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.




I am so disappointed with Marvel. And I am especially disappointed with its latest entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe – namely “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”. I never thought I would be so disappointed with a Captain America film, considering how much I loved “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” and especially “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”.

As for “CIVIL WAR”, I found it disappointing. Worse, I left the movie theater feeling unusually angry. And a great deal of my anger was focused on Tony Stark aka Iron Man’s role as the movie’s co-lead, which the writers had allowed to nearly dominate the film. Someone on the TREK BBS forum had pointed out that “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR” had sewn up the plot lines left dangling from “THE WINTER SOLDIER”. And the movie did so . . . WITH BAD WRITING!

“CIVIL WAR” started with a flashback of Tony’s parents getting killed in 1991. The screenplay tried to make a mystery of it, but even a dummy would have known who was the killer.
Steve’s romance with Sharon Carter was rushed, because the Sokovia Accords story line and Tony’s man pain made it impossible for the screenwriters to do justice to it. Now, we have fans demanding that Steve become a bisexual, so that he can have a romance with his old buddy, Bucky Barnes. One, I cannot believe that these fans are so unwilling to see how badly written that Steve and Sharon’s romance was that they would rather he become a bisexual. Really? Because the screenwriters had failed to follow up the promise of Steve and Sharon? And two, I find it ironic (or not) that they would not consider Steve having a romance with Sam Wilson, who is African-American.

Speaking of Sam and Bucky, I noticed that their relationship was never really explored. Instead, the movie presented their rivalry over the role of Steve’s “best friend” in a series of silly comedy routines in which they are mildly hostile toward one another. The movie spent 10 to 15 minutes showing how Tony Stark recruited Peter Parker (who really had no business being in this movie) for Team Iron Man. They could have saved this first meeting in MCU’s upcoming“SPIDER-MAN” movie. Yet, “CIVIL WAR” failed to explain or show why Scott Lang and Clint Barton had decided to side with Steve.

Zemo’s whole revenge plot was all about Tony finding out that Bucky, as the brainwashed Winter Soldier, had killed his parents in order to break up the Avengers for what happened in Sokovia. Again, it became all about Tony. The worst aspect of all of this is that Marvel ended Steve and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s conflict with HYDRA in such a weak manner. The studio ended it on “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” – with Phil Coulson and Glenn Talbot coordinating a series of bombing on HYDRA bases . . . off screen. I found that incredibly pathetic. Someone on Tumblr had pointed out that Steve Roger’s personal arc in “CIVIL WAR” had been weakened by the screenwriters’ unnecessary focus on Tony Stark. After seeing this movie, I heartily agree. What is really sickening about this is that Marvel Studios came up with the idea to focus the Civil War arc in a Captain America movie in order to lure Robert Downey Jr. into another Marvel film.

You would think after the box office successes of movies like “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” and“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” that this idea was unnecessary. But apparently, Marvel thought otherwise and decided to shove an Avengers film into a Captain America movie . . . all because they could not do without the increasingly overrated Robert Downey Jr. And because of this decision, I have now developed deep contempt toward Marvel Studios.

“The Half-Blood Demon” [PG-13] – 5/7



Ten minutes after Olivia had returned home from her trip to Monterey, the doorbell rang. She groaned with despair. After spending nearly one-quarter of the day on the road, she had been looking forward to a long rest at home. Alone.

Reluctantly, she walked toward the front door and peered through the peephole. Outside stood a middle-aged woman – a stranger – with auburn hair, elegant features and strangely familiar blue eyes. “May I help you?” Olivia asked.

“My name is Elizabeth Far . . . Turner,” the woman replied with a slight Irish lilt. “I believe that you know my . . .”

Olivia immediately opened the door. “Goddess! You must be Cole’s mother. Aren’t you?” She stepped aside, allowing the demoness to enter the apartment. “I’m Olivia McNeill, your son’s neighbor.”

“Yes, I know.” Cole’s mother glanced around the apartment. “My brother has told me all about you. And your family. I understand that you were once involved with Belthazor.” Her blue eyes seemed to express no emotion.

Immediately on-guard, Olivia regretted her impulsive act. She surreptiously opened the desk’s drawer, using her telekinesis. Inside was a vial containing the remains of the potion she had used on Cole, three weeks ago. “Yes, I was,” Olivia coolly replied. “Is there a reason why you’ve decided to pay me a visit, Mrs. Turner?”

“My son is about to commit a grievous error,” the other female replied. “And it’s all due to another witch named Phoebe Halliwell. His former wife.” Cole’s mother gave Olivia a direct stare. “I believe that you are acquainted with her, as well.”

Phoebe? What the hell has she done? Olivia quickly dismissed the question from her thoughts and answered, “Yes Mrs. Turner, I do know Phoebe. What about her?”

“Please, call me Nimue. If you don’t mind.”

Olivia allowed a brow to quirk upward. “Well . . . Nimue, what exactly has Phoebe done? And why come to . . .?”

The telephone rang. The two females stared at each other, before Olivia went over to the desk to pick it up. “Hello?”

“Livy? Is that you?” Barbara’s voice rang into the redhead’s ear. “Where the hell have you been? And what’s happened to your cell phone?”

Olivia sighed. “I just got in from Monterey. And my phone’s battery went dead. Look Barbara, can we talk later?”

“But I have some important news.”

“So does Cole’s mother. Who happens to be here, inside my apartment. Now.” Olivia paused to stare at the demoness, who was busy inspecting the living room. “So can we . . .?”

Barbara cried, “Oh! Oh, then she must know about Cole and Phoebe. I’ll let her tell you. Bye!”

“Wait! Barbara!” The line went dead. Olivia stared at the cordless phone in her hand. “What the hell is going on?” She directed her gaze at Nimue. “Okay, what’s going on? Barbara said that you might know something about Cole and Phoebe. So what the hell is it?”

Nimue took a deep breath. “According to Marbus – Belthazor’s uncle – this Phoebe has convinced my son to give up his powers. I’ve tried talking the idiot out of this ridiculous plan, but he will not listen.” The demoness stared at Olivia. “Miss McNeill? Are you listening?”

Olivia, who had listened to Nimue’s words in a state of shock, finally snapped out of her catatonic state. “He’s giving up his . . . What the hell? Is he out of his damn mind? Is Phoebe out of her mind?” It did not take Olivia long to answer her second question. “Well, of course she is!” she retorted sarcastically. “This is a fucking Halliwell I’m talking about! She probably talked Cole into this mess, claiming they couldn’t have a real life, while he remained a daemon. Insecure bitch! Doesn’t she realize . . .?” After a pause, Olivia snatched her purse from the sofa. “I’ve got to stop that idiot before he destroys himself!” She marched toward the front door.

“Oh, Miss McNeill,” Nimue called after Olivia. “I can get you to Belthazor a lot faster.” She held out her hand. “If you don’t mind being teleported by a daemon.”

Olivia took hold of the demoness’ hand. “I’m already used to it. Do you know where he is?”

“Yes. Hold on.” And at that moment, the two females shimmered out of the apartment.


Both Piper and Paige marched out of the kitchen, with the latter holding two small jars. One of them contained a green liquid that Phoebe assumed to be the potion. “Everything’s ready!” Paige cheerfully declared. Piper rolled her eyes. Phoebe noticed, but felt too nervous over Cole’s situation to question her older sister’s look.

The half-demon stood up, eyeing the potion with the anxiety of a convict about to face the electric chair. It was not an attitude that Phoebe assumed he would harbor. “Cole? Is there something wrong?”

“Uh . . . look Phoebe, I think I’m getting second thoughts. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do. I mean, it’s like Piper said – the last two times I had lost my powers . . .”

“You’re not backing out now, are you?” Everyone stared at the youngest Charmed One, who had asked the question. Phoebe realized that Paige’s attitude had grown to more than just a willingness to cooperate.

Cole frowned at his former sister-in-law. “What . . . uh, why did you . . .”

Paige shook her head. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound like a ball buster. It’s just that we went through all this trouble to make the potion for you. I’m just . . . well, you seemed as if you’re about to change your mind.”

Confusion whirled in Cole’s eyes, as he stared at Paige. And later, Phoebe. The latter silently pleaded with him to stick to the original plan. To her relief, he finally surrendered. “I guess you have a point. Let’s get on with it.” Phoebe could have kissed her younger sister.

Paige held out the potion to Cole. Two figures shimmered into the living room, causing Phoebe to gasp. Cole’s mother and Olivia had decided to pay a visit.


The moment Olivia and Nimue had shimmered into the Halliwell manor, the former saw Paige hold out a small jar to Cole. Using her telekinesis, she snatched the jar from Paige’s hand. “I can’t believe what was about to happen!” she declared.

Cole and the Halliwells stared at the newcomers in shock. “Olivia? Mother! What are you . . .?”

“What are we doing here?” Olivia finished. “I’d like to know what the hell were you about to do? To yourself!”

Blue eyes regarded his parent with muted hostility. “I’m sure that Mother must have told you.”

“Yes she did, Cole. Wha . . . Why? Why are you doing this?”

It was Phoebe who answered. “So he . . . I mean, both of us can have a normal life.”

Olivia stared at Phoebe with contempt. “A normal life? Gee Phoebe, does such a thing exist? Now how exactly do you plan to have this ‘normal life’, while you’re still practicing magic? And hunting daemons?”

“At least we won’t have to worry about Cole’s powers!”

From the corner of her eye, Olivia saw Cole wince at Phoebe’s words. She snickered. “No, but Cole will now have to worry about yours! And your sisters’. But I guess you feel that’s nothing to worry about, considering that your powers are . . . ‘good’.”

Phoebe opened her mouth to retort, but some semblance of common sense must have overcame her. She remained silent. Olivia turned to the half-daemon. “Tell me Cole, was this your idea? To get rid of your powers?”

“Yes, it was!” Phoebe finally rediscovered her tongue.

Once more, Olivia seared the Charmed One with a death glare. “I don’t recall asking you that question.” She faced Cole. “Well?”

Resentment and a touch of longing filled Cole’s eyes. “I . . .” He heaved a deep sigh. “All right. It wasn’t exactly my idea, but I thought it was a good one. When I heard it.”

Olivia sneered. “And how long did it take Phoebe to convince you?”

Cole snapped angrily, “How about . . . it’s none of your damn business! Who in the hell asked you to interfere?” This time, he sneered. “Oh wait! I already know the answer to that question. Mother!” He glared at his parent.

“If this is your idea of getting me to back down,” Olivia retorted, “it won’t work!”

“Butt out, Olivia! This is my choice!”

“Really? I could have sworn it was Phoebe’s!”

Cole stepped forward, his face inches away from Olivia’s. “At least she’s willing to be with me. Give our relationship another chance. She didn’t run off at the first sign of trouble!”

“Are you referring to three weeks ago? Or the two separate occasions involving first Raynor, and then the Source?”

Phoebe took a threatening step forward. “Now just a minute . . .”

Olivia ignored the Charmed One. “As I recall, you’re the one who made the choice to run to Phoebe, after I had dumped you! While I was under that damn spell! And . . . oh yes, you stayed away, after the spell ended! Now here you are, about to give up your powers, all because Phoebe can only accept your human half!”

Phoebe cried out, “Now wait a minute!”

However, Olivia was on a roll. “Tell me, Cole. How is it that a powerful half-daemon with such a fearsome reputation, could possess such an undeniable talent for kissing ass?”

“Excuse me?” Cole looked as if he was about to pop a vein in his forehead.

Olivia glared back. “You heard me. For most of your life, you’ve always seemed to follow the dictates of others. You had tried to become the perfect demonic assassin for Raynor, while buying all that shit he told over the years.” She overheard Nimue snicker. “Then after you met Phoebe and her sisters, you tried to become some supernatural crime fighter and later, a mortal. Phoebe’s little Joe Normal. And now here you are, trying to make that same mistake again. Don’t you ever get tired of trying to be something other than yourself?”

Cole stared at Olivia, obviously stunned by her words. “I . . .”

“Has it ever occurred to you that those powers don’t belong to him?” Phoebe retorted. “They’re not his.”

“And exactly to whom do they belong, Phoebe?” Olivia shot back. “The daemons who used to own them? Oh wait! They lost the damn things the moment they entered the Wasteland. In case you didn’t know, sweetheart, between the moment those powers were separated from the vanquished daemons and the moment when Cole when Cole took them, those powers belonged to no one. Finder’s keepers!”

Nimue added, “Miss McNeill is correct. You may not have been originally born with these new powers, Belthazor, but you were resurrected with them. As of now, they are as good as yours.”

“Not for long!” Phoebe faced the half-daemon. “Right Cole?”

All eyes turned to Cole. Who radiated a helpless air. “Uh . . . I . . .” For the second time, he seemed speechless.

Olivia briefly closed her eyes and sighed. “Look Cole, I can’t tell you what to do. You have to make the coice on your own. Look into your heart . . . and ask yourself what you really want to do.” She stared at him with pleading eyes.

Cole glanced at the five women in the room. Olivia could see the struggle for an answer in his eyes. Then . . . he sighed. “Phoebe,” he said to his ex-wife, “I’m sorry.”


“I can’t go through with this. Phoebe, I’m a half-daemon/half-human hybrid. I had been born as one, I died as one and I came back as one. I can’t . . .” He shook his head. “I can’t deal with being a mortal again. It’s just not natural for me.”

To Olivia’s surprise, the potion in her hand disappeared. It reappeared in Paige’s hand. Then the half-whitelighter unscrewed the jar and flung the contents upon Cole. The half-daemon screamed in pain, as he fell to his knees.

“What the hell?” Olivia began, as she stared at Cole in horror.

Piper yelled at her youngest sister. “Paige! What the hell did you just do?”

The youngest Charmed One then orbed Cole’s powers into the empty jar and closed it. “Job completed!” she crowed, before she vanished.

Both Olivia and Nimue knelt beside the fallen Cole. “What the bloody hell just happened?” the demoness demanded.

Olivia gently patted Cole’s cheek. “Paige just pulled a fast one on us. The only thing is that I don’t know why.”

“Maybe she’s under some spell,” Piper suggested. “She’s been acting weird all day.”

A groan left Cole’s mouth. His eyes fluttered open. “What happened?” he muttered.

“That witch . . . or whitelighter . . .or whatever she was, stole your powers!” Nimue declared. She glared at the other two Halliwells. “So much for the goodness of the Charmed Ones!”

Piper protested, “We didn’t know what was going to happen! She must be under some kind of spell!”

Olivia and Nimue helped Cole to his feet. He sat down in the nearest chair, while the redhead asked his mother, “Do you think you’ll be able to track Paige?”

“Of course,” the demoness replied. “All I have to do is teleport to wherever she is. That is how my power works.”

“Right.” Olivia grabbed Nimue’s arm. “Let’s go.” And the pair shimmered out of the manor.






I have never read Agatha Christie’s 1931 novel, “The Sittaford Mystery”. And I have read a lot of her novels. But since the novel did not feature Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, or Tommy and Tuppence Beresford; I never took the trouble to read it. Well, that is not fair. I can think of at least two or three Christie novels that did not feature any of these sleuths that I have read. But I have never read “The Sittaford Mystery”.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the ITV channel had aired an adaptation of the novel in which Geraldine McEwan appeared as Jane Marple. Okay. This is not the first time this has happened, considering that Christie did not write that many Miss Marple novels. “THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY” revolved around the murder of a politician who is viewed as a potential Prime Minister in the 1950s. The story begins in the 1920s Egypt, where Clive Trevelyan and a few companions stumble across an important archaeological discovery. Then the story jumps nearly thirty years later when Trevelyan, now a politician, returns to his home Sittaford House in Dartmoor with his aide John Enderby, while Parliament decides on whether he will become Britain’s new Prime Minister, following the retirement of Sir Winston Churchill. Due to his friendship with the novelist Raymond West, Trevelyan finds himself forced to accept the latter’s elderly aunt, Miss Jane Marple, as a house guest.

Much to Miss Marple and Enderby’s surprise, Treveylan decides to chance the snowy weather outside and stay at a local hotel six miles away. The hotel include guests who seemed to be very familiar with Treveylan or familiar with an escapee from the local Dartmoore prison. One of the guests conduct a séance using a Ouiji board, which predicts Treveylan’s death. Hours later, the politician is found stabbed to death in his room. With Miss Marple stuck at Sittaford House (temporarily); Enderby; a young journalist named Charles Burnaby; and Emily Trefusis, the fiancee of Treveylan’s wastrel ward James Pearson; set out to find the murderer. However, it is not long before the trio find themselves seeking Miss Marple’s help.

“THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY” strikes me as a rather confusing tale. I have a deep suspicion that in his effort to somewhat change the plot from Christie’s original novel, screenwriter Stephen Churchett ended up creating a very convoluted story . . . right up to the last reel. I have seen this movie twice and for the likes of me, I still have no real idea of what was going on . . . aside from the first fifteen minutes and the movie’s denouement. I was aware that the hotel featured guests that had connections with or knew Treveylan, including a former lover, her wallflower daughter, a middle-aged woman who seemed to be a fan of Treveylan, and an American businessman and his aide.

Churchett created a script filled with so many red herrings – unnecessary, as far as I am concerned – that I simply gave up in trying to guess the murderer’s identity and waited for Miss Marple to expose him or her. Upon my first viewing. Upon my second viewing, I tried to examine the plot for any hints or clues that would lead to the killer’s identity. Unfortunately, that did not happen until at least fifteen minutes before Miss Marple revealed the killer. I was also disappointed with how the movie resolved the romantic entanglements of Emily Trefusis, Charles Burnaby, James Pearson and a fourth character. I found it so contrived, for it came out of left field with no set up or hint whatsoever. What I found even more unconvincing was the last shot of the murderer staring at the camera with an evil grin. This struck me as an idiotic attempt by director Paul Unwin to channel or copy Alfred Hitchcock’s last shot of Anthony Perkins in the 1960 movie, “PYSCHO”. I found that moment so ridiculous.

I will give kudos to Rob Harris, the movie’s production designer. I thought he did a competent job in creating the movie’s setting – a snowbound English community in the early-to-mid 1950s. But do to the majority of the film being limited to either Treveylan’s home and the hotel, Harris really did not have much to work with. Frances Tempest certainly did with her costume designs. I found nothing outstanding about them. But I must admit that I found them rather attractive, especially the costumes that actress Zoe Telford wore. On the other hand, I found Nicholas D. Knowland’s cinematography rather odd . . . and not in a positive way. I did not like his photography, if I must be brutally honest. His unnecessary close-ups and odd angles struck me as an amateurish attempt by him and Unwin to transform “THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY” into an independent film or Hammer-style horror flick.

The performances in “THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY” proved to be a mixed bag. I have usually been a fan of Geraldine McEwan’s portrayal of Miss Jane Marple. But I feel that she took the whole “verbose elderly lady” act a bit too far . . . especially in her scenes with Timothy Dalton during the first fifteen to twenty minutes. If I must be honest, most of the performances in the film seemed to be either over-the-top or close to being over-the-top. This was especially the case for Michael Brandon, Zoe Telford, Laurence Fox and Patricia Hodge. James Murray managed to refrain himself during most of the film. But even he managed to get into the act during the movie’s last fifteen minutes or so. Carey Mulligan’s performance seemed competent. She did not blow my mind, but at least she did not annoy me. Robert Hardy made a cameo appearance as Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This marked the eighth or ninth time the actor portrayed the politician and honestly, I could see this appearance was nothing more than a walk in the park for him. There were only four performances I truly enjoyed. One came from Mel Smith, who gave a very competent performance as Treveylan’s right-hand man, John Enderby. I could say the same about Rita Tushingham, who gave a nuanced performance as a mysterious woman with knowledge of an ugly part in Treveylan’s past. The role proved to be his last, for he passed away not long after the film’s production. James Wilby was satisfyingly subtle as the town’s local hotel owner, who had a secret to maintain. For me, the best performance came from Timothy Dalton, who was dazzling at the story’s main victim, Clive Trevelyan. Considering that he was portraying a somewhat theatrical character, it is amazing that he managed to keep his performance under control, and struck a tight balance between theatricality and subtlety.

It is obvious to anyone reading this review that I did not like “THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY”. I could complain about the changes made to Agatha Christie’s novel. But I have never read it, so I saw no point in making any comparisons. But I still cared very little for the movie. I found the direction and photography rather amateurish. And aside from a few first-rate performances, I was not that impressed by the majority of the cast’s acting – including, unfortunately, Geraldine McEwan’s.