“The Fugitive Kate Austen”

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I might as well make this clear. I dislike the character of Kate Austen from “LOST”. She is one of my least favorite characters in the series, and on television, period. And I wrote this article on how much I dislike her. Call it therapy on my part:

“THE FUGITIVE KATE AUSTEN”

I wish they would simply kill off the Kate Austen character. Just scrag her freckled butt, so I could watch the rest of this series in some semblance of peace. But . . . it will never happen.

The show’s producers will never get rid of Kate. Never. She will probably be around until the very last episode. It occurred to me that even if Kate’s character becomes “redeemed” in the end, I would still dislike her. I have never liked her. I used to be indifferent to her character . . . until I saw (1.12) “Whatever the Case May Be”. Then my dislike of her character began in earnest.

Yet, despite the backstory given to her in episodes like “Whatever the Case May Be”, (1.22) “Born to Run”, (2.09) “What Kate Did”, (3.15)”Left Behind”, (4.04) “Eggtown”, (5.04) “The Little Prince” and (5.11)”Whatever Happened, Happened”; Kate’s lack of morals and responsibility is not the main reason why I dislike her character. Many of the other characters are just as flawed. But many fans have never gone out of their way to make excuses for the actions of other characters like they have done for Kate. And I suspect that there is a reason for this phenonemon.

I suspect that the Kate Austen character is supposed to represent the either a physical embodiment of the American feminine ideal (odd, for a character being portrayed by a Canadian actress) and the wet dream of the aged 30-to-50 fanboys like the show’s producers, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindehof and J.J. Abrams. Many fans already suspect that actress Evangeline Lilly was hired because she represented the “look” he wanted for Kate’s character. Hell, Abrams had even had hired actress Michele Monaghan to portray Tom Cruise’s wife in “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III”, which was directed by Abrams. And Monaghan bears a strong resemblance to Lilly. Frankly, I wish she had been hired to portray Kate. Perhaps I would have been able to identify with the character a little more. Hell, Sun-Hwa Kwon is, in her own way, just as flaky as Kate. But her character was put into the hands of a first-class actress like Yunjin Kim. Which is why I find it easier to understand her character.

Frankly, I believe that Kate is a character that the producers should have written out of the show back in Season Three. Instead, they kept her around because of Lilly’s looks and they needed to extend the much hated Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle until the bitter end. And to ensure that Kate’s character remain as long as possible, they dumped the Aaron Littleton storyline on her. Why? To justify her continuing presence on the show. And if I have to be honest, they have barely done squat with that storyline. Really. We finally discovered why Kate did not bring Aaron back with her in (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” . All it did was extend my disgust toward her. But you know what? I guess I should not care. I would rather see Kate dead than find out what she had done with Aaron. Especially since she had kidnapped him and pretended to be his mother for nearly three years . . . all because she was upset over Sawyer jumping out of that helicopter in the Season Four finale.

When I heard that Kate might finally confess about the lie surrounding Aaron, I thought she would end up confessing to Sawyer, Juliet and the other castaways. Instead, she confessed to Sawyer’s old girlfriend, Cassidy. That was disappointing. And now, Sawyer still does not know about the lie surrounding Aaron. Nor does he know that Kate had no intention of returning to the island to save his life. And she still has the murder of Wayne Jensen hanging over her head. If we’re supposed to root for them to get together following this episode, I think that the writers have failed. At least with me.

Regarding Kate’s decision to return to the island, she tells Cassidy that her intention is to find Claire and get her back home to Aaron. How? Is Kate really that stupid? Surely she must have realized that there was no way to achieve this in 2007. She does not know about the runway that Frank Lapidus had used to land Flight 316. Locke had destroyed the Dharma submarine back in Season 3. And Kate knows about the destruction of the freighter. How was she planning to send Claire back to Aaron? Or was she simply talking out of her ass?

You know, ever since (4.04) “Eggtown”, Kate’s story arc has been badly handled by the writers. It started with that ludicrous attempt by her to get information from Miles about her status as a fugitive. Then it developed into the storyline surrounding her custody of Aaron that went no where. The only thing that the Aaron storyline achieved was a temporary estragement between her and Jack. It was revealed in (5.04) “The Little Prince” that she had decided to claim Aaron as her own, because she was traumatized over losing Sawyer. And yet . . . “Eggtown” made it clear that she was willing to use Aaron to re-start a romance with Jack. If Aaron represented as a substitute for the loss of Sawyer, why did she have a photograph of both Aaron and Jack on her mantlepiece in Los Angeles? Was this a symbol of her continuing desire for both Jack and Sawyer? Or what? And the storyline surrounding her return to the island . . . contrived and badly written. After refusing to return to the island for Sawyer’s sake, she visits his ex-girlfriend, confesses the Aaron kidnapping and vows to return to the island in order to find Claire Littleton and send the Australian woman back to her son and mother . . . without knowing how to achieve this little act? The only thing Kate did right was hand Aaron over to Carole Littleton. And I saw that coming a mile away. Once Kate returned to Los Angeles, she uses Jack for comfort sex and later rejects him after boarding Ajira Flight 316.

And then the producers dumped the badly written “Whatever Happened, Happened” episode on the viewers in order to make Kate favorable to the viewers again. They had her acting like a frantic Florence Nightingale over a kid she hardly knew. I understand if she was perturbed over young Ben’s situation, like the others (sans Jack). But the writers . . . took it too far with Kate’s frantic desire to save him, which included her donating blood to him. And they even used this episode to blame Jack for Ben’s slide into darkness. I guess that the show’s writers and producers’ attempt to redeem Kate in the eyes of the viewers seemed to be working. The viewers are eagerly lapping up this shit. But Lindehof and Cuse achieved this at a heavy price. In the end, all they did was sacrifice any semblance of artistic achievement for bad characterization and mediocre writing. How sad.

But they will never get rid of Kate. She is like this disease that never goes away. Some article from the “E! Online” website had the nerve to say that many fans were glad that Kate was not being killed off. Perhaps that is true. One would think that she is such a compelling character. But I do not think so. I suspect that my problem with Kate is that she is one of the most badly written characters on this show and in the history of television . . . and she is the female lead. And I find that disturbing.

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“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” (1963) Review

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“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” (1963) Review

Have you ever heard the song, ”What a Difference a Day Makes”? Well, the phrase – ”What a difference, a year makes” kept going through my head, while viewing 1963’s ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. It seemed such a difference from the very inferior ”DR. NO” (and would prove to be quite a difference in my eyes to 1964’s ”GOLDFINGER”. Not only do I consider ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” to be one of the finest Bond films in the franchise, I also view it as Connery’s best. In fact, as with 1965’s ”THUNDERBALL”, his acting was superb in this film. James Bond not only seemed mature, but . . . [gasp] human. All one has to do is examine his interactions with leading lady Daniela Bianchi to notice this. Connery has never been so human as he was in this movie. And sadly, he was never this human again.

Connery was supported by a first-class supporting cast. First of all, there is Daniela Bianchi portraying the Soviet cipher clerk assigned to seduce him, Tatiana Romanova. What started as an assignment for Tania, ended up as full-blown love. Although, Bianchi had her dialogue dubbed by Zena Marshall (”DR. NO”), she did an excellent job in projecting Tania’s wide range of emotions – including her disgust at ex-Soviet turned SPECTRE agent, Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya). Speaking of Lenya . . . my goodness, I am speechless! What can I say? The woman was superb! Creepy in her scenes with Bianchi and Walter Gotell, yet fearful in the scenes featuring SPECTRE’s leader, Ernst Stavos Blofeld, she gave one of the best performances by any actor or actress portraying a Bondn villain/villainess. And I must say the same for the highly revered Robert Shaw. Not only did his Donovan Grant turned out to be the template for many Bond henchmen to come (with only ”THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”’s Andreas Wisniewski coming close), he and Connery provided one of the best dramatic moments and fight sequences in the entire franchise. On Bond’s side, there was Hollywood character actor, Pedro Armendariz, who portrayed Bond’s Turkish contact, Kerim Bey. Sadly, the role of Bey would prove to be Armendariz’s last one. After finishing his scenes, he committed suicide, rather than suffer any longer from cancer. But fortunately for many Bond fans, Kerim Bey would prove to be his greatest and most memorable role. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell were competent as usual. And the movie would serve as the debut of Desmond Llewellyn as MI-6’s Quartermaster

”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”’s story centered around SPECTRE’s scheme to lure James Bond into stealing a valuable Soviet decoding machine, and unknowingly deliver it into their hands. In the process, Agent 007 is to suffer a disgraceful death, in revenge for the death of Dr. No. The movie not only had the good luck to be based upon one of Ian Fleming’s few well-written novels, the screenwriters Richard Maibaum, and Johanna Harwood did an excellent job of translating it to the screen. Rich with atmosphere and mystery, ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” almost seemed like the perfect spy thriller – a far cry from the schizophrenic and inferior ”DR. NO”. A few changes had been made, but overall they seemed to serve the story very well.

Was ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” perfect? No. I have a few complaints. For example, there is the Bond-Grant confrontation. From a dramatic viewpoint, it gave Connery and Shaw to exercise their acting chops. From a storytelling viewpoint, it made no sense. It just did not make any sense to me that Grant would take his time preparing to kill Bond on the Orient Express, once he got the drop on the British agent. While Grant was busy searching Bond’s jacket and putting on his gloves, I found myself screaming at my TV screen – ”What in the hell are you waiting for? Kill him!” I also found the two action sequences that preceded Bond and Tania’s arrival in Venice a bit too much. I had the feeling that the writers added an extra action sequence in order to fill in the movie’s running time. I could have done with either the helicopter sequence or the Adriatic Sea boat chase. But the addition of both – one after the other – seemed a bit too much. But despite all of this, my positive view of ”FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” still stands.

“Charles Gunn and His Role in Angel Investigations”

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CHARLES GUNN AND HIS ROLE IN ANGEL INVESTIGATIONS

There is something about one of the episodes of ”ANGEL” that has always bothered me. My unease centered around an incident between two of the series’ major characters that occurred in the early Season 3 episode, ”That Old Gang of Mine”. But to understand the nature of my unease, one has to return to two episodes from Season 2 – ”Reunion” and ”Blood Money”.

As many fans of ”ANGEL” are aware, Angel had decided to fire his three companions – Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndham-Price and Charles Gunn – as a despondent reaction over his failure to save a human Darla from the manipulations of Wolfram and Hart and the vampire he had sired, Drusilla; in the episode ”Reunion”. Although upset over Angel’s actions, Cordelia, Wesley and Charles had decided to revive Angel Investigations in the following episode, ”Blood Money”:

Gunn takes the card and looks at it.
Gunn: “That’s a Angel? Looks like a – a lobster with a – growth or… We’ll make our own logo.”
Wesley: “Yes. Something sleek, but edgy.”
Gunn: “Something that says: you need help, we’re there.”
Wesley: “Exactly. Danger is our business. (Cordy put a hand to her forehead and begins to stagger) We’ll catch you when you fall.”

While celebrating the successful conclusion of a case that involved a demon, the trio had a discussion on their agency’s new name:

Gunn: “Our new agency.”
Wesley: “Wyndham-Price Agency.”
Cordy and Gunn: “The what?”
Wesley: “You don’t like it? – It’s classy.”
Cordy: “It’s stuffy. – The Chase Agency! *That* has the right ring.”
Wesley: “Why?”
Cordy: “Because it’s my name.”
Gunn: “Uh, Wes, Ms. Chase, alright, there is only one player here with a name that strikes dread in the demon heart.”
Points at himself.
Cordy: “Gunn?”
Gunn: “Uh-huh.”

Mind you, the above conversation that took place was nothing more than a spot of fun for the trio. They eventually decided to maintain the agency’s former name – Angel Investigations.

Now, according to many fans of the series, Cordy, Charles and Wesley had all decided that despite being equal partners in the updated version of the firm, Wesley would act as case leader. In other words, due to his past as a Watcher and extensive knowledge of the supernatural world, he would lead the other two when they were actually on a case. This did not make Wesley head of the firm altogether or the official boss of Angel Investigations. He would simply act as leader during a case. But after an early episode in the following season, a good number of people – including Joss Whedon and Tim Minear – had forgotten.

Then came the early Season Three episode, ”That Old Gang of Mine”. In this particular episode, Charles discovers his former comrades are murdering harmless demons for fun. When he tries to convince them to stop, he learns that – due to his association with Angel – he has lost their trust. One of his former associates gives Charles the opportunity to win their trust by killing Angel, who is unable to defend himself due to a spell. Near the end of the episode, Wesley had threatened to fire Charles if the latter ever goes against Angel Investigations again.

Here is the rub. Why in the hell would Wesley threaten to fire Charles? HE HAD NO RIGHT TO DO THIS. Charles was no longer an employee of Angel Investigations. He was one of three partners. I realize that he and Cordelia had voted to allow Wesley act as leader in their cases. But this gave Wesley NO RIGHT to treat Charles as an employee, instead of a partner. He should have told Charles that he and Cordelia would break their partnership with Charles if the latter ever pulled again what he did in “That Gang of Mine”. Instead, Wesley treated Charles like a minion. Even worse, no one has protested against Wesley’s behavior this to this day:

Gunn: “Don’t guess Rondell and his crew are gonna be crossing Venice boulevard again any time soon.”
Wesley: “It’s never easy – the pull of divided loyalties. – Whatever choice we do end up making we feel as though we’ve betrayed someone.”
Gunn: “Yeah.”
Wesley: “If you ever withhold information or attempt to subvert me again, I will fire you. – I can’t have any one member of the team compromising the safety of the group, no matter who it is. If you do it again you will be dismissed, bag and baggage, out of a job onto the streets.”

Just reading the above passage pisses me off. Did Wesley actually believe he had a right to treat Charles like an employee? Like some damn minion? Tim Minear – who wrote the transcript – and Joss Whedon obviously allowed Charles to accept the threat as genuine. And I do not understand this. What in the hell were they thinking? Both seemed to have forgotten that Angel Investigation 2.0 had been co-founded by Charles, Wesley and Cordelia. Because of this, Wesley had no right to treat Charles like some employee, instead of a colleague and co-owner of the agency. But since Minear and Whedon seemed to be stuck in their vision of Charles as some muscle-bound employee, they made a major blooper in regard to Charles’ character. And worst of all, the majority of the Jossverse fans see nothing wrong in Wesley’s treatment of Charles or the idea that the Englishman was the African-American’s employer and not fellow colleague.

I am sick to my stomach.

“On the Analyst’s Couch” – 4/6

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Here is the fourth chapter of “On the Analyst’s Couch”:

“ON THE ANALYST’S COUCH”

Within the next four months, Piper continues to visit Dr. Linnbakker. Meanwhile, the Charmed Ones vanquish the Source, Phoebe Halliwell marries Cole Turner, unaware that he has been possessed by the Source. The Charmed Ones, due to Paige Matthews’ suspicions, eventually discover that Cole is the Source and vanquish him. Then the sisters face a new Source – the unborn child of Phoebe and Cole/the Source. After the Seer steals the baby, the Charmed Ones then vanquish the new Source, the Seer and several upper-level daemons. About three weeks after the sisters save a witch from an FBI agent/witch hunter, Paige encounters Dr. Linnbakker at the South Bay Social Service Office. She makes an appointment to visit the analyst.

———-

CASE #71231 – PAIGE MATTHEWS (MAY 28, 2002):

PAIGE: (Lies back on the maroon-colored chaise in Dr. Linnbakker’s office and glances around uneasily.) Why did I decide to come? I mean, I feel perfectly fine.

DR. LINNBAKKER: Hmm, the lady doth protests too much?

PAIGE: What are you talking about? I’m not having any problems. Lately. Well, not since we found out that Cole had gone demonic. But I wasn’t really having any problems. I just couldn’t get the others to believe me.

LINNBAKKER: Wow! For a woman who claims to be fine, you sure said a lot. Are you sure that nothing is troubling you?

PAIGE: (Scoffs aloud) Of course not! Everything’s fine. We’ve vanquished the Source, three times. Phoebe’s free from Cole. And Piper’s pregnant. Best of all, Piper and Phoebe have decided not to give up our powers.

LINNBAKKER: That was a pretty close call, wasn’t it?

PAIGE: Huh? Oh yeah.

LINNBAKKER: How is your relationship with your sisters?

PAIGE: (Sighs in frustration) Everything’s fine. Piper stopped resenting me, months ago. Thank God. And I’m not at loggerheads with Phoebe, now that Cole isn’t controlling her any longer.

LINNBAKKER: You mean the Source, right?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: The Source. That was the Source who had Phoebe under his control. Or perhaps I should also add the Seer.

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor) Yeah. (Pauses) Anyway, everything’s fine.

LINNBAKKER: Then why are you here?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Is there an echo in here? You seemed to be responding to my questions with monosyllables. (Pauses) Why . . . are . . . you . . . here?

PAIGE: Because you talked me into coming!

LINNBAKKER: I don’t recall convincing you. I do recall saying to you that if you want to talk, give me a call. Instead, you made an appointment. I guess you wanted to talk, after all. Or is there another reason why you’re here?

PAIGE: (Shrugs her shoulders) Okay, I wanted to talk.

LINNBAKKER: About what?

PAIGE: (Sighs) I don’t know. Everything seems anti-climatic, lately. (Pauses) I think Piper regrets not giving up her powers. See, we were visited by . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) I know all about the Angel of Destiny’s visit. It’s all here in the file.

PAIGE: (Frowns) How did you get that info . . .?

LINNBAKKER: I have my sources. Whenever I request information on supernatural beings, there is this dimension I like to visit.

PAIGE: Huh. Anyway, I think Piper wishes we had taken the Angel of Destiny’s offer to become mortal. And now that she’s pregnant, she seems a little preoccupied. Sometimes . . . sometimes I think she blames me for wanting to stay a witch.

LINNBAKKER: What do you mean? I thought it was your encounter with that FBI Agent Jackman that finally changed her mind.

PAIGE: Yeah . . . but . . . I don’t know. Every time I make a comment about how glad I am to be a witch, she gives me this look.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And I thought she had finally learned to “embrace” her heritage. I guess not. (Pauses) And Phoebe? How are you two getting along?

PAIGE: (Starts twirling her hair) Okay. I guess. At least she’s not hostile toward me, anymore.

LINNBAKKER: Are you referring to her wedding day?

PAIGE: (Nods) And when she got pregnant. Of course, I realize that she was under the influence of that evil spawn of hers.

LINNBAKKER: But . . .

PAIGE: I don’t know. I guess she still resents that I was right about Cole. Being evil, I mean.

LINNBAKKER: How did that happened, by the way?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: How did Cole become the Source? Did any of you ever find out?

PAIGE: I think it had something to do with that Hollow. You see, it’s a . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) I know all about the Hollow. So, because of it, he became the Source.

PAIGE: Yeah. He used the Hollow to absorb the Source’s powers.

LINNBAKKER: To save you from the Source. Yes, I know about that, as well. But wasn’t the Seer supposed to use the Hollow to take the Source’s powers away?

PAIGE: (Sarcastically) I guess she was “supposed” to do that. Maybe they had planned the whole thing – Cole and the Seer. Maybe he got tired of being a mortal and decided this was a good opportunity to become demonic again.

LINNBAKKER: Or maybe the Seer convinced him to use the Hollow in order to save you and your sisters’ lives. (Pauses) In fact, I believe that is what happened.

PAIGE: (Again, stares at the doctor) How do you know that?

LINNBAKKER: Records from my source. I have patients who happen to be of demonic nature, as well.

PAIGE: You have demons as patients?

LINNBAKKER: Yes, I do. Didn’t Piper and Leo tell you?

PAIGE: No. (Pauses) But then they never tell everything. And even if Cole had been tricked into using the Hollow, that doesn’t change the fact that he could have fought the Source’s influence.

LINNBAKKER: Phoebe could barely fight the Source’s influence. In fact, both did a better job of it than your ex-boyfriend. Remember Shane?

PAIGE: (Squirms with discomfort) Yeah, I remember him. At least he wasn’t an ex-demon.

LINNBAKKER: Well, that only made it easier for the Source to possess him. Whereas Cole . . . well, he did put up a fight. Saved your life twice, didn’t he?

PAIGE: (Sighs) Maybe.

LINNBAKKER: You didn’t like Cole, did you?

PAIGE: (Pauses) Why do you ask?

LINNBAKKER: I’m curious. Did you like him?

PAIGE: Not really.

LINNBAKKER: Why? You liked him when you two first met. After he and Phoebe saved you from Shax.

PAIGE: That was before . . .

LINNBAKKER: Yes?

PAIGE: Why are we talking about Cole?

LINNBAKKER: Why aren’t you answering my question?

PAIGE: (Huffs angrily) Okay! If you must know, I liked him before I found out he was Belthazor. You know, the demon sent to kill my sisters, two years ago.

LINNBAKKER: Let me get this straight. You liked Cole when you first met him. Even when you knew he was a half-daemon with a long past of evil. But when you found out that he was Belthazor, you began to distrust him?

PAIGE: He tried to kill my sisters, remember?

LINNBAKKER: And not even the fact that he has saved their lives on numerous occasions, and saved your life – what? Three or four times, won’t change your mind about him?

PAIGE: Look, I’m grateful for what he did, but whatever he has done when I first met him, doesn’t change what he did in the past. And like I said, how do we know that he didn’t see the Hollow as an opportunity to become demonic, again? Cole lost his powers, became the Source and nearly killed us. I mean, don’t you get it? He’ll always be evil, no matter what.

LINNBAKKER: Of course he’ll always have evil within him. And so will you. And so will Leo, Inspector Morris and your sisters. Good and evil is something we all carry within us.

PAIGE: Oh, come on Doc! I don’t exactly consider myself as evil. Or Leo and my sisters.

LINNBAKKER: Really? It’s funny. You seem unwilling to forgive Cole for his past. Have you ever wondered if anyone has forgiven you for yours?

PAIGE: (Eyes grow wide) What are you talking about?

LINNBAKKER: Must I bring up your past? Those years in high school when you drank, smoke and literally got into trouble all the time? You must have been quite a burden on your family. And according to your file (peers at Paige’s files) you managed to get a good number of your friends into trouble. Serious trouble.

PAIGE: Wait! How did you . . .? Piper told me that your files only covered the years we were witches. I’ve only been a witch for about a year.

LINNBAKKER: Yes, but thanks to your little trip into the past with Leo, the Elders were able to discover a lot about your past.

PAIGE: Okay, I was a bit of a hell raiser in school, but at least I was never a half-demon who spent over a century, killing others.

LINNBAKKER: The details may be different. And yes, you never killed anyone. But still, you caused harm for a good number of people. But since you were never a daemon, I guess you deserve redemption. Is that it?

PAIGE: Aren’t you being a little too complex?

LINNBAKKER: I don’t think so. But you seemed to have this tendency to judge others, don’t you? I shouldn’t be surprised. You are a Halliwell, after all.

PAIGE: What do you mean by that?

LINNBAKKER: Meaning, you should take a lesson from Agent Jackman. He’s a perfect example of how good intentions can lead a person down the path toward evil. And you seemed to have that same self-righteousness and unforgiving nature. You’re a smart young woman, Paige. And you have what it takes to be a talented witch. But if I were you, I’d get rid of that rigid view of good and evil, before it causes you any harm.

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor) What do you mean, rigid? A person is either good or evil.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Have you been listening to a word I said? What did I say? That everyone carries both good and evil within him or her. Life is not that simple, Paige. It’s not a fairy tale. Not even in the supernatural world.

PAIGE: Yeah, but . . . I don’t recall any warlocks or demons with a good side.

LINNBAKKER: Of course you have. I believe his name was Belthazor. Come to think of it, your sisters have, as well. Especially Prue. I believe she once became acquainted with a powerful half-daemon named Brendan Rowe. Only your sisters believed that he was part-warlock. (Murmurs) If such a thing exists. Has Piper or Phoebe told you about the Rowe Coven?

PAIGE: (Shakes her head) No.

LINNBAKKER: The Rowe brothers were three of the most powerful part-daemons in existence. Well . . . they were not completely part-human. The two older brothers had some human ancestry within them. But the youngest, Brendan, was purely half-human, half-daemon. Like Belthazor. He was more powerful than them, individually. But together, they were more powerful than him. They were the evil counterparts of the Charmed Ones. The youngest, Brendan, did not want to become part of their coven. He wanted to be a priest. Prue tried to help him, despite Piper and Phoebe’s protests, pressure from his two older brothers, and his attempt to kill Prue. But do you know who eventually destroyed the coven?

PAIGE: (Sarcastically) Obviously not.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Sorry. Of course you don’t. It was the middle brother, Peter. The irony of the whole thing is that Peter, who possessed less mortal ancestry than Brendan, could not stand by and watch older brother Greg, kill his baby brother. So, Peter threw himself in front of a knife that Greg had thrown at Brendan. And before he could die, killed Greg with the same knife. The odd thing is that he threw himself in front of Peter, to protect him. Out of brotherly love. Now does that sound like a daemon with no good side?

PAIGE: (Pauses) No. (Another pause) What happened to Brendan?

LINNBAKKER: Brendan gave up his powers to become a priest. So you see, even daemons and warlocks are conflicted. Evil as the Seer was, she was a firm believer in following the rules. Maintaining the balance between good and evil. Her problem was that she saw an opportunity for personal power in the Source’s Realm. And she used Phoebe, Cole and even the Source to achieve her goal.

PAIGE: (Sighs) Look, it’s a nice story. And maybe you’re right about good and evil within all of us. And maybe Cole was also being manipulated. But that doesn’t . . .

LINNBAKKER: Doesn’t what?

PAIGE: It doesn’t change the fact that Cole was the very demon who tried to kill my sisters. It’s just . . . I mean, I nearly lost them before I had the chance to get to know them. At least Piper and Phoebe.

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at Paige) Family is very important to you, isn’t it?

PAIGE: Of course, it is. Don’t you think that family is important?

LINNBAKKER: Sure. But you seem to take its importance to new heights.

PAIGE: Look, if you’re going to get into some psychobabble about some obsession I have about my family, you’re wrong. Just because I was adopted at birth, had problems with my step-parents before they . . . before they were killed, and spent a year looking for my real family . . .

LINNBAKKER: Don’t take this the wrong way, but all you’ve done is confirmed any psychobabble I might have told you. (Pauses) May I ask you something? After all that has happened this past year, why were you so willing to continue as a witch?

PAIGE: Being a witch is my destiny, isn’t it? My duty. I . . .

LINNBAKKER: Spare me the textbook answer, okay? When you first discovered that you were part-witch, part-whitelighter, you weren’t that enthusiastic. What changed your mind?

PAIGE: A year ago, Phoebe and especially Piper were treating me as a necessary addition to the Charmed Ones, instead of a sister.

LINNBAKKER: Okay. But why were you so willing to remain a witch, earlier this month?

PAIGE: (Pauses) I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.

LINNBAKKER: Nice try. But I want a real answer.

PAIGE: You tell me.

LINNBAKKER: Answer this. Does being a witch satisfy your desire to help others?

PAIGE: To help . . . Is there something wrong with helping others?

LINNBAKKER: No. But you’ve raised helping others to a fine art. Even before you became a Charmed One. Why else would you end up working at a social services office?

PAIGE: This is ridiculous! Are you saying that it’s a crime to help others?

LINNBAKKER: Good grief, Paige! It’s not your desire to help others that is the problem. It’s that your desire borders on ruthlessness. You seemed to be obsessed with protecting the innocent. And this desire has blinded you to the fact that the universe – mortal and supernatural – is not filled with those who are one-dimensionally good or evil. And it’s made you judgmental. (Pauses) Does this desire to help others have anything to do with your step-parents?

PAIGE: What?

LINNBAKKER: (Gently) Are you so determined to help others, because you blamed yourself for your step-parents’ deaths?

PAIGE: (Stares at the doctor, before slipping off the chaise) I’m out of here. (Walks toward the door)

LINNBAKKER: Well, I was right about one thing. You certainly are a Halliwell.

PAIGE: (Pauses near the door) As far as I’m concerned, that’s something to be proud of.

LINNBAKKER: Perhaps. Then again, being a Halliwell can also be a detriment.

(Paige walks out of the office.)

END OF CASE #71231

“DREAMGIRLS” (2006) Review

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“DREAMGIRLS” (2006) Review

When I had first learned that “DREAMGIRLS”’ eight Academy Award nominations did not include one for Best Picture and a Best Director nod for Bill Condon, it seemed pretty odd to me. The movie, based upon the 1981 Broadway musical, had already won plenty of accolades – including a Best Musical/Comedy Picture and two other Golden Globe awards. Was it possible that “DREAMGIRLS” had failed to live up to its hype?

Several movie critics, including one for “The New York Times” had claimed that this might be the case. This critic and others went on to say that although “DREAMGIRLS” was a pretty good movie, it lacked the qualities to be considered as a nominee for Best Picture. Since I had yet to see “DREAMGIRLS”, I began to wonder if my sister – who had highly recommended the movie – had exaggerated its good qualities.

When I had eventually saw “DREAMGIRLS”, I discovered that my sister had not exaggerated. The movie not only possessed a rich, in-depth look at the music industry for African-Americans in the 1960s and 70s, it can also boast fine performances and a very unusual direction.

The cast, which included Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, Danny Glover and Jennifer Hudson. Foxx, Knowles and Glover all did competent jobs in their respective roles. I was especially surprised to see Foxx (usually seen in comedy roles and Oscar winner for his portrayal of Ray Charles) portray villainous record producer Curtis Taylor Jr. in such a subtle, yet intimidating manner. Knowles proved that she can be a competent actress – especially in two scenes that feature her character’s (lead singer Deena Jones) growing resentment toward Taylor’s control over her career and life. It was good to see Glover in a substantial role again, after so many years. He was his usual competent self as the more conservative manager of Eddie Murphy’s character, James “Thunder” Early. Another character connected to the Early role was Lorrell Robinson, portrayed by Anika Noni Rose. I must admit that Rose’s portrayal of the young, star-struck Lorrell seemed a little hammy and unconvincing. Fortunately, her performance improved, as her character matured.

Two of the best things about “DREAMGIRLS” had turned out to be the show-stopping performances of Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson as R&B singer, James “Thunder” Early and the Dreams’ real talent Effie White. Not only have both performers won Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, both have received Oscar nominations for the same categories. Murphy bypassed his usual comedic performances to portray James Early, a R&B singer doomed to have his raw talent being slowly squeezed to death by Curtis Taylor’s ambition for acceptance by the white audience in 1960s/70s America. Not only did Murphy give a brilliant performance as the doomed Early, he also proved that he could be a knock-out musical talent. “DREAMGIRLS” must have seemed like sweet revenge for Chicago native, Jennifer Hudson. After being dismissed by “American Idol” judges halfway into competition, Hudson managed to win the role of Effie White, a talented and mercurial singer forced to deal with rejection by Taylor because of her “soulful” voice and physical appearance. Hudson’s show-stopping performance of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” combined the best of her acting ability and magnificent voice, and may have possibly rivaled Jennifer Holliday’s performance of the same song in the Broadway version.

Not only did “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” beautifully showcased Jennifer Hudson’s talent, it also proved a theory of mine. I once told a friend that singing in front of a live audience took more than simply holding a microphone and singing. To get the song across to the audience, the performer needed to act out the meaning behind the song through facial expressions and body language. Such expressions through song has been shown before on both the screen and stage, but Hudson took it to a level that left me breathless . . . and almost crying. Not only did the song’s lyrics expressed Effie White’s desperation to maintain Curtis Taylor’s love, but her facial expression and body language effectively did so, as well. I also have to commend Knowles, Foxx, Rose, Keith Robinson (who played Effie’s songwriter brother C.C.) and Sharon Leal (who played Effie’s replacement, Michelle Morris) for their performances in a scene in which they all express their hostility and resentment toward Effie’s volatile behavior. For a moment, I thought I was watching an operetta.

In fact, one felt the sense of watching an operetta, instead of the usual musical. Since the Astaire/Rogers series of the 1930s, movie musicals have perfected the art of movie dialogue seamlessly segueing in a song. In “DREAMGIRLS”, not only does the dialogue segue into song, but sometimes segue back into dialogue in the middle of a song. Or . . . two characters would end either do the following: 1) interrupt the dialogue with a few lines of song; or 2) switch back and forth between song and dialogue. This made “DREAMGIRLS” feel like no other movie musical I have ever seen and I have to commend director Bill Condon for creating this unusual style for any musical.

Now, I find myself back to thinking about the Academy Award nominations. Had those critics been right to believe that the Academy was right to withhold Best Picture and Best Director nominations for “DREAMGIRLS”? In the end, those critics are entitled to their own opinions. I had learned from another source that “DREAMGIRLS” had enough votes from the Academy members to receive a Best Picture nomination. But from my personal view, all I can say is . . . ”What the hell had the Academy thinking?”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship”

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”STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship”

I am not going to deceive myself and pretend that the relationship between Captain Kathryn Janeway and her First Officer, Commander Chakotay, lacked any chemistry. Of course there had been chemistry. Even a blind person could have sensed the chemistry between them just by listening to their dialogue. But while I will admit the enormous dynamics between the two characters, I never could see the possibility of a ”happily ever after” for them. Not while the pair served as the command team of the U.S.S. Voyager.

When many ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” fans had first started speculating upon the possible futures for the main characters during the series’ early Season Seven, for some reason I had foreseen a tragic ending in the Janeway/Chakotay relationship. I figured that the Captain or the First Officer would bite the dust in the finale, leaving the others to mourn and regret their decision not to pursue a romance during Voyager’s nearly seven years in the Delta Quadrant. This feeling was reinforced in the episode, (7.11) “Shattered”, when Season Seven Chakotay not only revealed the lack of romance in their relationship to the Season One Janeway, but also expressed regret in his words . . . and tone:

JANEWAY: Mind if I ask you one last question?
CHAKOTAY: Will I have to break the Temporal Prime Directive to answer it?
JANEWAY: Maybe, just a little. For two people who started off as enemies it seems we get to know each other pretty well, so I’ve been wondering. Just how close do we get?
CHAKOTAY: Let’s just say there are some barriers we never cross.

Both Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway) and the series’ producers had expressed opposition against an affair between Janeway and Chakotay. They have repeatedly stated that it would not be appropriate for the two to get involved in a romance. At first, I had believed that she, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and later, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller were being obtuse. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, I have managed to see their point of view. They were right. A romance between Janeway and Chakotay could have lead to many problems.

I have never believed that a good idea for someone in a position of power to have a romance with a subordinate. If you think that it is difficult for equals to maintain a relationship, it might be doubly so for a superior and his/her subordinate. There is a great deal of potential for resentment from one partner, subjugation from the other and manipulation from both sides. Chakotay’s relationship with Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’Elanna Torres, is a mild example of this. I had been one of those fans who had been relieved by the quiet death of B’Elanna’s infatuation with the First Officer by late Season Two. Do not get me wrong. Chakotay was a fine First Officer. Frankly, I have always felt that he was one of the best in the entire ”TREK” franchise. But he had an unfortunate habit of dealing with B’Elanna’s temperament by inflicting his will upon her, using his position as her superior officer. I am not saying that Chakotay did not have the right to behave this way toward B’Elanna. After all, he was Voyager’s First Officer. But he was also supposed to be one of B’Elanna’s closest friends. If he and B’Elanna had such moments during their ”friendship”, can you imagine how damaging this would have been to any romance that may have sprung between them? Remember when I had mentioned the possibility of resentment? Well, even B’Elanna eventually expressed her resentment of being chastised by Chakotay in the Season Five episode, (5.21) “Juggernaut”:

CHAKOTAY: Your concerns are noted. Get them inoculated. We’ll meet you in Transporter Room one. We’re trying to avoid explosions, remember?
TORRES: Not another lecture about my emotions.
CHAKOTAY: No, a lecture about how to treat guests aboard this ship.
TORRES: Guests? Chakotay, these people are the scourge of the quadrant.
CHAKOTAY: Agreed, but right now they’re our only hope of repairing that freighter, so I suggest you make friends.
TORRES: Diplomacy. Janeway’s answer to everything.
CHAKOTAY: This isn’t the Captain talking, it’s me, and I’m giving you an order. Keep your temper in check. Understood? Understood?
TORRES: Yeah.
CHAKOTAY: I didn’t hear you.
TORRES: Yes.
CHAKOTAY: B’Elanna, I need your expertise on this mission, not your bad mood.
TORRES: I’ll see what I can do.

Like Chakotay, Janeway was not above using her position to inflict her will upon the crew members under her command, regardless of whether she was right or wrong. And we have seen how Chakotay had reacted when he believed that she was wrong . . . especially in (3.26) “Scorpion I” and (4.01) “Scorpion II”:

CHAKOTAY: How much is our safety worth?
JANEWAY: What do you mean?
CHAKOTAY: We’d be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We’d be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home. It’s wrong!
JANEWAY: Tell that to Harry Kim. He’s barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn’t such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favour.
CHAKOTAY: I don’t think you really believe that. I think you’re struggling to justify your plan, because your desire to get this crew home is blinding you to other options. I know you, Kathryn. Sometimes you don’t know when to step back.
JANEWAY: Do you trust me, Chakotay?
CHAKOTAY: That’s not the issue.
JANEWAY: Oh, but it is. Only yesterday you were saying that we’d face this together, that you’d be at my side.
CHAKOTAY: I still have to tell you what I believe. I’m no good to you if I don’t do that.
JANEWAY: I appreciate your insights but the time for debate is over. I’ve made my decision. Now, do I have your support?
CHAKOTAY: You’re the Captain. I’m the First Officer. I’ll follow your orders. That doesn’t change my belief that we’re making a fatal mistake.
JANEWAY: Then I guess I’m alone, after all. Dismissed.

Had there been any semblance of hope of a romance between Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay? Perhaps. If Chakotay’s Maquis ship had remained intact following the battle against the Kazon-Ogla in (1.02) “Caretaker II”. Both the Starfleet and the Maquis captains could have become allies in the Delta Quandrant. And they could have engaged in a romance as equals. They also could have begun a relationship if Voyager’s crew had never rescued them from New Earth in (2.25) “Resolutions”. To this day, I still wonder if Janeway had ever learned of Harry Kim’s role in that rescue. That would explain his inability to earn a promotion during those seven years in the Delta Quadrant. As for Janeway and Chakotay, there seemed to be a residual of flirtation between the two after their rescue from New Earth that lasted through most of Season Three. This flirtation eventually died after Chakotay’s romance with ex-Borg Riley Fraizer in (3.17) “Unity”.

In the end, Chakotay began a relationship with another former Borg drone, Voyager’s own Seven-of-Nine by late Season Seven. As for Janeway, she ended up in a relationship with Michael Sullivan, a holographic character created by Chief Helmsman Tom Paris’ for his Fair Haven program. She also had a relationship with Norvalian named Jaffen, after her memory was altered for work at a power plant on Quarren in the Season Seven episode, (7.16-7.17) “Workforce I & II”. When she regained her original memory she suggested that he join Voyager’s crew as an engineer. But she also pointed out that it would not be appropriate as they were romantically involved. Jaffen had decided to remain on Quarren.

Could Janeway and Chakotay have pursued a romance upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant? I really do not how to answer this question. Chakotay had assumed command of Voyager, in the post-series ”VOYAGER” novels and Janeway was promoted to vice-admiral. On one hand, there was a chance that he might not have found himself under her direct command. Then again . . . he probably did. But the only way I could see a romance between Janeway and Chakotay was if they had both resigned their Starfleet commissions, one of them resigned from Starfleet or if Chakotay found himself at the same rank as Janeway. Other than the above, I can never see a serious romance between the two . . . even though I believe they were emotionally suited for one another.

“DR. NO” (1962) Review

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“DR. NO” (1962) Review

This 1962 movie marked the cinematic debut of EON Production’s James Bond franchise, created by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Sean Connery also made his debut in this film as the MI-6 agent, James Bond. Although many critics and fans consider film as one of the more impressive in the franchise, I honestly cannot say that I share their opinion.

Based on Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel, “DR. NO” begins with the murder of MI-6 agent Strangeways and his secretary by a trio of assassins in Jamaica. Fellow MI-6 agent James Bond is ordered by his superior, “M”, to investigate the agent’s death and eventually stumbles upon a plot by Dr. Julius No, an agent of the criminal organization SPECTRE, to disrupt the U.S. space program for the Chinese Republic.

As I had stated earlier, I have never considered “DR. NO” as one of the more impressive entries of the Bond franchise. In fact, it is one of my least favorite Bond movies of all time. The main problem I had with “DR. NO” was the schizophrenic script written by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather that featured an unbalanced mixture of genres. The story began as a mystery thriller, as Bond tried to figure out who was behind Strangeways’ death. Unfortunately, the movie transformed into a fantasy-style adventure when Bond and one of his CIA contacts, Quarrel made their way to Dr. No’s Crab Key Island in order to disrupt the villain’s plot. Even worse, the movie seemed peppered with stilted dialogue that made me wince.

The worst line came out of the mouth of former beauty pageant winner, Marguerite LeWars, who portrayed a photographer working for SPECTRE. It is so bad that I will not even repeat it. Even Connery was guilty of spewing some wooden dialogue. In fact, his performance seemed as uneven as the movie’s story and production style. In many scenes, he seemed to be the epitome of the smooth British agent. And in other scenes – especially with Jack Lord, who was the first actor to portray CIA agent Felix Leiter – he came off as gauche and wooden. Mr. Lord, on the other hand, gave a consistently polished and performance as the sardonic Agent Leiter. Much has been made of Ursula Andress’ performance as “Bond Girl No.1” Honey Ryder – especially her famous first appearance when her character emerges upon a beach. Frankly, I have never been able to sense the magic of that moment. Nor did I find Andress’ presence in the movie particularly impressive. Not only was her character irrelevant to the story, she did not really aid Bond’s attempts to defeat Dr. No.

I first became a fan of Joseph Wiseman ever since I noticed his sly and subtle performance as a 1960s gangster in the Michael Mann TV series, “CRIME STORY”. But I was not that impressed by his Dr. Julius No, a character that simply bored me to tears. I might as well say the same about Anthony Dawson’s performance as SPECTRE agent, Professor Dent. Many fans have been waxing lyrical over a scene featuring his death at Bond’s hand. Personally, I found Bond’s actions unprofessional. The MI-6 could have easily drugged the SPECTRE agent, remove any inconvenient cyanide pills and have the authorities “question” him. Instead, Bond killed him in cold blood . . . and lost any chance to get more information from Dent. Moron. “DR. NO” can boast first-class performances by American-born John Kitzmiller as the exuberant Jamaican CIA contact, Quarrel. And Zena Marshall gave a solid, yet subtle performance as Professor Dent’s Eurasian secretary and SPECTRE agent, Miss Taro. It is only too bad that the producers and Terence Young could not find genuine Eurasians for both the Dr. No and Miss Taro roles. But I guess that would not have been possible in 1962.

“DR. NO” featured some beautiful photography of Jamaica from cinematographer Ted Moore. Monty Norman not only provided a first-rate musical score, he also delivered the original “James Bond” theme. However, some of the movie’s flaws – namely the uneven script and direction by Terence Young, along with the wooden dialogue, makes “DR. NO” vastly overrated in my eyes. But what can I expect from a movie that consistently threatens to put me to sleep two-thirds into the story?