Top Five Favorite Episodes of “LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” (Season Two)

Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Two (1994-1995) of “LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman”. The series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher: 



1. (2.18) “Tempus Fugtive” – Lane Davies and Terry Kiser are superb as time traveling villain Tempus, who wants to kill Superman before he becomes an adult, and legendary writer H.G. Wells, who needs Lois and Clark’s help to stop him in this first-rate episode.

2. (2.14) “Top Copy” – Raquel Welch plays a television journalist, who is also an assassin hired to find Superman’s identity and possibly kill him.

3. (2.22) “And the Answer Is . . .” – Having discovered Tempus’ diary, a criminal attempts to blackmail Superman into killing Lois Lane, or he will kill Clark’s parents. Clark finally summons the courage to ask for Lois to marry him.

4. (2.03) “The Source” – Lois is suspended from The Daily Planet after she fails to help a source to the illegal operations of a corporation.

5. (2.10) “Metallo” – Scott Valentine has a field day as a petty criminal and boyfriend of Lois’ younger sister Lucy, who is shot during a robbery before his head is grafted onto a kryptonite-powered cyborg body by a pair of scientists who are also brothers.

“WESTWARD HO”: Introduction

Below is the introduction to an article about Hollywood’s depiction about the westward migration via wagon trains in the United States – especially during the 1840s: 

“WESTWARD HO!”: Introduction 

I. History vs. Hollywood

Between 2001 and 2004, the A&E Channel used to air a series called “HISTORY vs. HOLLYWOOD”. Each episode featured experts that were interviewed about the historical accuracy of a film or television special that was based on a historical event. These experts or historians would examine a newly released film – usually a period drama – and comment on the historical accuracy featured in the story. Not surprisingly, most productions would receive a verdict of “both Hollywood fiction and historical fact”.

A rising demand for more historical accuracy seemed to have become very prevalent in recent years. I cannot explain this demand. And if I must be honest, I do not know if I would always agree. If such accuracy ever got in the way of a whopping good story, I believe it should be tossed in favor of the story. Many of William Shakespeare’s dramas have proven to be historically inaccurate. I can think of a good number of well-regarded productions that I would never consider to be completely accurate as far as history is concerned – “GONE WITH THE WIND” (1939)“GLORY” (1989),“ENIGMA” (2001) and “THE TUDORS” (2007-2010).

All of this brings me to this article’s main topic – namely the depiction of the 19th century western migration in various movies and television productions. I thought it would be interesting to examine five productions and see how they compare to historical accuracy. I will focus upon two movies and three television miniseries:


*“THE WAY WEST” (1967)

*“CENTENNIAL: The Wagon and the Elephant” [Episode 3] (1978-79)


*“INTO THE WEST: Manifest Destiny” [Episode 2] (2005)

II. The Essentials of Western Travel

Before I start making comparisons, I might as well focus on the correct essentials needed by westbound emigrants during their trek to either Oregon, California or other destinations. The essentials are the following:

1. Farm wagon/Prairie schooner vs. Conestoga wagon – The Conestoga wagon is well-known among those who study American history during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagon used extensively during that period in the United States east of the Mississippi River and Canada to transport goods up to 8 tons. It was designed to resemble a boat in order to help it cross rivers and streams.

However, the Conestoga wagon was considered too large and bulky for the 2,000 miles journey between Western Missouri and the West Coast – especially for the teams of stock pulling the wagon. It was highly recommended for emigrants to use regular farm wagons. The farm wagon was primarily used to transport goods. However, small children, the elderly, and the sick/or injured rode in them. But since the wagons had no suspension and the roads were rough, many people preferred to walk, unless they had horses to ride. The wagon – depending on luck – was sturdy enough for the 2,000 to 3,000 westbound trek. More importantly, the wagon would not wear down the team of animals pulling it.

2. Draft animals – The westbound emigrants depended upon draft animals to haul their wagons for the long trek. Horses were out of the questions. A single rider could travel to Oregon or California astride a horse. But horses were not sturdy enough for the 2,000 miles trek and would die before reaching the end of the journey. It was recommended that emigrants use oxen or mules to pull their wagons.

Both oxen and mules were considered sturdy enough for the long trek. However, most would recommend oxen to haul a wagon, for they were cheaper and could survive slightly better on the grazing found along the trails. Mules could do the same, but at a lesser rate. But they were more expensive than oxen. They had a tendency to be temperamental. And they were more inclined to attract the attention of Native Americans.

3. Supplies and Goods – It was very essential for emigrants to haul supplies and goods during their long, westward trek. Upon leaving Independence, Missouri; there were very little opportunities to purchase food and supplies. The only locations that offered such opportunities to purchase more goods were a small number of trading and military outposts along the western trails. However, many emigrants attempted to bring along furniture, family heirlooms and other valuable possessions. They realized it was wiser to rid said possessions in order to lighten their wagon loads. And this would explain why these discarded possessions practically littered the major emigrant trails during the second half of the 19th century.

4. Western Outposts – As I had stated earlier, westbound emigrants encountered very little opportunities to re-stock on supplies during their journey west. Only a series of trading or military outposts on the western plains offered emigrants opportunities for more supplies. Emigrants encountered Fort Laramie (present day eastern Wyoming), Fort Hall (present day Idaho) and Fort Laramie after 1848 (present day Nebraska) along the Oregon/California Trails. Along the Santa Fe Trail, they would eventually encounter Fort Leavenworth (present day northeastern Kansas). Fort Bent (present day southeastern Colorado) and eventually Santa Fe in the New Mexico Territory.

5. Native American Encounters – The portrayal of emigrants’ encounters with Native Americans during the western trek could either be chalked up to Hollywood exaggeration, American racism or a mixture of both. But many movie and television productions about the western migration tend to feature large scale attacks upon wagon trains by Native American warriors. One, such attacks never happened – at least as far as I know. The various nations and tribes possessed too much sense to attack a wagon train that was likely to be well-armed. And the number of Native Americans portrayed in these cinematic attacks tend to be ridiculously large. A small band of warriors might be inclined to steal some horses or stock in the middle of the night, or attack a lone wagon traveling on the plains for the same reason. However, westbound emigrants either socialized or traded with the Native Americans they encountered. Or perhaps some trigger-happy emigrant or more might be inclined to take pot shots at a lone rider or two. But large scale attacks by Native Americans ended up being figments of a filmmaker’s imagination.

In the following article, I will focus upon the history accuracy or lack thereof featured in 1962’s “HOW THE WEST WAS WON”.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 16


Part 16

Darryl parked the sedan across the street from Nick Marcano’s apartment building. “Okay,” he said to his companions, “we’re here. I sure wish we had a squad car or two for backup.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that police backup will help.” The words came from Paul Margolin, who sat in the car’s back seat. He had accompanied Darryl and Olivia to Marcano’s apartment in North Beach. “Especially if there’s a chance he’s involved with a demon or warlock,” the ADA added.

Olivia said, “To be honest, I’m not sure about us being here. Other than Nick, I have no idea who or what we’ll be facing. I hope that Nick won’t give us any trouble, when we arrest him. I can’t believe that he’s behind all this.”

“At least the Captain will be very happy,” Darryl added. “He’s been pressuring me to find a suspect for nearly a week. And now that we have one, we might as well deal with him. I just . . . I don’t know. I still wish we had backup.” He opened the door and climbed out of the car. Olivia and Margolin followed. The trio crossed the street and entered the apartment building.

Once inside, they paid a visit to the building’s manager and demanded the key to Nick’s apartment. The manager happily obliged – especially after Darryl showed him the search warrant. Once the trio reached outside Marcano’s apartment, Darryl hesitated. “Think he’s here? Marcano?” he asked.

“Well, we called his office,” Olivia reminded her partner. “And he wasn’t there.”

Darryl knocked on the door. Seconds passed and no one answered. Then Olivia knocked. “Nick? It’s Olivia McNeill. Are you home?”

More silence greeted the trio. Olivia suggested to Darryl that he use the key he had received from the manager. The two partners whipped out their revolvers. After Darryl unlocked the door, the two police officers and the ADA entered the apartment. “What exactly are we looking for?” Margolin asked.

Olivia replied, “Anything that can lead us to Nick’s whereabouts. Or at least link him to DeWolfe Mann’s death.” She began to rummage through Marcano’s desk.

Darryl went inside the bedroom and began his search with a highboy dresser. He did not find anything important, but he did notice that some of Marcano’s clothing seemed to be missing. But he did find an interesting piece of female clothing behind the dresser. Everything else seemed to be normal. However, Darryl noticed that a few personal items seemed to be missing. Like a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.

Then his eyes fell upon the sink. Darryl noticed a faint red streak on the edge. One touch indicated that it was dry. After removing a napkin and a pair of tweezers from his pocket, he delicately scraped at the red streak, using the tweezers. Then he brushed some of the residue onto the napkin. Darryl only hoped that his efforts would amount to something. Or that his “evidence” would not linger inForensics for a week.

Just as he left the bathroom, Darryl overheard Olivia cry out, “Found something!” He rushed into the living room and spotted his red-haired partner waving a thick book in the air. “I found this in a tote bag, underneath the desk.” Olivia glanced at it. “Looks like a library book. Huh. It’s a book on . . . demonology?”

“On what?” Darryl took the book from Olivia’s hand. He read the title. “FORMMAN’S ENCYCLOPEDIA ON WORLD DEMONOLOGY?” What the hell?” Then he peered inside the book. “Damn, this thing is old! Published in 1932.”

Olivia nodded. “I know. I have a copy of it, at home.” She retrieved the book. “And it looks as if I was right about Nick summoning a daemon to kill Bruce. The problem is we don’t know what kind of daemon he had summoned.” She sighed. “God, I wish that Cole was here.”

Darryl noticed the dark look that flitted across Margolin’s face. “Why?” the latter demanded. “We seem to be doing fine on our own.”

“Because he was trying to get information on Miss Della Scalla, last night,” Olivia explained. “From another daemon.”

Margolin’s mouth formed a tight line. “So, Belthazor is still in contact with other demons? I thought he had put that life behind him.”

Olivia heaved a deep sigh. “You’re not going to have a problem with Cole, are you Paul? Yes, he’s still in contact with other daemons. They’re a source of information. Besides, Cole’s friend had promised he would find all he can about . . . or whatever her name.”

“Can he be trusted?” Darryl wondered if Margolin meant Cole or the other demon. Fortunately, the ADA clarified matters. “This friend of Belthazor’s. Can he be trusted?”

Shrugging her shoulders, Olivia replied, “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met this Riggerio, but I’ve heard of him. Very . . . ambiguous. He’s a daemon known among Stregheria practioners.”

“Stregheria. Like Nick,” Darryl added.

Olivia nodded. “Precisely. It was Aunt Car . . . Mom’s friend, Carla, who once told me about Riggerio. I just wish she were here in town. She could have told us about Portia.”

One glance at the ADA told Darryl that the former still disapproved of Cole’s decision to seek help from another demon. Probably disapproved of Cole, period. Darryl would have understood over two years ago. But now, he only wished that Margolin would learn to be a little more open-minded.

“I’ve been going through Marcano’s dresser,” Darryl added. “Looks like he’s packed a few things. And his suitcase is missing. But I found this.” He held up the piece of clothing found behind the highboy. A half-slip. “And this.” He displayed the residue of dried blood inside the folded napkin.

Olivia grabbed the half-slip. “This must belong to Miss Della Scalla.”

“That’s what I figured,” Darryl said.

Margolin asked, “If this Nick and his suitcase are missing, where is he?”

Darryl’s cell phone rang. He answered it. “Hello? Oh, Phoebe. Wha . . .?” He fell silent, while the witch explained a premonition that she had experienced. Once she finished, he said, “Look Phoebe, if you’re having trouble in reaching Leo, call Paige. I’m sure that she can get you to the McNeills’ home in time.” From the corner of his eye, he saw Olivia turn pale. “We’ll see you there. Bye.” He disconnected his phone.

Concern flared in Olivia’s green eyes. “The McNeills’ home? What’s going on, Darryl?”

“That was Phoebe. She had a premonition of Bruce being kidnapped by Portia Della Scalla. And Piper can’t get a hold of Leo.”

Margolin added, “Then we better get over there, as soon as possible. And stop her.” He turned to Olivia, who looked very upset. “Perhaps you better give your brother a call. That is, if he’s at home.”

“Yeah. Right.” Olivia retrieved her cell phone from her purse. “God, I knew I should have called Bruce, again!”

Meanwhile, Darryl dialed the number to the precinct. And placed an All Points Bulletin for one Nicholas Marcano.

* * * *

The telephone rang. Paige rushed toward the counter to answer. “Ostera’s,” she greeted politely. “How may I help you?”

“Paige? It’s Piper.” The oldest Charmed One’s voice sounded urgent. “Listen, can you orb to Phoebe’s office at the BAY-MIRROR and pick us up? We have an emergency.”

The youngest Charmed One glanced at her boss, who was busy with a customer. “Uh, what kind of emergency?”

Piper sighed. “Of the demonic kind. Look, I don’t have time to explain. We need you. Now. I’m sure that Barbara would understand. It involves Bruce.”

“Bruce? What about him?” Paige spoke loud enough to capture Barbara’s attention. The latter shot a quick glance at her.

“Phoebe saw him being kidnapped by that Portia woman. Now get your butt over here, so we can save him!”

A sigh left Paige’s mouth. She hated it when Piper assumed a bossy attitude. It made her elder sister seem bitchy – a trait that did not suit Piper at all. As much as she loved Piper, the latter never struck Paige as a natural leader. “All right, Piper! Gee! I’ll be there as soon as I tell Barbara.”

After she hung up, Paige looked at Barbraa. The latter turned over the customer to the shop’s other assistant, Madeline. Then she approached Paige. “What’s going on?” she demanded. “Is it Bruce? Is he in trouble?”

“Yeah. Um, that was Piper.” Paige went on to describe her sister’s news about Phoebe’s premonition and Leo’s missing status. “They need me to orb them over to the McNeills’ house and . . .”

Barbara immediately interjected, “I’m going with you.” She turned to Madeline, who had just bid a customer good-bye a few minutes ago. “Maddy, Paige and I have an emergency. We’ll be gone for a few hours.”

“But my lunch . . .” the younger woman protested.

“Don’t worry. I’ll give you an extra hour or two of overtime. We’ll be back.” Barbara led Paige to the storeroom. “Okay, let’s go,” she quietly ordered. The pair immediately orbed from the store.

* * * *

About fifteen minutes before Phoebe had experienced her premonition, Harry sat inside his father’s study, working on a merger proposition between McNeill Corporation and a real estate company. Unfortunately, his mind seemed to linger on something other than his work. Matters like his older brother’s odd behavior and the voice he thought he had overheard, last night.

Harry realized that there was no way a daemon or any other magical being could have entered the house. Not without the protection spell that Gran had cast over the house. Unless . . . Harry immediately dismissed the disturbing thought. No. If someone had managed to enter Bruce’s apartment, he or possibly she had to be strong enough to bypass the spell. Or . . . Harry realized that he could not deny it any longer. The possibility that someone inside the house had removed the spell.

Heaving a sigh, Harry left the study and began a tour of the house, to check on the protection herbs. Ten minutes later, he discovered, to his dismay, that every sprig of Mallow planted around the house, had disappeared. Who had removed . . .?

The disturbing thought returned. That and memories of Bruce’s behavior, this morning. Harry began to wonder if his older brother had been responsible for the removal of the Mallow. Determined to find out, he made his way upstairs, to Bruce’s bedroom. As he raised his hand to knock on the door, Harry could hear a voice. A woman’s voice that sounded very familiar. A mental alert rang inside his head. This time, he planned to discover the identity of Bruce’s visitor. As he grasped the doorknob, Harry gently opened the door.

Inside, he saw a beautiful, dark-haired woman on the edge of Bruce’s bed, leaning over the older man’s inert figure. “What the hell?” Harry cried out. The woman’s head whipped around. Sherry-brown eyes flew open. “Who the hell are you?”

The woman slowly rose from the bed. Her eyes widened further, as she stared at Harry. A sudden attack of lethargy overcame him, and he found himself struggling to remain conscious. “Sleep,” he heard the woman command. “do not fight it.” Harry’s knees gave way and he slowly slid to the floor.“Yes, yes,” the woman murmured in her soft accent, “allow the sleep to wash over you.”

“No!” Using every ounce of his will and his telepathy, Harry deflected the woman’s psychic attack. She gasped out loud and fell to her knees. Harry crawled toward her, as he used his mind to apply pressure to hers. She clasped both hands to each side of her head and screamed. Then she disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Harry sighed with relief and slowly rose to his feet. He took one step toward the bed, when the woman reappeared. “Hey!” he cried. She smiled at him, grabbed Bruce’s arm and disappeared. This time, with the oldest McNeill sibling in tow.

Oh no! Panic struck Harry. He had failed to save Bruce, despite his best efforts. Shit! What the hell was he supposed to do, now? At first, Harry considered calling his parents or grandmother. Then he thought of one person truly capable of tracking down Bruce. He reached for the cordless telephone on the nightstand and dialed the number for the offices of Jackman, Kline and Carter.

* * * *

Cole glanced at the clock on his desk and sighed with relief. Two minutes past noon. Which meant it was time for lunch. Only he did not feel like eating. A liquid lunch seemed more preferable. Something alcoholic.

This morning, he barely had time to recover from his latest one-night stand, when he realized that he had to go to work. Encountering Olivia in the building’s parking lot had done nothing for his mood. Cole still felt embarrassed over her discovery of the lipstick on his chin. And a little pissed. After all, who in the hell was she to strike an attitude over his late night activities? Especially since she had dinner with her saintly new ADA, last night. God only knew what else happened between them once that dinner ended.

And yet, Cole could not rid himself of the guilt or the embarrassment. Or the longing for a return to their old relationship. Before Paul Margolin had entered their lives. It would be even better if they could take their relationship toward a new . . . The intercom box on his desk buzzed. “Mr. Turner,” his assistant announced, “you have a call on Line 3. It’s Harry McNeill.”

Harry? Why would he be calling around this time of the day? Cole calmed down and replied, “Thanks Eleanor. Buzz him through.” She connected the call to Cole’s desk and he answered. “Hello? Harry?”

The youngest McNeill literally shouted into the phone. “Cole! Thank God I reached you! I need your help! Badly!”

“Harry, calm down. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Bruce,” Harry continued. “He’s gone!” The young witch went on to explain about the demonic visitor that had snatched Bruce. Judging from the kidnapper’s description, Cole realized that Portia Della Scalla had paid a visit. His mind on the present emergency, Cole sat up in his chair. “Listen Harry, get a hold of Olivia, Leo, your parents, or anyone who might help. Don’t . . . don’t worry, Harry! I’ll help as well. Listen, make sure that you tell Olivia first. I have something to do, first.”

“Oh. Okay,” Harry replied. “Anything else?”

An idea came to Cole. “Remember how you managed to tap into Phoebe’s premonition, last fall? Just before she and her sisters got caught by those warlocks?”

Hesitation crept into Harry’s voice. “Uh, yeah. Are you . . . are you suggesting that I . . .?”

“Harry, just try it. Try to make a connection with Bruce and find out where he is.”

Harry replied doubtfully, “I don’t know. I had only managed to connect with Phoebe by accident. I was meditating at the time.”

“Well, a little meditation wouldn’t help right now,” Cole said. “Meanwhile, I have a little errand to run. It’s regarding Bruce. I should be at your house, soon.” He hung up before Harry could respond. Then Cole grabbed his jacket and left the office. “Eleanor,” he said to his assistant, “I’ll be out of the office for the rest of the day. If anyone calls or comes looking for me, tell them I’m at an important meeting.”

Eleanor nodded. “Yes, Mr. Turner.” But Cole barely heard her, as he marched toward the elevator.

* * * *

Seconds later, Cole materialized in the middle of a long corridor, deep within the Source’s Realm. He immediately recognized the corridor as the very one that led to the Source’s throne room. Dismissing memories that threatened to overwhelm him, Cole made his way toward the aforementioned room and entered.

“Who the hell are you?” a voice from behind, demanded.

Cole whirled around and faced a young man who looked to be in his twenties. The latter was of medium height and possessed dark hair, dark eyes and a swarthy complexion. There seemed to be something oddly familiar about him.

The young daemon repeated his question. “Who are you? What are . . .?” His dark eyes widened in recognition. “Belthazor! I mean you’re the Source! The last Source!”

“And you are?” Cole demanded.

“Sirius.” The demon stood proudly. “My father was Bacchus. He was part of the old Source’s Council.”

An image of an older version of Sirius popped into Cole’s head. “Of course! Bacchus was also part of my council. You . . . uh, you look a lot like your father. Was he among those who perished when the Seer tried to become the new Source?”

Sirius shook his head. “No, he wasn’t at the ceremony. He was killed six months later. By Barbas. Thankfully that bastard is dead.”

“Yeah, thankfully,” Cole murmured, recalling his part in Barbas’ death.

Dark eyes swept over the older daemon. “It’s good to see you again, Your Eminence. Are you here to reclaim leadership of the Realm?”

“No,” Cole curtly replied.

Sirius frowned. “Then why are you here?”

Cole walked past the younger daemon and headed toward the altar. “I’m here for another matter. To retrieve something.” He stepped behind the altar and used his telekinesis to remove a heavy stone embedded in the wall.

Sirius leaned over Cole, irritating the latter. “What are you doing? What is that?”

Cole held up a small black box. He replaced the stone. “A little personal item that I had left behind,” he replied. “Now that I have it, I’ll be on my way.” He started to walk away from the altar. Sirius blocked his path. Cole glared at the younger daemon. “Look, do you mind getting out of my way?”

“No. I cannot allow you to leave with whatever you have. It belongs here.”

A long sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Actually, it doesn’t. Not really. Now please, get out of my way.” When the younger daemon refused to move, Cole’s expression hardened. “Let me remind you of a few facts of life, Sirius. One, this realm is in chaos, which means there is no reason for you to act as guardian of the Source’s throne room. Two, this little item in my hand does belong to someone else – another daemon – and I intend to return it to him. For a price. And three, if you don’t get out of my way, I will kill you.” Cole took a threatening step forward. “Slowly and painfully. And you’re not strong enough to stop me.”

A few seconds passed before Sirius finally stepped aside. He seemed to humiliated and embarrassed to face Cole. Which produced a spark of pity within the latter. Cole gave the younger daemon a quick punch to the shoulder. “Look, there’s no reason to feel humiliated. Neither your father or the Old Source would have been able to stop me. Besides, you strike me as an intelligent person. Like your father. Keep it up and you might have an important place if the Source’s Realm ever becomes reorganized.” Sirius gave Cole a grateful nod, before the latter disappeared from the Source’s chamber.


“TOWER HEIST” (2011) Review

“TOWER HEIST” (2011) Review

Seven years ago, Eddie Murphy had an idea about him and a group of comedians starring in a movie about a group planning to rob Trump Tower. The script developed and changed into an “OCEAN’S ELEVEN”-style caper, leading Murphy to leave the project. When director Brett Ratner continued to develop the idea into the movie’s present story, Murphy eventually rejoined the production. 

“TOWER HEIST” told the story about three employees of an exclusive apartment building called The Tower, who lose their pensions in the Ponzi scheme of a Wall Street businessman, who also lives in the building. The group enlist the aid of criminal, a bankrupt businessman that also lives in the building, and another building employee to break into the businessman’s apartment and steal back their money, while avoiding the FBI Agent in charge of his case.

One of my favorite types of movies has always been the heist comedy. This is why I am a fan of such movies like“LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS”“A FISH CALLED WANDA” and the “OCEAN’S ELEVEN” series. I do not know if I would place “TOWER HEIST” on the same level as the previously mentioned films. I would not regard it as one of the best heist films I have ever seen, or even one of the best comedies. But I cannot deny that I found it entertaining.

I must admit that I did not believe Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy would ever generate a strong screen chemistry. But in a rather odd way, they seemed to click. I suppose this was due to the fact that Stiller’s more subdued performance perfectly balanced Murphy’s more extroverted one. And they had solid support from the likes of Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda, Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe. I was especially impressed by Alda’s insidious performance as the scheming businessman Arthur Shaw and Sidibe’s portrayal of the sharp-tongued maid Odessa, whose savy proved to be the group’s godsend on at least two occasions.

Another aspect of “TOWER HEIST” that I admired was the movie’s script written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. It was not the most spectacular story I have seen on the movie screen. I had a problem with the movie’s last five or ten minutes. I would reveal what I found troubling about the ending. But if I did, I would give away the story. I suspect Griffin and Nathanson ended it this way to put a little bite in the movie’s ending. It just did not work for me.

However, I did enjoy most of the story. I also liked that one of the main aspects that injected a good deal of suspense into the story was the possibility of one or more of the robbers betraying the others – especially in the case of both Murphy and Affleck’s characters. This is something that is usually common in a heist drama. But I have yet to see such a thing in a comedy, until I saw “TOWER HEIST”.

In the end, “TOWER HEIST” proved to be a solid and entertaining comedy with a slightly weak ending. The movie was also blessed with a first-rate cast led by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. And director Brett Ratner did a good job in utilizing both the story and the cast to make a pretty solid film.

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Two “The Yellow Apron” Commentary


“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Two “The Yellow Apron” Commentary

Set during the 1810s and 1820s, the second episode of the NBC miniseries, ”CENTENNIAL”, continued the story of French-Canadian trapper, Pasquinel; his Scottish-born partner, Alexander McKeag; and their relationship with Clay Basket, the daughter of an Arapaho warrior. ”The Yellow Apron” explored how jealousies, resentments and desire nearly broke apart their tenuous relationship. 

”The Yellow Apron” began in 1809, with Clay Basket giving birth to the first of hers and Pasquinel’s three children, Jacques. The story quickly jumped to 1811, with the birth of their second child, Marcel. By the time the story begins in earnest in 1816, Pasquinel is still obsessed in finding the gold that Lame Beaver had stumbled upon in the last episode. Because of his obsession, he asks McKeag to make the visit to the Bockweiss household in St. Louis for more goods to trade with the Plains tribes. Upon his arrival in St. Louis, McKeag learns that Bockweiss is anxious over his son-in-law’s failure to make the trip. He also learns that Lise Bockweiss Pasquinel has given birth to Pasquinel’s daughter, Lisette. And all of this happened within the episode’s first nine to ten minutes.

So much occurred in ”The Yellow Apron”. The episode saw the birth of Pasquinel’s four children – his children by Clay Basket (Jacques, Marcel and Lucinda) and his daughter by Lise (Lisette). McKeag has to deal with Jacques’ dislike of the Scots trapper and suspicion of Clay Basket’s love for him. Clashes with both the Native American world and the white world leave scars on Jacques, deepening his dislike of McKeag and leaving a mark on his psyche. Both McKeag and Clay Basket continue their struggle to keep their feelings for one another in check. And both have to contend with Pasquinel’s desire for gold and his penchant for leaving them all behind in order to be with his St. Louis wife, Lise. And Lise has to struggle between her own love for the French-Canadian trapper and her growing jealousy for his love of the West and a suspicion that he may have Native American wife. And although he seems very fond of Clay Basket, it is obvious that he is more divided by his feelings for Lise, the West and his desire for gold.

The episode’s last half hour spirals into a series of heartbreaking and bittersweet events. Jacques tries to kill McKeag in a fit of anger over a dispute regarding beaver traps. After the attack, McKeag leaves Pasquinel and the latter’s Arapaho family. After spending a winter inside a hut encased by a snowdrift, McKeag hooks up with a group of trappers that include Jim Bridger and James Beckwourth. They travel to a rendezvous for other mountain men. There, McKeag has an emotional reunion with Pasquinel. But McKeag’s lingering resentment toward his former partner makes the reunion short-lived. After one last trip to St. Louis, Lise convinces McKeag to reconcile with Pasquinel. Unfortunately, McKeag’s efforts to reconcile with his former partner come too late. Minutes earlier, Pasquinel is attacked and killed by a band of Ute warriors after finding the gold he had sought for so long. Despite the tragedy, McKeag and Clay Basket are now free to be together. And the Scots trapper agrees to claim Lucinda as his own. The episode ended with a shot of the gold nuggets that Pasquinel finally discovered, but failed to claim as his own due to his death. However, that final shot struck an ominous note . . . as conveying to the audience that not only will the nuggets be discovered again, but also bring havoc to the region. Especially for Pasquinel’s Arapaho family and other Native Americans.

I must admit that I found ”The Yellow Apron” is probably one of the most bittersweet episodes in this miniseries. And possibly one of the most epic. The latter is not surprising, considering that most of the episode spans nearly fifteen years. But what I really enjoyed about it was that it touched upon an era of the Old West that is rarely covered in Hollywood films or television. I say . . . rarely. There have been movies about trappers and mountain men of the early 19th century, but most Hollywood productions tend to focus upon the West between the 1840s and the 1880s. The episode featured the growing conflict between the Native Americans and whites (both mountain men and the military) that set foot on their lands. This conflict was apparent in an effective scene in which McKeag, Pasquinel and the latter’s Arapaho family visited a fort along the Missouri River, where they clash with a group of hostile American soldiers. Viewers also had an opportunity to enjoy a scene that featured a rendezvous between trappers and traders from many nations and Native Americans. Thanks to some detailed and colorful direction by Virgil W. Vogel, the scene not only went into detail over what transpired at a rendezvous – trading, horse and foot racing, target shooting, singing, dancing, gambling and other activities.

A yellow apron figured into a session of dancing, initiated by a mountain man playing a bag pipe. This incident led to an emotional reunion between Pasquinel and McKeag. Considering the acrimony (at least on McKeag’s part) that led to their separation, watching the two former friends dance away the bitterness proved to be one of the most poignant moments in the entire miniseries. The scene also proved to be one of the finest moments on screen for both Richard Chamberlain and Robert Conrad. In fact, this particular episode provided some of the best acting in the entire miniseries. Not only did Chamberlain and Conrad did some of their best work, so did the likes of Barbara Carrera and Sally Kellerman, who both did excellent jobs in conveying the emotional difficulties in being Pasquinel’s wife. I also have to commend the late Vincent Roberts’ portrayal of Jacques Pasquinel in his early teens. I thought he did a top notch job of conveying the young Jacques’ dislike and resentment toward McKeag without resorting to any over-the-top acting.

Directed by Virgil Vogel, ”The Yellow Apron” is without a doubt, one of my favorite episodes in the miniseries. Personally, I thought it conveyed the complex friendship between Pasquinel and Alexander McKeag with more depth than even ”Only the Rocks Live Forever”. Not only did it boast some first-rate performances, especially from Richard Chamberlain and Robert Conrad, but also provided one of the most memorable scenes in the entire miniseries.

“THE CONSPIRATOR” (2010/11) Review




“THE CONSPIRATOR” (2010/11) Review

Throughout Hollywood history, the topic of the American Civil War has proven to be a volatile mix in terms of box office and television ratings. Robert Redford’s new drama about President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination called “THE CONSPIRATOR” proved to be the case. 

Directed by Redford and written by James D. Solomon, “THE CONSPIRATOR” told the story about Civil War veteran Frederick Aiken’s efforts to prevent Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the Lincoln assassination during the spring and summer of 1865. Following the 16th President’s death and near fatal attack upon Secretary of State William H. Seward, a Maryland-born boarding house owner and Confederate sympathizer named Mary Surratt becomes among those arrested in connection to the crime. The Federal government, under the authority of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, is convinced of Mrs. Surratt’s guilt because of her son John’s connections to assassin John Wilkes Booth and the other conspirators. Mrs. Surratt’s case was not helped by the fact that they had used her Washington D.C. boardinghouse as a meeting place; or that John managed to evade capture by the Federal authorities following the assassination.

Mrs. Surratt summoned a fellow native of Maryland, U.S. Senator Reverdy Johnson, to defend her before a military tribunal. But political pressure from Stanton and others forced Johnson to recruit Aiken to represent Mrs. Surratt at the tribunal. Unfortunately, the 27 year-old Aiken lacked any previous experience inside a courtroom. The young attorney’s initial belief in Mrs. Surratt’s guilt and reluctance to defend her disappeared, as he became aware of possible evidence that might exonerate his client and that she was being used as a hostage and bait to lure her son John to the authorities through foul means.

“THE CONSPIRATOR” proved to be one of those Civil War movies that failed to generate any interest at the box office. Most moviegoers ignored it. Many critics bashed it, claiming it was another of Robert Redford’s thinly veiled metaphors on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I must be honest. I found this particular criticism worthy of some head scratching. Perhaps those critics had been right. But I must admit that I failed to see the metaphor. The manner in which the Army tribunal railroaded Mary Surratt to a date with a hangman’s noose sadly struck me as a very common occurrence throughout history. The wealthy and the powerful have never been reluctant to destroy someone they deemed as a threat or a convenient scapegoat.

Superficially, Mary Surratt seemed like the type of person toward whom I would harbor any sympathy. The Maryland-born woman had been a Confederate sympathizer. I personally found her political and social beliefs abhorrent. Yet, by revealing the lies and manipulations that she had endured at the hands of the Army tribunal and Federal government, both Redford and screenwriter Solomon did an excellent job in igniting my sympathy. Mary Surratt’s experiences also reminded me that they could happen to anyone – even today. The idea of so much power against one individual or a particular group is frightening to behold, regardless if that individual is a slave, a Confederate sympathizer under arrest or an early 21st century citizen.

Aside from displaying the dangers of absolute powers, “THE CONSPIRATOR” succeeded on two other points – at least for me. I found the movie’s basic narrative well written and paced to a certain degree. Both Redford and Solomon had been wise to focus the movie’s plot on Mrs. Surratt’s case. They could have included the testimonies regarding the other conspirators, but that could have resulted in a great deal of chaos. However, the other defendants’ participation in the conspiracy against the Lincoln Administration was utilized in an excellent sequence that conveyed the events surrounding President Lincoln’s assassination, the attempt on William Seward’s life, John Wilkes Booth’s death and the subsequent arrests. With this excellent introduction, the movie smoothly segued into Frederick Aiken’s efforts to defend Mrs. Surratt.

However, no movie is perfect. And “THE CONSPIRATOR” had its own imperfections. My main problem centered on three characters – a close friend of Aiken’s named Nicholas Baker, who was portrayed by Justin Long; actress Alexis Bledel’s portrayal of Aiken’s fiancee, Sarah Weston; and the presence of Oscar winner Kevin Kline as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. My only problem with Bledel was that her performance struck me as mediocre. No amount of romantic scenes or beautiful 19th century costumes could alleviate her performance. Justin Long’s presence proved to be a waste of time – at least for me. One, Redford and Solomon included a meaningless scene featuring the aftermath of a nameless Civil War battle with both James McAvoy’s Aiken and Long lying on the ground, wounded. What was the point of this scene? To establish Aiken’s devotion to the Union cause in the form of his friend, Baker? If so, I feel it failed to achieve this. Long was further wasted as one of the two friends who tried to convince Aiken not to defend Mrs. Surratt. Actually, James Badge Dale, who portrayed the young attorney’s other friend, William Hamilton, was used more effectively for this task. Long merely hung around slightly drunk or sober, as he grunted his disapproval toward Aiken. And I cannot understand why Redford even bothered to include his character in the plot. Also wasted was Kevin Kline’s portrayal of Edwin H. Stanton. Aside from convincing Reverdy Johnson not to personally defend Mrs. Surratt, barking instructions to government lackeys following the incidents at Ford’s Theater and Seward’s home, and ignoring Aiken’s attempts to contact him; Kline’s Stanton did nothing. I had expected some kind of confrontation between Aiken and Stanton . . . again, nothing happened.

Fortunately for “THE CONSPIRATOR”, the good outweighed the bad. This was certainly apparent in the rest of the cast. I would never consider Frederick Aiken to be one of James McAvoy’s best roles. But I cannot deny that he did an admirable job in transforming Aiken’s character from a reluctant legal defender to his client’s most ardent supporter. He also infused the right mixture of passion, anger and growing cynicism into his character. I have seen Robin Wright only in a small number of roles. But I do believe that Mary Surratt might prove to be one of her best in a career that has already spanned over twenty years. What truly impressed me about Wright’s performance was her ability to avoid portraying Surratt as some ladylike martyr that barely did or said anything to avoid conviction. Although Wright’s Surratt did suffer, she also conveyed grit and determination to alleviate her situation.

The majority of the cast for “THE CONSPIRATOR” gave solid performances. There were a few I considered standouts among the supporting cast. One of them turned out to be Danny Huston’s intense portrayal of the prosecuting attorney, Joseph Holt. Evan Rachel Wood superbly guided Anna Surratt’s character from a defiantly supportive daughter to a young woman on the edge of despair. Despite a slightly unconvincing Maryland accent, Tom Wilkinson gave an intelligent performance as U.S. Senator Reverdy Johnson. I could also say the same about James Badge Dale’s portrayal of William Hamilton, one of Aiken’s friends, who proved to be a wise adviser. As for actor Toby Kebbell, I have to admit that he made a convincing John Wilkes Booth.

I cannot deny that Robert Redford and screenwriter James Solomon made a few missteps with the plot and at least two characters for “THE CONSPIRATOR”. But as I had stated earlier, the virtues outweighed the flaws. Both director and screenwriter provided moviegoers with a fascinating and frightening look into the abuse of power during a famous historic event. And they were backed by excellent performances from the likes of James McAvoy and Robin Wright. I only hope that one day, audiences might overlook Redford’s current negative reputation as a filmmaker and give “THE CONSPIRATOR” a second chance.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 15


Part 15

Bruce entered the McNeill dining room, looking very exhausted. Which Harry immediately noticed. “Morning, big brother,” he greeted cheerfully. “Get a good night’s sleep?”

Shooting the younger man a dark look, Bruce growled, “I’m fine!” 

“Are you certain, love?” Gweneth added. She regarded her oldest with concerned eyes. “You practically resemble the walking dead, right now. Did you have a rough night?”

Bruce plopped down in one of the chairs opposite Harry and yawned. Davies served him a cup of coffee. “Well, other than Ramirez failing to show up and Hugo Kennard getting arrested for possession of marijuana, last night was peachy.” His voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Hugo?” Disbelief shone in Gweneth’s green eyes. “Hugo was arrested for drug possession?”

“Marijuana, Mom.”

The middle-aged woman rolled her eyes in disgust and sighed. “That bloody idiot! Now where in the hell are we going to find another first-rate pastry chef?”

“I’ll put an ad in the local papers,” Bruce wearily replied.


Bruce sighed. Long and hard. “I’ll do it tomorrow, Mom. I’m just not . . . I’m staying home, today.”

Harry continued to stare at his older brother. “Not feeling well, after all, huh? You do look rather tired.”

“Harry’s right,” the McNeill patriarch added. “I realize that you’ve been working evenings for the past two weeks, but this is the first time you’ve looked so . . .”

Bruce slammed his empty cup on the table, startling Harry and their parents. He shot out of his chair, toppling it over. “What the hell is wrong with everyone?” he cried out loud. “So I’m a little tired! So what? It’s no big deal!” He started toward the door. “I’m going back to bed!”

Elise McNeill appeared in the doorway. “Did I just hear someone shout . . .” Her oldest grandchild stormed past her. “Oh. Bruce.” She stared at her family, frowning. “Is there something wrong with him?”

* * * *

Olivia strode into the precinct’s squad room and toward her desk, attracting stares from fellow officers. One of them, an attractive, dark-haired man around thirty named Scott Yi, approached her desk.

“Inspector McNeill?” Yi said with a frown. He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Aren’t you here a little early? I thought you shift didn’t start until eight.”

“It does,” Olivia coolly replied. “I . . . uh, I had some extra work to finish, this morning.”

Yi nodded. “Oh. Uh, does this have to do with the new unit being formed under In . . . Lieutenant Morris? I’m one of the . . .”

“Yeah, I heard,” Olivia said, interrupting. “Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other, starting next month. As for my work – it has to do with the case Morris and I are working on now.”

Dark eyes lit up with interest. “Oh yeah! The Mann case. Uh, there’s a report from Interpol on the lieutenant’s desk about some woman you had asked about. And Forensics had delivered a report on some piece of evidence you had found.” Yi snatched a yellow envelope from his desk and handed it to Olivia. “Apparently, Forensic had delivered it right after you and the lieutenant had left, yesterday.”

Olivia could not help but roll her eyes at the absurdity of the situation. “I can’t believe this!” she declared. “You mean to say that it took Forensics practically a whole week to deliver this goddamn report? A week?” She opened the envelope, retrieved the report from inside and read it.

The report stated that a partial fingerprint had been discovered on the button found inside DeWolfe Mann’s apartment. Since it had failed to match any known person with a criminal record, Forensics decided to check the Department of Motor Vehicles records. And found a match. When Olivia read the name on the report, her jaw practically dropped.

“Something wrong, Inspector?” Scott Yi asked.

Olivia finally overcame her shock. “No, I’m . . . uh, I’m . . . it’s nothing.” She shook her head. “Um, thanks for the report. Is Lieutenant Morris in yet?”

* * * *

Nearly an hour later, Darryl’s eyes scanned the report in his hand. The moment he had arrived in the squad room, Olivia had shown him the Forensics report. “Nick Marcano? That name sounds familiar. Who is he?”

Olivia replied, “Don’t you remember him from the Sunday brunches? He’s a witch. A Streghone. Quiet guy with dark hair, whose aunt happens to be an old friend of my mother’s?”

Darryl let out a gust of breath. Olivia’s description conjured up memories of a dark-haired, attractive man in his early thirties. A man with an unassuming manner. “You mean the guy who always seemed to be mooning over your brother’s fiancé? The one who belonged to some Italian pagan sect?” he added.

“That’s him,” Olivia acknowledged. “There’s a very good chance that he may have killed Mann. Don’t forget that Phoebe’s vision included a man’s hand slitting the victim’s throat.”

“But why? Does the guy have something against gays?”

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. “Well, it’s like you said – Nick was always mooning over Barbara. It’s possible that he wants Bruce dead and Barbara for himself.” She went on to explain a theory that came to her, last night. That Portia Della Scalla was in San Francisco to kill Bruce.

Darryl found the whole idea far-fetched and said so. “I mean, why didn’t Marcano kill Bruce, himself?”

“And risk facing a murder charge?” Olivia leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Or even worse, facing two powerful witches like my parents? Why bother when you can summon a daemon to the job for you? But something must have prevented the daemon from attacking Bruce at my parents’ house. Probably the protection spell.”

Darryl added, “By demon, you are referring to the Della Scalla woman. Right?”

Olivia nodded. She handed Darryl another report. “This also came in after we left. From Interpol.” While he read the report, she continued, “According to the report, she worked at the Rome office of VOGUE magazine in the 70s. After eleven months, her boss had died mysteriously of some “wasting” disease. And Miss Della Scalla disappeared, never to be heard from again. And six years later, she wrote the first of five best-selling novels. All romances. Her publisher also ended up dead from the same disease.”

“What the hell is this wasting disease?”

“I don’t know. It’s possible she used some kind of magic to kill them. If only I knew what kind of daemon she is.” Olivia took a deep breath. “Now, if my family’s protection spell prevented her from killing Bruce at the house, then she and Nick had to find another way to get close to him.”

Darryl looked up from the second report. “Namely, DeWolfe Mann’s interview with your brother. I wonder how Marcano found out about it.”

“Probably from Barbara or Paige at Ostera’s. Nick goes there a lot.”

Darryl continued, “And with Mann dead, Miss Della Scalla could take his place. Get close to Bruce. Only . . .” He frowned. “Surely she and Nick couldn’t have known that Dean would assign her to the story? Let alone go ahead with it, since he was reluctant about it in the first place?”

Olivia hesitated. “I don’t know, Darryl. Maybe . . . maybe this Portia has some kind of psychic ability.” She paused. “As for now, I think we better get a search warrant for Nick’s apartment. Or maybe an arrest warrant.”

Darryl stood up and donned his jacket. “Or maybe both. We already have sufficient grounds to arrest him. There’s a judge I know – Ray Itoga. If we can catch him between court sessions, maybe we can get both warrants.”

“How nice. A trip to the courthouse.” Olivia grabbed her jacket.

A smirk played on Darryl’s lips. “Plan to pay a visit to a certain ADA?”

Olivia smiled acidly at her partner. “That’s none of your business, Morris,” she replied sweetly. “And wipe that smirk from your face.” Darryl, fortunately, did not bother to respond.

* * * *

“Are you sure that you don’t want to join me?” Elise McNeill asked her grandson. “Especially since you’re not going to the office, today.”

Harry followed his grandmother and father to the foyer. His mother had already left the house. “Thanks Gran, but no thanks. I have some work to catch up on, and I’d rather do it here, where I won’t be interrupted. Besides, I’m not in the mood for one of Vanessa Probst’s charity luncheons.”

“Then I might as well avoid it, as well,” Jack McNeill commented. “Since you’re staying home today, someone has to be at the office.”

Elise glared at her son. “Oh no you don’t! You’re not getting out of this. I need someone to escort me to that godawful party and you’re it! Besides, this is important. The luncheon is a fund raiser for UNICEF and I’m a member of the fund-raising committee. You just make sure that you and Davies pick me up from Connie Ward’s place at precisely eleven-thirty.”

“What about your grandsons?” Jack protested. “They’re both going to be home, today.”

Harry immediately spoke up. “C’mon Dad! You know I have a lot of work to do. And I don’t think Bruce is feeling very well. He’s just cancelled his appointment with that Della Scalla woman.”

The McNeill matriarch frowned. “You mean he hasn’t even returned downstairs to finish his breakfast, yet?”

“I think he’s still in a bad mood, if you ask me.” Harry hesitated. “Uh, I haven’t told anyone this, but I thought I had heard a voice inside Bruce’s room, last night. A voice that belonged to a woman. Only I didn’t find anyone inside. But . . .”

Jack urged his son to continue. “But what?”

Harry sighed. “I don’t know. I could have sworn I also smelled gardenias.”

Elise frowned. “Are you sure? Perhaps Bruce’s TV was on, last night.”

“It was off,” Harry added.

His father and grandmother exchanged confused looks. Then Elise continued, “Are you saying that a daemon or some other magical being was inside Bruce’s room? I mean, how is that possible? Especially with the protection spell surrounding the house. Surely that would have stopped him.”

“Or her,” Harry said. “Remember, I did hear a woman’s voice.”

Jack added, “What about that Italian reporter that your mother and Bruce saw yesterday? Miss Della Scalla? Isn’t Livy suspicious of her being involved in that columnist’s death?”

“Oh Jack, it can’t be her!” Elise protested. “Didn’t Phoebe Halliwell have a vision of a man killing DeWolfe Mann? Besides, what does he have to do with Bruce?”

Jack replied, “I don’t know, Mother. But like I’ve said before – I found it very convenient that this woman would show up to interview Bruce so soon after Mann’s death. Perhaps I should stay home with Harry. Cancel that meeting with Mark Giovanni. In case a visitor actually does show up.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Elise shot back.

Davies opened the front door. “Pardon me, Mrs. McNeill, Mr. John, but the car is ready.”

“Thanks Davies,” Jack replied. He turned to his mother and sighed. “Ready Mother?”

Elise let out a heavy sigh. “Oh God! I’m not really looking forward to today. As for you,” she said to Harry, “perhaps you should check on that protection spell when you get the chance. If someone did get inside Bruce’s room . . .”

Jack gently steered his mother toward the front door. “Let’s go, Mother. If I have to eventually go to that luncheon, so do you. Beiside, I’m sure that Harry knows what to do. And I’ll be late for that meeting.” The two McNeills bid Harry good-bye and left the house.

* * * *

Both Olivia and Darryl strode out of the judge’s chambers, looking as frustrated as Olivia felt. “So much for Judge Itoga,” she muttered.

“What can I say?” Darryl said. “I had no idea that he was out of town. You know of any judge who can help us?”

Olivia contemplated her partner’s question. “I’ve usually gone to Bob Gleeson for a warrant, but he’s also out of town. I’m beginning to wonder if some there’s some judge’s convention going on in another part of the country.”

Shaking his head, Darryl replied, “Damned if I know. Maybe we should check with one of the court clerks to see who’s available.” The pair started along the corridor and toward the elevator. Upon reaching their destination, they came across a familiar figure.

“Hello!” Paul Margolin greeted the pair with a smile. “I didn’t realize that you two would be here. Are you here to see me about the DiMatteo case?”

Olivia shot her fellow witch a quick smile. “No, we’re here about the DeWolfe Mann case. We’re trying to get hold of a warrant.”

Paul quickly sobered. “So you have a suspect, huh? Who is it?” Olivia informed the ADA about the button found inside the victim’s apartment and the partial fingerprint belonging to Nick Marcano.

“And you need a judge to issue a warrant?” Paul asked. “I think I have the woman for you. Carlotta Alvarez. She’ll be presiding over the DiMatteo case.”

Darryl asked, “Is she available?”

“I just left her chambers, a few minutes ago.” Paul glanced at his watch. “In fact, she’s not due back into court for another forty minutes.”

“Great!” Olivia wished she could kiss Paul, at that moment. Instead, she settled for a grateful smile. “Thanks for the help, Paul,” she said softly.

He responded with a winning smile. “No problem. Mind if I join you? If this Marcano fellow has summoned a demon, you might need all the help you can get.”

Olivia glanced at Darryl, who immediately looked away. As if he did not want to make the decision to include Paul. A frown touched Olivia’s countenance. Then she flashed another smile at the ADA. “I would more than appreciate your help,” she replied graciously.

* * * *

Slowly, Phoebe cracked open her office door and peeked into the newsroom. There seemed to be no sign of the Signorina Della Scalla. Whose office door was definitely closed.

“Is she there?” Piper asked.

Phoebe shook her head. “No. There’s no sign of her. Of course, she could be inside her office.”

Piper said, “Phoebe, you’ve already called her extension three times. No one answered. She’s probably not there. Let’s go.”

“Okay, explain it to me again, why we’re about to break into this woman’s office?”

Calmly, Piper repeated her explanation. “Because both Olivia and Cole have asked you to keep an eye on her – in case she happened to be a warlock or demon. Because Paige told us that Cole has gone through the trouble of looking into her background – something we’ve tried and failed with the Book of Shadows. And because, when we saw Bruce with the Italian stallionette yesterday, it looked as if she was trying to put the mojo on him. C’mon Pheebs!”

Phoebe sighed. “What if she comes back, Piper?”

The older woman rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Phoebe, what’s going on? What happened to the bold little sister who would have broken into that woman’s office without any hesitation?”

Phoebe retorted tartly, “She grew up.” After a pause, she added, “Have you considered that someone might see us going into her office?”

“So, we sneak in!”

“Why don’t we summon Leo or Paige to . . .” Phoebe broke off, as Piper grabbed her arm. “Piper! What the hell are you doing?”

Through gritted teeth, Piper hissed, “We’re going inside that woman’s office. Now!” She dragged the younger woman out of the latter’s office and quickly marched across the newsroom. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice the two sisters, as they entered the Italian columnist’s office. Phoebe glanced around to ensure that she and Piper were not being noticed. Then she gingerly grabbed the doorknob and opened the door. The two sisters quickly slipped inside.

They scanned the office’s interior. Aside from a few pieces of furniture that included a desk, a few chairs and two files, the office seemed bare.

“How long has she been here?” Piper asked.

Phoebe replied, “Two days. Since Monday. I guess she hasn’t been able to decorate her office, yet.” A sigh left her mouth.

Piper glanced sharply at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s just . . .” Phoebe’s voice quavered slightly. “It’s hard to believe that a week ago, Wolfie was still alive. In this office.”

The older sister gave Phoebe’s should a sympathetic squeeze. “I know, honey. I know. But now, we have Bruce to be concerned about. Do you think you can summon a premonition from something in here?”

“Why is it that everyone keeps demanding premonitions from me?” Phoebe protested. Despite her cry, she began to search the office for any of Portia Della Scalla’s belongings. “First Olivia, and now you.”

The search for an object proved to be one in vain. After five minutes, the sisters could not find anything that belonged to the BAY-MIRROR’s newest columnist. “Doesn’t this woman have anything in here?” Piper complained. She sighed. “And as for your premonitions, how else can we find out what’s going on? The Book of Shadows can’t foresee any future danger.” She opened the desk drawer and grunted.

“What is it?” Phoebe demanded. She stood near one of the file cabinets.

Piper withdrew a magazine from inside the desk. “This. VOGUE magazine. Interesting reading material for a food critic.”

Phoebe held out her hand. “Let me see.” Piper handed her the magazine. The moment she touched it, Phoebe found herself engulfed in another vision. She saw Portia Della Scalla grabbing hold of Bruce McNeill and disappearing into a cloud of smoke. Then she saw Bruce and Portia having sex inside an elegant bedroom. That disturbing vision was replaced with one of Bruce lying on the bed. Dead. Once the vision ended, Phoebe gasped out loud and dropped the magazine, as her knees buckled under.

Slender hands firmly gripped Phoebe’s arms and pulled her to her feet. “Phoebe?” Piper cried. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“I . . .” Phoebe took a deep breath. “I had a premonition. Of Bruce and Portia. Oh God! Piper! We’ve got to warn him to stay away from her!” A surge of energy shot through Phoebe. She immediately started toward the door.

Piper cried after her, “Phoebe! Wait up! Phoebe!”

The younger woman had already opened the door. She stepped outside the office and nearly collided with a tall figure. She glanced up. “Oh! Uh, Jason. I uh, . . .”

“What were you doing inside Portia’s office?” the publisher demanded with a frown.

“Oh, uh . . . I was . . . uh, looking,” Phoebe replied uneasily.

Jason’s frown deepened. “Looking for what?”

“For whom.” Piper shot out of Portia’s office and closed the door. “We were looking for Portia.” She gave her sister a pointed look. “Right Phoebe?”

The younger woman immediately nodded. “Yeah, right.” She tried to bypass her boyfriend. “Look Jason, I really need to get going.”

Jason blocked her path. “Where are you going? And why are you in such a hurry?”

“I’m not . . .” Phoebe finally exercised her skill at quick thinking. She moaned slightly and pressed a hand against her forehead. “I’m not feeling well. I think I’ll go home.”

“Then why were you inside Portia’s office?”

Piper stepped forward. “Phoebe became ill, while we were looking for . . . her. Um . . .”

“Looking for Portia,” Phoebe quickly added. She gave Jason’s cheek a quick peck. “Listen baby, I really need to get home. I’ll call you later. Let’s go, Piper.” The two sisters escaped from Jason and made their way back to Phoebe’s office.

Once inside, Piper reached for the telephone on Phoebe’s desk. “I’ll call the McNeill home to see if anyone is there. Maybe someone can warn Bruce.” She paused. “Do you know their phone number?”

Phoebe rolled her eyes and sighed. “No, I don’t.” She took the phone receiver from Piper’s hand. “Why don’t you call for Leo? And I’ll call Darryl and Olivia.” While she dialed the number to Darryl’s office, Piper cried out her husband’s name.


“BOARDWALK EMPIRE”: Echoing John Webster



One of the flashbacks in the most recent episode of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” featured a scene with the future Atlantic City crime lord, Jimmy Darmody, discussing the English dramatist John Webster’s 1612 play, “The White Devil” with his class at Princeton University. After watching the entire episode, it occurred to me that another one of Webster’s plays could have served as a reference. 

I have never posted an article about an episode of “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” during these last two seasons. I have posted a gallery featuring images and a list of favorite episodes from Season One. But after watching (2.11) “Under God’s Power She Flourishes”, I realized that I could not keep my mouth shut. Or at least refrain from writing something about it. What can I say? It blew my mind. Even more so than the previous episode, (2.10) “Georgia Peaches”.

“Under God’s Power She Flourishes” featured the deterioration of the relationship between former Atlantic City political boss Nucky Thompson and his Irish-born mistress, Margaret Schroeder. Margaret has been sagging under the belief that her sins – both past and recent – led to divine retribution in the form of her daughter Emily being struck down by polio. Margaret had hoped that a financial contribution to the Catholic Church would lead God to alleviate her daughter’s pain. When that failed, she decided that the only way to satisfy God would be to consider testifying against Nucky, regarding the murder of her late husband, Hans Schroeder. Naturally, Nucky is both disturbed and greatly peeved by Margaret’s suggestion. He thought he had finally nipped in the bud the possibility of being convicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for Schroeder’s murder. Nucky and his attorney had learned from the former’s servant about Treasury Agent Nelson Van Alden’s murder of fellow colleague Agent Sebso back in Season One.

Like Margaret, Van Alden had hoped that his recent actions – turning over his files on Nucky to Federal prosecutor Esther Randolph, granting his wife a divorce and resisting Mickey Doyle’s suggestion that he raid a bootlegging operation ran by Charlie Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone in exchange for a bribe – would lead God to prevent him from any further suffering or encountering further retribution for his crimes and sins. Instead, Esther Randolph reminded him of Agent Sebso’s murder and Van Alden found himself a fugitive from Federal justice. Looking at Margaret and Van Alden’s hopes and disappointments, I cannot help but wonder if their idea of embracing God called for some kind of business deal for their safety or the safety of loved ones.

But the meat of “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” picked up several hours after “Georgia Peaches” ended. Angela Darmody, who had been murdered by Philadelphia mobster/butcher Manny Horvitz in retaliation for a murder attempt, was being carried away by a coroner’s truck. A sheriff deputy questioned mother-in-law Gillian Darmody and Richard Harrow on the whereabouts of Angela’s missing husband, Jimmy. Jimmy had traveled to Princeton to unload a supply of bootleg whiskey he was unable to sell in Atlantic City. The news of Angela’s death, some booze and Luciano’s sample of heroin led to Jimmy recalling his last days at Princeton, before he joined the U.S. Army to fight World War I.

I tried to recall other “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”episodes that had relied on flashbacks, but none came to mind. I have no opinion on the use of flashbacks one way or the other, as long as they manage to serve the episode or movie in question. The Princeton flashbacks certainly served this latest “BOARDWALK EMPIRE”episode, as far as I am concerned. The flashbacks explained a great deal about Jimmy’s character and especially his relationships with both his mother Gillian and Angela, who had been a waitress at a local cafe when she and Jimmy first became involved. Jimmy and Angela’s pre-marital affair led to son Tommy’s conception. The flashbacks also featured Gillian’s visit to Princeton, where she met Angela for the first time. It seemed pretty obvious that Gillian did not care for her son’s new lady love. I can only wonder if Gillian’s feelings toward Jimmy’s romance with Angela led her to do what she did that evening. It was bad enough that she had briefly become involved with Jimmy’s professor – the one with whom he discussed John Webster. But what she did later – seduce Jimmy into having sex with her – left my head spinning and the Internet buzzing over the incident. The night of incest between mother and son also led the latter to join the Army to escape facing their deed.

But Jimmy could not avoid facing Gillian forever. He eventually returned home to Atlantic City in order to work for Nucky and raise Tommy with Angela by his side. Jimmy also renewed his relationship with Gillian – without any sex being involved, thank goodness. Unfortunately, I suspect that incestuous night at Princeton had left its mark on Jimmy. It may have damaged his psyche considerably. And it may have also led him to make major mistakes such as joining Gillian and his father, former political boss Louis “the Commodore” Kaestner, to betray Nucky, his mentor. It led him to join forces with Luciano, Lansky and Capone, to form their own criminal organization. It, along with pressure from both Eli Thompson and Gillian, led him to organize an unsuccessful hit on Nucky. And it may have led him to commit his two biggest mistakes – welch on a $5,000 payment to Manny Horvitz and suggest that another gangster named Waxy Gordon kill the Philadelphia mobster/butcher. In the end, Angela ended up dead, Tommy motherless and Jimmy finally unable to hold back the memories of the Darmodys’ Princeton sexcapade.

But it got worse. Upon his return to Atlantic City in the present, Jimmy found Gillian crowing over Angela’s death. With her “rival” gone, I can only assume Gillian saw no need to hide her true feelings about the former “underweight waitress”. But her crowing only ignited rage within Jimmy and led him to strangle her. The timely and rather surprising intervention by the recovering Commodore saved Gillian’s life. But after stabbing Jimmy’s shoulder with an antique spear, Jimmy stabbed his father with a trench knife. Another surprise appeared out of the blue when Gillian, with flashing eyes and a sharp tone, barked at Jimmy to finish the job and kill his father. Which he did. Many fans have compared Jimmy to the mythical Greek tragic hero, Oedipus. But the latter never knew that the man he had killed and woman he married were his parents. Jimmy, probably to his everlasting regret, did not possess such a luxury. But the sight of Gillian carrying Tommy upstairs, while stating that the latter will grow someday, and reminding him of the location of her bedroom, seemed to have left Jimmy wondering if his life had made an even uglier turn.

As for poor Angela . . . did anyone mourn her? Gillian certainly did not. I believe Jimmy did. But his grief seemed to be entwined with guilt over the suspicion that he became involved with Angela for the wrong reasons. Tommy is not even aware that his mother is dead, thanks to Gillian’s lie about Angela departing for Paris for a bit of fun. The only one left is hitman Richard Harrow, whose brief and silent regard of Angela’s blood made it obviously clear – at least to me – that he will miss her friendship very much. She was the only one who was able to face his disfigurement and situation with an open mind that not even Jimmy completely possessed. But Richard proved that he still had Jimmy’s back, when he got rid of the Commodore’s body on behalf of his friend.

Jimmy and Gillian’s night of incest was shocking, but not really surprising. The series has hinted an incestuous vibe between them since the series’ second episode, (1.02) “The Ivory Tower”. In this episode, Jimmy finally revealed his return from the Army to Gillian, when he greeted her with a present, backstage at the at the Cafe Beaux-Arts nightclub. I still recall that moment when the two first laid eyes upon each other. A scantily-clad Gillian jumped into his arms and rained kisses on his face before admonishing him for not writing. Jimmy eventually asked her to put some clothes on and handed her a present – a necklace. At first, I thought Gillian was another girlfriend that he kept a secret from Angela. But when he called her “Mom”, I found myself in complete shock. What mother would greet her grown son in a scantily-clad costume, by jumping into his arms before wrapping her legs around him? That was the first of many weird moments between Jimmy and Gillian that eventually escalated into that mind-blowing flashback. Some viewers and critics are complaining that the incest came unexpectedly and out of right field. Frankly, I believe they were not paying close attention to the relationship between mother and son.

One of the ironies about the episode is that “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” is the motto of Princeton University, the site of Jimmy and Gillian’s night of infamy. However, the biggest irony for me turned out to be the Commodore’s death. I found it interesting that his death came from his attempt to act as an aging knight-in-armor for Gillian, the very woman he had raped when she was 12 or 13 years-old. In a twisted way, the Commodore’s necrophiliac tendencies ended up costing him his life, a quarter of a century later. I did find myself wondering why the Commodore had attempted to save Gillian’s life in the first place. Had he grown fond of her during those last months with her and Jimmy in his home? Or did Gillian’s bitter recollection of the rape finally brought forth some form of guilt on his mind? I guess we will never know.

And how did John Webster fit into all of this? Jimmy’s discussion with his professor about the dramatist’s “The White Devil” and the latter’s drunken entanglements with the visiting Gillian led to a declaration that Jimmy’s life was one Jacobean saga. Webster’s tales involved a great deal of tragedy, corruption, murder . . . well, you get the picture. Even the topic of incest had made its way into Webster’s works – especially in his 1612-13 play, “The Duchess of Malfi”. In that story, the female lead, the Duchess of Malfi, was murdered by her two brothers – in which one of them harbored incestuous feelings for her – after she married beneath her class. Well, the only person Jimmy murdered was the Commodore. But I find it rather interesting that Jimmy and Gillian’s incestuous tryst inadvertently led to the Commodore’s death.

Some people have expressed fears that the Season Two finale will never be able to top this episode. Frankly, I also rather doubt it will. “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” struck me as one of those episodes that many will remember for years to come. I really do not see how (2.12) “To the Lost” will be able even better. I do not see how any episode could top “Under God’s Power She Flourishes” so soon. Then again, I had no idea that Terence Winter and his writers would top a first-rate episode like “Georgia Peaches” with the next one. In the end, I can only hope that the Season Two finale would end up being entertaining and interesting in the long run.

“IN TIME” (2011) Review

“IN TIME” (2011) Review

New Zealand-born director Andrew Niccol seemed to have developed a habit . . . or reputation for writing and directing a handful of science-fiction oriented movies with the theme of physical youth or some kind of artificial situation as a motif. The recent science-fiction thriller, “IN TIME” turned out to be his fourth (I think) movie in this genre. 

Set in the year 2161, “IN TIME” told the story about a working-class factory worker named Will Salas, who lives in a world in which people are genetically created to stop aging at 25. However, they are given the means to buy their way out of instant death and live as long as possible as 25 year-olds by acquiring extra years as currency. Society is divided by social class living in ‘Time Zones’. The poor live in the ghettos, working each day to earn a few more hours of life, which they must also use to pay for everyday necessities. The rich live in the luxurious New Greenwich, drive fast electric cars, and can live forever on the time they have acquired.

When Will best friend Borel save a rich 105-year-old man named Henry Hamilton from suffering a time-robbery assault by a mobster boss of the Minutemen gang named Fortis, Will leads Hamilton to safety. Although grateful to Will for saving his life, Hamilton is also mentally and emotionally weary at the idea of living eternally, he transfers all of his life years (116 years), except for five minutes to a sleeping Will. As his time expires, Hamilton commits suicide from a bridge. Will arrives too late to save him, realizes he has been filmed by a nearby surveillance camera, and flees the area. He ends up in New Greenwich, where he meets time-loaning businessman Philippe Weis and his 27-year-old daughter Sylvia Weis. But Raymond Leon, a member of the timekeepers, which is the resident police force arrive and accuse Will of murdering Hamilton. Using Sylvia Weis as a hostage, Will goes on the run and demands 1,000 years from Weis in exchange for the safety of his daughter.

Aside from “THE TRUMAN SHOW”, I have never seen any of his other movies. But I must admit that I found Niccol’s premise for“IN TIME” rather intriguing, which led to my decision to see the movie. “IN TIME” revealed a great deal of promise, especially in the first half of the film. The idea of humans being genetically altered to stop aging at the age of 25 as a means to deal with population control seemed very . . . well, creepy. I originally thought that the movie would focus upon the hero discovering a means to allow the human population to age naturally. By the time the movie reached its mid-point, I finally understood what it was really about. It occurred to me that “IN TIME” might be Niccol’s allegory about capitalism and class distinctions. Just in today’s society, possessing enough currency (money in our time and years in this movie) to live a long life of luxury and privilege; or live day by day, making the effort to stay alive and healthy.

“IN TIME” has a running time of 109 minutes. And I must admit that I believe Niccol did an excellent job of not only creating this future world in which aging stops at 25 and additional years are used as currency. I was also impressed by Niccol’s storytelling in the movie’s first hour or so. But once Will and Sylvia – his hostage-turned girlfriend – became allies and begin robbing her fahter’s Time Banks to distribute years to the ghetto’s population, the movie simply falls apart. It almost seems as Niccol had created this interesting premise and could not find a way to conclude the story. Because of this, the movie seemed to end on the same note as its mid-point – with Will and Sylvia robbing time banks. Even their decision to rob Philippe Weis of his precious Time Capsule near the end of the film came to nothing.

Fortunately for Niccol, “IN TIME” possessed a truly first rate cast. Justin Timberlake proved that the first-rate acting skills he had displayed in “THE SOCIAL NETWORK” had not been a fluke. He did an excellent job in not only carrying the film, but conveying his character’s emotional and moral development. In her wig and heavy makeup, Amanda Seyfried almost looked comical and out of place, as the privileged youngest daughter of wealthy businessman Philippe Weis. Thankfully, her talents proved to be a lot more worthy than her hairstyle and makeup and she gave an excellent performance as the young socialite-turned bank robber and freedom fighter. Niccol must have been a fan of the television series, “MAD MEN”. He chose the right actor to portray Sylvia’s slimy businessman father. And I cannot deny that Vincent Kartheiser was perfect in the role. Cillian Murphy gave a subtle and complex performance as Raymond León, the obsessive timekeeper hunting for Will and Sylvia. Unfortunately for Murphy, his León ended up going no where by the movie’s last half hour or so, thanks to Niccol’s script. The movie also boasted solid performances from Olivia Wilde (Will’s 50 year-old mother Rachel), Matt Bormer (Hamilton), Johnny Galecki (Will’s best friend), and La Monde Byrd (León’s second-in-command Rado). The only supporting performance that turned me off came from Alex Pettyfer. His portrayal of mob boss Fortis struck me as somewhat theatrical and over-the-top.

“IN TIME” possessed an intriguing premise and setting, thanks to Andrew Niccol’s script. And it also boasted of a first-rate cast led by Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Unfortunately, Niccol wasted it all with a story that ended with a whimper and no real conclusion. Pity. Because I believe it had the potential to be a first-rate story.

“LOST” (2004-2010): Favorite Character Centric Episodes – Part I

Below is Part I of a list of my favorite episodes featuring “LOST” characters: 


Kate Austen

1. (2.09) “What Kate Did” – While Kate tends to a wounded Sawyer, flashbacks reveal her original crime, the murder of her father.

2. (1.22) “Born to Run” – Kate seeks a spot on Michael’s raft, threatening to take Sawyer’s place. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal the circumstances behind the death of her childhood love, Tom.

3. “(5.04) “The Little Prince” – Kate and Jack discovers that Aaron’s grandmother, Carole Littleton is in Los Angeles. A flashback reveals the truth behind Kate’s decision to claim him as her son; while the remaining island survivors jump to the day when Aaron was born.

Juliet Burke

1. (3.16) “One of Us” – Juliet arrives at the castaways’ camp, accompanied by Jack, Kate and Sayid. While the survivors question Jack’s motives, a strange illness strikes down Claire. Flashbacks reveal Juliet’s first three years on the island.

2. (3.07) “Not in Portland” – Flashbacks reveal the events behind the Others’ recruitment of Juliet. Meanwhile, she assists Kate and Sawyer in their escape from one of the Others’ camps.

Ana-Lucia Cortez

1. (2.07) “The Other 48 Days” – The first 48 days following the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 are shown from the Tail Section survivors’ point of view, along with Ana-Lucia’s leadership.

2. (2.08) “Collision” – Shannon’s death causes a clash between Ana-Lucia and Sayid, near the Fuselage survivors’ camp. Flashbacks reveal a tragic shooting in Ana-Lucia’s past and her subsequent desire for revenge.

Michael Dawson

1. (4.08) “Meet Kevin Johnson” – Flashbacks reveal Michael’s experiences in New York and the deal he made with the Others to spy upon the crew and passengers of Widmore’s freighter.

2. (2.22) “Three Minutes” – Michael convinces Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sawyer to help him lead an attempt to rescue Walt, following Ana-Lucia and Libby’s deaths. Flashbacks reveal the time he spent as a captive of the Others.

3. (1.14) “Special” – Michael clashes with Locke over his parenting of Walt. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal the breakup between Michael and Walt’s mother, Susan.

Mr. Eko

1. (2.10) “The 23rd Psalms” – While Charlie leads Mr. Eko to a drug smuggler’s plane that contains the latter’s brother, flashbacks reveal the path that led to his life as a warlord in Nigeria.

2. (2.21) “?” – While dealing with the deaths of Ana-Lucia and Libby, Mr. Eko accompanies Locke when they find another Dharma station. Flashbacks reveal his experiences in Australia before boarding Oceanic Flight 815.

Part II will feature the next five characters.