Thursday, March 31, 2011

"AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" (2004) Review



Below is my review of Disney's 2004 adaptation of Jules Verne's novel called "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS":


"AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" (2004) Review

The year 2004 marked the umpteenth time that an adaptation of Jules Verne’s travelogue movie, "Around the World in Eighty Days" hit the movie screen. Well . . . actually, the fifth time. Released by Disney Studios and directed by Frank Coraci, this adaptation starred Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Ewan Bremmer and Jim Broadbent.

This adaptation of Verne’s novel started on a different note. It opened with a Chinese man named Xau Ling (Jackie Chan) robbing a precious statuette called the Jade Buddha from the Bank of England. Ling managed to evade the police by hiding out at the home of an English inventor named Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan). To keep the latter from turning him in to the police, Ling pretends to be a French-born national named Passepartout, seeking work as a valet. After Fogg hired “Passepartout”, he clashed with various members of the Royal Academy of Science, including its bombastic member Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). Kelvin expressed his belief that everything worth discovering has already been discovered and there is no need for further progress. The pair also discussed the bank robbery and in a blind rage, Phileas declared that that the thief could be in China in little over a month, which interests “Passepartout”. Kelvin pressured Phileas Fogg into a bet to see whether it would be possible, as his calculations say, to travel around the world in 80 days. If Fogg wins, he would become Minister of Science in Lord Kelvin's place; if not, he would have to tear down his lab and never invent anything again. Unbeknownst to both Fogg and “Passepartout”, Kelvin recruited a corrupt London police detective named Inspector Fix to prevent the pair from completing their world journey. However, upon their arrival in Paris, they met an ambitious artist named Monique Larouche (Cécile de France), who decides to accompany them on their journey. Ling also became aware of warriors under the command of a female warlord named General Fang (Karen Mok), who also happens to be an ally of Lord Kelvin.

I might as well make this short. "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" did not do well at the box. In fact, it bombed. In a way, one could see why. In compare to the 1956 and 1989 versions, it took a lot more liberties with Verne’s original story. Phileas Fogg is portrayed as an eccentric inventor, instead of a Victorian gentleman of leisure. He takes on a bet with a rival member of the Royal Academy of Science, instead of members of the Reform Club. Passepartout is actually a Chinese warrior for an order of martial arts masters trying to protect his village. Princess Aouda has become a cheeky French would-be artist named Monique. And Inspector Fix has become a corrupt member of the London Police hired by the venal aristocrat Lord Kelvin to prevent Fogg from winning his bet. Fogg, Passepartout and Monique traveled to the Middle East by the Orient Express, with a stop in Turkey. Their journey also included a long stop at Ling’s village in China, where Fogg learned about Ling’s deception.

Some of the comedy – especially those scenes involving Fix’s attempts to arrest Fogg – came off as too broad and not very funny. Also, this adaptation of Verne’s tale was not presented as some kind of travelogue epic – as in the case of the 1956 and 1989 versions. The movie made short cuts by presenting Ling and Fogg’s journey through the use of day-glow animation created by an art direction team supervised by Gary Freeman. Frankly, I thought it looked slightly cheap. I really could have done without the main characters’ stop in Turkey, where Monique almost became Prince Hapi’s seventh wife. It slowed down the story and it lacked any humor, whatsoever. I am a major fan of Jim Broadbent, but I must admit that last scene which featured his rant against Fogg and Queen Victoria on the steps of the Royal Academy of Science started out humorous and eventually became cringe-worthy. Poor man. He deserved better.

Did I like ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”? Actually, I did. I found it surprisingly entertaining, despite its shortcomings. Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan made a rather funny screen team as the resourceful and clever Ling who had to deceive the slightly arrogant and uptight Fogg in order to quickly reach China. Cécile de France turned out to be a delightful addition to Chan and Coogan’s screen chemistry as the coquettish Monique, who added a great deal of spark to Fogg’s life. Granted, I had some complaints about Broadbent’s performance in his last scene. Yet, he otherwise gave a funny performance as the power-hungry and venal Lord Kelvin. It was rare to see him portray an outright villain. And although I found most of Bremmer’s scenes hard to take (I am not that big of a fan of slapstick humor), I must admit that two of his scenes left me in stitches – his attempt to arrest Ling and Fogg in India and his revelations of Lord Kelvin’s actions on the Royal Academy of Science steps.

There were many moments in David N. Titcher, David Benullo, and David Goldstein’s script that I actually enjoyed. One, I really enjoyed the entire sequence in Paris that featured Ling and Fogg’s meeting with Monique and also Ling’s encounter with some of General Fang’s warriors. Not only did it featured some top notch action; humorous performances by Chan, Coogan and de France; and colorful photography by Phil Meheux. Another first-rate sequence featured the globe-trotting travelers’ arrival at Ling’s village in China. The action in this sequence was even better thanks to the fight choreography supervised by Chan and stunt/action coordinator Chung Chi Li. It also had excellent characterization thanks to the screenwriters and the actors. One particular scene had me laughing. It featured Coogan and the two actors portraying Ling’s parents during a drunken luncheon for the travelers.

I wish I could say that this version of ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is the best I have seen. But I would be lying by making such a statement. To be honest, all three versions I have seen are flawed in their own ways. This version is probably more flawed than the others. But . . . I still managed to enjoy myself watching it. The movie can boast some first-rate performances from the cast – especially Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan and Cécile de France. And it also featured some kick-ass action scenes in at least three major sequences. Thankfully, it was not a complete waste.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Looking Beyond "NORTH AND SOUTH"




LOOKING BEYOND "NORTH AND SOUTH"

In the past year, I have become increasingly obsessed with costume dramas based upon British literature. My obsession has not only focused upon movies and miniseries based on the many movie and television adaptations, but also on various British novels. Ranked near the top of the list of my favorite stories is the 2004 BBC miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH”.

Adapted by Sandy Welch from Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel, ”NORTH AND SOUTH” told the story of a former clergyman’s daughter named Margaret Hale, who follows her uprooted parents to the Northern city of Milton; and John Thornton, a cotton mill owner who ends up befriending Margaret’s father and falling in love with her. Anyone familiar with Gaskell’s novel and the four-part miniseries would know that both Margaret and John endured a series of misunderstandings, quarrels, their relatives, external crises, and a marriage proposal gone wrong before they end up happily engaged. Yet, the question remains . . . what happened to the couple following the wedding? Did they end up ”happily ever after”?

Lately, I have become aware of a growing number of sequels based upon Jane Austen’s novels. This should not be surprising, considering the obsession that has surrounded the late 18th/early 19th century author for the past fifteen years. Most of these sequels tend to be follow-ups to the novelist’s most famous work, ”Pride and Prejudice”. I have never experienced any inclination to read any of these sequels in the past. And if I must be honest, any inclination remains dormant within me. But in the wake of becoming a fan of the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” miniseries, I found myself wondering if any writers or fans have ever considered writing a sequel to Gaskell’s novel.

I have come across some fan fiction based upon the novel. But most of these stories tend to focus solely on Margaret and John’s romance. Yes, I realize that it was the story’s romance – and especially Richard Armitage’s image as John Thornton – that made the miniseries become so popular with television viewers during the past 6 years or so. But for me and a good number of other fans, ”NORTH AND SOUTH” was more than just about the romance and leading actor. The social upheavals and culture clashes that permeated the story allowed an interesting glimpse into mid-Victorian English society and the differences in class and region. If someone ever decided to continue Margaret and John Thornton’s story, how would he or she do it? Would that writer merely focus upon the romance or follow Gaskell’s example by continuing the exploration of Victorian society? I personally believe that to write an effective sequel to ”North and South”, a writer would have to consider the following:

*the strong wills and temper of the two protagonists
*the protagonists’ family members
*the protagonists’ friendship with Nicholas Higgins and the union movement
*historical backdrop of the cotton trade in mid 19th century


Below is a more in-depth look into these topics:




Margaret Hale and John Thornton Relationship

I am certain that many fans of Gaskell’s novel and the 2004 miniseries sighed with pleasure . . . and relief when Margaret Hale and John Thornton finally acknowledged their love for each other by the end of the story. But one has to consider certain facts. One, love alone cannot always sustain a successful relationship. Two, despite the improvement in their respective characters, the cores of Margaret and John’s personalities will remain constant. One should anticipate future storms in the Hale-Thornton marriage.





Family Relations

Since the novel and the miniseries ended with Margaret and John’s engagement, fans can assume that the pair will eventually become husband and wife. Which means that they will have to deal with their respective in-laws.

One would be inclined to assume that John would not have to deal with in-laws on a daily basis, considering that Margaret’s parents were dead, her cousins living in London and her brother Frederick living in Spain. Margaret, on the other hand, will have two in-laws to deal with – John’s younger sister, the silly Fanny; and his indomitable mother, Mrs. Hannah Thornton. Considering John and Mrs. Thornton’s low opinion of Fanny, the latter should prove to be more of a problem for them, instead of Margaret. The worst she would have to contend with the occasional inane comment from Fanny or the latter’s barely concealed jealousy of her older brother. Mrs. Thornton might prove to be another matter. I doubt that John’s mother had not forgotten Margaret’s rejection of John’s first marriage proposal or the mild scandal regarding Margaret’s appearance at the rail station with her brother Frederick. And the older woman has never been fond of younger one. Considering her personality, I would not be surprised if Mrs. Thornton ends up developing a slight resentment toward Margaret’s financial rescue of Marlborough Mills. One can easily look forward to fireworks between Margaret and her new mother-in-law.

As I had earlier pointed out, there would be a strong possibility of John avoiding any conflict with any of his in-laws, due to the deaths of Margaret’s parents and the scattered locations of her surviving relations. But the possibilities remain. After all, Margaret does have close relationships with her Cousin Edith Shaw Lennox and Aunt Shaw, who live in London. The chances of her and John making family visits to the south remain strong. The London family would probably be disappointed in Margaret’s marriage to John and her second rejection of Edith’s brother-in-law, Henry Lennox. And judging from the Great Exhibition scene featured in the miniseries’ third episode, they did not seem enamored of John. Although Margaret’s brother Frederick lives in Spain, both she and John could afford to pay him a visit. But I wonder if that visit would prove to be congenial. Frank had clearly expressed his contempt for John as a “tradesman” in the miniseries’ third episode. I doubt that one rebuke from Margaret would have changed his opinion. And I can foresee a chilly response from Frank, for his new “tradesman” brother-in-law.

Overall, in-law troubles for both Margaret and John strike me as very plausible in a sequel.





Nicholas Higgins and the Union

I wonder if many fans of both the Gaskell novel and the 2004 miniseries would view Margaret and John’s friendship with worker/union leader Nicholas Higgins as a possible source of future conflict. I believe it is possible. Higgins is a strong-willed character with firm ideas. I simply cannot see him permanently giving up his dreams of a strong union for Milton’s mill workers, despite the setback featured in Episodes 2 and 3, and his friendship with John Thornton. And knowing John’s feelings regarding unions and his own strong will, I cannot see him supporting any future efforts to begin one. There could be a chance of a future clash between the two men if a new union is pursued. Margaret might find herself in the middle of such a clash, considering her closer friendship with Higgins and her love for John. Such a storyline could prove to be very interesting in a sequel.







Cotton Trade and the U.S. Civil War

Although I am not certain, I suspect that many fans would never associate the topic of slavery and the U.S. Civil War with Gaskell’s novel or the miniseries. Yet, I do recall a scene in which John and other Milton cotton mill owners had engaged in a conversation about purchasing cotton from countries other than the United States. John insisted that he would continue purchasing American cotton, due to its superior quality. If someone ever decided to write a sequel to ”North and South”, I wonder if the author would set the story a few years following Margaret and John’s engagement. Or would the author allow their tale to continue into the 1860s? If the latter does happen, chances are Marlborough Mill and other mills throughout Great Britain will suffer the effects of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865).

That particular war managed to deprive many British mill owners of raw cotton for their factories. In return, the British cotton manufacturing business suffered a major economic depression, due to the Confederates’ policy of withholding cotton in exchange for diplomatic recognition and aid from Great Britain. Since the Confederacy never received official recognition or aid, the British mill owners suffered.

Not only could the growing issue of slavery and the American Civil War should have a profound effect upon the Thorntons’ profits. Both issues could be used as potential conflict between Margaret and John. I would not be surprised if concern for his mill would lead to John developing an anti-abolition or pro-Confederate stance. And considering her sympathies toward Milton’s mill workers, I could see Margaret developing a pro-abolition or pro-Union stance. However, a part of me suspects that many writers would go out of their way to avoid the topic of slavery, the Civil War and their effect upon Britain’s cotton manufacturing industry. Since Gaskell’s novel and the 2004 miniseries embraced social issues, it would be a pity if this never happened.




Conclusion

If there is one thing I enjoyed about Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel and its 2004 television adaptation was that both turned out to be a well-written saga that combined romance, family strife and social issues. I believe that this combination could be repeated in a sequel to ”North and South”. This sequel could continue the exploration of Margaret Hale and John Thornton’s relationship through their own personalities, family connections, their friendship with Nicholas Higgins and the economic repercussions of slavery and the U.S. Civil War on Britain’s cotton industry and Northern England’s economy. I could go as far to say that a sequel to ”North and South” has the potential to be just as fascinating as Gaskell’s original novel. However, with so many sequels and spin-offs to Jane Austen’s novels still being written, I suspect that such a novel will never be written.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"GET SMART" (2008) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the movie version of the 1965-1971 television comedy, "GET SMART". The movie stars Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Terrence Stamp and Alan Arkin:


"GET SMART" (2008) Photo Gallery

















































Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Spells, Lies and Remorse" [R] - 2/9




"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"

CHAPTER TWO

"I'm home!" Paige's voice carried into the kitchen.

Piper wiped her hands on the apron she wore and headed for the living room. There, she found her youngest sister plopping down on the sofa. Wearing a very odd smile. "Have a nice day?" she greeted. The smile remained stamped on Paige's face. Piper frowned. "What's with the smile? You look like the Cheshire Cat from 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND'."

Paige's dark eyes widened. "Huh?"

"The smile, Paige." Piper's voice radiated suspicion. "What's the news?"

A brief pause followed, before Paige finally answered in that annoying sing-song voice of hers. "Oh . . . nothing. I have a date for Friday night, that's all."

"A date?" The news did not strike Piper as worthy of the odd smile on Paige's lips. "That's it? What is it? You've finally found your perfect man?"

Again, Paige paused dramatically. "Well, I wouldn't exactly call him perfect. In fact, far from it."

"Paige!"

The younger woman added, "Oh, okay! I had a visitor at work, today. Harry McNeill. He asked me for a date on Friday night."

Stunned by the news, Piper could only stare at her baby sister. Why would the scion of an old and wealthy San Franciscan family be interested in Paige? She had nothing in common with the numerous other women Harry McNeill had dated. And the only thing Paige had in common with Olivia's younger brother was witchcraft. Even more disturbing to Piper was the fact that she found the idea of the two younger witches on a date a bit . . . threatening. "You have a date with Harry?" Piper asked.

Dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Yeah. Do you . . .? Are you okay, Piper? You seemed . . . I don't know, upset by the news."

"Upset?" Piper realized that her tone had raised a notch. She took a deep breath and smiled happily. "Why should I be upset? I think it's great!"

Paige continued to stare at the older woman. "Ye-ee-eah. Okay." Then she looked away. "Anyway, he's taking me to a play, then dinner at the Golden Horn. God! I never thought I would step foot in that place." Her eyes returned to Piper. "Why is it that we've never been there?"

"Too expensive," Piper quickly replied. She sat down in a nearby chair, tonight's dinner forgotten.

"But . . . Mrs. McNeill and Bruce had made sure that we would get a discount - just in case we ever decided to go there. Why haven't we . . .?"

Weary of further discussions about the McNeills, Piper shot to her feet. "You know what, Paige? I just remembered that I have to finish dinner. Can we save this until . . .?" She broke off at the sight of Phoebe descending the staircase. And wearing an oddly desolate expression. "Phoebe?" Piper frowned at the middle sister. "Are you okay? Is there something wrong?"

"No, I'm not," Phoebe replied in a strangled voice. "I . . . oh my God!"

Piper rushed forward to her sister's side and guided the latter to an empty chair. "What's wrong, honey?" She noticed the blue sweater clutched in Phoebe's hands. "What's that?"

Phoebe took a deep breath. "Cole's sweater. I found it . . ."

"Oh God! You had a premonition about him," Piper quickly surmised. "What is it? Is he going to hurt someone? Hurt us?"

Paige protested, "Why do you always assume that Cole is going to do something wrong?"

"Nine months ago, you would have assumed the same," Piper acidly shot back. "Of course, that was before you saw . . . the light."

"Hey!"

Phoebe finally spoke. "I saw it too, Piper." She seemed distant. Horrified over something.

Frowning, Piper demanded, "Saw what? Pheebs?"

"Cole. I saw what he had went through with the Source." Phoebe paused. "And us."

A deep suspicion niggled at the back of Piper's mind. "Wait a minute," she began. "You're not saying that . . .?"

"Paige and the McNeills were right, Piper. About Cole. The Source . . ." Phoebe took another deep breath. "He had taken possession of Cole's body. After we had killed him that first time."

Piper felt a growing resentment within her chest. "Cole had no one to blame but himself!" she retorted. "He was the one who made that deal with the Seer. And he was the one who tried to kill . . ."

Phoebe interrupted. "It was the Source, Piper! The old Source. He took over Cole's body, making him suffer for three months! He was the one who tried to kill Paige! And he would have succeeded if Cole hadn't stopped him! Just as Darryl had managed to stop Dako from killing her. Remember? And it was the old Source who killed that innocent! And we were the ones who killed Cole . . . who was only an innocent victim of the Source! We killed an innocent, Piper!"

It was the last straw. At least for Piper. The last thing she wanted to hear was that she had killed an innocent. Especially one who happened to be a notorious half-demon. "No!" she cried. "Don't you dare stand there, Phoebe, and tell me that I'm a murderer! Cole was never an innocent! Remember Ed Miller?"

Blue lights appeared and Leo orbed into the living room. "Hey! Is dinner ready?"

Piper and her sisters barely acknowledged his presence. Paige responded to Piper's last question. "Oh c'mon Piper! Are we any better? After what we had done?"

"We had vanquished a murderous bastard! A demon! And right now, I wish to God that he had stayed dead, like he was supposed to!"

Phoebe stared at the older woman in horror. "Piper! My God! Why do you hate him so much? Even after what Paige and I had seen, why do you still refuse to accept the truth?"

Anger overwhelmed the oldest Charmed One. "Enough! I've heard enough! If you want to crawl back to that son-of-a-bitch, fine! Be my guest! But I'll be damned if I'll ever apologize to him!" On that note, Piper turned her back on her family and rushed upstairs, forgetting the dinner she had been preparing.

--------

Several minutes later, Leo orbed into the middle of Paul's apartment. He found the witch sitting on the sofa, scribbling notes from a book. Paul glanced up and greeted the whitelighter. "Leo! What brings you here?"

"I . . . uh . . ." Leo found himself unable to speak, let alone describe the quarrel he had witnessed between Piper and her sisters. Or the flood of tears released by his wife in the privacy of their bedroom. "I was just wondering how our project is coming along."

Paul's expression hardened. "Has something happened?"

"No," the whitelighter quickly replied. "I mean . . . uh, the Elders are . . . you know, growing more concerned. About Cole."

The witch's stare remained frozen. "Why? Has there been a new development in the Underworld?"

"Huh?" Leo blinked. "Uh . . ."

"Okay Leo, what's wrong?"

The question reminded Leo of the old days - when he used to visit Olivia whenever he felt troubled. With his relationship with the redhead strained lately, Leo has been at a loss for the past nine months. Strange that he had never considered Paul as a substitute . . . until now.

Paul continued, "Leo? Are you . . .?"

"It's about Cole," the whitelighter admitted. "About his time as the Source." Then he revealed the quarrel that had flared within the Halliwell household. And Phoebe's recent vision.

"Do you think her vision was genuine?" Paul asked.

Leo hesitated, unsure on how to answer. He finally admitted his true feelings. "I don't know. My first instinct was that Cole had somehow arranged it. And that he had also arranged that vision for Cecile Dubois and Paige, last December. But the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to suspect that maybe Cole had been possessed."

Wariness flickered in Paul's brown eyes. "Does that mean you don't want to go through with . . . our project?"

Memories of the Elder's warning whirled in Leo's brain. "No," he replied shortly. "No, the . . . project goes on. This isn't about the past, Paul. It's about the future. Our future. And we have to prevent Cole from endangering it."

Paul relaxed into a thin smile. "Well then, I believe I've found a solution to our problems." His smile disappeared. "Are you sure about Olivia being the one to kill Belthazor?"

Leo nodded. "Yeah. Cecile had a premonition about it." He failed to add that the premonition had appeared when the Vodoun priestess had first met Paul. "I hate to say it, but Cecile's talent for premonition is even stronger than Phoebe's."

"In that case, I've found the perfect spell - along with a potion - to use on Olivia. But I need one last ingredient. And it has to come from Cole. Blood, hair or some kind of skin fragment. Something with his DNA."

Leo hesitated. Then he told Paul about the Belthazor vanquishing potion that the sisters had created nearly three years ago. And the piece of flesh that Piper had extracted. Some of that flesh still existed inside the Halliwells' refrigerator. "Maybe I could get a slice . . ."

"It won't work," Paul said, shaking his head. "Don't forget that Belthazor's DNA has changed since coming back from the dead. I need something more recent."

Leo protested, "But to do that we would have to get something from his apa . . . uh, penthouse."

Paul rolled his eyes. "Forget that."

"Or his office."

Both whitelighter and witch paused. And stared at each other with dawning realization. Paul glanced at his watch. "It's six thirty-eight. Think he's left work, by now?"

With a shrug, Leo replied, "There's only one way to find out." He stared at the other man.

---------

The jury foreman stood up, all eyes focused upon her. "On the first count, we find the defendant . . . guilty." Triumphant cries, mingled with a few moans filled the courtroom. Olivia and Darryl acknowledged the verdict with satisfied nods. "And on the second count," the foreman continued, "we find the defendant . . . guilty. On the third count - guilty."

Pandemonium struck the courtroom. From the corner of her eye, Olivia saw a few reporters scurry outside. Television cameramen vied with each other to get shots of the stunned defendant. The jury remained in their seats - some looking impassive, some conversing with fellow jurors and one or two trying to avoid staring at the defendant.

The judge slammed his mallet and ordered the courtroom to be quiet. Once the silence had settled, he ordered the defendant to stand up. "Michael Alfredo DiMatteo, the jury has found you guilty of the first-degree murder of Sophia DiMatteo Hansen, guilty of the first-degree murder of Richard Hansen and guilty of obstruction of justice. This court will reconvene next Wednesday, on July 29, 2003; for your sentence. Court is dismissed." After he disappeared into his chamber, voice erupted all over the courtroom.

Darryl shook the prosecutor's hand. "Congratulations," he said. "Did a good job."

A polite smile tugged Paul's lips. "Thanks, but I couldn't have done it without your help." His eyes slid toward Olivia. "Both of you."

"But you were the one who put it all together," Olivia said. "Especially since you had to take over for someone else. Darryl is right." She gave the prosecutor a warm smile.

Paul's face turned slightly pink, as his eyes slid away. "Um, I was wondering if you two would . . . well," he refocused his gaze upon the two police officers, "uh, would like to celebrate. Our victory. Uh, at a restaurant. I thought lunch at the Brewery would be nice."

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged a brief look, before the latter replied, "I guess the squad can spare us for an hour or two. Olivia?"

The redhead nodded. "Sounds like a nice idea."

A smile lit up Paul's handsome face. "Great! I'll meet you at the restaurant within a half hour. I have . . . the 'press' to deal with." He glanced uneasily at the crowd of reporters gathered outside the courtroom. "Until then, I . . ."

A cell phone rang. The two men stared at Olivia, who realized that she had forgotten to turn off her phone. "Oooops!" she said with a mild grimace. "Excuse me. She removed her phone from her purse and answered it. "Hello?"

Olivia, it's me," a familiar voice greeted softly. "Cole."

A warm flush spread over Olivia's chest. "Cole," she replied. From the corner of her eye, she saw Paul stiffened. "It's a good thing you had called now. A few minutes earlier and I would have been in trouble with the judge."

"So, the court is in recess?" he asked.

"Actually, the trial is over." Olivia paused. "In our favor."

Cole warmly congratulated her. "Now that the trial is over, I guess that means you should be free for lunch. Like today?"

Olivia hesitated. She hated to give Cole the bad news. "Uh . . . not quite."

"What do you mean?"

Another pause followed, before Olivia told him. "Paul has invited Darryl and me out to lunch."

"Paul?" Cole's voice expressed surprise and disappointment. "As in our favorite ADA?" Now, he sounded downright chilly.

Olivia sighed, as she turned away from Darryl and Paul. "We're celebrating the verdict, Cole," she murmured. "And it'll be the three of us. Not two."

"Don't worry Olivia," Cole shot back. "I do recall you mentioning Darryl." An uncomfortable pause followed before he added in a begrudging voice, "Well say hi to Darryl for me." He paused again. "And give my congratulations to Margolin."

Feeling slightly guilty at disappointing him, Olivia added, "Tell you what. I'll make us a nice dinner, tonight. For our own private celebration."

Once more, Cole paused before he answered. "Okay. I guess dinner would be nice. What are you making?"

"It's a surprise," Olivia replied. Relief flooded her body. "I'll see you tonight . . . around seven?"

Cole murmured, "Seven sounds fine. I'll be seeing you." He hung up without saying good-bye. And Olivia wondered if she would find herself facing a moody daemon, tonight.

---------

The moment he had hung up the telephone, Cole found himself wondering if he had made a mistake. Had he allowed his jealousy to get the best of him? And what was he jealous about? Olivia spending one lousy lunch with Paul Margolin? A man she had no romantic interest in?

Cole leaned back against his chair and sighed. Then a low chuckle rose from his throat. The half-daemon realized that he might have suffered a minor, yet serious bout of paranoia and insecurity. Especially since Olivia had been spending plenty of time with Margolin on the DiMatteo case, since late June. Time with both the ADA and Darryl Morris. And Olivia had mentioned that Darryl would be joining them. Right?

The telephone rang, jarring Cole out of his thoughts. Wishing that his assistant were around to screen his calls, the half-daemon reluctantly answered. "Cole Turner speaking," he said. "May I help you?"

A familiar voice breathlessly replied, "Cole?"

He blinked. "Phoebe? Is that you?"

"Yeah . . . it's me," his ex-wife reluctantly replied. "I, uh . . . can we see each other? Alone?"

Cole frowned. Why would Phoebe want to see him? Had she received some kind of premonition involving him? When Cole asked her, she answered, "Well . . . sort of. Could I see you, today?"

"Uh . . ." Cole hesitated, as he tried to absorb this phone call into his belief system. "Well, I'm free for lunch. Why don't I meet you at the Aqua restaurant, in an hour from now?"

Phoebe's voice gushed, "I'll see you then. Bye."

"Bye," Cole murmured. By the time the word came out of his mouth, Phoebe had hung up. He continued to stare at the receiver, wondering why his former wife wanted to see him.

-----------

Paul glanced at his watch. He had another thirty-eight minutes before meeting Olivia and Darryl for lunch. It was time to put the finishing touches to the potion.

He locked the door to his office and removed a small jar filled with purple liquid. He placed the jar on the floor and straightened up his body, allowing his muscles to tighten. The image of a blue flame appeared in his mind. He raised his right hand and declared, "I cast this circle to protect me from all negative energies that may come to do me harm. I draw this circle only the energies that are right for me and the most correct for my work." In Paul's mind, the blue flame became a circle that surrounded both him and the jar. "I create sacred space. So mote it be."

Now that his circle had been created, Paul began the spell. "From wariness to suspicion to paranoia and dislike. I call upon the power of the elk, guardians of the Water and the West, to direct these emotions to the consumer of this elixir and have said being to express them to the demon, Belthazor. So mote it be."

A blue flame shot up from the mixture in a brief second, before Paul deemed it safe to cover the jar. He picked it up and took a deep breath. Now all he had to do was feed it to Olivia.


END Of CHAPTER TWO

Friday, March 25, 2011

"ATONEMENT" (2007) Review




"ATONEMENT" (2007) Review

Based upon Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, ”ATONEMENT” told the story about how the lies and misunderstandings of 13-year-old girl from a nouveau-riche English family affected the romance between her older sister and the son of the family’s housekeeper. The movie starred James McAvoy, Keira Knightely and Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan.

Comprised in four parts (like the novel), ”ATONEMENT” began with the 13 year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), an aspiring novelist with a crush on Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of the family’s housekeeper. Robbie, along with Briony’s older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) have both returned for the summer in 1935, following their education at Cambridge. Although both Robbie and Cecilia have been aware of each other at Cambridge, neither have not bothered to acknowledged their romantic interest in each other until recently. Also at the Tallis home for the weekend are Briony and Cecilia’s cousins – the 15 year-old Lola Quincey (Juno Temple) and her younger twin brothers – and their older brother Leon’s friend, the owner of a chocolate factory named Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After Briony had witnessed several disturbing scenes – at least in her eyes – between Robbie and Cecilia, she comes to the conclusion that Robbie might be a sexual threat to Cecilia. Matters worsened when Briony joined the rest of the household in the search for Lola’s twin brothers, who had ran off in protest against their parents’ upcoming divorce. During the search for the twins, Briony witnessed the rape of her cousin Lola on the family estate by a man in a dinner suit. In the end, Briony claimed that the man she saw raping Lola was Robbie. Aside from Cecilia, the rest of the family believed Briony and Robbie ends up being sent to prison. At the outset of World War II, the British government released Robbie from prison on condition that he enlist as a private in the British Expeditionary Force. The rest of the movie, set during the early years of World War II, featured Robbie’s brief reunion with Cecilia – who had become a nurse - before his journey to France and the now 18 year-old Briony’s (Romola Garai) experiences as a wartime nurse.

”ATONEMENT” turned out to be a first-rate film about the destructive consequences of lies and illusions. Both director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton structured the movie in an unusual way in which not only did they allow moviegoers different conflicting perspective on certain incidents in the story – a prime example would be both Briony and Robbie’s different points-of-view on an incident regarding Cecilia’s retrieval of a broken vase from the estate fountain, but also quite cleverly hinted that certain aspects of story – especially the World War II segments – may have been colored by Briony’s own emotions and imagination. Also, Wright, along with art directors Ian Bailie, Nick Gottschalk and Niall Moroney; and production designer Sarah Greenwood did an excellent job in re-creating the rich atmosphere of Britain in the mid-1930s and 1940 and especially the Dunkirk expedition. I also have to commend Paul Tothill for the film’s superb editing. Tothill managed to give ”ATONEMENT” a rhythmic style that matched the sound of a typewriter that added an illusionary sense to the unfolding story. In other words, by editing the story in a way that allowed certain scenes to be told from different points of view and added a sense of illusion, Tothill’s work gave the audience a false sense of illusion – at least for those who have never read McEwan’s novel.

I do have one quibble about the movie’s production . . . and I have to place the blame on Wright’s direction. I am referring the sequence that featured Robbie’s arrival at the beach at Dunkirk. At first glance, I was struck by the spectacle of Wright’s direction and Seamus McGarvey’s photography of the entire montage. Like I said . . . at first. Unfortunately, the montage ended up lasting several minutes too long. Not much time had passed when I found myself longing for it to end. I realized that Wright wanted to reveal the horror and chaos of war in all of its glory. But in the end, he simply went too far.

I must admit that I was not as impressed by most of the cast of ”ATONEMENT” as most critics and moviegoers. There was nothing earth-shattering about most of the performances . . . just good, solid work. Many moviegoers and critics had been surprised when both James McAvoy and Keira Knightley failed to earn Academy Award nominations. After watching the movie, I am not really surprised. Mind you, both gave very competent performances as the two lovers – Robbie and Cecilia But I had two problems with McAvoy and Knightley. One, their screen chemistry was not that explosive, considering the heated romance of their characters. It took a love scene inside the Tallis library to truly generate any heat between them. And two, I think their performances were hampered by Wright’s decision to allow the characters to speak in a staccato style that was prevalent in the movies of the 1930s and 40s in both Hollywood and Britain. I hate to say this, but McAvoy and Knightley never really managed to utilize this speech pattern with any effectiveness. There were times when their attempts to use it threatened to make their performances seem stiff and rushed. Perhaps they were simply too young and inexperienced.

On the other hand, I was very impressed by the three actresses who portrayed Briony Tallis at different stages in her life. Legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave portrayed a 70-80 year-old Briony, who had not only wrote a novel based upon the events surrounding Robbie’s arrest, but also confessed to the mistake she had committed decades earlier. And Romola Garai portrayed the character as an 18 year-old wartime nurse. Both actresses did an excellent job of portraying these older versions of Briony. But it was the young actress Saoirse Ronan who stole the movie as the 13 year-old Briony, whose naivety, jealousy toward Cecilia and Robbie’s budding romance and penchant for illusions led to devastating consequences for the romantic pair. Unlike McAvoy and Knighteley, Ronan gave a superb and natural performance as the confused and emotional Briony. It is not surprising that her work eventually earned BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

Before I end this review, I have to point out something that trouble me about ”ATONEMENT”. I might as well admit that I have never read McEwan’s novel . . . which is why the following storyline left me feeling confused. From what I have read about the film and the novel, Briony’s cousin, Lola Quincey, had been raped by the Tallis’ guest, Paul Marshall. And yet . . . she married the man, five years later. Why? Was it because she never knew that Marshall had been the one who had raped her? But judging from the hostile look she had given Briony at her wedding, Lola seemed well aware of that fact. Did Marshall actually raped her? Or had he seduced her that night the twins disappeared and Robbie was arrested? Perhaps the novel made the details of Lola’s storyline clearer. The movie left it murky. At least for me.

In the end, I must admit that ”ATONEMENT” proved to be one of the best movies released in 2007. Was it the best movie of that year? I have no idea. I have not seen ”NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”. At least not yet. But despite some of the movie’s flaws, director Joe Wright managed to lift the usual Merchant Ivory façade of Britain’s past and create an emotionally dark film from Ian McEwan’s novel.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the new science fiction thriller called "BATTLE: LOS ANGELES". Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the movie stars Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ramon Rodgriguez, Ne-Yo, and Michael Peña:



"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Photo Gallery














































Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Spells, Lies and Remorse" [R] - 1/9"




"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"

RATING: R

SUMMARY: The final efforts of the Side of Good to vanquish Belthazor, once and for all. Set after "A Family Affair" - AU between S5 and S6.

FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.

DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills and Marbus, are thankfully, my creations.



----------


"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"


CHAPTER ONE

The couple stepped out of the elevator and made their way along the dimly lit corridor. "Could you please explain to me why we just used the elevator, when I could have easily teleported us to your apartment?" Cole grumbled.

"Because teleporting was unnecessary," Olivia replied. "I don't recall any magical emergency popping up, since we left your car."

Cole linked his arm through his girlfriend's. "Yeah, but at least we could have avoided meeting Mrs. Boone in the elevator. God, that woman can be tiresome!" He referred to one of the building's tenant - a forty-something divorcee, who had developed an unrelenting interest in the handsome half-daemon.

A wicked smile curved Olivia's mouth. "And miss that deliciously jealous look on her face, when she caught us kissing inside the elevator? Not on your life!"

"I've said it once and I'll say it again - you can really be one hell of a bitch, Olivia." Despite the insult, Cole's voice radiated affection and admiration.

Olivia chuckled. "I know."

The pair finally reached outside Olivia's apartment. She unlocked the door and they entered. After she switched on the light, Olivia asked, "Do you want anything to drink? Coffee, tea . . .?"

"How about you?" Cole finished, as he wrapped his arms around Olivia's waist.

It took all of Olivia's efforts not to wince at Cole's little pun. But she could not hold her tongue. "You know something, Cole?" she oozed in her most sexy voice.

"What?"

"Sometimes, it amazes me that I love you so much." She gave his nose a light peck. "Despite your tendency for bad jokes and puns."

Cole's mouth hung open in astonishment. "Wha . . . wait a minute! Are you saying that I have a bad sense of humor?"

Olivia slid her arms around the half-daemon's neck. "Well, it's not so bad . . . when you're insulting someone." She leaned forward and allowed her tongue to flicker across his left earlobe. "But never mind that. Didn't you say something about wanting me?"

"I don't know if I'm in the mood right now," Cole replied peevishly.

"Ooooo! Poor baby!" Olivia's teeth captured Cole's bottom lip and gently tugged it. "You're not mad at me, are you?"

A heartfelt sigh left Cole's mouth. "Well . . . I don't know."

Before Cole could comment any further, Olivia hungrily covered his mouth with hers for a passionate kiss. Which deepened even further, as she delicately brushed her tongue against his.

Once they paused for air, Cole added between heavy breathing, "I guess I'm not mad, any longer."

"Hmmm," Olivia flicked her tongue across the edge of his mouth. "That's good to know. Want to continue this in the bedroom?"

Cole responded with a hard kiss. "Why not?" Then he beamed the pair of them out of the living room.

-------

Her legs wrapped around Cole's waist, Olivia shuddered, as he gave one final thrust and sent her over the edge with mindless pleasure. Breathing heavily, the half-daemon collapsed on top of her. He remained there for a few seconds, before he planted a light kiss on her lips and rolled off her body. As always, Olivia found herself feeling strangely bereft.

"Oh God!" Cole murmured between breaths.

Slightly breathless herself, Olivia nodded. "I know." Then she turned on her left to face him. "Feeling hungry?"

"Are you kidding?" Cole replied. "I can barely move. Let's just stay in bed." Then he drew Olivia into his arms, and she placed her head on his shoulder. She sighed contentedly. There was nothing better in the world than post-coital snuggling. Well, except for sex. "By the way," he added, "I was wondering if you'll be available for lunch, tomorrow. Ever since that DiMatteo trial began, we've barely been able to spend any time together for lunch."

A low moan escaped from Olivia's lips, as Cole planted a kiss on the side of her neck. "I'm sorry Cole, but I have to say no. The jury went into deliberation yesterday. Darryl and I have to remain available, until they reach a decision."

"Oh. Great." Cole's voice expressed his disappointment.

Olivia quickly added, "Of course there's a good chance that they might reach a verdict, tomorrow. It's really an open-and-shut case."

Cole sighed. "Well, I guess I better cancel my reservations at Le Charm." Olivia winced. The half-daemon had just named one of her favorite local bistros. "So, uh . . . how is Margolin holding up? He must be relieved that the trial will soon be over."

Olivia turned her head to stare at Cole. "Well, this is a first! Since when have you ever been concerned about Paul? You haven't mentioned his name since the trial began."

"We ran into each other at the courthouse yesterday," Cole explained. He laid on his back - much to Olivia's disappointment. "I said hello and he pretended that I didn't exist."

Sighing, Olivia sat up. "I don't find it surprising. I haven't spoken much to him, myself. Except in regard to the trial. In fact, I haven't had a personal conversation with Paul since Bruce and Barbara's wedding, nearly three months ago."

"Good." Olivia frowned at Cole, as he quickly assumed a more sympathetic expression. "I mean . . . that's too bad. Rejection can be pretty hard to deal with. Something we both know from personal experience."

Olivia laid her body upon Cole's. He slid an arm around her waist. "Poor Paul. I just wish he would get over it, soon. It would make me feel a hell of a lot better."

"And me," Cole added.

----------

"DRUID SPELLS OF THE AGES". Paul Margolin heaved a sigh, as he thumbed through the book for a spell that he felt could help him.

Ever since his whitelighter, Leo Wyatt, had informed him of a premonition received by a colleague about Belthazor, the New York-born witch had become engrossed in a special project. Namely to convince a certain red-haired witch that her half-daemon boyfriend will end up being a great danger to the supernatural world.

Since the beginning of the project sanctioned by Leo, Paul had checked books from the local library and used bookstores in the Bay Area. What he needed was a spell to turn Olivia against Belthazor. He had considered one that would give him the power of telepathic manipulation. Unfortunately, the redhead had grown up with two telepaths in her family's household, and had a third as her best friend. Which meant that Olivia had been trained to detect and block telepathic incursion into her mind. Granted, she could still be caught offguard, but Paul did not want to take the chance.

He continued his search through the book. Finally, he came upon a spell that proved promising. One that would include a potion, as well. Paul read the spell's instructions. Hmmm. It seemed more than promising. Perhaps he should copy it into his Book of Shadows. But first, he needed to get hold of some Agrimony.

--------

The bell above Ostera's door tinkled. Engulfed in helping fellow shop assistant, Maddy Oser, fill one of the shelves with stock, Paige did not see who had entered. Especially since she stood on a ladder, several feet above the floor.

"Okay Maddy," she said. "Hand me that last bottle of Chamomille." She held out her hand. Seconds passed before Maddy shoved the bottle requested into her hand. "Okay, that's it." Paige descended the ladder. "I guess we can put the rest of the stock in the storeroom in the back." Upon reaching the floor, Paige turned and found a grinning Harry McNeill standing next to the ladder. "Oh. Harry. Uh . . ."

The redhead's grin stretched wider. "And good afternoon to you, Miss Matthews." He paused. "Aren't you going to thank me for my help?"

Paige glanced to her left. Maddy stood near a half-empty box of herbs with a slight smirk on her face. "Yeah," Paige coolly replied. "Thanks for the help." She brushed past the male witch and headed toward the counter in the front. "What are you doing here, Harry? You need something?"

Harry fell beside her and cocked his head in a manner that strongly reminded Paige of his father. "Just you."

"What?" Did he just proposition her?

Looking slightly embarrassed, Harry shook his head. "Sorry. That came out wrong. I meant . . . uh, well I was wondering if you're free Friday night. For a date. There is this new play at the Orpheum Theater. And I thought we could later have dinner at the Golden Horn." He paused, while an open-mouthed Paige stared at him. "Unless, you prefer some place less stodgy like P3."

As she slowly recovered from the proposition, Paige finally managed to speak. "Huh? Oh, uh . . . I . . . I guess the Golden Horn is fine." She paused. "Never been there."

Elation lit up Harry's green eyes. "So that means you're available, Friday?"

"Sure!" The word shot out of Paige's mouth before she could stop herself. God! What had she just done?

"Great! I'll pick you up around six-thirty." Smiling, Harry bid Maddy good-bye and nearly skipped out of the shop.

The younger witch faced Paige, wearing a cryptic smile. "Wow! A date with Harry McNeill! Lucky girl!"

Paige managed a wan smile. Inwardly, she wondered how long her luck would last. Granted, Harry was a very attractive man and one of San Francisco's most eligible bachelors. But he also happened to be a notorious ladies' man. And a man who came from a family regarded in a lukewarm manner by hers. She sighed. Friday night might proved to be very interesting.

---------

An oath left Phoebe's mouth, as she rummaged through her closet for a missing shoe. The closet resembled a junkyard, thanks to her lazy housekeeping habits. Piper had always chided her for using the closet as some kind of trash receptacle. And now it looked as if her older sister had been proven right. All because she could not find that damn shoe.

Her fingers finally touched what felt like a box. Phoebe gripped the edges and dragged it out of the closet. Various knickknacks and clothing filled the box. She stuck her hand into the box and removed a powder blue, V-neck sweater. A man's sweater. One that had once belonged to Cole.

Phoebe's heartbeat increased slightly, as memories of her former husband wearing the sweater, flashed in her mind. Then other images followed. Images that had nothing to do with the sweater . . . and everything with Cole.

***

Seer: Don't be afraid. (He spins around. The Seer walks in.)

Cole: Who are you? Where am I?

Seer: Back in your once and future life... Belthazor.

Cole: Belthazor? (The Seer moves closer.) Seer.

Seer: Even now I can see the void where your demon half used to exist. It craves to be complete again.

Cole: How'd you know I was still alive?

Seer: I had a vision. One where you and I do great things together.

Cole: I don't work with evil anymore.

Seer: You might reconsider if you hope to save your precious witch. Only you and I can help to beat the Source.

Cole: I'm listening.

Seer: If you take in the Hollow, you can absorb the Source's power when he attacks. Once powerless, they can vanquish him. (She picks up the Hollow box.)

Cole: And what happens to me after?

Seer: The witches and I will banish the Hollow back to its crypt. You will return to normal.

Cole: How do I know this isn't one of The Source's tricks? Or one of yours for that matter.

Seer: The Source has been corrupted by the Hollow. And is going to destroy us all. He cannot be allowed to continue with this path of madness.

Cole: If I do this, what do you see then? Seer: A future for both sides.

***

Scene: Underworld. A dark cave. Cole walks in, topless, holding a sword. He looks around. He sees the Source across the room, chanting with his back turned. Cole creeps towards him and is about to swing the sword.

The Source: Wait. (The Source faces Cole and lifts off his hood. It's Cole.)

Cole/The Source: You don't really wanna kill me do you?

Cole: But how... (Cole/The Source hits Cole and he lands on the ground. The sword flies up to Cole/The Source.)

Cole/The Source: We're one now. I'm reborn, within you.

Cole: I'll fight it. I'll kill us both if I have to. I won't let you hurt Phoebe.

Cole/The Source: You won't have a choice. (He stabs Cole and he screams.)

***

Cole: How did I get here?

Seer: The Source's magic brought you. I see you accepting that very soon. (Cole goes over and grabs her around the neck.)

Cole: You never told me I would become the Source if I help vanquish him!

Seer: Don't be naive. I told you of my vision. Of you and I doing great things together, this is just the beginning. (He falls to his knees.) You cannot change your fate. As you can see the evil within you wont allow it. C

Cole: I'll fight it, I'll kill it. I'll find a way.

***

Cole: I just got back.

Phoebe: From where?

Cole: I had to, uh, get out of the house for a while, you know.

Phoebe: No, I don't know. Do we need to talk?

Cole: Phoebe, I... Ahh! (He holds his head.) Damn it!

Phoebe: What's the matter? (She touches him but he pulls away.)

Cole: Uh, nothing. It's just a migraine, I gotta go.

Phoebe: Cole, where are you... (He walks away.) Cole

***

Seer: Holy matrimony will be the worst possible thing that could happen. It'll keep you from ever reigning as the Source.

Cole: That can't be right.

Seer: It's what I foresee. Unless of course you cancel the wedding.

Cole: I can't. I need Phoebe.

Seer: Yes, I can see that too.

Cole: We've been through this. Cole's love for Phoebe still exists within me. I can't overcome it. If I'm to regain what I've lost it has to be with Phoebe, marrying her.

Seer: Even if it means losing your son?

Cole: A son? You saw a son in my future?

Seer: More than a son. You and Phoebe Halliwell will produce the most powerful child the magical world has ever seen.

Cole: That's my boy.

Seer: No, he won't be your boy, he'll be theirs. On the side of good. Unless you marry the witch in a dark way.

***

Seer: Why would you save Paige after everything you do to destroy her?

Cole: They would've found a way to save her anyway. This way I get the credit.

Seer: Did you do it for credit? Or love? I supposed there's some things even the Source can't defeat.

Cole: Careful.

Seer: I am, but are you? We have worked too hard to let a nugget of humanity destroy a legacy of evil.

Cole: Paige has no memory. She's not a threat to us anymore.

Seer: I'm not talking about her. I'm talking about Cole. His is the one threat neither one of us can control. He saved Paige not you.

***

Cole: How much longer?

Wizard: Give me a break, will you, this is tricky stuff. It'd be a lot easier if I could do this in friendlier confines.

Cole: There are no friendly confines, not anymore. This had better work or you'll be joining the rest of your kind and not in the way you hoped for.

Wizard: Little tip. Pressure's not the best motivating technique. If you wanna lose the Source's powers, don't rush me.

Cole: Fine, but just so we're clear, once you get the Source's powers I never hear from you again.

Wizard: Understood. Not that I'm ungrateful, but why are you so willing to do this? (He places some lit candles on the floor.)

Cole: I lost someone I love and I want her back. That's all you need to know.

Wizard: Love? The Source can love.

Cole: Just keep working.

Wizard: I'm done. Now, if the spell's going to work, blood needs to spill. (He picks up a dagger and Cole holds out his arm. He cuts Cole's arm.) Now me. (He cuts his own. Smoke starts to rise from the Grimoir.) "Holus into exitus omne. Holus into exitus omne. Holus into exitus omne! Holus into exitus omne." (The both rise into the air and they start to glow. The wizard extends his arm and starts to pull the Source out of Cole. The Seer and Phoebe appear.)

Seer: Save him. For your son. (Phoebe throws fire and vanquishes the wizard. Cole falls to the floor and Phoebe rushes over to him.)

***

Cole: (to Phoebe) I'm sorry, it's, it's for the best.

Phoebe: I know it is. (She walks over to Cole and the fireball disappears. Phoebe kisses him.)

Piper: Phoebe? (Phoebe moves away from Cole.)

Phoebe: I'm sorry too. (She places the crystal in its place and the trap is activated.)
Cole: Phoebe, no. No!

Phoebe: I'm sorry, baby, I'm so sorry.

Piper: "Prudence, Penelope, Patricia, Melinda..." (Fire appears near Cole's feet.)

Phoebe: "Ashford, Helen, Laura and Grace..."

Cole: I will always love you.

Paige: "Halliwell witches stand strong beside us."

Phoebe: "Vanquish this evil..."

Piper, Phoebe, Paige: "From time and space." (They vanquish Cole and it makes a huge explosion, making the windows smash. Phoebe walks to the middle of the room and cries.)


***

The visions ceased as quickly as they had began. Phoebe fell back on her rear with a gasp. "Oh my God," she murmured. "Oh my God! What have we done? What I've done?" Shame and disbelief mingled within her, as she continued to stare at the sweater.


END OF CHAPTER ONE

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"PERSUASION" (1995) Review




"PERSUASION" (1995) Review

Twenty-four years after the BBC aired its 1971 version of Jane Austen’s 1818 novel, ”Persuasion”; and twelve years before ITV aired its adaptation; Columbia Pictures released its own version on British television and in movie theaters across the U.S. The movie went on to become highly acclaimed, the winner of a BAFTA TV award for Best Single Drama, and regarded as the definitive version of Austen’s novel.

Directed by Roger Michell, ”PERSUASION” told the story of Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of an impoverished baronet in Regency England. Seven or eight years before the story began, she had been persuaded to reject the marriage proposal of a young and ambitious Royal Navy officer named Frederick Wentworth by her godmother and late mother’s friend, Lady Russell. After spending so many years in deep regret over her action, Anne found herself facing Wentworth again during a visit to her younger sister’s home. Now a captain and wealthy from the spoils of the recent Napoleonic Wars, Wentworth continued to harbor a good deal of residual anger and resentment toward Anne. And the latter continued to harbor remorse over her actions and a passionate love for the naval officer.

After watching the 2007 version of ”PERSUASION”, I found myself wondering how I would regard this particular version. Needless to say, I found it very satisfying. Michell did an excellent job in capturing the ambivalence of Austen’s novel. The center of that ambivalence rested on the underlying passion of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth’s romantic history. And this passion beautifully permeated the movie; thanks to Michell, screenwriter Nick Dear and the two leads – Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. The movie relived all of the passion and emotions of their relationship – both positive and negative. Michell and Dear also did a top-notch job in revealing the initial dangers that the British aristocracy and landed gentry faced from their complacency, arrogance and unwillingness to match the ambitious endeavors of the rising middle-class; especially through characters like Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot.

As much as I had enjoyed ”PERSUASION”, I believe it had its flaws. One of those flaws turned out to be the scene featuring Anne and Wentworth’s final reconciliation on one of the streets of Bath. It could have been a wonderful and poignant moment . . . if it were not for the circus performers and pedestrians making a ruckus in the background. It nearly spoiled the romantic mood for me. And there were at least two performances that did not sit right with me. I will discuss them later. This version of ”PERSUASION” seemed to be the only adaptation that portrayed Mrs. Croft as the younger sister. Fiona Shaw, who is at least five years younger than Ciarán Hinds and looked it even with minimal makeup, portrayed his sister. Yet, both the 1971 and 2007 versions had cast an actress that was older than the actor portraying Wentworth. And I happened to know for a fact that at age 31, the Fredrick Wentworth character is at least seven (7) years younger than his sister. There is no way that the 42 year-old Hinds could have passed as a man eleven (11) younger, despite his handsome looks.

But my main problem with this adaptation turned out to be the same problem I had with the 2007 version – namely the character of William Elliot, Sir Walter’s heir presumptive. Because the baronet had no male issue, his baronetcy and the Kellynch estate will pass to William, his cousin. But William, fearing that Sir Walter might marry Mrs. Clay, the companion of the oldest Elliot daughter; schemed to woo and marry Anne in order to prevent Mrs. Clay from becoming Sir Walter’s second wife and protect his inheritance. As I had explained in my review of the 2007 version, this scenario failed to make any sense to me. Even if William had succeeded in preventing any marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay, there was no way he could constantly prevent the Elliot patriarch from considering another bride for matrimony. Even if he had married Anne. Quite frankly, it was a situation that was beyond his control. Dear tried to give urgency to William’s situation by portraying him as financially broke after spending all of his late wife’s money. As far as I am concerned, Dear’s efforts failed. Sir Walter’s lawyer had made it clear around the beginning of the story that it would take years for Kellynch to recover from the Elliots’ debts. Nor did following Austen’s story by making William and Wentworth romantic rivals for Anne’s affections really help. Anne did not seem that impressed by William’s character, despite his charm and wit. And if Dear had simply avoided Austen’s characterization of William Elliot and allowed him to retain his fortune; he could have been a formidable rival for Wentworth, just as Louisa Musgrove proved to be a strong rival for Anne in the story's first half.

I cannot deny that ”PERSUASION” strongly benefited from the excellent performances of the two leads, Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Root was superb as a sad and remorseful woman who began to bloom again over the possibility of a renewed love. With very little dialogue, she was excellent in a montage that featured her character’s reaction to the Musgroves’ carping over Anne’s younger sister, Mary Musgrove. But my favorite scene happened to featured Anne and Wentworth’s first meeting after eight years at Charles and Mary Musgrove’s cottage. With her eyes and body language, Root conveyed Anne’s series of emotions from seeing the naval officer again after so many years with great skill. Despite being a decade older than his character, Ciarán Hinds was equally impressive as Captain Frederick Wentworth, the successful Royal Navy officer who tried to hide his continuing resentment toward Anne’s rejection of him with a hearty manner and friendly overtures toward the Musgrove sisters – Louisa and Henrietta. One particular scene that impressed me featured Wentworth’s recollection of the year 1806 (the year Anne had rejected his marriage proposal). Hinds skillfully conveyed the character’s lingering resentment . . . and love for Anne in what struck me as a subtle moment.

Other excellent performances came from Sophie Thompson, who did a top-notch job as Anne’s younger sister, the emotionally clinging Mary Elliot Musgrove; Simon Russell Beale as Charles Musgrove, Mary’s consistently exasperated husband; Fiona Shaw, who wonderfully conveyed Sophia Wentworth Croft’s strong mind, along with her love for her husband and her role as a naval officer’s wife in a charming scene; and Susan Fleetwood, who have a complex performance in her last role as Anne’s well-meaning, yet prejudiced godmother, Lady Russell. But the one supporting performance that really impressed me came from Samuel West’s portrayal of the conniving William Elliot. He gave a deliciously smooth performance that radiated wit and charm. I found him so likeable that I almost felt sorry for him when Anne finally announced her engagement to Wentworth.

Unfortunately, not all of the performances impressed me. Despite my admiration for the late Corin Redgrave’s skills as an actor, I must admit that I found his portrayal of Anne’s narcissist and arrogant father, Sir Walter Elliot, a little off-putting. I realize that the character happened to be one of the outrageous characters in the novel. Unfortunately, Redgrave’s portrayal of Sir Walter’s narcissism seemed a little too mannered and broad. But Redgrave’s Sir Walter seemed like a mild annoyance in compare to Phoebe Nicholls’ portrayal of the eldest Elliot sibling, Elizabeth. Nicholls portrayed the character as an over-the-top diva suffering from a damaged nervous system. I could not help but wonder if she had been on crack during the production. Or perhaps Michell was on crack for allowing such a performance to remain in the film. And why did Dear's script include a complaint from Nicholls' Elizabeth about Anne usurping Wentworth's attention? Why was she even upset over the news regarding Anne's engagement? I do not recall her ever being interested in Wentworth.

Overall, ”PERSUASION” was an excellent adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds’ performances, Nick Dear’s screenplay and Roger Michell’s direction infused the movie with a mature passion rarely touched upon in the adaptation of Austen’s other novels. Does this mean that I regard this movie as the best adaptation of Austen’s 1818 novel? No. Like the 2007 version, it had a number of flaws that prevented it from becoming "the" best. But I must admit that it is pretty damn good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"BAND OF BROTHERS" (2001) - Episode Ten "Points" Commentary




"BAND OF BROTHERS" (2001) - Episode Ten "Points" Commentary

”BAND OF BROTHERS” finally came to an end in this tenth episode that featured Easy Company’s experiences as part of the U.S. Army of occupation, following Germany’s surrender in Europe. This marked the third episode that featured Richard Winters as the central character and the second with his narration.

Told in flashback via Winters’ narration, ”Points” opened in July 1945, with Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) enjoying a morning swim in an Austrian lake, while being watched by his best friend, Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston). After the two friends spend a few minutes looking at regimental photos, Winters recalls the experiences of Easy Company during the last days of the war in Europe and their role as part of an occupational force. Two months earlier, the company manages to capture Eagle's Nest, Adolf Hitler’s high mountain chalet in Berchtesgaden. Following Easy Company’s capture of Berchtesgaden, they receive news of Germany’s surrender to the Allied Forces. Easy’s remaining stay in Germany does not last long. They, and the rest of 2nd Battalion, are sent to Austria as part of the U.S. Army’s occupational force. Easy Company battled boredom, various departures, the death of Private John Janovec (Tom Hardy) in a jeep accident, the shooting of Sergeant Chuck Grant (Nolan Hemmings) by a drunken American soldier, and a mixture of anticipation and anxiety over the possibility of being shipped to the Pacific. The miniseries ended with a visit by a recovered Lynn “Buck” Compton (Neal McDonough) and the revelations of the men’s post-war lives.

”Points” proved to be a mildly interesting episode about what it was like for World War II veterans to serve as part of an occupational force in Europe, following Germany’s defeat. Many of the incidents featured in the last paragraph certainly prevented the episode from becoming dull. And thanks to Erik Jendresen and Erik Bork’s screenplay, along with Mikael Salomon’s direction; ”Points” provided other interesting scenes. One featured a tense scene that saw Joe Liebgott (Ross McCall), David Webster (Eion Bailey) and Wayne A. "Skinny" Sisk (Philip Barrantini) assigned to capture a Nazi war criminal. Private Janovec’s conversation with a German veteran at a road checkpoint provided a good deal of subtle humor for me. Another humorous scene featured Winters and Nixon’s encounter with a still resentful Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer), who proved to be very reluctant to salute the now higher ranked Winters. One scene that really grabbed my attention featured most of the 506th regimental officers watching a newsreel about the fierce Battle of Okinawa in Japan. Not only did that scene remind viewers the fate that Easy Company had managed to evade with the surrender of Japan, it also proved to be an unintentional foreshadow to Spielberg and Hanks’ World War II follow-up, ”THE PACIFIC”.

Once again, Damian Lewis gave a subtle, yet exceptional performance as the miniseries’ leading character, Richard Winters. But I was also impressed by Matthew Settle’s fierce portrayal of a frustrated and somewhat tense Ronald Spiers, who struggled to keep Easy Company together, despite their travails as part of an occupying force. And I was pleasantly surprised by Peter Youngblood Hills’ poignant performance in a scene that featured Darrell C. “Shifty” Powers’ private farewell to Winters.

I do have one major complaint about ”Points”. I did not care for the fact that miniseries did not reveal the post-war fates of “all” of the surviving members of Easy Company. The only characters whose lives we learned about were most of those seen in Austria, at the end of the episode . . . but not all. The episode never revealed what happened to Edward “Babe” Heffron or Donald Malarkey, who were also in Austria, by the end of the miniseries. And viewers never learned of the post-war fates of veterans such as William “Bill” Guarnere, Walter “Smokey” Gordon, Joe Toye, Roy Cobb, Les Hashley, Antonio Garcia, and yes . . . even Herbert Sobel.

Despite my major disappointment over how the episode ended, I still enjoyed ”Points”. I would never consider it to be one of my favorite episodes of ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. But it did not put me to sleep. However, it still managed to be a satisfying end to the saga.





Richard D. Winters (1918-2011), RIP

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES" (1982) Screenshots Gallery



Below are screenshot images from the 1982 miniseries, "THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES". Based upon two of Anthony Trollope's "BARCHESTER" novels - "The Warden" (1855) and "Barchester Towers" (1857), the miniseries starred Donald Pleasence, Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine McEwan, Janet Maw, Alan Rickman, Angela Pleasence and Susan Hampshire:



"THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES" (1982) Screenshots Gallery






















More screenshots can be found in this GALLERY.