonium from a former Russian ICBM base in Kazakhstan. After using some of the plutonium to blow up part of the King pipeline in order to avoid suspicion, Elektra and Renard planned to introduce the remaining plutonium to a stolen Russian submarine's nuclear reactor in order that it will overload and cause a nuclear meltdown in the Bosporus at Istanbul. Not only will this kill countless thousands of people, but also contaminate the Bosporus for decades. The effect would prevent shipment of Caspian Sea petroleum through any existing route, because all Caspian region pipelines terminate at the Black Sea, requiring that tankers go through the Bosporus; the only alternative would be the King pipeline. Disguising himself as a nuclear physicist, Bond sneaked his way onto the base to stop Renard and ended up escaping from near death, along with an American nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. Even worse, Elektra lured M to Uzbekistan and kidnapped the latter to be destroyed with the rest of Istanbul’s citizens. With the help of Dr. Jones and former KGB-turned-entrepreneur Valentin Zukovsky, Bond managed to save the Bosporus region and M and kill both Elektra and Renard in the process.
In 1998, Pierce Brosnan won a Saturn Award for his performance as Bond in "TOMORROW NEVER DIES". But after seeing his performance in "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH", I have come to the conclusion that he had won his award for the wrong movie. Unlike "TOMORROW NEVER DIES", in which Brosnan’s performance seemed mixed, "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH"’s script allowed the Irish-born actor to portray a more human Bond, who finds his façade almost stripped away and his emotions exposed by his interactions with the manipulative Elektra King – a process that seemed to have began with the death of Elektra’s father at MI-6 Headquarters. One of Brosnan’s best acting moments occurred during a scene at Zukovsky’s casino, where Elektra “unnecessarily” loses a million dollars to the former KGB operative. Brosnan managed to convey Bond’s concern, confusion and sparking suspicion about the late oil magnate’s daughter, all in one swoop. Great acting on his part.
Fortunately for Brosnan, he was supported by a strong cast – especially by Sophie Marceau, who portrayed the enigmatic Elekra and Robert Caryle as the ruthless yet passionate terrorist, Renard. Marceau was especially impressive as the former kidnap victim-turned-villainess, whose complex and manipulative personality seemed to have kept everyone – Bond included – in a state of flux. Carlyle came off as surprisingly sympathetic as the love-struck Renard. Most Bond fans would flinch at the idea of a Bond villain like Renard, but after the stream of cold-blooded opportunists and megalomaniacs, Renard almost came as a relief. Unfortunately, all not were wine and roses in Marceau and Carlyle’s performances. Carlyle’s repeated line about how Bond or anyone else ”cannot kill him because he was already dead” threatened to turn his role into a cliché. Personally, I never could care less about his injury. If he could still die from a bullet in the heart, he was not impregnable, as far as I was concerned. As for Marceau, it saddened me that her exemplary performance ended on such a bad note for me. If Connery’s Bond in "GOLDFINGER" had struck me as the ”dark side of masculinity”, then Elektra King’s insistence that Bond or no other man can resist her struck me as the ”dark side of femininity”. To be frank, the villainous Elektra in her last moments got . . . on . . . my . . . last . . . nerve. So much so that I found myself sighing with relief when Bond finally killed her.
And then there was Denise Richards as the American nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones. I realize that I might be castigated for saying this, but I honestly found nothing to criticize about Richards’ performance. I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by stating that she was just as good as Marceau and Caryle. Of course she was not as good. At best, Richards is a competent, though uninspiring actress. But she did portrayed Dr. Jones (no Indy jokes, please) as an intelligent and observant woman. She handled the techno babble quite well. Nor did she seem slightly wooden like Lois Chiles in "MOONRAKER" or Barbara Bach in "THE SPY WHO LOVED ME". I think that many fans and critics had simply took a look at Richard’s face, age (she was 26 or 27 when she shot the movie) and boobs and decided that she was unfit to portray a young nuclear physicist. It was nice to see Robbie Coltrane as the former KGB agent, Valentin Zukovsky, again. Although he was just as funny as he was in "GOLDENEYE", I must admit that he seemed a bit more imposing in the 1995 film. In "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH", there were times he seemed to be in danger of being viewed as a bit of a joke . . . until his final scene.
Judi Dench gave her second best performance as M (her first would be seven years later in "CASINO ROYALE") in "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH". In this particular outing, she becomes emotionally handicapped by the death of her friend, Sir Robert. This allows Elektra to take advantage of the MI-6 chief - who had advised Sir Robert not to pay the ransom for Elektra’s kidnapping – and seek revenge. One of the highlights of Dench’s performance was watching her express . . . and suppress M’s guilt, when Bond exposes the debacle over Elektra’s kidnapping. Other cast members such as Michael Kitchen, Colin Salmon and Samantha Bond do their usual routine. "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" marked Desmond Llewellyn’s last appearance as MI-6’s armourer – Q and John Cleese’s first appearance as his future replacement. Although the sight of Llewellyn in the movie tugged the heartstrings a bit (considering his death in a traffic accident about a month following the movie’s original release), I cannot say there was anything memorable about his performance. Cleese, on the other hand, was his usual biting self, although I could have done without his clumsy antics.
"THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" not only boasted pretty good acting by the cast, it also possessed an interesting script that maintained its quality . . . until the finale. The story started out fine with Sir Robert King’s mysterious murder, followed by the increasingly complex triangle established between Bond, Elektra and Renard. But once Renard had sabotaged one of the King pipelines and Elektra kidnapped M, the movie sank into a typical Bond movie that ended with a wet and tiresome showdown between Bond and Renard inside the stolen Russian sub. Aside from its cast, one of "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH"’s strengths were the movie’s dramatic scenes – including Bond’s accusations regarding M’s participation in Elektra’s kidnapping, Elektra’s loss at the gaming table, Christmas’ exposure of Bond at the ICMG base, Bond accusing Elektra of being Renard’s ally and Renard’s jealousy over Elektra’s relationship with Bond. Ironically, I cannot say the same about the movie’s action sequences. One or two were pretty good – the opening sequence (which I admit seemed a bit too long), and Bond and Christmas’ escape from the ICMG base, and their escape from one of the King pipelines. But the ski chase, the confrontation at Zukovsky’s caviar facility and Bond’s showdowns with both Elektra and Renard simply did not move me. And the finale inside the Russian sub simply struck me as tedious.
If there is one major weakness that "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" did suffer, it was the movie’s locations. Quite simply, they were uninspiring. It seemed sad that the movie’s most exotic looking location happened to be London, along the Thames River. It seemed even sadder that this took place in the movie’s pre-title sequence. As for the movie’s theme song by Garbage . . . well, it was not the best Bond song I have ever heard. In fact, I did not even like it when the movie was first released. But for some odd reason, the song has grown on me, and now it is a personal favorite of mine.
But despite uninspiring locations and action sequences, "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" can still boast enough strengths that allowed director Michael Apted to provide a pretty good Bond movie . . . good enough to be considered Brosnan’s second-best. And a recent viewing has allowed me to realize that it was better than I had originally surmised.
“One tires of being executed.” – Renard
Zukovsky: I'm looking for a submarine. It's big and black, and the driver is a very good friend of mine. [sees captain hat] Bring it to me!
Elektra: [takes hat] What a shame, he's just gone. [Shoots Zukovsky]
Lachaise: So good of you to come see me, Mr Bond, particularly on such short notice.
Bond: If you can't trust a Swiss banker, then what's the world come to?
[Bull is shocked to see Zukovsky survived the explosion at the safehouse]
Bull: Boss? You're alive! I'm so glad to see you!
Zukovsky: Me to! [Shoots Bull]
Christmas: The world's greatest terrorist running around with six kilos of weapons-grade plutonium can't be good. I gotta get it back, or someone's gonna have my ass.
Bond: First things first.
Bond: What's your business with Elektra King?
Zukovsky: I though you were the one giving her the business.
Elektra: I could have given you the world.
Bond: The world is not enough.
Elektra: Foolish sentiment.
Bond: Family motto.
[after Q introduces Bond to his successor]
Bond: If you're Q, does that make him R?
R: Ah yes, the legendary 007 wit, or at least half of it.
Christmas: Wait a minute. Are you going to do what I think you're going to do?
Bond: What do I need to defuse a nuclear bomb?
Bond: Construction isn't exactly my speciality.
M: Quite the opposite, in fact.
“You wanna put that in English for those of us who don't speak Spy?” – Christmas Jones
“Oh, look. We have no roof, but at least we have four good walls.”
[the factory falls apart] “The insurance company is NEVER going to believe this.” – Zukovsky
Bond: I've always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.
Christmas: Was that a Christmas joke?
Bond: From me? Never.
“Can't you just say "hello" like a normal person?” - Zukovsky
Zukovsky: [to Bull] You! Where have you been, you gold encrusted buffoon?
Bull: Sorry, boss, I must have bumped my head.
Zukovsky: Oh, really? Get me out of here. I'll show you what a bumped head feels like.
Q: I've always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.
“Revenge is not hard to fathom for a man who believes in nothing.” – Bond
Bond: What business do you have with Elektra King?
Zukovsky: I thought it was *you* who was giving her the business.
Moneypenny: James! Have you brought me a souvenir from your trip? Chocolates? An engagement ring?
Bond: I thought you might enjoy one of these. [gives Ms. Moneypenny a cigar tube]
Moneypenny: How romantic. I know exactly where to put that. [throws the cigar tube in the garbage]
Bond: Oh Moneypenny, the story of our relationship: close, but no cigar.
[Zukovsky enters his office, sees Christmas Jones] “How did you get in here? I'm going to call Security... and congratulate them.” – Zukovsky
Bond: ...A shadow operation?
M: ...Remember 007, shadows always remain in front or behind... never on top.
Bond: Where's M?
Elektra: Soon she'll be everywhere.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
“MAD MEN”: “Wanted or Not – An ‘Emancipated’ Divorcee”
One of the events of the Season Three finale of ”MAD MEN” - (3.13) “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” turned out to be Betty Draper’s decision to file a divorce from the series’ main protagonist, Don Draper. Acting as Betty’s main supporter throughout this upheaval was her almost paramour Henry Francis.
Betty had first met the aide to New York’s Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, in the third episode, (3.03) “My Old Kentucky Home”. In the episode, Henry he had asked to touched her belly, while she was still pregnant with young Eugene. Betty gave him permission and a silent spark of attraction ignited between the two. They met for the second time in (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, when Betty was asked by her colleagues in her local Junior League to seek his help in preventing the installation of a huge water tank that will drain the scenic local reservoir and mar the landscape. Henry managed to briefly come to her aid in the following episode, (3.08) “Souvenirs”. By the ninth episode, (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, the pair was ready to have an affair. Until Betty realized that she did not want to engage in a tawdry affair that involved sex in hotel rooms or behind the closed doors of Henry’s office. When they had met at the wedding reception for Roger Sterling’s daughter, Margaret, in (3.12) “The Grown Ups”; it was apparent that the two had remained attracted with one another.
When Betty finally decided to seek a divorce from Don in the season finale, many noticed that Henry was by her side when she visited a divorce lawyer and when she flew to Reno, Nevada for a divorce. The hostility toward Henry’s presence was strong amongst the fans. It was not long before assumptions about the relationship between Betty and Henry appeared on various blogs and message boards about ”MAD MEN”. Many fans insulted Henry with a variety of names. Others insulted Betty. Fans expressed belief that Henry would end up treating her as a trophy wife, just as Don had during the past decade. More importantly, many accused Betty of being nothing more than a spoiled Daddy’s girl who turned to Henry, because she needed a ”father figure” to dictate her life. The fact that Henry had been seen at her side during a meeting with a divorce lawyer, and during the flight to Reno seemed to be solid evidence to them. And Henry’s advice that Betty dismiss any divorce settlement from Don in order to keep him out her life was another piece of evidence in their eyes. But I wonder. Do any of these fans really know what Betty wants? Or were they merely expressing their disappointment that she had failed to follow a path that they had desired? Is their hostility based upon their disappointment that she did not become a single divorcee like Helen Bishop . . . or that she had failed to reconcile with Don and try to repair their heavily damaged marriage?
I find it interesting that fans had heaped a great deal of disappointment and hostility upon Betty for failing to become the epitome of the new “independent” woman. No one had complained when Joan Hollway had married her doctor fiancé, Greg Harris, after he had raped her in (2.12) “The Mountain King”. Nor did they bash Joan’s character when she finally left Sterling Cooper to become a wife only in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” The ironic thing is that Joan had expressed a desire for a life with kids and a husband in the suburbs since the series began. She wanted to be a pampered housewife adored by her husband. Instead, she ended up with Greg Harris, who turned out to be a less than talented surgeon. Worse, he was incapable of kick starting a career in psychiatry after failing a job interview. Now, Joan is now forced to become a career woman, again. In (2.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, Greg had decided to continue his career in surgery . . . as a U.S. Army officer. And there is a chance that he might end up in Vietnam. Although Joan expressed relief that she managed to find a permanent job again, with the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Agency, I cannot help but wonder how she feels about her failure to become a suburban housewife of a successful careerist. Perhaps deep down, Joan had always wanted to remain a career woman. But she had allowed society to dictate her wants, just as Betty has. What will the future bring for Joan? Will she still desire the life that Betty had with Don? Or will she finally wise up and realize that that living the Suburban Dream was never really for her . . . with any man?
And what about Betty? It seemed unrealistic to expect her to become the “liberated” woman so soon after her breakup with Don. Considering Betty’s upper class background and non-conformist personality, I do not see that happening this soon in the series. After all, Season Three has just ended. Personally, I suspect that Betty might still be too scared to consider a life independent of men, or have a man in her life and at the same time, create her own lifestyle. Perhaps it will take the Women’s Movement in the 1970s for Betty to become that woman. Perhaps she will end up as another Betty Ford, an activist who managed to have a lasting marriage with a Republican politician. Then again, I do not even know if Betty will ever become the type of “liberated” woman that many seem to demand that she become. But I refuse to make any assumption on how Betty’s life will turn out. That would take a great deal of arrogance or hope on my part.
And I believe there is nothing wrong with wanting another man in one’s life. Of all the divorced or separated female characters on the show managed to move on with new men in their lives. Helen Bishop’s new paramour ended up creating resentment within her son, Glen. Mona Sterling had already found someone new by (3.02) “Love Among the Ruins”. Last season’s (2.06) “Maidenform” revealed that Duck Phillips’ ex-wife was about to remarry. That Betty would hook up with Henry Francis does not seem all that surprising, considering their history in Season Three. The question remains on whether Henry will prove to be another Don Draper who ends up treating her as a trophy wife. Some fans seem to assume that will happen. Frankly, I have no idea. In some ways, Henry seems a lot like Don. In other ways, he seems different from Don. In the end, I believe that only Matt Weiner knows how this relationship will turn out.
Friday, November 27, 2009
"WITH HARRY KIM'S COMPLIMENTS"
B'Elanna could not sleep that night. Despite the hot shower and her exhausted state. Instead of blessed slumber, she found her thoughts besieged with images of Tom Paris in the shower. Naked.
A sigh escaped B'Elanna's mouth and she shifted to the right side of her body. More images popped into her head. Reddish-blond chest hair, luxuriant and damp. Chest hair that covered a surprisingly muscular chest. Broad shoulders. A pair of legs that looked pale, but long and sturdy. The long and thick piece of flesh between his . . . B'Elanna sighed once more and shifted to her left.
Then she closed her eyes and to her consternation, relived those moments when she had burst into Harry's shower. Within the deep recess of her mind, B'Elanna once again stripped off her uniform, strode toward the bathroom and opened the shower door. There stood Tom with rivulets of water pouring down his body. B'Elanna let out a gasp. Yet, instead of reacting in shock, Tom grabbed her by the waist and dragged her into the shower. He then forced his mouth upon her and began to explore it with a thoroughness that left B'Elanna trembling. Both examined each other's bodies with hands and mouth. And before B'Elanna knew what had happened, Tom slammed her against the wall. He spread her legs and without missing a beat, thrust right into her . . .
B'Elanna's eyes flew open and she sprung into a sitting position. She became aware of the pillow clutched to her chest. And the fact that she now laid flat on her back, with her legs spread wide open. An exasperated sigh left her mouth. Dammit! Will she ever get any sleep? Even more important, will she ever stop thinking of Tom Paris in the shower, naked?
* * * *
On Deck Four, another senior officer dreamed of the same incident from inside Harry Kim's quarters. Unlike the Chief Engineer, Tom Paris seemed to enjoy it very much.
Tom recalled the eye-popping sight of a very naked B'Elanna Torres, standing outside Harry's shower. It had seemed like a dream come true. And in Tom's dream, like B'Elanna's, events took a different course from what actually happened.
In Tom's dream, B'Elanna opened the shower door. The two officers stared at each other in deep shock. And an embarrassed B'Elanna fled from the bathroom. But when Tom ran after her, he did not bother to wrap a towel around his waist. Instead, he caught up with B'Elanna in the living area, drew her into his arms and planted a long and passionate kiss upon her mouth.
Tom briefly stirred in his bed, as his dream continued its erotic course. He and B'Elanna soon found themselves exploring each other's bodies with hands and kisses. Tom drew her down to the floor and continued his exploration of her body. It was not long before B'Elanna hinted that she wanted more than kisses. Tom gently spread her legs and finally entered her. He reveled in every thrust he gave, while B'Elanna inflicted scratches upon his backside. Scratches that mingled pain with pleasure. And when their lovemaking finally ended with an earth-shattering climax, Tom woke up.
It did not take a genius to guess why his sheets were damp. At least Tom knew why and immediately felt embarrassed. And since he had no desire to spend the rest of the night on those sheets, he slipped out of bed, tossed the sheets into the refresher and replicated new ones. Now, if only he could enjoy a good night's sleep without dreaming of B'Elanna. But Tom also realized that he needed to speak with her, as soon as possible.
* * * *
The following morning, Tom headed straight to the Mess Hall for breakfast, hoping that he would also find B'Elanna. He was in luck. Not only was the Chief Engineer in the Mess Hall, she was alone, sitting at a corner table and staring at the stars beyond the viewport.
"B'Elanna?" She nearly jumped out of her seat when Tom called her name. He slid into the seat opposite her, ignoring the irritation that flashed in her eyes. "How are you doing, this morning?" he asked.
B'Elanna replied tersely, "Fine."
"I understand that all of the showers are now working." Dark eyes glanced sharply at Tom. Ooops! Wrong subject to bring up, he thought. Tom immediately tried to correct his faux pas. "Look B'Elanna, about last night . . ."
"As far as I'm concerned, it never happened." B'Elanna's gaze returned to the viewport.
Frustrated, Tom sighed. He hated it when the half-Klingon resorted to her usually "memory laspses" whenever she tried to avoid any particular topic. "It did happen, B'Elanna!" Tom retorted. "Harry gave us permission to use his shower at the same time, without realizing it. And we both saw each other . . . in the flesh. This is the 24th century. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Granted, you've got a great body, but yours is not the first naked one I've ever seen." Tom paused, expecting a response - volcanic or otherwise.
Instead, B'Elanna's dark eyes grew wide. "Great . . . I have a great body?" Her voice registered shock. Surprise. And she seemed a little flattered.
"Uh, yeah," Tom replied softly. "One of the best I've ever . . ." Aware of the possibility of eavesdroppers, Tom bit off his last words. "Never mind. What I'm trying to say is that what happened last night is nothing to get upset over. We're both adults. Surely we can handle seeing each other, naked. We should just accept that it happened and move on."
A crimson flush crept up B'Elanna's face. "Of course. You're right. We should just move on." She took a deep breath. "And by the way, you've got a . . ." Her face became even more flushed.
Tom's eyes widened in anticipation of a compliment. "Yes?"
B'Elanna paused momentarily, before a slight smirk touched her lips. "I was about to say that you've got a pretty decent body, yourself."
"Decent?" Tom frowned. Did she just say 'decent'? "Is that all? Just decent?"
Innocence poured out of B'Elanna's eyes. "Well, to be honest, Tom, you're not exactly Ensign Larson. Or Ensign Murphy. Now, those two are really built. No wonder they're popular . . ."
"Okay, I get the picture," Tom grumbled. "Larson and Murphy. Thanks a lot."
B'Elanna smiled. "My pleasure." Her smile widened, as a pout formed on Tom's lips. "Oh, come on, Tom. There's no need to pout. You still have a nice body, all the same."
"Just nice?" Tom gave B'Elanna the full impact of the Paris orbs. "Considering the way you were staring at me, I figured . . ."
The smile disappeared from B'Elanna's lips. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Look here, Flyboy," she growled, "I don't recall staring at you or anyone else. So, I suggest you stop it right here and get the filth out of your mind."
"What filth?" Tom allowed himself a brief smile.
B'Elanna added pointedly, "I'm already pissed at Harry for what happened. Don't make me add you to my shit list."
Harry. Tom almost forgot about the Operations Chief. Almost. "Speaking of Harry . . ."
Tom continued, "Do you think he had deliberately set us up, last night?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "Not Starfleet. He might be naïve at times, but not suicidal. Besides, he did seem a bit tired."
At that moment, Neelix approached their table, carrying a pot of coffee. Tom shot a glance at his cup and was relieved to find it already filled with replicated coffee. Which meant he would be spared from the Delta Quadrant variety, thank goodness.
"Hello, you two! Enjoying your morning meal?" Neelix's orange eyes sparkled with life. He seemed to be in a good mood. Almost fey.
Tom stared at him. "What's brightened your morning, Neelix?"
"You two," the Talaxian replied. He offered B'Elanna some coffee, but the latter immediately shook her head. "Seeing you together like this, gives me hope for love."
Tom and B'Elanna exchanged confused looks, before they stared at Neelix. "What are you talking about?" B'Elanna demanded.
"Well, the both of you. Sitting at breakfast together." Neelix sat in the chair next to Tom. "Ensign Kim told me about his little matchmaking scheme for you two. He didn't exactly give me any details, but he told me that by today, you would be a couple. And here you are."
B'Elanna opened her mouth. And judging by her expression, Tom realized that she was about to display that famous temper of hers. He gave her a warning kick to the shin. Dark brown eyes blazed with near rage, as B'Elanna immediately closed her mouth. Tom ignored the look and said to Neelix, "We know all about Harry's little scheme, Neelix. It didn't work out."
"Oh. Too bad." The Talaxian looked disappointed. Then another idea came to him. "I hope you're not to angry at Harry. He was only trying to help."
Tom smiled. "We know. And we're not angry."
"Says you," B'Elanna mumbled. Fortunately, only Tom overheard.
The pilot continued, "In fact, we confronted Harry about it, last night."
"Oh. Oh, well. I guess some of us aren't meant to be." A brief sadness overshadowed his eyes. Tom realized that he was thinking of his aborted relationship with the ship's medical assistant and only Ocampan. Tom gave Neelix a comforting squeeze on the shoulder, before the latter returned to galley.
Once the Talaxian was out of earshot, B'Elanna whirled upon the pilot with blazing eyes. "What the hell was that kick about?"
"To stop you from letting the cat out of the bag," Tom calmly replied.
"The cat? What the hell are you talking about?
Tom explained that the moment Neelix had revealed Harry's matchmaking scheme, he had thought of a way to pay back the young ensign. "And if Neelix knew how we felt, he might tell Harry. Get it?"
Silence ensued. B'Elanna gave Tom a thoughtful stare. "Oh, I see. Not only do you want to teach Harry a lesson, you want to surprise him, as well. And exactly what do you have in mind?"
A cold smile formed on Tom's lips. "Something that involves a shower. Are you game?"
B'Elanna responded with her own cold smile.
* * * *
It was a happy Operations Chief who finally left the Bridge at the end of Alpha shift. After spending three days on double shifts to repair some of the ship's systems, Harry felt more than happy to return to his regular schedule. He glanced forward and spotted Pablo Baytart at the Helm. Usually, Harry and Tom would usually accompany each other off the Bridge, but the latter had spent today's shift giving courses on new flight maneuvers to the other pilots in the Conn Division.
Harry entered the turbolift and ordered the computer to send it to Deck Six. Minutes later, he arrived at his destination and stepped into the corridor. Harry could not wait to reach his quarters and enjoy a nice, long shower. Not a sonic shower, which he usually took in the morning rush; but a long shower with hot water.
Thinking of the shower reminded him of his little matchmaking scheme with Tom and B'Elanna. Much to Harry's disappointment, it had ended in failure. Tom had reproached him over what happened at the beginning of Alpha shift, but Harry feigned surprise and innocence. He wanted to make sure that Tom or B'Elanna did not suspect him of any scheming on his part. Fortunately, both had believed the whole thing had been an accident and nothing more. He considered the pair to be his closest friends, and because of this, he was very familiar with their natures. Both tend to be volatile and vindictive, when crossed.
Right now, all seemed right with the world. Tom and B'Elanna had no idea that he had deliberately set them up. The ship's systems were now fully operational. And that meant he no longer had to work double shifts. Feeling very satisfied, Harry finally reached his quarters.
Once inside, he removed his clothes and headed for the shower. "Computer," he ordered, "initiate the water shower." The computer complied and water immediately poured out of the shower head. Harry closed his eyes to enjoy the sensation of all that wetness sluicing down his body. Then something happened. The water no longer felt refreshing. Instead, it felt . . . thicker. Gritty. Harry opened his eyes and glanced at his arms. They were green. His arms were green! In fact, his entire body . . . Harry quickly examined his chest, legs and feet. All green!
The young ensign let out a bloodcurling scream and fled the shower. In his panic to reach Sick Bay, Harry raced out of his quarters without the benefit of a towel.
* * * *
Just minutes before Harry's flight from his shower, his two best friends hovered in an alcove several feet away from his quarters. Close together. Too close, as far as B'Elanna was concerned.
"Listen Tom, could you please not stand so close to me?" she groused in a low voice. "There's barely any room, here."
Tom heaved an exasperated sigh. "I'm sorry for the lack of space, but we wouldn't be suffering from all this crowding if you hadn't insisted upon hiding here."
"Well, we just can't hover in the corridor outside Starfleet's quarters. People would notice."
Something like a scoff left Tom's mouth. "If you say so. Although something tells me that more than caution is involved."
B'Elanna frowned. She did not care for the insinuation in the pilot's voice. And the laughter. "What are you talking about?" she demanded.
"I'm talking about your hand that's on my butt."
Her cheeks now flaming hot, B'Elanna quickly snatched her hand away. She had no idea that she had been . . .
". . . week's Security report should be ready for your perusal by the end of the day," a familiar voice echoed. B'Elanna immediately recognized Lieutenant Tuvok, the ship's Security Chief.
Seconds later, the Vulcan emerged from around the corner, along with Captain Janeway. Both B'Elanna and Tom pressed further into the alcove. The auburn-haired captain replied, "It looks as if you'll be the first. Chakotay is still waiting for . . ."
The doors to Harry's quarters slid open. A naked figure with green skin burst into the corridor, screaming at the top of his lungs. Harry. "Look at me!" he cried at the two command officers. "Ohmigod! My skin is green! I have to get to Sick Bay!" Then he raced up the corridor before Janeway or Tuvok could speak.
Laughter bubbled within B'Elanna. She had to press her face against Tom's chest, to keep her laughter in check. B'Elanna felt his body shaking with mirth. As for the Captain and Tuvok, both stood in the middle of the corridor and exchanged shocked expressions.
"I believe that was Ensign Kim, who had just . . .," the Vulcan officer began in a reflective tone.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Janeway interrupted. "Yes, I know who that was. I think . . . I think we should keep this little incident out of the official logs. Don't you agree, Tuvok?"
"A very logical decision, Captain." And the pair continued along the corridor, in Harry's wake.
The moment Janeway and Tuvok were out of earshot, B'Elanna and Tom burst into loud laughter. "Oh God!" the former declared breathlessly. "Did you see that? Poor Starfleet! Now that was a moment I'll never forget."
"This ought to teach him not to play matchmaker," Tom said between fits of laughter.
"Oh! Maybe we came down on him a little too hard. You think?" Despite her words, B'Elanna did not feel a smidgen of remorse.
And neither did Tom, it seemed. He took a deep breath. "Are you kidding? After that stunt he had pulled on us? I don't think so. However," he linked his arm with one of B'Elanna's and gently steered her along the corridor, "we better get along. Harry may have realized, by now, that he's in his birthday suit."
The pair walked along the corridor - in the opposite direction of Harry, the Captain and Tuvok. B'Elanna noticed Tom examining his uniform. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"It's nothing. Just a hole in my uniform." Tom paused and smiled at B'Elanna. "Thanks to you."
The Chief Engineer's face grew hot with embarrassment. "Sorry about that. It was the only way I could keep from laughing aloud."
"Uh-huh. If I didn't know any better, I would swear that you got a big thrill out of it. Are you in the habit of biting someone else's chest . . . Chief?"
B'Elanna glared at her companion. Pig! She snatched her arm away from Tom's. "I told you that I . . ." Tom's blue eyes twinkled with mischief. B'Elanna now felt even more embarrassed. Until she reminded herself that two could play games. She gave him a sweet smile. "Maybe I did get a thrill out of it." Tom's eyes now grew wide. "Of course, I got an even bigger thrill from Harry."
Blue eyes narrowed. "Harry?"
"You know, Harry. Fresh-faced kid just over two years out of the Academy, Harry Kim. I must admit that I never realized he was so well-endo . . ."
Tom immediately interrupted. "I think I got the picture!" His face turned red, much to B'Elanna's delight. "Of all the people! Harry Kim!"
B'Elanna allowed herself a small smile. There was nothing, she decided, more enjoyable than deflating a man's ego. Especially one that belonged to Tom Paris. To be honest, on the matter of endowments, Tom had nothing to worry about. Not from Harry or any other man she could think of. But she would be damned if she ever told him.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
On March 11, 2009; I had posted a list of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. Below is a list of my favorite movies (theatrical or television) based upon any of the author's novels:
Top Ten Favorite AGATHA CHRISTIE Movies
1. "Death on the Nile" (1978) - Directed by John Guillerman, this adaptation of Christie's novel about the murder of an Anglo-American heiress featured Peter Ustinov's debut as Hercule Poirot. To this day, it is still my favorite Christie movie. Also starred Mia Farrow, David Niven, Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Simon MacCorkindale, Angela Landsbury and Bette Davis.
2. "Evil Under the Sun" (1981) - For me, this adaptation of Christie's story about the murder of a vapid former stage actress at a holiday resort is a slight improvement over the novel. The setting is changed from an English beach resort to a Continental resort that features more theatrical types. Peter Ustinov returned as Poirot and his co-stars included Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg, Denis Quilley, Nicholas Clay, Roddy McDowall, Jane Birkin and James Mason.
3. "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974) - This Academy Award nominated version of Christie's classic novel would have been at the top of my list, if it were not for the over-the-top production style that did not match the movie's very somber plotline. Albert Finney was fine as Poirot, but he also confirmed my belief that Englishmen SHOULD NOT portray Continental Europeans. At least Ustinov's ancestry was more European. And David Suchet had Russian and Jewish ancestry.
4. "The ABC Murders" (1992) - David Suchet portrays an excellent Poirot in this first-class television production of one of my favorite Christie novels about the hunt for a serial killer.
5. "And Then There Were None" (1945) - This is the only first-class version of Christie's famous novel about a weekend party that turns lethal for the inhabitants of an isolated island off the coast of Devon. Louis Heyward, June Duprez, Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston starred. Rene Clair directed.
6. "A Caribbean Mystery" (1983) - I really enjoyed this modern-day version of one of my favorite Christie novels about a series of murders at a Caribbean resort. Helen Hayes did a fine job as the very intelligent and observant Jane Marple.
7. "After the Funeral" (2006) - I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this adaptation of Christie's novel about the murderous aftermath following the death of the patriarch of a wealthy family. The revelation of the murderer will surprise you. David Suchet is excellent, as always, as Poirot. Geraldine James, Michael Fassbender and Lucy Punch co-star.
8. "The Mirror Crack'd" (1980) - Guy Hamilton directed his first adaptation of a Christie novel about the numerous attempts to murder a Hollywood star, who is filming a movie in England. Angela Landsbury portrays the indomitable Jane Marple, forshadowing her twelve years as mystery writer/sleuth Jessica Fletcher on television. Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Geraldine Chaplin and Tony Curtis also make this movie memorable. And watch for future star Pierce Brosnan in a small role.
9. "Appointment With Death" (1988) - My only complaint about this version about the murder of the matriarch of an American family visiting Palestine is that its production values seemed slightly cheaper than previous big screen versions of Christie's novels. Peter Ustinov is fine as Poirot, but Piper Laurie is magnificent as the murder victim, the vicious Mrs. Boynton.
10. "Cards on the Table" (2005/2006) - David Suchet returned in this television adaptation of Christie's novel about the murder of Mr. Shaitana, a wealthy art collector, at a dinner party. This story also featured mystery writer Adrianne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker). The changes in the plot may have harmed the story a bit, but Alexander Siddig is great as the mysterious Mr. Shaitana.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Eleven months ago, I had posted this PHOTO GALLERY featuring images from Bryan Singer's 2008 political thriller, "VALKYRIE". Below is my review of the film:
”VALKYRIE” (2008) Review
When I had first learned that ”VALKYRIE”, a movie about the final assassination attempt upon Adolf Hitler, would be released on Christmas Day 2008 . . . I was surprised. Honestly. And my response had nothing to do any opinion I have about the film. Let me explain.
One has to understand that ”VALKYRIE” had gone through a great deal of turmoil to get made. Whatever problems the movie’s production encountered, its biggest obstacle turned out to be the casting of Tom Cruise in the lead role of Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the architect of this last assassination attempt that occurred on July 20, 1944. Many German politicians had protested against the idea of a practicing Scientologist like Cruise portraying someone who has become regarded as a hero for his opposition against Hitler. Even members of von Stauffenberg’s family had joined in the protest. The filmmakers of ”VALKYRIE” initially had difficulty setting up filming locations in Germany due to the controversy, but they were later given leeway to film in locations pertaining to the film's story, such as Berlin's historic Bendlerblock. Also, Cruise’s popularity with the American public has sunk over the past three years. Considering that many of the negative comments about the actor seemed to have stemmed from his Scientology beliefs, it seemed to me that religious bigotry had played a large role in the hard feelings against him.
Early in 2008, MGM/United Artists released trailers of ”VALKYRIE”. Personally, I found them impressive and I was happy to learn that the movie was scheduled for a June 2008 theater release. But due to the poor response to the trailers and MGM/United Artists's initial marketing campaign, the studio executives moved the movie’s release date from June 2008 to February 2009. I was surprised to learn that ”VALKYRIE” had another black mark against it – namely director Bryan Singer. He had built a reputation as a first-rate director with movies such as ”THE USUAL SUSPECTS” and the first two films from the ”X-MEN” franchise. Unfortunately, his reputation hit a snag when the release of the over-budgeted ”SUPERMAN RETURNS” failed to impress the critics and make a profit for the studio that released it. I figured that MGM/United Artists was simply going to allow ”VALKYRIE” languish in the theaters during the off season following Christmas, never to be heard of until its DVD release. Thankfully, MGM/United Artists proved me wrong. A few months ago, the studio executives announced that ”VALKYRIE” would be released on Christmas Day for the 2008 holiday season. When the film was finally released, I rushed out to see it as soon as I possibly could.
As I had earlier stated, ”VALKYRIE” told the story of the July 20, 1944 plot by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Ever since the years before World War II, there had been a growing number of dissidents that viewed Hitler as the wrong man to be Germany’s leader. This opposition; which included German officers like Ludwig Beck, Henning von Tresckow and Claus von Stauffenberg; led to a series of assassination attempts on Hitler – including one plotted by von Tresckow in March 1943. By September 1943, one of the dissidents, General Friedrich Olbricht, recruited Lieutenant-Colonel von Stauffenberg into their ranks. It was his plan – code name ”Valkyrie” - that led to the last attempt to kill Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. Directed by Bryan Singer, the movie stars Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg. The cast also includes Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Parker, Eddie Izzard, Christian Berkel, David Schofield, Kevin McNally, Thomas Kretschmann and Tom Wilkinson. Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander wrote the screenplay.
I might as well get around to it and reveal my opinion of ”VALKYRIE”. In a nutshell . . . I loved it. Which surprised me a great deal. I had expected to like ”VALKYRIE”, considering the cast, the director and the subject matter. Or at least find it interesting. I had no idea that I would end up experiencing a gauntlet of emotions while watching it. Mere curiosity was the only emotion I had felt while the movie introduced the main characters and revealed the incidents that led to von Stauffenberg’s decision to join the conspiracy against Hitler. By the time the movie focused upon the assassination attempt and the coup against the S.S., I felt myself growing tense with anxiety and anticipation. By the time the conspirators’ plot began to unravel, the tension I felt had been replaced by dread. And when von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were being captured and executed, I watched the scenes unfold with tears in my eyes. Curious.
The excellent performances by the cast happened to be one of the reasons why ”VALKYRIE” struck such an emotional chord within me. This is one of the reasons why I like Bryan Singer as a director. He knows how to utilize his cast – whether each performer has a major role or not. And Singer made the best of what proved to be a first-rate cast. I could go into details about every actor or actress in the cast, but I must admit that a handful caught my attention. One member of the cast turned out to be Thomas Kretschmann, who portrayed Major Otto Ernst Remer, head of a Reserve Army battalion. The actor’s sardonic portrayal of Remer amused me to no end. Tom Wilkinson gave a top-notch performance as General Friedrich Fromm, head of Germany's Reserve Army in Berlin. Wilkinson did an excellent job of portraying the treacherous general with a slight touch of sympathy. Another actor that caught my attention was Jamie Parker. He portrayed Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, an adjutant to von Stauffenberg who helped the latter carry out the plot. Parker did a great job in portraying von Haeften’s intense loyalty to von Stauffenberg. In fact, he and Cruise managed to create a strong screen chemistry together. Terence Stamp was excellent as the reserved, yet strong-willed Ludwig Beck, a former Army general whose opposition against Hitler began in the late 1930s and served as the conspirators’ figurehead. Bill Nighy portrayed General Friedrich Olbricht, Chief of the Armed Forces Replacement Office (Wehrersatzamt) at the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and the original architect of the plan, Operation Valkyrie. It was Olbricht who had recruited von Stauffenberg into the conspiracy. For the past five to six years, I have always regarded Nighy as some kind of chameleon. And with his performance in this particular movie, he did an excellent job of revealing at both the vacillating and stalwart sides of Olbricht’s nature.
But the true focus of ”VALKYRIE” was Claus von Stauffenberg and it was Tom Cruise’s job to make this man believable to the audience. Some critics have complained that Cruise had failed to capture the essence of von Stauffenberg’s character as an aristocrat. Many of them blamed this on the actor’s American accent. Personally, I find this criticism to be a load of crap. After all, the 1988 version of ”DANGEROUS LIAISONS” featured American actors portraying French aristocrats . . . with American accents. And I do not recall any complaints about their performances. I especially find the criticisms against Cruise ludicrous, considering that most of the cast featured British actors – using accents from all over the British Isles. What was my view of Cruise’s performance as Claus von Stauffenberg? I thought he was excellent. His portrayal of the German Army officer was that of a hero – and a very stalwart one at that. On the other hand, Cruise also did a first-rate job of capturing von Stauffenberg’s arrogance – a trait that was probably a by-product of his aristocratic background. This trait also managed to get the officer into a great deal of trouble even before his participation in the assassination attempt. But . . . most of the critics were too busy being distracted by Cruise’s American accent, while paying scant attention to the British accents of many of the other accents. Go figure.
Anyone familiar with Claus von Stauffenberg or the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Adolf Hitler would have known the outcome of the movie’s story. I certainly did. But despite my knowledge of the outcome, I found myself being caught up in the suspense of the story, thanks to Bryan Singer’s direction and the screenplay written by Christopher MacQuarrie and Nathan Alexander. I had assumed that most of the story would center on the conspirators’ plotting and set up of the assassination attempt. I had no idea there was more to the story surrounding the incident – namely the coup perpetrated by von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators against Hitler and the S.S. Nor did I have any idea that knowing how the story would end, I would find myself rooting . . . hoping that the conspirators would succeed in their plans. Or escape Hitler’s wrath. The only hiccup in the movie – at least for me – was the introduction of Major General Erich Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard) into the story. I found it confusing. Was he already part of the conspiracy when von Stauffenberg first approached? Or what? For me, it was only misstep in an otherwise superb script.
With a first-rate cast led by Tom Cruise, along with Christopher MacQuarrie and Nathan Alexander’s script, Bryan Singer directed an exciting and suspenseful tale that managed to tap into a great deal of emotions for me. From my personal view, I believe that ”VALKYRIE” was one of the better movies of 2008.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new Roland Emmerich disaster film, "2012". The movie stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Thomas McCarthy and Danny Glover:
"2012" PHOTO GALLERY
Monday, November 23, 2009
"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION"
OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN
The evacuation of the villa near Aldera Palace continued in an orderly fashion. With the Imperial presence focused upon the palace, Padme and her companions managed to clear the villa of her belongings with great speed. They carted the items to Captain Antilles' shuttle, parked underneath a nearby grove of trees.
The twins' nursemaid, Madga finally walked out of the villa for the last time, carrying Luke and her belongings. Padme, who held a sleeping Leia in a baby sling, spotted her mini holoprojector and some data pads on a table. She fetched the objects and thrust them into her traveling bag. After checking on the sleeping Leia, Padme examined her bedroom of eight months for the last time and walked out. Just as she reached the villa's front door, she saw Madga scuttle hurriedly toward the grove's edge. Padme frowned. Why would Madga rush . . .?
Captain Antilles' voice crackled on her comlink. She removed it from her cloak's left pocket and answered. "Captain, is there a problem?"
"Clone troopers coming from the palace," Antilles answered. "Just three kilometers from the east."
Padme inhaled sharply. She glanced to her right and spotted three clone troopers marching toward the villa. Making a run for the grove and Captain Antilles' shuttle seemed out of the question. Then she heard the clone troopers' voices. Hoping and praying that Leia would not wake up, Padme quickly rushed into one of the villa's small rooms.
Minutes passed. Then she heard the troopers enter the villa. She held her breath, as they conducted their search by opening and closing doors. As footsteps approached the small room Padme had chosen as her sanctuary, she desperately searched for a closet where she could hide. She glanced around. Apparently the room lacked a closet. But it did lead to the villa's second-floor veranda.
Footsteps grew closer to the room. Clutching the baby sling that held Leia and her traveling bag, Padme quickly dashed out onto the veranda. And just in time. She overheard voices inside the room.
"No one's here," a trooper announced.
Another one asked, "What about a holoprojector?"
"No sign of one." The first trooper paused. "I'll check the veranda."
Panic filled Padme. Now, she really had no place to hide. She quickly rushed along the veranda, searching for an opened door. Fortunately, one appeared just short of the veranda's south end. Padme ducked inside, just as she heard voices from the outside. The former senator allowed herself a quick sigh of relief. Then she glanced at her daughter. Leia's eyes fluttered briefly before they snapped wide open. Padme hoped and prayed to nearly every deity she could think of - along with the Force - that Leia would not cry for food. Several seconds passed, as her infant daughter blinked several times and yawned. Then to Padme's relief, Leia closed her eyes and fell back asleep. Again, Padme sighed.
Then an idea came to her. With the clone troopers searching the veranda, she saw an opportunity to escape from the villa. Padme rushed out of what used to be her dining room. Without a moment's hesitation, Padme continued to rush toward the villa's front door. She spotted Antilles, Madga and Threepio silently urging her to head toward the grove. Which she did as fast as her feet would allow. Once she reached the safety of her companions, Captain Antilles ordered, "Into the shuttle, everyone! We're leaving now."
"No!" Padme insisted. "Not yet." Everyone stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. "The Imperial troopers are still searching the villa. If we leave now, we'll be spotted." And so . . . they waited.
Another fifteen minutes passed before the three clone troopers emerged from the villa. Padme overheard one of them said, "We might as well return. There's no inside. Or a holoprojector." He and the other two troopers proceeded along the path that led back to the palace.
Once the clone troopers disappeared, Padme, Captain Antilles and Madga all heaved sighs of relief. Threepio exclaimed, "Thank the Maker! They're gone. When can we leave, Miss Padme?"
"I think it would be best to leave now," Padme replied. "While we can."
Magda frowned. "But why should we leave, Milady? The troopers are gone. They won't be coming back."
A sigh left Padme's mouth. "I'm afraid that I've outstayed my welcome, Magda," she gently replied. "It's time for me to leave Alderaan." She hesitated, dreading the response to her next words. "I'll understand if you want to remain. After all, Alderaan is your home."
To Padme's surprise, the nursemaid said, "No, I'll leave. I've become . . ." A sweet smile formed on her lips. ". . . very fond of you and the children. And Alderaan has nothing for me. Not anymore."
The Nabooan woman planted a light kiss on the nursemaid's cheek. "Thank you, Magda."
"I believe that we should leave now, Milady." Captain Antilles led Padme and the others to the shuttle. Once everyone was seated inside, it rose several feet from the ground and sped away. As it zoomed above the picturesque landscape, Padme realized with a pang that she would miss the months spent here on Alderaan.
Solipo Yeb packed the last of his belongings into his traveling valise. Then he glanced over his shoulder and saw his sister staring out of the window. "I'm ready, Thalia. Now, all we have to do is wait to hear from Captain Horus." When his sister failed to answer, he joined her at the window. "Thalia?"
"I think we're in trouble, Solipo," Thalia declared ominously. "Look."
Solipo glanced out of the window. The usual crowd of sentient beings filled the street below. But Solipo noticed something more disturbing - four human males heading toward the hotel. Two of them wore the uniforms of Corellia's security force, the third wore civilian clothes and the last man turned out to be an Imperial officer. "Oh no!" he murmured. "I think we've been sold out."
Thalia frowned. "By someone here at the hotel?"
Another candidate loomed in Solipo's mind. "How about our intrepid Captain Horus? After all, he had recognized me."
"I doubt it very much," Thalia replied. She turned away from the window. "Let's get out of here. Now."
Grabbing his valise, Solipo retorted, "And go where? We can't leave Corellia without Horus' help. And our only alternative is to take a shuttle to another city."
Brother and sister slipped out of their room. After making sure that the corridor was empty, they made their way to the nearest staircase and rushed downstairs. The pair spotted one of the hotel's employees near the back door. Once he left, the Andalians slipped outside and quickly rushed down an alley.
"I can't believe that we're doing this," Solipo bemoaned. "We didn't even pay our bill. And as for Captain Horus . . ."
An annoyed sigh from his flamboyant sister, interrupted him. "For goodness sake, Solipo! He didn't inform on us! Not Captain Horus."
"And how do you know?"
The pair merged into a busy street. "Because Captain Horus has a very good reason to avoid the Imperials. Trust me." Brother and sister continued on toward Coronet's spaceport.
ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN
"Nothing or no one was found at the villa, my Lord," the clone trooper reported to Darth Rasche. "It is empty."
Breha heaved an inward sigh of relief. Padme and the children had evaded detection.
Darth Rasche nodded. "Wait for me near the shuttle." He turned to the queen. "Well, Your Majesty, it seems you had spoken the truth."
"Of course I had!" Breha retorted. "We do not understand why you would doubt our word." She paused and added with less asperity, "By the way, when are you leaving?"
"You wish to be rid of our presence so soon?" Breha shot a dark look at the Sith Lord. Who quickly sobered. "If you must know, we'll be leaving as soon as our search is completed."
A frowning Breha demanded, "What do you mean? You've searched the entire palace and the villa near the lagoon."
"But not Aldera or Crevasse City," Rasche added. "The signal from Corellia had been received in this sector of the planet. We intend to learn who had received it."
Breha heaved a frustrated sigh. So much for getting rid of the Imperials. "Has it ever occurred to you, my Lord, that the Corellian signal had been sent by someone other than Solipo Yeb?"
A long silence followed. Confusion whirled in the Sith Lord's eyes momentarily, before Rasche glared at the monarch. Then he turned away. Four other clone troopers appeared in the foyer. "No sign of the holoprojector, my Lord," one trooper announced.
Rasche's jaw twitched, as he barked, "Fine! Return to the shuttle. I'll . . ." The Sith Lord's face turned pale, as he halted in mid-sentence. His dark eyes glazed over for a second, before a frown appeared on his face. He faced Breha. "Excuse me, Your Majesty. I have an emergency message to send." Breha opened her mouth to respond, but Darth Rasche strode away before she could.
Darth Rasche strode out of the royal palace and halted before the wide staircase. He made his way toward the Imperial shuttle and entered. "Leave," he barked at the pilot, inside the cockpit.
Once alone, the young Sith Lord sent a signal to Coruscant. Two minutes passed before the shuttle's holoprojector lit up with his mentor's image. "Lord Rasche," Darth Sidious pronounced. "You have news for me?"
"No one within the royal palace had received the message from Corellia, Master," Rasche reported. "Including Senator Organa. The holoprojector that had received the signal had not been inside Aldera Palace." Rasche hesitated. "However, I have more important news. I have sensed a presence in the Force."
Lord Sidious replied, "We both have, my young apprentice. On Kashyyyk."
"Jedi on the Wookie homeworld?" Rasche paused. "It is possible that Skywalker might be . . .?"
The Sith Master continued, "Whether Skywalker is on Kashyyk or not, there is a Jedi presence on that planet. You will rendezvous with Grand Moff Tarkin in the Kashyyyk System and stamp out any Wookie resistance and hunt down the Jedi. As for the signal from Corellia, ignore it. This is a more urgent matter."
"Hunt down the Jedi? Including Skywalker, if he is there?"
Lord Sidious' already hideous face formed a grim mask. "Yes, Lord Rasche. Including him. Hunt them all down and kill them. Kill them all."
"Good afternoon," Coronet's port master greeted Anakin. "Here to schedule a departure?"
Anakin smiled, at the other man. "Yes. I'm Captain Horus of the Javian Hawk." He spotted the departure schedule on the port master's desk. Using the Force, he knocked an object off the desk and the port master bent down to retrieve the object. At that moment, Anakin used the opportunity to check the schedule. He saw that two other Corellian freighters were scheduled to depart within the next hour. Perfect.
The port master sat up and shot an embarrassed smile at the former Jedi Knight. "Sorry about that. Um . . . about your departure?"
"I hope to leave between now and an hour from now," Anakin replied. "If it's possible."
The other man glanced at the departure schedule. "Yes, well there is no problem there." He entered the information in the data pad that contained the schedule. "The Javian Hawk. Okay. I've managed to fit you in between the Eureka and the Tawhid. Will that do?
Anakin nodded politely. "Yes, it will. Thank you."
Smiling, the port master replied, "Glad to be of service. Have a safe journey, Captain."
After leaving the port master's office, Anakin headed back to the Javian Hawk's hangar. He hoped that his Andalian passengers were ready to depart. The pilot contacted the pair through his comlink and ordered them to meet him inside the Hawk's hangar within twenty minutes. "We should be there within ten minutes, Captain," Thalia Yeb's voice replied. "We had to leave a lot sooner than we had planned."
In other words, brother and sister had encountered trouble. Great.
Captain Hardy and his three companions entered the Selonia Hotel's modest lobby. They approached a neatly dressed desk clerk. "May I help you?" she asked in a prim voice.
The senior CorSec officer, a dark-haired human named Gil Bastra switched on a small holoprojector. It contained images of the Andalian senator and his sister. "Are these two guests at this hotel?" he asked.
The desk clerk shrugged her thin shoulders. "The man does not look familiar," she began.
"How can he not look familiar?" Captain Hardy demanded. "He's Senator Solipo Yeb of Andalia. He's wanted for treason by the Empire. And his image has been posted on the Imperial Holovision for the past several days."
"Imperial Holovision?" The clerk frowned. "I've never . . ."
Hardy sighed. "It used to be the old HoloNet News Service. It's now called Imperial Holovision. This man's face has been plastered all over the news recently. And you don't recognize him?"
A supercilious smile touched the clerk's lips. "I do not pay attention to politics."
"Really?" A pale, dark-haired man with a thin, aristocratic face glared at the clerk. Kirtan Loor happened to be the Imperial liaison to CorSec and an agent for Imperial Intelligence. "I suppose you know nothing about the recent death of one of your senators, Garm Bel Iblis, at the hands of Separatist fugitives?"
The desk clerk stiffened slightly. "He was Corellian. Of course, I knew about him."
"What about the woman?" Hardy asked, feeling slightly impatient. "Have you seen her?"
"Yes," the clerk replied. "Her name is Thalia Kor and she's a guest in Room Eleven. Second Floor."
Bastra frowned. "She's alone?"
The clerk checked the hotel's records. "Not anymore. Her husband became an additional guest, three days ago. I was not on duty when he had arrived."
Hardy felt a surge of triumph. The Emperor would be quite pleased upon learning of the capture of his new prize. "Take us to Room Eleven," he barked at the clerk. He and his three companions followed the desk clerk toward the wide staircase.
The moment the Andalians arrived at the hangar, Anakin rounded on them. "Why did you leave before I could signal you?"
Solipo Yeb regarded the former Jedi with suspicious eyes. "Why did you want us to wait for your signal? So that the Imperials would take us by surprise at the hotel?"
Anakin frowned at the senator. "What?"
"The Imperials are here," Thalia Yeb explained. "My brother and I had spotted an Imperial officer, along with two CorSec officers, approaching the hotel. And we've spotted Imperial clone troopers on the streets. We need to get out of here, fast."
But Solipo Yeb refused to budge. "Wait a minute! Four hours after we met Captain Horus, we nearly encounter the Imperials. I want to know how . . ."
"Are you suggesting that I had turned you in to the Empire?" Anakin demanded, glaring at the Andalian male.
Miss Yeb sarcastically retorted, "My brother has no idea of what he is talking about, Captain. Meanwhile, may we please leave? Now?"
Senator Yeb protested, "But Thalia . . ." His sister marched toward the Javian Hawk's ramp. He glanced uneasily at Anakin. "Never mind."
Anakin made final checks on the Javian Hawk's systems. He noticed that his hypodrive system needed repairs and reminded himself to see to it when they arrive on Averam. Then he boarded the starship and made his way to the cockpit. The Andalians stood behind him. "I suggest that you two strap yourselves in for the takeoff."
"Why aren't we leaving now?" Senator Yeb demanded.
Miss Yeb pleaded with her brother. "Solipo, please!"
Anakin retorted, "We're not scheduled to depart until another ten minutes, Senator. This is not Tatooine, where I can simply take off anytime I want. Despite Corellia's questionable reputation, the spaceport is operated in a tight and orderly manner. And I refuse to take off at a moment's whim and attract unwanted attention. Now please . . . take your seat and strap in!"
Thankfully, the senator's sister managed to convince the annoying man to sit down in one of the passengers' seats. Anakin turned on the ship's engines after receiving a signal to depart. He guided the Hawk toward one of the landing pads. Within three minutes, the freighter was airborne and zooming away from Corellia's atmosphere.
END OF CHAPTER FIVE
Saturday, November 21, 2009
”There's a battle outside; And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.” - “The Times They Are A-Changin”
(recorded by Bob Dylan on October 24, 1963)
”MAD MEN”: “The Times They Are A-Changin'”
Not long after I had watched the latest episode of ”MAD MEN” called (3.12) “The Grown Ups”, I walked into a pizza eatery and heard a song being played on the jukebox. To my surprise, it was an old Bob Dylan song called ”The Times They Are A-Changin’”. I could not help but feel that it could have been an appropriate song for this latest episode.
Although series creator Matthew Weiner had claimed that he wanted to avoid airing an episode about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963; I never saw how he could avoid the topic in the first place. Not only was the Kennedy assassination one of the major events of the 1960s, but one in this country’s history. And one of the series’ major themes is supposed to be the changing social mores of 1960s America.
The interesting thing about ”The Grown Ups” - at least for me – was how certain characters reacted to the assassination. Someone on one of the ”MAD MEN” websites had brought up a comment that the series lead character, Don Draper aka Dick Whitman, had made about a funeral in which he had participated in the Season One episode, (1.10) “The Long Weekend”:
”I remember the first time I was a pallbearer. I’d seen dead bodies before. I must have been fifteen. My aunt. I remember thinking, ‘They’re letting me carry the box, they’re letting me be this close to it, they’re not hiding anything from me now.’ And then I looked over and I saw all the old people waiting together by the grave and I remember thinking I, I just moved up a notch.”
Judging from the above comments, Don seemed to view his participation in this funeral as a sign that the adults in his life considered him mature enough to accept death and the changes it brings in the lives of many. His comments also made me wonder how the characters and the title of last Sunday’s episode. Who exactly were ”the grownups”? Were they characters like Don, Roger Sterling, Mona Sterling, Peggy Olson and Joan Harris; who seemed the least shaken by Kennedy’s assassination? Or were they characters like Pete and Trudy Campbell, Betty Draper, Jane Sterling and Bert Cooper, who not only seemed profoundly shaken by Kennedy’s death, but aware that the event might be a sign of the social upheavals to come?
JFK's assassination seemed to have a very interesting impact upon many of the series’ characters. For Pete Campbell, the assassination encouraged both him and Trudy to realize that he was wasting his time at Sterling Cooper. Earlier in the episode, Lane Pryce had informed him that Ken Cosgrove had won the battle for the position of Sterling Cooper’s Head of Accounts. Although he managed to keep his disappointment in check in front of the Englishman, Pete allowed his feelings to finally pour out in front of Trudy. When he informed that he plans to take up Duck Phillips’ offer for a position at Grey’s, Trudy informed him to hold back on that decision and remain at Sterling Cooper. Then came the assassination. Both of the Campbells were not only shocked by the event, Pete saw it as a sign that society was about to change. In his odd way, Pete has had a talent for realizing that the world is changing. He was the one who saw Kennedy as a potential head of state. And he was the one who was willing to view African-Americans as consumers to be targeted – a concept that that the old-fashioned Sterling Cooper executives had frowned upon. When he and Trudy learned that the Sterlings planned to go ahead with Margaret Sterling’s wedding on the following day, the couple found the whole thing distasteful and decided not to attend the wedding. More importantly, Trudy encouraged Pete to go ahead and consider leaving the firm. Perhaps they had both finally realize that Pete could no longer pretend that nothing has changed.
I believe that other ”MAD MEN” characters were aware of the possible impact of John Kennedy’s assassination. But whereas some wanted to pretend that nothing will really change, others seemed certain that changes are in the air. During Margaret Sterling wedding reception, her stepmother Jane Sterling and Bert Cooper seemed pivoted to the hotel kitchen’s television set during the media’s coverage of the assassination and its immediate aftermath. Cooper seemed to have become increasingly aware of the changes that were affecting the country. I believe it had began with the sale of Sterling Cooper to the Putnam Powell and Lowe, a British firm in the Season Two finale, (2.13) “Mediations on an Emergency”. It continued with him facing the death of a former colleague and Sterling Cooper’s 40th anniversary in (3.10) “The Color Blue”. While watching him remain glued to the television set during the wedding reception, I wonder if the assassination might prove to be the last straw for Bert Cooper. And how will he react in the months and years to come? Will he wither away, longing for the days when he was younger and social values were different? Or being the pragmatic man he has shown to be in the past, will he learn to go with the flow?
Many fans have commented that Jane Sterling, nee Siegal, is too young for Roger Sterling. Perhaps. However, I find this sentiment rather interesting, considering that many viewers have been fans of the Roger Sterling/Joan Holloway affair . . . and Joan is at least two decades younger than Roger. But Jane was barely 20 years old when she first met Roger in (2.05) “The New Girl” and 21 years old, this season. As she had pointed out, she was not old enough to vote for Kennedy back in 1960. So far, she has been portrayed as a young and immature trophy wife for Roger. And he seemed to treat her more as a child than his spouse, as his reaction to her attempt to befriend Margaret proved. But like Cooper, Jane’s attention became glued to the hotel kitchen’s television. Many fans accused her of using the assassination news to ignore Margaret’s reception. I disagree. I believe that Jane was not watching the news just to ignore the wedding celebrations. The assassination had made an impact upon her, just as it has obviously made an impact upon Bert Cooper. Once more, Roger treated her as a child and tried to pull her away and shield her from the media coverage . . . just as Don tried to do the same to Betty, Sally and Bobby. Jane refused to allow Roger to pull her away. The assassination bothered her and she was being honest about it. I am not saying that Jane is a fully mature character. After all, she is only 21 years old. But considering her reaction to Roger trying to pull her away from one of the hotel's TVs, I suspect that sooner or later, Roger will no longer have a child bride on his hands. And I cannot help but wonder how long Jane will remain with him.
Duck Phillips had an interesting reaction to the assassination. After calling Peggy Olson for an assignation at a hotel room, he heard the news of the events in Dallas on the television. Duck expressed silent shock before ripping the television’s extension cord from the wall. Then Peggy appeared. Many fans saw this as a sign of Duck using Peggy for his own nefarious means. When their affair had first started in (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, fans were claiming that Duck was using Peggy to get even with Don for his termination from Sterling Cooper last season. Considering that Peggy has not left Sterling Cooper, fans are now claiming that Duck is using Peggy as some kind of addiction. Frankly, I no longer care. I am getting tired of these bigoted remarks about Duck. I realize that he is not perfect. But he is no more or less flawed than the other characters. I also get the feeling that fans have not forgiven him for abandoning his dog in (2.06) “Maidenform” and continue to view him as some kind of slimy villain. As for his actions regarding the hotel room’s television, I believe that the assassination had upset him so much that he tried to turn away from it and continue his assignation with Peggy. But even after they had sex, he realized that he could not run away from it. Duck told Peggy what he had done and turned the TV back on. The interesting result to all of this is that he - quite rightly - thought about his kids and wanted to check on them. On the other hand, I found Peggy's reaction to the assassination rather interesting. She seemed a little put out by her family's reaction to the news and went to the office to hide from the media coverage by working. This reminded me of her reaction to Marilyn Monroe's death. I wonder if Peggy is slowly becoming a Don Draper. If not, good. But if she is, I cannot view this as a good thing.
For the Drapers, I think the assassination made Betty realize that the world is changing and that it was useless to pretend otherwise. Don tried to shield his family from the bad news and pretend that everything was going to be okay. Even Joan Harris had pointed this out to Roger Sterling during a telephone conversation that the world will continue, despite traumatic events like the assassination. And in a way, both Don and Joan were right. Life will continue. But the two characters also failed to see the long term affect that the assassination would have on American society. Betty seemed to feel that life as she had known it will change. Which would explain why she had no qualms about Sally and Bobby watching the news about JFK's death. As she had pointed out to Don, what was the purpose of trying to shield them from the news. And I think the assassination made her confront that she no longer has a marriage. Or perhaps she never had one.
I have always suspected that Don and Betty never really loved each other when they first got married. Both had married each the other for superficial reasons. Betty tried to maintain the marriage by pretending to be the perfect housewife and making attempts to emotionally connect with Don. She also fooled herself into believing that a third child might finally improve their marriage. Don simply tried to maintain the status quo as successful professional man and suburban husband/father. Whenever things went wrong with Betty - her discovery of his communications with her psychiatrist, her discovery of his affair with Bobbie Barrett, her kicking him out of the house and finally her discovery of his identity as Dick Whitman - Don tried to be the perfect husband/father and pretend that all is right with the world. I found myself recalling his comment in (2.08) "A Night to Remember", when he told Betty that he doesn't want to lose "this", following her confrontation about Bobbie Barrett. There is a good chance that he might be in love with Suzanne Farrell. But I suspect that he harbor doubts that she could be the perfect social wife that he feels that Betty can be. But the assassination and other events of the year, like her discovery of Don’s true identity may have finally made Betty realize that her marriage is a lie. I suspect that Don's attempts to placate her over the assassination may have been the last straw. Even Sally had failed to buy Don's reassurances that everything is going to be all right, by a strange look she had given him. I feel that Betty is tired of living the lie. I feel that she is tired of being a "housecat". Her dream in (3.05) "The Fog" made me wonder if she would ever start to reject that role. I think her confession to Don that she no longer loved him made me suspect that she has had enough. When will Don realize that he has only loved the idea of Betty and not the woman, herself?
I might as well say it. I believe that ”The Grown Ups”, like (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo” from the previous week, to be one of the best episodes in the past three seasons of ”MAD MEN”. Some seemed to think that showing the assassination on the series was pointless. They feel that Weiner will return both the Draper marriage and everything else to what it used to be. If that was true, what would have been the point of creating a series like ”MAD MEN” in the first place? Or better yet, what if those people proved to be wrong? What if ”The Grown Ups” proved to be the catalyst for more changes, as the series moves deeper into the 1960s?
Friday, November 20, 2009
Below is my review of the new biographical film on Amelia Earhart, the famous aviatrix from the 1930s:
”AMELIA” (2009) Review
To this day, there have been at least three biographical movies about the 1930s aviatrix, Amelia Earhart. And I have not seen the first two films – a 1943 movie that starred Rosalind Russell and a 1976 television movie that starred Susan Clark. I finally got around to seeing the latest biopic film about Earhart called ”AMELIA”. Directed by Mira Nair, the film starred two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank in the title role.
Written by Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan, the screenplay was based upon research from sources like ”East to the Dawn” by Susan Butler and ”The Sound of Wings” by Mary S. Lovell. Instead of covering Earhart’s entire life, the story focused purely on the aviatrix’s career as a pilot from her first flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 (as a passenger) to her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. The movie also focused upon Earhart’s relationships with publishing tycoon and husband George Putnam (Richard Gere) and her lover, aviator Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor); along with her collaboration with navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) during that last flight.
I can honestly say that ”AMELIA” is not one of the greatest Hollywood biographical films I have ever seen. It is not the worst . . . but I have certainly seen better biopics. The problem with ”AMELIA” is that it is simply mediocre. I am aware that the aviatrix had accomplished a great deal during her flying career. The film began with her becoming the first female to fly over the Atlantic as commander of the flight . . . and as a passenger. Embarrassed that her fame had not been earned, Earhart finally became the first female to fly over the Atlantic as a pilot in 1932. And although I felt a little teary-eyed and a sense of satisfaction over her accomplishments, I still found the movie to be a bit mediocre. For me, the movie’s main problem seemed to focus upon its portrayal of the main character – namely Earhart. I might as well be honest. The problem could have been Hilary Swank’s portrayal of the aviatrix. Or the problem simply could have been Bass and Phelan’s portrayal of her. She was not that interesting as a personality. Mind you, Earhart was not portrayed as a saint in the film. It included her alleged affair with Gene Vidal, during her marriage to Putnam, she had an affair with pilot Gene Vidal. Yet, Earhart still managed to come off as a less than interesting personality.
But all was not lost with ”AMELIA”. It included a handful of scenes that I found memorable. These scenes featured Earhart’s clash with Wilmer “Bill” Stultz (Joe Anderson) before the 1928 trans-Atlantic flight, that particular flight, George Putnam’s jealously over Earhart’s relationship with Vidal, her 1932 solo flight across the Atlantic, and her brief disagreement with Fred Noonan during their overnight stay in Lae, Papual New Guinea. The film’s minor centerpiece focused on those last moments of communication between Earhart’s plane and a U.S. Coast Guard picket ship called the U.S.C.G.C. Itasca before she and Noonan disappeared. I found myself especially impressed with Nair’s handling of this last scene, despite the fact that everyone knew its outcome.
Hilary Swank gave a solid and understated performance as Earhart. Considering that the aviatrix’s personality was understated, I doubt that it was much of a stretch for. I am a big fan of Ewan McGregor, but I think he was basically wasted in the role of Gene Vidal. Aside from providing a few romantic moments and expressing concern for Earhart’s plans to circumnavigate the globe, he really did not do much. On the other hand, I did enjoy Christopher Eccleston’s performance as the alcoholic navigator, Fred Noonan. He did not appear in that many scenes, but I really enjoyed the tension between him and Swank as they played out Noonan’s subtle, yet drunken come-on in Lae. In the end, it was Richard Gere who gave the most interesting performance. He gave an exuberant performance as the celebrated publisher/publicist George Putnam. Gere also gave audiences a glimpse into Putnam’s jealousy over Earhart’s relationship with Vidal – a jealousy that led him to propose marriage to the aviatrix in the first place. But in the end, not even Gere’s performance could provide enough energy to rejuvenate this film.
If there is one aspect of ”AMELIA” that I truly enjoy, it was the look of the film. Thanks to Stephanie Carroll’s production designs, Nigel Churcher and Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson’s art direction, Kasia Walicka-Maimone’s costume designs, and Stuart Dryburgh’s photography; the movie managed to capture – somewhat – the sleek Art Deco look of the late 1920s and the 1930s. Mind you, not all of it was historically accurate. However, I have come to the point where I find it useless to complain about historical accuracy in a movie with a historical backdrop. I wish I could say something about Gabriel Yared’s score, but I found nothing memorable about it.
I suspect that ”AMELIA” barely made a budge in the box office return. Not surprising. It is not a memorable film. It would probably turn out to be one of those films I would not mind watching on cable television or renting it from NETFLIX. Like I had stated earlier, it is not a terrible film. But I cannot see this movie earning Academy Award nomination two to three months from now. And I doubt that it will go down in history as a memorable historical drama. If you want my opinion, I would suggest that you either wait until this movie is released on cable . . . or wait until it is released on DVD and rent it.