Friday, December 31, 2010

"FREQUENCY" (2000) Review




"FREQUENCY" (2000) Review

Directed by Gregory Hoblit and written by Toby Emmerich, "FREQUENCY" is an entertaining and intriguing time travel story about a New York City firefighter in 1969, who is able to communicate with his adult son in 1999, via a short wave radio. The movie starred Dennis Quaid, Jim Cavielzel, Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Noah Emmerich and Shawn Doyle.

A rare atmospheric phenomenon – the Aurora Borealis - allows a New York City firefighter named Frank Sullivan (Quaid) to communicate with his police detective son, John Sullivan (Cavielzel) 30 years in the future via short-wave radio. John uses this opportunity to warn Frank of his impending death in a warehouse fire, and manages to save the latter’s life. However, what he does not realize is that changing history has triggered a new set of tragic events, including the murder of his mother, Julia Sullivan (Mitchell). Father and son must now work together, 30 years apart, to find the murderer (Doyle) before he strikes so that they can change history - again.

Many have compared the plotlines of ”FREQUENCY” to the 1985 classic, ”BACK TO THE FUTURE”. I never understood why, since many time travel stories have dealt with different generations within a family interacting with each other – including two episodes of the television fantasy, ”CHARMED”. What made ”FREQUENCY” unique . . . at least for me is that neither of the two major characters actually travel through time – whether through the use of magic or a time machine. In fact, not one character does. The two major characters communicate with each other via a short wave radio and the atmospheric phenomenon, the Aurora Borealis. Frank and John Sullivan manage to change time . . . without leaving their respective time period. I have to admit that this was very clever of screenwriter Emmerich.

Another reason why I find the comparisons between ”FREQUENCY” and ”BACK TO THE FUTURE” hard to buy is the fact that ”FREQUENCY” is not only a time travel story, but also a thriller. In another clever plot twist, there is a serial killer loose called the Nightingale” murdering nurses in 1969. The case is re-opened by John and his partner/mentor, an old friend of his father named Satch DeLeon (Braugher), when an old corpse is discovered. As it turned out, the Nightingale killings had stopped after three victims, following Frank’s death in a warehouse fire. But when John warns his father of his impending death, Frank manages to save his life and that of a teenage girl. And his wife Julia, who is a nurse, is at the hospital to save the life of the killer, a cop named Jack Shephard. An act that leads to her violent death at his hands – and the deaths of six other nurses. Realizing the consequences of their actions, Frank and John race to save Julia’s life and the lives of Shephard’s other victims – and expose the cop as a serial murderer.

I must say that I ended up being very impressed by Emmerich’s script. He wrote an emotional and suspenseful story filled with family drama, fantasy and suspense. He took an original approach to time travel by having the two main characters travel through time via an object – namely a shorthand radio – without actually leaving their respective periods in time. The only misstep in Emmerich’s script occurred near the end in which featured Shepard’s attempt to kill members of the Sullivan family in both 1969 and 1999 – two incidents that cut back and forth within one sequence. I understood the killer’s attempt to commit murder in 1969. After all, he probably wanted to get even with Frank for exposing him as a serial killer, by murdering Julia. That episode ended with Frank blowing away Shephard’s hand with a shotgun before the latter escaped. But he came back to the Sullivan house, thirty years later to kill John. That simply did not make any sense to me . . . and it almost ruined the sequence for me. Not even Gregory Hoblit’s first-class direction or the competent editing of David Rosenbloom could elevate the scene.

When Hoblit took on the job as director of "FREQUENCY", he had difficulty in casting the two leads. Sylvester Stallone was originally considered for the role of Frank Sullivan. But Stallone pulled out over a dispute regarding his paycheck. In the end, Dennis Quaid won the role. And he turned out to be the perfect Frank – the boisterous and charming firefighter who loved his family and baseball. He managed to create a strong chemistry with the talented and surprisingly dark-haired Elizabeth Mitchell, who gave a charming performance as his wife, Julia. And despite the fact that both actors came from Texas (although Mitchell was born in Los Angeles), Quaid and Mitchell managed to create a convincing Queens accent. Well . . . almost. Andre Braugher gave solid support as Satch, Frank’s close friend and John’s mentor. He also had a delicious moment on screen when he discovered that Frank had been telling the truth about communicating with John through time. Emmerich's brother, Noah Emmerich, gave a funny performance as John’s best friend, Gordo Hersch. I also have to give kudos to Shawn Doyle for portraying a convincingly scary killer without any signs of acting histrionics. And of course, there is James Cavielzel, who did an excellent job of portraying Frank and Julia’s brooding and slightly obsessive adult son, John Sullivan. And although Cavielzel comes from the Pacific Northwest, his Queens accent turned out to be slightly better than Quaid and Mitchell’s. Hoblit managed to gather quite a cast and he did an excellent job with them.

Despite my misgivings over the film’s climatic action sequence featuring Shephard’s two attacks upon the Sullivan family, I must admit that I enjoyed ”FREQUENCY” very much. Screenwriter Toby Emmerich created a first-class and original screenplay. And director Gregory Hoblit did an excellent job of conveying Emmerich’s story with a group of talented actors led by Dennis Quaid and James Cavielzel, and a competent crew that included film editor David Rosenbloom. Not only is ”FREQUENCY” is a compelling science-fiction story about time travel and the consequences; it is also a suspenseful thriller and heartwarming family drama. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Reflections of a Bride" [PG] - 1/1




"REFLECTIONS OF A BRIDE"

RATING: [PG]
SUMMARY: Bride-to-be, B'Elanna Torres, reflects on her choices for a mate minutes before her wedding. Set in mid-Season 6.
FEEDBACK: deerush76@yahoo.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be. Dammit!


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"REFLECTIONS OF A BRIDE"


Married. Kahless, I cannot believe it! I, B'Elanna Torres, will be getting married. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would find someone willing to put up with a volatile, unattractive half-Klingon. But apparently there was someone.

It seems strange that I would marry someone whom I considered as a friend for such a long time. From the moment we first met, he accepted me. He never backed away, hid or ran screaming for his life. Instead, he simply offered his friendship. And I like that. Not many people - including me - seem willing to accept me so quickly. Well, I can think of one other.

The door chime rings. Ah, speak of the devil. It is Chakotay here to escort me to the Mess Hall and the groom. Good old Chakotay. Hmmm. There was a time I would have longed to marry him. After all, I did maintain an infatuation of Chakotay for over two years.

"B'Elanna." He greets me with that dimpled smile, which has dazzled so many women throughout two quadrants. "Ready to face your future husband?"

I smile as brightly as I can. "I've been facing him for over five years. Today shouldn't be any different." Kahless! I almost sound like a Vulcan.

Chakotay responds with another smile. "Then I guess today should be a piece of cake."

"Maybe," I grumble. "I know that I look like one." I am referring to, of course, my wedding dress. I can't believe I'm wearing one. I wanted to wear my formal uniform, but my fiancé convinced me to wear a dress. With a veil. Gods! What was I thinking?

Chakotay assures me that I look beautiful. Naturally, I do not believe him. If I had been completely Human - like 85 to 90% of the women aboard this ship - I would. The Best Man had suggested that I wear a Klingon wedding dress - red leather. I appreciated the suggestion, but decided to disregard the Best Man. As usual.

We leave the sanctuary of my quarters and proceed along the corridor, toward the turbolift. Staring ahead, I try to ignore the stares from passing crewmen. I should have known this damn dress was a mistake. I should have worn my uniform. Okay, B'Elanna. Calm down. Just calm down. We're almost at the turbolift.

Had Mother gone through this barrage of nerves on her wedding day? I doubt it. Not Miral, daugher of L'Naan. I bet that she wore red leather, despite marrying a Human. Perhaps she should have been nervous -considering that Human turned out to be the wrong man. And John Torres was the wrong man. Can I say the same about my future husband?

Finally, the turbolift arrives. Chakotay and I step inside and my train nearly gets caught between the doors. Damn dress! I should have worn my dress uniform. "Deck Two," Chakotay orders and the lift moves. He turns to me. "Still nervous?"

I give him my darkest glare and growl. Not very matrimonial, but he did piss me off. "I'm not nervous," I snap back. "I haven't been nervous at all." The smile on Chakotay's face tells me that he believes otherwise. Bastard.

Okay, I don't really mean that. Chakotay is probably one of the most trustworthy men I have ever met. Probably the most trustworthy. But he does not understand me. Not really. He accepts me - to a certain degree. But he always lectures me about my temper. I get the feeling he would prefer if I suppress it, Vulcan style. Or obliterate it completely. My temper seems to make him uncomfortable. He dislikes bloodwine - can't really blame him, there. And when I had approached him about my visions of Grethor some four or five months ago, he dismissed them as possible illusions on my part. Strange, he never harbored such view regarding his own spirituality.

My fiance's views on Klingon culture seemed to be a little more open. Somewhat. He takes them in stride. Sometimes. Okay, in reality, he is really no better than Chakotay. But at least I don't have to listen to lectures on temper control from him. Besides, his attitude really suits me just fine. I no longer mind facing my Klingon side every now and then. Somewhat. But you will not catch me becoming a born-again Klingon.

The turbolift stops at Deck Two. Chakotay steps out. I hesitate. Why did I hesitate? I'm getting married, for Kahless' sake! To the one man who has been consistent during the last five years of my life. He has stood by me during so many crisis in my life - those early, difficult months in the Delta Quadrant; the aftermath of the Vidiian mines, my infatuation with Chakotay, those telepathic dreams from Jora Mirell; the embarrassment of Vorik's pon farr; news of the Maquis' destruction; my depression . . . my God! I have been through a lot! And he has been with me every step of the way. The wrong man? Hell, I can think of other men who probably deserve that title.

"Coming B'Elanna?" Chakotay asks. He gives me a questioning look. Okay, I am nervous. Nervous, but determined. I step out of the turbolift and we proceed along the corridor.

The wrong men in my life. Let's see. How about Roberto from the Maquis? Poor Roberto. Either he is dead or languishing inside a Federation prison. The same Roberto who used me to get over his fiancée, who had been murdered by the Cardies. I didn't mind. I used him for sexual release and nothing else.

Another candidate - Ensign Freddie Barstow. He had a crush on me, once. I wonder if he still does. Of course, I couldn't care less. I still find him shallow. And he is still a lousy Parises Square player.

Vorik was the first man to ask me to marry him. Naturally, I said no. Vorik is a nice man. And warm for a Vulcan. But I don't think I can deal with years of Vulcan stoicism, punctuated by pon farr, every seven years. And to be honest, Sakari IV will always come between us. I suspect he remains privately horrified by his actions and my humiliation of him. And I keep a wary eye on the calendar, knowing that his next pon farr is due in another four years.

And then there was Max Burke. My old Academy boyfriend. He was not the sort of man one would seriously consider as a mate. Thank Kahless I didn't. Ten years after we dated, we had a reunion when Voyager encountered his ship, the Equinox, in the Delta Quadrant. A reunion that turned into a major disappointment, especially after we learned that Max, his captain and the remaining Equinox crew were killing alien life forms for fuel to get their ship back to the Alpha Quadrant. Max had changed from the charming and smooth man I knew into a genocidal killer.

The doors to the Mess Hall slide open. It looks like many of Voyager's crew had gathered for the wedding. This is a mistake. I should break away. Escape. But I have no reason to run. I'm going to marry a wonderful man. The most dependable man I have ever met, next to Chakotay. I can always depend upon him to make me happy. Not leave me. He is no Max Burke.

My eyes focus upon the two men standing before the Captain. I smile at the slightly shorter man. The groom. Next to him stands the Best Man. The same man who had suggested I wear a Klingon wedding dress. The same man who once propositioned me during an Away mission. The same man whom I tried to mate with, while in a state of pon farr. And the same man with whom I nearly died, while we floated in space over two years ago.

He reminds me of Max Burke so much. Perhaps, too much. The Best Man, I mean. Both possessed the same superficial charm, smooth tongue and ability to shut people out. I'm not saying that he may become a killer, like Max. But I simply cannot see him as the type to commit to a permanent relationship. I would rather live with his friendship than with the fear that he might get bored with me. Or worse, leave me. So, I kept my distance from him, as much as possible. Until he finally realized that I was not interested in romance.

After I stop before my husband, I release Chakotay's arm. I smile at him. The groom, I mean. And try to ignore the taller man at his side. Captain Janeway smiles. "Ready?" she asks. We both nod. Then she begins. "We are gathered here today, as friends, to celebrate the marriage of two family members. As captain of Voyager, the honor falls upon me to join them together as husband and wife."

Yes, this is a Federation ceremony. The Best Man had suggested to include a Klingon ritual in the ceremony, but the decision was left to me. I said no. He became disappointed. Why? Why is he still so interested in Klingon culture?

"Henry Kim," the Captain continues, "do you take B'Elanna Torres as your lawful wedded wife?" Henry? Huh.

In a firm voice, Harry, my future husband, answers, "I do." Oh God! The point of no return.

The Captain turns to me. "B'Elanna Torres, do you take Henry Kim as your lawful wedded husband?"

My mouth gapes open. What will I say? Yes? No? Memories flash through my mind in an instant. Memories of a fair-haired man comforting a frightened Human woman in the Vidiian mines. Three friends sharing pizza inside my quarters. Harry's pleasant kisses. Those disturbing kisses in the Sakari caves. Max Burke's smooth face. Me comforting Harry after his experiences with the Nakin memorial. A wedding proposal. Max's dispassionate voice. An announcement. Shock, followed by disappointment in a pair of blue eyes.

Say no. Say no, B'Elanna. You know this is wrong. In your heart. Max's face appears once more. Then it transforms into Tom Paris' face. I open my mouth. The words spill out. "I will."

Harry and I exchange rings. I try to ignore those same blue eyes drilling into the back of my neck. Oh yes, the Captain. "Ensign Henry Kim. Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres. With the power vested in my by Starfleet Command, and the United Federation of Planets, I now pronounce you husband and wife." She smiles. "Well, Ensign. You have my permission to kiss the bride."

Laughter fills the hall. Harry grins. I give him a weak smile. Warm, pleasant lips press against mine. Forbidden memories of Sakari IV rise appear in my mind, again. I quite forcibly erase them.

Time to congratulate the bride and groom. The Captain gives each of us a hug. So do Neelix and Samantha Wildman. Seven offers us her congratulations - Borg style. The Doctor's felicitations are more warmer. Tuvok's more solemn. Chakotay pecks my cheek and shakes Harry's hand. After nearly everyone else has rushed forward to congratulate us, it was the Best Man's turn. I hold my breath.

Tom gives Harry a bear hug. "Congratulations, buddy," he says warmly. "You are one lucky man." Now why didn't he say that I was a lucky woman?

Then he turns to me. Blue eyes seem darker than usual. Hypnotic. "B'Elanna," he greets in a soft voice. "Congratulations." Warm, soft lips press against the edge of my mouth. I inhale. His scent fills my head, making me dizzy.

The truth finally hits me. I have made a mistake. A big mistake. Thanks to my cowardice, I have married the wrong man. And now I'll have to live with this mistake for who knows how long. Kahless! What am I going to do, now?



THE END

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"TRUE GRIT" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "TRUE GRIT", the second movie adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the movie stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld:


"TRUE GRIT" (2010) Photo Gallery




















































Monday, December 27, 2010

"DUE DATE" (2010) Review




”DUE DATE” (2010) Review

I have always been a fan of road trip movies. This come from a love of long-distance traveling that I managed to acquire over the years. Some of my favorite movies have featured road trips - ”IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT”, ”SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT”, ”MIDNIGHT RUN” and even ”PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES”. Because of this, I looked forward to seeing ”DUE DATE”, Todd Phillips’ new movie that starred Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.

Also written by Phillips, along with Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, and Adam Sztykiel; ”DUE DATE” told the story of an architect named Peter Highman trying to get home from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be present at the birth of his first child, a scheduled C-section, with his wife, Sarah. At the Atlanta airport, Peter has an encounter with an aspiring actor named Ethan Tremblay. After inadvertently using the words terrorist and bomb during a quarrel with Ethan, Peter is shot by an air marshal with a rubber bullet. Both are forced off the plane before take-off. And after being questioned by airport security, Peter discovers that he has been placed on the No Fly List and will have to find another way to get to California. After realizing that he had left his wallet on the plane, Peter reluctantly agrees to travel with Ethan all the way to Los Angeles.

At first, it occurred to me that ”DUE DATE” was not as . . . hilarious as two of his other well-known films, 2003’s ”STARSKY AND HUTCH” and last year’s ”THE HANGOVER”. By the time the movie ended, I realized why. ”DUE DATE” strongly reminded me of the 1987 comedy, ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES”. In fact, it could easily be considered a remake of the John Hughes film. Both movies are basically comedic road trips about two different men – an uptight professional desperately trying to get home for a certain reason who is forced to travel with a flaky and accident-prone, yet desperately lonely man for financial reasons. There were differences. In the 1987 film, Steve Martin and John Candy traveled from New York to Chicago, spending most of their journey throughout the Midwest. In this film, Downey Jr. and Galifianakis traveled through the Deep South, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. This movie focused a lot of their journey in Texas – especially in the second half. But if I must be honest, the differences are minor in compare to the similarities. Let us just say that ”DUE DATE” is definitely a remake of Hughes’ film.

Todd Phillips did an excellent job with his cast. The supporting characters turned out to be interesting. Juliette Lewis, who had worked with Phillips in ”STARSKY AND HUTCH”, portrayed a flaky marijuana dealer in Birmingham, Alabama, from whom Ethan (Galifianakis) wanted to purchase some weed. This sequence provided the funniest moment in the movie – an encounter between a very annoyed Peter (Downey Jr.) and the dealer’s bratty kids, which ended up with a surprising punch to the gut. Another interesting supporting performance came from Danny McBride (who worked with Downey Jr. in ”TROPIC THUNDER”), who portrayed an intimidating and physically disabled Western Union employee they had encountered. The movie also featured a wild and funny encounter with two Mexican border patrol cops who arrest Peter for possession of marijuana (thanks to a fleeing Ethan). But the funniest supporting performance came from Jamie Foxx (Downey Jr.’s co-star from 2009’s ”THE SOLOIST”), who rediscovered his comic roots by portraying Peter’s oldest friend from college, now living in Dallas. What made Foxx’s performance rather funny was that his character seemed like a very together man . . . who harbored a slight obsession toward Peter’s wife (Michelle Monaghan), whom he had dated in college. But the real stars of the movie were Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Phillips was very lucky that the pair managed to generate such a strong screen chemistry. They did an awesome job in portraying two rather emotionally disturbed, yet different men who found themselves forming a strong bond during the 2,200 miles journey. Downey Jr.’s sharp-tongue, yet uptight character balanced very well with Galifianakis’ emotionally immature dweeb.

Did I have any problems with ”DUE DATE”? Well . . . yes. Like ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTO”, it was a strong comedy with some equally strong angst moments. And like the 1987 movie, those angst moments felt very forced. I believe that was due to Galifianakis’ performance. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with his acting, but it felt rather forced. And another scene I had trouble with was the encounter between the two travelers and the Western Union employee. That particular scene started out funny. But when McBride revealed his character to be a disabled Iraqi War veteran, the laughs dried up. The situation grew worse when McBride’s character began beating upon Downey Jr.’s sarcastic character. I did not know whether or not to take this scene seriously. Instead, I winced through it all.

It is possible that many moviegoers might not take this movie seriously, due to its strong resemblance to ”PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES”. Roger Ebert went as far as to compare it unfavorably to the 1987 film. Personally, I have decided to regard ”DUE DATE” as a remake. Is it a good remake? Yes. In fact, not only does the 2010 film not only share similar strengths with Hughes’ film, but also similar flaws. But it is still a first-rate movie, even if I would never regard it as a personal favorite of mine.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 9/9




”LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

Chapter 9

“For the last session,” Olivia said, “I want to return to the subject of the Law of Three. Or the Threefold Law.” The Charmed Ones groaned. “Oh, come on,” the redhead continued, amused by the sisters’ reaction, “this is a simple subject. At least on the surface.”

Piper said, “I thought we had discussed everything we could about the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three.”

Olivia gave the oldest Halliwell a crisp smile, which drew a slight frown from the younger woman. “Piper, we’ve barely skimmed on the subject. Now, I’m sure you guys remember telling you that the Threefold Law basically claims that that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times. Whatever action you perform or enact, you will receive or face the consequences of that action in threefold. Karmic payback. Not all Wiccans believe this. Those who don’t believe in this law, feel that it is based on Christian morality and not worth believing in.”

“Well it does sound something similar to what Christians believe,” Phoebe replied. “'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'? Book of Matthew?”

Nodding, Olivia said, “You know the Bible. Pretty good. The Law of Three and what is said in the Book of Matthew is what we would call the ’ethnic of reciprocity’. And it is believed not only among Christians and some Wiccans, but also by practitioners of other religions – modern or otherwise.”

“So, if you commit some crime or dark deed,” Paige said, “you’ll pay the consequences for it, one way or the other?”

“It’s not just about wrong doing.”

“Before you continue, Livy, I have a question,” Olivia’s mother said, interrupting. Everyone glanced at her. “For Paige.” The youngest Charmed One’s dark eyes grew wide. “Why did you give up your job at the Social Services office?”

A long pause followed, as a frown appeared on Paige’s face. “Didn’t Olivia or Barbara tell you?”

“I just need to hear it from you.”

Paige sighed. “My job was interfering with my duties a witch. And I decided it was best to become a full time witch.” Paul Margolin coughed slightly, earning a glare from the young woman. “Yeah, I know. It was a stupid thing to do. Which is why I took up Barbara’s job offer.”

“I see.” Gweneth faced the two older Halliwells and Leo. “And why didn’t you three say something?”

Phoebe’s mouth hung open. Piper quickly replied, “There was nothing we could say.”

The middle-aged witch nodded. “I see.” Once more, she turned to the youngest sister. “And Paige, I understand that you had first received a promotion before you had left your job?”

“Oh . . . that.” Paige released a gust of breath. “Yeah. Um . . . after I had helped this woman to get custody of her child from an abusive ex-husband. She was a friend of Darryl’s.”

Olivia frowned. “Wait. Are you talking about Caroline Seldon? I heard about her ex. She’s a clerk at my precinct.”

Paige nodded. “Yeah, that’s her.”

“What exactly happened?” Gweneth demanded.

The youngest Charmed One recounted the incident regarding police clerk Caroline Seldon. Darryl Morris had approached Paige for help in acquiring legal aid for the battered clerk, who wanted sole guardianship of her son. Through one of the Social Services attorneys, Caroline managed to get a hearing. On the day of the hearing, Caroline appeared with Darryl at the manor with a bruised face. “She was worried that the judge would take one look at her face and assume that she had resumed some old bad habits. So . . .” She took a deep breath. “I used a spell to get rid of her bruises. Caroline got custody of her kid. Her ex was sent to jail and my boss offered me a promotion from assistant to social worker.”

Olivia added, “And so, you had decided to resign from the office, months later?”

“No, I turned down the promotion the next day,” Paige answered. “Mr. Cowan ended up promoting me, several months later. Around the time when Cole had returned from the Wasteland.”

“Why?”

Paige frowned. “Huh?”

Olivia sighed. “Why did you turn down that promotion after helping Caroline?”

Piper answered for Paige. “Uh, personal gain? Because of the spell, this Caroline person won her case. And Paige ended up being promoted over someone else. We thought . . .”

”Are you bloody serious?” Gweneth’s outburst drew stares from everyone else in the garden. She shook her head with a sigh and added, “Oh dear. Sorry about that. I believe I may have overreacted. I just . . . I cannot believe that you turned down the promotion.”

“She had to,” Leo calmly replied. “Paige had received that promotion due to magic. That’s personal gain.”

Annoyed by the whitelighter’s smug reply, Olivia retorted, “It’s horseshit, Leo! Like I told them, there is no rule regarding personal gain in the Wiccan Rede.”

“That rule is made clear inside their Book of Shadows!”

“Considering that a good number of entries in their Book of Shadows is wrong, the whole matter of personal gain is irrelevant!”

Gweneth spoke up. “Paige, did you have any intentions of receiving a promotion when you helped Ms. Seldon?”

“No!” Paige replied breathlessly, as she shook her head. “I only got involved, because Darryl asked for my help.”

“Did you have any intentions of using magic to help her?”

Again, Paige shook her head. “No, I . . . it was a last minute thing.”

Olivia’s mother leaned back into her wicker chair with a sigh. “Now, the Threefold Law clearly states that whatever you do – good, evil or otherwise – will come back to you in threefold. What you would call karmic payback. Or paying the consequences of your actions. Paige, your intentions in regard to Ms. Seldon’s situation was honorable. You got involved because she and Darryl needed your help. You had no idea that you would be rewarded for your actions. And you only used magic as a last resort. The offer for a promotion was the consequence of your actions. The karmic payback. There was no need for you to reject the promotion. Frankly, I think you should have accepted it.”

“But the spell resulted in personal gain!” Phoebe insisted.

“There is no personal gain rule that is part of the Wiccan Rede,” Gweneth coolly replied. “Didn’t Livy make that clear?”

Paul spoke up. “But if the whitelighers . . .”

“Mr. Margolin,” the older woman continued, “personal gain is a whitelighter’s rule. It has nothing to do with being a witch. At least not as far as Wiccans are concerned. Why the whitelighers have insisted that witches follow this rule . . .”

“Because it prevents them from abusing their powers!” Leo insisted.

Gweneth glared at the whiteligher. “Perhaps your bosses are the ones who are abusing their powers! They’re supposed to be whitelighers, Leo. Guardian angels. Guardian angels SHOULD NOT dictate the moral compass of any witch or other mortal. You are not supposed to treat witches like supernatural soldiers in your little war against the demonic world! Your job is to offer guidance and protection via the consent of your charge. You can only do this by consent only. I feel that your superiors have failed to remember this.” Olivia noticed the red flush that had crept across Leo’s face. And the embarrassed expression on his face. Paul and the Halliwells simply looked stunned.

“Wait, so you’re saying that I should have accepted the promotion?” Paige asked.

“I’m afraid so, dear.” Olivia’s mother took a sip of lemonade before she continued. “The real problem in regard to the Threefold Law is that it can be rather vague. And we might find ourselves faced with situations that force us to fill in the blanks as we go along. This is where it gets a bit tricky.”

Phoebe frowned. “What do you mean?”

Olivia shot a glance at her mother before she added, “I think Mom is talking about scope. Considering how chaotic and complex this universe is, I think I can say that none of us can imagine all of the consequences of our actions or decisions. Sometimes, we’ll end up making an honest mistake.”

“Of course,” Gweneth added, “we also have to remember that we do have brains. And sometimes, ignorance is not an excuse for a mistake. If you have an instinct to make a certain decision or commit an action, one also has a brain to consider at least some of the consequences. Or look into the matter to determine if you’re making the right choice. For example . . .”

Piper’s voice interrupted in a tone that bordered on hostility. “This is about Cole, isn’t it?”

One of Gweneth’s brows rose questioningly. “I beg your pardon?”

“Cole. This is about Cole.”

Coolly, Olivia’s mother replied, “I see that you have your family’s talent for making assumptions, Piper. But since you did mention him, I suppose that his time as the Source and your reaction to it could provide an excellent example.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t . . .” Phoebe began nervously.

It was obvious that Gweneth barely heard the middle Charmed One, as she continued, “Paige, I understand that you were the first to sense something about Cole.”

Sighing, Paige replied, “Well . . . yeah. I tried to convince Piper, Leo and Phoebe, but . . . no one listened.” Piper rolled her eyes. Leo’s faced became a deeper shade of pink and Phoebe turned her head away.

“Did you take any other action? Gweneth asked. “Did you try to figure out how Cole could have become demonic again?”

Another sigh left Paige’s mouth. “No. I had been too busy trying to convince everyone that Cole was a demon again. And I . . . assumed that he became one again, because he didn’t like being human.” She paused briefly. “And when we found out that he was the Source. . . well, we just wanted him dead. Especially after Phoebe became his Queen.”

“Cole had also killed an innocent!” Piper declared. “Remember Greg Conroy? We tried to save him after Phoebe told her about her premonition. But Cole got to him, anyway.”

Gweneth stared at the oldest Charmed One. “So, you and your sisters decided to go after Cole. To punish him?”

“And save me from Cole!” Phoebe retorted.

Paige rolled her eyes. “We weren’t interested in saving you!”

“Paige!” the oldest protested.

“C’mon Piper! Why don’t you at least tell the truth?” Paige continued. “We were all pissed off at Cole for killing our innocent. We wanted to punish him. Nothing else. Hell, you even considered vanquishing Phoebe after she became his queen.”

”WHAT??” Phoebe stared at her sisters in horror. “You were planning on killing me??”

Piper rolled her eyes. “C’mon Pheebs! I wasn’t serious about that. And I was drunk at the time.”

Silence surrounded the inhabitants in the garden. The McNeills’ manservant, Davies, appeared bearing a tray filled with more glasses of lemonade. As he served the drinks, he said to Gweneth, “Pardon me, Mrs. McNeill, but that was Mr. Bruce. He wanted me to remind you about the Palmer wedding reception. The ceremony itself had just ended.”

“Thank you, Davies,” Olivia’s mother replied. The manservant nodded and walked away. Then she said to the Halliwells. “Did any of you bothered to learn how Cole became the Source? Did you not have time, considering your . . . innocent was dead?”

Leo protested, “Phoebe was in danger!”

With a shake of her head, Olivia replied, “But Paige just denied it, Leo. She just told us that you were all angry at Cole for killing this Greg Conroy person. And that you all wanted him to pay. Was she lying?”

The only sound that came from Leo’s mouth was a grunt. Paul, on the other hand, came to the rescue. “Does it really matter, as long as they got rid of him? Even if his . . . death didn’t last very long? At least the Source is no longer around.”

Gweneth gave the male witch a cool look. “I’m afraid it does matter, Mr. Margolin.” She drank some of her lemonade. “If the sisters and Leo had went after Cole to . . . rescue Phoebe or save this Mr. Conroy, I can understand why they would kill him. But according to Paige, they were angry over the death of Mr. Conroy and Phoebe’s new role as the Source’s queen. And because of this, they went after Cole to vanquish him. I hate to say this but their actions and the motives behind them sounds a bit like murder to me, not self-defense or the defense of someone else.”

“We didn’t commit murder! He did! He was an evil bastard!” Piper cried. “A demon! I see no reason why we would need any other reason to kill him!”

“How sad,” the older witch said in a pitying tone. “I hate to say this, my dear, but you sound like a bigot. Are you saying that there is nothing wrong in killing another being in cold blood, because he or she is not a human? Regardless of whether or not that being is an immediate threat? And to make matters worse, none of you had bothered to learn how Cole became the Source. You had failed to follow up on your instincts or discoveries with a little research. I wonder . . . would you all have made the same assumptions if one of you had become the Source?”

Piper’s dark eyes flashed with anger. She quickly rose to her feet and placed her glass of lemonade on a nearby table. “I’m out of here,” she muttered in a low tone. “Phoebe! Paige!” The middle Charmed One stood up. So did Leo and Paul. Paige remained in her seat. Piper stared pointedly at the younger woman. “Paige?”

Her eyes cast downward, Paige murmured, “Piper, I’m sorry, but Mrs. McNeill has a point. We made a big mistake in killing Cole. And we only did it out of anger. At least you and I did. Phoebe just helped us.”

“Paige!”

“We might as well be honest, Piper!”

An angry huff escaped from Piper’s mouth. “Fine! You can stay here. I’m leaving.” She started to walk away. Leo, Phoebe and Paul followed.

Before the four were able to take at least four steps, Gweneth said, “Do you mind if I say one last thing before you leave?”

The quartet paused. Then they slowly turned to face Olivia’s mother. Phoebe coolly replied, I’m sorry Mrs. McNeill, but I think you’ve said enough. In fact, I don’t think we need any more lessons. Right Piper?”

“You’re damn right about that!” Piper snapped, glaring at the older witch one last time before stalking away from the garden and toward the McNeill manor. Phoebe, Leo and Paul followed closely at her heels.

A large sigh escaped from Gweneth’s mouth. “Oh dear. I believe I may have said more than I should.”

“No you didn’t,” Paige replied in a morose voice. “They’re just not ready to listen. I wonder if they will ever be.”

Olivia shot a quick glance at the remaining Charmed One. She wondered if these lessons in the Craft may have created a serious breach between Paige and her sisters.

----------

Later that afternoon, a wary Paige finally returned to the manor. She opened her mouth to call for her sisters. But she realized that they might not want to speak with her. A heavy sigh left her mouth, as she started toward the staircase. When she finally reached the second floor, Paige spotted Piper leaving one of the bedrooms. The two sisters stopped short at the sight of each other.

“How long have you been back?” Piper coolly asked.

A long pause followed before Paige replied, “I just got back.”

Piper frowned. “You went to that wedding reception with Olivia and Mrs. McNeill?”

“Nah, I uh . . . I did a little shopping around Union Square and got some clam chowder at the Wharf.” Sensing discomfort between her and Piper, Paige started for her bedroom.

“Are you going to continue the lessons with Olivia and her family?” Piper asked. Paige detected a slight note of disapproval in her older sister’s voice.

With a sigh, Paige explained that she and Olivia had decided to discontinue the lessons. “She told me that if I ever need help or information on anything regarding the Craft or Wicca, just give her a call.”

“You could always ask Phoebe or me.”

An uncomfortable silence fell between the two sisters, once more. Paige wished she could escape to her room. But after her discovery regarding the truth surrounding Cole’s tenure as the Source, she had decided never run away from the truth. “Of course. But . . . well, Livy knows more than any of us. I mean . . . there are some things she or her family might know and we wouldn’t.”

“Yeah.” Piper gave Paige a long look. She started to head for the staircase, but hesitated. “Look, about today . . .”

Paige burst out, “I’m sorry, Piper. I’m sorry if you and Phoebe felt humiliated. I don’t think Mrs. McNeill had meant to bring up Cole being the Source.”

Piper sighed. “Yeah, I know. I did. I wish I hadn’t.” Again, she stared at Paige, making the latter feel slightly intimidated. “You still believe that we had made a mistake in killing Cole, do you?”

“Yeah, I do. I mean . . . I saw the visions. Cecile’s visions.” Paige took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t like the idea that killing Cole had been a mistake, anymore than you do. It was very humiliating for me. Especially when I had to face Cole about the matter. But I had to face it, Piper. And one day, you and Phoebe will have to do the same. Cole has learned to face his crimes. I don’t see why we don’t have to, even if our . . . victim was a demon. Because if we don’t, we’ll keep making mistakes and not facing them until one day, we end up doing something incredibly colossal . . . and wrong. And we’ll end up having to pay the price for actions. I just don’t want to do that.”

A gust of breath left Piper’s mouth. “Wow,” she murmured, “talk about a long speech.”

A shaft of disappointment struck Paige. Typical Piper. Using humor to avoid a situation she does not want to face. “I’ll be in my room,” the younger woman grumbled.

“Paige!” Piper began. “I . . .” Paige stared at her older sister with hopeful eyes. “Uh . . . I’ll have dinner ready in less than an hour.”

Paige gave her head a mild shake. “Yeah. Sure. Thanks.” Some things, she realized, never change. And some people. She turned away and headed straight for her room.


THE END

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"THE TOURIST" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the new adventure thriller, "THE TOURIST". Directed by
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the movie starred Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie:


"THE TOURIST" (2010) Photo Gallery














































Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"CHARMED" RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”




"CHARMED" RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”

”Hyde School Reunion” is an episode from Season Six of the TV series, ”CHARMED” (1998-2006). It is viewed as controversial by many fans of the show. I wish I could say that its controversy revolved around any innovative storytelling. I wish I could say this . . . but I cannot. Because ”Hyde School Reunion” is without a doubt one of the worst ”CHARMED” episodes to air on television.

In this episode, Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) inadvertently cast a spell – written in her high school yearbook – that allowed her wild personality from her “troubled” adolescent to take over her. And this all happened at her tenth high school reunion. At the same time, Piper (Holly Maries Combs) is trying to figure out why Chris (Drew Fuller), who had recently been revealed as her son from the future, has been avoiding her. She recruits the help of her dad Victor Bennett (James Read) to delve into the big mystery. In the end, Piper and Victor learned that Chris is wary of Piper’s presence, because she is destined to die fourteen years in the future. Ugh. Also, Chris is being hunted by Scabber demons. As for Phoebe . . . oh God, it resulted in one big mess.

In a nutshell, younger Phoebe or ”Freebie” - as one of her old schoolmates had nicknamed her – wrecked havoc with magic by plotting the escape of an old classmate named Rick Gittridge (Rodney Rowland) from jail. When Rick realized that his former classmate can use magic, he wants her – namely Phoebe – to help him rob an armored car. I would love NOT to go into details of how this all unfolds. Must I? Must I do this? Sigh! I suppose I must. Anyway, the other two Halliwells whisked Phoebe back to the Manor before she could do anything about Rick. When she returned to Rick, Phoebe learned that one of her old school mates, Ramona, is missing. Rick had kidnapped her to secure Phoebe's help. They robbed an armored car, but Phoebe cast a spell upon Rick, making him believe that the cops are almost upon them. They fled back to the Manor, where Rick ended up insisting that Phoebe give him a new face before he tells her where Ramona is. Paige appeared and Phoebe suggested that the younger sister give Rick Chris' face. Chris – who is being hunted by Scabber demons. Rick ended up pleased – until the Scabber demons show up and killed him.

The positive aspects of ”Hyde School Reunion” came in the subplot involving Chris, Piper and Victor. Although I could not understand why Chris could warn his grandfather to stop smoking in order to avoid emphysema and prevent Paige from being killed by Titans (see ”Oh Goddess!” from late Season 5), prevent Wyatt from turning evil, yet could not warn his mother that she will be dead in fourteen years for fear of changing the timeline? What the hell? What saved this subplot were the performances of Chris Fuller, Holly Marie Combs and James Read.

Unfortunately, the major plotline for ”Hyde School Reunion” revolved around Phoebe’s high school reunion and her messy little ”flashback” to her adolescent past. There was so much wrong with this story that I had to make a list:

*Phoebe graduated from high school in 1994? In 1994, she was eighteen, going on nineteen. What happened? She had to repeat a grade?

*Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan’s outfits at the reunion – questionable. Poor Rose looked as if her jacket was made from the fur of a dead animal that had the bad luck to be dyed in a garish turquoise blue. Alyssa’s boobs looked as if they threatened to pop out any minute. Even worse, her nipples are so obvious that they seemed to shout at the television screen.

*In the previous episode, ”The Courtship of Wyatt’s Father”, Leo finally managed to boink Piper and plant baby Chris in her. Yet, in the following episode – namely this one – Piper is "months" pregnant. How many months had passed between the two episodes? I realize that Holly Marie Combs was pregnant at the time, but talk about ill timing!

*Why do nearly every Halliwell sister either seemed to possess that hideous hairstyle that consisted of long hair and bangs, braces or all? Do you think I am exaggerating? Take a gander at the photos below -


Prue transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in "Be Careful What You Witch For"




Piper's high school yearbook photo in "Coyote Piper"




Phoebe's high school yearbook photo in "Hyde School Reunion"




Paige transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in "A Paige From the Past"




*Phoebe wrote a poem in her high school yearbook . . . that turned out to be a spell? My God, how lame!

*How is it that one of Phoebe’s old gym teacher, Miss Hickok, has no idea that Phoebe is now a famous columnist, whose mug is plastered on billboards all over San Francisco?

*I realize that in this episode, Freebie has adult Phoebe’s powers. Could someone please explain how she learned how to use magic? Please? Adult Phoebe knew nothing of magic until she was two months shy of her 23rd birthday? How did adolescent Freebie suddenly learn how to cast a spell and turn her old classmates into teenaged Neanderthals? Hell, the only magic that Phoebe knew around 22 and 23 were the old ”The Power of Three will set us free” chant and her premonitions, over which she had (and possessed) no control.

*Chris, who is the son of a chef, had no idea what mutton was? Being a vegetarian is no excuse. Unless mutton no longer exists in the 2020s.

*Why were Scabber demons after Chris? That story plot had evaded me.

*Could someone PLEASE explain how Freebie managed to shapeshift Rick, who was disguised as a guard, back to his old self with a flick of her wrist? HOW? Even adult Phoebe lacked this ability. She would have had to use a spell or chant to do this. Shapeshifting was not one of her psi abilities.

*Between the time Piper and Paige had teleported Phoebe from the warehouse to the Manor and back took less than a minute. How did Rick managed to tie up Todd – another Freebie classmate – and hide Ramona in that short space of time?

*Why didn’t Phoebe simply use a spell to coerce Rick into revealing where he had hidden Ramona . . . instead of aiding him in his so-called crime spree?


The major faux pas of ”Hyde School Reunion” centered around the death of Rick Gittridge. Many fans have commented on certain acts surrounding the unfolding events. One, why did Paige fail to teleport orb the shotgun from Rick’s hand? Two, why did Phoebe suggest that Paige turn Rick’s face into Chris’ face before Rick could verify where he had hidden Ramona . . . so that the Scabber demons would go after him? Why did she not do the dirty deed, herself?

Some member of a ”CHARMED” message board once commented that this entire scene lacked sense because as ”good witches”, the Charmed Ones would have never set up a human to be killed by demons. I say . . . bullshit to that! The Halliwells have proven in the past how murderous and self-righteous they could be. How many times has Prue – believing to be wronged - allowed her temper to get the best of her? In "P3 H2O", a very self-righteous Phoebe had accused Sam Wilder – Mommy Dearest’s whitelighter and Paige’s dad – of failing to save Patty before the latter was killed by a water demon. Paige was stupid, murderous and self-righteous enough to attempt to kill Cole when he had finally given up on getting Phoebe back in ”Centennial Charmed”. ”Mortality Bites” is a prime example of how murderous and self-righteous the Halliwells can be. I will tell you exactly what really bothered me about ”Hyde School Reunion”:

Phoebe: How do we know you're telling the truth?

Rick: You don't. Now, my face. Make it different. Heartbreaking, charming, young.

(Phoebe gets an idea.)

Phoebe: You know, I'm thinking maybe you should use our nephew for inspiration.

Paige: "Who you were, you're now another, take the face of Wyatt's brother."

(Rick turns into Chris. He looks in the mirror.)

Chris: Yeah, I like it. This'll work.

Paige: Pheebs, watch out, this could get messy. (Phoebe and Paige hide behind a wall. Three Scabbar demons appear in the room. Rick shoots at them but doesn't harm them. They spit the green acid goo at Rick which melts him to nothing. The demons disappear. Phoebe and Paige come out from behind the wall.) You okay?

Phoebe: Yeah.

Paige: You know you had to, right?

Phoebe: I know.


She had to? Phoebe had to give Chris’ face to Rick, knowing that her nephew was being hunted by Scabber demons? Why was it necessary for Phoebe to set Rick up to be murdered? Who in the fuck wrote this episode? Oh yes, some joker named David Simkins. If he is still writing television, the son-of-a-bitch should give up screenwriting and take up a profession that suits his lack of talent. Moron. Brad Kern is a moron for approving this script. And I wonder if Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan had expressed concerns about what Phoebe and Paige did to Rick. If they did not, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This episode truly ranks as amongst the worst of the series’ eight year history. Honestly. And the fact that it climaxed into the murder of a human, thanks to the scheming of two of the three major characters really sticks in my craw. But what really pisses me off about ”Hyde School Reunion” is that Kern and screenwriter, David Simkins, actually believed that the viewers would sit in front of a television set and accept that Phoebe and Paige’s murderous act was ”necessary”, is an insult not only to my intelligence, but to the intelligence of the series’ many other viewers and fans.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO" (2002) Review




”THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO” (2002) Review

Let me make something clear . . . I have never read the literary version of ”THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO”, written by Alexandre Dumas. I have seen three movie versions – including this latest one starring James Caviezel. But I have never read the novel. So, for me to compare the literary version to this movie would be irrelevant.

In short, ”THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO” is the story about a French sailor named Edmond Dantès (Caviezel), who finds himself a victim of French political machinations, thanks to the Emperor Napoleon, a jealous first mate named Danglars, his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) and an ambitious local magistrate named J.F. Villefort (James Frain). Edmond ends up on an island prison called Château d'If, where he meets a fellow prisoner, a priest and a former soldier in Napoleon's army named Abbé Faria (Richard Harris). Faria is killed in an accident after informing Edmond about a fabulous hidden treasure. After Edmond uses Faria’s death to escape from Château d'If, he befriends a smuggler and thief named Jacopo (Luis Guzmán). The two find the treasure that Faria had talked about and Edmond uses it to establish the persona of the Count of Monte Cristo. His aim? To avenge himself against those who had betrayed him – Danglars, Villefort, Mondego and his fiancée Mercédès Iguanada (Dagmara Dominczyk), who had married Mondego after his arrest.

I have to give kudos to director Kevin Reynolds and screenwriter Jay Wolpert for creating a first-class adaptation of Dumas’ novel. From what I have read, it is not an exact adaptation of the novel. As if that was possible. Not that I care whether it was or not. I still enjoyed the movie. Despite some of the changes to the story, ”THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO” still managed to retain its emotional ambiguity. Villains such as Villefort and especially Mondego are not as one-dimensional ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ as one might believe. The origin of Villefort came from his father’s ego-driven ambition. As for Mondego, his dislike and betrayal of Edmond had its roots in his own insecurity and bouts of self-hatred, despite his position as an aristocrat. As for Edmond, he becomes so blinded by his hatred and desire for revenge that his actions nearly ends in tragedy for Mercédès and her adolescent son, Albert (Henry Cavill) – the only innocents in this tale of betrayal and vengeance.

The cast was first rate. James Caviezel gave a superb performance as Edmond Dantès, the naïve French sailor who becomes a wealthy man bent upon vengeance. Caviezel took Edmond’s character and emotional make-up all over the map without missing a beat. And Guy Pearce was equally superb as the villainous Fernand Mondego, an arrogant aristocrat whose own jealousy and bouts of self-loathing led him to betray the only friend he would ever have. James Frain gave a solid performance as the ambitious Villefort, whose greed allows Edmond takes advantage of in order to exact his revenge. And I could say the same for both Dagmara Dominczyk, who portrayed Mercédès Iguanada, Edmond’s charming fiancée who found herself stuck in a loveless marriage with Mondego due to certain circumstances; and Luis Guzmán’s portrayal as the wise and loyal Jacapo. Henry Cavill gave a solid performance as Edmund's guiless, yet emotional son who gets caught up in the crossfire between Edmund and Fernand. And the late Richard Harris managed to create great chemistry with Caviezel as Edmond’s wise mentor, Abbé Faria.

Cinematographer Andrew Dunn and production designer Andrew Dunn did a great job of transforming locations in Ireland and the island of Malta into early 19th century France. And they were ably assisted by Tom Rand’s costume designs. Along with a first-rate cast, Kevin Reynolds’ competent direction and Jay Wolpert’s script, this version of ”THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO” turned out to be an entertaining movie filled with exciting action, great drama and excellent storytelling. A first-rate movie all around.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 8/9




"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT"

Chapter 8

Leo Wyatt returned home that Saturday evening with one of his charges, Paul Margolin, by his side. The whitelighter and the witch had spent the last two days in San Jose, tracking a darklighter bent upon killing a future whitelighter. Following the success of their mission, Leo invited Paul over for dinner with him, his wife and her sisters. They found the Halliwell household in an uproar upon their arrival.

The main source of the fracas came from Leo’s wife, presently the oldest Charmed One. Piper seemed to be in the middle of some rant against the supernatural world. Which left Leo wondering what brought on this rant. “So you’re finally back,” Piper said in a voice tinged with acid. “Have a good time?”

Leo stared at his wife. Warily. “Not exactly,” he slowly replied. “This darklighter proved to be difficult to vanquish.”

“Especially since he proved to be a former whitelighter,” Paul added. “That was a bit of a surprise.”

A prim smile touched Piper’s lips. “Really? I don’t see why, considering it’s become increasingly difficult to notice the difference between the good guys and the bad ones.” She paused dramatically. “Even among demons.”

The last comment ignited Leo’s suspicions. He frowned at his wife. “Piper, what in the hell are you tal . . .?”

Phoebe interrupted. “Olivia and Cole were here, today.”

A long silence filled the living room before Leo retorted, “Cole? What the hell was he doing . . .?”

“Witchcraft lessons,” Phoebe continued. “Lessons on magical beings. Including demons.”

Leo took a deep breath and calmed down. “Oh yeah. I forgot. Um . . . what happened? I mean, did Cole say something that . . .?”

This time, Piper interrupted. “Oh, Cole told us a lot of interesting things, today. So did Olivia.” She glared at her husband. “Tell me Leo, did you know that warlocks were mortals? Or that they weren’t the only ones that blinked when teleporting?”

“What?” Leo demanded, stunned by the revelation. “I’ve never heard . . .”

Again, Piper interrupted. “Well, according to Olivia, her friend Nathalie Gleason is a teleporter that blinks. And the same is true about a friend of her parents’. And both are witches.”

Leo shook his head in disbelief. “Piper, I don’t . . .”

“Remember Jeremy?” Piper continued. “The warlock I had dated before we became witches? It turned out that he wasn’t a warlock after all. According to Cole, he was a half-demon. A half-demon, Leo! I was dating a demon!”

Leo stared at both Phoebe and Paige, who shrugged. He added, “Okay, so he was a demon. Why are . . .?”

“Oh that’s not all!” Piper retorted.

“Can I please finish one sentence?” Leo cried out in frustration. Piper stared at him with hard eyes. With a sigh, he added, “Never mind.”

Piper continued, “As I was about to say, has any of you ever heard of the Order of Gimle?”

The name brought up memories of a demonic order once mentioned by fellow whitelighters and one or two Elders. “Vaguely,” Leo answered. “It’s a demonic order. Why?”

Paige said, “According to Cole, the demons from this order are good guys. They defend innocents from evil. Like us.”

“He’s lying!” Paul exclaimed, his obvious distrust of the half-demon stamped on his face.

The youngest Charmed One stared at the New York-born witch. “He wasn’t lying.”

“How do you know?”

Rolling her eyes in contempt, Paige shot back, “Because Olivia has also heard of them! Her dad had even saved one member from being killed by some witches who thought he had killed one of their own.”

Leo’s emotions matched the disbelief and confusion that whirled in Paul’s eyes. “Olivia's dad had once helped a demon?” the witch demanded.

“Wait a minute!” Leo demanded, shaking his head. “Are you saying that Cole was telling the truth?”

Hands on her hips, Piper retorted, “What we’re trying to say is that at least one-third of our Book of Shadows might be wrong! Wrong, Leo! And you know why?” Speechless, the whitelighter shook his head. “Because some of our ancestors were probably dumb enough to listen to their whitelighters!” Piper’s eyes blazed with anger. “I mean, we did learn a lot of our stuff from whitelighers, didn’t we? Do you have any idea how humiliating it was to find out how wrong we were about a lot of stuff . . . after five years?”

Unable to respond, Leo turned to Paul for reassurance. But the male witch seemed just as speechless. After a long, silent moment, the whitelighter found his voice. “I . . . I don’t know what to say. I mean . . . are you sure that Olivia and Cole were right? Maybe they’re mistaken.”

“Or maybe not!” Paige shot back. “Why don’t you ask them, Leo? We’re supposed to be meeting Olivia and her mother at the McNeill home, next Sunday? We would have done so tomorrow, but Phoebe will be in Chicago in a few days.”

The whitelighter frowned. “Sunday? You mean for brunch?”

Paige shook her head. “Not exactly. Harry and the others are supposed to be attending some wedding in Palo Alto that day. Olivia and Mrs. McNeill is supposed to be joining them for the reception, later.”

At that moment, Leo decided to accept the offer and accompany the sisters to the McNeill home, next week. Paul volunteered to join them . . . much to Paige’s obvious displeasure. Not that Leo minded the extra company. He figured that Paul, like himself, was curious to learn what kind of lessons that the McNeills have been giving.


----------------

Mother and daughter stated at the two unexpected guests with surprise. “Leo? Paul?” Olivia said. “What are you two doing here?”

Gweneth McNeill added, “Are you two interested in lessons in witchcraft, as well?”

Leo shook his head. “Not quite. Uh . . . Piper and the others told us about that last lesson that Olivia and Cole had . . .”

“Oh, I see,” Olivia said, interrupting. “If you’re interested in knowing what we had discussed, the topic was daemons.”

Realizing that a major argument threatened to erupt, Gweneth suggested they all sit down in the chairs arranged in the garden. Leo and Paul had to wait for Davies, the family’s manservant to provide them with extra chairs. Once everyone had settled in their wicker chairs, Gweneth turned to her daughter’s former whitelighter. “Now, why are you so interested in the last lesson?”

Olivia replied, instead of Leo. “I suspect that this has something to do what Cole and I had told the Halliwells about the Gimle Order, Mom.”

“What about them?”

Paul frowned. “You’ve heard of this Gimle Order?”

“Well, of course!” Gweneth stared at the male witch. “Who hasn’t? The Gimle Order has been around for thousands of years. Probably millions. Despite the Source’s best efforts to destroy it.”

Leo demanded, “Then why haven’t they tried to take over the Underworld, now that it is no longer ruled by the Source?”

With an inward sigh, Gweneth wondered how Leo had survived this long as a whitelighter. “Dearest Leo,” she began in a tone usually reserved for a child, “I believe I should inform you on a few facts of life. One, the Source has never ruled the Underworld. Only the spirit of Death. Or Angel of Death, as many preferred to call it.” Leo opened his mouth to protest, but Gweneth continued, “And two, why on earth would any member of the Gimle Order be interested in becoming the new Source? They are not interested in becoming one of the dark nasties, just protecting others from them. Do you understand?” Leo looked slightly abashed, but nodded. “Good. Now that I have cleared matters regarding the Gimle Order, we might as well continue with the lessons.” She turned to her daughter. “What have they learned so far?”

Olivia took a deep breath. “Well, we’ve talked about the altar, magic circles, color magic, the pentagram, and magical tools. Bruce and Barbara taught them about herbal craft, and Gran talked to Paige about the role of a witch, the Wiccan Rede, elements and the Book of Shadows.”

“Nothing on mediation?” Gweneth asked.

“I touched on it, last week,” Olivia added.

Nodding, Gweneth continued, “Good. Now, what about protection magick?”

“No, not yet.”

“Right.” The middle-aged witch faced the Charmed Ones. “Let us discuss protection magick.”

Paige asked, “Is this for defending ourselves against evil?”

Olivia shook her head. “If you’re simply talking about protection from any supernatural bad guy, no.”

“Well, there are protection spells that can be used against them,” Gweneth added. “But I am referring to other kinds of protection magick . . . the kind that is used while working with spells and rituals.”

Phoebe blinked. “Huh?”

With a sigh, Olivia said, “What Mom is trying to say is that in dealing with magic, one might end up opening or facing . . . certain things many do not experience in the non-magical world. We use protection magick to protect ourselves from possible side effects while casting a spell or ritual.”

Gweneth added, “We also used it to shield ourselves from other dangers – especially from what we like to call psychic vampires. You know, people leaves us feeling tired or spent for no apparent reason, when we’re around them. They have the ability to feed off from our life force or energy. They are like the psychic versions of the incubus and succubus, or an actual vampire. And some of these beings are basically ordinary mortals, believe it or not. My personal names for them are psychic deadbeats or spongers.”

Piper chuckled. “That’s pretty good. And I’ve actually known a few.”

With a smile, the older witch added, “So have I. Of course, one of the safest forms of magick for such a danger is a protective white bubble. You can use a spell to form one, but meditation is just as good.”

“What about our powers?” Phoebe asked.

Gweneth’s eyes rested upon the middle Charmed One. “What about them?”

“How would you describe our powers? What kind of magic would you call them?”

The older witch gave her daughter a questioning stare. “Livy, I thought you had discussed psychic abilities?”

“She mentioned it,” Paige said. “But it was Andre Morrell who had talked about it, once.”

Piper frowned. “To be honest, I find it hard to believe that our powers aren’t really magic.”

“Why?” Gweneth demanded.

“Well, look at us. We’re all witches and we all have these . . . psychic powers. Isn’t that saying something?”

Gweneth shook her head. ‘Not really. Barbara lacks a psychic ability. And I can say the same about her father. My maternal grandfather was the same. Yet, Barbara and her father are talented witches. And so was my grandfather.”

“Besides,” Olivia added, “I’ve met people with strong psychic abilities.”

Paul added, “So have I.”

Olivia continued, “And so have you three. Leo told me about the seer who was on trial for murder, two years ago. Phoebe, didn’t you serve on the jury for that one?”

The middle Charmed One briefly glared at her whitelighter, who had the grace to look embarrassed. “Yeah. The defendant received premonitions . . . like me.”

“And there was that guy who was able to enter the consciousness of others, while asleep,” Piper said. “I think he was psychic. And he nearly killed Prue.”

Gweneth smiled. “There, you see. A psychic ability is not magic.”

“Would we need to use protection magick for our powers?” Paige asked.

“No, dear. Not for that.” Gweneth sighed. “But the next time you prepare a spell or potion, I suggest that you use protection magick. Or when you suspect that someone might be . . .”

“A magical deadbeat,” Piper finished with a slight smirk.

The middle aged witch added, “One more thing. About protection spells. Why don’t you have one around your house? Considering the number of times certain beings keep popping into your home, don’t you think you should consider creating one?”

The three sisters looked at one another. “Well . . . we . . . uh, we never bothered,” Piper finally said. “We’ve never thought about it.”

Phoebe added, “Besides, they backfire all the time.”

Gweneth stared at the witches with disbelief. Then she stared at Paul. “Do you believe this, as well?”

The New Yorker adopted a wary expression. “Uh . . . well . . . I haven’t had much luck with protection spells.”

“Good God! Are you all serious?” Gweneth then turned to the whitelighter. “Leo, surely you must have encouraged your own charges to learn how to prepare more effective protection spells?” Leo’s mouth opened, but not a word came from his mouth. “Never mind. Olivia or I will lend you a protection spell that you all can use. If it does not work, we’ll help you develop a proper one.”

Piper spoke up. “That’s okay, Mrs. McNeill. We’ve been able to manage without a protection spell.”

“I’d like learn a few,” Paige said. Her sisters glared at her. Gweneth smiled.


END OF CHAPTER 8

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"CHANGELING" (2008) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring photos from Clint Eastwood's new movie, "CHANGELING". The movie stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan:


"CHANGELING" (2008) Photo Gallery