“Spells, Lies and Remorse” [R] – 9/9






Two hours after Paige had delivered an unconscious Olivia to her bedroom, she drove her green VW toward the Halliwell manor. There, she found Piper, Leo and Phoebe inside the family kitchen. “You’re home early,” Piper commented. “In fact, everyone seemed to home early, today.”

“I managed to finish work early,” Phoebe said. “So, Elise allowed me to go home.” She turned to Paige. “Where have you been? I had dropped by Ostera’s on the way home. You weren’t there. Barbara told me that you were on some kind of errand.”

Paige stared at an uncomfortable-looking Leo. “You haven’t told them, yet?” she coldly asked.

“Told us what?” Piper demanded. “Why are you staring at Leo like that?”

“Why don’t you tell them, Leo?”

The whitelighter opened his mouth. He hesitated. “I . . .” Then he asked Paige, “What happened after you guys left?”

“He’s alive.” As she continued to stare at Leo, Paige said to her sisters, “Olivia tried to kill Cole, today. She would have succeeded, if we hadn’t stopped her. Sorry Leo. I guess your little scheme didn’t work, after all.” The whitelighter’s jaw stiffened.

Both Piper and Phoebe regarded the other two with stunned expressions. “What the hell?” the former cried out. “Paige, what the hell are you talking about?”

Phoebe gasped. “Oh my God! Olivia tried to kill Cole? Why? How was that possible?”

Paige returned her gaze to the whitelighter. “Leo?” But her brother-in-law remained silent. He turned his back on the others. So, Paige told her sisters about Leo and Paul’s scheme, the spell cast on Olivia, and the latter’s attempt to kill Cole. “Like I said, she almost did it. Olivia came pretty damn close to killing him. I don’t know how, but she did.”

“Oh my God!” Phoebe cried.

The youngest Charmed One continued, “But we managed to stop her. At least Harry did. He and Bruce are trying to find a potion to counteract Paul’s spell.”

“I have to see Cole!” Phoebe sprung from her chair and left the kitchen.

Piper stared at Leo, shaking her head in disbelief. “My God, Leo!” she exclaimed softly. “What have you done?”

“Why did you do it, Leo?” Paige demanded. “Why would you stoop so low to that level?”

Leo cried, “You don’t understand! It’s possible that Cole might re-organize the Underworld! Or have you forgotten?”

Paige retorted, “And that’s your excuse for using Olivia to commit murder? For allowing Paul to put her under that spell? So, you could use her to kill her own boyfriend?”

“She was the only one who could do it! At least according to . . .” Leo paused at the sound of the front door slamming shut. Phoebe.

“Don’t tell me,” Paige said with a sigh. “According to Cecile Dubois.” She shook her head in disgust. “You and Paul tried your best to make sure her vision would come true. Didn’t you?”

His eyes cast downward, Leo mumbled, “At least everyone came out of this alive.”

“Don’t be too sure about that,” Paige replied coldly. “Paul didn’t. He’s dead.”

Leo gasped aloud. “What?”

Paige explained what happened. “It’s simple. I tried to stop Olivia. Paul tried to stop me by using his cyrokinesis on me. Bruce managed to deflect his attack with his aerokinesis and Paul ended up as a frozen statue. And when Olivia had used her telekinesis on Bruce when he tried to stop her, Paul fell back upon the floor.” She paused. “Into a million little pieces.”

“Oh my God! Paul!” Leo’s face expressed shock and grief.

“As far as I’m concerned, that bastard got what he deserved!”

Piper admonished her younger sister. “Paige!”

Looking defiant, Paige continued, “What? After what he had done to Olivia, do you really expect me to feel sympathetic? By the way Leo, I suggest that you stay away from her and the McNeills for a while. Or Mr. McNeill might dig up that darklighter’s arrow he has always been threatening you with.” She shot her brother-in-law one last glare and marched out of the kitchen.


Olivia’s eyes blinked open. An anxious face belonging to her mother hovered above her. She felt a dull ache in the center of her forehead. “Oh God,” she murmured. “How long have I been out?”

“Not very long,” Gweneth murmured. “Perhaps a little over an hour. Here,” she handed Olivia a steaming mug of tea. “Drink it.”

Olivia stared at the drink. “What is it?”

“Tea made from cedar wood and cloves,” the older woman replied. “Harry made it. Just drink it, Livy. Now.”

The firm, yet urgent tone in Gweneth’s voice convinced Olivia to follow her mother’s orders. She took a sip. Cedar wood and cloves, all right – the same ingredients her family used for counteracting a potion. Too tired to ask her question, Olivia drained the rest of her tea. Seconds later, she experienced a bout of dizziness. And then . . . “Oh my God! Cole!” Memories of the past days struck her with the force of a thunderbolt. Olivia stared at her mother in horror. “Is he . . .?”

“He’s still alive,” Gweneth dryly reassured her.

Olivia wracked her brain, trying to figure out what had happened. “I don’t understand. What happened? I only remembered thinking . . . I remember thinking that Cole was a threat or something. And that he had to die. I don’t under. . .”

With a sigh, Gweneth sat on the edge of Olivia’s bed. “Oh my poor Livy! I believe you are not going to like what I have to tell you.”


The soft voice penetrated his mind. “Cole? Cole, are you okay?”

Cole opened his mouth to speak, but not a sound came out. It seemed that his mouth had become dry.

“Baby, are you awake?” The voice, he finally realized, belonged to Phoebe. What was she doing here? Wherever “here”happened to be. He took a deep breath and finally mustered the energy to speak. “Wha . . . what happened to me?” he whispered.

Another voice replied, “Uh, Olivia almost killed you.”

What? The fog in Cole’s mind immediately dissipated, as he shot up to a sitting position. He saw Phoebe sitting on the edge of his bed, wearing an anxious expression. Behind her stood Bruce. “Say that again?” he demanded.

Bruce repeated, “Olivia tried to kill you. And she came pretty damn close to doing it. Harry managed to stop her in time.”

Disbelief rang in Cole’s voice. “Olivia had nearly killed me? How?”

All eyes focused upon Bruce, who squirmed with discomfort. “She used an old theory of ours for killing the Source. But I guess that she had decided to use it against you, instead.”

“Cole, do you want a drink?” a concerned Phoebe asked. “Maybe tea or something else?”

“Tea sounds nice.” Cole barely noticed the light kiss Phoebe had planted on his forehead. Once he and Bruce were alone, he added, “Look, I realize that Olivia was . . . is pissed at me. For some reason or another. But why would she attack . . .?”

Bruce sighed. “That’s right. You don’t know. Olivia . . . was under a spell. One that Paul had cast.”

A stunned Cole stared at the witch in disbelief. “Did you say that Margolin had cast . . .?”

“It’s a long story.” Bruce sat down on the spot previously occupied by Phoebe. Then began to reveal what seemed to Cole, a fantastic story.


Two days later, the Halliwell manor’s doorbell rang. Piper placed Wyatt’s bottle on a nearby sideboard and answered the front door. She glanced through the peephole and winced. A grim-faced Olivia McNeill stood outside.

“Oh God,” she murmured. Then she took a deep breath, fixed a too bright smile on her face and opened the door. “Olivia! Hi!” Oh God! She sounded like Mary Poppins! “Come on in.” Stepping aside, she allowed the visitor to enter.

Her mouth still formed in a tight line, Olivia said, “Hey Piper. Is Leo home?”

Piper’s smile disappeared. She shot a quick glance at Olivia’s hands. No darklighter bow-and-arrow seemed to be present – thankfully. “Oh, uh . . . Leo? He’s uh . . .”

“Piper?” a familiar voice cried. “Who is it?”

The oldest Charmed One’s heart sank at the sight of her husband and Paige entering the living room. Leo stared at the visitor and froze. Olivia’s green eyes became hard as polished emeralds. “Hello Leo,” she greeted in a chilly voice.

Leo’s face turned red. “Olivia, I . . .” Before he could finish, the redhead took a few steps forward and punched him in the jaw. The whitelighter reeled back and landed on the floor with a thump.

Piper rushed to her husband’s side. “Leo!”

“I’m going to make this brief,” Olivia continued coldly. “When Richard had died over a year ago, I guess you can say that I was in great funk. I couldn’t even face my family, because Aunt Rhiannon was responsible for his death. And he was responsible for hers. So, I turned to you . . . my good friend, Leo. All I had to do was open my mouth and tell you that Richard and Rhiannon had killed each other, and without me saying anything further, you had assumed that Richard was to blame. You had really pissed me off that day, Leo. So much so that I had seriously considered hiring a darklighter to kill you. Fortunately for you, I have a brother who happens to be a telepath. And once Harry had discovered my intentions, both he and Bruce talked me out of it. In fact, I even felt ashamed for even considering having you killed. But you know what?” Olivia paused, as her eyes blazed angrily. “After what you and Paul had done to me, I’m beginning to wish that I had hired that darklighter in the first place.”

Piper, shaken by Olivia’s words, helped Leo to his feet. Then he spoke. “Look Olivia, I realize that what I had done was wrong, but something had to be done about Cole. The Council feared he would reorganize the Under . . .”

Olivia’s fist shot out again, and struck Leo in the nose. Again, he reeled back on to the floor. “I can’t believe this! You really disgust me, Leo! Do you know that? You had conspired with Paul to violate my mind in order to have Cole murdered, and all you can do is make excuses?”

Blood pouring out of his battered nose, Leo struggled to sit up. “Olivia . . .”

“Don’t . . . talk to me! Don’t ever talk to me, again! Unless circumstances demand it.” Olivia glared at the fallen whitelighter. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over between us! We are no longer friends!” She turned on her heels and marched toward the front door. Her hand on the doorknob, Olivia paused. “And you can tell your precious Whitelighter Council to keep their damn noses out of my business!” And on that note, she left.

Once the door slammed shut, Piper and Paige helped the battered whitelighter to his feet. Leo wiped the blood from his nose and mouth. “Leo?” Piper began in a concerned tone. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Leo mumbled. He stared sadly at the closed door and sighed. “I’m just . . .” He paused and cocked his head. Piper knew what that meant. The Council was summoning him. “I, uh . . . I think I’ve been summoned.”

“What do they want?” Piper asked. When Leo failed to answer, she added, “Leo?”

The whitelighter replied unhappily, “It’s probably about Olivia. And Cole.”

Confused by her husband’s answer, Piper shook her head. “Wha . . . I don’t understand. Don’t they know what happened?”

A pause followed before Leo said, “They do now. I guess they must have found out about Matilda’s plan.”


Again, Leo hesitated. “Matilda Everhard. The Elder who had planned this whole thing from the beginning. She was the one who had recruited me . . .”

Now, Piper understood. One of the Elders, acting against the Council’s knowledge, had drawn Leo into the scheme to use Olivia to kill Cole. The oldest Charmed One felt mortified. Not only by the fact that an Elder would resort to using a witch against her will and a fellow whitelighter for such a scheme, but that Leo had allowed himself to be used. “Oh my God!”

“How long do you think it would take for you to explain everything?” Paige asked.

Leo gave the two women a wan smile. “I don’t know. And I don’t know how they’ll react.” He kissed Piper’s cheek. “I’ll see you later.” With his face still maintaining its sad expression, he heaved a large sigh and orbed out of the room.


Nearly thirty minutes later, Olivia stepped out of her apartment building’s elevator and strode toward the double doors leading to Cole’s penthouse. She stared at the doors, struggling to keep her emotions in check. Especially her fears.

What if Cole did not want to see her? What if . . . What if he had not forgiven her for rejecting him? For trying to kill him?

Olivia wanted to return to her apartment. Wanted to hide in the privacy of her bedroom, until she could find the courage to face him. But she realized that the longer she procrastinated, the harder it would be fore her to deal with the past week’s events.

She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. The seconds that Olivia had waited for the door to open, seemed like hours. Finally, the door opened and she found herself facing the last person she had expected to see. Wide-eyed, Olivia stared at the figure before her. “Phoebe?”

“Olivia,” the middle Charmed One declared nervously. “Um, what . . .?”

Keeping her shock in check, Olivia replied, “Oh, uh . . . I’m here to see Cole.”

“Oh.” Phoebe continued to block the doorway.

“Is he here? Cole?”

A wary expression appeared on Phoebe’s face. “Yeah. Are you . . .?”

Olivia allowed a mirthless smile to touch her lips. “Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt him.”

Phoebe’s face turned red with embarrassment. “I didn’t think . . .”

“Phoebe?” The voice came from inside the penthouse. Olivia glanced past the Charmed One’s shoulder and spotted Cole wearing blue terrycloth robe. And nothing else. Judging from his damp appearance, he must have stepped out of the shower. His eyes focused upon Olivia and he immediately stiffened. “Oh. Olivia. What . . . uh, what are you doing here?”

Olivia’s first instinct was to flee . . . run away from Cole and the implications of Phoebe’s presence. Instead, she remained in the doorway, mindful of the task she had to perform. “I came to see you,” she said. “Talk to you. About . . . what happened.”

Cole blinked. “Oh. Uh, . . .”

Phoebe opened the door further and allowed Olivia to enter. She closed the door and smiled politely at the older woman. “I’ll let you guys have a little privacy.” Then she disappeared into the kitchen.

Olivia stared at Phoebe’s retreating back. “She’s become quite the little hostess, hasn’t she?” Then she winced at the slight hint of jealousy in her voice.

Cole flashed a brief smile. “She’s been helping me around the place, ever since . . .” He broke off, as his smile disappeared. “Well, you know.”

“Since I tried to kill you?” Olivia finished gently. “Look, I can explain about all that. In fact, I can explain my attitude for the past . . .”

“I know what happened.” Cole paused, as he took a deep breath. “Bruce told me about Margolin’s spell. And Leo’s part in the whole thing. I’m sorry that they had used you like that.”

Olivia cast her eyes downward. “So am I. I’ve . . . uh, I’ve ended it with Leo. Our friendship.” She snickered briefly. “Hell, he had stopped being my official whitelighter, years ago. Anyway, perhaps one day I can forgive him. But not now.”

“He thought he was doing the right thing,” Cole gently added. He gave a nervous cough. “Well, at least he had picked the right person to ‘vanquish’ me.”


Cole continued, “Well, after Phoebe and her sisters had failed to kill Barbas, when he had my powers, I figured that no one would be able to kill me. Until I met you. After I got to know you . . . I figured . . . well, I figured that you, of all people, would find a way.”

Olivia stared at the half-daemon in disbelief. “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”

“I’m only complimenting your talents as a witch.” Cole paused. “How did you do it, by the way?”

Leery of even discussing the matter, Olivia hesitated. Then, “Bruce and I had this theory about killing the Source.” She sighed. “Instead of using brute strength, we thought about using a more subtle manner. We got the idea from that movie called . . . you know, the one with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.”

Cole shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Reluctantly, Olivia continued, “In the movie, these alien invaders proved to be too powerful for the heroes to destroy. So one of the guys . . . Jeff Goldblum, I think, came up with the idea of creating a computer virus to weaken the aliens’ defense system. And Bruce and I thought if we could come up with a potion, combined with a spell to infect the Source’s powers with a virus and destroy him from within . . .”

Realization dawned in Cole’s blue eyes. “Oh, I get it. Clever.”

“Yeah, so I created a potion and a spell that would infect your powers, via the elements. But instead of a spell utilizing the five elements, I used one utilizing seven.”

“Your seven element theory?”

Olivia nodded unhappily. “Yeah.” She fell silent. So did Cole. They could hear Phoebe moving about in the kitchen. Speaking of the Charmed One . . . “How did you and Phoebe . . .” Olivia paused. “How did you two end up as . . . friends?”

Cole frowned. “Didn’t the others tell you?” Olivia shook her head. “Last week, Phoebe had visions of what really happened between me and the Source. We, uh . . . we made our peace.”

“Oh. I’m happy for you both.” Olivia fell silent, unable to meet Cole’s eyes. After another minute, she added, “How long has she been here?”

“For two days. Since the attack. She’s been a great help.”

‘I bet.’ Olivia kept the sarcastic response to herself. Then she spotted an unfamiliar travel bag near the sofa. Her heart lurched sideways. “How nice,” she finally murmured.

“Olivia . . . look . . .”

Phoebe returned to the living room, carrying a steaming mug. “Here you go,” she said, handing the mug to Cole. “I thought you might want some tea.”

“Thanks,” Cole murmured. He took a sip.

A perfect picture of domesticity, Olivia thought bitterly. Before she could hold her tongue, she said, “Cole was telling me about your reconciliation.”

A bright smile illuminated Phoebe’s face. “Oh! Yeah. I’m . . . really glad that we’ve decided to try again. I mean, whoever said there was no such thing as a second chance?”

Olivia frowned. “Second chance?”

“Oh yeah. Didn’t Cole tell you? We’ve decided to give our relationship a second chance.”

Stunned, Olivia stared at an uncomfortable-looking Cole. “I . . .” She shook her head. “I mean . . . no, Cole didn’t tell me.” She added quickly, “But I already knew.” With a dim smile, she added, “Congratulations.”

Cole began, “Olivia . . .”

“I’m sure that it’ll work out between you two, this time,” Olivia continued, barely able to get her words out. “I mean, now that you’ve come . . . to some kind of closure. Over the Source, I mean.” She took a deep breath, mindful of the tears that threatened to fall. “Well.” Olivia glanced at her watch. “Time for me to go. There’s a movie I want to check out and it comes on in less than an hour.”

Cole opened his mouth. Phoebe touched his arm, and he nodded. “Yeah. Well, I guess . . . I guess we’ll see you around?”

Olivia responded with a too bright smile. “Sure. I’ll see you guys.” She turned away and headed for the door. A quick glance back at the couple revealed Phoebe possessively clutching Cole’s arm. “Bye.”

The moment she closed the door behind her, Olivia took a shuddering breath. And allowed the tears to finally stream from her eyes, as she made her way back to the elevator.


TIME MACHINE: Battle of New Orleans



This year marked the 200th anniversary of the last of a series of engagements that marked the Battle of New Orleans. This battle marked the last one of the conflict between the United States and Great Britain, known as the War of 1812.

The Battle of New Orleans consisted of a series of engagements fought between December 24, 1814 and January 8, 1815. The two countries had been at war since June 1812 – for two-and-a-half years. With the end of the Napoleonic War (before it was briefly renewed, thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape in early 1815), Great Britain was finally able to focus its full attention upon the war against the United States. The British military decided to focus its strategy upon capturing the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, which had been under American control for eleven years. Capture of the city would give the British control of the Mississippi River and sever the Americans’ vital commerce route to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Capture of the city would also allow full control of the agriculture industries that dominated the lower Mississippi River Valley region – namely sugar and especially cotton.

The British Army began gathering its invasion force in the summer of 1814. The army’s defeat at Fort Bowyer prevented it from capturing Mobile, Alabama in September 1814. Alerted, the U.S. government dispatched a frantic message to GeneralAndrew Jackson to immediately proceed to New Orleans and defend it. Jackson marched his army from present-day Alabama to New Orleans and arrived in the city on December 2, 1814. Ten days later, a large British fleet under the command of Sir Alexander Cochrane with more than 8,000 soldiers and sailors aboard, anchored in the Gulf of Mexico to the east of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne. At Lake Borgne, the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy engaged in a battle on December 14, 1814 that left the British victors, but heavily battered. Although the British won control of the two lakes, the battle gave Jackson enough time to strengthen his defenses around New Orleans.

By December 23, 1814; a British Army vanguard of 1,800 troops under Lieutenant-General John Keane reached the east bank of the Mississippi River, nine miles south of New Orleans. When Jackson learn of Keane’s presence, who was awaiting reinforcements at Lacoste’s Plantation, he led a brief three-pronged assault on the unsuspecting British troops, who were resting in their camp. Then Jackson pulled his forces back to the Rodriguez Canal, about four miles south of the city. The unexpected attack made Keane even more cautious and he made no effort to advance. As a consequence, the Americans were given time to begin the transformation of the canal into a heavily fortified earthwork. The main body of the British Army underMajor-General Edward Pakenham arrived on January 1, 1815. The army attacked the earthworks using their artillery. An exchange of artillery fire lasted for three hours. Several of the American guns were destroyed or knocked out and some damage was done to the earthworks. The British guns ran out of ammunition, which led Pakenham to cancel the attack. Unknown at the moment to Pakenham, the Americans on the left of Line Jackson near the swamp had broken and run from the position. Pakenham decided to wait for his entire force of over 8,000 men to assemble before launching his attack on the city.

Pakenham finally ordered a two-pronged assault against Jackson’s position during the early morning hours of January 8, 1814. The attack began under darkness and a heavy fog, but as the British neared the main enemy line the fog lifted, exposing them to withering artillery fire and musket fire. Poor leadership of the British forces, confusion on the battlefield, the swampy terrain and American tenacity combined to create a debacle for the British, as they tried to overcome the parapet that served as the Americans’ defense position. Two large assaults on the Americans were made. Only a handful of British troops made it to the top, but they were either killed or captured. The only British success was on the west bank of the Mississippi River, where a brigade under William Thornton, which comprised of the 85th Regiment and detachments from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, attacked and overwhelmed the American line. Since Pakenham was dead and both Keane and Major-General Samuel Gibbs were wounded, command of the British forces fell upon Major-General John Lambert. Lambert decided not to renew the attack and withdrew his forces.

In the battle’s aftermath, the Royal Navy attacked Fort St. Philip on the following day, January 9, 1815. The British laid siege to the fort for ten days before its ships withdrew on January 18, 1815. On February 4, 1815, the British fleet, with troops aboard, set sail toward Mobile Bay, Alabama. The British army then attacked and captured Fort Bowyer at the mouth of Mobile Bay on February 12, 1815. The following day, the British army began making preparations to attack Mobile, when news arrived of the Treaty of Ghent. The treaty, which officially ended the War of 1812, had been signed on December 24, 1814; in the city of Ghent, Belgium. The British abandoned Fort Bowyer and sailed toward the West Indies. Although the Battle of New Orleans had no influence on the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, the defeat at New Orleans did compel Britain to abide by the treaty.

For more detailed information on the Battle of New Orleans, I recommend the following books:

*“Battle of New Orleans, The: ‘But for a Piece of Wood'” (1814) by Ron Chapman

*“The War of 1812, Conflict and Deception: The British Attempt to Seize New Orleans and Nullify the Louisiana Purchase” (1814) by Ronald J. Drez

“AMAZING GRACE” (2006-07) Review


“AMAZING GRACE” (2006-07) Review

Ever since the release of the 2012 Oscar winning film, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”, there seemed to be this idea – especially with the British media – that Hollywood has remained silent regarding the topic of American slavery. I find this opinion ironic, considering my failure to find many U.K. films on British slavery.

When I first read McQueen’s criticism of Hollywood’s failure to produce a good number of films about American slavery, I decided to check the Internet to see how many slavery movies that the British film industry had produced. So far, I have only come across three – and one of them is “AMAZING GRACE”, the 2006 movie about abolitionist William Wilberforce‘s efforts to end Britain’s participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Looking back upon “AMAZING GRACE”, I could not help but feel that it would have made an appropriate companion piece to Steven Spielberg’s 2012 movie, “LINCOLN”. Although one focused upon the slave trade throughout Britain’s Empire around the Georgian Era and the other focused upon the United States’ efforts to officially end slavery during the last year of the Civil War, both explored the political impacts on the institution of slavery in their respective countries. But there were differences. “AMAZING GRACE” focused upon the end of Britain’s official participation in the Atlantic slave trade and received only a few accolades. “LINCOLN”, on the other hand, focused upon the end of slavery altogether (the country’s participation in the slave trade ended around the same time as Great Britain) and received a great deal of accolades.

“AMAZING GRACE” begins in the middle of its story with a very ill William Wilberforce traveling to Bath with his cousin Henry Thornton and cousin-in-law Marianne to Bath for a recuperative holiday in 1797. The Thorntons decide to play matchmaker and introduce him to their friend, Barbara Spooner. Although the pair initially goes out of their way to resist any romantic overtures, Barbara ends up convincing Wilberforce to relate the story of his career.

The movie flashes back some fifteen years into the past, when Wilberforce was a young and ambitious Member of Parliament (MP). After he experiences a religious enlightenment and aligns himself with the evangelical wing of the Church of England, Wilberforce contemplates leaving politics to study theology. But friends such as William Pitt, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More, and Olaudah Equiano convinces him that he could be more effective doing God’s work by fighting for the issue of Britain’s slave trade. Wilberforce’s convictions are deepened by a meeting with his former mentor, John Newton, a former slave ship captain turned Christian, whose regrets of his past participation in the slave trade led him to become an evangelist minister and writer of the poem that led to the song, “Amazing Grace”. Despite great effort and assistance from his fellow abolitionists, Wilberforce’s efforts fail, thanks to the pro-slavery cabal in Parliament after fifteen years. Following his marriage to Barbara Spooner, Wilberforce takes up the cause again with different results.

I am going to be brutally frank. “AMAZING GRACE” did not strike me as superior or at the same level of quality as “LINCOLN”. I am not stating that the 2006 movie was terrible or even mediocre. I simply feel that it is not as good as the 2012 Oscar winning film. There is something about the style of “AMAZING GRACE” that lacked the more complex nature and characterizations of“LINCOLN”. I found it . . . well, ideal and very preachy at times. I realize this movie is about the institution of slavery throughout the British Empire. But I believe that just because a story ( in any form) centers around an unpleasant topic like slavery does not have to be told with such a lack of moral complexity. I suspect that screenwriter Steven Knight tried to inject some kind of complexity in Wilberforce’s original reluctance to take up the cause of the abolition of the slave trade and in his despair over the failure of the abolition cause by 1797. But the movie simply lacked that murky ambiguity that made movies like “LINCOLN” and “DJANGO UNCHAINED” more complex to me. Even worse, there were times when the movie fell into the danger of transforming Wilberforce into some idealized character – what is known by those familiar with fan fiction as a Mary Sue. The movie seemed to hint that the success of Britain’s abolitionist movement centered around Wilberforce. And I found that annoying.

I have one last problem with “AMAZING GRACE”. The use of flashbacks struck me as a bit . . . well, confusing. This especially seemed to be the case in the first two-thirds of the movie, which alternated between the present setting (1797) and the past (between 1782 and 1797). I hate to say this, but director Michael Apted and editor Rick Shaine did not handle these shifts in time with any real clarity. After my third viewing of the film, I finally got a handling on the shifts between the narrative’s past and present. Many film critics have pointed out the movie’s historical inaccuracies, which include the time period in which Wilberforce became interested in animal rights and the Duke of Clarence’s erroneous service in the House of Commons. Honestly? They are simply bloopers and nothing for me to get excited over.

Despite its flaws, I must admit that “AMAZING GRACE” is a first-rate and stirring film. It touched upon a subject that I knew very little of . . . namely Britain’s abolition movement. In fact, when I first saw the film, it reminded me that countries like the United States, Cuba, and Brazil were not the only ones with strong ties to slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. These ties were especially made apparent in scenes which Wilberforce and his allies battled with the pro-slavery forces like Banastre Tarleton and the Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews (the future King William IV). Although “AMAZING GRACE” mainly focused on the political aspect of abolition in Great Britain, there are two memorable scenes that reflect the horrors of slavery – Wilberforce and Olaudah_Equiano’s tour of a slave ship and Newton’s verbal recollections of his time as a slave ship captain. However, “AMAZING GRACE” also touches upon Wilberforce’s personal life – especially his courtship of and marriage to fellow abolitionist Barbara Spooner. And it is to Ioan Gruffudd and Romola Garai’s credit that they had created a strong and very believable screen chemistry.

“AMAZING GRACE” is also a very beautiful movie to look at. And that is an odd thing to say about a movie about slavery. As always, I tend to look at the production designer as the one responsible for the movie’s overall visual style. In the case of“AMAZING GRACE”, the man responsible was Charles Wood, who did an amazing job in recapturing Great Britain during the late 18th century. His work was ably assisted by the art direction team led by David Allday and Eliza Solesbury’s set decorations. And since “AMAZING GRACE” is a period drama, I cannot ignore the costumes designed by film icon Jenny Beavan. Needless to say, her costumes were beautiful and perfectly adhered to the movie’s time period and the characters. I especially enjoyed her costumes for actresses Romola Garai and Sylvestra Le Touzel.

All of the beautiful costumes, magnificent photography and impressive production designs in the world cannot save a movie. Aside from a first-rate narrative, a movie needs a talented cast. Thankfully for “AMAZING GRACE”, it had one. Ioan Gruffudd, whom I tend to associate more with television, gave an excellent and passionate performance as the dedicated William Wilberforce. Also, Gruffudd more than held his own with the array of more experienced performers that were cast in this film. I do not know when Benedict Cumberbatch first made a name for himself. But I cannot deny that he gave a superb performance as William Pitt, the politician who eventually became the country’s youngest Prime Minister. Cumberbatch did a first-rate job in portraying how Pitt’s idealism, political savy and professional ambiguity sometimes clashed. Romola Garai gave a beautiful performance as Barbara Spooner Wilberforce, the politician’s wife of thirty-odd years. By expressing her character’s own passionate beliefs in the abolitionist movement, Garai portrayed her more than just Wilberforce’s love interest.

Albert Finney made several appearances in the film as former slave ship captain-turned-evangelist John Newton, who became Wilberforce’s mentor. Despite his limited appearances, Finney brilliantly portrayed Newton’s pragmatic nature about his past and the guilt he continued to feel for his role in Britain’s slave trade. I also have to comment on Rufus Sewell’s very entertaining performance as abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. I do not think I have ever come across a performance so colorful, and at the same time, very subtle. The movie also benefited excellent support from the likes of Michael Gambon, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Jeremy Swift, Stephen Campbell Moore, and Bill Paterson. Senegalese singer-activist Youssou N’Dour gave a solid performance in his acting debut as former slave-turned-abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. And Nicholas Farrell and Sylvestra Le Touzel, who co-starred in 1983’s “MANSFIELD PARK” together, reunited to give entertaining performances as the Wilberforces’ close friends, Henry and Marianne Thornton.

Without a doubt, I regard “AMAZING GRACE” as an entertaining, yet very interesting look into the life of William Wilberforce and his role in Britain’s abolition of the slave trade. Granted, the movie came off a touch pretentious and there were times when the Wilberforce character came off as too idealized. But the movie’s visual style, intelligent script and excellent performances from a cast led by Ioan Gruffudd made this film worthwhile for me.





The producers of “THE HUNGER GAMES” movie franchise decided to follow the examples of the “HARRY POTTER”and “TWILIGHT” franchises and divide its adaptation of the last novel in Suzanne Collins’ literary series into two movies. The first of these two films is the recent “THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I”.

Based upon the first half of Collins’ 2010 novel, “THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I” picks up a few days or so after the end of the second film, “THE HUNGER GAMES – CATCHING FIRE”. After being rescued by her mentor Haymitch Abernathy and Head Gamemaker of the 75th Hunger Games Plutarch Heavensbee, Katniss Everdeen finds herself as a resident at the underground rebel facility hidden underneath the ruins of District 13. Fortunately, her sister Primrose Everdeen and mother Mrs. Everdeen had been rescued by her close friend Gale Hawthorne before President Coriolanus Snow had ordered the bombardment of their home, District 12. Unfortunately, Katniss learns that her other close friend and fellow District 12 tribute/victor Peeta Mallark, District 7 tribute/victor Johanna Mason and the wife of District 4 tribute Finnick Odair have all been captured by the Capitol and are now prisoners being tortured.

Both Heavensbee and leader of the rebellion Alma Coin want to use Katniss as a symbol of their rebellion. It seemed Katniss’ actions in the 75th Games arena – helping District 3 tribute/victor Beetee Latier bring down the arena forcefield in the last movie – spark and riots against the Capitol. Katniss refuses to become the rebellion’s suggestion, because they had left Peeta behind in the arena. But after visiting the ruined District 12 and seeing Peeta being used by the Capitol state television to end the rebellion, Katniss reluctantly changes her mind. She agrees to become the rebels’ “Mockingjay” symbol on the condition that Peeta and the other captured victors will be rescued at the first opportunity and pardoned.

When I had first learned that the producers of “THE HUNGER GAMES” franchise had plans to divide the adaptation of Collins’ last novel into two movies, I groaned with dismay. The last thing I wanted to experience was watching divided film adaptations of one novel. I have mixed feelings about how Warner Brothers and Summit Entertainment divided the adaptations of the last “Harry Potter’ and “Twilight” novels respectively. And I feared that I would experience similar feelings with this divided adaptation of Collins’ last novel, “Mockingjay”. After all, I have been more than satisfied with the adaptations of the first two novels. I adored them.

I have no idea how I will feel about the franchise’s last movie. Must I must say that I liked “MOCKINGJAY – PART I”very much. Well . . . actually, I enjoyed it as much as I did the first two films. And I did not expect that to happen. Unlike“THE HUNGER GAMES” and “CATCHING FIRE”, “MOCKINGJAY – PART I” did not focus upon a Hunger Games competition in which tributes engage in a lethal survival struggle. Instead, “MOCKINGJAY” shifts into the very premise that was foreshadowed in “CATCHING FIRE” – a deadly civil war. This shift in premise was one of the reasons why I had doubts about this film in the first place. I see I had nothing to worry about. Collins’ novel and screenwriters Danny Strong and Peter Craig did excellent jobs in conveying how the events of the first two chapters impacted the characters and the narrative of this last story – especially the actual outbreak of the rebellion, Katniss’ role in that outbreak, her role as the rebellion’s public face, her relationships with both Peeta and Gale, and Peeta’s position as a prisoner of the Capitol.

But there were two aspects of this movie that I found very interesting. First, I found it interesting that the willingness of both sides of the rebellion – the District 13 inhabitants under Alma Coin and Panem (the Capitol) under Coriolanus Snow – to use Katniss and Peeta for their respective causes. Coin and the rebellion exploits Katniss and the Mockingjay symbol via prepared speeches and televised visits to other rebellious districts. And Snow exploits Peeta to convince the public not to join the rebellion via televised interviews with Hunger Games master of ceremonies Caesar Flickerman. It is interesting how different political beliefs can merely end up as two sides of one coin, so to speak. Another interesting aspect of the movie . . . at least for me . . . proved to be Katniss Everdeen. I noticed how Katniss is described as some kind of heroine in many articles on the Internet. This image was certainly solidified in the District 8 sequence. But while watching the film, I found myself wondering if Katniss was on some kind of slow journey toward a nervous breakdown. Superficially, she seemed tough . . . sure of herself. But there also seemed to be minor hints of a breakdown, especially in the film’s second half.

Director Francis Lawrence and cinematographer Jo Willems continued their visual expansion of the world of Panem in“MOCKINGJAY – PART I”. The movie featured scenes of both Districts 13 and 8, along with parts of the Capitol never seen in the first two films. I thought Willems did a solid job with his photography of the locations that stood for the two districts in rebellion. But if I must be honest, I do not recall any mind blowing scenes in the film – aside from the Capitol’s bombing of District 8. Philip Messina’s production designs did an excellent job in conveying the contrasting looks of the bombed out districts, the Capitol and Coin’s headquarters beneath District 13’s ruins. “MOCKINGJAY – PART I” proved to be the first film in the franchise that did not feature any over-the-top and memorable costumes designs, aside from the suit worn by Josh Hutcherson in his character’s interviews and Katniss’ Mockingjay battle outfit:



Otherwise, Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller’s designs seemed more casual and utilitarian, especially for the costumes worn by the rebels led by Alma Coin. I suppose this was due to most of the story told from Katniss’ point-of-view. And for once, she never visited the Capitol.

The performances were top-notch. Once again, Jennifer Lawrence knocked it out of the ballpark in her portrayal of “the Girl on Fire” Katniss Everdeen. Only in this film, Lawrence’s Katniss seemed even more on edge, torn between her hatred of Coin and the Capitol, her wariness toward Alma Coin and her deep concern for Peeta’s fate. Many have commented upon the District 8 scene in which Katniss openly expressed her anger over the bombing. But my favorite scene featured the moment in which Lawrence reminded audiences that Katniss is still an adolescent. I refer to the scene in which Katniss, which adolescent discomfort gives Coin and Heavensbee ultimatums in exchange for agreeing to be their “Mockingjay”. Great Lawrence moment. Because his character spent most of the film as a prisoner, Josh Hutcherson had lesser screen time in this film. No matter. He still managed to give a great performance as the tortured and exploited Peeta, forced to act as the Capitol’s mouthpiece. There were two moments in the film that truly displayed Hutcherson’s talent. One featured Peeta’s last interview in which he seemed to be struggling between cooperating with the Capitol and longing to express a warning to Katniss and the rebels. Anyone could see the extension of the abuse Peeta had suffered. The other moment was . . . well, that would be spoiling the film. All one has to do is watch Hutcherson’s performance in the film’s last ten to fifteen minutes. Liam Hemsworth’s character, Gale Hawthorne, was expanded in this film. In fact, he had more scenes that Hutcherson. Which is good news, for the actor finally had a chance to display his skills as an actor. I was impressed by how Hemsworth conveyed Gale’s struggles and failure to contain his jealousy of Katniss’ relationship with Peeta. I thought he was more effective in displaying this aspect of Gale’s character in this film than in the last two flicks. I was also impressed by Hemsworth’s performance in a scene in which Gale recalls the destruction of District 12.

I read somewhere that the Effie Trinket character did not appear until near the end of Collins’ novel. Thankfully, Strong and Craig did not reduce her character in this film. And audiences got a chance to see Elizabeth Banks give another delightful and crowd pleasing performance as the publicist/chaperone. I especially enjoyed watching Banks convey Effie’s dismay at the lack of fashion sense among the District 13 rebels and contempt toward Coin and Heavensbee’s handling of Katniss. Woody Harrelson was equally entertaining as Katniss’ alcoholic mentor, Haymitch Abernathy. Harrelson seemed to have less screen time in this film, due to his character being forced to undergo detoxication and being on the outs with Katniss. But Harrelson was colorful as ever. And I especially enjoyed his interactions with Banks. Donald Sutherland was creepy as ever in his portrayal of Panem’s head-of-state, President Coriolanus Snow. One of the aspects of Sutherland’s performance that I enjoyed so much is how he manages to effectively convey such subtle menace in his portrayal. This was especially in one scene in which Katniss made a personal plea to Snow to spare the lives of Peeta and the other prisoners.

Jeffrey Wright returned as District 4 tribute/victor Beetee Latier. Although there was not much in his character development, Wright had one particularly interesting scene in which he skillfully conveyed Beetee’s concerns over his use of technology to support an important military mission within the Capitol. Sam Claflin reprised his role as District 4 tribute/victor Finnick Odair and did an excellent job in portraying the character’s emotional vulnerability regarding his concern for wife and fellow victor Annie Cresta. I was really by Claflin’s performance in one scene in which Odair revealed his past experience in being forced into prostitution for his fans in the Capitol. Philip Seymour Hoffman returned as former Head Gamekeeper and the rebellion’s publicist Plutarch Heavensbee. In some scenes, Hoffman seemed smooth as ever as the manipulative Heavensbee. But there were interesting moments in which the actor revealed Heavensbee’s occasional bouts of fear and doubt. Paula Malcomson, Stanley Tucci and Willow Shields all returned to reprise their roles as Mrs. Everdeen, Caesar Flickerman and Primrose Everdeen. All gave solid performances, but I was especially impressed by Shields, who conveyed in increased maturity in her role. Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and Natalie Dormer joined the cast as Alma Coin’s right hand man/Katniss’ bodyguard Boggs and Capitol film diretor-turned-rebel Cressida. Both gave solid performances. But I was especially impressed by no-nonsense attitude conveyed by Ali. Julianne Moore also made her debut in the film franchise as leader of the rebellion, Alma Coin. In many ways, Moore’s Coin seemed just as subtle and manipulative as Sutherland’s President Snow. Moore was also effective in conveying Coin’s somewhat cold-blooded pragmatism that strangely reminded me of Katniss.

Did I have any qualms about “THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I”? Well . . . as much as I found Katniss’ angry speech during her visit to District 8 rather stirring, I was also a little put off by it. I got the feeling that the screenwriters and Lawrence wanted to include a “macho/heroic moment” for Katniss, considering the minimum number of action scenes for the character in compare to the previous two films. I do not know if this scene was included in the novel. But it seemed a bit over-the-top to me. And there was the scene in which a rebel demolition team manages to blow up the dam providing the Capitol with electricity. There seemed to be a certain lack of reality in the rebels’ attack upon the dam that did not seem right to me.

But as far as I am concerned, “THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I” proved to be just as first-rate as the previous two films. It is already one of my favorite films of 2014. Francis Lawrence continued his marvelous job as the franchise’s director. And I believe he was also damn lucky to work with a superb cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and utilize an excellent screenplay written Danny Strong and Peter Craig. I hope . . . and pray that the last entry in the film franchise will prove to be just as superb as the first three films.

“Spells, Lies and Remorse” [R] – 8/9



A lime-green Volkswagen sat parked across the street from one of San Francisco’s many courthouses. Bruce, Harry and the car’s owner – Paige – sat inside, waiting for a certain Assistant District Attorney to make his appearance on the courthouse steps.

“What time did Paul say that he was going to lunch?” Paige asked impatiently.

Bruce sighed. “He didn’t say exactly when. All he said was . . .” He broke off at the sight of two men descending the wide steps. He recognized one of them as Paul. “There he is.” Bruce glanced at his watch. “At twelve-thirty, on the dot.”

The three witches watched Paul and the other man turn left and strode along the street, before disappearing around the corner. Harry, who sat the seat next to Paige, turned to grin at the older man in the backseat. “Show time, big brother. Do us proud.”

“Oh great!” Bruce moaned. Harry helped him out of the car. Then he added, “I’ll see you guys within a few minutes or so.” He dashed across the street and entered the building. A security guard informed him that Paul Margolin’s office was located on the seventh floor. Just before approaching the office, Bruce dashed into the men’s restroom. Finding it empty, he quickly morphed into the New York-born witch’s form. Then he strode out of the restroom and into Paul’s office, expecting to encounter the latter’s secretary. Fortunately, she was no where to be seen.

Once safely inside the office, Bruce took a deep breath and cried out, “Leo! LEO!” Nearly twenty minutes passed, but the whitelighter failed to respond. Once more, Bruce called out the latter’s name. “Leo!” At that moment, blue lights appeared, signaling the whitelighter’s arrival.


“Morris!” Captain McPherson’s bark took Darryl by surprise.

The police lieutenant rushed into his supervisor’s office. “Captain? You need something?”

“Yeah. I need to know the whereabouts of your partner. Where is McNeill?”

Dreading this moment, Darryl lied to the police captain. “She’s at home, sick. Sore throat and stomach bug. She called me, this morning.”

“Oh. Okay.” McPherson added, “By the way, how is the Kostopulos case coming along?”

Darryl nervously cleared his throat. “Slow. Both Scott Yi and Carlotta Trujillo are still questioning witnesses. It shouldn’t be long before we have ourselves a suspect.”

McPherson dismissed the lieutenant, allowing the latter to escape from the former’s presence. A relieved Darryl returned to his desk. Where in the hell was Olivia? And why has she not called? Even if she were involved in a supernatural emergency, she would have informed him.

Darryl shook his head. Even before he had learned that she was a witch, Darryl never could fathom his partner’s mind. And lately, her personality seemed to have undergone a major change since that lunch with Margolin, last . . . Darryl’s thoughts broke off, as his mind retrieved a memory that he had been trying to recall for the past few. That afternoon at the restaurant flashed before his eyes – the phone call he had received from Sheila, returning to the table to find Olivia gone . . . and seeing Paul Margolin pour something into Olivia’s drink. Paul Margolin? Realizing that he had just remembered something important, Darryl picked up the telephone and dialed the number to the McNeills’ home.


Inside Paige’s Volkswagen, she and Harry sat in silence. This was the first time they had been alone since their date, Friday night. And considering that it had not ended well, she felt slightly uncomfortable in his presence. Then Harry’s voice cut through the silence. “Cat caught your tongue?”

Paige stared at the red-haired man. “Huh?”

“I’ve noticed that ever since Bruce left the car, you’ve been silent. Is there a reason?”

Her cheeks burning with embarrassment, Paige shook her head. “No. No reason. Can’t we sit in silence? Do we have to . . .?”

“Okay Paige, what the hell is wrong?”

Paige shot back. “Nothing’s wrong!”

A large sigh left Harry’s mouth. “I realize that our date didn’t turn out like we had hoped, but . . .”

“What makes you think that our date has anything to do with me being silent?” Paige rolled her eyes in feign contempt. Then she confronted him. “Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t enjoy yourself?”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Harry replied, “Actually, I did. Until we ran into Olivia and Paul at the Golden Horn. After that . . . well, it wasn’t exactly paradise.”

“No wonder, considering the shock of seeing Olivia and Paul together like that.”

A long pause followed, before Harry added, “Actually that wasn’t it. You . . .”

“I . . . what?”

Once more, Harry sighed. “Have you ever considered the possibility that you have a . . . well, obsessive nature?”

“What?” Paige stared at her companion in shock. “What do you mean by that?”

Harry continued, “After we saw Olivia and Paul, you seemed . . . obsessive. I mean, c’mon Paige! You spent the rest of the evening obsessing over them. You even tried to talk me into reading Paul’s mind, again.” He shook his head. “That sort of ruined it for me.”

“Well, pardon me for ruining your evening!” Paige retorted, feeling put out by Harry’s comment. “Maybe you should stick to women who wouldn’t mind worshipping the ground you walk! Like Dana Morton, for instance. I’m sure she’s capable of stroking that ego of yours!”

“For crying out loud!” Harry focused his green eyes upon the Charmed One. “Would it really hurt for you to accept a little criticism?”

Paige shot back, “Oh please! Like you would like it if I had criticized you about you about some of your traits!”

“What are you talking about? You do it all the time!”

“The hell I . . .” Paige paused, as she recalled the numerous times she had either insulted Harry or made some comment about his less than personable traits. “Never mind,” she murmured.

Another lengthy moment of silence followed, before Paige heard Harry say, “So, um . . . would you like to go out, again?”

She stared at him, as if he had lost his mind. “What?”

“Would you like to go out on another date? This upcoming Friday, for instance?”

Stunned by his proposal, Paige nearly ended up stammering. “Wha . . . I thought . . . You didn’t . . . Why do you want to go out with me, so badly?”

“Because I find you attractive,” Harry said. From the corner of her eye, Paige saw his face turn red. “Is that so hard to fathom?”

“Considering your opinion on my ‘obssessive’ nature,” Paige commented, “yeah.”

A embarrassed smile curved Harry’s lips. Paige could not help but notice that he seemed very attractive at that moment. “Okay, I had that coming. But flaws or no flaws, I find you . . . attractive. And I would like to go out with you, again.”

‘Say no,’ Paige’s mind told her. ‘No!’ She opened her mouth and . . . “Sure. Why not?” God! She could be such a sucker for a cute smile!


At the same time, Olivia stepped out of the elevator and strode toward the double doors that led to Cole’s penthouse. She produced a special key from her purse – one used by thieves to open lock – and used it to open the door.

Once inside the penthouse, Olivia surveyed the living room, trying to decide where to create her circle. The middle of the room – in front of the fireplace – seemed to be the perfect spot. She removed from her purse, a small bottle of the potion, now a red paste, and set about drawing a circle. With a heptagram inside.


“Paul?” A concerned expression appeared on Leo’s face. “Something wrong?”

As rehearsed, Bruce replied in a tense voice, “They know.”

Leo frowned. “Know what?”

Bruce began to wonder if Harry and Paige had been mistaken about the whitelighter. He sighed and added, “I’m talking about Olivia, Leo . . . and Cole. They know. At least, Harry does.”

Shaking his head, Leo protested, “That’s impossible. I know I had told you about Paige’s suspicions. But I managed to nip it in the bud. She hasn’t mentioned it, again.” Anxiety lit up his blue eyes. “Or has she? At least mentioned it to Harry? Do they know about the spell?”

The spell? Margolin had placed a spell on his sister? It took all of Bruce’s self-control not to lose his temper. “I was dining with Olivia’s family, last night. Well, you know that Paige and Harry saw us at the Golden Horn, Friday night. But last night . . . Harry was looking at me rather odd. As if he was trying to concentrate on something.”

“That something was probably you.” Leo heaved an exasperated sigh. “My God! Harry must have read your mind, Paul. He’s a telepath.”

Naturally inclined to defend his younger brother, Bruce said, “But don’t witches with telepathic powers have this code about reading other people’s minds without permission?”

“They do,” Leo replied shortly. “Only, Harry isn’t the type who follows the rules.” Son-of-a-bitch! Bruce mentally suppressed the insult. Leo added, “When did you realize that they . . . I mean, Harry knew?”

Bruce continued to lie. “Like I said, he had this odd look on his face. And there were the hints he was giving. Especially after the phone call he had received from Paige. He started talking about spells that change people’s personalities. And that’s when I realized that he knew. Paige probably knows, as well.”

“She must have told him that I’ve returned,” Leo said. Another sigh left his mouth. “What about Cole? What do they know about Cole?”

At that moment, Bruce mentally sent out a summons to his brother, in the hopes that the latter would detect it. Sure enough, Harry and Paige orbed behind Leo, seconds later. To keep the charade going, Bruce frowned. “Know about Cole?”

“You said that they knew about the spell you had used on Olivia,” Leo continued. “Do they know about her plans to vanquish Cole?” Paige gasped. Leo whirled around with a stunned expression. “Paige! Harry! What are you . . .?”

“Leo?” As the whitelighter’s gaze returned to Bruce, he transformed back to his original form. The shapeshifter regarded Leo with a cold gaze. “I think we need to have a serious talk. Like about that spell Paul had cast upon my sister.”

Leo’s face paled.


At precisely one-thirty in the afternoon, Paul stepped out of the elevator and walked toward the double doors that led inside Belthazor’s penthouse. Fearing that his lunch with the District Attorrney would last longer than he hoped, Paul had cut it short with a fake excuse. Upon leaving the restaurant, he nearly broke several traffic laws in trying to reach Olivia’s apartment building on time. There were moments like now that he wished he were a teleporter.

Paul raised his hand to knock on the door – and hesitated. What if Olivia was not inside? Even worse, what if Belthazor had returned home earlier than usual? And why start the plan now? Why not wait until after the half-demon’s arrival? “Forget the questions Margolin, and just knock,” he muttered to himself. Which he did.

Seconds later, the door opened, revealing Olivia. She smiled. “You made it. And you’re early.” She opened the door further, allowing Paul to step inside.

“I didn’t know how long that lunch would last,” Paul said. “The D.A. can be a bit . . .” He paused, as the penthouse’s décor took his breath away. And nearly made him green with envy. Paul wished that he could only be so lucky as to live in such a beautifully furnished and expensive penthouse like this. He noted the fireplace against the left wall. And the balcony on the far side of the apartment that overlooked San Francisco Bay. Hell, it looked even more beautiful than Olivia’s apartment. “Not bad,” he murmured. Paul seemed ready to dismiss the place as too perfect and lacking in any warmth. But his eyes spotted various plants stationed throughout the living room. And the burgundy macramé shawl spread across the sofa’s back. Resentment flared within his breast. Olivia’s touch, of course. Then his eyes fell upon a red circle on the floor. “What’s that?” he asked.

Olivia’s smile widened. “A magic circle, of course. Where the vanquish will take place. The circle is made from a potion I had prepared. Which, hopefully, will kill Cole.” She said in a very cheerful voice.

“But that’s . . .” Paul peered closer at the circle. “That’s not a pentagram, is it?”

“No, it’s a heptagram. Star with seven points.”

Seven points? Paul shook his head. “But why? I mean . . . why seven . . .?”

Olivia interrupted. “Each point represents an element. This is, uh . . . based on a new theory of mine.” Paul continued to stare at the symbol with growing doubt. An impatient huff escaped from Olivia’s mouth. “Don’t worry. It’ll work. Trust me. Now,” she picked up the cordless telephone, “time to put the plan into action.”

Before she could contact Belthazor, Paul said, “Wait a minute! Why don’t you just wait until he comes home?”

“And when will that be?” Olivia’s green eyes bored into Paul’s, making him feel slightly intimidated. “Cole doesn’t have a regular schedule. I don’t know any attorney who does. Do you?” He had to admit that Olivia had a point. “Okay, here we go.” She dialed a number. Seconds later, “Hi, this is Ms. Beatrice More, the general manager of Mr. Turner’s building. May I speak to him?”

A curious Paul asked Olivia what she was up to. Instead of answering his question, Olivia gave him a cryptic smile. Then, “Good afternoon, Mr. Turner. This is Beatrice More. There’s a problem at the building. We’re experiencing gas leaks from our pipes. Mr. Farnelli believes that it might be coming from your place. Could you give us permission to enter?” She paused. “Oh, you’ll be here yourself?” Olivia’s smile widened. “Well, if you insist. I’ll see you soon. Thank you.” She disconnected the telephone. “Get ready,” she added. “Cole should be here at any time.”


Paige stared at her brother-in-law in disbelief. “I can’t . . . Oh my God! I can’t believe it! Leo! What have you done?”

“I haven’t done . . .” Leo paused under the stares of the three witches. “Look, I had to do it! It was the only way to prevent a disaster from happening!”

Bruce took a threatening step forward. “What disaster? What was so damn important that you and Paul had decided to put my sister under a spell?”

“It had to be done!” Leo protested, taking a step back. “To prevent a new Source from emerging.”


The whitelighter explained, “One of our whitelighters is a seer. She was also one, as a mortal. Anyway, she had a vision of Cole playing a part in the emergence of a new Source. Both he and Olivia. When I found out that Cole’s mother now headed the Brotherhood of the Thorn . . .”

“You’ve got to be joking!” Harry exclaimed. “You and the Boy Scout had cast a spell on Olivia to stop a new Source from emerging? What the hell does Olivia has to do with all of this? Why have her kill Cole? If that’s possible!”

An uneasy expression appeared on Leo’s face. “Because . . . because, she’s the only one who can kill him.”


An epiphany struck Paige. She finally understood what Leo was trying to say. “Oh my God,” she murmured. The others stared at her. “Oh God! The vision!”

Harry frowned. “What?”

“Cecile’s vision! Remember what happened at the wedding?” Paige continued in an excited voice. “When she had first met Paul, Cecile had a vision of Olivia killing Cole. In Paul’s presence!”

Shaking his head, Harry protested, “But that’s impossible! Olivia isn’t strong enough to kill Cole. None of us are – including the Power of Three.”

Bruce threw his head back and groaned. “Oh! Of course! Olivia and I had this theory on how to kill the Source without the use of brute strength. Only . . .” He frowned. “Barbara told me about Olivia making a big purchase at Ostera’s, last Saturday. Is that true?”

Paige nodded. “Yeah. Some weird stuff. Why?”

With a sigh, Bruce added, “Then she must have made the potion, and plan to use some time in the near future.”

“We have to stop her!”

A grim Leo shot back, “You won’t! Remember? In Cecile’s vision, none of you make it in time to save Cole. Why don’t you accept the fact that he’s as good as dead? In the end, it’ll be best for all . . .”

Harry punched the whitelighter in the jaw, stopping the latter in mid-sentence. Leo reeled back and landed on the floor. “That’s for using my sister as a pawn in your little scheme,” he growled. “And when she finds out, may the God and Goddess help you.” He turned to the others. “We have to warn Cole.”

Bruce retrieved his cell phone and dialed. Seconds later, he returned it to his jacket. “That was his assistant. Cole left his office about a few minutes ago. Something about an emergency at his building.”

The older witch’s words brought back memories of Cecile’s vision to Paige. “Of course! The penthouse! Cecile had used her telepathy to show us her vision. That’s were Olivia is going to kill Cole!”

Another sigh left Bruce’s mouth. “Okay. I’ll try to reach Cole’s . . .” His cell phone rang. “Hello?” A pause followed, while Paige noticed the grim expression on his face. “Oh shit! Thanks Gran. I think we know where to go.” He disconnected his phone and returned it to jacket pocket. “That was Gran. She just got a phone call from Darryl. Apparently, Olivia didn’t bother to show up for work, today. I think she’s planning to do the job, as soon as possible.”

“Well then, let’s go,” Harry said. “Paige?”

The Charmed One grabbed hold of each McNeill brother. Leo stared at the trio. “Where are you going?” he demanded.

“To Cole’s place,” Bruce coldly replied. To clean up your mess, before it gets any worse.” And the three witches orbed out of Paul’s office.


Cole materialized in the middle of his penthouse. He glanced around the semi-dark living room and turned on the lights. There did not seemed to be any sign of gas in the air. Only cinnamon apple. Which happened to be . . .

Two figures emerged from one of the bedroom, taking Cole by surprise. Olivia and . . . Paul Margolin. “What the hell are you two doing inside my place?” he demanded.

Olivia stepped forward, her beautiful face marred by a cold smile. “Doing the universe a favor, Belthazor.”

“What?” Confused, Cole stared at the redhead. “Olivia, have you lost your mind? What the hell are you talking about?”

Her smile grew chillier, making Cole feel increasingly uneasy. “This.” She waved one hand in the air. “Initiate.”

To Cole’s surprise, a bright red circle formed around him. Something akin to a force field. For some unexplained reason, he felt a shot of fear go through him. “Olivia? What’s going on?” He made an attempt to push himself past the force field. To his surprise, he failed. His fear threatened to overwhelm him. “Olivia . . .”

The red-haired witch began to chant. “In Hecate’s name, I summon the powers of air, of water, of earth, of wood, of metal, of fire and of spirit to infect this daemon’s powers and destroy him from within!”

Another surprise awaited Cole, as the red light from the circle began to seep into his body. The pain rose to an unbearable level, causing Cole to fall to his knees with a cry.


Bruce, Harry and Paige orbed into Cole’s penthouse and came upon a scene of horror. They found the half-daemon surrounded by a circle of red light, on his knees and screaming in pain. Outside the circle stood Paul Margolin wearing a smug expression and Olivia chanting a spell.

Horrified, Bruce called out his sister’s name. “Olivia! Olivia, stop!” His cries failed to reach her ears. Paul was another matter.

The New York-born witch turned around and regarded the newcomers with anxiety. As Paige stepped forward to stop Olivia, he raised his hand and sent a gust of ice toward the Charmed One. Bruce immediately counteracted Paul’s attack with his aerokinesis, forcing the ice to envelop the cyrokinetic and turn him into an ice statue.

Meanwhile, Olivia continued her chant. “In Hecate’s name, I summon the powers of air, of water, of earth, of wood, of metal, of fire and of spirit to infect this daemon’s powers and destroy him from within!” The red circle soon began to envelop Cole.

Again, Bruce ordered his sister to stop. For once, she heard him. Then she waved one hand and sent Bruce reeling back against the door. At the same time, Paul’s frozen figure toppled backward and shattered into pieces upon impact of the floor. Bruce glanced helplessly at the others. “Oh my God,” he murmured. “How can we stop her?”

“Let me try,” Harry said. He directed his stare at the back of Olivia’s head. Experienced in living with telepaths, Bruce nearly detected the younger man’s psychic message to their sister. However, she continued her chant. Then Harry’s stare became more intense. “Olivia, stop! Now!” Cole’s tormentor grabbed her head and cried out in pain. Seconds later, she fell to the floor, unconscious. Cole did the same, once the red circle finally disappeared.

Paige stared at Harry. “What did you do?”

“Touched a nerve in her brain, a little bit,” he replied. “She was resisting me. I guess . . . I had to be a little more intense.” Harry pointed at the circle on the carpet. “Anyone know how to get rid of that?”

Paige opened the nearest window. I’ll do it.” She pointed at the red circle on the floor and said, “Potion . . . window.” The mixture on the carpet disappeared and reappeared outside the open window before it dispersed into the air. She nodded at the couple on the floor. “What about them?”

Bruce replied, “Take her to her apartment.”

Kneeling beside the unconscious Olivia, Paige grabbed the other woman’s hand and orbed them both out of the penthouse. Bruce sighed and knelt beside Cole. “C’mon Harry. Help me get him inside his bedroom.” The two brothers picked up the unconscious half-daemon and carried him out of the living room.


“No Criticism of Emma Swan Allowed”


I had originally wrote this article when the first half of “ONCE UPON A TIME” Season Four aired:



What is it about the Emma Swan character that raises the ire of so many fans whenever any of her actions are criticized? Is she some kind of sacred cow of the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom?

I do not regard Emma as some kind of monster. I never have. But I do get tired of fandom stomping down on anyone who dares to criticize her character or any of her actions. Some have claimed that my criticisms are a result of my dislike of Emma. Well, I am going to protest against that accusation. When the series first began in the fall of 2011, Emma was one of my favorite characters on the show. I spent most of that season cheering for her victory against Big Bad Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen. I felt especially thrilled when she finally restored everyone’s memories of their Enchanted Forest personas when she broke the curse cast by Regina. So . . . what happened? How did I come to this point where I find myself criticizing Emma so much? More importantly, why are so many fans intolerant of the idea of her being criticized in the first place?

I feel it began in Season Two, when Emma and her mother, Snow White, found themselves conveyed to a post-curse Enchanted Forest. They spent most of that season’s early episodes trying to find a way to return to Storybrooke, Maine with the help of two new acquaintances – Mulan and Princess Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty. When they finally stumbled across a means – namely a magical compass that could guide them to a portal, it just went sour. There was an incident between Snow White and Mulan in the episode, (2.08) “Into the Deep” in which the latter had stolen the compass in order to exchange it with Regina’s mother, the more evil Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts, for the kidnapped Aurora’s life. However, Snow and Emma managed to catch up with Mulan. And Snow started to murder Mulan. I had posted a complaint about what happened. How did many fans respond? They claimed that Snow was about to kill Mulan, while in the midst of a fight. In reality, the fight had ended with Snow the victor. After Mulan confessed that she wanted the compass to save Aurora, Snow started to kill her anyway by shoving an arrow toward her face. Emma . . . did nothing to stop her mother. Instead, she stood there and watched. It was Aurora (freed by Killian Jones aka Captain Hook) who actually saved Mulan. Every time . . . every time I bring this up, people sweep Emma and Snow’s actions under the rug by insulting Mulan or pretending that no such thing happened.

On several occasions since Season Two, I have brought up the subject of Emma’s possession of a stolen car . . . namely the yellow Volkswagen that she drives. The Season Two episode, (2.06) “Tallahassee” revealed that her former lover, Neal Cassidy aka Baefire, had originally stolen the yellow Volkswagen. Then Emma, who was in her late teens at the time, tried to steal the car from him, before he stopped her. Following her arrest for the theft of watches that he had stolen, Neal had changed the car’s registration in order to reflect Emma as the vehicle’s legal owner. And instead of doing the right thing and turning it in to the police, Emma took possession of a vehicle that she knows was stolen and kept it for over a decade. Even after she managed to become a successful bails bondsman. Whenever I brought up this matter, other fans would sweep Emma’s misdeed under the rug and use her sentimentality over her past relationship with Neal as an excuse for her maintaining possession of a stolen vehicle.

From the moment she had decided to remain in Storybrooke in the series’ premiere, Emma has been breaking the law regarding the close adoption she had agreed to when she gave up her birth son, Henry Mills. When Emma learned that Regina, who was Henry’s adopted mother, had used a file about her criminal background to divide her and Henry, she used a chainsaw to destroy one of Regina’s apple trees … on her personal property. When I first saw the Season One episode, (1.02) “The Thing You Love Most”, I cheered. What can I say? I was pretty stupid back then. After some thought, my feelings over the incident has changed. For reasons that now baffles me, the series’ creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had allowed Emma to get away with this criminal act by having Sheriff Graham Humbert convince Regina not to press charges. I could not fucking believe it when I last saw this episode. Why was it so important that Emma avoid paying the price for trespassing and damage to private property? Come to think of it . . . why was just as it was important that she did not pay the price for possession of stolen property? Why was Snow White allowed to avoid any consequences for the attempt on Mulan’s life? Why was Emma allowed to avoid any consequences for being an accessory to her mother’s attempted murder? Why are the crimes of Regina, Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold and Killian constantly discussed and criticized by fans . . . and not those crimes and mistakes committed by Emma and/or her parents?

Speaking of Emma Swan and the law … why on earth is this woman the Sheriff of Storybrooke? Since when is experience as a bail bondsman qualifies someone for law enforcement? Mind you, none of the other characters – Graham or Sidney Glass – were not qualified. But neither was Emma. To make matters worse, she has developed a bad habit of abusing her position. At the end of the Season Two episode, (2.11) “The Outsider”, Killian shot Belle in an attempt to move her across the town’s limit and have her lose her memories. Why? He wanted revenge against Belle’s future husband, Rumpelstiltskin, for the loss of his hand and the murder of his former lover, Rumpelstiltskin’s wife Milah. For his actions, Killian got hit by a car. I had no problems with that. He deserved to pay the consequences of his act. In the following episode, (2.12) “In the Name of the Brother”, Emma questioned Killian for the whereabouts of his companion at the time, Cora Mills. When Killian responded with a snarky and flirtatious remark, Emma applied pressure to his wound, causing him pain. This little act was supposed to be a joke. All I can say is . . . what the fuck? Were Kitsis and Horowitz advocating police brutality? Apparently so, for in the Season Four episode, (2.04) “The Apprentice”, Emma had interrupted her date with Killian, to arrest Will Scarlet, after she spotted inside the restaurant where they were dining. She and her father, David aka Prince Charming had been looking for Will since they spotted him going through Robin Hood’s belongings and breaking into the town’s ice cream shop in the previous episode. And how did Emma treat him? She fed him a half-eaten Pop Tart and kept him jailed longer than necessary, because he had interrupted her date. This was the showrunners’ idea of law enforcement? The audience was supposed to view such abuse of position as a joke? In the wake of national scandals regarding the abuse of law enforcers, I found it difficult to be amused.

The incident that “broke the camel’s back occurred in the Season Three finale, (3.22) “There’s No Place Like Home”. In this episode, Emma and Killian accidentally got caught into a vortex that sent them back into time. During their little time traveling sojourn, Emma accidentally prevented Snow and David’s first meeting. So, she and Killian set out to clean up the mess created by her. In doing so, Emma ended up captured by Regina and tossed into a dungeon that included an imprisoned Maid Marian, wife to Robin Hood, whom Regina was dating in the present time Storybrooke. As everyone knows, when Killian sprung Emma from the dungeon, the latter decided to rescue Marian as well . . . despite the fact that the latter was killed years before Robin Hood ever met Regina. In other words, Emma changed the past. To make matters worse, she revealed Neal’s fate to his father, Rumpelstiltskin. In order to prevent the latter from being tempted to change the time and save Neal, Emma convinced him to drink a memory wiping potion.

Just think about that . . . shall we? Are we to assume that it was okay for Emma to play “savior” by saving a woman who had died in the past and changing the timeline in the process? Yet, it was not okay for Rumpelstiltskin to be tempted to change the time in order to save Neal? The hypocrisy of Emma’s actions still astounds me to this day. When I had posted an earlier article about this, I predicted that Regina would eventually forgive Emma within a few episodes of Season Four. And I was right. Emma felt remorse for ruining Regina’s romance with Robin. But she remained convinced that she had the right to change the timeline in order to save Marian. And within five episodes, Regina forgave Emma for her “mistake” in (4.05) “Breaking Glass”.

I felt disgusted beyond belief. More importantly, I felt angry. And when I posted my feelings about Emma’s actions, I ended up banned from a “ONCE UPON A TIME” Live Journal blog. I posted this article on Tumblr and received a good deal of personal insults for my troubles. When I complained about Emma’s actions and expressed hope that she would see the errors of her actions on the show’s Fanforum thread, I received a warning from the moderator that I was guilty of baiting. I am curious. If I continue to complain about Emma’s inability to see the wrong of her actions … especially her time changing stunt in ““There’s No Place Like Home”, will I ended up being banned from more message boards and sites?

When the idea of SwanQueen first appeared in late Season One/early Season Two of the series, I saw some merit in the idea, even if I could not care less whether Emma and Regina ended up with each other or other partners. Now . . . I would rather blind myself than watch the two of them become a couple. I have a problem with them being friendly, due to the show’s current inability to allow Emma to see the errors of her ways. Such a relationship now strikes me as uneven. As long as Regina continues to be judged for her past actions, while Emma gets a free ride or excuses for hers, I could never support such a relationship. Hell, I could barely give a rat’s ass about Emma’s relationship with Killian. I am not one of those who believe that their relationship supports “rape culture”, due to Killian’s past sexual innuendos to Emma. But I cannot support a relationship when the abusive actions of one them – namely Emma’s physical abuse of Killian in mid-Season Two and her treatment of the imprisoned Will Scarlet – are treated like jokes.

This is my plea to Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Do something about Emma Swan. Please. I am sick and tired of you giving Emma an excuse for many of her questionable actions. If you are capable of allowing characters like Regina Mills, Rumpelstiltskin, Killian Jones and even Snow White (for the murder of Cora) facing their mistakes and crimes, why can you not do the same for Emma? Why allow her to break the law regarding her son’s adoption terms, destroy private property, possess a stolen vehicle, be an accessory to attempted murder, engage in police brutality and do something incredibly stupid like change the timeline . . . and NOT have her face the consequences of her actions? Because I am fast losing all respect for Emma. And I am getting sick and tired of being punished for criticizing her behavior.

“PATRIOT GAMES” (1992) Review


“PATRIOT GAMES” (1992) Review

I tried to recall the number of Hollywood movies made about Irish militants and their conflicts against the British government. And it occurred to me that very little have been made in which pro-Irish characters are portrayed as antagonists. Very little. One of them happened to be the 1992 movie, “PATRIOT GAMES”. And considering the rarity of such a scenario, it still surprises me that it was a big box office hit during the summer of 1992.

Based upon Tom Clancy’s 1987 novel, “PATRIOT GAMES” is a sequel to the 1990 film, “THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER”. The movie began with retired CIA agent Jack Ryan on vacation with his family in London. They witnessed a terrorist attack on Lord William Holmes, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II by terrorists. When Ryan intervened, one of the terrorists wounded him, but he managed to kill one of the assailants, Patrick Miller, while his older brother Sean looked on. The remaining attackers fled, while Sean was apprehended by the police.

While recovering, Ryan was called to testify in court against Miller, who turned out to be a member of a breakaway group of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Miller’s compatriots, including leader Kevin O’Donnell and a woman named Annette, helped Miller escape before he could be shipped to a prison on the Isle of Wright. Thirsting revenge for his brother’s death, Sean convinced his compatriots to help him murder Ryan and the latter’s family before they can continue their activities against Lord William Holmes and the British Crown.

“PATRIOT GAMES” proved to be a pretty solid action thriller. The narrative provided plenty of action, personal drama, political intrigue and suspense to maintain my interest in the story. I also have to give kudos to the three screenwriters for ensuring that each aspect of the story balanced well, without one aspect overwhelming another. The interesting thing is that all of this happened because of two things – Jack interfered in the assassination attempt on Lord Holmes and killed a young man, and two, the young man’s brother wanted revenge for his death.

The movie also featured some solid acting. And I mean solid. Aside from one performance, none of the others performances in the film did not particularly rock my boat. Samuel L. Jackson was two years away from stardom, when he appeared as Jack Ryan’s close friend, Lieutenant-Commander Robby Jackson. Patrick Bergin gave a decent and strong performance as leader of the IRA breakaway group, Kevin O’Donnell. Polly Walker ably supported him as his fellow compatriot and lover, a mysterious Englishwoman named Annette. James Earl Jones repeated his role as Admiral James Greer and gave a solid, if not memorable performance. James Fox was entertaining as the Royal Family’s cousin, Lord William Holmes. Thora Birch struck me as very charming in her portrayal of the Ryans’ young daughter Sally. And both David Threlfall and Alun Armstrong gave intense performances as British police officers, Inspector Robert Highland and Sergeant Owens. I was especially impressed by Threlfall. Fans of the “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT” series will be surprised to find Hugh Fraser (who portrayed Arthur Hastings) portray Lord William’s private secretary, Geoffrey Watkins. In fact, his performance was so low-key that I barely noticed him, until the final action sequence. J.E. Freeman was equally intense as CIA official Marty Cantor. I especially enjoyed Freeman’s scenes with star Harrison Ford in which their characters engage in quarrels over Ryan’s interest in rejoining the CIA.

When I had earlier stated that the movie featured one performance that did rock my boat, I did not mean Ford. The actor took over the Jack Ryan character, when Alec Baldwin (who had portrayed the character in “THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER”) proved to be unavailable. I thought Ford did a pretty damn good job and managed to capture Ryan’s more subtle personality rather well. But I did not find his performance particularly dazzling. Anne Archer replaced Gates McFadden (“STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION”) in the role of Dr. Cathy Ryan, the main character’s wife. And like Ford, she gave a performance that I thought was pretty good, but not particularly dazzling. Richard Harris proved some oomph in the role of Paddy O’Neil, the IRA spokesman, who struggles to convince the world at large that O’Donnell’s compatriots no longer are connected with his organization. But the one performance that really impressed me came from Sean Bean, who portrayed Sean Miller, the terrorist who wanted revenge against Ryan.

Despite my praise of the film, many will be surprised to learn that “PATRIOT GAMES” is my fourth favorite of the five movies based upon Clancy’s series or characters. Many would find this especially surprising, since the last two movies,“THE SUM OF ALL FEARS” (2002) and “JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” (2014), were not critically acclaimed. That would mean that I have a higher preference for one of the latter two films over “PATRIOT GAMES”. How could that be? Beauty or art is in the eye of the beholder . . . and I cannot help how I feel. I am not saying that “PATRIOT GAMES” is a terrible movie . . . or even a mediocre one. It is pretty damn good. But it did not take my breath away or fascinated me. My problem is that I did not find its plot – namely Jack Ryan dealing with a vengeful ex-IRA member – particularly fascinating. There did not seemed to be anything mind-boggling about it. Perhaps the subject matter was too personal for a tale penned by Tom Clancy. Another problem I had with “PATRIOT GAMES” is that aside from Sean Bean’s performance, I did not find the rest of them particularly dazzling or memorable. The most fascinating aspect of this film is that it featured three veterans of the “STAR WARS” movie franchise – Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

Nevertheless, “PATRIOT GAMES” is still a pretty damn good movie. Harrison Ford managed to effortlessly take over the role of Jack Ryan from Alec Baldwin. He was supported by a solid cast that included a superb performance from Sean Bean. In the end, I believe it is still worthy of purchase for repeated viewings.

“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985) – Episode Five “1856-1860” Commentary

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NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985) – EPISODE FIVE “1856-1860” Commentary

Following the emotional and ugly incidents from Episode Four, events for both the Hazard and Main families become even uglier, as the United States inches closer to a full blown civil war. The ugliness culminates in a major event in the form of John Brown’s famous October 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry in (then) western Virginia.

Episode Five, set between 1856 and 1860, opened with Madeline recovering from Justin’s angry reaction to her mysterious disappearance (helping a pregnant Ashton Main acquire an abortion from a low country free black woman). Unbeknownst to Madeline, La Motte’s physician has recommended daily doses of laudenum to keep her “nerves” steady. Due to the laudenum, La Motte will keep Madeline drugged and under control for the next four-and-a-half years. Not long after Madeline’s “recovery”, a pregnant-free Ashton marries fiancé James Huntoon. Several months after the wedding, a bored Ashton unsuccessfully tries to convince Orry to take her on a trip to New Orleans, where Huntoon is giving a pro-secession speech to the city’s inhabitants. Following his speech, Huntoon and three other men – including one Captain Elkhannah Bent – spend some time at a brothel owned by one Madame Conti. Huntoon and Bent exchange a few words, in which the latter spies a photograph of the former’s wedding party. Bent not only recognizes his former classmate Orry Main, but is captivated by Madeline La Motte’s image. During a later conversation with Madame Conti, Bent spots a painting that features the image of a former prostitute of mixed blood that turns out to be Madeline’s mother.

Two years later, Orry and Brett travel to Lehigh Station to visit the Hazards. Unfortunately, the visit goes sour when Orry and Virgilia engage in a quarrel, prompting the latter’s brother to come to her defense. On their way back to South Carolina, the Main siblings encounter Virgilia and Grady, when their train is stopped by John Brown and his men during their raid on Harper’s Ferry. The encounter also leads to a reunion between Orry and Priam, the former Mont Royal slave who had escaped over eleven years ago. Once Orry and Brett’s train is allowed to continue south, Grady and Priam are killed by Virginia militia and Virgilia is captured. She ends up captured and placed in an insane asylum in Washington D.C. Upset over Madeline’s continuing distant behavior and his estrangement from George, Orry gets drunk and quarrels bitterly with Brett over her desire to marry Billy Hazard. The following morning, she leaves Mont Royal to stay with Ashton and Huntoon in Charleston. And Billy arrives in the city to report for duty at Fort Moultrie.

Three major plot lines dominate Episode Five – Bent’s discovery of Madeline’s family history, Orry and George’s quarrel, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and Orry’s quarrel with Brett. This episode featured at least three crowd scenes and a major historical moment. And I must say that director Richard T. Heffron handled all of these major scenes very well, especially the Harper’s Ferry sequence. The sequence featuring Ashton and Huntoon’s wedding reception reminded me of the details Heffron, cinematographer Stevan Larner and production designer Archie J. Bacon put into creating a low country South Carolina social event. These same details provided the episode with a memorable ending, which featured Billy’s arrival in Charleston. But the Harper Ferry’s sequence really struck me as impressive. One of the miniseries’ best cinematic moments featured the sequence’s closing shot of the rear of Orry and Brett’s train disappearing into the night.

But there were minor scenes in Episode Five that proved to be gems. I was especially impressed by Heffron’s direction of Bent’s conversation with Madame Conti regarding Madeline’s mother. The scene was greatly helped by fine performances from Philip Casnoff and Elizabeth Taylor. Another fine dramatic scene featured Orry’s quarrel with Virgilia and George Hazard. All of the actors – especially Patrick Swayze, Kirstie Alley and James Read – did well in this scene. However, there were moments when the acting threatened to get a bit hammy. Another good dramatic scene appeared in the midst of the Harper’s Ferry sequence – namely Orry and Brett’s confrontation with Virgilia, Grady and Priam. I was especially impressed by Georg Stanford Brown and David Harris’ performances in this scene. Johnny Cash made an appearance as abolitionist John Brown. He did a pretty good job, even if I had a little difficulty in accepting Cash’s Upper South accent, while portraying a man from Connecticut. Kirstie Alley came back true to form in a scene featuring Virgilia’s reunion with Congressman Sam Greene, portrayed by David Odgen Stiers. And both actors gave fine and subtle performances. Swayze, who seemed to be very busy in this episode, got to shine one last time in the scene featuring Orry’s quarrel with Brett. Not only did Swayze gave an exception performance, but so did Genie Francis, who gave her best performance in the entire six-episode miniseries. However, the one scene that really stuck with me featured Ashton’s attempt to coerce Orry into taking her on a trip to New Orleans. Not only did it provide some excellent performances from both Swayze and Terri Garber, but also an interesting moment that exposed Orry’s own hypocrisy regarding the secessionist movement.

I have already discussed cinematographer Stevan Larner and production designer Archie J. Bacon’s work in this episode. Bill Conti continued his fine work as the miniseries’ composer. But of course, I want to discuss Vicki Sánchez’s gorgeous costumes . . . again. I could wax lyrical about her work, but I believe the following images can express how I feel:

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My favorite costume is Sánchez’s re-creation of a Charles Worth gown for Constance Hazard:

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The episode was marred by one major problem regarding the story’s timeline. When Ashton asked for Madeline’s help regarding her pregnancy in Episode Four, she informed the latter that her wedding to James Huntoon was scheduled for the following spring . . . of 1857. Yet, following Madeline’s recovery from her husband’s brutal treatment, Orry paid a visit to the La Motte plantation – Resolute – and announced that Ashton and Huntoon were scheduled to get married in a few days. Mind you, all of this was happening three months following Charles Main and Billy Hazard’s West Point graduation . . . in September 1856. So . . . what happened? When did Ashton and Huntoon rescheduled their wedding six to seven months earlier? Or is this merely another blooper regarding the story’s time line?

The painting of Madeline’s mother that had grabbed Bent’s attention in New Orleans struck a negative note within me. Madeline was born in the mid-1820s. This means that her mother must have been working for Madame Conti either between the late 1810s or the early-to-mid 1820s. The image of Madeline’s mother looked like this:

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First of all, the gown looked tacky. I cannot be more brutally frank. Second, both the gown and the hairstyle did not reflect the fashions of the 1820s. Instead, the painting looked as if it had been created during the 1840s or the 1850s. I do not know who created this painting, but I believe it was poorly made. And the miniseries’ producer and production designer should have insisted upon something that accurately reflected the decade of Madeline’s birth.

I have one last complaint. One of the best sequences from John Jakes’ 1982 novel featured Charles Main’s experiences in Texas and his conflict with Elkhannah Bent during the late 1850s. In Episode Five, Bent had met Huntoon in New Orleans. The city was a jumping off point for Army personnel traveling to Texas. One could easily assume that he was on his way to Texas. After all,“HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III” did confirm that Charles had served under Bent during this period. So, why did producer David Wolper and the screenwriters avoided the sequence? Episode Five could have included Charles’ experiences in Texas and ended the episode with the Harper Ferry’s incident. The remainder of Episode Five – including Orry and Brett’s quarrel, her flight to Charleston and Billy’s arrival in South Carolina – could have been included in Episode Six, allowing that episode to be extended. After all, the final episode of the 1977 miniseries, “ROOTS” had been extended past ninety minutes.

Despite my complaints, Episode Five proved to be a fine penultimate episode for the miniseries. It featured some excellent acting by the cast, well directed dramatic scenes by Richard T. Heffron and a first-rate re-creation of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. In the following episode, the Civil War is about to crash upon the lives of the Hazards and the Mains.

“Spells, Lies and Remorse” [R] – 7/9



The bell over Ostera’s front door rang, signaling a new customer. Both Paige and Barbara glanced up from the inventory sheet spread over the counter and were surprised to see Olivia enter the shop. “Hey!” Barbara greeted cheerfully. “What are you doing here?”

Smiling, Olivia walked over to the counter. “Just a little shopping, today. For some herbs and resin.”

“New spell?” Paige asked.

Olivia’s smile tightened. Which made Paige feel slightly uneasy. “No, not really. Just stocking up.”

Barbara asked, “What do you need?” Olivia handed her a list. “Huh. Interesting.” She handed the list to Paige. “Honey, why don’t you and Maddy get this for Livy?”

Very reluctantly, Paige headed for the stockroom, where she found the other shop assistant, opening a large box. “Hey Maddy, we’ve got a job to do.” She showed the younger woman the list. “We have to get this stuff for Olivia.” The two women commenced upon finding the requested herbs.

“Italian Cypress seeds?” Madeline declared out loud. “What the hell?”

Paige sighed. “I know. This is a strange list. Yarrow, garlic, willow evergreen.” Her eyes widened at the sight of one item. “Nightshade?”

“Hmmm,” Maddy commented. “Deadly.”

It took the two women nearly fifteen minutes to gather all of the supplies on the list. They returned to the store’s front room, where they found Barbara dealing with a new customer. Olivia remained standing in front of the counter, patiently waiting for her supplies.

“Here you go,” Paige said, as she and Maddy dumped the items on the counter. “Do you want to wait for Barbara?”

Olivia shook her head. “That’s okay. I have to get back to work. You can ring it up.”

After scanning the items, Paige announced the total sum. “Twenty-seven dollars and thirty-two cents.” Olivia handed her thirty dollars. “So,” Paige continued, as she took the money, “what’s all this stuff for?”

Olivia gave the younger witch a cool look. “Like I said . . . stocking up.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Paige arched a dubious brow. “I forgot. Well, you sure know how to pick some interesting stuff for stock.” She placed the last item into a plastic bag.

“Hmmm. Well,” Olivia picked up the bag. “Gotta go. I’ll see you.”

Paige added, “Will you be at your parents’ brunch, tomorrow?”

“I don’t think so. I’ve been feeling a little tired, lately.” Olivia started toward the door.


Impatience stamped on her face, Olivia hesitated. “Yes?”

“Um, have you seen Cole, lately?”

Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why do you ask?”

Feeling slightly intimidated by Olivia’s odd manner, Paige murmured, “Well . . . uh, I haven’t see you guys . . . together. I mean, I heard . . .”

“We broke up, if you want to know,” Olivia stated bluntly. “Actually, I broke up with him.”

The news sent Paige into a state of shock. “Wha . . .? Why?”

Olivia’s face assumed a cold mask. “Excuse me?”

“Uh . . . nothing.” Paige took a deep breath. “Well, I guess you have to leave, huh?”

Once more, Olivia stared at the younger woman. “I guess so.” Then she smiled. Somewhat. “I’ll see you later, Paige.”

“Yeah. Later.” Paige watched nervously, as the red-haired witch left the shop. She murmured under her breath, “Oh my God! What the hell happened to her?”


“Oh my God! Not again!” Darryl Morris nudged his wife. It was the following Sunday evening, and the couple sat inside the House of Prime Rib, one of San Francisco’s more popular restaurants. They had left their sons to spend the week with Darryl’s parents. He pointed at a couple sitting inside a booth, on the other side of the dining room.

Sheila frowned at the couple. “What are you talking about? What’s wrong?”

Darryl sighed. “Oh yeah. I guess I never told you about last Thursday. Or was it Friday?”

“Friday?” Sheila stared at her husband. “What happened, last Friday?”

“Olivia made a date with Paul Margolin. For dinner.”

Disbelief shone briefly in Sheila’s dark eyes. “What’s the big deal?” she finally said. “He seems like a reasonably good-looking man. Decent. And didn’t you once tell me that he was a witch? Like Olivia?”

“Yeah, but I thought she had grown bored with him, last spring.” Darryl frowned, as a thought came to him. “Now that I think about it, she hadn’t seemed all that interested in him, during the trial. It wasn’t until after we had lunch . . .”

Sheila asked, “Is it true that Phoebe and Cole have reconciled? I was at Ostera’s, when I heard the news.”

Darryl shrugged his shoulders. “That’s what I had heard. Maybe that would explain those two.” Husband and wife continued to stare at the couple. “Man, I can’t believe it. Was Cole and Phoebe the reason why Olivia got interested in Margolin, again?”

“Should we drop by and say hello?”

Darryl contemplated his wife’s question for a minute. Then he saw their waiter approaching their table. “Nah, maybe we should let Olivia and Margolin have their privacy. Besides, I think our food is ready.”


Inside Cole’s penthouse, Phoebe took a sip of her Manhattan. “Hmmm, not bad.” She glanced around the living room. “This place looks a little different. What did you do to it?”

“Nothing really,” Cole replied. He sat next to Phoebe, holding a martini. “You just haven’t seen it in a long time.”

Her eyes now resting on the row of plants resting on the shelf above the fireplace, Phoebe said, “Are you sure? I don’t recall seeing plants in here.”

A heavy silence fell between the pair. When Phoebe had first received Cole’s invitation, she had felt overjoyed. Thrilled. Now, she began to wonder if this date had been a good idea. Both she and Cole seemed wary in each other’s company. Perhaps those fifteen months apart had taken a toll on their ability to feel comfortable in each other’s presence.

Cole cleared his throat. “Phoebe, I . . .” He paused, and glanced toward the kitchen. “Uh, the reason I wanted to see you tonight . . . Well, it’s about your question. You know . . .” He coughed slightly.

Phoebe decided to help out. “I understand,” she said gently. “You wanted to work it out with Olivia, first.”

“Actually, I was going to say yes.”

Phoebe nearly choked on her cocktail. “Huh?”

Smiling briefly, Cole continued, “I don’t see why we can’t give it a shot.” He quickly sobered. “But I have to be honest. Olivia had recently decided to end it between us. A couple of days ago, I would have been upset. Now,” he sighed, “I guess I wasn’t really that surprised.”

“I’m so sorry, Cole.” Phoebe’s voice oozed sympathy. Another silent pause followed. “Um . . . how do you want . . .?”

Cole placed his martini glass on the table and removed the Manhattan from Phoebe’s grip. He placed that next to his martini. Then he covered Phoebe’s hands with his own. The touch of his skin sent a warm flush throughout her body. “Why don’t we just take it one day at a time?” he quietly suggested. “I think it would be best for both of us. Okay?”

One day at a time. Although Phoebe found the suggestion a little too slow for her taste, she realized that it would do. Especially if it meant getting Cole back into her life. She gave him a warm smile. “One day at a time sounds great to me.”


Leo orbed into one of the seats around the dining room, taking both Paige and Piper by surprise. “I’m home!” he declared. “What’s for dinner?”

“Where have you been?” Piper demanded. “It’s almost been two days!”

“Honey, you knew I had business to attend to. Another charge.” Leo reached for the pitcher of iced tea. “And it was a difficult case, I might add.”

Paige stared at her brother-in-law. “Who was the charge?”

“Paige, you know better than to ask me.”

“How about this?” the younger Charmed One asked. “When was the last time you saw Paul Margolin?”

Leo frowned at Paige. “What . . . what are you getting at?”

Piper cut in. “Paige! It’s nothing, Leo. Just some crazy idea that Paige has come up with.”

“It’s not crazy!”

“Paige, Leo hasn’t been home in two days. Let him eat!”

But the younger woman refused to give up. “C’mon Piper. I only want to know what’s going on between and Paul. And what does Olivia has to do with it?”

Leo’s blue eyes expressed confusion. “Paige, what are you talking about?”

“Harry and I saw Olivia and Paul at the Golden Horn, last Friday night. And they were looking quite chummy.” Paige hesitated. “I had . . . I had talked Harry into reading Paul’s mind. To find out what was going on . . .”

Leo exclaimed, “My God, Paige! What were you thinking? You should have known that Harry isn’t allowed to use his telepathy like that! It’s a breach of privacy!”

“Yeah? Well, so is what you and Paul have been scheming in regard to Olivia!” Paige shot back. “According to Harry, Paul said something about some plan going well, and your name came up.”

Not only did Paige continue to stare at Leo, but so did Piper. “Leo?” she said. “Is there something going on we don’t know about?”

An exasperated sigh left Leo’s mouth. “It’s nothing. Paul . . . he merely wanted my advice regarding Olivia. Apparently, he’s still interested in her. I told him that if he was still that interested, he should give it a go.”

“And what did he do to Olivia to make her interested in him, again?” Paige demanded.

Leo cried out, “He didn’t do anything! Maybe Olivia’s finally tired of Cole! Or maybe, she didn’t like the fact that he and Phoebe are friends, again. I don’t know!”

Piper spoke up. “Paige, maybe we ought to give this a rest. I don’t think you have anything to be suspicious about.”

Paige slumped into her chair. “Fine.”

Piper rolled her eyes and handed a platter of meat to her husband. “Pork chops, Leo?”

The whitelighter hesitated, before he grabbed the platter. But his eyes continued to stare uneasily at Paige. Which failed to dim her suspicions. Judging from Leo’s unease, he was worried about something. And Paige intended to find out.


Harry hung up the telephone and rejoined his family inside the drawing room. The McNeills, along with Paul Margolin, had retired there, following a sumptuous meal prepared by his mother.

“Who was that?” Gran asked.

“Paige.” Harry returned to his seat. “She, uh . . . her brooch is missing and she wanted to know if I had found it inside my car.”

Gran continued, “Well, did you?”

“I’ll check later.”

Olivia’s green eyes sparkled with mischief. “So, you and Paige had a date. Strange, she didn’t say anything to me.”

Harry gave his sister a thin smile. “It was nothing. I took her out, last Friday night. To the Empress of China, in Chinatown.”

A brief frown flitted across Bruce’s face. Fortunately, their usually uber-observant sister had not noticed. Olivia smiled. “Very impressive. How was your date?”

“Uh . . . interesting.”

Olivia continued, “Paul took me out to dinner that night. At the Golden Horn.” She smiled warmly at the ADA.

Harry choked back his bile, and smiled. “Hmmm, isn’t that nice?”

After Olivia and Paul had departed over an hour later, Jack turned to his younger son. “Okay Harry, what did Paige really want to talk to you about?”

“Leo’s back,” Harry grimly replied. “She tried to question him about Livy and Paul, but it didn’t go anywhere. She also wants to question him again.” He hesitated. “I told her to lay off, since Bruce and I have a plan.”

The oldest McNeill sibling looked surprised. “We do?”

“Of course. Don’t you remember what Paul had told us, earlier?” Harry asked. “About his upcoming lunch with the D.A.? It’s supposed to be tomorrow.”

Bruce shook his head silently.

Harry sighed. “Okay, I see you weren’t paying attention. While Paul is having lunch with his boss, you’ll be meeting Leo inside his office.”

“What makes you think that Leo is going to talk to me?” Bruce demanded.

Harry smiled. “Don’t worry, Big Brother. Leo will think he is meeting with Paul. And thanks to your shapeshifting ability, you’ll make sure that he will.”


Monday morning dawned bright over San Francisco. Olivia stood inside the kitchen, as she prepared a potion that she believed would become a final solution to a problem . . . a problem that came in the form of a certain daemon named Belthazor.

While she hummed, “Nobody Does It Better” under her breath, she reached inside one of the cabinets and retrieved a small, black cauldron. Olivia filled it with water – straight out of San Francisco Bay – and placed it on top of the stove. She turned on the flame and the water inside the cauldron began to boil. Next, came the ingredients she had purchased at Ostera’s – jasmine, yarrow, garlic and willow. Olivia also added the Nightshade. A puff of black smoke exploded above the cauldron and she allowed the mixture to continue boiling.

Leaving the kitchen, Olivia headed back into the living room and toward the altar she had previously set up in a small corner. She removed the pentagram, sketched inside a circle, from the altar and replaced it with another circle – which contained a heptagram. Then she lit both of the altar’s candles and placed sprigs of evergreen around the altar. Finally, she poured the Italian Cypress seeds into the cauldron. Satisfied that everything had been prepared, Olivia returned to the kitchen, removed the cauldron from the stove and placed it over the heptagram.

Olivia then donned her ceremonial robe, retrieved the Aingeal staff from her closet and stood before the altar. Holding the staff in her left hand, she grabbed a stick of tree bark and mumbled an incantation in Celtic – invoking the names of Hecate and Pele. While she continued to chant, she added a piece of earthworm, a piece of water snake, a dried up spider and a sliver of salamander flesh to them mixture inside the cauldron. Then using prongs, she retrieved a small lump of mercury, dropped it into the mixture and finished the incantation with a flourish. The red carnelian stone in her staff shone bright red. And another puff of red smoke exploded above the cauldron.

Once the smoke had cleared, Olivia returned the staff to her bedroom closet and removed her robe. She retrieved the cauldron and returned it to the kitchen. After spreading a white, cheesecloth over a small cooking pot, Olivia poured the cauldron’s contents upon the cloth. After the liquid had seeped through, she squeezed the last of it into the pot and placed the cloth on the kitchen’s counter, allowing the contents to dry. Then she poured the liquid from the pot into several small bottles – ammunition for another day – and washed her hands in the kitchen sink.

Now that her task had been completed, Olivia picked up her cordless telephone and dialed a number. “Hi, Paul. It’s me, Olivia. I’m finished with that potion we had discussed. Well, almost. I have a little dehydration to complete.”

“When do we use it?” the other witch asked.

Olivia glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall. It read ten twenty-three. “How about in a few hours? Meet me at Cole’s penthouse around two-thirty, this afternoon. We would have to get there before him.”

Doubt clouded Paul’s voice. “Are you sure you don’t want to try, tomorrow? This afternoon seemed to be cutting it a little close. I have that lunch with the D.A., don’t forget.”

“You won’t be finished before two?” Olivia asked.

A pause followed before Paul continued with a sigh. “I guess I can. If it begins to stretch too long, I’ll just tell Coleman that I have an afternoon appointment. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Good. I’ll see you this afternoon. Bye.” Olivia hung up, allowing herself a satisfied smile. If all went well, Cole Turner aka Belthazor would no longer exist by the end of the day.





Ten years ago, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub got together with the Disney Studios and created an adventure/heist that delved deeply into American history . . . namely the American Revolution called “NATIONAL TREASURE”.

The movie begins in 1974, when a ten year-old Benjamin Franklin Gates searches for relics inside the attic of his grandfather John Adams Gates’ Washington D.C. home. Heartened by his grandson’s enthusiasm, old Mr. Gates reveals a family legend about valuable and ancient treasures that had been gathered since Ancient Egypt. When the treasure falls into the hands of the Freemason during the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers go out of their way to hide it from the British. They left one clue – a scrap of paper with the inscription, “the secret lies with Charlotte” – in the hands of their colleague Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland. The latter tries to deliver the clue to President Andrew Jackson, but gives it to his driver, an adolescent named Thomas Gates, who happened to be an ancestor of Ben’s family. Although his father Patrick Gates disapproves of treasure hunting, Ben becomes obsessed with the “National Treasure”.

Nearly three decades later, Ben (who is now a historian and amateur cryptologist) recruits a young computer expert named Riley Poole and Ian Howe, a wealthy British financier, to search for the Charlotte. The three men, along with Ian’s employees, find an old eighteenth ship called the U.S.S. Charlotte trapped in the Arctic ice. Instead of the treasure, Ben discovers a meerschaum pipe hidden in a barrel of gunpowder in the cargo hold. An engraved riddle is found on the pipe’s stem, which Ben believes is a clue to an invisible map written on the back of the Declaration of Independence. When Ian reveals his criminal past and willingness to steal the Declaration of Independence, he and Ben have a falling out. Upon their return to Washington D.C., Ben and Riley try to warn various Federal agencies, including one Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but no one believes them. The pair decides that the only way to prevent the Declaration from getting into Ian’s hands is to steal the document themselves. This decision leads Ben, Riley and eventually Abigail on adventure that takes them from the nation’s capital to New York City’s financial center in an effort to find the treasure and prevent it from falling into Ian’s hands.

“NATIONAL TREASURE” received mixed reviews when it first hit the theaters ten years ago. On a certain level, I can understand. The idea of a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence sound rather ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is the idea of a pair of pair of spectacles with multiple colored lenses hidden behind an Independence Hall brick and used to read the “hidden map”. But the most ludicrous aspect from the screenplay written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio is the fact that Ben and Riley did not face criminal charges for stealing the Declaration of Independence in the first place. If I had been Ian Howe, I would have sued the F.B.I. Also, “NATIONAL TREASURE” did reek with the whole “Disneyanna-style” of American History that you can find at the corporation’s various amusement theme parks. The history depicted in the film seemed more intent upon putting the Founding Fathers on a pedestal, instead of engaging in a more realistic exploration of American history. This beautification of history is reflected in a good deal of star Nicholas Cage’s dialogue.

On the hand, “NATIONAL TREASURE” did reveal some nice tidbits of American history, especially from the Revolution period. Even the Riley Poole character managed to put in his two cents in one scene that I found particularly humorous. Speaking of humor, I cannot deny that I found the movie rather funny. I wonder if this could be attributed to Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio being two of the movie’s screenwriters. After all, they were responsible for a great deal of the humor found in the “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” movie franchise. Although most of the cast managed to get in a few funny lines, a good deal of the humor came from the exchanges between Nicholas Cage and Justin Bartha. Once Diane Kruger’s character joined the search for the treasure, a very funny and dynamic trio became complete. But the best aspect of “NATIONAL TREASURE” proved to be its story. The screenwriters did a first-rate job in combining the many aspects of the movie’s plot – adventure, comedy, historical mystery and heist film. And they managed to combine these aspects in a seamless manner that still astounds me to this day. No wonder I find this movie so enjoyable to watch . . . even after a decade.

But it was not merely the movie’s plot that made “NATIONAL TREASURE” so enjoyable to watch. It is also a very beautiful-looking film. I have to give credit to several people. One of those responsible for the movie’s visual style was cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. I found his photography not only beautiful, but sharp, colorful and rather original . . . as shown in the following images:



Also responsible for the movie’s visual style was production designer Norris Spencer, who did an excellent job of combining the movie’s current day setting and the historical flashbacks. William Goldenberg did a more than admirable job with the film’s editing. This was especially apparent in certain action scenes like the original heist at the National Archives, the van chase in Washington D.C., the foot chase in Philadelphia and the tunnels beneath Trinity Church in New York City.

Aside from the movie’s narrative, my favorite aspect of “NATIONAL TREASURE” proved to be the performances by the cast. I do not know if I would regard Benjamin Gates as one of Nicholas Gates’ best roles. But it is certainly one of my favorites. What I liked about Cage’s performance is that he injected so much energy and passion into the role that in many ways, he reminded me of why I enjoy History so much. On the other hand, Justin Bartha provided an entertaining contrast to Cage’s passionate historian with his witty and sardonic dialogue. I also enjoyed how Bartha’s Riley Poole seemed to project a long-suffering attitude toward Ben’s occasional over-the-top passion for History. “NATIONAL TREASURE” was the first time I saw Diane Kruger in any production – movie or television. I realized that ten years ago, most critics did not have a high opinion of her. I never understood why. Not only did she give a very charming and skillful performance as Abigail Chase, the National Archives historian who gets dragged into Ben and Riley’s treasure hunt, she clicked very well with both Cage and Bartha.

I have seen Sean Bean in just about every kind of role possible – as a hero, an anti-hero, a pathetic dweeb and finally as a villain. I have to say that Ian Howe has to be one of the most interesting . . . and likable villains he has ever portrayed. I liked how Bean not only conveyed the villainous aspects of his character, but also Howe’s friendliness, intelligence, subtlety and loyalty to his men. Jon Voight gave a surprisingly complex and interesting performance as Ben Gates’ skeptical historian father, Patrick Gates, who enthusiasm for treasure hunter declined to the point of cynicism. Voight provided a good deal of give-and-take not only for Cage, but also Christopher Plummer, who portrayed his father, John Gates. Speaking of Plummer, his appearance in the movie was brief, but also very entertaining and memorable . . . at least for me. I thought he did a pretty good job in setting up the film’s narrative with his verbal description of the Templar treasure. Harvey Keitel surprisingly proved to be the movie’s backbone as the no-nonsense F.B.I. Special Agent Peter Sadusky. He gave a quiet, grounded and slightly sardonic performance that proved to be rather comforting. “NATIONAL TREASURE” also featured solid supporting performances from the likes of David Dayan Fisher (“24”), Mark Pellegrino (“LOST”), Stephen Pope, Oleg Taktarov, Ron Canada (“THE WEST WING”), Annie Parisse (“THE PACIFIC” and“PERSONS OF INTEREST”), Dahn Ballard, Yves Michel-Beneche and especially Sharon Wilkins, who was hilarious as a sarcastic female butcher at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.

What else can I say about “NATIONAL TREASURE”? It is not perfect. And there are times when the plot came off as illogical. But after ten years, I believe it is one of the more entertaining live-action Disney movies I have ever seen. And I have to thank director Jon Turteltaub, a talented crew and first-rate acting from a cast led by Nicholas Cage.