“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985) – Episode Four “1854-1856″ Commentary

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“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985) – EPISODE FOUR “1854-1856” Commentary

If I had to pick one or two episodes from 1985’s “NORTH AND SOUTH” that I would view as personal favorites, one of my choices would be Episode Four. This episode provided a series of sucker punches to the audience that provided the miniseries’ narrative with a strong forward drive.

The end of Episode Three saw the Hazard family leave their home in Lehigh Station, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1854 for a visit to the Main’s plantation in South Carolina’s low country. Episode Four picked up a week or two later with the Hazards attending a ball held by the Mains at Mont Royal, the latter’s plantation. Everything seems to be all right in the world for the two families. Both Billy Hazard and Charles Main are on furlough following two years at West Point. And even Virgilia Hazard seemed to be behaving cordially toward her hosts and their neighbors. And then . . . everything goes to pot. On the very night of the ball, Virgilia meets Grady, the slave of neighbor James Huntoon. Ashton Main, still angry at Billy for rejecting her sexual offer two years ago, makes a beeline for sister Brett’s current beau Forbes LaMotte, Madeline LaMotte’s nephew-in-law and the two engage in a sexual tryst inside the plantation’s barn. Unfortunately for Ashton, Billy walks in on her and Forbes and he swings his attention to Brett. The Hazard family’s visit ends when Virgilia becomes romantically involved with Grady before she aids his escape from slavery and South Carolina. Two weeks after the Hazards’ departure, Madeline discovers from her dying father that her dead mother was one-fourth black, making her one-eighth black.

The second half of Episode Four features Billy and Charles’ graduation from West Point in June 1856. George and Orry reconcile after the debacle following Grady’s escape two years earlier. Both discuss Billy’s marriage proposal to Brett. However, Orry is reluctant to give his approval, due to the couple’s regional differences. Billy and Brett’s continuing romance leads a jealous Ashton to sleep with some of Billy’s Northern-born friends at the cadet. Three months later, Madeline informs Orry about her father’s revelation during one of their trysts at Salvation Chapel. Orry suggests they leave South Carolina together, before her husband Justin LaMotte learns about her family secret. Unfortunately, Ashton discovers she has become pregnant, due to her sexual trysts at West Point. She seeks Madeline’s help to abort the unborn child. Madeline leads her to a free woman named Aunt Belle Nin to act as an abort Ashton’s pregnancy. Unfortunately for Madeline, she had lied to Justin about her whereabouts. And upon her return to Resolute – the LaMotte plantation – she learns that Justin had exposed her lie about meeting a friend at a Charleston hotel for lunch. Angry over her lie and unwillingness to tell the truth about her whereabouts, Justin locks Madeline in one of the manor’s bedrooms, allowing her to sustain on bread and water for several days. Madeline’s free born servant, Maum Sally, tries to free her; but Justin prevents the escape attempt and kills the older woman with a punch to the face.

Wow! Not only did a great deal occurred in Episode Four, but important factors in the narrative that drove the story forward. However, before I wax lyrical over this episode, I must point out some of the flaws. One, I found it a little ridiculous that Billy and Charles wore their West Point cadet uniforms during most of their furlough in the episode’s first half. Two, West Point was not in the habit of hosting balls on its campus following a graduation. Following the graduation ceremony, it was traditional for graduates to travel to New York City for a celebration luncheon at an elite hotel during the 19th century. And they would NOT be wearing their cadet uniforms long after the ceremony. Three, Grady told Virgilia that he had taught himself how to read. How? How does one achieve that without anyone else acting as tutor?

My biggest problem with Episode Four centered on Ashton’s trysts with several West Point graduates during the night of the Academy’s ball. I found the entire sequence rather unpleasant and sexist. Let me get something straight. Although I found Terri Garber’s portrayal of Ashton Main very entertaining and well-done, I believe that Ashton is a repellent woman. But what I found even more repellent is author John Jakes’ idea of what constitutes a villainous woman. Ashton, like a good number of his villains both female and male, tend to possess some kind of sexual perversion. In Ashton’s case, she is portrayed as sexually promiscuous. And it is this promiscuity that is allegedly a hallmark of her villainy. Episode One introduced George Hazard arriving at a New York train station in the company of two prostitutes, with whom he previously had sex. The episode makes it clear we are to view George as a young, cheerful womanizer for us to admire. Episode Four featured Ashton having pre-marital sex with Forbes LaMotte and two years later, with a handful of West Point graduates. The episode makes it clear we are to view her as a sexual pervert and morally bankrupt. For me, Ashton’s moral bankruptcy is stemmed from her racism and other elitist views, her selfishness and vindictive nature. Unless she had used her sexuality to engage in rape or some other violent behavior, I refuse to view Ashton’s sexuality as something evil.

Despite my disgust at the portrayal of Ashton’s sexuality and other flaws found in Episode Four, I still enjoyed it very much. Once again, director Richard T. Heffron displayed his talent for big crowd scenes. This particular episode featured the dazzling Mont Royal ball sequence. Not only did Heffron and Larner did an excellent job with a carefully choreographed dance number accompanied by the tune, “Wait For the Wagon”, they managed to capture the detailed little dramas that filled the sequence – including Virgilia’s first meeting with Grady and the beginning of Ashton’s trysts with Forbes LaMotte. The other major sequence featured in Episode Four also include Billy and Charles’ graduation from West Point. George and Orry’s West Point graduation in Episode Two merely featured a few graduates receiving diplomas and the friends congratulating their fellow classmates. Audiences get to see their younger kinsmen march in an elaborate parade for the Academy’s guests. The screenplay and Heffron’s direction also explored minor dramas that included George and Orry’s discussion about Billy and Brett at Benny Haven’s tavern and Ashton’s encounters with her cousin’s fellow Academy graduates.

But the episode featured some other delicious dramatic moments. The best include the beginning of Virgilia and Grady’s romantic relationship inside a deserted barn, during a hurricane. This scene not only benefited from Heffron’s direction, but also some outstanding performances from Kirstie Alley and Georg Stanford Brown, who created a sizzling screen chemistry together. Another outstanding dramatic scene turned out to be the breakfast scene at Mont Royal during which the Hazards and Mains learn about Grady’s escape and Virgilia’s participation in it. Heffron’s direction, along with excellent performances from Terri Garber, Jim Metzler (who was a bit hammy at times), John Stockwell, James Read and Patrick Swayze infused a great deal of delicious tension into this scene. But the stand-out performance came from Alley, who did a great job of expressing Virgilia’s lack of remorse over Grady’s escape and highly-charged words about the country’s future with slavery. The actress and Brown also shined in a well-acted scene that featured a visit from abolitionist William Still to Grady and Virgilia’s Philadelphia slum home. The scene also included a first-rate performance from Ron O’Neal as the famous abolitionist.

My article on Episode Three had commented on Garber and Genie Francis’ portrayals of the Main sisters, Ashton and Brett. However, the actresses really knocked it out of the ballpark in a conversation scene between the two sisters during the West Point graduation parade sequence. Another excellent scene featured fine performances from the two leads – Swayze and Read – as George and Orry discuss the possibilities and drawbacks of a marriage between Billy and Brett. However, the episode’s final outstanding scene displayed the brutalities of spousal abuse in the LaMotte marriage. Lesley-Anne Down, David Carradine and Olivia Cole gave superb performances during the ugly circumstances that followed Madeline’s assistance in Ashton’s abortion.

Cinematographer Stevan Larner and film editors Michael Eliot and Scott C. Eyler did excellent jobs in capturing the superficial glitter and glamour of the Mont Royal ball. Larner’s photography perfectly captured the dark squalor of Virgilia and Grady’s Philadelphia’s hovel. And once again, he worked perfectly with Heffron, Eliot and Eyler in re-creating the military color of Billy and Charles’ West Point graduation. Once again, Vicki Sánchez’s costumes impressed me. Mind you, I was not that impressed by the costumes worn by Alley, Down and Wendy Kilbourne during the Mont Royal ball sequence. Their costumes looked more Hollywood than anything close to mid-19th century gowns. And the jewelry that gowns that Genie Francis and Terri Garber wore in that sequence, along with some other costumes:

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Granted, Episode Four featured some flaws in the narrative regarding the West Point graduation sequence and a few other matters. But the episode not only featured some outstanding performances, but also plot lines that really drove it forward. Not surprising, it is one of my favorite episodes in the 1985 miniseries.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “HAWAII FIVE-O” Season Two (1969-1970)


Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of “HAWAII FIVE-O”. Created by Leonard Freeman, the series starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett:


1-2.21 Most Likely to Murder

1. (2.21) “Most Likely to Murder” – Tom Skerritt appears as a Honolulu police officer and old friend of Danny Williams, who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife in this intriguing episode.

2-2.13 The Jokers Wild Man Wild

2. (2.13) “The Joker’s Wild, Man, Wild!” – A beach boy and a playboy compete for the attentions of provocative heiress, via a bizarre card game that leads them to commit crimes on her behalf.

3-2.01 A Thousand Pardons - Youre Dead

3. (2.01) “A Thousand Pardons–You’re Dead!” – Steve McGarrett investigate the deaths of brides of three Army soldiers killed in Vietnam and uncovers an insurance scam operated by an Army sergeant. Harry Guardino, Barbara Luna, James Hong and Loretta Swit guest starred.

4-2.09 The Singapore Files

4. (2.09) “The Singapore File” – McGarrett escorts the witness to a murder committed by a local gangster from Singapore to Honolulu.

5-2.22 Nightmare Road

5. (2.22) “Nightmare Road” – Federal agents nearly undermines Five-O’s investigation into the disappearance of a very important research scientist.




There have been four previous movies that featured the literary character, Jack Ryan. But those four movies were adaptations of novels written by the late Tom Clancy. Paramount Pictures released a fifth movie featuring the character called “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”. Unlike the previous four movies, this fifth one is not based upon a Clancy novel.

Directed by Kenneth Branaugh and written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” is presented as a reboot that chronicles Jack Ryan’s early years as a C.I.A. analyst. I realize that the 2002 movie, “THE SUM OF ALL FEARS” also featured Jack’s early years as an analyst. But Jack was already established with the C.I.A. in that film. “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” also chronicled Jack’s years as a graduate student in Britain, his time as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan and how he ended up being recruited into the C.I.A. The movie also revealed how he had recovered from a deadly helicopter crash and met his future wife, Dr. Cathy Muller. But more importantly, the movie’s basic plot is about Jack uncovered a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack and send the country into another Great Depression.

Once the circumstances leading to Jack’s recruitment into the C.I.A. was conveyed, Cozad and Koepp’s screenplay began with Jack working undercover as a compliance officer at a Wall Street stock brokerage, looking for suspect financial transactions that indicated terrorist activity. After the Russian Federation loses a key vote before the United Nations, Jack discovers that trillions of dollars held by Russian organizations have disappeared. A large number of those funds are controlled by a veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Viktor Cherevin. The latter and a group of Russian politicans are seeking revenge against the Americans for the latter’s intervention in that particular invasion. Since Jack’s Wall Street employer does business with Cherevin and Jack discovers that certain accounts are inaccessible to him as auditor, he has a reason to visit Moscow and investigate. Unfortunately for Jack, he narrowly survives an assassination attempt upon his arrival in Moscow . . . and is forced to send out an S.O.S. to the C.I.A. for help. Even worse, his fiancée Cathy suspects him of having an affair and flies to Moscow to confront him. In the end, Jack and his C.I.A. recruiter William Harper not only have to find a way to stop Cherevin, but also keep Cathy out of danger.

Russians and terrorist attacks. Hmmmm . . . I have noticed that the use of Russian politics as a bogeyman has been very popular in Hollywood political thrillers lately. Is this due to the unpopularity of that country’s current leader, Vladimir Putin? I wonder. Am I putting down the plot for “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”? As I just hinted, I did not find the use of post-Soviet Russians as villains original. And the villains’ goal to destroy the U.S. economy did not seem original, as well. I have four more complaints about the movie. One, I never saw the necessity of including Jack’s years before the C.I.A. – as a graduate student in Britain and his time in the U.S. Marines. In fact, it was not really necessary for screenwriters to designate the William Harper character as Jack’s recruiter, since he was more important in Jack’s efforts to prevent Cherevin’s plot to destroy the U.S. economy. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed by Cozad and Koepp’s use of the Cathy Muller character as a damsel-in-distress – especially in the movie’s second half. And speaking of the second half, once Jack and Harper fly back to the U.S. to prevent the attack, the plot seemed to rush forward with the speed of a runaway train. As for the movie’s title – I found it cumbersome and amateurish. Enough said.

Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”. Despite a plot that lacked originality, I must admit that I found it entertaining. Three-fourths of the plot regarding the terrorist attack struck me as well-paced. And I must admit that possessed a great deal of suspense – especially in the sequence that featured Jack’s attempt to download Cherevin’s files in the middle of a dinner party between him, Cherevin and Cathy in Moscow. The movie also had its share of first-rate action sequences. I was especially impressed by the assassination attempt on Jack inside his Moscow hotel room, Jack and Harper’s attempt to rescue the kidnapped Cathy from Cherevin during a car chase, and the final action scene in which Jack tries to prevent Cherevin’s son from blowing up Wall Street. I thought Kenneth Braunagh handled those scenes very well. I was also impressed by his direction of two particular dramatic scenes – Cathy’s confrontation with Jack and Harper inside the younger man’s hotel room; along with Jack and Cathy’s tense dinner with Cherevin at a Moscow restaurant. The movie also benefited from Haris Zambarloukos’ sleek and colorful photography – especially the Moscow sequences, Martin Walsh’s editing in the Moscow hotel fight scene, the Cherevin dinner sequence and the final action sequence in Manhattan.

“JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” featured some pretty solid performances. Both Chris Pine and Keira Knightley were excellent as the younger Jack Ryan and Cathy Muller. And the two performers rose above the occasion to really shine in the scene that featured their characters’ Moscow confrontation about their relationship. Colm Feore and David Paymer gave brief, yet entertaining performances in the movie. It seemed a pity that they did not have more scenes. Alec Utgoff was properly villainous in a subtle way as the terrorist Aleksandr Borovsky. But I feel that the movie’s two best performances came from Kevin Costner and director Kenneth Branaugh, who portrayed Jack’s mentor William Harper and the main villain Viktor Cherevin. In a way, it almost seemed a pity that Costner was not the main hero of this story. He was excellent as the cool and resourceful Harper. More importantly, he reminded me – and a relative of mine – that he was charismatic as ever and had not lost his screen presence. Branaugh had the more difficult task of serving as the movie’s director, which he performed with great style; and portraying the movie’s leading villain. And he did a superb job of conveying Cherevin’s frightening personality without being over-the-top about it.

Considering that “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” was released in January, I was not expecting it to be some top-notch action thriller that usually rakes in a lot of money during the summer movie season. And the movie pretty much lived up to my expectations. I could never regard “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” as one of the better action movies I have seen. And I certainly do not regard it as highly as I do the other four movies in the Jack Ryan movie franchise. But as I had earlier pointed out, Kenneth Branaugh still managed to direct the movie with a good deal of style and energy. The plot may not have been that original, but it still proved to be entertaining. And the first-rate performances from a cast led by Chris Pine did a lot to make this movie somewhat worthy to me.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”

Some time ago, I had posted a list of my top ten favorite episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” (1995-2001). After re-examining my list, I was surprised to discover that the Season Three episode, (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario” was not on it.

In this penultimate episode of Season Three, B’Elanna Torres discovers a Holodeck program in which Commander Chakotay and the former Maquis crewmen stage a mutiny against Captain Janeway and the rest of Voyager’s crew. Torres’ participation in the program is interrupted by Tom Paris, who reminds her of their lunch date. He eventually becomes interested and participates in the program himself. After his first participation in the program, Paris and Torres discover that other members of the crew have also been enjoying it. But Paris’ second participation in the Holodeck program reveals that it had not been completed by its mysterious author. During a meeting, the senior staff discovers that Voyager’s Security Chief, Tuvok, had created the program (which he called “Insurrection Alpha”)as a training session for the junior members of his Security staff during the ship’s first months in the Delta Quadrant. As the Maquis and Starfleet factions of the crew began to merge, Tuvok decided to abandon the program.

Due to the crew’s enthusiasm toward “Insurrection Alpha”, Paris and Tuvok agree to expand the program into a complete holonovel. As the two officers begin to edit the original program, they suddenly find themselves trapped behind a forcefield in a simulation of the ship’s brig. A holographic version of the deceased Seska, a former Cardassian spy, appears and explains that before she had escaped the ship to join the Kazon back in Season One, she rewrote the simulation as a virtual deathtrap for Tuvok. Some of the real Voyager’s systems – like the transporter and communication systems, along with the Holodeck’s safety protocols) go offline. And Paris and Tuvok are forced to endure one hazardous situation after another as they try to stay alive.

After my recent viewing of both “Worst Case Scenario” and my top ten episode list, I discovered that I could not change the latter. However . . . if I had created a list of my twenty favorite “VOYAGER” episodes, “Worst Case Scenario” would have ranked at #11. Yes, it is that good. The Holodeck proved to be an excellent creation for STAR TREK writers to use for some first rate episodes. “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” had episodes like (2.03) “Elementary, Dear Data” and(3.21) “Hollow Pursuits”. “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” had the delicious (4.10) “Our Man Bashir” and (6.18) “Inquisition”. However, in my opinion, “STAR TREK VOYAGER” has aired some of the best Holodeck episodes I have ever come across. And one of those episodes is “Worst Case Scenario”.

Kenneth Biller did an excellent job of giving viewers a glimpse of the tenuous situation between the two factions aboard Voyager during its early months in the Delta Quadrant. Even more importantly, the “Insurrection Alpha” could be viewed as an ominous warning of what could have happened if the crew had failed to integrate during those early months. It is ironic that this episode aired over three years before Season Seven’s (7.04) “Repression” – which featured an actual Maquis rebellion unwittingly instigated by Tuvok, of all people. Tuvok’s program also featured the crew’s only Talaxian, Neelix, joining the rebellion. The real Neelix commented that Tuvok had incorrectly read his character during those early days. A reviewer named Jim Wright agreed. However, I have my doubts. I can recall Neelix’s numerous complaints about Janeway’s tendency to interrupt their journey for an exploration of planet or system. And I can recall one or two occasions in which the Talaxian cook and the Starfleet captain had clashed. I suspect that Tuvok had a pretty good jibe on Neelix’s character back in those days.

Normally, I could claim that “Worst Case Scenario” focused on the entire crew. After all, the episode began with Torres discovering the program and ended with Janeway declaring herself as more than a starship captain, but a community leader as well. However, I noticed that the ship’s chief pilot, Tom Paris, was featured in more scenes than any one else . . . which is why I tend to view him as the episode’s main character. I read somewhere that actor Robert Duncan McNeill considered “Worst Case Scenario” as one of his favorite episodes of the show’s first three seasons. And I can see why. Biller had produced a well written script that allowed McNeill to engage in some of his funniest work. I could also say the same for actor Tim Russ, who portrayed the stoic Tuvok. McNeill and Russ also proved that their screen teaming in (3.08-3.09) “Future’s End” was no mere fluke. They had a strong chemistry that allowed their characters to create one of the best comedic teams in science-fiction television.

But despite Robbie McNeill and Tim Russ’ dominance in this episode, other cast members were given the opportunity to shine. Ethan Phillips gave a charming performance as Neelix, whose enthusiasm for “Insurrection Alpha” almost seemed to bubble. Roxann Dawson provided one of the funniest moments in B’Elanna’s caustic reaction to Paris’ suggestion of a passionate romance between the ship’s chief engineer and chief pilot. Robert Baltran was able to capture both the holographic Chakotay’s determination to rebel against the holographic Janeway and the real Chakotay’s sly and humorous reaction to his role in Tuvok’s story. Bob Picardo was both funny and chilling as the Doctor in the holoprogram. Both Kate Mulgrew and Garrett Wang gave solid support as Captain Janeway and Harry Kim. But Martha Hackett’s return as Seska, the former Bajoran Maquis that turned out to be a Cardassian spy, proved to be a real pleasure. She was deliciously villainous as ever, confirming by belief that her Seska might be one of the best television villains around. And her holographic death in this episode proved to be more rewarding that her real death in (3.01) “Basics, Part II”.

I realize that “STAR TREK VOYAGER” is much reviled by many TREK fans. And I also realize that many would be very reluctant to accept my belief that the series had aired some of the best Holodeck episodes in the franchise. But whether they would agree with me or not, no one could ever convince me that an original episode like “Worst Case Scenario” was overrated, or at best, barely tolerable.

“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 6/8




Cole finally appeared outside Olivia’s apartment and knocked. Seconds later, she opened the door and greeted him with a kiss. “Harry told me what happened,” she said. “Did you stop them?” She led him into the living room, where Cole spotted Harry on the sofa.

“Yeah,” Cole replied in a gruff voice. “They were about to use the vanquishing potion they had prepared for me, years ago. Phoebe had once used it on a fellow ‘Brother’ from the Thorn Brotherhood. She probably thought it would work on Marbus, since he’s a blood relative.”

Olivia’s green eyes expressed disbelief. “You mean they still have some of that potion, after nearly two-and-a-half years?”

A grim Cole replied, “Apparently, they haven’t lost their penchant for leftovers. Remember the power stripping potion that was used on me?” The McNeills nodded. “They had first prepared it, when Prue was still alive. Actually, just before her death. Only,” his voice became tinged with bitterness, “Phoebe had kept it in her dresser, all that time.” He faced Harry. “What had exactly happened, tonight?”

The youngest McNeill related his visit to the Halliwell manor, including Phoebe’s vision and his detection of another presence in her mind. “I tried to tell them,” Harry added. “Hell, I was about to argue with them, all night long. But they wouldn’t listen.” He paused. “Well, except for Paige. She seemed willing to listen to me.” Both Cole and Olivia exchanged knowing looks. “But the others overruled her. Especially Piper, who had practically threw me out of the house. Why would anyone go through so much trouble of sending witches after Marbus?”

Cole had no idea. But before he could reply, Olivia answered, “Distraction.” The two men stared at her. “It’s simple. Whoever wants Giovanni dead must know that he or she can’t kill Cole . . . unless his powers are stripped. So, the Magan Corporation hires a telepath to send false visions to Phoebe, hoping the Halliwells would kill Marbus.” She paused. “Cole would end up distracted, leaving Giovanni free to be killed.”

“And the corporation would be free to buy the Oakville property from Pamela Giovanni,” Cole added grimly. “Clever.”

Nodding, Olivia said, “Yep, very clever. This means that someone at Magan knows a lot about you and your relationship with both Phoebe and Marbus. In other words . . .”

“. . . he or she is a daemon,” Cole finished. “Great!” The doorbell rang. The three people exchanged curious glances. Cole added, “Where you expecting someone?”

Olivia shook her head. “No.” She stood up and headed for the front door. After a quick glance through the peephole, she faced her two companions, wearing a smirk. “Guess who.” She opened the door and the Charmed Ones entered the apartment. “Ladies, how may I help you?”

Cole felt a surge of anger, at the sight of the three witches. His anger increased, as Piper glared at him. “Look who’s here,” she remarked in a cool voice. She turned to Olivia. “We’re here to see Cole.”

“Well, you’ve seen me,” Cole growled. “What do you want?”

The oldest Charmed One marched up to the half-daemon, still glaring. “Why did you stop us from saving Giovanni?” she demanded.

“You were trying to kill my uncle!” Cole retorted through clenched teeth.

“He was going to murder your client!”


Piper heaved an exasperated sigh. “Phoebe had a premonition!”

Phoebe stepped forward. “She’s right, Cole. It’s possible that your uncle might not be what he pretends to be. I saw him kill Giovanni.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Like I said . . . bullshit!”

The middle Charmed One’s face reddened. “Cole . . .”

“So, where is he?” Piper demanded. “Your uncle.”

“With Mark.”

The two older Halliwells gasped aloud. “Are you crazy?” Piper cried. “He’s going to kill Giovanni for sure!” She turned to her sisters. “Let’s go. We’ll find another way to get inside that house.”

Cole immediately sprung to his feet and blocked Piper’s path. “If you touch Marbus, I’ll kill you,” he said with great menace.

The air inside the living room grew still. Everyone stared at Cole in pure shock – except for Harry, who seemed fascinated by the confrontation between the witches and the half-daemon. And Olivia, who warned, “Cole!”

Finally, Piper said, “What did you say?” Her voice had dropped several degrees in temperature.

Cole took a few steps closer to his ex-sister-in-law. “I said . . . if you so much as touch my uncle, you are going to be . . . one . . . dead . . . witch! And I am not joking!”

Paige gasped out loud. A sigh emitted from Olivia’s mouth. Phoebe moaned. And Harry’s green eyes sparkled with interest. “Are you threatening me?” Piper demanded.

“Yes.” Cole allowed his face to hover inches away from the witch’s. “I am threatening you, Piper. Stay away from my uncle!”

“He’s a killer! You rather save him and let him kill an innocent?”

“The only innocent that will end up dead is Marbus, if you kill him.”

Piper shot back, “Phoebe’s premonition . . .”

“. . . was a fake,” Cole finished. “Ask Harry.”

The Charmed Ones stared at the telepath, who nodded. “It’s true. When Phoebe had her vision, I managed to pick up on it. And I felt the presence of someone else. Someone other than Phoebe or myself. I got the feeling that someone may have been feeding her a false vision.”

“That’s not possible!” Phoebe protested. “I would have known.”

Harry shook his head. “I doubt it. Only another telepath would have known the difference.”

“But . . .”

Olivia spoke up. “Phoebe, Harry’s right. It’s possible that you were given a false vision. It’s been done before. Even to those with the power of precognition.”

“How do we know that you’re telling the truth?” Piper retorted.

Harry looked at the oldest Halliwell, as if she had lost her mind. “Why the hell would I lie?” he demanded.

Olivia added, “Piper, we can prove it. All we have to do is find a way to flush out this telepath. Meanwhile, I suggest that you hold off from trying to kill Marbus.”

Piper grumbled, “Great! An innocent man could end up dead, while we . . .”

“Marbus isn’t going to . . .” Cole began angrily.

Olivia raised her hand, signaling Cole not to speak. “Piper, please try to relax. You’ve already failed to kill Marbus, once. He’s now on guard and Cole has made it clear what will happen if you do go after him, again. And I think you should consider what Harry has told us. Can you please be patient?”

Her eyes flashing with anger and disbelief, Piper retorted, “Are you really going to take the side of a demon over an innocent . . .”

“Then I gather that your answer is yes,” Olivia said, interrupting. “Great! We’ll get back to you about that plan to flush out the telepath.” She smiled at the oldest Charmed One. “I’ll see you later.”

Cole walked over to the door and opened. “In my words that means ‘get the hell out’!”

Piper glared at the half-daemon and marched toward the opened door. A tense Phoebe quickly followed. Only Paige lingered briefly. She shot pleading looks at the McNeills. “Sorry about the mix up,” she said, and followed her sisters out of the apartment. As she walked past Cole, they exchanged uneasy looks. He closed the door behind the trio, saddened by the possibility that his friendship with Paige might end over a family feud.

“And how do you plan to prove that Phoebe’s visions were false?” Harry asked, interrupting Cole’s thoughts. “I thought my word would be good enough.

A silent pause filled the living room. Then Olivia replied, “I’ve got an idea.” She paused dramatically. “We allow Paige and her sisters to kill Marbus. And have Cole seek revenge. Once that happens, I’m sure that Magan Corporation will make its move on Mark Giovanni. We’ll just wait and see what happens.” Both Cole and Harry regarded her with disbelief.


“He’s still alive,” Artemus said to Nina Kriegler, as she entered his library, the following morning. “Marbus is still alive. The Charmed Ones failed to kill him.”

Nina frowned. “Are they dead? Did Marbus kill them?”

Artemus glanced at his assistant. “Tell her, Prax.”

Prax revealed that according to their warlock spy, the Charmed Ones did appear at the Giovanni home to kill Marbus. Only Belthazor had intervened before the witches could perform the deed. He added, “They’re all still alive, by the way. However, from what Kelson had witnessed, the Charmed Ones might be angry at Belthazor.”

“Which means they still might believe that Marbus is a threat,” Nina added with a smile. “And Belthazor is torn between protecting Giovanni and his uncle. It’s perfect.”

One of Artemus’ brows formed a dubious arch. “Is it? Perhaps the Charmed Ones know they had been set up. Perhaps your telepath should send another vision to the witch.”

Nina shook her head. “Not now. Not until we’re sure. We could be overplaying our hand. Thanks to the vision, the witches are suspicious of Marbus. And probably Belthazor. I say we wait until Monday and see what happens.”

“I only hope you’re right,” the daemon said with a sigh. He paused and stared at the darklighter through narrowed eyes. “By the way, I have an extra job for your warlock. If he’s willing to accept it. And if our plan succeeds.”

Nina stared at her employer.


Later that afternoon, Olivia, Cole and the former’s father paid the Halliwells a visit. After Olivia rang the doorbell, Paige appeared at the front door. “Oh,” she said, as she stared wide-eyed at the visitors. “Hi . . . umm guys. What are you doing here?”

“Hi Paige.” Olivia smiled at her friend. “We’re here about what happened, last night.”

Paige’s face flushed pink. “Oh.” She widened the door, allowing the visitors to enter. “Come in.”

Phoebe, Leo and Piper with Wyatt in her arms, made their way into the living room. “What’s going on?” the latter demanded. She cast a dark look at Cole.

“We’re here to talk about my plan,” Olivia said. “You said that you would give us a chance to prove that Marbus wasn’t a threat. Well, I have a way to prove it.”

Leo spoke up. “Piper told me what happened, last night.” He glared at the half-daemon. “About how Cole had threatened to kill her.”

Not again! Olivia rolled her eyes. “Leo, please? Let’s put that all behind us, at the moment. Right now, all we want to do is find out who wants the Charmed Ones to kill Marbus.”

“I still find it hard to believe that someone could send me a false vision,” Phoebe insisted.

Olivia stared at her. “Why?”

“Because I would have known.”

“How? You’re not a telepath.”

The middle Halliwell faltered under Olivia’s direct stare. “I . . . I don’t know. I guess . . . I guess I would have sensed it. I mean I am psychic.”

“Phoebe, we all have psychic abilities,” Jack said. “Which is why we possess powers like telekinesis and levitation. Now, I realize that you have precognition and can even guess if time is out of whack . . . at least according to Leo. But do you have any telepathic abilities?”

Phoebe hesitated. “No.”

“Are you trained or experienced in detecting and blocking telepathic action?”

She sighed. “No.”

“Then there is a good chance that Harry might be right about someone sending you visions,” Jack concluded.

Paige said, “What’s your plan, Livy?”

Relieved that her friend had returned to the main topic, Olivia revealed her plan. It was simple. The Halliwells were to fake Marbus’ death – just as Phoebe had faked Cole’s death nearly three years ago – using the old Belthazor potion. Naturally, Giovanni would experience some anxiety over the daemon’s disappearance. But more importantly, Cole will become “wild” with grief and “hunt” down the Charmed Ones. With Giovanni unprotected, the Magan Corporation minions will eventually make their move on the wine grower. “We’ll spring a trap and find out whether or not if Marbus had been set up,” Olivia finished.

“What if nothing happens?” Piper asked.

Jack answered, “Well . . . you can make a genuine attempt to kill Marbus, but I wouldn’t advise it. I don’t think Cole will allow that to happen.”

“My God, Jack!” Leo exclaimed. “Are you just going to allow Cole to kill them?”

The middle-aged witch rolled his eyes. “May I ask how any of us are going to stop him, if they do kill Marbus? I guess you better hope and pray that we do learn the truth behind Phoebe’s vision. Or better yet that you ladies don’t kill the man.”

“I believe demon is the correct term,” Piper nastily corrected.

“Whatever!” Jack barked. “The fact is, Piper, if you and your sisters decide to seriously go after Marbus, you might suffer the consequences.”

Cole added menacingly, “So I suggest that you accept Olivia’s plan.” He glared at Piper.

At that moment, Olivia realized that Cole was a natural-born ham. Granted, she also felt certain that his threats regarding his uncle had been serious. But there was an element of the theatrics behind his threat. Pure ham.

“We’ll do it,” Paige quickly replied. “Right Piper? Pheebs?”

The two older sisters mumbled their consent.

“Okay,” Olivia continued. “Let’s make the attempt on Marbus’ life, tomorrow night.”

Phoebe asked, “Why then?”

“Timing. Mark Giovanni has invited Marbus over for Sunday dinner.” Olivia gave both Piper and Phoebe stern looks. “And ladies, please remember that you are going to ‘fake’ his death. And not actually kill him. Right?”

“Whatever,” Piper airily replied.

Olivia refrained – with much effort – not to roll her eyes in disgust.


Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1910s


Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1910s:


1-Mary Poppins

1. “Mary Poppins” (1964) – Walt Disney personally produced this Oscar winning musical adaptation of P.L. Travers’ book series about a magical nanny who helps change the lives of a Edwardian family. Directed by Robert Stevenson, the movie starred Oscar winner Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

2-Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

2. “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” (1965) – Ken Annakin directed this all-star comedy about a 1910 air race from London to Paris, sponsored by a newspaper magnate. Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox and Terry-Thomas starred.


3. “Titanic” (1953) – Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb starred in this melodrama about an estranged couple and their children sailing on the maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic. Jean Negulesco directed.

4-Eight Men Out

4. “Eight Men Out” (1988) – John Sayles wrote and directed this account of Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. John Cusack, David Strathairn and D.B. Sweeney starred.

5-A Night to Remember

5. “A Night to Remember” (1958) – Roy Ward Baker directed this adaptation of Walter Lord’s book about the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Kenneth More starred.

6-The Shooting Party

6. “The Shooting Party” (1985) – Alan Bridges directed this adaptation of Isabel Colegate’s 1981 novel about a group of British aristocrats who have gathered for a shooting party on the eve of World War I. James Mason, Edward Fox, Dorothy Tutin and John Gielgud starred.

7-The Music Man

7. “The Music Man” (1962) – Robert Preston and Shirley Jones starred in this film adaptation of Meredith Wilson’s 1957 Broadway musical about a con man scamming a small Midwestern town into providing money for a marching band. Morton DaCosta directed.

8-My Fair Lady

8. “My Fair Lady” (1964) – Oscar winner George Cukor directed this Best Picture winner and adaptation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe’s 1956 Broadway musical about an Edwardian phonetics professor who sets out to transform a Cockney flower girl into a respected young lady to win a bet. Audrey Hepburn and Oscar winner Rex Harrison starred.

9-Paths of Glory

9. “Paths of Glory” (1957) – Stanley Kubrick directed this adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s anti-war novel about a French Army officer who defends three soldiers who refused to participate in a suicidal attack during World War I. Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou and George Macready starred.

10-Somewhere in Time

10. “Somewhere in Time” (1980) – Jeannot Szwarc directed this adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1975 time travel novel called “Bid Time Return”. Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer starred.

“A ROOM WITH A VIEW” (1985-86) Review



“A ROOM WITH A VIEW” (1985-86) Review

Ah, Merchant and Ivory! Whenever I hear those particular names, my mind usually generates images of Britons in Edwardian dress, strolling along a London street, across a wide lawn or even along some city boulevard in a country other than Great Britain. In other words, the images from their movie, “A ROOM WITH A VIEW” usually fills my brain.

Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory produced and directed this adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel, which first hit the theaters in Great Britain during the early winter of 1985. Four months later, the movie was released in American movie theaters. Forster’s tale is basically a coming-of-age story about a young Edwardian woman, who finds herself torn between her superficial and snobbish fiancé and the free-thinking son of a retired journalist, whom she had met during her Italian vacation. The movie begins with the arrival of young Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin/chaperone Charlotte Barlett to a small pensione in Florence, Italy. Not only does Lucy have a reunion with her family’s local clergyman, the Reverend Mr. Beebe; she and Charlotte meet a non-conformist father and son pair named Mr. Emerson and his son, George. The Emersons agree to exchange their room – which has a view – with the one occupied by Lucy and Charlotte. Lucy becomes further acquainted with George after the pair witness a murder in the city’s square and he openly expresses his feelings to her. Matters come to a head between the young couple when George kisses Lucy during a picnic for the pensione‘s British visitors, outside of the city. Charlotte witnesses the kiss and not only insists that she and Lucy return to the pensione, but also put some distance between them and the Emersons by leaving Florence.

A few months later finds Lucy back at her home in Windy Corners, England. She had just accepted a marriage proposal from the wealthy, yet intellectually snobbish Cecil Vyse; much to her mother and brother Freddy’s silent displeasure. Matters take a turn for the worse when George and Mr. Emerson move to an empty cottage in Windy Corners, she soon learns that both George and his father have moved to her small village, thanks to Cecil’s recommendation. With George back in her life, Lucy’s suppressed feelings return. It is not long before she is internally divided between her feelings for George and her growing fear that Cecil might not be the man for her.

What can I say about “A ROOM WITH THE VIEW”? It was the first British-produced costume drama I had ever seen in the movie theaters. Hell, it was the first Merchant-Ivory production I had ever seen . . . period. Has it held up in the past twenty-eight years? Well . . . it is not perfect. The problem is other than Julian Sands’ performance, I cannot think of any real imperfections in the movie. A view have pointed out that its quaintness has made it more dated over the years. Frankly, I found it fresh as ever. Who am I kidding? I loved the movie when I first saw it 28 years ago, and still loved it when I recently watched it.

One would think that the movie’s critique of a conservative society would seem outdated in the early 21st century. But considering the growing conservatism of the past decade or so, perhaps “A ROOM WITH A VIEW” is not as outdated as one would believe, considering its Edwardian setting. Mind you, I found some the Emersons’ commentaries on life rather pretentious and in George’s case, a bit long-winded. But I cannot deny that their observations, however long-winded, struck me as dead on. More importantly, Foster’s novel and by extension, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s screenplay, makes Foster’s observations more easy to swallow thanks to a very humorous and witty tale. Another aspect that I enjoyed about “A ROOM WITH A VIEW” was how Foster’s liberalism had an impact on the love story between Lucy and George. I find it interesting how Foster managed to point out the differences between genuine liberals like the Emersons and pretenders like Cecil Vyse, who use such beliefs to feed his own sense of superiority.

While watching “A ROOM WITH A VIEW”, it seemed very apparent to me, that it is still a beautiful movie to look at. The movie not only won a Best Adapted Screenplay award for screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; but also two technical awards for the movie’s visual style. Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow, Brian Savegar, Elio Altamura served as the team for the movie’s art direction and won an Academy Award for their efforts. The art designs they created for the movie’s Edwardian setting is stunning. I can also say the same about the Academy Award winning costume designs created by Jenny Beavan and John Bright. Below are two examples of their work:



And Tony Pierce-Roberts earned a much deserved Oscar for his beautiful and lush photography of both Tuscany in Italy and various English locations that served as the movie’s settings.

One of the best aspects of “A ROOM WITH A VIEW” has to be its cast of entertaining, yet flawed characters. First of all, the movie featured rich, supporting characters like Lucy’s charming, yet gauche brother Freddy; the very verbose and open-minded Reverend Beebe; the always exasperated Mrs. Honeychurch; the indiscreet and pretentious novelist, Eleanor Lavish (in some ways another Cecil); and the snobbish and controlling Reverend Eager. And it is due to the superb performances of Rupert Graves, the always entertaining Simon Callow, Rosemary Leach, the even more amazing Judi Dench and Patrick Godfrey that allowed these characters to come to life.

Both Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliot earned well-deserved Academy Award nominations for their unforgettable performances as Charlotte Barlett, Lucy’s passive-aggressive cousin; and George’s brash and open-minded father, Mr. Emerson. Charlotte must be one of the most fidgety characters ever portrayed by Smith, yet she conveyed this trait with such subtlety that I could not help but feel disappointed that she did not collect that Oscar. And Elliot did a marvelous job in portraying Mr. Emerson with the right balance of humor and pathos. Daniel Day-Lewis did not earn an Oscar nomination for his hilarious portrayal of Lucy’s snobbish and pretentious fiancé, Cecil Vyse. But he did win the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actor. Although there were moments when I found his performance a bit too mannered, I cannot deny that he deserved that award.

The role of Lucy Honeychurch made Helena Bonham-Carter a star. And it is easy to see why. The actress did an excellent job of not only portraying Lucy’s quiet, yet steady persona as a well-bred Englishwoman. And at the same time, she also managed to convey the character’s peevishness and a passive-aggressive streak that strongly reminded me of Charlotte Barlett. The only bad apple in the barrel proved to be Julian Sands’ performance as the overtly romantic, yet brooding George Emerson. Too be honest, I found a good deal of his performance rather flat. This flatness usually came out when Sands opened his mouth. He has never struck me as a verbose actor. However, I must admit that he actually managed to shine in one scene in which George openly declared his feelings for Lucy. And with his mouth shut, Sands proved he could be a very effective screen actor.

Looking back on “A ROOM WITH A VIEW”, I still find it difficult to agree with that blogger who stated that it had become somewhat dated over the years. Not only does the movie seem livelier than ever after 28 years or so, its theme of freedom from social repression still resonates . . . something I suspect that many would refuse to admit. Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, along with Oscar winner screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala created a work of art that has not lost its beauty and its bite after so many years.

“DIE HARD” (1988) Review



“DIE HARD” (1988) Review

Almost twenty-six years ago, 20th Century Fox released an action-adventure film that kicked off a movie franchise that has lasted with the addition of four other films and twenty-five years. I am speaking of the 1988 movie called “DIE HARD”. And the ironic thing is that I had no intention of seeing the film when it first hit the movie theaters during that summer of ’88.

Based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel called “Nothing Lasts Forever” (which sounds like a title for a Bond movie), “DIE HARD” was directed by John McTiernan. Many would be surprised to know that the 1979 movie was a sequel to an earlier Thorp novel published in 1966 called “The Detective”, which was adapted into a 1968 movie that starred Frank Sinatra. Thorp had hoped a movie adaptation of the 1979 novel would also star Sinatra. But the singer-actor was not interested in a sequel to his movie. Later, the novel was being considered as a sequel to the Arnold Schwartzenegger 1985 movie, “COMMANDO”. But Schartzenegger was not interested. Oh dear. Finally, the novel became a literary source for “DIE HARD”. However, the Fox studio executives were not thrilled at the idea of Bruce Willis being cast as the movie’s lead, due to his reputation as a comedic television actor. But cast he was . . . and the rest is Hollywood history.

“DIE HARD” told the story of off-duty NYPD detective John McClane, who arrived in Los Angeles to reconciled with his estranged wife, Holly Gennero McClane. Husband and wife had clashed several months earlier when she accepted a job promotion with the Nakatomi Corporation that sent her to Los Angeles. A hired limousine driver named Argyle drives McClane to the Nakatomi Plaza building in Century City for the company’s Christmas party. While, the detective changes clothes, the party is disrupted by the arrival of terrorist Hans Gruber and his armed followers. The latter seize control of the tower and the partygoers as hostages. Only McClane, armed with a pistol, manages to evade capture. Gruber’s intentions are revealed, when he interrogates Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi for the code to the building’s vault that holds $640 million in bearer bonds. When Takagi refuses to cooperate, Gruber executes him. McClane manages to kill one of Gruber’s men, taking the latter’s weapon and radio. He uses the radio to contact the Los Angeles Police Department during a gunfight with more of Gruber’s men on the roof. The L.A.P.D. eventually sends patrolman Sergeant Al Powell to investigate. When McClane drops one of Gruber’s dead associates on Powell’s patrol car roof, the latter finally summons the police force to respond. The incident also draws the attention of an ambitious local news reporter named Richard Thornburg, who is determined to learn McClane’s identity. Despite the arrival of Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson, numerous men that include a S.W.A.T. team, and later the F.B.I., McClane and Holly eventually realizes that matters have grown worse for both of them.

Most moviegoers and critics view “DIE HARD” as the best in the franchise. Is it the best? Hmmm . . . I really cannot say. As much as I love the movie, I certainly do not consider it perfect. The movie possesses flaws that I had not noticed during previous viewings and one particular flaw that I have noticed since I first saw it years ago. One aspect about “DIE HARD” that I found particularly annoying was the movie’s pacing. Director John McTiernan did a pretty good job with the movie’s pacing. Unfortunately, two-thirds into the movie, McTiernan began to lose steam and the pacing began to drag. Trimming the story would not have helped. I had no problem with the narrative during this film’s period. But I did have a problem with the director’s pacing. One of Roger Ebert’s complaints about “DIE HARD” was its unflattering portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department. And if I must be brutally honest, I share his complaint. I am not a great admirer of the L.A.P.D. or any police force. But the police’s incompetency portrayed in the movie struck me as damn near unrealistic. I feel that McTiernan and screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart went a bit to the extreme to make John McClane look good. And if I must be brutally frank, the movie does feature some rather cheesy dialogue – especially from the villains. However, my biggest complaint regarding “DIE HARD” – the one flaw I have been aware of since I first saw the film – occurred in the final action scene. Back in the 1980s, it was popular in action or thriller movies to temporarily “resurrect” a villain/villainess before killing him or her for good. This happened with Glenn Close’s character in the 1987 movie, “FATAL ATTRACTION”. This also happened to Alexander Godunov’s character in “DIE HARD”. And you know what? I hate this kind of showy action. I found it stupid and cringe-worthy when I first saw the movie. And I still find it a major blot on this otherwise first-rate movie.

Flaws or no flaws, “DIE HARD” is without a doubt, a first-rate action thriller that helped defined the genre during the 1980s. While reading the plot for Roderick Thorp’s 1978 novel, I was surprised to discover how much it resembled the 1988 film. There were some changes made in the latter. The main hero acquired a new name and shed at least two decades in age. Instead of a daughter, McClane’s wife ended up as one of the hostages. The franchise’s producers used the daughter character in the fourth film, “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD”. The German terrorist – renamed Hans Gruber – was more interested in pulling a heist than making a political statement. The Al Powell character is at least fifteen years older. And unlike Thorp’s novel, “DIE HARD” ended on a more optimistic note for the two main characters.

Producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver were lucky to gather such a talented cast and director for this movie. Thanks to the actors and director John McTiernan, “DIE HARD” featured some excellent dramatic moments. My favorite dramatic scenes include the tense quarrel between John and Holly before Gruber’s arrival at the Christmas party, Gruber’s interrogation of Joseph Takagi for the codes to the executive vault, Holly’s tense interactions with Gruber, Takagi employee Harry Ellis’ attempt to convince McClane to surrender to Gruber, McClane’s accidental encounter with Gruber, and the many radio conversations between McClane and Powell. I found the latter especially impressive, considering that Bruce Willis and Reginald VelJohnson spent most of the movie apart.

But “DIE HARD” is, above all, an action film. And thanks to some members of the cast, a group of talented stuntmen and crew, the action sequences featured in the movie proved to be very memorable. If I had to choose those scenes that really impressed me, they would have to be the ones that featured Al Powell’s awareness of the presence of terrorists at the Nakatomi Tower thanks to some gunfire and a dead body that landed on his patrol car, the S.W.A.T. team’s failed assault on the building, and McClane’s retaliation against the terrorists’ massacre of the S.W.A.T. team (using explosives strapped to a chair). I was also impressed by the brief, yet final confrontation between the McClanes and Gruber. But for me, the most spectacular sequence turned out to be the rooftop explosion that claimed the lives of more Gruber men and two F.B.I. agents hovering above in an helicopter. Well-known cinematographer Jan de Bont and the special effects team really outdid themselves in that particular sequence.

As I had earlier pointed out, “DIE HARD” featured some outstanding performances. Bruce Willis was already a television star thanks to the 1980s series, “MOONLIGHTING”. But his superb, yet tough performance as the besieged N.Y.P.D. detective John McClane not only made him an action star, but also a bonafide movie star. I believe that Holly Gennero McClane proved to be one of Bonnie Bedelia’s best roles, thanks to her excellent performance as McClane’s passionate and no-nonsense wife. “DIE HARD” also made a star of Alan Rickman, thanks to his deliciously sardonic performance as the ruthless Hans Gruber. In fact, his Gruber happens to be one of my favorite cinematic villains of all time. Reginald VelJohnson’s career also benefited from his first-rate performance as the compassionate L.A.P.D. officer, Sergeant Al Powell.

There were other performances in “DIE HARD” that caught my attention. Ballet dancer Alexander Godunov gave a very competent performance as Gruber’s right-hand man, Hans, who wants revenge for McClane’s killing of his younger brother. Hart Bochner was very entertaining as Holly’s gauche co-worker, Harry Ellis. However, I must admit that I found the character somewhat one-dimensional. William Atherton was very memorable as the ambitious and slimy news reporter, Richard Thornburg. Clarence Gilyard revealed a talent for comic acting, in his excellent portrayal of Gruber’s sardonic and cold-blooded computer specialist, Theo. Andreas Wisniewski was excellent as Hans’ younger brother, the no-nonsense Karl. Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush (who reunited in the 1989 James Bond movie, “LICENSE TO KILL”) made a great screen team as the arrogant F.B.I. Special Agents Johnson and Johnson. De’voreaux White, someone I have not seen in years, provided his own brand of sharp humor and the movie’s best line as McClane’s limousine driver, Argyle. And finally, the late Paul Gleason proved to be very entertaining as the not-so-bright Deputy Police Chief Dwayne Robinson.

I find myself back at that moment in which I pondered over the reputation of “DIE HARD”. Do I still believe it is one of the best action movies ever made? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have seen my share of action movies that strike me as equally good – including other films in the DIE HARD franchise. And the movie does have its share of flaws. But “DIE HARD” is also a personal favorite of mine, thanks to John McTiernan’s excellent direction, a first-rate adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s novel, superb action-sequences and outstanding performances from a stellar cast led by Bruce Willis. Over twenty-five years have passed since the movie’s initial release. And honestly . . . it has not lost one bit of its magic.


Fox Plaza Tower in Century City, CA aka the Nakatomi Tower

“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 5/8




Jack McNeill summoned his assistant. “Sophie, I need you to reach Chan Wei Ku for me, please. And transfer the call to me.”

“Yes, Mr. McNeill,” Sophia replied. A minute later, she added, “Mr. Chan is on Line 11.”

After thanking his assistant, Jack picked up the line. “Hello? Wei? How are you? It’s Jack McNeill.”

“Jack! It’s good to hear from you.” Chan Wei Ku happened to be the owner of an herbal shop in Chinatown. Jack had received occasional help from him in the past. Wei’s family had emigrated from Canton to San Francisco, when the Communists took over China in 1949. His Chinese-born friend had been five years old at the time. He and Jack first met at Stanford University during the mid-1960s, when both discovered that the other was a magick practitioner . . . and took martial arts lessons from the same teacher. Unlike Jack, who became a Wiccan witch, Wei became a Taoist priest.

After a brief period of small talk, the two friends began to discuss business. “I had received a message from you,” Jack said. “About the Soma plant. You have some good news for me?”

“I don’t know if this is good news, or not,” Wei replied. “After your trip to that temple in London, I’ve been racking my brains. There is this Hindu archakar I had met in Singapore, three years ago. A priest. His name Sri Amal Sharma and he’s part of this order located in Sri Lanka. Perhaps I can contact him and tell him about your situation.”

Jack replied, “I would greatly appreciate it. One last thing Wei. You remember my daughter’s friend, don’t you? Cole Turner?”

A pause followed before Wei replied, “Oh yes. Belthazor. I remember him. He was most helpful with getting my cousin a job at his firm. Hmmm, I never thought I would be grateful to a daemon.”

“Well, this daemon has an uncle.” Jack paused. “Remember Marbus, from thirty-six years ago?”

A gasp left Wei’s mouth. “He-ya! The daemon that was nearly killed by witches? The one who was framed? He’s Beltha . . . uh, Mr. Turner’s uncle?”

Jack added, “On Cole’s maternal side. Anyway, Cole’s client is Mark Giovanni, who is trying to maintain possession of this property in Oakville. And Marbus is helping him.” Jack went on to explain the situation between Cole’s client and Magan Corporation. “I wouldn’t have brought this up, except that a demonic assassin tried to kill Giovanni, yesterday. And one of Marbus’ associates from his order had been killed, while trying to protect the man.”

“Why send a daemon to kill this Giovanni?” Wei asked. “Why not send a mortal?”

“Good question. My guess is that whoever sent this assassin, knew that Cole was a daemon. And wanted to make sure that she kill Giovanni and escape as quickly as possible. And that means . . .”

Wei finished, “. . . the head of this Magan Corporation is also a daemon. Or someone within the company. Or perhaps the entire corporation is a front for a daemon.” He sighed. “Too many possibilities.”

Jack said, “And that’s why I’m asking you to look into this matter. And to start with Arthur Winslow, the corporation’s CEO.”

“Hmmm, sounds interesting,” Wei replied. “I’ll see what I can find.”

“One last thing, Wei. Please be careful. Like I said, one of Marbus’ associates has already been killed.” Jack paused. “I don’t want the same to happen to you or anyone you know.”

“Don’t worry. I”ll be careful. And I’ll get back to you, as soon as I have some information. See you later, Jack.”

The witch replied, “Bye Wei. Take care.”

And the two friends hung up.


Harry eased his silver Mazda sports car into an empty parking space not far from the Halliwell manor. He switched off the engine, climbed out of the car and made his way to the salmon-colored house. As he paused in front of the door, he glanced up at the sky and inhaled. The heavy, damp air promised rain – either by tonight, or tomorrow. Then he rang the doorbell.

Nearly two minutes passed before someone opened the door. It was Leo. “Harry,” he declared, looking surprised. “What are you doing here?”

Harry replied, “I came to pick up Paige. Is she ready?”

Leo hesitated. “Pick her up. Are you two . . . dating?”

Suppressing an annoyed sigh, Harry shot back, “No, I’m here to pick her up for a little shopping trip. Is she ready?”

“Uh . . . just a minute.” Leo stepped back and allowed Harry to enter the manor. The witch headed straight for one of the chairs inside the living room. “So,” Leo continued, “what will you two be shopping for?”

“A few things. Uh, do you mind letting her know I’m here?”

The whitelighter’s face turned red from Harry’s quiet rebuke. “Yeah. Sure.” Then Leo turned to face the staircase. “Paige! You have a visitor!” He then smiled at Harry, whose own smile was also strained.

The twenty-six year-old witch and the sixty year-old whitelighter never had an easy relationship. From the moment Harry began practicing witchcraft, some nine years ago, he has rejected Leo’s attempts to form a whitelighter-witch relationship. Harry resented the whitelighters’ assumption that they had every right maintain vigil over witches and enforce their rules and moral code. Unlike Bruce and Olivia – who had eventually rejected whitelighter authority – Harry had never formed a friendship with Leo. The latter found the young witch’s personality too abrasive and slightly ambiguous. And Harry found Leo too self-righteous for his own tastes.

Finally, the youngest Charmed One appeared on the staircase. She shot a quick glance at Harry and quickly made her way downstairs. Her two older sisters materialized from the kitchen. “Harry! Sorry I’m late. I’m running a little behind schedule.”

“That’s okay,” Harry said with a smile. “The store doesn’t close until eleven, anyway.”

Piper frowned. “What store?”

“It’s a store that sells tools and equipment for magick practitioners,” Harry replied. “Great bargain prices.”

A nervous cough left Piper’s throat. “Oh. Uh, Paige? Is it really wise to go there? I mean, what if you meet witches or other people who practice magick? And what if they find out that you’re a Charmed One?”

“C’mon Piper! We’re not exactly a secret anymore,” Paige exclaimed. “Harry’s family knew about us, long before we did. So did a lot of warlocks and demons – including Cole. I mean . . . what’s the big deal?” Harry smiled, while her sisters failed to answer. He could not have said it better, himself. Paige faced him. “Let me get my purse and then we can . . .”

A gasp left Phoebe’s mouth, before her body went stiff. Before Harry could comment, he also gasped. Thanks to his telepathy, he had picked up on Phoebe’s premonition. He saw Marbus and Giovanni inside the latter’s library. And he saw the daemon kill the wine grower with a fireball. Once the vision ended, Harry shook his head. Had he imagined things, or had he also sensed a third presence?

“Oh my God!” Phoebe cried. “It’s Cole’s uncle!”

Piper frowned. “What about him?”

Phoebe continued, “I saw him kill Mark Giovanni! He’s been lying to us, all along!”

“What?” Paige demanded. “Are you sure?”

Recalling the third presence, Harry tried to put matters into perspective. “Wait a minute!” he cried. “There’s something wrong here.”

“What are you talking about?” Phoebe shot back, bristling. “I know what I saw!”

Harry sighed. “Look Phoebe, I saw the same thing. My telepathy had picked up on your vision. But I . . .”

“Then we all know what we have to do,” Piper added grimly. “Vanquish this Marbus. Paige, get the Book of Shadows.”

The youngest Charmed One hesitated. Harry could have kissed her. “Wait a minute,” she said in an uneasy voice. “Is it possible that Phoebe might be mistaken? I mean . . . she didn’t even have to touch anything.”

“Of course I’m not mistaken!” Phoebe protested. “I know what I saw. Besides, my powers might be developing. Look Paige, this isn’t the time to hesitate. A man’s life is in danger and it’s our duty to save him.”

“But if Harry thinks . . .”

Leo spoke up. “Paige, I’m sorry, but if Phoebe saw . . . Marbus kill an innocent, she must have done so for a good reason. This isn’t a time to raise questions.”

Harry shot back, “I think it is! When I saw . . .”

“Excuse me.” Piper gave Harry a cool look. “Harry, if you want to help us, fine. Be my guest. Otherwise, you’re welcomed to leave. We have work to do.” She walked over to the door.

Harry knew a “get out” message, when he heard one. An oath left his mouth, as he stood up. “Look, I think you’re making a big mistake. I felt an . . .”

“Good night, Harry.” Piper opened the door. Realizing that he had no choice but to leave, Harry stomped out of the house without uttering a word.

Once outside, he quickly rushed to his car and retrieved his cell phone from his jacket. Then Harry dialed the number to Cole’s office. No answer. Apparently, the half-daemon had left. Then he tried Cole’s penthouse. Again, no answer. A frustrated sigh left Harry’s mouth. Where in the hell was Cole? The young witch climbed into his car and quickly drove away.


“This is interesting,” Piper commented, as she perused the Book of Shadows. “The vanquishing method for Marbus is similar to Belthazor’s. Gee, I wonder why.”

A dismayed looking Leo asked, “You mean you have to go through the whole preparation, again? The potion and getting a piece of Marbus’ flesh?”

Phoebe spoke up. “Not exactly. Why don’t we use some of the potion we had prepared for Cole? I know it’s been nearly three years, but I think there’s still some left.”

Leo frowned. “Would it work?”

“Why not? Don’t forget I had used some on a member of the Thorn Brotherhood. I mean if it had worked on a ‘blood brother’ of Cole’s, it’s bound to work on his uncle, who’s an actual blood relative.”

“Are you sure?” It was now Piper’s turn to look dubious. “I thought it had all been used, after Leo and I . . .” She stopped and immediately closed her mouth.

Paige, who had been observing her family with dismay, stared at Piper. “When you and Leo had . . . what?”

“Never mind. Phoebe, why don’t you check the fridge?”

Phoebe left the attic and raced downstairs. Paige, Piper and Leo immediately followed. By the time they had caught up with the middle Halliwell inside the kitchen, Phoebe was waving a small bottle of liquid in triumph. “Eureka! Here’s one. There are two bottles left.”

“Okay,” Piper said, “let’s go.”

Paige hesitated. “Wait a minute! Are you sure? I mean . . . what if Phoebe’s premonition is wrong? She didn’t touch anything, when she got it. And what was Harry trying to tell us?”

A frustrated sigh escaped from Piper’s mouth. “Paige, this has got to stop. You have to decide . . . right now, on whether you’re with us or not.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Piper shot back, “It means . . . that we haven’t felt like the Power of Three, lately. You’re so wrapped up in the McNeills that you tend to hang on to everything they say. Especially Olivia. And I’m beginning to wonder if you realize which family you actually belong to.”

Phoebe added in a warning voice, “Piper . . .”

“Oh, c’mon Pheebs! Why deny it? You feel the same as I do! In fact, you’ve been complaining about it, for the past several months.”

Resentment and anger surged within Paige. She hated her sisters’ demand that she follow every move they made. And she resented that they seemed incapable of accepting her as a competent witch – even after two years. How could she not help but prefer the McNeills’ more steadfast support of her growth as a witch? At least they did not treat her as an amateur. However, Paige did not want to endanger what she had spent the past two years doing – namely becoming a member of her family. So, she heaved a morose sigh and murmured, “Yeah, okay. Let’s get on with this.”

“Good.” Piper took Paige’s hand. “Phoebe?” The middle sister took Paige’s other hand. “Leo, don’t forget to keep an eye on Wyatt. Okay, let’s go.” And Paige orbed them out of the house . . . with great reluctance.


Upon reaching an intersection, Harry reached inside his glove compartment for a slim leather book. His address and phone. He turned the page, until he came upon the information on one Cole Turner. At the bottom of the page was the half-daemon’s cell phone number. The witch sighed with relief and dialed the number.

A few rings followed until Cole’s voice answered, “Hello?”

Harry cried, “Cole? Where are you?”

“I’m on my way home. I had to do a little shopping,” the half-daemon answered. “What’s wrong?”

“I need you to get over to Mark Giovanni’s home right away!” Harry replied. “And stop them!”

Cole hesitated. “Stop who?”

“Paige and the others! Phoebe got a vision of your uncle killing Giovanni. Because I’m telepathic, I was able to accidentally see her vision, also!”

Cole practically shouted, “Wait a minute! Marbus is going to kill my client?”

“No!” Harry took a deep breath. “No, you misunderstand me. When I had read Phoebe’s vision, I felt the presence of someone else. As if someone had deliberately planted the vision in her mind!”

“Shit!” Cole paused, before he added. “All right. Look, I’m almost at my building. I’ll park my car and get over to Giovanni’s home. Go on ahead to Olivia’s apartment and tell her everything. I’ll see you soon.”

“Right.” As he hung up, Harry hoped like hell that Cole would be able to reach his uncle in time.


The Charmed Ones orbed into the middle of Mark Giovanni’s foyer. Hearing footsteps, they immediately rushed into the nearest empty room – namely the library. Phoebe glanced around. “I think this is the room where I saw Marbus kill Giovanni,” she whispered.

Seconds later, the footsteps grew nearer. The sisters hid behind a large sofa, as two men entered. They were Mark Giovanni, and Cole’s uncle, Marbus. “. . . you like to have a drink?” Giovanni was saying. “After an hour or two in my wife’s company, I’m sure that you need one.”

Marbus responded with an embarrassed chuckle. “Yes, uh, a shot of whiskey would be fine.”

As Giovanni turned his back on the demon, Phoebe hissed, “Now Piper!” The oldest Charmed One shot up from behind the sofa and with her hands, froze the mortal.

“What the hell?” Marbus demanded.

Phoebe and Paige joined Piper. “Excuse us,” the latter said in a cold voice, before she raised her arm to throw the potion at the demon. Before she could, Cole suddenly appeared. “What the hell?”

The half-daemon telekinetically snatched the bottle of potion from Piper’s hand, causing the latter to gasp. The bottle then disappeared in a ball of flames. “Cole!” Phoebe cried. “What are you doing?” He then waved a hand and the three sisters found themselves back inside their living room.

“Son-of-a-bitch!” Piper growled. “Harry must have told him. Paige! Take us back!”

“Huh?” The youngest Charmed One seemed frozen in a state of confusion.

Piper cried, “Paige! Now!”

“Wait a minute!” Phoebe demanded. “We need another bottle!” She rushed toward the kitchen, and within a minute returned. “Okay.”

Paige stared at her. “Okay what? I think we’ve lost the momentum!”

Glaring at the younger woman, Piper demanded, “Paige, will you please send us back?”

“But . . .”

“I thought you said that you were with us?”

Sighing, Paige took hold of her sisters’ hands. They orbed out of the manor. Instead of returning to Giovanni’s home, they ended up on the sidewalk, outside the three-story mansion – on their rear ends.

“Shit!” Piper cried once more. “He’s blocked us from orbing into that house!”

Phoebe struggled to her feet. “What do we do now?”

“How about we return home?” Paige suggested. Piper glared at her.

Ruefully, Phoebe agreed with her younger sister. “Looks like we have no choice, Piper.” The Charmed Ones linked hands and Paige orbed them back to the manor.

Upon their arrival, they found Leo rushing downstairs. “What happened? I thought I heard your voices.” When the sisters failed to answer, he added, “Did you get him?”

“No!” Piper replied sharply. “Cole got there in time to save Marbus. And now, Paige can’t orb us back into Giovanni’s house.

Anxiety flitted across Leo’s face. “My god! Do you think that Giovanni is still alive?”

Paige sighed. “Of course he is. Cole’s there.”

“Speaking of Mr. Turner,” Piper coldly added, “he has a lot explaining to do. Both him and Harry.” She glared at Paige once more. Phoebe watched, as the youngest sister looked away.


“What the bloody hell just happened?” Marbus demanded. Uncle and nephew faced each other, inside Giovanni’s library.

Cole sighed. “Phoebe and her sisters. Apparently, she had a premonition of you killing Mark.”

“Wha . . . a premonition?” Marbus’ eyes widened with disbelief. “And why would I want to kill your client?”

“I don’t know. You got me. But Harry, who had warned me about their attack, told me that when Phoebe’s vision appeared, he had felt another presence.” Cole paused. “Harry’s a telepath.”

Marbus’ mouth formed a grim line. “Hmmm, sounds like another telepath has been messing with your wife’s . . .”

“Ex-wife,” Cole corrected.

“. . . messing with her mind.” The older daemon sighed. “Now what are we going to do? I have three powerful witches after me, and we can’t leave your frozen client unprotected.”

Cole replied grimly, “Don’t worry about Phoebe and her sisters. I’ll take care of them. I’ve already placed a shield around the house, making it impossible for them to return.”

Marbus frowned. “You’re not going to harm them, are you?”

“I’ll try not to.” And Cole disappeared.