“TWILIGHT” (2008) Review

 

”TWILIGHT” (2008) Review

When I first saw the previews for this adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s 2005 novel about teenage love and vampires, I had no idea that I had a glimpse of an adolescent literary phenomenon. About a week before the movie’s U.S. release, I finally realized what ”TWILIGHT” was all about when I read about the book series in several articles on the Internet .

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, ”TWILIGHT” is about seventeen-year-old Isabella “Bella” Swan, who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington in order to live with her divorced father, Charlie. There, she finds herself drawn to a mysterious classmate, Edward Cullen, who is revealed to be a 108-year-old vampire, but is physically seventeen. Although Edward discourages the romance at first, they eventually fall deeply in love. The arrival of three nomadic vampires, James, Laurent, and Victoria, puts Bella’s life in danger. Edward and his family – Alice, Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie – put their lives at stake to save her.

I am trying to fight off the inevitable – namely give my opinion of the movie – but I might as well get it over with. I wish I could say that I loved ”TWILIGHT”. After all, the premise reminded me of the first three seasons of a favorite television series of mine, ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” (1997-2003). But I barely liked ”TWILIGHT”. The movie not only moved at a ridiculously low pace, but I barely found it original. Who am I kidding? Aside from the portrayal of vampires as one-dimensionally good guys whose skin glistens in the sunlight, the story lacked any semblance of originality.

I found myself watching scenes that strongly resembled certain episodes from ”BUFFY”, including one that featured Edward feeding from Bella’s blood. Not only do Edward and Bella reminded me of Buffy and Angel, with less bite or complexity, but they also reminded me of the two leads from ”BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” (1987-1990) – Catherine and Vincent. By the way, I was never a fan of the Buffy and Angel relationship. I found it barely tolerable, which is why I preferred Buffy’s more complex and messier relationship with Spike, the series’ other vampire. As for ”BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”, I never became a fan. I found it a big yawn fest. But I was willing to give ”TWILIGHT” a chance. Unfortunately, Melissa Rosenberg’s script barely kept me awake. The dark and wet Pacific Northwest setting did not help.

The cast for ”TWILIGHT” seemed solid. Somewhat. Both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, managed to generate chemistry. Somewhat. Mind you, I found nothing electrifying about their screen chemistry or performances. I also feel that Pattinson managed to create a more memorable performance than the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, there were moments when he seemed in danger of overdoing it with the Byronic hero persona. Poor Stewart seemed to be stuck with a role that bordered on being dangerously passive for a female lead. As for the rest of the cast, I found nothing memorable about them – including Billy Burke, who portrayed Bella’s father or Cam Gigande (James), who came off as an early Spike wannabe. The teen roles in this movie annoyed me to no end. I realize that many years have passed since I was in high school, but I could have sworn that my fellow schoolmates had sounded more intelligent . . . and interesting than Bella and her school friends.

I wish I could say more about ”TWILIGHT”, but I cannot. I simply was not that impressed with the film. It was not a bad film. It had some good moments, which included a showdown between Edward and James at Bella’s old dance school in Phoenix. Between Hardwicke’s lethargic direction, Rosenberg’s script and the mildly interesting performances by the cast, I cannot see myself becoming a major fan of this movie. Perhaps I will learn to appreciate it more after watching it several times on DVD. Who knows?

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“ENCHANTED” (2007) Review

”ENCHANTED” (2007) Review

I found myself experiencing mixed emotions regarding Disney’s new live-action film, ”ENCHANTED”. On one hand, the movie – more or less – turned out to be exactly how I had expected. The trailer had pretty much revealed the gist of the movie. Yet, when I finally saw it, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I had expected I would.

The story is basically about an animated heroine named Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in the blissful animated world of Andalasia, where magical beings frolic freely, animals are talkative companions and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. Giselle becomes engaged to the handsome, valiant, and bumbling Prince Edward (James Marsden). Her fate takes a turn for the worse when his stepmother, the villainous Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), throws her through a magic portal, apparently to her doom, in order to keep her son single and thus remain queen. Giselle’s plunge into darkness lands her in the strange and chaotic world of New York City. As the cruelty of this new place wears down the fairy-tale idealism of the once carefree princess, such as a homeless man stealing her tiara, the frightened Giselle meets the pragmatic divorce attorney Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), who takes her into his apartment despite belief that she is a little crazy. Robert also has to deal with his own fiancée, a very attractive When Giselle’s chipmunk friend, Pip, reveals to Edward of her whereabouts, Narissa orders her henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to accompany Edward and Pip to New York and prevent her stepson and the missing bride-to-be from reconciling.

”ENCHANTED” is basically a predictable story. Even before the last reel, I knew that Giselle and Robert would fall in love. From the moment Edward met Nancy at the ball, I knew those two would also become a couple. I knew that Nathaniel would eventually realize that Narissa viewed him as worthless and betray her. And I knew that Narissa would end up in New York and nearly kill Giselle. But what I did not expect was how I would enjoy the way the cast – especially Adams, Marsden, Spall and Sarandon, screenwriter Bill Kelly and director Kevin Lima poked fun at the Disney animated fantasy legacy. They did it with fun, color and gentle humor. Okay, the humor was not always gentle. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel of ”THE LITTLE MERMAID”) caustically made fun of Giselle’s ”fairy princess”. Giselle’s talent for making friends with animals of all kinds was definitely a spoof of several Disney princesses’ friendships with . . . animals. Only Giselle may have taken it to an extreme by summoning them to clean Robert’s house. I do not know about you, but I would be freaking out at the thought of birds, mice and cockroaches inside my home. The ”happily ever after” for most of the characters seemed a little saccharine, but on the whole I enjoyed the movie very much.

I have heard a lot about Amy Adams in the past, but this is the first time I have ever seen her in action. And quite frankly, I am impressed. Not only did I admire her singing voice, I especially admired how she maintained Giselle’s perky ”fairy princess” personality up until the end – even if it suffered bumps from Robert’s more cynical views on love, her disappointing reunion with Edward and her encounter with Narissa. I realize that Patrick Dempsey’s career has bounced back with the TV series, ”GREY’S ANATOMY”, but since I do not watch the show . . . this was my first time in seeing him in action since his days as a leading man during the late 1980s and early 1990s. And it was nice to see that his talent has not waned one bit. He is still as charismatic and professional as ever. I must admit that it was a bit strange seeing him portray a character less extroverted than his roles from the past.

James Marsden. Dear James. I think his talent was wasted in the ”X-MEN” movies and ”SUPERMAN RETURNS”. He really shone in his role as the valiant, yet slightly pompous Prince Edward. Hell, the man was perfect. And he was also charming enough for me to be happy that his character had a happy ending with someone in the film. It was good to see Timothy Spall again, after his appearances in two ”HARRY POTTER” films. Actually, his role as Narissa’s henchman, Nathaniel, strongly reminded me of his other famous role – Peter Pettigrew. But unlike Peter, Nathaniel proved to have more balls . . . and something of a moral compass in the end. But his performance was thoroughly first-class as usual. And of course there is Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who portrayed the villainess h- the conniving and greedy – Queen Narissa. Sarandon spent most of the movie peforming Narissa’s voice in the animated sequences. But she was deliciously evil as her flesh-and-blood counterpart arrived in New York City. One could tell that Sarandon was enjoying herself. And for a brief moment, we got to see how she had manipulated Prince Edward all of those years, pretending to be his loving stepmother. I have only one complaint – I did not really care for the platform shoes she wore. Visually, it did not exactly mesh with the rest of her image.

If you are expecting surprises from this charming spoof of Disney fantasy animation, you are going to be disappointed. As I had stated before, it is a rather predictable movie. But if you are expecting first-class entertainment, laughs, music and a good story, then ”ENCHANTED” is your movie and I suggest that you see it as soon as possible.

“Neighbors” [PG] – 4/11

 

“Neighbors”

Part 4

A chestnut-haired man in his early thirties sat in the chair on the other side of Olivia’s desk, at the police station. His blue-gray eyes regarded her with disbelief. “I can’t believe that you actually did that to him!” he exclaimed. “And lived! Livy, what the hell were you thinking?” 

Olivia heaved a sigh and flipped open a brown folder. “I don’t know. He pissed me off. Made me seem like some kind of woman who was desperate for a man. Another Geraldine Boone.” She referred to a woman who lived in her apartment building. “Look, I was just trying to be a friend. He didn’t have to turn on me, like that.”

“He really must have pissed you off, considering that you showed up for work on a Saturday. Besides, what did you expect?” Bruce McNeill reached for a Japanese fan from his sister’s desk and fiddled with it. “From what you’ve told me, he just went through a divorce. His ex-wife and her sisters regard him as the devil incarnate. And considering that he happens to be . . .” Bruce quickly glanced around, “. . . a half-daemon, that might not far from the truth. Maybe you should consider Darryl’s warning and stay away.”

“Warning?” Olivia snorted with derision. “First of all, I have every intention of staying away from him. Second, if you think he’s going to kill me, he had every opportunity to do so for the past two days.”

Bruce sighed. “I guess you have a point. He did save your life. Rather odd for the infamous Belthazor. And that includes falling in love with one of the Charmed Ones. I understand that he even helped them vanquish a lot of daemons and warlocks?”

Olivia nodded. “Including the old Source. At least according to Leo.”

“Maybe so,” Bruce replied, “but didn’t he eventually become the new Source? At least for a while?”

“Yes Bruce, he did.” Olivia gave her older brother a direct stare. “Is this leading up to more advice that I should stay away from him? Because you don’t have to worry about that.”

Suspicion gleamed in Bruce’s eyes. “Do I? I know you, Livy. You can be very nosy. And you know what they say – ‘Curiosity killed the cat’. I don’t want to see you hurt, again.”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Curiosity killed the cat? Couldn’t you be a little more original? And if you’re referring to Richard, may I remind you that he wasn’t a daemon. Nor was he the one who had hurt me in the end. Besides,” she slammed the file shut and reached for another one, “are you sure that we have to beware of Mr. Turner?”

Bruce frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, from what Leo had told me, the Charmed Ones had vanquished him last May. Since his resurrection, he hasn’t bothered to get revenge. Don’t you find that odd?” Before Bruce could answer, Olivia changed the subject. “Speaking of the Charmed Ones, has Gran asked them over for Sunday brunch, yet?”

“Yeah, but they haven’t accepted. At least not yet. Harry doesn’t think they will.” Bruce referred to the youngest McNeill sibling.

Olivia sighed. “Harry might have a point. When I met them the other day, they didn’t strike me as the socializing types. They seemed to keep to themselves.”

Bruce replied, “Perhaps they don’t want their identities known.”

“You mean by other witches? It’s not like we’re going to declare to the world that they’re Charmed Ones.”

Bruce could only respond with a shrug. Then he added, “It’s strange that you would end up meeting Prue’s sisters after all these years. Strange that none of us ever became close, considering that their grandmother and ours were close friends.”

Olivia remained silent. A uniformed cop approached her desk, wearing a concerned expression. “Excuse me, Inspector.”

“Yeah?”

The cop continued, “We just received a call about a dead body found in Candlestick Park.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Olivia asked.

“Well, there’s a chance he was killed in the same manner as the person found in Lafayette Park, last Wednesday.”

Olivia’s interest perked. She shot a glance at Bruce. “Oh? Same weapon?”

The uniformed cop shook his head. “The officer on the scene isn’t sure, ma’am. But he thought you might want to check it out.” He left.

Sister and brother stared at each other. “You think the Charmed Ones may have stumbled across another warlock?” Olivia asked.

Bruce shrugged. “Perhaps. Or else this victim might be a witch. Mind if I join you?”

“Sure. It’s not everyday that I have a sous chef accompany me to a crime scene.” Olivia stood up and grabbed her jacket. Her brother did the same and the pair headed out of the squad room.

* * * *

Saturday evening settled around the Halliwell Manor. Piper bustled about the kitchen, as she prepared a light dinner for her family. At least for three of them. Paige had a date tonight and Piper decided that a light dinner would probably be sufficient for her, Leo and Phoebe.

Speaking of Leo, her whitelighter husband materialized in the middle of the kitchen. Piper was not taken by surprise. She had been expecting him for the past hour or so. However, the worried expression on his face did surprise her.

“Hey Leo.” She planted a light kiss on her husband’s cheek. Leo did not bother to return the kiss. “Leo? Is there something wrong?”

A frown creased the whitelighter’s brow. “I have some bad news,” he said. “Are Phoebe and Paige around?”

“Yeah. Pheebs is in the Solarium. And Paige is getting ready for a date.”

Leo started out of the kitchen. “I need to speak to them, as well. Phoebe! Paige!”

Piper followed her husband to the Solarium. There, they found Phoebe sitting in one of the wicker chairs, watching television. Paige appeared a minute later. “What’s up?” the latter drawled. She wore a knee-length aqua-blue dress with a halter top and matching heels. The perfect outfit for a night on the town.

Leo turned to the three sisters. His expression was grave. “I had been summoned by Olivia and Bruce McNeill today,” he announced. “They were at the police station this morning, when a call came in about a body found in Candlestick Park. Bruce recognized the victim as a fellow witch named Vincent Farrar and he had been stabbed by a dagger. Vincent had a fire power. A pyrokinetic.”

Paige frowned. “Fire power? I didn’t know that witches can have a fire power.”

Phoebe ignored her and said to Leo. “Does Olivia have any idea who killed him?”

Leo sighed. “Olivia thinks the killer might have been another warlock. Which means that he or she now has a fire power. And this warlock might be from the same coven as the one you had killed, last Wednesday.”

“Doesn’t she know where this coven can be found?” Piper demanded.

“Sorry. She and Bruce tried scrying for any of the warlocks, but it was a no go,” Leo said with a shrug.

Paige suggested that they scry for the coven. “Nothing like a little Power of Three to get things going. Or maybe we should use a spell to summon one of them. Or transport us to where they are at.”

“We can try scrying for them,” Piper replied. “But I don’t think the transport idea is a good one. Especially if we don’t have any idea where we’ll end up.”

Leo added, “Maybe you should work with the McNeills on this one. A coven of warlocks attacking powerful witches and no one can track them? This sounds pretty serious.”

Piper brushed aside her husband’s suggestion. She loved Leo, but he could a little skittish, sometimes. Too cautious. “I’m sure that a quick scry by us will do the trick. Paige, get the crystal, will you?”

While Paige left to fetch the crystal, Piper and the other two headed over to where a map of San Francisco laid stretched on a table. “Okay,” Paige said, as she hung the crystal over the map, “here we go. Warlocks, warlocks. Where are they?” The crystal continued to hover, but after several seconds, it failed to pinpoint nothing. “Maybe Olivia was mistaken about warlocks attacking the witches. Maybe they’re demons.”

“I don’t think so,” Leo replied. “Olivia recognized both the warlock that Phoebe killed and the one whom Cole had saved her from, as part of the Crozat Coven from her Book of Shadows. She had encountered one several years ago.”

A concerned Phoebe agreed with Leo. “Maybe we should work with the McNeills. Olivia seemed to be more familiar with this coven.”

Piper sighed. As much as she disliked the idea of working with strangers, she realized that both Leo and Phoebe made sense. “All right,” she said. “I’ll call Mrs. McNeill and tell her that we accept her invitation to Sunday brunch.” Piper paused. “Does anyone remember her telephone number?”

* * * *

Olivia’s low heels clicked on the concrete ground, as she strode across the building’s underground parking lot. It was late Sunday morning and she was on her way to her parents’ home for the family’s traditional Sunday brunch.

Once she reached her dark blue BMW convertible, Olivia clicked off the alarm. Then she placed a wrapped square pan on the passenger seat. She then climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Only the damn thing refused to start.

Olivia muttered an oath under her breath. Again, she switched on the engine. And again, failure. She smacked her hand against the steering wheel in anger. It seemed she would have to call Bruce or Harry to give her a ride to the McNeill manor. Heaving a sigh, Olivia reached inside her purse for the cell phone.

“Is there a problem?” a soft, masculine voice asked. Olivia glanced up and saw Cole Turner looming beside her convertible. He glanced down and smiled. “Hi. Car trouble?”

Olivia eyed the newcomer warily. Her mind conjured up images of the irrate neighbor, the reluctant savior and the rude bastard she had met over the past several days.  And it seemed she was about to become acquainted with a new facet of Cole Turner’s personality.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Olivia coolly replied. “Is there something you need?”

Cole peered into the passenger seat. “No, I . . . uh, I spotted you from the elevator and decided to say hi.” He pointed at the food on the car seat. “Going to a party?”

“Not quite. More like a family’s Sunday brunch.” Olivia added, “Those are sandwich loaves, by the way.” Cole stared at her. “You seemed interested.”

An embarrassed cough left Cole’s mouth. “Well, I can only guess that it tastes as good as your Floating Island. Which was quite delicious, by the way. Too bad most of it ended in my face.” He chuckled slightly.

Olivia winced out of sheer embarrassment. “Oh God! I’m sorry about that,” she said in a contrite voice. “It was a childish way to lose my temper.”

“Actually, I should apologize,” Cole quietly interjected. “I was pretty rude that night.” A half-hearted attempt at another chuckle followed. “Very rude, as a matter of fact. I, uh . . . I had an unpleasant conversation with Phoe. . . uh, my ex-wife. I guess I was in a bad mood that night.”

An understanding smile tugged at Olivia’s lips. “That’s okay. Apology accepted.” Her frown returned as she diverted her attention back to her car. “Now if I can just get this car started.” She made one last attempt to switch on the engine. And once more, she failed. “Dammit! I knew I should have got this damn engine fixed when I had the chance.”

“Need a lift?” Cole asked.

Olivia sighed from sheer relief. She glanced up at him with pleading eyes. “Would you mind? I’m going to 231 Pacific Avenue.”

“Not at all.” Cole helped her out of the car. Olivia reached inside to remove her sandwich loaves from the passenger’s seat. “I was about to go for a drive. But I could get you to wherever you’re going a lot faster.”

“Teleporting? As in shimmering?”

Cole stared at her. “How did you . . .? Never mind. By the way, I haven’t shimmered in about a year. I sort of blur or beam now.”

Olivia gave him a wide. “Really? I haven’t been teleported to another place in ten months. This should be interesting.” She relished the astonished expression on Cole’s face as they disappeared from the parking lot.

* * * *

One second later, Cole and Olivia appeared in front of a three-story Mission Revival manor. It stood on hill that overlooked San Francisco Bay. Cole was impressed. Very impressed. There was also something very familiar about this place.

“This is where your parents live?” he asked.

Olivia nodded. “The McNeills have owned the house for the past 127 years. It was one of the first homes built in this neighborhood. Before the 1906 earthquake.” Cole followed her up the verandah’s stairs and toward the front door. Olivia rang the doorbell.

The pair waited only a few seconds before a dark-suited man in his mid-fifties answered the door. “Oh, Miss Olivia! You’re here.” Cole immediately recognized his Welsh accent.

“Good morning, Davies,” she replied, as she brushed past the manservant. Cole followed. “Is everyone here?”

Davies replied, “Yes, miss. And we also have . . .”

“Hey sis! You finally made it!” A tall young man in his mid-twenties appeared in the foyer. Like Olivia, he possessed red hair and green eyes. And he had the looks that one would describe as boyishly handsome.

Olivia gave the young man a hug. “Hey Harry! Long time no see. How was London?”

Harry shrugged. “Not bad.” His eyes fell upon Cole. “Who’s your guest?”

“Oh. I’d like you to meet Cole Turner.” When Harry’s eyes grew wide, Olivia nodded. “Yep, he’s that Cole Turner. The one who saved me last Thursday.”

Harry’s face turned pale. “Oh.”

“What’s the matter?” a frowning Olivia asked. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. Or worse. Where is everyone? In the garden?”

The young man replied reluctantly, “Well, yeah. But I should tell you . . .” Olivia pushed past him before he could finish. “Olivia!” Oblivious to her brother’s cry, the redhead continued across the foyer. Cole realized he had no choice but to follow close behind. “Gee, Livy! Can’t you even wait until I finish?”

With Cole still following, Olivia marched into a spacious sitting room, filled with elegant and very expensive furnishings. Instead of stopping, Olivia continued toward a pair of French door. She swung them open, stepped outside and stopped short. Cole overheard her murmur, “Oh!”

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Cole peered over Olivia’s shoulder. The sight that greeted his eyes nearly caused his heart to stop.

A woman who resembled a middle-aged version of Olivia rose from a wicker chair to greet the newcomers. “Olivia, darling! You finally made it! I was beginning to wonder.” The woman climbed a pair of stairs that led to the terrace where Cole, Olivia and her brother now stood. She hugged the younger woman and then her green eyes rested upon Cole with deep interest. “Who’s this?” she asked. “Have we met, before?” Cole noticed that she also spoke with a Welsh accent.

“Mom, this is Cole Turner. The same Cole who had saved me from that warlock, last Thursday night,” Olivia announced.

Green eyes grew wide. “Oh! So you’re . . .” Realization crept into those eyes. “Oh. I . . .” Olivia’s mother glanced at the figures below her. The McNeills and Cole descended the small staircase and approached the others,who now sat in chairs around a garden.

One figure stood up and eyed Cole with familiar suspicion. “What the hell is he doing here?” accused one Paige Matthews.

Olivia’s mother smiled wanly. “Sorry about that, Livy. I forgot to tell you that we have . . . visitors.”

Cole took a deep breath and glanced at his ex-wife and former in-laws. “I guess I better get going,” he muttered.

Olivia placed a free hand on his arm. “Wait a minute! Not before I introduce you to my family.” She nodded at the older woman. “This is my mother, Gweneth Morgan McNeill. And you’ve also met my younger brother, Harry.” The red-haired man shook hands with Cole.

Two other men stood up to greet the half-daemon. Both stood at six feet tall and possessed chestnut-brown hair, blue-gray eyes and rugged good looks. One of them reached Cole first. He was older, at least in his early or mid-fifties. And there seemed to be a dangerous gleam in his eyes that struck a familiar note with Cole. “Hi, I’m Jack McNeill, Olivia’s father.” American accent. “It’s nice to meet you again, after all these years.”

Cole stared into the man’s face. Memories from the past flooded his brain. Of a cunning male witch who nearly got the best of him some twenty-five years ago. Frowning, he asked, “Have we met before?”

A knowing smile stretched Jack McNeill’s lips. He offered his hand. “London, June 1977. You were trying to steal an amulet from a friend of mine and my wife and I helped her set a trap for you.”

Stunned by the realization, Cole absently shook McNeill’s hand. “Oh yeah. Now I remember. You nearly killed me. I barely got away with my life.”

“Sorry about that.” McNeill gave a quick shrug. “At least you got away.” He turned to the younger version of himself. “Oh, this is my son, Bruce. Bruce McNeill.”

The younger McNeill shook Cole’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Thanks for saving Livy’s life, the other day. And this,” he indicated a pretty blond woman, who sat in one of the garden’s chairs, “is my fiancée, Barbara Bowen.” Cole nodded at the woman.

“Nice to meet you all,” he finally said.

Olivia nodded at the Halliwells. “I guess you know who they are. No need to introduce them.”

Cole shot another glance at Phoebe and the others. “Well, I guess it’s time for me to leave. I uh. . .”

Gweneth McNeill spoke up. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay? We have plenty of . . .”

“Who’s this?” a soft voice from behind, asked. Cole, Olivia and Harry whirled around. Behind them stood a petite woman with a silvery hair and blue-gray eyes. Cole figured her to be at least in her early or mid-seventies. He also realized that she must have been a beauty in her day. Her eyes gleamed with interest at the newcomer.

Olivia replied, “Hi Gran! This is the guy who saved me a few days, ago. Cole Turner. Cole, this is my grandmother, Elise Collins McNeill.”

“So this is the famous Belthazor,” Elise McNeill declared. Cole noticed how her family winced at her bluntness. But he did not mind. He could not find any hostility in her tone. Only interest.

Cole flashed a quick smile. “Belthazor has been gone for about a year, now. Just call me Cole.”

“Really? But aren’t you a daemon again?”

Olivia cried out in protest, “Gran!”

Mrs. McNeill rolled her eyes. “Oh please! It’s a perfectly legitimate question.”

“I don’t know about that,” Cole replied. He heard a scoff from one the Halliwells. Piper. “But I do have new demonic powers. It’s a long story.” He was amused by the woman’s directness. In a way, she reminded him of Olivia. He shot another look at his former in-laws and his smile disappeared.

Mrs. McNeill patted his arm. “Well, I’d love to hear it.”

“So would I,” Jack McNeill added. “Why don’t you stay for brunch?”

The McNeills, including Olivia, stared at Cole with expectation. Cole had not felt this welcomed since . . . well, since he and Phoebe first started dating. Nor did he recall the Halliwells sharing her feelings. Once more, he glanced at the Charmed Ones and Leo. “Uh, I’d like to, but I had other plans.”

“Oh.” Mrs. McNeill’s eyes expressed disappointment. Then she glanced at the Halliwells. “I see. Well, how about Tuesday night?”

Cole glanced at Olivia, whose eyes looked hopeful. The other McNeills seemed to feel just the same. Why were they so interested in him? To satisfy their curiosity? Or maybe they felt grateful to him for saving Olivia’s life. What the hell! “I’d love to accept. What time should I come?”

Smiling, Olivia replied, “Seven o’clock. We can come together.” Cole’s brows rose at the double meaning of her words. Her cheeks turned pink. “Uh . . . you know what I mean.”

“Yeah. Well, I’ll see you all on Tuesday.” Cole gave them a polite smile and quickly made his escape.

 

END OF PART 4

“THERE WILL BE BLOOD” (2007) Review

 

”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” (2007) Review

I really do not know what to say about Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie, ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD”. This movie, based upon Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel ”Oil!”, is about a ruthless oilman in California between 1898 and 1927. I cannot deny that this is basically an excellent film and that Daniel Day-Lewis gave one of the best performances of career. I cannot also deny that ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” was basically well written, produced and directed by director Anderson. I basically enjoyed it very much and consider it to be one of the better films released this year. But for some reason, I cannot muster any real passion for it.

I must admit that there were times that I found the movie fascinating. One has to thank leading Daniel Day-Lewis’ riveting performance maintaining my interest. He portrayed the ruthless Daniel Plainview, a hard-working silver prospector who discovered an oil well, while prospecting for silver. On the very day he discovers his first oil well, one of his employees die in an accident and Plainview adopts the dead man’s infant son. By 1911, he is one of the most successful oil men in California. In order to convince many farmers and other small landowners to drill on their land, he uses his adoptive son, whom he names H.W. (Dillon Freasier), as his “partner” to project his status as a family man and a family businessman. Plainview is approached by a young man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) who sells Plainview an oil lead located on his family’s property in Little Boston, California. Plainview and H.W. travel to Little Boston, and, pretending to be hunting quail, scout out the Sunday property and discover a good amount of seepage oil. Plainview attempts to buy the property without notifying Paul’s father Abel (David Willis) of the oil, but Paul’s twin brother, Eli (again Paul Dano), knows of the oil and raises the price to $10,000, the bulk of which he intends to put into the founding of his own Church. Plainview pays him $5000 up front and promises the other $5000 as a donation to the church. In order to ensure the monopoly on the Little Boston oil, Plainview buys the “ranches” of a number of the surrounding neighbors, with the exception of one property, which the owner, a Mr. Bandy (Hans Howes), was hesitant to sell.

As I had earlier stated, the heart and soul of ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” for me was Daniel Day-Lewis. His Daniel Plainview has to be one of the most fascinating characters in movie history. Certainly not in literary history, since Plainview was a character created for the screen by Anderson. I really do not know how to describe him. He seemed to be the epitome of those ruthless tycoons of the late 19th century and early 20th century. He is certainly not typical. Utilizing a John Huston accent, Day-Lewis captured all of the malevolence , cunning and emotional perversity of Plainview, as he draws the audience into the character’s unchecked greed for wealth and power. The ironic thing is that Plainview does not seem to care for the trappings of wealth. One example of this is his habit of sleeping on the floor, even when a comfortable bed is available. And even in that exclusive mansion he has built by the end of the film, he sleeps on the floor inside the mansion’s bowling alley. But the money and power, he definitely needs. And he needs an audience to witness his financial triumphs, judging how he had temporarily abandoned H.W. when the latter first lost his hearing in an accident and how he took under his wings, a man claiming to be a long lost brother named Henry Brands (Kevin J. O’Connor).  Due to his superb performance, Day-Lewis deservedly won both a Golden Globe award and an Oscar.  If he had failed to win either or both awards, I would have been shocked.

It is a shame that the Golden Globes and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science were never able to acknowledge Paul Dano for his performances as the twin brothers – Paul and Eli Sunday, and Dillon Freasier as the young H.W. Plainview. Dano, who had last impressed critics with his supporting role in ”LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE”, had studied evangelism for his role as the Sunday twins. The Paul Sunday character made a brief appearance near the beginning of the story, but Dano’s performance as the other twin Eli really impressed me. Dano’s performance revealed the malevolence and greed for wealth and power behind Eli’s meek and religious demeanor – traits that seemed to match Plainview’s. Anderson could not find a child actor to portray Plainview’s adoptive son, H.W., so he had hired the son of a Texas state trooper who had pulled over the movie’s casting agent for speeding. Like Dakota Blue Richards in ”THE GOLDEN COMPASS”, Dillon Freasier turned out to be find. Especially for Anderson and the movie. With very few words, the young actor managed to convey all of his character’s array of emotions experienced in the film – from his intelligence and warmth, to his suspicions and resentment of Plainview’s relationship with Henry Brands.

Most of ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” seemed to be set during 1911. Sinclair’s novel seemed to be a condemnation of the oil industry itself and a response to the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal during the Warren G. Harding administration. Anderson does condemn the oil industry in California, especially in his revelation of how many small landowners were cheated out of millions of dollars through the manipulations of oil companies and tycoons. But for me, ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” seemed more like a character study than an expose on a major industry. But I must admit that it is a first-class movie and probably one of the better ones of 2007. Anderson paced the movie very well, making one ALMOST forget that this movie is fifteen minutes short of three hours. With actors like Day-Lewis, Dano, Freasier, Ciarán Hinds and Kevin J. O’Connor, Anderson managed to make the most of a first-class cast. Well, almost. More on that later. Does it deserve to win the Best Picture Oscar? Quite frankly, I am not sure. As excellent as the movie is . . . as first-rate as was Day-Lewis’ performance, it did not exactly rock my boat. Quite frankly, I do have a few problems with the film.

As I had stated earlier, ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD” seemed more like a character study, instead of an expose. And because of that, I feel that it could have been at least a half hour or forty-five minutes shorter. When I said that Anderson had almost made me forget that this movie was nearly three hours long, I was serious. He ALMOST made me forget about the film’s running time. Until the story shifted to 1927. Frankly, I do not see why Anderson had even bothered. Following the time shift, the movie lost its epic scope. Even Plainview’s personality seemed to have lost some of its steam . . . until his last encounter with Eli Sunday. Speaking of those two, I believe that the make-up artist may have done both Day-Lewis and Dano a bit of a disservice. Despite the fifteen to sixteen year difference between the two time shifts, I never really got the impression that either Plainview or Sunday had aged at all. There was barely a strand of gray in Day-Lewis’ hair and Dano still looked like a young man in his early twenties, despite the fact that Eli Sunday must have been at least in his mid-to-late thirties during the film’s last half hour. But the one thing I actually disliked about the film was its abrupt ending. One can say that the movie ended with the final confrontation between the two adversaries. But there is this feeling in my gut that Anderson had ended the movie in the middle of the story’s finale. He probably had a reason for ending it in this manner. Whatever reason he had, it has eluded me.

Despite some of my disenchantment with ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD”, I must admit that it is overall, an excellent film. It may not have rocked my boat, but I did find it fascinating. And if you can deal with a two hour and forty-five minute study about a fictional character, then I suggest that you watch the movie.

“THE KINGDOM” (2007) Review

“THE KINGDOM” (2007) Movie Review

Based upon a real life incident regarding a terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia (Riyadh Compound Bombings), ”THE KINGDOM” tells the story of an FBI Counterterrorist unit sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack upon an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Directed by Peter Berg (”FRIDAY NIGHTS LIGHTS”) and produced by Michael Mann, the movie starred Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman.

The main question is . . . did I like ”THE KINGDOM”? And the answer is yes. In fact, I had enjoyed it very much. It had plenty of suspense, drama and especially action that should not leave anyone disappointed. Most of the story seemed to be focused upon the theme of American cops forced to deal with their country’s own bureaucacy and with the hostility of foreign cops who resent the idea of Americans invading their turf. There have been other Hollywood crime dramas with similar themes. But in “THE KINGDOM”, this theme is intensified due to the story’s setting – namely Saudi Arabia and the Middle East culture and the current concern of terrorism. And I feel that screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Michael Mann did a great job.

The entire cast is first-rate . . . especially Jamie Foxx as FBI Agent Ronald Fleury and Ashraf Barhom as Col. Faris Al-Ghazi of the Saudi police, who managed to create a very credible relationship of two men whose different cultures would automatically make them enemies during this time in history. Yet slowly . . . surely, they managed to form a close friendship. My only problem with the casting was Chris Cooper. His character seemed a bit irrelevant and a little hammy at times.

About a month before the movie was released in the theaters, someone had written a review of the movie and considered it a potential for Academy Award nominations. To be honest, I do not know if I would agree with that assessment. As good as ”THE KINGDOM” was, I never saw it as the type of film that would earn any award nominations. At least of Oscar caliber. To me, it was simply a solid action-drama with a first-rate cast and good, solid writing. Worthy of an entertaining trip to your local movie theater or renting from Netflix.

“THE DIVORCEE” (1930) Review

“THE DIVORCEE” (1930) Review

I just recently watched “THE DIVORCEE”.  This 1930 MGM film tells the story of a happily married couple, whose marriage crumbles under the taint of infidelity. This is the second time I have seen this film and again, found myself surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Norma Shearer portrayed Jerry Martin, a happily marrried New York socialite, who discovers that her husband, Ted (Chester Morris), had a drunken one night stand with some blowsy woman. She tried to pretend that it was bridge under the water and openly forgave him. But his infidelity continued to bother her. And when he leaves New York for a business trip to Chicago, she has a one night stand with his best friend, Don (Robert Montgomery). Jerry confesses her infidelity . . . and discovers that as far as Ted is concerned, what was good for the goose, was not for the gander. The couple divorces and spends an unhappy year trying to forget one another. They eventually reconcile at a party in Paris.

I understand that the Jerry Martin role nearly evaded Norma Shearer, because husband and MGM production chief Irving Thalberg did not feel that the role suited her. She used a series of sexy photographs taken by George Hurrell to convince Thalberg that she could do the role. And she certainly proved that she was the right woman for the role. What I liked about Shearer’s take on Jerry was that she was not one type of woman or another. She was a complex woman who discovered that she could not hide her feelings – whether she was disturbed by her husband’s infidelity and hypocricy; or her longing to reconcile with him, despite enjoying the company of other men. Shearer certainly deserved her Oscar.

Although he had some moments of over-the-top acting as Ted Martin – Jerry’s husband, Chester Morris did a pretty good job portraying the newspaper man, who tried to dismiss his own infidelity . . . and discovered how his wife truly felt in the worst possible way. What I found interesting about Ted is how alcohol led to a great deal of his troubles. It was booze that encouraged him to cheat on Jerry. And it was booze that he indulged in following the breakup of his marriage and loss of his job.

Robert Montgomery was at turns rather funny and sexy as Don, Ted’s best friend with whom she cheated on. Many have dismissed Conrad Nagel as a boring actor, who performance in the movie was not worth mentioning. Mind you, his role as Paul, Jerry’s former boyfriend was not as splashy as Morris or Montgomery’s role, Nagel still managed to invest enough angst as a man who is dealt a double blow in life when the woman he loves (Jerry) marries another man and he finds himself in a loveless marriage with a woman (Judith Wood), whose face he had disfigured due to a drunken car accident.

While watching this film, I was surprised how the attitudes and personalities of most of the major characters seemed revelant today. Despite the late 20s/early 30s wardrobe and slang, the so-called “Bright Young Things” were not really different from the Twenty and Thirtysomethings in the dating scene, today. I felt as if I had been watching some comedy-drama about a marriage, set in the late 20th or early 21st centuries. As a sideline, I also enjoyed the movie’s East Coast setting and set designs by Cedric Gibbons. And I especially liked Shearer’s wardrobe, designed by the famous Adrian.

I realized that the movie had a “happy ending” that many modern viewers do not care for. But for me, it was an ending in which both husband and wife were humbled. They not only forgave each other, but forgave themselves. Hell, I bought it.

“THE MOVING FINGER” (1942) Book Review

”THE MOVING FINGER” (1942) Book Review

Published in 1942, ”THE MOVING FINGER” is an Agatha Christie murder mystery about a small English town rocked by a series of poison pen letters that lead to suicide and murder. This particular novel featured the elderly Jane Marple as the story’s chief detective, despite the fact that the character only has a minor role.

Set during the early years of World War II, Jerry and Joanna Burton are disaffected siblings from London society who take a country house in idyllic town of Lymstock, so that Jerry can rest from injuries received in a wartime plane crash. They are just getting to know the town’s strange cast of characters when an anonymous letter arrives, rudely accusing the two of not being brother and sister, but lovers. They quickly discover that these letters have been recently circulating around town, indiscriminate and completely inaccurate. One of the letters eventually hits its target, when a local woman commits suicide after receiving hers. The story’s narrator – Jerry Burton – becomes suspicious that the woman’s maid may have witnessed something. Before he can alert the local police, the maid becomes a murder victim.

Author Agatha Christie has been known to admit that ”THE MOVING FINGER” was one of her favorites:

””I find that another one [book] I am really pleased with is ”The Moving Finger’. It is a great test to re-read what one has written some seventeen or eighteen years before. One’s view changes. Some do not stand the test of time, others do.”

I wish I could agree with the renowned mystery writer. I really do. However . . . I found ”THE MOVING FINGER” to be very unimpressive. It struck me as pedestrian and rather sloppily written. It seemed as if Mrs. Christie did not put much effort to create a well written. Even worse, this is supposed to be a Jane Marple novel. Yet, the elderly amateur detective did not even appear in the story, until the sixth chapter and appeared in a few scenes. And the novel only possessed eight chapters. Apparently one of the characters, the vicar’s wife, had decided to summon the one person she felt could solve the case – namely Miss Marple. Unfortunately, the elderly visitor from St. Mary Mead was used by Christie as a minor, deus ex machine style character. Which I found disappointing.

The only interest I found in ”THE MOVING FINGER” was the romance between Jerry Burton and Megan Hunter, the twenty year-old daughter of the woman who had committed suicide. I found it interesting, due to Burton being an interesting narrator. However, I also found his condescending attitude toward Megan and the ugly ducking/beautiful swan motif that surrounded her character and their romance barely palatable. All right, I found it damn annoying. But I must say that it was a hell of a lot more interesting that the main mystery. Speaking of which, it was not much of a mystery to me, considering that I was able to guess the identity of the murderer by the third or fourth chapter.

I am major fan of Agatha Christie. I have been one for years – ever since I was thirteen years old. But I must admit that ”THE MOVING FINGER” proved to be quite a disappointment to me. It seemed like a hastily written murder mystery, in which the main detective has only a few brief appearance. It also possessed an annoying romance between the novel’s slightly condescending narrator and a gauche twenty year-old. Christie could have done better than this.