Top Five Favorite “BURN NOTICE” Season Three (2009-2010) Episodes

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

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “BURN NOTICE” SEASON THREE (2009-2010) EPISODES

1. (3.09) “Long Way Back” – The brother of former IRA operative Fiona Glenanne arrives in Miami with news that news that an old enemy from Ireland is in town with plans to kill her. Paul Blackthorne, Gideon Emery and Otto Sanchez guest starred.

2. (3.16) “Devil You Know” – In the season finale, freelance operative Tom Gilroy’s plan to break a high-risk felon out of prison goes awry and former burned C.I.A. operative Michael Western finds himself being hunted by the F.B.I. Chris Vance and Garrett Dillahunt guest starred.

3. (3.10) “A Dark Road” – Michael’s quest to find out who killed C.I.A. Agent Diego Garza is interrupted when he helps a widow take on a network of insurance scammers. However, the job is almost jeopardized when his mother Madeline befriends an “asset” during the mission. Tyne Daly, Jude Ciccolella and Clayne Crawford guest starred.

4. (3.06) “The Hunter” – Michael finds himself on the run in the Everglades from an old Ukranian nemesis and his only companion is an angry gunrunner who was inadvertently got roped into the situation. Keith Diamond, Ben Shenkman and Peter J. Lucas guest starred.

5. (3.15) “Good Intentions” – Before Michael can finish his job, he is temporarily sidetracked as he is forced to rescue Fiona, who finds herself over her head after she takes a job for a violent kidnapper. Carlos Bernard, Chris Vance and Jonathan LaPaglia guest starred.

“EMMA” (2020) Review

“EMMA” (2020) Review

Between 2009 and 2020, Hollywood and the British film/television industries have created a handful of productions that either spoofed or were inspired by Jane Austen’s novels. Actually, I can only recall one movie that was more or less a straightforward adaptation – 2016’s “LOVE & FRIENDSHIP”, an adaptation of Austen’s novella, “Lady Susan”. So imagine my surprise when I learned a new and straightforward adaptation of an Austen novel was due to hit the theaters.

I was even more thrilled that this new movie would be a straightforward adaptation of Austen’s 1815 novel, “Emma” . . . which happened to be my favorite written by her. This new adaptation, helmed by Autumn de Wilde and written by Eleanor Catton, starred Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role. I am certain that many Austen fans are familiar with the 1815 novel’s narrative. “EMMA” is the story of a spoiled and over privileged young Englishwoman named Emma Woodhouse, who resides at her wealthy father’s country estate near the town of Highbury. Emma is not only spoiled and over privileged, but overestimates her own matchmaking abilities and is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives.

Ever since its release in February 2020, film critics and moviegoers have been praising “EMMA” to the skies. In fact, the movie is so high on the critical list that I would not be surprised if it ends up receiving major film award nominations next winter. A great deal of this praise has been focused on the performances of Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn for his portrayal of George Knightley, Bill Nighy’s portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse; and Autumn de Wilde’s direction. Does the movie deserve such high praise? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I certainly cannot deny that “EMMA” is a beautiful looking film. I found Christopher Blauvelt’s photography to be very sharp and colorful. In fact, the film’s color palette almost seemed similar to the color schemes found in Alexandra Byrne’s costume designs. Overall, the visual style for “EMMA” seemed to radiate strong and bright colors with a dash of pastels. Very stylized. But as much as I found all of this eye catching, I also found myself a little put off by this stylized artistry – especially for a movie in a period rural setting.

Speaking of artistry, there has been a great deal of praise for Byrne’s costumes. And I can see why. Granted, I am not fond of some of the pastel color schemes. I cannot deny I found her creations – especially those for the movie’s women characters – were eye catching, as shown below:

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I had a few complaints regarding the film’s costumes and hairstyles. The men’s trousers struck me as a little too baggy for the 1810s. I get it. Actors like Bill Nighy found historical trousers a bit tight. But I feel the trousers featured in “EMMA” struck me as a bit too comfortable looking from a visual viewpoint. And then there was the hairstyle used by Anya Taylor-Joy in the film. For some reason, I found her side curls a bit too long and rather frizzy looking. Instead of the mid-1810s, her hairstyle struck me as an example of hairstyles worn by women during the early-to-mid 1840s.

Someone had claimed that “EMMA” was a very faithful adaptation of Austen’s novel. Was it? Frankly, I thought it was no more or less faithful than any of the costumed versions. De Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton followed the major beats of Austen’s novel, except for one scene – namely the Crown Inn ball. I will discuss that later. The movie also did an excellent job in capturing the comic nature of Austen’s novel. This was apparent in nearly every scene featuring Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. I also enjoyed those scenes featuring the introduction of Augusta Elton, Emma’s reactions to Jane Fairfax and her attempts to play matchmaker for Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton. But the movie also featured some good dramatic moments, thanks to De Wilde’s direction and the film’s cast. I am speaking of the scenes that featured Mr. Knightley’s scolding of Emma for her rudeness towards the impoverished Miss Bates at the Box Hill picnic; Mr. Knightley’s marriage proposal and the revelation of Harriet’s engagement to tenant farmer Robert Martin.

“EMMA” has received a great deal of acclaim from film critics, moviegoers and Jane Austen fans. Many are claiming it as the best adaptation of the 1815 novel. Do I feel the same? No. No, I do not. In fact, out of the five film and television adaptations I have seen, I would probably rank it at number four. Perhaps I had very high expectations of this movie. It is an adaptation of my favorite Austen novel. And it is the first straightforward Austen adaptation since the 2009 television miniseries of same novel. Perhaps this movie is better than I had original assume. Then again, looking back on some of the film’s aspects – perhaps not.

A good deal of my problems with “EMMA” stemmed from the portrayal of the main character, Emma Woodhouse. How can I say this? Thanks to Catton’s screenplay and De Wilde’s direction, Emma came off as more brittle and chilly than any other version I have ever seen. Granted, Emma Woodhouse was a snob. This was apparently in her strong sense of class status, which manifested in her erroneous belief that Harriet Smith was the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat or gentry landowner, instead of someone from a lower class. Emma’s snobbery was also reflected in her contempt towards the impoverished Miss Bates, despite the latter being a “gentlewoman” and a member of the landed gentry. Emma’s snobbery, a product of her upbringing, also manifested in her own ego and belief that she is always right. Yes, Emma possessed negative traits. But she also had her share of positive ones. She possessed a warm heart, compassion for the poor (at least those not from her class), intelligence, and an ability to face her faults. This cinematic portrayal of Emma Woodhouse as a brittle and slightly chilly bitch struck me as a little off putting and extreme.

Another example of the exaggeration in this production was Mr. Knightley’s reaction to his dance with Emma at the Crown Inn ball. Many have not only praised the sensuality of the pair’s dance, but also Mr. Knightly’s reaction upon returning home to his estate, Donwell Abbey. What happened? George Knightley seemed to be in some kind of emotional fit, while he stripped off some of his clothes and began writhing on the floor. What in the fuck was that about? That scene struck me as so ridiculous. Other actors who have portrayed Knightley have managed to portray the character’s awareness of his love for Emma without behaving like a teenager in heat.

Speaking of heat, who can forget Harriet Smith’s orgasmic reaction to the idea of being Mrs. Elton? Many critics and Austen fans thrilled over the sight of a female character in a Jane Austen production having an orgasm. I will not castigate De Wilde for this directorial choice. I am merely wondering why she had included this scene in the first place. If Harriet was going to have an orgasm, why not have her bring up the subject to a possibly flabbergasted Emma? Why include this moment without any real follow through? Having an orgasm must have been something of a novelty for a young woman like Harriet, who was inexperienced with sexual thoughts or feelings.

And then there was Emma and Mr. Knightley’s dance at the Crown Inn ball. The latter sequence is usually one of my favorites in any adaptation of “EMMA”. The one exception proved to be the 1972 miniseries, which ended the sequence after Emma had suggested they dance. I almost enjoyed the sequence in this film . . . except it featured Emma obviously feeling attracted to Mr. Knightley during this dance. And I thought this was a big mistake. Why? Because Emma was never that consciously aware of her attraction to Mr. Knightley, until Harriet had confessed her crush on the landowner. And that happened near the end of the story. In other words, by showing Emma’s obvious feelings for Knightley during the ball, Autumn De Wilde rushed their story . . . and was forced to retract in the scene that featured Harriet’s confession. I feel this was another poor decision on the filmmaker’s part.

If I have to be honest, I think De Wilde, along with screenwriter Eleanor Catton, made a number of poor decisions regarding the film’s narrative. I have already pointed out three of those decisions in the previous paragraphs. But there were more. De Wilde and Catton changed the dynamics between Mr. Woodhouse and his older daughter and son-in-law, Isabella and John Knightley. In the novel and previous adaptations, the younger Mr. Knightley had always seemed more annoyed and at times, cankerous toward Mr. Woodhouse’s hypochondria. In this version, Isabella’s hypochondria is portrayed as more irritating. And instead of reacting to his wife’s complaints, John suppressed his reactions and ended up being portrayed as a henpecked husband. For some reason, De Wilde and Catton thought it was necessary to take the bite out of John Knightley, making him a weaker character. Why? I have not the foggiest idea, but I did miss the character’s biting wit.

In my review of the 1996 television version of “Emma”, I had complained how screenwriter Andrew Davies and director Diarmuid Lawrence had minimized part of Harriet’s character arc and focused just a bit too much on Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. In the 1996 movie version, the opposite happened. Writer-director Douglas McGrath had focused more on Harriet’s arc than the Frank/Jane arc. Well De Wilde and Catton ended up repeating McGrath’s mistake by focusing too much on Harriet, at the expense of Frank and Jane. Worse, Frank and Jane’s arc seemed focused on even less than in the 1996 McGrath film. The couple barely seemed to exist. And a result of this is that Frank’s father, Colonel Weston, barely seemed to exist. Mrs. Weston fared better due to her being Emma’s former governess. But I was really shocked at how little De Wilde and Catton focused on Mr. Elton and his overbearing bride, Augusta Elton. The movie did focus a good deal on Mr. Elton in those scenes featuring Emma’s attempts to match him with Harriet. But following his marriage, his character – along with Mrs. Elton’s – seemed to slowly recede into the background following their tea at Hartfield with the Woodhouses. By allowing very little focus on these characters, De Wilde and Catton had left out so many good moments in their effort to streamline Austen’s story for theatrical film. Even more so than the two versions from 1996.

Because of this streamlining, a good deal of the cast had very little opportunity to develop their characters on screen. Oliver Chris and Chloe Pirrie gave solid comic performances in their portrayal of John and Isabella Knightley, despite my irritation at the changing dynamics of their relationship. Rupert Graves was pretty much wasted as the over-friendly Colonel Weston. Miranda Hart gave a funny performance as the impoverished spinster Miss Bates. Unfortunately, I was distracted by her less-than-impoverished wardrobe in several scenes. If you had asked for my opinion of Amber Anderson’s portrayal of Jane Fairfax, I would not have been able to give it to you. I have no memory of her performance. She made no impact on the movie or its narrative. Tanya Reynolds struck me as a rather funny Mrs. Elton . . . at least in the scene featuring the Eltons’ tea with the Woodhouses at Hartfield. Otherwise, I have no real memory of her other scenes in the movie. Callum Turner has always struck me as a memorable performer. And I have to admit that his portrayal of Frank Churchill certainly made an impression on me. But the impression was not always . . . negative. One, he did not have enough scenes in this movie and his character arc struck me as rather rushed. And two, I thought his Frank Churchill was a bit too smarmy for my tastes.

Thankfully, “EMMA” did feature some memorable supporting performances. Gemma Whalen gave a lovely and warm performance as Emma’s former governess and close friend, Mrs. Weston. Josh O’Connor gave an excellent performance as the social-climbing vicar, Mr. Elton. I must say that I found his comic timing impeccable and thought he gave one of the best performances in the movie. However, I thought there were times when his Mr. Elton came off as a sexual predator. I get it . . . Mr. Elton was basically a fortune hunter. But I thought O’Connor went too far in the scene that featured Emma’s rejection of his marriage proposal. For a moment, I thought he was going to sexually assault her. That was a bit too much. Mia Goth’s portrayal of the clueless Harriet Smith struck me as spot-on and very skillful. Granted, I did not care for the “Harriet has an orgasm” moment, but I cannot deny that Goth’s acting was excellent in the scene. Bill Nighy gave a skillfully comic portrayal as the hypochondriac Mr. Woodhouse. Yes, there were moments when his usual tics (found in many of his performances) threatened to overwhelm his performance in this film. But I think he managed to more or less keep it together.

One performance that seemed to be garnering a great deal of acclaim came from Johnny Flynn, who portrayed Mr. Knightley. In fact, many are regarding him as the best Mr. Knightley ever seen in the movies or on television. I believe Flynn is a pretty competent actor who did an excellent job of conveying his character’s decency, maturity and burgeoning feelings for Emma. I was especially impressed by his performance in the Box Hill sequence in which Mr. Knightley chastised Emma for her rude comments at Miss Bates. But I do not regard him as the best screen Mr. Knightley I have seen. If I must be honest, I do not regard his interpretation of the character as even among the best. My problem with Flynn is that his Knightley struck me as a bit of a dull stick. And Knightley has always seemed like a man with a dry sense of humor, which is why I have always regarded him as one of my favorite Austen heroes. For me, Flynn’s Knightley simply came across as humorless to me. Perhaps “humorless” was the wrong word. There were scenes of Flynn’s Mr. Knightley reacting to the comedic actions of other characters and uttering the occasional witty phrase or two. But there was something about Flynn’s demeanor that made it seem he was trying too hard. I guess no amount of ass display, singing, laughing or writhing on the floor like a lovesick adolescent could make him more interesting to me.

Then we have the film’s leading lady, Anya Taylor-Joy. Unlike Flynn, the actress was given the opportunity to display her skills as a comic actress. And she more than lived up to the task. Honestly, I thought Taylor-Joy displayed excellent comic timing. Yet . . . I could never regard her as one of my favorite screen versions of Emma Woodhouse. She was too much of a bitch. Let me re-phrase that. I thought Taylor-Joy overdid it in her portrayal of Emma’s bitchiness and snobbery. To the point that her performance struck me as very brittle. Yes, Emma Woodhouse was a snob. But she could also be a warm and friendly young woman, capable of improving her character. I saw none of this in Taylor-Joy’s performance. If Catton’s screenplay demanded that Emma became aware of her flaws, the actress’ conveyance of those moments did not strike as a natural progression. Otherwise, she made a satisfying Emma Woodhouse. I also have one more criticism to add – Taylor-Joy did not have great screen chemistry with her leading man, Johnny Flynn. Their on-screen chemistry struck me as pedestrian at best, if I must be honest.

One would think that I disliked “EMMA”. Honestly, I did not. The movie managed to stick with Austen’s narrative. And although it did not change Austen’s story, it did feature some changes in some of the characteristics and character dynamics, thanks to director Autumn De Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton. And some of these changes did not serve the movie well, thanks to De Wilde’s occasional bouts of ham-fisted direction. However, I still managed to enjoy the movie and the performances from a cast led by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy. And if it had not been for the current health crisis that has struck the world, I probably would have seen it again in theaters.

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“Bride of Belthazor” [PG-13] – 10/16

“BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR”

Chapter Ten

“Sweetie, could you hold this?” Phoebe placed a foil-covered tray in Jason’s hands. She added, “And be careful. It’s one of the hors d’ oeuvres trays.”

Jason replied, “You know, when I had showed up tonight, I hadn’t expected to end up as a waiter.”

Phoebe stood on her toes and pecked Jason’s cheek. “I know, baby. I’m just glad that you could help. Maybe if we leave both parties early, we can spend some time alone, before tomorrow.”

“I don’t see why you have to go this party, in the first place.” Jason paused to stare at Phoebe. “Wait a minute, you were invited?”

Nodding, Phoebe asked, “Weren’t you?”

“Not really.” To Phoebe’s relief, he did not seem upset or disappointed. “And if I had, I doubt that I would accepted. I mean . . . I’m only here because of Olivia.” Who seemed to have an effect upon the men in Phoebe’s life. Or so she thought.

Suppressing a grimace at Jason’s last words, Phoebe merely replied, “Oh. Yeah. Of course. Um, have you seen the . . .?”

“Let’s go people!” Piper barked at the couple, causing them to nearly jump. The oldest Charmed One wore a blue-gray, long-sleeved cocktail dress that looked attractive, yet modest. “I need that food inside the SUV. It’s almost time for the party to start and we need to get out of here.”

“You know, Paige could always . . .” Phoebe broke off, realizing that she had almost exposed her younger sister – along with the rest of them. “I mean . . .”

Jason stared at her. “Paige could always . . . what?”

“Um . . .” Phoebe turned to Piper for help.

The oldest Charmed One immediately finished, “I guess that Paige can use her car to take you and Pheebs to the parties.” She turned to the younger woman. “Right Pheebs? Since there’s a chance there might not be enough room in my car.”

Phoebe inwardly sighed with relief when Jason said, “Oh. Well, that’s not necessary. I can drop both Phoebe and Paige off at P3.” He glanced at Phoebe. “If you don’t mind.”

“No, that’s great,” Phoebe replied just a little too brightly. “Paige and I will meet you at your car.” Again, she pecked Jason’s cheek.

Once the billionaire had left the kitchen, Piper glared at the younger sister. “Phoebe, I understand your reluctance to tell Jason about us. But if you’re really serious about him, you better tell him the truth. Before he finds out the wrong way.” She sighed. “I’m going to say goodnight to Wyatt.”

Phoebe watched her older sister leave the kitchen. A dismaying thought struck her that Piper might be right. Only . . . she feared the consequences of such a revelation to Jason a lot more than what her family might think.

————–

A swing tune from the 1930s blasted from P3’s sound system. Olivia, who sat next to the nightclub’s bar – along with Cecile, Sheila Morris, Nathalie Gleason and her two grandmothers. Piper stood behind the bar, serving drinks.

“Okay, here’s my present,” Sheila said, handing over a white, flat box marked MACY’S to Olivia. Hope that you’ll like it.”

Olivia opened the box and removed the tissue. Then she gently lifted an apple-green silk robe and displayed it to the others. “Oh my God! This is . . . Sheila, this is gorgeous!”

Sheila smiled happily. “Thanks. I’m glad that you like it.”

“Here’s another present, Livy,” her grandmother, Elise, declared. She handed over a package made from blue tissue to Olivia.

The tall, dark-haired Nathalie spoke up. “It’s from me.”

“Thanks Nat.” Olivia carefully unwrapped the tissue paper. Inside, laid a pair of multi-colored silk scarves. “Uh . . . thanks Nat,” she repeated, feeling slightly perplexed. “I guess I can think of an outfit or two . . .”

“Oh, it’s not for wearing,” Nathalie explained, leaving Olivia feeling more confused. “It’s for . . .” She glanced at those guests who were obviously unaware of Olivia’s magical background – like Carlotta Trujillo and Cole’s co-worker, Veronica Altman. “It’s for your honeymoon.”

Olivia frowned. “Huh? I don’t understand.”

“According to this trader at the Anduin Marketplace named Valindal,” Nathalie continued, “this scarf is magical. They can block anyone’s magical and psychic abilities . . . including teleportation and telekinesis.”

Olivia’s Welsh grandmother asked, “You were at the Anduin Market? Heavens! I haven’t been there in quite a while.”

“Are you kidding? It’s bigger than ever,” Nathalie said. “Although some of the customers are a lot ruder these days. This one woman had popped inside Valindal’s tent without any notice. Didn’t bothered to check if there were other customers. Like I said . . . rude.”

Olivia and Cecile exchanged long-suffering glances. Nathalie had a habit of ranting over the smallest thing. “Nat . . . honey? About these scarves?” the redhead continued.

The dark-haired witch’s face turned pink. “Sorry. Anyway, you can use these scarves on Cole. You know, during the honeymoon.” When Olivia failed to respond, she sighed. “For certain . . . horizontal games?”

“You mean bondage during sex?” Bronwyn Morgan exclaimed bluntly. Olivia stared at her. “What? I am adult, you know. In fact, your grandfather and I . . .”

Olivia held up one hand. “Nana? Please don’t. The image is already too disturbing.” Elise opened her mouth. “Please Gran. Not you too!”

“For Pete’s sake, Livy!” Elise retorted. “How did you think your parents were conceived? With your grandmother and I simply laying on our backs and submitting? We had desires as well.”

Rolling her eyes, Olivia moaned, “Oh God.”

“This Anduin Marketplace,” Piper said with a frown, “you say that it’s some kind of marketplace . . . for demons? I thought that Phoebe and I had destroyed the only one.”

Elise replied airily, “Oh honey, that place was probably nothing more than some minor market that catered to daemons. The Anduin Marketplace is much larger. And it’s for all magical beings and practioners.”

“Including demons?”

“Of course.” Elise gave Piper a suspicious glance. “You’re not thinking of making an attempt to get rid of the place or something like that, are you?”

Piper’s eyes widened in shock. “No! Of course not. Unless . . . well, if someone there . . .”

Cecile spoke up. “Piper, I don’t think you or your sisters would be able to destroy that particular marketplace. It’s protected by some major mojo. And I doubt very much that the Power of Three could kill an Anduian. Trust me.”

“Wait.” Piper shook her head. “Are you serious?” Aside from Sheila, who looked as confused as the Charmed One, Olivia and the others responded with knowing looks. Shock replaced the confusion on Piper’s face. “Wow,” she murmured.

Nathalie continued, “According to Valindal, the scarves were made right there in the Anduin Dimension. Which means they should be very effective if you decide to use them on Cole.” Her mouth spread into a wicked grin. “If you know what I mean.”

Olivia could hardly wait to find out.

————-

A long-legged, bikini-clad woman with chestnut hair pranced about the Vornado Club’s stage. Most of the bachelor party’s celebrants regarded her with either admiration or avid lust. The groom-to-be did neither. Instead, he regarded her suspicion.

“You know, I think I’ve seen that dancer, before,” Cole commented. Harry McNeill responded with a leer. The half-daemon rolled his eyes. “No, not like that. I think . . .”

Jack McNeill frowned. “Don’t tell me you think she might be Idril.”

“You never know.”

The half-daemon and the two witches shared a table directly in front of the stage. Whistles and cheers mixed with music from the club’s sound system, as the dancer removed her bikini top. Cole turned his attention away from the stage and signaled a waiter, who stood nearby. Enthralled by the half-naked dancer, the waiter failed to respond. “Hey!” Cole cried out. But to no avail.

Then Harry stared at the waiter for one intense moment. The latter snapped out of his trance and approached the trio’s table with an obsequious smile. “Gentlemen, may I help you?”

“Yes,” Cole replied. “Where is Riggerio?”

“In his office, signor.” The waiter paused. “Would you like for me to summon him?”

“If you don’t mind.”

Over a minute later, the nightclub’s handsomely demonic owner appeared at the table. “Belthazor, is there a problem?” he asked.

Cole pointed at the dancer on the stage. “Who is she? She looks familiar.”

“Her?” An amused smile appeared on Riggerio’s lips. “In Sitri’s name, Belthazor! Your memory must be slipping!”

“Meaning?” Cole demanded with a frown.

Riggerio sighed and rolled his eyes. “You mean to say that you do not remember Arda?”

“Who?” Harry asked.

A new voice added, “Arda. She’s one of the top exotic dancers in many dimensions. Think of her as some kind of daemonic version of Sally Rand or Gypsy Rose Lee. Only, she takes it all off.” Andre stepped forward and sat down in the last empty chair. “Cole and I have seen her perform on at least three different occasions.” He shook his head at the half-daemon. “Man, you really must be slipping! Or is this pre-marital stress? I mean, I can understand, considering the wedding tomorrow, and Idril . . .”

“Idril?” Riggerio frowned. “Is she here in San Francisco?”

Andre shrugged his shoulders. “Might be. You remember Cecile Dubois, don’t you?” Riggerio nodded, as the New Orleans hougan continued, “Well, she had a vision of Cole marrying Idril.”

Disbelief shone in Riggerio’s dark eyes. “Why would you marry Idril? She never seemed like your type. In fact, I had the distinct impression that you thought very little of her.”

Cole heaved an annoyed sigh. Jack asked, “You’ve met this Idril?”

“Of course,” the daemon replied. “In London, over thirty-four years ago. Belthazor and Idril were with Tarkin . . . and some English woman. A witch, I believe. I forgot her name.”

“Christine Broom,” Cole murmured, feeling a brief surge of nostalgia.

Riggerio continued, “Speaking of Idril, why would you . . .?”

In a burst of annoyance, Cole exclaimed, “I wouldn’t! Trust me!”

Andre added, “Cecile thinks that Idril might use a spell to get Cole to marry her.”

“Ah yes,” Riggerio said with a nod. “I understand. With Belthazor at her side, Idril would be able to become Queen of the Source’s Realm. That makes sense.”

An inner sigh of relief filled Cole’s mind. So much for Olivia’s theory that Idril might be in love with him.

Riggerio nodded at the dancer on the stage. Aside from a large, transparent scarf that draped over her torso, she was completely nude. “As for Arda, I assure you that is her.”

Cole sighed. “I never said otherwise.”

“If she’s so famous, why would she bother to dance at a private party like this?” Jack asked.

Riggerio replied, “Simple. I had to pay a high price for her services.” A sly grin slid across his face. “And I had told her that the party was in Belthazor’s honor.”

Cole shot a quick glance at the dancer, before his gaze returned to the club’s owner. “Excuse me?”

“Come, mio amico!” Riggerio slapped the half-demon’s back. “Have you forgotten, already? You’re the infamous Belthazor! The former Source, fiancé of the Aingeal Staff Bearer, and son of the Thorn Order’s leader. Naturally, Arda would be thrilled to perform for you. So enjoy.”

Another sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Yeah. Right.” He and the others resumed watching the dancer. She removed the transparent scarf from her torso and tossed it at Cole. It immediately drifted off the stage and right into the half-daemon’s face.

————-

The plan to summon and vanquish Belthazor’s former lover had failed. Not with a bang, but with an embarrassing whimper. Even worse, when Brion’s brother-in-law had learned of his efforts, Jack nearly went ape. Brion’s ears continued to blister from the heat of his brother-in-law’s words.

For a while, Brion wondered if he would end up at a local hotel, here in San Francisco for the rest of his trip. He had the sneaky suspicion that both Jack and Gwen were tempted to kick him out of the house. At this moment, Brion wished they had kicked him out. He realized that he would have a better opportunity to carry out his plans against Idril, beyond the McNeill estate.

The Welshman sat inside one of the smaller drawing rooms. Although his eyes were glued to the television set, Brion barely acknowledged the images on the screen. He continued to brood over Phoebe Halliwell and Cecile Dubois’ visions regarding Bel . . . Cole. Something had to be done.

Once again, his attention returned to the TV screen. He found himself watching an old 1930s movie from a channel of what the Americans called cable television. Brion did consider changing to the BBC America channel, but an old TV series from the late 80s called “BLACKADDER” was being aired. And Brion had never been a fan. The movie featured some puffed-up character in costume, spouting in an exaggerated English accent, “If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, then the mountain must go to Mohammed.” Brion rolled his eyes at the ridiculous cliché. Of all the utter non . . .

The witch’s mind froze. “The mountain must go to Mohammed.” Of course! Who would have thought that some silly old cliché would give him an idea? Instead of summoning Idril, he could always use a spell to teleport to her location. And use the potion to vanquish her. He would be unable to summon a daemon from here. Nor could he endanger the public at any hotel. And since he did not know his way around San Francisco, a local park seemed out of the question. No. He would simply have to go to her. And all he would need is a spell that would send his body to her present location.

————

At precisely eighteen minutes past midnight, the lights inside the Vornado Club went dark. Two lamp posts – standing several yards apart – suddenly materialized into bipedal figures.

One of the figures, a chestnut-haired man with a stocky figure, nodded at his companion. “It’s time to make the call.”

The dark-haired daemon named Andros walked over to a telephone situated on the bar’s surface and dialed a number. “Yes?” a female’s voice answered.

This is Andros. Belthazor’s . . . party had just ended some twenty minutes ago. He should be on his way home.”

Idril replied, “Good job. Get in touch with Beren. Have him meet me at my family’s estate in the Kenotês Dimension. You know where. We shall be there, shortly.”

Andros blinked. “We?”

“Yes. Belthazor, the warlock and myself.” Idril paused. Menace crept into her soft voice. “Is there a problem?”

Recognizing the menacing tone in his mistress’ voice, Andros immediately answered, “No problem, Idril. Uh, what about the rest of the clan?”

Idril replied, “Summon them, as well. It shouldn’t take that long. There are only ten of us.”

“Yes, Idril.” Andros hung up and turned to his companion. “Let’s go. We have a priest to find and a wedding to attend.”

The other daemon shook his head in disbelief and the pair beamed out of the nightclub.

END of CHAPTER TEN

Lobster Roll

Below is a small article about the American sandwich known as the Lobster Roll:

LOBSTER ROLL

One of the most popular sandwiches created in the United States in the New England dish known as the Lobster Roll. Not only is the latter native to the New England states, but also the Canadian Maritimes.

The sandwich consists of lobster meat served on a grilled hot dog-style bun. The lobster filling is served with the opening on top of the bun, instead of the side. The filling usually consists of lemon juice, salt, black pepper diced celery (or scallions) and melted butter. However, in some parts of New England, the butter is substituted with mayonnaise. Potato chips or french fries are usually served as sides for the sandwich.

According to the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink”, the Lobster Roll may have originated in 1929, as a hot dish at a restaurant named Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut. Over the years, the sandwich’s popularity spread up and down the Connecticut coastline, but not far beyond it. In Connecticut, when the sandwich is served warm, it is called a “Lobster Roll”. When served cold, it was called a “Lobster Salad Roll”. Over the decades, the Lobster Roll’s popularity had spread to other states along the Northeastern seaboard. As far back as 1970, chopped lobster meat heated in drawn butter was served on a hot dog bun at road side stands such as Red’s Eats in Maine.

Although it is believed to have originated in Connecticut, the Lobster Roll in the United States is usually associated with the State of Maine. But as I had pointed out, it is commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, New York; where lobster fishing is common. The sandwich has also become a staple summer dish throughout the Maritime provinces in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, where hamburger buns, baguettes, or other types of bread rolls and even pita pockets are used. The traditional sides are potato chips and dill pickles. McDonald’s restaurants in the New England states and in Canadian provinces such as Nova Scotia and Ontario usually offer Lobster Rolls as a limited edition item during the summer.

Below is a recipe for the classic Maine Lobster Roll from the Destination Kennebunkport website:

Maine Lobster Roll

Ingredients

*1lbs (or slightly more) cooked lobster meat, keeping 4 of the claw meat intact for garnish
*1/4cup finely minced celery
*1/4cup best-quality mayonnaise(I prefer Stonewall Kitchen’s Farmhouse Mayo), plus additional to garnish (only if you didn’t get the claw meat out in one piece!)
*1/2tsp fresh lemon juice(I literally just squeeze a few drops on the lobster)
*Sea salt, only if necessary
*Finely ground black pepper, to taste
*4 best quality New England-style hot dog rolls
*5tbs very soft salted butter
*Optional but good – paprika to garnish

Preparation

1. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the lobster, celery, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Taste first, seasoning with salt only if necessary and lightly with pepper. Chill until ready to use, but no more than 8 hours in advance.

2. When ready to serve, place a griddle or a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread both sides of the rolls with the butter and cook each side until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (check your first roll, I found the bakery rolls browned faster, and it only took slightly more than a minute per side).

3. Fill and mound each roll with the lobster mixture—they will be quite full. Garnish the top of each with a piece of claw meat, or place a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each roll and sprinkle it with a smidge of paprika or chopped chives. Serve immediately.

“FEUD” Season One – “Bette and Joan” (2017) Episode Ranking

Below is my ranking of the episodes from Season One (and the only season so far) of the F/X series called “FEUD”. Titled “Bette and Joan” and created by Ryan Murphy, the season starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon:

“FEUD” SEASON ONE – “BETTE AND JOAN” (2017) EPISODE RANKING

1. (1.05) “And the Winner Is… (The Oscars of 1963)” – The fallout from the Oscar nominations for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” leads to underhanded tactics from Joan Crawford, while co-star Bette Davis relishes the opportunity to break a record.

2. (1.02) “The Other Woman” – With production on “Baby Jane?” underway, Bette and Joan form an alliance, but outside forces in the form of Warner Brothers studio chief Jack Warner, director Robert Aldrich and an unsuspecting bit player conspire against them.

3. (1.07) “Abandoned!” – Following the beginning of production for “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, the feud between Bette and Joan intensifies. Meanwhile, Bette reveals her vulnerabilities to Aldrich during their affair.

4. (1.03) “Mommie Dearest” – The “Baby Jane” production reaches its climax, while Bette and Joan clash over every last detail. And both actresses face private struggles.

5. (1.01) “Pilot” – Cast aside by Hollywood and struggling to maintain their film careers, Bette and Joan sign up for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” before they commence upon a feud.

6. (1.06) “Hagsploitation” – Hungry for another hit after “Baby Jane?”, Jack Warner pressures Aldrich into bringing the original team back together for a second project – “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”. Meanwhile, Joan receives a surprising blackmail threat from her brother.

7. (1.08) “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” – In this finale, Joan accepts a leading role on a new film (her last one), despite her deteriorating health. Faced with a possible new rival, Bette reflects on her misplaced feud with Joan.

8. (1.04) “More or Less” – When “Baby Jane?” opens in movie theaters, Bette and Joan face uncertain prospects, Aldrich deals with his own personal and professional difficulties, and his assistant Pauline Jameson makes a surprising offer.

“KISS ASS” (2010) Review

“KICK ASS” (2010) Review

When I first saw the 2004 crime thriller, ”LAYER CAKE”, I thought that Matthew Vaughn would be spending the rest of his directing career in helming movies with a similar genre . . . and become a rival for his colleague, Guy Ritchie. Vaughn proved me wrong. Three years after ”LAYER CAKE”, he directed a fantasy comedy called ”STARDUST”. Another three years passed before Vaughn released another directorial effort – a spoof of the superhero genre called ”KICK ASS”.

Based upon the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., ”KICK ASS” told the story of an ordinary New York teenager named Dave Lizewski, who sets out to become a real-life superhero by calling himself “Kick-Ass”. However, Dave gets caught up in a bigger fight when he meets Big Daddy aka Damon Macready, a former cop, who in his quest to bring down the evil drug lord Frank D’Amico, has trained his 10-year-old daughter Mindy to be the ruthless vigilante, Hit-Girl. Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s murderous actions against D’Amico’s operations led the gangster to believe that Kick Ass was endangering his operation. His son, Chris, volunteers to become another costumed vigilante named Red Mist and lure Kick Ass to his doom.

I had considered seeing ”KICK ASS”, when it was first released in the theaters during the spring of 2010. However, the movie slipped my mind and I never got around to viewing it, until it was first released on DVD. After seeing the movie, I admit feeling a bit of regret that I had never seen it in the theaters. I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I would go as far to say that it has become one of my favorite movies in the superhero genre. Adapted for the screen by writer Jane Goldman and Vaughn, ”KICK ASS” provided plenty of laughs, action and pathos. Watching an unskilled high school teenager try to fight hardened criminals through the guise of a costumed vigilante struck me as one of the funniest and absurd things I have ever seen on film. Another bizarre scene that remained stamped in my mind focused on Macready/Big Daddy training his daughter to withstand a bullet to the chest, while wearing a ballistic vest. One would think it would be difficult to laugh at a movie filled with so much graphic violence – even violence directed at adolescents and a 10 year-old. And yet, Vaughn and Goldman, along with the cast, managed to strike the right balance between the laughter, the drama and the violence.

Speaking of the violence, I must admit there were times when I found it slightly hard to bear. One of the scenes I especially had difficulty dealing with centered around Kick Ass’s first attempt as a vigilante – an attempt that led to him being stabbed and severely beaten. It just seemed a bit too much. I could also say the same for the torture that both Kick Ass and Big Daddy endured at the hands of D’Amico’s men and the latter’s death. And I also must admit that at times I found Hit Girl’s murderous rampage against D’Amico’s men rather graphic. The idea of a ten year-old girl killing so many men . . . just seemed a bit too much. But the hardest scene to watch turned out to be Hit Girl’s confrontation with D’Amico. I suppose one could laugh at the idea of a ten year-old girl in a brutal fight against a grown man. But watching it on the screen made it difficult for me to laugh.

As much as I enjoyed ”KICK ASS”, the idea of an ordinary teenager believing he could face hardened criminals on the street without any self-defense training strikes me as being too absurd. Frankly, if I had known someone like Dave Lizewski in real life, I would begin to wonder about his mental capacity. If you really think about it, Dave truly had to be either be a mental gourd or simply a nut case – like the idiot who jumped off that skyscraper at the beginning of the film. A person could argue that Dave was nothing more than a fictional character like Peter Parker aka Spider-man. But would Peter Parker really be stupid enough to face hardened criminals on his own without any super abilities or self-defense training? Even Macready made sure that young Mindy would be trained as a skillful fighter before setting her loose against D’Amico’s men.

If there is one thing that Vaughn could be proud of was the exceptional cast that helped drive ”KICK ASS”. No one felt more surprised than me to learn that Aaron Johnson, who portrayed Dave Lizewski aka “Kick Ass”, was British born and raised. I felt surprised because his portrayal of an American teenager was spot on. Johnson captured all of the emotions, desires and angst of his character with sheer perfection. Another performance that blew my mind came from Nicholas Cage, the soft-spoken former cop and vigilante Big Daddy, who also happened to be an angry and murderous man determined to seek vengeance against mobster Frank D’Amico for ruining his life and career. I believe his role as Damon Macready might prove to be one of the best in his career. I do not know if mobster Frank D’Amico will prove to be one of Mark Strong’s best performances, but I must admit that he did a superb job. He kept the D’Amico character from being a one-dimensional villain and did a great job with the character’s New York accent. If she plays her cards right, Chloë Grace Moretz might become more than just the talented child actress that she is at the moment. Her portrayal of the tough, 11 year-old vigilante, Mindy Macready aka “Hit Girl” was not only entertaining, but almost as frightening as Strong’s villainous turn. The funniest performance, in my opinion, came from Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who portrayed D’Amico’s son, Chris and fake vigilante Red Mist. He provided plenty of laughs as the mobster’s slightly sarcastic son torn between a penchant for costumed heroes and a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps into a life of crime And his fight scene with Johnson nearly had me in stitches. And both Michael Rispoli and Lyndsy Fonseca gave strong support as D’Amico’s cool and clever lieutenant Big Joe and the feisty object of Dave’s desire, Katie Deauxma.

Aside from Vaughn and Goldman’s first-rate script, ”KICK ASS” benefitted from Ben Davis’ colorful and original photography. The film was not only rich in color, it provided some interesting shots that subtly reminded moviegoers that the movie was based upon a comic book series. At least three shots struck me as reminiscent of comic books and one reminded me of another comic book hero movie from the 1990s. One scene featured Macready’s former partner examining drawings that revealed the Macreadys’ tragic acquaintance with D’Amico and how they became a pair of murderous vigilantes. Another featured a close up of Big Daddy on the verge of death, after being tortured by D’Amico’s men. And the last and most obvious featured D’Amico’s death at the hands of Kick Ass. And in a very funny scene that featured Kick Ass and Red Mist’s escape from one of D’Amico’s burning warehouse brought back memories of the very last shot from the 1995 movie, “BATMAN BEGINS”.

Despite my initial reluctance toward ”KICK ASS” and some of its excessive violence, I found myself enjoying the movie. In fact, I will go one step forward in stating that I found it to be one of the better movies from 2010. Matthew Vaughn ended up impressing me very much.

Favorite Episodes of “LUCIFER” Season Two (2016-2017)

Below is a list of my favorite Season Two episodes from the Fox (now Netflix) series, “LUCIFER”. Based on the Vertigo (D.C. Comics) comic book series and created by Tom Kapinos, the series starred Tom Ellis:

FAVORITE EPISODES OF “LUCIFER” SEASON TWO (2016-2017)

1. (2.10) “Quid Pro Ho” – Lucifer Morningstar’s mother aka “Charlotte Richards” is determined to get him to reunite the family against her husband, God; and leave Earth by turning L.A.P.D. Detective Chloe Decker against him. Meanwhile, Lucifer’s older brother Amenadiel has begun working as Charlotte’s soldier, which makes Lucifer’s ally archdemon Mazikeen “Maze” question his loyalty.

2. (2.18) “The Good, the Bad, and the Crispy” – In this season finale, “Charlotte” becomes a ticking time-bomb for Lucifer after she had accidentally burned a man to death in the previous episode. Because of this latest incident, Lucifer is forced to find a permanent solution to deal with her before Chloe can figure out the truth.

3. (2.13) “A Good Day to Die” – Lucifer returns to Hell to find an antidote for Chloe after she had been poisoned by a murder suspect. “Charlotte” also goes to Hell to bring him back.

4. (2.05) “Weaponizer” – Lucifer and Amenadiel’s brother Uriel shows up, while the former and Chloe investigate the murder of a favorite action hero.

5. (2.14) “Candy Morningstar” – Following Choloe’s close brush with death, Lucifer disappears from Los Angeles. However, the murder of an up-and-coming guitarist leads him to resurface – with a new mystery woman. Meanwhile, “Charlotte” realizes she may have found a way to finally get her and her sons back to Heaven.

Honorable Mention: (2.06) “Monster” – A guilty and self-destructive Lucifer clashes with Chloe during an investigation, leading her to team up with her ex-husband, L.A.P.D. Detective Dan Espinoza instead. Meanwhile, Amenadiel bonds with “Charlotte” and Maze takes Chloe and Dan’s young daughter, Trixie, trick-or-treating.

“Bride of Belthazor” [PG-13] – 9/16

“BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR”

Chapter Nine

“What were you doing at the Anduin Marketplace?”

Idril’s eyes blinked, as they met Artemus’ unwavering stare. “Huh?”

The older daemon continued, “The Anduin Marketplace. You were seen there, recently. By one of my minions. What were you doing there?”

A wave of guilt overwhelmed Idril, as she quickly pondered on the possibility of Artemus becoming aware of her plans. She struggled to maintain a calm façade with a cool shrug. “Shopping, of course. For what other reason would I be there?”

His eyes still fixed upon the young demoness, Artemus continued, “You were seen leaving Valindril’s tent. And she is known as one of the best collectors of rare antiquities throughout many dimensions. You were seen leaving her tent. Empty-handed. I’m curious. Did you sell something to her? Or . . . what?”

Panic threatened to overwhelm Idril. She took a deep breath. “Really Artemus! I don’t understand this third degree.”

“Forgive me, my dear, but let’s just say that I’m very familiar with your shopping habits.” Artemus leaned back into the leather chair, inside his spacious office. “You’re the type who would prefer shopping for expensive clothes or perfume. Not rare magical antiquities. Unless you have some kind of plan.” He paused dramatically, as his stare grew more intense. “And my source had informed me that you didn’t bother to shop at any of the other tents and stalls – before and after your little visit to Valindril’s tent. You didn’t even stop to visit Yavanna’s tent. And she happens to be one of your favorite fashion designers. If you are after something, I’m curious to know what you’re after. And why.”

Clearing her throat, Idril realized that she might as well tell the truth. To a certain degree. “If you must know,” she said in a calm voice, “I was looking for something I could use against Nimue, once you assume the Source’s throne. After all, she might prove to be a powerful adversary.”

“Nimue?” Artemus snorted with contempt. “My dear, I’ll deal with Nimue, once I become the new Source.”

Relieved that the Khorne Order’s leader believed her, Idril continued, “And how do you think that’s going to affect me, if I become the Thorn Order’s new leader?”

“If” Artemus frowned. “Don’t you mean . . . when?”

Idril sidestepped her little faux pas. “No member of the Thorn Order or the new Source’s Council will respect me, Artemus. Especially if you kill Nimue on my behalf. They will all probably assume that I had used sex to acquire my . . . new position. After all, I used to be Raynor’s mistress. I would have a great deal of trouble maintaining discipline. And what about Belthazor? How do you think he’ll react, once he learns of his mother’s death, now they are closer? In fact, how do you plan to protect yourself from him, that McNeill witch, her family and the Charmed Ones?” Idril noted with pleasure that Artemus’ self-confidence seemed to have slightly deflated.

A long silence followed, before Artemus stood up and headed toward the liquor cabinet. “I must admit that you have a point. As for Belthazor, I am working on a solution to the problem. At least my alchemists are.”

“Alchemists?” Idril frowned.

“They’re working on a power-stripping potion, as we speak.” Artemus turned to the demoness. “Drink?”

Idril hesitated. “Um, absinthe, please.”

While Artemus prepared Idril’s drink, he continued, “Yes, alchemists. I realized that if a Charmed One – especially the least experienced one – could create a power-stripping potion for someone as powerful as Belthazor, so can they.” He then handed a small glass of green liqueur to Idril. “And the sooner I use this potion on Belthazor, the . . .”

The moment she saw the stunned expression on Artemus’ face, Idril felt an odd surge of energy within her body. She glanced down and saw an energy circle swirled around her feet. “What the hell?” she cried, as the circle rose higher and higher. The moment it reached her waist, it seemed as if her body was about to pull apart. “Artemus!”

“Don’t worry,” the older daemon declared in a calm voice. His shock had subsided. “You’re not going . . .” Much to Idril’s relief, the energy surge slowly dissipated until it vanished altogether. “Like I was about to say,” Artemus finished, you’re not going anywhere. This office is protected from unexpected arrivals. And departures.” He handed the glass of absinthe to Idril.

The demoness stared at the other demon in horror. “What the hell was that?” she demanded in a shaky voice.

Coolly, Artemus replied, “Apparently, someone has just tried to summon you. However, I cannot imagine why.” His eyes pierced through Idril’s. “Can you?”

Idril shook her head. “No, I can’t. I don’t know. Maybe . . . Maybe it was some idiot magician trying to prove he can summon a daemon. I’ve ran into my share of such morons.”

One of Artemus’ brows rose questioningly. “Perhaps.” He gave Idril a cryptic stare, as he returned to his desk, drink in hand. “In that case . . .” Artemus opened his desk drawer and removed an object. He tossed it over to Idril. It was an amulet.

“An amulet?” Idril said, frowning at the object. “What for?”

Artemus took a sip of his drink. “Protection, of course. To prevent anyone from summoning you against your will, once you leave here.” His eyes narrowed briefly. “Although I’m still curious as to why anyone would.”

Smiling weakly, Idril placed her drink on his desk and placed the amulet around her neck. “Yeah, so am I.” Then she picked up her absinthe and took a sip.

————

“Dammit to bloody hell!” a masculine voice growled.

Cecile, Harry and Paige exchanged startled looks. The two women and the red-haired man had stepped outside of the McNeill house for a breath of fresh air, when the growl took them by surprise. “Who was that?” Paige murmured.

Harry shrugged his shoulders and continued down the terrace’s steps. The two women followed. They found Brion Morgan on the grass nearby, kneeling beside a chalky outline of a circle. Cecile also spotted a small bottle of pink liquid beside him. “Brion?” Olivia’s brother exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing?”

Looking slightly startled, the Welsh-born witch glanced up. “Eh? Oh, um . . .”

“Were you planning to vanquish someone?”

Mr. Morgan stiffened. “Actually, I was meditating. In private.”

“With a vial of potion?” Harry pointed out. “Next to what obviously looks like a magic circle?”

A sigh left Mr. Morgan’s mouth. “Is there a problem, Harry? Because how I conduct my mediation should be none of your concern.”

Harry glared at his uncle. And Cecile regarded the older man with a hard stare. “Are you trying to summon a certain daemon, Mr. Morgan? One by the name of Idril?”

“And what if I am?” Mr. Morgan retorted. “No one, around here, seems to be taking the threat of this Idril daemon, seriously. And if your vision comes true – yours and Phoebe Halliwell’s – if Bel . . . I mean, Cole marries this ex-lover of his, it could mean catastrophe for the magical world at large.”

Cecile replied sharply, “We’re all aware of that, Mr. Morgan. Which is why Cole is now on his guard. But this plan to summon Idril and kill her . . . what the hell were you thinking?”

“She’s got a point,” Paige added drily. “You were actually planning to summon a demon? Without the McNeills’ knowledge?”

Mr. Morgan glared at the Charmed One. “May I remind you, Miss Halliwell that I am . . .”

“Miss Matthews.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Paige sighed. “My last name is Matthews.” Again, she sighed. “God! I sometimes get tired of saying that! Look, what I’m trying to say is that I had once summoned a darklighter without my sisters’ knowledge. It was a stupid move and I got chewed out for my troubles. And I was a novice at the time. What’s your excuse?”

Harry’s uncle snatched the vial from the ground and sprung to his feet. “Now, see here . . .”

“No, you see here!” Harry shot back. “Look, Uncle Brion . . . I realize that you’re concerned for Olivia’s sake. But summoning that daemon in order to kill her is a bad idea. You did it without Mom or Dad’s consent. After all, this is their home, not yours. I think your paranoia is getting the best of you.”

The Welshman’s pale face turned red with embarrassment. For less than a minute, his mouth remained pressed together in silence. Then, “It doesn’t matter, anyway. I wasn’t able to summon her.”

“What a surprise!” Harry replied caustically. “Considering that Dad had cast a protection ward around the entire estate.”

Mr. Morgan hissed in disgust, “Oh bloody hell!” He shook his head and marched away.

The trio watched the older man stalk into the house. “Do you think he’ll try to go after Whatshername again?” Paige asked.

“Are you kidding?” Harry replied with a derisive snort. “Of course he will. The man’s obsessed. Trust me.”

Paige said with a sigh, “Well to be honest, I thought his idea of summoning Idril to vanquish her wasn’t all that bad. Only his timing was off. And choice of location.”

“Maybe to you,” Harry replied, “but to us, killing someone who ‘might’ be a future threat is nothing more than murder.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like this Idril person is a human. She’s a demon.”

Harry retorted, “She’s a sentient being, Paige. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.”

Paige turned to Cecile. “You think I’m right, don’t you?”

A sigh left Cecile’s mouth. She did not want to get involved in this budding quarrel, but . . . She turned to Paige. “May I ask you something? Do you really see nothing wrong with killing any daemon that crosses your path, regardless of whether or not he or she is trying to do anything to you?”

An uneasy expression appeared on Paige’s face. “Well . . . yeah. I mean . . . most of them are evil, right?”

“So, if you see nothing wrong with you and yours sisters killing daemons regardless of what they’re doing, then wouldn’t you say that it’s okay for those daemons to do the same to you?”

“What? No! I mean . . .” Paige broke off and shook her head. “Never mind. I see that I’m going to lose this argument.” She headed toward the terrace steps.

Both Cecile and Harry watched the Charmed One’s receding figure. “Don’t worry,” Cecile said to Harry, “she’ll see the light, one day. Hopefully.”

Harry’s only response was to simply sigh.

————-

A daemon teleported into the middle of Idril’s suite at the St. Francis. His eyes fell upon Gary, who was busy watching television. “Where’s Idril?” he demanded. “I have news for her.”

His eyes still glued to the television set, Gary murmured, “In her room. What’s the news?”

“It’s for Idril,” the daemon retorted in a hard voice.

Gary rolled his eyes and sighed. Daemons could be such a stuck-up bunch! “Right.”

Minutes later, the demoness strode into the suite’s living room. Gary noticed that her outfit – a tight, long-sleeve red dress – accentuated her long legs and exposed her back. She stopped short at the sight of her minion. “Andros, you have news for me?”

“It’s about Belthazor,” Andros replied. “The McNeills are holding some kind of party for him at a nightclub called Vornado’s.”

Gary corrected him, “It’s a bachelor’s party, numb nuts. For the groom. God only knows how long it will be before Turner returns home for the night.”

Ignoring the warlock, Idril said to Andros, “I want you and Cirith to go to Vornado’s. In disguise, of course. Let me know when Belthazor leaves the party.”

“It’ll be a private party,” Gary added. “How would they be . . .?”

Andros shot a contemptuous glare at the warlock. “Don’t worry. We’ll find a way. So do us a favor and mind your damn business!”

Angered by the daemon’s contempt, Gary shot to his feet. “You know, you really need to learn to respect others,” he hissed menacingly. “Some people are not exactly tolerant of bad manners. Like myself.”

“Enough!” Idril cried. She turned to Gary. “Andros and Cirith are chameleon daemons. Shapeshifters. They’ll be fine. Meanwhile, you and I have a priest to visit.”

Gary nodded and sat back down on the sofa. “Mind if I finish my show, first?”

Andros rolled his eyes and teleported out of the suite. Much to Gary’s pleasure.

End of CHAPTER NINE

“CAPOTE” (2005) Review

“CAPOTE” (2005) Review

I finally got around to watching the first of two movies about writer Truman Capote and his work on the non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood”. This particular movie, “CAPOTE”, starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, who eventually won a SAG award, a Golden Globe award and an Oscar for his performance.

Penned by actor Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller, “CAPOTE” turned out to be a more somber affair than its 2006 counterpart, “INFAMOUS”. Miller had once commented that he wanted to create a more subtle portrait of the flamboyant author in order to emphasize on Capote’s lonely and alienated state . . . despite his relationships with authors, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) and Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood); and his popularity with New York high society. This subtle approach not only permeated the movie’s tone and pace, it also affected the cast’s performances – especially Hoffman and Clifton Collins Jr., as Perry Smith.

I do not know if I would have automatically given Philip Seymour Hoffman that Oscar for his performance as Truman Capote. I am still inclined toward Heath Ledger receiving the award for his performance in “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. But I must admit that Hoffman certainly deserved his nomination. He managed to skillfully portray Capote’s ambition and determination to create a literary masterpiece from the real life murders surrounding the Herb Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Hoffman also revealed how Capote used his charm to manipulate others . . . especially Perry Smith. Catherine Keener earned both BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for her warm portrayal of “To Kill Mockingbird” author, Nelle Harper Lee. Granted, she deserved her nominations and I especially enjoyed how she managed to project a mixture of friendly warmth, reserve and moral fortitude in her performance. But I could not help but wonder if she could receive acting nominations, why not Clifton Collins, Jr.?

It seemed a shame that more praise had not been heaped upon Clifton Collins’ shoulders for his portrayal of the intense and soft-spoken convicted murderer, Perry Smith. His scenes with Hoffman gave the movie an extra bite of emotionalism that saved it from being too subtle. Like Daniel Craig’s performance of Smith in “INFAMOUS”, Collins brought an interesting balance of soft-spoken politeness and intense danger in his performance. Well . . . almost. The real KBI investigator in charge of the Clutter case, Alvin Dewey, had once described Perry Smith as a quiet, intense and dangerous man. In “CAPOTE”, Smith’s own sister had warned Capote that despite her brother’s quiet and polite demeanor, he was easily capable of committing the crimes against the Clutters. And yet, I never did sense any real danger in Collins’ performance. Not quite. Except in two scenes – namely his confrontation with Capote over the “In Cold Blood” title; and the flashbacks revealing the Clutters’ murders. The ironic thing is that I suspect that Collins was not to blame. I suspect that Miller’s direction and Futterman’s script simply did not really allow Collins to reveal Smith’s more dangerous aura.

All of this led to what became my main problem with “CAPOTE” – namely the somber subtlety that seemed to permeate the production. Not only did the director’s desire to create a subtle film seem to mute Collins’ potential for a more balanced portrayal of Perry Smith, it also forced Hoffman to hold back some of Capote’s more flamboyant traits. I am quite certain that this was both the director and the screenwriter’s intentions. But I also feel that this deliberate attempt at subtlety may have robbed both the Capote and Smith characters of a more balanced nuance. It also denied the audience a deeper look into Capote’s New York lifestyle and bogged down the movie’s pacing in the end. During the last thirty or forty minutes, I found myself begging for the movie to end.

But despite the movie’s “too somber” mood and pacing, “CAPOTE” is an excellent movie and I would highly recommend it for viewing.

“LOST”: Kidnapping a Child

Two-and-a-half years ago, I had come across this ARTICLE about Jaycee Lee Dugard, who had been kidnapped at age 11 and found 18 years later. For reasons I cannot explain, the article led me to reflect about the child kidnappings featured in the ABC series, “LOST”.

“LOST”: KIDNAPPING A CHILD

*Ben Linus’ kidnapping of Alexandra Rousseau. A French research vessel had run aground the island back in 1988. Among the crew was the heavily pregnant Danielle Rousseau. Following the deaths of her husband and fellow crew members, Danielle gave birth to a daughter, Alexandra “Alex” Rousseau. Future leader of the Others, Ben Linus, had been ordered by the current leader, Charles Widmore, to kill both mother and daughter. Instead, Ben merely kidnapped Alex, claiming that she would be safer with him within the Others’ camp. He pretended to be Alex’s father for sixteen years. Eventually, mother and daughter reunited in Season Four. But they were never able to enjoy their reunion, due to them both being killed by Charles Widmore’s hired thugs within a few days of their reunion.

*Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by Tom Friendley, at Ben’s orders. Four of the island’s castaways – Walt, his father Michael Dawson, Jin Kwon and James “Sawyer” Ford – attempted to leave via a constructed raft. Hours later, a boat conveying a group of armed Others – the island’s residents – intercepted the raft, snatched Walt, and damaged the raft. The three adults managed to make their way back to island. We all know about the circumstances that resulted from that particular kidnapping. Michael disappeared for a while to search for Walt. Once he found the Others, he made a deal with them to free both Ben and Walt, who had become the Losties’ prisoner. In order to free Ben, he murdered Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidentally killed Libby Smith. His deal with the Others also included leading Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sawyer and Hugo Reyes to their camp. Upon leaving the island, Walt forced him to tell the truth about his deal with the Others and his shooting of Ana-Lucia and Libby. Father and son became estranged. And later, Michael returned to the island to atone for his actions . . . and ended up dead in a freighter explosion. All because Ben Linus had ordered Walt’s kidnapping. Why did Ben order Walt’s kidnapping? That remains a mystery to be solved.

*Kate Austen’s kidnapping of Aaron. Upset over Sawyer’s decision to jump from a rescue helicopter and return to the island in the Season Four finale, Kate decided to claim Aaron Littleton, the infant son of the missing Australian-born castaway Claire Littleton, as her own. She convinced Jack Shephard to help her. And both of them managed to convince Sun Kwon, Sayid Jarrah, and Hurley Reyes to pretend that Aaron was Kate’s son. Six months following their return to the United States, Jack and Kate encountered Aaron’s grandmother, Carole Littleton, at the funeral of Jack’s father, Christian Shephard. Despite their discovery that Aaron’s grandmother was alive, Kate continued her impersonation as the boy’s mother and Jack continued to support her lie. Two-and-a-half years later, Kate finally decided to hand over Aaron to Carole, due to being driven by guilt from Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend, Cassidy Phillips, whom she had befriended. And I cannot help but wonder if Carole Littleton would have ever learned about the existence of her grandson if Cassidy had not convinced Kate to give him up. Because I have grave doubts that Kate would have made this decision on her own initiative.