“SPOTLIGHT” (2015) Review

“SPOTLIGHT” (2015) Review

Have you ever watched a movie on DVD or cable that you regret not seeing in the movie theaters? I have. In fact, I have seen at least three films nominated for Best Picture . . . after they had been released on DVD. One of those films was the actual Best Picture winner, “SPOTLIGHT”

Directed by Oscar nominee Thomas McCarthy, “SPOTLIGHT” told the story of The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. The story began in 2001 when a new editor named Marty Baron is hired by The Globe. During a staff meeting, Baron brought up the subject of a Boston priest named John Geoghan, who was sexually abusing children and nothing was done – by the Church or the city’s law enforcement – to stop him. Baron urged the “Spotlight” team to investigate. Initially believing that they are following the story of one priest who was moved around several times, the “Spotlight” team eventually uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests throughout Massachusetts and an ongoing cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese, Cardinal Bernard Law.

After watching “SPOTLIGHT”, I easily understood why it had received a good deal of acclaim and award nominations. It really is a first rate movie. Due to the fact that the movie focused on a newspaper investigation team, it allowed moviegoers to enjoy the team’s step-by-step investigation into the priests and their victims in the Boston area. I might as well say it. The movie reminded me of the 1975 Oscar nominee, “ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN” . . . and in a good way. I have not seen a really good movie about investigative journalism in a long time. I also have to commend director Thomas McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer for conveying the “Spotlight” team’s discoveries via interviews and records in a well-paced manner. McCarthy did not rush the“Spotlight” team’s investigation, but he did not drag it as well. In the end, the investigation itself struck me as a fascinating mystery that developed into a horror story that left me feeling appalled.

“SPOTLIGHT” not only received nominations for McCarthy’s direction and the screenplay that he wrote with Singer, it also received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Mark Ruffalo and Best Supporting Actress nomination for Rachel McAdams. The pair portrayed two members of the “Spotlight” team – Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer. I will admit that both gave first-rate performances. The movie also featured excellent performances from Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, who started the whole thing in motion; John Slattery as Assistant Managing Editor Ben Bradlee Jr.; Brian d’Arcy James as reporter Matt Carroll; Jamey Sheridan as Catholic Church attorney Jim Sullivan; and Billy Crudup as attorney Eric MacLeish.

Ironically, my two favorite performances in the movie did not receive any Academy Award or Golden Globe nominations. One came from Stanley Tucci, who portrayed Mitchell Garabedian, a sharp-tongued attorney who represented many sexual abuse victim. I enjoyed Tucci’s sardonic, yet understated performance and how his character pointed out how many Boston officials cooperated with the Catholic Church to cover up the abuses. I also enjoyed Michael Keaton’s ambiguous portrayal of editor and the team’s leader, Walter “Robby” Robinson. Keaton did a great job in not only conveying his character’s leadership, but also his knowledge that The Globe had learned about the abuses years earlier, but had covered it up. It seemed a shame that he did not receive an Academy or Golden Globe nomination.

As much as I enjoyed “SPOTLIGHT” and was impressed by it, a part of me feels that it should not have won the Best Picture award. I think the Academy had awarded the film its top honor simply based upon its topic. The problem for me is that “SPOTLIGHT” simply lacked any real artistry. One might accuse me of being shallow. Perhaps I am. But I would prefer to choose a movie that not only provided a great topic, but also first-rate writing . . . and artistry. I can think of two other films that were also nominated the same year as “SPOTLIGHT” that provided all of those features. Someone once pointed out that if you take away the movie’s topic of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, “SPOTLIGHT” would come off as a solid, paint-by-the numbers film by a first-time director. And you know what? That person was right. There were times when McCarthy’s direction for “SPOTLIGHT” seemed a bit amateurish.

Even though I feel that “SPOTLIGHT” should not have won the Best Picture Oscar for 2015, I cannot deny that it is a basically an first-rate film. I believe that this is due to its fascinating subject, the film’s approach to the topic as a mystery and the excellent cast led by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.

 

 

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1700-1749 Costumes in Movies and Television

Below are images of fashion between 1700 and 1749, found in movies and television productions over the years:

 

1700-1749 COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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“Tom Jones” (1963)

 

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“The First Churchlls” (1969)

 

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“Young Catherine” (1991)

 

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“Rob Roy” (1995)

 

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“Catherine the Great” (1996)

 

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“The History of Tom Jones” (1997)

 

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“Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

 

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“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2005)

 

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“Black Sails” (2014-2017)

 

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“Outlander”:  Seasons One and Two (2014-2015)

“ROSS POLDARK: A NOVEL OF CORNWALL, 1783-1787” (1945) Book Review

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“ROSS POLDARK: A NOVEL OF CORNWALL, 1783-1787” (1945) Book Review

During a period of fifty-seven, writer Winston Graham wrote a series of twelve historical novels that centered around a former British Army officer from Cornwall, who had fought for king and country during the American Revolutionary War. The first of the novels, “ROSS POLDARK: A NOVEL OF CORNWALL, 1783-1787” had been published in 1945. 

“ROSS POLDARK” begins in the fall of 1783. Ross Poldark returns home to Cornwall after spending three years in the Army. The former officer returns to discover that his father had been dead for several months. The estate he had inherited, which includes Nampara and a failing copper mine, had fallen in arrays. His home is being occupied by his father’s two slovenly servants – Jud and Prudie Paynter. Worst of all, he learns that his former love, Elizabeth Chynoweth, had given him up for dead and become engaged to his cousin, Francis Poldark. Ross sets out to restore his fortunes by acquiring financing for one of his family’s derelict tin mines. But dealing with the loss of Elizabeth prove to be a real problem. Emotional salvation seemed to come in the form of a young 13-14 urchin girl named Demelza Carne, whom Ross saves from a mob at the Reduth Fair. Ross hires her as his new kitchen maid. Over the course of three years, she develops into a beautiful 17 year-old, for whom he develops emotional feelings and eventually marries.

I have read a good number of reviews about this novel. With the exception of one or two, most of them seemed pretty positive. Personally, I believe that Winston Graham did a solid job in setting his multi-novel series in motion. I was impressed at how he introduced his major characters, the story’s historical setting and the story lines that reverberated throughout the series. One of those story lines proved to be the various love triangles that centered around Ross Poldark and Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark. I find it amazing that most these different love triangles centered around Ross and Elizabeth, instead of Ross and the woman he would eventually marry – Demelza, who happened to be the saga’s leading lady. The 1945 novel included at least two triangles and a potential third:

*Ross Poldark-Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark-Francis Poldark

*Demelza Carne Poldark-Ross Poldark-Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark

*Ross Poldark-Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark-George Warleggan

Anyone familiar with “ROSS POLDARK” would automatically know that no such triangle existed between Ross, Elizabeth and George. I would agree . . . to a certain extent. George Warleggan was more or less portrayed as a minor supporting character in this novel. His father, Nicholas Warleggan, had a more prominent role. Yet, Graham provided a hint of the Ross-Elizabeth-George triangle during the 1787 Trenwith Christmas party, in which George projected a deferential and infatuated attitude toward her. A sign of things to come, indeed.

In fact, the Christmas party proved to be one of those scenes in which I believe Graham did an excellent job in portraying life in Cornwall during the late 18th century. Other scenes that impressed me include Ross’ arrival at Truro upon his return from the war; Francis and Elizabeth’s wedding reception; Ross’ first meeting with Demelza at the Redruth Fair; and the trial of Jim Carter for poaching, one of Ross’ employees, at Truro’s court of assize. These scenes conveyed to me that Graham did some extended research of Britain’s history during the late Georgian era and life in Cornwall during that period. And although I found his use of this research impressive, I would not say that Graham was the best novelist in conveying historical research into stories. I have read novels that have a stronger historical background.

“ROSS POLDARK” is foremost a story about a war veteran who returns home to find his world drastically changed. I suppose one could compare Graham’s tale to the 1946 movie, “THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES”. But the Ross Poldark character seemed traumatized . . . so to speak, by the ruined state of his fortunes and his loss of fiancee Elizabeth Chynoweth, instead of any combat experiences during the war. It did not take Ross very long to set about restoring his fortunes. But the loss of Elizabeth proved to be another matter. He spent a long period of time drinking heavily over her marriage to his cousin Francis. And when he finally realized that he had fallen in love with Demelza near the novel’s end, he came to another realization that his marriage had not erased his feelings for Elizabeth. It is very rare to come upon a fictional story about war veteran trying to overcome a past trauma that focused on lost love, instead of past combat experiences. Very odd. And rather original, if I must add.

Another aspect of “ROSS POLDARK” that I found impressive was Graham’s strong portrayal of most of its characters. Ross Poldark came off as a very strong and well-rounded character. While many fans tend to view him as some borderline ideal fictional hero, I was too busy noticing his personal flaws to immediately accept this view. And I regard this as a good thing. At a younger age, I would have eagerly accepted Ross as something close to a perfect hero. But not at my current age. One, I find ideal characters rather boring. And two, while I found his virtues – especially his concern for the lower classes – rather admirable, I must admit that Ross’ flaws – his stubbornness, quick temper, massive ego, and occasional bouts of hypocrisy – made him more interesting to me than any personal virtue ever could. A good example would be his attitude toward women. Despite his respectful attitude toward most women below his class, Ross still managed to retain a strong patronizing and slightly sexist attitude. This was especially apparent in one scene in which his cousin-in-law, Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark, requested his help in dealing with Francis’ growing penchant for reckless gambling. Instead of taking Elizabeth seriously, Ross dismissed her request as one from an over-emotional woman exaggerating about a husband’s flaws:

“It occurred to Ross in that moment that half of Elizabeth’s worry might be the eternal feminine bogey of insecurity. Francis drank. Francis gambled and lost money. Francis had been seen about with another woman. Not an amiable story. But not an uncommon one. Inconceivable to Ross in that case, and for Elizabeth it had the proportions of a tragedy. But it was unwise to lose one’s sense of perspective. Other men drank and gambled. Debts were fashionable. Other men found eyes to admire the beauty that was not theirs by right of marriage and to overlook the familiar beauty that was. It did not follow that Francis was taking the shortest route to perdition.”

What I found ironic is that Ross’ sexist dismissal of Elizabeth’s concerns about Francis will eventually bite him in the ass.

Thanks to Graham’s sharp writing, the novel featured other strong characters. One of them include his kitchenmaid-turned-wife, Demelza Carne Poldark. At first I did not know what to make of Demelza. Perhaps the reason I had such difficulty in embracing her as a character is that she was so young. Demelza remained a adolescent throughout the novel, despite becoming a wife who ends the story pregnant. I noticed that anyone in Ross’ life – namely his family and Elizabeth – made her incredibly jealous. And Demelza expressed her jealousy in a rather infantile manner. This was apparent in her internal reaction to Elizabeth’s discovery that she and Ross had sex, following Jim Carter’s trial:

“She is one day too late; just one day. How beautiful she is. How I hate her.”

This jealousy was also evident in her determination to avoid the company of Ross’ cousin Verity Poldark following her marriage to Ross. I find it interesting that neither of the two television adaptations of the novel never explored this situation between the two cousins-in-law. Another example of Demelza’s infantile expression of her jealousy appeared near the end of the novel, when she contemplated on her social success at the Trenwith Christmas party. Even though Demelza had internally expressed pity toward Elizabeth’s marriage to Francis, she also reveled in the idea that Ross still wanted her and not Elizabeth – unaware that Ross’ feelings for Elizabeth have not abated. Demelza’s hostility even managed to shift toward Ruth Treneglos, who had originally expressed hope to become Ross’ wife a few years earlier. I can understand why Graham had portrayed Demelza’s jealousy in such a volatile manner. She was – after all – an adolescent in this story. Despite marrying Ross two-thirds into the story, Demelza remained a teenager from the beginning of the novel to the end.

Graham’s portrayal of Francis and Elizabeth Poldark seemed a bit more . . . limited. Especially Elizabeth. Considering that Ross’ reaction to their marriage played such a major role in the novel’s plot, I found it odd that Graham did not explore the couple’s characters a bit deeper. Ironically, Elizabeth suffered from Graham’s superficial portrayal a lot more than Francis. I am not claiming that her character had suffered from a weaker portrayal than Francis’. I have noticed that many fans of the saga have claimed that she is a cold and haughty character. But after my recent re-reading of “ROSS POLDARK”, I found this hard to accept. Elizabeth struck me as slightly conservative, quiet and private woman, with a pragmatic streak. The only time she became “haughty” was when she lost her temper after Ross had insulted her mother at hers and Francis’ wedding reception. More importantly, she proved to be a very warm and caring parent. But I was surprised to discover upon my last reading of this novel that Elizabeth also harbored an inferiority complex, as revealed in a scene following Geoffrey Charles’ christening:

“Verity had gotten over her disappointment very well, Elizabeth thought. A little quieter, a little more preoccupied with the life of the household. She had wonderful strength of mind and self-reliance. Elizabeth was grateful for her courage. She thought, quite wrongly that she had very little herself, and admired it in Verity.”

Quite wrongly. It seemed as if Graham had inserted those words to explain to the readers that Elizabeth underestimated her own inner strength. And considering the number of times Elizabeth resorted to fainting in dealing with many crisis, I got the feeling that instead of acknowledging or even being aware of her own inner strength, Elizabeth had decided the best way to survive in a world that did not favor women was to play the role that society demanded of her – that of a quietly submissive woman. Francis, on the other hand, had three things going for him – he was not portrayed as an introvert, he did not stand in the way of Ross and Demelza’s relationship, and he is a man. Even though Francis tend to resort to infantile behavior to hide his own securities, sometimes I got the impression that many of Graham’s readers are more tolerant of his character than of Elizabeth’s. Is this due to modern society’s intolerance toward reserved or introverted women? Or is this due to many of Graham’s readers view of Elizabeth as a threat to Ross and Demelza’s romance? I wonder.

“ROSS POLDARK” featured an array of interesting supporting characters. The most colorful to me seemed to be Jud and Prudie Paynter, Ross’ servants; a fellow landowner by the name of Sir Hugh Bodrugan; Ross’ former schoolmaster Reverend Doctor Halse; Demelza’s father, Tom Carne; Elizabeth’s mother Mrs. Chynoweth and Ross’ great-aunt, Agatha Poldark. Ross’ Uncle Charles struck me as a particularly interesting character. If there was one character who matched Elizabeth in terms of pragmatism, it was Charles Poldark. Yet, for such a pragmatic man, I am amazed that he was unable to produce a bigger fortune for his family. And his determination to ensure Francis’ marriage to Elizabeth literally smacked of sheer manipulation. When I first read this novel, I had wondered why Charles was determined to set this marriage in motion. After all, the Chynoweths were cash poor. Did Charles have designs on the Chynoweth land, which would eventually go to the man who marries Elizabeth? I wish Graham had been a little clear on the matter.

The novel featured another love story – one between Francis’ sister, Verity Poldark and a sea captain by the name of Andrew Blamey. I thought Graham did an excellent job in portraying the charming and subtle love story between the plain, yet sweet and soft-spoken Verity and the intense Captain Blamey. But the latter’s revelation of how his alcoholism and temper led to the manslaughter of his wife led both Verity’s father and brother to put a stop in the romance before it could continue. A part of me felt sorry for Verity. Another part of me felt that both Charles and Francis Poldark had done the smart thing. I could not blame them for not wanting a former alcoholic who had killed his wife in a drunken rage anywhere near Verity or within the family ranks. Which makes me wonder why Graham had created this character in the first place.

As I had earlier hinted, I found “ROSS POLDARK” was a solid novel. Solid . . . not perfect or anywhere near perfect. The novel proved to be a good starting point for Graham’s saga, but it was certainly not one of his best. It had its flaws. I have already hinted at one of the novel’s flaws – namely Graham’s portrayal of Francis and Elizabeth Poldark. I realize that Francis and Elizabeth are not the story’s main protagonists. Yet, they are among the saga’s main characters after Ross and Demelza. And the couple played major roles in the protagonists’ lives. Especially Elizabeth. Unfortunately, I discovered upon re-reading the novel that Graham had not explored their characters as much as I wish he had. Characters like Verity Poldark, the Paynters, Jim Carter, Reuben Clemmow and Jinny Carter née Martin seemed to have been written with more depth than either Francis or Elizabeth.

Speaking of Jinny Carter and Reuben Clemmow, this brings me to the sequence that featured Reuben’s attack upon her. I have no problems with Graham’s portrayal of the incident. I thought the scene reeked with tension and violence. What irritated me to no end was that Graham had ended the sequence on a cliffhanger with Clemmow stabbing Jinny before accidentally falling out of a window, while trying to opening it. Following those violent moments, the novel jumped two years later in which the next chapter featured Ross in a meeting with potential shareholders for Wheal Leisure. Readers had to wait until another chapter before learning that Jinny had survived the stabbing and Reuben had fallen to his death. Perhaps other readers had no problems with Graham ending the Jinny-Clemmow sequence on this note. I did. I found it irritating. It seemed as if Graham had spent a great deal of energy in building up to Jinny and Clemmow’s confrontation, only to end it by “telling” how it ended, instead of “showing” it. And why on earth Graham felt the need to jump the story another two years before revealing the conclusion of this plot line?

As someone who has read countless number of novels over the years, I have encountered a good share of them in which the writer has a tendency to shift the point-of-view from one character to another in the middle of the scene. And unfortunately, Winston Graham seemed to be onen of those novelists that share this flaw. This was especially apparent in one scene between Francis and Elizabeth Poldark, following the christening of their son. The scene started with Elizabeth’s point-of-view, as she contemplated on the christening’s success, her love for young Geoffrey Charles and her anticipation for more rest, as she continued her recovery from childbirth. Just before Francis could enter her bedroom for a little marital sex, the scene shifted to his point-of-view and readers experience his anticipation and his disappointment at Elizabeth’s rejection of his attempt to seduce her. To this day, I still wonder why Graham had shifted the viewpoint from one character to another. Why could he not reveal Elizabeth’s point-of-view, when Francis tried to seduce her for some post-natal sex? Or explain to viewers – from her point-of-view – why she wanted more rest, instead of sex with Francis? Was it easier for him to convey Francis’ disappointment? This shift in viewpoint seemed to have left many fans of the saga to assume that Elizabeth simply wanted no more sex with her husband – or that she was sexually frigid.

One last sequence that bothered me in “ROSS POLDARK” focused on Ross and Demelza. Not long after meeting the thirteen (or fourteen) year-old Demelza at the Reduth Fair, Ross brought her home to Nampara. He had wanted Prudie to clean the lice-infested Demelza before the latter could step foot inside the house. But since Prudie was not there, he set about cleaning her himself. Ross ordered Demelza to remove all of her clothes so that he could clean her, using water from the water pump behind the house:

“He worked the handle with vigor. The first rinsing would not get rid of everything but would at least be a beginning. It would leave his position uncompromised. She had an emaciated little body, on which womanhood had onl just begun to fashion its designs.”

The idea of a 23-24 year-old man washing the naked body of a 13-14 year old girl left me feeling very uncomfortable. Squemish. I had noticed that the topic had been mentioned on the The Winston Graham & Poldark Literary Society message board, but those members who had responded did not seem bothered by the scene. I had mentioned it on Tumblr and someone had the same response as me. Perhaps an adult man washing the naked body of an early adolescent girl he had recently met and hired as a servant did not seem out of place in the late 18th century. But as a woman of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, it seemed out of place to me. And I can only wonder how many early-to-mid 20th century readers felt about this scene when the novel was first published in 1945. And honestly . . . why on earth did Graham include this scene in the novel in the first place? Why not allow Prudie to be at Nampara to wash the very young Demelza? Especially since the latter ended up as Ross’ wife some three years later? I mean . . . honestly . . . all I can say is “Ewww!”.

Speaking of Demelza, how old was she? The handling of Demelza’s age struck me as confusing. According to the novel, she was 13 years old when she and Ross first met at the Reduth Fair in the early spring of 1794. When she married Ross in June 1787, she was 17 years old. And during the Christmas party at Trenwith near the end of 1787, she told Francis and Elizabeth’s guests that she was 18 years old. Exactly when was Demelza born? In 1769 or 1770? Perhaps it is wise if I just give up on the matter.

Unlike many fans of the literary POLDARK series, I cannot say that “ROSS POLDARK: A NOVEL OF CORNWALL, 1783-1787” was among the best. In fact, I would not regard it as one of the best historical novels I have ever read. It possessed some flaws that prevent me from proclaiming it as such. But . . . I must admit that Graham had created a solid story that maintained my interest from the beginning to the end. And more importantly, I thought Graham did a pretty good job in using this novel to set up the twelve-book series.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 20/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

Epilogue

Following her failure to kill Wyatt Halliwell and maintain possession of his powers, Daley Bakker and her surviving followers had made their way south to Los Angeles. There, they tended their wounds – and egos – at a house located in Brentwood, an exclusive suburb, just west of the metropolis. The sorceress had purchased the house as a sanctuary from the law, four years ago. 

Someone knocked on the study’s door. Daley looked up from the club soda she was nursing, as Marc entered. “You have a guest. It’s Mr. Dagnabi.”

Daley immediately placed her drink on the desk and stood up. She recognized the name of William Dagnabi, the Nigerian-born bokor, who led the Anansi Order. “Send him in.”

Seconds later, Marc ushered in a tall, lanky African male in his early 50s, with thin, graying hair, hawk-like features and a pair of dark-brown eyes. “Miss Bakker,” he said in a soft, West African accent. “It is good to see you looking well.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dagnabi.” Daley bowed to her leader. “What brings you here to California?”

Mr. Dagnabi sat down in one of the chairs that faced Daley’s desk. “To see you, of course. I heard about your recent profits. Sixty-three million U.S. dollars. Very impressive.”

Daley smiled graciously. “Thank you, sir. Um, would you like a drink? I’m having club soda.”

The bokor shook his head. “Thank you, but no. I just ate dinner. I . . .” He began to pick imaginary lint from his hand-tailored jacket. “I also learned about your experience with a certain group of witches in San Francisco. Along with a mambo, a houngan and a half-daemon.”

Panic mingled with surprise with Daley. “Uh . . . how did you . . .?”

“Visions, Miss Bakker,” Dagnabi coolly replied. “The water element can be very useful in viewing the future.” He paused. “And the past. I used the chalise from my own altar.”

Daley struggled to remain calm. “Mr. Dagnabi, I can assure you that I had no intention of using the boy’s powers against the Order. Or you.”

“Really?” Dagnabi looked slightly disappointed. “I would have tried.” What Daley would describe as a crocodile smile curved the bokor’s lips. “Perhaps I’m just a little more ruthless than you.”

The sorceress smiled nervously and murmured, “Perhaps.”

Dagnabi continued, “The reason I came to see you is I believe that you are the right person for my new project.”

“What new project?”

The bokor paused. “Have you ever heard of an old, legendary bokor named . . . Dako?” Dagnabi then revealed to Daley about his attempt to revive the spirit of an eighteenth-century sorcerer named Dako. After raising said spirit and placing it inside an old urn, Mr. Dagnabi had shipped the urn to a warlock in San Francisco named Edward Crozat. “My friend, Edward, wanted to use Dako’s spirit to get revenge against the witches and daemon who had wiped out his kinsmen. The very group of people with whom you had recent troubles. Alas,” Dagnabi sighed, “they not only killed Edward and his remaining cousins, the mambo you had faced also vanquished Dako’s spirit back to the Underworld, as well.”

Daley demanded, “And you need me to do . . . what?”

Wearing a cryptic smile, the bokor leaned back against his chair. “Well, Miss Bakker, I plan to resurrect Dako.”

“You mean his spirit?” Daley said with a frown.

Dagnabi’s eyes glittered. “I mean . . . Dako. In the flesh. And after his resurrection, he will unleash his power upon the magical world, making the Anansi Order more powerful than ever.”

Daley shook his head. “But what does this have to do with me?”

“Let’s just say that my plan will give both you and Dako a chance for revenge against your former acquaintances in San Francisco.” The bokor leaned forward. “Are you interested?”

Still smarting from the magical disaster in San Francisco, Daley contemplated William Dagnabi’s plan to resurrect a powerful, 200 year-old bokor. It seemed like the perfect way to get back at those who had thwarted her own plans. Was she interested? She smiled at her guest. “Yes sir. I definitely am.”

—————

The four people returned to the apartment building on Fillmore, following the end of the McNeill dinner party. The moment they materialized in front of Olivia’s apartment, Cecile and Andre exchanged a brief, uneasy look. One that Cole had noticed. “Something wrong?” he asked.

Andre coughed slightly. “No. It’s nothing. Well . . .” Again, he and Cecile exchanged a look. Then, “Would you two mind if Cecile and I were alone, tonight? We, uh . . .”

“. . . want to celebrate,” Cecile finished. She looked a lot less embarrassed than her fiancé. “Our engagement. Alone.”

Cole got the message. Apparently, so did Olivia. She smiled at the couple and said, “I don’t mind staying with Cole, tonight.” She shot a blank glance at the half-daemon. “If he doesn’t mind.”

“I don’t,” Cole quietly added.

Olivia nodded. “Okay. Then all I need are my PJs and clothes for tomorrow.” She smiled at the engaged couple. “And then Cole and I will leave you two lovebirds, alone.”

Twenty minutes later, Cole ushered the redhead inside his penthouse. She carried a tote bag that included everything she needed for tonight and tomorrow. “I have two guest rooms,” Cole said, as he escorted Olivia to one of them. “Since Andre has been staying in the other room, I thought you might prefer this one.” He had led her to a neat, sparsely furnished room with a large, Queen-size bed.

The red-haired witch gave him a long stare. “Why would I mind using Andre’s room?”

“Because he’s not the neatest person in the world,” Cole coolly explained. “And unless you’re prepared to clean up his mess just to get a night’s sleep . . .”

Sighing, Olivia replied, “I get the message. I guess I’ll be sleeping in here, tonight.” She dumped her tote bag on the bed. “Well . . . good-night.”

Cole, however, remained rooted where he stood. “Uh, would you like a late-night drink? Or a snack?” he asked.

“Like what?”

The half-daemon closed his eyes and heaved a silent sigh. Apparently, Olivia had decided to be difficult. “I don’t know, Olivia. Fillet Mignon? A shot of vodka? Do you want something before going to bed, or not?”

Coolly, Olivia pointed out that they had just eaten a large meal at her parents’ home. “Now, why would I want or need a snack?”

Unable to hold his temper any longer, Cole snapped. “Because it would give us a chance to talk, goddamnit! There! I said it! I . . . want . . . to . . . talk!”

“Talk about what?”

It seemed a miracle to Cole that he has managed to refrain from incinerating his girlfriend. Instead, he hissed through clenched teeth, “Listen, I realize that I have somehow managed to piss you off. But could you please tell me how and stop playing these damn games?”

Without a hesitation, Olivia retorted, “I’m playing games? You can’t even be honest about how you feel and you accuse me of playing games!”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“You know damn well what I’m talking about!” Olivia glared at Cole. “You had criticized Andre’s decision to propose to Cecile . . . all because of your own fears about getting married! Look, if you no longer like the idea of marriage, Cole . . . that’s fine! But the next time, try not to project your fears upon someone else’s plans!”

Cole shouted back, “I wasn’t . . .” He took a deep breath, he added less heatedly, “All right! I’ll be honest. I am afraid of marriage. There! Okay? I’m . . . I’m afraid of repeating the same kind of marriage I had with Phoebe.”

“Wha . . .?” Olivia shook her head and sighed. “Tell me Cole . . . what marriage?”

The half-daemon frowned at her. “What the hell are you talking about? My marriage! To Phoebe!”

Olivia continued, “You had spent most of your entire marriage being possessed by the Source! And your last months in matrimony were either spent in the Wasteland, or legally separated from Phoebe. Like I said – what marriage?”

His girlfriend’s words dampened Cole’s emotional state. It had never occurred to him that he and Phoebe had never really shared a marriage together. Frowning, he continued, “But the wedding ceremony had been in our . . .”

“In your names?” Olivia finished. “Well, of course! After all, the Source had control of your body. Had stolen your identity. What did you expect?” Before Cole could respond, Olivia added, “Let’s face it. You two really didn’t have much of a marriage. And if you’re worried that history will repeat itself . . . well, too bad. Because I can’t guarantee that you’ll never live happily ever after with some woman. Life is too uncertain to be certain about such a thing. But, if you still believe that marriage isn’t for you . . .” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “Well, I guess I can live with that.”

A long pause followed before Cole murmured, “I never said that marriage wasn’t for me.”

“What?”

He spoke louder. “I never said that marriage wasn’t for me. I only . . . agreed that I was afraid of repeating what happened between Phoebe and me. I mean . . . if I had really wanted to avoid another marriage, would I have bothered to buy an engagement ring?”

Olivia frowned. “What ring?”

Cole realized that he had revealed more than he had intended. “Uh . . . I had bought an engagement ring.” He paused. “About two months ago.”

Green eyes widened in shock. Then a pillow from the bed flew into one of Olivia’s hands. A moment later, the redhead battered him with said pillow, until he found himself being knocked onto the bed. “What the hell?” the half-daemon exclaimed.

“You are such an asshole!” Olivia cried angrily. She continued to rain more blows upon Cole’s face with the pillow. “When exactly were you going to tell me about that damn ring?”

“I was going to tell you!” Cole protested. Then he ripped the pillow from Olivia’s grasp and flung it on the floor. “Eventually. When the time was right.”

Olivia seared him with a contemptuous glare. “The time? You . . . It’s all about timing with you, isn’t it? No wonder you’re such a goddamn control freak!”

Cole sprung up from the bed to face Olivia. “What the hell are you talking about?” he retorted. “Since when have I ever tried to control you?”

Her face now inches from Cole, Olivia shot back, “Not me! The situation. You have this . . . You know, this reminds me of what Leo once told me . . . about your last encounter with the Thorn Brotherhood. After you had helped the Halliwells stop them from taking over this company, you decided to stick around your old comrades, instead of using common sense and returning to Phoebe and the others. I mean . . . why, Cole? Why would you do something so monumentally stupid?”

“Look, I was trying to ensure . . .” Cole began. Then he realized that he could not find an explanation that would sound sensible.

Olivia immediately caught on his confusion. “Ensure what? That the Brotherhood and the Source would no longer send zoltars after you? What on earth made you think you could control that situation?”

“I don’t know!” Cole growled. And to his embarrassment, he really did not know.

“And now,” Olivia continued, “I find out that you had bought an engagement ring – TWO MONTHS AGO! What were you waiting for? The right moment to propose? Or did fear allow you to use that excuse? If you wanted to marry me so damn badly, Cole Turner, why don’t you just ASK?”

Cole leaned forward, and retorted through clenched teeth, “Fine! I’ll ask! Will you marry me?”

“Yes!”

The moment Olivia spoke, her reply echoed within the room. The heat between the couple suddenly subsided. They stared at each other with stunned eyes. Cole finally rediscovered his voice. “Did you just . . . uh . . . did you just say yes?”

Olivia quietly murmured, “I guess so.”

She guessed so? Cole shook the confusion from his head. Perhaps he had imagined things. “You . . . uh, you do realize that . . . I had just asked you to marry me. Right? I mean, if you want me to take it back . . .”

“No! I mean . . .” Olivia sighed. “I don’t want you to take it back. Her face turned pink with embarrassment. “Unless you didn’t mean it. Did you?”

Cole stared deeply into a pair of beautiful green eyes that regarded him with a mixture of anxiety, hope and longing. Eyes that perfectly expressed his current emotions. “Why would you think that? Of course I meant it. I’m in love with you.” Then he gently lowered his mouth upon Olivia’s and kissed her. Deeply. Her arms slid around his neck. He grabbed hold of her waist and drew her body closer to his. God, how he loved this woman so much! This crazy, exasperating and very fascinating woman. How could he have doubted her feelings for him?

As their kiss grew more intense, the couple began to explore each other’s mouths with lips and tongues. “Cole,” Olivia managed to gasp between kisses. “Cole, don’t you . . . oh! Don’t you think . . .?”

“Think what?” Cole murmured, before his mouth began to assault the tender curve of Olivia’s neck.

The redhead moaned, “Oh God! Don’t you think . . .?” More kisses followed. Finally, their mouths parted, much to Cole’s dismay. In a breathless voice, Olivia said, “Don’t you think . . . you should give me the ring? Before we celebrate any further?”

Cole considered his new fiancée’s suggestion for a brief moment. Then, “I think the ring can wait.”

“Co . . .!” Before Olivia could protest any further, Cole lowered his mouth upon hers, before they fell upon the bed. And continued their celebration.

THE END

Top Favorite Movies of 2017

Below is a list of my favorite movies of 2017( List subject to change):

 

 

TOP FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2017

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1. “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this acclaimed look at the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk, France in 1940. Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance starred.

 

 
 
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2. “Wonder Woman” – Gal Gadot starred in this movie about the D.C. Comics’ heroine Wonder Woman and her experiences during World War I. Patty Jenkins directed.

 

 
 
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3. “Murder on the Orient Express” – Kenneth Branaugh directed and starred in this fifth adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about a murder aboard the famed Orient Express. Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfieffer co-starred.

 

 
 
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4. “I, Tonya” – Margot Robbie starred in this deliciously bizarre biopic about the controversial Olympic ice skater, Tonya Harding. Directed by David Gillespie, the movie co-starred Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney.

 

 
 
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5. “Marshall” – Chadwick Boseman starred in this interesting biopic about an early case of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Josh Gad and Sterling K. Brown co-starred.

 

 
 
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6. “The Post” – Steven Spielberg directed this fascinating look about The Washington Post’s efforts to publish “The Pentagon Papers”, the controversial Department of Defense documents about the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks starred.

 

 
 
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7. “Detroit” – Kathryn Biegelow directed this harrowing look at the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie starred.

 

 
 
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8. “Justice League” – Zack Snyder directed (most of it) this entertaining, yet flawed tale about the formation of the Justice League of America and its battle against the alien villain known as Steppenwolf. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill starred.

 

 
 
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9. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” – Johnny Depp returned as Jack Sparrow in this funny, yet slightly poignant fifth entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise. Directed by Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning, the movie co-starred Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.

 

 
 
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10. “Logan” – Hugh Jackman and director James Manigold reunited for this haunting adaptation of the 2008 Marvel Comics tale, “Old Man Logan”. Patrick Stewart co-stars as Charles Xavier aka “Professor X”.

 

 
 
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Honorable Mention: “Baby Driver” – Edgar Wright wrote and directed this tale about a young Atlanta getaway driver and music lover who is forced to work for a kingpin in order to settle a debt. Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey starred.

“THE MUMMY” (1999) Review

 

“THE MUMMY” (1999) Review

As a rule, I dislike horror movies or thrillers very much. Not only do I dislike today’s slasher films, I am NOT a fan of the old horror classics that feature actors like Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Lon Chaney Jr., and Boris Karloff. In other words, the slasher films disgust me and the old horror classics tend to creep me out. 

One of those old horror classics happened to be the 1932 movie, ”THE MUMMY”, starring Karloff. It told the story of an ancient Egyptian priest named Imhotep that became a mummy and ended up terrorizing Cairo. Seventy-six years later, director Stephen Sommers remade the old classic into a half-horror/half-adventure tale in the style of Indiana Jones about how members of a treasure-seeking expedition in 1920s Egypt, revived Imhotep, who wrecked havoc upon the expedition camp and Cairo. I had been prepared to ignore this remake, until a relative informed me that this version had been filmed in the style of an Indiana Jones movie. Being a fan of the Lucas/Spielberg movies, I lowered my guard and saw the movie.

Looking back at my decision, eleven years later, I am glad that I had seen ”THE MUMMY”. My relative had been right. The movie felt more like an action-adventure film, with a touch of horror. Well, more than a touch. After all, this was a tale about an Egyptian mummy that came back to life. But I loved every minute of the film. Well . . . almost. But I believe that it was a perfect blend of action, the supernatural, adventure, comedy and romance. My two favorite sequences featured the Medjai (descendants of Pharaoh Seti I’s palace guards) attacking the Nile River steamboat conveying the heroes from Cairo to Hamunaptra, site of the treasure they sought and Imohtep’s remains; and Imohtep’s reign of terror in Cairo, as he sought the three Americans and the Egyptologist who possessed the canopic jars that held the mummy’s preserved organs. I especially enjoyed this last sequence, because I feel that it managed to evoke the surreal and mysterious atmosphere of the old 30s horror films more than any other sequence in the movie.

Another one of the movie’s major virtues turned out to be its cast. Brendan Fraser did a great job in portraying the aggressive soldier-of-fortune, Rick O’Connell. He must have been at least 30 years old around the time he shot ”THE MUMMY”. And I must say that he also managed to project a strong and masculine screen presence, with a touch of sly humor. Creating screen chemistry with Fraser was Rachel Weisz, who portrayed the inexperienced yet enthusiastic archeologist, Dr. Evelyn Carnahan. I really enjoyed how she injected a mixture of charm and spirit into the very ladylike Evelyn. And John Hannah rounded out the golden trio as Jonathan Carnahan, Evelyn’s humorous yet slightly decadent older brother. Hannah was very funny as Evelyn’s self-serving brother, who seemed more interested in making a quick buck, instead of doing hard work.

Kevin J. O’Connor, a favorite of Sommers, gave a sly and hilarious performance as the Hungarian born Beni Gabor, Rick’s amoral former Foreign Legion comrade that becomes Imohtep’s willing minion. O’Connor was especially hilarious in a scene that featured Beni’s attempts to save himself from Imohtep’s wrath by invoking God’s help in different languages. Actor Oded Fehr provided a great deal of dash and intensity as Ardeth Bay, the leader of Medjai. Actors Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, and Tuc Watkins provided plenty of their own comic relief as the three American adventurers seeking treasure from Hamunaptra. Jonathan Hyde provided a stable contrast to their lunacy as the Egyptian archeologist who serves as their expedition’s Egyptology specialist. Patricia Velásquez gave a brief, but very memorable performance as Anck-Su-Namun, the ancient Egyptian courtesan that happened to be the love of Imohtep’s life. Speaking of Imohtep, Arnold Vosloo literally made a name for himself as the imposing and ruthless high priest and future mummy, who becomes obsessed with reuniting with his love through any means possible.

Despite its vast array of virtues, ”THE MUMMY” had its share of flaws. One, some of the humor and so-called wit struck me as rather silly and sophomoric. I also found it annoying that the Rick O’Connell character seemed inclined to constantly use a gun for every situation – especially when they worked fruitlessly against supernatural beings like mummies. Costume designer John Bloomfield did a piss poor job with Rachel Weisz’s costumes. I realize that Westerners in the far reaches of the British Empire tend to dress more conservatively than their fellow citizens in Great Britain. But that was no excuse for why Evelyn wore an outfit and hairstyle dated a decade older than the movie’s 1920s setting:

 

 

However, my biggest problem with the movie happened to be the final showdown between the heroes and Imohtep inside the temple at Hamunaptra. How can I put this? Director Stephen Sommers added new meaning to the phrase ”over-the-top”. Not only did the action and special effects struck me as excessive, but it almost seemed to go on with no end in sight.

Despite my misgivings of ”THE MUMMY”, I still enjoyed the movie very much. It is a fun movie filled with memorable characters, humor, suspense and some genuine fright. For me, it turned out to be one of the better summer blockbusters of the late 1990s.

“THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” (1953) Review

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“THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” (1953) Review

Tyrone Power’s career took a strange turn during the post-World War II years. Although he still managed to maintain his position as one of Twentieth Century Fox’s top stars during the remainder of the 1940s, something happened as the 1950s dawned. Powers still found himself in Grade A movies during that particular decade. But he also seemed to appear in a growing number of standard costume melodramas. 

Twentieth Century Fox lent Powers to Universal Pictures to star in the 1953 drama called “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER”. Directed by Rudolph Maté, “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” told the story of a New York-born gambler named Mark Fallon, who moves to New Orleans with ambitions to create his own gambling casino. During the riverboat journey down the Mississippi River, Mark becomes the friend and protégé of an older gambler named Kansas John Polly. The pair also run afoul of a crooked gambler and two Creole siblings named Angelique and Laurent Dureau. During a poker game, Mark exposes the crooked gambler. Also Laurent Dureau loses all of his money and his sister’s priceless necklace during the game. Upon his arrival in New Orleans, Mark becomes acquainted with the Dureaus’ father, Edmond Dureau. The latter admires Mark and realizes that the younger man is in love with Angelique. Unfortunately, she refuses to acknowledge Mark and sets matrimonial sights upon a friend of her brother’s, banker George Elwood. Mark and Kansas John meet and help Ann Conant, the daughter of an unlucky gambler who had committed suicide. She helps the two friends build their casino, yet at the same time, falls in love with Mark. And both she and Mark become uncomfortably aware that Laurent Dureau has fallen in love with her.

While reading the synopsis of this film, I noticed that it was identified as an adventure film. “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” does feature some action sequences that include a fist fight aboard a riverboat, at least two duels and a murder attempt. But for some reason, I am hard pressed to consider it an adventure film. There seemed to be a lot more drama and action in this film. Especially melodrama. Production wise, “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” struck me as an attractive looking film. Being a constant visitor of the Universal Studios theme park, it was easy to recognize some of the exterior scenes from the studio’s back lot. I doubt that “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” had the budget to be shot on location in Louisiana. But I still would not describe it as cheap looking for a standard melodrama, thanks to Irving Glassberg’s sharp photography. Even Bill Thomas’ costume designs added to the film’s visual style. However, there was one costume worn by leading lady Piper Laurie that reflected the early 1950s, instead of the early 1850s.

I have no problems with the movie’s performances. Tyrone Powers gave a subtle, yet excellent performance as the good-hearted Mark Fallon, who had not only become enamored of New Orleans society, but also the leading lady. His chemistry with Piper Laurie struck me as pretty solid, but not particularly striking. I think Laurie’s portrayal of the aristocratic and hot-tempered Angelique seemed a bit too fiery . . . and possibly too young for the more sedate Powers. The actor seemed to have better chemistry with Julie Adams, who portrayed the sweet-tempered, yet practical and mature Ann Conant. I found myself wishing that her character was Powers’ leading lady. The lead actor certainly clicked with John McIntire, who portrayed Mark’s close friend, Kansas John Polly. The two men seemed to have created their own on-screen bromance with considerable ease. John Bear gave a very credible performance as Laurent Dureau, the careless, yet passionate young scion who happened to be the leading lady’s brother. Paul Cavanaugh was equally competent as Angelique and Laurent’s elegant father, Edmond Dureau. I would comment on the rest of the cast. But if I must be honest, I found them unmemorable . . . including Ron Randell, who portrayed Angelique’s corrupt husband, George Elwood.

While reading about the film, I also learned that “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” was a big hit during early 1953. Leslie I. Carey, even managed to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording for his work on the movie. But you know what? Despite the decent production designs, visual styles and solid performances from the cast, I have a pretty low opinion of “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER”. In fact, I am astounded that this movie was a box office hit. Perhaps that sounded arrogant. Who am I to judge the artistic tastes of others? I certainly do not like for others to judge my tastes or attempt to infringe their tastes upon me. But I have to say that I did not like “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER”.

What was it about the movie that I disliked? Seton I. Miller’s screenplay. I found it very ineffective. In other words, I thought it sucked. Exactly what was this movie about? Mark Fallon’s struggles to build his New Orleans casino? His adventures as a riverboat gambler? His romance (it that is what you want to call it) with Angelique Dureau. Apparently, it is all of the above. But Miller’s story struck me as extremely vague and very episodic. The only storyline that remained consistent from beginning to end was the love story between Mark Fallon and Angelique Dureau. And honestly, it did not strike me as a well constructed love story. The problem seemed to be the character of George Elwood. Instead of marrying him earlier in the story, Angelique did not marry him until the final half hour.

The love story was not the only problem I had with the plot for “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER”. One scene featured the leading characters witnessing a dance number by slaves or free blacks in an area known as Congo Square. I am aware that such performances did occurred in 19th century New Orleans. I found it more than disconcerting that the dancers featured in the movie were white performers in blackface as African-Americans. Mark Fallon’s struggle to build a casino did not come off as much of a struggle to me. In fact, Mark, Kansas John and Ann Conant managed to build the casino within the movie’s second half hour and lose it, thanks to George Elwood’s financial manipulations by the last half hour. Not only did the banker’s financial manipulations concluded the story line regarding the casino in an unsatisfying manner, but the same could be said about how Mark and Angelique’s love story ended. I could go into detail about what happened, but why bother? It would be a waste of time. All I can say is that I found the conclusion of Miller’s story vague, rushed and very unsatisfying.

In a nutshell, “THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER” possessed both a decent visual style and production designs. It also featured solid performances from a cast led by Tyrone Power and Piper Laurie. But the first-class costume melodrama that Universal Pictures set out to create was undermined by a vague and unsatisfying story written by screenwriter Seton I. Miller. It seemed a pity that within the seven to eight years following the end of World War II, Tyrone Power’s career led him to this.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 19/20

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART XIX

Andre and Cole finally returned to the latter’s penthouse after spending nearly six hours at the Halliwells, dealing with the aftermath of Daley Bakker’s attack. “This has sure been an interesting week,” the houngan commented, as he flopped down on the sofa. “Especially after getting engaged through difficult circumstances and dealing with a power hungry bokor.” He glanced at his friend, who seemed to be heading toward the kitchen. “Why is it that every time I’m in this town, we end up battling some kind of supernatural evil? First, it was that succubus who was after Bruce . . . and now this.” 

“It’s only been twice,” Cole said from the kitchen.

“Actually, it’s been more than twice.” Andre glanced down at his arm and noticed a long cut that nearly reached the elbow. “Before we had ran into each other again, Cecile, Olivia, Richard and I had helped Nathalie Green deal with some rather unpleasant fairies who had snatched a child and left a changeling in his place.” Cole returned to the living room and stared at him. “Yeah, I know. Don’t ask. It was a crazy moment.”

Cole’s glance dropped to Andre’s wounded arm. “What happened?” he asked.

Andre sighed. “It’s nothing. Some guy I was fighting managed to cut me with a knife, before I kicked his ass.”

“I’ve got some bandages and alcohol in the night stand, next to my bed,” Cole suggested.

The houngan stared at him. “Why would you need that?”

Red-faced, the half-daemon replied, “For Olivia. I bought it for her.” Andre’s stare remained relentless. “In case she needed it.”

Andre shot his friend a knowing smile and headed for the latter’s bedroom. He opened the top drawer of the nightstand, next to Cole’s large bed. Not only did he find the material needed for his wound, he found something else. Buried underneath some bandages, envelopes and sheets of paper, sat a small, dark-green velvet box. Andre realized that it could only mean one thing. He opened the box and found a small, silver ring with a Celtic heart knot design that surrounded a small emerald inside.

Upon returning to the living room, Andre held up the box. “Hey, what’s this?”

Cole stared at the box and panic filled his eyes. “Uh . . . nothing. That’s a . . . what are you doing . . .?”

“I found it inside your night stand,” Andre replied. “With the bandages.” He glanced at the box. “Is this what I think it is? An engagement ring?”

Looking slightly annoyed, Cole snatched the box from Andre’s grasp. “It’s nothing!” he growled.

“It’s an engagement ring, isn’t it?” Andre insisted. “How long have you had it?”

Cole sighed in defeat. “Since you’re going to persist, I might as well tell you. I had bought it, about two months ago. Not long after my . . . that little summer romance with Phoebe. I was so relieved to be back with Olivia that I bought it during a trip to see my uncle in Dublin. It’s just that I’ve been waiting . . .”

“Waiting for what? The perfect time to ask her?” Andre’s tone expressed doubt at Cole’s explanation. “Man, if you want to marry that woman so badly, ‘now’ is the perfect time to propose. Before you wait too long. You don’t want to repeat my mistake.”

The half-daemon plopped down in the nearest chair and sighed for the second time. “I guess you’re right. It’s just . . . I don’t know. What if she doesn’t want to marry me? What if we do get married and we end up repeating what happened between Phoebe and me?”

“I don’t know, man. But the only way to find out is to take the plunge.” Andre began to tend his wound. “That’s all I can say.” Cole nodded.

It struck Andre odd that a seemingly self-assured person like Cole could be so wracked with doubt. Either the half-daemon had ruthlessly hidden his doubts for a long time. Or this surprisingly insecure behavior was the result of Cole’s relationship with the Halliwells. If the latter happened to be true, Andre found it sad.

———–

A surprise visitor appeared on the Halliwell stoop, when Phoebe opened the front door, the following morning. Anxiety fluttered within her heart. “Jason! What are you doing here?”

The billionaire returned her greeting with a wan smile. “Hey Phoebe. I . . . uh, had called last night, but Piper told me that you had went to bed. That you weren’t feeling well.”

In other words, Piper had failed to mention Jason’s call. Phoebe mentally castigated her older sister. She returned her boyfriend’s smile. “Yeah, I had a bad headache, yesterday.” Which was not far from the truth. She stepped aside. “Why don’t you come in?”

Jason shook his head. “No, I . . . let’s take a walk, instead.”

Phoebe closed the door behind her and followed her boyfriend toward the sidewalk. The couple proceeded to stroll up the street. The Charmed One wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the chill. She had forgotten to bring a jacket or sweater. “I know you’re a little upset over what happened at the McNeills’ party . . .” she began.

“No . . . I’m not. Really.” Jason removed his jacket and draped it over Phoebe’s shoulders. “I understand. You had another family emergency. Wyatt was sick. Or something like that. Right?” His cool tone did not appease Phoebe’s anxiety.

Then a frustrated sigh left the Charmed One’s mouth. “Actually, he was sick, Jason. I get the feeling that you don’t believe me.”

“I believe you, Phoebe,” Jason shot back. “I just don’t see why you and Paige had to disappear without at least a word. I had to find out that you were gone from Gwen McNeill. It’s just . . . what happened to Wyatt’s babysitter? Why didn’t she call Piper?”

Again, Phoebe sighed. “She . . . uh, she did. Okay? Piper called us. And since we were concerned . . . we left. We were only gone for a few hours. Two, at least. Is that such a crime?”

Jason closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “No, Phoebe. It’s not a crime. It’s just . . .” He paused in his tracks, causing Phoebe to do the same. Then he shook his head. “Never mind.” He resumed walking.

Phoebe rushed to keep up with him. “Never mind . . . what? Jason!”

Once more, Jason stopped. He turned to place his hands on Phoebe’s shoulders. “Listen . . . Phoebe, have you thought about what I had asked? Returning to Hong Kong with me?”

“Huh?” Phoebe’s eyes began to blink rapidly. She had forgotten about Jason’s Hong Kong proposal.

The billionaire continued, “I’ll be heading back, early next month. And I want you to come with me. You can still work on your column from there. I’ll have Elise send you your letters.”

Phoebe felt herself torn by Jason’s request. A part of her longed to escape her magic-riddled life and enjoy a solitary one with Jason – especially in an exotic locale like Hong Kong. However, the idea of being away from her family for the second time in her life frightened her. Phoebe could not imagine being away from the Power of Three. “Jason, I . . .”

“Look, I won’t pressure you for an answer. At least not yet,” Jason said, interrupting. “I won’t be leaving until the first week of December. So, could you at least let me know by Thanksgiving?”

A car whizzed by, as Phoebe contemplated an answer. Common sense told her to immediately reject Jason’s offer. And yet . . . she did not possess the heart to say no. “I’ll think about it,” she finally said in a soft voice.

Jason smiled, as he enveloped her into a tight hug.

————

Olivia looked upon her friends with a smile, as Cecile and Andre discussed their engagement, inside the McNeills’ drawing-room. Her parents had decided to hold a private celebration dinner for the newly engaged couple. Among those invited were the Halliwells. The Morrises had to cancel, due to family obligations.

“I can’t believe it!” Paige declared happily, after giving Cecile a peck on the cheek. “Engaged! When will the happy event be?”

Cecile and Andre exchanged a brief glance, before the latter replied, “Three months from now. Mid or late February.”

“In New Orleans?”

Barbara grinned sardonically at her employee. “If you’re worried about not being able to attend Paige, don’t. I’m sure that Maddy won’t mind tending the store . . . while we’re gone.”

“Cool!” Paige responded with a smile.

Olivia noticed the frown on Phoebe’s face. “Uh . . . Paige?” the middle Charmed One began. “What about the Power of Three? Don’t forget that we . . .”

“Oh, c’mon Pheebs! You’ve got to be kidding!” Paige retorted. “You and Piper did just fine, while I was in Scotland, last summer. And don’t forget that week you were in Chicago.”

“Paige . . .”

Andre interrupted, “Hey, you’re all invited to the wedding. All three of you.”

A satisfied smile appeared on Piper’s face. “Hmmm, a trip to New Orleans sounds nice.”

Cecile added, “It’s a great food town. You’ll love it.”

“I had managed to gain ten pounds during my last trip there,” Olivia’s mother added. She sighed and shook her head. “The food was worth every pound. I even managed to add a few local dishes to the menu at Morgan’s.”

Paige’s grin stretched wider. “This trip is looking better, every moment. So, what exactly happens in a Vodoun wedding? Is it similar to . . .?”

The doorbell rang. A few minutes later, Davies returned with Chris Perry in tow. Piper frowned at the whitelighter. “What are you doing here? And why did you ring the doorbell?”

“I couldn’t orb into the house,” Chris replied. From the corner of her eye, Olivia noted the smirk on Harry’s face. “And I just came from the Elders’ Council. They’re concerned about Whatshername – Daley Bakker. And this Anansi Order. They . . . um, they think you should look into it.”

Piper scowled. “And do what? Vanquish them? They’re humans. Unless they’re threatening our lives, there’s nothing we can do about them.”

“Well, didn’t the Bakker woman hire a demon to kill you?”

A slight cough from Cole, interrupted the conversation between the witch and the whitelighter. “Uh, not exactly.”

Everyone stared at the half-daemon. “What do you mean?” Jack McNeill demanded.

Both Cole and Andre revealed details of their visit to the home of Esmeralda Ross, in Santa Fe. The two friends added the stunning news that neither Daley Bakker or any other daemon had hired Nairn to attack Piper and Wyatt.

“Then, who had hired this Nairn?” Olivia’s grandmother demanded.

Cole sighed. “I have no idea. Someone killed her with an arrow before she say anything further.”

“Sounds like a darklighter,” Phoebe suggested.

Andre naysayed the idea. “This Ross woman told us that Nairn’s client wanted Wyatt dead . . . but Piper alive. Why would anyone hire a darklighter to spare a witch, but kill her half-witch/half-whitelighter son?”

“Well, if this Nairn was supposed to spare me, he didn’t exactly try to live up to his contract,” Piper muttered.

Chris added, “It doesn’t matter. The Elders want this order vanquished. Before they can go after Wyatt’s powers, again.”

“But the Anansi Order didn’t go after Wyatt’s powers,” Olivia corrected. “Only Daley Bakker. And she had failed to keep them. What’s the point in going after them now?”

Her father spoke up, taking the others by surprise. “Because the Elders are idiots and have no idea with whom they’re sending Piper and her sisters up against.” His voice dripped with sarcasm. “I’ve heard about the Anansi Order. Even before we had all met Andre. The Order been around for a very long time. And its members are very powerful and very talented sorcerers and sorceresses. I just can’t believe that Natalia Stepanova and Barbara deVilliers would consent to such an idiotic assignment.” He gave Chris a thoughtful stare. “Whose idea was this . . . to go after the Anansi members?”

Chris squirmed with discomfort. “I don’t know if I should . . .”

“Who?” Jack insisted.

After another pause, Chris finally answered, “I think it was Elder Gideon’s idea. He, uh . . .”

“Oh God!” Cole groaned. “Not that bastard! Why am I not surprised?” Andre regarded him questioningly. “He, Phoebe and I had performed a little task regarding the Erebor medallions, last summer. A real asshole.”

Chris protested, “Hey! You’re talking about an Elder.”

“So?” Cole gave the young whitelighter a cool stare. “What are you . . . a fan of his?”

His face now red with embarrassment, Chris shook his head. “Never mind.” He turned to Andre. “Could you provide us some information on this Anansi Order?”

Andre frowned at him. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”

“I’m not,” Piper said. Everyone stared at her. “Look, I know I had first considered going after this Anansi Order or whatever, but I’ve changed my mind. I really don’t see why we have to go after these guys. Wyatt is safe . . . and everything is back to normal. These are not demons we’re talking about. And Olivia now has that dominion spirit’s medallion locked in a safe place. What’s the big deal? Why are the Elders so interested in vanquishing them?”

Jack replied sarcastically, “Because a member of the Order – namely Ms. Bakker – had managed to become the only person to successfully steal Wyatt’s powers. And that makes the Elders nervous.” He said to the three sisters. “If I were you, I wouldn’t go after them. There’s an old saying about how defense is the best offense. Prepare yourselves, in case this Bakker woman or any of her . . . colleagues decides to go after Wyatt, again. See if you can find anymore information about them, if you have to. But I wouldn’t bother going after them. Right now, you have no idea of what you might face.”

Chris retorted, “What are you talking about? They went up against the Source!”

“And barely made it, alive,” Cole murmured. “Even the Source knew better than to cause trouble with the Anansi Order.”

Andre added, “Look, it’s been over four years since I had worked for Victor Lacroix. I was never a member of the Order. And the information I have on them is outdated. Hell, Olivia and Cole know about as much as I do about them. If you want my opinion, I suggest that you all do yourselves a favor and take Mr. McNeill’s advice.”

In the end, Jack and Andre’s arguments won over the Charmed Ones. Except for Phoebe. Like Chris, she wanted to deal with Daley Bakker and the Anansi Order. But Piper and Paige voted against her, deeming it wiser to prepare for any future shenanigans by the sorceress. As the conversation returned to Cecile and Andre’s upcoming wedding, the whitelighter heaved a frustrated sigh and bid the others, good-bye.

END OF PART XIX

NOTE: The end is very near.

FLASHBACK: “SUPERMAN RETURNS” (2006) Review

BRANDON ROUTH portrays Superman, the Last Son of Krypton, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure Superman Returns.

 

 

FLASHBACK: “SUPERMAN RETURNS” (2006) Review

The 2006 Summer movie season was a memorable one for me. I never got around to review movies like“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III”“POSEIDON”“THE DaVINCI’S CODE”, and “X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND”. I had just started on my first blog and never really bothered to put much effort into a movie review. However, I did managed to write a few words about “SUPERMAN RETURNS”

I wish I could say that I had loved “SUPERMAN RETURNS”. I wish I could say that I found it very original. I wish I could . . . but I cannot. Because I would be lying if I had said so. Do not get me wrong . . . “SUPERMAN RETURNS” was a pretty good movie. Well . . . it was entertaining. And the movie featured a first-rate performance from leading man Brandon Routh as Clark Kent aka Superman. I also enjoyed performances from Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, a young Tristan Lake Leabu, Eva Marie Saint, and Sam Huntington. I was especially impressed by Kevin Spacey’s witty take on the villainous Lex Luthor and Parker Posey’s hilarious performance as Luthor’s ditzy henchwoman, Kitty Kowalski. Unfortunately, the movie also turned out to be something of a disappointment for me. It possessed a plot that failed to support its roster of talent.

First of all, I felt that it was a big mistake on director Bryan Singer’s part to continue the story, following 1981’s “SUPERMAN II”. It was bad enough that he had re-used John Williams’ score and Marlon Brando’s image as Jor-El. But he also used plot lines from the 1978 film, “SUPERMAN”(1978). He re-hashed the following:

*Lois’ rooftop meeting with Superman, followed by a flight over Metropolis

*Some of Chris Reeves’ dialogue

*Lex Luthor’s plot to destroy part of the U.S. for a land swindle (which was not handled very effectively).

Singer also borrowed the love triangle from Marvel’s 2004 movie, “SPIDER-MAN 2” . . . but with only a few twists. And the movie’s final action sequence seemed to drag forever.

In the end, I could not tell whether the movie was a sequel to “SUPERMAN II” or a remake of “SUPERMAN”. Very confusing and very disappointing. Although it was a pretty good movie with a first-class cast, it was also the most unoriginal comic book hero flick I have ever seen. Singer could have done better. I rated the movie a “B-“.

 

 

 

“The Fashion Sense of Good Girls Who Go Bad”

“THE FASHION SENSE OF GOOD GIRLS WHO GO BAD”

Recently, I came across an interesting analysis of the Jossverse character, Cordelia Chase, portrayed by Charisma Carpenter. Written by Jenny Crusie, “The Assassination of Cordelia Chase” gave an in-depth look into the changes endured by and inflicted upon the character from both “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”. One of things I found interesting about Ms. Crusie’s essay was a comment she had made about Cordelia’s character in Season Four of “ANGEL”

“From there, things only got worse. Cordy came back dressed like Elvira Queen of the Night and slept with Connor, Angel’s sulky son. (A good topic for another essay: Why do the Good Girls Gone Bad of the Whedon Universe–the Bad Willow, Buffy from Cleveland, Cordelia the Beastmaster, and Blue Fred–always wear too much eyeliner and dress like dominatrixes? Where’s the subtext, the humor, the subtlety?) That Cordy came back with bad fashion sense was a real betrayal; that she came back and cuckolded Angel with a boy she’d considered her son was just gross.”

Ms. Crusie pointed out an interesting thing about many of the female characters in the Jossverse. Whenever many of the “good”females turned dark or evil, they seem to adapt a rather bizarre appearance . . . or simply bad fashion taste. And this was not only apparent in two of the Jossverse television series – “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL”, but also in another WB series, “CHARMED” and the third Indiana Jones film – “INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE”:

“ANGEL”

First, we have Cordelia Chase’s metamorphasis from good/snarky leading lady to evil skank possessed by power-hungry deity and Winifred “Fred” Burkle (Amy Acker) inhales the essence of an old demon named Illyria, dies and has her body used by the latter, turning into a blue Seven-of-Nine without tits:

Cordelia, before her fateful decision in “Tomorrow” (3.22)

Cordelia, Queen of Skank in “Players” (4.16)

Fred . . . perky and pretty in “Just Rewards” (5.02)

A blue/leather Fred/Illyria in “Shells” (5.16)

“BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”

In this series, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller) goes butch in the dark alternate universe, created by Cordelia’s wish for Buffy to never live in Sunnydale . . . and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) becomes the ultimate dominatrix when she turns dark and evil, following the death of her lover, Tara:

Buffy .. . before Cordelia’s deadly wish in “The Wish” (3.09)

Buffy Goes Butch in “The Wish” (3.09)

Willow . . . Before Tara’s Death in “Entropy” (6.18)

Darth Willow in “Two To Go” (6.21)

“CHARMED”

With the exception of Piper and Phoebe (Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano) in the Season Three episode, “Bride and Gloom”, whenever the Halliwell sisters become evil, their fashion sense goes out the window. Of course . . . to be honest, they never really had much fashion sense between Seasons Three and Eight:

Prue before marriage to a warlock in “Bride and Gloom” (3.13)

Goth Queen Prue following her marriage to an evil warlock in “Bride and Gloom” (3.13)

Piper and Phoebe before becoming influenced by Prue’s marriage to the warlock in “Bride and Gloom” (3.13)

Piper and Phoebe remain tasteful, while evil in “Bride and Gloom” (3.13)

Phoebe and Paige (Rose McGowan) are evil and tacky from mirror universe in “It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World – Part I” (6.21)

“INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE” (1989)

Some critic once commented that the costumes for the Dr. Elsa Schneider character (Alison Doody) goes from tasteful to tacky, following her revelation as a Nazi collaborator:

Elsa Schneider Meets Indiana Jones and Marcus Brody

Elsa Schneider, Nazi Commando

It is easy to see that Ms. Crusie knew exactly what she was talking about.