“THE THREE MUSKETEERS” (1993) Review

“THE THREE MUSKETEERS” (1993) Review

Alexandre Dumas’ classic 1844 novel, “The Three Musketeers” must have been one of the most adapted stories in film and television history. I do not know exactly how many adaptations have been filmed. But I have seen at least four of them – including Disney Studios’ version, released in 1993. 

Directed by Stephen Herek, “THE THREE MUSKETEERS” is not a faithful adaptation of Dumas’ novel. David Loughery’s script utilized some elements of the novel, including most of the characters and d’Artagnan’s first meeting with his three friends and fellow musketeers. But in the end, he created his own story. In “THE THREE MUSKETEERS”, a young Gascon named d’Artagnan hopes to follow in the footsteps of his late father and join the King of France’s Musketeers in 1625 France. Unfortunately for d’Artagnan, several factors stand in his way. One, he makes an enemy out of a local aristocrat named Gerard and his brothers, who believe he has defiled the honor of their sister, and is pursued by them all the way to Paris. Two, upon his arrival in Paris, he discovers that the Musketeers have been disbanded by King Louis XIII’s chief minister, the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu. And three, his encounters with Musketeers Athos, Aramis and Porthos results in him accepting a duel from each man.

Fortunately, d’Artagnan’s hostility toward the trio is short-lived and he ends up helping them battle Richelieu’s guards, who arrive to arrest Athos, Aramis and Porthos. But after they leave him, d’Artagnan is arrested by more guards and Richelieu’s lackey, Captain Rochefort. While in prison, he meets the Cardinal and overhears a conversation between the latter and spy Milady de Winter. She is ordered to deliver a signed treaty to France’s primary enemy, the Duke of Buckingham of England. Cardinal Richelieu plans to undermine the King’s authority, before assassinating him, taking the throne and Queen Anne as consort. When Athos, Aramis and Porthos rescue d’Artagnan from execution, the four men set out to expose Richelieu as a traitor of France and save King Louis XIII from death.

Fans of Dumas’ novel will probably be unhappy with this adaptation, considering that it failed to be a faithful one. I must admit that when I first saw “THE THREE MUSKETEERS”, I was surprised and a little disappointed myself. And there were a few aspects of the movie that I disliked. The addition of Gerard and his brothers into the story really annoyed me in the end. Mind you, I found the aristocrat’s determination to confront d’Artagnan at the beginning of the movie tolerable. But once d’Artagnan reached Paris, with Gerard still in hot pursuit, the subplot became an annoying running joke that refused to die. And it did not. I like Paul McGann as an actor . . . but not that much.

Even worse, McGann’s Gerard seemed to have more screen time than any of the major female characters. Although I never viewed Queen Anne as a “major character”, I felt otherwise about Milady de Winter and d’Artagnan’s lady love, Constance Bonacieux. I did not mind when Loughery’s script transformed Julie Delpy’s Constance from the Queen’s dressmaker to maid/companion. But I did mind that her role was reduced to a few cameo appearances. The same almost happened to Rebecca De Mornay’s portrayal of Milady de Winter. I personally found the reduction of the latter role rather criminal. Milady has always been one of the best villains in literary history. And nearly every actress who has portrayed her, did justice to the role. I can say the same about De Mornay, who was excellent as Milady. Unfortunately, Loughery’s script gave her very few opportunities to strut her stuff.

Despite the change in Dumas’ story and the reduction in the females’ roles, I cannot deny that “THE THREE MUSKETEERS”proved to be a first-rate and entertaining movie. It had romance – well, a little of it. The best romance in the film proved to be the long simmering one between Athos and Milady, whose marriage had earlier ended in failure. And I found the one between d’Artagnan and Constance rather charming, if brief. The movie featured some great action, including a marvelous chase scene in which the Musketeers are being pursued by Rochefort and the Cardinal’s men; d’Artagnan’s first sword fight, in which he allied himself with the Musketeers; Milady de Winter’s capture at Calais; and especially the final fight sequence in which the Musketeers prevent Richelieu’s plans for the King’s assassination.

Tim Curry made an entertaining, yet splashy Cardinal Richelieu. He came close to being all over the map, yet he still managed to keep his performance controlled. And Michael Wincott’s sinister portrayal of Captain Rochefort was superb. Rebecca De Mornay was superb as Milady de Winter, despite the role being reduced. And her Milady has always struck me as the most complex in all of the adaptations. Julie Delpy and Gabrielle Anwar were charming as Constance and Queen Anne. I wish I could say the same about Hugh O’Connor as King Louis XIII, but I must admit that I was not that impressed. He was eighteen years old at the time and probably a little too young and stiff to be portraying the 24 year-old monarch.

But the highlight of “THE THREE MUSKETEERS” proved to be the four actors who portrayed d’Artagnan and his three friends – Athos, Aramis, and Porthos. They were perfect. Chris O’Donnell captured every aspect of d’Artagnan’s youthful personality – the earnestness, cockiness, and immaturity. Watching the movie made me realize that he has come a long way in the past nineteen years. And he had great chemistry with the three actors who portrayed the Musketeers. Kiefer Sutherland was perfect as the commanding, yet cynical and disillusioned Athos, who regretted ending his marriage to Milady. The producers of this film certainly picked the right man to portray the smooth-talking ladies’ man, Aramis. And whatever one might say about Charlie Sheen, he did a superb job in the role. Oliver Platt was a delight as the brash and extroverted Porthos. Quite frankly, he made a better figure for comic relief than McGann’s Gerard. However, the best thing about the four actors’ performances was that they all perfectly clicked as a screen team. All for one and one for all.

Yes, “THE THREE MUSKETEERS” was not perfect. What movie is? And it is certainly not the best adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel. But I cannot deny that it was entertaining. And I have no regrets in purchasing a DVD copy of this film. If one can keep an open mind over the fact that it was not a close adaptation of the 1844 novel, I think it is possible to find it very enjoyable.

“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 1 (Part 1)

“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS

RATING: [PG-13]
SUMMARY: A Wiccan wedding is invaded by a succubus and a witch, bent on revenge. Sequel to “Obssession”.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind.

DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, Darryl Morris, Leo Wyatt and the Charmed Ones and other characters are related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills and a few other characters are my own creation.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To understand certain parts of this story, please read “A Day in the Life of Paige Matthews”“Obssession” and “Whatever You Desire”

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“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

ACT I – Part 1

A tall, well-dressed man strolled across the terrace that overlooked the blue Mediterranean Sea. He paused beside one of the lounge chairs and kneeled down to speak to a dark-haired woman, sipping a glass of Sangria. “Padronessa,” he murmured to her, “I finally have the news that you require.”

The glass hovered less than an inch from the woman’s lips. “Tell me,” she ordered.

“I have discovered the name of the Streghore who had summoned your sister.”

Disbelief radiated from the woman’s voice. “A Streghore? It was a witch who had summoned Portia?”

The man, who happened to be a low-level daemon named Leonardo, trembled with fear. “Si, Padronessa. A Streghore named Nichola Marcano. I learned this from the seer, Venusia. This Marcano witch had summoned your sister, nearly a month ago. For what reason, I do not know.”

“For sex, of course,” Claudia Della Scalla retorted. “What else? This Streghore was probably desperate for sex and summoned Portia. After they had sex, he vanquished her before she could kill him. Simple.” Her expression hardened. “Only he had vanquished the wrong succubus. Where can I find him?”

Leonardo replied, “San Francisco, California. Only . . .” he hesitated.

Claudia heaved a frustrated sigh. “Only what?”

“After Venusia gave me the name of the Streghore, I discovered a few things about him. For example, he was arrested by the authorities for murder and attempting kidnapping. He is now incarcerated in the local jail.”

The news took the beautiful succubus by surprise. “He is in jail for murder? Hmmm, this witch sounds very promising. It is a shame I will have to kill him.”

Doubt glimmered in Leonardo’s eyes. “Before you do, Padronessa, perhaps you should talk to the witch. Find out what really happened. Something tells me that your sister may have been involved in his crimes.”

Claudia nodded. “Good idea. Meanwhile, have Gia pack my belongings. We are off to San Francisco.”

“We?” Leonardo hesitated. “Shall I inform the other members of the boschetto?”

The succubus took another sip of her Sangria. “No, I will only need you and Giancarlo to get this Streghore for me. Once I am rid of him, perhaps we can remain in San Francisco for a few days. It has always been one of my favorite cities.”

Leonardo rose to his feet, bowed and marched back to the villa. Heaving a satisfied sigh, Claudia returned her attention to her drink and the view, beyond.

* * * *

Cecile Dubois glanced at the grandfather clock standing in one corner of the living room, inside her Garden District house. It read five-eighteen. “Where is he?” she demanded, glancing at her handsome boyfriend. “He’s late.”

“Only by eighteen minutes,” Andre Morell protested. “C’mon, cherie! Be patient. It’s not like we have a plane to catch.”

The third person inside the room grumbled, “Considering that he hasn’t even shown up yet, I’m beginning to think that we should catch a plane.” At fifty-five years old, Vivian Reyes Dubois had maintained her good looks and vitality. She and her daughter shared the same bronze-colored skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes reminiscent of ancient Egyptians and diminutive form. “I wonder if there’s a plane available for San Francisco, in the next hour or two.”

Andre demanded, “Why are you in such a hurry? Once Cole gets here, it should take us at least a second to arrive.”

“Because I plan to do a little shopping.”

Cecile added, “So do I. Olivia told me about a sale going on at Macy’s.”

A sigh left Andre’s mouth. “Shopping? We’re going to San Francisco for a wedding, and all you can think about is shopping? I thought you two had already bought wedding gifts.”

Vivian rolled her eyes in disgust. “You don’t understand women very much, do you boy?”

Before Andre could reply, a tall figure clad in a dark business suit, materialized in the middle of the living room. Cecile sighed with relief. Andre rushed forward to greet the newcomer with a bear hug. “Cole! Glad you could finally make it, man!” he said cheerfully. “We were beginning to get a little worried.”

“We were more than beginning to worry,” Cecile added caustically. “Another twenty minutes and we would have ended up going to the airport.” She walked toward him and pecked his cheek.

Cole graced the Vodoun priestess with a charming smile. “And it’s good to see you too, Ms. Dubois.” He returned her kiss with one of his own. Then he turned to Cecile’s mother. “Mrs. Dubois. It’s good to see you.”

“Nice to see you again, Cole,” Vivian responded. “Now, what took you so long?”

A heavy sigh left Cole’s mouth. “I’m sorry that I’m late, but the Senior Partners’ staff meeting took longer than I had expected. Is everyone ready?” He glanced at the pile of luggage near the fireplace. “Oh, I guess so.”

The others gathered around the half-daemon. “Is this going to take long?” Cecile’s mother asked, uneasily. “I’ve never teleported, before.”

“Don’t worry Mama,” Cecile reassured the older woman. “Like Andre said, it’ll be over within a second.” Sure enough, the four people disappeared from the New Orleans house and reappeared in the middle of the McNeill foyer, a second later.

Vivian released a gust of breath. Then she glanced around and frowned. “Is that it?” she demanded. “What happened to our luggage?” No sooner had she spoken, the Dubois and Andre’s belongings materialized.

The McNeills’ manservant, Davies, appeared in the foyer. “Oh, I see that you’ve all arrived.”

“Afternoon Davies,” Cole greeted. “I finally got them here. You can tell both Mrs. McNeill and the others.”

Nodding, Davies replied, “Yes sir. Mr. Morell, Mrs. Dubois and Miss Dubois, it’s good to see you, again. If you will all follow me, I will take you to the others in the drawing-room. Carmen and Liam will take care of your luggage.”

“Leave my baggage in here, Davies,” Andre said. “I’ll be leaving with Cole.”

Cecile added that she will be leaving with Olivia. “That is after she gets here.”

“Miss Olivia is in the drawing-room with the others,” Davies announced.

Cole frowned. “She’s here?” He glanced at his watch. “This early?”

“Yes sir.” Davies led the quartet toward the drawing-room. “Miss Olivia is here, along with both Mrs. McNeills and Mr. Bruce.”

Vivian murmured to her daughter, “Why is it that every time I’m around that man, I feel as if I’m in the middle of a Merchant-Ivory movie and I’m about to meet Helena Bonham-Carter?”

“You and me both,” Cecile shot back.

The manservant opened the drawing-room’s double doors and ushered the visitors inside. They found both Elise and Gweneth McNeill observing the other two McNeills engage in a heated conversation. “Why are you asking me, Livy?” Bruce McNeill was saying. “Harry’s the one who is planning this party.”

Bruce’s red-haired sister replied, “Because Harry told me to ask you. After all, it’s your bachelor party.”

“Okay. Then the answer is no,” Bruce answered coolly.

“Bruce!”

Davies interrupted the conversation with a slight cough. “Excuse me, but the Dubois, Mr. Morell and Mr. Turner are all here.”

The McNeills’ attention became riveted upon the visitors. Gweneth McNeill let out a cry of delight. “Well, look who’s here! Vi, darling! How are you?” She rushed forward to envelop Cecile’s mother into a bear hug.

Cecile found herself being hugged by Olivia. Soon, everyone – sans Cole and Davies – were exchanging hugs, kisses and handshakes. The younger Mrs. McNeill then turned to Cole and thanked him for giving the visitors from New Orleans a supernatural lift.

“No problem at all,” Cole replied genially. He shot a quick glance at Olivia, who immediately looked away. Much to Cecile’s surprise. “Unfortunately, I was a little late. The meeting at the firm ended a bit later than I had expected.” He turned to face both Olivia and Bruce. “Don’t let me stop you, two. What were you talking about?”

Bruce replied, “My bachelor party. It seems Olivia wants me to add a certain someone to the guest list.”

“That certain someone is Paul,” Olivia retorted, glaring at her older brother.

“And I said . . . no.”

Cecile asked, “You mean that attorney, who happens to be a witch? One of Leo’s charges?”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Oh. Him. He’s going to be at the bachelor party?”

Olivia diverted her glare to Cole “And what exactly, is wrong with . . . him?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s a bore,” Bruce replied. Both Cole and Andre snickered.

Green eyes now focused upon Cecile’s significant other half. “Gee Andre, I didn’t realize that you knew Paul.”

“Uh, I don’t,” Andre said. “I just . . . heard . . .” Cecile surreptiously squeezed his arm. “Never mind.”

Vivian piped up, “Does anyone know what time the department stores close in this town? I need to do some last minute shopping.”

“Macy’s should be open until nine, tonight,” old Mrs. McNeill replied. “Perhaps Davies can drive you over . . .”

Olivia cut in. “I’ll take her. I have some shopping to do, myself.”

“And I’m going with you,” Cecile added.

“Okay.” Olivia paused and glanced at Bruce. “What about Paul?”

Bruce sighed. “What about him?”

Impatience radiated from Olivia’s eyes. “The bachelor’s party. Is it okay for Harry to invite him?”

Rolling his eyes, the oldest McNeill sibling coolly replied, “Let me think about it.”

“Think about it fast, huh Bruce? The bachelor party is in two days.” Olivia nodded at both Cecile and Vivian. “Ready ladies?” She started toward the doorway. Daughter and mother followed. As the former glanced behind her, she noticed the pained expression on Cole’s face. Interesting.

* * * *

Piper picked up a stainless steel saucepan and held it up in front of her husband’s eyes. “What about this?” she asked. “Would this do?”

The oldest Charmed One and her whitelighter husband stood in the middle of the Appliance Department, inside Macy’s department store. Leo shook his head in dismay. “A saucepan? Piper, we’re shopping for a wedding gift, not a housewarming party!”

“What’s wrong with a saucepan?” Piper protested. “Maybe Bruce and Barbara will like it. He’s a chef, after all.”

An exasperated sigh left Leo’s mouth. “Don’t you think we should get them something with a little more class? Like silver, for instance.”

“Too expensive,” Piper curtly replied.

Leo shot back, “Piper, you own a nightclub that’s . . .”

“. . . that has been losing a little business, ever since Wyatt was born.”

Undaunted, Leo continued, “But we still have enough money. And I’ve been earning a few bucks with some carpentry jobs on the side.”

“Leo . . .”

“C’mon Piper. I don’t want to give Bruce and Barbara a . . . saucepan.” Leo paused, as he squirmed with discomfort. “I mean he’s a friend and one of my former charges.”

Rolling her eyes, Piper replied caustically, “Then why did we receive our wedding invitations at least a week after Paige had received hers? Can you explain that?”

“What is there to explain?” Leo protested. “Our invitations probably got lost in the mail.”

Again, Piper rolled her eyes. “If that’s what you want to believe, Leo, go ahead. It seems obvious to me that Bruce and Barbara only wanted to invite Paige. So, I see no reason why I should spend my money on something better than a saucepan.”

“Look, maybe you’re right. Maybe Bruce didn’t want us at the wedding. Can you blame him?”

Piper blinked. Had she heard right? “Excuse me?”

“Well, we didn’t invite him, Olivia or Harry to our wedding. And aside from you and your sisters, they’re the only friends I have here in San Francisco. It even took them a while to forgive me for not inviting them.”

With a scoff, Piper replied, “Well, at least you now believe me that we were excluded from the guest list.”

“Piper! Please!” Leo pleaded. “Let’s just buy something better than a saucepan. Okay?”

Piper opened her mouth for a retort, when three women appeared. She recognized Olivia McNeill and the latter’s friend from New Orleans, whom she remembered from last December. The third woman seemed to be an older version of Olivia’s friend. “Leo!” Olivia greeted cheerfully. “And Piper. Fancy meeting you two, here. Shopping for wedding gifts?”

“Uh,” Leo began, hesitating, “yeah. We, uh . . . didn’t have much time for shopping. Until today.”

Olivia’s smile widened. Piper began to wonder if she was mocking them. “Well, that’s nice. By the way, I’m sure that both of you remember Cecile Dubois. She’s here for the wedding.” Both Piper and Leo nodded at the Vodoun priestess, who returned their nods. “And this,” Olivia continued, “is Vivian Dubois, Cecile’s mom. She’s also a close friend of my mother’s.”

Piper smiled politely at the older woman. “Nice to meet you. Are you a Voodoo . . .” She saw Leo grimace from the corner of her eye. “I mean, a Vodoun priestess also, Mrs. Dubois?”

“Yes, I am,” the older woman replied. “Both Cecile and I hold the title of Mami.”

What the hell “Mami?”

Cecile spoke up. “That’s the title for all women who are priestesses.”

Leo asked, “Do you have a power like Cecile?”

Mrs. Dubois frowned. “Sorry?”

Again, Cecile explained, “He wants to know if you have a psychic ability, Mama. Like my telepathy and visions.”

“Oh.” Mrs. Dubois nodded. “I suppose I do. I’m a metamorph. What you would call a shapeshifter.”

Olivia added, “Like Bruce and Dad, only Mrs. Dubois can morph into anything – other people, animals, plants and any other object.”

“Like Cole,” Piper added. “Or a chameleon demon.” Everyone stared at her. “My sisters and I had an encounter with one, nearly two years ago.”

The older woman wore a confused expression. “I share a power with a demon? There’s a spirit out there that changes form?”

Now it was Piper and Leo’s turn to look confused. “Huh?” the Charmed One asked. “What do you mean by spirit?”

A salesgirl appeared. “Excuse me, miss.” All talk of the supernatural and magic ceased between the five people. The salesgirl continued, “Do you need any help with that saucepan?”

“Huh?” Piper glanced at the object in her hand. She also noticed the others staring at it, as well. Especially Olivia. “Oh, um do you know where I can find some candlesticks?” she asked lamely. “Preferably silver ones?”

END OF ACT I – Part 1

“Being Pure to Ian Fleming’s James Bond”

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“BEING PURE TO IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND”

Lately, there has been a great deal of talk about EON Productions being pure to the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming. Demands that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli adhere closely to the novels have increased on many Bond forums. And I cannot help but wonder what has brought about the increasing number of demands.

Certain Bond fans have demanded the following: 

*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether.

*Bond should smoke on screen.

*M should be a man.

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels.

There are probably more demands, but the above are the ones I tend to encounter on the forums. I have also read demands that the Bond movies should either stick to the fantasy-adventure elements first introduced in “GOLDFINGER”or should stick to being tight spy thrillers like “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. In regard to the style of the Bond stories, I personally prefer tight spy thrillers like “CASINO ROYALE”“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”and “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”. However, if a Bond movie with a fantasy-adventure style of storytelling is well written, I can be very tolerant of it. In fact, there are one or two of them that are favorites of mine – “THUNDERBALL”“THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” and “GOLDENEYE”.

Now, in regard to the demands I had listed earlier, here are my responses to them:

*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether – Why? Why should the Bond franchise stay mired in the political incorrectness of the past? I have always had the impression that EON Productions made sure that the Bond films kept up with the times. I have no problem with James Bond remaining sexist. That is the man’s character. But I would have a problem if the movies maintained some old-fashioned view on women, non-whites or non-British characters. In 1962’s “DR. NO”, there is a scene on Crab Key in which Bond ordered Quarrel to pick up his shoes. Every time I see that scene, I wince. Even for 1962 that seemed a bit too much, especially since the Civil Rights movement was going on at the time. Hell, in the same year, “THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE” featured a black psychiatrist working with U.S. Army intelligence. Many Bond fans have a problem with a Bond leading lady being a secret agent or someone capable of being an action character. I find this idea laughable. Are these people threatened by the idea of a woman being capable of shooting a gun or martial arts? Do they feel that such a character in a Bond movie would threatened their sense of well-being or their view of Bond as invincible and one-of-a-kind? I do not demand that all Bond women be spies or some kind of action figure. But I do not see the harm that they mix it up every now and then. In the end, I would find the idea of non-British and non-white characters being portrayed as inferior characters or the idea of Bond female leading ladies being nothing more than eye candy and bed warmers for Bond in all of the movies, repellent and a good excuse to avoid a Bond movie in the future.  In the end, these sexist moviegoers got their wish in the recent “SKYFALL”, when competent female MI-6 agent named Eve became secretary Miss Moneypenny at the end of the movie . . . on the grounds that she could not handle being a field agent.  This act pissed me off so much that I almost felt inclined to throw a shoe at the movie screen in anger.

*Bond should smoke on screen – Again, why? Why does Bond have to smoke on screen? What is the big deal? Personally, I could not care less. Connery smoked, but not that often and I barely noticed. I can say the same about Lazenby. As far as I know, Moore only smoked cigars in his first two movies. Dalton smoked in one scene of his first Bond movie. Did Brosnan smoked? If so, I do not remember . . . and I do not care. And I do not recall seeing Craig’s Bond smoking. In other words, the idea of Bond as a smoker can go either way with me. I simply feel that it is a matter that is not a big deal.

*M should be a man – The United Kingdom has had a female monarch for the past sixty-one years. For a period of ten or eleven years, it had a female Prime Minister. And MI-6 – until recently – was led by a woman. Why in the hell should gender matter in regard to M’s role? Are those who are demanding that M return to being a man are telling us that only a man can be an authority figure? This is the 21st century! That idea is ridiculous! Hell, it was ridiculous when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England back in the 16th century as one of the country’s greatest monarchs. I have also encountered complaints about M (Dench) castigating Bond whenever he screwed up. They act as if she did not have the right to lecture him. What nonsense! Dench is not the first M to castigate Bond. Bernard Lee’s “M” did it in “GOLDFINGER” after Bond had screwed up his assignment in Miami. He was bitchy with Bond in “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”, following the conclusion of the latter’s revenge search for Blofield. And Lee did it again in “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” when Roger Moore’s Bond and Lieutenant Hip lost that solar power device – “Solex agitator”. Robert Brown’s M castigated Timothy Dalton’s Bond in their two movies together. So why have certain fans decided to complain about Dench’s M doing the same during her tenure in the Bond franchise? Was it because they could not deal with Bond being castigated by a female authority figure? And why on earth is it necessary for M to be a man?  Unfortunately, EON Productions heeded the fans and replaced Judi Dench’s M – in the most gruesome and politically incorrect way possible – with a male M now portrayed by Ralph Fiennes.  The Bond franchise has taken another step backward.

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels – What in the hell? Why on earth is it necessary for Felix Leiter to be a blond, white Texan? Because he was one in the Fleming novels? So what? In the 44-year history of the Bond franchise, has the movie version of Felix Leiter EVER been a blond, white Texan? I certainly do not recall one. John Terry, who portrayed Leiter in “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”, was born and raised in Florida, if that would help. But he certainly was not a blond. I do not even know if Rik Van Nutter of “THUNDERBALL” was a blond or simply prematurely gray. Neither Jack Lord, Norman Burton, Cec Linder or David Hedison were tall, lanky blonds from Texas. In fact, none of these actors have ever used a Texas accent in portraying Leiter. But they have all been white. Is that the problem? Are they upset that the latest actor to portray Leiter, Jeffrey Wright, was an American black? Well another black American actor, Bernie Casey, portrayed Leiter in the 1983 unofficial Bond movie, “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN”. I do not recall any outrage over his casting. However, I do believe there should have been one. Although good-looking, Mr. Casey did not strike me as a very good actor. Since Felix Leiter has NEVER been portrayed as a lanky blond white Texan in the Bond film franchise’s 50-year history, I see no reason why EON Productions should consider one now.

As for being a Fleming purist, I can honestly say that I am not one. Quite frankly, aside from a few titles like “From Russia With Love”“Thunderball” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, I am not a real fan of Ian Fleming’s writing. And I do not consider those three novels as the best example of action or noir literature. Although Fleming seemed to have had a talent for characterization and picturesque settings, I do not think that most of his narratives were that hot. In fact, his plots seemed to be the weakest part about his writing. I do not think that a Fleming plot is needed for a Bond movie to be great. As for the battle between the fantasy-adventure elements and the spy thriller elements, EON Productions have switched back and forth between the two styles. In fact, so has Ian Fleming. The switch between the two styles can be viewed as one aspect in which EON Productions has been “pure” to the novels.

And this all brings me back to this demand that EON Productions be pure to the Fleming novels. I am not saying that many of these “purist” fans stop posting complaints about the differences between the novels and the movies. Hell, they have every right to express their opinions. But if they are going to post these complaints for the world to see, then fans such as myself have the right to express why I do not agree with them. Just as these same “purists” have the right to express their disagreement with this article – which I suspect will soon happen.

I have one last question to ask – since when has EON Productions ever been completely “pure” to the novels? Was it in“ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”, the 1969 adaptation of Fleming’s 1963 novel? Well, there are some differences between the novel and the movie. One, the literary Tracy is a blond. The movie Tracy (Diana Rigg) obviously is a brunette. And in the movie, Bond is portrayed by an Australian actor, whose accent popped up every now and then. If EON Productions has never been completely “pure” to the novels – aside from changing back and forth between using fantasy elements and thriller elements – why on earth should it start now?

“THE AVIATOR” (2004) Review

 

“THE AVIATOR” (2004) Review

There have been many films, television episodes and documentaries that either featured or were about aviation pioneer and movie producer Howard Hughes. But Martin Scorsese’s 2004 biopic, “THE AVIATOR”, was the first that featured a large-scale production about his life.

Set twenty years between 1927 and 1947, “THE AVIATOR” centered on Hughes’ life from the late 1920s to 1947 during the time he became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate, while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The movie opened with the Houston-born millionaire living in California and producing his World War I opus, “HELL’S ANGELS”. He hires Noah Dietrich to run his Texas operation, the Hughes Tool Company, while he becomes increasingly obsessed with finishing the movie.

“THE AVIATOR” not only covered Hughes’ production of “HELL’S ANGELS” in the 1920s; it also covered his life during the next fifteen to twenty years. The 1930s featured his romance with actress Katherine Hepburn and his aviation achievements in the 1930s, including his purchase of Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). However, the second half of the movie covers the years 1941-47, which featured his relationships with Ava Gardner and Faith Domergue, his obsession with construction his military flying ship the Hercules (Spruce Goose), his near-fatal crash in the XF-11 reconnaissance plane, his legal and financial problems that led to conflicts with both Pan Am chairman Juan Trippe and Maine Senator Owen Brewster, and most importantly his increasingly inability to deal with his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I have never maintained a strong interest in Howard Hughes before I saw “THE AVIATOR”. One, his politics have always repelled me. And two, most productions tend to portray Hughes from an extreme point-of-view, with the exception of Jason Robards’ portrayal of him in the 1980 movie, “MELVIN AND HOWARD”, and Terry O’Quinn’s more rational portrayal in 1991’s “THE ROCKETEER”“THE AVIATOR” seemed to be another exception to the rule. With Hughes as the main character, director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Josh Logan managed to delve into the millionaire to create a portrait of a admittedly fascinating and complex man. Foreknowledge of Hughes’ obsessive-compulsive disorder allowed Scorcese, Logan and DiCaprio to approach the subject, instead of dismissing it as a sign of the millionaire’s growing insanity. Both Scorsese and Logan seemed willing to explore nearly all aspects of Hughes’ personality – both good and bad – with the exception of one area. I noticed that both director and screenwriter had failed to touch upon the man’s racism. With the exception of one brief scene in which Hughes briefly pondered on any alleged sins of a fictional columnist named Roland Sweet, the movie never really hinted, let alone explored this darker aspect of Hughes’ personality. I have to applaud both Scorsese and Logan for the manner in which they ended the film. “THE AVIATOR” could have easily ended on a triumphant note, following Hughes’ defeat of both Juan Trippe and Senator Owen Brewster. Instead, the movie ended with Hughes’ obsessive-compulsive disorder slipping out of control, hinting the descent that he would experience over the next three decades.

Many recent biopics tend to portray the lives and experiences of its subjects via flashbacks. Why? I do not know. This method is no longer revolutionary or even original. Yet, many filmmakers still utilize flashbacks in biopics as if it is something new. Thankfully, Scorsese and Logan tossed the use of flashbacks in the wind and decided to tell Hughes’ story in a linear narrative. And I say, thank God, because flashbacks are becoming a bore. However, Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson, with the help of Legend Films, did something unique for the film’s look. Since “THE AVIATOR” was set during Hughes’ first twenty years in Hollywood, the pair decided to utilize the Multicolor process (in which a film appeared in shades of red and cyan blue) for the film’s first 50 minutes, set between 1927 and 1935. This color process was available during this period. Hollywood began using Three-strip Technicolor after 1935. And to emulate this, Scorsese, Richardson and Legend Films tried to re-create this look for the scenes set after 1935. And I must say that I really enjoyed what they did. Apparently, so did the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Richardson won a Best Cinematography Oscar for his work.

“THE AVIATOR” earned ten (10) more Academy Award nominations; including including Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Original Screenplay for Logan, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Supporting Actor for Alan Alda, Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett, Best Film Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker, Best Costume Design for Sandy Powell, and Best Art Direction for Robert Guerra, Claude Paré and Luca Tranchino. Along with Richardson, Blanchett, Schoonmaker, Guerra, Paré and Luca all won. I would have been even more happy if Scorsese, DiCaprio and Logan had also won. But we cannot always get what we want. I realize that “THE AVIATOR” is not the most original biopic ever made. But there is so much about the film’s style, content and the acting that I enjoyed that it has become one of my favorite biopics, anyway. I was especially impressed by Schoonmaker’s editing in the sequence featuring Hughes’ crash of the experimental XF-11 in a Beverly Hills neighborhood, Sandy Powell’s beautiful costumes that covered three decades in Hughes’ life and the rich and gorgeous art designs from the team of Guerra, Paré and Tranchino; who did a superb job of re-creating Southern California between 1927 and 1947.

But no matter how beautiful a movie looked, it is nothing without a first-rate script and an excellent cast. I have already commented on Josh Logan’s screenplay. I might as well do the same about the cast of “THE AVIATOR”. The movie featured solid performances from the likes of John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich, Hughes’ right-hand man; Ian Holm as Hughes’ minion Professor Fitz; Matt Ross as another one of Hughes’ right-hand men, Glen “Odie” Odekirk; and Kelli Garner as future RKO starlet Faith Domergue. Danny Huston was stalwart, but not particularly memorable as TWA executive, Jack Frye. Jude Law gave an entertaining, yet slightly over-the-top cameo as Hollywood legend Errol Flynn. Adam Scott also tickled my funny bone, thanks to his amusing performance as Hughes’ publicist Johnny Meyer. And Gwen Stefani gave a surprisingly good performance as another film legend, Jean Harlow.

As I had stated before, Cate Blanchett won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Hollywood icon, Katherine Hepburn. At first, I had feared that Blanchett’s performance would turn out to be nothing more than mimicry of Hepburn’s well-known traits. But Blanchett did a superb job of portraying Hepburn as a full-blooded character and stopped short of portraying the other actress as a cliche. I could also say the same for Kate Beckinsale, who gave a more subtle performance as another Hollywood legend, Ava Gardner. At first, Beckinsale’s portrayal of Gardner’s sexuality threatened to seem like a cliche. But the actress managed to portray Gardner as a human being . . . especially in two scenes that featured the latter’s anger at Hughes’ possessive behavior and her successful attempt at drawing the aviator out of his shell, following Congress’ harassment. Alan Alda was superb as the manipulative Maine senator, Owen Brewster, who harassed and prosecuted Hughes on behalf of Pan Am and Juan Trippe. He truly deserved an Oscar nomination for portraying one of the most subtle villains I have ever seen on film. And Alec Baldwin gave a wonderfully sly and subtle performance as the Pan Am founder and Hughes’ business rival.

But the man of the hour who carried a 169 minutes film on his back turned out to be the movie’s leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio. The actor, who was twenty-nine to thirty years old at the time, did a superb job of re-capturing nearly every aspect of Howard Hughes’ personality. More importantly, his acting skills enabled him to convey Hughes’ age over a period of twenty years – from 22 to 42. What I really admired about DiCaprio was his ability to maintain control of a performance about a man who was gradual losing control, thanks to his medical condition. I suspect that portraying a man with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, over a period of two decades must have been quite a task for DiCaprio. But he stepped up to the batter’s plate and in the end, gave one of the best performances of his career.

For me, it seemed a pity that “THE AVIATOR” had failed to cap the Best Picture prize for 2004. Mind you, it is not one of the most original biographical dramas I have ever seen. Then again, I cannot recall a biographical movie that struck me as unusual. Or it could be that the Academy has associated Martin Scorsese with crime dramas about the Mob. In the end, it does not matter. Even after nearly eight years, “THE AVIATOR”, still continues to dazzle me. Martin Scorsese did a superb job in creating one of the best biographical films I have seen in the past two to three decades.

“ELEGANCE AND DECADENCE – The Age of the Regency”

Below are links to a BBC documentary called “ELEGANCE AND DECADENCE – The Age of the Regency”. The documentary is hosted by historian Dr. Lucy Worsley, author of the 2011 book, “If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the Home”.

“ELEGANCE AND DECADENCE – The Age of the Regency”

Here are the links to the documentary hosted by Dr. Worsley:

Part 1 – “Warts and All – Portrait of a Prince”

Part 2 – “Developing the Regency Brand”

Part 3 – “The Many and the Few – A Divided Decade”

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

Below is a look into (1.08) “I Will Remember You”, a Season One episode from “ANGEL”

 

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

One of the most popular episodes to air on ”ANGEL” is the eighth episode of Season One called (1.08) “I Will Remember You”. This particular episode served as a follow-up to the Season Four ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episode, (4.08) “Pangs” in which Angel, the vampire with a soul, had paid a surreptitious visit to Sunnydale in order to protect his former love, vampire slayer Buffy Summers, from a malignant spirit during the Thanksgiving holidays.

After Buffy had learned of Angel’s visit to Sunnydale, she pays a visit of her own to Angel’s detective office in Los Angeles. There, she confronts him about his surreptitious assistance back in Sunnydale. They are attacked by a Mohra demon. When Angel kills the demon, he is restored to mortality by its powerful blood. After The Oracles – a link to The Powers That Be – confirms that Angel is human again, Angel and Buffy spend a blissful night together. Unfortunately, Doyle receives a vision that the Mohra demon has regenerated itself. Instead of recruiting Buffy, Angel leaves her to kill the demon for good. In the ensuing battle, Angel discovers the consequences of having only human strength. Buffy must come to his rescue and slay the demon herself. Angel returns to The Oracles, who that if he remains human, Buffy will face the minions of darkness alone and die much sooner. They agree to turn back time, so that Angel, accepting the entire cost of the bargain, can kill the Mohra before its blood makes him human. They also inform him that Buffy’s memories of their day together will erase once time is turned back.

I might as well be frank. I really dislike this episode. I almost hate it. Honestly. And although I am not a fan of the Buffy/Angel relationship, the one thing I truly dislike about this episode is the paternalistic manner in which Angel treats Buffy, once he agrees to the Oracles’ bargain. One, I suspect that Angel could not deal having human strength. It still amazes me that many fans have castigated Riley Finn for being unable to deal with Buffy being stronger than him; and yet in this particular episode, Angel seemed to be suffering from the same problem. Then he does something even worse by making that deal with the Powers to resume being a vampire . . . after being told that Buffy would have no memories of their day together. As far as I am concerned, he committed psychic rape via the Oracles and the Powers to Be. Even worse, he only told Buffy about his decision . . . seconds before she lost her memories.

Some fans have used Buffy’s alleged desire for a ”knight in shinning armor” as an excuse for Angel’s behavior. Many of these fans still view Buffy as that 16-18 year-old featured in the series’ first three seasons. And apparently, so does Angel. I really do not see how this desire of Buffy is supposed to condone or excuse Angel’s decision to becoming a vampire again at the expense of Buffy’s memories. Others point out that the Oracles had informed Angel that order to prevent circumstances from repeating exactly, he alone will remember all they have shared. Let me see if I understand this. Angel could not tell Buffy that he had erased her memories of their day together, in case the circumstances of that day repeat themselves. Yet, Angel went ahead and informed Buffy that she would lose her memories seconds before she lost them? If Angel wanted to avoid a repetition of that day repeating, he could have told Buffy what had happened . . . and add that they could not stay together, in case the circumstances of that day would be repeated. But Angel did not bother. In fact, he remained silent. Personally, I found his actions appalling.

To me, Angel was a selfish and controlling bastard who could not handle the lack of vampire strength needed to deal with the supernatural beings he had fought, in the first place. Without that strength, he could not be a hero. One, he was stupid enough to go after the Mohra demon when he lacked the strength to fight it. He could have easily allowed Buffy to do so in the first place. And when he found himself forced to depend upon Buffy’s strength to take down the demon, he turned to the Oracles to get his strength back. And all of this happened before he learned of the details surrounding his return as a vampire. I suspect that deep down, his act of sacrifice was nothing more than bullshit. I have always suspected that Angel was nothing more than a control freak, who got his kicks making decisions for others . . . without their consent. If he had really cared about Buffy, he would have never agreed to the spell in the first place. Or . . . he could have told her what happened after the spell went into effect, just as I had pointed out in a previous paragraph. Or he could have told her what he was considering, before he allowed the Powers to Be remove her memories and turn back time. But he did not, because he simply viewed Buffy as a child who had to be controlled . . . by him. And considering that Buffy ended up dead a year-and-a-half later (with Angel not around), it seemed that Angel had given up being a human for nothing.

”I Will Remember You” strikes me as a good example of why I have never been a fan of the Buffy/Angel romance. It has always seemed like an unequal relationship that was never able to develop into an equal one. This episode also reminded me that many seemed to prefer a fictional romance between an infatuated adolescent female and lovesick older man obsessed with her youth and his need to be controlling. To me, the relationship was nothing but a patriarchal wet dream. And Angel’s actions in both the”BUFFY” episode, ”Pangs” and this episode seemed to confirm this.

“HOT FUZZ” (2007) Review

“HOT FUZZ” (2007) Review

I have never never seen “SHAUN OF THE DEAD”. Nor have I ever seen “SPACED”, the TV series that first made British comics Simon Pegg and Nick Frost well known. And if I must be honest, I never really had any intention of seeing “HOT FUZZ” in the theaters. Until I saw the commercials for the movie on television five years ago. Thank God I had changed my mind. 

“HOT FUZZ” tells the story of New Scotland Yard police constable, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), whose uber-dedication to law and order, spotless arrest record (400% superior to his colleagues), and no-nonsense personality drives his superiors (which include Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan) to promote him to sergeant . . . and reassign him to the supposedly crime-free village of Sanford. Feeling like a fish out of water, Sergeant Angel struggles to adjust to rural crime fighting (like arresting underaged drinkers and a drunken future partner; and searching for a missing pet swan) and the slightly offbeat citizens of Sanford – especially his new partner, the affable Constable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). What starts out as a mind-numbing experience for Angel, becomes intriguing when Sanford is rocked (well, as far as the intrepid police sergeant is concerned) by a series of grisly accidents. Angel eventually uncover the truth behind the so-called accidents. With the help of the eager Butterman (who happens to be an action movie fan) and the seemingly inept Sanford Police, Angel brings the . . . uh, guilty party to justice in a blaze of action-stylle gunplay.

Not only is “HOT FUZZ” one of the funniest movies I have seen in years, the screenwriters (director Edgar Wright and star Pegg) have created an array of eccentric and memorable characters that include Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (who plays Danny’s equally affable chief of police dad, Frank Butterman) and Billie Whitelaw (“THE OMEN” fame) and BAFTA nominee Anne Reid (“THE MOTHER”). Also portraying some of the villagers are a collection of British talent from famous action-adventure sagas – Timothy Dalton (the 4th James Bond), Edward Woodward (“THE EQUALIZER”), Paul Freeman (Belloq in “RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”), David Threlfall (“PATRIOT GAMES”) and Stuart Wilson (“LETHAL WEAPON 3”). Even Pegg has appeared as an IMF computer tech and agent in the last two “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE” movies. And they are all hilarious . . . especially Dalton’s smarmy supermarket owner who reminds me of a stock villain straight out of“THE PERILS OF PAULINE”.

I must admit that I truly enjoyed watching Nick Frost’s Danny get under Angel’s skin. Not only was he extremely funny – and witty, but he was also so charming that it was easy how he managed to break down Angel’s chilly exterior and befriend the London cop. And his penchant for American action films has endeared me to his character more than ever. I suffer from the same penchant.

But the real revelation – at least for me – turned out to be Sergeant Nicholas Angel, portrayed with such humorless zeal by star, Simon Pegg. Straight arrow types usually turn out to be the hero or anti-hero’s long-suffering superior or rival in many action films. And it is usually the screw-up or anti-social characters who turn out to be the main character that end up being transferred away from the action. But in “HOT FUZZ”, Angel’s zealous competence causes him to lose his girlfriend (Cate Blanchett in a cameo), but earn the antipathy of his Scotland Yard colleagues (who are eager to get rid of him). I cannot explain it, but is something about Angel that I found very appealing and funny. I guess I simply found him fascinating. In real life, this guy would have seriously annoyed me. But thanks to great writing and Pegg’s tight performance, I found myself rooting for him. The ironic thing about Nick Angel is that he will eventually discover that his nemesis is just as anal as he. Danny Butterman turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.

Some critics have complained that “HOT FUZZ” seemed to long for a comedy with a running time of 121 minutes. Considering that the movie was a send-up of action movies, which usually ran at two hours, I saw nothing wrong with the movie’s length. To be honest, I was too busy laughing to notice. I have to say that without a doubt, “HOT FUZZ” is one of the funniest movies I have seen since . . . one of Danny Butterman’s favorite movies, “BAD BOYS 2” and “STARSKY AND HUTCH” (both were released in 2003). It has become increasingly difficult to find a comedy that is smart and filled with rich characterization. “HOT FUZZ” can also boast some memorable scenes that I will never forget:

-Sergeant Angel’s New Scotland Yard superiors giving him the news about his reassignment
-Angel’s first night in Sanford (which includes arresting his future partner)
-David Threlfall and Lucy Punch’s hilarious take on “ROMEO AND JULIET”
-Police Constable Doris Thatcher’s witty repartee after dealing with one of Simon Skinner’s employees
-Danny Butterman’s send up on a scene from “POINT BREAK”
-Angel and Skinner’s crazy hand-to-hand fight amidst a model of Sanford.

“HOT FUZZ” managed to reach American theaters at least two weeks before the start of the Hollywood summer season. And already, it has become one of my favorite movies from 2007. It is a hilariously rich and sharp tale about murder, consipiracy and a great friendship. Thank you Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.