Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 6


Part 6

Around the same time that Phoebe was experiencing her premonition, DeWolfe Mann sat in front of the computer on his desk. He was busy preparing question that he planned to use for the Bruce McNeill interview.

"Question number four," he muttered to himself. The columnist paused momentarily. "Okay. Question four - who provided the bulk of your training in . . ."

The doorbell interrupted DeWolfe's musings. He heaved an impatient sigh. The last thing he wanted or needed to deal with were visitors. If it was Rudy, he would simply have to be rude and ask his friend to leave. Again, the doorbell rang. "Coming!" DeWolfe cried out in a sharp voice.

The portly man struggled out of his chair - he really needed to lose some weight - and started toward the front door. The doorbell rang for the third time. "Dammit, I'm coming!" DeWolfe growled. He glanced through the peephole and saw two people standing in the hallway - a beautiful dark-haired woman who resembled the typical European model, and an anxious-looking, yet attractive man in his early thirties. "Yes, may I help you?"

"Signor Mann?" The woman spoke in a bell-like tone. Along with an Italian accent. "Signor Mann, my name is . . . Sophia Maganini and this is my assistant, Antony Cicero. I'm the editor of new magazine based in Roma called VITA BUENO. It is a magazine about luxury living that includes travel, houses, and food. May we speak?"

DeWolfe's eyes lit up at the mention of the Italian capital. "Rome? Uh, what exactly does an Italian magazine want with me?"

"If you will please open the door, we will tell you," Ms. Maganini replied. When DeWolfe failed to respond, she added, "Please signor, this is about a job offer from our magazine."

Upon hearing the words, "job offer", DeWolfe overcame his reluctance and opened the door. The columnist greeted the pair with a reserved smile. "Please, take a seat." Ms. Maganini and Mr. Cicero sat down on the sofa. DeWolfe eased into a chair opposite them. "Well now," he began, "what's this about a job offer?"

* * * *

Ten minutes later, everything went to pieces. Or so it seemed to Nick. It had not started that way.

Portia's lie about a job offer had managed to get them inside DeWolfe Mann's apartment. Once inside, the succubus embellished upon her lie - jabbering away about a fictional Rome magazine on high living. All to convince Mann that the so-called "magazine" wanted him as the new food columnist or editor. Her lies had been so effective and detailed that even Nick almost found himself believing her. But when Mann began demanding more details about the job offer, it all went to pieces.

When Mann had asked for specific details about his job duties and salaries, Portia was unable to provide him answers. Suspicion finally gleamed in the columnist's eyes and he demanded that the two visitors leave. Both Portia and Nick refused. Instead, the succubus attempted to seduce him. Use her power of seduction to control him. She failed, much to hers and Nick's surprise.

The columnist stood up and stared at the succubus with disbelief. "What the hell is going on, here?" he angrily demanded. "Who are you people? Get out! Now!"

At that moment, Nick decided to take matters into his own hands. After standing up, he reached inside his jacket pocket for the switchblade he kept handy for self-protection. He removed the knife from his pocket, snapped it open and slashed the columnist's throat in a lightening move.

Blood gushed out from Mann's throat, while his mouth made a gurgling sound. He swayed on his feet for a few seconds, before he finally dropped to the floor. Dead.

"Ohmigod!" The phrase left Nick's mouth the moment Mann hit the floor. "Ohmigod! What have I done?" He stared at the dead body in horror.

The doorbell rang. A voice from the door called out, "Wolfie? Are you home?"


Portia sharply ordered Nick to shut up and get a hold of himself. "What you've done is killed a man. And with great skill, I may add."

"Great skill?" Nick glared at the succubus. "Don't you understand? I've killed a human!"

The doorbell rang again. Followed by knocking on the door. Portia sighed. "Let me see if I understand this. You had summoned me to kill a human male in the slowest way possible and now you're having a fit over slitting another man's throat? Humans! I will never understand you."

"Wolfie!" the voice from behind the door cried. "Are you home?"

Panic engulfed the Streghone. He immediately recognized the owner of the voice. It belonged to Phoebe Halliwell. "We have to get out of here!" he hissed. "Fast!"

Portia frowned. "Why? Are we in a hurry? I can take care of whomever is outside."

Again the doorbell rang. "Hello? Wolfie?"

Nick shot back, "That's Phoebe Halliwell! One of the Charmed Ones!"

"Charmed what?"

Nick grabbed the succubus' hand. "Please! Let's get out of here! Now!" Portia gave a somewhat nonchalant shrug of her shoulders, before she and Nick disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

* * * *

Phoebe pressed her ear against the door. "I don't hear anything," she commented. "At least not now. What's going on in there?" She pressed the doorbell. No one answered. "Okay, that's it. You'll have to orb us inside," she said to her younger sister.

Paige protested. "Wait a minute! What if your friend is in there? What if he's . . .?"

"We're just going to have to take the chance." Phoebe grabbed Paige's hand. "C'mon."

Heaving a sigh, Paige orbed herself and Phoebe out of the hallway and inside the middle of DeWolfe Mann's living room. Phoebe glanced around, until she spotted a body sprawled on the floor behind her and Paige. Judging from the wide eyes, staring lifelessly ahead and the scarlet slash across the neck, there seemed to be no doubt that the columnist was dead. Phoebe knelt beside her former colleague. "Oh no!" she bemoaned. "We're too late!"

Paige responded with a heartfelt, "Ugh!" As Phoebe reached out to touch the body, the younger woman grabbed her arm. "Phoebe! Don't touch him! Don't touch anything! You might leave . . . fingerprints."

"I have to do something! Maybe I can find out who killed him through a premonition."

"But you already had a premonition about this and you didn't see the killer's face." Paige frowned. "Which is strange, when I think about it." She looked at her sister. "Why didn't you see the killer's face?"

Phoebe sighed. "I don't know, Paige. Maybe I had cut off the vision before I got the chance. I think we better call the police."

Doubt clouded Paige's dark eyes. "And tell them what? How we found a dead body inside a locked apartment?"

An impatient Phoebe added, "Then we'll call Darryl."

"Pheebs, he's probably off-duty by now. And so is Olivia. And how do we know they'll be assigned to the case? And I certainly don't see them trying to explain how they knew about your friend's body. The best we can do is . . ." Paige paused. Someone was knocking on the door. "God! Who is that?"

A voice from the other side of the door cried out, "Hello? Is anyone there? Mr. Mann?"

Paige grabbed Phoebe's arm. "Let's get out of here!" The person in the hallway continued to knock. "C'mon Phoebe!"

Phoebe protested, "Wait a minute! We can't leave! My fingerprints! They're on the door, outside. And on the doorbell!"

The knocking continued. "We'll get rid of it, once that person leaves to call the cops! "Let's go!" The two sisters orbed out of the apartment.

* * * *

A cell phone rang, cutting through the chatter inside the Top of the Mark restaurant, at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. Darryl automatically slipped a hand inside his jacket pocket and reached for his own.

"Darryl," his wife warned, "don't answer that call."

Realizing that it had not been his cell phone ringing, Darryl shook his head. "Relax. It's not mine. See?" He pointed at another customer, who seemed to be talking to her cell phone. "Besides, what if it was a call from the babysitter? About the kids?"

Sheila calmly reminded him that their babysitter had the number to 'her' cell phone. She gently took hold of his hand. "Besides, we're supposed to be celebrating your new promotion, tonight. Privately." She smiled.

Darryl returned his wife's smile with his own. "Yeah, you're right. It's a good thing Olivia and Cole had treated me to lunch, today. Or this celebration would not have been so private."

"Where did they take you?" Sheila asked.

"Morgan's," the newly promoted lieutenant replied. "And man, was that some lunch!" Darryl went on to describe the appearance of the new ADA, Paul Margolin, and the ensuing tension between him and Cole. "And if that wasn't bad enough," he continued, "Phoebe showed up with her new boyfriend."

Sheila frowned. "You mean Jason Dean? The new owner of the BAY-MIRROR?"

"Yeah," Darryl said, nodding. "It turns out that he and Olivia used to date a few years ago."

"You've got to be kidding!"

Darryl shook his head. "I wish I were."

Sheila added, "I wish I had been there. I bet Cole forgot all about Olivia and this new ADA, when he saw Phoebe with her new boyfriend."

"Actually, I don't think he was really concerned about Pho . . ." Darryl paused, as his eyes spotted a familiar figure sitting at the bar. "Well, what do you know? There's Cole."

Sheila asked, "Is he with Olivia?" She turned around to glance at the bar.

Shaking his head, Darryl replied, "Doesn't look like it. I think he's . . ." The police office saw a beautiful-looking blonde woman approach the half-demon. "I was about to say that he's alone. But not anymore, it seems."

Husband and wife breathlessly watched Cole, as he responded to the blonde's attention with great interest. "Now, this is interesting," Sheila commented.

"It's nothing," Darryl said, trying to assure himself. "Women come on to Cole all the time. Hell, both Olivia and Phoebe have complained about it."

Sheila murmured, "I know how they feel."

Darryl shot his wife a mock glare. "As I was about to say," he continued, "In the end, both Olivia and Phoebe had nothing to worry about. And I'm certain that Cole isn't interested in this woman."

To Darryl's surprise, Cole paid for his drink and followed the blonde out of the restaurant. "Well now," Sheila said in her usual sardonic tone, "looks like he was interested, after all."

* * * *

"Hmmmm." The moan filled Cole's ears. Seconds passed before he realized that it had came from his mouth. His eyes blinked open. He shot into a sitting position. "Olivia?" he muttered. The maroon-colored sheet that covered his torso, slipped to his waist.

Cole glanced around the bedroom with glazed eyes and realized that he was alone. Much to his relief. That meant Mary or whatever her name was, must have . . . His eyes spotted a pile of clothes on the floor. His clothes and those that belonged to a woman.

"Hey! You're finally awake!" A beautiful, blond woman with gray eyes, came out of the bathroom, wearing a half-slip, pantyhose and nothing else. She greeted Cole with a smile. "Good morning!" Cole stared at her. "It's me, Monica."

Feeling even more dazed, Cole managed to grunt a low-key, "Morning. Uh, I, uh . . ." He shook his head. "Um, how long have you . . . have you been up?"

"Only a few minutes." Ma-Monica's smile became sultry. "I must say - you really know how to exhaust a lady. I didn't think I was going to wake up."

Embarrassment, panic and maybe just a touch of pride, whirled within Cole's brain. "I . . . uh, thanks. Listen, can I make you some breakfast?"

Monica, or whatever her name was, reached down to the floor and picked up a bra. She proceeded to put it on. "Thanks, but no thanks. There's a Starbucks just down the street. I can pick up a roll and coffee on my way to work." She picked up her blouse.

"Oh. Okay." Cole began to climb out of the bed, when he realized that he was completely nude. Great. He tightened the sheet around his waist. Then it hit him. Monica would probably expect him to call her for another date. Something he had no desire to do. He glanced up and noticed that his guest was now fully dressed.

The blonde woman grabbed her purse and coat. "Well, I better get going. It was nice . . ." Another sultry smile slid across her face. ". . . meeting you. Maybe we'll meet again, someday." She turned away.

"Uh, wait a minute!" Cole called after her. Ma-Monica paused. "Your phone number. I don't have it."

Panic filled Monica's blue eyes. "Oh. Um, that's okay. I'll just give you a call. Bye!" She flashed a brief smile and disappeared from the bedroom. And out of Cole's life. He hoped.

Cole heaved a relieved sigh. He wondered how long he would be waiting for Monica's call. Then it struck him. He had never given her his telephone number. Either she had lied about him satisfying her in bed (God forbid!) or she had only been interested in a one-night stand. Cole hoped the latter.

Before he could crawl out of bed, the telephone on the stand, next to the bed, rang. Cole reached for the receiver. "Hello?"

A tearful voice filled his ear. "Cole? Is this you?"

Cole frowned. The voice sounded familiar. "Yeah. Who's this?"

A few more sobs followed before the voice replied, "Deborah Mann. Oh God! It's about my brother, Wolfie."

Now Cole remembered. Deborah Mann. She was a well-known broker in San Francisco's financial circles. And she also happened to be DeWolfe's sister - and Cole's other client from the Mann family. "Deborah, is there something wrong?"

More sobs followed. "Oh God! I've been trying to get in touch with you, since last night." Cole felt a touch of guilt. "My brother . . . Wolfie . . . was found dead, last night. Murdered!"

Cole took a deep breath. Shit! A dead client. He finally collected himself and offered his condolences to the grieving woman. "Deborah, I'm so sorry. I'll be over as soon as possible."


Friday, January 29, 2010

"ROYAL FLASH" (1975) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery of photos and posters from the 1975 adaptation of George MacDonald Fraser's 1970 novel, "ROYAL FLASH". Malcolm McDowell starred as the famous British Army officer/scoundrel, Harry Flashman who becomes engulfed in the Schleswig-Holstein Question in 1848. Oliver Reed, Alan Bates, Britt Ekland, Florinda Bolkan, Lionel Jeffries, Christopher Cazenove and Joss Ackland co-starred:

"ROYAL FLASH" (1975) Photo Gallery

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"The Controversy of Prue Halliwell's Death"


Many fans seemed to be of the opinion that Phoebe was to blame for the death of her oldest sister, Prue, in the Season Three episode, (3.22) "All Hell Breaks Loose". It almost seems as if many wanted to use her as some kind of scapegoat. I am sorry, but I find this idea extremely hard to accept. I wonder if any fan of "CHARMED" has ever stopped to consider that Prue bore most of the responsibility for her own death? I wonder if many fans had forgotten how the whole mess in "All Hell Breaks Loose" had started in the first place?

It had all started because Prue forgot the very lesson that the sisters had learned in the Season One episode, (1.16) "Which Prue Is it, Anyway?" - the best offense is defense. The episode "All Hell Breaks Loose" started with the sisters being attacked by a demonic assassin, Shax, while they were protecting a Dr. Griffiths from him. Although Shax managed to seriously wounded both Prue and Piper, Phoebe used a spell that vanquished Shax . . . temporarily. And Leo healed Prue and Piper in time.

Unfortunately, the sisters were uncertain that Phoebe had vanquished Shax. Even worse, Prue forgot the lesson of "Which Prue Is It, Anyway?" and insisted that she and Piper leave the manor to track down Shax. The sisters could have remained at the manor and prepared themselves for another attack by Shax. Instead, Prue dragged Piper out of the manor and when they encountered Shax again and vanquished him – well, Piper vanquished him with her second power, their actions were videotaped by the media. This turned out to be the very incident that set in motion the events that led to Prue's death - not Phoebe's decision to find and save her half-demonic love, Cole Turner aka Belthazor:

Prue: Maybe the spell needs more than one witch to have it's full impact. Okay, come on.

(Prue gets up and then helps Piper up.)

Piper: Come on? Where?

Prue: To find him so we can finish him off while he's still hurt. (to Phoebe) Look, you just stay here with Griffiths, alright. If Shax comes back, say the spell to fend him off, okay? Ow. Come on.

(Prue and Piper go outside. Leo looks at the Doctor, who's in shock.)


[Cut outside. Prue and Piper are running down the street.]

Piper: Maybe Phoebe hurt him worse than we thought.

Prue: No, he's gotta be around here somewhere, he wouldn't leave without getting what he came for.

Piper: Do you really think he'd attack us in broad day light? Evil is usually more insidious than that.

(They stop.)

Prue: Ah, okay, shh.

Piper: What? (The tornado comes up behind them. They turn around and gasp. The tornado dies down and Shax appears. He throws an energy ball at them, and Prue deflects it back with her power. It hits him but doesn't harm him.) Blow this! (Piper holds out her hands and blows up Shax. He disappears.) Okay, is he dead?

Prue: Well, we didn't really say the spell.

Piper: Well, maybe we won't have to. We don't always. We're lucky nobody saw us.

Prue: Alright, let's just get back to Phoebe. Come on.

(They walk back towards the manor.)


[Cut to down the street. A female reporter and a camera man are watching Prue and Piper. She turns back to the camera.]

Reporter: Back to me, back to me, back to me. (The camera man points his camera at her.) Okay, um, I'm not exactly sure what just happened, but whatever it was, you saw it here... live.

In the following scene, Phoebe announced her intentions to help Cole. Prue and Piper's protests against the idea seemed to be more about her getting emotionally involved with Cole, rather any demands that she hang around in case Shax was not dead. In fact, Piper seemed to believe that she had killed Shax:

Leo: How'd it go?

Piper: We dodged another bullet.

Prue: Yeah, with him maybe.

Leo: What do you mean?

Prue: I don't know, I mean, something still bothers me about the way that we vanquished Shax. Like, I'm not so sure we really did.

Piper: What do you mean? He screamed, he went poof, just like they all do. Third demon in a row, by the way, that I vanquished with my new power, but who's counting?

(Phoebe walks back in.)

Prue: Right, but if that's all that we needed, then why was there a vanquishing spell in the book? I mean, hasn't that always meant that our individual powers weren't enough?

Leo: Except the book was written by witches with less powers than you guys have. They needed the spells.

Phoebe: Plus, I think if he was still alive, he probably would've attacked us again by now.

Prue: Ah, you know, Leo, can you just check to make sure, please? With the Elders?
Leo: No problem.

(Leo orbs out.)

Piper: If you ask me, I think you're being paranoid. We kicked Shax's behind. We bad.

Prue: Yes, you're probably right.

Phoebe: Then I'm hoping you won't need me around here for a while. I wanna try a new potion on Cole. One that'll reverse the spell that turned him bad in the first place.

Piper: Phoebe...

Phoebe: I'm not looking for your approval, Piper, just your support.

Prue: Well, Phoebe, it's sort of hard to give you support when you're just setting yourself up to get hurt again.

Phoebe: Cole is good inside, I know it. And if dark magic did this to him, then how come white magic can't save him? I can't just turn my back, I have to try.

Piper: What do you want us to do?

Phoebe: I want you to use the magic-to-magic spell to send me down there. I reworded it to make it work.

(Phoebe hands Piper a piece of paper.)

Piper: Uh, Phoebe, that's awfully dangerous. If something goes wrong we won't be able to contact each other.

Phoebe: I'll be safe, I'll be with Cole. And he'll bring me back, so don't worry about that.

Prue: You're banking a lot on that little potion of yours, you know.

Phoebe: No, I'm not. I'm banking on Cole.

Yes, it seemed quite obvious that Phoebe was determined to go to the Source’s Realm and find Cole. But regardless of her determination, there was no way she could have went after him, without her sisters’ help in using a "magic-to-magic spell" to teleport her to the Source’s Realm.

In the following scene, Prue still wanted verification that they or Piper had vanquished Shax. The subject of Phoebe was brought up. Piper expressed concerned that Cole might hurt Phoebe. Prue did not share her concerns:

[Scene: Outside the manor. Prue and Piper are on the sidewalk. Prue is crouching down looking at the ground.]

Piper: What did you expect to find?

(Prue stands up.)

Prue: I don't know, something though.

Piper: Well, demons don't usually leave footprints, remember?

Prue: No, but sometimes they leave a residue when they've been vanquished. Something otherwise innocuous. Look, I just don't understand how we could vanquish such a powerful demon without a spell.

Piper: But frankly I'm more worried about Phoebe than Shax. We shouldn't have let her go.

Prue: Phoebe can take care of herself, Dr. Griffiths can't.
(They start walking up the street.) Look, Piper, I've had a bad feeling about this. I've had one all day. If there's one thing I've learned since becoming a witch, is to trust those feelings.

By this time, Piper and Prue had been exposed on television. And their friend in the San Francisco Police Department, Inspector Darryl Morris, had been ordered by his captain to question the sisters about "killing" Shax. Although Prue believed that they had done the right thing by leaving the house to go after Shax, Piper did not:

Piper: Isn't that illegal? Can't you do something about that?

Darryl: Hey, killing somebody on live TV is pretty illegal too, you know.

Prue: Okay, it wasn't somebody, Darryl, it was a demon. And we're pretty sure we didn't kill him anyway.

Darryl: Do you wanna try telling them that?

Prue: Ugh...

Darryl: Look, I've called for backup, but that's not gonna help for long. This thing's gonna get ugly fast.

Piper: We shouldn't have followed Shax into the street.

Prue: We didn't have a choice, Piper.

Piper: Didn't we?

Prue: Sure, we could've let him kill our innocent. That would've been better, you think? Alright, you know what? Let's not let this thing get between us, okay? We have enough problems as it is, please.

Following this scene, Prue and Piper went to Dr. Griffiths at the hospital to make certain that Shax was not after the man, in case they had not vanquished him. Sure enough, Shax appeared outside of the hospital. And Prue and Piper "vanquished" him . . . in front of television cameras again. They were informed by Leo that the Elders wanted them to contact the demon Tempus to set back time. Prue ordered Leo to contact Cole, so that he could make a deal with the Source and Tempus. And then the following happened:

Piper: I don't know why we're bothering to do this.

Prue: In case time doesn't reset itself.

(Prue puts a chair against the door.)

Piper: If time doesn't reset itself, this table against that door is not gonna help much.

Prue: Yeah, well, then we better start thinking about what would, okay? Because if Leo doesn't succeed, we're gonna have to figure out what we're gonna do.

(They walk into the living room.)

Piper: We're gonna do talk shows and book signings and movie deals, (Prue picks up the Book of Shadows) and then taken by the CIA and dissected.

Prue: Yeah, how can you be joking about this, Piper?

Piper: Who's joking?

Prue: Well, I'm not. Alright, I'm scared. And you should be too. Okay, our lives, Piper, everything that we've worked for could be completely destroyed with-with one stupid mistake. Our entire future, our entire destiny could be wiped out just like that. (Prue clicks her fingers and a gunshot goes off. Piper gasps.) What was that? (Piper looks down and sees blood on her shirt. Her hands are shaking.) Piper? Piper. (Prue drops the Book of Shadows and grabs Piper before she falls. Prue looks at her hand and it has Piper's blood on it.) Oh!

One stupid mistake.
And that one mistake? I believe that Prue's decision to leave the manor and track down Shax was that mistake. Piper certainly thought so.

Prue's decision to leave the house and go after Shax led to the following:

• An erroneous belief that they had succeeded
• Exposure by the media
• Phoebe's decision to go after Cole after Piper had mistakenly expressed the belief that they had succeeded
• Being exposed for the second time by the media
• Piper getting shot
• The deal with the Source and Tempus, which led to Phoebe being trapped in the Source's Realm
• Time being reset, which led to a second attack by Shax
• Dr. Griffith and Prue's deaths

I will not claim that Prue was solely responsible for her death. The other major characters also managed to add their two cents to the situation. The Source's determination to destroy the Charmed Ones led him to assign Shax to commit the deed. Shax eventually did kill Prue. The media provided nothing but trouble for the Charmed Ones, after they had exposed the two older sisters. Phoebe's determination to find Cole at all costs, led her to be missing at a time when her presence could have saved Prue’s life. Their whitelighter and Piper's husband, Leo Wyatt, did not help with his insistence that Piper had succeeded in killing Shax, when the media first caught her and Prue on tape. Cole's decision to cover his tracks with the Source and the Brotherhood of the Thorn at the end of (3.19) "The Demon Who Came in From the Cold" led to his eventual capture by his fellow demons and a brief estrangement from Phoebe. Piper certainly did not help matters. Granted, she did oppose both Phoebe's trip to the Source’s Realm, but also Prue’s decision to leave the manor to track down Shax. But instead of maintaining her opposition, she allowed herself to become a pushover by caving in to her sisters' wishes and opinions.

However, in my opinion, Prue Halliwell bored most of the blame for her death. The episode, (3.18) "Sin Francisco" made it clear that one of her biggest flaws happened to be her pride. Her inability to overcome that pride forced Leo to rescue her from the demon featured in that episode. And in "All Hell Breaks Loose”,it was Prue’s pride that led her to believe that no problem would arise in her and Piper leaving the manor – the one place that the Charmed Ones were at their strongest – to hunt down Shax. Unfortunately for Prue, the end of the episode would prove her wrong.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"THE HULK" (2003) Review

"THE HULK" (2003) Review

Poor Ang Lee. His 2003 adaptation of the Marvel Comics character, Bruce Banner aka the Hulk, has been the target of hostility and contempt from comic book fans for the past six-to-seven years. After Universal Pictures had released Louis Leterrier’s adaptation back in 2008, many had declared his film superior to Lee’s movie. But after recently viewing the 2003 movie, I do not believe I can agree with their assessment. Mind you, I am not claiming that Lee’s film was better than Leterrier’s. The 2008 film possessed certain aspects that Lee’s movie lacked. But I also believe that the 2003 film possessed traits that were certainly lacking in the later film.

”THE HULK” was basically an origins tale about how a genetics researcher from Berkeley, California became a massive, green-skinned creature named the Hulk. Ironically, this tale began years before his birth. In one of the most original and chilling opening credits sequences I have ever seen, the movie revealed how his father David Banner, a genetics researcher for the U.S. Army, was conducting experiments on himself to improve human DNA. The Army, represented by Lieutenant Colonel “Thunderbolt” Ross, learned of his experiment and ordered it shut down. Nothing came from Banner’s experiment at first. But he managed to inadvertently pass his mutated DNA to his son, Bruce. The sequence ended with Banner causing a massive explosion of the facilities' gamma reactor, and accidentally killing his wife during an argument with her about Bruce. Banner ended up in a mental hospital for nearly three decades.

With his father in a mental hospital and his mother dead, Bruce Banner was sent into foster care and adopted by a family called Krenzler. Thirty years later found Bruce as a genetics researcher at the University of California in Berkeley. One of his colleagues happened to be Betty Ross, General Ross’ estranged daughter and Bruce’s ex-girlfriend. After saving another colleague from a Gamma radiation explosion, Bruce’s altered DNA (now affected by the radiation) led him to manifest into a green-skinned monster - ”a hulk” - whenever he lost his temper.

When I had earlier compared ”THE HULK” to the 2008 film, ”THE INCREDIBLE HULK”; I was not trying to be diplomatic when I had stated that neither film was superior to the other. I honestly believe this. If there is one thing that the 2008 film can boast about was that its action sequences were superior to the ones found in Lee’s film. The Taiwanese-born director had a bad habit of shooting a good number of his action scenes from a long distance angle. This seemed very apparent in one sequence that featured the U.S. Army’s attempt (led by General Ross) to kill the Hulk, following the latter’s escape from a desert military facility to San Francisco. There were times when I found it difficult to maintain an interest in this particular scene. Another sequence I had problems with featured Bruce/the Hulk’s final confrontation with his genetically altered father, who had become a powerful electrical being. Frankly, it seemed nothing more than a vague display of CGI special effects against a dark backdrop that damn near made it impossible to watch their fight with a clear eye. One sequence that almost caught my attention featured the Hulk’s battle with David Banner’s mutated dogs that had been sent to kill Betty. I say “almost” because I thought the fight had lasted longer than necessary. And I simply could not get excited over Bruce’s fight with a trio of dogs that looked like something from the 1994 film, ”THE MASK”.

Where ”THE HULK” reigned supreme over ”THE INCREDIBLE HULK” was its story and strong characterizations. Quite frankly, it possessed more depth and pathos than the 2008 film. The movie managed to delve into Bruce’s childhood horrors, which had led to his tendency to bottle up his emotions. His personal demons also revealed how this trait had affected his past relationship with Betty and help contribute to the Hulk’s manifestation. Another interesting aspect of the movie was the father/child theme that seemed to dominate its story. Not only did both Bruce and Betty suffer from damaged relationships with their respective fathers, their past romance and continued love for each seemed to be regarded by David Banner and General Ross as potential threats. And both men seemed incapable of resisting an urge to manipulate and control their children’s lives.

Ang Lee managed to gather an impressive cast for his film. I believe kudos should have gone to Eric Bana for his on-spot portrayal of the emotionally repressed Dr. Bruce Banner. The Australian actor did an excellent job of delving into his character’s emotional psyche, yet keeping it all in check in order to reveal Bruce’s difficulties in expressing himself. Jennifer Connolly gave a subtle performance as Betty Ross, Bruce’s ex-girlfriend and fellow geneticist. She ably managed to portray Betty as a woman frustrated by Bruce and her father’s penchant for emotional repression; and also torn by her love and loyalty toward Bruce, and her fear that only her father’s military resources can save him.

Sam Elliot was top-notch as the intense and paranoid General Ross, who seemed more interested in branding Bruce as a danger to his daughter and the Establishment, due to the latter’s family connections. ”THE HULK” marked the second movie in which I heard Elliot used a growl to mark his character’s intense nature. And I hope that he never uses it again. In a rare performance, Josh Lucas portrayed minor villain Glenn Talbot, Bruce and Betty’s former colleague that left the U.S. Army to join the private sector for more cash. Lucas did a first-rate job in portraying Talbot’s venal and smarmy nature without going over the top. His character also had one of the oddest death scenes in film history.

Two actors portrayed Bruce’s father, Dr. David Banner - Paul Kersey and Oscar nominee Nick Nolte. Kersey portrayed the young Dr. Banner, whose obsession with improving human DNA in the film’s mesmerizing opening credits ended up having major consequences for his family – especially his son. I am amazed at how Kersey managed to convey such a strong presence with very little screen time. It was a damn good thing Lee cast Nick Nolte in the role of the older David Banner, because Kersey struck me as a hard act to follow. However, Nolte gave what I believe was the best performance in the movie. He certainly did an excellent job in conveying Banner’s continuing obsession with his original experiment. Yet, thirty years in a prison managed to unhinge Banner’s personality, making him even more obsessive. He also acquired a possessive attitude toward Bruce’s Hulk alter-ego, viewing the latter as his true son. Nolte not only beautifully captured this aspect of the scientist’s personality, but also the latter’s hostile view of Betty Ross, and an increasingly hostile attitude toward the military industry complex and society at large. This hostility was openly revealed in what I can only describe as a fascinating speech that dripped with contempt.

Frederick Elmes did an excellent job in photographing the movie’s settings of Berkeley, San Francisco and the Nevada desert. I also have to commend visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren for a split screen technique that allowed Lee to cinematically mimic the panels of a comic book page. I thought that was truly inspired – especially in the scene that featured Talbot’s death. At Industrial, Light and Magic, Muren also supervised the movie’s CGI effects – especially the computer generated Hulk. The interesting thing about this movie’s Hulk is that his facial expression seemed more varied than the expressions of the 2008 version. However, I was not that impressed by Muren’s design of David Banner’s ”hulkish” dogs. They struck me as something from 1994’s ”THE MASK” - a little too cartoonish for my tastes.

In the end, ”THE HULK” is a well-written movie with interesting characters. I find it only marred by questionable action sequences. If Marvel Entertainment ever decide to combine this movie’s characterizations and depth with the action sequences from ”THE INCREDIBLE HULK”, it would have one hell of a movie on its hands.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 5


Chapter 5

Cole examined the contract in his hands. A tall, pale man in his early forties paced back and forth in front of his desk. Once Cole finished reading the document, he leaned back against his leather chair and sighed. "From what I've read, Wolfie, you should have no problems leaving your job."

Tugging nervously at his dark and luxuriant mustache, DeWolfe Mann demanded, "Are you sure? I don't want to find myself with a lawsuit on my hands."

"Trust me. You have nothing to worry about. This contract gives you the right to leave the BAY-MIRROR under certain conditions." Cole flicked the document. "And you have fulfilled them. How long have you maintained your column? Three years, now? And you can't be forced to finish the last two years of the contract." The half-daemon stood up and strolled toward the liquor cabinet. "So, why do you want to leave the BAY-MIRROR? Your column has become very popular."

Shaking his head, Mann grumbled, "It's that damn Jason Dean! Ever since he took over the paper, it's been absolute hell! He's the new owner, who thinks he's also the new editor-in-chief. The man has no experience in journalism, and yet he treats the staff as if we're part of some high school newspaper! I swear Cole, if I hang around that place any longer . . ."

"I understand." Cole poured a glass of bourbon. "I'll contact the newspaper's attorney and inform them of your plans to resign." He handed the bourbon to the columnist.

Who took a hefty swig, before he continued. "Not now. Not until I finish this last piece I plan to do. You know, the Golden Horn piece. The one you had suggested."

"Oh, so the paper has given you the go-ahead on that?" Cole asked. He prepared himself a glass of bourbon and soda water, before returning to his chair.

DeWolfe grimaced. "Just barely. My editor, O'Keefe, did. But Dean . . ." a small growl emitted at the mention of the publisher's name, "almost pulled the plug on it. If it wasn't for your ex-wife, there would have been no story."

The glass of bourbon and water paused in front of Cole's lips. "Phoebe, huh? Well, that was nice of her."

"She's a very nice person."

Cole grunted and continued drinking his bourbon.

DeWolfe continued, "Although, I now understand why your marriage to her didn't work." He drained the last of his drink.

"What?" Cole stared at his client.

Without even flinching, DeWolfe added, "Like I said, Phoebe is a lovely young woman. And very pleasant to be around. But every time I'm with her, I get this feeling I'm speaking to some young twenty-something just fresh out of college."

Cole allowed himself a small smile. "She is a twenty-something just fresh out of college. In fact, she had graduated, two years ago."

"Yeah, I know," DeWolfe said with a nod. "But I also happened to know that she's on the wrong side of twenty-five. Nearly thirty, as a matter of fact. Yet, she dresses like a college student, sometimes. Look, all I'm saying is that I understand why you two didn't last. She simply seems . . . I don't know, too young for you. No, that's the wrong phrase. Look, I like Phoebe, but may I be honest? You never struck me as someone who went for women with the mentality of a child bride."

Cole merely remained quiet, his eyes fixed on the large bay window and the view, beyond. As much as he wanted to deny it, the columnist had a point.

DeWolfe continued, "Jason Dean, on the other hand, seems perfect for her. Personally, I think he's a boy in a man's body. You know, he became rich by getting involved with computers and the Internet." The columnist grunted. "Typical. Another one of those who got rich too quick and too young, if you ask me."

Snapping out of his thoughts, Cole offered DeWolfe another glass of bourbon. But the columnist declined the offer, stating that he needed a clear head to prepare for his story. Cole added, "You know, I realize that you don't like Dean that much, but don't you think you're a little hard on the guy? You can't deny that he's successful. Even the BAY-MIRROR is doing better than ever."

"The BAY-MIRROR's business has been increasing before Dean's arrival," DeWolfe retorted. "And granted, the boy is successful. Now, if only he can learn how to be an editor." The embittered columnist placed his empty glass on the liquor cabinet. "Anyway, thanks for the information and the drink. I'll probably get in touch with you, next week." He started toward the door and then, paused. "Say, what about that female cop you once introduced me to at my sister's birthday party, two months ago? You know, the gorgeous one with the red hair? Are you two, uh . . .?"

Cole interrupted curtly, "No. We're just friends." And nothing else, Cole silently added. Judging from Olivia's newfound interest in Paul Margolin.

* * * *

Phoebe closed the door to her office and heaved a sigh. She had just survived another private session with her immediate supervisor, Elise. To be honest, the visit to the editor's office had turned out to be far from nerve-wrecking. Quite pleasant, in fact. The two women even managed to squeeze in a little private "girl talk" during the meeting. Phoebe wondered if Elise was becoming mellow in recent months.

Before she could set her mind to finishing her column for the week, the office's door swung open. A familiar figure stepped inside - DeWolfe Mann. "Wolfie!" Phoebe greeted. "We missed you at the staff meeting, earlier this afternoon."

"I doubt that Mr. Dean missed my presence," DeWolfe said, rolling his eyes with his usual sardonic manner. "And he was there - right?"

Phoebe bit back a retort. "Yes, Jason was there. After all, he is the paper's owner."

"He's the paper's owner, Phoebe," DeWolfe shot back, "not an editor. He should be having meetings with his editors, not with his writers and columnists." The columnist sat down in one of the empty chairs facing Phoebe's desk. "Besides, I doubt that he missed my presence. I certainly did not miss his."

The Charmed One shook her head. "God, Wolfie! What is it with you and Jason? Why can't you two get along? I mean, he did allow you to write that story on the McNeills' restaurant. You could at least be grateful."

"I am grateful, sweetie." DeWolfe leaned back into his chair. "To you. For convincing that overgrown Boy Wonder to go ahead with the story. Which is why I'm here." He tossed a small, expensively-wrapped package on Phoebe's desk. "To thank you and give you a little token of my appreciation."

"And Jason?"

DeWolfe's dark eyes stared at his fellow columnist. "I stayed away from the meeting, didn't I? What more could your precious Jason ask?"

A sigh left Phoebe's mouth. Aside from the "controversy" surrounding her relationship with Jason, the feud between the BAY-MIRROR's owner and its famous food columnist had become the talk of the office. "He's not my 'precious' Jason. We're just . . . I mean, I know that most people don't like . . ."

"What are you worried about? Most of the staff isn't concerned about your relationship with the young Ball and Chain. Why are you always worried about what others think of you?" DeWolfe asked, catching Phoebe offguard. "Especially when it comes to your private life?"

Phoebe hesitated before she replied, "I don't worry about . . ." She glanced away, embarrassed. "I mean . . . Okay, so maybe I do." She paused. "Why are we talking about me?"

"Because you obviously seem worried about how the staff feels about you and Dean," DeWolfe replied. "And after meeting your ex-husband earlier this afternoon, I found myself thinking about you."

A frown appeared on Phoebe's face. "You saw Cole?" she demanded. "Why?"

"He's my attorney. I had some business with him, today." The older man peered suspiciously at her. "Why? Does that bother you?"

It bothered Phoebe very much. The idea that her ex-husband had another connection to her, aside from Paige, disturbed her. It seemed as if he might never be out of her life. And Phoebe wanted nothing to do with Cole. Especially if it meant bringing up bad memories.

Instead of expressing how she felt, Phoebe asked, "Exactly how did Cole become your lawyer?"

"My previous attorney had passed away from a heart attack, last fall. Just before I met Cole. I had met him during one of his visits to the office before you two finally divorced." DeWolfe leaned forward. "You know, you still haven't answered my question."

Phoebe inhaled deeply. "The answer is no. It doesn't bother me that you saw him, today. Or that he's your lawyer. In fact, it's no concern of mine."

Chuckling, the food columnist said, "Now, why do I get the feeling that you're lying?" When Phoebe failed to answer, he sighed. "Never mind. Anyway, I hope that you like the present." He stood up and walked toward the door. "And again, thanks for running interference on that story. See you." He left the office.

Once the door closed behind DeWolfe, Phoebe exhaled. She shook her head, mumbling to herself. There was nothing like the subject of one Cole Turner to put her in a state of tension. One day, she would have to learn not to allow him, the topic of him, or even the image of him, get to her like this.

Phoebe glanced at her watch. Five twenty-four. Almost time to go home. She saved the material on her laptop computer and closed the lid shut. After dumping a few items into her purse - including DeWolfe's present, she gathered both her purse and laptop, and left the office.

* * * *

Forty minutes later, Phoebe entered the Halliwell manor and cried out, "Piper? Paige! I'm home!" Silence greeted her ears. "Hello? Is anyone home?"

Paige's figure appeared on the staircase. The two sisters greeted each other before Phoebe added, "Isn't Piper home?"

"Nah, she left a message," Paige answered. "She's at P3. Had to take Wyatt with her."

Phoebe blinked. "A baby at a nightclub?"

The younger woman shrugged. "I just got home, myself. And Leo isn't here. I guess she had no choice."

"Oh God!" Phoebe heaved a sigh and dumped her purse and laptop on the sofa, followed by her own body. "God, what a day!" You wouldn't believe what I had found out."

Paige strode toward the kitchen. "Piper has fixed dinner for us. Why don't you tell little sister all about it, while we eat." Phoebe followed. Nearly an hour later, the two sisters finished the last bites of their pot roast dinner. Paige sat back in her chair and sighed. "You know, you still haven't told me what was bothering you," she added. "In fact, you've barely said a word during the entire dinner. "What gives?"

After a moment's pause, Phoebe made her announcement. "Cole. He's Wolfie's lawyer."


"Paige! Don't you get it?" Phoebe cried in frustration, "Cole is Wolfie's lawyer!"

Staring at Phoebe, as if the latter had lost her mind, Paige demanded, "Who in the hell is Wolfie?"

Patience, Phoebe told herself. She took a deep breath. "Wolfie is DeWolfe Mann. The BAY-MIRROR's top food columnist. He's the one . . ."

"Oh! The one who'll be doing the story on the Golden Horn!" Paige cried out. She paused. Frowned. "So what's the problem?"

The drama queen within Phoebe burst forth. "The PROBLEM? It's bad enough that both you and Cole are friends. But now I find out that he's the attorney of one of my co-workers. I mean, am I ever going to get him out of my life?"

A large sigh left Paige's mouth. She stood up and headed for the kitchen's island. "Oh God, Phoebe! You've got to be kidding me! I mean, who cares if Cole is this Wolfie's lawyer? What do you think he's trying to do? Use your friend to get to you?"

Phoebe squirmed with embarrassment. "No, I . . . Never mind." Paige reached for the cake holder and placed it on the table. Phoebe lifted the top, revealing a three-layer coconut cake. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing."

"Or maybe you need to make some kind of closure with Cole." Paige's remark drew a dark look from Phoebe. Then she added quietly, "Or maybe not."

Phoebe said, "Speaking of Wolfie, he gave me a present, today. A little appreciation for convincing Jason to approve the Golden Horn story. I think I left it . . ." she stood up, ". . . in my purse. Wait, I'll be back." She rushed out of the kitchen, fetched her purse from the sofa, and fished the small package from inside. Then she returned to the kitchen. "Here it is. Isn't it nice?" Phoebe carefully unwrapped a package, revealing a small box. After opening it, she removed what looked like an antique perfume bottle. And at that moment, the vision struck.

She saw DeWolfe Mann inside an expensive apartment, facing his personal computer. She saw him stand up and head for the front door. The next flash revealed a man's hand reaching for DeWolfe. A knife appeared, its blade gleaming in the light. That same blade slashed across the columnist's throat, slitting it open. Blood gushed forth. The last thing Phoebe saw was DeWolfe's lifeless body, falling dead.

A gasp escaped her mouth. Dizziness overwhelmed the Charmed One and Phoebe's torso fell forward across the kitchen table. "Phoebe?" she heard Paige cry. "Phoebe!" She saw her younger sister's face hovering above her, before everything faded to black.

* * * *

"Phoebe?" Paige hovered over her sister's inert form and lightly patted the latter's cheek. "Phoebe, wake up!"

The older woman sat up with a gasp on her lips. "Wha . . .? What happened?"

"You went zombie on me, all of a sudden and then, passed out." Paige frowned. "That must have been one hell of a premonition."

"Oh God! Wolfie! I saw him get his throat cut!"

Paige peered closely at her sister. "By whom?"

Phoebe shook her head. "I didn't see. I only saw someone's hand holding a knife and slitting Wolfie's throat." She finally stood up. "We better get Piper."

"Why? Do we need the Power of Three on this?" Paige asked.

After a moment's pause, Phoebe shook her head. "I guess not. But we'll need Darryl." She started out of the kitchen.

The youngest Charmed One followed. "Wait a minute, Phoebe!" she cried out. "Do you even know where this Wolfie guy lives? How can Darryl meet us . . .?"

"Oh God!" Phoebe's shoulders sagged with defeat. "I don't know where Wolfie lives. And the paper's Personnel office should be closed by now."

Impatient, Paige suggested that they orb to DeWolfe Mann's apartment. "Orb there, save him and turn the guy trying to kill him, over to the police. Okay?"

"Yeah, but do you know where to . . .?"

Paige grabbed her older sister's arm. "Phoebe! I don't need to know where his address is! All I have to do is zoom in on his location. C'mon!" The two sisters immediately orbed out of the manor.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

"DEFIANCE" (2008) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new Edward Zwick film called "DEFIANCE". This World War II drama stars Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell:

"DEFIANCE" (2008) Photo Gallery

Friday, January 22, 2010



I might as well be honest. I wish I could be objective about the ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Three episode, ”Displaced”. But I cannot. My feelings for this episode are too strong. Let me explain.

Lisa Klink wrote the teleplay for this episode about Voyager’s crew members being replaced, one-by-one, with aliens from an unknown race. While arguing over a Klingon workout program that Chief Helmsman Tom Paris had created for the Holodeck, the pilot and Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’ElannaTorres, are interrupted by a strange alien that has appeared aboard ship from nowhere. This phenomenon occurs over and over again, until both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay realizes that this new alien race – called the Nyrians – are bent upon taking control of Voyager . . . but without the use of brute force. Eventually, the entire crew end up as prisoners on a habitat that also contains prisoners from other races whose ships and colonies were also conquered by the Nyrians in a similar manner.

Amidst the alien takeover of the ship, the continuation of the blossoming relationship between the ship’s Chief Helmsman, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Chief Engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres hits a snag. In a previous episode called ”Distant Origin”, Paris had made a bet with Torres over the reason behind a ship malfunction. The Chief Helmsman won the bet and Torres was forced to participate with him in a Klingon exercise program in the Holodeck. Being inclined to avoid her Klingon heritage as much as possible, Torres resents that Paris is interested in all aspects of her entire self – both Human and Klingon. And later in the episode, both Torres and the Doctor revealed Tom’s own insecurities and his tendency to use jokes to hide them.

Temperatures seemed to have played a major role in ”Displaced”. From Paris and Torres’ heated argument over his Klingon martial arts program to the Nyrians and Torres’ low tolerance of cold temperatures, and to finally the warm reconciliation between the two future lovers inside the Holodeck. It was good to see Voyager’s crew – especially Janeway and Tuvok - work at retaking control of Voyager by utilizing the Nyrians’ teleportation system. I especially found Janeway’s ultimatums for the Nyrian leaders inside their habitat rather satisfying.

But what really made this episode rocked – at least for me – was the continuation of Paris and Torres’ courtship that began when the Chief Pilot made his first overture in ”The Swarm”, earlier in the season. By the time ”Displaced” had aired – some twenty episodes later – Paris has been in earnest pursuit of Torres. Lisa Klink had wonderfully brought out Paris’ determination to reveal to Torres, his interest in everything about her – and that included both her Human and Klingon sides – despite how she may have felt about the latter. Klink also did an excellent job of revealing the pair’s insecurities, which ended up providing many roadblocks to their romance and eventual marriage over three years later. Late Season Three and early Season Four had featured some of the best moments in the Paris/Torres relationship. At least until Season Seven. And among those gems included scenes from this episode.

Below are what I consider highlights from ”Displaced”:

*Paris and Torres’ quarrel over the Klingon martial arts program
*Tuvok’s revelation to Chakotay about his survival training experience on Vulcan
*Chakotay’s attempts to defend the ship from the Nyrians, reliving his old role as a Maquis captain
*The Doctor’s exposure of both Paris and Torres’ insecurities inside the Nyrian habitat
*Torres’ ”I’m not hostile” conversation with Harry Kim and his fearful reaction to her tone
*Paris and Torres’ frozen adventures inside another Nyrian habitat
*Janeway and Tuvok’s efforts to gain control of the Nyrians’ teleportation system
*Janeway’s confrontation with the Nyrian leaders

As I had earlier stated, I wish I could be objective about this episode. But how can I? Even after eleven years, I still love it. Lisa Klink’s teleplay seemed to feature everything – adventure, romance, humor, intrigue and rich characterization. It is easy to see why I consider ”Displaced” to be one of the best ”VOYAGER” episodes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Review

"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Review

”VANTAGE POINT” is a tightly woven thriller about eight strangers with eight different points of view of an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, during an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain. Directed by Pete Travis and written by Barry Levy, the movie starred Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt.

When I had first saw the trailer for ”VANTAGE POINT”, I had assumed it would be one of those remakes of the Japanese film, "RASHOMON" (1950). I figured there would be an assassination attempt on the President and the film would follow with various points of view on the incident. This is what happened in ”VANTAGE POINT” . . . but not quite. ”VINTAGE POINT” did reveal the assassination attempt from various points of view. In ”RASHOMON” and other versions of the film, those views are shown as flashbacks. But in ”VANTAGE POINT” each point of view is not a flashback. Instead each POV merely gives a certain view of the story, while the story moves forward. For example, the movie started out with the point of view of a news producer (Sigourney Weaver) and the newscaster (Zoë Saldaña) that worked under her, before ending at a particular point in the story. The next point of view belongs to Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), which ends a little further in the story than the news producer’s POV. And so on. The movie ends with an exciting action sequence told from the various viewpoints of the major characters – heroes and villains.

The more I think about ”VANTAGE POINT”, the more I realize how much I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the tight setting of Salamanca, Spain (actually the film was shot in Mexico). I must add that one of the things I enjoyed about this movie was that Levy’s script had a way of putting a twist on any assumptions anyone might form about the plot. I loved how Travis handled the film’s action, making it well-paced. I enjoyed the performances of the major cast members. I was especially impressed by the performances of Dennis Quaid as the emotionally uncertain Barnes, who eventually pieced together the real plot. I also enjoyed the performances of Matthew Fox as his fellow Secret Service agent, Forest Whitaker as an American tourist and Edgar Ramirez (”THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM”) as a Spanish Special Forces soldier blackmailed into participating in the plot against the President. But more importantly, I loved Barry Levy’s script, which put a twist on any assumptions the moviegoer may have formed about the story’s plotlines and characters. My only quibble with ”VANTAGE POINT” was the interaction between Whitaker’s character and a Spanish girl, which I found slightly contrived near the end of the movie.

I suspect that ”VANTAGE POINT” will never become highly regarded by critics and moviegoers. It is the type of movie that forces the audience to think. And I suspect that most moviegoers would prefer a film that lays everything out in the open. And I especially doubt that many moviegoers will have the patience to deal with the constant rewinds in order to show the viewpoints of various characters. Since I have a history of liking movies that are not popular with the public or film critics, all I can do is hope that I will have the chance to see the movie again, before it leaves the theater for good. Personally, I would recommend ”VANTAGE POINT”.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 4


Chapter 4

Less than a minute before Cole had spotted them, Phoebe and Jason stood at the entrance of Morgan's dining room. "Thanks for joining me for lunch," the BAY-MIRROR's owner said. "Although I wish you had chosen another restaurant."

"Jason," Phoebe gently chided. "Just because this restaurant is owned by Olivia's family . . ."

Nodding, Jason admitted, "I know, I know! I'm letting her get to me, again." He sighed. "Besides, the reason I had invited you to lunch was because I wanted to tell you about her . . . and me. And I thought it would be best to do so away from the office."

"I understand." Phoebe gave her boyfriend's arm a reassuring squeeze. "And I'm glad that you finally wanted to talk." She and Jason followed the casually dressed maitre'd across the dining room. They were halfway to their destination, when a familiar voice cried out Phoebe's name.

"Phoebe!" She glanced to her left and spotted Darryl Morris waving at her. He sat inside a booth with Paul Margolin, Olivia and . . . Phoebe's heart fluttered out of control . . . and Cole. "Hey Phoebe," Darryl greeted as she and Jason approached the inspector's table. "How are you?" The other three stared at her.

Stifling the need to take flight, Phoebe responded with a wan smile, "I'm fine." She turned her attention to Darryl's lunch companions. "Paul, it's good to see you. Again. Olivia." And in an even less enthusiastic voice, she added, "Cole. Wha . . . what are you four doing here?"

The red-haired woman and Phoebe's ex gave her stiff nods. Paul Margolin merely stared at her - like she was a specimen under a microscope. Weird. Only Darryl responded with any kind of friendliness. "Celebrating!" he said. "I've been promoted to lieutenant."

"Hey! Congratulations!" Phoebe's smile became more genuine. Then she remembered her companion. "Oh, you all remember Jason Dean, right? Jason, I guess you already know Olivia and Cole. And this big handsome man over there," she said, pointing at Darryl, "is Darryl Morris - Olivia's partner. He's also an old friend of the family." Then she nodded at Paul. "And this is Paul Margolin. He's an . . . old friend of Leo's. And he's also an ADA."

Jason greeted both Darryl and Paul with friendly nods, deliberately ignoring Olivia and Cole. But his former girlfriend spoke up, anyway. "Jason, it's good to see you." A small smile appeared on Olivia's face. "Although, I am surprised to see you, here. I didn't think you would ever step foot inside a McNeill restaurant again, after we broke up."

The BAY-MIRROR's publisher grew red in the face. Phoebe gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. "I've decided to let bygones be bygones," he said with a stiff smile. Then, "Uh, well don't let Phoebe and me interrupt the celebration. We need to get going. Nice meeting all of you." He tugged at Phoebe's arm.

Ignoring the smirk on Olivia's lips, Phoebe said her final good-byes and with Jason, walked over to the table, where the maitre'd waited. Once the couple was seated, Phoebe shot a glance at Darryl's table. The new ADA seemed to be in a state of shock over something. Olivia seemed to be hovering over him with concern, while Cole regarded the whole scene with a mixture of annoyance and jealousy. Phoebe's chest grew heavy. Jealousy? Cole?

" . . . wasn't so bad," Jason said. "Seeing her again."

Realizing that her boyfriend was talking, Phoebe blinked. "Huh?"

"Olivia. Seeing her again wasn't so bad," Jason repeated. "Despite her little comment." He sighed. Heavily. "At least I didn't have some unpleasant little flashback. Like the last time."

Phoebe devoted her full attention to Jason. "I didn't realize that seeing her again would be so difficult for you. You really must have loved her."

Jason paused. "Love?" He shook his head. "It wasn't so much . . . I mean, I don't think I was ever in love with Olivia. Or she with me. Maybe I was infatuated with her. Olivia was . . . well, an exciting woman." He stared into nothingness. "I don't think I've ever met anyone like her."

"Oh?" Jealousy crept into Phoebe's voice.

Smiling, Jason continued, "Don't worry. I can easily say the same about you. In fact," he leaned closer, "I'm glad that you're nothing like her. One Olivia was enough to last a lifetime, thank you."

Phoebe leaned forward and covered one of Jason's hands with hers. "I hope this isn't your idea of a pick-up line." The pair shared a private laugh, before leaning back into their chairs. Phoebe glanced to her side, wondering if Darryl and the others had noticed her little private moment with Jason. She could see that Darryl had. Olivia and Paul seemed deep in conversation. And Cole . . . shot unhappy looks in their direction. Phoebe could not decide whether to be relieved about the latter. Or disappointed.

"About Olivia," she continued, "was being with her that difficult?"

Jason heaved another heavy sigh. "What can I say? She was exciting, smart, temperamental, amusing, cruel and perverse. All at once. I think she only saw me as a part time guy. And Olivia had a . . . well, she still has it, I think."

"Her what?" Phoebe asked.

"A talent for making me feel very small. Or an idiot." Jason paused. "You heard the comment she made to me about coming here. Like I said, she can be cruel."

Recalling Olivia's rant against the Halliwells over Cole last fall, Phoebe understood. Perfectly. That little conversation at one of the McNeills' Sunday brunches had left her feeling worse than an idiot. Almost criminal. And Paige's discovery about Cole and the Source had not helped.

Jason continued, "After two months of dating, I just couldn't deal with her crap any longer. And Olivia had grown tired of me. So, we mutually decided to break up."

"Hmm, I wish my marriage had ended like that," Phoebe muttered.

Sympathy gleamed in Jason's eyes. "Was it really that bad?"

Phoebe nodded. "Let me tell you about the horror that was Phoebe and Cole." Leaving out any references to the supernatural world, Phoebe spilled out her official version of the failed Halliwell-Turner union.

* * * *

Upon his return to his apartment, Nick commenced upon his plans to get rid of Bruce McNeill. First, he concocted an elixir made from the Angelica Root he had purchased at Ostera. Next, he formed a circle on the floor, using a white chord. Then he placed three black candles next to the circle, in equal distance. He created a circle outside the white chord, using more crushed protection herbs.

Nick lit the black candles, before stepping away from the circle. After taking several deep breaths to calm himself, he placed a smudge of the elixir mixture on his forehead. He finally placed his body on the floor, in a pentagram position - arms straight out and legs apart. Then he summoned the succubus in Italian.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Nick recited the chant again. The air grew heavy. Gray smoke materialized in the middle of the circle, until it finally formed into a bi-pedal, demonic-looking creature with horns, a tail and . . . breasts. Breasts? Nick let out a gasp and sprung to his feet.

The succubus frowned. A very frightening sight for Nick. "Did you just summoned me?" she demanded in Italian. "Who are you?"

After a moment's hesitation, Nick stammered in English, "Uh, I'm . . . my name is N-Nick." He cleared his throat nervously. "Nicholas Marcano. I had sum . . . summoned you. But not for me," he quickly added. He peered harder at the daemon. "Um, is that how you always look?"

The demonic form magically transformed into a beautiful, statuesque woman with long, curly black hair, soft sherry-brown eyes and a creamy complexion. "Is this better?" Now she spoke English, with an Italian accent.

Nick's eyes drank in the beautiful face and the curvaceous nude body. "Much better," he replied in a breathless tone. "What's . . . uh, what's your name?"

"Portia. Portia Della Scalla." She stepped forward. "So, are you ready to make love?"

Nick opened his mouth to say yes. Until he remembered what he was facing. Thank goodness for the protection herb on his forehead and on the floor. "No! I mean, I didn't summon you to have sex. I mean . . ." He shook his head, feeling slightly confused. "I did summon you to have sex. But not with me. With someone else, so that you can steal his soul."

"His?" A delicate brow formed an arch. "You want me to seduce someone else?"

"Yes." Nick sighed with relief. "His name is Bruce McNeill. And he's a witch. One of those Wiccans."

Portia tried to step out of the circle and encountered a force field. She pointed at the circle of herbs. "Do you mind? I do not want to stand here forever."

"Oh." Nick scrambled to sweep away the crushed herbs.

Portia made a second attempt to leave the circle. Succeeding, she walked over to the sofa and sat down. "Bruce McNeill," she murmured. "Why does that name sound familiar?" She looked at Nick. "If you want this Signor McNeill dead, I will require something in return."

"Huh?" Mindful of the intense pair of eyes upon him, the realization of the succubus' question struck Nick. "Oh. Yeah. Compensation." He paused. "Have you, um, ever heard of a Soma plant?"

Portia's eyes lit up. "Of course! A Hindu shrub. Cures diseases of all kinds. And grants the owner, immortality. Even a daemon such as myself will be immune from being vanquished. Where is this Soma plant?"

Nick shook his head. "Not so fast. First, you help me kill Bruce McNeill. Then I'll tell you were you can find the plant. I'll even help you find it."

A long pause followed. Nick tried to ignore the sherry-brown eyes contemplating him with such intensity. Don't look at her. Don't look . . .

"All right! I will seduce and kill this Bruce McNeill for you," Portia said with a huff. "Where can I find him?"

Nick rushed over to his desk and scribbled an address on his notepad. He ripped the top sheet from the pad and handed it over to Portia. "Uh, do you read English?"

An impatient sigh left Portia's mouth. "You mean to say that you have not figured that out, by now?" She snatched the piece of paper from Bruce. "Of course I read and write English! And by the way, I am familiar with San Francisco."

"Ah. Well. Then you should have no troubles." Nick hesitated, as he stole a surreptious glance at the succubus. "Uh, by the way, do you think you could find some clothes?"

* * * *

"A demon!" Paul's voice rang throughout the Halliwells' first floor. "I sat and had lunch with a demon, today! A demon who had married into your family, Leo! I can't believe that you had allowed a demon to spend time with your charges, let alone marry one of them!"

Leo took a deep breath and reached out for his charge. "Paul, calm down. Getting excited won't help. Phoebe told me that you had met Cole, today. I just didn't . . ."

"Did the Elders' Council know about him?" Paul demanded.

In one of those increasingly rare moments, Leo had found himself at home with his family, when Paul Margolin dropped by to pay a visit. It was nearly nine o'clock. Leo, Phoebe and Paige had just finished dinner. Baby Wyatt was upstairs, asleep. And Piper was at P3, supervising the club for tonight. No sooner had he stepped inside the manor, Paul demanded that Leo tell him everything about Cole.

"Yes, the Elders knew about him," Leo calmly replied. "How did you . . . how did you find out that Cole was . . .?"

Paul interrupted. " . . . a demon? The infamous Belthazor? Or the fact that my whitelighter had once worked with this guy? And said nothing when this demon married another charge? Who happened to be one of the Charmed Ones? My God, Leo! A demon? And now he's with another one of your charges!"

"Look, Olivia hasn't been one of Leo charges in years. And she and Cole aren't romantically involved," Paige added. Leo glared at her. "But I am keeping my fingers crossed." This time, Phoebe glared.

Paul merely regarded the youngest Charmed One with disbelief. "This doesn't bother you? Being associated with a notorious demon? I mean, this guy . . . I've heard about him! Belthazor was one of the Source's most notorious killers for nearly a century!"

Smiling, Paige replied, "If you had asked me this four months ago, I would have said yes. Yeah, I was once bothered being associated with Cole. But not anymore."

"He ended up becoming the Source! The Source of All Evil!"

Paige calmly continued, "And we killed him. Only we didn't realize at the time that Cole had been possessed by the Source's essence."

"Po . . ." Paul shook his head. "Possessed? What do you mean?"

"Why are we answering your questions?" Paige demanded. "You don't know Cole. You don't even know us!"

Leo admonished his sister-in-law. "Paige! There's no need . . ."

"Look, I'm sorry if I come across as rude, but . . . you seemed to assume a lot without knowing what really happened," Paige said to Paul. "And to be honest, I see no reason why we have to explain ourselves to you."

An embarrassing silence filled the living room. Leo glanced at Paige, who seemed cool and slightly resentful toward the male witch. Who looked absolutely deflated by Paige's words. And poor Phoebe looked as if she wanted to crawl away somewhere and die. Leo began, "Maybe Paul was just concerned . . ."

"Concerned about what?" Paige demanded. "That his whitelighter might be under the influence of a demon? Or consorting with one? Or has this all to do with someone else?" She glared at Paul.

Every now and then, Leo would find himself wishing that Cole Turner had never entered their lives. Tonight was one of those moments. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Listen, I think we're all getting a little ahead of ourselves. All this over a half-demon, who is no longer involved with us."

A nervous laugh escaped Phoebe's mouth. "Thank goodness for that."

"Oh, I don't know about that." Paige gave Paul a pointed stare. "Cole is still in Olivia's life." Then she gave both Leo and Phoebe a defiant stare. "And in mine." She turned on her heels and marched upstairs.

Feeling embarrassed over the outburst, Leo shrugged his shoulders. Judging from Paul's outraged expression, the damage had been done.

* * * *

Portia Della Scalla materialized on the McNeills' front lawn. She gazed approvingly at the Colonial Spanish villa. Bellissima, she thought. And very tasteful. Unlike most American homes. Portia harbored an opinion that the majority of Americans, including the very wealthy, were vulgarians.

Unbeknownst to Nick Marcano, Portia had heard of Bruce McNeill. She had also heard of Gweneth McNeill, as well. One world-renowned chef, and the other, an up-and-coming talent - and both came from a wealthy San Francisco family. During her previous visits to San Francisco, Portia had visited the famous Golden Horn restaurant on several occasions. She had no idea, however, that both mother and son were witches. Or that the illustrious McNeill family had anything to do with the supernatural world.

Closing her eyes, she could detect the presence of four men inside the house. Four. Portia heaved a frustrated sigh. Wonderful! How was she supposed to figure out where her intended victim slept? Thankfully, the Streghone had provided a photograph of this Bruce McNeill. Glancing at it, Portia could not help but admire the subject's face. Very handsome. And the perfect man to act as progenitor to a powerful adamitici, if the Streghone was correct about Signor McNeill being a powerful witch. She pressed one hand against her belly and sighed with content. This would be the perfect time for her to breed.

Portia transformed herself into gray smoke and wafted toward the villa. A second later, she found her solid body being flung back on the lawn. Damn them! The McNeills must have cast some kind of protection spell around the house. Damn! Now how was she supposed to get to the witch?

* * * *

"Is he dead?" Nick asked, after Portia returned to his apartment. "Have you done it?"

The dark-haired succubus rolled her eyes, contemptuously. "And I thought you knew something about us. We have to mate with our victims several times before we can take their souls completely."

A hopeful Nick asked, "Well, have you begun? Have you, uh . . .?"

"Mated with him? Had sex?" Portia sunk onto the sofa, pouting. "No. Someone cast a protection spell on the house. I could not enter."

"Damn!" Nick began to suspect that this whole scheme to get rid of Bruce might be a big mistake. Maybe he should give up. Or consider another way to stop the upcoming McNeill-Bowen nuptials.

Portia's bell-like voice cut into his thoughts. "You are not changing your mind, are you?

Nick stared at her. "Huh? Uh, no. No, I . . ."

"Because I do not relish the thought that I had been summoned for nothing." Her brown eyes flashed with intimidation. Then they softened. "Of course, I do not have to seduce Signor McNeill in his bedroom. I can always lure him here. Or to some other place."

Some other place. The words reverberated inside Nick's mind. Of course. All it took was to find a way for Portia to get close to Bruce.

The succubus continued, "Why did you not tell me that you wanted Bruce McNeill dead? The Bruce McNeill from the Golden Horn restaurant?"

"You've heard of him?"

Nodding, Portia continued, "Of course. I may be a succubus, but I have moved about in the mortal world for a long time. Why, I remember when the Golden Horn first opened." She heaved a heartfelt sigh. "Ah, bellisima! The food was exquisite!"

"So, you don't mind that I want him dead?"

With a shrug, Portia added, "Why should I? He is just another potential victim to me. And there are other five-star restaurants. The culinary world will not suffer from his death."

Nick glanced shrewdly at her. "Say, do you know much about the . . . uh, culinary world? Or anything about professional cooking? Maybe we can find a way to get you a job . . ."

"I do not cook!" The succubus stated most adamantly. "I dine."

Okay. "Well, what have you done, besides fucked a lot of men?"

Searing him with a dark glare, Portia replied angrily, "I have worked in the mortal world, before!" Her delicate nose rose an inch higher. "I once worked as a secretary at a trading firm in Marsailles, forty years ago. I ended up seducing the owner. And back in the late 1880s, I was married to a Bavarian count. I also worked for an Italian fashion magazine in the 1970s. As a writer, I might add. And while working as a reporter for a Quebec newspaper, I had seduced a newspaper magnate. And I . . ."

Reporter? "Wait! Did you say . . . writer?" Nick asked. "You can write?"

Portia's eyes radiated with pride. "Of course. Writing happens to be one of my natural talents . . . aside from seduction. Why, back in the 1980s, I wrote a series of bestselling novels. Romantic fiction. They were very popular. Even with the demonic world. Perhaps you've heard of them? There was . . ."

"You're a writer!"

"That is what I said!" The succubus stared at Nick, as if he had grown a second head. "Haven't you been listening to me?"

The Streghone shook his head. "No, you don't understand. You're a writer. And I've heard that Bruce McNeill will be interviewed by some food columnist from the BAY-MIRROR."

Portia frowned. "The BAY-MIRROR. Is this some kind of newspaper?"

Nick nodded. "Yes. And since you're a writer, maybe we can find a way for you to hold the interview, instead."

Comprehension dawned in Portia's sherry-brown eyes. "Ah yes! I understand! But first, we must get rid of this columnist. Do you know his or her name?"

Nick pondered on the question for a moment, recalling Paige Matthews' words. "Wolf, something. Wait! DeWolfe. DeWolfe Mann!"


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"HEARTBREAKERS" (2001) Photo Gallery

Here is a gallery featuring photos from the 2001 comedy, "HEARTBREAKERS", about a mother and daughter who are con artists. The movie starred Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee and Anne Bancroft:

"HEARTBREAKERS" (2001) Photo Gallery