Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Two (2008) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite Season Two episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON TWO (2008) Episodes

1 - 2.08 A Night to Remember

1. (2.08) “A Night to Remember” – During this game-changing episode, copywriter Peggy Olson agrees to help a friendly priest named Father Gill create a promotion for a Church-sponsored dance. Office manager Joan Holloway helps Television Advertiser Harry Crane read new television scripts and discovers that she likes the job. Still reeling from comedian Jimmy Barrett’s revelation of Don Draper’s infidelity, Betty Draper helps her husband with an important business dinner, before she later confronts him about his affair with Bobbie Barrett.

2 - 2.05 The New Girl

2. (2.05) “The New Girl” – Don and Bobbie heads out of the city for a night together, before getting into a traffic accident. Don recruits Peggy to help him cover up the incident. Meanwhile, a new Sterling-Cooper secretary named Jane Siegel begins working for Don.

3 - 2.04 Three Sundays

3. (2.04) “Three Sundays” – Over the Easter holidays, Don and Betty clash over the discipline of their son Bobby. Peggy meets the new family priest, Father Gill. And Head of Advertising Duck Phillips recruits the agency in an effort to win over American Airlines as a new client.

4 - 2.07 The Gold Violin

4. (2.07) “The Gold Violin” – Art director Sal Romano develops a case of unrequited attraction for Accounts man Ken Cosgrove. Joan and Jane clash over an incident regarding a new painting in owner Bert Cooper’s office. And Betty learns about Don’s affair with Bobbie Barrett at a media party, thanks to her husband Jimmy.

5 - 2.09 Six Month Leave

5. (2.09) “Six Month Leave” – Owner Roger Sterling leaves his wife for Jane Siegel. Senior copy Freddie Rumsen’s alcoholism spirals out of control. And the death of Marilyn Monroe has an impact upon the firm’s female employees.

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 4/7

“THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON”

PART 4

Inside the private library of Marbus’ Dublin townhouse, the daemon heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Bloody hell, woman! How long is this rant of yours is going to last?”

His younger sister paused long enough to glare at him. Nimue had appeared at his home not long after the family had finished breakfast. He led the demoness into the library, where she had broken into a tirade over her disastrous visit to her son.

“What do you mean by that?” Nimue angrily demanded.

“I think I’ve been perfectly clear. You haven’t been able to shut up about Belthazor, since you got here.”

Nimue gracefully dropped into a nearby chair. Despair flashed across her still beautiful face. “He’s going ahead with this plan of his, Marbus. He’s going to ruin himself over some silly little witch.”

“I don’t know if those are the proper words to describe Frances,” Marbus commented. He poured a glass of ginger ale and handed it to Nimue. “Considering how he feels about her.”

The demoness frowned. “Who’s Frances?”

“Belthazor’s ex-wife. One of the Charmed Ones. You just met her.”

Rolling her eyes in contempt, Nimue retorted, “Good heavens, you silly berk! I keep forgetting how awful you are with names. Her name is Phoebe, not Frances.” A scowl darkened her expression. “And I’m still trying to understand what Belthazor sees in her. She’s such a child!”

“Oh, I don’t know. She can be quite charming and intelligent.” Nimue stared at Marbus in disbelief. “I think. Look, I know this idea of Belthazor getting rid of his powers had started with her. And frankly, it’s idiotic.” He paused, as he contemplated his words. “Bloody hell! What has that fool gotten himself into? She’ll never accept him for himself.”

Nimue muttered witheringly, “The mind of a child!”

Marbus sighed. “You might have a point.”

An outburst from his sister took Marbus by surprise. “What are we going to do, now?” she cried. “Neither of us seem able to talk Belthazor out of this nonsense! Even the youngest Charmed One thinks he’s making a mistake. And he’s obviously not listening to her. What else can we do?”

The image of a certain red-haired witch popped into Marbus’ mind. “Well . . . there is someone who might be able to talk him out of this.”

“Like who?” Nimue took a sip of her drink.

Marbus took a deep breath. “She’s a witch. Her name is Olivia McNeill.”

“Oh bloody hell!” Nimue exclaimed in disgust. “Not another witch!” She paused, as a frown creased her forehead. “McNeill, you say? Why does that name sound familiar?”

“She’s the daughter of Jack McNeill,” Marbus replied. “You remember the witch who had saved me from being lynched by that coven, some thirty-six years ago, don’t you?” His sister nodded, and Marbus proceeded to tell her about Belthazor’s friendship and subsequent romance with Olivia McNeill. And the incident that led to their recent breakup.

Wearing a dubious expression, Nimue said, “And you believe that this witch can talk him out of stripping away his powers?”

“Definitely. He’s in love with the girl . . . even if he’s afraid to admit. And she’s in love with him.”

Nimue shook her head. “In the name of Barmiel, a daemon involved with two witches! This must be unheard of in the supernatural world.”

“Not really. There was that little romance between . . .” Marbus broke off, under his sister’s glare. “Never mind,” he murmured.

“How can I reach her? This Olivia?”

Marbus stared at his sister with disbelief. “You?”

“Well, of course me!” an outraged Nimue shot back. “After all, this is my son we’re talking about.”

“When you do meet with Olivia, try not to pop in out of thin air. Mortals aren’t exactly fond of such surprises.”

The demoness retorted, “Marbus!”

Realizing that he would not be able to convince his sister to allow him to seek out Olivia, Marbus gave her the information that she needed.

———-

Several hours later, on the other side of the world, Phoebe descended the manor’s staircase. She found Piper placing a platter of hash brown potatoes on the dining table. Other dishes were also on the table – toast, link sausages, bacon and scrambled eggs. It seemed a great deal for a Monday morning breakfast. “My God! Piper! What’s all this?” she demanded.

The oldest Charmed One glanced up. “What are you talking about?”

“This! This . . .” Phoebe indicated the large meal with a wave of her hand. “Isn’t this a bit much for Monday morning? The only one who ever eats this much is . . .” Phoebe broke off, realizing that she had nearly mentioned her brother-in-law. “I mean . . .”

Piper’s expression hardened. “I know who you meant. And no, it’s not for . . . him. I’m sure that he’s eating his heart’s content . . . up there.”

Phoebe found it disturbing that Piper seemed incapable of mentioning Leo’s name. Come to think of it, her older sister has been walking around in a near zombie state ever since Leo had revealed his new position as an Elder. “Uh, yeah. But Piper, this is a lot for Monday morning. I don’t know if I can eat half of this. Let alone one-quarter.”

Piper shot an appraising stare at Phoebe. “I don’t know. You look as if you could use a few extra pounds.”

“Hey! What do you mean by that?”

A sigh left Piper’s mouth. “Nothing. I take it back. Now sit down and eat.”

While she eased into a chair, Phoebe said, “You know, I’ve been trying to figure out what we could have done to adjust that power stripping potion for Cole. But I can’t think of anything. I wish Paige would just tell us.”

“I don’t know, Pheebs.” Piper placed a pitcher of orange juice on the table. “Maybe this is a sign that we should leave Cole’s powers alone. Remember what happened the last time?”

“Piper! How can you say that? You know that Cole and I can never have a life together, as long as he has those powers.”

The oldest Charmed One heaved a long sigh. “I don’t see why not. Aside from Barbas and those warlocks, no one has bothered to steal them. And at least Cole can be here with you.” Piper’s tone grew bitter. “At least he won’t be spending eternity with a bunch of . . .” She broke off and poured a glass of orange juice. “Never mind.” While Phoebe stared at her, Piper added, “Um, what are we going to do with Cole’s powers, once they’ve been stripped? I mean, even Paige’s potion hadn’t been able to vanquish them to the Wasteland. Which is probably why Barbas was able to steal ’em in the first place.”

A third voice added, “I’ve got an idea about that.” Both Phoebe and Piper stared at Paige, who approached the dining table. She sat down in the chair, opposite Phoebe. “Wow Piper! Went a little overboard with the breakfast, didn’t you?”

Phoebe stared at her half-sister. “Wait a minute. What idea are you talking about? Since when did you change your mind?”

Paige airily replied, “Well, since you and Cole want this so badly, I figured that I might as well help. Oooh, sausages!” She reached for the platter of meat.

Piper finally sat down next to Phoebe. “And this idea?”

After placing three link sausages on her plate, Paige continued, “A glass jar.”

“Huh?”

The youngest Charmed One continued, “I read somewhere . . . or was it Barbara who told me? Anyway, I heard that glass jars are used to contain mystical or spiritual elements – like souls and other stuff.”

“Does that include magical powers?” Phoebe asked.

“Yep.” Paige reached for the scrambled eggs. “But if a glass jar doesn’t work, I guess that Cole will have to keep his powers, until we find something better.”

There seemed to be something about Paige’s flippant manner that Phoebe found disturbing. Especially over a serious matter like Cole’s powers. “Well, let’s just hope that it works.”

“I wouldn’t worry, Phoebe. I’m sure that it will.” Paige flashed a cheerful smile at her sister and began scooping eggs onto her plate.

———–

Barbara handed the customer his purchase and politely bid him good-bye. The moment he closed the door behind him, she glanced at the figure removing items from a shelf.

“Paige?” She walked over to where her shop assistant was reaching for a bag of Angelica Root. “Uh . . . what are you doing?”

The Charmed One replied in a cheerful voice, “Getting a few things together.”

“For whom? We don’t have any customers at the moment.”

Still smiling, Paige replied, “I’m the customer. All of this is for me. Well, for the power stripping potion I’m preparing for Cole.”

Huh? “Wait a minute . . .” Barbara hesitated, wondering if she had heard right. “You’re helping Phoebe prepare that potion? I thought you were against the idea?”

“I was,” Paige replied. “But I’ve changed my mind, last night. Phoebe and Piper weren’t having any luck in creating a potion strong enough to remove Cole’s powers. And I realized that I had no right to stand in the way of what Cole wanted.”

Barbara nearly rolled her eyes. “You mean, what Phoebe wanted.”

“Whatever,” Paige replied in a singsong voice that Barbara found disturbing. And slightly annoying. The blond woman fought the urge to slap the younger woman.

The shop’s bell jingled, announcing the arrival of a new customer. Barbara ordered Paige to cut short her errand and help the customer. “But I’m busy.” Paige reached for a bag of herbs.

It was the final straw. Barbara snatched the item out of the younger woman’s hand. “Paige,” she continued through clenched teeth, “get your ass in gear and help that customer. Or you will find yourself looking for a new job.” She removed the shopping basket from Paige’s arm.

The half-witch/whitelighter’s cheerfulness disappeared, as she heaved an exasperated sigh. “Oh, all right.” Then the smile returned, as she left to face the new customer.

Bewildered by her employee’s behavior, Barbara shook her head. When did Paige began acting like a Stepford wife? Even more alarming was the news that the Charmed One had finally decided to help her sisters strip Cole’s powers. When the McNeills had first learned of Cole and the Halliwells’ plans, they had tried to contact Olivia, who was in Monterey. Unfortunately, either the redhead’s cell phone had not working or she switched it off. Once more, Barbara dialed the number. Dead line. A sigh left her mouth, as she hung up the telephone.

————

As Cole drove his Porsche through San Francisco’s streets, the cell phone on the passenger seat rang. He picked it up and flicked it open. “Hello?”

“Cole? It’s Phoebe.” His ex-wife’s voice sounded breathless. “Good news! Paige has finally agreed to help with the potion. She’s going to start on it, as soon as she gets home. It’ll be the same potion that she used on you, the last time.”

“Paige?” Cole could not believe what Phoebe had just told him. Paige had agreed to help strip his powers? Consciously, he realized that he should feel relieved that the youngest Charmed One had finally agreed to cooperate. Subconsciously, he felt disappointed in his former sister-in-law. He also realized that he might have passed the point of return in the whole matter.

Phoebe continued, “Cole? Did you hear me?”

A sigh. “Yeah Phoebe. Uh . . . what . . . what made her change her mind?”

“I don’t know. But maybe you should come straight to the house. That way we can get this over with as soon as possible.”

And that would spell the end of Cole Turner, half-daemon. Cole kept his dire thoughts to himself. Instead, he said, “Oh. Okay. I guess I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye! I love you.” A silent pause followed. “Cole?”

“I love you, too. See you in a few minutes.” Cole immediately hung and tossed the phone on the seat beside him. He heaved a large sigh and muttered, “Shit!”

———–

Phoebe entered the manor in a breathless rush, dumped her purse and suitcase on the sofa and headed straight for the kitchen. There, she found Piper and Paige preparing the potion. “Is it ready?” she asked.

Piper sighed. “We’ve barely got started, Phoebe. Paige hasn’t been here very long.”

“Oh.” Damn. “Well, let me know . . .”

“Yes Phoebe, we will.” Piper’s voice expressed her annoyance.

Paige added cheerfully, “Don’t worry, Phoebe. It shouldn’t be long for us to make the potion. When will Cole be here?”

“He was on his way home when I called. He’s coming by here, instead. By the way,” Phoebe gave her younger sister a grateful smile, “thanks for helping us out.”

Paige replied chirpily, “My pleasure.”

Piper, Phoebe noticed, gave the youngest sister an odd stare. “Are you on crack or something?”

“Piper!” Phoebe admonished. Inwardly, she had to admit that Paige had been acting a little odd, lately. Phoebe decided to chalk it up to Paige wanting to make up for her hostile behavior of the previous days.

The doorbell rang, causing Phoebe to nearly jump with excitement. Cole. “He’s here!” Then she raced out of the kitchen and into the living room. Phoebe opened the door and found a slightly nervous-looking half-demon standing on the stoop. “Cole! Hey!”

“Phoebe.” Cole glanced nervously into the manor’s foyer. “Uh, is everything, um . . . ready?”

Gently ushering her former husband inside, Phoebe said, “Paige and Piper are making the potion, as we speak.” For a brief second, Phoebe thought she had detected a glimmer of resentment in his blue eyes. But only for a moment. She decided that her mind had played a trick on her. She gave Cole a reassuring smile. “Are you ready?”

Blue eyes bored into Phoebe’s, making her feel slightly uncomfortable. Cole had assumed that mask-like expression that made him look sinister and she had always disliked it. Then to her relief, his lips quirked into a slight smile. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m ready.”

END OF PART 4

“BREACH” (2007) Review

“BREACH” (2007) Review

I have noticed over the years that some of the most interesting spy thrillers tend to be based upon historic fact. And many of these fact-based movie usually centered on an individual’s betrayal of his or her country on a massive scale. Movie and television productions such as “5 FINGERS”, “FAMILY OF SPIES” and “CAMBRIDGE SPIES” are good examples. Another is the 2007 political thriller, which told the story of how FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen ended up being convicted of selling intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union and later, Russia.

Set between December 2000 and February 2001, “BREACH” began with young FBI employee, Eric O’Neill and two co-workers, engaged in the surveillance of a Muslim couple in Washington D.C. Eric is recalled from his post and assigned by Special Agent Kate Burroughs to work undercover as an assistant to Hanssen, who is allegedly suspected of being a sexual deviant. Despite Hanssen’s abrasive personality and rants against the Bureau for its lack of appreciation toward his computer skills, Eric begins to regard him as a friend and mentor. Hanssen and his wife has taken an interest in Eric and his marriage to a German immigrant named Juliana . . . who dislikes them. However, Burroughs eventually tells Eric the truth that Hanssen is suspected of spying for the Soviet Union and later, Russia for years. The Bureau needs hard evidence – from Eric – to put Hanssen away for good.

When I said that “BREACH” was an interesting spy film, I was not kidding. Frankly, I consider it to be one of my favorite in the genre outside the usual “JAMES BOND”, “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” or “JASON BOURNE” movie franchises. I have nothing against these franchises. But . . . there are times when I do enjoy watching the occasional spy thriller that does not feature excessive violence, car chases and explosives. And “BREACH” happens to be one of those films. Instead of the occasional action sequences; the movie featured good acting, first-rate suspense and more importantly well-written drama. “BREACH” knocks it out of the ballpark with all three.

There are those who will probably dismiss the suspense aspect of the movie’s plot, considering that audiences know the outcome and Hanssen’s fate. But there is suspense. The story’s mystery centered on how Eric managed to help the F.B.I. find evidence to arrest and convict Hanssen. It also centered on Eric’s struggles to maintain his cover and deal with a perpetually arrogant and paranoid man. But what really made “BREACH” fascinating to me were the emotional consequences that Eric faced, while he played a cat-and-mouse game with Hanssen. The best example of this cat-and-mouse game was featured in a scene in which Eric was forced to delay Hanssen with a trip to a government photo session and obtain data from the latter’s Palm Pilot, while F.B.I. agents searched the latter’s car for evidence and plant listening devices. And even more interesting scene occurred later in the film, in which Hanssen becomes aware of the listening devices in his car and allows his paranoia to confront Eric . . . while wielding a pistol.

I found it even more interesting to watch how the case nearly played havoc with O’Neill’s marriage to Juliana, who became increasingly resentful over the Hanssens’ encroachment upon the younger couple’s marriage. More importantly, she becomes resentful toward the Hanssen’s intrusions into her and Eric’s religious beliefs. This tension is especially played out in a scene involving Robert and Bonnie Hanssen making a surprise visit to the O’Neills’ apartment and Juliana’s discovery of a video tape in Eric’s possession . . . one that features a sexual encounter between the Hanssens that was taped by them. Overall, the drama did an excellent job in conveying the tensions and emotional price that Eric faced, while helping his fellow agents take down Hanssen.

Where there any aspects of “BREACH” I did not like? Well . . . there are two, if I must be honest. One, I did not care for how the screenwriters handled the Rich Garces character, portrayed by Gary Cole. Honestly? It seemed as if the actor’s time was wasted in this film. And for a first-rate actor like Cole, I found that rather sad. One other aspect of “BREACH”that failed to impress me was Tak Fujimoto’s photography. I realize that the cinematographer is highly regarded in the Hollywood community. And I have admired his work in past movies. I did not care for his photography in this movie. I found it a bit too dark and metallic for my taste. Yes, “BREACH” set mainly set during the winter months of December, January and February. But guess what? I have encountered other movies set during the winter. And honestly, I found the photography for those movies a lot more attractive.

My feelings for the performances featured in this film is a completely different matter. Yes, I was a little disappointed that Gary Cole was underused. And the movie featured some solid performances that did not exactly dazzled me. But . . . despite being underused, I must admit that I found Cole rather entertaining as Special Agent Rich Garces, whose amused and laid back attitude toward Hanssen seemed to ruffle the latter’s feathers. Bruce Davison had a nice appearance as Eric’s father who gives the latter some wise advice. Dennis Haysbert’s portrayal of Special Agent Dean Plesac also struck me as pretty solid. But in one particular scene that featured Hanssen’s arrest, I was impressed by how Haysbert expressed his character’s mild disgust and disbelief over the other man’s refusal to face the reality of what was going on. Kathleen Quinlan gave a very interesting performance as Hanssen’s wife, Bonnie. Regardless of whether or not Mrs. Hanssen knew about her husband’s espionage work, I must admit that Quinlan did an exceptional work in conveying a subtle perversity in her character’s personality that I found rather disturbing. It must have been somewhat difficult for Caroline Dhavernas to portray Juliana O’Neill. In the hands of a less skilled or less experienced actress, Juliana could have come off as a shrewish wife who seems incapable of understanding her husband’s profession. But Dhavernas managed to avoid that one-dimensional portrayal and expertly convey how much the Hanssens’ intrusions and Eric’s continuing privacy had put a strain on her psyche.

I cannot deny that I found Laura Linney’s portrayal of Kate Burrough, Eric’s F.B.I. handler, very interesting. And very complex. Linney’s Agent Burrough bridled with righteous anger at Hanssen’s betrayal of his country. Yet, she skillfully balanced that anger with a world-weary cynicism toward Eric’s initial naivety that I found fascinating to watch. There are times when I find myself wondering if Ryan Phillippe is underrated as an actor. Personally, I never have. And his performance as Eric O’Neill has only confirmed (at least in my mind) that he is a superb actor. Eric O’Neill might be one of the nicest characters he has ever portrayed. But thanks to Phillippe’s complex and intense performance, the character also proved to be interesting . . . especially in how he dealt with the stress of serving as Hanssen’s aide, while investing the latter; and how that stress put a strain on his marriage. Also, Phillippe is such a strong actor that it is obvious he had no problem whatsoever in keeping up with the more highly regarded Laura Linney and his main co-star, Chris Cooper. Speaking of the latter, I am still disappointed that he was never recognized for his portrayal of Robert Hanssen with a major acting award. He really deserved it. More importantly, I regard Robert Hanssen as one of his best roles. I thought Cooper was outstanding as the paranoid Hanssen, who seemed to be a curious mixture of the dedicated and morally pure Federal agent; and the perverse and paranoid man, whose ego led him to commit a major betrayal against his country. Cooper really knocked it out of the ballpark.

Overall, I would highly recommend “BREACH”. Is it historically accurate? Of course not. I have yet to see a historical drama that was. But “BREACH” is such a fascinating tale, thanks to Billy Ray’s direction; a tight screenplay written by him, Adam Mazer and William Rotko; and superb performances by a cast led by Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe that it was inspired me to visit my local library and read more on Robert Hanssen and what led to his capture.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “CHUCK” Season One (2007-2008)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One (2007-2008) of NBC’s “CHUCK”. Created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, the series starred Zachary Levy:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “CHUCK” SEASON ONE (2007-2008)

1 - 1.04 Chuck vs. the Wookie

1. (1.04) “Chuck vs. the Wookie” – Newbie government agent Chuck Bartowski and his two handlers – Sarah Walker and John Casey – are forced to work with Sarah’s volatile D.E.A. friend to find a diamond owned by a man named “Señor Wookiee”, who funds terrorists.

 

2 - 1.09 Chuck vs. the Imported Hard Salami

2. (1.09) “Chuck vs. the Imported Hard Salami” – Chuck, Sarah and Casey begin to suspect that Chuck’s new girlfriend, a sandwich shop owner named Lou, might be a part of a smuggling group.

 

3 - 1.03 Chuck vs. the Tango

3. (1.03) “Chuck vs. the Tango” – When Chuck learns via the Intersect computer in his brain that an arms dealer named “La Ciudad” will appear at an art auction, he and his handlers infiltrate the function.

 

4 - 1.10 Chuck vs. the Nemesis

4. (1.10) “Chuck vs. the Nemesis” – Chuck’s former best friend and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend/partner, Bryce Larkin, returns after being thought dead earlier. Bryce needs Chuck’s help to prove to the C.I.A. that he was never a rogue agent. Meanwhile, the employees of Buy More prepare for the post-Thanksgiving shopping day known as “Black Friday”.

 

5 - 1.12 Chuck vs. the Undercover Lover

5. (1.12) “Chuck vs. the Undercover Lover” – When Chuck learns via the Internet that a group of Russian arms dealers are arriving in Los Angeles for a secret meeting; he, Sarah and Casey discover that one of them – Ilsa Trinchina – is Casey’s ex-girlfriend.

“MR. HOLMES” (2015) Review

 

“MR. HOLMES” (2015) Review

Arthur Conan Doyle created a force of nature when he set out to write a series of mystery novels featuring the fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. His novels have not only provided a series of movie and television adaptations for the past century, but also the Holmes character has led to a great number of movies, novels and television series that featured original stories not written by Doyle. Among them is Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel, “A Slight Trick of the Mind”.

About a decade later, “MR. HOLMES”, a film adaptation of Cullin’s novel finally hit the movie screens. Directed by Bill Condon, the movie told the story of a 93 year-old Sherlock Holmes, who has returned to his Sussex farm, following a trip to Hiroshima, Japan in 1947. The aging retired detective had taken the trip abroad to acquire a prickly ash plant and use its jelly to help him improve his failing memory. Apparently, Holmes has been unhappy with his ex-partner Dr. John Watson’s account of his last case, which occurred over 30 years earlier, and hoped to write his own account. Holmes recruits the help of Roger Munro, the young son of his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, to help him regain his memories and care for the bees inside the farmhouse’s apiary. Over time, Holmes and Roger develop a strong friendship. And Holmes’ memories of his last case prove to be different than he had expected.

When I had first decided to see “MR. HOLMES” in the movie theaters, I did not expect it would be a mystery involving crime. I felt certain that it would more or less be a character study about the famous fictional detective. Not only was I right, I was also surprised to learn that Holmes’ last case said a lot about a certain aspect of his personality and how much he had changed through his relationship with Roger Munro and his mother. The movie also focused on Holmes’ trip to Japan and the curious relationship he had developed with a Mr. Tamiki Umezaki, who helped him find the prickly ash plant. Holmes discovered that Mr. Umezaki had a reason, other than admiration for his past reputation as a detective, for helping him. The latter believes that Holmes knows the real reason why his father had abandoned the Umezaki family many years ago. Only Holmes does not remember.

Ever since its release in theaters, “MR. HOLMES” has been showered with acclaim from film critics, aside from a few who were not completely impressed. When I first saw the trailer for “MR. HOLMES”, a part of me immediately suspected that the movie would feature a mystery. But I also suspected that the mystery would have nothing to do with a crime. I was proved right when I finally saw the film. In the end, “MR. HOLMES” proved to be at its core, a character study of the fictional detective. But the movie is also a study of a man struggling with aging and the slow loss of his memories and faculties. Due to Holmes’ failing memory, the details surrounding his last case and the disappearance of Mr. Umezaki’s father served as the story’s two mysteries.

A character study of Sherlock Holmes. The last time I saw a similar narrative unfold occurred in the 1976 movie, “THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION” in which the detective struggled with cocaine and morphine, along with an unpleasant childhood memory. But the 1976 movie also featured a mysterious death and kidnapping. No crimes were featured in“MR. HOLMES”. The interesting aspect about “MR. HOLMES” is that the detective’s last case revealed an aspect about his personality that he had never acknowledge or recognized in the past. A personal shortcoming that led to the final failure of his last case. And this discovery . . . this failure led him to retire as a private detective in disgust. And yet, thirty years later, Holmes finds himself struggling to face that aspect of his personality again, due to his relationship with his housekeeper Mrs. Munro and her young son, Roger.

Overall, “MR. HOLMES” was an interesting and well-paced experience for me. I thought director Bill Condon and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher did a first-rate job in exploring not only Holmes’ personality, but also the other major characters featured in this movie. I also have to give kudos to both men for being able to maintain the story’s main narrative and unveiling the mysteries of Holmes’ past, while flashing back and forth between the detective’s past and present. And they did this without the movie falling apart in the end.

I also have to give kudos to the movie’s production values. Production designer Martin Childs did an excellent job of re-creating both London in the 1910s, along with Sussex and Hiroshima in the mid-to-late 1940s. There was nothing earth shattering about his work, but I believe it served the movie’s purpose. His work was ably enhanced by Jonathan Houlding and James Wakefield’s art designs, and Charlotte Watts’ set decorations. In fact, the movie’s entire production values seemed to be in a state of understated elegance, including Keith Madden’s costume designs, which ably re-created the wardrobes of the two decades featured in the movie.

I felt rather disgusted and disappointed that Ian McKellen failed to get an Oscar or Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of the aging Sherlock Holmes. I was amazed at his ability to portray the same character in two different time periods, yet at the same time, reflect at how much that character had changed over the years. And remained the same. Another Oscar potential performance came from Laura Linney, who was outstanding as Holmes’ put upon housekeeper, Mrs. Munro. First of all, I thought she did a first-rate job of recapturing her character’s regional accent. And two, she did a superb job of conveying her character’s unease over the growing friendship between her son and Holmes. If Milo Parker can stay the course, he might prove to be an outstanding actor as an adult. He was certainly first-rate as the very charming and intelligent Roger Munro. He also managed to hold his own against the likes of both McKellen and Linney.

I have not seen Hattie Morahan in a movie or television production for quite a while and it was good to see her. More importantly, she was superb as the housewife Ann Kelmot, who was under investigation by Holmes in the past. The actress managed to effectively project an intelligent, yet melancholic air that nearly permeated the film. “MR. HOLMES” is probably the first dramatic project I have ever seen feature Hiroyuki Sanada. Well . . . perhaps the second. I have always been aware that he was a first-rate actor. But I feel that he may have surpassed himself in giving, I believe, the film’s most subtle performance. I was astounded by how delicately he shifted the Tamiki Umezaki character from an ardent admirer of Holmes’ who wanted to help the latter to the emotional and suspicion son, who demanded to know the whereabouts of his missing father. The movie also featured solid performances from Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Frances de la Tour, John Sessions and a surprise cameo appearance of Nicholas Rowe (who portrayed the fictional detective in the 1985 movie, “YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES”).

As much as I enjoyed “MR. HOLMES”, I believe that it suffered from one major flaw. Some critics had complained about Holmes’ visit to Japan and more specifically, his visit to the Hiroshima bomb site. I did not have a problem with Holmes and Mr. Umezaki’s visit to the famous site. Personally, I found it rather interesting. On the other hand, I had a problem with the subplot regarding the mystery of Tamiki Umezaki’s father. I will not spoil the ending of this particular story arc. But needless to say, I not only found it disappointing, but downright implausible. Was this how Mitch Cullin ended the Umezaki story arc? If so, I wish Hatcher and Condon had changed it. There was no law that they had to closely adapt Cullin’s novel.

Aside from the Tamiki Umezaki story arc, I found “MR. HOLMES” very satisfying, engrossing and very entertaining. Director Bill Condon and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher did a top-notch job in adapting Mitch Cullin’s novel. And they ably supported by the subtle artistry of the movie’s technical crew and the superb performances of a cast led by the always excellent Ian McKellen.

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 3/7

“THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON”

PART 3

Harry glanced at the selection of dishes spread out on the long table for the McNeills’ weekly Sunday brunch. Since he could not choose between the Crab Quiche and the Eggs Mornay, he decided to select both. Using a spatula, he lifted a slice of quiche and placed it on his plate.

“My, we are hungry, this morning. Aren’t we?” a low, feminine voice commented. Harry peered to his left and found Paige standing next to him.

“Yes, I am.” Harry scooped a ladleful of eggs onto his plate. “Would you care for some Eggs Mornay? No one makes it better than Bruce.”

Paige glanced at her plate, which seemed to be filled with plenty of food. “Thanks anyway,” she said. “I have enough.”

“I just realized that it’s been a while since we’ve laid eyes upon each other,” Harry continued. “At least . . . what? Two weeks? Three?”

A sigh left Paige’s mouth. “Less than three weeks. I guess I’ve been avoiding most of you, since Phoebe and Cole . . . well, you know.”

“Dating? Does it bother you to say the word?” Harry waited, while the family’s manservant poured him a glass of orange juice. He thanked Davies, before returning his attention to the youngest Charmed One. “By the way, how are they? Cole and Phoebe? And the rest of your family?”

Paige quickly murmured, “Fine. Where’s Olivia?”

“She’s in Monterey for the weekend.” Harry added, “If you’re fine, why do you look so tense?”

After receiving her glass of juice from Davies, Paige followed Harry to a table set up for the family and their guests. Barbara, Gweneth and the latter’s old friend, Carla Bianchi, already occupied seats. “What do mean, I look tense?” Paige demanded. “Why are you always making some kind of comment about my emotional state? I’m perfectly fine.”

Harry scooped a forkful of eggs. “I don’t always comment on your emotional state.”

“You once told me that I was paranoid. During that time Paul Margolin had cast that spell over Olivia.” Smirking slightly, Paige added, “And I was right.”

Dumping the eggs back on his plate, Harry sighed. “Okay. I was wrong. You were right. Sue me. Besides, you are acting rather tense right now. You should see the expression on your face. Let alone read your body langu . . .”

“Hey, I’m fine! Okay? Seriously.” Looking slightly annoyed, the Charmed One began to eat.

Gweneth peered at the two younger witches. “Is there something going on between you two?”

“Sorry Mom,” Harry answered. “Just a small discussion about . . . something.” He popped the eggs into his mouth.

Paige shot him a resentful glare. “I am not feeling tense. And we were talking about . . . nothing. Okay?”

Barbara frowned. “You’re feeling tense? About what?”

Swallowing his eggs, Harry said, “All I did was comment that Paige seemed tense, today. I think she has something on her mind.”

“What are you . . . reading my mind, or something?” Paige retorted.

The redhead shot a contemptuous glare at his table companion. “If I was, I would now know what’s bothering you.”

“How do you know I’m bo . . .” Paige immediately broke off.

“Oh ho! So I was right!” Harry smiled. “The emotion is rolling off from you, sweetheart.”

Gweneth added, “He’s right, Paige. You do seem troubled. Are you uncomfortable, because Cole is back . . .?

“Cole plans to get rid of his powers!” Paige’s curt announcement nearly caused Harry to choke on his juice. He stared at her in shock.

Barbara shook her head in disbelief. “Say that again? Did you just say . . .?”

Paige heaved a sigh. Long and hard. “Cole plans to strip his powers, so he can become a mortal. Phoebe talked him into it.”

“My God! Is he out of his bloody mind?” Gweneth’s voice rang across the garden. Bruce, Jack and Uncle Wei joined them at the table. “Why on earth would he want to do something so incredibly stupid?”

A sardonic Paige added, “That’s what I said, when Cole and Phoebe first told us.”

“Told you what?” Harry’s father asked.

Gweneth quickly told him about Cole’s plans. Listening to the earth-shattering news for the third time, Harry still found it hard to believe. “What the hell?” Jack’s voice expressed shock. “Is he insane? My God! I’ve warned him about that! What the hell is he thinking?”

“Did you say that Phoebe talked him into it?” an equally stunned Bruce added. “Does Marbus know?”

A snort escaped from Harry’s mouth. Everyone stared at him. “Marbus? Can you imagine how Olivia will react when she finds out?”

———-

Olivia faced a tall, thin man with a long face, swarthy complexion and expressive eyes, inside the living room of an expensive beach house in Monterey. The man’s name happened to be Alexis Kostopulos and he seemed relieved by her news that his father’s murderer had been captured. But he did not seem particularly upset that the rare medallion that had led to Stefan Kostopulos’ death, had not been recovered.

“Quite frankly, I’m glad that you’ve never recovered it,” Kostopulos said to Olivia. “When Dad first bought it during a family vacation in Greece . . .” Kostopulos’ face paled, as he shook his head. “I don’t know. I guess I had bad vibes from the first moment I clapped eyes upon it.” Disbelief shone in his dark eyes. “It’s hard to believe that Dad and some New York antique dealer had been killed over these medallions.”

The redhead murmured, “They were quite rare. Mr. Liederhoff was prepared to sell his medallion to Miss Bryant, but she had decided to hire someone to steal it for her. I gather she considered it a cheaper method to get her hands on it.”

Kostopulos frowned. “This Miss Bryant . . . she sounds familiar. About a week before he was killed, someone had contacted Dad about buying the medallion. A woman.”

Olivia nodded. “Probably Lin Bryant. She was the one who had hired Gerry Gallagher to rob your father’s store. The police had discovered a file in her office that contained information on his store, Gallagher and Mr. Liederhoff.”

“So, is this Miss Bryant behind bars?”

Images of a beautiful Eurasian woman being slammed against a bookcase flashed in Olivia’s mind. “Uh, not quite. She’s dead. Broken neck. We, uh . . . she tried to resist arrest and we ended up in a fight.” She sighed. “Needless to say I won.”

“So that’s the reason behind the bruises on your face,” Kostopulos said with a nod. “That must have been some fight.” He paused, as his eyes grew even darker. “At least she paid for her actions,” he added with quiet savagery.

Olivia did not share her host’s satisfaction. She had hoped that Lin Bryant would provide more information on the phony Arthur Winslow and the Magan Corporation. But that would never happen, now that Ms. Byrant’s corpse laid inside one of the city’s morgues.

Changing the subject, Olivia asked the realtor what he intend to do with his late father’s store. Kostopulos leaned back in his chair and sighed. “I don’t know. Hire someone to operate the shop. Perhaps sell it. Only I don’t know anyone who might be interested in antiquties. Or the occult.”

“Oh.” Olivia paused, as she summoned the courage to speak her next words. “Um . . . I might be interested.”

Kostopulos frowned. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

In a louder voice, Olivia repeated, “I might be interested. If you don’t want to keep the store, I might be interested in taking it off your hands.”

“But . . . you’re a police officer,” Kostopulos began. “What would you know about . . .?”

Olivia interrupted. “Look, I’ve always been interested in the occult, myself. In fact, I’ve even studied Mythology in college. And when I saw your dad’s shop for the first time . . . well, I guess I found it fascinating.”

Kostopulos stared at her. Then a slow smile appeared on his face. “Well, in that case, Inspector, you just might have a deal.”

————

Paige returned home later that afternoon and found her sisters and Cole inside the kitchen. Phoebe and Piper stood behind the counter, surrounded by herbs and other ingredients for a potion. Cole sat in one of the chairs, reading a book. “What the hell is going on?” the youngest Charmed One demanded, as she sat in another chair.

Phoebe glanced up from the herbs laid out on the island counter and shot a mild glare at the younger woman. “What does it look like? We’re making a power stripping potion for Cole. And since you won’t help . . .”

“Oh my God! Cole? Are you still going through with this crazy plan?”

An unfamiliar voice exclaimed, “I bloody well hope not!” All eyes turned toward the figure standing in the doorway. She was a striking-looking woman who stood at least an inch above Paige, possessed rich auburn hair sprinkled with gray and cut stylishly short. High cheekbones accentuated her delicate face. The woman seemed somewhere between her late forties and mid fifties. She wore a blue pantsuit that highlighted her blue eyes. Eyes that possessed a familiar shade of blue. In a soft Irish lilt, she continued, “Belthazor, I see that you plan to continue this ludicrous scheme of yours.”

“Demon!” Piper raised her hands.

Cole shot to his feet. “No! Don’t kill her!”

“Huh?” Paige frowned at Cole. “Why not?”

“Because . . .” Cole hesitated.

The woman or demoness finished, “Because I am his mother.” The Charmed Ones gasped. Cole’s mother coolly greeted her son. “Hello Belthazor. It’s good to see you, again. After all these years.”

Cole glared at his parent. “Wish I could say the same, Mother, but I’m not in the mood to be polite. What are you doing here?”

“Cole?” Phoebe’s voice expressed a touch of anxiety.

Sighing, the half-demon made the introductions. “Uh, Phoebe, Paige, Piper . . . this is my mother, Elizabeth Farrell Turner. Otherwise known as Nimue. Mother, these are the Halliwells. Paige, Piper and . . . Phoebe.”

“Oh yes, the famous Charmed Ones.” Elizabeth Turner’s blue eyes fell upon the variety of herbs on the counter. “Brewing a little potion, are we, ladies?”

A slightly uneasy Piper began to squeeze a bag of fennel. “Uh . . . it’s nothing. I’m making . . . making this sauce . . .”

“Please don’t lie, Miss Halliwell,” Nimue shot back. “You’re not very good at it. Besides, I have a good idea what you are preparing.”

Cole spoke up. “What are you doing here, Mother? I can only assume that you’ve seen Marbus.”

“You assume correctly,” Nimue snapped. “What kind of insanity is this? Stripping away your powers?”

“It’s my choice! And it’s none of your business!”

Nimue retorted, “Despite the fact that we haven’t laid eyes upon each other in over thirty years, you are my son! And I do care about what happens to you! Do you honestly believe that I would stand by and say nothing, while you commit this . . . blunder?”

“Amen to that!” The words came out of Paige’s mouth, before she could stop herself. All eyes focused upon her. Paige felt a warm flush creep up her neck. “Sorry,” she muttered.

The female demon regarded Paige with admiring eyes. “Why apologize, my dear? It’s the first sensible comment I’ve heard since my arrival.”

“Mother . . .”

Phoebe stepped forward, her body trembling. “Look, you may be Cole’s mother, but he’s a big boy, now. If he no longer wants to be a demon, it’s his choice and not yours!”

“Are you saying that Belthazor . . .?”

“His name is Cole!”

Nimue ignored Phoebe and continued, “Belthazor, are you saying that this decision to become a mortal is yours alone? And that no one,” she shot a putrid glare at Phoebe, “had to convince you?”

“Yes Mother, it’s my decision,” Cole retorted. “I’m sorry that I cannot be the ‘Big Bad Demon’ for you, but I have my own life to lead. Do you understand?”

For what seemed like eternity, the three witches and the two demons regarded each other in silence. Actually, Phoebe and Cole cast hostile eyes at the latter’s mother. Piper’s eyes seemed to be everywhere, except upon mother and son. And Paige simply regarded the entire scene with great interest.

Nimue heaved an impatient sigh. “I see that any further arguments from me will not deter you from your decision.”

Cole sneered. “That’s right, Mother. Marbus had sent the wrong person to talk to me.”

Ah! Now Paige understood how Cole’s mother had found out about his decision to strip his powers. Marbus. The Gimle demon must have been desperate to change his nephew’s mind. Especially if he had resorted to contacting Nimue.

Eyes that bore a strong resemblance to Cole’s in both color and intensity, stared at the dark-haired human-demon hybrid. “Fine. I see that I am wasting my time.” Nimue added in a cold voice, “If you decide to proceed with this folly, don’t be surprise when you end up facing the consequences of your actions . . . in a very ugly manner.”

Cole’s expression hardened. “Is that a threat, Mother?”

The demoness rolled her eyes in contempt. “Please! Don’t be silly!” She heaved a mild sigh. “By the way, Belthazor, let’s not wait another three or four decades before we meet again. Till the next time.” On that note, she shimmered out of the kitchen.

The moment she disappeared, Phoebe went into panic mode. “Oh my God! I can’t believe that she came here! Your mother!” She stared at Cole with anxious eyes. “What do you think she’s going to do?”

“Do?” Cole frowned. “What can she do? She’s done just about everything she can.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “Wake up, Cole! Your mother is a powerful and probably a very evil demon! And she didn’t seem too pleased about this whole power stripping business.”

“She can’t do anything!” Cole shot back. “Unless she wants to risk pissing me off.”

“Yeah! While you still have your powers! But what will happen once they’re gone?”

Cole heaved a sigh. “Then she will have to deal with either you or Marbus. My mother may be a lot of things, but she’s not stupid.”

Paige noticed that her sisters seemed reluctant to accept Cole’s assurances. But what else could they do? Go after the woman? Cole would end up pissed off, all right. But not at his mother. “I’m heading out,” she announced, breaking the silence. The others stared at her. “What?”

Piper asked, “Where are you going?”

“To get something to eat for all of us.” Paige’s eyes scanned the mess on the island counter. “It’s obvious that it’ll be a while before you have a chance to cook dinner. By that time, we’ll be starving.”

Phoebe cried out, “Wait a minute!” Paige paused. “Listen, we’re having trouble copying the enhancements you made for Cole’s power stripping potion. Could you tell us . . .?”

“Sorry Pheebs!” Paige literally sang. “You’re on your own. Personally, I agree with Cole’s mom. You’re all making a big mistake and I won’t be a party to it.”

Phoebe glared at the younger woman. “Thanks a lot.”

“My pleasure,” Paige replied with a smile. “Will Chinese be okay with everyone?” The others nodded. “Great! I’ll be back real soon.” And she escaped from the kitchen as fast as her feet would allow.

————

In the darkness of one of the bedrooms, inside the Halliwell manor, a lamp post suddenly morphed into a slender figure with brown skin. With great stealth, Zamora made her way toward the young woman asleep on the large bed. She glanced down and smiled.

While Paige Matthews continued to sleep, Zamora chanted a brief spell in a voice low enough to prevent the witch/whitelighter from waking up:

“Separate now, but soon will link, You mind to mine, shall finally sync. My soul is dark and so too shall yours be, Just follow my voice, and so it will be.”

When she finished, Zamora’s mouth hovered above the Charmed One’s exposed ear and relayed a few instructions. Her task done, she smiled once more and teleported out of the room.

END OF PART 3

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” (Season Three)

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Three (1995-1996) of “LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman”. The series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” (SEASON THREE)

1 - 3.17 Seconds

1. (3.17) “Seconds” – In this finale of a three-episode arc about Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s aborted wedding, Clark races to find Lex Luthor and an amnesiac Lois before the former billionaire can convince her to kill Clark and leave Metropolis forever.

2 - 3.13 The Dad Who Came in From the Cold

2. (3.13) “The Dad Who Came in From the Cold” – A visit from Jimmy Olsen’s father to Metropolis prompts a revelation of the latter’s profession as a spy.

3 - 3.22 Big Girls Dont Fly

3. (3.22) “Big Girls Don’t Fly” – AFter successfully passing the tests set by Kryptonian survivors Zara and Ching, Clark learns that they want him to leave Earth and go back with them to rule New Krypton, or the planet will be ruled by the evil Lord Nor.

4 - 3.04 When Irish Eyes Are Killing

4. (3.04) “When Irish Eyes Are Killing” – In an effort to make Clark jealous, Lois dates her old boyfriend, Patrick Sullivan. But she and Clark eventually learn that he is planning to use her as a Druidic sacrifice.

5 - 3.01 We Have a Lot to Talk About

5. (3.01) “We Have a Lot to Talk About” – While Clark and Lois deal with the ramifications of her discovery of his Superman identity, Intergang leader Bill Church’s attempts to go straight are hampered by his new wife and his son.

“THE BOURNE IDENTITY” (2002) Review

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“THE BOURNE IDENTITY” (2002) Review

Thirty-six years ago saw the release of “The Bourne Identity”, Robert Ludlum’s first novel about the amnesiac government agent called Jason Bourne. The novel became a best-seller and spawned two sequels written by Ludlum. Then in 1988, ABC aired a two-part miniseries adaptation of Ludlum’s novel, which starred Richard Chamberlain and Jacyln Smith. The miniseries turned out to be a big ratings hit. But it did not stop there. Over fourteen years later, Universal Pictures released its own adaptation of the novel, starring Matt Damon as the amnesiac Jason Bourne.

Directed by Doug Liman, the beginning of “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” more or less followed Ludlum’s novel. Italian fisherman (instead of French) rescue an unconscious man floating adrift with two gunshot wounds in his back. The boat’s medic finds a display of a safe deposit number surgically implanted under the unknown man’s skin. The man wakes up and discovers he is suffering from extreme memory loss. Over the next few days, the man finds he is fluent in several languages and has unusual skills. But he cannot remember anything about himself or why he was in the sea. When the ship docks, the doctor sends him off to Zurich with some money to investigate the mystery of the safe deposit box. In Zurich, the man discovers money, a pistol and passports with his photograph. One of the photographs identify him as an American named Jason Bourne with an address in Paris.

Here, “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” begins to veer from both Ludlum’s novel and the 1988 miniseries. Instead of alerting the forces of terrorist Carlos the Jackal, Bourne’s trip to the bank alerted the CIA black ops program Treadstone to his whereabouts. And instead of coercing French-Canadian Marie St. Jacques to drive him to safety and using her as a hostage, Damon’s Bourne offered money to a German-born Marie Kreutz to drive him to Paris. Before they can part, a Treadstone assassin attack Bourne at his Paris apartment. Due to the attack, Bourne is forced to kill the assassin and keep Marie by his side for her protection. And with her help, he sets out to discover his true identity and the truth that led to his wounded state in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, Treadstone – led by the cankerous Alexander Conklin and the anxious Deputy Director Ward Abbott – continues sending assassins to kill Bourne and prevent him from revealing the organization’s desire to kill a volatile exiled African dictator named Nykwana Wombosi.

I might as well put my cards on the table. “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” is a terrific movie. Director Doug Liman, along with screenwriters Tony Gilory and William Blake Herron, did a first-rate job of transferring . . . well, their vision of Ludlum’s novel. Although the movie is not as faithful to the novel as the miniseries, I believe it is just as good. Liman, Gilroy and Herron decided to reject a good deal of Ludlum’s novel in order to reflect the current political climate and to conform to Liman’s opinions regarding American foreign policy. In the movie, Bourne is a CIA assassin who works for a black ops group called Treadstone that carries out unofficial hits on those they consider threats to the American government. He lost his memory after a failed attempt on the exiled Nykwana Wombosi. The movie is more of a criticism or indictment (depending on how one would view it) on U.S. foreign policy than Ludlum’s novel . But the director and the two screenwriters made sure that they retained the novel’s central theme – a CIA agent who loses his memory on the heels of a failed mission. Does this mean I believe Liman, Gilroy and Herron’s changes are superior to Ludlum’s original story? Not really. Ludlum’s tale and the 1988 adaptation were reflections of the times they hit both the bookstores and television screens. By the time “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” was in production, the political scene had change. The real Carlos the Jackal had been in prison for about seven to eight years by the time the movie went into production. And in my opinion, Liman and the two screenwriters wisely reflected this change.

“THE BOURNE IDENTITY” also reflected some first rate action sequences, thanks to Liman’s direction, Oliver Wood’s photography and especially Saar Klein’s editing. My favorite sequences include Bourne’s escape from the U.S. Embassy in Zurich, a car chase sequence through the streets of Paris, Bourne’s final encounter with Conklin and two of the latter’s flunkies inside Treadstone’s Parisian safe house and especially the fight sequence between Bourne and another Treadstone assassin named Castel. I also enjoyed John Powell’s atmospheric score for the film, which I believe more or less served as the basis for his work on the second and third BOURNE movies. And speaking of music, one could hardly discuss any BOURNE film withou mentioning Moby’s 2002 hit song, “Extreme Ways”. The lyrics to Moby’s song, supported by a very entertaining score, literally captured the nuance of the franchise’s main characters . . . especially Bourne. Is it any wonder that it has become the franchise’s theme song? Also, I have to commend Liman’s insistence upon filming“THE BOURNE IDENTITY” in Paris, especially since executives at Universal Studios wanted him to use Montreal or Prague as substitutes for the City of Lights. Mind you, both Montreal and Prague are beautiful cities. But even I would have guessed they were not really Paris in the film.

I read somewhere that Liman had considered a wide range of actors like Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone for the role of David Webb aka Jason Bourne. Mind you, I think Crowe could have pulled it off. But I am not so sure about Stallone. Then again, he could have done so a decade earlier. However, Liman eventually settled for Matt Damon and the rest, as they say, is history. Damon not only gave a superb performance as the introverted and haunted Bourne, he also handled some of the action scenes very well, considering this was his first time in such a physically demanding role. He also had superb chemistry with his leading lady, Franka Potente. The latter was excellent as the free-spirited Marie Kreutz, who finds herself drawn to the mysterious Bourne . . . almost against her will. Other first-rate performances include Chris Cooper as the intense and hot-tempered Alexander Conklin; Brian Cox, who performance as the cautious Ward Abbott almost strikes me as insidious; and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whose performance as the arrogant and verbose Nykwana Wombosi pretty much lit up the screen. The movie also featured first-rate performances from two cast members who said very little. Julia Stiles did an excellent job in conveying both the professionalism and wariness of Treadstone logistics technician Nicky Parsons with very little dialogue. Clive Owen had even less to say as Treadstone assassin “The Professor” and yet, he perfectly projected an intense and intimidating presence as a government killer.

“THE BOURNE IDENTITY” is probably my second favorite movie in the franchise. Yet, it is not perfect. One of the problems I had featured the death of Treadstone assassin Castel, who jumped out of the window and killed himself, following his fight with Bourne inside the latter’s Parisian apartment. Marie asked Bourne why he did it. And honestly, I wondered why he did it myself. But Gilroy and Herron’s screenplay failed to explain Castel’s suicide. And to this day, I am still wondering why the guy jumped. Ward Abbott made the decision to shut down Treadstone, following its failure to kill Bourne. But instead of having everyone connected to Treadstone killed – something that Edward Norton’s character in “THE BOURNE LEGACY” attempted to do – Abbott only had one person bumped off. And I could not help but wondering if his efforts were half-assed. I also had a problem with the CIA’s reaction to Nykwana Wombosi’s death. Following Bourne’s failed attempt to kill him, the CIA Director had a fit over the unauthorized attempted hit on the former dictator. But when “The Professor” finally killed Wombossi, no one made a fuss or worried over the possibility that the dictator’s death might attract more attention from the media. I thought this was rather sloppy on Gilroy and Herron’s part. Finally, the movie’s second half was in danger of losing my attention, due to Liman’s slow pacing. If it were not for the sequence featuring Bourne and Marie’s visit to her friend (or step brother) Eaumon’s French farmhouse, I would have fallen asleep and missed Bourne’s final confrontation with Conklin.

What else is there to say about “THE BOURNE IDENTITY”? Like I said, it is my second favorite of the four movies in theBOURNE franchise. In its own way, it is just as good (but not better) than the 1988 miniseries that starred Richard Chamberlain. Not only did the movie featured a first-rate, if flawed screenplay by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron; it also featured fine direction by Doug Liman, along with a superb cast led by Matt Damon who proved to be an excellent Jason Bourne.

“Trapped By a Title”

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“TRAPPED BY A TITLE”

I feel sorry for Emma Swan. I may not like her very much at the moment. But I do feel sorry for her. More importantly, she has become, since Season Two, one of the most frustrating characters on “ONCE UPON A TIME”. Which is probably why I have just written my third or fourth article about her.

From the moment her son Henry Mills found her in the series’ premiere episode, (1.01) “Pilot” and revealed that she was destined to break a curse cast by his adopted mother, Regina Mills that currently trapped the citizens of Storybrooke; she has been stuck with the role of “Savior”. Yes, I said “stuck”. Because there is no other way to describe her situation, pre-“Dark One” curse. And she will continue to be stuck in the role, once she breaks free of the curse. Henry was the first to forced the role of “Savior”. After Emma broke that first curse, her parents – Snow White and David Prince Chraming – and other citizens of Storybrooke enforced that role upon her as well. But I think this was a mistake on Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz’s part. They should have dropped the “Savior” title, after Season One. Instead, they have allowed other characters, including the reformed Regina, to insist that she is the “Savior”.

For me, this is so wrong on so many levels. Perhaps Kitsis and Horowitz are trying to re-create another Buffy Summers. Who knows? But this insistence that she has to be this savior who is supposed to be solely responsible for the lives of others and guarantee their happy endings is ridiculous. And it does not serve Emma’s emotional growth as many believe it will. Instead, it has become something of a character straight jacket. As long as Emma continues to allow the others to dictate what she has to do for the rest of her life, she will never grow as an individual or as a character. Being “the Savior”should not have been her job description in the first place. This is something that was enforced upon her by Rumpelstiltskin’s manipulation, because he wanted a way to the “Land Without Magic” in order to find his missing son, Baelfire. And the Storybrooke citizens have inflicted this role upon her, due to their inability to see her as someone other than a glorified magical vigilante. There is no real law that she has to spend the rest of her life giving people “happy endings”. I see no reason why she always has to be the one who has to defeat some magical Big Bad. Past seasons have allowed others like Regina, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Henry and Anna of Arendelle (via emotional persuasion) to defeat or help defeat the Big Bad. So why is everyone still insisting that Emma has to be “the One”?

However, I fear that once Emma is freed from the “Dark One” curse, she will continue to allow everyone to squeeze her into some straight jacket labeled “Savior”. Because of this belief that she always has to save someone, Emma ended up making one of the biggest mistakes in her life in the Season Three finale, (3.22) “There’s No Place Like Home” when she tried to change the timeline and save Maid Marian’s life. She thought that because she was “the Savior”, she had the right to commit the dangerous act of changing the timeline in order to save someone who had died in the past. Yet, she also believed that Rumpelstiltskin did not have the right to change the timeline in order to prevent Neal’s death. Not only were Emma’s actions hypocritical, they also led to Zelena’s resurgence in their lives (Rumpelstiltskin helped with his so-called act of murder). In the Season Four finale, (4.23) “Operation Mongoose, Part 2” she called herself saving Regina’s moral compass – something which the latter never asked in the first place – from an entity that eventually led her to become the new “Dark One”.

Four years have passed since Emma first found herself stuck with the role of “Savior”. This role has proven to be something of an emotional strain for other fictional “saviors” and “chosen ones” such as Buffy Summer, Jack Shepherd, and Harry Potter. I find it odd that other than late Season One when Henry and August Booth aka Pinocchio kept insisting that she has to break that first curse, Emma has never really dealt with any emotional strain over being a “chosen one”. And the only reason she found it a strain was due to her inability to believe Henry and August about the curse. I find this both odd and unrealistic. The longer other “chosen one” or “savior” characters were forced to accept this role, the harder it became for them to deal with it. Instead, Emma dealt with the problems of her relationship with her parents and Neal, the growing strength of her powers, Henry’s amnesia in late Season Three, Regina’s anger in early Season Four over her time travel escapades, and her parents’ lies regarding Maleficent and the latter’s child, former childhood friend Lily Page. But not since Season One can I recall Emma dealing with the pressures of being the “Savior”.

It occurred to me that sooner or later, Emma needs to break free of that role/straight jacket in order to dictate her own life. I am not stating that she needs to stop saving others or stop being a town sheriff (despite being lousy at the job). But she does not have to make being the “Savior” a life long job description. If Emma continues down this path, she just might make another mistake on the same level as the one she made in “There’s No Place Like Home” or make a decision similar to the one that led her to become the “Dark One” . . . or something even worse. And she will never have the freedom to be herself.

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 2/7

“THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON”

PART 2

Cole reached for the bottle of Scotch and poured himself a glass. At that moment, he stiffened, sensing another figure inside his penthouse. He glanced over his shoulder. “Marbus?”

“Good evening, lad,” a voice greeted in its familiar Irish lilt. The older daemon joined Cole next to the liquor cabinet. “Isn’t it a bit late for a drink?”

A sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Not for me, it isn’t. Besides, I need it.”

“Oh? Well, you might as well pour me a glass of what you’re drinking, while you’re at it.” Marbus sat down on the sofa. “So, how is everyone dealing with the changes in the Whitelighter Realm? I heard about what happened.”

Cole poured a second glass of Scotch. “Oh, everyone’s great,” he replied sardonically. “As you know, Natalia is now an Elder. I was accompanied by an arrogant little shit named Gideon, while I went to the Belogast dimension to get rid of the Erebor medallions.”

“Bloody hell!” Marbus’ face turned pale. “Those things actually existed?”

With a smirk, Cole handed his uncle the second glass of Scotch. “That’s right. By the way, my former brother-in-law is now an Elder. And his wife, Piper, is having a fit.”

“Really?” Marbus took a sip of his Scotch. “What is she upset about?”

Cole sighed and settled down in an empty chair. “Because Leo thinks he has to give up his ties here on Earth – namely Piper and Wyatt – in order to assume his new duties as an Elder. God, what an idiot!”

Familiar blue eyes bored into Cole’s. “You have a problem with that?”

A grimace formed on his mouth, Cole shook his head. “I don’t know. I know I shouldn’t care, considering how Leo had plotted with that bitch, Mathilda Everard, and Paul Margolin to get Olivia to kill me, but I guess I can’t help feeling sorry for Piper. As for Leo . . .” Cole snorted with derision, “that son-of-a-bitch gets a promotion.” He took a swig of Scotch, before adding bitterly, “Life certainly isn’t fair, is it?”

“Whoever said that it was?” Marbus shot back. “Besides, something tells me that one day, Mister Leo Wyatt will have to pay for his sins. Like we all do, one way or another.”

Smiling mirthlessly, Cole said, “Olivia would call that karmic payback. Or the Wiccan Threefold Law.”

“Ah! Dear Olivia! Have you seen her lately?”

Cole hesitated. “Earlier, today. She was with us when we stopped Johann Bauer from taking over the Whitelighter Realm. She and Darryl Morris were the ones who found out about the Erebor medallions.”

Shrewd blue eyes peered at Cole. “You don’t say.” A silent pause followed. For the first time he could remember, the half-daemon found himself wishing that his uncle could be somewhere else. Marbus possessed an innate talent for ferreting out a secret. Sure enough . . .

“Is there something else you want to tell me, lad?” Marbus asked in that deceptively innocent air that he had inherited from Cole’s maternal grandfather. “You seemed a bit . . . distracted.”

Cole replied in a curt voice, “I’m fine.”

“Are you now?” Marbus continued to stare at his nephew. “Do I need to remind you that you were never able to keep a secret from me? And unlike the late and unlamented Raynor, I’m not a telepath.”

An exasperated sigh left Cole’s mouth. “What do you want to know, Marbus?”

“What’s on your mind, boy? Seriously.”

“I . . .” Cole hesitated, wondering how his uncle would react to this latest news. No time like the present to find out. “I plan to get rid of my powers. Become mortal.”

A horrified expression appeared on Marbus’ face. “Bloody hell! Did you just say . . .?”

“Yeah, I did! I’m getting rid of my powers,” Cole continued. “Phoebe and I had a long talk about it, and . . .”

The angry outburst from Marbus came out of the blue. “Are you out of your fucking mind? What the hell do you want to do that to yourself, anyway?”

“Excuse me?” Cole gave his uncle a chilly stare.

The older daemon retorted, “Don’t you go putting on airs with me, boy! I’m not some bloody idiot, planning on stripping away my powers!”

“They are not my powers! Phoebe managed to convince me . . .”

“Of course they’re your powers!” Marbus shot back.

“For God’s sake, Marbus!” Cole cried. “Face the facts! These powers I have? They’re not mine! They don’t belong to me!”

Shooting his nephew with a contemptuous glare, Marbus growled, “What are you saying? That you stole them? From whom? They now belong to you, lad! Ever since you came back from the Wasteland.”

Cole opened his mouth to speak. Unable to respond to Marbus’ questions, he decided to dismiss them. “This conversation is over. I’ve made up my mind.”

“You mean, you and Frances! Right?” Marbus shook his head in disbelief. “Bloody hell! I can’t stay around and watch you make the biggest mistake of your life. Good day to you!” He dumped his glass on a nearby table and shimmered out of the room.

Cole took a deep breath. No matter what Marbus had said, he knew that he had made the right decision. Especially if it meant peace between him and Fra . . . He shook his head in confusion. Phoebe. Peace between him and Phoebe.

————

The following evening, a frown appeared on Phoebe’s face. While the family sat inside the manor’s Solarium, watching television, she was perusing the Book of Shadows. “Oh my God,” she murmured, attracting Paige’s attention. “You did it. You actually did it!”

The other two sisters, who were busy watching television, stared at the middle Charmed One. “Uh, Pheebs? Is there a problem?”

“You really got rid of that potion from the Book, didn’t you?” Phoebe glared at her younger sister. “The one that allowed you to strip away Cole’s powers!”

Paige rolled her eyes. “Of course, I did! What? You thought I was lying? I had it removed last January.” Here we go, she added silently.

“Why Paige?” Phoebe’s voice reverberated with outrage and disbelief.

Piper added, “Good question. Why did you do it, Paige?”

“Because I didn’t think Cole would want a spell to remove his powers inside our Book of Shadows. I figured that after Barbas, he wouldn’t want to get rid of them.”

Anger flared in Phoebe’s eyes. “Well, now he wants to get rid of them.” Aside from the noise from the television, silence followed. Phoebe became more contrite. “Look, I’m sorry, Paige. It’s just . . . Now that Cole wants to get rid of his powers, can you tell us the ingredients for the potion?”

“Nope.” Paige returned her gaze to the television set.

“Paige!”

Barely keeping her annoyance in check, Paige shot back, “For God’s sake, Phoebe! I don’t remember the damn spell! Okay?” Of course she was lying, but Paige refused to admit it.

“You forgot?” Phoebe’s voice expressed disbelief. “Now, why do I find that hard to believe?”

Paige heaved a sigh. So much for the lie. “All right, Phoebe. You got me. I was lying. I do remember the ingredients for the potion and the spell. I just don’t want to give it to you or Cole.”

Just as Paige had expected, all hell broke loose. “My God, Paige! How selfish can you be?” Phoebe exploded. “Who are you to decide whether or not Cole can strip away his powers?”

Oh God. “You’re right, Pheebs. I don’t have the right to make such a decision.” Paige noticed that her older sister’s shoulders sagged with relief. “However, I do have the right to decide whether or not I will help him.” Paige gave Phoebe an insincere smile. “And I’ve decided not to. So, you’ll have to find a way to get rid of Cole’s powers, yourself.” She returned her attention to the television screen.

A cross between a grunt and a huff escaped from Phoebe’s mouth. Then Paige heard her footsteps stomp out of the Solarium. The youngest Charmed One turned to Piper, who shook her head in disbelief . . . and sighed.

———

The last member of the Halliwell family – the oldest – switched off the television set. Then she turned off the Solarium’s lights. While footsteps indicated the two Charmed Ones marching toward the staircase, a small tin waste basket morphed into a slender, dark-haired woman with rich brown skin and black eyes. She glanced around momentarily . . . and immediately teleported out of the room.

———-

Prax strode into the drawing-room, where Artemus was busy hosting a small gathering of upper-level daemons. The Magan Corporation’s CEO excused himself from his guests and joined his assistant. “Yes Prax, what is it?” the senior daemon demanded.

“That chameleon daemon is here. She’s in the library. And she has some important information.”

A sigh left Artemus’ mouth, as he glanced at his visitors. He had hoped to recruit their support of his bid to become the new Source. “All right. Why don’t you ask our visitors if they would like a drink? I’ll be back.” Once more, he excused himself to his visitors and left.

The chameleon daemon was a female named Zamora, who had faithfully served the Khorne Order for the last forty-one years. Artemus joined her inside the library. “So, Zamora. What news do you have for me?”

“There’s a problem,” Zamora curtly replied. “One of the Charmed Ones has refused to help Belthazor strip away his powers.”

Artemus frowned. “Surely the other two sisters can do the job? Or Belthazor, himself? Besides, from what I had heard about what happened with Barbas last year, the Power of Three isn’t needed to remove Belthazor’s powers.”

Zamora nodded. “That’s true, but a simple potion or spell won’t do,” she continued. “The witch who had stripped Belthazor’s powers last year, now refuses to help. The one called Paige.”

Artemus pressed his lips together. “Paige Matthews. The half-whitelighter. Damn whitelighters are proving to be a nuisance.” He sighed. “How do we get her to cooperate?”

Zamora hesitated. “Why not use a telepath to convince the witch to reveal her potion to us? Then we can use it against Belthazor.”

“Hmm, quite a clever plan. Except . . .” Artemus paused. Another idea came to him. “Except, I have another idea. One that does not require for us to search for a telepath.”

A frown creased Zamora’s forehead. “Sir?”

Artemus shot a quick smile at the daemon. “Zamora, have you ever used a spell that utilizes the power of telepathic suggestion? All that is required of you is to first form a telepathic link with your victim. The rest, as they say, is up to you.”

Shooting another curious glance at Artemus, Zamora murmured a reluctant “What exactly is this spell?”

END OF PART 2