Below is an article about a traditional English that may (or may not) have been created in the mid 18th century called Toad-in-the-Hole.



Created as a cheap comfort dish, Toad-in-the-Hole originated Alnmouth in Northumberland, England. Toad-in-the-Hole is basically a dish that consists of sausages in Yorkshire Pudding batter. Ironically, the first recipe for the dish consisted of pigeon, not sausages. And that recipe was found in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 cookbook called “The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy”. She called the dish “Pigeon-in-the-Hole”.

How did the dish acquired his name? Well . . . here is an idea. Alnmouth has a golf course which can at certain times of the year be overrun with Natterjack toads. It was at just such a time, that a golf tournament was being played and the leader made his putt, only to have the ball ejected by a toad that had been quietly asleep in the bottom of the cup. Who created the dish? Well . . . on hearing of the players misfortune, achef at the town’s hotel where the players were staying devised the dish, thinking it would resemble a toad rising from the eighteenth, and served it that night. Is this really the truth?

The dish with sausages may have first appeared in 1769. Toad-in-the-Hole became very popular with members of the Royal Philosophers. They enjoyed the dish at least once or twice a year at the Mitre Tavern, the dining club’s chosen dining venue. Toad-in-the-Hole was served alongside such delicacies as venison, fresh salmon, turbot and asparagus.

Below is a recipe for “Toad-in-the-Hole” from the website:



1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon Kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb of bangers (an English sausage made with pork and breadcrumbs), or good quality pork or beef sausage links (in casings)


Whisk together the flour with the salt and a pinch of pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour in the eggs, milk, and melted butter into the well and whisk into the flour until smooth. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8×12 or 9×9 casserole dish with vegetable oil (we use high smoke point grapeseed or canola oil). Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Put the empty dish on the rack. Preheat the oven with the dish in it to 425°F.

While the oven is coming to temperature, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet on medium high. Add the sausages and brown them on at least a couple sides.

When the sausages have browned, and the dish in the oven hot, pull the oven rack out a bit, put the sausages in the casserole dish, and pour the batter over the sausages. Cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden.

Serve at once.

Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1850s


Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1850s:



1-Django Unchained

1. “Django Unchained” (2012) – Quentin Tarantino directed this Oscar winning tale about a newly freed slave who searches for his still enslaved wife with the help of a German-born bounty hunter in Mississippi. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson starred.


2-The Charge of the Light Brigade

2. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1938) – Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland starred in this exciting adventure story set in both British India and the Crimean War. Michael Curtiz directed.


3-Race to Freedom The Underground Railroad

3. “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” (1994) – Courtney B. Vance and Janet Bailey starred in this television drama about the adventures of four slaves who escape from a North Carolina plantation, while being tracked by a pair of slave catchers. Don McBrearty directed.


4-Skin Game

4. “Skin Game” (1971) – James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. starred in this dark comedy about a pair of con artists who clean up in a slave selling scheme in Missouri and Kansas, before their scam finally catches up with them. Paul Bogart directed.


5-Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

5. “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” (1954) – Stanley Donen directed this famous 1954 musical about six backwoodsmen brothers When a backwoodsman in the Oregon Territory, who decides to marry after their oldest brother brings home a wife. Jane Powell, Howard Keel and Russ Tambyln starred.


6-The First Great Train Robbery

6. “The First Great Train Robbery” (1979) – Michael Crighton wrote and directed this adaptation of his novel about three Victorian criminals who plot to rob a shipment of gold for British troops serving during the Crimean War, from a moving train. Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne Down starred.


7-Wuthering Heights

7. “Wuthering Heights” (1939) – William Wyler directed this superb adaptation of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel. Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier and David Niven starred.


8-Westward the Women

8. “Westward the Women” (1951) – William Wellman directed this excellent Western-adventure about a trail guide hired by a Californian rancher to escort a wagon train of women heading west to marry men who have settled in the rancher’s valley. Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire starred.


9-Mountains of the Moon

9. “Mountains of the Moon” (1990) Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen starred in this historical account of Victorian explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke’s expedition to find the source of the Nile River on behalf of the British Empire. Bob Rafelson directed.



10. “Jezebel” (1938) – William Wyler directed Oscar winners Bette Davis and Fay Bainter in this adaptation of Owen Davis Sr.’s 1933 play about a headstrong Southern woman, whose actions cost her the man she loves. Henry Fonda and George Brent co-starred.

“The Corellian Connection” [PG-13] – Prologue

Here is a sequel to my first SW story – “Altered Lives”:


SUMMARY: A message between Bail Organa and a fugitive senator sets in motion, changes for Anakin, Padme and another familiar character.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest – but please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: All characters and things STAR WARS belong to Lucasfilm. All non-original dialogue in this story is credited to “Revenge of the Sith”, which is based upon the story and screenplay by George Lucas. The characters, Romulus Wort aka Darth Rasche, Voranda Sen and Thalia Yeb are my creation.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of five stories set between ROTS and ANH. Also, this particular story is more or less an Alternate Universe story set nine months, following “Altered Lives”




The Imperial shuttle entered Andalia’s atmosphere, before it smoothly made its descent upon the planet’s capital, Amir. The young Sith Lord, Darth Rasche, stared through the shuttle’s cockpit window and saw a delegation of officials gathered on a nearby landing platform.

Rasche stood up and made his way to the other end of the shuttle, where four platoons of clonetroopers sat. “Men, we’re now approaching Andalia. Get ready.” The troopers nodded.

Minutes passed before the shuttle finally settled upon the landing platform. The shuttle doors opened, as the boarding ramp extended outward. Rasche took a deep breath and stiffly marched down the ramp. The four platoons marched close behind him. A light-brown skinned Andalian man, covered in a deep teal robe, stepped forward to greet the Imperial visitors. “Good day, um . . .?”

“Darth Rasche,” the Sith Lord coolly finished. “I’m here as a liasion of the Imperial Senate.”

The Andalian’s eyes flew wide open. “Liaison? I . . . I don’t understand. Why would the Senate . . .?”

Rasche regarded the other man with cool and impassive eyes. “You’re harboring a Jedi on this planet,” he accused. “In fact, I believe that the Knight in question is here in Amir.” He took a step forward, forcing the Andalian to step back. “Where is she, Senator Yeb? Where is Anjuli Nab?”

The Andalian delegates regarded the Sith Lord with confusion. The one who had greeted Rasche replied, “I’m afraid that you have me confused with someone else, sir. I am not Solipo Yeb. My name is Junipero Khan, head of the Andalian State Council. Senator Yeb has left for his personal retreat, a few hours ago.”

The Emperor’s apprentice became still. He took a deep breath and used the Force to extend his senses. Then he felt it . . . another Force sensitive signature. One that could only come from a Jedi. The signature emitted from the capital’s busy center. Rasche glared at the Andalian politician. “You lie! The Jedi is here in this city! I feel her presence.” He summoned the clonetroopers’ company commander. “Lieutenant Necros, have a squad set up a detention center, nearby, and place Representative Khan and the rest of these . . . prominent members of the Council there, where they can pass the time.”

Outrage flared in Junipero Khan’s dark eyes. “You cannot arrest us! We’re members of the High Council! We haven’t done anything!”

“You are harboring a Jedi fugitive! An enemy of the Empire!” Rasche barked, “Necros! Do as I ordered!”

The clone officer ordered a squad of troopers to arrest the High Council members. “Do you honestly expect to take over an entire planet’s governing body, because of some fugitive?” Khan exclaimed in disbelief. “The citizens of Andalia will not allow it!”

Rasche glanced upward. Imperial Destoyers descended from the sky like locust. The Sith Lord then stared pointedly at the Council leader. “I’m afraid that your citizens no longer have any say in the matter.”


A male Andalian stepped out of a landspeeder and covered his head with his cloak’s hood. He glanced furtively about and rushed inside a two-story building made from pale-rose adobe mud. The building, called the Karidote Seminary, happened to be a chapel that served as a sanctuary for those citizens who wanted privacy for religious mediation. Senator Solipo Yeb strode past a series of doors, until he came upon the last one on the right. Once more, he glanced around to make sure that no one saw him. Then he knocked.

Over a minute passed before the door slid open. A tall, lithe female with similar light-brown skin, along with high cheekbones, wide brown eyes and long dark hair worn in a single braid, stood in the doorway. “Senator Yeb?” she said in a low, husky voice. “What is it?”

The senator threw back his hood. “Anjuli, you must leave at once. Imperial troops have arrived in the city. And I believe that the Senate has sent a liaison to arrest you.”

The Jedi Knight’s face became slightly pale. “The Senate’s liaison?” She paused with a frown on her face. “I thought I had sensed a presence, but I wasn’t sure. And this person is . . .?”

Sighing, Solipo added, “His name is Darth Rasche.”

Fear crept into Anjuli’s eyes. “Darth? A Sith Lord? The Emperor has a Sith Lord working for him?”

“Anjuili!” Solipo exclaimed sharply. “This is no time for questions! You must leave! The planet will soon be overrun by Imperial troops!”

The pair entered Anjuli’s room. The sparse décor struck a deep contrast to the more lavish furnishings favored by many of the planet’s citizens. The room consisted of a pallet, a low table, two large cushions next to the table, and a wardrobe filled with her personal belongings. Anjuli grabbed hold of a burlap sack and opened the wardrobe. Then she began dumping its contents into the sack. “If I were you, Senator, I would also leave. Get your family and get out. Hide out in the Outer Rim Territories.”

Solipo sighed. “I’ve already made arrangements for my sister to leave, not long after your arrival.”

The Jedi Knight finished packing. “I’m ready. Let’s go.” She led Solipo out into the corridor. Blaster fire whizzed past their heads. The pair glanced down the corridor and saw three clone troopers approaching them with blaster rifles. Anjuli barked at Solipo, “Get out of here! Now!” She nodded at the door situated at the other end of the corridor. “That way!”

Without hesitation, the senator sprinted down the corridor, toward the door indicated by Anjuli. Just as he reached it, Solipo glanced over his shoulder. He saw the Jedi Knight use her lightsaber to deflect the troopers’ fire with great ease. He opened the door and found himself in a lush, formal garden with hedgerows, low trees and flowerbeds. A stonewall surrounded three-fourths of the garden. And a wooden gate divided the wall in the middle.

A minute later, a panting Anjuli emerged from the building. “They’ve been taken care of,” she murmured. “Let’s get out of here, before it’s too . . .” She broke off, as a tall man dressed in a black tunic, black pants and a maroon cape leapt over the stonewall.

“Anjuli Nab!” the tall man growled. “I arrest you in the name of the Emperor! You are charged with treason!”

Anjuli stared at the man with disbelieving eyes. “Romulus Wort? You’re . . . you’re a Sith Lord?”

“The name is now Darth Rasche!” Wort shot back. He whipped out his lightsaber. Its red blade illuminated his handsome face.

Blue light lit up above the Jedi Knight’s lightsaber. “Senator Yeb!” The mention of his name popping into his mind startled Solipo. “The minute we start fighting, I want you to leave. Head for your transport and get out.”

Solipo opened his mouth to speak, but the two Force users began to ignore him. He watched anxiously, as the pair circled each other, cautiously. The moment their blades connected, the senator sprinted toward the wooden gate. Upon reaching it, he glanced over his shoulder. Both Anjuli and Wort . . . or Rasche . . . or whatever his name was, swung their lightsabers at each other with the ease of master swordsmen. Solipo almost felt inclined to remain behind and watch. But his sister and freedom waited. The senator inhaled sharply. Then he passed through the gate and into the streets of Amir.


Red and blue blades clashed in the gardens of the Karidote Seminary. Utilizing the Sorensu form, Anjuli Nab coolly parried Rasche’s aggressive attacks against her. The Sith apprentice could not help but admire the Jedi Knight’s lightsaber skills. As he recalled, Nab possessed a talent for luring her opponents with minimal physical moments. Rasche decided that he would not fall for such strategy.

The moment he took another step toward her, Nab made her move. The Jedi Knight swiftly executed a 360-degree spin, otherwise known as the Jung Ma move. She would have sliced Rasche’s midsection in half, if he had not parried the blow. But he did . . . by dropping to one knee and swinging his weapon in front of his face.

Nab gasped in surprise and Rasche sprung to his feet, forcing her weapon away with another swing. Then he finally went on the attack. Rasche delivered a series of fast swings that kept his opponent off guard. The attacks continued, until Rasche forced Nab against a stone bench, causing her to fall over backward. Then Rasche sliced off her sword hand. She cried out in pain.

“Why?” she whispered, clutching her burnt stump with her uninjured hand. “I don’t understand.”

Rasche coolly replied, “It’s simple. You’re Jedi. I had dedicated nearly all of my life to an order that proved to be nothing more than an archaic institution that ruined the lives of others. Why should I remain loyal to it?”

“Ruined . . . lives?” Nab exclaimed. “The Jedi served democracy! Brought light to the galaxy! How could you . . .?”

Harsh laughter escaped from Rasche’s mouth. “I used to believe the same. Until I learned the truth about the Jedi. But do you want to know why I really hate them? Hate all of you? Because despite their power, they could not prevent the deaths of those I cared about. In fact, I believe that they are responsible for his . . . those deaths. And they allowed the so-called Chosen One in our midst. The Jedi weren’t all wise and powerful. They were stupid! And blind.”

Confusion whirled in Nab’s dark eyes. “I don’t understand.”

Rasche stared down at her with contempt. “Pity. I guess you never will.” With that remark, he plunged his lightsaber into the Jedi Knight’s chest.

Seconds passed before he stared at his former colleague’s dead body. Six or nine months ago, he would have felt a little remorse over her death. But Rasche had learned a lot about the institution he had served most of his life. Before the Jedi records had been destroyed, he learned about the Council’s duplicity in keeping their diminished power to the Force a secret from the Senate. He learned of their plans to take control of the Senate during the Clone War’s waning days. He also learned that the late Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had been responsible for the creation of the clone troopers. These discoveries, along with knowledge of Master Windu and Master Yoda’s illegal assassination attempts on Palpatine, led Rasche to realize that the order he had served had been nothing but a lie. His anger deepened and he developed hatred toward the Jedi Order. And a deep contempt for those who continued to serve it.

A clone trooper appeared in the seminary’s garden. “Lord Rasche,” he announced, “the Andalia High Council members have been incarcerated, as ordered. Three divisions have taken positions throughout the planet. So far, no resistance has been met.”

“Good,” Rasche replied with a nod. “Also send a squad to track down and arrest Senator Solipo Yeb. As soon as possible.”

The trooper nodded. “Yes, my Lord.” Clutching his blaster rifle, he rushed back inside the building. Rasche picked up the fallen Jedi Knight’s lightsaber and followed closely behind.


“CALIFORNIA” (1947) Review

california1947 - b

“CALIFORNIA” (1947) Review

I am a history nut. And one of my favorite historical periods that I love to study is the Antebellum Era of the United States. One of my favorite topics from this period is the California Gold Rush. I also love movies. But despite this love, I have been constantly disappointed by Hollywood’s inability to create a first-rate movie about Gold Rush.

I may have to take back my comment about Hollywood’s inability to produce a first-rate movie or television production about the Gold Rush. There were at least three that managed to impress me. Unfortunately, the latest film about the Gold Rush that I saw was Paramount Pictures’ 1947 film, “CALIFORNIA”. And it did not impress me.

Directed by John Farrow, “CALIFORNIA” told the story of how California became this country’s 31st state. The story, written by Frank Butler and Theodore Strauss, is told from the viewpoints of a handful of characters – a female gambler/singer named Lily Bishop, a former U.S. Army officer-turned-wagon train guide named Jonathan Trumbo, a former slave ship captain and profiteer named Captain Pharaoh Coffin, and a Irish-born farmer named Michael Fabian. The movie starts in 1848 Pawnee Flats, Missouri in which female gambler Lily Bishop is ordered by the town’s female citizens to leave, when someone accuses her of cheating. She manages to join a wagon train bound for California, due to the generosity of a westbound emigrant named Michael Fabian. Unfortunately, the wagon train’s guide, Jonathan Trumbo and a few other emigrants object to Lily’s presence on the train. Lily and Trumbo become attracted to each other, but the latter’s refusal to face his feelings get in the way. Before the wagon train can reach the Sacramento Valley, a traveler reveals the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill to the emigrants. Despite Trumbo’s efforts, the emigrants abandon the train and rush toward the goldfields. Lily departs with another gambler named Booth Pannock, who injured Trumbo with a whip. By the time the latter reaches the Sacramento Valley with Fabian, he discovers that Lily and Pannock are employed by a former sea captain-turned-businessman Captain Pharaoh Coffin at his saloon in Pharaoh City.

Trumbo learns from the former emigrants that Pharaoh not only control the countryside – including the goldfields – that surround Pharaoh City. He also realizes that he is still in love with Lily, despite her growing relationship with Pharaoh. Lily realizes that despite her attempt to view Pharaoh as a man worthy of her love, he is still a ruthless and manipulative tyrant determined to take control of the entire California territory. Even worse, Pharaoh is haunted by his past as a slave ship captain and has a tendency to lapse into psychotic ramblings. Matters between Trumbo and Pharaoh becomes even more heated when the former decides to organize political opposition to Pharaoh by convincing Fabian to run as a delegate for the Monterey convention on statehood. As supporters for California statehood, both Trumbo and Fabian could end Pharaoh’s dreams of a West Coast empire.

One of the descriptions of “CALIFORNIA” described it as an “epic” account of how California became a state. It occurred to me that this could have been the perfect narrative for a two-to-three hour film or a miniseries. But a historical epic crammed into a 97-minute film? It finally hit me that the narrative for “CALIFORNIA” was simply too much and too vague for a 97-minute Western. The movie could have worked well if the story had been about a wagon train trek to California . . . or the Gold Rush experiences of the main characters . . . or simply a political drama about California becoming a state. But to cram all three potential narratives into a movie with the running time of a B-oater was just ridiculous. And if I must be brutally frank, this short running time, combined with so many subplots and an inability to focus on one particular theme really damaged this film. Another aspect about “CALIFORNIA”that really turned me off was the amount of songs featured in it. There were times – especially in the film’s first five to ten minutes – when I wondered if I was watching a Western or a musical. The movie’s opening sequence featured some overblown tune about pioneers with a montage of westbound emigrants on the Oregon and California trails. To make matters worse, not long after the dispersed Fabian-Trumbo wagon train reach California, audiences are subjected to another pretentious musical montage about those same pioneers being caught up in the search for gold.

And it seemed such a pity. “CALIFORNIA” really had a first-rate cast. Barbara Stanwyck, whom I consider to be one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood film history, was perfectly cast as the bad good-woman Lily Bishop. After all, this was a role that she had played to perfection in previous films. A good number of critics felt that the Welsh-born Ray Milland was miscast as Jonathan Trumbo. I would have agreed that he seemed miscast on paper. But . . . watching this movie made me remember that Trumbo was not some frontiersman who had been raised on the Western plains. He was an educated man, probably born and raised on the East Coast, and a former Army officer. And Milland not only pulled it off, he also proved to be a first-rate action man and generated a great deal of heat with Stanwyck, especially in scenes in which their characters engaged in some kind of psuedo-masochistic courtship. I was surprised to see that George Coulouris also had a strong screen chemistry with Stanwyck. He also did a great job in portraying the ruthless, yet slightly psychotic Captain Pharaoh. Although, I feel that the portrayal of his madness went over-the-top in one of the movie’s final scenes. And Barry Fitzgerald was perfect as the compassionate, yet strong-willed farmer, Michael Fabian. His character could have been a one-note good guy, but Fitzgerald infused a good deal of charm and energy into the role, making it one of my favorites in the movie. The movie also featured solid supporting performances from Albert Dekker, Frank Faylen, Gavin Muir and yes . . . even Anthony Quinn. I am reluctant to include Quinn, because of his limited appearance in the movie. He still managed to give an excellent performance.

“CALIFORNIA” had other virtues. One glance at the movie’s opening scenes pretty much told me that this was a beautiful looking movie. And the man responsible for the film’s sharp and colorful look was cinematographer Ray Rennahan, who had already won two Oscars for his work on 1939’s “GONE WITH THE WIND” and 1941’s “BLOOD IN THE SAND”. The artistry that Rennahan poured into his previous work was pretty obvious in the photography for “CALIFORNIA”, as shown in the images below:

california1947-c california1947-d

The movie also featured excellent work from the team responsible for the art direction, Roland Anderson and Hans Dreier; and the two set decorators, Sam Comer and Ray Moyer. I also enjoyed the costumes designed by Edith Head (for Stanwyck and the movie’s other actresses) and Gile Steele (for Milland and the movie’s other actors). Both Head and Steele did a pretty solid job of re-creating the fashions of the late 1840s, even if I did not particularly found them mind blowing. I certainly enjoyed Victor Young’s lively score for the movie. However, I have mixed feelings for the songs written by Earl Robinson and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg. I found the songs written for the movie’s montages – “California” and “The Gold Rush” rather pompous and overblown. But I have to admit that two of their other songs – “I Should ‘A Stood in Massachusetts” and “Lily-I-Lay-De-O” very entertaining.

I have come across reviews of the movie that accused John Farrow of uninspired or flawed direction. Mind you, I found nothing particularly special about his direction. I thought he did a solid job. But I doubt that he or any other director could have risen about the rushed and overstuffed screenplay penned by Frank Butler and Theodore Strauss. If the pair had stuck to one particular theme for this movie, the latter could have been a decent and entertaining piece of work. Instead, audiences were left with an overblown and pretentious story stuffed into a movie with a 97-minute running time. What a shame! What a shame.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”


Nearly seven years ago, (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”, a Season Four episode of “LOST” aired for the first time and I wrote a review of the episode nearly two years after it first aired.  However, after a recent viewing, I decided to write another article on the episode:


“LOST” RETROSPECT: (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”

I am beginning to wonder if (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”, a Season Four episode from “LOST”, might be one of the most misunderstood episodes of the series. When I recently viewed it for a second time in four years, I came to a realization that I may have misunderstood it.

“Something Nice Back Home” is basically a Jack Shephard episode that featured three main subplots – two of them about the very intense Dr. Shephard. One of them centered on James “Sawyer” Ford, Claire Littleton and Miles Straume’s efforts to reach the Oceanic 815 survivors’ beach camp, after surviving the near massacre at the Others’ compound by mercenary Martin Keamy and his merry band of killers. The second subplot was about Dr. Juliet Burke’s efforts to save Jack’s life after he had been struck down by appendicitis. And the final subplot turned out to be a flash forward about Jack’s time with fellow castaways Kate Austen and Aaron Littleton in Los Angeles, three years in the future.

During the first subplot, Sawyer, Claire and Miles’ jungle trek to the beach camp proved to be a tense little adventure that obviously appealed to many viewers. Ever since Sawyer had rescued Claire during Keamy’s attack upon the Others’ compound in (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, fans began labeling him as the series’ “hero”. After my second viewing of the two episodes, I found this odd. Aside from his rescue of Claire, I cannot recall Sawyer doing anything worth noticing. Former Others leader Ben Linus had saved the survivors of Keamy’s attack and the Smoke Monster by leading them out of the besieged compound in “The Shape of Things to Come”. And in “Something Nice Back Home”, pilot Frank Lapidus saved Sawyer, Claire, Miles and Aaron with a warning and prevented them from encountering a very angry Keamy and his surviving men. Frank also convinced Keamy to use another jungle trail in order to distract the latter from the castaways’ hiding place.

One might view Sawyer’s protective attitude toward Claire as an example of his heroism. People are entitled to do so . . . even if I have trouble accepting this. Mind you, I found the exchanges between Sawyer and Miles rather amusing. But when Sawyer caught Miles shooting odd stares at Claire, the former decided to go into a belligerent protective mode and warn Miles to keep his distance. This incident, along with Miles’ detection of Danielle Rousseau and Karl’s bodies were signs of Miles’ psychic ability, but Sawyer was unaware of it. Eventually, Sawyer regretted his warning, when Claire disappeared into the jungle with the Smoke Monster, who was in the form of Christian Shephard – hers and Jack’s father. Like I said, this subplot provided plenty of suspense, adventure and snark. But “LOST” never answered some of the questions that it raised. Why did Claire leave with the Man in Black (Smoke Monster)? Why did she leave Aaron behind? What happened to her during those three years before her reunion with her fellow castaways in Season Six? And was Claire’s disappearance nothing more than a plot device for Kate’s story line featuring those years with baby Aaron?

The second plot line focused on Jack’s appendicitis. In fact, this episode began with this subplot, using the trademark shot of Jack’s eye opening. Not much came from this particular subplot. While gathering surgical instruments and medical supplies at the Staff Station, both Jin and Sun Kwon discovered that one of the freighter newcomers, Charlotte Lewis, spoke Korean. Jin informed Charlotte that he will harm her fellow freighter passenger, Daniel Faraday, if she did not secure a place for the pregnant Sun aboard the Kahuna freighter. The subplot also revealed Juliet’s talent for leadership. She also realized that Jack still loved Kate and that her romantic friendship with him was nothing more than an illusion.

In the end, Charlotte did not ensure Sun’s departure from the island. Juliet did in the Season Four finale, (4.12) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part I”. Knowledge of Charlotte’s ability to speak Korean only allowed her to issue a warning to Jin about the dangers of the island before her death in Season Five’s (5.05) “This Place is Death”. And Juliet’s leadership abilities were never explored in future episodes. Adhering to Hollywood’s sexist codes, John Locke ended up acting as leader of the castaways left behind during the island’s time jumps. Sawyer assumed the role of “leader” following Locke’s departure from the island, via the Orchid Station’s donkey wheel.

And to this day, “LOST fans have no idea on what led to Jack’s attack of appendicitis. Many have speculated, claiming that either it was a sign of the Island’s displeasure over Jack’s eagerness to leave or a symbol of his subconscious reacting to Jack’s desire. Who knows? Fellow castaway Rose Nadler expressed her belief to husband Bernard that Jack’s illness was an ominous warning. In her view, everyone “gets better” on the Island. Naturally, she could only speak from her personal experiences and knowledge of what happened to Locke’s legs. I have decided not to view Jack’s appendicitis from any metaphoric point of view and see it as nothing more than an opportunity for “LOST” writers to end the burgeoning Jack/Juliet romance. When Jack made it clear that he wanted Kate to participate in his operation, Juliet realized that Jack was not in love with her and told Kate. What made this whole mystery surrounding Jack’s infirmity ridiculous is that three years and two seasons later, island guru Jacob told Jack and a few others that staying or leaving the island (and accepting the role as island leader) was a matter of choice.

The episode’s last episode – the 2007 flash forward featuring Jack and Kate’s romance in Los Angeles – seemed to have generated the greatest amount of contempt from the fans and the media. Many fans blamed Jack’s personal flaws for his meltdown and break-up with Kate, complaining about his alcohol and drug dependence, his jealousy toward Kate’s feelings for Sawyer (who had remained on the island), and his controlling nature. They believed if Jack had kept these flaws in check, he could have enjoyed a happy life with Kate and Aaron. Others believed that Jack’s visit to Hurley at the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute triggered a realization that he needed to return to the Island in order to meet his “destiny”.

I have a different views on the subplot featuring Jack’s meltdown. One, I believe it was the best subplot in “Something Nice Back Home”. It was the only subplot that helped drive the series’ main narrative. And unlike the Sawyer/Claire/Miles and the appendicitis subplots, it did not end with unanswered questions. More importantly, the episode raised a question that many fans, including myself, had failed to notice. What really led to Jack’s post-Island meltdown and break-up with Kate? In my previous review, I had expressed an opinion that Jack’s perfect life with Kate and Aaron was too superficial to last. I never realized the extent of how shallow and false his life was. After viewing “Something Nice Back Home” for the second time, I realized that this question was answered in (4.04) “Eggtown” and in future episodes such as (4.12) “There’s No Place Like Home”, (5.02) “The Lie”, (5.04) “The Little Prince” and (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened”.

What am I trying to say? Simple. Jack and the other members of the Oceanic Six had created lives filled with unnecessary and/or selfish lies, deceit, illusions and grief. Audiences had already experienced Hugo “Hurley” Reyes’ crash and burn in flashbacks featured in the Season Four premiere, (4.01) “The Beginning of the End”. In this episode, audiences finally witnessed Jack’s future meltdown. In a flash forward from “Eggtown”, Jack revealed the Oceanic Six’s major lie about the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 during Kate’s criminal trial:

DUNCAN: Were you aware that Ms. Austen was a fugitive being transported by a United States marshal on that flight to Los Angeles for trial?

JACK: I did learn that eventually, yes.

DUNCAN: From the U.S. Marshal?

JACK: No, the marshal died in the crash. I never spoke to him. Ms. Austen told me.

DUNCAN: Did you ever ask her if she was guilty?

JACK: No. Never.

DUNCAN: Well, that seems like a reasonable question. Why not?

JACK: I just assumed that there had been some kind of mistake.

DUNCAN: And why would you think that?

JACK: Only eight of us survived the crash. We landed in the water. I was hurt, pretty badly. In fact, if it weren’t for her, I would have never made it to the shore. She took care of me. She took care of all of us. She — she gave us first aid, water, found food, made shelter. She tried to save the other two, but they didn’t—

As we all know, this is a load of horseshit. But what led Jack to tell all of these lies. The episode (4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home”featured a scene in which Locke asked Jack to lie about the Island and their their experiences during the past three months . . . to protect the Island. Jack had announced his intentions to follow Locke’s instructions in (5.02) “The Lie”. Kate, Sun and Sayid agreed to support his lies. Hurley did not, claiming that they were unnecessary. Eventually, Hurley capitulated to Jack’s demands. I never understood why Jack had created such unnecessary lies about the island. It had disappeared after Ben had pushed the Orchid Station’s donkey wheel. By the time the Oceanic Six were “rescued”, they had traveled many miles away from the island, thanks to Kahuna freighter’s helicopter, floating in the ocean for several days and Penny Widmore’s yacht, which conveyed them to the Java Trench, where a fake Oceanic 815 airplane was planted by Penny’s father, Charles Widmore and near the island of Sumba. The only person who could have found the Island was Widmore. Being a former resident of the Island, he knew how to acquire information on the Island’s locations. And once he did, Widmore dispatched Martin Keamy and his thugs there to collect Ben Linus. The authorities would have never found the Island, and the lie did not prevente Widmore from finding it again, as Season Six eventually proved. Leaving behind so many castaways and pretending they were dead did not serve a damn thing.

There was another lie that proved to be even more destructive . . . namely the lie about fugitive Kate Austen being the mother of Aaron Littleton, Claire’s son. When “Something Nice Back Home” first aired, many viewers believed that Jack had coerced Kate into pretending to be Aaron’s mother in order to protect him from the foster care system or Charles Widmore. In “There’s No Place Like Home, Part I”, both Jack and Kate learned that Claire’s mother, Carole Littleton, was alive and well. Both realized they were keeping Aaron from his grandmother via the lie, but both continued the deception. A flashback in “The Little Prince” revealed that it was Kate who had suggested she pretend to be Aaron’s mother, due to her selfish desire to use Aaron as an emotional comfort blanket:

KATE: I’ve been thinking a lot about him. Did you know that Claire was flying to L.A. to give him up for adoption?

JACK: No. No, I didn’t.

KATE: I think we should say he’s mine.

JACK: What?

KATE: We could say that I was six months pregnant when I was arrested and that I gave birth to him on the Island. No one would ever know.

JACK: Kate, no. You don’t have to… [sighs] There’s other ways too this.

KATE: After everyone we’ve lost–Michael, Jin, Sawyer… I can’t lose him, too.

JACK: Sawyer’s not dead.

KATE: No. But he’s gone. Good night, Jack.

JACK: Kate… If we’re gonna be safe, if we’re gonna protect the people that we left behind, tomorrow morning, I’m gonna have to convince everyone to lie. If it’s just me, they’re never gonna go for it. So I’m gonna turn to you first. Are you with me?

KATE: I have always been with you.

Wow. I find it interesting that so many fans have complained about Jack’s controlling nature. Yet, it is also easy to see that he can be very susceptible to Kate’s manipulations. Yet, very few people have commented on this. By the way, Kate’s suggestion was confirmed in a confession that she had made to Cassidy Phillips, Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend and fellow grifter, in “Whatever Happened, Happened”. And Jack . . . due to his selfish desire to earn or maintain Kate’s love, agreed to support her lie. I suspect his encounter with Carole Littleton at his father’s funeral service dealt two major blows to Jack’s psyche. He learned that Claire Littleton was his half-sister, due to an affair between Christian Shephard and Carole. And two, he had allowed Kate to use his nephew as an emotional blanket, while keeping said nephew from the latter’s very healthy grandmother. I suspect that this discovery had led Jack to stay away from Kate for a while. But after seeing her at her trial, he realized he could not stay away and caved in to her demand that he need to accept Aaron as hers in order for them to have a relationship.

But Jack’s conversation with Hurley at the mental hospital only proved something that Jack could not face – he was living a life based upon lies about the Island, the survivors of the crash and especially Aaron. And I also suspect that his discovery of Kate’s deception about the favor she did for Sawyer made him realized that he was maintaining lies for the love of a woman who was lying to him. No wonder he freaked out in the end with booze, pills and anger. I suspect that Jack’s outburst about Kate not being related to Aaron was a hint of her own meltdown and realization, a few months later.

“Something Nice Back Home” was not perfect. The episode featured one entertaining and suspenseful subplot that brought up questions behind Claire Littleton’s disappearance – questions that were never really explored after Claire’s reappearance in Season Six. It featured another subplot regarding Jack’s appendicitis that raised both questions and minor subplots that were never dealt with any satisfaction. The only subplot I believe that had any meat or merit was the flash forward featuring Jack Shephard’s meltdown regarding the Island, Kate Austen and his nephew Aaron Littleton. So in the end, all was not lost for “Something Nice Back Home”.

Notes and Observations of “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”


The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”. I hope that you enjoy them:


*I have always found the launching of shuttles rather different in the STAR WARS saga, in compare to other science-fiction sagas. The Imperial shuttles leave the starships like drops of water from a faucet.

*The commander of the Death Star II seemed to react with horror at the news of the Emperor’s impending arrival. Quite a contrast to his mild nervousness at Vader’s arrival.

*When I first saw ”Return of the Jedi”, I must admit that I found the numerous creatures inside Jabba’s palace a bit overwhelming. Okay, a lot overwhelming.

*I like the way the camera suddenly in on the image of a frozen Han Solo hanging on Jabba’s wall. Very dramatic.

*Why would anyone torture a droid with hot irons?

*Why was Jabba suspicious of Leia’s bounty hunter disguise? Why did he suspect that she would attempt to free Han?

*Why did Luke use the Force to briefly strangle Jabba’s guards? Was it necessary, considering that all they did was block his path?

*I hope that getting captured by Jabba was part of Luke’s plan. If not, he was being rather arrogant in his belief that his initial plan to rescue Han would work. He reminded me of Padme’s display of arrogance in ”Attack of the Clones”, when she believed that she would be able to rescue Obi-Wan from Count Dooku.

*”Vader’s March” seemed intensified in the scene featuring the Emperor Palpatine’s arrival on the Death Star II.

*It is interesting that Yoda had warned Luke about facing Sidious . . . and not Vader.

*Yoda is the only major Jedi character from the Old Republic that died peacefully. Even more odd is that although he has never been a favorite character of mine, I found myself crying over his death.

*”When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to live with my brother Owen on Tatooine . . . and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa on Alderaan.”

A lot is wrong with the above statement by Obi-Wan. Anakin knew that Padme was pregnant. He just did not know that she was carrying twins. Owen Lars turned out not to be Obi-Wan’s brothers. Which is a good thing, because Obi-Wan had seemed unnaturally cool over Owen and Beru Lars’ deaths in “A New Hope”. He ended up reacting more strongly over the destruction of Alderaan and his encounter with Vader. And Padme did not survive giving birth to Luke and Leia – which also makes sense, considering that I cannot see her giving up one child to the Lars and taking the other one with her to Alderaan.

*I found it disturbing that even as a Force ghost, Obi-Wan tried to encourage Luke to commit patricide.

*I hate to say this, but Harrison Ford did some truly atrocious acting in the scenes that featured Han volunteering for the mission on Endor and saying good-bye to Lando before his departure.

*I wonder if Vader had any idea that Sidious had been planning to replace him with Luke.

*Every time I watch this movie, I have to be reminded that Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids were accompanied by Rebel troops.

*The speeder bike chase sequence through the Endor Forest is still a classic with me and the Redwood State and National Forests were never more beautiful.

*Oh God! Ewoks! Just what I need. DAMN YOU, George Lucas!

*It is interesting that the Ewoks did not take the threats of their . . . ”deity”, Threepio, very seriously. Until Luke used the Force.

*Threepio’s tale of the past two movies was rather emotional, but I think it would have been better if Bail Organa had not ordered his memories of the Republic wiped.

*The minute Luke and Leia began to talk about Padme, I started to cry.

*The quarrel between Leia and Han . . . featured some sloppy acting by Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Geez! What is with them in this movie?

*Great moment between Luke and Vader at the Imperial base on Endor. It is odd that Luke had advised Vader to let go of his hate. I never got the feeling that hate was Vader’s problem in this movie. He seemed too lethargic and resigned to his fate.

*EMPEROR: Ah, yes, a Jedi’s weapon. Much like your father’s. By now you must know your father
can never be turned from the dark side. So will it be with you.

LUKE: You’re wrong. Soon I’ll be dead…and you with me.
Both Luke and Palpatine seemed to be suffering from massive ego trips.

*Despite my dislike of the Ewoks, I must admit that I found their battle against the Imperial forces on Endor well shot. Many fans believe that Lucas was trying to convey the idea of the futility of technology against nature. I can see their point.

*That old bugaboo about attachments seemed to have reared its ugly head, as Palpatine goaded Luke into attacking first.

*Many fans have claimed that Luke had become more powerful than Vader in this movie. However, I have this odd feeling that Vader’s heart was not really into that last duel. When he discovered that he has a daughter, he used this knowledge to goad Luke into attacking him. Was he trying to turn Luke to the ”Dark Side”? Or trying to goad the latter into killing him? Suicide by duel?

*It is easy to see that Palpatine has become too arrogant and sloppy in his old age. He has developed a big mouth over the past two decades. If he had kept his mouth shut during Vader and Luke’s duel, the latter would have killed his old apprentice, and the Emperor would have acquired a new one.

*Ah yes! The ultimate moment when Anakin saved Luke and killed the Emperor. Still brings tears to my eyes.

*Great special effects used in the sequence featuring Admiral Needa’s death.

*I think that I like the destruction of the Death Star II a little better than the destruction of the first one in ”A New Hope”.

*After watching Anakin’s death scene, it occurred to me that all of the movie’s best scenes centered around Luke and Anakin.

*Why in the hell did Leia wait so long to tell Han that Luke was her brother? I knew that she was upset to learn that Anakin/Vader was her father, but . . . geez!

*What goes around, comes around. Anakin received a funeral pyre just like his first Jedi mentor – Qui-Gon Jinn, the very man who had discovered him.

*The celebration music at the end of the movie seemed like a slight improvement over the original version. I can also say the same about Hayden Christiansen’s appearance as the ghost Force Anakin Skywalker.

*Even though this is my least favorite STAR WARS movie, I must commend it for the strong emotional ties it seemed to have with the Prequel Trilogy.

“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 8/8



Inside the family library, Jack McNeill was busy browsing through a book on Hindu mythology, when Davies interrupted. “Pardon me, sir,” the manservant said in his usual soft Welsh accent. “You have a telephone call. It’s Mr. Chan.”

Jack heaved a sigh. “All right. Transfer it to here, Davies.”

“Yes sir.” The manservant left.

Minutes passed before the telephone on the desk rang. Jack picked it up. “Hello? Wei?”

“Hey Jack! I have some news, regarding your plant.”

Hope swelled within Jack. “Oh? What is it?”

The Taoist priest revealed that his other acquaintance, the Hindu priest he had met in Singapore, has met with the head of his order in Sri Lanka. Amal Sharma’s leader has agreed to take possession of the Soma plant. Wei added, “They would like you to deliver the plant, personally. At least within two months, if possible.”

“Oh God! India in September!” Jack heaved a sigh. “All right. I’ll be there.” He paused. “Are you certain that this priest can be trusted with the plant? And not use the plant for himself?”

Wei assured Jack that the Soma plant would be in safe hands. Apparently, it had been safely kept by the Natha Sampradaya Temple for several centuries, until a rogue priest had stolen it during World War II. The plant had been missing ever since. “Would you mind if I join you?”

“Frankly, I was about to ask,” Jack replied wryly. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to make the trip.” His mind switched to another topic. “Oh, about that other matter we had discussed . . .”

A pause followed before Wei replied, “Oh yes. The Magan Corporation. I’ve. . . uh, I’ve found some interesting news about the CEO.”

“Like what?” Jack demanded.

Wei continued, “From what I’ve learned, this Arthur Winslow was born on May 23, 1951, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

Impatience welled within Jack. “Yeah, Cole had already told us. Winslow was born in 1951, attended Northwestern University between 1969 and ’75 . . .”

Wei interrupted, “That is not what I had found out.”

Oh oh. “What do you mean?”

The Taoist priest continued, “There was an Arthur Winslow, who was born in Pittsburgh in 1951. Only he had died eight years later in a car accident. Hit-and-run. Whoever is head of the Magan Corporation is not Arthur Winslow. It could be that he’s not even . . .”

“. . . human,” Jack grimly finished. “Why am I not surprised?” He described the events surrounding the attempts on Marbus and Giovanni’s lives. “So, the Magan Corporation might be headed by a daemon. I just wished that we knew his or her real name.”

A pause followed, before Wei asked, “Would you like for me to continue with the case?”

Jack sighed. “Let me think on that. I’ll get back to you, later. And thanks, Wei.”

“No problem. Let me know when you change your mind. Bye.” The telephone went dead.


Cole stared at both Olivia and Marbus, as if they had lost their minds. “Apologize? To Piper? Why?”

Rolling her eyes, Olivia replied tartly, “Oh, I don’t know, Cole. Because you had threatened her life?”

The half-daemon retorted, “She had wanted Marbus dead! Hell, she tried to kill him!”

“Don’t forget that the other two sisters also tried to kill me,” Marbus reminded him. “Were you planning to kill them, as well?”

A frustrated sigh escaped Cole’s mouth. “Well . . . they weren’t so intent upon killing you, like Piper.” He paused. “Look, you’re family, Marbus. I mean, I had disobeyed the Brotherhood and the Source for you.” He turned to Olivia. “Wouldn’t you have done the same if someone had threatened a member of your family?”

Olivia hesitated, before she finally admitted, “Yes . . . I would.” Then she gently began to caress Cole’s face. “But honey, it would have been the wrong thing to do. And I hope you would have reminded me.”

A touch of shame replaced the hostile anger within Cole. Again, he sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll apologize.”

A smile illuminated Olivia’s face. She slipped her arms around Cole’s neck. “Good! We can drop by the Halliwells’ place, tonight.”

Cole grimaced. Then he peered from the corner of his eye and noticed the slight smile on Marbus’ lips.


The grandfather clock rang eight o’clock. The inhabitants of the Halliwell manor ignored it and focused their attention upon the television set before them. Then someone sighed. Phoebe realized that it was Paige.

“Would anyone like to change the channel?” the youngest Charmed One asked. “Because I’m not really looking forward to watching “ENTERPRISE”. It’s not exactly one of my favorite shows. Especially since I’ve seen this episode before.”

“Paige!” Piper’s voice bridled with barely contained patience. “Do you mind? We want to watch the show.”

Paige demanded, “Why? None of you really like it.”

Leo shot back in a firm voice, “I do.”

The youngest sister rolled her eyes in disgust and more silence followed. Phoebe tried to focus her attention on the sci-fi show, but could not maintain it. Besides, Paige had been right. Aside from Leo, no one really liked “ENTERPRISE”. Yet, it seemed apparent that no one wanted to bring up the real reason why the Trek show seemed so interesting, tonight. No one wanted to bring up the subject of Cole’s uncle – Marbus. And the lengths that the Magan Corporation had taken to kill the older demon and distract his more powerful nephew.

It galled Phoebe that she had been such an easy target of that telepathic warlock. She had assumed that her talents as a psychic would enable her to detect anything wrong with her premonitions. Then Phoebe remembered Barbas – the demon, whose telepathic abilities had made it easy for him to play with the minds of Cole and all of the Halliwells – including hers. Not only did she feel embarrassed, but also violated. If Cole had not stopped her, she would have beaten that warlock to death.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Phoebe’s thoughts. Paige stood up. “I’ll get it,” she said. Seconds later, Phoebe heard her exclaim, “Olivia! Cole! Hi! What are you guys doing here?” Then, “Oh.”

Startled, Phoebe, Piper and Leo gazed at the visitors entering the house. One of them happened to be Cole’s uncle, Marbus. Both Piper and Leo stiffened at the sight of the two demons. “What’s going on?” Piper demanded.

Marbus maintained an air of serenity, while Olivia stared pointedly at an uneasy Cole. Then the half-demon shifted from one foot to another. “Um, well, the reason we’re here . . . I mean, I’m here to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Phoebe frowned.

Nodding, Cole continued, “Yes. For threatening to kill Pi . . . uh, all of you. You have to understand – Marbus and I are very close and I was concerned for him. And when you all tried to kill him . . .”

Phoebe felt a surge of guilt. Not only for their attempt to kill Marbus, but for the death of that other demon. They had all been so quick to jump to conclusions. Despite Harry’s warnings, or the fact that she had “received” her visions without touching anything. And yet . . . an apology refused to grace Phoebe’s lips, let alone an acknowledgement of Cole’s apology. If they had been wrong about Marbus, there was a chance that they might have been wrong about other matters concerning Cole.

In the end, Paige apologized, while Phoebe and Piper uttered incomprehensible grunts. “That’s okay, Cole. We don’t really blame you for getting upset, especially since he was your uncle. I mean . . . I would have done the same.” She paused, as a nervous giggle escaped her mouth. “Come to think of it, we have.”

“Oh.” A blank look appeared on Cole’s face. Phoebe noticed that he seemed dissatisfied with her and Piper’s response. And uncomfortable with Paige’s recollection of his reign as the Source. He turned to Olivia and nodded. “I guess it’s time that we leave.”

Piper gave him a cool smile. “Well . . . good-bye.”

Embarrassed by Piper’s hostility and her own failure to apologize, Phoebe spoke up. “Ummm, how’s Mr. Giovanni? How did you explain what happened, last Sunday?”

Cole and Marbus exchanged a brief glance. “Actually, we didn’t,” Cole finally said. “We tried to think of an excuse. In the end, I told Mark that an investigator had warned me about a possible hit man going after him. And that he had mistaken Marbus as the target. And that last Sunday night, the killer struck, but Marbus got away. He, uh . . .” Cole’s eyes pleaded for help from his uncle.

Marbus added, “I was so frightened by the attack that I left and didn’t contact Cole until Monday.”

“Sounds a bit lame,” Paige mumbled. Both Cole and Marbus stared at her. She flashed a wan smile. “But I guess it worked. Huh?”

Cole winced with discomfort. “Yeah.”

“It more than worked,” Marbus continued. “I’ve been invited by Mark to join him at his family estate near Santa Rosa, next week. It would be a good opportunity for me to keep an eye on him.”

Paige asked, “And what about this Magan Corporation?”

Olivia replied, “We think it’s owned by a daemon. Only, we don’t know his or her name. Dad found out that the real Arthur Winslow had died some forty-four years ago . . . at the age of eight.”

“What does he want with Giovanni’s property?”

Cole shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? I’m just curious about who this daemon is.”

“Maybe it’s the new leader of the Thorn Brotherhood,” Piper suggested.

Marbus shook his head. “Oh, I doubt that Nimue is involved in this Magan Corporation. Trust me, I would have known if she was.”

Everyone stared at the older demon. Phoebe noticed that Cole seemed slightly exasperated by his uncle’s comment. Piper frowned. “Who is this Nimue and why do you think you would have known if she . . .?

Cole sighed deeply. “Nimue is my mother. She also goes by the name of Elizabeth Farrell Turner.”

Phoebe asked, “And what does she have to do with the Brotherhood?”

A pregnant pause followed. Then the half-demon finally answered, “Because Mother is the new leader of the Brotherhood.”

The news took Phoebe by surprise. Both Paige and Piper gasped out loud. “And when did you plan to tell us?” Piper demanded.

“When the subject came up,” Cole pointedly shot back.

Phoebe opened her mouth before she realized what was happening. “My God, Cole! You should have told us when it happened! Why did you keep it a secret for so long?”

“I just told him over a week ago,” Marbus announced quietly. “The Saturday before last. Why . . .?” He gave the Charmed Ones curious glances. “Why are you all so concerned? Trust me, Nimue is not involved with this Magan Corporation.”

“It’s just . . .” At that moment, Phoebe realized that she was being upset over nothing and quickly shut her mouth.

Piper spoke up. “It’s nothing.” She shot a dark glare at Cole. “We were taken by surprise. That’s all.”

Cole continued, “By the way, Marbus and I had also told Andrea’s parents about her death. We both thought it was necessary that they knew the truth.”

Panic filled every fiber of Phoebe’s being. If the parents of this Andrea knew that the Charmed Ones had killed her, they might decide to take revenge. How could Cole . . .?

“Are you crazy?” Leo angrily cried out. “What if this demon’s family decided to go after the girls in revenge?”

Olivia rolled her eyes before searing Cole with an annoyed glance. “Don’t worry, Leo. They won’t. Andrea’s parents know that this Winslow was behind the whole thing. In fact, they want him vanquished as much as the rest of us.” She elbowed the half-demon in the side. “Right Cole?”

“Oh. Uh, I guess I forgot to add that, huh?” An insincere smile curved his lips. Then he glanced at his watch. “Boy, we really need to get going.” He turned to Olivia. “Ready?”

A long-suffering sigh left the redhead’s mouth. “Yeah, sure.” Then she added, “By the way, ladies, when do you want to resume those lessons? We have two more to go.”

The Charmed Ones exchanged uneasy glances. “Well, how about next . . .” Paige began.

“We really don’t know when we’ll be available for more lessons,” Piper quickly replied, earning a glare from the youngest sister.

Olivia’s eyes continued to stare at the three sisters. “Are you sure? I would be more than happy to . . .”

With a tight smile, Piper quickly added, “Yeah, we’re sure.”

“Okay.” Olivia sighed. “Well, let me know when you’ll be available for more lessons.”

Marbus also smiled. “Good night, ladies.” Cole muttered something incomprehensible. And the two demons and the witch left the house.

“All right, everyone . . . breath,” Piper commented wryly. “You all look as if you’re about to burst your bubbles.”

Paige turned to the oldest sister. “What the hell was that about us not being available for more lessons on the Craft?”

Phoebe simmered. “I can’t believe that Cole had told that demon’s parents that we killed her. What was he thinking?”

Leo glared angrily at the closed door. “He never thinks! That’s why he always get into so much trouble! And why didn’t he tell us about his Mo . . .?” He glanced up, signaling to others that he had been summoned by the Elders. “I’ve got to go.” He disappeared in a flurry of lights.

Paige glanced toward the Solarium. “Oh, what a shame! That means we won’t get to watch the rest of “ENTERPRISE”.” Phoebe rolled her eyes and left the living room.


Artemus sat inside his private office, staring at the view beyond the large windows behind his desk. The intercom box buzzed. “Mr. Lloyd is here, sir,” Prax announced.

Sighing, the daemon wearily replied, “Let him in.” Seconds later, the attorney entered, literally vibrating with anticipation. “You seemed to be in a good mood, Mr. Lloyd. You have some news?”

The attorney smiled. “Not exactly good news, Mr. Winslow, but . . .” His smile grew wider. “I have an idea.”

Artemus’ anticipation dimmed. “Oh. Really? What is it?”

Eminent domain.” Lloyd sat down in one of the chairs opposite Artemus. “It’s a ruling set down by any form of government agency that allows a company to acquire property for “public use”, so long as the government pays ‘just compensation’.” His smile widened. “If a company wants to purchase property in which the public will benefit – like for schools, parks, roads, other public buildings . . . and the elimination of blight through redevelopment . . .” Lloyd paused dramatically. “. . . the government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property.”

Comprehension dawned within Artemus. “And how do we go about convincing a government court that Giovanni should sell the property to us?”

Lloyd replied smoothly, “By finding a judge willing to rule in your favor. All we have to do is convince him or her that your purchase of the Oakville property will benefit the public. Preferably, a judge who is willing . . .” Another dramatic pause followed. “. . . to overlook the corporation’s brief history with lawsuits. And accept a bribe.”

Artemus shook his head, impressed by the mortal’s ruthless scheme. And to think that he had wasted his time trying to distract Belthazor. “Interesting. Very interesting idea, Mr. Lloyd.” He nodded. “Work on it.”

“Yes sir,” Lloyd said with a smile. He turned on his heels and walked out of the office.

Artemus leaned back into his chair with an air of satisfaction. If all went well, he would have his hands on the Oakville property. And the object that lies beneath.


Leo strode toward the Council’s chambers, when a voice called out his name. “Leo!” It was one of the Elders. “Over here!”

The whitelighter detoured from his path and joined his superior near a column. “You were the one who summoned me?”

The Elder nodded. “Yes. Walk with me.” The two whitelighters began to stroll along another corridor. “I had summoned you, because I’ve discovered some distressing news about Belthazor.”

“So have I,” Leo added. “I’ve found out . . .”

The Elder held up a hand. “Let me speak first.” According to Leo’s companion, another whitelighter – one who happened to be a seer – had foreseen a future that threatened the present state of good and evil. “Eloise saw Belthazor . . . and the McNeill witch bring about the emergence of a new Source and the reorganization of the Source’s Council.”

The news struck Leo with the impact of a thunderbolt. “What?” His voice raised an octave. “That’s . . . are you saying that Cole will become the Source again, and Olivia, his queen?”

“Fortunately, the news is not that dire,” the Elder replied in a wry voice. “Eloise had seen him and the witch help a demon become the new Source.”

Leo hesitated. “Is it Marbus?”

“Are you referring to Belthazor’s uncle?” The Elder added, “No, not him. But there will be a new Source because of those two. We cannot allow this to happen.”

A helpless feeling overwhelmed Leo, as he recalled Cole and Olivia’s visit. “About this demon we might be dealing with . . . I’ve received some interesting news myself. I found out that Cole’s mother is the new leader of the Thorn Brotherhood.” He paused. “Did Eloise envision a woman as the new Source?”

“I will have to speak to her, again,” the Elder replied.

Leo added, “I don’t know what I can do about Olivia and Cole. I have no control over him. And Olivia . . . well, she hasn’t been one of my charges since her second year in college.”

Silence followed, as the two whitelighters continued their stroll. Then the Elder said, “What about the Vodoun priestess’ premonition? Have you considered it?”

Leo frowned. “Premonition? You mean the one about Olivia . . .?”

“. . . vanquishing Belthazor,” the Elder coolly finished. “Yes, that one. I believe it is time to put it in motion.”

“But how? I mean . . . should we?”

A sigh emitted from the Elder’s mouth. “Good heavens, Leo! Where happened to your memory? Remember the McNeill’s witch’s theory? The one about vanquishing the Source?”

Leo stared at his superior in shock. “But . . . it wouldn’t have worked! And it certainly won’t work against Cole, who’s even more powerful.”

The Elder paused. And stared at the junior whitelighter, as if the latter was a child. “Well Leo, it obviously will work. Especially if the Vodoun priestess’ vision is accurate.”

Realization slowly trickled into Leo’s brain. “Oh. But . . . killing Cole?”

“Leo, that man . . . or should I say that demon will help resurrect the power of the Source,” the Elder sternly pointed out. “And didn’t you just tell me that his mother now heads the Brotherhood of the Thorn?”

Memories of Cole’s revelation, along with his threats against the Halliwells rushed back to Leo. The whitelighter’s expression hardened. “I understand. I’ll get on it, right away.”


“DALLAS” Season One (1978): Episodes Ranking

The first season of the CBS television series, “DALLAS”, aired during the month of April 1978. This premiere season only featured five episode and is regarded by some as a complete miniseries, instead of a season. I regard these five episodes as an entire season and below is my ranking of those seasons:


“DALLAS” Season One (1978): Episodes Ranking

(1.05) “Barbecue” – A rehash of the Ewing-Barnes feud, an announcement regarding the Ewing dynasty and a tragedy all combine in this first-rate episode about the Ewings’ barbecue for family, neighbors and friends.

(1.03) “Spy in the House” – Oldest Ewing sibling J.R. suspects Pamela Barnes’ marriage to younger brother Bobby as a ruse, when information regarding a political/business colleague finds itself into the hands of his rival, Cliff Barnes.

(1.01) “Digger’s Daughter” – In this well-made pilot episode, the Ewings are surprised by the marriage of Bobby to Pamela, the only daughter of Jock Ewing’s old rival, Digger Barnes.

(1.04) “Winds of Vengeance” – In this tense-filled episode, a hurricane threatens Southfork, when two men arrive and take the Ewing women, J.R. and foreman Ray Krebbs hostage in retribution for the latter two’s affairs with the women in their lives.

(1.02) “The Lesson” – In this somewhat interesting episode, Pam attempts to win acceptance at Southfork by intervening in Lucy’s life; when she discovers that the Ewings’ only grandchild has been skipping school and having an affair with Ray.

“ROAD TO PERDITION” (2002) Review


“ROAD TO PERDITION” (2002) Review

Back in 1998, DC Comics published a graphic novel about a Depression-era criminal enforcer who is betrayed by his employers and forced to hit the roads of the American Midwest with his young son on a quest for revenge. Written by Max Allan Collins, the novel caught the attention of producers Richard and Dean Zanuck and was adapted into film directed by Sam Mendes.

“ROAD TO PERDITION” began during the late winter of 1931, in Rock Island, Illinois. Michael Sullivan serves as an enforcer for Irish mob boss, John Rooney, who seemed to regard him a lot higher than the latter’s unstable son, Connor Rooney. Sullivan is also a happily married man with two sons – Michael Jr. and Peter. However, his relationship with Michael is forced, due to Sullivan’s fear that his older son might turn out to be like him. The Sullivan family attends the wake for one Danny McGovern, a local associate who does bootlegging business with Sullivan family. During the wake, the Rooneys and Sullivan become wary of Finn McGovern, who has expressed suspicions about his younger brother’s death. Connor and Sullivan are ordered by Rooney to talk to Finn.

Connor argues with Finn over the latter’s suspicions about his brother’s death, before killing the latter. Sullivan is forced to gun down McGovern’s men. And this is all witnessed by Michael, who had hidden in his father’s car out of curiosity. Despite Sullivan swearing his son to secrecy and Rooney pressuring Connor to apologize for the reckless action, Connor murders Sullivan’s wife Annie and younger son Peter, mistaking the latter for Michael. He also tries to set up a hit on Sullivan at a speakeasy. But the enforcer manages to kill his would-be murderer first. Sullivan escapes to Chicago with Michael in order to seek employment from Al Capone’s right-hand man Frank Nitti and discover the location of the now hidden Connor. However, Nitti rejects Sullivan’s proposal and informs Rooney of the meeting. The Irish-born mobster reluctantly allows Nitti to recruit assassin Harlen Maguire, who is also a crime scene photographer, to kill Sullivan.

I might as well be frank. The only reason that drew my attention to “ROAD TO PERDITION” was the movie’s Depression-era setting. I have always been fascinated by the 1930s decade, despite Hollywood’s inconsistent portrayal of it in the past 50 to 60 years. The fact that Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law were among the stars in the cast helped maintain my interest until the movie’s release date. However, I still harbor doubts that I would truly enjoy a story about a father and son on the road in early 1930s Midwest or that it would draw any high regard on my part. Thankfully, the movie proved me wrong. Not only did “ROAD TO PERDITION” proved to be both an entertaining character study of various father-and-son relationships, but also a fascinating road trip and crime drama. I once came upon Max Allan Collins’ graphic novel at a bookstore not long after the movie’s initial release. I could not remember exactly what I had read, but I do recall realizing that the movie’s screenwriter, David Self, took a good deal of liberties with Collins’ plot . . . and that he was wise to do so. Enjoyable as the graphic novel was, I could also see that it was not possible to do a complete faithful adaptation of it.

Despite being a combination of a crime drama, a revenge tale and a road trip; the main theme that seemed to permeated “ROAD TO PERDITION” was the relationships between father and son. There is one line in the film uttered by Paul Newman’s John Rooney that pretty much summed up the film:

“Natural law. Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers.”

This certainly seemed to be the case in the relationship between Sullivan and Michael Jr. at the beginning of the film. Sullivan fears that Michael might follow his footsteps into crime, because they share personality traits. Unfortunately, he solves this problem by maintaining an emotional distance from his older son. John Rooney’s relationship with his son Connor is hampered by his lack of respect for the latter, his closer relationship with Sullivan, and Connor’s insecurities. Only Sullivan and Rooney seemed to have a close and easy-going father/son relationship at the beginning of the film, despite a lack of blood connection. And yet, that close relationship ended up being easily shattered thanks to Connor’s act of murder and the determination of both men to protect their own sons. Other gangster films have portrayed the impact of crime on families . . . but not with such complexity.

I believe that “ROAD TO PERDITION” is probably the first motion picture on both sides of the Atlantic that perfectly re-captured the 1930s . . . especially the first half of the decade. One cannot bring up the movie without mentioning the late Conrad Hall, whose brilliant Oscar winning photography re-captured the bleak landscape of Depression-era Midwest. This was especially apparent in the following scenes:




Richard L. Johnson’s Academy Award nominated art direction and Albert Wolsky’s costume designs also added to the movie’s setting. I especially have to compliment Wolsky for conveying how fashion was in the midst of transforming during that period from the shorter skirts of the 1920s to the longer ones of the 1930s. This was especially reflected in the conservative costumes worn by Jennifer Jason Leigh and other actresses in the movie. Usually I am not in the habit of noticing the sound in any film. But I must admit that I noticed how sound was effectively used in this film, especially in one scene in the second half that featured some brutal murders committed by a Thompson sub-machine gun. Not surprisingly, Scott Millan, Bob Beemer and John Pritchett all received Oscar nominations for Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.

There were aspects of “ROAD TO PERDITION” that I found unappealing or puzzling. The movie is more or less a well paced movie. But there is a period in the film – following Sullivan’s failed attempt to acquire employment with the Capone organization – that it nearly dragged to a halt. Director Sam Mendes seemed so enamored of Conrad Hall’s photography of the Illinois landscape during the Sullivans’ journey from Chicago that he seemed to have lost his hold of the pacing. Also, I found myself wondering what happened to Sullivan’s sister-in-law – the one who had offered them refuge at her lakeside home in Perdition. By the time the enforcer and his son arrived, her house had been abandoned. What happened to her and the house? The movie never explained.

The Zanucks, Sam Mendes and the movie’s casting director collected a group of exceptional performers for the cast. “ROAD TO PERDITION” featured solid performances from Ciarán Hinds as the grieving and later murdered Finn McGovern, Liam Aiken as Sullivan’s younger son Peter, and a very entertaining Dylan Baker as the Rooneys’ accountant, Alexander Rance. Both Doug Spinuzza and Kevin Chamberlin were entertaining and memorable as brothel keeper Tony Calvino and his hired bouncer Frank. Stanley Tucci gave a restrained and intelligent performance as Al Capone’s right-hand man, Frank Nitti. Despite portraying the only major female role in the film – namely Annie Sullivan – Jennifer Jason-Leigh let her presence be known as Sullivan’s warm and loving wife, who also happened to know the truth about his real profession.

I realize that many might find this hard to believe, but I first became aware of Daniel Craig, thanks to his very interesting portrayal of Connor Rooney. Someone once complained that Connor never developed as a character. Well, of course not. Any man who would recruit a hophead pimp to kill a very competent hit man like Michael Sullivan Sr. must be a loser. And Craig did a superb job in conveying the character’s insecurities. Jude Law was deliciously creepy as Capone hit man Harlan Maguire, who was not only a very competent killer, but who also seemed to harbor a fetish for photographing dead bodies. Law also had a very good grasp of American dialogue from the 1930s. I was happy to learn that Tyler Hoechlin was still acting. A talent like his should never go to waste. And I must admit that not only he was superb as Michael Sullivan, Jr., he also did a great job in conveying young Michael’s emotional journey throughout the film.

Paul Newman earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the aging Irish gangster, John Rooney. It is a pity that he lost the award, because he was superb as the charming and intelligent Rooney. Newman was also very effective in conveying Rooney’s more intimidating aspects of his character. Although Rooney was not his very last role, it was among his last . . . and probably one of his best. Tom Hanks did not receive any acting nominations for his performance as enforcer Michael Sullivan Sr. Not only am I puzzled, but very disappointed. As far as I am concerned, Sullivan was one of the better roles of his career. He gave a superb performance as the tight-jawed and no-nonsense family man, who also happened to be a first-rate hit man. What I found so amazing about Hanks’ performance is the manner in which he balanced Sullivan’s no-nonsense family man persona and the ruthlessness that made the character such a successful criminal.

If I had to select my favorite Sam Mendes film, it would have to be “ROAD TO PERDITION”. I have never seen “AMERICAN BEAUTY”. And I do not exactly consider his other films better. Yes, the movie has its flaws, including a pacing that nearly dragged to a halt midway. But its virtues – superb direction by Mendes, an excellent cast led by Tom Hanks, and a rich atmosphere that beautifully re-captured the American Midwest during the early years of the Great Depression – made “ROAD TO PERDITION” a personal favorite of mine.

“THE MONUMENTS MEN” (2014) Review


“THE MONUMENTS MEN” (2014) Review

A rarely known aspect of World War II was recently explored in this recently released war film. “THE MONUMENTS MEN” told the story about a group of men, established under the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program in 1943, to recover pieces of art stolen by the Nazi, before they could be destroyed on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Produced and written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, and directed by Clooney; “THE MONUMENTS MEN” began in 1943 in which art conservation specialist and museum director Frank Stokes convinces U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to allow him to assumble an Army unit compromising of museum directors, curators, and art historians to search for stolen art treasures of the Western world and return it to the rightful owners. Stokes, portrayed by Clooney, assemble six other men:

*Lieutenant James Granger, U.S.A.
*Lieutenant Donald Jeffries, British Army
*Sergeant Richard Campbell, U.S.A.
*Sergeant Walter Garfield, U.S.A.
*Lieutenant Jean Claude Clermont, French Army
*Private Preston Savitz, U.S.A.

Stokes also recruited a U.S. Army enlisted soldier named Sam Epstein to act as his interpreter and driver. And in occupied France, In occupied Paris, an art curator named Claire Simone is forced to allow Nazi officers like Viktor Stahl to oversee the theft of art for either Adolf Hitler’s proposed Führermuseum in Linz, German; or as the personal property of senior commanders like Herman Goering. She is nearly arrested for helping her Maquis brother unsuccessfully recapture such items. And later, all seems lost when Claire discovers that Stahl is taking all of her gallery’s contents to Germany, while the Allies approach Paris. Stokes’ unit is split up for various objectives throughout Western Europe. While most of them are frustrated by the Allies’ combat units, which refuse to restrict their tactical options for the sake of preserving architecture; Granger, who ends up in occupied Paris, meets Simone and discovers that she will not cooperate with the Allies, whom she suspects of also being art looters.

I suspect that true art lovers – especially those enamored of European art – might find “THE MONUMENTS MEN” to be an emotional and satisfying tale in which the Allies not only persevered over the Nazi Army, but also saved a great deal of important art work from being destroyed. And there are those who were probably disappointed that “THE MONUMENTS MEN” was not some kind of stylish caper film in the style of Steven Soderbergh’s “OCEAN’S ELEVEN”trilogy. How did I feel about “THE MONUMENTS MEN”? I found it entertaining, emotional, and surprisingly old-fashioned. Then again, this is a World War II drama about the preservation of famous Western art, in which the ages of the main stars range from early 40s to early 60s. More importantly, “THE MONUMENTS MEN” was released in February – a movie season that usually feature mediocre or bad films.

I could never regard “THE MONUMENTS MEN” a great film. I found the pacing uneven . . . especially in the movie’s first half. I felt that both Clooney’s direction and the script’s depiction of the men’s separation following their basic training rather confusing. I was especially confused by the whereabouts of the Donald Jeffries character. One minute he was in France with Stokes and Epstein. And in his next scene, he is in Belgium with no explanation in the movie’s narrative of how he got there. Come to think of it, both Campbell and Savitz end up in Belgium . . . without Jeffries. Or was it Italy? Very confusing. Perhaps it is my imagination, but I found Matt Damon’s performance rather flat. It almost seemed as if he was phoning it in – especially in the movie’s first half. In some way, I think Clooney tried too hard to make the movie so profound that it ended up feeling . . . hmmm . . . flacid.

Thankfully, the movie’s second half managed to be an improvement on the first. Especially since the Monument Men encountered more danger and their efforts to find the stolen art seemed to improve. Actually, the second half featured some action sequences that managed to inject some energy into the film’s story. Audiences finally get to see the dangers that the Monuments Men faced in order to achieve their goal – Nazi troops in a Belgian convent, straying into the middle of a battleground that became deadly, an encounter with a lone armed German soldier, and a close encounter with a land mine. The second half also featured a few excellent scenes – including Campbell’s reaction to a recorded letter from home during Christmas, Savitz’s exposure of Stahl, Granger and Claire’s near-romantic encounter inside her apartment, and Stokes’ interrogation of one of the S.S. officers responsible for the attempted destruction of some of the stolen art.

Technically, “THE MONUMENTS MEN” is a beautiful and elegant looking film of the old-fashioned kind. First of all, I have to compliment Phedon Papamichael’s sharp and colorful photography of England and Germany, which stood in for World War II-era Western Europe. Production designer James D. Bissell and his team did an admirable job in re-creating Western Europe during that period. I was especially impressed by his work, along with Bernhard Henrich’s set designs in the sequences that featured the Allied camps near the Normandy beaches and the German mine, site of the first batch of art recovered. Louise Frogley’s costume designs struck me as solid reflections of the years 1943-45. However, I must admit that I was not particularly impressed by Alexandre Desplat’s score. I simply did not find it that memorable.

The performances in “THE MONUMENTS MEN” also struck me as solid, despite the star power featured in this film. I really do not see anyone receiving an award, let alone a nomination, for their work in this film. Hell, I would be surprised if anyone’s performance was particularly singled out by critics or moviegoers alike. However, I did notice that Clooney, as a director, allowed each major character a chance to shine in a particular scene. Clooney got a chance to shine in the scene featuring Stokes’ interrogation of the German officer. Both Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett generated a good deal of heat in the scene featuring Granger’s near romantic dinner with Claire Simone. Bill Murray gave one of the most poignant performances in a scene featuring Campbell’s silent reaction to a recording he had received from his family for Christmas. Bob Balaban was marvelous in the scene in which Savitz exposed Claire’s former “supervisor” Stahl as a Nazi and thief with cold precision. Both John Goodman and Jean Dujardin, who had previously worked together in the Oscar winning film, “THE ARTIST”, managed to create a strong chemistry in two scenes that featured Garfield and Claremont’s encounter with a German sniper and their accidental wondering into a battlefield. But I feel that the best acting moment came from Hugh Bonneville, who did a marvelous job in conveying Jeffries’ passion and sense of danger in a scene featuring the character’s encounter with Germans at a Belgium convent.

Look, “THE MONUMENTS” is no classic. And I do not think it is the best movie I have seen this winter. It might be a bit too old-fashioned for the tastes of some (I can endure it). And if I must be brutally honest, the first half of Clooney and Grant Henslov’s script came off as limpid and confusing. But a strong second half and some golden moments by a talented cast led by Clooney more or less saved “THE MONUMENTS” for me.