“VANTAGE POINT” (2008) Review

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”VANTAGE POINT” (2008) Review

”VANTAGE POINT” is a tightly woven thriller about eight strangers with eight different points of view of an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, during an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain. Directed by Pete Travis and written by Barry Levy, the movie starred Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt.

When I had first saw the trailer for ”VANTAGE POINT”, I had assumed it would be one of those remakes of the Japanese film, “RASHOMON” (1950). I figured there would be an assassination attempt on the President and the film would follow with various points of view on the incident. This is what happened in ”VANTAGE POINT” . . . but not quite. ”VINTAGE POINT” did reveal the assassination attempt from various points of view. In ”RASHOMON” and other versions of the film, those views are shown as flashbacks. But in ”VANTAGE POINT” each point of view is not a flashback. Instead each POV merely gives a certain view of the story, while the story moves forward. For example, the movie started out with the point of view of a news producer (Sigourney Weaver) and the newscaster (Zoë Saldaña) that worked under her, before ending at a particular point in the story. The next point of view belongs to Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), which ends a little further in the story than the news producer’s POV. And so on. The movie ends with an exciting action sequence told from the various viewpoints of the major characters – heroes and villains.

The more I think about ”VANTAGE POINT”, the more I realize how much I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the tight setting of Salamanca, Spain (actually the film was shot in Mexico). I must add that one of the things I enjoyed about this movie was that Levy’s script had a way of putting a twist on any assumptions anyone might form about the plot. I loved how Travis handled the film’s action, making it well-paced. I enjoyed the performances of the major cast members. I was especially impressed by the performances of Dennis Quaid as the emotionally uncertain Barnes, who eventually pieced together the real plot. I also enjoyed the performances of Matthew Fox as his fellow Secret Service agent, Forest Whitaker as an American tourist and Edgar Ramirez (”THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM”) as a Spanish Special Forces soldier blackmailed into participating in the plot against the President. But more importantly, I loved Barry Levy’s script, which put a twist on any assumptions the moviegoer may have formed about the story’s plotlines and characters. My only quibble with ”VANTAGE POINT” was the interaction between Whitaker’s character and a Spanish girl, which I found slightly contrived near the end of the movie.

I suspect that ”VANTAGE POINT” will never be highly regarded by critics and moviegoers.  It is the type of movie that forces the audience to think. And I suspect that most moviegoers would prefer a film that lays everything out in the open. And I especially doubt that many moviegoers will have the patience to deal with the constant rewinds in order to show the viewpoints of various characters. Since I have a history of liking movies that are not popular with the public or film critics, all I can do is hope that I will have the chance to see the movie again, before it leaves the theater for good. Personally, I would recommend ”VANTAGE POINT”.

“Character Development . . . or Regression?”

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The following is an essay I had written about the Phoebe Halliwell character on “CHARMED”:

 

“CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT . . . OR REGRESSION?”

Recently, I had read Lisa Eiseman’s review of the “CHARMED” Season Five episode, “Necromancing the Stone” and found the following:

“Phoebe has always sought out the stronger “alpha” male, and really is best when she is the “damsel in distress” needing rescuing. She has an innate need to be watched over, her own self-assurance was very low when the audience was introduced to her five years ago. Over the years her confidence grew, only to be beat down after Cole’s second turn to the dark side. Yet, her self confidence has been getting stronger and stronger this season after fighting and vanquishing Cole and, of course, her success in the business world. However, this episode only showed how much further she has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Ms. Eiseman’s words had led me to thinking about Phoebe Halliwell’s development on “CHARMED”. I must admit that I agree with her original statement about Phoebe. She has always been the type who wants an “alpha male” to look over her. A recent example is a description of a scene from the upcoming “Generation Hex”:

“Cole does appear in a few flashbacks– once in his first meeting with Phoebe when he grabs her calf (Coops says it was a cute meet but Present Phoebe just tells Coop that Cole was setting her up, and another flashback from Cenntenial Charmed when Phoebe throws the potion vial at him and Coop hugs Present Phoebe as Cole vanquishes into flames.”

Not only does the above statement verified Ms. Eiseman’s statement that Phoebe will always require an alpha male in her life (at some point, Prue had served this role before Phoebe met Cole), but that Phoebe had never overcame this desire. Even now, she is using Coop as the role of “prince charming” or “knight in shining armor” in her life.

On the hand, I disagreed with Ms. Eiseman’s statement on one matter. I DO NOT believe that Phoebe had displayed any strength when she finally rejected Cole in Season Five. In fact, I believe that she had behaved in a cowardly manner. Instead of facing the troubles of her marriage, she ran away. Neither she nor her sisters had ever bothered to find out how Cole became the Source back in late Season Four or in early Season Five. When he finally came back, she pushed him away – refusing to discuss their problems or what happened. I cannot help but feel that if Phoebe had not done this, she could have learned the truth about the Source’s possession of Cole. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed Cole aside and ran away. She behaved in a cowardly manner. In the end, her behavior drove Cole to an emotional breakdown.

Had Cole been wrong in his attempt to keep Phoebe in his life? Yes. Back in late Season Three, he had proven with his decision to infiltrate the Brotherhood of the Thorn that he was capable of making a morally correct decision without Phoebe’s encouragement or approval. But one-and-a-half years later, Cole seemed incapable of remaining “good” (if that is the word most fans are willing to accept) without Phoebe in his life, because of his fervent desire to hold on to his marriage. Cole was wrong in his attempt to cling to Phoebe to make his life better. But Phoebe was wrong to push him away, especially when she knew that he was on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

The show’s portrayal of the sisters’ emotional breakdowns in compared to Cole’s struck me as interesting . . . and perhaps a little hypocritical. Prue had suffered an emotional breakdown in “Death Takes a Halliwell” and nearly beat a Seeker to death for the wrong reason (Cole had to stop her). Piper in “Hell Hath No Fury” and Phoebe in “Look Who’s Barking” both suffered from emotional breakdowns and found themselves at the mercy of supernatural entities due to their inabilities to get over their problems. The writers made sure that the viewers would be sympathetic to the sisters’ . . . even when they were doing wrong. But when Cole had his own breakdown in mid-Season 5, the writers had expected the viewers to be glad that Phoebe was pushing him away . . . even when he tried to commit suicide twice. What makes this worse is that even after all of these years, Phoebe still does not have the guts or is too blind to realize that BOTH she and Cole were responsible for the failure of their marriage – and not just Cole. In the end, Cole erroneously believed that he could not stay good without Phoebe in her life. And the Halliwells’ continuous declarations that he was “evil” did not help overcome this state of mind. Alyssa Milano once stated that Cole was nothing more than a “bad boy” for Phoebe to indulge for at least two years of her life. I hate to say this, but I find Ms. Milano’s statement very hard to accept. In my opinion, I believe that Phoebe was simply too immature to deal with being involved with someone as complex as Cole. She wanted a one-note heroic alpha male. And Cole proved to be a complex individual with a light and dark side – something that Phoebe could not handle or deal with.

In another passage of Ms. Eiseman’s review of “Necromancing the Stone”, she claimed the following:

“However, this episode only showed how much further she (Phoebe) has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Apparently, Ms. Eiseman had been premature in this assessment of Phoebe. The latter eventually did accept Jason Dean’s offer to accompany him to Hong Kong. And in the course of their ten-month relationship, failed to tell him that she was a witch. He had discover this, accidentally in “Used Karma”. Why? Because Phoebe was afraid that such a revelation would end her relationship with the millionaire (or billionaire). Ironically, it was Phoebe’s ten-month lie that eventually destroyed the relationship and not her role as a witch. The end of her relationship with Jason ended up signaling nearly a two-year search for Phoebe to find her “true love” and a father for her future baby. In the end, Phoebe still needed a man . . . and apparently a child, to find meaning in her life. And she found her “Prince Charming” in a man who obviously did not have any problems with serving as Phoebe’s future “alpha male protector”, if that scene in “Generation Hex” is anything to go by.

Did Phoebe Halliwell ever developed as a character? I cannot honestly answer “yes”. Granted, many fans will argue that Phoebe eventually acquired a career. She also moved out of the house . . . something I believe that she had to do to stop revolving her life around her sisters. Moving out of the house may have helped her learn to become Phoebe Halliwell, instead of part of the Charmed Ones. But in the end, I do not think that Phoebe really developed as a character.

Many believe that her romance with Cole had stunted her growth. I agree. But unlike others, I do not believe it was Cole’s fault. I believe that Phoebe could not handle dealing with the moral ambiguity that he represented.

As Paige once stated, whenever Phoebe found any of her relationships in trouble, instead of dealing with it, Phoebe ran away from her problems. I believe she did just that with Cole by pushing him away. She did the same with Leslie St. Clair in early Season Seven. And with Jason Dean and Dex Lawson, she resorted to lies to avoid any problems that might arise with them discovering her role as a witch. With Coop, one of the Cupids, she finally gets her knight-in-shining armor or her “alpha male protector”. But she did so without really developing as a character. Personally, I find that sad. Phoebe got her fairy tale ending without really growing up as a character.

“LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” (2007) Review

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“LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” (2007) Review

When I had first heard about a third sequel to the 1988 action blockbuster,”DIE HARD”, I thought that Bruce Willis must be very desperate to revive his career. Aside from the 2005 hit, ”SIN CITY”, he has not appeared in very successful movie in nearly a decade. The last movie in the ”DIE HARD” franchise had been released in 1995. Twelve years seemed like a hell of a time to release a new sequel. And to be honest, successful action flicks about cops have rarely been successful since the dawn of the 21st century. Needless to say, I did not harbor any hopes of this being a first-rate or successful film.

Then other facts and rumors about this new movie began to reach my ears. First came the title – ”LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD”. It seemed very cheesy to me. In fact, it still does. I also heard a rumor that the John McClane character had left the New York Police Department to work for Homeland Security. Thankfully that turned out to be nothing more than a false rumor, for I had envisioned scenes filled with constant flag waving and patriotic rhetoric. Then I learned of the tidbit that McClane’s character would be battling foreign-born computer terrorists. This sounded oddly familiar. In fact, it brought back memories of the 1995 Sandra Bullock film, ”THE NET”. Well that rumor proved to be half-true. The two main terrorists – portrayed by Timothy Olyphant (“DEADWOOD”) and Maggie Q (“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3”) – turned out to be American-born. In the end, ”LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” not only proved to be worthy of its three predecessors, I thought it was just as good as the first film.

Despite its cheesy title, ”LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” had the good luck to possess an intriguing and damn good story. A former Federal employee named Thomas Gabriel (Olyphant) decides to attack the U.S. infrastructure during the July 4 holiday, through the use of high-tech computer programming. Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, he had warned his employers that any high-tech terrorist could bring about the country’s downfall through similar attacks. When they failed to listen and ruin his reputation and career, he decides to get his revenge with the help of his assistant and lady love, Mai Lihn (Maggie Q). Gabriel tricked several hackers, including one named Matt Ferrell (Justin Long) to create several programs to achieve goals. Then he proceeds to infect the hackers’ computer systems with a virus before killing them off one by one. When Ferrell hacks into the FBI, the latter sends the NYPD to arrest the remaining hacker still alive – Ferrell. Lieutenant Detective (Willis) is assigned to deliver the young hacker to Washington D.C. What started as a simple, delivery assignment turns into a full-scale hunt and destroy mission to take down Gabriel for both McClane and Ferrell.

Moviegoers and film critics tend to focus upon the action sequences for movies like those in the ”DIE HARD” franchise. But for me, exciting action sequences alone does not make a movie. Certainly not sequences like the one that featured McClane and a military jet. I really could have done without that little moment. For me to truly enjoy a movie like ”LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD”, I also need a first-class story and good performances. Fortunately, the movie possessed all three – a first-rate script penned by Mark Bomback, exciting action sequences and an excellent cast led by the superb and always entertaining Bruce Willis. I want to point out that he was especially assisted by Olyphant, who portrayed a very intelligent and sinister villain; and Justin Long, who as Ferrell, managed to create great screen chemistry with Willis.

And believe it or not, director Len Weisman (“UNDERWORLD” and “UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION”) managed to bring it all of these elements together to create an exciting thriller that left me on the edge of my seat . . . instead of boring me out of my mind. To my utter surprise, Weisman actually managed to keep the ”DIE HARD” franchise fresh. And if he and Bruce Willis ever decide to consider it, I would not mind seeing a fifth movie.

“THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008) Review

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”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008)

Back in 1951, Robert Wise directed a science-fiction film about a humanoid alien visitor who comes to Earth with a warning. The film, starred Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. Fifty-seven years later, Scott Derrickson directed a remake of the classic that stars Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly.

Based upon Harry Bates’ short story, “Farewell to the Master”, this updated version of ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” ditched the Cold War theme and settled upon humanity’s environmental impact upon Earth. Another change in this latest version centered around the main character, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). In the 1951 version, Klaatu (portrayed by Michael Rennie) started as a “humane” and ended up as a slightly cold alien who threatens the humans during a United Nations conference, with “the big stick” – threatening annihilation if the nations refused to find a way to settle the Cold War. Klaatu experiences a reversal of characterization in this new version. He starts out as cold and tough, with very little hope for humanity. Due to his interactions with Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connolly), Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese) and Helen’s stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), Klaatu becomes more humane and compassionate over humanity’s situation.

I wish I could point more of the similarities and difficulties between the two versions. But if I must be honest, my memories of the 1951 version are not that sharp. It has never had much of an impact upon me. It just happened to be one of many decent movies that I did not find particularly mind boggling. Even when I became older. And If I must be honest, I can say the same about this version. In the end, ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008) seemed like nothing more than a solid, yet entertaining science-fiction story with a message about a real life crisis in present-day Earth. Namely our endangered environment. Everything about this movie seemed solid – Scott Derrickson’s direction, David Scarpa’s screenplay and the cast led by Reeves and Connolly.

However, there were some exceptional standouts in both the cast and the crew. Jeffrey A. Okun’s visual special effects struck me as being impressive. I especially liked the updated design of Klaatu’s starship and the fact that it, along with Gort, was biologically based. As for the cast, I was impressed by two performers – young Jaden Smith, who portrayed Helen Benson’s stepson and Kyle Chandler as John Driscoll, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates). Smith did an excellent job of conveying young Jacob’s anger over his father’s death and resentment toward being “stuck” with his stepmother. And Chandler provided another example of his talent for portraying ambiguous and sometimes, dark characters with his portrayal of the frightened and desperate Driscoll.

Other than that, I found nothing really exceptional about this version of ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” . . . anymore than I did about the previous 1951 version. If you are looking for something exceptional, you will be disappointed. If you are simply looking for a solid story that is also entertaining, then ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” is your movie.

“The Helmsman’s Log – 2371” [PG-13] – 2/2

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Here is the sequel to the personal logs of Tom Paris, set around Voyager’s first year in the Delta Quadrant:

“THE HELMSMAN’S LOG – 2371”

Part II

STARDATE 48671.28 – Just came back from a date with Megan
Delaney. Alone, this time. We had an intimate little dinner
at a romantic restaurant on Gerdi Prime, inside Holodeck Two.
After supper, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, followed by a
nightcap inside my quarters.

Ah, Megan! Such a nice, calm person, in compare to her sister,
Jenny. There were times when she almost reminds me of . . .
Shit! What the hell is wrong with me? I just enjoyed a
pleasant night with a beautiful and intelligent woman and all I
can think about is our cook’s girlfriend. Kes. God, will I
ever stop thinking about her? Or better yet, will she ever
dump Neelix? End personal log.

STARDATE 48695.34 – I nearly lost Harry, today. While enjoying
his Beowulf holonovel, Harry was captured by a photonic being
that had been accidentally brought aboard the ship. Apparently,
while we were gathering energy from a photostar. The being took
refuge inside Harry’s Beowulf program and later captured him.
It also captured Tuvok and Chakotay, after they had been sent to
investigate Harry’s disappearance. In the end, the Captain
sent the Doctor to rescue our missing officers. Thankfully,
the Doc succeeded and received a special commendation for his
troubles. Now, if only the Captain could order Torres to do
something about his personality subroutines. End personal log.

STARDATE 48733.51 – Voyager had a strange encounter with
something out of one of those old “B” movies that I usually
enjoy. While investigating some dark nebula, Tuvok and
Chakotay’s shuttle was attacked. Tuvok only sustained minor
injuries, while the good Commander ended up brain dead. His
bio-neural energy had been removed from him.

It turned out worse than we thought. Some trianic energy being
had possessed Tuvok, in an attempt to convince the Captain to
investigate this dark nebula matter. The being belonged to a
race called the Komar, who wanted the crew’s bio-neural energy
as substance for his people. Meanwhile, another entity began
invading the minds of other crewmen – including mine – in an
attempt to prevent Voyager from entering that nebula. This
second entity turned out to be Chakotay’s bio-neural energy,
displaced by the Komar’s attack. Just great! My brain nearly
became food for a bunch of non-corporeal beings and was twice
possessed by the Great Spirit Chief, himself. Oh well, at
least we managed to escape the nebula and the Komar. End
personal log.

STARDATE 48736.53 – This afternoon, Neelix had decided to hold
a little celebration in honor of Chakotay’s recovery and our
near escape from the Komar. Jesus, this guy would just about
hold a party for anything. Not that I mind. The more parties,
the better. I suspect that this was Neelix’s way of
celebrating Kes’s recovery from an attack by the
Komar-possessed Tuvok. Hmmm. Certainly not a bad reason to
celebrate, in my book.

Captain Janeway and the Maquis seemed to be the only ones
really celebrating. I guess they need something to celebrate
after Seska’s humiliating revelation. Well, most of the Maquis
seemed happy. I noticed B’Elanna Torres, sitting by herself
and shooting jealous looks at the very chummy Captain Janeway
and Chakotay. My God! Is that little infatuation of hers,
still going on? Doesn’t she realize that Chakotay is not her
type? Too bad Harry is still mooning over his lost love,
Libby. Quite frankly, he would make a better choice for
Torres. Of course, I don’t exactly relish sharing Harry’s time
with her. (Beep, beep) That must be Megan. I forgot that she
was coming by for drinks, tonight. End personal log.

STARDATE 48766.73 – Not much happened today. Voyager
investigated a Class J nebula – one of many we have encountered
since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. The only interesting
thing that happened was a minor conversation with Kes in the
Mess Hall. We discussed some our favorite foods. One of hers
happens to be something called Lokar beans. I told her about
tomato soup (something those damn replicators still haven’t got
right) and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. My ultimate
comfort food. By then, even Neelix got into the conversation.
I don’t know if this was his way of keeping an eye on Kes and
me, or merely just genuine interest. At least we managed to
exchange a few words without any hostility or suspicion from
him. End personal log.

STARDATE 48777.42 – Another dull day in the Delta Quadrant. I
guess every day can’t be an exciting encounter with a new
species. Voyager stumbled into the Avery system. It seemed to
consist of several Class M planets. The Captain, in one of her
bouts of “science exploration”, decided she wanted an
investigation of magnacite formations on some of the planets.

I was assigned to explore the planet, Avery III with Pete Durst
and B’Elanna Torres. Voyager should rendezvous with us in two
days. I guess it won’t be that bad. Pete’s okay. He was one
of the few crewmen who had been friendly toward me from the
beginning. And as for Torres – well, we have managed to strike
up a cordial relationship in the last five or six weeks. Hell,
it’s a lot better than spending two days with Chakotay or
Neelix. End personal log.

STARDATE 48790.33 – Oh God! I simply don’t know where to begin!
I feel as if I had taken part in some bizarre horror vid from
the 20th century. Sigh! Might as well get it over with.

While investigating magnacite formations on Avery III with
Durst and Torres, we were captured by Vidiians. That’s right.
The same species who had stolen Neelix’s lungs, three months
ago. These Vidiians didn’t simply steal our organs. They
forced Pete and myself to become part of their slave labor. I
had no idea what happened to B’Elanna. Until the following
day. It seemed some Vidiian doctor named Sulan had extracted
her Klingon DNA, leaving her completely Human. How gruesome!

I still remember the shock of seeing B’Elanna completely Human
for the first time. Oddly enough, I was too surprised by the
change to notice her looks. I must admit that she looked
beautiful. But then, I’ve always thought she made a beautiful
Klingon/Human hybrid. Not only had her looks changed, but her
personality, as well. Gone was the tough and temperamental
woman and in her place, an emotional and sad woman, driven by
fear. I guess the trauma of her situation drove her to be a
little more open about her past. She told me about her
childhood on Kessik IV and how she blamed her Klingon side for
driving her father away. She has not seen him in nearly twenty
years. If that’s true, the man is an idiot. (Pauses) I think
I’m getting a little personal, here. Anyway, I tried to
comfort her with a little revelation of my own. I told her
about the haircuts Dad used to enforce upon me, at the
beginning of every summer. I don’t think it worked. Then
again . . . she did smile a little.

Then everything went from bad to worse. The Vidiian guards
took Pete Durst away. That was the last time I saw him. I
tried to prevent the guards from taking him, but they didn’t
want me. Can’t blame them, I guess. Who would? I later
found out that they didn’t want Pete to send a message to
Voyager. Instead, that monster, Dr. Sulan had Pete’s face
grafted upon his. The guards came back for B’Elanna, leaving
me feel even more useless. God only know how long I would have
remained part of the slave labor force, if Chakotay hadn’t
shown up, disguised as a Vidiian. Too bad we couldn’t take
the Talaxian with us, but the guards were even reluctant to let
me go. We found two B’Elannas being confronted by Dr. Sulan,
with Pete’s face plastered to his skin. I don’t know what
shocked me more – seeing both a Klingon and a Human B’Elanna at
the same time, Dr. Sulan, or witnessing Klingon B’Elanna’s
death after she saved her counterpart’s life. Too bad she
died. I would have liked to have known her. End personal log.

STARDATE 48791.56 – I still can’t help thinking about that Away
mission on Avery III. To me, it’s a reminder of my failure as
a Starfleet officer. I can’t help but wonder what I could have
done to avoid capture or save Pete. I had a dream about it,
several hours ago. At one point, Human B’Elanna’s face
transformed into the dying Klingon B’Elanna’s, and eventually
into Dr. Sulan, with Pete’s face. I woke up in a sweat, after
that. Unable to sleep, I decided to head for Sick Bay to pay
B’Elanna a visit. She still looked Human. Unfortunately,
Chakotay was also there. And since they seemed to be sharing
a tender moment, I didn’t want to interrupt. Oh well. Perhaps
I can read myself to sleep. End personal log.

STARDATE 48799.76 – I finally spoke with B’Elanna. She came to
my table, while I was eating a late dinner in the Mess Hall,
last night. We were the only ones there. She looked normal.
Her Klingon traits had returned, ridges and all. B’Elanna
told me what happened to her on Avery III. Apparently, Dr.
Sulan had used a genetron to remove her Klingon DNA, creating
two B’Elannas in the process – one Klingon and one Human. He
fell in love with the Klingon Human and used Pete’s face to woo
her. He must have been a sick man. Sulan also needed a
full-blooded Klingon to test his theory that Klingon physiology
was resistant to their phage. As it turned out, he was right.

B’Elanna told me that after her Klingon couterpart’s death, she
had assumed she would remain completely Human. I guess the Doc
ruined that dream when he informed her that he needed to
restore her original genetic structure, using Klingon
B’Elanna’s DNA. She seemed disappointed that she would never
be completely Human. I’m not. Although I found both her Human
and Klingon selves to be beautiful, she seems more interesting
as a hybrid. I even told her so. My little remark managed to
produce a small smile, but I could tell that she didn’t draw
much comfort from it. I hope that one day, she will learn to
appreciate her true self. She can really be fascinating. Now,
if only I can learn to do the same about myself. Hmmm, fat
chance of that ever happening.

Anyway, B’Elanna thanked me for supporting her during our
captivity. We also discussed Pete Durst, whose face is now
grafted upon that mad bastard’s own face. When I asked if she
would like to accompany me to Sandrine’s, she declined.
B’Elanna told me that she needed more rest. Oh well. At
least we’ve finally buried the hatchet between us and can
finally become good friends. I guess that’s one thing I can be
grateful about Avery III. End personal log.

STARDATE 48804.91 – God, I’m exhausted! Not a surprise, since
I had my sleep interrupted by a call from the Bridge. Crewman
Henley failed to show up for Gamma shift. Again. This is the
third time in two months. I had to give her a personal
reprimand the last two times. Last night, I personally roused
Henley from bed and ordered her to report to the Bridge. Or
consider herself on report. After a fifteen minute debate,
which ended with me threatening her with the Brig, she
complied. I really don’t know what to do with her. I can’t
threaten her with the Brig, forever. I also realize that she
resents being stuck on a Starfleet vessel, thousands of light
years away from home. But one day, she will have to realize
that she has very little options. End personal log.

STARDATE 48837.63 – Voyager stopped at an M-class called
Napinne. Pleasant little place. And the inhabitants were also
pleasant. Harry, B’Elanna and myself visited the surface for a
few hours, while the Captain, Neelix and Chakotay set about
obtaining food supplies. With the fruits and vegetables now
growing in the Hydropondics Bay, hopefully Voyager won’t be so
dependent upon food supplies from other planets, stations and
ships in the near future. End personal log.

STARDATE 48840.42 – Once more, Crewman Henley failed to appear
for her duty shift. This time, I put her on report. Not long
after I finished Alpha shift today, Chakotay requested my
presence in his office. To discuss Henley, unsurprisingly.
He wanted me to reconsider my decision to put Henley on report.
Give her a chance to fit in with the crew. Then he bored me
with some speech about Starfleet officers learning how to lead
subordinates. Something that already bored me to tears during
Command school. The big hypocrite! I can’t believe this is the
same man who had gave me nothing but grief since we first laid eyes
upon each other. Hell, I’ve been giving Henley a chance for
six months! At least until now. Like it or not, both she and
Chakotay were going to have to live with that reprimand on her
record. Being an ex-Maquis, I doubt that Henley even cared.
End personal log.

STARDATE 48845.9 – After Tuvok’s encounter with Ken Dalby, the
Captain has ordered Henley, Dalby and a few others to undergo
basic Starfleet training, under Tuvok. Poor bastards!
Meanwhile, various ship malfunctions have plagued the crew,
since leaving Napinne. Something to do with the bio-gel
packs. End personal log.

STARDATE 48854.3 – Life aboard Voyager has returned to normal,
thank goodness. No more malfunctions for the time being. The
Captain ordered the ship’s systems to overheat, in order to
kill the virus that had infected the gel packs. My God, the
Bridge almost felt like a furnace! For a while, I wondered if
I would ever be able to breathe again. All thanks to that damn
cheese Neelix had purchased during our stay on Napinne.

Henley and the others are still undergoing their field
training. Must be working, since Henley has reported for duty
without any problems. She also requested additional training
in shuttle maneuvers in the holodeck. We’ll probably never be
friends, but thank goodness I no longer have a troublemaker on
my hands. End personal log.

STARDATE 48892.4 – Harry told me an unusual tale. The Doctor’s
programming and the holodeck systems had malfunctioned, thanks
to the kino-plastic radiation from a anomaly that Voyager came
across. While stuck in one of the holodecks for six hours, the
Doctor believed he was a real person named Lewis Zimmerman and
that Voyager and the crew were all a holographic simulation.
He even thought Kes was his wife. Sigh! I knew it. I’ve
always suspected that the Doc had eyes for our favorite
Ocampan. And this only proves it. Kes is quickly becoming
quite the little heartbreaker on this ship. She has already
captured mine. End personal log.

STARDATE 48921.4 – This has certainly been a day to
remember! I’ve just spent hours at the Helm, dodging a swarm
of . . . hell, I don’t what they were! Some kind of life forms
that resembled a . . . Okay, they resembled human sperm.
There! I said it. I only hope that Starfleet Command never get
a hold of this log. Although the creatures resembled sperm, they
had mistaken Voyager as some kind of sexual mate. Even worse, they
began draining energy from the ship’s systems, in their attempt
to procreate. More problems appeared when a large creature
appeared also began to regard Voyager as a mate. Jeez! I
didn’t realize the ship looked that desirable! Both Torres and
Tuvok wanted to destroy the creature, but Chakoay suggested
that Voyager mimic the smaller ones, giving the impression to
the large creature that we have no interest in procreation with
space born creatures. Ha! Sex in the Delta Quadrant!

Speaking of sex, the Captain made a joke to the Commander about
referring to expertise whenever the subject of procreation
appears. It wasn’t the joke that caught my attention, but the
way she said. I do believe our captain was flirting. The look
on B’Elanna’s face was certainly memorable. She seemed
completely shocked. When I brought up the topic in the Mess
Hall, she gave me a death glare that rivaled the mighty Janeway
herself. I see that she still has that crush on Chakotay.
God, when will it ever end?

Then again, who am I to complain? I still have feelings for
Kes. In my case, I can say that it’s more than a crush.
Before our encounter with the swarm, I helped her gather
Oblissian cabbages from the Hydropondics Bay. On our way to
the turbolift, we encountered Chakotay, along with Ensigns
Bennett and Gallagher. It seems the good Commander caught
them “fraternizing” in the turbolift. Hmm, perhaps the
Captain was right about him being the right man to solicit advice
about procreation. End personal log.

STARDATE 48925.38 – Plenty of surprises awaited me, when I
found Kes in the Hydropondics Bay, following my shift. First
surprise – Ensign Sam Wildman from the Science Division is
pregnant. It seems that Ensign Wildman, who happened to be a
very nice lady, had left behind a Ktarian husband on Deep Space
Nine. Considering how flat her stomach looked, my first guess
was that she sought solace in the arms of a crewman, here on
board Voyager. After all, Voyager has been in the Delta
Quadrant for over seven months, now. But according to Kes, the
embroyo is definitely half-Ktarian. Perhaps Ktarians have
a longer gestation period.

The other surprise? Kes informed me that the electrophoretic
activity from the swarm, yesterday, had sped up her elogium.
Namely, the sexual maturation for Ocampan females. They
usually go through this phase between the ages of four and
five. And since this elogium would have been Kes’ only shot
at conception, she asked Neelix to mate with her.

Neelix and Kes as parents. Good grief! Now there’s an image that
makes me shudder! At first, Neelix felt reluctant. Hell, if I
had known, I would have offered Kes my services. However,
Neelix eventually agreed to mate with her, but she changed her
mind, after realizing that she was not ready for parenthood.
Kes’ elogium ended when Voyager left the swarm behind. I
thought she had lost her chance at motherhood and was prepared
to console her. But Kes assured me that her elogium was false
and the real phase will probably return after her fourth
birthday. I only hope that she and Neelix are no longer a twosome
by then. I realize it’s a rotten thing to say, but I can’t
help feeling they’re wrong for each other. End personal log.

STARDATE 48946 – God, I must really be pathetic! While
playing pool with Harry and B’Elanna in Sandrine’s, last night,
I spotted Kes and Neelix cuddling around a corner table, happy
as pie. Depressing sight. In typical Tom fashion, I decided
to hide my disappointment by flirting with nearly every female
in sight. Except with B’Elanna, of course. One doesn’t
flirt with a close friend. I guess the old Paris charm must
have worked. Later that night, I ended up in bed with Yoshi
Kyoto. After I “subtly” sneaked out of bed this morning,
Yoshi caught me. She assured me that she wasn’t looking for a
permanent relationship. I’m relieved . . . but now, I also
feel like a complete shit. End personal log.

STARDATE 48964.07 – Today was Kes’ birthday. Sigh! Kes’
birthday. Huh. All I can say is that it certainly didn’t turn
out the way I had expected. Not long after we surprised her
with a party inside Sandrine’s, Voyager encountered a
distortion ring that transformed the ship into a labyrinth.
First, the Captain, Chakotay and I got lost, while searching
for the Bridge. We ended back inside Holodeck One. Later,
Torres and I used the turbolift to reach Engineering. To my
surprise, we were fortunate. Thanks to the distortion ship,
B’Elanna almost walked in on Crewman Nozawa inside his
quarters, dressed only in his skivvies. Let’s just say it the
first time I ever saw a Klingon woman blush. A sight, I
suspect, I’ll never see again.

The distortion ring proved to be the third or fourth
non-corporeal life form we’ve encountered since our arrival in
the Delta Quadrant. And all it wanted to do was greet us and
exchange information. Hell of a way to say hello. Both
B’Elanna and Chakotay nearly came to blows with Tuvok on how to
stop the distortion ring. In the end, Tuvok had the best
suggestion. Do nothing.

Kes’ birthday party turned out to be a disappointment. I gave
her a gold filigree locket as a present. She seemed stunned by
it – much to my delight. That delight didn’t last. After our
encounter with the distortion ring, the party eventually
resumed. Kes, who had been worried by Neelix’s disappearance,
declared that she wanted a photo of him, inside her locket.
Great! Just great! A photo of Neelix’s mug will be inside
the locket I gave her. Even worse, I had to stand there on the
Bridge and hold Kes’ birthday cake, while she and Neelix locked
lips.

Sigh! I’m beginning to think that my feelings for Kes are just
as hopeless as B’Elanna’s feelings toward Chakotay. But I
can’t help it. All I can do is hope that she realizes one day
that Neelix is not the man for her. End personal log.

STARDATE 48972.4 – Voyager came across an old 1936 Chevy truck,
here in the Delta Quadrant! Being a connoisseur of anything
20th century Earth, my heart nearly leapt with excitement at
the sight of that old vehicle. I even got a chance to
demonstrate how the truck’s engine worked, once Harry tractor
it to Voyager. I don’t think he, the Captain and the others
appreciated the noise or the carbon monoxide.

The truck also emitted an old S-O-S signal that led us to an
L-Class planet not far away. The trinimbic interference in the
planet’s upper atmosphere made the shuttles and the
transporters, ineffective. So, the Captain ordered me to land
Voyager on the planet’s surface. All I can say that it was
one of the most thrilling moments in my life. And I did it
without a hitch.

The Captain, Harry and members of the Away team not only found
a Lockheed Electra aircraft (which I would have loved to get my
hands on), but several Humans in cryostasis. Kes and I later
joined the Captain and Harry for a closer inspection. Would
you believe it? Among the Humans were the legendary pilot,
Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. It seemed she,
Noonan and the other Humans had been abducted from Earth by
aliens over 400 years ago, during the late 1930s. Voyager has
discovered the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance. If only
the Alpha Quadrant knew. Noonan proved to be a paranoid who
managed to hold us hostage. The Captain eventually convinced
him and Miss Earhart that we meant them no harm. Also, a group
of aliens had fired upon Tuvok, Chakotay and another Away team.
Harry told me that after the Captain disarmed them, she
discovered that they were also Humans. Boy! Things really
seemed to be heating up! End personal log.

STARDATE 48974.55 – I did it. I decided to remain aboard
Voyager and continue the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. I’m
probably the only crewman, who has a good reason to remain on
New Earth. Well, it’s not really called New Earth, but that’s
what most of the crew has decided to name the planet.

It seemed the planet’s original inhabitants, a race called the
Briori, were the ones responsible for abducting Amelia Earhart,
Noonan and 289 other Humans from Earth. They brought the
Humans to this planet to serve as slave labor. However, the
slaves revolted, killed the Briori and established a new
civilization. Hence, New Earth. I even managed to visit one
of the cities. It really surprised me on how it closely
resembled San Francisco. Maybe that was the reason I had decided
not to remain behind. It simply reminded me too much of Earth.
Too much of the bad times I had endured. But I must admit that
Kes’ decision to remain aboard Voyager played a part in my
decision. Along with the feeling that I could not abandon the
Captain. Not after all she has done for me.

I also got a chance to show Miss Earhart, Voyager’s helm. I
don’t know about her, but I got a big thrill. Miss Earhart,
Mr. Noonan and the other “37s” (the original ones abducted),
decided to remain on New Earth. I wish them all the luck in
the world. Meanwhile, not one member of the crew decided to
remain behind. Hmmm. I thought at least the Maquis crewmen
would consider. I guess not. End personal log.

STARDATE 48999.17 – New Year’s Eve. Huh. I can’t remember the
last time I celebrated the New Year. Oh yeah, it happened two
years ago and I was at this casino on Perdon Gel. With that .
. . Gods, what was her name? Damn! I don’t even remember.

Anyway, the Captain gave us permission to celebrate the arrival
of 2372 at Sandrine’s. Neelix has even volunteered to create a
few delicacies to entertain the crew. In defense of our
stomachs, the Conn Division pooled their replicator rations to
provide refreshments not cooked by Neelix. I’m sure the crew
will thank us. Meanwhile, I have to shower and change for the
party. I’m suppose to take Marie Kaplan and I’m already
running late. If I don’t return until tomorrow, Happy New
Year! End personal log.

THE END

“LIONS FOR LAMBS” (2007) Review

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“LIONS FOR LAMBS” Review

I honestly had no intention of seeing the new political drama directed by Robert Redford, “LIONS FOR LAMBS”. I had simply had no interest in it. But as with another movie, I had to be talked into seeing it. And to my utter surprise, it turned out to be a lot better than I had expected.

The movie is basically about the current war in Afghanistan and it affected two California-born Army soliders (Derek Luke and Michael Peña), their college professor (Robert Redford) and his current disaffected student (Andrew Garfield); a Washington-based TV journalist (Meryl Streep) and a U.S. senator (Tom Cruise). The story is basically divided into three segments featuring the following:

a) Former California college students-turned Army soldiers Arian and Ernest decide to do something with their lives and enlist in the Army, instead of continue into graduate school. Their actions lead them to take part in a new military operation in Afghanistan, in which the Army will occupy certain strategic points in the mountains in small units. Their copter is shot at and the two fall out before the copter can crash. Arian and Ernest end up being stranded in the Himilayas, surrounded by the Taliban.

b) In Washington D.C. a charismatic Republican Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving, has invited TV journalist Janine Roth to announce the new Army strategy in Afghanistan that Arian and Ernest are participating in. He hopes that Roth’s report will write will convince the public that this tactic is a good thing, but Roth has her doubts and does not want to become an instrument of propaganda. Her boss feels differently.

c) Arian and Ernest’s former college professor, Dr. Stephen Malley, attempts to reach privileged but disaffected student Todd Hayes, who is the very opposite of Arian and Ernest. He is bright but not a hard worker. Todd claims that this is due to the time he spends with his girlfriend, and as president of his fraternity.

As I had stated before, “LIONS FOR LAMBS” turned out to be a lot better than I had envisioned. Quite frankly, I had expected to be bored. I had learned that many critics were not enamoured of the movie and viewed it nothing more than a filmed play. Although there is plenty of conversations and dialogue in the story, Redford’s shift to Arian and Ernest’s adventures managed to keep the movie from stagnating. And to be honest, I found the dialogue itself to be very interesting. Redford, along with screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan not only focused on the Bush Administration’s missteps in both Afghanistan and Iraq; but also on the American public and the media’s support of the initial invasions and the public’s reluctance to face the realities of the country’s political state.

The performances were, of course, outstanding. Well, almost outstanding. I must admit that I found Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Roth a little mannered at times – especially toward the end. But the other performances were excellent – specifically Cruise, whose Senator Irving seemed at times charming and chilling. But I especially have to give kudos to both Derek Luke and Michael Peña for their poignant portrayals of the two former college students-turned-Army soldiers.

I do not know if many would have the patience or the depth to appreciate, let alone understand this movie. Hopefully, there are many out there who will be able to. I find it disappointing that the most of the critics seemed underappreciative of “LIONS FOR LAMBS”. Their views of the movie have only reinforced my belief that is better for a person to form his or her own opinion than allow someone else to form one for him/her.

Peggy Olson’s Promotion in (1.13) “The Wheel”

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PEGGY OLSON’S PROMOTION IN (1.13) “THE WHEEL”

Many fans of the show have made a big deal of Peggy Olson’s promotion in the Season One finale, (1.13) “The Wheel”. Actually, many have focused upon Peggy’s upward mobility from the secretarial pool to her new position as one of the firm’s copywriters – a professional. I had just finished watching this episode and another thought came to mind.

It finally occurred to me that Don had given Peggy that promotion in order to spite Pete Campbell. Pete had informed Don that he managed to acquire the Clearsil account due to his father-in-law being an executive of the company. One could say that Pete was simply being an asshole by trying to shove the achievement in Don’s face. But I think that it was simply another tactic of Pete’s to win Don’s approval.

Unfortunately for Pete, the tactic backfired. I suspect that Don – feeling satisfied and perhaps a little smug over winning the Kodak account – had decided to strike back at Pete for the latter’s blackmail attempt in the previous episode, (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy”. He promoted Peggy and handed the Clearisil account over to her in order to embarrass Pete. It was one of the most childish and despicable acts I have ever seen on that show. And yet, because Pete was (and probably still is) unpopular with many fans, a good number of fans failed to notice that Don had used Peggy to get back at Pete.

I find it amazing that both the critics and fans have accused both Betty Draper (Don’s wife) and Pete of being immature characters. Yet, time and again, Don has proven that he could be just as childish or even more so than either of these two or any other character in the series. But so many seemed blinded by his “man’s man” facade and good looks that they have failed to realize how emotionally stunted Don can be.