“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review

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“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review”

Ever since its release in 1964, the James Bond movie, “GOLDFINGER” has been regarded as one of the best ever in the franchise. In fact, it is considered by many Bond fans as the franchise’s definitive film, considering that it more or less created what is known as “the Bond formula”.

The 1959 Ian Fleming novel, upon which the movie is based, is also highly regarded by some fans. However, others believe that the movie is an improvement on the literary version. While I agree that the movie, “GOLDFINGER” is an improvement over the novel, I have a rather low opinion of both the novel and the cinematic adaptation. However, I am here to comment on the movie and not the novel.

The plot for “GOLDFINGER” begins with MI-6 agent James Bond sabotaging a Latin American drug laboratory. Following this assignment, Bond rests at an exclusive Miami Beach hotel, where he receives instructions from his superior “M” – via C.I.A. operative Felix Leiter – to observe a bullion dealer name Auric Goldfinger. Bond discovers that Goldfinger is cheating at gin rummy with the help of employee Jill Masterson. Bond distracts Jill and blackmails Goldfinger into losing the game. While enjoying sex with Jill inside his hotel room, Goldfinger’s Korean (or Japanese) manservant Oddjob knocks Bond unconscious. The agent regains consciousness and finds Jill’s dead body covered in gold paint.

After “M” censures Bond for screwing up his assignment in Miami Beach, he orders the agent to discover how Goldfinger is smuggling gold out of Europe. Bond engages in a golf match with the villain, before following him to Switzerland. There, the agent meets Jill’s sister, Tilly, who seeks revenge against Goldfinger for her sister’s death. Eventually, Bond and Tilly form a short-lived alliance before the latter is killed by Oddjob and the former becomes Goldfinger’s prisoner. Fearful that the British agent might know the details of his new operation in the United States, Goldfinger keeps Bond a prisoner, instead of killing him.

As I had earlier stated, “GOLDFINGER” is without a doubt one of my least favorite Bond movies of all time. And there are many reasons why I harbor such a low opinion of it. Some of the the film’s problems stemmed from some poor characterizations. James Bond spent most of the movie either behaving like an oversexed adolescent or an idiot schoolboy. This characterization merely hampered Sean Connery’s performance in the movie and led me to consider it one of his worst. The movie also featured one-dimensional portrayals in characters such as Auric Goldfinger’s henchman, Oddjob, which allowed actor Harold Sakata spend most of the movie wearing a menacing smile; the thuggish Mafia bosses who visit Goldfinger’s Kentucky farm; and a very weak Felix Leiter, as portrayed by Canadian actor Cec Linder, who spent most of the movie behaving like a sidekick, instead of an ally from the C.I.A.

“GOLDFINGER” also featured some incredibly bad plotholes that make me wonder why this film is so highly regarded. For instance, I understood why Goldfinger had ordered Oddjob to kill Jill Masterson for her betrayal. Why did he not order Oddjob to kill Bond, who had compromised Jill and caused him to lose the card game? Goldfinger decides to keep Bond a prisoner, instead of making more of an effort to learn what Bond knew about his current scheme, “Operation Grand Slam”. I think drugs would have been a good deal more helpful than a gold laser threatening the agent’s nether regions. The method Bond used to convince Pussy Galore, Goldfinger’s personal pilot, to betray her boss disgusted me. It disgusted me that screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn allowed Bond wrestle Pussy to the barn floor and use sex to get her to betray Goldfinger. It disgusted me that the entire scene reeked of attempted rape. Why not have Bond convince her that Golfinger was simply a nutcase? I guess Maibaum and Dehn, or the producers, wanted an excuse for Bond to use his “magic penis” on the leading lady.

The movie’s most perplexing plot line involved the Mafia bosses’ visit to Goldfinger’s farm. It featured one of the most ridiculous and unnecessary plot turns in the movie franchise’s history. The sequence began with the gangsters’ arrival and demand for Goldfinger’s presence and the money he owed them. And while Bond eavesdropped on the conversation, Golfinger revealed his Fort Knox plan. Then he murdered them. Many Bond fans have claimed that the reason Goldfinger revealed his plan to the Mafia bosses before murdering them, was because he wanted bask in the enjoyment of letting someone know about his plans. If that was the case, why not have Goldfinger tell Bond earlier in the film before before attempting to kill the agent or leave him for dead? Why save this moment for a bunch of one-dimensional gangsters in the first place? What makes this scenario even more ridiculous is that when one of the gangsters, Mr. Solo, decided that he wants nothing of the Fort Knox plan, Goldfinger sent him on his way with a gold bar . . . before Oddjob killed the man and crushed him inside a car. Goldfinger could have simply killed Solo and the other gangsters at the same time . . . without this ludicrous revelation of his Fort Knox plan?

Were there any positive aspects about “GOLDFINGER”? Well . . . yes, or else I would consider this entry in the franchise to be the worst. Thankfully, the movie’s cast included Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger. Although my opinion of Goldfinger’s intelligence has diminished over the years, I remain impressed by Frobe’s commanding presence and excellent performance. The movie also featured the talented and classy Honor Blackman (who was already famous in Great Britain for her role in the TV series, “THE AVENGERS”), playing the tough and intelligent Pussy Galore. I enjoyed Ms. Blackman’s performance so much that it seemed a shame that her character was ruined in that Galore/Bond wrestling match inside the barn at Goldfinger’s Kentucky farm. Shirley Easton made the most of her brief appearance as one of the doomed Masterson sisters, Jill. And one might as well face it, I doubt no one will ever forget that last image of her gold-painted body spread out upon the bed inside Bond’s Miami hotel room:

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“GOLDFINGER” also benefited from Ted Moore’s photography of Britain, Switzerland and Kentucky; which featured beautiful and sharp color. I was also impressed by Peter R. Hunt’s editing, which seemed most effective in the car chase around Goldfinger’s Switzerland plant, the showdown at Fort Knox and the fight aboard Goldfinger’s plane. Last by not least, I have to mention the music featured in the film. Between John Barry’s score and theme song performed by the talented Shirley Bassey, I must admit that the film’s music is one thing in “GOLDFINGER” that rose above everything else. After all, the move’s theme song is considered one of the best in the Bond movie franchise. And that is an opinion I do share.

Despite some of the movie’s positive aspects – some of the performances, the photography and the music – I have always harbored ambiguous feelings about “GOLDFINGER” for years. In the past, I tried to accept the prevalent feeling that it was probably one of the best Bond movies. But after watching it the last time . . . well let me put it this way, whether or not it was responsible for creating the Bond formula, I finally realized how much I truly dislike it.

“STAR WARS” Cuisine

Below are a few samples of food and drinks that were created for the “STAR WARS” franchise – including the ten movies and two television series produced by Lucasfilm, the current Disney canon novels, the non-canon Extended Universe (EU) novels and video games:

“STAR WARS” CUISINE

Blue Milk aka Bantha Milk – A rich blue-colored milk that was produced by female banthas. Sentients drank it, and used it in ice cream, butter and yogurt. It was especially available on Outer Rim planets like Tatooine, Lothal, and Lah’mu.

Eopie Cream Pie – A delicious and popular dessert that was kept as a closely guarded secret by the Kingal family. It is believed that the dessert was made from the cream of the Eopie, a quadruped herbivore native to the planet Tatooine. No one knows whether the cream was created from Eeopie milk or the animal’s meat.

Tranna Nougat Cream – A sweet candy that was extremely difficult to make. It was favored by the rich and powerful.

Corellian Fried Ice Cream – A popular dessert that originated on Corellia. It was made from ice cream native to the planet; Soypro, a meat substitute, Carbosyrup and water. It could also be found on Endor.

Shuura – An exotic yellow and cream colored fruit that was sweet and juicy. It was a favorite of Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo. The syrup from the fruit was used as a flavouring for a certain drink at Dex’s Diner on Coruscant.

Nuna Drumsticks – A type of food that came from the Nuna, a reptavian gamebird that was native to Naboo. The animal was commonly called a “swamp turkey”.

Shawda Club Sandwich – A sandwich made from slices of Manpha-fowl meat, Nuna bacon, Revwien lettuce, and topatos on toasted or therm-zapped pseudograin bread. It was a popular item at Dex’s Diner on Coruscant.

“EASTERN PROMISES” (2007) Review

“EASTERN PROMISES” (2007) Review

Seven years ago, I saw for the first time, the crime thriller directed by David Cronenberg called, ”A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”. Viggo Mortensen had starred in the movie, portraying a happily-married café owner, whose Good Samaritan actions against two thugs led to his disclosure as a former mob enforcer. Both Cronenberg and Mortensen reunited two years later to collaborate on another crime thriller called, “EASTERN PROMISES”.

Based upon a screenplay written by Steve Knight, ”EASTERN PROMISES” began with a gangland murder and the death of a 14 year-old Russian-born prostitute after giving birth to an infant girl. The two incidents would resonate over the lives of a London hospital midwife of Russian descent named Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a Russian mob boss and restaurant owner named Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), his wastrel son Krill (Vincent Cassel), and the mob boss’ enigmatic chauffeur, Nikolai Luzhin (Mortensen).

The plot is a little too complex for me to explain in this review. Needless to say that it centered around the mob boss’ attempt to recover the dead prostitute’s diary, which found itself in the hands of the hospital midwife. I would suggest that one find a way to see the movie. It will not disappoint. I know I found it very interesting. Yes, it has violence, but not as much that was found in ”A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”. But the amount of blood shown in the film – especially in the gangland slaying and the prostitute’s death – seemed to like a metaphor of the story’s theme . . . and the connection between the major characters.

On the surface, ”EASTERN PROMISES” seemed like a typical crime thriller centered around a Russian crime family in London. But the plot – like three of the major characters – turned out to be something quite different than what appears to be on the surface. What seemed like a gang war, turned out to be a lurid family secret that brings down the Russian mobster. As I had earlier pointed out, this theme is also apparent in three of the four major characters:

*Krill – who seemed like a crude and murderous monster on the surface, who proves to be more benign

*Semyon – a talented cook and mob boss, whose grandfatherly demeanor hides a darker and more ruthless personality

*Nikolai – the enigmatic chauffeur, whose practical and cynical nature makes him unsuited to merely be the family’s driver. As in the case of Semyon and Krill, he turns out to be someone very different.

And it is through the eyes of the London midwife, Anna that the audience becomes acquainted with the exotic (at least for American and British eyes) world of Russian émigrés mingled with the violence and degeneracy of the Vory v Zakone (Russian Mafia). Thanks to Cronenberg’s direction, the world of the Vory v Zakone seemed so exotic and something never seen before. In fact, it seemed so insular that the usual British atmosphere of London almost seemed miles away, despite the presence of Scotland Yard. One sequence that came to mind is the hand-to-hand fight between Nikolai and two Chechen assassins seeking revenge for the gangland murder featured in the movie’s opening scene. The sight of a nude Mortensen viciously defending his life against two burly assassins inside a London bathhouse is one that I will never forget. And I suspect that it will become an unforgettable scene in the minds of moviegoers for years to come.

I was also impressed by the performances in the movie. Despite having the least interesting character, Watts managed – with her usual competency – to infuse pathos and spirit into the London midwife. And Mueller-Stahl did an excellent job of portraying a brutal and ruthless man who manages to hide these traits under a veneer of warmth and civility. But I feel that Cassel deserves an Oscar nod for his portrayal of the pathetic Krill, who tries to hide his weaknesses (or what he conceives as weakness) with a crude and extroverted persona.

Finally, there is Viggo Mortensen, whose portrayal of the enigmatic Nikolai might finally allow the critics to truly appreciate his skills as an actor. Instead of using words or openly expressed emotions, Mortensen manages to reveal his character to the audience through subtle words (in a Russian accent that surprisingly works), body language, costume and especially in his eyes. What makes Mortensen so remarkable as a film actor is that he has no need for big speeches (which he had attempted in ”LORD OF THE RINGS:  RETURN OF THE KING”) or outbursts of emotions to convey to express his characters’ personalities. This certainly seemed true in the scene in which Nikolai has sex with one of the prostitutes, in the whorehouse owned by Krill’s father. Nikolai does not simply have sex with the woman. He IS FORCED to do so . . . on the orders of Krill, who wants Nikolai to prove that he is not a homosexual. The audience was well aware that the prostitute felt violated and exploited. But Mortensen managed to convey through his eyes, Nikolai’s feelings of violation, exploitation . . . and disgust at Krill’s desire to watch him have sex with the prostitute. Good performances by Mortensen, Cassel and the actress who portrayed the prostitute.

What else can I say about “EASTERN PROMISES”? It is not the best movie I have seen this year. But I feel that it is a fascinating and emotionally complex story that seems different from the usual crime thriller. Unlike “A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”, it is not capped by a violence sequence that gives us the last word on the protagonist’s fate. Yet, all the same, I found it very tense and emotional.

“Lover Man” [R] – 1/3

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“LOVER MAN”

CODE: Paris, Torres, P/f, and (P/T)
RATING: [R] For scenes of a sexual nature and adult language.
SUMMARY: A curious B’Elanna Torres stumbles upon an illicit love affair that involves Voyager’s Chief Helmsman. Set during mid-Season 1. A bit dark and angsty.
FEEDBACK: lee66132000@yahoo.com – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B’Elanna and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A lot of fan fiction have portrayed Tom’s womanizing as something not to be taken seriously. More reputation than fact. In this story, the rumors of his rampant womanizing prove to be true.
ANOTHER NOTE: Although TPTB never gave Hogan a first name, I decided to name him Simon – after the actor who portrayed him in the series, Simon Billig.

—————–

PART ONE

An eager Tom Paris strolled along Deck Nine’s corridor, mindful of the curious stares from passing crewmen. He was on his way to the quarters of one Ensign Telac Mara, a delectable Bajoran officer who worked in Exobiology. Tom planned to spend several hours in her quarters, entertaining her the best way he knew how – food, talk and plenty of sex. If he was lucky. His anticipation must show on his face. How else could he explain the smirks and expressions of disgust on the others’ faces.

Nearly two months had passed since Voyager found itself catapulted into the Delta Quadrant. Nine weeks since Captain Kathryn Janeway gave a former Starfleet brat, turned convict a second chance to make something of his life. And although Tom felt obliged to show his gratitude by becoming an exemplary officer, he realized that he also had a private life to maintain. For Thomas Eugene Paris, that meant the pursuit of the opposite sex.

As Tom round a corner, he nearly collided with two members of the Engineering staff – Joe Carey and Simon Hogan. Starfleet and Maquis. It seemed that Captain Janeway’s desire to assimilate the two factions into one crew might come into fruition after all. Tom flashed a smile at the two men. “Hey Joe! Simon! What are you two doing here?”

Carey, forever the proper Starfleeter, gave Tom a muted smile. “Paris. We’re here on business. Why?”

“Yeah, why?” Hogan added sneeringly. “What business is it of yours?” Being Maquis, Simon Hogan was less subtle in expressing his dislike of the Chief Conn Officer. “You plan to run back to Janeway and send a report?”

Tom took a deep breath and mentally began to count to ten. “Look, Hogan, I was merely curious, that’s all. Especially since neither of you have quarters on this deck.”

Suspicion glimmered in the former Maquis’s eyes. “How do you know that?”

For a long moment, the former colleagues stared at each other. Tom eventually realized that Hogan’s suspicions were ridiculous. “For crying out . . . Never mind!” He shook his head in disgust and continued along the corridor, ignoring the other man’s dark mumblings.

Pushing the encounter with the two engineers to the back of his mind, Tom continued to scan the cabin numbers for Mara’s quarters. Nine-f, nine-g, nine-h, nine . . . A slender hand shot out of an opened doorway and grabbed Tom’s wrist. “What the hell?” he began. Then he found himself being dragged into an empty cabin before he could protest any further. That same hand, along with another, slammed him against the wall. Tom stared into a pair of familiar eyes. “What the hell are you doing?” he demanded in an annoyed voice.

She purred, “I saw you talking with Hogan and Carey in the corridor. And I thought I would surprise you.” She pressed her body against Tom’s. “You know, renew old times.” A pink tongue darted from her mouth and flickered across the edge of Tom’s jaw.

“I’m not interested in renewing old times,” Tom retorted. His mind desperately tried to ignore the wet tongue on his jaw. “And I have plans to spend my evening with someone else. Someone I actually like.”

“You mean Telac Mara?” She sniffed. “I thought you had better taste than that.” Her tongue reached the edge of his mouth and began to make circular motions. Tom managed to hold back a groan through sheer effort.

Breathlessly, the pilot responded, “Look, why don’t you go seduce someone else? I’m not in the mood and we barely like each other. We never have.”

“That didn’t stop you from spending a little time with me, before.” Her tongue flickered back and forth across Tom’s upper lip.

“I was drunk, . . . oh God . . . desperate for sex and didn’t know any better.” Tom paused to control his breathing. “Besides, you’re only doing this . . . because your old lover . . . is no longer interested in you.”

The tongue disappeared from Tom’s mouth. Much to his surprise – and disappointment. Eyes slitted dangerously. “Did anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, Paris?”

“A lot of people,” he replied in a weary voice. “Including you.”

She unzipped her Starfleet-issued jacket and removed it. “Well, maybe you should . . .” A gray turtleneck blouse followed, along with an undershirt of the same color. “. . . use your mouth for something more substantial.” In a swift motion, she removed her bra. “Like these.”

Tom’s eyes riveted upon a pair of pale, round breasts. “Huh,” he grunted. His mouth grew dry. “I must say. The offer is tempting.”

One of her eyebrows formed an arch. “Tempting?” She smiled, took Tom’s hands and placed them on her breasts. “As I recall, you were never been able to resist them.” Her breath fanned his cheeks.

‘Goddamit!’ Tom thought. He hated this. She never failed to get him into this state. Breathless. And hard. In an attempt to resist her, he immediately withdrew his hands.

“And if my memory serves me right,” she continued, “you really enjoyed this.” Before Tom knew what happened, he felt her slender hands unfasten his trousers. “Let’s see.” She slipped one hand inside and firmly grasped the flesh between his legs. “Ah yes!” His member immediately swelled from her touch. “Now I remember.”

Tom gasped out loud. She pulled and stroked every inch of his flesh, while she pressed her body against his, and her tongue continued to form wet traces near the edge of his mouth. Any resistance that may have lingered within him, immediately shattered. “The hell with this!” Tom grabbed her shoulders and shoved her against the wall. “You want to relive old times, huh?” he growled in a husky voice. “Okay, I’ll show you old times!” He covered one plump breast with his mouth and began to suckle upon the hardened tip. She threw her head back, and emitted a deep, low moan, as the couple began to relive old times.

* * * *

Inside the Chief Engineer’s quarters, B’Elanna Torres began to remove the last vestiges of her uniform. She would have moved a lot faster, but her aching body made it impossible.

B’Elanna and her Engineering staff had just spent the entire day trying to reconfigure the Warp Plasma conduit, which had suddenly drained at least 35% of the ship’s energy source. The latter had been an ongoing problem for Voyager ever since its encounter with that event horizon, nearly a month ago. Just before B’Elanna had been given the position of Chief Engineer.

Some of the ship’s energy source managed to be preserved, thanks to Neelix’s conversion of the Captain’s dining room into a galley. And the use of the replicator had been rationed, using credit chips. Yet, despite all of these precautions, Voyager’s energy drain continued. If the crew did not find any dilithium soon, the ship might end up dead in space. Or Janeway might be forced to consider colonization.

To find a solution to Voyager’s problem, B’Elanna had gathered her top engineers for a brainstorming session in her quarters. After three hours or so, they managed to come up with a minor solution. Use the impulse engines, unless the situation made it necessary for Voyager to go to warp. Carey had also suggested sending both the holodecks and replicators off-line, as well.

After so many hours of working on the warp conduits, crawling through Jeffries tubes and meetings, B’Elanna felt exhausted. In fact, she had to struggle into her red pajamas. Once her head rested on her pillow, her eyes closed and B’Elanna slipped into a deep sleep.

* * * *

THUMP!!

The noise roused B’Elanna out of her sleep. Her eyes blinked open. CRASH! What the . . .? A loud moan followed. The noise made B’Elanna spring into a sitting position. She glanced at the chronometer on the table, next to her bed. It read 22:07 hours. Kahless! She had only been asleep for twelve minutes! Who in the hell was making so much noise?

“Wha . . . Oh gods!” a male voice cried out. One that struck a familiar chord. “God! Don’t . . . don’t stop!”

More thumps followed. It seemed as if someone was banging his or her fist on the wall. Another crash. A few more thumps and then, a long, loud groan. One that came, B’Elanna surmised, from a female. “Oh . . . oh! Don’t stop!” the woman continued. “Don’t . . . ye-ee-ess-ss! Yes!”

The woman’s cries mingled with more thumps. B’Elanna found herself growing uncomfortably aroused. She had witnessed her share of erotic vids in her time, but never had she been this close to the action. Aside from a few sexual encounters of her own. Then it came. One final cry that emitted from both parties. “Yes! Yes! Ooooh! Spirits! Ye-ee-esss-ss!”

Silence followed. To B’Elanna’s embarrassment, she felt a warm rush between her legs. She pressed them together and sighed. Well, she no longer felt exhausted. Just tense and aroused. Which meant that she definitely will have trouble sleeping tonight.

* * * *

Barely able to keep her eyes opened, B’Elanna reached for her cup of coffee. And grabbed only air, instead. She muttered a curse under her breath.

“Here you go.” Someone placed the cup in her hand. B’Elanna recognized his voice. Harry. “Hey Maquis, you really look tired. Rough night?” Sympathy shone in his black eyes, as he sat in the chair opposite her.

B’Elanna heaved a long, dry sigh. “Rough day, period. Between those damn warp plasma conduits, meetings with my staff and a loud neighbor, I’ve barely had a chance to sleep.”

“A noisy neighbor?” Harry’s face expressed interest. “And who might that be?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

Harry frowned. “After two months in the Delta Quadrant, you don’t know your own neighbors?”

B’Elanna groaned and took a sip of coffee. “Look Starfleet, I’m not exactly the most sociable person. And I’ve been spending the last month trying to keep this ship together after our encounter with that event horizon.”

“And the noisy neighbor?” Harry asked. “Has he or she been giving you trouble all this time?”

“Just last night. When it comes to sex, he or she is pretty damn noisy.”

A red flush crept up Harry’s face. “Oh. One of those.”

B’Elanna stared at her friend’s embarrassed expression and giggled. “Oh, Harry! If only you could see your face at this moment.”

“I see it and think it looks quite delicious,” a third voice added. It belonged to Seska, a Bajoran ex-Maquis, who worked under B’Elanna in Engineering. She and another former Maquis, stood next to the table, holding their trays. “Good morning, B’Elanna.” She smiled at Harry. “Ensign Kim.”

Poor Harry now looked even more embarrassed. He mumbled, “Morning, Ensign uh, Seska.” His face, now resembling the color of a beet, Harry immediately began to dig into his food. Seska’s smile stretched wider and she sat in an empty chair next to him.

The other ex-Maquis sat next to B’Elanna. Her name was Mariah Henley and the red-and-black uniform she wore indicated that she served in the Conn Division as a pilot. She glanced at the food in her tray and sighed. “How lovely,” she commented in her usual sardonic manner, “another one of Neelix’s ‘delectable’ meals.” Her eyes shifted to Seska, who was busily eating. “How can you eat this stuff?”

“This ‘stuff’ is the only thing that keeps us on our feet,” Seska retorted. “At least until the replicators return on-line. So I suggest you eat up.” Henley mumbled an insult. But that did not stop her from following Seska’s advice.

The four companions continued eating their breakfast – only raktijino and a roll for B’Elanna. They chatted about the ship’s ongoing energy crisis, and the planet recently detected by the long-range sensors. The Mess Hall’s doors slid open. B’Elanna glanced in that direction and frowned at the two newcomers – Ensign Telac and Lieutenant Paris.

Another sneer crept into Henley’s expression. “Look who’s here! Voyager’s own little playboy with his latest bed warmer at his side.” B’Elanna noticed that the pilot spoke with intense vehemence. She was well aware of Tom Paris’s unpopularity aboard ship. The Starfleet faction condemned him for killing three other ‘Fleet officers in a shuttle accident on Caldik Prime and lying about it. Voyager’s former Maquis detested him for betraying their cause when he had agreed to help Janeway hunt them down in the Badlands. Only a handful of people genuinely liked Paris. B’Elanna did not count herself among the latter.

Harry quietly added, “That’s Telac Mara with Tom. He’s been dating her for over a week, now.”

“I bet Megan Delaney must be thrilled.” Henley’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I wonder when she found out about those two. Before or after Paris dumped her?”

Annoyance darkened Harry’s countenance. “Don’t you have anything better to do than complain about Tom? Why are you always so hard on him? What did he ever do to you?”

Henley’s mouth formed a hard line. “Nothing,” she hissed. “I’m in a bad mood. And I need someone to bitch about. Paris fits the bill.”

“Bad mood? Sounds more like green-eye jealousy,” Seska teased. “Are you jealous, Mariah?”

Three pairs of eyes riveted upon Henley. The pilot’s face turned red with embarrassment. “What are you talking about, Seska? What do I have to be jealous about?” The ire in her voice, somehow, did not ring true.

“I don’t know. Because Ensign Telac is enjoying breakfast with Tom Paris and you’re not?” A spiteful smile curved Seska’s lips. “I remember how you used to stare at him adoringly back in the Maquis. And how you were the only one to come to his defense. Until we all ended up in the Delta Quadrant.”

B’Elanna stared at her former comrade in disbelief. “Kahless, Mariah! Don’t tell me that you were once attracted to Tom Paris?”

“Of course not!” Henley retorted. “Seska’s just exaggerating! Why would you believe such . . .” She broke off when the subject in question approached their table.

The Chief Helmsman flashed his usual megawatt smile, irking B’Elanna to no end. She disliked people who used such shallow methods to get by in life.

“Hey everyone!” Paris greeted, before turning to his best friend. “Say Harry, I need your help with those new navigation specs we had talked about. Will you be available later, today?”

Harry nodded. “Sure. How about this evening? Around 2100?”

A gust of breath escaped Paris’s mouth. “A little too late for me. I have . . .” He glanced at Telac, who smiled at him. “I have other plans, tonight. How about 1730? After our shift ends?”

Harry glanced uneasily at B’Elanna. She knew the reason for his unease. They had planned to go over ideas regarding the warp conduits. “Sorry Tom. B’Elanna and I . . .”

“We have other plans after the Alpha shift,” B’Elanna bluntly finished for her friend. “Make some other plans.”

Cool blue eyes fixed upon B’Elanna’s face. “Other plans, huh? Hmmm. Lucky Harry.” A knowing smirk touched the pilot’s lips.

It took all of B’Elanna’s control not to wipe that smirk off Paris’s face. Violently. Bridling with anger, she retorted, “It’s not what you think, moron! Get your mind out of the gutter! If you can.”

“Take it easy, Torres! I’m just kidding! Even Harry knows about my sense of humor. Right buddy?”

Harry nodded wearily. “Don’t mind Tom, B’Elanna. He can’t help it if he has a peculiar sense of humor.” Tom chuckled at his joke.

“Well he better learn to curb it!” B’Elanna growled. “Before he uses it on the wrong person.”

Paris rolled his eyes and looked away. B’Elanna, to her annoyance, realized he had just dismissed her. The pilot focused on his subordinate. “By the way, Henley. Don’t forget that you’ll be taking Culhane’s place during Beta shift, tonight. I suggest you get some rest this afternoon.”

Henley did not look pleased by the news. “Again?” she whined. “This is the second time I’ve had to cover for Culhane. Assign someone else!”

“You need the flight time!” Paris snapped back. “And the last time you had covered Culhane, happened a month ago.”

“What if I don’t bother to show up?”

Silence surrounded the table. B’Elanna, along with her companions, stared at Paris, wondering how he would deal with this challenge to his authority. To her reluctant admiration – the Chief Pilot handled it well. “It’s quite simple,” Paris continued with a cold smile. “I’ll either have you assigned to Beta shift for the next three months. Or you can spend those same months in the brig. Take your choice.” His eyes penetrated Henley’s. Whose face grew even redder.

Paris turned to Harry with a more genuine smile. “Look Harry, we can get together over those specs another time. I’ll see you later.” And he returned to Ensign Telac.

Seska faced Henley, her eyes wide open with feign compassion. “Still have that crush on Paris, Mariah?”

The latter growled, “Shut up, Seska!” And she focused once more on her breakfast.

* * * *

Later that night, B’Elanna laid in bed, wide awake. Her eyes were fully alert, anticipating and dreading a repeat performance of last night’s disturbances.

Five minutes passed. Only silence greeted B’Elanna’s ears. Another fifteen minutes later, more silence. By the time ten more minutes went by, B’Elanna felt herself growing sleepy. She also realized that whatever she had witnessed last night, was not bound to occur again.

Secure that she would finally get some rest, the half-Klingon closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep. She would have been happy to learn that no sexual activity of any kind occurred in the cabin next door.

End of PART ONE

“Breaking Up the Avengers”

 

“BREAKING UP THE AVENGERS”

Ever since I first saw “CAPTAIN AMERICA:  CIVIL WAR” back in May 2016, I have been in a state of confusion of the series of events that led to the break-up of the Avengers within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The more I examine those events created by the film’s screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the more I find the narrative confusing.  So what exactly happened?

According to “CIVIL WAR”, the terrorist group that had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and other government agencies and private corporations, HYDRA, had ordered the brainwashed amnesiac James Buchannan “Bucky” Barnes aka the Winter Soldier to murder one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D., Howard Stark, and his wife Maria Stark, back in December 1991.  Apparently, Stark – who has never struck me as an expert in biological sciences – had finally created his own version of the Super Soldier Serum.  And HYDRA wanted to use the serum to continue their own program involving super soldiers.

Nearly 25 years later, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross had presented the Avengers with the document known as the Sokovia Accords.  The Accords was created to regulate the activities of enhanced individuals – especially those who work for either government agencies such as S.H.I.E.L.D. or for private organizations such as the Avengers.   Some of the Avengers like Howard’s son, Tony Stark aka Iron Man; James Rhodes aka War Machine; Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow and the android known as Vision; had agreed to sign the documents.  Others like Steve Rogers aka Captain America; Sam Wilson aka the Falcon; and Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch refused to sign it.  The Avengers had argued over the legality of the Accords, until Steve was distracted by the news that his old World War II flame and former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Peggy Carter had died.

Eventually, the Avengers were further distracted by the bombing of the Vienna International Centre, where United Nations members had gathered to sign the document.  A major victim of the bombing turned out to be King T’Chaka, father of Prince T’Challa aka the Black Panther.  A former Sokovian Armed Forcers officers named Helmut Zemo had planned the bombing and framed Barnes in order to further divide the Avengers in retaliation for the destruction of his home country and his family in “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”.  Due to his discovery of the HYDRA files uploaded on the Internet by Romanoff during the events of “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”, Zemo was able to discover that both Rogers and Barners had been old childhood friends and fought together during World War II.  He also discovered that Barnes, who had been held in captive and brainwashed by HYDRA until the end of “THE WINTER SOLIDER”, had been the tool used by HYDRA to murder Howard and Maria Stark.  Helmut used this knowledge to create more conflict between Rogers and Stark.  But despite knowing what exactly happened during “CIVIL WAR”, I am not only confused by the film’s plot; I am confused over exactly what drove the Avengers apart.

First of all, could someone please explain how Steve Rogers and Tony Stark’s conflict over Bucky Barnes’ killing of Howard and Maria Stark was supposed to break up the Avengers?  All of the Avengers?  Yes, “THE WINTER SOLDIER” had revealed that both Rogers and Romanoff had learned that HYDRA was somehow responsible for the deaths of Stark’s parents.  But Stark never confronted Romanoff for her knowledge of what happened to his parents.  And neither she or Rogers knew that HYDRA had used Barnes to kill them.  So how would a personal conflict between Rogers and Stark was supposed to have some impact upon the Avengers?  Also . . . the Avengers had already parted over the Sokovia Accords early into “CIVIL WAR”.  Why on earth would the Avengers split because two of its members had some disagreement over what happened in 1991?  I have other questions.

Why did Helmut Zemo create such a contrived plan to expose what the brainwashed Bucky had done to the Starks?  In the film, he had discovered a video tape featuring Barnes’ murder of the Starks on the road leading way from their New York manor.  And what did Zemo do?  He bombed the Sokovia Accords conference in Vienna and framed Barnes for the crime, knowing that Rogers would go out of his way to prevent his former friend from being gunned down with extreme prejudice, instead of merely arrested?  After that . . . what?  He impersonated a psychiatrist and helped the still brainwashed Barnes escape custody.  Apparently, he knew that Barnes would eventually inform Rogers about HYDRA’s Winter Soldier program in Siberia and lead the latter to the organization’s base.  How did Zemo know that Stark would end up at that Siberia base, as well?  Stark would have never learned about Rogers and Barnes’ destination after their escape from the Battle at the Berlin airport if he had not convinced Sam Wilson, who had been arrested with the rest of Rogers’ team, to tell him.  I doubt very much that Zemo would have anticipated this.  Why did he not just send the damn tape featuring the Starks’ deaths to the Avengers headquarters or to Stark Enterprises, earlier in the story?

Speaking of that video tape . . . why on earth would HYDRA set up a camera to record Barnes’ murders of the Starks?  Why would they record the murder in the first place?  To see if his brainwashing worked after him being in hibernation for over 45 years?  One would think that the Starks’ deaths were the evidence that the organization would need.  And once HYDRA discovered that the brainwashing worked, why did it fail to destroy the tape?  What was the point, especially when the HYDRA operatives within S.H.I.E.L.D. must have went out of their way to convey the story that Howard and Maria had died in an accident?  It was stupid to hang on to that tape.  If HYDRA did not set up the camera, what was it doing there on that road in the first place?

“CIVIL WAR” also revealed that both Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff had failed to reveal that HYDRA may have been responsible for the deaths of Stark’s parents.  Steve’s reasoning for not revealing the truth to Stark did not make any sense to me.  Why would Rogers think not telling Tony the truth would be a comfort?  Considering his hatred of HYDRA, it would make more sense for Rogers to tell Tony . . . especially since they and the rest of the Avengers were hunting down Baron von Stucker and HYDRA’s headquarters at the time.  Come to think of it, why did Natasha Romanoff failed to tell Tony that HYDRA was responsible for the Starks’ deaths?  The issue of her knowledge of this incident was never brought up in the film.  I am still wondering why Stark had never learned the truth about his parents’ fate before the events of “CIVIL WAR”.

Romanoff had released all of the  S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA files on the Internet in “THE WINTER SOLDIER”?  You mean to say that a tech-savy person like Stark never discovered the files?  Especially since his father was one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D.   Come to think of it, any employee of Stark Industries could have easily learned about the revelation of the files.  Yet, no one did.  Talk about contrived writing.  Did the Avengers use those old S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA files downloaded by Romanoff to search for von Strucker and his HYDRA base before the events of “AGE OF ULTRON”?  If so . . . why did they fail to find information about the Starks’ deaths?  If not . . . why not?  You mean to say that Romanoff’s upload of those S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA files were all about Zemo finding that damn tape and nothing else?

What am I trying to say here?  The story arc of Helmut Zemo using the old HYDRA files on Bucky Barnes to break Steve Rogers and Tony Stark’s friendship and eventually the Avengers did not make . . . wait a minute.  Did I just claim that Rogers and Stark had a friendship?  Rogers and Stark . . . who could barely stand to socialize with each other?  In the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  You know what?  This story arc seemed to have so many holes that I am beginning to believe it resembles Swiss cheese.  What I find equally improbably is that so many films critics had not even bothered to question the plot when “CIVIL WAR” first hit the movie theaters back in May 2016.

 

The Major Problems of “HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III” (1994)

 

THE MAJOR PROBLEMS OF “HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III” (1994)

Any fan of the John Jakes’ NORTH AND SOUTH trilogy would be more than happy to tell you that the worst entry in the author’s saga about two American families in the mid 19th century was the last one, ”HEAVEN AND HELL: North and South Book III”. Those fans would be speaking of the 1994 television adaptation, not the novel itself. Unlike many of these fans, I do not share their low opinion of the three-part miniseries. But I will not deny that ”HEAVEN AND HELL” had its share of problems. Below is a list of I consider to be its major flaws.

*Use of Montages – The miniseries did not hesitate to use montages to indicate a passage of time. Most of these montages centered on the Charles Main character, portrayed by Kyle Chandler. The problem with these montages was that they had exposed a blooper regarding Charles’ rank with the post-war U.S. Army in the first episode.

During a montage that featured Charles’ early courtship of actress Willa Parker (Rya Kihlstedt), Charles either wore corporal or sergeant stripes on his jacket. It went like this – Charles first wore corporal stripes, a fringe jacket and then sergeant stripes. And after the montage, Charles wore corporal stripes again.

*Orry and Madeline Main’s Presence in Richmond – BOOK II ended with Orry and Madeline Main (Patrick Swayze and Lesley Anne Down) attending the funeral of family matriarch, Clarissa Main. However, ”HEAVEN AND HELL” began with Orry and Madeline staying at a friend’s home in Richmond, in order to raise funds to feed the defeated post-war South. What in the hell for? The pair had a burnt home, an estate and family to care. They had no form of income or cash. And yet, they left their devastated home to raise funds for a cause that would have been implausible for them to achieve.

I realize that screenwriters Suzanne Clauser and John Jakes wanted an excuse to get Orry in Richmond so that he would be murdered by his old nemesis, Elkhannah Bent (Philip Casnoff). This could have been achieved in simpler fashion. For example, Clauser and Jakes could have used a funeral for an old comrade as an excuse to get Orry and Madeline to Richmond. This seems simple enough to me.

 

*Augustus “Gus” Main’s Age – In an article I had written about ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”, I had pointed out that the screenwriters managed to foul up the age of Augustus Main, Charles Main’s (Kyle Chandler) only son by his first love, Augusta Barclay.  Jakes and Clauser managed to repeat this mistake in their screenplay for ”HEAVEN AND HELL”. The third miniseries began with young Gus around the age of five.  According to Charles, Gus had been born just before the war. Where did this come from? It was bad enough that Gus looked older than he should have in ”BOOK II”. Then they aged Gus even more, despite the fact that only a few months had passed between the second and third miniseries. Worse, Gus failed to age, as the story for ”HEAVEN AND HELL” progressed. Especially since the miniseries was obviously set between 1865 and 1868.

During my last viewing of ”HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III”, I was surprised to discover that a good number of its so-called “bloopers” originated from writing mistakes that appeared in both ”NORTH AND SOUTH” and ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”. Those “bloopers” include:

*Cooper Main – Prodigal Son – In John Jakes’ literary saga, South Carolina planter Tillet Main and his wife Clarissa had one nephew – Charles, and four children – Orry, Ashton, Brett and the oldest offspring, Cooper (Robert Wagner). However, Cooper was never featured in the first two miniseries. His appearance finally came in the third miniseries, ”HEAVEN AND HELL”. Those fans who had never read Jakes’ novels had accused the producers and screenwriters of creating the character for the miniseries. Personally, I never understood why the screenwriters of ”NORTH AND SOUTH” and ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” had failed to include Cooper. After all, his presence proved to be vital to the saga by the third novel.

My only problem with Cooper’s presence in this third miniseries is that Jakes and Clauser had failed to create a back story to explain his disappearance from the first two miniseries. This failure made his appearance in this third chapter rather incongruous.

*Charles Main and Elkhannah Bent in Texas – Another plot line that took the fans of Jakes’ saga by surprise was the revelation that Charles Main had served under Elkhannah Bent in Texas, during the late 1850s . . . before the Civil War. No such story arc had been present in the first miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH”. However, this plot line was present in Jakes’ 1982 novel. The first miniseries did show Charles serving in the U.S. Army in 1850s Texas. It also revealed Bent as an Army officer, visiting New Orleans, Louisiana around the same period.  And New Orleans had served as one the main terminals in and out of Texas, east of the Mississippi River during the early and mid 19th century.

Charles’ past with Elkhannah Bent proved to be one of the major story lines in third story. The screenwriters for the miniseries had no choice but to include it. Especially since Charles and Bent’s past history played a major role in Jakes’ story. Most fans would probably hate for me to say this, but I believe that the screenwriters and producers for ”BOOK I” made a major mistake in their failure to include Charles’ experiences in Texas in the miniseries. Especially, since it proved to become an important story line.

*The Return of Stanley and Isobel Hazard – I am surprised that many fans of the saga were surprised to see Stanley and Isobel Hazard (Jonathan Frakes and Deborah Rush) footloose and fancy free in this third miniseries. After all, they were last seen in ”BOOK II” facing prosecution for war profiteering. As it turned out, the couple was never investigated or prosecuted for war profiteering in Jakes’ second NORTH AND SOUTH novel, ”LOVE AND WAR”. Also, ”HEAVEN AND HELL” portrayed Stanley pursuing a political career, something that never happened in the first two miniseries. Yet, the literary Stanley Hazard had began his political career as far back as the second half of the first novel, ”NORTH AND SOUTH”. Again, another so-called “blooper” in ”HEAVEN AND HELL” originated from the screenwriters’ failure to be faithful to the novels when it counted.

*Revelation of Madeline Main’s Ancestry – In the first miniseries, “NORTH AND SOUTH”, the character Madeline Fabray LaMotte Main learned from her father that her mother was a quadroon (one-quarter African descent) and that she was an octoroon (one-eighth African descent). She eventually revealed this information to her love, Orry Main. Her secret ended up being exposed to both Elkhannah Bent and her despised sister-in-law, Ashton Main Huntoon (Terri Garber) in the second miniseries, due to Bent’s discovery of a painting of Madeline’s mother in a New Orleans whorehouse. Somehow, the Mains’ local neighbors – including the local Klan leader, Gettys LaMotte (Cliff DeYoung) – learned about her ancestry. I would love to know how they managed this, because Bent and Ashton never had the opportunity to expose Madeline’s secret. In fact, the entire story line regarding the exposure of Madeline’s ancestry is riddled with a good number of bloopers that originated in Jakes’ first novel, “NORTH AND SOUTH”.

*Miscellaneous Characters – Characters last seen in ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” failed to make an appearance in the third miniseries:

-Semiramis – the Mont Royal house slave was last seen engaged to another one named Ezra. Both had been given land to farm by Clarissa Main in the last episode. A former slave named Jane (Sharon Washington) took Semiramis’ place in the third miniseries. However, Semiramis was only featured in the first novel. And Jane was featured in both the second and third novels.

-Ezra – Semiramis’ future husband and a character that had been created solely for the second miniseries and not featured in any of the novels.

-Hope Hazard – George and Constance Hazard’s (James Read and Wendy Kilbourne) had been a month before the Civil War broke out in the first miniseries and was seen in the second miniseries. However, she never existed in any of the novels. The literary George and Constance had two children – William and Patricia – in all three novels. And they were seen in ”HEAVEN AND HELL”.

-Virgilia Hazard – Portrayed by Kirstie Alley, George Hazard’s younger sister had been killed at the end of ”BOOK II” – executed for the murder of a congressman. However . . . this never happened in the second novel. And her character played a major role in the third novel. Unfortunately, she did not appear in the third miniseries. Her presence was sorely missed by me.

”HEAVEN AND HELL” was not a perfect miniseries. Its production values did not strike me as impressive as the first two miniseries. And it had its share of flaws. However, I was surprised to discover that it was a lot more faithful to Jakes’ third novel, ”HEAVEN AND HELL” than ”BOOK II” was to the second novel, ”LOVE AND WAR”. More importantly, a good number of changes made by the screenwriters of the first two miniseries produced some of the “bloopers” found in ”HEAVEN AND HELL”. I could accuse Wolper Productions and the screenwriters of ”NORTH AND SOUTH” and ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” for failing to consult author John Jakes on how he would continue his saga in the third novel. But the problem is that Jakes also happened to be one of the screenwriters for all three miniseries. While co-writing the first two miniseries, he should have stood his ground and resisted some of the major changes made in them – especially in the second miniseries.

 

“THE CLOCKS” (2009) Review

“THE CLOCKS” (2009) Review

While perusing the list of novels written by Agatha Christie between 1957 and 1973, I noticed that only five of them featured Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as the main detective. Five out of sixteen novels during this period. Considering how the author used to churn out Poirot novels and short stories like nobody’s business in the previous decades, I could not help but wonder if the author’s interest in the Belgian detective was on the wane.

This certainly seemed to be the case for her 1963 novel, “The Clocks”. Although Poirot was the investigator who solved the mystery, he barely played a role in this investigation. Major supporting characters like Colin Lamb and Inspector Richard Hardcastle visited the crime scenes and questioned the suspects and other witnesses. They fed the information to Poirot, who exercised his “little grey cells” and solved the case. This is one reason why the 1963 novel was not a particular favorite of mine. Thankfully, the 2009 adaptation of “The Clocks” proved to be a different kettle of fish. Unlike his literary version for this tale, actor David Suchet’s Poirot was, without a doubt, the mystery’s main character.

Although the 2009 television movie, “THE CLOCKS”, provided some minor changes to Christie’s novel, it also featured two major changes. I have already commented on how Poirot had a bigger role (as he should) in this television adaptation. The setting for “THE CLOCKS” also underwent a major change. Instead of being set during the heyday of the Cold War, the 2010 television movie was set near the end of the 1930s, with Europe (and eventually the rest of the world) on the cusp of World War II. And the narrative’s B-plot reflected this. In “THE CLOCKS”, the character of Colin Lamb has been changed to Colin Race, conveying the idea that he is the son of of an old friend of Poirot’s. And instead of being an MI-5 (Special Branch) agent investigating a pro-Communist spy ring, Colin is a Royal Navy officer working for MI-6 and investigating a possible pro-Nazi spy ring in Dover. Also, the character of Richard “Dick” Hardcastle has become a slightly xenophobic police officer, who resented Poirot’s presence in the investigation. Despite these changes, the core of Christie’s narrative managed to survive for this adaptation.

“THE CLOCKS” began as a spy story in which MI-6 operative Colin Race finds himself investigating the theft of classified documents from a naval base at Dover Castle. Apparently, Colin’s girlfriend had spotted the thief/German spy, but was killed by a speeding car before she could apprehend the thief. Colin’s girlfriend left a clue, leading Colin to a neighborhood in Dover. Upon reaching one house on a street shaped like a crescent, a young woman named Sheila Webb races out of it, screaming that she had found a murdered man inside, along with a collection of clocks. Colin seeks Poirot’s help to solve the murder mystery, in case the murder proves to be connected with the spy ring he had been investigating and his girlfriend’s death.

As I had earlier stated, I am not a big fan of Christie’s 1963 novel. While some might find the idea of Poirot being reduced to a minor character who solves the mystery in an armchair rather amusing, I did not. I could not, especially if this was supposed to be a “Poirot” mystery. And as I had earlier pointed out, screenwriter Stewart Harcourt director Charlie Palmer ensured that Poirot would be the main character in this adaptation. I also enjoyed how the narrative allowed Poirot and Colin’s search for the spy ring and missing document overshadow their efforts to find the killer responsible for the mystery man’s death, along with the deaths of two other characters – Edna Brent, a typist and colleague of Sheila Webb’s; and Merlina Riva, a former stage actress who claimed to be the widow of the dead man discovered by Colin and Sheila. Throughout the story, those viewers unfamiliar with Christie’s novel might find themselves wondering if Sheila was responsible for the deaths, if the deaths had anything to do with the German spy ring, or if the three victims had been killed for another reason. Overall, I believe “THE CLOCKS” is a solid adaptation of Christie’s novel, but also an improvement.

However, there is one aspect of Harcourt and Palmer’s adaptation that I do not regard as an improvement. I refer to the character of Colin Race. One, this secondary lead character came off as less than intelligent than his literary counterpart. Colin was able to solve the mystery of the spy ring without Poirot’s help. And two, in the television movie, he struck me as a slightly shallow man who was able to transfer his affections from one woman to another within a few days. I found this rather tacky. I believe Harcourt’s screenplay made the mistake of having Colin involved with the doomed Fiona Hanbury, whose activities led him to another clue regarding the spy ring, at the beginning of the story. Worse, it did not take Colin very long to develop romantic feelings for Sheila Webb after meeting her. And he met Sheila in less than a week after Fiona’s death. Even when he was still mourning Fiona’s death, he was falling in love with Sheila. Really? This is just tackiness beyond belief. Colin’s romantic relationships in this movie made him look like a shallow idiot who seemed to have this need for romance in his life 24/7.

The television movie’s production values struck me as very impressive. I thought Jeff Tessler’s production designs did a great job in recreating Dover circa 1939. His work was ably supported by Miranda Cull’s art direction and Sheena Napier’s costume designs. I have mixed feelings about Peter Greenhalgh’s cinematography. On one hand, I found movie’s photography very colorful and beautiful. In fact, I thought it did justice to the production’s locations in London and Kent. But I did not care for the hazy veneer that I felt almost spoiled the photography. I found it an unnecessary device for indicating that this story was set in the past. And it reminded me of numerous period dramas in the 1970s that also used this camera device . . . unnecessarily.

I certainly had no problems with the movie’s cast. David Suchet, as always, gave a sharp and elegant portrayal of Hercule Poirot. In fact, his performance reinforced my relief that the screenwriter and director had given Poirot a bigger presence in this adaptation than in Christie’s novel. Despite my irritation with the Colin Race character, I cannot deny that Tom Burke gave an exceptionally skillful performance. He almost made me believe in the plausibility of Colin falling in love with one woman, while still grieving for another. I was very impressed by Jaime Winstone’s portrayal of the ambiguous Sheila Webb. I thought she did an excellent job in conveying both the character’s desperate need for everyone to believe in her innocence and her occasional lapses in morality. Phil Daniels was excellent as the slightly aggressive and xenophobic Inspector Richard “Dick” Hardcastle. Lesley Sharp gave a very subtle performance as Sheila’s no-nonsense boss Miss Martindale. And I was very impressed with Anna Massey’s performance as Miss Pebmarsh, the blind owner of the house that contained the dead man and the actress’s final role before her death. Like Winstone, Massey did an excellent job of portraying a very complicated and ambiguous character, who was haunted by the deaths of her sons during World War I. The television movie also featured excellent performances from Geoffrey Palmer (father of the director), Tessa Peake-Jones, Jason Watkins, Beatie Edney, Abigail Thaw, Guy Henry, Stephen Boxer, and Frances Barber.

In the end, I believe that “THE CLOCKS” was a solid adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1963 novel, thanks to a first-rate script by Stewart Harcourt and first-rate direction by Charlie Palmer. My only true complaint was their handling of the Colin Race character. The television movie also featured excellent performances by a talented cast that included David Suchet, Anna Massey and Jaime Winstone.

Top Five Favorite “BURN NOTICE” Season Two (2008-2009) Episodes

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season Two of the USA Network series, “BURN NOTICE”. Created by Matt Nix, the series starred Jeffrey Donovan:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “BURN NOTICE” SEASON TWO (2008-2009) EPISODES

1. (2.13) “Bad Breaks” – Madeline Westen asks her son, former C.I.A. agent Michael Westen, to help a friend, a bank executive, to shake off a stalker. However, that stalker proves to be the ringleader of a bank heist and both Michael and Central Security Service (CSS) Agent Jason Bly end up as hostages during the heist, after the latter shows up to shake off Michael’s control over him via blackmail.

2. (2.08) “Double Booked” – Michael’s former C.I.A. mentor, “Dead” Larry Sizemore, appears in Miami in an attempt to convince the former to help him carry out a contract on behalf of a young man, who wants his step-mother dead in order to inherit his ailing father’s wealth. Michael accepts the job in order to protect the step-mother. Tim Matheson guest-starred.

3. (2.16) “Lesser Evil” – Carla Baxter, the mid-ranking member of the organization that burned Michael, goes after him and his loved ones when he failed to kill Victor Stecker-Epps, another former C.I.A. agent who had been burned by the organization to acquire his employment and who went rogue.

4. (2.05) “Scatter Point” – A former convict hoping to move on with his life and stay clean comes to Michael for help when a heist mastermind pressures him to become involved in an upcoming heist involving jewels. Meanwhile, the girlfriend of Michael’s close friend and colleague, Sam Axe, proposes marriage and forces the latter to confess to a serious past indiscretion. Oded Fehr and Robin Givens guest-starred.

5. (2.07) “Rough Seas” – Virgil Watkins, one of Michael’s former clients, returns to seek the latter’s help in retrieving millions of dollars worth of medicine stolen from a medical missions clinic by mercenary pirates. Meanwhile, Michael’s colleague and ex-girlfriend Fiona Glenanne introduces him to Seymour, an eccentric black market arms expert who can get them information about the sniper rifle that Victor had stolen on behalf of Carla’s organization. Chris Ellis guest-starred.

Honorable Mention: (1.12) “Seek and Destroy” – Michael helps a woman track down her dead artist father’s stolen painting. He also turns to a familiar arms dealer for help in tracking down the bomber who nearly killed him. Joel Gretsch and M.C. Gainey guest-starred.

“THE TOURIST” (2010) Review

“THE TOURIST” (2010) Review

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck directed this remake of the 2005 French film, “ANTHONY ZIMMER” about an American schoolteacher on vacation in Europe, who is mistaken for a British accountant who had embezzled a great deal of funds from a gangster. The movie stars Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Paul Bettany.

Jolie portrayed a British woman named Elise Clifton-Ward, who was being trailed in Paris by a number of men who work for Scotland Yard. At a cafe, she received a letter from Alexander Pearce, a former lover who is wanted by various police forces in Europe and a ruthless gangster. The letter provided explicit directions from Pearce to board a train to Venice, pick out a man who resembles him and make the police believe that this man is their man. After Elise burned the letter, she boarded a train for Venice and took a seat besides an American tourist named Frank Tupelo, who became instant attracted to her. And the police, led by a Scotland Yard investigator named John Acheson, instantly began to believe that Frank is the mysterious Alexander Pearce.

One would think that a romantic thriller starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie and set in the romantic cities of Paris and Venice would be a bona fide winner . . . at least with me. And God knows I tried to like this movie. I really did. But in the end, ”THE TOURIST” failed to win my favor. It turned out to be one of the most disappointing movies I have ever seen in the past ten to fifteen years. Mind you, the screenplay adaptation written by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes was not terrible. The plot seemed a bit implausible, but it ended with a surprisingly well-written twist. And good direction and good acting could have overcome it. Unfortunately, von Donnersmarck’s direction hampered the movie a great deal. I found it rather dull and uninspiring. Especially the action sequences, which featured a very dull chase throughout some of Venice’s canals. And I found the pedantic dialogue – especially that spoken by the two leads, Depp and Jolie – rather hard to bear.

Speaking of the leads, both Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie received Golden Globe nominations for their performance. How on earth did that happen? I am not questioning their talent. Both have given superb performances in past movies. But neither could overcome von Donnersmarck’s tepid direction and the God awful dialogue in the script. And having both actors spend a good amount of time staring into space or at each other, while posing in an iconic manner did not really help their performances. Paul Bettany fared slightly better as the relentless and ruthless Scotland Yard inspector, John Acheson, who was bent upon arresting the real Alexander Pearce or acquiring the money the latter had stolen. He probably gave the most energetic performance in the movie. The movie also featured an intense performance by Steven Berkhoff as Reginald Shaw, the ruthless gangster who also sought out Pearce. His character’s villainy seemed a lot more subtle than his role in the James Bond movie, “OCTOPUSSY”. Speaking of James Bond, I must admit that former Bond actor Timothy Dalton made an effective head of Scotland Yard. It seemed a pity that his role was not as large as it could have been. The movie also featured solid performances from Rufus Sewell, Christian De Sica and Alessio Boni.

Aside from Bettany, Dalton and Berkhoff’s performances, there were other aspects of “THE TOURIST” that I enjoyed. One, I was impressed by the lush costumes designed by Colleen Atwood; and worn by Depp, Berkhoff and Jolie. I never knew that Steven Berkhoff could look so impressive in a turtleneck sweater. And cinematographer John Seale took advantage of the Paris and Venice settings and provided beautiful photography for the movie. Those aspects of “THE TOURIST” are the best things I can say about this film.

I tried very hard to like “THE TOURIST”. I really did. It had the potential to be an entertaining film. But Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s flaccid direction, Depp and Jolie’s dull performances and the tepid dialogue and action sequences featured in the movie prevented this from happening. And looking back, I now find the movie’s three Golden Globe nominations something of a joke.