Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"J. EDGAR" (2011) Review




"J. EDGAR" (2011) Review

Actor/director Clint Eastwood directed his third - or possibly fourth - biopic film, during his career, with "J. EDGAR", an examination of the career and private life of F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover. The movie starred Leonard Di Caprio as the infamous lawman.

"J. EDGAR" is a 137 minute movie that spanned Hoover's career in a series of flashbacks. The movie begins in the early 1960s, when the famed F.B.I. director is recounting his forty-to-fifty years as a Federal lawman. Hoover's recollections span from his participation in the Palmer Raids - a series of attempts by the U.S. Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States, his appointment as director of the Bureau of Investigations in the 1920s, his "War on Crime" campaign in the 1930s, the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping during the same decade and his investigation of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.. The movie also focuses on his use of blackmail to retain his position with the F.B.I., and his relationships with both his mother and Clyde Tolson, his assistant director for the Bureau.

I do not think I would ever regard "J. EDGAR" as one of Eastwood's best work. It had the potential to be a top-notch film. But a slightly incoherent script written by Dustin Lance Black prevented the movie from reaching its potential. One, the movie's use of flashbacks started fine. But somewhere in the movie's second half, this use fell flat. I suspect that my problem with the flashbacks was that Black's script and Eastwood's direction seemed inconsistent and slightly confusing.

Another problem I had with "J. EDGAR" was its focus on the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case. It was simply too much. Hoover reached the heights of his fame as the Bureau's director, because of the manhunt for Midwestern criminals such as John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis and Charles Floyd. I realize that this topic was also covered in Michael Mann's 2009 crime drama, "PUBLIC ENEMIES". But Eastwood and Black seemed determined to ignore the topic, aside from Hoover's bouts of jealousy toward the agent that hunted down many of these criminals - Melvin Purvis. Instead, Eastwood and Black decided to focus a great deal on the Bureau's participation in the Lindbergh case. Too much, if you want my opinion. The film never touched on the Bureau's dealings or lack of with organized crime. I find this a pity, because one of the most memorable moments in Hoover's career was his so-called "arrest" of gangster Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, a publicity stunt supported by columnist Walter Winchell.

Fortunately, "J. EDGAR" was not a complete loss. I must admit that despite its flaws, it was a solid and entertaining movie. Eastwood's direction seemed to be at its best in scenes that featured anarchist Luigi Galleani's attempted to assassinate Hoover's boss, Mitchell Palmer with a mail bomb; Hoover's meeting with Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf and Charles Lindbergh; a highly charged scene between Hoover and his mother regarding his sexual preference; and especially the scenes featuring Hoover's relationship with Tolson. Most movie or television productions tend to portray the relationship between the two men with a slight tawdriness. Eastwood and Black's portrayal of the Hoover-Tolson relationship struck me as surprisingly tasteful and compassionate - especially since other aspects of Hoover's life and character was portrayed with less sympathy.

I must admit that Tom Stern's cinematography was a solid piece of work, but it did not exactly blow my mind. And if I must be frank, I was not exactly enamored of the film's slightly gray tone. I also felt slightly leery of the makeup created for Di Caprio, Arnie Hammer and Naomi Watts. The makeup did not seem effective in aging the three leads in the 1960s and 70s sequences. However, I was impressed by James J. Murakami's production designs that conveyed the years between 1919 and 1972. I believe the re-creation of the early and mid 20th century would not have been complete without Deborah Hopper's superb costume designs.

The biggest virtue of "J. EDGAR" turned out to be its cast. Once again, Leonardo Di Caprio rose to the occasion and gave a superb portrayal of a complex and some would say, difficult personality. As usual, Di Caprio managed to inject a good deal of sympathy and poignancy into a historical figure that has harbored a negative reputation over the years. Di Caprio managed to receive a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. But for some reason, was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences I had been impressed by Arnie Hammer's solid portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in last year's "THE SOCIAL NETWORK". But he really outdid himself as Hoover's right hand man, Clyde Tolson - especially in the scenes featuring the pair's relationship. Judi Dench gave her usual solid performance as Hoover's strong-willed mother, Anna Marie Hoover. But in the scene featuring Mrs. Hoover's disapproval of her son's sexual lifestyle, she was brilliant and slightly scary. Naomi Watts gave a solid and slightly melancholic performance as Hoover's faithful secretary, Helen Gandy. "J. EDGAR" also featured solid support from the likes Josh Lucas as the introverted Charles Lindbergh, Dermot Mulroney as the ineffectual New Jersey State Police superintendent Herbert N. Schwarzkopf, Lea Thompson as Lela Rogers (Ginger's mother) Geoff Pierson as the intense Mitchell Palmer and Jeffrey Donovan as Attorney General Robert Kennedy. However, I was a little confused by Donovan's slightly exaggerated take on Kennedy's Boston accent, considering that Donovan is also a native of Massachusetts.

I noticed that "J. EDGAR" did not earn enough to make a profit at the box office. In a way, I can see why. I feel that it was a solid movie that failed to live up to any potential it could have achieved - especially at the hands of a first-rate director like Clint Eastwood. But thanks to his direction, the movie's production designs and a first-rate cast led by the superb Leonardo Di Caprio, "J. EDGAR" still proved to be a somewhat entertaining and solid film.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN" (2003) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the 2003 movie, "THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN". Directed by Stephen Norrington, the movie starred Sean Connery:


"THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN" (2003) Photo Gallery








































Sunday, January 29, 2012

"CENTENNIAL" (1978-79) - Episode Eight "The Storm" Commentary




"CENTENNIAL" (1978-79) - Episode Eight "The Storm" Commentary

The eighth episode of "CENTENNIAL" is a bit of a conundrum for me. Of the eight episodes so far, it seemed to be the only one in which the time span struck me as rather confusing. Which is a pity, because I found it rather interesting.

"The Storm" had the potential to be one of the better episodes of the miniseries. Unfortunately, it seemed marred by a good deal of mistakes that left the time span rather confusing. The previous episode, "The Shepherds" ended with Levi Zendt leaving Centennial to visit his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And since the episode opened with Levi's arrival in Lancaster, I can only assume that the episode began in the fall of 1881. Levi did not return to Centennial until the onset of winter. And this led me to assume that the episode spanned a few months around the late fall and early winter of 1881. However, certain aspect in the episode seemed to hint that several years, instead of a few months, had passed between Levi’s arrival in Lancaster and the winter storm that finally struck Centennial.

Charles Larson's screenplay made it clear that Levi's visit to Pennsylvania did not last that long. In fact, his wife Lucinda and his son, Martin, expressed surprise that he had returned home to Centennial before the winter. And considering that it took seven days to journey by rail from the West Coast to the East Coast; Levi's journey from Colorado to Pennsylvania should have taken less than seven days. In total, his entire trip should have lasted less than a month. And yet . . . there were signs in the episode that several years had passed since the end of "The Shepherds". One, the character of Amos Calendar seemed to have aged by a decade. Seriously. While Levi was in Pennsylvania, the Findlay Perkins character had arrived in Centennial. Around the time of his arrival, Oliver and Charlotte Seccombe were behaving like a couple that had been married for several years, instead of honeymooners. More importantly, a semi-manor made of brick (or stones) had replaced the clapboard ranch house that served as Venneford Ranch's main house. I doubt very much that Seccombe was able erect a small manor house within a month or two. Also, the winter storm that struck the Western Plains occurred in 1886-1887. Levi's journey to Pennsylvania should have occurred five years later. Larson's handling of the episode's time span seemed so sloppy that I could only shake my head in disbelief.

But the episode's time span was not the only thing that troubled me. The first thirty minutes of "The Storm" featured a number of flashbacks I have not seen since "Only the Rocks Live Forever". The flashbacks in that first episode made sense. It was the only episode that featured the character of Lame Beaver in the main narrative, yet at the same time, allowed viewers access to the character's past. Because "The Storm" featured the deaths of Levi Zendt and Mule Canby, viewers were subjected to flashbacks featuring Levi's journey to the West in "" and the Skimmerhorn cattle drive in "The Longhorns". Instead of providing background to the characters of Levi and Mule, these flashbacks only dragged the episode's first half hour.

Thankfully, "The Storm" was not a complete waste of time. It featured some first-rate drama and performances. The episode marked the first appearances of the Wendell family. So far, the family has managed to charm most of Centennial's citizens with their good manners, verbal skills and acting talent. They have also attracted the suspicion of one Sheriff Axel Dumire. As I had stated earlier, the character of Mule Canby, last seen wounded and hauled to a military fort by R.J. Poteet in "The Longhorns". He has become a trick shot artist for a circus, with Nacho Gomez as his assistant. Their reunion with former members of the Skimmerhorn drive - Jim Lloyd, John Skimmerhorn and Amos Calendar - provided the episode with a very warm and emotional moment before Canby's tragic death in a tent fire.

There were two story arcs in "The Storm" that proved to be the highlights of the episodes. One story arc featured Levi and Lucinda's frustrations with their younger offspring, the unhappy and unstable Clemma. Following his return to Centennial, Levi was surprised by the appearance of his daughter, who was supposed to be going to school in St. Louis. Instead, the couple learned of their wayward daughter's lurid exploits that included prostitution, jail time and marriage to a bigamist. In a memorable speech, Levi reminded Lucinda that despite the disappointments and unhappy times, they had also experienced many positive things in their lives - including their marriage and the growth of Centennial. Unfortunately, this poignant moment was spoiled by Clemma's decision to leave town on the first available eastbound train - a decision that led to Levi's death near the rail tracks during the winter storm.

The storm also featured in a tense plot arc that spelled the possible doom of Oliver Seccombe's career as a rancher. His handling of the Venneford Ranch's accounts had led his London bosses to send a Scottish accountant named Findlay Perkins to check the books. Both John Skimmerhorn and Jim Lloyd tried to explain to the accountant that the region's method of free-range cattle ranching made it impossible to precisely account for every cow or bull on the ranch. Being a very perceptive man, Findlay was still able to discover that Seccombe had been mishandling the ranch's profits in order to build the new house for his wife, Charlotte. Before Findlay could return to Britain, the storm struck the region, forcing him to remain at Venneford. One of the episode's highlights proved to be the tense scenes between Findlay and the Seccombes, as they waited out the storm.


The episode's biggest virtue proved to be the outstanding performances by the cast. Just about everyone in this episode gave top-notch performances. But there were a few I would consider to be the best. One of them came from Gregory Harrison, who made his last appearance as former emigrant-turned-merchant, Levi Zendt. Timothy Dalton and Lynn Redgrave were superb as the besieged Oliver and Charlotte Seccombe, anxious over their future with Venneford Ranch and forced to deal with the likes of Findlay Perkins. Clive Revill gave an excellent performance as the Scottish accountant. And his scenes with Dalton and Redgrave were filled with delicious tension and humor. It was nice to see Greg Mullavey as the always gregarious Mule Canby. And I truly enjoyed the tensions between Brian Keith's suspcious Sheriff Axel Dumire and the wonderfully scheming Wendells, portrayed by Anthony Zerbe, Lois Nettleton and Doug McKeon. But the stand-out performance came from Adrienne LaRussa's excellent portrayal of the sad and conflicted Clemma Zendt. LaRussa was superb in conveying all aspects of Clemma's personality, which included her spiteful teasing of Jim Lloyd, and her insecurities. But she gave an Emmy worthy performance in the scene in which she conveyed Clemma's pathetic life back East to the Zendts.

It is a pity that "The Storm" was marred by a questionable time span and unnecessary flashbacks. The episode had the potential to be one of the best in the 12-part miniseries. It marked the death of a major character and also a change in Centennial's history with the end of free-range ranching and the Wendells' arrival. But some outstanding performances and the winter storm featured still made it one of the more interesting episodes, in the end.


Friday, January 27, 2012

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 5/20




"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART V

Piper felt more than happy that she had finally found the perfect nanny for Wyatt. Donna Thompson turned out to be a Voudon practioner - a mambo, like Cecile Dubois. Although Ms. Thompson's power happened to be thermokinesis, she also possessed the ability to use other forms of psychic powers through spells and chants. Nor did she seem to mind dealing with the constant demonic attacks upon Wyatt. It seemed that Ms. Thompson had experienced plenty of them, during her years as a mambo. But it was Wyatt's immediate acceptance of her that led Piper to finally hire her.

"So, when can you start?" the Charmed One asked the priestess. She lowered Wyatt back in his basquinet.

Ms. Thompson replied, "Is tomorrow okay?"

"Sounds great." Piper led the other woman out of the Solarium. "Uh, how about eight in the morning? Is that okay?"

"Fine by me."

Piper continued, "You know, I didn't realize there were any Vodoun practioners here on the West Coast. I mean, my sisters and I had once encountered this witch doctor, but we thought he came from somewhere else." She noticed that the other woman had stiffened slightly. "Is there something wrong?"

Flashing a prim smile, Ms. Thompson replied, "We Vodoun practioners don't like the term 'witch doctor'. We find it insulting. And the word - witch - is considered . . . an insult in the Vodoun world. I know that it isn't in your world. But it is in ours."

"Oh. Uh . . ." Now there was something that Cecile or the McNeills had never bothered to reveal. "I, uh . . . didn't know that. Maybe this guy was a priest. Anyway, I don't think he was from around here. And Cecile and Andre are from New Orleans. Besides, I've always thought that Vodoun was only practiced back East."

Ms. Thompson added, "I didn't realize you were that familiar with Vodoun. You've been to New Orleans?"

"No, I met Cecile and Andre, here in San Francisco. In fact, they're visiting the city, this week." The Charmed One told the Vodoun priestess about the two visitors from Louisiana.

For a brief second, Piper thought she saw Ms. Thompson's eyes widened in alarm. She realized that she had imagining things, when the other woman smiled. "Really? And this Miss Dubois is a telepath? And a clairvoyant? That's interesting. My grandmother was a seer."

"So is one of my sisters," Piper added. "Phoebe. She's also an empath." Then she sighed. "I should warn you about the latter. Phoebe had just received her empathic powers over a month ago. And it's been driving us all crazy."

Ms. Thompson smiled. "Thanks for the warning." Then she glanced at the floor and a frown appeared on her face. "Hey, what happened to that amulet? The one that daemon had been wearing."

Piper glanced around. "I don't know. I didn't see it after we had vanquished him. Maybe it was destroyed."

"Hmmm. Well," Ms. Thompson glanced at the grandfather clock, "I better get going. I had promised to pick up a friend in another twenty minutes. Uh . . . see you tomorrow morning? Around eight?"

"Around eight." The two women shook hands and bid each other good-bye. After Ms. Thompson had left, Piper heaved a smile and returned to the Solarium to begin the cleanup.

Two figures materialized into the room, taking Piper by surprise. It was Cole and Cecile. "My God!" the latter replied. "Piper! Are you okay? Have you been . . .?"

"Attacked? By a demon?" Piper nodded. "Yeah, but I'm fine. How did you, uh . . .?" Realization hit Piper, as she remembered one of Cecile's powers. "Oh. Yeah. Uh, everything's okay. I . . ."

Two more figures orbed into view. Phoebe and Chris. The former rushed toward her older sister. "Piper! You're alive!"

"No kidding," Piper murmured in her usual sardonic manner. "I'm fine. I'm okay. And the demon has been vanquished." She paused and stared at both Phoebe and Cecile. "You mean to say that the both of you had visions of me . . ."

Cecile interrupted. "Apparently so." She stared at Piper. "So, uh . . . you managed to fight off the daemon?"

Piper sighed. "Actually, I had a little help. I probably would have been dead, if it weren't for her."

Cole asked, "Who rescued you?"

"Wyatt's new nanny." Piper then proceeded to tell the others about Donna Thompson, and the demon who had attacked them. "It turns out that she's also a Vodoun priestess. Like Cecile. If she had not spotted that amulet . . ."

Chris frowned. "What amulet?"

Piper told them about the amulet that had protected the demon from her powers. "I think it may have been destroyed, when we vanquished him. We couldn't find it."

Phoebe enveloped her sister into a bear hug. "Who cares? As long as you're safe. And alive," she said. "Is this Miss Thompson here? I would love to thank her."

"You can do that, tomorrow. She'll be arriving around eight." She glanced around the Solarium. "Oh God! Look at this mess! I'm going to be cleaning this up, all day!"

"Why don't you use that spell that Paige had used when . . ." Phoebe broke off and shot an uncomfortable glance at Cole. Then she murmured, "Never mind."

But Piper knew what Phoebe was about to mention - namely the spell Paige had used to clean up Cole's penthouse, after they had killed him. She sighed and decided to thank her younger sister for the advice, later. "I guess I better start . . . cleaning up, right away. Meanwhile, you all can leave. Because once I'm finished, I'll have to feed Wyatt and then both of us will be taking naps."

The others mumbled their good-byes and teleported out of the house. Much to her relief.

-----------

The doorbell to Daley's house rang, later that evening. The sorceress made her way to the front door and opened it. Marc stood in front of the doorway, wearing an anxious look. "Well? How did it go?" he asked.

"Everything's just peachy," Daley wearily replied. "You're looking at Wyatt Halliwell's new nanny. Of course, I had to help his mama fight off a daemon in order to get the job."

"Say what?" Marc stepped inside the house. Daley led him to her large sitting room, just east of the foyer. He sat down in one of the chairs. "You had to do what?"

Daley settled on the sofa. "Help save her and the boy from a daemon. Some damn shapeshifter, I think. He had disguised himself as some Mexican woman, applying for the job. He tried to kill Piper . . ."

"Who?"

Annoyed by her assistant's dense questions, she threw a pillow at his head. Marc neatly caught it, instead. "The damn witch who had just hired me! Piper Halliwell! Who in the hell do you think I've been talking about?" Daley retorted. "Some daemon had tried to kill her. Strange that he didn't bother to simply snatch the kid."

"Maybe he wanted to make sure that this Halliwell witch didn't come after him. After all, she's supposed to be pretty powerful, herself."

Daley sighed. "Good point. Anyway, I helped Piper kill him. And in gratitude," she allowed herself a smug smile, "she hired me on the spot. No references were necessary."

Marc nodded approvingly. "So, everything's okay. Right?"

Daley's smile disappeared. "Not quite. It seems that one of the other sisters - the newspaper columnist - is clairvoyant. And empathic."

"That's not good," Marc said with a frown. "She might find out the truth about you, before you're ready to do the ritual."

"Oh, it gets worse," Daley added. "The Halliwells are friends of a Vodoun priestess named Cecile Dubois, who also happens to be clairvoyant. And she's a telepath. And guess who happens to be her boyfriend?" Marc shook his head. "Andre Morell. He's here in San Francisco. With her."

A low whistle escaped from Marc's mouth. "Are you shitting me?" he cried. "Have you ever met . . ."

"No! But, I've met the drug lord that he used to work for - Aaron Mercer. And there's a good chance that he has heard of me."

Marc shrugged his shoulders. "As long as you two have never met, and you're using a phony name . . . what's the big deal? You have nothing to worry about."

Daley paused, as she walked over to her bar. "Except for this Cecile Dubois, and Phoebe Halliwell. It'll be nearly a week before the half moon. I don't want to take the chance of being found out by a bunch of seers."

"So, what are you going to do? Kill 'em?"

A sigh left Daley's mouth. "I don't think that's a good idea. Not now. Maybe I'll . . ." She broke off and contemplated on how to deal with this psychic double threat. Until she spied an object resting on the bar's surface. It was the amulet that had been worn by the daemon killed by her and Piper Halliwell. She had snatched the amulet, while the witch's back had been turned. "Maybe I won't have to worry about them, after all."

"What's that?" Marc asked.

Daley stared at the object in her hand. "I don't know. Judging from the symbol on this thing, it may have been created by a dominion spirit. All I know is that it prevented that daemon from being affected by the witch's powers."

Marc stared at her. "Do you think it'll work against the two seers?"

"I'll find out, tomorrow."

----------

Cole and Andre stepped out of the elevator and made their way toward Olivia's apartment. They found the two women finishing the last of their breakfast.

"You mean to say that you two aren't ready, yet?" the houngan protested in jest.

Cecile remained silent, while Olivia shot Andre an amused look. "My, we are impatient this morning! You must really enjoy going through my shop."

Andre shrugged. "I have to admit that I find it interesting. Reminds me of when I was studying mythology and anthropology in college." He leaned down to plant a kiss on Cecile's cheek. "I guess I'll be seeing you later, baby. Take care."

"You too," Cecile murmured. She and Cole watched the other two leave the apartment. Once Olivia and Andre had left, she stood up and headed for the living room. "I'll be ready in a minute."

Cole replied, "No problem."

A few minutes later, Cecile emerged from her bedroom, carrying her portfolio and a suitcase. "Okay. Let's go." The pair left the apartment and traveled down to the building's underground garage, via the elevator. After they climbed into Cole's black Porsche, the half-daemon heaved a sigh. Cecile stared at him. "What's wrong?" she asked.

Cole shook his head. "Nothing. I . . ." He paused, before continuing. "I was thinking about that attack on Piper, yesterday."

"She got out of it, okay. She's alive. What's the big deal?"

Another sigh left Cole's mouth. "Nothing. I just find this whole idea of her hiring a nanny, a big mistake. Maybe she should try to get in touch with Leo."

Cecile snorted with derision. "Seems like he's more interested in being some high-level guardian angel than being a husband and father."

Her acid response drew a long and hard stare from Cole. "What brought this on?"

"Brought what?"

"Why are you so bitter? Are you speaking of Leo? Or Andre?"

Rolling her eyes, Cecile retorted, "What are you talking about? Andre hasn't abandoned me!"

"No, you seem more interested in abandoning him," Cole shot back. "Olivia told me about that little rant against men. About how we end up shoving the women in our lives into the background. You were talking about Andre, right? Do you think he's no longer interested in you? Is that why you want to get married?"

Cecile stared at the half-daemon. "Are you always in the habit of asking so many questions, at once?"

"C'mon, Cecile! Don't bullshit me!" Cole continued, "Do you honestly think that a marriage is going to help you?"

Resentment flickered in Cecile's dark eyes. "I guess you don't."

It took all of Cole's efforts not to roll his eyes in contempt. "Why do people believe that a wedding ring is going to solve all of their problems?" He slipped his key into the car's ignition, and switched on the engine.

"This isn't about solving a problem!" Cecile retorted. "I just . . . I just want something different in my life. Something more solid than a convenient boyfriend on the other side of town. After what you told me about what led you to propose marriage to Phoebe, I thought you would understand!"

The Porsche rolled out of the parking lot and merged into San Francisco's early morning traffic. "Yeah, well now I know better! I found out that marriage didn't make my life better or improved my relationship with Phoebe. In fact, our relationship ended in the toilet. Our marriage didn't solve one fucking thing!"

"You had been possessed around the time you got married!" Cecile retorted.

Cole shot back, "And you honestly think that Phoebe and I would still be together, if the Source hadn't possess me? Because I can tell you right now that we wouldn't. I was in love with a woman who wanted a fantasy romance, and who's still incapable of growing up. And I would have remained a mortal - a state that I hated with every goddamn breath in my body - for nothing! Trust me. Our marriage would have ended, just as our little summer 'romance' did, over two months ago. Maybe a wedding ring might give you a little stability with Andre for a while. But sooner or later, your marriage will become a routine that will bore you out of your mind. And once again, you'll find yourself longing for a change. For something new. You know, you and Andre have a good thing going. Why can't you appreciate it?"

"Because it's no longer a good thing! At least to me." Cecile's eyes narrowed. "If what you and Phoebe had before your marriage was such a good thing, why did you ask her to marry you?"

The Porsche rolled to a stop at a red light. Cole took a deep breath and growled in a low voice, "Because I was too fucking stupid to appreciate what we had! That's why!"

"Hmmph! Just as you probably thought that your friendship with Olivia was good enough, I bet," Cecile said with a sneer. "Until she got frustrated and started paying attention to that bastard, Paul Margolin. Tell me Cole, what if Olivia decides that she wants to be more than your girlfriend? Are you going to make the same mistake that you did, last spring? Pretend that your relationship is fine as it is?"

The light turned green. The Porsche roared into life and continued toward downtown. Cole opened his mouth to say something. Tell Cecile that she was wrong. Unfortunately, he could not find the right words.


END OF PART V

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"TOWER HEIST" (2011) Review




"TOWER HEIST" (2011) Review

Six years ago, Eddie Murphy had an idea about him and a group of comedians starring in a movie about a group planning to rob Trump Tower. The script developed and changed into an "OCEAN'S ELEVEN"-style caper, leading Murphy to leave the project. When director Brett Ratner continued to develop the idea into the movie's present story, Murphy eventually rejoined the production.

"TOWER HEIST" told the story about three employees of an exclusive apartment building called The Tower, who lose their pensions in the Ponzi scheme of a Wall Street businessman, who also lives in the building. The group enlist the aid of criminal, a bankrupt businessman that also lives in the building, and another building employee to break into the businessman's apartment and steal back their money, while avoiding the FBI Agent in charge of his case.

One of my favorite types of movies has always been the heist comedy. This is why I am a fan of such movies like "LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS", "A FISH CALLED WANDA" and the "OCEAN'S ELEVEN" series. I do not know if I would place "TOWER HEIST" on the same level as the previously mentioned films. I would not regard it as one of the best heist films I have ever seen, or even one of the best comedies. But I cannot deny that I found it entertaining.

I must admit that I did not believe Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy would ever generate a strong screen chemistry. But in a rather odd way, they seemed to click. I suppose this was due to the fact that Stiller's more subdued performance perfectly balanced Murphy's more extroverted one. And they had solid support from the likes of Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda, Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe. I was especially impressed by Alda's insidious performance as the scheming businessman Arthur Shaw and Sidibe's portrayal of the sharp-tongued maid Odessa, whose savy proved to be the group's godsend on at least two occasions.

Another aspect of "TOWER HEIST" that I admired was the movie's script written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. It was not the most spectacular story I have seen on the movie screen. I had a problem with the movie's last five or ten minutes. I would reveal what I found troubling about the ending. But if I did, I would give away the story. I suspect Griffin and Nathanson ended it this way to put a little bite in the movie's ending. It just did not work for me.

However, I did enjoy most of the story. I also liked that one of the main aspects that injected a good deal of suspense into the story was the possibility of one or more of the robbers betraying the others - especially in the case of both Murphy and Affleck's characters. This is something that is usually common in a heist drama. But I have yet to see such a thing in a comedy, until I saw "TOWER HEIST".

In the end, "TOWER HEIST" proved to be a solid and entertaining comedy with a slightly weak ending. The movie was also blessed with a first-rate cast led by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. And director Brett Ratner did a good job in utilizing both the story and the cast to make a pretty solid film.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL" (2011) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL", the fourth entry in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie franchise. Directed by Brad Bird, the movie stars Tom Cruise:


"MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL" (2011) Photo Gallery

















































Monday, January 23, 2012

My Ten Favorite TELEVISION VILLAINS



Here is a list of my ten (10) favorite television villains . . . so far:



MY TEN FAVORITE TELEVISION VILLAINS



1. Seska "Star Trek Voyager" (1995-2001) - Actress Martha Hackett portrayed my favorite television villain of all time, the Cardassian spy that had herself surgically altered as a Bajoran in order to infiltrate Chakotay's Maquis cell. Following Voyager's arrival in the Delta Quadrant, Seska was revealed as a spy and she became an ally and lover of the crew's first enemy, Kazon Nistrim leader Maje Cullah.






2. Nina Myers - "24" (2001-2010) - Sarah Clarke was excellent as Jack Bauer's second-in-command at CTU Los Angeles, who ended up killing his wife Teri and being exposed as a mole. Following her revelation as a mole, she appeared on the show for another two seasons before she was murdered in cold blood at the hands of her former boss and lover.






3. Wo Fat "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-1980) - Khigh Dheigh was a joy to watch as the Communist Chinese intelligence officer who became the main nemesis of Hawaii State Police chief, Steve McGarrett.






4. President Morgan Clark "Babylon Five" (1993-1998) - For at least three to four seasons, actor Gary McGurk appeared only a few times as the Earth politician who became head of state and dictator of Earth Alliance via political assassination. Despite his limited appearances, Clark proved to be one of the most effective villains in recent television history.






5. Owen Crawford "Taken" (2002) - Joel Gretsch first made a name for himself as the aggressive and ruthless Owen Crawford, an Air Force officer who schemed and murdered his way into control of the private program in charge of investigating aliens that crashed in New Mexico and the U.S. citizens who had been "taken" by said aliens.






6. The Borg Queen "Star Trek Voyager" (1995-2001) - Alice Kriege first became a science-fiction icon in her portrayal of the eader or avatar of the Borg Collective in the 1996 film, "STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT". But she did memorably reprised her role in the two-part series finale for "Star Trek Voyager".






7. Luther Mahoney "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993-1999) - Erik Dellums gave a memorable performance in the recurring role as the Baltimore drug lord who made a big impact upon the lives of some of the police detectives in the series - in life and after his death.






8. Elkhanah Bent "North and South Trilogy" (1985; 1986; and 1994) - No fan of the television adaptations of John Jakes' trilogy could ever forget Philip Casnoff's twisted portrayal of the demented West Point cadet-turned Army officer-turned mercenary who made the lives of the Hazards and the Mains miserable before, during and after the Civil War.






9. The Borg Queen "Star Trek Voyager" (1995-2001) - Susanna Thompson also gave memorable performances as the Borg Collective's leader in two two-part episodes from the series. Whereas Kriege had "the voice", Thompson had "the eyes". And both were fantastic.






10. John Goetz "Jericho" (2006-2008) - D.B. Sweeney surprised the hell out of me in his chilling portrayal of the mercenary in post-apocalyptic Kansas, who inflicted a strong impact upon the town of Jericho. His cold-blooded murder of the adolescent deaf-mute Bonnie Richmond sent shock waves throughout the series' fandom.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 4/20




"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART IV

"Hey." Jason popped into Phoebe's private office.

Phoebe smiled at her paramour. "Hey yourself. What can I do for you?"

The publisher leaned over Phoebe's desk, his face hovering inches away from hers. "How about lunch . . . with me?" he asked in a seductive voice.

Smiling, Phoebe automatically picked up a paper weight that had been an office-warming present from Piper. "Well . . . hmmmm. Let me think about that," she whispered. "Now, where do you plan to take me?"

"Well, there's the Compass Rose at the St. Francis Hotel."

Phoebe wrinkled her nose playfully. "Too stuffy. How about . . .?" A gasp left her mouth, as images of a demon attacking her older sister filled her mind. Despite Piper's best efforts, the demon kills the oldest Charmed One and kidnaps a sleeping Wyatt. The vision ended with the disappearance of the demon and her nephew.

Jason stared at Phoebe, frowning. "Something wrong, honey? You looked a . . . I don't know. A bit spaced out."

"Oh, uh . . ." Phoebe quickly tried to think of an excuse. "It's nothing. Nothing big. I . . . uh, just remembered."

"Remembered what?"

Think Phoebe, think! Finally an answer came to the Charmed One. "Uh . . . I just remembered that Piper wanted me to a favor for her. Pick up both her and the food she had prepared for some private luncheon at P3."

Jason's frown deepened. "A luncheon at a nightclub?"

"Actually . . . it's a party. Office party."

"Yeah, but at a night . . ."

Phoebe stood up and walked around her desk. "Oh baby, I'm sorry." She planted a light kiss on Jason's cheek. "I'm going to have to take a rain check on lunch, today." Then she grabbed his arm and steered him toward the door. "We can have lunch, tomorrow."

Reluctantly, Jason allowed himself to be dragged out of the office. "Okay, but you tell Piper that I've got you all booked for myself, tomorrow."

"Okay baby. Bye." Phoebe gave Jason one last kiss and slammed the door in his face. She leaned against the wall and sighed. Then she picked up the telephone receiver on her desk and dialed the number for Ostera's.

After the third ring, a voice answered. "Ostera's Herbal Shop. May I help you?"

"Hello? Who is this?" Phoebe demanded.

The voice continued, "This is Maddy. May I help you?"

"Maddy, this is Phoebe Halliwell. I need to speak with Paige. Is she there?"

Maddy replied, "Sorry, but she's making a special delivery right now. I can take a message."

Phoebe hesitated. Until she realized that she could reach Paige by the latter's cell phone. "Never mind. I'll call back, later."

"Is this some kind of magical emergency?" Maddy's question reminded Phoebe that the shop assistant happened to be a witch. "I could get hold of Barbara."

"No, that's okay. Thanks anyway. Bye." Phoebe hung up the phone. Then she took a deep breath and cried out her whitelighter's name. "Chris! Chris, I need you! Now!"

---------

Around the same time of Jason's visit to Phoebe's office, Cecile sat inside the McNeill boardroom, as she provided the last figures for her presentation to the Board members. "Cresent, Incorporated now provides computer office software to over thirty companies and corporations in the Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of the Southeast," she concluded. "With McNeill Enterprises, I hope to expand distribution to the West Coast. I could provide the Board with a list of my clients and their contact numbers. I am sure they will confirm what I have just told you."

Bursts of conversation broke out among the members inside the boardroom. Both Cole and Harry gave Cecile reassuring smiles. She smiled back, despite the fact that her heart was not really into the meeting at the moment. Cecile had managed to put aside her bleak mood regarding Andre during the meeting. But once she had completed her presentation, her mood immediately returned.

Perhaps she should consider ditching the idea of breaking up from Andre. To be honest, she did not really want to end their relationship. Hell, she was in love with him! Why on earth would she want to break up with the only true love she had ever had in her life?

Then Cecile thought of Piper Halliwell and Olivia's former whitelighter. She recalled Olivia telling her about the couple's difficult courtship and the problems they had encountered, getting married. Piper and Leo had viewed themselves as soulmates. Yet, less than three years after their wedding . . .

The vision hit Cecile's mind without any warning. She saw Piper unsuccessfully fighting a demon. . . Piper dying . . . and the daemon stealing Wyatt from a basquinet before disappearing from the Halliwells' Solarium. The vision ended and Cecile gasped out loud.

The others inside the boardroom stared at her. "Is there something wrong?" Cole asked.

"I . . ." Cecile began to rub her forehead. "I think I'm getting a slight headache. Uh, excuse me." She stood up. Cole and the McNeills did the same.

Mr. McNeill gently took Cecile by the arm. "Why don't you come inside my office, Cecile?" I'm sure that my assistant could find some aspirin or something for your headache. Cole?"

"Yeah." The half-daemon and the witch escorted Cecile into the latter's spacious office. Once they were alone, Cole demanded, "Are you really having a headache? Because if I didn't know any better . . ."

Cecile sighed. "Yeah, I just had a vision. I saw some daemon killing Piper, before kidnapping Wyatt."

Mr. McNeill frowned. "How is that possible? I thought that Wyatt had some kind of protective shield."

"I only know what I saw," Cecile insisted. She turned to Cole. "Maybe we should pop over there. Now."

Cole nodded. "Yeah. Right." He took hold of Cecile's hand. "We'll back," he said to Mr. McNeill. Then the two friends teleported out of the office.

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

Twenty minutes before Phoebe and Cecile had simultaneously experienced their visions, Piper ended her interview with Warren Koslo and bid him good-bye. Then she turned to the Latina woman. "Mrs. Madrigal? Could you follow me, please?"

Mrs. Madrigal rose to her feet and followed Piper into the Solarium. The applicant shot a quick glance at the sleeping Wyatt, before she sat down in a nearby wicker chair.

"So," Piper began, "I understand that you saw my announcement on the bulletin board at the Red Pyramid. Do you . . . go there a lot? Or was that just a one time visit?"

Mrs. Madrigal nodded. "I'm a regular customer. Are you?"

"I've been there a few times." Piper hesitated, unsure of how to ask her next question. "Um . . . are you into . . . uh, the occult?"

The older woman frowned. "Aren't you? I had assumed that you were also into it . . . considering where you had posted the ad." She paused. "You are into it. Right?"

Piper replied sardonically, "More than you can imagine." Mrs. Madrigal's eyes grew wide. "I'm . . . uh, a witch. One of those Wiccans. I've been one for at least five years."

"Oh." The older woman's shoulders sagged with relief. "Well, I'm glad that I wasn't wrong. You see, I also practice magic."

Relief flooded Piper's veins. "Really? Are you some kind of witch?"

Mrs. Madrigal stood up. And right before Piper's eyes, she transformed into a pale, stocky man with wintergreen eyes. "No," he said in a deep voice. "I'm a daemon!" He tossed an energy ball at the Charmed One.

Piper let out a squeal, before she flung her hands at the energy ball and destroyed it in mid-air. "Oh crap!" Then she flung her hands at the demon. His body immediately exploded . . . and reassembled within seconds. "Oh crap! Chris! CHRIS!"

The demon flung another energy ball at Piper. She froze it in mid-air and ducked behind the chair. The demon waved one hand and the energy ball continued its course toward her, striking the wall and missing her head by inches. With her sisters at work and Chris failing to show up, Piper realized that she might be in serious danger. "You can't hide from me forever, witch! And your sisters can't help you!" The demon sent another energy ball toward Piper's direction. Before she could destroy it with her combustion power, it blew up the chair in front of her. And led the Charmed One to rue the day she had thought about hiring a nanny, in the first place.

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

Daley heard a woman's voice cry out the name - Chris. She frowned. What in the hell was going on in the other room? Then she heard a man shout, "You can't hide from me forever, witch!" At that moment, the sorceress realized that something was wrong. She had seen a middle-aged woman follow Piper Halliwell into the other room. Where did the man come from?

An explosive sound interrupted Daley's musings. Without thinking, she rushed into the other room and found Ms. Halliwell cowering before a stocky man with pale skin. And no sign of Mrs. Madrigal. An energy ball formed in the intruder's hand. Viewing him as a threat to her plans, Daley quickly reached for a dagger in her knit bag and threw it at the man. The dagger's sharp point pierced his shoulder, forcing him to cry out in pain and dissipate the energy ball.

"You!" the man growled, as he glared at Daley. An energy ball materialized in his hand. As he hurled it at Daley's direction, she cried out, "Deflect" in Yoruba. The energy ball zinged back toward the man. He ducked before it could strike his body.

Daley rushed toward Ms. Halliwell. "Are you okay?" she asked, breathlessly.

"I could be better," the other woman shot back. "Do you . . . uh, recognize this demon?"

"He's a daemon?"

Another energy ball zoomed toward them. Ms. Halliwell flung out her hands and the energy ball exploded in mid-air. "I guess that's a no." Desperation shone in the witch's dark eyes. "Do you know any spell to get rid of this guy?"

"Uh . . ." At that moment, one immediately came to Daley's mind. "Wait. Here's one." She began to chant, "Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won't hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase." The two women stared at the daemon. Nothing happened. "Damn! Maybe we should say the spell, together."

Both women took a deep breath and repeated the spell. "Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won't hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!" Instead of the daemon's death, they were faced with another energy ball that missed Ms. Halliwell's head by inches. The pair quickly scurried on their knees, toward the sofa.

"Too bad my sisters aren't here," the witch commented. "I could use the Power of Three. And why does that spell sound familiar?"

Daley asked, "Why is he trying to kill you?"

"So that me and my sisters won't come after him, if he steals my son."

Ah! So the attack was about the child. Then Daley's eyes narrowed, as she spotted a string holding an object around the daemon's neck. "Look! There's something around his neck! Let me . . ." Focusing her attention upon the object, Daley murmured a chant underneath her breath. The string broke, taking the daemon by surprise. Then the object - obviously an amulet - fell upon the floor. "The spell again!"

The two women chanted, "Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won't hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!" Cries of pain poured out of the daemon's mouth, as flames engulfed his body. Within seconds, he exploded into a ball of fire and light.

Ms. Halliwell rushed over to the basquinet for a peek at her son. "He's safe," she said with relief. "Awake, but safe." She turned to Daley. "Are you still interested in the job?"

Daley struggled not to flash a triumphant smile. "Sure."

"You're hired."


END OF PART IV