Friday, November 30, 2012

"SKYFALL" (2012) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the 23rd James Bond movie, "SKYFALL". Directed by Sam Mendes, the movie stars Daniel Craig as James Bond:

"SKYFALL" (2012) Photo Gallery


Thursday, November 29, 2012

”CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

Here is an article I had written about an episode of "CHARMED" called (6.10) "Chris-Crossed":

”CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

For the past five or six years, I have never hesitated to express my scorn toward Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Granted, I would never consider the series’ first four seasons as examples of television excellence. Yet, in compare to the last four seasons, Seasons One to Four might as well be considered masterpieces. However, ”CHARMED” did managed to air a few noteworthy episodes during its latter seasons. And one of those episodes happened to be Season Six’s (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”.

Penned by Cameron Litvack and directed by Joel J. Feigenbaum, ”Chris-Crossed” features a story in which the Charmed Ones’ new whitelighter, Chris Perry aka Chris Halliwell (Drew Fuller) faces a love from the future who is determined to jeopardize his current mission – namely to prevent Wyatt (Wes Ramsey) from embarking upon a path of evil- in order to save his life. Chris’ mission nearly unravels when his fiancée from the future, a Phoenix witch/assassin named Bianca (Marisa Nichols) appears in order to bring Chris back to the future by whatever means necessary.

”Chris-Crossed” marked another example of how the series in its latter years managed to derive its energy from memorable supporting characters or guest stars. This episode bridled with energy, thanks to the on-screen dynamics between Drew Fuller and Marisa Nichols. Wes Ramsey made an impressive villain as the future, evil Wyatt Halliwell. And I have to say the same for Rebecca McFarland, who portrayed Bianca’s 2003 mother, Lynn. In fact, I have to give kudos to both Nichols and McFarland for portraying Bianca and Lynn as a complex and fascinating mother/daughter pair. The regular cast gave solid performances, as well. But I certainly did not find their performances as impressive as Fuller or the episode’s guest stars.

Litvack’s script did have its flaws. One, I could not conceive future Wyatt using his family’s home to be used as a museum in honor of his mother and aunts. Especially since Chris had made it clear that Wyatt murdered Phoebe, following Piper and Paige’s deaths. Two, the idea that Chris’ reason for traveling to the past seemed to contradict his original concerns from the Season Five finale, (5.22 & 5.23) “Oh My Goddesses!” - namely to prevent the Titans from destroying the Whitelighter Realm and killing Paige.

My final complaint centers around Wyatt’s Halliwell museum again. How on earth did Piper’s oldest son got hold of the mermaid fins that Phoebe wore in (5.01 & 5.02) “A Witch’s Tail? And how did he get his hands on the super heroine costumes that the Halliwell sisters wore in (5.05) “Witches in Tights”? The mermaid fins should have disappeared completely once Phoebe changed back to a mortal. And the super heroine costumes worn by the sisters had been a figment in the imagination of a young witch named Kevin, who possessed the ability of though projection. I also had problems with Piper and Paige’s visit to the home of Bianca’s mother, Lynn. How did they plan to deal with her, when they surreptiously (if you can call it that) let it known to Lynn that they knew she was a Phoenix witch? What were they planning to do? Kill her and leave five year-old Bianca as an orphan, after getting some information? Kill the five year-old Bianca, as well?

Thankfully, the episodes’ virtues outweighed the flaws. Litvack penned a first-rate script that gave the Halliwells the opportunity to discover that Chris might be more than what he seemed. He also provided a poignant romance between Chris and his loving witch/assassin Bianca. Viewers were even able to witness an interesting confrontation between Bianca and the Charmed Ones. Bianca proved in that scene that she could be just as formidable (or perhaps a little more) as the Power of Three, using her brains and skills. Most importantly, ”Chris-Crossed” gave viewers a detailed peek into one possible future for Piper’s two sons. A future filled with violence, chaos, secrecy, love and loss. A future that Chris is determined to alter via the fate of his older and more powerful brother.

As I had stated earlier, I have an extremely low opinion of Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Yet, due to some miracle, producer Brad Kern and one of his writers - Cameron Litvack – managed to create a “diamond in the rough”, namely ”Chris-Crossed”. Not only did the episode proved to be a rare gem in an otherwise dismal period in the series’ history, I believe that it might be considered – on my part – as one of the best episodes of ”CHARMED”.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"LIONS FOR LAMBS" (2007) Review

"LIONS FOR LAMBS" (2007) Review

I honestly had no intention of seeing the new political drama directed by Robert Redford, "LIONS FOR LAMBS". I had simply had no interest in it. But as with another movie, I had to be talked into seeing it. And to my utter surprise, it turned out to be a lot better than I had expected.

The movie is basically about the current war in Afghanistan and it affected two California-born Army soliders (Derek Luke and Michael Peña), their college professor (Robert Redford) and his current disaffected student (Andrew Garfield); a Washington-based TV journalist (Meryl Streep) and a U.S. senator (Tom Cruise). The story is basically divided into three segments featuring the following:

a) Former California college students-turned Army soldiers Arian and Ernest decide to do something with their lives and enlist in the Army, instead of continue into graduate school. Their actions lead them to take part in a new military operation in Afghanistan, in which the Army will occupy certain strategic points in the mountains in small units. Their copter is shot at and the two fall out before the copter can crash. Arian and Ernest end up being stranded in the Himilayas, surrounded by the Taliban.

b) In Washington D.C. a charismatic Republican Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving, has invited TV journalist Janine Roth to announce the new Army strategy in Afghanistan that Arian and Ernest are participating in. He hopes that Roth's report will write will convince the public that this tactic is a good thing, but Roth has her doubts and does not want to become an instrument of propaganda. Her boss feels differently.

c) Arian and Ernest's former college professor, Dr. Stephen Malley, attempts to reach privileged but disaffected student Todd Hayes, who is the very opposite of Arian and Ernest. He is bright but not a hard worker. Todd claims that this is due to the time he spends with his girlfriend, and as president of his fraternity.

As I had stated before, "LIONS FOR LAMBS" turned out to be a lot better than I had envisioned. Quite frankly, I had expected to be bored. I had learned that many critics were not enamoured of the movie and viewed it nothing more than a filmed play. Although there is plenty of conversations and dialogue in the story, Redford's shift to Arian and Ernest's adventures managed to keep the movie from stagnating. And to be honest, I found the dialogue itself to be very interesting. Redford, along with screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan not only focused on the Bush Administration's missteps in both Afghanistan and Iraq; but also on the American public and the media's support of the initial invasions and the public's reluctance to face the realities of the country's political state.

The performances were, of course, outstanding. Well, almost outstanding. I must admit that I found Meryl Streep's portrayal of Roth a little mannered at times - especially toward the end. But the other performances were excellent - specifically Cruise, whose Senator Irving seemed at times charming and chilling. But I especially have to give kudos to both Derek Luke and Michael Peña for their poignant portrayals of the two former college students-turned-Army soldiers.

I do not know if many would have the patience or the depth to appreciate, let alone understand this movie. Hopefully, there are many out there who will be able to. I find it disappointing that the most of the critics seemed underappreciative of "LIONS FOR LAMBS". Their views of the movie have only reinforced my belief that is better for a person to form his or her own opinion than allow someone else to form one for him/her.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"EL DORADO WEST" [PG] - Chapter Two

The following is Chapter Two of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849: 

Chapter Two - The Marriage Proposal

February 20, 1849
Charles Maxwell has proposed marriage to my sister, Alice. God above! I just cannot image a lively girl like Alice married to that walking block of ice. What had Father been thinking to give that man his consent?

Like the Flemings, the Mawells happened to be an old and respected Negro family here in Cleveland. Charles had been the first Maxwell to attend Oberlin College, one of the few universities in this country to accept both women and non-whites as students. I had attended Oberlin for two years before leaving five years ago. My younger brother, Jerome, is now a student there.

If my family could be considered staid, the Maxwells were downright archaic. Being related to a handful of the first families of Virginia (through slavery, of course), they considered themselves to be amongst Cleveland's most respected Negro families. Frankly, I consider them to be a bunch of bores. If Alices does accept Charles' proposal, she would have my deepest sympathy.

February 22, 1849
Rejoice! Rejoice! Alice has rejected Charles' marriage proposal.

I seemed to be the only family member who is relieved by this turn of events. The household is in an uproar. Randolph called Alice a fool for rejecting Charles. Papa remained silent, but his displeasure was apparent. A potential for a family dynasty has crumbled in the wind, thanks to Alice's decision. My other siblings seemed not to care one way or the other. As for my mother . . . Poor Mama! She had a fit after learning about Alice's decision. She ranted, raved and called my sister an ungrateful child. Now she refuses to speak with Alice.

I am certain that my parents will get over Alice's decision to reject Charles' offer. She is such a beautiful and lively girl. She is bound to catch the eye of some other man. Whether any of them possesses Charles Maxwell's attributes remains to be seen.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

"STARDUST" (2007) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery of photos from the 2007 fantasy film, "STARDUST".  Based on Neil Gaiman's 1998 novel and directed by Matthew Vaughn, the movie stars Claire Danes and Charlie Cox:  

"STARDUST" (2007) Photo Gallery

Friday, November 23, 2012

"THE MASTER" (2012) Review


"THE MASTER" (2012) Review

Paul Thomas Anderson seemed to be one of those filmmakers who embody what critics would categorize as a modern day "auteurist" that release a movie every few years to dazzle moviegoers and critics with his or her personal creative vision. During his sixteen years as a director and filmmaker, he has made four short films and six feature movies. One of the six feature films is his latest, "THE MASTER".

Believed by many to be an exposé on Scientology, "THE MASTER" tells of the story of a World War II Navy veteran named Freddie Quell, who struggles to adjust to a post-war society. Freddie uses sex and alcohol to escape his personal demons. But when his drinking and violent behavior leads him to lose jobs as a department store photographer and a field worker on a cabbage farm, Freddie ends up in San Francisco, where he stows aboard a yacht that belongs to one Lancaster Dodd, a leader of a philosophical movement known as "The Cause". Dodd sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. But Freddie's drunken and violent behavior fails to abate and Dodd's wife, daughter and son-in-law begin to express doubt that the latter can help the World War II veteran.

What can I say about "THE MASTER"? Did it turn out to be the exposé on Scientology that many believed it would become? Not really. Despite its title, "THE MASTER" seemed to be more about Freddie Quell than Lancaster Dodd and "the Cause". The movie did feature practices that are believed to be similar to those practiced by members of Scientology. But the movie's deeper focus on Freddie's personal demons has led me to believe that the Church of Scientology has nothing to fear. In the end, "THE MASTER" seemed to be more of a character study of the very disturbed Freddie Quell, along with a secondary study of Lancaster Dodd . . . and their friendship. And Paul Thomas Anderson revealed these two character studies in a movie with a running time of 143 minutes.

There were aspects of "THE MASTER" I found very admirable. The movie featured outstanding performances from Joaquin Phoenix, who gave a volatile portrayal of the disturbing Freddie Quell. I was also impressed by Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of the charismatic Lancaster Dodd. His performance not only hinted in subtle ways, his understanding of Freddie's demons, but the possibility that he once possessed similar demons. And Amy Adams was memorable as Peggy Dodd, Lancaster's second or third wife, who not only seemed more dedicated to "the Cause" than her husband; but also seemed to understand both him and Freddie with a frankness the two men seemed unwilling to face. The movie also featured solid performances from Laura Dern, who portrayed a hardcore devotee to Dodd; Rami Malek, Dodd's quiet and unassuming son-in-law who assumes a dislike of Freddie; Ambyr Childers, Dodd's daughter, who hides a lusty attraction to Freddie; Jesse Plemons, who portrays Dodd's disenchanted son; Madisen Beaty, who portrays Freddie's love of his life; and Kevin J. O'Connor, a devotee of "the Cause" who is not impressed by Dodd's writing.

I was also impressed by the movie's production designs. David Frank and Jack Fisk did an excellent job in re-creating America during the post-World War II era and the beginning of the 1950s. Mark Bridges' costumes were tasteful and at the same time, projected an accuracy of the era. And cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. captured Anderson's direction and the movie's setting with some impressive photography.

So, did I enjoy "THE MASTER"? No. In fact, I dislike the movie . . . intensely. There is nothing more boring than a 143 minute character study, in which the main character does not evolve or devolve. Freddie Quell never changes. Perhaps this was the lesson that Anderson was trying to convey. But honestly, he could have done this with more solid writing, a shorter running time and with less pretentiousness. And I have never seen a movie with so much pretentiousness since Joe Wright's movie, "HANNA". While watching an early scene that featured Freddie dry humping a nude woman made from sand on a beach, I began to suspect that my patience might be tested with this film. I had no idea my patience would eventually slipped into sheer boredom. One cannot image the relief I felt when the movie finally ended.

I realize that "THE MASTER" has received a great deal of acclaim from critics and some moviegoers. But I simply failed to see the magic. And if this movie manages to acquire a great deal of nominations during the awards season (which it probably will), I will not be one of those cheering the movie for critical glory. I dislike it too much. Oh well. Perhaps I will like Anderson's next film.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"FLIGHT" (2012) Photo Gallery

Below are images from "FLIGHT", a new drama that was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Denzel Washington:

"FLIGHT" (2012) Photo Gallery