“LOUISIANA” (1984) Review

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“LOUISIANA” (1984) Review

Twenty-nine years ago, HBO had aired a three-part miniseries about the life and travails of a nineteenth century Southern belle named Virginia Tregan. The miniseries was called “LOUISIANA” and it starred Margot Kidder and Ian Charleson. 

Directed by the late Philippe de Broca, “LOUISIANA” was based upon the “Fausse-Riviere” Trilogy, written by Maurice Denuzière, one of the screenwriters. It told the story of Virginia’s ruthless devotion to her first husband’s Louisiana cotton plantation called Bagatelle . . . and her love for the plantation’s overseer, an Englishman named Clarence Dandridge. The story begins in 1836 in which she returns to her home in Louisiana after spending several years at school in Paris, Unfortunately, Virginia discovers that the Tregan family plantation and most of its holdings have been sold to pay off her father’s debts. Only the manor house remains. Determined to recoup her personal fortune, Virginia manipulates the breakup of the affair between her wealthy godfather, Adrien Damvillier and his mistress, Anne McGregor in order to marry him and become mistress of Bagatelle. Virginia also becomes frustrated in her relationship with Clarence Dandridge, who refuses to embark upon a sexual relationship with her.

During their ten-year marriage, Virginia and Adrien conceive three children – Adrien II, Pierre and Julie. Not long after Julie’s birth, Adrien dies during a yellow fever epidemic. Virginia hints to Clarence that she would like to engage in a serious relationship with him. But when he informs her that they would be unable to consummate their relationship, due to an injury he had sustained during a duel, Virginia travels to Paris for a year-long separation. There, she meets her second husband, a French aristocrat named Charles de Vigors. They return to Louisiana and Virginia gives birth to her fourth and final child – Fabian de Vigors. Virginia and Charles eventually divorce due to his jealousy of his wife’s feelings for Clarence and his affairs. Fabian, who feels left out of the Damvillier family circle, accompanies his father back to France. During the next ten to fifteen years, Virginia experiences the death of her three children by Adrien, the Civil War and Reconstruction. The story ended in either the late 1860s or early 1870s with Virginia using a trick up her sleeves to save Bagatelle from a Yankee mercenary, whom she had first encountered on a riverboat over twenty years ago.

If I must be frank, “LOUISIANA” is not exactly “GONE WITH THE WIND” or “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy. But the 1984 production does bear some resemblance to both the movie and the other miniseries. I noticed that the character of Virginia Tregan Damvillier de Vigors strongly reminded me of Margaret Mitchell’s famous leading lady from “GONE WITH THE WIND”, Scarlett O’Hara. Both characters are strong-willed, ruthless, charming, manipulative, passionate and Southern-born. Both had married at least two or three times. Well, Scarlett acquired three husbands by the end of Mitchell’s tale. In “LOUISIANA”, Virginia married twice and became engaged once to some mercenary who wanted Bagatelle after the war. Both women had fallen in love with a man who was forbidden to them. Unlike Scarlett, Virginia eventually ended up with the man she loved, despite losing three of her children. Apparently, the saga’s original author felt that Virginia had to pay a high price for manipulating her way into a marriage with Adrien Damvillier.

“LOUISIANA” also shared a few aspects with another famous Civil War-era saga – namely John Jakes’ “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy. Both sagas were based upon a trilogy of novels that spanned the middle decades of the 19th century – covering the antebellum period, the Civil War and Reconstruction. Mind you, “LOUISIANA” lacked the epic-style storytelling of the television adaptation of Jakes’ trilogy. Not even Virginia’s journey to France and her experiences during the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, along with another journey to France during the first year of the Civil War could really give, “LOUISIANA” the epic sprawl that made the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy so memorable. However, the miniseries, like “NORTH AND SOUTH”, did depicted the darker side of the Old South’s plantation system. It did so through the eyes of four characters – Clarence Dandridge; one Bagatell slave named Brent; another Bagatelle slave named Ivy, and Virginia’s French-born servant/companion, Mignette.

Like both “NORTH AND SOUTH” and “GONE WITH THE WIND”“LOUISIANA” suffered from some historical inaccuracies. I found it interesting that Bagatelle did not suffer the consequences from the Panic and Depression of 1837, which lasted until the mid-1840s. Especially since it was a cotton plantation. The economic crisis had not only led to a major recession throughout the United States, it also dealt a severe blow to the country’s Cotton Belt, thanks to a decline in cotton prices. Unlike the 1980 miniseries, “BEULAH LAND”“LOUISIANA” never dealt with this issue, considering that the story began in 1836. I also found the miniseries’ handling of Revolution of 1848 in France and the California Gold Rush rather questionable, as well. Gold was first discovered by James Marshall in California, in January 1848. But news of the discovery did not reach the East Coast until August-September 1848, via an article in the New York Herald; and France became the first country to fully experience the Revolution of 1848 on February 23, 1848. Yet, according to the screenplay for “LOUISIANA”, Charles de Vigors first learned about the California gold discovery in a newspaper article in mid-June 1848 . . . sometime before France experienced the first wave of the Revolutions of 1848.

If there is one aspect of “LOUISIANA” that reigned supreme over both “NORTH AND SOUTH” and “GONE WITH THE WIND” are the costumes designed by John Jay. The costumes lacked the theatrical styles of the John Jakes miniseries and the 1939 Oscar winner. But they did project a more realistic image of the clothes worn during the period between 1830s and 1860s. And fans of“NORTH AND SOUTH” would immediately recognize the plantation and house that served as Bagatelle in “LOUISIANA”. In real life, it is Greenwood Plantation, located in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Aside from serving as Bagatelle, it also stood in as Resolute, the home of the venal Justin LaMotte in the first two miniseries of the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy.

The story for “LOUISIANA” seemed pretty solid. It seemed like a Louisiana version of “GONE WITH THE WIND”, but with the epic sprawl of “NORTH AND SOUTH”. But only in length . . . not in style. Margot Kidder, Ian Charleson, Andréa Ferréol, Len Cariou, Lloyd Bochner, Victor Lanoux, and Hilly Hicks all gave pretty good performances. Kidder and Charleson, surprisingly managed to create a strong screen chemistry. The miniseries indulged in the romance of the Old South. But as I had earlier pointed out, the miniseries also exposed its darker aspects – especially slavery. When the story first began with Virginia’s arrival in Louisiana with her maid, Mignette; the entire production seemed like a reflection of the “moonlight and magnolias” myth of the Old South, until the story shifted to the cotton harvest fête held at Bagatelle. In this scene, slavery reared its ugly head when the plantation’s housekeeper becomes suddenly ill, while serving a guest. Slavery and racism continued to be explored not only when Virginia’s conservative beliefs over slavery clash with Clarence’s more liberal ideals; but also with scenes featuring encounters between Bagatelle slave Brent and a racist neighbor named Percy Templeton, Mignette’s Underground Railroad activities, and a doomed romance between one of Virginia’s sons and a slave named Ivy. Yet, despite Virginia’s conservative views regarding slavery, the miniseries allowed audiences to sympathize with her through her romantic travails, the tragic deaths of her children and her post-war efforts to save Bagatelle from a slimy con artist-turned-carpetbagger named Oswald.

If you are expecting another “GONE WITH THE WIND” or “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy, you will be disappointed. But thanks to Maurice Denuzière’s novels and the screenplay written by Dominique Fabre, Charles E. Israel and Etienne Périer; “LOUISIANA”ended up as an entertaining saga about a woman’s connections with a Louisiana plantation during the early and mid 19th century. For anyone interested in watching “LOUISIANA”, you might find it extremely difficult in finding the entire miniseries (six hours) either on VHS or DVD. And it might be slightly difficult in finding an edited version as well. The last time I had seen“LOUISIANA”, it aired on CINEMAX in the mid-1990s and had been edited to at least three hours. If you find a copy of the entire miniseries or the edited version, you have my congratulations.

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“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 1/8

 

“A FAMILY AFFAIR”

RATING: PG-13

SUMMARY: The latest battle against a powerful demon becomes a family affair for Cole and the Charmed Ones. Set after “Lessons in Witchcraft VI” – AU between S5 and S6.

FEEDBACK: – Be my guest.

DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills and Marbus, are thankfully, my creations.

*******

CHAPTER ONE

Four men sat inside one of the large conference rooms that belonged to the corporate office of the Giovanni Winery. A long table divided the men into two pairs – like adversaries facing each other before a battle. Three large bay windows overlooked the city of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge, beyond. 

“My client is willing to offer you a more than generous sum for the property, Mr. Giovanni,” Cedric Lloyd politely said to an elegant, dark-haired man around forty. “At least nine million.”

It took great effort on Cole’s part not to whistle out loud. Instead, he calmly faced his client and waited for the latter’s response. Surprise and desire mingled in Mark Giovanni’s eyes. Cole realized that Lloyd’s offer had strongly appealed to the wine grower. And no wonder, considering that Giovanni’s Oakville property had been valued at six million dollars, one-third less than Lloyd’s offer of nine million. By accepting Magan Corporation’s offer, Cole’s client stood a chance of making a profit of three million dollars.

Giovanni leaned back in his seat with a sigh. “Well, nine million dollars is certainly generous,” he finally commented. “However, . . .” He turned to Cole.

The half-daemon spoke up. “However, a three million dollar profit is minor compared to what my client could earn by producing wine on the property. After all, Mr. Giovanni’s product is world-renowned. So, I’m afraid that my client will . . .” He glanced at the wine grower, who nodded approvingly. “. . . have to turn down your offer.”

Disappointment flickered in Lloyd’s gray eyes. The other man – formerly introduced as Elliot Clements of Magan Corporation – frowned. “I don’t understand,” the latter said. “Our offer is more than generous. You have a better chance of making some kind of profit from our offer than growing grapes. Surely you can see . . .”

“My final answer is no,” Giovanni firmly interrupted. “Thank you . . . but no. I suggest that we leave the matter with that answer. Perhaps the Magan Corporation should consider other properties for sale.”

Mr. Clements’ expression hardened. “Or perhaps you should re-consider our offer, Mr. Giovanni. You just might realize that accepting our offer could have been the best decision to make.”

Cole gave Lloyd a hard stare. “I hope that Mr. Clements’ words were not a threat, Cedric.”

“Of course not!” Lloyd replied with false smile. “I believe that Mr. Clements’ temper had simply got the best of him. Mr. Giovanni’s answer had been a . . . a bit of a disappointment.” He stood up. So did Mr. Clements, who regarded Cole and Giovanni with a stony stare. Lloyd faced the wine grower. “Mr. Giovanni, if no is your final answer . . .”

Giovanni coolly replied, “It is.”

“Well,” Lloyd’s smile chilled slightly, “I can only assume there is nothing else to say. Good day, gentlemen.” Upon reaching the door, he paused and turned to stare at Cole. “By the way Cole, give Olivia my best regards.” He nodded and left the conference room. Clements, now wearing a forced smile, quickly followed.

Once the door had closed behind the two men, Giovanni turned to Cole. “Now, that was interesting. Nine million dollars? Hagan Corporation must want that property very badly. It’s too bad they will never get it.”

“I hope you’re right,” Cole replied, as he gathered his documents.

A frowned marred Giovanni’s handsome face. “What do you mean? It’s obvious that Hagan has failed in its claim to my property. Especially after you had discovered that old family land grant. What else can they do, aside from this latest attempt to buy it?”

Cole heaved a sigh. “As far as I know, nothing. But considering the corporation’s willingness to pay for more than the property is worth, I wouldn’t put it past them to try something desperate.”

“So, you’re saying that I should have accepted the offer?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Cole replied, “I don’t know. Normally, I would have said yes. But this is the Hagan Corporation we’re speaking of. And from what I’ve learned, it doesn’t have the greatest reputation, considering the numerous lawsuits filed against them. And there have been a few rumors about a few . . . shady incidents regarding past business deals.” He paused, as his eyes stared into nothing. “My question is – why are they so interested in your property?”

******

Arthur Winslow stood before the large glass window that overlooked San Francisco Bay and beyond. Standing at exactly six feet tall, Winslow possessed thick curly brown hair – partially gray, a wide U-shaped face with a hard jaw, and piercing hazel-green eyes. The image he projected could be described by anyone as forceful . . . commanding.

What the general public – especially San Francisco’s society – did not know was that Winslow happened to be a 275 year-old daemon named Artemus. Not only did he serve as the Magan Corporation’s CEO and major stockholder, he led one of the most infamous organizations in the demonic world – the Khorne Order. At the moment, he did not feel particularly pleased by Cedric Lloyd and Elliot Clements’ report on their meeting with Mark Giovanni.

“He said no?” Artemus coolly asked. “Giovanni threw the nine million dollar offer back into my face?” He whirled around to face his employees.

Both Lloyd and Clements squirmed with discomfort . . . much to Artemus’ annoyance. Did these two have any balls? “Uh . . . well yes, Mr. Winslow,” Clements finally answered. “I don’t understand it, myself. I felt certain that Giovanni would accept the offer.”

“For a moment, it seemed as if he would,” Lloyd added. “But . . . in the end, he changed his mind. I suspect that Giovanni realized he could make a bigger profit by using the land as a vineyard and winery. The soil is in excellent condition. However, if something should happen to the soil . . .”

Artemus knew what the attorney was suggesting. Contaminate the Oakville property’s soil. Giovanni would sell the land without breaking a sweat. Lloyd’s plan seemed sound. However, Artemus had one problem with it. “Once I use the land for my own purpose,” he said, “I would be stuck with a piece of property that is no longer valuable. Unless I build a couple of homes upon it. I may not be a seer, Mr. Lloyd, but even I can foresee future problems with various governments regarding pollution. Magan Corporation does not need another lawsuit.”

Lloyd nodded. “Of course, Mr. Winslow. I understand. However, there is one last suggestion.”

“Which is?”

“Mark Giovanni has a wife and two children.” Lloyd paused dramatically. “I’m sure they would be willing to sell . . . upon inheriting the property.” His eyes never wavered, as they stared at the daemon.

Deep admiration welled within Artemus’ chest. He could never understand some of his fellow daemons’ disregard for humans. Artemus had never bought the standard theory that only daemons and very few humans were capable of pure evil. His encounters with the other species over the past two-and-a-half centuries had led the daemon to believe otherwise. He discovered that humans not only possessed a great potential for evil – mayhem, bigotry, perversions of all kinds, and murder included – they were also among the most corruptible beings he has ever encountered. Including the pair who now stood before him.

“Mr. Lloyd, are you suggesting that Mr. Giovanni’s time on Earth should be shortened?” Artemus asked.

With a careless shrug, Lloyd replied, “Perhaps.”

Clements added, “What about Turner?”

“What about him?” Lloyd shot back. “What’s he going to do? Act as Giovanni’s bodyguard? He’s an attorney.”

Artemus allowed himself a private smile. If only they knew. “Mr. Lloyd is right. Cole Turner cannot watch his client’s back at every waking moment. Besides, I believe the best time to strike, is when Mr. Giovanni is off-guard. Thank you, gentlemen. I’ll see to the matter, myself.”

The moment the two humans left his office, Artemus contemplated Lloyd’s suggestion to get rid of Giovanni. Clements was right about one thing. Cole Turner, aka Belthazor, could prove to be a problem. Especially since the half-daemon had become more powerful than ever after his return from the Wasteland. Ever since he had heard of Belthazor’s fate, Artemus had been curious about how the half-daemon accomplished such a feat.

If he was going to send an assassin after Giovanni, Artemus decided that a low-level daemon within his order would perform the deed. Only a daemon would have a chance of escape before Belthazor could intervene. The daemon reached for the telephone and summoned his assistance to his office.

******

The California sun broke through the low clouds to beam rays of sunshine upon the gathering being held on an expensive lawn, below. The lawn stretched out behind a large three-story mansion, located in San Mateo, not far from the McNeills’ home. The cream of San Francisco society, along with a few local celebrities, had been invited by one of the city’ top socialites – Cordelia Morton.

“God, I am bored out of my mind!” Cole murmured fiercely, as he strolled through the crowd with Olivia beside him. “Please explain, again, why I had bothered to accept this woman’s invitation?”

Smiling broadly at a passing guest, Olivia replied, “Because Leland and Cordelia Morton are among your firm’s biggest clients. And you handle their account.” She patted Cole’s arm. “Just be grateful that dear Cordelia doesn’t have you targeted as a future son-in-law.”

“Like poor Harry, huh?” Cole replied. He shot a glance at Olivia’s younger brother near the bar. Harry seemed to be struggling to suppress a bored expression, while listening to the soiree’s hostess. “How long has this thing between him and Dana Morton been going on?”

Olivia heaved a sigh. “It seems like forever. Actually . . . ever since Harry had made the mistake of asking Dana out for a date, nearly two years ago. It’s been on-again, off-again between them, ever since. The idea of Morton millions married to McNeill money must have sent both Dana and her mother into a state of rapture.”

The couple continued their stroll, until they came upon Mark Giovanni and a woman, standing near a refreshment table. The wine grower’s mouth broke into a wide grin, at the sight of his attorney. “Cole! Good to see you!” You remember my wife, Pamela, don’t you?”

A slender woman with blond, thick hair pulled back into a chignon, nodded at Cole. The wine grower’s wife possessed a long, equine face that nearly seemed devoid of any color. She was regarded throughout San Francisco society as a socially ambitious woman. Pamela Dean Giovanni looked upon Cole with cool disinterest.

“It’s nice to see you again, Mrs. Giovanni,” Cole greeted politely.

Mrs. Giovanni’s pale eyes flickered briefly. “Have we met?”

“Of course you have, Pam!” Giovanni replied in Cole’s stead. “Last February, at Adele Hopkins’ charity benefit.”

“Oh.” Mrs. Giovanni dismissed the half-daemon and diverted her attention to Olivia. “Olivia! Darling! It’s been quite a while! Where have you been?”

Olivia shot Cole a sardonic glance, before she replied, “Well, other than Europe last June, here in San Francisco.”

“But darling, Mark and I hardly ever see you at any of the latest parties, anymore,” Mrs. Giovanni protested. “Have we, Mark dear?” The wine grower opened his mouth to speak, but his wife continued. “In fact, it’s been over a year.”

Since Richard Bannen’s death? Cole wondered.

“Well, Cole and I were at Warren Mitchell’s New Year’s Eve party,” Olivia said. “And at Vanessa Probst’s charity ball, when you first met Cole, last February.”

Pamela Giovanni’s voice chilled slightly. “Oh yes. Certainly a party to remember. Oh well, perhaps I haven’t been keeping up with everyone, like I should.”

With a smile, Olivia added tartly, “Perhaps.”

The older couple nodded politely and moved on. Cole released a gust of breath. “Whew! Talk about a chilly encounter. And I thought she had forgotten.” The moment his last words left his mouth, he regretted them.

“Forgotten what?” Olivia asked.

Cole pretended that he had not heard her. “Did you say something?”

“You heard me, Turner.” Olivia’s green eyes penetrated his. “What was Pamela’s little cold shoulder all about? What did you hope she had forgotten?”

He sighed. “Okay.” Memories of an unpleasant encounter with his client’s wife, flashed through Cole’s mind. “Remember Vanessa Probst’s ball?”

“Yes.”

Reluctantly, Cole continued. “Well that night, Pamela Giovanni had cornered me alone in some empty room.” He paused. “And tried to . . . you know . . . put the moves on me.”

Laughter immediately erupted from Olivia’s mouth, drawing stares.

“And what the hell is so damn funny?” Cole demanded, feeling slightly insulted.

Still chuckling, Olivia patted his arm. “Don’t worry, honey. I wasn’t laughing at you. I was thinking of Pamela. I swear that woman must have chased after half the men of San Francisco.” Her mouth curved into a wicked grin. “And with minimal success.”

“So, what you’re saying is that I’m part of a long line of failures.”

Snorting with derision, Olivia added caustically, “A very long line. Of course, she’s had her successes. Does . . . ummm, Mark know? About what happened?”

Cole sighed. “Well, I never said anything about what happened, but according to Jackman, Mrs. Giovanni tried to convince her husband to drop me as his attorney and get me fired from the firm.” A smile touched the half-daemon’s lips. “Instead, he regarded the entire matter as a joke.”

“Oh! Poor woman. Not only does she suck at infidelity, her husband is a lot better at it.”

A familiar presence assailed Cole’s senses. He frowned, and glanced around the lawn. “There’s someone . . .” Then he sensed another presence. Although not familiar like the first, it possessed an air of danger.

“Who?” Olivia asked. “Do you mean those two?” She pointed at two figures strolling toward the terrace’s edge.

Cole frowned. “Phoebe? And Paige? What are they doing here?”

“You don’t know?” Olivia replied. “Both Cordelia and Dana Morton are ardent fans of the ‘DEAR PHOEBE’ column.”

******

The two sisters stood near the edge of the terrace, as their eyes swept over the lawn, beyond. “This is so cool!” Paige declared happily. “Reminds of that picnic at Castle Dunleith.”

“I don’t think you can call this an ordinary picnic, Paige,” Phoebe replied.

The younger woman shot back, “Neither was the one in Scotland.”

Phoebe continued, “Besides, I wish that Jason was here.”

Paige rolled her eyes in disgust. “Don’t tell me that you’re nervous!” she protested. “C’mon Pheebs! It’s not like you never been to one of these swanky functions, before.”

“I’m not nervous,” Phoebe retorted. “I just never . . . well, I’ve never been very comfortable attending these kind of functions.” The two sisters descended the terrace’s steps and merged into the well-dressed crowd. “Unless I’m with Jason.”

An exasperated Paige asked, “Then why did you bother to come here?”

“Because I had no choice! Elise had insisted that I come. Especially since Leland Morton happens to be one of Dean Industries’ shareholders.”

“I thought that Jason owned the newspaper,” Paige asked.

Shooting wary looks at the guests, Phoebe replied, “The paper is part of Dean Industries. Although Jason is the major shareholder, he’s not the only . . .” A tall man bumped into Phoebe, cutting her reply short. She glanced into a pair of eyes that struck a familiar chord.

The stranger steadied her, by placing his hands on her shoulders. And then the vision appeared, taking Phoebe by surprise. He slowly morphed into an orange-and-black demon that bore a strong resemblance to Belthazor . . . before returning back into human form. “Excuse me,” the stranger mumbled in a foreign accent and moved on.

It took another minute before Phoebe finally recovered from being disoriented. She blinked and took a deep breath. “Where . . . where is he?” she demanded.

“Where’s who?” Paige frowned at her.

Phoebe continued to scan the crowd. “The guy who had bumped into me. Where is he?”

“Phoebe, what’s the big . . .?”

“He’s a . . .” Phoebe lowered her voice, as she hissed at Paige, “He’s a demon! I saw him. I mean I saw him demonic form. In a vision. Where is he?”

Anxiety flitted across Paige’s pale face. “Oh my God! What’s he doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Phoebe said, as she shook her head. “But we’ve got to find him. Fast! And vanquish him.”

Paige hissed, “Are you crazy? In this crowd? Besides, what if we need . . .?”

Another voice added, “Need what?” The two sisters whirled around and found Jack McNeill and a middle-aged woman with dark hair and sharp features, slowly approaching them. Phoebe quickly fought back a surge of panic. She recognized the woman as Cordelia Morton, their hostess. Mr. McNeill continued, “Are you two ladies looking for someone?”

Phoebe hesitated before she finally answered, “Uh, . . . we, uh . . . Paige and I thought we had spotted someone familiar.”

“Oh, you mean Cole?” Mr. McNeill added. “We just saw him with Olivia, at the bar.”

Paige blurted out, “Cole’s here?” Phoebe surreptiously jabbed the younger woman in the side.

Mrs. Morton frowned. “But didn’t you just say that you had . . .”

Phoebe quickly added, “I saw him. Paige didn’t. I guess I was right.” She chuckled nervously.

“Well, if you want me to summon him . . .”

Shaking her head, Phoebe protested, “No! I mean, that’s okay. Uh . . . Cole and I . . . Let’s just say that the divorce is still a bit soon. For me.”

“I see. Well, I hope you’re enjoying yourself, anyway.” Cordelia Morton smiled brightly. “And I want to just say that I’m a big fan of your column. Now if you’ll excuse me.” She walked away.

Phoebe sighed with relief. “I didn’t think she would ever leave.”

“I gather it wasn’t Cole you had saw,” Mr. McNeill said in a dry tone.

“It was a demon,” Phoebe exclaimed. “I had a vision of his demonic self, when I bumped into him.”

One of Mr. McNeill’s brows rose questioningly. “Him?”

Phoebe described the man. “He was tall . . . about six feet or six-one. Handsome, auburn hair mixed with gray. He looked as if he was in his early or mid-fifties. About 185 or 190 pounds. Broad shoulders, and blue eyes. In fact,” she paused, “his eyes looked familiar. And his demonic half looked . . . a lot like Belthazor. Only, he had orange-and-black skin.”

“Boy, that’s a pretty good description for a brief encounter,” Paige added.

Mr. McNeill frowned. “There’s also something familiar about that description. Where did this guy go?”

“I don’t know,” Phoebe said. “I was feeling a little dizzy from the vision.” She turned to her younger sister. “Paige?”

The youngest Charmed One shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I think I may have seen some guy head toward the beach.” Mr. McNeill started across the lawn. “But I may have been wrong.”

But the older witch continued to weave through the crowd and the two sisters followed closely at his heels. They came upon a curved staircase made of stones that led to the beach. Upon reaching their destination, the three witches found Phoebe’s demon approaching a couple – a dark-haired man whom Phoebe recognized as Mark Giovanni, and a blond woman.

The demon waved his hand and the couple froze. Actually, Giovanni did. The blond woman whirled around, anger and surprise simmering in her eyes. An energy ball formed in her hand. The female demon threw it at the other demon. The latter quickly lifted one hand and the energy ball shot back at the woman. She incinerated on the spot.

Phoebe gasped out loud. The surviving demon whirled around and stared at the three witches. “What the hell?” he exclaimed.

Knowing that Mr. McNeill’s second power was the same as Piper’s, Phoebe cried, “Kill him! Before he kills us!”

Mr. McNeill merely continued to stare at the demon, as he murmured, “Don’t worry. He won’t.” He added in a louder voice, “Marbus? Is that you?”

“Bloody hell! Jack McNeill!” Instead of attacking the witch, the demon rushed forth and shook the former’s hand. Much to Phoebe’s surprise. “How long has it been?”

Smiling, Mr. McNeill replied, “Too long. Almost sixteen years. When you had given me information on that New Zealand sorcerer, back in ’87 I believe.”

Phoebe and Paige stared at the two males, open-mouthed. “Excuse me!” Phoebe’s voice exclaimed. “Mr. McNeill, what are you doing? He’s a demon!”

“Yes, I know. Marbus. Don’t worry, Phoebe. He’s one of the good guys. I first met him back in ’67. Didn’t Olivia and Cole once tell you about the Order of Gimle?”

“Yeah, but . . . That ‘good’ guy had just killed . . .” She paused, recalling the energy ball in the woman’s hand. “What . . . what was she, anyway?”

The stranger replied, “A daemon.” Phoebe realized that he possessed an Irish lilt. “A low-level demonic assassin named Cassandra. I recognized her the moment I spotted her.”

Phoebe gave the stranger a suspicious stare. “And who are you, again?”

“My name is . . .”

“Marbus?” Phoebe and the others glanced at the top of the staircase, and spotted Olivia and Cole. The latter stared at the stranger, wearing a stunned expression. “My God! Marbus! What are you doing here?” Cole rushed down the stairs and enveloped the other demon into a bear hug.

The older demon’s lips broke into a happy grin. “I’m here to visit my favorite nephew. What else?”

Phoebe and Paige exchanged confused looks. Nephew?

END OF CHAPTER ONE

Five Favorite Episodes of “PERSONS OF INTEREST”: Season One (2011-2012)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of the CBS series, “PERSONS OF INTEREST”. Created by Jonathan Nolan, the series starred Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman and Michael Emerson: 

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “PERSONS OF INTEREST”: Season One (2011-2012)

1 - 1.13 Root Cause

1. (1.13) “Root Cause” – Harold Finch and John Reese clash with a mysterious hacker over the assassination of a U.S. congressman and the person framed for his murder.

2 - 1.04 Cura Te Ipsum

2. (1.04) “Cura Te Ipsum” – Finch and Reese tries to prevent a doctor (Linda Cardellini) from killing a serial stalker and murderer, who had killed her sister.

3 - 1.07 Witness

3. (1.07) “Witness” – Reese and Finch tries to protect a schoolteacher, who had witnessed a mob hit in Brighton Beach, who proves to be a lot more than he seems to be.

4 - 1.23 Firewall

4. (1.23) “Firewall” – Amy Acker guests stars as a psychologist, who might need protection from an organized group of corrupt police officers, hired to kill her.

5 - 1.10 Number Crunch

5. (1.10) “Number Crunch” – NYPD Detective Jos Carter becomes an ally of Finch and Reese, after she is approached by CIA operative Mark Snow to help her track down Reese, who has been wanted by U.S. government factions.

“INDEPENDENCE DAY” (1996) Review

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“INDEPENDENCE DAY” (1996) Review

For six to seven years during the 1990s, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were a very successful production team that created at least four successful movies. One of those movies was the 1996 blockbuster, “INDEPENDENCE DAY”

Written by Emmerich and Devlin, “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a high octane, special-effects flick about a disparate group of people who struggle to survive a deadly alien invasion of Earth during the Fourth of July weekend. The story begins in three different areas – Washington D.C., New York City and Southern California. Following the aliens’ initial attack during the evening of July 2, the main characters flee as far as possible from the three areas and eventually converge upon an U.S. Air Force base in Nevada . . . known as “Area 51”.

The story begins during the early hours of July 2, when an alien mothership enters Earth’s orbit and sends several dozen “destroyer” spacecraft to some of Earth’s major cities. At first, President Thomas J. Whitmore and his staff are perplexed by the reason for the aliens’ arrival. So are other citizens – including U.S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller and his girlfriend Jasmine Dubrow. Realizing that he might be forced to put his holiday weekend on hold, Steven returns to the Marine Air Base at El Toro, California, to await further orders. An alcoholic crop duster and Vietnam War pilot named Russell Casse claims that he had been an alien abductee, ten years ago; and believes the aliens are back to take him for good. But David Levinson, a satellite technician and former MIT graduate, who works for a New York City cable company, discovers hidden satellite transmissions, revealing the aliens’ plans for a coordinated attack upon targeted cities. He and his father, Julius Levinson, head to Washington D.C. to warn David’s ex-wife, Constance Spano, who works as Whitmore’s Communications Director and the President. The latter orders large-scale evacuations of the cities, but the aliens attack before any evacuations can take place.

The following day, President Whitmore orders air strikes against the alien spacecrafts hovering over the cities that had been attacked. One of those air strikes are conducted by the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets led by Steven Hiller, against the spacecraft over Los Angeles. The strike ends in failure, leaving Steven as the sole survivor of his squadron. After leading a single alien fighter to crash into the desert, Steven subdues and captures the injured fighter. During his trek across the desert, he encounters a large group of recreational vehicles fleeing the Pacific Coast and led by Russell Casse. Steven guide them toward the Air Force base known as “Area 51”. Meanwhile, Jasmine and her son Dylan survive the July 2 attack and spend the following day picking up Los Angeles survivors in a fire truck. They eventually come across the seriously wounded First Lady, Mrs. Whitmore, before heading for the devastated El Toro Air Station. Upon learning about the existence of “Area 51” from his annoying Secretary of Defense, Whitmore orders Air Force One to head for Nevada.

I will be the first to admit that I enjoyed “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. For me, it seems like the epitome of the summer blockbuster film from the 1980s and 90s. When it comes to alien invasion movies, I am usually 50/50 on the genre. Thankfully,“INDEPENDENCE DAY” is one of my favorite alien invasion film. Even after seventeen years. First of all, Emmerich and Devlin did a pretty good job in not only setting up the story’s premise, but also its characters. In fact, I am impressed at how they allowed small groups of people from New York City, Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles area converge upon an Air Force base in Nevada for the big showdown. I was even impressed at how Emmerich and Devlin found a very plausible way for the heroes to take down the aliens in the end . . . at least for those scientifically ignorant.

If there is one thing about “INDEPENDENCE DAY” that really impressed me were its visual effects supervised by the team of Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil. Their work seemed to have impressed the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, as well. The movie won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Here is an example of not only their work, but also the photography of Karl Walter Lindenlaub:

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I may like “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. But I cannot deny that it is also flawed. The movie featured a good deal of the cliches usually found in an Emmerich/Devlin production – a divorced couple, an American family fractured by the death of one parent and the other’s alcoholism, a newer romance, cheesy dialogue (especially from minor characters), questionable science, an annoying government official, a head of state – friendly or otherwise and a noble scientist in one of the leads. The most annoying flaw in “INDEPENDENCE DAY” for me turned out to be the dialogue. Aside from a few memorable one-liners, a good deal of the movie’s dialogue struck me as so cheesy and turgid that at times I caught myself wincing . . . a lot. I also grew weary of the movie’s more than numerous references to President Whitmore’s background as a former Air Force fighter pilot during the first Iraqi War. I can only assume that Emmerich and Devlin were setting up the character to be seen leading the last air strike against one of the alien space. They simply overdid it. Speaking of that last air strike, I found it odd that I saw more volunteers who were former military pilots than any current military pilots . . . especially since the movie’s finale was set at the Air Force base in Nevada. And why did the U.S. military send only a squad of U.S. Marine pilots in the movie’s first half? The El Toro Air Station (which later closed) was not the only air military base in Southern California. Why not send Air Force fighter planes from Edwards Air Force Base, as well? The worst aspect of “INDEPENDENCE DAY” turned out to be the flat score composed by David Arnold. It is a good thing I found the movie’s plot and characters compelling enough to keep me alert. Arnold’s score struck me as so uninspiring that I found it hard to believe this is the same man who had composed some pretty decent scores for the James Bond franchise between 1997 and 2008.

It is a miracle that Devlin and Emmerich managed to gather an impressive cast for this movie. Although there were times when many of them struggled to overcome the pair’s turgid dialogue, they still managed to inject enough energy into their performances to be memorable. Will Smith solidified his position as a future Hollywood leading man in his lively portrayal of Marine pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The role of satellite programmer/scientist David Levinson would prove to be one of the last two leading performances by Jeff Goldblum in a movie. He also gave, in my opinion, one of the movie’s better performances. Bill Pullman did a pretty good job as Thomas Whitmore, the U.S. President forced to make some tough decision during the alien invasion. Although I found some of his dialogue rather cheesy, I must admit that I found Randy Quaid’s performance as the alcoholic Russell Casse very entertaining. Equally entertaining were Judd Hirsch as David’s blunt-speaking father, Julius; and Margaret Colin as David’s ex-wife and President Whitmore’s communications director Connie Spano. Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Steven’s friend, Captain Jimmy Wilder amusing at times, even if he seemed to be chewing the scenery. And Adam Baldwin proved to be a stable element in the story, due to his solid performance as Major Mitchell, the U.S. Air Force officer stationed at “Area 51”.

But aside from Goldblum, the other four performances that really impressed me came from Robert Loggia, who portrayed Whitmore’s Chief of Staff, U.S. Marine General William Grey; Vivica A. Fox as Steven’s resilient girlfriend Justine Dubrow; James Rebhorn as Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki; and Brent Spinner as “Area 51″ scientist Dr. Brackish Okun. Loggia was even more of a rock as one of the few truly sane voices for Whitmore during the alien invasion. Fox seemed to be one of the few cast members capable of rising above Emmerich and Devlin’s cheesy dialogue. And for that, she earned my vote as one of the movie’s better performers. Rebhorn gave a very entertaining, yet subtle performance as Whitmore’s sniveling Secretary of Defense. I never knew that ass kissing could be so interesting to watch. Brent Spinner gave a very funny performance as a geeky”Area 51” scientist without resorting to any hammy acting.

I cannot deny that “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a flawed movie. It has cheesy dialogue that still makes me wince. It also featured an extremely bland score by David Arnold and also some story elements by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin that struck me as recycled. But the movie featured a first-rate cast led by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. And Emmerich and Devlin also created a very entertaining and effective story, making “INDEPENDENCE DAY” one of the better alien invasion movies I have ever seen, even after eighteen years.

“Consequences of Lust”

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“CONSEQUENCES OF LUST”

All of Jane Austen’s completed novels were first published during the Regency decade between 1810 and 1819, leaving present-day fans to celebrate the 200th anniversaries of each novel during this decade (2010-2019). Among those novels are “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, which celebrated its bicentennial anniversary last year and “MANSFIELD PARK”, which is now celebrating its bicentennial. 

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” told the story of five daughters of an English landowner named Mr. Bennet, whose wife is desperate to find husbands for them all. The novel was written from the viewpoint of Mr. Bennet’s second daughter, Elizabeth; and she becomes engaged in a stormy relationship with a very wealthy landowner named Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth and her sisters face a major social setback when the youngest sibling, Lydia Bennet, foolishly runs off with a militia officer named George Wickham during a visit to Brighton. Wickham turns out to be the son of the Darcy family’s late estate steward.

Published in a year after “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”“MANSFIELD PARK” told the story of a young English girl named Fanny Price, who is sent to live with her wealthy relations at an estate called Mansfield Park. During her first ten years with the Bertram family, Fanny falls in love with her kind cousin, Edmund. Not long after her eighteenth birthday, the Bertram family become acquainted with a brother-and-sister pair named Henry and Mary Crawford. Edmund ends up falling in love with Mary, while Henry flirts with Edmund’s two sisters – Maria and Julia. Eventually, Henry falls for Fanny. But due to her love for Edmund, she rejects his offers of marriage. And Henry responds by running off with one of Fanny’s cousins – namely the newly married Maria Bertram Rushworth – with devastating consequences.

The Lydia Bennet/George Wickham relationship and the Maria Bertram Rushworth/Henry Crawford relationship shared many similiarities. Both featured feelings of lust between the romantic pairs. However in Maria’s case, I suspect she may have felt some love for Henry. The so-called “elopements” in both novels threatened to drag the families concerned into scandal. And the men in both relationships possessed reputations for skillful seduction and a penchant for mindless flirtations. But there are differences.

Lydia Bennet was an unmarried girl of sixteen years old. Maria Bertram Rushworth was a married young woman in her early twenties during her disasterous affair with Henry Crawford. Two, George Wickham possessed an inability for genuine love and a mercenary’s heart for money. Henry Crawford, despite his flaws, displayed a capability for genuine love; and possessed enough money to not even care about marrying an heiress. Thanks to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s own feelings for Elizabeth Bennet; he searched for the missing Lydia and Wickham, paid off the latter’s debts and arranged for the pair’s wedding and Wickham’s commission into another regiment. The Bennet family expressed relief over Lydia’s marriage and Elizabeth expressed gratitude toward Mr. Darcy for solving their family problem.

Matters turned out differently over the Maria Rushworth/Henry Crawford affair. Determined to save the reputations of her family and the Bertrams, Mary Crawford suggested a similar vein of action to the Bertram family. She suggested that her brother Henry marry Maria, following the latter’s divorce from Mr. Rushworth. Mary’s plans never had a chance, due to Henry’s refusal to marry Maria. Even worse, Edmund Bertram expressed outrage over Mary’s plans and broke their engagement before marrying Fanny. And Sir Thomas punished Maria by forcing her to live in seclusion with her Aunt Norris.

I must admit that I found Austen’s different methods in dealing with the fates of Lydia and Maria rather mind boggling. Did she ever realize that she had contradicted herself when she gave Maria Rushworth a harsher fate than Lydia Wickham? Mind you, Lydia’s fate did not strike me as a bed of roses. She found herself married to a man who was a wastrel that did not love her. But as Austen hinted in the conclusion of “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, Lydia and Wickham always had Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to help them out of a financial jam. For some reason, Austen decided that Maria would face an uglier fate – banishment from Mansfield Park and her family and forced to live in seclusion with Aunt Norris. Austen also decided to punish Mary for suggestion the same thing that Mr. Darcy carried out in “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”.

Why? Why did Austen give a harsher fate for not only Maria Rushworth, but also Mary Crawford? Did she feel regret for not being harsh enough with Lydia? And what about Mr. Darcy? Why did he receive the gratitude for something that Mary Crawford was punished for suggesting? Because he was the protagonist’s love interest? Did Austen expect her readers to change their views of Mr. Darcy’s intervention, when she allowed Mary to not only fail in “MANSFIELD PARK” and be punished in the process? Or did Austen have another message in mind? Is it possible that Maria and Mary’s cruel fates were some kind of an indictment against the Bertram family’s claim of moral righteousness? Personally, I have no idea.

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“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VIII

 

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VIII

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 VIII. 

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RAIN ROBINSON – SEPTEMBER 3, 2373:

Life has pretty much returned to normal aboard Voyager. Well, somewhat. I’ve noticed that Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay seem a bit distant with each other. Considering his romance with a beautiful bionic woman, I’m not really surprised.

Maybe I had been wrong about her. Maybe the Captain is really in love with the Commander. But why does my gut say otherwise? I had immediately noticed that she was attracted to the man. Who wouldn’t? Jenny and Megan told me that even B’Elanna Torres had once harbored a secret passion for the guy. Maybe so, but I’ve never seen her look at him with lovesick eyes. As for Janeway, either she is the world’s greatest actress, or she is simply not in love with Chakotay. I haven’t made up my mind, yet.

The Doctor has been displaying unusual interest in Earth’s history. Mainly in famous personalities. When he wasn’t checking the ship’s computer, he was grilling me about people like Gandhi and Lord Byron. Lord Byron? Jesus! What the hell would I know about him? I’m not even a fan! I mean, I used to be pretty good in history. Especially World History. So, I really didn’t have much problems in answering the Doc’s questions. Well, except for questions about Lord Byron. What I wanted to know is why he has developed a sudden interest in this topic.

“I have decided to expand my programming,” he declared in his usual pompous, but friendly manner. “I am in the process of creating a personality-improvement holographic program, utilizing the personalities of several historic characters.” Then he waved his little instrument over my chest. “Take a deep breath, please.”

Ever since I stowed away on this damn ship, I have been subjected to a medical check-up on a monthly basis. It seems the Captain wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall victim to some 24th century disease that I might be unable to resist. Once the medical exam ended, the Doctor declared me fit. I slid off the bed and faced him. “Say Doc,” I began, “about this new program of yours – are you sure you want to do this? I don’t see anything wrong with your personality right now.”

“That is what I keep telling him,” Kes said from the other side of Sick Bay. She walked over to where we stood. “But the Doctor will not listen to me. Doctor, I’m not sure that this new program is a good idea. Remember what happened the last time?”

Kes explained that a few months before my arrival, the Doctor’s program had begun to malfunction after two years of continuous activation and added subroutines to his program. Four months ago, I wouldn’t have known what the hell Kes was talking about. But I do now. What she was describing was similar to someone adding additional and unnecessary programs to a PC hard drive.

“The only way we could save him was to graft the Doctor Zimmerman matrix from the holodeck systems into his program.” She gave him a look that expressed both annoyance and concern.

The Doctor had the good sense to look embarrassed. But he still insisted upon going through with his experiment. “Many of the crew have complained about my lack of a bedside manner. Perhaps this new program will help me develop one.”

“Doc, you already have a bedside manner,” I retorted. “And quite frankly, I have no problems with it. Okay, you can be a little brusque and arrogant at times.” He shot me a glare that I did my best to ignore. “So what? I’ve encountered too many doctors who will smile in my face and do absolutely nothing for my health. I think the crew should be grateful that you know how to do your job. And to be honest, many of them aren’t exactly a bed of roses in the personality department.”

One would think after a speech like that, the Doctor would reconsider his idea. But, no. Much to my and Kes’ disappointment, he decided to go ahead with his scheme. Who knew that a being of photon light and energy could be so damn stubborn?

LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50696.83:

What is it with the Universe? Why is it so damn determined to make my life miserable? What the hell have I ever done to it?

Once again, I found myself in Sick Bay. For the third time in less than two months. Only this time, I found myself under attack by the Doctor. Yes, that’s right, the Doctor. Not Vorik, not Chakotay, but Voyager’s very own holographic medical officer. Kahless!

It was that damn program he had created! That personality improvement holographic program! The stupid idiot wanted to add it to his own program, in order to improve his personality. Some improvement. Instead of a hologram with a new and improved bedside manner, I found myself facing a schizophrenic psychopath, who paralyzed my legs and my vocal cords, kidnapped Kes and tried to kill her new boyfriend. Well, at least he achieved one objective. He prevented Kes from leaving Voyager for good. Of course, it’s not the way I would have done it.

The Doctor apologized for what he did to my legs, this afternoon. You know, it seemed like déjà vu, for the third time around. And as usual, I had no choice but to accept an apology. At least I won’t have to worry about his personality going through such a change in another seven years. Or worry about some piece of Borg technology in his body. I made sure that his new program was purged from his matrix. Permanently.

As for Zahir, Kes decided not to join him with the other Mikhal Travelers. She claimed that she could not leave Voyager. I wonder. I suspect that she felt worried about the Doctor, after his experiences in that damn 4-C program. Or maybe she was simply afraid to move on. Too bad. I have this feeling that she might eventually regret not joining Zahir.

THE EMERGENCY MEDICAL HOLOGRAM – STARDATE 50730.33:

In the two weeks since my failed experiment with the 4-C program, I have managed to repair any damaged relationship with both Kes and Lieutenant Torres. Much to my profound relief. Not only do the two women serve a vital function to my duties as Chief Medical Officer aboard Voyager, I consider them both friends. Especially Kes.

Ironically, restoring my relationship with Lieutenant Torres has proven to be less difficult. Perhaps after dealing with Ensign Vorik’s pon-far and a slightly assimilated Commander Chakotay, being paralyzed by me must have seem like another day in the Delta Quadrant. It was not long before we regained our old relationship.

Kes has proven to be somewhat more difficult. Not only did I physically assault her companion, Zahir, I also kidnapped her. And threatened her with force. Even worse, I had admitted my true feelings for her, while in the throes of schizophrenia. Very embarrassing, I must say. We spent the following week in a state of awkwardness that nearly left me in despair of ever regaining our old friendship.

Within a week, our awkwardness had begun to dissipate. It did not completely disappear until today – when we found ourselves facing another endless medical emergency. It started when Voyager encountered an alien ship. Ensign Kim, for some apparent reason, deemed the ship a threat and fired upon it. Naturally, the aliens fired back and Voyager suffered major damage in the Engineering Section. By the time the ship managed to slip away, Kes and I found ourselves faced with wounded crewmen. Including Miss Robinson. Imagine our surprise.

Ensign Kim appeared a few minutes later. The Captain wanted him examined to comprehend the reasons behind his actions on the Bridge. The ensign seemed particularly stricken by Miss Robinson’s unconscious state. Kes and I managed to stabilize Miss Robinson’s condition by treating her scorched lungs with pulmozine. However, her burns still required attendance and I curtly dismissed Mister Kim.

THE EMERGENCY MEDICAL HOLOGRAM – STARDATE 50733.28:

The following morning, Ensign Kim returned to Sick Bay with a new dilemma. Spots. Spots had appeared on his face, overnight. I immediately assumed he had been infected with some kind of virus. After a careful examination of his body, I came to the conclusion that Mister Kim had not been afflicted by some disease.

Miss Robinson regained consciousness while Ensign Kim was in Sickbay. She seemed slightly groggy from the pulmozine and she also continued to experience slight pain in her lungs. Which is why I ordered her to remain in Sickbay for another day.

Mister Kim apologized for the being the cause of her injuries. Miss Robinson seemed more than willing to accept his apologies. In fact, she seemed quite friendly. Both Mister Kim and myself learned from her that she was in Engineering to deliver an Astrometrics report, when she suffered her injuries.

A few hours later, Voyager came across a Taresian ship, which helped us fight off the pursuing Nasari ships – the very people whom Ensign Kim had attacked. The Captain, Lieutenants Tuvok and Paris, and Ensign Kim paid a visit to the Taresian surface. Only Ensign Kim remained behind. The Captain delivered an astonishing tale about the ensign discovering that his true heritage was Taresian and that his DNA had resurfaced upon Voyager’s proximity to the planet. After examination of Mister Kim’s DNA, it seemed the Taresians had been truthful. However, I decided to run more tests.

Lieutenant Paris paid a visit to Sick Bay, several hours later. He expressed interest in Ensign Kim’s genetic condition. But I knew the truth. While I discussed Mister Kim’s DNA coding, Mister Paris began casting surreptious glances at the once again unconscious Miss Robinson. Realizing that I was wasting my breath, I asked in an exasperated tone, “Do you wish to speak with Miss Robinson?” It was not difficult to detect the emotions that reflected in his eyes. Concern, compassion, tenderness and something else. Dare I say it? Love?

For a moment, I wondered if I had been hasty. After all, I have been aware of the attraction between Lieutenants Paris and Torres for the past half year. However, I also recalled the vibrant chemistry between Mister Paris and Miss Robinson during our adventures on 20th century Earth. Although their relationship has somewhat cooled in the past five months, the chemistry between the pair remained obvious.

“Mister Paris?” I added. He had failed to respond.

The helmsman snapped out of his reverie and blushed. Interesting. “Yeah, Doc. Did you say something?”

“Yes. I asked if you would like to speak with Miss Robinson. I’m sure that a few minutes of your dazzling wit will not harm her.” My usual caustic tone drew a glare from the pilot.

However, Mister Paris rejected my offer. He shook his head and replied, “No thanks, Doc. Rain probably needs the rest and I don’t want to disturb her.” He started toward the door.

I called after him. “Mister Paris!” He paused and I caught up with him. “Mister Paris, about a year ago, a compassionate young man once convinced me to take a chance with a woman I had harbored a great interest in. And now, I would like to return the favor.”

Blue eyes stared at me, warily. “Meaning?”

I sighed. When it came to facing his emotions, Thomas Eugene Paris can be incredibly stubborn. “Meaning, it seems clear to me that you still harbor some feelings for Miss Robinson. I do not comprehend the reason behind your estrangement during the past five months, but it is apparent that neither of you have been happy, lately. May I suggest that you take a chance? Mend your relationship. Why continue in this unhappy state?”

The helmsman’s face hardened. “Thanks for the advice, Doc. But I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Excuse me, I have to report back to the Bridge.” He quickly left Sick Bay.

Kes sauntered over to me and patted my arm. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I had hoped Tom would take your advice. Perhaps he will. One day.” She stood on her toes and planted a light kiss on my cheek. “On the other hand, I’m also very proud of you.”

I never realized that holograms could experience bodily warmth, due to a kiss from an organic. Until today.

RAIN ROBINSON – SEPTEMBER 27, 2373:

I missed the whole incident regarding Harry and the Taresian women, thanks to the injuries I had suffered. No matter. Harry told Neelix, Tom and myself the entire story during lunch.

He told us how he had been deliberately infected with a retrovirus that genetically altered his DNA to resemble the Taresians. The retrovirus gave him an instinctive urge to return to Taresia. And attack the Nasari ships. The very act that led me to being nearly scorched beyond recognition.

To make a long story short, Voyager visited Taresia. Harry decided to remain on the planet’s surface, believing he had returned home. He learned that the planet was mainly inhabited by women, who gave him this cock-and-bull story about some Taresian who traveled to Earth to plant an embryo into his mother’s womb. The Taresians really wanted his genetic material to harvest for procreation. I guess this was their way getting knocked up. Lovely. Harry managed to escape with Voyager’s help. This led to a discussion about sea sirens that lured men to their doom. If you ask me, this whole incident could have been called, “Ensign Kim and the Vampire Women”. What a great B-movie that would made. Bram Stoker couldn’t have written a better story.

Then as we left the Mess Hall, Harry and Tom began some nonsense about how they wish they could be each other. Yeah, right. It became so nauseating that I begged them to stop. After the turbolift stopped on Deck Six, Harry said good-bye and disappeared. But not without one last apology. Tom took it upon himself to escort me to my quarters. I didn’t mind. Although I had been released from Sick Bay, I still felt a little weak.

Once we reached my quarters on Deck Eight, I invited Tom inside for a drink. Surprise, surprise! Perhaps I was in the mood for company. Or maybe I remembered what the Doc told me about Tom’s visit to Sick Bay. Tom accepted my offer. He even suggested that I lay on the couch, while he replicated the coffee. Is it any wonder that I . . .

“Here you go.” Tom handed me a cup. His blue eyes reflected concern. Compassion. Hell, I almost drowned just staring into them. Then he asked me, “How do you feel?”

I took a sip of the coffee. Strong, sweet and with plenty of milk. “Fine,” I said, “but I’m still a little groggy. And my skin is a bit tender in some parts.”

“Regenerated skin.”

Both of fell silent and continued drinking our coffee. I never realized that silence could be so damn uncomfortable. Then at the same time, we both decided to speak. I don’t know about Tom, but I wanted to get a few things off my chest. “About what I said that last time,” I began.

He said at the same time, “Rain, I want to apologize . . .”

We blinked and stared at each other. I asked, “Apologize? For what?”

“For avoiding you these past two months,” he replied. Tom glanced away as his face slowly grew red. “I guess I was . . . well, a little upset over what . . . I mean . . .”

Knowing what he was about to say, I quickly added, “You mean you were upset when I brought up your past.” A hot flush burned my cheeks. Embarrassed, I found myself unable to look at him. “I know. I don’t blame you for being upset. I didn’t mean to use your past against you.”

“You have every right, believe me.”

A note of self-hatred in Tom’s voice caught my attention. I’ve recognized it so many times in my own voice that it seemed strange to hear in someone else’s. Especially from someone as confident as Tom.

“Look Tom,” I continued, “I wasn’t putting you down for what you did in the past. I was just trying to point out that if you could be forgiven for your actions, so could Vorik. I . . . I’m sorry if I caused you any pain.” I took a deep breath and lifted my eyes to meet Tom’s. Forgiveness and understanding shined in those blue peepers, much to my relief.

A smile touched Tom’s lips. “I understand.” The smile disappeared. “How did you . . . uh, find out about . . . Caldik Prime, anyway?”

“From a crewman.” The answer popped out of my mouth before I could stop myself. Dammit! When will I ever learn to control my mouth?

Sandy blond brows rose questioningly. “Oh? From whom?”

I stared into a pair of blue eyes that seemed to grow steadily angry. I knew that his anger was not directed at me, but at the person who told me about Caldik Prime. Namely that creep, Pat Mulcahey. Actually, the latter hinted it and I checked the ship’s computer for more details. Looking into Tom’s eyes, it struck me that if I named Mulcahey, he would go after the man with a vengeance. Which would only lead to trouble. So I lied.

“I forgot who mentioned it,” I said. It was easy to see that he didn’t believe me. “I read about Caldik Prime from the ship’s computer.”

“Oh.”

“I read that you confessed to lying about the accident and who was to blame, despite the fact there were no evidence on what really happened.”

Tom nodded silently. I could see that he still found the subject, disturbing after all these years. “But I still lied,” he added. “And Starfleet cashiered me.”

“Why? You confessed. I can understand if you had been found out before confessing.” I continued, “But you did so before anyone could learn the truth.”

In a low voice, Tom explained that Starfleet frowned upon lying and falsifying reports. “Typical military hypocrisy,” I murmured sarcastically. “I bet they’ve lied every now and then, themselves.” If it had been up to me, I would have demoted Tom for a while and assigned him to some post in the boondocks. And maybe ensure that he never receive his own command. Personally, I think Starfleet went too far – especially since he had confessed before anyone could discover that he had lied.

I sighed. “Oh well. I’m just glad that . . .” Again, my face turned hot with embarrassment. “I’m just glad that we came to an . . . you know, understanding.”

Tom smiled. “So am I.” He paused momentarily. “By the way, I’ve found these two old vids in the computer database. I thought it would be nice to show them to a few friends in my quarters. Would you like to join us?” Tom added that he would be showing,“Orgy of the Walking Dead” and “Bride of the Corpse”. Bless his heart! I haven’t seen a decent movie since I boarded this ship. And the fact that he would be showing two of my favorite movies? Well, how could I resist? I said yes.

“Okay then,” Tom added with a broad smile. “I’ll be seeing you in my quarters, tomorrow evening at 01900 hours.”

O what? “Huh?” I gave him a perplexed frown. Tom explained that meant at seven o’clock, tomorrow evening. Of course. Dummy me.

I returned Tom’s smile with one of my own. “Seven o’clock, then. I’ll be there.” He flashed one last smile, finished his coffee and left. Well, that went great! Tom and I might never find ourselves in a romance, but at least we’re talking again. As friends. Perhaps that is the best that either of us can do.

THE END

“THOR: THE DARK WORLD” (2013) Review

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“THOR: THE DARK WORLD” (2013) Review

As I had stated in my review of “IRON MAN 3”, I had assumed that the release of the 2012 blockbuster, “THE AVENGERS” would signal the end of Marvel’s multi-film saga about the group of comic book heroes and their government allies, S.H.I.E.L.D. Not only did “IRON MAN 3” prove me wrong, but also the recent television series, “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the second movie about the God of Thunder, “THOR: THE DARK WORLD”

Like the 2011 movie, “THOR”, this latest film begins thousands of years ago. Back in day (or year); Bor, the father of Odin, clash with the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim and their leader Malekith, who seeks to destroy the universe using a weapon known as the Aether. After conquering Malekith’s forces, Bor hides the Aether within a stone column. He was also unaware that Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim, and a handful of Dark Elves have managed to escape by going into suspended animation.

Many years later, Thor and his fellow Asgardians (which include his friends Lady Sif, Fandral and Volstagg) help their comrade Hogun repel marauders on the latter’s homeworld, Vanaheim. It proves to be the last battle in a war to pacify the Nine Realms, which had fallen into chaos following the destruction of the Bifröst. And in London, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster is led by her intern Darcy Lewis and the latter’s intern, Ian, to an abandoned factory where objects have begun to disobey the laws of physics by disappearing into thin air. Jane is teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether. Both the Asgardians and Jane’s former mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig learn on separate occasions that the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, is imminent. While the event approaches, portals (one of which Jane had fallen into) linking the worlds appear at random. Heimdall alerts Thor of Jane’s recent disappearance, leading the latter to search for her on Earth. When she inadvertently releases an unearthly force upon a group of London policemen, Thor takes her to Asgard. Unfortunately, the Asgardian healers do not know how to treat her. Odin, recognizing the Aether, warns Jane’s infection will kill her given enough time, and that the Aether’s return heralds a catastrophic prophecy. Unbeknownst to Odin, the re-emergence of the Aether also ends the Dark Elves’ suspended animation and revives their determination to use the substance to darken the universe.

“THOR: THE DARK WORLD” has proven to be a major box office, since its release nearly a month ago. This is not surprising, considering the enormous success of Marvel’s Avenger saga.“IRON MAN 3”, set six months after the events of the 2012 film, also proved to be a big hit. Some people have claimed that the first film about Thor was superior. As much as I had enjoyed“THOR”, I cannot say that I would agree. It reeked just a bit too much of a superhero origin tale. Personally, I found the plot for “THOR: THE DARK WORLD” more satisfying.

Mind you, this second God of Thunder movie did not strike me as perfect. It had a few flaws. Although I applaud director Alan Taylor and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau’s expansion of the Asgard setting beyond the royal palace and the Bifröst, the latter’s photography for that particular setting seemed to lack Haris Zambarloukos’ dazzling and colorful photography from the 2011 film. Instead, there seemed to be a slightly dull cast to Morgenthau’s photography of Asgard. Thor’s friends did not particularly project that same screen chemistry that I found so enjoyable in the first film. Aside from one major scene in which Thor plotted Jane’s escape from Asgard, they rarely had any scenes together. And Tadanobu Asano’s Hogun had even less scenes. I wonder if this was due to the actor’s major role in the upcoming movie, “47 RONIN”.

Aside from these nitpicks, I enjoyed “THOR: THE DARK WORLD” very much. As I had earlier stated, I found it more enjoyable than the first film. Thanks to the screenplay written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the movie provided a stronger narrative, beyond a simple origin tale. The three screenwriters explored the consequences of past events from both “THOR” and “THE AVENGERS” – Loki’s actions in both movies; Thor’s original destruction of the Bifröst, which led to chaos in the Nine Realms and his long separation from Jane Foster, the latter’s inability to move on, and the impact upon Erik Selvig from being possessed by Loki. However, the movie also explored how a past event in the Asgardians’ history – their conflict with the Dark Elves – managed to once again, have a negative impact upon Earth. For a movie that was juggling a good number of subplots, along with a major plot, I thought the writers and director Alan Taylor did a first-rate job in balancing it all in the end.

Taylor has limited experience as a movie director, but he has a long history as a television direction. Despite his longer experience with television, I must admit that I found myself more than pleased with his direction of “THOR: THE DARK WORLD”. And I was also very impressed. I was especially impressed by his handling of certain action scenes, like the Dark Elves’ invasion of Asgard, the fight scene between Queen Frigga and Malekith, the escape from Asgard, and Thor and Loki’s confrontation against Malekith and the Dark Elves. But the one action scene that really impressed me turned out to be Thor and Jane’s attempt to prevent Malekith’s use of the Aether against Earth and the rest of the universe. This scene not only benefited from Taylor’s direction, but also Dan Lebental and Wyatt Smith’s editing. The movie’s action sequences were nicely balanced by some of its dramatic and comedic scenes. I especially enjoyed Thor and Loki’s quarrel over the latter’s past actions, Thor’s reunion with Jane, and Darcy and Ian’s attempt to free Erik from a mental institution. One particular scene featured a quarrel between Thor and Odin over how to deal with the threat of the Dark Elves. It strongly reminded me of the two men’s quarrel over the Frost Giants in the first film . . . but with an ironic twist. Instead of Odin being the mature and reasonable one, this time it is Thor.

My only complaint about the movie’s performances has to do with Tadanobu Asano. Due to his limited appearance in the film, he never really had a chance to give a memorable performance. I hope to see more of him in the next film. Both Jamie Alexander and Ray Stevenson gave competent performances as Thor’s two other friends – Lady Sif and Volstagg. Instead of Josh Dallas, this movie featured Zachary Levi in the role of Thor’s fourth friend, Fandral. Levi had been originally cast in the role for the 2011 film. But due to his commitments to NBC’s “CHUCK”, Dallas got the role. But the latter’s commitment to ABC’s “ONCE UPON A TIME” forced Marvel and Disney to give the role back to Levi. Aside from the initial shock of seeing him in a blond wig, I must admit that Levi made a very dashing Fandral. I was very happy to see Kat Dennings reprise her role of Jane’s intern, Darcy Lewis. She was as funny as ever. She also had an extra straight man in the form of Jonathan Howard, who portrayed “her” intern, Ian Boothby. The movie also featured a very funny cameo by Chris Evans, who portrayed Loki disguised as Steve Rogers/Captain America.

Christopher Eccleston may not have made the most witty villain from the Marvel canon, but I found his portrayal of Malekith very scary . . . in an unrelenting way. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje struck me as equally impressive as Malekith’s lieutenant, Algrim. It was a pity that I could barely make him out in his new appearance as the Kurse. Renee Russo’s role as Queen Frigga was expanded in this second film and I am so thankful that it was. Not only did she have a marvelous dramatic scene with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, but watching her sword fight against Eccleston’s Malekith reminded me of her role in the “LETHAL WEAPON” films. Idris Elba repeated his masterful portrayal of Asgard’s gatekeeper, Heimdall. I especially enjoyed him in two scenes – Heimdall’s efforts to prevent the Dark Elves’ attack and his discussion with Thor about helping Jane leave Asgard against Odin’s will. More importantly, audiences get to see him in even more scenes. Stellan Skarsgård was very hilarious in his portrayal of Dr. Erik Selvig in this film. I realize that one should not laugh at the idea of someone suffering from a mental trauma, but I could not help it. I do not think I have ever seen Skarsgård so entertaining in a Marvel film. Anthony Hopkins did a marvelous job in conveying Odin’s increasing fragile rule over Asgard and control of his emotions. This was especially apparent in the scene featuring Odin and Thor’s disagreement over the Dark Elves.

For the first time in a Marvel film, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is not portrayed as an out-and-out villain, but a more morally complex character, thanks to his relationships with Asgard’s royal family – especially Thor and Frigga. Hiddleston was as playful and witty as ever. And I especially enjoyed his interactions with Chris Hemsworth. In fact, I can say the same about Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Thor’s love, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster. Personally, I found her funnier and her chemistry with Hemsworth a lot stronger in this second film. And I was especially happy to see her take a more active role in helping Thor defeat the main villain. As for Chris Hemsworth, he continued to roll as the God of Thunder, Thor. He did a marvelous job in developing his character into more complex waters, especially in regard to his relationships with Jane, Loki and Odin. And one of my favorite scenes in the movie featured Thor’s silent reaction to his discovery that Jane had a date with another man. I hope that one day, people will truly appreciate what a first-rate actor he is.

“THOR: THE DARK WORLD” had a few flaws. What movie does not? But thanks to Alan Taylor’s direction, an excellent cast led by a talented Chris Hemsworth and a very complex script written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, it not only turned to be very entertaining, but also better than the previous film. At least for me.

“TOM JONES” (1963) Review

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“TOM JONES” (1963) Review

Recently, I searched my memories for any movies produced outside of the United States that not only won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but I would also consider a personal favorite of mine. Only one came to mind – the 1963 movie, “TOM JONES”

“TOM JONES” turned out to be the second non-Hollywood film that won the coveted Oscar prize. Directed by Tony Richardson, the movie is an adaptation of Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling”, about the coming-of-age and misadventures of an illegitimate young man, raised by a landowner in mid-18th century England. I might as well start from the beginning. Sometime during the 1720s, one Squire Allworthy returned home to his Somerset estate and found an abandoned infant in his bedroom. Demanding to learn the identity of the infant’s parents, the Squire learned from his housekeeper and other servants that the child’s parents were a local schoolmaster named Partridge and a servant girl named Jenny Jones. Squire Allworthy banished both from the immediate neighborhood and became the baby’s new guardian.

Named Tom Jones, the infant grew up to become a charming, handsome and slightly roguish young. He also became friendly with most of the locals, especially his guardian’s neighbor, Squire Western. Tom’s good looks and charm not only captured the eyes of Squire Western’s only child, Sophie, but also Molly Seagrim, the promiscuous daughter of a local poacher named Black George Seagrim. But malignant forces in the form of Squire Allworthy’s venomous nephew, Mr. Blifil, the tutors for both young men – Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, and Tom’s own personal vices; eventually lead Squire Allworthy to order the young hero’s departure from the Allworthy estate. Tom sets out for London, where more acquaintances and adventures await.

I first saw the Best Picture Oscar winner, “TOM JONES”, on television, when I was in my early teens. And I immediately fell in love. Mind you, my love for the movie has not blinded me from its flaws that are featured in the last ten minutes. It felt so rushed. And it seemed as if director Tony Richardson had retold Henry Fielding’s tale with a great deal of detail and atmosphere, before he lost his impatience and rushed the last few minutes of the movie’s narrative. Richardson and screenwriter John Osbourne never allowed the audiences to witness Lawyer Dowling’s revelation to Squire Allworthy of the details in the letter written by the Squire’s late sister, Mrs. Bridget Allworthy Blifil. Instead, they allowed the Mrs. Waters character to break the fourth wall and inform the audiences of the letter’s contents. I found this very frustrating, especially since the audience was denied the Squire’s immediate reaction. I also found the appearance of Lieutenant Norton, the Army officer whom Tom prevented from harming Mrs. Waters on the journey to London. By some bad coincidence, Norton managed to rejoin the Army and ended up leading the detail that escorted Tom to a public execution. For me, this is coincidence of the cheap kind. But as I had stated earlier, my complaints are few.

Overall, “TOM JONES” strikes me as a beautiful and lively film to watch. I have the feeling that it ushered in a new style for period movies on both sides of the Atlantic. One, the movie lacked the gloss that marred the realism of most costume dramas before 1963. Richardson approached the story’s earthiness, sexuality and violence with a great deal of realism without any overindulgence. Prime examples of the director’s approach could be found in famous scenes like Tom and Mrs. Waters’ lusty supper at the Upton Inn, Tom and Mr. Partridge’s colorful entry into mid-18th century London, and the fox hunt sequence that still delivers quite a cinematic punch after fifty years. Richardson also utilized a filming style used in comedies from the silent era with great effect in scenes that included Squire Allworthy’s discovery of the infant Tom and the romantic chaos that ensued following Mr. Fitzgerald’s erroneous interruption of Tom and Mrs. Waters’ nocturnal activities at Upton.

I have to express my admiration for John McCorry’s costumes. I believe they perfectly reflected the fashions for all classes in Britain of the 1740s, without any pesky 20th century influences. Both Ralph W. Brinton’s production designs and Josie MacAvin’s set decorations conveyed Richardson’s earthy and realistic view of mid-18th century Britain. Brinton and MacAvin earned Oscar nominations, along with Ted Marshall for his art direction. “TOM JONES” was filmed mainly in the rural areas of Somerset and Dorset. And Walter Lassally’s photography captured the beauty of the English countryside with a natural elegance and zest that I found very appealing. It seemed a pity that he was not recognized with an Oscar nomination. I feel he deserved it . . . especially for his work on the fox hunt and London arrival sequences. On the other hand, John Addison won the Best Score Oscar for his work on the film. I cannot deny that I found his music for the film truly outstanding. It beautifully captured the spirit and atmosphere of the movie’s setting. Despite my pure satisfaction of Addison’s score, a part of me still wishes that Elmer Bernstein had won that Oscar for the “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” score.

I read somewhere that Albert Finney found the character of Tom Jones something of a bore. If he did find the character boring, it is a credit to his acting skills and perseverance that his boredom never appeared in his performance. In fact, I believe he gave a sparkling, charismatic and star-making portrayal of one of the most charming and roguish characters in English literature . . . and earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination for his work. I have no idea how Susannah York felt about the character of Sophie Western. For me, it does not matter. She was a delight, as far as I am concerned. More importantly, she infused a great deal of fire into her performance, reminding viewers that despite the well-mannered and elegant appearance, she is her father’s daughter. Speaking of Squire Western, Hugh Griffith seemed to be having a ball, portraying the lively and somewhat coarse landowner, Squire Western. It was not surprising to learn that he had earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance. Three other cast members earned Oscar nominations – Edith Evans, who gave an energetic performance as Squire Western’s caustic and snobbish sister; Diane Cilento, whose portrayal of Molly Seagrim seemed to be an interesting mixture of sexiness and desperation; and Joyce Readman, who radiated a more mature sexiness in her portrayal of Mrs. Waters, Tom’s famous companion at the Upton Inn.

I do wish the Academy had considered Joan Greenwood for a nomination. I was very impressed by her subtle, yet malevolent portrayal of the lustful, yet insidious Lady Bellaston. The movie also featured some solid performances from the likes of George Devine, who gave a solid and heart-warming performance as Squire Allworthy; David Tomlinson as the sexually aggresive Lord Fellamar; Jack MacGowran as Tom’s faithful companion, Partridge; and George A. Cooper as Sophie’s hot-headed cousin-in-law, Mr. Fitzpatrick. Four other performances struck me as noteworthy. One came from Rachel Kempson, who not only gave a brief, yet solid performance as Bridget Allworthy Blifil, but also happened to be Richardson’s mother-in-law. The second one belonged to well-known character actor David Warner. “TOM JONES”not only featured his film debut, but also featured the first of many villainous roles he would portray over the years. Also in the movie was Julian Glover, who also made an impressive film debut in “TOM JONES” as a villain, namely Lieutenant Northerton. And Richardson’s sister-in-law, Lynn Redgrave, made her film debut in a brief scene as a maid at Upton Inn.

I read somewhere that Tony Richardson was never satisfied with his work on “TOM JONES”. According to cinematographer Walter Lassally, an unsatisfied Richardson tinkered a bit too much with the movie’s editing during the post-production period. Perhaps that is why the movie is not particularly perfect. But neither Richardson’s unsatisfied tinkering or Albert Finney’s boredom with the main character could mar what became one of my favorite Oscar winning movies of all time . . . or cause Richardson to lose his Best Director Oscar. After half a century, “TOM JONES” has lost none of its magic.

“LAST VEGAS” (2013) Review

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“LAST VEGAS” (2013) Review

When I first saw the trailer for “LAST VEGAS”, my first impression was that it was some kind of senior version of “THE HANGOVER” or one of those comedy road trip movies featuring four friends. It did not strike me as an original movie, but it looked entertaining and I decided to go see it anyway. 

Directed by Jon Turteltaub and written by Dan Fogelman, “LAST VEGAS” is a story about a quartet of long time friends in their late sixties who gather in Las Vegas to attend a wedding. While giving an eulogy at the funeral of a friend, Billy spontaneously proposes marriage to his 32 year-old girlfriend. Several weeks later, he announces his engagement to at least two of his friends – Archie and Sam. Archie, who feels like a prisoner of his son’s following a mild stroke, sneaks away. Sam, who has become slightly embittered over his Florida retirement, is encouraged by his wife to go on the trip and even consider one night of adultery to get his mojo back. Both Archie and Sam meet in their old Brooklyn neighborhood to convince the last member of the old quartet – Paddy – to join them on the trip to Vegas. There is a difficult. Paddy is angry over Billy’s failure to attend his wife’s funeral, but Archie manages to convince him to accompany them.

When the four friends meet in Vegas, they try to check into an old hotel on Fremont Street. Unfortunately, the hotel has been transformed into an unsuccessful nightclub, where they meet a sexy, aging singer named Diana. Both Paddy and Billy, who is awaiting his young fiancée, become attracted to her. Thanks to Archie’s successful spell at a hotel casino on the Strip, the four friends are comped by the hotel to stay in one of their suites. While Archie and Sam set out to enjoy themselves, Billy and Paddy deal with their conflict over the latter’s late wife and Diana.

I might as well be frank. “LAST VEGAS” is not exactly a comedy classic. Nor does it have an original script. A lot of the movie is spent with the four seniors musing over aging and trying to pretend that they can still party hard. Not only would I never consider “LAST VEGAS” as one of the best films for any of the four leads, I would never consider it one of their best works during the later stages of their career. But I knew that coming in. One look at the movie’s trailer pretty much told me what kind of movie this would be.

But you know what? Despite the lack of originality and hardcore partying (PG-rated), “LAST VEGAS” turned out to be a very entertaining film. Hell, it was a lot of fun to watch. Thanks to Fogelman’s script, the movie was filled with some sharp wit and funny moments. Among the latter was Archie’s “difficult” escape from his New Jersey home, the four friends acting as judges at a swimsuit contest around the hotel’s swimming pool, Billy and Diana’s ride on what I believe was the Stratosphere. I could be wrong about the latter. Fogelman’s script was slightly elevated by a few scenes of pathos involving Billy and Paddy’s conflict over the latter’s wife, thanks to the actors involved.

Speaking of the actors, it is quite apparent that this movie owed a lot to the five leads. Mind you, Fogelman wrote an entertaining, yet unoriginal script. And Jon Turteltaub infused a great deal of energy into his direction. A great deal. The movie also benefited from solid performances from supporting players like Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Weronika Rosati, Joanna Gleason and Michael Ealy. But one might as well face it. Without the four male leads and the sole female lead, I doubt that I would have ever found this movie amusing, let alone funny. Both Turteltaub and Fogelman owed a great deal to Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. Not only did the four men proved to have strong chemistry with each other, Steenburgen added a good deal of her own chemistry with the team. She especially managed to click with Douglas and De Niro.

As I had earlier stated, “LAST VEGAS” is not a comedy classic. Nor did I find it particularly original. I would never list it as one of the best movies of 2013. But I cannot deny that I found it both witty and funny, thanks to Dan Fogelman’s script. Jon Turteltaub’s direction injected a great deal of energy into the story. And the movie overall really benefited from a strong cast lead by Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. “LAST VEGAS” may not have been great, but I found it very entertaining.

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VII

 

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VII

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 VII. 

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RAIN ROBINSON – JULY 31, 2373:

Ten days. Ten days have passed since my fight with Tom. And we haven’t uttered one word to each other. Hell, at least three-quarters of the crew aren’t speaking to me. They all believe that I had condoned Vorik’s actions during his pon farr. And none of this might have happened if I had kept my big mouth shut. Jesus!

Aunt Sarah was right. I should learn to control my tongue. And my temper. But it’s hard to do that whenever I encounter stupidity or hypocrisy. I guess I’m just too blunt. Too frank. No wonder I’ve always had trouble maintaining a relationship. And I think I’ve just ruined another one.

My mother once told me that although Humans make a big deal about valuing the truth, many of them can’t really handle it. Deep down, they don’t want to face reality, so they escape through a lot of pleasure, easy solutions, illusions and sometimes, intolerance. She also added that when someone exposes the truth, it’s usually the messenger who is usually blamed. What she tried to tell me is that I should learn to be a little more diplomatic when dealing with the feelings and opinions of others.

Somehow, word of my fight with Tom got around. And now, I’m being blamed for “taking Vorik’s side”. What makes this even worse is that the real perputrator of the whole mess is pon farr. Biology. How in the hell can you punish a physiological condition? You can’t. Instead, you punish the poor bastard who had been inflicted by it. Namely Vorik. And you also blame the dumb idiot, whose words robbed you of a scapegoat. The same idiot who could not keep her damn mouth shut. Or control her temper.

Aside from Tuvok and Vorik (whom I haven’t seen in days), the only crewmen who seemed willing to speak to me were Jenny, Megan, Neelix, and Commander Chakotay. B’Elanna seemed too embarrassed to even be near me. I should talk to her, but I can’t. It’s no longer about what she had done to me on Sakaris IV. Right now, I’m going through a lot of anger and frustration, because my big mouth has not only put me at odds with most of the crew. I’ve also driven Tom away for good when I defended Vorik . . . and brought up his past. Stupid idiot! And because I brought up his past, B’Elanna will have him in the end.

LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50593.64:

Vorik finally returned to Alpha shift duty, today. It didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would. We had a nice, long talk before his shift began.

I know. Vorik and I had agreed he would spend one month during Beta shift and only three weeks had passed since Sakaris IV. However, he happens to be one of my best engineers and I needed him, Carey, Nicoletti and Ashmore for a special project – to strengthen the stabilization of the warp filed coils and make them less susceptible to exposure from a verteron pulse. So, I put aside any feelings I had toward Vorik and asked Chakotay to return him to Alpha shift.

The talk. To be honest, I think it was a hell of a lot worse for Vorik. I never saw a man look so embarrassed or humiliated. Now that I think about it, I guess I understand his reaction. Like me, Vulcans hate losing control. Both Vorik and I endured a lot of humiliation because of what happened. But at least I don’t have to endure pon farr every seven years for the rest of my life, thank Kahless. After what happened, I do intend to keep an eye on Vorik, seven years from now. If I can remember.

I had repaired my working relationship with Vorik. My friendship with Tom has also survived Sakaris IV. However, I haven’t spoken a word to Rain, since our encounter in the Mess Hall. I’ve also learned that she hasn’t spoken to Tom, either. Now, that’s odd. I wonder how that came about?

RAIN ROBINSON – AUGUST 13, 2373:

I’ve finally realized how dangerous space exploration can be. While searching for the missing Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan, Voyager came across a starship in the form of a cube. Megan and Jenny called it a Borg cube and it seemed to terrify them and practically everyone else.

“Who in the hell are the Borg?” I demanded.

Jenny replied, “They’re a race of humanoids that are part-organic, part-machine. They’re like . . .”

“Cyborgs!” I added, remembering my television. “Like the ‘SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN’ and ‘THE BIONIC WOMAN!’!” Ah, the glory days of television re-runs. How I miss them.

The twins stared at me with baffled eyes. “What are you talking about?” Megan asked.

I told them about the two television shows I used to watch. “Maybe I’ll find it in the computer database and show it to you, one day. What do these Borgs look like?”

Jenny led me to a computer console, located against one of the walls in the Mess Hall. I swear, this ship is practically a flying Microsoft center. She punched in a few codes and . . .

“Here they are,” she said, pointing to the image on the screen. “The Borg. They’re native to the Delta Quadrant, but they have the technology to travel to other quadrants. Including the Alpha Quadrant, back home. They’ve already tried to conquer Earth once.” So, that’s the Borg. I told Jenny that they look like mechanical zombies. “Not a bad description,” she added.

Then I said, “And the Captain thinks the Commander and Marie Kaplan have been captured by them?”

Megan shook her head. “I don’t think so. I heard from Harry Kim that the drones found inside the cube are dead. I think many of them were killed by some electromagnetic storm.”

Drones? I guess that must be a pretty simile for a zombie. “So, where are they? Commander Chakotay and Kaplan?”

No one could answer my question. At least not until hours later, when the crew found the missing pair on a planet inhabited by survivors of the cube. Well, they found Chakotay, alive and well. Poor Kaplan had been killed by some scavengers who raided the village inhabited by former Borg drones. Among them was a blond woman who had been captured by the Borg, during the latter’s attack upon Earth, several years ago. Everyone seemed to be talking about her and the Commander.

“Is it true?” I asked Neelix, after encountering him near one of those turbolifts on Deck 2. “About the Commander and this Fraizer woman?”

Neelix shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t seen Commander Chakotay since he left the ship with Ensign . . .”

At that moment, the doors slid open. Three figures walked out of the turbolift – the Captain, Commander Chakotay and a beautiful, blond-haired woman with blue eyes. Both she and the Commander seemed a bit engrossed with each other. As for the Captain – despite her usual command look, she seemed grim to me. Oh, oh! Something tells me there was a little trouble in Paradise.

Then Janeway noticed Neelix and me. Something like a cross between a smile and a grimace appeared on her face. “Miss Fraizer,” she said in her usual gravel voice, “I’d like to introduce you to our two civilian crewmen. This is our Talaxian guide, Neelix and Miss Rain Robinson. Neelix, Miss Robinson, this is Miss Riley Fraizer.”

We shook hands with the new guest. Miss Fraizer seemed particularly curious as to how a civilian like myself, ended on Voyager. I told her the truth. That I was a visitor from Earth’s past, who had stowed away aboard ship. Both the Captain and Commander Chakotay seemed particularly embarrassed by the whole story.

Finally, we all parted. Neelix and I entered the turbolift, leaving the others behind. “I wonder what that was about,” I said, as the lift took us to Deck Two. “The Captain seemed embarrassed when I told that woman about how I came aboard.”

Neelix replied that he had no idea. “But I did notice something else,” he added. “The Commander and Miss Fraizer. They seemed very focused upon each other. I have the feeling there is some kind of romance between them.”

Good old Neelix. I never really understood why so many of the crew looked down upon him. I’m not saying that they treated him badly. But they have this tendency to be rather condescending. Including, I’m sad to say, Tuvok. They don’t seem to realize that under that comical façade is a pretty sharp fellow.

LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50617.7:

Damn Borg! Next to the Cardassians, they were the most treacherous beings in the Universe. I take that back. They arethe most treacherous. What they did to Chakotay was abominable. And it caused me a lot of pain, as well.

It all started with those former Borg drones we found with Chakotay. Marie Kaplan had been killed, while defending him and the drones from some scavengers. Poor Marie. She was a good engineer. Chakotay had been wounded, and later healed by the ex-drones’ neural transponder. What on earth made Chakotay allow them to use such a device on him, is beyond me. Granted, he was badly wounded. But he had also been conscious enough to know what they were going to do.

Once he was healed, Chakotay became involved with one of the former drones – namely a beautiful blond woman named Riley Fraizer. It seemed she was a former Starfleet officer who had been assimilated by the Borg during the Battle at Wolf 359, some six-and-a-half years ago. To make a long story short, after Miss Fraizer and Chakotay became . . . “friendly”, she and her companions asked Voyager to help build some kind of axonal amplifier. They wanted to create their separate collective. For the defense of their little colony. What baffled me was that Chakotay wanted to help.

After delivering Miss Fraizer and the other former drones some supplies to her friends, Chakotay and I headed back to the ship. During our little journey, my best friend suddenly went “Borg” on me, thanks to that neural processor in his brain, and shot me with a phaser. According to Harry, who told me the rest, he flew to the Borg cube to help Miss Fraizer and her friends reactivate that axonal amplifier, and create their new collective. They also destroyed the cube.

Now, poor Chakotay is feeling guilty for his actions, even if it wasn’t his fault. And I’m still recovering, despite leaving Sick Bay, some five hours ago. Damn Borg! It’s obvious that they cannot be trusted. Even when disconnected from the Collective.

Kahless! This headache is killing me! I need an anglesiac, badly. I returned to Sick Bay to ask for a shot and found the Doctor with another patient. Rain Robinson. What was she doing here?

“There you go, Miss Robinson. Your cut is completely healed.” The Doctor tossed an instrument on a nearby tray. “Working near an opened computer console can be very dangerous.”

Rain sighed. “Yeah Doc. Sure. I’ll be more careful.”

“Good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see to Lieutenant Torres.” The Doctor faced me. “Ah, Lieutenant. I see that you have started walking around again. Is that wise? You were supposed to be resting.”

I let out a groan. “I have a headache. And I need something for it. Badly.”

The Doctor picked up a hypospray and filled it. “Here you go, Lieutenant.” He pressed the damn thing against my neck. “This should help. And I also suggest that you get some rest. And not leave your quarters for the rest of the day.”

“I don’t need any rest,” I grumbled. “I’m perfectly capa . . .” Then it hit me. A wave of dizziness that left me grasping for the nearest structure. Namely, a computer console.

A smug look appeared on the Doctor’s face. Since when did holograms start looking smug? “May I assume you’re experiencing some dizziness, Lieutenant?”

I snapped back, “You as . . .” The room began to tilt once more. I sighed in defeat. “Maybe I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“What a surprise.” Really, someone needs to reconfigure his personality subroutines! The Doctor turned to Rain. “Miss Robinson, will you please escort Lieutenant Torres to her quarters?”

I immediately protested, claiming that I did not need an escort. Unfortunately, another wave of dizziness struck me. The Doctor ignored my protests and insisted that Rain escort me. I had no choice but to surrender.

Neither Rain or I exchanged a word with each other – at first. I could tell that she felt uncomfortable in my presence. Just as I did in hers. Sakrari IV still came between us, despite my apology from a month ago. Well, I didn’t really blame her. If I had been attacked by an erratic half-Klingon . . .

“How are you feeling?”

It took me a few second to realize that Rain had spoken. To me. I blinked and responded with a “Huh?” Oh great! Such brilliant dialogue!

“I said,” Rain continued, “how are you feeling? After being shot by Commander Chakotay?”

Did she really have to put it like that? Utilizing every ounce of my patience, I told her that I felt fine, aside from the dizziness. That Chakotay had only stunned me with a phaser. Okay, maybe I had lied a little. Chakotay may have only stunned me, but dammit, it hurt!

Rain, of course, wasn’t fooled. Not with me experiencing constant dizzy spells. I continued to have them all the way to the turbolift. Hell, I didn’t have this much trouble coming here. By the time we reached my quarters, I decided that I needed to put Sakari IV behind us, for good. Again, I tried to apologize for assaulting her, but Rain stopped me.

“Look, you’ve already apologized. There’s no need for you to do it, again. Besides, it wasn’t your fault. Anymore than it was Commander Chakotay’s fault for shooting you.”

I hesitated, feeling embarrassed over her burst of generosity. Strange that Rain never brought up my Klingon temper. I had felt sure that it had scared her. “If you think I’m scared you, I’m not,” she added. I think the woman must be emphatic. “Although I admit that I was a little leery of you, for a while. But I guess you felt the same about Vorik.”

An awkward pause fell between us. So, Rain had been a little leery of me. I’m not surprised. She was right about me feeling the same about Vorik. And now, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll harbor similar feelings about Chakotay. Will he suddenly become Borg again and attack us, now that we’re edging toward Borg space?

We arrived at my quarters. Before I could punch out my entry code, I did something stupid. I told her that she had no reason to worry about me. I also added that I would never attack her in such a manner again. “I admit that I have something of a temper. It’s the Klingon in me. But you won’t have anything to worry about, from now on.”

Rain gave me a curious look and said something that took me off-guard. “What does your being Klingon have to do with your temper?”

I blinked. Surely, her old buddies, the Delaney sisters, have told her about me? About Klingons in general? “I’m half-Klingons,” I said, as if speaking to a child. “Klingons have bad tempers.”

“So do Humans. And I’ve heard that Bajorans are also temperamental. What’s the big deal?”

Kahless! Was this woman obtuse? Or blind? Doesn’t she understand what I’m trying to say? Or do I have to bring up Sakari IV again? I explained, “Humans may have bad tempers, but they are nothing in compare to the Klingon temper.” We entered my cabin. Rain led me to the sofa.

“Hey, I’ve read about the Klingons in the ship’s computer,” she replied. “The only difference I see is that Klingons are stronger and more openly aggressive. I think your opinion of Humans might be a little too high. Just like everyone else aboard this ship.”

Was she trying to tell me that Humans are not that different from Klingons? I nearly laughed aloud. Poor woman, wait until she sees her first full-bloodied Klingon. If she ever gets the chance. Or perhaps Humans from her time were a little more violent . . .

“I know what you’re thinking,” she added, cutting into my thoughts. “That perhaps Humans from the 20th century are more violent. Maybe they are. Then again, after getting to know this crew, I’ve discovered one thing. Humans – back in my time and the ones, today – seemed to think they’re rational and civilized and above violent behavior. But when something goes wrong or someone stands in their way,” a smirk appeared on her face, “look out! They can become real savages. Like your friend, Harry. I’ve noticed that he tends become anxious or volatile whenever something unexpected happens. If you don’t believe me, watch him. Or some of the others. You’ll see it happen right before your eyes.”

What had made her so anti-Human? Rain seemed to regard them the same way I regarded Klingons. She must have went through a hell of a time, before meeting Tom and Tuvok. Perhaps some time spent in the 24th century would teach her to appreciate how much her species have evolved. She’ll see how wrong she was about Humans . . . and Klingons.

Only I kept my thoughts to myself and instead, smiled and asked her to replicate some drinks for us both. Rain replicated a cup of raktijino for me, and declined a drink for herself. She claimed that she had to return to duty. Which she did.

In the end, I guess we finally put Sakari IV behind us. And I must admit that it was a relief to know someone who did not seem put off by my Klingon half. But she will. Eventually. Both her and Tom. It’s only a matter of time.

END OF BOOK VII