Monday, April 29, 2013

"THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA" (2008) Photo Gallery




Below is a gallery of photos from Spike Lee's World War II drama about four black soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in Northern Italy. The movie is based upon James McBride's novel:


"THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA" (2008) Photo Gallery


































Sunday, April 28, 2013

"THE BOURNE IDENTITY" (2002) Review

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"THE BOURNE IDENTITY" (2002) Review

Thirty-three years ago saw the release of "The Bourne Identity", Robert Ludlum's first novel about the amnesiac government agent called Jason Bourne. The novel became a best-seller and spawned two sequels written by Ludlum. Then in 1988, ABC aired a two-part miniseries adaptation of Ludlum's novel, which starred Richard Chamberlain and Jacyln Smith. The miniseries turned out to be a big ratings hit. But it did not stop there. Over fourteen years later, Universal Pictures released its own adaptation of the novel, starring Matt Damon as the amnesiac Jason Bourne. 

Directed by Doug Liman, the beginning of "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" more or less followed Ludlum's novel. Italian fisherman (instead of French) rescue an unconscious man floating adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. The boat's medic finds a display of a safe deposit number surgically implanted under the unknown man's skin. The man wakes up and discovers he is suffering from extreme memory loss. Over the next few days, the man finds he is fluent in several languages and has unusual skills. But he cannot remember anything about himself or why he was in the sea. When the ship docks, the doctor sends him off to Zurich with some money to investigate the mystery of the safe deposit box. In Zurich, the man discovers money, a pistol and passports with his photograph. One of the photographs identify him as an American named Jason Bourne with an address in Paris.

Here, "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" begins to veer from both Ludlum's novel and the 1988 miniseries. Instead of alerting the forces of terrorist Carlos the Jackal, Bourne's trip to the bank alerted the CIA black ops program Treadstone to his whereabouts. And instead of coercing French-Canadian Marie St. Jacques to drive him to safety and using her as a hostage, Damon's Bourne offered money to a German-born Marie Kreutz to drive him to Paris. Before they can part, a Treadstone assassin attack Bourne at his Paris apartment. Due to the attack, Bourne is forced to kill the assassin and keep Marie by his side for her protection. And with her help, he sets out to discover his true identity and the truth that led to his wounded state in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, Treadstone - led by the cankerous Alexander Conklin and the anxious Deputy Director Ward Abbott - continues sending assassins to kill Bourne and prevent him from revealing the organization's desire to kill a volatile exiled African dictator named Nykwana Wombosi.

I might as well put my cards on the table. "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" is a terrific movie. Director Doug Liman, along with screenwriters Tony Gilory and William Blake Herron, did a first-rate job of transferring . . . well, their vision of Ludlum's novel. Although the movie is not as faithful to the novel as the miniseries, I believe it is just as good. Liman, Gilroy and Herron decided to reject a good deal of Ludlum's novel in order to reflect the current political climate and to conform to Liman's opinions regarding American foreign policy. In the movie, Bourne is a CIA assassin who works for a black ops group called Treadstone that carries out unofficial hits on those they consider threats to the American government. He lost his memory after a failed attempt on the exiled Nykwana Wombosi. The movie is more of a criticism or indictment (depending on how one would view it) on U.S. foreign policy than Ludlum's novel . But the director and the two screenwriters made sure that they retained the novel's central theme - a CIA agent who loses his memory on the heels of a failed mission. Does this mean I believe Liman, Gilroy and Herron's changes are superior to Ludlum's original story? Not really. Ludlum's tale and the 1988 adaptation were reflections of the times they hit both the bookstores and television screens. By the time "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" was in production, the political scene had change. The real Carlos the Jackal had been in prison for about seven to eight years by the time the movie went into production. And in my opinion, Liman and the two screenwriters wisely reflected this change.

"THE BOURNE IDENTITY" also reflected some first rate action sequences, thanks to Liman's direction, Oliver Wood's photography and especially Saar Klein's editing. My favorite sequences include Bourne's escape from the U.S. Embassy in Zurich, a car chase sequence through the streets of Paris, Bourne's final encounter with Conklin and two of the latter's flunkies inside Treadstone's Parisian safe house and especially the fight sequence between Bourne and another Treadstone assassin named Castel. I also enjoyed John Powell's atmospheric score for the film, which I believe more or less served as the basis for his work on the second and third BOURNE movies. And speaking of music, one could hardly discuss any BOURNE film withou mentioning Moby's 2002 hit song, "Extreme Ways". The lyrics to Moby's song, supported by a very entertaining score, literally captured the nuance of the franchise's main characters . . . especially Bourne. Is it any wonder that it has become the franchise's theme song? Also, I have to commend Liman's insistence upon filming "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" in Paris, especially since executives at Universal Studios wanted him to use Montreal or Prague as substitutes for the City of Lights. Mind you, both Montreal and Prague are beautiful cities. But even I would have guessed they were not really Paris in the film.

I read somewhere that Liman had considered a wide range of actors like Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone for the role of David Webb aka Jason Bourne. Mind you, I think Crowe could have pulled it off. But I am not so sure about Stallone. Then again, he could have done so a decade earlier. However, Liman eventually settled for Matt Damon and the rest, as they say, is history. Damon not only gave a superb performance as the introverted and haunted Bourne, he also handled some of the action scenes very well, considering this was his first time in such a physically demanding role. He also had superb chemistry with his leading lady, Franka Potente. The latter was excellent as the free-spirited Marie Kreutz, who finds herself drawn to the mysterious Bourne . . . almost against her will. Other first-rate performances include Chris Cooper as the intense and hot-tempered Alexander Conklin; Brian Cox, who performance as the cautious Ward Abbott almost strikes me as insidious; and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose performance as the arrogant and verbose Nykwana Wombosi pretty much lit up the screen. The movie also featured first-rate performances from two cast members who said very little. Julia Stiles did an excellent job in conveying both the professionalism and wariness of Treadstone logistics technician Nicky Parsons with very little dialogue. Clive Owen had even less to say as Treadstone assassin "The Professor" and yet, he perfectly projected an intense and intimidating presence as a government killer.

"THE BOURNE IDENTITY" is probably my second favorite movie in the franchise. Yet, it is not perfect. One of the problems I had featured the death of Treadstone assassin Castel, who jumped out of the window and killed himself, following his fight with Bourne inside the latter's Parisian apartment. Marie asked Bourne why he did it. And honestly, I wondered why he did it myself. But Gilroy and Herron's screenplay failed to explain Castel's suicide. And to this day, I am still wondering why the guy jumped. Ward Abbott made the decision to shut down Treadstone, following its failure to kill Bourne. But instead of having everyone connected to Treadstone killed - something that Edward Norton's character in"THE BOURNE LEGACY" attempted to do - Abbott only had one person bumped off. And I could not help but wondering if his efforts were half-assed. I also had a problem with the CIA's reaction to Nykwana Wombosi's death. Following Bourne's failed attempt to kill him, the CIA Director had a fit over the unauthorized attempted hit on the former dictator. But when "The Professor" finally killed Wombossi, no one made a fuss or worried over the possibility that the dictator's death might attract more attention from the media. I thought this was rather sloppy on Gilroy and Herron's part. Finally, the movie's second half was in danger of losing my attention, due to Liman's slow pacing. If it were not for the sequence featuring Bourne and Marie's visit to her friend (or step brother) Eaumon's French farmhouse, I would have fallen asleep and missed Bourne's final confrontation with Conklin.

What else is there to say about "THE BOURNE IDENTITY"? Like I said, it is my second favorite of the four movies in theBOURNE franchise. In its own way, it is just as good (but not better) than the 1988 miniseries that starred Richard Chamberlain. Not only did the movie featured a first-rate, if flawed screenplay by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron; it also featured fine direction by Doug Liman, along with a superb cast led by Matt Damon who proved to be an excellent Jason Bourne.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"The Wrong Class"




"THE WRONG CLASS"

After two seasons of viewing Britain's ITV series, "DOWNTON ABBEY", it occurred to me that there was something off about Julian Fellowes' portrayal of one of the major characters. That character was Matthew Crawley. And it is an error that I am surprised Fellowes had made. 


"DOWNTON ABBEY" began with news of the sinking of the White Star liner, the R.M.S. Titanic in April 1912. This famous event also caused the deaths of James and Patrick Crawley, the heirs presumptive to the Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham. This disruption in the line for the Grantham earldom forced Lord Grantham to seek his next heir, due to the fact that the title and estates only pass to male Crawleys and not to any of his three daughters. Lord Grantham's new heir turns out to be his third cousin once removed, Matthew Crawley.

Introduced at the end of the series' first episode, Matthew was a solicitor from Manchester, who lives with his widowed mother, former nurse Mrs. Isobel Crawley. When he receives word that he is to be the Earl of Grantham's new heir, Matthew does not seem particular pleased. He was very reluctant to accept Lord Grantham's invitation to move to Downton Abbey and become part of the community. Matthew was only willing to do so, only if he can continue his legal work. Members of the Crawley family such as eldest daughter Lady Mary and her grandmother Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham; along with servants such as butler Charles Carson seemed to confirm Matthew's worst opinions about life among the aristocracy. This hostility was especially apparent in his early relationship with Lady Mary and his reaction to acquiring a new valet/butler for his and Isobel's residence, the Crawley House. Through Matthew's first encounters with his Crawley cousins and Molesley, his new valet/butler; series creator Julian Fellowes emphasized Matthew's social status as a member of the middle-class. And while the majority of the series' fans and media seemed to accept this view, I find it hard to believe and accept.

These same viewers and the media seemed to believe that class structure and status in Edwardian Britain - especially for the upper classes - depended upon the size of an individual's bank account. I am afraid that they would be wrong. Class was viewed differently than it is today. During the era of "DOWNTON ABBEY", an individual's social status was determined by "bloodline", not the amount of money one possessed. This was especially true for members of the upper classes. To be a member of the upper class, one has to be part of a family that has owned land in the form of country estates for several generations. The owner of that estate was only required to in an administrative capacity and required tenant farms to earn an income. In other words, that person would be a member of the landed gentry. When an individual also has a title courtesy of royalty, he or she is considered an aristocrat. And his or her family members are also considered aristocrats . . . including cousins. 

Despite being born in a middle-class environment and practicing a profession that society would view as an example of that particular class, Matthew Crawley was a member of Britain's upper class since birth. More importantly, as third cousin once removed and heir presumptive to the Earl of Grantham, he was also a member of the aristocracy, despite his upbringing. In fact, one can say the same about his late father, Dr. Reginald Crawley. Becoming a physician, marrying a woman from the middle-class and living in that existence did not change Dr. Crawley's social status - something that he passed to his son, Matthew. 

If the Matthew had been born out of wedlock, he would have genuinely been part of the middle-class. If his mother Isobel had been a member of Britain's landed gentry or aristocracy instead of Dr. Crawley, Fellowes would have been correct to label Matthew as middle-class. This fate certainly awaited Lady Sybil and Tom Bronson's infant daughter . . . that is, if Tom had became a successful journalist. The Bronsons' new child should certainly be regarded as someone from a lower class by those from the Crawleys' social circle in Season Four.

Why did Julian Fellowes label Matthew as a member of the middle-class in his script? As a member of the upper class and a peer, he should have known better. Has he, like many others today, developed the habit of judging class solely plutocracy . . . mere wealth? That would have worked if "DOWNTON ABBEY" was set in the present time. But the series is set during a period in Britain in which class was still judged by bloodline, not the size of a bank account. 

To label Matthew Crawley as a middle-class man, due to the environment in which he was raised . . . and despite his legitimate blood connections to the aristocratic Crawleys was a mistake. It was not a mistake that had major consequences on the series' storylines. In fact, it was not a major mistake period. But I cannot help but feel amused whenever someone erroneously label Matthew as a member of the middle-class.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" (2013) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL", a newly created prequel to the 1939 movie, "THE WIZARD OF OZ". Directed by Sam Rami, the movie stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams: 


"OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" (2013) Photo Gallery

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Monday, April 22, 2013

"MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA" (2001) Review




"MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA" (2001) Review

One can categorize the "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" television movies into two categories. The ones made between 1989 and 2001, featured the supporting characters Captain Arthur Hasting, Miss Lemon (Hercule Poirot), and Chief Inspector Japp. The ones made post-2001 sporadically featured the mystery writer, Adriande Oliver. The very last television movie that featured Poirot's close friend, Hastings, turned out to be 2001's "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA"

Based upon Agatha Christie's 1936 novel, "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA" told of Hercule Poirot's investigation into the murder of Louise Leidner, the wife of an American archeologist named Dr. Leidner. The story began with Poirot's arrival in Iraq, who is there to not only visit his friend Captain Arthur Hastings, but also meet with a Russian countess of a past acquaintance. Hastings, who is having marital problems, is there to visit his nephew Bill Coleman, one of Dr. Leidner's assistants. Upon his arrival at the dig, Poirot notices the tension between Mrs. Leidner and the other members of her husband's dig - especially with Richard Carey and Anne Johnson, Dr. Leidner's longtime colleagues. 

Both Poirot and Hastings learn about the series of sightings that have frightening Mrs. Leidner. The latter eventually reveals that she was previously married to a young U.S. State Department diplomat during World War I named Frederick Bosner, who turned out to be a spy for the Germans. Mrs. Leidner had betrayed Bosner to the American government before he was arrested and sentenced to die. But Bosner managed to escape, while he was being transported to prison. Unfortunately, a train accident killed him. Fifteen years passed before Louise eventually married Dr. Leidner. Not long after Poirot learned about the lady's past, someone killed her with a deadly blow to her head with a blunt instrument.

Many Christie fans claim that the 1989-2001 movies were superior to the later ones, because these movies were faithful to the novels. I have seen nearly every "POIROT" television movie in existence. Trust me, only a small handful of the 1989-2001 movies were faithful. And "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA" was not one of them. First of all, Arthur Hastings was not in the 1936 novel. Which meant that Bill Coleman's was not Hasting's nephew. Poirot's assistant in Christie's novel was Louise Leidner's personal nurse, Amy Leatheran. In the 2001 movie, she was among the main suspects. There were other changes. Dr. Leidner's nationality changed from Swedish to American. Several characters from the novel were eliminated.

I only had a few quibbles about "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA". One, I found Clive Exton's addition of Captain Hastings unnecessary. I realize that the movie aired during the last season that featured Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon. But what was the point in including Hastings to the story? His presence merely served as a last touch of nostalgia for many fans of the series and as an impediment to the Amy Leatheran character, whose presence was reduced from Poirot's assistant to minor supporting character. Two, I wish that the movie's running time had been longer. The story featured too many supporting characters and one too many subplots. A running time of And if I must be brutally honest, the solution to Louise Leidner's murder struck me as inconceivable. One has to blame Agatha Christie for this flaw, instead of screenwriter Clive Exton. I could explain how implausible the murderer's identity was, but to do so would give away the mystery.

But I still enjoyed "MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA". Clive Exton did the best he could with a story slightly marred by First of all, I was impressed by the production's use of Tunisia as a stand-in for 1933-36 Iraq. Rob Hinds and his team did an excellent job in re-creating both the setting and era for the movie. They were ably assisted by Kevin Rowley's photography, Chris Wimble's editing and the art direction team - Paul Booth, Nigel Evans and Henry Jaworski. I was especially impressed by Charlotte Holdich's costume designs that perfectly recaptured both the 1930s decade and the movie's setting in the Middle East. 

David Suchet gave his usual top-notch performance as Hercule Poirot. I am also happy to include that he managed to avoid some of his occasional flashes of hammy acting during Poirot's revelation scene. Hugh Fraser gave his last on-screen performance as Arthur Hastings (so far). And although I was not thrilled by the addition of the Hastings character in the movie, I cannot deny that Fraser was first rate. Five other performances really impressed me. Ron Berglas was perfectly subtle as the quiet and scholarly Dr. Leidner, who also happened to be in love with his wife. Barbara Barnes wisely kept control of her portrayal of Louise Leidner, a character that could have easily veered into caricature in the hands of a less able actress. I also enjoyed Dinah Stabb's intelligent portrayal of Anne Johnson, one of Dr. Leidner's colleagues who happened to be in love with him. Christopher Bowen did an excellent job of keeping audiences in the dark regarding his character's (Richard Mason) true feelings for Mrs. Leidner. And Georgina Sowerby injected as much energy as possible into the role of Amy Leatharan, a character reduced by Exton's screenplay.

"MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA" was marred by a running time I found too short and an implausible solution to its murder mystery. But it possessed enough virtues, including an excellent performance by a cast led by David Suchet, an interesting story and a first-rate production team; for me to consider it a very entertaining movie and one I would not hesitate to watch over again.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"ONCE UPON A TIME" - Relationship Mystery





"ONCE UPON A TIME" - Relationship Mystery

Since the seventh episode of "ONCE UPON A TIME" called (1.07) "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", many viewers have assumed that the relationship between the Evil Queen aka Mayor Regina Mills and the Huntsman aka Sheriff Graham was one of rape.  They believed that after ripping his heart from his chest, Regina used it to force him into having sex with her.  Ever since that episode aired, many have accused Regina of being a rapist.

I had believed this as well, until a few weeks ago.  While reading a Tumblr account, someone posted an exchange between one of the show's producers, Adam Horowitz, and a fan.  The latter accused Regina of not only using the Huntsman's heart to have sex with him after she ordered her guards to take him to her bedchamber.  The fan also accused Regina of using Graham's heart of continuing their sexual affairs after the curse led them all to Storybrooke, Maine.  Horowitz hinted otherwise in this Twitter exchange:


If Regina did not use Graham's heart to coerce him into having sex with him - as claimed by Horowitz - how did their sexual affair begin?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Bride of Belthazor" [PG-13] - 6/16




"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"

Chapter Six

The front door swung open and Piper entered the Halliwell manor, followed by her companions. "Here we go," she announced cheerfully. "Home sweet home." 

A sigh left Victor Bennett's mouth. "I don't know if this place was ever home to me, sweetheart."

"Dad," Piper gently admonished the older man. "I'll show you to your room. And then you can clean up and get dressed." She headed toward the staircase.

Victor followed his daughter. "Get dressed for what?"

Piper began to climb the staircase. "For the wedding dinner at the McNeills." Then she shouted, "Phoebe, we're here!" She and Victor paused outside of Wyatt's nursery, where they found the middle Charmed One rocking her ten-month old nephew.

"Phoebe's here?" Victor gaped at his youngest daughter. "In San Francisco?"

Phoebe smiled. "Hey Dad! Welcome back."

"What . . . what are you . . .?"

Piper jerked her father's arm. "Not now, Dad. Later. You need to get dressed, first." She led him to his bedroom.

"What is Phoebe doing here?" Victor demanded. "I thought she was in Hong Kong. With that Jason fellow."

Phoebe appeared in the doorway. "I was," she said. "Jason and I had also received wedding invitations."

"From your ex-husband?"

Piper added, "And Jason's ex-girlfriend."

Victor frowned at her. "What . . .?" He glanced at Phoebe. "What's going on? Look honey, I know that you and Cole had made your peace. And I know that he was as much a victim of the whole Source mess, as you were. But why on earth would you attend his wedding to another woman? And did I hear right? Olivia McNeill was Jason's . . .?"

". . . ex-girlfriend," Phoebe finished with a sigh. "Yeah, that's right. In a nutshell, Olivia and Jason had also made their peace. Then she and Cole had sent wedding invitations to the both of us. I think they were just trying to be polite. Unfortunately, Jason had decided to accept on behalf of both of us. And I couldn't say no . . . because I didn't want Jason to think I was jealous. About Cole's upcoming wedding."

Concern and sympathy mingled in Victor's eyes. "And are you? Jealous, I mean." Before Phoebe could answer, he added, "Sweetheart, it would be okay if you were a bit jealous. It's only natural. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Jason is wondering why he and Olivia didn't work out."

Piper glanced at Phoebe and noticed that the younger woman did not care for her father's last suggestion. Then she glanced at her watch. "Uh-oh, I hate to cut this short guys, but we've got less than three hours to get ready. Now, if only I knew where Paige . . ."

A sharp bang signaled someone slamming a door. Then a voice cried out, "Hey! I'm home!" It was Paige.

"Well," a slightly relieved Piper continued, "I guess we now know. Okay guys, let's get busy." She grabbed Phoebe's arm and pulled the younger woman out of their father's bedroom.

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

A sigh left Claude Dubois' mouth. He stood in front of a large mirror as he struggled to adjust his tie. His wife frowned. "What was that about?" she asked.

"What?" Frustrated by the tie, he turned to Vivian for help.

The middle-aged woman calmly finished the task. "That little sigh of yours. What was that all about?"

"This whole wedding thing," Claude finally confessed. "There's just a whole lot of . . . I don't know . . . craziness going on. Olivia is marrying a half-daemon. Okay, he's now one of the good guys, but still . . . his past makes Andre's look like nothing. And that mother of his . . ."

Vivian interrupted. "Evil or not, she seems like an interesting person. And she obviously loves her son and has no problems with him marrying Olivia."

"Is it any wonder? She knew Jack's great-granddaddy," Claude reminded his wife. "Who also happens to be her own son's godfather. And then there's this whole mess about Jack and his family being related . . . to daemons?"

Rolling her eyes, Vivian pointed out that the Dubois family knew about the McNeills' blood connection to an incubus. "And you're complaining now?"

Claude sighed. "What about the other two daemons they're supposed to be kin to?"

Vivian shot him a hard look. "If you wanna leave now, Claude . . . you can go back to New Orleans, now. This isn't about the McNeills or Cole . . . or even those daemons that Jack is supposed to be related to. This is about Andre becoming your son-in-law, next month. If Jack and Gwen can accept a former daemonic assassin in the family, surely you should be able to accept a former bokor into yours. Or do you wonder if you can?"

He hated it when Vivian exposes his true feelings. It made Claude feel vulnerable and guilty. Yet, his wife's bluntness happened to one of her traits that he valued. "I hope I can," he finally said. "For Cecile's sake. It's just that . . . well, it's hard." A sigh left his mouth. "It's hard to just dismiss all that I've been taught in my life. But I don't want to become like Gwen's daddy. Or her brother for that matter."

"Good," Vivian said with a final pat on his arm. "Now let's go downstairs. We have a party to attend." The couple linked arms and left the bedroom.

-----------

Brion Morgan stood on a balcony that overlooked San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and the bay in the far distance. His eyes barely acknowledge the panoramic view. But his mind seethed with disturbing thoughts.

A slight cough interrupted his reverie. "Ready to leave now, darling," his mother announced. When he failed to move, she added, "Brion?"

"Yes Mother." Brion returned inside Bronwyn's bedroom and found his mother dressed in a deep blue cocktail dress. "You look lovely," he announced.

Bronwyn smiled. "Thank you. You look handsome yourself. Now, let's go." Brion sighed as they linked arms. The elderly woman frowned. "What is it now, Brion?"

Son and mother stopped short near the doorway. "Nothing . . . Mother. It's just . . ." Unable to remain silent, he burst out, "This entire wedding is a mistake! It's wrong! Completely wrong! In two days, a powerful daemon, who happens to be a notorious assassin, is about to become my nephew-in-law! A notorious assassin who was once the Source. Doesn't this disturb you?"

Bronwyn sighed. "I admit that when Gweneth first told us about Olivia and Cole, I was a bit . . . flabbergasted. But she and Jack have convinced me . . ."

"Convinced you? One would think after that debacle with Richard Bannen . . ."

With surprising speed for someone her age, Brion's elderly mother whirled around, blocking his path to the door. "Look here, Brion," she said in a low voice. "It is time you realize that the only one truly responsible for your sister's death was Rhiannon, herself. She had allowed her grief over Tony's death to veer out of control. And if your father and the others can forgive her little . . . murderous spree, you can certainly do the same over Olivia's attack against Dafydd. How long do you plan to bear a grudge against her?"

"I don't . . ." Brion pressed his mouth together and shook his head. "This is not about what Olivia had done to Dafydd, Mother. I'm just concerned over this upcoming marriage to Belthazor. A former daemonic assassin! Aren't you concerned?"

Bronwyn shot back, "After meeting him . . . no. Olivia is in love with him. And it's obvious that he feels the same about her. Gwen and the others seem to regard him as a member of the family."

"Yes, but . . ."

Again, his mother interrupted him. "Brion, when you had asked to accompany me to this wedding, I assumed that you wanted to make your peace with Olivia." The elderly woman's eyes nearly resembled black marble. "Am I wrong?"

Brion wanted to convince his mother that it was wrong to support Olivia's marriage to the notorious Belthazr. But what could he say? She seemed perfectly convinced otherwise. He finally murmured, "No, you're not wrong."

"Good. Now," the elderly woman extended her arm to her son. "I'm ready." Brion linked his arm through hers and led her into the hallway.

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Olivia reached for a glass of champagne from one of the refreshment tables. She took a sip, as her eyes scanned the crowd inside the McNeills' large drawing-room. She felt thankful that her parents had only invited friends and family, and not invited half of San Francisco's high society to this engagement party. It would have been difficult dealing with them. And the only non-magical mortals attending the party were Darryl and Sheila Morris, Carlotta and Marcus from the squad, along with Veronica Altman from Cole's office. And dealing with those three mingling with magic practitioners seemed bad enough.

In the past three or four hours, Olivia had tried to become involved in tonight's celebration. She tried to be happy when Dad had toasted the engaged couple. She tried to be happy when some of the presents were opened. She simply wished that she could enjoy the party. But Cecile's vision about Cole and Idril had left her in a state of anxiety and confusion.

Olivia simply could not understand why Cole would be willing to marry someone like Idril. Someone whom the half-daemon apparently harbored a low opinion. Olivia could understand if Phoebe Halliwell had been in Cecile's vision. Or even a blast from the past like another one of Cole's former girlfriends - Christine Bloom. But Idril? Why would Cole change brides in the first place? Will something happen to break up their engagement?

Longing to clear the cobwebs of questions from her mind, Olivia left the party for a few minutes. After retrieving a coat to ward off the December chill, she headed for the garden, outside. She sat down on her favorite bench. And continued to brood. But not even the garden's scented sanctuary could offer escape from her anxiety. Olivia realized that sooner or later, she would have to face . . .

"Mind if I join you?" a soft, masculine voice asked.

Olivia's heartbeat increased, as she recognized the voice. She glanced up and sure enough, Cole's tall figure loomed before her. "Sure," she said with a dim smile. "Go ahead."

After Cole had filled the empty spot next to hers, he commented, "Why are you sitting outside, like this? Aren't you cold?"

"It's not that cold," Olivia said with a shiver. "And I have a coat." Dammit! Why did he have to remind her?

One of his dark brows formed an arch. "Oh really? Then I can only assume that your reason for being out here in 50 degrees weather is that you're trying to avoid me."

A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "I'm not trying . . . I mean . . . maybe I . . . All right! Maybe I have."

"Why?"

Olivia seared the half-daemon with a sardonic look.

Cole shrugged. "Of course. Idril." He paused before adding, "Here's another question." His blue eyes pierced into Olivia's. "Do you honestly believe I would dump you for someone like Idril?"

Strange. Olivia had expected Cole to ask such a question. Yet, she still found herself taken by surprise. "No, I . . ." She paused - and sighed. "I don't know, Cole. Normally, I would say no. But . . . you have to understand."

"Understand what?"

Another sigh left Olivia's mouth, as she realized that she would finally have to reveal a certain aspect of her life. "I, uh . . . I haven't had much luck with men in life. And I mean with guys I've been serious about." She told Cole about her first love, a high-school football player named Ronnie Whitelaw. He had dumped her about a week or two, after he took her virginity when she was seventeen.

"And then there was Richard," she continued.

Cole frowned. "I know that Richard's death had been difficult for you," Cole said with a frown. "But I don't see how . . ."

Olivia shook her head. "I guess that in a way . . . I felt that he had abandoned me. You see . . . he . . . I had to watch him die."

"But I thought you had been unconscious at the time," Cole insisted. "Because of your aunt's attack."

Closing her eyes, Olivia replied, "Not really. I . . ." She felt Cole's gaze upon her. "I guess that when it came to Richard, I've always found it difficult to talk about his death." She paused. "Especially about that moment when he finally died. I had to watch him die. Slowly. I didn't mean to lie about it, when we first met. It's just . . . we hadn't known each other . . ." She sighed again. "Never mind. I guess the truth is that I had lied."

"I see." Olivia barely heard Cole's voice. Anxiety clenched her heart. Did he really understand her reluctance to discuss that moment of Richard's life? A sigh left the half-daemon's mouth. "Olivia," he added wearily, "I understand. Okay. I mean . . . I'm sure there are other matters that neither of us have brought up. There are some . . . aspects of my life I probably haven't revealed, yet." He gently pressed his hand against one of Olivia's cheeks. "I understand."

"I know," Olivia said with a sigh. "I mean . . . now, I do. It's just . . . well, Richard's death was a horrible moment for me."

Cole added, "Which is why you tend to be insecure when it comes to romance."

The red-haired witch surprised her fiancé when she answered, "Oh, Richard's not the main cause."

"He's not?" Cole said with a frown. "I don't under. . ."

"Adrian Chambers."

"Who?"

Olivia then proceeded to tell Cole about Adrian Chambers, a witch she had dated during her first two years in college. "Adrian's mother was the first in his family to practice witchcraft. Which meant, he had no problem accepting a whitelighter as his guide. Like the Halliwells, he was really into daemon hunting. And I guess I was, too. I think I mainly did it to please him."

Cole snickered, "I bet Leo must have loved this guy."

"Are you kidding? Leo was crazy about Adrian. In fact, one of his friends happened to be Adrian's whitelighter. Someone named Natalie. But she's dead, now. As for Leo, he thought that Adrian and I made the perfect couple - you know, two witches battling evil daemons, together." Olivia hesitated, as she recalled the last days of her college romance. "But . . . Adrian put an end to all that."

The half-daemon drew Olivia closer into his arms, as she shivered. "What happened?"

With a sigh, Olivia explained, "Cecile, Barbara and I had this friend who majored in archeology. He found this artifact that belonged to a daemon named Rashik. Unfortunately, Jared had unintentionally turned it over to another daemon. Someone very unpleasant. We helped Rashik recover the artifact."

"I've heard of Rashik," Cole said. "He wasn't a subject of the Source's, or belonged to anything like the Gimle Order. He was an independent, like Riggerio."

Sadly, Olivia concluded that Adrian had been appalled by her willingness to work with a daemon. "In other words, he had dumped me. Told me that he couldn't remain involved with someone willing to work with 'evil'."

Cole rolled his eyes. "This guy sounds like a prick."

"Prick or not, I was crazy about him. It had really hit me hard, when he dumped me." Olivia paused. "So much so that I tried to win him back. I even began stalking him, but Cecile and Barbara put a stop to that. Even Leo was upset. And that's when Bruce and I had decided that we no longer wanted a whitelighter." She shook her head and sighed. "It took me a long time to get over Adrian. He had a talent for undermining my self-esteem, back then. In fact, I didn't get seriously involved with anyone else for ten years . . . until I met Richard."

Cole said, "And you think that I'll dump you, just as this Adrian had done." Olivia opened her mouth to speak, but the half-daemon continued, "Okay, there was that matter with Phoebe, last summer, but I was on the rebound . . . after you had dumped me, because of that spell Margolin had cast upon you. Remember?"

Olivia nodded. "Yeah, I remember. But this thing with Idril . . . I just don't understand why Cecile would have a vision of you marrying her. You barely like her."

"Hell, I don't like her at all," Cole corrected. "In fact, the only way I could see myself marrying Idril, is for her to cast a spell on me. And . . ." He broke off and stared at Olivia.

Olivia's own eyes grew wide with realization. "Oh Goddess!" she exclaimed. "You think that's it? Is that how she'll end up marrying you? Through a spell?"

"I wouldn't put it past Idril," Cole muttered. "That's how Leo and Margolin got to you." He gently rubbed Olivia's arm, as she snuggled even closer to him.

Olivia planted a light kiss on his jaw. "I wonder . . ." she began.

"You wonder what?"

"I wonder if your mother was right about Idril." Olivia's gaze met Cole's. "That she was behind the attempt to kill me during our engagement party in the Melora dimension, and had poisoned that warlock."

Cole grunted. "I wouldn't be surprised. Poison had always been Idril's forte. But if she comes near any of us again," his voice hardened, "she'll end up one dead daemon."

Again, Olivia kissed his jaw. "Hmmm, my hero."

"Speaking of which, how about rewarding your hero?" Cole said in a suggestive voice. "I . . . wouldn't mind becoming familiar with your old bedroom, again."

A light chuckle escaped from Olivia's mouth. Sometimes, her fiance's audacity never failed to surprise her. "You really amaze me sometimes, Cole."

"Does that mean . . .?"

"Nana is using my old room, right now. And I'm sharing another with Cecile."

A long, silent pause followed before Cole whispered in Olivia's ear, "How about my place?"

Olivia stared into Cole's eyes, which glimmered with desire. She pressed her mouth against his for a passionate kiss. After a brief, yet wet exploration of each other's mouths, she murmured, "Hmmm, now that sounds more promising." And their lips met once more for another kiss.

----------

Phoebe had planned to stick by Jason's side throughout the evening. But when he drifted toward Cecile Dubois in order to discuss business, the Charmed One decided that she would prefer to be elsewhere. She eventually joined her father, who was in deep conversation with Olivia's dad and Uncle Mike, along with Cecile's dad, Claude Dubois.

". . . that you're not uneasy about Olivia marrying . . . well, you know . . . Cole," Victor was saying. "Considering his past."

Jack McNeill stared directly at the other man. "I'm as uneasy as any father who's about to lose his daughter to another man." He glanced at Mr. Dubois. "Right Claude?"

"Fortunately, I won't have to experience that until next month," Mr. Dubois mumbled. "And if Gabrielle ever get married . . . I'll have to go through it, again."

Victor stared at the New Orleans man. "Two daughters, huh?" Then he glanced at Michael McNeill. "What about you, Mike?"

"Two," the younger Mr. McNeill replied. "One is in college right now. And not concerned with marriage, thank God. And the other is too young. Sixteen."

Nodding, Victor continued, "But at least none of your daughters are involved with a daemon. Or a half-daemon."

"Dad!" Phoebe grasped her father's arm.

But Victor did not pay her any attention. "One who used to be evil, I might add. When Phoebe had married Cole, we all thought that his powers were gone."

"Dad!"

Unfortunately, Victor seemed to be on a roll. "But now, he's more powerful than ever. I mean . . . aren't you a little uneasy?"

"Well, sure I am," Jack finally replied. "Just as I'm sure that Cole's mother is uneasy about Olivia. After all, she nearly killed him, last summer." Victor stared at him. "Didn't Phoebe and Piper tell you about what happened between Leo and that Margolin witch?"

Claude Dubois spoke up. "I had heard about that. From Cecile." He shook his head. "Bad business, robbing someone's control like that. Might as well be stealing a person's soul."

His comment stirred up memories of the Valhalla incident for Phoebe. And guilt for what she and Paige had done to Darryl Morris.

Victor replied gruffly, "Yeah, they told me. Let's just say that my opinion of whitelighters took a nosedive . . . again."

"Dad," Phoebe admonished. "Don't forget that Paige is half-whitelighter."

"She's different," Victor said with a wave of his hand. He then paused. "But still . . . Olivia marrying a . . ."

A heavy sigh from Jack interrupted Victor. "Look . . . Victor, I'll give you a few reasons why I have no problems with this marriage. One, I liked Cole from the moment I first met him. Two, the reason is that my gut instinct told me that he would be good for Olivia - although I haven't told her this. Three, he had saved her life when they first met. Four, he happens to be my late great-grandfather's godson." Phoebe gasped. Victor's eyes flew open in shock. Jack continued, "Apparently, the McNeills and the Turners knew each other for quite some time. Five, his Uncle Marbus had started out as a top daemonic assassin and ended up spending the last 143 years helping others as a member of the Gimle Order. Which means that Cole is capable of doing the same. And six, my family has recently discovered that we're descended from three daemons, and not just some 10th century incubus. One of the daemons had been an assassin for the Source. And another is still alive."

From the corner of her eye, Phoebe saw Michael McNeill wince at his brother's last words. Her father, on the other hand, looked flabbergasted. "Oh God," she murmured.

"Say that again?" a dazed Victor asked.

Phoebe jumped in. "Uh, Dad . . . maybe you should get a drink, or something."

But Victor did not seem to be listening. "Did you say that you're descended from three demons?"

Closing her eyes, Phoebe sighed. She did not want to hear anymore of this. "Excuse me," she said. "I'll just . . . oh boy. Excuse me." And she quietly walked away.

The Charmed One decided that she needed a breath of fresh air. Badly. After retrieving her trench coat from a nearby room, Phoebe squared her shoulders as she attempted to find a door that would lead her outside. She finally came upon one of the smaller drawing-rooms that had double French doors that led to the garden. Just as she stepped out on the terrace, she encountered Olivia. "Oh!"

"Hi Phoebe!" the red-haired witch said with a bright smile. "Taking a walk?"

Phoebe smiled feebly. "Just getting some air."

"Okay. See you later." Olivia strolled into the house, wearing an unusually pleased expression.

Phoebe glanced over her shoulder to observe the other witch, who turned right to walk the length of the terrace. Where was Olivia going, and why was she looking so . . .? She turned around and bumped into a tall figure. At that moment, visions of Cole and a dark-haired woman standing before a very familiar man with hooded eyes and a beard. All three stood before a reddish stone altar. Phoebe had the distinct impression that she was witnessing a demonic wedding.

"Phoebe?" Cole's soft voice broke Phoebe out of her trance. She opened her eyes and saw the half-demon staring at her with concerned eyes. "Are you okay?"

"Huh? Oh . . . sure. I'm okay." Phoebe inhaled sharply.

Blue eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Are you sure?" Cole demanded. "Because you look a little dazed for a minute. Almost as if . . ." He paused. "Did you just have a premon . . .?"

A third figure appeared on the terrace. "Phoebe?" The Charmed One's heart sank at the sound of Jason's voice. The blond man glanced at Cole and looked taken aback. Phoebe's stomach made a 360 degree somersault. "Oh . . . uh Cole." The millionaire obviously struggled to look nonchalant. "Um . . . what's going on, here?"

Phoebe sighed. "Nothing, Jason. I was on my way to the garden, when I bumped into Cole."

"Uh-huh." Jason shot another glance at the half-demon. "Tell me Turner, are you in the habit of wearing lipstick?"

Cole's eyes grew wide. "Huh?"

"On your chin. And lips."

Sure enough, Phoebe spotted dark streaks on Cole's jaw and lips. Olivia.

"It's Olivia's lipstick, Dean," Cole replied in a cool voice. "Not Phoebe's."

Phoebe added, "He's right, Jason. Didn't you run into Olivia?"

"No, I didn't," Jason replied in a hard voice.

Cole sighed. "That's because she probably walked along the terrace and entered the house through another room." A sneer appeared on his face. "And if you would bother to check, you would see that the lipstick on my face and that on Phoebe's lips do not match."

Jason blinked momentarily. "Oh . . . uh . . ."

"Excuse me." Cole turned away and headed in the same direction as Olivia.

Phoebe sighed, as she grabbed her boyfriend's arm. "C'mon Jason. I think we might both need some fresh air. Badly." And she steered him down the terrace steps.

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

Unbeknownst to the three people on the terrace, a fourth person had witnessed the entire scene from one of the French doors in the direction opposite from where Olivia and Cole had gone. Once everyone else had disappeared from the terrace, Brion Morgan walked toward the terrace's balustrade.

A perplexed frown marred the aging witch's handsome face. He had seen that expression on Phoebe Halliwell's face before - the gasp, followed by a deer-in-the-headlights look. On numerous occasions, Brion had seen that same expression on one Gilbert Llewellyn's face. And he knew for a fact that his cousin was a seer. Which could only mean that Miss Halliwell possessed the same abilities.

Brion also recalled something else. Miss Halliwell's "vision" may have struck her the moment she bumped into Bel. . . Cole Turner. Had the Charmed One foreseen something horrifying in store for the half-daemon? Or had she learned something worse - that he might be a future threat? Brion had to find out as soon as possible. Before the half-daemon marries his niece.


END OF CHAPER SIX

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"LIFE OF PI" (2012) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "LIFE OF PI", the Oscar winning adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel. Directed by Ang Lee, the movie stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Rafe Spall:


"LIFE OF PI" (2012) Photo Gallery

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