“ECLIPSE” (2010) Review

“ECLIPSE” (2010) Review

Three weeks ago, the third installment of the ”TWILIGHT” Saga was released in theaters. Based upon Stephanie Meyer’s 2007 novel and directed by David Slade, ”ECLIPSE” continued the story of Isabella “Bella” Swan, the Washington State teenager, her love for vampire Edward Cullen and her friendship with the werewolf shape shifter, Jacob Black. 

”ECLIPSE” began not long after the 2009 movie, ”NEW MOON” ended. In Seattle, a young college student named Riley Biers is attacked and turned by a vampire. He soon becomes the center of a plot hatched by the red-haired vampire Victoria, to turn and create more newborn vampires to be used as an army for further attacks against Bella, Edward and the Cullens. Meanwhile, Bella and Edward continue their plans for a future wedding and Bella’s eventual transformation into a vampire back in Forks. Their plans are complicated by Bella’s friendship with Jacob and the rest of a local werewolf pack – traditional enemies of the Cullen clan. Worse, Jacob still continues to harbor love for Bella and she discovers that she finds herself physically attracted to him – despite her love for Edward. The two plotlines eventually converge when Alice Cullen has a vision of the newborn army attacking Forks led by Riley Biers. Jacob, accompanied by two fellow werewolves Quil and Embry, overhear this, which leads to an alliance between the Cullens and the Wolf pack.

Before ”ECLIPSE” had been released in movie theaters, advertisements and fans of the TWILIGHT saga began claiming that this film was the best of the three movies released so far. Considering my low opinion of the first two movies, I was surprised to find myself agreeing with them. It was certainly better than the first two films in the franchise. What made it better? Quite frankly, Victoria’s plot to kill Bella and get her revenge for her lover James’ death in ”TWILIGHT” did the trick. This particular plotline was responsible for the Cullens and Jacob’s Wolf pack to finally form some kind of alliance. I found it quite interesting to watch the Cullens and the Wolf pack battle against Victoria, Riley and their minions. This plotline also allowed Edward and Jacob to somewhat cease their constantly annoying rivalry over Bella . . . finally. There were other aspects of the film that I liked. I found it interesting to learn about the origins of the Quileute tribe’s hostilities against vampires. I also found the back stories for both Rosalie Hale and Jasper Hale rather interesting. It turns out that Jasper’s background in training newborn vampires for his sire Maria allowed Bella to understand how Victoria was using Riley Biers.

Despite these positive aspects about ”ECLIPSE”, I still found it a trial to watch. Why? Simple. I still had to endure the incredibly dull and tortuous love story between Bella and Edward. Even worse was the incredibly dull and tortuous love triangle between Edward, Bella and Jacob. Mind you, it seemed a bit surprising to learn that Bella was also attracted to Jacob. But it really did not help matters. Especially when I had to endure the god-awful dialogue between Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, written by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. I fear that Ms. Rosenberg had to utilize a good deal of the dialogue from Stephanie Meyer’s novel. One scene that had me writhing in despair featured Bella’s attempt to “seduce” Edward into having sex, following a conversation she had with her father about her virginity. It went on too . . . damn . . . long. And the dialogue was simply awful. Another scene that tested my nerves and patience centered on Jacob’s attempt to convince Edward to give up Bella, in order to stop her from becoming a vampire. The only thing that made this scene remotely bearable was Lautner’s occasional witty dialogue.

”ECLIPSE” also marked the return of members of the Volturi, the vampire coven that ensured the vampires’ existence as a secret from humans. Apparently, Victoria’s plans to use an army of newborns against the Cullens attracted their attention. I wish to God that it had not. I found them unbearable in ”NEW MOON”. And they were certainly a nuisance in”ECLIPSE” – especially Dakota Fanning’s Jane, who managed to stand around, while attempting to look menacing. I wish to God that Stephanie Meyer had not created them in the first. I tend to compare the Volturi to the game of Quidditch from the HARRY POTTER saga.

I found nothing remarkable about the performances in the movie. Well, Taylor Lautner managed to be occasionally witty, despite the addition of the dreadful dialogue he had to spout in this film. Jackson Rathbone also managed to be rather witty. Nikki Reed gave a surprisingly poignant performance as Rosalie Hale – especially in the sequence in which she recalled the sordid tragedy that led to her becoming a vampire. Bryce Dallas Howard did a solid job in replacing Rachelle Lefevre as the murderous vampire, Victoria. Billy Burke was entertaining, as always, as Bella’s sardonic, yet protective father. Kristen Stewart managed to be bearable in scenes that only featured Bella and Jacob. As for the rest of the cast . . . you can keep them. Including the very popular Robert Pattinson.

I understand that there will be an adaptation of the fourth novel in the TWILIGHT saga – ”Breaking Dawn”. However, the studio had decided to break this particular story into two films. I see that they were inspired to follow the example of Warner Brothers’ decision to do the same with the last HARRY POTTER novel. And considering how popular theTWILIGHT movies are with my family, it looks as if I have more suffering to endure in my future.

“THE A-TEAM” (2010) Review

“THE A-TEAM” (2010) Review

I might as well lay my cards on the table. Ever since I saw my first episode, I have always been a major fan of the 1983-1987 television series, ”THE A-TEAM”. So, when I had seen the trailer for the movie adaptation of the series, I naturally reacted with pure dismay. 

For me, the movie, ”THE A-TEAM”, represented another endless attempt by Hollywood to create box office gold from an old television series. Mind you, not all of Hollywood’s efforts have been in vain. But judging from what I had seen in the movie trailer, I simply could not see myself enjoying the 2010 movie.

Unlike the television series, ”THE A-TEAM” is more or less an origin tale about how four U.S. Army Special Forces combatants became soldiers of fortune after being convicted for a crime they did not commit. The movie’s first twenty minutes revealed how Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith first created his team during an assignment to lure a reengage Mexican Army officer-turned-drug lord onto U.S. soil or airspace for prosecution. Already working with him is Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck, who is a prisoner at the general’s ranch. Along the way, Hannibal recruits a recently disgraced ex-Ranger named Bosco “B.A.” Baracus and a mentally volatile Army pilot named Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock to assist him in his assignment and thus, a new Army intelligence unit is born.

The story jumped eight years later where the A-Team find themselves looking forward to being deployed out of Iraq with the rest of the American military personnel. However, a C.I.A. agent named Lynch recruits Hannibal and the Team into retrieving U.S. Treasury plates and manufactured currency from Iraqi insurgents. U.S. Army Captain Charissa Sosa, a former lover of Face’s; and Hannibal’s commanding officer, General Morrison, warns the Team to stay away from the plates and Baghdad. But the Team goes ahead with the “Black Ops” mission and successfully retrieves the plates and the money. Upon their return to base, the shipping container carrying the money and General Morrison’s vehicle are destroyed. And the leader of a private security team named Brock Pike steals the plates. With General Morrison dead, there is no one to inform Army authorities that they had been authorized to act. The Team is sentenced to ten years in prison.

Try as I may, I cannot recall one specific episode of the television series. I can remember certain moments and many interactions between the B.A. and Murdock characters; but I cannot recall a specific episode. This should not be that surprising to me. The writing for the television series had never been that impressive. The main characters and the action, after all, drew me to the series; not the writing. I do believe that screenwriters Joe Carnahan (who also directed), Brian Bloom and Skip Woods created a slightly better story than anything the series had ever been able to produce. But I would not exactly call the screenplay unique or mind blowing.

The gist of the story mainly focused upon the Team’s efforts to find Pike and the Treasury plates in order to clear their names. Mind you, I found the circumstances leading up to the Team’s arrest rather confusing. After all, they did return to base after completing their mission, instead of disappearing from Iraq. With Pike gone with the plates, why prosecute the Team for the crime? And what crime was they accused of committing? The theft of the missing plates? Or killing Morrison? Once the movie shifted toward their escape from prison and efforts to find the plates and Pike, it shifted back upon solid ground. The movie also featured some pretty fantastic stunts that would have made the television series proud. But the pièce de résistance centered upon a sequence in which the Team finally get their hands on the plates from a high-rise bank in Germany. The movie also featured a hilarious moment in which Face discovered that he had given both B.A. and Murdock the wrong passports at a German airport. The finale at the Port of Los Angeles strongly reminded me of the finale featured in the recent movie, ”THE LOSERS”. I wonder who came up with the idea first.

As I had earlier stated, there were two aspects of the television series that made it memorable for me – the action sequences and the characters. This new movie certainly DID NOT disappoint that regard. Liam Neeson, last seen in the 2009 action movie, ”TAKEN”, assumed George Peppard’s role of Hannibal Smith. And he did a fine job. Mind you, his Hannibal did not seem to have much of a sense of humor – especially where Face was concerned. But he obviously drew his experience from previous action films to project the aura of a strong and wily leader. I only have two complaints about Neeson’s performance – his American accent seemed shaky and he should stay away from cigars. Bradley Cooper gave a verbose performance as the Team’s smooth-talking ladies’ man, Face. Like Dirk Benedict before him, he was attractive and witty. Yet, the screenwriters took his character one step further by allowing his Face to show his potential as a schemer on the same level as Hannibal.

My dismay at the trailer for ”THE A-TEAM” extended to the idea of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson portraying the memorable B.A. Baracus. He seemed a far cry from Mr. T’s performance in the television series. Thankfully, my fears came to nothing. Although Jackson’s performance was not an exact replica of Mr. T’s, he made a great B.A. and he put his own twist to the character with the help of director Joe Carnahan and the three screenwriters. Actually, his B.A. seemed to have a little more depth and for some reason, I cannot see Mr. T pulling this off. No none was more surprised than me to discover that the same Sharlto Copely who portrayed “Howling Mad” Murdock is the same actor who portrayed the lead in last year’s ”DISTRICT 9”. I knew the guy was not a Southerner. His accent seemed a bit heavy a times. But I had no idea that “crazy” Murdock was portrayed by the South African actor. But I must admit that he was hilarious in the role. Hell, he was just as funny as Dwight Schultz. His interactions with both Cooper and especially Jackson were spot on.

Fortunately for ”THE A-TEAM”, its supporting cast was just as strong. Jessica Biel gave a strong performance as the righteous and determined Captain Charissa Sosa, who is assigned to hunt down both the Team and the Treasury plates. One particular scene also proved that she had great chemistry with Cooper. Gerald McRaney gave a solid cameo performance as Hannibal’s friend and commanding officer, General Morrison. Brian Bloom (one of the screenwriters) was suitably conniving and intimidating as the Black Forest private mercenary. However, there were moments when his performance came off as a bit over-the-top. But the man who really surprised me was Patrick Wilson. Aside from his performance as the uptight William Travis in 2004’s ”THE ALAMO”, he never struck me as an interesting actor. Until I saw him in ”THE A-TEAM”. He was hilarious and despicable as the smug and self-absorbed C.I.A. agent, Lynch. Not only was his performance a revelation, his Lynch seemed to be the most interesting role he has ever portrayed.

If anyone is expecting ”THE A-TEAM” to be a mind-blowing experience, he or she will be disappointed. Superficially, the movie struck me as a typical action movie. I must admit that it does contain some pretty interesting action sequences. If there is one true virtue that the movie possesses, it is its cast. They were superb – especially the main four actors who portray the soldiers of fortune, the A-Team. Between Carnahan’s direction of the action sequences and the performances of Neeson, Cooper, Jackson and Copley; they made this cinematic version of ”THE A-TEAM” to be one of the most fun movies I have experienced last summer.

The Powers to Be In WHEDONVERSE

 

 

“The Powers to Be In WHEDONVERSE”

While perusing one of the many “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” message boards on the Internet, I came across a passage from an article titled, ”Classic CJL: Spike and the Whedonverse”

”In order to battle the new enemy (vampires), the Powers have called upon Slayers, Champions (welcome, Cordy!), Seers and Mystics, all dedicated to protecting the human race from the vampires and half-breed demons who feed upon and ravage the populace.”

Like many other BtVS, I had believed in this nonsense . . . until I saw the Season 7 episode, ”Get It Done” (7.15). Thanks to this particular episode, I finally came to the conclusion that the above comment about the so-called “Powers to Be” featured in both BtVS and its spin-off, “ANGEL” just might not be true

Following the suicide of one of the Potential Slayers and a dream of the First Slayer, in ”Get It Done”, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) receives a bag from Principal Robin Wood (D.B. Woodside). The bag had once belonged to his mother – a former Slayer in the 1970s named Nikki Wood. This bag eventually leads Buffy to discover the true origins of a long line of vampire slayers. .

In ”Get It Done”, Buffy finally learns the real truth about the Slayer line’s origins. It was not PTB who had created the line. Instead, a trio of ancient African shamans had committed the dead, in order to create a weapon (one of flesh) to fight vampires and other demons for them. And to insure that this weapon would remain in their control – and under the controls of those that followed them – they made sure that the Slayer line would continue through countless young females throughout the ages. Why? Because they had believed that adolescent girls and young women would be easily controlled, due to their ages and gender.

So, one has to wonder. Did the First Slayer, Buffy, Faith, Kendra, Nikki Wood, Xin Rong and all of the Slayers before and after really have a sacred duty to defend humans against vampires and other demons, because of the Powers to Be? Or had they merely been reluctant conscripts in a never ending war waged against demons by these shamans and their descendants – the Watcher’s Council?

 

 

Speaking of vampires, here is another passage from the article . . . this time, about Angel (David Boreanaz) – the vampire with a soul, who had formed his own gang to fight demonic evil on his own show in Los Angeles:

”Of course, the biggest exception to the rule, the vamp who broke the mold, is Angel. The Powers and our Lord Joss have spent a great deal of time and effort guiding his path from Chaos, prepping him for his pivotal and unique role in the upcoming ‘End of Days’ we’ve been waiting for since BtVS, Season 1.”

I am curious. Exactly how did the vaunted Powers to Be guide Angel toward his actions in one of the late BtVS episodes,”End of Days”? I will admit that the Powers to Be were responsible for placing him in Buffy’s path back in 1996. A demon named Whistler had introduced Angel to the future Slayer and within less than a year, he would follow her to Sunnydale and his own future in demon slaying.

But the Powers to Be had not been responsible for giving him his soul back in 1898. A group of Kalderash gypsies from Romania had restored his human soul in an act of revenge for his murder of one of their children. This soul would afflict him with a conscience and condemn him to an eternity of remorse for the crimes he has committed. After Angel lost his soul one hundred years later in 1998, it was Buffy’s friend, Willow Rosenberg, who had restored his soul. Come to think of it, Willow performed this act again, five years later, on the behest of Angel’s L.A. associates. If the PTB were not responsible for the restoration of his soul, who would have become their “Champion” if Angel had not killed that Kalderash gypsy child?

As for his role in the so-called ‘End of Days’ – the only task he ended up performing was to hand Buffy the amulet that would help her defeat the First Evil’s plans to upset the balance of good and evil. Come to think of it, the heads of Wolfram and Hart – the PTB’s opposite number – had given Angel that amulet. And it was Spike who eventually wore the amulet in the BUFFY series finale, ”Chosen” that led to the First Evil’s defeat.

From what I have surmised, the Powers to Be only committed one major act in the so-called ”war against evil” – they had used Whistler to guide Angel into making his aquaintance with Buffy, before she became a Slayer. They certainly were not responsible for the creation of the Slayer line. And they certainly were not responsible for Angel receiving his human soul. Come to think of it, they were not responsible for Spike retrieving his soul. Apparently, William the Bloody had made the choice to regain his soul. No one made it for him. Which only leads me to wonder just how relevant were the Powers to Be in the Whedonverse.

 

“CRANFORD” (2007) Review

“CRANFORD” (2007) Review

Nearly four years ago, the BBC aired a five-part miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s series of stories about a small town in North West England. After viewing the 2004 miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH”, my curiosity regarding the 2007 miniseries became piqued and I turned my attention toward it. 

Created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin, directed by Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson, and adapted by Heidi Thomas;”CRANFORD” is based upon three of Gaskell’s novellas published between 1849 and 1858 – ”Cranford””My Lady Ludlow”, and ”Mr Harrison’s Confessions”. Birtwistle, Conklin and Thomas took aspects of Gaskell’s stories, re-shuffled them and added some of their own plotlines to create the five-episode miniseries. ”CRANFORD” mainly focused upon the small English village between 1842-1843, during the early years of the Victorian Age. On the surface, Cranford seemed like an idyllic community in which time remained stuck in the late Georgian Age. However, progress – both technological and social – began its intrusion upon the community for better or worse. The arrival of a young doctor named Frank Harrison with modern new ideas about medical practices, and a railway construction crew on the town’s outskirts that meant the arrival of the railway, change and possibly unwelcomed citizens; seemed to be the prime symbols of the encroaching Industrial Age.

Many humorous and tragic incidents shown as minor plotlines are scattered throughout ”CRANFORD”. But the main stories seemed to focus upon the following characters:

*Miss Matilda “Matty” Jenkyns – the younger of two elderly sisters who had to endure a series of travails that included the death of a loved one, the reunion with an old love and the loss of her income.

*Dr. Frank Harrison – Cranford’s new young doctor who has to struggle to win the trust of Cranford’s citizens and the love of the vicar’s oldest daughter, Sophy Hutton.

*Lady Ludlow – the Lady of Hanbury Court who struggles to maintain funds for her spendthrift son and heir living in Italy.

*Mr. Edmund Carter – Lady Ludlow’s land agent, who views Lady Ludlow’s attempts to raise funds for her dissolute son with a leery eye and clashes with his employer over the fate of the young son of a poacher.

*Harry Gregson – the very son of the poacher, whom Mr. Carter views as promising and whom Lady Ludlow views as someone who should remain in his station.

*Octavia Pole – a spinster and Cranford’s town gossip who proves to be the subject of a series of hilarious events.

I realize that ”CRANFORD” is a highly acclaimed program. And I also understand why it became so popular. The production team for “CRANFORD” did an excellent job in conveying television viewers back in time to the early Victorian Age. The miniseries possessed some very whimsical moments that I found particularly funny. These moments included Miss Deborah Jenkyns’ assistance in helping Miss Jessie Brown and Major Gordon stay in beat during their rendition of ”Loch Lomond” with a spoon and a teacup; Miss Pole’s hysteria over a thief in Cranford; Caroline Tomkinson’ infatuation with Dr. Harrison; and especially the incident regarding the cat that swallowed Mrs. Forrester’s valuable lace.

Yet, ”CRANFORD” had its poignant moments. Dr. Harrison’s futile efforts to save young Walter Hutton from the croup, along with Miss Deborah Jenkyns’ death allowed Episode 2 to end on a sober note. And the doctor’s more successful efforts to save Sophy Hutton from typhoid gave the last episode a great deal of drama and angst. I found it almost difficult to watch Miss Matty endure one crisis after another – until she finally prevailed with the establishment of her own tea shop, with the help of the ladies of Cranford and her reunion with her long lost brother. My heartstrings also tugged when the conflict between Mr. Carter and Lady Ludlow over Harry Gregson ended on a tragic, yet poignant note. But the one scene that left me in tears turned out to be the series’ final shot of Cranford’s citizens bidding good-bye to the recently married Dr. Harrison and Sophy. The miniseries closed on what seemed to be a real sense of community.

And that is what the theme of ”CRANFORD” seemed to be about – at least to me. Community. However, this theme and the Gaskell novellas that the miniseries were based upon have led me to a conclusion. There seemed to be a lack of balance or blending between the series’ format and the material. If ”CRANFORD” had been based upon one novel or a series of novels that served as a continuing saga, I would never have any problems with its tight structure of a five-episode miniseries. But ”CRANFORD” was based upon three novellas written over a period of time that were certainly not part of a continuing saga. And if I must be frank, I personally feel that the miniseries could have served its source of material a lot better as a one or two-season television series.

I realize that producing a television series that was also a period drama would have been more expensive than a miniseries or a series set in the present. But Heidi Thomas’ script seemed vague for the miniseries format. With the exception one particular storyline, ”CRANFORD” seemed to be filled with minor stories that were usually resolved within one to three episodes. For example, the Valentine card storyline that left Dr. Harrison in trouble with the ladies of Cranford stretched across three episodes. Even the railway construction storyline only appeared in three episodes and not in any particular order. Miss Matty’s financial situation only stretched into two episodes. And plots featuring the lace-swallowing cat, Miss Matty’s relationship with Mr. Thomas Holbrook, and Jem Hearne’s broken arm only appeared in one episode. The only storyline that consistently appeared in all five episodes turned out to be the conflict between Lady Ludlow and Mr. Carter over Harry Gregson’s future.

But one cannot deny that ”CRANFORD” was blessed with a first-rate cast. The cream of this cast consisted of a sterling group of veteran British actresses, whose characters dominated the series. However, only a handful of performances really caught my attention. Two of them belonged to Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins as the Jenkyns sisters – the mild-mannered Matty and the domineering Deborah. Judging from their outstanding performances, I can easily understand how one of them earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress and the other won both an Emmy and a BAFTA for Outstanding Lead Actress. Another outstanding performance from a veteran actress came from Francesca Annis, who portrayed the intensely conservative Lady Ludlow. Annis did a wonderful job in conveying her character’s rigid opposition to education for the lower classes and struggle to overcome these feelings in the face of her kindness and compassion. Philip Glenister, who made a name for himself in the 1995 miniseries ”VANITY FAIR”and in the award winning series ”LIFE ON MARS” and its sequel, ”ASHES TO ASHES”; certainly proved his talents as an actor and strong screen presence in his portrayal of the intense, yet very practical Mr. Edmund Carter. I especially enjoyed Glenister’s scenes with Annis, while their characters clashed over the fate of young Harry Gregson. Providing the bulk of comic relief were actresses Imelda Staunton (from 1995’s ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” and ”HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX”) and Julia McKenzie (the new Miss Jane Marple for ITV). They portrayed two of Cranford’s biggest gossips, Miss Octavia Pole and Mrs. Forrester. Staunton seemed truly hilarious, while portraying Miss Pole’s terror and anxiety over becoming the victim of a thief. And not only was McKenzie funny as the finicky Mrs. Forrester, she gave a poignant soliloquy in which her character recalled a past act of kindness from Miss Matty.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed ”CRANFORD”. Thanks to directors Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson, along with production designer Donal Woods, screenwriter Heidi Thomas and costume designer Jenny Beavan; the miniseries gave television audiences a warm, humorous and poignant look into village life in early Victorian England. But despite the production team and the cast, I believe the miniseries has a major flaw. Its source material – three novellas written by Elizabeth Gaskell – did not mesh very well with the miniseries format. I believe that ”CRANFORD” would have been better off as a television series. Such a format could have served its stories a lot better.

“Glimpses of the Future” [R] – 2/2

 

Here is the second half of my STAR TREK VOYAGER story called, “Glimpses of the Future”:

“GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE”

Part 2

“Hey Maquis!” Ensign Harry Kim cheerfully greeted B’Elanna inside the Mess Hall, the following morning. She placed her breakfast tray on Harry’s table and sat down on the chair, opposite her friend.

B’Elanna yawned and reached for her coffee cup. Harry frowned. “Wow! You really look tired! Did you get any sleep, last night?”

“Plenty,” B’Elanna croaked. Then she took a sip of her coffee. There was nothing like a great cup of raktijino – freshly replicated.

Harry continued to question B’Elanna. “Exactly how much is ‘plenty’? Seven hours? One?”

“What are you getting at, Starfleet?”

Heaving an exasperated sigh, the young ensign shot back, “Have you taken a good look in the mirror, B’Elanna? You look as if you’ve spent the last few days in hell.” He paused. “And the odd thing is that you’ve been on leave for the past fifteen hours.” Harry’s dark eyes bored into B’Elanna’s. “Are you having trouble sleeping?”

“Okay, so I couldn’t sleep last night,” B’Elanna grudgingly admitted. “Is it a crime?”

One of Harry’s brows quirked upward. “No. Are you having problems? Nightmares?”

“No, I . . .” B’Elanna hesitated. Should she tell him? About the Hotak device? The knowledge of her new discovery weighed heavily on her mind. Perhaps confiding to a friend would help lighten that burden. B’Elanna took a deep breath. “Harry, how would you feel if you were able to see the future?”

Confusion whirled in the dark eyes. “What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that . . . you’re able to receive visions of the future?”

After an uneasy glance around the Mess Hall, B’Elanna continued, “Of course not! I’m not precognitive or anything like that. You see it all began three days ago. On Hotak.”

“What about Hotak?” a third voice asked. Both B’Elanna and Harry glanced up. A smiling Tom Paris loomed above them, holding a tray. “Is there something special about that place?”

Fearful that the Chief Helmsman had overheard most of their conversation, B’Elanna snapped at him. “Dammit, Paris! Are you in the habit of eavesdropping on other people’s conversation?”

“What are you talking about?” the pilot protested. His blue eyes radiated innocence. “I just happened to hear you mention Hotak to Harry.”

B’Elanna struggled to keep her irritation in check. Ever since the Vidiians had held her and Paris captive, their hostile regard toward each other had vanished. Along with their mutual dislike and competition for Harry’s friendship. However, B’Elanna still found it difficult to consider the pilot as a close friend. The problem with Tom Paris, she decided, seemed to be his cocky and somewhat shallow personality. He might be a good friend – at least to Harry – but he seemed to lack a moral center that B’Elanna found uncomfortable.

“Harry and I were having a private conversation,” B’Elanna coolly replied. Her mood ruined by Paris’ appearance, she sighed. “Never mind. I think I’ll go back to bed. I’m still feeling a little tired.”

Harry’s face expressed concern. “Listen Maquis, if you still want to talk, I’ll come by your quarters, later.”

“Thanks, Starfleet.” B’Elanna gave her friend a bright smile. “Maybe I’ll see you later.” She spared Paris a cool nod and quickly left the Mess Hall.

* * * *

B’Elanna strode into her quarters and flopped down on the sofa. She heaved a frustrated sigh. Kahless! She felt so tired! Despite the fifteen hours of leave already taken, her exhaustion seemed to have increased. B’Elanna began to wonder if the Hotak device had anything to do with her physical condition. If so, maybe she should pay a visit to Sick Bay.

A visit to Sick Bay, she realized, would mean revelation of the device in her possession. It would also mean facing Captain Janeway’s wrath. And after the humiliation of being in the Captain’s doghouse, nearly five months ago, B’Elanna had no desire to face that situation again. The Hotak device, B’Elanna decided, would have to remain her secret. A secret she would no longer meddle with. At least until she regained her strength.

Having made a decision, B’Elanna decided to spend her time on other activities. She tried a small nap. Didn’t work. After twenty minutes, she remained awake. Then she tried returning to her old Engineering report. Didn’t work. Nor did her Klingon romance novel. No big surprise, there. In the end, B’Elanna knew what she really wanted to do – use the Hotak device. And if that meant more exhaustion, so be it. Perhaps another glimpse into the future would be worth the price.

With great effort, B’Elanna climbed off the sofa and retrieved the device from the desk. She returned to the sofa and sat down. Breathless with anticipation, she slowly opened the case. The now familiar light filled the room . . .

* * * *

Calypso music filled the interior of Holodeck One. B’Elanna sighed with satisfaction, as she made her way across the tiled terrace. Without a doubt, Neelix’s Talaxian resort had to be her favorite holoprogram. Not only did she love the sub-tropical setting and the color, she especially reveled the warm sun that shined above.

Clutching the towel around her neck, B’Elanna made her way toward one of the patios. She paused and ordered the computer to summon her favorite holocharacter – a muscular beach boy she had dubbed Ricardo. Unfortunately, Ricardo failed to materialize. B’Elanna frowned. Now what the hell?

“Computer,” she barked, “include holocharacter, Ricardo.”

The computer’s voice coolly replied, “Request denied. The holocharacter, Ricardo, has been deleted from the program.”

“WHAT?”

“Unable to respond. Please restate the . . .”

Her anger now threatening to erupt, B’Elanna snarled, “Computer off!” She sighed, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.” Oh well. She did not need Ricardo to enjoy her time in the holodeck. She still had the resort. And the glorious sun. B’Elanna spotted an empty deck chair and sat down. Ricardo or no Ricardo, she was determined to enjoy herself and relax.

“Mind if I join you?” A soft, masculine voice took B’Elanna by surprise. She glanced up. Her heart fluttered at the sight of one Thomas Eugene Paris, standing above her. He also wore casual clothes – deep blue beach shorts that revealed long and steady legs, and a purple T-shirt that stretched over a broad, muscular chest.

B’Elanna tried to keep her voice steady. “Wish I could say yes, but I seem to be occupying the only chair in this spot.”

“Well then, I’ll just share yours.” Tom plopped down on an empty spot on the deck chair. B’Elanna opened her mouth to protest, but her raging hormones intervened. To be honest, she really did not mind sharing the chair. Especially with Tom. She rather enjoyed the feel of the muscular thigh that brushed against her leg. And the warmth that his skin radi . . .

‘Stop it!’ B’Elanna took a deep breath. She could not believe this. All Tom Paris had to do was sit down next to her for a few minutes, and already she felt excited. One part of B’Elanna’s brain found the idea of her being attracted to Voyager’s chief pilot, humiliating. And disturbing. Off all the men to develop an attraction toward – Tom Paris. One-time loser and Voyager’s resident Lothario.

“You know,” Tom began, cutting into her thoughts, “you look absolutely delicious in that swim suit.” Blue eyes expressed overt admiration. “Good enough to eat.”

‘So do you’ was B’Elanna’s immediate response. Fortunately, she kept her thought to herself. Instead, she commented, “Well . . . thank you. I thought you were going to use the word, stunning. Isn’t that what you told me, three days ago? At the luau? And I didn’t realize you were into cannibalism.”

Tom stared at her with a mixture of seductive charm and desire. B’Elanna shivered. “Actually, I didn’t have cannibalism in mind,” he replied softly. “I was thinking of something a lot more pleasant. And private.” He whispered the last two words.

B’Elanna realized that she should get up and leave. Right now. Before she ended up throwing herself into the pilot’s arms and ravaging him at that . . . Another deep breath followed. B’Elanna managed to cut short the impulsive thought with her usual ruthlessness. “That,” she said in a husky voice, “will have to wait for another day.”

Blue eyes twinkled deliciously. “You mean there’s hope for us both?”

A retort hung on B’Elanna’s lips, but she decided to keep her mouth shut. What exactly could she say to Tom? That there was no hope? Or that she had no intention of becoming his latest conquest? B’Elanna decided to nip this attraction in the bud. Fast. Before something happened that they both might regret. Or even worse, enjoy. She heaved an inward sigh and retorted, “I have no idea on what you’re talking about!” Kahless, she sounded so unconvincing!

Tom smiled. “Whatever you say, B’Elanna.” His eyes fell upon her tote bag on the floor, below. “Say, where’s your little companion, Roberto? Isn’t he usually around to give you a massage or something?”

Realization hit B’Elanna. She pointed an accusing finger at the helmsman. “It was you, wasn’t it?” she growled.

“What are you talking about?”

“Cut the crap, Paris!” B’Elanna shot back. “It was you! You’re the one who deleted Ricardo from the program! And his name is Ricardo, by the way! Not Roberto!”

Innocence reigned in those vivid blue eyes. “I have no idea on what you’re talking about.”

“You have no . . .” B’Elanna took a deep breath. Then she asked, “Computer, who deleted the character, Ricardo, from this program?”

The computer replied, “Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres.”

“WHAT?”

“Please restate the . . .”

Interrupting the dry voice once again, B’Elanna growled, “Computer off!”

“You see? I told you that I had nothing to do with whatshisname.” Tom leaned forward, his face merely an inch or two away from B’Elanna’s. “If you need someone to give a massage that badly, I’d be willing to volunteer.” His eyes now twinkled with promise.

B’Elanna inhaled deeply. Tom’s scent filled her nostrils, forcing her to suppress a shiver. She wanted to say yes. The idea of the pilot’s long fingers on her bare skin filled her with desire. But fear of being another notch on Tom Paris’ bedpost prevented . . .

* * * *

Back in the present, B’Elanna let out a gasp and fell back on the couch. The device slipped out of her hand.

Disbelief flooded every nerve in her body. Tom Paris? B’Elanna could not believe it. Her mind refused to accept the possibility that she would develop an attraction toward Tom Paris! That pig! B’Elanna took a deep breath. Okay, perhaps the man was not a pig. He could be quite decent, as his behavior toward her in the Vidiian mines had attested. But the Chief Helmsman, in her opinion, was the last man in the universe with whom she would strike a romance. Tom Paris??

Had she become so desperate for a love life that she became attracted to Paris? Had a possible romance with Chakotay become so futile that she ended up considering just anyone?

While her dizziness lingered, B’Elanna heaved a large sigh. These dizzy spells seemed to be remaining longer, each time she used the device. B’Elanna tried taking a few more deep breaths to rid herself of them. Or meditation. But neither methods seemed to help very much. And closing her eyes for meditation only seemed to conjure unwanted memories of her and Tom Paris inside the holodeck. Maybe what she had witnessed will turn out to be a fluke. A momentary attraction that will eventually . . .

The ship’s communication system beeped. “Paris to Torres.”

Speak of the devil. Barely suppressing her annoyance, B’Elanna snapped, “Torres here! What do you want?”

A pause followed. Then, “B’Elanna?”

“What the hell do you want, Paris?”

A sarcastic voice responded, “So what happened to Tom and B’Elanna?”

“Okay! Tom! Now what do you want?” Another wave of dizziness hit B’Elanna.

Paris replied, “I’m looking for Harry. We were supposed to meet at Sandrine’s. Have you seen him?”

“No!” The word left B’Elanna’s mouth with the speed and precision of a phaser blast.

Another pause. “Okay! I guess I caught you at a bad time. Someone could sure use a few hours on the holodeck, tonight.”

“Yeah, just not with you! Torres out!” B’Elanna quickly ended the conversation before the pilot could respond. Then she sighed. Her taste in men must have really sunk low, in the future. Tom Paris. She shook her head. It could not have lasted very long. Not a relationship between her and that . . . that pig!

Her eyes fell upon the device on the floor. B’Elanna frowned. Should she use it, again? Learn what will happen between her and Paris? If that seemed possible. Past experience with the Hotak device had already taught B’Elanna that it only gave random visions. Besides . . . Another wave of dizziness struck her. These damn spells seemed to be getting worse B’Elanna decided that what she really needed was a trip to Sick Bay.

B’Elanna slowly eased into a sitting position on the sofa. Instead of preparing herself to stand up, she reached for the Hotak device and opened the case . . .

* * * *

The two figures lay entwined on the floor of the Delta Flyer. Their bodies moved perfectly together, as they engaged in passionate love. Finally, heartfelt cries echoed throughout the shuttle, indicating the couple’s climatic pleasure. Cries immediately became sighs and heavy breathing. Feeling boneless and slightly out of breath, B’Elanna collapsed on top of her new husband’s damp body.

“Hmmm.” The sound came out of her mouth as a low growl. B’Elanna glanced at the wide chest beneath her. She noticed the teeth marks that circled Tom’s left nipple and giggled. “Ooops!” she said, poking at the mark. “Did I do that?”

A lazy grin stretched Tom’s mouth. “You mean that after two years, ten months and ten days of dating, and three hours of marriage, you don’t recognize a Torres love bite when you see one? I’m appalled.”

“Oh you!” B’Elanna gave her husband an affectionate slap on the forearm. “I should punish you for that remark.”

Blue eyes sparkled mischeviously. “Punish me? Hmm, I can’t wait to see what you have in mind.” Tom waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Inducing another fit of giggles from B’Elanna. Tom joined in the laughter.

Once the laughter inside the shuttle subsided, silence reigned. The newly wedded couple stared at each other with eyes that reflected love, desire and wonder. B’Elanna closed her in anticipation, as Tom captured her mouth for a kiss. His tongue explored the inner wetness and grazed her teeth. Finally, Tom’s mouth reluctantly parted from hers and gently nipped an earlobe. B’Elanna shivered with delight.

Encouraged by Tom’s kisses, B’Elanna responded by caressing his broad shoulders. Her hands strayed toward his thighs and began to massage them. She could feel him stir below. “Hmmm,” she murmured, “looks like someone still has a bit of energy left.” Her hands slipped between his legs. “More than a bit. Is that you, Tom Torres?”

Never did B’Elanna imagine she would find herself married to Tom Paris, of all people. And she could not have been happier. “That sounds just fine to me,” she purred.

“And to me,” Tom added in a whisper. He lowered his mouth upon B’Elanna’s . . .

* * * *

The familiar light blinded B’Elanna. She let out a gasp and her eyes flew open. The half-Klingon woman struggled to rise from the sofa. Only the dizziness made it impossible for her to sit up. After a minute or two of struggle, B’Elanna gave up and surrendered to darkness.

* * * *

Her eyes fluttered open. Above hovered three faces. Two belonged to Chakotay and Captain Janeway, and both looked very worried. The third belonged to a grim-faced medical hologram. B’Elanna licked her dry lips and took a deep breath. “What’s going on?” she muttered.

“That is what we would like to know, Lieutenant,” the Captain replied. “How are you feeling?”

B’Elanna closed her eyes for a brief moment. No dizziness, thank goodness. And yet, her limbs felt like lead. She murmured, “A little tired. Exhausted, actually. Wha . . . what happened?”

“I just finished operating on you, Lieutenant,” the Doctor coolly replied. “To repair your damaged neural pathways.”

Janeway added, “Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris found you inside your quarters, unconscious. After they were unable to awaken you, they beamed you here to Sick Bay.”

Oh.” B’Elanna tried to sit up.

The Doctor added, “Don’t bother, Lieutenant. I gave you a depressant, following the operation. You needed the sleep.”

Taking another deep breath, B’Elanna continued, “Can’t I do that in my own quarters? I don’t . . .”

Chakotay added, “I’m sorry, but the Doctor needs to keep you here under observation. He and Kes can look after you.”

B’Elanna sighed with defeat. If only she had never come across that damn device. Speaking of which, she wondered if anyone had found . . .

“Looking for this?” The Captain held up the leather box. B’Elanna’s heart sank. “Lieutenant Paris found this in your quarters. Apparently, seconds after he opened it, he found himself in another time frame. Possibly in the future.” B’Elanna found herself wilting under the gray-eyed stare of the Captain’s. “Once you’re released from Sick Bay, you and I are going to have a long talk.” After giving the Chief Engineer a firm nod, she turned on her heels and left. Chakotay followed, but only after he shot B’Elanna a sympathetic glance.

* * * *

The following afternoon, the EMH finally released B’Elanna from Sick Bay. The latter immediately headed straight to the Captain’s Ready Room and revealed how she found the Hotak device. And her experiences in the future. Of course, B’Elanna did leave out certain details – like her flirtation with Tom in the Holodeck, and their subsequent honeymoon.

For her actions, the Captain revoked B’Elanna’s holodeck priviledges for a week. The auburn-haired captain added that she had ordered Voyager back to Hotak in order to return the device to its previous location. B’Elanna received one last lecture on responsible behavior befitting a Starfleet officer before being dismissed.

Her cheeks flaming with embarrassment, B’Elanna left the Captain’s Ready Room through the second door and entered Deck One’s corridor. She had never felt so humiliated since the incident over the Sikiris transporter. One good thing came out of her use of the Hotak device – she saw a future that seemed destined to end in disaster. Marriage to Tom Paris? Inconceivable. Hell, she could say the same about a romance with the erratic helmsman. B’Elanna simply could not see someone like Paris remaining in a relationship with a Human/Klingon hybrid, let alone a Human female. Any marriage to him seemed bound to meet the same fate as her parents’. With her driving Tom away.

B’Elanna knew what she had to do. Make sure that a relationship between her and Paris would never happen. She had no desire to get involved with a man who would only disappoint her in the end. Resolved by her decision, B’Elanna marched toward the turbolift.

* * * *

Five years and seven months later . . .

“Good grief, Harry! You’re not going to eat Neelix’s apple pie again, are you? Don’t you remember what happened the last time? You ended up in Sick Bay, getting your stomach pumped.”

B’Elanna and Harry sat inside Voyager’s Mess Hall, finishing the last of their lunch. The Chief Engineer had planned to immediately return to Deck Eleven, when she spotted the slice of “apple pie” on the ensign’s plate. If one could call it apple pie. It looked more like a banana cream pie – with the filling dyed green and no whip cream topping.

Annoyance flashed across Harry’s face. “I won’t get sick. Besides, Neelix and the Doctor found the ingredient that made me ill. And Neelix swore that he left it out, this time.”

“Yeah, right,” B’Elanna grumbled.

“What’s wrong with you anyway, Maquis? Got up on the wrong side of the bed, this morning?”

B’Elanna sighed. “It’s nothing. We’re still working on the damaged deflector dish, thanks to Chakotay. He allows the damn thing to shorten out and won’t even tell me why he did it. I don’t think even the Captain knows. Something about the Temporal Directive.”

A frown creased Harry’s forehead. “You still haven’t fixed the deflector dish? It’s been a week since that incident. What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know. Gremlins, perhaps?” B’Elanna said with a shrug. “Even worse, Sue Nicoletti passed out, this morning. Just fainted dead away. And the one thing I don’t need right now is to have one of my best engineers ill.”

Harry smiled. “Oh, I have a pretty good idea on what’s wrong with Sue. Haven’t you heard? She’s . . .”

The doors to the Mess Hall opened, interrupting Harry. Tom Paris strode inside and many of the crewmen burst into cheers, whistles and applause. Then to B’Elanna’s further confusion, Neelix walked up to Tom and offered his congratulations. Why, B’Elanna had no idea. She turned to Harry. “What the hell is going on?”

Harry did not answer. Instead, he waited until the pilot appeared beside their table, stood up and enveloped the older man with a bear hug. “Hey Tom! Congratulations!” he crowed. “It’s not every day a man becomes a father.”

A father? The moment those words left Harry’s mouth, B’Elanna became ill. She felt as if a photon torpedo had made impact with her stomach. Tom Paris, a father. That could only mean that Sue Nicoletti was pregnant. B’Elanna dreaded this moment since the day her subordinate married Tom. Keeping her jealousy in check, she reacted with an enthusiasm that she did not feel. “A new father! You mean to say that Sue fainted, because she was pregnant?”

Tom smiled, causing B’Elanna’s heart to skip. “Yep. She’s due in another six-and-a-half months.”

“Just in time for the New Year,” Harry added.

B’Elanna inhaled before flashing the pilot a brilliant smile. “That’s great, Tom! I’m happy for both you and Sue.” Then she returned her attention to her breakfast tray, unable to say anything further.

While Tom and Harry continued to discuss the upcoming pregnancy, B’Elanna’s thoughts wallowed in misery. And regret. Where did it all go wrong? She has asked herself this question so many times during the past six years. Yet, she knew the answer. Her stubbornness. Her fears. She had the bad misfortune to catch a glimpse of a possible paradise. And instead of anticipating the future, she allowed her fears to get the best of her. Push away a chance of happiness before it could begin.

After her glimpse of a future with Tom Paris, B’Elanna had done everything possible to ensure that the relationship would go no further than distant friendship. It had been simple during Voyager’s first two years in the Delta Quadrant. Tom was first preoccupied with a crush on Kes, the ship’s former nurse, and later, pursuit of Sue Nicoletti. That third year, however, proved to be difficult. Tom suddenly developed an interest in B’Elanna. She did her best to ignore him by ignoring his flirtations and invitations to dinner. She had even ignored Tom and Harry’s offer to escort her to a luau being held inside Neelix’s old Resort holoprogram. Once B’Elanna made it apparent that she harbored no interest in a relationship with the Chief Helmsman, he stopped pursuing her. And two months later, he returned his attention to Sue Nicoletti.

At first, it seemed that Tom would have no better luck with Sue than he did the previous year. However, matters came to a head on possibly one of the worst days in B’Elanna’s life – her personal Day of Honor. One, a failed experiment with creating a transwarp conduit ended with the ejection of the warp core. The Captain ordered the core to be retrieved – only she ordered B’Elanna to send another member of the Engineering team. B’Elanna did. She sent Sue Nicoletti, who ended up accompanied by Tom Paris. B’Elanna had no idea what occurred between the pair on that mission. But four days later, Tom and Sue became a couple. Their three-year romance ended with an impromptu wedding, following an intergalactic race. Since of their romance, B’Elanna found herself regretting her decision to change the future. Dreams of that alternate honeymoon aboard the Delta Flyer have haunted her, ever since.

“. . . have any idea why Chakotay destroyed the deflector?” Harry was saying. Apparently, both men had lost interest in Sue’s pregnancy.

Tom shook his head. “I’ve heard rumors of something about him invoking the Temporal Directive. Whatever that means.”

“Speaking of temporal anomalies,” Harry continued, “do you remember that device you found on Hotak some five or six years ago, B’Elanna? You know, the one that allows you to see the future?”

Dread numbed every nerve in B’Elanna’s body. Of course she remembered. There was not a single damn day when she forgot. “Yeah, I remembered,” she mumbled.

Harry continued, “Now, I remember you telling me that you saw Kurt Bendara’s death, a future game of hoverball between you and the Commander, and even Neelix’s resort program.” His attention switched to the pilot. “But Tom, you also used the device and you never told me what you saw.”

Tom hesitated. His gaze dropped to the food on his tray. “It was nothing, Harry. In fact, it never happened.”

“C’mon, Tom! Everything B’Elanna had witnessed came true. Right?”

Memories of that passionate moment inside the Delta Flyer flashed in B’Elanna’s mind. “Right,” she replied in a choked voice.

Harry continued, “So, tell us. C’mon Tom, what did you see?”

The pilot took a deep breath. “Okay. I was inside a cave . . . with . . . with someone.” His blue eyes briefly rested upon B’Elanna. “From Engineering.”

‘He knows!’ B’Elanna felt a surge of panic. Judging from Tom’s brief glance, she felt sure that he knew about their life together, in that alternate timeline. She struggled to maintain a calm façade.

Harry frowned. “What cave?”

“On Sakaris IV,” Tom replied. B’Elanna winced. The sight of her infamous bout with pon far. Voyager had come across a supply of gallacite and B’Elanna was ordered to form an Away team to retrieve the mineral. She had knew about Tom’s talent as a rock climber, but decided to exclude him from the Away mission. But not before an emotional unbalanced Vulcan engineer infected her with pon far. B’Elanna spent her entire time on Sakaris IV longing for Tom, while rejecting any offers of help from Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay.

His frown deepening, Harry shot back, “But you only spent one hour on Sakaris IV. With Carl Ashmore and me. When we helped the Sakarians avoid further detection by the Borg.”

“That’s right, Harry,” Tom replied. “But in my vision, I was there for several hours.” Again, his eyes shot a glance at B’Elanna. “With Sue.”

Harry shook his head and murmured, “Now, that’s strange. Sue never made it to the surface. I guess time must have been changed.”

“I guess,” Tom echoed. For the third time, he glanced at B’Elanna.

“You know,” Harry continued, “this reminds me of something the Captain once told me. She said that our trip to Earth’s past made her realize how much temporal mechanics gave her a headache. I think she might have something, there. Right, B’Elanna?”

The Chief Engineer did not reply. Unaware of her friend’s last words, she stared into space, devastated and filled with regret.

“B’Elanna?”

THE END

“KILLERS” (2010) Review

 

 

“KILLERS” (2010) Review

Before the 2010 summer movie season had began, I saw the previews for two movies about an innocent blond woman that becomes entangled in the life of a super spy. One of them happened to be a movie that was released around the same time – ”KNIGHT AND DAY”, which starred Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The other is the romantic action comedy that stars Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher called ”KILLERS”

Directed by Robert Luketic, ”KILLERS” is about an over cautious American woman named Jen Kornfeldt who meets a mysterious stranger, while vacationing with her parents in Nice, France. After a whirlwind romance, Jen and her new beau, Spencer Aimes, get married; despite her father’s reluctance. Three years later, Jen discovers two things – someone has placed a $20 million dollars contract on Spencer’s head and that he is a former spy/assassin. Apparently, Spencer had become disenchanted with his profession and gave it up after meeting Jen. Despite her anger over her husband’s deception, the pair spend a harrowing day trying to avoid the series of assassins after him and discover the identity of the person who had placed the bounty on Spencer’s head.

It is possible that I had been wrong to compare ”KILLERS” with the recently released Cruise/Diaz movie. I now realize that the film’s premise and plot bore a strong resemblance to the 2005 movie, ”MR. AND MRS. SMITH”. And as much as I hate to admit this, I believe that this is not a good thing. Despite being a first-rate movie, ”MR. AND MRS. SMITH” ended on a weak note. Unfortunately, ”KILLERS” suffered from the same fate – but on a bigger scale. In fact, I would probably say that the movie’s last twenty minutes managed to spiral into a weak and rather silly finale. Too bad.”KILLERS” had begun with such promise.

Screenwriters Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin did a solid job with the movie’s first half – which featured Jen and Spencer’s first meeting, the latter’s attempted hit on a target picked out by their boss, a look into their marriage after three years, and Spencer’s birthday party. It ended with an exciting sequence that featured Jen walking in on the first assassination attempt on Spencer inside their living room and her discovery of his past profession. But once other assassins (pretending to be neighbors and Spencer’s co-workers) began appearing one after the other, the movie became a parody of itself. It eventually took a serious nosedive and ended on a weak note when Jen and Spencer learned the identity of the person behind the hits.

There is one positive thing I can say about ”KILLERS” is that it has a top-notch cast. Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher made a pretty solid screen team. Mind you, I found their chemistry rather awkward during Jen and Spencer’s courtship phrase. But once the pair became more truthful with each other, the sparks began to fly and the chemistry between Heigl and Kutcher became a lot stronger. And judging from what I have seen on the screen, I believe that Kutcher should seriously consider working in more action movies.

Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara gave interesting performances as Jen’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kornfelt. Selleck was completely in character as a humorless and controlling man. And O’Hara provided plenty of humor as his long-suffering wife who not only loves him, but deals with his controlling personality with heavy drinking. Martin Mull shed his comic persona to portray Spencer’s intelligence boss, Holbrook. And he gave an impressive performance as a ruthless, manipulative and morally questionable man. To my utter surprise, my favorite performance belonged to a U.S.M.C. Reserve officer/comedian/actor named Rob Riggle. He gave a hilarious and first-rate performance as the Aimes’ witty and slightly crude neighbor, Henry.

I wish I could say that I loved ”KILLERS”. Honestly. It had a solid cast. The two leads – Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher seemed to have a solid chemistry. And the movie’s first half struck me as promising. But Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin’s screenplay ruined that promise with a second half that sank and ended with a great deal of silliness and on a weak note. Not even Heigl, Kutcher or Robert Luketic’s direction could save it in the end.

“DEATH ON THE NILE” (2004) Review

“DEATH ON THE NILE” (2004) Review

This 2004 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel, ”Death on the Nile”, was the second to be adapted for the screen. In the case of this movie, it aired as a 90-minute presentation on the long-running television series, ”Agatha Christie’s POIROT”

Like the novel and the 1978 movie, ”DEATH ON THE NILE” centered around Hercule Poirot’s investigation of the murder of an Anglo-American heiress named Linnet Ridgeway. Linnet had stolen the affections of her best friend’s fiancé and married him. When the newly married couple vacationed in Egypt, the best friend – one Jacqueline de Bellefort – stalked and harassed them during their honeymoon. Yet, when Linnet and her new husband, Simon Doyle, boarded the S.S. Karnak for a steamboat cruise down the Nile River, the heiress discovered she had other enemies that included the offspring of a man whom her father had financially ruined, her embezzling attorney who required her signature on a paper or her death to hide his crimes, a kleptomaniac American socialite and a professional thief who was after her pearls. Unfortunately for the killer, a vacationing Hercule Poirot and his friend, Colonel Race, are on hand to solve Linnet’s murder.

There were aspects of this adaptation of ”DEATH ON THE NILE” that I found admirable. The movie’s set designs for the S.S. Karnak seemed bigger and slightly more luxuriant that what was shown in the 1978 movie. Production designer Michael Pickwoad did a first-rate job in creating the luxurious atmosphere for the 1930s upper class. Actor J.J. Feild gave a solid performance as Simon Doyle, the man who came between Linnet Ridgeway and Jacqueline de Bellefort. However, I do not think he managed to capture the literary Simon Doyle’s boyish simplicity and lack of intelligence. I also enjoyed Frances La Tour’s portrayal of the alcoholic novelist, Salome Otterbourne. She gave her performance a slight twist in which her character seemed to be a little hot under the collar as she makes sexual advances toward Poirot in a subtle, yet comic manner. And the movie’s one true bright spot was, of course, David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. As usual, he gave an exceptional performance. However, I noticed that he was never able to form any real chemistry with James Fox’s Colonel Race or Emma Griffiths Malin, who portrayed Jacqueline de Bellefort; as Peter Ustinov had done with David Niven and Mia Farrow, respectively.

I wish I could harbor a high opinion of ”DEATH ON THE NILE”. But I cannot. There were too many aspects of this production that rubbed me the wrong way. I noticed that this version adhered very closely to Christie’s novel. Unfortunately, the screenplay’s close adaptation did not help the movie very much. It still failed to be superior or just as good as the 1978 version. So much for the argument that a movie has to closely follow its literary source in order for it to be any good. A closer adaptation of Christie’s novel meant that characters missing from the 1978 version – Cornelia Robson, Marie Van Schuyler’s clumsy young cousin; society jewel thief Tim Allerton; the ladylike Mrs. Allerton and the Allertons’ cousin, Joanna Southwood – appeared in this movie. Only the Italian archeologist, Mr. Richetti and Jim Fanthorp, the British attorney were missing. And honestly, the presence of the Allertons, Cornelia Robson and Joanna Southwood added nothing to the story as far as I am concerned. Aside from a few members of the cast, the acting in this movie struck me as very unexceptional and a little hammy at times. You know . . . the kind of hamminess that makes one wince, instead of chuckle with amusement.

But the movie’s real atrocities came from the hairstyles and makeup created for the younger actresses in the cast. Most of the hairstyles seemed like sloppy re-creations of those from the mid-1930s, the worst offenders being the cheap-looking blond wig worn by Emily Blunt (Linnet Ridgeway Doyle), the butch hairstyle worn by actress Zoe Telford (Rosalie Otterbourne); and the gaudy makeup worn by all of the younger actresses. Only Daisy Donovan, who portrayed Cornelia Robson was spared from resembling a kewpie doll. Instead, she wore a sloppy bun that served as a metaphor for her insecure personality – a theatrical maneuver that I found unnecessary.

I hate to say this but despite David Suchet’s performance as Poirot and Michael Pokewoad’s production designs, I came away feeling less than impressed by this version of ”DEATH ON THE NILE”. Not only did I find it inferior to the 1978 version, but also to many other adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels and stories.