Back in early 1981, ABC Television aired a miniseries about the lives of an Anglo-Irish immigrant family called “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA”. Starring Pierce Brosnan and Kate Mulgrew, the miniseries aired in three parts and was marketed as the Irish-American version of the 1977 miniseries, “ROOTS”.

“The Irish-American version of “ROOTS”? Hmmmm . . . I do not know if that similarity genuinely works. Yes, both miniseries focused upon the beginning of a family line in the United States. Both are family sagas set before the 20th century. But the differences between the two productions are so obvious that I found it hard to accept this comparison. The Kunta Kinte character from “ROOTS” was kidnapped from his homeland and dragged into forced labor in the Americas. Worse, he died as a slave. The Rory O’Manion character was forced to flee his Ireland homeland from British oppression. And despite facing American bigotry against Irish immigrants, he was able to become a well-respected businessman by the end of the series. “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” focused upon one generation – Rory, his sister Deidre and their loved ones – within a period of two decades or so. As for“ROOTS”, it focused upon four to five generations for at least ten to eleven decades.

Part One of “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA”begins in 1845 Ireland. This episode focused upon the intoduction of the O’Manion family and their struggles during the Great Famine. Both Rory and his twin brother, Padric O’Manion, are hired by a newly arrived English landlord named Harry Clement to work on the latter’s estate. Rory meets and falls in love with Mr. Clement’s daughter and younger offspring, Rachel. Rory’s sister Deidre meets and falls in love with Rachel’s older brother, a British Army officer named David. Both couples face considerable strain, due to nationality and class. But Rory’s participation in the Young Ireland not only places considerable strain on his romance with Rachel, but also Deidre’s relationship with David. Worse, his political activism leads to a tragic parting between him and Padric. Rory is eventually forced to flee Ireland for the United States.

Part Two begins at least two to three years following the events of Part One. Rory is reunited with Rachel, who has moved to Philadelphia following the death of her father. She ends up living with with her aunt Charlotte Kent and the latter’s husband, a powder mill owner named James Kent. Rachel convinces her uncle to hire Rory as an employee. The young couple also become acquainted with a banker named Caleb Staunton, who becomes impressed by Rory’s ambition and business acumen. Caleb also ends up falling in love with Deidre, who finally arrives in the United States in the wake of a family tragedy involving the youngest O’Manion sibling. And Rachel receives disturbing news about her brother David . . . news that ends up having a major impact on Deidre’s future. Part Three mainly focused on the years following the end of the U.S. Civil War and Rory’s attempt to keep the Kent Powder Works that he has purchased with two partners (Caleb and David). Rory’s business dealings also clash with his resumed interest in his political activism regarding Ireland. And while Deidre finds herself struggling with Caleb’s jealousy of her past relationship with David, Rory endangers both his marriage and friendship with a fellow immigrant with a dangerous affair.

When I first saw “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” when I was a kid, I was pretty impressed with it. Even back then, I was a literary and history nut with a weakness for family sagas. And this miniseries seemed to fulfill my desire for those stories to a “T”. A recent viewing of the production made me realize that I still found it very satisfying. I would not regard “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” on the same level as a good number of historical television dramas I have seen over the following years. But I feel that Agnes Nixon and Rosemary Anne Sisson created a solid television drama that managed to hold up very well after three decades. As I had pointed out earlier, “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” focused only on one generation . . . namely the one that featured Rory O’Manion, his sister Deidre, his twin brother Padric O’Manion, the youngest sibling who might or might not be the missing Sean O’Manion, Rachel Clements and her brother David. Nixon and Sisson did a solid job of balancing the experiences of the main characters’ experiences.

Part One focused upon the establishment of the romances between the O’Manion and the Clement siblings, along with the events that led to Rory’s flight from Ireland. Part Two focused not only on the reunions and problems of the two romantic couples, but also on Rory’s financial and professional rise in the United States. And Part Three focused on Rory and Deidre’s possible reunion with a young man they believe to be their missing brother Sean; the events that led to the culmination of the love triangle between Deidre, David and Caleb; Rory’s last hurrah with the movement to free Ireland from British rule; and the events that led to the birth of a new generation in the now Manion family. Frankly, I thought they balanced the miniseries’ narratives very well. More importantly, the story arcs featured first-rate direction by both Charles S. Dubin and Joseph Sargent; along with solid writing by Nixon and Sisson . . . with the exception of one story arc.

The one story arc that proved to be problematic for me was Rory and Rachel’s efforts to have children. I had no problem with Rachel’s miscarriage near the end of Part Two. It was basically used as a plot device to reconcile her with Rory and Deidre, who were angry about the lie she told about David’s fate in India. The lie encouraged Deidre to go ahead and marry Caleb Staunton, who was planning to form a partnership with Rory over a powder sale. But Part Three opened with Rachel suffering another miscarriage during the Civil War (she had suffered other miscarriages in the period between the two episodes). This latest miscarriage eventually led Rory to have an affair with another woman, in order to prevent himself from having sex with Rachel and impregnating her. And with whom does he have this affair? With the unmarried daughter of one of his closest friends and colleagues. Is this bat-shit crazy or what? I will give kudos to Rory being more concerned with his wife’s health than the idea of conceiving an heir. But I found this story arc just plain stupid and the main reason why Part Three is my least favorite episode. I find it odd that a good number of people seemed dismissive of the Deidre-David-Caleb love triangle. Yet, no one complained about this idiotic story arc about Rory and Rachel’s marriage. And it ended on a note that to this day, I still detest.

“THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” was filmed in Ireland and England (one or two scenes). And it showed. Part One benefited from the Irish locations . . . especially since it was that episode was set in Ireland. But once the story shifted to the United States, the locations did not serve the setting very well. I suppose the miniseries’ producers called themselves trying to save money on the production. If so, they could have shot the film in the United States or Canada. Unless filming in Ireland was considered cheap back in the early 1980s. “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” featured three cinematographers – Lamar Boren, Héctor R. Figueroa and Frank Watts. I found this rather odd for a television miniseries that only featured three episodes. And yet, this would explain the inconsistent style of photography for the production. The scenes ranged from bright and colorful – especially in Part Two – to dark and rather depressing. And from what I have seen, the dark photography DID NOT serve any particular scene, aside from those featuring the interior of the O’Manions’ dank hovel in Part One. I also have mixed feelings regarding the costumes designed by Barbara Lane. The costumes she designed especially for Kate Mulgrew, Linda Purl, Kathleen Beller and Barbara Parkins in Episodes Two and Three were beautiful and excellent examples of women’s fashion between the 1840s and the 1860s. However, I had a problem with Mulgew’s costumes in Part One. They looked as if they came straight from a costume warehouse in Hollywood. And they seemed a bit of a come down for a character that was supposed to be the daughter of a well-to-do English landowner.

A good number of the reviews I have read for “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” did not seem that impressed by the supporting cast. Well, I feel differently. I thought the three-part miniseries was blessed by excellent performances – not only from the leads Pierce Brosnan and Kate Mulgrew – but also the supporting players. I was very impressed by Linda Purl’s command of an Irish accent and the amazing way that she conveyed both the quiet and demure side of Deidre O’Manion, along with the character’s sharp temper and strong will. Simon MacCorkindale’s portrayal of young British officer, David Clements, made it very easy for me to see why Deidre had no problems with falling in love with his character. MacCorkindale gave a very passionate, yet charming performance. David Soul’s performance as Caleb Staunton struck me as very interesting, complex and also very appealing. Despite his Caleb being a more introverted man, Soul did an excellent job in making it clear why Deidre would find him attractive as a mate . . . and why Rory regarded him as a potential business partner. Steve Forrest was very interesting as Rachel’s uncle-by-marriage, James Kent. Forrest did an excellent job in conveying Kent’s respectable facade and the chaotic emotions he felt toward his niece. His attempt to “seduce” his niece was a squirm worthy moment. Barbara Parkins gave a very competent performance as Rachel’s chilly aunt Charlotte. Yet, Parkins managed to show the hot jealousy toward Rachel, underneath the chilly facade. Anthony Quayle made his presence known as the temperamental English landowner and magistrate, Lord Montgomery. There were moments when Quayle seemed a bit over-the-top The movie also boasted some first-class performances from Kathleen Beller, Peter Gilmore, Simon Rouse, Hurd Hatfield, Jim Culleton and Tom Jordan.

“THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” marked Pierce Brosnan’s first role in an American production. And he really took it to the max as the fiery political immigrant, Rory O’Manion. Brosnan’s performance is probably one of the most energetic he has given throughout his career. That is due, of course, to the hot-tempered and obsessive nature of his character. But as much as I admired Brosnan’s performance, I must admit there were times when I found the Rory O’Manion character a bit hard to like. He struck me as unrelentingly obsessed with his political activities against the English and too self-righteous for me to relate with. Equally fiery was Kate Mulgrew, who portrayed Rory’s English wife, Rachel. Mulgrew did a superb job in portraying Rachel’s strong, romantic nature; her intelligence and talent for manipulation. Also, both she and Brosnan made such a fiery screen team that they were almost resembled a bonfire. Yet, my vote for the best performance in the miniseries would have gone to Nicholas Hammond, who had the difficulty of portraying two members of the O’Manion family (allegedly). In Part One, Hammond gave a complex and skillful performance as Rory’s non-identical twin brother, Padric O’Manion, whose quiet and pacifist nature led to conflict and great tragedy within the family. And in Part Three, he gave another superb performance as a rowdy and independent-minded ex-Confederate soldier who may or may not be Rory and Deidre’s missing younger brother, Sean. I was impressed by how Hammond conveyed Sean’s blunt personality and inner conflict over the possibility of finally discovering his family and retaining his independence.

Overall, “THE MANIONS OF AMERICA” is a pretty solid production that did a first-rate job in presenting a family saga that began in Ireland and ended in the United States during the mid 19th century. Yes, the miniseries suffered from inconsistent photography that ranged from colorful to unnecessarily dark. And the subplot regarding the main protagonists’ marriage in the third episode struck me as particularly ridiculous. But I still managed to enjoy the production as a whole and regard it as a fine example of what both Pierce Brosnan and Kate Mulgrew were capable during the early stages of their careers.

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 7/7



The doorbell rang. Olivia stared at the door, wondering who could be her new visitor. Certainly not Paige, who could have simply orbed back inside the apartment. Could it be . . .? Olivia held her breath in anticipation, as she walked toward the door.

She peered through the peephole and felt a slight twinge of disappointment. It was Cole’s mother – Nimue. Olivia fixed a faux smile on her face and opened the door. “Nimue. Hello. Is there something else I can do for you?”

The demoness entered the apartment. “Oh no, not really,” she answered. “I just wanted to thank you. For helping me deal with Belthazor.”

“It was nothing. I thought he was making a mistake and wanted him to reconsider his actions.” Olivia sighed. “I suppose Phoebe will have to live with the fact that the man she loves will never be completely mortal.”

Nimue snorted with derision. “That is a dilemma that Miss Halliwell will not have to face very long.”

“Meaning?” Olivia frowned.

“My dear, isn’t it obvious? Belthazor’s relationship with his former wife will not last. Especially after his decision to remain a daemon.” A wry smile touched Nimue’s lips. “And he’s still in love with you. I certainly could tell. I assure you – he will return to your arms in no time.” Her smile widened.

Annoyed by the other woman’s assumption, Olivia retorted, “What makes you think I care about reconciling with Cole?”

“If you didn’t, why did you bother to try to stop him from removing his powers in the first place?” The demoness’ blue eyes widened.

Olivia hesitated. “I . . .” She realized that lying to Nimue seemed futile. “Never mind.” She gave the demoness an appraising stare. “Why are you so anxious for Cole and I to be together?”

“I don’t care who Belthazor ends up with . . . as long as she can make him happy.” Nimue paused. “I feel that you can make him happy. Accept him for himself. You seem like an open-minded young woman. Or perhaps I have a fondness for . . .”

The doorbell rang. Olivia stared at Nimue. “Fondness for what?” Before the demoness could answer, the doorbell rang for the second time. Still frowning, Olivia made her way toward the door. She glanced through the peephole. It was Cole. The red-haired witch opened the door and stared at the half-daemon. “Cole! What . . . what are you doing here?”

Cole glanced at his feet, as if reluctant to meet Olivia’s eyes. “I . . . uh, I wanted to thank you. For stopping me from making a big mistake. I also . . .” He glanced up and stared past Olivia’s shoulder. A frown appeared on his face. “Mother?”

“Belthazor.” Nimue coolly strode forward.

Suspicion now glimmered in Cole’s eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“For the same reason as you. To thank Miss McNeill for helping you.”


Nimue heaved an exasperated sigh. “Really Belthazor! You need to keep that paranoia of yours, under control. I’ve told you so many times in the past. There is nothing . . . sinister . . . about my visit. Understand?”

Cole’s face turned red. “Sorry,” he muttered.

The demoness faced Olivia and smiled. “Again, thank you for your help, Miss McNeill. And good day. Who knows? We might see each other again.” She faced Cole. “Good-bye Belthazor. For now. I might be dropping by for another visit sometime in the near future.” She shimmered out of the apartment, with that same smile stamped on her face.

Silence filled the apartment. Olivia stepped aside, allowing Cole to enter. They seemed reluctant to look at each other. Then Cole finally said, “Well, I better get going. I only dropped by to thank you . . . for your help.” He paused. “Uh . . . thanks.”

“Back to Phoebe, huh?” The words left Olivia’s mouth before she could stop herself.

Cole’s eyes narrowed, as he gave her a hard stare. “No,” he coolly replied. “No, I won’t be going back to Phoebe. It’s over between us.”

The news not only stunned Olivia, it filled her heart with joy. And hope. Until she began to speculate on who was responsible for the break-up. Cole seemed to have read her mind, for he added, “Before you ask, I was the one who ended it.”

“I didn’t ask,” Olivia snapped.

Cole shot back, “You were about to.”

Heaving a sigh, Olivia began, “Cole . . .”

“Olivia, the real reason I’m here is . . .” The half-daemon sighed. “I wanted to ask if we could start over again. I want you back.”

Struggling to keep her emotions in check, Olivia demanded, “Why? Because you’re no longer with Phoebe?” She felt a little bitter that it took the half-daemon three weeks to want her back.

“Did you think I had enjoyed being with Phoebe again?” Cole cried out in a fit of anger. “Because I didn’t! It was a pain in my ass dealing with her possessiveness and her family’s self-righteous bullshit!”

Now angry herself, Olivia retorted, “Then why did you stay with her FOR THREE WEEKS?”

“Because I was desperate to be with someone! Especially after you first dumped me, and then ran out on me with you tail tucked between your legs after Margolin’s spell had ended!”

“I’m not the one who had rebounded with my ex!”

“And I’m supposed to be condemned for that . . . forever?” Cole demanded. “My God, Olivia! It was a mistake! I was in a world of pain, when you dumped me! And since Phoebe and I had recently made our peace over the whole Source thing, I went back to her. Well . . .” Cole lowered his voice, “. . . actually, she was the one who had suggested we give it a last chance. And considering what happened between us, I thought . . . why not? Especially since I thought we were through.”

Olivia added, “And then?”

Cole sighed. “I found out about Margolin’s spell. And when you showed up at the penthouse that day . . . Shit! I was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t say a word. Then Phoebe let the cat out of the bag about our relationship.” He paused. “And you left.”

His last words brought back memories of that awful moment to Olivia. And her subsequent reaction. “Okay. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” she murmured. “But seeing you with Phoebe . . .”

“Yeah, I understand.” Cole shook his head. “Those three weeks with Phoebe were . . . I had no idea that it would be so difficult. She tried to pick up where we had left off. Before the Source had possessed me. But I guess I wasn’t in the mood. And dealing with Piper and Leo was no picnic. But the last straw was when Phoebe had suggested I get rid of my powers. I wanted to tell her to shove that idea up her ass . . .”

Olivia snickered, amused by the image in her mind.

Cole continued, “But after a year and four months of silent warfare between us, I . . . I just gave in. I surrendered. I think our divorce may have taken a toll on me. I just didn’t feel like fighting Phoebe over the whole powers issue. And she would have bugged me to death, if I had said no.”

“So, your mother and I came to your rescue.”

“In a way.” Cole fell silent. Olivia glanced away, aware of his eyes upon her. “So . . . like I had asked before . . . I mean . . .” He shook his head in self-disgust.

Olivia quietly asked, “You mean what?”

Cole sighed. “I don’t know. Pick up where we had left off. Start all over again? I’m still in love with you, Olivia. I miss you. I just . . . I guess I just want to be with you, again.”

“Oh.” Olivia stared into those blue eyes that expressed love and passion . . . and nearly drowned. “I . . .”

Cole took a step forward. “Yeah?”

Olivia let out a slight gust of breath. “I feel the same. About you.”

“Which is?”

Typical Cole. Always needed details for everything. Olivia glared at him . . . half-heartedly. “God, you’re such an asshole! Sometimes I wonder . . .” She paused.

Once more, Cole took a step closer. “Wondered what?” he murmured.

Olivia inhaled, reveling in his scent. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in love with you. Why I still want to be with you.”

“Well, let me remind you.” Olivia became breathless, as Cole lowered his mouth upon hers. The touch of his lips seemed like water, after a week in the desert. She moaned lightly, as he gently slipped his tongue into her mouth. While they continued to kiss, she reveled in his hard body pressed against hers. His hand then slid underneath her blouse and caressed her waist. Another moan left her mouth. And when he lifted her off the floor and into his arms, she gasped with surprise.

Olivia protested softly, “Hey!”

Cole lifted an eyebrow. “Moving too fast?”

A wide smile curved Olivia’s lips. “How about . . . not fast enough?”

“It has been too long, hasn’t it?”

“Hmmmm.” Olivia giggled. Then she pressed her lips against Cole’s for a quick, hard kiss. “Definitely too long.”

“Well, I have a solution for that.” Cole kissed her again, as he carried her toward the bedroom.


Favorite Films Set in the 1940s


Below is a list of my favorite movies (so far) that are set in the 1940s:


1-Inglourious Basterds-a

1. “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) – Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed this Oscar nominated alternate history tale about two simultaneous plots to assassinate the Nazi High Command at a film premiere in German-occupied Paris. The movie starred Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent and Oscar winner Christoph Waltz.

2-Captain America the First Avenger

2. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – Chris Evans made his first appearance in this exciting Marvel Cinematic Universe installment as the World War II comic book hero, Steve Rogers aka Captain America, who battles the Nazi-origin terrorist organization, HYDRA. Joe Johnston directed.


3. “Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995) – Denzel Washington starred in this excellent adaptation of Walter Mosley’s 1990 novel about a laid off factory worker who becomes a private detective, after he is hired to find a missing woman with connection to a local politician in post-World War II Los Angeles. Directed by Carl Franklin, the movie co-starred Don Cheadle, Jennifer Beals and Tom Siezmore.

3-Bedknobs and Broomsticks

4. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (1971) – Angela Landsbury and David Tomilinson starred in this excellent Disney adaptation of Mary Norton’s series of children’s stories about three English children, evacuated to the countryside during the Blitz, who are taken in by a woman studying to become a witch in order to help the Allies fight the Nazis. Robert Stevenson directed.

4-The Public Eye

5. “The Public Eye” (1992) – Joe Pesci starred in this interesting neo-noir tale about a New York City photojournalist (shuttlebug) who stumbles across an illegal gas rationing scandal involving the mob, a Federal government official during the early years of World War II. Barbara Hershey and Stanley Tucci co-starred.

5-A Murder Is Announced

6. “A Murder Is Announced” (1985) – Joan Hickson starred in this 1985 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel about Miss Jane Marple’s investigation of a series of murders in an English village that began with a newspaper notice advertising a “murder party”. Directed by David Giles, the movie co-starred John Castle.

6-Hope and Glory

7. “Hope and Glory” (1987) – John Boorman wrote and directed this fictionalized account of his childhood during the early years of World War II in England. Sarah Miles, David Hayman and Sebastian Rice-Edwards starred.

7-The Godfather

8. “The Godfather” (1972) – Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote and directed this Oscar winning adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel about the fictional leaders of a crime family in post-World War II New York City. Oscar winner Marlon Brando and Oscar nominee Al Pacino starred.


9. “Valkyrie” (2008) – Bryan Singer directed this acclaimed account of the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944. Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson starred.

9-The Black Dahlia

10. “The Black Dahlia” (2006) – Brian DePalma directed this entertaining adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1987 novel about the investigation of the infamous Black Dahlia case in 1947 Los Angeles. Josh Harnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank starred.

10-Stalag 17

Honorable Mention: “Stalag 17” (1953) – Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote this well done adaptation of the 1951 Broadway play about a group of U.S. airmen in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, who begin to suspect that one of them might be an informant for the Nazis. Oscar winner William Holden starred.

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” (2013) Review



“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” (2013) Review

When it first hit the movie theaters during the summer of 2013, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” received a good deal of flak from movie critics determined to justified its failure to become a box office hit. But there were others who had offered another reason why the movie flopped in the U.S.  And that reason centered around the release of another film some three months earlier called “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”.

Like the Gerard Butler film, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” focused upon an assault and invasion of the White House by a group of paramilitary terrorists. The movie begins with U.S. President James Sawyer proposing a controversial peace treaty between allied countries to remove military forces from the Middle East. One of the opponents of the treaty is Speaker of the House, Congressman Eli Raphelson, who is guarded by U.S. Capitol police officer John Cale. Hoping to impress his estranged daughter Emily following his divorce, John attempts to apply for a job with the U.S. Secret Service. He takes Emily to the White House for an interview with his former college schoolmate, Secret Service schoolmate, Carol Finnerty. Unfortunately for John, Carol rejects his application, claiming that his lack of respect for authority and inability to follow through with official reports makes him unqualified for the job.

Following his interview, John joins Emily on a tour of the White House, a paramilitary terrorist sets off a bomb in the rotunda of the Capitol building. Both Congressman Raphelson and Vice-President Alvin Hammond are among those who manage to safely escape. However, the Capitol bombing proves to be a distraction for a more important mission for his colleagues – namely the takeover the White House. Although the latter is officially locked down by the Secret Service following the Capitol bombing, a paramilitary group consisting of ex-servicemen and a computer hacker that managed to infiltrate the White House as janitors, proceed to take over the White House. Their leader is a disavowed ex-Delta Force member named Emil Stenz, who proved to be a hot head. Not only do the terrorists take a group of tourists – including Emily – hostage; they nearly kidnap President Sawyer with the help of Secret Service Agent Martin Walker, Head of the Presidential Detail. Walker sought revenge for the death of a son who had died in an aborted black op mission for the U.S. Army. Fortunately, John manages to rescue President Sawyer before Walker and the terrorists can use him to access the nuclear football for nefarious means. Unfortunately for John and Sawyer, they are trapped inside the White House with no way to get out.

Unlike a good number of moviegoers, I did not readily accept the opinion that “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” was a bad movie. Yes, it had its flaws. After all, it is a Roland Emmerich film. And like other Emmerich films, it possessed the usual cliches – a divorced main character, an annoyingly precocious child character, and slightly cheesy dialogue. The biggest flaw in the movie proved to be a plot point that allowed John and his daughter to get swept into the action inside the White House – a tour of the latter. Apparently, screenwriter James Vanderbilt forgot that White House tours have been a thing of the past since the September 11 attacks, twelve years ago. And I found Carol Finnerty’s presence with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Speaker of the House something of a stretch, considering that she is not the Secret Service’s Head of the Presidential Detail, let alone head of the agency. But despite these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie.

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” had its virtues. First of all, it benefited from a strong chemistry between leads Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed John Cale and President James Walker. Two, Vanderbilt’s script did not make the mistake of turning the President Walker character into a highly skilled action man, like Harrison Ford in “AIR FORCE ONE”. Although he managed to avoid spending most of the film as a hostage, Foxx’s Walker made mistakes that struck me as natural for one not to used to violent action. “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” also featured some first-rate action. My favorite scenes turned out to be the initial takeover of the White House by Stenz and his men; John’s rescue of President Walker; and the chase sequence on the White House lawn, with John and President Walker inside a Presidential limousine. The biggest virtue of “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” is that the terrorists managed to infiltrate the White House with inside help – namely Secret Service Agent Walker. In the post 9/11 world, I would have found it impossible to accept a terrorist takeover of the White House without such help.

Despite the occasionally cheesy dialogue that marred “WHITE HOUSE DOWN”, I was relieved to see that the cast managed to rise above such flaws. As I stated earlier, the movie did benefit from a strong chemistry between Tatum and Foxx. And both actors gave first-rate performances that blend good, solid comedy with well-acted drama. I also found the development of their on-screen relationship very satisfying. And Foxx managed to utter one of my favorite lines in the entire film. Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a strong performance as the no-nonsense Carol Finnerty. I could also say the same about Lance Reddick, who portrayed the equally no-nonsense Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General Caufield. I do not recall ever seeing Jason Clarke in a villainous role before, but I must admit that he gave a scary performance as leader of the terrorist, Emil Stanz. Jimmi Simpson, on the other hand, was quite funny as computer hacker Skip Tyler. And Richard Jenkins struck me as very effective in his performance as Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson, who found himself with more authority than he was used to. There were a few performances that did rub me the wrong way. I think Zoey King, who portrayed Emily Cale, is a talented actress, but I feel that not even she was able to rise above the precocious dialogue and scenes that Vanderbilt dumped on her. Nicholas Wright’s performance as White House tour guide Donnie did not strike me as funny . . . only annoying. Kevin Rankin’s portrayal of the uber-aggressive terrorist Carl Killick seemed both hammy and wince-inducing to me.

When I saw “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” at the movie theater, the audience broke into an applause when the film ended. Minutes later, I found myself in one of the theater’s restrooms and overheard a woman claimed that although she liked the movie, she noticed that it bore a strong resemblance to “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”. And she was right. Both movies were about terrorists taking over the White House in order to gain control of the President and his defense codes. Both movies featured female Secret Service personnel trying to help the hero. Both movies featured the Vice-President getting killed and the Speaker of the House becoming the new Head of State. And both featured American elite forces making a failed attempt to save the White House from terrorists. I liked “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”, but I feel that it was marred by one major flaw – the North Korean terrorists lacked any real inside help and was able to acquire top-secret military technology on their own. This led the Gerard Butler movie resembling some one-note anti-Communist propaganda film. “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” managed to avoid this major trap by allowing the terrorists – who were American-born – receive some serious inside help from within the U.S. government. And this is why I rate “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” over “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”.

“WHITE HOUSE DOWN” had its flaws. But it also possessed a decent story, first-rate action and some solid acting by a cast led by Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx; thanks to director Roland Emmerich. And although its virtues outweighed its flaw, I suspect that in the end, “WHITE HOUSE DOWN” became a victim of bad timing. Pity. I feel it deserved a better fate.

The Great “ONCE UPON A TIME” Costume Gallery II


Below is a gallery featuring the costumes designed by Eduardo Castro from the third and fourth seasons of the ABC series, “ONCE UPON A TIME” and the 2013-2014 series, “ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND”:


The Ladies


001 (1)






































The Men












































“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 6/7



Just as she had been instructed, Paige orbed to the summit of Twin Peaks, overlooking the city. To the west, the reddish-orange sun had began its descent. Also on the hillside stood a petite black woman with three men and two women standing behind her. The Charmed One walked toward the woman. “I have Belthazor’s powers,” she said. “Just as you had instructed.

The woman held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

Before Paige could hand over the jar to the woman, Olivia and Cole’s mother materialized on the hillside. Olivia stretched out her hand and snatched the jar from Paige’s grasp, using her telekinesis.

“What the . . .” the black woman began. She stared at Cole’s mother. “Nimue?”

Cole’s mother smiled unpleasantly. “Zamora. I had no idea that the Khorne Order was behind all this. Why? Who in the Order recruited you to steal my son’s powers? Or is this little operation your own idea?”

Zamora regarded the other demoness with contempt. “I don’t have to tell you anything!” She turned to her minions. “Kill them!”

Paige merely stood by and watched the red-haired witch and the auburn-haired demoness fight off Zamora’s minions. The fight did not really take long. Nimue killed two of them with energy balls. Olivia roasted one with a stream of fire and killed another by forcing his knife into his heart.

Zamora disappeared. Seconds later, she reappeared next to the Charmed One. “Paige,” she whispered. “Save my friends.”

The young witch nodded wordlessly. The moment she saw Nimue toss an energy ball toward Zamora’s surviving minion, she summoned it with her power and threw it at Phoebe’s former mother-in-law. Olivia re-directed the energy ball at Zamora’s minion, who vanquished into a ball of fire.

Paige overheard a slight gasp from Zamora. Then the latter whispered, “Get the jar.”

“Yes Zamora,” the Charmed One quietly replied. Unaware of the consequences of her actions, Paige teleorbed the jar out of Olivia’s hand.

Zamora grabbed the jar. “Thank you.” The next thing the half-whitelighter knew, the jar flew out of the demoness’ hands and into Olivia’s.

“Good-bye Zamora.” Cole’s mother quickly flung an energy ball at Paige’s companion. Before the younger demoness could escape, she dissipated into a ball of fire.

A dizzying sensation struck Paige and she sank to the ground. “What the hell?” she groaned. “What am I doing . . .?”

“Paige?” The Charmed One glanced up and found Olivia and Cole’s mother staring at her with anxious eyes. The redhead added, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I think so.” Paige glanced around. Stared at Cole’s mother. And at the jar in Olivia’s hands. “What’s that?” she asked.

The demoness replied, “Belthazor’s powers. You used a potion to take them away from him.”

The revelation struck Paige like a thunderbolt. “What?” She struggled to her feet.

Olivia gave the younger woman a pitying look. “It’s obvious that someone had cast a spell on you. It’s a long story. Can you . . . orb?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Paige shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know.”

Cole’s mother grabbed Paige’s hand. “I will return you both.”

“Uh . . . teleported . . . by a demon? I don’t . . .”

Blue eyes challenged Paige. “Is there a problem? Do not worry.” Her mouth twisted into a wry smile. “You won’t catch anything.”

“Huh.” Despite her reluctance, Paige allowed the demoness to maintain a grip on her hand. Olivia grabbed Nimue’s free arm. And the latter teleported the two witches from the hillside.


Seconds later, two figures emerged from behind a large bush. Artemus regarded the now empty scene with a stony stare. “Do not say a word,” he tonelessly instructed Prax. “Not a damn word.”

Unbeknownst to the chameleon daemon they had recruited, Artemus and Prax had appeared on the Twin Peaks summit to witness the young witch/whitelighter hand over Belthazor’s powers to Zamora. And to ensure that Zamora would not use them for herself. What Artemus had not counted on was Olivia McNeill and Nimue, of all people, interfering in the transaction.

“But . . .” Prax began. He closed his mouth, under the senior daemon’s hard stare.

Artemus continued in a low growl, “Yes Prax. I am upset. I’m more than upset. I’m pissed off! That red-headed bitch is really becoming a problem!”

Prax finally regained his courage and asked, “Why didn’t you kill Nimue? She wasn’t aware of your presence.”

“Because Nimue possesses reflexes that even I envy,” Artemus shot back. “Because I could not take the chance of her knowing that I was no longer in prison and planning on becoming the next Source.”

“Surely . . .”

Artemus cut off his assistance. “Prax, Nimue and I have a long history. We had a brief romance over 200 years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere. I . . . well, betrayed her by dabbling with a French warlock named Danielle. She retaliated by cursing me with a . . .” Artemus broke off, deciding not to reveal that little humiliation. “Let’s just say that it was an incident that left our relationship less than amiable.”

A frown appeared on Prax’s countenance. “Strange, I don’t recall you two hating one another.”

“We’ve never hated each other, Prax. Actually, it was Raynor whom she hated. But ever since Danielle, she has never trusted me. I’m beginning to wonder if she ever had. And I know for sure that she would have never supported my attempt to destroy the Whitelighter Council. Or support my bid to become the Source. Especially now that she’s head of the Thorn Order.” He sighed and shook his head. “Why is it that nothing seemed to be going my way, lately? Can you tell me why, Prax?”

The other daemon merely regarded him with wide eyes and shook his head. Artemus rolled his eyes in disgust and left the hillside.


Once again, Cole found himself as a mortal again. And once again, he hated the experience. What made this so difficult to endure was listening to Phoebe babble on in an attempt to reassure him, without a means to shut her mouth or escape from her presence.

“. . . might be feeling a little disoriented right now,” Phoebe was saying. “But maybe it’s for the best. Maybe Paige did you a favor.”

Cole stared at his ex-wife, wondering if she had just experienced a lobotomy. “Phoebe, Paige has my powers. And God only knows what she’s done with them. Or to whom she has given them.”

“I understand,” Phoebe said in that defensive whine that he has always found irritating. “You don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands. But if Olivia manages . . . well, to find Paige . . . you wouldn’t take them back. Would you?” She regarded him with anxious eyes.

Cole opened his mouth to reassure her . . . until Olivia’s accusations of him caving into others’ desires flashed in his mind. “I don’t . . .”

Three figures shimmered into the living room – much to Cole’s relief. Paige, his mother and Olivia . . . holding a jar. Cole stared at the jar. “My powers,” he murmured.

“We had managed to find Miss Halliwell . . .” Nimue began.

Paige corrected her. “Miss Matthews.”

“. . . just as she was about to give the jar to Zamora.”

Phoebe frowned. “Who?”

“A chameleon daemon,” Cole grimly explained. “Remember the shapeshifter I had exposed before Piper was kidnapped by the Source?” The Halliwells nodded. “Zamora is the same kind of daemon. Only she’s associated . . .”

Nimue finished, “. . . with the Khorne Order. It is possible that she had been spying on this household for the past several days. And after discovering Miss . . . Matthews’ reluctance to help strip Belthazor’s powers, she must have cast a spell to make your sister cooperate. Probably a telepathic manipulation spell.”

“Bitch,” Paige muttered.

Piper eyed her youngest sister. “So, Paige is no longer under a spell?”

“Don’t worry. I am once more, my own woman.”

“Good. That means I don’t have to watch you act like a pod person anymore,” Piper added.

Cole’s eyes refocused on the jar. “I see that you got my powers back.”

“Yeah, we did,” Olivia quietly replied. She held out the jar. “Do you want them back? Or should I hide it somewhere?”

Green eyes stared into blue ones. There seemed to be no demand for Cole to make a certain decision. Olivia’s eyes only expressed curiosity. Cole recalled his choice before Paige had stripped his powers. In a clear voice, he declared, “I want them back. I want my powers back.”

Olivia heaved a sigh of relief.

“Cole!” Phoebe regarded him with dismay. His mother, on the other hand, flashed a triumphant smile.

Olivia nodded. “As you wish.” She tossed the jar at Cole’s feet. As the glass shattered, a dark gray cloud rose from the ground and seeped into his body. The disjointed feeling that Cole had been experiencing since the loss of his powers, disappeared.

Cole lifted his hand. An energy ball hovered above his open palm. “Back to normal.”

Anger and resentment flared in Phoebe’s eyes. She stared accusingly at Cole. “Excuse me,” she muttered angrily, before marching in the direction of the Solarium.

Cole heaved a sigh. “Shit. Just a minute.” He followed Phoebe into the Solarium, where he found her sitting on the sofa and picking up the TV remote. “Phoebe?”

Angry, dark eyes glared at the half-daemon. “What Cole? There’s nothing else to say. You’ve made your decision. Apparently, your powers are more important than us.”

Weary of his ex-wife’s dramatics, Cole exploded. “God Phoebe! Can’t you give it a rest? For once in your life, can you stop being such a drama queen? Everything’s not all about you!”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that I have my own life to live!” Cole shot back. In a lower voice, he added, “It means . . . I have to be my own man.”

Phoebe retorted rather nastily, “You just lost your chance to be a man, Cole! Now, you’re just a demon again.”

“Daemon, man . . . who gives a shit? I just want to be me! Is that so hard to understand?” Cole sighed. “But if you can’t accept that . . . well, to be honest, I don’t really care.”

Phoebe shot to her feet. “Cole!”

Three weeks of frustration finally spilled out. “C’mon Phoebe. Why don’t we be honest for once? This ‘new’ relationship of ours is not working. And I think we both need to realize this.”

“Oh I see.” Phoebe gave him a knowing look. “This is all about Olivia. You still want her back, don’t you. I can feel it.”

Feel it? What the hell? Cole shook his head. Why deny his feelings? After a long pause, Cole said, “You’re right. I do want Olivia back. We, on the other hand, should have stuck to being friends like we had originally intended.”

“So what are you saying Cole? That you were just using me for rebound?”

Another sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Yea, Phoebe. That’s exactly it. And I forgot the old saying about being unable to recapture the past.” A brief smile touched his lips.

Phoebe glared at him. “You really are a bastard! You know that?”

“Perhaps I am. But you’re the one who didn’t bother to break it off with Jason Dean.” Wide-eyed, Phoebe stared at Cole, who continued, “You were using him as back-up, weren’t you? Just in case it didn’t work out for us.”

Shock, followed by guilt flashed in Phoebe’s eyes. “How did you . . .?” Now realization lit up her eyes. “Paige!”

“Paige didn’t say a word,” Cole said. “I was there that night. Remember? When I took you to Quake’s over a week ago? While I was waiting for you, Dean called. Now why would he call, Phoebe, when we had been dating for at least two weeks? And then there were the other signs.” Cole paused. “Like the fact that you never allowed me to take you to lunch, in case I showed up at your office. All I had to do was put two and two together.”

Phoebe’s body sagged in defeat. “I suppose you think I should feel guilty about . . .”

“No Phoebe, I don’t.” Cole sat next to her. “But I think we should end it between us. Before it gets any worse. Maybe we should make a stab at being friends again.”

The Charmed One backed away from his closeness. “I guess,” she murmured. “But not now.” Phoebe lowered her head. “I just can’t . . . Not now. Okay?”

“Yeah. Sure.” Cole stood up. “I’ll see you Phoebe.” He turned on his heels and left the Solarium. Upon entering the living room, he found Piper sitting on the sofa. And no one else. “Where’s . . .?”

“Your mom left. She said that she’ll drop by to see you later. Paige took Olivia back to her apartment.” Piper glanced past Cole. “Where’s Phoebe?”

The half-daemon replied, “Still in the Solarium. Upset. You’ll be happy to know that it’s over between us.”

Piper hesitated. “I’m sorry.”

Cole shrugged. “I’m not. We shouldn’t have taken it this far in the first place.”

“Oh.” Another long pause followed before Piper continued, “Listen, about what Paul Margolin and Leo had done . . .” The telephone rang. Piper picked up the receiver. “Hello? Oh. Jason? Uh . . .” She flashed an uneasy glance at Cole. “It’s good to hear from you. Oh. Oh yeah. Phoebe’s home. One minute.” Piper removed the receiver from her ear and screamed, “Phoebe! Telephone!” After a brief pause, she hung up.

Cole decided that it was time to leave. “Listen, I better go. I’ll see you later.” Just as he was about to beam out, he remembered that his Porsche was parked outside. He headed toward the front door.

At that moment, Leo orbed into the living room. Piper glared at her husband. “What are you doing here?”

“Piper, we need to talk,” the Elder calmly replied.

The Charmed One shot back, “Talk about what? We have nothing to say!”

“Piper! I know you’re hurt. Look, maybe we can’t be a family again, but I can do something . . .”

Cole slipped out of the manor, closed the door behind him and heaved a sigh of relief. Poor Leo, he thought. Still trapped in that web of Halliwell dramatics – if not physically, then in spirit. Thank God that he had finally escaped. Feeling emancipated after three long weeks, Cole whistled a childhood tune, as he marched down the front steps and toward his car.


“DIVERGENT” (2014) Review


“DIVERGENT” (2014) Review

Ever since the success of the “HARRY POTTER” movie franchise, movies based upon teen fantasy and science-fiction novels have been hitting the movie theaters in the past decade or so. The latest teen Fantasy/Sci-Fi to be released is a dystopian post-apocalyptic tale set in futuristic Chicago.

Based upon the first of Veronica Roth’s literary trilogy, “DIVERGENT” tells the story of a 16 year-old girl named Beatrice “Tris” Prior lives in a society in post-apocalyptic Chicago that is divided into five factions based upon human virtues and personalities. They are Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave) and Abnegation (selfless). Tris has grown up in Abnegation, though she has always been fascinated by Dauntless. Her father, Andrew serves on the ruling council along with the head of Abnegation, Marcus Eaton and the head of Erudite, and Jeannie Matthews, head of Erudite. Along with other 16 year-olds, Tris undergoes a serum-based aptitude test that indicates the faction into which they would best fit and informs their choice at the Choosing Ceremony. When Tris takes the test, her proctor, a Dauntless woman Tori, reveals that she has the attributes of all five factions meaning she is Divergent. Tori records Tris’ result as Abnegation, and warns her to keep the true result secret, since Divergents can think independently and the government considers the latter threats to the social order. In the end, Tris chooses Dauntless at the Choosing Ceremony, and her brother Caleb chooses Erudite, taking their parents by surprise.

Tris leaves her home and meets other initiates, including – her new best friend Christina, her other friends Will and Al, and an enemy named Peter Hayes. After they past a series of initial tests, they engage in a long training session conducted by Tobias “Four” Eaton and the brutal Eric in order to become members of the Dauntless faction, which seemed to serve as some kind of law enforcement organization. Although both Tris and Christina struggle at first, they eventually manage to rise in their class standing. During her training, Tris falls in love with one of her trainers – “Four”. More importantly, both of them stumbles upon a plot by Jeannie Matthews, Erudite and Dauntless for Matthews to become “the” leader of Chicago, which includes ridding the community of those considered to be Divergent.

Hmmm . . . what can I say about “DIVERGENT”? I thought it was a decent movie. Its theme seemed to challenge the idea of society being divided by superficial reasons – in this case, human traits. The movie also benefited from Neil Burger’s direction, who kept the movie’s pace energetic, despite its narrative. More importantly, Burger did a great job in creating some first-rate action and dream sequences. I was especially impressed by the last action sequence that featured Tris and Four’s efforts to prevent Jeannie Matthews from forcing Dauntless members to execute those who are Divergent. More importantly, the dream sequences that reflected her fear simulations took my breath away. And I feel that Alwin H. Küchler’s cinematography and Richard Francis-Bruce’s editing really contributed to those scenes.

“DIVERGENT” also benefited from some excellent and solid acting from its cast. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd were excellent as Tris’ parents – Andrew and Natalie Prior. Unfortunately, they were not in the film long enough to have any real impact upon most of the film, except in the last 20 minutes or so. The movie also featured solid performances from Ray Stevenson, who portrayed Four’s father Marcus Eaton; Maggie Q as Tori; Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Christian Madsen as Tris’ friends Will and Al; Ansel Elgort as Tris’ brother Caleb; and Mekhi Phifer. Kate Winslet, Zoë Kravitz and Jai Courtney all gave good performances as Erudite leader Jeannie Matthews, Christina and Eric. But I got the feeling that their performances were hampered by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay. Winslet’s subtle performance was undermined by her character’s ham-fisted goals for Chicago – a society in which emotions are eventually eradicated. The screenplay did not give Kravitz much opportunity to display her acting skills (unlike her appearance in 2011’s “X-MEN: FIRST CLASS”), except in a scene in which she found herself dangling over a ledge, thanks to Eric. The screenplay only allowed Courtney, who portrayed Eric, to sneer a lot, nearly reducing him to a one-note villain.

In my opinion, the movie featured three first-rate performances. One came from Miles Teller, who portrayed Tris’ antagonist, Peter Hayes. Unlike Courtney or even Winslet, Teller was given the opportunity to portray a more well-rounded character. And he certainly made the best of it. I also enjoyed Theo James’ performance as Tris’ trainer and love interest, Tobias “Four” Eaton. Granted, his character struck me as a typical leading man in a production that featured a female as the lead character. Think Angel from“BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” or Edward Cullen from the “TWILIGHT”movies. But I also liked how James balanced Four’s growing feelings for Tris and his dread of his abusive father. The star of the movie is, of course, Shailene Woodley. In fact, I believe she gave the best performance as the complex, yet youthful Tris Prior. I am not surprised that she managed to carry this movie on her shoulders with ease. I had seen her in the 2011 film, “THE DESCENDANTS” and knew she had the talent and presence to do the job. Some have been calling her as “the next Jennifer Lawrence”. I disagree. Woodley is not the next anyone. She is her own self. And I would love to see her and Lawrence in a film together, considering how talented both are.

And yet . . . I do not love “DIVERGENT”. I believe it is hampered by too many flaws to make it a personal favorite of mine. One . . . I found the movie’s setting a little . . . questionable. A society that is divided by human virtues? Huh? It is possible that author Veronica Roth had used this division to expose how human beings judge others, based upon superficial reasons. But humans have judged each other for reasons more shallow than personality traits – class, race, gender, religion, nationality, region, etc. I wish that Roth had considered another means to divide her society, especially since selflessness happened to be one trait. And I do not believe that selflessness exists or that human beings are capable of it. And what the hell is up with the younger members of the Dauntless faction running, jumping and leaping all over the damn city? One of the movie’s characters – Christina – viewed these actions as crazy. Perhaps. But it struck me as a stupid and immature way to prove one’s courage. And why would the more adult members of Dauntless allow this? Why would Roth? As much as the screen chemistry of Woodley and James impressed me, I was somewhat taken aback by their on-screen romance. In the novel, Four was an 18 year-old. I read somewhere that his character aged by six years in order for the role to fit James. If so, I think it was a mistake. By allowing Four to be older, his sexual tryst with Tris transformed into an act of statutory rape. It smacked of the Buffy/Angel romance from “BUFFY” and I have always loathed it. Unless sex between an adolescent and a young adult is considered legal in Roth’s literary world. And I was less than impressed by the movie’s narrative structure. At least three-fourths of “DIVERGENT” focused on Tris’ training with the Dauntless faction. By the time the conflict against Jeannie Matthews’ efforts to take over Chicago manifested, the movie had at least 20 to 30 minutes left of running time. And the whole conflict struck me as pretty rushed.

What really bothered me about “DIVERGENT” was its lack of originality. Many have compared it to “THE HUNGER GAMES” saga, created by Suzanne Collins, due to both stories featuring an adolescent girl in a dystopian post-apocalyptic society. But“DIVERGENT” seemed to borrow from other literary/movie/television franchises. Mind you, there is no law that a story like this have to be completely original. One would be surprised at how many novelists and moviemakers borrow from other source materials. But . . . Roth’s efforts to put her own twist seemed to fall short. And the movie’s screenwriters seemed incapable of improving her flaws. It is bad enough that the movie setting and leading character strongly reminded me of “THE HUNGER GAMES”. We have the psuedo-Buffy/Angel romance between Tris and Four. The Choosing Ceremony for Chicago’s adolescents strongly reminded me of the Hogwarts School Sorting Hat (which should have been burned) from the “HARRY POTTER” series. And Jeannie Matthews’ goal of suppressing human emotions makes me wonder if the character was a fan of “STAR TREK” and a Vulcan wannabe.

“DIVERGENT” is not a bad movie. It featured energetic direction from Neil Burger, some decent performances, and especially an outstanding one from lead actress, Shailene Woodley. But it failed to impress me, due to some unoriginal and flawed writing, along with a great lack of originality. Like I said – “DIVERGENT” is not a bad movie. But I find it hard to regard it as a very good movie, let alone a great one.