Saturday, July 31, 2010

Notes and Observations of "STAR WARS: Episode IV - A New Hope"

The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode IV: A New Hope”. I hope that you enjoy them:

Notes and Observations of "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE"

*According to the movie’s opening scrawl, Leia possessed the Death Star plans that could “provide freedom to the galaxy”. Is that what happened at the end of the movie?

*Wow! R2-D2 really looks worn and old aboard the Organas’ ship, the Tantive IV. It is easy to imagine that he has been around for over three decades.

*Are the troops firing upon the stormtroopers, Alderaanian troops? If so, does that mean Leia had contradicted herself when she told Tarkin and Vader that Alderaan was a peaceful planet?

*When Vader made his entrance, the first thing that popped into my mind was Anakin leading the clone troopers to the Jedi Temple in ROTS.

*Father and daughter meet. At last.

*I hate to say this, but I have always found C3-P0 and R2’s adventures on Tatooine before meeting Luke to be slightly boring. Okay. I did find it boring.

*The technology inside the Jawa’s ship looked very outdated.

*It is interesting how Owen had to ask Threepio if he spoke Bocce for the moisture vaporators. Which tells me that he did not immediately know Threepio’s identity. But then, Threepio had not introduced himself.

*"But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!” - Ah yes! The infamous Skywalker whining at work. I really don’t understand why many fans complained of Anakin’s whining in AOTC. Luke had to have inherited his whining from someone.

*C3-P0 finally introduces himself and R2-D2 when they are alone with Luke, inside the Lars’ garage.

*So, Threepio and Artoo were not personally in Leia’s service aboard the Tantive IV, as I had first imagined. I had forgotten that they had become the property of Captain Antilles.

*I did not realize that Luke knew where Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi lived.

*The moment Luke had mentioned R2 and 3P0 might belong to Obi-Wan, Owen ordered their memories to be wiped. Interesting.

*For some bizarre reason, I found myself seeing Padme comfort Luke and telling him not to grow up too fast.

*Artoo seemed to have set a lot in motion. Leia hid the Death Star plans in his system. Artoo was the one who set out to find Obi-Wan, bringing about the old Jedi Master and the future Jedi Master’s first meeting. And because Luke was forced to search for R2, he managed to avoid Owen and Beru’s fate.

*I also noticed that Vader did not bother to join the search for R2 and 3P0 on Tatooine.

*It is a good thing that those Tusken Raiders did not know that Luke was the son of the Jedi who had wiped out a tribe of their kind.

*Did Obi-Wan immediately recognize the two droids?

*”He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.” – It is nice to know that’s how Obi-Wan remembered Anakin. But then these next words, as he handed over Anakin s lightsaber to Luke rather spoiled the moment – “I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it.” - especially in light of how Obi-Wan really managed to acquire the lightsaber. Obi-Wan’s description of how Vader had “murdered” Anakin spoiled the moment even further.

*If the Emperor had dissolved the Imperial Senate as stated by Tarkin in the movie, then it is obvious that Lucas had abandoned the earlier idea of Palpatine being a pawn or puppet of other politicians, as indicated in the 1976 edition of The Journal of the Whills.

*”Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” – Was this an example of Vader’s past Jedi training coming to the fore? Or was this an example of his Sith background? Or his 30 odd years as a Force user?

*Some people have stated that Luke’s upbringing had prepared him to face Owen and Beru’s deaths a lot better than Anakin had dealt with Shmi’s death. But considering Luke’s reaction to Obi-Wan’s death, along with Han and Leia’s endangerment in both ESB and ROTJ, I would say that Luke did not feel as emotionally close to the Lars as he did to the other three.

*”Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” – Famous words to live by. I wonder if Obi-Wan had ever visited Mos Espa.

*I love how the special effects recently added to the film, has enhanced the details of Mos Eisley during Luke and Obi-Wan’s arrival.

*I was surprised to notice the small number of human customers and inhabitants inside the cantina in Mos Eisley.

*For one crazy moment, Sir Alec Guiness sounded like Ewan McGregor in the scene where Obi-Wan and Luke meet Han Solo for the first time.

*”That’s okay. I’m never coming back to this planet, again.” – Careful Luke. Never make promises that one cannot keep.

*Does anyone know the name of the creature that followed Luke and Obi-Wan to the Millennium Falcon’s hangar?

*I had no idea that Boba Fett had been working for Jabba the Hutt before the incidents of ESB.

*I don’t think that even the massacre at the Jedi Temple in ROTS could ever exceed the horror of Alderaan’s destruction. Tarkin made Vader look like an amateur.

*Did I detect a slight British accent coming out of Carrie Fisher’s mouth?

*While watching Obi-Wan begin Luke’s training in the Jedi skills, I realized that this is the first time I’ve seen a 19 year-old Jedi youngling.

*”That’s good. You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” – A rather apt description of one’s introduction into the Force.

*”I sense something. A presence I have not felt since . . .” – I find it odd that Vader was able to immediately sense Obi-Wan, yet Obi-Wan did not sense Vader until the latter nearly found him?

*"Bring em’ on! I prefer a straight fight to all of this sneaking around!” – I found Han’s comment rather odd, considering that he was a smuggler.

*”Better her than me!” – I found Han’s refusal to save Leia rather cold, considering that she would end up being his future love.

*Leia was imprisoned in cell block 1138. Hmmm . . . do you suppose that Robert Duvall is with her?

*Han gave the worst impression of an Imperial trooper I have ever seen. Classic moment.

*”Hi! I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.” – Brother and sister meet for the first time since their births.

*”Will someone please get this big, walking carpet out of my way?” – Ah! Leia is still Daddy’s girl.

*Watching Luke and Leia swing to safety reminded me of Anakin and Padme’s failure to do the same in AOTC.

*Anakin (Vader) vs. Obi-Wan: Part II – in retrospect, is not as exciting or thrilling as their first duel on Mustafar.

*Vader’s dialogue seemed rather wooden during his duel with Obi-Wan.

*”Not this ship, sister.”/”It is for me, sister.” – Without a doubt, these are the two worst lines ever uttered in a STAR WARS movie. And both lines had been spoken by Harrison Ford.

*For a guy that had been traumatized by Obi-Wan’s death, Luke seemed to have recovered from his grief rather fast. Even to the point that he ended up contemplating a romance with Leia before the Falcon could reach Yavin IV.

*Despite the Battle of Yavin sequence, the movie never recaptured or continued its drive, following the Falcon’s escape from the Death Star.

*Why did Han and Chewbacca attend the pilot’s briefing on their mission to destroy the Death Star? Especially since the two never had plans to hang around any longer or join the Rebel Alliance.

*Typical of Vader/Anakin in that he had decided to join the Imperial fighters in the battle, instead of remaining with the generals.

*What do you know? Uncle Dennis . . . oop! I mean, Wedge to the rescue!

*It seemed as if Lucas had incorporated nearly every World War II aviator cliché into the Battle of Yavin sequence.

*Someone in my family had pointed out that the Rebels never really had any kind of strategy to destroy the Death Star. Instead, the Alliance military leaders merely had an objective and a method to destroy the station.

*When Obi-Wan had urged Luke to use the Force, had he foreseen that Vader would sense it?

*When I first saw ANH, I had wondered why Vader did not die in the end. From a 29 year perspective, I know understand why.

*The medal ceremony featured a good number of pilots in the audience. So, where had they been during the Battle of Yavin?

*Someone had described the medal ceremony near the end of the film as a pyhrric victory for the Rebel Alliance. When one contemplates on what laid ahead for Luke, Leia, Han and the others . . . that person may have been right.

*I would describe ANH as the most fun of all the STAR WARS movies. A straight out adventure flick with heroes, villains, damsels and wizards. Which would explain why many fans consider it to be the best of the saga. However . . . as much fun ANH was, it harbored very few meaningful metaphors and complexities in compare to the five other films that followed. It’s a lot of fun, but somewhat a little shallow to me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"SAD CYPRESS" (2003) Review

"SAD CYPRESS" (2003) Review

Adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1940 novel, "SAD CYPRESS" is a story about Hercule Poirot’s efforts to discover the truth behind the case of a young woman facing conviction for the murder of her ailing wealthy aunt and a lodge keeper’s daughter who has become her aunt’s companion. Directed by David Moore, this 90-minute movie starred David Suchet as the Belgian detective.

The story began with a doctor from a small town named Peter Lord who hires Hercule Poirot to clear the name of a young woman Elinor Carlisle. Elinor is facing trial for the murder of a young woman named Mary Gerard, the beautiful companion of her late aunt, Mrs. Laura Welman. Through interviews and flashbacks, Poirot learns that Elinor was engaged to Mrs. Welman’s nephew by marriage, Roddy Welman. Unfortunately for Elinor, Roderick (or Roddy) falls in love with Mary. Realizing that marriage to Roddy would be useless, Elinor ends the engagement, freeing him to pursue Mary. But her resentment toward her aunt’s companion fails to fade. And when Mary dies from poisoning during an afternoon tea, suspicion falls upon Elinor and she is arrested for murder. When Poirot and the authorities discover that Mrs. Welman had died of poisoning and was the real mother of Mary Gerard, Elinor is charged with the murder of her aunt.

I have one complaint about ”SAD CYPRESS”. The revelation of the murderer produced a contrived ending to an otherwise first-rate murder mystery. I am not joking. The method in which the two crimes were committed and how Poirot came to the truth seemed rather unbelievable.

With that out of the way, I did find the rest of ”SAD CYPRESS” to be very satisfying. Hell, it was more than satisfying. One, Poirot found himself with a case that seemed nearly hopeless for Elinor Carlisle. Two, it was a case that featured two murders committed in the distant past. I have a soft spot for murder stories that come close to resembling historical mysteries. Three, not only did Poirot play a major role in this story – much stronger than he did in ”THE HOLLOW”, but so did the Elinor Carlisle character. One would think that the Mary Gerard character had a major impact upon the story. And she . . . plot wise. But for me, Elinor Carlisle had a stronger impact. On the surface, she seemed like a pleasant and well-bred young woman who kept her emotion in check. But that was simply a façade. Despite her reserved nature, Elinor’s raging emotions seemed to be felt or sensed by those around her. The impact of her personality gave the story an emotional punch that I found rewarding.

The producers of ”SAD CYPRESS” certainly selected the right actress to portray Elinor Carlisle. Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh was the right woman to project an air of English gentility that masked the personality of a passionate woman who loved just a little too heavily. Especially in scenes that required little or no dialogue, Dermot-Walsh did a superb job in displaying great pathos. Also superb was David Suchet as Poirot. I must admit that ”SAD CYPRESS” featured what I believe to be one of Suchet’s better performances in the role. In this particular movie, his Poirot projected a large array of emotions – frustration, patience, perplexity and cunning – that I have rarely seen in many other Poirot movies.

The rest of the cast struck me as pretty solid. Rupert Penry-Jones proved once again what a chameleon he could be in his dead-on portrayal of Elinor’s fiancé, the supercilious, yet proud and shallow Roderick Welman. Phyllis Logan gave a complex performance as one of the nurses, Nurse Hopkins. Paul McGann was vibrant as the passionate Dr. Peter Lord, the local doctor who was in love with Elinor Carlisle. Kelly Reilly portrayed the story’s catalyst, Mary Gerard. But the character struck me as so bland that I felt Reilly could hardly do anything with the role.

Production designer Michael Pickwoad did a solid job of supporting the movie’s setting of 1937-38 rural England. And Sheena Napier’s costume designs seemed historically accurate and colorful without being too theatrical. Thanks to a first-rate cast led by David Suchet and Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh , along with Dave Moore’s adaptation of Christie’s emotional tale of jealousy and greed, ”SAD CYPRESS” turned out to be one of the better versions of a Christie murder mystery I have seen in the past decade.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Below are photos from the new Disney live-action fantasy film, "THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE". Loosely based on the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment in the 1940 animated film, "FANTASIA", the movie stars Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel, and Alfred Molina. Jon Turteltaub directed:


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"A Wedding in Four Acts" [PG-13] - Act 3 (Part 1)


Act III - Part 1

"Great party, last night," Paige declared, as she entered the Halliwell kitchen. "A big hit, as far as Livy and the others are concerned. They really loved the male stripper."

Piper commented, "And I bet you did, too." Paige wrinkled her nose. "Anyway," Piper continued, "I'm also satisfied. With the business P3 made last night. Plus, Mrs. McNeill . . . the Younger . . . had asked me to prepare some hors'derves for the wedding reception." She indicated the spread of food on the kitchen table. "I'm making Broccoli Quiche, Shrimp Canapes and Deviled Ham pinwheel sandwiches. And I need your help."

"Swell," Paige grumbled. "I come down for breakfast and end up being the kitchen help. I supposed you don't care that I'm one of the bridesmaids, today."

Removing a plastic bag filled with cooked shrimp from the refrigerator, Piper replied, "Nope, I don't. Besides, I only have to make the canapés. Phoebe went to the store to get some more mayonnaise and Swiss cheese."

The kitchen door swung open. "And Phoebe is here," the middle Charmed One announced breathlessly. She entered the kitchen and closed the door. Dumping her purchase on the table, she added, "Here's the Swiss cheese, Piper."

Paige sat in one of the chairs. "So, what are we having for breakfast?"

Piper shook her head. "Sorry, I haven't had time to make breakfast, yet."

"I could go to McDonald's," Phoebe volunteered. "Who's in the mood for an Egg McMuffin?"

Paige grimaced. "Thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather have a Sunrise sandwich from Carl's Jr. With bacon?"

"Carl's Jr. sounds fine with me," Piper said. She handed the bag of shrimp to Paige. "Sweetie, do me a favor, while Phoebe gets breakfast. Start peeling the shrimp for me?"

Phoebe added, "And I'll be heading for Carl's Jr. Besides a Sunrise sandwich with bacon, what do you guys want?"

Before Paige or Piper could answer, Leo burst into the kitchen. "Leo honey," Piper began, "Phoebe's getting breakfast from Carl's Jr. What do you want?"

"I'll have orange juice and toast," Leo replied absent-mindedly.

Paige frowned at him. "Toast? From Carl's Jr.? Don't you mean French Toast?"

Leo's blue eyes focused upon the youngest Charmed One and chilled slightly. "Never mind breakfast," he said. "I just want to know Paige - why did you tell Cole that I had recommended that ADA job to Paul?"

"Huh?" Paige stared at her brother-in-law with wide eyes. "Leo, what are you talking about?"

Grim-faced, Leo leaned against the kitchen counter. "Last night, I ended up in a fight with Cole . . ."

"Did he hurt you?" a concerned Phoebe asked.

Leo shook his head. "No, it was all words. But he told me that Paige," he coldly returned his gaze upon the youngest sister, "had told him how Paul found out about the ADA job opening. Through me. And now, Cole is convinced that I had done it to play matchmaker with Olivia and Paul."

"Well excuse me, Leo!" Paige retorted. "But it was Paul who told me at Nathalie Gleason's party, last week! And judging from that little dinner party you and Piper gave nearly a month ago, and your expression every time we saw him with Olivia . . . can you really blame Cole for suspecting that you're playing matchmaker?"

The other two sisters stared at the whitelighter. Piper asked, "Paige, are you suggesting that Leo helped Paul get a job out here, simply to . . . break up Cole and Olivia?"

"There is no Cole and Olivia to begin with!" Leo hotly insisted. "They weren't even dating!"

Paige spoke up, "But you did tell Paul about the job opening. Right? So that you could hook him up with Olivia?"

"I see nothing wrong with that," Piper commented. "Paul has a new job with a higher salary. He and Olivia seemed to get along." She shot her husband, an acidic look. "Of course, someone could have told us what he was up to."

Phoebe added, "And Olivia could do a lot worse than Paul. Say . . . my ex-husband?"

"Well that's great, Pheebs," Paige shot back, "except I don't see how Paul can be good for Livy, when she doesn't even love him. And besides . . . I think there's something a little off about our friendly neighborhood ADA. Like he's in dire need of a good psychotherapist!"

Leo protested, "What are you saying? That Paul's crazy? And as Olivia's whitelighter, I think I did the right thing by . . ."

"Interfering with Olivia's love life?" Paige suggested sarcastically. "Yeah, I'm sure you feel that way. Only . . . you haven't been her whitelighter in years!"

"Paige . . ."

The youngest Charmed One rounded on her whitelighter. "If you're worried about Cole knowing about your little scheme, Leo, don't bother. Because you might have a bigger problem on your hands. Like a pissed-off witch, if Olivia ever finds out."

Leo's face paled.


Slowly, light poured into the darkness of Barbara's mind. When the darkness finally disappeared, the blond witch blinked her eyes several times, before opening them.

The room looked very unfamiliar with its wood-paneled walls and expensive Louis XV furnishings. Filled with panic at the unfamiliar surroundings, Barbara jerked into a sitting position. Where in the hell was she? The last thing she remembered was encountering the male stripper, who had transformed into a . . .

The door opened and in walked a tall, good-looking man who possessed dark hair and a slender, yet wiry physique. The same man who had once been a blond-haired stripper, last night. "Oh God! It's you!" Barbara sprung off the bed and back away, bumping into the night stand. "Stay away from me!"

The man smiled. "Do not worry, Signorina. I will not hurt you." His dark eyes grew threatening. "Unless you give me a reason."

"Who in the hell are you?" Barbara demanded. "And where am I?"

Bowing, the man continued, "My name is Alessandro. And you're at the home of Signorina Claudia Della Scalla."

Barbara grew cold at the mention of her hostess's name. "Della . . .?" she whispered. Then, "Oh my God! Della Scalla! Olivia was right!"

"There is someone who wishes to speak with you." Alessandro opened the door and stood aside, while a second figure entered the bedroom. Nick Marcano.

The Stregheria witch smiled broadly. "Barbara! It's good to see you!"

Barbara marched toward Nick and punched him in the jaw. Hard. He sprawled onto the floor. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Nick?"

Rubbing his jaw, the Streghone protested, "Me? This is not my doing!" He stood up. "I'm . . . Signorina Della Scalla had me sprung from jail. She thought I had killed her sister."

Searing the other witch with a furious glare, Barbara hissed, "And I bet you made sure that you told her what really happened. Didn't you?"

"I had no choice!"

Barbara shot back, "If that's true, why am I here?"

Nick hesitated. "Well . . ."

"Signor Marcano had provided much needed information to the Padronessa," the incubus explained smoothly. "And he is being rewarded for his troubles."

"Rewarded?" Barbara frowned. "How?" She turned to Nick. "What exactly did you tell her?" Recalling how Alessandro had captured her in the first place, a horrifying epiphany struck the blond witch. "Goddess! You told her everything about us, didn't you? About the wedding!"

Nick added, "Signorina Della Scalla needed the information to get close to Bruce. But don't worry. She won't kill him before the wedding. She's going to marry Bruce in your place . . . and then kill him. Eventually. As for us . . . well, how do you feel about becoming Mrs. Nicholas Marcano?" He stared at Barbara with hopeful eyes.

Barbara decided to give Nick an answer that best expressed her feelings. Her fist snaked out and smashed against Nick's jaw. For the second time. And for the second time, he went sprawling upon the floor. "Does that answer your question?" Barbara coldly replied.

The incubus helped Nick to his feet. "Signorina, I suggest that you refrain from such behavior, again. You should consider yourself lucky that the Padronessa has decided to spare your life. For Signor Marcano's sake. Meanwhile, you can shower and dress. There are some clothes in the closet. And a servant will bring you breakfast. Good day, Signorina Bowen." Alessandro left the room, dragging along a semi-conscious Nick.

Once the door closed behind the pair, Barbara rushed forward. She re-opened the door and tried to leave the bedroom. But she was unable to, thanks to a force-field blocking the doorway. In other words, she was trapped. And unless she could escape in time to warn her family and the McNeills, Bruce will end up dead by the time his honeymoon ended.


The pounding on the door awaken Claudia from her deep slumber. She rolled over to her right side, heaved a sigh and tried to resume her sleep. The pounding resumed. Then the doorbell rang. "Barbara! Hello? Wake up!"

Barbara? Claudia blinked several times before her eyes flickered open. She sat up, glanced around the bedroom, and remembered. Oh yes. The bedroom belonged to the Streghone's little Wiccan witch. Claudia's eyes swept over the room. Very tastefully furnished. The succubus could not help but feel impressed by the witch's taste.

Ding-dong! The doorbell rang for the second time. Claudia waited for a servant to respond . . . until she remembered that the Bowen witch did not have servants. How barbaric. Heaving a sigh, she forced herself out of bed and started toward the apartment's living room. A quick glance at a mirror hanging near the door informed Claudia that she was not in disguise. She morphed herself into the image of the blond-haired witch and opened the door.

"Here comes the bride! Here comes the bride!" sang two women, as they entered the apartment. One of them, the Vodoun priestess, swept her eyes over Claudia. The latter's hand immediately flew to the small amulet hanging from her neck. "Damn Barbara! Are you just getting up? It's a quarter past ten!"

Claudia stared at the other two. "After ten? Get ready? Why should . . .?" Her mind immediately grasped the situation. "Oh! Yeah. The wedding. How long do I have?"

"Man, you have lost it this morning!" the redheaded witch declared. "I thought you would have been eating breakfast by now. Where's your wedding dress?" She swept past Claudia and into the bedroom.

Wedding dress? Several seconds passed before the succubus realized that she did not know where to find it. "I . . . uh . . ."

"I've got it!" the McNeill witch cried. She re-entered the living-room, carrying two plastic-covered garments. "I've got your going-away dress, as well. Why don't you take a shower and get dressed, so we can leave? We can get breakfast at my parents' house."

Claudia blinked. "Oh. Okay." She started to turn away.

"What's that?" The Vodoun priestess pointed at the amulet hanging from Claudia's neck. The same amulet that contained a spell to block any power from another telepath.

Being the quick-witted creature that she was, Claudia immediately came up with an answer. "Oh. That." She fingered the amulet. "It's a good luck piece. For the wedding."

The priestess, whose name Claudia recalled was Cecile, continued to stare at the amulet. "That's an interesting symbol for good luck. What language is it? Where did it come from?"

Panic quickly became relief when the other woman interrupted. "Hello? Ladies? We have a wedding to attend. We don't have much time."

Claudia used the warning to excuse herself and return to the bedroom. Once inside, she summoned her right-hand man, Leonardo. The incubus materialized after her third cry. "Yes Padronessa?" he responded with a bow.

Throwing off her robe in a theatrical manner, Claudia said, "One of the women in the other room - the black woman . . ."

"The Vodoun mami, Dubois," Leonard added.

Claudia continued, "I want you to find someone to keep an eye on her. Get Giancarlo. She has developed an interest in my amulet. And I'm not sure that it is blocking her power, completely."

Leonardo said, "I will summoned him, right away."

Nodding Claudia added, "Bueno. Now all I want him to do is observe her. But if she becomes a problem . . . have Giancarlo kill her. If necessary."


The solid redwood door swung open and Cole, along with his companion, found themselves facing a surprised-looking major-domo. "Mr. Turner," Davies greeted, staring at the woman clutching the half-daemon's arm, "welcome back. Come in."

The pair entered the McNeills' house. Veronica Altman glanced around the foyer with admiring eyes. Cole noticed that her lips had puckered for a whistle. Fortunately, not a sound came out. Especially since Gweneth McNeill chose that moment to enter the foyer.

"Cole!" The middle-aged redhead embraced her new visitor. Then she pecked his cheek. "Darling, I'm so glad that you're here. Jack needs help supervising the set-up for the ceremony in the garden. Harry is upstairs, babysitting the groom." Her green eyes fell upon Veronica. "Oh. Who is this?"

Cole responded with a slight cough. "Uh Gwen, this is Veronica Altman. She's a fellow attorney at my firm. Veronica, this is Gweneth . . ."

"Gweneth McNeill." Veronica eagerly shook the chef's hands. "I'm a big fan of yours. In fact, I even have two of your cookbooks."

Flattery lit up Gweneth's eyes. "Really? How lovely! Which two books do you have?"

An excited Veronica continued, "Well, I have the one on British cooking and the Fifty Simple Recipes cookbook. They're great!"

It took all of Cole's efforts not to wince at Veronica's adulation. Or kick her in the shin and tell her to ease up on the celebrity worship. But since the other attorney was doing him a favor, Cole remained silent. A few minutes later, the subject of cookbooks finally ended. "I would really love to chat a little longer, Ms. Altman," Gweneth said, "but I have a wedding to organize. Would you excuse . . .?"

The front door swung open and three women entered the house - Cecile, Barbara, and Olivia. "We're here!" the latter declared loudly. "Mom, Cecile and I finally got Barbara . . ." She stopped short at the sight of Cole and Veronica standing next to each other. "Oh. Cole." A tinge of jealousy crept into her voice - much to Cole's satisfaction. "Who's your friend? She looks familiar."

Suppressing a smile, Cole replied, "You remember Veronica Altman from my firm, don't you? I believe you two had once met at some office party."

"Actually, we've met twice," Veronica said, offering her hand to Olivia, who coolly regarded it. "At the Christmas office party and at the firm's charity benefit, last February. Nice to see you, again, Olivia. It is Olivia, right?"

A cool smile touched Olivia's lips. She finally shook Veronica's hand. "Oh yes. I remember you. From the charity benefit."

Cole turned Veronica's attention to the other women. "By the way, this is Cecile Dubois. She's a friend of Olivia's. And so is Barbara," he said, indicating the blond-haired woman. "Who happens to be the bride."

Veronica shook Cecile's hands and smiled at Barbara. "Congratulations on the wedding. I hope you'll be happy."

The bride-to-be responded with a wan smile. "Thanks." To Cole's surprise, he felt a familiar tingle at the nape of his neck. The last time he had felt such a sensation . . .

"I hope that you'll enjoy the wedding, Ms. Altman," Gweneth said, interrupting Cole's thoughts. "I believe it will be quite different from what you're used to."

Veronica's smoky gray eyes widened. "Oh?"

"Our family and Barbara's family are into what is known as New Age religion. It's a new kind of religion based on some old Celtic Pagan one."

Nodding, Veronica said, "That should be no problem. I mean, this is San Francisco. New Age religion has been around for the past 30 or 40 years in this town. At the last wedding I had attended, the bride and groom were married in a some kind of old Romanian ceremony." She turned to Cole. "Remember Cole? It was at Stefan Schroeder's wedding, nearly two weeks ago."

Cole became aware of eyes staring at him. "That's strange," Olivia said thoughtfully. "You never mentioned anything about attending a wedding to me."

Despite the intensity radiating from Olivia's green eyes, Cole maintained his composure. "You weren't available that day. I believe you and Paul had taken a trip to Napa Valley."

Olivia's eyes flickered. "Oh."

Tension surrounded the six people like a heavy fog. Mercifully, Gweneth broke the silence. "Well, I'm sure we would all love to stand around and talk, but I have a wedding to supervise. Jack is waiting for Cole, and I'm sure that you girls need to get ready."

Her words did the trick. Gweneth exchanged a few more words with Veronica and left. Olivia, along with Cecile and Barbara started upstairs. As they climbed the staircase, Olivia shot a quick glare at Cole and Veronica.

"Looks like your plan is working," Veronica commented, after the three other women disappeared upstairs. "Did you see the look your friend gave us?"

Cole sighed. "Oh yeah. I saw." Only now, he began to wonder if he had gone too far with this jealousy scheme.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Favorite Movies of the 1930s

Below is a list of my favorite movies that had been released during the 1930s:


1. "It Happened One Night" (1934) - This screwball comedy about a runaway heiress and a newspaper reporter on the road from Florida to New York won all five major Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Frank Capara, Best Actor for Clark Gable and Best Actress for Claudette Colbert.

2. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936) - Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland and Patric Knowles starred in this revised look at the famous Charge of the Light Brigade and the incidents that led one regiment to participate in it. Directed by Michael Curtiz.

3. "After the Thin Man" (1936) - William Powell and Myrna Loy reprised their roles of Nick and Nora Charles for the first time in this comedy thriller about Nora's socialite cousin (Elissa Landi) being framed for the murder of her philandering husband.

4. "Bombshell" (1933) - Victor Fleming directed Jean Harlow in this hilarious look into the chaotic life of a glamourous Hollywood star. Lee Tracy co-starred as her fast-talking publicity agent.

5. "Kid Galahad" (1937) - Michael Curtiz directed my favorite version of a story about a naive bellhop who becomes a rising boxing star, due to a fast-talking boxing manager and his girlfriend. Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris and Humphrey Bogart starred.

6. "The Thin Man" (1934) - The first (and one of the best) of six movies about a former detective and his wife, Nick and Nora Charles. This story, based upon Dashiell Hammett's novel, has Nick Charles investigating the disappearance of a wealthy friend accused of murdering his girlfriend. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred.

7. "King Kong" (1933) - Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack directed what I believe is the definitive version of the story about a monster gorilla discovered on a remote island and brought to New York against his will. Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot co-starred.

8. "Midnight" (1939) - Claudette Colbert starred in this witty comedy about a stranded American showgirl hired to impersonate a wealthy baroness in order to help a wealthy French business win back his wife from a playboy. Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor and Francis Lederer co-starred.

9. "The Divorcee" (1930) - Norma Shearer won an Academy Award as an embittered woman, who leaves her husband when he cheats on her with another woman . . . and fails to forgive her for her own infidelity. Chester Morris, Robert Montgomery and Conrad Nagel co-starred.

10. "Baby Face" (1933) - Barbara Stanwyck had a field day as a speakeasy waitress who climbs her way up the corporate ladder by seducing various employees and executives at a New York bank. George Brent and Theresa Harris co-starred.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"KNIGHT AND DAY" (2010) Review

”KNIGHT AND DAY” (2010) Review

Once again, Tom Cruise has put himself out on a limb by appearing in a movie, recently released this summer. The movie in question turned out to be a romantic comedy thriller called ”KNIGHT AND DAY”. Co-starring Cameron Diaz, the movie was directed by James Mangold.

Surprisingly, seventy to eighty percent of ”KNIGHT AND DAY” was told from Diaz’s point-of-view. She portrayed an auto mechanic named June Havens who found herself swept into the adventures of an eccentric man claiming to be a former CIA agent named Roy Miller. Miller also claimed that he was trying to prevent a corrupt CIA colleague named Fitzgerald from finding a brilliant young inventor named Simon Feck and his new invention, a perpetual energy battery called the Zephyr, and selling both to a Spanish weapons dealer named Antonio. Unfortunately, his former director believes he is a rogue agent that has gone mentally off the grid.

I might as well be frank. ”KNIGHT AND DAY” did not strike me as an exceptional action film. The movie featured a series of minor scenes in which a drugged and semi-conscious June found herself being moved from one location to another by Miller. And since these scenes were shown from her point-of-view, I suspect this gave Mangold and screenwriter Patrick O’Neill the opportunity to move their characters around without any real detail. Personally, it seemed like a lazy way to progress the plot along. I was also confused over how Peter Sarsgaard’s character, Agent Fitzgerald, managed to arrange for other CIA agents to appear on the Wichita-Boston flight at the beginning of the movie as the entire crew and group of passengers. Nor did I understand why he bothered to keep June on that flight after Miller tried to ensure that she would miss it. Also, Mangold’s direction failed to infuse the movie with any special energy that could have made it memorable. Despite the somewhat eccentric plot, ”KNIGHT AND DAY” moved and felt like a typical action film.

But the movie also had its virtues. It featured some beautiful photography of Boston, Jamaica (which served as the Azores, off the coast of Portugal), Austria and Spain; thanks to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. The movie also featured one hell of a plane crash, supervised by Chris Brenczewski. O’Neill wrote a solid plot that I could easily understand – something that has been lacking in a good number of action films (comedy or otherwise) recently. ”KNIGHT AND DAY” also provided some first-rate action sequences. My favorites included Miller’s fight against his former CIA colleagues aboard the Wichita-Boston flight; the gunfight on one of Boston’s highways; and Miller’s fight against a young German assassin named Danny, aboard a train bound for Salzburg, Austria. Humor proved to be another one of the movie’s virtues. Not only did cast members such as Cruise, Diaz, Paul Dano and Marc Blucas provide some excellent comic performances, O’Neill’s script provided them with plenty of material to work with. At least two scenes struck me as particularly funny – Miller’s ”with me, you survive” speech; June’s encounter with Feck and Danny, the assassin, aboard the train; and her encounter with the arms dealer, Antonio. But my favorite scene turned out to be the encounter between Miller, June and her ex-boyfriend, Rodney inside a Boston diner. I really found that scene hilarious.

There were no bad performances in ”KNIGHT AND DAY”. But I must admit that not all of them struck me as impressive. Both Viola Davis and Jordi Mollà gave solid, yet humorless performances as the CIA Director and Antonio, the arms dealer. Peter Sarsgaard, who portrayed Agent Fitzgerald, seemed amusing at times. Otherwise, he came off as distant and slightly stiff. But the movie had its share of good performances. Dale Dye and Celia Weston provided plenty of laughs as Miller’s parents, who believed that their son was dead. Paul Dano proved that he also have a talent for comedy in his goofy and funny portrayal of Feck, the brilliant young scientist that created the Zephyr battery. But of the entire supporting cast, my favorite performance came from Marc Blucas, who portrayed June’s ex-boyfriend and a Boston fireman. Thanks to his two-season stint on television’s ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”, I have always been aware of the actor’s talent for off-beat humor. But Mangold’s direction and O’Neill’s script provided him with a role that truly exploited his comedic talents. Blucas portrayed Rodney not only as a compassionate and duty-bound man, but also a self-absorbed and shallow jerk. And he managed to achieve this balance with great subtlety and skill.

But what really made ”KNIGHT AND DAY” work for me were the two leads, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. They had worked together before in the 2001 movie, ”VANILLA SKY” and it was easy to see that they both had a very good screen chemistry. Once again, Cruise proved his talent for both comedy and action as the slightly eccentric Roy Miller, whose idea of keeping his new companion safe was too keep her in a drugged state, as he carted her around the eastern United States and Europe. The actor also effectively conveyed his character’s self-assured nature without allowing it to be tainted by any signs of cockiness. This would not have been the case with a younger Cruise. What I liked about Cameron Diaz’s portrayal of June Havens was that she did an excellent job of conveying her character’s progression throughout the movie. Her June started as a reserved woman just recovering from the end of a trying relationship, progressed to the confused and frightened innocent caught up in intrigue and betrayal; and finally developed into a more confident woman who was self-assured about her love for Miller and what she needed to do to keep him safe.

”KNIGHT AND DAY” is not the best movie I have seen this summer. It certainly did not knock my socks off. But thanks to James Mangold’s direction, a solid script by Patrick O’Neill and an excellent screen team in the form of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It is not a perfect film, but it is certainly better than I had originally assumed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"CRANFORD" (2007) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery of photos from the 2007 award-winning miniseries based upon three of Elizabeth Gaskell's novellas - "Cranford", "My Lady Ludlow", and "Mr Harrison's Confessions". Directed by Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson, the five-part miniseries' cast includes Simon Woods, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon:

"CRANFORD" (2007) Photo Gallery