Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1970s

Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1970s:

FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1970s

1 - American Gangster

1. American Gangster (2007) – Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe starred in this biopic about former Harlem drug kingpin, Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts, the Newark police detective who finally caught him. Ridley Scott directed this energetic tale.

2 - Munich

2. Munich (2005) – Steven Spielberg directed this tense drama about Israel’s retaliation against the men who committed the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Ciarán Hinds starred.

3. Rush (2013) – Ron Howard directed this account of the sports rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One auto racing season. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl starred.

4 - Casino

4. Casino (1995) – Martin Scorsese directed this crime drama about rise and downfall of a gambler and enforcer sent West to run a Mob-owned Las Vegas casino. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone starred.

5 - Super 8

5. Super 8 (2011) – J.J. Abrams directed this science-fiction thriller about a group of young teens who stumble across a dangerous presence in their town, after witnessing a train accident, while shooting their own 8mm film. Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler starred.

6 - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) – Gary Oldman starred as George Smiley in this recent adaptation of John le Carré’s 1974 novel about the hunt for a Soviet mole in MI-6. Tomas Alfredson directed.

7 - Apollo 13

7. Apollo 13(1995) – Ron Howard directed this dramatic account about the failed Apollo 13 mission in April 1970. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon starred.

8 - Nixon

8. Nixon (1995) – Oliver Stone directed this biopic about President Richard M. Nixon. The movie starred Anthony Hopkins and Joan Allen.

9 - Starsky and Hutch

9. Starsky and Hutch (2004) – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson starred in this comedic movie adaptation of the 70s television series about two street cops hunting down a drug kingpin. Directed by Todd Phillips, the movie also starred Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman and Snoop Dogg.

10 - Frost-Nixon

10. Frost/Nixon (2008) – Ron Howard directed this adaptation of the stage play about David Frost’s interviews with former President Richard Nixon in 1977. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen starred.

Five Favorite Episodes of “IRON FIST” Season One (2017)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of “IRON FIST”, the Marvel Netflix adaptation of the Marvel Comics hero. Created by Scott Buck, the series starred Finn Jones as Danny Rand aka Iron Fist:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “IRON FIST” SEASON ONE (2017)

1. (1.06) “Immortal Emerges from Cave” – Danny Rand aka Iron Fist and Ward Meachum, the son of his late father’s partner, Harold Meachum; search the Rand Enterprises warehouses for clues as to the operations of the criminal organization known as the Hand. Meanwhile, Danny receives an invitation from one of the Hand’s leaders, Madame Gao, to fight three operatives for the freedom of one of their hostages.

2. (1.13) “Dragon Plays with Fire” – With the Hand no longer around to monitor him, Harold Meachum takes control of Rand Enterprises. Danny learns of Harold’s role in the deaths of his parents and both he and Ward are forced to confront the former CEO in this season finale.

3. (1.11) “Lead Horse Back to Stable” – Danny refuses to return to K’un-Lun, the mystical city where he became the Iron Fist, despite the urgent demands of his friend, Davos. Former Hand acolyte and dojo owner Colleen Wing tries to convince Danny that she knew nothing about the Hand’s activities. Harold and his daughter Joy Meachum plot to prevent the Hand from taking over Rand Enterprises.

4. (1.01) “Snow Gives Way” – In the series’ premiere, Danny returns home to New York City after spending fifteen years at K’un-Lun. Because he was presumed dead, along with his parents, Danny has difficulty convincing Ward and Joy of his true identity and the fact that he controls 51% of Rand Enterprises.

5. (1.10) “Black Tiger Steals Heart” – An injured Danny finds himself at the Hand dojo where Colleen had been trained and meets her former mentor/trainer, Bakuto. Meanwhile, Harold kills a board member in order to pave the way for Joy to convince the others to reinstate her, Ward and Danny back on the company’s board.

“THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN” (2008) Review

“THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN” (2008) Review

I must admit that it took me quite a while to write a review of the 2008 cinematic installment of “THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA” saga. This second installment, “PRINCE CASPIAN”, tells the story of four Pevensie children’s return to Narnia to aid Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in his struggle for the throne against his corrupt uncle King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). I tried to think of something different about this chapter in compare to the first – “THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE”. But it occurred to me that my reaction to this movie seemed more or less the same as the 2005 release.

And what does that say about my feelings about “PRINCE CASPIAN”? Honestly, I thought it was a solid and entertaining film that both children and adult fans of C.S. Lewis’ saga might enjoy. That is all I can really say. There was nothing really unique about it. Like many other adaptations of literary works, “PRINCE CASPIAN” did not faithfully follow its literary counterpart. Considering that I have never read any of Lewis’ works, I was not particularly disturbed by this. The only reason I am aware of any differences between the literary and cinematic versions, is the Internet.

Like the previous movie, the cast is pretty solid. The actors who portrayed the Pevensie children returned for this sequel. Due to the rapid aging of children in general, work on the script began before “THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE” was released, so filming could begin before the actors grew too old for their parts. William Moseley (Peter), Anna Popplewell (Susan), Skandar Keynes (Edmund) and Georgie Henley (Lucy) all gave solid, yet slightly uninspiring performances as the four siblings. Whereas Keynes got the chance to show Edmund at his peevish worst in the previous film, Moseley portrayed a slightly darker side of oldest brother Peter, whose dissatisfaction with being back in England had produced boorish personality. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Peter’s boorishness, which had been hinted through his handling of Edmund in the first film, was allowed to flourish in this film. It took a military failure against the main villain to give him a boot in the ass to improve his personality. On the other hand, Edmund seemed remarkably changed for the better in this film. One critic had described him as being the film’s “Han Solo”. I would agree, except Edmund came off as more mature and intelligent than Han Solo. Anna Popplewell had convinced producer Douglas Gresham to allow Susan to appear in the movie’s major battles, because she feared the character came off as too passive in Lewis’ novel. Many fans of the novel were appalled by this. Not being a literary fan of the saga, it did not bother me at all. At least it gave her something to do. Of all the Pevensie siblings, Georgie Henley’s Lucy seemed to have changed the least. Although she seemed less tolerant of Peter’s boorishness than she was of Edmund’s darker side in the first film.

British actor Ben Barnes portrayed the title role of Prince Caspian of Telmarine with as much solid competence as the four actors who portrayed the Pevensies. Perhaps he seemed a little more competent than his younger co-stars in acting skills, but I could not sense anything remarkable about his performance. Portraying Caspian’s evil uncle and the Telmarine’s false ruler, King Miraz, was actor Sergio Castellitto. He made a very effective villain, but lacked Tilda Swanton’s memorable portrayal as the White Witch. Who, by the way, briefly returned to bring a much-needed spark in the middle of the story. If I must be honest, her brief appearance was probably the best scene in the film. But not even Swinton’s spectacular appearance could not overshadow what I feel was the best performance in the movie – namely that of Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin, a cynical red dwarf. I really enjoyed his sharp and caustic take on the dwarf, who is skeptic of the idea of Aslan and magic.

As much as I enjoyed “PRINCE CASPIAN”, I must admit that I found it no more remarkable than the first film. Also, I found it difficult to maintain interest in the film’s first half, as it switched back and forth between Caspian’s flight from his murderous uncle and the Pevensies’ arrival in Narnia. Director Andrew Adamson seemed to lack George Lucas and Peter Jackson’s talent for seamless transition between multiple story lines within one film. But once the Pevensies and Caspian finally met, the movie seemed to discover its pace as it flowed toward the heroes’ ill-fated attempt to attack upon Miraz and the final showdown. There were two scenes that gave me a sense of déjà vu – namely the attacks of the trees and the river god upon the Telmarine army. It seemed as if either Adamson or Lewis had a Tolkien moment. The attack of the trees especially reminded me of the Ents’ attack upon Isengard in the 2002 movie, “LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS”.

“PRINCE CASPIAN” was not the greatest movie I had seen during the summer of 2008. Nor is there anything unique about it. But if one can overcome the fact that it is not an exact adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel, he or she might find the movie quite entertaining to watch. I heartily recommend it.

The Disappointment of “STAR TREK: PICARD” Season One Finale

THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF “STAR TREK: PICARD” SEASON ONE FINALE

The Season One finale for “STAR TREK: PICARD”, (1.10) “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”, was such a disappointment to me. To be honest, I did not foresee my negative reaction. Yes, I will admit that the entire season was not perfect. But I still managed to enjoy it . . . until I saw the season finale. Let me be frank. I had several issues with it.

My first disappointment from “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” proved to be the death of the synthetic individual known as Sutra. Despite being built up as a dangerous antagonist for retired Starfleet Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and his crew, her death proved to be so ridiculously anti-climatic that I found myself rolling my eyes. The moment Data’s creator, Dr. Noonian Soong, had discovered that she was responsible for the death of another synthetic and framed the Romulan spy Narek for it, he automatically shut her down. That was it. No conflict . . . nothing.

My second disappointment manifested in the appearances of both the Romulan and Starfleet fleets above the synthetics’ planet, Coppelius. Overdone much? I have not seen this many combatants appear for a single battle since Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films. Why did Starfleet Admiral (and Romulan mole) Oh sent such a large fleet of Romulan war birds against the planet? It was so unnecessary. And it made the ridiculously large fleet of Starfleet ships equally unnecessary to me. Which led me to another head scratcher . . . why was Will Riker in command of the Starfleet armada? Why? Aside from being a reservist officer, he had retired from full duty with Starfleet. Why would Starfleet send an reservist to a hot spot like Coppelius, when there were probably plenty of other competent on-duty commanders who could have led the armada to Coppelius?

My third disappointment was the fate of Dr. Agnes Jurati, a Daystrom Institute cyberneticist who had been recruited by Admiral Oh to spy on Picard. Why was she never turned over to Federation authority for the murder of her lover and fellow cyberneticist Dr. Bruce Maddox in (1.05) “Stardust City Rag”? She had confessed her crime to Picard and other members of the La Sierena crew, later in the season. Speaking of murder – did Picard and the others ever learn about the murder of black-marketeer Bjayzl at the hands of Seven-of-Nine, an ex-Borg and former member of the U.S.S. Voyager’s crew in the same episode? Seven had murdered her former lover for the torture and death of Seven’s protegee, ex-Borg and former Delta Quadrant resident, Icheb. If not, I can understand how she got away with murder. If Picard and the others had found out about Seven’s crime, why was she still free – like Agnes?

My fourth disappointment? Data’s death. Why was it necessary to relive his death in another STAR TREK production and in another setting? Was this scene all about Picard finally learning to accept his death? What made this ridiculous to me is that . . . Picard’s final acceptance of Data’s death had occurred within Picard’s consciousness following his own physical death. I mean . . . seriously? Besides, this entire scene was such a waste for me. I had learned to accept Data’s death after watching the 2002 movie, “STAR TREK: NEMESIS” for the first time.

My fifth disappointment? The Federation/Starfleet. The season had earlier hinted that the Federation was moving toward a less than ideal or less tolerant place. But this topic was never fully explored or exploited for that matter. And the showrunners reseted the organization’s status quo – much to my major disappointment – by sending Starfleet to come to the rescue of synthetics on Coppelia in the finale. Why? The Federation had spent most of Season One being hostile toward synthetics. How did the show runners suddenly do an 180-degree spin on this situation? They did this by having Picard expose Admiral Oh as a Romulan mole and the Romulans’ role in the destruction of the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards – an incident that led to the Federations’ hostility toward synthetics. Why did the show runners do this? I have no idea, but it is typical of the Star Trek franchise. When it comes to exploring the ugliness of humanity, the franchise always cops out in the end. Always.

My sixth disappointment with the episode? “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” featured a moment in its last scene in which Picard’s friend and former colleague Rafaella “Raffi” Musiker exchanged glances and held hands with Seven-of-Nine. Huh? When did that happen? This whole relationship had popped out from no where. Trek fans had spent years complaining about Seven’s last relationship with Voyager’s executive officer, Commander Chakotay, during the last few episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. I have come across very few complaints about the excessive speed of her romance with Raffi. Talk about queer baiting. What makes this so annoying is that this was the second time “PICARD” had pulled this stunt. Apparently, the series attempted to develop some kind of relationship between Agnes Jurati and the La Sirena’s captain and former Starfleet officer, Chris Rios. I hate to say this but Santiago Cabrera and Alison Pill have no screen chemistry whatsoever. And I have also noticed the lack of romantic interaction between the pair since their only on-screen kiss, earlier in the season.

And my final complaint about “STAR TREK: PICARD”? The death of Jean-Luc Picard. Was it really necessary? Surely the series’ show runners could have saved this scenario for the series finale? As for moving Picard’s consciousness into a golem construct of his body . . . I was disgusted. I was disgusted that Dr. Soong and Agnes had committed this act without Picard’s consent. I would equate this action to Willow Rosenberg bringing Buffy Summers back from dead in Season Six of “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”. What I found even more disgusting is that Picard had never condemned either Soong and Agnes for fiddling with his consciousness – his self – without his consent. Many fans may have been thrilled by this action. I was not. Someone had pointed out that earlier in the season, Picard had expressed a desire to survive ailment that would eventually kill him. But I do not recall Picard giving anyone permission – verbal or written – to have his consciousness transferred from his dying body to an android or any other entity. To commit such a major act without any thought to or discussion about the moral consequences is just abhorrent to me. And lazy writing.For me, it was an act of violation of a person’s individuality. I hope that the series would address this issue in Season Two. But I suspect they will not.

Overall, I did enjoy Season One of “STAR TREK: PICARD”. But I can honestly say that I did not find it particularly mind-blowing. I also felt that it had a few episodes that seemed more of a miss than a hit. But for me, the biggest miss or disappointment was its finale, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”. I hope that the series does a better job in its second season.

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] – 8/16

“BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR”

Chapter Eight

Both Olivia and Cole stared at the tall and slender, robed figure that stood before them. “Is that it?” the red-haired witch asked. “I mean . . . I guess I had been expecting something a little more . . .”

“Bloody?” The Gimle priest broke into a teasing grin. “Not all daemonic bonding ceremonies require blood, Miss McNeill.” The priest, whose name happened to be Riesen. Ridges around his forehead and nose gave him a reptilian appearance.

Cole added, “The wine represents the blood. Like it does in many mortal religious ceremonies.” His blue eyes gleamed wickedly. “Of course, we can still use real blood, if that will make you feel better.”

Elise McNeill and an elderly, yet affable-looking man of medium height looked on with interest. Olivia’s grandmother commented, “Wine is also used in Wiccan rituals, as well. It’s too bad that many people are unable to see the similarities in many religions. Right Arthur?”

The affable-looking man turned out to be a Wiccan high priest named Arthur McMannus. He replied, “Apparently, the similarities go beyond mortal religions.”

“I suppose so,” Riesen commented. “And there is no need to worry, Miss McNeill,” he said to Olivia. “I assure you that no blood will be part of the bonding ceremony.” He gave Cole a slight, reproving look. “Right, Belthazor?” Cole merely sighed and rolled his eyes.

Olivia glanced at the drawing-room’s door. Paige had arrived, along with two surprising visitors. “Is that Paige with Phoebe and Uncle Brion?” she asked.

Cole’s eyes followed Olivia’s gaze. He frowned. “This doesn’t look good,” he murmured.

“Excuse me.” Olivia flashed a brief smile at Mr. McMannus and Riesen. Then she, Cole and her grandmother joined the new arrivals. “Paige! I see that you’ve finally arrived.”

Warily, Paige nodded. “Yeah, I know I’m late. Uh . . .” She glanced uneasily at Brion. “We were . . . delayed. By someone in particular.”

Cole nodded at his ex-wife. “Phoebe. What are you doing here?”

Her cheeks turning pink, Phoebe answered, “Um, we . . . I mean, I have something to tell you. Both of you.” She took a deep breath.

“You had a premonition last night,” Cole said, taking the two sisters and Brion by surprise. He chuckled lightly. “Yeah, I had figured as much.”

Brion added in a slight supercilious tone, “She had one of you . . . marrying some woman other than Olivia. Possibly a daemon.”

Paige glared at the Welshman. “Dude! Couldn’t you have been subtle? Or at least allow Phoebe to say something?”

Olivia allowed herself an inward chuckle. She had never heard a fifty-two year-old British male be referred to as ‘Dude’. Taking a deep breath, she asked her uncle, “Excuse me Brion, but how did you get involved in all of this?”

“I was there when Miss Halliwell had her premonition. On the terrace.” Brion’s green eyes glimmered with suspicion and hostility, as he stared at Cole. “And I had asked her about it . . . this morning.” Then he rounded on his niece. “I must say, Olivia that you don’t seem particularly upset that Cole might have some other female acquaintance that he apparently has not revealed.”

An equally chilly Cole retorted, “Perhaps the reason why she isn’t upset is that she knows about Idril.”

A long silent pause followed, before Brion frowned at Olivia. “You know about this woman?”

“Yes, I do,” Olivia replied wearily.

“Why did you not say anything?”

Cole shot back, “Because it was none of your damn business!”

Brion’s face turned red with anger. “Now look here . . .” the Welshman began angrily.

“Look here . . . what?” Cole continued. “I have no intention of telling you a damn thing! Unlike everyone else here, I don’t know you!”

Realizing that some semblance of peace was needed before sparks of any kind began to fly, Olivia spoke up. “Brion, Cole had told me about Idril not long ago. Their relationship wasn’t that serious. At least from Cole’s point of view.” The half-daemon shot a quick glance at her. “And if you must know, Cecile had a similar premonition about Cole and Idril.”

“She did?” Phoebe demanded sharply. “When?”

Olivia replied, “About two days ago.”

Brion angrily rounded on his niece. “I cannot believe that you had remained silent about such an important matter! Miss Halliwell has a premonition of him marrying another woman . . .”

Cole rudely interrupted, “Spoiled the impact of your little revelation, didn’t it?”

Olivia shot an exasperated look at her fiancé. “Cole? Please!” When he looked away, she continued, “Cecile had figured from her vision that . . .”

“Is someone using my name in vain?” Cecile appeared before the others. She glanced at Paige. “Oh! You’re finally here. Good. Now we can do the full rehearsals for both ceremonies.”

Brion turned to the Vodoun priestess. “I understand from Olivia that you had a vision of Cole marrying another woman, a few days ago.”

Cecile paused, as she assumed a wary expression. “Yeah, about two days ago. Um . . . when did you find out?” She glanced at Phoebe, who shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another. “You had one?”

“About Cole and this other woman?” Phoebe nodded. “Last night. Mr. Morgan had found out about it.”

“And Mr. Morgan demands to know more about this Idril woman, who will end up marrying Cole!” Brion demanded angrily.

Rolling his eyes, Cole heaved an exasperated sigh. “Idril is a daemon I had once dated back in the late 60s. She belongs to my order, the Thorn Brotherhood. And it wasn’t serious . . . at least from my point of view. I broke up with her and she tried to kill me. We had a brief reunion in the late 90s that only lasted a few days. And I didn’t lay eyes upon her, until the party in the Melora dimension, nearly two weeks ago.” He glared at Brion. “Satisfied?”

“And Olivia knows about this . . .?”

Olivia sharply added, “Yes, Brion! I know. I’ve known about her since the engagement party!”

But Brion refused to brush aside the matter. “Nevertheless, until this Idril matter is dealt with, I believe you should consider postponing the wedding.”

“Are you serious?” Olivia exclaimed in disbelief.

Brion continued, “Yes I am, Olivia. I realize that . . .”

Cole interrupted, his blue eyes radiating cold fire. “I don’t give a damn what you think! And apparently, nor do the others. If you continue to insist upon this ludicrous idea that we need to postpone the wedding, I’ll make sure that you will end up under Idril’s spell and married to her!”

Confusion, anger . . . and a touch of fear illuminated Brion’s green eyes. “What the bloody hell did you mean by that?”

“I mean . . . if you continue being such an annoying shit, I just might transform you into me,” Cole continued in a chilly voice, “and make sure that Idril finds you!”

Olivia allowed herself a quick smile, as her uncle’s face turned sheer white. Cecile surreptiously directed her gaze elsewhere. Paige smirked at Brion, while Phoebe regarded Cole with a shocked expression. Brion blinked momentarily. “I see,” he finally said in a stiff voice.

Cole shot back, “And it’s about damn time!”

Brion’s jaw twitched momentarily, before he gave a stiff nod. “Will you all excuse me?” And he then marched away.

Silence fell between the small group. Then Paige broke the silence, as she turned to her sister. “Now that he’s gone, don’t you think that you should be heading for P3, Pheebs?” The older sister stared at the youngest Charmed Ones with confused eyes. “You’re supposed to help Piper decorate the club for tonight. Remember?”

“Oh!” Phoebe gave her head a slight shake. “Yeah, of course. Um . . . I guess I’ll see you all later.” Her face slightly pink with embarrassment, she turned away from the others and left.

Cecile nudged Paige’s arm. “Let’s get ready for the rehearsal.”

The couple drifted to an isolated spot near the fireplace. Olivia regarded her fiancé with curious eyes. “Would you have done it?” she asked. “Carry out your threat to Brion?”

Cole responded with a direct look. “Let me put it this way, he either would have ended up in Idril’s clutches or I would have incinerated him on the spot.”

Olivia added, “Unless Dad had beaten you to the punch and blow up Brion, instead.”

A satisfied smile curved Cole’s lips. “Now that would have been a pleasant sight.”

With a sigh, Olivia patted Cole’s arm. “Listen, I think you should know that this isn’t about you. Brion’s . . . hostility. It’s about me.” Again, she sighed. “As far as my uncle is concerned, you’re just another example of me fucking up by endangering the family. Richard is another. And I don’t think he still hasn’t forgiven me for Dafydd.”

Cole frowned. “Who?”

“One of my Welsh cousins. He, uh . . . after Richard and Aunt Rhiannon’s deaths, Dafydd had came here to escort Rhiannon’s body back to Wales. We were at the Orchid Hotel, when Dafydd made a disparaging remark about Richard. I, uh . . .” She broke off to ask Cole a question. “Do you remember that time when we had meditated together on your birthday, and tapped into each other’s memories?”

“Sure,” Cole said with a nod.

Olivia hesitated, before she continued, “And do you recall seeing some guy fall out of a hotel window?”

A pause followed before Cole nodded again.

Taking a deep breath, Olivia added, “That was my cousin Dafydd. He, uh . . . had ended up in one of the hotel’s swimming pools, after I had flung him out of the window, using my telekinesis.” She paused. “Only, I didn’t know about the swimming pool.”

“I see.” Cole let out a gust of breath. “I suppose this little incident is one of the reasons why your grandfather didn’t show up for the wedding.”

Olivia’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “What do you think? Most of them are convinced that I might be the next Briana Morgan.”

“I think . . .” Cole hesitated. “I think that Brion and some of the other Morgans need to get their heads out of their collective asses. And out of the past. I can only imagine what your uncle might do, next.”

If she had to be honest with herself, Olivia realized that she would rather not.

————

Ignoring the sounds of activity from downstairs, Brion sat inside his guest bedroom, brooding over his niece and future nephew-in-law. He sighed. It galled him that once again, Olivia had become involved in someone with a dangerous past. Only Cole Turner aka Belthazor happened to be a more dangerous kettle of fish than the late Richard Bannen. And this extremely dangerous and powerful creature is set to marry his niece within twenty-four hours. What the hell had Olivia been thinking?

And now it seems that Cole might end up forming a dangerous union with someone other than Olivia. Both Cecile Dubois and Phoebe Halliwell had visions of the half-daemon marrying some demoness – an ex-girlfriend. Brion did not know whether to accept Cecile’s claims that a spell might be the reason for Cole’s possible marriage to this demoness. At first, he had viewed this theory as a desperate attempt on Miss Dubois’ part to divert any suspicions from the half-daemon. Now, Brion began to suspect that the Voudon priestess might be right. Cole did seem contemptuous of his former lover. But how can he prevent this potentially dangerous union from becoming a reality? Killing Cole seemed out of the question. The half-daemon was too powerful and neither the McNeills or Nimue would forgive him.

Several minutes of pondering led Brion to realize that the solution to the problem would be to kill Cole’s ex-lover. He could examine any books on demonology or the supernatural inside the McNeills’ library for information on Idril. Or perhaps any of the personal Books of Shadow that each member of his sister’s family possess.

Brion left his room and slipped downstairs. Avoiding the activity inside the large drawing-room, he headed straight for the library on the other side of the foyer. After searching the bookshelves for nearly ten minutes, the Welshman came across a book titled PARRISH’S ENCYCLOPEDIA ON THE COVENSORDERS AND SECTS OF THE SUPERNATURAL. Brion could not imagine where the McNeills had discovered this book. He noticed that it had been published in 1975.

It did not take Brion long to come across a chapter titled “The Brotherhood of the Thorn”. He recalled Cole mentioning that Idril belonged to the half-daemon’s former order – the Thorn Brotherhood. The chapter provided detailed information on the daemonic order’s origins and its more infamous deeds. It also listed the Order’s top members. Brion found entries on both Belthazor and Nimue. It also included Cole’s uncle, but mentioned that the former assassin had left the Order for the morally superior Gimle Order back in the 19th century . . . and had been killed by his nephew in the late 1960s. It also struck the male witch odd that the Thorn Brotherhood’s members had not been listed alphabetically. Perusing the chapter even further, Brion discovered that the Order’s members had been listed chronologically, based upon the year of their births. And how this Parrish person managed to discover this seemed like a miracle to the witch.

According to the book, Marbus had been born in 1760, Nimue in 1779 and Belthazor in 1885. Brion examined a few pages, until he came upon an entry on Idril. Born in 1911, Cole’s former lover had come from a race of daemons that originated in the Kenotês Dimension. Recruited into the Thorn Brotherhood by its leader in 1949, Idril’s specialty became acquiring the souls of those involved in the entertainment business. As a high-level daemon in the Thorn Order, it would take a blood-based potion, or very powerful magic practitioner to vanquish Idril. Or one could also consider using a potion based upon a resin from trees and shrubs called amber. Apparently, daemons from the Kenotês Dimension seemed to be susceptible to amber – no matter how powerful they happen to be.

Brion paused. Hmmm. Amber. An excellent possibility. It should not hard for him to find any. Once he acquired the amber resin, all he had to do was make the potion, find Idril and use it against her. Finding Idril, he realized, might prove to be difficult. Brion concluded that he would have to use another spell to summon the daemon. And he would have to do it as soon as possible.

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT

“STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” (2019) Review

“STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” (2019) Review

Despite its success at the box office, the second film in the Disney STAR WARS Sequel Trilogy, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI”, proved to be something of a publicity disaster. Many film critics loved it. An even greater number of moviegoers disliked it. Many have attributed this schism within the STAR WARS fandom as a contributing factor to the box office failure of “SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY”. To regain the universal love of the fandom, Disney Studios and Kathleen Kennedy of Lucasfilm brought back J.J. Abrams, who had directed “STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS”, to handled the trilogy’s third entry, “STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”.

Disney Studios and Lucasfilm heralded “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” as not only the end of the franchise’s Sequel Trilogy, but also the end of the Skywalker family saga, which began under George Lucas. The 2019 movie began a year after “THE LAST JEDI”. The Resistance under Leia Organa has been hiding from the ever growing threat of the First Order, which has been ruled by her son, Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. Leia has also been training Force acolyte Rey, while orchestrating the Resistance’s attempts to rebuild the organization and form contacts with other worlds and factions throughout the Galaxy. However, the film’s opening crawl reveals that Emperor Sheev Palpatine is still alive, despite being tossed down the second Death Star’s reactor shaft by Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader, while being electrocuted in “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Palpatine vows revenge against the Galaxy for its rejection of him and his power. Leia charges Poe Dameron, Finn and Rey to search for Palpatine and destroy him. Kylo Ren also seeks Palpatine with the intent to kill the latter and maintain his own supremacy of the First Order. Kylo Ren eventually manages to find Palpatine on the remote planet of Exegol. He learns that his former master, Snoke, had merely been a puppet of Palpatine. And the former Emperor wants him to find Rey and kill her in order to remove any possible threat to the resurgence of the Sith Order.

When I learned that J.J. Abrams would return to the “STAR WARS” franchise to conclude the Sequel Trilogy, my reactions were mixed. On one hand, I disliked his handling of “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. On the other hand, I completely loathed what Rian Johnson had done with “THE LAST JEDI”. And when Abrams had promised to do right by the Finn character, which had been so badly mishandled by Johnson . . . well, some part of me did not know whether to welcome Abrams’ return or be leery of it.

There were aspects of “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” that I liked. I was impressed by Dan Mindel’s cinematography for the movie, especially in scenes that featured the planet of Pasaana. I thought Mindel did an excellent job of utilizing the country of Jordan for those scenes, as shown below:

I was also impressed how Mindel shot the visual effects for the last duel between Rey and Kylo Ren among the second Death Star ruins on the Endor moon. Some of the film’s action sequences struck me as pretty memorable, thanks to Abrams’ direction, Mindel’s cinematography and stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart. I am referring to those scenes that feature the heroes’ occasional encounters with the First Order on Psaana and aboard the First Order star ship. I was also relieved to see the trilogy’s three protagonists – Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron – and Chewbacca spend a great deal of the movie together. The four characters managed to create a pretty solid dynamic, thanks to the performances of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Joonas Suotamo and it is a shame that audiences never got a chance to experience this dynamic in the trilogy’s other two films.

There was an aspect of the film’s narrative that delivered a great deal of satisfaction to me. It is a small matter, but involved Rey’s Jedi training. I am very relieved that Abrams finally allowed Rey to receive substantial training from a mentor, who happened to be Leia. A year had passed between “THE LAST JEDI” and “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. Rey’s first scene established that Leia had been training her during that year. The movie also established in a flashback that Leia had received her training from her brother Luke Skywalker. Why did I find this satisfying? Most of Luke’s own Jedi training had also occurred during the period of a year – between the events of “STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” and “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. And during this period, he had received his training from . . . you know, I have no idea on how Luke managed to complete his training. Even after so many years. To this day, it is a mystery. And this is why I am grateful that Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio had made it clear that Leia had continued Rey’s training between “THE LAST JEDI” and “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”.

The performances featured in the movie struck me as pretty solid, especially from the leads – Ridley, Boyega, Isaac and Adam Driver. The movie also featured solid, yet brief performances from returning cast members such as Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billie Lourd, Lupita Nyong’o, and the late Carrie Fisher. Dominic Monaghan, Naomie Ackie, Keri Russell and Richard E. Grant all made nice additions to the trilogy. It was great to see Billy Dee Williams reprise his role as Lando Calrissian. He was one of the bright spots of this film. Hell, it was even nice to see Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles again, despite his brief appearance. But if I must be honest, I was not particularly blown away by any of them – including the usually outstanding Boyega. Actually, I take that back. There was one cast member who provided a moment of superb acting. I refer to Joonas Suotamo, who did an excellent job in conveying a true moment of grief and despair for Chewbacca’s character in the film’s second half.

But I do have a complaint about one particular performance. And it came, from all people, Ian McDiarmid who portrayed the surprisingly alive Emperor Palpatine. How can I put this? This Palpatine seemed like a ghost of his former self. No. Wait. That was phrased wrong. What I meant to say is that McDiarmid’s portrayal of Palpatine in this film seemed like an exaggeration in compare to his performances in the Original and Prequel Trilogy films. Exaggerated . . . ham-fisted. I found McDiarmid’s scenes so wince-inducing that I could barely watch them. However, aware of McDiarmid’s true skills as an actor, I finally realized that his bad performance may have been a result of J.J. Abrams’ direction. The latter’s failure as a director in Palpatine’s scenes and failure to visualize the character as a subtle and manipulative villain really impeded McDiarmid’s performance.

Unfortunately, McDiarmid’s performance was not my only problem with “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. I had a host of others. Many film critics have bashed J.J. Abrams for trying to reject what Rian Johnson had set up in “THE LAST JEDI”. I find this criticism ironic, considering that Johnson had rejected a great deal of what Abrams had set up in “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. Not that it really matters to me. I disliked “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. I disliked “THE LAST JEDI”. And if I must be brutally honest, I disliked “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. Like the other two films, I thought the 2019 movie was pretty bad.

My first problem with “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” was its main narrative. Basically, the entire story revolved around the heroes and the First Order’s search for the now alive Palpatine. The film’s opening crawl pretty much announced to movie audiences that Palpatine was alive without bothering presenting this revelation as a surprise. It is simply the old case of “tell and not show” that has hampered a great number of fictional works throughout time. I believe this narrative device especially does not suit a plot for a motion picture or a television series, because it comes off as a cheat. It is lazy writing. Worse, most of the main characters spend a great deal of the movie searching for Palpatine. And when they finally discover him, no one bothered to ask how he had escaped death after being allegedly killed by Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader in “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. How did Palpatine survive being tossed to his death, while being electrocuted by Force lightning? Well, STAR WARS fans finally learned the truth in the film’s novelization written by Rae Carson. The only major character who immediately managed to find Palpatine was Kylo Ren, who used a Sith wayfinder . . . or compass. Meanwhile, Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca had to resort to following clues to lead to first a Sith dagger, and later, a Sith wayfinder – traveling from one planet to another at a dizzying speed. This whole search for a wayfinder and Palpatine struck me as unnecessarily rushed. I do not think it is a good thing when a person complains about the fast pacing of a movie with a 142 minutes running time. For me, this exposed the hollow nature of the movie’s narrative.

As I had earlier stated, the majority of the film’s narrative is centered around the protagonists’ determination to find Palpatine. A part of me wonders how did the Resistance and the First Order had planned to kill him, once he was discovered. And yes, the First Order’s leader, Kylo Ren, also wanted Palpatine’s dead. But how did any of them plan to kill him? The movie never conveyed any of the other characters’ plans. Worse, this search for Palpatine had transformed the movie into some space opera version of both the INDIANA JONES and NATIONAL TREASURE movie franchises. Was that why Abrams had decided to expose Palpatine’s return or resurrection in the film’s opening crawl? So he could have his major characters embark on this “Indiana Jones” style hunt for Palpatine from the get go? Or relive the whole “map to Luke Skywalker” search from “THE FORCE AWAKENS” that proved to be so irrelevant? Well guess what? The “Search for Palpatine” proved to be equally irrelevant. Watching Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca hunt down artifacts that would lead them to Palpatine was one of the more ridiculous aspects of this film. I felt as if I had watched a hybrid STAR WARS/INDIANA JONES/NATIONAL TREASURE movie. It was fucking exhausting.

Returning to Palpatine, I was unpleasantly shocked to learn that during the thirty years he was missing, he had created a new fleet of Star Destroyers, each ship equipped with a planet-killing laser. Thirty years. Is that how long it took Palpatine (or his clone) to create a fleet of planet killing Star Destroyers? Is that why he had taken so long construct these ships? If one Star Destroyer can destroy a planet, why did he bother to wait so long to use any of them to re-take the Galaxy? Three decades? I wish I could say more, but I do not see the point. Is a Star Destroyer strong enough to be used as a “base” for a laser powerful enough to destroy a planet?

I have also noticed that the lightsaber duels featured in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” . . . well, they were bad. Quite a travesty, if I must be honest. I have never been that impressed by the lightsaber duels in the Sequel Trilogy, but even I must admit that Kylo Ren’s duels with both Finn and Rey in “THE FORCE AWAKENS” were somewhat better than the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Darth Vader duel in “STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE”. But after the 2015 movie . . . dear God. Rey and Kylo Ren’s fight against Snoke’s guards in “THE LAST JEDI” struck me as something of a joke. But Rey and Kylo Ren’s duels in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” were simply abysmal. Dan Mindel’s cinematography and the movie’s visual effects team could do nothing to hide the laughable nature of the duels. Both Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver seemed to spend a great deal of their time slashing at each with no semblance of swordsmanship whatsoever. Where is Nick Gillard when you need him?

Not surprisingly, “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” revealed a number of Force abilities that appeared for the first (or second time) in the STAR WARS franchise. The Force bond between Rey and Kylo Ren, which was created by Snoke in the previous film; allowed the First Order leader to snatch a necklace from the Resistance fighter’s neck in a violent manner – despite the fact that the pair was thousands of miles from each other. And in another scene, while Rey faced Palpatine and Kylo Ren faced the Knights of the Ren, she was able to hand over a lightsaber to him – despite being miles apart. How did they do this? I have not the foggiest idea. I do not even understand how Abrams and Terrio managed to create this ability in the first place. And frankly, I find it rather stupid and implausible. Force healing. For the first time in the history of the franchise, a Force user has the ability to heal. How did this come about? I have not the foggiest idea. If this had been the case during the events of the Prequel Trilogy, chances are Anakin Skywalker would have never become a Sith Lord. The Force healing ability made its debut in the Disney Plus series, “THE MANDALORIAN” . . . I think. However, Kylo Ren had the ability to use Force healing. So did Rey. I do not know who taught them or how . . . fuck it! I will just treat this as another plot device that came out of Lucasfilm’s ass. “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” also revealed that the “resurrected” Palpatine had the ability to transfer one person’s essence into the body of another. How? More contrived writing.

Speaking of contrivance, there is the matter of one Leia Organa. Although a part of me still believes Lucasfilm should have killed off Leia Organa in “THE LAST JEDI”, in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death a year before the film’s release; I must admit that Abrams did an admirable job in utilizing old footage of the actress from “THE FORCE AWAKENS”, digital special effects and Billie Lourd as a body double for some of Leia’s scenes. But I hated the way Leia was finally killed off. It was similar to Luke’s ludicrous death in “THE LAST JEDI”. I HATE how Disney Studios and Lucasfilm portray the Force as some kind of energy that can kill an individual if it was used too long or too hard. As if the Force user was some kind of goddamn battery. I really hate that. And this is why I dislike Leia’s death just as much as I disliked Luke’s.

In fact, this movie seemed to be filled with contrived writing. As for the Rebel Alli . . . I mean the Resistance, I noticed that their numbers had grown since the end of “THE LAST JEDI”. Had Leia managed to recruit new members for the Resistance’s cause during the year between the two films? If so, “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” did not hint one way or the other. I mean there were barely enough Resistance members to crowd the Millennium Falcon in the last film’s finale. And the narrative for “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” seemed to hint that aside from Maz Kanata, hardly anyone new had bothered to join the Resistance during that year between the two films. So . . . if this is true, why did the number of Resistance members seemed to have tripled during that year between the two movies? Among the new members is one Beaumont Kin, portrayed by “LOST” alumni Dominic Monaghan.

Speaking of characters – the arcs for the major characters have proven to be as disastrous as those featured in “THE FORCE AWAKENS” and especially “THE LAST JEDI”. I was surprised to see Maz Kanata as a member of the Resistance. Her recruitment into the organization was never seen on screen. Even worse, the former smuggler and tavern owner was basically reduced to a background character with one or two lines. Actress Lupita Nyong’o’s time was certainly wasted for this film. Although I thought Rose Tico was a promising character, I never liked how Rian Johnson had used her as a very unnecessary mentor for Finn in “THE LAST JEDI”. However, my hopes that J.J. Abrams would do her character justice in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” proved to be fruitless. In this film, Rose had been reduced from supporting character to minor character, who spent most of her appearances interacting with Monaghan’s Beaumont Kin in three or four scenes. What a damn waste! Speaking of waste . . . poor Domhnall Gleeson. His character, General Armitage Hux, was another character whose presence was wasted in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. Audiences learned in the film’s second half that he had become a mole for the Resistance, supplying the group information on the First Order’s movements. The problem with this scenario is that film had Hux explained that he was simply betraying his leader, Kylo Ren. But his reason for this betrayal was never fully explained, let alone developed. Harrison Ford returned in a brief cameo appearance as the ghost of Han Solo. Wait a minute. Let me re-phrase that. Ford returned as a figment of Kylo Ren’s imagination . . . as Han Solo. How was his performance? Unmemorable.

“THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” also featured a good number of new characters. Probably too many. I have already mentioned Resistance fighter Beaumont Kim. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio also introduced Jannah, a former stormtrooper who had deserted from the First Order like Finn. When she was introduced, I had assumed that Finn’s background would finally be explored. Never happened. Worse, Abrams only allowed Jannah – a new character – to speculate on her background in one line spoken to Lando Calrissian. And nothing else. Next, there was Zorri Bliss, a smuggler and former paramour of Poe Dameron’s, who provided the Resistance with information on how to interpret the Sith dagger in their possession. Aside from this task, Bliss managed to miraculously survive the destruction of Kijimi, her homeworld to participate in the final battle against Palpatine and the First Order. Through her, audiences learned that Poe was a former spice smuggler . . . a drug smuggler. More on this, later. And finally, we have Allegiant General Enric Pryde, who came out of no where to become Kylo Ren’s top commander. It occurred to me that Pryde turned out to be the Sequel Trilogy’s General Grievous. I love the Prequel Trilogy, but I never liked Grievous. He should have been introduced a lot earlier than the Prequel Trilogy’s last film. And Enric Pryde should have been introduced earlier than “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. It would have made his brief conflict with Hux a lot more believable.

I read somewhere that the character of Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo is the most popular in the Sequel Trilogy. I am a firm admirer of actor Adam Driver and I thought he gave a solid performance as Kylo Ren. But . . . the character has never been a favorite of mine. I could complain that Kylo Ren is bad written, but I can honestly say the same about the other major (and minor) characters. Yet for some reason, Lucasfilm, a good number of the STAR WARS and media seemed to think the stars shined on Kylo Ren’s ass. I hate it when the glorification of a story or character is unearned and then shoved down the throats of the public. In “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”, Kylo Ren’s character arc proved to be just as rushed and full of writing contrivances as his relationship arc in “THE LAST JEDI”. Honestly. Unlike Anakin Skywalker in the Original Trilogy, Kylo Ren’s redemption was never properly set up in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. It merely sprung up in the film’s last third act so that Abrams (the unoriginal storyteller that he is) could allow him to mimic his grandfather’s arc. Looking back on Kylo Ren’s character, he should have continued his arc from the end of “THE LAST JEDI” – as the main villain. Instead, Abrams and Lucasfilm brought back Palpatine so they could have Kylo Ren repeat Anakin’s arc and avoid dying as the film’s Big Bad. This decision only brought about bad writing. And then we have Poe Dameron. In some ways, Poe proved to be the worst written character in this trilogy. It almost seemed as if Lucasfilm, Abrams and Rian Johnson did not know what to do with him. His death was initially set up in “THE FORCE AWAKENS” and he spent most of that film off-screen, only to make a miraculous re-appearance near the end, with no real explanation how he had survived the crash on Jakku. In “THE LAST JEDI”, Johnson had transformed Poe into some hot-headed Latino stereotype, who questioned the decisions of the Resistance’s two female leaders – Leia and Admiral Holdo. And “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” made another revision to Poe’s character. The movie revealed that Poe had a past romance with the smuggler Zorri Bliss and was a spice runner (drug smuggler). How quaint. Abrams and Terrio took the only leading character in the Sequel Trilogy portrayed by a Latino actor and transformed him into a drug lord. Where the two writers watching “NARCO” or old reruns of “MIAMI VICE” when they made this decision to Poe’s character? God only knows. I do know that in my eyes, this was another mark of racism on Lucasfilm’s belt.

Speaking of racism . . . what on earth happened to Finn? Following Rian Johnson’s shoddy treatment of his character in “THE LAST JEDI”, J.J. Abrams had assured the franchise’s fans that he would do justice to Finn. And he failed. Spectacularly. Did Finn even have a character arc in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”? The former stormtrooper spent most of the film either participating in the search for Palpatine, while keeping one eye on the constantly distracted Rey, like some lovesick puppy. He seemed to lack his own story in this film. “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” could have provided the perfect opportunity for Lucasfilm to further explore his background as a former stormtrooper. With the creation of Jannah, I thought it would finally happen. Instead, the movie focused more on Jannah’s questions about her origins. And Lucasfilm and Abrams wasted the chance to even consider at subplot regarding Finn and the First Order’s stormtroopers. Boyega also spent most of the film hinting that he had something important to tell Rey. Many believe he was trying to confess that he loved her. That is because the movie DID NOT allow him to finally make his confession. Even worse, audiences learned that he wanted to confess his suspicions that he might be Force sensitive. And Lucasfilm confirmed this. Why on earth could they NOT confirm Finn’s Force sensitivity on film? Why? What was the point in keeping this a secret until AFTER the film’s release?

I also noticed one other disturbing aspect about Finn . . . or John Boyega. I just discovered that John Boyega had been demoted by Disney Studios and Lucasfilm from leading actor to supporting actor. Only this had happened a lot sooner that I thought. In the studio’s Academy Awards campaign for “THE FORCE AWAKENS”, it pushed Boyega for a Best Actor nomination. But in both “THE LAST JEDI” and “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”, the studio pushed him for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Yet, for all three movies, Lucasfilm and Disney also pushed a white actor for Best Actor. They pushed Harrison Ford (along with Boyega) “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. They pushed Mark Hamill for Best Actor in “THE LAST JEDI”. Yet, both Ford and Hamill were clearly part of the supporting cast. And they pushed Adam Driver for Best Actor for “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. Hmmmm . . . Driver went from supporting actor to lead actor, while Boyega was demoted from lead actor to supporting actor. A few more notches in Lucasfilm/Disney’s racist belt. God, I am sick to my stomach. And poor John Boyega. He was poorly misused by Lucasfilm, Disney Studios, Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams.

As for Rey . . . I am completely over her as a character. Although I found her Mary Sue qualities annoying, I found her arc in “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” a complete mess. The only good that came from her arc was the fact that Leia had trained her in the ways of the Force for a year. Otherwise, I had to grit my teeth and watch her behave in this chaotic manner throughout the entire film. Every time she and her friends were in the middle of some situation, she would get distracted by Kylo Ren’s presence and break away. Why? So she could kill him . . . I guess. Apparently, killing Kylo Ren was more important to her than completing a mission for the Resistance. Why? I have no idea. The movie’s narrative never explained this behavior of hers. And it gets worse. Rey eventually learns that she is Palpatine’s granddaughter. Granddaughter. Palpatine managed to knock up some woman years ago and conceive a son after he had become Emperor. That son conceived Rey with her mother before dying. Palpatine, who had been alive all of these years, never bothered to get his hands on Rey . . . until this movie. Why? I have no idea.

During Rey and Kylo Ren’s final duel, she managed to shove her lightsaber blade into his gut. And then she used the Force to heal him. Why? Perhaps she felt guilty for nearly killing him. Who knows? Later, she is killed by Palpatine (who could not make up his mind on whether he wanted her alive or dead) before Kylo Ren Force healed her. And then she planted a big wet kiss on his pucker. Lucasfilm and Disney claimed that the kiss was an act of gratitude on her part. I did not realize that gratitude could be so sexual. Nevertheless, Lucasfilm and Disney ensured that the only leading male that Rey would exchange bodily fluids with was one who shared her white skin. Despite the fact that this . . . man had more or less abused her – mentally and physically – since “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. There was no real development that led to this sexual kiss of gratitude. But I guess Disney and Lucasfilm were determined that Rey would not exchange a kiss with the two non-white men. Another notch on Lucasfilm/Disney’s racist belt. Oh . . . and by the way, the film or Lucasfilm had established that Rey and Kylo Ren were part of some Force dyad. What is a Force dyad? Two Force-sensitive people who had created a Force bond, making them one in the Force. And this happened because Rey and Kylo Ren were grandchildren of Sith Lords. I have never heard of anything so ludicrous in my life, especially since it was established in “THE LAST JEDI” that Snoke – a creation of Palpatine, by the way – had created their mental bond. How he did that I have no idea.

You know what? I could go on and on about “STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER”. But I now realize it would take a goddamn essay to explain why I dislike this movie so much. I should have realized that J.J. Abrams’ promises that he would fix the problems of “STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI” was worth shit in the wind. He, Chris Terrio, Disney Studios and Lucasfilm only made the Sequel Trilogy worse . . . as if that was possible. Not only was “THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” a waste of my time, so was the entire Sequel Trilogy. And it wasted the acting skills of its talented cast led by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver for so many years.

“What Went Wrong With ‘CHARMED’?”

“WHAT WENT WRONG WITH ‘CHARMED’?”

What happened with the original “CHARMED” (1998-2006) series? How did a show that for a brief period, used to be one of my top ten favorites ended up as something for me to be derisive about?

Well, below are what I believe are the three major traits that contributed to the show’s decline (at least for me) – morality, portrayal of men and magical powers.

Morality:

For me, this was a major problem with the series. The audience was led to believe that the Halliwell sisters aka the Charmed Ones were the epitome of goodness, yet the writers have allowed them to get away with some very despicable acts. I am not one of those who demand that protagonists of a fictional story – whether in print, movies, plays or television – be flawless or ideal. I realize this is impossible, due to human nature. But I believe that when a work of fiction allows its protagonist to make a mistake or crime, I believe the writers should allow that character to face the consequences of his or her actions. Unfortunately, this rarely happened on “CHARMED” – especially in regard to the Charmed Ones and their whitelighter, Leo Wyatt. On the other hand, the Charmed Ones, Leo and the series’ show runners and writers made certain that others – like Cole Turner – pay the price for their actions. Whether they deserved it or not.

Piper Halliwell’s Purchase of Illegal Fruit – In the Season Two episode, (2.12) “Awakened”, a greedy Piper had purchased illegal fruit from South America that had not been inspected by U.S. Customs for a cheap price. She had plans to serve the fruit to her customers at her P3 bar. After sampling the fruit, Piper became afflicted with a deadly disease called “Oroyo Fever”. First, her sisters Prue and Phoebe used a spell to save her life by directing the disease from her body to an ninja action figure toy owned by another patient. This act led to other patients in the hospital being afflicted by the disease. Eventually, Prue and Phoebe reversed the spell and Piper became afflicted again. In the end, Leo used his whitelighter ability to cure Piper.

Since Leo had used magic for personal gain, he lost his whitelighter wings . . . temporarily. The Charmed Ones, on the other hand, did not pay any price whatsoever for their actions in this episode. Piper managed to survive and did not face any illegal prosecution for breaking Federal law. Also, Prue and Phoebe did not pay any price for using magic for personal gain and threatening the lives of innocents in the process. On the other hand, Piper’s miraculous recovery attracted the attention of physician, Dr. Curtis Williamson. His determination to learn how she had recovered so quickly led to him temporarily possessing the Charmed Ones powers and his death in a later episode, (2.20) “Astral Monkey”. While Piper had lamented over not answering one of his earlier requests for a medical examination, neither she or her sisters felt any guilt over how their actions in “Awakened” led to Dr. Williamson’s death in “Astral Monkey”.

The 48-Hour Window of Opportunity Rule – According to the Season Four premiere, (4.01-4.02) “Charmed Again”, the Whitelighters (“good”) and the demons (“evil”) had made a compromise regarding the moral compass of witches. This compromise created a period of forty-eight hours for a witch to decide his or her alliance or moral path. Frankly, I thought this was a dumb idea ever created by Brad Kern or one of his writers. The idea that the Elders’ Council and the Source’s Council had the authority to give a new witch a specific time period of free will to choose between good and evil is ludicrous. That witch or any other individual should constantly have some semblance of free will to choose any particular path . . . should have been regarded as a natural right. What made this rule even more ludicrous is once a witch makes up his or her mind, he/she will remain either good or evil until death. What on earth? This whole “Window of Opportunity” rule smacks of a fairy tale for children and not for a series about adult women. What Kern had failed to remember that life is uncertain, which means there are no real absolutes upon which one can depend. In other words, if Paige had chosen evil, her decision could never be regarded as absolute. In the real world . . . or in a well-written story, there would be no real absolute. Not only was this rule a prime example of how the series’ black-and-white morality stagnated the series’ writing development, it also appeared in the “CHARMED” reboot series. Pity.

Darryl Morris’ Soul – In Season Six’s (6.01-6.02) “Valhalley of the Dolls”, two of the Charmed Ones, Phoebe and half-sister Paige Matthews had committed a despicable act with the psychic rape of their close friend, Inspector Detective Darryl Morris. The pair used a spell to strip Darryl of his soul without his consent. They had committed this despicable act in order to free Leo from Valhalla (Norse/Viking version of heaven) and have him remove a spell he had cast on Piper. Phoebe and Paige’s act should have had major consequences for them. Instead, the writers treated this act of psychic rape as a joke and dismissed the whole matter with Darryl lamely and quickly forgiving them. I was disgusted by this episode.

Rick Gittridge’s Murder – Phoebe and Paige had committed another despicable act in the Season Six episode, (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”. Nervous over facing former classmates at a high school reunion, Phoebe had cast a spell on herself, regressing her personality to her seventeen year-old self. While under this spell, she used magic to help a former high school classmate named Rick Gittridge escape from prison. Eventually, Phoebe recovered from her spell and realized she had a convict who knew she was a witch on her hands.
When Rick held her and Paige at gunpoint and demanded that they change his face so that he could avoid the police, Paige obliged, at Phoebe’s urging, by giving him the face of their nephew and Piper and Leo’s younger son, Chris Halliwell. What Rick did not know and the sisters did was Chris was on the run from a group of Scabber demons that he had angered. So . . . instead of teleporting the gun from Rick’s hand and sending him back to prison with his memories wiped, Paige transformed his face to resemble Chris’. The Scabber demons saw Rick with Chris’ face and promptly killed him before disappearing. And both Phoebe and Paige – to my utter disgust – declared their action had been necessary. In other words, Phoebe and Paige got away with cold-blooded murder thanks to Brad Kern’s misplaced sense of justice.

Alliance with the Avatars – Another major crime that the Halliwells had committed was helping the Avatars (an ancient group of extremely powerful magical beings) change the world by removing any dark thoughts from the human race and committing genocide against demons … all so that they can selfishly lead happy lives and not hunt demons. This little act, which had occurred in (7.12) “Extreme Makeover: World Edition”, resulted in the psychic rape of the world’s population and the deaths of those few who were not affected by the spell. And what happened after the following episode, (7.13) “Charmeggedon”? Leo paid the price for his part in the spell with the loss of his whitelighter wings and position as an Elder. Yet the sisters – especially Piper – avoided any consequences for their actions. Again. Instead, they blamed the Avatars for not telling them everything and the Elders for driving Leo into becoming an Avatar. This was so cowardly on so many levels. At this point, my opinion of the Charmed Ones had sunk to a new low. Their unwillingness to learn any lesson from their own mistake and blame others disgusted me to my core.

Cole Turner aka Belthazor’s First Death and the Source – Sometime in early Season Four, Phoebe’s lover and former assassin – the demon/hybrid Cole Turner aka Belthazor – lost his magical powers due to an old potion made by the Charmed Ones back in Season Three, because a woman wanted revenge for his past killing of her fiance. When the sisters were threatened with death at the hands of the demonic leader known as the Source, Cole used a magical object to strip the villain of his magical powers and use them to save Phoebe and her sisters. Unfortunately for Cole, he ended up being possessed against his will by the Source’s spirit. Episodes like (4.14) “The Three Faces of Phoebe” and (4.16) “The Fifth Halliwell” had made it very clear that the Source had taken possession of Cole’s body. Instead of having the Charmed Ones discover this, Brad Kern and his writers had allowed them to succumb to their worst fears and prejudices regarding Cole’s past and kill him. To make matters worst, the sisters never found out in the following season that he had been an innocent victim of the Source. Instead, Kern and the writers dump some “Cole turns insane” story line in early Season Five on viewers in order to set in motion the character’s departure from the series in the shitty episode (5.12) “Centennial Charmed”. In doing this, show runner Brad Kern and staff writers had failed to allow the sisters a chance to discover their own potential for bigotry and evil and thus, kill any chance of them developing as characters. Only Prue had been given this chance in Season Three episodes like (3.15) “Just Harried” and (3.16) “Death Takes a Halliwell”.

Other Magical Beings – The series’ “black-vs-white” morality had became a prime example of how people judge others on a purely superficial basis. Which the Halliwells had been guilty of. Look at Cole for example. The only reason Phoebe and her sisters had originally believed he possessed the potential for good was due to his human ancestry on his father’s side. For Phoebe and her sisters, Cole’s human half equated to good, and his demon half equated to evil. When Cole had lost his powers for the second time in Season Five (5.07) “Sympathy For the Demon”, the sisters’ whitelighter Leo Wyatt automatically judged him good, because he no longer had his “demonic” powers.

This all stemmed from the the series’ never ending habit of labeling certain powers as good (“witches, fairies, whitelighters, etc.”) or evil (“demons, darklighters, warlocks”), based on what kind of beings possessed them. I never understood why the series had continued to portray magical abilities in this infantile manner – especially for a show that was about adult women. “CHARMED” also made a big deal about witches not using their powers for personal gain. Yet, from what I have read about the Wiccan Rede (please correct me if I am wrong), personal gain is not even considered forbidden. Wiccans seemed to be more concerned with intent – using one’s powers to deliberately hurt another, forcing someone to do something against his or her will, or using magic on others without their consent, which the Halliwells were extremely guilty of in “Vahalley of the Dolls”(6.17) “Hyde School Reunion” and “Extreme Makeover: World Edition”. And by the way, the Charmed Ones never paid any consequences for their transgressions.

Phoebe, her sisters and Leo seemed incapable of accepting the possibility that ALL BEINGS, no matter who or what they are – have the potential for both good and evil within them. The show has refused to accept the possibility that demons have the potential for good and humans have the potential for great evil (with the exception of a few). To the series’ writers (and characters), a sentient being’s morality is mainly based upon WHAT he or she is, and not on the individual’s emotional state . . . OR CHOICES.

The reason I brought these issues is that Kern and the series’ writers had allowed the sisters to get away with major crimes. The sisters had paid the price for using their powers for minor acts – like Prue using her telekinesis to force an annoying neighbor, who had been allowing his dog to poop against their front steps, to step in said dog poop; and Phoebe using her premonition power to find the future father of her future child – but never for major acts that I had listed above. Also, I really wish that “CHARMED” had been more ambiguous and complex in its portrayal of morality. Everything was so simple-minded and childish. Demons/warlocks are all evil; humans are all good (unless there are no demons around). What exactly was wrong in portraying demons and other supernatural beings as morally ambiguous? What was wrong in the sisters learning that morality was not as simple and easy to label, as they have assumed for so many years?

Portrayal of Men:

Another problem I had with “CHARMED” was its portrayal of many male characters. I understand that the series had wanted to portray women in a positive light – strong and intelligent. There was nothing wrong with that. By why did the series’ portrayal of men had to be basically negative? “CHARMED” was supposed to be about feminism. However, my idea of feminism was not male bashing or emasculation. Unfortunately, the series was guilty of both. During most of Seasons One and Two, the sisters had a tendency to make many unnecessary quips at the expense of the male gender. And there was the (2.05) “She’s a Man, Baby! She’s a Man!” episode that I would dearly love to forget. And what happened to male witches? I can only recall seeing one so-called male witch on the show – Max Franklin from (1.14) “Secrets and Guys” – and at age thirteen, he was too young to be practicing witchcraft.

Regular Male Characters – Another problem is that most of the strong male characters on the show are either stripped of their power or dies. this happened to characters like Cole Turner, Andy Trudeau, Leo Wyatt, Chris Halliwell and Kyle Brody. The powerful half-demon Belthazor aka Cole ended up having his powers stripped in (4.08) “Black As Cole” and was “deemed safe” to marry Phoebe. And when he became more powerful than ever in Season Five, he was judged “evil and insane” and targeted for death by Kern and his writers in “Centennial Charmed”. Andy Trudeau, a strong-willed San Francisco cop who also happened to be Prue’s true love, ended up dead not long after he discovered that the sisters were witches at the end of Season One. Although Piper and Leo’s older son Wyatt became a very powerful witch, he was too young for the writers to do anything about it. Leo became a whitelighter Elder at the end of Season Five and later, an Avatar in early Season Seven. Thus the writers felt that they had to break him away from Piper. And they did not reunite the couple until Leo permanently became a mortal (aka “safe”). Both Chris (Piper and Leo’s younger son) and FBI Special Agent Kyle Brody (Paige’s love interest in Season Seven) were strong personalities who ended up dead – along with ex-demon named Drake who had decided to become a human. And how did the series end? With a powerless Leo, a non-magical husband for Paige, and a “Cupid” (magical being associated with love) for Phoebe to marry.

Darryl Morris – One would notice that I did not mention Darryl Morris, the detective inspector from the San Francisco Police Department, who had known the Halliwells since the beginning. Darryl had began the series as Andy Trudeau’s partner. Following Andy’s death, Darryl became the sisters’ main non-magical contact between Seasons Two and Seven. The writers’ treatment of Darryl really annoyed me over the years. After Season Two, I got tired of him freaking out whenever faced with the sisters’ magic. Also, the sisters had badly mistreated him during Season Six . His soul was stripped from his body against his will in “Valhalley of the Dolls” by Phoebe and Paige. And he was was framed for murder by magical beings known as the Cleaners, who used him to cover up the Halliwells’ careless use of magic. When he had decided that he wanted nothing to do with the Charmed Ones (and I did not blame him) in late Season Six, the writers had treated as the bad guy for failing to forgive them for what happened to him. And when Darryl finally reconciled with them in Season Seven, he returned to being one of the sisters’ lap dogs. Leo became the other one.After years of watching the show, I found myself wondering if both Constance Burge and Brad Kern had become leery of the idea of the Halliwells being associated on a permanent basis with strong male characters. And I found that sad.

Magical Powers:

How can I put this? One of the more confusing aspects of “CHARMED” has always been its portrayal of magic. The series’ portrayal of magical beings and various abilities have struck me as contradicting. Another problem with the series was that the show runners and the writers had allowed its black-and-white mentally to label what kind of abilities that its characters can practice.

Fire Ability – For example, according to the series, any ability to do with fire can only be possessed by evil magic practitioners like demons and warlocks. Why? Fire is an element, not something evil. The series had featured a witch in its premiere episode, (1.01) “Something Wicca Comes This Way” as a pyrokinetic. Later, a young foster child named Tyler Michaels in Season Four’s (4.12) “Lost and Bound” also had the ability to create fire. These were two rare cases in which “CHARMED” featured pyrokinetics who were not evil. However, the series eventually ret-conned Tyler as a Archai, an elemental being who could not only create fire, but use fire to create portals. Was Brad Kern uneasy over the idea of a minor protagonist being a mere fire starter? It certainly felt like it. Was the series’ portrayal of fire as something evil stemmed from religion? Again . . . it felt like it, but I cannot say for certain.

The Nexus – Another aspect of magic that I found ridiculous on “CHARMED” was the whole “Nexus Theory” from the episode (1.15) “Is There a Woogy in the House?”. An earthquake had revealed a magical entity called “the Woogeyman” that resided in the Charmed Ones’ basement. The sisters had learned that their home was located on top of a spiritual nexus – a location that was equidistant from the five spiritual elements. And because Phoebe had been born inside their home, her moral compass could easily swing from good to evil, in compare to her sisters. This was all bullshit, of course, since anyone can swing from good to evil or back, considering the circumstances. But what made this “Nexus Theory” even more laughable was that the five elements that played a role in it – earth, fire, water, wood and metal – are associated with Chinese philosophy, not Wiccan beliefs. The elements associated with Wicca are – earth, fire, water, air and spirit. Prue had claimed that the first list of elements were Wiccan, when they were actually associated with Chinese philosophy. Sigh!

Paige Matthews’ Ability – Season Four had introduced a new member of the Halliwell family – half-sister, Paige Matthews. Paige was the creation of an affair between the sisters’ mother, Patricia “Patty” Halliwell and her whitelighter, Sam Wilder. With Prue no longer a member of the Charmed Ones, Paige had replaced her. Naturally, Brad Kern and his writers believed they had to create an ability for Paige that was similar to Prue’s telekinesis. And what was it? Well, the sisters dubbed it telekinetic orbingSigh! In a nutshell, when Paige wanted to move something or someone, her object would disappear in one spot and reappear in another. Does this sound familiar? Well it should. This ability is usually regarded as teleporting. But the objective is the same as telekinesis – moving someone or something from one spot to another. Because Paige’s father was a whitelighter and her ability manifested in white or blue orbs, her ability was labeled as telekinetic orbing. It would have been a lot easier for the writers to use the correct phrase for Paige’s ability – teleporting – and easier on the mouth for the actors. But alas . . .

The above are simply examples of the series’ rather odd and occasional erroneous portrayal of magic. If I truly wanted to delve into this subject, it would have required me to write another essay – a long one at that. So, I will end it right here.

I have written other articles about “CHARMED” in which I had discussed issues I found problematic. But when it came to morality, male characters and magic abilities, I feel that the series had made its most obvious mistakes.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “THE CROWN” Season Two (2017)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season Two of the Netflix series, “THE CROWN”. Created by Peter Morgan, the series starred Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “THE CROWN” SEASON TWO (2017)

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1.   (2.05) “Marionettes” – After Queen Elizabeth II makes a tone-deaf speech at a Jaguar factory, she and the British monarchy come under public attack by an outspokern liberal peer named Lord Altrincham.

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2.   (2.03) “Lisbon” – Palace insiders try to prevent the scandalous divorce of the Duke of Edinburgh’s aide, Lieutenant-Commander Mike Parker, that could reflect poorly on the former and the monarchy. Prime Minister Anthony Eden faces censure from his cabinet and the press over the Suez Crisis.

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3.   (2.09) “Paterfamilias” – Prince Philip insists that Prince Charles attend Gordonstoun, his alma mater in Scotland. Also, he reminisces about the life-changing difficulties he experienced there as a student.

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4.   (2.07) “Matrimonium” – A heartbreaking letter from former lover Peter Townsend spurs Princess Margaret to make a bold proposal to her current lover, photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. The Queen has good news that causes complications for Margaret.

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5.   (2.02) “A Company of Men” – Elizabeth feels disconnected from Philip during his five-month royal tour in the South Pacific. Meanwhile, Eden copes with ill health and international pressure to withdraw British troops from Egypt during the Suez Crisis.

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Five Favorite Episodes of “INDIAN SUMMERS” Season One (2015)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of the British series, “INDIAN SUMMERS”. Created by Paul Rutman, the series starred Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West and Julie Waters.

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “INDIAN SUMMERS” SEASON ONE (2015)

1. (1.10) “Episode Ten” – In this season finale, the fate of convicted Indian businessman Ramu Sood is left in the hands of Civil Service official in Simla, Ralph Whelan, after it is discovered that the latter’s servant had killed the woman named Jaya, who was Ralph’s former lover.

2. (1.01) “Episode One” – The series premiere opened with the arrival of many British citizens, their servants and officials of the Indian Civil Service to Simla. The train to Simla is delayed when a boy is found collapsed on the railway tracks, while a mysterious assassin makes his way to the city.

3. (1.08) “Episode Eight” – Simla’s British community turn out in force for Ramu Sood’s murder trial. The latter’s British employee, Ian McCleod, is wracked with guilt about his part in Ramu’s arrest and an employee of the local orphanage, Leena Prasad, is torn apart in the witness box.

4. (1.03) “Episode Three” – While Simla prepares for the Sipi Fair, the only time when the Indian community is allowed on the grounds of the British Club; Indian nationalist Sooni Dalal is arrested at a pro-independence rally. Meanwhile, her brother Aafrin Dalal is targeted for a promotion within the Civil Service by his boss, Ralph, who wants him to keep quiet about a mysterious assassin.

5. (1.07) “Episode Seven” – While the British community prepares for the social club’s annual amateur dramatic production, a murder victim who turns out to be Jaya, is found in a nearby river.