Monday, June 30, 2014
TIME MACHINE: BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR
May 31 to June 12 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War conflict known as the Battle of Cold Harbor. This conflict, which lasted over a period of 13 days, proved to be one of the last battles of the Virginia Overland Campaign, which occurred between May and June of 1864.
The Battle of Cold Harbor is known as one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles fought during the Civil War. On May 31, 1864; the Army of the Potomoc, under the command of Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant and Major-GeneralGeorge G. Meade, swung around the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Robert E. Lee.
The Union cavalry seized the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor, situated 10 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederacy's capital. The cavalry managed to hold that spot against Confederate attacks, until the arrival of the Union infantry. Following reinforcements for both armies, they clashed again on the evening of June 1. During that evening, the Union's VI Corps under Major-General Horatio G. Wright and the XVIII Corps under Major-General William Farrar Smithassaulted the Confederate Army to the west of the crossroads with some success. The following day, the remaining troops of both armies built a series of fortifications seven miles long. Then on June 3, three Union corps attacked the Confederate works on the line's southern end at dawn. They were easily repulsed with heavy casualties.
Further Union attempts to assault the northern end of the line and resume assaults on the southern end between June 4 and June 12 were also futile. Grant sent a telegram to the Defense Department in Washington, warning that he had not"gained no decisive advantage" after four days. He and Lee communicated with each other between June 5 and 7 via notes without coming to an agreement. When Grant formally requested a two-hour cessation of hostilities, it proved to be too late for most of the wounded, who had become bloated corpses. When Grant realized his army was in a stalemate with the Army of Virginia and that frontal assaults were not the answer, he tried the following:
*He sent Major-General David Hunter to cause a commotion with Lee's supplies in the Shenandoah Valley so that the latter would be forced to dispatch reinforcements in that area.
*He dispatched two divisions from the Union cavalry under "Philip Sheridan to to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad near Charlottesville.
*And he planned a stealthy operation to withdraw from Lee's front and move across the James River.
As Grant had hoped, Lee reacted by pulling John C. Breckinridge's division from Cold Harbor and sent to Lynchburg to deal with Major-General David Hunter. And by June 12, he assigned Jubal Early permanent command of the Confederates' Second Corp and send the latter to the Shenandoah Valley. Lee also sent two of his three cavalry divisions in pursuit of Sheridan. This pursuit led to the Battle of Trevilian Station. Despite anticipating the Union Army's shift across the James River, Lee was taken by surprise when it actually happened. And On June 12, the Army of the Potomac finally disengaged to march southeast to cross the James and threaten Petersburg, a crucial rail junction south of Richmond.
The Battle of Cold Harbor proved to be one of the final victories won by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. The Army of the Potomoc under Ulysses Grant lost 10,000 to 13,000 in attempting the futile assaults over a period of twelve days. Between early May and early-to-mid June 1864, the Union had a total of 52,000 casualties. Lee's army had a casualty rate of at least 33,000. Unfortunately, the casualty rate affected the Army of Northern Virginia a lot more. The beginning of the Siege of Petersburg more or less signified the beginning of the end for Lee's army.
If you want to read more detailed information about the Battle of Cold Harbor, please read the following:
*"Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 26 - June 5, 1864" (2014) by Daniel Davis
*"Not War But Murder" (2001) by Ernest B. Furgurson
*"The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Battle of Cold Harbor (2013) by Charles River
Saturday, June 28, 2014
"AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL" (2007) Review
Not long ago, I had written a review of an Agatha Christie television movie called "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL". It was a 1987 adaptation of the writer's 1965 novel. Twenty years later, ITV aired its own version that starred Geraldin McEwan as Miss Jane Marple.
But I am not interested in comparing the two adaptations. Instead, I want to discuss only one of them - the recent 2007 televised film. The movie began with a flashback to the early 1890s in which a young Jane Marple stayed at the fashionable London hotel, Bertram's, with a relative. Sixty years later, the elderly resident of St. Mary Mead's pay another visit to the hotel and discovers that its interior has not really changed over the years. Miss Marple is there She is there to meet an old friend named Lady Selina Hazy, who is visiting for the reading of a will of her millionaire second cousin, who had been declared dead after being missing for seven years and owned Bertram’s. Also there for the reading of the hotel owner's will are his ex-wife Bess, Lady Sedgwick; and daughter Elvira Blake. Bertram's Hotel also seemed to be used as a center to smuggle Nazi war criminals and their stolen treasure; and for jewel thieves.
Christie's 1965 novel is not considered one of her stronger ones and I can see why. The story's murder mystery is rather weak and easy to solve. They mystery behind the hotel proved to be more interesting. The 1987 television movie with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple closely followed the novel. Despite a sluggish pacing, it still proved to be entertaining. Screenwriter Tom McRae decided to "solve" the matter of Christie's narration by "improving" it with major changes. And you know what? It sucked. Big time. Without a doubt, "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL" - at least this 2007 version - is one of the worst Christie adaptations I have ever seen. Period.
One of the first sentences that Miss Marple observes when she arrives at Bertam's after many years is that the hotel had not changed . . . even after sixty years. And yet that was NOT the impression I encountered. In Christie's novel and the 1987 film, the elderly sleuth noticed that the hotel's quiet and elegant atmosphere had remained intact after many years. I NEVER got that impression in this 2007 film . . . certainly not with the noisy bustling going on upon her arrival. To make matters worse, McRae's script had Louis Armstrong and his band break out into a jam session in one of the hotel's ballroom. He is joined by one of the writer's fictional characters, an American-born black jazz singer Amelia Walker. WTF????? I cannot image Louis Armstrong staying at some quaint little London hotel like Bertram's. The screenplay also had the Lady Sedgwick character receiving clumsily written death threats, Nazi war criminals and their hunters disguised as hotel guests. The screenplay even featured an extra murder victim - a hotel maid named Tilly Rice. It also made the actual murder of Bertram's commissionaire a lot more complicated than necessary. And to make matters even more worse, McRae added another maid character named Jane Cooper, who becomes a younger version of Miss Marple - another talented amateur sleuth. And she acquired a love interest of her own - an Inspector Larry Byrd, a World War II veteran with post-traumatic stress. He also replaced the much older Chief Inspector Fred Davy character, as the story's main police investigator. The screenplay allowed the young Miss Cooper to reveal most of the hotel's mysteries before Miss Marple exposed the actual killer.
I do not mind if changes were made to Christie's story. I can think of a good number of Christie adaptations in which changes were made to her original novels and ended up being well-made movies. But I feel that those changes needed to be well-written or be necessary as an improvement to the author's original tale. "At Bertram's Hotel" was not a perfect or near-perfect novel. But the changes made for this particular adaptation did not improve the story. On the contrary, the changes made for "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL" transformed Christie's rather eccentric tale into one big convoluted mess. The only positive change that emerged in this adaptation was a shorter running time of ninety-three (93) minutes. Thanks to this shorter running time, "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL"managed to avoid the occasionally sluggish pacing of the 1987 movie.
The performances in "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL" proved to be a mixed bag. I had nothing against Geraldine McEwan's portrayal of the quiet, yet intelligent Miss Jane Marple. She was her usual more than competent self. I enjoyed her performance so much that I wish that the screenplay had not seen fit to saddle her with the Jane Cooper character. Yes, I hated the idea of another amateur sleuth in this tale. But I must admit that Martine McCutcheon gave a very good performance as Jane. But the producers of"AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MISS MARPLE" want another amateur sleuth that badly, create another series for her . . . or him. Francesca Annis managed to rise above the material given to her and gave a very funny and entertaining performance as Miss Marple's old friend, Lady Selina Hazy. However, why do most or all of Miss Marple friends tend to look more glamorous . . . and older than her? Stephen Mangan gave a solid and intense performance as Inspector Larry Byrd. More importantly, he managed to portray a post-traumatic stress victim without engaging in excessive acting. I was not particularly thrilled by McRae and director Dan Zeff's changes to the Lady Sedgwick character. They replaced Christie's vivacious and elegant socialite/adventuress into a hard-nosed and somewhat cold businesswoman. However, I cannot deny that actress Polly Walker gave a more than competent performance as Lady Sedgwick, despite the changes to the character.
Naturally, there were the performances that either failed to impress me, or I found troubling. I was not that impressed by Emily Beecham's portrayal of the young Elvira Blake. I simply found it unmemorable. I can say the same for Mary Nighy's portrayal of Elvira's friend, Brigit Milford; Vincent Regan's performance as hotel commissionaire Mickey Gorman; Nicholas Burns' portrayal of twin brothers Jack and Joel Britten; and Charles Kay as one Canon Pennyfather, who struck me as a dull and stuffy character. Ed Stoppard portrays a Polish race car driver named Malinowski, who is suspected by many of being a former Nazi. He gave a pretty good performance, although there were a few moments when he dangerously veered into hammy acting. The role of Amelia Walker proved to be singer Mica Paris' second and (so far) last dramatic role. Mind you, she gave a pretty good performance, but the moment she opened her mouth, I immediately knew she was not an American. I found her accent rather exaggerated at times. I have always been impressed by Peter Davidson in the past. But I must admit that I did not care much for his portrayal of hotel employee Hubert Curtain. I found it unnecessarily exaggerated . . . especially in one scene.
What else can I say? "AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL" does featured a good deal of atmosphere. Unfortunately, it struck me as the wrong kind of atmosphere for this particular story. And some of the good performances featured in this movie - especially by Geraldine McEwan, Francesca Annis and Polly Walker - could not save the movie from the shabby screenplay written by Tom MacRae. Honestly, I found the whole thing a mess. I only hope that there will be a better written adaptation some time in the future.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Below are images of "MALEFICENT", the new Disney adaptation of Charles Perrault's 1697 tale, "Sleeping Beauty". Directed by Robert Stromberg, the movie stars Angelina Jolie:
"MALEFICENT" (2014) Photo Gallery
Thursday, June 26, 2014
"WHEN IRISH EYES ARE TALAXIAN"
Due to the chaotic events from Voyager's St. Patrick's Day celebration, Captain Janeway delayed the Senior staff meeting by three hours. Much to Tom's relief. After Tuvok had relieved him from command, he managed to catch at least five hours of sleep before reporting to the ship's Conference Room. Unlike the meeting from three days ago, nearly everyone managed to remain alert. Everyone, saved for Tom and Neelix. The pair had to struggle to keep their eyes opened.
"I'm sure that everyone is looking forward to our latest subspace transmission from Starfleet," the Captain was saying. "I understand that Lieutenant Barclay has sent a special package for the entire crew."
Harry piped up, "I'm just glad that Starfleet didn't make us wait another month." Fortunately, he did not add that the last transmission had resulted in a Maquis takeover of the ship, thanks to an obsessive Bajoran vedek/former Maquis and Tuvok's telepathic abilities.
Janeway gave her youngest senior officer an indulgent smile. "So am I, Harry. Before this meeting ends, there is one last matter to discuss." Her eyes fell directly upon Tom. "Namely, the St. Patrick's Day celebration from yesterday. It did not exactly turn out as Mister Paris had planned." She shrugged.
"I wouldn't call it a complete flop, Captain," Tom drawled. A hint of a wicked smile tugged his lips. "Everyone seemed to have enjoyed him or herself. Immeasurably."
Uneasy eyes stared at the Chief Pilot. Janeway's gray ones narrowed. "Exactly, what did you mean by that, Tom?"
"What I had said, Captain." Tom assumed an innocent expression. "Right Doc? Neelix?"
The Talaxian responded with an eager nod. The EMH, on the other hand, merely uttered a grunt. Seven-of-Nine frowned at her mentor. "Is there something wrong, Doctor? You seemed a bit disgruntled."
"I'm fine, Seven!" the Doctor snapped. The ex-Borg stiffened at the former's curt tone. Which immediately softened. "I mean . . . I feel fine. Perhaps I need to go offline for a few hours. My program has been running for almost 24 hours. I'm sure that the new hologram sent by Mr. Barclay will benefit . . . from my absence."
Tom let out a silent gust of breath. He need to have a long talk with the Doctor about unrequited love.
"What actually happened?" Chakotay asked. "And we want details."
Tom glanced at Neelix. Who glanced at the Doctor. Who merely rolled his eyes and looked away. "Well?" B'Elanna added in an impatient voice. "Aren't you going to tell us?" She faced her husband, who sat next to her. "You've already told me that I was found inside one of the Jeffries tubes. Why I was there, I have no idea. And that Seven was found in the Mess Hall." Something akin to a squeak escaped the Doctor's lips. Tom glared at him.
"Doing what?" Seven demanded.
B'Elanna stared at Tom, who finally answered. "According to Neelix and the Doc, you were trying to tell jokes inside the Mess Hall. To no one in particular." Seven's face turned slightly pink.
"And what was I doing?" Chakotay asked.
Neelix spoke up. "I found you inside the Hydropondics Bay." He gave an embarrassed cough. "You were trying to find your spirit guide."
A loud snicker erupted in the Conference Room. Tom received a sharp jab in the side from his wife. He murmured a quick apology to the silent First Officer.
"Lieutenant Paris has already informed me of my activities," Tuvok coolly added.
Janeway eyed her Chief Security Officer with interest. "Has he?" She turned to Tom. "What exactly did you tell Commander Tuvok?"
"Uh, I didn't find him, Captain," Tom replied. "Neelix did."
All eyes, including Tuvok's, fell upon the Talaxian. Tuvok seemed a bit wary. "Ensign Andrews and I found Commander Tuvok," Neelix replied. "Inside Sullivan's pub. Singing something called 'Falor's Journey'."
Someone groaned. Tom glanced at Harry and smiled. The ensign received a glare from the Vulcan officer. And a smile tugged at Janeway's lips. "I remember hearing 'Falor's Journey' once. Lovely song. Even if it was 348 verses long."
"Oh yes, Captain," Neelix eagerly added. "In fact, you seemed very appreciative of Commander Tuvok's performan . . ." Tom kicked the Talaxian's shin and the latter fell quiet.
One of Janeway's brows rose questioningly. "Yes, Mister Neelix? You were about to say?"
"Uh, you liked the song very much." Neelix paused. "So did Lieutenant Nicoletti."
The look on the Captain's face seemed to indicate that she did not quite believe the cook. However, she did not pursue the matter. "Anyway," she continued, "Since Lieutenant Paris, Neelix, the Doctor and the other . . ."
"What about you, Captain?" Seven interrupted in her usual blunt manner. "Lieutenant Paris and Neelix have failed to inform us how you and Ensign Kim were affected by the Valax."
Harry added, "Well, I'd like to know."
"I'm sure you do," the Doctor said caustically. Fortunately, the other ignored him. Tom and Neelix exchanged uneasy looks. The Doctor's expression looked downright disgruntled.
Tom spoke up. "I found Harry inside the Captain's quarters."
Sharp gasps and intakes of breath filled the room. The Captain responded with an outraged, "I beg your pardon!"
"Oh, you two weren't alone," Tom quickly added, realizing the implication of his words. "Captain, you and Harry led a few others to your quarters for a uh, a party. With Valax. Along with Jenny Delaney. You even," his eyes fell upon the Doctor's forearm, "tried to borrow the Doc's holoemitter for Michael Sullivan."
Relief seeped into Janeway's eyes. And Harry's. Tom privately congratulated for his quick thinking and effective lies. Right after Tuvok had relieved him of command, Tom held an impromptu meeting with the Doctor, Neelix, Andrews and the rest of the Security detail about what they had witnessed. All pledged to never reveal what really happened.
"I want to add one more thing," Janeway said. "I plan to add commendations for Lieutenant Paris, the Doctor, Ensign Andrews and Neelix for their actions during this . . . recent upheaval."
Tom added, "I'd also recommend Ensign Ayala, Lieutenant Carey, Ensign Jenkins and several others for their help, Captain."
Janeway smiled. "Of course. Just leave me a list, Tom, and I'll see to it. All of those who were forced to work a double shift will be allotted an extra shift for off-duty time. And Mister Neelix," she smiled sweetly at the Talaxian, "not only will you get an extra shift off duty, you will also have the pleasure of spending a week cleaning plasma manifolds."
"Captain?" Neelix's orange eyes grew wide. "I don't understand."
"According to the Doctor, you failed to include synthehol in your Valax. Against Starfleet regulations." Janeway's voice hardened slightly at the last two words. "But since you did provide valuable help later on, you will only spend one week cleaning those manifolds. Not two." She gave Neelix a tart smile. "Understand?"
The Talaxian silently nodded.
"Good. Unless there is anything else to add, everyone is dismissed."
"I can't believe that Doc told the Captain about Neelix's Valax," Tom complained hours later, inside the Paris/Torres quarters. He and B'Elanna were preparing for bed. "That was a little petty of him, don't you think?"
B'Elanna heaved a large sigh and crawled into bed. "Between Harry's excitement over the Reginald Barclay hologram and your constant complaints about the Doctor, I swear I'm about to go out of my mind."
Tom joined his wife. "Harry seemed that excited, huh?"
"Aren't you?" B'Elanna gently straightened Tom's slightly mussed hair.
Confusion filled Tom for a brief moment. How could he answer that question? "I don't know," he finally answered. "A part of me is happy that Reg Barclay and Starfleet has finally found a way for us to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. At least for everyone else's sake. Yet, another part of me . . ."
"I know," B'Elanna quietly added. She pressed herself against Tom's side. "I feel the same. I guess both of us have been a lot happier, here in the Delta Quadrant these past years. And now that we're together, I believe we can be happier just about anywhere." Tom gathered his wife in his arms and gave her a tight squeeze.
Silence filled the couple's bedroom for a few minutes, as they contemplated on the day's events. Then B'Elanna broke the silence. "By the way, were you telling the truth about how you found me inside Jeffries tube 37?"
"You were thinking about that?" Tom demanded. B'Elanna gave him a pointed stare and he capitulated. "Okay. If you must know, I was telling the truth. Jarvis did find you inside the tube. And I came to get you."
B'Elanna added, "And I was just sitting there? Drunk?"
After a moment's pause, Tom confessed, "Well, no. Not exactly."
B'Elanna glanced at Tom's wary expression and cringed. "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "I must have done something awful! Like what? Acting very Klingon?"
"Actually, quite the opposite." Tom revealed that he had found her crying. Only, he failed to mention the reason for her tears. "You almost reminded me of your Human self, when we were in the Vidiian mines."
"Why was I crying?"
Tom quickly shook his head. "I haven't the foggiest idea."
Silence greeted the pilot for a few seconds. And then, "Hmmm. Why do you think the Doctor was being petty about Neelix's Valax?" When Tom refused to answer, B'Elanna's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Tom? Was there something else you failed to inform the staff?"
Over and over again, Tom reminded himself of the pledge of secrecy he had sworn with Neelix, the Doctor, Andrews and the others. Until he felt a small warm hand underneath his gray T-shirt. Hands that slid through his chest hairs in an intimate manner. His resolve to maintain secrecy immediately vanished without a trace and Tom revealed what he and the Doctor had stumbled across, inside Harry Kim's quarters.
"Oh my God!" B'Elanna cried out in disbelief. She automatically grabbed a handful of chest hair. "Are you serious?"
Pain shot throughout Tom's chest, as B'Elanna continued to pull at his hair. "Ow! B'Elanna! Watch what you're doing!"
"Huh? Oh." She released her painful grip. "Sorry. But you were serious, weren't you? Starfleet in a threesome with Jenny Delaney and Seven? Our Seven-of-Nine?"
Tom rubbed his chest as he answered, "Yep. Harry finally got his wish. Only he won't remember what happened."
"Are you going to tell him?"
After a moment's contemplation on that possibility, Tom decided he would remain quiet. "I don't think that is a good idea. Can you imagine Harry's reaction if he knew? He'd probably spend the next several years or so, staring at her. Imagining on what could have been. Probably make Seven very nervous."
B'Elanna shook her head. Then she gave her husband a curious stare. "Exactly just how much did you see?" she asked.
"Everything." Tom let out a small chuckle. "Harry and Jenny even invited me to join them."
Again, B'Elanna's eyes narrowed. "Really? May I assume you weren't tempted to join them?"
"Of course you may assume," Tom retorted in a voice that did not exactly express outrage. "Besides, I was too busy wondering how we could enjoy our own little ménage a troi."
Tom rolled on to his left side, facing B'Elanna. "What I had in mind would require the use of one of the holodecks. Just imagine it. You, me and a holographic version of you or me. Sounds interesting, huh?"
A speechless B'Elanna stared at him with wide eyes. Until finally, "Thomas Eugene Paris!" she declared in a shocked voice. "You really have a wicked mind!" A sly smile tugged the corners of her mouth. "Of course, I'm very tempted to consider it."
"So was I. Until I realized we've been doing a spectacular job as a ménage a deux." Tom drew his wife close to his chest. "By the way, I would very much prefer if you never try to talk me into volunteering for command of the Bridge again."
B'Elanna grimaced slightly. "Okay, maybe I got carried away a bit. Especially, since I've been in the Command chair a few times myself. I just thought . . ." Again, she slid her hand underneath his T-shirt. "I thought it would be nice if we both got a little experience commanding the Bridge."
Tom struggled to ignore the busy hand underneath his shirt. And his reactions his body seemed to have generated. Of course, he had a few tricks of his own.
"It's a nice idea," Tom said, as he gently forced his wife on her back. Then he slid the spaghetti straps of her maroon-colored nightgown from her shoulders. "But if you ever try to talk me into commanding the Bridge again," he gently slid the gown down B'Elanna's torso, ". . . well, let's just say you'll be deprived of certain privileges."
B'Elanna's voice grew husky. "Like what?" she demanded.
Tom leaned forward as his teeth captured her lower lip and gave it a few tugs. "Privileges like that," he whispered back. "Or maybe this." His mouth traveled to B'Elanna's right earlobe and suckled it. Meanwhile, his hands continued to push her nightgown to her waist.
A whimper escaped B'Elanna's mouth. "Unlike certain other people," she said in ragged breath, "I'm not susceptible to a few kisses. You'll have to do better than . . . aaah!" Tom's mouth had left her earlobe and settled around the quivering tip of one of her breasts. After a few tugs and kisses, B'Elanna's moans grew louder.
Victory finally claimed Thomas Eugene Paris. "Oh God! All right! All right!" B'Elanna cried between moans. "I surrender! I swear, I promise that I'll never . . . Ah!" Tom's tongue flickered across the engorged nipple. "Kahless! I swear I'll never bring up the subject of Bridge command again! Never!" The last word came out in a breathless rush.
Satisfied, Tom reluctantly withdrew his mouth from his wife's chest. After a few seconds of contemplating his victory, he decided to be magnanimous and lowered his mouth upon hers for an inviting kiss.
NOTE: I would like to thank Annie M and PJ in NH for graciously allowing me to use in my story, their idea of a holographic ménage a troi, featured in their marvelous story, "Scientific Curiousity". Thank you very much, ladies.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Three (2012) of HBO's "BOARDWALK EMPIRE":
"BOARDWALK EMPIRE": TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASON THREE (2012) EPISODES
1. (3.11) "Two Imposters" - In this nail biting episode, Atlantic City political boss Enoch "Nucky" Thompson goes on the run, when nemesis "Gyp" Rossetti and his crew take over the city.; forcing Nucky to seek Albert "Chalky" White's help. Following Rossetti's takeover of the city, Gillian Darmody forces henchman Richard Harrow to leave her whorehouse.
2. (3.09) "The Milkmaid's Lot" - Wounded from the bombing of Babette's in the previous episode, a feverish Nucky struggles to maintain control of his family and operations. Meanwhile, Margaret Thompson plots to runaway with her lover and Nucky's henchman, Owen Sleater.
3. (3.12) "Margate Sands" - In this bloody finale, Richard Harrow takes matters into his own hands, as he attempts to get young Tommy Darmody out of Gillian's whorehouse, now occupied by Rossetti's men. Chalky White, Al Capone help Nucky engage in a bloody battle to regain control of Atlantic City on the latter's behalf.
4. (3.01) "Resolution" - Nucky, his family, friends and business colleagues bring in the New Year of 1923; while former Treasury agent Nelson Van Alden finds himself as a Chicago door-to-door salesman in this colorful season premiere.
5. (3.07) "Sunday Best" - The Easter holiday is the scene of a family reunion between Nucky and Eli's families. "Gyp" Rossetti spends a despondent holiday with his family, while Richard takes young Tommy to dine with Julia Sagorsky and her hostile father.
Monday, June 23, 2014
"GODZILLA" (2014) Review
"Godzilla again?" That was my reaction when I learned about a new Godzilla movie to be released for the summer of 2014. The last movie about the iconic Japanese monster had been released some 16 years ago and was met with a good deal of derision. Mind you, I rather liked the 1998 film, but I did not love it. But . . . I was willing to give this new film a chance.
"GODZILLA" 2014 begins with a montage of atomic test bombings in the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy. In the last montage, a large creature emerges from the ocean depths. The story immediately shifts to the Philippines Islands in 1999, when a pair of scientists named Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a large skeleton discovered inside a collapsed mine. They also discover two egg-shaped pods. The broken one leaves a trail leading to the sea. The Janjira nuclear plant in Japan experiences unusual seismic activity. The plant's American-born supervisor, Joe Brody, sends his wife Sandra and a team of technicians into the reactor to check the sensors. When the team is inside, an explosion occurs, threatening to release radiation to the outside. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin. The disaster is attributed to an earthquake. But Brody suspects otherwise and spends a good number of years investigating the disaster.
Fifteen years later, Brody's son, Ford, has become a U.S. Navy bomb disposal officer, living in San Francisco with his wife and son. When Brody is arrested for trespassing at the Janjira exclusion zone, Ford is forced to travel to Japan. Convinced of a cover-up of the true cause of the disaster, Brody convinces Ford to accompany him to their old home to retrieve vital seismic data he had recorded before the plant disaster. Father and son discover that Janjira is not contaminated with radiation, unlike the official report. After recovering the data, they are arrested and taken to a facility containing a massive chrysalis within the plant's ruins. As they watch, a colossal winged creature emerges and escapes. After Brody is wounded by the creature, he dies from his wounds. Ford, Serizawa and Graham join a U.S. Navy strike force led by Admiral William Stenz on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga to track the creature, which has been labeled as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal that only one creature can stop MUTO, an ancient alpha predator known as Godzilla. When the MUTO causes the wreck of a Russian submarine, Godzilla emerges to feed off the sub's radiation and pursue MUTO. More bad news arrives when Stenz, Serizawa and Graham learn about the emergence of a female MUTO in Las Vegas. The two scientists suspect that the MUTO from Japan is on his way to breed with his female counterpart.
Well, this was a first . . . at least for me. Godzilla as the main protagonist? That is exactly how writers Max Borenstein and David Callaham portrayed the monster. I suspect this has been done before in previous Godzilla films. Since I have never seen one, aside from the 1998 flick in which he was clearly the antagonist, this was news to me. Did I like the movie? Hmmmm . . . yes and no.
Let me explain. There are aspects of "GODZILLA" that I liked. The cast is pretty decent. Bryan Cranston chewed the scenery during his appearances in the movie's first half hour. Usually, this would bother me, but for once I welcomed his over-the-top acting for I thought it gave the movie a lot of energy. One would think I dislike the rest of the cast. Honestly, I do not. I enjoyed Aaron Johnson-Taylor's subtle portrayal of Brody's more reserved and equally intense son, Ford. Actually, I thought Cranston and Johnson-Taylor balanced each other very well and it seemed a pity that the elder Brody was killed off after a half hour. Elizabeth Olsen, who portrayed Ford's more ellubient wife. Like Cranston, she also balanced very well with Johnson-Taylor. Unfortunately, the two younger stars spent most of the movie away from each other. Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn gave solid performances as Admiral Stenz, who is willing to resort to anything to get rid of MUTO (and perhaps Godzilla) and Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, who believes that the only way to solve the situation regarding MUTO and Godzilla is to let them fight it off.
"GODZILLA" also benefited from some first-class photography, thanks to cinematographer Seamus McGarvey's stunning work. I was especially impressed by one sequence featuring the HALO jump of Ford and a team of Army soldiers into San Francisco in order to prevent a missing warhead from detonating, as shown in this image:
There were some sequences in the movie that I enjoyed, including the original accident at the Janjira plant, the first MUTO's emergence in Japan and especially the arrival of Godzilla and the first MUTO in Honolulu. Unfortunately, "GODZILLA" is not perfect.
I feel that "GODZILLA" lacked two qualities that made the 1998 movie so likable for me - a more centralized story and more colorful characters. I hate to say this, but Borenstein and Callaham's story could have been a little more tighter. Actually, it could have been a lot more tighter. It seemed to be all over the map. Although the movie more or less ended in San Francisco, it took a long time for the story to arrive at that location. Gareth Edwards' lackluster direction did not help. Also, I was not that impressed by the writers' use of Godzilla as the main protagonist. It just did not work for me . At least not now. Perhaps one day, I might learn to embrace the concept. My problem is I found myself wondering why Godzilla went after the MUTOs in the first place. I doubt it he went after them for the sake of the human race.
And this movie lacked some serious characterization. Characters like Admiral Stenz, Doctors Serizawa and Graham were tight-lipped and professional, while struggling to keep their emotions in check. But I did not find them particularly interesting or found myself caring about their fates. I also feel that Juliette Binoche (who portrayed Cranston's doomed wife) and Sally Hawkins (Dr. Vivienne Graham) were simply wasted in this movie. I realize that many critics do not seem to care for Aaron Johnson-Taylor. I simply feel otherwise. I like him a lot as an actor. But he has a rather subtle screen presence and he needed someone more colorful to balance his more quiet persona. He had the explosive Bryan Cranston and an emotional Elizabeth Olsen. But Cranston's character was killed off after the first half hour. And Olson had very few scenes with him. In the end, the writers failed to provide Johnson-Taylor with more colorful characters to balance his style . . . something that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich managed to do for Matthew Broderick in the 1998 film.
Will I bother to purchase a copy of "GODZILLA" when it is released on DVD? Probably. It is far from perfect, but I cannot deny that I liked it. As long as the movie is offered at a discount price, I would be more than willing to buy it for a rainy afternoon.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Below are images from the 1988 action film, "DIE HARD". Based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel, "Nothing Lasts Forever", and directed by John McTiernan, the movie starred Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Vel Johnson and Alan Rickman:
"DIE HARD" (1988) Photo Gallery