Friday, March 30, 2012

"MURDER ON THE LINKS" (1996) Review






"MURDER ON THE LINKS" (1996) Review

I have never read Agatha Christie’s 1923 novel called "Murder on the Links".  But I have seen the 1996 television adaptation that starred David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.  On several occasions.  

While on holiday in Deauville, France with his close friend, Captain Arthur Hastings, Hercule Poirot is approached by a wealthy businessman for help.  Paul Renauld, whose assets include several South American business interests and the hotel where Poirot and Hastings are staying, claimed that someone – probably from South America – has made threats against his life.  He asks Poirot to visit his home for consultation on the following morning.  When Poirot meets the appointment, he discovers that Renauld has been kidnapped and Madame Renauld, left tied and gagged in their bedroom.  The kidnapping case transforms into murder, when Hastings and his fellow golfers stumble across Renauld’s body on a golf course.  Poirot also makes the acquaintance of Monsieur Girand of the Surete, an arrogant police official that views himself as the better detective.  This clash of egos leads to a bet between the pair over who would solve the Renauld case first.

The case involves a bevy of suspects that include:

*Madame Eloise Renauld, the victim’s wife
*Jack Renauld, the victim’s stepson, who disliked him
*Marthe Daubreuil, Jack’s fiancée, who was frustrated by the victim’s opposition to the engagement
*Madame Bernadette Daubreuil, Marthe’s mother and the former lover/possible partner-in-crime of the victim
*Bella Duveen, Jack’s former lover, who may have mistaken the victim for him
*Mr. Stonor, the victim’s private secretary, who is in love with Madame Renauld

I would never consider "MURDER ON THE LINKS" as one of the best Christie adaptations I have seen.  The movie’s prologue – set ten years earlier – almost made it easy to figure out the murderer’s identity.  Second, the plot seemed hampered by one too many red herrings that involved mistaken identities and mistaken assumptions.  And these red herrings nearly made the plot rather convoluted.  I suspect that screenwriter Anthony Horowitz feared that the movie’s prologue nearly gave away the murderer’s identity and inserted these red herrings to confuse the viewers.  Then again . . . I never read the 1923 novel and it is possible that Horowitz was simply following Christie’s original plot.  Yet, the red herrings were nothing in compare to the line of reasoning that led Poirot to solve the case.  The clues that he followed struck me as vague and slightly contrived.

But despite these flaws, I still manage to enjoy "MURDER ON THE LINKS" whenever I watch it, thanks to Andrew Grieves’ direction.  One, I actually enjoyed the movie’s atmosphere and setting in Deauville.  It gave the movie a touch of elegance without the series’ hallmark Art Deco style that had become a bit heavy-handed after this movie first aired.  Production designer Rob Harris and cinematographer Chris O’Dell managed to capture the elegant mood of mid-1930s France without being too obvious about it.  Andrea Galer’s costumes also struck me as near perfect.  I especially enjoyed those costumes worn by the female cast members.  The production’s pièce de résistance for me was the bicycle race featured two-thirds into the story.  It struck me as a perfect blending of Grieves’ direction, editing, photography, production design, costumes and performances – especially by the extras.

Aside from one or two complaints, I thought the cast’s performances were first-rate.  David Suchet gave his usual competent performance as the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  But I was especially impressed by Hugh Fraser’s portrayal of Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s close friend.  "MURDER ON THE LINKS" provided a strong opportunity for him to shine as a man who falls in love with one of the suspects.  Damien Thomas was excellent as the desperate and very complex Paul Renauld.  In fact, his character seemed to be the lynch pin of the entire movie – even after his character was killed off twenty minutes into the film.  Diane Fletcher seemed remarkably subtle and charming as Renauld’s beloved wife, Eloise.  Portraying someone as ambiguous as Jack Renauld must have been a bit tricky, but Ben Pullen did a good job in capturing the character’s amiable, but callow and self-involved personality.  Sophie Linfield was solid as Jack’s current love and fiancée, Marthe Daubreuil.  However, she did not exactly rock my boat.  Neither did Terence Beesley and Bernard Latham, who portrayed Renauld’s private secretary Stonor and Lucien Bex of the police, respectively.  I also have to comment on Jacinta Mulcahy’s portrayal of Hasting’s love interest – the beautiful songstress, Bella Duveen.  Mulcahy portrayed Bella as an effective minor femme fatale as Jack Renauld’s rejected lover.  And she and Fraser made a surprisingly effective romantic pair.

The two performances that left me scratching my head came from Katherine Fahey and Bill Moody.  I wish I could say that Fahey’s portrayal of Bernadette Daubreuil – Renauld’s former lover and Marthe’s mother – made an effective femme fatale.  But I cannot.  I cannot accuse her of hammy acting, but I thought she tried a bit too hard to project the image of a mysterious femme fatale who was blackmailing her former lover and possible partner-in-crime.  But the one performance that really disappointed me came from Bill Moody’s portrayal of Monsieur Giraud of the Paris Sûreté and Poirot’s professional rival.  I understood that he was supposed to be a boorish and arrogant man.  However, I still had a problem with Moody’s performance.  His portrayal of a French police detective seemed to border on parody.  It was like watching a caricature of the John Bull persona tried to pass off as a Frenchman.  It simply rang false to me.

"MURDER ON THE LINKS" was not perfect.  Although I found the murder mystery intriguing, Poirot’s solution to the crime and the clues that led him to that solution struck me as slightly vague and improbable.  I also had a problem with the performances of two cast members.  But Arthur Hasting’s romance with one of the suspects, the elegant setting of Deauville and the performances of David Suchet, Hugh Fraser and Damien Thomas made "MURDER ON THE LINKS" worth watching.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"SHANGHAI EXPRESS" (1932) Photo Gallery



 Below are images from Josef von Sternberg's 1932 movie, "SHANGHAI EXPRESS". The movie starred Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong:


 "SHANGHAI EXPRESS" (1932) Photo Gallery


























































Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten (10) Favorite DISASTER Films



As a rule, I have not been that particularly fond of disaster films in the past . . . or in the present for that matter. But I do admit that there is a list of them that I happen to like very much. Three of them featured the 1912 sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Below is that list of favorite disaster films of mine:


TOP TEN (10) FAVORITE DISASTER FILMS




1. "A Night to Remember" (1958) - Roy Ward Baker directed this Golden Globe award winning adaptation of Walter Lord's book of the same name about the sinking of the Titanic. As far as I am concerned, this is probably the best cinematic version of that particular event. Kenneth More, David McCullum, Ronald Allen and Honor Blackman co-starred.






2. "2012" (2009) - After a second viewing of Roland Emmerich's movie about a possible apocalyptic disaster, which is based loosely on the 2012 phenomenon, I realized that it has become a favorite of mine. John Cusak, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Thomas McCarthy, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson starred.






3. "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) - Roland Emmerich also directed this film about catastrophic effects of both global warming and global cooling in a series of extreme weather events that usher in a new ice age. Another personal favorite of mine, it starred Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward and Ian Holm.






4. "Battle: Los Angeles" (2011) - Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez star in this exciting science-fiction thriller about the experiences of a platoon of U.S. Marines forced to battle invading aliens in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. Jonathan Liebesman directed.






5. "In Old Chicago" (1937) - Based on the Niven Busch story, "We the O'Learys", the movie is a fictionalized account about political corruption and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Directed by Henry King, the movie starred Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche and Oscar winner Alice Brady.






6. "Titanic" (1953) - This is my second favorite movie about the Titanic and it centered around an estranged couple sailing on the ship's maiden voyage in April 1912. Great drama! Directed by Jean Negulesco, the movie starred Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Thelma Ritter, Richard Basehart and Brian Aherne.






7. "Independence Day" (1996) - Produced by Dean Devlin and directed by Roland Emmerich, this movie is about a disaster of a science-fiction nature, as it depicts a hostile alien invasion of Earth, and its effects upon a disparate group of individuals and families. The movie starred Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid, Margaret Colin, Judd Hirsch and Robert Loggia.






8. "Outbreak" (1995) - Wolfgang Petersen directed this tale about the outbreak of a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba at a town in Northern California, and how far the military and civilian agencies might go to contain the spread. Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kevin Spacey and Donald Sutherland.






9. "Titanic" (1997) - James Cameron directed this latest version of the Titanic sinking that won eleven (11) Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Centered around an ill-fated love story, the movie starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscar nominee Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Bill Paxton, Kathy Bates and Oscar nominee Gloria Stuart.






10. "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) - Based on a novel by Paul Gallico, the movie centered around the capsizing of a luxurious ocean liner by a tsunami caused by an under sea earthquake; and the desperate struggles of a handful of survivors to journey up to the bottom of the hull of the liner before it sinks. Ronald Neame directed a cast that included Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Oscar nominee Shelley Winters, Carol Lynley and Frank Albertson.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 11/20




"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART XI

Daley took a deep breath, as she faced the oval mirror inside her bedroom. Today marked the beginning of the first quarter moon. The day in which she will, hopefully, be the possessor of the most powerful magic in existence. Thanks to a nine month-old baby. Once she possesses Wyatt's powers, no being in existence - human, daemon or otherwise - would be able to prevent her from achieving her goals.

After another gust of breath escaped from her mouth, Daley turned away from the mirror. She donned her coat, grabbed her purse and tote bag, and left. Several minutes later, she was driving along the streets of San Francisco, contemplating on the turmoil inside the Halliwell household, yesterday. And how close her plans for tonight were nearly stonewalled . . . .

---------

Last night at 6:45 pm . . . "I'm sorry, Piper, but I can't," the youngest Halliwell declared. "I've been invited by Harry to attend his parents' party, tomorrow night."

Daley, who had just finished babysitting Wyatt for the day, hovered nearby, as she donned her coat. She realized that Paige had referred to Harry McNeill, the younger brother of that red-haired witch she had met the other day.

A rueful expression appeared on Piper's face. "Dammit! I guess I'll have to ask Phoebe if she won't mind babysitting Wyatt for two days in a row. She doesn't have anything planned with Jason for tomorrow night, does she?"

"As far as I know, she doesn't."

At that moment, Phoebe burst through the front door. "Hi everyone!" She glanced at her two sisters. "What's the big powwow?"

Reluctantly, Piper replied, "I just found out that Paige is going to a party, tomorrow night. On the same night that I need a babysitter for Wyatt." She turned to the younger woman with hopeful eyes. "You'll be free, won't you?"

Phoebe regarded her older sister with pity. "Oh honey, I'm sorry. But I'm also going to a party, tomorrow night. Jason is taking me to some cocktail party at the McNeills."

Surprise illuminated Piper's eyes. "So is Paige. She's going to the same party."

Phoebe frowned at the youngest sister. "You are?"

"Of course!" It became Paige's turn to frown. "I'm surprised that you're even going. Why would the McNeills invite Jason to one of their parties?"

Resentment flashed in Phoebe's dark eyes. "What do you mean by that?"

"C'mon Pheebs! This is Jason, we're talking about! Olivia's old ex. He's about as popular with her family, as Cole used to be with ours."

Phoebe opened her mouth to retort. "You make Jason sound like . . ."

"I'll help," Daley interrupted, taking the others by surprise. "I'll babysit Wyatt, tomorrow night."

Piper regarded the nanny with grateful eyes. "Oh, would you? I don't want to interfere with anything you might have planned for tomorrow night."

"I don't have . . ."

Phoebe quickly interrupted, "Oh, but Donna won't have to babysit for tomorrow night. If it's that important to you, Piper, I'll stay home and take care of Wyatt."

Piper frowned. "Well . . . I don't know. What about Jason?"

To Daley's dismay, Phoebe dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. "I can call Jason and tell him to go alone. I'm sure that he won't mind."

"Well . . ." Piper began.

Daley realized that her plans for Wyatt were in serious danger. She had originally planned to take a chance and conduct the ritual at the fall of dusk - in the late afternoon. But when she realized that none of the Halliwells would be in the house tomorrow night, Daley saw a chance to conduct the ritual later at night. When the power of the first quarter moon would be complete. And now, Phoebe Halliwell threatened to ruin her plans.

"If you need a babysitter for tomorrow night," Daley finally said, "I'm available. After all, it's my job."

The three sisters stared at the nanny. The latter noticed suspicion brewing in Phoebe's eyes. Even Piper seemed slightly uneasy. "Well . . . I don't want to ruin any plans you might have for tomorrow night," she said.

"What plans?" Daley said with a shrug of her shoulders. "The last time I had any plans was for Halloween. And before that . . ." She paused dramatically. "Let's just say that I lead a rather quiet life."

Paige cheerfully added, "Well, that settles everything. Phoebe and I can go to the party."

Piper continued to regard Daley in a thoughtful manner. "I . . . guess. Would, uh . . ." She paused, and Daley found herself wishing for the ability to read minds. A sigh left Piper's mouth. "Yeah, I guess everything is settled. Since you'll be working after hours, would a higher pay rate do?"

Daley struggled not to show her relief. "That would be fine," she said with a polite smile. "What time do you want me to show up?"

"Around seven would be okay." As Piper spoke, Daley shot a quick glance at the middle sister. Phoebe did not look at all pleased. Which made Daley feel a whole lot better.

The sorceress gave the oldest Halliwell a bright smile. "Seven o'clock, it is."

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

Present time . . . Daley inserted her car into a parking space, in front of the Halliwells' salmon-colored house. She switched off the engine and sighed. Time to begin her last day as Donna Thompson. After tonight, she would no longer have to play the double role of the struggling nanny, using the name of a dead woman.

Memories of the real Donna Thompson assailed Daley's thoughts. Donna had been an old friend of Marc's . . . and in her opinion, a real loser.

Upon Donna's release from prison, Marc had suggested they use her as a runner for Daley's narcotic operation. Despite the sorceress' misgivings about the parolee's drug habit, she had agreed to give the other woman a chance. For a while, Marc's faith in the real Donna seemed solid. Daley assigned the other woman the job of shipping Methcathinone from her ranch outside of San Rafael to San Francisco. Within a year, Donna had performed well enough to allow the ex-con to transfer to a longer route - from San Francisco to San Diego. It took less than a year for Donna to finally screw up.

Daley and Marc had learned that Donna invited a former cellmate to accompany her on a 'Cat' run to San Diego. The former cellmate turned out to be a police informant for the DEA. Even worse, Donna had been sampling some of Daley's product, when she encountered her old friend.

The DEA had arrested Donna just outside San Francisco. Using a little magic, Daley managed to retrieve her shipment from the DEA's evidence room. Without any evidence, Donna ended up being acquitted from any charges of drug trafficking. Realizing that her runner's drug habit might be a risk, Daley ordered Marc to substitute Donna's 'Cat' capsules with drain cleaner. It took the other woman less than one hour to die. And within two months, Daley assumed her identity. When the occasion demanded. Like this latest situation with the Halliwell family.

Soon, Donna's name would no longer be of any use to Daley. Since she was on the verge of becoming the most powerful sorceress of all time. And hopefully, the biggest drug distributor in the Western Hemisphere . . . if all went well, tonight. Daley opened the door and climbed out of the car. As she made her way toward the Halliwells' narrow stoop, a satisfied smile curved her mouth.

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

Olivia glanced up from the stack of files on her desk, as Deborah Liu, a Forensics specialist for the Department, strode toward her direction. She noticed the large yellow envelope in the other woman's hand and asked, "Is that for me?"

Deborah paused and stared at Olivia. "Huh?"

"The envelope in your hand. Is it for me?"

Shaking her head, Deborah replied, "Oh no, it's for Marcus. Regarding the Benson case." She continued past Olivia's desk and delivered the envelope to the redhead's colleague, Marcus Anderson. The two chatted briefly, before Deborah turned away and retraced her steps.

The moment the Forensics specialist came near Olivia's desk, the latter demanded, "What about that glass I had given you, yesterday? Any prints?"

Deborah sighed heavily. "For God's sake, Olivia! Stop worrying! Forensics will deal with it before the end of the day. Or maybe tomorrow."

"I have to wait that long?"

"Yes, Olivia!" Deborah looked slightly annoyed. "Your glass is going to have to wait. My guys have a lot of stuff to examine."

Olivia pleaded, "Could you start on my glass, first?"

Now openly annoyed, Deborah replied, "I'd love to, but I have a computer disc to examine for Giamarco and a .44 bullet for Howard. You'll just have to be . . . patient. Okay?"

Realizing that she had no choice in the matter, Olivia nodded. Reluctantly. "Just let me know about the results of the glass, as soon as possible," she added.

The Forensics investigator rolled her eyes and muttered something unintelligible - probably uncomplimentary - and moved on. Olivia leaned back into her chair and sighed.

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

"Have you proposed to Cecile, yet?"

Mrs. McNeill's question took Andre by surprise. He glanced up from the piece of leather that he held in his hands. "Huh? Oh . . . uh, not yet. I haven't had a chance to be alone with her, yet. But don't worry." He flashed a reassuring smile at the elderly woman. "I plan to ask her, tonight."

The elderly witch regarded him with thoughtful eyes. "You seem different, today. As if . . . you seem quite certain that Cecile will say yes. What happened?"

"Cole," Andre simply answered. "He told me the reason why Cecile has been so distant, lately. And why she wants to break up. It seems that she's ready for marriage. And she thinks that I'm not."

"Oh! I see." A smile illuminated Mrs. McNeill's wrinkled face. "Well, it should work all right in the end. Once you present her with the ring . . ."

Andre sighed. "I only hope that you're right. Even if Cecile does accept my proposal, there's her family to deal with."

"What do you mean? Vivian adores you."

With a shrug, the houngan added, "Cecile's mama may feel that way about me, but I wish I could say the same about the rest of the Dubois family. Sometimes, I think they enjoy throwing my past back into my face. I guess I only have myself to blame."

Mrs. McNeill absent-mindedly removed the piece of leather from Andre's grasp and began to finger it. "Perhaps you do. But . . . how long will Claude and the others keep bringing up your past? Forever? I mean, how can you have another chance in life, when they won't allow you to have one?"

A snicker escaped from Andre's mouth. "You know, that reminds me of something Cecile's daddy once told me, after we had started dating. He told me about the Law of Spirit. My grandmother also told me about this. It's basically the moral law in Vodoun - 'Be truthful; do good.' And an initiate who adheres to the Law of Spirit will be able to grow and develop spiritually. They also told me that violators of the law are punished severely by the Vodou and the Ancestors in direct proportion to their level of violation. Additionally, initiates are held accountable for their conduct not only in this life, but are also judged after death. You ever heard of 'The Song of the Divine Judgement'?" Mrs. McNeill shook her head. Andre continued, "'The world is a place of Trail. At the gates of the land of the dead You will pass before a searching judge, His justice is true and he will examine your feet, He will know how to find every stain, Whether visible or hidden under the skin, If you have fallen on the way he will know. If the judge finds no stains on your feet Open your belly to joy, for you have overcome And your belly is clean.'" He added with a humorless laugh, "Only, I doubt very much that my life is spotless enough for a searching judge to accept me into the land of the dead."

"Andre," the elderly witch said with a sigh, "I doubt there is one human being in existence, whose life is spotless. Including me." She paused. "You know, this 'Law of Spirit' reminds me of Ammut, the Egyptian daemon and the Hall of Maat. You know, the statuette we had found, a few days ago?"

Andre chuckled. "Yeah, I remember talking about it just a few days ago with Cecile, Cole and Olivia."

Mrs. McNeill continued, "As for Cecile, I wouldn't worry. If what Cole says is true, she still loves you very much. Cecile doesn't strike me as the type who would cave in to family pressure."

Silence filled the shop. Andre unexpectedly found himself thinking about Cole's past relationship with the Halliwells. The houngan hoped and prayed that his relationship with Cecile and her family would not suffer the same fate. He glanced at the leather parchment in the older woman's hands. "Have you figured out what that is?" he asked.

She turned the leather parchment over, examining it. "Could be some kind of Native American artifact. Perhaps a piece of hide. Judging by these hieroglyphics, it might be an account of someone's life. I have an old friend who could help me find out." Then she changed the subject. "Speaking of artifacts, did any of you learn anything more about Caspiel's amulet?"

"According to Olivia, this Donna Thompson didn't have it when she and the others had dropped by the Halliwells' house. Or she could have . . ." His cell phone rang. Andre plucked from his jacket pocket and answered the call. "Hello?"

A familiar voice replied, "Andre? It's me, Janet. I got that information that you wanted." The houngan immediately recognized Janet Colbert, a Tulane law student, who also worked as an operative at his detective agency. Although not yet a Vodoun priestess, Janet happened to be an experienced and talented magic practitioner. "From what Bobby found out," she continued, "there's a woman named Esmerelda Ross, who happens to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She might be the person you're looking for." She paused. "By the way, isn't that were we found the body of that daemon, a couple of months, ago?"

"Sounds familiar," Andre replied. "And thanks, cherie. Tell Bobby that he did a good job."

Janet replied, "Yeah, I will." She paused. "Hey, have you asked Cecile, yet?"

"Not yet. Hopefully, tonight." Andre added, "Now, get back to work. I'll probably see you in about another week or so." He finally hung up.

Mrs. McNeill stared at him. "What was that about?"

Taking a deep breath, Andre replied, "A lead. Remember me telling you about some witch who might be connected to that Nairn daemon?" The elderly woman nodded. "Well, I think I know who she might be."

-----------

Daley, accompanied by Marc, strode into the warehouse that she owned near the San Francisco Bay's docks. She glanced approvingly at the stacks of crates that surrounded them. "Not bad," she murmured. "Not bad at all. I guess that you managed to package them all in bottles?"

"Yeah. All of the 'Cat' has been packaged." Marc heaved a sigh. "There's been a lot of overtime this past week, since this shipment is the largest yet. And at such short no . . ."

Daley waved aside his misgivings. "Don't worry. It'll all be worth it, in the end." She walked around, with Marc close at her heels. "Once I have that kid's powers, I'll send the crates to the rendezvous points for the others to make the exchange. Tony, Gloria and the others - they are at their locations, are they?"

"Yes ma'am."

Nodding, Daley added, "Good."

Her companion added, "What time will you be doing the ritual?"

Daley sighed. "I don't know. I can't guarantee what time when Piper and the others will be leaving. It'll probably be around eight or eight-thirty. When I have Wyatt's powers, I'll come back here." Daley shot a wry smile at her assistant. "Ought to be fun."

Anticipation and greed gleamed in Marc's eyes. "And profitable. Hell, I reckon we'll be richer than ever." He returned Daley's smile. "Maybe you'll end up running the cartel."

Daley allowed herself one last glance at the crates. "That's the whole idea."


END OF PART XI

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" (2011) Review




"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" (2011) Review

My awareness of Stieg Larsson's posthumous 2005 novel, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" began when it first hit the bookstores, years ago. And it has not abated. And yet . . . I have never developed an interest to read it. Silly me. Even when a movie adaptation of the novel was first released in Sweden back in 2009, I noticed . . . and continued to resist buying the novel. That all changed when I saw this new English-speaking adaptation, directed by David Fincher.

If I must be honest, it was the trailer for Fincher's movie that finally made me interested in Larsson's novel. One, it featured two favorite actors of mine - Daniel Craig and Stellan Skarsgård. Two, I have developed a growing interest in David Fincher's work, ever since I saw his 2007 movie, "ZODIAC". And three, I must admit that the trailer looked damn interesting. So, I went to the theaters to watch "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO". And I do not regret my decision. I loved it. And now I have plans to read the novel.

"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" is about a Swedish investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist hired by a wealthy industrialist named Henrik Vanger to investigate the 40-year disappearance of the latter's 16 year-old niece, Harriet. Blomkvist is assisted by young computer hacker and researcher for Milton Security named Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth had been originally hired by Vanger's attorney to do a background check on Blomkvist. Both Lisbeth and Blomkvist find themselves residing inside a small house on the Vangers' island estate. During their investigation, they meet other members of the Vanger family - including two brothers who were members of the Swedish Nazi Party, Henrik's nieces Cecilia and Anita, and his nephew, Martin, now CEO of the family business.

While Lisbeth and Blomkvist investigate the Vanger family, each deal with a personal dilemma. Lisbeth became a legal ward of the state, after she was diagnosed with mental incompetency years ago, has to deal with new guardian Nils Bjurman, who turned out to be a sexual predator and rapist. Blomkvist found himself working for Henrik Vanger, after he lost a libel case brought against him by a crooked businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerström. Blomkvist and the magazine he co-owns with his lover/editor Erika Berger, owe Wennerstrom a huge court-ordered monetary damages. Despite their problems, Lisbeth and Blomkvist continue their investigation into the Vanger family. Eventually, they discover that a member of the family is serial rapist and killer, who has assaulted a number of Jewish women over a twenty years period since the 1940s. The last victim was killed a year after Harriet's disappearance.

There is so much about this movie that I really enjoyed. One, Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian did a superb job of adapting Larsson's tale with great detail, while maintaining a steady pace. This is not an easy thing for a filmmaker to accomplish - especially for a movie with a running time of 158 minutes. And the ironic thing is that Zaillian's script was not completely faithful to Larsson's novel. Not that I really care. I doubt that the 2009 adaptation, which I have also seen, was completely faithful. I thought that Fincher and Zaillian did a marvelous job of re-creating the details (as much as possible) of Larsson's tale, along with the novel's intriguing characters and atmosphere. There were changes that Larsson and Zaillian made to some of the characters - especially Mikael Blomkvist, Martin Vanger and Anita Vanger. And do I care? Again, no. These changes did not mar my enjoyment of the film, whatsoever.

The moment the movie began with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' dazzling score and Blur Studio's title designs, a feeling overcame me that I was about to watch a very interesting film. Reznor and Ross' score managed to earn Golden Globe nomination. Unfortunately, they did not earn an Academy Award. Too bad. It was one of the most interesting movie scores I have seen in years. Jeff Cronenweth, on the other hand, managed to earn an Academy Award for his cinematography. And it was well deserved, as far as I am concerned. I really enjoyed Cronenweth's sharp and atmospheric photography of Sweden's countryside and Stockholm. I also enjoyed Trish Summerville's costume designs for the movie - especially her Goth-style costumes for Rooney Mara and the stylish wardrobe that both Daniel Craig and Stellan Skarsgård wore.

I might as well focus on the cast. "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" made Rooney Mara a star. There is no doubt about it. The actress, who made a memorable appearance in Fincher's last movie, "THE SOCIAL NETWORK", gave a star turning performance as the anti-social hacker, Lisbeth Salander. She was quiet, intense, intelligent, tough . . . hell, she did a superb job of re-creating every nuance of the Lisbeth character with a subtlety and intensity that I found very appealing. It is not surprising that she eventually earned both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Daniel Craig did not earn any acting award for his portrayal of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. This is not surprising. His character was not as showy as Mara's. And as a blogger named Brent Lang pointed out, Craig's character was more or less the "damsel in distress". He was not exaggerating. But Craig not only gave an engaging and slightly sexy performance as Blomkvist, he also did an excellent job of serving as the movie's emotional center or anchor.

Christopher Plummer's peformance as Henrik Vanger resonated with sly humor and deep emotion. Stellan Skarsgård gave one of the most interesting performances in the movie as the missing Harriet's brother, Martin. I found myself wondering if Skarsgård's Martin was a trickster character used to keep the audience wondering about him. Both Geraldine James and Joely Richardson appeared as Harriet's cousins, Cecilia and Anita, respectively. Richardson's performance was solid and a little understated. But I really enjoyed James' brief stint as the sharp tongue Cecilia. And Robin Wright was solid, if not that memorable as Blomkvist's lover and editor, Erika Berger. Yorick van Wageningen's performance as Lisbeth's guardian Nils Bjurman struck me as both understated and downright scary. At first glance, his performance did not hint the disturbed sexism that led his character to rape Lisbeth. Come to think of it, I do not recall any hint of Bjurman's sick and sordid personality in van Wageningen's portrayal of the character at all . . . even when his character was forcing himself on Lisbeth. It was a very disturbing performance. The movie also featured solid performances from the likes of Steven Berkoff, Goran Visnjic and Donald Sumpter.

I have at least one complaint about "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO". There was a sequence in the movie's last twenty minutes that featured Lisbeth's theft of businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström's assets via hacking. The sequence seemed to drag an otherwise well-paced movie. Yet, at the same time, I glad that Fincher revealed Lisbeth's theft, instead of vaguely pointing it out, as Niels Arden Oplev did in the 2009 adaptation. I guess I have mixed feelings about this particular sequence.

"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" received five Academy Award nominations - one for actress Rooney Mara and four technical nominations. After typing that last sentence, I shook my head in disgust. What in the hell was the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences thinking? That was it? No Best Picture, Best Director or Best Adapted Screenplay nomination? No nomination for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score? Movies like Woody Allen's dull-ass "MIDNIGHT IN PARIS" and Steven Spielberg's overrated "WAR HORSE" received Best Picture nominations. But not "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO". And Fincher's movie was one of the best I have ever seen in 2011. This is just damn pitiful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"THIS MEANS WAR" (2012) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the new comedy called "THIS MEANS WAR". Directed by McG, the movie stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy:


"THIS MEANS WAR" (2012) Photo Gallery


































Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Plotlines in the "BOURNE Trilogy"




PLOT LINES FOR THE BOURNE TRILOGY

Ever since its release, the critics and many fans have been in rapture over the third "BOURNE" movie. Some have called it the best action movie in recent years. And one particular critic had named all three movies as "the best Hollywood film trilogy ever made". Now, as much as I have enjoyed the "BOURNE" Trilogy, I do not think I would go that far. I do consider the trilogy to be amongst my favorite action films. But do I consider them to be the best? Hmmmm . . . no. In fact, following my second viewing of "ULTIMATUM", I have noticed some plotlines that concern me. In fact, I have a problem regarding a character in "SUPREMACY", as well.

Manheim and Jarda

When I first saw "SUPREMACY", I had assumed that the German-born Treadstone operative in this movie (Marton Csokas) was the same German-born operative who had killed Alexander Conklin in "IDENTITY". Well, I was wrong. Apparently, they are two different men. "IDENTITY" had identified three other Treadstone assasins other than Bourne operating in Europe - the Professor (Clive Owen), Castel (Nicky Naude) and Manheim. Out of all of them, Manheim was the only one who had survived. Yet two years later in "SUPREMACY", Bourne meets Jarda, who claimed that they were the only two Treadstone operatives left. What in the hell happened to Manheim? He survived the events of "IDENTITY", yet he was dead two years later? How did he died? And how did Jarda pop up into this mix?

I also have another question regarding Jarda. How did Bourne find out about him? Hell, how did Bourne know where to find him? When did he have the opportunity to get his hands on the files of Treadstone's European operatives? He certainly was not able to do so in "IDENTITY"'s finale. Nicky was already in the process of destroying the files when Bourne and Conklin had their showdown. Bourne certainly had no opportunity to do so in "SUPREMACY". So, how did he find out about Jarda?

Nicky's Comments About Her Past With Bourne

In "ULTIMATUM", CIA Logistics Coordinator Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) had hinted of some past relationship between her and Bourne that had left her shaken. A relationship that Bourne has no memory of. All I can say is . . . WTF? Since when? I am aware that both Bourne and Nicky were stationed in Paris before the attempted Wombosi hit that left him with amnesia. But recalling Nicky's reaction to Bourne near the end of the film, I never got the impression that they had enjoyed past intimacy with each other. At least not from Nicky. Her reaction to Bourne near the end of "IDENTITY" seemed to be the same as her reaction to the Professor after meeting him . . . namely trepidation. Nor did Nicky bring up any past intimacy between her and Bourne in "SUPREMACY". Aside from her trepidation in "IDENTITY", Nicky had expressed sheer terror when Bourne had kidnapped her in the second film in order to learn more about Treadstone and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen). I get the feeling that screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns had added this little tidbit to set the stage for a possible romance between Bourne and Nicky in future films. If this is true, I think it is a cheap shot.


CIA Directors - Martin Marshall and Ezra Cramer

Confusion really seemed to reign over the roles of the two CIA Directors featured in the films - Martin Marshall (Tomas Arana) and Ezra Cramer (Scott Glenn). Martin Marshall's name had briefly came up as the CIA's Director. We got to see him in the flesh in "SUPREMACY". Yet, in "ULTIMATUM", which is mainly set six weeks later after "SUPREMACY", the CIA has a new director - Ezra Cramer. What in the hell happened to Marshall during those six weeks? Someone had claimed that perhaps he had encountered trouble for what happened in Berlin at the beginning of the second film. Frankly, this makes no sense to me. The Berlin operation was big enough to get Pamela Landy in trouble, but certainly not Marshall.

And in "ULTIMATUM", it was claimed that Ezra Cramer had given Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) permission to use the Blackbriar program as a replacement for Treadstone. All I can say is . . . huh? At the end of "IDENTITY", it was Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) who had introduced the Blackbriar program to the CIA. Yes, I am aware that Blackbriar was originally sold by Abbott as a communications program between agencies and later became an assasination program. But when did this happen? During the six weeks between "SUPREMACY" and "ULTIMATUM"? Did Cramer give his authority to the Blackbriar program during this six-week period? Judging from the files in Vosen's safe, I rather doubt it.

I had learned that production on "ULTIMATUM" had began before the script's completion. Judging from some of the plot holes and the movie's cheesy ending that little tidbit seemed pretty obvious to me. And as much as I like the "BOURNE" movies, I find it hard to believe that they are the best action thrillers in the past decade or so. And I especially find it hard to accept that "ULTIMATUM" is the best action film this year or the best "BOURNE" movie. I can think of others that are better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Corellian Connection" [PG-13] - Chapter Nine




"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION"

CHAPTER NINE

LARS HOMESTEAD, TATOOINE

The Alberforce slowly descended upon the flat, Tatooine desert before it wheeled to a stop. Ahead, two familiar people emerged from a dome-shaped abode that served as the moisture farm's centerpiece. The starship's captain heaved a sigh of relief. "We're here. Finally. Tatooine." Voranda Sen glanced at the two people approaching the ship. "Who are they?" she asked.

Captain Sen's companion smiled cryptically. "My in-laws," Padme explained. "I haven't seen them in over four years." The tragic circumstances surrounding her last visit rushed to the forefront of her thoughts.

"In-laws?" Captain Sen's brows rose questioningly.

Padme nodded. "An . . . my husband's step-brother and sister-in-law. At least I think they are now married. The last time I saw them, Owen and Beru were still engaged. Excuse me. I'll just have a talk with them." She unfastened her seat strap and left the cockpit.

As she strode down the boarding ramp, the Tatooine couple came forth to greet the hooded Padme. "How do you do?" Owen Lars greeted uneasily. "My name is Owen . . ."

". . . Lars," Padme finished. She threw back her cape's hood, eliciting gasps from the young couple. "And Beru Whitesun. Or is it Lars now?"

Beru exclaimed softly, "Padme? Padme Amidala? But we thought you were dead."

An embarrassed chuckle escaped from Padme's mouth. "Yes . . . um, I'm sorry that you didn't know the truth. It seemed that circumstances had turned me into a fugitive from the Empire. So much so that I had to make arrangement to fake my death. Actually . . . the Jedi helped me make those arrangements." She paused, wondering how the couple would receive her next words. "The reason I'm here is that . . . well, I'm asking for sanctuary." She paused, as she noticed the wedding rings that the couple wore. "Oh my! You did get married. Congratulations!"

"It happened not long after we last saw you and Anakin," Owen murmured. He nodded at Padme's right hand. "I see that you also have a wedding ring. You're married?"

Padme allowed herself a wistful smile. "Yes."

A long pause followed before realization dawned in the couple's eyes. "Anakin?" Owen shook his head in disbelief. "You and Anakin got married? But he's . . . I mean, he was a Jedi. How was that . . .?"

"Anakin and I had married just over a week after we last saw you," Padme quietly explained. "On Naboo. Our marriage had remained a secret, until the last days of the war. When all of our troubles began."

Beru shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand. You mean to say that you're hiding from the Empire, because you're the wife of a Jedi Knight?"

Padme sighed. "No . . . it's a lot more complicated than that. I . . ." Using her personal comlink, she summoned the others from the Alberforce. Within minutes, Voranda Sen, Madga, and the droids disembarked from the starship. Madga carried Leia, while Captain Sen carried Luke.

Both Owen and Beru gaped at the two toddlers. "You have . . . children!" Owen exclaimed.

Nodding, Padme replied, "Twins. Luke and Leia. They're Ani's children." She sighed. "Now you know why I'm hiding from the Empire. And why I'm asking for sanctuary." She regarded the couple with pleading eyes. "Could you help me?"

-----------

AVERAM


After the Javian Hawk finally arrived at the Averam Spaceport, Anakin turned to Han. "Let's check on our passengers, shall we?"

An unusually sober Han nodded. "Sure," he muttered. The young boy made his way out of the cockpit. To Anakin's surprise, he detected a great deal of moodiness from the young Corellian.

Both Anakin and Han found the Yebs gathering their belongings in the ship's passenger section. "Thank you, Captain . . . Horus for a most interesting trip," Senator Yeb commented. "I believe that my sister and I owe you a fee in the amount of . . ."

"Three thousand Imperial credits," Thalia Yeb finished. She handed a credit chip over to Anakin. "This for you, Master Skywalker."

"It's now Captain Horus, Miss Yeb. Please remember that."

A tart smile curved the Andalian woman's lips. "I suppose I'll have to. Although it would be hard for me to do so, whenever I think of this trip. Thank you for your help, Master Jedi." She shook Anakin's hand. Then she turned to Han. "And you too, Master Solo." Then she picked up her valise and headed toward the boarding ramp.

Senator Yeb hesitated. "Mind if I speak with you for a moment . . . Captain?"

"As a matter of fact, I want to speak with you, Senator." Anakin nodded at the Corellian boy. "It's about Han."

"Oh?"

Anakin continued, "I wonder if you can find a home or place for him to stay. I don't believe it would be safe for him to return to Corellia. Someone is . . . searching for him. Someone unpleasant."

The senator shot back, "Are you referring to that gangster that young Mr. Solo had mentioned?"

"Yes I am."

Yeb's eyes rested thoughtfully upon the boy. "I would be more than willing to help, Master Skywalker," he said. "But how can I be sure that young Master Solo will not run away?"

"Excuse me?" Anakin frowned.

A sigh rose from the senator's throat. "Let's be frank, shall we . . . Captain? The boy obviously wants to stay with you. Even if I do find a permanent home for him, I suspect that he will find a way to run away, in order to find you. Why don't you simply allow him to remain with you?"

"A secondhand space freighter is no place to raise a boy," Anakin retorted. "Especially one flown by a renegade Jedi Knight, who was once a Sith apprentice. Don't get me wrong. I like Han. In fact, I like him a lot more than I should. But I'm not the proper person to raise him."

Senator Yeb grabbed hold of Anakin's arm and guided him away from Han. "Look, Master Jedi, I realize that you have done a lot to feel ashamed for." Anakin's face grew hot with shame. The senator continued, "I'm not trying to make excuses for your actions. But you are not the only one who has contributed to the Republic's destruction. I'm responsible, as well. Along with members of the entire Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council and many others throughout the galaxy. We had all stood by and allowed Palpatine to assume absolute power without any opposition. I had not been there when you had led the purge against the Jedi Order. But you were not in the Senate, when we handed over the galaxy to Palpatine on a silver plate. To this day, I feel deeply ashamed for joining in the applause when the Chancellor had declared himself emperor. Master Solo is obviously aware of your checkered past. And I suspect that he has committed acts that he might be ashamed of." The former senator's dark eyes grew intense. "I've been given a new chance at life. I plan to devote myself to forming a resistance against the Emperor. You also have a chance . . . starting with that young boy. Why not take it?"

Anakin stared at Senator Yeb for several seconds. Then his eyes focused upon a sullen Han. He sighed. "I'm only 23 years old, Senator," he murmured. "I'm too young to be the guardian of a boy some 12 to 15 years my junior." Another sigh left his mouth. "All right. I'll let him stay with me."

"Are you sure?" the senator asked uneasily.

With a nod, Anakin replied, "Yes. Like I had said, I like Han very much. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. I just didn't want him to face a possible situation in which he might end up being hurt by me."

"Well . . ." Senator Yeb hesitated. "I guess the matter is closed." He thrust out his hand. "Good-bye, Master Jedi. And good luck. Hopefully, we might encounter each other, one day."

Anakin shook the senator's hand. "Thank you. And good luck to you, Senator."

Senator Yeb faced a wary Han. "Well young man, good luck to you in the future. And I want to thank you for assisting both my sister and me."

Han's eyes grew wide with disbelief. "I'm not coming with you?"

"I believe the answer is no, Master Solo." The senator's mouth stretched into a wide grin. "It seems that Master Skywalker plans to provide a home for you. So, good day. And good-bye." He nodded at the young boy and marched down the boarding ramp.

The Corellian boy stared at the two Andalians' retreating figures. He frowned at Anakin. "So, what happens next?" he demanded.

For one odd moment, Anakin found himself remembering that day on Naboo, when he learned of Qui-Gon Jinn's death and that Obi-Wan would become his Jedi master. He shook his head and explained, "First, I need to purchase supplies and repair the Hawk's hull. The Empire might still be searching for it and the two ships that had left Corellia around the same time we did. I don't want to give them a chance to find any proof of our encounter with the Agamemnon. Once we leave, it's back to Nar Shaddaa for us."

"Us?" Hope glimmered in Han's brown eyes. "So, you're not sending . . .?"

Anakin grinned, as he ruffled the Corellian boy's thick hair. "Looks like you're stuck with me, kid." Han responded with his own grin. "C'mon, let's get those supplies." The young man and the boy marched down the freighter's boarding ramp, together.

-----------

Inside one of Averam's more exclusive restaurants, Bail finished the last of his lunch. He pushed aside his plate and sighed. Two days had passed since his arrival on Averam. And Solipo Yeb has yet to arrive on the planet. Bail found himself wondering if the former Andalian senator remained stranded on Corellia.

The Alderaanian prince took a deep breath. 'Calm down Bail,' he told himself. 'Calm down.' Perhaps the journey from Corellia to Averam had turned out to be longer than expected. Satisfied with this answer, Bail paid for his meal and rose from his chair. Two Alderaanian bodyguards, seated at another table, rose from their seats and followed him out of the restaurant.

Twenty minutes later, Bail and his companions arrived at their hotel. Upon entering the lobby, the prince strode toward the desk clerk. "Do you have any messages for me?" he asked. "Aurelis Blum."

The clerk's face lit up with excitement. "Oh yes! Master Blum! Um . . ." The round-faced man check his desk. "Yes, you have a Mistress Thalia Kor and her brother have arrived. They're waiting for you, inside the hotel's parlor."

Solipo! At last! Bail thanked the clerk and turned on his heels. With his guards not far behind him, he quickly marched toward the hotel's elegant drawing-room. There, he found both Solipo and Thalia Yeb, slightly covered in dust. Relief flooded his body, as he greeted the pair. "Solipo! I'm so glad that you've finally made it!" He shook his former colleague's hand. Then he turned to the other man's sister and bowed. "Milady. I am happy to see that you have arrived safely. Both of you. Shall we retire to my suite?"

Nearly twenty minutes later, the trio sat inside the large drawing room of Bail's suite. Despite their slightly exhausted state, the Yebs found the energy to discuss their past adventures. Then Solipo delivered a bomb. "I know that I had promised not to say anything, but you will not believe who had had brought us here," he added. "Thalia had immediately recognized him."

Bail regarded his former colleague with curiosity. "He must be someone very important."

"I don't know about that," Thalia said. "But he was an important hero from the Clone War."

The back of Bail's neck tingled, as he frowned at the Yebs. "War hero? Was he a . . .?"

"Jedi Knight!" Solipo finished triumphantly. "The Hero of No Fear himself! Anakin Skywalker! Imagine my surprise when Thalia recognized him."

The Alderaanian stared at the pair in shock. "Anakin Skywalker? He's al . . . he was your pilot?"

"That he was," Thalia declared. "I had recognized him from the HoloNet News reports, during the war." She took a sip of her Vine Spider Tea, before shaking her head in disbelief. "You should have seen the way he had handled his starship, Your Highness. It was amazing!"

Bail murmured, "I can imagine. Uh, where is he now?"

Solipo shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. Several hours had passed since our arrival. And Master Skywalker had informed us that he did not plan to remain here, very long." He paused at stared at the older man. "Why are you interested in his whereabouts? Do you hope to involve him into the resistance? That is . . . if we ever form one."

Padme and the two surviving Jedi Masters flashed in Bail's mind. "Perhaps. Who knows? As for this Sith Lord you had seen on Andalia . . . what was his name, again?"

"Darth Rasche," Solipo replied. "Anjuli Nab had mentioned his former name, but I don't remember it."

Thalia sighed. "You have such a bad memory, Solipo."

Bail leaned back into his chair. "Darth Rasche," he murmured. The very Sith Lord that had recently paid a visit to Alderaan. Bail wondered what was the real name of the Emperor's new apprentice.

---------

CORUSCANT


As Palpatine's eyes scanned a data pad that featured a report from the Imperial Fleet commander in the Rayter Sector, Sly Moore's voice crackled from his office's communication system. "Pardon me, Your Highness," she announced. "You have a message from Grand Moff Tarkin in the Kashyyyk System."

'Ah yes,' the Imperial leader thought privately. He tossed aside the report and switched on his personal holoemitter. The military leader's holographic figure appeared before him. "Lord Tarkin," Palpatine greeted coolly. "I hope you have some good news for me."

Tarkin reported, “Kashyyyk has been successfully annexed, Your Highness. The Wookies are now prisoners of the Empire. At least two-hundred thousand of them were captured.” He paused dramatically. “Including one of the leaders, Tarfful. They will be sent to containment camps on the Wawaatt Archipelago. Soon, they will join the Geonosians to work on the super weapon project.”

Pleased by the news, Palpatine beamed happily. “Excellent work, my lord. And please convey my pleasure to Lord Rasche for a job well done.” He hesitated, as a thought came to him. “Speaking of my apprentice, how was his performance.”

“Oh, did well, Your Highness. He had ordered an orbital bombardment of Kashyyyk that caused considerable damage.”

“Hmmm.” Palpatine nodded. “And the other Imperial Fleet commanders? What do they think of him?”

Tarkin paused. “To be frank, Your Highness, many are . . . surprised that one so young has been placed in a high position within the Imperial forces.”

“Has anyone recognized him?”

“No, Your Highness,” Tarkin replied. “But then . . . Lord Rasche did not receive much publicity during the Clone War. If hardly at all.”

On the whole, Palpatine felt pleased by the Grand Moff’s report. He considered Rasche’s willingness to order an orbital bombardment of an entire planet very impressive. “That will be all, Lord Tarkin. And congratulations for a job well done.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.” Tarkin bowed before his image disappeared.

Palpatine leaned back into his chair and closed his eyes. He sighed. Then he instructed Sly Moore to contact Darth Rasche, aboard the Exactor. Minutes passed before his apprentice’s image illuminated above the holoemitter. Darth Rasche kneeled. “What is thy bidding, Master?”

“Lord Rasche, I have just received Grand Moff Tarkin’s report on the situation at Kashyyyk,” Palpatine announced. “I would like to hear your account of the battle.”

Rasche paused before he said, “The Empire now has complete control of the Kashyyyk System, Master. At least two hundred thousand prisoners have been taken. Which should make Lord Tarkin very happy.”

“And the Jedi?” Palpatine asked.

“I encountered six of them,” Rasche added distastefully. “All former padawans, except for one. Three are dead, two were wounded and one . . . unfortunately escaped. The last three managed to escape from the planet.”

Palpatine dismissed Rasche’s last words. He was more interested in the three dead Jedi. “You said that three were killed. All of them were former padawan learners?”

Rasche replied, “Only two of them were. The third was Jedi Master Roan Shryne.” He paused. “I was finally able to catch up to him . . . after his escape from Murkhana.”

The news took Palpatine by surprise. “You had managed to kill . . . Master Shryne? A Jedi Master?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Impressive,” Palpatine declared. “Very impressive. The Force seems to grow stronger within you, Lord Rasche.”

Rasche preened slightly before he added, “About the Jedi who managed to escape from . . .”

Palpatine dismissed them as insignificant. “Mere padawan learners. Without the Jedi Order, they will never become anything more. Do not worry. They will eventually be found.”

Rasche bowed. “Yes, Master. About Solipo Yeb, has he . . .?”

The Sith Lord’s enthusiasm dimmed slightly. “He has escaped from Corellia, and is still at large. Also, the warship assigned to track him has also disappeared. The Agamemnon. I want you to head for Corellia and trace Yeb’s whereabouts.”

“Yes, my master. Senator Yeb and the Agamemnon shall be found.” Rasche bowed one last time before Palpatine switched off the holoemitter.

Feeling a slight sense of elation, the Sith Lord leaned back into his chair. Within a week, the Empire has managed to assume control over Andalia and Kashyyy, acquire thousands of Wookie slaves for the Great Weapon project and witness the deaths of a powerful Jedi Master and a Jedi Knight - all due to his newest apprentice. Palpatine’s initial regret at losing Anakin Skywalker as his apprentice now barely existed.