“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode One “Currahee” Commentary


After spending the last six months or so watching and re-watching my taped copies of the recent HBO miniseries, ”THE PACIFIC”, my family and I decided to re-watch the first television collaboration between Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Of course I am speaking of the 2001 Golden Globe and Emmy winning miniseries, ”BAND OF BROTHERS”

Based upon Stephen Ambrose historical book , ”BAND OF BROTHERS” centered around the experiences of “Easy” Company, one company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. The miniseries was divided into ten episodes and starred Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston. The first episode, titled ”Curahee”, told the story of Easy Company’s two years of training at Toccoa, Georgia; North Carolina; and later in England under the command of Herbert Sobel.

”Currahee” basically served as an introduction of the main characters featured throughout the miniseries. However, not all of the characters made an impact in this episode. Albert Blythe, David Webster and several others were occasionally seen, but not heard. But one did have characters like William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, Carwood Lipton, George Luz, John Martin, Joe Liebgott, and Harry Welsh certainly made their impacts. More importantly, the two lead characters were featured – namely Richard Winters and Lewis Nixon. But I might as well be frank. This episode truly belonged to the man who had served as Easy Company’s first commander, Herbert Sobel.

The acting in ”Currahee” struck me as pretty solid. At least 70% of the cast featured British or Irish actors portraying American servicemen. Some of the actors did pretty good jobs in maintaining an American accent – including Damian Lewis. However, there were times when it seemed that the basic American accents that most of the British cast seemed capable of using were either Southern, a flat trans-Atlantic accent or an accent from one of the five boroughs of New York City. I found it disconcerting to find some British actors using the latter, despite their characters coming from another part of the country. For example, actor Ross McCall did a great New York accent. Unfortunately, his character Joe Liebgott was born in Michigan, and moved to San Francisco sometime before the war. Even some of the American actors used the wrong accent for their characters. I enjoyed James Madio’s performance as Frank Perconte. However, Madio, who hailed from New York City (the Bronx), used his natural accent to portray Illinois native, Perconte.

I have to be honest. I never found the basic training sequences featured in some war movies to be interesting. In fact, the only war movies that featured interesting training sequences were about the Vietnam War – ”THE BOYS OF COMPANY ‘C’” (1978) and”FULL METAL JACKET” (1987). As I had stated earlier, the episode ”Currahee” truly belonged to the Herbert Sobel character and David Schwimmer’s memorable and complex performance. Despite Ambrose’s portrayal of Sobel as a tyrannical company commander that was deeply disliked by his men, many veterans of Easy Company cannot deny that he made the company. His tough training methods helped the men endure the horrors of war that faced them in future battles. If it were not for his character and Schwimmer’s performance, I would barely consider ”Currahee” as an interesting episode.

Once Sobel was removed from the scene, the last 15 to 20 minutes of ”Currahee” featured Easy Company’s preparation for their jump into Normandy, France and their participation of the famous June 5-6 invasion. Those last minutes also set future storylines in the next episode and in future ones – including Easy Company’s experiences in France, Guarnere’s anger over his brother’s death, and Lynn “Buck” Compton’s relationship with the men in his platoon. It was not a bad episode. In fact, it was pretty interesting, thanks to David Schwimmer’s portrayal of Easy Company’s first commander, Herbert Sobel. But if it were not for the presence of Sobel’s character, I would almost find this episode rather dull.

“Anthony’s Doubts” [PG-13] – 1/2

Here is a “Pearl Harbor” vignette told in the first person, from the point of view of one of the movie’s supporting characters, a New York born Italian-American named Lieutenant Anthony Fusco (portrayed by Greg Zola). It’s called,“Anthony’s Doubts”:

FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Anthony expresses his feelings toward the burgeoning relationship between Danny and Evelyn.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.

NOTE: This comes from that delicious line expressed by someone in the movie. I think it was Anthony Fusco, but I’m not sure. I only wish I could remember it, word from word. 



I don’t know why everyone seems to think it’s a good idea for them to date. I certainly don’t. If you ask me, they’re making a big mistake. Danny and Evelyn, I mean.

I mean, jeez, anyone can see that Danny and Evelyn are only interested in each other, because of Rafe. Rafe McCawley – Danny’s best friend and Evelyn’s boyfriend. Well, dead best friend and dead boyfriend. Rafe has been dead for the past three months. Shot over the English Channel by the Germans. Damn Krauts!

Of all the people I could never see getting shot down, it was Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, of the U.S. Army Air Corps. I mean, hick or no hick, the man was a talented pilot. Even our old CO from Mitchell Field, the famous James Doolittle, had considered Rafe to be an outstanding pilot. And Rafe . . . well, he just seemed too talented and too alive to bite the dust over the English Channel. Then again, no one lives forever. Not even a walking live wire like poor old Rafe.

Danny Walker is another kettle of fish. Like Rafe, he’s another talented pilot. Although not quite in Rafe’s league. I guess you can say he was the second best pilot in our squad. Now that Rafe is dead, he’s the number one guy. Now Danny is the quiet type. Sometimes, the man barely says two sentences during an entire day. Unless the subject happens to be flying. He had practically worshipped the ground Rafe walked upon – like a typical younger brother. Hell, they had seemed like brothers. I heard that Danny’s pop had fought in the last war and came home, a drunken wreck. After he died, Rafe’s parents took Danny in and the two practically became brothers. Now that Rafe is dead, he no longer has a family. I guess as far as he’s concerned.

And then there was Evelyn Johnson. I still remember that evening in New York, when we all first met her and the other nurses. I had my eye on Sandra O’Connell, a pretty redhead with glasses and kissable lips. What is it with that woman, anyway? After ten months, she acts as if I’ve got the clap or something. Although I mainly had Sandra on my mind, I could not help but notice Rafe and Evelyn. The electricity between them was unmistakable. I swear it seemed as if they were in their own little magical world.

Poor Evelyn. Rafe’s death must have hit her just as hard as it did Danny. Both Red and Betty told me that for the past three months – since Rafe’s death – she had been crying herself to sleep. I remember how she seemed to be in a daze, during that little memorial service we had for Rafe at the Hula-La Bar. Come to think of it, Danny kept to himself a lot, during that period. The only time he seemed to come alive was during flight duty. I don’t know. Maybe he had visions of avenging his buddy’s death.

Then just a few days ago, Red proposed marriage to Betty. They, along with Billy and Barbara, spotted Evelyn and Danny together, inside the Black Cat Café. They had run into each other outside a movie theater in downtown Honolulu. Billy and Red talked of nothing but Danny and Evelyn. And how it would be great for those two to get over Rafe’s death and start dating. Jesus, what a couple of morons! Meanwhile, Danny ran over to the nurse’s quarters at Pearl, to return Evelyn’s handkerchief. Yeah, right. I saw how he looked. Like a man who had found a drop of water in the middle of the desert.

And now we have Evelyn, visiting Danny, here at Wheeler Field. Dressed in this little red Chinese number that fit her in the all the right places. It was obvious that she wore it to impress Danny. And the dumb idiot practically drooled over her like a dog in heat.

Being Danny, he asked us for advice. Should he or shouldn’t he date Evelyn? Red told him to give her a shot. As far as Red was concerned, Rafe was dead and it was time for Danny and Evelyn to move on. That was the worst advice anyone could have given. I think I was the only one who thought differently. I said that if I were dead and my best friend was dating my girl, I’d come back and beat the shit out of him. Everyone laughed, thinking I was joking. Well, I wasn’t joking. Jesus, they can’t all be idiots, can they?

Red, Billy and the others don’t seem to understand that you can’t stop grieving over someone, as if he or she was a sink you can easily turn off. I remember my Uncle Mario Fusco. He was a soldier who had served in China, some fifteen years ago. Poor Uncle Mario had been declared dead and his wife, Aunt Lucinda, cried over him something awful. Well, the rest of the family advised her to move on and she ended up getting engaged to one of Mario’s buddies, this guy named Paul Rizzo. And guess what happened? After dating Paul for several months, Aunt Lucinda decided to marry him, because she was lonely. Despite the fact that she still had not recovered from Uncle Mario’s death. Just before the wedding, Uncle Mario showed up, alive and well. And Aunt Lucinda dropped this Rizzo fella like a hat. It almost broke up Mario and Paul’s friendship.

Now, I’m not saying that Rafe is going to appear from the dead or anything like that. But hey, you never know. Plus, I can see that Evelyn still has not recovered from his death. When she visited Danny, this afternoon, I had this weird feeling that her heart wasn’t really focused on him. It seemed . . . well, as if she had to force herself to stop grieving. I suspect that the only reason both are interested in each other is because of Rafe. They’re using each other to get over their grief, but they don’t seem to realize that.

But it’s too late now. Danny just left to see Evelyn. He told me that he plans to take her flying over Wakikki Beach. I don’t know. Something tells me that nothing good is gonna come out of this. And my instincts are usually pretty on the QT. I guess all I can do is wait and see.


“HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” (2004) Review

“HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” (2004) Review

My knowledge of 19th century author, Anthony Trollope, can be described as rather skimpy. In fact, I have never read any of his works. But the 2004 BBC adaptation of his 1869 novel, ”He Knew He Was Right”, caught my interest and I decided to watch the four-part miniseries. 

”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” told the decline and fall of a wealthy gentleman named Louis Trevelyan (Oliver Dimsdale) and his marriage to the elder daughter of a British Colonial administrator named Sir Marmaduke Rowley (Geoffrey Palmer) during the late 1860s. Louis first met the spirited Emily Rowley (Laura Fraser) during a trip to the fictional Mandarin Islands. Their marriage began on a happy note and managed to produce one son, young Louis. But when Emily’s godfather, the rakish Colonel Osborne (Bill Nighy), began paying consistent visits to her, the house of cards for the Trevelyan marriage began to fall. Doubts about his wife’s fidelity formed clouds in Louis’ mind upon learning about Osborne’s reputation as a ladies’ man. His insistence that Emily put an end to Osborne’s visits, along with her stubborn opposition to his demands and outrage over his lack of trust finally led to a serious break in their marriage. What followed was a minor public over their estrangement, a change of addresses for both husband and wife, Louis’ kidnapping of their son and his final descent into paranoia and madness.

The miniseries also featured several subplots. One centered around the forbidden romance between Emily’s younger sister, Nora (Christina Cole), and a young journalist named Hugh Stansbury (Stephen Campbell Moore), who happened to be Louis’ closest friend. Another featured the efforts of Hugh’s wealthy Aunt Jemima Stansbury (Anna Massey) to pair his younger sister Dorothy (Caroline Martin) to a local vicar in Wells named Reverend Gibson (David Tennant). Unfortunately for Aunt Stansbury, her desires for a romance between Dorothy and Reverend Gibson ended with Dorothy’s rejection of him and his lies about her moral character. Later, Dorothy and Aunt Stansbury found themselves at odds over Dorothy’s friendship and burgeoning romance with the nephew of her old love, Brooke Burgess (Matthew Goode). Gibson found himself in hot water with the socially powerful Aunt Stansbury over his lies about Dorothy. But that was nothing in compare to his being the center of a bitter sibling rivalry between two sisters, Arabella and Camilla French (Fenella Woolgar and Claudie Blakley). One last subplot evolved from Nora Rowley’s rejection of a wealthy aristocrat named Mr. Glascock (Raymond Coulthard). While traveling through Italy, he became acquainted with Caroline Spalding (Anna-Louise Plowman), one of two daughters of an American diplomat; and began a romance with her.

Most of the subplots from ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” proved to be mildly entertaining or interesting. But the one subplot that really caught my attention featured Reverend Gibson and the French sisters. There were times when I could not even describe this story. I found it hilarious in a slightly twisted and surreal manner. Considering the vicar’s sniveling personality, there were times I felt it served him right to find himself trapped in the rivalry between the sweetly manipulative Arabella and the aggressive Camilla. But when the latter proved to be obsessive and slightly unhinged, I actually found myself rooting for Reverend Gibson to be free of her grasp. In some ways, Camilla proved to be just as mentally disturbed as Louis Treveylan.

For me, the best aspect of ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” proved to be the main plot about the Treveylan marriage. I have to give kudos to Andrew Davies for his excellent job in adapting Trollope’s tale. I found the Louis and Emily’s story to be fascinating and well written. When their marriage ended in separation at the end of Episode One, I wondered if Davies had rushed the story. Foolish me. I never realized that the separation would lead toward a slow journey into madness for Louis and one of frustration and resentment for Emily. Her resentment increased tenfold after Louis kidnapped their young son, Little Louis; and upon her discovery that as a woman, she did not have the law on her side on who would be considered as the boy’s legal guardian. For me, the most surprising aspect of ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” was that despite all of the hell Louis forced Emily to endure, I ended up feeling very sorry for him. Due to his own insecurities over Colonel Osborne’s attentions to Emily and her strength of character, Louis ended up enduring a great deal of his own hell.

Another aspect I found rather interesting about ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” was the topic of power abuse that permeated the tale. Many film and literary critics have used the Louis Trevelyan character as an argument that the story’s main theme was the abuse of paternal or male power. I heartily agree with that argument. To a certain extent. After all, Louis’ hang-ups regarding Emily’s relationship with Colonel Osborne seemed to be centered around her unwillingness to blindly obey him or his fear that he may not be enough of a man for her. And Sir Marmaduke’s insistence that Nora dismiss the idea of marrying the penniless Hugh Stanbury for a wealthier gentleman – namely Mr. Glascock. But the miniseries also touched upon examples of matriarchy or female abuse of power – something that most critics or fans hardly ever mention. Jemima Stanbury’s position as the Stanburys’ matriarch and only wealthy family member gave her the belief she had the power to rule over the lives of her family. This especially seemed to be the case in her efforts to control Dorothy’s love life. Camilla French struck me as another female who used her position as Reverend French’s fiancée to abuse it – especially in her aggressive attempts to ensure that he would give in to her desires and demands. And when that failed, she used her anger and threats of violence to ensure that her sister Arabella did not win in their rivalry over the spineless vicar. Some would say that Camilla was merely indulging in masculine behavior. I would not agree. For I believe that both men and women – being human beings – are capable of violence. For me, aggression is a human trait and not associated with one particular gender. In the end, both Sir Marmaduke and Aunt Stanbury relented to the desires of their loved ones. Camilla had no choice but to relent to Arabella’s victory in their race to become Reverend Gibson’s wife, thanks to her mother and uncle’s intervention. As for Louis, he continued to believe he was right about Emily and Colonel Osborne . . . at least right before the bitter end.

Oliver Dimsdale proved to be the right actor to portray the complex and tragic Louis Trevelyan. He could have easily portrayed Louis as an unsympathetic and one-note figure of patriarchy. Instead, Dimsdale skillfully conveyed all of Louis’ faults and insecurities; and at the same time, left me feeling sympathetic toward the character. Dimsdale’s Louis was not a monster, but a flawed man who believed he could control everything and especially everyone in his life. And this trait proved to be his Achilles heel. But despite my sympathies toward him, I could never accept the righteousness of Louis’ behavior. And the main reason proved to be Laura Fraser’s portrayal of the high-spirited and stubborn Emily Rowley Trevelyan. One could say that Emily should have conceded to her husband’s wishes. As the spouse of a pre-20th century male, one would expect her to. I could point out that she did concede to Louis’ wishes – while protesting along the way. And Fraser not only did a marvelous job with Emily’s strong will and stubbornness, but also anger at Louis’ paternalism. Amazingly, she also effectively portrayed Emily’s continuing love for Louis and doubts over the character’s actions with a great deal of plausibility. This last trait was especially apparent in Emily’s conversations with Hugh Stanbury’s sister, Priscilla, in Episode Two. And both Dimsdale and Fraser created a strong and credible screen chemistry, despite their characters’ flaws, mistakes and conflicts.

Another reason I managed to enjoy ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” turned out to be the solid performances by the supporting cast. However, several performances stood out for me. Three came from veteran performers such as Bill Nighy, Anna Massey and Ron Cook. Nighy, ever the chameleon, gave a delicious performance as the mischievous and rakish Colonel Osborne; who proved to be something of a blustering phony in the end. Anna Massey gave a wonderful and entertaining portrayal as the wealthy matriarch of the Stanbury family, Jemima Stanbury. Despite being a tyrannical and no-nonsense woman, Massey’s Aunt Stanbury also proved to be a likeable and vulnerable individual. And Cook did a marvelous job in portraying Mr. Nozzle as more than just a study in one-dimensional seediness. Cook aptly conveyed the private detective’s conflict between his greedy desire for Louis’ business and his sympathy toward Emily’s plight.

The second trio of performances that impressed me came from David Tennant, Fenella Woolgar and Claudie Blakley, who portrayed the Reverend Gibson and the French sisters. Tennant, who was two years away from portraying the 10th Doctor Who, gave a hilarious performance as the avaricious vicar with a spine made from gelatin. Both Woolgar and Blakley were equally funny as the two sisters battling for his affections . . . or at least a marriage proposal. Blakley also seemed a tad frightening, as she delved into Camilla’s aggressive and homicidal determination to prevent Mr. Gibson from returning his “affections” to the more mild-tempered and manipulative Arabella.

The production values for ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” seemed pretty solid. But I found nothing exceptional about it, except for Mike Eley’s photography and Debbie Wiseman’s haunting score, which seemed appropriate for the Trevelyans’ doomed marriage. However, I do have one major problem with Trollope’s tale . . . and Davies’ script. Quite simply, the story suffered from one too many subplots. Many have counted at least five subplots in ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” and they would be correct. At least three of them – Dorothy’s problems with Reverend Gibson, her conflict with Aunt Stanbury over Brooke Burgess, and Reverend Gibson’s problems with the French sisters – having nothing to do with the main storyline. Despite the fact that I found them either interesting or entertaining, I felt as if they belonged in another novel or series. I realize that Trollope had used these subplots as examples of comparisons to the Trevelyan marriage, but I always have this strange sensation that I am watching a completely different series altogether. I believe that Davies should have realized this before writing his script.

Despite my problems with the tale’s numerous subplots, I found ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” to be a first-rate adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel. I must admit that all of the plotlines proved to be interesting. And Tom Vaughn’s direction, along with a first-rate cast led by Oliver Dimsdale and Laura Fraser, ”HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT” proved to be a literary adaptation worth watching.

“SALT” (2010) Review


“SALT” (2010) Review

It has been a while since I last saw a movie directed by Philip Noyce. In fact, the last one I can recall was 2002’s ”THE QUIET AMERICAN”. Imagine my surprise when I discovered he had been chosen to direct Angelina Jolie’s new action thriller called”SALT”

The movie told the story of a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt, who is accused of being a KGB sleeper agent. She eventually goes on the run to try to clear her name. At the order of her supervisor, Ted Winters, Salt interrogates a Russian defector named Orlov, who tells her about an operation organized by a powerful Russian since the Cold War; which will lead to the destruction of the United States. Orlov mentions that at the funeral of the late Vice President in New York City, the visiting Russian President will be killed by Russian spy – Evelyn Salt. Shaken at the accusation, Salt attempts to contact her husband Mike, a German arachnologist, fearing for his safety. Meanwhile, Orlov escapes, which prompts Salt to escape. This causes Winters and a counterintelligence agent named Peabody to believe she is a spy. After finding her husband missing at their apartment, Salt grabs a few essentials and continues her flight. After barely escaping a highway pursuit, Salt takes a bus to New York City to deal with the threat of the Russian president being assassinated.

When I first learned about the plot for ”SALT”, the first thing that came to mind was that it was a female variation on the recent BOURNE trilogy, starring Matt Damon. And in a way, it is. After all, Jolie portrays a CIA agent, who finds herself pursued by her former colleagues. And her character performs stunts that would make Damon . . . or his stunt man rather proud. However, after the movie’s setting had switched to New York City, Kurt Wimmer and Oscar winner Brian Hegeland’s script took an unexpected turn that left me a little breathless. And if that was not enough, another plot twist awaited, once the movie shifted back to Washington D.C. and a plot to kill the U.S. president. Another aspect of ”SALT” that surprised me was that the movie was released on the heels of news about a real Russian spy ring that was recently discovered in the U.S.

Angelina Jolie has come a long way since her two LARA CROFT movies. In her portrayal of Jennifer Salt, she is more assured and matured. And thankfully, she has also dropped the poseur attitude that slightly marred her performances as Lara Croft. Not only did Jolie do a first-rate job with her action sequences, she skillfully guided the emotional turmoil that her character endures throughout the movie. Adding solid support is Liev Schreiber, who portrayed her supervisor, Ted Winters. Beneath the charm and intelligence, Schreiber did a great job in conveying Ted’s emotional reaction to the possibility that Salt might be a Russian deep-cover mole. And Chiwetel Ejiofor was effective as the intense and determined counterintelligence agent, Peabody, who genuinely believes that Salt is a mole. He managed to convey this without indulging in any hammy acting.

Daniel Olbrychski gave a fascinating performance as the Russian defector, Orlov, who accused Salt of being a Russian agent. August Diehl portrayed Salt’s husband, the soft-spoken arachnologist, Michael Krause. Although he hardly had any lines in the film, he quietly conveyed his role as Salt’s emotional center. I was surprised to see Hunt Block, who portrayed the U.S. president. I have not seen him since the 1980s nighttime drama, ”KNOT’S LANDING”. I was also surprised to see Andre Braugher in the movie. He portrayed one of the President’s aides, yet he only had one or two lines. At first, I thought his career had really taken a nose dive, until I remembered that he was on the TNT television series called ”MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE”. So, how did he get stuck in a role that called for only two lines?

Noyce worked well with cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editors Stuart Baird and John Gilroy to create some very interesting action scenes . . . especially the fantastic sequence featuring the attempt to assassinate the Russian president in New York. Jolie contributed to these scenes with some of her own stunt work. Yes, I realize that some of the stunts seemed implausible – especially one that featured a jump by Salt from a Washington D.C. expressway to the top of a moving truck. But I have seen stunts in other movies that I found a lot more implausible. It seemed a pity that the movie was set either during the late fall or the winter. Although the cold season did not take any atmosphere away from the Manhattan sequences, I cannot say the same about the Washington D.C. exterior shots. I have always believed that the capital looked a lot better on film during the spring, summer and early fall seasons.

In the end, I enjoyed ”SALT” very much. I believe that it is one of the better summer movies this year. Director Philip Noyce did a first-class job with a solid script written by Kurt Wimmer and Brian Hegeland, and skillful performances from a cast led by Angelina Jolie. I noticed that the movie ended on a vague note that I would usually find annoying. But considering rumors that a sequel might follow, I can give it a pass.

The Welsh Rarebit

Here is some information and an old recipe about a dish made with a savory sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients served hot over toasted bread. The dish is called the Welsh Rarebit: 


The origin and evolution of Welsh Rabbit (aka Welsh Rarebit) differs according to one’s point of view. Combinations of melted cheese and toasted bread have been enjoyed in several cultures and cuisines for thousands of years. However, the name of this dish originated from 18th century Great Britain, after Wales. Welsh Rarebit is typically made with Cheddar cheese, in contrast to the Continental European fondue. And Welsh Rarebit made be considered a local variant.

There is no evidence that the Welsh actually originated this, although they have always had a reputation as cheese-lovers. A more likely derivation of the name is that Welsh in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was used as a patronizingly humorous epithet for any inferior grade or variety of article – as a substitute for the real thing. Welsh rabbit may therefore have started life as a dish resorted to when meat was not available.

Although the term is often used simply for a slice of bread topped with cheese and put under the grill, the fully-fledged Welsh rabbit is a more complicated dish with several variations – the cheese (classically Cheddar or Double Gloucester) can be mixed with butter or mustard, beer or wine, and it can be pre-melted and poured over the toast rather than grilled. Welsh rabbit has of course produced one of the great linguistic causes celebres of gastronomy with it genteel variant Welsh Rarebit. There is little doubt that rabbit is the original form and that rarebit (first recorded in 1785) is an attempt to reinterpret the odd and inappropriate-sounding rabbit as something more fitting to the dish. Precisely how this took place is not clear. It has been speculated that ”rarebit” was originally ”rearbit” – that is, something eaten at the end of a meal. But there is no actual evidence for this.

Here is a recipe for Welsh Rarebit from Chowning’s Tavern, located in Colonial Williamsburg:


– from Chowning’s Tavern
Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

Serves 4 to 6


1 cup beer
2 teaspoons mustard powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt to taste
4 to 6 tomato slices
8 to 12 slices (½ inch thick), toasted French or Italian bread

Preheat a broiler. Place the beer, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until boiling. Slowly whisk in the cheese, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Add the butter, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt to taste, and set aside.
Place the tomato slices on the rack of a broiler pan, and broil for 1 minute, or until lightly browned.
To serve, place the toast slices on the bottom of an oven proof gratin dish or in individual gratin dishes. Pour the cheese over the toast, and then top with the tomato slices. Place under the broiler and broil until the cheese is bubbly and brown. Serve immediately.

Note: The components of the dish can be prepared up to a few hours in advance and kept at room temperature. Reheat the cheese until hot, whisking until it is smooth, before the final broiling.

– history.org

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (2004) Review

Below is my review of Disney’s 2004 adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel called “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”


“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (2004) Review

The year 2004 marked the umpteenth time that an adaptation of Jules Verne’s travelogue movie, ”Around the World in Eighty Days” hit the movie screen. Well . . . actually, the fifth time. Released by Disney Studios and directed by Frank Coraci, this adaptation starred Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Ewan Bremmer and Jim Broadbent.

This adaptation of Verne’s novel started on a different note. It opened with a Chinese man named Xau Ling (Jackie Chan) robbing a precious statuette called the Jade Buddha from the Bank of England. Ling managed to evade the police by hiding out at the home of an English inventor named Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan). To keep the latter from turning him in to the police, Ling pretends to be a French-born national named Passepartout, seeking work as a valet. After Fogg hired “Passepartout”, he clashed with various members of the Royal Academy of Science, including its bombastic member Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). Kelvin expressed his belief that everything worth discovering has already been discovered and there is no need for further progress. The pair also discussed the bank robbery and in a blind rage, Phileas declared that that the thief could be in China in little over a month, which interests “Passepartout”. Kelvin pressured Phileas Fogg into a bet to see whether it would be possible, as his calculations say, to travel around the world in 80 days. If Fogg wins, he would become Minister of Science in Lord Kelvin’s place; if not, he would have to tear down his lab and never invent anything again. Unbeknownst to both Fogg and “Passepartout”, Kelvin recruited a corrupt London police detective named Inspector Fix to prevent the pair from completing their world journey. However, upon their arrival in Paris, they met an ambitious artist named Monique Larouche (Cécile de France), who decides to accompany them on their journey. Ling also became aware of warriors under the command of a female warlord named General Fang (Karen Mok), who also happens to be an ally of Lord Kelvin.

I might as well make this short. ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” did not do well at the box. In fact, it bombed. In a way, one could see why. In compare to the 1956 and 1989 versions, it took a lot more liberties with Verne’s original story. Phileas Fogg is portrayed as an eccentric inventor, instead of a Victorian gentleman of leisure. He takes on a bet with a rival member of the Royal Academy of Science, instead of members of the Reform Club. Passepartout is actually a Chinese warrior for an order of martial arts masters trying to protect his village. Princess Aouda has become a cheeky French would-be artist named Monique. And Inspector Fix has become a corrupt member of the London Police hired by the venal aristocrat Lord Kelvin to prevent Fogg from winning his bet. Fogg, Passepartout and Monique traveled to the Middle East by the Orient Express, with a stop in Turkey. Their journey also included a long stop at Ling’s village in China, where Fogg learned about Ling’s deception.

Some of the comedy – especially those scenes involving Fix’s attempts to arrest Fogg – came off as too broad and not very funny. Also, this adaptation of Verne’s tale was not presented as some kind of travelogue epic – as in the case of the 1956 and 1989 versions. The movie made short cuts by presenting Ling and Fogg’s journey through the use of day-glow animation created by an art direction team supervised by Gary Freeman. Frankly, I thought it looked slightly cheap. I really could have done without the main characters’ stop in Turkey, where Monique almost became Prince Hapi’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) seventh wife. It slowed down the story and it lacked any humor, whatsoever. I am a major fan of Jim Broadbent, but I must admit that last scene which featured his rant against Fogg and Queen Victoria on the steps of the Royal Academy of Science started out humorous and eventually became cringe-worthy. Poor man. He deserved better.

Did I like ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”? Actually, I did. I found it surprisingly entertaining, despite its shortcomings. Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan made a rather funny screen team as the resourceful and clever Ling who had to deceive the slightly arrogant and uptight Fogg in order to quickly reach China. Cécile de France turned out to be a delightful addition to Chan and Coogan’s screen chemistry as the coquettish Monique, who added a great deal of spark to Fogg’s life. Granted, I had some complaints about Broadbent’s performance in his last scene. Yet, he otherwise gave a funny performance as the power-hungry and venal Lord Kelvin. It was rare to see him portray an outright villain. And although I found most of Bremmer’s scenes hard to take (I am not that big of a fan of slapstick humor), I must admit that two of his scenes left me in stitches – his attempt to arrest Ling and Fogg in India and his revelations of Lord Kelvin’s actions on the Royal Academy of Science steps.

There were many moments in David N. Titcher, David Benullo, and David Goldstein’s script that I actually enjoyed. One, I really enjoyed the entire sequence in Paris that featured Ling and Fogg’s meeting with Monique and also Ling’s encounter with some of General Fang’s warriors. Not only did it featured some top notch action; humorous performances by Chan, Coogan and de France; and colorful photography by Phil Meheux. Another first-rate sequence featured the globe-trotting travelers’ arrival at Ling’s village in China. The action in this sequence was even better thanks to the fight choreography supervised by Chan and stunt/action coordinator Chung Chi Li. It also had excellent characterization thanks to the screenwriters and the actors. One particular scene had me laughing. It featured Coogan and the two actors portraying Ling’s parents during a drunken luncheon for the travelers.

I wish I could say that this version of ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is the best I have seen. But I would be lying by making such a statement. To be honest, all three versions I have seen are flawed in their own ways. This version is probably more flawed than the others. But . . . I still managed to enjoy myself watching it. The movie can boast some first-rate performances from the cast – especially Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan and Cécile de France. And it also featured some kick-ass action scenes in at least three major sequences. Thankfully, it was not a complete waste.

“INCEPTION” (2010) Review

“INCEPTION” (2010) Review

It still amazes me at how director/writer Christopher Nolan’s films manage to generate a great deal of emotion from filmgoers and critics. This has certainly been the case for his latest work, the science-fiction drama called ”INCEPTION”.

Inspired by the experiences of lucid dreaming and dream incubation”INCEPTION”told the story of Dom Cobb, a dream “extractor” who enters the dreams of others in order to obtain information that is otherwise inaccessible. After failing to extract corporate secrets from a Japanese businessman named Saito, Cobb is hired by the latter to perform the act of ”inception” – the secret implant of an idea into a target’s mind – on the son of Saito’s terminally ill corporate rival, one Robert Fischer. Saito’s object is to convince Fischer to break up his father’s corporate empire in order to prevent it from becoming a monopoly and threatening the businessman’s own corporation. If Cobb manages to succeed, Saito promises to use his influence to clear the younger man of murdering his wife, so that he can reunite with his children.

Cobb assembles a team to achieve Saito’s objectives. They are:

*Arthur, the Point Man – who is also Cobb’s partner, and responsible for researching the team’s target

*Ariadne, the Architect – a graduate student who is recruited to construct worlds in which dreams take place

*Eames, the Forger – has the ability to take the form of others in order to manipulate the dreamer

*Yusuf, the Chemist – who formulates the drugs needed to sustain the team members’ dream states

*Saito, the Client/Observer – who decides to become part of the team

Despite assembling a skillful crew, Cobb encounters a few difficulties. One, Arthur had failed to discover that their mark, Fischer, had been trained in lucid dreaming and creating mental defenses. His mind manages to manifest armed personnel, which attacks the team in downtown Los Angeles, after they kidnap him in Yusuf’s dream. This leads to disaster for Saito, who is wounded during a gun battle. Due to Saito’s wounds, the rest of the team discovers that Cobb had failed to inform them that they could end up in limbo if they die in a dream state, due to the drugs given to them by Yusuf. Worst of all, Cobb has to deal with the manifestation of his dead wife, Mal (the Shade), whose presence in the dreams could end up threatening the assignment.

There had been a good deal of hype surrounding ”INCEPTION” before it hit the theaters in mid July. Surprisingly, I had been unaware of it. I merely wanted to see it due to Nolan’s role as director and writer, and from what I had seen in the movie trailer. I had no idea on how I would react to the film, considering my reactions to 2006’s ”THE PRESTIGE” and 2008’s ”THE DARK KNIGHT”. Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed both movies very much. But it took me a while to understand the plot to ”THE PRESTIGE”and I have never liked the last 30 minutes of ”THE DARK KNIGHT”.

In the end, I not only understood ”INCEPTION”, I enjoyed it. Hell, I more than enjoyed it. I loved it. It is one of the most original movies I have seen in years. I found it very rare to see a movie that used unusual visuals to convey a main character’s emotional story. Through the use of dreams, the team manages to allow Robert Fischer to face his demons regarding his father and to finally put them aside, so that he can learn to be his own man. But more importantly, the Fischer assignment finally allows Cobb to face his own demons and guilt over his wife’s suicide.

The concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation are nothing new in movies or television. Both topics have been used in movies like ”THE MATRIX” and television series like “BABYLON FIVE””BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”. With the amazing special effects supervised by Chris Corbould and Wally Pfister’s beautiful photography, Nolan managed to take these concepts to another level. And he did it without resorting to 3-D photography (thank you God!) or slow motion action (with the exception of one scene). The special effects were especially put to good use in scenes that featured a fight scene between Arthur and an unnamed man inside a high-priced hotel corridor, Cobb and Ariadne’s dream experiences on Parisian streets; and the Limbo world first created by Cobb and Mal.

Nolan had gathered an impressive group of actors and actresses for his cast. Veteran actors Michael Caine, Postlethwaite and Tom Berenger portrayed father figures (literally or otherwise) for at least two of the major characters and gave solid performances – especially Berenger, who portrayed Robert Fischer’s godfather and business associate. Dileep Rao, last seen in the 2009 blockbuster ”AVATAR”, had the good fortune to be cast in a larger role as Yusef, the Chemist. His character provided sedatives for the team to use in order to easily go into dream state. And I must say that I enjoyed Rao’s sly, yet humorous performance very much.

I have been aware of Tom Hardy since his two-episode appearance in the HBO miniseries, ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. But his portrayal of Eames the Forger is probably the first role in which he truly impressed me. Like Rao, he projected a sly sense of humor, mingled with a sharp wit and a hint of arrogance. And dear God! That man has a voice to die for. Cillian Murphy’s role as the Mark, Robert Fischer, seemed like a far cry from his villainous Dr. Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow in Nolan’s two BATMAN movies. Yet, the actor did an excellent job in his subtle portrayal of a man disappointed by what he deemed as his father’s lack of love toward him and his own insecurities that he may be unable to live up to his father’s shadow or expectations of him. Marion Cotillard proved to be quite an enigma in her portrayal of Mal, Cobb’s late wife. In some scenes, she projected a quiet, self-assurance as her character tried to manipulate her husband into accepting his dreams of her as reality. In others, she projected the melancholy of a woman teetering on the edge of suicide. And there were moments when Cotilllard conveyed a sense of subtle menace, whenever someone threatened Cobb’s memories of her. It was a very effective performance.

Another complex performance came from Ken Watanabe, who portrayed Cobb’s client, Saito. Judging from Watanabe’s portrayal of Saito, one would have felt certain that he would end up as the movie’s villain. Yet, thanks to Nolan’s script and Watanabe’s performance, Saito proved to be a complex individual that developed an interesting relationship with Cobb. The latter formed another interesting relationship with the team’s Architect, a college graduate named Ariadne. And Ellen Page did an excellent job in portraying Ariadne’s sense of wonder at her introduction of the world of lucid dreaming. More importantly, Page was effective in portraying what I believe was the movie’s emotional center – the one person who was able to help Cobb deal with his demons regarding Mal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role as Arthur, Cobb’s main partner, should finally set him on the road to stardom. He gave a wonderful performance as the team’s pragmatic Point Man, whose job was to provide background information on Fischer. He was cool, sardonic, dashing and surprisingly a pretty solid action man. His fight in the dream state hotel corridor might prove to be the talk of moviegoers and critics for months to come.

But the one man who held this movie together, other than Nolan, turned out to be leading man Leonardo DiCaprio. I could, in many words, praise his performance as Dom Cobb, the team’s leader and extractor/inceptor.  I could describe the emotional complexity of his portrayal of a man who remained torn by his wife’s death and his longing to reunite with his children and his efforts to keep his demons in check and prevent them from affecting his jobs. I could also praise DiCaprio for handling the movie’s action sequences like a born-again Bruce Willis. But why bother? All one has to do is watch the actor upon the movie screen. Personally, I believe that he may have given one of the better performances of his career, so far. In short, DiCaprio was phenomenal.   It seemed a crime that he did not earn an Academy Award for his work.

I tried to think of something to complain about ”INCEPTION” and only ended up with one. It seemed to me that two-thirds into the movie, its pacing began to drag. Which seemed odd, considering while the movie focused upon scenes featuring Eames’ dream – the snow fortress – I found myself squirming in my seat in an attempt to stay awake. Some of the action sequences seemed to go on a little too long by this point. Fortunately, the movie moved on to its final scenes, starting in the Limbo City dream sequence and my attention became revived.

There have been many discussions and debates over the movie’s final scene – namely Cobb’s reunion with his children and the last shot featuring the spinning top. Many claim the last shot was an indicator that the entire movie had been a dream and that Cobb remained stuck in a dream state. Others believe the spinning top – Mal’s totem – was nothing more than a red herring. As far as they were concerned, Cobb had genuinely reunited with his kids. Personally, I have no idea if the entire movie was a dream or not. A part of me feels it should not matter. What mattered to me was that Cobb finally learned to let go of Mal . . . and put his guilt over her death behind him. And by turning his back on Mal’s spinning top, I believe he had finally achieved this.

As far as movies go, the summer of 2010 had not been a memorable one for me. But it was not been a complete bust. I have seen a good number of entertaining movies. Yet, only a handful has truly impressed me. As far as I am concerned, the one movie that seemed to rise ahead of the others is Christopher Nolan’s latest opus – ”INCEPTION”.  Which was the best movie of 2010, as far as I am concerned.

“Revelations” [PG-13] – 4/4



Cole stared at the thick file sitting on the glass table, in front of the sofa. And cringed out of sheer dismay. 

What the hell had he been thinking? Why had he insisted upon accepting that ridiculously complicated case? Cole’s employers had given him the perfect opportunity to avoid the case. Yet, he accepted it anyway. A land dispute between a wealthy winegrower and a corporation. Cole’s firm represented the former.

The case promised to last several years in a series of lawsuits; counter-lawsuits and God only knew what other kinds of litigation. Cole sighed. He should have accepted Jackman’s offer to hand the case to someone else. Grateful for Cole’s successful handling of a pro bono case that involved the preservation of a community-based housing project. Since the successful verdict had reflected a positive light upon the firm’s reputation, the senior partners decided to give Cole the chance to avoid the Giovanni case. And rather stupidly, he accepted the case anyway. All because he wanted to remain on the partners’ good side. Damn idiot!

Angry with himself, Cole plopped down on the sofa and sighed. Hard. He needed a drink. A good martini with an onion. Only one person he knew made a first-rate Gibson. Cole glanced at the clock on the wall. Six-fifteen. Both Olivia and Cecile should be home, by now. The file caught his attention, again. At the moment, Cole felt more interested in a pre-dinner drink with Olivia . . . and Cecile, than a case doomed to last for . . .

The doorbell rang. Cole’s mood brightened. He strode toward the door and glanced through the peephole. A surprise greeted his eyes. It was Paige. Now what in the hell did she want? Cole reluctantly opened the door. “Paige. What . . . what are you doing here? Is there something wrong?”

A nervous smile stretched Paige’s mouth. “No. Well, in a way. May I come in?”

“Sure,” Cole mumbled. He opened the door wide, allowing the young witch to enter.

Paige glanced around the penthouse. “So, long time, no see.”

“Twelve days is your idea of a long time?” Cole shot back in his usual sardonic manner. “I mean I realize that we barely exchanged a word the last time we saw each other . . .”

Guilt flashed across Paige’s face. Guilt? From Paige? What had happened to her? “What’s wrong?” Cole asked for the second time. “Is . . . is Phoebe okay?”

“Phoebe?” Paige hesitated. “Well physically, yeah. But I think she’s mad . . . Actually, I don’t know if she’s mad or not. Piper definitely is.”

Cole frowned. “Piper mad at you? Why? What’s this all about?”

Instead of answering Cole’s questions, Paige asked if she could sit down. Cole led her to the sofa. He sat down in the opposite chair. “Okay,” she continued, “how do I begin?” Paige paused dramatically. She took a deep breath and then, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did to you. For what all of us did to you. And I hope that you can forgive me.”

Cole stared at his former sister-in-law, wondering if she had lost her mind. “Uh, what exactly are you apologizing for?”

Paige closed her eyes and sighed. “God, this is hard! I want to apologize for a lot of things, I guess. For believing that you had deliberately chosen to become the Source, when you were really possessed. For kil . . . uh, vanquishing you, when we should have tried to save you. And for . . . well, for encouraging Phoebe to stay away from you, when both of you really needed to talk.” Her dark eyes pleaded with Cole. “What I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, when you really needed a friend.”

Cole remained silent. His emotions now in turmoil, he merely continued to stare at Paige. He did not know whether to feel relieved that a Charmed One had finally believed what really happened to him. Or angry, because of what he had endured for nearly a year before hearing so much as a kind word from a Halliwell.

The long pause continued. Paige’s face now expressed concern. Uneasiness. “Uh, Cole? Did you hear what I just said? I had apologized for treating you so . . .”

“Yeah, I heard!” Cole growled. Anger had won. The half-daemon struggled to keep his emotions in check. He added in a tight voice. “And I forgive you.”

Another pause. “Oh. Well, uh are you sure? You seem a little . . . I don’t know. Pissed?”

It seemed a miracle to Cole that he did not incinerate his former sister-in-law at that moment with an energy or fireball.She was criticizing him for being pissed? Especially when he had every right to be? Instead of resorting to violence, Cole curled his lips into a sneer and retorted, “How perceptive of you! I forgot about those extra sensory powers of yours! Can you sense what I’m thinking right now?” He gave her a hard stare.

Paige’s dark eyes grew wide. She literally wilted before him. “Get out?” she murmured.

Cole walked over to the door and opened it. “Good guess!”

“Cole, let me explain,” Paige began. “I didn’t mean . . .”

“Look, you’ve already apologized. I’ve accepted it. And I don’t think we have anything further to say. Good-bye, Paige.”

Paige shot him one last pleading glance. Her shoulders slumped with defeat, as she strode out of the penthouse. Cole slammed the door behind her, leaned against it, closed his eyes and heaved a large sigh.

* * * *

A half hour later, Paige returned to the manor on Prescott Street, where she found the living room empty. Sounds from a television seemed to drift from the kitchen. When Paige entered, she found Leo sitting by the table – watching TV and eating dinner. “Where’s Piper and Paige?” she asked her brother-in-law.

Leo glanced up. “At P3. Someone had hired Piper to hold a private party there. Remember? Phoebe went to help.”

“Oh God! I forgot. The Garner Christmas party.” Paige sighed. “I was supposed to help Piper, but I guess I got side-tracked.”

Something close to a smirk twisted Leo’s lips. “I’m not surprised. Cole does have a talent for distracting others.”

Paige stared at the whitelighter. Hard. “Why do we always do that?”

“Do what?” he asked.

A sigh left Paige’s mouth. “Use Cole as a scapegoat for our troubles. I mean we had blamed him for Phoebe’s problems with her powers. We blamed him for our troubles with the Source. Well, in a way, he was partly to blame, since he let the Seer trick him into using the Hol . . .”

Frowning, Leo interrupted. “Are we going to go through that, again?”

“Leo! We can’t deny what Cecile and I saw. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of sticking my head in the ground like some ostrich.” An odd expression appeared on Leo’s face. It seemed to Paige that he could not make up his mind on whether to accept the truth, or not. “C’mon Leo! Don’t tell me that you’re changing your mind. Not after you had admitted that we might have been wrong about Cole.”

Leo sighed. “No, I’m not. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that you and Olivia are right about Cole being possessed by the Source. But that doesn’t mean that Cole isn’t dangerous. He is, you know. Especially with those new powers of his.”

Paige hung her head low. Despite her new knowledge of what happened last year, not even she could deny the truth about Cole’s new powers. They were dangerous. “I know,” she murmured. “But like Piper said, he’s the only one who can control them.” Her voice grew louder. “But if that’s true, why did you and Piper decided to help Tyler, last year? And just two months ago, Piper told me that the only difference between us and those we fight were our compassion, not our powers.”

Leo’s mouth hung open, but not a sound came out. Paige peered closely at him. “Leo? Are you okay?”

The whitelighter sighed. “Yeah. I . . . Look, I don’t know what to think about Cole, Paige. I just . . . I don’t know. I guess I just don’t trust him. People change, yes. But that much and not as fast as you might think.”

“You know, it’s funny. When I first met Cole, I liked him a lot.” Paige eased into one of the kitchen chairs. Recalling her early weeks as a Charmed One, she continued, “He seemed to be the only one who understood my twisted sense of humor. But when I found out that he was the same Belthazor who tried to kill Phoebe and Piper a year earlier,” she frowned, “I guess I let my fears and prejudice change my opinion.” Paige paused. “Maybe I shouldn’t have let that happened. I don’t know. I guess it’s too late, because Cole doesn’t want to talk to me, now.”

Silence enveloped the kitchen. His face turning red, Leo glanced away. Paige sensed that he was becoming uncomfortable in her presence. “Well,” she stood up, “I guess I better get to my room. It’s been a long day.”

Leo glanced at her and asked, “What about dinner? Piper left something in the oven for you.”

Paige shrugged. “Maybe later. I’m too tired, right now.” She started toward the doorway, when Leo called out her name. “What?” she asked.

“What about P3? Are you going to join Piper and Phoebe, to help?”

A smirk lifted the corners of Paige’s mouth. “Somehow, I don’t think either of them will feel comfortable with me hanging around, tonight. Do you?” When Leo failed to answer, Paige let out a sigh. It looked as if she was about to resume her position as the family’s black sheep, again. Oh well. She had survived it once. She could do it again.

* * * *

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay a little longer?” Olivia directed her question to her best friend.

Two large travel bags, along with a large shopping bag, stood in the middle of Olivia’s living room. Today marked Cecile Dubois’ last morning in San Francisco. She was due to board an eastbound plane for New Orleans in less than an hour. Cecile gave the red-haired woman a pitying look. “Oh honey! I’d love to stay, but it’s time for me to go. I’ve already got a chance to celebrate the beginning of Winter Solace with the rest of you. Plus, it’s three days until Christmas. I have a family and boyfriend to celebrate with.” She glanced down at her belongings. “If only I didn’t have to lug all this damn stuff around.”

Cole stepped forward. “I’d be happy to give you and your stuff a lift,” he suggested. “Right to your living room in New Orleans.”

Cecile sighed. “You know, that would be just lovely. But I have a return ticket and it’s gonna look real odd cashing it in New Orleans.”

Olivia said, “Why don’t you . . .?” A knock at the door interrupted her question. She walked over and peered through the peephole. “Oh! Paige.”

Cole stiffened at the mention of his former sister-in-law’s name. He had not spoken to her since her little revelation, three days ago. They had spotted each other at Sunday’s Winter Solstice celebration. Only Cole went out of his way to avoid her.

What could he say? That he found it difficult to forgive Paige for his miseries of the past year? Hell, what had she expected? That he would be so grateful that one Halliwell seemed willing to acknowledge the misunderstandings that led to his vanquish, four months in the Wasteland and the end of his relationship with Phoebe? Did she really believe that one little apology would make him forget all that he had endured? Cole wrestled with the resentment that boiled within him. As Olivia opened the door, his face assumed a cool mask.

The youngest Halliwell stepped inside the apartment, wearing a nervous smile. “Hi!” she greeted. Her eyes glanced at Cole, who looked away. “I . . . uh, I thought I come by to say good-bye. To Cecile.”

“Well thank you, cherie!” the New Orleans woman replied brightly. “I’m glad you came. Cole was about to take me home.”

Olivia added, “But you need to cash in your ticket, first.”

“Isn’t it too late for that?” Paige asked. “I mean after all, today is your actual flight day.”

Paige’s words were met with defeated sighs. “So much for a quick trip home,” Cecile bemoaned. She glanced at her watch. “And I now have less than forty-five minutes until my plane leaves.”

“I can still give you a lift to the airport,” Cole insisted.

Cecile nodded. “Okay. At least I can avoid a cab.” The Vodoun priestess faced the two witches. She grabbed hold of Paige’s hand and shook it. “You know, I’ve never met anyone who has been so interested in Vodoun as you, these past few days.” Paige smiled. “Well, except for Livy, over here.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna miss you too,” Paige responded.

After Cecile released the Charmed One’s hand, she turned to the other witch. The long-time friends enveloped each other with a bear hug. “I’ll get in touch with you soon, cherie,” Cecile said. “As soon as I get home. And thanks for the last three weeks. It’s been . . .” she released Olivia and smiled, “very interesting, to say the least.”

Olivia threw back her head and laughed. “You always say that whenever you visit. But then life with us McNeills can be very interesting.”

“A little too interesting,” Cole murmured. Fortunately, the others did not hear.

Olivia gave her friend one last hug. “You take care of yourself, Cecile. And tell Andre and your family, Merry Christmas for me.”

Cole picked up Cecile’s luggage. “Ready?” he asked.

Cecile nodded and picked up her shopping bag. “Yeah, let’s go.” She grabbed hold of his arm with her free hand and pair disappeared.

Seconds later, they reappeared in a deserted hallway, inside the airport terminal. “Here we are,” Cole announced. “Delta Airlines, right?”

“Yeah.” Cecile and Cole walked along the hallway, until they merged with the heavy crowd that filled the main terminal. The pair made their way to the Delta Airlines desk, where Cecile retrieved her boarding pass and checked her luggage. “Okay,” she said, facing Cole. “That’s it.”

“You want me to hang around until you board?”

Cecile shook her head. “It’s not necessary. I should be boarding in fifteen minutes or so. After that, I’ve got another twenty minutes until the plane takes off.”

Smiling, Cole offered his hand. “Well, I guess this is it.”

“Yeah.” Cecile hesitated, arousing Cole’s curiosity. “Listen Cole, before you leave, can I ask you something?”


Dark eyes bored into his. “Have you spoken with Paige since Friday?”

“How did you . . .?”

Cecile spoke up. “She came to me, Friday morning. Asking me to help her find out what really happened to you, nearly a year ago.”

Wariness crept into Cole’s composure. “And why did she need your help?”

“She had figured that I’d be able to summon a vision from your past.” Cecile paused, and glanced away. “And I did. From your . . . penthouse. I’m sorry.”

Outrage and anger replaced Cole’s wariness. “You . . . you were inside . . .” Realizing that he could be heard, Cole lowered his voice. “You and Paige were inside my apartment?” he hissed in a deadly whisper.

Cecile shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry, but Paige beamed or transported me over there before I could say anything.”

“Orbed,” Cole muttered darkly.

“Look, I realize that you’re already pissed at her . . .” Cole’s eyes narrowed as Cecile continued, “but Paige thought we needed something of yours so I could get a vision. Actually, your . . . um, spirit or essence inside the penthouse was just fine. Especially from the spot where . . . you know, they killed you.” While Cole’s gaze remained unrelenting, Cecile added, “Look, I’m sorry for breaking into your place like that. I didn’t mean to. Honestly.”

Realizing that no harm had come from Cecile’s actions, the anger passed and Cole accepted her apology. “It’s okay,” he said with a reassuring smile. “I guess you meant well.”

“Thanks,” Cecile replied. “But why are you so willing to forgive me? And not Paige?”

Oh God! Cole rolled his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to talk about Paige or any other Halliwell. Her confession had only ignited anger long suppressed for the past three months. “What the hell are you talking about?” he demanded. “I forgave her.”

Cecile sighed. “Yeah. That was pretty obvious, yesterday. Especially since you spent most of the day trying to ignore her,” she said sarcastically.

“Look . . .”

“No, you look,” Cecile snapped back. “I can’t order you to forgive Paige for what she and her sisters did to you. But do you really want to be like them? So unforgiving? Is it really worth it, especially since Paige is genuinely sorry for what she had done?”

Cecile’s words hit Cole with the force of an energy ball. He imagined himself becoming like the Halliwells – unforgiving, quick to judge and self-righteous. And the image repelled him. Cole stared directly into Cecile’s eyes . . . and his lips curved into a disarming smile. “I guess not,” he finally said.

“No, it’s not,” Cecile replied softly, her own lips smiling. Then she glanced toward the direction of the boarding lounge. So did Cole. “I guess it’s time for me to leave.” She took the half-daemon by surprise and gave him a tight hug. “You probably don’t believe this, but Olivia is pretty lucky to have you as a friend.”

Cole replied, “She’s lucky to have you. Andre’s pretty lucky, too.”

“I’ll remind him.”

The pair broke into soft laughter, as they disengaged. Cole quickly sobered and asked, “Why did you accept me so quickly after we first met?”

Again, Cecile shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess because Olivia told me about you. And I liked your vibes. I have good instincts, you know.”

“You’d be thinking differently if we had met three years ago.”

Cecile replied, “Hey, we all have our pasts to deal with. Including me. Remember? Besides, look who’s my boyfriend.”

A sly smile quirked Cole’s lips. “You’ve got a point.” Cecile playfully slapped his arm. “Speaking of Andre, tell him I’ll be seeing him in a few days. Both of you. Probably on Christmas.”

“I’ll be sure to tell him.” Cecile gave Cole one last hug. “See you soon.” Then she picked up her shopping bag, waved one last time and headed for the lounge.

* * * *

Inside Olivia’s apartment, Paige sat on the sofa while she flipped through a fashion magazine. Her hostess was busy searching for a missing bottle of garlic inside the kitchen. As she continued to peruse the magazine, Paige came upon an advertisement that featured a blond woman modeling expensive lingerie. The model strongly reminded her of Cole’s former secretary from his days as the Source. What was her name? Oh yeah, Julie.

A shadow cast over the magazine in Paige’s lap. She glanced up and found Olivia standing over her. “Pretty woman,” the older woman commented. “Is there a reason why you’ve been staring at that photo for the past several minutes?”

“I wasn’t staring!” Paige protested.

A red eyebrow quirked upward. “So, exactly what were you staring at, while I called your name . . . three times?”

Paige felt her face grow hot. “Okay! So, I was staring at her. I’m not coming out of the closet, if that’s what you think. I . . . she reminded me of someone I once met. Cole’s assistant.”

“She doesn’t look anything like Ms. Read.”

A sigh left Paige’s mouth. “I’m talking about his former assistant, Julie. When Cole was the Source.”


Paige continued, “She was also a demon. Phoebe ended up killing her by using a demonic power from Source Junior.”

Olivia frowned. “Demonic power?”

“You know, evil power.”

Green eyes regarded Paige with slight amusement. “Oh yes. I forgot that you and your sisters believe the whole ‘good and evil powers’ scenario. A good number of witches do.”

Now, it was Paige’s turn to frown. “You mean, you don’t?”

“Not really. I think it’s a lot of crap,” Olivia replied. She sat down next to Paige. “To me, magical powers are simply powers and nothing else. Not good or evil, but neutral. It’s not what they are that counts, but how you use them.”

Paige’s frown deepened. “But, how many witches do you know have pyrokinesis?”

“You’d be surprised.” Olivia added, “I have a distant cousin in Scotland, who has the power of pyrokinesis. He’s from my grandfather’s generation. And his power is very strong. He’s certainly not a warlock or daemon.”

“Huh.” A wry smile curved Paige’s lips. “You know that reminds me of Tyler, that fire starter we had helped last year. And what Piper once said to me, two months ago. Only . . .” Her smile disappeared.

Olivia asked, “Only what?”

Paige continued, “Only when it came to Cole’s powers, she had definitely believed they were evil. Like the rest of us. I guess it’s because he got them while he was in the Wasteland.” She glanced at Olivia. “That doesn’t really count, does it?”

“No, not really. Aside from Ed Miller, has Cole ever used his new powers to deliberately harm someone?”

Paige shook her head. “Well, there was Barbas. But he had used them to save us from that bastard. And he has used his powers to help us on other occasions.” Shame washed over her. She sighed. “I guess I forgot that.”

At that moment, Cole appeared before the two women. “Well, Cecile’s on her way home.” He glanced at his watch. “Or should be in another ten minutes.”

Silence fell between the trio. Paige glanced at the magazine, fearful of meeting the half-demon’s eyes. Olivia stood up. “I think I better pay Mrs. DiCicco a visit and see if she has any garlic. Thank God I had decided to take the day off.” She strode toward the door and disappeared into the hall, leaving the two former in-laws alone.

Mustering all of her courage, Paige glanced up. “Cole,” she began, “I know you’re still pissed at me . . .”

“No, not any longer,” he said, surprising Paige. “In fact, I want to apologize, myself. For being so . . . unforgiving. You only meant well, and I let my anger get the best of me.”

Paige glanced away. “I guess I’m no different,” she said in a shy voice. “Of course, in my case, I let fear and prejudice get in the way.”

A smile lit up Cole’s face. “Look, I forgive you. Really. Hell, everyone deserves forgiveness. Don’t you think?”

Paige responded with a wry grin. “Sure. Even half-demons.” Her grin disappeared. “I only wish that Phoebe and Piper would apologize.”

“How did they take . . .?”

“The news?” Paige slammed the magazine shut and tossed it on the table. “Piper refuses to believe that what we had done was wrong. And Phoebe . . . I don’t know. It’s like she can’t even face what I’ve found out. Or don’t want to talk about it, one way or the other. But she has been pretty quiet lately. I’m sorry.”

Cole shrugged. “That’s okay. Piper and . . . Phoebe will have to deal with what happened . . . eventually. Besides, I don’t really expect them to apologize after I had killed Ed Miller.”

Nodding, Paige said, “Maybe. I mean what you did was wrong. But Ed Miller was no innocent. And who are we to point fingers after what we had done to you?”

“Cecile told me that it was she who conjured up visions of my time as the Source. And projected them to you.”

A burst of anxiety flared within Paige. “Don’t blame Cecile! Please! It’s not her fault! I had orbed her to your place, so she could pick up on your essence. And she did. We saw everything from when the Seer tricked you into using the Hollow, until when we . . . my sisters and I . . . well, van . . . killed you.”

Cole inhaled deeply. Stared at his former sister-in-law, much to her discomfort. “It’s okay,” he said, to Paige’s relief. Then he seared her with another hard stare. “Just don’t do it again.”

Paige raised her hand. “Never again. Unless it’s an emergency.” After a pause, she added soberly, “You ever wonder, Cole . . .”

“Wonder what?”

Taking a deep breath, Paige continued, “Wonder what would have happened if all of us had never met Olivia and her family? Do you think I would have found out what really happened to you, last spring?”

More than a minute passed before Cole finally answered. A shadow darkened his face momentarily. “That’s a possibility I certainly don’t want to consider.” Paige realized with an inward shudder that she felt the same. Thank goodness her friendship with Cole would be given another chance.


“STAR TREK VOYAGER” – Unfit For Command?

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” – Unfit For Command?
Do many STAR TREK fans consider most Vulcan characters unfit for command? I wonder. I came across this ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” fan fiction story about the letters written to the Alpha Quadrant by Voyager’s crew in the Season 1 episode, ”Eye of the Needle”. The author of this particular fan fiction story seemed to believe that because of their emotional distance, Vulcans are basically unfit for command. Personally, I disagree.This belief that Vulcans were unfit for command certainly seemed supported by Lisa Klink’s screenplay for the Season 2 episode, (2.25) ”Resolutions”. I am sure that many recall this episode. In it, the Voyager crew is forced to leave Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) behind on a planet after the pair found themselves infected by an incurable disease. Lieutenant Tuvok (Tim Russ) assumes command of the ship and ends up facing a possible mutiny led by a very distraught Ensign Kim (Garrett Wang). Klink’s screenplay portrayed Tuvok as a cold by-the-book officer, incapable of noticing or understanding the crew’s uneasiness of leaving behind the captain and first officer. Quite frankly, not only did I dislike this one-dimensional portrayal of the ship’s highest ranking Vulcan, I found it slightly inaccurate.

As a Vulcan, Tuvok has made it a practice to keep his emotions to himself and lead his life in a very logical manner. But this does not mean that he was exactly how Klink had described him in ”Resolutions”. Underneath the cool exterior laid a very emotional and passionate man who loved his wife and family a great deal and considered Kathryn Janeway a great friend. He also possessed a temper that he obviously must have struggled to contain all of his life.

Tuvok did possess a problem with interacting with others. This stemmed from a tendency to be a loner. This trait of his was specifically pointed out in the Season 3 episode, (3.14) ”Alter Ego”. In it, Harry Kim became infatuated with a hologram (a tall and leggy blonde named Marayna). To deal with his infatuation, he turned to Tuvok to help him recover from it. Tuvok did more than that. He became friendly with the hologram. But the hologram proved to be a lonely alien at a space station who used superior technology to prevent Voyager from leaving a particular area of space. When Tuvok pointed out her loneliness, she returned the favor:

MARAYNA: I don’t believe you.

TUVOK: I beg your pardon.

MARAYNA: I think you’re tying to isolate yourself and make a public protest at the same time.

TUVOK: Explain.

MARAYNA: You didn’t want to be here in the first place. Being the only one without a lei sets you apart from the others, allowing you to symbolically maintain your solitude. And since everybody can see that you’re the only one without a lei, you’re letting them know that you’d rather be somewhere else.

TUVOK: Your logic is impeccable.

But Tuvok’s loner tendencies did not mean that he lacked an ability to understand the emotional needs of others. Even before ”Resolutions” had aired, Tuvok managed to display this trait on a few occasions. He was the first member of the crew to sense that Seska might prove to be a dangerous problem for the crew . . . even if he did not know about her being a Cardassian spy. Instinct told him that Tom Paris may have been innocent of the murder of a Banean scientist in (1.08) ”Ex-Post Facto”. In (2.04) ”Elogium”, he expressed compassion for Neelix’s fear at becoming a parent and helped the latter come to a decision about starting a family with Kes. He was the only one who did not allow his fear or paranoia to get the best of him and realized that fighting the entity that was rearranging Voyager’s structure might prove to be the best thing in (2.06) ”Twisted”. He managed to befriend Kes. In (2.22) ”Innocence”, he managed to offer comfort to a dying Voyager crewman and a group of alien children who had been abandoned to die by their kind. And for a man who was supposed to be an incompetent leader, he sure as hell managed to avoid any problems with leading the Security/Tactical Division.

If there is one scene before ”Resolutions” that provided an excellent example of how compassionate Tuvok can be, one might as well return to his scene with the dying Ensign Bennet in ”Innocence”:

TUVOK: Tuvok to Voyager. Voyager, do you read? You must lie still.

BENNET: I can’t, I can’t feel my legs.

TUVOK: Several of the vertebrae have been fractured.

BENNET: Isn’t there anything you can do?

TUVOK: I’m afraid the shuttle’s medical supplies are inadequate. We must wait for Voyager to find us.

BENNET: It’s getting worse. My whole body feels numb.

TUVOK: I want you to slow your breathing, relax your muscles. Try not to move.

BENNET: All this time I thought I was so lucky with no family back home. Nobody to miss. Now it seems kind of sad not to leave anybody behind.

TUVOK: I believe Ensign McCormick would miss you a great deal.

I realize that Lisa Klink wanted to create some kind of conflict between Tuvok and some of the crew in ”Resolutions”. But in painting Tuvok as an emotional iceberg incapable of compassion or seeing to the needs of others, I feel that she had went too far. This is quite evident in that the mutinous and obviously immature Harry Kim had been written with far more sympathy than Tuvok. It is no wonder that ”Resolutions” has become one of my least favorite ”VOYAGER” episodes.

“PERSUASION” (1995) Review

“PERSUASION” (1995) Review

Twenty-four years after the BBC aired its 1971 version of Jane Austen’s 1818 novel,”Persuasion”; and twelve years before ITV aired its adaptation; Columbia Pictures released its own version on British television and in movie theaters across the U.S. The movie went on to become highly acclaimed, the winner of a BAFTA TV award for Best Single Drama, and regarded as the definitive version of Austen’s novel.

Directed by Roger Michell, ”PERSUASION” told the story of Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of an impoverished baronet in Regency England. Seven or eight years before the story began, she had been persuaded to reject the marriage proposal of a young and ambitious Royal Navy officer named Frederick Wentworth by her godmother and late mother’s friend, Lady Russell. After spending so many years in deep regret over her action, Anne found herself facing Wentworth again during a visit to her younger sister’s home. Now a captain and wealthy from the spoils of the recent Napoleonic Wars, Wentworth continued to harbor a good deal of residual anger and resentment toward Anne. And the latter continued to harbor remorse over her actions and a passionate love for the naval officer.

After watching the 2007 version of ”PERSUASION”, I found myself wondering how I would regard this particular version. Needless to say, I found it very satisfying. Michell did an excellent job in capturing the ambivalence of Austen’s novel. The center of that ambivalence rested on the underlying passion of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth’s romantic history. And this passion beautifully permeated the movie; thanks to Michell, screenwriter Nick Dear and the two leads – Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. The movie relived all of the passion and emotions of their relationship – both positive and negative. Michell and Dear also did a top-notch job in revealing the initial dangers that the British aristocracy and landed gentry faced from their complacency, arrogance and unwillingness to match the ambitious endeavors of the rising middle-class; especially through characters like Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot.

As much as I had enjoyed ”PERSUASION”, I believe it had its flaws. One of those flaws turned out to be the scene featuring Anne and Wentworth’s final reconciliation on one of the streets of Bath. It could have been a wonderful and poignant moment . . . if it were not for the circus performers and pedestrians making a ruckus in the background. It nearly spoiled the romantic mood for me. And there were at least two performances that did not sit right with me. I will discuss them later. This version of ”PERSUASION”seemed to be the only adaptation that portrayed Mrs. Croft as the younger sister. Fiona Shaw, who is at least five years younger than Ciarán Hinds and looked it even with minimal makeup, portrayed his sister. Yet, both the 1971 and 2007 versions had cast an actress that was older than the actor portraying Wentworth. And I happened to know for a fact that at age 31, the Fredrick Wentworth character is at least seven (7) years younger than his sister. There is no way that the 42 year-old Hinds could have passed as a man eleven (11) younger, despite his handsome looks.

But my main problem with this adaptation turned out to be the same problem I had with the 2007 version – namely the character of William Elliot, Sir Walter’s heir presumptive. Because the baronet had no male issue, his baronetcy and the Kellynch estate will pass to William, his cousin. But William, fearing that Sir Walter might marry Mrs. Clay, the companion of the oldest Elliot daughter; schemed to woo and marry Anne in order to prevent Mrs. Clay from becoming Sir Walter’s second wife and protect his inheritance. As I had explained in my review of the 2007 version, this scenario failed to make any sense to me. Even if William had succeeded in preventing any marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay, there was no way he could constantly prevent the Elliot patriarch from considering another bride for matrimony. Even if he had married Anne. Quite frankly, it was a situation that was beyond his control. Dear tried to give urgency to William’s situation by portraying him as financially broke after spending all of his late wife’s money. As far as I am concerned, Dear’s efforts failed. Sir Walter’s lawyer had made it clear around the beginning of the story that it would take years for Kellynch to recover from the Elliots’ debts. Nor did following Austen’s story by making William and Wentworth romantic rivals for Anne’s affections really help. Anne did not seem that impressed by William’s character, despite his charm and wit. And if Dear had simply avoided Austen’s characterization of William Elliot and allowed him to retain his fortune; he could have been a formidable rival for Wentworth, just as Louisa Musgrove proved to be a strong rival for Anne in the story’s first half.

I cannot deny that ”PERSUASION” strongly benefited from the excellent performances of the two leads, Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Root was superb as a sad and remorseful woman who began to bloom again over the possibility of a renewed love. With very little dialogue, she was excellent in a montage that featured her character’s reaction to the Musgroves’ carping over Anne’s younger sister, Mary Musgrove. But my favorite scene happened to featured Anne and Wentworth’s first meeting after eight years at Charles and Mary Musgrove’s cottage. With her eyes and body language, Root conveyed Anne’s series of emotions from seeing the naval officer again after so many years with great skill. Despite being a decade older than his character, Ciarán Hinds was equally impressive as Captain Frederick Wentworth, the successful Royal Navy officer who tried to hide his continuing resentment toward Anne’s rejection of him with a hearty manner and friendly overtures toward the Musgrove sisters – Louisa and Henrietta. One particular scene that impressed me featured Wentworth’s recollection of the year 1806 (the year Anne had rejected his marriage proposal). Hinds skillfully conveyed the character’s lingering resentment . . . and love for Anne in what struck me as a subtle moment.

Other excellent performances came from Sophie Thompson, who did a top-notch job as Anne’s younger sister, the emotionally clinging Mary Elliot Musgrove; Simon Russell Beale as Charles Musgrove, Mary’s consistently exasperated husband; Fiona Shaw, who wonderfully conveyed Sophia Wentworth Croft’s strong mind, along with her love for her husband and her role as a naval officer’s wife in a charming scene; and Susan Fleetwood, who have a complex performance in her last role as Anne’s well-meaning, yet prejudiced godmother, Lady Russell. But the one supporting performance that really impressed me came from Samuel West’s portrayal of the conniving William Elliot. He gave a deliciously smooth performance that radiated wit and charm. I found him so likeable that I almost felt sorry for him when Anne finally announced her engagement to Wentworth.

Unfortunately, not all of the performances impressed me. Despite my admiration for the late Corin Redgrave’s skills as an actor, I must admit that I found his portrayal of Anne’s narcissist and arrogant father, Sir Walter Elliot, a little off-putting. I realize that the character happened to be one of the outrageous characters in the novel. Unfortunately, Redgrave’s portrayal of Sir Walter’s narcissism seemed a little too mannered and broad. But Redgrave’s Sir Walter seemed like a mild annoyance in compare to Phoebe Nicholls’ portrayal of the eldest Elliot sibling, Elizabeth. Nicholls portrayed the character as an over-the-top diva suffering from a damaged nervous system. I could not help but wonder if she had been on crack during the production. Or perhaps Michell was on crack for allowing such a performance to remain in the film. And why did Dear’s script include a complaint from Nicholls’ Elizabeth about Anne usurping Wentworth’s attention? Why was she even upset over the news regarding Anne’s engagement? I do not recall her ever being interested in Wentworth.

Overall, ”PERSUASION” was an excellent adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds’ performances, Nick Dear’s screenplay and Roger Michell’s direction infused the movie with a mature passion rarely touched upon in the adaptation of Austen’s other novels. Does this mean that I regard this movie as the best adaptation of Austen’s 1818 novel? No. Like the 2007 version, it had a number of flaws that prevented it from becoming “the” best. But I must admit that it is pretty damn good.