“NEMESIS” (2007) Review

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“NEMESIS” (2007) Review

Without a doubt, Agatha Christie’s 1971 novel, “Nemesis”, is one of her most unusual works. It is not as celebrated as 1934’s “Murder on the Orient Express” or her 1926 novel, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”. But it was the last novel she had written. And it possesses a slow, yet melancholic air that I find very rare in her body of work. 

Two adaptations of the novel have aired on British television. BBC aired the first adaptation, which starred Joan Hickson as Jane Marple, in 1987. Twenty years later, the ITV network aired its own version with Geraldine McEwan in the lead. While the 1987 version adhered as close as possible to the novel, this latest version turned out to be a very loose adaptation, thanks to screenwriters Stephen Churchett and Nicolas Winding Refn, who also served as the film’s director.

“NEMESIS” begins in 1940, when a German Luftwaffe pilot is forced to bail from his damaged plane during the Battle of Britain. Not long after he reaches the ground, he is spotted by a young, beautiful woman, who comes to his aid. The movie jumps some eleven years to 1951. Jane Marple has received news about the death of a friend – a financier/philanthropist named John Rafiel aka Faber, who was a refugee from Nazi Germany twenty years earlier. Rafiel recruits her from the grave to solve a murder that the murder may or may not have taken place. And the victim is unknown. All that he has given her are two tickets on the Daffodil Tour Company’s Mystery Tour. Miss Marple recruits her nephew, novelist Raymond West, to accompany her on the tour. During the early stages of the tour, Miss Marple and Raymond realizes that the other members of the tour had also been “selected” by Rafiel. Miss Marple also discovers that she had been recruited the solve the murder or disappearance of a young woman named Verity Hunt – the same woman who had met the German pilot during the war. And the German pilot turned out to be one Michael Faber, Rafiel’s estranged son.

I might as well state it loud and clear. “NEMESIS” is not one of the best Christie adaptations featuring Geraldine McEwan. Refn and Churchett had inflicted so many changes in the plot, it almost left me confused. Not only were some of the characters from Christie’s novel eliminated, new ones were created for the film. Refn and Churchett also changed the identity of the murderer and the crime’s setting. The pair even changed the identity of the Rafiel character from an English millionaire, whom Miss Marple had met in an earlier novel, to a German refugee from Nazi Germany who had befriended the elderly sleuth (he remained wealthy). And his son transformed from a ne’er-do-well to a former Luftwaffe pilot, embittered by his father’s refusal to help him and Verity during the war.

The addition of World War II as a setting for Verity’s death brought about other changes that left me scratching my head in confusion. In the novel, another young woman was murdered, so that her body would be confused with Verity’s. In the movie, there was some kind of confusion over the identity of a RAF pilot who had died at the very convent where Verity was serving, when she first met Michael. I wish I could explain the whole matter, but I found it rather confusing. Come to think of it, I found the Verity/Nora body switching rather confusing in Christie’s novel. The war did serve the movie’s plot in one positive manner – namely the character of Michael Faber and his brief, wartime romance with Verity. Their romance proved to be more poignant and tragic than Verity’s literary romance with Michael Rafiel.

The cast for “NEMESIS” proved to be a mixed bag. There were some . . . theatrical performances that I found wince inducing. The worst came from Ronni Ancona, who gave a ridiculously hysterical performance as Verity’s half-cousin and Raymond West’s former paramour, the aristocratic Amanda Dalrymple. Another over-the-top performance came from Emily Woof, who portrayed Rowena Waddy, the possessive wife of war veteran and former RAF pilot, Martin Waddy. At the other extreme, Amanda Burton gave a disturbingly minimalist performance as Sister Clotilde, one of the two nuns who knew Verity. Perhaps I had been kind by describing Burton’s performance as “minimalist”. Frankly, she struck me as silent and wooden.

Thankfully, there were plenty of first-rate portrayals that made “NEMESIS” enjoyable. I was impressed by solid performances from Laura Michelle Kelly, who had to portray two characters – Verity Hunt and a young wife named Margaret Lumley; George Cole, who portrayed the former butler of Verity’s illegitimate father; Ruth Wilson, who gave a charming performance as the tour’s guide and potential paramour for Raymond; Lee Ingleby, who portrayed the main investigator and budding novelist, DC Colin Hards; and Anne Reid, who portrayed Sister Clotilde’s older and pragmatic colleague, Sister Agnes.

But there were at least four outstanding performances from the cast. One came from Will Mellor, whose portrayal of Martin Waddy, the war veteran with the damaged face, struck me as very intense and sympathetic. An equally intense performance came from the future “DOWNTON ABBEY” star, Dan Stevens. He did an outstanding job in portraying the many aspects of Michael Faber’s complex personality. Richard E. Grant was a marvelous addition as Miss Marple’s nephew and traveling companion, the witty Raymond West. I was amazed at how he managed to create some kind of screen chemistry with more than one cast member – especially Ruth Wilson, Lee Ingleby and Geraldine McEwan. Speaking of Ms. McEwan, she was superb as the quiet and always observant, Jane Marple. She also infused a great deal of wit and warmth into her portrayal of the elderly sleuth.

“NEMESIS” has some aspects of its production to admire. Production designer Michael Pickwoad, costumer designer Sheena Napier and cinematographer Larry Smith all did a great job in contributing to the movie’s early 1950s setting and even the 1940 preclude. The movie could also boast some fine performances, especially from Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. But many of the changes to Agatha Christie’s original plot left me shaking my head in confusion. Honestly, it is not one of the better adaptations I have seen. The 1987 adaptation is better . . . but only slightly better.

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New Ranking of JAMES BOND Movies

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With the recent release of the new James Bond movie, “SKYFALL”, I have made a new ranking of all the Bond films produced and released by EON Productions (do not expect to find 1967’s “CASINO ROYALE” or 1983’s “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN” on this list) from favorite to least favorite:

 

NEW RANKING OF JAMES BOND MOVIES

1-On Her Majesty Secret Service

1. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) – The only film to feature Australian George Lazenby, this adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel has James Bond’s search for master criminal Ernst Stravos Blofeld affecting his private life. Directed by Peter Hunt, the movie also stars Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas.

2-Casino Royale

2. “Casino Royale” (2006) – Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1953 novel about Bond’s efforts to beat a banker for a terrorist organization at a poker tournament, in order to force the latter to provide information about the organization. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench.

3-The Living Daylights

3. “The Living Daylights” (1987) – Timothy Dalton made his debut as Bond in this partial adaptation of Fleming’s 1966 short story in which Bond’s efforts to stop a Soviet sniper from killing a defector leads to a revelation of a conspiracy between the defector and an American arms dealer. Directed by John Glen, the movie co-stars Maryam D’Abo, Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe.

4-For Your Eyes Only

4. “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) – Based on two Fleming short stories from 1960, the movie has Bond searching for a missing missile command system, while becoming tangled in a web of deception spun by rival Greek businessmen and dealing with a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her parents. Co-starring Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover and Topol; the movie marked the directing debut of John Glen.

5-From Russia With Love

5. “From Russia With Love” (1963) – Terence Young directed this adaptation of Fleming’s 1957 novel about Bond’s efforts to acquire the Soviet’s Lektor machine, unaware that he is being set up by SPECTRE. The movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, along with Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendáriz.

6-Octopussy

6. Octopussy” (1983) – A fake Fabergé egg and a fellow agent’s death leads James Bond to uncover an international jewel smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy, being used by a Soviet general and an Afghan prince to disguise a nuclear attack on NATO forces in West Germany. Directed by John Glen, the movie stars Roger Moore as Bond, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Steven Berkoff and Robert Brown in his debut as “M”.

7-Thunderball

7. “Thunderball” (1965) – Adapted from Fleming’s 1961 novel, this movie has Bond and CIA agent Felix Leiter attempting to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE for an extortion scheme. Directed by Terence Young, the movie stars Sean Connery as Bond, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi and Luciana Paluzzi.

8-Goldeneye

8. “Goldeneye” (1995) – Pierce Brosnan made his debut as Bond in this tale about the agent’s efforts to prevent an arms syndicate from using Russia’s GoldenEye satellite weapon against London in order to cause a global financial meltdown. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen and Judi Dench in her debut as “M”.

9-The Spy Who Loved Me

9. “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) – Taking its title from Fleming’s 1962 novel, this movie has Bond and Soviet agent Anya Amasova investigate the disappearances of British and Soviet submarines carrying nuclear warheads. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Barbara Bach, Kurt Jurgens and Richard Kiel.

10-Quantum of Solace

10. “Quantum of Solace” (2008) – Taking its title from a Fleming short story, this movie is a follow up to “CASINO ROYALE”, continuing Bond’s investigation into the terrorist organization Quantum, while dealing with the emotional effects of a tragic death. Directed by Marc Foster, the movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric.

11-License to Kill

11. “License to Kill” (1989) – Directed by John Glen, this movie has Bond resigning from MI-6 in order to seek revenge against the Latin American drug lord that maimed his best friend, Felix Leiter. The movie starred Timothy Dalton as Bond, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto and Don Stroud.

12-The World Is Not Enough

12. “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) – Directed by Michael Apted, the movie has Bond uncovering a nuclear plot, when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who cannot feel pain. The movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle and Denise Richards.

13-A View to a Kill

13. “A View to a Kill” (1985) – Taking its title from one of Fleming’s 1960 short stories, this film has Bond investigating an East-German born industrialist with possible ties to the KGB. Directed by John Glen, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Tanya Roberts, Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.

14-You Only Live Twice

14. “You Only Live Twice” (1967) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1964 novel, the movie has Bond and Japan’s Secret Service investigating the disappearance of American and Soviet manned spacecrafts in orbit, due to the actions of SPECTRE. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Tetsurō Tamba and Donald Pleasence.

15-Die Another Day

15. “Die Another Day” (2002) – A failed mission in North Korea leads to Bond’s capture, fourteen months in captivity, a desire to find the MI-6 mole responsible and a British billionaire with ties to a North Korean agent. Directed by Lee Tamahori, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike and Will Yun Lee.

16-Live and Let Die

16. “Live and Let Die” (1973) – Roger Moore made his debut as Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1954 novel about MI-6’s investigation into the deaths of three fellow agents who had been investigating the Prime Minister of San Monique.

17-Moonraker

17. “Moonraker” (1979) – Based on Fleming’s 1955 novel, this movie features Bond’s investigation into the disappearance of a space shuttle on loan to the British government by a millionaire with catastrophic plans of his own. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Lois Chiles, Michel Lonsdale and Richard Kiel.

18-Tomorrow Never Dies

18. “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Bond and a Chinese agent form an alliance to prevent a media mogul from creating a war between Britain and China in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher.

19-The Man With the Golden Gun

19. “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1965 novel, this movie has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee and Maud Adams.

20-Dr. No

20. “Dr. No” (1962) – Based upon Fleming’s 1958 novel, this movie kicked off the Bond movie franchise and featured Sean Connery’s debut as the British agent, whose investigation into the death of a fellow agent leads him to a Eurasian agent for SPECTRE and their plans to disrupt the U.S. space program. Directed by Terence Young, the movie co-starred Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman.

21-Skyfall

21. “Skyfall” – Directed by Sam Mendes, this film has Bond’s loyalty to “M” tested, when her past comes back to haunt her in the form of a former agent, who initiates a series of attacks upon MI-6. The movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris.

22-Diamonds Are Forever

22. “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) – Based on Fleming’s 1956 novel, this movie has Bond’s investigations into a diamond smuggling ring lead to another conflict with SPECTRE and Ernst Stravos Blofeld. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Jill St. John and Charles Gray.

23-Goldfinger

23. “Goldfinger” – Based on Fleming’s 1959 novel, this movie has Bond investigating a German-born gold magnate, who harbors plans to destroy the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Honor Blackman and Gert Frobe.

“GIRLS ABOUT TOWN” (1931) Review

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“GIRLS ABOUT TOWN” (1931) Review

When he first arrived in Hollywood in 1929, New York stage director George Cukor served as a dialogue coach at Paramount Pictures and occasionally, at other studios like Universal. Then in 1930, he co-directed three movies, two of them with Cyril Gardner. He had to wait a year later to serve as sole director for his first two movies. One of them turned out to be the 1931 comedy called “GIRLS ABOUT TOWN”

Written by Zoe Akins, Raymond Griffith, and Brian Marlow; “GIRLS ABOUT TOWN” is about two gold diggers named Wanda Howard and Marie Bailey who entertain stody, but wealthy Midwestern businessmen visiting Manhattan. However, Wanda has tired of her demeaning lifestyle until she meets the handsome Jim Baker during a yacht party. Also on board is Jim’s friend, stingy tycoon Benjamin Thomas, who is the richest man in Lansing, Michigan. While Marie entertains Benjamin and becomes the victim of his practical jokes, Jim makes his feelings about her and Marie’s racket. However, the pair fall in love when she nearly drowns and Jim rescues her. And when he proposes marriage to her, Wanda makes her feelings clear by ripping up her payment for entertaining him. But an obstacle stand in Wanda and Jim’s path to a happy ending in the form of her shiftless ex-husband Alex, who wants Jim to pay him a hefty sum for a divorce from Wanda.

In the movie’s secondary plot, Marie has become weary of Benjamin’s practical jokes. But she is also determined to swindle him into giving her as much money as possible . . . which proves to be increasingly difficult, due to his tightfisted ways. However, Marie acquires an unexpected ally in the form of Benjamin’s wife, Daisy. The latter is determined to divorce him for his stinginess, despite the fact that she still loves him. The two women, realizing that Benjamin is using his stinginess to string them along, the two women scheme to shame Benjamin into spending more money for them both.

How can I put this? I would not consider “GIRLS ABOUT TOWN” to be a particularly original tale. Or perhaps I simply found predictable – at least the main narrative about Wanda and Jim. Only a blind man would fail to predict how their relationship would unfold, especially when her ex-husband Alex entered the picture. But despite this element of predictability, I must admit that I found Wanda and Jim’s story rather entertaining, thanks to winning performances from Kay Francis and Joel McCrea. Not only did I predict that ex-husband would prove to be an obstacle for Wanda, so did Hattie, the maid that she and Marie shared. Louise Beavers, who portrayed Hattie, had one of the funniest moments in the film when she hysterically spilled out how Alex would prove to be a lot of trouble for Wanda and Jim.

But it was the movie’s subplot involving Marie and the Thomases that proved to be the movie’s pièce de résistance. When Daisy Thomas first visited Marie and Wanda’s apartment, I had no idea on how this story would played out. It was not long before I found myself flabbergasted by the budding friendship between Marie and her sugar daddy’s wife, Daisy. And watching them scam the tightfisted Benjamin into spending cash for both of them made me appreciate how this movie seemed to be a prime example of Hollywood’s Pre-Code era. This subplot also benefited from some hilarious performances from the husky-voiced Lilyan Tashman, Eugene Pallette (another performer known for an unusual voice) and Lucile Gleason.

Overall, “GIRLS ABOUT TOWN” is an entertaining and slightly wicked film, well directed by George Cukor in one of his earlier Hollywood efforts. Mind you, I did not find the movie’s main narrative that particularly original. But the subplot really took me by surprise and in my view, really made the film; along with a fine cast led by Kay Francis, Lilyan Tashman and Joel McCrea.

“The Helmsman’s Log – 2373 [PG-13] 1/2

I am continuing with the saga of Lieutenant Tom Paris’ personal experiences with the Voyager crew. The following focuses upon Voyager’s third year in the Delta Quadrant. 

 

THE HELMSMAN’S LOGS – 2373

RATING: [PG-13]
SUMMARY: The third in a collection of Tom Paris’ personal logs during Voyager’s seven years in the Delta Quadrant. Part 3 focuses upon the ship’s third year, 2373.
FEEDBACK:  I would appreciate constructive feedback. Thank you.
DISCLAIMER: Tom Paris and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom, Rick Berman, the Roddenberry family and other Trek producers. 

AUTHOR’S NOTES: This covers episodes from the last Season 2 episode, “Basics, Part 1” to the first Season 4 episode, “Scorpion, Part 2”.

—————-

Part 1

STARDATE 50004.23:

Voyager just had its first battle with the Kazon-Nistrim since entering the Gema system. It wasn’t much, considering that we only encountered a Kazon shuttle that managed to disable our secondary command processors. End personal log.

STARDATE 50010.35:

We just sustained another attack by a small Kazon ship. And for the second time, the attack disabled our secondary command processors, before we could finish repairing it. We’ve endured two attacks and already, Harry is nervous. I don’t blame him. I have a feeling that there is a reason behind these attacks on the secondary command sub-processors. And if so, Seska is still alive. Only she could think of a reason to target that particular area. End personal log.

STARDATE 50020.72:

Don’t have much time to complete a log entry. Voyager has just sustained a fourth attack by the Kazon. All of the previous attacks have been by sects other than the Nistrim. And they have also targeted the secondary command processors. Now, even the Captain is becoming paranoid. Voyager is no longer in communication range with the Talaxians at Prema II. I don’t know. I only hope that the Doc’s plan to use the echo displacement works. One last note – I heard from Ayala that Chakotay had a fight with Tiena, before ordering him to secured quarters on Deck 8. Right next door to Lon Suder. They ought to keep each other company. End personal log.

STARDATE 50023.13:

I’m making this log entry from the shuttlecraft, Cochrane. While engaged in a major battle with the Kazon-Nistrim, yesterday, there was an explosion on Deck 8. From Tiena’s quarters, not surprisingly. Anyway, I asked the Captain to give me permission to take a shuttle and contact the Talaxians for help. I barely managed to escape. Kazon weapons managed to damage the shuttle. Fortunately, I repaired all of the damages. Now all I have to do is (a klaxon signal) . . . Huh? What the hell? What the hell is wrong now? End personal log.

STARDATE 50026.43:

I’ve regained control of Voyager . . . with help from Commander Paxim and the Talaxians, the Doctor and get this, Lon Suder. God, what an unlikely bunch we made. Well, except for the Talaxians. Thank goodness Suder managed to avoid capture when the Kazon and Seska took control of the ship, or my plan would have never worked.

As for Suder, the poor bastard is dead. Along with Seska and most of the Kazon. Cullah, his baby and a handful of his men had fled using one of the escape pods. Although the ship’s computer is back online, the Doctor’s program isn’t and we have some work to do. Hopefully, the crew is still alive on Hanon IV. I may be a good holoprogrammer, but I don’t know if I can repair the holoemitter systems in Sick Bay. End personal log.

STARDATE 50032.65:

I am one tired man, but a happy one. The crew has managed to survive the latest threat from the Kazon-Nistrim. Well, most of us. Poor Lon Suder was killed by the Kazon. Simon Hogan and Seda Abdalla were killed by some giant land eel on Hanon IV. We held services for all three in the Observation Lounge, yesterday. Suder’s body was ejected into space. Seska and the dead Kazon were buried on Hanon IV.

Today, the crew held a party at Sandrine’s. I would have remained longer, but I was simply too tired. Megan Delaney invited me for dinner, tomorrow night. I accepted. Everyone offered their gratitude to both the Doctor and me. Doc seemed to be eating up the attention. Me, I just wanted to return to my quarters for some much needed rest.

Before I could leave, B’Elanna waylaid me and dragged me to a private corner. Away from prying eyes, it seemed. She wanted to thank me for saving the crew from the hell of Hanon IV. Of course, she didn’t have to drag me all the way to a corner to do that. And I almost said so. Until I looked into her eyes. (Pauses) Wait, what I meant was . . . Okay, I might as well confess. I don’t know. When I looked into B’Elanna’s eyes, for a brief moment, I felt this . . . I don’t know . . . feeling? Electricity? I’m not going to go into some rapture about lost souls bonding and nonsense like that. Let’s just say that I had felt . . . goosebumps. And I had to get out of there, fast. Only B’Elanna beat me to the punch. She gave me a quick good-bye and disappeared before I could open my mouth. I had this urge to go after her, but (Pauses) maybe some other time. I need to figure this out. End personal log.

STARDATE 50051.85:

That feeling I had about B’Elanna, a week ago? It was all in my mind. It had to be. I certainly didn’t feel anything special when I had dinner with her and Harry in the Mess Hall, this evening. Everything seemed normal between us. (Pauses and sighs) Okay, maybe I’m lying. I practically had trouble breathing all night long. And my eyes tend to linger on her rear end, while we played pool inside Sandrine’s, after dinner. I think I better stay away from B’Elanna for a while. I wonder if Megan Delaney will be available for dinner, tomorrow? End personal log.

STARDATE 50078.65:

Another attempt to return to the Alpha Quadrant has gone bust. This time, we have a pair of Ferengi con men to thank. They had arrived in the Delta Quadrant, via the Barzan wormhole. In fact, they turned out to be the same Ferengi who had disappeared some seven years ago. Voyager would have used the wormhole to reach the Gamma Quadrant. Unfortunately, we had to prevent the Ferengi from robbing the citizens of Takar. And once we got the Ferengi aboard ship, they managed to escape through the wormhole. And not before destabilizing the damn thing with a graviton probe from their shuttle. Oh well, such is life. Poor Harry is practically crying in his Leola root stew. End personal log.

STARDATE 50092.82:

Can you believe it? Ensign Freddie Barstow tried to ask B’Elanna out for a date. That kid? Not even Harry seems that green. I’m happy to say that B’Elanna turned him down. Smart woman. End personal log.

STARDATE 50128.51:

I’d never thought I would be happy to get away from Harry. He’s been babbling about Tuvok and the Captain’s mind meld all evening long. Our encounter with a Type 17 nebula that contained sirillium, led to a resurgence of old memories that Tuvok had suppressed. The only way to help him seemed to be a Vulcan mind meld with a family member or close friend. Namely, the Captain. According to Harry, the meld revealed that Tuvok had once served aboard the U.S.S. Excelsior, under the legendary Captain Hikaru Sulu.

Ever since Harry learned that little tidbit, he has been in a sweat over Starfleet history. Quite frankly, it was a subject that has never interested me. Harry couldn’t understand, considering my love of history. Sure, I love history – but only Earth’s history, before the creation of the Federation and Starfleet. Unlike many others, I have never found either topic interesting. Especially after having them jammed down my throat for so many years by the Admiral. I think Harry was a bit put off by my attitude. End personal log.

STARDATE 50147.33:

Voyager has arrived at an M-class planet called Akritiri. After establishing the usual diplomatic ties, the Akritirian government gave us permission to enjoy shore leave on the planet’s surface. Harry and I have made plans to visit Akritiri, tomorrow, following Alpha shift. B’Elanna agreed to join us. That is, if Engineering can complete the repairs on the EPS conduits on Deck 10. In other words, it will probably be just Harry and me. End personal log.

STARDATE 50165.86:

Akritiri. Huh! Another quaint little alien world, visited by Voyager, during its journey through the Delta Quadrant. Ah, Akritiri! I shall never forget it – with its sophisticated civilization, terrorist bombings and brutal justice system. I still have fond memories of the Akritirian security that interrogated me for two days, before tossing me into some dreary prison.

(Sighs) I can’t believe that I survived two to three days in that hellhole! Especially with that damn clamp implanted into my skull. It was bad enough that the Akritirians dumped their prisoners in that damn prison ship. Did they have to force us to endure the clamp, as well? What was the point in stimulating our aggressive tendencies? Cheap thrills, perhaps?

It’s funny. When Harry came down that chute, I had no idea that he would end up protecting me. How ironic! A hardened ex-convict being protected by a green ensign, just two years out of Starfleet Academy. If only I hadn’t been stabbed by one of Pitt’s henchmen. I really don’t know what happened after that. Aside from warning Harry to look after himself. I do have hazy memories of us fighting over a pipe, dreaming about Megan Delaney, and Harry warning the other inmates to stay away from me. But other than that . . . nothing.

Thank goodness, the Captain, Tuvok and a few others came to our rescue. Another day in that hellhole and I would have been dead. Kes and the Doctor had informed me that my knife wound had become infected. Poor Harry would have ended up out of his mind, like his friend, Zio. Him and his damn manifesto! He can keep it, as far as I’m concerned.

Harry is still a little out of it, despite my assurances that I don’t blame him for assaulting me. I thought a lie would help. Keep him succumbing to guilt and depression. Believe me, I’ve been down that road before. I also suggested a little feast to celebrate our rescue from prison. Maybe I should invite the Delaney sisters. End personal log.

STARDATE 50168.04:

The feast to celebrate our rescue from the Akritirian prison turned out nice. Harry and I replicated so many dishes that I can’t remember them all.

(Pauses) Okay, so I lied about enjoying myself. The evening could have been better, but Harry continued to brood over what happened in that prison. The Delaneys couldn’t make it and we ended up inviting B’Elanna to join us. That would not have been so bad, except she spent most of the evening trying to snap Harry out of his funk. Even worse, I had a nightmare, later that night. A nightmare filled with images of both New Zealand and the Akritirian prison. Christ! When will I ever get over this? End personal log.

STARDATE 50188.13:

While delivering my navigation report to Engineering, I found Barstow asking B’Elanna out. Again. What is with that kid? Doesn’t he realize that B’Elanna would eat him alive? End personal log.

STARDATE 50199.11:

While traveling through the Fima system, Voyager came across a ship filled with alien colonists. The Enarans. It seems this particular group was returning to their homeworld after spending decades on a colony. Some of the Enarans have never laid eyes on their homeworld.

They remind me of the Baneans in appearance. For one horrible moment, I found myself thinking of Lidell Ren. Fortunately, there wasn’t a murderous adulteress in the bunch. They all seemed pretty nice. And we’ve discovered that they’re also telepathic. Since their ship became incapable of traveling at warp speed, the Captain offered them a lift to Enara Prime. In return, the Enarans have agreed to help make our engines more efficient. Like I said, very nice people. End personal log.

STARDATE 50205.39:

Had a very nice time, this evening. The crew hosted a party for our visitors, in the Mess Hall. Harry really seemed to enjoy himself. He spent most of the evening with this Enaran woman named Jessen. I spent most of my time with the Delaneys. The only person missing was B’Elanna. I wonder what happened to her. Ensign Barstow seemed particularly disappointed by her non-appearance. End personal log.

STARDATE 50211.82:

So much for the Enarans being nice. Last night, B’Elanna came storming into the Mess Hall and accused them of genocide. Apparently, an elderly Enaran named Korenna Mirell, had telepathically passed her memories to B’Elanna. It was through these memories that our chief engineer learned about the genocide of the Regressives, another race that used to reside on Enara Prime. Naturally, Jor Brel and the other Enarans refused to believe her. Nor could the Doctor prove that Korenna Mirell had been murdered. Now that we have arrived at Enara Prime, our guests will be leaving this morning. B’Elanna told us that she had passed Korenna’s memories to Jessen, Harry’s friend. Maybe word of the Regressive genocide will get around, after all.

Meanwhile, Harry and I tried to get B’Elanna to tell us about Korenna’s memories. She revealed everything to us – well, almost. Her early recollections of this man, Dathan, seemed suspiciously vague. Which makes me wonder what really happened. End personal log.

STARDATE 50229.72:

I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. B’Elanna had finally given in to Freddie Barstow. According to Neelix, B’Elanna accepted his offer for a game of Parises Squares. Which means they’re on Holodeck Two, right now. Playing. And God knows what else. (Pauses) Wait a minute. I take that back. I don’t know what made me think that B’Elanna and Barstow would be doing more than playing Parises Squares. It’s not like she has any interest in the little worm. Right? End personal log.

STARDATE 50232.56:

I meant to ask B’Elanna about her date with Freddie Barstow. But for some reason, my nerve failed me. Geez! What the hell is wrong with me, anyway? And why in the hell should I care about what happened between those two? Harry thinks I’m jealous. Ha! Talk about a disillusioned mind! What the hell do I have to be jealous about? I’m not jealous of Barstow. I just don’t think he and B’Elanna are suited for each other. End personal log.

STARDATE 50252.3:

While Voyager takes on supplies, Lt. Torres and I are investigating some intermittent sensor readings we picked up this morning. End personal log.

STARDATE 50256.16:

After yesterday’s excitement, I felt too tired to make a log entry. I feel a lot better after a night’s rest. Yesterday took a lot out of me. Got my nerves zapped by a pair of aliens that boarded the shuttle carrying B’Elanna and me. The Doc’s program malfunctioned and Kes ended up saving my life. Whew! While crossing the Swarm’s territory, I had to push Voyager to a 9.8 warp speed. Didn’t help in the end. The aliens managed to beam to the Bridge and I ended up in a wrestling match with one of them. If the Captain and Harry had not reversed the shield frequency polarization to drive off the Swarm, we would have met the same fate as the crew of that dead alien.

I suppose all well that ends well. But one wouldn’t think so after being in Tuvok’s gloomy presence. It was obvious that he was still upset over the Captain’s decision to break precious Starfleet protocols and ignore his advice. I accused him of being rigid and added that he should be thankful that we managed to shave off 15 months from our journey. He reminded me that he had thought an alliance with the Kazon was a good idea, despite Federation principles. He also added that Voyager was at least 70 years away from the Alpha Quadrant. A fifteen-month detour seemed paltry in comparison. Hell, even I couldn’t argue with that.

One last thing – I finally learned what B’Elanna thought about Freddie Barstow. In a nutshell, she considered him a mere child who was lousy at Parises Squares. Her remark encouraged me to do a stupid thing. I asked her out for a date. Apparently, she found the idea of a date with me even more ludicrous than one with Barstow. Well, it’s nice to know what she really thinks of me. End personal log.

STARDATE 50282.21:

Just had a date with Renlay Sharr. (Pauses) It was okay. We had dinner on the holodeck and later, ended up in her quarters. It was . . . well, okay. All right, so the earth didn’t move. But at least I had a nice . . . time. I think. Geez, I better stop before I end up feeling disappointed. End personal log.

STARDATE 50316.52:

Who would have thought that a sighting of a temporal rift would lead to an exciting adventure? Or the chance of a lifetime to see history unfold right before my eyes? Or give me the opportunity to meet a potential soul mate? Okay, maybe I had exaggerated on that last entry. Rain wasn’t a soul mate – just a very interesting, beautiful, intelligent, and witty young woman who happened to share my taste in entertainment. (Pauses) Then again, maybe she was a soul mate. Hell, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was another day in the Delta Quadrant, when a temporal rift appeared, along with a ship from the 29th century. Can you believe it? The ship’s pilot was this pompous fool named Captain Braxton. He accused us of being responsible for a major catastrophe 500 years from now. Apparently, he’s part of some Temporal Intelligence Agency that Starfleet will have in the future. Our time traveler tried to destroy us, but thanks to Chakotay, we were able to stop him. Both Braxton’s ship and Voyager got sucked into the rift.

Where did we end up? Orbiting around Earth. Twentieth century Earth. In 1996, almost 400 years in the past. Tuvok detected more temporal readings from the North American continent – in Los Angeles. To track down Braxton and his ship, the Captain led an Away team that included her, Chakotay, Tuvok and myself, to the surface. That left Harry in command of the ship. I bet that made him happy.

Late twentieth century Earth must have struck the others as bizarre. Off-the-wall. To be honest, I also found it a little overwhelming, but I still enjoyed it. A lot. For some odd reason, I felt at home. We managed to find Braxton near the beach, but before we could question him, Harry informed us that someone had spotted Voyager orbiting above Earth and made contact with the ship. The Captain ordered Tuvok and me to find this person and extract any data. And that is how I met Rain Robinson.

She worked at the Griffith Observatory, in the Hollywood Hills, above Los Angeles. It was Rain who had detected Voyager’s gamma emissions and used an old (well, in 24th century terms) SETI communications greeting to contact the ship. When I first spotted the science-fiction movie posters on her office wall, I wondered if I had found a kindred spirit. And when I finally met her, I knew it. Rain seemed a bit reserved at first. Didn’t blame her, there. Especially with two strangers in her office. But once I broke down her defenses – at least I think I did – we warmed to each other right away. She’s so intelligent and feisty and beautiful. And at the same time, there seemed to be a vulnerability about her. One of a person who had spent many years, alone.

In the end, Tuvok and I used Rain’s help to find the person in possession of Captain Braxton’s technology – a businessman named Henry Starling. Fearful of being tracked down, Braxton hired Rain to keep an eye on any extraterrestrials – namely anyone from the future. When she realized that Starling had no intention of keeping her alive, Rain helped us kidnapped him.

With a shuttled manned by Chakotay and B’Elanna, we managed to beam Starling to Voyager. We also learned that the Doctor, whose program had been stolen by Starling, could now exist outside a room with holoemitters. And that Chakotay and B’Elanna’s shuttle had crashed somewhere in Arizona.

It almost didn’t end well. Starling’s personal thug managed to beam him back to Earth with 29th century technology. And I also detected the timeship being moved from Chronowerx in a truck. That turned out to be a trick. Starling still had the timeship in one of his labs and he launched it for his own trip into the future. Fortunately, Tuvok and the Doctor rescued B’Elanna and Chakotay from a group of Arizona militia, repair the shuttle and rescue me from the California desert. And we, along with the Captain and Harry, managed to stop Starling from traveling to the 29th century and creating a catastrophe. Once disaster had been averted, Braxton reappeared – this one had never been on Earth – and returned us to the 24th century Delta Quadrant.

The worst part of all this was saying good-bye to Rain. I knew I had my duty to finish. And I realized I had to return to Voyager. But I didn’t want to leave her. And I still wish I hadn’t. Rain is probably the first woman – maybe the only one – who has ever accepted me for myself. She didn’t mind my ”geeky” nature, she shared my taste in horror B-movies, and she’s also a great kisser. I had told her the truth when I said that I had never met anyone like her. God, I’m going to miss her. End personal log.

STARDATE 50333.82:

I think I’m getting on Harry’s nerves. Or making him depressed. Perhaps, because I’ve been mooning over Rain during the past week or so. I didn’t think it would be so hard for me to get over her. But it has. I’ve watched “Orgy of the Walking Dead”and “Bride of the Corpse” practically every day since our adventures in the past. Harry suggested I try out his new volleyball program with him. Unfortunately, volleyball has never been a favorite sport of mine.

I’ve checked Rain Robinson’s name in the computer database. After a brief participation in the Eugenics War, she became a prominent astronomer for NASA. She even participated in the Ares program, including John Kelly’s famous flight in 2032. Rain married a writer from Mexico named Diego Salazar. They had a daughter and son, before they got divorced after fifteen years of marriage. In 2053, ten years before First Contact, Rain was killed during a bombardment by the then Eastern Coalition. She was 83 years old. End personal log.

STARDATE 50341.96:

Had dinner with Harry and B’Elanna. It was nice. We joked a bit. B’Elanna and I told Harry more stories about our experiences on Earth. I also mentioned the information I found on Rain. Maybe I was imagining things, but B’Elanna seemed . . . I don’t know, irritated. Huh. Even stranger was her reaction when I mentioned Rain’s husband and children. I wonder why. End personal log.

STARDATE 50347.06:

We rescued three aliens from a ship leaking with radiation. It was also in danger of destruction from a core breach. Harry beamed them to Sick Bay, where they were treated by the Doc and Kes. One of them died. We discovered that they were from a planet called Ilari and Voyager is heading there to deliver the survivors to their people.

Also, Neelix introduced the crew to his new holoprogram. It’s a recreation of the Paxau Resort, a popular holiday resort for wealthy Talaxians. It was nice. Sort of. Well, it did seemed a bit too formal for Harry and me. I added a few changes and addition to the program. You know, exotic drinks, Calypso music from Earth’s Caribbean region, and more relaxed clothing for the resort’s employees. Harry added one special feature – beautiful and scantily-clad females from his volleyball program. He claimed they were the Swedish volleyball team from some past Olympic games. You know, not only has Harry learned to put Libby behind him, I think he’s developing a roving eye for the ladies. Good for him. End personal log.

STARDATE 50349.88:

Harry and I found B’Elanna using the resort program. Even I had to admit that she looked great in her blue swim suit. It fitted in all the right places. Ahem! Too bad she brought along that overdeveloped lapdog with her. I thought she had better taste in men than that. End personal log.

STARDATE 50358.7:

Just got back from commiserating with poor Neelix. Poor guy still can’t believe that Kes has ended their romance for good. Come to think of it, neither can I. Neelix had thought Tiernan’s possession of Kes was to blame for her sudden distant behavior. As it turned out, Tiernan only tapped into Kes’ real feelings.

And who is Tiernan? Oh, just this warlord from the 22nd century, who started out as a war hero on Ilari and became a tyrant. His people eventually ousted him and Tiernan’s conscience or spirit has spent the past two centuries, using host bodies to reclaim his position as Autarch of Ilari. He was in the body of the Ilarian who had died from radiation exposure, four days ago. Only, once that host body died, he took possession of Kes. Using her body, Tiernan stole a shuttle and reconquered Ilari. Tuvok tried to rescue Kes, but was captured, instead. The Captain, Chakotay, Neelix, a Security team, myself and a few Ilarians eventually conducted a raid on the planet’s surface and rescued Kes and Tuvok.

Voyager got Kes back, but Neelix lost her in the end. Poor guy. I know exactly how he feels. In fact, I said so before I told him about Susie Crabtree. End personal log.

STARDATE 50372.46:

There are times I wish I could stuff Harry into the nearest airlock and space him! I think Ensign Kim has romance on the brain. Or maybe sex. Maybe he’s been hanging around that volleyball team of his, too long. What in the hell made him think that I’m jealous of some damn holo character? It’s ridiculous! Why on earth would I be jealous of B’Elanna’s little holostud? He’s just some muscle-bound creep who massages her every time she visits the Resort. Might as well be a professional masseuse! End personal log.

STARDATE 50382.83:

Today marked the third time a Starfleet crew witnessed a supernova. The first two supernovas had been witnessed by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, under James Kirk’s command – Minara in 2268 and Beta Niobe in 2269. Since Astrophysics was one of my majors at the Academy, I would have found the phenomenon exciting. Except, I was too concerned with getting Voyager out of the way of the star’s fusion explosion. Still, it was a great sight.

Oh, one last thing – Q paid the Captain a visit in her quarters, later that day. That’s right, he’s back. And it seems that he wants to mate with her. Yeah, right! I wonder what he really wanted. End personal log.

STARDATE 50387.74:

Once more, Voyager’s crew made history. Not only did we become the second Starfleet crew to witness a supernova, we ended up witnessing three of them. All because of the Q Continuum’s civil war. The supernovas were side effects of the battles in the war. And we were wrong about Q. He really did want to mate with the Captain. He wanted omnipotent Q baby with human DNA to usher in some kind of new era for the Continuum. And stop the civil war.

The female Q, who wanted nothing more than to prevent her “beloved” and the Captain from procreating, helped Voyager enter the Continuum and stop the war. The Continuum actually resembled a battlefield from the American Civil War of the 19th century. Interesting. I even managed to get the drop on Q’s nemesis. With a weapon harmful to omnipotent beings, of course. Frankly, I’m glad the whole thing is over. Both Qs managed to get on my nerves. Especially that female Q. Thanks to her, I have a new nickname – Helmboy. (Pause) Bitch. End personal log.

LOG SUPPLEMENTAL:

I forgot to add that I’ve decided to surrender and enjoy Harry’s little collection of Swedish beauties. Who knew they would turn out to be such great masseuses? Besides, I might as well surrender. I’m not interested in any particular woman aboard ship. And I can’t keep brooding over Rain forever. Especially since she is over 68,000 light years away and 377 years in the past. Oh well. End personal log.

STARDATE 50402.58:

I saw that B’Elanna has stopped using her little holostud in the Resort. She didn’t have to. Not on my account. All I did was comment that he reminded me of Heller Prisco, a cadet I had known at the Academy. Prisco was known as a body building fanatic who had graduated second from the bottom of my class. It’s not that I was comparing the holostud’s IQ with Prisco’s . . . or anything like that. I guess B’Elanna felt otherwise. End personal log.

STARDATE 50418.35:

Voyager came into contact with a new race called the Tak Tak. Since we’re in dire need of foodstuff and dilithium, the Captain decided to trade some of our deuterium for them. She asked Neelix to accompany her to the Tak Tak homeworld. Guess whom Neelix asked to take care of the Mess Hall in his absence? That’s right. Yours truly. (Sighs) Why can’t I be the bastard that many already believe I am? End personal log.

STARDATE 50428.3:

I hope that Neelix never asks me to temporarily take over his Mess Hall duties again. Especially after what happened. Okay, the whole trouble didn’t start in the Mess Hall, but on a mining colony called Garan that had been inflicted by some kind of outbreak. The Doc went on an Away mission to respond to the colony’s medical distress call. He ended up returning to the ship with these macroviruses. It seemed they were attracted to his photon light and the ship’s biofilters weren’t able to detect them. And the entire crew ended up being infected.

Right now, I don’t have much of an appetite. Especially after the events of yesterday. I especially don’t have an appetite for any of Neelix’s food. I guess facing a hungry crowd after burning a pot roast, getting infected by those macroviruses and seeing lavaflies pour out of B’Elanna’s neck did the trick.

Speaking of B’Elanna, (Sighs) she’s okay, thank goodness. She was the first to be infected after bursting that gel pack in the Mess Hall. I must say – she does have a sadistic wit. Maybe I shouldn’t have teased her about Engineering’s technical abilities. I couldn’t help it. I guess it was my way of (Pauses) well . . . (Sighs) Oh God! I might as well admit it. I was trying to flirt with her. There! I . . . flirted . . . with . . . B’Elanna Torres. That wasn’t so hard. Right? Right!

At least one good thing came out of this whole mess. The Captain decided to give the crew a little R and R to recover from the macroviruses. The duty shifts have been shortened for today. I heard that Chakotay and a few others plan to go skiing down a Ktarian glacier. Sounds like my kind of fun, but I plan to join Harry and B’Elanna, elsewhere. Paxan Resort, here I come! End personal log.

STARDATE 50431.53:

We’ve reached the border of the Nekrit Expanse, and a space station called the Nekrit Supply Depot. It’s managed by this alien called Bahrat. Friendly fellow. That is, if one can call an emotionless, rigid nut, who charges visitors a 20 percent charge for trading on the station, friendly. The Captain, Chakotay and Neelix will visit the station. Ought to be interesting. End personal log.

STARDATE 50437.46:

I should have known when Neelix started asking questions about Caldik Prime that something was up. Too bad I didn’t act on my suspicions and ask Neelix what was bugging him. If I had, Chakotay and I would have been spared from arrest and imprisonment for murder and trading in illegal substances.

But Neelix had it worse. Not only did his old friend, Wixiban, lure him into trouble, but also blackmailed him into getting a small supply of warp plasma particles from Voyager. Thankfully, Neelix finally found the guts to confess what happened to Bahrat and the Captain. He and Wixiban drummed up a plot to expose the drug trade that flourished on the station. Chakotay and I were finally released. Janeway punished Neelix by ordering him to scrub the deuterium exhaust manifolds for the next two weeks. As much as I feel sorry for Neelix, it’s a hell of a lot better than spending the next 50 years in cryostasis suspension. End personal log.

STARDATE 50451.76:

Is it just me or is Vorik being unusually attentive to B’Elanna, lately? (Pauses) Nah! I must be imagining things. Or else Vorik is bucking for a promotion. Don’t get me wrong. I like Vorik. He’s a lot friendlier than Tuvok. Still, the idea of him and B’Elanna . . . (Sighs) What the hell is the matter with me? I sound like a jealous idiot and I don’t have a reason to be jealous. I think my brain cells have gone soft. End personal log.

STARDATE 50460.17:

That little Vulcan worm! I should have known he was up to something! There I was, looking forward to a nice evening at Neelix’s luau at the Resort. Hell, I even wore my favorite shirt – my Big Daddy-O Hawaiian shirt. Okay, B’Elanna made a few disparaging comments about it, but I decided to ignore it. After all, I liked it. And I liked B’Elanna’s dress even more. She did look stunning . . . and tropical.

B’Elanna, Harry, Vorik and I had made plans to stick together during the luau. Only Harry almost didn’t show up, because he was in a sweat over some hologram he had met in the Resort. Would you believe it? He went to Tuvok for advice on how to get over his infatuation. A Vulcan who would only try to get him to suppress his emotions, for crying out loud!

Speaking of Vulcans, that little backstabber, Vorik, managed to reserve seats with a – for B’Elanna and himself only. Hell, I was too surprised to give him a much deserved broken jaw. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I have the strength to break a Vulcan’s jaw. And how did I spend my evening? Let’s just say that with Harry ending up pissed at Tuvok for spending time with that hologram and B’Elanna enjoying a dinner and a view with Vorik, I didn’t exactly have a swell time. What a waste of a great shirt! End personal log.

STARDATE 50520.4:

The Captain nearly died from injuries suffered after a shuttle crash. Fortunately, Chakotay managed to keep her alive before he could contact Voyager. We eventually found them and the Doc beamed to the planet’s surface to treat her injuries. Thank God he managed to save her. End personal log.

END OF PART 1

“LINCOLN” (2012) Review

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“LINCOLN” (2012) Review

When I first heard of Steven Spielberg’s decision to make a biographical film about the 16th president of the United States, I ended up harboring a good deal of assumptions about the movie. I heard Spielberg had planned to focus on Abraham Lincoln’s last year in office and assumed the movie would be set between the spring of 1864 and April 1865. I had assumed the movie would be about Lincoln’s various problems with his military generals and other politicians. I thought it would be a more focused similarity to the 1998 miniseries of the same name.

In the end, “LINCOLN” proved to be something quite different. Partly based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography of Lincoln and his Cabinet members, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”, the movie mainly focused on Lincoln’s efforts in January 1865 to have slavery abolished in the country, by getting the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the House of Representatives. According to Tony Kutchner’s screenplay, Lincoln expected the Civil War to end within a month. He felt concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts at the war’s conclusion and the 13th Amendment defeated by the returning slave states. To ensure that the 13th Amendment is added to the Constitution, Lincoln wanted it passed by the end of January in order to remove any possibility of those slaves who had already been freed, being re-enslaved. To reach his goal, Lincoln needed Republican party founder Francis Blair to garner support from the more conservative Republicans and support from Democratic congressmen, who would ordinarily vote against such an amendment. In order to acquire Blair’s support, Lincoln was forced to consider a peace conference with three political representatives from the Confederacy. And his Secretary of State, William Seward, recruits three lobbyists – William N. Bilbo, Colonel Robert Latham and Richard Schell – to convince lame duck Democratic congressmen to support the amendment.

I am surprised that the movie went through a great deal in crediting Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book as a major source for the movie. Very surprised. I own a copy of the book and know for a fact that only four-and-a-half pages are devoted to the Thirteenth Amendment and five-and-half pages are devoted to the Peace Conference with Confederate political leaders. If so little came from Goodwin’s book, where did Tony Kutchner receive most of his historical information for the movie? And if he did use other historical sources, why did Spielberg failed to credit other historical sources for the movie?

I recall watching the trailer for “LINCOLN” and found myself slightly repelled by it. As someone who had to endure a great deal of pompous and self-righteous dialogue in a good number of historical dramas, I noticed that the trailer seemed to be full it. Fortunately, the movie was only tainted by a few scenes featuring pompous dialogue. One of those scenes turned out to be Lincoln’s meeting with four Union soldiers – two blacks and two whites. Of the four soldiers, only the first black soldier – portrayed by Colman Domingo – managed to engage in a relaxed conversation with the President. The two white soldiers behaved like ardent fanboys in Lincoln’s presence and one of them – portrayed by actor Luke Haas – ended up reciting the Gettysburg Address. The scene ended with the other black soldier – portrayed by British actor David Oyelowo – also reciting the speech. Not only did I find this slightly pompous, but also choked with Spielberg’s brand of sentimentality, something I have never really cared for. Following Lincoln’s death, Spielberg and Kutchner ended the movie with a flashback of the President reciting his second inaugural address. I cannot say how the pair should have ended the movie. But I wish they had not done with a speech. All it did was urge me to leave the movie theater as soon as possible. Janusz Kamiński is a first-rate cinematographer, but I can honestly say that I found his photography in “LINCOLN” not particularly impressive. In fact, I found it rather drab. Drab colors in a costume picture is not something I usually look forward to.

The movie also featured a few historical inaccuracies. Usually, I have nothing against this if it works for the story. The problem is that the inaccuracies in “LINCOLN” did not serve the story. I found them unnecessary. Lincoln’s meeting with the four Union soldiers allowed Oyelowo’s character to expressed his displeasure at the U.S. Army’s lack of black officers and the indignity of pay lower than white soldiers. The problem with this rant is that before January 1865, the U.S. Army had at least 100 to 200 black officers. And Congress had granted equal pay and benefits to black troops by June 1864. Thirty-three year-old actor Lee Pace portrayed Democratic New York Congressman Fernando Wood, an ardent opponent of abolition. In reality, Wood was at least 52 years old in January 1865. Another scene featured a White House reception that featured a meeting between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and some of the Radical Republicans like Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Kutchner had Mary face Senator Sumner with a warm greeting, before she deliberately cut him off to face Congressman Stevens. The movie made it clear that the First Lady disliked the Radical Republicans, whom she viewed as personal enemies of her husband. Yet, the manner in which she disregarded Senator Sumner was completely misleading . . . especially since the senator and the First Lady had been close friends since the early months of Lincoln’s presidency. In reality, Mary Lincoln’s political views were more radical than her husband’s. But due to her background as the daughter of a Kentucky slaveowner, most of the Radical Republicans viewed her as soft on abolition and a possible Confederate sympathizer.

Thankfully, the good in “LINCOLN” outweighed the bad. More than outweighed the bad. Recalling my original assumption that “LINCOLN” would turn out to be some pretentious film weighed down by boring dialogue and speeches, I can happily say that the movie’s look at American politics during the Civil War proved to be a great deal more lively. Yes, the movie did feature a few pretentious scenes. However, “LINCOLN” turned out to be a tightly woven tale about the 16th President’s efforts to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed by the end of January 1865. In many ways, the movie’s plot reminded me of the 2007 film, “AMAZING GRACE”, which featured William Wilberforce’s effort to abolish Britain’s slave trade during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Unlike the 2007, “LINCOLN” proved to be more tightly focused and featured a more earthy and sometimes humorous look at American politics at play. One of the movie’s successes proved to be its focus on the efforts of the three lobbyists, whom I ended up dubbing the “Three Musketeers”, to recruit lame duck Democrats to vote for passage of the amendment. In fact these scenes featuring James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson proved to be among the funniest in the film. The movie also featured the tribulations Lincoln experienced with his immediate family – namely the volatile behavior of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and his oldest son Robert Lincoln’s determination to join the Army – during this difficult period in which his attention toward the amendment’s passage. More importantly, the movie on a political situation rarely mentioned in movies about Lincoln – namely the political conflicts that nearly divided the Republican Party during the Civil War. Not only did Lincoln find himself at odds with leading Democrats such as Fernando Wood of New York and George Pendleton of Ohio; but also with Radical Republicans such as Thaddeus Stevens who distrusted Lincoln’s moderate stance on abolition and even his fellow conservative Republicans like Frances and Montgomery Blair, whose push for reconciliation with the Confederates threatened the amendment.

Now one might say that is a lot for a 150 minutes film about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. And they would be right. But for some reason, it worked, thanks to Spielberg’s direction and Kutchner’s screenplay. One, for a movie with a running time between two to three hours, I found it well paced. Not once did the pacing dragged to a halt or put me to sleep. “LINCOLN” also attracted a good number of criticism from certain circles. Some have pointed out that the film seemed to claim that Lincoln kick started the campaign for the amendment. The movie never really made this claim. Historians know that the Republican controlled U.S. Senate had already passed the amendment back in April 1864. But the Republicans did not control the House of Representatives and it took another nine-and-a-half months to get the House to pass it. For reasons that still baffle many historians, Lincoln suddenly became interested in getting the amendment passed before his second inauguration – something that would have been unnecessary if he had waited for a Republican controlled Congress two months later.

Many had complained about the film’s oversimplification of African-Americans’ roles in the abolition of slavery. I would have agreed if the film’s focus on abolition had been a little more broad and had began during the war’s first year; or if it had been about the role of blacks in the abolition of slavery during the war. Actually, I am still looking forward to a Hollywood production on Frederick Douglass, but something tells me I will be holding my breath. But with the movie mainly focused on the final passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, I suspect this would not have been possible. Some claimed that the African-American merely hung around and waited for the amendment’s passage. I would have agreed if it were not for Lincoln’s encounter with the Union soldiers at the beginning of the film; Lincoln valet William Slade’s day-to-day dealings with the First Family, and the film’s focus on Elizabeth Keckley’s attention to the political wrangling surrounding the amendment. One scene focused on Mrs. Keckley’s conversation with Lincoln on the consequences of the amendment and another featured a tense moment in which she walked out on the proceedings after Thaddeus Stevens was forced to refute his earlier claims about equality between the races in order to win further Democratic support.

Aside from my complaints about the movie’s drab photography, I can honestly say that from a visual point of view,“LINCOLN” did an excellent job in re-creating Washington D.C. during the last year of the Civil War. Production designer Rick Carter really had his work cut out and as far as I am concerned, he did a superb job. He was ably assisted by the art direction team of Curt Beech, David Crank and Leslie McDonald, who still helped to make 1865 Washington D.C. rather colorful, despite the drab photography; along with Jim Erickson and Peter T. Frank’s set decorations. And I found Joanna Johnston’s costumes absolutely exquisite. The scene featuring the Lincolns’ reception at the White House was a perfect opportunity to admire Johnston’s re-creation of mid 19th century fashion. I can honestly say that I did not find John Williams’ score for the movie particularly memorable. But I cannot deny that it blended very well with the story and not a note seemed out of place.

“LINCOLN” not only featured a very large cast, but also a great number of first-rate performances. It would take me forever to point out the good performances one-by one, so I will focus on those that really caught my attention. The man of the hour is Daniel Day-Lewis, who has deservedly won accolades for his portrayal of the 16th President. I could go into rapture over his performance, but what is the point? It is easy to see that Abraham Lincoln could be viewed as one of his best roles and that he is a shoe-in for an Oscar nod. If Day-Lewis is the man of the hour, then I can honestly say that Sally Field came out of this film as “the woman of the hour. She did a beautiful job in recapturing not only Mary Todd Lincoln’s volatile nature, but political shrewdness. Like Day-Lewis, she seemed to be a shoe-in for an Oscar nod. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens has been featured as a character in at least three Hollywood productions. In pro-conservative movies like 1915’s “BIRTH OF A NATION” (upon which the Austin Stoneman character is based) and the 1942 movie on Andrew Johnson called “TENNESSEE JOHNSON”, he has been portrayed as a villain. But in “LINCOLN”, he is portrayed as a fierce and courageous abolitionist by the always wonderful Tommy Lee Jones. The actor did a superb job in capturing the Pennsylvania congressman’s well-known sarcastic wit and determination to end slavery in the U.S. for all time. I would be very surprised if he does not early an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor.

But there were other first-rate performances that also caught my attention. David Strathairn did an excellent and subtle job in capturing the politically savy Secretary of State William H. Seward. Joseph Gordon-Levitt managed to impress me for the third time this year, in his tense and emotional portrayal of the oldest Lincoln sibling, Robert Lincoln, who resented his father’s cool behavior toward him and his mother’s determination to keep him out of the Army. Hal Holbrook, who portrayed Lincoln in two television productions) gave a colorful performance as Lincoln crony, Francis Blair. Gloria Reuben gave a subtle performance as Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker and companion, Elizabeth Keckley, who displayed an intense interest in the amendment’s passage. James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson gave hilarious performances as the three lobbyists hired by Lincoln and Seward to recruit support of the amendment from lame duck Democrats. Stephen Henderson was deliciously sarcastic as Lincoln’s long suffering valet, William Slade. Lee Pace gave a surprisingly effective performance as long-time abolition opponent, Fernando Wood. And I was also impressed by Jackie Earle Haley’s cool portrayal of Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy.

As I had stated earlier, I was not really prepared to enjoy “LINCOLN”, despite its Civil War setting. To be honest, the last Spielberg movie I had really enjoyed was 2005’s “MUNICH”. And after the 2011 movie, “WAR HORSE”, I wondered if he had lost his touch. I am happy to say that with “LINCOLN”, he has not. Spielberg could have easily laden this film with over-the-top sentimentality and pretentious rhetoric. Thankfully, his portrayal of pre-20th century American politics proved to be not only exciting, but also colorful. And he had great support from a first-rate production team, Tony Kutchner’s superb screenplay, and excellent performances from a cast led by Daniel Day-Lewis. The Civil War had not been this interesting in quite a while.

List of Favorite Movies and Television Miniseries About Slavery

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With the recent releases of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “LINCOLN” and Quentin Tarrantino’s latest film, “DJANGO UNCHAINED”, I found myself thinking about movies I have seen about slavery – especially slavery practiced in the United States. Below is a list of my favorite movies on the subject in chronological order: 

 

LIST OF FAVORITE MOVIES AND TELEVISION MINISERIES ABOUT SLAVERY

13-Skin Game

“Skin Game” (1971) – James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. co-starred in this unusual comedy about two antebellum drifter who pull the “skin game” – a con that involves one of them selling the other as a slave for money before the pair can escape and pull the same con in another town. Paul Bogart directed.

 

9-Mandingo

“Mandingo” (1975) – Reviled by many critics as melodramatic sleaze, this 1975 adaptation of Kyle Onstott’s 1957 novel revealed one of the most uncompromising peeks into slave breeding in the American South, two decades before the Civil War. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the movie starred James Mason, Perry King, Brenda Sykes, Susan George and Ken Norton.

 

2-Roots

“Roots” (1977) – David Wolper produced this television miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley’s 1976 about his mother’s family history as American slaves during a century long period between the mid-18th century and the end of the Civil War. LeVar Burton, Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, Georg Sanford Brown and Lou Gossett Jr. starred.

 

tubman1

“A Woman Called Moses” (1978) – Cicely Tyson starred in this two-part miniseries about the life and career of Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, who was the most successful conductor of the Underground Railroad during the last decade before the Civil War. Based on Marcy Heidish’s book, the miniseries was directed by Paul Wendkos.

 

3-Half Slave Half Free Solomon Northup Odyssey

“Half-Slave, Half-Free: Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” (1984) – Avery Brooks starred in this television adaptation of free born Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography about his twelve years as a slave in antebellum Louisiana. Gordon Parks directed.

 

4-North and South

“North and South” (1985) – David Wolper produced this television adaptation of John Jakes’ 1982 novel about the experiences of two American families and the growing discord over slavery during the twenty years before the American Civil War. Patrick Swayze and James Read starred.

 

6-Race to Freedom - The Underground Railroad

“Race to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad” (1994) – Actor Tim Reid produced this television movie about four North Carolina slaves’ escape to Canada, following the passage of the Compromise of 1850. Janet Bailey and Courtney B. Vance starred.

 

10-The Journey of August King

“The Journey of August King” (1996) – Jason Patric and Thandie Newton starred in this adaptation of John Ehle’s 1971 novel about an early 19th century North Carolina farmer who finds himself helping a female slave escape from her master and slave catchers. John Duigan directed.

 

8-A Respectable Trade

“A Respectable Trade” (1998) – Emma Fielding, Ariyon Bakare and Warren Clarke starred in this television adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s 1992 novel about the forbidden love affair between an African born slave and the wife of his English master in 18th century Bristol. Suri Krishnamma directed.

 

11-Mansfield Park 1999

“Mansfield Park” (1999) – Slavery is heavily emphasized in Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1814 novel about a young English woman’s stay with her rich relatives during the first decade of the 19th century. Frances O’Connor and Jonny Lee Miller starred.

 

7-Human Trafficking

“Human Trafficking” (2005) – Mira Sorvino starred in this miniseries about the experiences of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent investigating the modern day sex slave trafficking business. Donald Sutherland and Robert Caryle co-starred.

 

5-Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” (2007) – Michael Apted directed this account of William Wilberforce’s campaign against the slave trade throughout the British Empire in Parliament. Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Romola Garai Rufus Sewell and Albert Finney starred.

 

12-Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012) – History and the supernatural merged in this interesting adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2010 novel about the 16th president’s activities as a vampire hunter. Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead starred.

 

1-Lincoln

“Lincoln” (2012) – Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed the 16th president in Steven Spielberg’s fascinating account of Lincoln’s efforts to end U.S. slavery, by having Congress pass the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Sally Field, David Strathairn and Tommy Lee Jones co-starred.

 

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“Django Unchained” (2012) – Quentin Tarantino directed this take on Spaghetti Westerns about a slave-turned-bounty hunter and his mentor, who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson starred.

“FLIGHT” (2012) Review

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“FLIGHT” (2012) Review

For years, I thought that director Robert Zemeckis had lost his way. I thought the Academy Award he had won for the 1994 movie, “FOREST GUMP” had transformed a talented and slightly eccentric filmmaker into a pretentious and boring one. 

I realize this is a cruel thing to say. Robert Zemeckis had been one of my favorite directors ever since I first saw his 1978 comedy, “I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND” on television. But after he won a Best Director Oscar for “GUMP”, he seemed to have lost his touch. I am not saying that movies like “CONTACT”“WHAT LIES BENEATH” and “CASTAWAY” were terrible. For me, they seemed to lack that Zemeckis touch that had made his previous movies magical for me. But after seeing the director’s latest endeavor, “FLIGHT”, I believe there is a good chance that he may have regained his mojo.

“FLIGHT” tells the story of an airline pilot, who manages to prevent a flight between Orlando and Atlanta from perishing in a fatal crash. Only six people – four passengers and two stewardesses – die in the crash. An investigation of the crash reveals not only malfunctions within the plane, but also evidence of alcohol use by the crew, especially by the pilot, one Whip Whitaker. Whip had used cocaine before the flight to keep himself alert and imbibed alcohol during the flight. The airline pilots’ union hires Hugh Lang to defend Whip and prevent the latter from serving time in prison for drug and manslaughter charges. Lang claims he can get the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)‘s toxicology report declared inadmissible in court and focus the investigation on the plane’s malfunctions. But both he and Whip’s friend and union representative, Charlie Anderson, gradually become aware that Whip is a hardcore alcoholic and drug abuser. And his addictions might stand in the way of any successful defense on Lang’s part.

I am not stating that “FLIGHT” is perfect. It had one or two aspects I found questionable. One, I thought a movie that is basically a character study of an alcoholic airline pilot possibly facing the consequences of his substance abuse should not have a running time of 139 minutes. Yes, I believe it was at least fifteen to twenty minutes too long. And one of the scenes I would have trimmed featured a cameo appearance by the very talented James Badge Dale. Do not get me wrong. I thought that Badge Dale gave a superb performance as a cancer patient that Whip Whitaker and future girlfriend/fellow addict Nicole Maggen met in a hospital hallway. Unless Badge Dale had said something that related to the story (and if he did, someone please enlighten me), I saw no reason to include his character into the story. My other problem has a good deal to do with a repentant Whip recounting his alcoholism and drug use to a counseling group. Honestly, it felt as if Bob Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins injected a segment from an episode of the “ABC AFTERSCHOOL” television series . . . and that Whip was talking to a group of high school students.

Despite these flaws, I must admit that “FLIGHT” really impressed me. The last time I saw a movie or television series about an alcoholic was CBS’s “KNOT’S LANDING” in which the Gary Ewing character (portrayed by actor Ted Shackleford) experienced his last bout of alcoholism and recovery. It was ugly to watch. Since then, I have made a point of deliberately avoiding movies about alcoholics and drug abusers. At least two family members have died from the consequences of drug abuse. When I sat down in a movie theater to watch “FLIGHT”, I never thought that Denzel Washington would be portraying such a hardcore substance abuser. But you know what? I am glad that I saw the movie.

There are many aspects about “FLIGHT” that I truly enjoyed. Thanks to Robert Zemeckis’ direction, Don Burgess’ cinematography and award worthy editing by Jeremiah O’Driscoll, the movie featured a kick ass plane crash sequence that left me breathless and wired at the same time. It was a beautiful thing to watch and worthy of a series of Academy Awards technical nominations. But more importantly, Gatnis created a superb portrayal of the alcoholic airline pilot that gave plenty of meat for both Zemeckis and actor Denzel Washington. Some of the movie’s best moments aside from the actual crash included Whip’s future girlfriend, Nicole Maggen, nearly dying from a heroin overdose; Lang and Whip’s meeting with the president of the airlines; Whip and Nicole’s conflict over his constant drinking; Whip’s confrontation with his ex-wife and son; Lang’s chewing out Whip about the latter’s legal situation; and Whip’s failed attempt to resist consuming booze he found in a mini bar in a hotel room. My two favorite scenes featured the attempts of Whip’s colorful friend/drug dealer Harling Mays to help him recover from another alcoholic binge before he can testify before a NTSB hearing . . . and the actual hearing itself, which ended with a surprising twist.

The performances for “FLIGHT” were superb. I could not find a bad or mediocre performance from any member of the cast. Not one. I have already pointed out James Badge Dale’s excellent performance as a cancer patient that Whip and Nicole briefly met. I was also impressed by Tamara Tunie’s stalwart, yet emotional performance as senior flight attendant Margaret Thomason; Brian Geraghty as Whip’s religious co-pilot Ken Evans, who lost the use of his legs; Peter Gerety’s colorful portrayal of airline owner Avington Carr; and Nadine Velazquez’s solid performance as Katerina Marquez, the recently deceased flight attendant who had been Whip’s lover.

But the performances that really caught my eye came from Melissa Leo, who gave a brief, yet subtle performance as lead NTSB investigator Ellen Block; John Goodman, who was deliciously larger than life as Whip’s friend and drug dealer, Harling Mays; and Bruce Greenwood’s quiet, yet emotional portrayal of Whip’s much put upon friend, Charlie Anderson.  Don Cheadle (who last worked with Washington in the 1995 movie, “DEVIL IN THE BLUE DRESS”) gave a superb performance, while acting as more or less the backbone of the movie as Whip’s uber talented attorney, Hugh Lang. Kelly Reilly finally caught the eyes of critics in her excellent portrayal of recovering drug addict, Nicole Maggen, who ends up falling for Whip.

But the man of the hour was Denzel Washington. Ever since winning his second Academy Award, eleven years ago, he has given a series of solid or excellent performances in movies that were either successful or not. But it was plain to me that his performance as alcoholic Whip Whitaker was one of his very best in years. Washington was always at his best when portraying characters that were complex – with both likeable and dislikeable traits. Only a true performer, in my opinion, is not afraid to tackle such a character. As the last twenty to thirty years of superb performances have shown, Washington has never been afraid to tackle such characters like Whip.  And for his efforts, he earned both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

“FLIGHT” may have suffered from a running time that I found too long and an ending that struck me as a little too adolescent for my tastes. But I must admit that it has become for me one of the best movies I have seen in 2012. As a filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis has returned in top form. And his endeavors were assisted by excellent photography and editing, a top-notch screenplay by John Gatins and first-rate performances from a talented cast led by the always superb Denzel Washington.