“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 4 (Part 1)

 

“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

Act IV – Part 1

“Is she dead?” Claudia demanded. She stood in front of a large, oval mirror, primping her hair. 

Giancarlo promptly replied, “I believe so, Padronessa.” The succubus glanced sharply at him. “Uh, I hit the Vodounsacerdotessa’s head very hard. Her body is locked inside the greenhouse. And both Alessandro and Talia are dead.”

Claudia whirled around to stare pointedly at her minion. “Are you certain she is dead? Did you examine her body?”

Fear gleamed in the incubus’s eyes. “I . . . am afraid not, Padronessa. I thought it was more prudent to find the Soma plant for you. But she must be dead. I had hit the sacerdotessa’s head very . . . hard.” He shrugged, as his voice faded away. He handed her the bridal bouquet.

A sigh left Claudia’s mouth. “Oh well. Alive or dead, at least the Dubois woman is no longer a danger. What about the Soma plant? Was it found?”

Giancarlo smiled. “Si, Padronessa. I handed it over to Leonardo, who has returned it to the house. It is in the libreria.”

“Good.” Claudia faced the minion once more. “I should kill you for your failure to ensure the Vodoine’s death.” Giancarlo’s face paled. “However, I need you to assume her form and take her place in the wedding ceremony.”

“Si Padronessa.”

Claudia continued, “If everything goes as planned, I will marry the witch and enjoy a few days with him, on our honeymoon.”

Giancarlo frowned. “You are not going to kill him right away?”

“Of course not!” Claudia retorted haughtily. “At least not until after we have conceived a child. According to the Streghone, this witch is a descendant of a powerful wizard named Niaghall. From Scotland. Niaghall was the original bearer of the Aingeal Staff. And Signor McNeill’s sister is one of those considered to be the staff’s next keeper.”

Nodding, Giancarlo added, “Of course! The Staff of Aingeal. I have heard of it. Do you plan to acquire this staff for yourself? I have heard that only a descendant of Niaghall can use it. Besides, you know have the Soma plant.”

“I know that!” Claudia shot back with a glare. Giancarlo trembled. Her expression softened. “But once I conceive a child with Bruce McNeill, there will be a chance that child or a descendant will become the staff’s future bearer. And I must say,” a smile curved her lips, “I never realized that I would find a mortal who is descended from a powerful wizard, let alone a daemon. Niaghall was also adamitici – like my father. The offspring of a mortal and an incubus. In my father’s case, a mortal and a succubus.”

A knock on the door took the pair by surprise. “Barbara? Honey, it’s me, Dad!” a voice from behind the door cried out. “Are you ready to begin the ceremony?”

“Get out of here!” Claudia hissed at her subordinate. “Now! And do not forget to morph into that Dubois woman and take her place.”

The witch’s father cried, “Barbara?”

Giancarlo nodded, “Si, Padronessa.” He quickly disappeared.

Claudia walked over to the door and opened it. A tall, good-looking man in his mid or late fifties stood in the doorway. “Hey Dad!” The succubus flashed a smile. “I’ll be ready in a minute.”

————

Vivian Dubois stood at the foot of the curved staircase, while the bride’s father leaned over the balustrade. “She’s ready!” he announced. “Could you send for the bridesmaids, Vi?”

“Okay.” She waved at the witch and started toward the west drawing room. From the corner of her eye, she saw her daughter emerge from one of the corridors. “There you are! We’ve been all looking for you.”

Cecile replied, “I . . . I ended up lost, after fetching the bridal bouquet for . . . Barbara. Is the ceremony about to begin?”

Vivian frowned. Cecile’s dialogue seemed unusually formal. “In a minute. You better join Barbara, upstairs. I’ll fetch Olivia and the other two.” Once more, Vivian started toward the drawing room, until a thought came to her. “By the way, did you tell Livy about your vision?”

Surprise reflected in Cecile’s dark eyes. “Vision?” A brief moment of panic flashed in those same eyes. Then self-assurance quickly followed. “Oh. Oh, yes. The vision.” Cecile nodded emphatically. “Yes, I told her. Olivia should be on her guard.”

On her guard? Now it was Vivian’s turn to express surprise. “On her guard? You . . .”

“. . . told her,” Cecile finished. Her uneasiness returned. “Did I make a mistake?”

The hair on the back of Vivian’s neck bristled ominously. She recalled Olivia’s story about the male stripper, who had appeared at the bridal shower nearly a half hour after his body was discovered. If the stripper at the nightclub . . . At that moment, Vivian decided that the best thing to do was lie. “No. Of course not. Uh . . . I was beginning to wonder if you had remembered. You know, about a daemon that might be roaming about the house. Can’t have that.”

Relief now flooded Cecile’s eyes. That is . . . if the person standing before her was Cecile. “Don’t worry, Mot . . . Mama. I am sure that Olivia has warned the others.”

Vivian forced herself to smile. “Good. Why don’t you get upstairs? Barbara is waiting for you. I’ll tell the other bridesmaids.” As she watched the other person climbed the staircase, her smile disappeared. Anxiety filled every inch of her heart. If the person she had spoken to had not been Cecile, where was her daughter?

Fighting down her rising anxiety, the middle-aged Vodoun priestess walked the west drawing room and past the double French doors. Upon entering the garden, she spotted Olivia talking to that attorney, who also happened to be a witch. Paul Something. The expression on the two witches’ faces told Vivian that they were in the middle of a serious . . . and somewhat unpleasant conversation. But since she desperately needed help regarding Cecile, Vivian decided that now was not the time to worry about discretion. Heaving a deep breath, the Vodoun priestess walked over to the pair and interrupted them. “Excuse me, Livy? I need to talk to you. Right away.”

———

Five minutes earlier, Olivia had just greeted the latest arriving guest, when she felt a tap on her left shoulder. “Olivia?”

She spun around and found Paul standing beside her. “Oh. Paul.” Her mouth stretched into a smile. “Haven’t you found a seat, yet?”

“Uh, not yet.” The other witch hesitated, his eyes cast downward. “Listen, uh Olivia? I . . . I uh, tried to bring this up earlier, but . . . one of Inspector Morris’ sons had interrupted.” Darryl Jr. had been in search of the nearest bathroom. “And I realize that this can wait later, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I need to get this off my chest.”

Olivia frowned. “Need to get what off your chest?”

Again, Paul hesitated. “I . . . wanted to know if . . . if you would like to spend a weekend down in Monterey. There’s this hotel in the downtown area . . . it’s supposed to be well-known . . .”

“Oh, you mean the Monterey Hotel?” Olivia nodded. “I’ve been there, before. It’s nearly a century old. A weekend there would be great. Cecile, Andre and her mother will be in town for another week or so. Maybe we can all . . .”

Paul interrupted with a slight cough. “Actually, I was thinking about the two of us. Alone.” His blue-gray eyes radiated a longing that made Olivia feel uneasy. “I . . . well, I thought this would be a good time for us to grow a little closer. I’m . . . well, I guess I’m more than just a little attracted to you. And I would like . . .”

A sense of dread overwhelmed Olivia. Apparently, Paul had finally decided to take their relationship to another level. One that involved romance. And that was something that Olivia did not desire. “Oh,” she finally said, before glancing away. “I see. Uh Paul . . .”

“Yeah?” Hope gleamed in his eyes. He looked so vulnerable. Olivia hated to disappoint him, but she had no choice. Of course, she only had herself to blame. Her impatience at Cole’s persistence in maintaining a platonic friendship had led her to this moment. Along with Olivia’s reluctance to approach Cole on her own.

She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Paul. But I’ll have to say no. That is, if you’re talking about a weekend for just the two of us.”

Paul’s face fell. “I . . . I don’t understand. You’re not . . .?”

“I like you, Paul. A lot,” Olivia said, feeling like the lowest creature imaginable. “But that’s all. I’m not interested in a romance . . .”

“At the moment,” Paul quickly added. “I understand. Leo told me all about your . . . fiancé. It’s been . . . what? A little over a year since his death? You’re probably still grieving.”

Realizing that Paul did not want to hear the truth, Olivia sighed. “Actually, that’s not it. I’m just not in love with you, Paul. But I am interested in us being friends.” She gave him a gentle smile. “I’m sorry.”

Paul’s entire body stiffened. His jaw twitched uncontrollably, and his eyes refused to meet hers. “I see,” he finally answered in a cool tone. “Is there a . . . I guess you’re interested in someone else. Like a certain half-demon, perhaps?”

The insinuation in the other witch’s tone set off a spark of anger within Olivia. She took a few deep breaths to keep her temper in check. “I don’t think that is any of your business,” Olivia coolly replied. “Do you?”

A snort left Paul’s mouth. “Shouldn’t a fellow be aware of his rival?”

Olivia gave him a hard stare. “Your rival? For whose hand? Certainly not for mine.”

Looking slightly embarrassed, Paul nodded. “I didn’t . . . I mean I did . . .” He sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply . . .”

“Never mind,” Olivia said. She paused momentarily to overcome her own embarrassment. “Listen Paul, I like you a lot. Really, I do. And although I’m not interested in a romance . . . with you, I would still like us to remain friends.”

Once again, Paul nodded. “Yeah, I under. . .”

“Excuse me, Livy?” Vivian Dubois appeared beside the couple. “I need to talk to you. Right away.”

Olivia gave Paul an apologetic look. “I’m sorry Paul,” she began.

“Yeah, I understand.” He flashed Vivian a brief smile. “Excuse me.” Then he walked away.

Olivia faced her best friend’s mother. “Is there something wrong?”

“I’m not sure, but . . .” Mrs. Dubois went on to explain an odd encounter with her daughter.

———

The door swung open and Nick entered the bedroom, smiling. “Good afternoon,” he greeted cheerfully. “How are you feeling?”

Barbara glared at the Streghone. “Pissed off,” she retorted. “How do you think I feel?”

Nick’s benevolent smile remained fixed. “Well, I can’t help that. You shouldn’t have tried to escape.”

Rolling her eyes, Barbara retorted, “Did you honestly think I was going to stay here like some chump and let you get away with hurting Bruce?”

Nick’s smile disappeared. He shook his head. “Bruce, Bruce! It’s always about Bruce, isn’t it? I really don’t understand what you see in that guy. He’s so superficial!”

“And if you believe that,” Barbara shot back, “you’re a hell of a lot dumber than I now think you are.”

Stepping closer, Nick’s eyes burned with intensity that Barbara found disconcerting. “Can’t you see that he’s wrong for you? Oh sure, he’s rich, handsome and a successful chef. But that’s all there is to him. Superficial crap. He doesn’t understand you the way I do. Or cherish you. For him, you’re some kind of . . . I don’t know . . . trophy. Another Stepford Wife. Someone who looks good, beside him. Whereas I . . .”

“You what?” Barbara demanded. “Know me better than anyone else? Please! I doubt it. If you did, you would have known that I would never chase after the first rich guy I meet. Do you really think I’m shallow enough to marry Bruce for his money? And by the way, you don’t know him any better than you know me!”

Desperation surrounded Nick like a heavy fog. “Barbara! You don’t know what you’re saying! I thought we understood each other!”

“Well, you had obviously never understood me!” Barbara opened the door. A guard stood outside. “Now get the hell out!”

Nick slowly made his way toward the opened door. He paused and turned to stare at Barbara. “I had hoped you would understand what this was about. Understand that you don’t need Bruce. But . . .”

“But what?” Barbara asked uneasily. “You’re going to kill me, after all?”

“No.” Nick assumed a calm air that Barbara found disconcerting. “No, I’ll make sure that the Signorina Della Scalla keeps you alive. However, she is willing to help me find a way to convince you to become Mrs. Marcano – whether you like it or not.” Nick gave her a serene smile that hinted an unbalanced mind. “And if I were you, I would seriously consider volunteering for the position.”

———

Olivia knocked on the door to Barbara’s bedroom, before entering. She found the bride, the bride’s father and Cecile already inside. Philip Bowen was engaged in a conversation with someone on his cell phone, while Barbara and Cecile were busy in a private conversation. When Olivia approached her friends, they immediately stopped talking.

“Hey guys!” the redhead said with a smile. “Ready to start?”

A too bright smile appeared on Barbara’s lips. Which surprised Olivia. The latter had expected a similar reaction from Cecile, following the conversation with Mrs. Dubois. But Barbara? “I’m ready than ever!” Barbara merrily chirped. She turned to her father. “Dad?”

Mr. Bowen acknowledged his daughter’s question with a wave and continued his telephone conversation. Cecile added, “By the way, I told Barbara about . . . my vision. You know, the one about the daemon.” A vision, as far as Olivia knew, did not exist.

Olivia smiled. “Great. Everyone will be keeping their eyes open. Especially now that the wedding is about to start.”

Then to her surprise, Olivia saw Barbara’s shoulders sag with relief. Interesting. Before she could further contemplate on the matter, Mr. Bowen ended his phone call. Both Paige and Barbara’s other shop assistant, Madeline Oser, appeared. “Is the wedding about to start?” the Charmed One asked.

Mr. Bowen smiled broadly. “Right now.” Then he offered his arm to the bride-to-be. “Ready sweetheart?”

“Ready.” Barbara looped her arm through her father’s. “Let’s go.” She and Mr. Bowen slowly marched out of the room, with Paige, Madeline and the possible phony Cecile, close at their heels.

Olivia hesitated, as her mind tried to ascertain Vivian Dubois’ words and Barbara’s odd behavior. When the Vodoun priestess had told her about the possibility of Cecile being a daemon in disguise, Olivia had assumed that the phony Lee Carver had someone managed to kidnap or kill the real Cecile and assume the latter’s place. As a bridesmaid, the phony Cecile would be in a perfect position to strike the groom, the bride or both. But now, Olivia began to wonder about the bride’s odd behavior. Was that the real Barbara slowly walking out of the bedroom with Mr. Bowen, or . . .?

Cecile scuttled back into the bedroom. “Are you not coming?”

Ah yes, the formal dialogue. Keeping her suspicions in check, Olivia gave a quick nod. “Sure.” Then she followed the other bridesmaid out of the room.

———–

Inside the McNeills’ greenhouse, Cecile struggled into a sitting position. A dull pain throbbed the nape of her neck, which did not surprise her. While probing that area, she came across a slight bump – a result of someone knocking her unconscious.

Cecile continued to rub the back of her neck, as she slowly stood up. She glanced around the greenhouse and noticed two piles of ashes. Unfortunately, Cecile noticed something else – namely a certain mythological plant that seemed to be missing. She groaned aloud. When the McNeills hear about Barbara’s missing plant, they will have a fit. She could only imagine how Bruce and Mr. Bowen will react once they learn that the bride is actually a powerful succubus.

Still feeling groggy, Cecile made her way toward the door. She gripped the knob and turned. Unfortunately, the damn thing refused to budge. “Shit!” Whoever had knocked her unconscious, had also locked her inside this damn greenhouse. Cecile found herself wishing that she had Olivia’s telekinesis power. Visions simply did not unlock doors. Nor did telepa . . . An idea came to her. One that would get her out of this place.

Cecile’s eyes scanned the greenhouse, until they fell upon an empty chair sitting in front of a row of green tomatoes. She sat down, took a deep breath, closed her eyes and began to chant in Fon. Slowly, Cecile felt her essence leave her body. When her eyes flew open, she discovered to her satisfaction that she had astral projected outside the greenhouse. Perfect! Cecile unfastened the lock. Then she stood still and willed her essence back into her body.

Seconds later, she stood from the chair, and slowly made her way out of the greenhouse. A curse emitted from her mouth. The astral projection had left Cecile feeling a little sluggish. Which she had to recover from, in order to reach the garden and stop the wedding in time.

END OF PART IV – Part 1

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“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (2005) Review

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“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (2005) Review

To my knowledge, there have been at least ten screen (film and/or television) adaptations of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice”. I believe it has been adapted more times than her other five novels. This is not surprising. It is probably the most beloved of her six novels. I have seen four of those adaptations, myself. And one of them is director-writer Joe Wright’s 2005 film adaptation.

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” starred Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. The story focuses on Elizabeth’s dealings with marriage, manners and other issues in the landed gentry society of late Georgian England. Elizabeth and her four sisters are encouraged by their mother to find a suitable husband before their father’s estate is inherited by a distant male cousin. The Bennet family is heartened by the blossoming romance between Elizabeth’s older sister Jane and a wealthy bachelor named Charles Bingley, who has rented a neighboring estate. But the family are unaware that Mr. Bingley’s even wealthier friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, has grown attracted to the extroverted Elizabeth. However, obstacles block the path of true love. Mr. Darcy and Bingley’s snobbish sister Caroline disapprove of his romance with Jane, due to the poor behavior of Mrs. Bennet and her three youngest daughters. And Elizabeth has developed a deep dislike of Mr. Darcy, due to his own distant and haughty behavior. Through a series of setbacks and misunderstandings, true love finally flourishes in the end.

Wright’s adaptation of Austen’s novel was a box office hit and earned numerous award nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for star Keira Knightley. But like the 1940 adaptation with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, this 2005 film has attracted a great deal of criticism from Austen fans for its failure to be closely faithful to the novel. Many have complained how Wright changed the dynamics within the Bennet family. Others have complained by the less than sterile appearance of the Bennet estate and the movie’s late 18th century. As far as many readers were concerned, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” should have been set between 1811 and 1820 – Britain’s Regency era, since the novel was published in 1813. So, how did I feel about Wright’s take on Austen’s novel?

I might as well be frank. I did have problems with “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. I could have understood Wright’s decision to portray the Bennet household with a less than pristine appearance. The Bennet manor was not the first to be portray in this style. The Western home in 1963’s “TOM JONES” looked a lot messier. But Squire Western lived on the estate by himself, until the arrival of his daughter Sophie and his sister Aunt Western. Mrs. Bennet managed the family estate in Wright’s movie. One would think she and the house servants would be able to keep a cleaner home. And I was not that impressed by most of the costumes worn by the Bennets. I found them rather plain and worn for an upper class family from the landed gentry. Mind you, they did not have the same amount of money as Mr. Darcy or the Bingleys. Except for the Netherfield ball sequence, their costumes seemed to hint that they barely possessed enough money to scratch out a living. Yet, at the same time, they had both house and field servants?

I was not impressed by the change of dynamics between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. They seemed a bit too affectionate in comparison to their portrayals in other movies. Wright’s decision to make this change seemed to defeat the purpose of Austen’s narrative. He forgot that the incompatible marriage between the well-born, yet caustic Mr. Bennet and the middle-class and boorish Mrs. Bennet was one of the major reasons that led youngest daughter Lydia to leave Brighton with the roguish George Wickham. Mrs. Bennet’s shrill manners and obsession with matrimony for her daughters, and Mr. Bennet’s cynical disregard for his wife and society led to their failure to discipline their youngest daughters – Lydia and Kitty. But we never see this in Wright’s film. He had every right to justify Mrs. Bennet’s search for future sons-in-law. But the affection between her and Mr. Bennet makes it difficult to explain their failure to discipline Lydia and Kitty.

I also had a problem with George Wickham. I felt sorry for Rupert Friend. He is a very good actor who was handed over a role that turned out to be a ghost of its former self by Wright. Friend is also a very handsome actor. But he was really not given the opportunity to display Wickham’s charm and talent for emotional manipulation. Worse, the Elizabeth/Wickham scenes failed to convey any real friendship between the two, before Elizabeth’s discovery of his true nature. They were simply not on screen together long enough to justify Elizabeth’s outrage over Mr. Darcy’s alleged treatment of Wickham. Wright’s treatment of the Charles Bingley character was also a problem for me. I am aware that Mr. Bingley has always sought his friend Mr. Darcy’s approval, regarding the other man as his social superior. But Mr. Bingley has also struck me as a more social and extroverted man. Wright made sure that his Mr. Bingley, portrayed by Simon Woods, was socially active. But he also transformed Bingley into a shy and reticent man. And the idea of a quiet Mr. Darcy and a shy Mr. Bingley as close friends does not quite seem right to me.

However, there is no such thing as a perfect film – at least not in my experience. Yes, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” is a flawed movie. But it is not the disaster that some Austen fans would have many to believe. Despite some changes in the characterization and the 129 minutes running time, Austen’s tale remained intact under Wright’s direction and Deborah Moggach’s pen. And a few of the changes made by Wright and Moggach did not bother me one bit. In fact, I found them rather interesting. One change in the movie involved the Elizabeth Bennet character. This “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” delved more into the impact of the Bennet family’s shenanigans upon her psyche with scenes that featured Elizabeth’s brief flight from the crowds of the Netherfield ball, her penchant of keeping personal secrets from her closest sister Jane, and occasional bursts of temper. Many also complained about the film’s late 18th century setting, claiming that Austen’s novel was a Regency tale. I said this in my review of the 1940 adaptation and I will state it again. There was no law that “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” had to be set in the 1810s because of its final publishing date. Austen’s tale is not a historical drama, merely a comedy of manners and a romantic tale. Besides, her novel was originally completed some time in the late 1790s – the same time frame as this movie.

Despite my complaints about the plain wardrobe for the Bennet family, I must admit that I was impressed by most of Jacqueline Durran’s costumes – especially for the Netherfield Ball sequence. I felt that the most interesting costume was worn by Kelly Reilly (as Caroline Bingley in the aforementioned sequence:

netherfield-ball-miss-bingley-in-modern-dress

Some fans felt that Durran made a misfire in the creation of this particular costume, which they believed evoked the high-waisted fashions of the first two decades of the 19th century. They especially took umbrage at her gown’s lack of sleeves. What they failed to realize was that women’s fashion was in a stage of transition between the late 18th and early 19th century. Older women like Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh wore the older 18th century fashions, while younger females began wearing dresses and gown with a higher waistline. It made sense that Caroline Bingley, being familiar with the more sophisticated London society, would wear such a gown. There is a 1798-99 painting called “Madame Raymond de Verninac” in which the subject wore a similar looking gown:

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Other technical aspects of the movie that proved to be a lot less controversial. Roman Osin’s photography proved to be one of the movie’s biggest assets. I found it lush, yet sharp and rich in color. And it certainly did justice to Sarah Greenwood’s production designs and Katie Spencer’s set decorations, which captured the look of Britain at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century beautifully. I especially enjoyed the photography featured in Elizabeth’s journey with her Gardiner relations to Derbyshire. Another segment that displayed Osin’s photography and Greenwood’s work beautifully was the Netherfield Ball. I especially enjoyed the tracking shot that touched upon the behaviors and emotional states of the major characters, before finally settling upon a secluded Elizabeth, heaving a sigh of relief.

Wright had the good luck to find himself with a first-rate cast for his movie. Jena Malone’s Lydia Bennet struck me as more of a show boater or poseur than any other interpretation of the role. Carey Mulligan gave ample support as her slightly older sister and emotional pet, Kitty. Talulah Riley did a very good job in capturing Mary Bennet’s self-righteous nature. Yet, at the same, she was surprisingly poignant – especially during the Netherfield ball sequence. Despite Moggach and Wright’s attempts to paint Mrs. Bennet’s determination to marry off her daughters in a more positive light, Brenda Blethyn still managed to capture the character’s gauche manners and silliness. And for that I am grateful to the actress. Donald Sutherland’s take on Mr. Bennet seemed less cynical than Austen’s take on the character. Thanks to Moggach’s script, Sutherland’s Mr. Bennet almost loses his bite. But not completely. Sutherland managed to retain some of the character’s sardonic humor. And I really enjoyed his performance in the scene that featured Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth’s discussion about her feelings for Mr. Darcy.

Despite my complaints about the characterizations of Charles Bingley and George Wickham, I cannot deny that both Simon Woods and Rupert Friend gave first-rate performances. However, I suspect that Woods was given more to work with, even if Moggach’s portrayal of his character struck a wrong note within me. There is an interesting post-script regarding Woods’ casting – he was Rosamund Pike’s (Jane Bennet) ex-boyfriend, when they filmed “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” together. The movie featured only one of Mr. Bingley’s sisters – namely the gold-digging Caroline Bingley. Kelly Reilly’s take on the role strongly reminds me of Frieda Inescort’s performance in the 1940 movie – cool and sarcastic. Reilly had some choice lines, my favorite being her comment about her brother’s guests at the Netherfield Ball:

“I can’t help thinking that at some point someone is going to produce a piglet and we’ll all have to chase it.”

Yes, I realize that Jane Austen did not write it. But who cares? It is such a droll line, even if it was spoken by the unspeakable Caroline. I read somewhere that Joe Wright had convinced Judi Dench to portray Lady Catherine de Bourgh, claiming that he loved it when she “played a bitch”. And yes . . . Dench’s Lady Catherine was deliciously bitchy. On the other hand, Claudie Blakely gave a nice performance as Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas. She also had one memorable moment in which her character tried to explain her decision to marry William Collins, Elizabeth’s unpalatable cousin. “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” marked the first time Keira Knightley worked with Tom Hollander. His Mr. Collins did not strike me as obsequious as previous versions. For some reason, Hollander reminded me of a socially awkward geek. The scene featuring Mr. Collins’ attempt to get Mr. Darcy’s attention struck me as particularly funny. Penelope Wilton and Peter Wight gave solid performances as Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle, the Gardiners. But I did not find them particularly memorable. Rosamund Pike made a very beautiful and charming Jane Bennet. She perfectly conveyed the character’s shyness and penchant for thinking too good of others.

Matthew MacFadyen was not that well known to U.S. audiences when he was cast in the role of Mr. Darcy. I realize that I am going to attract a good deal of flak for this, but I am glad that MacFadyen did not try to recapture Colin Firth’s take on the role. An actor or actress should never try to copy another’s performance. Frankly, I thought MacFadyen did a fine job on his own. He is the only actor to openly convey Mr. Darcy’s inability to easily socialize before the story’s second half, due to some silent acting on his part. I especially enjoyed his performance with Knightley featuring Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal. But Keira Knightley, as Elizabeth Bennet, contributed just as much to the scene as he did. For some reason, the actress has attracted a great deal of bashing from moviegoers. I will not try to determine the reason behind their behavior. But I will compliment Knightley for her performance. Like the other actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, she conveyed all of the character’s wit, prejudices and exuberant nature. But thanks to Moggach’s screenplay, Knightley was given a chance to put a new spin on Elizabeth’s character. Due to the Bennet family’s behavior, Knightley was able to convey Elizabeth’s increasing emotional distance from them. Many critics did not care for this new spin on the character. I, on the other hand, found it fascinating and new.

Joe Wright’s “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” has its flaws. There is no denying it. But I can say the same for the other three adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel that I have seen. For me, the movie’s virtues outweighed its flaws. And its biggest virtues were Roman Osin’s photography and a memorable cast led by the talented Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen. This was Joe Wright’s first film and so far, my favorite he has done during his seven years as a director.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (5.09) “Namaste”

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Below is an article I had written about the Season Five episode of “LOST” (2004-2010) called (5.09) “Namaste”

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (5.09) Namaste”

“Namaste” is a term used commonly on the Indian subcontinent that is used as a greeting and a parting valediction between individuals. I suppose that this word might be the proper title for this ninth episode from Season Five from ABC’s “LOST”(5.09) “Namaste” served as a crossroad for the series’ fifth season. It served as a closure for some of the season’s story arcs and a beginning for others.

The episode opened where the sixth episode, (5.06) “316” ended, with former castaways Dr. Jack Shephard, Kate Austen and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes disappearing from Ajira Flight 316 (destination – Guam) and reappearing on the Island. Following their harrowing reappearance, they are spotted by one their former castaways, who had remained on the island, Jin-Soo Kwon. The season’s eighth episode, (5.08) “La Fleur”, revealed that Jin; along with James “Sawyer” Ford (“Jim La Fleur”), Dr. Juliet Burke, Miles Straume, and Daniel Faraday; had ceased their time skipping and landed in the year 1974. They spent the next three years as members of the Dharma Initiative. When Jin informed Sawyer of Jack, Kate and Hurley’s arrival in 1977, Saywer races from the Dharma compound to greet his former castaways.

Sawyer explains to the three newcomers that they had ended up in the 1970s. And in order to remain at the Dharma compound, he lied to the organization’s leaders that he was captain of a research vessel, whose crew was searching the wrecked slave ship, the Black Rock. He then arranges for the trio to join the Dharma Initiative as new recruits. Jack becomes a janitor, Kate joins the motor pool, where Juliet works. And Hurley becomes a cook. Sawyer manages to achieve this after Juliet forges their necessary documentation.

Back in the 21st century, pilot Frank Lapidus manages to land the Ajira 316 airliner on the runway constructed by members of the Others, Kate and Sawyer (who were prisoners) back on Season Three, on the Hydra Station island. Along with Frank, Sun-Kwa Kwon and Benjamin Linus (former Others leader), other survivors include a man named Caesar, who assumes leadership of the surviving Ajira passengers and a bounty hunter named Ilana Verdansky, who had been escorting former Oceanic castaway Sayid Jarrah into custody. Ben sets out for the main island to reunite with the Others. Sun decides to join him in order to find Jin. And Frank accompanies them in order to protect Sun from Ben. However, she knocks Ben out, leaving him behind on the Hydra island. Sun and Frank encounter a figure in Christian Shephard’s image, who informs them that Jack, Kate and Hurley have time traveled back to 1977. He also informs Sun that Jin is with them.

I found nothing particularly unique about “Namaste”. But I must admit that I still found it interesting and solid entertainment. I found the present day sequences featuring Sun, Ben and Frank less interesting. Ben’s intention to leave the Hydra island in order to reunite with Richard Alpert and the rest of the Others did not seem very interesting to me. Even Ben’s attitude regarding his intention seemed like the logical conclusion. Which is why I found Sun’s reaction to him rather over-the-top. One, she did not have insist upon joining him. If she really wanted to leave Hydra island for the main one, she could have made the trip on her own. Instead, she insisted upon joining Ben, before whacking him over the head with a paddle. Many “LOST” fans cheered. I simply rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all and a confirmation of her vindictive nature. When she and Frank later discovered that Jack, Kate, Hurley and Jin were all in 1977, I found the scene . . . well, uninteresting. The only interesting aspect of this story line was that it explained the finale of (3.07) “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” – with the Man in Black (in John Locke’s form) looking down at his unconscious form.

The scenes set in 1977 managed to rouse my interest. The interactions between the main characters seemed filled with a great deal of emotions – overt or otherwise. Much of that emotion was centered around James “Sawyer” Ford. Ever since the Season Four episode, (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, many “LOST” fans have been pushing him as the series’ hero. Sawyer’s “hero” status was solidified – as far as many were concerned – in “La Fleur”, when he found a way to ensure that he and his fellow castaways would become part of the Dharma Initiative and became romantically involved with Juliet Burke. Within three years, Sawyer became the Dharma Initiative’s Head of Security. In a way, I can see why many fans had put Sawyer on a pedestal by mid-Season Five. Yet, I found some of his interactions with the other characters and his own decisions rather questionable. I am not accusing screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Brian K. Vaughan of bad writing. On the contrary, I thought they handled Sawyer’s role in this episode very well. But I suspect that so many fans were viewing Sawyer through rose-colored glasses that they failed to see the warts behind the heroic image. Not even Jack Shephard during the series’ first season was regarded in such a high light.

Many fans anticipated the reunion between Sawyer and his former bed partner, Kate Austen; believing that the latter was over Jack. Mind you, not all fans believed this, but a good number did. The episode’s last five to ten minutes featured a moment in which the two exchanged subtle looks. That look would prove to be the beginning of the end of Sawyer’s romance with Juliet . . . but in a way he did not anticipate or liked. Even worse, Kate’s little moment of flirtation was a return to an old habit of hers – using Sawyer to erase her romantic problems with Jack. Fans marveled at how he and Juliet had arranged for Jack, Kate and Hurley’s initiation into the Dharma Initiative. And many cheered at his criticism, near the end of the episode, of Jack’s earlier leadership of the Oceanic 815 castaways. I felt impressed by the former and unimpressed by the latter. My recent viewing of this episode led me to realize a few things. One, three years as the “Sheriff of Dharma Land” had allowed Sawyer to develop an ego the size of a basketball. Note some of his criticism directed at Jack:

SAWYER: [Chuckles] I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It’s how I like to run things. I think. I’m sure that doesn’t mean that much to you, ’cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn’t think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.

JACK: I got us off the Island.

SAWYER: But here you are… [sighs] right back where you started. So I’m gonna go back to reading my book, and I’m gonna think, ’cause that’s how I saved your ass today. And that’s how I’m gonna save Sayid’s tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night’s rest. Let me do what I do.

One, Sawyer had forgotten that not all of Jack’s decisions were bad . . . and not all of his decisions were good. He also seemed unaware that his decision to include himself, Miles, Juliet, Jin and Daniel into the Dharma Initiative was a bad idea. And he should have never given Jack, Kate and Hurley the opportunity to become part of the Dharma Initiative. Sawyer did not save Jack, Kate and Hurley’s lives. He merely dragged them into his own deception. And his decisions will prove to be bad ones by the end of Season Five. His belief in his own leadership skills proved to be nothing more than a reflection of his skills as a con artist. Like the Oceanic Six, he and his four companions had been living a lie for the past three years . . . a lie that would eventually catch up to them. I also suspect that Sawyer (and Juliet) were responsible for the newcomers’ new positions. Sawyer’s rant and his arrangement of Jack’s new position as a janitor only convinced me that despite his words, his insecurities regarding the spinal surgeon have not abated.

However, Sawyer was not the only one who made bad decisions. Hurley decided that he wanted the comforts of the Dharma Initiative, instead of the discomforts of the jungle. It was a bad decision on his part. And both Jack and Kate made the mistake of agreeing with Hurley’s decision. I could not help but wonder if Juliet had regretted assisting Amy Goodspeed through a difficult birth. The Goodspeeds’ new child turned out to be Ethan Rom, a future follower of Ben Linus in 2004. I feel that Juliet had made the right choice. But . . . I have great difficulty in believing that Ethan was 27 years old in 2004 (the first season), especially since the actor who had portrayed him, William Mapother, was 39 to 40 years old during the series’ first season . . . and looked it.

The episode ended with the revelation of Sayid Jarrah’s whereabouts. He did not appear on the island with Jack, Hurley and Kate. And he was not seen among the Ajira survivors in 2007. Instead, he also ended up in 1977, discovered by Jin Kwon seconds before they encountered the Dharma Initiative’s borderline psychotic head researcher, Stuart Radzinsky. Jin had no choice but to place Sayid under arrest for being a possible Hostile (the Others), the enemies of the Dharma Initiative and longtime island residents. At the end of the episode, Sayid met the 14 year-old version of Benjamin Linus, the man who manipulated him into becoming a hired gun in the latter’s war against rival Charles Widmore. This meeting will prove to have grave consequences for the Losties. So much for Sawyer saving Sayid’s ass. “Ain’t life a bitch?”

Thanks to screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Brian K. Vaughan, “Namaste” is a pretty good episode that brought a great deal of closure to the first half of Season Five and initiated the story arcs for the rest of that season and the sixth and final season. The emotional complexities – especially in regard to James “Sawyer” Ford – proved to be very interesting in the 1977 sequences. But I was not that particularly impressed by the 2007 scenes. Despite my disappointment in the latter, I managed to enjoy the episode in the end.

“LOOPER” (2012) Review

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“LOOPER” (2012) Review

Time travel can be a tricky topic for a fictional story. Some writers can do wonders with a story featuring time traveling. Some writers start out well end up creating a mass of confusion. And other writers . . . well, they end up simply creating a bad story. When I first learned about the premise for the new science-fiction movie, “LOOPER”, I feared I was about to see a time travel movie with a bad plot. 

According to writer/director Rian Johnson’s tale, the United States is in a state of economic collapse in the year 2044. There is social decay, a high rise in crime and a mutation has developed within a small number of the Earth’s population that gives them a telekinetic ability. Thirty years later, time travel has been invented, but immediately outlawed. Tracking technology has made it impossible for criminals to dispose of bodies. Crime bosses use illicit time travel to send their victims back in time, where they are killed by assassins called “loopers”. These assassins are paid with silver bars strapped to the back of their targets. When the crime bosses want to end a looper’s contract, they send his older self back to be killed by his younger self, paying the latter with gold bars as a last payoff. Failure to kill the older self is punishable by death.

Joe Simmons is a looper in 2044 Kansas, whose boss – a time traveler named Abe – is sent back to the past to supervise him and his fellow loopers in the area. Best friend and fellow looper Seth tells Joe that he failed to kill his old self and that the latter informed him of a criminal mastermind named the Rainmaker, who is closing down all loops. Joe eventually betrays Seth in order to maintain his secret stash of silver. Joe’s older self eventually arrives from the past and Joe first kills him. But due to a tragic incident thirty years in the future, Old Joe changes time by escaping to the past on his own. He escapes and Joe tracks him down to a diner, where he tells Joe that the Rainmaker sent him back to be killed, and that Old Joe’s wife was killed during his capture. Old Joe killed his captors and traveled back to kill the Rainmaker as a child. Joe attempts to kill Old Joe and fulfill his contract, but both of them flee when they are attacked by Abe’s hit men or “Gat Men”. Due to a piece of a map in Old Joe’s possession, Joe finds a string of digits that leads him to farm owned by a woman named Sara, who lives with her son, Cid. Meanwhile, Old Joe uses the remaining digits on the map to track down the location of three candidates who might turn out to be the Rainmaker as a child. Old Joe intends to kill all three to prevent his future wife’s death.

Sounds complicated? Trust me, that was only the beginning. For reasons that escape me, Rian Johnson, along with Kimberly Amacker and the rest of the movie’s makeup team decided to use prosthetic makeup to ensure that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who portrayed the younger Joe Simmons, bear some resemblance to Bruce Willis. They hired Kazuhiro Tsuji for the job. Tsuji did his best in altering Gordon-Levitt’s looks, but in the end, it all depended more on the actor’s performance to make the transformation work. A part of me feels that his prosthetic makeup was not really necessary.

Also, complicated time travel stories such as the one for “LOOPER” tend to turn me off. Dealing with the subject of time travel is bad enough. But I tend to view complicated plot twists, such as the ones found in “LOOPER” as impossible to follow. But thanks to Rian Johnson’s direction and script, I found the movie surprisingly easy to follow . . . aside from one particular scene. I might as well talk about the latter. The sequence featuring Old Joe’s first escape from death at the hands of Joe ended with the latter falling out of the window of his apartment. The movie never made it clear whether he lived or died. But the next scene featured Old Joe’s reappearance at the fatal cornfield again. This time, Joe killed Old Joe, leaving me somewhat confused. Was there a time reset of some kind? It finally occurred to me that Johnson simply revealed that Old Joe had escaped death, left his fate a mystery . . . and then went back to how this scenario came to be. In other words, following Old Joe’s second appearance in the cornfield, audiences learn of the circumstances that led to that moment – Joe’s murder of Old Joe, his retirement as a looper, his years in China as a hired killer, his marriage and eventually, his wife’s death. The latter drove Old Joe over the edge and he set out time travel on his own, prevent his younger self from killing him and kill the younger self of the Rainmaker, before the latter can grow and cause the death of his wife. Now, I understood.

Once I realized what was going on, I was able to enjoy “LOOPER” a lot more. Not only did Johnson create a fascinating tale in which time travel played a heavy role, he created some fascinating characters – especially the leading one, Joe Simmons. Johnson did an excellent job in showing how the time traveling not only affected Joe Simmons’ character, but was also responsible for the creation of the Rainmaker. I was amazed at how Johnson’s story revealed the ugly consequences of time travel in a way no other writer or filmmaker has done before. His story also developed from the typical science-fiction action thriller into a poignant, character-driven tale about the consequences of grief and revenge. By the time I left the movie theater, I realized that I had seen one of the most original science-fiction thrillers in recent years.

“LOOPER” also had the good luck to have some first-rate performers to grace its cast. The movie featured interesting performances from the likes of Paul Dano, who gave an emotional performance as the looper Seth, who set things in motion by warning Joe about the Rainmaker. I also enjoyed the performances of Noah Segan, who gave a colorful performance as Abe’s main “Gat Man”, Kid Blue, who is eager to earn his boss’ respect by going after Joe; Piper Perabo’s sexy take on showgirl Suzy; Qing Xu, who projected the perfect air of sensibility and calm for Old Joe; and Garret Dillahunt, who oozed intelligence and danger as another “Gat Man”, who manages to track down Joe to the Kansas farmhouse.

But there were performances that really impressed me. One of them came from Jeff Daniels, who was an absolute delight as the sharp-tongued crime boss Abe. His advice to Joe about relocating to China upon retirement turned out to be one of the movie’s highlights. Emily Blunt acquired an impressive American accent for her role as Sara, the practical farm owner that gave Joe shelter. Not only was I impressed by her different accent, but also her performance and strong screen presence. I cannot say enough about Pierce Gagnon, the child actor who portrayed Sara’s son, Cid. Gagnon gave one of the best child performances I have seen in years . . . and one of the creepiest. Of the entire cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had the most difficult role. Not only did he have to capture many aspects of Bruce Willis’ portrayal of the older Joe, but also the older actor’s speech pattern, body language and screen persona. And too my surprise, he stood up to the plate and knocked it out of the ballpark. I can also say the same Bruce Willis’ performance as Old Joe. Sure, his usual wise ass screen persona was there . . . somewhat. But he also took his character beyond the usual persona and to greater heights by portraying Old Joe as a man caught up in his grief over a dead wife and obsessed with vengeance and determination to change time.

I would not say that “LOOPER” was perfect. Instead of writing a clear and straight narrative that a story of this complexity needed, director-writer Rian Johnson tried to be a little clever in explaining Old Joe’s arrival in the past. And I feel that the prosthetic makeup for Joseph Gordon-Levitt was unnecessary. But despite these quibbles, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. Johnson, along with an excellent cast led by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, delivered one of the most original movies I have seen in years.

“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 3 (Part 3)

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“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

Act III – Part 3

“Well, look who’s here!” Olivia declared, as she greeted the newcomers. “I didn’t think you guys would make it.” 

Sheila Morris replied, “Neither did we. Especially with these two scamps,” she glanced at her two sons with deep affection, “giving us trouble. But we got here.”

“So when does the ceremony begin?” Darryl asked.

Olivia replied, “Oh, in about another thirty minutes or . . .” She paused, as her eyes caught sight of two people standing near the refreshment table. Cole and Veronica Altman. Olivia saw the half-daemon whisper something in the woman’s ear and walked away. “Excuse me,” she said. As she began to walk away, Darryl stopped her.

“Wait a minute, Olivia,” her partner said. “I’ve got some news.” He turned to Sheila. “Honey, do you mind?” The other woman nodded and steered the Morrises’ two sons away.

An impatient Olivia asked, “What is it?”

Darryl took a deep breath. “Look, the other reason why we were late is that I got a call from Scott Yi, this morning. He wanted to talk about our new task force for next month and he ended up giving me a piece of news. Apparently, a male stripper was found dead in front of his apartment building, last night. The corpse was burnt . . . like those two guards from Wednesday night. But a neighbor managed to identify him.”

“A male stripper?” Olivia glanced at her partner. “Why would Scott Yi think you would be interested in one?”

With a shrug, Darryl continued, “He didn’t . . . until I mentioned the wedding, along with the bachelor party and bridal shower. Get this. The victim’s name was Lee Carver. According to Sheila . . .”

“That was the name of the stripper at P3, last night,” Olivia murmured. A frown creased her forehead. “When was the body discovered?”

Darryl replied, “Between 8:40 and 8:55 p.m. The neighbor heard a commotion outside the building, before she went downstairs to investigate.”

Between eight-forty and eight-fifty-five? Olivia recalled that the stripper first performance had occurred around 9:15. “But that’s impossible!” she cried. “Carver had first performed after nine o’clock!

“What are you saying?” Darryl demanded. “That the stripper you saw wasn’t Carver?”

Olivia gave her partner a knowing look. “What do you think? Nick Marcano escapes from jail. Claudia Della Scalla has been reported here in San Francisco . . .”

“Yeah, I know,” Darryl added.

“Who told you?”

A third voice added, “I did.” Olivia and Darryl glanced at the newcomer. It was Cole. “I told Darryl right after Riggerio had informed me. Last night. Warned me, as a matter of fact.” His blue eyes bored into Olivia’s. “Why? Is there a problem?”

Darryl told him about the circumstances surrounding Lee Carver’s death. “And his body was discovered at least a half-hour before he performed at the bridal shower, at P3.”

Cole’s eyes narrowed. “Hmmm, sounds like the stripper at P3 was a shapeshifter.” Then he glanced at Olivia. “So, you actually have male strippers at bridal showers?”

Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. Darryl heaved a sigh. “Cole!”

“Okay, sorry.” The half-daemon paused. “Uh, is there a reason why a shape shifter might be at a bridal party?”

“I have no idea,” Olivia snapped. “And since nothing has happened since the party, I suggest that we look into the matter‘after’ the wedding.”

Cole and Darryl exchanged glances and shrugged. “Speaking of the wedding,” the former continued, “when does the ceremony begin?”

Olivia’s mouth curled into a sneer. “Getting impatient? Or is Bonnie?”

“Her name is Ronnie. Veronica,” Cole shot back.

Olivia quirked a brow. “Whatever. Is she getting impatient?”

Cole smirked. “No. Do you care?”

Olivia glared at the half-daemon. Darryl spoke up. “I think I better get back to Sheila and the boys.” He quickly walked away.

The witch and the half-daemon continued to exchange stares, until a voice called out, “Olivia?” It belonged to Paul, who had appeared before the pair. “Is everything okay?” He glared at Cole.

Touching Paul’s arm, Olivia replied in a quiet voice, “Everything’s fine. Let’s get back to the garden.” She led the other witch toward the wedding guests, fully aware of Cole’s gaze upon her.

——–

Cecile let out an exasperated sigh. No one would describe the McNeill house as huge. But it was certainly large enough for a person to get lost.

After a ten minute search for the greenhouse, Cecile began to realize that after years of visiting Olivia’s family, she had never really seen every inch of the McNeill estate. She had visited the greenhouse on a few occasions, but for some reason, she could not remember where to find it. Maybe she should go . . .

“Cecile? Is that you?” A figure emerged from one of the rooms on the first floor. It was Olivia’s former whitelighter. “It is you,” he added. “I’m . . . do you know how I can get back to the garden? I think I’m lost.”

“So am I,” Cecile replied. “I’m looking for the greenhouse. Barbara’s corsage is there.”

“Oh.”

Cecile continued, “But if you’re trying to reach the garden, go that way.” She pointed in the direction from which she came. “You should find the west wing drawing-room. That’ll lead you to the garden.”

Leo quietly thanked her and turned in the aforementioned direction. Then he paused. “By the way,” he added, “Phoebe told me about your premonition. Have you told Olivia?”

The premonition. Oh God! Cecile began to regret that she had ever mentioned it. Andre and Paige had warned her about their revelation to Phoebe Halliwell. It seemed a miracle that neither Olivia, Cole or Paul knew. “No, I haven’t,” she said.

“Don’t you think that you should?” the whitelighter insisted.

Cecile’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure, yet. I’ve learned over the years, Leo, that it’s sometimes smarter to keep your mouth shut. Especially when it comes to premonitions.”

Disbelief shone in Leo’s eyes. “Good grief, Cecile! You can’t be serious! You’ve had a vision of Olivia vanquishing Cole! There must be a reason why you got it!”

“What reason?”

“I don’t know!” Leo continued. “Maybe . . . maybe it’s a sign that Cole might be a danger to Olivia and Paul in the future.”

“Or, it could be a sign that Olivia and Paul might be dangerous,” Cecile snapped back. “May I remind you that I never saw Cole threatening anyone? And I got this vision after shaking Paul’s hand! What if he proves to be the dangerous one? Maybe he’ll find a way to convince Olivia to kill Cole. From what Paige has told me about him, it’s possible.”

Leo retorted, “Paul is a good man! A good witch! He would never . . .”

“Go overboard? Turn evil?” Cecile snorted with derision. “Why not? I almost did. So did Olivia. And also your wife, from what Olivia and Paige have told me.”

Leo’s face turned red. “Now wait a minute . . .”

Cecile continued in a cold voice, “No, you listen. I have no idea what my premonition means. But I’ll be the one to tell Livy, not you or anyone else. And I’ll decide when. If you open your mouth about this, you’ll be having nightmares for the next two decades. I mean it, Leo!”

Silence hung like a heavy curtain, between the pair. Leo’s shoulders sagged in defeat. “Fine,” he murmured. “You tell her. But if Cole proves to . . .”

“I’ll take the chance, Leo,” Cecile interrupted. “I’ll see you in the garden.” She turned her back on the whitelighter and walked away. After another ten minutes had passed, she finally reached a door that led outside and toward the greenhouse. Cecile heaved a relieved sigh and strode toward the structure.

A blast of humid air hit her face, as she opened the door. Cecile hesitated momentarily before she entered the greenhouse. Rows of plants, flowers and various fruits and vegetables, greeted her eyes. Fearing a massive search on her hands, Cecile felt more than relieved when she spotted Barbara’s corsage on a table, in front of orchids, hanging from rows of bushes. The corsage consisted of a beautiful combination of white orchids and red azaleas.

Cecile picked up the object of her search and started toward the door. She had not taken three steps, when she heard voices from the other side of the greenhouse. “The wedding ceremony should take place in another fifteen minutes or so,” a woman’s voice stated. “After that, the Padronessa should be married to the McNeill witch.”

“What happens to the witch at the house?” a man’s voice countered. “What’s her name? Barbara? What happens to her?”

The woman replied, “The Padronessa has decided to give her to Signor Marcano.”

A gasp left Cecile’s mouth, before she could stop herself. The conversation stopped. She quickly started toward the door, but found her path blocked by two people. Strangers. “So,” she began, “who are you, two? Guests?”

A fireball formed in the woman’s right hand. The moment she threw it at Cecile, the latter quickly declared, “Deflect” in Yoruba, creating a magical shield. The fireball bounced against the shield and zinged back toward the woman. Flames engulfed her body, leaving a pile of dust.

“Talia!” the man cried out. His dark eyes narrowed, as they began to turn red. Sensing immediate danger, Cecile used her telepathy to deflect the incubus’ attack. The latter’s eyes reddened even further. But instead of engulfing Cecile in flames, his face began to smoke, until his entire body incinerated into a ball of fire.

Cecile let out a satisfied sigh. But the satisfaction did not last. Judging from the conversation she had just overheard, the blond-haired woman who was preparing to exchange vows with Bruce, was not Barbara Bowen. She had to warn Olivia, Andre, and Mr. Bowen. With the corsage still clutched in her hand, she continued toward the door, when something hard struck the back of her head. At that moment, everything faded to black.

———–

The middle-aged woman entered Barbara’s bedroom, holding a tray. “Good afternoon, signorina. I have lunch for you. I hope you will enjoy it. Fettucini Alfredo. It is the Padronessa’s favorite.”

“Thanks,” Barbara replied morosely. For the umpteenth time in the past several hours, she wished she had her wand.

The servant continued, “And with it, there is garlic bread, and a Caesar salad.”

While the woman continued to chatter, Barbara noticed the open door. She also spotted a small marble bust on the tallboy. The servant’s attention seemed focused on the tray. “. . . to drink, a nice bottle of white Chianti. It is from the Padronessa’s own vineyard. Very nice. And it would go very well with your lunch. I will just open it . . .”

Shooting one last surreptious glance at the other woman, Barbara snatched the bust and struck the back of the servant’s head. The woman sunk to the floor. Then the blond-haired witch quickly stole out of the room. She closed the door and quietly locked it. As she made her way toward the staircase, a figure appeared in the hallway. It was a man. “You!” he cried. “What are you doing . . .” Barbara threw the statuette at the man, striking him squarely in the forehead. He crumbled to the ground.

Satisfied with her work, Barbara made her way downstairs to the first floor. A daemon materialized before her. Before he could even open his mouth, her fist struck him in the gut. He doubled over, giving Barbara the opportunity to finish the job with a blow to his jaw. He immediately toppled over.

Barbara realized that it was not safe to linger any longer and quickly rushed toward the front door. Before she could reach it, she heard a click. Glancing to her right, she saw Nick standing in the doorway of another room. Aiming a revolver at her.

“Don’t take another step, Barbara,” he warned. “Or I’ll kill you.”

A sneer curled her lips. “Oh really? Gee Nick, I thought you wanted to keep me alive. As your prize.”

“I do.” Nick strode toward her, his revolver still aimed at Barbara’s head. “But letting you escape might possibly mean my death. Or a trip back to jail. I can’t have that. So turn around and go back upstairs.” Barbara hesitated. He fired the revolver and a bullet struck a vase against the wall, not far from her. “I mean it, Barbara.”

Defeat overwhelming her, Barbara slowly turned around and headed toward the staircase. She realized that it was all up to Bruce and the others to save her. Hopefully, they would figure out that the bride was an imposter before it was too late.

END OF ACT III – Part 3

“THE SUPERSIZERS”: Eating Through History

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Here is a look at a series of episodes about the history of food, mainly in Britain: “THE SUPERSIZERS”: 


Eating Through History

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In April 2007, the BBC aired a special episode in which food critic Giles Coren and broadcaster-comedienne Sue Perkins explored the history of food during the Edwardian Age. The result was the television special called “Edwardian Supersize Me”. This episode was part of a series called “The Edwardians — the Birth of Now”. Following the success of this special, the BBC commissioned a series of six episodes in which Coren and Perkins explored the history of food through six eras in British history. This series, which aired in May and June of 2008, was called “The Supersizers Go . . .”.

Below is a list of the episodes:


“The Supersizers Go . . .”

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“Wartime”

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“Restoration”

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“Victorian”

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“Seventies”

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“Elizabethan”

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“Regency”

Following the success of “THE SUPERSIZERS GO . . .”, the BBC commissioned a second series of episodes featuring Coren and Perkins called “THE SUPERSIZERS EAT . . .”.

Here is the list of episodes from that series:

“The Supersizers Eat . . .”

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“The Eighties”

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“Medieval”

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“The French Revolution”

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“The Twenties”

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“The Fifties”

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“Ancient Rome”

Ten Favorite SHERLOCK HOLMES Movies

Below is a list of my favorite movies featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes: 

 

TEN FAVORITE SHERLOCK HOLMES MOVIES

1. “Without a Clue” (1988) – I still love this spoof of the Sherlock Holmes stories in which the real detective is Dr. John Watson, who has hired an unemployed alcoholic actor named Reginal Kincaid to satisfy the public’s demand for a real Sherlock Holmes. In this film, the pair investigate the disappearance of Bank of England banknote plates and a printing supervisor. Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley are magic under Thom Eberhardt’s direction.

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2. “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” (2011) – Guy Richie made this second film about the Sherlock Holmes character and the latter’s conflict with his worst nemesis, Professor James Moriraty and his attempt to stop a major assassination. I loved it even more than Ritchie’s 2009 film. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law starred as Holmes and Watson.

3. “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) – Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of Doyle’s character about Holmes’ conflict against a nefarious aristocratic with plans to assume political control of the British Empire has become a major favorite of mine. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, along with Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong star.

4. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1939) – I am a big fan of this adaptation of William Gillette’s play about Sherlock Holmes’ investigation of a series of death threats against a well-to-do London family. This is the second film to feature Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Dr. Watson. Directed by Alfred L. Werker, the movie co-starred Ida Lupino and George Zucco.

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5. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (1976) – I have always enjoyed Herbert Ross’ adaptation of Nicholas Meyer’s 1974 novel about Holmes and Watson recruiting Dr. Sigmund Freud to guide the detective in overcoming his cocaine habit and investigate a nefarious kidnapping plot. Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave and Laurence Olivier starred.

6. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939) – This is my favorite adaptation of Doyle’s novel about Holmes’ investigation of an English family’s connection to a “demon” hound and a Candandian heir to the family’s fortunes. This is the first film to feature Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Dr. Watson. Sidney Lanfield directed.

7. “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985) – Steven Spielberg produced and Barry Levinson directed this fanciful imagining of Holmes and Watson’s first meeting as adolescents at a prestigious boys school, as they investigate a series of suspicious suicide deaths. Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Anthony Higgins and Sophie Ward starred.

8. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1988) – This is my favorite adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels featuring Jeremy Brett as the detective. Edward Hardwicke co-starred as Dr. Watson. The movie was directed by Brian Mills.

9. “Murder By Decree” (1979) – Directed by Bob Clark, Holmes and Watson investigate the Jack the Ripper murders. Excellent, although a bit bloody for my tastes. Christopher Plummer and James Mason co-starred as Holmes and Watson.

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10. “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970) – Billy Wilder directed this tale about a bored Sherlock Holmes, who eagerly decides to investigate the attempt on the life of a woman with a missing identity. Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely starred in this entertaining, yet flawed movie.