Five Favorite Episodes of “MANHATTAN” Season One (2014)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of the WGN’s “MANHATTAN”. Created by Sam Shaw, the series starred John Benjamin Hickey:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “MANHATTAN” SEASON ONE (2014)

1. (1.12) “The Gun Model” – Dr. Reed Akley, lead scientist for the Thin Man bomb design of the Manhattan Project, becomes vulnerable when he tries to fix the design’s shortcomings.

2. (1.02) “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” – When Dr. Frank Winter, lead scientist for the Manhattan Project’s implosion design, attempts to save his team from being shut down, his action leads to serious consequences for team member Dr. Sid Liao.

3. (1.05) “A New Approach to Nuclear Cosmology” – When Dr. Glenn Babbit’s past comes back to haunt him, Frank clashes with newcomer Dr. Charlie Isaacs to protect his mentor and team member.

4. (1.07) “A New World” – While visiting an off-site reactor in Tennessee, Charlie and Dr. Helen Prins race to prevent a meltdown. Meanwhile, Frank and his wife, Dr. Liza Winter; help the family of their maid Paloma.

5. (1.11) “Tangier” – The death of a German-born spy for the Allies in Germany re-invigorates the hunt for a spy on The Hill. Charlie and his wife, Abby Isaacs, make a sacrifice when the plan with Frank to develop the implosion project is threatened.

 

 

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1900s Costumes in Movies and Television

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Below are images of fashion from the decade of the 1900s (1900-1909), found in movies and television productions over the years:

 

1900s COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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“The Little Foxes” (1941)

 

 

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“Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944)

 

 

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“Gigi” (1958)

 

 

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“The Go-Betweens” (1971)

 

 

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“A Room With a View” (1985-86)

 

 

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“The House of Mirth” (2000)

 

 

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“The Golden Bowl” (2000-01)

 

 

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“The Illusionist” (2006)

 

 

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“Howard’s End” (2017)

 

“JANE EYRE” (1997) Review

“JANE EYRE” (1997) Review

There have been many adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, “Jane Eyre”. And I do not exaggerate. If I must be honest, I really have no idea of the number of adaptations made. I have seen at least six of them – including his 1997 television movie that aired on the A&E Channel in the U.S. and on ITV in Great Britain.

Directed by Robert Young, and starring Samantha Morton as the titled character and Ciarán Hinds as Edward Rochester; “JANE EYRE” told the story of a young and impoverished English woman forced to become a teacher at a girls’ school in early Victorian England. Bored and dissatisfied with working at Lowood – the very school where she had also spent six years as a student, Jane Eyre places an advertisement that offers herself as a governess in a private household. A Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield Hall responds to the advertisement and hires Jane. Upon her arrival, Jane discovers that Mrs. Fairfax is Thornfield Hall’s housekeeper and that her new student is Adèle Varens, the French-born ward of the estate’s owner, Edward Rochester. It is not long before Jane finds herself falling in love with Mr. Rochester and being drawn to a mystery surrounding him and a maleficent presence at Thornfield Hall.

Judging from the movie’s 108 minute running time, one could easily see that Richard Hawley’s screenplay had cut a great deal from Brontë’s original novel. Jane’s time at Lowood seemed rushed. Her disappointing reunion with the Reeds was completely cut out. And her time spent with St. John and Diana Rivers was censored heavily. The screenplay even failed to point out Jane’s family connections with the Rivers family and her small financial inheritance. Most of the cuts were made to fit the movie’s short running time and emphasize Jane’s relationship with Rochester. Did it work? That is a good question.

I did have some problems with this production. One hundred and eight minutes struck me as a rather short running time for an adaptation of a literary classic. Hollywood could have gotten away with such a running time during its Golden Age, but I am not so certain that it would have been able to do so, today. The movie’s limited running time was certainly apparent in its failure to depict adult Jane’s reunion with her Reed cousins. Her negative childhood in the family’s household had played an important part in Jane’s formative years. I found it ironic that Hawley’s script was willing to convey Jane’s unhappy childhood with the Reeds, but not follow up with her return to their home in the wake of a family tragedy.

This version also excluded Rochester’s barely veiled contempt toward young Adele, his ward and the daughter of his former mistress. Considering Rochester’s paternalistic attitudes and occasional sexism – conveyed in his penchant for blaming Adele for her mother’s perfidy – by ignoring his hostile attitude toward his ward, Hawley seemed to have robbed some of the landowner’s original character in order to make him more palatable. I could also say the same for Hawley and director Young’s decision to remove the incident involving Jane’s encounter with Rochester disguised as a gypsy woman. And a great deal of Jane’s stay with St. John and Diana Rivers was also deleted from this version. One, it robbed the production of an interesting peek into the St. John Rivers character. Although not a favorite of mine, I have always found him interesting. The brief focus on the Rivers sequence made the movie’s pacing within the last half hour seem rather rushed.

But Hawley’s script and Young’s direction more than made up for these shortcomings in the movie’s portrayal of Jane and Rochester’s relationship. I must admit that I found the development of their relationship fascinating to watch. I especially enjoyed how Jane managed to hold her own against Rochester’s persistent attempts to inflict his will upon her . . . earning his love and respect in the process. And in turn, Rochester manages to earn Jane’s respect and love with his intelligence, wit and gradual recognition of her virtues.

The most fascinating sequence in the entire movie was not, surprising, Rochester’s revelation of his insane wife, Bertha. Mind you, I did find that particular scene rather interesting. For me, the most fascinating scene turned out to be Rochester’s attempt to prevent Jane from leaving Thornfield Hall. He used every emotional response possible – passionate pleadings, contempt, desperation, anger and declarations of love – to get her to stay. He even suggested that she become his mistress and travel to the Continent with him in order for them to stay together. What I found amazing about his actions was his lack of remorse or regret for attempting to draw Jane into a bigamous marriage or make her his mistress. But what I found equally amazing was the fact that Jane’s love for him did not die, despite his words and actions. More importantly, she showed amazing strength by resisting him and his promises of an illicit relationship.

Aside from the movie’s writing and direction, the performances of Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds really drove the above mentioned scene. They were simply superb. To be honest, they gave first-rate performances throughout the entire movie. I have yet to see Ruth Wilson’s performance as Jane Eyre. But I must admit that I believe Samantha Morton gave one of the two best portrayals of the character – the other came from Zeulah Clarke in the 1983 adaptation. Morton was barely 19 or 20 when she made this film. And yet, she infused a great deal of subtle strength, warmth and passion into the role. Not only did she managed to create a strong chemistry with her leading man, but also hold her own against him, considering that he happened to be at least 24 years older than her. As for Ciarán Hinds, he also gave a first-rate performance. Mind you, there were moments when Hinds chewed the scenery . . . excessively. Perhaps that came from a theatrical style he had failed to shed for motion pictures around that time. But he did capture all aspects of Edward Rochester’s emotional make-up – both good and bad. I would not go as far to say that Ciarán Hinds was my favorite Edward Rochester. But I must admit that I found him to be a memorable one.

This movie also had the good luck to possess a solid supporting cast. However, I only found myself impressed by only a few. One of those few happened to be Timia Bertome, who portrayed young Adele. She did a very good job in not only capturing her character’s self-absorbed nature, but also Adele’s sunny disposition. Rupert Penry-Jones turned out to be a very interesting St. John Rivers. In fact, I would not hesitate to add that Penry-Jones effectively gave a new twist on the character by portraying him as a superficially friendly soul, but one who still remained arrogant, sanctimonious and pushy. It seemed a pity that the actor was never given a chance to delve even further into St. John’s character. Screenwriter Richard Hawley gave a subtle, yet effective performance as Rochester’s brother-in-law, Richard Mason. And Sophie Reissner is the first actress to make me sympathize over the plight of Rochester’s mad West Indian wife, Bertha Mason Rochester. Abigail Cruttenden not only effectively portrayed the beautiful, yet vain Blanche Ingram; but also managed to inject some intelligence into the role. But my favorite supporting performance came from Gemma Jones, who portrayed Thornfield Hall’s housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. Superficially, she portrayed the housekeeper as a cheerful soul that kept the Rochester household running efficiently. Yet, she also conveyed Mrs. Fairfax’s anxiety and doubt over Jane’s blooming romance with Mr. Rochester and the presence in the manor’s attic with great subtlety. Jones gave the third best performance in them movie, following Morton and Hinds.

For a movie with such a short running time, I must admit that I found its production values very admirable. Cinematographer John McGlashan did an excellent job in injecting a great deal of atmosphere into his shots without allowing the movie to look too gloomy. However, I did have a problem with that slow-motion shot that featured Edward Rochester’s introduction. It seemed out of place and a bit ridiculous. Also, production designer Stephen Fineren and art director John Hill managed to maintain the movie’s atmosphere and setting. I found Susannah Buxton’s costumes surprisingly enjoyable. The costumes perfectly captured the 1830s in the film’s sequences featuring Jane’s childhood with the Reeds and at Lowood School and also the 1840s in which the rest of the movie was set. I especially have to congratulate Buxton for limiting the Jane Eyre character to only a few costumes, which seemed fitting for the character’s social and economic situation.

This version of ”JANE EYRE” was not perfect. I found its 108 minute running time too short for its story. And because of its limited running time, Richard Hawley’s script deleted or shortened certain scenes that I believe were essential to the story and the leading character. But I must admit that despite these shortcomings, I found this adaptation to be first-rate thanks to the focus upon the Jane Eyre/Edward Rochester relationship; a production design that reeked of early Victorian England and an excellent cast led by the superb Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds.

“Strange Bedfellows” [R] – Part 8

“STRANGE BEDFELLOWS”

Part 8

PRESENT DAY . . . “I wonder if Raynor had been right,” Cole commented. “About killing Idril.”

Olivia shrugged. “I don’t know. What would have happened if you had?”

The half-daemon sighed. “I don’t know. There’s a good chance that Raynor would have killed me. Or tried. He was very close to Idril.”

“Really?” Olivia took a sip of water. “From your memories and what you’ve told me about him, Idril doesn’t seem like she would have been his type.”

Rolling his eyes, Cole retorted, “Trust me, she was. Raynor liked his women to be malleable.” He paused. “Mind you, Idril can be very smart. And she basically had a good head for business. But she was so insecure. I suspect that little trait made her so easy for Raynor to control. And there’s the fact that Idril had a bad habit of depending upon her looks to get her way. Like I said, very insecure.”

“But not stupid,” Olivia added.

“No.”

A long pause followed. Then Olivia added, “You know, it’s odd that Idril had tried to kill you, after you had dumped her.”

“What do you mean, odd?” Cole demanded. “She’s insecure. I had probably damaged her ego.”

Olivia shook her head. “No, I think it was more than ego. I think she may have been a little in love with you. I saw the expression on her face at your mother’s party.”

A derisive snort escaped from Cole’s mouth. “I’m sorry Olivia, but I really find that hard to believe.” The redhead opened her mouth, but the half-daemon continued. “Look, I’m not saying that I still believe all that nonsense about daemons being unable love. I now recall that my grandparents on my mother’s side had been crazy about each other. And as for Idril, Raynor was everything to her. In fact, she had taken it rather hard, when he finally ended their relationship.”

“If you say so.” Cole stared at his fiancée, as she glanced at her watch. “Hmm, it’s time for me to get back to work.”

A delicious idea came to Cole. “Look, before we . . .” He hesitated. Then, “Why don’t we . . . find some private time together? Before going back to work?”

“Private time?” It seemed clear by Olivia’s expression that she knew what he meant. Longing and regret mingled in her green eyes. “Oh God! I’m really tempted to say yes.”

“But . . .?” Cole began. He covered his fiancée’s hand with his own.

Olivia sighed. “Don’t you think we should wait until later? Like, this evening?”

“If you’re worried about time,” Cole added quietly, “I can always take you to the Melora dimension. We’ll be able to spend plenty of hours, together. And we’ll both make it back to work, in time.”

He held his breath, while Olivia contemplated his suggestion. A bright light gleamed in her eyes and he knew that he had won. “Well . . . why not?” she finally said with a bright smile.

Cole smiled back and summoned the waiter. He paid for the meal and the couple stood up. “You know, I had forgot to ask,” Olivia added.

“Ask what?”

Olivia paused briefly before she continued. “How long were you and Christine together?”

The question hung between the two like a heavy shroud. Cole could mentally see his suggestion of afternoon sex dissipating into the wind. He hesitated as long as he could, but realized that if he did not answer right away, Olivia would pressure him, until he did. With a sigh, he finally answered, “Not long.” He hoped that would satisfy Olivia.

Unfortunately . . . With a frown, the redhead asked, “Exactly how long is . . . ‘not long’?”

Oh shit. Again, Cole sighed. “Five years. Possibly six.”

Olivia stared at him in disbelief. “That long? You’ve probably been with her longer than any other female. Were you two that serious about each other?”

“No, we weren’t,” Cole answered firmly. He guided Olivia toward the restaurant’s exit. “If we were that serious, I would still be with her. Besides, Christine and I had dated other people around the same time.”

“Oh.” Another pause followed until she added, “You mean she’s still alive?”

Hoping to end this conversation and not ruin Olivia’s mood, Cole responded with a vague answer. “Yes. I think so. Last I heard, she had married a fellow witch back in the late 70s.”

“I wonder if Idril still thinks about her. Or you?”

What he hoped to be his last sigh, Cole added, “Olivia, who cares? Honestly. I haven’t thought of Christine in years. Okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” Olivia replied. And to Cole’s relief, the couple stepped out of the restaurant, and into the pale sunshine.

———–

Several hundreds of miles south of San Francisco, Idril remained inside the bedroom of her Bel-Air home, as she finished off the last of her absinthe. Then she heaved the empty bottle against the bedroom door in a fit of frustration.

Damn Raynor! She decried silently. And damn Belthazor! Idril hoped that one was burning in the Wasteland and that the other eventually would.

Just as Raynor had suggested back in 1969, Idril had found someone to act a shield to prevent Avara from discovering Raynor’s affair with the young demoness. Idril spent three years engaged and six years married to a low-level daemon named Tirion. By 1978, Raynor’s wife finally learned about his affair with Idril. In order to escape the older demoness’ wrath, Idril spent the next eighteen years in Eldamar, one of the Source’s minor realms. During those years, the dark-haired demoness finally got rid of the unnecessary Tirion. Her exile finally ended when she learned of Avara’s death at the hands of a daemon hunter. But it had been too late for any reconciliation between her and Raynor. By then, he had moved on to another mistress.

Then in 1999, she had stumbled across Belthazor vacationing at a resort in Bermuda. Idril hoped to finally get her revenge against the half-daemon for humiliating her. But one look at those blue eyes and handsome face and she ended up being seduced by him for a few nights of wild sex. Hopes that their reunion would lead to something permanent were dashed after Belthazor had disappeared after the third night. Another four years passed before she set eyes upon him, again – at his engagement party.

Encountering Belthazor in the Melora Dimension had resurrected hope within Idril that she would be able renew old ties with Belthazor. But the half-daemon made it clear that he only had eyes for his red-haired witch, Olivia McNeill. The latter strongly reminded Idril of Christine Bloome – the same bold self-assurance, vibrant good looks and easy-going manner. And like the English witch, the McNeill woman possessed a pair of green eyes that hinted a strong will. Idril hated Belthazor’s fiancée on sight. She felt more than happy to assist Eric Logan’s assassination of the red-haired witch. Unfortunately, the damn idiot had ended up killing the wrong woman.

Now more than ever, Idril felt determined to help Artemus, the Khorne Order’s leader, to become the new Source. Not only would his grab for the throne assure her leadership of the Thorn Order, it would also spell the end of Nimue, Olivia McNeill and with her, the ghost of Christine Bloome. But another desire of Idril’s has refused to disappear. Despite all the humiliation, disappointments and anger she felt, the demoness still wanted Belthazor. Even after all of these years. And if winning the half-daemon’s affections meant the end of Artemus’ plans to become the new Source – so be it.

THE END

“THE INCREDIBLE HULK” (2008) Review

“THE INCREDIBLE HULK” (2008) Review

When I first heard that another movie based upon the Marvel Comics character – Bruce Banner/the Hulk – would hit the theaters soon, the word in both Hollywood and on the Internet was that it would be better than the 2003 film directed by Ang Lee, namely “THE HULK”. After watching “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” for the umpteenth time, I decided to write about whether the film had surpassed the 2003 movie.

The first film that starred Eric Bana as Bruce Banner ended with the main character in South America, providing medical services to impoverished local citizens. This movie, in which Edward Norton takes up the role, picks up with Bruce in South America – namely Brazil. Only he is working as a day laborer at a soft drink factory in Rio de Janeiro, while at the same time seeking a cure to get rid of the Hulk within him with the help of an internet friend. At the same time, he is being pursued by General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) and a Russian-born, British Royal Marine on loan to the U.S. Army named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

There are some changes in which director Louis Leterrier, screenwriters Zak Penn and an uncredited Edward Norton made changes. One, aside from Brazil and Mexico, the movie is mainly set on the East Coast – suburban Virginia and New York City; whereas the 2003 version was set in San Francisco, Berkeley and Nevada. The movie’s opening credits showed the origins of the Hulk, which had nothing to do with the 2003 story. In the 2008 version, Bruce and Betty were assisting General Ross in an experiment to create “the Perfect Soldier”. Only Bruce became exposed to Gamma radiation during a lab experiment and injured and/or killed a number of people, including Betty. In the 2003 movie, Bruce unwittingly became the subject of his father’s DNA research not long after his birth. His altered DNA is exposed to Gamma radiation during a lab experiment as an adult, and the Hulk is born. And of course, there are different actors in the major roles.

Naturally, Edward Norton did a great job portraying Bruce Banner. He managed to capture all the pathos, desperation and anger of the fugitive scientist/comic book hero. He managed to put his personal stamp on the role just as Bana had done, five years before. At first I had a hard time accepting Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Bruce’s love and former colleague. She did not seem as effective as Jennifer Connelly in projecting Betty’s emotional personality. And I found it slightly hard to believe that she was a scientist. But she eventually grew into the role. I must admit that I have to say the same about William Hurt as General Thaddeus Ross. There were times when it seemed that Hurt was trying too hard to portray Ross’ obsessive and hostile personality. To be perfectly frank, he lacked Sam Elliot’s natural intensity. But he eventually did a good job. Tim Roth had no such problems. I thought he was perfect as Emil Blonsky, the Royal Marine determined to take down Bruce/the Hulk in any way. It really came as no surprise when he was willing to become a subject of another one of Ross’ Perfect Soldiers. And finally there is Tim Blake Nelson, who portrayed Dr. Samuel Stern, an eccentric scientist and Internet ally of Bruce, who becomes infatuated with the potential power of Gamma radiation, after he witnesses Bruce’s transformation. Although a little over-the-top at times, Nelson does a good job in portraying Sterns’ eccentric nature.

Do I believe that this new version of the Hulk is better than the 2003 version? Honestly? NO. And my family feels the same. I had expected this version to be better and was slightly disappointed that it failed to live up to the hype. At least for me. I wish that Marvel Films and Universal Pictures had allowed this film to simply be a sequel to the 2003 film. Instead, they tried to reboot the saga by changing the story of the Hulk’s origins from what was joined in the previous film. I feel that the story involving Bruce’s father gave the Hulk a special angst factor that the 2008 film lacked. Now, some people have claimed that the 2003 film had too much angst. We are talking about the Incredible Hulk that is a major character from Marvel Comics. Angst is Marvel’s middle name. And most of its movies – especially those focusing upon Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Marvel Cinematic Universe – have angst up the yahoo. This movie is a little more action oriented than the 2003 movie. Actually, I feel that it is more action oriented than “IRON MAN”, another 2008 Marvel film. But I do not believe that the presence of more action made this movie better than the 2003 movie or “IRON MAN”.

I really had a problem with the story’s finale. Granted, I was not fond of Bruce’s showdown with his father in the 2003 film. It came off as too vague for me. Although the Hulk/Abomination showdown was less vague in this film, I was not that impressed by it. The fight came off as too crude for my tastes. But the really problem is that the movie ended on a vague note. Perhaps this was Leterrier, Penn and Norton’s way of saying that the saga will continue. I think it could have been written better. The movie made it clear that it only defeated and not killed Abomination, but what later happened to Blonsky? Did he end up as Ross’ prisoner? Did the Army general really believe he could control Abomination? And those familiar with the Hulk comic saga knows that Sterns, who was exposed to Bruce’s blood in a confrontation with Blonsky, eventually became another one of the Hulk’s comic nemesis, the Leader. Unfortunately, not everyone would know this and the movie’s script makes this hint rather vague. It is almost as if the writers and the directors were afraid to give the story a more solid ending – like “IRON MAN” or even “THE HULK”. Not even the last shot of Bruce with a Norman Bates-style grin on his face or Robert Downey Jr’s cameo appearance as Tony Stark could really stave off my disappointment over the ending.

Despite the ending, “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” is a damn good movie . . . one that Marvel Films could be proud of. But the vague ending and my initial problems with Tyler and Hurt make it impossible for me to accept the prevailing view that it is better than 2003’s “THE HULK”.

 

Favorite Television Productions Set in the 1940s

Below is a list of my favorite television productions (so far) that are set in the 1940s:

FAVORITE TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS SET IN THE 1940s

1. “Homefront” (1991-1993) – Lynn Marie Latham and Bernard Lechowick created this award-winning series about the residents of a small Ohio town in post-World War II.

2. “Mob City” (2013) – Jon Bernthal starred in this six-part limited series that was inspired by John Buntin’s book, “L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City”. Co-starring Alexa Davalos and Milo Ventimiglia, the series was created by Frank Darabont.

3. “Agent Carter” (2015-2016) – Hayley Atwell starred as Margaret “Peggy” Carter, an agent with the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) in the post-World War II Manhattan. Created by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the MCU series co-starred James D’Arcy and Enver Gjokaj.

4a. “Band of Brothers” (2001) – Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced this outstanding television miniseries about the history of a U.S. Army paratrooper company – “Easy Company” – during the war. Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston starred. (tie)

4b. “The Pacific” (2010) – Spielberg and Hanks struck gold again in this equally superb television miniseries about the experiences of three U.S. Marines – John Basilone, Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge – in the war’s Pacific Theater. James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello and Jon Seda starred. (tie)

5. “Manhattan” (2014-2015) – Sam Shaw created this series about the creation of the first two atomic bombs at Los Alamitos, New Mexico. The series starred John Benjamin Hickey.

6. “The Winds of War” (1983) – Dan Curtis produced and directed this television adaptation of Herman Wouk’s 1971 novel. The seven-part miniseries starred Robert Mitchum, Ali McGraw and Jan-Michael Vincent.

7. “Pearl” (1978) – Stirling Silliphant wrote this three-part miniseries about a group of men and women who experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Angie Dickinson, Robert Wagner, Lesley-Ann Warren and Dennis Weaver starred.

8. “The Jewel in the Crown” (1984) – The ITV aired this award winning television adaptation of Paul Scott’s “Raj Quartet” novels (1965–75) about the end of the British Raj in India. The fourteen-part miniseries starred Art Malik, Geraldine James, Charles Dance and Tim Pigott-Smith.

9. “Foyle’s War” (2002-2015) – Anthony Horowitz created this television crime drama about a British police detective during World War II. The series starred Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks and Anthony Howell.

10. “RKO 281” (1999) – Liev Schreiber starred as Orson Welles in this 1999 television adaptation of 1996 documentary called “The Battle Over Citizen Kane”. The television movie also starred John Malkovich, Roy Schneider, James Cromwell and Melanie Griffith.

“JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” (2018) Review

“JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” (2018) Review

Following the release of “JURASSIC PARK III” in 2001, I had figured that was it for the JURASSIC PARK movie franchise. Boy, was I proven wrong. Fourteen years after the release of that third film, Universal Pictures and producer Frank Marshall presented a fourth movie for the franchise, “JURASSIC WORLD” in 2015, that proved to be a major hit. Following the success of that film, it was only natural that a fifth movie would be made.

Set three years after the events of the 2015 movie, “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” began with the United States Senate debating over whether to save the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar from an impending volcanic eruption from the island’s volcano Mt. Sibo. Mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm testifies that the dinosaurs should be allowed to die in order to correct John Hammond’s mistake of cloning them. Meanwhile, Jurassic World’s former operations manager, Claire Dearing, has established the Dinosaur Protection Group to save the animals. When the Senate decides not to rescue the dinosaurs, Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood, summons Claire to his Northern California estate, where he and his aide Eli Mills reveal a plan to relocate the dinosaurs to a new island sanctuary. They need Claire to help reactivate the park’s dinosaur tracking system in order to locate the animals – especially Blue, the last surviving Velociraptor. Despite being estranged from him, Claire recruits Jurassic World’s former Velociraptor trainer and Blue’s alpha, Owen Grady, to help capture her. Accompanying them would be the park’s former technician Franklin Webb and paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez.

Upon their arrival on Isla Nublar at the now defunct Jurassic World amusement part, Claire and Franklin work to reactivate the park’s online tracking system. Meanwhile, Owe, Zia and a mercenary team led by Ken Wheatley search for Blue. When they find the velociraptor, one of Wheatley’s men shoots Blue and Wheatley tranquilizes Owen. The mercenaries take Zia with them to treat Blue’s injury. The mercenary ship, loaded with the captured dinosaurs, departs for the U.S. mainland, while the dinosaurs left behind die in the eruption. Meanwhile; Claire, Franklin, and Owen manage to escape the dying island and sneak aboard in time and assist Zia in transfusing Blue with Tyrannosaurus blood. The group now realizes that the captured dinosaurs were never being transported to a new island and have been captured for another purpose. And the latter has to do with a financial scheme being involving Eli Mills and Dr. Henry Wu, behind Lockwood’s back.

Despite earning over a billion dollars at the box office, “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” received very little positive reviews upon its release. In fact, it is regarded by some as a failure. Many critics and some film goers certainly regard it as inferior to the 2015 movie. How do I feel about “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM”? I had a few problems with it. Well . . . to be perfectly honest, I had two major problems with it. My first problem centered around Benjamin Lockwood’s estate serving as the setting for the film’s second half. I found this rather limiting and claustrophobic. And I found myself wondering if the film’s budget was responsible for this decision to limit the setting to a California country estate. The longer the film remained on that estate – especially inside that house – the more I became frustrated.

And I have a second complaint about “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” – namely the fate of Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter, Maisie. Why did Owen Grady and Claire Dearing end up as her guardians at the end of the movie? What happened to Maisie’s nanny, Iris, who had been with the family for years? I do not recall her being killed by a dinosaur. So what happened to her? Why did she not take care of Maisie, following the death of the latter’s grandfather?

Despite my complaints, I enjoyed “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM”. In fact, I enjoyed it very much. Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow created a first-rate tale filled with tension, drama and especially comedy. I remember when the film first hit the theaters, many had complained about the movie’s finale. They found it . . . illogical. Messy. I still find this complaint rather hard to swallow. The premise behind the JURASSIC PARK franchise can be considered illogical. Frankly, considering what happened in a period of twenty-five years and five movies, I thought it was only a matter of time that the franchise would reach this point. It almost did in 1997’s “JURASSIC PARK: THE LOST WORLD”. However, this film took it a step further with the release of several dinosaurs into the modern world. It was bound to happen. InGen and John Hammond had opened Pandora’s Box a quarter of a century ago with the creation of dinosaurs, thousands of years after they naturally went extinct. I would almost equate the creations of these animals with that of nuclear energy and weaponry. Considering the occasional misuse and mishandling of nuclear energy throughout the years, I found it appropriate that a more disastrous scenario would finally befall in the JURASSIC PARK franchise than what happened in the previous films.

“JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” is also a popcorn summer film that depends upon a great deal of action. And it had its share of some first-rate action sequences. If I must be great, I enjoyed most of the action in the film’s first half. I especially enjoyed the sequence featuring the natural destruction of Isla Nublar and Owen Grady, Claire Dearing and Franklin Webb’s efforts to escape from the island after being abandoned by Ken Wheatley’s team. For me, it was a breathtaking sequence as the trio raced to reach the boat conveying Wheatley’s team and Zia Rodriguez (kidnapped and forced to treat the wounded Blue) to the United States. But there was an action sequence in the film’s last hour that also impressed me. It featured the protagonists being hunted throughout the Lockwood mansion by Dr. Henry Wu’s latest creation, the Indoraptor, a creation from the DNA of Indominus rex from the last film and Velociraptor – namely Blue. For me, those two sequences featured the best of some pretty damn good action scenes throughout the film.

The movie did not feature as many breathtaking visual scenes as “JURASSIC WORLD”. But there were a few that caught my eye, including scenes of those dinosaurs roaming the Earth:

But the one scene that produced a knot in my throat featured that last shot of Isla Nublar . . . and the death of the very brachiosaurus that Dr. Alan Grant first saw in 1993’s “JURASSIC PARK”. Director J.A. Bayona, cinematographer Óscar Faura and the visual effects team really knocked it out of the ballpark by capturing both the grandeur and the pathos of the scene:
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If there is one thing I can guarantee from a JURASSIC PARK/WORLD movie, it is a first-rate cast featuring excellent performances. Jeff Goldblum returned to give a short, yet solid performance as Dr. Malcolm Campbell, one of the original visitors to Isla Nublar. “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM” featured the acting debut of Isabella Sermon, who gave an excellent performance as the young Maisie Lockwood. Trust this franchise to always hire naturally talented child actors. Ted Levine’s performance as mercenary Ken Wheatley struck me as a gleeful portrayal of toxic masculinity. B.D. Wong’s return as Dr. Henry Wu was somewhat briefer than it was in the 2015 movie. Yet, once again, the actor conveyed the convoluted egoism of Dr. Wu with great skill. I hope he will have a bigger role in the next film.

Toby Jones gave an entertaining, yet slightly theatrical performance as the weasely auctioneer hired by Eli Mills to help sell those dinosaurs taken from Isla Nublar to potential buyers. James Cromwell struck me as emotional, yet dignified as Hammond’s former partner, Benjamin Lockwood. Geraldine Chaplin gave a skillful performance as the Lockwoods’ reliable employee Iris. Daniella Pineda was brash and entertaining as the sharp-tongued Dr. Zia Rodriguez. Justice Smith proved to be equally entertaining and quite hilarious as anxiety-ridden systems analyst Franklin Webb. Rafe Spall skillfully portrayed one of the most subtle and corrupt villains in the franchise, Eli Morrow.

Chris Pratt returned as former Navy SEAL-turned-dinosaur trainer Owen Grady. I realized that many might not agree, but I enjoyed Pratt’s first-rate portrayal of the no-nonsense Grady more than I did in the 2015 movie. I thought Pratt’s performance was more subtle and best of all, his Grady seemed to have dropped that sanctimonious I had found slightly irritating in the previous film. Bryce Dallas Howard managed to skillfully take her character, former operations manager of Jurassic World, to the next level. In “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM”, Claire’s previous encounters with the dinosaurs had led her to develop an appreciation of them as sentient beings. This new Claire is a passionate animal rights activist who has dropped her arrogant disregard of the park’s inhabitants. It is possible that this new passion may have slightly affected her common sense, especially during the film’s last 10-15 minutes. But thanks to Howard’s excellent performance, she managed to convey a sense of plausibility in the slight changes in Claire’s personality.

As I had earlier pointed out, the critics did not like “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM”. In fact, some moviegoers had expressed dismay at the film’s ending. I had at least two quibbles with the movie. But if I must be frank, I enjoyed it very much. More importantly, I found its ending very believable for a science-fiction tale. For once, the franchise was willing to face a consequence that its previous films managed to elude so far. The movie featured first-rate direction by J.A. Bayona; a well-written screenplay by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow; and an excellent cast led by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Good work guys!

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“PERSUASION” (1995) Review

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“PERSUASION” (1995) Review

Twenty-four years after the BBC aired its 1971 version of Jane Austen’s 1818 novel, ”Persuasion”; and twelve years before ITV aired its adaptation; Columbia Pictures released its own version on British television and in movie theaters across the U.S. The movie went on to become highly acclaimed, the winner of a BAFTA TV award for Best Single Drama, and regarded as the definitive version of Austen’s novel. 

Directed by Roger Michell, ”PERSUASION” told the story of Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of an impoverished baronet in Regency England. Seven or eight years before the story began, she had been persuaded to reject the marriage proposal of a young and ambitious Royal Navy officer named Frederick Wentworth by her godmother and late mother’s friend, Lady Russell. After spending so many years in deep regret over her action, Anne found herself facing Wentworth again during a visit to her younger sister’s home. Now a captain and wealthy from the spoils of the recent Napoleonic Wars, Wentworth continued to harbor a good deal of residual anger and resentment toward Anne. And the latter continued to harbor remorse over her actions and a passionate love for the naval officer.

After watching the 2007 version of ”PERSUASION”, I found myself wondering how I would regard this particular version. Needless to say, I found it very satisfying. Michell did an excellent job in capturing the ambivalence of Austen’s novel. The center of that ambivalence rested on the underlying passion of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth’s romantic history. And this passion beautifully permeated the movie; thanks to Michell, screenwriter Nick Dear and the two leads – Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. The movie relived all of the passion and emotions of their relationship – both positive and negative. Michell and Dear also did a top-notch job in revealing the initial dangers that the British aristocracy and landed gentry faced from their complacency, arrogance and unwillingness to match the ambitious endeavors of the rising middle-class; especially through characters like Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot.

As much as I had enjoyed ”PERSUASION”, I believe it had its flaws. One of those flaws turned out to be the scene featuring Anne and Wentworth’s final reconciliation on one of the streets of Bath. It could have been a wonderful and poignant moment . . . if it were not for the circus performers and pedestrians making a ruckus in the background. It nearly spoiled the romantic mood for me. And there were at least two performances that did not sit right with me. I will discuss them later. This version of ”PERSUASION” seemed to be the only adaptation that portrayed Mrs. Croft as the younger sister. Fiona Shaw, who is at least five years younger than Ciarán Hinds and looked it even with minimal makeup, portrayed his sister. Yet, both the 1971 and 2007 versions had cast an actress that was older than the actor portraying Wentworth. And I happened to know for a fact that at age 31, the Fredrick Wentworth character is at least seven (7) years younger than his sister. There is no way that the 42 year-old Hinds could have passed as a man eleven (11) younger, despite his handsome looks.

But my main problem with this adaptation turned out to be the same problem I had with the 2007 version – namely the character of William Elliot, Sir Walter’s heir presumptive. Because the baronet had no male issue, his baronetcy and the Kellynch estate will pass to William, his cousin. But William, fearing that Sir Walter might marry Mrs. Clay, the companion of the oldest Elliot daughter; schemed to woo and marry Anne in order to prevent Mrs. Clay from becoming Sir Walter’s second wife and protect his inheritance. As I had explained in my review of the 2007 version, this scenario failed to make any sense to me. Even if William had succeeded in preventing any marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay, there was no way he could constantly prevent the Elliot patriarch from considering another bride for matrimony. Even if he had married Anne. Quite frankly, it was a situation that was beyond his control. Dear tried to give urgency to William’s situation by portraying him as financially broke after spending all of his late wife’s money. As far as I am concerned, Dear’s efforts failed. Sir Walter’s lawyer had made it clear around the beginning of the story that it would take years for Kellynch to recover from the Elliots’ debts. Nor did following Austen’s story by making William and Wentworth romantic rivals for Anne’s affections really help. Anne did not seem that impressed by William’s character, despite his charm and wit. And if Dear had simply avoided Austen’s characterization of William Elliot and allowed him to retain his fortune; he could have been a formidable rival for Wentworth, just as Louisa Musgrove proved to be a strong rival for Anne in the story’s first half.

I cannot deny that ”PERSUASION” strongly benefited from the excellent performances of the two leads, Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Root was superb as a sad and remorseful woman who began to bloom again over the possibility of a renewed love. With very little dialogue, she was excellent in a montage that featured her character’s reaction to the Musgroves’ carping over Anne’s younger sister, Mary Musgrove. But my favorite scene happened to featured Anne and Wentworth’s first meeting after eight years at Charles and Mary Musgrove’s cottage. With her eyes and body language, Root conveyed Anne’s series of emotions from seeing the naval officer again after so many years with great skill. Despite being a decade older than his character, Ciarán Hinds was equally impressive as Captain Frederick Wentworth, the successful Royal Navy officer who tried to hide his continuing resentment toward Anne’s rejection of him with a hearty manner and friendly overtures toward the Musgrove sisters – Louisa and Henrietta. One particular scene that impressed me featured Wentworth’s recollection of the year 1806 (the year Anne had rejected his marriage proposal). Hinds skillfully conveyed the character’s lingering resentment . . . and love for Anne in what struck me as a subtle moment.

Other excellent performances came from Sophie Thompson, who did a top-notch job as Anne’s younger sister, the emotionally clinging Mary Elliot Musgrove; Simon Russell Beale as Charles Musgrove, Mary’s consistently exasperated husband; Fiona Shaw, who wonderfully conveyed Sophia Wentworth Croft’s strong mind, along with her love for her husband and her role as a naval officer’s wife in a charming scene; and Susan Fleetwood, who have a complex performance in her last role as Anne’s well-meaning, yet prejudiced godmother, Lady Russell. But the one supporting performance that really impressed me came from Samuel West’s portrayal of the conniving William Elliot. He gave a deliciously smooth performance that radiated wit and charm. I found him so likeable that I almost felt sorry for him when Anne finally announced her engagement to Wentworth.

Unfortunately, not all of the performances impressed me. Despite my admiration for the late Corin Redgrave’s skills as an actor, I must admit that I found his portrayal of Anne’s narcissist and arrogant father, Sir Walter Elliot, a little off-putting. I realize that the character happened to be one of the outrageous characters in the novel. Unfortunately, Redgrave’s portrayal of Sir Walter’s narcissism seemed a little too mannered and broad. But Redgrave’s Sir Walter seemed like a mild annoyance in compare to Phoebe Nicholls’ portrayal of the eldest Elliot sibling, Elizabeth. Nicholls portrayed the character as an over-the-top diva suffering from a damaged nervous system. I could not help but wonder if she had been on crack during the production. Or perhaps Michell was on crack for allowing such a performance to remain in the film. And why did Dear’s script include a complaint from Nicholls’ Elizabeth about Anne usurping Wentworth’s attention? Why was she even upset over the news regarding Anne’s engagement? I do not recall her ever being interested in Wentworth.

Overall, ”PERSUASION” was an excellent adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds’ performances, Nick Dear’s screenplay and Roger Michell’s direction infused the movie with a mature passion rarely touched upon in the adaptation of Austen’s other novels. Does this mean that I regard this movie as the best adaptation of Austen’s 1818 novel? No. Like the 2007 version, it had a number of flaws that prevented it from becoming “the” best. But I must admit that it is pretty damn good.

 

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“Strange Bedfellows” [R] – Part 7

“STRANGE BEDFELLOWS”

Part 7

PRESENT DAY . . . A heavy sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “Wow! It’s a miracle that Idril had survived. Come to think of it, it’s a miracle that you and Christine had arrived shortly before she made her attack. How long did it take for her to recover?”

“Oh . . . about three weeks,” Cole said with a shrug. “Perhaps a month. Sometime around early September of ’69, she tried to have us killed, again.” He paused. “Separately. Just before I had reported back to the Brotherhood’s headquarters, a zoltar tried to kill me at my Manhattan apartment. He failed, of course.”

Olivia shook her head. “Poor Idril. She must have really loved you. I wonder if she still does?”

“What?” Cole found his fiancée’s musing slightly disturbing.

“I said I wonder if Idril still loves you.”

Cole immediately shot down that unpleasant theory. “Of course not! I had wounded Idril’s pride, that’s all.”

A knowing light gleamed in Olivia’s green eyes. “If you insist.” She paused, while Cole regarded her suspiciously. “What about Christine?” she added, catching him off-guard.

Wariness crept within Cole’s mind. “What about her?” He had deliberately deleted the sexual activity that had occurred between Christine and himself before Idril’s attack. Now, he wondered if Olivia had guessed the truth.

“Did Idril hire someone to attack her for the second time?” Olivia’s question relieved Cole’s mind.

The half-daemon nodded. “Apparently, Idril had also placed on bounty on Christine, as well. Another zoltar attacked her at a hotel in Edinburgh.” A chuckle rose from Cole’s throat, as the memories rushed back to him. “And like me, she survived. She called me later that night to tell me about the attack. She, uh . . . well, after killing the zoltar, she had sent his body back to Idril – in several pieces.”

“Ouch!” Olivia exclaimed. “That must have been some message.”

Cole sighed. “Yeah, it was. But it was a message from Raynor that finally stopped the attacks.”

The revelation took Olivia by surprise. She blinked. “Raynor? How did he get involved? I mean . . . I know that he had started the whole thing, but how did he . . .?”

Cole allowed his lips to curve into an arch smile. “Let’s just say that Raynor and I managed to come to an understanding.”

————

SEPTEMBER 15, 1969; NEW YORK, NEW YORK . . . Cole entered the Thorn Brotherhood’s familiar reception room and strode toward Raynor’s assistant, who sat behind a large desk. “Belthazor,” he greeted politely, “what can I do for you?”

The half-daemon answered, “I would like to see Raynor. It’s urgent.”

“Then you should make an appointment through Vornac,” the assistant crisply replied. “You know the rules. In order to see the order’s leader, you need to make arrangement through your sect’s leader . . . unless Raynor requests your presence.”

Suppressing an urge to incinerate the pompous daemon, Cole sighed. “I cannot find Vornac. According to Klea, he’s in another dimension. On business. I need to see Raynor.”

“Raynor is busy right now with . . .”

Cole leaned over the desk and seared Raynor’s assistant with a deadly glare. “I need to speak with Raynor.” He paused dramatically. “Or else I’ll give him a good reason to find another secretary.” The assistant’s face turned pale.

“I see that you’re back into full swing, Belthazor.” Cole whirled around and discovered Tarkin standing behind him. The other daemon continued, “Welcome back.”

Cole’s temper cooled slightly. “Tarkin. Haven’t seen you in nearly two months. Where have you been?”

“On business.” Tarkin turned to the assistant. “Why aren’t you summoning Raynor?”

His Adam’s apple bobbing uncontrollably, the assistant reached for the intercom. Meanwhile, the two daemons moved away from his desk. “There’s a rumor going around that you were recently attacked,” Tarkin continued.

“Yes, from Idril of all people,” Cole replied. “In fact, she attacked us, twice.” He paused dramatically. “The first time in Southampton.”

It seemed as if Tarkin was struggling to refrain from smirking. “I guess she didn’t care to be passed over for someone like Christine.”

Cole gave his colleague a hard stare. “How did you know I had been seeing Christine?” he asked in a soft voice.

Tarkin’s mouth hung open. “Uh . . . I . . . I heard . . . I mean . . .” He took a deep breath. “I saw Brethil in Paris. He had seen the both of you in Edinburgh, last month.” He paused. “By the way, how did you two . . .?”

“End up together?” Cole’s gaze remained fixed upon the younger demon. “Christine had told me about seeing Idril with Raynor in Nice, last winter. And considering Raynor’s little speech about matrimony for me, I managed to put two and two together. Just to let you know, nothing happened between us, while you and Christine were dating.”

With a wave of his hand, Tarkin dismissed the matter. “It’s okay. Christine wasn’t the type I could remain interested in for very long.”

Cole nodded. “That’s good. You know,” he paused succinctly, “for a moment I thought you were the one who had told Idril that we would be in Southampton . . . considering you were planning to go there, yourself. But I didn’t think you were the type to make a fuss over some mortal – even if she was a witch.”

“Yeah,” Tarkin added with an uneasy smile.

Cole continued, “But someone had told us of our whereabouts. I’m going to find out who, and then . . .” He left the sentence unfinished. To his delight, anxiety flashed in Tarkin’s eyes.

Raynor’s assistant interrupted the pair. “Raynor will see you now, Belthazor.”

“Thank you.” Cole nodded at Tarkin and shot a caustic smile at the assistant. Then he strode past the latter’s desk and entered Raynor’s private office. The half-daemon found his mentor sitting on an ornate 18th sofa, sipping drinks with a slender, dark-haired woman. She possessed long, elegant features and sherry-brown eyes.

“Belthazor!” The woman stood up and held out her arms.

Smiling, the half-daemon embraced Raynor’s new wife. “Avara. It’s good to see you, again. Marriage seems to agree with you.”

The demoness smiled brightly. “Thank you, Belthazor. It does, doesn’t it? I would recommend it for everyone.”

Cole shot a glance at his mentor. “Interesting. Raynor had said the same to me, a few months ago. Remember Raynor?”

The leader of the Thorn Brotherhood grunted, as he fixed his eyes upon a jade statuette of a horse.

“I understand from Raynor that you’ve become involved with another daemon,” Avara continued. “Someone named Idril?

Again, Cole glanced at Raynor. Whose attention remained fixed upon the jade statuette. “Uh . . . it was just a minor little romance. Didn’t go anywhere. Apparently, Idril and I were not really suited for one another.”

Avara responded with a sympathetic nod. “I perfectly understand, Belthazor. From what Nimue has told me, this Idril did not seem to be your type.”

“Nimue?” Raynor glanced sharply at his wife. “You know her?”

“Oh, I never told you, did I?” Avara’s eyes grew wide with innocence. “Nimue and I are old friends.”

Raynor stared at Cole. “Strange that you never mentioned this at my wedding, Belthazor.”

Cole assumed an innocent expression. “I’m afraid that I didn’t really think about it, Raynor. I had other matters on my mind, at the time.”

Avara smiled at Cole. “Yes, Raynor had told me about your . . . vacation. Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Immensely.”

The demoness sighed. “Well, I best leave you two gentlemen alone. You must have some business to discuss. And I have some business to attend. Good-bye, Belthazor.”

“Avara.” Cole watched the demoness leave the office. Once alone with his mentor, he began, “Raynor, I have a matter . . .”

The older daemon interrupted. “You never told me that you and Nimue knew Avara. Why?”

Cole’s eyes grew wide. “Hmmm? Oh, uh . . . it must have slipped my mind. I haven’t seen her in years, before your wedding. And to be honest, I barely had a chance to say hello, during the reception.” He paused. “Too busy trying to avoid Mother’s company.”

“I see.” Raynor sauntered over to his desk and sat in the leather chair, behind it. “So . . . Belthazor, what is this urgent matter you need to discuss?”

After a brief pause, Cole continued, “I don’t particularly enjoy bothering you with my private matters, Raynor, but . . . this matter concerns Idril.”

“Idril?” The older daemon stiffened slightly.

Cole nodded. “Yes. As you know, we became briefly involved this past summer. Unfortunately, my interest waned and I broke it off with her. She became difficult and . . . in fact, made two attempts on my life. And on the life of a friend. And I had hoped that you would make her stop these attacks.”

“Why ask me, Belthazor? I have no say in the private lives of the Source’s subjects, as you very well know.”

So, Raynor has decided to play games. With a sigh, Cole continued, “I understand, Raynor. But could you at least talk to Idril? Make her understand that these attacks are . . . a waste of her time. I have no desire to be killed due to Idril’s inability to deal with rejection.”

Raynor maintained a cool façade. “And why should I talk to Idril?”

“Because of your relationship with her,” Cole replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “After all, she was . . . your mistress. Am I right? Surely you could . . .”

A tense, almost false laughter poured from Raynor’s mouth. “Really, Belthazor! Are you stating that I had an affair with Idril?” His laughter ceased, as he stared at Cole with hard eyes. “Who told you?”

“Someone,” Cole replied calmly. “And Idril finally admitted it, under duress. Anyway, I figured that since you two are so close, you would be able to talk her out of this vendetta. If not,” again, Cole paused dramatically, “I might have to kill her.” A cold smile touched the half-daemon’s lips. “And I’m a much better assassin.”

Raynor’s dark eyes grew wide with shock. “You would . . .” Then his expression hardened. “There are some who might not take Idril’s death very well.”

“Such as yourself?” Cole shot back. He noted how Raynor’s face paled. “Let’s be honest, Raynor. I know about your affair with Idril. You’re probably still involved with her. And I also know that you two had plotted to use me as some kind of shield to hide your relationship from Avara – who can be very jealous.  I understand all of this. All I ask is that you talk to Idril and convince her to stop the attacks. If not . . . I will kill her. Period.”

In a hard voice, Raynor said, “If you do, don’t expect to live very long, Belthazor.” He regarded Cole through dangerously narrowed eyes.

“Is that your way of admitting the affair?” When Raynor remained silent, Cole nodded. “I see. Well, let me put it this way – I’m sure that my mother, Avara and the Source will wonder why you had me killed, so soon after Idril’s death.”

Raynor’s shoulders sagged in defeat – much to Cole’s pleasure. “I see,” he finally said. “And what about the witch?”

Although this audience with Raynor had been for Christine’s sake, as much as for his, Cole decided it would be wise to keep her out of the conversation, as much as possible. “She can take care of herself,” he added casually.

Looking slightly dazed, Raynor commented, “You know, I cannot believe that you are threatening me. This is unexpected of you.”

“I’m not threatening you, Raynor,” Cole replied. “Just Idril. The only reason I haven’t killed her yet, is out of consideration for you.” He continued to regard his mentor with a steady gaze.

To Cole’s surprise, the older daemon threw back his head and laughed. “Well done, Belthazor! Well done.” His laughter finally subsided. “You’ve certainly come a long way from since the day I first began to train you.”

Cole stared at his mentor. “Excuse me?”

“You really would have killed Idril, wouldn’t you?” Raynor regarded the half-daemon with admiration and pride. “And you were quite willing to blackmail me about my relationship with her, as well. Well done. I have trained you well.”

Cole merely responded with a polite smile. “Uh, Raynor. About Idril?”

The older daemon nodded. “Oh yes. Of course, I will have a talk with her.”

“Thank you.” Cole let out a gust of breath. “I, uh . . . I think I better check with Vornac.”

Raynor smiled. “You do that.” Cole started toward the door. “And Belthazor?”

His hand barely on the doorknob, Cole paused. “Yes Raynor?”

“I want to thank you for considering my feelings toward Idril. And I do apologize for the attempt to manipulate you into a relationship with her.”

Stunned by his mentor’s apologize, Cole responded with a barely mute, “You’re welcome.”

But Raynor had not finished. “And one more thing – I would have killed Idril immediately. Regardless of anyone’s feelings. Good day.”

His mentor’s last words ringing in his mind, Cole left the office and closed the door behind him.

————–

SEPTEMBER 15, 1969 (EARTH TIME); THE SOURCE’S REALM . . . Idril stared at her dark-haired lover in disbelief. “Say that again?” she demanded.

Raynor sighed. “I would like for you to cease all attacks upon Belthazor and his witch,” he coolly repeated. “Especially Belthazor.”

Resentment bubbled within the demoness’ breast. “Why should I? He had insulted me!”

“In Caspiel’s name, Idril! He had merely dealt a blow to your ego! I really don’t see the need for you to continue these attacks! They’re simply pointless.”

Idril regarded her lover with suspicion. Both stood inside the main living room of her home, located in the Source’s Realm. “Did he mention that he had nearly killed me, when he tossed me out of that hotel window? And on top of that, he humiliated me by . . .”

“Let it go, woman!” Raynor’s roar filled the room. His dark eyes shone bright with frustrated anger. “Let it go! It’s over! We’ve lost the game. Be thankful that Belthazor has decided to spare you.”

Idril grunted with disgust. “Spare me? What makes him think that he . . .?”

Raynor sighed. “Idril, let me be frank. The only reason you are not dead is because Belthazor has considered my feelings for your well being. But if you persist in this vendetta of yours, he will kill you. With extreme prejudice. And he will be more successful than you. Do you understand?”

Stunned by her lover’s words, Idril could only stare at him. “Wha . . . ?” Then an unpleasant thought came to her. “Are you saying that you would have stood by and allowed him to kill me? You wouldn’t have even avenged my death?”

“How can I kill one of my top assassins out of revenge, without arousing Avara’s suspicion?” Raynor retorted. “She happens to be an old friend of Nimue’s. As for that bitch – she already has a very good reason to despise me. The only reason I’m still alive is due to the Source’s protection. If I kill Belthazor because of you, the Source will not stand in her way.”

Sick at heart, Idril turned away. She could not believe this. Belthazor was forever out of her reach. Along with that English tramp, Christine. Worse, she might have to face a future with Raynor. “So, what am I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? End our relationship for good?”

Raynor paused before he continued, “Find someone else. Someone not as difficult to control as Belthazor.” He sighed. “Find someone who is a lot less . . . intelligent. Choosing Belthazor for this matter was a mistake. I had underestimated the extent of his pride. And his independence.”

“You certainly did,” Idril grumbled. She winced under Raynor’s dark stare. “Well, why did you choose him?”

The other demon continued, “Because I thought he would be ambitious enough to help us, once he found out. I had provided similar services to my former mentor. I didn’t count on Belthazor’s ‘pride’ getting in the way. I was wrong.”

No kidding, Idril thought bitterly. And kept her dark thoughts to herself.

End of Part 7

“INDEPENDENCE DAY” (1996) Review

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“INDEPENDENCE DAY” (1996) Review

For six to seven years during the 1990s, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were a very successful production team that created at least four successful movies. One of those movies was the 1996 blockbuster, “INDEPENDENCE DAY”.

Written by Emmerich and Devlin, “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a high octane, special-effects flick about a disparate group of people who struggle to survive a deadly alien invasion of Earth during the Fourth of July weekend. The story begins in three different areas – Washington D.C., New York City and Southern California. Following the aliens’ initial attack during the evening of July 2, the main characters flee as far as possible from the three areas and eventually converge upon an U.S. Air Force base in Nevada . . . known as “Area 51”.

The story begins during the early hours of July 2, when an alien mothership enters Earth’s orbit and sends several dozen “destroyer” spacecraft to some of Earth’s major cities. At first, President Thomas J. Whitmore and his staff are perplexed by the reason for the aliens’ arrival. So are other citizens – including U.S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller and his girlfriend Jasmine Dubrow. Realizing that he might be forced to put his holiday weekend on hold, Steven returns to the Marine Air Base at El Toro, California, to await further orders. An alcoholic crop duster and Vietnam War pilot named Russell Casse claims that he had been an alien abductee, ten years ago; and believes the aliens are back to take him for good. But David Levinson, a satellite technician and former MIT graduate, who works for a New York City cable company, discovers hidden satellite transmissions, revealing the aliens’ plans for a coordinated attack upon targeted cities. He and his father, Julius Levinson, head to Washington D.C. to warn David’s ex-wife, Constance Spano, who works as Whitmore’s Communications Director and the President. The latter orders large-scale evacuations of the cities, but the aliens attack before any evacuations can take place.

The following day, President Whitmore orders air strikes against the alien spacecrafts hovering over the cities that had been attacked. One of those air strikes are conducted by the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets led by Steven Hiller, against the spacecraft over Los Angeles. The strike ends in failure, leaving Steven as the sole survivor of his squadron. After leading a single alien fighter to crash into the desert, Steven subdues and captures the injured fighter. During his trek across the desert, he encounters a large group of recreational vehicles fleeing the Pacific Coast and led by Russell Casse. Steven guide them toward the Air Force base known as “Area 51”. Meanwhile, Jasmine and her son Dylan survive the July 2 attack and spend the following day picking up Los Angeles survivors in a fire truck. They eventually come across the seriously wounded First Lady, Mrs. Whitmore, before heading for the devastated El Toro Air Station. Upon learning about the existence of “Area 51” from his annoying Secretary of Defense, Whitmore orders Air Force One to head for Nevada.

I will be the first to admit that I enjoyed “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. For me, it seems like the epitome of the summer blockbuster film from the 1980s and 90s. When it comes to alien invasion movies, I am usually 50/50 on the genre. Thankfully, “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is one of my favorite alien invasion films. Even after twenty-four years. First of all, Emmerich and Devlin did a pretty good job in not only setting up the story’s premise, but also its characters. In fact, I am impressed at how they allowed small groups of people from New York City, Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles area converge upon an Air Force base in Nevada for the big showdown. I was even impressed at how Emmerich and Devlin found a very plausible way for the heroes to take down the aliens in the end . . . at least for those scientifically ignorant.

If there is one thing about “INDEPENDENCE DAY” that really impressed me were its visual effects supervised by the team of Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil. Their work seemed to have impressed the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, as well. The movie won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Here is an example of not only their work, but also the photography of Karl Walter Lindenlaub:

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I may like “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. But I cannot deny that it is also flawed. The movie featured a good deal of the cliches usually found in an Emmerich/Devlin production – a divorced couple, an American family fractured by the death of one parent and the other’s alcoholism, a newer romance, cheesy dialogue (especially from minor characters), questionable science, an annoying government official, a head of state – friendly or otherwise and a noble scientist in one of the leads. The most annoying flaw in “INDEPENDENCE DAY” for me turned out to be the dialogue. Aside from a few memorable one-liners, a good deal of the movie’s dialogue struck me as so cheesy and turgid that at times I caught myself wincing . . . a lot. I also grew weary of the movie’s more than numerous references to President Whitmore’s background as a former Air Force fighter pilot during the first Iraqi War. I can only assume that Emmerich and Devlin were setting up the character to be seen leading the last air strike against one of the alien space. They simply overdid it. Speaking of that last air strike, I found it odd that I saw more volunteers who were former military pilots than any current military pilots . . . especially since the movie’s finale was set at the Air Force base in Nevada. And why did the U.S. military send only a squad of U.S. Marine pilots in the movie’s first half? The El Toro Air Station (which later closed) was not the only air military base in Southern California. Why not send Air Force fighter planes from Edwards Air Force Base, as well? The worst aspect of “INDEPENDENCE DAY” turned out to be the flat score composed by David Arnold. It is a good thing I found the movie’s plot and characters compelling enough to keep me alert. Arnold’s score struck me as so uninspiring that I found it hard to believe this is the same man who had composed some pretty decent scores for the James Bond franchise between 1997 and 2008.

It is a miracle that Devlin and Emmerich managed to gather an impressive cast for this movie. Although there were times when many of them struggled to overcome the pair’s turgid dialogue, they still managed to inject enough energy into their performances to be memorable. Will Smith solidified his position as a future Hollywood leading man in his lively portrayal of Marine pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The role of satellite programmer/scientist David Levinson would prove to be one of the last two leading performances by Jeff Goldblum in a movie. He also gave, in my opinion, one of the movie’s better performances. Bill Pullman did a pretty good job as Thomas Whitmore, the U.S. President forced to make some tough decision during the alien invasion. Although I found some of his dialogue rather cheesy, I must admit that I found Randy Quaid’s performance as the alcoholic Russell Casse very entertaining. Equally entertaining were Judd Hirsch as David’s blunt-speaking father, Julius; and Margaret Colin as David’s ex-wife and President Whitmore’s communications director Connie Spano. Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Steven’s friend, Captain Jimmy Wilder amusing at times, even if he seemed to be chewing the scenery. And Adam Baldwin proved to be a stable element in the story, due to his solid performance as Major Mitchell, the U.S. Air Force officer stationed at “Area 51”.

But aside from Goldblum, the other four performances that really impressed me came from Robert Loggia, who portrayed Whitmore’s Chief of Staff, U.S. Marine General William Grey; Vivica A. Fox as Steven’s resilient girlfriend Justine Dubrow; James Rebhorn as Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki; and Brent Spinner as “Area 51″ scientist Dr. Brackish Okun. Loggia was even more of a rock as one of the few truly sane voices for Whitmore during the alien invasion. Fox seemed to be one of the few cast members capable of rising above Emmerich and Devlin’s cheesy dialogue. And for that, she earned my vote as one of the movie’s better performers. Rebhorn gave a very entertaining, yet subtle performance as Whitmore’s sniveling Secretary of Defense. I never knew that ass kissing could be so interesting to watch. Brent Spinner gave a very funny performance as Dr. Brackish Okun, a geeky”Area 51” scientist without resorting to any hammy acting.

I cannot deny that “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a flawed movie. It has cheesy dialogue that still makes me wince. It also featured an extremely bland score by David Arnold and also some story elements by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin that struck me as recycled. But the movie featured a first-rate cast led by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. And Emmerich and Devlin also created a very entertaining and effective story, making “INDEPENDENCE DAY” one of the better alien invasion movies I have ever seen, even after twenty years. And it is certainly a hell of a lot better than its 2016 sequel.

 

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