“MAD MEN” Season Two Quibbles

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Within a few months, I managed to become a big fan of the AMC series, ”MAD MEN”. I became a fan so fast this past summer that after watching two episodes of Season Two, I purchased a copy of the DVD set for Season One. And fell deeper in love. As for Season Two, I thought it was excellent. In fact, I consider it a slight improvement over Season One. But . . . I do have some quibbles about it:

 

“MAD MEN” Season Two Quibbles

1. Duck Phillips – I had once complained on the “Basket of Kisses” site that by the end of Season 2, Duck Phillips (portrayed by the superb Mark Moses) seemed to resemble a minor villain that Don Draper had to defeat. Someone responded that Matt Weiner never intended to portray Duck Phillips as some kind of villain. After reading two interviews that Weiner had given, I now see that I had been right to accuse him of such a thing in the first place. How disappointing.

2. Don’s Approval For Pete – Why did Pete Campbell need Don Draper’s approval? What on earth for? Pete is a grown man in his late 20s. His existence at Sterling Cooper should have meant more to him than acquiring the approval of someone as flawed as Don. He did not need Don’s approval. He did not need anyone’s approval to exist. And the fact that he gave up a promotion to snitch on Duck – all for Don’s approval – makes me realize that Pete has not matured one bit.

3. Bobbie Barrett – Matt Weiner’s comments about Bobbie Barrett made me realize a few things about the show’s fans. Judging from the comments I have read about Bobbie over the past few months, I get this feeling that most fans viewed Bobbie’s sexual desires and aggressive personality in the same manner that Joan’s fiancé, Greg, had viewed Joan’s sexual history. And since these fans certainly could not drag Bobbie to the floor and rape her, they resorted to calling her every bad name in the book and then some.

After 46 years, our society has barely changed. It seems as if even in the early 21st century, we have maintained a whore/Madonna complex about women. Even Weiner labeled Bobbie as ”that woman” in his interviews about Season Two. He also claimed that it had been wrong for Don to sleep with Bobbie. I do not understand this comment. What was Weiner trying to say? That it was it wrong for Don to have sex with Bobbie and not wrong for him to cuckold Betty with women like Rachel Menken, Midge Daniels and Joy?

4. Paul Kinsey and Sheila White – What on earth happened to the storyline featuring Paul Kinsey’s romance with Sheila White? The season’s second episode – (2.02) “Flight 1” – reveals that Paul is involved in a romance with an African-American woman named Sheila White. This revelation causes a rupture in Paul’s friendship with Joan Holloway, when the latter makes racist comments about the romance. Two episodes later, the romance is hinted again when a visiting Sally Draper finds a photo of Sheila on Paul’s desk. In the episode (2.10) “The Inheritance”, Sheila makes another appearance on the show. She and Paul have a fight over his reluctance to join her in Mississippi for a voter’s registration campaign. He eventually joined her after being pushed out of a trip to California by Don Draper. When Paul returned to New York in (2.13) “Mediations in an Emergency”, Paul informed his co-workers that Sheila had dumped him after three days.

All I can say is this – WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED? What led Sheila to finally dump Paul? Unfortunately, Weiner never revealed her reason. He simply ended the romance on a vague note. What makes this move even more annoying to me is the fact that many fans did not question the vague manner in which the romance ended. Instead, they crowed that Sheila had dumped Paul because of his pretentiousness.

One aspect of good cinematic storytelling is that one should ”show” what happened and not tell. Weiner ”told” the viewers what happened to Paul and Sheila . . . and he failed to tell the entire story. This makes me wonder if Weiner had decided not to continue exploring Paul’s relationship with Sheila in order to please the fans. If most of them had defended or made excuses over Joan’s racist comments about the pair’s romance, it really is not that hard for me to come up with this possibility.

5. Peggy Olson’s Meteoric Rise – Could someone please explain how a young woman between the ages of 20-22 or 23, managed to rise from a secretarial school graduate/secretary to the senior copywriter for Sterling Cooper in less than two years? I realize that Peggy was a natural talent in the advertising business. Both Freddie Rumsen and Don Draper recognized this. And I had no problem with Don promoting her to junior copywriter in the Season One finale – (1.13) ”TheWheel”. But what on earth made him promote her to senior copywriter around the end of Season Two’s (2.09) “Six Months Leave”?

One, Don was rather peeved that Peggy had failed to inform him about Freddie Rumsen’s drunken “accident”. And two, there were other copywriters at Sterling Cooper who were capable of assuming Freddie’s position as the senior copywriter. Who? Well, there was Paul Kinsey. I realize that Paul’s pretentiousness and romance with Sheila White made him unpopular with many fans. But Season Two also proved in the episode, (2.06) “Maidenform” that he was just as talented as Peggy. He also has more experience than her, which would have made him the perfect candidate to replace Freddie. Personally, I believe that Don had allowed his mentoring of Peggy to get the best of her and promoted her at a time when she did not really deserve it.

* * * *

Aside from the above quibbles, I thought that Season Two of ”MAD MEN” was excellent. I would go as far to say that it was actually an improvement over Season One. I would be very surprised if it ever failed to earn an Emmy nomination for Best Drama, next August.

“CAPOTE” (2005) Review

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”CAPOTE” (2005) Review

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

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

I do not know if I would have automatically given Philip Seymour Hoffman that Oscar for his performance as Truman Capote. I am still inclined toward Heath Ledger receiving the award for his performance in “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. But I must admit that Hoffman certainly deserved his nomination. He managed to skillfully portray Capote’s ambition and determination to create a literary masterpiece from the real life murders surrounding the Herb Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Hoffman also revealed how Capote used his charm to manipulate others . . . especially Perry Smith.

Catherine Keener earned both BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for her warm portrayal of “To Kill Mockingbird” author, Nelle Harper Lee. Granted, she deserved her nominations and I especially enjoyed how she managed to project a mixture of friendly warmth, reserve and moral fortitude in her performance. But I could not help but wonder if she could receive acting nominations, why not Clifton Collins, Jr.?

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

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

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

8/10

“On the Analyst’s Couch” – 6/6

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Here is the sixth and last chapter of “On the Analyst’s Couch”:

ON THE ANALYST COUCH – Part 6

A month following Phoebe’s first session with Dr. Linnbakker, the latter receives a surprise visitor. Cole Turner.

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CASE #61822 – COLE TURNER (SEPTEMBER 8, 2002):

DR. LINNBAKKER: (Stares at the new visitor in shock) Well! This is a surprise! How did you . . . how did you get away from the Wasteland?

COLE: (Laughs slightly) I do manage to escape once in a while. If all goes well, I might be able to stay away, permanently.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm! Good luck! (Pauses) So, what brings you upon my doorstep?

COLE: To talk. I haven’t talked with anyone in quite a while. Not since that incident with the witch . . .”

LINNBAKKER: You mean, Agent Jackman? (Nods) I heard about that. Of course, I must admit that I’m surprised you sought me out just to speak. You’ve always been a chronic loner.

COLE: Well, that was before . . . (Pauses) I mean, I haven’t really been one in nearly two years.

LINNBAKKER: And so you just decided to seek me out, after two years? I haven’t seen you since those months, following the Triad’s destruction. (Doubt tinges her voice) And you’re telling me that you came to see me, because you’re lonely for company?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, Doc. What do you want? Do you want me to tell you that this visit has to do with more than just me being lonely?

LINNBAKKER: (Sarcastically) Now that would be a nice step in the right direction.

COLE: (Glares at the doctor) This is more than about me being lonely. Yes, I’m lonely. But I’m also frustrated, angry and . . . and a little resentful.

LINNBAKKER: Oh? About what?

COLE: (Sighs) About Phoebe, okay? She wants to get a divorce.

LINNBAKKER: Yes, I heard about that. And I gather you don’t want one.

COLE: (Sarcastically) Considering the fact that I’m frustrated and angry, what do you think?

LINNBAKKER: You know, when I first heard about it, I thought it was a bad idea. I even told Phoebe.

COLE: (Uneasily) And now?

LINNBAKKER: Well, think about it. As far as you and Phoebe were concerned, it was a marriage in name only. She was really married to the Source (Pauses) and under false pretenses. Do you really want to continue a marriage that began under such circumstances? Why don’t you give her the divorce and start over, again?

COLE: (Frustration builds in his voice) Because I have a bad feeling that she doesn’t want to start over, again. I think Phoebe wants to end it between us. For good.

LINNBAKKER: Can you really blame her? She’s been through a lot, lately.

COLE: (Angrily) She has . . . What about me? Have you any idea what the past year has been like, for me?

LINNBAKKER: (Gently) Why don’t you tell me?

COLE: (Takes a deep breath) Okay. First, Prue gets killed and I had to deal with a grieving Phoebe and Piper, who became possessed with hunting daemons. A new sister joins the family – namely Paige. And when she found out that I was Belthazor, she gave me nothing but grief. I lost my powers and had to deal with being – unsuccessfully, I might add – a human for two months. Worst of all, the Seer tricked me into using the Hollow to save Phoebe and her sisters, and I end up getting possessed by the Source. (Sighs) That was the worst.

LINNBAKKER: What was that like? Being possessed?

COLE: (Looks away) It was crap. Just imagine the idea of your soul being trapped within your body, while another takes possession of it. (Pauses) I hated it. I hated being powerless to do anything, while the Source used my body to court Phoebe. Marry her and . . . (Sighs heavily) Well, you get the picture. There were times I felt like screaming, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

LINNBAKKER: You managed to . . . at times. (Flips through Cole’s file) I believe you managed to save Paige, twice. After that Lazarus daemon had seriously wounded her. And when she had been possessed by that power broker. You saved her twice. Despite the Source’s best efforts.

(Cole grunts.)

LINNBAKKER: What? You have a problem with the idea of saving Paige?

COLE: No. I mean, I certainly didn’t want to see Phoebe grieve over another sister. It’s just that . . . Christ! It’s Paige. She can be so damn annoying with that holier-than-thou attitude, sometimes. Even before the Source took over me. Prue was nothing in compare to her. I mean, I can understand why all of them would be uneasy having a daemon in their midst, but haven’t they ever heard of giving someone a chance? (Sighs) I remember when I prevented Piper from killing that innocent, when she became a fury. I mean, I could have killed her very easily. But instead of being relieved that I stopped her from making a big mistake, Leo went into a hissy fit, because I used a fireball on her. (Pauses) And you know what really annoys me? They’re only willing to tolerate me, because of Phoebe. They’ve never bothered to get to know me. Well, I think Leo did, once. (Sarcastically) After I lost my powers.

LINNBAKKER: You can’t make them love you.

COLE: (Annoyed) I know that. But it’s not only for Phoebe’s sake that they tolerate me. They don’t mind having me around when they need information on other daemons. Or if they need a demonic fireball to save their asses.

LINNBAKKER: My, we do sound bitter, don’t we?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, maybe I am a little . . . bitter. I just . . . I don’t know! The Halliwells can be pretty damn self-righteous, at times. And Paige! (Rolls his eyes)

LINNBAKKER: Then why do you want to go back to them?

COLE: It’s not about the family. It’s about Phoebe. Remember Phoebe? The love of my life, who happens to be part of that family?

LINNBAKKER: (Sarcastically) Are we referring to the same love of your life that wants to divorce you?

COLE: Like you said, she went through a lot.

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at Cole with disbelief) Well, I’m blowed! Five minutes ago, you were upset over Phoebe’s attempts to get a divorce. And now you understand? (Pauses) You’re not developing some kind of obsession over her, are you?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) No, I assure you. Look, I’m not about to lose the woman I love, because that son-of-a-bitch, the Source, wanted to use my body to conceive some spawn of evil. Can you blame me for trying to fix my relationship?

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) No, I don’t. But Cole, what if you fail to win back Phoebe? (Pauses) Okay, say if you finally got that chance to talk with her. And she still wants to go ahead with the divorce and a permanent break-up. Are you prepared to accept that? To move on?

COLE: (Stares at the doctor with mouth hung open) Are you saying that Phoebe will go ahead with the divorce?

LINNBAKKER: (Shrugs) I don’t know. Only time will tell. But what if she decides to permanently break up with you? What are you going to do? Continue stalking her, until she changes her mind? Turn into another Leo, so you can win her back?

COLE: (Sarcastically) God forbid. (Sighs) I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her. Hell, I sound so pathetic!

LINNBAKKER: Yeah, you do. (Cole glares at her) I realize this is the first time you’ve ever been in love, but maybe you should take it easy for a while.

COLE: Take it easy? What do you mean? Give Phoebe what she wants?

LINNBAKKER: Why not? Like I said before, you two were married in name, only. She was really married to the Source.

COLE: And what happens, after the divorce? What do I do? Fight for innocents on my own? That’s not exactly my style.

LINNBAKKER: Really? You did a good job of helping innocents between the time you and Phoebe started dating and the Source took over you. Saved Paige’s life, twice.

COLE: (Sighs) I only did that for Phoebe’s sake. You know that.

LINNBAKKER: Okay. (Examines Cole’s file) Then what about Amanda Kuhl? She was a powerful witch you were supposed to kill in Seattle, 1948. Instead, you faked her death.

COLE: (Looks alarmed) How did you know . . .? Not even the Source knew about that.

LINNBAKKER: The Elders did. Apparently, Miss Kuhl had told her whitelighter, who was going to inform the Elders. Only less than a week later, the whitelighter was killed by a darklighter before she could spread the word about the mighty Belthazor’s compassion.

COLE: (Still looks rattled) What . . . uh, is she still alive? Miss Kuhl, I mean.

LINNBAKKER: Oh yes. Under another name, of course. (Pauses) Why did you do it? Save that witch? Were you in love with her?

COLE: Huh? Uh, no. No, I . . . I felt sorry for her. The Triad had already wiped out the rest of her family. I don’t know why. Perhaps the, uh (Takes a deep breath) . . . the Source saw her family as a threat in the future. (Looks away) It was a moment of weakness. I felt sorry for her. (Pauses) Why didn’t you bring this up, two years ago?

LINNBAKKER: The Source was still alive at the time. And you had bounty hunters on your trail. (Examines Cole’s file, again) And then there was Charlotte Warren.

COLE: Huh?

LINNBAKKER: You remember her, don’t you? The mother of Melinda Warren. While that woman, Ruth, had her laying on that bed like a sack of potatoes, you offered her a little comfort.

COLE: (Clears his throat) Oh yes. Now I remember. Sixteen-seventy Virginia. What about her? You know, I was prepared to help Ruth turn that baby into evil.

LINNBAKKER: And yet, you offered her a little comfort, while she was pregnant. You even expressed regret at the possibility of killing her.

(Cole shifts uncomfortably in his seat.)

LINNBAKKER: And of course, there was the Brotherhood of the Thorn.

COLE: (Sarcastically) Are you going to say that I offered comfort to them, as well?

LINNBAKKER: Don’t be a smart ass. No, I’m wondering why you bothered to tell the Halliwells about them? You could have kept your mouth shut, after Phoebe killed your brother daemon. Instead, you not only told the Charmed Ones about the Brotherhood, you even suggested going after them. Even when Phoebe didn’t want you to. Why? You didn’t have anything to prove by then. Even Prue was beginning to accept you. Why did you feel the need to tell the Halliwells about the Brotherhood and go after them?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) What are you getting at?

LINNBAKKER: That perhaps you don’t need Phoebe to be the compassionate man, you’re capable of being. Or a man with a conscience. Cole, all you have to do is reach inside yourself. All the compassion and goodness is there, within your heart. Why can’t you just help someone without worrying about what Phoebe or the others might think? Don’t you get tired of trying to be good for her sake?

COLE: (Opens his mouth and closes it, again) I . . . I’m not . . . I don’t . . .

LINNBAKKER: You don’t what?

COLE: (Blinks) You think I revolve my life around Phoebe?

LINNBAKKER: Well, let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

COLE: (Sighs) Is this going to take long?

LINNBAKKER: (Sharply) No! I just want to discuss your life with Phoebe, after your little trip to the Old West with Prue. Is that why she didn’t want you to use your powers? Because of what Prue had witnessed between you and that cowboy?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) Oh God! Are we going to go through that again? Okay, I realize that what I did was wrong. And that I could have just shimmered away, instead of fireballing that moron’s ass. (Pauses) I guess Prue must have told Phoebe.

LINNBAKKER: Did Phoebe bring up the subject?

COLE: No. But she did insist that I not use my powers. (Sighs)

LINNBAKKER: Frustrating?

COLE: Very. I nearly went out of my mind.

LINNBAKKER: Maybe Phoebe was afraid that you would succumb to evil if you used them.

COLE: I know that! She didn’t understand that it didn’t matter what powers I had, but how I used them. But she refused to listen.

LINNBAKKER: At least she is aware of that, now.

COLE: (Mumbles) Much good that does me.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs and examines Cole’s file) Let’s see. What about . . . Raynor? Meeting him again, must have been difficult.

COLE: (Coldly) I don’t want to talk about that son-of-a-bitch! He nearly ruined it between Phoebe and me.

LINNBAKKER: It’s a good thing Phoebe finally realized that Raynor had put that spell on you, forcing you to kill that witch. (Flips through Cole’s file) And speaking of dead witches – remember Emma? The girlfriend of that witch you had killed?

COLE: (Tenses up) Yeah, I remember.

LINNBAKKER: It’s funny how the past can come back and haunt you. When Emma had used that power stripping potion on you? Must have been very traumatic.

COLE: (Mumbles) Very.

LINNBAKKER: I thought Phoebe had got rid of that power stripping potion, after Prue’s death.

COLE: So did I.

LINNBAKKER: And yet, (Sighs) she had it around, all that time. I wonder.

COLE: (Stares at her) You wonder what?

LINNBAKKER: I wonder if Phoebe had really forgotten about that potion. Perhaps subconsciously, she wanted to keep a bottle around. Just in case. (Notices Cole staring at her) What happened after you lost your powers? How did you feel?

COLE: (Pauses momentarily) Lost. Incomplete. (Shakes his head)

LINNBAKKER: What?

COLE: I was remembering that time right after I had lost my powers. Phoebe had decided to arrange a little party to celebrate. I guess I wasn’t in the mood, between the loss of my powers and her rejection of my marriage proposal.

LINNBAKKER: Rather insensitive of her, wasn’t it?

COLE: What are you talking about? Phoebe isn’t insensitive.

LINNBAKKER: If you say so. Of course, how do you explain the celebration? You know, the one you weren’t in the mood for, after a traumatic experience. Weren’t you annoyed?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, maybe I was a little annoyed.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And how did you feel about being human?

COLE: Well, I hated it. I hated losing my powers. I guess I felt . . . I don’t now, incomplete. Like some damn headless chicken. Or an enuch. It’s strange. I thought being human would make life more easier. Simple. (Pauses) Well, Phoebe seemed thrilled. I just couldn’t share her feelings. And in the, my life became even more difficult, instead.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And now that you’re demonic again, she wants nothing to do with you.

COLE: Look, it’s more than that. After all, I was the Source of All Evil for heaven sakes. And after what Phoebe had endured, can you blame her for how she feels?

LINNBAKKER: What about you? I’m sure that Phoebe now knows how you were tricked by the Seer to use the Hollow. And yet, she seems to blame you for everything. Doesn’t that bother you?

COLE: (Exasperated) Of course, it does! There! Are you happy? I’m pissed beyond belief, because not only has my relationship been blown to hell, I’m being solely blamed for a lot of stuff that was beyond my control! And I’m also pissed off by the unfairness of it all. Last, but not least, I’m getting sick and tired of the Charmed Ones’ damn two-faced morality!

LINNBAKKER: Then why in the hell are you trying to win Phoebe back? (Gives Cole a hard look) Why in the hell do you even bother trying to stay with a woman incapable of understanding you? A woman incapable of accepting you for yourself?

COLE: (Looks upset) Because . . . because I love her.

LINNBAKKER: That’s admirable, Cole. But I think Phoebe was right about one thing. Love is not enough.

COLE: (Frowns) What do you mean?

LINNBAKKER: I think Phoebe loves you, in spite of herself. But it’s obvious that she wants to be with someone whom she feels can make her feel secure. And because of that, she tried to turn you into something you’re not. How can you be happy with a woman who will not allow you to be yourself?

COLE: (Pauses briefly and sighs) I don’t know. I’ve got to . . . I just can’t give up on her.

(Cole’s figure fades slightly.)

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at him) What’s wrong?

COLE: The spell I had used to bring me here, is breaking up. I have to leave. (Slips off the chaise and stands up)

LINNBAKKER: The next time you’re able to escape the Wasteland, give me a call?

COLE: (Nods) Yeah, I will. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to escape permanently. See you around, Doc. (He disappears)

LINNBAKKER: (Murmurs) See you.

(Dr. Linnbakker stares at Cole’s file and shakes her head. Then she stands up and walks over to her file cabinet.)

END OF CASE #61822

THE END

“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review

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“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review”

Ever since its release in 1964, the movie, GOLDFINGER has been regarded as one of the best Bond movies ever. In fact, it is considered by many Bond fans as the franchise’s definitive film, considering that it more or less created what is known as “the Bond formula”. The 1959 Fleming novel that it is based up, is also highly regarded by some fans, while others believe that the movie is an improvement on the literary version. While I agree that the movie, GOLDFINGER is an improvement over the novel, I have a low opinion of both versions. However, I’m here to comment on the movie and not the novel.

As I have stated before, GOLDFINGER is without a doubt one of my least favorite Bond movies of all time. Not only did Bond seem to act like an oversexed adolescent, culminating in that ridiculous scene between him and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger’s barn, the movie is hampered by a weak Felix Leiter, portrayed by Canadian actor Cec Linder (who seemed more like a sidekick than an ally) and major plotholes that included:

1) Goldfinger’s reason for keeping Bond alive – why the man didn’t think to find out what exactly Bond knew about “Operation Grand Slam”, I don’t know.

2) The method Bond uses for convincing Ms. Galore to betray Goldfinger – it’s bad enough that Bond had to assert his masculinity over the cool and professional Ms. Galore, the writers have us believe that he used sex to convince her to betray Goldfinger. Why? Why not have Bond convince her that Golfinger was simply a fruitcake? I guess the writers wanted an excuse for Bond to use the “magic penis”. The entire barn scene left me feeling disgusted and less impressed by Pussy Galore.

3) Goldfinger’s murder of the Mafia bosses – This was so ridiculous and unecessary. Many Bond fans have claimed that the reason Goldfinger told the Mafia bosses about his plans for Fort Knox before murdering them, was because he wanted bask in the enjoyment of letting someone know about his plans. If that was the case, why not have Goldfinger tell Bond before attempting to kill the agent or leave him for dead? What makes this scenario even more ridiculous is that when Mr. Solo decided that he wants nothing of the Fort Knox plan, Goldfinger sent him on his way with a gold bar . . . before Oddjob kills the man and crushes him inside a car. Why not simply leave Solo with the other gangsters and kill them all? Without having to reveal his Fort Knox plan?

Are there any positive aspects about GOLDFINGER? Why . . . yes, or else I would consider this entry in the franchise as the worst. Thankfully, the movie’s cast included Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger. Although my opinion of Goldfinger’s intelligence has diminished over the years, I remain impressed by Frobe’s commanding performance. And there is the talented and classy Honor Blackman (who was already famous in the U.K. in the TV series, THE AVENGERS), playing the tough and intelligent Pussy Galore. I enjoyed Ms. Blackman’s performance so much that it seemed a shame that her character was ruined in that Galore/Bond wrestling match inside the barn. Shirley Easton made the most of her brief appearance as one of the doomed Masterson sisters, Jill. And let’s face it, no one will ever forget the last image of her gold-painted body spread out upon the bed inside Bond’s Miami hotel room.

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Last by not least, there is the movie’s theme song, performed by the talented Shirley Bassey. After all, it is considered one of the best Bond theme songs ever. And that is an opinion I do share.

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

3/10

“DISTRICT 9” (2009) Review

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I saw the new science-fiction thriller, “DISTRICT 9” today. And this is what I have to say:

“DISTRICT 9” (2009) Review

I had been looking forward to this movie for nearly two months. Ever since I heard that Peter Jackson (of the “LORD OF THE RINGS” fame) had produced a film directed and co-written by Neil Blomkamp about aliens living on Earth, I wondered if I would finally see a movie about aliens being oppressed or victimized by humans. Then I remember that I have seen similar concepts in other movies like “ALIENATION” and “E.T.”.

However, “DISTRICT 9” was also supposed to be allegory about the apartheid system that Blomkamp had lived under, during his youth. In the film, aliens find themselves stranded on Earth and are forced by the South Africans to live in housing districts that practically resemble slums. When a bureaucrat from a private company that has been contracted to deal with the aliens is exposed to their biotechnology, he begins to transform into an alien . . . and finds himself being hunted by the private company so that he can use the weaponry they had confiscated from the aliens.

I must admit that Blomkamp had a great concept. And I also thought it was clever of him to use documentary-style filmaking to describe the aliens’ arrival on Earth. Also, he was fortunate to get actor/writer Sharlto Copley, who gave an excellent and complex portrayal as the unfortunate bureaucrat, Wikus van der Merwe. I also enjoyed the film’s special effects and some of the cinematography. But in the end, I believe that Blomkamp had tripped himself with some questionable plotlines and his portrayal of the Nigerian gangsters.

There are some aspects of the plot that bothered me. One, how did the South Africans managed to board the mother ship from helicopters? And two, how was the mother ship able to hover over Johannesburg for nearly three decades without any liquid fuel or command module (which had dropped from the ship years earlier) to move it or keep it up in the skies? I also found the action sequences featured in the movie’s last half hour to be rather over-the-top at times. Blomkamp seemed to have read Michael Bay’s handbook on filming action sequences. And then there were the Nigerians.

Blomkamp’s allegory about apartheid was certainly given full support from his portrayal of the white and black South Africans’ intolerance toward the stranded aliens. But he had underminded his message with an offensive portrayal of the Nigerians. The gangsters are led by a wheelchair-bound Nigerian, who is told by his shaman (called “witch doctor” in the film) to consume the flesh of aliens in order to regain his health. In fact, a white South African female in the movie’s mockumentary informs moviegoers that the Nigerians’ “superstition” that the aliens’ flesh would be able to cure many of humanity’s ailiments. And the only females willing to have sex with another species – namely the aliens – are Nigerian women. It was quite clear in the film that no white females willing to commit such an act. As I had stated earlier, the Nigerian gangster’s shaman is referred to as a “witch doctor” – a term that many non-Christian or non-Muslim Africans would find offensive. In fact, I found the movie’s portrayal of the Nigerians to be very offensive. And as a relative of mine had pointed out, the Nigerians portrayed in “DISTRICT 9” may have regressed the motion pictures’ portrayal of blacks a good five hundred years.

I wish I could say that I liked “DISTRICT 9”. As I had earlier pointed out, Blomkamp’s decision to use the relationship between the stranded aliens and their South African hosts could have served as a perfect allegory to apartheid. But the plotlines leading to the humans’ internment of the aliens, the drawn-out action sequences in the movie’s last half hour and its portrayal of the Nigerians turned me off. I found “DISTRICT 9” to be a disappointing film.

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: “Consequences of a Crime”

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I wrote this little RANT about what happened . . . or what did not happened to Piper at the end of the Season 2 episode, (2.12) “Awakened”.

 

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT:  “CONSEQUENCES OF A CRIME”

In the Season 2 episode, (2.12) “Awakened”, Piper had deliberately purchased an illegal fruit from South America called “kiwano” – fruit that had NOT been inspected by the U.S. Customs – in order to get it at a cheap price for her customers at P3.

However, Piper had sampled the kiwano and became ill with a deadly and uncurable disease called Oroya Fever. Phoebe and Prue used magic to cure her by transfering the disease into a borrowed Ninja doll. Unfortunately, a consequence arose when the doll became animated and ended up infecting several patients at the hospital. The sisters realized their mistake and transfered the disease back to Piper, using another spell. But this time, Leo prevented Piper from paying the consequences of her actions, when he heals her. The Elders punished him by clipping his wings. But what happened to Piper?

[Scene: P3. Piper gives a box of fruit to a guy.]

Piper: These haven’t been inspected yet. Put them in the back. We’re returning them to the supplier.

(She walks up to Prue and Phoebe.)

Phoebe: Looks like someone learnt their lesson.

Piper: Yeah, the hard way unfortunately.

Prue: Still, the clubs doing okay. Doesn’t look like quarantine ruined business too much.

How peachy! Piper learned her lesson. Unfortunately, she failed to face any consequences for her actions. Or should I say her crime? Piper had committed a felony. Even Dr. Williamson, her doctor, knew this. Piper should have been facing some serious fines for her actions. Or the Federal government should have closed down P3. Yet, by the end of the episode, P3 had reopened. Nor did the episode point out that Piper would be facing a court trial or fines for her crimes.

What the hell is this crap?

”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (1974) Review

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Below is my review of the 1974 adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels – “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS”:

 

”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (1974) Review

Whenever the topic of Agatha Christie novels pop up, many critics and fans seem to rate her 1934 novel, ”Murder on the Orient Express” as among her best work. This stellar opinion seemed to have extended to the 1974 movie adaptation. After all, the film did receive six Academy Award nominations and won one. Is ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” the best adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Is it my favorite? Hmmm . . . I will get to that later.

But I cannot deny that the movie, also produced by John Bradbourne and directed by Sidney Lumet, is a first-class production. One could easily see that Bradbourne and Paramount Pictures had invested a great deal of money into the production. They hired the very talented and award winning director, Sidney Lumet; along with an all-star cast led by Albert Finney; cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth; production and costume designer Tony Walton; and Paul Dehn to write the screenplay.

One of the most unique aspects of this particular movie is that it started with a haunting montage featuring newspaper clippings and newsreel footage of a tragic kidnapping of a three year-old girl from a wealthy Anglo-American family named Daisy Armstrong. The kidnapping of young Daisy would end up playing a major role in the true identities of the murder victim and the suspects. The movie soon moved to Istanbul, five years later, where famed Belgian-born detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney), is about to journey back to England via the Orient Express. Despite the unusually heaving booking in the train’s Calais coach, Poirot manages to secure a berth aboard the train thanks to an old friend, Signor Bianchi (Martin Balsam), who happens to be a director for the Orient Express’ owner – the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. After the train departs Istanbul, a mysterious American art collector named Ratchett (Richard Widmark) informs Poirot that someone has been sending him threatening notes and asks for the Belgian’s protection. Due to Poirot’s instinctual dislike of Rachett, the detective refuses to help. And after the train finds itself snowbound in the Balkans, Rachett is stabbed to death in the middle of the night. Signor Bianchi asks Poirot to unearth the murderer.

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” turned out to be the first screen adaptation of a Christie novel to feature an all-star cast. One that only included screen stars such as Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Michael York and Jean-Pierre Cassel. The cast also included stage luminaries such as John Gielgud (who was a bigger star on the stage), Wendy Hiller, Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely. And all of them gave solid performances, although I do have a few quibbles about a few members of the cast.

Critics had been especially impressed by Finney’s interpretation of the Belgian detective and Ingrid Bergman’s role as a shy and nervous Swedish missionary. Both received Academy Award nominations and Bergman won. Personally, I am not certain if both actors deserved their nominations. They gave pretty solid performances. But I found nothing extraordinary about Bergman’s Swedish missionary. It was a first-rate performance, but not worthy of an Oscar nomination, let alone an Oscar. And although he gave a superb performance, there were times when Finney seemed to drift into some kind of parody of the Continental European. This is why I believe that actors with strong European backgrounds like Peter Ustinov and David Suchet should portray Poirot. But . . . I cannot deny that he gave a very good performance. And he also conveyed certain aspects of Poirot’s personality that I have never seen in Ustinov or Suchet’s portryals – one of them being a talent for manipulating others into revealing themselves during an interrogation. I also enjoyed his brief scene with Jeremy Lloyd, who portrayed an obsequious British Army officer that served as Poirot’s escort during the crossing of the Bosphorus Strait.

And there were times when some members of the rest of the cast seemed to be in danger of drifting into hammy acting. Sean Connery sometimes came off as heavy-handed in his British Army officer routine. And Anthony Perkins’ parody of his famous Norman Bates role irritated me to no end . . . especially since the literary version of his character – Hector McQueen – came off as a completely different personality. However, Perkins had one really good scene that featured no dialogue on his part.  But three performances did strongly impress me – namely Jean-Pierre Cassel as the rail car attendant, Pierre Michel; Rachel Roberts as a German lady’s maid named Hildegarde Schmidt; and Colin Blakely as Cyrus Hardman, an American detective masquerading as a talent scout. Unlike some members of the cast, these three managed to give subtle, yet convincing performances without sometimes careening into parody. And Blakely provided one of the most poignant moments in the film when Poirot revealed his character’s (Hardman) personal connection to the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping case.

As for the movie’s screenplay, I must admit that Paul Dehn and an uncredited Anthony Shaffer did an excellent job in adapting Christie’s novel for the screen. They managed to stay true to the novel’s original plot with very few changes. Their only misstep was in making the Hector MacQueen’s character into a parody of the Norman Bates role from ”PSYCHO” (1960), due to Perkins being cast into the role. Or perhaps the fault lay with Lumet. Who knows? However, I cannot but express admiration over the brilliant move to include the montage that featured Daisy Armstrong’s kidnapping and murder at the beginning of the film. It gave the story an extra poignancy to an already semi-tragic tale. Despite these changes, Dehn and Shaffer basically remained faithful to the novel. They even maintained the original solution to the mystery. Granted, the solution made ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” one of the most unusual murder mysteries in the history of Hollywood, let alone the literary world. And although the revelation of the murderer(s) came off as somewhat inconceivable, it made the movie memorable . . . aside from the flashback that revealed Rachett being murdered. That seemed to last longer than necessary. I also have a different opinion regarding the fate of the murderer(s). When I had been younger, it never bothered me. Now . . . it makes me slightly uneasy. If you have read the novel or seen the movie, you will know what I am talking about.

Richard Rodney Bennett had received a great deal of praise and an Oscar nomination for his score. I thought it meshed beautifully with the scenes featuring the Orient Express’ departure from Istanbul . . . and its continuing journey at the end of the film. However, there were times when I found it a bit over-dramatic and slightly out of place for a murder mystery. I really admired Tony Walton’s production designs for the movie. I thought it truly invoked the glamour and magic of traveling aboard the Orient Express in the 1930s. And it also conveyed the claustrophobic conditions of traveling by train, beautifully. Surprisingly, he also designed the movie’s costumes. I can only assume he was trying to adhere to Sidney Lumet’s desire to recapture the old Hollywood glamour from the 1930s. Unfortunately, I felt that Walton’s costumes for most of the characters seemed a bit over-the-top. But I must admit that I admired his costumes for Jacqueline Bisset, Ingrid Bergman and Vanessa Redgrave’s characters.

In the end, one has to give Sidney Lumet high marks for putting all of this together to create a classy adaptation of an unusual novel. Granted, I have a few qualms with some of the performances, characterizations and the plot’s resolution. And there were times in the middle of the movie when Lumet’s pacing threatened to drag the film. In the end, Lumet’s direction managed to maintain my interest in the story. And ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” remains a favorite movie of mine after 35 years.

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“SPIDER-MAN 3” (2007) Review

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”SPIDER-MAN 3” (2007) Review”

Over the years I have learned not to anticipate or make assumptions about new movies. About two weeks before the American debut of the third Spider-Man movie, ”SPIDER-MAN 3”, I had read mixed reviews of it. Although there were a few positive opinions, most of them seemed to be negative. After reading this, my anticipation of the movie had receded a bit. But I still maintained a ”wait-and-see” attitude. Now that I have finally seen ”SPIDER-MAN 3”, I am happy that my fears have become meaningless. Although not as well-crafted as ”SPIDER-MAN 2”, the franchise’s third film still managed to thrill me.

Before I can wax lyrical over the movie, I must address the movie’s flaws. And it had a few. One, I felt a sense of disappointment over some of the movie’s action sequences that featured Spider-Man’s web swinging around New York. They seemed to lack the crisp and detailed style shown in the two previous films and almost struck me as confusing and overblown.

Two, I had a problem or two with the Gwen Stacy character. I realize that there are differences between the movie versions and the comic book versions of the Spider-Man universe. In the comic books, the blond-haired Gwen happened to be Peter Parker’s first true love. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin (aka Norman Osborn) eventually paved the way for Peter’s romance and marriage with Mary Jane Watson. It is quite obvious in ”SPIDER-MAN 3” that although classmates at Columbia University, Peter and Gwen were not in love. Just friends. I had no problems with this. Nor did I have any problems with a symbiote-possessed Peter using her to make Mary Jane jealous. But I did have problems with the fact that the story never followed up on the mess that Peter had created between Gwen and Mary Jane. The story never allowed us to learn whether Peter had apologized to Gwen for using her . . . or if she had forgiven him. And what was she doing at Harry’s funeral? I do not recall them being acquainted in the movieverse. In the comics, Gwen and Harry were old high school chums that dated briefly in college.

My last problem with ”SPIDER-MAN 3” involved the triangle between Peter, Mary Jane and Harry Osborn (aka Green Goblin 2). Near the beginning of the story, Harry had decided to take the opportunity to get his revenge upon Peter for his father’s death in ”SPIDER-MAN”. The opportunity resulted in a brutal fight and Harry seriously injured in the hospital. Harry woke up as a partial amnesiac – forgetting the reason behind his animosity toward Peter. And the two managed to resume their friendship, until an evening spent with Mary Jane (who was trying to forget her present unhappiness with Peter) resurrected Harry’s memories. In the end, Harry managed to coerce Mary Jane into breaking up with Peter permanently. Unfortunately, the writers never revealed what argument that Harry had used to coerce Mary Jane. Instead, they left the audience in the dark.

But what did I like about ”SPIDER-MAN 3”? For one . . . the story. It was easy for me to see that the story’s main theme seemed to be about vengeance and how – as Aunt May had put it to Peter – it can spread poison within a person until it completely consumes that person. Of all the major characters aside from Aunt May, only two were not touched or consumed by a desire for revenge – Gwen Stacy and Flint Marko. Marko’s actions stemmed from his desperate desire to acquire money to aid his ailing daughter. And poor Gwen became a victim of Peter’s desire for revenge against Mary Jane. But for the rest of the characters, revenge seemed to be the order of the day:

Peter Parker aka Spider-Man: the Webslinger becomes consumed with revenge when he learns that his Uncle Ben’s true killer – namely Flint Marko – had escaped from prison. He later seeks revenge against Mary Jane for breaking up with him, with Harry for the latter’s earlier vengeful attack against him and for initiating the break-up with Mary Jane; and against Eddie Brock for the libelous photo of Spider-Man and winning the position of staff photographer at the DAILY BUGLE. Busy boy, wasn’t he?

Harry Osborn aka New Goblin: Peter’s best friend has desired revenge against Peter (as Spider-Man) for killing his father in the first movie. He also has revenge against Mary Jane because she used him to forget her troubles with Peter.

Mary Jane Watson: a part of me is not sure whether to include her on this list. But I could not help but wonder if her bitchiness toward Peter was a result of her own professional failure on Broadway, combined with her growing distaste toward Peter’s pride over his popularity as Spider-Man. And when Peter shares a publicized kiss with Gwen Stacy that is reminiscent of that famous kiss from the first movie, Mary Jane’s jealousy eventually overwhelms her . . . and she turns to Harry for comfort. I would not be surprised if her action came from a small desire to get back at Peter.

Eddie Brock Jr. aka Venom: Even before the alien symbiote had taken over him, Eddie seemed like an unpleasant piece of goods. And when Peter rather maliciously exposed his chicanery over a faked Spider-Man photograph, it did not take Eddie long to rush to the nearest church and ask God . . . to kill Peter Parker. Like I had said, he was an unpleasant person. Eventually, Eddie’s desire for revenge would soon present itself.

Flint Marko aka Sandman: Although I had earlier stated that Marko had no desire for revenge in the movie. I now realize that I may have been mistaken. After two frustrating encounters with Spider-Man, Marko finally gave in to a desire for revenge when he allowed Venom to manipulate him into using Mary Jane to lure and kill Peter.

The one theme that had dominated the Spider-Man saga in both the comics and the movies seemed to be: ”With great power comes great responsibility.” I do not know if I fully agree with that motto. I really cannot see how Peter Parker must become a costumed crime fighter, because he accidentally got bitten by a radioactive spider. On the other hand, I do believe that one should face the responsibilities and consequences for the deliberate choices you make in life. And this, along with facing demons that include a desire for vengeance, seemed to be the drive behind the movie’s plot.

Each major character ended up facing his or her own personal demons – Peter’s pride as Spider-Man becomes a forerunner of the exposure of his own darker nature that includes a cruel desire for revenge; Mary Jane’s insecurity about her self-worth; Harry’s desire to revenge the death of his father to fulfill his own lack of self-worth; Marko’s desperation to do anything for his ill daughter; and Eddie’s own shallowness and deceptive nature. What made ”SPIDER-MAN 3”’s plot so interesting is that the characters’ flaws and decisions served as different points that converged in the emotional final sequence at the construction site in Manhattan. There, the characters make final choices in how to deal with their demons and only one emerged as the true loser – Eddie Brock

As in the previous two movies, the third one boasted some fine performances by the cast. J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson managed to be his usual funny self. I especially enjoyed his interaction with Elizabeth Banks – secretary Betty Brandt – in a duel of nerves in which Betty seemed determined to annoy Jonah every second with some crazy alarm. If someone knows what it was, please tell me. Although in a smaller role than the previous two movies, Rosemary Harris returned to give a warm performance as Peter’s aging Aunt May. In a marvelous scene in which Peter informs his aunt of Flint Marko’s death at Spider-Man’s hands, Harris’ May delivered the movie’s theme in a foreboding line about the true nature of vengeance. Last, but not least there was Bryce Dallas Howard, who portrayed Peter’s beautiful blond classmate, Gwen Stacy. Granted, her role was not as large as it was in the comics, Howard gave a fine performance as the warm and friendly Gwen. Some critic had complained that the movie turned Gwen from Peter’s true love to some kind of temptress. I found this criticism rather ridiculous for two reasons – a) Mary Jane had been established as Peter’s true love since the first movie; and b) Gwen was not portrayed as some temptress but, a nice girl who became a victim of Peter’s vengeance against Mary Jane.

Thomas Haden Church’s portrayal of Marko Flint aka Sandman seemed like a far cry from his past performances that I have seen in which he portrayed more extroverted characters. His Marko/Sandman must be one of the most introverted villains I have ever seen on the movie screens. In fact, his character reminded me of some melancholy circus clown with a black cloud of tragedy hovering about him. Considering the circumstances of Marko’s life – a failed criminal career, a failed marriage, ill child and imprisoned for a crime that was merely an accident – it was not hard for me to imagine this. In the end, I was very impressed by Church’s subtle performance. And I was also impressed by Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, Jr. aka Venom, as well. Originally, he was not suppose to be part of the movie’s cast of characters. But former CEO Ari Arvad convinced director Sam Rami to include the character. And I am glad. Brock turned out to be a very interesting character. When first introduced, he seemed like an affable and gregarious young man, who also worked as freelance photographer for ”THE DAILY BUGLE”. With great skill and subtlety, Grace allowed the audience to gradually see the character’s dark emptiness, underneath the charm. Two scenes seemed to reflect this – the one that featured Gwen Stacy dangling from a Manhattan high-rise and Brock’s visit to a church after losing his job. In the first scene, I found it interesting that although Brock seemed mildly concerned over Gwen’s near death situation, he seemed more interested in taking photos of her and Spider-Man’s rescue . . . than doing everything in his power to ensure that she would be rescued. After losing his staff photographer job at THE BUGLE, Brock ended up at a church, where I thought he would confess to a priest or express remorse over his past behavior. Instead, he prayed to God . . . for the death of the man who caused his unemployment, Peter Parker. This is the second time I have seen Grace skillfully portray a character with one trait hidden underneath another one.

When Spidey fans last saw Harry Osborn in ”SPIDER-MAN 2”, he had learned two disquieting facts – the man he held responsible for his father’s death (namely Spider-Man), turned out to be his best friend, Peter Parker; and his father, Norman, had been the infamous Green Goblin who terrorized Manhattan in the first movie. Three years later, Harry still wants revenge for Norman’s death and he finally decided to take action as the New Goblin A failed attack upon Peter resulted in a serious injury for Harry and a temporary amnesia. The audience got to see what Harry would be without his insecurity and the ghost of his father haunting him. And he seemed like a pretty nice . . . and well-balanced young man. I tried to find something wrong with James Franco’s performance, but . . . I could not find a thing. Honestly. Franco managed to perfectly capture Harry’s emotional journey from the vengeful son to the sweet-tempered amnesiac to the cruel manipulator who broke up Peter and MJ’s relationship, to the loyal and brave man who sacrificed himself to save his friends. Franco covered it all.

I have always liked Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in the first two movies. But I found her a lot more interesting in ”SPIDER-MAN 3”. Beneath the sweet and cheerful persona, Dunst revealed a Mary Jane still racked by an inferiority complex stemmed from her bad relationship with her verbally abusive father. This lack of self-esteem came from Mary Jane losing her job as leading lady of a Broadway musical. Even worse, Peter’s own success as not only fueled Mary Jane’s insecurity, but fueled her envy as well. Matters did not help when Peter/Spidey had agreed to exchange a public kiss with Gwen Stacy, re-creating Mary Jane’s first kiss with him in the first movie. What I liked about Dunst’s performance is that she allowed all of these negative aspects of Mary Jane’s personality to manifest without resorting to over-the-top theatrics. I have come to the conclusion that very few screen actors and actresses seem capable of avoiding scene chewing. Especially those of Dunst’s generation. Fortunately, she did just that – avoid any hammy acting, while projecting Mary Jane’s darker impulses. As for her singing voice, I got the impression that it had been dubbed during MJ’s Broadway performance. But I could detect Dunst’s voice, when Mary Jane sang at a jazz club during the movie’s final scene. She had a nice, but slightly nasal voice.

As for the man himself – Tobey Maguire – I must say that Sam Rami had not been joking when he called Maguire one of the best actors of his generation. I felt more than impressed by his performance in ”SPIDER-MAN 3”. Although Maguire was able to briefly tap into Peter Parker aka Spider-Man’s dark psyche in the first movie (when he allowed a thief to get away with money stolen from a wrestling match), he was truly allowed to explore Peter’s darker nature in this film. There are two particular scenes that verified Maguire’s extraordinary skills as an actor:

*Peter’s misguided belief in his “cool” image, while walking the streets of Manhattan. Even evil (thanks to the symbiote suit), Peter could not help being a nerd. Watching Peter wallow in the illusion of his “coolness”, while oblivious of passing females’ contempt made this sequence one of the funniest in the movie. It also showcased Maguire’s comedic skills.

*Peter’s second confrontation with Harry, inside the Osborn manor, revealed the depths of how monstrous he could be. He seemed truly dark in this scene. Maguire even managed to allow the contempt and hatred reflected in his eyes, when Peter ridiculed Harry for attempting to follow in Norman Osborn’s footsteps. In all, it was a very excellent performance on Maguire’s part.

From what I have read, ”SPIDER-MAN 3” has received mixed reviews. Hmmm. Well, I certainly cannot influence the opinions of others. I can only express my own views. Personally, I enjoyed the movie very much. It possessed an emotional depth not even seen in the first two movies. When I first heard that Spider-Man would be facing three villains – the New Goblin (Harry), the Sandman (Flint Marko) and Venom (Eddie Brock, Jr.) – I had my doubts about the movie’s success. It seemed like one or two villains too many. Oddly enough, after seeing the movie, it now seemed to work within its plot for me – despite the number of villains. Now that I think about it, the one true villain of the story – aside from the major characters’ inner darkness – seemed to Venom. Unlike Peter or Harry, Eddie Brock never could break away from his darker impulses . . . even when Peter managed to force him away from the symbiote. And unlike Marko, Eddie never felt any remorse for his actions . . . right to the end.

To my amazement, I realized that my view of this ”SPIDER-MAN” trilogy seemed to match my view of the recent ”X-MEN” trilogy. For me, the first movie of both trilogies struck me as very entertaining, but slightly mediocre (”SPIDER-MAN” is “almost” mediocre). The second movie for each trilogy was superb. Period. And the third movies for the two trilogies were excellent, but flawed. Will there be a new ”SPIDER-MAN” trilogy? I do not know. But I believe that Marvel film company should wait several years before creating a new trilogy. At least we have movies like ”SPIDER-MAN 3” to enjoy for years to come.

8/10

“On the Analyst’s Couch” – 5/6

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

ON THE ANALYST COUCH – Part 5

Paige never pays Dr. Linnbakker another visit. Piper’s visits to the analyst, continues. Phoebe wants to divorce Cole Turner, but is unable to contact him. Her frustrations lead Piper to suggest a visit to Dr. Linnbakker’s office.

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CASE #71247 – PHOEBE HALLIWELL (AUGUST 14, 2002):

(Phoebe sits back against the maroon chaise, glancing at the painting on the wall, opposite her. Dr. Linnbakker stares at her.)

DR. LINNBAKKER: So, I understand that you’re trying to get a divorce.

PHOEBE: (Glances at the doctor) Huh? Oh. Yeah.

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) On what grounds?

PHOEBE: Uh . . . on the grounds of desertion.

LINNBAKKER: Really? How ironic. Especially since that’s not what really happened. But I guess you can’t tell the judge that Cole is gone, because you and your sisters vanquished him.

PHOEBE: (Takes a deep breath) No, I can’t. And since there wasn’t a body . . .

LINNBAKKER: I understand. But why a divorce? Why break with Cole for good? Didn’t you find out that he wasn’t completely dead, during the incident with Agent Jackman?

PHOEBE: (Laughs nervously) I see that you’ve been reading the file on me. Piper and Paige told me about your files.

LINNBAKKER: And you haven’t answered my question. Why are you getting a divorce, if there is a chance of Cole coming back?

PHOEBE: (Blinks) Because it can’t work between us. I mean, the past two years have proven that. Marriage between a witch and a demon? (Shakes her head) Can’t work.

LINNBAKKER: Many have said the same about marriage between a witch and a whitelighter. As far as Piper and Leo are concerned, the book hasn’t closed on them, yet.

PHOEBE: Yeah? (Anger creeps into her voice) At least Leo isn’t a demon or the Source of All Evil. (Calms down) He’s a whitelighter. He’s good. You can’t . . . one can’t form a relationship between good and evil.

LINNBAKKER: Nonsense. Good and evil have existed side-by-side for centuries. People – including the supernatural – have to live with good and evil within them for all of their lives. Even whitelighters have been known to turn evil. (Pauses) And witches.

PHOEBE: Yeah. I know.

LINNBAKKER: Then why do you have to get a divorce?

PHOEBE: (Sighs and rolls her eyes) I can’t deal with it, anymore. Having a relationship with Cole . . . it won’t work. We’ve been trying for almost two years to make it work. It just . . . (Voice trembles) After all that has happened during the last three months we were together, I can’t handle it, anymore.

LINNBAKKER: Why don’t you tell me about it?

PHOEBE: Isn’t it all in my file?

LINNBAKKER: Yes. The Elders provided me with the information I needed. And the Source’s Realm.

PHOEBE: (Eyes grow wide) The Source’s . . . Why would you get files from the . . .?

LINNBAKKER: From the Source’s Realm? Because I needed information on what happened, while you were the Source’s queen.

PHOEBE: You’re in contact with demons?

LINNBAKKER: Of course! (Stares at Phoebe) Didn’t your sisters tell you? Some of my patients have been demons and warlocks.

PHOEBE: Why on earth would demons and warlocks need an analyst?

LINNBAKKER: Are you kidding? Considering some of the crap they deal with, believe me, they need one. Being evil isn’t as simple as one thinks. You ought to know from past experience. It takes quite a toll on a person. Of course, most beings who embrace evil tend to disregard these little side effects from their actions. They get so caught up in achieving power and wrecking havoc that they shove or suppress the consequences out of their minds.

PHOEBE: Has . . . um, has Cole ever been . . . a patient?

LINNBAKKER: (Nods) Two years ago. Around the time you two first started dating. And when he was dodging bounty hunters right after he had destroyed the Triad.

PHOEBE: Oh.

LINNBAKKER: So, are you going to talk about your impending divorce? And the whole mess regarding Cole, the Seer and the Source? (Pauses) And your baby?

PHOEBE: (Angrily) Listen, I don’t want to talk about this! I’m not ready.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) Hmmmm. I forgot that you do that a lot.

PHOEBE: Do what?

LINNBAKKER: Run away from your problems. It’s a family trait, I suspect.

PHOEBE: (Angry again) I’m not running away!

LINNBAKKER: Oh? Then what are you doing, Phoebe? Why are you here in the first place? If you don’t want to talk about your problems, why are you here?

PHOEBE: (Mutters) Now you’re beginning to sound like Prue.

LINNBAKKER: Does that bother you? You almost sound resentful.

PHOEBE: I’ve never resented Prue. (Pauses) She was my sister. We were very close. My God! She was almost like a mother to Piper and me.

LINNBAKKER: And you’ve never resented that? (Shrugs) Hell, I would if I had a sister or brother only five years older, who tried to boss me around.

PHOEBE: Look, didn’t you hear what I . . . ? (Squirms under Dr. Linnbakker’s stare) What? Okay, maybe I did resent her a little.

LINNBAKKER: Only a little?

PHOEBE: Prue could be bossy. A little. (Pauses) And a little . . . judgmental. But maybe I deserved it. Considering the number of times I’ve screwed up my life.

LINNBAKKER: Phoebe, you’re not the only person who has ever made mistakes. We all have at one time or another. Including Prue. In fact, she has made some pretty bad mistakes in her life.

PHOEBE: Not like me.

LINNBAKKER: Why do you do that? Underestimate yourself, all the time? It seems as if you have some kind of inferiority complex.

PHOEBE: Under . . . What do you mean that I underestimate myself? I don’t!

LINNBAKKER: Okay. Then how would you judge yourself as a person? Or a witch?

PHOEBE: I’m a good person. At least I try to be. (Pauses) But I’m not always . . . successful.

LINNBAKKER: Meaning?

PHOEBE: Okay, I’m not that responsible. In fact, I’m irresponsible. I mean, here I am, one of the Charmed Ones and I fall in love with a half-demon. I mean, how responsible is that?

LINNBAKKER: No one can’t help whom they fall in love with. Falling in love isn’t about responsibility. It’s a state of emotion. Finding that soulmate, so to speak.

PHOEBE: Maybe. But once I found out that Cole was a demon, not only did I not vanquish him, I lied about it. And when Prue and Piper learned the truth, I continued the relationship, despite my promise to Prue. And you know what? She was right about him.

LINNBAKKER: Are you speaking of the same Prue Halliwell who became attracted to one of the Rowe brothers – a half-daemon who came pretty close to killing her? Or the same sister who fell for a mortal that turned out to be a hit man for daemons? The same Prue who once dragged you and Piper to some demonic academy in order to prevent an old high school chum from becoming a daemon . . . willingly? Or the same Prue who failed to see the danger of Leo’s plan to marry Piper behind the Elders’ backs? That Prue?

PHOEBE: Okay, so Prue wasn’t perfect. At least she was right about Cole. (Voice shakes) He’s evil. He can’t . . . He couldn’t overcome . . . (Sighs and brushes away a few tears)

LINNBAKKER: I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you know as well as I do that Cole has not willingly embrace evil since he failed to kill you during that business with Andreas. Everything else – that young witch and Raynor, the Seer, and the Source – had all been committed against his will.

PHOEBE: (Mumbles) I know.

LINNBAKKER: Do you? I wonder. Your actions say otherwise. I wonder how Cole will react to you filing for divorce.

PHOEBE: (Angrily) I don’t care how he will feel! He’s stuck in the Wasteland, anyway. Maybe he’ll burn in hell. I hope so!

LINNBAKKER: Phoebe . . .

PHOEBE: (Continues angrily) Look, it doesn’t matter how Cole feels. All I know is I can’t be with him, anymore. If I so much as think about him, all I do is think of what I went through. Besides, what if Paige was right about him? What if Cole saw the Hollow as an opportunity to become demonic, again? But whether that’s true or not, I don’t want anything to do with him, anymore. I’ve suffered enough, already. I mean . . . My God! I chose evil! I chose him over my sisters!

LINNBAKKER: You are aware that you weren’t acting on free will, at the time. Right?

PHOEBE: Hel-lo? Of course I was! Look, I may not like it, but I have accepted the fact that I chose evil . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Flips through Phoebe’s file) Sorry honey, you didn’t. Remember that box of chocolates Cole gave you, right after your wedding?

PHOEBE: (Frowns) Yeah?

LINNBAKKER: It contained a potion made by the Seer that would guarantee you and Cole conceiving an evil child during the Harvest moon. Not only would that child tap into your own inner evil, but would ensure that you willingly choose Cole . . . excuse me, the Source over the Charmed Ones. And it almost worked, except you managed to overcome it and choose good.

PHOEBE: Even so, that potion would not have worked if I wasn’t so inclined toward evil. In fact, I’m more inclined than any of my sisters. That’s why I have to stay away from Cole.

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at Phoebe with disbelief) What? Where did you get that insane idea that you were more inclined toward evil?

PHOEBE: After I was possessed by the Woogeyman. You do know about the Manor being built upon a nexus, right?

LINNBAKKER: And?

PHOEBE: Well, I’m the only sister who was born in the Manor. This makes me more inclined toward evil than the others.

LINNBAKKER: Who told you that?

PHOEBE: (Hesitant) Well . . . we . . . uh, I came to that conclusion . . . after learning about the manor’s history.

LINNBAKKER: (Frowns) I can’t believe that you really accepted that piece of claptrap! Did Leo confirmed this?

PHOEBE: (Stares uneasily at the doctor) Uh . . . well, no. I never had the chance to talk about . . . what?

LINNBAKKER: Phoebe, everyone has an equal tendency toward good or evil. I can’t believe that you accepted such nonsense! Nor can I believe that your sisters didn’t even bother to reject that idea. My God! No wonder you grew up with such a negative disposition! They must not think very highly of you, if they believe that!

PHOEBE: Hey! There’s nothing wrong with my sisters! They mean everything to me, you know? Hell, Prue practically sacrificed her life to . . .

LINNBAKKER: (Sarcastically) Yes! I know. To help raise you and Piper. Why Prue saw fit to martyr her childhood in order to act as some kind of psuedo-parent, I’ll never know. You already had Penelope. (Pauses) What was wrong with her? She didn’t provide the parental guide that you needed?

PHOEBE: What are you talking about? Grams did a great job with us! She was tough when she had to be. And very loving, at the same time.

LINNBAKKER: If Penelope was all this, why on earth did Prue feel she had to help raise you and Piper? Did you ever stop to think that perhaps she was too young to be a second mother?

PHOEBE: (Nervously clears throat) Maybe. Once.

LINNBAKKER: Once? I’m surprised you didn’t build up a lifetime of resentment!

PHOEBE: (Shifts uncomfortably on the chaise) Why . . . why should I?

LINNBAKKER: I don’t know. You tell me.

PHOEBE: There’s nothing to tell. Maybe I did feel a little resentment toward Prue. Once or twice.

LINNBAKKER: Interesting. You went from once to twice.

PHOEBE: (Sighs with exasperation) Okay! Maybe more than twice. I mean, you try living with a big sister who seems to criticize nearly everyday of your childhood and not become resentful!

LINNBAKKER: Ah! The truth finally comes out.

PHOEBE: Look, I’m not saying that I hated Prue or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong. I loved her very much.

LINNBAKKER: But?

PHOEBE: (Sighs) Well, it was a burden being reminded that I was the family screw-up. And in a way, I don’t blame Prue for thinking that. I mean, I used to get into trouble a lot, in high school. I became a shoplifter. I ran away after Grams died. I fell in love with a powerful half-demon. I haven’t done anything responsible, until recently. And I managed to screw that up. You know, Paige had warned me that it would be a big mistake to marry Cole. But I did it, anyway. (Laughs weakly) By all rights, I should still be the youngest sister in the family. No wonder I’m the weakest of the Charmed Ones.

LINNBAKKER: (Frowns) Phoebe, everyone ignored Paige about Cole. And where did you get that ridiculous idea, anyway?

PHOEBE: C’mon! Everyone knows I don’t have an active power.

LINNBAKKER: Pardon me, but what the hell do you call levitation? It’s a power that requires a great deal of action. And you use it most effectively when fighting.

PHOEBE: Yeah, but it’s not as strong as Piper’s powers. Or even Paige’s telekinesis.

LINNBAKKER: First of all, active powers are not automatically stronger than passive powers. You don’t have to inflict physical harm to be powerful. Two, maybe your levitation isn’t as strong as Paige’s teleportation, but your premonitions are. And yes, Paige is a teleporter, not a telekinetic. Also, I never could understand why the Source didn’t bother to steal that power from you.

PHOEBE: He said so, himself. My powers are weak.

LINNBAKKER: This, coming from a daemon who relied upon the Oracle and the Seer? No wonder he was an idiot. (Sighs) Phoebe, your premonitions are a lot stronger than you think. In fact, premonitions can be very powerful. But you’ve never bothered to develop it. Except maybe once or twice. Remember how powerful the Seer’s premonitions were?

PHOEBE: Yeah, but . . .

LINNBAKKER: And having premonitions require a strong, mental discipline. You certainly have that in droves or your premonitions would have driven you to a mental breakdown, a long time ago. You’re a lot more strong-willed than you think.

PHOEBE: (Murmurs) Yeah, right. (Looks away)

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) You really have a problem with low self-esteem, do you? Maybe the reason you had resented Prue for so long is that deep down, you felt that you didn’t need a second or third mother. Maybe you needed a sister. And a friend, instead.

(Phoebe sighs and focuses her eyes upon the various paintings in the office.)

LINNBAKKER: (Stares) You’re still going through with that divorce, aren’t you?

PHOEBE: (Glances at the doctor) Yeah. For once in my life, I need to be happy. Like I said, Cole and I tried to be together, but it didn’t work.

LINNBAKKER: Exactly how did you try? By forcing Cole to refrain from using his powers? By keeping that power-stripping potion in the house? Did you really think that your relationship would work with him as a human? It seems that your idea of working at a relationship is not accepting him, as he is. Or was meant to be. A half-demon.

PHOEBE: (Angrily) Well, maybe because a relationship between a half-demon and a witch won’t work!

LINNBAKKER: It did work, Phoebe! During the period between Prue’s death and the end of Belthazor, it worked. Just think about it. If Cole had not lost his powers, the Source would have never had the opportunity to possess him. And all of you could have been spared a lot of pain.

PHOEBE: Well, I went through that pain, anyway! No one asked Cole to use that damn Hollow! And besides, I can’t deal with it, anymore. Maybe I still Cole . . . I don’t know. But I need to be free and get on with my life. I need to be happy, for once. And being married to a half-demon who once tried to kill me and my sisters can’t help me. He’s hurt me long enough. (Sighs)

LINNBAKKER: (Shakes her head) Okay, Phoebe. I realize that I cannot stop you. Who knows? You might even enjoy a little relief for a while. But I promise you (pauses) in the end, you’ll probably become that embittered old woman, after all.

(Phoebe stares at Dr. Linnbakker.)

END OF CASE #71247