“COPPER”: Top Five Favorite Season One (2012) Episodes

Copper-Episode4-Billboard-Locket

Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of the BBC America series “COPPER”. Created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos, the series stars Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Ato Essandoh: 

“COPPER”: TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASON ONE (2012) Episodes

1-1.02 Husbands and Fathers

1. (1.02) “Husbands and Fathers” – In this brutal episode, New York City detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran set about rescuing child prostitute/abused wife Annie Sullivan from a Manhattan brothel and her perverse customer, a wealthy businessman named Winifred Haverford.

2-1.09 A Day to Give Thanks

2. (1.09) “A Day to Give Thanks” – Following the reappearance of his missing wife Ellen in an asylum, Corky tracks down her former lover in order to learn what really happened to their dead daughter, while he was in the Army. Meanwhile, Confederate agents blackmail Robert Morehouse’s wealthy father into helping their plot to set New York City on fire, following the re-election of Abraham Lincoln.

3-1.06 Arsenic and Old Cake

3. (1.06) “Arsenic and Old Cake” – Corky investigate the death of the dentist of one of his men, who died by arsenic poisoning. Widow Elizabeth Haverford tries to discipline an unruly Annie and return the latter to her abusive husband, a Mr. Reilly. An exhibition boxing match between a young African-American and an Irish-American local politician end with racial tension.

4-1.03 In the Hands of an Angry God

4. (1.03) “In the Hands of an Angry God” – Corky investigates the death of a notoriously racist Irish immigrant and clashes with his African-American friend, Dr. Matthew Freeman when a local black minister becomes the prime suspect.

5-1.07 The Hudson River School

5. (1.07) “The Hudson River School” – Annie struggles with escape from the abusive Mr. Reilly. Elizabeth turns to Robert, when Corky reacts violently to the news that she had turned Annie over to Mr. Reilly.

“GIANT” (1956) Review

“GIANT” (1956) Review

I have always been partial to family sagas. This has been the case since I was in my mid teens. Whether the story manifested in a novel, a television series or miniseries, or even a movie; I would eagerly delve into that particular story if I found it interesting. 

One of those family sagas that caught my interest at a young age was “GIANT”, the 1956 adaptation of Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel about a wealthy Texas family. However, “GIANT” used to be something of an enigma to me. I found it difficult to appreciate the movie’s last hour, which was set in the 1940s and 50s. And I also found myself confused over which leading man to cheer for – Rock Hudson’s Jordan “Bick” Benedict Jr. or James Dean’s Jett Rink. Both characters were portrayed ambiguously. And being a simple-minded teenager, I found this a little difficult to accept. I needed clear cut heroes and villains to understand this story. Because of the ambiguous portrayals of the leading male characters and the story’s shift into the post-World War II era, I avoided “GIANT” for years. But recently, curiosity and maturity drove me to watch the movie again.

Produced and directed by George Stevens, “GIANT” began with the wealthy Bick traveling to Maryland to purchase a horse from a local landowner. During his trip, Bick meets and woos the landowner’s older daughter, Leslie Lynnton. They marry and head back to Bick’s large ranch Reata in Texas, where Leslie is forced to adapt to the semi-arid climate and rough culture of the state’s western region. More importantly, both Leslie and Bick are forced to realize that beneath their sexual chemistry and love for each other, they are two people with different social ideals and cultural backgrounds who barely know one another. And they would have to learn to overcome their differences to become a long-lasting couple. One last obstacle to their union turned out to be Jett Rink, a ranch hand who works for Bick’s older sister, Luz. The ambitious Jett not only hopes to get rich, but also falls secretly in love with Leslie. His feelings for the Maryland woman produces an unspoken rivalry between Jett and Bink – a rivalry that spills into business, when Jett strikes oil on the land given to him by Luz Benedict.

After my latest viewing of “GIANT”, my opinion of the movie had changed. I was finally mature enough to understand the ambiguity of the two leading male characters. I also learned to appreciate the movie’s post-World War II period, thanks to the performances of the leads – Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. But not only did I enjoy how “GIANT” gave a bird’s eye, though somewhat exaggerated view of Texas, I admired how director George Stevens and screenwriters Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat explored the cultural tensions that manifested throughout the state during the early 20th century – especially tensions between the state’s Anglos and those of Mexican descent. “GIANT” also focused on class tensions through the antagonistic relationship between Bick and Rink. This was especially apparent in the movie’s exploration of Texas’ gradual shift from cattle ranching to oil production as its leading industry. And Leslie became a voice for gender equality when she expressed her displeasure at society’s patriarchal order to her husband and his male circle of friends. These tensions served as either character developments or stagnation for our main characters. “GIANT” also explored the gradual change of the state’s leading industry from ranching to oil production

Some of my favorite moments in “GIANT” featured these developments and barriers for the main characters. Jett Rink’s discovery of oil on his land and his confrontation with Bick Benedict proved to be one of those memorable moments and should have served as a development in his character. Aware of the contempt Bick has conveyed toward him, it was easy to wallow in his triumph when he finally confronted the rancher. But Jett’s open leer of Leslie Benedict undermined his moment of triumph and proved to be a sign that newly founded wealth would not improve his character. Leslie’s travails as a bride in Texas was never more apparent than in the barbecue sequence that ended for her in a dead faint. But one of my favorite Leslie moments proved to be the famous scene in which she challenged the status quo of women keeping silent during social gatherings at Reata. The tension between the characters in the scene – especially Leslie and Bick – was deliciously obvious. The first half of “GIANT” did an excellent job of conveying Bick’s arrogance and self-worth as a member of the Benedict family, especially in his scenes with Bick. But my favorite Bick moments proved to be the Christmas Eve 1941 sequence in which audiences become fully aware that he is aging and not as self-confident as he used to be; and the famous roadside diner scene in which he gets into a fistfight with the diner’s bigoted owner and lose.

George Stevens had been wise to film most of the film in Marfa, Texas. Located in the high desert of West Texas, Marfa provided the perfect look for the movie’s setting. Cinematographer William C. Mellor, who had worked with Stevens on a few other films, did a first-rate job in utilizing Marfa’s flat terrain in giving the film its wide and sprawling look – especially for the Reata Ranch setting. Mellor’s photography also served well in certain scenes; including Leslie and Bick’s arrival in Texas, Luz’s brutal ride astride the Maryland horse purchased by her brother, the funeral of a World War II combatant (which brought tears to my eyes, by the way), and Jett striking oil. “GIANT” also benefited from Boris Leven’s production designs and Ralph S. Hurst’s set decorations. The work of both men aptly conveyed the changes at Reata, due to Leslie’s influence and the passage of time. I wish I could say something profound about Dimitri Tiomkin’s score. But the problem is that I have no real memory of it. The best I can say is that Tiomkin’s score blended perfectly what was shown on screen. I have only one complaint and that was Tiomkin and Stevens’ use of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” during the famous diner fight scene and near the end of the movie. I found this use of the song rather bombastic.

If I have one major complaint, it is Marjorie Best’s costume designs. Mind you, some of them were colorful to look at, especially those costumes worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Carroll Baker and the movie’s other actresses. But yes, I had a problem with Best’s costumes. I feel they had failed to reflect the time period in which most of the movie was set – especially those scenes set between the 1920s and 1941. For example, the following images of Elizabeth Taylor are set in the early 1920s:

03 02 01

And the following two images featured actresses Fran Benedict and Elsa Cárdenas in two sequences set in December 1941:

05 04

The blue dress with white trimming worn by Taylor looked as if it could have been worn in the early-to-mid 1950s. I could say the same about the costumes worn by Benedict and Cárdenas. Whereas the outfit worn by Taylor during the “Arrival at Reata”sequence looked as if it had been designed in the early 1930s. No wonder I that for years, I thought “GIANT” began in the early 1930s. It took the realization that Leslie and Bick’s twin children – Jordy and Judy – were in their late teens in the 1941 sequence. Best earned an Academy Award nomination for her work. And while I cannot deny that her costumes looked very attractive and colorful, I feel they were historically inaccurate and perhaps that Oscar nomination was not fully deserved.

What can I say about the acting in “GIANT”? Three of the cast members – Rock Hudson, James Dean and Mercedes McCambridge – earned Academy Award nominations. It seemed a pity that a few others failed to get one. Overall, the actors and actresses did a good job. Those who portrayed the movie’s Mexican-American characters did not fare well. Elsa Cárdenas gave a solid performance as Bick and Leslie’s daughter-in-law, Juanita Benedict. But Juana proved to be a slightly dull and ideal character with little depth. Actually, I could say the same about all of the Latino characters. I had expected Sal Mineo to be given an opportunity to display his acting skills as Angel Obregón II, a laborer’s son. Instead, Mineo barely spoke any lines and simply served as a symbol of young Latino manhood. Both Fran Benedict and Earl Holliman fared slightly better as Judy Benedict and her ranch hand husband, Bob Dave. Other than the pair’s desire to start a smaller ranch, the pair was able to overcome minimal characterizations to give solid performances. Only Carroll Baker and Dennis Hopper were blessed with interesting characters as Jordy Benedict and younger sister Luz Benedict II. And both made the best of it. One of Baker’s finest moments occurred when Luz becomes silently aware that the man she loved – Jett Rink – was merely using her as some kind of substitution for her mother, whom he had remained in love. And Hopper did an excellent job of developing Jordy from a soft-spoken young man longing to reject his father’s overt patriarchal expectations in order to become a doctor, to the still soft-spoken young man with a hot temper and balls of steel.

Those characters who portrayed members of the older generation fared better. Jane Withers had a peach of a role in the character of Leslie’s best friend Vashti Snythe. Withers did an excellent job of conveying Vashti’s character from a very shy young woman to a bolder one, who became more adept at socializing with others. Chill Wills, whom I have never taken seriously as an actor before, gave a skillful and subtle performance as Bick’s uncle, Bawley Benedict. Mercedes McCambridge, on the other hand, was fantastic as Bick’s iron-willed sister, Luz Benedict. For the short period she was on screen, McCambridge nearly took my breath away in a performance that could have easily veered into caricature. I found myself wishing she had remained on the screen longer. At least she managed to earn an Oscar nomination.

James Dean also earned a nomination as the movie’s most enigmatic character, the laconic and very ambitious Jett Rink. I noticed that most critics have labeled Dean’s performance as the best in the movie. I doubt if I would agree. Mind you, he gave a superb performance, especially in the movie’s latter half as the older and corrupted Jett. But in the first half, he had this habit of keeping his hands busy, which deflected attention from his co-stars. And I found this annoying. Also, Stevens had a habit of posing him in these iconic shots that struck me as slightly artificial. The last actor to earn a nomination was Rock Hudson, who portrayed the family’s patriarch Jordan “Bick” Benedict. Although critics have been willing to compliment his performance, they tend to prefer his comedic roles. They are entitled to their opinion, but I truly believe that Hudson gave one of his best performances of his career in “GIANT”. Although I admired his portrayal of the ambiguous Bick, whose likability was marred by his bigotry; I found myself blown away by his portrayal of the middle-aged Bick. There were times when I forgot that he had been 29-30 years old at the time. Elizabeth Taylor was the only one of the three leads who did not receive an Academy nomination. Some have expressed no conflict with this oversight. I cannot agree with them. I feel she deserved a nomination just as much as her two male co-stars. Her Leslie Benedict proved to be the heart and soul of “GIANT”. And Taylor did such a superb job of maintaining this sprawling movie on her 23-24 year-old shoulders. She also skillfully conveyed Leslie’s journey from a “fish-out-of-water”, to a strong matriarch who proved to have a great influence not only on her family, but also her new community.

Looking back, I realized that I had been too young to appreciate “GIANT”, when I first saw it. The movie proved to be a lot better than I first believed. Although it was not perfect – what movie is – I now realize that George Stevens did a phenomenon job of translating Edna Ferber’s novel into this 201 minutes epic. And the amazing thing is that I was not bored one bit. The movie maintained my interest from start to finish, unlike the 1939 movie “GONE WITH THE WIND”, which bored me senseless during its last hour. And I cannot believe that this movie, along with a few others, lost the Best Picture prize to the likes of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”.

Lasagna

Below is an article on the dish known as Lasagna

LASAGNA

The Italian dish known as Lasagne has been popular for years here in the United States . . . ever since the arrival of immigrants from Italy. When the recipe for Lasagne first appeared in an American cookbook, I have no idea. But I discovered, to my surprise, that there are several theories to the origin of Lasagne.

The first theory is that Lasagna originated from an Ancient Roman dish called lasana or lasanum (Latin word for “container”, “pot”) described in the book “De re coquinaria” by Marcus Gavius Apicius. Another theory is that the dish actually originated from an Ancient Greek dish called λάγανον (laganon). This dish was basically a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips.

The most popular theory is that Lasagna originated in Naples, Italy during the Middle Ages. An early recipe for this dish first appeared in the early 14th century cookbook, “Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cookery)”. It bore a slight resemblance to the more modern form of Lasagna. This early recipe featured fermented dough that is flattened into a thin sheet, boiled, sprinkled with cheese and spices, and eaten with the use of a small pointed stick.

Later recipes also written in the 15th century recommended boiling the pasta in a chicken broth and dressing it with cheese and chicken fat, or in one case walnuts. This recipe was adapted for the Lenten Fast. The more traditional form of Lasagna – Lasagne di Carnevale – consisted of local sausage, small fried meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and a Neapolitan ragù sauce. The pasta dough prepared in Southern Italy for Lasagna used semolina and water. It used flour and eggs in Northern Italy, where semolina was not available. In modern-day Italy, the dough for commercial Lasagna is made from semolina (Durum Wheat).

Below is a modern, yet traditional recipe for Lasagna from the All Recipes website:

Easy Lasagna I Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (4.5 ounce) canned mushrooms, drained
1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 (16 ounce) package cottage cheese
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Preparation

Reheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef until brown. Add mushrooms and onions; saute until onions are transparent. Stir in pasta sauce, and heat through.

In a medium size bowl, combine cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, and eggs.

Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan.

Layer with uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and meat sauce. Continue layering until all ingredients are used, reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella. Cover pan with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, and top with remaining half cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

“The Uninvited” [PG-13] – Act II

 

“THE UNINVITED”

ACT II

The Melora Dimension has served as a sanctuary – a literal ‘No Man’s Land’ – from the numerous conflicts that have flared between various factions in the magical world. Arnen, one of the dukes of the dominion spirit, Usiel; had discovered the lush, green dimension, over four thousand years ago. Following a devastating conflict between two wizard covens, Arnen – with Usiel’s permission – decided to transform Melora into a sanctuary where all magical beings – except for deities, who harbored no interest in hobnobbing with non-deities – could find respite from the never-ending battle for power in the universe.

Gweneth McNeill and Cole had revealed all of this to Olivia and the others before the half-daemon teleported the entire family to Melora. But what she had learned did not prepare for the other dimension’s reality. The redhead had visited her share of other dimensions during her fourteen-and-a-half years as a witch, but none could match the sheer lush and natural beauty of Melora. Aside from the Valinor Dimension.

“Good God!” Bruce exclaimed, as his eyes scanned the surroundings.

Barbara clutched her husband’s arm. “No kidding! I can’t think of any spot on Earth that looks this beautiful.”

Cole replied, “Now you know why the Melora dimension has been so popular with the magical world.”

“And no one has tried to take control of it?” Harry asked.

Gweneth commented, “And face the wrath of both Arnen and Usiel? No one dares.”

“Where is this Berisa Resort?” Jack asked.

A sheepish expression appeared on Cole’s face. “Ooops! I, uh . . . I think I may have teleported us to the wrong spot. Hold on, everyone.” Seconds later, the half-daemon beamed the McNeill family to the middle of a long driveway that led to a sprawling building. The Berisa Resort Hotel turned out to be a six-story, villa-style building with a red-tile roof with spirals soaring from it. A wide verandah with wicker chairs scattered across it wrapped around the building’s ground floor. It reminded Olivia of the Coronado Hotel in San Diego – only larger and with more intricate designs.

“This is it,” Cole declared. He led his future wife and in-laws up the driveway and toward the hotel’s entrance. Once inside the lobby, Olivia could not help but gasp out loud. She had never seen such sheer elegance and luxury in her life. Certainly not in any of the luxury hotels and resorts she had visited over the years.

Harry exclaimed, “Wow! And I mean wow!”

“You can say that again,” Olivia’s grandmother commented. “Gwen, why haven’t you told us about this place?”

Gweneth shook her head. “Because I haven’t thought about it, in nearly forty years. But it certainly brings back memories.”

Olivia, Cole and Jack strolled toward the front desk. Behind it stood the hotel clerk, a humanoid male with light blue skin, long earlobes and no hair. The half-daemon asked the latter for directions to the location of the Turner party. The clerk’s dark eyes blinked. “Turner?” He glanced at a large book in front of him. “I’m sorry sir. There is no Turner party booked for this hotel.”

An irritated sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Is there a party hosted by Nimue of the Thorn Order?”

Again, the clerk checked the book. “Ah yes! Yes, there is. The Thorn Order’s party is being held in the Leithian Room. Hosted by Nimue.”

“That would be it,” Cole murmured.

“Hadir!” The clerk summoned a tall, bi-pedal creature with deeper blue skin, two tusk-like ears that flowed from the crown of his head, wide dark eyes and four arms. He wore a uniform similar to that of a bellboy. “We have more visitors for the party in the Leithian Room. Escort them, there.”

The creature . . . or Hadir bowed to Cole and the McNeills. “Please follow me,” he rumbled in a deep voice. He then led them to their destination – a large, elegant ballroom with a black-and-white marble floor, candlelit chandeliers, and a nymph-shaped fountain surrounded by an ottoman. Water sprouted from the nymph’s mouth. “The Leithian Room.”

“Bloody hell!” Gweneth murmured. “Remind me to book this place for the next major family occasion.”

Cole tipped Hadir with some kind of gold currency and the latter disappeared. At that moment, Nimue made her way toward the newcomers, smiling brightly. “Welcome!” she greeted cheerfully. “I’m so glad that you finally made it. Belthazor.” She offered one cheek to her son. Who reluctantly kissed it. “And Olivia.” The demoness grabbed hold of her future daughter-in-law’s hands. “My dear, you look absolutely lovely.”

“Thank you,” Olivia replied with a smile. And so do you.” She shot a glance at her fiancé, who regarded his mother with slight suspicion. “I see that we’re not the first to arrive.”

Nimue added, “You’re among the early arrivals. Marbus and his family are here.” She indicated her brother and his family with a wave of her hand. “Let me introduce you.” She led the McNeills over to one of the refreshment tables – and her brother’s family. “Marbus, look who’s here.”

The jovial daemon greeted his nephew and the McNeills with his trademark good humor. “Well, it’s good to see all of you. Glad you could make it. You remember my wife, Mauve, don’t you?” He indicated a tall, dark-haired elegant woman, who stood beside him. Olivia recalled meeting her at one of the McNeills’ Sunday brunches, nearly two months ago. Mauve had also joined Marbus at the other engagement party, at the St. Francis Hotel. The daemon continued, “And these are my children – Liam and Siobhan.”

Liam turned out to be a tall man who strongly resembled his mother. Like her, he possessed sharp, elegant features and very dark hair and eyes. Siobhan, on the other hand, was a married woman with two children. She shared her father and aunt’s auburn hair and piercing blue eyes. The same eyes that Cole also possessed. Olivia also noticed that her fiancé’s cousin stood an inch shorter than herself.

After all the introductions had been made, Liam said to Olivia, “I must say that it’s nice to finally meet you. It was quite a shock to find out that Cole has finally found someone to marry.”

“Thanks,” Olivia said with a smile. “But I won’t exactly be Cole’s first wife.”

Siobhan’s blue eyes widened. “Of course! Frances!”

Cole rolled his eyes and retorted, “You mean, Phoebe.” He glared at his uncle. “Marbus!”

“What?” the older daemon protested. “I can’t help it if I can’t remember her name, properly.”

Mauve asked, “Is she here? Fra . . . I mean, Phoebe.”

“I don’t think she’s coming,” Jack said. His gaze focused upon the ballroom’s entrance. “But I believe that her sisters have arrived.”

————-

The two figures teleported in front of the hotel’s driveway. One of them – Eric Logan – heaved a sigh. “All right,” he said. “Let’s get this over with.”

His companion gripped his arm. “Wait a minute. How do you plan to get inside? You don’t have an invitation.”

Logan stared at the daemon. “I don’t need an invitation. I have you.”

“Don’t be absurd! I have no intention of introducing you as my personal guest. No one will expect me to show up with a companion. Especially one who’s assigned to kill the bride-to-be.”

A sigh left the warlock’s mouth. “Great! Then it looks as if I’ll have to check in as a guest. And join the party later. As a waiter.” He shook his head is disgust, as he and his companion strode up the driveway. “I should have never accepted this job,” he muttered. “A hit inside the Melora dimension?” He glared at his companion. “Even if I get away with it, sooner or later, Arnen or any of his goons will track me down for violating the dimension’s sanction against violence.”

“Oh please!” The daemon retorted airily. “The so-called ‘sanction against violence’ is not the law in this dimension. It’s just an idea that everyone pays lip service. Don’t worry.”

Logan protested, “I should have went after the witch near her home or job! Not here, in Melora.”

“Artemus felt that the target would be less on her guard, her in Melora.” When Logan failed to respond, his companion expressed impatience. “Listen, if you think you cannot complete this assignment, we’ll find someone who can. Like myself.”

Logan scoffed at the suggestion. “You may be a daemon, but I am the assassin. Or else Artemus and Prax would have never hired me. Don’t worry. I’ll do the job.”

“Fine,” his demonic companion shot back. “Then stop your bitching, so we can get inside.” The warlock glared at the daemon and continued toward the hotel.

————–

Piper felt inclined to pinch herself, as her eyes roamed over the vast ballroom. She had never encountered such beauty, elegance or luxury in her life. Not even in the McNeills’ San Mateo home, Castle Dunleith in Scotland, or the Westin St. Francis’ Colonial Room. Quite simply, the Melora dimension and the Berisa Resort Hotel had completely blown her mind from the moment she, Paige and Chris had arrived.

“There’s something wrong about this place,” Chris commented. He glanced uneasily around the room. “It just doesn’t seem normal for both good and evil to hang together. Like old war buddies at a reunion.”

Piper rolled her eyes. She and Chris sat at one of the tables that surrounded dance floor. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this from a half-whitelighter who fell in love with a witch assassin.”

“It’s not the . . .” Chris broke off and sighed. “Okay, maybe some might consider me falling in love with Bianca as wrong . . .”

“No kidding,” Piper murmured. She reached for her glass of champagne. “Look Chris, let’s put an end to this conversation, okay? You haven’t been honest with us about a lot of things. Especially about you being part witch. By the way, Leo didn’t raise a fuss when we mentioned this place. Why should you?”

Chris snorted with derision. “Yeah, like he would know everything.”

Perturbed by Chris’ continuing hostility toward her former husband, Piper demanded, “What is with you and Leo? Why do you resent him so much?”

A long pause followed before the young whitelighter replied, “Let’s just say that our future relationship isn’t so hot.”

Before Piper could demand a further explanation, Scott Yi appeared at the table with a plate of food. “So, how are you enjoying the Melora dimension?” he asked, before sitting down in an empty chair.

“Great,” Piper replied. She frowned. “I didn’t see Darryl. Are you the only one from the station who’s here?”

Scott replied, “I believe that Darryl did receive an invitation, but I think that he and Sheila were more than satisfied with the party at the St. Francis. If you know what I mean.”

Knowing Darryl’s anxiety toward all things magical, Piper understood perfectly. She glanced at Scott’s plate. “Is that food . . . uh, normal?”

With a shrug, Scott said, “Of course. These are appetizers. Canapés. Smoked Trout, Frittata, Ricotta Cheese and Spinach and little Quiche Lorraine. Haven’t you tried anything, yet?”

Piper’s stomach growled in reply. “To be honest, I didn’t know if I should.”

“Go ahead and try it,” Scott insisted. “Of course, there are some dishes that aren’t from our dimension. But I don’t think that will kill you. Trust me.”

“Well . . .”

Chris spoke up. “I think Mo . . . uh, Piper and I will eat later.”

“Excuse me?” Piper glared at Chris. “Since when did you become my nutritionist? Or babysitter, for that matter?”

The young whitelighter explained, “I just think you should be careful about what you eat in this place.”

“Chris, knock it off! You’re becoming a bore.”

Scott picked up one canapé and commented, “You don’t have to worry about this place. Like I said, it’s quite safe. Most of the time.”

Piper stared at the sorcerer/cop. “I didn’t realize that you were familiar with this place.”

“Oh sure,” Scott replied. “I’ve known about it, since I was in high school. The Chinese call it Lotus Haven. However, this is my first visit.” He sighed. “Just as my uncle had described it.”

A figure in dark-blue loomed before the table’s three occupants. “Yes, it is quite perfect. Isn’t it?” Piper and her companions glanced up at the slim man, who smiled at them. His smile revealed large, white teeth that struck the oldest Halliwell as wolfish. “Hello.” His deep gray eyes focused upon Piper. “May I assume that you are one of the Charmed Ones?”

Both Chris and Scott immediately stiffened. Piper maintained her cool and tartly replied, “You may assume. Do I know you?”

The man . . . or whatever he happened to be, threw back his head and laughed. “I’m afraid that we’ve never met. My name is Guldur, by the way. Emphasis on the last syllable.”

“You’re a demon,” Chris flatly stated.

Guldur stared at the whitelighter. “Why yes, I believe so. Are you, by any chance, a witch? Or a wizard? You look familiar.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “Come to think of it, you fit the description of a whitelighter who had been looking for a daemon I know. A daemon named Gith. Poor bastard ended up dead, over a month ago.”

For reasons that eluded her, Piper immediately came to her whitelighter’s defense. “Actually, my sisters and I were the ones who killed Gith. He was trying to kill us.” She gave the demon a challenging stare. “Is that a problem?”

Again, the demon laughed, taking Piper by surprise. “What do you think?” he finally answered, after his laughter had subsided. Then a deadly light gleamed in his eyes. “Twelve years ago, Gith had arranged the death of a close friend of mine. A very close friend. I even hired a zoltar to find Gith, but it seem that you and your sisters got to him, first.”

Frowning, Scott said, “So, what you’re saying is that . . .”

“. . . the Charmed Ones had done me a favor,” Guldur smoothly finished. He turned to Piper. “I would give you a reward, but something tells me that you wouldn’t accept one from a daemon.” Piper’s only response came as a weak smile.

Cole appeared at the table, looking handsome in a tailored suit. “Perhaps you should accept that reward, Piper. It’s not every day that a daemon as powerful as Guldur would be indebted to a witch.”

“Belthazor!” The other demon turned to shake Cole’s hands. “Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I’ve already met the bride, by the way. Outstanding!”

Cole allowed himself a genuine smile. “Can’t argue with you, there. Speaking of Olivia, have you seen her?”

It was Scott who answered, “I last saw her with Bruce and that friend of yours, Nathalie Green. Near the bar.”

“Thanks.” Before Cole turned away, he said to Guldur, “Since you’re here, I can only assume that Lohdon is here, as well.”

“Who?” Piper asked.

Guldur replied, “Lohdon. The head of my order.”

Cole added, “I had expected to find a few members of the old Thorn Brotherhood, here, but not from the Fornost Order.” His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Something tells me that Lohdon’s presence has more to do with business than my upcoming wedding.”

The other demon’s eyes widened with innocence. “Really, Belthazor! How would I know? Lohdon doesn’t tell me everything. Besides,” his gaze focused past Cole’s shoulder, “I believe that Lohdon should be the least of your worries.”

“Wha . . .?” Cole’s gaze followed Guldur’s. His blue eyes grew wide with shock. “What in the hell is she doing here?” he growled.

Piper noticed that Cole was glaring at a curvy, dark-haired female with cat-shaped hazel eyes. Her wardrobe consisted of a tight-fitting dress and heeled sandals. The woman reminded Piper of a second-rate sex symbol from a 1960s “B” movie. “Who is that?” she asked.

Cole replied through clenched teeth, “A nightmare from the past.” A scowl now fixed upon his face, he marched away from the table.

“Who is she?” Chris asked Guldur.

The demon sighed. “Oh, some old girlfriend of Belthazor’s. Her name is Idril. They were quite an item for a brief period back in the late 60s or early 70s. And I heard that they were seeing each other again, some four or five years ago. As far as Belthazor is concerned, she was a mistake.” An amused chuckle escaped his lips. “And it looks like Idril is one that refuses to go away.”

END OF ACT II

“COLD COMFORT FARM” (1995) Review

“COLD COMFORT FARM” (1995) Review

Years ago . . . and I do mean a lot of years, I came across a movie inside a video rental store called “COLD COMFORT FARM”. I had never heard of it before that day. But . . . being a period drama fan and discovering that the movie was a comedy set in the 1930s, I decided to give it a try. And I never looked back. 

I managed to rent “COLD COMFORT FARM” several times before the use of VHS recorders/players went out of style. Then I spent several years trying to find a copy of the movie on DVD. It was not until recently that I finally came across a copy of “COLD COMFORT FARM” again, despite the fact that the movie had been released on DVD for several years.

Based upon Stella Gibson’s 1932 novel and directed by John Schlesinger, “COLD COMFORT FARM” told the story of a young upper-class, yet impoverished woman named Flora Poste, who decided to become a writer following the deaths of her parents. Flora decided that due to her impoverished state, she needed to find relatives to stay with, while embarking upon her first novel. Her London relatives seemed to have no interest in offering Flora a place to live, so she wrote letters to some of her rural relatives. After receiving a few unsuitable responses, Flora became intrigued by a letter from a cousin named Judith Starkadder, Flora decided to stay for a while at the Starkadders’ rundown farm. The Starkadders and their servants proved to be an odd bunch that consisted of rustic, uncouth, slatternly and eccentric people that include:

*Aunt Ada Doom – the family’s elderly and paranoid matriarch and owner of the farm, who rarely set foot outside her bedroom, but controlled the family with an iron fist.

*Judith Doom Starkadder – Ada’s depressing daughter, who possessed a penchant for gloomy predictions and a possessive regard for her younger son Seth.

*Amos Starkadder – Judith’s husband, a religious fanatic and local minister with a penchant for hellfire and damnation sermon.

*Seth Starkadder – Amos and Judith’s sexy younger son, a womanizer and movie fanatic

*Reuben Starkadder – Amos and Judith

Deciding that the only to live, while researching for her first novel, Flora decides that the only way for her to live whilst researching her writing is to stay with relatives. Her city-based relatives show no interest, so she sends letters to her country relatives. There are a few responses, most of them unsuitable, but one is intriguing. Flora decides to stay for a while with the Starkadder family on their rundown farm. The Starkadders are an assortment of rustic, uncouth, and truly eccentric characters, each of whom has a hurdle (be it physical, emotional, or spiritual) to overcome before reaching his or her potential. Flora quickly realises that as a modern twentieth-century woman, she can resolve these situations once she has assessed and solved each character’s problems.

Following my recent viewing of “COLD COMFORT FARM”, I found myself wondering if there were any aspects of the film that I did not like or found baffling. Well, I had a few questions regarding Aunt Ada Doom and her daughter, Judith Doom Starkadder. Had the Doom family been members of the local gentry? I found it hard to connect the high-born and well-bred Flora Poste to the obviously non-sophisticated Aunt Ada Doom and Judith Starkadder. I have never read Gibson’s novel, but I do wish the movie had been a bit clearer on the blood connection between Flora and the Starkadder women. Another problem I had with the film was the romance between Elfine Starkadder and the blue-blooded Dick Hawk-Monitor. The latter must have been indulged by his parents as a boy. I find it hard to believe that the Hawk-Monitor family, especially Mrs. Hawk-Monitor, did not raise a bigger fuss over young Dick’s choice for his future wife. Instead, the cinematic Mrs. Hawk-Monitor merely expressed surprise, dismay and eventual resignation over the idea of Elfine as her future daughter-in-law.

Otherwise, “COLD COMFORT FARM” is an engaging and delightful film that never ceases to entertain me every time I watch it. The movie also featured some rather sharp humor that always leaves me in stitches. Before my recent viewing of “COLD COMFORT FARM”, I learned that its literary source, Stella Gibson’s 1932 novel, was basically a parody of the “loam and lovechild”literary genre aka “pessimistic ruralism” that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – including the novels of Thomas Hardy and Mary Webb. It is this aspect of the movie that made it very entertaining and hilarious to me. In fact, the Starkadder family and their servants used dialogue that is considered a parody of Sussex and West Country rural accents. Words like “mollocking” or “sukebind” (look them up yourselves, for I have not the foggiest idea what they mean) kept popping out of their mouths, causing me to raise and eyebrow or two. And then there is the character of Mr. Meyerburg (aka “Mr. Mybug”), a local writer who pursued Flora and seemed to be obsessed with sex. It is believed that his character was used to parody intellectuals like the Freudians and admirers of author D. H. Lawrence.

On one level, the movie’s narrative made it clear that Flora had remained at Cold Comfort Farm to drag the Starkadders into the early 20th century. But in doing so, Gibbons and screenwriter Malcolm Bradbury had more or less transformed Flora into a trickster figure. You know . . . another Mary Poppins, Loki, Jack Sparrow, Bagger Vance or Dolly Levi. Despite Flora’s subtle and cool personality, she seemed to have the strongest similarity with the latter. Like Dolly and unlike the others, Flora’s tale concluded with a “happily ever after” with the man she loved.

What can I say about the production quality for “COLD COMFORT FARM”? I thought it was pretty solid. Production designer Malcolm Thornton did a good job in re-creating early 1930s Sussex and London. I say good, because if I may be perfectly honest, his designs did not exactly blow my mind. I can say the same about Jim Holloway’s art designs and Chris Seager’s photography. Amy Roberts’ costume designs seemed to perfectly reflect the film’s setting and the characters’ personalities, class, and financial situation. However, I was not that impressed by the hairstyles for the women. Kate Beckinsale’s hair seemed to be a cross of a late 1920s bob and . . . well, something. Joanna Lumley’s shingled bob definitely looked as if it came straight from the mid-to-late 1920s. Aside from the hairstyles, which I admit is a lame complaint, I do not have any real problems with the production values for “COLD COMFORT FARM”.

On the other hand, I found the performances from the cast well done. There were solid performances from the likes of Maria Miles as a charming Elfine Starkadder, Christopher Bowen as Charles Fairford (Flora’s admirer), Jeremy Peters as Urk, the always wonderful Miriam Margolyes as the Starkadders’ housekeeper Mrs. Beetle, Angela Thorne as Mrs. Hawk-Monitor and a very young Rupert Penry-Jones as Dick Hawk-Monitor (although his pencil-thin moustache was not that flattering). Ivan Kaye gave a charming, yet solid performance as Reuben Starkadder, the only member of the family truly capable of managing the farm. And I found Sheila Burrell’s performance as the family’s controlling matriarch very amusing and spot-on.

But there were performances that I found truly entertaining. Stephen Fry was hilarious as a local writer named Mr. Myburg, a D.L. Lawrence fanatic who seems to fancy Flora. Ian McKellen gave a rather funny performance as Amos Starkadder, Aunt Ada’s son-in-law, who happened to be the farm’s manager. Amos is also a religious fanatic, who also happened to be a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher. The scene featuring his rather fiery sermon is not to be missed. I found Freddie Jones’ portrayal of the Starkadders’ farmhand, Adam Lambsbreath, rather charming, hilarious and rather loopy. Joanna Lumley gave a very sly and entertaining performance as Flora’s close friend, London socialite Mrs. Mary Smiling, who seemed to have formed a hobby of collecting brassières. And there was Rufus Sewell, who gave a titilating performance as the family’s ladies’ man, Seth Starkadder. At times, I found his performance both charming and sexy. And at other times, I found his portrayal of Seth’s overt masculinity rather hilarious . . . especially in scenes in which he resorted to poses to attract Flora’s attention.

For me, one of the two funniest performances came from Eileen Atkins, who portrayed Aunt Ada’s daughter, Judith Starkadder. Atkins was superb as the dour Judith, who possessed a disposition for doom-and-gloom prophecies, calling Flora “Robert Poste’s child”, and harboring a . . . uh, slightly incestuous regard for her younger son Seth. Equally hilarious was Harry Ditson who portrayed a close friend of Flora’s and Hollywood producer, Earl P. Neck. I loved how Ditson conveyed his character’s charm, extroverted personality and wit. In fact, he had at least two of the best lines in the movies. But the one person who truly ruled this movie was Kate Beckinsale, who portrayed the story’s main protagonist, Flora Poste. She must have been at least 22 or 23 years old when she shot this film. Beckinsale did not give the funniest performance in the movie. In fact, she seemed to be serving as everyone else’s straight man. But she was the one who kept this movie together; held her own against the likes Atkins, McKellen, Lumley and Burrell; and still managed to portray Flora Poste as a compelling and charismatic personality.

I might have a few complaints about “COLD COMFORT FARM”. But if I must be honest, they were rather minor to me. As far as I am concerned, “COLD COMFORT FARM” was a charming, fascinating and very funny film . . . even after twenty years or so. It was a worthy adaptation of Stella Gibson’s novel, thanks to Malcolm Bradbury’s screenplay, a superb cast led by a charismatic Kate Beckinsale and excellent direction by screen legend John Schlesinger.

“STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI” (1983) Review

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“STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI” (1983) Review

The third movie and sixth episode of George Lucas’ original STAR WARS saga, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”, has become something of a conundrum for me. It was the first STAR WARS movie that immediately became a favorite of mine. But in the years that followed, my opinion of the film had changed. 

Directed by Richard Marquand, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” picked up a year after “STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” left off. The movie begins with the arrival of the Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious and his apprentice, Darth Vader to the Empire’s new Darth Star, which had been in construction above the moon of Endor. Luke Skywalker, Jedi-in-training and Rebel Alliance pilot, finally construct a plan to rescue his friend, Han Solo, from the Tatooine gangster Jabba the Hutt. His plan nearly fails, despite help from Princess Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and his droids C3-P0 and R2-D2. Despite the odds against them, the group of friends finally succeed in rescuing Han and killing Jabba.

Following the Tatooine rescue, Luke returns to Dagobah to finish his Jedi training with Jedi Master Yoda. However, Luke discovers Yoda on the verge of death from old age. When the old Jedi Master finally dies, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost appears and verifies what Luke had learned on Bespin in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” – that Darth Vader is his father, Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan insists that Luke has to kill his father in order to destroy the Sith Order, but the latter is reluctant to commit patricide. Eventually, Luke returns to the Rebel Alliance rendezvous point, and volunteers to assist his friends in their mission to destroy the the Death Star.

I was not kidding when I stated that “RETURN OF THE JEDI” was the first STAR WARS movie to become a personal favorite of mine. I disliked “A NEW HOPE” when I first saw it. It took me nearly a decade to get over my dislike and embrace it. “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” creeped me out a bit, due to its dark plot, the revelation of Darth Vader’s true identity and Han’s unhappy fate. The movie has become one of my two favorites in the franchise. But I loved “RETURN OF THE JEDI””RETURN OF THE JEDI” did have its problems. One, the movie featured both a second Death Star and Luke’s return to Tatooine. For me, this signalled an attempt by George Lucas to recapture some of the essence from the first movie, “A NEW HOPE”. In other words, I believe Lucas used the Death Star and Tatooine to relive the glory of the first movie for those fans who had been disappointed with “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. And there is nothing that will quickly turn me off is an artist who is willing to repeat the past for the sake of success.

Tatooine proved to be an even bigger disappointment, especially since I have never been fond of the sequence at Jabba’s palace. I never understood why it took Luke and his friends an entire year to find Han. Boba Fett had made his intentions to turn Han over to Jabba very clearly in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. So, why did it take them so long to launch a rescue? Exactly what was Luke’s rescue plan regarding Han in the first place? Not long after she arrived with Chewbacca, Leia made her own attempt to free Han from the carbonite block and failed. Had Luke intended for this to happen? Had he intended to be tossed into a pit with a Rancor? Were all of these minor incidents merely parts of Luke’s plan to finally deal with Jabba on the latter’s sail barge? If so, it was a piss-poor and convoluted plan created by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan.

“RETURN OF THE JEDI” also featured the development of Luke’s skills with the Force. Since the movie made it clear that he had not seen Yoda since he departed Dagobah in order to rescue Han, Leia and Chewbacca from Bespin; I could not help but wonder how Luke managed to develop his Force skills without the help of a tutor. I eventually learned that Luke honed his Force skills by reading a manual he had found inside Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Tatooine hut. Frankly, I find this scenario ludicrous. Luke’s conversation with Obi-Wan’s ghost on Dagobah featured one major inconsistency. Obi-Wan claimed that Owen Lars was his brother, in whose care he left Luke. Considering Obi-Wan’s unemotional response to Owen’s death in “A NEW HOPE”, I found this hard to believe and could not help but view Obi-Wan’s words as a major blooper. Especially since Obi-Wan had reacted with more emotion over Luke’s reluctance to become a Jedi and kill Darth Vader.

Many fans have complained about the cheesy acting and wooden dialogue found the Prequel Trilogy movies. These same fans have failed to notice similar flaws in the Original Trilogy movies, including “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Especially “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Mind you, the movie did feature some first-rate performances. But none of it came from Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. I really enjoyed Ford and Fisher’s performances in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. But I feel they really dropped the ball in “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. They seemed to be phoning in their performances and the Leia/Han ended up rather wooden and unsatisfying to me. This was especially apparent in the scene in which Leia, after learning the truth about Vader’s identity, seemed too upset to answer Han’s demanding questions about her conversation with the departed Luke. Both Fisher and Ford really came off as wooden in that scene. When I had first saw “RETURN OF THE JEDI”, I despised the Ewoks. My feelings for them have somewhat tempered over the years. But I still find them rather infantile, even for a STAR WARS movie. Although I no longer dislike the Ewoks, I still find that village scene in which C3-P0 revealed the past adventures of Luke and his friends very cheesy and wince-inducing. Unlike the past two films, the camaraderie between the group seemed forced . . . and very artificial. The Ewok village scene also revealed a perplexing mystery – namely the dress worn by Leia in this image:

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For years, I have wondered why Leia would carry such a dress with her, during the mission to Endor. I eventually learned that the Ewoks created the dress for her, after she became their guest. And I could not help but wonder why they had bothered in the first place. Luke and Han did not acquire new outfits from the Ewoks after they became the latter’s guests. And how did the Ewoks create the dress so fast? Within a matter of hours?

Thankfully, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” had plenty of virtues. One of those virtues turned out to be Mark Hamill, who gave the best and probably the most skillful performance in the movie as Luke Skywalker. Unlike the previous two movies, Luke has become a more self-assured man and Force practitioner, who undergoes his greatest emotional journey in his determination to learn the complete story regarding his family’s past and help his father overcome any remaining connections to the Sith. He was ably supported by James Earl Jones (through voice) and David Prowse (through body movement), who skillfully conveyed Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker’s growing dissatisfaction with the Sith and himself. “RETURN OF THE JEDI” also marked the real debut of Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal of politician and Sith Lord Palpatine aka Darth Sidious. Although the actor achieved critical acclaim for his portrayal of Palpatine in the Prequel Trilogy movies, I must say that I was impressed by his performance in this film. McDiarmid was in his late 30s at the time, but I he did a first-rate job in portraying Palpatine as a powerful and intelligent Sith Lord and galactic leader, whose skills as a manipulator has eroded from years of complacency and arrogance. Billy Dee Williams returned as ex-smuggler Lando Calrissian, who has joined the Rebel Alliance cause. Although his portrayal of Lando did not strike me as memorable as I did in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, I believe he did a very solid job – especially in the Battle of Endor sequence. I finally have to comment on the Jabba the Hutt character, who proved to be very memorable thanks to Larry Ward’s voiceovers and the puppeteer team supervised by David Barclay.

“RETURN OF THE JEDI” also featured some first-rate action scenes. The best, in my opinion, was the speeder bike sequence in which Luke and Leia chased a squad of Imperial stormtroopers on patrol through the Endor forest. This sequence was actually shot in the Redwood National Forest in California. The combined talents of Lucas, Marquand’s direction, Alan Hume’s photography, the ILM special effects, Ben Burtt’s sound effects (which received an Oscar nomination) and especially the editing team of Sean Barton, Marcia Lucas and Duwayne Dunham made this sequence one of the most exciting, nail biting and memorable ones in the entire saga. But there were other scenes and sequences that impressed me. Despite my dislike of the entire sequence featuring the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, I cannot deny that the scene aboard Jabba’s sail barge proved to be entertaining. Even the ground battle between the Imperial forces and the Rebel forces (assisted by the Ewoks) proved to be not only entertaining, but also interesting. The idea of the Ewoks utilizing the natural elements of Endor to battle and defeat Imperial technology provided an interesting message on the superiority of nature. And if I must be honest, I found the destruction of this second Death Star to be more exciting than the first time featured in “A NEW HOPE”.

Despite the barrage of action scenes, there were a few dramatic scenes that I found impressive. The best one proved to be the confrontation between Luke, Vader and Palpatine aboard the second Death Star. Luke and Papatine’s battle of wills over Vader’s soul not only provided some interesting performances from Hamill, Earl Jones/Prowse and McDiarmid; it also resulted in one of the most emotionally satisfying moments in the movie. Another excellent dramatic scene featured Luke’s discussion with Obi-Wan’s ghost regarding Vader’s true identity. Both Hamill and Alec Guinness gave excellent performances in the scene. It also, rather surprisingly, revealed the flawed aspect of the Jedi’s righteous nature for the very first time.

After the release of the six STAR WARS movies produced by George Lucas, I realized that I no longer regarded “RETURN OF THE JEDI” as the best in the saga. Unfortunately, I now rate it as the least most satisfying film in the saga, so far. Certain plot holes and some weak performances made it impossible for me to view it with such high esteem. Yet, I cannot say that I dislike the film. In fact, I still enjoyed it very much, thanks to a first-rate performance by Mark Hamill, who really held the movie together; some excellent action sequences and a surprising, yet satisfying twist that ended the tale of one Anakin Skywalker. Despite its flaws, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” still managed to be a very satisfying movie.

Favorite D.C. COMICS Moments in Movies and Television

Below is a list of my favorite scenes from various movies and television shows featuring D.C. Comics characters:
FAVORITE D.C. COMICS MOMENTS IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION
1.  “Justice League” (2017)  – Barry Allen aka the Flash tries . . . and fails to save his Justice League colleagues from the paranoia and wrath of an amnesiac and resurrected Clark Kent aka Superman.
2.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – D.C. Comics original trinity – Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman – gather together for the first time in a live action production, when they team up to take down Doomsday, the monster created by Lex Luthor.
3.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.07) “Invasion!” (2016) – The Arrowverse heroes gather for a final confrontation against a group of alien invaders known as the Dominators in this crossover event.
4.  “Suicide Squad” (2016) – Chato Santana aka El Diablo confesses the true details about the death of his family to his Suicide Squad colleagues in a bar in this poignant scene.
5.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.14) “Moonshot”– Legends member Dr. Martin Stein aka Firestorm I, distracts the Mission Control members at NASA circa 1970 with his rendition of “The Banana Boat Song”, while the other half of Firestorm, Jefferson Jackson, work to prevent them from detecting Dr. Ray Palmer aka the Atom from moving the Apollo 13 capsule.
6.  “Superman Returns” (2006) – In a spectacular action sequence, Superman saves both a space shuttle in route to a launching pad and the jet plane conveying it, following a nationwide power outage.
7.  “Wonder Woman” (2017) – A determined Princess Diana of Themyscira aka Wonder Woman leads the charge against a battlefield dubbed as “No Man’s Land” in an effort to reach a Belgium town and General Erich Ludendorff, whom she believes is Ares, the God of War.
8.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Bruce Wayne aka the Batman battles against thugs hired by Lex Luthor in order to save Superman’s mother, Martha Kent, from them.
9.  “Man of Steel” (2013) – In this controversial scene, Superman is forced to save a family of humans by killing the last remaining Kryptonian, General Zod.
10.  “Superman:  The Movie” (1978) – Superman makes his first appearance in Metropolis, when he saves Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane after her fall from a damaged helicopter, atop the Planet building.
11.  “Arrow” (5.17) “Kapiushon” (2017) – After being tortured for a while by the villainous Promethus, a distraught Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow finally admits his penchant for killing.
12.  “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1.12) “All Shook Up” (1994) – While a deadly meteor streaks toward Earth, Jonathan and Martha Kent tries to convince their adoptive son, an amnesiac Clark Kent, that he is Superman.
13.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Various journalists, commentators and scientists debate in a montage scene about Superman’s true nature and goal on Earth.
14.  “The Flash” (3.23) “Finish Line” (2017) – Before a defeated and vindictive Savitar can kill the Flash, the latter’s fiancee, Iris West, shoots him dead.
15.  “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (2.18) “Tempus Fugitive” (1995) – The vindictive and sarcastic evil time traveler, Tempus, reveals Superman’s true identity to an astonished Lois Lane.
16.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Clark and Lois enjoy a sexy respite in a bathtub, following a serious discussion over his rescue of her in North Africa.
17.  “Batman” (1989) – Bruce Wayne aka Batman crashes through the glass roof of  Gotham City’s Museum of Art in order to save photojournalist Vicky Vale from criminal Jack Napier aka the Joker.
18.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.17) “Aruba” (2017)– Before he can kill Legends leader Sara Lance aka White Canary, the villainous speedster Eobard Thawne aka Reverse-Flash is killed by Black Flash, the Speed Force enforcer and former villain Hunter Zolomon aka Zoom.
19.  “Green Hornet” (2011) – Newspaper publisher Bret Reid aka the Green Hornet and his partner Kato are chased along a Los Angeles highway by minions of gangster Benjamin Chudnofsky in order to prevent them from publishing an article exposing a corrupt district attorney in Chudnofsky’s pay.
20.  “Gotham” (1.01) “Pilot” (2014)– Rookie police detective James “Jim” Gordon of the corrupt Gotham City Police Department is forced to fake the death of minion Oswald Copperpot aka the Penguin, after being ordered to kill the latter by gangster Carmine Falcone.
Honorable Mention:  “Batman Begins” (2005) – Batman refuses to save the life of his former mentor Henri Ducard aka Ra’s al Ghul from a runaway monorail, after foiling the latter’s plans to destroy Gotham City.

“POLDARK” Series One (1975): Episodes Thirteen to Sixteen

“POLDARK” SERIES ONE (1975): EPISODES THIRTEEN TO SIXTEEN

The fourth novel in Winston Graham’s “POLDARK” literary series, “Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793” (1953)proved to be a big game changer in the saga. The novel featured the death of a major character, which in turn, led to some surprising schisms within the family of the saga’s protagonist, Revolutionary War veteran and Cornish landowner Ross Poldark. More importantly, “Warleggan” also featured a major controversy that proved to be quite a challenge for the BBC’s adaptation of the novel. 

Producers Morris Barry and Anthony Coburn adapted “Warleggan” in Episodes Thirteen to Sixteen, the last four episodes of the series that aired in 1975. Ironically, this adaptation began where Episode Twelve left off – with Demelza Carne Poldark going into labor, as she reached the beach after interrupting a fishing trip. In the following scene, Ross, Demelza and their servants toasted the birth of the family’s newest member, Jeremy Poldark. At that point, the series’ adaptation of “Jeremy Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1790-1791” ended and its adaptation of “Warleggan”. Confused? I was after viewing the first five minutes of Episode Thirteen.

Not much really occurred in Episode Thirteen . . . at first. The romance between Dr. Dwight Enys and heiress Caroline Penvenen continued, despite her engagement to aspiring politician Unwin Trevaunance. Francis Poldark, Ross’ younger cousin, seemed to have a new lease on life now that the two cousins have reconciled and invested in an old Poldark copper mine, Wheal Grace. The only black spot in Francis’ life was his failed marriage with Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark. Despite his renewed relationship with Francis, a new son and the investment in Wheal Grace; Ross’ problems have not ended. He remained in debt. He continued to allow a local smuggling ring to use the cove on his land to hide goods. And his feelings toward Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark remained strong as ever. Elizabeth seemed to share his feelings. However, the episode ended on a tragic note when Francis fell and drowned, while investigating Wheal Grace for copper. Although grief-stricken over Francis’ death, Ross sold his Wheal Leisure shares and handed over 600 pounds (the same amount that Francis had invested in Wheal Grace) to financially help Elizabeth and her son, Geoffrey Charles. This act not only angered Demelza, but also increased her hostility toward her cousin-in-law.

The Poldark family drama took a back seat in Episode Fourteen. Instead, this episode focused on Wheal Grace and Ross’ involvement with the local smuggling ring. In the wake of Francis’ death, Ross traveled to France to question fugitive Mark Daniels about the copper ore that the latter had allegedly discovered while hiding from the law back in Episode Eight. However, Ross found it difficult to get any information, due to Mark’s bad health continuing obsession over his murder of his wife, Keren. During this time, Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen finally decided to elope. Unfortunately, Dwight discovers that a local man named Charlie Kempthorne had betrayed the smugglers to Captain McNeil and the militia. He sacrificed his marital plans with Caroline to warn the smugglers and Ross, who had just returned from France. The latter managed to evade being arrested by McNeil by hiding inside the Nampara manor.

While Ross dealt with his concerns over Wheal Grace and Trencomb’s smuggling operation, his nemesis George Warleggan courted the impoverished Elizabeth Poldark before finally proposing marriage to her. Elizabeth informed Ross about her upcoming nuptials in a letter. This drove Ross to ignore Demelza’s pleas to stay home and confront his widowed cousin-in-law at Trenwith about the engagement. Elizabeth made it clear that she intends to marry George. In retaliation, Ross took her by surprise by raping her. When he returned to Nampara the following morning, Demelza angrily guessed that Ross had sex with Elizabeth. Angry over his infidelity, Demelza accepted an invitation to a party hosted by Sir Hugh Bodugran. She planned to pay back Ross’ infidelity by having sex with Captain McNeil. However, at the last minute, Demelza could not go through with it and was forced to prevent herself from being raped by McNeil with a blow to his nether regions. And to avoid being sexually assaulted by Sir Hugh and another guest, she climbed out of the window and returned to Nampara.

The adaptation of “Warleggan” ended in Episode Sixteen. By this time, Elizabeth has married George, yet the couple continued to live at Trenwith. George closed off the Trenwith lands from its tenants against Elizabeth’s advice. Meanwhile, Demelza and Ross’ marriage deteriorated even further . . . to the point that she made plans to leave him and return to her father’s home. Discovering that Ross had went to Trenwith to castigate George for the enclosure of the estate, Demelza headed there as well. Not long after her arrival, both Demelza and Ross found themselves protecting George, Elizabeth and the other inhabitants at Trenwith from a mob bent upon expressing their displeasure at the enclosure. Although everyone got away – aside from a few servants, the mob burned Trenwith to the ground. By the end of the episode, the War of the First Coalition had started. Dwight Eyns joined the Royal Navy as a ship’s surgeon following his aborted elopement with Caroline. After fleeing the burnt out Trenwith manor together, Ross and Demelza finally reconciled on the beach before he could report to his regiment.

There were many aspects of Episodes Thirteen to Sixteen that I enjoyed or admired. I found the performances rather first-rate. Although there were moments that Robin Ellis’ portrayal of Ross Poldark struck me as cold and stiff, overall, I thought he gave a great performance – especially in Episodes Fifteen and Sixteen. Both he and Angharad Rees really stood out in one scene from Episode Sixteen in which they had a serious quarrel over his night with Elizabeth. The latter was also excellent in her scenes with actor Donald Douglas, who portrayed Captain McNeil. Episode Thirteen marked Clive Francis’ last performance as the doomed Francis Poldark. I realize that I have not always been that impressed by his performance in past episodes. That was due to the limited scenes given to him in the series’ first four episodes. But I thought Francis gave an excellent performance in his last episode – especially in his scenes with Rees and Jill Townsend. As always, the latter gave an excellent performance as Elizabeth Poldark Warleggan – especially in one scene with actress Norma Streader – in which Elizabeth expressed her disenchantment with the Poldark family to her sister-in-law, Verity Poldark Blamey. And Ralph Bates continued his smooth and cool performance as the ambitious George Warleggan, who seemed hellbent upon claiming Elizabeth as his wife and getting his hands on Poldark land.

The four episodes also marked memorable performances from Richard Morant and Judy Geeson, who continued to create sparks in their portrayal of the Dwight Enys-Caroline Penvenen romance. Donald Douglas gave a very lively and a times, rather intimidating performance as the Scottish-born militia officer, Captain McNeil. Pip Miller gave a very intense performance as Mark Daniels’ brother, Paul. And Martin Fisk returned to give a very poignant and effective performance as the dying fugitive, Mark Daniels. Other memorable performances also came from Patrick Holt (whose character’s name has been changed from Ray Penvenen to Benjamin Penvenen), Norma Streader as Verity Blamey, Mary Wimbush as Prudie Paynter, Peta Mason as Rosina Hoblyn and David Garfield as Jacka Hoblyn.

Episodes Thirteen to Fifteen also featured some memorable scenes and sequences. One interesting scene in Episode Thirteen featured Ross’ visit to Trenwith following Francis’ death and a rather poignant conversation between him and recently widowed Elizabeth, thanks to superb performances from Robin Ellis and Jill Townsend. I was rather surprised and impressed by how screenwriter Jack Russell and director Paul Annett utilized three separate story lines – Ross’ visit to Mark Daniels in France, Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen’s botched elopement, and the smugglers’ conflict with Captain McNeil and the militia – and managed to combine them into a suspenseful episode and strong story. I have already pointed out the scene in Episode Sixteen in which Ellis and Angharad Rees superbly conveyed a bitter quarrel between Ross and Demelza. I thought Annett did an excellent job in directing the mob attack upon Trenwith. I thought it was exciting and very detailed. But the most interesting sequence for me proved to be Sir Hugh Bodrugan’s house party. Thanks to Annett’s direction, I felt as if I was witnessing the upper-classes of 18th century Cornwall at its most decadent.

I had a good deal to praise about the 1975 series’ adaptation of “Warleggan”. But if I must be brutally honest, I did not like it in the end. I did not like it one bit. There were too many changes to Graham’s novel that I either did not like or rubbed me the wrong way. One problem I had with this adaptation was its use of the Verity Blamey character. When the series’ adaptation of “Jeremy Poldark” had failed to introduce Verity’s stepson and stepdaughter, I assumed they would appear in the “Warleggan” adaptation. Unfortunately, Coburn, Barry and Russell felt it unnecessary to provide audiences with a peak into Verity’s personal life with the Blameys. Instead, they used Verity in a scene with Elizabeth, involving a letter announcing the latter’s engagement to George Warleggan – a scene that I heartily disliked. I certainly did not like how the producers and Russell handled Francis Poldark’s death in Episode Thirteen. It seemed . . . rushed. Unnecessarily so. After a minute or two of exploring the depths of Wheal Grace, Francis slipped and felled. The camera then briefly focused on Francis’ dead body before the episode rushed to Ross paying the recently widowed Elizabeth a visit at Trenwith. The episode did not bother to focus on Francis’ struggles to stay alive before he drowned. Nor did it feature Francis’ funeral. I cannot help but feel that if Coburn and Barry had aired Jeremy Poldark’s birth in Episode Twelve – where it belonged – Episode Thirteen could have focused more time on Francis’ death.

I also disliked a scene from Episode Sixteen featured a scene that had Caroline Penvenen playing “Lady Bountiful” to abused and physically disabled Rosina Hoblyns by offering the latter a job as her personal maid. It never happened in the novel and the scene pointed a false portrait of Caroline, who was never that saintly in any of the novels. One other scene from Episode Sixteen had me rolling my eyes with contempt. In it, a still angry Demelza had decided she would leave Ross for good. She planned to leave their two year-old son Jeremy with Verity and Andrew Blamey . . . and return to her father’s home. I found this decision utterly laughable and anachronistic. Demelza was a character in a novel set in the early 1790s, not the mid 1970s. Since she was a woman, there is no way Ross would allow Demelza to dictate their son’s whereabouts without his consent. And since Demelza also had working-class origins, no judge throughout Great Britain would allow her to hand Jeremy over to the Blameys or keep him for herself without Ross’ consent. Chances are if Demelza had insisted upon leaving Ross for good, he would have assumed control over Jeremy and insure that Demelza never set eyes upon their son, while the latter remained a minor.

But what truly made me dislike the 1975 series’ adaptation of “Warleggan” was the manner in which it handled Ross Poldark’s rape of his cousin-in-law, Elizabeth Poldark in Episode Fifteen. I found it abominable. Producers Coburn and Barry, along with screenwriter Russell were willing to show Ross about to rape Elizabeth. The episode ended the scene in the same manner that Winston Graham did – with Ross about to force himself on Elizabeth, inside her bedroom at Trenwith. But Russell made so many changes – before and after the rape – to ensure that viewers would never castigate Ross for the rape.

One, the portrayal of Elizabeth underwent a drastic change in Episode Thirteen, when she was suddenly portrayed as this greedy and cold bitch. Many fans have accused the literary Elizabeth of being cold. Elizabeth was never really cold . . . just reserved. Introverted. Two, screenwriter Jack Russell drastically changed Elizabeth’s reason for marrying George Warleggan. Although she was satisfied with George’s promises of great wealth, more social clout and trips to London; Elizabeth’s true reason was to prevent her life and the lives of her immediate family from sinking into abject poverty and to prevent her son Geoffrey Charles from losing Trenwith in the future. This is what she had conveyed to Ross in her letter written to him. This did not happen in the 1975 series. Instead, Elizabeth literally boasted to her sister-in-law Verity that her only reason for accepting George’s proposal was for her to enjoy a life of great wealth. That is what she had conveyed to Ross in her letter. It seemed that Elizabeth was being “set up” to being punished by Ross for her “selfishness and greed”.

Ross read Elizabeth’s letter. He rushed over to Trenwith and tried to insist that she break her engagement to George. Then he raped her. The ironic thing is that the entire scene between Ross and Elizabeth was rushed. The pair barely exchanged three or four sentences before Ross threw her on the bed and proceeded to rape her. The attitude behind this entire rush job seemed to be one of “let’s hurry it up and get this scene over with”. But what happened in Episode Sixteen almost disgusted me as the actual rape did. Jack Russell created this entire scenario of Trenwith’s former tenants marching upon the estate’s manor house, attacking the inhabitants and burning it down. This was never in the novel. Yes, George did enclosed the Trenwith estate from its tenant farmers. But there was no mob scene created by Graham to give Ross the opportunity to play “hero” and save Elizabeth and George from being killed.

Worse, just before the outbreak of attack, Ross confronted the recently married couple about the enclosure. He had the nerve to confront Elizabeth and castigate her for her wedding to George. It . . . was . . . disgusting . . . to watch. I sat in front of my television set and watched a rapist slut shame his victim for marrying his rival. That moment was one of the most misogynist I have ever seen in my life. After Ross had saved Elizabeth and George from the mob, he slut shamed her again with a you are beneath me look, when she asked him why he had bothered to save George. He was disgusted? I was disgusted . . . with producers Morris Barry and Anthony Coburn for sanctioning this piece of misogynist shit. And I was disgusted with Jack Russell for writing it. There was only one scene in the entire four episodes adaptation of “Warleggan” that painted Elizabeth in a positive or sympathetic light – when she criticized George for enclosing the Trenwith land from the tenants. I am glad that the producers and screenwriter were willing to portray Elizabeth being capable of sympathy toward others. But apparently, they were unwilling for television viewers to sympathize with her being raped. Why? Because she was a woman and thanks to the leading man’s obsession with her . . . a threat to his marriage with the leading lady.

And if that was not enough, I found myself wondering if the producers and Russell had found another way to slut shame Elizabeth. I am referring to the scene featuring Demelza’s confrontation with Captain McNeil at Sir Hugh Bodrugan’s party. Following her initial intent to sleep with McNeil, she changed her mind. In the novel, McNeil eventually backed off, realizing that he was not the kind of man to force his unwanted attentions on a woman. In the 1975 adaptation, McNeil came to no such conclusion and tried to rape Demelza. She fought him off by kneeing him in the balls. Then she made her escape. The message I got from this version of Demelza and McNeil’s encounter was a criticism of Elizabeth for failing to fight off Ross, earlier in the story. Russell’s screenplay seemed to hint that Elizabeth could have done the same if she truly wanted Ross out of her bedroom. Hmmm . . . considering that only one or two people have ever complained about this change, I cannot help but realize that our society has truly embraced a rape culture.

I plan to continue my viewing of the 1970s version of the “POLDARK” series. Why? Well, I bought the entire box set for the series. And many people, including myself, believe that the next three novels that follow “Warleggan” are among the best in the series. But I will never like the 1975 adaptation of “Warleggan”. The producers and the screenwriters corrupted Winston Graham’s story and completely changed what he was trying to say about the consequences of rape through the Ross Poldark and Elizabeth Poldark Warleggan characters. For me, Episodes Thirteen to Sixteen were a damn travesty.

“The Uninvited” [PG-13] – Act I

“THE UNINVITED”

ACT I

“Not bad,” Paige declared, as she glanced around the elegant room. She took a sip of her gingerale. “Although, this party could use some decent music.”

Harry smirked. “By decent music, are you referring to Alanis Morissette? Aimee Mann or the Bare Naked Ladies? Don’t forget that Mom and Dad are hosting this engagement party for Cole and Olivia – and they come from a different generation.” He and Paige sat at one of the tables that filled the Colonial Room at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. “Besides, what’s wrong with ‘The Look of Love’? I’ve always liked Burt Bacharach.”

“I’m not into Oldies. I like my music, contemporary.”

With a sigh, Harry shook his head. “Sometimes Paige, I think you have no sense of history.”

The music finally stopped. One of the many couples on the dance floor broke away and approached Paige and Harry’s table. “Why aren’t you two dancing?” Piper asked. She sat in the chair, next to Paige’s.

Harry replied, “It seems Paige isn’t into Oldies.” He glanced up at Piper’s companion. “So Scott, are you enjoying yourself?”

“Great party.” Scott Yi shot a friendly smile at Piper. Who responded with one of her own. Earlier in the evening, Olivia had introduced other members of her squad to the Halliwells. Paige and Piper learned that one of them, Scott Yi, not only knew about the existence of magic, but was also a practitioner. A powerful sorcerer. Scott’s eyes scanned the hotel ballroom. “What happened to sister number three?”

Piper replied, “Phoebe? She’s in Hong Kong. With her boyfriend. And boss.”

“Oh, Jason Dean.” The two sisters stared at him. “I remembered him from the DeWolfe Mann case. He was always calling the station about an update. And Olivia has told me about him.”

Paige added, “Yeah, well Phoebe had decided to stay with Jason for a while.”

“Have you heard from her, yet?” Harry asked.

Piper sighed. “She called about three days ago. Apparently, she and Jason had just returned from some party aboard a . . . taipan’s yacht.”

Both Harry and Scott exchanged amused glances at Piper’s mention of the word, “taipan”. Still smiling, the red-haired witch commented, “Taipan, huh? Boy, she really must be turning native.”

“Turning ‘Chinese’ would be more like it,” Scott added. “I guess that usually happens when someone becomes exposed to a new culture for a period of time.”

Paige rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it! Every time we have a conversation with her, Phoebe starts spouting Eastern philosophy. Really gets on my nerves.” Aware of Scott’s presence, she shot him an embarrassed glance. “Ooops! Sorry, no offense.”

“None taken,” Scott shot back. “Besides, I understand. I knew a guy who became a born-again Christian. I was happy for him, but unfortunately, he wouldn’t stop talking about it.”

Piper nodded. “Knowing Phoebe, I’m sure that she’ll get over her philosophical musings, once she returns home for good.”

A soft, Irish voice said, “Phoebe is out of town?” The three witches and the sorcerer glanced up and found Cole’s mother looming before them. Paige could not help but admire the demoness’ chic, powder-green cocktail dress and stylish haircut. Mrs. Turner regarded the quartet with observant, blue eyes. “I wondered why I didn’t see her, this evening.”

Piper coolly replied, “Phoebe is . . .” She paused and broke off – as if she realized that she had said too much.

“Phoebe is . . . where?” Cole’s mother asked.

Scott added, “Actually, she’s in Hong Kong.” Ignoring the Charmed Ones’ dark glances, he stood up and held out his hand. “How do you do? I’m a friend of the bride-to-be. My name is Scott Yi.”

“Elizabeth Turner,” the demoness replied, shaking the police inspector’s hand. “Cole’s mother.” She turned her gaze upon Harry. “And you must be one of Olivia’s brothers. I see the family resemblance.”

Harry stood up and smiled politely. “Yes, I’m Harry McNeill, Olivia’s younger brother. It’s nice meeting you.” He shook hands with the demoness.

Mrs. Turner continued, “So, Phoebe is in Hong Kong. How charming. She must be with that publisher companion of hers. Jason Dean?”

The two Charmed Ones regarded Cole’s mother with surprise . . . and suspicion. “How did you know about Jason?” Paige demanded.

“Well, after meeting my former daughter-in-law, last summer; I took it upon myself to learn more about her. And you.” Mrs. Turner gave the two sisters a bright smile. “After all, Bel . . . Cole used to be part of your family.” She returned her attention to Scott. “Have you, by any chance, ever heard of a man named Yi Tse Lao? I believe that he once owned a pharmacy on Grant Avenue.”

Scott nodded. “Uh, that would be my great-uncle. My grandfather’s brother.”

“Really? As I recall, Mr. Yi owned a most remarkable shop. His collection of herbs and other . . . medicines was most extensive.”

Piper demanded, “Is there a reason why you’re here?”

With eyes that reflected a lack of emotion, Mrs. Turner glanced at Piper. Paige found the demoness unsettling. Then she turned to Harry. “By the way, Mr. McNeill, I’m looking for your parents. There is . . . something I wish to discuss with them.”

“Discuss what?” Paige asked.

The demoness coolly replied, “Something. It’s for Cole and Olivia’s engagement.” Her eyes pierced Paige’s. “Anything else?”

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Paige murmured, “No.”

Harry added, “They were dancing not long ago. I, uh . . .” He scanned the ballroom. “Oh, there they are. Near the refreshment tables.”

“Thank you, my dear. Ladies, gentlemen.” Mrs. Turner flashed one last smile at the quartet and walked away.

“Whew!” Paige released a gust of breath. “That is one scary woman. I can’t understand why your parents would invite her to this party.”

Harry replied, “Because she happens to be Cole’s mother. And this is a family affair.”

“She’s also dangerous,” Piper added. “In fact, I don’t think even Cole is comfortable about her being here.”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Scott said, “He should have thought about that before he told her about his engagement.”

Harry stared at Paige. “I’m a little surprised that you would be against Mrs. Turner being here, considering that she had helped Olivia regain Cole’s powers from that daemon.”

“Did you really have to bring that up?” Paige retorted, still embarrassed over her part in that incident. “Besides, what Piper was trying to point out is that Cole’s mom is a dangerous and powerful demon.”

“Aren’t we all dangerous? Good, evil, witch, daemon, sorcerer or whatever . . . our powers make us dangerous. In fact, any kind of power can be dangerous if not used properly. Don’t you agree?” Scott shot back.

Paige opened her mouth to retort. But past memories of Cole’s problems with the Source and the incident regarding Darryl and the Valkyries led the Charmed One to hold her tongue.

Piper avoided answering Scott’s question. Instead, she changed the subject, much to Paige’s relief. “I wonder if Cole and Olivia’s engagement is really on Nimue’s mind?” she asked. “Or is there something else she might want to discuss?”

————-

Nimue found her son’s future in-laws standing near a refreshment table, while a uniformed attendant served them food. “Hello!” she greeted the couple. Her eyes briefly glanced at the spread before them. “I must say that this food is quite lovely.”

“Yes, it is,” Gweneth McNeill said with a nod. “Thomas Rimpel is a marvelous chef. He’s one of the few here in San Francisco whom I consider first-rate.”

Jack McNeill smiled politely at the demoness. “Here for a bite to eat?”

“Oh no.” Nimue shook her head. “I’ve just finished eating about ten minutes ago. I’m stuff. Actually . . . I wanted to speak with you, regarding a private matter. I’ll wait for you, at your table.” She smiled once more and headed for an empty table.

A few minutes later, the McNeills joined her, carrying plates of food. Once they had sat down, Jack said, “So, what exactly can we do for you?”

Nimue smiled. “I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to this party.”

“Well, you are Cole’s mother.”

“Of course.” Nimue continued, “And as Olivia’s parents, I would like to invite you to my own engagement party for her and Belthazor. In fact, your entire family is invited.”

Gweneth frowned. “I didn’t realize that you were living in San Francisco.”

“Oh, I’m not. I own a townhouse in Boston. On Beacon Hill.” Nimue hesitated. “However, I don’t plan to hold the party there. I . . . Have you ever heard of the Melora dimension?”

A gasp escaped from Gweneth’s mouth. Her husband and Nimue stared at her. “Gwen?” Jack said. “You’ve heard of this place?”

“I only went there once,” the redheaded witch replied. “When I was nineteen. Bloody gorgeous, it was. Melora is regarded as some kind of sanctuary from any conflicts between all kinds of magical beings – witches, whitelighters, darklighters, warlocks, daemons, wizards, fairies . . . you name it. Everyone put all of their conflicts aside and enjoy themselves at any of the dimension’s resorts.”

Nimue added, “That is about right. I felt that the Melora dimension would be the perfect place to hold the party. Considering the guest list.

Jack’s eyes narrowed warily. “Guest list?”

“Oh . . . there will be a few members from my order. A wizard or two. I plan to hold the party at the Berisa Resort Hotel.” Nimue gave the couple a reassuring smile. “It is quite lovely.”

“You need to hold the party for a few guests . . . at a hotel?”

Bloody hell! Nimue sighed. “To be perfectly honest, there will be more than a few guests.” She noticed the alarmed expression on the couple’s faces. “Oh, but don’t worry. I plan to have a variety of guests. My brother and his family will be there. Along with a few members of the Gimle Order, Belthazor’s friend – Riggerio, and perhaps a witch or two. Like the Charmed Ones, perhaps? And hopefully Olivia’s friend, Miss Green.”

Jack and Gweneth McNeill seemed to relax slightly. “Well, I guess I won’t mind accepting your invitation.” The former turned to his wife. “Gwen?”

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Melora dimension again,” Gweneth added.

Nimue smiled. “Good. I’m sure that you’ll enjoy yourselves.”

Two figures appeared beside the table. “Enjoy what?” Nimue glanced up and met the suspicious eyes of her son. Olivia stood next to him. His eyes still gleaming with suspicion, Belthazor added, “What exactly are you talking about?”

————-

Chris orbed into the middle of the manor’s Solarium. The two sisters glanced up from the television set. “Well, look who’s here,” Piper caustically announced. “Have you finally decided to tell us the truth about yourself? And why you’re here?”

“I told you everything,” the whitelighter protested. “About the fact that Wyatt might be in danger. About me being half-witch and half-whitelighter. About Bianca.” His blue eyes reflected momentary pain at his mention of his former lover. “What more do you want?”

Paige replied, “How about who your parents are, and how you became to be half-witch? Or how we’re supposed to save Wyatt? Or the fact that you didn’t seem that concerned about Cole and Olivia’s engagement?”

“My parents are my own concern,” Chris shot back. “And as for Cole and Olivia – contrary to what Leo believes, their marriage won’t be a future threat. Trust me.”

Piper coolly regarded her whitelighter. “Why should we? You’ve either been lying to us, or trying to manipulate us. Why should we trust anything you say?”

Chris sighed. “Because I can’t tell you everything, right now. This isn’t the right time.”

“When is the right time?” Paige demanded.

The half-whitelighter glanced around. “Where’s Phoebe? Out on a date?”

A caustic Piper replied, “Try Hong Kong. She’s with Jason Dean.”

“What?” Chris looked horrified. “What the hell is she doing in Hong Kong? What about the Power of Three?”

Paige sighed. “We think that Phoebe’s personal life is more important than killing demons, right now. Besides, she needed some time alone with Jason.”

“But in Hong Kong?”

Piper retorted, “Hey! We had managed to do without the Power of Three, when Paige was in Europe, last summer. We can do it, again. And if we do need extra help, Paige can orb Phoebe back here. Or we can get the McNeills or Cole to help.”

But Chris refused to be placated. “Are you serious? What if Phoebe being in Hong Kong and not here, leads to Wyatt . . .” He quickly broke off.

Paige stared at him. “What does Phoebe being in Hong Kong have to do with Wyatt?” Before Chris could answer, the doorbell rang. Paige jumped to her feet. “I’ll get it.”

Chris turned to Piper. “Listen, this idea of you allowing Phoebe to be in Hong Kong is a mistake.”

“Who said that I had . . . allowed Phoebe to be with Jason?” Piper retorted. “She’s a grown woman.”

An anxious-looking Paige returned, escorting their visitor. Piper took one look at the latter and immediately shot to her feet. “Guess who’s joined us for dinner?” the younger woman quipped nervously.

Elizabeth Turner emerged from behind Paige. A polite smile stretched her lips. “Good evening, Miss Halliwell. How are you?”

Piper glared at her sister. “Paige! You let her in?”

“I . . . I mean . . . she . . .” Paige began sheepishly.

Mrs. Turner’s smile became tart. “Oh, there’s no need for concern, my dear. I’m not here for any nefarious reason. If I were, I would not have used the doorbell.”

Keeping her hostility in check, Piper demanded, “Then why are you here?”

Still smiling, the demoness eased herself into one of the wicker chairs. Piper burned inwardly burned at the woman’s boldness. “To issue an invitation, Miss Halliwell. For an engagement party I’m hosting, in honor of Bel . . .” She paused, as her gaze fell upon Chris. “. . . in honor of Cole and Olivia.” Then, “Do I know you, young man?”

“Uh . . . I don’t . . .” Looking insecure, Chris glanced at Piper. “I don’t think so. I’m a friend of the family.”

Blue eyes continued to bore into the young whiteligher’s. “And do you have a name?”

Again, Chris glanced at Piper. “Uh, Chris. Chris Perry.”

“Hmm. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Perry.” Mrs. Turner returned her attention to the sisters. “As I was saying, I’ll be hosting an engagement party for . . . Cole and Olivia. And I’m here to invite you.”

The two sisters stared at each other. Should they accept? Paige shrugged her shoulders, as if conveying the message – “Why not?” Then Piper sighed and replied, “We, uh . . . would love . . . to come.”

“Excellent!” Mrs. Turner responded with a brilliant smile. “They party will be held on Friday. You can pop up at any time you like.”

Paige frowned. “Pop up? To where?”

The demoness hesitated, as her gaze returned to Chris. Piper sighed. “For heaven’s sake! He’s our whitelighter.”

“Oh. I see.” Mrs. Turner nodded. “Well then . . . the party will be held at the Berisa Resort Hotel, in the Melora Dimension. Like I said, you can pop in at any time. I’m sure that Miss Matthews will have no trouble in teleporting you.” She smiled at Chris. “And Mr. Perry can join you, if he likes.”

Looking slightly embarrassed, Chris mumbled, “I don’t know . . . I . . . maybe I’ll come. I think.”

Mrs. Turner stood up. “Well, it’s up to you. And I believe it is time for me to depart. I do look forward to seeing all of you. And say hello to Phoebe and young Wyatt, for me. Good evening.” She flashed one last smile and shimmered out of the room.

The two Charmed Ones heaved a sigh. Chris regarded them with eyes shining with disbelief . . . and yelled, “Are you two out of your damn minds?”

————

Around the same time, the engaged couple returned to Cole’s penthouse that he now shared with Olivia. After the Thanksgiving holiday, it had become her permanent residence. Although most of her furnishings had been placed in a storeroom, Cole and Olivia managed to move a few of her belongings into his penthouse – allowing the latter to look more hospitable.

“An engagement party in the Melora Dimension.” Cole shook his head. “Why would she hold a party for us, in the first place? I’m not exactly beloved by the demonic community. And I sure as hell don’t look forward to a reunion with the Thorn Brotherhood.”

Olivia dumped her purse on the coffee table, and sat down on the sofa. “Do you think that one of your former colleagues might want revenge for Raynor’s death?”

Cole flopped down on the sofa, next to Olivia, and sighed. “I doubt that any one of them would be able to kill me. At least outright. But any one of them could hurt you. Besides, I’m still wondering why Mother wants to hold a party for us.”

“Let’s see,” Olivia commented sardonically. “You are her only son. And you did tell her about her engagement . . . which she had accepted a lot better than you said she would.”

Cole grumbled, “I remember. I also remember that she has plans for a big bash in the Melora Dimension. And my question is – why?”

Olivia grabbed hold of one of Cole’s hands. “Maybe she’s trying to win back her son. How long have you two been estranged?”

“Since I was fifteen,” Cole replied. “Or maybe sixteen. We had a brief reunion back in the late 30s. But I managed to remember why I distrusted her in the first place.”

A tight smile stretched Olivia’s lips. “Courtesy of Raynor, I’d bet.”

Cole shot her a dark look. “What makes you . . . never mind.”

“You know, Cole, even if your mom does have another reason to hold this party, I don’t think her plans include harming either of us.” Olivia shook her head. “I don’t know. I just have this feeling. Maybe she wants our help, regarding a certain matter. Or information.”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Cole muttered, “Great! It’s nice to know that Mother’s ‘little’ party will be more than just about her son’s happiness.”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth, as she stood up and shook her head. “You know, I’m beginning to wonder why you had such difficulty in becoming part of the Halliwell family. You have so much in common with them. I’m going to bed.” She shot a disappointed look at her fiancé and marched toward the master bedroom, leaving him to ponder her last words.

————–

The warlock stood before Prax, feeling calm and collected. At five-feet eleven, he possessed a lithe and wiry body, dark-brown hair and sharp features. The warlock, otherwise known as Eric Logan, regarded the daemon with chilly, gray eyes. “I was told that you wanted to see me.”

Prax indicated an empty chair in front of his desk. “Yes. My boss, Mr. Winslow, has a job for you.”

“Mr. Winslow?” Logan allowed himself an amused smile. “Is he still using that name?”

The daemon glared at his visitor. “Yes. Now . . . he has a job for you. One that promises a very high fee.” Prax tossed a thick, yellow envelope to the other side of the desk. “You will find information on the assignment, inside.”

Logan grabbed the envelope from the desk and opened it. He removed a brown folder from inside. “What’s this?”

“Like I said, information on your next target.”

“Oh?” Logan opened the file. Inside laid a photograph of a beautiful, red-haired woman. The warlock whistled. “Not bad! Who is she?”

Prax leaned back into his chair, and locked his fingers together. “Olivia McNeill. She’s a witch, who lives here in San Francisco.”

A gasp left Logan’s mouth. “Are you . . . You want me to kill . . .”

“To kill her, Mr. Logan,” Prax coolly replied. “Yes.”

Logan stared at the photograph. “But she’s a McNeill witch. They’re not exactly easy to kill, you know. My old mentor, Morella Walters tried to kill a McNeill witch in Boston, some fifteen years ago. Morella was one of the best assassins around. And she ended up dead, because of that last assignment.”

“The McNeills might be difficult to kill, Mr. Logan.” Prax leaned forward. “But they can be killed.”

As he struggled to maintain his calm, Logan read the file, once more. “Wait a minute! It says here that she’s dating Belthazor. Belthazor?”

“Actually Mr. Logan, they’re engaged to be married.”

At that moment, the warlock wondered if his potential employer had lost his mind. “My God! Even if I do succeed in killing the witch, my hide won’t be worth a penny once Belthazor finds out I’m responsible! And he will find out!”

Prax sighed. “I don’t see how. You’re a shapeshifter. That’s why we hired you. If you’re in disguise, no one will find out that you were responsible for Miss McNeill’s death. And you’re one of our best contract assassins. We would never allow you to fall into Belthazor’s hands.”

“Bullshit! You could have given this job to a demonic assassin.” Logan’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why give it to me? A warlock?”

“Like I said, Mr. Logan, you’re one of the best.”

Another thought entered Logan’s mind. “And you can’t afford to have this hit traced to someone from your order. Am I right?”

“Please, Mr. Logan. Try to keep your paranoia in check.” Prax hesitated. “I agree that a warlock would be more preferable for this assignment than a daemon. After all, you would be more difficult for Belthazor, his mother or any other daemon to detect. And if you’re worried about that traitorous half-daemon getting revenge, we’re in the process of planning something special for him. Now, inside the folder, you’ll also find information we have received from a source.”

Logan snickered. “You mean a spy.”

Again, Prax sighed. “Whatever. Anyway, our source has given us information on Miss McNeill’s whereabouts, this weekend. We have made arrangement for you to meet this . . .” A knowing smile curved Prax’s lips. “. . . spy, who will help you reach Miss McNeill’s destination.” He pressed a button. An attractive female with chestnut hair and a shapely figure entered the office. Prax added, “By the way, Mr. Logan, would you like a drink?”

The warlock smiled at Prax’s assistant. “A cup of coffee with sugar only. Thank you.” The assistant nodded and left the office. Logan turned to Prax. “How much is the witch’s death worth to you?”

One of Prax’s eyebrows quirked upward. “I beg your pardon?”

“What will be my fee?” Logan leaned forward. “Considering whom I’m being hired to kill, along with the fact that my life will be in jeopardy if Belthazor ever finds out about me, I will be expecting a rather substantial fee.”

Prax smiled. “Oh! May I assume that you have accepted the assignment?”

A sigh left Logan’s mouth. “I would like for you to state your fee, first.”

After a brief hesitation, Prax answered, “Ten million . . . Euros.”

The moment Logan heard the amount, he realized that he would not being able to resist the assignment. Or its challenge. Again, he sighed. “Then you may assume that I have accepted this assignment. Shall we go over the particulars?” He returned his attention to the file’s contents, while Prax resumed his instructions.

END OF ACT I