“TOTAL RECALL” (2012) Review

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“TOTAL RECALL” (2012) Review

Twenty-two years ago, moviegoers rushed to see a movie called “TOTAL RECALL”, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1966 novella called “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the 1990 movie starred Arnold Schwartzenegger and was a big hit.

Two decades passed before Hollywood tackled the 1964 novella for the second time. Still called “TOTAL RECALL”, this new adaptation was directed by Len Wiseman. It starred Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell in the role of amnesiac Doug Quaid. The movie has not been as well received as the 1990 movie. And it barely went into the black. But surprisingly, at least for me, I discovered that I prefer it over Verhoeven’s version.

“TOTAL RECALL” begins at the end of the 21st century. Earth has been devastated by chemical warfare and only two habitable territories exist – the United Federation of Britain (formerly Great Britain) and the Colony (formerly Australia). The UFB is a haven for humanity’s elite and white-collar employees. The less affluent population reside in the Colony, yet have low paying jobs in the UFB. They have to travel there to work in the elite’s factories via “the Fall”, a gravity elevator, which travels through the Earth. Habitable space is at a minimum in both the UFB and the Colony.

A disenchanted factory worker named Doug Quaid is convinced by a co-worker to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Rekall’s manager, McClane, convinces Quaid to be implanted with memories of a secret agent. But when the latter is tested to avoid having implanted memories conflicting with real memories, McClane discovers that Quaid has real memories of being a spy. McClane and his co-workers are killed by a SWAT team and Quaid instinctively reacts by killing the officers before his escape. When Quaid returns home to his wife Lori, she tries to kill him before revealing that she is not his wife of seven years, but an undercover UFB agent who has been monitoring him for the past six weeks. Quaid manages to escape and with some help and funds, make his way to the UFB to learn about his true identity. Quaid meets old girlfriend Melina upon his arrival and eventually discovers that his name is Carl Hauser, an agent who works for UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen. Quaid had defected to the Resistance movement against Cohaagen’s rule, became Melina’s lover and was later was captured by the UFB and implanted with false memories. Quaid also learns from a recording left by him at his apartment that Cohaagen plans to use the synthetic police force to invade the Colony and kill its inhabitants in order to provide more living space for UFB.

I am sure that many are either surprised, appalled or both by my earlier declaration that I preferred this version of Dick’s novella over Paul Verhoeven. I stand by my word. But that does not mean that I believe Wiseman’s version was perfect. One, the movie lacked Verhoeven’s style and humor. Two, despite some changes in setting, characterization and plot; the movie’s story is a little too close to the 1990 movie for my tastes. I do wish that the screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback had been a little more original. And unlike the memorable fight scene between Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin, I was not that impressed by the one between Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. It seemed a bit . . . confusing. I love Bryan Cranston as an actor. I have been a fan of his since I first saw him in “MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE”. But I was not impressed by his portrayal of main villain Vilos Cohaagen. I found it a little hammy. Now Cranston can be hammy and funny at the same time. But hammy and serious? Uh . . . sorry. It just did not work for me. And I found it disappointing that an actor who won three consecutive Emmys for portraying a school teacher-turned-drug lord resorted to such theatrics in this particular movie.

Despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy “TOTAL RECALL”. And I will tell you why I enjoyed it more than the 1990 movie. Wiseman’s direction may have lacked Verhoeven’s style and humor. Fortunately, he also lacked Verhoeven’s penchant for over-the-top violence . . . the kind that makes me want to close my eyes.  And I . . . am a fan of action films. Unlike the 1990 film, I was not distracted from the story by extreme violence, a trip to a very unimpressive Mars and mutants. Also, I found Farrell’s first fight scene with Kate Beckinsale – who portrayed his fake wife Lori – very impressive. The idea of Sharon Stone fighting muscle man Schwartzenegger was hard to swallow when I first saw Verhoeven’s film. And I still find it difficult.

The political and economical overtones of “TOTAL RECALL” strongly resonated within me. It made sense to me that the great distance between the rich and poor existed with such extremity by the end of the 21st century, considering our current economic state. In a way, the setting of “TOTAL RECALL” reminded me of last year’s “IN TIME”. But this movie benefited from a more solid script than the 2011 movie.

“TOTAL RECALL” also benefited from first-rate performances by the cast. Yes, I had a problem with Bryan Cranston as the main villain, Cohaagen. But I certainly cannot say the same about the rest of the cast. Colin Farrell, in his own way, can be just as effective as Schwartzenegger, as an action hero. But, he can also act rings around the latter. He certainly proved this in his portrayal of Doug Quaid/Carl Hauser. Jessica Biel not only projected a shining idealism in her portrayal of Resistance fighter, Melina; she also proved to be just as effective in action as Farrell. Kate Beckinsale nearly blew my mind as the ruthless UFB agent Lori. She re-created two roles from the 1990 movies – those portrayed by Sharon Stone as the fake wife and Michael Ironside, who portrayed Cohaagen’s chief lieutenant, Ritcher – and put her own delicious and twisted spin on them. Bokeem Woodbine, whom I have not seen in years – portrayed Doug’s “best friend” Harry. I have to say that he gave probably the most subtle performance in the movie. And it is a pity that he was not on the screen longer. The movie also featured brief, yet solid appearances from the likes of John Cho, Bill Nighy and Will Yun Lee.

It is a pity that “TOTAL RECALL” did not fare that well at the box. I guess it was unable to overcome the shadow of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 movie. Which is too bad, because I believe that in its own way, it was just as entertaining . . . and flawed as the earlier version. Well . . . at least I have a future DVD copy of it to look forward and enjoy.

JANE AUSTEN’s Heroine Gallery

janeaustenHEROINES

Below is a look at the fictional heroines created by Jane Austen in the six published novels written by her. So, without further ado . . . 

JANE AUSTEN’S HEROINE GALLERY

Elinor 4 Elinor 3 Elinor 2 Elinor 1

Elinor Dashwood – “Sense and Sensibility” (1811)

Elinor Dashwood is the oldest Dashwood sister who symbolizes a coolness of judgement and strength of understanding. This leads her to be her mother’s frequent counsellor, and sometimes shows more common sense than the rest of her family. Elinor could have easily been regarded as a flawless character, if it were not for her penchant of suppressing her emotions just a little too much. Ironically, none of the actresses I have seen portray Elinor were never able to portray a nineteen year-old woman accurately.

Elinor - Joanna David

1. Joanna David (1971) – She gave an excellent performance and was among the few who did not indulge in histronics. My only complaint was her slight inability to project Elinor’s passionate nature behind the sensible facade.

Elinor - Irene Richards

2. Irene Richards (1981) – I found her portrayal of Elinor to be solid and competent. But like David, she failed to expose Elinor’s passionate nature behind the stoic behavior.

Elinor - Emma Thompson

3. Emma Thompson (1995) – Many have complained that she was too old to portray Elinor. Since the other actresses failed to convincingly portray a nineteen year-old woman, no matter how sensible, I find the complaints against Thompson irrelevant. Thankfully, Thompson did not bother to portray Elinor as a 19 year-old. And she managed to perfectly convey Elinor’s complexities behind the sensible facade.

Elinor - Hattie Morahan

4. Hattie Morahan (2008) – She gave an excellent performance and was able to convey Elinor’s passionate nature without any histronics. My only complaint was her tendency to express Elinor’s surprise with this deer-in-the-headlights look on her face.

Marianne 4 Marianne 3 Marianne 2 Marianne 1

Marianne Dashwood – “Sense and Sensibility” (1811)

This second Dashwood sister is a different kettle of fish from the first. Unlike Elinor, Marianne is an emotional adolescent who worships the idea of romance and excessive sentimentality. She can also be somewhat self-absorbed, yet at the same time, very loyal to her family.

Marianne - Ciaran Madden

1. Ciaran Madden – Either Madden had a bad director or the actress simply lacked the skills to portray the emotional and complex Marianne. Because she gave a very hammy performance.

Marianne - Tracey Childs

2. Tracey Childs – She was quite good as Marianne, but there were times when she portrayed Marianne as a little too sober and sensible – even early in the story.

Marianne - Kate Winslet

3. Kate Winslet (1995) – The actress was in my personal opinion, the best Marianne Dashwood I have ever seen. She conveyed Marianne’s complex and emotional nature with great skill, leading her to deservedly earn an Oscar nomination.

Marianne - Charity Wakefield

4. Charity Wakefield (2008) – She solidly portrayed the emotional Marianne, but there were moments when her performance seemed a bit mechanical.

Elizabeth 4 Elizabeth 3 Elizabeth 2 Elizabeth 1

Elizabeth Bennet – “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)

Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of an English gentleman and member of the landed gentry. She is probably the wittiest and most beloved of Austen’s heroines. Due to her father’s financial circumstances – despite being a landowner – Elizabeth is required to seek a marriage of convenience for economic security, despite her desire to marry for love.

Elizabeth - Greer Garson

1. Greer Garson (1940) – Her performance as Elizabeth Bennet has been greatly maligned in recent years, due to the discovery that she was in her mid-30s when she portrayed the role. Personally, I could not care less about her age. She was still marvelous as Elizabeth, capturing both the character’s wit and flaws perfectly.

Elizabeth - Elizabeth Garvie

2. Elizabeth Garvie (1980) – More than any other actress, Garvie portrayed Elizabeth with a soft-spoken gentility. Yet, she still managed to infuse a good deal of the character’s wit and steel with great skill.

Elizabeth - Jennifer Ehle

3. Jennifer Ehle (1995) – Ehle is probably the most popular actress to portray Elizabeth and I can see why. She was perfect as the witty, yet prejudiced Elizabeth. And she deservedly won a BAFTA award for her performance.

Elizabeth - Keira Knightley

4. Keira Knightley (2005) – The actress is not very popular with the public these days. Which is why many tend to be critical of her take on Elizabeth Bennet. Personally, I found it unique in that hers was the only Elizabeth in which the audience was given more than a glimpse of the effects of the Bennet family’s antics upon her psyche. I was more than impressed with Knightley’s performance and thought she truly deserved her Oscar nomination.

Jane 4 Jane 3 Jane 2 Jane 1

Jane Bennet – “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)

The oldest of the Bennet daughters is more beautiful, but just as sensible as her younger sister, Elizabeth. However, she has a sweet and shy nature and tends to make an effort to see the best in everyone. Her fate of a happily ever after proved to be almost as important as Elizabeth’s.

Jane - Maureen O Sullivan

1. Maureen O’Sullivan (1940) – She was very charming as Jane Bennet. However, her Jane seemed to lack the sense that Austen’s literary character possessed.

Jane - Sabina Franklin

2. Sabina Franklyn (1980) – She gave a solid performance as the sweet-tempered Jane. However, her take on the role made the character a little more livelier than Austen’s original character.

Jane - Susannah Harker

3. Susannah Harker (1995) – I really enjoyed Harker’s take on the Jane Bennet role. She did a great job in balancing Jane’s sweet temper, inclination to find the best in everyone and good sense that Elizabeth ignored many times.

Jane - Rosamund Pike

4. Rosamund Pike (2005) – She gave a pretty good performance as the sweet and charming Jane, but rarely got the chance to act as the sensible older sister, due to director Joe Wright’s screenplay.

Fanny 3 Fanny 2 Fanny 1

Fanny Price – “Mansfield Park” (1814)

Unfortunately, Fanny happens to be my least favorite Jane Austen heroine. While I might find some of her moral compass admirable and resistance to familial pressure to marry someone she did not love, I did not admire her hypocrisy and passive aggressive behavior. It is a pity that she acquired what she wanted in the end – namely her cousin Edmund Bertram as a spouse – without confronting his or her own personality flaws.

Fanny - Sylvestra de Tourzel

1. Sylvestra de Tourzel (1983) – She had some good moments in her performance as Fanny Price. Unfortunately, there were other moments when I found her portrayal stiff and emotionally unconvincing. Thankfully, de Tourzel became a much better actress over the years.

Fanny - Frances O Connor

2. Frances O’Connor (1999) – The actress portrayed Fanny as a literary version of author Jane Austen – witty and literary minded. She skillfully infused a great deal of wit and charm into the character, yet at the same time, managed to maintain Fanny’s innocence and hypocrisy.

Fanny - Billie Piper

3. Billie Piper (2007) – Many Austen fans disliked her portrayal of Fanny. I did not mind her performance at all. She made Fanny a good deal more bearable to me. Piper’s Fanny lacked de Tourzel’s mechanical acting and O’Connor’s portrayal of Fanny as Jane Austen 2.0. More importantly, she did not portray Fanny as a hypocrite, as the other two did.

Emma 4 Emma 3 Emma 2 Emma 1

Emma Woodhouse – “Emma” (1815)

When Jane Austen first created the Emma Woodhouse character, she described the latter as “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like”. And while there might be a good deal to dislike about Emma – her snobbery, selfishness and occasional lack of consideration for others – I cannot deny that she still remains one of the most likeable Austen heroines for me. In fact, she might be my favorite. She is very flawed, yet very approachable.

Emma - Doran Godwin

1. Doran Godwin (1972) – She came off as a bit haughty in the first half of the 1972 miniseries. But halfway into the production, she became warmer and funnier. Godwin also had strong chemistry with her co-stars John Carson and Debbie Bowen.

Emma - Gwyneth Paltrow

2. Gwyneth Paltrow (1996) – Paltrow’s portryal of Emma has to be the funniest I have ever seen. She was fantastic. Paltrow captured all of Emma’s caprices and positive traits with superb comic timing.

Emma - Kate Beckinsale

3. Kate Beckinsale (1996-97) – She did a very good job in capturing Emma’s snobbery and controlling manner. But . . . her Emma never struck me as particularly funny. I think Beckinsale developed good comic timing within a few years after this movie.

Emma - Romola Garai

4. Romola Garai (2009) – Garai was another whose great comic timing was perfect for the role of Emma. My only complaint was her tendency to mug when expressing Emma’s surprise.

Catherine 2 Catherine 1

Catherine Morland – “Northanger Abbey” (1817)

I have something in common with the Catherine Morland character . . . we are both bookworms. However, Catherine is addicted to Gothic novel and has an imagination that nearly got the best of her. But she is also a charmer who proved to be capable of growth.

Catherine - Katharine Schlesinger

1. Katharine Schlesinger (1986) – I cannot deny that I disliked the 1986 version of Austen’s 1817 novel. However, I was impressed by Schlesinger’s spot on portrayal of the innocent and suggestive Katherine.

Catherine - Felicity Jones

2. Felicity Jones (2007) – She did a superb job in not only capturing Catherine’s personality, she also gave the character a touch of humor in her scenes with actor J.J. Feild that I really appreciated.

Anne 3 Anne 2 Anne 1

Anne Elliot – “Persuasion” (1818)

Anne - Ann Firbank

1. Ann Firbank (1971) – Although I had issues with her early 70s beehive and constant use of a pensive expression, I must admit that I rather enjoyed her portrayal of the regretful Anne. And unlike many others, her age – late 30s – did not bother me one bit.

Anne - Amanda Root

2. Amanda Root (1995) – Root’s performance probably created the most nervous Anne Elliot I have ever seen on screen. However, she still gave a superb performance.

Anne - Sally Hawkins

3. Sally Hawkins (2007) – She was excellent as the soft-spoken Anne. More importantly, she did a wonderful job in expressing Anne’s emotions through her eyes.

“Irish Eyes” Blog

The person who maintains the following blog – Irish Eyes  – is a THIEF. He or she assumed that any material posted on the Internet was part of public domain, allowing the handler of the blog to lift material from my blogs and post it on his/her without crediting me for the material. This person is a THIEF and is only capable of lifting material created by other people, instead of creating his/her own. I suggest you keep an eye on this person. If you find any of your material on this blog, I suggest you contact the following e-mail address – rosiswahyudi@yahoo.com.

“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 2 (Part 2)

“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

Act II – Part 2

“Debo . . .” Cole paused, while he listened to his client ramble on. “Yeah, Deb . . . Yes, I realize this must be disturbing for you.” The voice on the other end of the telephone continued. “Uh, yeah. Look, Deborah . . . No! No, I don’t think that will accomplish anything. It’s obvious . . . Yeah, but didn’t you just say that the police believe he had an accomplice?” He sighed, while Deborah Mann ranted and raved about the San Francisco Police and the County Sherriff’s Department. “Look Deborah, suing them is not going to accomplish anything. Just give them a little time and I’m sure they’ll catch Marcano.”

Deborah Mann responded in a wavering voice, “Are you sure, Cole? What if . . . what if that monster decides to come after me?”

“I’m sure that he won’t,” Cole said in his most reassuring voice. “If he wanted to, he would have came after you before he was caught.”

A long sigh filled the telephone’s earpiece. “I guess you’re right. But if the police doesn’t capture that bastard by the following Monday,” Cole’s client said in a voice that suddenly hardened with resolve, “I’m suing their ass!”

“Of course, Deborah! I understand. Look, why don’t you get some rest? Okay?”

A pause followed before she finally answered in a defeated voice, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s just this news . . .”

“I understand,” Cole said gently. Then, “Bye Deborah. I’ll talk to you, later.”

“Good-bye Cole,” Deborah replied. “And thanks.” She hung up.

Cole hung up and heaved a large sigh. For the second time this week, he had to stop a client from making a big mistake. If Deborah Mann had gone ahead with her lawsuit, the circumstances surrounding Nick Marcano’s escape would have made matters . . . difficult. For him, and especially for the McNeill family. According to Deborah, Darryl Morris had informed her that the police believed that Portia Della Scalla may have been responsible for the escape. If demonic forces were behind it, Cole surmised that the succubus’ sister might be in town. And the idea of facing another succubus filled him with dread. He still harbored vague memories of Portia taking away his control through seductive promises, kisses, a pair of hypnotic sherry-brown eyes and a few other magical means. After being manipulated by Andras, Raynor, the Seer, the Source’s essence, the Siren, Barbas and Portia, Cole hated the idea of facing someone else capable of assuming control over him on that level.

He needed a drink. Badly. Only Cole desired a cup of coffee. Just as he was about to buzz his assistant to fetch him a cup, her voice blasted from the intercom box. “Mr. Turner,” she announced, “Ms. Altman would like to see you.”

“Show her in,” Cole replied. “And Eleanor, could you get me a cup of coffee? Milk and two sugars.”

Seconds later, a tall, dark-haired woman with gray eyes and dressed in an expensive tailored suit, entered Cole’s office. “Good afternoon, Mr. Turner,” she greeted gaily. Veronica Altman happened to be one of Cole’s fellow attorneys, who worked also worked in Jackman, Carter and Kline’s Corporate Division.

“Veronica,” Cole politely replied. “If I didn’t know any better, I would say that you wanted something from me.”

The other attorney’s smile stretched into a wide grin. “As a matter of fact, I do. Remember that contract you had written for the Markham case, last December? You know, the one that got you the bonus from the Senior Partners?”

“Yes, I remember.” Cole’s eyes bored into Veronica’s. “Why?”

A sigh left Veronica’s mouth. “Because, I would like to see it. Borrow it. Use it as a template for this contract I have in mind.”

Shaking his head, Cole could not help but smile. “In other words, you want to borrow my work to impress your client.”

“You don’t mind, do you?” Veronica gave him one of her patent innocent looks that have made her such a success in the courtroom.

Cole gave in. He really did not mind if Veronica wanted to copy his work. Besides, she happened to be one of the few people at Jackman, Carter and Kline with whom he was friendly. She was a pleasant, outgoing woman, who did not allow her own ambition to get in the way of friendship.

When Eleanor entered the office, carrying a cup of coffee, he asked her to fetch the Markham files. Once the assistant left, Veronica smiled at him. “Thanks Turner. You’re a true friend. If you ever need a favor, just ask.”

Favor. Cole then remembered his conversation with Andre, last night. The one about him finding a date for Bruce’s wedding. Hmmmm. “Listen Veronica, there is a favor you can do for me.”

Gray eyes narrowed. “Like what?”

“How would you like to go to a wedding?”

Veronica paused. Confusion whirled in her eyes. “You want to take me . . . to a wedding? Me?” Again, she regarded him with suspicion. “Why? Is this some kind of date?”

“Well, no . . . uh, I mean . . .” Cole found himself in the undesirable position of being tongue-tied. He squirmed under Veronica’s direct gaze. “What I meant was . . .” Hell, he might as well be truthful! “Yeah. Yeah, this is a date.”

Veronica continued to stare at him. “Uh-huh. Well, I would accept . . . if I knew the reason behind this offer.”

Now Cole did not know whether to feel insulted or embarrassed that he might have just been found out. So, he assumed an outraged expression and shot back, “What the hell? It’s just an offer for a date! What the hell did you mean by that?”

“Cole?” Veronica’s tone assumed one of a patient mother speaking to her child. “Now, you know that in the entire year you have been here . . . aside from those few months you were gone . . . not once have you ever expressed interest in me. Or I in you.” She gave him another close scrutiny. “Why haven’t you asked your friend, Olivia?”

“It’s her brother’s wedding.”

Veronica shrugged. “So?”

Cole paused. “She’s going to the wedding with someone else.”

“Oh.” Gray eyes widened with realization. “Oh!” Veronica declared. “Now, I understand. I heard that she was seen at Top-of-the-Marks with that new ADA from the East Coast. What’s his name?”

Through clenched teeth, Cole murmured, “Paul Margolin.”

“Oh yes,” Veronica continued, nodding. “I’ve seen him at the Hall of Justice. Delicious.”

Maintaining his temper, Cole snapped back, “Look, are you interested in going to the wedding? Or do you want me to arrange a date between you and Margolin?”

“I’d bet you’d like that,” Veronica murmured.

Cole glared at his colleague. “Veronica?”

“Is this an attempt to get Olivia, jealous?” she asked shrewdly.

Realizing that he had lost of the game of deception, Cole sighed. Women. Or else he must be losing his touch. “Yes,” he replied in a defeated voice. “If you must know, I’m . . .” Another sigh left his mouth. “Shit! I’m trying to get Olivia jealous. Yes.”

“Thought so,” Veronica shot back. “I could tell you two were interested in each other, as far back as February. Too bad you didn’t realize this, back then.”

“Veronica . . .” Cole’s voice radiated strained patience.

She quickly spoke up. “I would love to go.”

“Great!”

Veronica added, “By the way, if I meet someone I like at the wedding, consider yourself abandoned. Okay Turner?”

“Deal,” Cole shot back.

Eleanor entered the office, carrying two thick files and a coffee mug. “Here you go, Ms. Altman,” she said to Cole’s colleague. Then she placed the mug on Cole’s desk. “And your coffee, Mr. Turner.”

“Thank you, Eleanor.” Veronica flashed a smile at the legal assistant. Then she said to Cole, “See you on . . .”

“Saturday,” Cole finished. “I’ll pick you up around eleven.”

“I’ll be ready.” Veronica turned on her heels and left the office. Eleanor followed closely.

The moment the door closed behind the two women, Cole leaned back against his leather chair and sighed. Satisfied that he had completed at least one task.

——-

Inside Carla Bianchi’s North Beach home, Olivia consoled the older woman after delivering the news of Nick Marcano’s escape. The Strega, who happened to be an old friend of Gweneth McNeill and Olivia’s godmother, stared ahead, her face etched in deep anxiety. On the other side of her sat Michael Bianchi, Aunt Carla’s oldest son.

“I can’t believe it!” Carla declared in shocked tones. “Nick has escaped? And with the help of a daemon?”

Olivia nodded. “I’m afraid so, Aunt Carla. I wish that Darryl and I had come by earlier, but we had an investigation to do. Plus, we had to warn Bruce and Barbara.”

“You think he’s going to go after them, again?” Michael Bianchi demanded. He was a good-looking, stocky man around thirty-seven years-old. Just three years older than Bruce. Like Carla, he possessed penetrating black eyes, and thick dark brown hair. Only he merely displayed hints of gray near the sideburns.

Darryl, who had accompanied Olivia to the older woman’s home, said, “It’s a possibility. Considering his feelings for Barbara.”

“I still can’t believe that Nick had killed some newspaper columnist, plotted to kill Bruce and summoned a succubus!” Michael’s voice tinged with dislike. “I mean, I knew the guy had a few screws loose, but good grief! Sometimes I wish that Aunt Nina had never married that jerk.” Olivia knew to whom Michael referred. Nick’s late father – Joseph Marcano.

Carla’s eyes pinpointed her oldest son’s with a hard stare. “Michael! You’re talking about your cousin!”

“Look Mom, I know! But . . .”

With quiet intensity, Carla continued, “Your cousin may have committed a few mistakes, but he’s a human being. A living being. And like all living beings, he is capable of following the wrong path.” Michael’s face turned red, as she paused and took a deep breath. “The question is . . . where is he now?”

Olivia shrugged. “I’m sorry, Aunt Carla, but we don’t know. We believe that it was a daemon who had sprung him, but there was no way Nick could have summoned one without the proper tools. So there’s the possibility. . .” She hesitated.

Both Carla and her son stared at Olivia. “Possibility of what?” Michael demanded.

Sighing, Olivia continued, “There’s the possibility that another succubus may be responsible for Nick’s escape.” She paused. “It seems Portia Della Scalla has a sis . . .”

“Claudia.” Carla’s comment took both Olivia and Darryl by surprise.

Darryl demanded, “You’ve heard of this demon?”

Nodding Carla continued, “Yes. I’ve heard of the Della Scalla sisters.” She turned to Olivia. “I’m surprised that you didn’t ask me about the other sister – Portia. When Nick was first arrested.”

“Considering that the two succubus come from another part of Italy, Aunt Carla, I’m surprised that you even knew about them,” Olivia said.

With a shrug, Carla said, “My mother came from Venice. That’s where she and Papa met. During the war. World War II. She used to tell me a lot of stories about the Della Scalla sisters. Especially since one of them – Portia – tried to seduce my grandfather, once.”

Looking confused, Darryl said, “I don’t understand. Why do you keep calling them by human names? Especially since they’re supposed to be demons?”

“Because they’re descended from a human,” Michael replied. “Their grandfather.”

Carla added, “He was a member of a noble Venetian family, who was seduced by their grandmother. Their child, anadamitici . . . or a wizard, took his father’s name of Della Scalla. This wizard was the sisters’ father. Portia, the younger sister, is the one whom Bruce had killed. She was smart, like her sister. Only . . . a bit rash. And she didn’t stick with the coven.”

A frowning Olivia asked, “What coven?”

“La Congrega de Della Scalla,” Carla announced.

“The coven is named after them?”

Carla nodded. “Claudia, the oldest, founded it over 150 years ago. It mainly consists of other incubus, succubus and some low-level daemons.”

Olivia dreaded asking the next question. “How big is this coven?”

A long stretch of silence followed, increasing Olivia’s feeling of dread. Finally, Carla answered. “Very big. If she is behind Nick’s escape . . . I only hope and pray that she will not come after Bruce or Barbara.” In other words, the McNeill family had a major problem on their hands.

With forced brightness, Carla asked both Olivia and Darryl if they would each like a slice of tiramisu. Darryl immediately said yes. Olivia considered the added calories . . . and Cecile’s reaction to a missed opportunity for a sample of the dessert. She sighed. “Sure. Why not? Could you also cut an extra slice for Cecile?”

————–

Around ten, the following morning, Paige descended the staircase leading to P3, the nightclub owned by Piper. There, she found her older sister supervising workers for tonight’s party. “Hey! What’s up, Sis?” she greeted. “Need any help?”

Piper frowned at the younger witch. “I already have Cecile helping me. She and her boyfriend are due here, any minute. Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Nah, Barbara closed the shop for the day,” Paige explained. “Wedding rehearsals.”

“Well, aren’t you supposed to be there?” Piper added. “After all, you’re one of the bridesmaids.”

Paige replied, “Rehearsals aren’t until two, this afternoon. Olivia is a little busy this morning. You know, the escape.”

Piper ordered one of her employees to inflate more balloons. “Oh. You mean that . . .” She glanced around uneasily, to ensure that no one was listening. “. . . that witch who’s in love with Barbara?”

“Yeah, Nick. Everyone’s in an uproar over it. Remember how Jason reacted, last night?”

Recalling the BAY-MIRROR owner’s rant over the Nick Marcano escape, last night, Piper shuddered. “Remind me to wait a while before I consider inviting him to dinner again. At least until he cools down.”

“I thought you liked Jason,” Paige said, giving her a light punch on the shoulder.

Piper sighed. “I do. And I think he’s good for Phoebe. Especially after Cole.” From the corner of her eye, she noticed the slight frown on Paige’s face. “But I just wish . . . God! I wish he could be a little more . . . subtle. And not so intimidating. Anyway, why are the McNeills in an uproar over . . . whats-his-name, Nick? The demon he had summoned is dead.”

“She had a sister. Remember what Cole’s friend, Riggerio, told us?”

“And they’re not going to cancel the wedding?” Piper asked in a dubious voice.

Shrugging, Paige replied, “Barbara insists upon going ahead with the wedding. You should be happy. Olivia is paying you a nice amount for holding the bridal shower, here at P3.” She paused. “Unless she has cancelled . . .”

“No, she hasn’t,” Piper said, interrupting. “Thank goodness. I can use the money.”

Paige walked behind the bar. Piper watched, as she reached for a glass and filled it with tap water. “By the way, who have you hired for tonight’s . . . entertainment?”

Piper’s eyes narrowed, as she examined her sister. Despite the innocent expression on the latter’s face, Piper could spot a hint of anticipation in those dark eyes. “If you must know, we’ll be having a male stripper.”

A broad smile creased Paige’s lips.

“Olivia gave me a name,” Piper continued. “Some guy named Lee Carver, who works at some place called the Strobe Light Club.” From the corner of her eye, she saw one of her employees walk toward a stack of boxes. “I’m supposed to be calling him, tonight.”

A noise heralded the arrival of two newcomers – Cecile Dubois, and a tall, black man with rich brown skin and a handsome regal face that had both Piper and Paige staring, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

“Hey guys!” Cecile greeted with a smile. “Where ya at?” She indicated her handsome companion with a tug at the arm. “I’d like y’all to meet a friend of mine. Andre Morrell.”

Piper opened her mouth to speak, until she realized that not a sound had come out. She gave her head a small shake. “Hi,” she said, clasping Andre’s outstretched hand, “I’m Piper Halliwell.”

He smiled. Radiantly. “Andre Morrell.” His voice was deep. And rich. He turned to face Paige. “And you are?”

“Huh?” Piper jabbed her sister’s side with her elbow. “Oh.” Paige blinked. “Paige. Paige Matthews.”

Confusion lit up Andre’s brown eyes. Cecile added, “Paige is Piper and Phoebe’s half sister.”

“Oh.” Andre nodded. “So, what do you want me to do?”

Certain thoughts entered Piper’s mind, until she remembered that she was a married woman. “Oh . . . uh, could you and Cecile help decorate the place with balloons and streamers?”

“Sure thing,” Cecile said. She grabbed Andre by the arm. “Let’s go, cherie.”

The two Charmed Ones watched the New Orleans couple walk over to the other employees. Their eyes remained fixed on the tall man, whose body radiated a lean, muscular frame. “My God!” Paige exclaimed. “Too bad he’s not the male stripper.”

“Paige!” Piper tried to sound outraged, but failed. She felt the same. Then she remembered. “Isn’t he an old friend of Cole’s?”

Paige nodded. “Yeah. They’ve known each other for nearly ten years. Apparently, Andre used to be a bokor. You know, like that guy who had possessed Darryl, last December.”

“Figures,” Piper muttered. “Great body and looks like a god. Like our former brother-in-law. Must be a requisite for the evil male. Thank goodness Leo is simply good-looking.” She glanced around the club and frowned.

“What is it?” Paige asked.

Piper replied, “I don’t know. What happened to that guy who was here?”

“What guy?”

Once more, Piper looked around. Maybe she had imagined things. “Nothing. It’s nothing.” And she and Paige returned to work.

END OF ACT II – Part 2

“A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” (1958) Review

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“A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” (1958) Review

There have been many versions about the April 1912 sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Many versions. And I have personally seen at least five of them. One of them happened to be the 1958 movie, “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER”.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” is based upon historian Walter Lord’s 1955 book about the historical sinking. Since the 1958 movie was based upon a historical book instead of a novel, Baker, producer William MacQuitty and screenwriter Eric Ambler approached the film’s plot in a semi-documentary style. Even the movie’s leading character turned out to be the Titanic’s Second Officer, Charles Lightoller, who was portrayed by actor Kenneth More. The movie also featured other historical figures such as J. Bruce Ismay, Thomas Andrews, Captain Edward J. Smith and Margaret “Molly” Brown. Due to this semi-documentary approach,“A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” is regarded as the best movie about the Titanic.

I cannot deny that there is a great deal to admire about “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER”. Not only do I feel it is an excellent movie, I could see that Roy Ward Baker did his best to re-create that last night aboard the Titanic. He and Ambler gave the audience glimpses into the lives of the ship’s crew and passengers. The movie also went into great detail of their efforts to remain alive following the ship’s brief collision with an iceberg. Some of my favorite scenes include the Irish steerage passengers’ efforts to reach the life boats on the upper decks, the wireless operators’ (David McCullum and Kenneth Griffin) efforts to summon other ships to rescue the passengers and crew, and passenger Molly Brown (Tucker McGuire)’s conflict with the sole crewman in her lifeboat. But my favorite scene has to be that moment when the Titanic’s stern rose high before the ship sank into the Atlantic Ocean.

For a film shot in black and white during the late 1950s, I must admit that “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” looked very handsome. Legendary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth’s phtography struck me as sharp and very elegant. I do not know if Yvonne Caffin’s costume designs for the movie’s 1912 setting was completely accurate, but they certainly did add to the movie’s late Edwardian atmosphere. Especially those costumes for the first-class passengers. I do have to give kudos to the special effects team led by Bill Warrington. He and his team did a superb job in re-creating the ocean liner’s historic sinking. I am even more impressed that their work still manages to hold up after fifty-four years.

The cast of “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” was led by Kenneth More, who portrayed Second Officer Lightoller with his usual energetic charm. More was ably supported by the likes of Laurence Naismith as Captain Smith, Michael Goodliffe’s poignant portrayal of ship designer Thomas Andrews, Frank Lawton as J. Bruce Ismay, George Rose as the inebriated survivor Charles Joughin and Tucker McGuire’s colorful portrayal of American socialite Molly Brown. The movie also featured future “AVENGERS” and Bond veteran Honor Blackman; David McCullum of “THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.” and “N.C.I.S.” fame; and Bernard Fox, who will also appear in James Cameron’s 1997 movie about the Titanic sinking. But despite the numerous good performances, I honestly have to say that I found nothing exceptional about any of them.

Like many others, I used to believe that “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” was the best movie about the Titanic. After this latest viewing, I do not believe I can maintain that opinion any longer. In fact, I am beginning to suspect there may not be any “ultimate” Titanic film. And “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” is not perfect, as far as I am concerned. Many have applauded the filmmakers for eschewing any fictional melodrama or using the sinking as a backdrop for a fictional story. Personally, I could not care less if a Titanic movie is simply a fictional melodrama or a semi-documentary film. All I require is a first-rate movie that will maintain my interest.

“A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” began with a montage of newsreel clips featuring the Titanic’s christening in Belfast. One, the ship was never christened. And two, I could see that the newsreel footage used in the movie dated from the 1930s. The movie tried its best to allow the audience to identify with some of its characters. But due to “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” being a docudrama, I feel that it failed to give an in-depth study of its more prominent characters . . . making it difficult for me to identify with any of them.

I realize that “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” was a British production, but I was amazed at the low number of American passengers featured in the cast. The 1953 film, “TITANIC” suffered from a similar malady – the only British characters I could recall were members of the crew. I do remember at least three Americans in the 1958 movie – Molly Brown; Benjamin Guggenheim, portrayed by Harold Goldblatt and a third passenger, whose name escapes me. I was satisfied with McGuire’s performance as Molly Brown and the nameless actor who portrayed the third American passenger. But Goldblatt portrayed Guggenheim as a member of the British upper class in both attitude and accent. It almost seemed as if the filmmakers wanted Guggenheim to be viewed as a British gentleman, instead of an American one.

Walter Lord’s book made it clear that one of the last songs performed by Titanic’s band was NOT “Nearer My God to Thee”. Yet, the filmmakers chose to perpetrate this myth in the movie by having the remaining passengers and crew sing the song en masse before the ship began to sink in earnest. This pious attitude continued in a scene aboard the R.M.S. Carpathia, in which the survivors listened to a religious sermon. Instead of projecting an air of melancholy or despair, the survivors, thanks to Ward Baker, seemed to project an air of the British stiff upper lip cliche. I feel that a melancholic air among the survivors would have made the scene seem more human.

I cannot deny that “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER” is a first-rate look at the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. More importantly, the movie and especially the visual effects still hold up very well after half-a-century. But the movie possesses flaws that make it difficult for me to regard it as the best Titanic movie ever made. Perhaps . . . there is no best Titanic movie. Just bad or well made ones.

“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” (2012) Review

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“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” (2012) Review

Five years after the release of 2007’s “SPIDER-MAN 3”, Sony Pictures and Marvel Films decided to release a newSPIDER-MAN movie. The latter proved not to be a third sequel to the 2002 movie, “SPIDER-MAN”. Instead, it turned out to be a franchise re-boot featuring a new actor in the lead and the first film of a new trilogy. 

With Andrew Garfield now portraying Peter Parker aka Spider-Man and Marc Webb directing, “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” commenced upon an entirely new saga about the web slinger. In this film, Peter is a geeky high school student and science major who lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May in a suburb of Queens, New York. At least a decade earlier, he had witnessed the mysterious disappearance of his father and mother, scientist Richard Parker and his wife, Mary. After discovering his father’s old briefcase, Peter makes the acquaintance of the latter’s former lab partner, Dr. Curt Connors, who is now working as a geneticist at Oscorp. Dr. Connors is working on cross-breeding experiments in order to discover a formula based on lizard DNA in order to regenerate missing limbs. During his first trip to Oscorp’s Manhattan offices, he discovers that the fellow Midtown High School student that he loves, Gwen Stacy, is working there as the chief intern. Peter is also bitten by a genetically engineered spider.

During the subway ride home, Peter becomes aware of his new abilities. He also continues his visits to Dr. Connors at Oscorp. His new powers and visits to Oscorp lead to his growing neglect of his household duties. Peter also manages to help Dr. Connors by giving the latter Richard Parker’s “decay rate algorithm”, the missing piece in the scientist’s experiments. After a quarrel with Uncle Ben, Peter storms out of the house and the latter hit the streets looking for him. Unfortunately for Uncle Ben, he encounters a thief who had just robbed a convenience store and is shot dead. Determined to find his uncle’s murderer, Peter decides to assume the identity of the costumed vigilante, Spider-Man. When Oscorp executive Dr. Rajit Ratha decides to fire Dr. Connors and use the latter’s formula at a VA hospital under the guise of a flue shot, Connors tries the formula on himself and becomes the human/lizard hybrid, the Lizard.

Many Marvel and Spider-Man fans had complained about the lack of need for a Spider-Man re-boot so soon after the last Sam Rami film. What many did not know was that Sony Pictures had signed a deal, guaranteeing major control over the Spider-Man franchise as long as the studio releases a movie every five years or less. Sony originally had plans for a fourth Spider-Man movie with both Rami and actor Tobey Maguire. But the plans fell through and the studio decided to re-boot the franchise with a new actor, a new director and a new trilogy.

Some fans and critics claimed that “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” was a lot closer to the original comics tale than the Rami films. I found this claim ironic, considering that the movie proved to be no more faithful to the comics than the films made in the last decade. Comic book fans know that Peter Parker’s first love was Betty Brandt, whom he dated in high school and who eventually became J. Jonah Jamerson’s secretary at The Daily Bugle. Peter met both Gwen Stacy (of this movie) and Mary Jane Watson (from the 2002-2007 films) in college, not high school. He was a lot younger when his parents died. But hey . . . I managed to enjoy both the Rami/Maguire trilogy and this film.

That is correct. I enjoyed “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN”. It had plenty of well choreographed action. The special effects team from the Pixomundo company did an excellent job with the action sequences featuring Spider-Man’s battles with the Lizard. The company’s efforts were ably supported by Marc Webb’s direction and the three cinematographers – Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker and Pietro Scalia. One of my few complaints about“SPIDER-MAN” was that the film almost seemed like two separate stories. I could never accuse “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” of that flaw. Screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves made sure that Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man and Dr. Connors’ transformation into the Lizard were connected plot-wise. After all, Peter’s visit to Connor at the Oscorp labs led to his painful encounter with a genetically altered spider. And the visit, along with Peter’s discovery of his father’s notes, led to the creation of the formula that enabled Connors to become the Lizard.

The movie also boasted some excellent performances by the cast. Andrew Garfield was outstanding as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. He did an excellent job of portraying a fatherless boy in search of a father figure, who is forced to grow up on his own. Emma Stone portrayed Gwen Stacy, the girl whom Peter dated during his early years in college. Stone’s Gwen was a smart, witty and earthy young woman who found herself torn between Peter and her father’s opinion of Spider-Man and vigilantism. Another excellent performance came from Rhys Ifan, who did an excellent job in revealing the complex man whose disappointments in life led him to utilize the formula that transformed him into the Lizard. He also managed to convey Connor’s darker personality through the CGI figure of the Lizard.

Other first-rate performances came from Denis Leary, who portrayed Gwen’s father – NYPD Captain George Stacy. The latter role seemed a slight cry from Leary’s usual roles. Although he managed to utilize his usual rapid fire wit, Leary also conveyed the image of a stern and responsible man, who harbored concerns not only for his daughter, but also the citizens of New York City. Martin Sheen and Sally Field created excellent chemistry as Ben and May Parker, the couple left to raise Peter after his parents’ death. It is a crime that the pair never worked together before, because I thought they really crackled with chemistry. I could say that both had great chemistry with Garfield, as well. But I feel that Sheen had more interesting scenes with the young actor than Field. Irrfan Khan had to be convinced by his children to take the role of Oscorp executive, Dr. Rajit Ratha (a character created for the movie). I am glad they did, for he proved to be very effective as a shadowy representative for the corporation’s reclusive CEO, Norman Oscorp. The movie also boasted solid performances from Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson; and from Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz as Richard and Mary Parker, Peter’s parents.

I will not deny that “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” was a very entertaining movie for me. But it had its flaws. One, there seemed to be a minor lack of originality in the script. A good deal of the story seemed to be borrowed from the previous SPIDER-MAN movies. As with Maguire’s Peter, Garfield’s Peter started out with an unrequited crush with the leading female character. And Dr. Connors’ career faced extinction, just as Dr. Otto Octavius did in“SPIDER-MAN 2”. However, the movie also borrowed a subplot from the 2000 movie, “X-MEN”. Just as Erik Lensherr plotted to transform the world’s population into mutants via a machine, the Lizard in this movie, plotted to transform New York City’s population into reptilian/human hybrids. In fact, his scheme struck me as lame. The problem for me laid in the fact that Connors did not transform into the Lizard, until the second half of the movie.

Speaking of the Lizard, as much as I had admired Ifans’ performance, I was not that impressed by the villain’s role as Spider-Man’s foe. I mean, honestly . . . the idea of Spider-Man facing a giant lizard rampaging all over Manhattan did not do anything for me. Frankly, I saw dealing with the problem of the Lizard as a job for the Men in Black, not Spider-Man. Everyone seemed to be filled with praise for Emma Stone’s portrayal of Gwen Stacy . . . including me. However, I had a problem with the screenwriters’ portrayal of Gwen in this movie. Frankly, she seemed too perfect . . . too ideal. She lacked any real personal demons that could have made her interesting to me. I could never say the same about the comic book Gwen – even if she had a tendency to be a crybaby.

Could someone explain why Peter suddenly decided to end his search for the thief who had killed his Uncle Ben? It seemed as if the entire subplot had been dropped. And what happened to Dr. Ratha after Peter saved him on the Williamsburg Bridge? I have one last complaint . . . and it has to do with C. Thomas Howell’s character, a construction worker named Ray. In the Williamsburg Bridge sequence, Spider-Man saved Ray’s son from falling into the East River. Ray reciprocated Spider-Man’s actions during the latter’s final battle with the Lizard by using several cranes to help convey the web slinger (who had been shot in the leg by the NYPD) to Oscorp’s tower, in order to stop the Lizard from using the formula on New Yorkers. I found that minor scene so incredibly cheesy that I practically cringed with embarrassment. It seemed as if the screenwriters were trying to re-create those moments from two of Sam Rami’s films in which New Yorkers came to Spider-Man’s aid. Only in this movie, I found Ray’s actions embarrassing, not inspirational.

“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” had much for me to admire. It had excellent performances from the cast led by Andrew Garfield. Marc Webb’s direction in the action sequences and intimate scenes was first-rate. And the screenwriters managed to avoid the mistake from the Sam Rami 2002 film of creating a fragmented plot. Unfortunately, I believe that “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” had other flaws – including a lack of originality – that made it difficult for me to embrace the idea that it was the best SPIDER-MAN movie ever made.

Second Look: “PEARL” (1978)

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SECOND LOOK: “PEARL” (1978)

After recently watching the 2001 Michael Bay movie, “PEARL HARBOR”, I decided to watch “PEARL”, the three-part miniseries that aired on ABC back in 1978. Watching it made me realize how many years had passed since I last saw it. 

Directed by Hy Averback and Alexander Singer, and written by Stirling Silliphant; “PEARL” focused upon the experiences and lives of the U.S. military, their families, and some civilians during the few days that surrounded the Japanese Navy’s air attack at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands in December 1941. The miniseries featured a handful of subplots that featured the following cast of characters:

-Midge Forrest, the unhappy and promiscuous wife of a U.S. Army colonel, who is still mourning the death of her only child after many years. 

-U.S. Army officer Colonel Jason Forrest, a strict and bigoted disciplinarian who is despised and feared by the men under his command.

-Wealthy Southern-born U.S. Army Captain Cal Lankford, who is Forrest’s second-in-command and Midge Forrest’s lover.

-Obstetrician Dr. Carol Lang, whose suicidal behavior attracts the attention of Captain Lankford.

-U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Doug North, a naval officer and military brat who wants to break family tradition and become a civilian.

-Holly Nagata, a Japanese-American journalist for a small newspaper and past childhood friend of Doug’s, who becomes his new love.

-U.S. Army Private Billy Zylowski, a troublesome soldier and talented painter who falls for an inexperienced prostitute named Shirley.

The subplots in “PEARL” seemed so extensive that I thought it would be best to list some (and I mean a lot) of observations that I made it:

*The pettiness of the peacetime military is revealed in great detail, especially the conflict regarding the unwanted Private Finger and a pinball machine.

*The miniseries also conveyed the intelligence and military establishments’ bigotry toward non-whites on Hawaii in great detail. This was especially apparent in the showdown at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel between Dennis Weaver’s Colonel Forrest and Tiana Alexander’s Holly Nagata, which I found particularly delicious.

*I had forgotten that Adam Arkin, who portrayed Private Zylowski, was in this miniseries. His character is an ex-con who had joined the Army to avoid a prison sentence. He is also supposed to be a first-rate boxer. His character strongly reminds me of a New York version of Montgomery Clift’s character in the 1953 movie, “FROM HERE TO ETERNITY” – especially his relationship with the prostitute Shirley.

*One of my favorite scenes featured Captain Lankford’s success in preventing Dr. Carol Lang from committing suicide. Good acting from both Robert Wagner and Lesley Ann Warren.

*One of the most painful moments I have ever seen in “PEARL” turned out to be the scene in which Doug North meets Holly’s Japanese-born parents and experiences their silent bigotry. Very powerful scene and great acting by Tiana Alexander, Gregg Henry, Seth Sakai and Marik Yamoto.

*Watching Colonel Forrest and the general’s wife (portrayed by Audra Lindley) dance and fail to enjoy themselves was one of the funniest moments in the miniseries.

*“WHO IS THAT ORIENTAL PERSON WHO SPOKE TO YOU?” – The reason I had typed that quote in caps was to hint how loudly Audra Lindley said it to Dennis Weaver’s character. Unforgettable moment.

*I was disappointed to notice that some of the female extras at the Officers’ Ball sequence failed to look as if they had stepped out of a photo circa 1941.

*Some might take this the wrong way, but I am speaking from a cinematic point of view. The scenes featuring the Japanese Zeroes flying over Oahu looked very beautiful to me. However, I suspect the scenes are stock footage from the 1970 movie, “TORA! TORA! TORA!”.

*Due to Angie Dickinson’s superb performance, Midge Forrest’s speech about the travails of Army officer wives was absolutely marvelous. And it was highlighted by two wonderful lines spoken by Midge:

“Jason, I look at you and see 10,000 chairs.”
“You and I have been at war for the past eighteen years.”

*Another memorable scene featured FBI agents’ warning to Mr. Nagata about his pigeons and threat about imprisoning the entire family. Their warning and threat led to a disturbing moment in which Mr. Nagata kills his pigeons with his bare hands.

*Some of the footage showing civilians evacuating their homes looked as if they had been shot in the early 1950s, instead of a decade earlier.

*It is interesting how Colonel Forrest is so obsessed with the idea of a Japanese-American fifth-column on the Hawaiian Islands. According to two historians, the U.S. government harbored a similar obsession that went back several decades.

*The most painful and heart wrenching moment in “PEARL” was featured in a scene in which Holly grieved over Doug’s body, while Carol Lang looked on, crying. Great performances by both Tiana Alexander and Lesley Ann Warren. There was a follow-up in which Holly visited the Norths, Doug’s family, at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Not only was Alexander great in this scene, but also Richard Anderson, Mary Crosby and especially Marion Ross, as Doug’s family.

*In “PEARL”, the U.S. Army seemed to be the major military force for the Hawaiian Islands. But I could have sworn that in real life, the U.S. Navy served that role. Am I wrong . . . or right?

*Dennis Weaver and Robert Wagner have an interesting moment where their characters – Colonel Forrest and Captain Lankford – declare their loathing of each other. But the scene’s pièce de résistance featured Midge’s grand announcement of her intentions to divorce her husband. Her exit proved to be even more spectacular. I felt it was one of Angie Dickinson’s finest moments on screen and she received great support from Dennis Weaver, Robert Wagner and Brian Dennehy.

*Another interesting scene centered on Admiral Nagumo’s (portrayed by actor Sô Yamamura) criticism of his staff for commencing the attack on Pearl Harbor five minutes too early. What the admiral did not realize was that a snafu made by clerks at the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. prevented Japan from officially declaring their intentions to the U.S. government on time.

There were many aspects in “PEARL” that strongly reminded me of “FROM HERE TO ETERNITY”. Both productions featured an unhappily married and promiscuous officer’s wife, an Army private that was unpopular with his company’s non-coms and officers, another Army private falling in love with a prostitute and a setting featuring before, during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But there were differences. The U.S. Navy was strongly represented by the character of Lieutenant j.g. Doug North, his father and some of the men under his command. Doug’s romance with the Japanese-American journalist, Holly Nagata, seemed straight from the 1893 short story, “Madame Butterfly”. Whereas the 1953 movie seemed to feature more enlisted men and non-coms, officers also had major roles in the 1978 miniseries.

While many might turn up their noses at the similarities between “PEARL” and “FROM HERE TO ETERNITY”, there is an ironic footnote to this whole situation. About less than a year after “PEARL” aired on television, NBC followed up with its own miniseries adaptation of “FROM HERE TO ETERNITY”.

“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 2 (Part 1)

“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

ACT II – Part 1

When he and his demonic savior materialized in the middle of an expensively furnished living room, Nick released a gust of breath. He glanced around, both impressed and apprehensive by his surroundings and asked, “Where are we?”

Dark brown eyes gave him a cold stare. “You will find out,” he said in an Italian accent. Then he cried out, “Hello? Padronessa? Leonardo? We’re here!”

A beautiful, dark-haired woman with familiar sherry-brown eyes descended the curved staircase. And aquamarine robe barely hid a statuesque figure that any woman would envy. Nick realized that she bore a strong resemblance to his former partner-in-crime, Portia Della Scalla. Same delicate features, same towering height and curvaceous figure; and the same eyes. Only this woman wore her luxuriant hair in a severe chignon. She also possessed a patrician air that Portia had lacked. Behind her, followed his new defense attorney – Leonard Mollari. Nick closed his eyes and heaved a despairing sigh.

“So,” the woman said in a cool voice, “this is the Streghone who killed my sister.”

Fear gripped every nerve in Nick’s body. “Oh. Oh no! No, Signorina! I didn’t kill anyone!”

One dark brow formed an arch. “Oh?”

“I mean . . .” Nick sighed. “Yes, I did kill someone. But it was a man, not who you think.”

The woman took a step forward. “Exactly whom am I referring to?”

Nick hesitated. “Uh, Portia Della Scalla? She’s a . . .”

“A succubus. I know.” The woman stepped closer. “So am I. Portia was my younger sister.” Cold eyes bored into Nick’s. “If you did not kill my sister, who did?”

Nervously, Nick continued, “Um, mind you, I wasn’t present when your sister was killed. I was being arrested at the time.”

“Enough!” Portia’s sister swept past Nick and the daemon guarding him. She settled upon a nearby sofa in a regal manner. “Sit down! I want you to tell me everything.”

Nick waited for the minion to release him, before he eased into an empty chair near the sofa. Bumping his foot against a nearby table’s leg. He darted uneasy glances at his hostess and her minions.

“Alessandro,” the succubus said to Nick’s rescuer, “get a glass of wine for Signor Marcano. The Rosso Villa Monticelli.” While Alessandro headed for the liquor cabinet, Nick’s hostess returned her gaze toward him. “Now, let us start from the beginning. First, my name . . . my human name is Claudia Della Scalla. I am Portia’s older sister. As Leonardo must have told you, a seer had informed us that you were the one who had summoned my sister. The question is . . . why?”

Aware of the panic rising within him, Nick took a deep breath. He then told Signorina Della Scalla everything – his feelings toward Barbara Bowen, her engagement to Bruce McNeill and his reason for summoning the late and unlamented Portia. He also revealed the events that led to Portia’s death. “Like I said,” he continued, “I wasn’t there when she was killed. But before I was sent off to jail, I found out that Bruce had killed her. Bruce McNeill is the witch I wanted her to . . . well, you know . . .”

“Yes. Kill,” Claudia declared bluntly. “So, some ridiculous little witch had killed my sister. A Wiccan.” She gave Nick a hard stare. “Unless, you happened to be lying to me. To save your skin.”

Nick drained the last of his wine. “Oh no! I’m telling you the truth! You can use a spell or something to find out. As for Bruce . . . well, he’s a very powerful witch. And so is the rest of his family.”

“I will simply kill this entire family. I’m sure that my coven will be able to deal with th. . .”

Exasperated by the succubus’ arrogance, Nick bluntly interrupted her. “Your sister had believed the same thing and ended up getting killed! Besides . . . Bruce should be getting married this weekend. To Barbara. If you go after the McNeills, you might end up hurting her. And there is one more thing.”

“What?” Claudia impatiently demanded.

Nick continued, “Belthazor.” He noticed the ominous look that flared in Mollari’s eyes. “The half-daemon, Belthazor. He’s a very close friend of the family. And he’s very powerful.”

“He is telling the truth, Signorina,” Mollari added. “I have heard of him. He was one of the Source’s top assassins of the latter’s reame.”

The Streghone continued, “Belthazor also became the Source for a while, until the Charmed Ones killed him.”

“The Charmed Ones?” Claudia frowned. “I have heard of them. Like the Cavalli family, only Wiccan?”

Nick nodded. “Yes. The youngest witch works at Barbara’s shop and is a close friend of Bruce’s sister. Anyway, after Belthazor was killed, he returned from the dead more powerful than ever. He’s even more powerful than their Source. But not as powerful as Dis and Umbria, who are gods.”

Claudia’s sherry-brown eyes widened in surprise. “I see.” She paused momentarily, while the other three stared at her. “I see that I may have to approach this with more subtlety.” Her eyes bored into Nick’s. “You say that you had promised my sister with a Soma plant, when you asked her to kill this witch for you?”

Once more, Nick nodded. “Yes, Signorina. The plant is inside the McNeills’ greenhouse, at their home. It was given to Barbara by an old friend of hers, some three weeks ago.”

“How clever of my sister,” Claudia murmured. “She almost had her hands on a Soma plant . . . one that would make her a god. I wonder if she would have told me about it.” Her eyes flashed at Nick. “And this Barbara . . . do you want her?”

“Well . . . yes. But she would never . . .”

The succubus dismissed his last words with a wave of her hand. “We’ll deal with that later. This Signor McNeill . . . you say that he is getting married?”

Nick added, “This Saturday. “Why?”

Her eyes glittering maliciously, she responded with a slow smile. “Because, I believe we will be attending a wedding, this weekend. And hopefully, I will have in my hands a plant that will make me a goddess.” She suddenly became businesslike. “Now, I want you to tell me everything about the McNeills, their acquaintances and whom you believe will be at the wedding.”

———

Andre and Cecile strolled along Chestnut Street, enjoying the early morning crowd that rushed past them and the shops along the street. His stomach growling from a lack of breakfast, Andre demanded that they stopped at a local coffee shop called Peet’s Coffee and Tea. The pair entered and each ordered a cup of coffee and a pastry.

“Okay Cecile,” Andre said after they settled around an available table, “is there a reason why you had me forgo a nice big breakfast with Cole and drag me out of the building?”

Cecile paused momentarily before she made her announcement. “I had a vision.”

The cup in Andre’s hand froze just an inch away from his lips. “Say that again?”

Her eyes focused on her boyfriend’s, Cecile repeated herself. “I had a vision. A very bad one.” She paused. “I met Olivia’s new friend, last night. What’s his name? Paul Something.”

“Margolin,” Andre corrected. “Cole told me about him. I heard that he and Livy may be more than just friends.”

Shaking her head, Cecile replied, “God, I hope not.”

“Meaning?” When Cecile failed to answer, Andre added, “C’mon girl! What could be so wrong about this vision? Is something gonna happen to this Margolin character?”

Cecile hesitated. “No . . . not him. But I think he may end up being responsible. The vision came to me when I shook his hand.”

Andre took a sip of his coffee. “Look, why don’t you just show me. Telepathically.”

“Here?” Cecile glanced around the coffee shop.

“Why not? Or we can go to Olivia’s apartment.”

Cecile cried out, “No!” Her outburst drew stares from the other customers. “Not there. She hasn’t left, yet. That’s why I wanted to leave. I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

In other words, Cecile’s vision had something to do with both Cole and Olivia. Andre frowned. “Show me. Right now.”

“Okay.” Giving the coffee shop another glance, Cecile ordered Andre to lean forward and close his eyes. She muttered a phrase in the Fon language over and over again. A minute later, the vision struck.

Andre saw Cole, Olivia and a strange man inside the penthouse. The stranger, whom he surmised must be Paul Margolin, stood by wearing a smug expression, while Cole and Olivia engaged in some kind of conversation. Then Olivia began to chant and a heptagon within a circle materialized around Cole’s feet. Each side of the heptagon shot bolts of light at Cole, causing the half-daemon to scream. The red-haired witch continued her chant until Cole’s body disintegrated into a burst of light.

The moment the vision ended, Andre gasped out loud, drawing more stares. Breathing heavily, he looked at Cecile in disbelief. “What the hell? I can’t . . . Did I just see . . .?” He leaned forward and whispered, “Did I just see Olivia kill Cole?”

Cecile nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s impossible. Paige once told me about this sorcerer who had Cole’s powers, last fall. Someone named Barbas. She and her sisters weren’t able to kill him with the Power of Three. They had to return the powers back to Cole, first.”

“So, how would Olivia be able . . .?” Andre paused. “If the Power of Three couldn’t kill some guy with Cole’s powers, how would Olivia be able to kill Cole?”

A grim Cecile replied, “I don’t know. Maybe Olivia will find a way. You know, she once had a theory on how to kill the Source, but Leo didn’t take it seriously. I’m worried about why she would kill Cole in the first place. And why would I get a vision like that shaking Paul Margolin’s hand?”

Andre stared at his girlfriend with uneasy eyes. “Are you gonna tell her? Tell Livy?”

“Tell her what, Andre? That she’s gonna kill Cole? And that her present boyfriend might have something to do with it?” Cecile rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding?”

“Listen cherie, you’re gonna have to tell her, sooner or later.”

Cecile took a sip of her hot chocolate. “I’d rather do it, later. Maybe after I talk to Mama and Livy’s parents about it.”

A heavy sigh left Andre’s mouth. “Okay. It’s your call. Man! I should have known something was gonna happen during this trip. I only hope that matters don’t get any worse.”

———

Stunned by the news they had just received, Olivia and her partner, Darryl Morris, sat inside Captain McPherson’s office, staring at the man with shocked eyes. Darryl became the first to find his voice. “Excuse me Captain,” he said, “but you could repeat what you just said?”

The burly police captain viewed his lieutenant with sympathetic eyes. He sighed. Heavily. “I said that Nick Marcano has escaped from the County lockup at the Hall of Justice, last night. He simply . . . disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Olivia leaned forward. “How?”

McPherson continued, “We believe that a guard helped him escape.” He glanced at the report on his desk. “According to one guard named Timothy Hamilton, another guard named Ben Jenoff had told him that one Keith Hardy had called in sick, and a temp named Reyes showed up. Only Hardy never called in sick. At least, according to Hamilton. He stopped by the cafeteria, while Hamilton reported for duty. Jenoff became suspicious and went to investigate.”

“So it was this Jenoff who discovered that Marcano had escaped?” Darryl asked.

The captain shook his head. “No, it was Hamilton. He found Marcano missing and . . . Jenoff’s body outside the cell. Burnt to a crisp. How, no one knows.”

Olivia muttered under breath, “Oh great!”

“What was that, Inspector?” McPherson demanded.

“Nothing sir,” Olivia responded morosely.

The captain nodded. “By the way, Hardy’s body was also found.” He paused dramatically. “Inside a closet, not far from the cafeteria. Also burnt. Now, how the perpetrator managed to achieve this without setting the whole damn building on fire is beyond me.”

Darryl asked, “Exactly who is this guard? This Reyes?”

“No one knows,” McPherson curtly replied. “He doesn’t exist. At least not with the County Sheriff’s Department.” The police captain heaved a sigh. “This Reyes is probably someone who is mighty interested in Marcano. I can think of someone else who might be behind this escape. Marcano’s accomplice in the DeWolfe murder is still alive. And missing.”

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. They both knew better. “Uh, you mean this Della Scalla woman?” Darryl asked hesitantly.

McPherson nodded. “We need to find Marcano. Fast. This escape . . . it’s a real embarrassment not only to the County Sheriff’s Department, but to SFPD, as well.”

“Um, does this mean . . .?” Olivia began. However, she immediately closed her mouth under McPherson’s direct stare.

“Does this mean . . . what?”

Olivia’s face grew hot with embarrassment. She shook her head. “I . . . there’s a wedding in the family, this weekend. My older brother. Also, we have a few out-of-state guests. I was thinking if I could take part of today and tomorrow . . .”

McPherson’s reply was curt. “No, you may not take some time off. I want both you and Morris working on this case, full time. At least until you’re off duty. I’m sure that your brother would appreciate your efforts. Understand?”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth before she answered, “Yes sir.” Shit!

“Dismissed.”

The two partners stood up and left McPherson’s office. Silently. Upon reaching their desks, Darryl finally broke the silence. “Well, I guess we better tell Bruce and Barbara the news.”

“Along with Deborah Mann, Aunt Carla and Jason,” Olivia added morosely. “Nick picked one hell of a time to escape. Three days before Bruce’s wedding.”

Sympathy filled Darryl’s dark eyes. “Something tells me that Marcano had no choice in the timing.” When Olivia reached for her telephone, he added, “Giving Bruce a call?”

“Yeah, I might as well. I’m going to ask him to meet with us at Ostera, so we can break the news to him and Barbara at the same time. They’re not going to like this.”

Something like a cross between a guffaw and a grunt escaped Darryl’s mouth. “Huh. That’s the understatement of the year.”

——–

Two pairs of eyes – one blue and the other blue-gray – stared at the two police officers with disbelief. “Escaped? Nick Marcano has escaped?” Barbara said in a high-pitched voice.

It was lunchtime. Olivia and Darryl stood inside Ostera’s storeroom, facing both the store’s owner and her fiancé. Darryl nodded. “Yeah. Last night. He . . . uh, he disappeared from his cell. Along with the guard who helped him.”

Olivia added, “Who might be a daemon.”

Barbara looked away, distress marring her beautiful face. Bruce sighed. Long and hard. Of all the days for this to happen, he thought. He said out loud in a testy voice, “That’s just great. Nick decides to escape just three days before my wedding.”

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. “I don’t think he had planned his escape,” she added. “It’s obvious that someone helped him. Remember the guard?”

“What about him?” Barbara demanded.

Olivia continued, “Well, this guard . . . might be associated with Portia Della Scalla. Or maybe even her sister.”

Anxiety flitted within Bruce’s chest. Memories of the succubus filled his mind. “Oh shit!”

Darryl frowned. “That . . . uh, she had a sister?”

“Yeah. Remember what Cole’s old friend had told us?” Olivia replied. “He said . . .”

“Yes, thank you for reminding us!” Barbara curtly interrupted. “I was there, remember? I remember what that daemon had told us about Miss Della Scalla’s sister. God!” She walked away from the others, her body trembling. “This is great! Bruce and I are supposed to be married the day after tomorrow, only we have Nick Marcano and maybe a vengeful succubus to worry about. I just knew something would happen to screw up everything!”

Bruce walked over to his fiancé and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Barbara, honey . . . Look, don’t worry. I’m sure that nothing will happen before the wedding. Maybe Nick has already left San Francisco.” He glanced at the two inspectors. “Has he?”

Darryl shook his head. “I doubt it. Look, Olivia and I have to get going. We have to break the news to a few others.”

Olivia added, “Yeah, like the BAY-MIRROR.” She sighed. “And Deborah Mann. I really don’t look forward to her reaction.”

Bruce nodded. “We understand. I’ll see you two later, okay?” Without bothering to look at his sister and her partner, he gently forced Barbara to face him, and enveloped her into his arms.

END OF ACT II – Part 1

Woolton Pie

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Here is some information about an old dish first created during the first year of World War II in Great Britain. I learned about this dish, while watching the “Wartime” segment of the BBC series, “THE SUPERSIZERS GO”, hosted by Giles Coren and Sue Perkins. 

WOOLTON PIE

First known as (Lord) Woolton Pie, this savory vegetable pie dish was first created during the early years of the Second World War at the Savoy Hotel in London by its then Maitre Chef de Cuisine, Francis Latry. The dish was one of a handful recommended to the British public by the Ministry of Food during the war to support a nutritional diet, despite shortages and rationing of many types of food – especially meat. The pie was named after Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton, who became Minister of Food in 1940.

Woolton Pie consisted of diced and cooked potatoes (or parsnips), cauliflower, rutabaga, carrots and turnips. Rolled oats and chopped spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water, which was poured over the vegetables themselves. The dish was topped with potato pastry and grated cheese and served with vegetable gravy. The recipe could be adapted to reflect the availability and seasonality of ingredients.
Lacking in any meat, Woolton Pie was not well received by the British public. In fact, it was among several wartime austerity dishes that were quickly forgotten by the end of the war.

Below is a recipe for Woolton Pie:

WOOLTON PIE

INGREDIENTS

1 lb Potatoes
2 lbs Carrots
½ lb Mushrooms
1 Small leek
2oz Margarine or Chicken Fat
2 Spring onions
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg, Chopped Parsley.
Bunch of herbs made of 1 small Bay Leaf, 1 small sprig of Thyme, Parsley and Celery

PREPARATION

Peel the potatoes and carrots, cut them into slices of the thickness of a penny. Wash them well and dry in a tea-cloth. Fry them separately in a frying pan with a little chicken fat.

Do the same for the mushrooms, adding the finely chopped onions and leek. Mix them together and season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and roughly chopped fresh parsley.

Fill a pie-dish with this mixture, placing the bundle of herbs in the middle. Moisten with a little rolled oats, chopped onions, a little giblet stock or water. Allow to cool. Cover with a pastry crust made from half beef-suet or chicken fat and half margarine. Bake in a moderate oven for 1½ hours.

This recipe has been translated from an original flimsy Savoy Restaurant kitchen copy.

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FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season One (2011-2012)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of “ONCE UPON A TIME”. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season One (2011-2012)

1-The Stable Boy

1. (1.18) “The Stable Boy” – This very interesting episode revealed the origins of the Evil Queen’s antipathy toward Snow White. In the present, Mary Margaret Blanchard (aka Snow White) faces prosecution for Kathryn Nolan’s alleged murder.

2-The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

2. (1.07) “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” – Sheriff Graham begins to remember his life as The Huntsman in the Enchanted Forest, while Emma Swan begins to wonder if she is falling for him. A fascinating, yet tragic episode.

3-Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

3. (1.11) “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” – This episode reveals the back story of newspaper editor Sidney Glass’ life as a Genie in the Enchanted Forest, and how his relationship with the Evil Queen led him to become the Magic Mirror.

4-Red-Handed

4. (1.15) “Red-Handed” – While Emma makes former waitress Ruby her assistant in the sheriff’s office, flashbacks reveal the latter’s life as Red Riding Hood, culminating in a very surprising twist.

5-Skin Deep

5. (1.12) “Skin Deep” – While Emma suspects that Mr. Gold (aka Rumplestiltskin) will seek vigilante justice against the person who broke into his house, flashbacks reveal Rumplestiltskin’s complex relationship with Belle.