Favorite Episodes of “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MISS MARPLE” (1984-1992)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from the 1984-1992 BBC series, “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MISS MARPLE”. The series starred Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple:

FAVORITE EPISODES OF “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MISS MARPLE” (1984-1992)

1. “A Murder Is Announced” (1985) – An unusual announcement in the newspaper leads the curious inhabitants of Chipping Cleghorn to Letitia Blacklock’s home, where they become witnesses to a murder.

2. “Sleeping Murder” (1987) – When a young bride moves into a small town villa, long repressed childhood memories of witnessing a murder come to the surface. She and her husband seeks Miss Jane Marple’s help in solving the murder.

3. “A Caribbean Mystery” (1989) – While on vacation at a West Indian resort hotel, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.

4. “A Pocket Full of Rye” (1985) – When a handful of grain is found in the pocket of a murdered businessman, Miss Marple seeks a murderer with a penchant for nursery rhymes.

5. “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” (1992) – At a reception for a fading film star shooting a screen comeback at Miss Marple’s home village of St. Mary’s Mead, a gushing fan is poisoned by a drink meant for the actress.

“The Corellian Connection” [PG-13] – Chapter 4

“THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION”

CHAPTER FOUR

OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN

Padme stepped out onto the villa’s terrace and found Raymus Antilles pacing back and forth near the balustrade. “Captain Antilles,” she greeted politely. “How kind of you to visit.”

The captain ceased his pacing and faced Padme with a grim expression. “I’m afraid this isn’t a social visit, Milady. Alderaan’s intelligence has just received news that a report that an Imperial emissary will be arriving here, pretty soon. It seems that someone had traced Solipo Yeb’s message to this planet.”

A sense of alarm filled Padme. “Oh no! Bail! Has His Highness been arrested?”

“Thankfully no,” Antilles replied. “He managed to leave Alderaan before the Empire’s arrival.”

Padme frowned. “You mean that this emissary is here?”

“He will be. Soon.” With a sigh, Antilles continued, “Her Majesty and I believe that this emissary might search for the holoprojector that had received Senator Yeb’s message.” Unease crept into his eyes.

Padme asked, “Is there something else?”

Antilles inhaled sharply. “We’ve also learned that the emissary is someone with the title of ‘Darth’. Possibly a Sith Lord.”

A gasp left Padme’s mouth. She stared at Antilles with anxious eyes. “But that’s not possible! According to Bail and Master Kenobi, Anakin had turned away . . .”

“Yes, Milady, but we don’t know if Skywalker had returned to the emperor or not.” The captain paused. “Right now, we need to get you and children away from here. I have a shuttle waiting nearby to take you away from the palace grounds. I suggest that you pack your belongings quickly.”

Padme replied, “I already have. Bail had suggested that I pack. In case of an emergency.”

At that moment, a shadow appeared in the sky above. Both Padme and Antilles glanced and noticed a rectangular-shaped space vehicle. An Imperial shuttle. Padme murmured, “He’s here.”

———-

CORONET, CORELLIA

“Room Eleven,” Anakin murmured to himself, as he walked along the second floor corridor of the Selonia Hotel. The hotel was named after another planet that made up the Corellian Sector. The clean and stark interior reminded Anakin of a modest home for a respectable family. Large jars filled with flowers and other plants dotted the length of the corridor. He finally came upon his destination – Room Eleven. The pilot rang the announciator.

Seconds later, a female voice crackled from the small audio box next to the door. “Yes? Who is it?”

“Captain Set Horus,” Anakin replied. “We met last night.”

The door slid open, revealing Thalia Kor. Her shoulders sagged with relief. “Oh, thank goodness! Captain Horus, I’m glad that you could finally make it. Come in, please.”

Once Anakin had stepped inside the modest room, he was surprised to find a human male with skin tone similar to his new client’s. He knew that Miss Kor had a brother. But he had no idea that this sibling would turn out to be the missing senator from Andalia. “Senator Yeb?” he exclaimed, before he could stop himself.

The senator and his sister exchanged uneasy glances. “You know who I am?” the former demanded.

Anakin shrugged his shoulders. “Of course. Your face has been plastered consistently on the HoloNet News Service, since your escape from Andalia.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Yeb murmured, wearing an anxious expression.

An impatient Thalia Kor (or Yeb) quickly dismissed the matter. “Never mind that. Captain Horus, can you get us both to Averam? No questions asked?”

Nodding, Anakin replied, “Sure. I only hope that the Empire hasn’t traced you to here on Corellia.” He saw the troubled expression on Senator Yeb’s face. “Is there something wrong, Senator?”

Solipo Yeb hesitated. “Well . . . upon my arrival here, I had contacted . . . a friend to send me some much needed funds. We had also made arrangements to meet on Averam.”

“And you think there might be a chance that your message may have been detected by the Empire,” Anakin concluded. He sighed. “I understand. I don’t mean to sound mercenary, Senator, but how much are you willing to pay for passage?”

The Andalian senator immediately replied, “Three thousand Imperial credits.” Anakin’s eyes widened in shock. Apparently, the senator’s friend had provided him with ample funds.

With an amicable smile on his face, Anakin replied, “Well then . . . you have a deal. Meet me inside the Javian Hawk’s hangar.” He glanced at the Andalian woman. “Your sister should know where to find it. I’ll be ready to leave within two hours. Senator . . . Milady.” He bowed politely and left the hotel room.

——–

ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN

Darth Rasche and his entourage stood inside Aldera Palace’s vast and impressive foyer. Just beyond, a large staircase curved upward to the floor above. Although Rasche was familiar with the plans for the new Imperial Palace, he could not help but be impressed by this palace’s elegant style and sense of history. Not that he really cared. After all, he had a job to perform.

An royal aide dressed in a long blue robe approached the Sith Lord. “May I help you, sir?”

“I am Darth Rasche,” Rasche announced. “I am here to see Her Majesty Queen Breha and His Highness Prince Bail Organa, on behalf of His Imperial Highness, the Emperor Palpatine.”

The aide nervously replied, “Her Majest is . . .”

“Her Majesty is here,” a female’s husky voice finished. The voice’s owner descended the staircase’s remaining steps and approached the newcomers. Dressed in a simple, elegant tangerine gown with bell-shaped sleeves, Breha Antilles-Organa looked every inch an Alderaanian queen. Even her hair, styled in two round buns pinned on each side of her head, added to the regal presence. The aide immediately bowed. To prove that he was not a rude vulgarian, Darth Rasche did the same. “We are Queen Breha of Alderaan,” she continued. “May we ask who you are, sir? And what are you doing here with Imperial troops?”

Again, the Sith Lord bowed. “I am Darth Rasche, Your Majesty. I am the personal emissary of the Emperor. He believes that someone here on Alderaan had received a holographic message from Solipo Yeb on Corellia. And since your husband happened to be one of Senator Yeb’s former colleagues, naturally our search will start here.”

The queen’s countenance formed a stony mask. “We must protest this intrusion, Lord Rasche. His Highness has been a loyal supporter of the Emperor since the latter was the Supreme Chancellor. Despite his initial misgivings, he also supported the war against the Separatists . . . even against the wishes of some of our more pacifist citizens. This is outrageous!”

“Nevertheless, Your Majesty, I must perform my duty and search the palace. You may file an official protest to the Imperial Senate, if you wish.” Rasche paused, as he glanced around the foyer. When the Queen had first appeared, something seemed amiss. Now, he knew why. “Pardon me, Your Majesty, but where is your husband? Where is His Highness, Prince Bail?”

The Queen’s dark eyes flickered momentarily before she assumed a haughty air. “His Highness is not here. He has left . . . on a business trip.”

Allowing his eyes to penetrate the monarch’s Rasche said in a silky voice, “A business trip? To Corellia, by any chance?”

Contempt poured out of Queen Breha’s eyes. “Of course not! He went to Duro with a member of Alderaan’s Trade Association to discuss our import contract regarding Alderaanian wine.”

“Do you expect me to believe you?” Rasche coolly shot back.

“I beg your pardon?” The queen’s voice radiated ice. “Do you doubt our word?”

A retort hung on Rasche’s lips. But a growing sense that the Queen had no suspicions of any connection between her husband and Solipo Yeb, other than the Senate, gnawed in his mind. He also suspected that insulting Alderaan’s queen might backfire against the Empire. Especially since he has yet to find any proof linking Bail Organa with Yeb. Rasche took a deep breath and bowed to the Queen. “Pardon me, Your Majesty. I would never doubt anything you say.”

Queen Breha lifted her chin in a haughty manner. “You are forgiven.”

Rasche felt a slight surge of anger at what he viewed as royal arrogance. Then he turned to the clone squad and barked, “Search every room for a holoprojector, and make sure that each one has been checked for any recent transmissions!” The troopers then split into smaller groups and commenced upon the search.

Meanwhile, Rasche became aware of Queen Breha’s intense scrutiny. “Pardon me, Lord . . . Rasche,” she began, “but your face looks familiar to us.” She paused. “Were you a veteran of the recent war against the Separatists?”

The young Sith Lord’s eyes flicked. “Yes . . . Your Majesty.”

The Queen frowned. “Were you a former Jedi Knight, by any chance? Aside from the clone troopers, the only other humans engaged in combat were . . .”

Longing to avoid memories of his previous life, Rasche curtly interrupted. “There were other humans that fought against Dooku and Grievious.” Queen Breha’s eyes bored into his. He added quietly, “Your Majesty.”

“I see.”

Rasche decided to change the subject. “By the way, I had noticed a charming villa near the palace’s lagoon. Who lives there, if I may ask?”

A touch of fear flicked in the Queen’s eyes. Much to Rasche’s surprise. Interesting.

“My husband’s cousin lives there,” Queen Breha finally replied. “Cousin Yane Organa-Rivaaj. Well . . . she and her children used to live there. Until recently. She is a war widow.”

Rasche asked, “Why did she leave?”

A pause followed before Queen Breha answered, “Painful memories. It was not the same for he . . . following her husband’s death. He was killed during the Separatists’ assault upon our homeworld.”

Rasche nodded politely, already bored by the tragic story. Several minutes later, three clone troopers appeared from the palace’s east wing. One of them reported, “We found a holoprojector each in both the Queen and Prince Organa’s private offices. Neither had recently received a message from Corellia.”

“You searched our private rooms?” Queen Breha demanded angrily.

Ignoring the furious monarch, Rasche ordered the two troopers to search the villa near the palace’s lagoon. “If you find the holoprojector, inform me as soon as possible.” Once the troopers left, Rasche turned to face Queen Breha. To his satisfaction, the fear he had earlier spotted in her eyes, had returned.

———-

CORONET, CORELLIA

“I had killed more than one person. Hundreds of them, as a matter of fact. Including children.”

Captain Horus’ words replayed over and over, inside Han’s mind. Nor could he forget the pilot’s eyes when those words spilled of his mouth. Hard. Intense. Scary and yet, a little sad. Recalling the blond-haired pilot, Han felt relieved that the man had rejected him. On the other hand, a swell of pity touched Han whenever he thought about Captain Horus’ underlying sadness. What exactly had Horus done to make him so frightening and yet, sad at the same time?

Han shivered. Then he returned his attention to his drink. After leaving the Torvian Blue Hotel, the eleven year-old had made his way toward the city’s spaceport in the hopes of finding passage off Corellia. Unfortunately, most ships seemed to be arriving in Coronet, instead of leaving. An old Republic cruiser had departed for Mos Espa on Tatooine. Han would have been a passenger, if the pilot had not demanded more credits than he possessed. Now, he found himself sitting in a open-air café, drinking Java Juice and waiting for the next starship to depart.

A familiar figure appeared at the spaceport’s entrance. It was Set Horus. Han watched the young pilot stride into one of the hangars. Then a woman dressed in dark blue pants, a white blouse and a tan short jacket appeared at the spaceport’s entrance. Han immediately recognized her aqualine features and long, dark-brown braid. It was Yenohla Jen, one of Corellia’s top pilots. He had learned from the portmaster that she would be departing for Coruscant within an hour or two. And unlike the Republic cruiser’s pilot, Captain Jen would not overcharge him.

After finishing his drink, Han paid two credits and slid out of his chair. He grabbed his burlap sack and started across the street. The eleven year-old had not taken five steps when a strong hand grabbed him by the back of his collar. Han screamed for help, as he struggled to escape his captor. Typically, no one bothered to rescue him. Not even a CorSec officer.

“Calm down, kid,” his captor growled. “Shrike wants to speak to you.” In other words – he was deep in bantha fodder.

Shrike’s thug, a blond-haired human male with narrow blue eyes, shoved him into an enclosed speeder, where he found another waiting for them. Within minutes, both men delivered him to Shrike’s villa, near the edge of town. One of the thugs dragged the eleven year-old inside the villa and delivered him to the courtyard, where the gangster awaited them. The latter’s grim expression did not seem to bode well for Han. “Well, well,” Shrike said in a low, menacing voice. “Hanging around the spaceport like some local scum, Solo? Weren’t you supposed to be doing something else? Like collecting the credits that you owe me?”

Han stared at his boss in angry silence. Only he felt anger at himself, for being stupid enough to be caught off guard by Shrike’s thugs.

“Well? Aren’t you going to say something?” Shrike demanded. His eyes fell upon Han’s burlap sack. “Where did you get that?” He snatched the sack from Han’s grip. At that moment, the Wookie cook appeared in the courtyard. She took one look at Han and gasped. “That’s right, Dewlanna,” Shrike continued with a sneer. “Solo is back. I can only assume that you helped him escape by giving him this.” He held up the burlap sack. Then he peered inside. “Let’s see. Food and and a credit chip. Interesting.”

Dewlanna growled, “He would have starved if I had not given him something.”

“Really?” Shrike glared at her. “You should have told me that he had left, in the first place.”

For Dewlanna’s sake, Han spoke up. “You leave Dewlanna out of this!” he cried angrily. “It’s not her fault!”

“No, it’s not,” Shrike coolly replied. “It’s yours. You made the choice to run away. But Dewlanna . . . well, she did make the choice to help you. And now, both of you must be punished.”

At that moment, an adolescent, green-skinned Twi’lek entered the courtyard. It was Alema Passik, one of Shrike’s slaves and his personal companion. She called out the gangster’s name. “Shrike! You have an incoming message on your holoprojector! The one you are waiting for.”

A sigh left Shrike’s mouth. He seemed to have forgotten about Han, as he diverted his attention to Alema. “I’m waiting for a lot of messages. Who is it?” he demanded, as he started toward the archway that led to the villa’s interiors.

Shrike was not the only one who became distracted by Alema’s appearance. The gangster’s two thugs had released their grip on Han’s arms. The eleven year-old decided to take advantage of a fortuitous opportunity. Using great force, Han stomped on the blond-haired thug’s foot. The man cried out in pain. Then the eleven year-old Corellian kicked the other thug’s shin and made a run for the courtyard’s gate.

A loud roar filled Han’s ears, when he reached the gate. She glanced over his shoulder and saw Dewlanna knock the second thug to the ground. The blond thug pulled out a blaster, but Dewlanna knocked him out before he could fire. Then she roared, “Run Han! Get out of here! Get out . . .”

Blaster fire from Shrike’s side weapon interrupted the Wookie’s cries. Struck directly into the chest, Dewlanna slowly sank to the ground. Han cried out, “Nooo!” Then he saw an armed Shrike rush toward him. Before Han could open the gate, the fallen Wookie grabbed one of Shrike’s ankles and jerked him to the ground. Han needed no further argument. He opened the gate and finally made good his escape.

———-

CORELLIAN SECTOR

Commander Jaffe approached the Agamemnon’s senior officer. “We’re now approaching Corellia, Captain Hardy. We should be in orbit above the planet within fifteen minutes.”

“Good,” Captain Hardy replied. “Contact the head of the Corellian Security Force. Inform him that I will meet him at the CorSec office on Coronet. And Have Lieutenant Rhue and his platoon meet me in the shuttle bay. I am going to the surface. I’m leaving you in command of the Agamemnon.”

The executive officer nodded. “As you wish, Captain.” He turned to a subordinate. “Contact Lieutenant Rhue and tell him to form his platoon, inside the hangar bay.”

Satisfied that his orders would be carried out, Captain Hardy left the bridge in order to prepare for his trip to Corellia’s surface.

END OF CHAPTER FOUR

“FRONTIER” Season One (2016) Episode Ranking

Below is my ranking of the Season One episodes of the Discovery (Canada)/Netflix series called “FRONTIER”. Created by Brad Peyton, Rob Blackie, and Peter Blackie; the series starred Jason Momoa:

“FRONTIER” SEASON ONE (2016) EPISODE RANKING

1. (1.06) “The Gallows” – Irish-born immigrant Michael Smyth and Cree warrior/trader Sokanon conspire to free the imprisoned half-Cree trader/outlaw Declan Harp from the clutches of Hudson Bay Company official Lord Benton and send the Fort James settlement into a state of chaos.

2. (1.03) “Mushkegowuk Esquewu” – Following an unexpected attack on their camp, one of the leaders of the Lake Walker trappers, Machk, lead his men to retaliate against a group of Scottish trappers known as the Brown Brothers. Meanwhile, Harp sets out to find the truth, while tensions increase.

3. (1.04) “Wolves” – An unexpected arrival to Fort James puts Lord Benton and his military aide, Captain Chesterfield on edge. Ale house owner Grace Emberly conspires to rid herself of a problem. And Michael is shocked when he sees his past love, Clenna Dolan, in Canada; when he last saw her being arrested as a stowaway in Britain.

4. (1.02) “Little Brother War” – When a Cree boy is taken hostage by Lord Benton, the tribe allows Harp the chance to find him. Meanwhile, Grace drums herself up a deal with Captain Chesterfield behind closed doors.

5. (1.05) “The Discipline” – A shrewd new entrepreneur contrives to topple American fur merchant Samuel Grant and the Brown brothers alike. Lord Benton’s obsession with Harp disintegrates into a ruthless interrogation and torture.

6. (1.01) “A Kingdom Unto Itself” – In this series opener about the North American fur trade in the late 1700s, Lord Benton voyages to Canada to restore the Hudson Bay Company’s fur trade and stamp out the trapper activities of Declan Harp. Also on the journey is stowaway Michael Smyth.

Favorite Television Productions Set in the 1920s

Below is a list of my favorite television productions (so far) that are set in the 1920s:

FAVORITE TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS SET IN THE 1920s

1. “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-2014) – Terence Winter created this award winning crime drama about Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition era. Inspired by Nelson Johnson’s 2002 book, “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City”, the series starred Steve Buscemi.

2. “Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Five Little Pigs” (2003) – In this beautifully poignant tale, Hercule Poirot investigates a fourteen year-old murder of a philandering artist, for which his client’s mother was erroneously convicted and hanged. David Suchet starred as Hercule Poirot.

3. “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” (2012-2015) – Essie Davis starred in this television adaptation of Kerry Greenwood’s historical mystery novels about a glamorous socialite who solves mysteries in 1920s Melbourne. The series was created by Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger.

4. “Rebecca” (1997) – Emilia Clarke, Charles Dance and Diana Rigg starred in this television adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel about a young bride haunted by the presence of her new husband’s first wife. Jim O’Brien directed.

5. “Peaky Blinders” (2013-2019) – Steven Knight created this television drama about a Birmingham crime family in post World War I England. Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Paul Anderson starred.

6. “The Day the Bubble Burst” (1982) – Joseph Hardy directed this fictionalized account of the events and forces that led to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The television movie’s cast included Richard Crenna, Robert Vaughn, Robert Hays and Donna Pescow.

7. “The Great Gatsby” (2000) – Robert Markowitz directed this television adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel about the Jazz Age. Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd and Mira Sorvino starred.

8. “The Forsyte Saga: To Let” (2003) – Damian Lewis, Gina McKee and Rupert Graves starred in this adaptation of John Galsworthy’s 1921 novel, “To Let”, an entry in his The Forsyte Chronicles.

9. “The House of Eliott” (1991-1994) – Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins created this television series about two sisters who create this dressmaking business in 1920s London. Stella Gonet and Louise Lombard starred.

“HARRIET” (2019) Review

“HARRIET” (2019) Review

Many people are familiar with Harriet Tubman, the former slave-turned-Underground Railroad conductor-turned-Civil War operative-turned-political activist. She has appeared as a supporting character in a handful of television productions and the leading character in two other television productions. However, a full-length feature film has finally been made about the famous historical figure. That film is called “HARRIET”.

As I had earlier stated, there have been two television productions about the famous Underground Railroad conductor. One of them was an episode from the 1963-1964 historical anthology series “THE GREAT ADVENTURE” called (1.06) “Go Down, Moses”. It starred Ruby Dee. The other television production was the 1978 miniseries “A WOMAN CALLED MOSES”, which starred Cicely Tyson. Following the latter, the Harriet Tubman figure appeared in a few television productions about slavery and the Underground Railroad until the release of this new film.

“HARRIET” basically covered Tubman’s life during a nine-year period between 1849 and 1850, along with a sequence set in 1858. The movie began in 1849 Maryland with Harriet (or Araminta “Minty” Ross Tubman, as she was known then), along with her husband John Tubman and father Ben Ross (both who were free) approached Harriet’s owner Edward Bodress with a promise made by the latter’s ancestor that her mother Harriet “Rit” Ross would be freed by the age of 45, along with their children (including Harriet). Bodress refused to acknowledge the promise. He also forbade Harriet from seeing her husband John. Brodess’s adult son Gideon caught Minty praying for God to take Mr. Brodess. The latter died shortly afterward. Alarmed by this, Gideon decided to sell Minty as punishment. Suffering from spells that began after she had been struck in the head as a child, Minty had a vision of her being free and decided to run away. She convinced John to remain behind, in case he got caught and punished for escaping with her. Minty eventually reached Philadelphia and freedom. She managed to acquire a job, thanks to the assistance of Underground Railroad abolitionist/writer William Still and a fashionable free black woman named Marie Buchanon. After a few months in Philadelphia, Minty (who renamed herself as Harriet Tubman) returned to Maryland to retrieve John and discovered that he had remarried, believing she was dead. Instead, Harriet decided to escort some family members north to freedom and began her career as a conductor for the Underground Railroad.

I have been aware of Harriet Tubman ever since I was a child of nine years old. My mother had purchased a copy of Marcy Heidish’s 1976 novel called “A Woman Called Moses”, the basis for the 1978 miniseries. But “HARRIET” marked the first time that Tubman was featured as the a character in a motion picture, let alone the leading character. So naturally, I had to see it. I had some problems with the movie. One, I could easily see that it was not historical accurate. This is not a real problem for me. After seeing two television productions that erroneously featured Harriet Tubman operating in the Ohio River Valley, the historical inaccuracies in this film struck me as a piece of cake.

One example would be the scene during her own escape in which her new owner, Gideon Bodress, and a slave patrol cornered her on a bridge. Instead of surrendering, she evaded them by jumping into the river. Needless to say, no such thing happened, since her owner (Anthony Thompson), or any slave patrol were able to capture her during her journey to Philadelphia. But . . . I was able to tolerate this scene. Somewhat. I was also a bit confused about her relationship with John Tubman in this film. Director-writer Kasi Lemmons and co-writer Gregory Allen Howard portrayed Harriet or Minty’s marriage as loving and trouble free. This has not been the case in another Hollywood production I could think of. Unfortunately, no one really knows whether the Tubmans had experienced any marital strife before her flight from Maryland. So . . . I tolerated this portrayal. However, the movie indicated that Minty had suggested John not run with her so that he would not be caught aiding a runaway. This is false. According to history, John did not want her to run in the first place. They also made it clear that John had remarried because he had assumed Minty/Harriet was dead. I do not know whether this is true or not. But it seemed as if Lemmons and Howard seemed hell bent upon portraying John in a positive light as much as possible.

But there were changes in the narrative that left me scratching my head. “HARRIET” featured Minty making her escape from Maryland in the middle of the day . . . which I found odd. The movie had her working in a garden when someone warned her that Bodress had plans to sell her to the Deep South in order to alleviate family debts. No sooner had she received the warning, one of the plantation’s foremen appeared to grab her. Minty ran and . . . hid. She hid around the plantation for hours before she contacted her family and left. What made this even more odd is that Bodress did not learn of her escape from the foreman until hours later. Which I found very odd. Historically, most slave escapes began in the middle of the night, not in the middle of the day. Why did Minty wait so long to contact her family before her escape? And why did the plantation foreman wait so long to inform Bodress? Also, she made most of her journey by night and hid during the daytime. Which would have made that daytime encounter on the bridge with Bodress somewhat implausible. I can only assume Lemmons and Howard had added it for dramatic reasons.

In the movie, Minty/Harriet did not wait very long to return to Maryland and contact her family and John. After escorting several members of her family north, she returned to Maryland and helped others escape on several occasions before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Now this is ridiculous. One, Tubman returned to Maryland to help some relatives escape at least three to four months after the law’s passage. I find it very hard to believe that she had made so many trips to Maryland between her own escape in September 1849 and when the fugitive law was passed in September 1850.  Another troubling aspect of the movie was the sequence featuring the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. The movie featured a scene with former slaves – including Harriet – leaving en masse from the Philadelphia docks, while God knows how many slave catchers suddenly appeared to capture these fugitives. What the hell? I had felt as if I was watching a war movie with refugees escaping from an invaded city. Yes, many fugitive slaves were forced to flee the Northern states for Canada following the law’s passage. But not like THAT. Not like a scene from “CASABLANCA” or “THE WINDS OF WAR”.

I have two more complaints. Why did Lemmons and Howard added that . . . relationship between Harriet and Bodress? Why? It was bad enough that Gideon Bodress never existed. But Tubman had never recounted having to deal with the unwanted sexual interest or assault from any white man. And I got the impression that Lemmons wanted to include some watered down version of the Patsey-Edwin Epps relationship from the Oscar winning film, “12 YEARS A SLAVE” – but without the overt violence and sex. It was obvious that Bodress had never laid a violent hand on Harriet in the film, aside from the slap on the face after he had overheard her wish for his father’s death. But I find it implausible that Gideon Bodress had never attempted to sexually assault her. Even when his father was alive. Another sequence featured Northern black and white members discussing the Fugitive Slave Act passage and whether it would be safe to continue the Underground Railroad. What I disliked about this sequence is that most of them seemed to have this attitude without the organization’s conductors appearing on Southern plantations to lead them, many slaves would not be willing to escape or would not succeed in escaping. And this was far from the truth. One could argue that this scene was a perfect example of a patronizing behavior from Northern abolitionists. But Harriet did not point out that slaves were capable of escaping on their own. Instead, she simply argued for the continuation of the Underground Railroad. Which simply made her equally patronizing to me.

One would think that I disliked “HARRIET”. That person would be wrong. I actually enjoyed it very much. Despite some of the narrative choices, lightweight characterizations and historical inaccuracies; “HARRIET” was both an entertaining and interesting film. One, it is nice to see Hollywood produce a feature film about the former abolitionist. “HARRIET” is a thoughtful drama about a period in United States history about which very few Americans want to discuss, let alone contemplate. Like other Hollywood productions, the movie mainly featured Tubman’s early career as an Underground Railroad conductor. I had assumed that it would also focus on her Civil War experiences, due to some publicity stills released before the film hit the theaters. But the movie only included a coda, featuring Tubman’s participation in a raid during the war. “HARRIET” was, without a doubt, about her role with the Underground Railroady.

Due to the film’s focus on Harriet’s career as an Underground Railroad conductor, it did not focus that strongly on her family life . . . with the exceptions of her attempts to lead them to freedom. Many critics have complained about this. But I can understand why Lemmons only focused on one aspect of Harriet’s life. This was a feature-length film that ran nearly two hours, not a television miniseries. Frankly, I thought it was smart of her to focus one one aspect of Harriet’s life, considering the format she had used. And she focused on one of the former slave/abolitionist’s most famous period in her life – namely that as an Underground Railroad conductor. Only through this story arc was the movie able to somewhat focus on her connection to her family. In fact, one the most interesting arcs in this narrative proved to be a sequence that featured Tubman’s attempts to rescue her sister Rachel and the latter’s children.

This focus on Harriet’s career with the Underground Railroad allowed Lemmons and Howard to reveal Harriet as the action heroine she truly was. The writers’ narrative arc also featured some well staged action sequences. Among my favorite sequences are Harriet’s initial escape from Maryland and her successful rescue of Rachel’s children in the film’s second half. Both struck me as well-shot sequences that featured a great deal of more tension and drama than action. And I thought the focus on these two aspects may have allowed the sequences to be more effective without the obvious action. I also enjoyed the movie’s final action sequence in which Harriet attempted to rescue and lead her parents to freedom in the late 1850s. Not only was this sequence filled with the usual solid action for this trope, it featured a tense-filled final confrontation between Harriet and Bodress.

I certainly did not have a problem with the film’s production values. I thought Warren Alan Young did an exceptional job in re-creating antebellum America, especially in scenes that featured the Bodress plantation, Baltimore (at least I think it is), Canada and especially Philadelphia. I believe Young was ably supported by John Troll’s sharp and colorful cinematography, Wyatt Smith’s film editing, Kevin Hardison and Christina Eunji Kim’s art direction, and Marthe Pineau’s set decorations. I also have to commend Paul Tazewell for his costume designs. I thought Tazewell did an excellent job of conveying the movie’s setting and characters through his costumes, as shown in the images below:

I have a confession to make. Aside from a handful, I was not exactly blown away by the performances featured in “HARRIET”. I am not claiming that most of the performances were terrible or even mediocre. I simply found them solid . . . or serviceable. There were a few that I found slightly above being serviceable – like Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Zackary Momoh, Tim Guinee, Henry Hunter Hall, Joseph Lee Anderson, Jennifer Nettles and Omar J. Dorsey. But like I had said, there were a few that struck me as memorable. One of them Clarke Peters, who gave a subtle, yet warm portrayal of Harriet/Minty’s father, Ben Ross. I was also impressed by Vanessa Bell Calloway, who gave an exceptional performance as the abolitionist’s emotional and slightly edgy mother, Harriet Ritt Ross. Joe Alwyn did an excellent job of portraying Gideon Bodress as a slightly complex character without transforming the character into a one-note, mustache-twirling villain. And I really enjoyed Vondie Curtis-Hall’s subtle, yet colorful portrayal of Reverend Green, the local free black minister, who also happened to be a member of the Underground Railroad.

But the performance that really counted in “HARRIET” came from leading lady Cynthia Erivo. It is almost a miracle that Erivo managed to give such an exceptional performance as Harriet Tubman. I say this, because Lemmons and Howard had failed to fully portray Tubman as a complex human being with not only virtues, but also a few flaws. Their Tubman almost struck me as a borderline Mary Sue, due to their determination to basically portray her as an action heroine. But they did provide some intimate moments between Tubman, her family and friends. And this gave Erivo the opportunity to skillfully convey the warm, yet strong-willed individual underneath the heroic facade. This was especially apparent in scenes that featured Tubman’s desperation to put as much distance between her and the Bodress plantation as possible; her determination to return to Maryland to rescue her family; and her discovery that her husband had married another woman. Thanks to her superb performance, Erivo managed to earn both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. And if I must be brutally honest, she deserved them.

Overall, I enjoyed “HARRIET”. I have always been interested in Harriet Tubman as a historical figure and was happy to see a motion picture about her. It was not the best or most compelling biopic I have ever seen. Nor was it the best biopic about Tubman I have ever seen. But I cannot deny that thanks to Kari Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard’s interesting screenplay, Lemmons’ solid direction and a first-rate cast led by Cynthia Erivo, “HARRIET” is a movie that I will be more than happy to watch on many occasions in the future.

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L.A. Noir II (1969-1988)

Below is the second set of images from some famous film noir movies set in Los Angeles:

L.A. NOIR II (1969-1988)

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“Marlowe” (1969)

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“The Long Goodbye” (1973)

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“Chinatown” (1974)

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“Farewell My Lovely” (1975)

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“Blade Runner” (1982)

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“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (1988)

“The Corellian Connection” [PG-13] – Chapter 3

“THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION”

CHAPTER THREE

OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN

Padme had just finished her breakfast, when CP-30 entered the dining room. “Pardon me, Milady, but you have a visitor. Prince Organa.”

“Where is he, Threepio?” Padme asked.

The protocol droid revealed that her visitor awaited her in the east drawing-room. Padme heaved a sigh and stood up. She followed Threepio in the said room, where she found an anxious Bail Organa pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace. “Bail,” the former senator greeted. “What are you doing here?”

“I just came to say good-bye,” Bail replied. “I’m leaving for Averam.” He went on to explain about a message he had received from a distressed Solipo Yeb. “I’ve already sent extra funds to Corellia. Solipo had planned to remain on Averam, but I advised him to head elsewhere.”

Padme frowned. “Like where?”

With a shake of his head, Bail sighed. “I don’t know. We’ll discuss the matter when we meet.”

Bail’s comments reminded Padme of her present situation as the Alderaan Royal Family’s guest. “Speaking of a permanent home,” she added, “I think we need to consider finding a new home for the twins and myself.”

“Yes, I had thought the same,” Bail said. “As a matter of fact, this situation with Solipo worries me for another reason. Thanks to the Emperor’s new intelligence network . . .”

Padme commented with distaste, “The Inquisitorius. I’ve heard of it.”

“Yes, well there is a chance that Solipo’s message from Corellia may have been detected,” Bail continued. Padme grew alarmed. “Which means that I think you should prepare yourself for the possibility of an immediate escape. Just in case.”

Padme nodded. “I understand.” She gave her former colleague a reassuring smile. “Safe journey, Bail. May the Force be with you.”

Bail returned her smile. “Thank you, Padme. I’ll be sure to visit you upon my return.” He bowed and left the room.

Once alone, Padme heaved a long-suffering sigh. Threepio, she decided, might not like this new development. Come to think of it, she did not care for it, either. But as Bail had pointed out . . . one should be prepared. She then left the drawing room and went in search of the protocol droid.

———

CORONET, CORELLIA

“Give him his breakfast, Dewlanna.”

Han sat quietly at the table in the middle of the kitchen, inside the three-story villa. Opposite him sat his “benefactor”, Garris Shrike. The stocky, black-haired man regarded the eleven year-old with pale blue eyes, while the female Wookie quietly set a plate of food in front of the boy.

Shrike’s stocky face leaned forward. “I’m allowing you to eat this morning, Solo. You’ll need your strength to collect the 2,000 credits that you owe me.”

Two thousand? Han frowned, as he protested, “I thought you wanted me to collect one thou . . .”

“It’s now two thousand!” Shrike interrupted in a hard voice. A thin smile curved his lips. “Since you’re not used to collecting such a large sum, you’ll have two days to do the job. If you fail . . .” His smile disappeared. “. . . more punishment will follow.”

Rubbing the bruise under his left eye, Han had a pretty good idea what “more” entail. “I understand,” he murmured.

“Good.” The smile returned, as Shrike stood up. “Now, eat up. Enjoy your meal. The Trader’s Luck will be leaving Corellia by the end of the week.” He left the dining room.

The eleven year-old grabbed his fork and began to eat his Corellian potatoes. “Not so fast,” Dewlanna growled. “You have not eaten in quite a while. You’ll hurt your stomach if you don’t slow down.”

Very few humans, let alone other species within the galaxy, understood Shyriiwook, the Wookies’ language. Han counted himself among the very few who did. Not only had Dewlanna taught him Shyriiwook, she had ensured that he acquired a decent education and health care – matters that Shrike had deliberately ignored. Han did as he was ordered and ate his potatoes at a slower pace. “I can’t stay here any longer, Dewlanna,” he said between bites. “I have to get out of here. Either Shrike is gonna kill me some day, or I’m gonna get him.”

A growling Dewlanna retorted, “Don’t talk such nonsense, Han! Where would you go?”

Good question, Han thought. Where would he go? Nearly three years ago, Dewlanna had informed him about his family background. It seemed Han came from the famous House of Solo – a family that had once ruled Corellia a long time ago. That knowledge had led Han to run away from Shrike and track down his long lost Aunt Tiion Solo and her son, Thrackan Sal-Solo. Unfortunately, Aunt Tiion proved to be mad and Cousin Thrackan, a violent bully. The latter eventually betrayed Han and sold him back to Shrike.

Who could offer him refuge from Shrike? Memories of the tall, dark-blond pilot flashed in Han’s mind. The pilot’s intense blue eyes, scar and hardened expression gave him an intimidating aura. Yet, Captain Horus had not ratted out Han to the CorSec officer, after Han tried to pick his pocket. Given the eleven year-old’s experiences aboard Shrike’s own ship, the Trader’s Luck, Han figured that he would feel right at home as the pilot’s companion. Deep down, he knew that his chances of receiving help from Captain Horus seemed pretty slim. But he had to make the attempt. After last night, he could not bear staying here any longer.

Han ate the last of his potatoes and drank the rest of his Bribb juice. “Finished,” he declared, as he wiped his mouth. “Gotta go.” He stood up and began to walk away.

“Where are you going?” Dewlanna demanded. She regarded the boy with shrewd eyes.

Through the side of his mouth, Han muttered, “Going to work, of course.”

Dewlanna continued to stare at him. “What about your plans to leave Shrike? Do you still plan to go through with it?”

“Maybe,” Han replied. “But not today. I gotta go.”

“Wait a minute.” She opened the pantry and removed a burlap sack from within. “Here.” The Wookie tossed the bag at Han, who neatly caught it. “There is some food for today and a credit chip that will last you for two weeks.” Sadness crept into her large and expressive eyes. “Ever since last night, I suspected you would try to leave. You’re right, of course. It’s time for you to leave.”

“Dewlanna . . .”

The Wookie walked over to Han and affectionately ruffled his hair. “Good-bye, my scruffy one. Take care.” With a slight yelp, she turned away and left the kitchen.

Han stared at the Wookie’s disappearing form. A lump formed in his throat, as he walked from the kitchen into the villa’s courtyard. He paused before the courtyard’s gate and stared at the house for what he hoped to be the last. Then he opened the gate and left.

———–

THE ALDERAAN SYSTEM

The Imperial Destroyer, the Exactor, hovered in orbit over the serene-looking planet of Alderaan. Darth Rasche and two squads of clone troopers entered the ship’s hangar bay and marched toward the largest shuttle. The destroyer’s second-in-command, Commander Mellon, accompanied them.

“The squad and I will meet with Queen Breha and Prince Bail on Alderaan, and search for the holoproject used to receive Senator Yeb’s message,” the Sith apprentice announced. “Once we have discovered it and retrieved the message, I will arrest both the queen and her husband, and then give the signal for you to send troops to the planet’s surface.”

Captain Mellon asked, “What if the signal from Corellia never reached the Aldera Palace? What if it had reached somewhere else on the planet?”

Squelching a desire to strike the annoying officer, Rasche retorted, “Then I will search every inch of the planet until I learn who had received that signal.”

“But what if . . .?”

Rasche silenced the officer with a deadly glare. “You have your orders, Captain!” he snarled.

Mellon recoiled slightly. “Yes, my Lord.”

“Let’s go,” Rasche ordered the two squads. The Sith Lord and the two squads boarded the shuttle. Minutes later, it hovered over the hangar’s floor before it zoomed into deep space and toward Alderaan’s surface.

——–

ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN

Queen Breha sat on a stone bench, situated on her favorite balcony. The latter overlooked the royal woods and the planet’s capital in the far distance. She glanced up from the data pad in her hands and saw her cousin, Raymus Antilles, approach the balcony. “Cousin Raymus!” she greeted warmly. “I thought you and Bail had left on the Tantive IV.”

“His Highness did not leave on the Tantive IV, Your Majesty,” Raymus replied with a bow. “He thought it would be more prudent to leave on a less conspicuous ship. And he asked me to remain behind.” A slight unease crept into his eyes. “Also, I have some dire news, Cousin.”

Breha sighed. She should have realized that this was not a friendly visit. Raymus usually paid such visits in the evening. “Is there a problem?”

“A major one, I’m afraid.” Raymus paused dramatically. “I have just received word from one of His Highness’ contacts on Coruscant that the Empire will be sending an emissary to Alderaan.”

Alarmed by the news, Breha rose to her feet. “Oh no! Padme and the children! The Emperor has finally learned that they’re alive!”

Raymus shook his head. “No, Your Majesty. This has nothing to do with Senator Amidala. According to Prince Bail’s contact, the Inquisitorum has detected the message from Senator Yeb on Corellia. Apparently, they’re aware that he is there.”

Which meant that Emperor Palpatine suspected Bail of being in contact with the former Andalian senator and a traitor to the Empire. “Have you contacted His Highness?”

“I’m afraid not, Your Majesty,” Raymus replied anxiously. “The planet’s communications have been jammed. I was only able to receive most of the message from His Highness’s contact before it happened.” He paused and inhaled sharply. “However, the contact did reveal that the Emperor’s emissary has the title of a Sith Lord.”

A Sith Lord? An uneasy thought came to Queen Breha. Both she and Raymus were among the few that knew that both the Emperor and Padme’s Jedi husband were Sith Lords. She asked Raymus for the full name of the Imperial emissary. Her cousin did not know, since the planet’s communication systems had jammed before he could find out. “However, I must add, Your Majesty, that if Alderaan’s communications are jammed, it is suffice to believe that this emissary has arrived.”

“We need to warn Padme,” Breha insisted. “And some of our other refugees.”

Raymus nodded. “I have sent a group of our most trusted men to warn the others. And I will warn Senator Amidala, as soon as possible.” He paused before adding, “One last thing, Your Majesty – if the Imperials show up any minute, I think it would be best to either hide or destroy Prince Bail’s private holoprojector. If you know what I mean.”

The queen quickly replied, “I understand perfectly. Leave that matter to me.”

——–

CORONET, CORELLIA

“Any messages?” Anakin asked the hotel’s desk clerk.

The clerk, a nervous-looking man with very pale skin and protruding gray eyes, replied, “No, Captain Horus. However . . .” He glanced behind Anakin’s right shoulder. “. . . you have a visitor. He would not give me his name.”

Anakin’s gaze followed the clerk’s. Expecting to find Thalia Kor and her brother, he was surprised to see the young street thief that he had met, yesterday in the hotel lobby’s sitting area. The boy had acquired a nasty bruise on the left side of his face. “Well, well,” Anakin muttered. “Look who’s here.”

“Captain?” the clerk began. “Do you wish for me to have the boy escorted out of the hotel?”

“No. I’ll speak with him. Thank you.” Anakin walked over to the sitting area, where the boy sat in a plush blue chair. The latter seemed overwhelmed by his surroundings. “Han Solo. Am I right? What are you doing here?” Anakin sat down in the empty chair to the boy’s right.

Clutching a burlap sack, young Solo answered, “I came to see you. I wanna join your crew.”

Anakin nearly burst into laughter. Until he remembered that he had been an accomplished pilot before the age of ten. Instead, he coughed slightly and asked, “Now, how did you know that I’m a pilot?”

“I saw you disembarking from a freighter at the spaceport, yesterday afternoon,” Han replied. “I figured that you were the ship’s pilot.”

“And you want to become a member of my crew?”

Annoyance flashed across the boy’s face. “Hey, I might not be a pilot . . . at least not yet. But I’ve traveled all over the galaxy on Shrike’s starship. So, I’m used to space travel.”

One of Anakin’s brows arched questioningly. “Shrike? Would that be the gentleman that the CorSec officer had spoke of, yesterday?” Han remained silent. “Did he give you that bruise?”

Han’s face paled visibly. “It’s not his fault. I didn’t bring in the . . . quota that he wanted, yesterday,” he muttered.

“I see.” Anakin began to realize that the boy yearned to escape from his criminal ‘benefactor’ and a life of thievery. He longed to help, but the former Jedi believed that Han would be better off without him, as well. “Sorry kid,” he finally murmured. “I think you need to find someone else to rescue you. I can’t be that person.” He began to rise from his chair.

A frown creased the boy’s forehead. “Why not? You think I’m too young to be a part of your crew?”

Anakin sighed. “I am the crew of the Hawk. And I don’t need another crewman. If you think that being with this Shrike character is bad, you just might find that I can a lot worse. Trust me.”

“What did you do? Kill someone?”

A long pause followed. Not even the chatter from the hotel’s guests and employees could penetrate the silence that surrounded the pair. Anakin stared pointedly at Han. “No, I didn’t kill someone,” he said in a quiet voice. “I had killed more than one person. Hundreds of them, as a matter of fact. Including children.”

An uneasy smile tugged the corners of Han’s mouth. “You’re kidding, mister. Right? You’re just trying to scare me.”

Anakin leaned forward. “Do I look like I’m kidding?” he said in a menacing voice. Han’s mouth gaped open like a dead fish. “So kid, do you still want to be a part of my crew?”

Han gulped loudly. Then he quickly slid off the chair. Clutching his burlap bag, he murmured a quiet, “Excuse me” and quickly scuttled away.

“I guess the answer is no,” Anakin added. He heaved another sigh. Now that he had resolved that little dilemma, it was time to meet his new clients.

———

ABOVE SELONIA, CORELLIA SYSTEM

A young officer marched onto the bridge of the Imperial warship, the Agamemnon, and headed toward the ship’s commander. “A message from Grand Moff Tarkin, sir.”

The captain, a native of Metellos named Ulen Hardy, switched on the monitor near his chair. The thin, aristocratic face of a man in his forties, appeared on the monitor’s screen. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. The Eriaduian had recently become one of the Imperial Fleet’s new flag officers and now commanded the star destroyer, the Executrix. “Your Excellency,” Hardy greeted in an obsequious manner reserved for those ranked higher than himself.

Tarkin merely raised his brows slightly. “Captain Hardy, I have an assignment for you. Senator Solipo Yeb has been traced to Coronet on Corellia. Go there, arrest both Senator Yeb and his sister, and bring them back to Coruscant at once.”

“As you wish, Your Excellency. Hardy out.” The captain switched off the monitor and turned to his executive officer. “Commander Jaffe, lay in a course for Corellia.”

Commander Jaffe nodded. “Yes sir.” Then he began to bark the captain’s order to the rest of the crew.

END OF CHAPTER THREE