“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Ten “The Winds of Fortune” Commentary

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“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Ten “The Winds of Fortune” Commentary

This tenth episode of “CENTENNIAL” called “The Winds of Fortune” marked the last one set in the 19th century. The episode also featured the end of several story lines – the troubles with the Pettis gang, Axel Dumire’s suspicions of the Wendell family, Hans Brumbaugh’s labor problems and Jim Lloyd’s romantic problems with Charlotte Seccombe and Clemma Zendt. 

The range war that the ranchers began in “The Shepherds” finally gasped its last breath in this episode. The last remnants of the Pettis gang (the killers hired by the ranchers to get rid of the farmers and shepherds) make one last attempt to exact revenge against Amos Callendar, Jim Lloyd and Hans Brumbaugh – the three men who had killed Frank and Orvid Pettis in revenge for the deaths of two friends. Naturally, it failed during a gunfight against, Jim, Amos and the latter’s son.

The Pettis gang’s revenge attempt also led to the closure of the story line that featured Sheriff Axel Dumire and the Wendell family. The gunfight at Amos’ homestead allowed one Pettis killer to escape back to Centennial . . . but not for long. Dumire led a manhunt for the escaped killer. And in a dark alleyway, he and the Pettis outlaw mortally shot each other. While the outlaw died right away, Dumire suffered a slow death. Before expiring, he summoned young Philip Wendell for a last attempt to learn the truth about the now dead Mr. Sorenson. Although he failed, Philip expressed grief and remorse over his dead body.

Jim Lloyd and Charlotte Seccombe’s courtship finally led to a marriage proposal from the former. But their engagement encountered troubled waters when Clemma Seccombe returned to Centennial. Unable to get over his infatuation with the seemingly repentant Clemma, Jim breaks his engagement with Charlotte. The latter tries to bribe Clemma to leave town. But in the end, it took a lecture from Lucinda Zendt to convince the latter to leave. And Charlotte finally married her cowboy. Hans Brumbaugh’s labor problems finally ended when political turmoil in Mexico finally drove Tranquilino Marquez to accompany his uncle, “Nacho” Gomez to Colorado. “Nacho” never made it, dying from a gunshot wound on the Skimmerhorn Trail. But Tranquilino and a few fellow Mexicans made it to the Brumbaugh farm and became permanent employees. Unfortunately for Tranquilino, good luck became bad during a trip to Denver, where he found himself imprisoned on a trumped up charge by a local bigot with a dislike for Latinos.

As you can see, a great deal happened in “The Winds of Change”. Normally, I would have insisted upon a longer running time than 97 to 100 minutes. But screenwriter Charles Larson and director Harry Falk managed to keep the episode’s pace flowing perfectly without any rush or dragging, whatsoever. Following James Michner’s novel, they also managed to do an excellent job of connecting the final acts of the two story lines featuring the Pettis gang and the Wendells. At the same time, Jim Lloyd’s romantic travails continued during this traumatic time for Centennial.

“The Winds of Fortune” featured at least three outstanding scenes that I need to point out. At least two of those scenes featured deaths of primary characters. Once again, Brian Keith and Doug McKeon knocked it out of the ballpark with their portrayals of Sheriff Axel Dumire and Philip Wendell in a poignant, yet ironic scene that featured the former’s death. What I found particularly ironic about this particular scene is that the characters’ deep affection for each other could not overcome Dumire’s desire to know the truth about Mr. Sorenson’s death or Philip’s determination to protect his parents to the bitter end.

Another death scene featured “Nacho” Gomez’s death on the Skimmerhorn Trail, while he and Tranquilino journey to Colorado. Although A Martinez was pretty solid as Tranquilino, Rafael Campos gave one last superb performance as the dying “Nacho” recalled the best period of his life – those months along the Skimmerhorn Trail. In fact, his character died near the very spot where he first met John Skimmerhorn in “The Longhorns”. The last scene was the final confrontation between Clemma and Lucinda Zendt and Charlotte Seccombe. Between Charlotte’s determination to pay off Clemma to get her out of Jim’s life, and the latter’s acidic crowing over her hold of said cowboy, the scene crackled with hostility, thanks to the superb acting of Lynn Redgrave and Adrienne La Russa. Christina Raines gave solid support as Clemma’s disapproving mother, Lucinda.

The episode also boasted first-rate performances from William Atherton, who continued his superb portrayal of the solid, yet love sick cowboy Jim Lloyd. Another excellent performance came from Cliff De Young, who shined as ranch manager John Skimmerhorn, in one of his final scenes in which he expressed the blunt truth about the fickle Clemma. The episode also featured fine work from Alex Karras (Hans Brumbaugh), Jesse Vint (Amos Calendar) and delicious performances from both Lois Nettleton and Anthony Zerbe as the conniving Maude and Mervin Wendell.

“The Winds of Change” featured one major problem with me. Ever since “The Storm”, the miniseries usually featured flashbacks that hinted a major character’s upcoming death. Prolonged flashbacks from “The Longhorns”nearly grounded the episode to a halt, as a dying “Nacho” recalled the events of the Skimmerhorn drive. I could have tolerated one or two scenes. But the flashbacks nearly seemed to go on forever.

Despite the never-ending flashbacks, “The Winds of Change” proved to be another outstanding episode of“CENTENNIAL”. Since it became the last episode to be set during the 19th century, it featured the conclusions of several story lines that have been going on since the saga shifted into the 1880s. It was a near perfect finale to what proved to be a rather interesting period of four to five episodes.

“STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” (1980) Review

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“STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” (1980) Review

From a certain point of view, I find it hard to believe that the 1980 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”has become the most critically acclaimed STAR WARS movie by the franchise’s fans. And I find it hard to believe, due to the film’s original box office performance. 

I was also surprised that “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” was released in the first place. Despite the ambiguous nature of villain Darth Vader’s fate in the 1977 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE”, I had assumed that film’s happy ending meant the story of Luke Skywalker and his friends was over. But my assumption proved to be wrong three years later. Many other filmgoers and critics also expressed surprise at the release of a second STAR WARS movie. More importantly, a surprising revelation and an ending with a cliffhanger resulted in a smaller box office for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” than either “A NEW HOPE” or the 1983 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Yet, thirty-three years later, the movie is now viewed as the most critically acclaimed – not just among the first three movies, but also among those released between 1999 and 2005.

“THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” begins three years following the events of ” A NEW HOPE”. Despite the Rebel Alliance’s major victory above the planet of Yavin and the destruction of the Galactic Empire’s Death Star, the rebellion continues to rage on. Luke Skywalker, now a wing commander at the Rebels’ base on Hoth, patrols beyond the base’s perimenter with close friend and former smuggler Han Solo. After the latter returns to base, Luke is attacked by a wampa and dragged into the latter’s cave. Meanwhile, Han receives word from Princess Leia, one of the Rebel leaders and a friend of both men, that Luke has not returned. He leaves the base to find Luke, while the latter manages to escape from the wampa’s lair. Luke stumbles into a snowstorm and before losing consciousness, receives a message from the Force spirit of his late mentor, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, to seek out another Jedi named Yoda on Dagobah for further training. Han eventually finds Luke before a Rebel patrol finds them both. 

While Luke recovers from his ordeal, Leia and General Rieekan learn from Han and his Wookie companion Chewbacca have discovered an Imperial probe. They surmise that Imperial forces know the location of their base and might be on their way. The Rebel Alliance forces prepare to evacuate Hoth. But an Imperial presence on the planet served as a bigger problem for the heroes. Unbeknownst to them, Darth Vader seeks out Luke, following his discovery of the young man’s connection to the Force three years ago. Although the three friends will separate for a period of time and experience adventures of their own, Lord Vader’s hunt for Luke will result in great danger and a surprising revelation in the end.

I once came across a post on the TheForce.net – Jedi Council Forums message board that complained of the lack of a main narrative for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. A part of me could understand why this person reached such an opinion. Despite the circumstances on Hoth and the finale on the Bespin mining colony, our heroes barely spent any time together. Following the Rebel Alliance’s defeat on Hoth, Luke and R2-D2 traveled to Dagobah, where the former continued his Jedi training under Master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han and Chewbacca helped Leia and C3-P0 evade Darth Vader and Imperial forces on Hoth and in space before seeking refuge on Bespin. I believe this person failed to realize that other than Luke’s Jedi training with Yoda, most of the movie’s narrative centered on Vader’s attempts to capture Luke – the Imperial invasion of Hoth, his pursuit of the Millennium Falcon with Leia and Han aboard, and their subsequent capture on Bespin. Even Luke’s Jedi training was interrupted by visions of his friends in danger and journeyed into the trap set by Vader. And this is why I found it hard to accept this complaint about “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”.

Most fans tend to regard the movie as perfect or near perfect. Despite my feelings for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, I cannot agree with this view. I believe that the movie has its flaws. One could find cheesy dialogue in the movie, especially from Darth Vader. He possessed an annoying penchant for constantly using the phrase “It is your destiny” in the movie’s last half hour. Some of Leia and Han’s “romantic dialogue” in the movie’s first half struck me as a bit childish and pedantic. Speaking of those two – how did they end up attracted to each other in the first place? “A NEW HOPE” ended with Han making a brief pass at Leia during the medal ceremony. But she seemed to regard him as a mere annoyance and nothing else. Three years later, both are exchanging longing glances and engaging in verbal foreplay at least ten to fifteen minutes into the story. I would have allowed this to slide if a novel or comic story had explained this sudden shift toward romance between them. But no such publication exists, as far as I know. This little romance seemed to have developed out of the blue.

There were other problems. The movie never explained the reason behind Leia’s presence at the Rebels’ Hoth base. She was, after all, a political leader; not a military one. The base already possessed a more than competent military leader in the form of General Rieekan. Watching Leia give orders to the pilots during the base’s evacuation made me realize that she really had no business interfering in the Rebels’ military command structure. It would have been a lot easier if she had been a military officer or a spy for the Alliance. “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” also failed to explain why Han was being hunted by Jabba the Hutt after three years. I thought the payment he had received for delivering Leia and the Death Star plans to Yavin was enough to settle his debt to the Tattooine gangster. Apparently not. And the movie failed to explain why. Perhaps there is a STAR WARS novel or comic book story that offered an explanation. I hope so. For years, I never understood the symbolism behind Luke’s experiences inside the Dagobah cave during his Jedi training. And I am not sure if I still do. Finally, how long did Luke’s training on Dagobah last? And how long did it take the Millennium Falcon to reach Bespin with a broken hyperdrive? LucasFilm eventually revealed that both incidents took at least three months. If so, why did the movie failed to convey this particular time span?

Thankfully, “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” more than rose above its flaws. For me, it is still one of the best science-fiction adventure films I have ever seen. I am amazed that such a complex tale arose from two simple premises – Darth Vader’s hunt for Luke Skywalker and the continuation of the latter’s Jedi training. From these simple premises, audiences were exposed to a richly detailed and action-filled narrative, thanks to George Lucas’ story, Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay (which was also credited to Leigh Brackett) and Irvin Kershner’s direction. The movie featured many exciting sequences and dramatic moments that simply enthralled me. Among my favorite action sequences were the Millennium Falcon’s escape from Hoth, Yoda’s introduction, Han’s seduction of Leia inside the giant asteroid worm, the Falcon’s escape from the worm. For me, the movie’s best sequence proved to be the last – namely those scenes on the mining colony of Bespin. I would compare this last act in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” to the Death Star sequence in “A NEW HOPE” or the Mos Espa podrace sequence in “STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE”. The Bespin sequence featured a few truly iconic moments. Well . . . if I must be honest, I would say that it featured two iconic moments – Han’s response to Leia’s declaration of love and Darth Vader’s revelation of his true identity.

Naturally, one cannot discuss a STAR WARS movie without mentioning its technical aspects. In my review of “A NEW HOPE”, I had failed to mention Ben Burtt’s outstanding sound effects. I will add that his work in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” proved to be equally outstanding. I could also say the same for the movie’s sound mixing, which earned Academy Awards for Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, and Peter Sutton. Composer John Williams’ additions to his famous STAR WARS score were not only outstanding, but earned him an Academy Award nomination. Those additions included a love theme for the Leia/Han romance and the memorable “Imperial March”, which is also known as “Darth Vader’s Theme” As far as I am concerned, the tune might as well be known as the Sith Order’s theme song. The team of Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson did an outstanding job with the movie’s visual effects – especially for the Battle of Hoth sequence. I can also say the same for Peter Suschitzky’s photography. However, my favorite cinematic moment turned out to be Luke’s initial encounter with Darth Vader on Bespin. Even to this day, I experience a chill whenever I see that moment when they meet face-to-face for the first time. Although John Mollo’s costumes caught Hollywood’s attention after “A NEW HOPE” was first released (he won an Oscar for his effort), his costumes for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” seemed like a continuation of the same. In fact, I found the costumes somewhat on the conservative side, even if they blended well with the story.

It is interesting that the performances of both Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher garnered most of the attention when “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” first came out. The Leia/Han romance was very popular with fans. Mind you, both gave very good performances. But I believe that Mark Hamill acted circles around them. And not surprising, he won a Saturn Award for his performance as Luke Skywalker in this film. Billy Dee Williams also gave a first-rate performance as the roguish smuggler-turned-colony administrator, whose charming persona hid a desperation to do anything to save the inhabitants of Bespin from Imperial annihilation. James Earl Jones and David Prowse continued their outstanding portrayal of Darth Vader aka Anakin Skywalker, with one serving as the voice and the other, the physical embodiment of the Sith Lord. Julian Glover, who later appeared in “INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE” made a brief appearance as the commander of the Imperial walkers, General Veers. Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew continued their excellent work as C3-P0, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. But I was particularly impressed by Frank Oz’s voice work as the veteran Jedi Master Yoda, and Kenneth Colley as the Imperial Admiral Piett, whose caution and competency led him to rise in the ranks and avoid Vader’s wrath for any incompetence.

Is “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” my favorite STAR WARS movie of all time? Almost. Not quite. For me, it is tied in first place with one other movie from the franchise. But after thirty-three years and in spite of its flaws, I still love it, despite its flaws. And I have give credit to not only the talented cast and crew, but also director Irwin Kershner, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and especially the man behind all of this talent, George Lucas.

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VI




“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VI

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book VI. 

————- 

RAIN ROBINSON – JULY 17, 2373:

Christ! What a surreal day this has been! Who would have thought a simple mineral gathering expedition would turn into some bizarre journey into alien sex, lust and violence. Hmmm, sounds like a bad “B” movie. 

Anyway, I know one thing. Never get between a lust-driven Klingon and the object of her desire. Damn! My shoulder hurts just from remembering what happened. And all because Ensign Vorik went into some mating frenzy. Something he had managed to pass on to B’Elanna. Tuvok explained it all to me. 

I was in Sick Bay, being treated by the Doctor (when is that man ever going to find a name?) when Tuvok entered. B’Elanna had already left, thank God! I really couldn’t face her at that moment. And Vorik remained unconscious on one of those beds. “There you go, Miss Robinson,” the Doctor said, after waving some instrument over my shoulder. “You’re completely healed.” 

Aside from a bit of soreness, the Doc was right. I sighed with relief. Tuvok halted in front of me. “Miss Robinson, he greeted, “how are you feeling?”

I tenderly moved my shoulder. “Fine. I can’t say the same about Vorik,” I added, staring at the unconscious man. “Looks like he’s still out cold. What happened down there?” 

Tuvok opened his mouth to speak, when he noticed the Doctor staring at him with anticipated interest. “If you don’t mind, Doctor. This is a private conversation.” The Doctor let out a grunt and retreated to the office behind the glass wall. Tuvok continued, “Both Ensign Vorik and Lieutenant Torres had been affected by the pon farr.” 

“Yeah, I remember you mentioning that on the planet, below. But what does it mean?” 
Tuvok shot a glance at the Doctor’s office and sighed. “Considering what happened to you, today, you deserve an explanation.” Then he gave me one. 

Pon farr – the Vulcan term for the time of mating. According to Tuvok, the Vulcan ‘s reserve and logic are completely ripped away by an intense mating desire. Many Vulcans discover their life-long mates when they experience pon farr. If any of them are unable to sexually satisfy their urges, a chemical imbalance forms in the brain, causing the Vulcan to become even more violent. This is called plak-tow. The “blood fever”. And this happens to the Vulcan every seven years of the adult life. Christ! 
“You mean to tell me that sex is the only way to satisfy these urges?” I asked. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. 

Tuvok replied, “As I had explained on the planet, it can be resolved three ways – intercourse, meditation or combat ritual.” 

“And B’Elanna and Vorik got rid of theirs the third way. Through hand-to-hand combat.” 

“Precisely.” Tuvok nodded. 

The explanation continued. It seemed that Vorik had chosen B’Elanna to be his life-long mate. When she rejected him, the plak-tow got worse and he attempted to telepathically link with her. This is how Vulcans become couples and it usually happens during a Vulcan’s pon farr. Although the mind link failed, Vorik had accidentally transferred his mating urges to B’Elanna. Which explained her overtures toward Tom and my aching shoulder. 

I asked, “Why didn’t Vorik use meditation to get over this pon farr? It seems it would have been a lot easier.” 

“Actually, Miss Robinsnon, meditation is the most difficult method.” Tuvok maintained his usual stoic demeanor. “Most Vulcans rarely succeed in resolving their pon farr through meditation. It is extremely difficult to resolve. As you have witnessed from Ensign Vorik and Lieutenant Torres’ actions. In a way,” he released a rare sigh, “pon farr is like a side effect of the Vulcans’ tradition of suppressing our emotions.” 

Well, I had a simple answer to that. “Then maybe you shouldn’t suppress your emotions,” I replied with a shrug. 

“Miss Robinson, you have seen a Vulcan with his control of his emotions, ripped away. Imagine all Vulcans consistently behaving in that manner if we did not suppress our emotions. There have been cases of Vulcan sects who refuse to suppress their emotions and maintain that doing so is unnecessary. However, in the end, they have been proven wrong. In fact, Vulcans are so naturally volatile, we have to meditate on a daily basis to maintain control of our emotions.”

Memories of a violent Vorik challenging Tom for B’Elanna’s hand, entered my thoughts. Now that I think about it, I would prefer that Tuvok and Vorik keep their emotions in check. “I understand,” I finally said. 

Tuvok nodded. “Good. Do you have any further questions?” I told him no and heaved an exhausted sigh. Tuvok must have noticed my reaction, for he added, “I suggest that you retire to your quarters for rest, Miss Robinson. This day has obviously proven to be quite exhausting for you.” 

Knowing good advice when I heard it, I nodded once more and left Sick Bay. 


RAIN ROBINSON – JULY 18, 2373:

The following day, I received a visitor in my quarters. It was Vorik. Gone was the violent expression and odd light in his eyes. Aside from looking slightly exhausted, he seemed his usual self. “Miss Robinson,” he greeted. 

I tried to smile, but failed in the attempt. Those last moments on Sakari IV keep entering my mind. “Vorik. What are you doing here?” I knew the answer. But I wanted to hear it from his lips. 

A faint green blush colored his face. Green blood? “I came here to apologize, Miss Robinson. For my actions. What I did was . . . unpardonable. I never meant . . .” 

“Wait a minute,” I said, interrupting. “Why are you apologizing? You never attacked me.” 

“If I had not attacked B’El . . . Lieutenant Torres, she would have never injured your shoulder.” True. Can’t argue with the truth. Vorik continued, “I realize that I can never repay for what happened . . .” 

I interrupted him for the second time. “Vorik, I understand what happened to both you and B’Elanna. Tuvok explained everything.” 

“Oh.” His face became even greener. He looked embarrassed. Almost ill. 

Then I asked him, “How many times has this . . . uh, pon farr happened to you?” 
Embarrassment flitted across his face. Vorik murmured, “I’m sorry, Miss Robinson, but that subject is considered . . .” 

“I realize that it’s a taboo subject, Vorik,” I quietly responded. “But after what happened, I think I at least deserve an answer.” 

His expression tightened for a second. And then, “Of course.” Vorik took a deep breath. “The answer to your question is this was my first experience with the pon farr.”

Hmmm, no wonder he went off the deep end. Then again, I recalled Tuvok stating that for a Vulcan, controlling one’s pon farr does not get any easier with age. Seven years from now, I plan to remain locked inside my quarters. I asked, “Have you spoken to B’Elanna since our return to the ship?” 

Vorik replied that he had just paid a visit to the Chief Engineer’s quarters and offered an apology. “She has accepted it.” He paused. “Somewhat. However,” his dark eyes looked slightly embarrassed, “I have suggested that I spend the next month on Gamma Shift. It would be easier for both of us, since she seems to be a little uncomfortable in my presence.” 

Hell, I don’t blame B’Elanna. I don’t exactly relish being in the same room with her, right now. 

——–

Several hours later, B’Elanna approached me during lunch, in the Mess Hall. Amazing. The moment I felt her presence, I became immediately tense. I guess I expected her to fly into a rage and toss my body across the room. Ridiculous, of course. But it’s hard to get over being attacked by a half-Klingon in a state of pon farr.

Like Vorik, B’Elanna offered an apology for what happened on Sakaris IV. And like the other engineer, she seemed very embarrassed. I told her that I understood her actions. Did I? Maybe, I did. At least a part of me did. I added, “Both Tuvok and Vorik explained everything to me.” 

“Vorik?” The lieutenant’s eyebrows shot up several inches. “You’ve spoken with Vorik?” 

Surprised by her reaction, I replied, “Yeah. He wanted to apologize. I understand that he’s done the same to you.” 

B’Elanna nodded. “Yeah. I uh . . . he came to my quarters, this morning.” 

“I guess he’ll be starting on the Gamma shift, today,” I added.

Dark brown eyes narrowed. “He told you about that also, huh?” B’Elanna did not look particularly pleased by that bit of news. Or the fact that I knew. Why, I have no idea. 

Coolly, I replied, “Yeah, he did. Why? Is there a problem? Vorik told me that he had volunteered for that shift.” In any other situation, tempers would be flying right now. Including mine. But I suspected that both of us wanted to avoid any further conflict between us. Especially, after what happened on Sakari IV. 

“Of course. I . . .” Once more, B’Elanna’s words froze. Christ! This conversation seemed to be growing more uncomfortable. Frankly, I wished she would just leave. A moment later, my wish came true. “Never mind.” B’Elanna nodded and gruffly said good-bye. Then she left. For how long, I don’t know.


LIEUTENANT TOM PARIS – STARDATE 50553.18:

What a damn mess this has been! All because of that damn Vorik who didn’t have the decency to keep his hands to himself! Hell, he’s a Vulcan for crying out loud! One would think he could have learned to control that pon farr!

And B’Elanna! What an awful thing for her to experience! All because that bastard couldn’t control his damn libido and keep his hands to himself! Thanks to Vorik, B’Elanna became infected by the pon farr, nearly went berserk, assaulted both Rain and myself; and nearly died of a chemical imbalance in her brain. Shit! 

Perhaps I should have relieved her blood fever in the Sakari caves. But I felt unable to take advantage of her like that. It would have ruined our friendship. Even worse, I couldn’t have done with Rain looking on. That really would have ruined any semblance of a relationship we had left. God! What an awful mess!

Once we found Tuvok and Chakotay, the former practically ordered me to have sex with B’Elanna. On one hand, I’ve always wondered what making love with B’Elanna would be like. On the other hand, there was Rain. I saw the look of horror in her eyes when Tuvok gave the order. As much as I hated Vorik for interrupting B’Elanna and me, a part of me felt relieved over the interruption. 

I did not see either Rain or B’Elanna for the next three days. Finally, I encountered B’Elanna in one of the turbolifts. She tried to dismiss her actions on Sakari IV as something meaningless that had occurred, due to Vorik’s pon farr. A part of me just could not allow her to get away with that. I told her that her Klingon side did not frighten me one bit. And that I would like to see more of it. You know what she said before leaving the turbolift? “Be careful of what you wish for, Lieutenant.” Was that an invitation? 

B’Elanna’s words took me by surprise. But Rain’s comments, later that evening, shocked the hell out of me. Left me practically stunned. 

It started after my encounter with B’Elanna. I spotted Rain inside the Mess Hall, for dinner. Sitting with Vorik, of all people! What the hell was she doing with that bastard? 

I felt so outraged that I confronted Rain inside her quarters, an hour later. “What the hell were you doing speaking with that bastard?” I cried out, after she ushered me inside. 

Rain stared at me with stunned eyes. “What? What are you talking about?”

“Vorik! I saw you having dinner with him about an hour ago, in the Mess Hall! How can you even be around that bastard, after what he did . . .” 

“To B’Elanna?” she finished rather nastily. “You forget. It was she who attacked me. And you. Not Vorik.” 

I shouted back, “It was Vorik who practically mind raped her in the first place! Giving her that damn pon farr!” By then, I felt furious.

Equally furious, Rain reminded me that B’Elanna had tried to rape me in the Sakari caves. “And that was before she threw me against the cave’s wall! Dislocating my shoulder!” 

“She was under the pon farr!” 

“So was Vorik! Or have you forgotten?” 

I could not believe this! How could Rain defend Vorik for what he did? I asked her that, adding, “At least B’Elanna has an excuse! She wasn’t used to being under some influence, common to Vulcans!” 

Rain stared at me with a look that dripped with contempt. A look that made me feel very uneasy. “Oh, I get it. It’s okay to excuse B’Elanna for attacking us, but not Vorik for attacking her.” 

Jesus! Was she this stubborn? How could I get her to understand? “Rain, didn’t you hear what I said about B’Elanna?” Frustration oozed in my voice. “B’Elanna has an excuse. Vorik doesn’t!” 

“Oh, gee Tom! I hate to tell you this. Whether any of us like it or not, he does have an excuse. It’s called pon farr!”

“You don’t know what you’re . . .” 

Then she exploded. “For God’s sake! You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, do you? Do you have any idea what pon farr is like for a Vulcan? Do you?” Staring into those impassioned dark eyes, I found myself unable to respond. “Neither do I!” Rain continued. “At least not personally. But Tuvok gave me a pretty good idea what it is like. Did you really expect Vorik or any other Vulcan to control their pon farr just like that?” She snapped her fingers. “Hell, they have to meditate on a daily basis just to maintain control of their emotions. Jesus, Tom! You saw how it affected B’Elanna. Well, it affects Vulcans, just as bad. And if you think all Vorik had to do was take a cold shower or masturbate, while reading a “PLAYBOY” magazine . . .” 

“Play what?” I asked. 

Rain’s eyes narrowed even further. “A pornographic magazine,” she hissed. “Controlling the pon farr is not as easy as you seem to think, for Vulcans. This is serious shit for them. Most of them can’t even control it without sex or violence. Meditation rarely works, as well. Even for Vulcans with long experience with pon farr. And this was Vorik’s first time at the bat!” 

I opened my mouth to speak, but I could not. I wanted to deny Rain’s words. Tell her that she was wrong. But she did not give me the chance. Even worse, I had the horrible feeling that she may be right.

“What were you about to say?” she continued. “Hmm, I guess being a Human, you don’t really understand what going through thepon farr means. Do you? You know, for a man who prides himself on being tolerant, you sure can be narrow-minded! Was that how the rest of the crew were to you, two years ago?” 

I gave her a sharp look. How did she . . .? Of course! The ship’s computer.

“That’s right,” she said, confirming what I suspected. “I read your Starfleet record. All about Caldik Prime and serving time in prison. Maybe accidentally killing three people and lying about it doesn’t quite add up to assaulting a fellow officer, while under a chemical imbalance. But like it or not, Vorik has a hell of a better excuse than you do.” 

People have accused me of a lot of things. Cowardice, murder, lying and God knows what. But I have never been accused of being a bigot. Or a hypocrite. Until now. 

Rain spoke one last time. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she marched to the door and opened it, “I’d like to be alone.” 

Still dazed, I slowly walked out of her quarters. I later learned from Harry that Vorik had volunteered for duty during Gamma shift, for the next four weeks. To be honest, I barely heard him. My thoughts remained fixed on the words that Rain had hurled at me, earlier that evening. I also realized something else. I never did find out what Rain and Vorik were talking about, during dinner. 


END OF BOOK VI

“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”: The Last Stand Against Mediocrity

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“AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”: THE LAST STAND AGAINST MEDIOCRITY

The age of serial drama or adventure is over. It is over. I first came to this conclusion after learning the dismal ratings for the last episode of ABC’s “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” called (1.10) “The Bridge”. I eventually learned that the show’s ratings were not as dismal as I had been led to believe.  But the series never became a top ratings earner. Ironically, my original statement is not a criticism directed at the series or its latest episode.

When I had learned that the ratings for “The Bridge” had dropped considerably last January, I was a bit upset. Many fans saw this as a sign of the show’s not-so-sensational quality. I realize that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” is not flawless. There is no such thing as a flawless show. But I believe it has achieved its potential to become a first-rate one.  I also believe that the quality of its writing has grown with time. But judging from the reaction to the show’s first season, I can clearly see that American television viewers and critics now lack the patience to deal with a serial drama. They will not allow shows like “S.H.I.E.L.D.” to develop at a steady pace. They want instant perfection right off the bat.

I blame televisions series like “LOST”, the new “BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA”, and “ONCE UPON A TIME”. All three shows gave television viewers an excellent First Season that seemed to blow their minds. And thanks to shows like the one I had just listed, an excellent first season is what many viewers have come to expect from a TV show in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Superb shows like “BABYLON 5”“BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” and “ANGEL” did not have perfect first seasons. First first seasons were decent, but flawed. But in time, all three developed into excellent shows by their second and third seasons. And this is why I consider them among the finest series in television series. I am also reminded of cancelled shows like “FLASHFORWARD” and “THE EVENT”. I might as well be frank. The first half of their single seasons never struck me as exceptional or impressive. But both shows managed to develop in quality by the end of their seasons. And both shows promised great potential, as well. But the respective networks refused to give them a chance and cancelled them, instead of giving them a second season.

Considering that the writing for television series like “BABYLON 5” and “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” managed to slowly develop over time, I now realize that I can never consider shows like “LOST” and “ONCE UPON A TIME” among the best in television history. Sure, they were entertaining and revealed flashes of brilliant writing. Unfortunately, I believe that the writing for “LOST” flip-flopped in quality during its remaining five seasons. Despite some first-rate story arcs and plot twists over the years, it never reached the same level of quality that it had enjoyed during its first season. Many fans were dazzled by “ONCE UPON A TIME” during its first season. But the series is now in the midst of its third season. And I feel that eventually, it will suffer the same fate of inconsistent quality as “LOST” did.

The first season of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” reminded of those first seasons for shows like “BABYLON 5” and“BUFFY”. Like the two now defunct shows, the first season for “S.H.I.E.L.D.” was obviously flawed. But I feel that it also reached its potential, especially in the story line regarding the agency’s battle with an organization called Centipede, which turned out to be an offshoot of a bigger enemy from “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”.  When the series first began, I could barely stand characters like Grant Ward, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons. I found the former aggressively bland, and the other two rather annoying and out of place. The series has just finished its first season and I have grown to appreciate all three characters. This is due to their fleshing out as interesting characters, instead of remaining mere cliches.

For me, this is a sign of why I like the production styles of television producer/writers like Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski. They do not try to wow the audience off the bat with a spectacular premiere or first season. Both Whedon and Straczynski, and other show creators like them, are willing to allow their stories and characters to develop with time … like true storytellers. But today’s television viewers do not seem to appreciate real storytelling. They do not appreciate a steady development of story and characters. They want to be dazzled right off the bat. And the creators of shows like “LOST” and “ONCE UPON A TIME” are willing to feed them dazzling premieres to automatically draw in viewers. Because of this new style of storytelling and lack of audience patience, I fear that “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” will not survive its second season, if its storytelling format remains.  And if it does last, I fear that the networks might force Whedon and his brother, Jed Whedon will transform the series into an episodic one that allow guest starring costume heroes to push the main characters into a back seat.

Oh well. There is nothing I can do about it. In fact, all I can do is sit back and speculate on the future of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.”. If it ends up cancelled by the end of its second season or is transformed into episodic television; the show’s fate will become another step down in the quality of television writing – especially for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I fear culture is in serious danger of going to the dogs.

 

 

“WORLD WAR Z” (2013) Review

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“WORLD WAR Z” (2013) Review

I might as well state it outright. I am not a fan of horror movies. Actually, I hate them. I had once considered ignoring“THE MUMMY”, Stephen Sommer’s 1999 remake of an old Boris Karloff film, until my sister convinced me that it was more of an adventure flick than a horror film. But my dislike of horror films remained intact when I first learned of the new Brad Pitt movie, “WORLD WAR Z”

Barely based upon Max Brooks’ 2006 novel, “WORLD WAR Z” is an apocalyptic tale about a former a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie-like pandemic. The movie starts in Philadelphia, where Gerry Lane and his family are stuck in heavy traffic in Philadelphia, while they listen to a radio report of a rabies outbreak that has spread all over the world. Following a series of explosions, the Lanes are attacked by zombies. Those bitten are transformed into zombies after 12 seconds. While the attacks continue, the Lanes narrowly escape to an apartment complex and seek refuge with another family to wait for extraction by a helicopter sent by Gerry’s former UN colleague, the Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni. After a brief struggle in which Gerry is almost infected, the family reaches the helicopter and is taken to a U.S. Navy vessel off the coast of New York City. There, a team of analysts and military personnel analyze the zombie virus outbreak. A virologist name Dr. Andrew Fassbach suggests that they need to find the origin of the zombie plague in order for a vaccine to be developed. Because of his expertise as a former UN investigator, Gerry is tasked – actually blackmailed by a high-ranking Naval officer – with helping Dr. Fassback to find the source of the zombie virus.

Considering my initial declaration of my dislike toward horror films, one would probably speculate on why I went to see“WORLD WAR Z” in the first place. Like 1999’s “THE MUMMY”, the movie seemed more like an adventure film than a horror flick – especially since the plot required a worldwide apocalypse and a great deal of traveling for the main character. And if I must brutally honest, cast members such as Brad Pitt, James Badge Dale and Matthew Fox were the deciding factor. I could never envision any of them in a typical horror film and assumed there must be more to “WORLD WAR Z” than a bunch of shuffling zombies in a darkened room. To my utter relief, my assumptions proved to be right.

Max Brooks’ novel focused upon a collection of individual accounts about a zombie pandemic and war that had just ended after a decade. The producers; writers J. Michael Straczynski and Michael Carnahan; and screenwriters Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof decided that Brooks’ story structure would not sustain a viable movie. Instead, they changed the story’s structure to make it more action oriented tale that centered around a main character. Aside from a few quibbles about the plot, I had no problems with this decision. “WORLD WAR Z” still proved to be an exciting and rather frightening tale that provided plenty of family drama, action and a great deal of traveling. In one way, “WORLD WAR Z” reminded me of Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film, “CONTAGION” – but with some horror and traveling thrown into it.

There were certain action scenes that I found particularly exciting and are particular favorites of mine. Two of these scenes feature escape – namely the Lanes’ rescue by a team of Navy SEALs from a New Jersey apartment building rooftop and Gerry’s escape from Tel Aviv with an Israeli soldier named Segen. I found two scenes – the Lanes’ search for sanctuary at the New Jersey apartment building; and Lane and Segen’s attempt to get their hands on a pathogen for a cure at a World Heath’s Organization (W.H.O.) in Wales – particularly spine-tingling. Almost nerve wracking. But the movie also featured a few excellent dramatic scenes. Among my favorites include Umutoni and Captain Mullenaro’s successful attempt to convince Lane to search for the zombie virus’ origins; Lane’s good-byes to his wife Karin and their daughter; Lane and Army Captain Speke’s conversation with a former CIA operative, who led the former to Israel; and Lane’s initial meeting with a grieving WHO medical researcher.

Although I enjoyed “WORLD WAR Z”, I must admit that I had a few problems with some of plot. I was annoyed that either the screenwriters or director Marc Forster failed to do a proper setup of the story’s main narrative – namely the zombie virus. The movie featured a montage of news reports during the opening credits and a few television and radio reports before the Lane family found themselves overwhelmed by the zombie outbreak on the streets of Philadelphia – some five to ten minutes after the movie began. I was also disappointed that the movie’s plot dropped Lane’s search for the zombie pandemic’s origins and instead solely focused on finding a cure during the last 30 to 40 minutes. So, although the W.H.O. managed to develop a vaccine to prevent the rest of the world’s population from getting infected, the movie ended with no knowledge of the pandemic’s origins. Just a outbreak of military hostilities against the zombies. I found all of this somewhat unsatisfying. 

However, I did not find the performances unsatisfying. Once again, Brad Pitt proved that he could be a satisfying action hero and dramatic actor all rolled into one, thanks to his first-rate performance as former U.N. investigator, Gerry Lane. Mireille Enos’ portrayal of Lane’s wife Karin struck me as perfectly poignant and emotional, as she struggled to keep her family together during Gerry’s absence. I have never heard of Fana Mokoena before this movie. But I must admit that I found his performance as the compassionate, yet professional U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni very impressive. I hope that “WORLD WAR Z” will make Daniella Kertesz a star. I was very impressed by her performance as Lane’s Israeli companion, “Segen”.

“WORLD WAR Z” also featured some excellent performances from cast members who made brief appearances. One of them came from David Andrews, who gave an intense portrayal of the U.S. Navy captain that convinced Lane to search for the zombie pandemic’s origins. David Morse was equally intense and rather humorous as a traitorous ex-CIA agent, who provided Lane with information that led the latter to Israel. James Badge Dale, who seemed to be having a banner year in 2013, was even more witty as U.S. Army Ranger Captain Speke, who was in charge of a base in South Korea. Ludi Boeken gave a solid performance as a Mossad official responsible for preparing Israel’s pre-emptive defences. Peter Capaldi’s performance as a W.H.O. researcher also struck me as very solid and at times, rather witty. Matthew Fox reminded me just how very effect he could be in action films in his very brief role as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer who saves the Lanes from a zombie attack on the rooftop of the New Jersey apartment building. But the one cameo appearance that really impressed me came from Pierfrancesco Favino, who gave a poignant and intense performance as a W.H.O. researcher, who reminded Lane that the latter was not the only one who suffered from separation family members.

Yes, I had a few problems with the plot for “WORLD WAR Z”. I wish the screenwriters had put more detail in the zombie pandemic’s setup. And I was disappointed that the search for the pandemic’s origins had been dropped. But overall, I enjoyed “WORLD WAR Z” very much, despite it being a movie about zombies. Overall, Marc Forster did an excellent job as the movie’s director. And he was ably supported by fine performances from a skillful cast led by Brad Pitt. But do not expect me to become a fan of zombie stories in films and television in the future.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (1.01-1.02) “The Pilot”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (1.01-1.02) “The Pilot”

The pilot episode of some of my favorite television series have rarely impressed me . . . if not at all. There are a few exceptions to the rule. And one of those exceptions happened to the be pilot episode for ABC-TV’s “LOST”

Created by J.J. Abrams, Jeffrey Leiber and Damon Lindelof, “LOST” aired on television for six seasons, between 2004 and 2010. As many fans know, “LOST” told about the survivors of a commercial passenger plane crash on a mysterious South Pacific island, while flying between Sydney and Los Angeles. While television viewers got to know these survivors during their time on the island, but also through flashbacks revealing their past. The series’ first episode aired in two parts on September 22, 2004.

(1.01) “Pilot (Part 1)” introduced the series’ leading character, a spinal surgeon named Dr. Jack Shephard, who wakes up in the middle of the jungle following the crash of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815. He stumbles onto the beach and finds the chaos left behind from Oceanic 815’s crash. As everyone knows, the plane broke into three pieces before crashing on the island. Jack and most of the survivors ended upon with the fuselage. The cockpit and the plane’s first-class section ended deep into the jungle with no survivors, save the pilot. And the tail section fell into the ocean on the other side of the island. Jack and some of the survivors like John Locke and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes help other passengers with injuries or dodging burning pieces. After helping some of the passengers, Jack goes to another part of the beach to tend to his own injury, when he meets Kate Austen. She sews up his injury, while the two bond. Many other things occur during the episode. Survivors either form friendships or get on each others’ nerves. During their first night on the beach, everyone becomes unnerved by sounds of a monster deep in the jungle. The following day, Jack heads toward the cockpit to retrieve the plane’s transceiver and is accompanied by Kate and musician Charlie Pace. They retrieve the transceiver and encounter the badly injured pilot, who informs them that the plane had lost radio contact six hours into the flight and veered off course. Before he can share any further information, he is seized by a strange being and killed. Jack, Kate and Charlie make a run for it.

(1.02) “Pilot (Part 2)” continue Jack, Kate and Charlie’s flight from the monster that killed the pilot. During their absence, the dog of 10 year-old survivor Walt Lloyd finds a pair of handcuffs. A Middle Eastern survivor name Sayid Jarrah comes under suspicion from a Southern-born passenger named “Sawyer”. Jack and his two companions make it back to the beach with the transceiver. Sayid, Kate, “Sawyer”, Charlie and a step-brother-sister team named Boone Carlyle and Shannon Rutherford trek to the high ground to use the transceiver. Instead of contacting help, they manage to interpret a message sent earlier by a French woman on the island. One of the badly wounded survivors on the beach turn out to be a U.S. marshal demanding the whereabouts of his prisoner, a woman. Flashbacks reveal that the prisoner is Kate.

I will not deny that “LOST” is one of my favorite television series. It is not on my list of the top ten favorite shows. But it is on my list of top twenty favorites. Despite my favoritism toward “LOST”, I cannot deny that it also possessed some seriously flawed writing. But it was not on display in the two-part pilot. Well . . . somewhat. A few of the occurrences in this episode ended up contradicting the series’ future narrative. 

It is ironic that the first villainous character to make his/her appearance in the series turned out to be the main villain – the Smoke Monster aka the Man in Black. The survivors heard its “roar” during their first night on the island. And he killed the Oceanic 815’s pilot while the latter discussed the plane’s location with Jack and Kate. In fact, the Smoke Monster killed another survivor in an early Season Three episode – Mr. Eko. While many fans are still debating the reason behind the MIB’s murder of Mr. Eko, no one has figured out why the pilot was killed. Especially after Season Six revealed the list of candidates for the island’s new caretaker. I suspect that the MIB was simply being portrayed as a supernatural monster before the writers had decided to portray him as a villain with a purpose.

I have two more complaints about the episode. Some of the characterizations struck me as one-dimensional. This was especially the case for Shannon Rutherford, who was portrayed as some bitchy Valley Girl; Jin Kwon, who was written as a cliché of the oppressive Asian husband; Sun Kwon, who was portrayed as the typically oppressed Asian wife; and James “Sawyer” Ford, who was not only unlikable, but also the one-dimensional Southern white male. In Sawyer’s case, not only was his character portrayed in the worst clichéd manner possible, poor Josh Holloway was stuck with some pretty bad dialogue – especially in Part 2. He fared a lot better as the series progressed. Speaking of dialogue – yeech! Yes, I thought it was pretty bad. It was more than bad. I found it somewhat infantile and unmemorable.

Fortunately, the good outweighed the bad. Despite some of the one-dimensional characterization and bad dialogue, there were some pretty good performances. For me, one of the best performances came from Matthew Fox, who dived right into the role as the series’ lead character, Dr. Jack Shephard. Fox gave early hints of the complicated and deeply flawed character later revealed in future episodes. Fox’s early revelation of Jack’s flaws must have been subtle, for the later revelation of his flaws seemed to have taken many by surprise. Dominic Monaghan gave a funny and charming performance as the drug-addicted musician, Charlie Pace. And yet, his performance was skillfully shaded with hints of his character’s drug addiction. Thanks to Naveen Andrews’ subtle, yet intense performance and good writing, the character of Sayid Jarrah rose above the usual clichés featuring Middle Eastern characters. Emilie de Ravin was a delight as the pregnant Australian survivor, Claire Littleton. As for Evangeline Lilly, she did a pretty good job as Kate Austen, the survivor trying to hide her status as a Federal prisoner. However, I had some difficulty accepting her as the take charge type, as the script tried to portray her in Part 2. Terry O’Quinn was perfectly mysterious as John Locke, but viewers had to wait for another two episodes before he began to shine in the role. And Harold Perrineau gave a skillful performance as Michael Dawson, the inexperienced father of 10 year-old survivor, Walt Lloyd.

I felt that the narrative for “The Pilot”, which was written by Abrams and Lindelof, proved to be a well-written adventure. The story covered all of the elements for a story about survivors on a tropical island. The addition of the Smoke Monster injected a little horror and a great deal of mystery that would become the series’ hallmark. One of the aspects of “The Pilot” that I found particularly interesting was that it started with a close-up of Jack Shephard’s eye – post crash. In other words, this story did not start with the crash. Audiences were not treated to scenes aboard Oceanic Flight 815 and the actual crash, except during flashbacks. Very unusual. There were other scenes that I still find fascinating after nine years. My God! Has it been nine years? Those scenes include Jack, Kate and Charlie’s escape from the cockpit, following the pilot’s death; the discovery of Danielle Rousseau’s message in Part 2; the encounter with the polar bear; and the survivors’ first awareness of the Smoke Monster’s existence. But the one scene that many consider outstanding – including myself – is that opening shot of the fuselage wreckage on the beach and the chaos that surrounded it. I must admit that not only did J.J. Abrams really outdid himself in this particular scene, it is probably one of his best directed sequences in his entire career.

Despite a few hiccups regarding dialogue and some one-dimensional characterizations, “LOST” provided one of the best series openings I have ever viewed on television, thanks to some superb direction by J.J. Abrams, a damn fine cast and a well written teleplay. It is a pity that the series has never been able to maintain such excellent consistency during the rest of its six seasons on the air.

“THE FIFTH ESTATE” (2013) Review

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“THE FIFTH ESTATE” (2013) Review

The subject of WikiLeaks has been something of an conundrum for me. I have been aware of the series of news stories about the website and its founder and spokesperson, Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg. But I must be honest . . . my thoughts on the whole matter tend to disappear at least a few minutes after hearing or reading about it. So when news of a film about WikiLeaks was announced, I found myself surprised by the online reaction to the news. 

“THE FIFTH ESTATE” drew its title from a term that describes a group that operates outside of the society’s normal groups, especially one that is considered beyond the restrictions or rules of those others. A “fifth estate” is strongly associated with journalists and media outlets viewed outside of or in opposition to the mainstream media or official press. This term could easily describe WikiLeaks, the Internet website and organization that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. The movie, which is directed by Bill Condon, is based upon Domscheit-Berg’s book “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website” and“WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” by journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. Both were published in 2011. The movie follows the association between Assange and Domscheit-Berg, from their 2007 meeting at the Computer Chaos Club in Berlin to their estrangement over the Afghan War Logs. Judging from the movie’s source of material, it is easy to see that the story is mainly told from Domscheit-Berg’s point of view.

Is it a good movie? Many critics and filmgoers seem to believe otherwise. They directed their negative criticism toward Josh Singer’s screenplay and Bill Condon’s direction. In fact, many also believe it was a mistake for the movie to be told either from Domscheit-Berg’s point of view or those in the U.S. intelligence service. I now feel they were right in regard to the movie’s points-of-view. After all Assange proved to be the movie’s main topic in the end. I now feel that “THE FIFTH ESTATE” would have benefited from balanced viewpoints of both Domscheit-Berg and Assange. There were a few other aspects of “THE FIFTH ESTATE” I found a little troubling. There were moments when I could not ascertain some of the dialogue. I do not if this was due to the movie theater’s sound system or the performances in the film. “THE FIFTH ESTATE” also featured a set – an office space filled with desks – that served as a visual metaphor of the WikiLeaks website. Honestly, I found this so-called metaphor rather irrelevant and ham-fisted.

However, “THE FIFTH ESTATE” had its good points. I thought Bill Condon’s direction of the film to be solid and well-paced. He was ably assisted by Tobias Schliessler’s sharp cinematography and Virginia Katz’s skillful editing. Condon also did an excellent job of injecting suspension in a tale that focused on the Internet. I feel that he and screenwriter Josh Singer were right to include the consequences of the Afghan War Logs exposure in a few sequences featuring a Libyan doctor with political ties named Tarek Haliseh, who served as an informant for U.S. intelligence. Despite the film’s failure to focus some of its story from Assange’s viewpoint, I must admit that I found the movie’s plot very interesting. Thanks to“THE FIFTH ESTATE”, I managed to maintain my interest in WikiLeaks a lot longer than ten minutes or less. 

I cannot deny that “THE FIFTH ESTATE” greatly benefited from a talented cast. Benedict Cumberbatch gave a very interesting performance as colorful creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. I have no idea if the latter was satisfied with Cumberbatch. And there is a good chance (or not) that the characterization was off. If it was off, then one must place the blame on Singer’s screenplay, not Cumberbatch’s skillful performance. A less skillful actor could have easily been overshadowed by Cumberbatch’s performance. Fortunately, Daniel Brühl was talented enough to make Daniel Domscheit-Berg a fascinating character in his own right – especially in scenes that conveyed the latter’s frustrations with the Assange character. A third performance that caught my eye came from David Thewlis, who was equally colorful as British journalist Nick Davies, who covered WikiLeaks’ exposure of the Afghan War Logs. I was also impressed by Laura Linney, who did an excellent job in conveying the U.S. intelligence services’ anger and frustration toward the WikiLeaks website. The movie also featured solid performances from Stanley Tucci, Alicia Vikander, Dan Stevens, Alexander Siddig, Peter Capaldi, Moritz Bleibtreu and Anthony Mackie. However, I was disappointed by the film’s minimum use of Mackie. For someone listed third in the cast, he had a very small role.

Despite the negative reaction to the movie and my belief that it could have included the viewpoint of main character Julian Assange, I still managed to enjoy “THE FIFTH ESTATE”. I thought director Bill Condon and screeenwriter Josh Singer did a solid job in creating a credible thriller from a movie about computer online leakage. More importantly, the film benefited from first-rate performances given by a talented cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl.

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book V




“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book V

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book V. 

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RAIN ROBINSON – JUNE 9, 2373:

Voyager is at some space station near the edge of an area called the Nekrit Expanse. There, Neelix had a reunion with an old friend named Wixiban. I’m glad. Ever since he and Kes broke up, he has been in the dumps. He also confessed a fear that Captain Janeway might toss him off the ship, now that Voyager will be traveling through an area unfamiliar to him. I think the poor man is suffering from a major identity crisis. But then, aren’t we all?

I also encountered one of B’Elanna Torres’ engineers. He’s a Vulcan named Vorik. Unlike Tuvok, his skin is pale and he’s also a lot younger. Don’t get me wrong. I like Tuvok, but he does remind me of some elder statesman, sometimes. Vorik seems friendlier. Warmer. He even volunteered to fix the replicator in my quarters. Maybe I’ll get a chance to know him, better.


LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50442.37:

Poor Neelix! He has certainly endured a lot over the past month or so. First, Kes breaks up their relationship for good. And now, he has to spend the next two months, scrubbing dilithium chambers. Punishment from Janeway for getting involved in an illegal drug deal. Neelix, a drug dealer. I just can’t imagine!

Neelix and his friend’s little drug trade also resulted in a murder on the station. Which led to Chakotay and Tom being arrested for the crime. I was nearly beside myself when I heard the news. Rain Robinson didn’t seem concerned. Which struck me as very odd. But then, her attitude toward Tom has been odd ever since she boarded this ship. Perhaps she doesn’t love him, after all.


RAIN ROBINSON – JUNE 10, 2373:

When I heard that Tom had been arrested for murder, I nearly had a fit! It was all I could do from storming Captain Janeway’s office and demand that she do something about Tom. Until I remembered that Tom has no feelings toward me, other than as a friend. Since he’s so interested in B’Elanna Torres, I decided that she should be the one to storm the Captain’s office.

Ensign Vorik finally came by to fix my replicator. Like I said before, he’s a nice guy. We even have something in common – we both enjoy mountain climbing and are very good at it. He told me a lot about Vulcan – the people, the language, and its history. According to him, Vulcans and Humans first met some 210 years ago, when a Vulcan scout ship had detected a warp signature in Earth space. I recall reading about the Federation’s “First Contact” from the ship’s database. And about Ephram Cochrane.

For some reason, Tom and Lieutenant Torres popped into my mind. I began wondering about the Vulcans’ first contact with the Klingons. Or Earth’s. When I brought up the subject of Klingons with Ensign Vorik, two odd things happened. One, a strange light appeared in his eyes. And two, he began praising B’Elanna’s name to the skies. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that Vorik had a crush on her. 

“Excuse me, Ensign,” I began, curious over Vorik’s behavior, “do you have feelings for . . . uh, Lieutenant Torres?”

He looked startled for a moment. Like a kid whose hand had been caught inside the cookie jar. “I, uh . . .” He blinked. Then, “Why yes. As a Vulcan, I have the greatest respect for Lieutenant Torres. She is a competent chief engineer and commanding officer.” His voice seemed calm and full of respect. But his eyes told another story. They practically brimmed with deep emotion. Strange, considering what I’ve heard about Vulcans. Looks like B’Elanna has two men mooning over her. Figures.


RAIN ROBINSON – JUNE 18, 2373:

Busy day for me, today. I got to experience my first inversion nebula. I must admit that I found it just as thrilling, viewing it from the Bridge. Especially since I never saw those super novas, from last month. I may not be that crazy about Janeway, but I am grateful that she allowed me on the Bridge to view the nebula. I must thank Jenny, Megan and Tuvok for asking her permission.

Later this evening, Neelix hosted a luau in Holodeck Two. It was great! Well, at first. Polynesian music, exotic drinks (I asked for a Mai Tai, of course), and great food. I managed to replicate this deep blue dress with white orchid prints and a halter top. Ensign Pat Mulcahey seemed particularly enamored of the dress. He even asked if I would like to share a private table. But I said no. He’s a nice looking guy, but a little too shallow for my tastes.

Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay arrived at the holodeck, arm-in-arm. They looked like the happy couple – she, smiling at the partygoers and he, shooting love-sick glances her way, when she wasn’t looking. Poor sap. He must really be infatuated with her.

The Doctor was also there, with a girl on each arm, looking like the star of “Bond Goes Hawaiian”. And then there was Tuvok, the last person I had expected to appear at this bash. Strange, he’s a bigger loner than I am. I wonder what drew him to the luau? Seconds after his arrival, Tuvok’s eyes focused upon some blond holocharacter, playing a game. Ah hah! So, that’s why he decided to break his “fortress of solitude” and join the party.

Not long after Tuvok appeared, new arrivals joined the luau. It was Tom and B’Elanna. She wore a nice, white dress with thin straps and maroon flower prints. It went well with her skin tone. Tom wore this cool Hawaiian shirt that reminded me of the ones my dad used to wear. Of course, that pleasant memory faded, once I realized how perfect they looked together. 

Then I saw the most amazing thing. Vorik appeared at B’Elanna’s side and said something to her, causing her eyes to grow wide. And Tom’s. Like a zombie in a horror film. Still in a state of shock, B’Elanna allowed Vorik to lead her to a private table. And there stood Tom, looking like a big chump. Interesting.


LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50462.21:

What in the hell was I thinking? Why did I allow Vorik to lead me away from Tom, like that? It was not what I had expected. Or wanted.

I had expected an evening with Tom, Harry and Vorik. I wanted an evening with Tom. Alone. Harry didn’t bother to show up. Vorik suddenly remembered a conversation about my favorite view and took advantage of the situation. I felt so surprised that I didn’t bother to put up any resistance.

Then something worse happened. Tom’s gaze shifted from Vorik and myself to Rain Robinson. And although she was surrounded by the Delaneys, Pat Mulcahey, Ken Dalby and Chell, her eyes managed to return Tom’s gaze. And for a brief moment, I had the feeling of watching electricity sizzle between two entities. Thank Kahless, Rain finally looked away and remained with her friends. Despite her eventual rejection, that exchange of looks told me one thing – Tom has not lost interest in the woman from the past. And I suspect that she feels the same.


RAIN ROBINSON – JULY 16, 2373:

Voyager has come upon a planet rich with gallicite. According to Jenny, gallicite is a mineral substance used for the construction of warp field coils. I’m not going to get into what the hell all of this means, other than it has something to do with the ship’s ability to travel at a fast speed. The name of the planet is called Sakaris IV and the ship is now orbiting around it. Jenny also told me that B’Elanna Torres will be leading a team to collect the gallicite.

Where do I fit in all this? Well, the original team was supposed to consist of B’Elanna, Neelix, Vorik and Tom, who is also a climbing expert. Apparently, Vorik went berserk in Engineering and tried to attack B’Elanna. I knew he was crazy about her, but this is ridiculous. I wonder what made him, of all people, go off the deep end like that? Anyway, to make a long story short, guess who has been chosen to replace Vorik on the mission? That’s right! Me. Someone – either Vorik, Tom, Neelix, or one of the Delaneys – must have informed the Captain about my particular skill. I don’t know who, but I am grateful. After spending over two months in space, I’ll finally have the opportunity to get off this damn ship. Hell, I’ve been going stir crazy!


LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50541.36:

Everything has gone to hell, thanks to that p’taq, Vorik! Him and his damn pon far! I should have known something was amiss when he proposed marriage to me! Naturally, I said no. What made that idiot think I would ever be interested in him? After I rejected him, that . . . that bastard attacked me, by trying to establish a mind meld. I paid him back by breaking his jaw. Too bad the Doctor healed it immediately. I would have liked to see him suffer.

After Vorik’s attack, everything seemed like a haze. Neelix mentioned to the Captain, a possible candidate to replace Vorik. I didn’t think we need one. Neelix and Tom would have suited me just fine. To my surprise, it turned out to be Rain Robinson. Great! Now, I’ll have deal with the Blast From the Past, cozying up to Tom during the entire mission. Huh! Not if I can help it! I became determined to make sure that she would not occupy much of Tom’s attention. Damn pon far playing upon my aggressiveness, I guess.

As we climbed down into one of the underground caves on Sakaris IV, Neelix’s climbing piston malfunctioned. He dropped to the bottom, taking me along for the ride. Neelix broke his leg. I bruised my shoulder, sprained my ankle and lost my temper. Even worse, I bit Tom’s chin in a fit of anger and desire, declaring him as my mate in the worst Klingon manner. Kahless! I never thought Human blood could taste so . . . intoxicating! But I didn’t hang around to deal with my actions. Especially with Miss “Know-It-All” Robinson witnessing the entire scene.

Someone must have informed Voyager on what happened. Probably Tom. Not long after I had found a supply of gallicite, Tom and Rain arrived, with Chakotay and Tuvok in tow. I really didn’t notice the others. Only Tom. Everyone tried to explain that I had been afflicted with the pon far and need to return to the ship. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I was too dizzy and simply longed to be with Tom. Alone.

It never happened. Several Sakarians decided to make their presence know. There was this avalanche and the next thing I knew, I was alone with Tom. And Rain Robinson. As if matters couldn’t get any worse. I tried to ignore her, pretend that she didn’t exist. Unfortunately, it didn’t help. Especially after I . . . oh God! What the hell was I thinking? I guess I simply couldn’t keep my hands off Tom any longer. There seemed to be this fever within me, urging me to mate with him. So, I tried to seduce him. Right in front of Rain. When he rejected me, it simply became too much. I attacked him. Tackled him to the ground, determined to . . . I guess I wanted to have sex with him. The idea of his body pressing against mine, and the touch of those hands just overwhelmed me.

Two things happened. Rain tried to intervene and I tossed her aside like a rag doll. Then Tom scrambled away from my grip and out of harm’s way. Even worse, he began paying attention to Rain, who seemed to be hurt. I thought she was faking, until Tom declared that I had sprained her shoulder. Oddly enough, I felt frustrated, instead of embarrassed.

Things got hazy again, when we finally reconciled with Tuvok and Chakotay. Tuvok, bless him, insisted that Tom mate with me in order to quench my plak-tow – my blood fever. And this time, Rain would not be able to stop us. She didn’t, but that p’taq, Vorik, did. He had escaped Voyager and interrupted what could have been some great sex. Goddamn Vulcan! Vorik challenged Tom for my hand! I didn’t need Tom or anyone else to kick that bastard’s ass! I did it myself. Thoroughly.

But it’s over now. My fever is gone, and so is my opportunity with Tom. He has seen my . . . well, my Klingon side at its worse. Kahless! I must have really scared him off. Looks like Rain will have him all to herself. Damn!


END OF BOOK V

Notes on STAR WARS: “Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”




STAR WARS: “Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”

Notes and Observations

The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”. I hope that you enjoy them: 

*Exactly who was in command of the Rebel Alliance base on Hoth – Leia or General Rieekan?

*What was Leia doing on Hoth with the Rebel Alliance military personnel? Why wasn’t she with the other political Rebel leaders?

*Ah yes! The ”I’ just as soon kiss a Wookie!” dialogue between Leia and Han. Charming, although slightly . . . childish.

*How . . . or should I say when did Han and Leia reach the point in which they became attracted to one another?

*It was interesting to see how Obi-Wan’s ghost faded with the emergence of Han on a tauntaun.

*”Why, you stuck up,… half-witted… scruffy-looking …nerf-herder!” – Another charming, yet childish exchange between Leia and Han. 

*Jealousy and ambition seem quite obvious within the Imperial command structure, if General Ozzel’s glare at Piett is anything to go by.

*I find it interesting that the exchange between Luke and Han before the commencement of the Battle of Hoth would be the last between them for at least a year.

*Vader’s ability to strangle Ozzel with the Force from such a large distance seemed very impressive for someone whose strength with the Force has been weakened.

*The pilots’ point of view of the Battle of Hoth seemed like another cliché of a World War II dogfight . . . like the Battle of Yavin.

*Luke was made commander of the Rebel pilots because he had destroyed the Death Star . . . with Han’s help? What about Wedge, who was also a competent pilot and more experienced?

*The Imperial AT-AT Walkers remind me of the Oliphaunts from the ”LORD OF THE RINGS” saga.

*Wasn’t Leia taking her duty just a bit too seriously by delaying her departure from Hoth?

*I noticed that Han never seemed to follow the ladies first rule. When he, Leia and Chewie and Threepio had escaped both from Hoth and the exogorth in the asteroid field, he made sure that he boarded the Millennium Falcon first. Not exactly a man of the Old Republic.

*Han really revealed how much of a hot shot pilot he was in this movie.

*”Into the belly of the beast” – This metaphor seemed to fit the Falcon’s entry into exogorth even more than Luke, Han and Leia’s brief adventures inside the Death Star’s trash compactor.

*The audience got a brief glimpse of the price Anakin paid for his past mistakes – namely his scalded head.

*”Feel like what?” – Yoda’s first words in any ”STAR WARS” movie.

*”Great warrior? Hmmm . . . wars do not make one great.” – Ironic words from the very being who led the first attack, during the first battle of the Clone Wars. His words also revealed the true Yoda behind the comic façade. I think Luke may have been too impatient or full of himself to notice.

*”You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.” – One can only assume that Leia’s age – 22 years – and limited experience with men would explain why she bought that bilge pouring from Han’s mouth.

*”He’s just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.” – Surely these words must have hinted to Palpatine that Vader had been aware of Luke for some time?

*I see that Clive Revill has been replaced by Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor Palpatine in this DVD version of the movie. Which makes sense, considering that McDiarmid is more identified with the role.

*”This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away . . . to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.” – I believe that Yoda had just described himself and many other Jedi Masters and Knights of the Old Republic, nearly a quarter of a century ago. If he and Obi-Wan could learn to overcome this distraction from the future, why not Luke? Why was Yoda so reluctant to teach Luke? Is it Luke he doubts? Or himself as a teacher?

*”If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” – I hope that Yoda was trying to say that a person will always be affected by his or her earlier decision to take a dark path or commit dark acts. Because if he was trying to say that a person will always remain evil, after taking the dark path, I must say that I disagree.

*Han used a neat trick to evade the sensors of Captain Needa’s starship, after the Falcon left the asteroid field.

*”Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter.” – A favorite line of mine.

*It was very clever of Han to attach the Falcon to an Imperial starship before disguising it as garbage to be disposed with the other. Unfortunately for him, Boba Fett had witnessed a similar trick pulled by Obi-Wan near Geonosis, some 25 years ago. Even worse, it is a shame that Han was so busy congratulating himself over his trick that he failed to realize that Fett was tracking him.

*”Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future… the past. Old friends long gone.” – I wonder if Yoda was thinking of Mace Windu.

*According to LucasFilm, it took the Falcon three months to reach Bespin without a hyperdrive. If only Lucas and the others had made this clear in the movie.

*The Falcon was practically escorted to one of the landing platforms on Cloud City. I wonder why.

*Great entrance for Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.

*Was CP-30 really that dense in that he would be so easily distracted from the group by the sound of an R2 unit?

*”Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor”. – Did that mean Yoda had never intended for Luke to help Anakin find redemption?

*Apparently, the original deal between Vader and Lando did not include Han being turned over to Boba Fett. And later, Vader broke his word and insisted that Leia and Chewie accompany him. Interesting. It is a miracle that the Sith Lord did not renege on the deal even further by destroying Bespin and its population.

*And why did Han and Leia fail to understand the situation that Vader had placed Lando? Were they too blinded by anger?

*I find it interesting that not once did Vader set eyes upon C3-P0, his own creation. Why? Because Chewbacca had the droid strapped to his back.

*How stupid were Leia and Chewbacca? It was obvious that Lando had released them from Vader’s stormtroopers. Yet, all they could do was lose their tempers. Chewbacca immediately began to strangle Lando and Leia encouraged the Wookie. Because their temper tantrums, they prevented Lando from rescuing Han from Boba Fett.

*I must admit that I found the dialogue during the Bespin duel rather irritating. The most important thing about the duel seemed to be Vader’s revelation as Anakin Skywalker . . . after the fighting stopped.

*Vader’s reaction to Luke and Leia’s escape from Bespin was an excellent moment of silent acting on David Prowse’s part. With his use of body language, he managed to express Vader’s regret over losing Luke . . . and the beginning of Anakin Skywalker’s resurgence.

“KATE AND LEOPOLD” (2001) Review

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“KATE AND LEOPOLD” (2001) Review

I am a big fan of time travel movies. Especially well written movies featuring time travel. Mind you, not all of the films and television episodes featuring this genre have impressed me. But once in a while, I have come across a handful that I have found particularly appealing. 

I never saw “KATE AND LEOPOLD” when it first appeared in movie theaters during the Christmas holidays in 2001. Looking back, I wondered why I never bothered to go to the theaters to see it. When I saw the original release date, I realized that I was more interested in watching “LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING”. In fact, I became so obsessed with that movie that I forgot all about “KATE AND LEOPOLD”. I did not see the latter until it was released on DVD.

Co-written and directed by James Mangold, “KATE AND LEOPOLD” is a romantic-comedy fantasy about an English duke who accidentally travels through time from New York in 1876 to the present and falls in love with a career woman in early 21st century New York. The movie begins with Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth Mountbatten, Duke of Albany attending a ceremony for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1876, where he spots amateur physicist Stuart Besser reacting to engineer Washington Roebling’s speech. Upon his return to his Uncle Millard’s Manhattan manor, Leopold is informed that his family’s depleted fortune needs to be replenished with a marriage to a wealthy American heiress. During a ball held in his honor, Leopold spots Stuart observing him. The 19th century aristocrat and tries to save the 21st century scientist from falling off the unfinished bridge; only to fall with the latter into a temporal portal between centuries. Leopold awakens in 21st century New York.

During his sojourn in 21st century New York, Leopold becomes acquainted with Stuart’s ex-girlfriend, a slightly cynical market researcher named Kate McKay and her younger brother Charlie, a cheerful, yet somewhat gauche and ambitious actor; after Stuart falls down his apartment building’s elevator shaft. Although Leopold has less trouble befriending the very friendly Charlie, he seemed to clash a good deal with Kate, who remains bitter over her breakup with Stuart. However, both Kate and Leopold grow closer after she arranges for him to appear in a margarine commercial. Friendship eventually develop into love, when Kate becomes aware of Leopold’s jealousy toward her relationship with her boss, J.J. Camden. But a bitter quarrel between the lovers over the margarine commercial, along with Stuart’s realization that Leopold needs to return to 1876 threaten to tear them apart.

“KATE AND LEOPOLD” could have easily become one of those sweet, treacly love stories more suited for infatuated fangirls. The movie’s ending certainly seemed to hint a love story, straight from a romance novel. But the rest of Kate and Leopold’s romance proved to be a solid balance of romance, cynicism, slapstick humor and a touch of bitterness. Mangold and co-writer Steven Rogers’ screenplay allowed the story to rise above the usual schmaltz, thanks to their main characters. Kate McKay seemed like a far cry from the usual leading lady in a romantic comedy. Thanks to Mangold and Rogers’ writing and a sharp performance from Meg Ryan, Kate is an ambitious and cynical woman, who not only has a penchant for brutal frankness, but seems incapable of moving past her embittered breakup with Stuart. Leopold Mountbatten/Duke of Albany seemed more like a typical leading man in a romance. He is an English aristocrat with handsome features and impeccable manners. However, Hugh Jackman did an excellent job in conveying Leopold’s priggish and self-righteous personality, with a surprising penchant wallowing in illusions. Not what I would consider typical leads in a romantic comedy. Perhaps the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thought so, when they nominated Jackman for the Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Mangold and Rogers’ list of interesting characters continue with Kate’s ex-boyfriend, Stuart Bessner. Ex-boyfriends in a romantic comedy are usually assholes who make life difficult for the leading ladies. Stuart was not an asshole. But Liev Schreiber did such a marvelous job in not only conveying Stuart’s annoying traits – his verbosity, professional obsessions and lack of responsibility toward his personal life – but also allowing the audience to discover a very likable man beneath the irritating traits. I do not know about others, but I cheered when Stuart ended up with his own little romance by the end of the film. Now, if I had to choose the most irritating character in the movie, it would be Kate’s younger brother, Charlie McKay. I have not seen Breckin Meyer in anything else, but I have to give kudos to him for not only capturing Charlie’s irritating and boorish personality, but also making him very likable. Both Meyer and Ryan provided a marvelous and poignant moment in the film in which the two McKays bid each good-bye for the last time. It always leaves tears in my eyes. If there was one character who could have easily been labeled as the movie’s asshole, it would be Kate’s boss, J.J. Camden. Thanks to Bradley Whitford’s entertaining performance, J.J. is slightly boorish, controlling, and an egotist. Yet . . . he is not only likable, but also very forgiving. Despite his humiliation by Leopold, Kate not only kept her job, but also received a well-deserved promotion by a forgivable J.J. He turned out to be a decent sort in the end.

The movie also featured some memorable supporting performances. The American-born Philip Bosco gave a convincing performance as Leopold’s dependable valet, Otis. Paxton Whitehead was excellent as Leopold’s frank and disciplined Uncle Millard. In fact, I get the feeling that once Uncle Millward recover from his disappointment over Leopold’s marriage to Kate, he might come to admire her practicality, discipline and ambition. Natasha Lyonne gave a charming performance as Kate’s sweet secretary Darci, who happens to be a big fan of romance novels. Ebony Jo-Ann was wonderful as Stuart’s no-nonsense hospital attendant, Nurse Ester. Kristen Schaal was equally charming as Miss Tree, the wealthy American heiress whom Uncle Millard had marked as Leopold’s future wife. And I found it very difficult to view her as an unattractive woman, no matter how hard she tried to convey that image. The movie also featured Leopold’s funny quarrel with a NYPD beat cop over Stuart’s dog relieving himself on the city street. The cop was portrayed by none other than Viola Davis, who provided a sneak peak of those impressive acting skills that would make her a star before the decade ended. 

There were other aspects of “KATE AND LEOPOLD” that I enjoyed. I found Stuart Dryburgh’s photography of New York City – past and present – very impressive and colorful. I was especially impressed by his work in the 1876 sequences. His photography was helped by Stephanie Carroll’s set decorations, Jess Gonchor’s art direction and especially Mark Friedberg’s production designs for this particular sequence. Their combined worked helped Mangold do an exceptional job in re-creating 1870s New York City. I could also say the same about Donna Zakowska’s costume designs. I found them very attractive and an excellent reflection of the Gilded Age, as reflected in the image below:

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As much as I enjoyed “KATE AND LEOPOLD”, I must admit I had a major problem with it. My biggest problem with the script turned out to be the mode in which three of the characters used to time travel between 1876 and 2000 (or 20010). What did Mangold and Rogers used? A temporal portal situated mid-air around the Brooklyn Bridge. In order to access this portral, the time travelers had to fall from a high height – either from a scaffold in 1876 or one of the bridge’s steel girder in the 21st century. I realize that the two writers were trying to add some suspense and drama to the story’s method of time travel, but I thought it was a bit too much to force the characters to utilize what I feel is an unnecessarily difficult mode. I also found it odd that Mangold and Rogers would choose Mountbatten as Leopold’s surname. The name was adopted by the English branch of the Battenberg family in 1917, to counter the rising tide of anti-German sentiment during World War I Britain. It did not exist in 1876.

“KATE AND LEOPOLD” would never make my list of top ten favorite time travel movies. I had no problems with James Mangold and Steven Rogers’ screenplay, despite its flaws, Mangold’s excellent direction or the marvelous cast led by Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. Frankly, I thought the movie had a very entertaining and charming story filled with some complex and interesting characters. But it is more of a romance film, instead of a time travel film. And that is why I view it as one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time.