“An Afternoon in Babysitting” [R] – 3/3

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

PART 3

The middle-aged man and his two daughters climbed the stoop leading toward the manor’s front door. Piper glanced at her father, who wore a mournful expression on his face. “Are you okay, Dad?” she asked.

Victor heaved a sigh. “Oh . . . uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.” He shot a reassuring smile at his daughter. “You don’t have to worry about me crying again. I’m okay.”

“I guess Aunt Lillian must have been very close to you,” Phoebe said, as she slid her key into the lock and opened the door.

Nodding, Victor replied, “You could say that. She was almost like a second mother to me.”

Once inside the manor, the two sisters and their father found Leo pacing back and forth, across the living room floor. Piper immediately stiffened at the sight of her former husband. “Leo? What are you doing here?”

The Elder immediately rounded on Piper. “Where’s Wyatt?” he demanded. “I tried to sense his whereabouts, but I couldn’t find him. And why isn’t Paige here?”

“Huh?” Piper gave Leo a confused stare.

Phoebe spoke up. “Wait a minute, Leo. Piper and I were at a family funeral with Dad. In San Jose. So, Paige had agreed to stay behind and baby-sit Wyatt. Are you saying that both of them are missing?”

His face red with emotion, Leo cried, “Yes Phoebe! That’s exactly what I’m saying! After I had finished a Council meeting, I realized that I couldn’t sense Wyatt. So, I rushed home and . . .”

“Home?” Piper snorted with derision. “That’s funny. I don’t recall this house being your home, any longer!”

Victor patted his daughter’s shoulder. “Piper . . .”

Through gritted teeth, Leo corrected himself. “What I meant to say was when I got ‘here’, there was no in the house. Including my son!”

“I wonder what happened to Paige and Harry,” Phoebe said, frowning. “You couldn’t sense them?”

“Paige is no longer my charge. And Harry has never acknowledged me as his whitelighter.”

Victor murmured, “Smart kid.” His comment earned him a glare from the Elder.

At that moment, the front door opened. Paige and Harry rushed inside the house. Piper noticed her youngest sister, holding the side of her jaw. “Hey, I see you guys are back,” Harry greeted. “How was the funeral?”

Victor replied, “Oh, it went . . .”

“Where’s Wyatt?” Leo demanded, interrupting his former father-in-law. “Where’s my son?”

Piper added, “Leo’s got a point. Where is Wyatt?”

“Ed wid Lide und Co,” Paige mumbled. Everyone stared at her. “Uh . . . Sowee.”

Phoebe demanded, “What happened to you?”

Harry spoke for Paige. “She had a little dental emergency. Something about a molar.”

“Oh my God! I knew you had an appointment on Tuesday. Was the dentist able to do anything?” Phoebe rushed over to comfort her younger sister.

Harry added, “We couldn’t get in touch with Paige’s dentist, so I took her to mine.”

“And what about Wyatt?” Piper asked, before Leo could. The blond-haired Elder looked as if he was about to blow a gasket.

“Oh. I couldn’t get hold of Mom or Gran. So, I left Wyatt with Olivia and Cole.” Harry paused and frowned. “Ooops. I guess I forgot to pick him up.”

Leo’s face turned a deeper red, as he shouted, “YOU LEFT MY SON WITH THAT DEMON?”

———-

Olivia stirred briefly from her slumber, wondering why she was hearing bells. A groan left her mouth and returned to sleep. Unfortunately, it did not last, for more bells rang in her ears. Another minute passed, before she realized that the penthouse’s doorbell had been ringing.

“Huh? Oh.” She glanced down and saw Wyatt sleeping peacefully in her lap. Cole sat next to her on the sofa, with his arm around her. And also fast asleep. The doorbell rang for the third time. Olivia groaned and gently lifted Wyatt from her lap. She placed the infant in Cole’s lap and slowly stood up. Wyatt squirmed for a few seconds, clutched at Cole’s shirt with his tiny fist and fell back to sleep.

Again, the doorbell rang. Olivia reluctantly dragged her body toward the front door, muttering, “I’m coming, I’m coming.” She opened the door and found Harry standing out in the hallway, along with Piper and Leo. “Where’s my son?” the latter demanded, as he tried to enter the penthouse.

Olivia shoved the Elder back into the hallway. “What are you doing?” she cried. “Haven’t you ever heard of waiting for an invitation?”

A sigh left Piper’s mouth. “Sorry about that. Leo’s just . . . worried. About Wyatt . . .”

“He’s on Cole’s lap. Sleeping.” Olivia stepped back, and allowed the visitors to enter – including Leo. She led them toward the sofa, where Cole and Wyatt presented an odd picture of domesticity.

Piper murmured, “Talk about a disturbing scene.”

“Actually, I think they look cute together,” Harry commented. Both Piper and Leo stared at him. “What?”

Olivia shook Cole’s shoulder. “Hey! Wake up! Piper and Leo are here for Wyatt.”

The half-daemon groaned, as his eyes fluttered open. “Huh? Wha . . .?”

“Wake up! Piper’s here to pick up Wyatt.”

“Oh.” Cole gathered Wyatt into his arms. The infant squirmed a bit, before he finally woke up. Then he yawned. Cole blinked at the visitors. “Uh . . . Piper, Leo. Hi.”

Piper gave the half-daemon a polite smile. “Cole. I see you and Wyatt have managed to . . .” A perplexed frown appeared on her face. “. . . bond?”

“Have they ever!” Olivia added in an enthusiastic voice. “They’ve become quite close.”

All eyes fell upon Wyatt, who seemed preoccupied with chewing Cole’s shirt. “Yeah . . . uh, being with Wyatt has been . . .” Cole gently pried the baby from his shirt and immediately handed him over to Piper. “. . . uh, interesting. Let alone, hell on my shirts.”

“I hope he didn’t give you any other trouble,” Harry said. His green eyes twinkled with amusement.

Both Olivia and Cole exchanged cryptic glances. “Oh, no trouble at all,” the former replied.

“But what?” Leo asked, looking suspicious.

Olivia shook her head. “Nothing much. “Um . . . we took Wyatt out for a walk at the Marina Green. He . . . uh, sto . . . teleported some things from a few people.”

“What?” Leo looked horrified.

Piper gave her son an admonishing stare. “Wyatt . . .” Harry’s amusement remained unabated.

Olivia continued, “Don’t worry. Cole managed to return the items. Without anyone being the wiser. And when we had returned to the building . . . um, a few daemons tried to kidnap Wyatt in the parking lot. By using me as a hostage.”

Piper shook her head in disbelief. “Oh my God!”

“But not to worry,” Cole added. “They weren’t a real threat. Just a bunch of morons with a bad kidnapping plan. Both Olivia and I took care of them.”

Her anxiety abated, Piper said, “That’s a relief.” She gave the two babysitters a grateful smile. “Well, thanks a lot, you two. I guess we better get going.”

Cole said, “If you need a lift to the manor, I’d be more than happy to provide it for you.”

“I’d . . .” Piper hesitated. She glanced at Leo with mild distaste. “On second thought, maybe I’ll take that offer. Uh, where are Wyatt’s belongings?” A second later, the carry-on bag appeared on Piper’s shoulder. And the pram, along with the baby’s car seat, materialized in front of the visitors’ feet. “Oh. Okay.”

Harry added, “Don’t forget to send me back. My car is there.”

Cole walked over to where Piper held Wyatt and chucked the latter’s chin. “Good-bye Partner. It’s been . . . interesting. Don’t be a stranger.” The baby gurgled.

Olivia planted a kiss on the baby’s soft cheek. “Bye Wyatt. Maybe we’ll do this again, some day.” Cole muttered something under his breath and Leo wore a doubtful expression. But Olivia ignored them and said good-bye to both Piper and Harry, before Cole teleported the three adults, the infant and everything else back to the Halliwell manor.

Disbelief illuminated the half-daemon’s blue eyes, as he stared at Olivia. “Uh, what exactly did you mean by ‘do this again’?”

“You know,” Olivia said with a shrug. “Baby-sit Wyatt.”

“You mean . . . ‘you’ might baby-sit him, again. I don’t recall volunteering for another afternoon with that kid. Not if I want to keep my shirts and sanity in check.”

Olivia regarded Cole with surprise. “I thought that you had grown to like Wyatt.”

Sighing, Cole returned to the sofa and sat down. “Okay, the brat’s not so bad. I just don’t want to go through another afternoon like that again. And that includes being pissed on.”

Chuckling, Olivia replied, “Oh come on. It wasn’t that bad.” She headed for the liquor cabinet and reached for the club soda and a glass. “Despite the crying, Wyatt pissing on your shirt, the stealing and those demonic morons who . . .” She paused, as she poured the club soda into the glass. “Okay, this afternoon was a bit . . . busy. But it wasn’t all bad. Right?” Olivia faced the sofa and found Cole fast asleep.

After returning the bottle of club soda to the cabinet, she strolled over to the sofa, and sat down. Shaking her head in mild disbelief and amusement, she began to stroke Cole’s forehead. “What do you know? The mighty Belthazor brought to his knees by the shenanigans of an eight month-old baby.” She plant a kiss on his forehead, laid back against the sofa and began to sip her drink.

THE END

The Problem With Rey

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THE PROBLEM WITH REY

I suspect that many do not want to hear or read this. But I have to say something. I feel that Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams went TOO FAR in their creation of Rey for “STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS”. She is a Mary Sue. She is too perfect. And I am not afraid to admit it.

Why is it that STAR WARS fans demand that the saga’s leading women characters should be written as ideal or perfect? That is not a good idea for a well written character. A well written character should have a balance of flaws and virtues. Rey is ALL VIRTUES. She has no flaws. Not really. In a short space of time, she learned to fly a spacecraft and tap into the Force in order to use the Jedi Mind Trick and use a lightsaber to defeat an opponent already trained with the ways of the Force – namely Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. If it were not for her interactions with the former stormtrooper Finn, I would find her completely boring.

This is why I prefer a character like Bathsheba Everdene from Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, “Far From the Madding Crowd”. As a character, Bathsheba was an interesting mixture of virtues and flaws. She was a better written character than someone like Rey.  EvenSTAR WARS characters like Leia Organa and Padme Amidala managed to be better written, due to the fact that the two characters possessed both virtues and flaws – despite fandom’s demand that they be regarded as ideal.

As for Rey, I hope and pray that Rian Johnson, who is now serving as director and screenwriter for “EPISODE VIII”, has made her character more complex. If not, I cannot see myself being interested in her story for the next two films.

“ELYSIUM” (2013) Review

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“ELYSIUM” (2013) Review

Four years ago, writer-director Neil Blomkamp made a name for himself with the release of his science-fiction thriller, “DISTRICT 9”. The movie made a celebrity out of the movie’s leading man, Sharlto Copely, as well. A few years passed before the two men paired up with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster to make a second science-fiction movie called “ELYSIUM”.

Set in the year 2154, “ELYSIUM” told the story of Max Da Costa, a parolee and former car thief who lives in ravaged Los Angeles. In the 22nd century, two classes of Humans exist – the very wealthy, who live on a luxurious space station called Elysium; and the poor, who live on an overpopulated, devastated Earth. Ruthless androids police the impoverished residents on Earth, while the Elysian citizens are serviced by robotic servants in a comfortable and luxurious setting. And while Earth’s citizens receive questionable and ineffective health care from health care workers at rundown hospitals, Elysian citizens regularly use man-sized medical devices called Med-Pods in their homes that keep them free from disease and wounds. Max, who had grown up as an orphan and spent a good deal of his life in prison, now works on an assembly-line at a robotic factory that provides the technology for Elysium called Armadyne Corporation.

An accident at the plant exposes Max to radiation and he discovers that he has five days left to live. Armadyne CEO John Carlyle has Max fired. His friend Julio introduces him to a notorious smuggler and hacker named Spider, who organizes illegal caravans to Elysium. Spider agrees to get Max to Elysium, if Max can help him steal valuable financial information from Carlyle. Spider arranges for Max to receive a fake Elysium ID needed to use the Med-Pods, a primitive powered exoskeleton that increases his strength to rival the android sentinels, and a cerebral data uplink, which will allow Max to transfer information from Carlyle’s mind to his own. With help from a team that includes Julio, Max intercepts Carlyle’s space shuttle and steals the latter’s data (including the program), uploading it to his own brain. The team, however, finds the data scrambled by Carlyle’s security measures and cannot transmit it to Spider. Even worse, Max and the others are forced to deal with a brutal mercenary named Kruger, who works for Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt. And Delacourt wants the information that Max had downloaded from Carlyle’s mind in the hopes of using it to stage a coup d’etat against Elysium’s President Patel. The information from Carlyle’s mind could also help Max’s childhood friend, Frey, who is not only a nurse, but also the mother of a young girl dying from leukemia.

Although I had been impressed by “DISTRICT 9” four years ago, I have to be honest and say that I found a few aspects of the movie a little off-putting. I cannot say the same about “ELYSIUM”. There is nothing about it that I found off-putting . . . only questionable. However, “ELYSIUM” failed to impressed me. I am sorry, but it simply did not. The movie did benefit from some virtues. I have to give credit to Blomkamp’s screenplay for exploring issues that affect our lives today . . . and may even have a bigger impact upon our future – immigration, transhumanism, class issues and especially health care issues. And I must say that I found Blomkamp’s vision of 22nd century Los Angeles, reinforced by Philip Ivey’s production designs and Trent Opaloch’s photography, to be very interesting and original. And I cannot help but wonder if his vision will prove to be prophetic. The movie’s action sequences struck me as impressive. And I found Blomkamp’s handling of the sequence featuring Max’s theft of Carlyle’s data from the latter’s mind to be first-rate. Personally, I feel that it is the best sequence in the movie.

Too bad “ELYSIUM” featured even more aspects that I found either questionable or simply . . . off-putting. Yes, I know that I had earlier claimed that the movie did not have any off-putting aspects about it. I now realize I had been wrong. My biggest complaint about “ELYSIUM” happens to be its second half. Whatever intelligence Blomkamp injected into the script’s first half, he seemed to have ripped it away in its second. And this happened when Max made a bargain with Kruger for a trip to Elysium in exchange for Carlyle’s program (threatening suicide by a live grenade next to his head). It did not help that Frey and her daughter were along for the ride with Max as hostages of Kruger. So many stupid incidents occurred during the movie’s second half; including the reconstruction of Kruger’s damaged face from an exploded grenade held by Max with the Med-Pods. Kruger should have been dead after what happened to his face. But following his recovery . . . oh God! It was just one big mess! I would tell what happened, but I fear I have given away too much of the plot, already.

There were other aspects of “ELYSIUM” I found disturbing. According to its premise, 22nd century humanity will be divided into two classes – working class and the elite. So, what happened to the middle-class? Did economic upheavals caused its elimination? And if the middle-class had ceased to exist, to which class did Max’s immediate supervisor at the plant belonged? Or the doctor that Frey worked with? And why did Max seemed to be the only white person among the working-class in Los Angeles? Surely, there were other whites among the working-class. And if Blomkamp intended for Los Angeles’ working-class to consist mainly of a large majority of Latinos and less blacks and Asian-Americans, why cast the obviously white Matt Damon as Max Da Costa?

Speaking of Damon, he gave a decent performance as the movie’s protagonist, Max Da Costa. But he did not exactly rock my boat. He tried. But Max never struck me as a particularly interesting character. I would have been more impressed by Jodie Foster’s portrayal of the cold-blooded Jessica Delacourt, if I were not so confused by her accent. If anyone has an idea of what her accent was supposed to be, please let me know. One could always count on Sharlto Copely to give a top-notch performance in any movie. His portrayal of Delacourt’s thug, Kruger, was certainly an all-out effort on his part. Unfortunately, Kruger struck me as one of the most-one-dimensional villains I have ever seen on the movie screen in the past few years. One would think that an old friend like Blomkamp could have written Kruger with a little more dimension for Copely. I have never seen any of Alice Braga’s previous performances. And she struck me as a very competent actress. But like Copely, she was saddled with a one-dimensional character that no skillful acting could overcome. At least for me.

There were some performances that impressed me. William Fitchner gave a first-rate performance as the businesslike and brainy CEO John Carlyle, whose bigotry toward the working-class led to a dislike of being touched. Wagner Moura infused a great deal of energy into his performance of the smuggler and hacker, Spider. And this energy carried into every scene he was in. Diego Luna, whom I last saw in 2012’s “CONTRABAND” gave a very compassionate performance as Max’s loyal and caring friend, Julio. It was nice to see Faran Tahir, who portrayed Elysium’s President Patel, after a few years. And like Moura, he infused a good deal of energy into his performance and the movie, thanks to some skillful acting.

“ELYSIUM” could boast some virtues, including an interesting premise, excellent production designs and photography, and skillful acting from some of the cast. But a few one-dimensional characterizations and a plot that lost a great deal of intelligence in its second half resulted in “ELYSIUM” becoming something of a disappointment for me.

Top Five Favorite “HOUSE OF CARDS” Season Two (2014) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of Netflix’s series, “HOUSE OF CARDS”, a remake of the 1990-1995 BBC miniseries trilogy that was based upon Michael Dobbs’ 1989 novel. Produced and developed by Beau Willimon, the series stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

 

“TOP FIVE FAVORITE “HOUSE OF CARDS” SEASON TWO (2014) Episodes

1 - 2.13 Chapter 26

1. (2.13) “Chapter 26” – Facing disaster in the hands of a distrustful President Garrett Walker, Vice-President Francis Underwood plays one last hand to achieve his goals first set in the series premiere.

2 - 2.09 Chapter 22

2. (2.09) “Chapter 22” – Freddy, the owner of Frank’s favorite BBQ joint, becomes embroiled in the war between the Vice-President and CEO Raymond Tusk, when his past and his son’s past is revealed. Meanwhile, the Underwoods are forced to deal with a brewing scandal regarding intimate photographs of Claire taken by ex-lover Adam Galloway. Directed by Jodie Foster.

3 - 2.01 Chapter 14

3. (2.01) “Chapter 14” – In this season premiere shocker, journalist Zoe Barnes confronts Underwood about the death of the late Congressman Peter Russo. Also, Frank and Claire prepare for his swearing-in as the country’s new Vice-President. Directed by Carl Franklin.

4 - 2.04 Chapter 17

4. (2.04) “Chapter 17” – Due to a terrorist threat, Frank is trapped inside the Congress building with a political nemesis, while Claire is forced to give a live interview that proves to be a shocker.

5 - 2.10 Chapter 23

5. (2.10) “Chapter 23” – Despite a military stalemate abroad and a possible violent situation at home, Francis concentrates on putting an end to Tusk’s influence over President Walker for good, with lobbyist Remy Danton caught in the middle. Claire clashes with new Party Whip Jackie Sharp over an anti-rape bill.

“An Afternoon in Babysitting” [R] – 2/3

“AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING”

PART 2

Within an hour, all seemed well inside the penthouse. Wyatt was fast asleep in one of the guest bedrooms. Olivia and Cole were on the living room sofa, locked in another passionate embrace. Actually, Olivia sat on Cole’s lap with her arms wrapped around his neck. And her lips pressed against his.

“Do you think we should be doing this?” she murmured, after Cole’s lips traveled to the curve of her neck.

Cole planted a soft kiss, emitting a small moan from her. “Why not?” he whispered. “Wyatt is fast asleep in another room.” His tongue flickered into the hollow of Olivia’s throat. “And we finally have an opportunity to enjoy some quality time, together.” His mouth returned to hers, and the couple engaged in another passionate kiss. Then . . . cries of an infant reverberated into the living room. The half-daemon heaved a long suffering sigh. “Shit!”

Olivia reluctantly climbed out of his lap. “I better see what’s wrong.”

“Probably nothing,” Cole growled. “I think that damn kid simply wants some attention.”

“Wait a minute. I thought you and Wyatt were bonding.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “I had to do something to keep that kid quiet. Besides, this is the second time, I had to deal with ‘coitus interuptus’, thanks to his crying!”

More wails traveled into the bedroom. Olivia sighed. “I’ll be back.” She marched into the guest bedroom, where she found Wyatt squirming underneath his baby blue blanket. Olivia picked up the squalling infant. And sniffed. “Cole!” she cried. “Could you come in here, please?”

Seconds later, the half-daemon rushed into the bedroom. “What’s wrong?” he demanded. Then he sniffed the air. “What the hell?”

Olivia replied, “It’s Wyatt. We need to change his diapers.”

Cole took a step back. “We?”

“Yes, Mr. Turner. We!” Olivia grabbed the reluctant half-daemon’s hand and jerked him forward. “I’m not the only one who’s going to be changing diapers, today.”

Terror filled Cole’s eyes. “But I don’t know how!”

Smirking, Olivia replied, “Don’t worry. By the end of the day, you will be an expert. Now, hand me that bag, and then remove his diaper.” She dumped the soiled infant into Cole’s arms. He regarded her with horror. “What?”

Cole handed over the handbag filled with Wyatt’s belongings. “You want . . . me . . . to remove his diaper?”

A sigh left the redhead’s mouth. As much as she loved Cole, he could be so anal at times. She handed him a smaller blanket. “Yes. Put this on the bed, lay Wyatt down and remove his diaper. You don’t need written instructions!”

Muttering to himself, an annoyed half-daemon spread the blanket on the bed, using magic. Then he lowered the still squalling Wyatt on the blanket. He stared at the diaper. “Okay,” he began, “how do I unfasten this?”

While she rummaged through the bag containing Wyatt’s belongings, Olivia replied, “Unfasten the tapes at each side of his diaper. Near the waist.”

Cole heaved a deep sigh and bent over the infant. Olivia realized that he must have found the adhesive tapes that held the diaper together, for Wyatt finally stopped crying. And a ripe odor filled the room, as Cole removed the diaper. “God, he smells . . .” the half-daemon began. Then it came at him without any warning. One minute, Cole was holding a soiled diaper, while talking to Olivia. The next moment, an arc of urine streamed out of Wyatt . . . and struck Cole right in the center of his chest.

“Wow!” Olivia exclaimed. “Talk about bullseye!” Then she broke into laughter, earning a glare from the half-daemon. Cole returned his attention to the now gurgling infant, and regarded him with a murderous stare. Olivia’s laughter continued, unabated.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Cole strolled out of the bedroom, with Olivia close at his heels. She held Wyatt in her arms. “Oh God,” he moaned. “That was probably the most traumatic experience I have ever endured. Not even getting killed by Phoebe and her sisters come that close.”

Olivia gave him a cheerful pat on the back. “Oh come on! It wasn’t all that bad. You did a good job.”

“That . . .” Cole glared at a placid-looking Wyatt. “That crea . . . kid pissed on my shirt.” He pointed at the wet circle on his T-shirt. “On my favorite T-shirt.”

Mock sympathy appeared on Olivia’s face. “Hmmm, Wyatt does have good aim, doesn’t he?”

“I’m glad that you found it funny,” Cole growled. “Meanwhile, I have to deal with piss on one of my favorite shirts!”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “For heaven sakes, Cole! Just change shirts, will you? And stop making such a fuss.” Cole shot her one last glare and headed for the bathroom. He heard her give one last parting shot. “And I would take a shower, if I were you!”

———-

Less than fifteen minutes passed before Cole emerged from the bathroom. He wore a clean, white long-sleeved shirt. Olivia now sat on the sofa, rocking Wyatt in her arms. She looked very maternal. “Is he asleep?” the half-daemon asked. Upon closer look, he noticed that Wyatt seemed focused upon the television set. “I guess not.”

“I can’t get him to sleep.” Olivia shot Cole a long-suffering glance. “And I think he’s turning into a TV addict. If he hasn’t become one, already.”

Cole sat down on the sofa, next to her. In a sardonic tone, he suggested, “Why don’t you take him for a walk? Maybe that will stop him from becoming a couch potato before his time.”

Despite his sarcastic tone, Olivia seemed to find the idea acceptable. “That is a good idea. We can take Wyatt out for a nice, afternoon stroll. Maybe at Fisherman’s Pier. Or the Marina Green.”

Cole stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. “Are you crazy? I was just joking!”

Olivia stood up, breaking Wyatt’s attention away from the television. The baby began to cry. “Well, it’s a good joke. And it’s also a good idea. Why don’t we?” With Wyatt still crying in her arms, Olivia strode toward the guest bedroom.

Cole closed his eyes and sighed. “Me and my big mouth,” he muttered.

————

Forty minutes later found Olivia and Cole strolling along a paved path that woven between the park and the marina. The reddish-gold spirals of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge loomed in the far left. Cole pushed a baby blue pram that contained the increasingly hyper Wyatt Halliwell.

Olivia took a deep breath and glanced up at the sky. “Isn’t it a beautiful day? A blue sky, white clouds, the boats, and the bay looks cleaner than . . .”

“We shouldn’t be here.” Cole glanced nervously around, as if expecting a daemon to pop up from the nearest bush. “Allowing Wyatt out in the open like this is a mistake. What if we’re attacked by . . .?”

“By another daemon?” Olivia snorted. “Well, I can only assume that we’re both capable of dealing with an attack. Come to think of it, even Wyatt can take care of himself. Don’t you think you’re being a little paranoid?”

Cole rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m paranoid. How do you think I’ve managed to survive for over a century?”

Looking slightly annoyed, Olivia retorted, “Well, can’t you ease up a bit? You’re ruining my day.”

“May I remind you that this park serves as a gateway to one of the demonic market places?” Cole shot back. They passed a man standing next to an ice cream cart. He seemed to be placing a wallet in his back pocket.

Olivia shook her head in disbelief. “That was at the Golden Gate Park, Cole! Remember? And as I recalled, Piper and Phoebe had destroyed that marketplace, last spring. So, why don’t you please get it together and put your paranoia on ho . . .” She glanced down into Wyatt’s pram and found the infant playing with a wallet. “What on earth?”

“My wallet!” The cry came from the man standing near the ice cream cart. “Someone took my wallet!”

And Olivia knew who was responsible. She gave the baby an admonishing stare. “Wyatt!” Then she turned to Cole, who looked slightly confused. “Wyatt took a wallet from that man near the ice cream cart. Could you send it back?”

“Huh?” Realization slowly dawned on the half-daemon’s face, as Olivia pointed out the distraught man. “Oh. Yeah.” Cole waved one hand over the wallet and it disappeared. And Wyatt . . . began to cry. “Hey! Kid!” He picked up the infant. “I’m sorry, but you can’t go around swiping other people’s wallets.”

The man near the ice cream cart cried out, “My wallet! It’s okay. It’s here on the ground.”

Wyatt continued to cry. Cole tried to hand him over to Olivia, but she removed a bottle of milk from the shoulder bag, instead. She tried to stick the bottle’s nipple into the baby’s mouth. “Here you go, sweetheart. Are you hungry?” Apparently not, for Wyatt’s wails continued.

Cole lifted the baby, until they were face-to-face. He shook Wyatt for a few seconds. “Hey. Hey! Wyatt?” he said in a stern voice. “Stop this. Listen to me. Listen. You can’t go around taking other people’s stuff. It’s called theft and you can get into a whole lot of trouble.” Olivia rolled her eyes in disbelief. Was he kidding? Cole continued, “Trust me on this. I know from personal experience. You hear me?”

To Olivia’s surprise, the speech worked. Wyatt’s cries finally subsided. Cole coddled him for a few seconds and returned him to the pram. The baby picked up the bottle of milk and happily shook it.

“I don’t believe it,” Olivia exclaimed in disbelief. “He actually listened to you. I’m beginning to think you’re not so bad with kids, after all.”

Cole growled, “Don’t fool yourself. This experience is only going to make me insist that I use contraceptives, as much as possible. And that we should have stayed indoors.”

A long-suffering sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “I see the paranoia has returned. Your mother was right. You are too paranoid for your own good.”

“Like I said, being paranoid has kept me alive.”

Olivia shot back, “It’s too bad that it didn’t save you from being possessed by the Source. Or being killed by Paige and her sisters, over a year ago.”

“What?”

“Look Cole, being vigilant and careful is fine. But no amount of paranoia is going to keep you completely safe.” Olivia began pushing the pram. “We all take chances with our lives, when we wake up, every morning. Surely after 118 years, you’ve managed to figure that out.” She glanced down into the pram and heaved an exasperated sigh. Wyatt sat happily inside, playing with a pair of sunglasses that did not belong to him, Olivia or Cole. “For crying out loud! Wyatt!”

Cole demanded, “What did he do now?” Olivia pointed at the baby and the sunglasses. A smirk appeared on the half-daemon’s lips. “I see. Now I wonder if this would have happened, if we had remained at the penthouse?”

Annoying bastard! It took all of Olivia’s willpower not to bitch-slap her boyfriend. It was a miracle that more than one woman had ever fallen in love with him. Glaring at Cole, she retorted, “I used to do it all the time with my telekinesis, when I was kid. I had even released a bunch of puppies at a pet store, once. And I don’t recall being kept inside the house all of the time. Now, will you please return those glasses?”

“Whatever,” Cole muttered. He waved his hand over the sunglasses and they disappeared from the pram.

The couple continued to argue over the merits of staying indoors, while they continued their stroll through the park. By the time they had returned to the safety of Olivia’s BMW, Wyatt had teleported another seventeen more objects.

———–

“In Purson’s name!” a tall, blond-haired man hissed in a low voice. “I can’t believe my eyes!”

One of his companios, a portly man with thinning dark hair asked, “You found the portal, Ciyaher?”

The blond man, a daemon from the Khorne Order, replied, “I found something a lot more interesting.”

“Not the portal to the new marketplace?” The portly man, whose name was Grogor, hovered near Ciyaher’s shoulder.

Ciyaher sighed. For the umpteenth time, he wondered why he had allowed such a single-minded creature like Grogor to serve under him. “He’s not talking about the new market’s gateway, moron,” the third member of the trio retorted. A gangly redhead, sporting a goatee and mustache, dragged Grogor away from their leader. “He’s talking about Belthazor.” Ciyaher gave the red-haired daemon a grateful nod. Unlike Grogor, Umbar possessed brains.

“Belthazor? Where?” Grogor glanced frantically around him.

“Over there, idiot!” Ciyaher pointed at the couple climbing into a dark-green BMW. “There’s Belthazor . . . with his witch. And a baby.”

Confusion whirled in Grogor’s dark eyes. “Belthazor is a father?”

To Ciyaher’s satisfaction, Umbar swiped the side of the slow-thinking demon’s head. “No! Of course not! Belthazor doesn’t have a child! We would have known, if he had. That must be the Halliwell baby. Belthazor and the witch are familiar with the Charmed Ones. They must be taking care of the child.”

“But I thought that Belthazor’s witch was one of the Charmed Ones,” the idiot insisted.

Ciyaher closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Why did Grogor always seemed to be one step behind the times? And why did he continue to allow the idiot to be a part of his circle? Then his eyes snapped open. “Belthazor’s relationship with the Charmed One is over, Grogor. He is now dating a McNeill witch. And I don’t recall any of the Charmed Ones being a redhead. Do you?” He glared at his minion.

A nervous looking Grogor shook his head. “No Ciyaher.”

“Then shut the hell up! Unless you are spoken to.” Ciyaher paused and thoughtfully regarded the green BMW pulling out of the parking space. “If only we could get our hands on that child. What a source of power he could be for us! Only . . . I don’t know how we can take him from Belthazor and the witch.”

Grogor commented, “The car must belong to her.” The other two daemons stared at him. “What?”

“Did I ask for your opinion?” Ciyaher growled.

Grogor’s face turned red. “No Ciyaher. Sorry.” He fell silent.

Ciyaher turned to speak to Umbar . . . until he regarded Grogor’s words. In Purson’s name! He was about to ask for this idiot’s opinion. He took a deep breath. “Why do you think the car belongs to the witch?”

“Because she’s driving, instead of Belthazor.”

Umbar regarded the younger demon as some kind of idiot savant. “And your point?”

Grogor shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? The man driving the car, and the woman holding the baby? And with Belthazor holding the baby, how do we get it from him? How are we supposed to get the baby from him?”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Umbar retorted, “How did that tiny brain of yours ever dredged up such nonsense?”

“It’s not nonsense,” Ciyaher commented. He stared at Grogor, surprised that the younger demon’s babbling had made some sense. “Frankly, it’s good observation on Grogor’s part.” Umbar gawked at the blond demon. “Even more importantly, they’re traveling by car and not teleportion.”

A confused Umbar shook his head. “What are you getting at Ciyaher?”

The senior daemon smiled cryptically. “I have an idea.”

————

Olivia drove the BMW into the building’s underground parking lot and eased it into her usual space. After she switched off the engine, Cole climbed out of the passenger seat. “Uh, mind opening the trunk?” Seconds later, the trunk popped open. Cole removed the pram, placed it on the ground and unfolded it. While Olivia climbed out of the car, he reached inside for Wyatt and placed the latter inside the pram. “Ready?” he asked.

“Just a . . .” Footsteps clattered across the concrete floor. The couple exchanged wary looks. “Oh. Someone’s here,” Olivia said. “We better use the elevator, instead. You go on ahead, while I get Wyatt’s bag from the back seat.”

Cole nodded, as he began pushing Wyatt’s pram toward the elevator. He had not gone very far, when he heard what sounded like a gasp, followed by a scuffle. Alarmed, he turned around and spotted Olivia surrounded by three men. One of them – sporting red hair and a goatee – held the witch in a tight grip. “Olivia!”

“That’s far enough, Belthazor!” a familiar and deep voice ordered. Cole recognized that voice. It belonged to a mid-level daemon he had not seen in twelve years. Ciyaher. The latter continued, “Or else my associate will kill the witch.”

Keeping his fear and anger under control, Cole took another step forward. He stared menacingly at the three demons. “Nice try, Ciyaher. But you won’t be able to hold on to her, very long.” He waved his hand at Olivia. And nothing happened. Much to his consternation. “What the hell?”

Ciyaher smirked. “Thought that would take you by surprise. Didn’t you look carefully, Belthazor? Your witch is wearing a little present I thought you might appreciate.”

Cole’s eyes narrowed, as he spied a necklace hanging from Olivia’s neck. An amulet. Or a talisman. “What’s that?” he demanded.

The three daemons chuckled. “You don’t recognize the talisman around the witch’s neck?” Ciyaher mocked. “I’m surprised at you, Belthazor. You’re losing it.”

An exasperated sigh escaped from Cole’s mouth. “Well, why don’t you enlighten me?”

“It’s a talisman. Valac’s Talisman. Surely you’ve heard of it?”

Indeed, Cole had. The talisman had been created by a dominion spirit for some wizard, over four hundred years ago. It prevented any magic practioner from teleporting a person or object that the talisman hung from. “Very clever,” Cole murmured. “How did you manage to get your hands on it?”

Smiling, Ciyaher replied, “Oh, the talisman has been in my order’s possession for nearly thirty years. It used to belong to Artemus, the head of my order – until the Source had him imprisoned in the Stygian Abyss. Now . . .” The daemon’s smile disappeared. “. . . I want you to hand over the Halliwell baby. To my companion over there.” Ciyaher nodded at a dark-haired, stocky being, who stood near Olivia’s captor.

Cole hesitated. Ciyaher had him trapped and he knew it. As much as he wanted to save Olivia, he could not sacrifice Wyatt. The eight month-old baby got on his nerves, but Cole could not hand the child over to a second-rate monster like Ciyaher. If only he could teleport Olivia . . . Wait a minute. The talisman only blocked a teleportation power.

“So I can’t teleport a person or object while that thing is around,” Cole said. “Am I right? Is that all it does? Block teleportation?” He shot a meaningful stare at Olivia, who arched a brow.

Ciyaher frowned. “What do you mean? Of course that’s all it does! It’s all I need it for. You can’t rescue your little girlfri . . .” He rolled his eyes in disgust. “Don’t tell me that you’re still going to try to rescue her? Give it up, Belthazor! Hand over the child, and you’ll get her back.”

“I know I can’t rescue her,” Cole retorted.

“Good.” Ciyaher’s amusement returned. “Now, don’t tell me that you’re attached to that baby. He’s the son of your enemies – one of the Charmed Ones and that whitelighter. The son of one of the witches who had killed you, over a year ago. You want to protect him?”

Cole sighed. “No. I guess not.”

Nodding, Ciyaher added, “Why don’t we end this ridiculous standoff and you hand over the child to Grogor.”

Feigning reluctance, Cole reached inside the pram . . . and waved his hand over Wyatt’s form, causing the infant to disappear. He straightened up, empty-handed. “Why should I hand Wyatt over to you? What if Olivia . . . is able to rescue herself?”

Ciyaher rolled his eyes. “What are you getting at? She’s not a Charmed One, Belthazor. So, stop playing around and hand over the child! Or the witch dies! Umbar! Why don’t you give our old ‘friend’ a demonstration? Don’t kill her. Just . . . show a little blood.”

Before the red-haired daemon could press the knife against Olivia’s neck, it flew out of his hand . . . and toward his stocky companion. The hilt buried deep into the latter’s forehead. As the daemon called Grogor dropped dead to the ground, Olivia sent Umbar flying against a concrete pillar. He quickly flung a fireball at the witch. Using her telekinesis, she deflected it back toward him and he incinerated into a ball of fire. Olivia removed the talisman

The blond-haired daemon reacted with horror at the deaths of his minions. “Oh my . . . Wait a minute! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

“No kidding,” Olivia muttered sarcastically.

Cole sneered at the other daemon. “It probably wouldn’t have happened, Ciyaher, if you had also used a talisman to block telekinesis.”

A roar from Ciyaher filled the air, and he whist the pram from Cole’s grip. At the same time, he flung an energy ball at Olivia. Cole waved his hand, and the witch and the other demon immediately switched placed before the energy ball engulfed Ciyaher.

Once his screams died to a whisper, Olivia turned to Cole. “Not a very bright bunch, were they?”

The half-daemon glared at his girlfriend. “And you consider taking Wyatt away from the safety of the penthouse, bright?” He waved his hand for the second time and Wyatt returned inside the pram, happily gurgling, as usual.

Olivia rolled her eyes. “I see we’re back to that topic, again.” She grabbed hold of the pram’s handle. Cole immediately teleported all three back to his penthouse.

“There’s a lesson to be learned from all of this,” Cole replied. “Like safety.”

“Well here’s a lesson for you.” Olivia removed Wyatt from the pram. “It’s unhealthy to give in to our own paranoia. Wyatt will always be in danger from daemons, warlocks and maybe even humans. Just like the rest of us.” She began to bounce the baby up and down. “It’s one thing to be vigilant. It’s another to become a prisoner of our own paranoia. Besides, Wyatt had a pleasant time at the park. Right Wyatt?” She planted a light kiss on the baby’s cheek.

A wide grin appeared on the infant’s face, and he continued to gurgle. Cole folded the pram and shot Wyatt a mock glare. “So much for saving your ass, kid. Thanks a lot.” Wyatt responded with more gurgles.

END OF PART 2

“STEVE JOBS” (2015) Review

“STEVE JOBS” (2015) Review

I might as well say it up front. “STEVE JOBS” is a strange film. At least to me. It is probably the oddest film I have ever seen in 2015. There are a good number of aspects about this film that makes it so odd to me.

Judging from the title of this film, it is not hard to surmise that “STEVE JOBS” is a biography about the late co-founder of Apple, Inc. Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, the movie was inspired by Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography. Sorkin’s screnplay was also inspired by a series of interviews he had conducted with people who had known Steve Jobs. So far . . . there seemed to be nothing odd about this film. And it is not the first biopic about Jobs. But what made this movie so odd? Well, I will tell you.

The movie is divided into three acts. Each act is set during an event in which Jobs launches one of his computer products. Act One is set in 1984 in which Jobs and marketing executive Joanna Hoffman deal with problems before the Apple Macintosh launch. Act Two features Jobs preparing for the NeXT Computer launch at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in 1988. The final act is set in 1998, in which Jobs, who has been named CEO of Apple, Inc., prepares to launch the iMac, the computer that restored the company’s fortunes. All three acts also feature Jobs interacting with the following people:

*Joanna Hoffman – Jobs’ marketing executive and confidant
*Steve Wozniak – Apple, Inc. co-founder and creator of the Apple II
*John Sculley – CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993
*Chrisann Brennan – Jobs’ former girlfriend
*Andy Hertzfeld – Member of the original AppleMacintosh team
*Joel Pforzheimer – GQ Magazine journalist, who interviews Jobs throughout the film
*Lisa Brennan-Jobs – the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan

By now, many would realize that the movie really is not about those new products being launched by Jobs throughout the film. It seemed to be about his relationships with the other major characters featured in this movie. However, by the time I watched the movie’s final frame, it occurred to me that “STEVE JOBS” was really about his relationship with his oldest offspring, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who aged from six to twenty years old in this film. What was so special about this particular relationship? Well, according to Sorkin’s screenplay, Jobs and Brennan had a brief fling toward the end of the 1970s, which resulted in Lisa’s conception. However, Jobs had refused to acknowledge Lisa as his daughter for several years. Once he did, their relationship continued to be fraught with tensions, due to Jobs’ suspicions that Lisa’s mother was an erratic parent who was using the girl to acquire a lot more money from him. By the time Lisa is a twenty year-old college student, father and daughter have a spat over her apparent failure to prevent her mother from selling the house he had given them and his threat to withhold her college tuition.

And this is the problem I had with “STEVE JOBS”. Do not get me wrong. Most of the performances in this movie were excellent – including those by Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg and Perla Haney-Jardine, who portrayed the 19-20 year-old Lisa. Michael Fassbender, in my opinion, gave a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. In fact, I feel he really deserves one. So does Kate Winslet, whom I thought was brilliant as the pragmatic and loyal Joanna Hoffman. Fortunately, the Motion Picture Academy and the Hollywood community did remember Fassbender and Winslet’s performances and rewarded them with Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations for both of them.

I also felt that the subject of this movie was interesting. I also found the various products launched by Jobs, along with his impact or lack thereof on Apple, Inc. throughout this period rather interesting, as well. And Jobs’ relationships with Hoffman, Wozniak, Sculley and Hertzfeld were also interesting. But I eventually realized these topics were minor in compare to Jobs’ relationship with Lisa. Even during his conversations with the other characters, the topics of Lisa, Chrisann and his own complicated childhood were brought up by the other characters. This movie was really about Jobs’ role as a father. And that is why it ended in such an abrupt manner, when he and Lisa finally managed to reconcile right before the iMac launch. And honestly, I feel this was a mistake.

Despite the fine performances and the interesting topics featured in this film, I left the theaters feeling somewhat gypped. I thought I was going to see a biographical movie about Steve Jobs and his impact upon the high tech community and the people he knew. To a certain extent, that is what Boyle and Sorkin gave the audiences. But this movie was really about Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa. And instead of admitting it outright, I feel that Boyle and Sorkin manipulated the audiences into realizing this. No wonder everyone else kept bringing up the topic of Lisa. No wonder the movie was only set between 1984 and 1998. No wonder it ended so abruptly, following his reconciliation with Lisa. And no wonder this movie failed to make a profit at the box office. For a movie with such potential, I found it rather disappointing in the end.

Favorite Movie Villains of 2015

Kingsman-the-secret-service-red-band-trailer

The year 2015 was filled with some very memorable screen villains.  I am certain that many have their own opinions of what constituted their favorite villains. Well … I have mine. Below is that list of my favorite movie villains from 2015:



FAVORITE MOVIE VILLAINS OF 2015 

 

 

1. Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”) – I have to say it. Samuel Jackson has created some very memorable characters throughout his career – both heroic and villainous. But his portrayal of high tech tycoon, Richmond Valentine, has to be very high on the list. Not only was his goal – to decimate the majority of mankind in order to save the Earth – diabolical, but his lisp and aversion to violence made his character extremely memorable. Extremely.

 

 

2. Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket (“Ant-Man”) – It is a pity that Marvel Studios seemed incapable of maintaining its gallery of villains. One of the best Marvel villains I have come across in quite a while was Corey Stoll’s interpretation of Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, scientist and CEO of Hank Pym’s company. Stoll’s Cross projected daddy issues with a style that rivaled Loki from the THOR movies, thanks to the actor’s performance.

 

 

3. Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra (“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”) – Elizabeth Debicki gave a deliciously entertaining, yet subtle performance as the cool and cruel Victoria Vinciguerra, the leader of a neo-fascist criminal organization and co-owner of a shipping company, who harbored plans to build a nuclear weapon for her own personal use.

 

 

4. Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II”) – For the fourth time, Donald Sutherland did an excellent in creeping out movie audiences as the cruel and manipulative leader of Panem, as his character resorts to extraordinary methods to put down a rebellion.

 

 

5. Haley Joel Osment as Travis McCerdle (“Entourage: the Movie”) – I never thought in a million years that I would see Haley Joel Osment portray a truly unpleasant character, let alone make this list. But he proved to be the sole gem in an otherwise entertaining, yet mediocre film as the son of a Texas billionaire, who is given authority to oversee his father’s investment in Ari Gold’s film. Osment’s performance struck me as so spot-on that he almost resembled a living embodiment of excrement. He has come a long way.

 

 

6. James Spader as Ultron (“The Avengers: Age of Ultron”) – Another Marvel villain bit the dust this year. But before he (or it) did, audiences were treated to a superb voice performance by actor James Spader as the self-aware artificial intelligence bent upon decimating humanity. Not only was Spader’s performance a joy to hear, he had one of the best lines in the movie.

 

 

7. Jennifer Jason-Leigh as Daisy Domergue (“The Hateful Eight”)– In a movie filled with villains, the most memorable for me turned out to be Daisy Domergue, an outlaw being escorted to her execution by ruthless bounty hunter John Ruth. What made Jason-Leigh’s Daisy so memorable was her penchant for sadistic humor, vengeful nature and more importantly her patience. Despite being smacked around throughout most of the movie, the actress superbly conveyed just how ruthless Miss Domergue could actually be.

 

 

8. Hugh Laurie as David Nix (“Tomorrowland”) – Hugh Laurie gave a subtle, yet sardonic performance as David Nix, the mayor of Tomorrowland, who valued technological achievement over scientific originality. Laurie did an excellent job in conveying the character’s paranoia and willingness to resort extreme methods – including murder – in order to maintain the status quo – something he strongly supported. His rant against humanity is a must-see for any moviegoer.

 

 

9. Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II”) – Julianne Moore gave a very subtle performance as the leader of Panem’s District 13 and the rebellion against the Capitol. At first glance, her efforts to free Panem from President Snow’s rule seemed very genuine. But Moore did an excellent job in occasionally conveying Coin’s manipulative and patient personality, along with a penchant for bloodletting that rivaled Snow’s.

 

 

10. Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavros Blofeld (“SPECTRE”) – Christoph Waltz became the fifth actor to portray British agent James Bond’s biggest nemesis, Ernst Stavros Blofeld, head of criminal/terrorist organization SPECTRE. And he gave a memorable performance, project the character’s ruthlessness, intelligence, sadism and … dare I say it … charm? Waltz’s Blofeld made a very charming sadist, only rivaled by Telly Savalas’ portrayal in the late 1960s.