Plum Pudding

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Below is a brief look at the traditional Christmas dish known as Plum Pudding:

PLUM PUDDING

Many people tend to associate the dish known as Plum Pudding (aka Christmas Pudding or Plum Duff) with the Christmas holiday, Victorian Britain, and especially Charles Dickens. I know I certainly did for a good number of years. But I was surprised to discover that Plum Pudding’s association with the Christmas holiday in Britain went back as far as the medieval period. During that particular period, it was the custom for pudding to be prepared on the 25th Sunday after Trinity. It was also customary for the pudding to be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. Also, every family member was required to stir the pudding in turn from east to west in honor of the Magi and their alleged journey in that direction.

The origin of the current Plum Pudding made popular during the Victorian Age could be traced back to the 1420s. The dish emerged not as a confection or a dessert, but as a means of preserving meat at the end of the harvest season. Because of shortages of fodder, all surplus livestock were slaughtered in the autumn. The meat was then kept in a pastry case along with dried fruits acting as a preservative, developing into large “mince pies”. These pies could then be used to feed hosts of people, particularly at the festive season. The chief ancestor of the modern pudding was a thick soup or stew made from vegetables, dried fruit, sugar, grain, spices and some form of meat (if available) called “pottage”; which originated in Roman times. , however, was the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction originating in Roman times.

Then in 1714, King George I began to request that this particular kind of pottage, which became known as “Plum Pudding” be served as part of his royal feast every Christmas. But it was not until the 1830s in which the current Plum Pudding assumed its form – a round tower of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly – and was served during the Christmas holiday. Below is a recipe for the tradition Plum (or Christmas) Pudding from the About.com website:

Plum Pudding

Ingredients

1lb /450g dried mixed fruit (use golden raisins/sultanas* , raisins, currants)
1 oz /25 g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped Grated zest and juice
½ large orange and
½ lemon
4 tbsp brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
2 oz /55 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz /110 g shredded suet, beef or vegetarian
4oz /110g soft, dark brown sugar
4 oz /110 g white fresh bread crumbs
1 oz /25 g whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
2 large, fresh eggs

Preparation

Lightly butter a 2½ pint/1.4 litre pudding basin.

Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.

Stir together the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon in a very large mixing bowl. Add the suet, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs, nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally add the marinaded dried fruits and stir again.

Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.

Now is the time to gather the family for Christmas Pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish and adding a few coins.

Spoon the mixture in to the greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil and tie securely with string.

Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 hours.

Make sure you check the water level frequently so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked. The pudding is not a light cake but instead is a dark, sticky and dense sponge.

Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer and pour in a little extra brandy. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and retie with string. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas day. Note: The pudding cannot be eaten immediately, it really does need to be stored and rested then reheated on Christmas Day. Eating the pudding immediately after cooking will cause it to collapse and the flavours will not have had time to mature.

On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for about an hour. Serve with Brandy or Rum Sauce, Brandy Butter or Custard.

“MACBETH” (2006) Review

”MACBETH” (2006) Review

Over the years, a good number of filmmakers, novelists and playwrights have taken William Shakespeare’s plays and presented them in a different setting or with a twist. One such movie that comes to mind is the 1957 Broadway musical, ”WEST SIDE STORY”, which became an Oscar winning 1961 movie. The directors of both the play and the movie took Shakespeare’s ”ROMEO AND JULIET”, set it on the mean streets of Lower East Manhattan and gave it a different ending. Kenneth Branaugh’s 1996 version of ”HAMLET” was set in the late 19th century. And there have been two versions of ”THE TAMING OF THE SHREW” in which one movie was set at a Seattle high school and the other within an African-American family of sisters and their spouses. Director Geoffrey Wright did something similar with his 2006 adaptation of ”MACBETH”, which starred Sam Worthington and Victoria Hill.

In other words, what Wright did was retold the story of Macbeth as a crime story set in modern day Melbourne, Australia. Instead of a Scottish lord, Macbeth was an underboss of a powerful Melbourne gangster named Duncan. After leading Duncan’s gang in a drug deal that ended with the violent deaths of his boss’ rival – Macdonwald, Macbeth found a few pills inside of one of Macdonwald’s nightclubs and partook them. During Macbeth’s drug trip, he learned from three witches dressed as schoolgirls that he would one day assume total control of Duncan’s gang. But his wife, Lady Macbeth dismissed the prophecy, claiming that Macbeth lacked the ambition and drive to take control of the gang from Duncan. But when she learned that the gang leader would be staying overnight at their home, following a party, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to kill Duncan, frame his bodyguards and assume control of the gang. Which is exactly what happened. After the other gang members elected Macbeth as their new leader, the new gang lord struggled with the suspicions of others, Lady Macbeth’s mental decline and his own paranoia and guilt.

”MACBETH” would have slipped my notice if someone had not mentioned it on a LIVE JOURNAL blog for actor Sam Worthington. And I am glad that someone did. ”MACBETH” turned out to be somewhat better than I had expected. It was not the best film adaptation of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen. But I thought that Wright and actress Victoria Hill (who also served as co-writer) did a solid job retelling the play in a more modern setting. Both Wright and Hill managed to achieve this without a long running time for the movie. They also did a solid job in creating a decent crime story about power, greed and betrayal.

I am certain that some of you have noticed that I have used the word ”solid” a lot to describe the movie. But that is how I feel about it. ”MACBETH” was certainly not a terrible film. However, I would never consider it to be a favorite of mine. I had some problems with it. One, Will Gibson’s photography seemed rather dark and a bit on the gloomy side. Aside from Macbeth’s first meeting with the three witches at a cemetery, most of the movie’s scenes seemed to feature interior shots or a night time setting. I really do not know what to say about John Clifford White’s score. That I barely noticed it? There were times I began to wonder if the movie actually had a score – except in two scenes that featured the party Macbeth held for Duncan and the final sequence featuring the gang’s attack upon Macbeth at his home. Earlier, I had congratulated Wright and Hill for writing a screenplay that did not result in a long running time. However, Wright’s direction still managed to drag the film with occasional slow pacing throughout the movie. Between the minimal score, White’s dim lighting and Wright’s pacing, there were moments when I found it damn hard to stay awake.

The cast seemed pretty solid (ah, there is that word again). I was impressed by the three actresses who portrayed the witches – Chloe Armstrong, Kate Bell and Miranda Nation. They harbored a surprising mixture of sexual allure and menace. Their orgy scene with Worthington seemed . . . hell, I do not know how to describe that sequence. All I can say that it seemed odd. Matt Doran gave an intense performance as Malcolm, son of the murdered Duncan, who had suspected Macbeth for killing his father from the beginning. But I might as well be frank. When it comes to ”MACBETH”, only the actor in the titled role and the actress portraying Lady Macbeth matter to me.

I would have never considered Sam Worthington as someone to portray a Shakespearian role. Honestly, I never would. Look, I am well aware that he is a talented actor with a strong screen presence. But he simply never struck me as the type to do Shakespeare. Not ten years ago. Yet, he did an admirable job in his portrayal of the underboss who managed to get over his head following his coup d’etat against his boss, thanks to his wife’s ambitions and his own paranoia. Mind you, there were times I thought Worthington seemed a bit too young for the role. He must have been 28 or 29 years old when he shot this film. And I must admit that I did not find his portrayal of Macbeth’s descent into madness in his last scenes particularly convincing. I believe he could have given a more credible performance today. He has the talent and more importantly, the maturity to do justice to this role. However, Worthington still did a pretty good job. And he must have been one of the few actors who were not inclined to perform Shakespeare in front of a camera at the top of his lungs – like many other performers seemed inclined to do. For that I am eternally grateful.

And I am also grateful to Victoria Hill for refraining from indulging in any acting histrionics. Like Worthington, she managed to spout her Shakespeare without indulging in any theatrical hamminess. But I would also like to add that I found her performance as Lady Macbeth to be mesmerizing. Honestly. I really enjoyed the subtle manner in which her Lady Macbeth drew the lead character into a murder scheme that would prove to be overwhelming for them both. In fact, one of her best scenes featured Lady Macbeth manipulating Macbeth into committing murder. Another favorite scene focused upon her reaction to Macbeth’s failure to originally kill Duncan’s bodyguards. Again, she managed to convey a great deal of emotion and passion without any histrionics. But my favorite scene featured the one in which her Lady Macbeth not only helped her husband carry out the coup d’etat against Duncan, she seemed to be in control of the entire operation. And Hill performed that entire scene with an interesting, yet complex mixture of cool resourcefulness and wariness. I can honestly say that she probably gave the best performance in the movie. She seemed more suited for her role than Worthington did for his.

I will never consider ”MACBETH” to be a personal favorite of mine. I rather doubt that I would ever have an inclination to watch it again. Will Gibson’s photography struck me as a bit too dark and gloomy – probably unnecessarily so. John Clifford White’s minimal score nearly put me to sleep. And so did Geoffrey Wright’s pacing of the film. And despite Sam Worthington’s solid performance, he did seem a bit too young for the title role of Macbeth. If he had done the movie in the past ten years, he would have been perfect in the role.

However, I must admit that Wright managed to do decent job in transforming the story’s setting from medieval Scotland to the gang lands of Melbourne. None of the cast members indulged in histrionic acting as many other actors tend to do, while performing Shakespeare in front of a camera. Worthington still managed to give a good performance. And he was supported by a superb performance by Victoria Hill as Lady Macbeth. In the end, I can honestly say that this version of ”MACBETH” was not a bad movie.

Five Favorite Episodes of “DAREDEVIL” Season One (2015)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of “DAREDEVIL”, the Marvel Netflix adaptation of the Marvel Comics hero, Daredevil. Created by Drew Goddard, the series stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock aka Daredevil:

 

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “DAREDEVIL” SEASON ONE (2015)

1. (1.09) “Speak of the Devil” – Matt Murdock aka Daredevil faces his own demons and an assassin named Nobu, thanks to being set up by local crime boss Wilson Fisk and the criminal organization known as the Hand. Also, Matt’s law firm suffers a setback when one of their clients, a woman named Elena Cardenas who is preventing Fisk and the Hand from taking complete control of an apartment building, is murdered.

 

 

 

2. (1.04) “In the Blood” – The Ranskahovs, two vicious Russian criminal brothers working for Fisk, strike back against Daredevil by kidnapping the woman who had earlier saved and then helped him, local nurse Claire Temple. Fisk moves to further consolidate his power in the criminal underworld.

 

 

 

3. (1.06) “Condemned” – Daredevil takes out the police when they try to kill Vladimir Ranskahovs on Fisk’s orders. He takes Ranskahov to an abandoned warehouse, hoping for answers about Fisk. Meanwhile, Matt’s law partner and friend, Foggy Nelson and Mrs. Cardenas are injured during a series of bombings.

 

 

 

4. (1.13) “Daredevil” – In the season finale, Matt and Fisk have their final showdown, while the latter is being hunted by the police. Matt is finally dubbed by the media and the locals as “Daredevil”.

 

 

 

5. (1.02) “Cut Man” – Matt makes a near fatal error while trying to save a kidnapped boy who had been snatched to draw out Daredevil. Meanwhile, he finds an unlikely ally in Claire after she saves his life.

 

 

 

“REMINGTON STEELE”: Top Five Favorite Season One (1982-1983) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One (1982-1983) of NBC’s “REMINGTON STEELE”. Created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason, the series starred Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, James Read and Janet DeMay:

“REMINGTON STEELE”: TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASON ONE (1982-1983) EPISODES

1- 1.21 Sting of Steele

1. (1.21) “Sting of Steele” – Remington Steele’s former mentor, Daniel Chalmers, travels to Los Angeles to seek Steele’s help in dealing with a vindictive and crooked London casino owner, and winds up romancing Laura Holt’s mother, Abigail, in this takeoff of the 1973 movie, “THE STING”. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Beverly Garland guest starred.

2 - 1.05 Thou Shalt Not Steele

2. (1.05) “Thou Shalt Not Steele” – A woman from Steele’s past asks him to help her steal a valuable painting that Laura has already agreed to protect, while the latter deals with her visiting mother. Cassandra Harris and Beverly Garland guest starred.

3- 1.16 Steele Crazy After All These Years

3. (1.16) “Steele Crazy After All These Years” – Fellow detective Murphy Michaels’ college homecoming is marred by a murder that awakens memories of a bombing on campus ten years before. Annie Potts, Sharon Stone, Todd Susman, Tony Plana, Allyce Beasley and Xander Berkeley guest starred.

4- 1.13 A Good Night Steele

4. (1.13) “A Good Night’s Steele” – Laura and Steele pose as a doctor and insomniac patient respectively, in order to find a murderer at a sleep disorder clinic. Paul Reiser guest starred.

5- 1.20 Steele Gold

5. (1.20) “Steele’s Gold” – A prospector’s journal stolen during a party leads Laura, Steele and Murphy on a wild gold hunt through the desert with murder suspects. William Russ guest starred.

HM - 1.22 Steele in Circulation

Honorable Mentioned: (1.22) “Steele in Circulation” – After preventing a banker from committing suicide, Steele recruits Laura and Murphy’s help in finding out who had tricked the man into stealing over two million dollars.

“Strange Bedfellows” [R] – Part 6

“STRANGE BEDFELLOWS”

Part 6

PRESENT DAY . . . Over the years, alcohol had sustained Idril against many disappointments in her life. Yet, she could only remember only three or four occasions in which she had engaged in a drunken binge. One of those binges had occurred after learning about Raynor’s death over two-and-a-half years ago. But the very first time she had truly went on a bender happened after Belthazor had spurned her for that witch, Christine Bloome.

Although the demoness had began her pursuit of Belthazor for merely convenience, she discovered within a month that she had fallen for the handsome and elegant half-daemon. His rejection of her had been a serious blow to her psyche and her pride. By the time she finished drinking nearly every bottle of liquor in that hotel suite, Idril came to the decision to get rid of both Belthazor and his English tramp. The bitch had ruined her plans regarding the half-daemon; and Idril wanted to get even with him for drugging her, in order to spend the night with Christine.

Taking a swig of absinthe, Idril recalled her decision . . . and thirty-four years later, regretted it. Love, she concluded, made beings do stupid things. No wonder both the Source and Raynor had frowned upon it. Going after Belthazor and Christine not proved to be stupid, but led to one of the most humiliating moments of her life. And it all began with her tracking down Tarkin in Paris.

———–

JULY 22, 1969; PARIS, FRANCE . . . A steady downpour of rain fell upon the Parisian streets, when Idril teleported in the middle of an alley off the Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame. Fortunately for her, she had an umbrella to prevent her from getting wet. The demoness then took a deep breath and merged into the crowds that flowed along the sidewalk.

Right across the street stood the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral. But Idril was not interested in French culture or tourism at the moment. A fellow Thorn Brotherhood daemon had informed her that Vornac assigned Tarkin to close an important business deal, here in Paris. The same daemon also added that the 75 year-old daemon usually patronized a place on this very street called Le Vieux Bistro for his meals. The demoness finally came upon the bistro. She glanced through one of the window’s light curtains and spotted Tarkin inside, enjoying a meal. After closing her umbrella, she entered the bistro and stood before the other daemon’s table.

Slowly, Tarkin glanced up at the new visitor. His dark eyes widened in surprise at the sight of Idril standing before him. “Idril?” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you,” Idril replied. She was in no mood for idle chitchat. “Mind if I sit down?”

Tarkin nodded. “Sure.” He cut a piece from what looked like a pork cutlet and popped it into his mouth.

Idril sat down in the chair opposite the other daemon. A waiter approached the table, carrying a menu. She asked for a glass of red wine, instead. Then she returned her attention to Tarkin. “So . . . where’s Christine? Isn’t she usually by your side?” Idril struggled to suppress any smugness from her voice.

“Tina was pleasure,” Tarkin barked. “I’m here in Paris on business.”

“If you say so,” Idril replied with seemingly innocence. The waiter returned with her wine. She took a sip and added, “And I thought you were alone because of Christine’s new ‘friendship’ with Belthazor.” She took a second sip of wine.

The other daemon’s fork froze in mid-air. Then he slowly placed it on his plate and stared at Idril. “Tina is with . . . Belthazor?” Idril nodded. “You’ve seen them together?”

Idril paused before she answered, “Not exactly. Belthazor . . . he told that he had seen Christine . . . the night she broke up with you. And he had been gone . . .”

A sneer marred Takin’s countenance. “Oh, I see. He dumped you, didn’t he? And now you tell me that he’s with Tina.” A sigh left his mouth and he shrugged. “Oh well. Easy come, easy go.” He returned his attention to his meal.

In an effort to regain control of the conversation, Idril protested, “I never said that Belthazor had dumped me!”

Tarkin chuckled. “But he must have. Why else would you seek me out to tell me about him and Tina? He must have dumped you for her . . . and now you want revenge. And you want me to do what? Kill them for you?” He snorted with derision. “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

Idril decided to give up any pretense. “And why not?” she demanded. “Aren’t you pissed?”

After swallowing another piece of pork, Tarkin replied, “No, not really. Tina had dumped me in the first place, because she caught me screwing some young thing at the Triple Six. Besides, I’m not going to kill a fellow daemon over some woman. What do you take me for?”

“Someone with pride!” Idril shot back.

Tarkin rolled his eyes. “Come off it, Idril! I would catch hell from Vornac or Raynor for getting jealous over some mortal. Even if she is a witch. Tina and I were growing apart, anyway. And I’m not surprised about her and Belthazor. I suspect they’ve been eying each other for quite some time.” He gave Idril an appraising stare. “You know, I’m rather surprised that you got involved with Belthazor in the first place. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be – especially now that Raynor is married again.”

“How did you . . .?” Idril bit back her words and took a sip of wine.

Tarkin smiled rather nastily. “Tina told me about seeing you with some man in Nice, last winter. A man that perfectly fits Raynor’s description. I didn’t realize that you were that desperate for a rebound.” He paused, as his eyes narrowed. “Or was there another reason you went after Belthazor? He told me about Raynor advising him to consider marriage. Did you and Raynor planned to use Belthazor as some kind of patsy to hide your affair?'”

“Forget it,” Idril retorted bitterly. “And Christine has a big mouth, by the way.”

A sly smile curved Tarkin’s lips. “Don’t I know it.”

In one last attempt to change the other daemon’s mind, Idril added, “You really don’t want to get even, do you?”

“No, I don’t. It’s like I said – I have no intention of killing a fellow daemon over some witch.” Tarkin snorted derisively. “I’d be laughed out of the Brotherhood. And so would you.” He paused and regarded the demoness with thoughtful eyes. “However, if you’re that set on getting even . . . may I recommend someone else to do the job?”

Idril frowned. “Like who?”

“There’s this group of demonic assassins that are from the Haldane Order.” Tarkin paused. “And I know where Tina will be this weekend. At the Chilworth Manor Hotel. In Southampton. She’ll probably be there for the Cowes Week Regatta.”

“The what?”

Tarkin sighed. “Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight? That’s where they have sailing races for high society or anyone who can afford a sailboat. Anything else?”

“No thanks,” Idril curtly replied. She drank the last of her wine and stood up. “Thanks for the drink,” she said in a cool voice. “And for the information. I guess you’re not that pleased about Belthazor and Christine, after all.”

Before she could turn away, Tarkin added, “Mind if I give you a piece of advice? You should really give up this idea of going after Belthazor and Tina. Witch or not, Tina’s a very powerful magic practitioner. Her grandfather is none other than Tauron of the Valar Dimension. He’s just as powerful as the Source and Tina happens to be a favorite grandchild. As for Belthazor – not only is he one of the best assassins in our order, he’s also considered one of the best by the Source. I wouldn’t go ahead with this, if I were you.”

But Idril refused to listen. She had been badly humiliated. Someone – whether it be Belthazor or that bitch, Christine – had to pay. She bid Tarkin a cool good-bye and marched out of the bistro and back into the rain.

————–

JULY 26, 1969; SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND . . . Rain fell upon the gabled roofs of the Chilworth Manor Hotel. It happened to be a former Edwardian manor that had been converted into one of Southampton’s most elegant hotels sometime during the early or mid 20th century. Rain also drummed against the window panes of one of the hotel’s suites. Inside this particular suite, Cole felt oblivious of his surroundings or the rain outside. His mind and senses were focused upon one thing – the soft, pliant body that moved underneath his.

Cole and Christine had arrived in Southampton to attend the annual Cowes Week Regatta – a series of sailboat races held on nearby Isle of Wight, in the small town of Cowes. Since Christine was unable to book a room at one of the hotels and private cottages in Cowes, she ended up booking a suite in nearby Southampton, at the Chilworth Manor Hotel. The following Saturday unfolded in a series of events. Cole and Christine met with one of the witch’s friends aboard the latter’s yacht to watch the sailboat races. Later that evening, the couple attended a party at one of the private villas on the island. It was nearly one in the morning and raining, when they finally returned to the hotel.

Cole plopped down on the sofa and sighed. “I don’t know if I can take another two or three days of this. I’ve forgotten how exhausting it can be, attending one of these regattas.”

Christine arched a blonde eyebrow. “You’ve forgotten?”

“Well, this isn’t exactly my first time I’ve been here for the Cowes Week races,” Cole remarked. “It’s just been a while.”

The witch sat down on an empty spot, next to Cole. “It must have been a lot longer than six years, because that’s how long I’ve been coming down here.” Her eyes coolly swept over Cole’s reclining figure. “Hmmm, you do look a bit knackered. Bloody shame that is. I reckon I would have to call it a night, after all.” She stood up.

With energy he did not know that he possessed, Cole quickly sprang to his feet. He then lifted Christine into his arms, causing her to squeal with delight. The pair shimmered out of the suite’s living room and into the bedroom. Cole placed the witch on the bed and grinned. “Looks like I’m not that tired after all.”

“We’ll see,” the witch replied with a smirk. She crawled off the bed and deliberately began to remove her clothes. Wearing only panties and stockings, Christine walked over to Cole and gently pushed him onto the bed. She then leaned over him and unfastened his belt and trousers. Next, she removed his shoes before finally tugging off his trousers and briefs.

Breathing heavily, Cole stared at the blond witch. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Finishing what I had started that night we first me,” Christine replied huskily. “Before Whatshername had interrupted me.” She slipped one hand between his legs, causing the half-daemon to gasp. At first, she played with him. Slender fingers alternated between gentle caresses and squeezes that nearly left Cole breathless. But when she took him into her mouth, he cried out loud and sprang into a sitting position. He tried so hard not to come. He wanted to save himself for more horizontal activities. But Christine’s soft lips and tongue made it difficult. And in the end, he could not hold back.

The witch lifted her head from between his legs. A wasted Cole removed his handkerchief from his jacket and handed it to her. “Well, that’s it,” he commented, while Christine wiped her mouth. “Now, I’m too tired to do anything.”

Christine slid forward to join him. “Are you sure?” She began to unfastened his shirt’s buttons.

Cole took a deep breath. “Perhaps not. Perhaps I just need a few minutes of rest.”

“In that case,” Christine removed his jacket, “you might as well get a bit more comfy.” She tossed the jacket on the floor. “And let’s get rid of the shirt, shall we?” Cole sat up and removed his shirt. It joined the jacket on the floor. “There now. It’s a shame you’re a bit tuckered. I wouldn’t have . . . oh!” A squeal escaped from her mouth, as Cole rolled her flat on her back. “I thought you were tired?”

The half-daemon smiled down at the witch. “I can think of something that won’t require much energy on my part,” he murmured. Once more, he took Christine by surprise. A gasp left her mouth, as he ripped away her stockings and panties. He then spooned her body from behind, eliciting a giggle from the witch.

“Is this all you can do?” Christine demanded in a challenging voice.

Cole murmured, “Of course not.” Then he inserted two fingers into the warm folds of flesh between the witch’s legs. She arched her body and gasped for the second time. His fingers slid deep inside her. It was not long before Cole could feel her muscles involuntarily clutch his fingers, as she experienced an orgasm.

“Oh God,” Christine murmured between pants. “I need you inside me. Now. Please?”

A groan left Cole’s mouth. He felt so hard that he realized his need to enter her completely was just as strong as her. “Yeah. Yeah, of course. I . . .” The half-daemon rolled Christine on her back, spread her legs and with a grunt, entered her. The couple’s bodies began to move – slowly, at first. Christine tightened her legs around Cole’s waist, allowing him to sink his entire length deep into her. Locked together, the half-daemon and the witch moved in unison. Harder. Faster. The moment came when Christine’s wet flesh tightened around Cole’s. She cried out his name, as he stabbed into her a few more times. A massive orgasm finally overwhelmed him, allowing his seed to spill into her body.

Christine unwrapped her legs from around Cole’s waist. Feeling boneless, he sagged against her body for several seconds and rolled off her. A satiated sigh escaped from his mouth. “I don’t think I’ll be able to recover after that,” he murmured.

“I reckon I don’t want to,” Christine added. Her slender fingers began to stroke Cole’s chest. “Then again, if recovering means another tumble like that, maybe . . .”

The witch’s voice faded into the background, as the back of Cole’s neck tingled. Daemons. Which meant . . . danger. He quickly shot into a sitting position. Two dark-clad figures materialized into the bedroom. “Christine!” the half-daemon cried. “Move!” He shoved her off the bed, as a fireball from one of the demons struck the very spot she had just abandoned.

Cole, who had scrambled off the bed, flung an energy ball at Christine’s attacker. The latter exploded immediately. The other daemon lifted Cole off the floor, using telekinesis, and flung him against the far side of the wall. Before the half-daemon could do anything, Christine grabbed a dagger from one of the night stand, next to the bed. She hurled the weapon at the second assailant’s center forehead. The daemon screamed in pain and disintegrated into a ball of light.

“Bloody hell!” the witch exclaimed. “Haldane assassins? Why would they attack us?”

Five more dark-clad figures, along with a very familiar one, appeared in the bedroom. “Take a wild guess,” Idril greeted with a smirk.

Cole stared at the demoness. “Idril? What the hell . . .?”

“You should know, Belthazor. I don’t like being humiliated. Or rejected.” Idril turned to her companions. “It’s five of you against the two of them. Kill them!”

It was Christine who made the first move. She stared down at one assassin. His body turned red, as he screamed in pain. Then it began to smoke before disintegrating into a pile of ash. At that moment, Cole realized that she was a thermokinetic, as well as a telekinetic. He killed another daemon with an energy ball. Then he shimmered out of the room, reappeared behind two assassins and snapped their necks in quick succession. One daemon sent a bolt of lightning toward the witch – much to Cole’s horror. He did not have to worry. Christine quickly held up on hand and deflected the demon’s attack. The lightning bolt zinged back toward the demonic assassin and struck him in the center of his chest . . . killing him instantly.

Fear gleamed in the eyes of the last Haldane assassin. He glanced around and quickly teleported out of the room. Cole smiled coldly at the dark-haired demoness. “Looks like its now two to one.”

“You son-of-a-bitch!” Idril spat angrily. Her brown eyes suddenly glowed red. As a red beam shot from her eyes, Cole used his telekinesis to deflect her attack and send her out of the room. Idril’s screams of pain filled his ears, as her body flew out of the open window.

Cole walked over to the open window and glanced out at the hotel grounds, below. Despite the surrounding darkness, he spotted Idril’s writhing body on the lawn. Seconds later, she disappeared.

Christine joined the half-daemon by the window and pressed her body against his. “Is she dead?”

“Unfortunately no,” Cole murmured. “But I think she’s badly hurt.” He sighed. “It’ll be a long time before she tries to hurt us, again. If ever.” Christine began to rub his arm. “Hopefully.”

Then the couple turned away from the window and returned to the bed.

End of Part 6

1820s Costumes in Movies and Television

Below are images of fashion from the decade of the 1820s, found in movies and television productions over the years:

 

1820s COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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“The Foxes of Harrow” (1947)

 

 

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“Yankee Buccaneer” (1952)

 

 

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“Hawaii” (1966)

 

 

“Scarlet and Black” (1993)

 

 

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“Interview With a Vampire” (1994)

 

 

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“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” (1996)

 

 

“Nicholas Nickleby” (2001)

 

 

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“Little Dorrit” (2008)

 

 

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“Roots” (2016)

“NATIONAL TREASURE” (2004) Review

“NATIONAL TREASURE” (2004) Review

Over twelve years ago, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub got together with the Disney Studios and created an adventure/heist that delved deeply into American history . . . namely the American Revolution called “NATIONAL TREASURE”.

The movie begins in 1974, when a ten year-old Benjamin Franklin Gates searches for relics inside the attic of his grandfather John Adams Gates’ Washington D.C. home. Heartened by his grandson’s enthusiasm, old Mr. Gates reveals a family legend about valuable and ancient treasures that had been gathered since Ancient Egypt. When the treasure falls into the hands of the Freemason during the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers go out of their way to hide it from the British. They left one clue – a scrap of paper with the inscription, “the secret lies with Charlotte” – in the hands of their colleague Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland. The latter tries to deliver the clue to President Andrew Jackson, but gives it to his driver, an adolescent named Thomas Gates, who happened to be an ancestor of Ben’s family. Although his father Patrick Gates disapproves of treasure hunting, Ben becomes obsessed with the “National Treasure”.

Nearly three decades later, Ben (who is now a historian and amateur cryptologist) recruits a young computer expert named Riley Poole and Ian Howe, a wealthy British financier, to search for the Charlotte. The three men, along with Ian’s employees, find an old eighteenth ship called the U.S.S. Charlotte trapped in the Arctic ice. Instead of the treasure, Ben discovers a meerschaum pipe hidden in a barrel of gunpowder in the cargo hold. An engraved riddle is found on the pipe’s stem, which Ben believes is a clue to an invisible map written on the back of the Declaration of Independence. When Ian reveals his criminal past and willingness to steal the Declaration of Independence, he and Ben have a falling out. Upon their return to Washington D.C., Ben and Riley try to warn various Federal agencies, including one Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but no one believes them. The pair decides that the only way to prevent the Declaration from getting into Ian’s hands is to steal the document themselves. This decision leads Ben, Riley and eventually Abigail on adventure that takes them from the nation’s capital to New York City’s financial center in an effort to find the treasure and prevent it from falling into Ian’s hands.

“NATIONAL TREASURE” received mixed reviews when it first hit the theaters ten years ago. On a certain level, I can understand. The idea of a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence sound rather ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is the idea of a pair of pair of spectacles with multiple colored lenses hidden behind an Independence Hall brick and used to read the “hidden map”. But the most ludicrous aspect from the screenplay written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio is the fact that Ben and Riley did not face criminal charges for stealing the Declaration of Independence in the first place. If I had been Ian Howe, I would have sued the F.B.I. Also, “NATIONAL TREASURE” did reek with the whole “Disneyanna-style” of American History that you can find at the corporation’s various amusement theme parks. The history depicted in the film seemed more intent upon putting the Founding Fathers on a pedestal, instead of engaging in a more realistic exploration of American history. This beautification of history is reflected in a good deal of star Nicholas Cage’s dialogue.

On the hand, “NATIONAL TREASURE” did reveal some nice tidbits of American history, especially from the Revolution period. Even the Riley Poole character managed to put in his two cents in one scene that I found particularly humorous. Speaking of humor, I cannot deny that I found the movie rather funny. I wonder if this could be attributed to Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio being two of the movie’s screenwriters. After all, they were responsible for a great deal of the humor found in the “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” movie franchise. Although most of the cast managed to get in a few funny lines, a good deal of the humor came from the exchanges between Nicholas Cage and Justin Bartha. Once Diane Kruger’s character joined the search for the treasure, a very funny and dynamic trio became complete. But the best aspect of “NATIONAL TREASURE” proved to be its story. The screenwriters did a first-rate job in combining the many aspects of the movie’s plot – adventure, comedy, historical mystery and heist film. And they managed to combine these aspects in a seamless manner that still astounds me to this day. No wonder I find this movie so enjoyable to watch . . . even after a decade.

But it was not merely the movie’s plot that made “NATIONAL TREASURE” so enjoyable to watch. It is also a very beautiful-looking film. I have to give credit to several people. One of those responsible for the movie’s visual style was cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. I found his photography not only beautiful, but sharp, colorful and rather original . . . as shown in the following images:

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Also responsible for the movie’s visual style was production designer Norris Spencer, who did an excellent job of combining the movie’s current day setting and the historical flashbacks. William Goldenberg did a more than admirable job with the film’s editing. This was especially apparent in certain action scenes like the original heist at the National Archives, the van chase in Washington D.C., the foot chase in Philadelphia and the tunnels beneath Trinity Church in New York City.

Aside from the movie’s narrative, my favorite aspect of “NATIONAL TREASURE” proved to be the performances by the cast. I do not know if I would regard Benjamin Gates as one of Nicholas Gates’ best roles. But it is certainly one of my favorites. What I liked about Cage’s performance is that he injected so much energy and passion into the role that in many ways, he reminded me of why I enjoy History so much. On the other hand, Justin Bartha provided an entertaining contrast to Cage’s passionate historian with his witty and sardonic dialogue. I also enjoyed how Bartha’s Riley Poole seemed to project a long-suffering attitude toward Ben’s occasional over-the-top passion for History. “NATIONAL TREASURE” was the first time I saw Diane Kruger in any production – movie or television. I realized that ten years ago, most critics did not have a high opinion of her. I never understood why. Not only did she give a very charming and skillful performance as Abigail Chase, the National Archives historian who gets dragged into Ben and Riley’s treasure hunt, she clicked very well with both Cage and Bartha.

I have seen Sean Bean in just about every kind of role possible – as a hero, an anti-hero, a pathetic dweeb and finally as a villain. I have to say that Ian Howe has to be one of the most interesting . . . and likable villains he has ever portrayed. I liked how Bean not only conveyed the villainous aspects of his character, but also Howe’s friendliness, intelligence, subtlety and loyalty to his men. Jon Voight gave a surprisingly complex and interesting performance as Ben Gates’ skeptical historian father, Patrick Gates, who enthusiasm for treasure hunter declined to the point of cynicism. Voight provided a good deal of give-and-take not only for Cage, but also Christopher Plummer, who portrayed his father, John Gates. Speaking of Plummer, his appearance in the movie was brief, but also very entertaining and memorable . . . at least for me. I thought he did a pretty good job in setting up the film’s narrative with his verbal description of the Templar treasure. Harvey Keitel surprisingly proved to be the movie’s backbone as the no-nonsense F.B.I. Special Agent Peter Sadusky. He gave a quiet, grounded and slightly sardonic performance that proved to be rather comforting. “NATIONAL TREASURE” also featured solid supporting performances from the likes of David Dayan Fisher (“24”), Mark Pellegrino (“LOST”), Stephen Pope, Oleg Taktarov, Ron Canada (“THE WEST WING”), Annie Parisse (“THE PACIFIC” and “PERSONS OF INTEREST”), Dahn Ballard, Yves Michel-Beneche and especially Sharon Wilkins, who was hilarious as a sarcastic female butcher at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.

What else can I say about “NATIONAL TREASURE”? It is not perfect. And there are times when the plot came off as illogical. But after ten years, I believe it is one of the more entertaining live-action Disney movies I have ever seen. And I have to thank director Jon Turteltaub, a talented crew and first-rate acting from a cast led by Nicholas Cage.

 

“Unnecessary Time Periods”

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“UNNECESSARY TIME PERIODS”

I am a big fan of the DCEU or at least the franchise’s first phase. I am also a fan of the 2017 hit film, “WONDER WOMAN”. I was also pleased to discover that the film has managed to convince Hollywood studios – especially Warner Brothers and Disney – to create more comic book movies with a female protagonist.

But my pleasure in both has somewhat been muted by what seemed to be a growing trend in Hollywood – to have these upcoming movies set in the past. Why? Because the successful “WONDER WOMAN” film was set in the past – during the last week or two of World War I? I had no problems with this, considering that “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” had established Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman’s presence during that conflict with a single photograph. Hell, the television series from the 1970s had established Wonder Woman’s origin story during World War II during its Season One and brought her character into the present (late 1970s to early 1980s) in the seasons that followed.

However, I learned that the second Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot will be set in 1984. To drive home that point, it is called “WONDER WOMAN 1984”. Personally, I do not understand this decision. Was this Warner Brothers and Patty Jenkins’ attempt to cash in on the first movie’s success? Was it to undermine the back story for Wonder Woman that was established by Zack Snyder in both “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” in order to make her seem like a more ideal character? Who knows. But this movie will definitely establish a plot hole in the franchise’s overall narrative.

Warner Brothers also plans to create and release “SUPERGIRL”, who happened to be Kara Zor-El, the first cousin of Clark Kent aka Superman. And they plan to set this movie in the 1970s. Why? Apparently, Supergirl is the older cousin and to the movie’s screenwriters, it made sense that she would reach Earth before him. But . . . “MAN OF STEEL” and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” had already established that Superman was the first powerful alien to become known to Humans. In fact, there have been others before the arrival of General Zod and his followers who were aware of Clark’s powers. You know . . . like Jonathan and Martha Kent, some of Smallville’s citizens and Lois Lane. By setting “SUPERGIRL” in the 1970s, Warner Brothers would again . . . undermining a narrative point established in previous films. Why not follow the example of the television shows like “SUPERGIRL” and “SMALLVILLE” on the CW by having Kara aka Supergirl’s spacecraft knocked off course and forced into the Phantom Zone for a decade or two? So, by the time Kara finally reached Earth, her cousin Kal-El would have grown up and become Superman. Why not use this scenario?

“WONDER WOMAN”, Marvel’s Kevin Feige had finally decided that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will feature a comic book movie with a woman in the starring role . . . namely “CAPTAIN MARVEL”. Mind you, I still find it cowardly that Feige had decided to wait until the success of another studio to produce a movie featuring a comic book heroine in the lead. Especially since the character Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow has been part of the franchise since the 2010 movie, “IRON MAN 2”. However . . . I discovered that “CAPTAIN MARVEL” will be set in the 1990s. And I ask myself . . . why?

The official word is that the movie’s time period is being used to set up Nick Fury’s trajectory toward forming The Avengers years later. After all, both Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg as future S.H.I.E.L.D. Directors Nick Fury and Phil Coulson will be in the film. But this is so unnecessary. I realize that Tony Stark aka Iron Man was not the first enhanced being or metahuman (so to speak) to attract the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury must have known about Steve Rogers aka Captain America’s war service in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER”. He must have known about Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s S.H.I.E.L.D. activities in the 1980s as Ant-Man and the Wasp. And she certainly knew about Dr. Bruce Banner’s experiments in gamma radiation and eventual transformation into the Hulk before the events of “THE INCREDIBLE HULK”. After all, 2008’s “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” was not an actual origin movie. So, I find myself wondering why Feige found it necessary to set up Fury’s trajectory with enhanced beings with Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel . . . in the 1990s. Unless “CAPTAIN MARVEL” is simply another attempt by a studio or producer – in this case, Kevin Feige and the MCU – to cash in on the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. Why not just admit it? Especially since it seems so obvious.

And by the way, why are all of these films led by a comic book heroine? Just because “WONDER WOMAN” was set in the past, there is no reason why every single comic book movie with a woman in the lead have to be set in the past? What is the point in all of this? Yes, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” was set in the past. However, the following two movies featuring Captain America were set in the present. So, why did Marvel feel it was necessary to set “CAPTAIN MARVEL” in the past? Why is it that none of the other MCU movies led by men set in the past? Why did Warner Brothers believe it was necessary to set its second Wonder Woman and Supergirl films in the past? Has this been the case for any of their movies with a male lead or ensemble-oriented movies like “SUICIDE SQUAD”?

I found myself wondering if there is another reason why these three upcoming comic book heroine movies are being set in the past. But I could not find any. The time periods for these films are so unnecessary and an obvious attempts to copy the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. The thing is . . . Wonder Woman’s past during World War I and the photograph discovered by both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Lex Luthor allowed them to recognize her as a possible metahuman or enhanced being. For me, there is no good reason for “WONDER WOMAN 1984”“SUPERGIRL” or “CAPTAIN MARVEL” to be set in the past.